The more things change…

Post - - Opinion - Ad­vo­cate Robin Sewlal is the As­so­ci­ate Di­rec­tor: Jour­nal­ism at the Dur­ban Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy (DUT) ROBIN SEWLAL

CHANGE is a con­stant in­evitabil­ity. The world is a dy­namic place so change takes place in just about ev­ery facet of life. It is said that the more things change, the more they stay the same. It comes across as re­mark­ably odd but a fair sprin­kling of hap­pen­ings in re­cent times give am­ple cre­dence to such a no­tion.

Over and above, these oc­cur­rences serve to jog the mem­ory banks.

The hunger to in­no­vate sees the rapid in­tro­duc­tion of new tech­no­log­i­cal tools on al­most a daily ba­sis. The lat­est and smartest tech­nol­ogy per­me­ates just about ev­ery in­dus­try nowa­days. It’s the way of the world.

The re­launch of the Nokia 3310 mo­bile de­vice is a prime ex­am­ple of tech­nol­ogy tak­ing us back through time. The phone first be­came avail­able for sale 17 years ago.

The weather of late has been be­hav­ing strangely. It could be the ef­fect of cli­mate change, an is­sue that needs close at­ten­tion. The wind storm that swept through the greater part of Dur­ban a cou­ple of week­ends back took just about ev­ery­one by sur­prise. But most dev­as­tat­ing have been the flurry of hur­ri­canes that have wrought wide­spread havoc in the Caribbean and some parts of the US.

Though prone to the harsh re­al­i­ties of na­ture, res­i­dents in these places least ex­pected mas­sive dam­age this time round. As tele­vi­sion cov­er­age il­lus­trated the dec­i­ma­tion, I was re­minded of the flood­ing that en­gulfed Dur­ban in the 1980s. The im­pact on the low-ly­ing ar­eas of the banks of the uM­geni River col­laps­ing was felt se­verely by both res­i­dents and work­ers. Farm­ers who plied their trade along­side the river were de­nied any in­come as they lost all their crops. I re­call one very long night when my fa­ther was un­able to re­turn home from his work­place in the city cen­tre due to the ex­ten­sive flood­ing. He was forced to spend the en­tire night trapped in his mo­tor ve­hi­cle.

The wel­come in­quiry of anti-apartheid ac­tivist Ahmed Ti­mol brought back hor­rid mem­o­ries of John Vorster Square, now known as Johannesburg Cen­tral police sta­tion. The place not only sym­bol­ised in­sti­tu­tion­alised apartheid, but it was also the place where ram­pant acts of de­ten­tion, tor­ture and bru­tal­ity were a re­al­ity. You did need to find your­self on the wrong side of the law to know about the in­fa­mous build­ing.

Squad was the name of a Cars popular show broad­cast on Fri­day evenings on Spring­bok Ra­dio. Many of the episodes used John Vorster Square in the script.

Author­i­ties in Dur­ban are keen to re­vi­talise the Ocean Ter­mi­nal. It is hoped to at­tract pas­sen­ger lin­ers to the city, thereby pro­vid­ing a fil­lip for tourism. One re­calls the fa­mous ship Karanja, which trav­elled be­tween In­dia and Dur­ban in years gone by.

It was a popular ser­vice as the hol­i­day com­menced im­me­di­ately the per­son got on board the ship. It was a day’s out­ing at the ter­mi­nal for fam­ily and friends who had gone to bid some­one good­bye or wel­come the per­son back home.

By the same token, it was not un­com­mon to spend vir­tu­ally the whole day at the Louis Botha Air­port (which be­came Dur­ban In­ter­na­tional Air­port and is now King Shaka In­ter­na­tional Air­port) when a close fam­ily mem­ber was trav­el­ling over­seas. It was cause for cel­e­bra­tion – food was pre-pre­pared and en­joyed in the gar­den area at the air­port.

In the past few months, we bade a re­luc­tant farewell to a host of icons in their own right. Ran­jith Kally, Dee Sharma and Ray Phiri come to mind. Mem­o­ries of their per­son­al­i­ties, re­la­tion­ships and the work they per­formed come flood­ing back. Ran­jith was a mas­ter lens­man.

I used to of­ten bump into him at a range of func­tions. He cov­ered just about every­thing. And he trav­elled far and wide. I once had the plea­sure of spend­ing time with him at a con­cert in the Um­tata Sta­dium.

His com­pany was fas­ci­nat­ing. Dee was a gem of a mu­si­cian and a thor­ough gen­tle­man. Whether at the Is­land Ho­tel or the Athlone Ho­tel, he gave it his all. I first met Ray when he was per­form­ing at the Kings Park Sta­dium. He was gra­cious in al­low­ing me to in­ter­view him for a lengthy pe­riod.

Ray took to mu­sic at a very early age, and was in­flu­enced by all types of mu­sic. In fact, he de­rived plenty of in­spi­ra­tion from LM Ra­dio. The sta­tion closed in the mid-1970s. It be­came Ra­dio 5 (now 5fm). LM Ra­dio is back on-air and broad­casts in Johannesburg and Mozam­bique.


I’m sad­dened by the re­tire­ment of Johnny Clegg from the mu­sic scene. Many up-and-com­ing mu­si­cians would do well to take a page out of his book. Johnny was booked to per­form in the Stu­dent’s Union at then-Univer­sity of Natal (I got to com­père the show – per­haps he was im­pressed with me play­ing

on cam­pus Asim­bo­nanga ra­dio even though it was banned!) I was taken aback by him be­ing so metic­u­lous. He paid at­ten­tion to ev­ery de­tail re­lat­ing to the show, be it trans­port, mar­ket­ing, ban­ners, ticket sales, sound or light­ing.

When Kevin An­der­son stepped on to court for the US Open ten­nis fi­nal against world No 1 Rafael Nadal, I couldn’t help but think of other South African stars from yes­ter­year, such as Kevin Cur­ren, Jo­han Kriek, Frew McMil­lan, Amanda Coet­zer and Cliff Drys­dale. It was good to have Dur­ban’s Rob­bie Koenig on com­men­tary at the fi­nal a few weeks back, as it was Rob­bie Naidoo who had com­men­tated in the 1990s at Wim­ble­don.

Crick­eter Graeme Pol­lock made some ill-ad­vised com­ments about racial trans­for­ma­tion in the sport re­cently in Lon­don. Though he apol­o­gised, Pol­lock needs to be re­minded that if Daryl Cul­li­nan was not white, he would not have lasted as long as he did in the na­tional side.

Cul­li­nan was given far too many op­por­tu­ni­ties to prove him­self. In our demo­cratic dis­pen­sa­tion, play­ers of colour in the Proteas set-up can­not be seen to be on their own. They de­serve all the sup­port.

As we strive to move ahead in a chang­ing world, let’s not for­get where we’ve come from, what we’ve ex­pe­ri­enced and the mem­o­ries that sus­tain us. It’s so true that you reap what you sow!

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