On justice and honesty

23 01 2014

Trevor is my insurance broker. He’s a big man, loves to talk and laugh but occasionally has a serious story to tell. Yesterday when paying my annual insurance premium he entertained me with a couple of stories.

“You like justice to be done?” he started and without waiting for my reply launched into his tale.

A client of his has a 17 year old daughter who was attacked by 3 dogs recently  whilst out walking one afternoon. They rushed out of a gate left open and attacked making quite a mess of the girl’s leg before she managed to beat them off. A report was made to the police and the order given for the dogs to be destroyed (there was a history of other attacks) which was done.

The case was far from over and the lawyer for the owner of the dogs suggested a meeting between the girl’s father and the member-in-charge of the police station handling the case. This was arranged and at the meeting the lawyer proposed some sort of financial compensation instead of taking the case to court. Much to his surprise the member-in-charge said he would prefer it to go to court to which the father agreed after a moment’s thought.

A year’s jail term was handed out, suspended on condition that the accused never owned dogs again and some community service was added on top. The police station where the case was reported made use of the community service.

“So what do you think”, asked Trevor. “There’s still some hope left” he added referring to the continual corrupt dealings of the police that have left more than a few of us disillusioned.

“Trevor, the cynic in me is awakened” I replied without pause. “If the owner of the dogs had been someone of note, with the right connections, do you really think it would have got this far?”. He had to admit that it was very unlikely that it would have.

“Then how about this” Trevor continued, clearly unfazed. “I’ve just got back from seeing my folks in Cape Town. My mom and dad are in their 80s in a retirement complex in Fishhoek and my mom spends her days knitting and watching bad South African TV. My dad is more than a bit conservative and has no time for TV so I decided to wait until they went away for a short while, get the TV installed with a subscription for a year and make it fait accompli”.

The manager of the complex was contacted, an installer recommended and met. Trevor had misgivings about the character who was recommended but in the excitement of doing something worthwhile for his mother and circumventing his domineering father, chose to ignore the alarm bells. He handed over the cash together with enough for the year’s subscription and the equivalent of $100 to sweeten the deal. The satellite TV was duly installed but the year’s subscription ran out after a month. Fortunately Trevor’s older brother was going to Cape Town so he went and put the fear of God into the installer and another 6 months subscription was suddenly paid. Excuses were made about the remaining 6. So Trevor asked if I knew of anyone going to Cape Town who could help out. I didn’t but recommended my cousin who is  huge and does go there to see his daughter.

“So I was telling this story to my golf buddies the other day” ended Trevor “and they couldn’t believe how dishonest the installer had been. But then they are Zimbabwean. The one South African who was playing with us couldn’t believe how naive I’d  been to hand over cash to someone I didn’t know with just a handshake to seal the deal”.

Indeed, how bad are things getting when one cannot trust complete strangers!


An inspirational story – the Cold Fact

25 12 2013

I am not religious at all so this time of year is a bit lost on me. Actually I find it a bit tedious and find it a relief when it’s over – an excess of eating and false bonhomie and the original message of hope and inspiration long buried in commercialism. I heard the first Christmas Carols this year in a supermarket at the end of October. I do however like a truly inspirational story as much as anyone so last night made myself comfortable with a DVD “Searching for Sugar Man” – the story of the search for the artiste known just as Rodriguez who in my youth produced the iconic album Cold Fact that sank without trace in the USA but was a huge hit in this part of the world where it was seen as a touch provocative, anti-establishment, and a touchstone for anti-apartheid music in the Afrikaans language.

I suppose I was about 15 when I first heard Cold Fact. Tape cassettes were a new technology so it must have been what we called an LP (long playing vinyl record). We considered ourselves a bit rebellious just for listening to it with its shocking lyrics on I Wonder – “… I wonder how many times you’ve had sex and I wonder, do you know who’ll be next and I wonder…”. Well, shocking for that era. And the song about drugs – Sugar Man. I never owned the album, I wouldn’t have dared bring it home. I had already rocked the boat by being the first of my siblings to buy a pop album – the soundtrack to Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Radical stuff man! I am not sure I would really have appreciated the lyrics anyway, often a gritty synopsis of Rodriguez’s Detroit.

The Searching for Sugar Man documentary follows two South African fans as they search for their hero about whom next to nothing is known where Rodriguez’s two albums were a massive hit. They don’t even know if he is still alive as rumours abound about an onstage suicide. I remember being told that the artiste was an ex-convict who wrote his songs in jail. Rodriguez is alive and well and  has absolutely no idea that he is a superstar in this part of the world and has spent the last 30 years as a blue collar laborer in construction and renovation in his native Detroit.

The opening scenes of the first sell-out concert in Cape Town in 1998 are incredibly touching; a lot of the fans cannot believe it’s really their hero. Then the opening notes of I Wonder start and the crowd goes berserk. That Rodriguez, who is expecting a couple of thousand fans at most, walks calmly onto the stage in front of some 20,000 after a near 30 year hiatus and handles the concert with aplomb, is a tribute to the extraordinary quality of the man who remains remarkably humble to this day, still living in the run-down house in Detroit where he has spent the last 40 years.

The “Making of” section at the end of the documentary (which won an award at the 2012 Sundance Festival and later and Academy Award) is well worth a look – in itself an inspirational story of persistence from a first-time director who nearly didn’t get the film made at all. And the music; well, it’s timeless. Rodriguez is favorably compared to Bob Dylan in the documentary. In my opinion he is much better. I have never been a fan of Dylan whose nasal whining I find tedious no matter how good the lyrics. Rodriguez has great lyrics AND a clear voice. Here’s hoping he has found the recognition that he has so long deserved in the wider world.

Some things we do better!

6 01 2013

Cape Town is a well-run city. It’s clean, the roads are good and things, well, just work! It goes therefore that it’s a great place to go on holiday to get away from the pressures of working and living in Zimbabwe. The weather is also good at this time of year as it is a Mediterranean climate. The team this time was the same as in 2011r; myself, June and Gary though their eldest son Stewart couldn’t get away from where he works in Sierra-Leone. Two weeks went fast, a reliable sign of a good holiday, and now I am back in the contrasting weather and countryside outside Harare.

It’s all too easy to resign ourselves that South Africa does just about everything better than us – their economy is easily the biggest in Africa. So I was rather pleased to find out from a customer yesterday that there is something we do better. Some friends of his also went to South Africa over Christmas and New Year but they chose to drive. The main border post at Beit Bridge through which they had to pass is not for the faint-hearted even at the best of times when queues can be daunting. Over the holiday periods things can get extreme. They took 12.5 minutes to cross out of the Zimbabwe border post and 2 hours to get into South Africa. Coming back saw them waiting 8 hours on the South African side and 1 hour on the Zimbabwean side where the officials were efficient, friendly and everything was well-organized. Yes! That’s one for the books!

The fairest Cape

4 01 2012

It was quite a “culture” shock getting back from Cape Town on Friday. Back to the dirty streets, potholes, melies growing on the verge and plastic bags and polystyrene lunch boxes EVERYWHERE! Cape Town is still clean and well run. To be sure the crime is a serious problem but after 2 weeks of unwinding I was thoroughly relaxed. The weather was good as one would expect at this time of year though the wind got a bit tedious it lived up to it’s more pleasant moniker (Cape of Storms being the other one).

All photos taken with Panasonic Lumix TZ8 compact camera.