Wednesday, March 17, 2010

2010 Sucker World Cup

How about this World Cup Soccer, hey? What a prestigious event for our country! Doesn't it make you feel proud? All the jobs it creates, hiring all those extra under-qualified people to do the jobs of people who already have jobs and aren't doing them?

I mean, suddenly there are people all over the country fixing potholes and rebuilding our road network and being very industrious. Funny, I wonder what they have been doing the past ten years or so, while the roads were quietly allowed to deteriorate to this point? Isn't it great to have an excuse to either reallocate funds to spend on boring necessities such as decent road surfaces instead of political parties? I don't mean parliamentary functions either, but actual parties, like with booze. Or fancy cars for MP's which cost in excess of a million Rand each?

All those thousands of tourists will soon be flocking to South Africa to see their favorite teams, to sample South African cultures, and who will probably experience hijackings and crime - and the paragon of SA sport - the vuvuzela, first hand. The recent reports of the company selling "stab-proof vests" to tourists and foot ball teams had me in stitches - sorry, bad pun. But yeah, it was quite funny. And what was even funnier was the SA Governments outrage at the idea, as if South Africa has a crime problem! It reminded me of Mbeki's denial a few years ago, when he asked "what crime problem?" - and a month later his official residence was stripped of all its security systems by burglars. Hehehe. Yeah. Almost as funny as the guy who wants to sell earplugs for twice the price of a vuvuzela - now that's the spirit or entrepreneurship.

Imagine! Never mind the cash-in-transit heists, the wild-west style shoot-outs between security companies and gangs of armed thugs at neighborhood shopping malls, in which innocent bystanders get taken out on a regular basis - or the hijackings and murders that take place at traffic intersections or even in people's driveways - or inside their own homes.

Speaking of booze, I was amused by newspaper headlines about some brilliant new plan to combat drunken driving - again. Throwing my hands in the air, I ask you - if you know you're going to be caught for driving under the influence, would you do it? No? Well of course not.

Thing is, when last have you seen traffic officers out there at all, let alone when they are riding like hell with the lights going just to get to the local Spar - or blockading the traffic on major highways whenever they feel like going on strike? The recent developments where some of these fine uniformed folks have been caught out for a duck, claiming 23 hours per day overtime pay, amused me to no end. Perhaps they have been eating too many Barone's - you know, "for a 25-hour day"?

The truth is, if the cops were out there doing their jobs in the first place, we wouldn't have a drunken driving (or crime) problem - full stop.

Tell that to the people crying for Jub-Jub to face murder charges - as far as I'm concerned, the country's traffic departments should be facing the same charges. How many other fatal alcohol-related motor accidents occur every single day in this country? So what is this "brilliant new plan" nobody thought of before? Getting some competent traffic officers? Or just getting the current incumbents to act like traffic officers?

Yes, I think the World Cup is going to work out just fine, especially because of the wonderful way they redesigned some of the roads for this occasion. Govan Mbeki avenue, one of the main roads in PE - a road which barely handled the traffic load with two lanes in each direction before, has been reduced to a single-lane disaster zone - much of it now without parking for the many businesses along its length, and filled with crawling bumper-to-bumper traffic and infuriated drivers. I think the tourists and soccer fans will particularly enjoy the snarl-ups as they travel along the BRT bus routes, which will presumably not get blockaded or picketed by disgruntled taxi operators, who these days seem to strike for no apparent reason.

Good luck with PE traffic trying to understand the separate traffic signals for ordinary vehicles and the BRT lanes - they can't even handle a small traffic circle without making life more interesting than it has to be.

Hugh Road in Walmer is still partly closed after almost a year of reconstruction work, and the airport drive is still difficult because the two traffic circles outside it were too small for tour buses in the first place - so they decided to replace them with larger ones. Double the work and cost due to not doing it right the first time. There's a Noddy-badge in there somewhere for the town planner - and the labor broker for job-creation.

And of course, when is the last time you saw a street cleaner? I mean, one actually living up to the adage "it is what it does"? I don't know, but I do know the last time I saw garbage in the streets - an hour ago. Papers, tins, plastic bags in the gutter - and where are the gardening services? Despite the letters in local papers the past few weeks, there are still knee-high weeds growing through the cracks in the sidewalks and gutters all the way up Cape Road - and on the Settler's Highway - with tall grass and unkempt verges - and weeds growing through the missing drain grids. Add to that the open access covers at the bases of the street lights. Very safe indeed, should any bright spark stick their hands in there. A friend of mine who owns a business told me he knows where some of these municipal employees are - outside his business in Central - drinking all day long with the local car-guards - and threatening his customers and anyone else who dares complain about it. Useful things, those dirt buggies, handy place to hide their bottles.
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The Time Saving Agency” by Christina Engela
The TSA liked having fresh agents on the job with a clear mind and steady hand.  Time travel wasn’t for the faint of heart.  The pay was good enough, but as Scrooby had decided long ago, that even if he didn’t get paid for it, the thrill alone was payment enough.  Then again, the TSA realized they couldn’t afford to have disgruntled employees with the power of God at their fingertips, so the pay was very, very good.

Things happen at a certain time in a certain way, which in a sense, is what it’s all about.  If it didn’t, then things would be completely different. Johnathan Scrooby was extremely tense. His job at the Time Saving Agency was a tough one.  Billions of lives depended on him not screwing up.  Once, he’d screwed up in only a small way and people wore those little yellow smiley faces on t-shirts for decades afterwards.  And that was just a small screw up.

A week ago, the American War of Independence was fought in Mexico. Yesterday Napoleon managed to dig a tunnel across the English Channel, invaded London and everybody at the Agency ended up speaking French for a while. Sorting that out had been… well, challenging. Mon dieu.

Something smelled funny in the Anals of History.  Things were not as they were supposed to be. Someone somewhere was tinkering with the works. Somehow, he had to go back and fix it or who knows what might happen this time.

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Car guards - now there is a unique form of "job-creation". It seems only yesterday that you could park your car in a municipal parking space, expect to pay at the meter and go about your business expecting to find your care just where you left it. Hahaha. Not now. No - now we have legions of unkempt, shaggy car-guards sauntering up to you, offering to "look after" your car while you leave your mother in it and pop into a supermarket for two minutes. And you feel intimidated and threatened to not pay them something in case you discover a few dents or scratches later - or your mother and the car have been stolen. It seems to me a good way to create jobs - allow crime to seep into society unchallenged, so that people can slide into those little orange jerkins and we can cheerfully pretend that a bunch of spirit-drinkers could seriously be some form of security - whereas if coppers weren't too lazy to do foot patrols there wouldn't be a need for this nonsense to begin with. But I won't harp on this much longer, in case the car guards form a union and also go on strike, or start overturning people's cars in protest.

Reported regularly in the media is the slow creep of religious fundamentalism into government, with MPs and leadership figures getting increasingly involved with the gradual attack on the Constitution and the built-in protections of various minority groups within it. If they aren't promising to sacrifice the civil rights of gays for more conservative votes, then they are storming out of art exhibitions (which they sponsored in the first place) and calling them "pornographic" and "anti-family". If they aren't spending a lot of time agreeing with fundamentalist groups like the ACDP, FPI or the "God Squad", then they are certainly getting a lot of praise from these groups lately for attacking human rights of people the "righteous" are not supposed to have time for anyway. And what is with this ridiculous "sin tax" on alcohol? Talk about a nanny-state. Are we about to head for a "prohibition", American style? Why not? We already have a gangster problem, complete with racketeering and corruption.

Of course, this whole World Cup thing has just highlighted to me the state our country is in. It has taken this panic-stricken scramble to try to get ready for the World Cup and present a facade of a functioning, healthy infrastructure, to try and bluff the visitors that all is well - to show us how much it isn't. Of course, the stadiums are just about ready - but everything else around them is still an issue. Taxes are higher than they have ever been - along with the number of people paying them - and yet, things are still falling apart and badly.

How about Eishkom, our wonderful electricity supplier? They are holding us to ransom over payments, despite the high costs and lavish bonuses they have been paying themselves for the past decade - while cavalierly ignoring the much-needed upgrades and maintenance to the power grid they should have been spending the money on in the first place. Everybody else seems too afraid to point out that for the past two decades they have been too shit-scared to go into certain informal areas to disconnect illegal power connections or payment defaulters, but those of us living in built-up urban areas get disconnected on the spot - and forced to pay to subsidize those layabouts who don't pay. And it is the same for Telkom and the SABC too.

And now because Eishkom didn't get the full increase in pricing they wanted from the poor consumer, who now has to foot the bill for their incompetence - they scramble about trying to fund more polluting coal-fire power generators and beg the world bank for funding - which might be turned down because of the pollution these things create. And of course, once again, the beleaguered tax-paying consumer is now lying across a barrel expecting yet more price increases amid threats of more power black-outs. Let's not forget Eishkom is also STILL supplying power to neighboring countries, presumably as far as Uganda - known for gross human rights abuses - probably at a discount fee. Yes, I can see why this country has grounds to complain about "morality".

Back in the day when I started working, earning money and having accounts to pay, I used to get advice from my elders about paying my bills on time - or not at all, because you would be added to the dreaded "black-list" and be unable to open any more accounts. Not only does this system no longer seem to apply, but there are now little entrepreneurs on virtually every street corner offering a service to remove your name from the black-list so you can go off merrily on your way to run up even more debts which you probably still cannot afford, or manage. And I already have one credit card, thank you very much - WHY do banks still think I need - or could even cope with a second one if I am so irresponsible as to max out the first one? And what makes them think somebody living on the wages of a domestic worker can afford a credit card - or has the capacity to manage one?

How about the lovely state of our government hospitals? People dying in the waiting rooms, corpses lying naked in the wards for their relatives to walk in on unexpectedly? This is blamed on funding (although I might suspect a few other culprits such as incompetence for one). Nice - but our president's harem of wives and gaggle of illegitimate children are entitled to 60 flights per year - EACH. Does that seem fair to you? And what about his much talked about Presidential "hotline"? Gone cold? I know what good that did for those who called that number last year to complain about the government's silence on the Ugandan human rights issue - and where is JZ today? Oh yes, having tea and biscuits with the illegitimate "President" of Zim-BOB-we - that dictator who stole his last election in 2008. Perhaps they are singing "Bring me my machine-gun" together, and telling jokes about both of them ruling until Jesus comes?

Speaking of songs, let's not forget this is a country ruled by a party which backs and affirms the words and actions of a big-mouthed bully-boy who believes intersex people do not exist, who pushes for the nationalization of the mining industry, and thinks "kill the farmer" is a hip cultural folk song to build his political career with - while simultaneously calling the "k-word" hate speech and expecting people to believe that the two are completely unrelated. This is because, as everyone knows, farmers are racist White-supremacist bastards (who clearly deserve to be shot and have their farms redistributed to people who can farm about as much as I can hang-glide), while it is seemingly impossible for people of color to be racist. Uhuh. Right.

South Africa is a country where gay and trans people still live in fear of so called "corrective rape" and other hate crimes specifically directed against them because of who they are - despite clear provisions to address this matter clearly present in what was once called the most advanced human-rights oriented Constitution on Earth. Yet another reason to feel proud of our country - having the tools to do the job, and just sitting back to watch the tools rust and the house disintegrate.

I will spare for another time my rant about the strangely omitted detail that the world is going nuts about a World Cup for a sport being played by MALES only, while women's sport - and women's football - is all but unknown and uncelebrated. Is there a World Cup for women's football? Do they get sponsorships and media coverage or any public interest at all? Does anyone know? Funny - at least half the world's football fans surely must be women - so it seems to me they are just as guilty. And let's not forget about the gay and transgender footballers who are still too intimidated by homophobia to come out and be welcomed for the sporting heroes they really are.

Yes sir, this World Cup Soccer tournament is going to create a fantastic impression of this country abroad. It makes me feel so proud to be South African. Yup, so proud that I am keeping my passport close to my heart - and hoping for better election results in 2011 and 2014. In the meantime, I'm hoping all those armchair-critics out there will get off their complacent rear ends and start doing something other than just flapping their lips.

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