What Marikana Meant for Me.

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In The Public Interest

I wrote this for Press Freedom Day recently.  Working on the Marikana story revealed how important it is that we get counselling and psychological help for people experiencing trauma (the widow I interviewed specifically asked for some kind of psychological counselling) it also revealed to me that though I was empathetic and wanted to help I could not help her since I needed counselling myself. I did try though. She was suicidal.

It’s not a classic Censorship Story.

By Jedi Ramalapa.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation( SABC) broadcasts news and current affairs daily to more than 48 million South Africans, through 18 radio stations in all the 11 official languages, including Swahili and French through Channel Africa. The public broadcaster has  three television channels which can be accessed  and are available  in the remotest parts of the country.   It is more powerful than any of the broadcasters put together in swaying public opinion and more importantly winning votes.  Having control over the “public broadcaster” is having control of the country.  Business and Politicians understand this fact all too well.  As long as it’s not on SABC, it can’t be completely true. It is a powerful machine which has consistantly made vulnerable to grave abuse.

I think I only realized a moment after they walked outof the editing studio just what had happened.  I was busy editing an interview with one of the Marikana widows, whose husband was killed along with 50 or so other mine workers on the 16th of August.  It was the kind of interview I had done a thousand times before, speaking to grieving relatives about their loved ones. It was in my opinion nothing out of the ordinary nor controversial.

But this time and for the first time in a 12 and a half-year public broadcasting career,  at the South African Broadcasting Corporation,   they asked to listen to the final cut of the interview which we planned to air later that day.   They listened as the widow spoke of her grief and her anger. “I blame the government, the police, the unions and Lonmin for what happened” she said on tape.   Play that again, said the executive producers. They listened and said cut out that part.  Which part I asked? Like a naïve little girl. That part where she says “I blame the government, the unions, the police and Lonmin for what happened”. Why I asked. “Because there’s no one to blame, we don’t know who is responsible and we just don’t want to have to deal with questions.” What questions I asked myself in disbelief thinking that even in her grief the widow had managed to be “impartial” in apportioning blame to everyone involved in the Marikana massacre, not many people were able to do that.  But I couldn’t fight it. I had woken this woman up at 6am to do the interview, which had taken me at least three days and a string of phone-calls to convince her to speak to me.  We cried together during the interview in which I tried to convince her that life was still worth living. She had trusted me with her heart.  I was not going to let her down.  So I did as I was told and cut out the offending parts like a surgeon saving a life.

The widow had been censored in the most subtle of ways, by omission and not only was I not prepared for it, I was a part of it an accomplice.   Even today I don’t know who to blame for that moment in my life, myself for doing the interview in the first place? Or for failing to defend her / my work when I was told to cut out certain parts? I don’t know.   But I am writing this to honour the Marikana Widow who in a moment of great loss and pain managed to do what I and Public Broadcaster failed to do, speak truth to power and remain impartial.

 

Mamma Mia! Here I go again….

The Band That Got My Mother and I Dancing

ABBA is on my mind. I’ve stopped being surprised.  It’s a group both my Mother and I loved with equal passion. I remember those days, sometimes it would be just the two of us, coming from gym or something. Dreaming  together we would sit and listen, dance, sing together.  We had fun.   Now I think I understand a little of what my mother must have been feeling when she would sing to me with a huge smile, eyes closed, as if wanting to capture and hold that moment in time forever while I danced with Abandon….

You are the dancing queen, young and sweet, only seventeen
Dancing queen, feel the beat from the tambourine
You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life
See that girl, watch that scene, diggin’ the dancing queen

You’re a teaser, you turn ’em on
Leave them burning and then you’re gone
Looking out for another, anyone will do
You’re in the mood for a dance
And when you get the chance

You are the dancing Queen, young and free only Seventeen….

You can dance, you can fly-high having the time  of your life…

oooh see that girl, what that scene digging the  dancing queen.

There was something in the air that night

The stars were bright, fernando

They were shining there for you and me

For liberty, fernando

Though I never thought that we could lose

There’s no regret

If I had to do the same again

I would, my friend, fernando

And now…..

If you change your mind, I’m the first in line

Honey I’m still free

Take a chance on me

If you need me, let me know, gonna be around

If you’ve got no place to go, if you’re feeling down

If you’re all alone, when the pretty birds have flown

Hone y I’m still free

Take a chance on me…

I’m gonna do my very best and it ain’t no lie

If you put me to the test, if you let me try….

We can go dancing; we can go walking, as long as we’re together

Listen to some music, maybe just talking, get to know you better

Cos you know I’ve got  so much I want to do, When I dream I’m alone with you its magic

You want me to leave it there, afraid of a love affair

But I think you know…

That I can’t let go…

You’ve heard me say smoking was my only vice

But now it isn’t true

I still don’t know what you’ve done to me

A grown-up woman should not fall so easily

I feel a kind of fear when I don’t have you near

I unsatisfied, I skip my pride

Knowing me knowing you, a-ha

There is nothing we can do,

knowing me knowing you, a-ha

We just have to face it

This time  we’re through

Breaking up is never easy I know but I have to go

Knowing me, knowing you

It’s the best I can do.

Mammia! Here Igo again, My my how can I resist you

Mamma mia, does it show again?

My my just how much I’ve missed you?

Yes I’ve been broken-hearted,

Blue since the day we parted

Why, why did I ever let you go?

Mamma mia, Now I really know

My my I could never  let you go.

…………………………………………………………

Art- ABOUT- Town

If ABBA is not your thing  and you feel like  a local brew of rhythmic beats and some comic relief. If you’re not out toi-toi-ing with  striking farm-workers in the Western Cape, or striking underpaid miners across the country,  of newly homeless folk in Lenasia and everywhere, if the new e-tolling tariffs and  electricity price hikes that will be introduced  in a matter of time – will make no difference to your life… then why not do yourself a favour and go support some artists at the market theater….

Comedy & Music Extravaganza

The Market Theatre and Metro FM present Comedy & Music Extravaganza
The Market Theatre has joined forces with Metro FM for this year’s festive season with a series of unmissable live performances by combining some of South Africa’s music and comedy icons.
The Market Theatre will set the stage alight in Jozi with a super-star line-up of leading performers. Music superstars such as Lira, Thandiswa Mazwai, Zahara, Oliver Mtukudzi, Trompies, Rebecca Malope and many more will entertain Mzansi audiences during a four-week period.
Comedy heavy weights – Mark Banks, Alan Committie, Siv Ngesi, Eugene Khoza, Trevor Gumbi and Tumi Morake are guaranteed to deliver side-splitting humor that will leave you begging for more with their take on the state of the nation. The Festival of Classical Music boasts some of South Africa’s finest classical performers from internationally renowned Opera Africa, Soweto Quadro and Inferno Opera. This will leave the audiences enthralled by some angelic, breakthrough opera, never experienced before at the Market stages.
What makes the Market Theatre performances so exciting is the venue’s intimacy. Get up close and personal with the artists. It promises an experience that Gautengers will enjoy without having to break the bank!
The Market Theatre is the place to be from 13 November to 09 December 2012.

R200 Rands get you in.

A 21 Shutter Salute for An Eye Like No Other

A man like no other : Alf Khumalo

How do you honour; where do you begin to pay tribute to a man whose eye albeit behind the camera has seen you in your most vulnerable, intimate, private and perhaps, powerless moments.  A man who risked his life to bring your mother, aunts and cousins to see you while you were in exile? Or who brought you shoes “izimbatata” from home to soften your feet when your soul was starving  between the meshed  cold Skycrapers  of  New York City.  Or better still how do you pay tribute to a man who captured your defiance at the Evaton Bus Boycott, the hopeless despair of the Treason Trial, the bloody pain of the Sharpeville Massacre, when you were silenced during the banning of liberation movements, during the rise of the angry voice of the Black Consciousness Movement, the nervous states of emergencies in the 80’s, the glorious dawns of the release of Nelson Mandela, The Codesa Talks of the early 90’s and the triumphant rainbow moments of Nelson Mandela’s Presidency? How do you pay tribute to a man whose plea’s you turned a deaf ear to, refused to hear until it was too late? That was the hard and painful question that confronted some of the dignitaries, media executives, artists, musicians and politicians who attended veteran photographer and journalist Alf Khumalo’s memorial service at The Forum auditorium in Gauteng Legislature offices in Johannesburg.  Among them sat, singer Sibongile Khumalo, Judith Sephuma, Caiphus Semenya and Letta Mbuli  Sipho Hostix Mabuse and Keorapetse Kgositsile, including Pulitzer winnining photographers, Joao da Silva and Greg Marinovich.  The auditorium  proudly displayed eight larger than life panels depicting the history of the liberation party the African National Congress ‘s centenary celebrations through photographs many of  them taken by Alf Khumalo, 82, himself in over  50 years of his illustrious career as a photojournalist.  There was not mention of him on the panels, no mention of the man who former President Nelson Mandela, described as a historian, taking ordinary moments he shared with his dog at his home in Soweto or the man who former President Thabo Mbeki honoured with the order of Ukhamanga ( ), No even a single panel gave tribute to the man Winnie MadikiZela Mandela described as “one of the few photographers who fought oppression through the lens”.  Khumalo adopted the Mandela family back in 1951 when he was a young photographer experimenting with his camera” Winnie invited the audience into her world.  Khumalo was then a  part-time journalist with the Bantu World Newspaper, documenting life under apartheid by taking pictures of everything that was newsworthy including arriving uninvited and taking photographs of the goings on Mandela home in Orlando West, Soweto, which was also turned into a Museum [Nelson Mandela Family Museum] three years ago, around the same time that Alf Khumalo turned his Dobsonville home into a museum and school of photography in Diepkloof, which as his obituary read, “young men and women growing up in the dusty streets of Soweto, Alexandra, and Evaton, could literally walk into and learn photography directly from bra Alf Khumalo.”  If the audience was blind to the irony displayed so elegantly on the towering plinths, the Chief photographer of the Saturday Star newspaper and a representative of Alf Khumalo’s Photographic Museum in Diepkloof Soweto, Paballo Thekiso, gave voice, almost involuntarily to Alf Khumalo’s pain of not having realized his dream of building a photographic museum and photography school before his soul left his body, on the 21 of October from renal failure.  Through tears, Thekiso described Bra Alf’s dream which he shared with him while they were sitting under a tree one day “he said you see this place I want us to make it into a double storey, oh no-no let’s make it a triple story. On top it will be the  hall of fame , in the middle you can put whatever you want, and  leave this bottom part the way it is” Thekiso  who described himself as a living example of  Alf Khumalo’s legacy described the conversation he had with his mentor  of  ten years almost  verbatim. “I am sad that he didn’t live to see his dream, he asked, asked everyone, everyone. I saw him do it. He’s been knocking on doors, and no one listened and today he’s gone” Thekiso’s voice broke into a searingly sharp wail that made former ANC Women League President, Winnie Mandela including the audience whose heads were already bowed to wince in pain.  He interrupted attempts to console him through song insisting “I want to speak about this thing. Let us celebrate people when they are still alive. Today I have a family, I have a wife, I have a stable life, because ubaba gave me his time to teach me, he gave me a future, this unfortunately stopped because in 2007, 2008, 2009 we didn’t have funding”.  And as if to continue where Bra Alf Khumalo had left off he continued to knock on doors. “If you are sitting in here today, and you have money please give some of it to the museum”.  Thekiso deftly answered jovial requests by some  including musician Caiphus Semenya to have some of their more private  images taken by Mr Alf Khumalo  returned back to them  by saying “ until those boxes of negatives are scanned properly, you will never see those pictures”.   Perhaps it was veteran Poet and writer Don Mattera who opened the door wide for Paballo Thekiso to bravely deliver his pain-filled tribute. The poet and scribe was  one of the first people to speak, asking the newspapers for which Bra Alf Khumalo worked for almost half a century to put their money where their talk of legacy is and preserve and nurture Alf Khumalo’s dream.  Mattera whose prominence in South Africa’s literary landscape  rose with his seminal book, Memory is Weapon also spared a moment to address the political situation in the country “This is a beautiful country, we must not allow issues like Marikana  and others  to destroy who we are and what we are. We must not bring our country down because we don’t like a government. What we must do is help to heal the wounds of our past ….so that our children can have something to hang on to.  Winnie Madikizela Mandela joined him later saying “one bullet fired under a democratic government to workers asking for bread to eat is difficult to justify”. “Our country “she emphasized “Will be lucky to survive the negative image it projected to world of itself. On that day (August 16th) I was proud of the journalist in this country.” Madikezala Mandela concluded her tribute with a pledge to “realize bra Alf dream of his museum in Diepkloof, by knocking on my own doors and opening them”.  Mattera who looked frail at 77   described Alf as a soft and gentle man whose rivers flowed deep.  “ By the way” He reminded the audience “ it’s on your marks, get set, ready, before you go, turn around to see who you can take with you, that’s what bra Alf did, hola hola,” he greeted in the language  of the old township, Sophiatown.  Perhaps there were those in the audience who wished the memorial service was one of those irritating moments described to laughter by his colleague at the Sunday World newspaper Juby Mayet, when he would stall at the moment when everyone was ready to go on assignment saying “sorry please, just two minutes I’ve forgotten something”.

By: Jedi Ramalapa

MARI- KANA?

Is a place filled with fear now.

On  Sunday a Woman  is shot dead. Why?  No one knows.

Women and children fear for the lives, caught between rubber bullets on the streets

and police threats in their tin homes.

Mara  kana?

Men dig holes at corners of the streets,

To stop the hippos from terrorizing us.

They say

Men in red T-shirts spread suspiscion,

Cupboards are empty… no bread, no food, no school

Mari – Kana

Hhayi man go back to work

to the barracks, were we can share one toilet all 96 of us

sharing is caring.

It’s a Wild

Cat

Strike

Mara – kana.

Mama ubaba ubuya nini?

Mommy when is  Daddy coming home

Mara Kana? What year is this?

There’s no place to hide

No space to walk

No way to make a living

12, 500

Marikana ?

What are we  fighting for?

On A Knife’s Edge: economic freedom now!

I have been listening with keen interest at comments by Labour Unions, Employers/Management, the Media et al and their views around the issue of industrial action stemming from the Marikana and the subsequent labour strikes that are flaring up across the country.

After the Constitutional court ruled last week that the South African Government can go ahead with is controversial e-tolls, taxes drivers must pay to use long roads in Johannesburg, despite public wide oppositions to this earlier in March. That will be 30cents a kilometer, then add another 93cents a liter for petrol and you have a price hike, which means that a month I pay R800 rands just for transport, for 8 kilometers, in a mini-bus taxi. Others people are not so lucky.

Truck Drivers have gone on strike, although it’s all completely unrelated. Workers  have been largely labelled as irresponsible in their decision to refuse to go to work until their needs have been met.

Their decision to stand up for their rights has been labelled as “wild-cat” “illegal” “unprotected” basically illegitimate.  Some unions have even made assertions that Marikana has set a “dangerous precedent” for labour  for  wage negotiations in the country, not because of the  44 or is it 47 people who lost their lives lost their lives in the quest for justice but because workers dared to stand up for their rights, and fight for what is due to them.

They set a “dangerous precedent” because they can’t dare represent themselves – their own needs and interests directly to the people who employ them.  And they in truth have had to embark on “wild-cat” protests and marches because the unions who are their “legitimate” representatives, who take a portion of their pay to do so every month, have simply failed to represent and fight for workers needs. What alternatives do workers have?

Despite striking being a genuine way of saying hello?? we cannot live or survive on the money you insist on paying us. Despite this being a symptom of a deeper problem plaguing worker rights/ or working conditions in the country, employers and unions have continued to belittle them, and their desperate plight for a fighting chance at life, at every turn.

With things (economy) being tight as they are, I understand when people hold on as tightly as they can to the jobs they already have. Always being assured that at the very least they will have some money, at least for a day to afford a roof over their heads, to pay for food and transportation, basics which are becoming increasingly unaffordable with each passing day.

Life in South Africa has become so expensive even I am, as we speak, am one or two connections away from becoming a hobo. Literally. And not because no one cares but because everyone is trying desperately to keep their own heads above water, to afford their own lives, they are also just as thinly stretched, breaking-even if they’re lucky, and could feasibly join me in the trenches should some things grow even more expensive. Or better still they might, just like striking mine workers and truck drivers, find themselves on the streets defending their right to a descent living, again armed and equally underpaid police officers. It’s really tough.

So everyone is trying to put their oxygen masks on, to breathe in and to stay alive (with fading possibilities) The worst part of it is, these people are employed! they all have jobs that they wake up to everyday and yet they have nothing to show for the 8 hours or more they spend everyday at work.

Fortunately if I end up without a job or money to pay for my basic needs I only have myself to worry about. And I am grateful for this.What about those mothers and fathers, sisters, grandmothers who have to ignore their own growling angry stomachs to find something, anything that could for a moment, silence those piercing screams from the stomachs of their children.

Just a few weeks ago, a mother of five children, woke up one day and silenced all her five children – permanently. She confessed in court that she did it, sighting economic and violent abuse. In her mind, the way things were,  they would be better off dead.Yes nothing  no situation should warrant such extreme action. But Marikana happened. Those men could have just simply gone back to work. If it their needs were so greedy and ‘unreasonable’, if it is ultimately so easy to just “bite the bullet”. Not every one smells great under-pressure, and clearly we’re all so much under pressure that close 30 thousand people we’ve all been under so much pressure anymore pressure will be our last breath.

Hunger is not pretty, Neither is it friendly.  To even assert that these men and women are acting out of greed and being careless and irresponsible – is inhumane. No woman or man  would do anything to risk not getting money to buy food, but if all that money can busy is a ride to work and back – what do you say to mouths? Conspiracies aside. People are suffering.

We are living on a knife’s edge all of us. And I guess if people, everyone, can stop for a moment and re-look at their own budgets, and make re-calculations of how much you earn and how far that money goes today, regardless of your status;  perhaps you can also find  a little sympathy for the striking workers, because even you will find that money cannot afford you as much as it did before and  that perhaps R12, 500 rands a is not such an  exorbitant amount after all.