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.

 

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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.

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