FOR YOU: A Blank Cheque for the NEW YEAR…

Johannesburg. South Africa

Johannesburg. South Africa

27 Thursday, Johannesburg South Africa.  It’s almost past 6pm, on the 8th floor of the building I work in, the sun comes out casting a bright light across the Johannesburg Sky. It’s one of those things I love about the city of my birth Johannesburg.  As if it never rained. The clouds part revealing luscious green trees framing the brown structures – washed clean from the rain. Purple Jacaranda trees litter the horizon with their purple haze.   It is beautiful here.

All the more reason for us as we move to the new year to resolve to preserve and conserve what we have.  Yes I am a romantic. But I do believe in the triumph of the human spirit, both individually and collectively.

So for you, Johannesburg, South Africa, My country men, here’s  blank cheque for the New Year.

A chance to start over, to believe again, love again, forgive again, trust again, dream again, and care again.

And we can do that, like our ancestors did, collectively they believed in a brighter future – an equal society – they fought long and hard, and even though some days were so dark they couldn’t see the horizon they still believed – they still hoped, they still loved, they still forgave.

Yes 2012 has been hard for us as all :country, a continent and the world. We have another chance in the New Year, to collectively stand up for what we believe in. Stand up for the rights of every one, from the smallest and weakest. That is is where our collective strength is.  United we stand, divided we fall.

I stand with you.

” Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that Generation”.- Nelson Mandela.

Peace and love

 

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

“WE NEED TO TALK” : Of Rape and Rhinos

The Horn (to end Rhino Poaching in South Africa)

The Horn (to end Rhino Poaching in South Africa)

24 Monday, December, 2012.  Johannesburg South Africa.  As I slowly stretched awake for yet another day of work ( do we really have to go? my body complains, yes we do baby, I say. )  my hand automatically reaches for the remote; my thumb knows the drill and it goes searching for the news channels, on the Beeb/ BBC is The Queen in all her Motherly splendor  wishing her subjects well during the festive season. Ah!  now she  has  had a great year!  Celebrations kicked off in earlier in 2011 with the wedding  of Prince William and Kate  Middleton ( ala Prince Charles and Diana 30 years ago) .  This year 2012,  the Queen became only the second British Monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee.  The Royal  Diamond Jubilees  celebrate milestones in a Monarch’s reign. The Queen isn’t the only British Monarch to celebrate a Jubilee, George III and Queen Victoria both celebrated Jubilees during their reigns.  Her Diamond Jubilee saw London stop with much fan fare , what with  various  members of the Royal Family crisscrossing across the commonwealth:

“The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 countries that “support” each other and work together towards  shared goals in democracy and development.   “the commonwealth” is home to two billion citizens of all faiths  and ethnicity  and includes some of the world’s largest, smallest, richest and poorest countries. Over half of its citizens are 25 or under.  Member countries come from six regions: Please do Take Note : Africa (19); Asia (8); the Americas (3); the Caribbean (10); Europe (3); and the South Pacific (11).

Most recent members are: Rwanda – admitted at the 2009 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting; Cameroon; and Mozambique – the first country with no historical or administrative association to the Commonwealth to join.”

British Royals paid visits to each of these voluntary member states conferring the message of the queen (“Thank you for your Services, mineral resources, human capital, your souls).  She really does rule the world.  The Olympics went splendidly for the British Isles she said looking rather pale in a white/silver dress matching hair and make-up and black shoes. She was recording her annual Christmas message, in 3D this time, why not? The pope recently joined Twitter. Oh and she’s expecting a grandchild! Such great news for the Royal family.    This year though, with all this Jubilation going on she couldn’t help herself, attending a cabinet meeting at number 10 Downing street something which hasn’t happened in  over a century!  She’s coming out to play.  And so did some of  the Queens Colonies.  South African President Jacob Zuma was equally Jubilant this year so much to celebrate where shall we start; He got married again this year! One of his sons also tied a knot ;  how lovely! Oh and  his 70th Birthday was  A huge Bash! The ANC celebrated 100 years of its  existence — Jubilation all round, so many parties and so little time! God Must have really smiled on the Zuma family because this year they found more than 200million rands to upgrade their Nkandla  Residence with state of the art security lifts, bunkers, ever-green grass, and a private road to the  their homestead also known as the Presidents  Private Residence.  And then he slaughtered a few prized cows – The Prized Nguni Cow – the best in the world — to ask for more luck from his ancestors ahead of the ANC’s elective conference – and God Smiled at him again. He was re-elected President of the  African National Congress – by majority rule! God does give good gifts indeed.  Our president was having a lot of fun and I wished he could have at least spared a thought for the residents of Lenasia whose homes were razed to the ground two months ago… 80 homes bulldozed: He could have as a good gesture ask his family to at least give them a homes as gifts for Christmas? How about the widows and children of the Men killed in the Marikana Massacre by police for demanding better wages? They could have used a free education? Maybe homes etc as Christmas gifts?  Wine Farm-workers in the Western Cape? Could he have just increased their pay from 50 rand a day to like 200 hundred just for fun? Don’t they deserve a little gift from God?

A woman trying to stop her  house from being Demolished in Lenasia, South of Johannesburg

A woman trying to stop her house from being Demolished in Lenasia, South of Johannesburg

The queen for her part has a penchant for silly extravagance too … why record your message in  3D?  The death of the Australian nurse who shared information about Kate’s pregnancy has almost been forgotten  ” she was stupid” says many royal watchers /fans/ supporters and cynics who followed the story. The nurses’  death was first reported as a mystery then evidence emerged that she had hanged herself.  However tragic I wonder if she was mentioned in Queens Jubilant speech. Skynews – Kate and William break from tradition and celebrate Xmas at Kate’s family home. Ho! ho! ho!.   My thumb moves to Aljazeera there’s a debate about Rape in India! Still ?!!my mind wonders. “Protests over a recent gang rape quickly gained force over the weekend, tapping into longstanding fury against entrenched corruption and lopsided justice, and leading to clashes with the police. ” Reports NDTV.

“Seven days of demonstrations peaked Sunday, as thousands of people joined women’s and students’ groups despite a hastily enacted ban on protesting in New Delhi. The crowds taunted the police and attacked the car of a member of Parliament. The police, in turn, fired tear gas and water cannons, beat protesters with bamboo sticks and arrested dozens.”

Lets compare India’s rape cases to other country’s around the world, says the anchor of the show.  South Africa leads the world with more than 200-thousand- cases of rape being recorded (2010 figures) ,  let’s not forget that a  quarter of the women raped every 17 seconds are  children.

Suddenly I found myself wondering why there is no one protesting on South Africa’s streets. I mean we have enough reason to go out in our numbers like they are in India.   There’s no one protesting on the streets of South Africa. No-one.  These are reported cases of people who actually  bothered to call the police’s bluff and report the violence. But with South Africa’s Justice system being the way it is  many of these don’t even make it to court, those that do hardly any of the perpetrators are caught, sent to trial or convicted.  Eish.  Are so overwhelmed by violence, traumatized de-sensitized by violence that  we marvel at mass protests over one  or two rape ( I at least did) or  worse  even this we don’t  take India’s example. I have to wonder – What’s happening to us?  Lisa Vetten, a senior Researcher from the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Center say people are just overwhelmed.

There’s is this red horn that I have been seeing on cars  recently it’s Huge. I have been wondering what is the horn about…  until it finally  clicked! It’s a campaign to save the Rhino Campaign.

“The Rhinose campaign is aimed at creating awareness and raising funds for three non-profit conservation organisations.  A Rhino has

been killed for its horn every 16 hours this year.

As a result of these worrisome statistics, The Rhinose Day campaign was launched. This is a campaign to raise funds and create awareness and widen the fight against rhino poaching and the false medicinal myths in general.

Rhinose Day is a joint initiative of three non-profit conservation organizations, the Rhino Action Group Effort (RAGE), the Endangered Wildlife Trust and the Rhinose Foundation.”

We should have a joint  initiatives  to fight rape against women, powered with as much money, marketing, publicity, modern technology, education and  technical know how.  We should  have all cabinet ministers,  the presidency and anyone with a voice – shouting loudly – about this atrocity as they are about Rhinos.

Are we not just as worried that at least 227- thousand women are assaulted, raped, injured and killed each year? Scared, mind body and souls  in different stages of  Post Traumatic Stress Disorders ( PTSD),  many of which go untreated?

Today a  33-year-old woman in the Eastern Cape was arrested after she stabbed her boyfriend with a knife on the chest. Here’s how the story was reported:

“Eastern Cape police at Addo have arrested a 33-year-old woman in connection with the murder of her 39-year-old boyfriend. He was stabbed with a knife. Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Marianette Olivier says the couple had an argument in their house at Nomathamsanqa at Addo. Friends stopped the fight and the man left. Shortly afterwards, he returned and again began assaulting his girlfriend – this time with a pick-axe handle. Olivier says the woman then allegedly stabbed him with a knife in the chest. He died on the scene.”

So what are we doing to stop this?  A tiny search on Google on Rhino Killings brings up more than 2 million pages,  from Save the Rhino to the more glittering page of Stop Rhino Poaching Now!  from the pictures one would swear it was a Miss World contest with all the awards that those involved in the industry give each other.

So who cares about the women?  Why is there so much money , time and political will put in to end the atrociously lucrative business of Rhino Horn Poaching and nothing done to prevent rape  against women and children  in the country? Every 17 seconds a woman is raped? How will these girl children become loving caring mothers? What society are we creating?

When will we care enough to have  – “Red Horns”- as a campaign against the  consistent and insistent rape of women , children and the elderly?  I think it’s apt.   Let’s all wear red horns on our heads in protest as against the rape of women and rhinos, why not?  Let’s all pull our resources together –   build safe homes for women and children who have been violated and brutalized, give them  a place to recover and feel safe and empowered. It is really that impossible?  Have door to door campaigns, to speak to men in schools, offices, street corners, cabinet offices, bedrooms…

Or is just too much to ask ? How much has changed since 1960 -1994?

I wonder.

OFF-AIR ! Beyond the Mangaung Date-Line…

South Africa's Top Story of the Year. The man in the green blanket was killed along with 33 other man on the 16 of August 2012. A massacre that has changed the face of SA forever.

South Africa’s Top Story of the Year. The man in the green blanket was killed along with 33 other man on the 16 of August 2012. A massacre that has changed the face of SA forever.

Friday, 21 December.  Johannesburg South Africa.  The  much-anticipated African National Congress ( ANC)’ s 53rd National Executive Council’s  Elective Conference has come to an  end –  with South African President Jacob Zuma still retaining his seat as the conductor of both party and state, flanked by  multi-million rand business man and former scribe of the country’s constitution Cyril Ramaphosa as his right hand man.   And the World didn’t end.

The road (sic) Dateline to Mangaung was an uphill one, even I sometimes doubted that it will come and go without  even a slight  fever from my side.  The real drama happened before Mangaung and I guess by the time the conference got into full swing, people (delegates) were worn, down,out and were so tired that I imagine all secretely wished for it to be over and done with. I mean it was evident in my work place, from lift, to bathroom, canteen and studio.  People sighed, puffed and served with such reluctance I almost felt like a champion for having had the to wait for my breakfast this morning for almost 45 min this morning.  Everyone is tired.

Of course there (are) were those still high on  adrenalin or just pure natural energy who  were still  excited about the goings on of Mangaung,  and gave blow-by-blow accounts of the conference.  There were those who had no choice, whose job it is to inform. There were those working on “other stories” and had to be there to shake hands, make deals, sign contract, see people.

Even the news that the National Prosecution Authority “may have” found the location of Lolo Sono and Siboniso Shabalala,’s bodies  – was very low-key. Fred Bridgland  a veteran foreign correspondent who has spent more than three decades covering African affairs for, among others, Reuters discovered while following up on his book on the incidents around the Mandela United Football Club in the late 1980s, that the bodies of the youths had been found.  Bridgland  told a newspaper that the NPA had located the bodies of Sono and Shabalala, whose  disappearance and deaths were linked to the now  newly elected ANC- NEC, Member Winnie Madikizela Mandela and the  Mandela United Football Club.   Fred Bridgland says he got his information from Dorothy Sono, Lolo Sono’s step mother  who told him that the  The National Prosecuting Authority  (NPA) of South Africa  contact them to advise them  that  Lolo Sono’s  body had been found and that the  exhumation process will happen in the new year when the dust from Mangaung had settled. In response to newspaper headlines the  NPA released the following statement:

The investigations into this case are still ongoing and possible burial sites are still being examined on the basis of recently obtained information. No exact burial sites have yet been confirmed or excavated.

Once excavations and exhumations are planned in this case, the media will be notified and will be invited to attend, as it will be a public process.

The two youth’s disappeared 24 years ago, and their bodies have  up until now not been found.  Winnie Madikizela Mandela and the activities of the Mandela United Football club had their own special public  hearings  during the  country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission back in 1997.  The SABC recorded those hearings – this is a transcript of the recordings read by Johann Vollenhoven:

“Officially, it was called the hearing into the Mandela United Football Club. Unofficially, everyone referred to it as the Winnie hearing. For nine days between November and December 1997, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela faced a battery of journalists in Johannesburg at the Truth Commission’s special hearing. “She created her own vigilante gang” out of the Football Club, said one of her fellow top ANC members. But Madikizela-Mandela, one of the most potent symbols of apartheid resistance, appeared unfazed. Throughout the hearing, she was dressed elegantly, wearing her trademark sunglasses and flashy gold rings .  Witness after witness implicated Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in killings and assaults. Like Nicodemus Sono, who told the Truth Commission that he last saw his badly beaten son, Lolo, in her minibus “

Nicodemus Sono:

“…She raised up her voice. She was speaking very loud, you know: “I cannot leave him with you! He is a spy!” So I tried to plead with her. What she said to the driver, she said she [he] must pull off. So the driver engaged the gears and he pulled off. When I looked at Lolo, he was in a terrible state, he was shaking. I pleaded with her until she said to me: “I’m taking this dog away. The movement will see what to do.” The kombi turned left at the stop street and as it wanted to proceed, I asked Michael [Siyakamela] to please stop…” 

Though Madikizela Mandela refused to accept responsibility for the mysterious disappearance of the two youths the truth commission found that she was somehow involved:

The commission finds that Madikizela-Mandela was involved in Lolo Sono’s abduction and knew that he was kept on her premises,” its report said. “The commission finds, therefore, that Madikizela-Mandela must accept responsibility for the disappearance of Lolo Sono and Siboniso Shabalala.”

The real DRAMA though  happened ahead of Mangaung, and is in my opinion why so many people were too worn out and tired to pay much attention when the ruling party conference eventually got going.   First it was the Spear Painting in which artist Brett Murray depicted South African President Jacob Zuma in a pose reminiscent of  Lenin, with his genitals exposed. The painting triggered a defamation lawsuit by Zuma’s party, theAfrican National Congress (ANC), and was vandalized on 22 May 2012,  by two men one of them a security guard – destroying the “evidence” as it were. The spear was all everyone could talk about for a while in South Africa, from newsrooms, buses taxi’s and in madam’s kitchen bars or beds.  The country was divided along racial (sic) lines or more nuanced fault lines of what constitutes, art, culture, freedom of speech -expression, and respect for one’s elders, traditions etc.  President Jacob Zuma however had come out the victor in this battle as many Africans young and old agreed  that exposing a grown man’s genitalia regardless of what they have done is just – NOT ON.

Then as if out of the blue – the country watched as police opened fire on a group of striking mine workers in the North West,  in what was to become the Marikana Massacre. More than 34 Lonmin mine workers lost their lives on the 16 of  August.  The workers were demanding a 12-thousand-500 rand wage increase.   Then while the sound of bullets going off was still ringing in the public’s ears, the police arrested 280 striking mine workers on charges of murder – for killing their fellow workers, despite the video footage showing the police opening fire at the mine workers.  Then People started to pay attention but not for long.  Later Lonmin agreed to pay its workers their 12 thousand 500 wage demand. President Jacob Zuma lauched the Marikana Commission of Enquiry, set to continue next year, Standard and Poor and several other economic rating agencies downgraded South Africa’s sovereign credit rating .  But by then Miners across the country had gone on strike, some demanding up to 16 thousands rands in wage increases,  even farm workers in the Western Cape’s wine lands  found the strength to say 50 rands a day is barely enough to live.

The strike actions were labelled illegal, wildcat,  and unreasonable. Workers were urged to go back to work or lose their jobs.  No negotiations. Government said it cannot speed up the process o increasing the minimum wage.  Soon after it emerged that President Jacob Zuma spent 247million adding/upgrading his private Nkandla Residence in KwaZulu Natal.  Newspapers reported:  ” A breakdown of spending on the Nkandla compound, which forms part of the public works department’s prestige portfolio, includes R23m for “emergency work”. Other payments include R121m to builders, R2.4m for bulletproof glass, R9.2m for a fence and a payment of R1.9m to a leading international elevator company. President Jacob Zuma – stood in parliament and said the  upgrades were part of “security upliftments” afforded to any presidential residency, and that he had built it in consultation with the Zuma family using the family’s funds.”

Ah well.  Then came the bulldozers  razing homes to the ground in Lenasia, a residential area/town South of Johannesburg.  What for? People asked and wondered.  Their  home had been built illegally on government land ear-market for low-cost housing. The home owners had obtained the stands illegally through the officials in government. The human rights commission – tried – but the government was not breaking the law – the homes, the owners built themselves because they didn’t qualify for free  RDP homes – were also illegal. They were destroyed. Two houses will be were one had been.Compensation. No refunds.

An air-force Army plane crashed on the mountains of the Drakensberg  on its way to Former President Nelson Mandela’s Qunu home for a routine medical check-up. All eleven people on board are killed.  Soon After 94-year-old Madiba is flown to a Private Hospital in Pretoria where he’s been receiving treatment for a recurrent lung infection and an operation for Gallstones.  He is still in hospital though his condition is said to be improving.   Somewhere in between all this  a  researcher from North West University has found that the internal organs of cattle kept in the area around the Wonderfontein Spruit have been contaminated with uranium and cobalt, the Afrikaans  Beeld Newpapwer reported on Tuesday.

David Hamman, in research conducted for his Masters thesis in environmental science, analysed the animals’ kidneys and found that uranium levels were 4,350 times higher than those in a control group.

In his study, titled “A Holistic View on the Impact of Gold and Uranium Mining on the Wonderfontein Spruit”, Hamman found that the cattle were eating grass that grew next to the river.

This proved that the heavy metals bio-accumulated in the grass, Hamman said.

Even then the story didn’t get much notice – everybody was looking forward to their holiday of well deserved Braais (barberque ) and parties, everybody knows  a plate of food is not complete without a piece of meat. No once can take the pleasure of a “Chisanyama” – Burnt Meat (braai/barberque meat) even though it may be infested with Uranium.

Then  Mnikeli Ndabambi from the South African Weather Service said we could not rule Climate Change as the cause of the countries erratic and expected weather patters, such as a tornado in middle of winter or a lack of summer in summer. But Climate Change didn’t make it as a hot top issue  on the ANC’s policy discussions in Mangaung.

You’re predictions are as good as mine when it comes to what the future holds for our beloved rainbow nation or the world.  The African Cup of Nations  will begin in the new year with the country’s Football association SAFA, just recovering from a match fixing scandal.  No matter… the rand has strengthened, the appointment of  business man Cyril Ramaphosa seems to have done the trick in providing  emergency first Aid to the country’s gaping raw wounds.

It’s been a tough year. In my humblest assessment of  things to come this is not the End as so many have  so far predicted, It’s only the beginning.

For now though I’m sure everyone from the country’s top six to the slaving masses of the country, are looking forward to a few days of time spent with family friends and loved ones, with some good food, music and laughter, mostly at the ludicrous events of the year.   Because  when all is said and done, that’s all that matters.

Home sweet home!