Law might overshadow pine plantation

Every time I walk into the pines in the Dennendal plantation and bless the welcome shade the trees give to dog walkers, cyclists, runners and ramblers, I thank those who went to court last year to stop SANParks and MTO felling the trees. But with March 1st looming, I get a knot in my stomach. On that fateful day SANParks will appeal in the Bloemfontein Supreme Court against Judge Pat Gamble’s verdict on March 22, 2017 in favour of Parkscape. With costs.

This time round only SANParks is appealing and will again forward its case based on contract law, while Parkscape will repeat its argument for administrative justice.

“If SANParks loses it may seek relief from the Constitutional Court, or decide to engage in the requested Public Participation Process, which is what Parkscape asked for at the first hearing,” said Parkscape’s Nicky Schmidt.

“As the outcome is uncertain, we will need to continue our community-based, fund-raising efforts and after last year’s success, we plan to hold a second Parkscape Golf Challenge on April 12 at the Westlake Golf Club. This event is unlikely to cover our costs so we will again be calling on the community for financial help from those wanting to see a resolution to the current impasse.”

It was disappointing, but not unexpected, to hear from her that the “Adopt a Tree” initiative, proposed by the Tokai Ratepayers’ Association, had not achieved its goal of getting every tree around the perimeter watered by a member of the public. With streams drying up and folk battling to keep their own gardens alive, only half of the trees were adopted and about half of those are now struggling.

“We’ve found that our ‘stalwarts’ have been hanging in and are now generously watering the trees adopted by those who’ve fallen by the wayside.”

She praised the Pony Club which has continued to make its borehole water available but suggests that had SANParks and Tokai MTB joined forces with Parkscape, a more effective means of bringing water to the thirsty trees might have been found than people lugging around heavy buckets and bottles.

Hot new movie

If you have ever worked on a newspaper in the days of “hot metal” then do yourself a favour and see the latest Meryl Streep-Tom Hanks movie The Post now on circuit at the Blue Route. It proved a wonderful trip down memory lane not only for me but also Tony Grogan, the former Cape Times cartoonist, who I spotted leaving the cinema with wife Jen after the same 5pm screening.

As I cut my teeth as a news reporter in the busy male-dominated Cape Times newsroom and frequently was sent down to the “works” with corrected proofs, I lived on a daily basis with the sight and sounds of the production of a newspaper. Things like the clanking of the linotype operators turning reporters’ typewritten copy into hot metal, to the thrilling sight of thousands of copies of newspapers rolling simultaneously off the presses with astonishing speed.

Yet what made the movie even more significant was that the Cape Times, like The Washington Post had its own experience of taking a huge risk of publishing sensitive material that could have led to the arrest of our editor and the wrath of the government.

Cast your mind back 1985 when out editor Tony Heard flew to London to interview banned Oliver Tambo on the future of South Africa under an ANC government. The National Party bosses went ballistic.

In The Post the stakes were even higher. The movie takes place in 1971 and chronicles how The Washington Post defied the Nixon administration to publish stories based on the Pentagon Papers, a secret government study about the Vietnam War.

That newspaper — along with the New York Times, which first published Pentagon Papers stories and excerpts — faced off against a Justice Department that believed publishing the information was a national security risk and this battle ended up in the Supreme Court.

Meryl Streep plays gentle Katharine Graham, who through the suicide in 1946 of her husband Philip Graham becomes the reluctant publisher of The Post, bought by her late father Eugene Meyer in 1933. She is surrounded by male advisors telling her not to greenlight the stories, as the resulting legal troubles could threaten the paper’s existence. However Tom Hanks in the role Ben Bradlee, the legendary executive editor, believes the information must be printed — for the sake of the public and to boost The Post’s fading reputation and circulation.

Graham, the first female chief executive of a Fortune 500 company, is caught in the middle of a fierce battle but to everybody’s surprise, she proves to have more guts than her opponents imagined. It’s a thrilling true story.

Give that dog a bone

A man wrote a letter to a small hotel in a Midwest town in the USA to ask if his well-groomed, well-behaved dog could spend the night in his room. The hotel owner replied:

“Sir, I’ve been operating this hotel for many years. In all that time, I’ve never had a dog steal towels,
bed clothes, and silverware or take pictures off the walls or use them as a coloring book.

“I’ve never evicted a dog in the middle of the night for being drunk and disorderly. And I’ve never had a dog run out on a hotel bill. Yes, indeed, your dog is welcome and if your dog will vouch for you, you’re welcome to stay here, too.”

Highway to hell

Diplomacy is the art of telling people to go to hell in such a way that they ask for directions –Winston Churchill.