US Mission South Africa: FS Employee Christopher Bates Dead in Jo’burg

Various press outlets reported the death of a USG employee in Johannesburg, South Africa on Sunday.  Today, the embassy spokesperson Jack Hillmeyer confirmed the death and identified the deceased:

The U.S. Embassy confirms the death of Consulate General Johannesburg employee Christopher “Norm” Bates on January 13, 2013.  Bates has been assigned as the Information Management Officer at Consulate Johannesburg since 2010.  He was an 11 year employee of the Department of State and had previously served at U.S. embassies in Senegal, Kenya, and Lesotho.

The circumstances surrounding his death are being investigated by the South African Police.  The State Department’s Diplomatic security staff is cooperating with the police investigation.

We are saddened by the loss of our colleague and friend.  Our thoughts go out to his family and loved ones.

Local news cited Gauteng police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini saying that the consulate employee was seen driving into Oxford Gardens on Oxford Road in Illovo with a 29-year-old woman at about 3am.  The woman was later alleged to have a knife in her hand and the victim stabbed on the upper body.  The consulate employee was reported to have died at the scene and the woman was arrested by local police.

The US Mission in South Africa includes approximately 310 U.S. and 560 locally engaged staff employed by 28 U.S. Government departments and agencies. In addition to the Embassy in Pretoria, we have Consulate Generals in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.

We will update if we learn more.


State Dept Wants You to Join the Foreign Service — Start Now So You’re on Board on/about 2015

The 12:35 minute video features Secretary Clinton, US Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney, US Ambassador to Haiti Pamela White, a management analyst from the Foreign Service Institute giving a tour of the pretend jail at FSI, and several officers who may or may not be entry level officers on their first or second tours.

The video above came with a 1:16 minute trailer and the following media note:

As part of an effort to continue to attract smart, dynamic, capable people into the Foreign Service, the Department of State is releasing a new one-minute trailer and an accompanying short video that showcases the faces and stories of the amazing men and women who have helped make the world a better place through a career in the Foreign Service.

The video is meant to inspire and promote participation in American diplomacy through joining the Foreign Service. Through compelling stories and powerful imagery, the film aims to educate and engage Americans on the incredible career opportunities available in the Foreign Service.

As Secretary Clinton says, “The challenges of the 21st century offer something for everyone in the Foreign Service and they also demand a wide range of skills and experience…we need you now.”

The Foreign Service represents the United States around the world and provides the opportunity to experience cultures, customs and people of different nations in a career truly unlike any other. In this constantly changing world, we want to continue to recruit adaptable, resourceful, intelligent, and innovative strategic-thinkers, from diverse educational, geographic and cultural backgrounds.

If that sounds like what you’re looking for – sign up now at

The video is meant to inspire, as they say, so it does not mention the timeline on the hiring process (still about two years) or the challenges for dual-income families reduced to one when the accompanying spouse is unable to find work overseas.   It’s a recruitment video, so that’s understandable. But perhaps the most glaring omission of all — out of about a dozen officers featured in this video, did you see anyone shown working in the danger zones of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan?  Other than that, the video is a nice showcase.

To help the film educate Americans, below are some related posts from former FSO now Gadling columnist, Dave Seminara. Do not/not skip the “How To Avoid Posts Where You Might Get Eaten Alive.” That seems important.

Here is also a must-read piece by retired FSO Peter Van Buren who underwent quite a bit of beard shaving and shunning in the aftermath of the publication of his book, We Meant Well:

And just to be clear — Papua New Guinea now only has one tribe, the Korowai (numbering about 3,000) reported to practice ritual cannibalism.  They do not/not live anywhere near the US Embassy compound in Port Moresby. So that should make you feel better….

In any case, we are not in the business to encourage or discourage anyone from joining the Foreign Service. What we will say is that the Foreign Service is not for everyone.  You can have the best times of your lives, you can have the worst times of your lives.  Not one or the other at all times.  So if you join, make sure you got a Plan B … because stuff happens.

One of the saddest people we’ve encountered is a mid-level employee with kids, a mortgage, and nowhere to go but stay put even when the FS has lost its sparkle.  As Yoda would probably say in a galaxy far, far away – having more than one option, success is.  Good luck!

domani spero sig