Tag Archives: freelance journalist south africa

King Goodwill Zwelithini (and Wives): Big, Big Spenders

King Goodwill Zwelithini is not the happiest of campers these days. Well, technically you can’t call the 60-something-year-old Zulu Monarch a camper. He owns some five or six palaces after all, of which four are situated in Nongoma, as well as various lavish houses and farms – and of course a fleet of luxury cars.

The King has nevertheless a knot in his leopard print knickers: his child bride sixth and youngest wife needs a home of her own. The latest addition to his household (who was allegedly 14 years old when she accompanied GZ – who is 41 years her senior – to the opening of the legislature some time ago) is living with Zwelithini’s eldest wife. With their two children of course.


In order to build Queen Zola KaMafu, a Swazi beauty queen, a brand spanking new palace, King Goodwill Zwelithini has asked for an extra R5 million (as well as R12 million for a new house at the Nyonkeni Palace) to be added to his budget. Apparently the 2012/2013 allowance of R59.5 million (which includes a R4 million increase compared to the previous year) is not good enough.

Poor King.

How can one afford a new palace if the budget only caters for support services such as car maintenance, clothes for the queens, an annual salary of some R1.5 million and his kids’ school fees (R35.278 million); the refurbishment and renovation of palaces (R20.484 million); and the maintenance of the various Royal farms (R3.6 million)?

Personally, I have always wondered how the Zulu Royal Household budgets were spent over the past years. No, I am not particularly interested in knowing how the money was supposed to be spent. I want to know how the cash was actually spent.

Same, same – but different.

That is why I have spent today dodging my mountain of deadlines and my lovely editors (sorry guys – I am all yours as from tomorrow) in an attempt to find some answers to my questions.

That was easier said than done, to be honest. Readily available official figures seem to be non-existent. The only figures I could find were the stats published in various media reports.

This kinda puzzles me.

Assuming that taxpayers, wether only residents of KZN or the entire country, foot the Royal Budget, they surely should be able to find out  how their cash is/was spent? Anyway, about the figures I did manage to find:

  • The 2007/2008 financial Royal Budget amounted to R36 million – which was overspent by R3-million.
  • For the subsequent (2008/2009) financial year, the Royal Household Department received R39.356 million – an increase of R3.3 million from the previous year. Some R593k went to emergency repairs to the king’s five palaces, R229k was spent on Royal travel and accommodation, R165k on consultants, and R15k on a coming-of-age ceremony. The 2008/2009 Budget was again overspent, this time by  by R8.4m (this equals to some 25% of the total budget, people!
  • Despite the over-expenditures of 2008/2009), R40.643 million was given to South Africa’s Royal Affairs for 2009/2010. Whilst presenting the budget, KZN Premier Zweli Mkhize stressed the Department of the Royal Household would not overspend this time. The budget was eventually overrun by R2.7 million.
  • The 2010/2011 Budget for Goodwill Zwelithini’s upkeep was set at R43.8 million (of which he had apparently had to pay back R3 million due to the previous year’s overspending). I could not find figures on overspending.
  • The 2011/2012 Royal Budget, a whooping R55 million, was over-run by R4.451 million.
  • The above brings the total overspent amount between 2007 and 2012 to about R18 million. Forgive me if I am wrong.
  • In 2006, Goodwill Zwelithini’s exchanged his household’s fleet of Toyota Corollas for six new Mercedes-Benz E200 Kompressor cars (for himself and his Queens). Price tag: R2.3m. This would not have been a massive problem if the 2005/2006 and 2006/2007 budgets had not been overspent by respectively R2.5 million and R3.5 million.
  • In 2006, apart from the luxury cars mentioned above, King Goodwill Zwelithini bought himself a lavish Hillcrest home worth R2.5 million. The villa had to serve as his pied a terre in Durban to save on hotel and transport costs. In 2005, the king apparently spent R500k in one single month on travel and accommodation for himself and his entourage. The purchase would not have been a problem if the 2005/2006 and 2006/2007 budgets had not been overspent by respectively R2.5 million and R3.5 million. However, the main objection of the villa – which was supposed to save money – is that it has never used.
  • In 2000, “over half a million rand” was spent on the King’s 52nd birthday, a bash that took place in New Castle. Exact figures around the costs were not released due to “confidentiality”.
  • In August 2011, Goodwill Zwelithini celebrated his 40th year reign over his kingdom. Thousands of high-profile guests attended the main party, which took place at the KwaKhethomthandayo Palace, Nongoma. The entire celebration lasted an entire month. Price tag: ± R600.000.

I am sure that there is more information out there on the King’s budgets and spending habits (please share if you have some more details). I did not have to time to dig for much longer. It is 6.18pm as we speak and I have various editors breathing down my neck 🙂

Based on the above, and if those stats are indeed all correct (again, there are no official stats available it seems. Please prove me wrong!) I sincerely hope that the government does not bow. South Africa has about a 1001 causes that deserve immediate attention and money. Rape Crisis for instance. South Africa’s oldest centre for rape counseling is on the verge of closing down – despite the massive sexual violence problem in the country.

Before you accuse me of being a racist imperialist European who is anti-tradition, anti-Zulu, anti-whatever: Hold your horses, ya’ll! I have NOTHING against the Zulu Royal Family. Nothing at all. Give them money, by all means. But don’t give them lavish increases every time they exceed their lavish budget. And don’t give them more money they already have.

It is a fact that the members of the Royal family have never had access to this much money, EVER – for a title they didn’t have to do much. It is a fact that the 2012/2013 Budget is almost double from what it was five years ago. Yes, it is a fact that living costs have gone up (Read my ‘Worries of a Freelance Journo‘ post), but not that much!

People , we are already spending mountains on our President & Family after all. According to Gareth van Onselen, writer of ‘The Billion Rand President: How much Jacob Zuma costs the taxpayer’, Jacob Zuma, his four wives and two dozen children are costing the state (us!) some some R102.8m per year (or R514.1m over one five year-term).

Personally, I think the Royal Family would do well to hire a budgeting expert (on their account, of course). Perhaps this professional could convince / teach the older Queens to skimp on their wardrobe allowance (Apparently they like designer clothes) so that their youngest co-wife can eventually have a pad of her own.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Where has 2011 gone to? Who stole it?

It seems Nature's Valley happened yesterday! Copyright: Miriam Mannak

It is October – the end of October, nogal – and I am rather dazed and confused. Can someone please tell me where 2011 has gone to? What happened to this year? Where is it? What happened? Has anyone seen it? Did someone steal it? I mean reall! It seems like flippin’ yesterday when friends picked me up to spend ten days in Natures Valley, my favourite place on South Africa’s Garden Route. This was just three days after Christmas. And now, *CrashBoomBang*, it is the end of October! Just like that. WTF!

When I was a Little Tiny Mir, years used to take forever and ever and ever. Hours seemed days and days seemed weeks. “Are we there yet?” and “How long before we are there” and “How many days until …” were my favourite questions. Yes, basically started asking questions from the moment I could speak. I guess I born to become a journalist 🙂

Anyway, I have no clue what has changed overtime, but in this stage of my life it seems to be the other way around. Time really flies at Concorde speed these days – and it is not even because I’m having fun al the time!

It probably has to do with the fact that work-wise, I have never ever been this busy since I started freelancing in 2007. The bulk of my work is for Business Live, but I am also quite busy for various Cape Media publications such as Black Business Quarterly, Leadership, Energy Forecast and The Project Manager. Other clients include Radio Netherlands World Wide (Africa) and of course Het Financieele Dagblad.

And there is always the odd-job and ad-hoc assignment that pops up. Private Life (FNB’s in-house publication) contacted me the other day, wanting me to write a story about the South African boating industry. A few months ago, I received an email from a someone working for UNICEF in Haiti. She needed a report written based on her findings, but she had no time or energy to do it. This week, someone emailed me on behalf of the Southern African Aids Trust. Whether I wanted – together with other journalists – to write a book about the role of communities in international, national and regional decision-making. Of course I said yes.

In the meantime, I am working on my Granddad’s book, about his years in Nazi Germany as a forced labourer. Going through his letters and translating them is rather time-consuming – but so worth it.

Hmm. Looking at the above, I guess I have the answer to my question “What happened to 2011?”

My work ate it.

PS: Are you a freelance media professional, or contemplating going freelance? Why not joining the Southern African Freelancers’ Association. Comprising hundreds of freelancers across the continent (mainly South Africa though), SAFREA has helped me a great deal over the past few years with burning questions like “what do I charge for this and that assignment?”, “What are the going rates for freelance writing?”, ” Can anyone help me with this and that”. There is always a SAFREAN who has an answer or solution to your problem. SFAREA has landed me work (members tend to pass on work they can’t do to other members) too, but the main reason why I am a member is that the Association is providing me with a solid network of peers that support, help and respect you when you really need it.


Posted by on October 20, 2011 in Tales of a Freelance Journo, The World of Mir


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bitching about Beach Politics

To me a beach is a beach, a.k.a big patch of white powdery sand that is embraced by the ocean. Whether it has big boulders, small boulders, no boulders, a wide patch of sand, a narrow patch of sand, a big surf, no surf or whether it is a so-called ‘family beach’, ‘gay beach’ trendy beach’, ‘model beach’, ‘sport beach’, the ‘Jewish beach’, the ‘Christian beach’ – I really do not care (to think that segregation in South Africa was abolished over a decade and an a half ago).

Because why would I care? I am in Cape Town for crying out loud! All beaches here are great. And honestly, there are not so many differences between them. Well, okay – those belonging to the Clifton Quartet are not so different from one another.

When observing these four beaches objectively, one will notice that Clifton 1 looks like Clifton 2 looks like Clifton 3 looks like Clifton 4. They are all über stunning beaches boasting the same lovely sand and the same icy cold water and the same boulders and the same stunning view. Okay, the one is slightly bigger than the other, but that is a small detail. From someone who was born in Northern Europe, Clifton – whether it is 1,2,3, or 4 – is heaven and no reason to be picky. Call me simplistic, but I do not care where I spread out my towel – as long as I can end my day on the frikkin’ beach!

I seem to be part of some critically endangered species of beach-befok Capetonians. Here folk stick to their own beach like there is no tomorrow and it is practically impossible to detach them from it and to make them venture to *another beach*.

Usually, people who consider Clifton 1 – First Beach – their home away from home will rarely show their booties on Second and visa versa. One thing Cliftonians do have in common is that Camps  Bay beach, for what ever reason, is considered a no-go zone.

Do. Not. Ask. Why.

Anyway, these bloody beach politics usually pose no problem what so ever because most Capetonians share their preference for a certain beach with their homies. Lets put it this way: there is no point of venturing to another beach if you know that all your buddies are on the beach next door. That is how I ended up being a resident of Clifton 2: I made friends a couple of years ago, they happened to be a Clifton Second resident, and the rest is history. (NOTE: I never had to venture to another beach because, as I said before, the various beach crowds do not tend to migrate so never made friends belonging to other beaches)

The problem now is that I have actually made friends who are members of the Beach One ecosystem. While I would like to hang out with them, I do not want to abandon my friends on Second. Yes, you have guessed it: my two beach crowds are very much attached to their own patch of sand. Moving  both posses to Clifton Three could be an option, but I fear that my crowd will veto that plan.

So, apart from buying new running shoes and spending my time running from Clifton 1 to Clifton 2 and back I see no other solution. Sigh.

Bloody beach politics.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bye Bye 2010! Bring on 2011!

Done. Dusted. Finished. Klaar. The year 2010 has finally drawn to a close and that, Dear Readers, was about bloody time.

It has been a roller coaster of a year, that I can say for sure. Look, work wise things went extremely well – especially when compared to its recession and crisis dominated  predecessor (during which many publications were forced to put freelance contributions on hold). 2009 was a bitch fro hell, which resulted me doing all sorts of brain dead jobs instead of focussing on my passion, journalism, in order to make ends meet.

Last year, things went much better indeed. I gained access to quite a few more publications, including Mining Magazine, Leadership in HIV, Black Business Quarterly, and Energy Forecast – among others. No, 2010 was definitely a winner work-wise. The 2010 World Cup obviously contributed to that. For six weeks I worked flat out, and did assignments for Panorama Magazine (Netherlands), De Stentor newspaper (Netherlands), Spits (Dutch newspaper), Het Financieele Dagblad (The Netherlands), Demotix (Photo agency), News Pictures, and others.

The 2010 World Cup in general was a genuine highlight of 2010, and not just from a mere professional point of view. It is difficult to express in words how it felt to be in South Africa over this particular period of time. The sense of unity was mind-blowing, and so was seeing South Africans from all backgrounds putting their best foot forward to ensure the 2010 Football World Cup would end up in the history books as one of the best ones that ever took place. When ever I hear Waka Waka, I get goosebumps. I am, despite all the challenges facing South Africa, proud to be part of this country.

From a personal point of view, things were more hectic. In the first quarter of this year I decided to end a long term relationship because I had my suspicions things ‘were not right’. This proved to be the best decision I have ever made in my entire life. To keep a long and painful story short: the person was not whom I thought he was. I basically had to wade through gazillions of lies, that had been piling up over a period of 1.5 years in order, to find out that the relationship had been a utter lie. I will spare you the details, but I can assure you that it has been a  rather unpleasant experience. Eventually I came out stronger and I have, most importantly, learned to always always trust on my instincts. I am furthermore sure Karma will take care of business in a suitable manner.

After the World Cup, I met someone else – a wonderful guy who made me feel warm inside. For the first time in ages I felt alive again. Unfortunately this relationship came crashing down like a ton of bricks. Then there was a long-term friend who for some reason cut all ties with myself and another mutual friend. Friends to me are family, thus therefore I took this ‘breakup’ very very hard. To this day I have no idea why she cut all ties and why my / our friendship had to be thrown out with the garbage. Regardless of that, I wish her well and hope she is/ will be happy in life, love and all the other stuff.

And much more happened, but I am not going to bore you guys with my personal little soap opera.

Some good things did happen in 2o10 and that was meeting some great people in 2010. Together with my existing friends they have been simply amazing. They have been the people who helped/dragged/drank/pulled me through the madness of 2010. Thank you guys. I owe you. Big time!

Bottomline of this blog is that whatever happened in the previous year: 2011 is going to be better. Way better. I feel it in my bones. I am, for starters, planning to move from Cape Town’s city center to Muizenberg or Kalk Bay. I love that part of the Cape Peninsula and after having lived in the City centre for the past 6 years, I think it is time for a change of scenery. I love my friends dearly and my plans by no means mean I have had enough of them. On the contrary. I simply want to broaden my horizons and live near the ocean – preferably with more space around me. That – more space and perhaps even a small garden – is unaffordable in the CBD.

So, finally, I plan to kick some serious ass in what I am doing at the moment: journalism and photography. I want to find new challenges. When I came to South Africa in 2004, it was my dream to become a foreign correspondent. I have fulfilled that dream,  a bit faster than I initially expected. I also wanted to lots of travel writing. That too has ben accomplished. I also wanted to break into the South African market and expand my list of tapped-in publications. That too worked out well.

As we speak, I have published stories and photographs in over 30 different publications: Spits, Metro, Het Financieele Dagblad, Open Skies, Portfolio, De Gazet van Antwerpen, De Stentor, Panorama, Black Business Quarterly, Energy Forecast, Leadership in HIV, Leadership, Mail & Guardian, Mining Magazine, I-Net Bridge, Business Day, Cape Community Newspapers, Cape Times, De Telegraaf, BBC World’s website, Cape Town Magazine, Publico Newspaper, Southern Times (Namibia), Detail Magazine, various annual reports including the one by the Danish Development Organisation DANIDA, All Africa, The Luxury List, Mobility Magazine, Productivity SA, Moue Magazine, Imagine Magazine, …

Without bragging and sugar-coating myself in 100% pure arrogance: I am proud of what  I have accomplished over the past years and I am determined to continue to build on that.

Apart from that, I am determined to grow as a person, to be there for my friends, to be more in contact with ‘my people’ in The Netherlands and to perhaps even to find a nice trustworthy guy who has the stamina to put up with me, and does not want me to be someone I am not. Oh, and last but not least: no to try to ninja chop my way around the lounge when spotting a cockroach.

But first things first. And that is to get back to work! It has been a while, as I just came back from a fantastic holiday in Nature’s Valley.

All I can say now is: Bring on 2011 and I hope the next 350-odd days will be nice to you!


Posted by on January 10, 2011 in The World of Mir


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

U2 touring South Africa & Zulu baby brides

Rumour of the day

U2, the best band of all times and of the universe and beyond, is coming to South Africa for a series of concerts. Well, that is what is being whispered on Twitter. Big Concerts has not confirmed anything so far, and is keeping its lips sealed. It is therefore a tad early to jump for joy.

The last time the guys of U2 gave a concert in South Africa was somewhere in the 1990s, which – frankly – has been a while. Since then Bono and his band have skipped South Africa during their world tours. The non-existence of a suitable concert venue has been blamed for this. Well, South Africa has 11 top-notch, world class stadiums now, so that excuse will no longer fly, I guess.

As far as the rumours go: more and more people have come forward with very promising messages:

* Friend 1 (Facebook) – No rumour. Have a mate who does the fences and entrance control at the events and he has been booked for U2!!!!!!!!!

* Friend 2 (twitter): Just confirmed from an independent source, who says Feb 2011.

* Friend 3(Facebook): yes the concert is in feb tickets go on sale 23 oct

Tweet of the day

GlendaN: Hear King Goodwill introduced the baby to the legislature today. She’s the elusive Swazi bride, apparently. Her parents are ‘excited’.
In general, people should respect someone’s culture. If you go to a Mosque rather than a church: fine. If you per definition won’t eat veal in a cream sauce: fine. If you slaughter a cow during weddings and other festivities: fine. If you like to have several wives instead of one partner: fine.
But some times thing go a bit too far. Take King Goodwill from Zululand, for instance. At the age of 55 the traditional Monarch, who has half a dozen of wives already, will be tying the knot a 14-year old girl child from Swaziland. Beg your pardon, you must have misunderstood! You surely meant fourty? No Zola Mafu just reached the tender of fourteen, as in “one – four”. Her parents have said to be excited. Sick bastards. How can you be happy thinking of your baby girl, because that is what Zola is, lying in bed with a 55-year old creep with peadophilic tendencies? The reason for their happiness is probably of a financial matter. I am sure that the lobola will be substantial and since Swaziland is one of the poorest countries in the world … I just wonder what this poor girl must think and feel, as I doubt whether she has a genuine choice. How can a child that young say no to both her parents and a King?
Before you say: hey you whitey, you do not understand. This is Zulu culture and therefore you as a European are not allowed to judge. I agree: It is their culture, alright. But a culture – whether black, white or purple – can never ever be used as an excuse to condone a criminal act. Because that is what this is: a crime.
Like in most parts of the world, adults in South Africa having sexual relations with people at young as Zola is a crime – whether she agrees to having sex with him or not (marriage will lead to sex, period). Why? This is to protect the child. Children often have not the strength to say ‘no’ to adults, whom they often perceive as superior.
Besides: if I am locked up for having sex with a 14 year old (only the thought makes me cringe), why is King Goodwill given the go ahead?
“Because it is his culture,” the reply would be. “It has bene like this for the past centuries”.  Well, my reply would be that cultures need to move on sometimes. Otherwise witch burning in Europe and throwing Christians for the lions in Rome would still be a thing of the present.

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 14, 2010 in Stuff that Happens in the News


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Shit coffee, claustrophobia & pigspotter

Thought of the day

Coffee. Without at least one cup of Joe in the morning I am utterly useless. A write-off. A lost case. A menace to myself and my clients. Without it I lose my mind, patience, sense of humor, brain, keys, and everything other tool that is vital to make it through the day.

Oh, and by coffee I mean the black, fragrant liquid made from beans  and hot water, not the dreadful potion derived from chicory or some other bitter leafy vegetable. Vegetables, because that is what chicory is – rabbit food,  are meant to be eaten, and not to burn, dehydrate, grind, and turn into some beverage. Let’s be clear about that. Which ever moron one day woke up and decided that chicory is an adequate substitute for coffee  should be shot between the eyes, hung form the highest tree and fed to the sharks. A beverage derived from chicory is not (read: has NEVER been!)  anything like coffee, apart from its colour, liquid form and the fact it is served in a cup.  Chicory does not have the same lovely fragrance, it does not have the same taste, it does not have the same effect on one’s spirit, and does not contribute to my well-being. On the contrary. It turns me into a grumpy, sleepy, slow, chaotic, annoyed bitch from hell. Because that, my dear readers, is exactly what I am today. Why?  A client, apart from skimping on my already how-low-can-you-go fees, has decided to go low-budget and has ditched the bean for the veg. I almost threw up iin my mouth when I was handed over a cup of what I thought was steaming hot coffee. Now I am contemplating to bring my own flask of coffee at our next meeting. To make it through the day and to make client dearest realise that chi-co-ry is (e)vil(e). One wiff of my dark, strong, fragrant loveliness will be sufficient.

Tweets of the day

@BBCTimWillcox Huge expectation that the rescue will start before midnight. Local reports say it’s going to be 2000 local time: Yeah, I know. It is a topic I have written about before. People, look, I just can’t help myself. Being an innocent and involuntary victim of claustrophobia my heart shrieks just thinking of being entrapped underground, like these 33 Chilean mine workers have been for the past 2 months. yes, two months underground. No sunlight. No fresh air. Darkness. A collapsed shaft (what else can collapse, is my first first). Confined space. 33 people. Nowhere to go. No coffee. No soft beds. No nothing. Just you, the dirt and the worms. To me that sounds like absolute hell. So yes, I am quite chuffed that these men will be out soon. Good work, Murray & Roberts for helping out!

@IOL Pigspotter’s case referred back to cops
Pigspotter. Nah, this guy does not hunt boars for a living and neither has he a fetish for pink and perky little piglets. Nope. Pigspotter is a South African man who, via Twitter, warns traffic users for speed cameras and road blocks. The cops (“pigs”) are not particularly amused, and have vowed to take him down and to court. Reason: Pigspotter might by accident help hijackers get away by informing them about the loation of road blocks. Well, that is their excuse. Yeah – sure – what ever.


Photo of the day

This is my freshly squeezed business card! It went off to the printers today and can’t wait to have the first batch in my possession!

Business card Miriam Mannak
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 12, 2010 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Singing fossils, mineworkers & hungry tummies

News of the day:

Some news is no news. The fact that Neil Diamond is coming to South Africa in April 2011 for a series of concerts, for instance. Whoo-peeh-dooh. The development has left the South African press, from online to radio and everything in between, jumping for joy. The worst thing is: I have never heard as many Neil Diamond songs in as I did in the past, say, 3 hours as in in my entire life. The practically fossilized country singer, who should be playing Jeux de Boule or  crocket at an old age home instead of touring the world, has decided to  treat Johannesburg (FNB Stadium, April 2), Cape Town (April 11), Durban (April 5) and Port Elisabeth ( April 8) to some of his favourite tunes. “It will be the greatest concerts South Africa will ever see”, a radio DJ told his listeners this afternoon. I certainly hope not. That would be just utterly sad.

Tweets of the day:

@NUnl: Congo hongerigste land ter wereld:
According to the Global Hunger Index (WHI) people living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are the hungriest in the whole wide world. Yes, that is right. Despite the fact the country in terms of natural resources is one of the richest countries on the planet, people living there die en masse because they simply do not have enough food to survive.Other countries where hunger levels have reached severe levels are Burundi, Eritrea and Chad. For more information about the WHI, please click here. And please think before your toss half the content of your dinner plate in the garbage bin. Because throwing away food is so unnecessary.
@bbcworld: Chile escape shaft lining ‘ready’
After two long months, the end of the rescue operation of the 33 Chilean mine workers who got trapped in a mine in San Jose, seems near. According to Murray & Roberts, the South African company which has been involved in drilling an emergency shaft to get the Chilean mine workers out, the final stage of the rescue operation will start this coming Wednesday. The Chilean mine workers are lucky in that respect. All round the world and every year hundreds of mine workers die in accidents and human errors.  In China for instance, 2631 coal miners died in 2009, down 18% from the previous year.

Photo of the day

I took this picture in Ghana, during the Third Highlevel Forum on the Effectiveness of Development Aid which took place in Accra in 2008.


photography: Miriam Mannak


Leave a comment

Posted by on October 11, 2010 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: