12 June 2005

Marita does it again

Afrikaans author Marita van der Vyver lives in Provence, France, with her son Daniel (13), husband Alain and their daughter Mia (5) and Alain's two sons. The author of Griet Skryf 'n Sprokie (translated into English as Entertaining Angels) has a new book out called Travelling Light (first published in Afrikaans as Griet Kom Weer). In Travelling Light, Griet meets an Italian puppeteer, Luca, during a sabbatical in the US and now, back in South Africa, is trying to conduct a long-distance relationship via e-mails and the phone. Marita first went to France to live in a French village for a year but while there she met Alain, a teacher and newly divorced Frenchman. At the end of the year she and Daniel returned to South Africa and carried on the relationship with Alain long-distance. Eventually Marita moved to France. She wrote a book about her experiences of settling into France in a mostly non-fiction book in Afrikaans called Die Hart van ons Huis. In France she misses friends and family, and Marmite, jelly and wholemeal rusks. After writing Griet Kom Weer, she took Alain and the children on a trip through South Africa, ending up in Namibia. Marita is now working on a new novel about a South African couple in France on a sabbatical.

Big bucks

Thousands of South Africans, with police and military experience, are seeking fortunes as guns for hire in global hot spots. Iraq is the most lucrative for them. Klaus Weber, a former West German spy turned risk consultant, gets paid by recruitment agencies to do background checks on South Africans recruited as security guards in the Middle East. He claims that between 1 500 and 2 500 South Africans are doing military-related work in Iraq. The highest-earning South Africans in Iraq included intelligence officers, counter-insurgency specialists, helicopter pilots and combat surgeons who earned up to $25 000 per month. Afrikaans is frequently heard on the streets of Baghdad, Fallujah, Kirkuk and Tikrit, yet most of the South Africans are not the elite ex-soldiers from such units as the 44 Parachute Regiment and 32 Battalion, but regulars often with a Koevoet or police background. Such South Africans are sought after by the civilian companies contracted by the coalition forces in Iraq because they are far cheaper than their British or US counterparts, and have experience in counter-insurgency. South African daily newspapers often carry adverts for these jobs. Most recruits are first screened and if they pass, are asked to attend an interview in cities such as London, Windhoek and Harare. If selected, they fly to Dubai first.

English optional in schools

English will no longer be a compulsory language in South African schools. Pupils will be able choose any two of the 11 official languages when the Further Education and Training (FET) system comes into force possibly as early as next year. The new system will replace the senior certificate matric exams. The new system makes English and Afrikaans optional and offers pupils the chance to study any two of the official languages. Life orientation will be a compulsory subject and the curriculum will only offer 31 subjects. Maths or maths literacy will be compulsory. It will also see the current grading of A to F symbols changed to a new system of 1 to 6.

Another US visa refusal

Fina Mabiza (73), a domestic worker from Alexandra, was invited by her former employers to a family reunion in California but the United States consulate refused her visa application. Fina worked for the Sacks family for many years before the family emigrated to San Diego. Brenda Sacks (52) was 4 years old when Fina started working for her family. Brenda invited Fina to the family reunion in May and arranged an airline ticket for a two-week visit. After the US consulate in Johannesburg turned down the visa application, Brenda called the embassy in Los Angeles but no luck. Brenda's mother, now 85, had relied on Fina to take care of her and of the house while she was working, and wanted to see Fina again.

Back to school

Former TV news presenter Khanyi Dhlomo resigned as South African Tourism manager in France to return to studies. Khanyi will be a full-time student in the MBA programme at Harvard Business School in the US from August.

Sharia law in SA man's murder

Nadine Bolton (29) lost her husband Paul (33) in a Saudi shooting. His killer, Mahommed Badel (27) was to be executed unless Nadine accepted what is known in Saudi Arabia as blood money. During a sharia court hearing she chose the latter, leaving the killer's fate to King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz. She decided to spare his life, but did not forgive him. Murderers are beheaded in public in Saudi Arabia, in accordance with sharia law. Paul was gunned down in his office at the Al Safi-Danone dairy farm, owned by Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal, in March. The couple have two boys aged six and two. Al Safi-Danone, the largest dairy farm in the world, where Paul worked as the supervising lab technician, also paid Nadine an unknown amount of money. Badel was a trainee lab technician and worked under Paul. He was already involved in quite a few disputes at work and thought Paul was behind the plot to have him fired and therefore he killed him. Nadine lived with Paul for four years in Saudi Arabia.

Star Wars helps AIDS orphans

South African AIDS orphans benefited from the Los Angeles premiere of Revenge of the Sith when more than $1-million was collected for Artists for a New South Africa (Ansa) and nine other AIDS charities. Ansa will use the money for their Takes a Village programme. Samuel L. Jackson serves on the board of directors at Ansa. He plays Mace Windu in the last three Star Wars movies. Desmond Tutu also serves on the board as does the actor Blair Underwood, who is vice-president.

Brad Pitt's visits to SA

Heart-throb Brad Pitt (41) has been a regular visitor to South Africa where he has been drawing attention to the plight of people living in poverty and with HIV/AIDS, on behalf of Data, an organisation founded by U2’s Bono. Brad's recent visit was to Durban’s St Mary’s Catholic Mission Hospital and the Centre for Aids Programme of Research in South Africa, near Howick.

Jani Allan in the USA

South African journalist Jani Allan (52) moved to the USA in 2001 and six months later she married an American. The marriage fell apart and Jani now lives in Pennsylvania. As a journalist with the Sunday Times in Johannesburg, she used to drive a red Ferrari. An encounter with the AWB leader, Eugéne Terre'Blance, led to a court case in London, where she had moved t, in 1992. Jani took the Channel 4 to court over their programme The Leader, the Driver and the Driver's Wife, in which they alledged he had an affair with Terre'Blanche. She lost the case and had to pay Channel 4 R1,5 million in legal costs. Jani returned to South Africa and worked at Cape Talk Radio for three years before being fired in October 2000. She was a model before journalism and was married to Gordon Schachat. She has written a book, White Sunset, about the break-up of white society in South Africa.

The Rise, Fall, and Legacy of Apartheid

Dr. P. Eric Louw's latest book is The Rise, Fall, and Legacy of Apartheid. His father was Afrikaans and his mother English. He grew up in Rhodesia. He immigrated to Australia in 1995 and now works ar the University of Queensland. He wrote his latest book after getting fed up with the many misconceptions held by foreigners about apartheid and Afrikaners. The book looks at three political periods: the British (1900-1948), the Afrikaners (1948-1993) and the post-1994 Black nationalist period. The first chapter starts with Lord Alfred Milner and the Union of South Africa in 1910. Louw, a past member of the United Democratic Front, is critical of the ANC.

Red tape battle

South African stroke specialist Dr Akif Gani (36) has worked for 11 years treating the elderly at Newcastle upon Tyne General Hospital. Earlier this year, he was granted residence in the UK but told that his wife, young daughter and infant son could not stay. His wife Somayya (29), daughter Aalia (3) and their 11-month-old son Shakeel were informed by the Home Office that they had 8 days to appeal or leave the country. Patients and other supporters of the family, who live in Cochrane Park, Newcastle, got together to help fight the decision. This led to a Home Office case review and the family was allowed to stay. The couple married in 1999 and both children were born in Britain, although neither Aalia nor Shakeel qualified as British because their parents were not settled in Britain.

Winging it to France

Springbok and Stormers wing Breyton Paulse (29) recently signed a two-year contract with French Championship club Clermont.

Celebrity chef and SA model

Top chef Jean-Christophe Novelli (43) counts a South African amongst his ex-wives. Anzelle Visser (30), a former model, met the Hell's Kitchen star after she walked into his restaurant in Clerkenwell, London, looking for a job. He had earlier seen her on a billboard at Cape Town airport. They were married in Westminster in April 1999 but the marriage broke down a few months later. Anzelle, his second wife, lives in England but may return to South Africa. Novelli has an 18 year old daughter Christina, from his first wife Tina. His new restaurant is Novelli in the City and he still runs Auberge du Lac in Brocket Hall, Hertfordshire, as well as a cookery school in Spain.

Gogga's busy

Cricketer Paul (Gogga) Adams marries Adrianna Parson on October 1st. Adrianna is Patricia de Lille's PA. Paul is supervising the restoration of a house in Constantia, when not playing cricket.

London's queen of food

Prue Leith, restaurateur, food writer and romance novelist, lives in London. She grew up in Johannesburg's northern suburbs, the daughter of South African actress and director, Margaret Inglis. She attended St. Mary's Convent and went on to UCT where she drifted between the Darama, Art and Architecture departments, ending up with a B.A. in French. A stint as au pair and waitress in Paris followed, where she also took classes at the Sorbonne. Prue moved to London and enrolled in a cordon bleu course for a year.

After graduation, she spent 3 days a week preparing lunches at a law firm, and the rest of the time trying to get catering jobs. While holidaying in Rome, her grandmother's rings were stolen. With the insurance money, Prue bought a panel van and criss-crossed London catering. In 1993 she sold the business, with a staff of 500. In 1975 she married author Rayne Kruger. In 1969 the restaurant Leith's opened in Notting Hill Gate, followed by Leith's School of Food and Wine in 1975. Prue was approached by the Daily Mail to ghost write Lady Elizabeth Anson's weekly cooking column, but she convinced them to alternate with her real name every other week. Her first recipe book, Leith's All Party Cookbook, soon followed.

In the 1990s, she sold her cooking businesses and concentrated on writing. Her first novel, Sisters, was published in November 2002. It was about two sisters who grew up on a South African farm but moved to England when their mother became ill. Leaving Patrick and A Lovesome Thing followed. Her next novel is in the works. Prue and Rayne adopted a daughter, Li-Da, from Cambodia. She's a film maker and their son, Sam, is a journalist. Rayne died in 2002.

Good Hope FM DJ in movie

Steven Seagal's latest movie, Mercenary, was shot in Cape Town. Jeannie D, a Good Hope FM DJ, has a small role in the movie, playing a bank assistant. Seagal plays a mercenary trying to free a drug lord's son from a Eastern European jail.

11 June 2005

Success for AIDS orphan

Xoliswa Sithole, a South African director, won the prize for best documentary at the recent British Academy's Television Awards (Baftas). The documentary, Orphans of Nkandla, was broadcast by the BBC and Discovery Channel last year. It deals with AIDS orphans. Xoliswa's first documentary, Shouting Silence, also won awards. It was based on her life after her mother died of AIDS and she had to raise her brothers and sisters. In 1987 she played the role of a nurse in Cry Freedom.

SA woman sentenced in Perth

Ann Susanna Catharina van Schalkwyk (57) will spend the next six years in an Australian prison after being found guilty of smuggling cocaine into Perth from Durban. She was sentenced to 12 years in prison. At least half her sentence has to be served before she becomes eligible for parole. She was arrested in November 2003 at Perth International airport with 1.7kg of cocaine in her possession concealed in six bottles of Amarula liqueur, through an X-ray machine. She claimed that a man had approached her on a Durban beach and asked if she would drop off the bottles at a hotel in Sydney at a pre-determined time. She travelled with him to Johannesburg. A few days later, she boarded a plane to Australia, having received the bottles at the Johannesburg International Airport and assuming they contained alcohol. A month after her arrest, her husband was also arrested - trying to smuggle cocaine out of South America to South Africa.

Tracey Thompson (34), a Durban single parent, was recently released from a British jail after spending almost a year inside. She was sentenced to 4 months in prison after being found in possession of cocaine and dagga, but was found not guilty on charges of smuggling cocaine and dagga worth £20-million across borders. The analytical chemist was working as a waitress in the UK. She claimed that her partner, known to her as Richard Mahoney (52), led her to believe she was taking cigarettes and chutney from South Africa to the UK. He was recently arrested in Umhlanga Rocks and faces extradition to the UK.

There are 865 South Africans in prisons across the world for trying to smuggle drugs from South Africa into foreign countries. There are 118 South Africans in Brazilian prisons, 70 in Peru and 36 in Venezuela. Most of them were pulled in by syndicates as drug mules. The mules receive between R20 000 and R50 000. Seventy of the 107 drug mules arrested last year swallowed their consignments. It is mostly middle-aged, White people, who were financially unstable, that are targeted by the syndicates as they are regarded as a lower risk and can travel as tourists or businessmen.

Buffalo saves lives in Iraq

South African-designed armoured vehicles are helping to save US Army and Marine personnel in Iraq. The mine protective clearance vehicle (MPCV) is known as the Buffalo by US soldiers. When a suspicious item is noticed by soldiers, the Buffalo is brought in to check whether an explosive device is present. The six-wheeled armoured Buffalo is based on the South African Casspir and saves lives because explosive devices explode while they are being inspected about 10% of the time. The heavy vehicle, which operates with a six-man crew, has provided strong protection from such blasts, even at close range.

SA surgeon saved BBC journalist

Frank Gardener (43), a BBC specialist reporter on security, was shot and paralysed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in June 2004. His cameraman, Simon Cumbers, died when militants opened fire on them. Gardener recently returned to work after 8 months in hospital. He credits a team of surgeons led by a South African doctor with saving his life. After the attack, he was taken by police to hospital where he was operated on but nearly died. A week later, a team of top doctors from King Faisal Hospital were sent to see him. They were led by Dr. Peter Bautz, a South African and former trauma surgeon at Groote Schuur Hospital, performed nine operations on Gardener. Bautz and his family moved to Saudi Arabia in 1999.

Ruby Wax buys Cape Town home

UK television show host Ruby Wax (52) has bought a holiday home in Cape Town, while there to shoot Celebrity Shark Bait, off Hermanus and Gansbaai, a documentary on celebrities taking a dip with great white sharks. Actress Andie MacDowell, actor Richard E Grant and champion hurdler Colin Jackson also star in the documentary. Ruby andAndie filmed Tara Road in the city last year. The holiday home is a two-bedroom place in the city centre and cost between R3-million and R4-million. Celebrity Shark Bait is set to be broadcast on British TV network ITV later this year to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Steven Spielberg’s 1975 hit horror movie Jaws.

Couple arrested in USA

Petrus Botes (50) and his partner Yvonne Coetzee (32) have been arrested in the USA and charged with bringing South African workers into the USA on temporary work permits and then placing them illegally with unauthorised employers. Coetzee was also charged with encouraging them to remain in the USA as illegal immigrants. US Immigration and Customs said the couple established an employment bureau, JP Services, in Bennington, Kansas, that provided agricultural workers. Charges include illegal applications for work permits without the consent of the workers. They are also charged with falsifying employers' signatures on the application forms. After the permits were approved, they placed workers with employers other than those indicated on the permits. Botes and Coetzee were found guilty of contravening visa regulations in 2002. They recently received a final summons to leave the USA. Should they be found guilty on the recent charges, they would have to serve their sentences before being deported to South Africa.

Afrikaans rock music on London radio

Afrikaans rock music takes to the radio waves next week in London. Ludwig Wagner will present Londen is Lekker on Resonance 104.4 FM. The former Pretoria resident hopes to turn the show into a regular spot. Listen in on Friday 17 June from 7PM to 830PM