Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Blood River

170 years ago the Boers promised their God that if He spared them from being massacared by the Zulus they would build a church and forever honour the day. Well the Boers superior firepower triumphed over the Zulus spears. Legend has it the river ran red with blood. Today the two groups will still not commemorate the day together. The Boers claim it is a day of prayer for them while the Zulus engage in cultural affairs like singing and dancing. The solid brass wagons will no doubt be around for some time. An attempt was made to build a bridge between the two monuments but only the pillars stand while the waters gently flow past for probably another one hundred and seventy years.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Ever since the first human floated off the land and ventured out to sea the lure of the ocean has continued to this day. Sixteen year old Zac Sunderland set off from California exactly six months ago. He wants to be the worlds youngest sailor to circumnavigate the planet as a solo sailor. Apart from storms at sea Zac has to keep his eyes open for modern day pirates who wouild hapily relieve him of his techinical gear on board. Zac told me that his mother took him straight from the maternity hospital to the family yacht. when I asked him about schooling he said he was taking a "gap year". I'm sure his current education in crossing the globe will far outweigh sitting in a classroom in California. Zac has been lined up for all the top TV shows and documentary programmes. He will be taking a Christmas break and fly back to the USA before continuing his journey. You can follow Zacs adventures at his blog http://www.zacsunderland.com/blog/index.html

Friday, December 12, 2008


Helicopters are great for getting to remote places quickly. They might seem glamourous to some but sitting for up to two hours in a confined noisy space soon loses the glitz. In this case we flew to the Swaziland border to cover a story on land re distribution which is always contentious. Sugar farms in the Pongola region have been bought out by the government. Selected tennants are then placed on these farms and given a chance to make them work. So far even by the governments admittance many have failed and once productive farms are in ruins. This time they feel they will succeed with more mentoring programs in place. After three years the co ops take over the farms. One can only wait and see. In the meantime SA continues to import food for the first time.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Busi Mhlongo still knows how to belt out a song or two. She was doing her thing for world AIDS day in Durban.The politicians were there in full force telling the selected audience to use condoms and in general behave themselves. The new minister of health Barbara Hogan did not once mention eating beetroot and garlic to stave off this killer pandemic. Once the speeches were over the masses were given polystyrene containers of food while the "VIPS" retreated across the road to the Expo centre for a proper sit down meal.With about 7.6 million citizens of South Africa infected there is plenty of work ahead for the various health departments. Maybe they believe in what Napolean had to say.."An army marches on its stomach"

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Against all odds

Asha Motala cuts a demure figure as she poses with her trophy. This diminutive thirteen year old managed to take on thousands of kids around South Africa and beat them all with a 100% test mark in the national science Olympiad. Asha comes from a humble family in Chatsworth. Mom is a refugee from Burma and her Dad was in exile in India. Asha said she started reading books at a young age and took on science as a special project. She would like to be a doctor one day. In her home there are the bare necessities. An old fuzzy TV and a tiny book shelf with some old encyclopedias . No computers or internet links just sheer hard work and a gifted brain. You go girl.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Birds of a feather

The only place in South Africa where they breed. White-naped Cranes are native to northeastern Mongolia, northeastern China, and adjacent areas of southeastern Russia. Habitat loss and degradation are critical problems throughout the range of the White-naped Crane. Destruction of wetlands due to agricultural expansion in the breeding range poses the most significant threat. Critical habitat is also threatened by a proposed series of dams in the Amur River basin and the Three Gorges Dam in China. Fortunately for Durban residents we now have five of these rare creatures. Two babies were succesfully hatched this spring at the Umgeni bird park and mom and dad are proudly showing off their chicks to the public. The "teenage" first born has been relegated to his own pen and will eventually be swopped out to breed with other captive cranes.

July 2009 Update. Seems like Durban's famous bird park will be shut down due to lack of funds. A sad day indeed!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Justice for All?

A man is accused of offering woman jobs for a fee. Together with his girlfriend the woman are then murdered and dumped in sugarcane fields. The first clue was when a dog was seen carrying a human head. Searches then revealed the bodies over a period of months. Finally the couple are brought to court. A contingent from the ANC womans league are on hand to protest the abuse of woman and children and lend their support to the victims families. A few are proudly wearing Jacob Zuma T shirts. Some might wonder at the irony of this.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fatal Sequence of Events

It all started with a tanker parked on the side of the freeway just past the Ballito turnoff on the N3 north. At about five thirty in the morning a small pick up drove into the stationary tanker killing the driver. Polive arrived on the scene and began directing traffic. Unfortunatly the police car had no flashing blue lights and a further vehicle ploughed into the scene. The policewoman redirecting traffic was hit head on and died at the scene. A further two vehicles were then involved before road traffic officials were able to block off the freeway.Two dead and five injured some seriously.

Monday, September 29, 2008

No where to go

First they were hounded out of their own country. When they got to South Africa they were eventually met with a wave of zenophobia and once again had to run for their lives. Albert Park in Durban became their final refuge. They were given tents and food and encouraged to return to the Congo or the communties around Durban where they once lived. Some tried and were beaten up. Others managed to make their way back to the Congo. The tents and food supply were then removed. There is now only a small group of 56 living under plastic sheeting. They await the local authorities next move. The arrival of a TV crew gave the kids something to occupy their dull days with.(Update Oct 13 2008 Refugees are still there)

Operation Smile


For most people running a standard marathon is an exhausting affair. Two South African athletes have confounded sports scientists by completing a standard forty two kilometer marathon every day for the past three months.
David Grier and Braam Malherbe are no spring chickens but six days a week they set out each morning and run a standard marathon. They have already conquered the great wall of China and are now running the entire coast of Southern Africa - from Namibia to Mozambique. The idea is to raise funds for children with cleft pallets. Operation Smile has literally put a smile on thousands of disadvantaged children's faces who were born with cleft pallets and other facial deformities. (Update 13 Oct 2008 The intrepid two comleted the mammoth run finishing in Mozambique)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What's in a name

Emergency services,police tourists and the locals will have to come to terms with Durban's new street names. To avoid confusion the council will leave the old names up for a year or so to give all a chance to memorise the new names. For some the old ones will never die and no doubt the new lengthy ones will be abbreviated into local street speak. "The times they are a changing" sang one Bob Dylan in the sixties.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Zoom Zuma

South Africa's possible future president was once again fighting for his political future in the Pietermaritzburg High Court. The two day affair was to determine if the trial should indeed go ahead. Inside the court it was the same dreary affair with obscenely rich legal types sitting behind mountains of files and paperwork. Outside the court Zuma fans also stood behind paperwork, this time compliments of the Zuma support machine. No more hand drawn placards but mass produced newspaper style billboards were the order of the day. Massive sound systems conveyed the beat through the courthouse walls to remind those inside of the unfaltering support outside. Meanwhile in an adjoining road I snapped the apt sign of the local muti(medicine) man with his enticing message to cure all ailments. Maybe the future president could confer with him for a solution to his woes.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Reduced to Ash

Kennedy Rd Settlement (Squatter Camp) next to Durban's main rubbish dump, (landfill site) caught fire this morning. No one can say for sure how it started but the usual suspects paraffin stove, candle etc were lined up. Once it got going the tightly packed wooden and scrap homes were soon devoured by the flames. By the time the local fire department arrived about eighty homes were reduced to ash. Some residents tried vainly to douse the flames with buckets of water to no avail. I was somewhat drenched by a fire fighters damaged hose. They told me getting their equipment to the fire is a hazardous business with illegal overhead electric cables and sharp objects that snag their extended high pressure hoses. Hundreds of people will have to find alternative accommodation tonight but will no doubt return to rebuild their shacks tomorrow. I was amazed by the acceptance of the calamity until the firemen pointed out the remains of old fires they had previously extinguished. It appears that squatter camp fires are a way of life which one has to live with. Fortunately no one was seriously injured this time.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Mass Action

There were about ten thousand people who came to protest over a number of matters. Some were unhappy with the changing street names while others believed that a new history book was not fair to one of their leaders. Carrying traditional weapons they were a formidable force. In their exitement and mad waving of sticks and whips I managed to receive a few sharp reminders to keep clear of their path. A number of windows in shop fronts were smashed en route to the city hall but by and large little damage was done considering the numbers. On arrival at Durbans City Hall they handed over a memorandium to the deputy mayor stating their grievences.

Friday, June 20, 2008

New Life

It's early in the morning and doctors at St Agustines hospital in Durban are busy with a unique operation in South Africa... Vertical Expandable Prosthetic Rib surgery may be a mouthful but the results are remarkable.

Seven year old Londiwe Dlangamandla was the first to go under the knife. The titanium "ribs" will be adjusted every six months with a minor op and eventualy the patient will be able to walk upright. The "ribs" cost R24 000 each. The op took two hours and that morning three young patients were fitted out.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Fishy Tales

Each year this time for some unknown reason millions of little fish otherwise known as sardines make their way over a thousand kilometers up South Africa's east coast. Those that survive the sharks, dolphins and gannets have another hurdle to cross... Humans are waiting eagerly for them on the beaches of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Ski boats encircle them and drag them onto the beach in huge nets. Here other humans lose all control and grab as many as they can spilling from the licenced seine nets. Most are used for bait to catch more of our dwindling marine reserves with the rest devoured. Again and again the boats launch until the hapless fish are no more. They are carried away in crates still struggling to free themselves but to no avail. Ironically its called "The Greatest Shoal on Earth" Even this patroling dusky shark was caught by a game fishermen who posed for the camera then released the thrashing animal to cheers from the crowd.
Enjoy it while it lasts.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Dog Day

Every dog has its day and today it was the turn of the mutts of Mafakathini a rural township near Howick in the Kwa Zulu- Natal Midlands. It was billed as dog show with a difference with all comers catered for.
The freezing cold and wet conditions were not going to deter over one hundred dogs and their owners from taking part in the fourth Hills Township dog show. From compact sporty types to sleek aristocrats they were all welcomed. Each dog was given a new lead and collar before undergoing a through examintaion by a team of vets. Rabies inoculations, deworming, pampering and powdering became the order of the day. The local schools classrooms were turned into lecture rooms for the bemused dogs and their keen owners.The show aims to encourage a sence of pride and appreciation of dogs and help reduce neglect, ignorance and cruelty.

SPCA officials confirmed that there has been a signigicant improvement in the welfare of animals where previous dog shows and clinics have been held in rural areas.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Needs a little TLC

This is Addington Primary school. It is located on Durban's famous Golden Mile. This week the kids marched from the Point Police station to the school to highlight crime and child abuse. There are about three hundred foreign kids at the school. Some stayed home during the recent zenophobic attacks. Chatting to the principle I discovered that their main problems are the neglect of the school buildings. Roofs leak, ceilings have collapsed and lice from birds nesting in the ceiling fall on the learners. They need to find 2 million to repair the roof. Most parents cannot afford the meagre school fees. In the background are new luxuary apartments with starting prices of 2 million. Alongside is the multi million rand uShaka theme park. The adjoining Point development is costing in excess of 1 billion rands. Next door kids continue to scratch the lice from their bodies. The Department of Education says the school should be thankful they have windows. (Update Oct 2008. Roof has been repaired)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Justice (Part One)

Jessica Foord a young girl from Hillcrest was gang raped by five men a few months ago. (See "Sad Day" blog) Yesterday she braved the TV cameras and told the world how she felt after the first conviction and sentencing. "I DON'T THINK JUSTICE CAN EVER BE SERVED, BUT I THINK THE SENTENCE HE GOT WAS OK, COULD HAVE BEEN LIFE PLUS FOREVER."

The judge said the accused showed no remorse for his action, but confessed only to save his own skin.The teenager was sentenced to ten years on the count of robbery, and 17 years for rape. The sentences will run concurrently. Eight years will be served at a juvenile rehabilitation centre.The judge commended Jessicca Ford for her bravery and courage.Foord says the sentence will give hope to other women, not to keep quiet about rape. The other four accused are due to appear at the Durban High Court later this Month.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Unsung Hero

By pure fluke I was standing on the banks of the Umgeni today when I noticed a small team of litter collectors. When they finally heaved their bags up the steep embankment I asked who they represented. “I’m just a private citizen” said a modest Craig Dunn.” I got tired of driving by here each day and viewing all the litter. Today I brought three of my staff and in one and a half hours we picked up sixty bags of litter”
Now there’s dedication for you. Well done! ( See "Drowning in Rubbish" below)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bin It?

The Durban Metro has kindly placed these bins for recyled materials on their premier beach. An odd place one would think as who comes to the beach with their spare cardboard plastic and tins. Although they are clearly marked it appears that many people remain illiterate. If one takes a peek in the bins each one is filled with the same gooey mixture of polystyrene fast food cartons, tin cans, plastic bottles and other unmentionables. A strange world we live in indeed

Friday, May 16, 2008

Snakes Alive

Durban's Fitzsimons Snake Park has been around for seventy years. As a young boy growing up in the Eastern Cape I used to catch snakes and send them by train to the park for pocket money. This week the Sherrif of the court issued them with an eviction notice. Apparently the city had warned the owners a year ago that the building would be demolished as part of the beacfront renewal plan. For some reason this was not communicated to the staff running the park. They now have three days to relocate four thousand animals from mice to pythons and crocs. I wonder if the adjoining beach will retain the Snake Park name. What a shame the beautiful wall mural pictured above will probably end up on a landfill site. "The times they certainly are a changing! "

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Where's Polly Gone

The Cape Parrot (Poicephalus robustus)is in trouble. Trouble is there are only about 1 000 of these wild birds left in the entire world. So each year a dedicated band of bird lovers go out in the freezing cold and attempt to count what's left of these rare birds. This year I joined these happy campers and went in search of this noisy bird. The main problem is as usual loss of habitat. Our pioneering forefathers were probably singing a version of Monty Pythons "I'm a Lumberjack song when they decimated massive forests of yellow wood trees so the gentile folk of towns like Pietermaritzburg could have nice wooden floors and furniture. Cape Parrots only nest and feed in old yellow wood trees. Hundreds more were captured for collectors to keep in cages around the world. Today a breeding pair can easily fetch R120 000. We eventually found a small flock (50-60) of these birds feasting on exotic pecan nut trees in the Bulwer area of South Africa. Filming them was no easy task but with patience and much strain on the old neck muscles we got the shots. Hopefully the numbers are stable for now but the day that endangered "tick" is removed from their species is a long way off.
(One week Later)
IOL Myrtle Ryan May 18 2008
Six men who cut down 86 yellowwood trees - some as old as 500 years - in the Gongqo-Gongqo State Forest near Umzimkulu in 2001, were given stiff jail sentences this week. Victor Terblanche, 65, and his sons Morne, 35, and Pierre, 39, were sentenced to an effective eight years' imprisonment, while their accomplices, Chief Wilson Ntlabathi, 66, Eric Sithole, 58, and Siphiwe Satywa, 68, received effective five-year jail terms. Chairperson of the KZN Wildlife Crime Working Group Rod Potter said "This case is the first of its kind in the country, both in the magnitude of the offence and seriousness of the damage to the forest, comparable to environmental rape" .

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Fishy Stories

Durban’s Bay has seen many incarnations. Hundreds of years ago it teamed with hippo and crocs. Then came the city of Durban and the bay became the harbour after much dredging and modifying. River courses were altered and the cities storm water drains now empty their load of litter into one of Africa’s busiest harbours. In all this time fishermen have been allowed to ply their trade here in ever decreasing and restricted zones, some for recreation and for others their livelihood. Not even shark attacks have kept them from fishing this rich harvest of food. Nine eleven was the turning point for them. New security legislation deemed these people a possible threat. First the boats were banned and then anyone fishing from the shore. On Sunday 27 April a gathering of fishermen defied the authorities and threw out their lines from the shore. A group of bored looking water police ignored them and cruised away in their naval patrol boat.
29/04/08 Latest...Seems like the boats can still fish for now and no action will be taken against the shore fishermen for a while)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Drowning in Rubbish

I was sent on a story looking for dead fish from a recent sewerage spill in the Umgeni River near the Athlone Bridge. No dead fish (probably eaten by birds) but mountains of rubbish and litter washed down by the river waiting to be deposited on Durbans "Golden Mile" As thousands of commuters rushed over the bridge encapsulated in their cars I wondered how many were aware of their modern lifestyles and how this was impacting on the environment. To get to the river one has to clambour down a steep bank and walk through sticky mud so I guess only desperate fishermen, hobos and the like venture into this world of plastic debris. Oddly enough there is still a vibrant bird life on the Umgeni mud flats who happily forage amongst the garbage looking for food.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Splashy Fen

Mud Glorious Mud turned Splashy Fen into Splushy Fen for the first two days. The sun then appeared and 9 000 party animals did their thing. With over seventy bands ranging from folk singers to hard core rock there was never going to be a dull moment. The Splashy atmosphere is hard to describe and one needs to be there to experience it. There is an overall sense of relaxation and peace. It is a small capsule away from the constant crime and violence that sometimes plagues SA. I guess it is simply a bunch of people who all have the same intentions. Have a good time and chill. Next year will be the 20th anniversary and promises to be a biggie.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Sad Day

A 21 year old Hillcrest girl is gang raped in front of her tied up father while they were walking their dogs at a nearby dam. A private investigator easily tracks down five of the seven alleged rapists within days of the crime. Up to a thousand people arrive at the initial court hearing to make their voices heard. From schoolgirls singing Amazing Grace" to heavies in bandanas with megaphones, they were all there. In the meantime the police having got wind of the protest had simply switched the planned court date to the previous day. When the crowd found out they vented their frustration and anger on any police vehicle arriving at the court gates and rocked them off their wheels. They then proceeded to the Hillcrest police station where the offenders were being held and blocked roads and shouted death threats to the nearby holding cells. The police threatened some of them with arrest but gave up when the entire mob demanded to be arrested and thrown into the same cells with the alleged rapists. Part two will play out at the next appearence in a few weeks. Never a dull moment!!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Strange but True

This school yard is normally full of noisy kids doing their thing. Last Thursday about eighty out of 450 were suddenly smitten by a mystery ailment. They were vomiting had stomach cramps head aches and skin irritations. One collapsed and was airlifted to hospital. The governing body took action and closed the school. After three days no one had come to check what the problem was with rumours from toxic substances in the air to toxic chemicals in the air con. I stepped into the suspect class but it just smelt musty from being closed up. Some parents vowed not to let their kids back until the culprit was found. Some guys did apparently arrive to take air samples. All most odd!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Road Carnage

I was called to a scene of horror first thing this morning. A bakkie carrying ten people was travelling on the north bound freeway when the driver lost control. In a bid to avoid the bakkie, a Fiat Palio heading in the same direction also lost control. Both cars then went across the centre medium and into the south bound lane. The bakkie then collidied head on with a red Citi Golf, before flying down a steep embankment.The bakkie landed about 25m from the south bound freeway. Two occupants of the Golf died on impact and fire fighters had to use the Jaws of Life to extricate them. Another eight people from the bakkie were declared dead at the scene. The scene inside the Golf will haunt me for some time. All this after two days ago I witnessed a cyclist being hit head on by a car who flew through the air then landed in front of me bleeding profusly and with a broken neck. Managed to apply a bandage to the wound until the ambulance arrived. His bike was in two pieces. Just another day at the office. (above: eTV crew do their thing)

Monday, February 18, 2008


Someone must have talked! These two baddies hijack a car then collect three more thugs and head off for an unpleasant mornings shopping. However waiting for them at the Marianhill Toll Plaza is half of Durban’s special police. When one character reaches for the cubby hole (glove compartment) they shoot his thumb off. The five are then unceremoniously thrown into the back of a police van to bake in the sun and atone for their evil deeds while forensic staff leisurely comb the hijacked car for evidence. Two loaded hand guns with serial numbers numbers filed off are found. No doubt they will be back on the street on bail soon as they await their trial.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sticks and Stones

I am really struggling to get my head around the problems on our campuses. Today a small bunch of students (200) at UKZN's Howard college marched around the campus and forced students out of some of the lecture rooms. When I tried to film I was warned by a young girl that they would attack me. I called her one side and asked how it was that a small minority could control a large majority. She reckoned that if she could not study then no one else should either. I then chatted to the "evicted" students and they said they were scared of the weapons (sticks knobkerries etc) some of the protesters were carrying so they abandoned their lectures. Grievances are over accommodation admittance and fees.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Free electricity

The current electricity crisis in South Africa has caused a mad scramble for alternative sources of power. The tourism and hospitality industry have been particularly hard hit with many having to install generators to keep their customers happy. A small resort in the Drakensberg that has been self sufficient for all their power needs for the past four years is wondering what all the fuss is about. iKhayalamafu (Home in the Clouds) is adjacent to Monks Cowl in the central Drakensberg. It is well known to hikers and nature lovers for its scenic beauty and wide variety of flora and fauna. Four years ago Paul Brogan left the world of engineering with a major corporate and bought iKhayalamafu consisting of ninety acres of land including strong mountain streams. He investigated the feasibility of a joint solar and hydro scheme to power his small resort.
A small hydro electric generator that was sourced in Vietnam only requires nine litres of water per second to produce the two hundred and thirty volts required to charge an array of batteries where the power is stored. An inverter then converts the stored battery power up to 220v AC required for domestic use. Backing this up is a large solar panel in case of drought.
The solar hydro combination provides ample power for all the resorts electrical appliances and home comforts. Paul has calculated that even with a complete hydro and solar failure he has enough power for a week. Computer and Internet connections are via satellite allowing guests to make online bookings at any time. Even large washing machines required for the resorts laundry have enough power.

Monday, January 28, 2008


It was back to work today after a six week break. First assignment was to travel to the city of Pietermaritzburg to find out why half of the three thousand participants in the worlds biggest canoe race became ill after and during the race. Seems like the city's sewer system can no longer cope with the rapidly expanding population and semi treated sewerage is entering the famous Umzinduzi river. As one of our erstwhile ministers commented recently on the power outages " We are victims of our own success". Does this mean citizens will be asked to restrict their visits to the loo in future? As I stood next to the river I wondered why it was that many South Africans are unable to use the ample bins provided and prefer to throw their rubbish outside these receptacles.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Poms Revisited

Durban's NSA Art Gallery was purpose built for the trendy art set in town. The architects thoughtfully included an open garden area where people could sit and take in the great summer evenings. At the last members exhibition opening I had the chance to hear the South Jersy Pom Poms again. This time I could hear them and take a few pix. The waffle brigade were suitable spread out on the open lawns and the music lovers amongst us gravitated towards the band who were in fine form.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Praying Mantis

My last week of leave so lots more time (especially during the power cuts) to observe the strange creatures I find in my garden. This Praying Mantis reminded me of some prehistoric monster. Imagine being ripped apart by those fearsome claws.