Defend Truth

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

A Gathering of people for a common purpose

A Gathering of people for a common purpose
From left: Judge Dennis Davis, Advocate Anton du Plessis, Major-General Jeremy Vearey and Daily Maverick journalist Caryn Dolley at The Gathering, reflecting on crime, lawlessness and the prosecution of those accused of corruption. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

A highlight at Daily Maverick’s flagship event, The Gathering, was Jeremy Vearey speaking about fixing our inept SAPS, as well as bumping in to DM specialist crime writer Caryn Dolley, whose first exposé of global indigenous plant poaching won our humble newspaper’s very first national award.

Dear DM168 readers,

My very first encounter with many of my colleagues at Daily Maverick, when editor-in-chief Branko Brkic announced that we would be launching DM168, was at The Gathering in March 2020.

On Thursday, 24 November, we held our first Gathering since Covid-19 stole more than two years of in-person get-togethers. I could not believe the simple joy I felt just hugging and catching up with colleagues and old friends.

Working remotely is the new normal and while it saves travel time and the expense of company office space, being at The Gathering made me realise how much nuance and collegial interaction has been sacrificed.

Online meetings do not have the serendipitous spark of casual bumping into colleagues at the water cooler or coffee station. Those chance conversation encounters that take you on journeys of discovery lead to new ideas being conceived.

Sadly, this has been replaced by WhatsApp or Slack messaging and my pet hate – the WhatsApp voice note – that allows for drip-fed drops of info or monologues and diatribes starved of the enrichment of debate, engagement or disagreement that comes with dialogic conversation. 

Instead, we hide behind avatars and old headshots of younger selves, not having eye-to-eye contact or picking up social cues on Zoom, Teams or Google Meets. It’s a breeding ground for all kinds of lost-in-translation miscommunication and social anxiety.

I realised how much I missed direct engagement with colleagues and readers as DM168 art director Kassie Naidoo and I worked on this week’s edition from our desk at the entrance to The Gathering auditorium at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. 

When we managed to get a chance to leave our desk it was also incredibly inspiring to hear so many of our country’s thinkers and doers coming to similar conclusions about what needs to be done to arrest our rapid descent into a mafia state. 

Leader of the informal settlement movement Abahlali baseMjondolo, S’bu Dikode said it quite elegantly. “It’s high time we rethink voting to restore hope. It’s high time we take back our country from those who steal from us and threaten our lives.” 

A highlight for me was Jeremy Vearey speaking about fixing our inept SAPS, arguing that criminals are holding sway because they are many steps ahead of the police. He said one solution to our crime crisis would be the training of skilled detectives in every local police station, where the majority of crimes happen.

He argued that trained detectives need to keep up to speed with criminal minds through learning how they operate, correlating changing crime patterns and trends, following the money through financial analysis, and deepening crime intelligence through development of informer networks in criminal syndicates. 

Listening to this humble man, who has devoted his life to serving and protecting, made me question the motives of the police bosses right up to the Cat in the Hat who have allowed cops who care about the community like Vearey to be fired, or murdered like Vearey’s colleague Charl Kinnear, when so many of their crooked colleagues remain employed by the SAPS.

It is a grievous disservice to us South Africans that the SAPS fired such a committed crime fighter as Vearey over a Facebook post. This, while the Western Cape police is riddled, right at the top of senior provincial management, with compromised cops who have deep links to the gangs, as revealed in a scathing high court judgment by Judge Daniel Thulare.

One of the colleagues I was very privileged to have snatched some time with at The Gathering is DM specialist crime writer Caryn Dolley. She has been researching the underworld for years and has written extensively about police entanglement with criminals in her book To the Wolves

Do yourselves a favour and buy both this book and Dolley’s latest, Clash of the Cartels, for a fan bundle bargain of R350 at our Daily Maverick online shop. Caryn told me Clash of the Cartels, which tracks how some of the world’s most lethal drug trade criminals saunter around South Africa, is the best book she has written to date.

Caryn also authored this week’s front-page story which starts with the intriguing arrest of three Saudi Arabian tourists who were caught with 1.63 million indigenous seeds and flora items. 

Read more about what turns out to be a very alarming spike in theft of our natural heritage and the terrible impact this has on our environment and local job creation.

I am thrilled to share with you that Caryn’s first exposé of this global wave of indigenous plant poaching won our humble newspaper’s very first national award.  

She won the “sustainability” category in this year’s national Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards for a DM168 article about plant poaching that appeared in April with the headline, “South Africa’s rare plants are being poached to extinction, and the ecological nightmare is only getting worse”. 

Of the win, judges for the awards said focus was given to “perhaps South Africa’s most unexpected crime – plant robbery from some of the country’s most delicate heritage environments”. They said: “Dolley’s article detailed this new green crime wave particularly well, astonishing the audience with the quantities that poachers have bagged and their international crime networks stretching from the US to Europe and the Far East.”

Kassie and I had the rare privilege of bouncing around ideas for headlines and graphics in-person with Caryn, so buy a copy of the paper to read the latest instalment of a story that has just won a national award.

I would like to encourage all of you who are interested in reading DM168 to become a Maverick Insider. All Maverick Insiders receive a  discounted subscription to have DM168 delivered to their door on a Saturday and to access to the newspaper’s e-edition. The biggest benefit of being an Insider, however, is your investment in our journalism. 

Insider contributions help pay for resources and our salaries so that we can continue doing what we do best – investigating, exposing, informing and entertaining you with some of the best journalism in the world. Read here about corporate membership for businesses that would like to keep their employees informed and here about individual membership. 

As usual, please keep sharing your thoughts and solutions for a better life for all South Africans, which will be published on the readers’ page, by writing to me at [email protected].

Yours in defence of truth,

Heather

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.

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