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


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 Hoƫrskool 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.