Lessons learned in the mountains

2008-05-05 00:00

THERE is something deeply redemptive about a visit to the mountain wilderness, and the last trip to the Malutis was no exception.

April may have been a beautiful autumn time in Pietermaritzburg, but it was also a month of relentless deadlines, conspiracy theories, bloated politicians, ineffective government, crime and corruption, emigration, Eskom overload and a smothering blanket of negativity. In short, it was time to escape the fog of depression and head for the high ground.

Several reasons contribute to the cathartic effect of a road trip to the highlands of Lesotho, one of which relates to negotiating two major passes — Sani Pass, which is in an awful state, and Kotisiphola or Black Mountain Pass, which summits at a touch over 3 000 metres.

Some say the lofty heights drive the demons from one’s head, others maintain it is the bracing cold that does the trick.

Then there’s the school that believes the secret is in the destination itself, which, to others less favourably impressed with the brutal beauty of this landscape, represents the heart of darkness.

Either way, it remains an irony that this forbidding land holds such restorative powers, certainly if one considers the relative fecundity of the KwaZulu-Natal midlands.

But here we were, in the humble general dealership of Ntate Njamokoatle, and having a lively conversation with four men that was uplifting and deeply insightful.

The priest, from Lesotho, spoke out stridently against the politicians from the kingdom who pay lip service to the church’s efforts to relieve the grinding poverty of the poorest of the poor; the Kenyan teacher slammed the limp-wristed response of the SADC leaders to the Zimbabwean crisis; the deacon, all of 24 years, talked about the need for the church to play a civic leadership role, and his friend from Maseru was taking issue with the preferential treatment meted out to Chinese traders, at the expense of the baSotho.

The 30-minute conversation covered plenty of ground and we learned that much of the church’s poverty relief is funded by American sympathisers, that people on the ground, even in remote Mokhotlong, are well informed on regional matters, and that Mugabe and his cronies are indeed seen for what they are.

Most revealing though, is that politicians are reviled for their greed and propensity to corruption, and that so-called leaders are ridiculed for their patently self-serving actions.

Interestingly, no distinction was made between the politicians and their spheres of profiteering, and there was no question about them being accountable for the decisions they make, or not make.

Duty called though, and all too soon we had to end the conversation. Walking down the stairs, I felt strangely elated and attributed it to a renewed trust in the power of democracy to make things better. With the benefit of hindsight though, I realised my optimism had nothing to do with democracy, but was buoyed by a rising swell of opposition to government and its free-booting agents. Who said democracy was in danger?

Bye bye, Coke

RUMOUR has it that no Coke will be on sale at this year’s Royal Show. In what appears to be parting of ways, the RAS has shown the bottlers of the world’s biggest-selling soft drink the gate. It is understood that the exclusion extends to the other popular brands associated with the Coca-Cola family and that the RAS has opened its arms to Pepsi and its array of sympathetic brands.

The jury is out on this one, but if the sentiments of the caterers at the Royal Show are anything to go by, consumers are unlikely to be impressed.

Hello, good tidings

AFTER months of navel-gazing, soul-searching and consultation, Awesome Africa is being launched. This has nothing to do with a musical event with a similar name, but everything about spreading the good word about South Africa.

The objective is to tell the rest of the South African story, the part that fades away in the face of the anger, hurt and pain of victims of crime, violence and alienation.

In their words, “there’s an abundance of good news in our country, and every reason to be optimistic”. This then is the mission of a determined core of women, headed by Di Smith and Sandy Holley, and their initiative is well worth supporting.

Guest speaker at the Victoria Country Club on May 7 is Steuart Pennington. For more information and to RSVP, contact guyanddi@home.vnh.co.za.

SMS engage

TRUST one Andrew Muir to inform all and sundry by SMS of his engagement, and that having seen the man and his wife-to-be a day or two earlier. At least we have it on good authority that Alta Dreyer was asked personally, and not by SMS.

PGP agents glow

THE property show may have quieted down somewhat, but that didn’t dull the performance of the city’s Pam Golding Property agents who were honoured at the 2008 Gold Club awards.

The procession was led by Barbara Becker of the regional office for the highest number of units sold. She was named winner of the Sally Schenk award.

In the Pietermaritzburg office, Louise Yeats was honoured for selling the most units, Rob McKenzie (highest commission negotiated), Denise McGladdery (Lynne Hume Rental Award), Cathy Pretorius (third top agent, sole mandate winner), while Angela Walker of the Underberg office scooped the Category D top sales award.

derekalberts@mweb.co.za

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