Friday, March 6, 2009

Coup d'Etats and other funny going-ons - Part III

This is a bit of a miscellaneous post to add a few minor miscellaneous details and anecdotes from the previous two posts on the same theme.

You might wonder what "Wonga" means? According to Adam Roberts book I previously referenced, Wonga is an old Romany word which originally meant coal but latterly then attained the meaning money.

Two white South African acquaintances, long term residents here, were questioned by local security forces after the alleged coup attempt here - the first I phoned denied knowing anything about it (which I believe), wouln't talk about it and didn't mention he had been questioned. The other I phoned on Monday but is doing a job on our sister island returning on Thursday, admitted he'd been contacted by the security services and agreed to talk to me about it this coming weekend.

The aforementioned acquaintances once worked here for another interesting South African Cristoph Hellinger, who once owned luxurious hotels on both islands and still runs a large (in terms of a small island state) construction company here. He is the owner of a vineyard and estate in Stellenbosch near Cape Town. Hellinger was not a great friend of the apartheid regime and got rich running diamond mine logistics operations for the MPLA in Angola during the civil war with Savimbi's UNITA and, given our first president's support from/for the MPLA, used Sao Tome as a staging post.

I have heard anecdotes of Filipino workers recruited by Hellinger hiding in the roof-spaces of their accomodation of MPLA-controlled diamond mines under attack from Savimbi's UNITA.

Anyway, Hellinger earned plenty from the Angolan MPLA in diamonds or diamond-money and paid our first president plenty for long-term leases on two prime pieces of land on our two islands, where on our sister island he built a luxury hotel. His admin complex and local construction company HQ remained on our island and he established the first national airline. He also got a contract to manage the state-owned luxury hotel constructed in the late '70s/early'80s by Yugoslavia (before it fell apart). However, the first democratic government here annulled this contract, awarded it to a Portuguese company which let it fall apart and it was then handed over to a member of Germany's aristocracy who sold it to a multinational Portuguese company a couple of years ago. In the meantime, Hellinger built another luxry hotel here.

In South Africa Hellinger had employed S. African B. and Filipino R. as an accountant in his hotel business there - they were both marvellous - and supported us 200% during the beginning of Kezia's leukaemia.

B. once told me how Hellinger would hide his staff in a top Cape Town hotel he owned. Black and Coloured people were not permitted to serve whites in public places under the ica, apartheid regime. Classified as "Coloured" (as her maternal grandmother was black although she looks as white as "Whites" come) under the apartheid regime and thus not allowed to serve white people. she would have to run as well.

Moving on ...

A work colleague tells me the security services didn't actually find an AK47 in the hands of ex-Buffao, leader of insignificant political party FRNSTP, Adelecio Costa, but just a magazine and 300 bullets.

Our president has threatened to resign stating he is fed up with political instability + I don't blame him but has since addressed the nation in a rather strict and paternalistic tone urging the population and political class to be more disciplined ...

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