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Victor Dlamini

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category

Sex, drugs and… um, sports

My latest column for City Press:

There is a veil of secrecy hanging over the prevalence of recreational drug abuse in sport. But, given that professional sports people earn such astronomical salaries, is it any wonder that they find it a simple matter to lay their hands on everything from cannabis to cocaine?

Sports authorities seem to wish away the fact of recreational drug use by sports people because of fears about sullying what they imagine to be sport’s squeaky clean image.

But it’s no different than with, say, the rock ‘n roll scene: give someone fame and fortune and they’ll succumb to the lure of drugs.

In the past few weeks, the abuse of drugs like cannabis has been put under the spotlight by Herschelle Gibbs’ autobiography. It’s telling that none of the authorities said Gibbs was lying, but simply repeatedly said they were “disappointed” by his claims.

While Gibbs’ book does not create the impression of widespread abuse, you get the sense that drug use is not isolated to just a few so-called rotten apples.

If the authorities were more frank in dealing with this issue, they would probably get to the bottom of it much quicker than by living in denial. The silence of the sports fraternity about drug use must be broken.

They must learn to speak openly and frankly about how our sports stars are getting high.

Of course, what complicates matters is that even though there is no obvious link between doping and the use of recreational drugs, there is a strong stigma associated with each. But in the case of doping, authorities are quick to pronounce upon the innocence of stars who test positive for a banned substance.

It was no surprise that the Springbok managers went to the extent of describing the facial expressions of the Boks who failed their dope tests last week.

Why not the same when it comes to drugs?

Sadly, with such little openness about how big or small the problem is among top athletes, we are left to scour for anecdotal evidence.

It is interesting that cricketers and footballers in the UK have urged the authorities not to punish athletes who test positive for cocaine and cannabis during the random tests carried out during competitions.

Of course, the consequences of a positive doping test are not just the threat of a two-year ban for a first offence, but also significant social and financial fallout. With those who use recreational drugs, on the other hand, we’re told to put it down to “personal problems”.

John Bramhall, deputy chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, has said: “We have to make sure that a guy struggling with a problem can step forward and receive help to get that issue addressed without the possibility of being suspended, or, even worse than that, losing his contract.”

Bramhall is not alone in preaching leniency. Ian Smith, legal head of the Professional Cricketers’ Association, said cannabis was not a big deal.

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A View of Nelson Mandela Bridge, Johannesburg

A View of Nelson Mandela Bridge
Photographed earlier this week after the bridge’s re-opening

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Winnie and Nelson

Winnie & Nelson
Photographed at, well, at the corner of Madiba Drive and the R562

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The Bling Brigade’s Naked Disrespect for Our Social Values

My latest column for City Press

It is no surprise that the bling brigade have used everything at their disposal to fend off criticism of their extremely lavish lifestyles.

They know only too well that a disapproving public will make it difficult for them to carry on with their naked display of wealth.

Over the past few weeks an unprecedented spotlight has revealed the extent of their oligarch-type non-stop spending that must startle those whose biggest dream is just to have something to eat and proper sanitation.

The bling brigade have protested very loudly that they are being unfairly targeted, and that they have every right to spend their vast fortunes on the most eccentric of their whims.

They may be right legally, but they are no fools and they know that if the social contract that has allowed them to spend as if they were living in the enclaves of St Tropez and Monaco were to disappear, they would have to restrain themselves.

Even as they carry on partying they know poor communities are praying for the miracle of ordinary services.

Bankrupt municipalities are telling them that there is no money for some of these services, and yet all around they see some people partying non-stop.

One thing that seems to escape many of the nouveau riche is that they are not the first to burst on the scene like dazzling new stars, only to peter out a few years later with nothing but shame written all over their faces.

Some of the biggest spenders of the past few years have gone bust, and are now penniless after a frenzied period during which they wanted to be known to have the hottest money in town.

They invited the media into their lives, letting it be known what they spent on every party?– even the price of the decor and the flowers was not overlooked.

Those who caution against this mad rush to spend it all are merely saying beware you don’t become the latest victim of your own excess.

But there is no doubt that the rush to become known as the most lavish spender, with the biggest, flashiest possessions is holding sway among some of those with the means to join in on this race.

And no doubt sizeable fortunes will continue to be squandered in a competition with no winners.

It is telling that they refuse to acknowledge the stark contrast between young children studying under a tree and the rich spraying each other with the rarest, most expensive champagne in the world. But their spirited fight to pretend this is merely an economic issue when it is clearly about social values shows that deep down they must grasp that something is amiss.

It must be demoralising to young people who still have no jobs, no skills and bleak prospects to see a small clique spend vast fortunes on trivia and newly found indulgences, like 50-year-old single malt whiskies.

The vigorous defence of the right to spend stupendous fortunes in such a highly public manner reveals the extent to which, for many of these members of the wealth sect, showing off is an essential reward of their achievement.

They must draw great pleasure from seeing glossy photographs of themselves indulging in every known luxury, and this seems to have added to the rush to host the most lavish parties and weddings.

It is fascinating to hear claims by some of the bling brigade that their out-of-control spending makes them role-models for the youth.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

» read article

Are we a bunch of malcontents?

There are days when you have to wonder if South Africans are addicted to complaining. They complain so often, about the most serious things, but also about the pettiest. First thing in the morning when you are brave enough to try a little Talk Radio, someone is already complaining. The next caller will try to outdo the first caller with their own tale of why something sucks so much. As if not to be outdone, the animated host will throw in her own experience from hell and before you know it, morning radio is like a convention of malcontents.

So you switch to the CD player, and lo and behold the lyrics are catchy, but when you listen closely, the Cape Town musician is complaining. And you wonder why on earth the lyricist would spoil such a great tune with such sour words, then you think maybe you are not qualified to judge musicians. Still you tap to the irresistible rhythm even as you shake your head. So you decide to go for a breakfast, and as you wait for a table you pick up the daily newspaper, and by chance you turn to the Letters to the Editor. What do you know, but these letters have to be written by the unhappiest lot under the sun.

So you decide that you’ll take it easy the rest of the day and not read any media or listen to the radio, but it’s easier said than done and as you head home in the evening you instinctively switch your radio on. It’s nearly midnight but the callers are still firmly on the complaining bandwagon. When they are not ranting about the Springbok Coach, they are bitterly complaing about how expensive books are, or about how corrupt our officials are, or how dirty the streets are nowadays, or how everything is just so bloody expensive. They never run out of things to complain about, and even when one brave voice does try to stick in a little praise for outstanding service somewhere, they quickly shoot him down. So the whingeing wins the day and those who want to shout that they are having a great day, no, a great week, maybe even a great year eventually succumb to the fashion of the day and they too join in on the act and they too become habitual whingers.

And the biggest act in town carries on as they complain, complain and complain till you wonder if they will ever know happiness if it hit them in their hearts. Because, because, who knows? Perhaps they are secretly happiest when they are tell themselves that they are unhappy. So maybe, just maybe, we are a bunch of malcontents and there’s nothing we can do about it but play out this dull drama of those that believe that true happiness comes but once to these shores. Like when there’s a Rugby World Cup, the FIFA World Cup, or when Bono and his U2 outfit jet into town ready to improve the world in their Louis Vittons and glistening designer jeans. Black of course.

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Experiments in Close-Up Photography

Experiments in Close-up Photography

Flowers and their friends at the end of my macro lens…

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Experiments in Close-up PhotographyExperiments in Close-up PhotographyExperiments in Close-up PhotographyExperiments in Close-up PhotographyExperiments in Close-up PhotographyExperiments in Close-up Photography

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…plus one concession to the urge to explore Photoshop’s power:

Experiments in Close-up Photography - with a Photoshop Twist

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When Rich is Filthy

My latest City Press column

Call them what you will, but some of South Africa’s rich should really be called “vulgar”.

It is not by ­accident that ours is a society full of kings and queens of bling; yet it is also undoubtedly home to kings and queens of ­abject squalor and poverty.

The vulgar rich are on a roll, spending on obscenely expensive cars as if they have no conscience.

You should see them roar into shopping malls in their expensive cars, at unsettling speeds, and head straight for the disabled parking ­area, ­even though other ordinary parking bays may be open.

There they will park with brazen ­indifference to social etiquette, and saunter away from their car with a walk that reeks of irredeemable arrogance.

Why the need to drive so fast in car parks? It’s not a freeway! It is as if once they have acquired some cash, their judgment is clouded.

Cosatu secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi’s has been one of the few voices that have strongly criticised this unprecedented public flaunting of wealth: but more should join him.

Never before on our roads have there been so many of these cars that scream “extreme opulence”.

There was a time when Gauteng, especially Joburg, was seen as the place where you were most likely to find the flashiest individuals.

But that has all changed now, and strewn across the country, from Thohoyandou to Simon’s Town, you will find an ever increasing number of those who cannot resist the urge to flash their riches.

Even the poorest villlage will have its own tycoon who has minted it in one or other dubious tender; who wants his slice of the luxury car action.

It seems that even before the ink has dried on many of these contracts, the first thing that gets ordered is the ultra-luxury car. Such is the rush to get in on the action that none of these people stop to ask themselves if there are not better ways to celebrate the fruits of their success.

You see them through the prism of their expensive cars and you realise just how much these members of the elite exempt themselves from the rules of common decency.

In a country where so many struggle with poverty daily, for the so-called “elite” the status symbol of choice is the luxury car that costs enough to build several villages.

Ironically, a few of them have made their money from building low-cost housing, and you wonder how “low-cost” housing can be so profitable.

What is more annoying is that these are the same characters who will plead hard times when their ­employees ask for better salaries.

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Reconciliation is not a Spectator Sport

My new occasional column in City Press

Rugby has a way of crystallising both the highs of reconciliation and the lows of transformation in our society.

There was uncontainable euphoria in May this year when the Super 14 Final was played at Orlando Stadium, Soweto, with the Blue Bulls and the Crusaders coming together for a game that ­qualified as nation building.

After a number of false starts on the road to reconciliation and transformation in rugby, perhaps we were finally on the right track?

Fast forward to September and rugby finds itself embroiled in yet another fracas over its poor pace of transformation.

This time, instead of the usual combatants, a sponsor has been caught in the scrum.

Absa is taking flak from ­Solidarity and Afriforum for “interfering” in the game.

Absa was well within its rights, as lead sponsor of the Currie Cup to question, and even reject the fielding of teams that pay lip service to transformation.

No sport is exempt from the core values of its sponsor.

What’s more, given our appalling history of segregation, transformation at all levels of our society is one of our most important goals. This is especially so in rugby.

Last October, at the height of the ASA-Leonard Chuene debacle, Nedbank ­announced its termination of its sponsorship.

Curiously, neither Solidarity nor Afriforum threatened a boycott of ­Nedbank – even though the tone of Nedbank’s language was much tougher than that in the gentle SMS that Absa’s Louis von Zeuner sent Saru’s Oregan Hoskins.

It is to Absa’s credit that both Zeuner and Absa’s Maria Ramos have stuck to their guns, and not adopted the belligerence of Solidarity and Afriforum.

Unless the likes of Solidarity and Afriforum are prepared to sponsor the Currie Cup so they can call the shots, they will have to accept that the values of this great tournament will reflect more than their narrow, quasi-sectarian interests.

Sports bodies expect their sponsors to fiercely protect the values associated with their brands.

Unfortunately for those who are tempted to wish away transformation in their beloved game, rugby’s very survival ­depends on how quickly it gets serious about transformation.

The game cannot thrive while drawing from a small talent pool, and the sooner those who claim custodianship of this game grasp this, the better.

It has become fashionable in some quarters to suggest that there is somehow a fatal tension between merit and transformation.

But those who say so forget too quickly that decades of separate development and segregated sport means that an artificial difference in the rugby talent pools was created.

Instead of the likes of Afriforum and Solidarity harping on about “merit” in rugby, they should realise that their antics against transformation only serve to highlight rugby’s faults, and ­obscure its achievements.

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Five Portraits of Poet Kgafela oa Magogodi

Kgafela oa Magogodi

I caught up with poet Kgafela oa Magogodi, who teaches at the North West University, in Johannesburg recently.

Kgafela oa MagogodiKgafela oa MagogodiKgafela oa Magogodi

Kgafela oa Magogodi

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Alice Walker: A Pretoria Portrait

Alice Walker

I made this photograph of Alice Walker during her appearance at the State Theatre in Pretoria.

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