Tuesday the 25th August found me and Buddy heading out of Piet Retief in the direction of Ermelo. Because Ermelo is the closest town to Jo’burg, I will be visiting for sometime.When planning my itinerary, I had decided that after visiting the Ermelo Lubners store I would head for Jo’burg and sort out any problems I might have been experiencing with Buddy and anything else that was giving me problems. So with this in mind, I decided to leave the trailer at Martin and Daryl’s house in Piet Retief and return on Monday (31st September) to Piet Retief, spend a night with Martin, Daryl and Kyle and then head out for Barberton.
The drive out to Ermelo was a freezing one. The wind chill factor obviously brought the temperature down even more and by the time I arrived at the Lubners store in Ermelo I was good and solidly frozen. I was given an opportunity to have a lengthy talk with the Lubners staff about the child rape situation and the information I had obtained to date and thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the store. The store manager Ebrahim Timol suggested I stop in at the local police station on my way out and see if I could perhaps be given an opportunity to chat to someone about the child rape situation in Ermelo, but this proved just as fruitless as my attempts in a few other towns I had visited. I was politely told that the station commander and other staff associated with the CFS (Child protection unit) were all busy and if I had made an appointment earlier they are sure they could have accommodated me. But I don’t think chatting to them would have provided me with any new information.
So without any further ado I headed out in the direction of Bethal, Trichardt, Kinross, Leandra and finally Germiston. As it was three thirty in the afternoon I headed for the Gem Bar in Lambton where I was met by a whole herd of hooligans, mostly from a crazy bike club called ‘Derelicts MCC’ who had been informed by Gaston (a friend from the Gem Bar) that I would be arriving. On entering the establishment I was handed a lovely red bucket containing six Millers and filled with ice… now that’s service!!
Something I forgot to do in my blog for Monday was tell you about the fishing trip Martin, Kyle and I had on the Assegai River just outside Piet Retief. The place we fished at is situated on Trust Land which was originally one of the biggest and top performing farms in the Mpumalanga region. It was bought and given to a group of locals who’s ‘ancestors’ evidently lived there many years ago. According to my information the farmer from whom it was purchased by the government, had been farming there all his life and his father and grandfather had farmed there. So the history of the farm goes back a very long way. Unfortunately the only indication that farming had taken place there is the ruts in the ground which was last ploughed a long time ago and which is still clearly visible on the hillsides. Now the only farming taking place is small millet fields from which the local residents carry out small subsistence farming for their own use and a few scrawny cows wandering around. When considering the amount of food which was produced for the nation from this farm which included millets, cattle, sheep and other food products, it’s quite a scary thought when one thinks of all the farms which have gone to ruin in Zimbabwe which were all top performing farms feeding the nation and which have been reduced to waste land, and I couldn’t help wondering where our food is going to be produced from if our government continues destroying farms and if we are perhaps on the same path as Zimbabwe. The other sad thing is that the rivers and dams are full of gill nets which the local population use to eradicate the fish from the rivers and dams.
In closing I would like to mention an article which I read in the paper recently which, because nothing is being done to stop rapists, reflects exactly how sick this country of ours is becoming. The article was about a 41 year old man who raped his 63 year old mother. According to the police it was the second time he had raped her. The other really shocking incident was recently when a 45 year old man raped his 101 year old grandmother. According to a police spokesman, “The perpetrator may have a mental problem”. RIGHT!!
Well Buddy and I are at home for a few days, and he will be going in for some much needed surgery, again, this time on his front suspension – new king pins and a few other goodies which I could not begin to explain exactly what, when I get the bill I will enlighten you more, and he will be getting new manifold rubbers fitted. I hope you know what those are because I don’t. So until next when we hit the road, cheers from Buddy and me, keep well and keep those e-mails coming in, and don’t forget to log onto the blog and make your comments about what should be done to stop child rape or any other suggestions you have on the topic.
Today, Monday 24th, was a relatively quiet day in Piet Retief. I got to speak to a couple of groups of people around the town and received pretty much the same response I have everywhere else – the problem of child rape is very bad and the public I spoke to seem to be pretty exasperated with the failure of the police to sort the problem out. For the first time since starting this project, the people here seem to think that the police “Just don’t care”. That is really quite worrying, because wherever I have travelled I have been told that the police are not sufficiently trained to properly investigate the crime of child rape but never have I been told that the public are of the opinion that the police just don’t care! Perhaps this is verified by the fact that when approached for an interview, the response from the police department was that everyone is too busy, busy doing what exactly I would like to know. The other response from the people I spoke to was that the Welfare is too under-capitalised to actually be of any use. This is of course is the same problem throughout the country, so nothing new there.
I was given some useful information by Captain Paizer in Pongola which I forgot to share with Mrs. Govender in Clairwood whose 8 year-old daughter, if you remember, was raped by their 17 year-old neighbour (who was released on R500-00 bail and is continuously intimidating and basically scaring the hell out of the little girl). She has been to the police and nothing has been done to solve the matter. The kid is probably scared stiff of giving evidence, and then we, or rather the powers that be, wonder why our conviction rate is at a ridiculous 4%. Well Mrs. Govender you can contact the ICD (Independent Complaints Directive). I am told that this is an organisation set up and paid for by the Dutch/Holland, can you believe it! a foreign country sponsoring a complaints department in South Africa, and they will, I am told, definitely take the matter up and sort it out.
Another bit of news which I forgot to mention, mainly because I was so annoyed about it I was pushing it to the back of my mind… For those who have been reading my blog, while in Pinetown I bought a new lap top computer which did not work from day one and which after paying cash for was returned on the same day. Well finally after a little over two weeks I have received my new computer. Beares collected it from PC Zone in Sanlam centre Pinetown and had it couriered to me. So to the staff of Beares heartfelt thanks in helping sort the problem out, hell PC Zone would never have had it couriered to me, not with the terrible service they provide.
Well tomorrow I head out for Ermelo and hopefully we can get some good news and discover that the authorities there are doing something special and that child rape is not occurring in their district, definitely wishful thinking.
So yesterday morning (Friday 21 August) after a really great breakfast at Aber Jetz Guesthouse, I had a chat with the owner, Regina Herbst, which proved to be really beneficial to me because her husband is the Station Commander of the Pongola police station (unfortunately he is away in Durban on police business). I also learnt that Regina was, up until a year ago when she started the guesthouse, also a police officer, and so she has many very useful contacts in the police and court system. So while I was filling my stomach with breakfast she was busy making phone calls setting up appointments for me.
So after packing and bidding Regina farewell I headed out for my first appointment, which was with a really interesting man by the name of Captain Andre Paizer. We had a lengthy discussion about the child rape situation in the Pongola district as well as the child rape situation in South Africa. He agreed and confirmed that the situation in the Pongola area is really bad and that the ridiculously low conviction rate is due to inexperienced policemen being involved in the investigation of crimes such as child rape which requires specialist investigation techniques. He also confirmed that there are a huge number of policemen who are not even aware of the new Sexual Offences Act, act 32 of 2007 which had already been confirmed to me by Captain Nyeni of the ‘FCS’ unit in Empangeni and had been confirmed when I had on numerous occasions asked policemen about their views on the new legislation and had received blank looks.
The other factor related to the low conviction rate which I discussed with Captain Paizer, was the fact that we have a very large number of inexperienced and insufficiently qualified prosecutors. We have a situation in which, when a perpetrator is arrested for child rape, he is appointed a lawyer (that is if he can’t afford one, which is in the majority of cases) who is paid for by the State. In instances where the case is heard by a High Court the defence council is required to be an Advocate (I have been told that these costs could amount to anything between 12 and 15 thousand rand per day). In all instances the requirement/qualification needed to be appointed as a prosecutor is an LLB degree, and then when heading up the ladder to a District court, Regional Court or High Court, the individual’s prosecuting experience is taken into account. This information was confirmed by the District Court Control Prosecutor in Pongola.
Following my interviews with various individuals in the justice system, both in my first project ‘African Odyssey’ and this one, I have been told that the biggest problem related to the low conviction rate, apart from inexperienced police investigation, is the fact that the ‘duel’ between the prosecution and the defence council (usually paid for by the State) is a mismatch. It was also pointed out to me that, in fact, if a prosecutor resigned his or her position as a prosecutor, they did not have the necessary qualification to defend the perpetrator, yet the State employs them to prosecute the offender.
According to Captain Paizer, they have been experiencing a very large increase in the raping of children by children. These include situations where the offender is aged between 8 and 12 years of age. The reason for this he believes is because the child offenders are treated with kid gloves. In every case the child offender is released back into his parent’s custody and continues living as if nothing is wrong. The reason for this is because there are no facilities in which child offenders can be detained. We agreed that this situation is totally ridiculous because the parent couldn’t raise him in a responsible manner in the first place which resulted in him raping a child and destroying her or his life.
Too often we hear psychologists/counsellors giving evidence on behalf of a child perpetrator in a plea for leniency saying that it is very “likely” that the child-rapist was himself sexualy abused at some stage. We agreed that in such instances the psychologist should use her/his experience and extract the details of the alleged molestation; if it did in fact happen, and if it is to be used as a plea for leniency, the child offender must be required to name/identify the person who had molested/abused him and that individual must be brought to book. In such circumstances I am sure the parent of the child who had been raped would also support a plea of leniency. But unfortunately we continue to see child offenders being treated with kit gloves and the problem is that their peers and friends see that they are getting away with it and so do the same.
While in Empangeni I was told about a case which involved 4 boys, all aged between 8 and 10 years of age who had repeatedly raped an 8 year old little girl. The four boys were arrested, immediately released into their parent’s custody and on conviction received suspended sentences and were ordered to undergo counselling. Please, I ask you, is this seriously supposed to be a deterrent punishment for wrecking the life of an innocent little girl as well as the lives of her parents.
There is no doubt in my mind and in the minds of the many people I discussed the case with in Empangeni, that these so called ‘little boys’ knew exactly what they were doing and knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that they knew that what they were doing was wrong. Unfortunately these actions by children are going unpunished and they are not being held accountable and responsible for their actions, just as the adult perpetrators are getting away with it and this is confirmed in the ridiculously low conviction rate of 4%.
Taking into account the huge increase in the number of child rape cases taking place in our country on a daily basis in which the offender is a child himself, it is obvious that the State must provide facilities for the detention of child offenders and these offenders must learn that they will be held accountable and responsible for their actions.
I think I have wracked your brains enough today with child rape information but will continue next time, you can depend on it.
Before I headed out of Pongola destined for Piet Retief, I stopped off at the First National Bank to say goodbye to Anelie and her very kind and generous colleagues. I had not been told her surname and when I asked her what it was I was amazed to discover that she is the wife of Captain Andre Paizer. So to the Paizer family, thank you for arranging my fantastic accommodation at Aber Jentz, for you kindness and friendship, and for assisting me with information regarding child rape in the area.
As I was climbing into Buddy to head out of Pongola, an Indian gentleman, approached me and introduced himself as Leo of Clover, and after a brief chat about the project asked if he could assist me with accommodation during my visit to Pongola. I explained that I was in fact on my way out and he genuinely appeared disappointed. So to all the great people of Pongola, Buddy and I would like to thank you for your kindness, friendship and outstanding hospitality.
The road from Pongola to Piet Retief is an absolute nightmare. There are, I think, 11 or twelve sections in the 113 kilometre stretch where you are stopped at traffic lights controlling the flow of traffic at road construction sites. The wait for oncoming traffic can be as long as twenty to thirty minutes. The sections where there is two-way traffic are in a really terrible condition with huge pot holes. To make matters worse, taxi drivers insist on driving past all the stopped vehicles at the traffic light sections and jumping the queue. This results in tempers flying and I witnessed a couple of incidents where I thought a civil war was about to break out. On top of this, as if all of this is not bad enough, the truck drivers, of which there are hundreds, drive like they are on a mission to hell.
I was given advice before leaving Pongola, to watch out for the Mahamba turn off which is about sixty kilometres after Pongola and that by taking this route to Piet Retief I would miss out about six construction areas. I took this route but for about 18 kilometres before turning left onto the Mahamba/Piet Retief road, experienced a road that was so deteriorated that I spent every second concentrating on keeping Buddy from plunging into pot holes which would have swallowed us up. But we arrived in Piet Retief in one piece where I am spending the weekend with my cousin, Daryl and her husband Martin and son Kyle Van Deventer.
Both Martin and Kyle are avid fishermen and so this morning we went off to do some fishing on the Pongola River. Although we didn’t catch anything we had a fantastic time and I got to see a place that can only be described as ‘paradise’. Hopefully, after doing a few running repairs to Buddy’s ailing alternator belt/bracket which broke again on my way to Piet Retief, we will return to ‘paradise’ (The Pongola River) to do some more fishing and to catch that ‘big elusive one’, and hopefully this time I will remember to take my camera with and show you some photo’s of this spectacular place…
I received the bad news that my mom has been diagnosed with Pneumonia and is not doing well, (she was also diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease almost three years ago). So I will be praying for her speedy recovery and will be giving serious consideration to going to Durban (Pinetown) to visit her sometime during the next few days.
Don’t forget, you can contact me via my e-mail email@example.com or via the blog on the front page of my web-site. All you need to do is click on ‘register’ – it’s on the left side of the front page – you will be sent a password, and then you click on ‘log in’ and you can write to me. I then authorise the access to the ‘blog’ and everyone can read your comments. So get writing, I look forward to hearing from you and your comments.
So until later, keep well
Buddy – The Beach Buggy and Me – Steve Heath
So today Buddy and I eventually left Richards Bay after having spent 12 days there. I must admit I was starting to wonder if we were ever going to leave but this morning after bidding farewell to Richard and Nicola Stone, Monica Bailey and Peter De Breyn all who made my stay in Richards Bay a really excellent one (thanks guys you were all amazing and are now regarded as family) I headed for Empangeni, where Daryl from Empangeni Round Table and Sales Manager for Empangeni Nissan, arranged to have Buddy’s gearbox oil checked and topped up. Then I took the road north in the howling wind and rain. I must admit that there were two things that really impressed me with Richards Bay. One was the fact that it is a spotless town Everyday I saw people out picking up papers and cleaning the sidewalks and streets, not that the people of Richards Bay litter the place, but it is a really clean town. Secondly the thing that is second closest to my heart, and that is names of places, streets etc. This whole story about changing names of streets, towns etc really gets my goat. Fine, if you are going to change a name of a street or whatever then do so, but don’t name them after your ‘heroes’ or anybody for that matter. Richards Bay has named their suburbs after animals, birds, plants, trees etc and the streets are named after species identified in those categories. I think this is a really great idea.
Anyway I headed out to Mtubatuba in the freezing rain, and took an hour and a half to drive the fifty kilometre stretch. Soon after leaving Empangeni, the irritating noise of the vibrating alternator which Frank Van der Merwe in Richards Bay so kindly fixed had returned, but this time I knew exactly what it was and, on checking, discovered that the metal belt/bracket on the alternator had broken! But thanks Frank, you taught me something and I felt quite chuffed that I could now immediately identify the cause of the problem. On arriving in Pongola I walked into the Motolek outlet and although the guy couldn’t provide me with a new one offered to braize (I think that’s what he did) the two broken halves together and I fitted it back on. Mmm I’m actually scaring myself with my mechanical skills; they are becoming nearly as good as my computer skills. (Okay stop laughing…)
I arrived in Mtubatuba in the still pouring rain and was invited in by the staff for a magic cup of coffee. Because of the rain, things were pretty quiet in the store and so I did not stay very long, although I was there long enough for a guy in military uniform driving a white Toyota Corolla to almost run me down in the car park. I went to Buddy to get my camera for a picture of the staff and, because it was raining, checked to see if any cars were in the close vicinity and saw this white Toyota Corolla about thirty meters away and quickly walked across the car park and this idiot revved his engine and shot forward as if trying to run me over. I jumped out of the road and as he pulled up alongside he shouted a few nasty words at me which included the words “Hey white man…..”. I suppose we just have to live with idiots like this in our country because it comes from both sides.
Anyway, because of the rain, after having a picture taken of the friendly Mtubatuba staff I headed out in the direction of Pongola and when the rain stopped I made a pit stop at a small shopping centre in Mkuze. Here as usual I got chatting with a sizeable group of locals and asked them the usual question about what should happen to someone who rapes their child, and as usual got the same response, “Definitely death” and then when asked “What if it’s your husband, your brother or your husband’s brother” I was given that confused look and the arrrrs and mmmmms. Definitely a problem.
While drinking morning coffee with Richard before leaving Richards Bay – and by the way, Richards Bay is not named after Richard Stone, I have that on good authority, even though it should be – we were watching the news on e-TV and they were showing the headlines from the various morning papers. The Sowetan’s headline reflected a story about a (what would you call the xxx certainly not a man) who had impregnated his four daughters and then raped his grand children, God this is a sick country we are living in!
Before leaving Richards Bay, the Round Tablers from Empangeni had asked where I intended staying over in Pongola. When I told them that I was more than likely going to camp in the local caravan park, they would not hear of this and said “Leave it up to us” and although there is no Round Table Club in Pongola, they pulled one of their usual tricks and I was contacted by a lady by the name of Anelie who works for FNB in Pongola and I was told that accommodation in Pongola was sorted. When I arrived in Pongola, Anelie showed me the way to an absolutely wonderful B&B called Aber Jetz which the owner of the establishment, Regina Herbst my host, explained is German for, as the Afrikaners say, “Sommer nou!” I suppose in English it means “Right now” in other words “Do it immediately, right now”. Okay so enough of the language lesson. So after a shower I met the Beares store manager, Hannes Jacobs, and his lovely wife Joan and they took me for a couple of beers and a really magic Mutton curry at the Pongola Country Lodge.
I unfortunately received some bad news this evening. My mom (Val Heath of Pinetown) who turned 83 this last June, has been struck by a nasty chest infection and was admitted to the Crompton Street hospital in Pinetown yesterday. So to mom, get better soon, I’m always thinking of you and love you, to those who know her, please keep her in your prayers.
After my very wet and cold 259 kilometre drive today I am now tired and will be heading straight for bed after signing off. I have been asked many times about my opinion on the impact which poverty, HIV/Aids and that nasty word ‘culture’ has on child rape, and will go into these over the next few days. But please guys I really want your feed back and in-put on the subject of child rape. While talking to the local community in Mkuze today, I had a pile of my leaflets in my hand which provides details of the project/campaign as well as my web-site details. I explained what they were but thought that because of their living conditions, not owning computers/internet access etc., they would not want copies of the leaflet. To my utter surprise, a lady said “Please can I have one, my employer has a computer with internet and she will be happy to show me your web-site”. Quite a few others confirmed that they too would ask their employers to check out the site. So I learnt something really important today, and I’m sure I don’t need to go into any depth explaining what that was.
So until next time, keep well and be happy.
Buddy and Me
So I suppose you have all been wondering what has happened to ‘Buddy and Me’. It’s obvious from all the e-mails I have been receiving from all around the country, that my blog/daily diary is now officially the countries new ‘Soapie’, because due to “work pressure” I was unable to send my daily e-mail/diary/blog through to Gail for posting onto the blog last night and this morning on checking my e-mail discovered that I had received a whole herd of e-mails asking why my blog had not been posted. One e-mail even said “I headed home after a hard days work and was looking forward to the latest episode of ‘Buddy and Me’ and after staying up, waiting in anticipation, nothing happened”. So I apologise for having delayed the sending but it was for a good reason which I will explain in a few minutes.
Monday night I attended the Empangeni Round Table meeting. Quite a ‘formal’ affair but it was conducted in a humorous manner, exactly as I have come to know this crazy bunch. I was presented with an Empangeni Round Table ‘Pin’ (lapel badge) and then came the big ceremony, ‘my induction as an official member of the Buffalo Club’. After being pinned with another ‘pin’ (lapel badge which is a small buffalo, I was read the rules:
You may only drink with your left hand
You may be Buffalo’d without a badge, but you must be wearing a badge to buffalo someone else.
You may not deliberately Buffalo yourself
Your membership is for life
Use the Buffalo Greeting when greeting fellow Buffaloes (see picture)
The wording after being Buffaloéd is; “That was most reasonable, thank you”
The seventh rule is the ‘unwritten rule and that is; The person buffaloing you, which results in you having to down the drink in your hand, must buy you another drink; hence rule number 3.
So to start with, yesterday I left Richards Bay on a bright sunny morning and headed for Dundee to attend the Beares Senior Executive Management and Regional Managers conference. It sounds like a bunch of larnies and yes, it was. Soon after setting off the wind started howling and while driving through the absolutely beautiful and hilly area to Melmoth, Buddy was almost blown right off the road and over the edge, with a very steep drop-off on my left side. I must admit I got a bit of a skrik! But after four hours and having taken the Vryheid road as opposed to the Babanango road (the name was enough to scare me) I arrived in Dundee four and a half hours later with 294 kilometres under Buddy’s belt. Buddy is not exactly the Ferrari of Beach Buggies.
The conference took quite a bit longer than the Beares people anticipated, hell these guys really work on their conferences, not like a few I have witnessed, and so I only got to speak my piece at around 6:30. When I walked across the floor to start my talk, I felt all these eyes on me and thought, “Now Steve don’t do your usual stunt and talk until breakfast, these guys and ladies have really been drilled today and can’t wait to get some supper in their stomachs and a couple of ales to wash it down”, and so I did what I thought was enough, most people would say I still spoke the hind leg off the donkey, but Beares Marketing Executive, Andrea Bell stood up and said “Come on Steve don’t let them off so easily, usually you never stop talking”, and so ‘dragged more info out of me. I must admit I was pretty astounded at how attentive all these people were; even after having spent the entire day being grilled about, “ Bottoms lines, merchandising, GP’s” and God knows what other business and financial strategies they discussed.
Then came the reason for my not having e-mailed my blog for posting onto the blog, ‘The socialising’, and this proved to be very interesting. I got to talk about my fight child rape crusade ten times more than I had in my talk in the conference and then the interesting part happened. I was sharing a room with the regional manager from Botswana named Yame, and because he had had a particularly tiring day having flown from Gaborone to Johannesburg that morning and then driven to Dundee, and had a gruelling day in the conference, he was particularly tired, and of course a couple of whiskeys helped him along to retiring earlier than everyone else. Unfortunately when he entered the room and fell into a dead sleep he forgot to remove the key from the key hole. This of course resulted in a major problem for me when I retired from the ‘socialising’ to the room and tried to get my key in the key hole. To cut a long story short, after almost everyone had tried to wake Yame by banging on the windows and glass door to no avail, we eventually discussed the problem with the Lodges staff and a unanimous decision was made. Because the lodge was fully booked – no other rooms available – one of the staff was appointed to smash the small window of the door. This action subsequently woke Yame and he was at the door in a flash. He then spent the next 15 minutes apologising for having made a booboo, and the apologies continued this morning from the time he opened his eyes.
So this morning, immediately after breakfast, I bid my farewells to the great Beares people and headed out on the road towards Vryheid and on to Ulundi to visit the Beares store there. I had been forced to miss the Ulundi and Eshowe stores when Buddy had developed his electrical ‘alternator’ problem in Stanger last week and I was determined that I would not miss any store, no matter what the consequence. When I drove out of the Battlefields Country Lodge in Dundee it was freezing. There was a howling wind blowing which made matters even worse and by the time I arrived in Vryheid I was good and solidly frozen; even Buddy refused to warm up and it took about 15 minutes of driving very slowly to warm him up.
I had a relatively quiet day at Ulundi and I was quite happy with this because it gave me an opportunity to chat to the staff about the campaign and explain what is expected of them with respect to passing on the ‘word’ about my web-site and to get all their clients, family and friends to log onto the site; hopefully we will get a response from Oprah or Charlize Theron soon – my two favourite ladies since Princess Diana died – and they will hopefully donate one US Dollar for every time my book is downloaded with all the income being donated to the Teddy Bear Clinic, Bobbi Bear Foundation/Clinic and TygerBear Clinic. (If anyone has an e-mail contact address for these two ladies please forward it to me).
Then I headed for Eshowe. This drive was a particularly gruelling one. The wind was howling, it was freezing and the clouds were closing in, indicating an imminent storm. At Eshowe, the store manager Lindani did something that absolutely floored me. He had had only a few minutes prior notice of my intended visit to the store and he still pulled out all the stops and arranged for a mass of people to be at the store within minutes of my arrival. These included people from the police, a local radio station who did a recorded interview with me and the local press, as well as a few other ladies from various institutions. I was in my element talking to all these people, including all the staff who were seated around me listening to my talk. And I received some good feed-back on the situation in the Eshowe area, particularly from the police and from a couple of ladies who arrived late, but that’s for later. A really great ending to what had been a tiring day.
So having arrived back home (home is where I sleep for the night and in this particular instance is the home of Richard and Nicola Stone, Chairman of Round Table Empangeni and his wife) I indulged in a relaxing shower and settled down to answer a ton of e-mails, most of which are from people I have never met or heard of, which is fantastic, had a lovely supper prepared by Nicola and am now trying diligently to up date my blog.
There is one thing I must do, and that is provide the details of the Empangeni Round Tables stage show to be held soon. People, these amazing folk of Empangeni Round Table have been planning and practicing for this show for the past 6 months.
So this is the Empangeni Round Table annual stage show which is a spoof play entitled ‘CSI-Neverland’ and is a mix between the CSI – TV show and Peter Pan.
The venue is the Empangeni Civic Centre
The date is the 9th September to the 12th September 2009
The cost of the tickets: R950-00 per table of 10 or R110-00 per person
The cast and production staff all consists of Empangeni Round Tablers and their wives, and boy can they entertain!
For booking or enquiries please contact Richard on 082 804 6502 or firstname.lastname@example.org DON’T MISS IT
So having spent enough time catching up on my last two days activities, I’m sure you are tired of reading and so will continue with the child rape stats and details tomorrow.
So until tomorrow, keep your feet on the ground and reach for the skies.
Buddy and Me
So after having camped at the Richards Bay caravan park for the weekend, and not doing anywhere close to the amount of fishing I had hoped to indulge in, what with the rugby and braaing/socialising with the Round Tablers, the wind etc, I packed up camp this morning and headed for the Beares Richards Bay store. Soon after arriving and meeting Koos Du Plessis, the store manager, and all the great Beares people there, an amazing lady by the name of Connie Williamson from the Zululand Observer arrived to do an interview. This proved to be one of the most (If not THE most) in-depth – one and a half hour – interviews I have ever undertaken – maybe Malisa’s of the Germiston City News was as in-depth. Afterwards, thinking about it, I’m not sure who’s more dedicated to the fight against child rape, her or me. So Connie, I look forward to reading your article on Thursday, when I reach Pongola.
Soon after Connie left the store, my second guest arrived, who is a Captain with the ‘FCS’ police unit which is basically the restructured old CPU (Child Protection Unit) but now is known as ‘The Family Violence – child abuse – sexual offences unit’. My chat with him proved to be extremely interesting and also went on for a little over an hour.
Our conversation centred mainly on the number of child rape cases involving children under the age of 12 occurring in the Empangeni/Richards Bay area, and the conviction rate handed down by the courts. According to information given to me by the Department of Social Development and other organisations and people living in the area, approximately 50 – 60 cases of child rape are occurring in the area on a daily basis. My guest confirmed that they have an investigation team consisting of 7 detectives and each one has a continuous case load of between 60 and 80 cases, and believes that approximately 5 – 7 new cases are reported to the police in this area every day. He did not dispute the fact that, by far the majority of cases are not reported to the police, and this is in spite of the new Sexual Offences Act, Act 32 of 2007 which was promulgated in November 2007, which states that any parent who does not report a case of their child being raped to the police is guilty of an offence, and that the actual number of cases taking place in the area could be, as stated, 50 – 60.
He went on to confirm that due to the excellent working relationship the unit has with the Control Prosecutors for sexual offences in Empangeni, they are experiencing a much higher conviction rate than that of the National conviction rate which currently stands at 4%. Unfortunately he could not confirm exactly what that rate is. He believes that their conviction rate could be much higher if it was not for the following problems experienced by the unit:
There are 7 detectives investigating a huge volume of cases and having to travel vast distances to get statements and evidence. In order to accomplish this they require transport. The unit currently has the use of 3 (THREE) vehicles, all of which have exceeded 300 000 kilometres, which results in the vehicles continuously breaking down. These three vehicles also have to be used to transport dockets to the courts in Pietermaritzburg and, while talking to me, he received a phone call advising him that the vehicle which was sent to Pietermaritzburg this morning with urgent documents for a case there, had broken down! These vehicles are also used to transport evidence to Pretoria for forensic tests, DNA etc.
There were 12 satellite (cluster) police stations which the unit in Empangeni serviced. This has been reduced to 5; the other 7 police stations now have no specialised unit providing them with specialised child rape investigations. The investigation of child rape cases falling in the jurisdiction of these seven police stations, rely on the investigating skills of the local detectives and, as he explained, these detectives are expected to investigate cases of car theft, house breaking, hi-jacking and goodness knows what else, and of course child rape. My guest is a very experienced policeman and he just shook his head and confirmed what everyone knows, the investigation of rape – not to mention child rape in particular, requires extremely specialised training. He also confirmed what all the prosecutors around the country have been telling me. “The low conviction rate is due to the inefficiency and poor investigation techniques undertaken by inexperienced police officers”.
My next discussion was the implementation of the sections defined in the Sexual Offences Act – Act 32 of 2007. When asked if the contents of this act are being implemented in the area, he looked at me and smiled and went on to confirm my findings from all the police I have spoken to so far. According to him there are only a handful of police offices that are aware that the act actually exists. And that is purely because they had to register the dockets and saw ‘Act 32 – 2007’. Very few police officers know what the act is or what it involves. This he confirmed is the biggest problem the police force is facing. The members are not sent on training programmes to educate them with regard to new legislation. Hell, according to him, very few know the old legislation. Now, I think it’s only fair to tell you that I was a cop in Norwood from 1975 – 1979 and in those days we, as police officers, attended weekly training programmes to ensure that we were fully au fait with new legislation, but it seems that the powers that be believe that the members of the SAPS are clever enough and don’t need to be taught the law. Sorry to be the one to tell you guys, but you are wrong, nobody is clever enough not to require on going training in their jobs.
My photo’s for the day includes two I took from the harbour control observation station (above) and if Gail does it right and puts the two together/alongside each other (they were taken in sequence – or rather close to it) you can see the entire Richards Bay harbour area, quite a spectacular sight. The other one (below) is of the Beares Richards Bay staff with Koos Du Plessis (manager) and his dedicated staff.
So Saturday proved to be a really great day for us Shark supporters, so to all the Lion supporters SORRY… (sorry Gail, I had to put that in) I watched the game at a super pub in Richards Bay called The Stallions Pub in Meerensee and got to meet one of the owners, Earl Rae Chivers, known to everyone as Rae. We got into an interesting conversation about child rape and child abuse in general and he said something that hit deep and has been on my mind ever since. His comment was made after he told me that the one thing that really annoys him is when parents bring their young kids into the bar, especially small babies and spend the evening dancing and drinking leaving their kids to sleep on the chairs or on the floor. He related a story about one guy in particular who came into the bar with his wife and a small baby and after getting good and solidly smashed was dancing while the baby slept on a make-shift bed between the chairs. When he confronted the guy, this imbecile said “It’s my child so I can do whatever I want with it.” Rae’s response was “Children don’t belong to anyone; you were only given the privilege of being a part of its birth and given the privilege of raising it.” I thought this was such an amazing statement and so true, so Rae thank you for that, I think a lot of parents should heed those wise words.
But as I said, after watching the Sharks kick ass, I headed back to camp, collected my rods, tackle and bait and headed for the harbour area where I proceeded to feed the fish (as you guessed I didn’t catch anything) but I live by the motto “A bad days fishing is better than a good day in the office”.
I would also like to tell you that yesterday, while in town, I saw what was undoubtedly the worst case of child abuse I have ever seen in my life, in fact it hurts just thinking about it. I saw this baby – it could not have been more than a year old, who was forced by its parents to wear a Bulls rugby jersey, I mean how cruel can a parent be! Oh and by the way, my chicken curry was great even after I had had two helpings of probably the best Brianne (I think that’s how you spell it) I have ever tasted at Stallions Pub. Soon after the game ended, a young lady entered the pub selling cute little teddy bears and other goodies. I saw a small tiger which I thought would be a neat thing to buy for May and then spotted a small lion which I thought Gail (for all her hard work posting my diaries to my blog) might enjoy, a small token of appreciation for the effort her Lions team made to try and give the Sharks a decent game!!
And so on to today (Sunday) which was a relaxing day, no serious discussions about child rape (well relaxing after spending the morning cleaning Buddy and doing my washing) with the absolutely crazy guys and their wives from Round Table. I arrived at Richard and Nilcola Stone’s house (Richard is the Chairman of the local Round Table Club) in Richard’s bay at 11am. Soon a whole bunch of Round Tablers arrived and the day began. This crazy bunch of people are putting on a stage show in Empangeni which follows a tradition going on for something like thirty odd years, and the show starts in about three weeks time. Richard is going to e-mail me the details of the show which I will put on my blog and everyone who is anywhere close to the Empangeni area should seriously consider making an effort to see the show, not only because all the ticket sales and income generated from the show will be going to charity, but because its really good.
So while all the Round Tablers were busy painting the back drop, (and of course indulging in a frostie or six) I was helping reduce the number of Millers on hand and acting as consulting engineer. Then came the rehearsal and this put the cherry on the top for me, I can’t remember having laughed so much. By the time I eventually bid my farewells I had a stomach ache from laughing, a truly great bunch of people. So to all the Round Tablers here in Richards Bay/Empangeni, thank you for a truly magical day.
So now, 7pm, I’m going to take my rods and head down to the waters of Richards Bay and try to catch that elusive ‘Big one’. So until tomorrow when I will be visiting the Richards Bay Beares store and meeting lots of interesting people, Buddy and I say good night.
I’m back and although I have not managed to rid myself of the bug that has infested my body, I feel on top of the world, the reason being that Buddy has had a ‘bug’ since way back when we were in darkest Africa on the African Odyssey – Searching for a solution to Child Rape days. He had a bad rattle from the engine compartment that could be heard from kilometres away and many people have tried to rid him of the irritating noise, but to date nobody could. While staying with Monica and Peter here in Richards Bay, Peter told me that he knew of only one person who was qualified enough to sort the problem out, and that is Frank Van Der Merwe of Frank’s Services here in Richards Bay. So this morning (Saturday) I located his premises at 15 Pinkie Pool Street in Meerensee, Richards Bay and soon after being welcomed in and after a second of hearing the noise – more like racket – he identified the problem as being a missing alternator strap/bracket. He located one in his house of tricks (workshop) and within minutes the problem was solved. He, being an expert of note, also decided that Buddy wasn’t sounding completely healthy and so fiddled with this and fiddled with that and soon Buddy was sounding like I have never heard him sound in my life. All his bugs have been cleared up and he is as right as rain. So now I am happy as a pig in its favourite pool. On top of this, Frank refused to accept payment for the job. Hell, if I have ever met anyone who has worked on Buddy, Frank deserved to hit me with a bill of note. So to Frank Van Der Merwe and your wonderful family you have Buddy and my eternal thanks.
After leaving Frank’s place I was forced to go into Richards Bay and do the task I hate most, ask May she will tell you, and that is shopping. But with Buddy sounding like a million Dollars I pulled into the Pick n’ Pay Centre and completed this lousy task, but I have all the goodies I need to eat while on the road for about a week, as well as all the necessary goodies to cook a chicken curry when I’m finished writing this blog and then follow it up with a couple of cold Millers while watching the Sharks kick butt against the Lions!!
While walking to Buddy loaded with my purchases, I received a call from a Mrs Govender of Clairwood who told me a very sad story of her daughter’s recent rape. Her daughter – 8 years old – was raped by their 17 year old neighbour. Unfortunately the rape was only discovered 4 days later, and so has made the case weaker. The really bad part is that this (I still don’t know what to call them) ….. was granted R500-00 bail and is still living next door. Obviously the little girl is terrified and the intimidation is ridiculous. No wonder we only have a 4% conviction rate in South Africa. She has promised to e-mail the details of the case and to keep me informed of the proceedings.
Until next time – Keep your feet on the ground and reach for the skies.
So today I spent the day with the Beares people of Empangeni. First it was with the manager of the Maxwell Street store, Kenneth Msomi and his staff which was followed by the ‘old’ manager, and by that I mean the retiring manager Harold Barnard, who in fact retired today, and the incoming manager, Barry Lloyd (and by the way Barry is a woman and a very stunning woman at that), and they are at the Beares Plaza Sanlam Centre store. I got to meet a lot of woman at the Maxwell Street store and these included ladies from the Richards Bay Social Development/ Department of Social Welfare, the Nkosi Thobile & Ngiba Zanele Social Workers for the Lower Umfolozi Service Point in Ngwelezang as well as teachers from the Sigisi Primary School in Empangeni. If you are wondering, yes I did write all those names down and did not remember them by heart.
My chat with these ladies proved to be very interesting and lasted a little over two hours. The main topic of discussion was actually pretty similar to the ones I had had on my way back from Stanger yesterday when I had decided to take the old North Coast Road back to Richards Bay (as opposed to the expensive toll highway) and had stopped at two large Spaza shopping centres along the way to chat to the local communities about child rape in the districts. I have been told on many occasions that doing this sort of thing could place me in a lot of danger and in fact one guy came up to me as I was leaving the one spaza centre and said “You must be a very brave man to travel all over in this funny little car all alone talking about this bad subject in these remote areas” and then promptly asked for a lift to the next village.
The topic which was discussed was related to a question I had asked the women who were standing holding little kids and babies hands, and that was, “What should happen to the man that rapes that little girl/boy.” All immediately responded by pulling their finger across their throats and said “He must die.” My next question was “And if it is your husband or your brother or your husband’s brother?” and suddenly there was this look of confusion on all the faces and a lot of hums and aarrs. A few stuck by their “He must die” decision but by far the majority suddenly seemed to change their story. And this is where our biggest problems lie, particularly with child rape in South Africa. When it’s a stranger then he must be punished big time, but when it’s someone close to us then it’s a different story. Unfortunately this is not only applicable to child rape but crime in general. We have great laws/legislation but when Joe Soap or I break the law, like having a few beers and driving the car, when we are stopped by the cops the book is thrown at us and we are in big XXX (trouble), or when we commit fraud (like 27 counts) and murder someone we are thrown in jail and the key is thrown down the gutter. But when celebrities and ‘buddies’ in arms commit these offences then the ‘law’ looks the other way and all attempts are made to have the matter hushed up/technicalities raised and the culprits walk free.
We as the parents and adults of this amazing country of ours have got to realize that the safety and wellbeing of our children has got to take priority over all else. And when someone, anyone, be it a father, brother or uncle, rapes or sexually abuses our child, no matter what the repercussion are, we have got to report the matter and support the child by allowing the law to take it’s course. The reason why we are seeing humungous increases in the number of child rapes taking place on a daily basis, particularly by family members, is because they are getting away with it.
There was quite a bit more we chatted about today but right now I am feeling pretty ill and immediately after forwarding this up date to Gail Vyvyan-Day back in Germiston who kindly sits up until all funny hours of the evening/early morning waiting for me to send her my daily diary to up date my blog (you see I’m an absolute idiot when it comes to computers and so I am unable to do my blog myself, so I write my diary and send it in e-mail form and she posts it onto my blog). So Gail, thank you for all your hard work – not to mention late hours waiting for my diary to arrive). But I will write more about my chat with the ladies of the places with long names tomorrow.
Oh! By the way, before I sign off, today; after having interrupted Monica Bailey and Peter De Bruyns lives with whom I spent the last four nights with in Richards Bay, I decided to move to the Richards Bay Caravan Park to give them a bit of a break. I must say that the Richards Bay Caravan Park is a very lovely park with absolutely lovely facilities (rather expensive for my meagre budget), but unfortunately they got the prize for being the first caravan/camping park in all my travels of Africa, 60 odd thousand kilometres of it, who would not assist me by sponsoring my camp site. According to the owners, “They have exhausted their charity services for the year”, and so insisted that if I wanted to camp in the park; which unfortunately is the only camping facility in Richards Bay, I would have to pay like everyone else. I mean it’s not like the place is full and I was depriving them of income, in fact after my walk around the camp I don’t think there are more than about 18 – 20 fellow campers. But let’s not get deterred by that, according to Solidarities’ report, 580 kids were raped today, so there are 580 kids in South Africa with much bigger problems than me. So to those kids, my heart goes out to you – hang in there.
Until next time, Buddy and I wish you all well
Buddy and Me
It starts with me leaving Richards Bay at 8am yesterday (Wednesday the 12 Aug) after yet another hearty breakfast made by Monica. All went well, Buddy started beautifully and purred along the highway to Stanger. I was stopped three times by passing motorists to have pictures taken of Buddy and me and to chat. On all three occasions Buddy started – no problem. I was intending to leave Stanger early (12:30) but got delayed chatting to Roshin Mahomed (the store manager) and her really friendly staff and was waiting to chat to the local police, court officials and press so my intended departure was extended to 2:30. After bidding goodbye to Roshin and her staff, I jumped into Buddy, waved goodbye, turned the key and …..NOTHING! We tried jumper leads and Buddy started but as soon as we disconnected them Buddy cut out, so it unanimously agreed that it was the alternator/generator. A call was made to Micky’s Auto Electrical and he arrived with a new battery, Buddy started and with a fully charged battery Buddy was taken in for yet more surgery.
It was decided that due to the late hour of the afternoon, I should find accommodation close by as I could not get to Richards Bay, and return in the morning. A call was made to the Palm Dunes Beach Lodge/Conference Centre and holiday resort in Blythedale Beach and the management agreed to assist with my accommodation for the night. WOW what a place, absolutely beautiful, right on the beach. So after being shown to my room, I had no luggage, it was all in Richards Bay, I headed for the dinning room/pub to enjoy a couple of Millers before supper… I was starving. Here I met the two barmen of note, George and Kevin (check out the picture). These two guys pour mean cold Millers (but then again how can you go wrong doing that). George originally hails from Mozambique and arrived in South Africa about twenty five years ago. He gave me some great info about child rape in the area and believes that if the South African government got serious about trying to stop child rape by implementing harsh punishments which would be a deterrent instead of pussy footing around they could stop the scourge sweeping across our country. I agree whole heartedly George.
Just prior to my arrival at the lodge, a large group of, I think 27 people, arrived from Johannesburg on a ‘seminar’. They were from the Johannesburg City Parks department and had flown in that afternoon for a five day seminar. When considering the shocking state of the Johannesburg City Parks, and the fact that every time the council is taken to task over the condition of the parks and their response is “There is no money to spend on up grading or looking after the parks”, I shudder to think what it cost to fly 27 people to Durban, hire transport to take them to Stanger/Blythedale and then put them up in a 4 star Lodge and include their drinking bill into the deal. On this account I was gob smacked when every time drinks were ordered from individuals who probably drank Castle Beer when paying the tab themselves were ordering Johnny Walker Black, doubles nogal, with Coke/ginger ale/sprite and appletiser and Tequila Gold, and this went on till 3am. Ya well no fine.
Okay, so after this, I returned to Stanger this morning only to be told that there is nothing wrong with the alternator or the battery, they are both 100% fine. So the search started for the electrical short which had to be somewhere. Now, when I had prepared Buddy in Jhb, I had siliconed the bonnet down, all the edges so that rain could not get into the electricals, I did a pretty good job of this even if I say so myself, and so when it came to breaking the seal and removing the bonnet I must admit I was just a little reluctant, but it had to be done and so all the dashboard wiring was exposed. The brake fluid reservoir pipe had been leaking for a while so I decided to use the opportunity of the bonnet being off to tackle this task as well. I discovered that the pipe wasn’t the problem, in fact the nozzle to which the pipe was attached had cracked and so I needed to find a new reservoir bottle – in Stanger – RIGHT! And so my search/walk started. Now I failed to tell you that last night I hardly slept because of the horrible bug I have picked up. I hardly slept because of a chronic sinus headache which even spread down to my jaw. At one stage I thought I might have contracted Swine flu but I realised that I didn’t have the symptoms for this which are: Runny nose, sore throat, coughing and the irresistible desire to make love in the mud. I didn’t have the last one so it couldn’t be Swine Flu.
But walking the streets of Stanger and enquiring at about 7 different spares shop proved fruitless, not to mention exhausting and punishment on the bug which has invaded my body. But eventually I walked into a spares shop called Blue Flame motor spares and on seeing the bottle in my hand, Sanvay (I think/hope that’s how you spell his name) confirmed that they had ONE! He fetched it from the back and I couldn’t believe my luck. His partner Kevin arrived on the scene and they unanimously agreed that I could not pay for it as it was their contribution to the project, so to the guys of Blue Flame Motor Spares – Stanger – thank you for your kindness and generosity.
When I returned to Micky’s auto electrical, Micky had located the short in the dashboard, repaired the problem and Buddy was once again out of surgery. I said my goodbyes to Roshin and her friendly staff at Beares, and here I must give a really special thanks to Krish without whose help and connection (Micky) I would probably still be sitting on the side of the road somewhere between Stanger and Richards Bay. So tomorrow I head out for Empangeni and then I return to Richards Bay where I hope to set up camp at the Richards Bay Caravan Park, hopefully I can twist their arm into sponsoring me a site for a few nights.
There are a few facts I learnt today about child rape and the infrastructure – which does not exist – to support the victims of this despicable crime, but I think I have said enough about Buddy and my travels for today, and so keep tuned to this web-site for more ‘fascinating’ experiences of Buddy and Me.
Buddy (The Beach Buggy) and Me (Steve Heath)