27 February 2008

Ancestry visa to end?

The British government is looking at an overhaul of its immigration system, and one of the proposals is that the "ancestry visa" be scrapped. This visa was introduced 36 years ago by Britain in appreciation of its former dominions. The visa entitles holders to live and work in Britain for four years. It has mainly been used by nationals of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. The visa is available to those who can prove that he/she:

* is a Commonwealth citizen
* is 17 years of age and over
* has at least one Grandparent born in the United Kingdom and/or Islands
* is able to work and intends to seek employment in the UK
* is able to accommodate themselves and any dependants adequately without resources to public funds
* holds a valid UK entry clearance

The visa is granted for a four-year period. After four years in the UK you can apply for your next visa - an Indefinite Leave to Remain visa - as long as you haven’t spent a period of 90 days at a time away from the UK. After holding the Indefinite Leave to Remain visa for two years, you are eligible to apply for a British passport.

Another new proposal being considered is the introduction of an immigrant tax for non-Europeans and the requirement that non-European spouses and fiancees of British nationals pass an English language test before they might be allowed to enter the UK. The British Home Office's Green Paper on the issue says, "We need to decide whether a Commonwealth national's ancestral connections to the UK are sufficient to allow them to come here to work without the need to satisfy a resident labour market test."

26 February 2008

Smart kids

It's a long way from the farm Kalkkraal in Coligny, North West province to Minnesota, USA, but three South African sisters make it look easy. Thanri, Allanri and Shandelee Jooste left the farm with their parents Sebastiaan and Elize Jooste, to settle in Minnesota. Thanri is in Grade 9 and was recently selected as one of the USA's top 400 math and science students. She also scored As in all her other subjects. She has won sport awards in baseball and long-distance running, and plays the trombone, piano and organ. Thanri hopes to become a doctor one day. Allanri and Shandelee keep the family name high by also scoring As in their subjects. Allanri does ballet and plays the piano at school and in church. Shandelee is her school's wrestling champion in her weight division.

No sweet sound

Jak de Priester wrote and sang the original Afrikaans song "Sally Williams Nougat", yet it was a youngster from Durbanville who took it to the Top 40 charts on Radio Big L in the UK. Anthonie Bougas (15) was a finalist in Patricia Lewis' Supersterre contest (the Afrikaans version of Idols). Jak, a 2002 Crescendo winner, did not know about the UK charts until a journalist contacted him for a story. According to Jak, Anthonie didn't ask Jak for permission to record his song, but according to Anthonie's mother and agent, Rensché Bougas, they paid a copyright fee.

Our loss, their gain

South African-born Allan Moss, who heads up Macquarie Bank, is Australia's highest paid CEO, having earned more than A$33m in 2007. He is credited with having turned Macquarie Bank from a minor player into a major international player, and is widely known as the "Sage of Sydney" or Australia's Warren Buffet.

Also on the top-earner's list is South African-born Gail Kelly, the most highly paid businesswomen in Australia. She is ranked by Fortune magazine as one of the top 50 most powerful women in the world, and is also the first woman to head a top-ten listed Australian company. She immigrated to Australia in 1997 to join the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and worked her way up the ranks, taking over as CEO of Westpac Bank this month.

From New Zealand to Kimberley

Liezel Wium (31), a netball player with 40 Protea Tests to her name, has returned to South Africa after living in New Zealand. She has settled in Kimberley where she'll coach netball at Hoërskool Noord-Kaap. Stellenbosch-born Liezel played for the South African under-21 team in 1997, before joining the national team at the Africa Games in 1997. In 2002 she represented South Africa at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, and in 2003 at the World Championships in Jamaica. In 2004-2006 Liezel lived in New Zealand, where she played for the Magic League teams, Waikato and Bay of Plenty, and later for the Wellington Shakers. In 2006 she represented South Africa on their tour of Fiji and New Zealand. Liezel will also help Hoërskool Noord-Kaap's rugby team, coaching footwork and movement. Her eldest brother, Vion, was a rugby player for Boland, and another brother, Willem, currently plays rugby for Treviso in Italy.

Saving Aussie sharks

The Natal Shark Board will help Australia to save its endangered ragged-tooth shark population, using test tube gestation. The government of New South Wales has made R600 000 available over three years to help the project. Ragged-tooth sharks were hunted in Australia, unlike in Sodwana where they are popular with divers.

Petite Queen of the Universe

Talita Roos (9), a pupil at Laerskool Losberg in Fochville, was crowned Petite Queen of the Universe at the international King & Queen of the Universe 2007 pageant held at the Protea Hotel in Benoni last December. She first entered pageants at the age of 3 years. Her eldest brother, Kelvin, won the Pre-Teen SA 2006/07 and King of the Universe 2006 titles. The winners take part in charity and community work. Some of the charity work includes visiting the sick and elderly in hospital, AIDS homes, children’s and old age homes as well as attending fundraising events.

Keep up with this one!

Mrs. Miems Swanepoel, of Welgemoed near Cape Town, is 73 years old and heading off on her latest adventure - climbing the Annapurna in the Himalayas next month! Two years ago, she started up own business, Miems Adventure. She bought a 15-seater Toyota and became chief driver, cook, guide and expedition leader. Her latest adventure sees her leading a group of 18 people in March to the ... but before they leave, she's doing the Otter Trail, followed by a hike in the Witelskloof. When she isn't running her own business, energetic Miems works as an immigration consultant for a German company in Cape Town. She also fits time in for swimming and biathlons. Most of the time, she does her activities on her own, as her husband, Swannie (76), follows his own athletic programme. He is training for the Two Oceans Marathon. In 1995 Miems took a group of climbers up Kilimanjaro's Uhuru pea. In 1999 she climbed Mount Kenya. In 2001 she reached the base camp at Kala Pattar in the Himalayas.

A new image

A group of English football (soccer) fans are aiming to repair their country’s reputation for soccer hooliganism. The faith-based Lionsraw charity organisation is sending a team of England fans to South Africa to help with training and building projects in the Valley of a Thousand Hills in KwaZulu-Natal before the soccer World Cup in 2010. Jon Burns, founder of Lionsraw, said they had chosen the area after being approached by Ambassadors in Sport, an international football outreach programme that plans to establish 10 football academies in South Africa. Lionsraw would send 300 fans for the first two weeks of the World Cup and would establish an academy which they would staff and support for three years before handing over the academy to Ambassadors in Sport.

Special characters

Getting frustrated typing accented letters, international characters or symbols in Firefox? The FireFox add-on abcTajpu can make things easier for people working with languages such as Afrikaans. It uses multiple hot-keys, which can be customised.

How's this for a special?

The Vivat Bacchus Restaurant in London recently made world headlines with its exclusive six-course meal costing £1 000 per person. Two South Africans own the restaurant. Neleen Strauss and Gerrie Knoetze said that the dinner is served to a maximum of six people, and has to be ordered 48 hours in advance. Gerrie was the owner of the former Browns Restaurant in Rivonia, Sandton. In 2003, he, Neleen and their South African partner, Mark Batchelor, launched the Vivat Bacchus Restaurant near Smithfield meat market.

The special dinner was created by the South African head chef, Robert Staegemann, for clients who had large bonuses to spend in January, February and March. It included Royal Sevruga caviar, Bahama rock lobster linguini, Joselita ham from Spain, Wagyu fillet steak from Australia, a variety of the best cheeses in Europe, Valrhona Belgian chocolate souffle, a cup of coffee and some cognac. Each course is washed down by some fine drinking - the caviar is accompanied by Kaufmann vodka, Forrester Chenin white wine with the lobster, Vega Sicilia Unico with the ham, Chateau Lafite Rothschild with the steak, 1963 Taylors port with the cheese, Chateau D'Yquem with the chocolate souffle and Martell Cordon Bleu cognac to accompany the coffee.

Pricey art

Bonhams Auction House in New Bond Street, London, held a sale of South African art recently. About 300 South African works sold for close to £4-million within three hours. Most of the works sold went to Europe or the USA, bought mainly by expat South Africans. This included paintings, ceramics, sculptures and silver. The works included some by Irma Stern, Jacob Hendrik Pierneef, Maggie Laubser, and Gerald Sekoto. The Mandela Rhodes Foundation offered a work by Nelson Mandela - an original signed lithograph showing the bars of his cell on Robben Island with the sea and Table Mountain beyond.

Garden of hope

Three years ago, Prof. Michael Rudolph, of Wits University, helped start a vegetable garden on a garbage heap in Bezuidenhout Park, Johannesburg. Today, the garden has 50 different fruit trees, including apples, pears, figs, plums and lemons. Vegetables include pumpkins, spinach, lettuce, potatoes and beans. Herbs such as peppermint are also grown. This garden of hope employs 15 previously unemployed people. The produce helps feed hundreds of HIV-positive people. The Siyakhana project is a model for community food gardens. It also contains a water purification and irrigation system, and a compost heap. It is supported by various departments at Wits. For more information about the project, contact Shirona Patel at 084 619 2646.

Not welcome in the UK

South African doctors will no longer be able to work in Britain, following a recent decision by the British government that, in order to ensure posts for British doctors, it will no longer accept applicants from outside the European Union (EU). This ends the tradition of importing doctors for the National Health Service (NHS). The new rule did not apply to doctors from outside the EU who were already working in Britain, or who had already been registered with the British Medical Council. The Junior Doctors Association of South Africa (Judasa) said it was disappointing news, but that the bill would not stop South Africa's brain-drain of doctors. Young doctors will apply, instead, to work in Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia.

Sentenced in New Zealand

Lyndell du Toit (31) was sentenced in Christchurch, New Zealand to six months in jail for stealing over $20,000 in donations from her nine-year-old daughter's trust fund. She has paid $11,700 in reparations. She is appealing her sentence. The family needed $50,000 to help pay for Charley's specialist treatment after her foot was bitten off by her grandmother's bull terrier in Kempton Park in 2004. The foot was re-attached and needs expensive surgery to fully mend. The mother of three mis-used the public's donations. Lyndell and her children moved to New Zealand in September 2006 to live with her boyfriend Eric Minty. Lyndell's former husband, Wayne du Toit, of Pretoria, wants custody of his three children - Charley, David (6) and Klayton (4) - four so they could return to South Africa. The children are staying with Eric, while their mother is in jail. Lyndell will serve her time and then be deported to South Africa under a removal order.

Her Majesty's soldiers

Eight hundred and eighty South Africans are serving in the UK's Army, Navy and Air Force. South African volunteers rose from 720 last year to 880 this year.

Protecting the world

Two Durban women help protect the lives of soldiers and security personnel around the world. Louisa Garland-Els and Frances Lingris manufacture body armour. The eight-year-old business was founded by Louisa. Imperial Armour makes bullet-proof vests, bomb blankets, riot shields and ballistic helmets. The company exports to the Middle East and the rest of Africa. Locally, they supply the Durban Metro Police, Cape Town traffic police and private security companies.

Louisa (45) was born in England. Eight years ago, she helped her father run his body armour company in South Africa. When his company folded, she remained in South Africa and started her own company. Frances is her managing director. Louisa has won the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry Award and the Transnet KwaZulu-Natal Exporter of the Year Award for the second consecutive year. She has two young daughters.

CSIR helping Airbus

Airbus and South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) will spend about R1.5 million on research into next-generation aircraft. The research partnership will involve research into new technologies and processes in the area of computational fluid dynamics (CFD). The one-year project aims to define and research technologies in numerical modelling that can contribute to the design of clean and efficient next-generation aircraft.

Belguim's donation

The Belgian government has donated €7.5m to further land reform in South Africa. The Settlement and Implementation Support (SIS) strategy was launched in Pretoria recently, to help support beneficiaries of land reform. Of the €7.5m, €1.5m will go towards policy development while the rest will go towards settlement support.

Alan Garrity visits home

Whatever happened to Alan Garrity? Remember him? Chart-topping singing sensation about 30 years ago. He recently came back to South Africa for a long visit after a 20-year absence. In the 1970s and 1980s, Alan was the local heart-throb. He won 8 Sarie awards and produced 14 gold records. His biggest hit was “I need someone” which topped the SA Top 20 for 36 weeks. Other hits included “Home isn’t Home Anymore”, “She’s a Woman”, “Santa Maria,” “Put Your Hand in the Hand,” “Give Me Back My Woman” and “You stood by me”. He's married to Sonja Truter from Paarl. They moved to England in 1982, and today live in Toronto, Canada, where Alan produces shows for cruise ships and trains young artists.

Oscar win for South Africa

Cape Town-based film maker, Don Edkins, won South Africa's latest Oscar with his documentary, Taxi to the Dark Side, at the 80th Oscar gala in Los Angeles. It is based on the story of an Afghan taxi driver who died after being interrogated by the US military in 2002. Don was the executive producer of this doccie, which was part of the international project, Why Democracy?

South Africa's first Oscar win was in 1983. Since 2003, South Africans have done well at the Oscars - script writer Ronald Harwood (2003 for The Pianist), cameraman Dion Beebe (2003), Charlize Theron (2004 for Best actress, in Monster), and the Zulu film Yesterday (2005 Best Foreign Film). In 2006 Charlize and Dion were also Oscar nominees - Dion won for his camera work on Memoirs of a Geisha. Gavin Hood's Tsotsi won Best Foreign film in 2007. Ronald Harwood was nominated this year for the third time, for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.