GET OUT: YOU ARE NOT A ROCK

You’ve got to learn to leave the table when love is no longer being served”— Nina Simone.

A Facebook update from a friend of a friend posted on  National Women’s Day in South Africa got me thinking, deeply. She said;

Don’t call me a strong woman. I’m not your Mbokodo (Rock/Boulder) me. This thing of likening women to indestructible boulders is getting us killed”

At first glance, this statement seems to spit in the face of thousands of women who bravely marched to the Union Buildings  61 years ago in protest against the brutal and imperialistic  Apartheid government. The reason we celebrate Womans’ Day on the 9th August every year. It was an auspicious March, arguably the largest gathering of activists from around the country since the signing of the Freedom Charter in 1955.  The women covered every inch of the of the historic lawns united by one song, an anthem: Wathinta’abafazi Wathinti’mbokodo. You strike a woman, you strike a rock, you have dislodged a boulder which will roll down and crush you. This anthem galvanized the women. It gave them the strength to challenge the iron fisted Right Wing Hans Strydom, Verwoerd and co. It was a necessary coping/defiance mechanism against an arrogant racist, violent, and repressive government.

But between you and me, I agree with my friends’ friend.  I think this anthem, this slogan has served its purpose. This coping mechanism, this metaphor which once symbolised courage has now become a weapon used against women in South Africa. As if at the march, the women exchanged the dom-pas for a male fist. It has expired, it is outdated. It no longer works. In a country where one in three men admit that they have forced themselves (raped) on women at some point in their lives,  in a country with one of the highest rates of femicide in the world; it is abundantly clear that women are not rocks, we are not indestructible boulders. We hurt, we bleed, we feel pain, and we are ultimately mortal. We won’t rise like the Phoenix. It’s a myth.

A friend of mine who works as a domestic worker in the suburbs of Johannesburg once put this into sharp perspective for me. She said, you know Jedi I’m tired. Every day as I clean and rub the floor, it’s not the concrete that disappears, it’s me. The rock stays the same, but you don’t, it wears you down after a while.

So, knowing that you are not a rock, that you do bruise and you will die if you stay with a man or woman who treats your body like a rock will save you. It will help you to get out.  Today you must be soft and walk away, don’t look back. I know that the other women paved the way for your freedom, but they didn’t  bravely march to the Union Buildings to confront imperialists so that you can die at the hands of your comrades in the revolution. They marched so you can be free to leave, free to move, free to love and be loved by someone who would not even consider laying a hand on your beautiful face to solve a problem. They did not march so you can be beaten, raped or murdered in the name of a political party or the liberation movement.

Listen even the ANC’s women’s league president Bathabile Dlamini made this clear in an interview given to the Sunday papers.  She said that the Deputy Director of  Higher Education Mduduzi Mananas’ recent assault of a young woman was negligible compared to what other senior political figures in government have done or are currently doing to women. Implying that Manana is not the only nor the worst sexual offender in government.  In fact,  gender based violence has become just a political game for Dlamini. “I don’t want to be part of those games…. Even in other parties, there is sexual harassment and it’s not treated the way it’s treated in the ANC. And I refuse that this issue is made a political tool. It’s not a political tool”

Between you and me. We know that sex and violence are political tools often used between the sheets or between the pages shuffled in government so Dlamini’s statement is vacuous. It is empty, there’s nothing to it.  Nada. Dololo. Don’t stay. Get out.

The ruling political party’s  ideals are limited by an attachment to a status quo that keeps them the dominant class. Even well-intentioned individuals within the liberation movement can’t resist the rewards of an unequal society that favours them. Their true and primary allegiance is to their class and the privileges they are Happy to enjoy.

One of my more erudite friends on Facebook commenting on a controversial American film said something which I think  can be applied to our current situation: “There can be a fine line between the portrayal of racial violence as a critical and necessary record of the long history of white supremacy and the portrayal of racial violence such that it repeats white supremacy’s very terms. Katheryn Bigelow’s “Detroit” about the 1967 riots and a particularly vicious night of police brutality at the Algiers Hotel, in my opinion, doesn’t fall clearly on the right side of that line.”

I would like you to replace white supremacy with patriarchy and racial violence with misogyny. And see that there can be a fine line between standing up for women’s rights (you strike a woman, you strike a rock) as a critical and necessary resistance against patriarchy and standing up for women’s rights in such a way that it repeats and perpetuates violence against women.

In this context, the slogan, Wathinti’Abafazi, You strike a Rock,  no longer falls on the right side of that line. In my 14 years as a journalist observing and speaking to female politicians, I noticed a disturbing trend with women politicians admitting that they will consciously tow the party line at the expense of women’s rights.  Progressive, intelligent, nice, sweet, stylish beautiful and friendly women and men with bright smiles will vote in favour of your abuser in order to stay in power and keep their positions. It’s the nature of politics. Why? Because they have been rocks, they have been sexually harassed, abused and assaulted as a result they expect you to do the same. They expect you to be strong. Be a Rock. Take one for the team. Take it. For the liberation movement. They have become numb to pain. Don’t be like the ANC Women’s league or a Rock. they are the veteran survivors or even current victims of abuse.

Do not exchange toxic masculinity for toxic femininity. Both are bad for you.

Don’t feel bad for leaving. You are saving your own life and his or hers mind you.  If you need scientific evidence, a recent study by psychologists at the University of UC Berkeley found that feeling bad about feeling bad only serves to make things worse. Don’t attempt to feel upbeat about a bad situation. Don’t feel bad about leaving.  It’s bad enough that you’re in an abusive relationship or that you have been violated in some way – accept that it’s bad and that as much as you love the revolution, you can’t change anyone or that man. Your man needs help. But you are not his saviour. You can’t change him, heal him or save him. The only way to help him is to show him that you are not a rock. You are soft. Let him see and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that what he is doing is killing you, walk away. Get the restraining order. Call POWA. Even the police. Make a detailed record of events. File a case. Move out.  Call a friend.

Not all men cheat, not all men rape or abuse women. Not all men are trash I promise you. You’ll meet someone who knows that love does not equal violence or pain. Dare to leave.

Being a rock may have worked in 1956 but it’s not working today. So, exchange that fist for a piece of paper and walk out.  I know it’s been said before that “Mosadi o tshwara thipa ka mo bogaleng” A Sesotho idiom which means a woman holds the sharp end of the knife. Yes, she does but only if she has to, only if her children are under siege. Don’t let it get there. Walk out.

While you still can. You’re not a rock, you’re woman. Soft and human. Apartheid is over, and while this freedom may exist only on paper for most women, this paper is still a valid ticket for you to get out of there. Apply it. Use that App. Make it speak for you.  You have a right to live a full and happy life. This is how you honour the women who marched in 1956.

Take your freedom and Leave. Run if you have to.  Let them know that you strike a woman, she leaves. Period.

“Our revolution is not a public-speaking tournament. Our revolution is not a battle of fine phrases. Our revolution is not simply for spouting slogans that are no more than signals used by manipulators trying to use them as catchwords, as codewords, as a foil for their own display. Our revolution is, and should continue to be, the collective effort of revolutionaries to transform reality, to improve the concrete situation of the masses of our country.” ― Thomas Sankara

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

I’m sharing something I wrote three years ago about censorship at the South African Public Broadcaster (SABCNews) which was initially published on IPS  in 2013 as I am thinking and reflecting on the bravery of SABC8 Journalist Suna Venter who  died from Heart Break Syndrome. I didn’t know then that the state of emergency in our country would escalate to a point where one of own journalists would be harassed, stalked, assaulted, isolated, hounded and victimized to the point of death. I don’t think it’s fair that one person, a single individual has to  die  before we all can realize how pervasive the power structures in all state and or public institutions have become. It’s not fair to sacrifice people at the alter of your lust for power,  money, influence or the vote. Yes,  principles might not pay your bills but not having them will certainly kill the conscience of this country. Can you live with that?

In the Public Interest

In this blog for World Press Freedom Day 2013, journalist Jedi Ramalapa shares the pressures journalists often face from State institutions to censor their work, and the emotional toll this can have on both the journalist and the subject.

In the Public Interest    

by Jedi Ramalapa

The South African Broadcasting Corporation or SABC broadcasts news and current affairs daily to more than 48 million South Africans, through 18 radio stations in all the 11 official languages and has three television channels which can be accessed even in the remotest parts of the country.

 

It is more powerful than any of the local South African broadcasters put together in swaying public opinion and, more importantly, with winning votes.  Having control over the public broadcaster is having control of the country.  Businesses and politicians understand this fact all too well.  If it’s not on SABC, it can’t be completely true.

 

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 2012.  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 or controversial.

 

But this time and for the first time in an eight-and-a-half year public broadcasting career at the SABC   they, the executive producers, 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 became 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 or 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 the public broadcaster failed to do, speak truth to power and remain impartial.

Quo Vadis: Where Are You Going?

Quo Vadis is an ancient Latin question attributed to St Peter who, while fleeing persecution in Rome met Christ on the Appian Way and asked him, Domine quo Vadis? Which means Lord, where are you going? I am going to Rome to be persecuted again, Christ replied.  Quo Vadis,  this is the question which stared back at me while I stood on top of the Voortrekker Monument surveying its magnificent panoramic views. As I stood in reverential silence I began to think that perhaps I should have asked myself this question before getting into a car and onto a  the lift which placed me on the top floor of the monument giving me a view of Pretoria, the capital city of South Africa, which I had never seen before. It took me 35 years to get here. On this monument built  in honour and praise to God who delivered the enemy (African-Bantu people) into the Voortrekker’s hands. In this context I am a descendent of the enemy.

Quo Vadis?

There have been so many times over the last decade when I have asked myself this question – and I have been asking this question more and more recently in an effort to integrate the past with the present. There were many tourists populating the Voortrekker monument when I arrived on a Wednesday afternoon. The most enthusiastic of them where from China. Something which I didn’t understand at first while reading the banner at the main entrance of the hall which announced that the Monument was a winner of the Gold Award in the top category “Overall performance” at the China outbound Travel and Tourism Market in Beijing, 2013. Perhaps it had something to do with how it’s built, walking up its’ top floor with cathedral-like pillars felt familiar as if I had been there before in some other timeline.

Die Rooi Gevaar.
It is only once I had gone up to the top of the monument that I understood the connection for me and perhaps for the multitudes of Chinese visitors to the Voortrekker monument. It had similar features, and fortitude to the Great Wall of China. The irony of this situation, of the fact that the Voortrekker Monument was being celebrated by China, a former communist country which the Calvinistic, fascist-capitalist Afrikaner government was once vehemently against was lost to me as I tried to find meaning in my being there. A more grounding reason than mere curiosity.
The Vow.
How was it possible that we could all be praying to the same God? The God whom the Voortrekker men prayed to under command of Andries Pretorius before the battle of Blood River? On the 16th of December 1838. The same God contained in the Bible that the English gave to the Voortrekkers after killing their women and children in concentration camps? The same God of the bible that multitudes of black South Africans worship in the bible every Sunday? All of this killing was done in the name of the God of heaven and earth. The one in the Bible.
Reasonable Conscience.
If I were a rational human being I would say that based on the evidence of events in the Bible and those performed because of it, all of it must have been the will of God. It was all in Gods’ plan and it was his will for it to happen. He is on the side of both oppressor and the oppressed. He is both life and death. But as we know I’m irrational and Unreasonable at the best of times. So, I have to ask where are you going. Do you know?

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. Proverbs 29:18.

Don’t forget, your ancestor fought for the losing side. There is no sacred ground for the conquered– Xander Feng (House of Cards)

DATING: WITH MY FAMILY

My younger sister and I have often toyed with the idea of me re-entering the dating scene through South Africa’s leading reality dating show: Date My Family, just for fun. Date my family is a show where a bachelor or bachelorette dates three potential mates’ families before they could date them. We love the show because it is full of real life drama, intrigue and humour from embarrassing family members, possessive parents, awkward questions and lots of laughs. The shows’ successes hinges on the fact that a potential partner is judged solely on the relatives, close family members and or friends they choose to represent them. The bachelor or bachelorette bases his or her decision on how the family members cook, behave and treat him/her not to mention what they say about the potential date in question who watches/monitors the date from a  separate location. It opens the door to South African society, while highlighting the dating habits of men and women in the country which are the foundation of how families are created and what values and principles most South Africans families hold.
I considered sending in a letter to date my family but decided against it. Thinking that if the show had existed 20 years earlier I would have been more willing to throw caution to the wind and ask to participate in this grand experiment especially since I’ve tried everything including online-dating, speed-dating, slow-dating , long-distance dating and no-dating at all to find a partner. None of it has worked.
When I told my mother that I was considering writing in to date-my family to participate she asked why was I  hesitant. Are you afraid of the competition? I had to suppress the urge to take on her challenge and accept that some things are best enjoyed on Television, I don’t have to be in them. Besides, it would make me look desperate and I’m not right? Right.
So I threw the idea in the rubbish bin and continued to watch the show via YouTube whenever I felt like having a bit of a laugh. But seeing as the word was out, even though it was a non-committal one, a moment came when I accidentally went on an untelevised, off camera, unproduced or edited date with my family – literally.  It was organic. I have never laughed so much! It was an unexpected – out of nowhere situation on my last night in Johannesburg. My brother in-law and his friend were having a boy’s night out together at HoggsHead restaurant where my journey began. They later invited my sister and I to join them so we could celebrate together. I liked him the first time I laid eyes on him; he had a wide smile, beautifully sculpted body, easy on the eye, and he literally swept me off my feet. He picked me up and spun me around a few times over an invisible threshold, you know, like they do in the movies after a couple gets married and I thought to myself, wow! I could get used to this. I felt safe and comfortable in his arms. No stranger has ever been this happy to see me!
Then he put me down, showed me his dance moves which left me immobile and breathless against my sister’s car. Bringing to mind a 90’s naughty song we danced to as children in primary school by Another level, called – Freak Me. All this while my sister and brother in-law looked on cheering, jeering, teasing and commenting on our every move. At another establishment we gravitated to each other. Even though he and I both worked the room from separate corners we had eyes on each other. He was surrounded by legions of female fans and I danced courageously with my sister to dodgy white (sic) music. Later as we left the establishment my brother in-law’s friend and I started coding. He told me he was into (prefers) vanilla but he works well with chocolate. I told him I love all the colours of the rainbow. So you’re a politician? He asked, Somewhat, I responded. Can you count? I asked him. What if I told you a story? He asked. As longs as it’s numerical poetry, I responded. That is so nice, so nice I’m in, he said. I smiled.
All four of us took an uber back home. He and I tried not to kiss while my brother in-law sat next to me and my sister conducted running commentary of my dating habits from the front seat of the car: My sister is into full PDA (Public Display of Affection). Then later on she reprimanded me: no! sisi you promised me you’ll never do that to me. I can hear the sound of your kissing, she said. The Uber driver nodded in agreement. I had forgotten they were there. I was only aware of him and my mission to find out if he could actually kiss. Despite the fact that he made me extremely shy. We had to stop. We parted just as things were about to get interesting. Then my sister asked about the kiss: How was it? It had a rocky start, I told her. He tried to shove his tongue into my mouth like a lizard from the get go. No I did not, he protested leaning into me with laughter. In fact you’re the one who initiated the whole thing! he retorted. #toosoon my sister laughed! But the kiss got better after I demonstrated how I wished he could do it, I told her wishing she was not there to chaperone the whole encounter. I wished we could be alone and it was impossible. We discussed the kiss at length until my sister decided to make the statement of the year, in his direction later that evening:
“we (women) are like ovens not microwaves”
That’s a good one, he said smiling. He is such a joy to be with, I thought.
We’re going to the shop,  what can I bring for you? He asked sweetly wrapping his arms around my shoulders. Death by Chocolate, I responded. When he came back he hadn’t bought it. Why? I asked perplexed. I thought it was a metaphor for me! He said laughing, I didn’t think you actually wanted Death by Chocolate. #duh. He laughed, I laughed too, so did my sister and her husband.

The next day as my sister and I made breakfast I breathed an old tune; rolling with my homies while swaying my hands like a  wave. That’s from Clueless right? My sister guessed. Yes, I said. I was happy and at ease, a rare combination for me. Once it was ready he and my brother joined us at the table, my brother was already protective of me. “Who is this guy? Where was he when she was in Senegal?” He questioned my sister. #Silence. We rummaged through the previous evenings events and retold the highlights. I wore the most unattractive outfit I could find to make things easier for myself. Then we were both roasted and teased about liking each other while we blushed together openly trying not to stare into each other’s eyes or talk about the future, follow-ups and if we wanted to have children. I felt like a teenager dressed in a woman’s clothes. “It’s too good to be true” he said to me. We threw pillows, glances and massages at each other, we were both relaxed in an uncomfortable situation.
He couldn’t believe I was flying out in less than an hour. I was happy to go home until I met you, I told him. We all took a sip of our drinks at the same time around the table. My brother, brother in law, his friend, my sister and I. #Deep. We gulped.
We hugged, he said goodbye Homie. I said I can’t believe you have friend zoned me already. My brother in-law said you just met yesterday, my brother said being a homie is a good sign, he’s the most attractive and  likeable guy you’ve ever introduced to me. I was beginning to worry about your taste in men he said laughing, I thought you like die skobo! #phew. My sister said she’s sorry it didn’t work out. I said I wish him well. He really is amazing.
We didn’t exchange numbers or social media contacts. #nothing. The experience was fun, exciting, passionate, embarrassing, it made me blush so much I needed a fan. It was open, honest, direct and refreshing. But I was glad that only my family was able to see me like that; all giddy, happy and vulnerable. What I loved most about him was how well he fit in with me and my family.
I was even happier to learn that my happiness matters to them so much. It was good to see how everyone wanted to see me smile again. I learnt that even when things I  try out or do,  don’t work out. I can still have fun (enjoy)  with the process and my family as a unit is a great wing man, they are my strength.

My New Homie taught me that there are three things which make love last in any relationship:
One: Empathy – The ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Two: The ability to control your own stress and emotions.
Three: Having positive illusions about your partner: i.e. the ability to overlook what you don’t like about them and focus on what you do like…consistently.
This way you’re guaranteed to stay in-love for as long as you (both) want. Hopefully my next date will be for a lifetime. Until then…
I’m booked !

17310133_10155426639703455_3869012945298031979_o

Doomed if you Do. Doomed if you Don’t.

 

My first impulse when I saw an image of a Pastor using Doom (an insecticide) to cure his congregants or believers of various ailments, was to laugh. I mean the whole thing was ridiculous, it was unbelievable, it was shocking, it was all manner of things which made it both disturbing and funny for me. But I also had a personal reason for laughing because for me, the spread of doom into churches and timelines on social media networks mirrored an internal private struggle. So laughing  was a guilty pleasure. I know, it’s not funny.
You see my parents are obsessed with cleanliness, a trait which I’m sure is shared by most South African black parents. They hate germs with a passion and everything which could be associated with them including flies. Years ago we experienced plumbing problems at home which attracted all sorts of them. My parents often paired up in the fight against these pesty flies. They had special dish cloths for them and they would walk around the house hitting them and killing them, most times with impressive success. My father proved to be a great marks-man which delighted my mother to no end. She would call on him and say La, short for Love, there’s a fly in the room. He would walk in asking where? On her instructions he would search for it armed with his weapon of choice and strike it, dead on the floor. My mother who was sometimes not so successful  at annihilating the persistent pests would call on the name of Jesus to help her kill these flies when her marks-man was not around to assist. Generally there would be no rest until the flies were dead, swept up and thrown into the bin.
One year I decided to go home for Christmas armed with a new cook book by Jamie Oliver. My aim; to single-handedly cook Christmas lunch on my own for my family using Jamie’s’ recipes of course. It was an ambitious feat for I was generally accepted to be the worst cook in the family. When I arrived home I found that my parents had upgraded their weapons against these flies which had remained persistent despite the plumbing problem being resolved.
They found a more efficient way to kill them with  a spray, theirs was a brand called Target and not Doom. Still we call all sprays against insects and flies – doom, in the same way we call all non-alcoholic fizzy drinks, coke. Their doom, called Target,  was odourless and promised to kill them instantly. With their new spray my parents would wage biological war fare against these flies, and they didn’t have to be many, just one was enough to bring out an arsenal of weaponry.
All this time I found my parents’ obsession with these flies amusing, it was often humorous to see them trying to kill one. Until my father asked for doom while we were sitting at the table about to eat a Christmas meal (a meal, they confessed years later was inedible) which I had spent all morning preparing. He then proceeded to spray a  fly which was hovering over the table. The food was not covered and he just sprayed at the fly over the food. I caught myself afterward, Dad! I screamed – you’re spraying poison  over our food!  I was shocked, I couldn’t believe it. It didn’t make sense to me. I was so angry it took a while to recover from that scene. It was no longer funny. We were going to eat food laced with poisonous insecticide. Even though it was not as harmful to humans, the idea of doom in my food was as frightening to me as  flies with germs were to my parents. Cover the table, he said, but it was already too late. I suppose he wasn’t thinking then about the food that we were about to eat.  He was more  focused on the invisible germs the fly must have been spreading all over the food.
Today  Doom is being used  indiscriminately everywhere including the kitchen. We have to keep all doors and windows closed so that the flies don’t come into the house especially when we are cooking meat. Target is always on hand the second a fly is spotted anywhere in the house.
Sometimes the smell of Doom is like air-freshener at home. It is no longer odourless. Even though I have tried to speak to my parents about their method of mass destruction over the years, it’s a hard one to sell. Nobody likes or enjoys having flies around. Including me.
A moment of silence came one day when my father was standing outside and there was a fly milling about, he went into the house to fetch his weapon and doomed it against the open air.  My brother in-law who was there with his wife asked for the sake of sanity. Did I just see that? His wife confirmed to him that he was still very sane. Nothing was wrong with his eyes.  Yes you did,  she responded.
And so when I saw this picture I couldn’t help but laugh, because as ridiculous as it may seem to everyone, it makes sense.
You see, my parents’ hatred of flies is not only based on scientific fact that they spread germs and are annoying, but also on biblical verses in which God says in Genesis, that man shall have dominion over animals which includes pests like flies, ants, cockroaches and so forth. In Psalm 91 God offers his protection against all pestilences (flies) and plagues.
So it stands to reason that in the evangelical, Judaeo-Christian belief systems that Doom could be a cure too. Stay with me.

Demons  (which are responsible for every human suffering  including poverty and disease) are like flies: persistent, annoying and full of germs. Tolerating one is like opening the floodgates to an endless legion of more. You must be vigilant against them. Even though the doom incident could be seen as a very literal interpretation of scripture, no one can say the Pastor did not hear from God, and the power of God is in everything, of course. No one  disputes this. I decided not to share this news of a Pastor using Doom as a cure for his  congregants with my parents because I didn’t know how they would react.

So I remained silent until  one day while with my mother in her dressing room, I saw a can of doom on one of the shelves and I just couldn’t help myself. Have you heard the news? I asked her. What news she said. The power of doom has spread across the nation, I said jokingly. What do you mean, my mother asked. Well, there’s a Pastor who is using doom to protect his congregants against demons and pestilences, to cure various illnesses. He says God spoke to him about it.  I laughed a little and said  you and dad were on to something.  But from the look she gave me I knew that it was simply too soon, to laugh.

Let’s try again next year!

 

 

WHAT IS THIS: WEATHER TALK?

SUN-KISSED

It’s been very hot lately. It’s becoming a little hard to breathe-in the hot dry air, whose rays’ send salty fluids dripping down spines causing sporadic hot flashes which leave parched lips agape. This  heat made me think of something I once said to a man who was pursuing me in the dead of winter. We had been on a date-ish. As he was dropping me off at home he leaned in to kiss me and I backed away saying no. Offended he asked why. What must I do? I mean I’ve done everything a man should do on a date, why can’t you kiss me? As I sat there looking at him – I knew that nothing in me could see that happening and not wanting to offend him I said. You are like the wind, a huge big hurricane which forces me to not only want to keep my clothes on but to hold on to them for my dear life. What I would like is someone who is like the sun, which makes me so hot that I can’t help but take my clothes off, piece by damp piece.  After a long moment of silence he said I’m the most difficult girl he’s ever met and he sped off angrily in his vintage sports car, one of three he has parked in his garage. He told me earlier.

ICE-COLD

It’s been so hot lately. It’s so hot that I found myself sitting across from my mother licking ice cream off cones trying not to feel conscious of my long tongue.  I was listening to her counselling a friend about companionship: There are three kinds of people in this world she says to him. Those who have no desire for marriage and all that comes with it, and those like us, who do. When are you getting married? Because I want to come to your wedding she concluded. I was very happy not to be the focus of this conversation as I licked my ice-cream like a four year old girl enjoying a rare treat. I feel like having another one my mother said between her impromptu counselling sessions. But maybe I shouldn’t, this is my second one. I wanted to taste and see if there is a difference. I didn’t want the grainy ice-cream which is rough on your tongue. Let’s go to the beach, I said sucking up the last bit of ice-cream from the soaked wafer. Not today she said, it’s too hot.

SCORCHING-HEAT

It’s been so hot lately. The only time I feel cool and dry is when I’m in my room. Indoors. It is so hot it reminds me of something I once said to two friends during a similarly hot day when despite my flimsy yellow dress I found myself in their car wet between my thighs, under my arm pits, my neck and between my breasts, my back and buttocks, my legs  and toes, arms and fingers. I could peel my skin off it was so tender. The heat was so intense I was beginning to feel slightly delirious. A bit light-headed, all I wanted to do was to lie down, naked and prostrate somewhere cool. Then I said something which I had never thought of before until then. I said, it’s so hot it feels like I’m having sex with God, I mean the sun. I am sticky all over. My friends thought it an interesting if not blasphemous idea. One of them said, write a poem about it. I thought no. I’m too scared. I could melt away.

WILD-FIRES

All the wars I’ve been to have taken place in summer. Which reminds me of a story my sister told me recently. It’s true. Of a man who is suspected of burning his mother’s house down a few months ago. The house was paid off and fully furnished. A beautiful home which is now only ashes. On the day it burned his mother got a call informing her that she had won a mysterious prize, lunch at Spur. It was during that time as she sat eating her ribs and chicken that her house burnt down. An elderly woman, she along with her son, the main suspect in the arson case the police have opened, are now renting a house together somewhere.

Nobody knows his motive except the man, if he is indeed the arsonist. He was not at home when it happened and he was quoted saying he doesn’t know what he would have done had he been there when the fire broke out.  This made me think about my childhood and all the times when I asked my parents for something. They often said they did not have money. I did not burn the house down. Despite my frustration. Why would he? maybe its the weather.

 YOU MUST DRINK IT.

“wo-ter, wo-ter, wo-ter, wo-ter” that’s how my 18 month old nephew asks for water and despite what you are busy with, you have give him water because you know he can’t do it himself. Even if he could at that age he’s more likely to make a huge mess, spilling it all over himself and on the floor. Wasting most of it without drinking a single drop. You also know that without water he can’t live. So you have to stop what you are doing and give him the water until he’s able to get it himself, without spilling, wasting or drowning. It’s a human thing to do.

IT’S LOVE.

Which got me thinking  that  that’s what we all need. Water.  Not only in  the current heat of summer but in every single season of our lives. In fact it just might be the  one sure way of getting anyone  to open up, get naked,  even kiss you.

Get them wet. Let it rain!

“One day you will take me completely out of myself and I will do what the angels cannot do – Rumi

 

 

 

FEESMUSTFALL: RIGHT OF ADMISSION RESERVED.

I refuse to allow what I did,  what I didn’t do or what I should’ve done to effect what I’m about to do” – Unknown

I have been hesitant to comment on the #FeesMustFall tornado which has all manner of tongues stamping, feet wagging, and fingers facing every direction in South Africa today. I have been hesitant because my relationship with institutions of higher education in this country has been fractured, damaged and almost non-existent to say the least. I have been hesitant because I am not innocent. I am guilty of unmentionable crimes committed both as a student and more recently, an educator.

I wasn’t going to say anything because of my shame.  And because I am neither an academic, a scholar nor a social, political or economic scientist. I am not an anthropologist, apologist, activist, communist, socialist or capitalist. I am what you may call a sentimental opportunist inclusive curious humanoid. I am of a generation of anti-heroes, raised on a steady diet of bubble-gum music, laced with mandrax,  dagga wrapped in newspapers, castle and lion beer. I skip to the tune of skop die bolo, mgusha, mellow yellows and heita.  I’ve jumped over tins and ducked under balls made of discarded plastic bags. I have run, skipped, hopped and laughed to stories told with stones and later vigorously stenciled into exercise books with yellow Bic pens which perforated the wooden surface on our primary school desks.

I know of m’china, s’thupha, the dice, marbles, toppies, Ray Phiri and stokvels. I am powered by amalahle, amagwinya with snoek fish, mangola, achar for breakfast and for desert- sherbet or ice.

I’ve snacked on skopas, maotoana and sniffed at the sight of dried mopane worms.

These memes I know. I understand them to be the fabric of my childhood environment, when I was impatient to start school and meet my first primary school teacher Mrs Meno, because the streets were empty –and I had no one to play with at home.

I know the sound of sofasonke, stay-aways and school singing competitions at uncle toms’ hall. Felt the rustic speed of a Putco bus propelled by children chanting – irobe joe asi ya gago joe keya magoa joe! On the way to see animals caged in a Johannesburg zoo. I know the tone of Chicos  Twalas’ we miss you manelo, and can sing and toi toi  to Blondie Makhene’s struggle songs in my  sleep. I’ve tried to make glue by whisking sunlight soap, grass and water  together never once succeeding in my experiments. I’ve listened intently to  stories of elaborate expeditions to steal raw peaches  from  white farms during school holidays, I have cooked mud meals garnished with rocks, onions and discarded tomato peels. I’ve been chased by dogs while taking a doublap over a neighbours rusty meshed fence or stop-nonsonso.

I know about Leselo rula, V, Mcgyver, Michael knight, the A-team, Ramathlale, Meenamoo, Nkusheng, Matiti le Senthaolele. Not to mention Samantha.

I’ve waved to white soldiers in army trucks patrolling Moemesie Street with the same fervour, passion and enthusiasm I used to chase after a minivan screaming “die botlolo” in exchange for cheese curls poured into bowls,  dirty dresses and t-shirts. I’ve cried to the sting of senzeni na, hamba kahle mkhoto and Siyabonga baba laced with tear gas without knowing why.

I’ve dreamt of becoming a superstar like Brenda Fassie, of wearing long braids, of singing “no, no,no,nononononono, senor – please, please don’t do this to me and appearing on SABC tv.

I dreamt of going to exile in America like our neighbours and desired to be a part of a secret movement whose name we could not mention out-loud on buses which shipped boys to unknown destinations at dusk. My feet burning to the tune of mercy pakela’s lyrics: “Ayashisa amateki – this is not my size”, in the haze of dust illuminated by the yellow flood of appollos powered by the danger-gevaar in our street.

I have woken up to the sound of my uncles screams, as armed soldiers lashed his back on the green  kitchen table. My grandmothers watching.

Despite changing schools seven times in 12 years, I have miraculously through a process of hard work, persistence, prayer and a gentle push from my parents’ money, my own curiosity and a will of steel,  pure luck even,managed to achieve three of those goals,  wearing long braids, appearing on SABC TV and going to  America for a visit.

So I have nothing to complain about.  I am not a victim. I am a winner, like Nelson Mandela in Invictus.  The captain of my very own soul.

Or so Boris tells me.

A former (retired) Wits University professor of engineering – a disciple of Darwin’s theory of natural selection, who believes that evolution not time, is God. That Biology, genetic coding and memory determines which ideas live and which die. Who succeeds and who fails. Which civilizations continue to exist and which will become extinct. That #FeesMustFall is a misconception by people who have a foot loose relationship with facts and logic. People without a conception of physics, mathematics, economics or problem solving abilities. A former informant and sympathizer of the African National Congress, an operative of  Umkhonto weSizwe, he dreamt of planting a bomb in Vanderbiljpark. He did this largely because he knows what it is like to be a victim. He was bullied at school and relentlessly punished with a tjambok by his English father.  Who would have disowned him had he learnt of his involvement in the struggle back then but who instead recently left him a megalomaniacal inheritance the size of Trumps’  head which left him buzzing on hot coffee at a corner café in Melville.

 He is against Authoritarianism.

Of course he is all for free education. He is interested in Biko’s Black Consciousness ideas which he absolutely agrees with, having just recently watched Cry Freedom (1987) a  British film on Biko’s life  featuring Denzel Washington  and Kevin Kline. Where could he find his book? What’s its title? Yes, I write what I like.  Black people are right not to take advice on how to do things from White people. Contrary to common belief their ways of life and culture is better suited to  this environment (Africa).

But what would decolonizing the university mean? 

He asks. Because decolonizing education presupposes that there were African or black universities in existence before colonization to begin with? Wasn’t Biko himself educated by civilizing missionaries in Africa? Wasn’t Biko in fact a prototype of an English gentleman? Where would the money to fund free-education come from when everybody knows that most of the students currently enrolled in higher education institutions are ill-equipped to deal with university education, unable to cope  they spend at least five or more years attempting to complete a three-year first degree? Who would invest in people who have been set up for failure – studying under pressure to make money and feed the endless stream of relatives and dependents?  But nevertheless emerge with nothing to show for it after all? With no degree, a debt to pay and diminished prospects of earning a higher income?

See, it’s not really about the money.

He says. Were black people not complicit in their own oppression anyway by swallowing wholesale the ideas of the western world without question? Weren’t Japan, India and China similarly colonized? Why had they managed to retain their culture and Africans not? Why didn’t black people fight? After 300 years of white domination, come on! You can’t still be making excuses and blaming white people for your inadequacies and failures. How would I explain the success of western ideas, if white people are not, inherently superior? Why did  black people  allow Apartheid to take hold? White people in this country feel threatened by calls from students and the EFF to decolonize education.

Throwing white people out is not the solution, where would he go?

It’s the educated whites, the enlightened ones, the communists, engineers who were instrumental in advising the ANC during the struggle years, we are only in the first stage of achieving utopia as envisaged by the SACP, empowering the petit bourgeoisie and then the masses. The country needs more engineers like him. Less social sciences. His grandfather who was an alcoholic forgot to fill the right papers when his father was born, so he has no record of his British ancestry even if he is as white as the next person so he cannot go back there, he’s tried to. It’s the same dilemma Afrikaner people face. They have nowhere to go. So he’s trying to engineer a new future. Here.

But how?

Whatever happened to Mbeki’s idea of Ubuntu? He must be charged for a million deaths under his rule, in fact nobody knows how many he’s killed.  He tried to plant a foreign idea that could not and has not taken root in South Africa. There’s no Ubuntu amongst black people.  And it possibly never existed. There is no evidence to suggest it does or did. He’s been to Alex, he’s seen how “they” live and he never wants to go back there again. White people are and have shared the wealth of this country, what about Black Economic Empowerment? What has the ANC done since ’94? It is not white people’s fault that education is not free. Anyway wasn’t matric sufficient to be a full citizen? Not everybody can go to university and make it. It’s hard enough being a university student. Of course an educated person can’t be bigoted. If you’re educated and still bigoted then your education has failed. This is the role of educators at institutions like Wits, to civilize and eradicate bigotry. Primary and Secondary Education can be free. But University? While there is still undeniable evidence of black mediocrity in the examples of the current political dispensation and let’s not forget Zimbabwe no one would ever believe that blacks are capable of running a country. It’s a fact. Africa is a basket case. Of course he can’t be racist. He’s well educated and education has nothing to do with a person’s prejudice.

It’s how you’ve been raised.

I didn’t want to comment on FeesMustFall, until I met Boris. While I am not an engineer, anthropologist, activist, apologist, communist, socialist or Capitalist. I know about the profound influence that  geography has on human history. I know that where you are born (and continue to live)  has more influence on the subsequent course of your life than anything else. That guns, germs and steel were agents used to drive out, exterminate and conquer those who did not have said guns germs and steel. I know that the environment not biology influenced who would develop guns germs and steel. I know about Jared Diamond. I know that Geography, not Biology determines the history of a people over a long-term, large spatial scale. And that culture plays a more profound role in determining the outcome of people’s lives over a short, small spatial scale. Boris and I  are  results of  both facts.

I didn’t want to write or comment on #feesmustfall until I met Boris. But I had to.  Because even if we can happily dismiss Boris’s tirade as the ignorant  mumblings of  a dying horse. His double speak and subterfuge both in the  past and present – represent the dominant (elitist) thought surrounding the  validity of #FeesMustFall. These thoughts are a direct reflection of our society.  What many fail to understand is that  FeesMustFall is more than just about free education, because the introduction of free education in South Africa will require an overhaul of the country’s  current economic system and or policies. A reorganizing of South African society as we know it.   It’s a demand for a change which is much deeper than a root-canal treatment.

A superficial understanding of what is required, (something which is  not limited to  rands and cents) will result in yet another pyrich victory.

These are the facts. And they can change. So that even if  or when fees do fall and they must. Only a certain number of people can and will be admitted to  University at one time.  Spurious selection criteria may be introduced.

Right of  Admission  Reserved.