Let the party begin!

2010 football sign

Tomorrow is a beeeeg day in Cape Town. Just in case you didn't know, South Africa is hosting the FIFA World Cup next year. Yes... of course you knew that. :) Have a look at the banner on the building to the left - it's one of a number of banners put up by Cape Town Tourism to promote Cape Town as one of the 2010 World Cup host cities.

Anyhow, tomorrow is when we'll have our first glimpse of what we can expect come June next year. The final draw to determine the tournament groupings is taking place tomorrow in Cape Town, and the city is gearing up for quite a party. People have been hearing helicopters and fighter jets overhead for a few days now; someone spotted David Beckham having dinner at the One & Only Hotel this evening; and apparently Charlize Theron is in town. I don't think it would be melodramatic to say that there's a real sense of excitement and expectation hanging in the air.

Tomorrow evening a whole lot of VIPs and media will be gathering at the Convention Centre for the official draw, while the rest of the plebs party it up at the special party venue being prepared in Long Street. An estimated 700 million people are expected to watch the draw live on television tomorrow, in 200 countries all across the world. If you're one of them, keep an eye out for us. We'll be in Long Street with all the other plebs. :D

Goodbye to the Citi Golf Mk1

The last Citi Golf Mk1

South Africa's been producing Volkswagen Citi Golfs since 1984, and has since that date made about 377,000 of the little beasts. The last Citi Golf Mk1 rolled off the production line on 2 November 2009, and while it's a dream come true for many who dislike these old cars, it's the end of an era for many people who love them.

The Citi Golf became something of a cult car in South Africa. It seems like those who've owned one have fallen in love with the car, and talk fondly of memories that they've shared with this vehicle. If you were to ask current and past owners for a single word to describe the car I think the most frequently used word would be "dependable".

To celebrate the Citi Golf, and commemorate the many years of production, Volkswagen took this car (the last one to come off the production line) on a tour of South Africa, inviting fans of the brand to leave a short message and signature on the bodywork.

Wherever in the country this Golf went, fans were sure to follow, standing in long queues to get a chance to make their mark on the car. Indeed, it's the end of an era, and although production has now stopped, I assure you that based on morning rush-hour traffic it seems as though there are still around 377,000 of them on the road! Farewell Mk1! :)

See a few more photos of the signing of the Citi in our photo album.

Think Big. Yellow cupcakes with rockets.

Yellow cupcakes

"Think Big" is a part of the mindset that the CIO of the company I work for tried to instil in our IT department at a recent IT visioning meeting. The rocket on top of this yummy cupcake, he explained, symbolises the concept of thinking beyond what you know today to be possible.

Just this month a satellite developed by the staff and students at Stellenbosch University (one of the large universities in the area) was launched from Kazakhstan, aboard a rocket. The satellite named SumbandilaSat (a Venda word meaning "lead the way") is the second one to be launched by South Africa and will be used by the government mostly to monitor crops, dam levels and population migration.

Still far from the capability of satellites portrayed in the movie Enemy of the State, this one represents another leap forward for South Africa's ambitions to have their own little bit of space. :) Well done, guys!

Turkish bulk carrier aground at Blouberg

Bulk carrier aground at Blouberg

With all the bad weather we've been having this week, a Turkish bulk carrier laden with oil and iron ran aground at Blouberg Beach in Table Bay on Monday night. I've been at work all day, but fortunately one of our readers, Pedro, from Belbon Hills wine farm managed to snap this photo for us en route to the farm.

The 25 crew members were air-lifted to safety, but concerns have now been raised about a small leak that could turn nasty. The South African Department of Environmental Affairs are looking into the matter, but I'm not sure how much can be done right now - except perhaps for pumping the oil from the vessel!

Click here to read the original Reuters report.

EDIT: Please see my comment below.

Wakame and Green Point Stadium

Wakame and Green Point Stadium

At least one of our UK readers in particular will immediately recognise the inside of Wakame, a popular tapas and sushi restaurant in Mouille Point, located very close to the Green Point soccer stadium. In fact, the stadium is precisely what you can see brighly lit out in the darkness.

While we were enjoying really (very) good sushi, I watched welding sparks dropping to the ground from the structure in the distance. It would seem the stadium's construction workers are putting in some serious overtime to catch up after last week's wage dispute.

Freedom Day – 15 years on

Robben Island sunset

The 27th of April is Freedom Day in South Africa. This public holiday marks the start of our first democratic elections in 1994 (the elections were held over 3 days). I wasn't old enough to vote back then (I turned 18 two and a half months later), but I remember that day so clearly. There was an incredible sense of excitement, and news broadcasts showed images of long voting queues snaking their way through dusty township streets, and elderly black people tearfully telling reporters how it felt to finally be able to vote for the first time at the age of 80 or 90. Got to admit, I still get teary thinking about it.

We held our 4th general election last week, and for the first time since 1994 there was a similar sense of excitement and optimism. And it didn't seem to matter who you were voting for either (just as it didn't matter much in 1994) - everyone seemed enthusiastic, and it felt good to be united as a nation in a common activity. Despite all the controversy surrounding our president-elect Jacob Zuma, I think there is a lot of optimism right now amongst people of all political persuasions. It's a fresh start, and a change, and perhaps that's the most important thing for our teenage nation right now.

I found this photo in our archives; it's a month or two old, but I thought it would be fitting to post a photo of the sun setting behind Robben Island to mark Freedom Day.

South African Elections: the ballot paper

Election Ballot Paper

As decided yesterday, we took a leisurely stroll over to our local voting station, and were back home 35 minutes later - duty done. The voting process was quick and painless, and went something like this:

  1. We joined the queue - about 80 metres long at the time.
  2. We proceeded slowly to the head of the queue, which was at the door of the school building.
  3. As four people exited, four of us were let into the building (I guess there were about 12 to 16 voters in the building at any one time).
  4. I handed my Identity Document to the official who scanned the bar-code and printed a little "receipt" of sorts.
  5. I took my receipt and headed to the next official who found and crossed off my name on a printed list.
  6. Next, I moved over to the tattoo parlour (kidding) where a little drop of iodine was dripped onto my left thumb nail. (Here's Kerry-Anne's thumb nail.)
  7. I then moved on to the next two officials who collected and checked my "receipt", and handed me a provincial and national ballot paper respectively.
  8. Almost done, I walked around to the voting booth, where I took this photo and drew an X in the appropriate blocks.
  9. And finally, I walked to the table holding the two ballot boxes, and dropped in my ballot papers.

I believe that some people had to wait far longer than we did to cast their vote. I guess it depends on the concentration of voters in a particular area, as well as the efficiency with which the voting station is being operated (along with technical challenges that I believe some had with the bar-code scanners). I took a drive past our voting station this evening just before closing at 9pm - and while there wasn't a long queue at all, there were still people arriving in dribs and drabs. Let's hope that everyone who wanted to vote made it through to the various stations on time.

Sol Kerzner’s newest hotel: One&Only Cape Town

Sol Kerzner's One and Only Hotel

For a while now everyone's been talking about the opening of Sol Kerzner's new hotel, the One&Only Cape Town. I'd seen a couple of artist's impressions of the interior (top secret sources!), and had heard how difficult it was to get to see the actual interior (bloggers don't seem to be too high up on Sol's list of VIPs :-) ). I'd also heard rumours of how much the penthouse was sold for (an astonishingly obscene amount of money).

And then, quite unexpectedly, I found myself right over the road from the hotel late on the afternoon of the launch party. I'm rather sorry I didn't have a better camera with me, because it turns out there were some pretty distinguished guests at this party - Nelson Mandela, Sharon Stone, Clint Eastwood and Robert de Niro, amongst others. As a matter of fact, I spotted a paparazzo half hiding behind a tree just a few metres from me - he had a very decent-looking camera with an enormously enormous lens, and looked decidedly furtive. My first brush with the paparazzi! Such a disappointment then that his camera wasn't aimed at me. :P

Nelson’s democracy

Nelson Mandela's Democracy

Perhaps if you're not South African, or if you're not living in the country, you may be unaware that 22 April 2009 will bring one of the more important national elections since Nelson Mandela was elected in 1994.

While it may be interesting to watch South African politics unfold, the reality is that it's often a sad situation - though I guess that the same could be said for most political battles worldwide. Our hope lies in what this photo represents: not just the concept of democracy, but also the ideals and vision that people like Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo instilled in many of their followers. My hope is that these men and women will remember those ideals and teach them to their children and grandchildren, so that the truth of what was fought for so many years ago may live on for more than just their generation.

Cape Cobras: 2009 Standard Bank Pro20 champions!

Cape Cobras win the Pro20 Cricket Series

Yes, it's true! The Cape Cobras are the Standard Bank Pro20 cricketing champions at last! More than 16,000 Capetonians packed Sahara Park Newlands this evening to cheer their team to victory as they played the Gestetner Diamond Eagles (that's Bloemfontein's team) in the Pro20 final. As one of the Standard Bank live-bloggers, I got to watch the final from the very swanky Achiever Box at Newlands - think chic decor, beautiful waitresses, a full bar, comfy couches, a party atmosphere, and a perfect view of the cricket...

More Pro20 goodies:

It was quite a weekend for Cape Town sports fans, by the way. Not only did the Cobras take the Pro20 series, but our local rugby team, the Stormers, managed to eke out a very welcome victory over the Queensland Reds on Friday night, in their Super14 match played at Newlands Rugby Stadium.

The progress on Greenpoint Stadium

Greenpoint Stadium

Paul took this photo on Friday while we were visiting with friends at their apartment in Granger Bay. What we didn't realise at the time was that the glass roof that will cover the stands (but not the actual pitch, apparently) is now on its way up, supported by a massive network of cables that are slowly being tightened. The roof weighs around 4,500 tons - that's a whole lot of elephants.

You can read more about the process involved in getting this roof up to where it needs to be on the Shine 2010 site, and you can see a whole bunch of great pictures from inside the stadium on the official City of Cape Town website.

Can you believe that we are just over a year away from the 2010 World Cup? The first round of ticket sales starts on Friday, and I must say, the reality of the awesome party that awaits us is starting to set in for me. If you're keen to get your hands on some tickets (and I can't see why anyone wouldn't be!), then read this official FIFA information on how tickets will be allocated.

Did rain put the fires out?

Woman in smoke
The Stellenbosch Fire Department received reports of 100 fires in only 72 hours, and Cape Town's fire department received 83 reports of fires during office hours on Friday alone! It seems as though the whole of Cape Town is on fire.

The Stellenbosch Fire Chief was quoted as saying "Everywhere. Every area." in response to being asked where fires had been reported. Apart from the Stellenbosch fires and the 83 other reports within the Cape Town city limits, fires have been reported in Somerset West, Clanwilliam, Gansbaai, Hermanus, Plettenberg Bay, Algeria, Moutonshoek, Philadelphia, Bellville, Tygerberg, Strand, Monwabisi and Blikkiesdorp.

Today the temperature hit 40°C, although fortunately the wind remained at bay until late this evening. In retrospect it seems as though the hot weather today was a blessing in disguise. Earlier this evening we had a few rain showers (caused by the warm air rising) that will certainly help dampen the dry veld, and at least slow down the fire's progression. So far it looks as though Stellenbosch has had just over 5mm of rain this evening. With weather reports predicting more rain, we can only hope that they're accurate and that tomorrow holds in store many more showers.

If you missed yesterday's post, take a moment to look through the photo album that I put together with photos taken just outside of Stellenbosch yesterday evening.

As I'm typing this post I can hear large drops of rain falling again. Awesome.

Relevant News Articles:
Cape Argus

The Stellenbosch fires

Burning tree stumps
I was just complaining to friends that this summer has been fairly cool in comparison to previous years... and then today happened. It's really really hot in Cape Town.

The fires that started in the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve have spread, threatening the town of Stellenbosch. They have in fact approached the edge of town, university property and even homes. Kerry-Anne and I took a drive out to Stellenbosch this evening to see what was happening with our own eyes. Click here to see the photos that I've uploaded to our photo album.

I had a brief opportunity to speak with one of the firefighters who came down from the bush in his vehicle to help lead a fire engine up to where the fire was raging. His blackened hands, the perspiration on his brow, and the way he said "It's not good" in answer to my question about how it was going, gave away how serious this fire could be.

An interesting thing that I noticed was that even though he'd been battling the fire for what must have been more than 12 hours already, he was still friendly and ready to kick some fire ass. A fireman is truly a different breed of person - and perhaps one who's sadly only really appreciated when fire threatens what we hold dear.

Partial eclipse of the sun

Partial solar eclipse from Cape Town

Once every month, the moon moves in between the sun and the earth and casts a shadow; but most of the time the position of the moon's orbit relative to the earth's means that this shadow misses us entirely.

This morning, however, we got to see the first solar eclipse of 2009 (and the best one that will be visible from South Africa for several years). The eclipse was only partial, with a maximum coverage of about 65% visible from Cape Town just after 8am.

Of course, a partial eclipse doesn't mean darkness by any means, despite what you see in the photo - the sky was actually perfectly blue, but Paul took the photo using a very high shutter speed and small aperture. Everything seemed to take on a slightly paler, softer look, though, almost as though the earth and sky were covered with gauze.

And don't worry, no eyes were harmed in the making of this photo. ;-)

Update: Take a look at Justin Hartman's awesome shot of the eclipse. I love the colours of the swirling clouds - that'd look good on a canvas, don't you think?