Friday, 17 May 2013

In Swaziland, witches on broomsticks must fly low!

This bizarre article appeared in newspapers all over Southern Africa this week.

In Swaziland, the days when witches could enjoy the untethered freedom of flying high in the sky are, regrettably, over. 
According to the marketing and corporate affairs director of the Civil Aviation Authority, Sabelo Dlamini, “A witch on a broomstick should not fly above the [150-meter] limit.”
So far no penalty exists for witches who fly below the firmly-defined 150-meter limit, though reports suggest that radio-controlled aircraft and kites are subject to the airspace regulation.
Dlamini's statement was prompted by the arrest of a private detective, Hunter Shongwe, who operated an unregistered toy helicopter with a drone-like video camera attached to gather surveillance information.
The arrest was the first of its kind in Swaziland, and thus represents a clear but confusing legal departure for the traditional authorities, the press, and the public.
When the Swazi press asked for clarification on the country's airspace laws, Dlamini elected to explain the new legal territory with a familiar and easy to understand metaphor — opting to use a witch’s broomstick to illustrate his point, because after all, a broomstick is considered the same as any other heavier-than-air airborne vehicle, right?
According to American Livewire, traditional brooms in Swaziland are comprised of bundles of sticks or twigs tied together with no handle.
And, while witches are known to use their brooms for applying or flinging “potions” and other cursed substances across large areas, they are not generally used for transportation purposes.
And therein lies Dlamini's crucial, metaphorical oversight.
However, even though witchcraft is something that is taken very seriously in Swaziland —a country where people firmly believe in it and routinely accuse others of using black magic on each other — it can be assumed that Dlamini used the flying broomstick example only to illustrate his point.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Letter from Mandla

Dear Linda.

Today I will write about my Work at All Saints Clooney Parish.

Pastoral Care. The Church has a Pastoral Care Team which looks after the sick and the elderly of the church who are unable to attend church services. The Revd Mervyn Peoples is the Head of the Pastoral Team. Besides the home visits, this team will also phone the elderly of the church at least once a month just to know how they get on with life. I have been to several homes with the Revd Mervyn to do pastoral care. Usually when we get to their homes we would spend at least 30 minutes with each person. We would have a chat with that particular person, share jokes, just make the person forget about his or her worries and at the end we would say a prayer and leave. We would normally visit four to six persons each day and this is because we have to give the people time to be up in the mornings, remember these are old people and most of them are ill. We also do not visit during the lunch hour. We do not visit homes only but we also visit the elderly nursing homes and the Hospice at home. I must say this is an experience for me to see old people with so much faith and being grateful to God for their lives. The ages of most of the people we visit will range between 70 and 100 years old. It is incredible to see them in wheelchairs but being independent. 

Youth Ministry. I always meet with the youth of All Saints on Saturday and Sunday evenings from 1900 hrs to 2100 hrs. Clare Hinchliff (26) is the full time parish youth worker here and I work with her. There is a lot that I am learning from the young people here. In my country we do not even have a full time diocesan youth worker, not mentioning a parish. It is not because they afford or have a lot of money but it is because the people of All Saints are very much committed to God's work. On Saturday evenings we just have games in the hall with the young people and on Sundays we have our Bible Study. I so love my Saturday and Sunday evenings. Not many young people attend our meetings though, usually we would have between 7 and 10 young people but I must say that I think it is effective and we do have a lot of fun. We call our Saturdays meetings FUEL which may also mean Faith Used in Everyday Life and Our Sunday meetings we call them Ignite. Ignite has been taken from Matthew 3:11 and it has to do with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The youth is also involved in Beavers, Scouts, Guides and Cubs which meet at the church hall on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. 

The Little Saints. This is a parent and toddler group and it is on every Tuesday from 0900 hrs to 12 noon. This is where parents will come out with their young ones to play. The church provides the venue ( hall), a whole lot of toys (donated by the church members) and some refreshments for both the toddlers and the parents. Fresh scones are baked for the day and the young ones would probably have juice and yogurt. The people who work with this group are not paid they are volunteers. This shows how these people are committed. The Rector, the Revd Malcolm Ferry will play his guitar during story time for the  toddlers. This is a pretty new initiative for the church but the turn up is very good. During the first three weeks I have recorded more than 50 toddlers and more than 30 parents each day. The rules of working with children are very strict in the Church of Ireland. My self I am not allowed to work with children here, irrespective of that I do work with them in my country. I was told I have to go to the police to be tracked if I have a clear record on children but because I am not a British citizen it is not possible to track my record. My job then on the toddlers group is just to register them when they come in and out and be the doorman because some of them would have two big buggies. It is really good but too much noise. 

To Be Cont.

Sunday, 12 May 2013


This week at Luyengo Fresh Produce

The TLB in action on the dam site

We planted 4000 cabbage seedlings and beetroot this week and harvested cabbage and green mealies.
Our soil report showed that the pH of the soil is very low and we need to apply a huge amount of lime to adjust this. On some areas we have to add as much as 6 tons of calcitic lime per Hectare.
Average max temp this week on the farm: 25°C
Average min temp this week on the farm: 10°C
Rainfall Averages 2013 to Date
January         169mm         270mm
February 140mm           180mm
March 100mm         167mm
April 70mm 140mm
May         24mm
June 10mm

Re-routing the pipeline to take the water to the crops.

Fun and games with the dam:
The TLB that is going to be essential in the construction of the dam arrived at the farm on Tuesday. (A TLB is a Tractor Loader Bucket.) These big yellow machines and their drivers are like Siamese twins. Tiekie says he and his foreman, Siswe, have worked with some very competent TLB drivers in other construction work that they have done and they know what these guys and their machines are capable of doing. “Perhaps we are just spoilt but our other TLB driver could scale a one meter trench without blinking”, says Tiekie. We started with re-routing of the pipeline as the current position of the pipes to the crops is right through the proposed dam, so Siswe, knowing what a TLB driver can do pushed this one to work in a small space as possible due to the crops in the field… “Well, the TLB ended up inside the trench and it took us and hour and a half to get the TLB out. The driver was a total nervous wreck,” says Tiekie. Tiekie added that he thinks the driver is just two years younger than Methuselah. 
On Wednesday the driver arrived at work slightly more relaxed and rested than he left on Tuesday afternoon.  It was mid-morning when the front wheel of the TLB burst with a bang that sounded like a bomb blast, “giving the poor driver another nervous breakdown,” says Tiekie.  Seeing Thursday was Ascension Day the staff worked only half day giving the driver enough time to recuperate after his ordeals. He was also spoilt with loads of yogurt from Parmalat. 
The first hick-up with the dam also came this week. All the pipes and other equipment that has been ordered from South Africa have not been delivered to the farm yet. It is something we have no control over.  So the waiting game starts. 
Probably not a bad idea to look for African proverbs on patience: 
Patience can cook a stone.
A patient man will eat ripe fruit.

   The TLB and driver. He has aged somewhat since this photo was taken.



Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Swazi Secrets from Heloise

In a previous blog I promised to reveal Swazi Secrets. Here it is.
It starts in February when the Marula tree’s fruit fall to the ground. The women pick up these fruits and brew a homemade beer which they sell and which keeps most of the country in a state of inebriation during the Banganu festival period.
The core of the Marula fruit is a very hard nut and inside hides a kernel rich in oil with wonderful properties. One of these properties is the secret to a smooth wrinkle free skin forever. This is due to the high concentration of anti-oxidants, notably oleic acid and Vitamin E. And to quote the Swazi Secret pamphlet “Marula oil rates very highly in tests on moisturising and rehydrating the skin and in reducing skin redness; Is very effective in healing scar tissue - indeed, African women have traditionally used it during pregnancy to alleviate stretch marks; Is the most stable known natural liquid oil.”  To get to that kernel is a mammoth task. A few years ago the Queen Mother initiated a company now called Swazi Indigenous Products which encourages the woman in the rural areas to use their skills to get to the kernel.  They bring their containers filled with the kernels to a factory in Mpaka where the oil is pressed from it using the cold press method. The women are paid for their efforts. This oil is sold and exported to companies in Europe where it is used as an ingredient in skin care products.  A previous PR for this company who is a friend of mine told me one of the companies that buy the oil is a major player in the skin care field. I do not want to mention the name but if I say Jane Fonda promotes them, that is giving away the name. But please don’t quote me on this as lots may have changed since that information was shared with me. 
But back to Mpaka in Swaziland. A factory was set up in Mpaka to cold press the oil form the kernel and they also started making their own range of skin care products called Swazi Secrets.  In this range you will find soap, shower gel, shampoo, scrubs, day cream, night cream, a rich oil to help prevent and repair stretch marks and lip balm. These products are already being exported to four continents where they are sold in shops that trade in Fair Trade and Natural Products. 
Then the cynic comes out and I start asking the rural women whether they have been using the Marula oil on their skins for generations. Some tell me the pregnant women have been rubbing it on their swelling bellies. They say it is hard work to get to the kernel for the oil and people are lazy to work that hard nowadays. The old people used to rub it on their faces but today the women use petroleum jelly for a wrinkle free face. My beautician cringed when she heard about petroleum jelly.  
So my advice is, whether you believe in the properties or not, do support this company anyway. When you are in Swaziland go and visit the factory. They also make a delicious Marula Brittle (like peanut brittle). Support them also by buying their products when you do see them in shops. This is one of a handful of businesses in Swaziland that actually makes a difference in the lives of the really poor people. 


Friday, 3 May 2013

This week at Luyengo Fresh Produce

This is a new born calf with his mother. This calf is about two hours old.

Once again a busy week at Luyengo. It was business as usual in spite of Tiekie suffering a bout of flu. We planted 4 000 cabbage seedlings and harvested cabbage and tomatoes
More carrots and beetroot were planted this week and we concentrated on the tomatoes that we will cultivate using the open hydroponic system.
Our butternut field is also looking very good.
Average max temp this week on the farm: 28°C
Average min temp this week on the farm: 15°C
Rainfall Averages 2013 to Date
January         169mm 270mm
February 140mm 180mm
March 100mm 167mm
April         70mm

We had our first inspection from government’s seed production team to check on our bean seed plants. We are thrilled to announce that Luyengo Fresh Produce received a good report. We have also agreed on the final price for the seed at E22 000.00 per ton, while the normal commercial price for bean seed is E 13 000.00
(E = Emalangeni, the Swazi Currency which is on a par with the South African Rand (ZAR) and at the time of writing this E22 000 was equal to £1,571.)

Ready for another “ah sweet” story?
Cattle farmers want female calves because they can produce more cattle and the bottom line is – generate more income. So on a cattle farm a male calf is doomed.
On a fresh produce farm only the perfect can be sold to the client.  Tiekie has looked at the amount of damaged and below standard produce that has to be discarded and he went looking for a solution. He does have a piggery that can benefit from this waste but that means transporting the waste and that involves costs in the long run. Then he met a local cattle farmer and the solution was clear. Tiekie has already got one young calf, called Toffee, on the farm. The first few days Toffee had to be bottle fed with milk but since he was weaned he is doing his best to work away all the sub-standard vegetables thrown into his part of the farm. He is kept behind a fence so as not to help himself to the prime produce. 
Toffee is treated well, he has a lush shaded part of the farm as his home and the staff regularly visit him to feed him and to keep an eye on his well-being. Tiekie may find him another calf-friend one of these days.

Think about these wise words from Africa:  A fight between grasshoppers is a joy to the crow. 

Here is Toffee behind his fence. He is growing  into a healthy young bull.

More soon,