Category: South Africa

Still Here

05 April 2020. Day 647236. And still we battle through this pandemic. The UK went into lockdown on 23 March so we are really in week 500? it feels like longer. There is no real good news though. The world has 1204075 total cases of covid-19, of which the majority are in the USA (311637), the UK is still in the high numbers with 41903. South Africa is holding out reasonably well at 2169 so far but at any moment that could jump dramatically as once again the government caves into the taxi industry. At what point will they break the stranglehold that the taxi industry has on South Africa? 

On the economic front the Rand is battling, at the time of writing £1 is worth R23,63, and this is probably the highest it has ever been. The UK economy is taking a battering though and it will take years before we climb out of this hole. The world is not going to be the same when we do though, the history books will make for very interesting reading in the future. The current crop of school children are facing a huge challenge in their future, and I sincerely hope that in that future more attention will be paid to the lower paid elements of society who clean and pack and drive and do the many menial jobs that are proving to the the most vital. No longer must the suit and banker clones be in charge. Unfortunately the conspiracies are becoming more laughable, and at this moment 5G is the newest culprit, although personally I blame the lizard people. 

I am holding out, although I have been hitting low points in my day. Like so many others I am sitting with an uncertain future, and the longer the status quo remains as it is the bigger the risk that I face. I am however not alone because there are many like me out there who face a similar situation. Stay calm and don’t panic? Very difficult.   

DRW © 2020. Created 05/04/2020

Updated: 05/04/2020 — 09:17

No End in Sight

31/02/2020. Day 745673…. Still here. The company where I work now has key industry status and as such we are technically “key workers”. I will admit they are really trying their best to keep the virus out and us safe. So far though 109 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Gloucestershire and 8 have died in county hospitals. The UK tally is 22141 cases with 1408 deaths.  Around us life more or less goes on and people are getting used to the queues and delays although quite a lot are still out and about. Our local Morrisons is slowly getting their shelves packed and today is the first time I have seen toilet paper on the shelves in a long time. Online shopping and delivery have been bogged down though and some people are getting slots for a month down the line. Our local eateries are doing their best to cater to the demand that has been created for takeaways, and anybody that hasn’t been able to adapt will end up suffering until restrictions are lifted. Unfortunately I have had to buy a washing machine due to the closure of the local laundry, it was one expense I was hoping not to have to make. Hopefully it will be delivered on Saturday. Getting through to your bank is almost impossible with a large amount of people phoning in about the financial situation and how the virus will affect it. Unfortunately the virus is not only dangerous from a medical point of view but also from a mental point of view, so keeping busy is vital and going to work may be good for your mental health! (ya right…). So, nothing new to report. Still hanging in there. 

Day 384674….. still here, lost track of time. It is now the weekend, technically had all been hunky dorey I would have been on my way back from London after renewing my passport. Instead I am cold and grumpy, browned off  and depressed.  I had to get some shopping done and tried our local Morrisons but the queue was not going anywhere. They have complicated the matter by closing off the bicycle parking so I ended up chaining my bike to a pole. The queue was even slower than lines at an airport so I ended up giving up again and going to Tesco instead.  The town is like a ghost town, there are very few people around, most of the shops are closed and the traffic has halved. There is also parking available and heaven help you if you park where you are not supposed to (letters will be written to “The Times”).

Yet, there are still people manning tills, cleaning floors, moving boxes, delivering mail, delivering cargo, driving trucks, buses and trains and just doing their jobs to the best of their abilities.   The medical staff are in the front line and in spite of ticket wardens handing out parking tickets and yobs stealing their bikes they keep at it. Even Boris Johnson is infected and as much as I hate to say this it does show that he is human and not some stuck up suit in a distant office. At the end of the day we all have to ride out the storm together.

Back in South Africa the lockdown has been stringently enforced by police and military forces, and looking at the statistics for the country I can see why. There were 202 confirmed cases as at 20/03/2020, currently the total is running at 1170 cases with 1 death.  Unfortunately I fear that things will get much worse in South Africa as mob rule, criminality and xenophobia start to raise their ugly heads. I was reading a post last night about a German woman that was taken to a hospital in South Africa and there were people posting who were ready to use the pitchfork and burning torches. It made for very sickening reading and I blocked that post very quickly. 

On the positive side even the pigeons are laying low.

I would love to say “Things will get better” but at this moment in time that would be a white lie. However, we can count ourselves lucky that we were not living way back in 1665 when the “Black Plaque” was raging. The Public Domain Review  posted about “mortality” during the black plague and it makes for interesting reading. I know that I certainly would not like to be suffering from some of the things mentioned in those lists.

On one of the pages there is an exhortation devoted “To The Reader” and I advise you to take its wie word eriouly 🙂

I am heading back to work on Monday following my 7 days self isolation. At least I still have a job at this stage, but I do not know how much work there will be as the time passes. In the meantime I am busy making sure that if somebody does not hear from me for a long time that they check to see whether I haven’t suffered an attack of “Riing of the light” or “infant” or a “head mould hot“. 

DRW © 2020 Created 28/03/2020. Bills of Mortality are in the public domain worldwide and free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighbouring rights.  https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/

Updated: 03/04/2020 — 17:32

OTD: The Westdene Bus Disaster

On this day,  27 March 1985 it was supposed to be yet another school day for the pupils of Hoërskool Vorentoe, in fact it was supposed to be a normal day for the whole of South Africa, but the events surrounding the Westdene bus disaster changed all of that in a brief tragedy that will remain with us all forever.  It is one of those surrealistic moments in your life that somehow remains with you forever.  The day was subdued after that, even though that was not true at Westdene Dam where divers were frantically searching for bodies and parents were standing grief stricken, knowing that their son or daughter would not be coming home on that day. 

Westdene Dam. (1500x466)

Westdene Dam. (1500×466)

The actual cause of the disaster was never really pinned down to any singular factor; the driver  never really gave an adequate explanation, there was no mechanical fault with the bus, and the weather conditions were not poor. I seem to recall that he said another car had swerved, or he had blacked out. Faced with the imminent backlash and the trauma that he had gone through too, it was no wonder that no single cause was ever found.

I won’t delve into the disaster because I was not directly involved and do not know the facts, there are others more qualified to do that. It was one of those moments in South African history that has remained in our pysche since 1985.   

Those that died in the disaster are mostly buried in Westpark cemetery in a dedicated plot close to the main gate. It is a tragic place to visit because the sheer sale of the disaster is only experienced when you are faced with seeing all of the graves together. 

In 2011 I spent some time in Westpark photographing all of the graves, sadly they were all desecrated a long time ago and never restored. I spent time hunting down the graves in the general cemetery and they too had been desecrated. Nobody has even been able to explain why this happened, and who was responsible. It was a sad pilgrimage for me, trying to match headstones with names, and seeing those names in the registers made it just a bit harder. The funeral for all of the children was held on the same day, and a sad day it was for so many people.

It took until 2007 for a memorial to be erected to the victims,  and even this has had its fair share of controversy.  

In 2014 I revisited the graves while I was down in South Africa and photographed the small photographs that were on some of the graves, one day I will match faces to names and make my own records of the disaster a little more complete. 

There are two graves that stick out for me, the first is grave number 7, where two sisters are buried together (Reinette and Linda Du Plooy) , and the grave of Caroline Brown who is buried in the general part of the cemetery in a grave that was stripped of its name like so many others.  The vandalism of the graves was not random, it was targeted, somebody went out of their way to hunt down the graves and desecrate them

It is just over 30 years since the disaster, had it not happened some of those children would have been mothers or fathers today, they would have had families of their own, and just possibly their children would have attended that same school that they had attended so many years ago. There are a lot of what if’s associated with the Westdene Bus Disaster, it was all a matter of timing. catching a different bus, or sitting upstairs or downstairs was the difference between life of death.

There were a lot of heroes on 27 March 1985, but sadly there were too many victims. May They Rest in Peace 

Images of the graves are available on eggsa. I sincerely hope that one day they get restored. 

My own page about the memorial may be found at Allatsea

DRW © 2016-2020. Originally created 27/03/2016

Updated: 27/03/2020 — 19:52
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