Friday, December 14, 2007


For some its a lifelong passion. Take a 1600cc customised bike engine and build a frame around it. Add a few extras and be prepared to write out a cheque for half a million rands. I was covering a car show at a local casino and came across these hand built choppers. One was dedicated to the local Sharks rugby team. Each part including a realistic shark fin on the tail had been hand made albeit some with the aid of computer technology. These machines became so powerful one could not apply full power on take off for fear of shredding the belt drive. The problem was solved by transfering power via a separate drive belt from the engine to the gear box. (thanks Mr Jee) They should really be displayed in an art gallery alongside the more mundane works of oil and pastels. I will be taking a break over the festive season so this blog will probably be a lot quieter as I attend to my overgrown jungle at home.

Christmas Shopping

Need some extra cash for Christmas. Why not hit a convenient cash exchange office next to one of Durban's top shopping centers.
A brazen gang took on the Musgrave Centre office block but had to hand back the $90 000 they took after stabbing staff and holding up an unguarded office. Two baddies were grabbed by police and one took his chances to behave like superman and jumped from a seventh floor window. After breaking a leg he was overheard telling the ambulance man to call his grandfather and tell him there would be no turkey on the menu this Christmas. Terrence Stone from eTV news was on hand to capture the action.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Lunch Time Music

Every two weeks the Durban Playhouse hosts a freebee concert in their Grand Foyer. The idea is to give local musos and performers a platform for exposure. This year alone 600 wannabes have strutted their stuff to appreciative audiences. Today was the grand finale and the lunch time crowd was treated to everything from traditional isiZulu singers to dudes playing John Lennon songs. Never a dull moment in this town!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Surf City

Durban is not called “Surf City” for nothing. It is host to a number of top rated international surfing competitions. Hard to believe that for years the Gunston 500 was the surfing event in South Africa. I never once saw a surfer smoking a Gunston while riding the waves. What a bizarre concept to set fire to a bunch of dried weeds and then place them in you mouth. Anyhow I digress. Today saw the finals of the Roxy Wahine cup which is SA’s biggest surf event for girls. Commercialism being what it is the event is held at a prominent Casino not known for great surf. Surf veteran Heather Clerk knows a thing or two about waves and took home the winners purse of R10 000 . I quote from the interview I did with her.

I was the oldest in my heat. all the others were fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen. they gave me a run for my money. the day I have my walking stick on the beach is the day I'll give up surfing.”

Sunday, December 2, 2007


One of Durban’s best kept secrets lies hidden amongst the hustle and bustle of Durbans harbour. “Budds on the Bay” offers some of the finest foods one can find in Durban.. If you stroll down from the deck of Budds there is a great view of some rustic old yachts hidden amongst the last remaining mangroves of Durban. Well worth a visit just watch out for the container trucks on Bayhead road.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Mercs and Trolleys

I had just collected a repaired company vehicle from probably one of Durban’s most elite car dealers. Mercedes Benz, Jeep, Chrysler etc. Very chic showrooms with fancy coffee shops for their clients. Outside in the parking area I noticed this local supermarket trolley being used by the gardening service as a makeshift wheelbarrow. Thought it rather ironic that with the millions of dollars worth of high tech cars around me that a humble plastic supermarket trolley complete with logo had been hijacked for a higher purpose.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pantomime Season

It's Pantomime season in Durban and the public have a number of choices. If you are into the drag scene then Robin Hood might tantalize your eye buds. The unending legs of one Anthony Stonier are on display at the Seabrookes Theatre while across town at the Playhouse children try and figure out how the magic carpet ride is done in Aladdin . The kids are also wondering why an obvious girl is playing the part of Aladdin. At least they have been drawn away from their play stations and video games to be exposed to traditional theatre on a grand scale.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Durban Theatre Awards

The Durban Theatre Awards is an annual event to recognize new and existing theatre talent in Durban. There is a hard core of regulars that scoop up the main prizes year after year. An impassioned plea was made by Aaron McGillroy for the arts community to unite and move forward. Not too sure how this would be achieved though. Many professional actors are forced to take on corporate gigs to survive. It never ceases to amaze me how brave some productions companies are by putting on new work to half empty houses. They are brave because how does one compete against DVD’s, DSTV, rampant crime and mass migration of the old faithful theater audiences. Maybe the Fixed Frame Film Festival (standing room only) is an indication of the future for new generation of Durban theatre goers.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

FIFA World Cup

There were red carpets, there were plates of snacks, there was a babble of foreign languages. Amongst it all was local muso Madala Kunene quietly strumming away amongst the hoi polloi. The event was the world premier of Anant Singhs movie "More than just a Game". It tells the story of how football developed on Robben Island amongst the political prisoners incarcerated there. In typical South African fashion people from the deputy president of the country to other lesser mortals arrived fashionably late. FIFA president Septh Blatter graciously adapted his speech to welcome the late VIP’s. Not to be outdone still more well coiffured ladies and gents strolled in half way through the movie. Outside the International Convention Centre police were in full force and two hapless street kids who must have escaped the original street blitz sauntered up to the ICC on their nightly patrol. The last I saw of them they were high tailing it down a side street wondering what all the fuss was about.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Another Day

Two armed dudes bust into a "secured" office park next to the Pavilion and rough up some defenceless ladies in their beauty products shop. Steal their personal stuff like cell phones and jewelery and make a run for it. All of a sudden dozens of cops arrive complete with air support. Meanwhile staff say they have hidden themselves in the ceiling so the special forces arrive to flush them out. Big crowds gather to watch the action. After an hour the cops emerge empty handed and the two thugs simply vanished into thin air in a gated fenced office complex. The traumatised women are taken away in ambulances for treatment. Turns out the baddies simply drove off before the cops arrived. (So much for their access control) Next door the vast shopping complex has beefed up security after their turn for being hit last week where twenty five shots were fired.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mother Nature

It's storm season in this part of the world and loud crashes of thunder with lightning strikes are common. Each year a number of people die from direct hits and I have seen mud huts razed to the ground with all the occupants “frozen” as they were electrocuted.
This time Mother Nature unleashed one of her spectacular displays and ignited 7 million litres of petrol. The fire was still burning after three days. No one was injured in the blast but local residents had to endure a sky full of soot as the refined petrol burnt out of control.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Clipper Yacht Race

The Clipper round the world race is in town. Ten gleaming hi tech identical boats that race each other around the world every two years. The idea is also to include some novices on board for some of the legs. From ex street kids to varsity graduates young people are given the chance of a lifetime. It was so nice of the local police to welcome the international sailors to our shores. They had set up a mobile police station complete with mounted cops on horses (for that elevated view of trouble makers) It was also kind of the city council to provide teams of cleaners that roamed up and down the now spotless quayside in search of every spec of unwanted litter.
Such is the welcome Durban puts on for our foreign visitors. Pity they don’t stay here year round.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Lights and Big Bangs

Durban really knows how to celebrate the Festival of Lights otherwise known as Diwali. Some people go to great lengths to decorate their homes with colourful strings of electric lights. Others release huge fireworks which annoy a lot of pet lovers. Each year dozens of animals end up at the SPCA terrified by the loud bangs. Many die on the roads as they flee the noise. Then there is the usual array of kids and adults with blown off fingers and assorted burns. This year one kid managed to burn the home down with a sparkler. New legislation will limit fireworks to ten occasions in the year but with no cut off time on those days.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Swallows V Jumbo Jets

Bird Lovers unveil a new information board at Mt Mooreland north of Durban.

Three million Barn swallows gather in vast swarms before settling to roost for the night. Only problem is they are directly in the path of Durbans soon to be new airport. Weighing in at 16 grams a large jet engine will simply vapourise this creature. Sucking in ten of the hapless birds might bother the pilot especially on the crucial take off stage. Bird lovers have quickly turned the site into a major tourist venue with hundreds of people and their families gathering to view this nightly spectacle. Airport authorities say they will use sophisticated radar to redirect flight paths when neccessary. Current score Swallows 1 Airport 1. (watch this space for updates)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Film Fests & Wannabees

With the camera taped down shooting gets underway for the Fixed Frame Movie Festival on Durbans North Beach Pier.

Last night saw the launch of The KwaSuka Fixed Frame Film Festival. Simple rule..One had to produce a one minute video/animation etc without the frame changing. A lot of fun and creativity went into it with forty seven great entries. The theatre was so packed people had to sit on the stage. There was an after party and I felt my age as I could not relate to the rap and hip hop music that even the young uns didn't really want to dance to. Still a great evening for all. Wondering into the office this Saturday morning there were about thirty wannabee TV presenters. Some looked like they were still at school. A local company was giving "how to" lessons and the wannabees were all hoping that this training would get them onto the small screen. In South Africa one often hears of the "juniorisation" of the news room as compared to BBC CNN and others. I guess maybe the salary structures have something to do with it.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Serial Killer

Protesters call for the death penalty for the "Umzinto serial killer".

This guy is accused of killing and probably raping ten woman and dumping their bodies in a sugar cane field. He duped them with a con that he had jobs lined up for them. They paid him money and he killed them. Today he faced the media for he first time as the cops have tried to hide his identity.A quiet pleasant character. The local governmnent reacts with a huge bash with preachers and free T shirts and food for all.It is meant to be targeted at men and explain to them not to kill and rape woman. Out of the huge crowd only about 10% were men. Just another day in paridise.The next day a further body was found.

Jethro Tull

I was all set up to interview Ian Anderson from the seventies rock group Jethro Tull. He was going to lend his support to the Save The Wildcoast Project. Apparantly there was some dispute between the promoters and the band and the Durban leg of the concert was called off along with the press conference re the Wild Coast. I had dug out my old Tull albums and was hoping for an autograph like a regular groupie.
Above is a typical scene of the Wild Coast which an Australian mining company plans to "develop" Hike it while you still can!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Grey Day

Durban's Island View starage facility exlodes in a massive fireball.

It's officially summer in this warm tropical part of the world. The forecast is for cold wet weather with snow in the berg! I'm currently waiting to interview some legal boffs on a recent explosion and fire in the harbour.Here is some BG...
Got a call in the early evening re an explosion and fire in the harbour. After almost coming to blows with a number of goofy city police who had blockaded the entire harbour we begged lied and sneaked ourselves to a good vantage point to film this awesome fire. One resident then showed us to a nearby flat with a great view. We managed to outshoot our rivals with some great visuals.
On the streets there was chaos as police told residents to evacuate their homes in case the fire spread or the toxic fumes from these burning chemicals changed wind direction. Most ignored the police and just watched the spectacle. We eventually got back to base and fed the story through after midnight.

The next day we chartered a plane and tried to fly overhead but Air Traffic Control warned us away as the area over the harbour is restricted. Had a bumpy ride with the planes doors off and the pilot tried his best to give me a steady shot. One person was incinerated in the blaze.
Well no legal boffs were prepared to speak to us so its pier jumping time. Oh yes there were four people shot dead in a botched heist at a pension pay point but too far for us to get there in time. We did dispatch a crew later in the rain and dark to cover twelve old people burnt to death in a mystery fire in an old age home. Such is life.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Surf & Murders

Durban Diaries Blogger Clive Read leaps off North beach pier for a quick body boarding session.
Durban is a far cry from New York City although our traffic is rapidly approaching gridlock at times. Timing is everything. We are sitting here on the East Coast of Africa with some of the best weather in the world. So what does most of this cities folk do come 4pm? They head home in rush hour traffic when there is this warm ocean to leap into . My office is five minutes from the beach and one does not even have to swim out to sea and can leap off the pier into the surf with a board. A quick surf or swim followed by a Wimpy coffee and most of the traffic is on its way.
Today is a real quiet day at the Television news station where I work. Just the usual murders hi jackings and daily crime in this great country called South Africa. We don't even bother any more unless its a mass killing or some celebrity. I covered the funeral of local reggae star Lucky Dube last week who is just another stat on the crime books. Of course the top cops were put on the case and three guys are now on trial. The most pathetic thing was one of his young sons (about 8) who approached me at the funeral and told me his dad played in a band in Jo'burg. I asked him what his Dads name was and he replied "Lucky Dube" So the grieving family had decided not to break the news to this innocent child and here he was at his fathers funeral with hundreds of mourners proudly telling me about his dad who played in a band.
If you don't become thick skinned in the news business in SA you will be doomed or leave for New Zealand. As I am typing this my mobile pings to notify me off the latest housebreakings and hijackings in my neighbourhood for the day. I check on the streets involved and carry on with my day.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Nigeria Elections #8

Well finally the votes were "counted" and the new President gave a press conference. We crowded into a tiny room where if you passed out you would not fall over. Such was the crush of media. All remained peaceful and traffic was flowing again. In Nigeria all traffic is banned on voting days with the streets deserted.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Nigeria Elections #7

Not much to report this Sunday.Results are trickling in but no one believes them. When we went to the new ops centre they eventually let us in but I noted that most of the screens were blank and there were no reps of the parties or other observers. We were invited to dinner with Dr Brigilia Bam who is the chief of the SA IEC team. We were now operating on diplomatic level and twenty of us sat down to dinner in a Lebanese restaurant. So at last I got a few of my taxes back. Amongst the diplomatic corps was a chap sitting opposite me who was in the invasion of Lesotho. He went to great lengths explaining what a success the operation was. There were some very interesting speeches from these countrymen of mine about the places they had been and how they had got there. It really is another world this diplomatic corps with many of them being activists or in exile or imprisoned at some stage of their lives. Also interesting to hear how their kids were not interested in being stationed in these far flung places but were happy to hang out in Germany America etc. There is a story waiting to be told just on the new generation of kids of the new SA diplomats and high commisions. We could only get away after the birthday cake was cut (Dr Bam) so here I sit at two in the morning feeding the days story back to Jhb for airing tomorrow morning.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Nigeria Elections #6

All quiet on the West African front so far. The INECHQ (Independent Nigerian Electoral Commission) where we hang around for hours waiting for press briefings was almost blown up this morning. Some guys in a petrol tanker stuck a rock on the accelerator, loaded gass bottles with detonaters into the cab and pointed this lethal weapon at the building. They were thwarted by a lamp pole and the fire from the cab failed to spread. Nice one... We then went in search of a polling station which was meant to open at ten. We found another squatter camp and waited nearly three hours for the officials to arrive. Once again I was hit on by the locals who insisted I tell the world that the whole procedure was meaningless as the votes cast meant nothing and all figures were simply manipulated to suit the ruling party. Most people have given up with the government and will just struggle on regardless. Once again I retire to the business lounge a few doors down from my room on the 8th floor. Here you will find anyone from Arabs to French men and woman. Most sitting behind their lap tops usually chatting via skype so you can join in on their half of the conversation back home to loved ones. Rather bizarre actually as each is in their own little world connected to the great either in the sky. I have toa dmit I have fallen in love with this Powerbook G4 and an Apple is something else. Here one can have free unlimitted coffee capuchino expresso biscuits and fruitjuice. Tonight I tried the room service menu(again) and had fish with the local rice called jollef rice which is just a spicy rice. Outside the temp mustbe about 29c even though the sun went down ages ago.Lets hope Nigeria has a peaceful night and the vote counting goes OK.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Nigeria Elections #5

Final countdown to the presidential elections tomorrow. The populace has resigned itself to the fact that they (elections) will go ahead. New ballot papers have been printed outside the country (SA?) to avoid fraud. Another holiday has been declared today and tomorrow although for most people life carries on as usual. The police and security services will be out in force so it remains to be seen how any violence will be contained. At our regular press conference this morning with the election bosses the heavyweights arrived... CNN and Al Jeereza with their large cameras and in the case of AJ their large egos. Tattooed Arab cameraman with bad attitude and bandana to match. Arrives late and expects to push in the bunfight. I have lost respect for this sheik bank rolled news station that has unlimited budgets. All the networks are using the same gear to transmit as us viz the Bgan satellite link. Picture is then compressed using various software and transferred back to the base server. Local TV is very laid back and badly shot but has a reality quality to it unlike the slick brief sound bites favored by western media. Interviews are unhurried and all get their say in good time. Lots of shaky hand held shots and distorted sound with varying levels

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Nigeria Elections #4

Only one more day to the presidential elections. All
quiet so far but no doubt the losing parties will make
trouble come next week. After the usual politcal speak
at the official election HQ we went to the ruling
party spokesperson who became hugley irate at some of
the questions posed by the media. At least the media
here is pretty robust with plenty of print and TV
channels albeit a little ropy. We then left
"millionaires av" and went into a nearby township. After
filming a few shots some gangster type approached me
saying I could not take "snaps" without permission of
the chief. He said "hey white man what are you doing
here" I told him to speak to my black boss which soon
kept him quiet.We duly located the chief and he sang
the praises of the ruling party. Not sure why I felt a
feeling of de javu (Spelling not my best point) We
then got an interview with a guy moaning profusely
about the government and the sordid conditions they
live in. Open sewers and no basic water or light. The
kids then latched onto me and where ever I pointed the
camera they would gather and grin. So I organized to
have a shot taken of me with them as you can see. Once
you get to know them they really are friendly people
with the little they have. In town there are these
giant modern corporate buildings of the oil companies
and a twenty minute drive lands you in the slum of
slums. There have been announcements that huge new gas
and oil reserves will be exploited soon. So it appears
the usual...the rich get richer and the poor stay
poor.. One guy told me the reason why Nigerians turn
to corruption etc is because of high levels of
frustration. The churches are of course huge here and
seem to get along with the Mosques. Although there is
a huge one right near our hotel I do not hear the call
to prayers. Pollution and the non existance of
recycling are also problems here, I filmed the
election officials casually dummping massses of
election training manuals on the pavement dump outside
their HQ. People then just burn everything. The city
(Abuja) has really bad air with constant haze and one
person I spoke to considered their city to have clean
air. I guess it is all relative. This is a country of
generators and air cons. The power goes off a few
times a day but no one notices and you simply wait
about thirty seconds for the hotels genies to take
over. Massive generators belch out more fumes outside
any building of vague importance. remember fuel is
cheap by our standards (R3 per liter) What amazes me
is the amount of businnessmen wearing dark suits.With
temperatures in the thirties and high humidity they
are obviously used to the clammy heat. Of course many
also wear the traditional flowing garments. Was given
a book today by an activist we interviewed. It has the
chilling title of "Political Assassinations in
Nigeria" Lists the hundreds that have been killed here
and are still being killed for political reasons. Then
one turns on the TV and the massacre in Virginia is
repeated infinitum. The questions of Americas gun
culture and the violent movies on TV are barely
mentioned. Their main concern is the threat to tighten
gun laws. I digress but am currently in a violent
society where the police commissioner has just
anniuced that they will shoot to kill if anyone takes
them on. On that happy note I will beam this missive
off into the wet night sky of Abuja as a storm hovers
over the city.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Nigeria Elections #3

Todays screen grab is a lady pounding yams in the city centre right next to the election main office. We spend hours here waiting for the officials to come out of hiding as this whole election goes crazy. They also had live catfish on offer. This morning I saw a man on the roadside holding a live rabbit by the legs for sale. Our taxi driver assured us it was being sold for a pet. Apparently they eat dogs here and some restaurants sell them. I have not seen any dogs anywhere in the city or country. We continue to chase press conferences and sit in confined rooms fighting for camera positions.There is little protocol here and one soon learns to push and shove but still everyone is generally good natured and there is much laughing and continues greetings and shaking of hands and saying welcome on any and every occasion. I went to a scary place to find some cheap headphones. Little rabbit warren passages with these bright kids stripping computers printers etc and fixing circuit boards. You can buy any pirate software you want at good prices. Fortunately I was with an ex Durbanite now living here who has been hired as our researcher. He is ex Hilton boy complete with dreadlocks and this very English accent. His nameis Kariba and he is a complete scream. As usual I am feeding the days story back into the tepid night sky as the clock heads towards midnight. This Bgan satellite device was designed for me as you have to point the thing until you get three green lights displaying. For us colour disadvantaged people there is also a beeper that rises in pitch with the correct angle. Just to have the unit is R 3000 per day plus time on the satellite. Supposed to be 256kps but because of weak signal about half that. Bit of a con really as one has to pay for time connected and not data transmitted..

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Nigeria Elections #2

In true African style everyone is super patient and simply
waits or comes back the next day. I went in search of some sandals
and went to this scrufffy shop hoping for a local
bargain. They only had imported Italian shoes and
inflated prices. Eventually found some local stuff on
the street. Having a number of technical problems
especially with the PD 170 camera and its time code. Might
have to ditch it and share the remaining Panasonic P2 camera.
Shocked to see the locals queing for KFC type food. In
a few years they will all be obese at this rate. So
far still healthy and no bugs have got to me. Only
drink boiled or bottled water and mostly cooked food
and fruit. Have seen a few mozzies and been bittten
but hope for the best.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Nigeria Elections #1

This device I am holding is called a Began and connects via satelite to the internet. Useful gadget when in a remote area.

Things are looking up with the arrival of another editor cameraman plus two more applemacs plus two satelite internet connection goodies . Biggest hassle so far has been feeding the video footage which takes hours on the hotel internet system. Swiming every day in this tepid pool water which is like a bath. Observing the foreigeners getting off with the locals. Otherwise pretty routine. Shoot until lunch then edit and feed. Room service costing a fortune. The Sheraton hotel in Abuja is massive and one get get lost here. About an old Holiday Inn status but huge.Tomorrow we will cover the court case of the main opposition. Much like the Zuma saga methinks. Still can't complain apart from the heat as all are friendly to us.