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My day today started off by getting up early – 6am – because Dale (Round Table Tzaneen) and I had a late night chatting while cooling off in the warm mountain air with a few more frosties than originally planned. This resulted in my having to get up early to do the blog for yesterday. I only had to be in Louis Trichardt or Makhado as it is sometimes known, at 1pm so I was hoping to have sometime off to look around the area and then take a slow drive out to Louis Trichardt. But I got away at 10:15am and still enjoyed a leisurely drive through still amazingly beautiful countryside. The only problem, and I think it is going to be for sometime to come, is this infernal insistence of the government and municipalities to change the names of towns and streets, etc. If they did it all in the beginning and got it over with then perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad but the way it is being done is creating chaos. I bought a brand new, and what was supposed to be a very jacked up, Touring Atlas on South Africa, which by the way was damned expensive, when I left Jo’burg to start this project, and there are still places whose names have changed since the printing of the atlas, so God help the tourists and hundreds of thousands of people who will be visiting South Africa next year.
Before I carry on with today’s events, I just want to go back a little to an interview I had yesterday morning with a lovely lady I met on my arrival at the Beares store in Tzaneen. Her name is Sjandre Terblanche (and yes that is the correct spelling of her name – it is pronounced like the name Juandré). She is with an NGO called FAMSA (Family and Marriage Society of South Africa). We had a lengthy chat about the child rape situation in the country and in particular the situation where the fathers and uncles are the culprits, and the impact of this on the family should it be reported and the ‘head of the house’ is sent to prison. She agreed on the fact that the Social Welfare needs to be strengthened financially for it to be able to provide support in these instances and also agreed that this would definitely contribute to a reduction in the number of child rape cases if it could be achieved. The other point of contention I have come up against recently, and I for one cannot decide whether it’s a good thing or not, is the issue I mentioned the other day regarding the law making it compulsory for anyone who is told by a child or mentally disabled person that she or he has been raped to report it to the police. It has been law in Botswana and Namibia for a number of years now and has proved to be the biggest contributing factor in reducing child rape in these countries. But after listening to a few NGO people who have raised a couple of points which cause this law to be problematic for them (one being they feel that they are betraying the child’s trust) I am at a loss as to whether it should be law or not. I must admit that I personally believe it should stand and I have always lobbied for that particular piece of legislation, but now having been given ‘food for thought’ by the ladies associated with NGO’s dealing with this problem, I am having second thoughts, so please e-mail me your thoughts on the matter, I would really appreciate them.
So back to today’s events and as I was saying, the drive through the mountain passes was great. I passed through the small town of Modjadji’s Kloof which according to my expensive road Atlas was Duiwelskloof, and then continued on through Soekmekaar which according to the police station in town is now called Borebeng. Then the really interesting thing happened. All the way after leaving Tzaneen I had been following the sign boards indicating the way to Makhado, about 300 metres before joining the N1 highway between Polokwane (Pietersburg) and Makhado the sign board suddenly indicates right to Louis Trichardt! And from there onwards all the sign boards reflect the name Louis Trichardt. But be that as it may, Renee Bezuidenhout, the Beares store manager in Tzaneen phoned me on my cell and said I must stop at the Elim turn off because the local traffic police were going to meet me there and escort me into town. When I arrived at the said intersection I found 5 traffic police cars waiting. I stopped, met the guys and ladies and then was told that one car would lead the way while another followed behind me and this is how we started off. Within a couple of hundred metres suddenly another police car passed me and took up station alongside the one in front and then another overtook and went ahead of these two and yet another appeared on my right side. So now I had 5 police cars with blue lights and sirens escorting me into Louis Trichardt. Every time we approached an intersection, two cars would go ahead and block the side roads and we went straight through red lights and all. When I had made the decision to use Buddy as a means of transport for the project, the main reason for the decision was to draw public attention to the project, stickers etc. well this escort certainly achieved that. I think the entire town came to a standstill and everyone was standing on the side of the road staring and waving at this crazy Beach Buggy being escorted by 5 traffic cop cars with blue lights and sirens going through the middle of their town. The reception at the Beares store arranged by Renee was something to see, absolutely amazing!
Waiting for me were a number of people associated with child rape, but the first to be interviewed was the reporter from the local newspaper who unfortunately had an urgent meeting to go to, so once that was out of the way, I got down to serious business. One of my guests was Captain Sadike of the SAPS in Louis Trichardt who proved to be yet another dedicated police officer. I must say I have been lucky lately in being given the opportunity to meet some really good cops and re-instate my belief that, just maybe, there is some hope in the South African Police force. Captain Sadike has been a policeman for over thirty years having started his police career in what was then ‘John Vorster Square”. At the time of his joining I was stationed in Norwood just down the road. The Captain confirmed that child rape is happening at a terrible rate in the area but he believes that the FCS (new Child Protection Unit) which, in spite of being in a bit of a mess with many indecisions as to exactly how it should function, is doing a reasonably good job. However there is still the factor of the majority of cases not being reported. My chat with him revealed that he is of the ‘old school’ and we had a lengthy chat about the present attitude in the police force compared to the old one. Today’s cops don’t seem to have the same respect for their seniors and uniform as they did in the ‘old days’ and the new breed of policeman seems to have the attitude that iIt’s just another job’ as opposed to the ‘old attitude’ of being proud to wear the police uniform.
The other interesting person I met was a man with a just as interesting name, ‘Vonk’ Cordier who is very involved with the youth league in Louis Trichardt. He co-ordinates all sorts of functions together with the church in order to keep the youth from engaging in otherwise unsavoury habits, a much needed function in today’s society.
Then came a walk through town to the CNA to buy new pens and other items needed and obviously to chat with the local community along the way. Nearly everyone I passed had seen my dramatic entrance into Louis Trichardt and so everyone I passed in the street came up to me and shook my hand saying hello and so I got into a number of conversations about the child rape situation. Once again everyone I spoke to supports the notion of a severe punishment system and the removal of child rapists from our society permanently.
At 5pm Jerry Cloete, the Louis Trichardt Round Table Chairman arrived to take me to his house where I spent the evening. Soon a group of the Round Tablers arrived and we indulged in a few cold frosties and then set off for the ‘mountain’. Now this ‘mountain’ became quite an issue with me during the day and at one stage I was concerned that I had perhaps taken a wrong road somewhere and had already arrived in Cape Town where I am only supposed to be in about 5 months. Everyone I spoke to kept referring to ‘The Mountain’ and even when Jerry called to make arrangements to meet me and during other calls to check how things were going, he kept telling me that he was ‘on the mountain’, but I later learnt that the ‘mountain’ is in fact the mountain which I will have to pass over when leaving Louis Trichardt on my way to Musina tomorrow. After Jerry’s good wife Karien arrived home and a good few frosties had been consumed we headed for, yes you guesed, ‘the mountain’ where we met up with a few other Tablers at The Mountain Inn and enjoyed a really magic evening.
And so ended my day in Louis Trichardt, I’m sure you have guessed that by the time we left The Mountain Inn, the ‘day’ actually ended early this morning (Thursday 17th). So now it’s time to say goodbye until tomorrow or rather later today. So to Jerry and Karien and all the other Tablers in Louis Trichardt, who made my stay in their town such a pleasant one, a great big thank you from Buddy and me and a special thank you to the Tablers for their generous contribution to my fuel fund which after being depleted by traffic cop Reytenbach in Hazyview would have suffered a major blow, so thank you it is truly appreciated.
So good night, God bless.
Buddy and Me (Steve Heath)