13 March 2006

Family faces deportation from New Zealand

A South African family in New Zealand is facing deportation because of a late notification to authorities about a change in job. Gavin Penfold (30) has taken his children out of school and given up his job, while the family awaits the outcome of an appeal. Gavin arrived in New Zealand with his wife, Lorinda, and children Michene (10) and Tristan (5) in December 2004. After working in Whangarei for about six weeks, he accepted a position with an Auckland car dealership. Gavin later learned he should have notified immigration authorities of the change to his working conditions. After speaking with a consultant, he notified the authorities, and also applied for residency. But his application was rejected on the grounds he had admitted a breach in his work conditions. His work permit was revoked, his wife and son's permits were revoked, and his daughter's student visa as well. The authorities say that the variation request was received about 10 months after the move to Auckland, and that was too long, as the permit only allowed him to work at the Whangarei dealership.Crime was the main reason whu the family moved from Cape Town to New Zealand. Gavin had worked as a sales manager for Rover, and Lorinda had worked for the American Embassy in Pretoria. Tristan had already started school in Auckland, but if forced to return to South Africa he will have to wait until he is 7 before he can go back to school.

12 March 2006

SAVE OUR CHILDREN!

According to new South African Police Service statistics, more children are being murdered and raped in South Africa than in previous years. More than three children are murdered every day and more than 60 are raped. There is a crime committed against a child every six minutes.

The statistics, released by Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula, show that 1 128 children were murdered between April 2004 and March 2005. The previous year shows 700 reported cases of child murder. During April 2004 to March 2005, 22 486 children were raped - a lot more than the 15 867 reported cases for 2003/2004. In the financial year 2002/2003, 15 144 child rapes were reported.

For the period April 2004 to March 2005, the minister said there were also 1 569 cases of attempted murder reported to police, 4 829 of indecent assault and 24 189 of assault with grievous bodily harm involving children. A total of 85 808 violent crimes were perpetrated against minors.

Of the murder cases, the highest number of reports were in KwaZulu-Natal (284), followed by Gauteng (222), the Eastern Cape (204), the Western Cape (164), Mpumalanga (69), the Freestate (49), Limpopo (44) and the Northern Cape (27).

Most rape incidents, 4 859, took place in Gauteng followed by KwaZulu-Natal (3 936), the Eastern Cape (3 006), Western Cape (2 796), Northwest (2 059), Limpopo (1 968), Mpumalanga (1 180), Freestate (1 610) and the Northern Cape (661).

The conviction rate in the 2003/2004 financial year was 4.5%. A safety and security spokesperson, Hangwane Molautsi, said the department was now giving preference to crimes against women and children. "We have filled vacant posts and strengthened investigation capacity. I'm sure that, when the statistics for the current year are announced in September, there will be a considerable drop in this type of crime. However, other government departments and non-government organisations, as well as communities where these crimes occur, will have to co-operate with us."

South Africa also has one of the highest overall rape figures in the world, if not the highest. There are at least 10 anti-rape organisations in South Africa. They have launched the One in Nine campaign, which refers to a Medical Research Council report that eight out of every nine rape cases go unreported in South Africa.

11 March 2006

Top award for South African brochures

Brochure Management, South Africa's largest distributor of printed tourism information, is based in Sea Point. Craig Killeen, CEO, is very pleased to have done well at the recent Association of Professional Brochure Distributors awards in San Diego. A brochure designed and printed by Shane Killeen, owner of sister company Brochure Print, for Cape Town township tour operator, Zibonele Tours and Transfers, was placed third out of more than 17 000 entries in the best produced category. The company also won a regional award for a brochure advertising the Waterfront Boat Company. Craig lives in Green Point with his wife and two children. He was previously involved in other businesses, including a Soweto estate agency, before entering the brochure market. Brochure Management distributes over one million brochures a month on 3 000 display boards. He started as a one-man business eight years ago and now has 75 people nationwide. Craig is preparing to expand outside of South Africa and into the medical industry where they have put 500 boards into doctor's waiting rooms supplying leaflets. The world's largest supplier of medical information, Dutch company IDS, also recently bought a 30% share in the company.

Party girl

Many of the South African expats returning home for good, start up their own businesses, just as Ellen Fischat has. Ellen, her husband and two children spent the past 10 years in Holland. They settled in Port Elizabeth in December, where she started a children's party planning service called Tallulaaz. The creative Ellen loves organising parties and wanted to be involvved in a child-related business. Her parties are all themed, such as fairies, cowboys, princess or disco. The party box includes costumes and accessories, related activities and party packs. Tallulaaz also offers invitations and home decor to tie in with the theme.

Singer returns home

David Bowie once voted the song, You Could, single of the week on his Web site. The singer was Ike Moriz, who is often referred to as a mixture of Bowie and Oasis. Ike has returned to Cape Town for good after having enjoyed a successful music career in London for five years. His latest album is Play Me, which he wrote and produced.
After studing music in South Africa, Germany and the Netherlands, he decided to try the London music scene. He met with George Michael’s producer Steve Kent, who put him in touch with session musicians who were into the same music as he was. Ike recorded his two albums with them. His first three singles were popular in 17 countries. He also had some small acting parts in Alfie, Bridget Jones’s Diary 2, Love Actually, and a body double part in Wimbledon.

Supercop PC Coetzee

South African Diederik Coetzee (48) is known as the UK's Super Cop or Robocop for having made the most arrests in the UK. He arrested 309 criminals in 10 months in the county of Nottinghamshire.

Diederik is the son of the former sports journalist Pieter Coetzee and brother of the actor Deon Coetzee. After completing his education at Hoërskool Fakkel, he joined the police in Mondeor. He later transferred to the dog unit where he spent 20 years working in Johannesburg. Diederik moved to the UK eight years ago, having left the police with the rank of captain. He married his British wife, Margaret Duncan, in Mansfield 20 years ago. The couple have two daughters Lauren (18) and Rachel (16). When he first arrived in the UK, he offered spinning classes for two years, before joining the Nottinghamshire Police. In his five years there, PC Coetzee has arrested 1 250 criminals. Eleven arrests is the most Diederik has made in one day. He now wants to transfer to the Nottinghamshire dog squad.

The super-fit cop has been awarded three police awards recently - an Apex Award (he was the first recipient in the performance category), a Chief Constable's Commendation, and a Mayor's Commendation from the Mayor of Mansfield. Diederik has taken part in the Iron Man competition (canoeing, cycling and running) 12 times, has run the Comrades nine times and has rowed the Dusi three times.

Branson School of Entrepreneurship

British tycoon Richard Branson has opened a school for entrepreneurship for disadvantaged students in South Africa. The Branson School of Entrepreneurship in Johannesburg, is a collaboration between Virgin Group and Cida, a privately funded university that offers education to disadvantaged students at reduced rates. The school is housed in the downtown building where Nelson Mandela once had a law office. Branson left his footprints in concrete slabs that will be displayed in the school to represent walking in the footsteps of global entrepreneurs. Cida's students will be introduced to entrepreneurship skills during their first year of undergraduate study. Funding will also be provided to help students start micro-enterprises.

A touch of South Africa in Scotland

Minmore House Hotel in Banffshire, Scotland, is a family-run hotel with a South African connection. The house was home to George Smith, founder of Glenlivet Whisky. Lynne and Victor Janssen run the hotel with their two sons, Jurie and Marcus, when they are not at university. Lynne is originally from Perthshire. In South Africa the family owned successful restaurants including including La Popote, L'Artiste and the Manna House. A violent crime experience in Durban saw the family move to Scotland a few years ago. The 10-bedroomed hotel is famous for its afternoon teas. The restaurant has been awarded five stars by Taste of Scotland.

Gospel album recorded in South Africa

Grammy nominated gospel Israel Houghton and his New Breed organisation recorded a gospel album live in South Africa last year. The Afro-sounding album incorporates South African talents, including guitar maestro Jonathan Butler. Alive in South Africa is a two-disc offering featuring more than 20 tracks. Israel Houghton is considered an architect of cross-cultural worship. He has written hundreds of songs and is an award winning producer and arranger. The founder of New Breed Music, a worship movement that crosses cultural, generational and denominational boundaries, Israel serves as worship leader at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas.
On the album, there are some well-known African songs like Alpha and Omega. This album is the follow-up to the gold-selling Live From Another Level, which earned Israel and New Breed a Grammy Award nomination for contemporary soul gospel album. Israel was originally a drummer in his church.

You may be owed unclaimed pension benefits

Thousands of former pension funds members stand to gain a substantial windfall. The Financial Services Board (FSB) has embarked on a campaign to assist in the effort to trace unclaimed benefit beneficiaries. An unclaimed benefit is a benefit which, within a period of twelve months from the date it became legally due and payable, has not been paid by a retirement fund to a member or beneficiary. Any person who belonged to a retirement fund and had a benefit due to him or her but who never received such benefit, qualifies. The FSB contacted all pension funds and created a database from 967 funds which indicate that 135 479 members are owed about R970-million.
Those who believe that they qualify for unclaimed pension benefits can use a search facility on the FSB Web site. If you are listed, you will be given contact details for the relevant administrator. Before you call the administrator, please ensure that you have the following information available:

Full names and surname (including maiden surname where applicable)
ID Number and date of birth
Name of Fund
Copies of Benefit Statements or Payslips
Name of the employer the member worked for and how long the member worked at the employer
Why the member did not claim his / her benefit
Contact details

Job loss leads to amazing invention

South African Cheslyn Swart (24) has invented a washing machine for sports shoes, after he lost his job as floor manager at a cell phone warehouse six years ago. With no formal qualifications, he taught himself by taking apart his washing machine at home. Now his invention will be on the market in South Africa this month and on sale overseas from June. He has licenses to sell the product in the UK, China, India, the Middle East, North and South America, Namibia and Angola. The Nu-Sportshoe microwave-like machine can wash and dry your smelly sneakers in 10 minutes. It cleans the shoes with steam and a special solvent, also patented by Cheslyn. The machine needs no water. It sprays solvent at a very high speed and very high heat onto the shoes, removing all the dirt. It will cost around R1 500 ($250 dollars). Cheslyn is also in negotiations to sell the washing machine to gymnasiums. The capital investment in the project by two private investors was about R1-million, while the Danish government sponsored another R2-million in research about its potential markets in Europe, America and Asia. Business consultant Enver Buys, whose company Chaza Strategic Management helps entrepreneurs find funds and develop their ideas, helped Cheslyn to patent the product.

Graduates database to help with jobs

As part of the government's Unemployed Graduate Initiative, a register of unemployed graduates was launched in December, aimed at linking up unemployed youngsters with prospective employers. The Jobs and Opportunities Seekers database already has 61 000 graduates on its list, as well as information on available jobs, learnerships, internships and business opportunities. The database is managed by the government Umsobomvu Youth Fund.

At the launch ceremony in Pretoria several companies pledged jobs for more than 4 000 graduates on the list in just 30 minutes in an auction-type campaign. These ranged from jobs as engineers, scientists and mining technicians, to researchers, brewers and project managers.

IBM was the first to pledge 500 jobs. Siemens offered 80 jobs in the engineering and technical fields and Old Mutual promised to train and employ 100 unemployed graduates in project management. The biggest pledge came from Eskom, which said it would recruit 70 graduates in the finance and procurement fields in January, in addition to the 100 graduates it employed prior to the lauch. It also promised to take in 200 youth listed on the database and offer 4 000 learnerships in 2006. Telkom offered to employ 310 graduates in 2006 and Vodacom said it would increase its learnership intake from 225 to 400 and employ another 10 graduates from the database. The South African Institute of Civil Engineers pledged to take as many engineers as they can find, and Master Builders of South Africa said it would take any graduate who has a construction qualification. South African Breweries said it would take as many science and brewing graduates as possible. Other companies involved were Nedbank, the Independent Development Trust, the Industrial Development Corporation, Sappi, Alstom, the Development Bank of Southern Africa which promised 28 jobs, Deloitte, TMC, and Gensec Properties.

South Africa's baseball team faces Team USA

How did South Africa land up in the first World Baseball Classic tournament featuring many of baseball's biggest stars? According to Las Vegas odds, they were the 20,000 to 1 underdogs. The cricket-, rugby- and soccer-mad country only has one professional player - double-A pitcher Barry Armitage (26) in the Kansas City Royals system. Only five other players have some kind of pro experience, including first baseman Nathan Dempsey, who played in the Montreal Expos system. Most players are amateurs, playing the game around day jobs. Each player pays to play the game - $80 to $100 per month to help their professional body with uniforms and other expenses. They play 25 to 30 games a season compared with 160 in the Major League.

Baseball in South Africa goes back to when American gold miners working at Crown Mines began playing the sport during their off days in 1898. In 1934 the South African Baseball Federation in was founded, but baseball remained a fringe sport. In 1951, the South African Baseball Association was created for black players. The two bodies remained separate until 1992, when they merged to form the South African Baseball Union.

With the help of Major League Baseball, the union has been focusing on developing baseball at the grassroots level, establishing the sport in schools across the country as well as amateur leagues. Nathan, who lives in Johannesburg, works full-time with the Pitch and Run programme in schools. Some 175 high schools now have baseball equipment. Between 10,000 and 12,000 kids play in school programmes in nine regions, and 18 adult teams compete at the amateur level. The national team was formed in 1995.
In 2000, South Africa became the first African country to reach the Olympics. They beat the Netherlands, even though they finished last among eight teams at the Sydney Games.

It was the same year that the Kansas City Royals were visiting Durban and holding a try-out camp. Barry Armitage was working at an athletic footwear shop, when not pitching at 90 mph. His boss gave him 20 minutes off to go to the try-out. The Royals signed their first South African player - for a plane ticket, and no bonus. Barry, on the Double-A Wichita roster, is about to launch his seventh season with the Royals. Barry, at 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds, last spring became the first South African to play in any kind of a Major League contest. He pitched an inning for the Royals against the Astros in an exhibition game at Houston. Now he wants be the first South African to play in a full-on game.

Team manager Rick Magnante, a long-time Oakland Athletics scout, took the job when Major League Baseball offered it to him in October and he has no regrets. He was recently named manager of the Class A Vancouver Canadians. He travelled to South Africa in January, where he evaluated players and put together the WBC squad.

Sean Campbell is the main South African coach, with 30 years of experience playing and coaching on South African teams. Pitching coach Lee Smith is a former Major League reliever who has taken a break from his job as roving instructor with the San Francisco Giants to help South Africa. In the late 1980s, Lee was a teammate of Roger (The Rocket) Clemens at the Boston Red Sox.

Willie Kemp (36) is part-owner and salesman for an electrical supply company. After work, he is South Africa's starting catcher. His role model is New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza, who is playing in the WBC for Italy. Pitcher Gary Maree is also 36. The rest of the team features 10 teenagers, four of them just 17, and another five players aged 20-22.

In their first WBC game against Canada, they lost 11-8, but South Africa took the lead early and held it close until the 9th inning. Their second game was against Mexico who beat them 10-4. On Friday they were facing the USA team which includes $25 million-a-year Alex Rodriguez. Paul Bell, South Africa's second baseman and leadoff man will be the first hitter to face The Rocket. He played three seasons in the Milwaukee Brewers system.

Team USA advanced to the second round of the tournament by beating South Africa 17-0 in a game shortened to five innings by the tournament's mercy rule.

10 March 2006

Routes to Roots: A collection of Web sites for South African genealogy & family history research

Routes to Roots: A collection of Web sites for South African genealogy & family history research. Compiled by a top South African professional genealogist, Anne Lehmkuhl, this e-book is a must for those looking for South African genealogy and family history on the Internet. It helps you get to the right places, quickly and efficiently. Routes to Roots contains 900+ Web sites or contact addresses.

Over the years, Anne has gained a reputation for finding genealogical or historical information easily, as well as locating elusive ancestors or descendants. Some of her success stories include:
  • Re-uniting two long-lost friends, one in the USA and one in South Africa, after 20 years of no contact.
  • Locating someone's South African family history, with photos, within an hour of receiving the query from Australia.
  • Re-uniting two cousins, one in the USA and one in South Africa, who didn't know they had family connections.
  • Putting together someone's family history that started in England, led to South Africa and ended up in Australia.
Each Web site or contact address in Routes to Roots has been selected for its relevance to South African research. This e-book has 132 pages. The quality Web sites or contacts are arranged under the following categories:
  • 1820 Settlers
  • Adoption - includes an article on adoption records
  • Anglo-Boer War - includes notes on Anglo-Boer War records
  • Antiques / Auctions
  • Archives & Libraries
  • Beginning Genealogy - includes a brief history & geography of South Africa, notes on beginning your search and sources of information in South Africa
  • Books
  • Churches
  • Coats-of-Arms - includes notes on the use of coats-of-arms
  • Computer Stuff
  • Databases maintained by individuals
  • Dutch East India Company (VOC)
  • Family histories on-line - 124 Web sites full of South African roots
  • Genealogical societies
  • General South African history
  • Magazines
  • Maps & Gazetters
  • Message boards / E-mail lists
  • Military - includes notes on researching military ancestors, a listing of useful books for military research
  • Miscellaneous
  • Museums - 118 Web sites
  • Namibia / South West Africa
  • Newspapers - 220 South African Web sites or contact details
  • Overseas research
  • People search
  • Police
  • Preserving memories
  • Professions
  • Search engines - includes notes on using search engines
  • Settlers - German, Jews, Italians and more
  • Shipping
  • Sport
  • Towns / Cities
  • Zimbabwe / Rhodesia
Now available in .pdf format as an e-book. Order your copy NOW - only $11.95 (Canadian $), other currencies accepted. Please note that due to time zone differences, there may be a delay before your receive access to the book. Your order will be processed as soon as possible.

08 March 2006

Tossie Lochner, Italië

Tossie Lochner lives in Italy with her partner Martin Snyman and a dog named Tossie. For more than 30 years she has been the voice of Afrikaans radio in Italy, ending each report with "Tossie Lochner, Italië". She hopes to return to South Africa soon. Tossie was born in Wolseley and attended high school in Heidelberg, Western Cape. After graduating from teacher's college in Wellington, she studied speech therapy at UCT and took drama lessons from Babs Laker. She spent 10 years as a speech therapist in Bellville and then applied to work for Satour who were opening offices overseas. She was accepted. To learn Italian quickly, Tossie moved to Aulla in Tuscany, for three months. While there she met Roberto Vegnuti, who went to South Africa with Tossie and they married a year later. The Satour work was never taken up and they moved back to Italy. The marriage did not go well but there was no possibility of divorce. Tossie had two children, Sara (now 34) and Leonardo (now 31), who spoke Italian and Afrikaans from the beginning. Roberto passed away last year. Sara is married with a son and lives in Italy. Leonardo is a businessman in Boksburg. During a visit to Cape Town, Tossie met up with an old friend from the SABC and that is how she landed up on radio. During another visit to South Africa in 2004, she met Martin through a friend. For the past four years, Tossie has run the tourist bureau in her Italian village.

Strengthening ties with New Zealand

There are about 45 000 South Africans living in New Zealand, according to the New Zealand premier Helen Clark. During talks with President Thabo Mbeki in Pretoria recently, she said that these highly skilled expats could be recruited to assist South Africa in its drive to develop skills. Pres. Mbeki said the South African government wants to reach out to the South African expats there and see how they can strengthen bilateral relations. The two leaders also discussed co-operation between the two countries' film industries, as well as the possibility of working holiday visas for young people. During her visit, Premier Clark also visited Heroes Acre in Church Street, Pretoria, where she laid a wreath in memory of New Zealanders buried there. According to her, about 66 500 New Zealanders were involved in the Anglo Boer War (1899-1902).

Some South African expats in New Zealand have indicated their willingness to strengthen relations between the two countries, but rule out moving back to South Africa. Former Port Elizabeth sports event promoter and volleyball Springbok Dave Mee left South Africa in 1994 and now lives with his wife and three children in Auckland. He is the director of an events company which organises the Ellerslie Flower Show at the Auckland Botanic Gardens. The company is in talks with the organisers of the Cape Flower Show. Lance Dodd, born in Uitenhage, is now the deputy editor of the Marlborough Express and lives in Blenheim. He would be happy to use his skills to build skills in South Africa. Lance emigrated with his wife, Mariette, who taught English and drama at Port Elizabeth’s DF Malherbe High and Theodor Herzl Primary, and their two daughters three years ago. Mariette now teaches drama at Marlborough Girls’ College. Janene Roelofsz left South Africa five years ago. She has two children and works as a sub-editor on the same paper as Lance. Janene would become involved in a project to help South Africa but only if it benefited all South Africans. Former Unisa computer science lecturer Willem Labuschagne immigrated to Dunedin seven years ago. He does not think he would get involved. Willem was born and raised in Graaff-Reinet and now lectures at the University of Otago. His wife Leta, a botanist, now works for Natural History New Zealand, a film production company that makes nature and science documentaries. She would be prepared to act as a liaison between NHNZ, the University of Otago, which runs training courses in documentary film-making, and South Africa to get a training programme kick-started for young South African documentary film-makers.

07 March 2006

Work permits changed

South Africa's recent immigration policy changes welcomes foreign astronomers, astrophysicists, space scientists, plant pathologists and veterinarians with open arms. Unlike other work permits, a quota permit will be issued to applicants before they have found a job in South Africa, although it will not guarantee them a position. The annual list of scarce skills was published in the Government Gazette. Fifty-six occupations are listed, with the requirement that the potential job seeker have at least five years' experience and be registered with their relevant professional body. The list includes 1 000 maths and science teachers, 1 500 software developers, 3 000 biological science technicians, 250 virologists, 1 000 silicon and microchip developers, 500 pasture scientists, 500 actuaries, 500 financial market analysts, 500 risk managers, and 5 000 construction and structural engineers. There is also work for 100 geologists, 200 astronomers, 200 astrophysicists, as well 500 aeronautical engineers, 500 aircraft maintenance engineers, 100 chemical engineers, 500 vehicle diagnostic technicians and 250 jewellery designers. This will be part of the government's plan to stimulate growth and halve poverty and unemployment by 2014.

Beads on fashion ramps

Top British fashion designer Emma Hope has commissioned South African beadworkers to make bags for her fashion collection. The beaded bags will be made by Cape Town NGO MonkeyBiz and will be on the fashion ramps in Milan. The bags will be sold in Milan and Paris after the shows. Emma saw the group's work on the Internet. MonkeyBiz provides 450 women with beads, thread and cotton, and then markets their work which includes beaded bags, dolls, animals and key rings. The project also supports the MonkeyBiz Wellness Clinic which provides services to workers living with HIV/AIDS. The women recently did some work for American designer Donna Karan.

Surviving on koeksisters

A mother's koeksister recipe helped a family of 14 survive for 21 years. Marnette Wiese, from Pretoria North, turned to her mother's recipe all those years ago when she found herself with 14 people in her 2-bedroom railway house. With the help of her widowed sister, Lensie Luiters, and their domestic helper, Sara Mafora, she started baking to make ends meet. The children would go out selling the koeksisters door-to-door. Eventually they were baking 300 dozen koeksisters per day, using 4.5 kg of flour and getting up at 00:30.
Sakkie Luiters, the eldest of Lensie's four children, was in Standard 8 when the family started selling koeksisters. Wilnette Viljoen, one of Marnette's three children, used the money from her sales to study and today she owns a hairdressing salon. Nowadays it is only Marnette's brother, Barnie Nolte, and his youngest son, Barend, that sell koeksisters. Barnie and his two children moved in with his sister nine years ago after his wife and eldest son died. He sells amnogst motorists on the corner of Duncan Road and Charles Street in Brooklyn. Barnie and Barend usually sell 25 to 30 packets of koeksisters per day. Marnette and Sara now bake 80 dozen over two days.
Marnette's husband, Willem, worked on the railways back then and often helped plait the dough after work. It was his idea that they start selling koeksisters. Marnette started using some of the income for an evangilical outreach project amongst the homeless, including a mission trip to Zimbabwe recently.

Greg Norman invests in Johannesburg

Medallist, an Australian company which has golfer Greg Norman as a major shareholder, is involved in a lifestyle development at Alewynspoort, south of Johannesburg. The development, known as Eye of Africa, will have 1 200 houses, a golf course designed by Norman and a nature reserve. There will also be a golf academy, a health spa, other sport facilities and horse stables. Medallist is a partnership between Norman's company, Great White Shark Enterprises , and Macquarie Bank, Australia's main investment nank. The South African partner is Pixley World Investment. The first stand owners will be able to start building at the end of the year, and the golf course should be ready by mid-2007.

Centurion's landmark centre

A R13.4-billion convention and entertainment centre will be built in Centurion. The Tshwane International Convention Centre is designed in the shape of the African continent. The 8000m² landmark is being developed by Community Investment Holdings and Bantsho Investment Holdings in partnership with the Tshwane Council. The centre will seat 2 000 in an ultra-modern auditorium and 20 breakaway rooms. The adjacent precinct will feature two hotels with 500 luxury rooms. Penthouses, office blocks, cinemas, gyms, restaurants and retail facilities, linked to the proposed Centurion Gautrain station, are also planned. Construction is scheduled to begin in November and the project is due for completion by 2008. The project is expected to create about 38 000 jobs.

Pretoria's new hospital

The Pretoria Academic Hospital is getting a new R440-million state-of-the-art facility. The new multi-level hospital building will have 832 beds, 22 operating theatres, 80 consulting rooms, 19 lifts and the largest kitchen in the country. There will be 3 600 staff members, including 420 doctors and specialists, and 1 230 nurses. The hospital will also accommodate clinical departments from the University of Pretoria, which had contributed 17% towards building costs. Construction on the building began before 1994 but the project was halted until 2001. Initial plans had involved building a 1200-bed hospital, but these were later amended. The building is 800m away from the 74-year-old building formerly known as the HF Verwoerd Hospital. The old hospital building will be converted into a 200-bed district hospital called Tshwane District Hospital.

Actor returns home

Craig Urbani (35) has been living in the UK for 10 years, where he had leading roles in many musicals on the West End, toured in Australia and Singapore, performed for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles, and was nominated for a Laurence Olivier award. He's given that up and returned to South Africa for good. Craig has had more than enough work since being home. The Rhodes University graduate got his big break with as Buddy in the South African musical Buddy Holly Story. He was invited to star in the same role on the West End production. With his earnings in the UK he was able to buy five properties in South Africa, as well as a house in Wimbledon.

The Zulu lion roars

Relatives of the original composer of The Lion Sleeps Tonight recently dropped their lawsuit against Disney after settling for an undisclosed sum of money with New Jersey-based Abilene Music, which holds the copyright to The Lion Sleeps Tonight which in turn licensed it to the Walt Disney Corporation. The family of the late Solomon Linda, who composed the original Zulu tune for the song, was claiming $10m in damages. Solomon died penniless in 1962. He was a Zulu migrant worker who composed the song Mbube (lion) in Johannesburg in 1939 and recorded it with a singing group called the Evening Birds. The settlement involves a payment of back royalties to the family and the right to participate in the royalties in the future, on a worldwide basis. Solomon will now be acknowledged as a co-composer of The Lion Sleeps Tonight. The case was brought under 1911 copyright legislation which gives artists' families the rights to their works 25 years after their deaths and entitles relatives to renegotiate deals and secure better royalty terms. In September 2004 Disney lost a bid to set aside the lawsuit by the family. The settlement ends a dispute between Solomon's relatives and companies including Disney over the rights to the song, sparked by a Rolling Stone magazine article in 2001. The song has been recorded by more than 150 different artists and features in at least 15 movies and stage musicals. It has been translated into several languages including French, Japanese, Danish and Spanish. Disney was identified as the most active user of the song, including in the 1994 blockbuster film The Lion King and musicals. Solomon's daughter, Elizabeth Gugu, of Soweto, first saw the Lion King on TV in July 2004. In 1949, folk singer Pete Seeger came across the song in New York and transcribed it, calling it Wimoweh. In 1961, the Tokens recorded the song and added the English lyrics starting with "In the jungle, the mighty jungle."

Cricket's most beautiful commentator

Cindy Nell (24), Miss South Africa 2003 and runner-up in the Miss Universe contest, has added cricket commentating to her talents. Jacques Kallis' former girlfriend has also worked as a TV presenter. Her cricket debut was during a recent provincial 20/20 match between the Titans and Eagles where she showed her knowledge of the game. Cindy is currently taking acting classes from Brümilda van Rensburg and Annie Malan.

Room 13 in Soweto and Botshabelo

A few months ago, TBWA, an international advertising agency with a branch in Johannesburg, launched a project to teach more than 100 pupils from Sapebuso Primary School in Soweto and Mmulakgoro Primary School in Botshabelo in Bloemfontein, how to earn an income from art. The project, known as Room 13, will see the pupils holding an exhibition and selling their art to the public. Woolworths donated R200 000 to enable pupils to buy additional material. The original Room 13 started in Scotland in 1994 when two 11-year old girls volunteered to take their school's photographs and bought a camera with the money they earned in the process. They then asked artist Rob Fairley what it would take for him to come and work with them at the school. "Pay me," Fairley said and so Room 13 was born. He started working with the young entrepreneurs, but as their employee rather than their teacher. Today other young children at Caol Primary School continue to run the project.

Edinburgh's South African Reverend

Uitenhage-born Reverend Joseph Naika (48) joined Ebenezer United Free Church in Edinburgh, Scotland, a few months ago. The congregation is predominantly made up of elderly people, but Rev. Naika wants to bring a vibrant spark of life to the church. The Scottish church decided to advertise outside of Scotland for ministers, due to a lack of ministers there. Rev. Naika and his wife Evelyn, with their daughters Tayla (11) and T’Neal (6) attended a ceilidh at the church hall at New Year, and have also enjoyed haggis. The couple hope to introduce potjiekos and sakkie-sakkie to Edinburgh soon. The reverend matriculated at Uitenhage High School and studied education at Dower Training College in Port Elizabeth in the 1980s. He taught in Uitenhage schools before becoming a minister.

Best Lawyer

South African Taswell Papier, from Cape Town, was recently named the world's 2006 Lawyer of the Year at the Legal Business Awards in London. He was the first African attorney to have been nominated for the awards that started in 1997. Taswell, born in Steenberg, was honoured for his pro bono work at the Mitchell's Plain offices of Sonnenberg Hoffmann Galombik. The firm was the first corporate firm to start up a dedicated pro bono office. Taswell ia a former president of the Cape Law Society and had his own law firm for 17 years. He graduated from the University of the Western Cape and has a master's degree in law from Harvard University. He has been invited to the New York Bar to speak on pro bono work, and the Mitchell's Plain office is to be used as a model in the UK.

Mountain bike trial designer

Meurant Botha started mountain bike riding when he was 16 years old. Ten years he has started the first company in South Africa to design mountain bike trails. His latest creation runs through vineyards, pine forests, farm lands and the Boschendal valley. It was the 55km trail for the Cape Argus Pick 'n Pay MTB Challenge recently. In the mid-1990s, Meurant was part of a mountain bike stunt display team and went to London. When he returned home, he was unemployed and got involved in the building of the World Cup downhill course in Stellenbosch. This led to the founding of Dirtopia the mountain bike event management company that he runs with his wife.

Granny caught in cocaine smuggling

A South African grandmother caught carrying more than three kilograms of cocaine hidden inside garden gnomes was found guilty of drug smuggling after a trial in the Auckland High Court in New Zealand. Linda Martin (52) denied the charge, claiming she had been framed by a Nigerian drug ring that put the four drug-filled gnomes into a suitcase she was carrying. She was arrested as she flew into Auckland's airport on a false passport in March 2004. She claimed she was trying to find a Nigerian drug lord called Peter who she wanted to question about her daughter Lindy who was arrested in London carrying drugs early in 2004. It was then that she embarked on a journey to find the man she believed was responsible for her daughter's situation. She flew from South America to New Zealand bound for Brisbane. She was given false passports and her suitcase was changed by Nigerians. Linda is to be sentenced next month.

South Africa's winter Olympians

Tyler Botha (25) was one of only three South Africans in this year’s Winter Olympics in Turin. The former St Andrew’s College pupil competed in the bob skeleton event, which combines aspects of tobogganing and bobsledding. Tyler discovered the sport while working for the St Moritz Tobogganing Club in Switzerland during his gap year in 1998. One of his tutors was Clifton Wrottesley who represented Ireland in the bob skeleton event at the Salt Lake Winter Olympics. Tyler finished 21st overall in his first Olympics. He practised at the Eastern Cape’s Tiffendell Ski Resort before leaving for Switzerland in November to train. The costs are high and only his footwear is sponsored at the moment. Tyler studied sound engineering while living in London, and enjoys deejaying. He is currently studying art direction at Vega School of Advertising in Cape Town. The other two South Africans at the Turin Winter Olympics were Alex Heath, competing in alpine ski-ing, and cross-country skier Oliver Kroaas.

Shirley Valentine record?

Beverly Charpentier lives in Paris. The South African-born actress, writer, voice artist and former child radio star has been playing Shirley Valentine for almost 15 years. Her first time was in a play at the Knysna Arts Festival in the early 1990s. Beverly, daughter of the late radio producer David Gooden, got involved in acting when she was five years old. Her father producer the long-running Springbok Radio serials Squad Cars and Taxi. Her mother, Sue Lloyd, lives in Knysna and acts as her South African manager when she performs in the country. Beverly has written plays and short stories in French, as well as writing the material for Danielle Pascal’s long-running Edith Piaf show. In 1986 Beverly and her new French diplomat husband moved to Mexico where she worked with The American Theatre Company, before moving to Paris.

Home from New Zealand

De Wet Ras, the former Springbok flyhalf, and his wife Adri Prinsloo, a doctor, have returned to South Africa after moving to Taranaki, New Zealand, in mid-2005 with their four children. Adri was working on contract but she missed her family and South Africa too much. De Wet was not able to get a teaching post in Taranaki, being in a catch-22 situation - to get a job offer he needed to have a work permit and prove that there was no New Zealander who could do the job. He found odd jobs at a scrapyard, on a farm and at a tent hiring company. Adri could have applied fr a permanent work permit if she studied further. After much thought, the family decided to return to Bloemfontein where De Wet works as a sport equipment salesman and Adri at Free State University's medical faculty.

A Cronje in the USA

One of the late Hansie Cronjé's family members is making history his own in the USA. Johan Cronjé (18) is a second cousin of Hansie, their grandfathers were brothers. He was recently selected for the American u-19 rugby team which will take part in the International Rugby Board’s U-19 World Championships on 4-12 April in Dubai. He joins fellow South African Jason Engelbrecht on the US team. Jason lives in Roanoke, Texas, where he is a flanker for the Dallas Harlequins. Johan's debut match was in February against Canada. The fullback and wing attended Afrikaans Hoër in Pretoria and now lives in Wall Township, New Jersey, with his mother Marietjie. His father Louis lives in Pretoria. Johan plays for New York Old Blue. He moved to the US four years ago. Last November he was voted player of the tournament at the New York sevens tournament. Johan was 14 when he played his first match for New York Old Blue, against the national senior champions. He had played American football for a year before changing back to rugby. Johan is a student at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He still supports the Blou Bulle.

South African culture Down Under

Beryl Segers, formerly of Retreat and now living in Australia, is director of Soley Productions. She has organised several South African events in Australia, including the first South African Film Festival in Australia. Beryl is currently organising the next film festival to be held in Sydney in April. She has spent the last three years developing links between the South African and Australian entertainment industries. She organised the Freedom Festival, in addition to the Australian and New Zealand tour of comedian Marc Lottering and the band, The Rockets. Beryl left Cape Town with her husband and family in the mid-1980s.

Aerospace industry growing in South Africa

The South African aerospace industry is bringing in billions of rands of foreign work. Companies such as Aerosud, Denel, Saab and Aerospace Monitoring Systems,  are  getting orders to design and manufacture hi-tech parts for civilian and military aircraft from Airbus, BAE Systems and Boeing. The growth is linked to the government’s decision to acquire eight A400M military transport aircraft from Airbus, in which it is a risk-sharing partner, with Denel and Aerosud as the main local industry participants. Work is also coming in for civilian Airbus products like the A320 and the A380.
Aerosud has several existing production contracts with Boeing, and has secured contracts from Airbus, BAE Systems, Augusta-Westlands and about a dozen airlines. Besides providing an infrared suppressor for the Westland Lynx helicopter, which has positioned Aerosud for possible participation in the UK Battlefield Helicopter programme, the company was negotiating for work on the Eurofighter-Typhoon combat aircraft. Aerosud’s work includes the supply of parts for the Hawk fighter trainer; interior and airframe parts for almost the entire range of Boeing commercial airliners; various components on the Airbus A400M; wing components, avionics racks and galleys for the Airbus A320 family, and titanium waste system pipes for the A380.
Denel has secured wide-ranging work in the military field, the most recent being in a risk-sharing partnership as a sole supplier to design and build A400M wing-fuselage fairings and the upper fuselage crown. Other contracts are for BAE Systems for extensive work on the Hawk, Gripen and Eurofighter-Typhoon. It is also negotiating to secure design work and manufacturing on other Airbus commercial aircraft.
AMS supplies monitoring systems for the Hawk programme in Australia, NATO in Canada and Harriers in the UK, as well as flight, cockpit and engine recorders. It has contracts from India to supply crash recorders for its Sukhoi fighter fleet and Sweden for its Augusta helicopter fleet.
Saab-Grinteck supplies communications, surveillance, electronic counter-measures and self-protection systems for aircraft, naval vessels and military vehicles.
The government is planning a multimillion-rand aerospace supply park near Pretoria with two others under consideration. The R130-million aerospace village cluster will bring various ancillary companies together, that supply companies such as Denel, Aerosud and Saab. The other parks under discussion are near Stellenbosch and in the Wonderboom area.

South Africa's latest world champions

South Africa's latest world champions are two farmworkers. Samuel Juba and Bongani Joel set a world sheep-shearing record by shearing 460 sheep in eight hours. Samuel also set a new shearing record by shearing a sheep in 1,26 minutes. They are originally from Lesotho and went to South Africa in search of work. Samuel has been shearing for 22 years for Frankfort Shearing services, where Bongani also worked until he moved to Cape Mohair and Wool.

Penny's new business

Penny Heyns (31) the star of Amanzimtoti who set 14 world records and won three Olympic gold medals, doesn't swim much nowadays as she's busy with her own company, Penny Heyns Business Holdings, which she started last year. She retired from swimming in 2000 and now lives in Pretoria where she gives corporate speeches and is involved with development planning. She is also looking at bringing out her autobiography and a 10-part Bible study DVD series. Penny's public speaking has seen her travel to the USA, Canada, Australia and Sri Lanka. She also did a spell of television presenting. When she as time off, she enjoys wake-boarding, quad-biking and playing the guitar.

06 March 2006

Where's Waldo?

Waldo Roux (21) from Waverley, Pretoria, lives in London where he works as a joiner to earn enough money to follow his goal - becoming the youngest mountaineer to climb the highest peaks on seven continents. He has already conquered four - Kilimandjaro (Africa), Aconcagua (South America), Elbrus (Europe) and Kosciuszko (Australia). Denali (North America), Vinson Masif (Antartica) and Everest (Asia) wait for him. His first climb was Kilimandjaro in 2002.

Skills training in Bloemfontein

Lesedi la Setjhaba is helping unskilled youths obtain much-needed skills. The community-based centre is in Rocklands, Bloemfontein. Through partnerships with places such as the Central University of Technology, Free State, and the Harmony Jewellery School in Virginia, advanced training is provided. The centre offers different skills training programmes such as spinning, felting, knitting, embroidery, catering and jewellery making. They are a non-governmental institute which depends on funding sponsors.

The face of Zenith

Gavin Hammon (30), one of South Africa's top male models and known as the Archer's Aqua man, is the model in the Swiss watch company, Zenith, latest advertising campaign. The campaign was shot on location in Cape Town, Hout Bay and Constantia. Gavin posed with an Aston Martin, a Lamborghini, a luxury yacht, a Lear Jet and a Buccaneer. Gavin has lived in Monte Carlo, Germany and Scotland. The UCT graduate now lives in Tamboerskloof.

Jane joins Al-Jazeera TV

Jane Dutton (39), a former newsreader on e.tv and Cape Talk radio, has joined Al-Jazeera International. She has also worked on BBC World and CNBC. Jane will be part of the TV station's English news service based in Doha, Qatar, where she has been living since November.

Building an industry

Luke Mills (33) is executive director of CallingtheCape. He completed a BA with honours in French and Russian, and literature at Oxford University in 1994. A career as an investment banker and financial analyst followed, after which he went travelling for two years. He returned to the UK where he ran an Internet and property business for a few years. In 2003 he moved to Cape Town and organised conferences. Luke started CallingtheCape, a non-profit organisation, to create jobs in the contact centre and business process outsourcing industry by encouraging international companies to locate and build call centres in Cape Town. The industry has created more than 5 000 jobs in the last two years. CallingtheCape has directly trained and assisted about 300 young people to find work in this field.

AIDS orphans in German soccer film

Twelve young AIDS orphans from KwaZulu-Natal have made debut as extras in a German soccer film. The children are from Inanda, Umlazi and Richmond. They children saw snow and met the VfB Stuttgart soccer team. They also visited German schools. The trip was made possible by a German company, Bread for the World, the Sinai Programme for survivors of violence, and the AIDS Foundation. The film, is aimed at creating awareness of the plight of HIV-positive and poverty-stricken children in Africa.

Free Internet access in Cape Town

Cape Town is the first South African city to offer free Internet access at every public library. Since the launch of the Smart Cape Access Project, the number of residents who have signed up to use the service has reached 54 000.

Free State winners

The Free State is on a winning streak. Besides the Cheetahs and the Eagles, Annette Kasselman of Wesselsbron, has brought another trophy home as the newly crowned Mrs. South Africa 2006. She wore an orange gown made by a Free State designer. She was Miss Randburg 1988. In 1998 she won a magazine's mother and child contest with her children. Annette is married to Chris and they have two children, Lesÿa (11) and Tokkie (9). Her focus for the year will be on breast cancer, cheetah conservation and her charity foundation, Dreammaker Foundation, which provides sport equipment to under-priveledged children in rural areas and was founded in December 2005. Annette serves on a work creation project, Project 500 in Wesselsbron, and is involved in a local history museum. Her favourite hobby is scrapbooking. Lesÿa is a budding singer and has also won beauty titles.

Classical star

Petronel Malan is a well-known South African classical concert pianist who moved to the USA in 1991. She was born in 1974 in Pretoria and debuted with the Johannesburg Symphony Orchestra at the age of 10. She is working on a CD to be released later this year in hounour of Mozart's 250th birthday anniversary. Her previous CD, Transfigured Bach: The Complete Bach Transcriptions of Bartok, Lipatti and Friedman, was nominated for three Grammy awards in 2004, including best instrumental solo album. Later this year she will perform in China, Canada and Europe. Petronel was the youngest protegé of the South African music teacher Adolph Hallis. During her universit studies in the US, she won many bursaries and awards. She has performed in Carnegie Recital Hall, Salle Cortot in Paris, the Mozarteum in Salzburg and the Orchestra Hall in Chicago. Petronel wears South African designs (Henja Schaap and Hip Hop) for her performances. Her sister Annie Malan is an acclaimed South African actress. Petronel lives near Dallas, Texas and is dating Brazilian concert pianist, Jose Feghali.

National Party officially disbanded

On the 04 Mar 2006, the National Party ceased to exist after 92 years. The NP was founded in 1914 in Bloemfontein by General JBM Herzog. The decision to close down was taken in April 2005.

Yes, people, there is ice-hockey in South Africa

JR Roux (17) is part of South Africa's under-18 ice-hockey team, thanks to skating at the Kolonnade Shopping Centre ice rink. The Grade 11 pupil at Höerskool Overkruin started off six years ago just for fun but he was quickly spotted and soon represented Pretoria in ice-hockey competitions. He leaves next week for ice-hockey tournaments in Romania. JR trains mostly at night, for four to five hours and four days a week.

New SA model hits the big time

Jean-Luc Gino Quevauvilliers (18) is the new face of US clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch in their latest advertising campaign to be shot in May, barely two months after he sent a few photographs to agencies around the US. Jean-Luc was born in Pretoria and will also model in shows for Tommy Hilfiger and the Banana Republic label. He will also feature in the American Modelling Talent Reality TV Show, where he will be competing for a modelling contract. He moved to the US shortly after matriculating from Durban’s Westville Boys High last year, as part of a gap year with a Youth Work programme. He is still working part-time at a ski resort in Maine.

Austrian students helping SA

Austrian architectural students are in South Africa helping more than 200 orphans and destitute children. The 25 students designed and are now building two shelters, one in Orange Farm and the other at Weillers Farm, as part of their university course at the Graz University of Technology in Vienna. They paid for their own flights and raised money in Austria to buy building materials. This is the fourth of its kind to be undertaken by the Austrian university, in conjunction with the NGO Education Africa founded by James Urdang.

Future golf stars?

Alexander van der Merwe and Oliver Goldhill van Randburg will represent Soth Africa at international golf tornaments in the USA in June and July. The two are only 5 years old. Alexander will play in the Pepsi Little People's championships and the Country Youth Classic tournament, while Oliver will play in the US Kids World Championships and the Callaway Gold Junior world tornament. Alexander's parents, Hardus and Franceska, used to play golf. Oliver's father, Peter, has put his golfing on hold while he looks after Oliver's game. His son is also a talented soccer play and attends a Montessori school. Alexander attends a Fountainbleau nursery school. The two families are looking for sponsorship. If you can help contact Hardus at 083-266-0880 or Peter at 082-880-6976 or visit http://www.littlekidsgolf.co.za/

Hollywood-style wedding in PE

Leigh-Anne van der Merwe and Clinton Sebba of Port Elizabeth had a Hollywood-style wedding, thanks to Leigh-Anne’s uncle Colin Cowie ­ who is party planner to the stars in the US and a friend of Oprah Winfrey. His previous wedding planning clients included Charlie Sheen, Jerry Seinfeld, Lisa Kudrow and Hugh Hefner. Colin is originally from East London. This was the first family wedding he did and all the linens, menus, table placings, tablecloths and invitations were flown in from New York. The 130 guests enjoyed a cocktail reception followed by dinner at a country estate in Port Elizabeth. The wedding will feature on SABC3’s Top Billing. Leigh-Anne's dress was designed by Johan Wolmaran. The family was in celebration mode as Colin's mother Gloria, who lives in East London, turned 79. Her birthday festivities were part of the three-day wedding celebration.

The marketing power of blogs

Nick Dymoke-Marr bought 80ha of vineyards in the Doolhof valley in 2004 and established his new business, Stormhoek. Six months later, he sent a bottle of his sauvignon blanc to 150 of the UK's top bloggers with the message "Here's a nice wine, reasonably priced, tell us what you think." The bloggers, including Dr Andrew Jaffe, an astrophysicist at Imperial College London, and Robert Scoble, a senior executive at Microsoft, raved about the wine on their blogs. Monthly sales of Stormhoek's wine have doubled, and Nick won contracts with J Sainsbury and Majestic Wine. He has also seen a demand from retailers such as Asda and Threshers. Stormhoek now accounts for 20% of all South African wine sold at more than £5 a bottle in the UK. The blogging experience didn't end there. When Stormhoek decided to change the labelling on its bottles, they posted the idea on blogs first. Stormhoek also held wine tastings all over the UK co-ordinated through blogs. Its upcoming launch in the USA will be done in a similar campaign targeted at American bloggers.

Awards night in Cape Town

South Africa's Fleur du Cap Awards for Theatre 2005 were held in Cape Town. Two expats were among the winners. Sir Antony Sher, who has lived in London since his late teens, won for his performance in the title role of Primo. Sean Taylor, who now lives in Australia, took the award for best actor for his performance as the Afrikaans actor André Huguenet in the Athol Fugard play, Exits and Entrances. Marius Weyers won the award for best supporting actor for his performance as Malvolio in Janice Honeyman's production Twaalfde Nag. Amra-Faye Wright took the award for best performance in a musical for her role as Velma Kelly in Chicago. She is currently performing the same role on Broadway. The David Kramer-Taliep Petersen musical Ghoema received three awards: best set design, best lighting design and best costume design.

SA takes high honours in Miami

The luxury 23m Silhouette 760 catamaran built by Matrix Yachts of Killarney Gardens, Cape Town, was named Star of the Show at last month's Strictly Sail international boat show held in Miami, Florida. It was sold for $3.95 million. This was the first time that South Africa had its own pavilion, and it received the Best of Show Award for its design. The South African pavilion showcased eight South African boat builders displaying catamarans. Woodstock-based Robertson and Caine won an innovation award for its 4000 class catamarans. South African builders made sales estimated at $13 million, with equipment makers taking in another $770,000. The firms received 3 500 inquiries and sales leads. Since 1997, a South African boat has earned or been nominated for Boat of the Year awards in the US.

Oscar gold for South Africa

Gavin Hood's labour of love, Tsotsi, the South African film about a Johannesburg tsotsi, won the Oscar for best foreign language film at the 78th Academy Awards in Los Angeles. It is the first South African film to win an Oscar. Gavin (42) wrote the screenplay and directed Presley Chweneyagae (the tsotsi) and the rest of the cast in the moving story of a hardened criminal who finally learns that human life has value when he has to care for a baby that was in the BMW he hijacked, after shooting the child’s mother. The film was based on Athol Fugard's only novel, a 1960s story about the effects of apartheid on black South Africans. Gavin received Fugard's permission to update the story so that the main character is a 19-year-old AIDS orphan in post-apartheid Soweto. The film was shot on location in Soweto.

Gavin Hood, son of a famous nature photographer, was nine years old when he saw his first South African film, e'Lollipop. The former St Stithian’s head boy graduated with degrees in economics and law from the University of Witwatersrand. His short-lived law career lasted six months before he gave it up and turned to acting. His big break came in 1989 as the lead role in the South African TV series The Game, a rugby soap. He had parts in Curse 3: Blood Sacrifice (1991), Kickboxer 5, Armed and Deadly (1994), Operation Delta Force II: Mayday (1998) and Stargate SG-1.

In 1990, he attended UCLA Extension's Entertainment Studies certificate programme. When he ntroduced himself to the class, three students walked out - two blacks and one white. They didn't want to be in the same class as him. When not in classes, he worked odd jobs, folding letters into envelopes or cleaning. He returned to South Africa and wrote and directed educational television dramas for the Department of Health. He won an Artes Award and was nomination for another. In 2001, he returned to Los Angeles in 2001 with a short film, The Storekeeper (1998), and his first feature film, A Reasonable Man (1999). A Reasonable Man is about a Zulu herdboy who kills a child because he believes it is an evil spirit, and was based on an actual court case that Gavin came across while studying law. Gavin wrote the screenplay, directed, acted in and produced the film. Most of the financuial backing was from France. The film broke even and won a Diane Thomas Screenwriting Award. Five years later, producer Peter Fudakowski saw the film at Cannes and contacted Gavin. He was interested in purchasing the rights to Tsotsi. He bought the rights after seeing Gavin's first draft. The film was funded through South Africa’s Industrial Development Corporation and Fudakowski's own company, UK Film and Television. For the film, Gavin drew on experiences common to many South Africans, including his own. He was mugged, and his mother was carjacked twice.

Gavin's acceptance speech is being noted as the most impassioned one. He is also receiving applause for asking that the cameras turn away from him and show the film’s two young stars, who were in the audience.

Three years ago Terry Pheto was living in a shack outside Johannesburg. Now she's part of the Oscar winning film Tsotsi, playing the role of Miriam, a young mother who has lost her husband to violent crime and gangs. Terry was spotted by casting agent Moonyeenn Lee in a theatre group in Soweto run by Thulani Didi and Kere Nyawo, two actors who run Saturday drama groups that help to keep youngsters away from a life of crime. Presley Chweneyagae is the main character. He grew up as the son of a policewoman, and was also discovered by Moonyeen while playing Hamlet in a theatre group. Street children were used in the film, and some of them have been cast in another film, Blood Diamond, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and is being filmed at the Wild Coast Sun.

Presley Chweneyagae's family are celebrating at home in Phola, a village near Mafikeng. His mother, Keokakile, is extremely proud of her son. The family watched the Oscars live at a family friend in Mmabatho. Zenzo Ngqobe, who plays Butcher, has also made his mother, Nozipho from Mafikeng, very proud.

Kwaito star Zola (real name Bonginkosi Dlamini) who starred in Tsotsi, has just signed a deal with Warner Brothers to expose kwaito to international audiences. An album will be released through Warner Brothers between July and August this year. Six of Zola's songs are featured in Tsotsi’s sound track. As part of pre-Oscar publicity, Zola appeared on the Jay Leno Show. Zola, who is a poet, actor, talk show host and musician, grew up in the Soweto suburb of Zola.

Lance Gewer, the director of photography on Tsotsi, was himself hijacked by three men in his Bramley driveway in the early hours shortly before flying out to attend the Oscars ceremony in LA. His passport and airline ticket were stolen from the BMW in which he had travelled with Boo Prince, a Johannesburg journalist. At one point, Boo asked one of the hijackers whether he had seen the film Tsotsi. He replied that he had seen it and apologised for the hijacking and asked for forgiveness. Police later recovered the car, with the passport and air ticket, in Alexandra. By then, Boo and sponsors, including Flight Centre and American Express, had managed to get Lance on a flight to LA.

South African-raised Dion Beebe won the cinematography Oscar for Memoirs of a Geisha. Dion was born in Australia, grew up in Cape Town and now lives in Los Angeles where he is a top cameraman. In his acceptance speech, acknowledge the countries dear to his heart when he said: "I want to fly the flag with this win for Australia and South Africa."

Last year, another South African film, Yesterday, was also nominated in the same category but did not win. Yesterday was the story of a woman's battle with AIDS. It was also the first feature film made in Zulu. Also last year, a South African version of the opera Carmen won an award at the Berlin film festival. U-Carmen eKhayelitsha was set in a township and was made in Xhosa. In 2003, Charlize Theron won best actress for her role in Monster. She was a nominee in the same category this year.

Poet and author dies in Las Vegas

Peter John Philander (84) died in Las Vegas on 07 Feb 2006 after suffering a heart attack in December. The South African poet, author and former teacher is survived by his sons, George (a professor at Princeton), Dennis (a psychiatrist in Minneapolis) and Peter (a doctor in Las Vegas). He also had a step-son, Ronald Harker, a retired school inspector in Port Elizabeth. PJ had 12 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. His wife, Alice, died in 1988. He was born in Caledon. He emigrated to the USA in 1968. His first poetry book was Uurglas, published in 1955. His novel, Rebunie, based on his teaching experiences in Calvinia, was published in 2000. PJ was a teacher and later principal at Hoërskool Belgravia in Cape Town. He also taught at high schools in Malmesbury, Genadendal, Caledon, Plettenberg Bay and Calvinia. From 1968 to 2000, he taught at Friend's Academy, a Quaker school on Long Island. He moved to Las Vegas in 2002. During his last visit to South Africa, he was given the freedom of Caledon, and a street was named in his honour.

No election joke

The Ekurhuleni metro, covering the East Rand, has a new councillor. Alfred Ntombela, who plays the role of Shorty in Leon Schuster's movies, won his seat in the recent local elections and will represent Ward 14. Alfred stood under the Azapo banner. The pint-sized comedian beat an ANC candidate, after he decided that the metro had fallen short on its delivery promises to the community and because crime and unemployment were too high. He has set his sights on becoming Mayor one day.

ABSA expands Islamic banking services

Banking group Absa (ABSA) is the first South African bank to provide a full Islamic banking service, following on from its Shari'ah-compliant equity based investments last year. Absa Islamic Banking is operated and administered in accordance with Shari'ah principles. It offers Shari'ah savings accounts, finance facilities for assets and motor vehicles and Islamic wills. These products are managed and administered independently in accordance with Shari'ah law and independent Islamic scholars have been appointed to serve on the Shari'ah Supervisory Board.

Aussie Coetzee

Nobel laureate John M. Coetzee (66), the reclusive South African author, has become an Australian citizen at a special ceremony held as part of the Adelaide Writers' Week. He moved to Adelaide four years ago with his partner Dorothy Driver. Coetzee first visited Australia in 1991 and was "attracted by the free and generous spirit of the people, by the beauty of the land itself and, when I first saw Adelaide, by the grace of the city" He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2003 and is an honorary research fellow with the University of Adelaide's English department. He is also a visiting scholar at the University of Chicago. Coetzee is a two-time winner of the Booker Prize for Life and Times of Michael K and Disgrace. He retired as an English professor at Cape Town University in January 2002, a post he had held since 1984.

A little South African help in Iraq

No one can say exactly how many South Africans are working in Iraq. Some say it could be between 4 000 to 7 000, and includes security guards, pilots, medical staff, TV crews and even South African sniffer dogs. Fink Haysom was sent to Iraq by the United Nations and helped draw up the transitional Iraqi constitution. He was a constitutional adviser at the Codesa talks in the 1990s in South Africa, and has worked in Burundi, Philippines, Somalia and Indonesia.

Cradock delivers a beauty

Reana le Roux is a Cradock potato farmer’s wife, with a difference. She developed a moisturiser, Fréroux, from a recipe passed on by her grandmother, Fréda Nowers. Now international cosmetic houses are interested in her product. Reana used a mixing bowl and electric egg beater to mix the 100 percent natural product that has shown dramatic evidence of healing, calming and moisturizing properties in many skin disorders and conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, scarring, shaving rash and nappy rash. The ingredients include almond oil, glycerine, tissue oil, vitamin E oil and a base cream. She will develop a wider range of products.

Top class artist

Charles van Sandwyk was born in Johannesburg in 1966. As a child, he illustrated the scenes and characters he imagined while reading J.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. In 1977 he emigrated with his family to Deep Cove near Vancouver. By the early 1980s, he was selling his drawings and watercolours. At 16, he held his first public art show in Deep Cove. In 1986 he travelled to the South Pacific where he fell in love with the Fiji Islands. That year he also won an Alcan award for his limited edition book A Selection of Neighbourly Birds. His watercolours, etchings and books are popular across North America and Europe. The National Library of Canada has maintained archives of his work since 1986. His book Wee Folk won Juror's Choice award at the 1994 Seattle Book Fair. Charles divides his time between Deep Cove and Fiji. During the Canadian winter he paints and writes in Fiji. The 30-something artist often sells his framed watercolors sell for as much as $3,900.

A South African at Arlington

Athelstan Frederick Spilhaus was born on 25 Nov 1911 in Cape Town and spent his early years on a farm near Natal. Spilly, as he was fondly known, attended schools in the United Kingdom before returning to South Africa and being admitted to the University of Cape Town at age 15. He graduated with a B.Sc. in 1931 and a doctorate in oceanography in 1948. He moved to the USA in 1931. He earned a master's degree in aeronautical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1933, and a D.Sc. from Coe College in 1961. He was a research assistant at MIT from 1934 to 1935, and then became assistant director of technical services for the Union of South Africa Defense Forces until 1936. In 1947, he served as meteorological advisor for the Union of South Africa. He became an American citizen in 1946. By special act of Congress in 1943, he became a temporary officer in the Army Air Corps. In 1944 and 1945 he ran weather stations in northern China, living in caves near Mao Tse-Tung's headquarters behind Japanese lines, supplying weather reports critical to US bombers out of Guam and Saipan.
He was awarded 11 honorary degrees and received many honors, including the French Legion of Merit and Sweden's Berzelius Medal. His awards included a Decorated Legion of Merit Exceptional Civilian Service Medal from the U.S. Air Force, and a Patriotic Civilian Service Award from the U.S. Army. A man of many talents, he was also a sculptor and collected antique mechanical toys. He wrote 11 books and published more than 300 articles. He is credited with the research and development of meteorological equipment, radar and radio upper wind finding, spherics, and the development of meteorological instruments for measurements from aircraft in flight.
He died of chronic pulmonary disease on 30 March 1998 at his home in Middleburg, Virginia. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honours. Spilly was survived by his wife, Kathleen Ann Fitzgerald Spilhaus; two sons, A.F. Jr., of Potomac, and Karl Henry Spilhaus of Needham, Mass.; a daughter, Margaret Ann Morse of Richmond; 13 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Cricket in Vancouver

Cricket is alive and well in Vancouver. The North Shore Cricket Club is 85 years old and counts South Africans Rod Shainbom and Hannes Coetzee among their members.  Rod is a West Vancouver dentist and coaches at the club. The Greg Hobson Memorial Cricket Fund is in memory of another South Africa who died too young. Greg lived in North Vancouver and died at the age of 21 after being hit on the head with a cricket ball while batting in 1995. He had removed his helmet, possibly due to heat. He was one of twins. Greg and Wayne were born in South Africa and moved to Vancouver with their parents Wendy and John when they were 15. The Australian cricket side signed a bat in memory of Greg after defeating England in the final cricket match played at Lord's after their 2001 tour of England. PGA Tour golfer Greg Norman signed a glove in memory of Greg after his first round of the 1999 US Open golf tournament played at Pinehurst, N.C. The Greg Hobson Memorial Cricket Fund has purchased cricket helmets and distributed them to junior players. Each helmet carries the inscription "In memory of Greg Hobson, 1973 - 1995". The fund also established a memorial bench in Greg's memory at Northlands Golf Course and one in Stanley Park, near the Brockton Point cricket ground clubhouse. The fund also supported the tsunami aid effort.

03 January 2006

School uniforms from New York

Late last year 65 financially needy pupils at Hlengisa Primary School in Nyanga, Cape Town, received their very first full school uniforms - thanks to the Project People Foundation, a non-profit organisation based in New York. The donation packs included school shoes, a tracksuit, socks and a shirt. Project People Foundation works with local communities in Southern Africa and the US to provide humanitarian assistance, economic empowerment, leadership training, and education for women, children, and youth. The Uniforms Assistance Fund (Uniforms 101) provides new school uniforms for low-income students in the townships of Cape Town, and in Harlem, USA.

Braille wine bottles

The world's first Braille wine bottles were launched in Worcester, outside Cape Town, recently. Ten area wine cellars were involved in the project. A limited commemorative edition of the wines, a 2004 Shiraz and a 2005 Sauvignon Blanc were specially blended for the launch. The dark bottles have raised dotted patterns that make up Braille print. A percentage of the proceeds generated from the sales will go directly to Pioneer Printers, the largest Braille resource centre in Africa. Worcester is home to many blind and deaf people. Consul Glass, the leading South African glass company, invested in new machinery costing R590 000 to produce the Braille bottles. The machinery allows for Braille text to be pressed into the glass.

Divorce rate drops

South Africa's divorce rate has shown a drop, according to marriage and divorce figures released by Stats SA in 2005. There were 28 587 divorces in 2003, compared with 31 370 the year before. Marriages have shown a marginal increase — there were 178 689 recorded marriages in 2003, 1 487 more than in 2002. Other patterns from the Stats SA figures were that whites generally got divorced between the ages of 30 and 34, and blacks mainly between the ages of 40 and 44. The figures also revealed that most marriages broke down in the first four years.

The divorce breakdown was as follows: Whites (11 890); Blacks (6 637); Coloureds (3 394) and Indians (1 486). Gauteng had the highest divorce rate (797 per 100 000 married couples) and the Eastern Cape the lowest (135 per 100 000 married couples). Experts agreed that white couples were more prone to divorce because they separated themselves from the support base of their extended families.

Idea from home grows in Canada

A few years ago, Camilla Metzler visited South Africa where she was born. She returned to Horseshoe Bay in Canada with a business idea and launched a line of water-resistant, roll-up blankets, called H2Go. The blankets are handmade in Canada of cotton, fleece or Polartec fleece, with a nylon backing. She had seen a similar blanket in South Africa while spending a day at the beach.

An art history major in university, Camilla had worked for a couple of fashion houses and in client relations in the food industry. DC Ventures was created and the first blankets were made. A friend bought one and soon she had sold the first batch. Her first public sale was at West Vancouver Secondary School's Christmas craft sale, where she sold 25 blankets. Another craft sale sold another 20 and Camilla was on the craft show trail. Her big break came at a Vancouver gift trade show. She got into several retail outlets, where the blankets sold for $55 to $160. She also featured in a nationally-distributed gift catalogue and product promotions companies in Toronto and Ottawa. Bulk orders of H2Go blankets customized for corporate promotions are her next goal. The portable blankets roll into a small bundle with a handle that is easy to carry or to attach to a backpack.

Artist in Vancouver

Clay artist Liz de Beer was born and raised on a farm in South Africa. In 1997, Liz moved with her family to Vancouver, where she has exhibited and taught art, pottery and textile painting classes. Liz has developed the pottery studio at the Parkgate Community Centre. She did her formal arts training at the East London Technikon and worked for as a graphic designer and photographer. She later became a studio manager at the Brixton Recreation Centre in Johannesburg.

Netball in Vancouver

Vancouver's North Shore has its own netball club founded by South Africans. Anja Fouche and Ulandi Teubes co-founded the North Shore Netball club in 2004. Anja has been playing netball since she was 8 years old. Anja carried on playing netball when she moved to Canada. She was also a member of B.C. Netball's provincial open team which won a gold medal at the Canadian Amateur Netball Association's national championships. She was chosen to be a member of a Canadian netball development team that toured Australia in 2004.

The provincial emergence of the sport in the early 1980s is credited to Ann Willcocks, a Burnaby high school principal, who is a national and provincial team coach.

Dr. James Naismith is the Canadian who invented basketball for young men in 1890. In 1891 the 30-year-old Naismith moved to Springfield, Massachusetts. Not long afterwards, Clara Baer of H. Sophie Newcomb College in New Orleans wrote to him asking for a copy of the rules. The reply included a diagram of the court across which Naismith had drawn two lines to indicate which areas players could cover. Baer misinterpreted them as restraining lines designating areas in which those players had to remain throughout the game, and on that misinterpretation, she created a new version of basketball for women - netball. The sport was taken to England in 1895 by a Dr. Toles or Toll, who was working with student teachers in Dartford. From there it spread to the British colonies, where it is still popular.

02 January 2006

Discards

Patrick Lee grew up in South Africa, where he was a journalist and screenwriter. He left South Africa in the 1990s and now lives in the USA with his wife and daughter. Discards, published by Penguin in 2002, was his first novel. Lee wrote the story as a way of dealing with his identity as a South African.

It is set in Port Victoria, a fictional KwaZulu-Natal town that is the thinly-disguised Port St Johns of the early 1980s. Discards centres around Alice who has moved to England. Returning to Port Victoria, the place of her birth, she becomes involved in both a mystery surrounding a dead man and a love affair. Port Victoria is filled with bohemian characters such as the wealthy dagga farmer, a surfer drop-out, an American disc jockey, a former guerrilla turned magistrate, amongst others. There's also Alice's husband, a television producer who was a foreign correspondent in the 1980s. When a naked body is washed up on the rocks in Port Victoria, Mendi Mkhize, the former guerrilla, is sent to investigate.

Sweets sounds in Vancouver

Canada's newest and most innovative recording studio, Harbourside Studios, opened its doors in November, in North Vancouver, as part of the Harbourside Institute of Technology. Tony Rudner is the proud owner. He was born in South Africa, where he first played guitar at the age of eight years. He has produced and recorded over 35 albums, and has performed live with musicians such as Manfred Mann, Johnny Fourie, Thembi Mtshali and Bruce Cassidy. In 1983 he formed Sweet Ride, winning the National Jazz competition in 1984. The producer, songwriter and guitarist has composed and produced music for 14 feature films, 8 television series, and hundreds of ads for radio and television.

In 1991 he immigrated to Canada, settling in Vancouver, while also producing in Los Angeles and Nashville. Tony has been nominated and won awards in Canada for Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Producer of the Year.

He believes that musicians are born and that people with a passion for music refuse to do anything else even though it's a tough industry. Nothing stops them so he believes that they need a good school that's going to train them well. This was the idea behind the Harbourside Institute where students learn recording engineering and music production. Tony, who used to have a record company in South Africa, teaches record production.

From Port Elizabeth to the NYSE

John S. Chalsty was born in Port Elizabeth in the 1930s and was vice-chairman of the New York Stock Exchange from 1990 to 1994 and a NYSE director from 1988-94. The investment banker and philanthropist has had  a successful career in the USA. In 2000 he established the John S and Jennifer A Chalsty Fellowship at the Harvard Business School, in Boston, to support black South African MBA students.

Chalsty attended Christian Brothers College in Kimberley and graduated from Wits with an MSc in Chemistry in 1954. He played rugby for the Wits and Transvaal under-19 rugby teams alongside Wilf Rosenberg, Clive Ulyate and Joe Kaminer. Having won the Stanvac Scholarship, he was able to study at the Harvard Graduate School of Chemistry in 1955 and the Harvard Business School for two years, graduating in 1957. He joined Standard Oil (later Exxon) in New Jersey. In 1969, he joined Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette (DLJ) as a research analyst, working there for 31 years. In 1996 he became chairman of DLJ, until 2000.

Although retired now, he is president of the Lincoln Centre Theatre, vice-chairman of the Business Committee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a board member of various art institutes across the US and the Executive Council on Foreign Diplomacy.

The South African Lords

Johan van Zyl Steyn was born in Cape Town in 1932, where he matriculated from Hoërskool Jan van Riebeeck and studied law at the University of Stellenbosch before reading English as a Rhodes Scholar at University College, Oxford. He was called to the Bar in South Africa in 1958 and appointed senior counsel of the supreme court of South Africa in 1970. He became one of the UK's most prominent Law Lords, having settled in the UK in 1973. In 1977 he married Susan Leonore and has two sons and two daughters from a previous marriage. He became a judge in 1985. In 1995 he was appointed a Law Lord, which at the same time made him Baron Steyn, of Swafield in Norfolk. He retired in September 2005. Since his retirement he has become chairman of the organisation Justice. He was known as one of the most liberal of the UK's 12 law lords.

Along with Baron Leonard Hubert Hoffmann of Chedworth, another South African-born law lord, and three other lords, he made the ruling that former Chilean dictator General Pinochet should not be immune from prosecution for alleged criminal acts during his rule.
Leonard Hubert Hoffmanm was born in Cape Town in 1934, the son of a well-known Jewish solicitor. He studied law at the University of Cape Town, before going to Queen's College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He has twice been director of the English National Opera. Knighted in 1985, he was created a life peer in 1995. He enjoys cycling through Europe. He has been an unpaid director of the Amnesty International Charity Ltd since 1990. His wife Gillian has been a secretary in Amnesty International's London office for many years.

Still composing at 60

Peter James Leonard Klatzow was born in Springs in 1945. His father was a descendant of Russian Jews who settled in South Africa in the early 1900s. His mother, born in the UK, was a descendant of Cornish miners. Peter, a well-known South African composer, was brought up as Anglican. He has been involved with the University of Cape Town since 1973. His recent 60th birthday was celebrated with the release of a CD of choir music recorded at Douai Abbey in Berkshire, England.

Peter composed Towards the Light, for the opening of the new concert hall in the Peabody Building in the USA in 2003. The accomplished pianist has also composed marimba music - Dances of Earth and Fire (1987), Inyanga (1996) and Song for Stephanie (1999).

Not the trans Africa route

Last July, Dennis Howse (51) and his wife Sue (52) left Bloemfontein to go and live in England. Their mode of transport was unusual for such a long trip, about 20 000 kms - a 31-year-old Mercedes 230.4. The couple planned on driving from Bloemfontein, across Africa in three months, so that they could meet up with their son Jonathan in England in time for the release of his CD, Nine High. The Mercedes, with 300 000 kms on the clock, was decorated with the South African flag and their only weapon was pepper spray. Fishing rods and a home-built portable toilet were also packed. The plan was to go from Bloemfontein to Kimberley and then Augrabies, Etosha Pan, Victoria waterfalls, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti. From there they would take a boat across the Red Sea to Saudi-Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Greece, Italy, France and eventually England. They plan to write a book about the trip.

Dennis grew up in Bloemfontein. In 1979 he moved to England where he met and married Sue. They have three sons - Ian, Jonathan and Mathew - who live in the UK. Dennis was back in South Africa on a company transfer but the couple decided to return to England.

The couple made it to Kimberley and after that the old Mercedes started acting up and got worse as they progressed. The spark plugs had to be replaced just outside Kimberley. After visiting the Big Hole, they discovered that the right front tyre was flat. After jacking the car up, they found that they had the incorrect wheel spanner, so one was borrowed. Further along the South African part of the route, they starter gave up and had to be reconnected. Just outside Upington their windscreen was cracked by a passing truck throwing up a stone. That was day one! The rest of the journey through Namibia, Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania went well.

In Kenya they had to apply to the Ethiopian Embassy for visas to pass through Djibouti. They were told that it is very risky to go any further due to border disputes and civil wars in neighbouring states, and to avoid the Middle East at all costs.

The couple decided to drive back to Bloemfontein and replan. They drove back via Botswana. After discussing their situation, they decided it would be safer to fly to England. The old Mercedes was sold and they took a bus to Johannesburg, flying out two days later. Dennis' advice to others contemplating the same idea - forward plan your trip by telephoning embassies regularly to ensure your route is safe!

The real ER

White Witchdoctor, by John A. Hunt, published by Durban House Publishing, 2003
This book is about the author's 16 years as surgeon at Baragwanath Hospital during 1960-1976. This is the real ER, where doctors and nurses deal with life and death situations, often under extreme stress. The book opens with the story of a surgery in which the author brings back to life a patient who has been stabbed in the heart. A wide range of surgical cases is covered, with more than 2,000 trauma cases a month. Dr. John A. Hunt began his medical career at Baragwanath Hospital and left South Africa in 1978. He lives in West Virginia, USA, with his wife, Anne.

Solving crimes successfully

The Shallow Grave and other true crime stories from the files of Christian Botha, by Chip Michie, published by Zebra Press, 2005

Christian Botha of East London is one of South Africa’s foremost private investigators. This book is about some of his high profile cases, solved over a career of more than 20 years. Former Star journalist Cheryllyn “Chip” Michie wrote the book.

Last year, Ken Downey was finally sentenced to life in jail for murdering Alec Steenkamp (34) nine years ago, and it was thanks to Botha's involvement. The dead man's family felt that the South African Police Services failed in solving this crime, so they called in Botha. Steenkamp's widow showed them how the evidence pointed towards Downey, but they told her Alec had probably fled overseas or abandoned his family. Steenkamp's widow had even obtained Downey's cell phone records. Eventually the family heard that the docket was lost. Steenkamp's daughter, Samantha, went to work in Afghanistan, to help raise money for a private investigator. Christian Botha took 2 weeks to solve the case, presenting the results to the police after leading them to the body in Putney Road, Brixton, which finally forced them to act last year.

Gideon de Villiers' son, Deon, was murdered at Boksburg Lake in March 2004. Eight days after the murder, de Villiers phoned the police to ask why a bloodied jacket and a blood-covered rock were still lying at the scene of the crime. He was told the police were very busy. De Villiers employed two private investigators but R50 000 later, there was no closure. He called Botha and within months, two suspects were found and charged with murder.

Christian Botha (36) wanted to be a policeman since childhood when he played cops and robbers in Umtata. His childhood hero was Mike Hammer, a private investigator. The day after obtaining his Matric, he applied at the nearest police station but was turned down. He went of to do his military service. Later he spent 16 years as a police reservist (volunteer).

At the age of 19, he solved his first case. He was working as a security guard for Sun International when he came across a money laundering scheme by the casinos. Six people were arrested and a crime syndicate was convicted. After that, Botha took whatever courses he could find to develop his skills. In 1994 he resigned and went to the UK where he worked on farms to earn money to travel through Europe. Afterwards, he found work as a night security guard at the exclusive Chelsea Harbour complex in London. During the day, he took courses at the Streetwise School of Private Investigators. Eventually he returned to South Africa. After working for a tracing company in Johannesburg which didn't do well, Botha moved back to East London with his family and all their possessions in a small Fiat. His five sisters tried to persuade him to get a proper job, but he got on the Internet and came across Samantha Steenkamp and offered to help her.

Botha is married to Andrea and they have three children. He works from home and Andrea handles the admin side of the business. His best informers are prostitutes, street children, domestic helpers, and lonely old folks. Sometimes he receives death threats. A hired hit man followed him, hired by a woman that Botha had exposed as a criminal. He hopes that sales of his book will help build a pension fund for later years.