#Spur A thought: Is it too soon or too late for neo-race relations in SA?

Emotional intelligence
noun
  1. the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.
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    When we were growing up, it was normal practice for adults other than one’s parents to dish out discipline. If you were in the wrong, you knew there would be repercussions. If this didn’t come in the form of an adult hauling you before your own parents and leaving them to handle you, it would come in the form of them giving you some form of corporal punishment.

    Elders allowed this for two reasons – one, that youngsters saw the consistency of discipline (it doesn’t matter who I am; I’m still your parent) and – Two; to foster a sense of respect. So, there really wasn’t room for manipulation from us kids – we’d learn and never repeat the same mistakes. Therefore, the ideology that it takes a village to raise a child truly applied then and took precedence.

    Of course, our world has evolved immensely since then. Black people aren’t limited to growing up in underdeveloped areas or townships anymore: Our lives have transcended the niche communities with one culture, colour; language and practices.

    In effect, the prerequisite of that evolution was the adoption of a different approach to personal conduct and inter-personal relations. For some individuals, the process of assimilation is easy while others will find themselves in conflict with their environment.

    We’ve somehow grown accustomed to racist slurs everywhere and how they come out during seemingly relaxed moments. Perhaps as a reminder that we are not quite there yet; we haven’t even begun. Each day our level of conflict with our environment is exposed and it isn’t surprising how something like road rage is now our breakfast and dinner. Still, we continue feeding these monsters.

    Having had the opportunity to tap into the viral Spur video, I personally saw a lot of dynamics at play. The first thing that South Africans are generally engineered to sense is the racist aspect -and granted, there usually is an element of that somewhere. Our racist sensors are very sensitive and this is warranted given our historical disposition. However, this has created a grey area where people can literally get away with being just plain awful; where other dynamics at play can be ignored.

    Bestselling co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Travis Bradberry describes emotional intelligence as something that affects how we manage behaviour, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results. Emotional intelligence is a critical ingredient to self-awareness and self-management. Therefore, people who lack EQ are more likely to lack the ability to navigate through life, assess their environment and respond accordingly, among other things.

    With the two parties at each other’s throats and an audience of children around them, witnessing the insults being hurled back and forth- this scene was disturbing. It is obvious that while the fight was seemingly the result of one child bugging another, this wasn’t about the children anymore.

    With adults behaving in that manner, who needs growing up? The intention is not to sound like a soccer fan watching his team losing a match from his couch and thinking he could have done a better job than the team, coach and referee put together.

    However, as a parent myself there have been incidents in the past where my child has come home crying because of a playground altercation and I would simply say “Sorry, my child but s’ka ntsenya mo dintweng tsa gago.” This is simply to say: Fight your own battles, toughen up. I will choose which battles to fight for you. But it is equally important to bring the children together and get them to apologise to one another. Done. Everyone is happy.

    This is just as applicable if roles are to be reversed – no child needs to be privy to grown-ups fighting or to be subjected to such reckless behaviour. If we kept in mind that the minds of children are like sponges, perhaps we would act differently.

    Their only take-away (pun intended) from this is that one section of society still perceives the other as lacking the basic ability to raise children properly, therefore an instruction to toe the line can be issued with no consultation. Secondly, they’ve learnt that if they are under pressure then self-destruction is the way to go. What would you think would have happened had either of these people reacted differently?

    G*
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Dear Mageza

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Having been a victim of an unprovoked verbal attack on my way to work this morning, I feel I need to say a few things.

I am not certain, however, that you will read any of this-seeing how things like reading are last on your list of priorities. Again, you say absurd things like “stelling” when you mean “steering wheel” but that’s none of my business since I know better than to ridicule anyone who doesn’t speak the Queen’s language properly.

It’s funny because you like things: You put up bumper stickers all over the place, about overweight people, people not being allowed to doze off in the front seat and lo and behold that people ought to shut up because they don’t have cars- we must see you, we must feel you. And who the hell told you that everyone who takes a taxi doesn’t have a car of their own??

Then again, your narrow-mindedness precedes you! You probably suffer an inadequacy complex, you can frog march people because it gives you some sort of power and that’s the thing-we let you get away with it.

This Mageza rained on yours truly this morning following a request to be dropped off where I get off each and every morning. He maintained that he had asked where everyone was going. “I speak Tswana”, I said- wait, is it a cardinal sin to not speak Zulu in Johannesburg? When did Zulu become our primary national language?It doesn’t end there, he continues his tirade by telling another that if he were to insult me-I would hear. Yes, I heard everything. I maintained a dignified silence. It could have been cowardice or perhaps the realization that no wise person in their right mind should argue with a moron.

Now, dear Mageza, you are uncouth and arrogant- the last word should always be yours. No matter what. You treat commuters like they owe you the world, as if your service is a favour. That’s what you do when you overload a taxi and expect everyone to pay the same price; when your seats are so in ruins one has to hold on for dear life to avoid falling over; when you risk the lives of passengers by skipping traffic lights.

You bask so well in the stereotypes attached to you that you ruin it for other taxi drivers who are decent and treat commuters with respect. I will not offer any remedies for your condition or try to school you- you are a lost cause, completely consumed by the little world you inhabit; complete in waking up and not impacting positively on the world around you. Unfortunately, half of this country depends on the taxi industry to bridge the gap between home and workplace-so you must be chuffed.

I’ll tell you though that customer service and courtesy is not some foreign exercise meant for the corporate world or as you would say “those who know too mush (much)”, they are everywhere you go. Respect is earned and not demanded.

Sincerely,

Gomo’

Conversations about Blood and Water…

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The late Nelson Mandela once said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children”. The world watched with a mixture of shock and intrigue as the Mandela clan played out their squabbles in public months before his death. We were at a loss when the nonagenarian passed on; and witnessed through the media as the drama and tense relations between family members persisted.

Our fixation with that family grew increasingly as Tata’s last will and testament was publicly read, opening it up to scrutiny; the discourse naturally spilling into the social media sphere.

Drafting one’s last will and testament is probably the most sensible exercise any of us can undertake in our lifetime. But it remains one of those things that people neglect. It really is funny how a piece of legal documentation can be interpreted as a measure of how the deceased loved each one of those left behind as opposed to one that could be instrumental in averting possible conflict over assets.

That, of course, is an ideal situation. In reality, wills can be manipulated and contested by those with vested interest in the deceased’s estate, which can result in long drawn out legal battles. The contents may also be changed by the testator to reflect their emotional state in terms of their relationship with any of the beneficiaries. Who can forget the infamous family dispute over oil magnate J. Howard Marshall II’s $ 1.6 billion estate by his wife Anna Nicole Smith and son, E. Pierce Marshall?

Judging by the responses on social networks on half of Mandela’s estate being left to his surviving partner, his wife Graça Machel and sensationalist reporting on Winnie “getting nothing”– many weren’t happy. To exacerbate the situation, Machel’s children (and step-children) benefitted from Tata’s estate. One has to ask; what is wrong with that? Surely when they say sa gago ke sa me- Sa me  ke sa gago (What’s mine is yours) in reference to the institution of marriage, then it couldn’t have been done more pragmatically?

Writing on the Challenges of Step-families, Linda Schaefer states that, “the problems of a second [or third] marriage are more complicated, since more people, relationships, feelings, attitudes, and beliefs are involved.”

Look, let’s not sugar-coat anything- raising step-children is tricky. I recall a conversation with a good friend of mine who was raised by a single mother. He grew up having men who weren’t his father around him. One, in particular wanted to be “the man of the house” and what resulted was a tug-of-war in the home; an experience that has negatively affected how my friend relates to relationships and the prospects of raising someone else’s child.

For those presented with step-parenting, it can mean either having their attempts at affection thrown back in their faces or having to face entrenched expectations that the child will be mistreated anyway because of the absence of a biological bond. I find it rather peculiar that the same society that can decry constant threats to children’s livelihoods, including abuse of all kinds, is one that deems it okay –without reservation-for someone to exclude his spouse’s children (by default, his children) from his estate.

What does this reveal about the “soul” of our society? Sometimes, it seems we merely take three steps forward and five steps backwards. We decry all these injustices and far-reaching consequences of children not being brought up in a loving and sheltered environment. Yet it is clear that we are the very monster we detest; we are comfortable with that.

The perpetuation of the unspoken perception that step- or adopted children are second-class individuals who should be grateful that they even get an ounce of affection at all is tragic. “There are men [and women] making a valuable contribution to the lives of children in South Africa, even when they are not their biological children”, writes Izzy Rawlins.

As in his living years, one continues to draw lessons from Tata, even in mortality. Doing the juggling act of re-asserting one’s love for his biological children against assuring step-children of their place in the family can’t be an easy feat- for anyone. I reckon that a lot of us missed the lesson there-which is more of a question than a set of ready-made answers: How much of yourself are you willing to give to others without expecting anything in return?

RSVP, What the Fudge???

Did you know that the abbreviation R.S.V.P. is derived from the French phrase “répondez s’il vous plait”? This, in English terms means “request for responses”. Yes? No? I’ll confess and say I had no idea! I have been under the false impression that it literally meant “RESERVE PLACE”, which sort of-kind of makes sense since I have always seen marked chairs at events with those four letters.

It took me a while to finish reading Joyce Meyer’s book Change Your Words-Change Your Life. Let’s just say my interaction with the material wasn’t all that easy. Anyway, I did pick up a lot of lessons and things to think about like Meyer’s stern caution on the importance of keeping one’s word: “If you RSVP for a party, be sure you either go, or call and cancel your reservation if you cannot go. [They] are ordering food based on your commitment.

That’s if one RSVPs in the first place, Ms. Meyer! See, there is no such thing as RSVP-ing in African culture, and only the modern and upwardly mobile ascribe to such. In my culture, you don’t get invited to an event- you just show up and mingle.

However, this is not to suggest that we don’t get the occasional sparkly and frilly wedding invite with the magic letters and someone’s number at the bottom. We do! While I have no recollection of either of my folks formally declining or accepting any of them, I do know that some of the nicer invitations have enjoyed extended stays displayed on the wall-unit in the lounge.

How can we forget the little controversy that occurred over Bishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu almost not attending Tata Mandela’s funeral service? His foundation announced just the day before the service that Tutu would not attend as he was “not invited” but the confusion was later cleared and he was able to attend.

It was hardly surprising that something of that nature happened since the practice of inviting people to funerals is foreign to a lot of us. Despite this, everyone in my household concurred that without the strictly-by-invitation (or accreditation, if you will) measure in place, Mr Mandela’s funeral would have been a logistical mess.

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BUT numbers are a big thing in my culture. The number of people that show up at one’s event (especially funerals) is an indicator of the level of “morale support” given by others and, conversely, how much the deceased or their family gave of themselves to others.

It is for this very reason that if you don’t have numbers on your side…shame! When a member of our extended family passed on years ago, his grieving mother left us gobsmacked when she -even in mourning- almost gleefully quipped, “A le bone batho ba ba neng ba le ko lesong?!”(Did you see the number of people at the service?!) She saw that? Did it even matter? Phew!

With the new-age bunch of kids, there is a growing trend towards curbing the number of people attending a particular event by having the event on location. Let’s face it, if you have an event ko Kasi everyone will pitch!

So, this presents a definite shift from instances where the community is involved in the preparations to make way for events coordinators and small, intimate affairs. It also eliminates those cringe-worthy situations where only “VIPs” (whatever that means) hog the chairs and J.C le Roux’s in the marquees while the rest of the masses bake in the sun.

We still operate largely in a word of mouth realm and perhaps learning to RSVP (and honour the invite) is really the last thing on our to-do list. Let’s not forget that the First World people have yet to master it as well. This, clearly, might take a while. If you still think that RSVP-ing is useless, you might want to consider that it may just be your saving grace the next time you decide to turn up for an event at the last minute. Either that or contend with the embarrassment of not finding your name on the guestlist.

When the Going Gets Tough

I recall how, on some mornings during my commute to work, the taxi drivers would play “dikosha tsa Pitori”. Now, I will never understand this particular genre of “music” but it’s best to acknowledge (and make peace with the fact) that there are simply different strokes for different folks. All I know is that it is never played at low levels and a tension headache was most guaranteed on those unfortunate mornings of boarding a taxi blazing such.

There’s one particular song that has remained in my head, though, purely because of its ehm…lyrical content. The singer -in that mess of auto tune infused with a pseudo-Maskandi-do-it-quick type of singing- laments the day his partner ‘slapped’ him with divorce papers. It is nothing short of amusing that even when the lyrical matter is of a sombre nature, the music demands that one dances anyway!

It would appear that people are slapping one another with divorce papers like it’s going out of fashion lately, and if recent conversations on various media platforms are anything to go by then our country is facing virtual implosion. Unlike the catchy sound of the Kosha ya Pitori, there is nothing amusing about the data released by Statistics SA in December 2012 about divorce trends in our country.

According to a summative report by law firm Abrahams & Gross Inc., “more than 20 000 children are affected by divorce each year”. It is reported that 37. 9% (7 719) of those categorically fall into the African segment of the population.

Irreconcilable differences resulting in divorce include, amongst others; finances, lack of communication, infidelity, sexual problems, alcohol/ drug problems, etc. The revelation that more and more black people are getting divorced has introduced an interesting dimension to the divorce discourse.

This is especially the case because there seems to be an increasing inclination to attribute the current rates of divorce to how women conduct themselves in this age, and thus, to our emancipation. Not only do these assertions come from men, but women as well. This is essentially problematic if we denounce patriarchy on the one hand and feed into it on the other.

One gets the sense that women are solely responsible for keeping the institution of marriage together, which, by the way has been the case for many centuries. The custom of “go laya” which is done as two people enter into marriage is a form of counselling done by elders. To the woman, the aunties preach resilience as a marriage survival mechanism. He cheats? Don’t worry, “ke selepe” (an axe), he’ll come back. How about finances? No worries; his pay cheque is his business. It goes on and on…

Having attended a training session once, the conversation in the room at some point drifted towards infidelity. The facilitator, a man, had no qualms with discussing how women in the noughties ‘give freely’ of themselves and want everything on a silver platter. Again, that argument has its merits and that is possibly another issue pushing up the rates of divorce; the nature of instant gratification, as well as the disappointment that sets in once the bubble bursts.

The discussion around infidelity was inevitable, and it was not surprising that the facilitator’s view was that infidelity is acceptable when committed by a man rather than a woman. I suppose this means that women are held to high esteem in that regard? I’m not certain whether this is meant to elicit some sort of grateful response; whether one ought to feel like they are given a huge deal of respect. It is nothing but patronising.

It remains clear that despite the ever changing social landscape within which we exist, patriarchy remains what it is and for this reason it will always be at loggerheads with the former in its quest to remain relevant.

The statistics themselves paint a bleak picture, especially with consideration to the number of children affected. Divorce can be quite traumatic for children, especially when it is of a hostile nature. However, we cannot avoid that sometimes divorce is absolutely necessary because staying in a loveless and mutually unsatisfying marriage is just as detrimental to all parties involved.

Seyantlo: For Better or Worse?

In between the entire hullabaloo that surrounded the so-called “Braai Day” and its shameless upstaging of National Heritage Day, I’d like to humbly give my two cents’ worth…then maybe we can call it a truce? Perhaps if we could all step back for a minute, find our inner selves; regroup and finally take one helluva deep breath we can sort out this whole sordid and completely fruitless exercise, yeah?

Let’s just be grateful that some of you have come out of Heritage Day particularly unscathed by the braai meat you had. On the other hand, perhaps we should congratulate those who boycotted the darn charcoal and pieces of meat- South Africans are quickly tipping the obesity scale. It ain’t pretty, people!

A recent conversation about the age old cross-cousin marriage tradition of the Batswana got me thinking hard about another, more controversial tradition. One cannot help but breathe a sigh of relief that some of us are fortunate enough not to have lived in periods and places that were (are) strict in the observation of such cultural practices.

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In Tabane, E. M.’s research report titled “Influences of Cultural Practices of the Batswana on the Transmission of HIV/AIDS in Botswana” he describes Seyantlo as a “common” practice where a widow is traditionally obliged to marry her brother-in-law and “therefore can only have sex with [him].” It is also stated that this can also occur with a widower. (2004: 189)

The rationale behind this is the same one that underpins many of our traditions. Any African will tell you how important maintaining lineage (tshika) is. This encompasses, primarily, considerations around the welfare of the children as well as the protection of the assets of the deceased. It is also about “keeping it in the family” as lobola doesn’t have to be paid twice for the same person. After doing some digging, I also discovered that in Seyantlo’s purest form, neither the widow nor her brother-in-law will be consulted on the matter. Instead, the families of the two will meet and have an agreement of their own and, in a show of respect for culture, the two people will oblige. My foot!

The first thing that comes to mind is what about love? Somehow the rationale that some people in arranged marriages provide about the possibility of learning to love someone in the course of the union somehow doesn’t make any logical sense to me. Secondly, how narcissistic is our culture sometimes? I say Seyantlo is a cruel joke. In some instances, the very thing that it seeks to promote –family bonds- is the very same thing that it disintegrates; could there be anything worse than being stuck in a loveless and awkward marriage?

The unintended consequences of this evident marriage of convenience include tension and obvious resentment. Extra-marital affairs are culturally sanctioned in any case, and in the event of this happening the (traditional) wife knows better than to ask questions.

I mean, if Thabo were seeing Ntombi and they had long-term plans that included marriage, would he be particularly chuffed that he has to warm his widowed sister-in-law’s bed and play happy family? How does that affect the very children this practice is intended to protect?

In this age, society views Seyantlo with equal scorn and appreciation. While some people say they would take comfort in their sibling stepping in to hold the fort, others view it as completely immoral-something they reckon would be entered into by someone who had already had their sights set on their sibling’s partner.

I do not know much, ke monnye mo dikganyeng, however I do know that it is a burden that I would never carry nor one I would expect my sister to either. I simply want to marry someone I love and that’s that.

With all its seemingly noble intentions, Seyantlo is nevertheless a narrow-minded practice. It ignores the basic tenet that mutual love and respect (neė compliance) are a crucial foundation of any relationship.

Children aren’t only raised on pap and vleis but on witnessing the love and respect being shared between their parents. It’s the only way they can learn self-respect and respect for others. Growing up within a house with someone with the same last name simply is no guarantee for the welfare of children.Shouldn’t we be thinking differently in an era where sexual, physical and emotional abuse emanates from familiar places as it does from strange ones?

 

Navigating The Grey Terrain…

A bronze ornamental piece used to adorn the wall in my folks’ bedroom when I was growing up. Encrypted on it were the words, “Count not life by the minutes but by the moments…” and more words to that effect which I cannot recall at this point.

What I do remember is that the text related to how we treat time and by implication, life. How we measure life truly depends on our different contexts; how much sentimentality we infuse into the things we do and how much value we add into ours’ and others’ lives.

Like many other things in life, conversations around age and ageing are a bone of contention. While some people may express their desire to live a wholesome and meaningful existence even if it is short-lived, others would opt for the opportunity to live a long life anytime. Many would gladly live for a while if they could have the option to fore-go the physical ramifications associated with ageing.

See all those women visiting cosmetic surgeons,and how about those old timers stocking up on Viagra…or the infamous sugar daddies all around? Insane, huh? And don’t we all want to live forever, and be forever young while we’re at it?

As usual, yours truly is quite happy to sit on the fence. Firstly because not everyone who dies young would have achieved all they set out to do (though you can probably recall a few notable individuals who died at the height of stardom and dizzying success). Secondly, having the privilege of long life does not necessarily mean that one will see their children and grandchildren grow to become well-rounded individuals who care about themselves and the society they inhabit.

 Also, as elaborated by the many fixes for this and that, it seems a lot of people don’t appreciate ageing all that much. But let’s face it, minus all the sentimentality around getting old truth is, watching gravity mess with you ain’t fun- especially if you feel you have under- achieved.

 Just put yourself in the shoes of senior citizens on the receiving end of financial, emotional, and -as is becoming common place in our country lately- sexual abuse by those around them simply by virtue of being hapless.

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After watching the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin (yes, I know it was out six years ago already…and yes, I also know procrastination sure is a passion killer), I began to think about my ailing grandmothers. I also thought about former President Mandela. The motion picture delicately and with precision, draws parallels between old age and infancy…and there are many. It is probably for this reason some people, including me, would rather die with all their senses intact than to become a burden to others.

Yes, it sounds wrong. Naturally, in a bid to be morally and politically correct we can assert that that’s what the nuclear family and peripheral support structures are there for. That would be the case. One would imagine that the twilight years are probably the most terrifying years in an individual’s life and in the same breath, the most emotionally taxing for caregivers. Ask anyone who has had a close family member suffering from Alzheimer’s or Dementia.

It has been interesting observing the media storm around the series of hospitalizations of Ntate Mandela, and more so the odd fixation upon his imminent death. If I didn’t know any better one would easily assume that the world expected the man to be immortal; to pull off a Houdini from old age. A bit unfair, I reckon.

Ageing is a natural progression and a blessing in many respects. Some, like many senior citizens in Limpopo who age well into their early hundreds, attribute this to a healthy lifestyle and old school livin’. They, of course, make it seem like a walk in the park. Yet old age can be a very lonely place, especially when one has witnessed the passing of friends, family- children included.

Some say that being content is the first step to being truly happy in one’s skin. Others swear by a purpose driven existence and pushing barriers. Whichever way you choose to measure your life, make sure it counts.

Good Fences. Good Neighbours

It is a tingling pleasure to listen to Clarence Carter as he sings about giving his neighbour’s wife some much needed “service”. One certainly hopes that the neighbour’s missus got a good dose of that service; with the right size…err… tools. Everyone needs a neighbour as thoughtful and generous.

They say good fences make good neighbours. Good fences can make sure nosy folks can’t see more than they need to. They can also shield one from the condescending opinions about whether slaughtering chickens with one’s bare hands is an abomination. Good fences can also give one a false sense of security.

Pity I cannot recall having a neighbourly conversation with anyone since the move from my childhood township home. Welcome to the ‘burbs ma’ am, where the closest interaction you will have with your neighbour is when they drive past your house or when they bring two pals in uniform along with because your Maskandi is a tad too loud.

It is largely accepted and known that people who live in the suburbs keep to themselves and are quite happy to mind their business. So it was rather surprising that during the fatal shooting of Oscar Pistorius’ late girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, it was the neighbours who alerted the police about the commotion in the house. Kudos to the neighbours!

The other extreme was that in the late Steenkamp’s hometown of Port Elizabeth, some neighbours admitted that they were not even aware that she had lived there, which begs the question, just how important are neighbourly relations?

While my family has always been on the reserved side even before the move to less dusty places, we nonetheless enjoyed good and mutually respectful relations with our neighbours. I have recollections of my sister and me running around in the dark one evening en route to the neighbour’s house to watch the eight o’ clock drama on her TV when ours had broken down. Even those days when my mother and another neighbour were both expecting and they would be chatting over the fence. It was rather amusing to witness the sight of their distended bellies.

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It was therefore a minor cultural shock coming from a place where one couldn’t pass elders in the streets without so much as a greeting, to a place where people search their feet awkwardly (maybe, that’s me) or stare into unknown horizons until out of earshot and sight. This is not to suggest that a sense of community is absent in sub (urban) areas; it does, in its own form. However, the migration of former Bantustan settlers to the urban areas and the consequential cultural mix may be a contributing factor to the locked-in behaviour of urbanites.

Let’s not ignore that there are benefits of keeping to oneself. There are many people who can attest to having sour relations with neighbours for one reason or the other. From perceived voodoo (Serious stuff) to money issues, gossip, jealousy…the list goes on. As with any other relationship setting clear boundaries is important, through action or verbalization, to avoid people stepping on each other’s toes. It needs to be managed because let’s face it, you might be stuck with the same neighbour your whole life!

Whether the sense of neighbourliness in black communities was created by the historical demarcation of land –which means that if the guy next door trips, he may very well end up on your door step- or because of an entrenched sense of community integral to African communities, it is an essential part of building inter-personal relations.Body corporates in gated communities also serve the same purpose.

Ultimately, it feeds into the notion that no man is an island; therefore neighbours (regardless of location) can be one’s best allies. How about some tolerance, folks?!

Is Africa Self-defeating?

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The month of May kick-starts the commemoration of the 50th anniversary celebration of the founding of the OAU, as well as the African Union which was founded little over a decade ago. It is also a good time for the Union to reflect on how far it has come in its mission to “promote an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena”.

A McKinsey report reveals that despite the obvious challenges such as conflict, a shift in economic and social policy could see Africa making headway in the long run in terms of development.

The report classifies African states into three categories: Diversified economies; South Africa forms part of this group along with Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. These countries are said to be the most developed, with the least volatile GDP.

The second categories of states are those in the Transition phase; countries such as Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya are included in this group. These ones are not nearly as developed as the first group, though exhibiting potential for growth. Pre-transition economies such as the DRC, Ethiopia and Mali constitute the third category of countries with the lowest GDP and are still very poor.

This is the state of Africa fifty years on. The truth is that the continent remains generally poor relative to its abundant natural resources. South Africa has played a key role in many developmental endeavours (such as NEPAD, SADC) both in the Southern African region and the continent at large through the contribution of financial and human resources.

Therefore, it is not surprising that recent reports of negative statements by Zambian deputy president, Guy Scott about South Africa (and South Africans in general) put a damper on things for some of us who believe that despite our country’s internal discord- within the international arena-South Africa has proven itself to be a force to be reckoned with. While I believe his statements were lacking tact, the level of truth in them cannot simply be swept under the carpet.

One of the statements made by Scott was one pertaining to the historical (under) development of South Africa in comparison to other African states. While at face value it appears that Scott is ignorant of the structural development in this country; the reality is that the rampant corruption, looting of state resources and abuse of public funds is undermining economic growth. Other areas compromised include education and health care and sanitation, which South Africa should, ideally, have under control.

In the eyes of Guy Scott and others who share his perspective, South Africa is a lot like the self-absorbed and ignorant spoilt brat of the continent who has most things at her disposal. In most instances her people refer to the greater Africa as the ‘other’ and suffer from severe xenophobia. This is despite the fact that her children have one of the lowest ratings of literacy and numeracy skills at basic education level- ultimately resulting in an inadequately skilled workforce.

Having listened to many ‘comic’ yet equally alarming conversations by some ladies on regular commutes to work, passing the snaking queues at the Home Affairs branch in Marabastad; it is clear how ignorant ordinary South Africans are to the harsh realities faced by fellow Africans. This is often revealed in statements that suggest that the demise of Mandela will signal the mass exodus of all immigrants. The snaking queues on the other hand, reveal the stark reality that, for many refugees and asylum seekers, South Africa is a beacon of hope.

Without seeking to justify our obvious short-comings as South Africans, the large influx of our fellow Africans is a burden on the economy of the country, and the scramble for scarce resources a direct consequence of that.How does Mr Scott suggest resolving this?

Truth hurts. Naturally, when confronted with absolute and unadulterated truth the first response is denial. However, the revelation of truth offers one the opportunity to reflect positively on what the implications are and how to best go about managing change (if any). So, the truth really acts as a necessary control measure to ensure that we don’t get caught up in our own illusion.

Of course South Africa has its own demons, but so does the rest of Africa.The latter, whose citizens make up the numbers of refugees and asylum seekers in the country, need to do some introspection of their own. The Guy Scotts of this world also need to be part of the solution and not merely criticize at will.Now is as good a time as any, especially within the context of the 50th anniversary of the OAU.

Single Mothers: Ghastly Lepers?

Imagine a couple of guys sitting at a bar on a boys’ night out. They are crouched around the table mulling over what seems to be a serious issue. Never mind the diski action on the screen. “You’re brave, man!” they say, “Uzoba strong” they mock pitifully. Jabu has met a woman…and she comes with “baggage”, an infant boy. His pals give him a big pat on the back while he anxiously gulps down his beer…

Nobody knows how tricky relationships can get post baby more than the single mother.  While even those in relationships where both are the parents of a child hit some sort of slump once babies come into the picture, the common bond created by the child can provide a safety net. Admittedly, I navigated the whole relationship terrain with some difficulty during my late teens and early twenties; however, it wasn’t all that bad. That age provided room for some carefree living. Well, that’s how you be ending up with babies, ain’t it?

Getting back on the dating scene came about after some serious contemplation on my part; naturally after assuming the serious role of being Supergirl’s mother, my options of a man were narrowed down to “focused, family oriented, ambitious, generous man”. That is exactly what I wanted. Self-help books (that I don’t read) advocated that one must be clear from the onset what she seeks from a relationship, you know? I obliged. It made tons of sense. Who needs endless buggers hanging around, meeting your family while they have no intention of making a “good” woman out of you!

oh mother...!
oh mother…!

A frank conversation with a male friend brought home the realisation that when it comes to single parenting, the odds are stacked against single moms. He did not mince words when he said, “men are discouraged from getting into relationships with women who have children”. The situation is completely different for men, who enjoy the unequivocal adoration of women whether they have children or not. An aunt told of her nephew who at middle age, with ten plus children (all from different women), married a young lass from neighbouring Botswana. She had no kids of her own prior to that. We love them, warts and all!

Well, my friend was right. It is not easy to love a child that is not your own and perhaps it is better not to have people who will not make that effort. So, why does the single mother evoke such anxiety from men? When my motherly instincts kicked in, the first thing that also came to mind was my desire and need for stability. As I began dating again, I soon became faced with the subtle tug of war between my role as a mom and as a woman; a lover. I guess the problem that men have is that with single moms, there is no spontaneity unless of course granny will do the sitting forever.

What kind of mother relishes in relinquishing her duty to her kids to someone else? What kind of a man expects this huge sacrifice when he knows what he has signed up for? Another thing that I struggled with was (is) the fact that men (even those who have never married, in their 30s onwards) on my dating radar still wanted to get their groove on and play the field or “have fun”…whatever that means! Of course when that happened, I would direct my energies elsewhere.

Mybrotha.com sums it nicely, “Most single mothers are not looking for a casual or open ended relationships.” It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out where the mention of commitment can drive a man to. Hence single moms are also encouraged not to become exclusive too soon.

 Single motherhood, although increasing in numbers in our era, is by no means a new thing. A lot of children have been raised by men that did not father them. There are many who can say, “I turned out well”. There are those who are permanently scarred from being raised by individuals who dished out doses of conditional love, unfortunately. “It takes a certain kind of man to mentor and care for another man’s children”-Mybrotha.com

While some of us still feel a sting of sensitivity when confronted with the reality that it is a patriarchal world we live in. Love in the time of single motherhood is not entirely elusive. A lot of my hopes were dashed because of expectations. Perhaps when these are totally removed and the focus put more on living then, then life (and love) will be more blissful.