Justice in South Africa

Today was my first day in court. As a witness fortunately, and not a defendant. Last year my bike was stolen, and then recovered thanks to some quick work by the campus police (aka USBD, Universiteit Stellenbosch Beskermings Diensteerm, or erm.. whatever the English title is (apparently University of Stellenbosch Risk Management Services)). In any case, I received a phone call about 2 months ago out of the blue asking me to come down to the police station. No explanation or anything, just to please come down. So I pitch up there and hang around for 10min, the Sergeant who was supposed to meet me there was out, but eventually another plain clothes cop sorted me out, serving me with my first Subpoena.

So I pitched up at the Magistrate’s Office this morning at 08:30, as instructed. Hung around a while and my old roommate (who was also called as a witness) pitched up shortly before 9. 9:10 and we were all asked to rise (just like on TV :) ).

I had gone into the day assuming I’d be there all day, but I was rather happy when the first 5 cases were all immediately postponed due to the fact that the defendants were absent. On one side this was rather worrying, on the other I wasn’t keen to sit their all day. Half an hour later and my optimism was all but up.

At about 10:45 the judge finished a case, got up and walked out. In a more formal manner than that, but didn’t really say what was happening, everyone else kinda got up and left the room too. So I sat there for the next 40min, with my roommate, not quite sure what was going to happen. Fortunately the cases resumed and at about 12:15 the case was called.

We went up, with the USBD guard who caught the kid, and I got to see the kid for the first time, to be told that there wasn’t enough time left tothet though this case and have it postponed till the 20th of October. Apparently this was the fourth time the case has been postponed, and we were promised that it would have priority on the next day. All 4 of us were “Warned” to be there again from 09:00.

I was slightly disappointed at the way things were handled in general, and sightly annoyed that I skripsiereturn in October, the day before I hand in my skripsie. But I guess it’s not the end of the world.

We were allowed to leave then, and so we went outside and chatted with the USBD guy for a while. He called a vehicle to come pick us all up and take us back to campus. Those 10min were probably the most interesting of the day. He chatted to us about how often he has to come to court, and how he gets frustrated, because majority of the time the students don’t press charges or don’t come witness, so people just get let free.

It was also very interesting to hear him talking with the USBD guy who came to pick us up, chatting about some of the characters that were in court that day, how they recognise certain people, repeat offenders and how they’ve profiled certain people. He explained the way cars were getting stolen and some of the strategies the guys uses. Also how the holidays are actually worse, because there are no students around reporting suspicious people. thousands of students have thousands of eyes, which makes their job easier. It’s great to see guys like that who really want to make a difference, who know what’s going on and take their jobs seriously. It’s good to know they’re looking after us.

So I actually typed half of this last week, after my court appearance, but only got around to posting this now. Also my blog was hacked yesterday. Haven’t figured out how yet, but fortunately just some script kiddie called “Herculephp(but in a more 1337 way) edited my template’s index.php. Fortunately no lasting damage and it was quick to get running again.

Die Burger Mountain Bike Challenge

Just a quick congratulations to the organisers of this year’s Die Burger Mountain Bike Challenge Stellenbsoch. It was such a nice ride, well marked out and only one or two short sections of congestion.

There were quite a few distances on offer, and I went with the moderate 42km ride. Starting at Eikestad Primary School, we made our way up through Coetzenberg and road around the base of Stellenboschberg before cutting down by the hangbrug and across the Jonkershoek road and up Botmaskop. Quite a bit of a climb here as we road across towards the Helshoogte Pass. This was the first congestion point, as everyone had to walk along a small single track section before getting off their bikes to cross the Helshoogte Road.

Our route then followed the old Helshoogte Pass and we road around a bit on the farms below Simonsberg. Riding out towards Welgevonden we crossed the R44 and made our way up towards Pappegaiberg with our second long climb. At the top we road along and down the other side into Stellenbosch. This is where I was unlucky enough to suffer a “snakebite” puncture, going straight through both the tubes in my back wheel, forcing me to stop, take the spare tube from the front wheel and put it in the back. Once I got going again on the down hill, I quickly noticed my lack of brakes, which I had failed to reconnect. No worries though, some careful shoe-tyre action resulted in me coming to a stop before I picked up too much speed.

photos from actionphoto.net

Anyway, through the town a bit on some odd “offroad”/pavement sections and we were once again back at Eikestad Primary.

It was one of the nicest rides I’ve ever done, beautiful scenery and kudos also to all the cops/marshals sitting at the road crossings, they meant we never had to stop, or worry about crossing the roads. Will definitely be doing this one again next year.

How does one “Love your SA”?

Today is voting day in South Africa. We have the opportunity to vote in the 2011 Municipal Elections. Now I hadn’t previously given it much thought. These are only the second elections I’m voting in, the first being the national elections back in 2009. That was easy. 2 votes. One for National Assembly representation, and one for Provincial. But I recently realised that it wouldn’t be as straightforward as that for the Municipal Elections.

img: elections.org.za

After chatting with quite a few people in the area, it’s clear that I was not alone in this state. Everyone knew to an extent who they wanted to vote for, and just assumed they’d go and make their mark, but no one understood that there would be different ballots with different implications. Digging through the IEC’s website, I found this page on voter education, which has some nice pamphlets, which does to an extent explain what’s going on. But again it doesn’t explain the nitty gritty, or how exactly representatives are chosen.

There are 2 scenarios. You either live in a metropolitan area (such as Cape Town Unicity) or you live in a district (such as me in Stellenbosch, other towns in the area would be included in this district). For Metropolitan areas, you get two votes. One for your ward representative, and one for the party you want to run the city, ie be the mayor. For towns in districts, there are 3 votes. One for your ward representative. One for the party to be mayor, and one for the party you want to lead the District.

This is all good and well. The person with the most votes in your ward will get a seat on the local council. Stellenbosch has 37 seats in total, 19 of which are allocated as a result of ward votes. The other 18 are then assigned on a basis of Proportional Representation. But here where things get slightly confusing. There are two possible situations. Either they look at the percentage of votes a party got in the mayoral vote, and assign seats based on that. With 18 seats, it means each party would get a representative for every 5% of the votes they got here. The alternative, and how it looks, is that they include the already occupied seats in the calculation. Meaning that 2.7% of votes would result in a seat. For example, in the 2006 elections, the UDM only received 1.9% of votes. so under the first situation, they wouldn’t really stand a chance of getting one of the 5% seats. Yet they have held a seat the last 5 years.

And this is where the issue comes in. There is so much happening on the IEC’s website at the moment, it’s very difficult to find the information you’re looking for. I’m not even sure if the information I’m looking for is available on their website.

Now for most people this is probably not an issue. They have a party they support, and they are going to vote for them on all their ballots, however lots of community’s have local parties standing for wards. And it makes it tricky when voting mayorally. In Stellenbosch we have the new Studente Stem Party. They are standing for 2 of the wards in Stellenbosch, and then are also standing for the mayoral position. My voting station is located outside of their wards, but I may want to support them with the mayoral vote, but it’s difficult not knowing how exactly the system works.

In any case, I intend to ask some people around the voting station tomorrow and find out how clued up the people there are. Ought to be interesting.

Enjoy your public holiday!

Edit: Another thought. The Student Party don’t stand a chance of winning the mayoral vote, so do I give my vote to them in any case to get another representative on the council, or do I rather give my vote to a party that my vote may have an impact on, thus ensuring my chosen party is the one leading the town?

Medallion, Tour de Stellenbosch

Yesterday I took to the road once again, riding a ride I’ve probably ridden more times than I have the Argus, the Mushroom ride, or as it’s more officially known the Medallion Tour de Stellenbosch . I’ve also just realised that blogging from my phone isn’t as eaay as I’d hoped, thus the hanging link.

In any case, I always enjoy the ride, and yesterday was great besides one or two concerns. Firstly being the start time. The 100km started at 6.30, which is great. Then the short route started at 8, also fine. But only starting the medium (62km) ride at 8:30 is ridiculous. I, being unseeded, ended up only starting at 9, as its getting warm, and, slightly dishearteningly, as a large proportion of the long riders are returning.

The other issue being that as we arrive to start, we’re told our ride is being cut short by 5kms due to roadworks. How difficult would it have been to just add a small loop around there to keep the distance up. The roads outside of Stellenbosch wind and crisscross so often, they could easily have got around the roadworks.

I won’t even go into what the rides cost these days compared to a couple years back. I’m just glad i pre-entered and didn’t have to pay the effective R195 late entry fee.

This was also the first race that I rode without my transponder :) so it wasn’t even timed after all that.