Friday, July 28, 2006

How many times have you seen Johnny Clegg live?

Hey? What's that? Never?!!

I saw my first Johnny Clegg concert when I was about 11 years old at the Good Hope Centre in Cape Town in 1985. This was quite an adventure as I went with a group of teenagers I did not know and I think some of Johnny Clegg and Juluka's songs were banned at the time (for being anti-apartheid). It was amazing - my first concert and a truly African experience for someone brought up in a predominantly European setting.

Since then I have been to many Johnny Clegg shows and he always blows me away. It was after one of these shows that I became truly committed to South Africa. After watching Clegg tell stories about his songs and his life on the stage of the Baxter Theatre during my final year of varsity, I was inspired by his experience of being African and how this had traveled with him wherever he went in the world. I resolved to find work in South Africa rather than follow most of my friends to London.

So I looked forward to seeing Johnny Clegg perform at the Johannesburg Civic Theatre tonight and launch his new album. He performed with the Soweto Gospel Choir who have been bowling over audiences around the world for the last year.

It did not disappoint and I shared the experience with a friend who has recently returned to South Africa and moved to Johannesburg. That somehow seems significant.

Johnny Clegg on stage at the Johannesburg Civic Theatre

Johnny Clegg's show continues to this Sunday, 30th July at the Johannesburg Civic Theatre.

The song playing, Asimbonanga (Mandela) - from Third World Child by Johnny Clegg and Savuka (1987), commemorates the deaths of poltical activists and the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela during apartheid. It became a freedom anthem during the eighties.


(Zulu for 'We haven't seen him')

Asimbonanga (We haven't seen him)
Asimbonang 'uMandela thina (We haven't seen Mandela)
Laph 'ekhona (in the place where he is)
Laph 'ehlelikhona (in the place where he is kept)

Oh the sea is cold and the sky is grey
Look across the island into the bay
We are all islands 'till comes the day
We cross the burning water


A seagull wings across the sea
Broken silence is what I dream
Who has the words to close the distance
Between you and me


Steven Biko...
Asimbonanga (We haven't seen him)
Bonang' umfowethu thina (We haven't seen our brother)
Laph' ekhona (in the place where he is)
La wafela khona (in the place where he died)

Victoria Mxenge...
Asimbonanga (We haven't seen her)
Bonang' udadewethu thina (We haven't seen our sister)
Laph' ekhona (in the place where she is)
La wafela khona (in the place where she died)

Neil Aggett...
Asimbonanga (We haven't seen him)
Bonang' umfowethu thina (We haven't seen our brother)
Laph' ekhona (in the place where he is)
La wafela khona (in the place where he died)

Awu ngithi hey wena (Oh, I say 'hey you')
Hey wena nawe (hey you and you as well)
Sizofika nini la' siyakhona (When will we arrive at our true destination?)


Do you report bad AND good service?

It seems I am becoming an activist. Which is good. Thinking about what activist means, it is the opposite of being apathetic and apathy is the great enemy. Effective society depends on contributions of each member.

And so I've starting posting my service experiences on is the customer service website started by Peter Cheales and I must say I am impressed by the people who post (there are a fair number who take the trouble to post good experiences) and the response of companies to posts.

What moved me to my latest activism was a day I had been dreading that worked out very well. I had to do three errands that every person expects to be a disaster. I had to apply for a post office box, apply for a new business telephone and file a change of address at Sandton Motor Vehicle Licensing. I expected to take hours for each.

My visit to the post office in Craighall (Hyde Park Shopping centre) was a dream. A young employee immediately issued me with a new post box and escorted me to the box. He explained the process for dealing with mail for the previous user. I asked him about a parcel I have been expecting from China to my personal address for some months. He told me how to phone parcel tracking and volunteered to monitor my personal address and put the parcel in my post box. All over in about ten minutes! Wow.

Then I went to the Telkom Shop in Rosebank Mall. This I expected to be a disaster. Surprise. The place was a hive of activity, but I managed to see a consultant fairly quickly. I signed and paid for my new business line and was out of there in about twenty minutes. At this stage I began to pinch myself.

Onto Sandton Motor Vehicle Licensing. Anybody who has ever been to this branch off Marlboro Drive might have just turned back when seeing the cars in the parking lot. It is heaving with people! However, I joined the queue hoping I might get lucky again and not have to abandon the endeavor before my next appointment. Instead of the hours in the queue, I got to the front and was processed in 45 minutes. Wow! Wow! Wow!!!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Have you been hit by the 20% of criminals that perpetrate 80% of the crime?

There is a principle known as the Pareto principle - or more loosely, the 80/20 principle.

The 80/20 principle is used to describe the relationship between a myriad of things. For example effort versus impact. It is typically found that the first 20% of effort is responsible for 80% of the impact. It might also describe the relationship between sales people and sales - 20% of sales people are likely to be responsible for 80% of sales. It is amazingly reliable and good consultants and managers use it as a "gut feel" measure to make decisions about a myriad of different actions. More than this, successful people often intuitively apply it to managing their lives.

So, it is likely that 20% of criminals perpetrate 80% of crime. Various anecdotal and researched evidence of this exists and my reading of books like "The Tipping Point," "Freakonomics" and discussions with police personnel seem to bare this out.

So those of us in the Sandton area of Johannesburg have got reason to celebrate then - the Sandton police have arrested the Sandton Knife Gang. This group of five brothers have been linked to 18 different robberies in the Sandton area thus far. Since their arrest, crime has already dropped in the area!

Congratulations SAPS Sandton!

Read more on IoL.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

How will this war end?

It is difficult to see the end of the war in the Middle East. Losing family-members in all likelihood creates another person who might one day grow up to be a suicide bomber or a pro-war sympathist.

Whenever I consider the Middle East and Irish conflicts, I always consider the miracle that is South Africa.

From the Mail & Guardian:

Blasted by a missile on the road to safety

24 Jul 2006 07:32

The ambulanceman gave Ali the job of keeping his mother alive. The 12-year-old did what he could. "Mama, mama, don't go to sleep," he sobbed, gently patting her face beneath her chin. Behind her black veil, her eyelids were slowly sinking. "I'm going to die," she sighed. "Don't say that, mama," Ali begged, and then slid to the ground in tears.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Could Cyril Ramaphosa be South Africa's next president?

Cyril Ramaphosa Photo Ă‚© Eric Miller/World Economic Forum Africa Summit, Cape Town 2005
An article crept into today's press with all the significance of the breeze that heralds the eventual arrival of a hurricane.

News24 reported that Cyril Ramaphosa has entered the race for the ANC presidency.

Many South Africans have shuddered at the thought of a populist president such as Jacob Zuma. One who believes that a woman wearing a skirt is sending a sexual invitation and who regularly sings a song entitled "Bring Me My Machine Gun."

I have often wondered whether South Africa could attract someone into politics who has every opportunity to achieve in another arena such as business. Ramaphosa is such a person, and his business interests in the form of Shanduka are exceptionallysuccessfull. I wondered if he might ever yearn for a legacy beyond wealth and look to lead the country. It seems that he has.

UPDATE: It seems that he hasn't. Damn.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Can you and I start the positive revolution?

After feeling furious about the crimexpo website for a while, I decided to co-opt a friend and begin exploration as to what we, the citizens could do to help.

This goes to my point about positive contributions. I believe that only after all avenues have been attempted, can one justify the economic terrorism Mr Watson is perpetrating.

Further I believe I have no right to put someone else's job at risk if I am not willing to give up my own job to send the government a message. And I am guessing Mr Watson is no such martyr.

So we met the SA Police Services liaison officer for Sandton and the liaison officer for Sandton north. Both were fantastically constructive and gave us a good breakdown of what is happening with regard to community involvement.

As a follow up to that, I attended a braai with the Sandton precinct staff today and met the community members involved in assisting the police. During my visit I met the director of the Sandton precinct and he was enormously enthusiastic about involving the community further. I meet with him next week to outline a needs analysis.

I am also attending the Community Policing Forum for Sandton on Wednesday next week.

Despite contributions from various companies and people, notably Rand Merchant Bank and the JSE, it is evident that much can be done. I was astonished to find that my outreach, as a citizen, is very rare.

I have not posted any of the contact details for the people above yet, but will do so once I have formalised a plan of action. It is apparent that some things are happening in the community and at national level (e.g. Business against Crime), but these might be better coordinated.

So I'll end off with a challenge. Will you try to find a way to make a positive contribution, or merely find reason to mount destructive criticism?

Of course I realise most of us have very limited time. But even a visit to your local police station to introduce yourself can help things along. Further, you may know someone who is retired or able to help out one morning a week. Simple things like phoning complainants to book appointments for investigators can help.

Or since many of us pay large amounts to private security companies each month, pressuring them to plow back some of their profits into investments and training for your local police can help.

Will you take up the challenge?

Monday, July 03, 2006

What drives you Mr Watson?

Mr Watson

I read with alarm that you are launching Your stated aim is to "disillusion and disgust" foreigners. The website will be launched today and is aimed at discouraging foreigners from coming to South Africa because of the crime here.

You have said the website will insist on answers from the world soccer association, Fifa, "Fifa must explain to the international community why the murders of thousands of people were ignored when the 2010 Soccer World Cup was awarded to South Africa."

You have emphasised that the website will exceed all bounds, "We want to expose what the South African press finds sensitive."

I understand that you plan to publish hundreds of photos of gruesome murders - photos the press feel are too sensitive to publish.

Apparently you have not yet been affected by crime, but you feel it is inevitable that you will be.

I share your fears. I live in Johannesburg. When I moved here ten years ago, crime was of epidemic proportions. I have witnessed a gradual improvement and like many, felt that the police were winning the war on crime. Many shocking crimes this year have awakened fears that things are getting worse. I like you have escaped being a victim of crime, something I am profoundly grateful for.

I believe that it is foolish to bury one's head in the sand and pretend crime in South Africa does not exist. I am aware that I live in a society with an abnormally and unacceptably high rate of crime. I believe that our criminal justice system is hopelessly overloaded, inefficient and ineffective. I believe that our country has a culture of ducking accountability and denial of deep issues.

I have posted entries on my weblog, about some of the horrific crimes that have been committed over the last 6 months.

But I fundamentally disagree with your intentions. I love this country. I question whether you do.

I continue to witness the turnaround of this country from the one I grew up in.

In the early nineties, I together with many, wondered if this country would descend into civil war. I even lost friends to the terrorist attacks occurring at the time.

I chose to stay and contribute to our country's rebirth and have watched as the success of its turnaround has gathered pace. Few could have imagined the miracle. As we stood in the queue to vote in the referendum to give transformation our "yes". As we queued with millions voting for the first time. As we watched one of world's greatest sons forgive his captors and wear the rugby jersey of a white captain at the 1995 world cup. As we watched Joshua Thugwane win gold at the Olympics. As we have watched our swimmers rule the world. And as our economy has leapt to life growing at 6%.

I have watched people return to South Africa after having emigrated to other countries. I have employed these people and encouraged others to return, always honestly providing an assessment of the dangers and the benefits of such a move.

I have also encouraged family and friends who have left because of crime. I have seen the effects of crime on a family's psychology first hand as my cousin killed an intruder in his bedroom. I fully understood his emigration choice as he sought a new life where his family would feel safe again.

I also fully realise that should I one day be a victim of violent crime, I might also feel sufficiently threatened that I might seek the safety of foreign shores.

I encounter people daily on the internet who have left South Africa and feel bitter about having had to do so. I meet many more who are even more bitter that whilst they might wish to leave they are unable to do so.

But I also see those who have been victims of crime who have managed to move on and remain committed to this country. I hope that I manage to avoid crime, but should I not, I hope that I might exhibit their bravery.

This country will survive and prosper because of bravery, commitment and optimism. Of course honesty, accountability and consequence will also be crucial to that success.

But our country also requires much to be built. We require a moral regeneration. It will be built on education. Education will require wealth and wealth will require jobs.

This represents massive construction. More than that, a constructive spirit.

And that is what worries me about your project. It is by objective destructive. You wish to turn people away from South Africa. You might justify this as your means of attracting the government's attention through external pressure. But as considerable as your effort is, I believe you have chosen an easy path. For it is always easier to be destructive than play a constructive role.

Our country needs constructive contributions. Indeed perhaps because of the lack thereof, our problems are that much greater today.

There are many ways to play a constructive role. From merely contributing productively to our economy, to volunteering some small contribution to our police force.

In fact almost any contribution will be less than that of the lives that many of our policemen and women have given so tragically in defence of our safety. Some of those stories can also be found on my weblog.

I have wondered what other means you have attempted to engage the problem before your current effort? And I wonder if your considerable effort might not find a better role?




Anti-crime campaign may scare 2010 visitors
SA crime website 'must disgust'
IMC concerned about 'negative' crime website

New anti-crimeexpo sites / posts:

The Unbroken Barometer
Crime Site Gets A Rival - IoL