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Sep '09

Day 47: Thursday, 17 September 2009

Posted by steve@buddyandme.co.za

Categories: Buddy and Me

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After saying goodbye to Karien and thanking her for her kind hospitality and friendship (she had to leave early for work – ja believe it or not some people actually have proper jobs to go to during the day), Jerry took me through to Gavin at the local VW outlet who is very au fait with the Beetle engine and he explained that the noise being generated from Buddy’s generator sounds as if it’s caused by a loose fan blade. He also explained that if one of these blades breaks off I will have a major problem as it could, and possibly would, cause Buddy to suffer a major heart attack or stroke! (seize his engine). This was not comforting news and while driving to Musina this problem was constantly on my mind.

This problem caused me to listen constantly to Buddy’s engine and while driving up and down the truly beautiful mountain passes on the road to Musina, or Zimpopo as Jerry refers to it as because of the number of Zimbabweans living there, I missed most of the magnificent scenery which included the two Hendrik Verwoed tunnels, but I consoled myself that I will be returning on the same road tomorrow when I head for Polokwane (Pietersburg). Soon after passing through the Baobab Toll Plaza, I encountered my first decent Baobab tree. I had seen a few over the previous few kilometres but they were small ones and were quite far off the road, so when I saw this massive one right on the side of the road I couldn’t help stopping to photograph Buddy next to it.

Baobab tree

Baobab tree

I arrived in Musina and discovered that this town had boomed in growth since I was here last, three years ago. I had been extremely impressed with the cleanliness of Phalaborwa and could fully appreciate the fact that the town had been awarded the prize as the cleanest and neatest town in South Africa for two years in a row and this went for Tzaneen as well, both truly lovely towns. Louis Trichardt was also clean but just hanging in there. Musina, although relatively clean, is a typical bustling, over-crowded town and like Piet Retief the roads are completely destroyed by the continual flow of heavy trucks through its main streets. I was told that due to the massive influx of Zimbabweans, the population is presently three times more than what the infrastructure was designed for; this is obviously creating a major problem in the town. One thing I omitted to tell you, is that in Louis Trichardt, I was told by Jerry (not as in Springer) the biggest traffic jam to be found is at the KFC drive through on a Friday evening, and when witnessing the absolute chaos in the main street of Musina I couldn’t help but think of the relative peace in Louis Trichardt.

When I pulled up outside the Beares store I was met by the manager, Jaco Pieterse, who introduced me to his friendly staff and then, because I was almost two hour earlier than scheduled to arrive, I spent some time catching up on a few administration functions I am saddled with on this project, like responding to e-mails etc. Then my guests started arriving and these included an inspector from a police unit I had no idea existed, staff from a local NGO called ‘Save the Children UK-SA division’, the local newspaper representative and the main stars of the day, a large group of kids from the ‘Save the Children UK-SA division’.

The police officer from the local police station who once again proved to me that there are some really dedicated police officers in the force was Inspector PC Mudau. He explained that he was a member of the ‘Social Crime Prevention Unit’ and their function was to co-ordinate the route a victim of domestic violence or rape has to follow when reporting an incident and this includes the actual reporting of the crime as well as the subsequent route the victim has to follow through the hospital and the court systems. To me it sounded pretty much like the role GRIP play, you know, that amazing NGO group in Nelspruit and greater Mpumalanga region I mentioned a few days ago. I think the big difference is that the facilities provided by GRIP are far superior to those provided by the police and GRIP removed the victim from the unsavoury environment of the police station as well as the crowded environment of the hospital. But I must admit that, in all my interviews with police around the country, I have never been informed of this unit and although it is supposed to operate on a national basis wonder if it is actually a functioning unit everywhere else. I am definitely going to be pursuing this avenue of research.
I asked the good inspector what he thought was needed to be done to stop the child rape which is running through our country and after a little thought he said:

  • Parents are too negligent and women must learn not to leave their children alone with men, like fathers, uncles, grandfathers, etc
  • There must be more awareness campaigns to teach the children not to talk to strangers

I obviously could not help but comment on his suggestions and raised the following points.

  • I as a father would be pretty pi…d off if my wife would not allow me to spend quality, alone time with my child
  • My father (my children’s grandfather) I think would have felt the same as me
  • Does that mean that in the situation of a divorce the father cannot ever be awarded custody of his child?
  • With regard to his awareness campaigns, by far the majority of child rapes taking place are perpetrated by family members and secondly we are experiencing 580 child rape cases every day so do we have the time to enter into a lengthy awareness campaign, in fact while typing up this blog probably 50 kids were raped

After giving it some thought he agreed and when I presented my suggestions to stop rape he agreed that drastic measures were definitely needed to curb the situation. My suggestions were:

  • The government has to change its approach to the prison situation and change from the current ‘Rehabilitation’ process to it being a deterrent punishment, as in Namibia and Botswana
  • The court system has to change to ensure that child rape cases are finalised much faster and that properly trained and experienced prosecutors are employed to be able to counter the expert defence council the State provides for the rapists
  • The Social Welfare must be the financially strongest department in the government system to be able to provide top quality support to the families in situations where fathers have been arrested and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment for having raped their child

After listening to my suggestion he nodded vigorously and agreed whole heartedly that these methods would change the status quo and that these methods should be implemented immediately, so to government, come on guys you can do it, just get things moving.

Inspector PC Mudau explained that he is passionate about his role in assisting victims of rape, and in particular child rape which, because of the over crowding in the area due to the influx of Zimbabweans, is rampant and I was amazed to hear that he is actually on leave and made a special effort to come in to meet me. Well done Inspector and thank you, it was a great pleasure and honour for me to meet you, keep up the good work and I hope I get to meet other Inspector Mudau’s on my travels.

The other people I met were Percy, Shoomani and Rogers from ‘Save the Children UK, who explained that they have three branches in South Africa, this one in Musina, one in Pretoria and one in the Free State. Their function is to co-ordinate the services provided by various ‘partners’ or organisations in the area who provide support for rape and victims of domestic violence.

Then came the kids from ‘Save the Children UK”. This was a friendly bunch that Anna, the Beares Customer Credit Manager along with the help of the other staff, tried desperately to teach to dance, but I think these little kids taught her and her colleagues a thing or two.

The kids from ‘Save the Children UK’

I took a drive out to Beit Bridge border post but could not get close because of the chaos caused by the hundreds of trucks trying to cross the border into Zimbabwe.

The chaos at Beit Bridge

The chaos at Beit Bridge

Finally at 5 o’clock my day came to an end, well not quite I still had my blog to do. Jaco, the Beares store manager insisted that I spend the evening with him and his lovely wife Ronél and so I followed him home where immediately on arriving I was handed an ice cold frosty, it was still blistering hot, the temperature had reached a mind boggling 42 degrees in the afternoon and even at 5:30pm it was still extremely hot so the beers went down very well. When Ronél arrived home we jumped into the 4X4 open bakkie and took a drive out of town and followed the Zimbabwean border fence which runs parallel with the Limpopo River. I don’t know if you can see the actual fence because it was dark but if you click on the picture it opens up big and makes it clearer.

Zim border fence

Zim border fence

We arrived ‘home’ and while I spent some cooling off time in the pool, with a cold frosty of course, Jaco lit the fire and Ronél prepared the meat and sandwiches with cheese, tomato and onions which were later put on the braai grid to toast and turned out deliciously. Now I love snails, and have had many really exquisite dishes of this delicacy prepared for me in many different ways, but Ronel made us snails which outclassed all the previous attempts to prepare this dish I have ever experienced. So Ronél, pack your bags my girl, you are joining me for the duration of this project and all your function will be is to produce that amazing dish of snails for me every evening.

Roné and Jaco, sorry guys please excuse that dirty dish cloth hanging from the roof of the lapa behind them

Roné and Jaco, sorry guys please excuse that dirty dish cloth hanging from the roof of the lapa behind them

So that brought an end to my day in Musina. Obviously we spent some time reducing the number of frosties which had mysteriously gathered in the fridge and chatted about the project and Jaco and Ronéls life with their two kids in Musina where, according to both of them, they will one day retire very old people. So to these amazingly friendly people, you have Buddy and my eternal thanks for your friendship and hospitality and I hope to be able to host you on my yacht on Lake Malawi one day soon.

So to everyone else reading this blog, keep your feet on the ground but reach high for the sky.

Caring regards from
Buddy and Me (Steve Heath)

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