Posts Tagged ‘cape town’

Jay McInerney: Darkness falls on South Africa

News | Non Fiction | South Africa Comments Off

For a hip New Yorker, Jay McInerney has a surprisingly red-neck view of our  beloved country.  McInerney comes to South Africa next week to promote his latest book, Bright, Precious Days, in which we get a bit part.

One of its characters, Luke McGavock, acquires a wine farm and a game farm in South Africa as part of a private equity deal.   Says Luke: “I loved the idea of Africa. And I loved the reality too. Its primal, cradle-of-life, origin-of-the-species aliveness.  The smells, not just the fertile dung smell of the veldt; even the wood smoke, seared meat and raw sewage smell of the townships.”

But it soon all turns to shit.

“…late night farm invasions had become increasingly common to the north, armed gangs breaking in and murdering white families, with the tacit approval of the ANC, which advocated the redistribution of land and sent out periodic calls for ‘colonialists’ to abandon their farms. Rape, torture and mutilation were common features of these attacks, which usually began with the intruders cutting phone and power lines…”   Really?

Luke is portrayed as “a good man, a generous soul”, who builds clinics and schools in the townships. But the natives don’t deserve him.

He decides to pack it in in South Africa after being badly injured in a car accident. “I was in the car alone, coming home from Cape Town one night. I got hit by a van that crossed the line into my lane. The driver drunk, of course. He died, along with his passenger. Not my fault at all apparently….. that didn’t keep it from getting ugly. White survivor, two dead black men.” Really?

In McInerney’s version of it, South Africa has just two sides: primal idyll for jaded sophisticates or savage and lawless jungle.

McInerney’s writing purports to authenticity with much real-life detail: the farm is in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. Eskom is identified as being responsible for an erratic power supply.

The narrative this celebrated author conveys is influential.  It’s unfortunate that the one he presents is so ignorant.

To be fair, the South African strand is a very small part of a big and ambitious book and McInerney’s rendering of his main subject, New York’s literary and financial elite, is wonderfully subtle and acute. I’ve loved his earlier books. And Bright, Precious Days is riveting when McInerney sticks to what he knows. But brightness falls on Manhattan and Africa remains dark.

I hope that when McInerney comes to Cape Town next week – he is speaking at the Book Lounge – he takes the time to discover that South Africa is every bit as richly complex and nuanced as Manhattan.

McGregor is author of Khabzela; and co-editor At Risk and Load-shedding: Writing on and over the Edge of South Africa (Jonathan Ball Publishers)

 

 

 

 

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For a hip New Yorker, Jay McInerney has a surprisingly red-neck view of our  beloved country.  McInerney comes to South Africa next week to promote his latest book, Bright, Precious Days, in which we get a bit part. One of its characters, Luke McGavock, acquires a wine farm and a game farm in South Africa […]

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Sell Newlands Stadium and buy off the clubs

News | Non Fiction | South Africa | Uncategorized Comments Off

WESTERN Province Rugby Football Union released a startling statement a week before Christmas, which, predictably — and possibly, deliberately — was largely ignored because most people were already on holiday.

The union announced that, at a special general meeting held the day before, it had been unanimously decided that they would not, after all, be moving to the Cape Town Stadium.

This came as a surprise, not least to the City of Cape Town, with whom they had long been in negotiations.

As a rugby fan, moving to Cape Town Stadium seemed to me to be a no-brainer. It’s situated in one of the city’s most beautiful neighbourhoods and is easy to get to by public transport. The adjacent Sea Point swimming pool and promenade are a magnet for Capetonians of all races.

The Cape Town Stadium itself is modern, built to the highest international standards. It has the wonderful 5km fan walk from the station, which, as we know from the 2010 Soccer World Cup, not only enhances the pre-game “gees” but also spreads the brand and the game to the general public.

Above all, the stadium is safe. Officials guarantee that, in the event of an emergency, they can evacuate a capacity crowd in less than 10 minutes.

This is important because, at the end of last year, the grace period allowed to stadiums to jack up their safety procedures to comply with the Safety at Sports and Recreational Events Act of 2010 came to an end.

Newlands Stadium is not compliant. Fans, particularly in some of the higher-level suites, might feel a flicker of anxiety as they navigate the narrow staircases, cluttered with smokers, some of whom drop cigarette butts on the floor. One shudders to think of what might happen if there were a fire and a mass stampede.

Newlands faithful cite its history in its favour. But what about its many years of shameful history when people of colour were penned into segregated stands and teams were all white?

In its shock statement, the union gave as its main reason for deciding to stay at Newlands that it owns the stadium outright and “is therefore in complete control of its own destiny”.

A valid point. But it could also be looked at differently.

The 90-odd clubs which make up the Western Province Rugby Football Union are sitting on a huge asset.

Perhaps it is time for some blue-sky thinking in one of rugby’s most fertile provinces. Why not sell the stadium and its valuable grounds and divide the money among the clubs? In return, they could give up their claims on the professional arm of the union.

The Stormers and Western Province teams could be owned and run as a separate entity (and hopefully the confusing dual titles — Western Province for the Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup teams and Stormers for Super Rugby — could be dropped in favour of a single name).

Perhaps a consortium of businessmen could make a bid for the teams. This needn’t be a coldly commercial enterprise. It could be stipulated that the owners are Western Cape-based and that independent directors who are trusted public figures be included on the board.

Why not Brimstone’s Fred Robertson, or Johann Rupert? Perhaps Trevor Manuel could be persuaded to be involved?

The Stormers and Western Province teams already have a separate training base at the High Performance Centre in Bellville. The Cape Town Stadium would become their home ground.

The City of Cape Town is desperate to do a deal with rugby to offset its R40m annual running costs. They’d be easy prey for sharp negotiators, especially if the Cape Town Stadium could boost tourism with high-level international rugby games being regularly held there.

A split between club rugby and professional rugby would be beneficial to both. Western Cape club rugby is thriving: many villages have their own teams and they are an important source of cohesion for their communities. They also throw up gems: such as Gio Aplon, whose home town, Hawston, has a very active club.

But most need funds. A one-off injection, carefully invested, from the proceeds of the sale of the Newlands Stadium would surely be welcome.

Professional rugby in the Western Cape does not achieve anything like its real potential.

Given the talent at its disposal — some 46% of high schools play rugby — it should have a much fuller trophy cabinet than it does.

A fresh approach from new owners with cutting-edge management, financial and negotiating skills could make a world of difference. It would be critical, though, to get the right balance between running rugby as a business and, at the same time, keeping its soul.

The ownership model would need to be thought through and international examples explored.

But I’ve no doubt a model could be found that combined rugby excellence with the more elusive but equally important goal of nation building.

*This column first appeared in Business Day

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WESTERN Province Rugby Football Union released a startling statement a week before Christmas, which, predictably — and possibly, deliberately — was largely ignored because most people were already on holiday. The union announced that, at a special general meeting held the day before, it had been unanimously decided that they would not, after all, be […]

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Museum airbrushes Louis Luyt from Springbok history

News | Non Fiction | South Africa Comments Off

One of the more meaningful of the Heritage Day events was the opening of the Springbok Experience at the Waterfront in Cape Town.  It’s a brilliant museum: cutting edge in the way it creates and conveys a credible narrative of the history of South African rugby.

Situated in the elegant Portswood House with Table Mountain looming in the background and the harbor spread out below, it takes you along a winding passage from the origins of rugby at the turn of last century, through the isolation era, where the walls become narrower and the ceiling is lowered and painted black – a dark setting for a dark era. One of the most interesting artefacts showcased in this bit is the original1981“Book of the Unwelcome”, anti-apartheid Kiwis’ counterpoint to the official letter of welcome sent to the Boks by the New Zealand Rugby Union.  Signed by 3,764 New Zealanders, and addressed to Johan Claassen, manager of the benighted Bok team that toured New Zealand in 1981, the covering letter politely requests the team to “return home”, expressing its “abhorrence of apartheid”.   It is remarkable that this three-decade old document has survived and a welcome sign of the times that it is now enshrined as part of official history.

Next up is a celebration of rugby’s black heroes, which segues into the modern era, brought to life by the powerful presence of the current Bok squad, taking a brief break from their preparations to take on the Australians at Newlands on Saturday.  Young flank, Siya Kolisi, who is turning out to be as talented on the public relations front as he is on the field, told journalists in both English and isiXhosa that he was grateful to yesterday’s black heroes for paving the way for him.

The best of the South African Rugby Union was on display in the spring sunshine: Andy Colquhoun, general manager of corporate affairs and the driving force behind the museum; CEO Jurie Roux and the entire Bok management squad.

Unfortunately, though, they are only half the story.  A glaring omission from the Springbok Experience is the late Louis Luyt, who appears to have been airbrushed from history.   It is understandable, given how divisive he was.  But he did drive the negotiations that ushered in professional rugby: the 1996 US$555million broadcast deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.  The sale of broadcast rights still provides the bulk of SARU’s income.  Of course, 1996 was also the year in which he forced then president Nelson Mandela to spend two days being grilled in the witness box in an attempt by the then president of SARFU (now SARU) to avoid a commission of enquiry into maladministration.

Luyt’s legacy lives on in other areas.  He is the man responsible for the current distribution of power in SARU.  In his 2004 autobiography, Walking Proud, he writes: “To facilitate South African Rugby’s bold entry into the brave new world of professionalism, we need to drastically reduce the number of SARFU unions from its all-time of 23……After tough and at times trying talks, we ended up with 14 unions.”

The same 14 unions designated by Luyt still run South African rugby.  What probably influenced Luyt in his distribution of largesse was the extent to which he could rely on these unions to support his own ongoing battle to stay in power.  It could be surmised then that it is no coincidence that several of SARU’s member unions are clustered around Ellis Park in Johannesburg, his own seat of power:  Springs (Valke), Potchefstroom (Leopards),  Witbank (Pumas), Welkom (Griffons).  In most of the areas presided over by these unions, very little rugby is played and the unions rely on their share of SARU’s broadcast income to stay afloat. Yet they cling grimly to the divine right bestowed upon them by Luyt:  around R10million a year and two votes each in SARU’s highest body, the general meeting of union presidents.  Unlike the Springbok team, they are not measured on their performance. They are accountable only to themselves. In the next round of elections for SARU’s executive arm, the Exco, the same group of men will do deals amongst themselves that will ensure they keep their seats.  The demands of professional rugby have changed dramatically since the Luyt era. But much of SARU remains stuck in 1996.

None of this should take away from the Springbok Experience.  Its great achievement is that it presents for the first time outside of academia an integrated narrative of rugby: the wounds and wrongs of the past are acknowledged, slighted black heroes restored to public glory and a solid platform laid for the future. All in a fun, interactive format.

The Springboks said it gave them an increased impetus for Saturday’s match: reinforcing what they already know. That rugby is so much more than just a game.

 

**This column first appeared in Business Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One of the more meaningful of the Heritage Day events was the opening of the Springbok Experience at the Waterfront in Cape Town.  It’s a brilliant museum: cutting edge in the way it creates and conveys a credible narrative of the history of South African rugby. Situated in the elegant Portswood House with Table Mountain […]

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why i love cape town..

South Africa | Uncategorized No Comments

sweating it out in the sauna at the long street baths this morning with three cape town muslim girls and three kenyan students, i bemoaned the fact that the resident masseuse had left. On of the cape town girls said yes, she’s got cancer and the govt won’t replace her. A Kenyan leapt onto this mild complaint with a “do you have any idea how good you guys have got it in cape town!” you’d never find this kind of facility at this price anywhere else in the world!  Too true

 

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sweating it out in the sauna at the long street baths this morning with three cape town muslim girls and three kenyan students, i bemoaned the fact that the resident masseuse had left. On of the cape town girls said yes, she’s got cancer and the govt won’t replace her. A Kenyan leapt onto this […]

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