The wheel turns…

It’s with distress that I’ve witnessed soldiers using live ammo on protesters in Libya and Iran this week, and the brutality of the soldiers against the paramedics in Egypt last week.

As someone who spent more than just a few years in the military and who had been involved in a few riots, and you have to have been in a riot in South Africa in the mid to late eighties to really understand the significance of that statement, I do know the fear and uncertainty involved in standing in a line; just a few soldiers against thousands of rioters. I can still remember the anxiety and can still actually remember “tasting” the fear.

What I can also remember is standing there with rifle uncocked and pointing down. We were warned that there would be actual hell to pay, court-martial style, if we ever shot a civilian; no matter the reason. The rioters were of course not aware of it, or if they were, were not always believing it, but that was immaterial; our job was not to quell the riot but to marginally control it; it was to keep people not involved as safe as we could. The rioters would only very rarely attempt to break through the lines and make our job impossible. Even in those bad old days, the military was respected by the civilians; the police… not as much.

It was during those times that I had learnt to equate the tasks of the soldiers and the police to those in certain medieval city-states: the difference between the Watch and the Guard.

In those cities who might actually have had both, the guard’s primary task was to defend the gates and wall of the city, the watch was to police the city and the wards… Well as much policing as happened in those times. Point being, while these groups would support each other in crises, these groups had their own expertise and zones of authority: the guard would watch for external threat and the watch would police the city.

It is just wrong then, that a “weapon” (there is no other way of really describing the military machine) would be used by their own government on their own citizens. The very existence of military forces is to protect the people, not to oppress them.

A note to the soldiers involved in this: these actions will come back to haunt you, and when it does please remember your beating up the poor paramedics while you lie there bleeding after it has done so…

The wheel turns. It always does…

An erstwhile buddy of mine, the joker of the platoon, would always claim you can smell fear… It smells like shi… Ah. Never-mind…

On abuse of power and being called to book…

And still the Saga continues.

Mzilikazi wa Afrika, after being arrested, released and then threatened by the NPA, now has had his charges formally dropped. But, it has to be added, only provisionally… This is also known as throwing mud with the hope of getting some of it to stick.

What this is really known as, and I’m certain the ANC agrees — or at least they should — is an extreme abuse of power.

We’re all aware that the Nationalist Government were past masters of this type of action, but it seems that the ANC has taken to the lesson extremely well; so well, in fact that the student might still become the master.

Stephen Grootes, in another brilliant piece in The Daily Maverick covers the “Stench of Abuse of Power” that lingers over the Mzilikazi wa Africa saga…

Since the proposed “Media Tribunal” is meant to serve as a recourse to the poor (embattled politicians), I fully expect that Stephen will become one of their first supressions. Erm, I meant “rectifications”, of course… And the bloody ANC politicians wonder why everyone with half a brain is edgy about it?

Living under the Sword

Hoy, ANC! Have you ever wondered why we don’t trust you? I mean really don’t trust you? As in, even less than any sane person ever trusts any government?

Now here I’m not even talking about your latest attempt at limiting press freedom (Good luck with that, by the way. After all, we do live in a constitutional democracy. You know, the one your forebears fought for? Before the ANC became a bunch of power mongers? You remember!) Anyway, where was I… Oh yes. We’re not talking you press-freedom attempts.

We’re not even talking about the fact that you disbanded the Scorpions (You remember them too, of course. They were the ones who would arrest corrupt politicians… Yeah, them) and replaced them with the (ahem) Hawks.

No, were talking of your latest attempt to use those self-same Hawks to arrest a journalist on political grounds, and the have them keep them (You used to call that Detention Without Trial when the Apartheid Government did that to you guys, remember… Those were the days, eh? You could do whatever you wanted an no-one would even think of querying you..) even though the prosecutor claims they have no case

Stephen Grootes (who I’m certain is next on the Hawks‘ list of people to arrest-and-detain — I wonder if you guys will torture him?) has written quite a nice analysis of the situation

Oh, I wonder whose those nice people in uniform outside my door is? More of yours?

Bastards! There. I feel better now.

I’ll just go elsewhere, thanks…

My friends sometimes get a bit annoyed with my refusing to acknowledge that Yankeeland has any meaningful contribution to make in International Society. They also wonder why I flat-out refuse to go to that country.

Now since I’m of the opinion that there had in history only been three worthwhile inventions out of America (the Colt 45 ACP, Air Conditioning and Coca Cola) I don’t really have any reason to go there. Most certainly not for the scenery, since I’m fortunate enough to live in South Africa, the most beautiful country on the face of the planet.

Be that as it may, I will also admit that the American’s apparent attitude to tourists makes the idea of going there more frightening than the idea of streaking through Soweto at eleven o’clock on a Friday night…

Via BoingBoing we have a wonderful example of how the USA chooses to treat tourists, by holding an Icelandic woman shackled in isolation for two days, before deporting her, over a ten-year-old visa mistake…

She has blogged about her experience and, reading it, I feel both vindicated about my stance on the Fourth Reich and quite determined to keep avoiding the place for as long I humanly can.

To any Americans reading this, I’m sorry, but it’s impossible not to have a very negative idea of your country when you have little people with big attitudes and way too much power for their little minds to comprehend treat visitors like this.

But I do feel that you might want to consider coming to visit us here in South Africa; it’s a stunningly beautiful place and we actually like tourists over here…

Update: It seems like Turkey is also off of my list of places to go see…

Reflections on the Falls – Day 2

As Themba’s stentorian snores had lulled me to sleep the previous evening, so they not so gradually brought me to a none-too-gentle awakening. Yep. Still here…

With some caffeine fuelled enthusiasm I had decided that a shower was my first order of business. Alas, no, the miniscule alcove had not over-night magically assumed more generous proportions, no. Oh well, at least I got to leave it cleaner than I had entered it.

After dressing I wandered down to breakfast. And a surprisingly good one at that as well. The cynic in me immediately started wondering what the catch was… The place had not so far managed to fill me to the brim with confidence in their ability to play nicely.

Playing tourist time: Victoria Falls. Truly majestic. Or probably would have been if there was anything actually falling… Okay, that’s a bit unfair. The parts of the falls where there was falling water to be had (not an unfair expectation of some place proclaiming to be a waterfall I would have though, myself) was maybe excessively waterfall-y. Rather damp and everything. And quite high, at 100m plus… Okay. Effing high. 33 Storeys is a bit higher than I feel like falling down from. I did pick up on one thing though. Apparently I’m not really afraid of heights.

Then it was time to go back to the hotel for a blessedly cold beer. And the news that the airline’s licence had been suspended. We had to buy a new ticket. And we got to spend another day at Vic Falls. At our own expense. Oh. Joy.

Nothing but to do but continue with out event-packed afternoon. The elephant-back safari. Something I, as someone who had been reared on Kipling, had been quite looking forward to. And we were only half-an-hour late, too. An auspicious start indeed. We arrive in time for refreshments: anything from Lemonade, Sprite or Water. Unless you happen to want water, that is. But the tap’s in the loo if you would like to go get some…

Finally we were deemed ready for our great adventure; after we had been convinced to sign the indemnity form. It was at this point which an alarm started sounding in my head. Any venture requiring new clothes or indemnity forms are suspect by definition, in my opinion.

The real trouble started when one of the smallest elephants were brought closer and I was entreated to mount the bastard thing. All was fine till the denizen from the lowest of the hells started moving and the saddle started slipping to the side. “Now this,” I thought to myself, “is simply not going to end well.” Which I then promptly proved by valiantly holding on to the reigns which in turn was quite sturdily fastened to the saddle; which in turn decided that there was no way in hell that I would be staying on that damned elephant; it quite gracefully turned on the barrel of said elephant.

Themba and I — yes the very same Themba — now both got dumped, quite ungracefully and very damned hard, on the ground. From there we got to experience quite a unique view of elephants. An encounter I would have preferred to forgo and would really not recommend.

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An earnest attempt now got made, after we had been patched up somewhat and the saddle had been actually cinched, to convince me to re-mount the elephant. Now I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, but stupid ain’t really one of them. There was no way, on this green earth, that I was getting back on that damned elephant!

Limping, I made my way to the cooler box, and promptly did my utmost (with eventual success due to Themba’s kind assistance and thorough command of Zulu) to convince one of the rangers that we truly deserved a couple of cold beers.

Nursing a cold beer, a bruised body and my equally bruised ego we find that one of the rangers left to “baby-sit” us is the chief lion trainer for the safari-outfit. Apparently they become unmanageable at two years of age, so the oldest ones he had were all seventeen months old. If you had never seen a seventeen-month-old lion from close up, take my word on this: that’s one big pussy-cat!

Eventually supper-time arrives and I frantically try and find a reason to skip going to “The Boma”. I wasn’t at all too certain that I would survive whatever was in store for us now… In a way what we run into at supper was both better and worse than I had feared… The food was edible. The entertainment was fairly decent. But the “interactive drum experience” (just known as “drumming” to us ignorant South Africans) was a total wash. Well, for me at least. I was sitting at the table in too much pain to go fetch some ice-cream and some over-enthusiastic personification of evil (damn those extroverts!) expected me to be all eager and enthusiastic at the prospect of energetically beating a drum? I was so sore, I couldn’t even lift my beer to my mouth!

Later, with the pain mostly under control due to some decent painkillers (as opposed to my faculties, for much the same reason) I eventually stumbled off to bed; dog-tired and hoping like hell that I would I fall asleep before the painkillers wore off. In fact, I was also so doped up that Themba could have snored all he wanted, he could have started a fire-fight in the room for all I cared, that night I was going to sleep, damn it!

There were some upsides to all of that, fortunately. The day had been so “eventful” that I had little time to reflect on anything. I had been so busy wondering what new “adventure” awaited us, that there had been no time to think about “home”.

Reflections on the Falls – Day 1

“Now, I’ve been to some dodgy places. No, I mean some really dodgy places. But that was behind me, I was convinced of that. I knew that that was history. Which doesn’t explain why I am here. No, it really does not.” These were some of my very first thoughts at seeing the Airport after landing…

It was bad enough when the Airline grounded all flights. Fortunately another Airline decided to honour the tickets. Sort of. After giving us a decent run-around for an hour, we’re informed that, instead of flying into Livingston in Zambia as we were going to, we would now be flying into Vic Falls in Zimbabwe. Ah well, close enough, I suppose. It then got a whole lot worse when the person organising the flight, the one with the transfer vouchers, with the paperwork, the money to pay for the hotel, managed to miss it… Not his fault really, since he would have had ample time to do all he needed had the Airline not decided to lose an engine a while ago, but still; it worried.

Here on the other side another, new, comedy awaited us though. Somewhere, somehow, one of the bags got lost. All got checked in together, and all, but that one, had made it. One managed to “get lost”. But of course it would… It was on Friday. Bag number X000013. It was doomed from the start…

Thistry we wandered to one of the shops. Paying a mil-and-a-half for anything freaks me out just a tad. Maybe a house is still okay, but a bloody ice-cream? Well, to be fair, that translates to just over R333 at the official exchange rate. For a bloody ice-cream? Now, I’ll readily grant that I haven’t bought any ice-cream in a while, but I would have considered R15 to be a tad expensive but understandable: I mean it is an Airport after all. But that’s no excuse for more than a 2222% premium, is it?

We finally got to the hotel, not at all certain of our welcome, since the person who had organised it all is the only one not available to explain to them that it all had, indeed, been organised. Thus it’s just another place, with another adventure awaiting us on this day from the nether realms. I get to share a room with Themba. Themba is okay. I like the dude, I really do. But not enough to share a bed with him okay?

Paying for beer at the local pub proved to be another adventure in itself. One pays in rands for prices quoted in Zim dollars to then get US dollars in change. Most unfortunately they don’t accept coins, ever so sorry. A nice little racket, of course, since it means that everything gets calculated in multiples of R6.77. And then rounded up. As I said, a nice little racket indeed.

Finally it was time for our first “activity”. A sunset cruise. Now it was time to experience the wilds of Africa with man in his natural habitat. On the deck of a barge with a cold beer in his hand. And I certainly experienced lots… Hippos. Crocodiles. Bottom of my beer glass. To be honest I saw way too many of the last for personal comfort; I got too close to the grim reality of it, if you will.

End of the day arrived, and we promptly moved on to Supper-time at “The Makuwa-Kuwa”. Which is great; that is, unless you feel at all uncomfortable at the idea of paying $25 US for a fairly common South African Cabernet. R100 I would’ve been able to justify to myself, but paying nearly R200 for a R50 bottle of wine was a lot, if you’ll excuse the pun, harder to swallow. Being forced to be honest, though, I would admit to the food being very, very, good. Deciding to simply avoid the wine, I’m starting to feel a bit better about this venture. Until, that is…

I went off to bed quite looking forward to a well-earned night’s rest after quite an eventful day. Fortunately it had taken only a modicum of brute force to separate the beds so I wouldn’t find myself sleeping close enough to Themba so that I would end up feeling obliged to make him an offer of marriage. Unfortunately, though, it soon became evident that Themba snores for the First Team.

Great. Just effing great…

‘Unpatriotic’? I’ll show you ‘unpatriotic’!

Politicians must be the funniest (if quite unintentionally so) people in the world.

According to a report on IOL ANC councillor Thandi Tobias, the chairperson of the National Assembly’s defence committee, considers South Africans serving in foreign armies ‘unpatriotic’.

Not that they care that most South Africans serving in foreign armies do so because they are “white South Africans who cannot work in South Africa due to affirmative action and representativity in the civil service.”

From the report:

During the Assembly debate, DA MP Roy Jankielsohn described the bill as sloppy and constitutionally flawed.

He argued that white soldiers were forced out of the South African National Defence Force and stopped from joining the reserve force.

“In this regard the legislation is malicious and punitive in nature. White South Africans want to contribute to our country, but the ANC is obsessed with having the power to criminalise this contribution,” he said.

Jankielsohn was also referring to South Africans employed as “security guards” in areas of conflict like Iraq that is said to contribute at least R6-billion in spending power back home.

In other words: “We don’t want you to work in South Africa. In actual fact, we don’t want you to work outside South Africa either. What we want you to do is just go away.”

To which the reply probably has to be: “We South Africans don’t just ‘go away’. We didn’t when Brits did their damnedest to exterminate us. We didn’t during the urban terror campaign in the eighties. We’re not going to do so now. Terribly sorry, but no.”

If I have to be “unpatriotic” to make a living and take care of my family, then “patriotism” be damned.

“Democracy” in action

I must admit to being mildly amused by the Yanks from time to time. Here we have a people so intent on making the world a free and fair place — and securing the oil reserves, of course — that they will send their young people to go wage war on the forces of terror, on the axis of evil.

At the same time they seem to be giving up their rights at a rate that would make their founding fathers spin in their respective graves…

Here is a prime example of that behaviour.

Now instead of having civilian thugs running the show, we have military thugs ruling the roost. Well done, guys!

Let’s see if I have it right then. Your bill of rights should now read something like this:

  1. Freedom of speech, press, religion, peaceable assembly, and to petition the government.
  2. Right to keep and bear arms. New Loss
  3. Protection from quartering of troops.
  4. Protection from unreasonable search and seizure.
  5. Due process, double jeopardy, self-incrimination, private property.
  6. Trial by jury and other rights of the accused.
  7. Civil trial by jury.
  8. Prohibition of excessive bail, as well as cruel or unusual punishment.
  9. The Bill of Rights does not take away any right already held by the people under the Constitution.
  10. Grants residual power to the states and to the people.

I got these from WikiPedia, and this would admittedly be a nice Bill of Rights to live under, but the Yanks have systematically been giving these away at an astonishing rate, apparently in the very mistaken belief that politicians and big business will protect them. Unfortunately the people they really need protecting from the most (besides themselves, of course) are the very politicians they are giving their rights to…

In case any Yank reading this feels like arguing any of these points, go read what these rights supposedly give you. And then you ask yourself if you actually still have this right. Do the poor bastards in Guantanamo bay? The people in the concentration holding camps in Houston and elsewhere?

Honestly?

It’s a hell of a thing, liberty. It’s the one thing in the world which, once given up, will never be freely handed back to the people by those in power. I’m a South African, so you may take my word for that…

You want to tell me the damned Yanks haven’t realised that the politicians want nothing more but absolute control? Nice thing living in a Third-world country: You know not to trust politicians further than you could chuck them.

“Land of the Free and Home of the Brave”?

Erm… I think I prefer it right here at the Southern tip of Africa, thanks….

Update:

Rebecca Solnit at Harper’s Magazine wrote The Uses of Disaster, an essay on the relationship between disasters, authority, and our understanding of human nature

How to buy off a despot…

Lovely. Oh this is just fricking lovely. It has me upset enough to shake as I sit here…

If this is not enough to make you foam at the mouth at TBCB© (That Bunch of Corrupt Bastards) we laughingly refer to as our government, then I sincerely doubt that anything in life ever truly will.

In my opinion, it is quite bad enough when Bobby builds palaces on his country’s GDP. I find that I cannot abide the notion that my (South African) Tax money will fund an extension or the pool at the damn Jacuzzi or something!

Only a South African politician would be naive enough to believe that our favourite despot would actually use monies lent him to help his people.

Mind you, on second thought, it might be worth him taking the money and “Idi Amin” us; letting the Southern tip of this continent just getting back to pulling itself together.

On third thought, maybe he can take the ANC with him, $1 000 000 000 is enough to pay for quite a couple of extra plane tickets…