South African sports legend John van Reenen (71) passed away on Tuesday at his home in Calitzdorp, South Africa. (He suffered from diabetes). He studied art right here in Seattle at the University of Washington until 1971, and was a world-class discus thrower at the time. He wanted to attend the 1972 Olympic Games, but was barred as a South African citizen. South Africans were barred by the IOC from the Games from 1964 to 1992, due to the South African government’s apartheid policies.
At an event in Stellenbosch, South Africa, in 1975, Van Reenen set a world record with a throw of 68.48 m. Discus throwers studied and imitated his technique, known for a long time as ‘the South African drill’. Perfecting a good technique is notoriously difficult – which may be why the world record of German Jürgen Schult of 74.08 m, set in 1986, still stands today. It is the oldest record in all of men’s track and field.
My 1975 South African ten rand note that I had bought on Ebay, arrived in the mail today. I wanted one – correction: had to have one – for my bank note collection. I have fond memories of the note. When I was very young, I saw it as a lot of money, almost a fortune. I still remember my mom pulling out two of these green notes from her wallet, to pay for a semi-automatic knitting machine that she had bought at a store. Whoah! How cool, I thought.
Hey, a buffalo! I thought, as I spotted one at the Target store’s toy section yesterday. I got one for my African animals collection.
This is a cheapie one ($3.50, made by a company called Terra), and I will still look for one from my favorite purveyor of animal figurines, the German company called Schleich. The Terra-made buffalo does have a lilac-breasted roller (‘troupand’) sitting on its back, a nice touch.
Ever since South African President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address last Thursday was postponed, there was a buzz that his ouster is near, finally.
Zuma assumed office in 2009, and soon disgraced himself and the presidency with corruption and incompetence (see newspaper clipping below). Last December, South Africa’s Vice-President Cyril Ramaphosa became the ruling African National Congress party’s chairman, resulting in a leadership crisis.
Word on Monday night in South Africa was that the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting had ended with a decision to recall Zuma. Sources say Zuma had earlier agreed to resign – but on the condition that he stay put 3 more months in office. It was rejected by the NEC.
Tue 2/13 update: President Jacob Zuma is expected to brief the media at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Wednesday.
Wed 2/13 update: Zuma gave a rambling, meandering response to the moves by the ANC to get him to quit. (He basically asked ‘What did I do wrong?’ and plans to stay on at least until June). There’s a little ‘as you sow, so you shall reap’ going on here. The ANC had protected Zuma for far too long.
Wed night 2/13: Zuma announces that he is resigning with immediate effect. (Good riddance).
Monday was a federal holiday in the United States, marking civil rights giant Martin Luther King’s birthday – 89 years ago to the day. King and Nelson Mandela were contemporaries, but never met.
The South African government refused to issue King a visa in 1966. Mandela was in jail by then – arrested in 1962 for ‘conspiring to overthrow the state’, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Mandela first visited the United States (he made three trips) in June 1990, four months after his release from prison. A ticker tape parade was organized for him in New York by New York City Mayor David Dinkins.
King’s widow Coretta Scott King, attended Mandela’s inauguration as South African president in 1994.
I shipped a package of books and red tea that I bought here, from myself to myself, in Seattle today. Books are so heavy, and I don’t put food in my baggage when I travel. The post office branch I visited did not have new 2017 stamps , and I settled for a panel of 2014 stamps that commemorated World War I.
‘Whoah! What’s that body of water?’ I thought as I drove by a reservoir in Oranjezicht on the slopes of Table Mountain today. ( I visited family that live close by).
Turned out it was the Molteno reservoir (or Molteno dam), one with a colorful history.
Construction was completed in 1880, but then the dam stood empty through two unusually dry winters. When the drought finally broke, the dam overflowed. The eastern wall broke and sent a tsunami of water down through the city, destroying houses and uprooting trees. Yikes!
Another catastrophe occurred in June 1900, when a famous hot air balloonist called Isidore Michaels got in trouble with the wind, jumped from his balloon basket with a parachute, but ended up in the middle of the dam and drowned, enmeshed in his parachute strings. The dam had to be drained to retrieve his body.
After that, the dam served the young city of Cape Town for many decades to come. It is still in service, supplying the city center with water, alongside several other dams in the Western Cape Water Supply System that were brought on-line.
Early Monday evening, the results were in: Cyril Ramaphosa won the vote for ANC President, with 2440 votes to 2261. Hopefully this is a sign that the disastrous Zuma presidency and legacy will be coming to an end.
There was TV coverage all day, but none of the exhaustive and detailed analysis that come with elections on TV in the United States.
More artwork .. this rhino in The Watershed building in the V&A Waterfront is part of a public art exhibition campaign to save the rhinos. There are fewer than 5,500 black rhinos and 22,000 white rhinos left on the planet and poachers are still killing them at an alarming rate.
There is a big lawn at my guesthouse, and early in the morning a few hadada ibises are out foraging for worms. Amazingly, the lawn is still a little green in spite of the drought, and they have to work at it with their beaks, but they do find an earthworm or a bug now and then.
The 54th National Conference of the African National Congress (South Africa’s ruling political party) is set to start on Friday at an exhibition center near Johannesburg. The event is more or less the equivalent of the national party conventions we have in the United States before a presidential election. By Sunday, the ANC will have elected a new chairperson, and it is very likely that this person will become South Africa’s new president as an outcome of the 2019 national elections.
Even though Cyril Ramaphosa served as deputy president of South Africa under President Jacob Zuma since 2014, many (most?) South Africans hope that he will prevail over his rival Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, ex-wife of Jacob Zuma. It is time to pay serious attention to South Africa’s economic challenges and clean out the worst of the vast corruption and cronyism in the Zuma administration. Ramaphosa has tweeted that he wants to address infrastructure challenges, and wants to target a 5% growth rate for South Africa’s developing economy (currently at about 1% annual growth).
It drizzled a little bit today here in the far northern suburbs of Cape Town (68 °F/ 20°C). I am sure the precipitation did not add even a fraction of a percent to the water level in the dams here, though. At the current dam levels (34.2% full) and water usage, city officials estimate ‘day zero’ to be May 18, 2018. Day zero comes when dam levels have dropped to 13.5%. At that point there will be no more water coming out of faucets, and residents will have to collect water from some 200 collection sites around the city.
Monday was ‘Black Monday’ in South Africa: a day of organized protest against the continued high murder rate of farmers in the country. Accurate numbers are hard to come by, but it is impossible to see the frequent reports on the front pages of newspapers, and not to acknowledge that there is a problem.
I wish I knew what the solution is. It is an issue fraught with race relations, the recent history of white farmers in neighboring Zimbabwe, and one of broken promises from the South African government to provide better security and justice to citizens that produce the country’s food supply.
The Cape Pioneer Trek mountain bike competition ended on Saturday in the southern Cape in South Africa.
It is a very beautiful part of the country, and the riders go through trails in nature reserves. I have to believe they are safe from predators, but they still have to watch out for zebra, giraffes and antelopes.
The brothers Grimm’s fairy tales were first published in 1812, so this year marks their 200th anniversary.
I have had my eye on a South African publisher’s ‘Die Mooiste Sprokies van Grimm (2010)’ (The Fairest Fairy Tales of Grimm’) with illustrations by artist Piet Grobler for a while now, and today I finally purchased it.