The Year in Review – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Year in Review – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Terence Pillay looks back on some of his most significant stories of 2019. 

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It’s been quite a year – and I am decidedly tired and looking forward to a much-needed, albeit a short break this festive season. But seeing as this is my last show for the year, I’ve decided to recap some of the more memorable stories from this year.

I started the year off bringing us the story of parents who need parenting. The topic was sparked after I witnessed quite a disturbing scene while I was driving to work. It was raining and I noticed that the woman in the car next to me had her window ever so slightly down and was smoking with children in the car in the back seat. I hooted and signalled for her to stop but she flipped me off and sped off. I was livid. These were children that had no choice but to sit in this smoke-filled car with this disgusting woman who really should be behind bars.

This whole incident sparked a raging debate among my friends and for me; broadly, it actually spoke to parental responsibility more than anything else. One of my friends said that as a parent, you always have this paranoia about what you can do wrong and most parents try their best to be good parents, but the fact is so many people don’t really know how to parent responsibly.

So when something happens  - say for example some school kid goes on a killing spree – one of the first things people says is, “But he came from such a normal home.” And as a parent, you think the things that you do will influence your child; the whole nature versus nurture notion and it’s a huge responsibility. The response from the public was quite strong on this story, meaning I had hit a nerve with parents that related.

Then I brought the story of pet care and how some people shirk their responsibility when it comes to the handling of domestic animals. I mentioned the story about the domestic worker who was attacked on her way home from work by a dog that wasn’t fenced in on a property and the errant owner who did not want to accept any responsibility for the dog.

I also highlighted the story of the woman who was relocating to Cape Town and transported her dogs on an SAA flight only to find that the dog had allegedly been left unattended in the scorching Durban heat and died of a heart attack due to respiratory distress and heat stroke, the vet’s report said.

After the first show, I managed to find Nicola McIntyre, the owner in question, because I wanted to follow up on what went wrong that day with the animal.  According to Nicola, the dog was fine when she sent it off with Pet Port, a company that handles the transporting of pets to the airport. Pet Port are, however, limited in their access to the airport and had to hand the dog over to SAA Cargo to complete the transit.

It is here where the facts become a little unclear. According to a report, the dog was kept in its pine box on a van with a canvas over it. It is unclear whether they fed the dog any water and my questions to a number of people on the ground at the airport yielded no answers.

The dog was dropped off at 8.40am and at 12noon Nicola received the call informing her that her beloved pet had died. She believed that the recorded temperature of over 30 degrees Celsius that day was a contributing factor to the dog’s death. She also alleged that the dog might have been left either on the tarmac or the warehouse with no ventilation. The vet’s report also stated that the paper at the bottom of the crate was shredded indicating the dog’s struggle to flee the uncomfortable environment.

I called SAA Cargo for a response but they were unable to do a live telephonic interview. Instead, I sent them some questions which they answered, starting with:  Kindly note that SAA Cargo has been cleared of any liability by SPCA Durban.

A story that got me riled up this year was the one of the child at the Carletonville Creche who was beaten up by the teacher because she threw up in class. The incident was record on a cellphone by another caregiver.

The video of the teacher at a crèche repeatedly slapping a young child on her head had sparked outrage in the country. Many South Africans called for the crèche to be shut down. In the video, the woman was also seen hitting her on the buttocks. According to reports, the child had vomited and the teacher made her wipe up the mess and assaulted her because she had done this.

At the time, Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said he battled to finish watching the video of the young child being beaten by her teacher. I think most of the country battled to watch the video.

Last year, I investigated the story of the young Phoenix mother who beat up her child while her boyfriend had recorded the incident on his cell phone. In an exclusive interview at the time, the mother told me that her boyfriend was upset because the child had peed her pants. Like this case, the child in the Carletonville video had simply done what children do – she threw up. Did this act warrant such a violent reaction from the teacher?

As far as I am concerned, the woman in the video was not fit to be a teacher or caregiver or whatever she claimed to be. What was seen in the video was not corporal punishment, which by the way is illegal, but a violent act of child abuse. This person should never be allowed anywhere near children again, never mind out on bail, which I believe she made.

This year flooding hit KZN hard and we saw some of the worst storms that destroyed a lot of property including the M4 Highway and also claimed the lives of some people.

When we had the floods in 2017 the same areas were affected and the municipality had allocated large sums of money to do preventative maintenance on the drainage systems, to make sure the same kind of devastation didn’t happen again.

Then the rains hit again and they issues a  press statement with a long story about them having to issue a tender, and it taking eighteen months to sign the contracts and workers had only just started on the project. But the rain came again and people lost their lives and homes again. Surely this plan by the municipality in 2017 should have been more urgent - I mean it was an emergency after all.

All they needed to do was maintain the drainage system. According to widespread news reports, money approved for repairs was not spent. Following the 2017 storm - which destroyed homes, schools, businesses, and vehicles - the executive committee had immediately approved a report which stated that the estimated cost to repair infrastructure damage was more than R576 million. Where did that money go? It’s still unclear.

Perhaps one of the toughest interviews I had done this year was with Nan Lee, the mother of murdered teenager, Siam Lee.

About two years ago, the country was rocked by a murder so heinous, it was almost unbelievable. Siam Lee, a Durban teenager, working as a massage therapist was abducted from a Durban North home, where she worked with her mother, Nan, an escort. Days later, her charred remains were found in a sugar cane field in New Hanover.

A man, Philani Ntuli was arrested in connection with the murder and appeared in court several times, however charges were yet to be put to him. But then Ntuli, who was believed to be undergoing treatment for skin cancer, died in June this year effectively bringing an end to the trial. The case was struck off the court’s roll and the country was again largely outraged. Many believed that Ntuli’s death was an “easy way out” and if fate had not dealt him the blow, he would have spent the rest of his life behind bars.

Nan Lee, Siam’s mother said she wanted him to be “held accountable for what he had done”. In a radio exclusive, Nan opened up about her relationship with her daughter, Siam’s childhood and how she got to that very dark point in her life.

In an emotional interview, Nan Lee said she couldn’t be held responsible for what “this monster had done to my daughter”. Following widespread criticism for introducing her daughter to the world of erotic massage, Nan had gone off the grid and is now living away from Durban.

Another significant story was the scandal surrounding our former mayor Zandile Gumede. You may remember, when she became mayor of Ethekwini, I did the first interview with her in her first week in office. In the interview she promised to clean up the municipality, which had gained a muddy reputation, and made a very firm commitment to stamp out corruption in all forms. I was quite pleased at her stand but thought it was still early days and only time would tell whether this was just grandstanding from someone new.

As it turned out, in May this year, Gumede was arrested and granted bail of R50 000 after she appeared in the Durban Commercial Crimes Court. She faced a number of charges from corruption to fraud and even racketeering.

The axe fell on the disgraced mayor after she was accused of allegedly awarding an illegal tender to Durban Solid Waste. The sanitation company was paid in excess of R25-million to provide eight hundred chemical toilets to the city.

The city was shocked and the opposition parties called for her to be fired immediately and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But a lot of false information and conflicting stories emerged. So in order for us to best understand the situation, I chatted political activist and commentator from the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Imraan Buccus, who unpacked the matter for us.

So from road ragers to the Comprehensive Sexuality Education programme in schools, from the proposed grade nine exit certificate to the #MenAreTrash campaign to my last story that involved an 11-year-old boy who experienced his worst nightmare recently when he was detained by immigration and not allowed access to his parents for four and a half hours because of their glitch on his passport – this year has been filled with stories that informed, educated, shocked and surprised us.

Then of-course there were some pretty nifty exclusive interviews with international stars like Ed Stoppard and Deon Meyer and local celebrities like Survivor’s Nico Panagio and the new Bachelor South Africa.

I am looking forward to bringing you bigger and better stories next year! Have a blessed holiday!

You can email Terence Pillay at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @terencepillay1 and engage with him there.

 Also read: Immigration nightmare for 11-year-old boy

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