APOCALYPSE: LET ME EAT FIRST

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In the 2008 documentary film Behind the Rainbow by Egyptian-French filmmaker, Jihan El Tahri President Jacob Zuma told a story which has stayed with me for nine years. The story was about his arrest in Swaziland while working as the ANC underground coordinator in 1975.  At the time, the ANC wanted to train military operatives whom they planned to inject back into South Africa to conduct missions. The Swazi authorities did not want the ANC to conduct military activities on their soil, so they kept the ANC house under close surveillance. President Jacob Zuma recounted the story which gives us an insight into how he behaves under pressure. “I saw a car parked and shortly thereafter the police came in. When the police say, come to the police station you are not likely to come back.” He said, raising his hands up in mock surrender.  ‘So, I said Let me eat first, so we ate and that’s how we were arrested”

This short story defined the character of President Jacob Zuma for me, cementing him in my mind as a man who holds his ground tenaciously regardless of the apocalypse surrounding him.

The ancient Greeks defined the word apocalypse, not as a foreboding word spelling doom, disaster or the end of the world as we have come to understand it in Biblical terms. The word apocalypse in Greek literally means the uncovering, a disclosure of knowledge or revelation. Lifting the veil on that which was formerly hidden.

Interpreted in this way, this word then gives us a framework within which to understand and describe what is happening politically in South Africa today. We are going through an apocalypse of gigantic proportions which brings to light each week all the different ways in which the political elite, government officials, state agencies and corporate South Africa have colluded in corrupt practices since 1994.

And President Jacob Zuma who is currently at the centre of this storm is bidding his time, hanging on quietly to ensure that his wives, children, extended family and friends are well taken care of before he is forced to leave the table. He will eat first despite the vultures which are surrounding his camp waiting to pluck at the dead flesh of his controversial presidency.

As much as most of South Africa and some members of the ANC are desperate to get President Jacob Zuma out of government with immediate effect – we would all be remiss to focus only on him as the source of the fungus clogging up systems in government – because he is very clearly not the only one. White monopoly capital is as real and true as the insidious nature of the friendship between the Gupta’s and the president. We should never forget that it was indeed former president Nelson Mandela himself who ordered his “boys” in the ANC not to upset the ship in the order for the negotiated settlement go ahead as planned with all the compromises that had been made.

Former president Thabo Mbeki said a much in an interview he gave in Behind The Rainbow, “we put ourselves in the shoes of the other side, we said to ourselves if we were the National Party we would be reluctant to lose power and therefore we would fight against change…. because they’d be fearful.  These black people who they’ve always defined in a particular way; terrorists, communists all these terrible things you’d be fearful of them taking over. So, we said well, to address that fear we said let’s offer them the sunset clauses to say you will not lose power completely. And it meant not only retaining some of them in cabinet it also meant retaining people in the public service”

While this may have been a great negotiating tactic for the ANC at the time the unintended consequences meant that the structures of apartheid both in government and in the corporate sector were not entirely dismantled

When President Nelson Mandela went on a tour in Europe he told the corporate world in Paris France that he had the labour unions under his control and a large number of state enterprises which were open for business – for private-public partnerships which became the new buzzwords of our new democracy.

Thabo Mbeki said pleasing the west was paramount in their decision-making at the time “we had to take into account the international setting what we do here could turn a significant part of the world against us which would not be right. If we hadn’t done that I

20 years on the violence they feared would tipple the ship is now eating away at the very fabric of our society, from our bedrooms to the streets and it is threatening to unravel the delicate stitches weaving the country together.

If we all understand that much of what is happening in the country economically is a result of decisions made 20, 30, 40 years ago. We can also see that the new information which is coming to light is important to help us steer the ship in a completely new direction, one which is more aligned with the values and principles inscribed in the constitution and the bill of rights.

Changing course might not seem easy but it is our best alternative to continuing down this path. Perhaps this time we can apply our minds more rigorously to the real options we have available; which of the political parties contesting the elections are the embodiment of our highest ideals?

What we decide to do now will be critical to the future of South Africa. It is important for us to know what is happening and who the real players are behind the faces in parliament.

Perhaps then we can have a chance to elect leaders who are sober, courageous and pragmatic enough to stand for what is right with as much passion and tenacity as President Jacob Zuma and the ANC are at the dinner table.

Change is taking place and we need to be wide awake to it. We need to make sure that it’s a change we can believe in and support with our actions, lest we cross the Rubicon.

 

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CHANNEL O-OH! AFRICAN VIDEO AWARDS AND THE VIP SYNDROME

Nigerian R&B duo P-SQUARE, doing their thing at the 2013 Channel O African Video Awards in Kliptown Soweto.
Nigerian R&B duo P-SQUARE, doing their thing at the 2013 Channel O African Video Awards in Kliptown Soweto.

“Gloom and despondency have never defeated adversity. Trying times need courage and resilience..” Former South African President Thabo Mbeki, 2008 September Presidential  Resignation speech.

The Fairy-Tale

Let’s just say I was a fish out of water. I traipsed through the darkness over the railway line in 6 inch thin Wedges to get to the other side of the tracks in order to arrive at the entrance of the Tenth Annual Channel O African Video Awards in Kliptown, Soweto.  I was there at the invitation of Mr Bob Nameng, director of the Soweto Kliptown Youth Centre (SKY) in old Kliptown. The center featured prominently during the show part of  Channel O social responsibility initiatives. The channel build a music recording studio at the center to help train aspirant musos and the youth of Kliptown  some years ago.

At the entrance I received my orange tag, tightly tied around my right wrist and was swiftly greeted by two crew members one of whom informed someone via the intercom that “We have another screamer” coming in. I asked one of them “screamer? What does that mean?” I soon found out at the entrance to the main venue when I was asked for a card or ticket which I didn’t possess. “Wait here” they said seemingly confused about where I should go.  After I was let in and showed to the “screamers” section I realized what the confusion had been about. I was not dressed like the “screamers” – a word which here is meant to describe die-hard, star-struck largely young(er) people who would stop at nothing to see their favourite artists up-close and personal and so are placed standing around the stage to shout and scream at the performers throughout the live show.  I was with those guys that the “stars/performers” shake –hands with on stage, who they throw their pieces of clothing or accessories to. Some did too, a pair of sunglasses and a hat were thrown to the “beloved” screamers “without whom the artists would not be the stars they are” (sic) 

I laughed at my own presumptuousness. I had actually asked for a chair, but realized that my orange tag only afforded me standing room in a cage –like – Kraal among screaming fans.   Seated on the gallery were Very Important People (VIPs):  the stars, musicians, artists, performers, Music industry leaders, managers, producers, the media with their wives, friends etc.  I even spotted  Randall Hall, the famed Idols judge whom everyone loves to hate, sitting in the front row seats at the gallery his demeanor unchanged from what Idols audiences have become used to.  I had been spoiled by the “perks” of being a member of the press, though admittedly I have never in the past (nor presently) used my press card to gain access to events I was not assigned to cover or invited to. Tonight I was here as myself – Jedi Ramalapa – and that only provided access to the fan section – which in production terms is equivalent to the role of an extra, without benefits (food and refreshments).

THE SHOW…

After I settled into my standing “Screamer” position and taking pictures with fellow screamers. I took out my notebook with a view to writing about the Awards from a very different perspective.  Soon darkness descended inside the Marquee erected on Walter Sisulu Square of Remembrance as the countdown to the live show began.

Fire-works, Lights, Stage Smoke erupted around the stage which lite up the dome in a spectacular fashion. The fire works though were dangerously close to the “screamers” raising  alarm from my side about our safety. Soon   Red, Green, Yellow and Red laser lights blitzed, whizzed on the stage revealing two statuette-like figures of two well-built men, who were to be the main MCs for the show. Naeto Super C and AKA, names and faces which were until that very moment were unknown to me.

BLACK & GOLD

The fashion theme for the show was overwhelmingly black and gold. Black Military-esque outfits, suits, body hugging evening dresses for the female presenters and Vjs embellished with thick gold chains and an assortment of jewelry from tooth to toe.   The show was fast-paced and I soon discovered the advantageous position I was in as I could see the performers up close and also had a view to the scripts they were reading through the tele-prompter.  From my standing position one could observe the demeanor of the performers and presenters as they propped themselves up for a cue to action and read from the set-script.  Many of them improvised, made up their own words as they went along and some did a poor job of reading which meant that had I been sitting on the main gallery, I would not have had a clue of what they were saying.   The stars read as if spitting a rap tune, but I understood this as they were in-fact artists who are more often than not prone to go off the script and perform whenever the mood arises. No one is perfect.

“I am just one poor woman among millions, in their name I want to greet a freedom fighter”   Belgian Woman to Patrice Lumumba following his release from prison and arrival in Belgium.

THE ASS (ET)   FACTOR.

What I found most interesting (read disturbing) about the show was the prominence and dominance in all music genres of male artists. Female artists were mostly supporting acts – dancers who gyrated half-naked, limbs in the air, massaging the floor with their thighs and buttocks in half-twerking-twists and splits behind King-Like- Male artists. My fellow screamers were in heaven. The women among us faked fainting and made comments to the tune of “he looks so delicious” – all is equal in love and war.  The Men wanted to leave “ let’s go and have a drink somewhere”  It was indeed a live show  true to what Channel O music videos are about –  the trusted old script of the Male lead supported by half-naked gyrating women behind them. It made me think about what it is in fact that make male artists more “successful” or prominent, hard work, less time looking after the family? Fraternal brotherhood?  Has nothing at all changed? I suppose women aspire to be background dancers because that is what popular culture sells to them, advertising excessive sexuality on the dance floor as a way to get in, be seen and admired by men and envied by other women.  I have often had my doubts about whether or not it would be prudent to force commercial entities such as Multichoice which owns Channel O to provide “diversified” forms of entertainment  thinking that it would be better for us to do our own thing on the side.

But “we” independent artists who function on the fringes of the mainstream do not have the platform, and one can’t influence popular culture if we don’t go were young people are – which is the Channel O and  MTV’s of the world. So how do we change? Change does take place yes, is taking place, but at a much slower pace – ultimately we’ll have more young people aspiring to those forms of entertainment as career options than we’d have true artists who have a real message  or craftsmanship. Independent artists need to infiltrate the established mainstream ultimately. How?

The performance by South African DJ Ganyani of her hit song  Chibombo  ( a former supporting act for Thembi Seete of  Boom Shaka) was perhaps the only powerful female  led performance act, which brought to mind images of the late 80’s singer Paul Ndlovu   and Brenda Fassie in one tiny package.  Admittedly non-gyrating-fully clothed male and female music duos received a resounding reception from the audience particularly a performance by The Soil. The audience stood up to sing with the artists word for word.  Mafikizolos’ 2013 hit song “Khona” also received a  warm reception as it brought the show down to a close with more fireworks, dancing Africans, stage smoke and confetti, to a spectacular close. Even the ever popular Alingo –  by the Nigerian duo P-Square;  which got me moving one Sunday afternoon, though popular did not  generate the massive support. It was altogether a night for South African artists, which also made me wonder where the  African(ness) was in the awards.

All things being equal, I imagine  that  certain sections of the public are also slowly getting tired of the male on top type music videos and are also looking for performances that are much more substantial – though the latter still dominates.

Michael Jackson was alive at the Channel O African Video awards, with almost all dance choreography mimicking the pop-legends infectious moves. This is also true to worldwide mainstream dance acts from Beyoncé to Chris brown. The show left me wondering if this generation has anything “original “to offer? Perhaps it’s time I considered adjusting my expectations.

Time of The African Writer Today

Writer Mpho Nthunya from Lesotho.

Today the  07th November 2012 is the International day of the…

African Writer 

Once upon a time 21 years ago, African leaders  attending the Conference of African Ministers of Education and Culture in Coutonou Benin, under the  Organization of the African Union (OAU) now AU declared that  we as Africans need a day to  ” Afford the African people a moment of pause to reflect on the Contribution of African Writers to the Development of the continent” Back in 1991.

Today

A conference celebrating  African Writer’s is underway at the University of the Free State in South Africa.  Do you Know about it? Former South African President Thabo Mbeki’s is going to deliver a Key  Note  address on  the  role of the African Writer today and over the last Century on Saturday the 10th of November.

Organizers hope to form a formidable African Writer’s Organization (union perhaps) to represent African Writer’s and Defend their right to probe and expose injustice. To Write what they like. To write what they see.   We are trying to make the world of literature more accessible says  the African Writer’s Conference  director Raks Seakhoa.  There, there shall be music during the writer’s music festival at the weekend to demonstrate that even music starts with writing.  His comment made me think of  Bob Marley and the Wailer’s song WAR, whose lyrics were literally derived from a speech by the Ethiopian Haile Selassie the 1st, which he delivered before the  United Nations General Assembly in 1963:

That until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned; That until there are no longer first-class and second-class citizens of any nation; That until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained; And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique and in South Africa in subhuman bondage have been toppled and destroyed; Until bigotry and prejudice and malicious and inhuman self-interest have been replaced by understanding and tolerance and good-will; Until all Africans stand and speak as free beings, equal in the eyes of all men, as they are in the eyes of Heaven; Until that day, the African continent will not know peace. We Africans will fight, if necessary, and we know that we shall win, as we are confident in the victory of good over evil. – Haile Selassie

Let us all  pause for  moment and reflect.

Have you  read any of  Africa’s Best Books of the Century? 

(here’s a list from  Columbia University)

1. Abnudi, `Abd al-Rahman (Egypt) al-Mawt `ala al-asfalt (Death on the Asphalt)

2. Achebe, Chinua (Nigeria) Arrow of God

3. Achebe, Chinua (Nigeria) Things Fall Apart

4. Aidoo, Ama Ata (Ghana) Anowa

5. Almeida, Germano (Cape Verde) O testamento do Sr. Napumoceno da Silva Araújo

6. Armah, Ayi Kwei (Ghana) The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born

7. Bâ, Amadou Hampâté (Mali ) L’étrange destin de Wangrin

8. Bâ, Mariama (Senegal) Une si longue lettre

9. Ben Jelloun, Tahar (Morocco) La nuit sacrée

10. Beti, Mongo (Cameroon) Le pauvre Christ de Bomba

11. Brink, André (South Africa) A Dry White Season

12. Bugul, Ken (Senegal) Riwan, ou le chemin de sable

13Cheney-Choker, Syl (Sierra Leone) The Last Harmattan of Alusine Dunbar

14. Chraibi, Driss (Morocco) Le passé simple

15. Coetzee, J.M. (South Africa) Life and Times of Michael K

16. Couto, Mia (Mozambique) Terra sonâmbula

17. Craveirinha, José (Mozambique) Karingana ua Karingana

18. Dadié, Bernard (Côte d’Ivoire) Climbié

19. Dangarembga, Tsitsi (Zimbabwe) Nervous Conditions

20. Dib, Mohammed (Algeria) La grande maison, L’incendie, Le métier à tisser

21. Diop, Birago (Senegal) Les contes d’Amadou Koumba

22. Diop, Boubacar Boris (Senegal) Murambi ou le livre des ossements

23. Djebar, Assia (Algeria) L’amour, la fantasia

24. Emecheta, Buchi (Nigeria) The Joys of Motherhood

25. Fagunwa, Daniel O. (Nigeria) Ogboju ode ninu igbo irunmale

26Farah, Nuruddin (Somalia) Maps

27. Fugard, Athol (South Africa) The Blood Knot

28. Ghitani, Jamal al– (Egypt) Zayni Barakat

29. Gordimer, Nadine (South Africa) Burgher’s Daughter

30. Head, Bessie (South Africa) A Question of Power

31. Honwana, Bernardo (Mozambique) Nos matamos o cão tinhoso

32. Hove, Chenjerai (Zimbabwe) Bones

33. Isegawa, Moses (Uganda) Abessijnse Kronieken

34. Jordan, Archibald Campbell (South Africa) Ingqumbo yeminyanya

35. Joubert, Elsa (South Africa) Die Swerdjare van Poppie Nongena

36. Kane, Cheikh Hamidou (Senegal) L’aventure ambiguë

37. Khosa, Ungulani Ba Ka (Mozambique) Ualalapi

38. Kourouma, Ahmadou (Côte d’Ivoire) Les soleils des indépendances

39. Laye, Camara (Guinea) L’enfant noir

40. Magona, Sindiwe (South Africa) Living, Loving and Lying Awake at Night

41. Mahfouz, Naguib (Egypt) The Cairo Trilogy

42. Marechera, Dambudzo (Zimbabwe) House of Hunger

43. Mofolo, Thomas (Lesotho) Chaka

44. Monenembo, Tierno (Guinea) Un attieké pour Elgass

45. Mutwa, Vusamazulu Credo (South Africa) Indaba, My Children

46. Ngugi wa Thiong’o (Kenya) Caitaani Mutharaba-ini (Devil on the Cross)

47. Ngugi wa Thiong’o (Kenya) A Grain of Wheat

48. Niane, Djibril Tamsir (Senegal) Soundjata ou l’épopée mandingue

49. Nyembezi, Sibusiso (South Africa) Inkinnsela yaseMgungundlovu

50. Okigbo, Christopher (Nigeria) Labyrinths

51. Okri, Ben (Nigeria) The Famished Road

52. Oyono, Ferdinand (Cameroon) Le vieux nègre et la médaille

53. P’Bitek, Okot (Uganda) Song of Lawino

54. Pepetela (Angola) A geração da utopia

55. Saadawi, Nawal El (Egypt) Woman at Point Zero

56. Salih El, Tayyib (Sudan) Season of Migration to the North

57. Sassine, Williams (Guinea) Le jeune homme de sable

58. Sembene, Ousmane (Senegal) Les bouts de bois de Dieu

59. Senghor, Léopold Sédar (Senegal) Ouevre poétique

60. Serote, Mongane (South Africa) Third World Express

61. Shabaan, Robert Bin (Tanzania) Utenzi wa vita vya uhuru

62. Sony Labou Tansi (Congo) La vie et demie

63. Sow Fall, Aminata (Senegal) La grève des battus

64. Soyinka, Wole (Nigeria) Death and the King’s Horsemen

65. Tchicaya U Tam’si (Congo) Le mauvais sang – feu de brousse – à trisse-coeur

66. Tutuola, Amos (Nigeria) The Palm-wine Drinkard

67. Vera, Yvonne (Zimbabwe) Butterfly Burning

68. Vieira, José Luandino (Angola) Nós os do Makulusu (Excerpt available online)

69. Vilakazi, B.W. (South Africa) Amal’eZulu

70. Yacine, Kateb (Algeria) Nedjma

Scholarship/non-fiction

71. Amin, Samir (Egypt) Accumulation on a World Scale

72. Amadiume, Ifi (Nigeria) Male Daughters, Female Husbands

73. Andrade, Mario de (Angola) Os nacionalismos africanos

74. Appiah, Anthony (Ghana) In My Father’s House

75. Cabral, Amilcar (Guinea-Bissau) Unity and Struggle

76. Chimera, Rocha (Kenya) Kiswahili, past, present and future horizons

77. Diop, Cheikh Anta (Senegal) Antériorité des civilisations nègres

78. Doorkenoo, Efua (Ghana) Cutting the Rose

79. Hayford, J.E. Casely (Ghana) Ethiopia Unbound

80. Hountondji, Paulin (Benin) Sur la philosophie africaine

81. Johnson, Samuel (Nigeria) The History of the Yorubas

82. Kenyatta, Jomo (Kenya) Facing Mount Kenya

83. Ki-Zerbo, Joseph (Burkina Faso) Histoire de l’Afrique noire

84. Krog, Antjie (South Africa) Country of My Skull

85. Mama, Amina (Nigeria) Beyond the Mask, Race, Gender and Identity

86. Mamdani, Mahmood (Uganda) Citizen and Subject

87. Mandela, Nelson (South Africa) Long Walk to Freedom

88. Marais, Eugene (South Africa) Die Siel van die Mier

89. Memmi, Albert (Tunisia) Portrait du colonisé suivi de portrait du colonisateur

90. Mondlane, Eduardo (Mozambique) The Struggle for Mozambique

91. Mphahlele, Ezekiel (South Africa) Down Second Avenue

92. Mudimbe, V.Y. (Dem. Rep. of Congo) The Invention of Africa

93. Nkrumah, Kwame (Ghana) Ghana: The Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah

94. Plaatje, Sol (South Africa) Native Life in South Africa

95. Soyinka, Wole (Nigeria) Ake: The Years of Childhood

96. Van Onselen, Charles (South Africa) The Seed is Mine

Literature for Children

97. Asare, Meshack (Ghana) Sosu’s Call

98. Al-Homi, Hayam Abbas (Egypt) Adventures of a Breath

99. Mungoshi, Charles (Zimbabwe) Stories from a Shona Childhood

100. Tadjo, Veronique (Côte d’Ivoire) Mamy Wata et le monstre