THE SILENCE OF NKOSAZANA DLAMINI ZUMA: IS SHE OUR HILLARY CLINTON?

I have been a long distance admirer of Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the current chairperson of the African Union (AU) commission. I have admired in particular her resilience and yes, her  acute silence over the years. Someone once wrote a flattering opinion piece about her in the City Press. A formidable character made even larger by an unshakable cloak of mystery which seemed to consistently shield her from any controversy. We don’t know much about this woman who some of us had hoped would one day take over the leadership of the country and become South Africa’s first female president.  But then again, perhaps we do know a lot about her.   A trained medical doctor from KwaZulu Natal  she met the current president Jacob Zuma  while working at a government hospital in Swaziland together they had  four children one boy and  three daughters one of whom, Gugulethu  graced our screens as Lesego Moloi in the once popular local soap Isidingo. Their 16 year long marriage ended in 1998.

Faction Before Blood

Before she is the president’s former wife however she has held her own in the political corridors of South Africa, becoming an active  underground member of the ANC and deputy president of the South African Students Organization in the 70’s, then she became the  minister of health during  the first  non-racial democratically elected government of South Africa under Nelson Mandela’s presidency in 1994  which would later put her right in the eye of the HIV/AIDS awareness storm, in which the public protector called her out on irregularities in the financing of the play, Sarafina II. Then former president Thabo Mbeki removed this hot potato from her burnt  fingers  when he took office and handed it over to the late health minister Manto Shabalala Msimang who held on to it until her death on December 16th in 2009.

Hands free and still a little soft Thabo Mbeki moved her to head up the then ministry of Foreign Affairs (International Relations and Corporation), a position which seemed to fit her like a glove – and where she showed her mettle as a formidable leader and negotiator, helping Mbeki launch his African Renaissance dream in the form of the New Partnership for Africa’s development (NEPAD) which put him at logger heads with former Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wades’ OMEGA,plan for African Development. Wade conceded  defeat and elected to erect on his own behalf  a towering statue in the same name (The African Renaissance Monument) before being unceremoniously deposed from power in 2012 by his former ally, confidant and protégé, Macky Sall.

After President Jacob Zuma did a “Macky Sall” on President Mbeki, he ironically moved his former wife “back home” to head up the department of home affairs (domestic affairs) in 2009, I had a chance to meet her. At a conference at Gallagher estate in Midrand. I was the only reporter I knew on the story and I needed a quick interview with someone big.  Our paths had never met until that moment and I was quite surprised to find that she was much more demure and  much more petit that this towering figure of strength which I had so often seen projected on my Television screen each time I watched the news.

Human Nature

She was also quite soft-spoken in person and much kinder and gentler than I had ever imagined she would be. I was as always terrified of asking (her) for an interview, but since I was quite desperate for a sound bite I bit my fear and did the job. I can’t remember what the interview was about but I do remember being struck by her, I wished she had more time in that moment for a relaxed conversation about life. But as always she was in a hurry and I had to graciously make way.

I was struck by her stature, she was so cute I could hug her.

I had long been curious about her and the African National Congress Women’s league – but my fascination with her as an individual grew even larger after our brief encounter. I started to think about her more than I’d care to think about any politician. I wondered a lot about her person, her relationship with the President. Her silence on issues which were important for women – the nation.

I became so curious I decided the only way to learn about who Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma really is would be to write about her, to study her life. Which I thought while salivating would make for a riveting read. After years of thinking about her, I finally decided to make a call to her media person, at a time when her name was a strong contender for the upcoming presidential elections. I called the man and he asked if the book I wanted to write was going to say she must be president, I said no. I want to write a book about who she is and not an ANC campaign. He said I was joking. And I thought I might as well be, I was indeed an innocent in a den of hyenas.  Soon after, a vociferous campaign for her to take up the African Union Chairmanship made Ethiopia so inviting.  I wondered how I could get through the cruel chains which the Ethiopian government had woven against independent journalists (bloggers) in that country. Some are still serving life sentences for treason.  Without some institutional support my ambitions however noble could end in tears behind bars. So I watched her disappear into the thin horizon of the Promised Land. I kissed her and all the money I could have made with her goodbye!

Today I find myself thinking of her again. From a very different context – there’s something very interesting that’s happening, something curious. She’s still silent. And her silence has permeated the soil of rural KZN so much so that mini volcanoes are threatening to erupt on women’s faces, right there on their foreheads. They are tired of the deafening silences.

So if you are reading this Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and you think it’s time to talk about life, my memory of  words that were never uttered or spoken is still in excellent, peak condition. You can always deny everything since you will not have uttered a single word. But you and I will both know that the truth about who you are and what it takes to be you will be out there releasing a million more tongues from chains of mental and physical oppression, in  languages we are yet to conceive. I am almost certain that like our once beloved unofficial first lady of a free and democratic South Africa Winnie Madikizela Mandela, no one will judge you for it. Whatever it, is.

SA ELECTION 2014: THE CLOSER YOU LOOK, THE LESS YOU SEE.

SA ELECTION 2014: THE CLOSER YOU LOOK, THE LESS YOU SEE.

IEC National Results Centre Pretoria. Pic Demotix.com

IEC National Results Centre Pretoria. Pic Demotix.com

“ The floor plan for this place looks like a trading floor” one  newspaper journalist remarked. We looked around with renewed eyes and yes it did!  He had just come out for a break from doing spread sheets calculating which party is likely to get seats in parliament after the IEC had concluded its “mathematical calculation to allocate seats, a two stage process.”   There are left over seats? “Yes but you can’t use words like that, you have to be careful with how you word this practice – I wanted to say you can “buy” votes but  my newspaper would not allow it. It would be wrong to say that. All that you see on the board amounts to 400 seats in parliament, and the “left-over-seats” will be allocated to parties who are closer to the 45 thousands votes needed for the them to get a seat in parliament, so for example, though AGANG didn’t do that well they might end up having a three seats in parliament according to my calculations.”  He said. I asked the IEC guy in charge of doing the actual calculations to explain the mathematical equation to me. His eyes were bloodshot and he looked extremely tired, he didn’t want to be recorded. “It’s a mathematical calculation” he said as if expecting me to turn away. “We calculate according to decimal points. You know a decimal point… so if a party gets x amount point something, the figure after the point we go by the highest number after he decimal point, x point 6 is higher than x point two for example and we do that in stages” He said. So it’s possible that my vote for a smaller party could end up being allocated to another party in this rotational mathematical calculation system? “No, no that’s not how it works, be patient we’ll give you a press statement, today if you’re lucky” he said walking away. I was still none the wiser.  But here’s the formula, which happens in two stages:

CAN YOU TRANSLATE WORDS INTO NUMBERS?

The Seats in each province are apportioned according to the largest remainder method. In each region, a quota of votes per seat is determined by dividing the total number of votes cast in the region by the number of regional seats, plus one (the IEC determines the number of seats allocated to each province before the election). The result plus one, disregarding fractions, becomes the quota of votes per seat for the region.  To determine how many seats each party will receive in the region, its total number of votes is divided by the quota of votes per seat. This will produce a whole number, which is the number of seats initially allocated by the party, and a surplus. Once this calculation is performed, the sum of allocated seats is obtained. It this total is smaller than the number of regional seats, unallocated seats are awarded to the parties according to the descending order of their remainders. The seat distributions from all provinces are aggregated at the national level to obtain the number regional lists seats allocated to each party.”

THE SECOND STAGE: THE LOTTO

This stage begins with the proportional distribution of all 400 seats in the national Assembly. A quota of votes per seat is determined by dividing the total number of seats in the National assembly, plus one. The result, plus one, disregarding fractions, becomes the quota of votes per seat. To determine the number of seats each party will receive, its total number of votes is divided by the quota of votes per seat. This will produce a whole number, which is the number of seats initially allocated to the party and a surplus. Once this calculation is performed for all parties, the sum of allocated seats is obtained. If this is smaller than the number of seats in the National assembly, unallocated seats in the National Assembly are awarded to the parties according to a descending order of their remainders, up to a maximum of five seats. Any remaining seats are awarded to the parties following the descending order of their average number of votes per allocated seats.  The regional list seats are then subtracted from the total number of seats allocated to that party list, and the remaining seats are filled by the candidates on the national list in the order determined before the election. In the event a party does not present a national list, the seats allocated to it at the national level are filled from its regional lists.

DENUMERACY

“wow” I exclaimed feeling my brain expanding for the first time since I arrived at the IEC National Results Operation Center – “so it’s like gambling” I said, feeling instantly wide awake.  Yes agreed the newspaper journalist “it is”, “in fact” he added “it’s pretty much how corporate shares work, that’s why it’s often hard to for companies to know who gets what and it’s all about rounding it off the next 1000.” I had never heard it explained that way before. “So does that make the process more or less democratic?”

Well it depends said the newspaper guy, for one : smaller parties with 1 to 7 members can’t have a presence in all 53 parliamentary committees which meet on an almost daily basis. And they are more often than not out-voted. Yes their objections will be duly noted but it will not change the outcome of a vote if there is a cohort. You have to be strategic about how you use the parliamentary process in order to be effective.  You have to choose which committee you are likely to be most effective in or have the most impact. When it comes to voting bills into law (one of the jobs of Members of Parliament is to legislate) The DA for example employs various strategies. Thursday is the most important day in parliament, that’s the day when most bills are voted in, and it’s also the day when MPs from other regions want to go home early (for the weekend), so many of them are already on their way out, if 200 ANC MPs go home, and the DA is left with a 100 members who stayed they can in effect vote a bill into parliament or walk-out to delay the process if there is not cohort. Not all parliamentary members need to be in, you must have at least 200 cohorts’ votes for a bill to be voted into law. It’s a tricky game but I love it. From his description it sounded a bit like being back in school or university except this time you re not judged on personal merit but on the political party you belong to. But I guess it’s all the same.

“HISTORY IS A SET OF LIES AGREED UPON” Napoleon  Bonaparte

So there you have it, democracy (majority rule) in a nutshell from a journalist who has been doing this job for 13 years.  This conversation left me animated, so infused renewed understanding I wished I had met him five days before the elections.  It left me wondering what an “actual” multi-party “democracy”, or more or less equal distribution of diverse voices (political parties) and opinions in parliament would look like. If you had five seats per party for example, laws might take longer to be enacted, but would it on the other hand make the process fairer? And more importantly could it still be defined as a democracy? Did you know that political analysts  are yet to agree on what democracy means. The word originates from the late 16th century. From the Greek words demos (people) + Kratia (power/rule) =  Demokratia, which was became the word democratie in French and gave us Democracy in English. Searching for meaning? There is no “majority” in the word democracy. People is plural, but you only need one more person (plus one) to have the word people. Meaning people with power will always rule. How? Power is attractive, people will  vote for someone who  has the means to do something. i.e If one household has  electricity/telephone in the whole village – the majority will automatically vote for them.  When everyone has electricity, then voting becomes about who has more houses with  power. What I got from it? I understood Democracy as a vehicle for capitalism in the same way that Christianity or organized religion is a vehicle for capitalism) No wonder the ANC calls itself a broad church. No church pays taxes, only church goers do and that’s not a moral judgment, it is  just how the system works. The way it is.It’s either you buy into it or you don’t.Does it makes sense? I sure hope so.

DEAR SOUTH AFRICA: PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA IS YOUR CREATION.  

South African President Jacob Zuma.

South African President Jacob Zuma.

Dear Mr President...

There are many people wishing to write open letters to register their discontent with the state of the nation which South African President Jacob Zuma represents. In fact there are a few enraged open letters to the president making their rounds on the web as we speak, there are many letters of people with broken hearts about the new democracy, people who feel betrayed by the ANC, the struggle and  this and that. Radio and television personality Gareth Cliff’s wrote his and it was published this week, so has poet Nsiki Mazwaai. Still many have intimated that they are largely disappointed with the kind of political discourse populating South African Media these days. All of it they say, is just too polite. No one has so far spoken with conviction and authority regarding the state of the nation or the (un)suitability of Mr Jacob Zuma as a leader or President. Any other self-respecting President in any other country would have resigned following the damning report by the Public Protector Thuli Mandonsela (who by the way many of you have commended her on her ‘bravery” – I will expand on this concept later) you say.  Here’s the thing: President Jacob Zuma represents you and I. He is the symbol of South Africa. And by South African I don’t mean the country’s beautiful landscapes and nature. I mean people, you, human beings who call themselves South Africans by birth, marriage, ancestry or choice. He is the towering glowing example of who we are as a nation. He embodies our present day character, values, principles, our abilities, our hopes and dreams, flaws, leadership abilities, decision making abilities etc. President Jacob Zuma is you and I South Africa. We cannot conveniently distance ourselves from him and this truth. Yes, he is responsible in part for the state of our nation, but we are all ultimately responsible for what Zuma is or as some erroneously believe has become. We created him and the current state of our nation. President Jacob Zuma encapsulates what it means to be a South African today, he exemplifies the character of the majority of the country’s citizenry if not all. In other words we are all complicit in the Nkandla/Rape/Corruption scandals surrounding the President whether we choose to acknowledge this fact or not.

PRESIDENT ZUMA IS RIGHT: IT’S NOT HIS FAULT

The truth is: when we went to the polls in 2009 to elect a new president we knew the calibre of President Jacob Zuma. He was unapologetic in his much publicized rape trial about his decision to have consensual sex (in his words) with his best friend’s HIV positive daughter. Though he apologized – his words rang hallow as the complainant was assaulted and vilified by hundreds of men and women outside the Johannesburg high court, while he danced and sang bring me back me my machine gun. The courts accepted his version of events and so did the nation. We accepted this. Even when his financial advisor and close friend Shabir Shaik was convicted of corruption in a case which implicated the president with corruption which led to his dismissal as the deputy president of the country, we agreed with the courts’ not guilty verdict. We went to the polls and put an x next to his face on the ballot accepting him as our leader with without conditions – for better or worse. Once president we accepted the prisons version that Shabir Shaik was terminally ill and allowed him to be released from prison barely serving his ten-year prison sentence. We agreed with the president’s version of events. The presidents’ comments on Africa also reflect popular opinions among many of us, “let them go back to their countries – what are they doing here?” think Xenophobia 2008. Then came Gupta-gate   and now Nkandla. We never took to the streets in protest, we never called for the president to step down, account or be impeached. We sat and watched shook our heads and said such is politics and such is life and went on with our daily lives. We did nothing and therefore we are by all accounts and purposes  complicit.

WHY THE SILENCE ?

Because we are the same – we act and behave in our own private lives just like our dear president  does in public for all to see. We all want the good life, we all engage in corruption and support corrupt activities and organizations in our daily lives, we give and take bribes. We accept things we know we shouldn’t. We all want to drive expensive cars, live the lavish life, eat sushi on naked bodies, we all want to live in palaces and be kings of our respective Nkandla’s. We all are greedy, we want more and more, more irrespective of who suffers. We all want to do as little work as possible and get the highest reward for doing nothing. We force ourselves on women in private, we engage in risky sexual activities i.e. have sex without condoms. We all cheat on our partners, have multiple concurrent relationships, given the chance we’d all have many, many, many wives. We all just want to party, dance and have a good time while those who serve us starve. We all don’t want to accept responsibility for our actions. It’s not our fault that others live in poverty, it’s not our fault that we have friends in high places who can give us tenders, jobs, cut-backs, after all that’s what the struggle was about. We all aspire to be Jacob Zuma’s in our own lives. It’s not our fault that we have money and can buy justice and fund corruption. If we do not actively participate in  corrupt acts  we turn a blind eye to them, “it’s none of our business” we say. We remain silent. Why do we expect President Zuma to be any different from us? Why should he accept responsibility and take the high and noble road when we are not willing to risk positions of power and privilege for the same principles we expect President Jacob Zuma to uphold? Why should he stand for truth, justice, fairness when we do everything in our power to protect our lies /lives at all costs? We have remained silent because we are guilty of the same offense. We have remained silent because ultimately we also want the power he has. We want to do the same things we accuse him of doing  with impunity.

President Jacob Zuma never lied. He has remained consistent through-out his term in office. Doing everything that we knew he was capable of doing since he was elected as president: as promised. We cannot pretend we didn’t know who he was, we cannot say he changed – he has stayed true to himself.  When will you be true? Stop blaming the President for doing what you elected him to do. It truly is not his fault. The same goes for Oscar Prestorious, he represents all of us.

Public Protector Thuli Mandonsela was not brave, she did what any true friend would do, tell the truth without fear.

To thy own self be true. If you don’t like something change it.

It begins with you and I.

2014 ELECTIONS, ARE WE READY LADIES?

MURDER, SHE WROTE: Please indulge me as I take on the character of my all time favourite detective , Jessica Fletcher in Murder she wrote.  Google it if you’re not in your 30’s yet.

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Well I must admit my surprise at not having read anything  lamenting the  “gender” imbalances  in this year’s list of  Presidential candidates for the 2014 South African  National  General Multiparty Democratic  “sigh”  Elections.  This I surmise  is due to one of  two  factors. Either I haven’t consulted Google enough in past few months or we have all suddenly just relaxed about the whole  “gender equality”  thing. More  especially since there are many pressing issues which need our urgent attention in this here election; Nkandla, Oscar, 20 years of Democracy, service delivery protests  et al. Ah perhaps it is indeed a good sign, we have a  good story to tell. We don’t  need to harp on about the lack of  women in key  leadership positions anymore. More and more women in South Africa enjoy  numerous positions of leadership/ power in all structures of government,  including the private sector. Why…even the KwaZulu Natal Provincial  {ANC} Politics are being fought under the guise of increasing  gender  equality at the highest level.  The incumbent  Premier Senzo Mchunu, must make way post- elections  for a female Premier to step in his shoes in the province. It’s about time, party insiders proposed , besides it’s  never happened before.

INTRODUCING…. THE FOUR LEADING  LADIES.

1. HELEN  ZILLE: I  STIR THE POT  JUST LIKE ANY OTHER AFRICAN WOMAN” 

DA Leader and Western Cape Province Premier, Helen Zille. Election Campaign 2014.

DA Leader and Western Cape Province Premier, Helen Zille. Election Campaign 2014.

Current Premier of  the Western Cape Province and the Democratic Alliance Presidential Candidate for this election,  Helen Zille is a front-runner by a few kilometers in this election  marathon.  The 63-year-old former journalist has been in the game of politics long enough to convince two former fire brand, out spoken, fiercely independent women politicians  such as  Independent Democrat Leader Patricia De Lille  and Agang leader Mamphela  Ramphele to sleep with  her.  De lille  is now the Mayor of Cape Town with a “drug problem”.  Ramphele  on the other hand quickly reneged on her decision to be the DA’ s Presidential Candidate. Actually this story was very confusing for me, but one can see how for  a moment the two let their feelings for each other get in the way of good business.   In the early 1970’s  while Zille  was working as a journalist for the Rand Daily Mail she exposed the truth behind the death of  black Consciousness leader, Steven Bantu Biko; Mamphela Ramphele’s boyfriend and “soul-mate”.  So one can cautiously  assume  that life long  bonds must have been formed between  the two women at the time. And this merger in light of this history and current context of SA politics would make sense – a perfect tit for tat. So one is left with two reasons in attempts to explain why it didn’t work out. a) They tried but the souffle crumbled before  it even got out of the oven – both women probably can’t cook to save their lives  in all honesty OR b)the merger and later divorce was planned. Perhaps it was an elaborate  publicity stunt from the very beginning to pump up media coverage for both parties who were at the time drowning under the giant black green and gold wave of the ANC. If  it was – it was simply brilliant. The two had the media practically eating out of their hands and wiping their palms clean with long salivating tongues. Which brings me to this picture. Possibly my all time favourite picture of Hellen Zille. This picture startled me at first. Then later it brought to mind similar images of  independent  Presidential candidate and fashion designer Diouma Diakhaté Dieng of Senegal in 2012, in traditional dress moving laboriously like Zille over large  pots of rice, to prove to skeptical Senegalese voters during her Televised Election campaign that she is “woman enough” for the hot seat. She can cook, sew, look fabulous and still do politics. Many Senegalese men laughed at her- she’s not serious – they said. I find it funny that women still don’t feel good enough… being kept only in the bedroom, kitchen and boardroom they want to be everywhere. No one ever asked a male candidate to prove  they can cook,   let alone drive  a car.  But even street smart, intelligent, talented , powerful  women in the form of  Zille and Dieng –  still need  to prove that they can cook in order to win votes. Even if  it’s not a cooking competition! What I like about Zille most though  is her incredible sense of humour. The things she does just makes one smile .  DA staff must be the happiest to  come up with such amazingly creative strategies to get media attention.  I admire people with a sense of humour, it’s very, very attractive.  .

MAMPHELA RAMPHELE:   I AM  IN TOUCH WITH  THE ANCESTORS”

AGANG leader Mamphele    Ramphele announcing her entry into formal politics to her ancestors. 2013

AGANG leader Mamphela Ramphele announcing her entry into formal politics to her ancestors. 2013

When sophisticated business  woman, former World Bank Chief Executive and Former Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town  Mamphela Ramphele announced  that she was starting a political party I must admit, a smile spread across my heart I  was happy. The party would be called “AGANG” a seSotho  doing word (present continuous verb) which directs listeners  ( because it is a  plural verb) to simply BUILD.   Yes we must build and not destroy.  Though many who are well versed in the art of politics found her unoriginal she was to me a breath of fresh sense in the midst of stale perfumes. I could at least listen to this, she  didn’t automatically switch off  all my vital signs. Besides we shared something in common, a love for books. Her tome ” Laying Ghosts to Rest ” was published at the right time in 2008 and provided  me with some solace during a very turbulent time in South African politics. She has a lot going for her this 66-year-old former black consciousness leader.  But when I saw this picture of her going to  her parents grave site, I thought wow, she really brought something new to the table here. It’s common knowledge that many black South African’s consult their ancestors before embarking on  life changing  projects, to inform them  as it were. And this is done symbolically by visiting the grave-sites of  said loved ones. I thought she was brave to publicly reveal her ‘belief in ancestors” in that way – especially because most educated Africans while they may practice this in private,  would not  publicly admit to it as many are also  Christians (Muslims) who are forbidden to acknowledge their ancestors ever existed. This was a brilliant decision on her part because it brought her closer to the black majority – ordinary Selaeo or  Makgathi.  Suddenly what blacks did in private was not so private anymore, people could say ” sorry I can’t do it today, I have an appointment with my grandfather at the cemetery”.  The party gained momentum until the climax of the public marriage and divorce with the DA.  Suddenly Shakespeare’s 116 sonnet comes to mind ” Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments,  love is not love which alters when it alteration finds….or bends with the remover to remove. Oh no! it is an ever fixed-mark that looks on tempest and is never shaken…”  Following this shaky episode Mamphela was on every prime-time news show in the country, explaining why she dropped Hellen Zille  at the alter. But what I found to be an interesting by-product of the fall out was that  Ramphela  could finally put a highly annoying issue to rest. Teach the nation how to correctly write and pronounce her name. The nation  had been secretly struggling to pronounce her name, even black Africans where finding it hard to get it right. Mam phela Ram phele,  M-a-m-p-h-e–l-a  R-a m p h e-l-e she repeated on  screens across of the country’s major news outlets.  I found myself repeating her name under my breath too, Mamphela Ramphele, promising myself never to forget the meaning of a name.

3. ZANELE  kaMAGWAZA MSIBI:  ” I AM  A SHOULDER TO CRY ON”

National Freedom Party Leader; Zanele KaMagwaza Msibi, comforting a grieving mother. KwaMashu 2014

National Freedom Party Leader; Zanele KaMagwaza Msibi, comforting a grieving mother. KwaMashu 2014

The sweetheart of KwaZulu Natal Politics. What I love most about kaMagwaza-Msibi is her smile so wide and beautiful it reminds me of Julia Roberts in the iconic Hollywood blockbuster movie “Pretty Woman”.  Her smile is so disarming, relaxing she is a very nice warm, friendly and approachable person….as a result… everyone(i spoke to about her) sings her praises, she is an amazing leader, truly gifted.   Her profile on Wikipedea is very brief:**** Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi is the (NFP) and Mayor of Zululand District Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and President of the National Freedom Party (NFP). She was formerly chairperson of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the IFP’s candidate for Premier of KwaZulu-Natal in the 2009 general election.****

Her public break up with IFP leader MangoSothu Buthelezi was more than just rough, it was bloody violent. kaMagwaza Msibi is Popular,  she enjoys a lot of support among men (especially) and women in the province of KwaZulu Natal. I tried to speak to Mr Buthelezi about it  during lunch one Sunday afternoon, when suddenly a thick  wall of ice appeared between us, I could barely make out his face which was centimeters away from mine. ” I don’t trust anything she says” he quivered his temperature obliterating  the thick fog  to reveal eyes glistening with  hurt.  I didn’t know which side  to look after that. The IFP  has also publicly expressed its belief that kaMagwaza Msibi is in bed with the  ANC. They(NFP &  ANC) currently share a coalition government in Zululand where kaMagwaza Msibi enjoys overwhelming support and is the incumbent mayor. ANC party insiders love kaMagwaza-Msibi   and have  intimated on more than one occasion that the party is seriously courting her in its quest to finally gain complete control of the province.  Yet she is playing hard to get.  But the mutual attraction between the two parties was  more than an apparent during a Multiparty Prayer meeting in KwaMashu. The women there were so over joyed my collegue kept looking at me and saying ” yo these women are happy ne” to see kaMagwaza Msibi amongst ANC leaders on the podium to lead them to prayer. But they completely lost their minds ( as did kaMagwaza Msibi) at the sight of former Police Minister and ANC national executive member  Bheki Cele. Women ran to the front danced and swayed, shook their bottoms and raised their arms to embrace and pull Cele to the “religious” dance floor.  I must say I have never seen a reception like that before, not even for the country’s President Jacob Zuma, admittedly I have not attended enough of his political events.   kaMaGwaza- Msibi herself  couldn’t contain her infectious smile,  glancing at Cele every five minutes. Once prayer was out they quickly  huddled together like magnets laughing and giggling with each other  forgetting  about the “media” hovering about.  KaMagwaza Msibi though was on a serious mission ” We, as the NFP have done all we can to contribute  towards peace in this province, at this point prayer is our only solution”  She said referring to the recent KwaMashu  killings of two women friends, who were members of the IFP and NFP respectively. kaMagwaza Msibi smiled broadly at my questions and ask me who I was as her long red-painted  nails  lightly clawed at my torso playfully. This picture above does a great job at encapsulating her multi-layered personality.  Not only is she beautiful, admired and desired by men, she is also tender enough to grieve and cry with the bereaved. Our very own Princess Diana.

4. SHAMEEM RAJBANSI – “ I  AM THE WINNER OF THE GAY OSCAR AWARD”

And the  oscar goes to: Minority Front Leader, Shameem Rajbansi at the Gay Oscars in Durban, sometime ago.

And the oscar goes to: Minority Front Leader, Shameem Rajbansi at the Gay Oscars in Durban, sometime ago.

Minority Front Party leader Shameen Rajbansi was a complete surprise  for me. I didn’t  know much about her or even what she looked like  when I first met her. But yes you guessed it I was already in love. Because of her words.  Perhaps I should just admit that it was an emotionally charged day for me in a  positive way. It was the first time I  returned to Coastlands Hotel in Durban’s city center  where she held her party’s manifesto’s launch, after 15 years. I had to call my mother to tell her about this momentous event. I was marveling at life and was just being present in the moment when she interrupted the running order of  proceedings and said,” we must cut the cake first, it’s really important”. This was to celebrate 20 years of the Minority Fronts’ existence.  She then proceeded to say ” It’s been a very  rough couple of years, but being the lady that I am  my cake is still in tact”   she said as she brushed off  crumbs of the cake from her  fingers. She was  referring to the internal struggle for power  within the party  following her husband’s Amichad Rajbansi’s death two years ago.  During question and answer time I ask her where she stood  on the Gay issue. She said she was for gay people. She supports them.  They have a proven medical hormonal defect, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Who is she to question God about his creation. Anyway they are generally very warm and helpful people. Who always have very unique and an interesting approach to things. She is for all minority groups. After the launch she asked me in the company of her lawyer how she did. You spoke from the heart he said  and I agreed. Well you should have my number call me anytime you need questions answered. But you should go and have lunch now she advised, we’ve prepared a meal for you thank you for coming. I walked to the dining hall and sat around a crew of  6 men ( my colleague)and I was the only woman. They ranted and raved about the food.. and then came time for dessert and they all honestly couldn’t keep quiet about Shameen Rajbansi’s cake… it’s nice they talked about it and described it in ways only men can. I sat there smiling from here to ear – thinking about what she said about her cake and just thought how fun to meet  people who are in the deep end and still find a way to make fun of themselves! My team and I had never been so happy.  Many of those conversant in the art politics have already said – she might as well pack up and go or join the DA or ANC.  But I think Shameen might still have a few surprises under her Sari. Do it for  Raj, her husband, she says.

 

ERROR: MIND YOUR LANGUANGE(S): NKANDLA IS BEAUTIFUL!

THE WEEK THAT WAS:

For two days last week I reported from the front-lines on what many in the media call Nkandla-Gate. But in reality I have been standing on the side of the road leading to South African President Jacob Zuma’s Private Homestead in Nkandla, in the KwaZulu Natal Province on South Africa’s East Coast.   You can see the house a kilometre or so from the road which the president constructed to make his 3hectare home easily accessible by road.  But what you don’t hear about Nkandla in the media is how beautiful it is. The luscious green rolling hills, blue skies and wind-swept landscape is breath-taking. The exquisite quiet and serene atmosphere seems to slow the ticking clock down as if silently saying: here everything is well and in order.  School children, goats, donkeys and cows all stroll languidly on the main road in no rush to go anywhere in particular. Chickens feast on abandoned plates of livers at a nearby Chisanyama (meat barbeque). It is an Idyllic rural landscape surpassed by none I have had the pleasure to visit. The environment is so fine that even South Africa’s official opposition party, the Democratic Alliance’s youth league leader  Mbali Ntuli couldn’t help but exclaim “It’s Beautiful! Though!” to her delegation which included an alarmed DA’s National Spokesperson Mmusi Maimane who asked her softly “do you really think so Mbali?” This was after all a scene of a heinous crime, Nkandla. The party has just laid eight charges against President Jacob Zuma on Thursday. They want President Zuma impeached and held personally liable for monies spent upgrading his unassuming kingdom. This comes after the country’s Public Protector Thuli Mandonsela on Wednesday released a report which found that South African president Jacob Zuma materially benefited from (none) security upgrades at his private residence which were initially projected to cost 27 million rands when the project started in 2009 but ballooned to more than 200million to date.  The Public Protector said without a hint of humour in her voice that “what started as a humble project to upgrade security ended up becoming a project to build a township”.

Tax-payers money or Public funds were irregularly used to renovate President Jacob Zuma’s private residence which was declared a National Security Key Point to expedite more security installations.

WHAT WE CALL GRASS ROOTS

The day the public protector Thuli Mandonsela released her report I was doing some kind of a door to door campaign myself, speaking to President Jacob Zuma’s neighbours, telling them what was going on and asking for their opinions. Most of them didn’t see what the fuss was all about. “He is the president, he deserves to live in a house better than ours, how can you question the president? He is the president. I’m not president.” Said an old man who has been living in Nkandla with his wife and 11 children for more than 30 years. “What’s wrong if the president builds a house, we see it, it’s beautiful and it makes us happy to see progress: are you suggesting that the president must come and build my house too? I am happy here, we have water, look we farm, we have livestock even though the drought has killed our crops for two seasons now. We can’t blame Zuma for the sun! All we can do is to be grateful for this life and just wait till the good lord decides to take us. You can’t hate someone for his God-given talent, that’s what God gave him and you can’t fault him for that” He said. I tried mentioning the money but he interjected “would you ask your neighbour where they got the money to build their house from? Would you? So? It’s none of my business where he gets his money. It has nothing to do with me”. His wife who was standing by the fence listening to the conversation volunteered to share her views on the matter.” I’ve lived here since I got married” She offered “then,   there was nothing in this village but since President Zuma came back we see things getting better and better, now we have a road, now we have schools and a clinic, grants for pensioners, things we didn’t have before. We have electricity, we have water.  We don’t see any fault in what he is doing building his house because we have seen what changes he has brought here, change doesn’t happen all at once simultaneously,  we have to wait our turn, we hope that one day his good fortune will extend to us too ” she concluded.

HOW CAN A THATCH ROOF HOUSE COST 215MILLION?

They were not the only ones who held this view. “What do you see wrong with the house? It is just a simple thatched roofed homestead, there’s nothing fancy there. Nothing to it. The president has built his home the Zulu way, it’s how we build our homes too and please you tell me what is wrong with that?” they asked one after the other.  I told them there are features to the house such as swimming pool, a helipad and amphitheatre they can’t see from the road side. But they wouldn’t have it.  Some even looked at me blankly as if I had gone completely mad when I told them how much money was spent on building the President’s beautiful home. “How can a house with a thatched roof cost 215million? Ihhaba lelo Impela. It’s an exaggeration. They shook their heads one after the other, Ihhaba  lelo. Indlu yotshani Ayikwazi ukubiza imali engaka.  A house with a thatched roof can’t cost so much money. “Amanga” It’s lies. It became clear that I had my work cut out for me. “If the president uses tax money to build his home… what does he do with his salary? I mean he earns a salary every month” Mr Shezi who I found sitting under a tree opposite the satellite police station wondered at me. “He earns a salary every year, millions, so what does he do with his money? What does his salary do?” he wondered to the distant hills. “It’s just lies sister, because the media lies, I don’t believe what the media says, they make things up all the time. I don’t believe it” He said.

MIND YOUR LANGUAGE AND TELL A GOOD STORY

I have been to two African National Congress (ANC) campaign events in the President’s hometown province. On both occasions the President was the guest of honour.  At one of those events held at the University of Zululand, President Zuma was honouring his friend and little known fellow Robben Islander, Riot Mkhwanazi. He announced that a stretch of road in Zululand will be named after his friend and to prove he didn’t come empty-handed, a fridge was wheeled into the auditorium, “this is to make sure that if you want a cold one you can get it” he said to him. Throughout his two to three-hour long speech he never once uttered a word in English. He told stories surrounding time spent with his good friend in exile. This is where I discovered the magic of President Jacob Zuma. He is a consummate storyteller. He has a sweet tongue and a way of communicating in isiZulu that makes sense. He sounds sober, considered and completely charming when he speaks his mother tongue. In fact he is someone you can trust.  He comes across so sincere and honest that you almost can’t fault him. He sounds like a man worthy of his word. President Zuma was the chief of the ANC intelligence operations underground for the party’s armed wing Umkhonto WesiZwe or MK.  So he is not as many would like to believe stupid.  The president knows what he is doing and how to play the game. He has the right speech prepared for everyone but his best speeches are in isiZulu which is so immaculate it borders on being perfect. And this is where the break down happens, between the middle class which is well-educated and pays taxes and the people living in rural areas governed by a Chiefs or  Amakhosi under whose traditional leadership they must abide. There are ways of speaking to the elderly, there are ways of talking and even criticising leaders that are understood based on the dominant hierarchy. Everything and everyone has their place and under this traditional system. Here there are no “constitutional rights” only laws which govern kings and servants.

So while Thuli Mandonsela’s report is damning on President Jacob Zuma’s character…the timing for the release of the report, contrary to ANC’s protestations works in favour of President Jacob Zuma and his campaign for re-election come May 7th. Because at least in Nkandla and in KwaZulu-Natal, this report is only just lies, an exaggeration on the grandest scale. A political campaign by all concerned including the public protector to discredit the President ahead of the elections. “They never probed Presidents Thabo Mbeki and Nelson Mandela’s homes why? It’s because we’re heading to towards the elections that they come and make trouble. We will vote for Zuma, he’s been with us through thick and thin.” Said one woman.

At a fresh produce market adjacent to the police station women sat selling fruit on bare tables. They were suspicious of us. “oh you’re here because it’s elections!” they exclaimed unwilling to give interviews. “Poor Mongamenli (leader)” exclaimed one trader paging through a daily Zulu Newspaper “every day all you see are pictures of his house, Nkandla this, Nkandla that, they just won’t let him go” she said putting her hands on her head in mock horror. “we are all suffering here, we live in rural areas we are all not having a great time” said one man in blue overalls peering out of darkened doorway “what do you want to know? Zuma loves his country, that’s all I can say” a cynical smile spread across his lean bearded face “when he invites to his parties, we all go and drink and be merry. No problem. He comes out dressed in his traditional gear, he dances for us and all is well. They must just leave him alone. “Some people are afraid to talk” offered a boy in school uniform quickly adding “I know nothing”

I KNOW NOTHING.   BRUSH UP ON YOUR ENGLISH MAN!

Why. It felt as if there was some kind of conspiracy. It seemed to me impossible that people knew nothing as they so easily claimed. I couldn’t accept this. Yet I could not force people to speak either.  Everywhere I went, people were talking, whispering, but the words were empty. Hallow. Why. The radio was playing at full blast at the Chisanyama. The young proprietor sat outside under the shade listening to Public Protector Thuli Mandonsela as she delivered her report. She was indeed eloquent, soft-spoken. Her authoritative whispers blended very well with the slow quiet green landscape in Nkandla, her voice hovered patiently over the hills in harmony with a cool gentle breeze as if she was God. Yet even I found it hard to follow her delivery of the summarized version of her 400 odd page report which took two years to compile in the midst of the humid sun. She has perfect diction, her grammar immaculate she can’t be faulted with her command of the English language, a perfect mix of beautiful and cute. I wished I studied law, literature, economics, I wished I was all-knowing.  I listened, I heard, I understood each word. But what does it mean? I was searching for meaning with every sentence she uttered. I would have to read it to fully comprehend I, I thought to myself.  Yes my editor was right I needed to brush up on my English. But if I (and I may not be a great example here) could not fully comprehend everything Ms Madonsela was saying, how was everyone else doing?  I listened to the Zulu Summary at the end of the broadcast and found glaring gaps. “What is intela? (Tax) “One woman asked another at the fresh produce market “everyone must pay it” she responded “have you paid intela?” she asked in isiZulu. They all looked at each other. No one had paid tax amongst them, therefore they could not understand – what is meant by tax, public funds or how government works. And most critically they did not know where all the money comes from? If you have never drafted a budget in your life, your understanding of what budgeting actually means would be limited. It will forever remain something that other people do, that is ultimately of no relevance to you. Which means you will have no real sense of what goods and services actually cost – how much you spend on what and how. But perhaps they did understand and were – like everyone, from the police to the opposition party, in Nkandla – just playing their role in this elaborate stage play called Nkandla-Gate. I found myself feeling annoyed. Because for the first time what I heard and what I saw, and what I read made no sense. I was lost in translation. Here in Nkandla English and isiZulu became foreign languages to me. The police man could pronounced my surname fluently. He is also from Limpopo. He knows of my father’s village. . The president is not seen a Public servant, a custodian of public’s trust and well-being, but as a King… who can tell this one to go there and he goes or this one to come  here and he comes.  Had Thuli Mandonsela delivered her report in at least two official languages isiZulu and English, would that have made any difference to what people in Nkandla knew? Would it change their understanding of the meaning of the word President? Good governance. Public? Would they be critical? “You know” they said pointing at me “the media knows what is going on”. Would I be a better communicator if I brushed up on my English, and could use the correct word in the right context?

Suddenly I realized. All of it. Is simply a matter of Interpretation. The one with a better argument, not facts, wins.

“SECRETLY WE ARE GAY” – MY ANC, MY SWAG CAMPAIGN

One of the Embassadors of the" My ANC My Swag" Campaign  being Interview i n Umlazi  at the Weekend.

One of the Embassadors of the” My ANC My Swag” Campaign being Interviewed in Umlazi at the Weekend.

Did You know?  That back in the 1960s a new word  emerged. Swag. An acronym used by those  in the know to communicate  that aha   ” Secretly We Are Gay” and the word/slash acronym soon became a popular word used world-wide to  describe  really cool people who more often than not tend to dance to their own tune and possess copious amounts of style  and were more often than not – quite simply fabulous people to be with.  So it was with a great sense of irony and (private  humour  on my side) that I observed  that the African National Congress’s Youth League (ANCYL) has adopted this term for this year’s election campaign in an effort to lure  young voters  to join and vote for the party.

It was actually quite hilarious to watch  the ANC’s General Secretary Gwede Mantashe, former National Police Commissioner (a man with a lot of “swag” read style ) Bheki Cele,  KwaZulu Natal Premier – Senzo Mcunu and a host of other ANC provincial and national officials literally shaking their bosoms to the South African hit song and now the MetroFM  song of the year “Y-Tjukuja ” by Uhuru, next to skimpily clad young girls wearing the Yellow Black and Green  T-shirts with the tag-line “MY ANC MY SWAG”

They all clamoured on stage  and  jokingly tried to out-do each other with their skillful dancing: shaking hips, waists, bottoms and stamping their feet at the launch of the  ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal “ANC Friday ” campaign. It was meant of course to be a hip cool event with the goal  of projecting the  ANC as a current and relevant professional party, not stuck in old traditions and customs , but a party  which is truly moving with the times; one which is relevant and accommodating of young people’s love for fashion, accessories, music and the good times.

I mean it was really funny to observe because though the ANC was at the helm of ensuring human rights and dignity for all including LGBTI (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual, Transexual and Intersex) people;  although both party and government policies are quite progressive on that front: I  honestly doubt that the ANC would have approved such a campaign in aid of the LGBTI community.

The ANC and government have maintained a very  contradictory (if not schizophrenic) narrative when dealing with issues pertaining to the  LGBTI community.  Two cases spring to mind.  Comments by the former Minister of Arts and Culture Lulu Xigwana in 2010  after viewing  Photographer Zanele Muholi’s work at a collective art exhibition held  at the Constitutional Court’s Women’ Goal labeling her photographs; portraits of women in same-sex relationship as  ” non nation building” as she angrily walked out of the exhibition co-funded by her own Department  of Arts and Culture. She was indeed quite disturbed that she had been made  party to such “wrong behaviour, which disturbed core  South African society, it was simply not nation building”.   We can also  similarly recall hateful  comments made  by South African Ambassador to Uganda Jon Qwelane in his July 2008 article  published in the Sunday Sun titled: “Call me names, gay’s not okay”  which he skillfully penned at the height of brutal killings of black lesbians in the country. Though the Human  Rights Commission (HRC) launched a case against Mr  Qwelane for Hate speech. Mr Qwelane stood by his words asserting that he too has a right to freedom of expression and those rights are guaranteed by our constitution. Not surprising the Department of International Affairs and Corporation (Dirco) said in a statement responding to President Museveni’s draconian  new  anti -gay law  would see  queer people being sentenced to life in prison, that  ” The South African Government will adopt a quiet diplomacy approach on the Ugandan issue”. Constitutional Court expert Pierre De Vos says there is untold danger in this particular type of quiet diplomacy:”

Sometimes absolute silence becomes politically impossible. Those who are not prepared to embrace the full humanity of fellow human beings because of prejudice or self-protection will then hide behind impersonal statements or will make hollow declarations devoid of any real compassion.

It is the absence of any words or actions that display true solidarity with the oppressed minority that is usually the dead give-away. Such statements impose a different kind of silence – even as it pretends to speak about the love that “dare not speak its name” – which can often have equally devastating effects. This silence – which hints at but never names or describes the oppression of gay men and lesbians and its often devastating effects on fellow human beings in full – is the silence of the hypocrite and the closet homophobe. This, unfortunately, is the quality of the “half-silence” of the South African government about the horrors faced by many people who experience same-sex sexual desire in South Africa and elsewhere in the world.

So while this may have given me a chuckle and some much-needed comic relief,  it left me with more questions than answers. I wondered if they would have danced and jived, with such glee had they known what  Swag actually stands for. I wondered if they would have approved the SWAG campaign had they  known  that SWAG is in actual fact an acronym declaring that they are secretly gay.  Imagine if  Secretly We Are Gay was an actual ANC election campaign – what difference that would make to so many people on the continent….  but the ANC’s SWAG is all about appearances as concept developer (pictured – far left)  explained on Friday that the  campaign was to lure  young people who love fashion, to express themselves in ANC colours. The MY ANC MY SWAG  Facebook page states:” MY ANC MY SWAGG AIMING @ KEEPING ANC MEMBERS ON A SWAGG ESPECIALLY YOUNG PEOPLE THIS IS A ONE OF BIG CAMPAIGNS MOVING TOWARDS 2014 N BEYOND THAT WILL KEEP ANC IN THE MINDS OF THE PEOPLE THIS WILL ALSO ASSIST IN KEEPING BORN FREE GENERATION MOBILIZED ”

One can only sigh at the missed opportunity.  More than anything though,  the recent events both in South Africa and in Uganda make one thing crystal clear: Those in power will do just about anything to get votes and  remain in power for as long as it is humanly possible. They will do so by any means necessary even at the expense of minority groups, the poor , the young and the uninformed. They will hold on to power even at the expense of everyone’s most basic human rights.  Which means we must equally stand up and  defend minority rights and the basic human rights for ALL  by any means necessary. Because power plus love equals Peace.

Ends

WHY: JHB People’s Pride and Economic Freedom Fighters(EFF) Raise More Questions than Answers.

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March Because…..

18 August 2013. I observed with keen interest discussions at the Johannesburg’s People’s Pride Organizers meeting, held at the woman’s goal at the Constitution Hill this weekend.  The meeting comprised of mostly black, lesbian activists who were planning an alternative Pride March to the Existing annual JHB Pride in October, due in large part to the fact that JHB pride turns a blind eye to the tide of “corrective” rape incidents  against black-lesbians living in black townships.  The split comes after staged protests by members of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Project, FEW and One in Nine and others during JHB PRIDE 2012. See article here, which resulted in verbal and physical altercations between JHB pride Organizers and the mostly black lesbian and queer activists.

At the meeting many of the activists wore T-shirts with the statement “I march because…” and on reading them I found I could not fill in the gap. Why? Because the meeting left me, with more questions than answers. Here we are, young abled black women sitting in the Historic Women’s goal, used to imprison women including those who were anti-apartheid activists during the oppressive Apartheid government, organizing a march to demand legal rights which are already guaranteed in the country’s Bill of Rights and the Country’s Constitution. WE HAVE THEM.

The organizers kept highlighting that the JHB People’s March was not only about black lesbians but also about women. This is true. Lesbians are women. Women are raped in South Africa on a daily basis, but they are not all gay, and they are not all, black.  Rape, violence, domestic abuse are not social ills suffered only by black lesbians in the township, they are faced by almost all women, regardless of their sexual orientation or race for that matter.  The horrific story of   Olympic Sprinter Oscar Prestorious  killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp is just a drop in a sea of similar stories across South Africa.  All races black, white, Indian, coloured, Chinese, other – all women are  at risk of rape, domestic violence and abuse, even murder. Black women are in the majority, and that’s the only difference.   So how does the Johannesburg People’s Pride March, which is largely comprised of black Lesbians –reach out to all these other groups of women who are suffering just like them?

Why aren’t all women taking to the streets and  marching for their rights? The answer to that is quite simple. We are marching for something we already have – as far as I know the laws of the country have not changed:  Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex  ( LGBTQI) people  are guaranteed  the same equal rights, as all (heterosexual ) women in the country, in fact all South Africans – by law have equal rights. So why should the LGBTIQ community receive extra special treatment?  When today, Heterosexual women suffer just the same amount of abuse, rape etc. as black lesbians. Femicides are not limited to women in the LGBTQI community.  Rape is Rape. Straight or Gay. Male or Female.

How can we hope to have our struggles heard if we only campaign for narrow interests on an an issue affecting the majority of women in the country, when according to current rape statistics, 144 women are raped a day?

Why I won’t join…

I also read with Interest Andile Mngxitamas article in the city press today “Why I didn’t Join Agang SA” after two invitations from party leader Mamphele Ramphele early last year. He lists seven reasons – all stitched together by a common thread of race politics, saying Agang SA does not serve black interests.  According to him there is nothing new on offer from AgangSA, and the party is based on an “ill defined “South African consciousness”.  But whose interests does the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) under the leadership of Julius Malema prioritize or serve? If AgangSA offers nothing new for South Africa today then no other party does, except perhaps for the Democratic Alliance, which so far has one good thing going for it – Immediate Actions that bring about change. Whether those changes serve the narrow interest s of the white Minority and or Private Business interest, one thing is for sure, if the DA complains, change happens, actions are taken. That is the Party’s greatest asset.  The DA is seen to be doing something, seen to be efficient.  That’s why its white constituency, and increasingly black, Coloured, Indian, Chinese and including young people continue to vote for i. That’s why the DA is the official opposition.  Everybody, including Andile Mngxitama himself, wants to live in a country that works, with a functioning public SERVICE sector, which actually SERVES the people and why would anyone say No to that?

Just Do It…

To bring about social change we must DO  something, act in ways that actually change the situation.

What is the EFF actually doing to bring about change? How many times will Black people, women, queers, the marginalized majorities and minorities have to march before their needs are met?

It seems to me that the only way to change is to do something.  Instead of planning yet another protest march, instead of forming YET another political party – Let us DO something DIFFERENT – Let’s organize and roll out a  Massive volunteer “program” to each and every community across the country, using the unemployed youth, job seekers, retired professionals, everyone who is able, to make South Africa work, not only for the moneyed minority, but especially for the majority of all South Africans.

Strategize…

Let’s use all the knowledge and experience, the same strategies, tactics, massive organizing, guerrilla warfare tactics, all the mechanisms used to topple Apartheid to  to unleash and implement  an army of volunteers and deploy them  in their own communities – at all police stations, all clinics , all public  hospitals, all courts, schools and universities, NGOS,  all sections of the public sector, to help those  people already committed to public service, to make all of those institutions meant to serve the people to do just that?  And by volunteers I don’t mean “observers” I mean people who will do the WORK, the manual labour required to ensure that public hospitals  and clinics are clean at all times, ensure that all patients regardless of race, age, gender and class are treated with care, and are assisted in getting the help they need.  Simple things like pushing patients in hospital waiting areas to their wards, to get oxygen, to do all the basic running around.   Have all unemployed youth working at the same places where public service officials desperately need help or face a lack of capacity, where they are underfunded.  At all public schools, doing what’s needed be it, cleaning, helping teachers, with extra classes. Have matriculates, graduates without work, teach, write statements at police stations, explain the law, or just explain how things work, inform and communicate the people’s rights to the public. We need people to literally fill in the gaps and I mean physically with our own HANDS and FEET. A network of volunteers, helping children cross the street, do their home-work etc. That is what is needed.  For resources, clearly we have more than enough money – politicians don’t even know  what to do with it, we can give some direction. Use OUR money also known as public funds, all the money spent on parties, expensive shoes and other trivial things in government for skills, training and compensation for “actual work done” by those volunteers.

This in my opinion will solve multiple problems at once. In the case of the LGBTQI community ( I don’t believe that their sexual orientation or preferences  will matter if they are seen making a positive contribution, not only just to serve their own interests  – but for the larger broader community in which they occupy) The volunteer program will also serve as a foundation for skills training, that will eventually result in gainful employment – then we won’t have people who are “unemployed”  while allowing trained public servants the time and space to  focus on doing  the work that they were trained to do, this will result in a seamless skills transfer program.  The public service will then become – physically accountable – to the public and whatever laws which don’t serve the people can be challenged in court based on the rights guaranteed under the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.  We did that with the FIFA WORLD CUP in 2010 and many other major international commercial events in the country. Surely, surely, we can do the same for ourselves?   Any party that will DO that – is guaranteed a vote from me.

You don’t need Permission…

And guess what? Surprise, surprise!   We don’t even need anyone’s permission to do this.  We don’t need anybody’s permission to volunteer, to make a positive change, we just need to  decide to do it and do it. Go and ask for the broom at you local police station and start sweeping, and make it your daily employment, your job. You don’t need to apply.

Also very importantly you don’t need to be a card carrying member of any political party to volunteer, you don’t need to join one or form one.  Wherever you are, if you see the need – be the change –  that’s needed. Step in and offer to help. Not just for one day, but everyday. All the time. It’s a way of life.

We don’t need any more marches or protests or side-shows. We don’t need any more Political Organizations. The ones we have are more than enough. We are the PARTY.  We have the power in our hands, to vote and support only what we want.  We just need to be concerned always with being an active solution right where we are,  to the change that’s needed,  the answer to the problem. To act. We the public can ensure that we have  access to proper health care, education, justice. We can do it where we are now. We can make the bill of rights and our country’s constitution and make it  a living document, no one else can do that for us. The next 20 years starting from now, today should be all ABOUT that.  We are LINDIWE! We are the ones we have been waiting for.  We can all do it together simultaneously. We have strength in numbers. Our hands can make the change. The law is on our side. Let’s make it work for us.  We are the solutions to our own problems.  Not the West or  nor our former colonizers, or China not the system or its politicians, or the government officials we EMPLOY.  Truth be told, honestly? It’s in our hands. The only way to change – is to do something different and not more of the same.  Start where you are.

XX

Jedi Ramalapa