The Water Carriers of Cape Town

There has been a drought in Cape Town.  We have had extreme water restrictions for 7 months.  This means no hosepipes allowed for watering the garden.  You may only use buckets and watering cans- preferably from your already used bath water, or washing up water.  Hopefully you have used soaps that will not harm your plants.  We have figured out how to get the hosepipe through the bathroom window to suck the water out of the bath, which we- a family of four, have to share and then re-use it to wash the car.

Most good people in Cape town shower standing in a bucket of water and then pour the water into the toilet to save on a flush.  These are all examples of ways one has to learn to be frugal with our precious resource.  The main dam, from which most of the drinking water comes is down to 11 percent according to a recent newspaper headline, which had a front page picture of a dry dam with a few streams running out of it..  It’s basically just a puddle. It’s the bottom of the barrel and a little strong. So the tap water has been causing children to have sore tummies.  Those of us who can afford to, and have the means, collect from the Newlands Spring, or the other sources of pure mountain water running out of the mountain.  During the course of this drought, this practice has become more and more mainstream.  The spring in Newlands used to be mainly visited by more extreme health conscious types, (like me) who would bring glass jars- not plastic- which has MPA’s.  But now there is a constant thronging cue of people from all walks of life.

The spring in St. James, used to be known only to few as a place to collect fresh water, now there is a cue round the clock.  There are big bottles of spring water lining the isles in the shops.  People, who previously may not have spent money on water are dragging big bottles of water home with them.  The people who do not have their own transport cannot afford to collect water from the Newlands Spring, so they have to buy it.  Companies are cashing in.  Plastic bottles are piling up. Unfortunately it is not mandatory to recycle in Capet Town like it is in places like Paris, where it is part of the infrastructure.

According to the World Health Organization, one in every 10 people across the globe, lack access to safe drinking water. In many developing countries, the burden of providing water for households is placed on women and girls.  This often means walking a long way burdened with heavy loads.  According to their calculations the average women or girl-child in this situation spends up to 6 hours a day just collecting water for drinking washing and cooking. It’s a full time job.

So us Cape Townias, are just getting a tiny taste of it.  There may well be more to come.  We have to wake up and be prepared -no matter the size of our property or bank account,  Many of us who have tried to grow our own food by tending a vegetables patch in the back garden, are finding it hard to keep our greens alive in these conditions.  This years wine crops may taste a little sweeter from all the sun.  But I have to ask why vineyards take up most of the agricultural ground around this fertile region?  Ideally more of this land should be utilized for food if we were to be more logistical about survival of the species.  (If I was the president I would make the vineyards dedicate a percentage of their lands to growing organic vegetables as a way to give back.  – Boschendal– is doing it, they have one acre of organic vegetable garden which yields a ton of vegetables.)  How much of our water is being used to grow wine?  It’s high time to ask these questions.  The most addictive substances on the planet, such as sugar, coffee, tobacco and wine are crops that use the most water.  We have to take a hold on our addictions in a more conscious world.  But just when the going gets tough and depressing, thats when we reach for our comforting cuppa coffee with 2 sugars and a smoke and later a glass of wine.  Let’s not think about it too much, shall we.

This drought is an opportunity to learn so much.  It is forcing us not to take basics for granted. (Or should be.) When you go to collect your water from the spring, it is treasured.  Not wasted.  It is precious, it nourishes.  The water from the mountain is rich in natural minerals, it has no added flouride or other chemicals.  According to the principles of Biomimicry, the science of using life’s principles to adapt and design, we should be learning more efficient ways of using water from nature.  Hopefully our city planners are on the case of redesigning the infrastructure to be more efficient, so that the brewery no longer gets all the best spring water.


I have been collecting water for months from the Newlands Spring- which is kindly offered to the public by the SA Brewery factory, who has been hogging it since they colonized the place.  On each visit, I speak to a few people in the cue and asking them why they come. Many said that the spring water tastes so much better.  One woman said that apart from the good water she loved the process of collecting it,  because it felt so Biblical.  Another explained that the spring water was so much more energized (as apposed to dead tap water- it had more life)  that it was worth the drive to collect it. (All the way from Seapoint.)  There were others collecting whole truckloads of water to fill their swimming pools (and still adding chemicals to it) and to water their plants so as to save on the water bill.  Another woman collecting for a primary school.  There are all types of water collectors. There were policemen and mechanics and insurance men. In our demographic, more men than women. They rub shoulders in the cue and realize that they are all in this together.  It creates an unspoken sense of community.  This is life in the age of Climate Change.  When we collect our own water from the spring we are taking our survival seriously, independently of the system.  No matter who we are and what we believe taking water from the source of the earth and that is precious.  We are very grateful that we can. Even in the city.  No wonder she is called the Mothercity.  We are very grateful for our mountain and her underground water. It is time to take a different approach to our resource management.

Lessons from Fire

The ancient originally Pagan, (but now Christianized) Festival of St. John is a winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere and is celebrated with a bonfire.   We recently attended the ceremony at our daughters Steiner school.  Beautiful flames connecting the dark earth with stars in the heavens.  Traditionally people celebrate the fires ability to purify.  The ceremonial bonfire is an opportunity to release anything heavy you have been carrying in your heart and become light again. Archangel Michaela is summoned with his sword to cut the chords and his shield to ward off the evil shadows. The purifying power of fire is praised in songs sung by little children with lanterns in the firelight. The oldest ones get to light the fire with special torches and there is an initiation challenge, to jump over the flames – a very daring thing to do. No playing with fire we were always told.  Respect this element, we are told, its power can erase things -transforming solid matter smoke and ashes.

A few weeks ago a fire-storm tore through Knysna, Plettenberg and many places in between.   Although over 10 000 were evacuated, 638 homes burned down- including 400 informal structures, according to this report.   (Informal structures, I presume, means homes without foundations or formal permissions, made of iron sheeting and wood, and found fittings.-for those who don’t know.)

There were many unspoken invaluable losses, which could never be tallied in a news report.  Life times of art collections and antiques, photo albums, book manuscripts, great works in progress, possessions held dear for generations. Many antique family heirlooms were destroyed.  History was lost and made on the same day.  My 80- something –year- old aunt lost her home in Brenton-Sea and was left with nothing but her dog and her car, which she could only drive down to the beach as there was no other escape.  (This was the second time she had been forced to flee from home, loosing everything.  The first was to escape the Russians during World War 2 in Germany)  This time, she refused to prepare or evacuate despite repeated warnings of the oncoming fire.  Her domestic servant (who had only just started working for her) insisted that they leave the house, or she would have remained.  Huge flames engulfed the whole neighbourhood.

knysna-fire Her daughter Kati who was working as a vet in Knysna had received a phone call from the emergency services saying that her mother refused to leave the house. She experienced extreme trauma trying to reach her mother she battled through a traffic jam, tailgated emergency vehicles at the burning bridge and when she reached a wall of flames blocking the way home, had to turn back.  She returned to work at KAWS animal welfare,  where people who had been evacuated were dropping off their animals as they fled. The animals had to be transported by truck out of the fire zone on mass.   She saved an ailing Daschond who was too fragile for this adventure from the truck.  That night she curled up with the sick dog on a friends spare mattress, not knowing what had become of her mother and their home. The next morning she drove out to find their home in ruins.  She spent a day searching for her mother and eventually after much detective work, found that she had been taken in by a family in Buffelsbaai.   Unfortunately she had slipped on the stairs that night and fallen, fracturing two vertebrae in her spine. (Luckily she is a very tough lady and just picked herself up, feeling sore.)  However the loss of a home can be like the loss of an old friend.  It takes time to recover.


There are many amazing stories of heroism during the fire. Like the one my cousin told me of a man who saved all the animals from a burning kindergarten where they kept poultry and other animals for the children. He gathered them all and herded them down to the river where he stood with them in the water until the fire had passed.

My best friend from school lost her family home of 4 generations, which was a national monument overlooking Knysna. It is hard to grasp the magnitude. Another old friend, who is a well known artist, Beezy Bailey, lost his holiday home in Plett  containing a lifetime of his best paintings.  He made a statement on Facebook, which went viral.  I believe it struck a chord because he was so mature and open to seeing the big picture even in the face of his own personal loss.

I believe that Armageddon is the end of the beginning and not the beginning of the end.” He said. “ I’m more interested in how beautiful this photo is of my Plet house on fire than sad.  But Bird house will be rebuilt even better than before. The birds will come back .But please your support sympathy and sorrow must be focused on the hundreds of poor people with no insurance, and no nothing,who have lost everything.Let us unite in times like these , something we South Africans are so good at , and pick our selfs up by our boot straps and re build broken  hearts homes and lives together.”  Said Beezy.

Bird House Burns

Beezy’s house burning by Jan Venter

Indeed many came together to help, and the community was brought together by the tragedy. The entire country sent donations of food, clothes, household items. Truckloads were distributed. So many volunteers came to help that they began turning them away. There was a huge outpouring of kindness to bring back hope to the devastated.  My cousin Kati and Aunt Gisella are recovering, having found a new home in a retirement complex. They have clothes to wear due to the kind donations of people from all over the country. Amazingly trauma counselling is being offered, which is hugely important as a first step to functional recovery.   On top of having to care for her mother and find a new home, Kati is nursing many animals with burn wounds from the fire. The natural habitat of many wild animals has been destroyed as well as their food. This has created a need for bush feeding of bushbuck and birds and other forest creatures. The after effects of the fire on the environment may take it’s toll on the water systems as there is nothing to hold the soil. Sediments will wash into the rivers. Landslides are a likely after effect being anticipated by foresters.

The cause of the fires, were much debated.  A lot of fingers were pointed at arsonists raising racist speculations- starting another kind of fire of anger and hatred.  One friend on social media blamed the monoculture of Pine plantations in the area, which are a fire hazard under very dry conditions – there was a very bad drought. I think this is a valid argument. When those extreme hurricane force winds tore through, carrying burning debris ahead and fanning them- it lit a whole band of fires. 100 km winds carrying flaming debris created a firestorm of intense heat, causing spontaneous combustion and the fire jumped roads and even across the Knysna lagoon- according to The Sunday Times.  The drought ridden tinder dry vegetation fanned by gusts of winds blew up in seconds.  Catching people and animals unawares.  The effect was beyond devastating.  The fire burned for days.  It came in and out of Knysna town three times, burning down houses in different areas on each occasion.  “Just when one thought it was finally over and it was going to be a normal day, the whole thing started again.”  My friend Robyn told me.  She had just moved from a smallholding outside of Plett and was in the process of buying a home in Knysna.  The new home burned down and part of the school where she worked, but luckily she did not loose her possessions and the sale had not gone through.  So she considers herself one of the lucky ones.  ” The ones who didn’t loose their homes feel guilty for being so lucky compared to the ones who didn’t.” She says.  Robin had to evacuate three times during the fire storm.  Each time, she took less.  On the third run she had it worked out: laptop, photo’s, jacket and boots.

Strangely nobody publicly blamed “Climate Change” a few days after Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris Treaty.   Strange because raging fires and droughts like this are obvious symptoms of Climate Change, but sometimes it’s not easy to see the big picture.

Now beyond the devastation, there is a flurry of activity as those who were insured begin to rebuild.  The insurance companies are insisting that the rebuild takes place along more environmentally friendly lines than before.  On social media, residents are talking about replanting indigenous plants, where there were aliens before.  Encouraging each other to building with cobstone, which is quicker and more fire-resistant and environmentally friendly.  There is even talk of using hemp fibre to rebuild low cost homes. Environmentalists on social media are suggesting that pine plantations be replaced with hemp plantations, which are quicker to cultivate and can be used for building materials.  Hemp puts nitrogen into the soil, which is necessary after the acidification of the soil caused by the pine plantations.

Some years ago, Biomimicry SA created a Permaculture design similar to The Eden Project. A vision of the town as an eco-village working according to self-sufficient permaculture and biomimicry principles.  If only this vision could be realized.

Visualise Knysna becomming the perfect example of an environmentally sound design for a community living in harmony with nature.   That would be the most positive outcome.  Perhaps this would be a good time to apply these principles in the rebuilding stage. Employment opportunities for locals would help uplift those who lost everything including their jobs, tools and businesses.  This may seem idealistic, but a spark of idealism in this time grows hope.

The purifying element of the fire may have been devastating for those who have lost everything, but the silver lining of the dark cloud of smoke, is that their change of circumstances may release them from things which may have been holding them back. Being open to adapting to change is the life principle, which is most conducive to survival.

Those who are prepared to move on and adapt this kind of philosophical attitude will suffer least from the disaster. It’s called resilience. For in it lies the opportunity to get closer to things of true value, beyond the material world. For example, my aunt who stubbornly held on to her home, which had become in her old age,way too big to manage on her own, is now in a safer and more supportive environment-a retirement home with carers.  My friend who lost her family home, is free to create something new which still honours her family but is adapted to her needs. The beautiful garden and the view are still there. Beezy is already dreaming of creative ways he will rebuild the house that burned down.  They were the lucky ones, the poorest of the poor are the real victims of climate change.

Armageddon is the beginning not the end of the world.  We can choose our responses to any situation.  We can live in denial and pretend that no fire is coming and that we are immortal and able to battle the power of nature with our bare hands.  Or we can be wise like the fittest life forms who have survived evolution thus far, and adapt to changes, bend with the wind and create conditions conducive to life. Hello world: Climate change is real. It’s time to act before home burns down.

Interesting that this fire took place a week after Trump pulled out of the Climate Change Agreement of Paris at COP 21. An agreement solidified at Marekesh. Already China is leading the race to reducing emissions to zero by 2050. A better world is possible if all parties in the global village co-operate. A week after the Knysna inferno, there was a fire in a tall building in London.  The tower contained 600 homes.  80 people died.  In the garden route fire at the last count 850 homes burned and 9 people died (we have no count on how many animals.) In a dense city tower, the residents had much less chance of escape.  The same week in Portugal, a fire tore through a forest incinerating people in their cars as they attempted to escape.

The question arises as the escape margin narrows by the minute, whether or not we have any chance of leaving a planet that is conducive to life for future generations, or even whether we will survive the catastrophic symptoms of climate change that we may have to face on mass in every part of the world unless huge lifestyle and economic changes are made. This means a change of perception and the will to halt all extractive mining, the use of fossil fuels and to change the way the worlds economy functions, so that it creates conditions conducive to life by leaving zero waste. Something like the magnificently evolved eco-system in forests that have burned down.

Please help feed the animals who are now starving in the forests after the fire.  The humans had lots of help, but the animals have to fend for themselves in a desert of burned habitat.


The Night God came to the door

(This post is a follow on from the previous one about Walter.)

The rattle of the gate disturbed our comfortable dinner with our BBC series set in England. The man at the gate mumbling his story through thick lips, body bent, four feathers in his ragged hair, was Walter. Blood splattered on his khaki trousers.

“it’s Walter! Let him in.” He stumbled in and collapsed on the coffee table near the door revealing the gash in his head. Blood streaming down his face and neck.- his face swollen almost beyond recognition.

“What happened?” I asked?

“Beaten up by a mob with picks and bricks? “ That’s all we could understand of his mumblings.

“I prayed all the way that Helena would help me.”  He had just walked to my house from “Overcome” – an informal settlement on the edge of a landfill about 5 kms away.  (According to statistics collected by researchers I know, it has one of the highest murder rates in the country.)

What to do ? Ice? Bandages? It all flashed through my head. We must take him straight to hospital. Quick.  (Leaving the children with instructions to put themselves to bed.)

Still we fussed as we were flustered.  Here -Rescue remedy – I held out a white pill -for the shock -and placed in it his sooty hand. The palms of his hands showed signs of a fall to the ground – pressed into the black dust while he was beaten. He painfully lifted his arm to take the pill to his mouth. I wondered if a shoulder was broken. He managed to get the pill into his bloody mouth. Soon after he stood up. His eye ticked and flickered. His whole face began twitching out of control. Brain haemorrhage. Oh no. Please don’t do that.

“I think you should sit down.” I said, “Or lie down.” He looked at the floor and decided rather to sit. “Lets just get him to hospital But first a cup of tea? “

“Four sugars” he ordered clearly. He drank it down quickly despite all the fussing a about putting it in a flask cup so he could take it in the car.

We got him in the car. A bucket just in case. Ice pack on head. Water, toilet paper. A Blanket around him- a red blanket -brighter than the colour of blood. I sat in the back seat to support him, while my husband drove. Felt the heat from his swollen shoulder- feeling helpless, wishing I could fix what was broken.

We had to drive slowly over the speed bumps. He flinched on each bump.

“Hang in there Walter”.

“I’m a tough guy.” He said.

“Hold up your head. Breathe in life”, I told him as he slumped lower and lower in his seat.

“You are saving my life” he told me as we rounded the bend into Fishoek.

Walking into the hospital I steadied him with my arm around his shoulder.

“You are walking with Mandela.” He said.  I understood what he meant, although I realized that many would think it was delusional. We were part of a performance on the world stage. He was being metaphorical, and it made sense, he being a black man who had suffered for a cause greater than himself.

“Who is this?” The man at the reception window asked horrified by the figure of Walter, the feathers in his dreadlocked hair, the red blanket like a cloak over his shoulders and the blood pouring down his brow like Jesus Christ after the crucifixion.

“This is my friend.” I said.

In the emergency room the nurses had him summed up with one look. They judged him. “Who is this and what happened?” They were all black nurses. (So it was not racism.)

“He was attacked by a mob in his community.”

“Why? ” They hesitated in treating him, presuming that the community had attacked him because I guess they presumed him to be a rapist or a murderer. It is common for communities in the townships of Cape Town take the law into their own hands as there are too many murderers and rapists that get away with terrorizing their communities. They believe the police are ineffective, and often they are.  The courts fail them by giving them bail too easily.  There are also uninformed communities who create fear and hysteria who mob people who are seen as “witches”  or strangers’ -people from other countries who they believe are taking away their jobs, women, income, etc.  Then there is the fear of lack, which drives more poverty and the jealousy factor, which causes many crimes and a low level of education generally.  But none of this can condone ganging up on ones neighbour and attacking him for no good reason.

“He is a good person.” I defended him. It’s a mystery why he was attacked, but he had told me in the past that he had been threatened by people in his neighborhood. There was evil and jealousy he had said,. perhaps they picked on him because they were superstitious. It was a witch hunt. There is so much superstition in this part of town that even the local franchise pharmacy “Clicks” sells “magical” salts to protect one from the Tokoloshe. (A mythical evil creature- similar to the Irish Leprechaun but more menacing.)

20170301_165644 (2)

“What did they use?”

“Picks and Bricks.” (We spoke for him in his company as if he couldn’t speak for himself.)

“Everything hard and sharp.” Corrected Walter clearly.

“What is this?” Asked the nurse – pointing at the feathers in his hair, as if the feathers were the most important issue to be addressed.

“They are nothing, just a decoration,” I growled.   (Actually Walter believed the feathers were his antenna to God, but she would not have understood that- nor did the murderous mob.)

I  believe his feathers were a sign to the mob, (just as they were a symbolic tool for Walter to access his intuitive connection with his father-or God.)  I guess the feathers gave him an appearance which the people in his community perceived as evidence that he was an outsider – something “other”, which they believed to be dangerous, so they took their frustrations out on him.

He became the perfect scapegoat for their aching pain bodies.

Sitting on the chair in the hospital, Walter looked like a picture of a crucified Christ with his crown of feathers and the way the blood was running down his brow and the red cloak like blanket.

“The problem” I said annoyed with the nurse for being so judgemental and not looking beyond the aesthetic – “is this.” pointing to the gash in his skull. I gently unthreaded the feathers , which were plaited into his hair. The nurse shaved his hair around the wound. Then suddenly stepped back dramatically and gasped. “There’s another one. “ She said.  I went to see what she was pointing at. A second even bigger gash in his skull further back explained all the blood on the back of his neck.

Soon they had him in the operating room where they were about to cut his shirt off to see what had happened to his shoulder blade because it was too painful to lie down on the bed flat. It was broken. Walter was not happy to loose his shirt. We left him on the operating table. He was still clear enough to ask for our number. I told him that the people in the hospital would have it written down on his file as the nurses chased us out. Later that night he was transferred to another bigger hospital by ambulance where they had better means to deal with his injuries.

I visited him there in the Trauma ward a few days later. I found him bright and breezy out on the balcony smoking with his blind inmate. He had his arm in a sling as he led his companion back to his bed and settled him.

“What happened to him? “   I asked, noticing the deep circular hole in his temple of the man with the closed swollen eyes and a sweet face. “He was shot in the head.” Walter said. “He lost his sight.” Such is life in the Trauma ward at Groote Schuur. “We look after each other.”

Walter has such gratitude about his situation. He was not at all worried about his future, or what might have happened to his home or possessions. He was at peace with the world and his circumstances. He rememberd everything that happened and was chirpy as ever. Still speaking about the same thing; the same strange and unworldly stories. He still believes he is God. “My blood is the covenant he says.   I am working hard to fight the evil.”   I listen carefully. Try to read between the lines.

I realize that what he is saying could be construed as the ramblings of a madman, but I understand that what he is going through is some kind of crucifixion. He has been the one to bare the brunt of the pain bodies of the unconscious people who mobbed him. He has taken the pain for their pain and now he is transforming it. His survival is a kind of resurrection.

I have brought him some clothes. He is very pleased. He shows me that he has already washed and folded the trousers he was wearing when we took him to hospital. He has the red blanket I gave him and his shoes in his locker. For now, these are his only worldly possessions. Although he believes his house is safe and all his gardening equipment. “No evil will get into my house.” He is confident about this.

I realize he will probably be a puzzle to the hospital staff. I ask at the desk about what will become of him. They say that he is being examined by a psychiatrist and may stay a bit longer.

The night of the traumatic event was the 21st of February. He is still in hospital. It is April. At the last visit he was even more cheerful and putting on weight. He has been diagnosed with TB and a mental health issue, which has still not been clearly named to me. They are waiting for a bed to become available at the local sanatorium. “So that he can come to terms with his illnesses” the intern explained on the phone.

When we saw him he had tied a single red thread from the blanket around his head, wrists and ankles. “My father told him to do it.” He tells me explaining that it represents the blood he spilled in his capacity as the sacrificial lamb and the spiritual work he is doing to help save the world. Wearing the threads- he looks like one who is training to be a Sangoma.  One who has been officially chosen by the ancestors.  Initiates usually wear a thread of white beeds in the same way.

In tribal lore one who has intuitive gifts has a place in society and is not locked up in a home for the mentally ill and tranquilised. Great value and honour is given to one who is able to interpret the spirit world. Their dreams and voices are taken seriously, as messages from the spirits of the ancestors.

Despite the tranquilizers, Walter is still working hard to transform the evils of the world. “You are carrying a lot on your shoulders”. We tell him after he explains all this spiritual work he is doing for the country and the world.  He keeps in touch with the latest news even in hospital.  It is very interesting to hear him describe it. There may well be hidden truths among the things he is telling us. There may be deep dark secrets he knows about through his experience as a security guard at the police museum that we don’t know about and that he has to speak about only in riddles. So we listen deeply to try to unravel the clues.

The doctor tells us not to entertain his psychosis. So far we are the only people who have visited him in hospital. Walter told me that I am his only family. When I initially told him that I had announced on Facebook what had happened to him and that people seemed shocked and wanted to help him, he was deeply moved.   He hid the tears that came into his eyes.

At the last visit we spoke about his plants.  The ones that heal and the ones who have not survived the recent drought.  He was very impressed with the wormwood plant I had given him.  He said it had helped cure a stomach ailment.  He was keen to get back to the garden.

walter in host

If anyone would like to donate to the Walter Fund to help support him when he gets out of hospital one can depossit to The Walter Fund -Helena Kingwill Cloete –  Capitec.  Branch code: 470010  Account number:  1411570098

Or if you are abroad I have a Paypal account:  Say it is for the Walter Fund:

Love will Make His Garden Grow

The Muizenberg Police Museum on the Main Rd next to the glamorous Casa Labia, is easy to miss. It wears tired beige and is currently closed to the public due to pending renovations. But if, on a whim you so happened to wonder in, you would find yourself surrounded by healthy spinach plants, carrots, turnips, cabbages, potatoes, even mielies. (Corn) Every inch of space has been utilized to grow food.

One day in May 2011, after working as a Security Guard at the museum for two months, Walter Mokoatle (41), decided that he had had enough of standing around. He got permission to take out the ornamental flowers, which had been there 10 years, and set to work growing food in their place. He filled the beds with compost, which had naturally formed from falling leaves under the old trees on the edge of the property. Then he sowed the seeds he had bought with his own savings. He constantly replenishes the compost with lawn clippings along with what he constantly clears from the garden. “Of every crop you plant, 10 percent does not make it, and that percentage goes back to make more compost, it’s a cycle.” Explains Walter.

The garden is so abundant that Walter is able to give to the needy and cook healthy meals for his work mates. “Turnips and spinach are good for the elderly.” Says Walter, who supplies vegetables to impoverished elderly members of his community in “Overcome”- a crime ravished informal settlement on the dunes near Capricorn Park.

According to Walter, the secret of his gardening success is the magic ingredient: Love. “When you plant a seed, those plants become your children.   I feel them calling me and I know they need attention.” He grew up in the Maluti Mountains on the border of Lesotho, where he worked with his Grandmother every weekend tilling the soil and tending to the plants they subsisted on. “We lived from our garden, the only thing we needed to buy for cooking, was oil,” he remembers.

Walter’s decision to begin a garden came out of a need to heal his heart and it has had significant therapeutic value in his life.   He had been unhappy in his marriage and was “tired of life without love,” so he had made a personal decision to “make nice” and to create beauty in his life. He began working on a garden around his shack, and then took it a step further into his work. The garden at the SAP Museum, became a means of therapy/rehabilitation for prisoners doing community service. Each prisoner was delegated a section of the garden to work on. One prisoner even returned after being released to see how his plants were doing.

“The thing you do for love is the one that will take you far, not the one you do for need.” Says Walter philosophically. Walter is not alone in realizing that a few plants around one’s home and at work can make a big difference to one’s nutritional intake as food prices rise steadily. Many survivors of the economic crisis in Zimbabwe relied on their own home-grown food to get through the food shortages in recent years. Utilizing urban spaces to grow food locally is a simple solution to a global problem, which anyone can participate in.

Careful use of water when growing vegetables is essential. Installing a grey water system to recycle used household water onto ones garden is sustainable and cost-effective. (This can be done by simply siphoning ones bath water onto the garden with a hose pipe.) Walter is particularly proud of the fact that he managed to grow a banana tree next to his shack and is watching the leaves unfold, one by one. “If you learn to garden and grow your own food, you will never be hungry.” Walter points out. Time to get out and start sowing some seeds.

Walter carrots portrait

The above post is an article I wrote 7 years ago for The False Bay Echo.

Walter Echo story published

News update:  Walter made efforts during renovations to the Police Museum to keep his plants alive, (visiting them with a watering can on his bicycle daily)  “My plants are like my children.” He told me.  He harvested green vegetables and took them back to the squatter camp where he lives in the suburb of “Overcome” on toughest part of the Cape Flats.  It is almost on the landfill and has the highest murder rate in the country.   He lost his job at the Police Museum once the renovation was complete.  Apparantly he was accused of selling the vegetables. . The story he told me is shrouded in mystery and intrigue and requires further investigation.  He said that he uncovered the skelotons of two bodies.  In his dreams the spirits of the people who were murdered came to him and told them that they were apartheid victims.  He reported finding the bones to the police. However this finding and his insite about who they were is what he believes caused him to loose his job. He also believes that  it may have led to the incident that occurred a few weeks ago from which he was lucky to escape.

More about this life shattering event in the next post.

Anyone who would like to make a contribution to help Walter recover can donate to the following account with the reference: Walter recovery fund:  I will keep it in a savings for him.

Helena Kingwill Cloete –  Capitec.  Branch code: 470010  Account number:  1411570098








Uranium Mining on the Plains of The Camdeboo


We are living in strangely intense times: times of extreme polarity of opinion and moral and ethical beliefs. We see merciless greed from corporate and political power seekers versus selfless heroic sacrifice from earth keepers trying to defend the last of what is left. There are sharp contrasts of attitude towards our environment and “ natural resources” whether they be our common ground- a National park mountain or the ocean and beaches,  a river or lake, or a farm in the desert where the mineral rights  which lie beneath grazing sheep are still waiting to be had.

There is a new wave of colonialism taking place in Africa and it is taking many forms. “Right now, a small “uranium rush” is on.” Writes Dr. Stefan Cramer, science advisor to SAFCEI,   “Every fly-by –night wants to get a slice of the cake, often under questionable circumstances… in these days of “mineral grabbing” all you need is a letter head and good connections to lay your hands on the mineral wealth of this country.” He points out that many unknown companies with names like “ Wealhage House of Capital”- run by a 26 year old entrepreneur from Limpopo, and “Blue Moon Mining” are applying for uranium rights, and “it doesn’t cost a dime to include uranium in an application.

This comes at a time when small-scale family farms in the Karoo are especially vulnerable. The economic climate and the impossible task of competing with large-scale industrialized agriculture in the market place. It also comes at a time of incredible ecological challenge as the ravages of climate change batter an already fragile ecosystem.  Yet somebody has opened the fences and let the scavengers in to dig up what is left of a very special ecosystem in a place where life has thrived and adapted to all kinds of challenges for millions of years.

Applications for Uranium mining have been made in area’s from Beaufort West to Aberdeen, Jansenville to Wolwerfontein, Kliplaaat to Steytlerville. Area’s where topsoil has been so badly damaged by overgrazing, drought, dust storms and occasional flooding, thus making farmers more vulnerable to selling and giving up.

Yet, if Uranium mining is allowed to take place  on a far away farm in a place many consider to be the middle of nowhere, there will be no reversing the consequences.  As we know, everything is connected. Think of the river carrying uranium tailings and it’s path to the sea. Think of the dust storms blowing across the Plains of the Cambdeboo. It is said that even one particle of uranium dust in the lung and you could cause lung cancer.

I am the daughter of a fourth generation Karoo farmer. My father Robert and grandfather Roland Kingwill taught me the importance of topsoil. I grew up with the extreme winds of the Karoo, which blow dust devils around in the drought, tore trees out by the roots, the wind even tore off the roof of our varanda once. As a child I went with my father and watched him worry about the sheep who walked like skeletons.  I was with him one day when we found the mud caked body of one who had not made it out of the sticky last puddle of water in the middle of the dried out dam. Life is tough and death is one of the seasons we face when we live close to the earth

I have also seen floods, the roar of rain, when the water runs quickly over bare earth and becomes a thundering river that carves deep gorges into the landscape, bends iron fence posts and washes away trees and cattle to the next farm and beyond. These experiences have made me understand the power of nature, and I have seen with my own eyes the way that landscapes are not stable. They constantly change even in the most ancient and supposedly “geologically stable” landscapes as the elements shift them. Nothing can be taken for granted. “Continents drift at the rate of the growth of our fingernails,” a well- known palaeontologist once told me. So it seems logical that no pile of Uranium tailings or nuclear waste dug into the earth  of  is really safely hidden and contained. Ever.


While doing research for my documentary “Buried in Earthskin”, I learned that Uranium is the most toxic substance we could possibly dig out of the earth. Taking it out is like opening Pandora’s box. It unleashes its’ evils into the world and that powerful wild energy can never be put safely can never be put back in. This is why I found it very ironic and worrying when the minister of Minerals and Energy told me in an interview with a sweet smile, that “Nuclear energy is clean energy.”

Many forget that Nuclear is powered by a very treacherous fossil fuel: uranium and the nuclear fuel chain results in radioactive waste, which is an international long-standing unsolved problem. No safe storage solution has been found. The by-products of this industry are used in weapons of mass destruction. Some countries secretely disguise  nuclear waste as artillery  in the secret madness of warfare and propell it to other countries. Little is told of the radioactive weapons and discarded bomb shells which are left scattered all over war-torn lands where it is used for weapons that roll into the houses of innocent children who pick them up and play with them, thinking they could be toys. The implications are so terrible that nobody in civilized society really wants to know about them, so they are buried under a carpet of unconsciousness along with rest of the nuclear waste problem. There is nothing clean about nuclear energy – it is a darker shade of dirty than coal.

Uranium is best left in the ground where it belongs: making it’s own powerful magic beneath the crust. It has its own purpose there. I believe our creator provided other means of creating energy like sun and wind. We are free to harness those if we so wish.

Nieu Bethesda-boy on horse on footbridge

A Karoo boy on his horse crossing a footbridge in Nieu Bethesda- Karoo.

It is interesting that all over the world the people who have been the most common victims of Uranium mining are the tribal descendents earth’s First Peoples. Ironically it is these people who live close to the earth and truly understand and revere their environment who have been made most ill by it due to the fact that they were not informed of the toxic consequences of Uranium mining on their environment.The most outspoken of these are the Navajo tribe in America.

When Uranium mining began in the Navajo reservation. It was one of the poorest communities in America. They were probably promised jobs and other perks. This community is now even poorer because they have lost their health as well. The men were used as workers. They were not given adequate protection against the harmful yellow cake dust. The water sources and wells were contaminated with this dust and the wives and grandmothers drawing water from their traditional wells in their sacred land were not informed.   When the mine closed, it was not properly sealed or cleaned up. The results have been legacies of terrible cancers and a degenerative disease called Navajo Neuropathy- which causes a wasting away of muscle. Children are born with severe deformities, which affect them and their families for the rest of their lives. These are massive life-changing environmental impacts. (I wonder if they are considered in the Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA’s) being conducted in the Karoo.) Stories have been told of families who discovered that their houses had been built with bricks made and cement, which contained radioactive tailings near mines. Chronic illness and cancer resulted, families left in ruin. As one Navajo woman profoundly states: “Money can buy you lots of things, but it can’t buy you a new pair of lungs. This is an echo of the famous letter written by Chief Seattle to the President more than 100 years ago: “When the last river is gone… then will you realize that you can’t eat money?”  His words hold more power today than ever as we see the how the myth of materialism creates the kind of madness that makes men destroy their only natural resources.  One day when it is too late, then will we realize that our natural resources are our only true wealth.

Tribal communities all over the world have learned this lesson over and over again through history as they bartered their natural resources: their fish, their, forrests, their elephants, their rhino’s their rivers, their lakes and their land for a few trinkets and promises of gold. The new colonialists are still making their tricky deals and the natives are still falling for the promises of an easier life with more money, more shiny stuff, the colonialists are of all races and the victims are too.

This story is being played out over and over again in poor uninformed communities around Africa as it has in the past it continues to repeat itself.  It is time to learn from our mistakes. If nothing is done to stop it, it will be happening in poor farming communities near Beaufort West and Aberdeen in the Great Karoo, as well as Namaqualand, South Africa. Again the people most affected will be the descendents earth’s First Peoples – the Nama and the Khoi San.

In this age of information overload and complacency, it is easy to remain passive and overwhelmed, but it is a fact that if good men do nothing-  evil is given permission to reign. We see blatant examples of this lesson over and over again.   It is time to stand up and act or it will be too late, and we will all be left with regrets because if any of this goes ahead, the world will look very different.

This notice has just arrived in my inbox for public comment:

PROPONENT: Tasman Lukisa JV Company (Pty) Ltd

PROJECT: Mining right for Uranium and Molybdenum


EC 30/5/1/2/2/10029 MR: Bokvlei 78 Ptn 1(RE), 2; De Pannen 79 Ptn 1, RE; Kareepoort 80 Ptn 1,2; Oorlogspoort 85 RE; Klein Tavel Kop 163 RE.

The draft Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management Programme report (EIA/EMPr) will be available for comment from 10 March – 18 April 2017.

A public meeting regarding the above is scheduled for 23 March 2017 at 17h00 in the Library Hall, Andries Pretorius street, Aberdeen. Hard copies and soft copies on CD will also be made available in the Beaufort West Library, Agri-Central Karoo (BKB, Beaufort West), the Rustdene Community Hall office, the Youth Hub Office, Aberdeen & Rietbron Municipal Offices and the Rooidam Farm Stall.

PROPONENTS: Tasman Lukisa JV Company (Pty) Ltd & Tasman Pacific Minerals (Ltd)

PROJECTS: Mining right for Uranium and Molybdenum

DISTRICT OF: Beaufort West

WC30/5/1/2/2/10085MR: Haane Kuil   335 Ptn 1 (RE), 4, 7, RE; Nieuw Jaars Fontein 340 Ptn 1, Farm 394 Ptn RE, Eerste Water 349 Ptn 1 (RE), 3 (RE), 4; Ryst Kuil 351 Ptn 2, RE; Vlak Plaats 350 Ptn 1; Klip Stavels 361 Ptn 2; Kat Doorn Kuil 359 Ptn RE; Kant Kraal 360 Ptn RE; Klip Stavels 361 Ptn RE; Klipgat 362 Ptn RE.

WC30/5/1/2/2/10086MR: Oude Volks Kraal 164 Ptn RE, Quaggas Fontein 166 Ptn RE, Oude Volks Kraal 164 Ptn 3, Blaauw Bosch Kuil 165 Ptn RE.

The identified NEMA listed activities for the above applications have been amended and therefore Scoping Report addendums will be available for review from 10 March – 13 April 2017;The final submission dates for the EIA/EMPr’s for these applications has been extended to 31 July 2017.

Land owners, lawful occupants and interested and/or affected parties are given the opportunity to access the above mentioned documentation and to give comments as indicated above. Document copies available for review at: Project Dropbox: Hard copies and soft copies on CD will also be made available in the Beaufort West Library, Agri-Central Karoo (BKB, Beaufort West), the Rustdene Community Hall office, the Kwa-Mandlenkosi Youth Hub office and Beaufort West Municipal offices.

Kind Regards

Erika van der Linde

Ferret Mining and Environmental Services Pty Ltd

P.O. Box 72313

Lynnwood Ridge


 Office number (+27)12 753 1285Mobile number (+27)83 441 0239Fax number 086 716 5576

Ferret Mining and Environmental Services (Pty) and/or Tel: 012 753 1285.

All I know is that there is very little resistance to this. A handful of Karoo farmers living in the area and a few members of the communities in surrounding towns are aware of the dangers and are doing their best to protect themselves, but they need every little help they can get. If as a reader, you are in a position to write to the mining company above or comment on the EIA. Please do. You will be helping a lot.

No matter what our attitude of land ownership is, one logical truth prevails:  we are more transient than the earth, and in our lifetimes we a mere custodians of the land and sea, these things are millions of years older than us. We hope they will continue to exist millions of years into the future.  Yet what may have taken millions of years to create can be destroyed in one generation of very bad management.  If we are here to witness it, future generations will always blame us for doing nothing and causing their pain.

Here are some links to video stories told by the Navajo. Poison wind   The Yellow monster Investigation into Navajo living conditions: America Now

Plea for Awakening-a call for change

Plea for Earth Awakening – By Helena Kingwill

Beneath the surface,

the earth stirs into a spiral.

The alchemy of the turning gyre

Swirls like potion in Lillith’s cauldron

Deep down in the belly of earth

– a wisdom

Like a warm presence

Awaits recognition.

Meanwhile, earth quakes, tsunami waves, wind storm rages

Dust to dust, earth to earth,

Natural cycle returning death to life.

Teaming with organisms.

My wish for the earth now,

Is that we could awaken before it’s too late.

Each of us has come from earthmotherbelly,

and to earth-body we will return,

In our individuality we remain in essence –

a microcosm of the whole.

When will we wake up from our self-importance

And realize the earth’s message?

Hear those earth-cells inside us,

Singing…crying, shaking each other

building to a critical point,

-a wave of realization

sweeping through us all-

even those at the helms of the power machines are affected.

There is something building, bigger than any of us, bigger than politics,

bigger than money.

A rainbow spiral beginning in the centre of the earth

rising up into all of humanity through a collective consciousness we all hold in our earth – cells.

Bringing us to all of our senses.

The realization of our response-abiltiy

The choice  whether to step into that power is either

The wake up call

or the fall of all.



Awakening begins with each individual:

Taking responsibility for our own domestic waste,

our shadows, our shit- it’s compost. Work it.

Sewing the seeds.  Harvesting the fruits.

More than enough to share.

We must unhook ourselves from the myth of materialism,

decide to take care of what we have, with gratitude.

Treat each other and-our earth-resources,  with respect.

Create consciousness in all we use.

Allow Flow, through generous exchange-not hoarding and holding.

Because there is more than enough for everyone’s need.

But not for everyone’s greed.





Response- able


Are we going to see, hear, touch feel, intuit a new way of being, or is it going to be

Our survival -versus the extinction of millions of species?

This is a call for change.

Forced to slow down… making art in traffic jams.

How do you react when circumstances force you to slow down from the ridiculous expected modern pace of living.  When non-stop multi-tasking and high-speed driving lead you to a place where you are forced into a corner in the traffic that you can not escape from.

You may get into a panic about being late, missing your appointment, and how this delay will impact all the things you still have to do. You may see in your misery, the concertina’d crunch of work and stress you are going to have to endure as a consequence of this delay. Or on the other hand, you may begin by sighing a sigh of relief.  At last a chance to pause, breathe, feel the wind on your skin, taste the salt in the air, listen to the passing cry of a seagull.  You are officially delayed.  You have no control.  This is a situation where there is no escape, you simply have to stop.  There is the past- the place you left behind, and there is the future: your destination, but now, you have no choice but to be present in an uncomfortable now.  What are you going to do with it?

The roadworks on the scenic main road between Muizenberg and Fishoek have been forcing commuters into this position since 2012. The coastal road is 200 years old.  Over the years, the pace has increased from one and two horsepower to an estimated 19 000 vehicles daily . In September 2012 a project to upgrade and maintain the road and drainage system began. A stop- go- system was set up for stages of the road works- forcing motorists to endure multiple stops of between 5 and 20 minutes at a time. As the project continues until the end of 2017, people have been forced to adapt to the snail pace required.

I believe the situation in the South side of the peninsular is a metaphor for of a lot of things, especially as 2012 was the year that we were warned would bring big changes, possibly even an end to life as we know it.  Some scoffed at this.  Apart from the obvious need for maintenance, the roadworks are part of an effort the City of Cape Town is being forced to adapt to the warnings of high tides and extreme flooding, population increases due to migration and mass development.  It is essential to adapt or we will die, that is the law of evolution.  Although the adapting could not take the form of much expansion in this case. The challenge is that  the road is between the mountain and the sea and there is no space to grow and in some places no possible detours on the route, all they have been able to do is strengthen and improve things to bare the weight of all the traffic and improve the drainage to avert the possibility of flooding.  So to our inconvenience we have been forced to slow down.  Live a slower life or bite our nails in frustration. I guess if one looks at the possibility of extreme flooding and the consequences of that, one might get some perspective on why it is less inconvenient to be caught in the roadworks traffic, than to be swept away or stuck on a flooded road when the water rises.

As the situation intensifies, becomes more crowded, the weather more extreme, city dwellers may be forced  to slow down in various ways or be overcome, overwhelmed or even burn out. (We have to beware of “burn out”- adrenal burnout is an epidemic of the modern age, one that is not as easy to recover from as one might think.)


A rainy day in St. James. The 20 minute wait.

Responses to being trapped in the traffic vary, but most commuters find it very challenging  on the psyche. Being a victim of the stopped flow can cause huge frustration and anxiety. Over time, some locals found ways to cope with the forced pause and utilize it in some way.  This is a form of survival: adapting to circumstances, so to speak.

Artist Sue Beattie took to carrying a sketchpad, pencils water colours, (and a small water bottle) and brush in the side pocket of her car door. Every time she was held up by the road works, it would be an opportunity for a picture. On occasion she found she had landed in the same place more than once, this allowed her add detail to an earlier work. Other times she created ambient impressions in the space and time allowed.

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Sue’s beautiful drawings and paintings, made during pauses in the traffic along the road, are the subject of an exhibition taking place at her Mosaic Studio in Palmer Street Muizenberg behind Joon Restaurant. It is part of the Muizenberg Festival, which takes place this week. The exhibition can be viewed on Saturday and Sunday the 15th and 16th of October.  Mosaics will also be on display in the garden of Joon’s resaurant.


Sue finishes off the grouting on some pots. This bench is to be seen in the back yard of Joon Restaurant in Palmer street, Muizenberg.  

Sue Beattie works as a professional illustrator and mosaic artist and is responsible for the fish mosaic project, a community initiative, which has left its mark on many of the buildings in the Muizenberg village, now decorated with mosaic fishes, swimming towards the sea.


Local musicians of Muizenberg Guy Collins and Jamie Jupiter pose with a fish mosaic.

Sue Beattie also runs a free book give away between 2-30 and 4pm every Tuesday at number 31 Albertyn Road. This is a way of making literature accessible to those who would not otherwise have access to it. Her home is near the station, and she gives away second hand books that would otherwise be pulped.  Caring for community and uplifting others less fortunate than herself is a way of life for Sue, who creates colour and beauty around her at every opportunity.  A good way to thrive during these stressful times: creating beauty and hope and reading old stories which are filled with both.

Contact Sue Beattie for more information at: 021 7861670 or 08340605222

Or email her at

What would you be doing today, if you knew that tomorrow was the last day of your life?


My cousin Andrew Janisch was walking home from work on Friday the 29th of July, when out of the blue his heart decided it was time to stop. His time just suddenly ran out. The last grain in the hour glass fell and his life ended at 45.  Or perhaps, I believe, an Angel stepped out from behind a pole near the flower sellers on Adderley street (which is where it happened) and said, “Come, I’ll take you home.”  And he went because for some inexplicable reason, it was his time.

When we were children, we played together in the school holidays. He and his brothers would come on a steam train from the city to the Bethesda Road Station- the now defunct small siding in the Karoo where we would pick them up in the farm truck and they would spend weeks, riding horses, bikes, catching crabs in the river, herding sheep, climbing mountains, reading and singing songs together- Andrew and his brother Chris on guitar, brother Mike singing along angelically.  Time seemed endless then, but we made the most of it. We did not have any digital gadgets to fritter our time away with in those days. We did not even have electricity on the farm. Only a generator at night until we all went to bed. When the last light was switched off , the thumping of the generator slurred to a stop and silence would fall, as quiet as the mountains and as dark as black velvet. Only the stars twinkled in their ancient majesty and the odd owl hooted plaintively.

robert2 001-2

After a successful haul down by the river, we posed by the Christmas tree with our loot.  Andrew is teasing me and I am drawing back with an expression of mock horror as the crab wriggles in mid air.

Andrew was not one to waste time. He was a great achiever. He got straight A’s for matric -I seem to remember, got a scholarship to university, and studied something practical like electrical engineering although he preferred playing guitar. He graduated, got a job, married his true love at a young age and had two beautiful children and then decided to focus on his music. For a few years while his children were little, he worked as a guitar teacher and managed to record and perform his original songs with a band as well as solo.

Listening to his music now, the music he left behind….is profound:   He felt things. His music was his hearts expression. He saw the big picture, and he described it poetically. For example this song “Eclipse” from the album “Heart” seems quite prophetic:

“Waiting on the mountain, together but alone /we watch the gold horizon reflecting on our own

a change too small to notice, a glimpse of something new/ a chance to fix the broken, it all slips by too soon

And I see the end is coming, I just don’t know how soon/ we all go down together, with the eclipsing of the moon/ all the mothers and their daughters will realize the truth/ and reattach the broken strands connecting me to you.

The planets will be dancing, big swingers in the sky/ the moon and sun will set as one, old ghosts will pass us by/ a momentary flicker, a dawning of the truth/ a time to mourn, a time to see the aging of our youth.

Break out the finest whiskey, bring on the finest band/ let us all rejoice both girls and boys and give ourselves a hand/ the product of our histories is here and here alone/ bring out the feast , red wine and meat and sink just like a stone.

And I see the end is coming, I just don’t know how soon/ we’ll all go down together, with the eclipsing of the moon/ all mothers and their daughters, will realize the truth/ and reattach the broken strands connecting me to you.

He was not afraid to talk about things he saw and felt but kept it light and jovial, knowing the heavy stuff was hard to digest. Humour opens the heart. Fear closes it. He was not afraid to channel his truth because he kept his vessel open and true, like a well tuned guitar.

His album “Hand Made” (2000) with his band Woodshed was followed by solo album “Moved to Change” (2002) which was listed with the greats as one of the Albums of the year, and enjoyed much radio play. This was followed by “Heart” a few years ago.

His wife Dee said that he had a vague idea that he might die before his 29th birthday. Every birthday he would sigh a sigh of relief and gratitude that he had made another year. Perhaps that is why he lived his life with such purpose, or that is how it seems to me.

Andrew and Dee watched the Al Gore documentary “The Inconvenient Truth,” when it came out and it set off a career change for Andrew. He decided he would not just sit by and watch Climate Change devastate the planet. He wanted to do what he could to make a difference. So he followed his passion and applied for a job at Sustainable Energy Africa (SEA) using his degree as an electrical engineer. He quickly became a very valuable asset in the process of helping promote renewable energy projects and initiatives in South Africa.   He then crossed into the Government sector and worked for two years at the City of Cape Town where he was a central part of a team working towards adapting the City of Cape Town for a future that would help reduce the effects of global warming as much as possible.  According to the leader of the Energy and Climate Change team,  Sarah Ward, he provided insight and backing to the Cape Town 2040 vision and action plan and was specifically requested to be part of a small reference group advising the National Treasury on the transformation of the electricity sector particularly in regard to meeting city needs. Sarah said that the fact that his presence was specifically requested in this group seemed to surprise him, (as he had such a modest view of himself.)   He had been busy looking into models  for sustainable electrification of poorer households, which would create a high level of service within a manageable budget for the city.  According to Sarah, who worked with him for the last 10 years of his life, both at SEA and in the city town-planning office, Andrew played a central role in making Cape Town a leader in the use of solar water heaters and photo-voltaic as a sustainable energy saving solution.

He did not neglect his art. He was now able to combine it skillfully into his work, wherever he could to make light and add a song and a dance to the work as a way of taking things onto another level, adding interest, keeping things lively, sharing a gift, he did. According to Sarah Ward-“Andrew had an amazing ability to seem calm and casual under great pressure, using music to create spaces of genius, for example Sarah kept a guitar in her office and Andrew played it guitar while discussing intense strategy and project planning, this opened up new spaces in our thinking and outlook. How do you replace someone like that?” She said tearfully at his memorial service.   Here he is playing is  Get your Piece of the Sun -a song he wrote to help promote solar water heaters, it was recorded with popular Cape Town band “Hot Water.”  (The name of the band could not have been incidental.)

At his memorial service, Sarah told us why his loss was so significant to the team.  “He was a bridge builder, he brought clarity and much needed sanity in difficult areas.  A good listener, carefully listening before sharing his thoughts. I always felt that  having Andrew in the room changed the conversation for the better.  He also had a real ability to make complex things understandable and made sure he communicated with everyone he was speaking to.” She explained.

On Monday,  his team at The city of Cape Town planted a Coral Tree in the Biodiversity Park near Green point Stadium in his name. One day the tree will grow large and be filled with orange and red flowers and people will gather beneath it and play guitar.

In the mean time his wife Dee and his children Julian and Erin will continue their lives. His physical absence will probably hurt a lot. Like lava flowing from the heart of a volcano is how I imagine it- like the heart of the earth broken open, bleeding hot, thick tears. I feel it with them, a sudden death like this is like a natural disaster, it is traumatic.

But there is a bigger plan, a broader pattern we cannot see yet. He will continue to live through his work and through his children who will always remember the strong values he imparted to them through being as truly present to them and true to himself as he was. (And by filling the world with Love his whole life through.) He always made family his priority.

My deepest sadness in mourning him is the time lost for “connecting the strands from me to you.” He was a humble, modest soul, yet one who did not squander his existence in any way, least of all on social media. It is easy to be distracted and to forget to really connect with the people who mean a lot to you these days. In this digital age we live in, it is so easy to waste ones time browsing social media and the like and never really meet and have conversations with actual humans who really have something to say and who you really care about. One hears about ones connections through e-mails and Facebook and it creates the false sense of having access to those connections out there. The need to connect is what keeps one scrolling, but it is not fulfilling. Unless you make the effort to actually call on them and ask them how they really are, you might as well be on another planet.   I spontaneously dropped by on Andrew and family a few months ago because we were in the area and I had a need to connect. We had a conversation in the garden. I am so glad I took the risk and whistled at their door because that was the last time I saw him.

The shock of his passing has sent all his family and friends and associates reeling because it is so totally unexpected and he was such a dependable constant presence in the prime of his life. The lesson I have learned is never to take anyone for granted ever. For example, I have come to value my partner infinitely more because at any moment, like Andrew, he could just slip off this mortal coil and then it would be too late to say I love you.

Do you remember where stories began?

Around the fireside, one would presume, is the place stories began.   Or have there always been stories? The ancient stories, the ones that last are the stories which have been made simple, like parables.  They seem simple, but may have a profound message which runs deeper and teaches us something.  These stories have universal elements, so that they remain relevant through the ages and across many borders and cultures and nationalities. They must carry a kernal of truth or they would not resonate. If they do not resonate, then they whither and die like plants when they have had their season.

A tale is a spell. The Grimms fairy tales use strong archetypal characters, which teach us about ourselves and are warnings to children and parents about the lives they might live if they make certain choices. The stories carry subtle lessons, which resonate subconsciously.There is more magic than one realizes in a story, as the musical (Disney made a movie) Into The Woods– which weaves together 4 or 5 of Grimms original fairy tales proves.  I love the profound final number, which goes:  “Careful the things you say, children will listen…. Careful the wish you make, wishes are children, careful the tale you tell… Careful the spell you caste…it may last.”   (See the full song here: )

So where did stories begin? According to Ntombifuthi Mkhasibe and Vincent Meyburgh of Jungle theatre, stories began with the original man and the original woman and their need to find enough stories to tell their 10 children. The archetypal woman in the story does all the work,  while the husband carves beautiful carvings and hunts. She is the one who bravely sets off into the unknown wilderness to find more stories and bring them back to their children. The show, performed by Ntombifuthi and Vincent leads viewers through a wild African landscape meeting various animals along the way. Each creature has its own special wisdom to impart. She then travels onwards ignoring any physical barriers into the spirit realm where she discovers messages of the ancestors and brings them back from under the ocean. The show uses mime and simple props, costumes and masks in combination with colourful storytelling to keep the children fully entertained all the way through. Creative use of props and masks keeps the show simple and innovative.

The rich and ancient heritage of oral story telling is an art which needs to be kept alive in times of digital advancement. Even though technology keeps them hooked up so much of the time these days, children can still be entertained and reminded of the simple truths of the days when the earth was still new and the wild animals were the only ones we met along the road. In those days man/womankind was still modest enough to listen to the messages from nature and the lessons the animals could teach us. These lessons were retold to the children, and the children listened, and they told those stories to their children and so on.

The purpose of the show is to inspire children to value stories and to be inspired to read them too.  The show is aimed at children of all cultures in South Africa and hopes to instill a pride in our national heritage of natural story telling.  Jungle Theatre – (based in Muizenberg, Cape Town) makes its shows as accessible as possible by taking them to schools in townships as well as festivals around the country where they often perform in public spaces.

The show, directed by Seiso Qhola will be performed at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown  (Eastern Cape) next week.    See the program link bellow to find out the times. The same company is also performing “Butterfly Dreams” on the lawn behind the Rhodes Arch at the end of Highstreet.  This show is  free and open to the public.

How stories began

How Stories Began-1