Wedding season is fast approaching for those in  the Northern Hemisphere and since my head is often in the clouds I have been thinking about the subject of romantic love and the related concept of “just knowing’.   I am always interested in love narratives, why people decide to get married and to their partners, how they met, why it worked out or didn’t work out once they’re divorced. I find even the most clinical arrangements interesting and when there is no one to probe or if couples are cagey about details, I look to my own string of failed attempts at relationships and try to be objective about the reasons why they didn’t work out. Especially when most of them are now beginning to fill my Facebook timeline with pictures of their married and paired up lives in what seems like loving and healthy relationships.  In my digging and probing, I am actually searching for that illusive “I just know” moment.

All the couples I have asked about how they knew that their partner was the one they were willing to commit a sizable portion of their lives to, the answer has always been and without exception “we just knew”. This answer has been nagging me for years, how do you “just know” something like that?  I have had many instances in my life when I could have said  “I just knew” but since I am single,   I must have clearly missed something really important.  My mother and I laughed till our bellies were sore and the potjie on the stove almost turned into coals this weekend when we watched Ugandan comedienne Kansiime Annes’ skit, in which she took matters into her own hands and proposed that her partner of five years upgrade her to the status of fiance right there and then on a night out at a restaurant. She brought the ring, wine glasses and a bottle of wine for the décor and a happy smile with giggles to complete the mood while her partner remained perplexed. The clip was a follow-up to another skit where she had to literally position herself at the door for the man of her dreams to notice her and even then he had to be thoroughly persuaded.

Later in the evening I showed my father the proposal video which made him laugh and after we were tired from laughing I asked my father how he knew.  He replied and said you guessed it: “you just know”.

There it is again, none of the couples seem able to offer an explanation or elaborate  further on just how they “know” exactly. To put salt to the wound they say these words “just know” with such a mysterious  sense of self-satisfaction, it makes me feel as  if I’ve been left out of the world’s biggest secrete. How do all these people “just know” something so important and I don’t?

So I decided to change the question a little since I was not making progress with the how question. I asked my father “when do you know or more specifically when do men know?” I must admit I didn’t expect the answer to this question. “The first day you meet the girl” he replied. The first day? I was incredulous, I thought that maybe one would know after three months or so but on the first day? How do you know anything on the first day? I was shocked to say the least. “Yes” my father replied calmly hiding a smile. ” You know on the first day and the rest of the time you’re just confirming what you know or making preparations or arrangements to get married” he said moving the food on his plate methodically.” Really?” I repeated just to be sure I heard right, now all my failed relationships made sense, everything made sense in a new and fresh way, a new feeling swept over me… complete relief. “If a guy hasn’t proposed or talked about marriage within a few weeks or three to six months of meeting you, then they’re still not sure” He said diplomatically. But I knew what he meant.“when they know they have met the one they want to marry, they don’t waste time” he said.

So this is most probably the most useful piece of information on love and romance I have ever received in my life. I wondered to myself why I didn’t ask him sooner. I lamented all the wasted time with people who knew from day one that I was not what they wanted. At the same time I thought this is wonderful news, finally I have confirmation. There’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.  If a person knows that they want you “forever” on the first day read: day one that they meet you there’s very little you can do about it, except to say yes or no once they ask.   Of course I have observed that men  especially and women for that matter can and will do and say just about anything to get what they want. So if he’s decided you’re his wife ( because that’s already decided the first day you meet) he won’t let anything or anyone stop him except of course, you.

So while this is enlightening it still doesn’t answer my all-important how question. How do you know if someone is the right one for you? All my  13 years of “dating research” corroborate my father’s statement. He’s right. I have seen people I’ve liked make a bee line for my friends as if I didn’t’ exist. Or seem to show interest in me one day and then introduce me to their fiancé’s the next.   This has led me to one conclusion.

You arrive at a place of “just knowing” when you know yourself, when you fully accept all about you good and bad. Once you know who you are, what you want and where you want to go in life then you’ll “just know” when you meet someone who is right for you.  And the odds are you’ll probably be, as I am now, the last one to know about it.




My fellow Africans.

Many of us are reeling, we are feeling broken and unsure of just how or where to start processing the recent month-long attacks against African citizens in South Africa. The latest spate of violence has created a continent-wide chain reaction against citizens of South Africa in an ugly tit for tat war of words which is pouring salt into the already open and gaping wounds littering our beloved continent. My body. We are all bleeding, some more than others. There is no justification. No mitigating factor or extenuating circumstance for this.   This has been a flash of anger and hatred which has been hard to bear, and has sent many of us  convulsing into waves of anguish, weakened by ancient sorrows.

Yes there is poverty, but poverty is not new. Unemployment is not a new phenomenon to hit South Africa, nor is a lack of resources. These are not unheard of phenomena in mineral rich Africa. The texture of these recent attacks has an other-worldly feel,  something close to an out-of-body experience which  has left even the most ardent supporters of  (South)Africa with sand in their mouths.  It is as if we’re all in a collective dream, a nightmare which our forefathers could not have dreamed or imagined possible even while they preached and advocated for African Unity.  Today on the podiums of social and news media, radio, television and government there is no voice that clearly captures the nascent hopelessness which these attacks have embossed on our aching souls. There’s a kind of madness, an insanity which no reason can rationalize. It is like a wild-fire that only gains momentum, power and strength with every drop of water thrown at it.   There is so much anger, bitterness, grief, agony and frustration. We have become like hungry lions and lionesses feeding off of our own offspring, digging deeper and deeper into the raw and fresh rare wounds in our hearts, leaving no space or room to heal. And we must heal.

We are drunk with grief, high with sadness, intoxicated with fatigue. We can no longer see, hear or speak clearly. Everything we say is like venom, poison, administered from a place of  searing pain and unending agony and distress. We are outstretched, spread thin everywhere and any more pressure or negative energy will see us snapping,  tearing  each other apart or boiling over because there is no one well enough in the house  to see that all is not well. Everyone is hurting.

It is not just South Africa it is  Nigeria, Somalia, Namibia, Mozambique, Guinea, Kenya, Egypt, Zimbabwe; all 54 of us are in pain. We can’t eat, we can’t sleep, we can’t rest. Everything is aching, everywhere is war. Day and night have become a long and unending nightmare,  a dream within a dream within a dream, with each dream becoming worse than the last.

You see I know this, Africa, because you are my body. My heart is in the east, and one rib in the west so are my lungs and breasts,  my belly is in central Africa, my head is in the north, my legs and feet in the south, you are me. Whichever part of you hurts, hurts me too. I carry you in my veins, in my skin, and my sweat. You are everything to me and I am your everything too. I walk like you, talk like you, do everything as you do because we are one.

The current backlash against SA seems to me like a person whose foot has been badly hurt and instead of putting it in a cast and letting it heal, he becomes angry with himself, punishes himself and inflicts more pain on the very foot by stabbing it with a knife, exacerbating the damage to the point of amputation.

Nothing will replace that foot.  Some South Africans have done wrong: so our solution is to take bread from  the mouths of children and send them off to starve  and be  drugged into worse crazed futures,  so that we can prove a point.  A point that we all know is true.  An undisputed fact. What has happened in South Africa is wrong. Nothing can be said to make it right or acceptable. All we can say is this:

We are sorry, from the depths of everything I am. On behalf of my country and countrymen. Unequivocally. Sorry.

We are still young and we have thought for a while that we knew everything. We have failed to consult and ask you, our elders to guide us into adulthood. We thought we had it figured out and yes for a while you  too were indeed very proud of us, and the progress we were making and as a result abdicated your responsibility for leadership.  The truth is we are still hurting and now that you can see just how much we still have to learn please don’t let go. Don’t abdicate your responsibilities now. We still don’t know what it means to be African, some of us don’t even know that we are African to begin with.  You have seen us kill each other brutally with no reason. In your anger you have laughed and called us names instead of stepping in and giving us guidance.  You have been  free for decades more than we have. Help us deal with this. Lift us up from our fallen state, because you can not walk without us.  And we cannot breathe without you.  We are one body. We thought we could handle all the responsibility of taking Africa forward, but in reality, it is too much. Help us and  lighten our load. We cannot do it on our own.  I am not blaming you for what has happened, I am trying to  illustrate just how much we need you now.

This is a critical, defining and historic moment for Africa, and for us all. How we choose to address this issue, this wound now, today, will determine our future.  What future do we want for Africa?

The last thing we need is to be isolated and ex-communicated from each other.  Because no matter where we go in the world we carry Africa in us and with us. Though we’ve tried to escape her woes many times and  in boat loads from all corners of the continent, we have taken her with us. Her joys and sorrows have been permanently etched on our foreheads.

Africa. She decides our fate.

This is the time for us to join hands in unity and fight to stay alive together.  From South to North, East and West. We need to hold on to each other now. We need to keep talking to each other until the words we speak become medicine to our wounds, until it stops hurting.  This is the time for us to stay together anyway we can  and weather the storm.  I know that we are strong enough, brave enough but most of all, I know that we have enough love in our hearts to heal recent hurts. Let’s draw strength from those who’ve come before us. Let’s draw strength from what we have already overcome. I know we have enough love to build a better future for our children.  I know that we can change.  We have everything we need to make us work.

The answer to our current problems is an unwavering commitment to one another, to African Unity. A commitment to face our challenges head on and together.  It is time to focus on us, Africa. It is time for a mutual commitment to go directly to the root cause of our problems, no matter what they are and stand together committed to solving them. We’ve tried doing things apart and  “Independently” before. We’ve all gone our own separate ways at different times and it has not worked. All we have achieved is slow progress with heightened strife and more pain. It’s time to commit.  Now is the moment our forefathers dreamt of. Now is the time to show unity in the face of opposition like we have never done before. Now is the time to break without exception all the boarders in our hearts and minds and  occupy  our land in peace.  Let us free ourselves now and let love in. It is the only way. We are an amazing and beautiful people, who deserve love, peace and harmony in our  daily lives.  We need to remain committed to one another, remain committed to loving each other. We need to commit to peace now anyway and no matter what, because that’s the only way any of us will survive.

I commit to you wholeheartedly and without reservation. I pledge my love for you now and forever. Because you and I, are one mind, body and soul. Africa is one and indivisible. No matter what.

Thank you.


A love poem to a sister I once knew.

She was an artist just like you

and I

A storyteller.

A fellow traveler in this journey called life.

With hopes and dreams which she weaved and

Crocheted  into multi-coloured hats and scarves.

Their  imperfections  perfect against the biting Johannesburg winter.

Ever smiling.  Warmly as if  you were sunshine.

The gaps on her teeth revealed a soft spoken, pink  tongue of a poet.

Whose voice could not reach beyond her shadow.

You had tea with her.

Maybe shared a beer, a smoke.

She showed you her wares

You bought a hat, a scarf.

Out of pity

You promised to pay


Forgetting  that she too needed to eat.

Just like you

Yet she smiled and said Okay.

Next time my brother. Next time my sister.

Before I forget.

She was Petronella.

A daughter of educated travelers

Who moved as ancient nomads

From country to country

Until they found a place among us.

Yes she is that lady.

The free spirit.

The one  who lived in  Soweto

Afraid to stay alone – in an empty house

While neighbours watched her

Every move.

And stole from her the minute she was gone.

She was the lone storyteller.

Who hitched-hiked and organized lifts to attend your show

your exhibition opening.

She walked through perilous Johannesburg nights

Criss-crossing the city

to attend your gig and dance to your music.

She’s the one that asked for a place to lay her head

For just one night.

For the love of Art.

With you she was among friends.

at home.

Because that is where she could sell her  warmth

Share her wisdom and  hear your stories.

Before we forget.

Her name was Petronella.

You didn’t even notice that she was there.

Yet she loved you.


It is perhaps a little ironic that the statue of Cecil John Rhodes should fall or more aptly be removed from its pedestal in the same week that South African journalist, writer and cultural activist Peter Makurube passed on. As the University of Cape Town students staged protests on campus grounds demanding that #RhodesMustfall, I was busy writing a proposal applying for the second time for the annual Ruth First Journalism Fellowship hosted and adjudicated by Wits University.  Applicants for the fellowship were required to write a one page research proposal on how conversations about race in the country have progressed.  While I kept one eye on the racial bigotry disguised as debates making headlines on all major news media outlets and resulted in the suspension of SABC Newsroom Anchor presenter Eben Jensen for losing his cool while interviewing an EFF member of parliament on the same issue, I attempted to do the impossible and write a compelling one page proposal on race relations in South Africa with the other. In another corner of the same universe Bra Peter as he was affectionately known by those who knew him, was struggling to breathe. You may be wondering just now how these three seemingly unrelated events are connected.   It was never my intention to comment or write about the #RhodesMustfall campaign here.  I was hoping that my thoughts on the subject would find their voice through a public lecture at Wits University after becoming the recipient of the 2015 Ruth First Fellowship.  My aim was to begin the conversation where it ended with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and work my way to where we are today.   The TRC hearings were meant to promote reconciliation and forgiveness among perpetrators and victims of Apartheid by the full disclosure of the truth.  Perhaps the dismantling and removal of the symbolic and concrete structures of Apartheid should have been part of the recommendations and actions taken back when the idea of freedom was still fresh and real to our minds.  But my quest to achieve this failed as I sat at our dinner table and listened while my sister read to me yet another thank you rejection email. I went on Facebook to seek some relief for my bruised ego only to be met with rest in peace acronyms with Bra Peter’s name next to them. It always seems like just the other day we were together debating how to get out of this mess we find ourselves in in this  country,  when most of us can’t even afford to keep a roof over heads let alone afford to pay for our own funerals if we were to die today. It was 2013. The year I had a one on one conversation with God for two months isolated in a foreign country, the year I ended up sleeping on Johannesburg’s streets after a close friend chased me out of their home at 3am in the morning without prior warning. It was the year I tasted real poverty not only of material things, but of hope. It was a year I discovered the continuation of the dual mandate which informs South Africa’s economic policy, a policy which has left most of Africa and Africans quenched. When I saw he was gone I was speechless but had no intention of writing about him. I didn’t know him very well. But the last time we were together he said ” keep writing”. We were both up in the middle of the night, I on my laptop writing and he with his papers in the kitchen. He made me coffee.  It was the first time I had a silent conversation with him. We were both trying to stay alive in our own way. So here I am, still writing. I had long known about the legend of Bra Peter Makurube. All the artists living in Beryl Court, Troyville told me about him every chance they got when I moved in there years ago.” A prolific journalist who once worked for the Mail&Guardian who lives on the top floor of the building, in a corner flat”. I was a young radio reporter working for the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) at the time. We never met in all the years I lived in Beryl Court, he remained an elusive character for many years until some years later when a friend suggested I show him my writing. I was shocked by the mere suggestion because I had written not a single word. But I was more amused by the fact that people assumed I was a writer in the literary sense of the word when all I was doing every day was writing radio news  and current affairs scripts. Though I harboured a desire to make the transition – to one day write a book as my predecessor Antjie Krog did, following her teams’ award winning coverage of the TRC hearings for the SABC. Even though I wanted to write a book on the TRC from a different perspective, I had written nothing then. So I avoided him. This solitary, lone figure, always dressed in dark, black clothes, his hair kept short in loose unintentional dreadlocks, chewing on a match stick or with a cigarette in hand.  He had a serious countenance with creased lines on his face so that he looked as if he was permanently in the depths of deep, formidable and life changing thought.  To tell the truth I was afraid of him, intimidated by his very presence.  I knew that he was someone way above my league. He was not my peer. And by extension he was someone whose respect and time one had to earn. And one night in 2013 through mutual friends I found I had earned enough respect to be in his company.  To share however minimally stories of our common struggle. I was disarmed by his gentleness, by his kindness which occupied his internal space just as easily  and as comfortably as his defiant, angry, spirit.  I didn’t know how the two could co-exist peacefully but in him they did.  At times I observed that he had  so much more to say, so much more to share but found no place worthy of his mind, there was no place to  hold him,  his words and ideas away from the cold  piercing sun of  a Johannesburg winter.  I heard him listening, intently to us the younger generation as we tried to make sense of our new South Africa. He had been there before. In the 20 years of our democracy we had not saved up enough reserves either because we did not have enough to save or because we thought we didn’t need to, but our resources were running out. The façade of a rainbow nation was starting to crack, revealing the truth of the state of our nation. The invisible signs of apartheid had been removed by law. But South Africans still remained chained in their minds. We were caught unawares. Some of us believed the myth of a rainbow nation and acted as people who were free would, some of us knew a new nation will take years and a conscious persistent effort to rewire our minds, still some of us were knee deep in the muddy past trying to resolve and or conclude past puzzles abandoned in the euphoria of the morning sun. Most of us though had no idea how to combine the past and present to create a future we want to live in. His thoughts on the current systems of oppression were disparaging. Perhaps this is why he has remained on the very edge of  the cultural discourse in South Africa, perhaps this is why his views were unpopular and maybe too risky for the establishment. But he found a way to remain relevant in the public’s mind and provided a platform for hungry young minds and old souls to express their divergent views on the state of the nation in poetry and performance at the popular  Monday Blues sessions held in Melville, Johannesburg for a while there was excitement in the air.  They were always packed. The point is Cecil John Rhodes’ statue may have fallen, but his ideas still stand tall and prominently in the hearts and minds of millions of his black and white students who occupy positions of power and leadership in academia, government, economic, social and cultural sectors of our society.  Students who still believe and use western ideas and culture as the gold standard for progress and development despite evidence to the contrary.  It is a dangerous dogma that dresses itself up as progressive forward thinking policies.  But with the independence of Zaire came the fall of King Leopold the II’s statue which occupied a prominent yet despised place in the minds of the people. But its removal did not result in peace. It birthed the formidable character of Mabutu Seseseko, whose fall from grace also saw everything he had built during his totalitarian presidency vandalized. Yet these actions however empowering and symbolic in the moment did not result in the destruction of both King Leopold the II and Mabutu Seseseko’s  legacy of insane brutality.  The people forgot to also change their minds, their language, their writing, their thinking so that all the dismantling of the physical structures – however symbolic and necessary – had left no lasting positive material changes of any significance in the lives of the citizens of the DRC, a country which has struggled to remain stable since the assassination of its first Prime minister Patrice Lumumba.  Regardless of who is the target of our current wrath or who we blame for our lack of progress, it is not the statue of Cecil John Rhodes that is attacking African foreign migrants in Durban KwaZulu Natal and other parts of the country. It is not the statue of Cecil John Rhodes that is in government today. Whatever change we are able to attain in the moment will not last unless we change our minds about who we are and who we want to be, and then be prepared work and stand for it. I mourn for Bra Peter Makurube today not because he  died, but because we could not hold him. Because we let him go with his archive of knowledge, history, and experience. We didn’t value him enough to give him a place in our collective table to share what we had with him to make what we had larger and richer.  I mourn for him because he is not here to place a bandage over the wounds of indoctrination, to make the fall of a concrete figure meaningful. His voice is not here to speak its own brand of reason, of truth to help us heal in all the ways and in all the places we never thought were wounded. Perhaps the worst of what the oppressive governments have done is to make us blind to each other. To see no value in another human being or their particular struggle. I mourn bra Peter because I can find no place to read him and share him. I mourn because right now I think his voice would make sense. I mourn because we are in such a state as this. Perhaps it is indeed true that one cannot dismantle the master’s house using the master’s tools. Yet since this is our house why aren’t we building? On that last and same night we spent together a group of us talked about money and what we would do with it if we suddenly had lots of it. Some of us said we’d buy land and build our  own homes, plant our own food. He said he would pull together all the city’s emerging artists and have a massive cultural festival where artists were paid what  they are  worth. I suppose in some ways, in a small but meaningful way, tonight his dream will come true. “They thought they buried us,  but little did they know that we were seeds” Mexican Proverb. Long Live Bra Peter. Thank you for holding me.

Picture Credit: Muntu Vilakazi


I have been thinking about Kenya as I am sure  have you, even though it may have been for just one fleeting moment. Indeed being a journalist the first thought that crossed by mind ( in fact always crosses my mind  when any story breaks ) when I saw the breaking story on the BBC world news headlines early Thursday morning was to rush to the airport  board the next plane to Kenya and start filing stories immediately. Since it was not possible to hop into a plane at that very moment, I started to think deeply about Kenya. I entered a place of meditation. I began to search my soul for the answers. I began to page through my memory book in the hope that I could find some piece of evidence, missing link, a clue, some piece of new or undiscovered information that could make this all fit logically into an equation we could all calculate and arrive  at the same answer. During my internal investigation I was hoping to find a piece of luminosity in this large stew of blood, tears, grief and tragedy. My thoughts first went to the obvious. The Easter weekend; celebrated by both Orthodox Jews and Christians. The Jews call it Passover and it  is a commemoration of a biblical event  when God freed the Jews from their life of slavery in Egypt. He inflicted 10 plagues on Egypt the last one being the slaughter of all of Egypt’s’ first born children. Before doing that the lord instructed  the Israelites/Jews to mark their homes with the blood of a spring lamb so that the Spirit of the lords  would pass over their homes.  Christians also mark the death of Jesus Christ on the cross and his subsequent resurrections during Easter.  While these Judeo-christian holiday celebrations may explain the timing of the attacks,  these parallels however are counter-productive and do not contribute meaningfully to the political stand-off. Religious references in this case will only serve to en-flame an already volatile situation. So I had to look somewhere else. I began yet again to  ask  myself how I  could write differently about a story which is being covered from every possible angle by all the major news networks around the world? What new information could I reveal about the situation in Kenya from my laptop in South Africa? What do I know about Kenyan politics, history and the events and contexts which have brought this and many other terrorists attacks  to the country since the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Nairobi and  Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The reasons for the 1998 attacks and those on the 2nd of April are not very different even though the organizations orchestrating them are. All of the terrorist attacks have been motivated by revenge and are connected by four countries; The United States, Somalia, Sudan and Kenya.  The latter paying the price for it’s  role as a broker and  go-between. But everyone knows about east-African regional politics and the global Jihadist movement. What more can I offer to the general conversation. The more I stayed with the question, the more I delved deeper into my own personal archives in search of something more interesting and relevant, a piece of new information. While in the midst of my thoughts a startling fact revealed itself to me.  At first I could not believe it you see, because the truth is often so unbelievably simple, you often continue to search for the answer even after it has been laid bare  for you. The more I tried to search for what I consider to be an intelligent, erudite and lucid analysis of current events in Kenya, the more it became apparent to me that the story I needed to tell about Kenya was not a political one.   The story I am meant to write has nothing to do with terrorism, death, Al-Qaeda or Al-Shabaab.

The first time I traveled to Kenya was in 2002. It was my maiden trip to a foreign country and my first flight ever. I was glad to be travelling in company with a friend and colleague MG, who made the experience so much more enjoyable.  I was young, fresh and eager to absorb the newness of a new country and city.  We had been invited by the United Nations Development Agency (UNDP) for a  reporting workshop.  But all  I  and our my colleagues wanted was to break out of the conference walls and experience the city and its people who were infinitely more interesting than the workshop.  We did eventually find our way to the market place where MG was forced to literally hold my hand through the human traffic lest I be swept away by  waves of people moving like the sea in all directions.  My head was spinning just as fast. I found everything  interesting, my curiosity was inflamed by the sights,  sounds and smells of the city. It was a new form of  intoxication one that I had never experienced before but I knew for sure I could never get enough of.  It was a drunken rush of  new experiences to my head. I wanted take it all in. Asante Sana. Jambo. Saying Hello and Thank you had never been so exhilarating. I looked forward to any and every opportunity of saying Asante, sana.    I was inspired by the infinite possibilities of learning a new language. I wanted to stay.

It was such a heady experience all I managed to do in lieu of work while there was to take a sound recording of the city in the hope that one day the sounds could take shape and become words which I could one day use to return to that place over and over again.  It was a silent interaction,  where I did the listening.  I never once wrote a story. This is a first.

I fell in love with the African continent in Kenya. I fell in love with life.

My second trip to Kenya was to visit a friend and colleague and pursue what I thought was a promising romantic prospect.   I was not prepared for the loving warm reception I would receive from my friends’s friends.  We danced like crazy, ate and laughed the weekend away. I was cloaked in-love from head to toe. All my frantic search for something new, for new facts and information have led me back to where I started in the first place.

My quest to write something led me to the very same conclusion that I reached the first time I arrived in Kenya. Words were not necessary.

The one thing I know about Kenya is that love lives there.  It is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen. 1917248_720063085777_2353745_n