Not my words… these I couldn’t top

SA’s Minister of Health, Manto Tshabalala Msimang, an a radio interview: Transcript of interview with John Robbie on 702

Robbie: You have said that the policy of the ministry is well known. Do you accept that HIV causes Aids?

Tshabalala-Msimang: Why do you ask me that question today? I have answered that question umpteen times.

R: Yes, and the answer is?

T-M: Umpteen times I have answered that question. My whole track record of having worked at the area of HIV and Aids for the last 20 years is testimony. Why should you ask me that question today?

R: You haven’t answered the question, Manto.

T-M: Why should you ask me that question?

R: To avoid confusion.

 T-M: I have never said anything contrary to what you want me to say today.

R: So, therefore, you accept that HIV causes Aids.

T-M: You are not going to put words into my mouth.

R: I am not putting words into your mouth. I am asking you a question.

T-M: Yes you are.

 R: I am asking you a straight – now hold on a second – I am asking you a straight question, the minister of health of South Africa, I am asking you a question: does HIV cause Aids?

T-M: I have been party to developing a strategic framework and that strategy testifies what my policy understandings of the HIV epidemic are. If you haven’t read that, please go and read it. And then you will understand where I depart from.

R: Manto, Manto. A simple yes or no is the answer I am looking for.

T-M: You will not force me into a corner into saying yes or no.

R: I am not forcing you into a corner, I am asking you a straight question – I find your reaction bizarre.

T-M: I would advise you to read the strategic framework. You have to analyse it. It is important for the media to inform the public about the positions of government … It is time that when you interview people, not on yes or no, but on the tenets of the framework.

R: Manto, we have gone as far as we can go. I find your reaction to that question absolutely bizarre and that is my final word on it.

T-M: I am not Manto to you. Let me tell you I am not Manto to you.

R: What are you?

T-M: I am the minister of health and I don’t even know you.

R: So, what must I address you as, Miss Minister or Ms Minister or Mrs Minister?

T-M: I don’t know whatever you address me, but I am not a friend.

R: How must I address you?

T-M: I don’t know – but you have to read the strategic framework.

R: Bizarre.

T-M: And I …

R: Oh go away!

T-M: And I am …

R: I cannot take that rubbish any longer. Can you believe it? I have never in my life heard rubbish.Here we have a situation where the minister of health sends out a document, amongst others, that is Looney tunes, that suggests that the Illuminati have conspired with the aliens to bring about Aids to reduce the African population. Now you get the minister on [radio] to explain this and see what happens. “Given that the president has led, not just in South Africa, but a complete world controversy, where many people think this country has been held up to ridicule at an international conference over this issue and given the proximity of the two, I thought it would be a good idea to get the minister in on this issue … “… the fact that she would not answer that question leads me to be very, very worried indeed. I find that bizarre. Anyway, I won’t call her Manto again”.

More Manto Quotes:

“When I saw a report saying I had been silenced, I thought, ‘Oh my God, maybe I am living on another planet'” – 8/10/06 Finally we are in agreement…. Ed (TAC)

“I can’t stop working. The health of the nation depends on it,” – 8/10/06

“I think the TAC (treatement action campaign) was just a disgrace, a disgrace not only to the [health] department but a disgrace to the whole country. But I think, as South Africa, we really demonstrated that we are doing pretty well.” Manto After the AIDS conference in Toronto 2006 – 28/08/06

“beetroot, garlic, lemon … and buy a bottle of olive oil. All these things are very critical.” – 8/6/05

“Dr Rath’s work complies with and complements our programmes.” – 10/5/05

“I don’t know how many [South Africans] with HIV would want to take anti-retrovirals.” – 10/5/05

“I don’t remember saying I endorse the Matthias Rath foundation …” – 5/5/05

“Raw garlic and a skin of the lemon — not only do they give you a beautiful face and skin but they also protect you from disease.” – 5/5/05

“We will announce a date when we are ready.” … To roll out ARV treatment – 10/2/04

“It is very sad how the media handles this issue. I think garlic is absolutely critical. Lemon is absolutely critical to boost the immune system. Olive oil is absolutely critical … just one teaspoon, it will last the whole month.” – 9/2/04

(Aids)… “could also be a God-given opportunity for moral and spiritual growth, a time to review our assumptions about sin and morality”. – 1/4/03

“Look at what Bush is doing. He could invade.” … Manto on why money needs to be spent on defence rather than treating AIDS Sapa – 19/12/02

“Some are going to be disappointed that we are not going to give the ARVs [antiretrovirals] tomorrow, but it is this message which does not get through – that people are getting treatment even if there are no ARVs.” … – 14/5/01

“Today I want to dispel this myth, because it is absolutely not true .[ that ARV’s work ] The pharmaceutical industry and those who have a vested interest in the drug industry fuels this propaganda.” SAPA – 7/11/00

“We (the ANC government) have no plans to introduce the wholesale administration of these drugs in the public sector. ARVs are not a cure for Aids.” Speaking at Health Budget Vote in National Assembly – 8/11/00 Minister, nobody has EVER said that ARV’s cure Aids! Ed (treatement action campaign).

“We have in addition to all the transformational work that we have been doing been working extremely hard to make the Epidemic (sic) in every way we can, carefully following WHO and UNAids guidelines.” – 21/7/00 … say what?

 The above was taken off

There are some golden cartoons on the site – worth a visit. 


The Pedicure

Warning: Rated PG13 – If the idea of a bikini wax makes you uncomfortable, perhaps you might want to skip this particular entry; but as I’ve already said it and you’ve already thought about it, you may as well keep reading.   

Chatting to some girlfriends about general bikini / summer prep, it was decided a pedicure was definitely in order for my scary feet.  My friend Heather suggested I go to her salon near Fourways.  I thought, however, that as that area is pretty far north of where I live and the salon is less than a bargain, I could do most of the  procedures myself.  Then yesterday as I went for a walk around the block at lunch I noticed a new salon has opened up across the road from work.  Cheap and cheerful – perfect.  I thought, “go for the pedicure and see how you feel before booking any waxings.”

Good idea: if that woman does to my nether region what she did to my toes, I may never wear a bathing suit of any sort again.

I left work at 11:45 to grab some cash from the ATM, which is always a relatively nerve-testing affair in Braamfontein.  A security guard with about three guns strapped to his bullet-proof vest came in and stood there in an intimidating sort of way.  It was then I realized there was an armoured vehicle with more security guards on walkie talkies right out front.  “Super,” I thought, “this’ll be the second cash-in-transit heist in the city today and it’s not even lunch.”  AND there was only one ATM working so I had to wait there.  Luckily no gunshots or muggings actually went down (though as a sidebar, pretty sure I heard my first gunshot yesterday afternoon – don’t worry mom, it was probably a car backfiring). 

I made it to the salon for my noon apt.  I booked the R90 (about $15) pedicure yesterday and checked it would take about half an hour.  The woman was busy so it was not until at least ten minutes or so later that I was soaking my feet… I did so four at least 20 minutes as she faffed around doing something-or-other.  Then the tools came out.  I saw her put disinfectant in the water, but I didn’t actually see anything cleaned and the nail files have definitely seen several hundred feet.  I concede that in some ways the violent scrubbing and tugging and shaving and chipping of my ticklish and sensitive feet was a good thing – first pedi of the season and all that, but the vigorous effort was taken too far with the filing.   She seriously over-did my nails, which are now so short the look like I bite them.

Then came the polish.

Wow – a selection of five shades of iridescent pink.  ew.  So I looked in the manicure basket and picked a shimmery deep burgundy-red.  Apparently lots of other people have chosen it too, and it’s been there a while.  It was thick and goopy and had to be mixed with clear polish for the second foot as there wasn’t enough.  More polish got on the surrounding skin than the nails; so, i found it intriguing that she actually didn’t cover the whole nail with polish on my big toe, the result of which is a deformed-looking toenail.  Then the lady who had been waiting for her apt to start (very late) spilled a glass of water on herself, so my “esthetician” go up to blow dry her pants.  I grabbed the bottle and wood pick thing and tried to fix some of the damage.

I was there for two and a half hours. On a work day.

And the price magically went up over night to R120.

I tipped her R20 – which confused her greatly and caused much bragging in the “salon”.

I’m looking forward to the inevitable questioning from my boss about where I was for my very very long lunch.

I’m coming in late tomorrow because of my hair cut.

But my feet are much softer than they were this morning.

All is not lost.

Lesson learned: next time go for the clear polish.

Not a Bad Start to the Weekend


Lindsay:  New girlfriend – Scottish and Super, engaged to a lovely Irish-born South African rugby player

Jason:     The lovely Irish-born South African rugby player.

Billy O’Brien:   Jason’s dad.  A lovely, if ever so slightly lecherous, Irishman.

Heather:  Lindsay’s friend (and mine, now) – a crazy fabulous Capetonian who does event planning for Rand Merchant Bank

To remain tactfully nameless:  The yummy rugby-playing engineer. 

Dale:   Yeah – not actually his name, but we’ll go with that.  Drunker that average rugby player.


Linds and I were supposed to hook up for drinks after work, likely free ones at one of the show opening at the Alliance Francaise.  She, however, managed to ditch work at noon to join Billy on the trip to Pretoria to watch the finals.  Jason’s team had been playing a tournament all week and were in the final that afternoon.  Important stuff, they tell me.

It was just as well for me, as I have been laid down with a bug for a couple of weeks, and went home to bed. 

           sms (text message) from Linds mid afternoon:   they’re losing. 😦 not sure when will be back. not looking good 4 the boys right now!

           billy talking about the game later that night: they played like a bunch of pansy school boys.  pitiful.

           sms almost sent by Lindsay with about ten seconds to go in the game: boys lost 17-13 (or some such score?)

That’s when someone scored a try (a score of three points earned by advancing the ball to or beyond the opponents’ goal line… I’m learning).  Then the clock ran out.  But in rugby, if you get a try, you also get to try to kick the ball through the goal posts.  Nice rule, if you ask me.  It was, I’m told, an impossible kick.  In an athletic move of legendary proportions, they made it for the two points needed to win the game and the title.  Dad – this is the stuff an SI writer could make poetry out of! 

          sms from Lindsay a few moments later: They won!!!!!

So when that lot was done jumping on eachother’s bruised and broken bodies, showering and having the obligatory drink on the patio, they drove back to Jo’burg, specifically to a dodgy-by-Canadian-standards-pub called “The Colony.”  A colony of what, I’m not quite sure.  It’s the type of place only frequented by the under-aged, the elderly-and-alcoholic, and rugby teams.  Classy.   

I dragged myself out of bed and threw on the outfit I had put together thinking we were going to somewhere that serves martinis.  My hair was curled and I had black jeans, black boots, and a black and turquoise tank-top on.  Rather hot considering how lethargic I felt, I’d say.  I drove myself to the Colony in my clean and very white car.  (It has leather seats and CD player.  Love her.)

As I walked in about five rugby boys (they’re all built like bricks and were wearing team shirts) asked about my accent as one tried to put his arm around me.  “You’re in trouble, tonight” one of them said.  “Yeah, I gather.”

Thankfully, Lindsay and Billy weren’t difficult to locate – standing with drinks in hand (for Billy anyway) guarding the trophy.  Like shade in the dessert, it’s nice to find refuge.  Linds filled me in on the game and Billy declared it a bloody miracle. I said hello to a few people I had met previously and Billy offered me a drink.  He’s been very nice to me since he discovered I can cook (made roast chicken the other night) and play golf. 

The table we were standing at was on the terrace, against a large beam and near some tables.  I thought I’d extricate myself from my spot between the post and a group of large and increasingly loud men, so I turned around and bumped into a very good-looking man with an apologetic but come-hither look on his fit face. 

 (Tactfully skipping that conversation and a few later… I will say this, however: the boy can dance.  I mean really dance.)

As the evening wore on and the team got drunker, the show got more amusing.  Now, as a rule, I don’t drink anything that’s either creamy or bright green.  They were drinking pints of something called John Deere: it’s like bug juice from camp with subtle undertones of mouth wash.  After trying the obligatory sip I was generously presented with a shot of something called a Springbok.  It has two layers: bright green and creamy.  Strangely yummy.  Thank God for the car keys. 

Now the culture here is somewhat different to the one I grew up in: Dusty’s and Felicita’s.  Pubbing and socializing in BC lacks a certain gender divide.  Here, the boys stand around in one circle talking about sports and the girls stand around in another talking about the how silly the boys get (and work and other grown-up sort of things).  At first this was strange and annoying.  It was not until the men-folk started jumping up and down and chanting and then proceeded to drop their pants that the benefits of the arrangement became clear to me. 

That was the warm up.  There is that point in the night that rugby girlfriends can sense like a deep-sea fisherman can sense a coming storm.  I was the tourist on the boat: it caught me right off guard.  I think it was about 15 minutes after they started chugging a mix of beer, John Deeres and cider out of the trophy.  I was sitting at a picnic table with a few of the girls when Lindsay gave one of them the “here-it-comes” look.  It’s an unspoken looks that galvanizes the forces into action: we have to get them into a car before something very nasty happens.  Just then Jason and a handful of his mates started scrumming at the entrance. 

Divide and conquer.  I had already agreed to drive one of them home (the yummy one, by sheer coincidence, of course).   He then turned to talk to ‘Dale’ to ask if he had a safe way home.  In SA that has an entirely different meaning, so I was not about to leave the poor boy on the patio in that state.  The three of us got in the car, and thankfully the windows got rolled down.

My car is not as white and clean as it was before the trip.  It’s also rather stinky.  So as one of them is hanging half-way out of the car, the other is saying, “Oh, you don’t have to slow down.  He’ll be fine.”  We did get him to his gate safely, however, where he sort of got out /  fell out of the car.  He didn’t have his keys.  This isn’t a place where you can climb through the kitchen window.  There are 12-foot walls in the way.  So his friend decides to help: he grabbed the bars of the gate and started tugging.  Very funny: one huge guy stumbling down the street as the other attempts to pull the electronic and barbed security gates open.  In the end we did find the keys and wished him good luck.

The other one got home safely as well.


The next morning I went for a lekker (that’s ‘great’) breakfast and then over to Jason and Lindsay’s where we baked by the pool: boys defenitely worse off then the girls. Then a group of us went to a braai (BBQ with real wood and basically just meat on the menu) at another friend’s house.  More lounging with feet in the pool.  I also watched half my first rugby game.  It was actually pretty interesting in parts.  This is a good thing, as I don’t intend to sit out of the sports talk for much longer. 

That night I had braaied meat again, with red wine and great conversation.

Not a bad start to my weekend. 

The story of Sunday will come later.  That part of the story is where we meet Heather; it involves a cheesy Italian crooner and Pimms. 

Crime is Decreasing…

 Here’s s snipet of one of the articles out this week about crime stats in this city:

 “Johannesburg – Murder, which is considered to be the most reliable indication of crime trends, has only decreased by two percent in the last financial year, said a police report on crime statistics, which was released on Wednesday.

According to the report there were 18 528 murders during the 2005/2006 financial year, which is 2% less than the previous year, but short of the 7 – 10% reduction target set by government for contact crimes.

Rapes decreased with only one percent, with 54 926 incidents being reported.

Indecent assault decreased by 3.7% with 9805 incidents being reported.”

They break down murders, rapes and aggrivated / violent robberies by neighbourhood.  In the list of the top-ten most dangerous suburbs is Sandton, the rich northern suburb where I spent my first couple of months.  The good news, according to the spokesman for the crime statistics agency, is this: most of those 18, 528 murders committed in this one city were committed by people who know the victims, so it’s not really as bad as people say when it comes to random murders.   I feel much better. 

As for the rapes – keep in mind those are the ones that get reported…

Oh, and not listed above is the increase in cash-in-transit heists (organized crime): up by 74%.  That’s growth.  It’s all about having a solid business plan and reliable partners (security guards and police officers you can buy off).  If that fails and you get caught, there’s always the hope you’ll find a court magistrate with a braai (BBQ) to get to.  A few weeks ago a court magistrate decided that as she didn’t want to work past 4pm, she’d simply strike the cases of the waiting 14 defendants off the record and tell them to go home.  One of those gems is charged with child rape.  Ah – South Africa.

But I still love it here.