Friday/ Cape Town’s dams: doing fine

As the rainy season draws to a close in Cape Town, South Africa, the six dams in the greater area around it are doing much, much better than they did in 2017 and 2018.
A big rainstorm this July boosted the levels of several dams by more than 5%.

49, 418 megalitres of water is enough for about 430,000 large swimming pools. [Infographic by Climate System Analysis Group at University of Cape Town].
‘Theewaterskloof puffs out its chest’: The Theewaterskloof Dam is the largest of the six in the Cape Town region. It was at only 13% in January 2018. All the parched spots in the picture from that time, are now covered by at least 3 feet of water.  [Source: Die Burger newspaper].

Wednesday/ ‘Christmas roses’ in July

My hydrangea’s flowers are starting to appear. In South Africa we call them krismisrose (‘Christmas roses’) in Afrikaans.

Hydrangea is a genus of 70–75 species of flowering plants native to Asia and the Americas. Most hydrangeas thrive in rich, porous, somewhat moist soils.

Sunday/ Happy Father’s Day!

I am fondly remembering my dad today.
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads!

This picture is a still frame from a film reel sequence, shot with an 8mm film camera, circa 1960.  The location is the beach flats at Hermanus in the Western Cape, in South Africa. The magnificent driving machine is a 1959 Ford Fairlane (V8 engine). My dad had just used it for doing several ‘doughnuts’ on the beach.  The ‘TV’ on the licence plate stands for Transvaal (province), Vereeniging (town).

Friday/ the vote count in South Africa

I’m watching the vote count in South Africa, here.

With some 95% of the votes counted, the African National Congress (ANC) of the incumbent President of South Africa, has 57.7% (so towards the high end of expectations, but the worst result for them since 1994), and the official opposition, the Democratic Alliance, has 20.7%.  Hopefully this is good enough for President Cyril Ramaphosa to clean house in the ANC (corruption), and to get the economy going.

The DA has carried its stronghold, the Western Cape Province, with 55.5% of the vote (down 4% from 2014), but elsewhere in other provinces, the strident and far-left Economic Freedom Front (EFF) party has made substantial gains.

This results dashboard is at
Picture with no caption posted on the Facebook page of the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC). Let’s say the caption is ‘Pizza makes the world go round, and gets the results out!’.

Tuesday/ South Africa’s national elections

South Africa has a parliamentary system of government.
On Wednesday May 8, South Africans will elect a new National Assembly, and representatives for each of the 9 provincial legislatures.
The National Assembly consists of 400 members, elected by closed-list proportional representation.
Of these members, 200 are elected from national party lists.
The other 200 are elected from provincial party lists in each of the nine provinces.
The President of South Africa is elected by the National Assembly after the general election (held every 5 years).

What to watch for after Wednesday:
There is little doubt that the African National Congress will remain in power.
They got 62% of the vote in 2014, with their main opposition, the Democratic Alliance, a distant 22%.
For President Cyril Ramaphosa to continue his efforts to root out corruption in his own party, and get the South African economy going again, pundits say the ANC needs to get at least 55% of the vote, though (49% to 60% is projected).
The Democratic Alliance is hoping to hold on to its share of representatives (15% to 23% is projected), but that may be a challenge. They have the populist Freedom Front Plus party on their right that will draw away votes, and in the Western Cape province an ugly spat with the Mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille, had her break away from the DA in 2018 to form her own party, the Good Party.

Cyril Ramaphosa has been President only since 18 December 2017 (his ANC party ousted the corrupt & incompetent Jacob Zuma). Mmusi Maimane has led the DA since 2015, and will almost certainly not win, but hopes to gain ground for the DA in the National Assembly. [Graphic: Bloomberg News]
The ANC has been the ruling party of post-apartheid South Africa since the election of Nelson Mandela in the 1994 election, and its logo boasts the classic African colors of black, green and gold. Have they fulfilled their potential to elevate the life and well-being of left-behind South Africans in these 25 years, though? Short answer: No, they really have NOT. The DA does not have the storied history of the ANC, being branded only in 2000 – but it has its roots in the anti-apartheid Progressive Party which was founded in 1959. In some ways, they face the same challenges as the Democratic Party in the United States. Citizens should unite and feel they belong to one country; it’s not ‘us’ and ‘them’ first. The outcome should be a better life for everyone, and not just for rich and privileged people at the expense of others.  [Graphic: Bloomberg News. Information about the DA from Wikipedia]
The campaign issues of the South African election 2019. For the incumbent party, the ANC, it’s not so much defections to other parties that will hurt them. Their voters will simply stay away and not go and vote. [Graphic: Bloomberg News]
The South African economy has come out of its recession, but that 1.4% growth is not nearly enough. It needs to be 5% or 6% to start to make a dent in the unemployment numbers. [Graphic: Bloomberg Terminal]
Here’s a run-down of what will happen on election day at election locations. 1. Identity document check for voter registration. 2. ID document scanned & paper slip given to voter. 3. Hand paper slip to election official. 4. Election official marks voter’s left thumb with indelible ink. 5. Voter receives a national ballot, and a provincial ballot. 6. Time to VOTE! Yay! Put an X against one of the whopping number of national parties (48!). I suspect the major ones are going to be listed at the top of the ballot. Also vote for a provincial representative on the other ballot. 7. Put your provincial ballot in the provincial box. 8. Put your national ballot in the national box. [Source: Die Burger]

Thursday/ Mandela banknotes

Here is my set of 2018 South African banknotes that I had assembled during my recent visit there. The notes are not new, but they are good enough for my international banknote album.

This is the 7th series of banknotes of the South African Rand, issued on July 18, 2018. They commemorate the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth. Nice African motifs are in the background. Also, by the holographic security strip, each note has small figures of one of South Africa’s big five animals: rhino, elephant, lion, Cape buffalo and leopard.
The back of the notes show a young ‘Madiba’ (his clan name) and key moments in his life: R10 Mandela and his birthplace of Mvezo | R20 Mandela and his home in Soweto | R50 Mandela and the site of his capture near Howick | R100 Mandela and his place of imprisonment at Robben Island | R200 Mandela and his statue at the Union Buildings


Monday/ at Cape Town airport

My stay in Cape Town has come to an end. I went to see my mom one last time, and cleared out of the nice AirBnB apartment that I had rented.

I am taking the red-eye flight up to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, and will go and stay in Rotterdam for a few days, before I fly home to Seattle out of Amsterdam.

Here’s the entrance to the check-in and departure lounges at Cape Town International Airport. The rental car drop-off is close enough so that one can walk to the departure lounge – very nice.
Children’s book with cute animal faces at the book store: ‘The Ugly Five’ (as opposed to the Big Five: lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo). The ‘ugly ones’ on the book’s cover are the wildebeest, the hyena, the vulture, the Marabou stork, and the warthog.

Sunday/ Table Mountain, blue

We drove up along the Atlantic coastline to the suburb of Table View today.
Table View is short for ‘Table Mountain View’.
The beach called Bloubergstrand (‘Blue Mountain Beach’) is close by.

Table Mountain is blue (kind of) when viewed from Bloubergstrand. Today there was just a puff of cloud on the mountain. 

Saturday/ the noon gun on Signal Hill

Table Mountain is at the bottom of this map, with Lion’s Head at the left and Signal Hill (elevation 350 m/ 1,150 ft) towards its northwest.

My friend Marlien and I went to see the firing of the noon gun on Signal Hill today. There’s a single-lane strip of tarred road that winds up to the top of the hill.

Here’s the Lion Battery with the two noon guns at the top. A time signal at noon has been fired by one of these guns since 1806. (Two guns so that one can serve as a backup). The two guns used are the oldest guns in daily use in the world.
Protect your ears! We all wore ear plugs. The cannon blast at close range reaches a sound level of 170 dB, the loudest bang many people would experience, ever. The bang is produced by a 1.5 kg/ 3.3 lb bag of gun powder.
The fuse is triggered remotely these days. Most of the on-lookers stood at the back of the cannon a good 50 ft away. The gunner that oversees the firing of the canon, announces ‘One minute’, ‘Thirty seconds’ ’10-9-8 .. 3-2-1′ . A few milliseconds before noon, an electrical signal is sent from the Astronomical Observatory’s atomic clock. The burst of energy zips across a telephone line, and ignites the firing cap on the cannon. At 12 noon sharp the gunpowder explodes with a loud Ka-Boom!

Every day – except Sundays and national holidays – the gun on Signal Hill is fired exactly at noon.

Friday/ Stellenbosch buildings

Here are some of my favorite buildings in Stellenbosch, from my visit there yesterday.

These giant ficus trees are behind the main administration buildings of the University of Stellenbosch.
The Moederkerk (Mother Church) on Drostdy St has a neo-gothic tower designed by Carl Otto Hager from Dresden, Germany. The building was completed in 1863.
Erfurt House, named after the town Erfurt in Germany. Johan Marthinus (Jan) Beyers built the imposing double story residence in 1876 with a wood and cast iron balcony on all sides of the building.
The Old Main Building (‘Ou Hoofgebou’) of the University of Stellenbosch. This building was also designed by Carl Otto Hager. It was completed in 1883 for what was named Stellenbosch College at the time. The flag on the flagpole indicates that the University oF Stellenbosch celebrated its centenary in 2018.
The building for the Bloemhof Girls’ High School on Andringa Street now houses Stellenbosch University Museum. It was built in the Flemish Renaissance Revival style and completed in 1907.

Thursday/ sugarbush (I want you so)

The sugarbush is from the protea family. The ‘flowers’ are actually flower heads with a collection of true flowers in the center, surrounded by bracts (modified leaves). In days gone by, the nectar used to be collected and cooked into a syrup.

A famous Afrikaans folk dance song goes like this:
Suikerbossie ek wil jou hê (Sugarbush I want you so)
Suikerbossie ek wil jou hê (Sugarbush I want you so)
Suikerbossie ek wil jou hê (Sugarbush I want you so)
Wat sal jou mama daarvan sê (What will your mama say of that)

Dan loop ons so onder deur die maan (Then we walk under the moon)
Dan loop ons so onder deur die maan (Then we walk under the moon)
Dan loop ons so onder deur die maan (Then we walk under the moon)
Ek en my suikerbossie saam (My sugarbush and I together)

I found this beautiful sugarbush (Protea repens) flower in the Stellenbosch Botanical Garden today.

Wednesday/ hibiscus in a hat

This guy at a traffic light stop in Rondebosch had a hibiscus flower in his ostentatious hat.

‘What’s up? What are you doing?’ I asked this guy in Rondebosch at a traffic stop. The light was about to change, and I could not get if he collected cans & plastic for recycling, or simply to help drivers get rid of trash! Anyway, ‘You’re doing good work’, I said, and gave him a little money.
There are plenty of these beautiful hibiscus flowers to be seen in the suburbs around the slopes of Table Mountain. I found this one in a fence in the suburb called Gardens.

Tuesday/ I’ll have an ‘ystervark’

There is aardvark and then there is yster- vark (porcupine). Local craft brewing company Hoogeberg (‘High Mountain’) named one of its lagers Ystervark. (I still have to try it).

The Ystervark is a ‘hybrid lager’, which means it was fermented at the higher temperatures usually used for ales. The time and temperatures used in beer fermentation is not an exact science, and allows brewers to be creative.

Monday/ art from the Baraka gift shop

This artwork was outside a gift shop called Baraka in the little Cape Quarter shopping mall here in Cape Town.

Check out the cool South African themed posters on their website.

‘Halo Spaceboy’, says the ‘King of the Impossible’ with his ‘Aladdin Sane’ make-up (the lightning bolt, from the David Bowie album cover). ‘Make Cape Town Wet Again’ says the text in the background, no doubt a play on Donald Trump’s infamous 2016 campaign slogan ‘Make America Great Again’.

Sunday/ blue skies at the Waterfront

Here is Table Mountain, basking under blue skies on a beautiful summer day, seen from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town.

The submarine on display at the V&A Waterfront (as part of Armed Forces Day 2019), is the SAS Manthatisi. She was built in Kiel, Germany, commissioned in 2005, and is named after the female warrior chief of the Batlokwa tribe. Her home port is the naval base in Simon’s Town.

Saturday/ the ‘Bo-Kaap’

The Bo-Kaap (pronunce ‘boo-uh-carp’) is a former township on the slopes of Signal Hill, above the Cape Town city center. It is the historical center of Cape Malay culture in Cape Town. The Nurul Islam Mosque, established in 1844, is also located in the area. Here are a few pictures that I took today.

This is a scene on Wale Street. I love the Volkswagen Beetle with the blue doors. The backdrop is Table Mountain, of course.
Gorgeous dark green and – Salmon? Coral Pink? houses on Wale Street.
This is the entrance to the Bo-Kaap Museum on Wale Street. I love the wavy cornice on the roof line.
This is Dorp Street.
The minaret of the mosque called Masjid Boorhaanol Islam on Longmarket St, holding its own against a massive development project a few blocks away. Efforts to designate Bo-Kaap as a heritage area have been underway since 2013, and it may finally be approved this year by the Cape Town City Council. Still, the status does not entirely prohibit new construction; it simply stipulates that new construction should be subject to much more scrutiny to ensure it fits in with the existing structures.
A view of the old and the new. This is on Chiappini Street.
Here is the Nurul Islam Mosque, located off Buitengracht Street, and established in 1834.
The Jameah Mosque on Chiappini Street was built in 1850.  It is also known as the Queen Victoria Mosque, as patronage of the British Crown, when the Cape Colony was under British rule.

Lucky Friday

Cape Town highs today: 29 °C/ 84 °F and partly sunny. The days are still long: 13 h 15 mins. [Graphic from ‘Die Burger’].
A peek into my refrigerator here in my AirBnB apartment. The canned fish (Saldanha Pilchards) are from the chilly waters of South Africa’s west coast | Castle lager now has a non-alcoholic version | another favorite are the Windhoek Lights (2%), brewed in the German tradition in Namibia | the Crunchie bar has a crisp honeycomb center covered with chocolate | Ceres makes the world’s best fruit juice blends (this one very romantically named ‘Whispers of Summer’) | Woolworths (‘Woolies’) is the place to go for fine foods and yogurt | The Lindt rabbit comes from Switzerland, of course. I had to get it because the dark chocolate ones are hard to come by in the United States!

The weather was much cooler today.
There were no power outages, and tonight a lucky South African may win the largest local lottery jackpot ever: R 210 million/ US $14 m*.

I have beer in my fridge, and some of my favorite South African snackies, so life is good.

*A fraction of the obscene amounts offered in United States lotteries – but drawing 5% each year of US$ 14 m comes to $700,000. Plenty to live a lavish life, anywhere in the world.

Wednesday/ the new ‘Public Enemy No 1’

It used to be, many years ago, that we would call South Africa’s national telephone company, Telkom, ‘Public Enemy No 1’. (They were a monopoly, and their services were mediocre at best).  Well,  these days that title belongs to South Africa’s electrical utility company, Eskom.

On Sunday, unexpectedly, the utility announced that it had to resort to Stage 3 Load Shedding mode, with widespread power outages. There were more on Monday, on Tuesday, and today. For Stage 3, Eskom implements rolling blackouts per published time periods and areas around the country, that forces a cut in the national power consumption by 3,000 MW.  (About 10%. The country’s power consumption needs at this time of year is around 30, 000 MW).

It now appears that there are major problems with the start-ups of the two brand-new power stations called Medupi (dry-cooled, coal-fired, 6x 800 MW) and Kusile (coal-fired, 6x 800 MW) , and that the utility was not forthcoming about it.

A team of Italian engineers (power supply & power grid experts) has been called upon to come and help devise strategies to get Eskom’s operations to a better place.  They cannot come soon enough .. even though I am sure we have South African engineers that are completely up to the task, if only they were given the opportunity by Eskom’s senior management.

Front page of Die Burger (‘The Citizen’) newspaper from Tuesday: ‘What the Hell, Eskom!’ .. and ‘Steenbras Dam cannot help until April’ (to generate hydroelectric power) | ‘Even Cyril (Ramaphosa, President), is shocked’ | ‘Could cost the country up to R5 billion (US$ 357 million) per day’ (per the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse).
Here’s an online notice of the outage that happened tonight in my area. These power outages hit large and small businesses particularly hard, of course.

Tuesday/ a red one with animals on

One more South African bank note arrived in the mail, that I had bought from an Ebay seller in Canada. My little collection of South African bank notes is complete – for now.
I now have all the ones that I have memories of, or that I used to have in my wallet, back in the 80’s and 90’s!

This is ZAR 50 note was the highest denomination of the Third Series of Rand banknotes, first issued in 1984, and only until 1990. I did not carry this bad boy in my wallet much! .. it was a lot of money at the time. Obverse: Jan van Riebeeck portrait (first administrator of the Dutch Cape Colony, 1652-1662); head of a lion. Reverse: Natural environment and fauna of South Africa: giraffe, impala, black wildebeest, zebra, palms, aloe, mountain cliffs (Afrikaans ‘bergkranse’) & setting African sun in the sky. [Pictures from Ebay].