Archive for the ‘General’ Category

A Girl!

May 8, 2007

One can wait a whole lifetime for a moment like this. The woman whom you never hope to meet now sits before you, and she talks and looks exactly like the person you dreamed about. But strangest of all is that you never realized before that you had dreamed about her. Your whole past is like a long sleep which would have been forgotten had there been no memory, but remembrance is there in the blood and the blood is like an ocean in which everything is washed away but that which is new and more substantial even than life: REALITY.

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The Good. The Bad. The F***ed up!!

February 20, 2007

I have eventually reached that point where one decides whats the hell is going on? What is it that I am trying to accomplish? Why am I trying to be different? And why the hell am I trying to beat the odds that are stacked so high against me to succeed in a half-baked pie of a conservation project?

The answer is I have no idea. People may read this; some may be our donors- people who invest heavily in this initiative, people that are conned into investing money into a “worthy”conservation project….a conservation project that Uganda couldn’t give a damn about, let alone the owner of the property. I think they should know whats going on! Anyway. Below is a very brief summary of proceedings in my life over the past five or so months whilst being Executive Director of a joke of a project.

October 2006 – It all begins

The Good: Start at an awesome project. Incredible experience. Good staff compliment- and they are trained!! Working in a new and exciting country and in a worthy conservation project- Re-introducing rhino back into the wilds of Uganda since their extinction back in 1982!!! AWESOME!
The Bad: The house I live in is a shambles. The three vehicles are in a diabolical state and need urgent repair. The perimeter fence has never worked and needs a huge revamp. One of my staff tries to commit suicide. I have no contract or work permit or off shore bank account as promised a few weeks earlier in the interview. The GM of DAS Air (same owner as Ziwa) refused to be signatory on RFU accounts as agreed to two weeks earlier. The official in charge of issuing CITIES permits will not issue a permit to send dung samples of the female rhino back to the states for hormone analysis – strange, because he is on the projects Board of Directors!!
The F***ed up:
DAS Air refuses to pay my pitiful salary as agreed two weeks earlier during the interview process.

November 2006 – The spiral begins

The Good: Disney Animal Kingdom agree to continue supporting the project. New potential investors in Save the Rhino International are interested in getting involved. The vehicles are up and running.
The Bad: Still no sign of salary, work permit, bank account. No CITIES permits. Personal belongings get swiped out of my house. Two solar panels that power the perimeter fence get swiped. Lawyers letter arrives for dispute between previous management and a staff member. My colleague gets badly burnt with petrol. Staff are not motivated to work and hardly anyone pitches to work on time or at all. Staff demand 150% salary increases!
The F***ed up: I am informed that RFU owes US$ 1300 for an outstanding fuel bill.

December – OK here we go!

The Good: I have a friend coming to stay at the end of the month and its Christmas! I get a contract scribbled on one and a half pieces of paper. The boundary fence is up and running for the first time in its existence.
The Bad: Staff are grumbling because of unfulfilled promises by previous management. Via the grapevine I figure there is trouble looming. I give them the option of being patient until we get more donor support, or retrench 9 people. No salary or work permit or CITIES permit yet. Things get stolen out of my house again.
The F***ed up: A staff member who is meant to be on duty and lies that he is not points a loaded AK47 assault rifle at me, I grab him by the collar and pull him out of the room. He lays charges of assault against me. Police make me pay him US$ 4000 as compensation, together with a reference letter of good service and an open invite to come and work for RFU again! In a separate incident other staff members go on strike with the rest of the AK’s and are drunk. I hear that they want to shoot me! For what I have no idea? Police are eventually called in to clear up. It takes them 3 days. I recieve a letter to say thet RFU owes Conrad Motors thousands of dollars for fixing a written off project vehicle that was repaired in early 2006!!

January 2007 – Beyond the point of no return!

The Good: Its a new year. An opportunity to put last year behind you and start fresh! Develop new website fro the Sanctuary. I go to Kenya for a Rhino Management Workshop. We get our first film-crew visiting the Sanctuary.
The Bad: I get Malaria and have to sleep in the passage on a mattress at night with two firearms for safety reasons. Retrenchment goes ahead all staff involved steal most of the equipment assigned to them. They hang around at the main gate for two weeks plotting something, and threatening the other staff if they return back to work. I get UWA in to remove six AK’s from the property and leave us with five. Still no salary, bank account or work permit! One rhino gets gored by another. Our dominant female is getting very thin. Surrounding communities are cutting the fence on a daily basis to push cattle onto the property for grazing.
The F***ed up: Another two solar panels are stolen. One of the retrenched staff sabotages one of the AK’s by removing the firing pin. My head ranger together with the police decide its best to steal one from the Uganda Military against my direct orders not to. Get lawyers letter to say that someone is suing RFU for US$ 14,500.00 for a car accident that happened in Feb 2006!!

February 2007 – The end must be near!!

The Good: I have two mates coming from the UK to help out on the sanctuary for a while. I draw my first salary and decide to back date all my owed money to me by the fund. I am rich!! The cattle are moved off the property, the guesthouses are painted and we get our first guests. Staff get food rations and complain that it is still not enough.
The Bad: Still no bank account, work permit or CITIES permit. The rhinos seem to be getting caught in wire just about every day. Three of the RFU board members have negotiated a deal to bring in another two white rhinos into Uganda and have left RFU out of the loop!! Strange!! Staff still do not pitch for work or complete assigned tasks. I am expected to run Ziwa Tourism and the whole farm for Capt. Joe Roy for free!! You must be having a laugh!
The F***ed up: Another two solar panels get swiped. The project is in a serious nose dive purely because of crap decision making in the past by various individuals. I am happy that others are bringing rhinos in onto public land! Good for them. I am thinking about moving the project or myself somewhere where it will be a success. With the cattle moving off the property so has all the equipment, including tractors, trailers, generators, pumps and tools. As a result the property does not have water, only five hours of solar power during the day, the guesthouse has been closed because of no water and the horses and 40 odd staff are thirsty and grumpy!! Now its becoming a little more than just F***ed Up!!

So in a nutshell that’s what been up at Ziwa and RFU since I have been here! Still keen on investing I ask people??!! “Let me think. Hold on…..Hell yes!!” is the reply I get!! Ha!
RFU and Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is a farce. There is no intention to complete the goals and objectives set out in the original RFU Rhino Action Plan!! Its only to get one private landowner- who is not putting a cent into the project, to own Uganda’s only six white rhinos and a whole bunch of other game animals in the future and to generate the only benefit from it! I say bugger that. Move the rhinos off privately owned land and onto public land where the whole of Uganda will benefit out of the project, not just one rich individual!

Take it or leave it! These are just my thoughts….. straight from the horses mouth as it were!

I am an African by Wayne Visser

January 20, 2007

 

Rhinos- Uganda

I am an African
Not because I was born there
But because my heart beats with Africa’s
I am an African
Not because my skin is black
But because my mind is engaged by Africa
I am an African
Not because I live on its soil
But because my soul is at home in Africa

When Africa weeps for her children
My cheeks are stained with tears
When Africa honours her elders
My head is bowed in respect
When Africa mourns for her victims
My hands are joined in prayer
When Africa celebrates her triumphs
My feet are alive with dancing

I am an African
For her blue skies take my breath away
And my hope for the future is bright
I am an African
For her people greet me as family
And teach me the meaning of community
I am an African
For her wildness quenches my spirit
And brings me closer to the source of life

When the music of Africa beats in the wind
My blood pulses to its rhythm
And I become the essence of music
When the colours of Africa dazzle in the sun
My senses drink in its rainbow
And I become the palette of nature
When the stories of Africa echo round the fire
My feet walk in its pathways
And I become the footprints of history

I am an African
Because she is the cradle of our birth
And nurtures an ancient wisdom
I am an African
Because she lives in the world’s shadow
And bursts with a radiant luminosity
I am an African
Because she is the land of tomorrow
And I recognise her gifts as sacred

Apartheid. New South Africa. Reverse-Apartheid?

January 20, 2007

Soweto UprisingsSouth Africa- a great country. A country that has gone from one extreme to another within 10 years and somehow managed to avoid a civil war in the process.

Some may argue that there is infact a civil war going on. A war that has raged for years. A war between Black and White.

My knowledge of the apartheid area is very limited, something that I am not proud of as I should know, because of being a South African, about the history and the struggle of my country. Since my visit to the Apartheid Museum at the end of 2006 I have been fascinated by our countries colourful yet violent history. The Apartheid Museum you have to see. Its a heck of a lot to take in and best done in 2 seperate visits.

Black vs WhiteHaving visited the meseum it became abundantly clear to me that if I was 20-30 years older I sincerely know I would have been one of those men, armed to the teeth with full protective clothing sitting on top of the famous yellow Caspirs patrolling the streets of the townships “keeping order”. I can see it as clear as day. I can actually feel myself being there. I thank God that I was born when I was so that I did not have to get involved.

However, now there is still the obvious struggle in South Africa and the people of my generation- the children of Apartheid (who had nothing to do with it) have been left with dealing with the rehabilitation process of decades of black vs white hatred. The tensions are still there and are incredibly obvious. Why is this? Why 13 years later do we still hate eachother? Why in a country such as Uganda for example can black and white co-exist? When will SA follow suit? Will it ever?

Nelson MandelaBEE and affirmative action, land taxes, farm murders, corruption, quotas in sport, AIDS, lack of jobs for white males, land claims and evictions are all racially motivated in one way or another. South Africa finds its self in the obvious situation of reverse-apartheid, where whites are now disadvantaged. Yes not to the extent that it was implemented in the 70’s and 80’s but it is possibly crippling the country. SA, the beautiful country that it is, needs to take stock of where it is and realise that something needs to be done- NOW.

The Tony Yengeni circus is another case in point. He was sentanced to four years behind bars, but is already enjoying freedom after only serving four months. The message is loud and clear: if you want to be a celebrity, then do crime.

In SA we need to come to terms of the concept of tough love. We need to allow people to suffer the consequences of their actions, otherwise there will be no personal growth. This aplies equally to the children of our country in school and to corrupt private and public officials. Lienency feed lawlessness, and our country is in the twilight zone of lawlessness.

Last on my list of gripes is the is the entitlement mentality. Once, hard work was a virtue. Not anymore. Now people are rewarded for doing nothing. Black Economic Empowerment is a great example. Everyday South Africans are exposed to individuals who have miraculously, overnight, become billionares. These people are the role models to our youth. The youth can see that it is possible to be rich without creating anything of value to society. We have to think. Is South Africa really alive with possibility? Or is our republic alive with Zanufication?

On a very positive note. I have found a website. An incredibly positive website reporting the positive stories to come out of South Africa. Check out 50 facts about a remarkable nation It makes you feel proud to be South African.

ABOUT THIS WEBSITE: In South Africa, we’re sitting on the edge of greatness, but many of us know little of the progress that’s been achieved since 1994. Fewer still have a sense of what the future holds. This website will provide you with daily, weekly and archived news items to inform whatever interests you may have. Hopefully, if you know where we’ve come from and get a sense of where we’re heading, your confidence in South Africa will improve and you’ll want to describe what’s happening here positively…and with passion.

Every South African should feel proud. I am the worst culprit when it comes to talking negative about the government, land claims, sport etc. I need to change and so do the majority of South Africans- Black and White. To the guys out there who are making a massive effort to change- I salute you.

However this “Rainbow Nation” isnt as bright as we may think. The streets are mostly clean, road network is brilliant, tourism is booming, there are malls and shopping centres with everything imagineable, there are no army patrols, the economy is growing and is one of the strongest in Africa and things generally work comapred to the rest of the developing countries in Africa. But the crippling issue is that there is so much death, hatred and darkness interwoven in everday South African life and this needs to change and it will never change just by talking about it. We as a nation; Black, White, Coloured, Indian and everyone inbetween needs to act proactivly, together to make this beautiful country of ours work.

Wing’s over Africa- in a Trike!

January 16, 2007

ZU-BLB along the Waterberg EscarpmentThere is something magical that hapens to one when soaring through the air looking down at mother earth. The different visual perspective makes you look at things (life) with a different perspective. There are no taxies, traffic jams hijackings, there is just space, as much space as you want (well as much as the ATC will allow you to use!).

Flying Trikes- some may say a deckchair with an engine, is the basics of flying- moving ones weight around essentially to change the direction of the aircraft. Airspeed is judged by the wind in your face and height by the feeling you get when you look down! Having ostensibly nothing around you gives you a sense that ‘you’ are actually flying and not the aircraft.

My flying career is in its infancy stages and I dont get to fly as often as I would like due to certain obvious limiting factors, but it is something that I plan to carry on with until the day my heart can longer handle stalls or steep turns. There is something incredible when at around 6pm you climb to around 6000ft and watch the sun setting in the western horison behind the Northern Drakensberg, and once you realise that its getting a little dark down on the tiny piece of cleared earth you call a runway; you do a last radio call and then cut the engine…..and silence! Just the wind in your face and the sound of it passing over the fabric of the wings. You then glide down into the earths shadow, over a heard of browsing elephant and effortlessly put down the craft with little more than a bump and free-wheel back towards the hanger.

Now that is life! Thats how to de-stress, to think, plan, loose ones-self and to know that there is something/someone out there that gave us brains to fly.

The following poem sums this up perfectly. Its written by John Gillespie Magee Jr. I think he was a WWII pilot.

HIGH FLIGHT

Oh I have slipped the surly bonds of earth And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; Sunward I have climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds- and done a hundred things you have not dreamed of – weeled and soared and swung. High in the sunlit silence. Hovering there,

I have chassed the shouting wind along, and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air. Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace.Where never lark, or eagle flew.

And while with silence, lifting mind I’ve trod the high windswept sanctity of space, Put my hand out, and touched the face of GOD.

Africa Time

January 14, 2007

Full Tusk Smiles!Africa- Mama Africa- as Kingsley Holgate calls this continent of ours; is an incredible place. She is inhabited by beautiful people- smiling people. People have stories that you and I can only imagine. African peoples lives seem so simple to ‘us’, so easy, so laid back. The reality is that the daily life of the typical African person is a struggle- a continious uphill struggle. There are no deadlines, not set dates or appointments, no structure and no time. The time is owned by Mama Africa herself.

I found this out the difficult way when I started up here in Uganda. For almost 4 months I tried to run the rhino re-introduction project like I would in first world South Africa for example. I worked late into the night- every night. Week days flowed into weekends and there was no off time. It was just work, work and more work. When I eventually came up for air I realised I was not getting anywhere. For all the effort I had put in there was not much to show for it! It made me realise that here, in a third world Africa, nobody cares whether you take one year or one month to do something; to achieve something. There is no rush.

I learned some valuable and costly lessons that could have been avoided if I had taken a step back and kept time with Africa time. It is a different world up here- a rat race but in a seriously different chaotic way!