Thursday, September 24, 2020

Good news, bad news, and in-between news.

Michael - Thursday 

The bad news

Another shooting of an innocent Black person by police has caused protests and demonstrations that turned violent in some places. The president said, “While communities have a right to express dissent, anger should not spill over into action that could worsen the trauma already experienced by citizens. Justice can only prevail if community workers work with our criminal justice system to address alleged injustice or abuse.” Police used tear gas to disperse demonstrators, even – according to the demonstrators – when no rioting was taking place. Sound familiar?

Demonstration remembering Nathaniel Julies

I’m talking about the shooting of 16-year-old Nathaniel Julies. If you think this is a BLM case that you somehow missed, you’re right. The thing is that it took place in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Nathaniel was a severely disabled Downs syndrome young man. Initially, the police claimed that he was hit in the cross fire during a shootout with a gang. They expressed regret. Not as much regret as his mother expressed when she saw his sandaled feet sticking out from under the white sheet that covered his body. However, now the two of the three police who were present at the scene have been arrested and charged with murder, obstruction of justice, and attempting to discard evidence. One of the officers claimed she was told to shoot by the sergeant, who had previously threatened her. I was only following orders...I've heard that somewhere before.

Riot that led to more injuries

One can only speculate as to what happened at the time, but it’s inconceivable that the three officers  could have believed their lives in danger. Perhaps they asked him what he was doing hanging around, and he tried to ask for a few rand to buy his favourite cookie. Maybe he walked up to them – three trained(?) officers – waving his hands about. How does that possibly lead to him lying on a slab with more gun shot wounds than his mother could count?

Everything in South Africa is complicated by race. Nathaniel was coloured (mixed race), and two of the police were coloured and one was a black African. But I’m sure race wasn’t the issue. Sadly, the people running the police may have changed, but the culture towards Black people – particularly poor Black people – hasn’t changed much. The police minister said, “We will spare nobody. Whoever has committed a crime will have to face the law.” 

Let’s hope that happens. People here have a low enough opinion of the police as it is, and this just makes it worse.

The in-between news

Elephants at a waterhole in northern Botswana

There was shocking news from Botswana a few months ago of terrible elephant deaths. Nearly three hundred carcasses were found scattered around waterholes in the north of the country. The immediate reaction was that it was the work of poachers, who sometimes poison waterholes to kill elephants to grab their ivory. This is an incredibly destructive form of poaching because other animals drinking at the waterhole are also killed, as well as scavengers who eat the meat. But none of the carcasses had been disturbed, and no other animals seemed to have been affected. Anthrax was ruled out, and the idea of a novel virus was raised. That was not a popular suggestion. A novel virus is just what we need right now.

Waterhole polluted by algae

The Botswana authorities announced this week that the matter had now been resolved. The source was a cyanobacterium that causes poisoning of algae infested water holes. It’s good news because we know all about those and they aren’t going to get us locked down. Just avoid drinking at waterholes. The bad news is that we still don’t understand why it just affects elephants. The even worse news is that the bacteria flourish in warm, nutrient-rich water that grows plentiful algae. As things warm up, it may become more common. According to recent estimates, Africa is heating up at twice the rate of global warming. Water will become scarce. And it might contain some very nasty pollution. So stick to wine and beer. Those of us who can afford it…

The good news

I share a bungalow in the Olifants River game reserve bordering the Kruger National Park with friends. Recently, Stan and I were there with two of my partners, Jenny and Aron Frankental. (I posted a few of Aron’s magnificent photographs a few weeks ago.)

I’ve noticed that the longer the game reserve remains protected and safe for the animals, the less notice they take of the visitors who drive around watching them. We become part of the landscape, safe to ignore as they go about their lives.

While we were there, we were  excited to have multiple excellent leopard sightings. Seeing one is always a thrill since leopards are elusive, nocturnal, and shy. Except when they are not. 

One of these leopards hangs around the area of the river near our bungalow. Make that at our bungalow. Here are pictures from this week from Aron.

Taking a look around from our shower under the deck
I think I'd prefer to be dressed for that encounter...

Checking out the back door...CLOSED

A comfortable roof for a nap.

 I'm feeling more cheerful already!


  1. Fabulous to see that leopard; awful about the elephants

    1. Who would have thought it would rest on the peak of a thatched roof!

  2. Amazing leopard pics. I have never had the pleasure of seeing a leopard in such a relaxed state. WOW

    1. I've seen them on comfortable branches on trees. But lying of the peak of a ROOF...

  3. Though leopards cannot change their spots, Michael, let us hope that doesn't hold true for bigots.

  4. Ooh how I hope for more pictures by Aaron of the leopard! The rest of it? I could remark, but I’m trying not to think too hard about all the bad stuff. The year 2020 makes the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse look like a minor inconvenience!