Roomwit rose vir stukkende harte

Dis weelderig-winters, ironies blou en sonnig en stralend vir ‘n Kaapklimaat, met hemelse klavierklanke wat uit die cd-spelertjie in die slaapkamer teen die trap afgewentel kom. My binneste jubel saggies. Soos dit hoort. Want vreugde lê nie en wag in die ontvouende geskiedenis rondom my nie, en Paulus het dit toentertyd al geweet. En dit gesê, waarskynlik oorspronklik in Grieks. Maar saam met die blywees wat uit ongekende fonteine opwel, lê daar vlak reeds dae lank ‘n stuk deernis wat aan seer grens. Die vroue na wie my hart uitreik en vir wie dit huil, kon ek gewees het. So maklik.

In die naweek het ek hoopvol en hooploos saam met tientalle ander oor rotse geklouter teenaan die hoogwaterbranders wat selfs met die laagwater bruis en dawer: turende en soekende in die sloepe en selfs in die deinings – na énigiets waaraan klein Louise Fowler geëien sou kon word. Sedert sy Vrydagmiddag in die skuimende water verdwyn het, is net een of twee kledingstukkies gevind. Vandag is Maandag… Die soektog duur voort. Maar die vraag wat spook en spook, is hóé die lewe hoegenaamd intussen kan voortgaan vir ‘n ma en ‘n pa en ‘n sussie wat dáár was toe die see haar ingetrek het? Dit is ondenkbaar en onsêbaar.

Hóé moet ‘n mens opstaan en voortstrompel? Die een oomblik is jy sorgvry en uitgelate saam met jou drie kosbaarstes op die rotse voor die karaktervolle strandhuis teenaan die see; en die volgende oomblik word jou hart uit jou borskas geruk met ‘n geweld waarvoor die woordeskat ontbreek. O, diepste van alle dieptes! Donkerste van alle donkertes!

Eie krag sal nooit werk nie, dit wéét ek; want ek ken moederskap intiem. Soos Kim Fowler. Soos Christa Venter. Soos elke vrou wat ‘n kind onder haar hart gedra het.

My dogter was ook in háár kindwees teer en broos, glimlaggend en ontvanklik soos die sewejarige Louise in haar skooldrag op die foto’tjie.

Vreesloos broos

Dis soos gister. Sy is steeds kwesbaar en fyn, dog sterk en oortuig in haar skoene as joernalis wat weë baan. Soos Suna Venter was, en so oud soos sy was.

‘n Jong vrou wat saam met talle vasstaners in die mediadomein haar sê bly sê het, met ‘n ander soort visie en oortuiging as dié wat dit nie kon verdra nie en met die wil om dit tot elke prys nie te versaak nie, het ‘n verskriklike prys betaal.

Soos my dogter my fyngoudskat is, so was sy Christa s’n. Die pyl wat uit haar boog geskiet is, wat ver en sekuur getrek het. Wat siklone en orkane getrotseer het… tot verby breekpunt.

Al wat ek vandag vir jou het, Christa – en vir jou, Kim – is die allerfynste wit rosies wat hier voor my in ‘n glashouer staan. Ragfyn, rein, sterk, regop, wondermooi… die versinnebeelding van verganklikheid, maar ook van ewigheidswaarde.

Want nou bly geloof, hoop en liefde – hierdie drie. Die grootste is maar liefde.

Roomwit rose

 

 

 

 

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Helen Zille’s Track Record speaks louder than her words

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Although she did not use the word ‘devastating’ lightly, my mother in her lifetime fairly often resorted to it in describing adverse events that were deeply saddening or profoundly shocking.

I do not know how Western Cape Premier Helen Zille feels about the furore that broke loose after her now notorious colonialism tweet in March of this year, shortly after an official visit to Singapore. However, as rational and controlled as her responses may be, the various reactions may quite well for several reasons be devastating to her. One of them must surely be the fact that she has spent her entire adult life (from student days) fighting, writing and campaigning against political inequalities in this country. And notwithstanding this track record, she is being ostracized over this tweet: “For those claiming the legacy of colonialism was only negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport, infrastructure, piped water etc.”

CONTEXT

Sure, it is probably valid to say that it was somewhat irresponsible to share a thought of that nature with the world at large and more specifically her extremely jumpy and jittery fellow South Africans. But what about context? What about the courage to point out that we are, in fact, in various ways benefiting from some of the more harmless leftovers of an undesirable era.

I only once had a very brief personal encounter with Zille in the course of my five year term as a ward councillor between 2011 and 2016 – during which time she was the Federal Leader of the Party until succeeded by Mmusi Maimane in 2015. However, as a journalist myself by profession, I have for long taken a keen interest in her leadership style, her role in the Struggle and her approach to politics in South Africa; and I have coincidentally learned a great deal more about her background and history by reading her autobiography ‘Not Without a Fight’.

She is perfectly human, which is a relief to know, and far from perfect. But, as the case would have been even before the unfortunate tweet incident, I am of the opinion that Helen Zille has an almost unparalleled track record as a (white) champion for democracy in this country.

In my humble opinion as a professional person with a master’s degree, an above-average interest in politics as well as a coveted first-hand experience in politics during a crucial time in democratic South Africa, the public response to her tweet by her own party leadership could have been dealt with differently. I mean to say: Surely her actions over decades speak way louder than a loaded word taken out of context?!

DECADES OF DEDICATION

Have a heart. After fearlessly and tirelessly pioneering and spearheading in pursuit of a South Africa without oppression, racial divides and inequality for literally decades; after surrounding herself in the process with kindred spirits from all walks of life and mentoring, empowering those who could eventually take over the reins; and after stepping down at the best time possible to stand back – in favour of a new and equally dynamic leadership in the person of Mmusi Maimane, without however quitting the quest: was it the most suitable response from her inner circle, to declare that it was distancing itself from her and that she should be subjected to a disciplinary hearing?

On 6 April Times Live quoted her as saying:

“One of those lessons was that Singapore, having suffered centuries of colonial oppression, succeeded in re-purposing aspects of colonialism’s legacy to build an inclusive modern economy. This, among other things, has enabled its people to escape poverty within a generation.

“There is no question that colonialism was driven by greed and oppressive intent. The question for countries today is whether they are able, like Singapore, to leverage aspects of the legacy of an oppressive past to their advantage.” Mature minds, surely, could have processed and subsequently responded more wisely to the actual tweet, for example by requesting an explanation and clarification from her and by stating that further announcements would be made once the matter had been dealt with internally?

COLLEAGUES APPLAUDED

On 29 March 2017 IOL reported: “After a fiery speech in her own defence she received a standing ovation from DA colleagues.” “…Zille said on Tuesday that people who believed the price of colonialism was too high should not drive cars or visit places of worship, as these were leftover legacies of colonists in SA.

“I am talking about the motor car. Today in South Africa, this colonial leftover is not only a means of transport, but the ultimate status symbol,” she said.

“She defended her tweet as a ‘simple statement of fact’ and said it had sparked a ‘critical’ debate which was of ‘urgent national importance’.”

She had said her visit to Singapore and Japan had been eye-opening.

“It seemed to me that the colonised has overtaken the coloniser on the world stage and I thought it was worthwhile asking why,” she said.

She denied defending or praising colonialism and apologised to those offended by her tweets.

Earlier DA MPLs among whom Bonginkosi Madikizela, Masizole Mnqasela and Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer had defended Zille, with Mnqasela bringing up Zille’s struggle credentials, reminding MPs of when she had sheltered ANC activists such as Tony Yengeni and Mcebisi Skwatsha.

“NOTHING BUT HARM”

Ironically, in an interview with Alec Hogg for BizNews.com in November 2015, one of Helen Zille’s former critics from within her own ranks at the time, writer Bill (RW) Johnson’ had spoken out against the heavy penalty that MP Diane Kohler Barnard had incurred by tweeting irresponsibly, and prophetically made out a case in Zille’s favour:

“This nonsense with Diane Kohler Barnard… Look, I don’t do social media. I don’t waste my time with it but all these politicians seem to get into tremendous trouble by using it. I don’t know why they do either. It’s done nothing but harm to Helen Zille and now, it’s harmed Kohler Barnard. What she did was a sort of ridiculous thing, which anyone could do with a flick of the mouse. To throw her out of the party and ruin her career over that is an amazing piece of hypersensitivity.”

Made in South Africa – of Malice & Greed

JUST as well that the proud ANC stalwarts like Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela and Ahmed Kathrada are no longer here to witness the trashing of their once proud liberation movement. And, primarily, their beloved country. They had high ideals and their dreams were vast. If they were to awaken now, they would find themselves in the slimy pit of a horrific nightmare.  Continue reading

“Blah-blah-blah…” Is JZ taking strain?

presidentjacobzumaI was not personally present in the ‘House’. Thank goodness. But in the comfort of my own home with mercifully only a screen-sized image of the so-called ‘state of the nation address’, I was allowed ample opportunity to partake with much dismay in the scandalous proceedings  of Parliament yesterday, 9 February 2017.

Once the red and white chaos and turbulence of raucous EFF conduct and somewhat vehement security intervention had subsided on the screen and the other opposition parties had seemingly haphazardly voiced their points of order, concerns and objections or left the House in protest, the beleaguered president could commence his address more than an hour late. This was also after the speakers of the two houses had exerted themselves (pretty much in vain!) in an effort to exercise their powers and execute their duties for the sake of maintaining(?) / restoring (?) order in the House… Two stern women. But to no avail.

HE LAUGHED

And what was JZ’s first reaction when he ‘finally’ (his word) took the podium? He laughed. I would have cried. At least inwardly, which I seriously doubt he is even capable of doing. What a shame. What a shambles. I used the same word to describe the previous SONA, and I wish it were different this time.

The worst of the laughing bit is that he did it at least twice during the course of last night’s address. That hollow, nerve-grating sound that says ‘see the tear in my eye!’.

Did I want to hear what he had to say? Honestly, no. It was so much of the same old, same old. Interspersed with scarlet threads of threat upon (racial) threat. Yes! How is it in order for this individual to hammer on the black/white issue without anyone blinking an eye?! Twenty three years down the line! How much time do you need, sir? “Today we are starting a new chapter of radical social-economic transformation…” Oh my word: rewind, rewind, rewind?

I did not count how many times our president made references to race and to the measures in which – in his explicit opinion – inequality still prevailed in, among others, the business sector and the work-place… and how drastic measures were (according to him) to be put in place to rectify the situation. Oh boy. Just imagine if anyone else, from any other political or social grouping, had the audacity and took the liberty to speak so freely on sensitive issues in racially charged terms!

TIRED & LONELY?

The kitchen with unwashed dinner dishes has a strangely powerful attraction to me midway through his address. And from there, whilst performing mundane household duties, I hear this halting and monotonous drone that could/should surely not be an address  by a country’s number one citizen to his people?

The course of events inside  that Parliament building – whilst the angry tumult of the exiles continues on the streets surrounding it – sounds and appears to be like the lifeless rehearsal of a stage production doomed to failure: undramatic sentences… followed by uninspired applause. More of that. And yet more. Announcement. Applause. Repeat.

You look extremely tired, Mr President. And spent. You even appear lonely. Alone. Deserted? Abandoned?

Yet – you stay. How come? But seriously: don’t you get it? What will it take?

Is the Kruger Park compromising on standards?

The race to preserve South Africa’s wildlife for posterity and to share and showcase it responsibly with the world is fast being lost. Our hope is in trusted institutions like the Kruger National Park to perpetuate this ideal, and to observe it with all the care it deserves. Does the slogan ‘Proudly South African’ still underpin the dream?

Fynbos Letters

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FOR close on 50 years it has been a personal joy that keeps reappearing on my bucket list, to visit the Kruger National Park: undoubtedly one of South Africa’s flagship tourist destinations. Arguably one of the top two!

Most recently, in January 2017 – at the peak of the summer season, it was the same for me again.

Or… was it? Well, mostly; but not all of it brought undiluted joy all of the time.

It had rained abundantly and all things natural were exceptionally picturesque, jubilant, revived, refreshed and vibrant. My companions and I reveled in the sheer enjoyment thereof. So did all of nature – and our privilege was to be not only silent and awe-inspired observers, but also partakers thereof.

Spotting animals in the wild, having the patience to pursue this activity and making the most of it have over many years and three generations been and become…

View original post 2,268 more words

Kruger: compromising on standards?

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FOR close on 50 years it has been a personal joy that keeps reappearing on my bucket list, to visit the Kruger National Park: undoubtedly one of South Africa’s flagship tourist destinations. Arguably one of the top two!

Most recently, in January 2017 – at the peak of the summer season, it was the same for me again.

Or… was it? Well, mostly; but not all of it brought undiluted joy all of the time.

It had rained abundantly and all things natural were exceptionally picturesque, jubilant, revived, refreshed and vibrant. My companions and I reveled in the sheer enjoyment thereof. So did all of nature – and our privilege was to be not only silent and awe-inspired observers, but also partakers thereof.

Spotting animals in the wild, having the patience to pursue this activity and making the most of it have over many years and three generations been and become skills that my kinsfolk and I have honed in various manners and places. South Africa’s bouquet of nature reserves and game parks is impressive and they have always had a powerful pull. I’ve wondered: is it more about the bubble of isolation from the ‘real world’ you temporarily find yourself in, or about the close encounter with sights and sounds that are hopefully being preserved for posterity? Can it also be the experience of surrendering to a carefree yet mutually focused sub-culture whilst you find yourself within the boundaries of a particular sanctuary?

Whatever the case may be: once you have become an experienced ‘game reserver’ / ‘parks visitor’ you can safely assume that you have, over time, also acquired the ‘qualification’ and authority to comfortably, as well as probably accurately and fairly, assess and evaluate what is on offer. And frankly – not only what is on offer, but also whether the ethos, intrinsic nature and characteristics of an institution are at a level that they can reasonably be expected to be.

THROUGH THE WORLD’S EYES

I have for a while placed a hesitant and reluctant question mark over the Kruger National Park – and maybe even its mother organization, SANPARKS – in this regard. I do this within the context of, in this particular case the Kruger Park, enjoying the prime prominence and priority that it does as a destination within the ranks of the international tourist population. It is my contention that international tourism standards must comply with ‘universal’ norms in every sense of the word. And there should be no exceptions to the rule. A ‘five star experience’ must be exactly that in universally accepted terms. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind, that a Kruger National Park experience is globally perceived as at least a five star destination (or whatever the ultimate number of stars is for a superior grading).

So, concerning a few of the aspects relating to my tentative ‘question mark’:

1. VISITOR / TOURIST FACILITIES:

Accommodation, ablution and other amenities: do they live up to expectations?

I am first in line when it comes to the thrill of returning to basics… like camping and the simple life of not fretting too much about menus, meals, wardrobes, routines, etc. I truly appreciate minimalism and… yes, simplicity. But there is always context.

In a world-renowned and undoubtedly lucrative game park like the Kruger, you are surely entitled to the very best in each quotable category: whether it be staff conduct, a reception area, a rustic camp site, an access or exit gate, a basic bungalow, a luxury chalet, an exclusive guest cottage, bed linen, kitchen utensils and facilities, picnic sites, restaurants, shops, swimming pools and last, but not least, toilet and ablution facilities.

Especially in the latter instance it is disturbing to encounter facilities that are lacking. Even at remote picnic sites there has to be a ‘zero tolerance’ approach regarding spotless cleanliness, adequate hand towel and soap availability, flush mechanisms and taps that work. When public or even private facilities of this nature in rest camps leave anything at all to be desired, it should give rise to serious concern and decisive action.

I have concluded that rest-camps in the Kruger National Park, as well as reception areas, picnic sites and other facilities, do not necessarily uniformly conform and comply with set (hopefully international!) standards. An inevitable deduction is that the general appearance and performance of a rest camp or picnic site depend on the degree of commitment and ethos lived out by its management and staff. Whilst it is evident that some facilities are tended by staff that go the extra mile, others show traces of neglect in varying degrees. It would be unfair of me to neglect motivating my allegations:

  • At least twice (once most recently, in January 2017 at the Tamboti tented camp) we arrived at our reserved overnight accommodation in the later afternoon to find that the previous occupants had not yet vacated. How does this happen in a system that should be faultless and top-notch – considering that discerning travellers from across the globe are hosted daily? Needless to say, this kind of experience causes much discomfort and concern…
  • A flagship rest camp like Lower Sabie cannot have ANY excuse for lacking or sub-standard visitors’ facilities. However the safari tent we stayed in overnight and paid an adequate amount for, was literally in tatters. We could conveniently watch the full moon rising through a huge torn cavity in the front ‘gable wall’ of the structure. And the canvas was flapping profusely in a stiff and dusty wind. In the same tent – as well as the neighboring one – the mesh windows were either tattered and worn or untidily sewn together in an effort to convince the occupants that they were actually there and serving a purpose! Furthermore I had to guess what I was going to look like to the outside world, because where the bathroom mirror should have been, there was only a frame. (What happened to all the extensive renovations that the rest camp was undergoing for a prolonged period??)
  • In Mopani, which is undoubtedly one of the model camps in the park when it comes to location and layout, and is seen to cater for individuals and families from mostly higher income groups, we found our comfortable 3 bedroom cottage to be in need of repairs or attention in more ways than one. The vanity shelf in the main bedroom was sagging; the interior of the fridge smelt unbearable; lighting shades were missing from more than one wall-mounted light; the kitchen was somewhat sparsely equipped with utensils and some of the exterior walkway lights were out of order…
  • At Letaba – traditionally also a flagship rest camp – we had two basic huts on the perimeter and had looked forward to our unobstructed views of the river. On arrival, however, we found an unsightly pile of sand practically on our doorstep and between our two neighboring huts. It had obviously been indiscriminately dumped there by workers for reasons unknown to us. Our request at the reception office that it be removed, was followed by a site visit from a staff member who apologized and sent a team to comply. Unfortunately it was a halfhearted attempt that left much to be desired. Finding a kitchen facility (as these particular huts are not equipped in this regard) was also quite a challenge. In fact there was none within a convenient distance from our accommodation, because the designated one had been converted into a pop-up restaurant to counteract threatening staff strikes at the rest-camp’s franchise restaurant.
  • Punda Maria is one of our most favourite rest camps – perhaps mostly due to its remoteness, and also for its magnificent trees, the waterhole and hide, the rustic atmosphere and the touch of tradition and old-fashioned charm. Our upmarket safari tent was perfectly comfortable and well equipped, with the added luxury of its own ablution facilities. I however cannot but mention that in some aspects maintenance appeared to be lacking: a section of the canvas roofing was sagging dangerously from a huge load of rainwater that had accumulated and it was in danger of collapsing or tearing. A rather bad leak in the roofing of the bathroom section appeared to be unattended and proved to be a real problem when we actually experienced a glorious rainstorm. Furthermore I frowned at the fact that of the four appliances in the rest camp’s little laundry facility, only two were in working order. The other two appeared to be quite dusty and had obviously not been attended to in a long time. The latter assumption was confirmed by a staff member. Besides the discomfort it caused the seasonal campers who had to queue for their turn at washing and drying, it is also an unacceptable slip in what should be world-class standards.
  • In Satara, arguably one of the most popular of all the rest camps, we recently as campers encountered altogether unsatisfactory kitchen facilities: twin-plate stoves as well as boilers were missing – and when reported, the issue was met with shrugs of acknowledgement that they had been stolen. No further action was taken! A serious sewerage system problem at one of the ablution blocks (impossible to ignore!) was not effectively addressed and solved. Besides the stench, there was also the niggling concern about possible hygiene-related issues…)

2. SERVICE STANDARDS & STAFF CONDUCT

Are checks and balances in place? Is there a satisfactory uniformity throughout the park?

I am eager to testify that politeness and friendliness from staff are mostly the order of the day. They are predominantly tidy, punctual, helpful, discreet and seemingly well organized. Occasionally, personal conversations among themselves in the course of executing their tasks are somewhat more audible than is probably convenient or acceptable to the discerning visitor; this is a personal opinion. And their timing for cleaning accommodation facilities is not consistently discreet.

  • Entry gates: this is where first and last impressions are formed. Your Kruger Park experience starts and ends here. Are you welcomed and received, as well as bade farewell and sent off, professionally, eloquently, politely and enthusiastically? Regrettably I recently noticed that, on exiting the park at Crocodile Bridge after a ten day visit, the appearance of the gate and its attendants, as well as the latter’s conduct, reminded me a little bit of some countries’ border posts… grim, drab, indifferent.
  • Reception areas:can staff at a reception desk ever be too helpful, too efficient or too accommodating? Let me hasten to say that I do not mean they need to indulge the whims and opportunistic demands of ill-mannered patrons, but rather to take charge and control of the needs of guests in a manner that reassures, emanates warmth and extends a hearty welcome. Kruger generally has a good performance record in this regard. But again – NO compromise on quality and finesse should need to be tolerated by the discerning visitor!
  • Gratifying past experiences of rest camp management staff must be mentioned in all fairness. At Shingwedzi, on a camping trip, we once had a personal report-back from the camp manager after she herself had been involved in chasing a troop of meddling monkeys out of our tent. This particular individual was during our sojourn regularly seen moving about the area and obviously familiarizing herself with the condition of amenities, the satisfaction levels of guests, etc. She had a face – and a phone number that worked! At a world-class destination like Kruger, this is what you’d expect. It is however regrettably not what you invariably get.

3. IS CONSERVATION STILL THE ALPHA AND OMEGA?

Are Conservation and its intrinsic Management Values still an ultimate and urgent bottom line objective to the KNP?

This may appear to be a rhetorical question. However it has serious undertones and has, in my opinion, the very real possibility of being valid… for example:

  • Is it purely my imagination, or have Kruger’s herds of herbivores shrunk somewhat over time, throughout the years? Granted, there are factors that play annual and seasonal roles, like the distribution and abundance or shortage of natural water sources – depending on rainfall figures or drought occurrences. Therefore, when you drive for long stretches without seeing animals, it need not necessarily concern you: searching for them is after all the name of the game! But could and should the effect of the mentioned factors be as drastic and consistently increasing as it appears to be? Is there a possibility that antelope and other herbivores, for example, are being hunted somewhat indiscriminately by more than their natural predators?
  • Why, for example, is it according to news reports that reach public eyes and ears, predominantly only possible to apprehend (rhino) poachers after a perpetration? Through the media it is evident that the counter-initiatives, their quality and extent are extremely focused and sophisticated. This is acknowledged and appreciated by nature lovers far and wide. So this is the issue: whilst the rhino population figures are plummeting at a heartrending rate – why do these magnificent animals appear to be as unsafe in the most reputable reserves as they are anywhere else? Are there more threatening and underhand factors involved than insatiable greed?
  • How effective is the screening and selection of staff who are appointed in key conservation-related positions in view of the fact that they are in all reasonability being entrusted with the crucial and delicate task of playing a passionate role in the preservation of our wildlife heritage for posterity?

The Kruger National Park has a rich and intriguing history. With it came and went traditions like communal camp fires, ethnic drum sounds that announced the evening meal, the daily sharing of game sightings among like-minded enthusiasts, scrumptious bush brunches under gigantic trees at picnic sites like Tshokwane, Babalala, Muzandzeni, Mooiplaas, Timbavati and the likes. Although it would be unfair, impractical and unrealistic to expect all customs and traditions to live on, I believe the indescribable and undeniable charm of the KNP lies in, among other things, not departing altogether from the dual purpose of protecting whilst delighting.

Protecting without withholding; not only the defenseless and threatened, but also that which has rung dear to stakeholders and visitors alike through the decades.

Delighting without sacrificing on the full richness of an experience in nature by detracting from it; and without compromising on world-class and internationally acceptable standards in order to keep pleasing even the most refined and discerning of new and loyal patrons.

* * * * * * * * * * *

the leonard cohen factor

I have this Brazilian classic guitar, a Di Giorgio dated 1974 – with the crafter’s signature and telephone number still perfectly clear on the sticker in the cavity. It is 40-odd years old and looks it. But when I stick my nose into the sound hole (yes, that’s actually what it is called), shut my eyes and slowly pull in my breath, the memories roll in.

I am 19 going on 20 again and relive the indescribable thrill of becoming the owner of this magnificent instrument, purchased with my own earnings in my home town. My boyfriend from teen days is impressed and shares in my excitement. He presents me with the sheet music of ‘Marianne’ and says I should practise it so we can sing it together.

The chords progress from A major to B minor… to D major, to A major. To G major… Soon I have mastered it and it sweeps me along. “I used to think I was some kind of gypsy boy, before I let you take me home..” “We met when we were almost young – deep in the green lilac park. You held onto me like I was a crucifix, as we went kneeling through the dark..”

Leonard Cohen’s name became irrevocably engraved on my timeline. His lyrics arrested me; and the tunes tugged at my fragile heart.

Whenever I picked up my guitar in years that followed, “Marianne” was invariably the first song that would come to mind.

Sunday 27 November, 2016:

The early evening, less than a month away from Christmas, is hushed in the small coastal village of Pringle Bay and daylight is reluctant to depart. Inside the crowded little theatre with its low lighting and a few red-glowing solar lanterns dotted around, the chatter is cheerful and the anticipation is tangible. We are waiting for ‘Leonard Cohen Live in London ‘ (2008) to begin. Not exactly a live show! But for all who are gathered to share in the experience, time and space become irrelevant. It is almost three weeks since his passing.

When he appears on the screen – large as life, wearing his fedora low over his eyes and addresses us in a low, sonorous but barely audible voice, the magic begins. He clutches the mic in his right hand and shields it with his left as he lives in the sounds we have learned to love; he drops down onto one knee as his own words and music demand; then again rises and shyly removes his fedora to reveal the close-cropped grey hair and generously pours out his inimitable style…

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The inimitable, the one and only…

“The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.
Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government —
signs for all to see.

I can’t run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
a thundercloud
and they’re going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring …

You can add up the parts
but you won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.”

(Anthem, released in 1992).

He sways us through the passionate plea of Dance me to the End of Love; touches our souls with Hallelujah; stirs our imaginations with Suzanne; draws us into his honesty with Bird on a Wire…

We cheer. We are swept away. We see and feel what he does. An enigma who is no more; but who lives on in his legacy of hauntingly human agonies and ecstasies.

I quote Norman Lebrecht from “The Moral Strength of Leonard Cohen” as posted on The official forum of Leonardcohenfiles.com and SpeakingCohen.com , in September 2014:

“Cohen manifests a moral strength rare among the butterflies of ephemeral fame. No musician has maintained a more assured equilibrium through good times and bad, riding the swings and roundabouts of outrageous fortune and misfortune without falling prey to the temptation of an easy fix.

“Cohen’s lyrics hint forever at alternate meanings. His bird sits on a wire, perhaps the peaceful fence of a domestic property but also a front line, a prison camp, a place of extermination. In conditions of extreme privation and existential threat, Cohen sings of an inner liberation: ‘I have tried, in my way, to be free.’ He described the song with customary duality as ‘a prayer, and an anthem’.

 “…the consistency of purpose is astonishing and the fundamental faith is unchanged. He wears the hat and the suit of a regular shul-goer. He is a Jew, first and last, a traveller, a seeker, eternally homeless. ‘I just move from hotel to hotel and by the grace of the One above sometimes a song comes,’ he said.

“…Leonard Cohen stands above his generation as a seer of lasting things, of values received and passed on. Other musicians have emerged richer, more famous. Some still twist and shout on stage, escorting their mob of semi-retired fans into a seventh age of twilight care.” And especially this part: “Cohen stands up there unchanged, addressing his audience with unfailing courtesy and curiosity, with a sense of continued discovery. At that desperate end-of-tour concert in 1972, having wept into the shoulder of every member of his entourage, he blew his nose, wiped his eyes and walked guitarless out onto the dark stage. “I just want to tell you, thank you and good night,” he said. Along with all that he had said and sung, it sounded like a blessing.” (Norman Lebrecht, 2014)

trumped

It certainly is not about personalities, or about favouring the one political party in the world’s most prominent country over another; neither is it about feminism or equity; nor about a whim. It is more (however not only) about the question of whether leadership and statesmanship and integrity matter at all anymore. And perhaps even dignity and character. Have we come to a place where nothing is sacred or respectable any more? Let alone honourable?

The United States of America have earned themselves the new head of state that they deserve. Democracy has taken its course. With an unprecedented Republican twist. Yeah, sure, Donald Trump has it all. Money talks, right? There was never a slight chance that his campaign would be underfunded or shoddy. He knew from the start that his march to the White House would be victorious. (But then Hillary knew that about hers too…)

Hopefully this outcome will not be like the dog that successfully chases the car, catches it, and then…is not 100% sure of the next step.

The question is just this: If the American people were simply tired of the way things were and have been; if they were angry (as it appears they were); if they were going to use this presidential election to swing things in a new direction – then please tell me why their research and strategic planning were so lacking? Would a stuttering Moses not have better suited the role of leading the people out of the egypt of power games, corruption, deceit, decadence, etc. – than a slick, glib, arrogant billionaire who obviously occupies the throne in his own dazzling empire? Has he actually earned all this seemingly blind loyalty, and how? Through the age-old and cheapest trick in the book, namely promises?

GIFT OF THE GAB?

Look at some of his notorious quotes – only a pitiful few of the multitude:

“You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”

“If you can’t get rich dealing with politicians, there’s something wrong with you.”

“All the women on The Apprentice flirted with me — consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.”

“I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me —and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”

The wall will go up and Mexico will start behaving.”

Strike you as mature utterances that speak of character and finesse??

Look, in my opinion Americans were in this presidential election between a rock and a hard place. Between the devil and… another. But WHY? How did it happen?

The boundaries defining the concept of ‘leadership’ have seemingly become controversial, vague, slippery and frankly almost non-existent. ‘Leadership’ has broadened and flattened out to such a huge extent, that it probably constitutes almost anything a bunch of fools would want it to. Not to even mention statesmanship. Or, for that matter, statespersonship.

It’s like I know what I am talking about? In South Africa? Well now….

Someone had to win. And the winner was bound to be one of the two finalists, right?

It is what it is.

THE IRONY OF MISSING THE POINT

Missing the point is at best a waste of time. And opportunity. At worst it can be a helluva mess. Or even a massive disaster. As the one we are seeing unfolding in the out-of-control #feesmustfall 2016 campaign.

I like what Mmusi Maimane, leader of the Democratic Alliance, says about the student protests that have been disturbingly dragging on for… how long now? He calmly and convincingly states, with conviction, that it is urgent for the South African government to revisit its subsidy policies regarding tertiary education in this country. THAT is the point.

If this point had been acknowledged, admitted and addressed – much, much sooner – by those responsible and accountable, there would no doubt have been much less panic and pain. The latter are sadly suffered by tens of thousands of South African students who are in dire straits for being rudely and ruthlessly disrupted from completing their academic years and preparing for end-of-year examinations. This is almost unforgivable. It is totally unacceptable.

Mr President-of-the-country – for what you are worth in this capacity: where in the world have you been?! Was it not you who sowed this unfortunate seed on our university campuses? – The one that has blossomed into the misconception that five star tertiary education can be handed out for free? Could you not speak out and admit that you simply had no idea what you were talking about? Blade Nzimande – how could you allow things to deteriorate to these barbaric levels?! Without contextualizing; offering some form of perspective; correcting the perceptions of so-called students and preventing them from escalating into warped and distorted ludicrity?

Marching on university campuses with placards bearing appropriate slogans is probably not the worst kind of awareness campaign. This country-wide demonstration could most likely have had its desired effect if conducted and concluded in a powerful but dignified burst of orchestrated protest. The message was undoubtedly heard and elevated to the next appropriate levels of authority (it was, was it not?); but was there any indication that it had been noted? Hello? Was anybody home?

DESTRUCTION & DEVASTATION

But, no: instead of a swift and orderly response to a pretty obvious issue, blind eyes have been turned and rampantly raging students(?? really??) have been left to destroy and devastate. Irreparably. For whose account? Presumably and actually most certainly not theirs…

A review of government subsidies for tertiary institutions is long overdue. Drastic increases are a glaring need. Is it so hard to make the connection between the overwhelming multitude of aspiring students jostling for a place in the race and the drastic financial implications all round? More than 22 years downstream from the start of our democratic voyage: did no-one at the helm foresee that capacities would have to increase by leaps and bounds, and that the handful of available institutions would have to be drastically empowered to meet the swelling demands?

On the one hand we have the emerging generation – surging towards the stars; and on the other hand we have the apparently clueless political authorities who have seemingly long forgotten how to apply their political will. Assuming there is one.

Just a random thought to ponder: it would be interesting to establish both the quality and quantity of ‘true student fibre’ among the rampaging mobs. Perhaps someone should hasten to remind our boisterously demanding youth that it has never been a ‘right for all without reserve’ to enroll as a post-matric student for a university degree. As far as I know and can recall, there have always been requirements.

Granted – if and when these are met, the way forward should be paved and open, for each and every qualifier. And only THEN should financial constraints NOT be stumbling blocks.