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Constantia River

A river runs through a garden in Constantia after heavy winter rains

The Cape Town winter brings with it the rains, turning gardens into river beds. This river runs through a garden in Constantia off Spaanschemacht Road. The trees, plucked off all leaves by the greedy fingers of winter, cut a forlorn figure against the dull sky.
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Spring is here

Lilly's in a field in Durbanville

After the winter rains the brown grass of summer turns green and lilies blossom wherever they are able to. And as spring approaches the whole of Cape Town is turned into one massive garden of green grass, lilies and fynbos.
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Just outside Robertson

Scene outside Robertson shot in panoramic mode using an iPhone 5

I went for an interview for a job in Robertson and so we took a drive out there to spy out the land. It is a very small town, the closest movie house is in Worcester. On the way home, Cindy and I took a little detour into the farmlands just outside of the town and drove past this scene.. Look closely and you can see a rainbow over the little koppie.


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Hout Bay Harbour

Panoramic photo taken with an iPhone5 of the Hout Bay Harbour

We took a friend of ours down to the Hout Bay Harbour for their famous fish and chips. The weather brooded over the water ominously and although it was freezing cold, it was a pleasant day to be out, especially with the thought that winter was on her way north and spring just around the corner.
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Durbanville farmland

Durbanville farmland using iPhone5 panoramic function

Cindy and I found this beautiful place just outside of Durbanville on our way back from church. It was great just to get out of the car and let ourselves be surrounded by the myriad sights, sounds, creatures and fragrances of nature.
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The Waterfront

The Waterfront in Cape Town shot with an iPhone 5 using its panoramic feature

Summer is on the way here in Cape Town and the Waterfront is set to getting busy. I can do without the busyness but the summer I am looking forward to.
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World's toughest MTB race!

An old lady making a traditional cloth called a Tais.

Landing at the airport, I would not have thought that the country was at peace. Helicopters, dark green and brown, lined the runway. Men dressed in camo's, rifles slung over their shoulders, marched here and there.


Sure, I had come to witness a battle, and I expected to see blood being spilled and bones broken, I just hadn't expected the machinations of death to be so prolific a figure. Besides, the fight I'd come to see was of a different kind; it was a struggle of man against man, man against nature and man against himself, fought on two wheels over five days and the roughest terrain nature could provide as a battle field.


Clearing customs I was bundled into a 4 by 4 and we sped off. I was grateful for the air conditioning, it must've been at least 35℃. The airport is on the outskirts of Dili, the capital of Timor Leste', but we were soon bumping and grinding over rough roads. Potholes everywhere threatened to swallow us and we had to be careful to avoid them.


The Tour de Timor, touted as the toughest mountain bike race in the world, had begun that morning and we were in a hurry to catch up. I soon realised why the tour has got the reputation it has; notwithstanding the potholes, we drove along roads no more than ledges, a single mistake and we would fall onto rocks jutting out of the ocean hundreds of meters below. Our 4 x 4 struggled over the dirt roads, sometimes strewn with rocks, at other times thick mud and yet at other times with thick banks of desert-like sand.


The Tour de Timor is in its second year and was the idea of the President of the country, José Ramos-Horta, and integrated into the governments plan to help reduce poverty throughout the nation by attracting adventurers and tourists. About the idea Ramos-Horta said, “Why did I come up with an idea to start a mountain bike race? Some people say, 'doesn't the president of a country have better things to do than think of bicycle race?' But my main purpose is to promote peace in our country and to do so you have to engage the people; you can't just talk about peace. You have to show people a horizon and give them hope and sport is just one way of doing that,” he explained.


Cyclist had to climb these mountains.
The road hugged the coast for a 100km, several times climbing a 100 or 200 meters and then dropping back down to sea level before the first stage came to an end with an agonizing 24km winding climb of almost 600 meters. Half way up the hill we began passing cyclists, many pushing their bikes; they had been cycling since 08h00 and it was after 16h00 already. Others were bundling their bikes onto the back of the sag wagon, the challenge too much.We reached the finish line just before sunset. The cyclists who had made it, either by own steam or courtesy of the race assisting vehicles, were scurrying around setting up tents before darkness hit. And with a presentation ceremony still to take place and a looming 05h30 wake up looming I could imagine how some of the competitors could be feeling defeated, and that just after day one.


                                                                                                          I caught my first glimpse of President José Ramos-Horta, who is also a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, at the ceremony that night. “We've just heard that the competitor who was airlifted off the mountain today after hitting a goat has a broken collarbone but otherwise is ok,” he began, “your safety is our primary concern and we're doing everything to make sure that all competitors are still living by the competitions end. I've told the villagers to keep their goats and cows off the road and I told them that I instructed the army to shoot them if they're found on the road,” he said with a wry smile.


Although the day belonged to multiple mountain bike orienteering world champion, Andrew Jackson(Australia), who claimed the yellow Leader and red-spotted King of the Mountain jerseys, the hero of the day was undoubtedly the diminutive 15 year old local boy, David da Costa, who received the special Presidents Jersey.
President Ramos-Horta commends 15 year old David.
His hand on the boys back, who had cycled the entire 124km course in old school shoes, the President said, “When I found out about David, I didn't know what to do. The legal age for entering this race is 18 and of course David lied about his age when entering. And when he was asked to show his ID he lied again, saying that he had left it at home. This course is treacherous and already people have broken bones and bicycles; what if something happens to David? But then I thought, this little boy has a dream and he has done everything to achieve it. And isn't that what this race is about? So I will let him go after his dream and everyday he finishes a leg, I will give him the hero's jersey and a prize,” he said, quickly adding, “I'm not going to get any sleep for the next few days, I'll be on my knees asking God to protect him.”


David proudly slipped the jersey over his head to warm applause from fellow competitors and spectators. “And now the police can come take him away for perjury,” the President quipped, adding, “he wont be allowed to compete next year, in fact not until he turns 18.”
Day one over, and being the longest stage of the tour and double some of the other legs, riders might have gone to bed thinking things would get better.


Timor Leste' became the newest country of the millennium on the 20th of May in 2002 after having endured 26 years of violent Indonesian military rule, which left the country in a mess. On August 30, 1999, 78.5% of the population voted to secede from Indonesia. Pro-Indonesian militias and Indonesian soldiers retaliated by razing towns, slaughtering thousands of civilians, and forcing a third of the population out of the province. Indonesia finally bowed to huge international pressure and agreed to allow UN forces into East Timor on the 12th of September in an attempt to restore peace to the land.



Peace was long in coming though, the various political parties becoming embroiled in bloody fights, the President coming close to death when shot in the back and stomach in a gun battle outside his home in the February of 2008. But even with the long and painful past fresh in the memories of the people of Timor Leste, they somehow still manage to retain a sort of dignity, openness and friendliness.

We left early to get ahead of the cyclists, knowing that if they caught us we would be stuck on the side of the road until they all passed and then having to crawl behind the entourage. As early as it was though, the roads were lined with spectators already, flags in hand and eyes glued to the road. Young boys and girls, their parents and their grandparents were all there, waiting. “Bon dia,” they would all shout, raising their hands or waving their flags, as we passed by. They were in for a long two hour wait before the first cyclist would pass them.


Immediately we had to negotiate a steep descent, the road alternating between tar, rough dirt, landslides and massive potholes, followed by a flattish stretch of 10km's before a dangerous switchback climb of 500 meters into the Bobonaro Mountains, the track narrow broken tar.


Sections of the road were covered with thick mud, so thick that our 4 x 4 struggled to get through. At some places the mud patches were so big, they resembled a little dam. We did eventually get stuck. Our driver was spinning the wheels to try get us out and a UN vehicle tried to squeeze past us. Our vehicle kicked loose and immediately swerved out and smashed into the passing vehicle. Thankfully no-one was injured and we were able to carry on.


Then began a serious climb along narrow ridge-lines, cyclists reaching dizzying heights of 1500m. A little mistake and that would be it. The vehicle in-front of us skidded racing up a very steep section of road and almost went over the cliff. Needless to say, we held our breath as we crawled up the hill.


Reaching the crest of the mountain we could see the ocean, a blue mascara line on the horizon, where the days finish lay. From that point on the race metamorphosed from dangerous to crazy. Cyclists whizzed down the mountain side, having to negotiate mud-baths, rock slides and potholes and having to break sharply for unexpected switchbacks springing up on them.


There were many casualties, right till the end. A 100 meters from the finish line, Steele von Hoff hit a pothole and came off his bike. Hobbling, he managed to get back on his saddle and still finish second, just seconds in-front of Andrew Jackson, who had won the 1st stage.


“It was pretty much hard from the gun,” said Dan McConnell, winner of the stage, “it was only 30 km's or so until you hit the first climb and it was a pretty fast pace up that hill. It was really hot. There were exposed hills, not much shade and no wind.

“I was cramping up but managed to hang in there,” he added, after loosing out on winning the first stage when cramps forced him off the bike just minutes from the line and he had to watch as three other riders pass him before he managed to get back into the saddle.


Dehydration from cycling in the direct heat of the sun and rough conditions continued to challenge contestants, sixty two riders were collected by the sag wagon the day before and 70 bikes needed repair work – mainly brakes, gears and spokes. And although there were many casualties, race organizers were thankful that none were fatal.


Rowena Fry continued to dominate the women's competition, coming in 10th overall after finishing 12th on the first day. The 15 year old David da Costa, cycling in school shoes, completed the tough and dangerous leg, capturing the nations attention and heart. Moved by the young mans determination, the President bought him a pair of cycling shoes.


In spite of two punctures, Andrew Jackson managed to begin day three as the overall leader of the tour. The leg from Suai to Ainaro is considerably shorter than the first two legs at just 67km long. But with a total 896 meter climb, 700 meters of that over the last 15km of twists and turns, over very rough dirt and tar potholed roads, the competitors knew it would not be easy.


However, in contrast to the first two days, the track wound through forested areas and provided a much-needed break from the sun and change in the scenery. The pace was murderous though, with Adrian Jackson's team mate, Ben Mather, leading the pack.

“Ben sat on the front for 60 kilometres through all the rough roads and then the smooth roads, he was just driving it and driving it trying to stay in front of Dan McConnell,” said Jackson. “He took me to the bottom of the climb where I was feeling fresh.”

In the end though, it all came down to one second, with Steele von Hoff snatching victory from Jackson in a time of 2:23.21. A victory von Hoff cherished after cramping minutes from victory on day one and then wiping out a 100 meters from the finish line on day two.

Coming in third was Malaysian Shahrin Amir, who, although he rides alone, was giving a good account of himself, achieving 3 top ten finishes. And continuing his meteoric rise to fame was David da Costa, the 15 year old schoolboy, while Rowena Fry continued to dominate the woman’s category with an impressive 13th place finish overall.

Leaving Ainaro we almost immediately began to climb. The roads were winding, narrow and full of nasty potholes and 300 meter long patches of gravel that suddenly appeared. To make things worse, the heavens opened up, washing away sections of road and causing rockslides that ended up blocking the roads. At one stage the climb was just about vertical and I shuddered thinking about what would happen should our brakes fail. We eventually reached the peak, which towered 1870 meters above sea level. The view was magnificent; tall trees as far as the eye could see hugging mountains and deep gorges with waterfalls streaming down the mountainside like water over a windshield.

Beauty aside, the downhill was even more scary. “Speed kills!” Those were the words running through my mind as we descended the mountain. “Slow down!” I commanded the driver several times, adding my two cents worth to the already demonstrating Julian Swinstead, who was also part of the media team.

We finally reached our destination where we overnighted. We stayed in a B+B perched on the top of a hill that towered above the village and valley below. A mountain encircled our castle and valley, creating a natural barrier and spectacular scene from the establishments dining room. A glass of red wine went a long way in adding to the atmosphere.

We woke early the next morning to make sure we got to Aileu ahead of the riders. We continued our treacherous descent, the heavens still pouring down and our driver still not having learnt from his mistakes the day before. Though the roads were rough, the scenery was beautiful. We passed an elderly lady fertilizing her crops by hand from a bucket, fine mist and drizzle wrapped around her like a ghosts dress.

Having reached Aileu early, we had time to go exploring while the media center was set up and before the riders started coming in. The village was quaint and as in all the other villages that we had been to, the people, young and old, were extremely friendly. We couldn't go anywhere without “Bon dia” being sung to us, and for the adventurous youth wanting to practise their English, a nervous “Good morning” followed by a nervous laugh.

Passing by one house, made of the typical wood and zink plates, plumes of smoke pouring out the back caught my attention. Curious I drew closer, venturing to the front door which stood slightly ajar. I saw big pots cooking over a wood fire on the dirt in what must have been the living room and kitchen. I knocked and then waited.
A young man approached me and said, “What do you want?”
“Can I take some photos?” I replied, holding up my camera, adding a congenial, “please?”
He looked me up and down, looked at the camera and then smiled, opened the door and showed me in. My wife followed. An old woman, Maria de Jesus, was busy chopping wood with a machete for the fire, while her daughter, Tereza Fatima, haunched close by, keeping a watch on the corn cooking in the pots. Her kids and the neighbours kids milled about.

Through the young man, Paulino Fernandes(28), we got chatting, albeit in very broken English. He was unemployed and had been for years. “There is simply no work here,” he said, throwing his hands up in the air, “so I do what I can – whenever there is work I just take it. Like chopping and selling wood.”

Leaving there we walked back up to the main road and made our way to one of the only restaurants in town. We ordered a local coffee and a beef and vegetable stir-fry dish each. But when it came we realized our mistake, It was huge and we could hardly finish one between the two of us, let alone two. So we decided to pack the one in a take away box and go give it to the family we had just met.

I walked back to the tin shack and knocked on the door. Maria appeared and I simply gave the box to her. “For you,” I said and turned and left. Seconds later she erupted into shouts of joy. I turned and saw Tereza running into the hut. Immediately she joined Maria. It sounded as if though they had won the national lottery. The thought that a little beef stir-fry could have that effect on people really gripped our hearts.

We quickly disappeared down the road and made our way to the village market. Some people spread a blanket on the dirt and laid out their wares on that, others simply spread out their goods on the dirt and the more privileged had a little section under a big zinc roof or in a little store running along the sides of the open-sided shed. All kinds of interesting things were sold, from fresh produce, which we were later told most locals could not afford, to local coffee, colourful Tai's, the ubiquitous betel-nut and more.

The first rider to cross the wet finish line in 2:39.57 was Neil Van der Ploeg, who had won the inaugural 2009 Tour de Timor. His teammate, Steele von Hoff, followed a second later while the holder of the Yellow Jersey, Adrian Jackson crashed and lost a crucial 31 seconds to come in third. And except for suffering extensive gravel rash, cuts and bruising the fall meant that the race was now up for grabs, with either von Hoff or Jackson the likely winner of the Tour.

For the fourth day in succession, Rowena Fry led the woman home, all but closing the door on any would be contender to the throne. And to the Presidents great relief, David da Costa once again made it home. By now he had become the darling of the media and the hero of the people. One knew he was coming in long before he could be seen because of the shouts that went up as people recognised him and as soon as he crossed the line fans and media rushed at him.

Later on I had occasion to meet the rising star. Physically he was every bit a school boy, but one could see how he was becoming accustomed to all the fuss. “I love being part of this race,” da Costa enthused, and then continued, “I love cycling and jumping over obstacles and the President shaking my hand on the first day was a great surprise for me.”


Speaking of the race, da Costa, who wants to become a professional cycler, said that the leg from Balibo to Suai on day two was the worst stage, “It was a long ride, up and down through mud and potholes, and it was very hot, no shade. But I'm glad I've made it this far, my parents call everyday to find out if I'm ok,” he said.


The final leg of the race from Aileu back to Dili, the capital city, is the shortest of the tour at just 57km but even though its the last leg of the race, competitors will not have it easy, having to climb 364 meters up to 1300 meters above sea level over several steep climbs before a final break-neck descent over dirt and tar roads takes them to the final 15km of flat road running along the beautiful but sun exposed north coast and then to the finish in-front of the Presidential Palace.



We went ahead of the cyclists and spent the night in Dili to make sure that we were there to welcome them home. The speeds that they would be traveling down hill would make it impossible for us to stay in-front of them. Knowing that the first cyclists would arrive at around 10h30, we set up camp at the finish line. It seemed that the whole city was there to welcome the contestants home. Literally thousands of people, as far as the eye could see lined the road, waving flags and shouting encouragement, long before any cyclist had even entered the town.


When Steele von Hoff appeared, tearing down the dirt road, the crowd went berserk. “How much have we got?” he yelled, falling off his bike as he crossed the line. Unfortunately for him it wasn't enough time because Adrian Jackson crossed the line a minute and 12 seconds later in 3rd place, thereby clinching the overall title by just 29 seconds. Von Hoff, who had to be content with 2nd place overall after the race said, “I’m absolutely spent. Absolutely done,we attacked a lot and cleared the blocking game. Me and Dan (McConnell) put a big gap in before the last climb but they caught us on the descent.”


Finishing the stage in 7th place, Malaysian Shahrin Amir, 26, clinched 3rd place overall. Rowena Fry, who had dominated the womans competition from day 1, took the woman’s title in convincing style, 7 hours and 2 minutes in-front of closest contender Jenni King followed 2 hours and 6 minutes later by the young Malaysian rider, Masziyaton Mohd Radzi.


The crowd erupted when the first Timor-Leste – Jacinto Da Costa – crossed the line in 2:05.53, 14th for the stage, to win $US2000 as the first local to finish. His brother Orlando came in 18th. But more than anyone, young gun David da Costa came home to a dilly celebration.





Leaving the country, thinking about the people I met, the way that they were always armed with a smile and a Bon Tarde, I cant imagine that they were ever at war, let alone just three(?) years ago.
























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Leonie E Brown Reinvented


Shortly after winning the prestigious Absa Atelier Award, Leonie E Brown disappeared from the art world. Now, after many years, she returns with a trademark touch of magic.


Leonie E Brown Re-invented

I won the National Volkskas Atelier Award for fine art in 1983. The university I was studying at didn't want to write me in. John Botha, my art history lecturer and Natascha Pretorius, a friend of mine, believed in me when no-one else did. They submitted two of my pieces, both were accepted and the one piece won.”

But the rosy glow of the young artist's unexpected victory did not last.
The year after I won the Atelier Award was terrible. I was filled with pain, loneliness and sadness. In some ways, artists are prophetic people. We reflect our personal or socio-economic present or future situations through our work. My work then was very harsh, angular and angry. I used a lot of cold colours and hard surfaces. Most of my work was done on hardboard.”

I employed texture to shock and repel, a palette knife to scratch and unsettle the viewer. I re-created my misery in my work. It's painful looking at yourself in a mirror during cold seasons. So I quit.”

Her sojourn away from canvasses lasted 14 years, taking her to many places she might never have been had she continued as a solo artist. Teaching high school students art in Lichtenburg, working as a graphic designer in Cape Town, living in Czechoslovakia, designing labels for wine bottles are some of the things Brown did.

Life was tough but I was learning what varsity couldn't teach me- who I am. All those different things I did taught me some invaluable lesson. Working as a graphic designer, for example, taught me how to work with finer details.”

In 2000, the year before Brown got married, she found herself standing in front of a canvass once again. And when the canvass had been worked, she stood back, startled by her creation.

It was as if though I'd been re-invented. I realised that somewhere along the line, I had found an inner peace. I wanted to share that with the world but in a way that allowed the viewer to see his own soul, not mine, through my work. At first I was cautious, just brushing up on old skills. As my confidence rose, I began experimenting. I believe good art is produced by artists who continually develop their technique, style and change their subject choice.” Brown says.


I've always been a traditionalist. I wont cut holes into a canvass, splash blood onto it and then stretch a dog skin over that. I enjoy working on a canvass using oil paints to create the picture I have in mind and experimenting with different styles, techniques and tools.”

Many South African artists around today became well known because of experiments that turned out well. For instance, Derric Van Rensburg. He uses pieces of cardboard to create beautiful landscapes. Or how about Paul Du Toit? He uses his left hand, his non-dominant hand, to great effect in creating his child-like impressions.

Now Brown has joined that impressive list with a quirk of her own. In one of her latest landscapes, aptly titled “Coming home,” a rustic farm house stands in a field of golden grass. A mud red road runs parallel to it and off into the distance where a powerful mountain range guards the horizon. A pale blue sky holds soft white clouds in its expanse. Layers and layers of colour shine through each other to create an out of focus effect very similar to pointillism. But unlike pointillism, Brown has managed to create a soft lace like finish with very few hard edges.

When I started painting, I used brushes. My paintings had a flat finish. So I began experimenting with impasto. I fell in love with the textures created by applying oodles of paint. People wanted to touch my work because of it, so I started using a palette knife in conjunction with the brushes and an impasto technique to enhance the effect. Later on I only used palette knives.”

One day I got frustrated with the effects I was achieving. I grabbed the closest thing to me, let's call it my little secret. I tried that on the canvass and immediately saw the potential. Now I feel comfortable and confident working with my new found tool. I only use a palette knife to create hard edges.”

Her work encompasses a wide range of subject matter and styles. From figures to landscapes and abstract to realism.

Brown has always used wet on wet, scraffito and vibrant colours to create the effects that she wanted. She still employs these techniques but in conjunction with her new technique she obtains a much more fluid and expressionistic feel than before.

Her works can be seen in top galleries around South Africa and Germany, where she is quickly building up a big following, or on her website at www.lifeart.co.za
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Know your honey, Honey















Their sting can kill or their spit heal; but while
it’s uncommon for bees to destroy life, their possible extinction poses a far more potent poison to mankind. And speaking of toxins, would it surprise you to know that many honey products could be just that?

I drove up into the mountains of Malaysia with Bruce Cheong, owner of the only Malaysian mobile bee farm, to see the bee rescue work he is involved in. Standing on bare earth, my feet caked in red dust, their plight hit home. Bees buzzed all around us, the tree housing their hive had been felled and all that remained was a two-by-one metre section of trunk.
“This colony will almost certainly die if we don’t rescue them,” Cheong said. “Loggers generally just burn them, their habitat has been destroyed and in this heat...” he trailed off. I imagined the stench of delicate wings and hairy bodies burning.
Above us, the big sky exploded in chunks of blue and bits of white. Kenny, Bruce’s business partner, gingerly approached the fallen hive and quickly stuck a wad of stiff paper into its opening. Hisyam Bini- miskam, the Indonesian logger who had informed Kenny about the colony, helped carry it over to the waiting 4x4.
“You know,” Bruce continued, returning to the dirty vehicle, “bees are responsible for pollinating more than 70 percent of the world's vegetable and fruit crops, which means that without them, the world would be in the clutches of starvation.”
Flowers secrete a sugary-sweet substance called nectar to attract insects. As bees fly from flower to flower collecting it, which they later make honey from, pollen stick to their hairy legs. Normally yellow, this fine powdery substance discharged from the male
part of the flower is carried to the next flower, where some rub off. If it comes into contact with the female ovule, the flower is fertilised enabling the plant or
tree to bear fruit.



But the value of bees doesn’t end with pollination. The honey, bee pollen and royal jelly they produce are packed with vitamins, minerals, enzymes and more, and have been used for millennia by Egyptians, Greeks, Chinese and now, the modern world as a food source, for medicinal purposes and in cosmetics.
“They plan to flatten another 1,300 hectares of for- est to plant palm oil trees,” Bruce exclaimed, point-
ing to the devastation, “but it’s not just deforestation threatening bees. They’re hyper-sensitive creatures and the use of pesticides on crops and in gardens the world over are killing colonies at a time.”

When logging,” Kenny said, “I saved many colo- nies; but when I became a full-time beekeeper, I knew I had to do something to save the forest bees, so I
offered the loggers a reward to call me instead of burning them.
We picked up another four hives and then drove 40 kilometres back into Kenny’s village, past paddy fields and into a starfruit farm.
The paddy fields were once a beautiful forest too,” Bruce said, but with the farmers came pesticides; two reasons we decided to start a mobile bee farm.
Following the flowering seasons of natural forests helps ensure the bees’ survival.”
Stopping next to a flower-adorned tree, Kenny off-loaded a hive, propping it up, the hive’s entrance on top.
He pulled the paper wad out and quickly got out of the way. Frenetic bees rushed into their new world.
Rescued colonies are brought here and once set- tled in their new environment, we build a box with a hole in the bottom, an entrance hole and a lid that can be lifted up,” said Bruce, “and then we place the hole over the entrance of the existing hive and nail it down. The bees are thus fooled into believing that the box is their home and so build a new hive there.”
“It took Kenny years to perfect his design. This way, we don’t have to saw the hive in half to harvest the honey like most people do,” Bruce said. Kenny lifted the lid and motioned for us to dip our finger into the honey. Comforted by the information that the bees were stingless, I duly complied.
Coursing over tongue, the honey was slightly bitter, slightly sweet and had a fragrance, which was
simply extraordinary. Totally unlike the honey I was used to; which begged the question – why?
Back in Johor Bahru, I checked health stores and supermarkets to find out what was on offer. I was overwhelmed by the variety, which included “Pure raw honey,” “Pure honey,” “Honey,” “Creamed honey,” “Im- ported honey,” and more. Suspiciously though, what were labelled as identical products differed vastly in taste, colour and consistency from brand to brand.
I consulted Sheila Wong (not her real name),
a honey producer who agreed to let me in on the
dark side of the honey market. “Greed drives this in- dustry and people will stop at nothing to make a buck,” said Wong.

“To increase yields,” Wong said, “honey is har- vested weeks prematurely and then heated to extract the excess moisture and prevent it from fermenting. Exported honey is heated to preserve it and some businessmen feed their bees syrup instead of nectar,” she said,
adding that these processes destroy honey’s healthy enzymes and vitamins, altering taste, aroma, colour and consistency.

More shocking was her assertion that people cook up honey according to recipes using only pots of sugar, colourants, flavourants and preservatives and bottle and label it as “Pure Raw Honey.”
“People get away with it,” she explained, “because the only industry standard is that the honey must be “safe” for consumption.”
How does one know what you are buying then,I asked.
You don’t really, but there are a few tests you can do,” she said. “When you rub real honey into your skin, because of the fructose, it becomes soft and is easily absorbed. Doctored honey, however, is made of sucrose and is therefore thicker, and the more it’s rubbed, the stickier and coarser it becomes.”
According to Wong, processed honey will dry throats, make one thirsty and has a strong aroma, but a flat taste. The opposite is true of pure raw honey. Its enzymes slake thirst, soothe sore throats and does not have much of an aroma, but has an incredible flavour that corresponds to the flower the bees fed on.
If the government is lobbied to regulate the industry and consumers insist on the real deal, refusing to pay for products incorrectly labelled, change as a course must follow.




Top ten benefits of real raw honey.

1. Powerful immunity system builder

Honey’s anti-oxidant and anti-bacterial properties help improve digestion, thus keeping one healthy and aiding in the fight against disease.
For this benefit: Mix 1 tablespoon of raw honey with the juice of half a lemon in a cup of warm water. Drink daily before breakfast.

2.  As an energy source
the glucose in honey is quickly absorbed for an immediate energy boost; the fructose is absorbed at a slower rate to provide a sustained energy source, which makes it ideal for enhancing athletic performance.
3. In the fight against weight gain
Consumed with warm water, it helps digest fat stored in the body. Regular consumption of a honey and cinnamon, or honey and lemon drink, can result in weight and body fat loss.
4. Source of vitamins, minerals and enzymes
taken in its raw natural state, honey is an excellent source of nutrition.
5. Provides relief for sore throats
its anti-microbial properties not only soothe sore throats but also kill certain infection-causing bacteria. Gargle with a mixture of two tablespoons of honey, four tablespoons of lemon juice and a pinch of salt.
6. Sleeplessness
A teaspoon of honey in a glass of warm milk before sleeping is calming and induces sleep.
7. For hangovers
Honey is gentle on the stomach and contains fructose, which is known to speed up the oxidation of alcohol by the liver, acting as a sobering agent. try this: 50 ml of liquid honey, 80 ml of fresh orange juice and 70 ml of natural yoghurt blended together.
8. Hair care
Apply raw honey with a bit of olive oil to dry or damp hair half an hour before washing.
9. Wound management
Honey is hygroscopic. its anti-bacterial properties prevent infection and function as anti-inflammatory agents, reducing swelling, pain and even scarring. 


10. Replacement for sweeteners
the amount of harmful ingredients in sweeteners makes pure raw honey a natural alternative. 

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Backyarder's a huge problem in Westlake


Backyarder's a huge problem in Westlake
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“There must be around 1300 people living in the backyards of homes in Westlake, which is a huge problem,” said James Mcgregor, a trustee and member of the management committee of the Westlake United Church Trust(WUCT).

According to Mr Mcgregor, the infrastructure of the residential development, which was a joint venture between John Rabie Property Developers and the government, caters for 2000 residents only and so the 1300 extra residents is quickly approaching double that  figure.

Mr Mcgregor said that things are reaching a tipping point with regard to basic services, pointing out that all these people need water, electricity, ablution facilities, health facilities and waste removal. Removal of waste is a big problem with rubbish being dumped on the streets and in the water systems, causing pollution, health problems and an eye sore; not to mention a big stink. 

“In the beginning of this project I said that a policy about backyarders needed to be developed and implemented right from the word go,” Mr Mcgregor said, “but as yet there is no policy governing this practice of renting pieces of ones yard to tenants.”

Mr Mcgregor also pointed out that the problem of overcrowding was in part to be blamed on the poor implementation of the housing policy governing the allocation of the RDP houses. “Houses were given to people who could not afford to pay for them, either because they did not have jobs or were unable to work.  So they could not pay for the basic services of water, electricity and waste removal,” Mr Mcgregor said, adding that many of those people sold their homes, spent the money and are now one of the backyarders, are back living in the bush or are renting out shacks on their property to make a living from.

According to a statement by the Executive Mayor of Cape Town, Alderman Patricia De Lille, the City of Cape Town is well aware of the problem and is doing their best to address the situation, including the rollout of a pilot project to provide backyard households in Council-owned properties with basic services like electricity, water and refuse collection.

The pilot project is not meant as a long term solution but just as a temporary measure while the City tries to meet the high demand of people waiting to get a house in line with the City’s Housing Database and Housing Allocation Policy.

“We have fitted 189 prepaid electricity meters enabling these households in Factreton to access and manage their consumption of electricity and water. In addition, we have built 83 enclosed precast toilets connected to the main sewer system next to their structures, including a standpipe for fresh water supply, and supplied a further 135 refuse bins,” Ms De Lille said, adding that they are hoping to emulate the project in other parts of the city, so that more people would be able to have access to the City’s indigent grant of 200 litres of free water a day and the 50 kilowatt hours of free electricity per month.

However, while the City tries to fulfill their promises of building a more “Caring City,” residents of the Westlake community are up in arms about what they are saying is corruption. 

“When we, the people of the bush, were first told about the RDP housing project here in Westlake, we were told that 750 houses would be built for us to stay in,” said Patrick Heyns, who is a member on the board of the Westlake Residents Association. “But when we counted, only 500 houses were built. Where are the other 250 houses and what happened to the land that was allocated for those houses to be built on?” he asked

According to Mr Heyns, many of those people staying in the backyards of residents of Westlake were meant to get houses but never did and the issue with the large number of backyarders was just the end result.

In response to Mr Heyns’ claims, Councilor Tandeka Gqada, Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlement, said that according to the Land Availability Agreement that was signed for the Westlake development, the developer, John Rabie, had to provide housing for all the registered households who had previously lived in the informal settlement as well as those residents, who had leases with the Department of Public Works, staying in the brick houses. 

“The then South Peninsula Municipality(SPM) undertook a survey of the main families staying in the area and drew up a list of those people eligible for the housing grant and then those candidates who qualified were given a house,” Ms Gqada said, adding that approved specifications for the houses included semi-detached and free standing houses.

John Rabie Property Developers, who were not available for comment, also sold a parcel of the land to Constantia Uitsig and Klein Constantia wine farms. Klein Constantia built houses on these plots for their workers but Constantia Uitsig recently sold their parcel of land to a private developer, Nieuwe Steenberg Co, who have built six inclusionary homes on the plot.

Although Nieuwe Steenberg Co have said that these houses would increase the value of the properties in the area, Mr Mcgregor said that it might have been better to built 20 RDP houses as opposed to the six middle-class homes. Notwithstanding that assertion, Mr Mcgregor said, “The overcrowding and social ills like crime and drug addiction associated with overcrowding will only get worse unless a policy is drawn up to govern this trend of backyarders.” 

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Upset over pirate taxis


Upset over pirate taxis
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“Why should someone have to die before the authorities listen to our pleas for help?” asked Sulaiman Brenner, the manager and secretary of the Retreat Taxi Association.
Mr Brenner was speaking after the recent spate of incidents involving taxi drivers operating from the Retreat station and “pirate” drivers who were allegedly “stealing their passengers”. Two people have died in the fighting already and the death toll is set to rise as taxi drivers threaten to take matters into their own hands.
According to Mr Brenner, he has brought the issue of these “pirate” taxis, who operate without the correct permits, to the attention of various authorities. He says his requests have fallen on deaf ears. “They tell us that they have no manpower. The only time that we see them is when one of our drivers get shot or there is a break-out of violence,” Mr Brenner said.
Warrent Officer Rodney Franks, spokesperson for Kirstenhof police station, said they are aware of the ongoing taxi feud.
“We have raised this issue of illegal operators with numerous authorities relating to the Taxi Industry Regulatory Bodies,” he said , adding that much work needed to be done by the relevant traffic and transport authorities to effectively deal with illegal operators.
“The issue of public safety remains permanent and of the highest priority to us,” WO Franks said, “and we here at the Kirstenhof Police Station are monitoring the situation and will not hesitate to deal with any eventuality as it occurs. We reiterate though, the relevant authorities need to deal with this matter as efficiently and swiftly as possible.”
Vernon Billet, the regional executive chairperson of the South African National Taxi Association( SANTACO), said that he knew nothing of the feud, but would have to investigate the allegations.
When Constantiaberg Bulletin went to investigate, we were met by taxi drivers who refused to comment out of a fear for reprisals. The few who were willing to speak did so on the condition of anonymity. 
“I need to pay my boss R700 every day and if I don't make my target I have to pay him back,” said one taxi driver. “This is becoming all the more difficult to do as more and more ‘pirate’ taxis steal my clients from me. What will happen to my family if I loose my job?”
 “We are mostly law-abiding citizens, we have professional driving permits(PDP) and we have permits to operate in the area and they don't. The authorities know about this but they are not doing anything about it and when we barricade the roads to prevent them from operating in our area we get locked up.”
According to him, the pirate drivers operated along two main routes; the Capricorn to Fish Hoek route and the Westlake to Retreat station. “They are picking passengers up in Westlake and going straight to Wynberg and charging R7 for that! Of course passengers are going to go for that but they are meant to go from Westlake to Retreat Station and then from Retreat Station to Wynberg,” he said, adding that the same thing is being done along the Capricorn route where passengers are taken directly to Wynberg. 
He said the taxi drivers were becoming all the more agitated with the situation and that it was just a matter of time before something unfortunate happened. 
“Together with law enforcement, the Department takes a very strong stance against operators who have no permits to operate on particular routes, and those that unlawfully extend their operations to other routes,” said Robin Carlisle, MEC for Transport and Public Works, adding that the law enforcement has in the past issued fines and impounded vehicles operating in this way.
Another driver said he used to be able to make his target of R700 or R900 a day by nine or 10 in the morning but that now he would sometimes only make his target after 2pm, which did not leave him much time to earn a living for himself and his family.
“I am losing hundreds of rands a day, I wish the law would do something about this,” he said. “And it is no use just patrolling the area, when they see the cops come they just drive away. If they happen to get caught they just get a fine which they get their friends to squash. They need to have their cars impounded, that is the only deterrent,” he said.
blob Illegal operators can be reported to the Public Transport Unit - the place, time, registration number - to 0860 103 089, or to the Department of Transport on 0860 212 414 or Law Enforcement on 021 596 1999

Words and images by Clinton Wittstock
Freelance writer and photographer
Article appeared in the Constantiaberg Bulletin

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Fond farewell to "Father John"


Fond farewell to "Father John"
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Words of condolences are pouring in from all over Cape Town and oversees for well known and much loved Father John Oliver, the “Guitar playing minister.” Father John, who famously ran around with a placard reading, “Hoot if you love the Princess,” sadly passed away in his sleep in the early hours of Thursday July 4.

“He loved his two children, Sarah and Joseph,” said Emma Oliver, his wife for 32 years, “and he was very supportive of me and everyone else whom he met. He was the kind of person who would see the possibility in you and who you would become. He had the ability to take anything, no matter how glossy it was, and make it better.”

Ms Oliver said that Father John’s hobby was the Van Blommenstein Park in Zeekoevlei. “He took that piece of derelict land and rehabilitated it to the point that it is now a wonderful park, complete with tennis courts and a picnic area.”

Father John lived with his family at Zeekoevlei for many years and was a founding member of the Princess Vlei Forum(PVF), a non-profit organization set up to look after the bio-diversity of the wetlands in the area. “This land is on loan to us from God, and we must hold it in safekeeping for our children and our children’s children,” he used to say.
According to Mea Lashbrooke, of the PVF, Father John played a crucial role on the PVF Executive Committee. She said that he knew and loved the neighborhoods so much and that his understanding of the wetlands as an essential eco-service was at the heart of his decision making regards the Vlei’s future, especially in light of tabled plans to build a controversial mall on its banks.
“I witnessed how his determination in all matters pertaining to social and environmental justice was characterized by flexibility,” Ms Lashbrooke said. “He taught me that issues could be overcome if the door was left open for negotiation. He knew that not one single person had the answer, but that together a solution could arise. He gave me strength to voice my opinions.”

According to Ms Oliver, Father John, who retired three years ago, was working on the service that was going to be held in the Cape Town City Hall for Mandela. He was the co-ordinator for the religious leaders and after completing his work on the project, on the night he past away, he told Ms Oliver that he was hoping it would be amazing.

Father John had Fathered St Mark’s Church in District Six for 18 years until his retirement and his passing away was a shock for Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town and Metropolitan of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.
Speaking from oversees, the Archbishop said that it was hard to take Father John’s passing away in; but that he was comforted by the certainty that Father John now knew the fullness of joy of resurrection life. 

The Archbishop said that his thoughts went out to Father John’s wife, Emma, and their two children, Sarah and Jospeh. He prayed that God would surround them with His tender love, comfort and strength and that they would know that it was OK to weep on God’s lap and to share their grief with Him. 

“His is surely the welcome of a good and faithful servant,” the Archbishop said. “He has devoted so many years, and given so much energy and dedication, to his unstinting love for God, for God’s people, especially the poor and needy, and for God’s creation. I thank God for all he has been for us in Cape Town and beyond – for his long service at St Mark’s in District Six, for his unflagging socio-political commitment, for his music ministry, for his ever-ready camera!”
The Archbishop said that Father John was instrumental in bringing together and encouraging people of different faiths to persevere in their commitment to uphold all that is  good, true, just and holy and to oppose all that would diminish the flourishing of all God’s children. “I have lost a brother in Christ, a respected Colleague and fellow-labourer in the vineyard of the Lord, as well as in the muddy Vlei’s of Cape Town.
Father John’s influence extended beyond the confines of his religious duties and passion for the environment, as Esme′ Kennel, the Chairperson of the Board at Fisher Centre for Mentally Ill and Intellectually Challenged Persons in Grassy park well knew.
“He walked into the Centre one day in February 2012,” said Ms Kennel, “and said that he walked by everyday and wanted to know what we do. That same day he joined us, becoming an active Board member.”

Ms Kennel said that Father John, quickly gained a reputation for being wise, articulate, supportive and quick to offer advice where needed or to recommend someone else who might be of better assistance. He helped the Centre get legal support and organized a person to assist them with the implementation and running of the garden project at the centre.

“From the start he supported our first "high Tea" by paying for a table of guests from his church even though he himself could not attend,” said Ms Kennel, adding that they were hoping that he would play his guitar at their musical/cultural event to be held later on this year. “His passing has left a huge gap in our midst and we are going to miss him. We pray that his soul may rest in peace and we want to extend our deepest condolences to Ms Oliver and Family. “

“I am deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Father John Olivier,” said Alderman Patricia De Lille, the Executive Mayor of Cape Town. “On behalf of the City of Cape Town, I would like to extend my condolences to his family and friends, and wish them strength during this difficult time.”

Alderman De Lille said that she would always remember Father John as being one of the most distinguished religious leaders in the City of Cape Town, especially for his ability to use the gospel to mediate wherever divisions existed in different communities.

According to Alderman De Lille, he played an instrumental role uniting religious leaders in the City and Province through the formation of the Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum,
of which he was the Acting Chair. “His pursuit for reconciliation, unity and social justice will be sorely missed,” she said.

Neil Major, who has a fynbos nursery in Zeekoevlei, said Father John was passionate about nature and particularly fynbos. “His death is a sad loss because he was a person who wanted to preserve nature. He wanted the wetlands to be rehabilitated and he had a particular interest in the Cape Flats fynbos.”

The funeral service will be held at St Mark’s, District 6, on Thursday July 11 at 10am. The family requests that, instead of flowers, indigenous plants be donated to continue Father John’s work at Van Blommenstein Park. For donations of plants, contact Neil Major at 076 473 7095. A memorial service will also be held on 20 July at St George’s Cathedral at 10am. 

A special meeting in honour of Reverend John Oliver will be held on Sunday 14 July and is open to religious leaders of all faiths who value and wish to protect the Princess Vlei. The meeting begins at 1pm and will be hosted by the PVF at The Jolly Carp, 38 Sasmeer Road, Sasmeer Estate in Retreat. Interested parties are asked to RSVP Petrina Roberts for catering purposes. Email Ms Roberts at menngos@mweb.co.za or sms her on 074 302 3254.


Words and images by Clinton Wittstock
Freelance writer and photographer
Article appeared in the Constantiaberg Bulletin

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