Monthly Archives: April 2015

This week, toppling of statues went from 50% to 3% of social media. Meanwhile…

coup d'état, anyone?

Coup d’état, anyone?

KING GOODWILL ZWELITHINI, King of the Zulu Nation, said this :

When they (foreigners) look at South Africans, they say let us exploit this nation of idiots. As I speak, you find their unsightly goods hanging all over our shops. They dirty our streets. We cannot even recognize which shop is which, there are foreigners everywhere. I know it is hard for other politicians to challenge this, because they are after their votes. Please forgive me because this is my responsibility…. As King of the Zulu nation, which is respected worldwide because of the role in played in fighting for freedom in Africa, I will not keep quiet while our country is led by people who have no opinion…..We ask foreign nationals to pack their belongings and go back to their countries”.

And Xenophobia ramps up in Joburg and Durban.

Last Saturday, I took a walking tour in Jeppestown, an old inner city neighbourhood. We visited a building used by foreigners to sell their goods in a sort of mini-mall. This is an old bank building and was converted to this use because it has only one entrance (on the left) which can be closed quickly if there is unrest. Buyers then go to the barred up window on the right of the doorway and they can purchase from the street without coming in to the mall.

Welcome to the Xenophobia Mall !

Welcome to the Xenophobia Mall !

On Wednesday, the first reports started coming out about xenophobic attacks in Jeppestown and by nightfall it started looking like this:

Jeppesetown, April 15

Jeppesetown, April 15

Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana, Malawi. During the struggle, those countries are where the freedom fighters were sheltered. They trained and were helped by their neighbours. And today the folks who have come to South Africa from there are being told to go back home.

It’s a complicated issue, like many other issues in this complicated country. Yes, there are so many South Africans without work and without much hope of work. People come from other countries and take jobs or open businesses. This is an old story of the migration of people the world over.

How many times did I hear “Those Somalis get all the subsidized units before us real Canadians” when I was at CCOC? And the white folks in my Ottawa neighbourhood always complain about “Chinese garbage” on Somerset Street.

So, since King Z  made his pronouncement:

  • There are now refugee camps for foreigners in Durban
  • Mozambique has closed its border for fear that vehicles with SA plates would be attacked
  • Bob Mugabe came down to beg for $ and irritated everyone here with his usual claptrap
  • Two Somali shopkeepers in Cape Town were locked in their shop and the place set on fire
  • Some neighbouring countries are talking about boycotting South African goods
  • I got an email from the Canadian consulate, telling me not to attend any demonstrations and avoid large gatherings.
  • On the plus side, there was a  huge anti-Xenophobia demonstration in Durban

And I heard on the radio last week that the Department of Education was thinking of making history a mandatory subject in schools. Apparently only 22% of SA students take any kind of history! And what’s the saying about those who forget the past being doomed to repeat it?

Making lists, drinking beers…

Things to give away, people to thank, work to finish, all things that need to happen before I head home. Yes, I now have one “foot” in each of Joburg and Ottawa. And I think the weather in both cities now is about the same (sunshine but needing a jacket).

In one of my latest posts, I attached my work plan for those who were wondering what the heck I was doing here. One wag (Future Landfill guy) posted a reply asking what kind of mischief I was really up to.  Well, here it is:

my secret work plan

my secret work plan

I have to drink a lot of beer to make sure the Rhinos are safe. But the Boucher (pronounced Bowchur) Legacy project will continue even after my return to Canada.  You’ll have to admit to being born before 1997, but check it out:

And speaking of beer

There’s a big craft beer movement here too and all the upscale venues try to keep some in stock.  The Western Cape, home of wineries galore, is now also the birthplace of many small breweries and they make some excellent ones. My favourite right now is Darling Slow Beer.

However, “craft beer”  has actually been around forever in South Africa. It’s called Umqombothi (the “q” is a click sound like a horse hoof clop). It’s the home brew and still is the staple in most township shebeens. Women tend to be the brewmasters, since they also tend to be the shebeen owners. It was one of the reasons that police could arrest women during the bad days of apartheid and many spent time in jail for it.

Interesting article/videos at:

But none of the venues in trendy Melville have any umqombothi on tap, so I may not get to sample that brew before I leave. Too bad. 

And speaking of trendy

Like elsewhere, shipping containers are being plonked around town and re-purposed for retail and residential uses. I think it might work better here, where you don’t have to worry about living in a metal box at forty below. But I’m curious what these buildings will look like in 20 years.

Up the street from me, there’s a retail development that’s been advertised since I arrived last May. Called “27 Boxes” and I think initially there were 27 containers on site. Now there seems to be 127 but work is finally progressing. However it doesn’t look like it will open before I leave, unfortunately. Supposed to have a small outdoor amphitheatre for live music and they’re redoing the original kids playground that was on site.

another mini-mall

another mini-mall

And down in the CBD, the same company re-purposed containers to provide residential units for the thousands of university students who flock to Joburg every year. They obviously had trouble finding cheap land and decided to put them on top of an existing structure! Pretty cool.

what to do with your old silos.

what to do with your old silos.



That’s all for now folks….




Semana Santa, the S.A. way

 Gimme that ole time…

It’s Easter and that means four days of unusual peace and quiet in buzzy Joburg.  Half the city leaves to “go home”. Joburg is not home for many who live/work here, it’s where they live/work; home is where they came from, where the gogos live, and where the ancestors are buried. On Monday, people will gather at the graves, tidy them up, plant flowers and have a picnic with family.

This morning at Aquafitness, our instructor, Mfundu, was giving the class from the pool deck wearing black slacks, a white shirt (with cufflinks!) a tie and highly polished black brogues. He cut the class a bit short so he could get to church on time.

South Africans are way more religious than Canadians. And some of the religions are a bit of a mishmash of traditional stuff and “Christian” add ons. On most Sundays around Joburg and elsewhere in S.A. there will be churches meeting outside, usually under a tree. The one below is on a strip of land I drive by every day to work.


Rainbow headgear nation!

And, like elsewhere, there are religious wing nuts. This guy I call The Friday Preacher.

Repent, ye minions of Mammon!

Repent, ye minions of Mammon!

Great garments, Batman!

Great garments, Batman!

He comes and parks below our offices in the CBD on Friday mornings. Driving a big black SUV, he opens the back gate and installs two great big speakers that blast Jesus tunes. He’s dressed in some kind of half-Zulu, half God only knows, hold up a cross and stands there for 1/2 hour. Then he comes down and shakes hands with folks. I shook his hand and thanked him for his prayers. He told me that, after the CBD, he goes to Sandton and does the same at the Stock Exchange. I’m sure there’s a really good story here…

This would make Stevie squirm…

But here in South Africa, there is not much discussion about who is the bad guy in the Palestine/Israeli debate. The words Israel and Apartheid are used in the same sentence without anyone blinking. There are huge demonstrations, with unions, politicians of all stripes, religious leaders from all faiths and many people who remember the bad old days here.

No debate here

No debate here

You may by now have heard about Trevor Noah, a stand up comic from SA who will be replacing John Stewart. There is a lot of chatter about his suitability, partly because of anti-Israel jokes he has tweeted out.
South Africans know how to recycle like Israel knows how to be peaceful”  It’s gonna be hard for him in the States, I’m pretty sure. But it’s true, South Africans can’t recycle worth beans!

Oh, and speaking of Apartheid (alive and, well…)

If you’re ever in the Northern Cape, you can visit the lovely town of Orania. That is, only if you’re white (and better yet, if you can speak Afrikaans). Yes, about 15 years ago, they trekked up and formed an “intentional community” to ensure the survival of the Afrikaaner culture. I went to see a great documentary about this place. It probably won’t come to Ottawa soon, but if you get a chance, it’s worth catching. The black men who have been delivering bags of chips and cans of pop to the local pool for over ten years have never been inside the town limits. The pool caretaker meets them on the road and loads up his truck!  Here’s a vimeo trailer:

When is a statue ever “just a statue”?

In Ottawa, we removed the “Indian scout” at the bottom of the Champlain Astrolabe statue when Ovide Mercredi, the chief of the Assembly of  First Nations pointed out that the position and relative size of the scout was demeaning. The NCC agreed to move the statue and have it sit alone. The Ottawa Citizen reported receiving over 500 letters objecting to the removal, saying it was “re-writing history”.

What's wrong with this picture?

What’s wrong with this picture?

This happened about 20 years ago, after the Oka crisis and way before  Idle No More. But probably around the same time many aboriginal women started disappearing out in B.C.

Is this Samuel de Champlain’s “fault”? Do his descendants (I might be one, who knows?) have to wear the burden of oppressors forever?

The question comes up again here in South Africa and has made the news for the past couple of weeks.

Cecil Rhodes was one of those larger than life guys who had a huge footprint on this land,mainly by removing diamonds from the ground. He founded DeBeers, made a whack of dough, did some nice stuff like donating land to the University of Cape Town (UCT) and started the magnificent Kirstenbosch Gardens. He also funded a well known scholarship (Rhodes), producing excellence in many fields (Bill Clinton and Bob Rae are Rhodes scholars, but let’s not go there!). He was probably gay, and he was definitely a colonialist, believing that:  “We (English) are the first race in the world, and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race”. So, there is a statue of Cecil Rhodes at UCT and students have mounted a campaign to have it removed. This has included throwing excrement on it.



It looks like the statue will be removed and now the discussion is about where it will land. One of the options is apparently Mary Fitzgerald Square in Joburg. This is a huge public space, often used for concerts and events, more often used as a parking lot. I can’t imagine this will happen without debate or dissension!

And now there is same happening in Pretoria over a statue of Paul Kruger (President, Afrikaaner) and in Durban about a statue of King George V ( English King, grandfather of current Queen) in Durban.

And ISIL is destroying ancient (7th Century) statues in Nineveh. I dunno….


Re-writing history?






Easter is when you get out your socks and scarves

It’s getting chilly in the mornings here and I’ve taken out my jean jacket. Keeping an eye on the Ottawa weather, where there are still frostbite warnings from the homelessness folks, so not ready to head home until it gets a bit warmer, svp!

And even though the temp is going down and Joburg is getting dryer and dryer, it can still produce this gorgeous thing outside my window:



That’s all for now folks….!