Archive | December 2014

London band Soul II Soul at home in Africa

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

British singer Caron Wheeler, who sang backing vocals on hit single Free Nelson Mandela, was astounded that Cape Town “has so many mountains”.

“I thought it would be flat, like other African countries I’ve been too,” she said this weekend.

She was in town as part of the London band Soul II Soul, performing at yesterday’s Delicious Festival.

The group’s founder, Trevor Beresford Romeo also known as Jazzie B, chatted also about his experiences of Africa.

Caron Wheeler (right) and Jazzie B from the band Soul II Soul were in Cape Town this weekend. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Caron Wheeler (right) and Jazzie B from the band Soul II Soul were in Cape Town this weekend. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

The two have travelled to various countries on the continent, but this was their first time to Cape Town.

Wheeler added about South Africa: “I’m loving that the country has opened up and we can do our show and see the smiles on people’s faces. I’m grateful for it.”

“I thought there would be less mountainous regions. I have been to African countries. I’ve not seen so many mountain ranges,” she added.

“I’ve been to Nigeria, Ghana and Togo. I want to go to Ethiopia badly. I love Ethiopian food and I love to cook. I want to go there for two months and learn to cook. My daughter wants to learn too.”

Romeo said: “I love the landscape in South Africa. It’s not what I thought it would be.”

“Coming to South Africa is a special thing because of what happened and the changes. It’s interesting just watching the changes.

“I like to see places like this because for me it’s an inspiration of the possibilities. It’s been really interesting being able to travel and smell the air and share conversations.”

He said he “had a great conversation with the customs office, coming in to Cape Town”.

“His question was, ‘What do you think of South Africa? What do your people think of us?’ That caught me off guard,” he said.

“Without him realising, Africa is where we aspire to. Knowing the hardship of Africa, for me as a western person coming into Africa and seeing all the beauty and the people, is a significant jump in our evolution.”

He added: “Africa is the centre of the world. We come to be blessed here. When I see a black person, it makes something in my world full circle.

“I feel a little bit more settled. To be part of this society, is a dream come true.”

Wheeler shared an affectionate moment with Romeo during this interview, which she jokingly called “an exclusive”.

She told him: “You got my back. When I realised what I had after the break for a minute, 17-year minute, my manager told me I should go back.

“You built a family. We had beef a long time ago. That don’t happen anymore. Thank you for asking me to be in your band.

“I swear you’re my twin. We were born the same year and month and days apart. I thought there was something funny about this one.”

Brand New Heavies still going strong, performs in Cape Town

Yazeed Kamaldien

The Brand New Heavies have been performing their brand of acid jazz music for three decades, and this weekend they were still at it.

When they sat down for this interview on Saturday afternoon, it was put to them that it seems quite an achievement to still be relevant after all this time.

They had just landed from London and Oslo, and were scheduled to perform at yesterday’s Delicious Festival in Green Point.

Brand New Heavies members Dawn Joseph (left) and Simon Bartholomew (centre) clown about while band mate Jan Kincaid takes it easy. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Brand New Heavies members Dawn Joseph (left) and Simon Bartholomew (centre) clown about while band mate Jan Kincaid takes it easy. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Founding band members Jan Kincaid and Simon Bartholomew offered an explanation on how they’ve managed to maintain success in the fickle music industry, since first starting out as a band called Brother International in 1985.

“It all depends how you started out. Our sound has always had a much wider sound and broader scope to it,” says Kincaid.

Bartholomew adds jokingly: “There’s depth in the music and lyrics. There are deep, hidden meanings.”

Kincaid then sums it up in a more serious tone.

“Our music has a timeless vibe to it. We’re not making pop music that changes every week or month. We’re making songs, rather than club tunes,” he says.

“That’s what we’ve always done. When we first started making music, we were influenced by classic sounds. We’re doing the same thing we’ve always done.”

The band launched a new album, Sweet Freaks, in October. It offers 45 minutes of their brand of acid jazz, funk and soul music.

Vocalist Dawn Joseph, who signed with the band in October 2013, says she wanted to leave her fingerprints on Sweet Freaks.

“It’s going to have a different twist on it because I’m putting my stamp and influence on it,” she says.

“I hope it’s true to what the Heavies fans love and expect. I hope it encourages new fans to listen to it as well, and like it.

“But ultimately, every record they make is always going to sound like a Brand New Heavies record. I guess it’s slightly influenced by whatever vocalist they work with.”

Bartholomew says the new album is not trying to copycat any particular sound, although some reviewers have categorised it as a 1970s tribute.

“We avoid trying to sound like the old 70s. We are trying to make new footprints in the fresh snow. We are not trying to be retro,” says Bartholomew.

Joseph adds: “We are not trying to be anything specific. It just happens. You would probably notice if we tried to do something specific, it just wouldn’t work.”

Every band in the world claims to not sound like every other band in the world. And they will defend their sound for not copying anything else that has ever been recorded.

Kincaid, from behind dark sunglasses that are not removed from his face throughout this interview, says they “just really do what we do”.

“We have played together for a long time and we have a sound. When we start recording, things happen organically. We don’t force it,” he says.

“It just happens. If we do something and we like it, we use it. That’s the only criteria. We have faith in the music we make. We don’t guess what audiences want. Fans follow us anyway.

“We don’t look at what’s on the charts. We have always had a life outside of that. That’s a blessing because it means we are freer to do what we want.”

While the band has had three mainstay members, namely Kincaid, Bartholomew and Andrew Levy, it has over the years worked with various vocalists.

Bartholomew remembers that when they started out “we didn’t have a vocalist”.

“Dawn has come in (recently). If she’s a glove, we’re a hand. It’s a good match and a good fit. I’ve said for a while now, Dawn is a gift for the Brand New Heavies,” he says.

Kincaid says the question of their rotating lead singer – there have been other former band members too – is “always something that comes up”.

“We came across different singers. I guess it’s been quite organic. People have stayed as long as they’ve wanted to stay,” he says.

“We adapt what we do into that.”

Joseph has added a funky front to the band’s live performances.

At last year’s Cape Town International Jazz Festival she appeared on stage in a flashy costume and hat that screamed ‘look at me immediately’.

Joseph also wears the hat in the cover picture for Sweet Freaks.

“The hat is from a fancy dress shop in Singapore. When I get to Singapore I drop my bags and head straight to that shop. It’s like Aladdin’s cave for me. I try loads of things on,” she says.

“I just saw it (the hat) and had never seen anything like it. I had never seen anybody else in it. It sums me up.”

Joseph says the hat also transforms her somewhat on stage.

“There’s the whole thing of putting the hat on and the outfit and then walking out on to the stage. You’re an actor almost,” she says.

“Every performer is an actor. You have to take yourself out of your normality and became an exaggerated personality.”

The band agrees after all these years they still get a kick out of entertaining audiences.

Bartholomew says “it’s good to put on a bit of a show”.

Joseph adds: “We just want people to forget their stress and problems. We want to entertain them.”

Sea Point residents install surveillance cameras to fight crime

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Sea Point residents plan to create a safer suburb with high technology cameras to combat crime, in an initiative that has already led to arrests.

Heather Tager, chief operations officer at the Sea Point City Improvement District, said since February they installed 25 licence plate recognition cameras in the area.

Their goal is to have 40 cameras, that are imported at a cost of R40,000 each.

Tager said the cameras “captures licence plate registration numbers and what type of car is driven”.

“That information goes on to a central database that various suburbs are part of. There are quite a few clone number plates but the car make and even detail on the car is also recorded.

“That’s how we know exactly which car has been used in a crime,” said Tager.

When a car used in a crime is spotted by one of the cameras, an “alert goes off and we get a message on our cell phones,” said Tager.

“The police get that message too and they would go out and search for the vehicle.

“We had an incident where a vehicle had been involved in a robbery in another area. Police stopped the vehicle and found R26,000 of shoplifted clothing in the boot.”

The 25 cameras are monitored in a control room around the clock. They record all activity that could be used as evidence to investigate crimes, said Tager.

She said the cameras have regularly picked up on criminals who use “car remote jamming devices”.

“When you lock your car with your central locking remote, a criminal can use another remote to interfere with the frequency and your car won’t lock,” said Tager.

“People don’t check if the car is locked and that’s when the criminal steals things out of the car. We have caught a few criminals doing this on camera.”

Sea Point residents have contributed to the financial cost of the crime-capturing cameras.

Derek Salter, chairperson of the Sea Point, Fresnaye, Bantry Bay Ratepayers and Residents Association, said they were motivated because “we’ve already seen positive results as there have been arrests”.

“We have overview cameras on particularly busy streets. It has picked up crime. It records what’s going on,” said Salter.

“We see it as part of the mix for safety, security and crime prevention in our area. We don’t think because we have cameras we don’t need anything else.

“We still need the police and the community’s eyes and ears.”

Salter said residents believe “we have a duty to help get the funding that’s needed to complete the project”.

“One block of flats gave R2,000. Another individual gave R100. We want cameras to cover the whole area,” he said.

“We can’t say once we have the cameras we can’t do anything else.”

Salter said when he moved to Sea Point 11 years ago “we had a lot of crime”.

“The block of flats next to me was a drug den. We held demonstrations and worked with the police. We employed a street cleaner. The community got together,” he said.

“Drug dealing was not on. It was driving people out of the area. That’s now been turned around.”

He said residents were also “looking at getting extra foot patrols in the area to have additional support for the police”.

“If criminals see more law enforcement they will think twice about coming into the area,” he said.

“We do still have crime such as theft from motor vehicles. There are also robberies. This doesn’t create a good image for the area.”

Tager said Sea Point’s crime has decreased over the last decade.

“We don’t have a high crime rate. It’s a perception that we do. About ten years ago we had a terrible crime problem. Not anymore,” she said.

“I’ve lived here most of my life. It’s taken a long time to get to where we are now. We used to have in-your-face drug dealing in the streets. There’s still drug dealing, but not like it used to be.

“That was about six years ago. We cleaned it up. You have to fight for what you want.”

Tager added: “Confidence and business is coming back into the area. We had a new shopping complex built. We have five new developments underway.”

Crime Stats SA, run by Meerkat Data Management company, confirms that statistically crime in Sea Point decreased between 2004 and 2014.

Assault with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm decreased from 92 incidents in 2004 to 18 in 2014.

Over the same period, assault dropped from 260 to 121; robbery from 190 to 80; burglary at residential premises from 713 to 376.

Theft out of motor vehicles has not seen much decline though: it dropped minimally from 1262 to 1099.

Tager said this was because “people still leave stuff in their car”.

“They think crime won’t happen to them,” she said.

Mandela’s first taste of a freedom was a cup of tea

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Nelson Mandela’s autobiography has been reworked and among its corrections are details about where his convoy detoured on the day he was set free.

Mandela originally wrote in Long Walk to Freedom that his convoy stopped at the house of deceased justice minister Dullah Omar. The record has now been set straight: they had stopped at the house of ANC activist Saleem Mowzer.

In an exclusive interview, Mowzer this week recalled the events of February 10 1990, when Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison near Paarl.

Mowzer also revisited the house where Mandela stopped for tea, at 44 Haywood Road in Crawford, where he stayed at the time with his parents.

“I was one of a number activists on the Nelson Mandela reception committee… We had a day to organise the event on the Grand Parade (in central Cape Town),” recalled Mowzer.

“When we left Victor Verster Prison we drove in convoy along the N1 into town. On that day we got blocked by huge crowds and eventually had to drive back on to the highway and we ended up at UCT.

“There were close to 250,000 people estimated on the Grand Parade that day. We somehow got into the middle of that crowd. We were surrounded by the crowd, and we had to get out of there.”

Mowzer added: “We eventually got back on the highway, went on to the M3 and stopped at UCT. We then consulted, and that time we didn’t have things like cell phones, where we could then communicate with our leadership at the Grand Parade. And they didn’t know what was happening at the time.

“We were then talking about going to comrade Dullah’s (Omar) house. His son said his dad and all of them were at the Parade. His mother was with us as part of the convoy as well.

“We then said (we could go to home of) the Archbishop (Desmond Tutu) at Bishop’s Court, but realised his family was at the Grand Parade waiting for Madiba.”

Mowzer said mong the ANC leaders who were in the convoy with Mandela was the latter’s wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa and “a few others”.

“Comrade Jay Naidoo then said, ‘But Saleem, you live close by, can’t we go to your place?’ And without thinking, I agreed, and as we drove I realised the significance of us going to my place,” said Mowzer.

“I then led the convoy to my house at 44 Haywood Road in Crawford… It’s my parents place. We got there. Most of my family was on the Parade.

“But my sister from Johannesburg had flown down that day. She was highly pregnant. And she couldn’t believe her eyes when she opened the door and in front of her stood Madiba and the rest of the ANC delegation.”

Mowzer said they then “communicated via telephone with Comrade Dullah (Omar) and the Archbishop at the Grand Parade”.

“The question was, ‘Is it safe for Madiba to come to the Grand Parade?’ And the answer was, ‘He must come back. He needs to address the country and the world’,” said Mowzer.

“We just couldn’t stand in the middle of nowhere (in the crowd). There were security concerns for Madiba and the other leaders of the ANC. We were entrusted with his safety. It was a huge responsibility.

“We needed to get him to a safe place… The convoy was massive. All the vehicles were organised from members of the community on the Cape Flats, including the vehicle that Madiba was driving in, the famous Toyota Cressida.”

Mowzer said it was late afternoon by then and Mandela took a break.

“Madiba requested some tea and my sister made it for him. His first cup of tea post-freedom was at my parent’s house. He freshened up and was relaxing. For us as activists, we were anxious to get Madiba back to the Parade,” said Mowzer.

Mandela eventually was able to deliver his famous freedom speech at the Grand Parade. By the time Long Walk was published, Mandela’s memory must have failed him, as he stated that he had stopped at Omar’s house instead of Mowzer’s.

Omar was not pleased though with this and for a number of years wanted it corrected, said Mowzer.

“At the time, when the book came out, comrade Dullah (Omar) actually called me to his house. He asked me if I had read the autobiography. I said, ‘Yes’. And he said there’s something that needs to be corrected,” said Mowzer.

“He told me that Madiba never went to his house. That Madiba in fact came to my parent’s house where I was living at the time. I wasn’t married at the time.”

Mowzer said Omar “placed a very strong emphasis on history and the recording of history was very important to him”.

“He felt that it needed to be corrected. I told him, ‘Uncle Dullah, you know what, it doesn’t matter whether it’s your house or my house. The day was very significant. We all worked hard to work towards the freedom of Madiba’,” said Mowzer.

“I said we should maybe just leave it. I wouldn’t want to go to Madiba and tell him that he made a mistake… The book is out. Millions of people have read it and I don’t feel bad about it.

“And I’m like a son to him (Omar) and his house is like my house and I don’t have any issue with it and I can live with it for the rest of my life.

“Between the two of us, we know that he came to my house, and it’s fine, I don’t have a problem with it.”

Years later Omar called Mowzer again, with the same request to correct the facts about where Mandela stopped before the Grand Parade.

“In 2003, when Comrade Dullah became very ill he was in hospital and he called me. He told me he still feels very strongly about it. And he feels that it needs to be corrected,” said Mowzer.

“By then, many people like Vallie Moosa, Cyril Ramaphosa and other activists knew (about the inaccuracy in Long Walk). Comrade Dullah eventually spoke to Professor Jakes Gerwel who was the director-general in president Mandela’s office.

“He (Gerwel) was also the special aid and advisor to Mandela after his term as president. He played a pivotal role at the (Nelson) Mandela Foundation.

“A few years just prior to Madiba’s passing away, at one of Madiba’s birthday celebrations (in Johannesburg), the discussion came up about where did Madiba go on the day of his release and comrade Vallie Moosa told the story.”

Fact checkers from the Nelson Mandela Foundation were then sent to interview Mowzer to find out the true story, to be reflected in a reworked Long Walk to be published early next year.

Mowzer said: “Comrade Dullah’s wish is being answered… It is something that he always wanted corrected.”

He added that it was not an “honour for me” that the book now reflects his involvement in a historical event accurately.

“I don’t want any recognition or honour that Madiba came to my house on the day of his release. The historical facts are important. But it’s more about how do we lead our country… the way Madiba would have wanted to, in terms of his principles and morality,” said Mowzer.

Klopse rhythm all in the family

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

The young voice of nine-year-old Fuad Richards has the attention of everyone in the lounge, as he sings a popular Kaapse Klopse song about a mother’s love.

It takes his grandfather, also Fuad Richards, back to his days as a youngster in District Six when he used to sing for a klopse team, in later years known in Cape Town as the Cape Minstrels.

Young Fuad Richards sings a klopse song while his grandfather Fuad Richards watches on. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Young Fuad Richards sings a klopse song while his grandfather Fuad Richards watches on. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Richards senior, his son Yunus Richards, his granddaughter Aziz Richards and the young boy live in Mitchell’s Plain.

Like thousands of other Cape Town families from the Cape Flats they are gearing up for ‘klopse season’ when Cape Minstrel teams prepare for an annual competition that starts on January 1 and runs into early February.

The big klopse parade on Tweede Nuwe Jaar – held in central Cape Town on January 2 – gathers thousands of klopse troops in the city for a tradition that started during Dutch colonial rule.

On the second day of the New Year, slaves who worked for colonial masters were given the day off. What started hundreds of years ago developed into the ‘klopse’, which means ‘clubs’ in Cape Town’s version of Afrikaans spoken among the coloured community.

Klopse music and culture has been passed down from one generation to the next, as evident with the Richards family.

Richards recalls going to his grandmother’s house in District Six, where he started singing with klopse choirs.

“I was a child and it was very interesting to see the colourfulness of the klopse and how excited our people become when it gets to klopse time. The klopse there were fantastic,” says Richards.

“That was the place (District Six) where the klopse was happening. People sat hours on Hanover Street and appreciate the klopse. It was our culture. People came together to enjoy it.”

Over the years, Richards sang with different teams while pursuing a career in local entertainment. His four sons and a daughter and 13 grandchildren followed in his footsteps and joined the klopse too.

As a family, they have toured to different cities in the country to perform theatre shows that incorporate klopse music.

Richards says klopse teams practice for months before the competition period starts at the start of the year.

The teams are part of an organisation, the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival Association, that runs the annual contest to reward the best singing voices, best costumes, best dancers and songwriters.

As an inter-generational institution, located mainly in working class Cape Flats areas, the klopse comes at a time when families want to enjoy their end-of-year holiday, says Richards.

“Whole year we sacrifice with other things that we have to do. Fathers who sacrifice their time with working for their family all year has some time off at the end of the year. He just wants to enjoy his time with his family so he goes to the klopse,” he adds.

“It’s just pleasure, colour and excitement. If you drive in the Cape Flats, you will see the klopse changes the atmosphere.”

Richards says there are “thousands of people who can’t get into town to see the klopse”.

For this reason, klopse teams also march through the streets of their neighbourhood so locals can “feel the energy of the klopse,” says Richards.

But he adds that no self-respecting klopse team would miss the chance to take to central Cape Town’s streets where the original troops paraded.

“Klopse believe that if you weren’t in Cape Town, then you weren’t part of a klopse team. Then it wasn’t New Year. This is the tradition,” says Richards.

“We all had to move out of District Six but we came together for the klopse. The whole Cape Flats today is flooded with the klopse.

“And you will still find our old people come to see the klopse. They pack their food for the day and sit on the streets to see the klopse.”

Yunus Richards is his father’s youngest son and also coaches singing teams, preparing their voices for public performances and competitions.

He says he “picked up all the hints from him when I went to the klopse”.

“I watched my father very closely. I watched what he does and how he puts it across. If he taught someone how to use his voice, I would remember that. I would come home and ask him questions,” he adds.

Yunus touches on the socio-economic situation of many klopse teams who live on the Cape Flats.

“I work with a children’s singing team in Valhalla Park and I do it for the love of the game,” he says.

“What I admire of the klopse is when I come to this one choir, I see how parents bring their children to singing practice and make sure they eat before they sing. They are all underprivileged.”

Aziza Richards at 14 has been singing in klopse teams for most of her life.

“I’ve been singing since five. When I was eight I was the youngest female singing that year and won first prize. From that year I won five competitions,” she says.

Although the klopse is a largely male dominated arena, women sing alongside men in the choirs.

Women are also part of the brass bands that provide the beat that Aziza loves.

“I love singing. It’s my passion. The music is exciting and that’s why people are attracted to it,” she says.

“The music is unique and gives you happy energy. You just feel the music. The klopse brings a jovial feeling into our house.

“It’s nice to see our family together during klopse time. It means a lot to our family.”

She says the klopse is a “big tradition” on the Cape Flats, particularly in her family.

“Since I have been born, my grandfather and whole family has been involved in the klopse. I was also attracted to the bands, the colours of their clothes and the music,” she says.

“I always wanted to sing and asked my grandfather to take me along. If my grandfather or uncles weren’t singing, I probably wouldn’t have been interested.”

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

While it might seem like just fun and games, being part of a klopse singing team has a serious competitive edge.

Every year, singing teams from across Cape Town compete for top honours in a cultural tradition that dates back hundreds of years in the city.

One of the city’s top klopse teams is the Santam District Six Entertainers.

The latter is the reigning Carnival Kings, the name given to the team that comes out tops at the end annual competition organised by the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival Association at the start of the year.

The team’s co-owner Malick Laattoe says their team has 1,500 members spread across the city. They are currently preparing their costumes and voices for the annual Tweede Nuwe Jaar parade in central Cape Town.

The team celebrates its tenth anniversary this year and over the years has been Carnival Kings four times.

The interesting aspect of this team is that its members are from various race groups. While most teams comprise only coloured singers and brass band members, this team has white, black and coloured team members.

Laattoe says building a multi-racial klopse team has been a conscious decision since they started.

“We sing in English and Afrikaans. We are diversifying the klopse. We are taking it into the township as well. We also have white youngsters singing our solos,” he says.

“We cross the boundaries to let people on the other side know what our culture is about. In our communities, we are secluded. We don’t cross the boundaries. We are crossing the bridge and diversifying the culture.”

Laattoe says they also ensure young people “know the history about this too”.

“When we started off we wanted to bring a different face to klopse. Then it was associated with gangs and drugs. The tides have changed,” he says.

“Our klopse is more about building families. We have a singing and brass (instrument) school. We want to equip youngsters with skills that they can take with them for life. We have youngsters studying music at UCT.”

He says their team is hard at work and now there is “no time for a social life”.

“It gets very hectic. We go to sleep in the early hours of the morning. They are busy finishing off the uniforms. It’s time to practise,” he says.

Festive season’s silent heroes keep Cape Town safe

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

While most locals will be enjoying the end-of-year holiday, some will be still be working to ensure safety at congested malls, beaches and highways.

These dedicated individuals are the city’s uniformed police officers, traffic officers, paramedics and lifeguards at various beaches and public swimming pools.

Festive season merrymaking can go wrong and the “uniform family” – as they call themselves – is ready to save lives.

City officials indicated in mid-December already that unlawful and reckless behaviour has begun.

Law enforcers halfway through this month had already confiscated nearly 2,000 litres of beach booze. Officials said this confiscation was “nearly three times as much as the corresponding period last year”.

It is illegal to consume alcohol on public beaches.

“The introduction, possession and consumption of liquor on beach areas is prohibited and offenders will have their liquor confiscated and receive a written notice to appear in court, with a fine of R500,” warned officials.

Officials said “alcohol also featured prominently” on city roads – another prohibition. Traffic officers had this month been arresting motorists driving under the influence of alcohol.

Other arrests this month alone have included catching criminals for illegal firearm and drug possession.

Against this backdrop, the “uniform family” takes to the streets and gets on with their jobs. They shared with us their stories of sacrificing time with their families and loved ones, while feeling a sense of reward each time a life is saved in the city.

Inspector Maxine Jordaan: head of the Highway Ghost Team

I’ll be working on Christmas and New Year’s Eve. It’s normal to work over festive season. I’ve made peace with the fact that I’m on standby.

Everybody’s on holiday and the roads get very congested, especially in the city centre, near malls and beaches.

Our mandate is road safety. The Highway Ghost Team monitors serious violations on the city’s highways.

Inspector Maxine Jordaan. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Inspector Maxine Jordaan. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

We monitor drunken and negligent driving. There’s an increase in drunken driving over the festive season. People think they’ve worked hard all year and take a break but get drunk on beaches and roads.

Drunken driving is a blatant disrespect for other road users and law enforcement. People who drink and drive are being irresponsible towards other families.

Our festive season started on October 1. Since then we’ve had roadblocks every weekend across the city. It’s to show people that they shouldn’t take a chance with driving drunk.

A good day for my team would be taking a reckless or drunken driver off the road and when no one’s lost a life. And also that people on my team are home with their families.

We save people’s lives. We stop and assist people on highways. It’s what we do every festive season.

I enjoy what I do, even though there are challenges. This isn’t just a job. It’s a calling. You have to have a passion and love for this job.

We call ourselves the ‘uniform family’. We all get to know each other: the police, paramedics, traffic officers. And when we all get to a scene it’s really dynamic.

Tarryn Steenveld: intern paramedic with Emergency Medical Services

I’ve been an intern paramedic for a year-and-a-half. I’ll be working on New Year’s Eve, on the road to respond to any emergencies and taking care of the public.

We respond to calls for help, assess someone when we arrive on the scene and transport them to hospital if it’s needed.

Tarryn Steenveld. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Tarryn Steenveld. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Our work can get stressful, but it’s very rewarding. Earlier this year I delivered a baby while we were driving in an ambulance. We are trained to do this.

People let their hair down a lot more during the festive season and that’s when things can go wrong. They risk more, without considering the next person.

People get silly and drunk. They assault, stab and shoot each other more.

We go into areas that are volatile and because of that you’ve got to love what you do. I’ve found my passion. I’m so proud to put on this uniform. We are there for the public.

The most rewarding feeling is dropping off a patient and they say thank you for the help. Or their families give you a hug.

It is also rewarding going into areas that are not so affluent and spending time with kids, inspiring them.

It’s also rewarding to build relationships with your crew. We spend 12 hours on a shift together. We become like family.

Angelo Pearce: lifeguard at the Eastridge public swimming pool in Mitchell’s Plain

There’s no such thing as a holiday for a lifeguard during the festive season. It’s crunch time. We only get a holiday on Christmas.

We work every weekend and get days off in the week when it’s quiet at the pool.

Angelo Pearce. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Angelo Pearce. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Lifesaving is not only about watching people when they are in the pool. It’s about health and safety. We check the area around the pool. We remove any hazardous objects, like broken glass.

We then check the quality of the water. Our water has to be clear. We have to be able to see the bottom of the pool. If the water’s murky, we might not be able to see someone who has drowned.

On Boxing Day, there could be 1,000 people in the pool. We could lose sight of someone. A person could drown and we don’t see them. We need to prevent drowning.

Mitchell’s Plain is a coloured township and we have to deal with gangsterism as well. We have gang shootings right outside the pool facility, near our fence.

Then we evacuate everyone to make sure people are safe. We tell them to rather go home.

People who are drunk also come to the pool. They’re a hazard to themselves and we can’t allow them here.

Being a lifeguard is a lot of responsibility that we have to take on. We look at preventative lifesaving too. We want to prevent drowning.

We want to equip people with recovery skills, so we run them through swimming classes for free. When peak days come, we know all the kids can swim.

The joy of this job is to know a child can go to school the next day because they are safe at the pool. It’s also rewarding to see kids come here who are not rich and who learn to swim.

The culture at the pool has changed over the years because lifeguards became more assertive and interactive with people who come here. We show the kids that lifeguards are cool and they can be like us.

The pool is a safe haven for children. People who live here can’t really afford to get to other places. The kids go crazy at the pool; they swim and play games. People have birthday parties at the pool.

As lifeguards, we sacrifice a lot for this job. We sacrifice our time and train every day. We prepare ourselves for emergencies. We always have emergency drills.

When things go wrong, it can go horribly wrong. So we want to be efficient and need to know what to do to save lives.

I love working here mostly because help the kids in different ways. We teach them how to swim, life skills, have conversations with them and even give them food.

I made a conscious choice to work in the ghetto. I come from this area. This was an opportunity to look after people from my community, get to know them better and help them.

I feel like I’ve survived Mitchell’s Plain. And the kids who come here are still trying to survive it. They are stuck between, ‘Do I pursue drugs and gangs, or the right way?’ They are still finding out where they want to be, but by 16 they would make that decision.

As lifeguards, we have a lot of influence on kids. We teach them to be more disciplined. Hopefully they’ll take that with them when they leave the pool.

I worked for a year in another job in an affluent area. Most kids in affluent areas know how to swim. Many of them go to swimming classes.

I feel more needed in Mitchell’s Plain. Kids in the ghetto are hungry to learn. They want to know more. They want to learn skills. It’s rewarding to work with them.

Tutu foundation wins property dispute

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

The Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation has won a lengthy battle to vacate a family off its premises in Masiphumelele township near Ocean View suburb.

Trouble started when the foundation bought the property from its former owner whose caretaker and his family was still residing on the grounds.

The foundation built a youth centre on the property and sought to assist the family find new premises.

The caretaker meanwhile abandoned his family, leaving his wife Zoliswa Maci to fend for their three children who are now all adults. Maci and her youngest son, Lelethu Maci, 18, refused to leave the property.

In August, the foundation sought an eviction order from a local court to remove the Maci family, who subsequently left the property in November.

A disappointed Maci, speaking from East London where her son “went to the bush” in late November, said they would return to Cape Town in January.

“I wasn’t happy to leave the property. You know what, I gave my stuff away to people. I have no place to put my stuff. I gave away my room divider, my lounge and kitchen stuff and my kid’s beds,” she said.

“I didn’t have a choice. I just gave up and left. I’m very disappointed about the Tutu foundation. They didn’t give me anything. They didn’t even help me to find a place.”

Maci said her two older children – a son and daughter – are living with friends in Masiphumelele. She would continue life as a domestic worker in Cape Town, for two days a week, and rent a room from a friend.

Maci said her son would “sleep on the couch” in her room.

Lavinia Crawford-Browne, spokesperson for the foundation, said Maci had voluntarily left the property. The matter would now not need to proceed in court.

Crawford-Browne said the foundation had over a number of years, since it bought the property in 2007, tried to assist the Maci family find alternative accommodation. The foundation looked at court action as a last resort, she said.