SHE WRITES LIKE, AFRICA

 

American writer and civil rights activist James Baldwin once said of writing “You write in order to change the world. If you alter, even by a millimetre, the way people look at reality, then you can change it”.  When I first read those words I added them as footnote in my email account, so that I could never forget.  These words have also served as some kind of an anchor, as if James Baldwin himself was mentoring me from his grave.  And this was just so I could get through the day working as a radio reporter at the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). And not mind you, as a  bona fide  writer, just as someone who was wishing for something more meaningful to come out of her words.  I wrote with hope. Trusting that one day I could be brave enough to do what was an impossible feat for me, become a published, authentic, writer.

These words  stopped me from sinking, from being taken by the winds, however strong, fierce and biting they sometimes were. Even when I had fallen, a million times over, intoxicated by too many conflicting emotions, I  managed to stand again. The  words allowed  me to dream, to imagine that I could one day write something that could change the world. Not always in phenomenal or cataclysmic ways, but in small incremental ways, a millimetre at a time.

Each time I found myself gripped by the cold embrace of fear, wondering why I even imagined that writing is a good idea, when the answers to all my whys were answered in silence, when in the mist of doubt my eyes clouded and seemed to evaporate like a ghost or mythical creature, dismembered from my limbs and core to eventually fade into nothing with the nothings that float endlessly between the air we breathe. When I start to look for another job, or something else which seems less brutal, which does not demand all of me, which does not ask me to always stand stark naked in front of you and expose all that is hidden to the human eye, when I start to search for something more calmer than this vacuous chattering presence of multinational words too frightening to utter, when I start to look for ways to make money profitable, when I start to doubt my intentions, the reasons I write. When I feel blocked, when the noise inside myself is too loud or I am simply left paralysed, unable to string words together or see the significance of anything I do, especially my numerous attempts at writing something worth reading.  I remember that the words I’m about to write don’t have to win a Pulitzer or trend on twitter. Just a millimetre at a time, just one honest word, here or there. A different viewpoint, another  perspective. That’s enough to create change.

 These 26 words.

More than any other words I have read by James Baldwin in all his books and essays stayed with me. I loved their simplicity. Their tenacity. Their ability to make the impossible possible, and the possible impossible. All of these big and small things wrapped in one fluid sentence. I had hoped that I would one day grow up to write words that could be just as profound.  Baldwin’s words gave me a noble reason to continue writing. The answer to my why. They also gave me the how.  “if you can alter, even by a millimetre”, now you have to understand how small a millimetre is compared to the vastness of mother earth:  When that realization dawned on me, I was overcome with a sense of humility. I was humbled  by  my own insignificance. But then he pulls you out of  insignificance in the same line and reminds you again that even in the smallest of actions change is always possible “…if you can alter, even by a milimetre, the way people see reality, then you can change it.” It being the world of course. Baldwin changed my world. When I was about to quit – he said you need just a millimetre, nothing more.  Imagine the power these words contain. They leave no room for doubt or self-flagellating thoughts or narcissistic hallucinations of grandeur. They are in fact – balanced.  Perhaps I felt the same way about these words as mathematicians do when they discover a beautiful equation. Such as the most famous one E=MCsquared.

Just  Ten  Words.

So I thought I had found the most beautiful equation with James Baldwin’s 26 words – until I opened a book by Ghanaian writer Ama Ata Aidoo (74).  Her words were not part of her collection of short stories in a book called “No Sweetness Here”. They were simply a dedication. “For those without whom living would have been almost impossible”. Ten words.  Just. These words were like Joules to me. They opened wide the door of gratitude,  which was so phenomenal it was almost inconceivable for me to imagine that a human – living -being  could have been so  in tune with the source of life, or life force  that they were able to  transmit so much energy in just ten words. The more I meditated on these words, the more gratitude I felt. The more I realized how profound they were. The more I was balled over by gratitude to the known and unknown humans who gave me bread, walked next to me when I was lonely, gave me a shoulder to cry on when I didn’t even know that  I needed one. Every single human, plant and animal that makes it possible for me to live today, to write, to breathe and be whatever. I became less concerned with change and became saturated with an immense sense gratitude for life itself, such as I have never felt before. I was changed in that instant.  Those simple words, ten of them out of a hundred thousand more she has written, were like a beautiful mathematical equation for me. An integer – a sentence complete in itself.

They are African. They are Ubuntu. They are about knowing that nothing and no one can exist without the other(s). They are about connection and energy. Perhaps I do not at this stage, have the tools with which  to transform Ama ata Aidoos’ words into a  beautiful mathematical equation, however, I do think that they are in fact, when viewed philosophically, equivalent to Einsteins’ theory of relativity in which  mass and energy are manifestations of the same thing. She writes atomic words. Four decades of writing reduced to a simple yet profound equation “For those without whom living would have been almost impossible”

I’m surprised she hasn’t won a Nobel Prize for literature.  Words like that can change the world. They’ve certainly changed mine. To say she’s a genius would not be hyperbolic in the least.

Picture Credit: Kobina Graham

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THE RING: DO I HAVE A HUSBAND?

A few weeks ago my sister bought me a ring. A beautiful single diamond ring in lieu of a birthday present. Except that it was not a real diamond. “Just a promise for the real one” she said smiling. I gave her my rehearsed look of scepticism and a smile. She smiled back and said “You know I wore fake diamond rings until I got a real one.”  I put it on and it looked so amazing on my finger. As if that’s where it was meant to be all along. The more I looked at it, the more I was flooded with joy, happiness and contentment. It made me so happy.  The feelings went beyond any intellectual reasoning. It was like finding a favourite pair of shoes or jeans with just the right look and feel.  I started to feel what it must be like to be loved by someone so crazy that they are willing to spend thousands on a piece of charcoal which handled pressure so well that it dazzles the eye. I have a romanticised view of such things. Of course a diamond ring is not the most important indicator of love. Listen here.

BUT IT’S BEAUTIFUL! WE GASPED

“Now I know which ring suits your finger” she said with a conviction which surprised me. We stood there together mesmerized by this shiny little thing in the middle of the shop where we’d gone to get her supplies.  Despite my commitment to being sad, I found myself bubbling with joy inside. I was smiling, from the heart at how ridiculously happy I was just by wearing the damn thing. The more I looked at the ring the more it felt real. There was nothing fake about it on my finger. The more I started to feel like someone who actually deserves to wear one. The more I looked at my finger, the more I thought of all the strain I have been under, the pressure. The more I started to wonder if I, like the diamond will one day look as glorious and hypnotising as a result. I wondered if I could make someone else as happy as I felt in that very moment, just because I exist. Until my three-year-old niece who had been watching me all along got tired of my private smiles and said with a level of authority which belied her age “Jedi, stop looking at your finger!” I who was once a critic of the institution of marriage because of its historical and current transactional nature. I still, felt happy at the thought of being engaged, at being loved. Despite all the  negative things that could, can and have been said about diamonds and their procurement (bloody, conflict ridden, insurgents, poverty, rape, corruption, corrupt governments, politicians, multinationals, starving children, women, men),  and marriage (ownership, slavery, patriarchy etc.) I still loved the sentiment behind all of it.

THE FIRST PROPOSAL

In my adult life I have been fortune enough to receive three marriage proposals which have also led to my cynicism about love and marriage. The first proposal or rather an attempt at a proposal came in small hints, here and there. “You’re my queen” he said. “I want to marry you” he said. “Let’s stay together” he said when I was tired of being alone in the relationship. And then finally “I’m sorry” when he’d shown me that I was not a priority in his life. I was in love with him. I was willing to do the work we needed to do to build a relationship, even though it was daunting. But despite everything I could not stay, because he was not willing, he was not there with me. It took a long time and a lot of courage for me to get over the disappointment but I did. Soon after, I decided that a commitment of love from another person, a man especially, was not something I could reasonably expect. So I took what was available for as long as it was available. I fell in love with a woman. She became my companion, a friend and everything in between. I had no expectations of her to be more than what she was. Until, she was no longer there and then of course I could not continue to be in a relationship with someone who was not there.  I could not admit to myself, that deep-down inside, I wanted more. Prognosis: Married, Separated and soon to be Divorced.

THE SECOND PROPOSAL

Was a dream. I still wake up with feelings of utter love for this man. Ours was a friendship born out of a broken heart and a need for shelter. We shared a lot in common. When we met he was in a relationship, so our interactions were platonic, brotherly and sisterly. We loved each other’s company. He made me laugh. I made him laugh, smile and whistle as he walked up the stairs back from a long day at work. We talked politics, compared notes on stories, listened to music. Hung out with his friends who played soccer video games while I typed away. We lived under the same roof with his brother and sister in law. He made coffee for us before going to work every morning, we had lunch together whenever work allowed, and we had dinner together every night with the family. We gravitated towards each other. I watched him play soccer. We played basketball together, we drove on his motorbike like two people with no worries in the world. We were happy together. One day he went away. And the separation was unbearable. I couldn’t help feeling that I was missing something, he was missing. “I miss you, really” he said in a text later that evening. I missed him too. But it was a different miss. “Really?” I responded my heart flooding with an emotion I had long forgotten exists. When he came back it was fire-works. We fell in love. Then one day while we were out with friends at a concert looking for something to do he asked “If I asked you to marry me, will you?”  I looked at the sand. It was the 12th of May – the night sky was clear – black with only the full moon as light. His friends were trailing behind us. “Are you asking?” I responded. “I want to know what you will say if I were to ask you” he said smiling mischievously.  I laughed. “Ask me” I said. A year later, he asked “Are you ready for forever, with me?”  “Yes” I said. He was Muslim.  His mother called. His family had chosen a wife for him. He must marry her. I would have to convert. There were four other women in the running. I had packed my entire life to be with him. I was scared. We couldn’t work it out. Prognosis: Married. Happily.

THE THIRD PROPOSAL

We worked well together. Telepathic almost. A perfect meeting of minds. He was my intellectual equal. We played mind games. Then heart games which led to soul games. We hardly slept, we stayed up all night working and talking. We stayed up all day talking and working. “I hate goodbyes” he said after the work was done. I kissed him on the cheek, unable to form words, not wanting to break the spell, the complete acceptance and love I felt in his presence. I had a flight to catch. Our first conversation was flawed. I told him everything that was wrong with me. I confessed all my weaknesses, I was broke and broken. I had nothing to lose. The story was more important. I needed to get out of my way. I told him my hopes and dreams. I laughed at my silliness. At my unashamed honesty. He also shared his nakedness. There was no thought of our partnership being more than what it was. I just wanted to be free of all my limitations, to be freely me. Take it or leave it. We continued talking over the phone when we both returned to our separate homes. “I’ve been looking up all the things we can do together when you get here” He said. “I want to visit your library and write” I said. “We have a new beautiful building” he said. “So it’s good that we’re on the same page”. Then without skipping a beat, as if he was asking me if I wanted some more coffee he said “Will you marry me?” I laughed, I couldn’t believe it. “Of course!”  I said unable to think. I didn’t think at all.  Soon after that trip I went to visit my parents and on arrival my mother followed me into my room and right inside the toilet where she watched me curiously while I peed. “Something’s happened tell me!” She said impatiently. “What do you mean?” I asked trying hard to contain my joy. “I have never seen your face like this, not since you were a little girl! Tell me what happened? Are you in love?’ I stood there shocked not quite sure what to say because my mother had never said anything like that before. I smiled. “Yes!” I’m in love, and he’s beautiful and he wants to marry me” I said without shame. “Did you sleep with him?” My mom asked. “no” I said and this time it was true. Then as the weeks went by, he stopped calling, texting, emailing. Until there was nothing left but a deafening silence. Prognosis:  Winning  Awards. In the Forbes List.

DO I HAVE A HUSBAND?

When my sister gave me that ring, I had just come up from a year of mourning. I tried to figure out what I did wrong in all these failed relationships. What could I have done better, who could I have been. I went back to all the people I have  ever loved and tried to evaluate who I had been to them. Most of it I am afraid to admit was not pretty. I had failed. In a million ways, but the one thing which I never failed to do – was to give it my all, my very best and at times to the point of putting myself  and sometimes the other person in harms’ way. Even though my efforts to love may have been inadequate, rudimentary and insufficient at the time, it still was the best I had to give,  all I had to give.

Could I love someone like me?

Could I reasonably expect to be loved? What does love mean? As I went on with my daily life doing what I do while wearing the ring, people; strangers and acquintances started asking me “So who’s the lucky guy?”  Who is the lucky guy indeed, I wondered to myself. Does he even exist? It never occurred to me that someone could think themselves lucky to have me, when it seemed so easy to let me go. When all my yeses spelled goodbye to relationships. Then “where is the lucky guy?” The questions came flooding in and I smiled mysteriously. Should I have said no? Then it occurred to me that it’s not really about the ring. It’s about the person who gives it.  My sister didn’t have to think about whether I deserve one or not. She knows me, she knows all my flaws, my weakness and she still loves me. She still thinks that I’m worth spending time with. I am worth seeing. Worth being with. Worth fighting for. Worth staying with. I am not obsolete to her, I am not a means to an end, a temporary fascination, I’m not passé, I am not a has been, I am forever new. The feelings I felt when I wore that ring, where attached to that knowing. She made me feel special, loved and appreciated. After a while, the ring fell out of my finger. I lost it somewhere. I missed it and what it represented. I wanted to buy one for myself, not to pretend that I was engaged when I am not or to pretend that I am in a relationship with someone  when I am most certainly not in one. To behave like this would be the  stuff of genuises like  John Nash. No, I wanted to buy  one for myself because I wanted to give myself something beautiful.

Illogical Beauty. Incalculable. 

I have to  remind myself of course that  love is not about rings or any material thing including power and ownership. It’s about being vulnerable. Being open. Being there. Choosing to stay there. Every single day. It’s about showing up. It’s a choice. It’s about what you do. It’s free and freeing. It’s also  about the material, the physical, the present, its transcendental. It’s everything. It’s what we know and don’t know.  Without love most actions are empty, void and  vacuous, not matter how elaborate or expensive. The ring my sister bought me was exactly R20 (about two dollars), it was a fake diamond ring. But it made me feel like a million dollars.   Each time I looked at it, it reminded me of her. Of what she thinks and feels about me. She thinks I am precious. She thinks I’m worthy. She loves me. I love her.  It was a reminder of a love that has been there for me since the beginning of our time.  The love I now recognise in myself, even when I’m behaving badly. A kind of love that is essentially priceless and infinate. A love that is,  with or without a husband.  Or a ring for that matter. Prognosis:  To be confirmed.

“love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope” – Maya Angelou

FIRE AT SEA: AND YET TO YOU, EVERYTHING SEEMS NORMAL

It was literally  hard for me speak or to articulate my feelings after watching the opening film for the 2016 European Film Festival (06-15 May 2016) in Johannesburg: Fuocoammare/Fire at Sea by Gianfranco Rosi.  All I remember are the involuntary tears which streamed down my face undisturbed.

After my friend who had invited me out for the night asked what I thought of the movie. The documentary in fact. I pondered for a moment and thought it best to focus on the fact that I had had the rare opportunity to take my new black number out for a ride. I enjoyed posing for a picture or two and saying hello to one or two old faces and stealing looks at a guy I’ve had a crush on for nearly three years. He looked perfectly handsome in black. Our deal was settled, he was seeing someone, in a relationship in fact. But was flattered none the less that I had asked him out on a date. The chocolate brownies were good too.

What else can I say?

In 2014 and 2015 I spent a lot of time reading, writing and ranting to my parents, sister and brother at home about the state of the world. My mother begged me to look at the positive side of life. My father said I should calm down. My sister said I will lose my hair if I’m not careful. My brother just smiled.  I was enraged. I wrote about it. I woke them up to read my scribblings, disturbed dinner time with talk of politics.  With what was going on in the world. My mother said don’t watch the news. My father said keep yourself informed. I re-read all the history books my father had ordered from “readers digest”, in my teens. I read all the self-help books I could find. I read books on Algebra, on managing your finances, on how to become rich and be a successful human being. I read novels in isiZulu, in Sepedi. Believing that somehow there was  something I had missed. I even read the Bible. A daily devotional, to save my soul from being corrupted by thoughts of injustice and inequality. I washed windows, cleaned cupboards, tried my hand at cooking, swept the driveway, and organized the garage, went on shopping trips with my mom, created a competition for myself: can I mop my parents’ house – all four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a lounge, dining room and kitchen, on my hands and knees in an hour? I watched romantic movies with my sister during scheduled load-shedding periods, chopped onions, green peppers, carrots and cabbage for her when she was cooking. I started dreaming of love, of finding a husband, of getting married and having babies and living happily ever after, anything to supress the volcano which was raging inside me, threating to spill its molten lava on everything that I had built.

It was not until I stumbled on Kenyan Prof Ali Mazruis’ documentary series, The Africans,  that I found a resting place for all my angst. At least here, was someone who could articulate most of my rage in fluent, measured English. He was not emotioanl. I transcribed  parts of “Tools of exploitation” for myself and for posterity. It was all I could do to alleviate a deep sense of frustration. This act of re-writing word for word  Prof Ali Mazruis beautiful narrative helped me deposit all my complicated feelings about slavery, about being African, in Africa and our collective strange relationship with our former colonisers.

A long standing love to hate relationship.

It was around this time that the largest exodus of Africans (an estimated one million poeple) seeking refuge and economic in freedom from Africa to Europe since the slave trade unfolded on our screens. I watched Aljezeera’s reports with awe.  Thousands upon thousands of people, say refugees: principally from Libya, Eritrea, Somalia and others from West African countries were risking life  and limb to cross the oceans for what they believed would be a better life than what they had at home. Their first stop Italy. Many boats sunk at sea snuffing hundreds of lights with them. Others were turned away, still others were rescued. Europe seemed to suffer from the most unimaginable bout of amnesia, and it was keeping me awake at night. They were all collectively scrambling to find ways to protect their borders from alien invasions. They spoke of their right to sovereignty, to protect the integrity of their borders. They all seemed rather surprised that this flood was  taking place to begin with, I mean what do these people want?

Indeed they had nothing to do with it.

How can you not get angry? And if you do what’s the point? So this year, I find myself periodically standing in front of people who know it all, people we’d like to call “Born-Frees”  or the youth. It is only with the benefit of hindsight that these past two years are beginning to make sense to me. It was being prepared to teach. To show others the way. Preparing them for the actual real world, as it is, not as advertised. One of them complained saying “But Miss J, why are you always harping on about politics! It’s so depressing! Can we read something else please??”  I smiled wryly and replied that ” you can read something else in your own time”.

Yet, in my heart of hearts I hope all this effort is worth it.

In my own ‘free” time and for sheer entertainment I find myself, inside these make-shift boats. Re-living my trip to Gore Island, standing at the door of no return facing the endless Atlantic Ocean – Destination –America! Or anywhere but here! I can’t believe it. Not even the creators of the film Amistad could have imagined a real life re-incarnation or replay of events as they were then, today. And to top it all off, it is all perfectly “voluntary” departures, they are illigal. The  west is,  in all is different manifestations like  the biblical character  of Pontius Pilate, who washed his hands with impunity at the face of injustice..

The Italians were at the coalface – forced by geography  to intervene, even if they would, actually, rather not. It’s  dangerous business; rescuing refugees. Many of them are dying from dehydration or suffer from second degree burns from being exposed to leaking gas in the boats, there are infectous diseases, wailing women and dazed  hungry children. We don’t have to wonder anymore how life must have been like in those  slave boats. This time the slaves pay up to 1000 US dollars to be shipwrecked.  Even so, the lives of  the community in the small italian island of Lampedusa continue undisturbed, almost untouched by the desperation – which is killing more than just black bodies. It is drowning all of their hopes and dreams. At least they  died trying or survived to face an uncertain future in hostile European countries.  No one can place a price on freedom and dare I say it “happiness”, it’s expensive and can only be afforded by those brave enough to face death, eye ball to eye ball.

And to this, there’s nothing to say.

The film itself is well done. Slow and meditative, beautiful, a work of art. Black lives, their death, suffering, pain, anguish, hope and resillience, continue to form the backdrop for the the quiet ideal world of the main character Samuel and his boyish fantasies and dreams. That’s just how it is. A group of women dressed in  black like me, walked out of the cinema before the movie was over, enraged. I stayed till the very end.

Not even I can solve the worlds’ problems. They are what they are.

Perhaps the best way I can describe my feelings, the state of our world, is from a lover’s perspective. Since that seems to be my forte. I can describe my feelings through the story of a  woman (because this is what I am currently)/person who has been ruthlessly pursued for decades only to be discarded like chewing gum after it’s lost its sweetness, when she finally says – yes! Josh Grobans’ Oceano sung in Italian (see English translation below) encapsulates this political quagmire ever so poetically:  You can listen here too. One can only hope that in time we can live to tell a different story. But for now…

It’s raining on the ocean

It’s raining on the ocean

It’s raining on my identity

Lightning on the ocean

Lightning on the ocean

Glimpses of luminosity

Maybe here in America

The winds of the Pacific

will discover her immensity

My hands grasp

Distant dreams

And my thoughts run to you

I row, I tremble, I feel

Deep and dark abysses

It’s for the love I’d give you

It’s for the love that you don’t know

You make me feel shipwrecked

It’s for the love that I have

It’s for the love that I want

It’s for this suffering

And this love I have for you

That makes me overcome these real storms

Waves on the ocean

Waves on the ocean

That will gently calm

My hands grasp

Distant dreams

It’s your breath that breathes on me

I row, I tremble, I feel

The wind deep in my heart

It’s for the love I’d have for you

That makes me overcome a thousand storms

It’s for the love I’d give you

It’s for the love that I want

On this sea

It’s for the life that is not

You make me feel shipwrecked

Deep in my heart

All this you would have

and yet to you, everything seems normal.

 

Pictured:  Fire at Sea film director  Gianfranco Rosi and Samuel the main character in the ducumentary  pose for pictures at the Berlin Film Festival.

THE RIGHT TO CONQUER: SENZENI NA?

Perhaps this week we shall attempt to reveal ourselves. To stop living behind carefully constructed words even as they are painstakingly considered. Let us for a change try something rather radical. Honesty. Let’s be honest about who we are so that we can build a meaningful relationship.  We know now that it is an open secret – a secret everybody well knows. But so that we are all on the same page. So that we are all understanding the same words from the same hymn book even if we dare not sing that awfully tedious powerless song…

Senzeni Na? What have we done?

The question still remains. What have we done? This time however the question is not from victims clothed in the blanket of a moral higher ground. Righteousness.  Black victims of haphazard, thoughtless violence perpetuated by the machinery of the Apartheid government. It is not a cry of helpless individuals trapped under the well soled Veldskoene of a prepubescent child. It is instead much like the crazed, bewildered dry wide eyes of a mother who has just discovered by some mysterious turn of the wheel of fortune that she has somehow unintentionally  killed her own off-spring, sold them off to the highest bidder in a valiant attempt to love and protect them.

What have we, in fact, done?

“There is no future here” says a woman in a taxi travelling from Norwood to the city of Johannesburg. “Our children are hooked on the pill, there’s no life. All they ask for is two rands so that they can get the pill, from the Nigerians. Everybody knows it’s the Nigerians, but when violence breaks out, people attack the Somali traders as if they’re the ones who’ve introduced this pill to the community. The Somalians are good to us, they help us even buy food on loan, they are helping the community. But we are too afraid to tell Nigerians to stop, instead we attack the very people who are helping us, because they are weaker. We are not against foreigners. But someone has to say something about the drug problem. Look” She says pointing to the bridge filled to the brim with soiled blankets used by the homeless to sleep. “Johannesburg has become an open bedroom. Everywhere you look there are people sleeping, wasting away under the bright light of the sun? Who is going to lead our country in the future? What is going to happen to us?” She asks to a quiet audience in the taxi. No one has the answers.

 Senzeni Na? What is our only sin now?

We all know the Hym no? After a few repetitious lines the hymn goes on: our only sin is being black. Is this still our only sin? “They’ve given us a chance” says a prominent Johannesburg artist “White people have given us a chance to change our future and we have failed. Now they are coming back in and taking over. What have we done in the past 22 years? What have we achieved? I don’t blame white people for taking over” He says pointing at the well-lit street in the not so newly gentrified Maboneng district. “What have we achieved? The politicians know that they have failed, which is why they allow developments like this one to take place to make it look like they are doing something when they are not. Paul Mashatile (former Gauteng Premier of Gauteng) and others is in on this game, they have shares in what’s going on in Maboneng”.  So if this is what we think…

Who has the right to conquer, who, now?

The same artist later tells me of an incident involving Kenney Kunene, you know that guy. He’s famous for a party he once hosted in which his patron were treated to Sushi served on well carved female bodies. That one. He approached him one day, when he was still a public supporter (or literal founder) of the newly minted political party, yes the new red: The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), this after his own attempt at launching a party failed. The story goes that Kenny Kunene was referred to “said” artist by another former member of the EFF who shall remain nameless.  Kunene wanted to commission the artist to do a painting similar to “The Spear” by Brett Murray in order to humiliate the former leader of the DA Helen Zille for 80 thousand rand. His motivation to the artist was this: they (EFF) needed to defend uBaba, another name for the current president of the country, Jacob Zuma. This of course was before both Kenny and  the unnamed former EFF member fell out with the EFF. The painting never materialized

Senzeni:  What is a Negotiated Settlement?

As far as we know the EFF and the ANC are on polar opposites of the power spectrum. One party has it, the other wants it. The ANC won’t just give in. So the EFF is threatening to take it by force.  The EFF has promised that once it gets the power it needs it will take back the land. The question is: from who?

This is somewhat reminiscent of the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA 1 and 2) between the ANC and the National Party and the subsequent Multi Party Negotiations in ’93 which led to the elections.  Did the ANC not receive its share of the loot?  Did we not sign power sharing agreements then? Did we not formally sell our land on the dotted line then?  Why is it that when we talk about the economy of South Africa we always say dejectedly that it is still in the hands of a white minority? Why is this still the case? Kanti what were we negotiating for back then? Who will fix that? The EFF? Was this not fixed back in ’90s already?

 What we have done:  The Sunset Clauses.

Last year, former president Thabo Mbeki explained to a group of school children that the ANC  offered sunset clauses ( a measure within a statuteregulation or other law that provides that the law shall cease to have effect after a specific date, unless further legislative action is taken to extend the law. Most laws do not have sunset clauses and therefore remain in force indefinitely, except under systems in which desuetude applies) to the National Party.  In it, it was agreed that political parties that got 10% and above in the 1994 elections would form part of the government of national unity as to avoid a winner-takes-all situation, but also to ease the NP’s loss of power. Was that all that was negotiated for nearly a decade if not more? The sunset clauses seem to have been the opposite of what we were told they were about. The inverse of popular opinions. Perhaps it was a 20 year “free-styling” period, after which the status quo shall resume.Otherwise how do you explain the ANC? The EFF? The DA? How do you explain these parties? They don’t make sense to me.

See, I think history is repeating itself – and unfortunately it seems “we” have been  hoodwinked into believing we have  conquered.

Pherphas we should change this old anti-apartheid hymn to something more current. Perhaps we should try to honestly answer this question: Senzani Na?

What are we doing?