30 March 2008

Vernon Koekemoer - a home-grown celeb overnight

Chuck Norris, move over, make way for the Boksburg version - Vernon Koekemoer. Vernon is the anonymous Boksburg man who became an Internet celebrity in two days. The latest South African icon was created via the social-networking site Facebook. The now famous photo, showing him dressed in shorts and a sleeveless shirt tied in the front at an H2O party in Boksburg, was widely circulated via e-mail.

Bryan Theunissen, who works in the advertising and marketing industry, is to blame for Vernon's success. After receiving the e-mailed photo, he decided to use it as an experiment in viral marketing and named the man Vernon Koekemoer. Damian Armstrong created a profile for Vernon on Facebook and a group, Make Vernon Koekemoer Famous. Damian asked that people help Vernon travel, interact with foreign cultures and experience the wonders of the world - "cut Vernon out of Boksburg and put him anywhere in the world." Soon Vernon Koekemoer was "spotted" at the summit of Mount Everest, on the moon, in Afghanistan, at the battle of Iwo Jima, at rugby and soccer matches. He became the star of a number of movies and featured in hit television shows. Vernon replaced The Hoff in Knight Rider, joined the A-Team. Chuck Norris got Vernon's picture tattooed on his arm. Vernon made the cover of Playgirl. Griffin created a Web site for all the photos. A blogger nominated Vernon for President under the banner "Vernon Koekemoer! Unarmed and Uncorruptable… No need for a machine gun." A girlfriend, K-Lo from Kempton Park, was created for Vernon.

The real man in the photo is J.C. (Cassie) Booyse, a regular at the Virgin Active Gym in Benoni. He's 51 and writes technical manuals for an armoured car company. He grew up and lives in Brakpan. His father was a gravestone maker, and his mother passed away last December. Cassie has three older sisters. A younger brother died in a motorcycle accident a few years ago. The divorced man has a 19-year-old daughter in university. He has a girlfriend.

The amazing Hilton-Barber brothers

As a child, Miles Hilton-Barber (now 59), wanted to be a pilot. When he was 18 he applied to be a fighter pilot, but was rejected due to poor eyesight. His life didn't turn out as he planned, but he has achieved his dream of flying. Miles was born in Rhodesia, into the well-known and pioneering southern Africa Hilton-Barber family. The father of three has been blind for more than 25 years, but this has not stopped him from fulfilling his dreams and travelling the world as an adventurer and motivational speaker. He lives in Duffield, Derbyshire, with his wife Stephanie and kids Deborah, Abigail and David.

Last year he became the first blind man to fly half-way around the world, from London to Sydney in a microlight plane. He was accompanied by his safety co-pilot, Richard Meredith-Hardy (46). Miles was also the first blind pilot to fly across the English Channel a couple of years ago. The London-Sydney flight was in aid of Seeing is Believing, a charity that restores the sight of blind children in developing countries. He used speech-output technology to fly his specially customised microlight plane and was accompanied during the 13,500 mile flight by safety pilots Brian Milton (London to Cyprus leg) and Richard Meredith-Hardy (Cyprus to Sydney leg). Miles faced snowstorms, freezing temperatures and torrential downpours during the 59-day flight. Miles' inspiration for this flight was his brother, Geoff, who is also blind and sailed solo from South Africa to Australia in 1997/8. Geoff (now 54) began losing his sight in his mid-twenties due to Retinitis Pigmentosa. Miles said that Geoff's adventure made him realise that the problem in his life wasn't his blindness, that the only thing holding him back was five inches - the distance between his ears. Miles firmly believes that attitude is what determines altitude. In 2000, Miles and Geoff became the first blind runners to complete the Marathon des Sables.

Last year, Miles broke the world speed record for a blind pilot by flying in a Hawker Hunter at Kemble airfield near Cirencester. He was accompanied by a Red Arrows co-pilot.

A few days ago, Miles became the first blind man to break the sound barrier as the pilot of a supersonic fighter jet. This was in an Electric Lightning at Thunder City in Cape Town.

Geoff has been a finalist in the Adventurer of the Year competition, three times, once as runner up. He has completed two ocean crossings - one solo from Durban to Freemantle, Australia, making him the only blind person to have completed a solo ocean crossing. He has completed two desert marathons in the Sahara and Kalahari deserts. These six-day events cover about 240 kilometres each in temperatures ranging between 35 and 50 degrees Celsius, and runners carry their own supplies in backpacks. Geoff climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2000. He has represented South Africa as a blind track athlete, and completed the Comrades Marathon ten times, the New York Marathon four times and the Argus Cycle Tour twice on a tandem with his wife. While still partially sighted, Geoff completed 430 parachute jumps and he set a South African night altitude record. Geoff lives in Durban with his wife Carol and kids Steve, Penny and Andrea.

26 March 2008

Help Save the Sea Point Promenade

The Sea Point promenade is under threat and a campaign to save it from being disfigured by a major development on both sides of the pavilion and its swimming pools, is underway. Since its earliest days, Capetonians and visitors have enjoyed walking along the promenade, children have played on the swings and roundabouts, families have had picnics on the lawns, and impromptu games of soccer and volleyball have been played here. Since the carousel was demolished, dancers have made use of the space, and musicians have played through the gorgeous sunsets. People have watched for the new moon that signals the end of Ramadan. The Sea Point promenade is part of Cape Town's character. Now there is a possibility that a hotel and shopping mall will be built on a part of it, on the seaward side of the street. The Seafront for All (Seafa) campaign is collecting signatures for a petition. Help save the Sea Point promenade.

There is a protest planned for SUNDAY 13 APRIL, alongside the Pavilion (old Carousel / Hard Rock Cafe). Events begin at 2pm with music, performances and activities for the kids, and will culminate at 4:30pm with the handing over of a 10 000+ signature petition to SAVE THE SEAFRONT and KEEP PUBLIC OPEN SPACE PUBLIC.

24 March 2008

Canada's SA rugby star

Daniel Tailliferre Hauman van der Merwe was born in Worcester in 1986. He began playing rugby at age five and later made the Boland under-16 team. In 2003 his family immigrated to Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada where he attended Dr. Martin LeBoldus High School and made the Saskatchewan under-18, under-21 and RCSL Prairie Fire teams. He also played gridiron in Regina. In 2005 he moved to Victoria, British Columbia, where he played for James Bay. He made his debut for Canada against Barbados, scoring two tries. In 2006 he was a member of Canada's tour to Wales and Italy, winning his second cap against Italy. He toured with Canada to New Zealand in June 2007, and returned to international action in August to score two tries against Portugal. He recently joined Saracens in London, on loan from the Canadian national side after a successful Rugby World Cup where he scored a try against Japan. The son of a medical doctor, Daniel (aka DTH) is studying criminology.

Remember LM peri-peri prawns and Laurentia beer?

Many South Africans will relate to this story... just think of LM peri-peri prawns, galinha a cafreal (spicy grilled chicken), Laurentina beer, LM Radio and the 1970s... and you'll soon be heading off to the Costa do Sol restaurant on Avenida de Marginal. Here you'll find Emmanuel (Mano) Petrakakis' restaurant where platters of seafood come close to heaven. To get there in style, the Havana Transport Company, set up by a South African, takes you in a chauffeur-driven 1950s-style car. Mano's family has been in Maputo since his father Gerry arrived from Crete in 1938. Gerry's brother was running a hotel in LM (now Maputo), so he set up a cafe that eventually grew into a restaurant and hotel. Back in those days, the location was considered the bundu, out in the sticks. A bucket of prawns cost 20 cents. Gerry kept it going through World War 2 by opening 24 hours a day. Axis and Allied spies often ate there. The Costa do Sol became famous for its dancing Brazilian and Spanish showgirls. When the Portuguese left in 1974, Mano was in boarding school at St John’s College in Johannesburg. During the civil war, the family continued running the restaurant on a smaller scale. Joe Slovo, Ruth First and Albie Sachs were frequent visitors. After high school, Mano studied financial management and worked in Durban. In 1981 he returned to Mozambique, working for Unesco. His mother, Dona Maria, was widowed after Gerry died of cancer. She kept the restaurant going until Mano took over. Today the restaurant, which hosted Danny Glover, Tom Jones and Leonardo Di Caprio, is firmly back in business. You're sure to hear a South African accent when you take that trip down memory lane.

Tossie returns for love

After almost 40 years of living in Italy, the Afrikaans radio personality and author, Tossie Lochner (70), is ready to return home later this year - thanks to the love of her life, Martin Snyman of Pretoria. The widowed Tossie met Martin four years ago. Her two children, born in Italy, already live in South Africa. Her son, Leonardo (34), returned ten years ago, and her daughter Sara (36), Italian son-in-law and grandson Teodore returned almost two years ago. Tossie (aka La Boera) is no ordinary ouma - she's written three books about her life in Italy, Tossie Lochner: Italië and Mama Mia! Italië.She's also put on one-woman shows in South Africa based on her books, Tossie Lochner Italië: mites en waarhede. She studied drama in her younger days. When asked where she gets her energy from, she puts it down to her star sign, Leo, explaining that Leos can't sit still. Tossie's one-woman show will be on until the end of May. For bookings contact her at 073 619 7247.

Professor keeps on writing

Brian du Toit (72), a retired college professor and anthropologist who moved to Brevard, Florida, USA, with his wife in 2001, recently published a book about one of the largest employers in Transylvania County, Ecusta, and its founder. Ecusta and the Legacy of Harry H. Straus records the history until Ecusta closed its doors in 2002. It took about one year to research and six months to write, and is one of Brian du Toit's more than 20 published books. He has also written about the history of the first Afrikaners in the USA, Boer Settlers of the Southwest. He was born in South Africa and completed his bachelor's and master's degrees at the University of Pretoria. He received his doctorate at the University of Oregon. He was a faculty member of the department of anthropology and the Center for African Studies at the University of Florida for 40 years.

Sad state of project

Jorgen Arinell recently visited an aid project in De Aar that he helped co-ordinate. The project was between the city of Karlstad in Sweden and the Emthanjeni municipality, set up in 2002. Arinell was shocked and disappointed to see that the refuse recycling project and the Poortjie Nature School were abandoned and in a vandalised state. Swedish taxpayers also gave money to build seven Echo homes. These homes were to have solar panels for heating water. The special toilets, imported from Sweden, that were supposed to be installed in the homes, are nowhere to be found. The vegetable garden, equipped with a water pump and tank installed by the Swedish, has not been used in three years. Since the project was started, Sweden sent out two teams to help with training.

Fire Trucks 4 Africa

The Matjhabengse municipality is the first one in the Free State to receive fire fighting trucks from the UK. The first two trucks have already arrived in Welkom, with another five to follow. They trucks are leased from Fire Trucks 4 Africa in the UK at a cost of R8 000 per truck per month. The trucks are used trucks that are in good condition and fully equipped. Fire Trucks 4 Africa maintains the trucks, according to a five-year contract.

On Forbes

Three South Africans appear on this year's Forbes World Billionaires list - Nicholas (Nicky) Oppenheimer, Anton Rupert and mining magnate Patrice Motsepe. Nicholas Oppenheimer is 173rd on the list, while Rupert is in 284th place and Motsepe is at number 503. Born in Soweto and trained as a lawyer, Motsepe became the first black partner at Johannesburg's Bowman Gilfillan law firm, before starting a contracting business doing mine work. He bought low-producing gold mine shafts in 1994 and made them profitable, building a $875m mining conglomerate, African Rainbow Minerals (ARM). He also holds a 5.5% stake in Sanlam.

Bunny tail left behind

Heidi Vos (65) lives in Port Elizabeth and is a retired Playboy Bunny. She recently made headlines again when she auctioned her famous Bunny tail for charity. Heidi was born in Duchove, Czechoslovakia and lost her parents to disease in a refugee camp. She was smuggled to Germany as a toddler by an aunt. In her teens, she became an au pair in the USA while finishing school. After school she went to New Orleans and became a Playboy Bunny at the recommendation of a boyfriend. She spent three years there. She married, worked for a shipping company and spent seven years in England. In 1977 she married again, in Florida, USA, to Alan Vos of Port Elizabeth. In 1991 they moved to Port Elizabeth. Heidi was also one of the world's first women disc jockeys. She's written many recipe books and was founder of Port Elizabeth's annual Chilli Festival, at which her tail was auctioned in aid of Barcelona Feeding Scheme, a charity which feeds 300 people daily. Unfortunately, no bids were received.

BA takes kids' ideas seriously

Sonette Jacobs (14), from Kimberley, is helping British Airways design the interiors of its new Airbus A380 aircraft, as well as its menus and children’s Skyflyers packs. She's part of an innovative project that is shaping the way the airline meets the needs of its younger passengers. Sonette, a pupil at Northern Cape High School, joined 11 youngsters from the UK, Hong Kong, Mexico, Uganda and Kenya for the second meeting of the British Airways Kids’ Council. They put forward ideas that they believe should be included in the A380, as well as ideas for Heathrow's Terminal 5. The new terminal has four Kidzones that include Playstations, televisions showing children’s programmes and computers. The British Airways Kids Council is the first time any airline has canvassed the opinions of young flyers, aged between 8 and 14 years. Members were chosen on the strength of competition entries, which comprised 200 words on their ideas to improve the airline’s services.

The Karma Suture

South Africa's deteriorating state hospital system and the stressful conditions under which staff work, is the basis of a début novel. The Karma Suture, by Rosamund Kendal, has been compared to Bridget Jones's Diary but set in a background that is too common to many South Africans. The main character is Dr. Sue Carey, 20-something, who shares a cottage with her friend Leah. She has broken off her engagement because her fiancé, who was in IT, found her work depressing and her long hours inconvenient. Sue is a registrar at a fictional hospital called Bellville, where she works long hours and gets frustrated by the lack of effective care for HIV patients. This book brings Sue's everyday stresses, failures and successes, her friends, and her developing relationship with a young doctor, to life. Thrown in are vivid descriptions of daily life in a hospital where things are crumbling or not available. It isn't a depressing book, there are some funny pieces in there. The author is a 30-something medical doctor in KwaZulu-Natal who has a MA in Creative Writing from UCT.

From the tame to the wild

Dr. Emma Rambert grew up in England, where she trained as a vet. In 1999 she moved to South Africa. Today she's a vet for Wildlife Translocation Services moving animals across the country. Her story was filmed by BBC TV for two seasons of the documentary Vet Safari. She's gone from treating domestic pets to treating buffalo, lions, rhinos and other big game. Her first capture was gemsbok in the Kalahari. Her husband Shaun is a partner in Wildlife Translocation Services. Their daughter, Phoebe (3), is part of the team and will soon be joined by a baby sister.

Kruger wins on YouTube

A video filmed in the Kruger National Park has taken top honours in YouTube's annual video awards in the Eyewitness category. The video, titled Battle at Kruger, has been seen by more than 27 million people world-wide. It was filmed by Jason Schlosberg of Negativespace Photography in the USA, while he was at the Pretoriuskop camp. It shows a young water buffalo that survived an attack by lions and a crocodile. A documentary about the filming of the video will be shown on National Geographic in May.

23 March 2008

The forgotten emigrants

They are the forgotten emigrants... the family pets, and sometimes, they are left behind when their families leave South Africa. It costs a small fortune to take your pet with you, but thousands of emigrants are paying up. So much so, that some pet travel companies here have e-mail auto responders because of the volume of enquiries they receive. It can cost R40 000 to send a pet dog from South Africa to New Zealand. Then there are quarantine costs to add in some countries. In Australia, imported pets must spend seven months in quarantine, or alternatively three months in quarantine in South Africa and the other four months in Australian quarantine. For the UK, pets spend six months in quarantine. New Zealand has more complicated quarantine laws - blood tests determine whether a pet can be imported (results can take up to six months), and if they pass, there is four months of quarantine. Canada and the USA have shorter periods of quarantine.

Senior citizens need help

The Pretoria Care of the Aged organisation can give a hungry person a meal for R4 per day. To do this vital work, they need to raise at least R1-million per year. Every day they look after 834 senior citizens, who cannot live without their help. With winter approaching, they will have more homeless and hungry senior citizens to care for. The organisation receives a welfare grant from the State of only R541 806 per year. They rely on volunteers and donations to provide much needed services. If you can, please help them with a donation of money or non-perishable foodstuffs such as stamp mielies; mielie meal; tinned or powdered soup; tinned veggies or fish; and baby food. They would also appreciate donations of clothing and blankets (they can pick-up). For more info, contact Linda or Sandra at Tel: (012) 430 2630, Fax: (012) 430 7037, E-mail: corporate.services@pixie.co.za

22 March 2008

Global leader

Dr. Sunette Pienaar of Unisa was recently named as one of the 245 young global leaders by the World Economic Forum (WEF). Dr. Pienaar is involved with Unisa's Centre for Corporate Citizenship and is the programme manager of the Murray & Roberts Chair in Collaborative Governance and Accountability. The WEF recognises 200 to 300 young leaders each year, under the age of 40. This year's leaders were chosen from 5000 nominations. Dr. Pienaar was nominated for her work with Heartbeat, an organisation she founded in 2000 to help children reach their potential.

Science and maths are cool

Self-made South African billionaire Mark Shuttleworth is helping to build up South Africa's science skills. Thirteen school children were handpicked for his HIP2B² education programme to make maths, science and technology hip. Some of them have already made their mark, like Simone Abramson, a straight-A Grade 11 Herzlia High School pupil who has patented a new identification system that is set to replace fingerprinting. Simone represented South Africa at the International Science Expo in Beijing and attracted international interest with her method of identifying people by photographing the back of the eye. Her system involves taking pictures of the fundus using a Topcon Fundus camera. Measurements of the photograph are then taken and put into a formula to get a fundus identification number. It’s run through a computer programmme developed by Simone, to check that no two numbers are the same.

Another Grade 11 Cape Town pupil, James Gowan (16), has used his love of maths to trade on the stock market since he was 14. Pretoria Boys’ High School inventor Louis van Biljon (16) has patented a foot-operated tap and an electronic eye for the blind which beeps when the wearer is close to a danger spot. He is is also working on an electric toothbrush cleaner and a resealable can. Effingham Secondary pupil Senaly Singh (15), a maths whiz and vice-president of Teenagers Against Drugs, has used maths as a formula to show how people fall in love.

Success overseas

Jan van Wyk, owner of TCB (Edms) Bpk in the southern Cape, is marketing an electronic system to control and regulate power usage in residences and business, that can cut up to 20% off their electricity bills. After installing the Synapses system, all readings and monitoring can be done from a central point by remote control, bringing further savings. Yet, he hasn't found success in South Africa, even with the current energy crisis, but rather in Oman where he recently signed a contract with the Mazoon Electrical Company. Jan is now moving to Oman to deal with the growing interest in his system from Qatar, Kuwait, the UAR and other cities in Oman. The Synapses system was developed by Romulus Electronic Systems, owned by Rassie Erasmus of Pretoria. Jan bought the rights to market and distribute the system in the Middle East and Europe.

Schoolboy coach

Ross McCreath (14) is still a schoolboy at St. Andrew’s College in Grahamstown but he's already a successful cricket coach. Ross, along with his assistant coach Gladman Xali (68), has taken a group of bored boys and turned them into the Tiger Titans cricket team. The boys' parents are farm labourers near where Ross' parents, Glenn and Anne, farm. Last December Ross noticed that the boys had nothing to do during the school holidays, so he taught them cricket. He approached the Port Alfred municipality for permission to use some land outside the town, and was also successful in obtaining equipment sponsors. Three months later, the Tiger Titans beat u-14 St. Andrew’s College team. Ross, who played for his school team, was bowled out for a duck, by one of the boys he taught. The boys have carried on playing cricket, even though it is not easy to find the time. After school, they often have to help with chores, and before they can practise, they have to chase cattle off their "pitch". Ross has a busy school schedule, playing rugby and cricket, but every weekend he spends time with the boys that he hopes will one day represent their province or country.

Raising $ for Phelophepa

South African-born celebrity party planner Colin Cowie, formerly of East London, recently raised R4-million at a gala dinner in New York for South Africa's famous mobile train clinic, Phelophepa. The 16-carriage train, established 14 years ago, is a unique healthcare project and is manned by doctors, dentists and medical students. It travels all over South Africa providing primary healthcare to about 45000 people who do not have access or cannot afford it. Colin's mother, Gloria (81) lives in East London. Colin is well-known for planning Oprah Winfrey‘s functions and for his appearances on her TV show. He has also arranged parties for John Travolta and Jennifer Aniston. Besides his party planning service, he also has a lifestyle and home decor shopping network company. His latest project is a book, 1001 Wedding Details, to be released later in the year. He will also be in Dubai in November to organise the launch of Palm Island. Colin is also planning the parties for the openings of Sol Kerzner‘s Atlantis hotel in Dubai, and the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar.

Farmhouse kitchen secret to cosmetic empire

A grandmother's home-made beauty cream that was mixed in a farmhouse kitchen for years, has led to South Africa's latest skin care range which was recently launched as part of Woolworths' exclusive international beauty range. Reana le Roux's grandmother, Freda Nower, was known for her beautiful and youthful skin, so Reana started using her granny's moisturising cream. Soon people were complimenting Reana on her clear skin. When she asked Freda where the cream came from, Freda said a pharmacist had given her the formula about thirty years ago. As Reana spent more and more hours mixing the cream using a mixing bowl and an electric egg beater, for friends and family, she started marketing the product under the Freroux name. The range has now grown far beyond that farmhouse kitchen.

Reana and her husband Jacques gave up their farming life in Cradock to concentrate on their expanding cosmetic business. They have two daughters, Mariné (3) and Ju-Netje (1). They sold their farm and moved to Rustenberg. With the help of Sasol ChemCity's small business incubator, they further developed Fréroux scientifically and a spa range named Fréroux Moods is to be released soon. The couple have also received help from the SA Cosmetic Council and hope to export their products. Each product in the Fréroux range uses natural oils such as almond, coconut, jojoba, wheat-germ and evening primrose, and plant extracts including gardenia, witch-hazel, sesame seed, beech tree and papaya, as well as various vitamins such as E, B3 and B5.

A dream come true

Adrian Gardiner grew up near Bulawayo and was a BCom student at the University of Cape Town, where he took six years to complete a three-year degree. He went on to develop the world-renowned Shamwari Game Reserve situated between Port Elizabeth and Grahamstown. Adrian recently sold Shamwari, along with Western Cape game reserve Sanbona and Jock Safari Lodge in the Kruger National Park, to Dubai World Africa in what is believed to be a R600-million deal. All three reserves belong to Adrian's company, Mantis Collection. Dubai World Africa also owns the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. Adrian will remain a minority shareholder and managing director of the three reserves.

In 1969 he took a job in Port Elizabeth. Along with his wife, Shirlyanne, he started an industrial equipment hiring business. He was bankrupted in 1979. Next he tried stud farming and built up a thoroughbred stud farm at Roodefontein outside Plettenberg Bay, which he sold in 1990. He bought the first piece of land that later became Shamwari. From 1200 hectares of land, he grew his farm to 7000ha as surrounding land came up for sale until, in 1991, he bought Long Lee and opened Shamwari in 1992. In 1994 he almost lost everything as the tourism industry was grim. After South Africa won the 1995 Rugby World Cup, the country saw a boom in tourism. Adrian went to London and marketed Shamwari on his own, convincing tour operators to send their clients to Shamwari. The late John Aspinall visited Shamwari in 1994 and endorsed it. Since then Shamwari has played host to royals such as Earl Spencer; Hollywood stars Brad Pitt, Nicholas Cage and John Travolta; and golf legend Tiger Woods. Adrian and Shirleyanne have three children - Paul, Murray and Angela.

Not your average cop

Gloria Pucciatti (25) of Waterkloof, Pretoria, is not your average policewoman. Of Italian parents, she was a Miss Italy top ten finalist, and in 2003 was first princess in the Miss Tukkies beauty pageant. Gloria wanted to do police work but her parents were not too happy with her career choice, so a compromise was reached and she studied psychology at the University of Pretoria (UP) after matriculating from St. Mary's Diocesan School for Girls in Hillcrest. While studying, she was mentored by a group of Garsfontein policemen who developed her interest in forensic investigations. At the age of 20 she became a police reservist. Gloria enrolled for a M.Sc. in forensic sciences through North Central University in the USA. She spent three months doing a practical course in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. Her parents came to South Africa in the 1960s. Gloria used the Miss Italy beauty pageant as a way to build contacts in the Italy. She was able to work with the Italian military police, doing a diploma in ballistics and forensic investigations. She was happily working in Italy until, while on holiday in South Africa, she met Nelson de Castro, a Portuguese businessman. Gloria decided to return to South Africa permanently, and is currently doing a course through Unisa and modelling part-time.

SA translation tools catch Google's eye

Translate.org.za has had two of its projects included in the Google Summer of Code. The localisation organisation works to translate free software into all South African languages. Google's Summer of Code provides software developers with a stipend for their US summer holidays to work on free software projects with mentoring organisations. Translate.org.za's two projects are the Translate Toolkit, a set of tools to manipulate translation formats, and Pootle, a set of online translation and translation management tools used by OpenOffice.org and Creative Commons among others. Last year developer Charl van Niekerk was selected to participate in the Google Summer of Code.

Highlighting poverty

Adrian Erasmus, a Pretoria photographer, wants to highlight the plight of poor Whites in Pretoria. In June 2007 Adrian initiated a food programme for poor Whites in Pretoria. He spent the past year taking photos at informal settlements and poverty-stricken areas in Pretoria North, Bon Accord, Onderstepoort and the inner city. The photos will be part of an exhibition at the London Literature Festival in May. He has tried to show that his subjects had dignity and that people from various walks of life were affected by poverty. Later in the year, Adrian will visit the Northern Cape to record poverty amongst the Coloured population. Adrian wants to show the world that poverty knows no colour in South Africa. In January 2008, the Adrian Erasmus Foundation was registered to uplift young Afrikaners of all races by means of education and the creation of opportunities. Adrian was not a professional photographer but since the success of this project, he has decided to pursue it as a career. He received his first camera at age 15. In the military he was trained as an operational photographer and studied the work of David Goldblatt.

Miss Strand 1997 flying high

Dubai-based airline, Emirates, starts a new route flying to and from Cape Town at the end of this month. The airline will fly daily non-stop to and from Cape Town International Airport. On board the first flight, landing in Cape Town on 30 March, will be senior flight stewardess, Marilee Vermaak (26), Miss Strand High School 1997. She was also Miss Helderberg and Miss Junior Western Cape. Marilee has lived in Dubai for five years. She is part of the "Face of Emirates" promotions group, used by the airline for promotional work. Her parents, Gideon and Cor-Maré, live in the Strand. The rest of the flight crew include 12 South Africans, with 3 in the cockpit. Captain Chris Rademan is originally from Kroonstad. He joined the SAAF in 1971. In 1978 he joined SAA. This was followed by a move to Singapore Airlines in 1997 and Emirates in 1999. Cape Town is Emirates 100th destination.

South African becomes CEO of MEC

South African-born David Labistour (52) was recently made CEO of Vancouver-based Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), an outdoor-gear retail chain. The former professional windsurfer is the first CEO promoted from within the organisation. David, son of Dennis and Joan Labistour, well-known racehorse trainers and breeders in Mooi River, immigrated to Canada in 1999. He is married to Lianne and they have two sons. David's sister is Winks Greene, world famous horse and rugby physiotherapist. After completing his compulsory military service, he enrolled for a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Cape Town. He left in his final year to become a professional windsurfer. In South Africa, his retail career started at Rex Trueform, and was followed by moves to Adidas and Woolworths. After arriving in Canada, he worked as a consultant with clothing retailer Aritzia. He joined MEC as the head of the buy-and-design team in 2003.

MEC operates outdoor-gear stores across Canada. It was founded in Vancouver in 1971 by six mountain climbers who wanted a store where they could buy mountaineering, rock climbing, ski touring and hiking gear that was not available in conventional retail outlets. MEC generated an estimated revenue of $250 million in 2007, and is one of the largest retail co-ops in Canada with 2.7 million members across Canada and around the world. It is a member-owned co-operative governed by an elected volunteer board of directors. A senior management team headed by David Labistour runs day-to-day operations. At the end of each year, profits in the form of membership shares are distributed to members. After assessing the co-op's financial needs for the next year, the board of directors buys back the patronage shares from members.

13 March 2008

Making his own work

Last year Sipho Tubu attended a three-month provincial government brick-making training programme in Grahamstown. Now he runs his own brick yard providing bricks and blocks to local residents and has already produced 1129 blocks. Sipho and Son Brick and Block Project is based in Stil Street, Zwelihle. Two hand machines are used to produce the cement blocks. Two friends help him on a part-time basis, and he has been able to offer three women part-time work as well. He set up the business with his own savings. You can contact Sipho on 073 017 7199.

South African Sports Hall of Fame

The planned South African Sports Hall of Fame, to be built at a cost of R1,5-billion, in Knysna in two years time, will exclude sporting personalities who brought their games into disrepute. The late South African cricket captain, Hansie Cronje, will not be inducted, according to the CEO Naas Botha. A panel of sport federations and authorities will identify 120 nominees. Nominees will be presented to the public for voting. The selection criteria stipulate that candidates must have retired for at least three years before nomination. No retirement age is stipulated for sports like golf and mind games such as chess, bridge, war games and darts. Administrators, managers, coaches, referees and the media may be considered for their contribution to sport. The Hall of Fame will be built close to the Simola Golf Estate and will include a hotel, cluster homes and sports fields. It will house an an exhibition centre and museum.

Snail mail solution

Fed up with the postal service in South Africa, Rensia van der Merwe started her own business - Emailmymail. The business provides a private bag address for clients. Any mail received gets sorted and scanned before being emailed to you. Three months later, the original paper mail is recycled, while the scanned copy is archived for a year.

03 March 2008

Extreme make-over South African-style

Dries Lombaard and his wife Rethea used YouTube and a popular TV show concept to help their housekeeper Sofia (59). Sofia's husband, Philip (75) was working as a security guard, earning R500 per month. Last year, the elderly couple's shack in Hammanskraal was destroyed by heavy rains. Dries helped Philip by lending him his car to transport building materials for a new home. Next, Dries and his daughter went to Hammanskraal and made an "Extreme Makeover" video, which they placed on YouTube and asked people to help with donations. In the USA, church minister David MacDonald arranged a collection at his church on Christmas Day - R40 000 was collected.

02 March 2008

A taste of home in NYC

South African expats in New York can get a taste of home from two restaurants. Madiba in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene (195 De Kalb Avenue) was opened in 1999. Last year, it was joined by Xai Xai, which opened at 369 West 51st Street. Madiba's decor is based on shebeen decor. Food is served at wooden camping tables and the menu includes all the favourites such as potjie kos, bunny chow, bobotie, peri-peri prawns, and malva pudding. Savannah and South African beers are served in tin cups. Xai Xai is a South African wine bar but named after a beach in Mozambique where the owners came up with the concept. Their menu includes Malay fish curry, boerewors with pap and gravy, meat pies, avocado sarmies, melktert, and koeksisters.

Migraine breakthrough

Dr. Elliot Shevel, a maxillo-facial and oral surgeon with 30 years of experience, and founder of The Headache Clinic in Parktown, Johannesburg, pioneered a surgical procedure that is seen as a major breakthrough to end chronic headaches and migraines. The procedure cauterises superficial scalp vessels and can be done in a day clinic. The research has now led to funding from the South African and Italian governments for further studies. Dr. Shevel spearheaded the research with Harvard Medical School's neurology professor, Dr. E.H Spierings, and will conduct further studies with Italian migraine specialist, Professor Carlo Chanketti. The research results were published last year in the UK medical journal Therapy.

New book: A Chopstix Guide to Taiwan

Katy Roberts of Somerset West has turned her overseas experiences into a book. After returning home from two years teaching English in Taiwan, her brother gave her an envelope with all her e-mails and postcards she'd sent home, and told her to write a book. Three years later, A Chopstix Guide to Taiwan, rolled off the printing press. Katy, the daughter of a retired Air Force pilot, graduated from the University of Stellenbosch. She'd seen an advert in a local coffee shop and after attending a training session in Cape Town, left for Taiwan. Her book is available from Just Done Productions or Lulu.