Hot Oregon Summer – Berlin Next

Gendarmenmarkt Berlin – depositphotos.com

Gardening and Wildfires

It’s been a restful, contemplative summer in Oregon working in my garden with deer, wild turkeys, annoying yellow jackets, and a stray Gothic-looking black cat. Sadly, dry and windy conditions combined with record-breaking heat resulted in raging wildfires all around us.

Garden Visitor

Cute Stray Cat

The massive Carr Fire near the California / Oregon border created terrifying “fire tornadoes“. They occur when a fire acquires “vertical vorticity and forms a whirl”. Fire tornadoes can “grow to gargantuan size with winds of over 90 mph”.

Fire Tornado – zmescience.com

Carr Fire Chopper – The Mercury News Bay Area

The Carr Fire ignited in late July. A month later, after “torching more than 200,000 acres,” it’s about 90 percent contained!  Smoke from fires in Oregon, California, Washington, and nearby Colorado and Canada creates a surreal aura, bringing an eerie atmospheric haze, poor air quality, and vivid sunrises and sunsets.

Wildfire Sunset San Francisco Bay – Fstoppers.com

Wildfire Smoke at Sunrise – Jonathan Hayward Canadian Press

Brave Wildfire Fighter – Charlie Nash Photography

Next Long Trip

I’ve started getting into the specifics of my next travel adventure. No matter what, this time I’m traveling with one piece of luggage!

Berlin Boroughs and Districts

Like in 2017, I’ll begin in Europe and eventually make my way back to South Africa. I decided to start in Berlin – a new city for me. I’ve studied Berlin’s East and West boroughs and have a few leads for rental apartments in well-located areas near attractions and transportation – Mitte, Charlottenburg-WilmersdorfFriedrichshain-Kreuzberg, and Neukölln. Rents are reasonable, and the apartments look comfortable.

Museum Island River Spree – Stock Photo

Return to South Africa

I’m apprehensive about violence in many parts of Africa – Congo, Mali, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, et al. Although I’ve never experienced violence during my travels in Africa, six cities in South Africa – Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Pietermaritzburg, Rustenburg, and Johannesburg – made the top ten list of the most dangerous cities on the African continent. Xenophobic related violence in South Africa is disturbing. Here in the US, we clearly have our own problems and brand of political tension, civil unrest, violence, and a vast chasm between “left versus right” ideologies…

Berlin Cathedral – Wikimedia.org 

Thankfully Day Zero in Cape Town’s drought is now pushed out beyond 2019, but the government’s move toward land expropriation without compensation is a concern. More than two decades after the end of apartheid, land ownership remains a “highly emotive” subject for South Africans – that may be an understatement. According to the ruling ANC government, white people own 72 percent of private land, black people 4 percent, and other ethnic groups 24 percent.

Berlin Cathedral at Museum Island – 123RF.com

Land expropriation is said to be “the most pressing social issue in the country”. However, some think high crime, corruption, and the “triple-time-bomb of poverty, unemployment, and inequality” are the issues keeping South Africans awake at night.

Kayelitsha Township Outside Cape Town – Dan Kitwood Getty Images

Julius Malema Leader Economic Freedem Fighters (EFF) -blouinnews

Julius Sello Malema Leader Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) – blouinnews.com

The ANC-led government and members of the militant, aggressive Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party differ in their approach to land expropriation. The EFF – founded in 2013 and led by outspoken Julius Sello Malema – is a self-proclaimed “radical leftist, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist movement that draws inspiration from the broad Marxist-Leninist tradition.

Mmusi Maimane – Leader Democratic Alliance

The Democratic Alliance (DA) – the ANC’s official opposition and second largest political party – accuses both the ANC and EFF of “misleading the public on land expropriation”. They claim to have the best land-reform plan. DA leader Mmusi Maimane says, “there can be no new dawn for South Africa until the ANC is out of power“.

My extended South African visa expires in 2020 – a regular entry (tourist) visa issued at the airport is good for 90 days. I haven’t decided whether to pursue the rigorous renewal process. The “retirement visa” has allowed me to make long trips (up to five years) to explore and better understand South Africa. I especially enjoy the Western Cape, hiking Table Mountain, volunteer work with young children, and vibrant Cape Town – a special and dear place to me. South Africa is a strikingly beautiful but complex and sometimes difficult country that can’t possibly be understood without spending extended time there.

Unter den Linden by Night – 123RF.com

During this period of rapid change, the National Development Plan (NDP) is the country’s detailed proposal addressing key issues for uniting South Africans.The lofty NDP goals to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality are to be implemented by 2030. What little I know of the NDP, it seems overwhelming, but I’m digressing – back to Berlin

Clouds Over Table Mountain from Signal Hill Cape Town – Erik Pronske Getty Images

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The NDP’s goal is to “unite South Africans, unleash the energies of its citizens, grow an inclusive economy, build capabilities, and enable the state and leaders to work together to solve complex problems”…

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Staatsoper Unter den Linden

Berlin State Opera Staatsoper Unter den Linden – Wikipedia

Berlin This Fall

I plan to arrive in Berlin in September. Their fall weather is much like Oregon’s with cool but mild temperatures. When winter comes and it starts getting really cold, I’ll move south – not sure where yet. I’m considering exploring new places versus returning to more familiar areas. New countries of interest include Romania and Albania, but Italy and Spain also have moderate winter climates.

Berlin Brandenburg Gate at Dusk – pond5.com

I’m looking for a three-month rental apartment in the Berlin-Mitte borough, the central section of former East Berlin. “Before the war and division of the city, Mitte was the center of Berlin. It’s regained its former pre-eminence to such an extent that many visitors never see the western side of the city.”

Bode Museum Mitte – Wikimedia.org

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Mitte is the oldest and most historic part of Berlin with many cultural attractions and “ever-expanding restaurant, club, and arts scenes”.

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Strandbar at Bode Museum Mitte

Mitte begins at Potsdamer Platz and the Brandenburg Gate on the east side of Tiergarten Park. The grand boulevard, Unter den Linden, is lined with 18th- and 19th-century palaces and monuments.

Mitte – VanDam StreetSmart Maps

Tiergarten Park – berlijn-blog.nl

Komische Opera House Berlin – operawire.com

I’m excited to attend theater performances and the Berlin opera! Berlin is teeming with performing arts theaters, cabarets, and clubs. The Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin’s main opera house, and the Komische Oper, the third largest, are both in Mitte. Berlin’s Philharmonic Season begins in late September. Other major attractions in the area include Gendarmenmarkt, a neoclassical square, Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral), and Museumsinsel (Museum Island) with five major museums. Frivolous activities that top my list are – mingling with locals, hanging out in cafés, overnight side trips, and exploring less-traveled backstreets.

Christmas Berlin – efcollegebreak.com 

Germany’s festive Christmas Markets are legendary. These are the top five:

  1. Weihnachtszauber at the Gendarmenmarkt
  2. Berliner Weihnachtszeit at Roten Rathaus
  3. Wintertraum am Alexa
  4. Winterwelt am Potsdamer Platz
  5. Weihnachtsmarkt am Gedächtniskirche

Christmas Markets Berlin – classictic.com

I don’t speak German but am learning key phrases and pronunciation rules hoping I don’t butcher the language too much. During past travels in Germany, English was spoken everywhere. Mehr später…

Monbijou Park Embankment River Spree

Lindiwe Mazibuko

Lindiwe Masibuko MP

Lindiwe Mazibuko MP

Lindiwe Mazibuko is a South African politician and Member of Parliament (MP). She is the National Spokesperson for the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Shadow Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform (see May 18th blog on SA political parties). The DA is South Africa’s only major opposition party to the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

Born April 9, 1980 Lindiwe Mazibuko is South Africa’s fourth youngest parliamentarian, a “rising star in Parliament”, and a possible future DA leader. On September 27th Lindiwe Mazibuko announced her candidacy for the highly regarded DA post of Parliamentary Leader. Athol Trollip (fluent in Xhosa) now holds that post which is considered “a springboard to leadership of the DA”.

Lindiwe Mazibuko

Lindiwe Mazibuko

Today, by publicly endorsing Athol Trollip for Parliamentary Leader, Dene Smuts (Senior DA Member of Parliament) dealt Mazibuko her first major blow since she announced her candidacy for the coveted position.

A 2007 graduate of the University of Cape Town, Mazibuko wrote her honors dissertation thesis on the Democratic Alliance. To complete her dissertation, she spent time researching Helen Zille and her tenure as DA Leader and Mayor of Cape Town. Currently Zille is the Premier of the Western Cape, a member of the Western Cape Provincial Parliament, leader of South Africa’s opposition DA political party, former Mayor of Cape Town, and a former journalist and anti-apartheid activist.

As Mazibuko studied the DA party’s policies and programs of action she discovered they were in sync with her own ideologies and political vision for South Africa.

Lindiwe Masibuko MP

Lindiwe Mazibuko MP

After graduation she became the DA party’s Media Liaison Officer in Parliament. Labelled a “star performer” by Helen Zille, Mazibuko became a parliamentary candidate in the 2009 general elections, was appointed Shadow Deputy Minister of Communications, and became the DA Party Spokesperson.

Born in Swaziland and raised in Durban, Lindiwe attended the University of KwaZulu-Natal and obtained a BA (French, Classics, Media, and Writing) in 2006 and a BA Honours (Political Communication) degree in 2007 from the University of Cape Town.

Lindiwe Mazibuko

Lindiwe Mazibuko with Helen Zille

She views her position in the DA as an opportunity to put her words and thoughts into action by “rolling up my sleeves” as she puts it. Appointed the DA party’s national media officer after only a year as a researcher she said her involvement in the political process is exhilarating.

In 2008 Lindiwe decided to run for public office. In 2009 she was elected to Parliament. Her constituency is North Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, and she says she is “utterly committed to politics and grateful for the privilege of being able to live her passion”.

Helen Zille and Lindiwe Mazibuko

Helen Zille and Lindiwe Mazibuko

“Lindiwe Mazibuko: Change you can believe in, with an accent you can understand. Thus ran a satirical tweet from the parody @aDAvoter Twitter account after the opposition party’s 31-year-old poster girl announced her candidacy for arguably the second most powerful position in the party — leader of the opposition in Parliament, after just two and a half years in the legislature as a Democratic Alliance backbencher and one of the party’s youngest MPs.”

Criticized for her youth and inexperience “she repeatedly refrains from rising to the bait. It would have been easy for her to point out that she can speak isiZulu and Seswati along with her crisp model-C school English. Or to bring up how her parents, a nurse and a banker, sneaked her into a Jewish school to get her a decent education, and how they hid her under a blanket to escape the violence endemic in townships in the eighties. But she chooses not to, and only a Google search reveals those details”.

Watty-watson

Watty Watson Caucus Chairman

wilmot james

Wilmot James Chief Whip

Ian-Ollis

Ian Ollis MP

Athol Trollip

Athol Trollip DA Parliamentary Leader

“Seated confidently between seasoned party leaders Wilmot James (Chief Whip) and Watty Watson (Caucus Chairman), her running mates, Mazibuko cut a striking figure when she announced her candidacy for Parliamentary Leader. Her moment arrived: gone were the loose tendrils of hair and the blue DA T-shirt. She was smart in a fitted black jacket with her hair elegantly pulled back and, the older men flanking her complemented her youthful vigor and famed eloquence. “

“I believe my age is an asset to this party’s leadership,” she told reporters in Cape Town. “The DA needs to capture young voters. In 2014, there’s a whole new crop of so-called born frees (people born after the birth of South African democracy in 1994). The party needs to keep the momentum of a progressive, forward-moving, modern political party going.”

Helen Zille Premier of the Western Cape

Helen Zille

Analysts laud Mazibuko’s nomination, calling it the “battle for the soul of the DA party”.

“She seems positioned to win, but the vote will no doubt be close. To combat her “perceived weakness” (as one MP put it) of inexperience, she’s pulled the clever trick of surrounding herself with veterans.”

Lindiwe Mazibuko

DA MP Ian Ollis, Shadow Minister of Labor and himself a relative newcomer, recently noted: “We all start somewhere, without experience.” The DA party is ripe for a black leader. Whether Mazibuko is ready for such “dizzying heights of leadership at such a young age is the question that may well decide the future of the party”.

The election takes place on October 27th, 2011.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng

Mogoeng Mogoeng

Despite strong opposition from human rights groups, on September 8 President Jacob Zuma appointed Mogoeng Mogoeng as Chief Justice of South Africa’s Constitutional Court and head of the country’s judiciary. Mogoeng served as a justice for two years. As Chief Justice he will lead the court during the last decade of his 12-year term. South Africa’s high court decides questions related to the constitution and makes recommendations to the president on judicial appointments. Critics say Mogoeng’s influence in judicial appointments will lead to a more conservative judiciary prone to deferring to the executive.

Jacob Zuma and Mogoeng Mogoeng

South African civil rights groups condemned President Zuma’s choice for chief justice. They argued that Mogoeng’s views on gender equality and marital rape “make a mockery of the country’s constitutional rights”. Other critics say his views “lack the experience and qualifications of rival candidates”. As head of South Africa’s constitutional court, he is responsible for upholding one of the most progressive constitutions in the world.

Mogoeng Mogoeng

Documents seen by local newspapers detail appeal cases at the superior court over the past decade in which gender and legal activists questioned Mogoeng’s judgments.

One case was a 2001 appeal by a man who tied a woman to the bumper of his car and “drove the vehicle about 50 metres (55 yards) at high speed”. Mogoeng ruled that the two-year sentence imposed was “too harsh by any standards” and instead fined the man R2000 ($275). Among his reasons for reversing the charges were that the accused “pleaded guilty and therefore showed remorse and the complainant provoked him but did not sustain serious injuries”.

Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke

In 2004 a man appealed his sentence for the rape of his common-law wife. She was eight months pregnant and another person was present during the attack. Court records show Mogoeng upheld the conviction but reduced the 10-year sentence to 5 years. Although marital rape is a crime in South Africa, Mogoeng felt there were “mitigating factors”. He listed these as the appellant (1) was a first time offender, (2) was not a stranger to the complainant, and (3) “But for the presence of another person, the appellant and complainant would probably have had consensual intercourse.”

Zuma and Mogoeng

In a 2007 case, a man jailed five years for attempted rape appealed his sentence. He and his victim were getting a divorce and one night he broke into her house and attacked her. Mogoeng was among the judges who suspended the man’s sentence, stating: “The desire to make love to his wife must have overwhelmed him, hence his somewhat violent behaviour. However, he neither smacked, punched, or kicked her and used minimum force to subdue the complainant’s resistance.” The judge added, “The case is not comparable to a case where a woman comes across a stranger on the street who suddenly attempts to rape her.”

Mogoeng Mogoeng

Cleared of a rape charge shortly before his election as President of South Africa, many thought these documents would pressure Zuma to rethink his nomination of Mogoeng. They did not.

Former SA President Thabo Mbeki

Louise Olivier, the law programme manager at the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), said: “The South African Constitutional Court is regarded by jurists both internationally and on the continent as a model, socially and legally progressive, and providing jurisprudence that protects and promotes human rights. To appoint judge Mogoeng Mogoeng as its chief justice makes a mockery of the substantial constitutional advances made by the court. Mogoeng’s previous judgments on gender equality and marital rape show that he has scant regard for legal protections that most South Africans hold dear.”

Olivier added: “It also shows either that President Zuma’s legal counsel have not done their homework in finding these judgments, as it is unlikely that after reading them they would have advised him to recommend Mogoeng’s appointment, or his views on women’s rights and marital rape find resonance within his presidency.”

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng

The City Press newspaper said Mogoeng, a conservative Christian, is a member of the Johannesburg branch of the Winners’ Chapel International Church (also known as the Living Faith Church Worldwide). He provides “pastoral services”, such as house visits, but does not preach.

There was strong backlash against Zuma’s decision to overlook deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke for the position. Moseneke is widely seen as a formidable legal mind. He was appointed to the bench in 2002 by then president Thabo Mbeki. Mbeki resigned after being recalled by the ANC’s Executive Committee following a charge of improper interference in the National Prosecuting Authority, including the prosecution of Jacob Zuma for corruption. The Supreme Court of Appeal unanimously overturned the judgment against Mbeki but his resignation stood.

Mogoeng Mogoeng

Pierre de Vos, a scholar and expert in South African constitutional law, said: “It is as if president Zuma, acting like a spoilt child who could not get his way extending the term of office of the outgoing chief justice because he relied on a clearly unconstitutional provision to do so, is now getting back at his critics by appointing the least suitable candidate to that post.”

Crossroads Squatter Camp Cape Town

Crossroads Township was a large squatter camp (shanty town) in the Cape Flats area on the outskirts of Cape Town. Many moved to camps like Crossroads to get closer to work opportunities, health care, and education services unavailable in rural areas.

Settlements like Crossroads consisted of thousands of shacks made of wood, cardboard, tin, and other scrap material. Living conditions were poor with entire families living in one tiny makeshift structure.

Crossroads Children

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“Fighting and rioting at Crossroads was largely thought to be the result of the South African government’s political control methods and an example of the Apartheid policy of contra-mobilization.”

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In 1975, four years after it was established, the South African government classified Crossroads an “emergency camp”. After the June 16, 1976 Soweto uprising, that classification made it immune to the demolition that occurred in similar shanty towns across South Africa.

cape-town-south-africa-table-mountain-with-khayelitsha-township-D11X21

Khayelitsha Township with Table Mountain in the Background

“By the mid 1980s Crossroad’s population was over 100,000 and highly visible in the world press and flight paths of Cape Town International Airport. When authorities attempted to move Crossroads residents further away from the city to a new township named Khayelitsha (“new home” in Xhosa) they refused. There was rioting among rival gangs and fighting in the streets.”

“In the South African context, contra-mobilisation was used to organise and support ‘moderate blacks‘ to oppose revolutionary movements. Of necessity, it was a covert strategy that made use of ‘surrogate’ forces – concealing the hand of the state as provider of logistical, political, and financial support. Hence, the state was not seen to be involved in the conflict and violence between rival groups and the resistance organisations” – para. 555, Vol 2, Chap 3, Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) Report.

Crossroads Residents

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Rioting in May and June of 1986 resulted in burned houses and 60 deaths. Almost 60,000 residents of Crossroads became homeless.”

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Johnson Ngxobongwana was a local warlord with a strong political voice at Crossroads. He represented the moderate Africans. Over the years Ngxobongwana built up a popular following, including local thugs who wore white headbands for identification. Ngxobongwana had “unofficial support” from South Africa’s Apartheid government and its security forces. It’s said that Ngxobongwana used those resources to eliminate his rivals and degrade women and youth groups.

On June 12th, President PW Botha declared a ‘State Emergency’ to halt the violence across South Africa by what he characterized as “revolutionaries supported by the African National Congress (ANC).”

Cape Flats

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Open fires used for cooking and candles for lighting resulted in burns, accidents, and frequent fires. This continues today.

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Steve Bloom Crossroads Aerial Photo

Although the South African media reported the violence as “black-on-black” the South African government’s involvement was clear. The government attributed the conflict to “historical rivalries and political differences between different groups and an increasing tendency to resolve differences by violent means”.

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Crossroads Squatter Camp

Crossroads Squatter Camp

In today’s post-apartheid South Africa governed by the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s National Liberation Movement, there are a growing number of squatter camps populated by Afrikaners – white South Africans. “Despite impoverished blacks in the region far outnumbering whites, poverty is a human issue, not necessarily racial.”

White Squatter Camp

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“Settlements like Crossroads consisted of thousands of shacks made of wood, cardboard, tin, and other scrap material.”

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White Squatter Camp

ANC Wins Local Elections

Union Buildings on Meintjieskop Hill, Pretoria

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in Pretoria, South Africa reported that the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party won the majority of local elections last week. None of the major cities in South Africa changed hands. Discontent over a lack of jobs and basic services lifted support for the ANC’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA). Formed in 2000 the DA was a merger of the Democratic Party and the New National Party (NNP), whose predecessor ruled under apartheid. The two movements split in 2001 and the NNP leader formed an alliance with the ANC.

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It is expected to take decades before an opposition party has any chance of taking over political power from the ANC.

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Although the ANC only lost a few percentage points in the election, Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe told reporters in Pretoria that “Any loss is a wake-up call for a political party.” Mantashe pointed out that many voters don’t participate in local elections.

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…a lack of basic services in many townships is beginning to weaken ANC support.

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The DA increased their support in major cities already controlled by the ANC. Cape Town remains the only major DA-controlled city. ANC support dropped in Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Durban indicating increasing strength for the DA. The ANC has won every election since 1994 and many black supporters remain loyal to the party because of its long fight against apartheid. However, rising unemployment (one in four people are without jobs) and a lack of basic services in many townships is weakening ANC support.