Catching up

OK. Where were we?

Let's get the mundane stuff out of the way first. Early spring has sprung. The trees are beginning to blossom here and there, and the bees are out in force. So are the August winds, and because everything is still bone dry after months of no precipitation at all, dust is everywhere. But at least the cold is gone - we've had a relatively mild winter this year, but with a few cold snaps that were downright spectacular: the aging water heater in the car port burst from the cold, and black frost killed off quite a few plants in the garden.

My vegetable garden is an out-an-out failure as a vegetable garden (the sum and total of the harvest was one cabbage the size of a golf ball) but as an experiment intended to find out what's what in this garden, it was a success. I now have learned that the veggie patch is useless in winter because it hardly gets any sun at all; that the soil is useless, and that the weather is something to be reckoned with. Five minutes down the road is a large(ish) estate where they have horses and vineyards, which means the soil is excellent (the gray/black stuff that I need, rather than the reddish clay that I have) and manure is available in abundance. What this garden needs is a load of crap, and new soil for the veggie patch, both of which will arrive shortly. :-)

I have sown most of my herbs in seeding trays - but being penniless, I used the plastic trays that my local supermarket sells tomatoes and other fruit and vegetables in. Which is fine, except that I now have the nagging suspicion that some of them may have been treated with some kind of fungicide to keep fruit from molding - and incidentally my seeds from germinating. So far some of it (dill weed, leek and thyme, for example) has started to sprout, but coriander, chives, parsley and basil have been in there for over three weeks now without any sign of life... except for two or three runty green pinheads in the center of the tray. Fortunately I haven't put all my eggs in one basket seeds in one tray, so I've re-sown some of that stuff in real seeding trays (i.e. ones sold for that purpose) that I managed to borrow.

The garden needs a lot of work. First, as soon as I have a bit of money to buy a few simple plumbing fixtures, I'll put in an irrigation system. Not the fancy stuff that you buy at garden centers; I'll make my own. :-) Then there's the usual cleaning upping to do after the winter. In spring the pine trees start growing new needles, and the old stuff is coming down like rain - along with green clouds of pollen, because how they're blooming and everything gets covered in this green stuff. :-) Then the grass needs some fertilizer, but that will have to wait until the growing season starts again. I'm hoping to get rich later this year and start building a garden shed, and some outside lights for the patio, and maybe an umbrella there and an electrical outlet, so that I can work outside in summer. We'll see.

Work-wise, things are quiet. A few weeks ago I did a small website for a deep sea fishing charter company in Shelly Beach, just south of Durban. It was a referral from a friend who has family there, which meant I could get a ride out there for free. They fetched me at four in the morning on a Friday, we drove out there, arrived just past noon, had a meeting, I made the website, and on Sunday afternoon we drove back. It's not great money but it all helps, and maybe it will generate some more business in that part of the country.

My permanent residence permit is still in the works - and the wheels turn slowly here. My police clearance is in, having been delayed by several months due to the Soccer World Cup games, and now I need to get another affidavit from a chartered accountant and a company valuation, I need to draw up a revised business plan, and I need to make a case for the fact that I'm not hiring large numbers of Africans and otherwise creating economic opportunities for the downtrodden masses.

Well, at least that last bit is easy - the downtrodden masses have once gain risen up in their might, with the soccer world cup out of the way and the eyes of the world safely turned elsewhere, and once again demanded more money. They do this at least once a year, for no specific reason other than that they want more, and more again, with quite arbitrary demands. This time it's the public sector again, and strikes here mean violence and vandalism. Striking hordes march through towns and across highways, overturning rubbish bins, breaking windows, setting fires, and wreaking general havoc and destruction. Striking hospital workers intimidated their working colleagues, dragged a nurse out of the operating room during an operation, and at least seven patients have died so far, including babies who were left without food or care all day long. Even emergency patients are denied care. And it's not just hospitals - similar atrocities happen in other sectors: government offices, schools, municipalities, and what not.

But at least we still know about all this. That may soon change... because the constitutional freedom of speech is about to be abolished in South Africa. The ANC is about to sign into law two draconian proposals intended to muzzle the free media in South Africa, following a spate of publications in the media on the excesses of various ANC heavies, including systematic abuse of power, conflicts of interests, hijacking of government tenders, nepotism, corruption, fraud, embezzlement and outright crime. These "fabrications" and "obviously false allegations" have outraged notonly the ANC, but also the ANC Youth League and the SA Communist Party (SACP); with an uncommon degree of co-operation they have labeled the media a threat to democracy, and accused some of the more daring investigative journalists of treason because their "lies" have "undermined security in the presidency" and constituted "a direct attack on the State and its people". At least one Sunday Times  reporter has been arrested. Meanwhile the new Protection of Information Bill is about to be summarily signed into law, which will give the government the authority to keep under wraps whatever they want, in what is nothing short of a revival of Apartheid-era secrecy and censorship, and a Media Tribunal which will adjudicate over "wrong reporting by all media". Guess who will decide what constitutes "confidential information" and "wrong reporting"? Exactly.

So my long silence in this weblog might be a taste of things to come...

Freedom of speech and freedom of press aren't the only things that will go out the window when the Protection of Information Bill comes into effect. It will also seriously hamper (or rather, defeat) attempts to hold the ANC and its members accountable for their actions. In fact it will make it virtually impossible for anyone, from the Public Protectorate to the Human Rights Commission to the Directorate of Public Proscecution, to adequately respond to any lawbreaking committed by the ruling party of its top figures. All the ANC has to do, as soon as embarrassing questions are asked or condemning evidence surfaces, is to declare the Bill applicable to whatever issue is being raised, and the whole thing will immediately disappear behind a screens of secrecy, not only safely out of view of the public, but also out of reach of any judicial representative, right up to the high court itself. How convenient.

Maybe it's time we all learned Chinese...


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