Posts Tagged ‘South Africa’

I’m betting you won’t even see the end of this trailer coming… District 9 is a movie by Peter Jackson and Neill Blomkamp coming out “Summer 2009”. Have movie studios not figured out that the concept of “Summer” is just a teensy weensy tiny winy itsy bitsy sqeemy weemy tiny little bit subjective depending on which hemisphere you just happen to be occupying at any point in time? Anyhow, rant over. This movie looks interesting at the very least, and may even turn out to be good, for all that it’s set in Johannesburg. And I’m not going to spoil it any further. Just watch this trailer!

[Link: District 9]


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Unsurprisingly, perhaps, South Africans are feeling less and less satisfied with the way things are being run in the country. The Mail and Guardian website reports that nearly 29% of adult South Africans are either actively seeking to emigrate, or are giving serious thought to it. That’s a shocking number, and the numbers are pulled from across racial groups. Typically, the group of people willing to leave the country are highly educated folk with great access to media (“media savvy”, as termed in the report). The statistics are worrying for authority figures, because it shows a great disillusionment with the way things are.

I’m one of the aforementioned number of people actively seeking to leave South Africa. It’s a great country, mostly. And it’s difficult to deny that there are a lot of things right with the place. But it’s also very, very difficult to deny that there’s a lot more things wrong. I don’t think that many people who are seeking to emigrate are under an illusions that a life away from SA will be all honey and roses, but it IS a matter of what kinds of problems you’re exchanging, and which kinds you’re willing to put up with.

Personally, I’m frequently finding that I’m being frustrated by an uncertain future for my children, high prices, rude and unfriendly service, bad drivers, crime, and bad earning power, not all necessarily in that order. To exchange those for an unfamiliar country with unfamiliar laws, people, flora and fauna, and a different way of life without wood braais, beautiful scenery, and late night shopping every day of the week. I think I can deal with that. I’ll be getting peace of mind, security and a future for my children, less road rage, better service from all sectors (government included), and a feeling that my life isn’t in danger every time I go out for a walk.

My family are all still here, and that’s going to be the biggest part of what I’m giving up. My closest and most amazing friends have all departed for other countries already, however. Leaving seems worth it to me.

If you’re South African, what are your reasons for staying or going?

[Link: Mail and Guardian]

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Delicious biltong

Lately I’ve been really missing South African food. So much so that we ended up making a delicious gatsby for supper the other night. I also tried making a beef stew, but there’s some knack to it that I just don’t have. Probably I need to cook the beef longer.

So I’ve been lussing for biltong and droe wors and even rooibos tea. I didn’t used to drink tea much in SA, but now that we’re here, if I’m gonna drink tea, I’d rather it be rooibos.

The Irish (except for my hubby, whom I’ve converted) don’t really seem to favour biltong, though, so I had my doubts that I’d be able to find it in any butchery here. The reaction has often been one of puzzlement mixed with disgust – why would you want to snack on meat?! Obviously they haven’t tried the right biltong.

Then I had a brainwave – type “biltong” into google.ie and see what it comes up with. Lo and behold, I found a shop in Ireland that sells all kinds of South African food – from biltong, to Fritos, to All Gold peaches. I looked up their address on Google Maps, and as you can see in the picture below, they’re quite a bit west of the city centre, in a place called Kilcock. Yep, the name’s for real, and you say it exactly the way you think you do.

After a bit of further searching, I found another South African goods shop, this time a bit closer, in the city centre (where the green arrow points). So just a train ride from Balbriggan (where we stay) to the city centre, then a little walk from the station to the shop. I am quite pleased with my find, and looking forward to some yummy snacks 🙂 Thank you Google!

The route to South African food

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So everyone on this blog (and by everyone, I mean Sharon) seems to be very ansy about the whole load shedding situation. As a previous employee, I get the honour of explaining, and not defending them.  But it’s a long and complicated reason, so here goes.

Back in the early days of apartheid, the government created infrastructure that would support a white society. This included providing insanely cheap coal to government owned power stations. This meant we generated the 2nd cheapest electricity in the world. Consequently businesses paid low prices for electricity and this fueled the economy. Also they provided over enough electricity for white society. In fact we had so much electricity we ‘mothballed’ some of the stations to be returned to service at a later date.  After the breakdown of apartheid, the new government reckoned the same thing: drive the growth of the economy using cheap electricity. However, they also committed to providing electricity to people who didnt have it before. Over 10 years they increased the percentage of the population that had access from around 20% to about 65%. They realised that they would be running out of electricity soon.

But like most governments they planned to privatise the electricity network, they didn’t want to commit to large capital injections. And by large capital, I mean that the South African government didn’t want to spend the 200 – 300 billion rand needed to build new infrastructure. So they waited… for another company to come in and offer to build a station. The only problem with this is that existing power stations were being fueled by really cheap government owned coal mines. No company was going to come in and be competitive in the energy sector and still make a profit. A few years afterwards (around 1999), Eskom and government realised that no one was going to step in and solve their energy woes and began an emergency plan to build capacity. It was a decent plan, looking at installing gas turbines in the short term and building nuclear capacity (PBMR and traditional like Koeberg) in the long term.  The plan would have worked if NOTHING went wrong i.e. there wasn’t any spanners (bolts) in the works.

The load shedding started after the whole Koeberg incident and since then they’ve been plagued by countless problems: ‘mothball’ stations being returned to service but constantly tripping, overloading the powerlines coming down South from Gauteng. But like I told Faranaaz when I met her in 2002, Eskom knew that this was coming and that the electricity supply network was on a knife edge. We should have more electricity, situations like this should have been anticipated, we should not be facing load shedding and this should definitely not be the kind of thing that would affect the South African economy. But it is, and the reason isn’t as black and white as some may think.  The blame should be shared equally between the government AND Eskom, and unfortunately they’re the only two elements that can fix this mess. However, to ask for someone to be accountable would be a stretch too far.

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