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Ann Van Dyk’s forty two years towards saving the Cheetah

A sudden flashback and Ann van Dyk  is once again a young woman working with her brother Godfrey on ‘De Wildt’, her late parents’ chicken farm, in the foothills of the Northern Magaliesberg farm.


The Third Sex

Nthabiseng Mokoena (25) knew from a tender age that she was different. Her mother would tell her never to dress in front of others, saying, “Nthabi, you are very special, but you are not the same as the other little girls.” When she was old enough Nthabiseng understood that she was one of an estimated 2 million South Africans born with an intersex condition- neither clearly a male nor female, but with ambiguous genitalia. 


Towards insanity in an Afghanistan hell

Good things rarely happen in Afghanistan prisons.  Philip Young’s story is no exception
Philip Young in Afghanistan PrisonAfghanistan’s Helmand Province of Lakshar Gha.

On the eve of 1st October 2009, 46 year-old Philip Young drove towards the British controlled Counter Narcotics Base (CNB).  This was a routine mission. Young was to oversee a small project in the largely Taliban opium producing province of Lakshar Gha.

Young - a former commander of Personal Security Detail for a United States Army General in Iraq - had worked in Kabul the past year for ANHAM Defence Contractors, supervising logistics; overseeing supplies and equipment details for an US Department of State Contract.

Driving into the compound they noticed an Afghan guard wearing traditional dress complete with bullet strapped belts about his body.

“This was not the norm and I was immediately highly suspicious,” Young recalls. Other than that, the place was deserted.  

A former guard, Abdul Ghafar had staged a coup, recruiting a splinter group of five fellow tribesmen; together they had disarmed thirty men and at gunpoint locked them inside base quarters.


How Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery saved Lesley Barnard's Life

Lesley BarnardIt’s impossible to believe only ten months ago the composed woman sipping coffee opposite had so little control over her body movements that she could not stop her head from compulsively jerking.

Lesley Barnard is the recipient of groundbreaking Deep Brain Stimulation (DPS) surgery, which has miraculously restored quality of life.

Between delicate bites of cake, the 62-year old Parkinsons’s disease (PD) sufferer recalls every moment of her epic fifteen year struggle with Parkinson’s disease (PD).

By all accounts at forty seven, Lesley was extremely attractive with deep brown eyes and thick auburn hair that licked her shoulders.

In 1998 Lesley was Deputy Principal of a training college with 1, 200 pupils under her supervision. Her workload was heavy, her stresses many. She was always an anxious person, who suffered from mild depression, but it never interfered with her work or social calendar.  

When her thumb suddenly began misbehaving uncontrollably, flicking against her forefinger, her GP referred her to a neurosurgeon believing the cause of her embarrassing tremor stemmed from a problem in her neck.


Margaret Hirsch Business Woman of the Year Winner 2012

At eight a.m. on a Tuesday, a group of workers are dancing inside a huge retail store in Fourways, housing everything from fridges to furniture. I’ve been told to meet Margaret Hirsch.


There she is, swaying back and forth unselfconsciously in black trousers and blouse, long hair falling loosely about her shoulders.  Suddenly silence. Margaret points randomly at a staff member, says “Tell us a motivational story.” Afterwards music from the band Glee blares forth, and everyone joins in singing ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’

By 8.30am it’s all over, staff scatter, and the tall blonde greets me with warm intensity and guides me to her office, a desk randomly situated in the midst of the showroom floor.

This is, after all, Margaret Hirsch, of Hirsch’s, the woman who was awarded 2012 Entrepreneurial Businesswoman of the Year by President Zuma; who in 2011 was anointed South Africa’s Most Influential Woman in Business and Government; whose company generates R1bn turnover per annum, and still growing 20% annually.

This is someone who aged twelve, washed hair in a hair dressing salon each Saturday morning for 50c. And, this is also a person who lives part time in an apartment built on top of Hirsch’s Appliance and Electronics store in Meadowdale.

At 62 years-old, Margaret has all she could ever dream of, has nothing more to prove.  But she has no intention of stopping. She puts it this way “I thrive on people. My gift is to look at people and I see them not as they are, but as they can be. I see people when they come to me with nothing, and I see them as they are going to end up being when they have got all the things they want in their life. I help them get there. ”


Kwajane Bapela - Pancreas Kidney Transplant

Like any man in the prime of life, 32 year-old Kwajane Bapela is thriving.  It’s almost impossible to believe as he is the first South African to have received two transplants, a kidney and later pancreas from two separate donors- both within a 16 month period of one another.  

Relaxing at his Dobsanville Soweto home he smiles broadly, “I grew up in a close family where we believed in God, and I always knew that one day God would provide a miracle, but I didn’t know how.”

Kwajane was only 12 years old and living in Mareshane, a rural area in Limpopo, when he suddenly lost a great deal of weight and struggled to keep food down. He lay in hospital for two weeks before being transferred to Pretoria’s Rankua Hospital, where he was finally diagnosed with sugar diabetes. For the next two years, doctors couldn’t stabilise his condition, and Kwajane was ill more often than not, missing a few weeks of school every month.

“We had no electricity at home and the only food we could obtain was very expensive.  There were no nearby shops, and it was impossible to get fresh fruit and vegetables which are so important for people with diabetes. I survived on brown bread, meat and pap and very occasionally cabbage.”


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