Tag Archives: miriam mannak

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.


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Earth Hour 2012 in Cape Town

Yesterday was earth hour, which was a good excuse for me to fiddle around with my camera. Despite the fact the streets lights were on, most people living in apartment blocks in my area did switch off their lights.

As a result, Cape Town was treated to some an awesome starry sky. A couple of pictures later, taken from my balcon, I decided to stitch two of them them together – something I had never done before.

The result is not perfect but I am quite happy with the result. What do you think?

Earth hour 2012 in Cape Town, South Africa.

Earth hour 2012 in Cape Town, South Africa. Table MOuntain, Devil's Peak and the City Bowl. Copyright: Miriam Mannak (ALL RIGHTS RESERVED)


Posted by on April 1, 2012 in Randomness in Pictures, The World of Mir


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Confessions of a Coffee Slut, I mean: Snob

Hello. My name is Miriam Mannak and I am a coffee snob.

Coffee. Hmmmm. *smacks lips* That sweet, nutty, slightly bitter smell of a cup of freshly brewed coffee. *sigh*. There is nothing in the world – especially in the early morning hours – that beats that. Well, there are quite a few things that blow coffee out of the water, but that is not the point. The point this morning and of this blog post is coffee. Capiche?

“No, you are not a coffee snob – you are a coffee whore!” some people would say. Well, I have to disappoint these pitiful souls. As opposed to popular belief, I am not prostituting myself to the first hot, dark, steamy liquid in a cup that comes along. Not a chance. I only sell my body and soul to the real stuff – not to the instant crap that is sold and promoted as coffee.

Does this look like coffee to you? REALLY? Seriously?

Newsflash: Instant coffee, my friends, is not coffee. It might look like coffee in some way, but that is where the similarities stop. “Oh but it does taste the same!”, coffee amateurs would say. Well, I kindly invite you to my flat where you will be served a cup of instant crap and a cup of lovely, freshly brewed Arabica – made of beans – topped with fluff milk froth. If you are still convinced that both taste the same, I swear to drink a gallon of instant shit just to make amends.

And Chicory … Don’t get me started about chicory. This leafy vegetable, after it has been burnt to death and beyond, doesn’t even look like coffee after it has been disolved in hot water. The colour is way off. The taste? A well balanced blend of garbage juice strained through old socks. Chicory, in my world, is blasphemy of the first degree. As a matter of fact, the substance should be banned as it cannot be good for you. We need a revolution! An uprising! A boycott! Coffee is made of beans and not from leaves, damnit! AMAAANDLA!

Anyway. Over the years, I received quite a lot of coffee related emails. As I can’t be not the only coffee snob out there, I decided to share them with you. Enjoy!


My Favourite

My Favourite 🙂

Painful but true

He he he! 🙂

I agree! It is a Human Right too!

No comment

Coffee (man) whore!

🙂 🙂 🙂

Everyone has had / will have a Monday like this

Isn't that the truth? 🙂

Enough said

Rather clever design. Love it!


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Dear Dickhead Who Hurt My Friend

* Start rant* 

I am fed up of players and slime balls. I am. They suck. Ass.  Really. I honestly despise men who think a woman is nothing more than a walking pair of tits adorned with an ass.

Gentlemen, there is nothing fun about walking down the street and having to listen to someone shouting some profanity in your direction. Making remarks is one thing, but some guys are downright rude. It raises my blood to a boil in no time and it makes me want to bury my Havaiana & foot deep into your crotch.

The same counts for men who pretend they are ruled by the mind and heart and soul, while they are actually thinking with their winkies. Or with their ‘small head’ as my American host mom used to joke.

These men offer you a drink, compliment you on your eyes (*sigh*), and ask you things that make you believe these men are in fact interesting in what you do / have to say. They show compassion with sick little puppies, tell you how much they enjoy cooking / gardening / hiking / community work and throw in a full assortment of clichés (“I love kids”, “I love my mom”, etc). In other words, they make you believe that they are God’s gift to women in every sense of the word.

You swap numbers and he smses everyday. You decide to go on a couple of dates, and become rather smitten with this lovely individual. Not too long later, you are invited over for dinner at his place. You eat, you laugh, you kiss. And then, all of a sudden, his hands are everywhere you don’t want them to be. You politely push them away, and joke about it. You end up declining the offer to stay over, and go home at the end of the evening.

And then you stop hearing from him. Radio silence de Luxe.

This is exactly what happened to one of my dearest friends, a beautiful girl with a ditto heart and a magnificent set of brains.

Well, guess what Mister Giant Whorebag of Note: the fact that my lovely friend accepted your drinks and dinners and what not, did not entitle you to a one-way ticket to her bed. Oh, and next time you send a degrading sms (“No man. She wasn’t up for it, so I am moving on. Next, ha ha!”): Check to whom you send it before you press the green button.

So help me God: if I find ever bump into you, you would do well to prepare your ‘little head’ for a up-close and personal encounter with my flipflop.

That is all.

*End rant*

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Posted by on February 28, 2012 in Stuff that Pisses Me Off, The World of Mir


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You Have Got Soul, Mate(s)!

“Do you believe in soul mates?” Friend X asked me the other day. “Ah, never mind. You probably don’t. You are not the airy-fairy hippie type,” she continued without waiting for my reply, sipping happily on her wine.

Well, yes, I am not the airy-fairy hippie type. But I do happen to believe in soul mates. So there.

I however don’t think that one person has just one soul mate AND neither do I believe that soul mates are always permanent or confined to the romantic sphere. These special beings come in a wide variety of disguises. Some of them are friends, other mentors, parents, or total strangers. And lovers, of course. Some of these soul mates show up in your life and stick around like cheap Chinese superglue, while others pop up briefly and then vanish – *poof-gone*.

Despite their differences, all soul mates have one thing in common: they leave a lasting imprint on … well, I guess your soul. Or something like that.

I feel I have (had) several soul mates, and each one of them is playing / has played a unique role in my life, whether short and sweet or long and substantial.

Take my friend José. This chick is definitely one of my über soul mates. We have been friends since we were 13 years old, and despite the distance (she lives in The Netherlands while I reside in the most beautiful city in the world, Cape Town) we are very close. She is usually the first one I call when shit hits the fan this side, and I was one of the first people she told about her pregnancy. Whenever we see each other, which is usually once a year, it is like we met just the week before. I feel safe having her in my life. I feel that there is nothing in the world I cannot share with her. José will not judge, she will not laugh at me, or make me feel insignificant. I have some more friends who fit this bill, but José is different. She is like the sister I have never had.

Some soul mates however, come and then go – sometimes in a matter of days. A couple of years ago, I was overseas for work. I was minding my own business in the hotel lobby, when a handsome man started a conversation. When I turned around and looked him in the yes, something deep inside soft collided with my soul, leaving a nearly invisible yet permanent imprint behind. I guess you can compare the feeling the soft, gentle thud when the elevator you’re in hits the ground floor. Ou know, the feeling when your tummy and briefly heart change places. There was this instant connection, *smack-bang out of the blue* I must add that I rarely have instant connections with people, so I know when it happens.

Because I was on a media trip, I could not chat for very long and neither could he. A few days later, our paths crossed again. For the life of me I cannot remember how or where. All I can remember that he offered me a lift to my hotel because I had missed the bus. He dropped me off, we hugged – and that was that. While this encounter was very brief, and would probably not be meaningful to most people, I consider this person as one of my ‘hit and run’ soul mates. I can’t explain why, but that is just the way it is.

By the time I was finished with my explanation about my opinion  re soul mates, Friend X’s jaw had dropped on the floor.

“You are an airy-fairy hippie after all! You just don’t know it yet,” she giggled while asking the waiter for a top-up.


Posted by on February 23, 2012 in The World of Mir


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Cape Argus Cycle Tour: My Mom Made Me Do it

Most of you by now are very well aware that I am doing the Cape Argus Cycle Tour this year. Yes, me. I have indeed signed up (and paid a ridiculous amount) to cycle 110km over mountains and across the Cape Peninsula (For a map of Cape Argus, click here). My aim is to reach the finish line within 5.5 hours, so yes: I am training up a storm.

“But WHY did you decide that torturing yourself would be a good idea?” I hear you ask. The only answer I have for you is that my mother made me do it. Well, sort of. When the docs found out about my mom’s breast cancer last year, my world came crashing down with all its might. For the first time in m life, I really, *really* realized how unpredictable life can be. The one moment everything is rosy and peachy, and the next one everything you believe is shred to pieces. That is at least how it felt when mom broke the news, just 3 days before Christmas.

All of a sudden, everything seemed so meaningless: the deadlines, the problems with the (now ex) Significant Other, the fact clients refused to pay, the weather, and so many other things. Nothing seemed to matter and during that first day, all I could think about was the fact that my mom was suffering from a disease that could potentially kill her. It is very surreal and there is not enough ink (or pixels) to explain how it feels.

Luckily, mom’s cancer was in a very, very early stage. The tumor was removed completely, and luckily this nasty disease did not get the time to spread. No chemo was necessary, “just” radiation. This week, Mom will have her last sessions of radiation and then she will be done. For now that is: she will have to go for annual check-ups for the next five years or so, but that seems to be standard procedure.

Back to the Cape Argus Cycle Tour and my reason for doing it this year. Look, if my mom can beat a disease like cancer, then I see no reason why I can’t do this race. Seriously. And then there is the element of closing this chapter. No better way to do it while cycling across one of the most beautiful parts of the world.

So now you know: this race is dedicated to my mom (and to my dad, who has been absolute trooper) 🙂

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Posted by on February 22, 2012 in The World of Mir


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Dear Freelancer, Never EVER Work for Free!

Dear Freelancer,

I know how hard it is to earn a living and to get people to notice you. There are so many fish in the sea, freelancers like you, chasing the same food. But what ever you do, whether is to be kept busy or to get exposure: Do not work for free, no matter how big or prestigious the title or client. You will end up shooting yourself in the foot while spoiling the chances of other freelancers to get paid work.

I have lost count how many times potential clients asked me to provide photographs, text, features and other services for free in return for “a credit” or “great exposure”. There is one incident I will never forget. It was just before the 2010 World Cup when some American guy emailed me with regards to my pictures on Flickr.

He was busy writing what he called “America’s prime guide to the 2010 World Cup” and was “absolutely stunned by some of my photographs”. He wanted to use about twenty of them, from landscapes and people shots to all sorts of soccer related scenes. The book would be published by Penguin Books – not a small player in publishing land. The ridiculous Terms & Agreements were as follows:

I am requesting that you grant permission to me, New American Library, Penguin Putnam Inc. and their licensees, successors and assigns to include the photo indicated below in all editions and derivations of the Work throughout the world in all languages, and in the advertising and promotion thereof in all media now known or hereafter devised.
Credit will be given in the form you specify below either on the same page with the photo, on the copyright page, or in a separate section for credits.
In signing below, you represent that you are the sole owner of the rights granted herein, and that the material indicated below does not infringe upon the copyright, privacy right or other rights of anyone.  Kindly sign one copy of this letter and return it to me. 

Oh, did I tell you there was nada pay involved? “We have a small budget, but it would be great exposure,” he said. To which I responded:

Dear XXX,
As much as I would like to help you out, I cannot give away my photographs for free. Firstly, I need to make a living. A credit – it goes without saying that photographers are credited – does not pay the bills not does it put food on the table.
Secondly, by giving my images away I will be spoiling the market for not only myself but also for other photographers out there. The more of us who are willing to work for free, the less clients like yourself will be willing to pay for images in the future. I mean, why would they as they can get them for free?
Lastly, if your guide will be as successful as you expect it to be, the publication will eventually generate income. This means that there will be money at some stage for the compensation of the contributing photographers.

He then told me, noting that he did understand my position as “he was a freelance writer too”, how many greatly talented amateurs were willing to cooperate for free: “They are so happy and grateful to do so.  And some of them are so fantastically talented.  I just think it’s great in this day and age that someone who isn’t a professional can get their work out to the world through the Internet.”

To which I replied that even amateurs should be paid for their work: “If their images are good enough for a professional publication, then they should be getting a professional fee.”

That was the end of the discussion – he never contacted me again. Good riddance.

Look guys and gals, every freelancer – whether junior or senior – should get paid for their work. Yes, juniors too. Even amateurs! If the potential client believes you are are capable of delivering a professional service, the clients should pay you a professional fee. Just think about it: Your toilet is broken and there is shit everywhere. You call a plumber and he arrives instantly. You discover he only started working a month ago. Would you ask him / her to work for free? I don’t think so. The same should work for us freelancers.

That does not mean I have not done stuff for free. I in fact have provided an image or two, for instance to a small grassroots soccer NGO in the DRC, free of charge. There is a difference doing stuff for free to help a small NGO raising much-needed funds and to do stuff for free for a company/ individual that intends to make money from your work. Having a pro-bono client actually looks good on your CV. Just choose them wisely.

Dear freelancer, are you still not convinced about the above? Then watch this video.

Kind regards,

Miriam Mannak / freelancer, seasoned through and through

PS: South African freelancers: the Southern African Freelancers’ Association has drawn up a list of recommended rates for freelance writers, freelance journalists, freelance photographers, etc. 


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