Monday, August 8, 2011

The squat with a view

 07 August, 2011

A group of vagrants are enjoying one of South Africa's best views after invading a R12-million mansion in Camps Bay in Cape Town.

And they're not alone. At least a dozen other empty multimillion-rand homes have been taken over by squatters in the area.

The six-bedroom mansion, in Victoria Road, has been stripped of windows and fittings, and the walls have been blackened by the squatters' fires.

The homeless moved in while the owners of the property and the city battled over plans to demolish the house.

"Resident" Smiley Bonfus, 40, a homeless man from Burundi, this week said he had recently summoned the police to chase off a fellow squatter - who had built fires so large that the fire brigade had to be called in.

"You cannot just have any guy staying in this nice place," Bonfus said.

Byron Herbert, owner of Herbert Properties in Camps Bay, said the price of similar properties in the neighbourhood ranged from R10- to R35-million.

Gavin Oliver, head of Cape Town's Problem Buildings Unit, said other luxury homes taken over by squatters included two in up-market Bishopscourt, one overlooking Fourth Beach in Clifton, and a total of four in Gordon's Bay and Somerset West.

Oliver said the unit had "cleaned up" almost 40 buildings declared health hazards or drug dens since November, and had evicted illegal squatters from 93 flats in the Senator Park block last month.

He said the Victoria Road house "is a health risk and is rodent infested", and the city would issue its owners with a notice demanding that they "clean up this mess" or face having the property attached.

Herbert said that, had the house been in good condition, Bonfus would have been expected to pay up to R5000 a day for the flat he uses in the house.

Instead, baths, geysers and the plumbing have been stolen, the floors covered with sand and rubbish, and the walls adorned with religious-themed graffiti.

Herbert said: "That property has been an ongoing battle between the ratepayers' association, the owners, SAPS and the city council."

The house was bought five years ago for R8.3-million by a group of partners including Johannesburg businessman Khalil Sayed.

The businessman has blamed the problems on the authorities "for needlessly holding up our (development) plans".

He wants to demolish the house and build luxury apartments in its place.

He said the house was invaded after security systems "fell into neglect" - and admitted the neighbours had complained.

"The property is an eyesore, so I sympathise with ratepayers there - but really, this is the city's doing," he said.

"We are prepared to assist the city in getting these people out. We have contracted South Africa's top architect for our development and we want to get going with it."

However, Oliver said the owners were trying to make their problems the city's: "It's entirely the owner's responsibility."

Bonfus, who works occasionally as a car guard, lives in the mansion's flat with his wife, Julie de Leeuw, 36, and her 18-year-old son.

He said: "No one was here so I am helping myself. If I want the toilet I go in the bushes by the beach. I like the view."

Bonfus said, however, he would move out if he was instructed to do so. "I know this is not my place."

By contrast, the city has had to go to court to evict squatters who have taken over an eight-bedroom home in Maclear Road, Bishopscourt.

Oliver said the house had become "a drug den, with suspected stolen vehicles on site", and that residents had 60 days to vacate the premises.

A generator could be heard running at the house this week as squatters peered at Oliver's team. They refused to open the gate.

Less than 1km down the road, vagrants have moved into an unfinished suburban home which was abandoned when developers ran out of money.

House rules like "pour water after using toilet (sic)" are scribbled on the walls, while one bedroom contains a TV and DVD player, a hi-fi and an illegal electricity connection.

Oliver said: "Vagrants first visit a few times to make sure a house is not occupied. Then everything of value is stolen and then people move in. Owners must be responsible for maintaining their own properties."

The tale of the two horses

By Mike Smith
4th of August 2011

Once there was a wealthy, but greedy man who had a young racehorse, a beautiful white stallion. The racehorse use to bring in some good money when it ran, but not enough to satisfy the greed of its owner, because the racehorse was still young and not at its peak yet.

Then when the racehorse finally got to his peak and brought in the REAL money and made the owner exceptionally rich, the greedy owner started to think ahead…long term…

Soon his prize racehorse would be getting past its peak, get older and start bringing in less and less money and costing more to maintain. It was time to invest in a new racehorse.

So he found a new racehorse owned by a shrewd horse dealer; a stunning black stallion, full of vigor. This would be his next money maker, the greedy man thought, so he bought the black racehorse from the dealer at a very high price.

At first the owner put the two horses on the same farm, but in different camps where each had its own stable and they were happy. The owner was however so happy with his new buy that he spoiled the black horse with some extra hay and water.

The next day he was eager to see how his new black stallion would perform against the white stallion so he put the two in a race against each other. The result was that the white stallion won the race by ten lengths.

Obviously the owner was a bit perturbed. He expected his new black horse to win. It cost a lot of money after all.

Not willing to admit that he bought a cat in a bag, the owner decided he would invest in some training for the black horse, so he got some fancy horse trainers in, but the more they trained the black horse to worse the results became. The horse would run wild, run in the wrong directions, do crazy things, but still the owner would not admit that he made a bad investment. Not only was his money at stake but also his reputation as a prize racehorse owner and breeder amongst his friends who were by now all laughing at him.

One day the owner decided to speak to the black stallion. He asked him, “Why are you not winning any races? Why do you do all these crazy things and run wild? I give you the best food, the best training, but you still do not perform. Unless you start winning races and winning them soon I am going to have to get rid of you…So please, work with me here”
The black horse could not answer, because he did not even understand what a race was.

Nevertheless, one night the shrewd horse dealer sneaked onto the farm and whispered in the ear of the Black Stallion… Telling him all sorts of lies…, “Look at the White Stallion”, he said. “He gets more hay than you.

His water is cleaner. His stable is nicer. That is why you are losing all the races and he is winning all the time. What you need to do is kick down your stable, turn over your water trough, trample your hay into the mud and then demand that the owner puts you in the same stable as the white horse, then you eat all his food and take all his water and then you will see that you will run just as fast as him.”

So, the next day when the racehorse owner arrived, the black horse had destroyed his stable. It was just chaos everywhere and the black horse was running wild as usual. When he tried to calm the black stallion down, the black horse demanded to live in the same stable as the white stallion.

The owner thought for a while and decided that it might not be a bad idea after all. Maybe if the two lived so closely together the black horse would learn from the white horse and soon he would be just as good as or even better than the white horse.

No sooner had he put them together, than the black horse started stealing all the food and water and claiming all the best parts of the stable for himself.

Every day the owner would put the two horses in a race against each other, and every day the results would be the same. The white horse would win every time, the black horse running wild, doing crazy things and running in the opposite directions.

But the racehorse owner refused to admit defeat. He simply refused to believe that such a clever and successful racehorse owner as himself could be duped into buying a crazy donkey instead of a prize black stallion.

Desperate to prove himself right, and see some results he hung some heavy weights on the white horse and put the worst jockey on his back.

The black horse got the best jockey and the lightest saddle, but despite all of this, the white horse still won.

So one of his friends said to him, “Why do you not send him to that brilliant racehorse training center overseas? I have heard that they can turn a donkey into a race horse.”

So again the owner invested a huge sum of money and he sent the black stallion across the water to a far away land to be trained to win races. In the mean time the white horse still had to keep on winning races to keep the owner wealthy.

The black horse stayed away a long time, but when he came back the results were amazing. For the first time he understood what a horse race was and at least ran in the right direction. The owner was beside himself with joy. All his friends who have laughed at him and told him he had made a bad investment would soon see. He would show them all that his black stallion is not only as good as the white stallion, but better.

The day of the big race came closer and the racehorse owners from all over the world were getting ready.

Finally the big day arrived and the owner arrived with his two horses, the black stallion and the white stallion. There were some other fine horses as well, of different colours.

The race started and first out of the blocks was the white horse, keeping and maintaining the lead with the other horses. The black horse returned to disaster. He again had forgotten what a race was. He ran wild into the people, causing untold damage. Despite all the countless hours of training he again ran in the opposite direction. As usual it was chaos everywhere.

The owner saw all of this…His black racehorse was an embarrassment. His face was red as all his friends were pointing fingers at him and laughing their heads off, saying, “We told you so…didn’t we?”

As usual the race was won by the White racehorse.

The marshals eventually calmed the black horse down and returned him back to the owner, who returned back to his farm with his two horses.

On the way back to the farm, the owner thought a lot. Finally the truth started to dawn on him…maybe he did make a bad investment after all. Maybe he should admit it to himself, cut his losses and let the black horse go into pasture in some secluded reserve for crazy horses. The white horse was his stalwart all along. The white horse was the one who brought him his bread and butter and kept him afloat. The black horse only ever cost him money.

The owner set the two horses into their shared stable and went into the house. He poured himself a whisky and contemplated some more about what he had to do. Eventually without finding a solution he went to bed and fell asleep quite quickly.

In the middle of the night, the owner was woken up by a terrible racket. When he went outside, the black horse was running amok. He had kicked down and destroyed all the out buildings; he had killed all the sheep and the chickens. The pigs were scrambling to escape his hoofs.

The prize black stallion that he bought at a high price, trained at an even higher cost was busy destroying everything he owned. Alone he was powerless, he did not have the strength to subdue the black beast, so he saddled up his trusty white horse, grabbed his rifle and out they rode to confront the black stallion before he could destroy the entire farm.

When the black beast saw them, he turned…with his nostrils flaring and his eyes red he stormed at them. The owner tried to pull off a shot, but missed horribly. The two horses met each other and stood up, front hooves beating away at each other, but then, with one powerful blow, the white horse knocked the black stallion against the temple and he fell to the ground unconscious. The owner saw his chance and put the rifle against the black stallion’s head and pulled the trigger. As the last convulsions went through the black horse the owner released a sigh of relief. Finally it was over, but at what a cost…almost the entire farm was destroyed and had to be rebuilt.

Kenya: Jill Biden to visit famine refugees


The wife of US Vice President Joe Biden is in Kenya to focus attention on the famine in East Africa.

Jill Biden on Monday is visiting the world's largest refugee camp, Dadaab, where tens of thousands of Somali famine refugees have arrived in recent weeks.

Biden's trip is the highest-profile US visit to drought-stricken East Africa since the numbers of refugees began dramatically increasing in June.

The US says that more than 29 000 Somali children under the age of 5 have died from the famine in the last three months.

She must make sure she takes crates and crates of condoms with her and give them instructions on how to use them. Take note: It's all the children dying so why have more?