Latin: /'vɒks pɒpjʉliː/ VOICE OF THE PEOPLE

It's Winter and we're Migrating

Exciting web developments are allowing us to migrate to an independent page of the school website within the month.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"The Maiden Voyage" by David Berndt -Grade 8

The rusty crane towered proudly over the concrete dockside, as it stretched into the misty air, powerfully hoisting out the remains of the most futuristic ship ever built. It was cold and the moisture didn't help the fast-spreading rust as it consumed everything metallic.

The RSS Emerald was beautiful. She sported a racy bow that could be propelled through heavy seas at up to 55 knots, thanks to its hydromagnetotechnodynamic engines. These are supposed to be experimental, but were made especially for this magnificent research cruiser.

The ship had a length of 362 ft and a beam of 80 ft. That made her very fast, and a certified ice-breaker capable of ploughing through 11 ft of ice. It really was the perfect research vessel.

Launched as Simonstown harbour, Captain Hendrik Botha would take her on her maiden voyage to Buenos Aires, where the ship would take on her multi-million dollar submersibles.

The Emerald was breaking records on her voyage; she was setting a time record in arriving at Buenos Aires, reaching speeds of 65 knots on the glassy smooth water.

Captain Botha was a tall, barrel-chested man with piercing green eyes complimented by closely cropped blonde hair. He was proud, but also angry, because the South African dry-dock was slow and had caused delays in the build, so he had to make for lost time.

* * *

The dark figures moved like ghosts through the misty evening. They were good and quickly found what they were looking for. The turquoise bow of the Emerald stood proudly over the concrete dock pilings, an easy target for these experienced men. Even the Emerald's double hull didn't deter them.

They opened their duffel bags and donned the scuba gear inside them. They slipped in and out of the water, unnoticed.

* * *

Muffled explosions filled the cabins of the once peacefully docked ship. "Abandon ship!" shouted Captain Botha repeatedly. It was all unexpected to say the least, but at least the evacuation was going smoothly.

The helmsman's behaviour, strange and forced under such conditions did not go unnoticed though everyone had more pressing things on their mind.

* * *

It was cold and the moisture didn't help the fast-spreading rust from consuming everything metallic. The remains of the RSS Emerald rose steadily higher as the crane reached its load capacity.

"It's clear how it happened," said the short helmsman, "but why is another concern."

"It's competition from other companies," said Botha, "and you should know all about it." With that, Captain Hendrik Botha drew his .44 Calibre and shot the helmsman square in the head.

"The Eleventh Hour" by Jessica Chambers -Grade 8

From the first day I arrived in India I felt alone, like I was on the other side of the world I knew, South Carolina, my home. The Ganges is nothing like it says in the travel guide; nothing like the cheerful crowds and exquisite smells I had been expecting. Only the thick purple clouds that hide the daylight and the strong smell of burning corpses.

The thick, purple smoke that fills my lungs now makes me feel dirty, like a murderer to all those who've gone before, those who have been cremated under their own will and those under the will of others. The first thing I noticed in the chaos of priests and worshippers was that I was the only pale skin, the only tourist, and to every beggar, someone with money.

I was hustled by them, shoved away when I said no and held close every time I mentioned money. These people's stares as sharp as the knife that they may as well have held at my neck. Begging, pleading for the extra cash they would do anything to have in their pockets.

I'd known I couldn't stay there forever, so pushing my way through the violence I headed towards the river, towards the crematorium, the last place I had seen the mysterious old priest who had handed me the delicate, golden pocket watch that I now held tightly in my right hand.

"Protect this as if it were your life." I remember him saying.

I'd noticed this man earlier on today when I got off the Rickshaw that had delivered me to my hotel. He was sitting on a small stool near the river in the middle of the chaos, absolutely calm, as if none of the things I had faced today bothered him. He was watching me intently with his cold, uninhabited eyes. That look gives me shivers even now, as I search for him in the crowd, hoping to return this unusual clock that ticks furiously in my hand, as if it has a purpose to fulfil.

Coming up to the crematorium I get that dreaded feeling that there's someone watching me. I know there are lots of eyes following me closely but one particular pair makes me want to bolt for cover. That's how I knew it was him.

On my left I notice a small, paved passage leading down the side of the ancient building that towers above me. I see him standing in the shadows, beckoning me towards him. He turns slowly and melts into the darkness. I follow him away from the crowds in a trance. The trance that leads me to my death. As the clock stops ticking I understand what he meant, to him, the clock was my life, my life that is now over.

From the first day I arrived in India I felt alone, like I was on the other side of the world I knew, South Carolina, my home. The Ganges is nothing like it says in the travel guide; nothing like the cheerful crowds and exquisite smells I had been expecting. Now, as I lie here amidst the thick purple clouds that hide me away from the daylight, I smell the familiar smell of a burning corpse. My own.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

"Migration Regulation" by Peter Viljoen -Grade 11

It is common knowledge that Australia is a massive economic-powerhouse which plays a part in the migration craze that is sweeping the globe. However, Australia is ahead of the game with their intake of foreign assets, because for years they have regulated which individuals can be allowed to call the great land of Australia their home.

Australia has undoubtedly gained from this policy of regulation as the GDP would suggest, but what is to be expected when only the cream of the crop of doctors, lawyers, accountants, top students and entrepreneurs are allowed to call "Down Under" their home? With 400 000 international students entering the country annually, and with 70 percent of them applying fo residency after graduation, it is difficult to imagine that Australia could want for anying more...

But this is misleading: Australia plans to tighten migration regulation in the near future, singling down the selection process to such a degree that to some the already difficult to achieve residency will be become a formidable task as only the elite will be granted entrance into this modern Elysium.

Australia protests that is is the responsibility of her government to make certain that the country remains prosperous. Examples such as London and Johannesburg where masses of unskilled and unemployed immigrants are found, is what Australia is trying to prevent.

Every year thousands of applicants are turned down by Australia's formidable migration regulation team, so much so that now even local inhabitants are concerned about thousands turning into hundreds of thousands Many local businesses and institutions rely primarily on a steady flow of immigrants into the country.

Universities fear for the loss of such a steady harvest of young minds, whilst also optimistically hoping that tighter regulation might lead to even more sharply honed individuals joining their ranks. If only the best are allowed in, only the best will be permitted to stay.

Some experts fear that Australia is beginning to push the bar a little too high. How long will it be before Australia has gleaned 'the best of the best' from its neighbour Asia, and also from all over the world? Economists speculate that through encouraging the growth of the ever mounting problem of the Global Brain Drain, Australia threatens to put a stop to Second and Third world development.

Australia, a land already reaping the benefits of economic success, is threatening the minorities of the economic world by effectively abducting their most brilliant minds and their brightest hopes, with the promise of a first world lifestyle.

This migration crisis is not solely Australia's fault; they are caught in a dilemma that demands to be solved. If they were to loosen their grip on migration regulations the obvious would happen: a flood of asylum seekers and unskilled immigrants would pour into the country, and financially endowed as Australia is, they would never be able to cope with a burden that would only increase exponentially.

Who can judge what is right and what is wrong when faced with a problem that holds the future of many thousands in its outcome? There will most certainly be much debate and I cannot as yet see a satisfactory resolution.

A response to 'Experts give road rage website the finger' (C Louw) by Emile Pienaar -Grade 11

A recent article in the Sunday Times discusses a new website designed to help alleviate South African drivers of their "road rage". The website proposes that instead of the customary cursing and hooting that usually occurs whenever drivers are confronted by reckless or selfish road traversers, they can send an SMS, costing two rand, as a complaint to the website with the perpetrator's car's details described. The website will then post their complaint online and find out whether the driver in question has a track record of such behaviour.

There is already debate as to whether this system is beneficial, or even so much as helpful to anyone in regards to road rage, let alone not an exacerbation of an already serious problem. Many road safety knowledgeables argue that this sytem will distract drivers and hamper their driving, or even cause them to break the rules in a hypocritical manner, as they pursue other drivers in a frenzied witch hunt.

However, this website does provide drivers with venting space to let loose all those pent up emotions and if it is not abused it has a lot to be said for it. This active stance against reckless driving may be the solution to a long-faced problem in South Africa.

It should be noted that this website does promote vigilante justice, which is technically illegal. Many officials, such as the police in charge of traffic, worry that such encouragement will lead to extreme actions from the public as they mercilessly chase down the sources of their ire: "This is a private initiative and what concerns me the most is the fact that motorists might SMS while driving, causing road offences themselves." The police do not wish their jobs bungled by the inexpertise of the public and wish to keep drivers as free of distraction as possible whilst traveling the road.

Which leads us to another point of concern - being the distraction presented by working a cell phone in a car traveling eighty kilometres an hour on a busy road. This is down right dangerous and led to many concerned voices being raised in protest to the danger presented by this website's solution. One particular example would be a driver smsing to the website, "Maniac...weaving through the traffic at speed with a cell phone stuck to his ear and lit cigarette, which he is flicking out of the window, in the other hand-" The tense of the text leads us to rightly assume that the sender was busy watching the culprit while simultaneously sending the text message and, as far as one can understand, driving as well.

Michael Edwards, co-founder of the site, replied to criticizing comments with the phrase, "Stop. Breathe. SMS". This shows us that he had not intended for such negligence of the rules of the road and that he still wishes to attain his original goal: reducing road rage. He shows this by advising the drivers to stop and attempt to calm themselves before reacting. If people were to abide by the laws, their own sensibility and, to be honest, rather obvious logic, we may be looking at a vast improvement to our road safety.

It is a concern to all who drive that people do not always adhere to the rules of the road. It does, however, help one feel much safer knowing that one has influence over one's own safety. This outlet for road rage has the potential to solve the problem. As an alternative to actions that may lead to violence or accident, drivers are now able to deal with their anger in a more productive manner.

All we can hope for is that this system is not abused. If you are a righteous person seeking retribution for the mocking of the laws of the road, then this website is a positive step in the direction of safer road travel. Adversely, it is worrisome that this might become an obsession for some and that it will cause more problems than it will solve, especially regarding cell phone usage while in a car. In the end, time will tell whether this pays off and whether action or restraint proves to curb road rage.

"Subway Train" by Nicola du Plessis -Grade 11

The air is filled with smoke emitted from thousands of early morning fires scattered across the squatter camp - the "informal township". Dawn is about to break. It is the winter of 2020. Jocab Tsotetsi (34), breadwinner, lights a cigarette as he leaves the shack. He knows that he is late as he hurries along to the dimly lit station where he will board the subway train.

Some ten years ago, when the subway commuter system was introduced, it provided a fairly safe mode of transport. In recent years, however - mainly as a result of over-crowding and poor maintenance - Jacob's train trip is a nightmare. He puts his right hand in his pocket and feels the cold steel of his pocket knife. It is an Okapi with a sharp, long blade. His only means of defence against the roving packs of juvenile robbers that seek to eke out a livelihood on the subway train. They prey upon commuters - particularly the elderly. Their attacks are sudden and vicious.

Jacob watches the commuters board the train. Their faces look tired and gaunt. He senses their anxiety. They too fear the darkness of the tunnel, the open doors and the breakneck speed of the train as it makes its way from Zonkisizwe to Germiston.

Without any warning sign, and while some passengers are still in the process of boarding, the train lunges forward. Many passengers have to retreat immediately to avoid being dragged off the platform onto the rails. It is a daily occorrence: a passenger - sometimes more than one - slips from the over-crowded, open doorway. Invariably they fall between the platform and the train. The space is so narrow that, without assistance, it is impossible to mount the platform again. The result is that the hapless commuter is dragged along by the train for a short distance only before its wheels slice ruthlessly through his or her lower limbs.

Screams of fear and pain rise above the sharp sound of steel on steel as the train starts to accelerate. The solitary prostrate figure that is left behind lies unconsciously on the rail track. In due course the body will be removed by rail workers. At the hospital his or her fate is invariably an amputation of one and sometimes both limbs.

Inside the coach commuters are packed like sardines. They do not talk. The expressions on their faces are grim. An absolute silence prevails. They are all workers trying to cope with their dire circumstances. The deafening sound of the wheels rambling along the rails makes conversation impossible. It is a loud and fearsome noise echoed through the open windows and doors as the train rolls forward through the tunnel.

There are no toilet facilities on the coach. Sometimes Jacob can hardly bear the stench in the coach. No effort is made to clean them. They are not maintained. Vandalism is rife. Broken windows and doors are never repaired. Commuter protests fall on deaf ears. Appeals to the State to reinstate the old taxi system have failed.

Jacob's greatest fear is a power outage that halts the train. These days it happens quite frequently - suddently, out of the blue. No time to prepare or position oneself for these events. The train comes to an immediate standstill. The result is always the same - panic overcomes the terrified passengers captured within the narrow confines of the pitch dark steel cage. Chaos prevails as Jacob smells fear around him. He muscles his way towards the rear end until he feels a wall behind his back. He has to fight back his own fear which threatens to overpower him. That is when he draws his Okapi. He feels the cold comfort of the steel in his hand. He knows that they will come for him. He stands poised, he is ready for them. They are delinquent elements with nimble hawk-like fingers, capable of performing a bodily search in a matter of seconds. The loss of cash, a watch and other valuables is almost instantaneous. It is these young prowlers that he awaits in the pitch dark coach.

It is Jacob's sixth sense and a warm breath on his immediate left that inform him of the presence of an assailant. He lunches and thrusts simultaneously. His experience steers the blade to the right place: into the centre of the chest cavity. He feels the gush of warm blood that spurts over his arm and hand. He feels how the body of his attacker tumbles to the floor of the coach. He stoops over it, wipes his hand and his blade on the shirt of the lifeless soul at his feet. He vigilantly returns to his former position - to await a second attempt. He feels no remorse at all. Jacob curses his circumstances and this death cart that he has to board twice every day. He despises it. He shakes his head because he has no choice. The train lunges forward without warning. A measure of calmness returns.

Commuting wordlessly on the subway train leaves time for reflection. Times are hard indeed and his daily trips certainly do not contribute to the quality of his life: but he does the best he can. His thoughts return to 2010. That wonderful year when his favourite team, Bafana-Bafana, managed - against all expectations - to win the World Cup. National exhilaration! He fondly remembers the family that he worked for in Hermanus and those halcyon days. He recalls how devastated he was when he learned in 2014 that they were emigrating to the USA. He was grateful for the severance pay packet. It lasted a while, but he realised, after the lapse of about six months and a sustained and unsuccessful effort to find another job, that he would have to return to Gauteng. So he and his family settled in a squatter camp, south of Vosloosrus. It is called Zonkisizwe: "All of us together". How ironic. His thoughts are interrupted when the train starts to slow down. Mercifully the end is in sight. The train stops.

Disembarkation is a grim affair. All of the commutrs in Jacob's coach dash for the doors. They all want to get out. It is the last station on the route. They know that the train will be set in motion without any warning signal. Those who are slow - perhaps too old - are always at risk of losing the balance. This is the fate of the commuter: too poor to buy or rent a vehicle, they are driven to resort to the rail service -the daily subway train.

It is a plight that commuters must bear. How else does one earn one's daily bread in this new tormented country where poverty has, over the past decade, increased hand over fist? Demur and protest have not yielded any positive results. It is not only the commuter services that have become so bad, Jacob thinks as he leaves the station, it is true in respect of all services. The township dwellers are struck worst. He misses 'the good old days'. His participation in the struggle for freedom and the advent of democracy have yielded scant fruit.