Press "Enter" to skip to content

The silence of the frogs

Frogs. It’s all about the frogs.

Or at least not just about frogs as such, but about what our little amphibian neighbours teach us.

Ecologists call frogs an indicator species because, with their highly permeable skins and living both in water and on land, frogs are among the first species to show if something is wrong with the environment. If there are pollutants in the air or toxins in the water, frogs will show it first.

And they do so in very committed way — they die and disappear. Check outside your home tonight and if there is quiet — aside from South Africa’s national anthem, the Wail of Sirens — where the evening chorus usually strikes up, there is something badly wrong with where you live.

I live on a ridge in Roodepoort, so I don’t normally hear the frog song, but down in the valley near my brother’s home there is a nightly chorus to rival Oppikoppi. Or at least there should be. He hasn’t heard more than an occasional ribbit for weeks. And that’s with all the rain we’ve had.

Something is wrong.

And next to follow are the predators that eat the froggies. Not French chefs, but the herons, storks, kingfishers and snakes. If you haven’t seen an egret or the normally ubiquitous greyheaded heron for some time, it might be because there are no more froggies in the pond.

We’ve had three days of warmish sunshine up in Joeys now, but I haven’t seen more than one or two lost mosquitoes buzzing about as aimlessly as a night editor at Sowetan. I also haven’t seen the swarms of swallows and swifts that usually turn the gloaming sky into a wild spirograph of birds. I haven’t seen too many bats about either — and bats can eat up to 600 mozzies an hour, returning doubled in weight to hang about where bats hang out.

Something is wrong.

Granted, this imbalance may just be temporary. We should jolly well hope so, because we have quite enough havoc and tragedy and chaos to deal with ourselves.

If nature gives us signposts and indicators of when something is wrong or out of kilter — and remember the balance is very, very delicate — what indicators are there in society when things go wrong?

Well, firstly the lights go out.

I did a little arithmetic — simple grade-three stuff most government officials should be able to handle — and I worked out that the few power failures that have hit little old me in my little one-man business have added up to R3 177,50 this month alone. That’s in the form of four times as much travelling because I couldn’t email urgent things, faxes, parcels, couriers, salaries, time wasted because I lost data, the cost of a UPS and cables, unnecessary phone calls, food that went off in the freezer and had to be replaced, driving five times the distance just to find a working ATM, and on and on.

And I am only one person with two dogs. Say we round that off to R2 500 a head (which is probably ridiculously underestimated), that means the joint ANC/Eskom fuck-up, before the really big costs (mines, industries, factories, accidents — you name it), has cost this country more than R120-million in a matter of weeks.

That is just the base figure. Now add all the other really big numbers and tell me how long before we get back to where we should be. If we ever will get back.

Already economists are ratcheting down growth projections from 6% a year to 3%. Watch the ripples in lost jobs, bankrupt businesses, inability to absorb graduates and further deterioration in public service. This is a Hollywood-scale disaster movie! And all we get is egg-dancing from an incompetent government led by arrogance, racism (who retrenched all the greybeards at Eskom 10 years ago in favour of lightweights who couldn’t manage a piss-up in a brewery?), misguided loyalty and a blind devotion to communist economic bullshit.

The bottom line: the ANC and its entourage of grotesque groupies are dangerously incompetent. And judging by Zuma Simpson’s childish pantomime performances so far, the downward spiral has only just begun. Or, put in astronomical terms, the supernova has collapsed and the black hole will gradually now begin taking shape.

“Oh, don’t be such an idiot alarmist, Kriel. You’re blowing this thing out of all proportion. We overcame apartheid; we can do anything. We must just look on the bright side and be positive, blah, blah, fishpaste …”

I say, take a look around, folks. This is nothing new, just the worst catastrophe these clowns have made so far.

My indicator species are friends and acquaintances who have been rainbow nationalists, glass-is-half-full, surely-they’re-not-that-bad, crime-is-everywhere-y’know, silver-lining loyalists, people of all colours and of the soil — and they’re the missing frogs now. They’re the ones who are saying, ‘Let’s get out of here while we still can. Or at least let’s get the children out.'”

My son’s largely shelved his plans to join the South African Air Force in favour of the growing number of opportunities overseas. At least, they are more than vague possibilities.

So, while darkness falls across Africa’s great dream, soccer dads are just shot for fuck-all waiting to pick up their sons, kids are brutalised by the minute, and thugs and killers and rapists do just as they please, I’m going to the museum to see what frogs look like.

That’s if the museum has power.


  1. Gerry Gerry 30 January 2008

    Please do not refer to the president of the ANC “Zuma Simpson”.

    It’s a totally unnecessary and hurtful insult to a family of yellow-bodied well-loved entertainers whom we willingly allowed into our living room for years, and whose absence will be sorely missed if they ever depart from our lives.

    To associate Zuma with them is grossly unfair!

    Maybe “Hilton” or “Spears” will be more apt. Jacob W. Hilton-Spears has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

  2. Roland Roland 30 January 2008

    Dear Llewellyn,
    Certain individuals here at Thought Leader, including it’s infuential “moral officer”, have a group-think going on. This clique invented the term Afro-pessimism, which they conveniently define how ever it suits them and use it to chastises everybody who dares criticise.
    Now I don’t now if you’re a “Afro” or not, but it would seem that you are a pessimist, because you are ruining the party for the honky-tonk optimist around here.

    With kind regards and an ear for Voltaire’s Candide, I salute you.

  3. Llewellyn P Semist Llewellyn P Semist 30 January 2008

    I confess! You have seen through my disguise, Roland. I am an Afro-pessimist and seemed doomed to remain so until I can be convinced of the error of my ways and become another kind of pessimist.

    Africa is a beeg place and when people complain about Africans (that’s me) being pessimistic about the place, the hoary old chestnut (which you don’t get in Africa) pops up about the glass being half-full or half-empty. In my view the glass is just too bloody big. So either pour the contents into a smaller glass so it will be full, or chuck it away so it will be empty. After all when we buy shoes (Africans sometimes do that too) we don’t bitch that our feet half-fill the shoe or that, even with a foot in it, the shoe is half-empty. We find the shoe that fits the foot snugly. Which brings me to another proverb – if the sandal fits, wear it. I have no idea what the relevance of that is, but it sounds good.

    Keep reading guys. If global warming continues at its present pace and ocean levels rise, maybe Africa will shrink so much it will fit the mood like Cinderella’s tootsies and we’ll all live happily ever after.

  4. Don Don 30 January 2008

    Up here; high on the rolling hills overlooking Edendale, our choir of frogs is deafening. Good rains, fresh air and babbling brooks have caused a population explosion, that makes the tik crazed Manenberg festive rutting season seem tame.

    That descriptive analogy; “Frog in a blender” stirs visions of JZ dancing to a Kwaito Mshini wam, or the ANC government cadres trying to spin BS yarns to a country that’s spun out of control.

    ‘Frog in a beaker over a Bunsen burner’, is what we all were, until the house lights went out and the blue light motocades of the new dis-order bullied their way to Polokwane. We were all squatting in our comfort zones, hoping the beaker was at least half full, as the temperature of the water slowly increased. Now the water’s boiled and the ‘hood is in darkness. We now know we’re screwed….. and its frogs leg soup on the menu.

  5. smiling – for now smiling – for now 30 January 2008

    Down in little ol’ Stellenbosch, I’m pleased to report, we have frogs. A nightly chorus of them that pleases the soul.

    One of the few advantages of the blackouts is the TV-outs and the radio-outs and the PlayStation-outs.

    The music of the night?

  6. Major Major 30 January 2008

    I think Jacob Zuma King today does it after the Don and his tax problems and association with the convicted rapist. Probably in their minds Mike was a successful black man destroyed by the white people by being wrongly convicted of rape, accused of groping. After all Mike was a man of a great libido.

    So brother Tyson is giving back to the community, me thinks he is taking out more. The doubting and endorsement warped sense of morality is more than the money that will be raised.

    Can a fellow member of blackdom tell me how our heroes are chosen. For Christ’s sake some cheapskate Black boxer is in town today disrupting our children’s schooling in the townships. Call it a worship of brawn over brain.

    I have always had a problem with Mbeki over his failure to create out of the partying South African blacks a lot that would elect him. While he was busy with not openly campaigning Zuma was doing so vigorously his song, an album full of absurdities that he did not repudiate, t-shirts, a web site etc. In fact he was making himself popular culture and succeeded. No one was prepared to challenge him but the unaggressive Mbeki. Forget the myth of the alternative candidate to Mbeki put foward by the likes of Justice Malala. No one was prepared to take on Zuma except Thabo Mbeki. Mind you there is even a stupid song that says Zuma was Mandela’s chosen successor. What utter rubbish which the Don did not repudiate.

    Back to the Tyson matter. Who is safe with Tyson being called a role model for his or her kids? No wonder he can only be a guest at a casino dinner to be addressed by the rape accusation survivor Jacob Zuma, tax evasion suspect. Fitting company indeed.

    Ever heard of white role modelling?

    Whilst on the subject, blackdom and all who love black people why are you not expressing outrage at the site of school going kids at the stadium close to midnight on Sunday night. Even if Bafana had won there is still no excuse for the SABC to be holding such events at night. SABC thinks everyday of the week is friday night. It even thinks life in Sophiatown was bohemian and all about partying. What we are doing to ourselves black people is really gross. And it is Thabo’s fault for having ignored the role of his party as the cultural intelligentsia.

  7. Riaan Wolmarans Riaan Wolmarans 30 January 2008

    No more than one or two lost mosquitoes, you say? What bliss. I’ll gladly box up a batch of any multiple of hundred from North Riding in Johannesburg and ship them to you …

  8. Owen Owen 31 January 2008

    Apparently only the female mosquitoes make a (nagging) noise ….

  9. Ian Ian 1 February 2008

    Unfortunately the Silence of the Frogs is not our primary concern,its the Silence of the Lambs.Rest in peace Sheldon Cohen.

  10. Olivia Olivia 1 February 2008

    Please don’t align anything the forked tongue evil-eyed JZ says or does with FROGS!!
    In Paul Mc’s melody we’re supposed to live in FROG harmony here.
    ” Win or lose, sink or swim one thing’s for certain we’ll never give in….
    side by side, hand in hand
    we all stand TOGETHER ”
    Ribbit Ribbit
    Wouldn’t THAT be a great anthem !
    will the last person out the country please turn out the lights….
    Oh…. don’t bother – we don’t have any lights !

Leave a Reply