Born Free

I have been doing quite a bit of driving around our beautiful country lately and I have been shocked at some of the images I have seen over the last week.  This first pic is an indication of how beautiful our country is, but is unfortunately not the pretty picture I have been seeing just recently.

We are nearing our elections in South Africa, taking place on the 7th of May and we are celebrating 20 years of democracy.  This is the first election taking place where those who are “born free” (those whose lives began after apartheid) are eligible to vote for the very first time. One would think this is a major milestone for every young adult.

However, unlike the 1994 elections which took place when we had our first democratic election and everyone went to cast their vote for the very first time, we now unfortunately have a new generation who do not want to cast their vote at all.

Our own Archbishop Desmond Tutu has welcomed the “Vote No” campaign – a campaign started by our former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils and other ex-ANC members encouraging “South Africans to be aware of the value and consequences of their vote.”

This new generation has no memory of the apartheid era and have no loyalties to the ANC.  They feel they have been let down by their own government.  Most are well educated and despite this are unable to find suitable jobs.  Instead they are witness to the corruption taking place and the inability of our government to identify with its people.

They feel betrayed.

There are many protests taking place on a daily basis due to poor service delivery. I must admit there is no excuse for poor service delivery.  We have one of the most efficient tax collection departments in the world so the Goverenment has no excuse for under delievering.

I am in support of those who make the effort to protest against poor service delivery but I am shocked at the total lack of respect my fellow South Africans have for other people’s property.  Driving back from one of our mines yesterday, we were diverted and had to use an alternative route and we were witness to the destruction caused by one of these protests.

We were left with a picture of total destruction in our path – vehicles being stoned and trucks being burnt.    Our roads marked by black residue from burnt tires.

Are we perhaps heading for a civil war?  Do I Want to sit back and let this beautiful country be destroyed by those who should be protecting it?

Some interesting readining:

Lanthie Ransom

Are you too smart to engage?

I don’t typically talk about politics on my blog.  The main reason is that my blog is supposed to be about me and my journey in finding myself and the challenges I face.  And I have always felt that writing about politics and matters of the state make it about everyone else.  But this is where I have come to the realisation that talking about politics is very much about me too – not only does politics and legislation have a huge impact on my life, it is my opinion that counts too.  So it is time I started being a little more verbal about some of these issues.

I would like to quote Plato here and this forms the theme of this post and many more just like it:
“Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by their inferiors.”

Now where to start.  Quite honestly this could turn out to be a long post but I will try to keep it short and keep to the facts as I see them and perhaps it will be the first of many such posts.

The first issue I want to address is our new toll roads – or eTolls as they are called here.  This has been a


very controversial subject here since we hosted the World Cup in 2010.  Besides the white elephant stadiums that we are left with (another legacy of the World Cup), we are also left with having to fund the upgrading of our national highways in Gauteng.

Now I know you are probably thinking why are we bitching about the upgrading of our national highways.  It is not the upgrading of our national highways that we are bitching about – we are bitching about the fact the tax payer has to pay a toll to drive on these roads.  These are roads we have always driven on at no cost (or direct costs as the case may be).  They didn’t build new ones, they merely fixed existing ones and added a new lane here and there.  We, the tax payer has already paid for the capital costs of these roads.  And it is due to neglect and the lack of maintenance that these upgrades were required in the first place.   Not to mention the fact that we pay a small fortune for petrol in our country which is loaded with various taxes and levies which are supposed to cover the cost of maintaining and improving our roads.  I’m not sure what you all pay for petrol but we currently pay over R14 a litre for ours (about US$1.5 per litre) (Refer to Worldwide Retail Prices of Gasoline  here (US cents per litre)

I have also been told that part of the agreement with FIFA was that we were required to provide highways with a minimum of 4 lanes to the stadiums and the airport and other such relevant routes if we were to host the World Cup.  They didn’t care what the cost of this was or if we actually needed more lanes.

So SANRAL (our national roads agency) put out a tender for the upgrading of these roads.  Another huge controversial issue as the tender and subsequent business plan is flawed in many ways.  The tender was awarded to a non-resident company, so much of the money raised actually finds its way out of the country.  But besides that, the installation consists of elaborate gantries and inefficient means of collecting the tolls.  I’m not going to quote facts a figures here as these are freely available on the web and I will post a few links at the end of this post for those of you who want more information.

We do not have a public transport system and there are also no viable alternative routes so we are forced to use the tolled highways now.   This has put huge financial pressure on the average tax payer who has to get to work or get around on a day to day basis.

One of the big issues for me is that you have to register to use these roads and you are offered “reduced rates” if you register and pre-pay for the usage of these roads.  I feel this is discrimination at it’s best and I am so fed up with being discriminated against in various ways (a topic for another post).  I will have to register to take advantage of special rates and I have to have a little electronic device in my vehicle.  

According to various articles I have read recently, up to 90% of people who use these tolled roads have a) not registered and b) not paid after receiving a bill in the post.  I am not quite sure how they intend to recover this money as they cannot prosecute everyone concerned.  I am currently part of the 90%.

I have not registered either and have received many bills in the mail.  I am very sensitive to my information being shared and would like to know how the administration company knows where to send the bills to if I have not registered.  I have certainly not given the licensing department permission to share my information with any third party companies and I feel strongly about my rights being compromised here.

Please read some of the articles below and share your thoughts on this issue.  I would be interested to know what you all think.

Lanthie Ransom

Bringing in the New Year

There is no better way to bring in the New Year than with friends you have not seen for many many years.

I had the privilege of living and working in Brunei some years ago.  I was based in Bandar Seri Begawan.  Bandar Seri Begawan is home to one of the most beautiful Mosques I have ever seen.  I’m posting a pic of it but won’t elaborate too much more on Brunei as it is not really relative to this story.

Back to my story ……

We heard via a relative who lives in Dubai that an old friend who was with us in Brunei was in Dubai just before the New Year and he was on his way to South Africa.  (Wow that’s a mouth full)  So we contacted him via email to find out if he was indeed here.  He duly replied saying he was here in South Africa – spending a few weeks in Durban.  He also mentioned that another friend from Brunei was in South Africa – she became a close friend of mine while we were based there.

I managed to get a contact number for her and she was here for a few days and staying in a town not far from us.  So I gave her a call on Monday last week and we arranged to meet over the weekend as she was going away for a few days, leaving New Years Eve and back on Friday.  She was driving to Clarens and spending a few days in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park at the Golden Gate Hotel and Chalets with her kids.

Hubby and I thought it may be a good idea to fly down to Durban on Friday for the day and see our other friend there.  So we called him and he said he was also going to Clarens.  So we decided to be really spontaneous and also drive to Clarens on New Years Eve and join both friends and their families there and bring in the New Year together.

It is not often I get to see some of the remote parts of my beautiful country and I thought I would share some of the pics I took.

Hope you all had an equally rewarding New Year’s eve.

Lanthie Ransom

Tantalizing Tuesday – A little late

Tuesday is almost over and I forgot to put up my Tantalizing Tuesday post.  So here goes……

Seeing as though cricket season is just starting here in South Africa, I thought I would showcase a true hero in South African Cricket – Graeme Smith.  He is currently the captain of the South African Cricket Team.

I didn’t realize how good looking he was – he doesn’t even need to take any clothes off to get me hot and bothered.

Lanthie Ransom

Rub Me Some More

In case you are wondering about the title – it is very apt for this post.  It is my daughter-in-laws’s birthday tomorrow so I thought I would treat her (and me) to a day at the Spa today.  A girls day out! Yes, it was a selfish gift.  An excuse I needed to have a day of pampering and being rubbed from head to toe.

I made a booking for us to go to the Mangwanani African Day spa which is about an hours drive from Johannesburg.  We usually catch the bus as it adds to the enjoyment for the day (and also means I can have a couple of drinks during the day without worrying about driving).

Anyway, I collected my Daughter at 6.30 this morning and arrived at Montecasino at around 7 – the bus leaves from there at around 7.30.  We are welcomed with champagne and orange juice.

Bus waiting for us all to arrive

Upon arrival at Mangwanani, we are met by the therapists welcoming us with a drumming song.

Welcoming committee

We are then shown into the breakfast room where we are seated at specific tables for the day.  We need to remember our table number as our treatments are all linked to this number for the day.

Breakfast consisted with more champagne and orange juice, a yogurt and muesli cup, muffins and tea.

After breakfast we are asked to change into our swimsuits and a gown and slippers which they supply.  We then wait outside on one of the sun loungers for our table number to be called and they show us to our relevant treatment area.  In between treatments, we are offered a beverage.

Our first treatment was the Jacuzzi.  We were the only ones allocated to the Jacuzzi so we sat for almost an hour sipping wine (yeah I know 9.30am is probably slightly early for a glass of wine but I wont tell anyone if you dont).

After the Jacuzzi we had our faces painted and then went for a hand and arm treatment.

After the hand and arm treatment, it was off to another area to have our head and shoulder massage. They use special oils for the massage so by the time they are finished, your nicely done hair is full of oil and other stuff.(yuk!)  We sat overlooking the river – absolutely stunning views

Then it was off to one of the private cabins for a full body massage with hot rocks.

Then it was lunch time.  Lunch consisted of a chicken wrap with salad and loads of deserts.  I was stuffed by then but forced myself to have a little ice-cream.

After lunch we were treated to some more singing and dancing by the therapists.

Then we went for a foot massage.

And after the foot massage we were transported via golf carts to another area for our facials and full body scrub.

At the end of the day, we put our clothes back on and joined everyone for a shot of Amarula Cream and a chocolate while waiting for the buses to fetch us again to take us back to Johannesburg.

I have added a few more pictures below hoping you are not bored by my sheer indulgence for the day.

One of the Hand Treatment areas

Foot Treatment Area

Communal area

Communal area where we relax between each treatment

Entrance to the Spa

Yes, we are in Africa!  The buck roam freely.

And loads of Monkeys

View from the bus on the way home.

I had really great day with my Daughter-in-law.  We had some great bonding time and got back home feeling very relaxed (and sore from all the massaging).

If you ever find yourselves in this part of the world – you must spend a day at the Mangwanani African Day Spa.  It is an experience of a life time and you will not regret it.

Lanthie Ransom

Tantalizing Tuesday (Pierre Spies)

I thought I would showcase another South African Rugby player today.    This is Pierre Spies.  He is 194cm tall and weighs 111kg’s. Wow this is a big guy!  Apparently he is known as one of the best ball carriers in the game – he can step, run around or over a defender – I can see why.  I wouldn’t mind finding myself in a dark alley with him.

Pierre Spies

Lanthie Ransom

To Catch A Thief

Hiya All!

I see Dale has been keeping you amused while I’ve been otherwise occupied.  My life has just been hectic lately and I have had little time for blogging.  Which of course has left me feeling a little down.  I need to blog as it is my ME time.

Anyway – I went to a Bridal Tea on Friday afternoon and took loads of pics on my phone. I was going to tell you all about it.  Unfortunately my phone was stolen yesterday afternoon before I had the opportunity.

I went shopping with my Daughter-In-law to Sandton City on Saturday afternoon.  Sandton City is an upmarket shopping centre in the middle of Sandton near where I live .  We were window shopping really.  Anyway, I went into a small make-up store to buy some eye-liner.  It was a quiet store with the odd woman popping in for some eye-shadow or some form of face gunk.  I was at the counter paying and put my phone in the front pocket of my bag to free up a hand,

Someone bumped into me and I didn’t think anything of it at the time and about 30 seconds later something made me look for my phone.  Which of course was nowhere to be found.

Besides being really pissed about it, there is not much one can do about it.  I reported it to the centre security and we went to the security control room to fill in a report.  There was another woman there who also had her phone stolen – except they had actually cut her bag open.  She was a foreigner from Kenya and her passport was in her purse which they also took.

I then went to my mobile operator and had my SIM blocked and got a replacement SIM.   Um’ed and ah’ed about what to do about another phone – my phone was only about 2 months old.  Anyway, I ended up buying another phone which cost me a small fortune.

Luckily I had backed up my phone 2 days earlier when updating it to IOS7 and was up and running again as if nothing had happened.

I suppose it is one of realities of living in Johannesburg.

Lanthie Ransom

Tantalizing Tuesday – Featuring Chad Le Clos

I am featuring Chad Le Clos this week on my Tantalizing Tuesday series.  Besides being an Olympic Gold Medalist, he is also from my home country, South Africa.  He has just won a couple of gold medals at the 15th Fina world championships in Barcelona this past week. 

And let’s not forget to mention that he is really yummy to look at!

Chad Le Clos

15th Fina world championships in Barcelona

Chad Le Clos

Chad Le Clos

Chad Le Clos

Cops and Robbers

I have had one of those episodes again where I wonder why I live where I do.  And yeah I  know I will get all sorts of comments from you all as well – please go easy on me – I love my home!

Hubby is in hospital at the moment as he had an operation on Monday.  So I am alone at home with my 2 sons.  No big deal as I’m a big girl, mother of 4 boys and that sort of thing and I don’t scare easily.

Anyway, I was in bed last night at around 10.30 when the gate buzzer rings.  Very unusual for this time of night.  So I jump out of bed – now I am half naked so I have to think about this – do I get dressed first or do I just put my gown on.  So I opt for the gown – Doubt I am actually going to see anyone as I am not expecting guests so I will tell whoever it is to be on their merry way very quickly.

By now, whoever it is, is pressing the gate buzzer non stop and just irritating the hell out of me.  So I get to the front door and answer the intercom system while looking at our camera system.  All I can see on the camera system is loads of flashing lights.  I ask who it is and they say it is the Police and can I please open up.

Ahem….  What now!

So I unlock Fort Knox and do a visual check to make sure it is the Police and then let them onto the property.

I am greeted by about 12 fully armed cops – in full gear with big guns (I’m not the gun sort so all I can tell you about them is that they are big – about arms length – look very dangerous type of thing).  They explain to me that there was a break-in at a property 2 roads down and they are in pursuit of a suspect.  They have wounded the suspect so he could not have gone very far and they would like to check my property to make sure he isn’t hiding out anywhere.

By now I’m feeling a little self conscious standing there in my gown and not much else in front of all these men.  I start assembling the various keys required to unlock the various gates around my property so they can get into all the areas.

Kids of course are still fast asleep – nothing seems to wake them.

About 10 minutes later they finish having a look and I let them out and lock up again.  I attempt to go back to bed.  But of course I am now feeling a little vulnerable.  I decide to lock the security gate we have down our passage which blocks the bedroom area from the rest of the house.  Then back off to bed.

About 45 minutes later, as I am just nodding off, the gate buzzer rings again.

So I repeat the procedure from earlier on, except now I have to unlock the passage gate as well.  This takes me an extra few minutes and by the time I get to the front door, whoever it was has given up and I can just see lights moving back up my drive-way.  Grrrrr.

Locked everything back up and went back to bed with the intention of being in the land of nod within 5 minutes.  Easier said than done……  I got back to bed but doubt I slept more than 2 hours throughout the night.

Spent the day in a fowl mood snarling at everyone.

Hope they caught whoever they were looking for.  Hate to think he is still out there somewhere hiding!

Home invasion of the Worst kind

A few fellow bloggers have picked up on something I have mentioned in passing on the odd occasion and have specifically requested that I do a post on it.  To be perfectly honest it is not something I really wanted to blog about but perhaps it is time to tell the story.

I am typically a glass is half full type of person and I always believe there is good in everyone.  I also don’t believe in the death penalty, but after the incident I am telling you about below, I am a strong believer that some people should be put against a wall and shot – and I am happy to pull the trigger.  So enough babbling and let me start….

This took place on the evening of the 12th August 2009.  It was my first son’s 21st birthday the next day. We had a guest with us for the evening so we decided to go out for dinner.  Not something we typically do midweek and we were out later than normal.

We returned at around 8.45pm.  It was bedtime for son no 3 & 4 and they went straight to their rooms to get ready for bed.  It was also way past Hubby’s bedtime as he is a very early riser so he went off to bed as well.  Son no 3 was down the passage showing our guest where to settle for the night and Son no 1 was in our home office.

I was doing a general tidy up of the lounge with the help of my future daughter-in-law, ready for our birthday ritual the following morning.  We usually get up extra early when it is someones birthday and we all sit down to a cup of tea or hot chocolate while we wish the birthday girl/boy and hand out presents.  It means you don’t have to wait all day to get your presents at the end of the day.

I popped into the kitchen to get rid of dirty dishes and my daughter-in-law went out to get my sons birthday presents out of the boot of her car.

I walked back into the lounge, bent over the coffee table to straighten it out.  Something made me look up and I saw a black man in a balaclava leaning against the doorway leading to our passage.

My heart stopped.  I had a thousand things going through my brain.  Did someone ring the doorbell without me hearing and hubby or one of my sons let him in.  Was he collecting something.  At first, I did not realise he was here to harm us.  I thought through a hundred combinations of why he would legitimately be standing in the middle of my lounge.  In the end none of it made sense and I suddenly realised what was happening.

My immediate reaction was to calmly ask him what he wanted.  My family was down the passage and I certainly did not want them disturbed and I was willing to give him whatever he wanted.  Deep down inside I wanted to scream, but this would alert the rest of the family.

Then another man appeared through the front door and he went straight down the passage.  Son no 1 appeared out of the office and we were both told to sit in a corner of the lounge with our hands on our heads.  My heart was pounding…..

Then another man appeared.

Then the rest of my family slowly appeared one by one and sat with us on the floor.

We were told to take off all our jewelry.  Back then I did’nt wear any fake jewelry   I had a rolex watch on (not a huge flashy one – just one that said, hey, I have worked hard enough to deserve to wear one).  Slowly we all removed our jewelry and handed it over.

Then my daughter-in-law appeared at the front door with an arm full of presents and she walked straight into the situation.  She too was directed to sit on the floor.  She dropped all presents onto the couch.  She was asked to remove her jewelry .

All of a sudden more of them appeared and there were now 6 men standing in my lounge.  They all had balaclavas on.  The head guy was holding a panga (machete or long bladed weapon) and was chewing on a toothpick.  The rest all had hand guns. They were holding them funny as they all wore heavy woolen gloves so they could not hold the guns properly.

Hubby was asked where our safe was and where we kept our guns.  We don’t have either and hubby told him.

They then started asking for our cellphones and one by one we all handed them over.  There were 8 of us and each of us has a cellphone.  They then asked for the chargers for the cellphones and started stripping the lounge and bedrooms of all electronic gadgets and equipment.  We each had a laptop and these were gathered up.  They brought them all into the lounge and we were each asked to switch on our laptops and cellphones to make sure there were no passwords on.  Then they were all switched off and piled up on the side.  Camera’s and all other valuables were found.

Hubby was asked once again where the safe and guns were.  He once again explained we didn’t have any.

Son no 1 had his laptop in the lounge but his charger was in the cottage (him and his future wife lived in the cottage on our property back then).  They asked him to go and get it and one of the men went with him.  I was terrified.  Would this be the last time I saw my son…..  I cant explain how I felt watching him walk out the house with this man.

My legs were killing me.  I was sitting on my knees and my legs were going numb.

Son no 1 reappeared.  Relief…..  He sat down with us again.

My daughter-in-law was sitting next to me and we made eye contact.  Something made us look down at the same time and we noticed she had not handed over her engagement ring.  We looked at each other and we knew what we were each thinking.  She slowly removed it and managed to throw it under the couch near her.  Hoping it would not be noticed.

Hubby was asked again where the safe was.  Again he explained we did not have one.

One of the men then came over to the couch near us.  He was going through the presents and ripping them open.  I was looking at his feet and noticed that he had very small feet and wore black nike trainers. I will always remember exactly what these looked like and I very often find myself looking at the shoes of black men walking in our neighborhood.  The man picked out some of the presents for himself and left the rest.

The kids schoolbags and tog bags were standing near the front door, ready for school the next day.  These were picked up and turned upside down and the contents thrown on the floor.  All our valuables were packed into the bags.

The men were in and out of various rooms and one went out the front door.  A few minutes later he appeared with 2 women from one of our neighbors houses.  They were told to sit with us.  We are not the neighborly type I’m afraid so we did not know each other.  The one woman was crying.  The men kept threatening her and telling her to stop crying.  My hubby was trying to console her but it did not help and she kept sobbing.

One of the men then went around and closed all the curtains in the house.  Why would he be doing this now – my heart was pounding even heavier now.  Were they going to kill us………

Hubby was asked again where the safe and guns were.  Again he explained we didn’t have any.

We were asked for keys to get out and my keyring with house and car keys were handed over to them.

And then all of sudden they all just disappeared out the front door – as quickly and quietly as they had arrived.

Hubby went off to call the police.  My priority was to make sure the kids were alright.  None of us were harmed, physically anyway.  It was now about 11.30pm and the whole ordeal lasted about 2 and a half hours.

Kids were put to bed.  The police tuned up and we each gave a statement.  The forensic unit appeared not long afterwards.  No forensic evidence could be found as the men all wore gloves.  A 24 hour locksmith was called in and the house was secured for the night – or what was left of it anyway as it was now around 3.30am.

I took the kids (no 3 & 4)  to school the following morning.  We all agreed that it would be best for them if we tried to follow our usual schedule.  I went in to see the school principal and explained the whole ordeal just so they were aware of the situation and they could report back on any emotional issues that may come up whilst at school.  The school councilor sat with them during the day.  I was very impressed with the schools reaction to the whole situation and how they handled it.  My sons were in very good care.

I found a trauma councilor and I went to see her with son no 3 & 4 for he next few weeks.  Hubby and son no 1 & 2 insisted they did not need any counselling.

There are no long term effects.  We got through it unscathed.  Sometimes I walk through my lounge and I look up and still see the reflection of the first man leaning against the doorway.  I went through a phase where I just wanted to move and not be in this house anymore and sometimes I still want to move. But it seems that time does heal all wounds.  The scars will always be there and I have learnt to accept that they will be there regardless of where I live.

It sometimes makes me hate the country I live in and would rather live anywhere else in the world.  But then I remember that these things happen all over the world.  I will do a post in about week explaining why I still live here in South Africa.

I hate the fact the my son had a crappy 21st birthday and I think this is why not being with son 2 on his 21st hurts me so badly as well.

I would like nothing more than to see these men come to a very long drawn out painful death.