Sunday, December 05, 2010

December thoughts

It is December and the rains have started in Zimbabwe. This means that the temperatures cool down a bit, most welcome, and that all plants, lawns etc is flourishing. Our garden suddenly looks fantastic!

Just woke up to a cool morning with a slight drizzle and decided to listen to Bach's Christmas Oratorium as we are getting into the festive season. Spent yesterday afternoon and evening in Sunningdale with old friends, here some photos from a similar day: Eldridge visit last month. Makes me realise that life does not have to be dramatic to feel good, hence these few lines.

Wish you all a very good festive season!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Updated website

As you all should know I have for many years operated a consultancy. Even if this is at the moment "on hold" due to my work I still intend to keep it operational. Part of that is to keep a website going. I have, after much experimenting with different solutions, totally revamped the Orion Consulting website:

I am now using the Drupal open source Content Management System as "backend". More info on that you can find at Drupal

A more famous site using the same system: White House...

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The towing experience

As I said in the earlier post - our car died some 30 km from Mana Pools camping site. We were towed in to camp by another friendly gamecounter.

Going back our friends André and Chris towed us to the entrance gate, some 50 km. As the towing band we used had snapped 4 times and the remaining 35 km to the main road is much worse than the part we had managed we had to leave it there.

Back in Harare we pondered various options. In kilometres the distance is not extremely far, about 430 km or so. But those 35 km on really bad dirt road is the problem. To bring a mechanic from Karoi (some 110 km or so from the car) was one option but what if he could not fix it on site? Felt like it was better to get it to Harare and THEN fix it.

We started asking around and Mia found some guys who offered to do the job. So we made arrangements.

Well, after nearly 3 weeks of constant coughing I had visited my doctor who put me on my second cure of antibiotics. The next morning I cough so bad something snaps in my right side, a rib or a muscle or whatever. Painful is the word.

Off to Emergency Rooms and x-ray. Early stages of pneumonia, injections of painkiller and antibiotics and prescription of more antibiotics plus antiinflammatory. So no way I can travel.

Friday morning Mia took off with 2 guys in a small truck with a towing bar. They hit the turnoff at around 4.30 pm. It took them 2 hours just to drive those 35 km to gate 2.... the small truck damn near danced off the road if they travelled at any decent speed due to weight imbalance.

It took them 3 hours to then get back to the main road... as the towing bar kept vibrating lose and fall off. So by 10 pm they were back on tar. Got to Karoi and our bull-bar fell off and split as they had used that to secure the tow-bar... They left Karoi around 1-2 am.

Then the Isuzu damn near pushed them off road downhill when the guy in our car lost control. They knifejacked and nearly went offroad down a cliff.

They were back in Harare around 8.30 am... roughly 24 hours. And Mia was so exhausted she damn near cried when I picked her up. The guys literally said "never call us again if you have problems". Did I mention they encountered hyenas on the dirt road in the dark when they had to stop to fix the towing bar and the guys were scared shit?

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Monday, October 04, 2010

Mana Pools 2010

Here a link to Mana Pools 2010 annual Game count

The count was brilliant with the "small" exception that our car died on the way in to the camp... and what happened in connection with that is worth it's own story but frankly I don't feel ready to write about it yet.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Advertising in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe companies are sometimes very very good at advertising. Sadly the delivery far from always live up to the promises in the ads.

A favorite for a long time is mobile network provider Econet "Inspired by the best", "internet where you are" etc. This plastered just about everywhere from a provider that delivers such poor service, especially on the "3G" side, that an anti-Econet Facebook page actually exists. For years the most common phrase in any cellphone conversation in Zimbabwe sounds something like "Hello? Hello! Can you hear me, yes I can hear you. Hello!" - and so on.

For some weeks now a rather aggressiv campaign stated "wear something red Friday ?? September" (I have forgot the actual date). Full page ads in the daily newspapers etc and believe it or not - the police "got suspicious" and were "out in full force" on said Friday. All the campaign promised was that you could be given some sort of prize if you were spotted by them wearing something red that day.

This turned out to be a campaign for a new mobile internet 3G service that also should deliver cellphone services in, for now, Harare area. BUT the company, Africom, could show no products during the launch, their website is down and during the recent ICT Africa show all their stall had was - leaflets and a guy talking about how good the still invisible products were...

Reality check, someone?

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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

On leave at last

In some ways I am sadly unorganized. Events like Easter, Xmas and other annual holidays always seem to take me by surprise. Another side of that is that I sometimes completely fail to plan for work leave. This also has to do with working as a consultant for many years, you simply take leave when you can.

Anyhow, something happened that made me realise exactly how tired and worn down I was. With understanding from management I went on leave "immediately" and we (that is me and Mia) decided we should go for a beach holiday with the kids.

Whereto now? Would have loved to hit Dar es Salaam or Kenya Mombasa but time- and moneymatters made us decide for Mozambique. After scouting around we found a lodge near Beira, a day drive from Harare basically. Somewhat naively (more on that later) we thought we might commute to nightlife in Beira and decided to take Mia's sister Cynthia along to look after the boys in the evenings. Ha!

At the same time Mia was running to the passport office on a daily basis to get her "3-day" passport produced. It took well over a week... and we decided to have a checkup of the Isuzu before making such a long drive. Turned out to be a very good decision as the mechanic found a problem with a wheelbearing that could have meant a total breakdown somewhere along the road.

Only problem with that was that he could not fix it before the weekend and our plan was to drive on Monday, arriving in the late afternoon. Come Monday we could only plan, pack etc and then wait. By 12 Steve announces the car is ready. Now to decide whether to go or not? In the end we decide to have a go at it and by 2 pm we were on the road, crossing the border by around 5.30 pm.

Why in heaven's name we had not read the instructions from the travel agent before then is anyone's guess. "Please make sure you arrive for the ferry across the lagoon before 5 pm"....

OK now what? Already in Moz it is no point in going back so I thought we would either find a hotel in the nearest town or drive on to Beira and stay overnight there. Turns out Mia had a better idea: relatives in Mafambisi, some 40 km before Beira. Called to uncle Werner who runs a small guesthouse "can you put up 5 beds for the night". The rooms were full but they promised to find a way of hosting us. Around 10 pm (talk about optimistic) we arrived at auntie Elena's small bar/restaurant (called a "kiosk" in Mozambique for some reason). After a nice but very late dinner on fried chicken and chips we stumbled on to various bed quarters.

Following a late and slow breakfast next day we took off towards the lodge, Rio Savannah. Made a stop at Shoprite in Beira for stocking up and drove ca 40 km on a rather bad sand road. Bad as it had rained and parts were more mud than sand. Drive to Beira for nightlife, eh? Well, most importantly we made it!

Were taken by boat across the rivermouth to the basic but neat lodge, soon as we had installed ourselves it was off to the beach. Following that was 5 days of beach, swim, sunset drinks overlooking rivermouth, prawns for dinner and so on. The boys found friends in the other houses and ever so often we found they were gone or the whole crew of kids were in our house. Serious little Sean, 4 years and full of questions such as "why do you have tattoos, why does your daughter (Mia) look like she does" etc still makes me laugh. Wonderfully relaxing and I could have stayed another week though I think Mia would have had a serious case of cabin fever by then. No TV, no radio, no news, no internet.

On the home leg we again stopped over at Elena and Werner for a late, slow brunch. I don't think Mozambiquans quite understand the word "urgent". Then on home, arriving at around 8 pm.

Well, it was well needed and despite the planning glitches good fun. I appreciated meeting Mia's family and I am 100 they loved meeting us and the kids.

Next time it will not take 3 years between beach holidays... see some pictures, unorganised as they are, here.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Maybe 14 wives is (at least) one too many

You may not be aware of it but polygamy is still widely practiced and legal in many countries in southern and eastern Africa. There is a lively debate going on both among women and men over the virtues and problems with this kind of marriage.

Most would however agree that 14 wives is overdoing it. And that is how many wives King Mswati III of Swaziland has. This has got to do partially with an old tradition of the king marrying a woman every year but at least my guess is that he must be enjoying it as well - traditions can after all change...

But now it seems that one of them have not been too happy with sharing one man with 13 others. One wife has been caught, literally, in bed with another man. And not just any man but a minister in the government and a childhood friend of the king!

I guess one should not laugh at matters like this, especially as the consequenses for the two might become very serious indeed, but I can't help myself!

Just look at the pictures in this online report:

caught in bed, literally..

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010


For the past month or so many in Zimbabwe have followed with fascination the case of a certain Mr. Temba Mliswa.

He is one of those "businessmen" who rose to riches during the land reform / farm invasions in the early 2000 years. Currently he is in remand jail since about a month. He has been rearrested 3 times about 5 minutes after getting bail approved by the courts.

I quote from online reports:"Mliswa, who was granted bail last Friday by Harare magistrate Don Ndirowei on charges of stealing generators and defrauding the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe of US$3,5 million, was re-arrested for the third time after getting bail at the courts. Mliswa was dramatically re-arrested at Chikurubi Maximum remand prison on Friday in an operation that left even prison guards shell shocked. At least 15 heavily armed police officers in four top of the range vehicles - a BMW, a Range Rover, a Mazda B2500 and an Isuzu raided Chikurubi and snatched Mliswa soon after he was released. The vehicles sped in the direction of the city centre and family members pursuing the police convoy were threatened by plain clothes police officers from one of the vehicles."

In Zimbabwe the above is a treatment normally reserved for those perceived to be enemies of the state, such as human rights campaigners and opposition politicians, not members of Zanu PF and successful "businessmen". So what happened?

As I understand the backround Mliswa was a fitness instructor when the farm invasions and land reform started. Somehow he was awarded a farm and got rich. All has been well (for him) since then until very recently. What went wrong?

Well, calling the Police Commissioner "the most corrupt individual in the country" seems to have been a bad idea. Not long after that he was arrested on charges of trying to fraudelently take over a company. Since then a long string of crimes (about 40...) has come to light: persuading white farmers that he could protect their property he bought several huge generators. He just never paid for them... and then sold them on, one of them he claims to a certain Police Commissioner.

Among other crimes he is accused of is defrauding the Reserve Bank of millions of USD by getting grants to buy tobacco and never pay back.

The latest is attempted murder.

In a way what I find really interesting about this whole saga is not the fate of this person or the rather obvious harassment but what it tells about the background of not only his but very likely a number of other "successful businessmen". I have no idea as to why the media still refers to him as businessman actually, conman or fraudster sounds more like it. It may be that not all of the cases against him are actual but everything points to that quite a number of them are. Then the real question is of course "why is he only being arrested now"? And the answer to that I leave up to the reader to figure out.

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Friday, August 06, 2010

Musings on Malawi

Spent a week in Malawi recently, in the capital Lilongwe to be more precise.

Found some interesting political developments. For starters they have built a new Parliament building. Nothing necessarily wrong with that, they used to convene in the President's residence for historical reasons.

But the building itself... think USA Capitol Hill, only larger. No, I am not joking, according to reports it IS larger than Capitol Hill. Pair that with a parkinglot sized for Olympic Games and you have a general impression. Now someting tells me that a small, poor country like Malawi could/should have had problems funding that, wonder where the money was found?

Also the president has decided (more or less on his own it seems) that it is time to change the national flag. Today it features a rising sun at dawn, halfway up. He wants a full, in zenith, sun. The argument: after 46 years of independence it can no longer be dawn for the nation.

Sort of makes sense, but again the cost...

Also I found to my huge surprise that a certain Jim Jumani Johansson from Sweden, a lawyer in his forties, are claiming to be the illegitimate son of Hastings Kamuzu Banda, the country's first president!

As he died without children (officially) this is big news and political dynamite in Malawi and all newspapers are full of theories, reports, stories etc about Jumani.

His mother claims it is all nonsense and he got confused while spending a year in jail (for beating his ex-wife apparently) but he demands DNA-testing. That the Banda family is refusing. No matter how it ends, it is dramatic for Malawians and I will keep an eye on it.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

One upgrade too many

My life naturally consists of lots of upgrading and testing software on computers. Not least my own where I often want to test something out.

Well, you can go too far... a couple of weeks ago I decided to test a "release candidate" of the linux desktop environment KDE, version 4.5 RC2 to be more specfic.

One thing that I suspect caused headaches later was that the upgrade was disrupted at least 2 times due to our sometimes ver slow internet.

When all was supposedly done I rebooted and stared at a black screen. No graphics, only terminal commandline login. Oooops. Big time.

I can not even remember how I finally managed to get back to a working graphical interface but I found x number of half or nonworking applications. Had to give up and reinstall an older version. A working one! Luckily I have since looong made sure that all user data is on its own partition and will normally not be messed up by experiments like this.

This once more proves the old truth: do not mess with your working/production computer. Test new stuff on another one - but how many have an extra computer lying around? Not me, at least not one that is not being used.

Lesson learnt: do wait until final release...

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Monday, July 05, 2010

Decisively wrong...

Football, soccer, call it what you want. Unless you live on another planet you can not have missed that the World Cup is taking place "nextdoors" to Zimbabwe.

I have in several comments stated that this is the cup of SouthAmerica, that Brasil or Argenting was going to win. Well, boy was I wrong.... Holland did what I did not believe them capable of and won against a Brazil that used tactics I never thought I would see a team from that country use. Honestly, did coach Dunga give them wrestling lessons in advance? Elbows were used as much as the feet.

Then Germany simply walked all over Argentina and finally Spain defeated Paraguay (that I think deserved to win but that is another story). Ghana should have won over Uruguay and then I would have looked really stupid. But that is football, all predictions can go belly up.

Others that have been wrong are the refs and Fifa. How on Earth in 2010 can you refuse to use technology to avoid human error?? We have seen handgoals, clear goals disallowed, unnecessary penalties and unjustified sendoffs. I understand how difficult it must be but why the heck not allow the refs the same technology the audience has access to?

Well, Sepp Blatter will eventually go even if he seems as unwilling as a certain president in a certain southern African country.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

In the right place at the wrong time

Seems I am constantly in the right place but at the wrong time lately. First I manage to be in Lusaka, Zambia when Brazil soccerteam comes to Zimbabwe to play a friendly warmup for the World Cup. The first time since 1980 a non-African team plays in Zimbabwe and only the 5th time Brazil plays an African team in the last 30 years. Now how much fun is that to miss being there?

Back home for one day. Wash, iron and pack the bag again basically. Off to Bulawayo for a conference. Nice enough as it is with the Zimbabwe SCC Team and we rarely meet all of us at the same time.

BUT - tomorrow the soccer World Cup starts in Southafrica and I will either be stuck here or on the road home. Now, I guess it would be OK to be somewhere here in Bulawayo and watch it but honestly I am homesick. In the last 4 weeks I have spent 2 Saturdays at home and that is NOT enough.

So I guess I will be in a car on the road somewhere between Bulawayo and Harare tomorrow during opening ceremony and the first game. Should be home in time for the second game though!

Keeping fingers crossed that SA makes a good performance in the opening game!

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Reflections from Mozambique

Am sitting at Lichinga Airport waiting for the plane to arrive. As this is Linhea Area Mozambique, LAM, noone has been able to say when I should check in but all agree on one thing: do not use the time written on the ticket. So I was number 2 to check in, almost 3 hours in advance. Just to be sure. That leaves time to do some "reflective thinking".

Mozambique to me is (at least) 2 countries: Maputo and "the rest". And the farther away from Maputo you get the more difference. Look at a map and you will see that Maputo is right at the southern end of the country. It is a place full of hustle and bustle, a "real city" with wide avenues and a bristling business life night and day. Cafés. restaurants, shops etc are everywhere and there is always something going on. People are friendly, it is not difficult to strike a conversation as a stranger in a cafe or bar. I shared beers with mine-removers, football-fans and a number of others last week. On leaving Maputo I found myself standing next to a man ordering double whiskey (very popular drink in Moz, even for lunch sometimes) with Red Bull. Note this is at 7 in the morning... He told me he had not slept for 48 hours and was now on his way to Nampula. His rather upset wife was phoning all the time, small wonder if he had been partying for 48 hours. I ask what he was going to do in Nampula - "I am a financial controller for a World Bank funded organisation"... aha. He then calls another guy who turns out to be Sales Manager for MCel, one of the larger mobile phone companies. He then suddenly remembers he is in Business Class and can drink for free in the business lounge, leaves his nearly untouched drink and disappears. Characters like him seem to be everywhere in Maputo.

I arrive in Lichinga after a most painful flight, this due to a collapsing stomach - probably brought on by a meal of shrimps the day before. My "pick-up" Andreas takes me to the guesthouse where I am to stay, I go straight to bed. Later I recover enough to join him and his wife for an evening meal (a veeeery careful meal) in what is basically the one reliable restaurant in Lichinga.

On waking up the next day it is good I do not have much of an appetite for breakfast. Because it turns out to be fresh bread, coffee and margarin. Finish. There is cornflakes but no milk, it was suggested to me to mix my own using milkpowder. No thanks. There is no cheese, polony, jam etc etc.

In the evening I go for a lonely dinner at 2+1, same resto as the evening before. There is at least one more resto operating but there you never know when you will get your food and if it will be cooked or half raw or burnt. Then to bed to read. At around 8.30 power goes for half of the town and it gets pitch dark. Early bed for sure. Next morning there is understandably no hot water but otherwise breakfast has picked up a bit. There is juice, peanutbutter, jam and even some fruit to go with the bread. Milk too, but no cornflakes this time. To cut the rest short, cheese never showed up but next day cornflakes did and coffee was available. That is OK by Lichinga standards.

It is sort of the opposite of Maputo. Professionalism and hospitality are very very hard to find. If you do not know someone when you enter a restaurant, café or bar you will likely eat and drink alone. Last evening I was picked up by a friend who works for a Swedish forestry company and we had a pleasant evening updating each other on events since last time we met, over a year ago. In the dark as their generator had a problem and there is no "city power" where they live. I guess working with forestry makes you a "long-term person" as he is busy planning exactly how he wants to build his house, not far from where he is staying now. He will have a magnificient view and plans to build a log-house with a sauna etc etc. Well why not if you plan to stay in the area for years on? Will very likely be a house like no other in Lichinga as he also knows how to build - and that kind of knowledge is rare if it even exists in Lichinga.

If you think I am negative you should hear those from Maputo who come here to do whatever short term work. They refuse blank to believe anyone wants to stay here and can not wait for the return to Maputo. I sort of understand them, the attitude towards almost everything is so different. There are many stories as to why this is so, one is that this was the Siberia of Mozambique during the communist days, people were sent here for "re-education". Another talks of the forgotten part of Mozambique and I can sort of agree: if the main road to the province capital is mainly a dirt road and not even tarred then you ask if central government is serious about "development everywhere".

Whatever it is, the place is slowly improving. Compared to when I first started coming here it is way better in terms of infrastructure etc. What would be most welcome would be some sort of "change of mind" in the people. I also strongely believe some sort of Technical College or University for such trades as builders, plumbers, electricians etc would be a great improvement.

Only the future will tell. For now I join the crowd who takes every opportunity to go to Maputo ;-)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Hur dum kan man bli egentligen?

För en gångs skull är det dags att skriva på svenska på bloggen. Helt enkelt för att jag inte orkar ens i hjärnan att översätta allt jag vill ha sagt.

Ämnet har inte med mig att göra, tro det eller ej. Detta trots att kvällen igår blev ett undantag från dom där många trista hotellrumskvällarna. Jag gick och åt en mycket sen lunch och landade senare på Mundos (Globen ungefär i översättning) där jag kom i samspråk med en minröjare. Efter att ha återvänt till hotellet så gick jag till baren här och hamnade i samspråk med 3 vackra damer som av okänd anledning hade köpt en flaska Chivas Regal. Nånstans där las grunden till hur jag mår idag. Åter på Mundos fastnade jag i fotbollsnack med 2 män som lovade att ta med mig till Matola, sådär 2 mil från Maputo, för att se kvällens Champions League final. Om nu inte om vore så vore jag där.

Istället vaknade jag mest för att somna om igen hela dagen. När jag sen släpar mig ner till Mundos för finalen inser jag nåt jag egentligen vet sen VM-finalen 2002: ägarna är rugbyfanatiker. Vilket innebar att då fick vi närmast övertala dom att visa VM-finalen istället för nån jämra super14-match. Ikväll var det samma saga, ett antal vilsna fotbollsfans tvångsmatades med brottning, förlåt rugby. Det är kanske värt att komma ihåg att rugby uppstod när en mindre begåvad fotbollspelare plockade upp bollen med händerna och sprang....

I vilket fall, efter en pizza tröttnade jag och gick till en mer lokal lokal. Som visade musikvideos istället (ursäkta, RAP inte musik). Så därför sitter jag nu på hotellrummet i all ensamhet och ser matchen.

Det blev väl inte direkt nån spännande match men ett grymt snyggt avslutande mål. Den "speciellt sure" hade bättre ordning på det mesta än tyskarna, så var det bara. Vaknade sen upp med magsjuka och hur roligt är det när man måste upp 5.30 för att ta sig ut till flygplatsen och sitta på inrikesflyg hela dagen. Det var en jobbig dag som avslutades med en jobbig natt. Puh, det är som sagt inte bara glatt och glamman att vara på resande fot.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

On the road again

Am in Maputo, Mozambique. From here it will be Lichinga in the north of Moz. Then home to basically wash, iron and repack the clothes. Off to Lusaka in Zambia, then after returning off to Bulawayo in southern Zimbabwe. Phew.

I really like Maputo, it is a "proper" city compared to most in southern/eastern Africa. A very vibrant, living city centre full of small shops, restaurants, cafés and such, wide avenues full of traffic and people. Every time I come here I wish I could bring Mia along with me to experience it as it would feel great to show her the place.

One thing many may not realise is that in spite of the "break from humdrum" that travel in work may be it is quite often boring. This simply because after work one is often alone and you can only eat/drink etc so many times in an evening. Hanging around bars and clubs do not go well with work or health and as a lonely man often attracts the attention of "single ladies". So quite often you find that eating a lonely meal and following that retiring to the hotel room for TV, a book or the computer is how most of the evenings are spent.

Shoud be able to break that habit this week as I have some friends here (if I can get hold of them) and Friday there is a big festival at the French Cultural Centre - it makes our Alliance Francais in Harare look a shack would next to a luxury house. And Saturday there is the soccer final to be viewed somewhere, hopefully amongst old or new friends. And before that I will somehow get to Costa do Sol by the beach for a good meal. On my own or not!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Harare International Festival of Arts

Once a year the normally rather quiet Harare is transformed by HIFA to a really kicking place! As we living here in Zimbabwe are a bit starved on international entertainment during the rest of the year it is as "everyone" has to be there and enjoy.

Saw Hothouse Flowers on Friday night, enjoyable and with a fantastic firework display at the end of the show. Got thoroughly "too tipsy" with friends afterwards and literally saw double for a while. Spent yesterday recovering then took the family for the "open area" with facepainting, restos we never knew existed (sushi, sushi and again sushi), sat down with Zimbabwe's only standup comedian worth mentioning (Edgar Langeveldt) who seriously claims that everyone from Moses via Einstein to Obama were/are coloured (mixed race). Makes as much sense as "everything originates in Africa" but why not?

Tonight it is Salif Keita and let's forget tomorrow is Monday and back to work...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Positive posting

As many of my posts over the last months have focused on various health problems I just thought I would do a positive update.

I have managed to get to the gym 2 times this week. Admittedly, I am far from what I consider to be my normal standard but at least I CAN do it. Not since November last year I think I have been able enough.

And I can take reasonably long walks! Yohoo! OK I again am very very far from fit but it feels just GREAT to move freely without pains, limping etc.

Launch photos

Some photos from the launch at Tongogara:

Monday, April 19, 2010

Successful launch

First of all some complaining: following weekend after weekend tied to the sofa due to either sciatic, leg pains or lately surgery wound on the left foot I think I could have deserved a "mobile" weekend. That is when I go down with a flu and cough of a lifetime... So once more this a report from the sofa at 3 Ussher Close Harare.

Since 2006 I have on and off worked with a project in Tongogara, near Shurugwi in the middle of Zimbabwe. This involves creating a cooperative society out of the members of an earlier project and then assist them in setting up a functional business in the shape of a "Telecentre", a combination of copy-, phone-, computer- and internetshop. After years of struggling to "outlast" things such as hyperinflation, no electricity supplies etc. we could last year finally put the wheels in motion and deliver copier and computers. Following that training on computers (Linux OS Kubuntu and other FOSS software of course) was done and the centre opened and quickly became very popular in the area. Note we are talking about a place where before this the nearest place to make a photocopy or such is around 60 km and a day of travelling away.

Following the success I/we noted that mobile internet worked at the site and decided to go "all out" and install internet and have a "grand opening launch" with various politicians, local chiefs and the Swedish Ambassador invited. Since then me and colleague Arnold have been travelling down to Tongogara every week and this last week we were basically on site the whole week.

It was a lot of hard work but the launch on Thursday was really successful and we had both TV and newspapers plus around a 100 guests attending.

For me it felt GREAT to see something I strongly believe in and have worked with since 2006 come to a successful completion. I myself pay tribute to the people in Tongogara who never gave up as well as to my project-partner Arnold, myself and SCC ROSA.

Just wish I knew if we were on the news as Arnold, a colleague from Ministry of SME and Cooperatives and myself ended up in a put mildly dingy guesthouse in Kwekwe on our way to Gokwe and next Telecentre on the night following the launch. No choice of channels on the TV there... but nice to enjoy the euphoria of a successful ending of a project.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pain and parenting

Like most parents I have moments when I doubt that I am a reasonably good father and more or less loved by my kids. In all honesty though, most of the time I know that it is not true and whatever issues I might have are very far away from creating a situation where my 2 boys do not like or love me.

Pain however is not a good companion to parenting, at least for me. I guess that people react individually to pain but I am well aware that I become a grumpy, irritable and not very likeable person when I am in pain or sick. Even worse if it is both sick and in pain.

So for more than a week my dear beloved Mia and the boys Bradley and Eric has had to live with a man who, when not being passed out by medics or exhaustion, is likely to ignite and shout for nothing, who hates lying on the sofa the whole day even though that is the best position/cure for the pain and generally gets out of line on a regular basis.

Good then that I do whatever I can when I am on the ups and not the downs. I like cooking. So I spent the better part of Saturday making a cake, pancakes for lunch, preparing a pizza for dinner (Mia did everything but the dough though and she is really good at that) and then collapsing on the sofa. Today we went to the local car race course Donnybrook to watch karting carrying a cooler box with hot dogs and cold drinks/beers. That it took around 3 hours before I had to go home is another story.

I guess all we can do is to do our best and be aware of that it is not always enough and then try to make up for the bad moments on the good days.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The sofa

Am stuck on the sofa since Friday following surgery on the left foot. To be more precise, surgery inside the sole of the foot. And I can think of few more inconvenient places to have stitches etc as it effectively renders me immobile.

It is tricky, most tiring and occasionally painful to move around. I am, of course, expected to keep it dry and reasonably clean, not so easy to achieve either in this case. So the sofa it is and now being on the fourth day I am sick and tired of it. It does not help that power disappears for hours at a time ever so often.

Internet from home, with a 3G-modem, is giving an at best "fast as dialup" experience but at least I can just keep it on and try and wait it out. Sometimes it just stops, sometimes it is quite good. Try to work as best I can but even that not too easy since the painkiller/anti-inflammatory medicines I take make me rather drowsy.

Can not wait for Friday when this is supposed to come off!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Courtroom Comedy

I just can not stop myself from commenting on this. The full story can be found at Zimbabwe Situation but in short the State has found an IT "expert witness" in the trial against Roy Bennett (MDC member with very strong support, hated by ZanuPF and supposed to be Dept. Minister of Agriculture, at the moment on trial for "treason").

This expert was called in to give statements on the authenticity of some emails that are supposed to be from said Bennett regarding the treason charges. Note that only printed versions seems to exist...

a long quote:

"HARARE - February 24, 2010 - AN information and technology expert-witness who was called in to buttress the State's assertion that emails printed from Peter Michael Hitschamann's laptop were authentic in the ongoing trial of MDC treasurer general Roy Bennett, stunned the court when he revealed that he was not aware of the term hackers.

Under cross-examination from defence lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, State's expert witness Perekai Denchort Mutsetse, who claimed he is a provincial engineer for Africom based in Mutare, stunned the court when he said he was hearing the term "computer hacker" in court for the first time in his life.

"There are no such people called hackers. I am actually hearing that term for the first time here in court. Where are they trained? I don't know anything about hackers. They don't exist," said Mutsetse.

"There is no software that can be used to trace the originality or otherwise of emails. The website that created that email will be shown at the top if
that email is printed out," he said.

Asked whether he was aware that there were people called computer forensic experts Mutsetse said there were no such people in Zimbabwe but might be found in South Africa.

Mutsetse, who claimed that he had several certificates on data communications from the City and Guilds, University of Zimbabwe and Africa University, was also asked about the EnCase software used by computer forensic experts to which he responded, "Where did that come from? There is no such software in Zimbabwe; if it's there you must have brought it in here. I am not in forensics."

After given the example of the hackers who have been hacking information from the US Pentagon for years, Mutsetse simply asked "What is the Pentagon?"

Mtetwa also told Mutsetse that he was not qualified to be identified as an expert who can be called in to give an expert testimony with regards to computers and internet functions.

Instead of responding to most of the questions from the defence lawyers, Mutsetse continuously asked Mtetwa which led to Justice Chinembiri Bhunu to
intervene and ordered the IT expert to respond.

"The witness' function is to give evidence and the lawyer has to ask questions and not the other way round," ruled Bhunu

He said they tried to verify the emails by sending messages to the given addresses but they bounced back to show that they were no longer in existence.

Mutsetse also declined to talk about his position at work arguing that the company's policies do not allowed them discuss it in public. He also denied that he only passed 2 O' Level subjects in 1994 according to a CV that he send to one of his previous employers.

end quote...

You have to ask yourself a number of questions such as: is the guy joking? Is he being deliberately stupid in order to actually help the defence and not the State? Or is it simply that this is the only person the State can find that is not willing to lie in court and so they had to scrape the bottom of the bin?

To be called an IT expert and state that email can not be falsified or traced, being unaware of the term "hacker" and not know what Pentagon is or the attacks on Pentagon (hacker attacks that is) is an insult to everyone in my profession.

But I had a good laugh though...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Birthday bash

During the weekend a certain president in a southern African country celebrated his 86th birthday. That is of course great for him and his family.

However, for the majority of the citizens of the country in question it is nothing but prolonging the pain. The biggest obstacle to recovery of a once well working economy is spelled in the name of one old man.

There are theories that he is in many ways a great leader but, like Mwalimu Nyerere, does not understand finance and economy at all. In a way I hope that this is true. How can you otherwise defend the too-oft-repeated warcry of "sovereignty, indigenisation" etc etc. Can you eat sovereignty? Is it better that a company is owned or run by a local idiot instead of a foreign professional? What puts more money in the State's coffers?

WHY are local parastatals and companies not doing as well as foreign-controlled or owned? THERE lies to question to be answered and the solutions to be found. NOT in "we must own our own resources no matter how much we do not utilise them or frankly waste them".

Soulsearching is something very much lacking +20 years after independence in many former African colonies.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tongogara comes online

If you know a bit about Zimbabwe's history the name of Tongogara is known as one of the original freedom fighters. It is also the name of a local council nowadays, the Tongogara growth point.

Since 2006 I have been involved in setting up a so-called Telecenter there. It has involved quite a bit of hard work and patience, more for the people involved in Tongogara than for me, as it involved creating a business cooperative, raising funds, finding a place to house it etc etc.

Last year some equipment, including computers, were donated and training was done in October for the operations manager and some others.

Sadly however, we have not managed to find a way to bring telecommunications and thereby internet to the place. TelOne, the landline provider, says the switches in the area are full. The cellphone providers have coverage but very "spotwise" and not for internet anyhow.

But, as I think I have mentioned, Econet has promised coverage and they are also introducing 3G internet. Yesterday we went for a follow-up visit and I brought my 3G-modem just in case.

Boy was I surprised to find that not only could I connect but it was faster than what I get at home... we are now looking at how they or we can fund some modems and next step will be to make it a "true" Telecenter with internet and phones!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Heat, pains, phone and politics

I am spending the week in Maputo setting up an accounting (well ERP actually) system for use here. And it is steaming HOT here! That kind of heat where your shirt is soaked after an hour or so and you have to take a shower after work when it starts to cool down. And the office has no aircon and no fans...

Otherwise the sciatic nerve pain is sloooowly subsiding and I can now at least take reasonably long walks. Not having been able to exercise since November has not had a good influence on my waistline sadly. Am so looking forward to being able to hit the gym again! Weekend before last was in so much pain I could not sit, lie, stand up or pretty much do anything so it has really improved since.

Politics and pomms. Where do they dig up their foreign affairs secretaries in the UK? Straw was hopeless and now David Milliband hands Zanu PF a brilliant reason to refuse to fulfill the agreement they signed over a year ago. This by telling the UK Parliament that "when it comes to sanctions we must be guided by the MDC"... bingo. Exactly what Zanu wanted to hear as they have for months argued that MDC can ask their "western masters" to lift the sanctions, something that is of course nothing but stalling tactics. Well, now they have it "confirmed" by mr. Milliband. How come these oh-so well educated pommies get outwitted by a gang of ageing guerilla-fighters over and over again? When it comes to Zimbabwe they should by know that the less they say the better.

With the help of kind Swedish friends I bought a new cellphone a while ago. I have never really like the idea of "gadget phones" that can do x number of things apart from being phones but I wanted this phone as it can act as a radio transmitter and walkman, thereby assisting me to endure long drives I regularly go for. Well, I have become quite fond of the walkman functions (it is a SonyEricsson W980) and the fantastic headphones that came with it but it turns out that the radio-thing only works in countries where legislation so admits. And that means not in Zim, not in Zambia, not in Malawi and not in Moz. It works in SA - where you have plenty of good radio stations. Will have to see if there is a way to crack this block but apart from that really love the new gadget.

Finally a comment on the president of SA, Jacob Zuma, who is once again caught redhanded when it comes to his sexlife habits. This is the guy who was spearheading HIV/Aids prevention while at the same time admitting to having unprotected sex with a woman he knew to be HIV positive but "it did not matter as he showered afterwards"... for a long time all the cartoonists pictured him with a showerhead. Now it has been revealed that he has recently fathered a child outside marriage. That is, outside the 3 wives he is currently married to. And that the child was conceived while he was busy preparing for his latest marriage... To finally top it off this is again a daughter of one of his supposedly close friends (the HIV lady was a friend's daughter). Well what can you say? I would not let him near my nieces or sisters-in-law for sure and I consider it a huge embarrassement for Southafrica that their president can not control his urges and obviously let's his smaller head do the thinking for him. As for his wives, well it is their headache but I don't get how not even one of them are preparing divorce papers.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Boys starting school

School started this week and for Eric it was his first day in Primary school. A VERY excited boy was ready to go nearly 2 hours before it was time to leave home.

I realise that it will not last with this enormous enthusiasm.. but for now it feels good!

Here a photo of him in his uniform outside Lusitania school where they both learn:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Is Bilbo a blogger?

Just testing the newly installed Bilbo blogging tool, see Blogilo. Otherwise back at work and in full swing.

Eric started primary yesterday, full of expectations and was basically ready to leave home more than an hour earlier than needed. Will post some photos later of our uniformed boys.

For my part I by pure coincidence found a chiropractor and is now under treatment for the sciatic nerve problem. If it is helping I am still not 100 but at least he took time to explain the problem, showed me on the X-rays and generally seems to know what he is doing. And is organised, most welcome after earlier doctor experiences.

Still have some follow-up visits lined up this week but then I hope not to see any doctor until it is time for bp-check some time in June or so.

Zimbabwe still slowly but surely improving. Let's hope that will be the story all throughout 2010!