O p i n i o n

The Casual Vacancy
A Review

Everybody that knows me know that I am a loyal fan of J.K. Rowling. When I read the Harry Potter series for the first time two years ago, I fell in love with this author. This series became my favourite books of all time and I would read anything Rowling produces. It is thus with high expectations that I started reading The Casual Vacancy.

And I was not disappointed.

The first thing I realised is that this is a novel for adults and there are no magic involved! Rowling deliberately steered away from themes covered in the Potter series and explored new ones that were not possible within the confined thematic spaces of children’s literature.

The tale begins with the sudden death of Councillor Barry Fairbrother in the little town of Pagford. The people have to vote for a new councillor, but it is more complicated than a mere decision. The voters and candidates are sitting in two camps. One wants to do away with The Fields (an informal settlement for the “lower class”) and the drug addiction clinic, and the other camp recognise the rights of poor people and the need for the addiction clinic. The reader is introduced, and intimately gets to know, characters from both sides.

Many critics complained that The Causal Vacancy was – simply put – extremely boring. I can actually understand this point of view. Rowling’s novel is character driven and somebody who expects the same kind of action and plot developments as in Harry Potter, would be very disappointed. The richness of The Casual Vacancy lies not in the plot – although I must add that it is by far not predictable or “extremely boring” as one critic called it – but in the themes and characters.

Adultery, drug addiction, prostitution, rape, bigotry and hypocrisy are some of the important themes. The main theme, I would say, is the one of social injustice and the social classes of society. From the anti-Fielders Chairman Howard and his son Miles will do anything to ensure Miles gets the vacant seat on the council – even if it means playing dirty. But it is the people of The Fields – like the heroin addict Terri and her daughter Krystal that are most effected by the decisions of the so-called “upper class”.

Rowling sketched the town (that could have been any town or city in the world) where people are not what they say they are; where people are not so nice behind closed doors and where marriages are simply not as successful as everybody believes it to be. Simply put, Rowling is saying there is no need to feel superior, we all have problems – some just hide it better.

I would recommend this novel to any adult – even if you are not a fan of Harry Potter – or should I say especially if you are not a fan of Harry Potter – this would be a good read. What starts of slowly escalates to a climatic ending that will satisfy lovers of good literature.

For the die-hard Potter fans: Don’t worry, it may be a different genre and different characters, but it is unmistakably still Rowling. It is just Rowling in a different package.

Happy reading.



Looking back I simply can’t believe the year has gone by this fast. It’s a cliche  but it feels like yesterday that we welcomed 2012 and here we are at the doorstep of Christmas and 2013.

Whatever happened during the year and however challenging it was and maybe still is, just remember that you are still here. Trouble will not last. For many of us it has been a big year and if 2012 did not live up to your expectations, I sincerely hope the new year will bring more joy. Even though I do not believe the mere turning of the calender can bring change, I do believe that each of us has a choice to do better.

For those of you who are lucky enough to have a break during the festive season, enjoy it! This will be the last post for the year. All the news stories will continue early in January 2013.

And finally, to all the readers of this blog: Thank you! I could see the readership grew and you gave me some valuable feedback.

Merry Christmas and a happy new year,



Being a bookworm has its disadvantages. One of them is that people always ask you who your favourite author is. And subsequently what your favourite novel of all time is. Now, even for the most selective reader this can be difficult task. How does one decide?

This decision ultimately reflects much more about oneself than you would think. Right? It shows whether you are exposed to a wide range of books, it gives a glimpse about your personality and often it is a sign of your language skills. Or does it?

So, if I say to you that my favourite author is J.K. Rowling and my favourite books of all time are the seven Harry Potter books, what would your opinion of me be?

The fact of the matter is, I was and will always be exposed to a wide range of books and authors, I have read most of the classics and my language competency is not that bad. Having said that, I will think this magical series is the best books of all time — yes, it is indeed a colossal statement given the fact that so many great novels have been written over the years.

Let’s get the facts out of the way first: J.K. Rowling is the first self-made billionaire author in history. The Harry Potter series has sold more than 400 million books and is translated in more than 70 languages. The last book in the series, The Deathly Hallows, is the fastest selling book of all time and the movie franchise is the highest grossing movies in history. It is no wonder people are saying J.K. Rowling has done more for literacy than any other person.

These facts should be an indication of the magnitude of this series, but for me the series is far more than just numbers. J.K. Rowling managed to capture me with ever one of the more than 2000 pages in the series. She writes intelligently, eloquently and, most importantly accessible.

The morals that underpin these books taught me a lot about myself and others. By getting whisked away by the tales of the wizard, and getting to know the characters one not only finds the series enthralling, but also insightful. You will never leave a book without gaining some knowledge and wisdom.

Harry Potter have been criticised by many people as frivolous children’s literature, but I want to agree with the character of one the main characters, Dumbledore:

Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?


The Chinese proverb goes that one should not write a letter when you are angry. So let me state it clearly: I am not writing a letter. I am also not trying to be controversial.

I am, however, addressing a specific statement made during discussion by a (black) lecturer of Stellenbosch University. He said that white South Africans can only call themselves African if they are consciously trying to prove that they belong on the continent.

This is a debate that has been going on for the most part of South Africa being a democracy. After apartheid we are left with the issue of identity construction. Where do I, as a white person, belong? Can I say that that I am an African or should I prove that I belong?

To me the lecturer’s statement was rather antagonistic. Yes, I am an Afrikaner and it was Afrikaners who started and implemented apartheid. It was Afrikaners who brutally killed thousands of black, coloured and Indian people. It is Afrikaners who complain about the condition of the so called new South Africa, whilst they are collectively still the wealthiest group in the country.

But there are also some Afrikaners who fought against apartheid and formed part of the dawn of democracy. It is Afrikaners like Antjie Krog, Max du Preez and Breyten Beytenbach who played an essential part in the establishment of a democratic South Africa.

The question is now: Is someone like Max du Preez an African because of his struggle against the atrocities of apartheid? Can apartheid minister Pik Botha call himself an African? The answer depends on what is understood by the concept of being an African?

The media plays a great deal “deciding” this. Whenever you ask a foreigner what he or she considers being African the answer is likely to include one or more of the following: traditional dances, Zulus, Xhosas, labola, etc.

This is probably because the media often portrays the culture of black Africans as the identity of Africa. They become the manifestation of Africa. All the other groups living in Africa (white people, coloured people, Indians, etc.) are completely ignored and are not included in the representation of Africans.

But does this mean that these (minority) groups are less African because they are not black?
I do not think so. As an Afrikaans speaking Afrikaner I identify myself as an African. Whenever we begin to define being an African according to geography, race, etc. we run the risk of excluding people that that truly belong.

I feel that my culture (what I perceive to be my culture) is just as African as the culture of black people. So why should I consciously prove that I belong to the continent? Why should I feel guilty about my past and, more importantly, who or what gives any individual the right to say somebody (or some people) are not African?
It should be stated very clearly that, by making these statements, I am not diminishing the effect of apartheid. I am not denying the major disadvantages that black, coloured and Indian people had to endure because of white people.

But I cannot change that. Unfortunately, it is part of my history. It is part of the history of South Africa, but it is not something that I affiliate with on any level. Should my generation of white people go through life constantly feeling ashamed about what our parents and grandparents did? Absolutely not. 

What we can and unequivocally should do, is to be conscious of the fact that black, coloured and Indian people are still some of the poorest people in the country. As privileged white South Africans we have a responsibility to rectify that and ensure that future generations are more equal. We also have the responsibility to show to our fellow Africans that this generation is a new one. One that is not throttled by apartheid but is ready to move forward.

When former president Thabo Mbeki made his famous “I am an African” speech I felt a sense of belonging. As a white South African I feel I can be part of the change.

But this change can never happen so long as my fellow Africans deny me the right to be an African.


In 2005 bars die bom. Kaal foto’s van die toe NG Kerk-dominee Laurie Gaum en sy (manlike) lewensmaat Douw Wessels word in die Kaapse poniekoerant Die Son gepubliseer. Vier dae later pleeg Wessels selfmoord.

Hoewel Wessels die storie self aan dié koerante gegee het, is daar baie vrae gevra oor of die koerant nie 'n etiese verantwoordelikheid gehad het nie? Moes dit nie menslike lewens bo sirkulasiesyfers gestel het nie?. Poniekoerante het die afgelope paar jaar begin blom. Die Daily Sun is by uitstek met miljoen lesers die koerant met die hoogste sirkulasiesyfer in die land.

Die vraag is egter: Gebruik hulle dié mag verantwoordelik?

Die voorsitter van die Universiteit Stellenbosch se departement Joernalistiek, prof Lizette Rabe, meen die koms van poniekoerante het ’n revolusie in die mediabedryf veroorsaak.

“Hulle was baie laat, want waar was ’n mark wat gewag het daarvoor. Daar was ’n hele groep mense wat nie media verbruik het nie. Natuurlike voyeurisme is egter deel van hulle invloed en is die rede hoekom hulle amper ’n houvas op hulle lesers het,” sê Rabe.

Die redakteur van die poniekoerant Die Son, Andrew Koopman, sê poniekoerante is gewild omdat hulle oor onderwerpe skryf wat saakmaak. “Misdaad en werkloosheid is byvoorbeeld sake wat die gemeenskap aanraak,” sê hy.

Peet Bothma, redakteur van Sondag, stem saam met Koopman en sê poniekoerante het ’n unieke benadering tot die aanbieding van nuus. “Poniekoerante is die kampvegter vir die ou wat vertrap word daarom kan ons menings in berigte deurskemer. Poniekoerante is nie koerante van rekord nie. Daar is nie ’n enkele storie in ’n poniekoerant wat nie soort van eksklusief is nie. Ons vertel eg Suid-Afrikaanse stories in eenvoudige taal sonder om doekies om te draai,” sê hy.

Rabe is egter uitgesproke oor die verantwoordelikheid wat saam met hierdie invloed saamhang. “As poniekoerante regtig die medium van die massas is, moet hulle hul mag op ’n ander manier gebruik en nie misbruik nie. Mense dink my kritiek teen die poniepers het te make daarmee dat dit sensasioneel is. Daar is geen wet op sensasie-joernalistiek nie, maar bly getrou aan die beginsels van die joernalistiek.”

Volgens Rabe vervul poniekoerante ’n verkeerde rol in die samelewing. “Toe Die Son geloods is, het iemand in die bruin gemeenskap gesê: ‘Wil Media24 regtig my mense in die gutter hou?’ In plaas daarvan om aspirerende media te wees, is dit riooljoernalistiek.

Een van die prinse van die poniepers in Suid-Afrika het met sy aftrede gesê ons het dit mis en wou hom nie langer ophou met die vulgariteite en banaliteite van poniekoerante nie. “Aan die een kant is poniekoerante ’n wagter en aan die ander kant ’n afdreiger. Dit is nie die rol van die media nie. Die media is nie die waghond vir menspolisie nie, maar van demokrasie, menseregte, ens. en nie van kleinlike geskille tussen mense nie.” 

Poniekoerante word dikwels daarvan beskuldig dat hulle nie etiese beginsels toepas nie, maar Koopman meen hierdie stellings word deur “oningeligte” mense gemaak. “Ek dink dit is belaglik dat mense sulke stellings kan maak, want hulle weet nie waarvan hulle praat nie. Ons is onderhewig aan die wette van die land en die Perskode en is baie bewus van die regsaspekte.”

Bothma beaam dit en sê hulle sal nooit stories koop of voordele ontvang vir die plaas van berigte nie.

Rabe verskil egter van hulle en sê sy is al self deur Die Son belaster. “Ek was baie krities en uitgespreke oor hoe Die Son menseregte aantas en die destydse redakteur het sy posisie misbruik om ’n persoonlik aanval ’n storie te maak. Die Son kom weg met onetiese praktyke omdat sy verbruikersmark nie hul mediaregte ken nie. Ons samelewing is nie mediageletterd nie. Maar dit maak geld, so van mediabestuur se kant af word daar nie vra vrae nie.”

’n Mediastudies-dosent aan die Rhodes Universiteit prof Herman Wasserman meen poniekoerante is baie konserwatief oor geslagsgelykheid. “Die Daily Sun is byvoorbeeld baie patriargaal en is ook taamlik anti-gay. Daar is ook aspekte van xenofobie wat gekritiseer is. Die Daily Sun praat byvoorbeeld nie meer van die “aliens” nie, maar van ‘migrants’.”

Hy voeg egter by dat die kritiek teen poniekoerante dikwels nie regverdig is nie. “Ek probeer nie poniekoerante goedpraat nie, maar ek dink dis nie net hulle nie. Mense is net die gewoond om dit so direk in koerante te sien nie. As ’n mens kyk na wat op televisie gewys word en op die internet beskikbaar is, is dit nie juis anders nie,” sê hy.

Volgens Rabe verdiep poniekoerante stereotipes. “Dit is ’n onreg teen die samelewing. Die poniepers verdiep die feit dat vroue maar as objekte beskou kan word, maar as jy dit kritiseer word jy baie maklik uitgemaak as ’n feminis of mannehater.”

Bothma meen egter dat naakheid op sigself nie negatief is nie en dat Sondag uitsluitlik op ’n volwasse mark gerig is. “Daar is absoluut niks sleg aan die naakte liggaam van ’n vrou nie. Ons bied hulle as naakstudies aan en nie as uitlokkend aan nie. Ons kyk nie neer op ’n vrou se liggaam nie en dit bring eerder hulde daaraan. Hoekom moet ek as redakteur sensuur toepas om lesers te beskerm?”

Koopman sê hulle het besluit om die bostuklose meisie in Die Son te verwyder om die koerant meer toeganklik vir lesers en adverteerders te maak.

Die toekoms van poniekoerante is volgens Koopman gesond. “Die lesers van poniekoerante het nog nie in groot getalle toegang tot die internet nie. Die koerante gaan nog lank ’n bron van vermaak en opvoeding vir hulle wees,” sê hy.

Bothma sê hulle het onlangs ’n Engelse Sondag-poniekoerant, Scoop, geloods wat op nie-swart lesers gemik is. Hy erken dit is riskant om in die huidige (digitale) medialandskap ’n nuwe koerant te begin, maar sê die lesers van poniekoerante hou nog daarvan om hulle nuus in gedrukte formaat te kry.

Wasserman sê poniekoerante het nou ’n taamlik gevestigde mark wat besig is om te stabiliseer. “Die aanvanklike groeifase is nou verby, maar daar gaan baie meer van selfoontegnologie gebruik gemaak word. Dit is die toekoms van die media in Afrika,” sê hy.


The day was somewhere in August 2004. I was busy doing research for a school project in the town library when I saw an issue of O, The Oprah Magazine on one of the shelves. Before this I've obviously heard of Oprah Winfrey, but from the moment I picked up that magazine something changed. 

I am the type of person that doesn’t see famous people as role models just because they are famous. They have to really inspire me before I would call them a role model. If I didn’t pick up that magazine I would never have been exposed to the “Oprah way” of seeing things. I would never have been exposed to the “Live your best life” philosophy. This obviously led to me watching The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Nobody in the media industry has achieved more than Oprah. No other single person in the media industry is as influential as Oprah. For a quarter of a century she had the most successful talk show on television, which later lead to a book club, a magazine, a radio station, a production company and now even a television network. 

After 25 years The Oprah Winfrey Show is finally saying goodbye on Wednesday 25 May 2011. The show changed the medium of television for good. It showed that television can be a positive medium.

Many people think a talk show may not be a lot of work, but as a journalist I know the amount of dedication and commitment each and every show requires.

After all of this, I want to say: Thank you, Oprah. Thank you for uplifting and enriching the lives of millions of people. Most importantly: Thank you for making a difference to my life. I will follow you for the next 25 years.

I salute you. 


Die toiletskoonmaker by ons plaaslike winkelkompleks het, tot my verbasing en vermaak, onlangs bevordering gekry. Ou Joseph wat altyd so nederig en onpretensieus is, is nou heel in sy noppies met sy nuwe titel. Hy heet nou amptelik: sanitasie-ingenieur!

ʼn Petroljoggie is ʼn brandstof-oordrag tegnikus. ʼn Sekretaresse is ʼn administratiewe koördineerder en ʼn karwasser is ʼn voertuig-voorkoms spesialis.

Hierdie is maar net ʼn paar van die kostelike kwinkslae wat as polities-korrekte taalgebruik bekendstaan. In kontras met die geharwar van die hedendaagse samelewing het ons dit goed gedink om taal van alle ideologiese lading te stroop. Ons swaai gewoon ʼn woordstaffie en siedaar ons ego word in ʼn oogwink opgeblaas, ekskuus opgepof.

Daar is natuurlik gevalle waar polities-korrekte taalgebruik ʼn positiewe ding is. Tot en met die tweede helfte van die 1900’s was dit aanvaarbaar om, selfs in wetenskaplike kringe, na verstandelik-gestremde persone as morone te verwys.

Taalgebruik wat enige mens se ras, godsdiens, geslag, herkoms of nasionaliteit beledig of jou menswaardigheid aantas, behoort beslis verander te word. Die oorgrote meerderheid van polities-korrekte taalgebruik bestaan egter uit klein juweeltjies wat vir goeie vermaak sorg.

Om die haweloses in die samelewing beter te laat voel, praat ons van hulle as residensieel-buigbare individue en selfs Skillie die skilpad hoef nie meer sleg te voel omdat hy altyd die resies verloor nie. Hy is nou die beste laaste persoon (of dier).

ʼn Mens sê ook nooit vir ʼn bejaarde (of middeljarige) persoon hy/sy is oud nie. Hulle is chronologies bevoordeel. Ons moet deesdae ook nie meer van ʼn prostituut praat nie, maar eerder van ʼn lyf-entrepreneur of  ʼn plesier-tegnikus. Hierdie meisies is ook nie “maklik” nie, maar bloot horisontaal toeganklik.

En waag dit om aan ʼn plomp persoon te noem dat hy/sy oorgewig is. Nee, hulle staar vertikale en/of diagonale uitdagings in die gesig. Hulle is gewoon metaboliese onderpresteerders met substansie. Selfs die term “onderpresteerders” skep ʼn probleem by sommige mense en gevolglik lê lywiger mense net hoër op die swaartekrag-hiërargie.

Die proses om taal te verblo(e)m strek egter veel verder as die benaming van mense. Sonder om nou ʼn knuppel in die hoenderhok te gooi (of nee wag, ek wíl!) moet ek melding maak van die alledaagse gebruik van polities-korrekte taalgebruik.

Die dae wat Tarzan van boom tot boom deur die oerwoud swaai en deur moerasse jaag om skelms te vang, is ook vir goed verby. Deesdae is sy speelplek ʼn manjifieke reënwoud en moet hy versigtig deur die kosbare vleilande trippel. En wie kan nou opgewonde raak oor die beskerming van oerwoude en muskiet-besmette moerasse? Maar om reënwoude en vleilande vir die nageslagte te bewaar, is ʼn heel ander saak.

En julle, liewe lesers, is nou na die lees van hierdie rubriek ook bevorder. Julle is nou amptelik inligting-absorberende omnivore met ʼn voorliefde vir belaglikhede.

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