Weekend reading: poopy cats, flat hunting and blame

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The 9 Circles of Hell of Flat-Hunting in Cape Town. We went through the flat-hunting process in Johannesburg earlier this year. It’s enough to make me want to buy a house. I never want to move again.

The Mystery of Elderly Animal Matriarchs. Did you know that there are only two species that go through menopause? Humans and orcas.

Brené Brown on Blame. My mum sent me this. Why do we blame people and what does it do to our relationships?

Who needs Creme Eggs when you can make your own Creem Eggs? I am tempted to make these but the cost of buying 800g of good quality chocolate puts me off.

Anatomy of a New Yorker cartoon.  Bob Mankoff, cartoon editor for The New Yorker magazine, explains what makes cartoons funny and why.

Rescued from the flames. Read about the small team working to rehabilitate wild animals injured by the Cape Town fires.

A Day at Poopy Cat Office. This is pretty much my dream office environment.

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Potential December Graduate

Two weeks ago I handed in my dissertation and one week ago I wrote my last exam for my honours in international relations. While I thought that I would have some time to relax and look back on the year I have found that I am just as busy. I am still working part-time as a face-to-face canvasser for Medicens Sans Fronttieres. Now that university has ended I have also been able to go back to the Right 2 Know campaign and help out a few days a week.

I am graduating from UCT on the 12th of December. Next year seems both very far away and frighteningly near. I have been conditionally accepted to do my masters at UCT in both international relations and political science. I have applied for funding and if I receive it I will study next year.

Alternatively I might also be looking for a job next year. I am interested in gaining some experience before studying further. I moved to Cape Town earlier this year to study international relations. However, during my time here I have been exposed to organizations, like R2K, who have exposed me to issues that I had never before considered pursuing. You can’t swing your arm in Cape Town without hitting an NGO and I am hoping to gain more experience next year whether I am studying or not. In an attempt to capture the social media fundis who might be looking for an aspiring young graduate I have upload my résumé.

If you are in Cape Town tomorrow and would like to join me – along with other South Africans – protest against the Secrecy Bill, come join us outside Parliament at 13h00. There is more information on the R2K events page. After shelving the Secrecy Bill, he ANC promised substantial public consultation that would allow for the public to voice their opinions. Now this week the ANC announced that they were bringing the Bill back before the National Assembly for further deliberations on Wednesday. The promised public consultation was never completed. Hope to see lots of people there!

Right to Know Marches to Parliament Against the Secrecy Bill!

This morning thousands of people gathered in Cape Town in opposition of the Secrecy Bill. The Right to Know Campaign has spent weeks planning the event and as a volunteer I have had the opportunity to see first hand the amount of effort, time and patience that was required to pull it off. I had never helped plan a march before and I had this naïve perception of it being an organic event which just happened. However, the reality was that it had to be made to happen.  The list of things which had to be done was endless: application for the protest, water, transport for communities, food, press release, photographers, booking an ambulance, painting placards, renting two-way radios,  ordering t-shirts, posters, pamphlets, renting a PA system and a truck, inviting speakers, contacting Parliament, praying for good weather…

This morning, under a clear blue Cape Town sky, all that was left to do was to let the South African people march towards Parliament. The march started on the corner of Tennant Street and Keizersgracht Street where the crowds started gathering around 10h00. People were excited and had dressed in the Right to Know Campaign’s colours – red, black and white.

People gathering at the start of the march

Over 2000 people walked along Keizersgracht Street, left onto Buitenkant Street and next right down Roeland to Parliament. People peered down from their flats as we flooded the streets. Ladies having their hair highlighted came out from the hairdressers to see what was happening. The media was out in full force with photographers and film crews interviewing the protesters – including me!

What I told these ladies was the same thing that I tell everyone I know. That the Secrecy Bill poses a threat to South African democracy. That we, as South Africans, need to stand up to the politicians who have refused to acknowledge this. The fact that the Bill does not include a public interest defense is not just a threat to journalists but also to whistleblowers, academics and communities. As it stands, the government can classify information and if a person publishes that information they can face a prison sentence of up to 25 years. It is something that we will not let pass. It is a draconian piece of legislature that has no place in the democracy which was fought long and hard for.

When we got to Parliament we listened to some of the speakers who had come to voice their opposition to the Bill. South Africa’s former intelligence minister, Ronnie Kasrils, climbed up onto the flatbed of the truck where he lambasted the Bill and the government who is tying to push it through.

I have been asked by journalists why I, as a former minister, and a member of the African National Congress and the SA Communist Party, am at this march. The answer… is very simple. When your mother or father, brother or sister, your family, are doing the wrong thing…you raise your voice and say: ‘That is wrong, it must not be done!…This all-embracing secrecy bill… we smell and suspect is not about the real secrets that must be defended, but it’s to prevent those silly leaders who have egg on their face, who have been exposed by the media for doing foolish and embarrassing things.

Max Price the Vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town,  cartoonist Zapiro and TAC activist Zackie Achmat also addressed the crowd.

The Bill will come before the National Assembly this Tuesday. There is a chance that good sense will not prevail and that it will be passed. Not only would this be a betrayal of the South African people, it would also represent a collective blind-eye being turned on our Constitution and its values. If this happens the fight will continue. The South African people and civil society will not rest until the Bill is either fit to pass in our country or scrapped.

This Monday the Right to Know Campaign will be holing candlelight vigils across the nation. We hope the night before the vote on the Bill to show government that we will not stand by while our right to freedom of expression and access to information is snuffed out.

Viva Right to Know! Viva!

Just Nuisance on Women’s Day

I told my boyfriend on the weekend that today was Women’s Day. He looked up from the newspaper and gave me a skeptical look.

“Isn’t that Valentines day?” he asked

“No, no, no,” I responded, shaking my head in sympathy for this poor British boy who only has eight public holidays in his homeland compared to South Africa’s twelve, “that day is for men and women. Women’s Day is just for me.”

“Do I have to buy you a present?

“Yes, definitely. It’s a South African tradition that in commemoration of the 1956 women’s march on the Union Buildings you have to buy me a present. It’s what Albertina Sisulu would have wanted.” Which is actually a terrible thing to say because MaSisulu marched against having to carry a pass book and definitely not for my right to presents.

“You’re lying.” He’s a smart chap.

“Okay, well yes. But maybe we could do something nice – go somewhere to eat, watch a movie…or you could buy me a present.

Well, being students our Women’s Day was somewhat limited in its scope this year. While I imagine future Women’s Days to include spa treatments, macaroon feasts and unlimited kittens it seems as if our current financial means exclude these possibilities (budgeting for unlimited kittens is a nightmare). So, Ben and I decided that we would take in the best that Cape Town had to offer – free stuff. But for the 40km of petrol and two slabs of chocolate we didn’t have to spend a rand.

Our plan was to hike in the mountains above Simonstown and visit the grave of Just Nuisance. In lieu of unlimited kittens a soppy dog story would have to suffice. Just Nuisance was a Great Dane and was the only dog to be officially enlisted in the British Navy on the HMS Afrikander during World War II. Although I wouldn’t blame the Brits for enlisting a South African bred Great Dane during the war, he was enlisted for humanitarian reasons.

He used to walk from his house and visit the sailors at the Simonstown dock and naval base. When the sailors would catch the train to Cape Town Just Nuisance would follow them on and spend the day with them in the city. The sailors did their best to hide him from the train conductors but if he was found he would be tossed off at the next station. His owner was eventually warned that if he wasn’t kept off the trains that he would have to be put down. The sailors feared losing their mascot and wrote to the British Navy requesting that something be done and suggesting that he was purchased a season ticket for the train. Instead of the season ticket the Navy decided to officially enlist him. As an official member of the British Navy he received free rail travel and could continue taking trips into Cape Town with the sailors.

On his death Just Nuisance was buried with full Navy honours above Simonstown at Klaver Camp. At his funeral his headstone was covered with the Royal Navy White Ensign and sailors conducted a gun salute.

While his statue is easy enough to find in Simonstown his grave up in the mountains is not. Unfortunately we couldn’t find it but we’ll be back when we have more accurate directions. So, instead we sat on a lookout point above Simonstown eating our sandwiches and debating whether there should be a Man’s Day – with presents of course.

When in Cape Town…

#1 – Hike Lion’s Head

Lion’s Head was the first hike I did in Cape Town after moving here in February. We did it on a Sunday afternoon and reached the top in the early evening. We had packed snacks, water, binoculars and our camera to photograph the views and our achievement. About twenty minutes into the hike we were stopped on the trail by a tiny tortoise. Obviously employing the don’t move and they wont see me technique he stayed still long enough for us to snap this picture – only to hear the slow buzzing death rattle of the camera running out of battery.

So, this is the only picture we have of our hike. With the proliferation of Facebook albums chronicling every activity people partake in, it seems that if you have no photographic proof of doing something it didn’t happen.  But I cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die promise that we made it to the top and it was beautiful. I recommend it to both residents and visitors of Cape Town.