Saturday, 07 June 2008

Zimbabwe Bleeds

Business and politics don't mix well, but there are times when anyone with a conscience has to speak up. I'm personally deeply, deeply ashamed of the way our dear President has conducted himself on Zimbabwe, including hiding a report from two respected judges who said that the previous election was not free and fair. In the aftermath of delayed and probably rigged results, hundreds of people are being most brutally tortured and either killed or left to die of their injuries. Thousands are being driven out of their homes and businesses by a military determined to keep power at all costs. Meanwhile President Mbeki, leader of a country that has democracy as its cornerstone, is seen in public holding hands with ex-President Mugabe and proclaiming that "there is no crisis in Zimbabwe". If you agree that SADC must send in peacekeepers now, please take a few seconds to e-mail President Thabo Mbeki telling him so, and perhaps for once he will listen.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Public Transport from Pietermaritzburg to Sandton

On 11 March 2008 I travelled from Pietermaritzburg to Sandton by public transport. It was an interesting exercise. I needed to get back from a short break in order to attend Peter Carruthers's Seminar, while Judith stayed a few more days in order to see clients in Durban. With a bit of internet research I established that there are no buses from Pietermaritzburg to Sandton. The best one can do is to get a bus (Greyhound and InterCape being the most popular) to Park Station in central Johannesburg. Metro buses from there to Sandton are also almost non-existent, so one is left with minibus taxis. I was able to book online for Greyhound or InterCape: The latter had such a confusing pricing structure, with ticket types that weren’t explained, that I gave up on them and booked Greyhound. They gave me 10% off for booking online. However, one has to go and collect one’s ticket in person at least 24 hours before travelling, which meant an extra trip into Pietermaritzburg the day before. There is no information on taxi routes on the web (a business opportunity, perhaps?). I resorted to asking amongst our black staff and established that I should go to the Noord Street taxi rank and ask for minibus taxis to Sandton-Morningside (not Sandton Central, which would not get me home). Came the big day, Judith dropped me off at the Greyhound station opposite McDonalds in Pmb well before 08:00 for departure around 09:00. In the event the bus only arrived from Durban at 09:35, but no-one seemed to be worried about this and they made up time later. The bus was comfortable and pretty new, and the hostess looked after us well on the trip. I’d brought a packed lunch which was just as well, as the lunch stop at Swinburne was all too short. Except for bashing my head on the overhead rack there were no problems, and we arrived in Johannesburg around 15:45. Now the adventure actually began. It was with some trepidation that I walked out of the station into Wolmarans St., along it to King George St., and then along King George to the notorious Noord St. It has been a while since I’ve been in the not-very savoury Johannesburg CBD, and many years since I’ve travelled by minibus taxi. I was the only white face in sight as I walked through the taxi area, asking for taxis to Sandton. I need not have worried, though: Although many were preoccupied with their own business, everyone I asked was friendly and helpful. I finally found the taxis to Sandton-Morningside (after first being directed to the ones to Sandton Central). They are in De Villiers Street just off Twist, in fact at the opposite end to where I started. I verified from the taxi marshal that it was in fact the right minibus, and the fare was indeed R8.50 as I had been informed, and got into the back of the nearly-new vehicle. When the taxi was full –which meant 13 people– we left. The driver immediately turned right against a red light, to hooting from outraged other drivers, and off we went up Twist Street! Our minibus taxi drivers are notorious for disobeying the traffic rules and I have issued more than one traffic ticket to them for this. I had taken the precaution of bringing only a small piece of hand luggage, which was just as well since the taxi was crowded. The route goes up Twist Street into Clarendon Place, a short bit of Louis Botha, then Houghton Drive and onto the M1 (N) Motorway. We then come off again at Grayston Drive (where people start getting dropped off), along Grayston and into Rivonia Road and along it to Morningside where I got off a block from home. The route goes on to the rank on Witkoppen Rd at Sunninghill. The taxi left town at 16:20 and I got home just before 17:00, delighted with my little adventure. Despite the negative publicity they get, the aggressive drivers and the number of un-roadworthy vehicles, I found my minibus taxi ride to be clean, safe, quick, and pleasant.

Sunday, 06 April 2008

Shots on Saturday Morning

Yesterday morning as I was uncharacteristically lying in late, we heard about six gunshots, rather close at 6:45. We live in a part of Johannesburg --the "leafy suburbs" of Sandton-- where this is rare, unlike places like, say, Hillbrow or Yeoville. We were up in a flash! From the shared bathroom window I caught a glimpse of an Anchor Security vehicle coming out of the road closure opposite and turning into Kelvin Drive, apparently running into something. When I got to the kitchen to get a better view, it had disappeared. I called 10111 after Judith had found it engaged, and reported the shots. Then dressed and went opposite, where a knot of security staff had gathered. As I was listening to them, three of my Reservist colleagues who were on duty, pulled up just before 07:00, having hot-footed it across town from Randburg where they had been handling an incident that the regular Randburg Police were too lazy to do themselves. It transpired that two men had been followed home from O R Tambo International Airport and robbed at gunpoint in their driveway maybe 30 m inside the boomed-off area. The unarmed boom guard had been held up by the robbers and hidden away while pressing his panic button. As the robbers left, the response vehicle arrived, fired shots at the freeing robbers as they were shot at, and then crashed into the Armco barrier as they tried to pursue them. No-one was injured and all the bullets appeared to have missed. The South Africa Police Service (SAPS) a while ago denied that there is a syndicate that follows people home from the airport (probably after getting inside information from their customs declaration form).

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Starting Up

Today I did Peter Carruthers's "Finding Clients" Seminar and the first thing he recommends is to start a blog. I've long resisted it --no time!-- but at Peter's recommendation, finally taken the plunge! The purpose of this blog will be to document my journey to making money out of the Internet. If it helps someone else avoid pitfalls, that's great. It took me a bit longer than expected to get started because my browser, according to Blogger, anyway, is not set to accept cookies. That is even though they recommend a security level in IE7 of medium-high, and I have medium! Got around it by allowing cookies specifically from this site. I'm impressed with the spelling checker. Sorry: I was, until it accepted "em" as a word, and I found I had to go to Preview and back to reactivate it after I has used it once!