The Role Model Debate

There are those who believe in role models. Then there are those who believe that each individual has the innate ability to harness his own power to succeed and to live a fulfilling life. Will-power is thought to be an important element of this.

I think inspiration can come from all sorts of places. If we all believed in the notion of external motivation not being all that significant, then people in the professions of development, professional and life coaching as well as motivational speaking would surely be out of business!

Steve MacCaulay of the Cranfield School of Management in the UK says that a role model is, “someone who serves as an example, whose behaviour is emulated by other people, and consistently leads by example”. He continues to state that though a role model is NOT a model of perfection, they are held to high standards and therefore need to heighten their awareness of being contradictory.

So, it can be decisively argued that being a role model is not a choice- not if people hold you to some esteem and value your contribution to society. I reckon that’s why it is just too much pressure for some people who would, for instance, deliver a sermon then curl up and smoke a joint afterwards or sing a gospel song one minute and impregnate young girls the next. It’s a tough world, ain’t it?

When I was growing up (especially in primary school), I always had a ready-made answer when quizzed about role-models. Naturally, that person was my mother; a virtuous and strong woman, the first person who would later teach me how to write a speech and ignite my writing love affair in general.

It evolved from there to include people like Ms Winfrey and Bonginkosi “Zola” Dlamini, whose power to influence; humility and general concern for society struck me. His endeavours remain relevant although his self-inflicted fall from grace was a disappointment, to say the least.

Ontlametse Phalatse
Ontlametse Phalatse

I have a different outlook on life today because of a 14-year-old girl named Ontlametse Phalatse. Hers is truly a testament of how enduring the human spirit can be under challenging circumstances. The optimistic manner in which Phalatse has embraced life despite her Progeria makes some of the things we cry about seem fickle and she leaves one with very little choice but to let that positive energy rub-off.

Sometimes we are guilty of putting those we look up to on a pedestal. We create expectations around them which ultimately force us to deal with a lot of burst bubbles, so to speak. Perhaps one way of managing expectations is to be cognisant of the fact that human beings are perfectly imperfect.

Certainly, the most profound relationship we will ever have is the one with ourselves. Yet no man can do it all by himself; even the most successful individuals had someone else pushing them up, rooting for them, lending a helping hand and cracking a door of opportunity open for them.

In some way an inward-centric approach to life appears conceited and reveals a lack of desire to learn from others. Role models are a vital part of our existence: There to provide inspiration, guidance, learning and a scope to challenge ourselves BUT definitely not there so we can live our lives through them.

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Ching Ching…

Money makes the world go round. So the saying goes. Yes, money can buy one a few friends; it can even get one out of a pickle with the SAPS or the Metro Police. Never been popular with the ladies? Relax son, ‘nothing that a few millions can’t fix! As Mandla “the King Don father” Spikiri once sang, “Fak’ imali Uzobona!” Sadly, no amount of money can buy one class or style. It is one of those things that one either has or not.

I realized after two similar incidents my problem with individuals who have an acute deficiency of modesty. These are people who are prone to unnecessarily, and without much provocation, go on boasting sprees about their material possessions. These are also people who like to hear themselves talk and rubbing other people’s noses in how much their Jimmy Choos, Burberrys, Tom Fords, Breitlings, etc. cost.

Anyway, the first of the incidents referred to was a social media hook-up with a home-boy of mine, someone I met during my high school years. The reunion was filled with the relevant pleasantries and catching up; it was wonderful to hear that life was going well and his personal successes testimony of that.

Well, it was hunky-dory until the constant posting of photos showing high-end time pieces with a shameless exhibition of the cost. Then it was a Gucci sweater with the price tag still on (for effect). The last straw was when the guy candidly posted about the amount he spent on petrol in one week and “record” mileage during the same period (just in case we didn’t know; just in case we were curious about his out-of-this-world travelling habits). Thankfully, social media has its advantages…DELETE!

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The second incident involves a TV reality series. I can only say that the actions of the groom on last week’s episode of Our Perfect Wedding left a foul taste in my mouth. Described by his gushing, er, bride as a well-heeled tenderpreneur; his good looks seemed to fade with every opportunity he used to remind his service providers, including wedding guests that he was paying for it all. “Play me that song; I want it at my wedding (I paid for it).” Is it not similar to someone taking you to a restaurant and treating the staff with disdain in an attempt to impress you? WTF?

I have no qualms with moneyed people, let alone how they choose to spend their money. They are well within their rights to spend their (I assume) hard earned capital however they wish to. However, I do have a problem with some in the “New Money” league regarding their apparent lack of money etiquette. One would have to go back into the history of previously disadvantaged groups to gain insight into the impact of poverty on people’s relationship with money.

The results vary, if you consider how inconsequential material possessions are to some wealthy individuals with humble backgrounds as opposed to the value they add to society. Individuals with an exaggerated sense of self-importance are especially off-putting: There is such tragedy in people acting like they have never smelled crisp bank notes; in behaviour that suggests that one had no idea they’d possess whatever material they have in their lifetime. What usually lies behind all the bravado is nothing more than insecurities and fledgling egos. Surely there is some growing up that needs to happen here?

Unfortunately, some of us could really care less how much you spent on your Moët, we’d much rather you sip on it quietly.

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.

time

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.

Quarter Life Musings and All

Miss Leefolt, she’d narrow her eyes at me like I done something wrong, unhitch that crying baby off my foot. I reckon that’s the risk you run, letting somebody raise you chilluns.

Aibileen: The Help by Katherine Sockett

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Where I come from, it takes a village to raise a child. This isn’t some made up fallacy belonging in African folklore. It’s an ethos that has prevailed for centuries. One could tell just by the liberty with which grownups in our era reprimanded the young.

A childhood friend’s mother gave us both a whipping after we went trotting around her street asking for vetkoek money in her name. What little crooks we thought we were; children never realise how transparent they are. My mother never went marching to ask why we were given a hiding…and I’m glad. We thoroughly deserved it.

Of course things have changed and parenting becoming a little complex in the face of advanced technology, social media and a range of not-so-newly acquired social freedoms. Just getting your own child to sit while having supper in this day and age is one hell of a task, never mind other people’s kids!

My generation has been branded a lot of names- from Gen D, hugely punted by Dion Chang, and more recently, Gen Y. I’m not certain whether the “Y” refers to “Youth” or otherwise. Perhaps Gen “W” would have been more appropriate since they reckon we are more prone to worrying a lot; about money, personal relationships, job security, and employment. Hell, we even worry about what the neighbours are having for supper! You want something or someone to worry about, come on over here; we sure can lend a hand!

Seriously though, this is not without basis. For some reason, there is a universal conspiracy that this particular generation ought to experience the kind of challenges it faces. Perhaps it boils down to crappy and near sighted leadership, I don’t know. Where does parenting come in?

About a week ago I came home from work to find-to my absolute horror- (LOL!) my daughter’s head being shaved. At boiling point, I enquired why I had not been consulted about this since I had plans for that hair. Frankly, through our common understanding the little one had really made peace with being combed. Naturally, I felt I had been stripped of my authority (over the child) and my motherhood status merely reduced to that of hapless spectator: A deaf and mute one. Before you go on and call me petty, this is just one of many power struggles.

Coincidentally, a friend of mine, who is a nurse, also expressed her frustration at having next to no say in the upbringing of her seven year old. She bemoaned the fact that she has been reduced to a sister figure, with little say. She, like me, is twenty-six years old and still living under her parents’ roof.

I reckon Aibileen from Kathryn Sockett’s book would probably say, “That’s what you be getting for living under somebody else’s roof when you be so darn old!” Well, the truth is, just because you have now become someone’s mother doesn’t mean you can mother everyone else.

The world has turned on its head, and this paradigm shift forcing the current generation to raise children in family structures that possibly belong in the sixties. President Zuma proposed a Green Paper on Families late last year, a topic that got us talking for some time before it waned. Perhaps the question ought to be, what happens beyond the systematic analysis of family structures? What then? What about the issues shaping the family structure in this age?

Gen Y has reason to worry because unemployment (or lack of stable work opportunities) has far reaching consequences. Yes, your personal relationships are affected because you are a (single) parent trying to balance your role as a child vis á vis your full-fledged adult mentality. Yes, power struggles and issues of control will come to the fore. Of course one will feel as if they are being kept in virtual captivity because job losses have forced many people to sell their houses to go and squat at their folks abodes. Talk about a quarter of a life crisis, phew!

Unfortunately I am not patenting any solutions to the dilemma for now. I am certain that my cohorts have approached the thought of having someone mothering them at this age, -and having to raise their own children- with much reluctance. Saying “no” is probably the hardest thing to do; however, it’s probably the most liberating. Perhaps we also need to be grateful that the “village” still exists to cushion the blow of the economic environment and for its love and support. So, aluta continua; tolerance and firm boundaries will have to do. After all motho o kgonwa ke sa gagwe.

Marriage for Dummies 101

JUST-MARRIED-HEART

One of the most profound articles I read came from ordained minister, motivational speaker, author, spiritual guru, etcetera- Dr. Iyanla Vanzant. I read “Telling yourself the Truth” during my varsity years and it made such sense that I tore it out of the magazine and stacked it up along with my self-help stash.

A lot of Dr. Vanzant’s work got me through my darkest moments, and the knowledge that it came from an equally broken place provided a bit of familiarity and comfort. When she spoke about how unsettling it is to tell oneself the truth, I understood. Nobody ever wants to acknowledge that they are probably not the person they thought they were. Dr. Vanzant wrote that when she finally told herself the ugly truth about herself; that she was a damaged, needy and broken individual she experienced a sense of relief.

It is always intriguing to observe people’s individual reactions to my assertion that I am not ‘marriage material’.  While others are interested in knowing why- probably because they assume it’s tied to my sexual disposition- others are quick to provide unnecessary assurance, “Of course you are!” they say, There is someone out there for you”. Others simply assume there is a lot of self-esteem lacking. All of these are rather patronizing, if you ask me.

Human beings are interesting creatures, aren’t they? I have observed that the preferred modus operandi would be for society to tell you what and who you are (and have you toe the line along that narrow-minded strip), instead of vice versa. When society has ultimately branded you “un-marriageable”, it is bound to have negative connotations.

Therefore, the assumption is that this revelation comes from a negative place as well. On the contrary, it comes from a positive and affirmed place; from a place of constant soul searching and huge doses of ugly truths. It is neither tied to any feminist rejection of the institution of marriage nor the role of men. Marriage has ample benefits, so does un-married life. It comes from the realization that not every breathing soul is engineered for marriage hence some get divorced.

One of the truths I had to tell myself relates to expectations: The more expectations I created in my mind about marriage, the more pressure I put on myself to be ‘marriageable’. Through shedding these expectations I learnt I could simply…live. A male friend simply laughed at me after I revealed my disappointment at not achieving the “Get married-have 2.5 kids at 26” goal. He said he would never understand why women tend to put so much pressure on themselves.

In wanting the best possible existence for ourselves, we must also strike a balance by being realistic lest we shoot ourselves in the foot. People so easily assume that loving and mutually fulfilling relationships begin with marriage. This couldn’t be further from the truth. They begin long before that legally binding expression of commitment. Therefore, I’m still open to the idea of marriage-it still on my bucket list, sure- however it would require that I confront my general impatient approach towards life, compulsion and lack of boundaries.

On The Subject of Tender Bellies…

Unfortunately, the knock on effects of over-indulgence can be devastating. They say too much of something is no good. In theory I know this all too well. In practice, well that’s another story all together.

before the tender....
before the tender….

There are a lot of things that theoretically like budgeting (and sticking to that budget) and taking one’s time, that is, patience. Suffice to say, I’m still a work in progress…I’m in shambles! Yet again, being impulsive and impractical comes with the territory. I also know that modesty is always key, at least that comes naturally. Pity I got out of the shower one morning and with a full length mirror before me encountered layers of cellulite staring right back at me, “Where’s that modesty you spoke about, sunshine?” Weeks of taking eight flights of stairs have seemingly done nothing to reverse an expanding waistline and increasing body mass. Horror!

Come to think of it, it’s the same odd feeling I encountered after viewing a TV news clip of Julius Malema during his COSAS days. Seeing how his physique had ballooned a few years later during his tenure as Youth League leader kind of threw my head into a tail spin. Weekend newspapers also noted his dramatic change from being an overzealous teenage mosquito to radically transforming into a firebrand teddy bear. Money does perform wonders.

post tender...
post tender…

Of course, it wouldn’t be fair to just laud Juju like that. He isn’t the only one. You saw them at the SONA in February, yes-their legs squeezed into Froggiesand Green Crosses; their tummies desperately tucked into ama-bambazonke(hold-all’s) and lycra tights- our public servants; our representatives. I have never fallen for the illusion that age has much to do with it, it may be partly responsible for that but entirely…nah!

The state of our health is truly dismal. On a recent training programme, the facilitator quipped that if there is one thing that is a constant in the public sector it has to be meetings. Meetings about conceptualising strategies, developing them and then there are meetings about getting together so-called task teams; about implementing strategies. Then there are…meetings about meetings: So much time to talk, so little time to act. Story of our lives!

Lindiwe_Mazibuko_talks_on_gay_rights_hate_crimes_jon_qwelane

Another constantis, of course, food. While the rationality behind the presence of food in meetings is to obviously be hospitable, it is also not have situations where people are out for a period of time more than necessary looking for food elsewhere thusone can easily fall into the bad habit of eating on impulse. On various occasions I would get to the office having had breakfast as usual and feel content thereafter, yet that would not diminish the inclination to stuff my face during a meeting. When you are 26 and starting to develop thetenderpreneur body, it feels a little uncomfortable. I don’t want to attract the wrong crowds by looking like I have money when I don’t!!!

I have swallowed the realisation that at thirty I may look like those women in Froggies like a bitter pill. While they may blame their lack of physical fitness on age and lack of time, I doubt my excuses will stick. I certainly don’t want to look like that, not when there’s still so much of me to give. If anything, serving the public is a privilege and a mammoth challenge that should be approached with vigour. I believe the absence of vigour and real interest in getting services to the public is really tied to how our leaders feel about themselves. They fail to be hands on because after those high level meetings with servings of prawns, caviar and countless pastries they simply want to hit a slump.

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I’m simply making a mental note to not give up on those stairs and to say NO to sponsored food. At least as a budding tenderpreneur, I know gym will form part of my routine in future. Grin.

 

Through the Lens: On Media Freedom in South Africa

the world through a lens

Due to the festive period last year, I decided to write less about politics and to focus my energy on less mind-boggling, complex matter. So I’ve been on the easy-going route and maybe just a tad too relaxed. Yet again, it was quite easy to hit a slump after observing the outcome of the ANC National Elective Conference in Mangaung (let’s face it, politics are messy. Just ask Julius Malema).

So I’ve been laying around like a python full on its prey; rather dumbfounded and unsure which direction to take: Whether to lament at (or adopt a ‘let’s see approach) the sheer ignorance of fellow South Africans who put loyalty towards certain individuals well above common sense and their responsibility towards ensuring that future generations have solid foundations through ethical, responsible and visionary leadership. I remain undecided.

Quite simply, I was disappointed. I’ve stated before that we have a continuing knack for glorifying mediocrity. When mediocrity rears its ugly head then we take to the streets to burn down facilities that are vital to our livelihoods. Late trains? -Burn. Local businesses? –Burn and loot. Buses? Burn the motherf%ckrs down!

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Now that we’ve got that out of the way; while I was in a colleague’s office earlier this week my eyes were fixated on a rather perverse and sadist piece of text-apparently the Rubicon speech of 1985- constituted by some of the vilest malice I’ve read about black people yet. Thankfully, after some research I found the legitimate speech by then state president P.W Botha. Though far more polished than the version I had read before, it was nonetheless “arrogant”- in the words of O.R Tambo.

It wasn’t so much the references to blacks as a violent, irresponsible group that stood out because within the context of that dispensation, such utterances were to be expected. It was the question that Botha posed to the media of the day:

“… [To the media in South Africa]:  How do they explain the fact that they are always present, with cameras et cetera, at places where violence takes place? Are there people from the revolutionary elements who inform them to be ready? Or are there perhaps representatives of the reactionary groups in the ranks of certain media?” Whose interest do you serve-those of South Africa or those of the Revolutionary elements?”

Fast forward to 2013, almost three decades later into democratic South Africa, governed by the very group that Botha warned would run the country into the ground. Voicing much contempt for the media in a 2010 interview, ANC spokesperson, Jackson Mthembu stated: “ If journalists have to be fired because they don’t contribute to the South Africa we want, let it be”- (G, Daniels, “Fight For Democracy: The ANC and The Media in South Africa”) Dear Mister Mthembu, please do elaborate what kind of South Africa you envision?

Unity in diversity...?
Unity in diversity…?

In his article titled, “Tensions rise between media, ANC-led government” on bizcommunity.com Issa Sikiti da Silva states that the ruling party wants the media “to stop their sensationalist behaviour and be more ‘patriotic’”.

Now rewind back to the Rubicon speech and await that déjà vu feeling. Listen to that all too familiar echoes of attacks on the media from two entirely different realms where those at the helm claim to uphold the ethos of democracy. Has South Africa really changed or is it simply the case of same script-different cast?

Yesterday the media was seen to be in cahoots with the so-called ‘barbaric’ elements of the day. Today, it is perceived to be in bed with liberals who have a sinister agenda against current leadership. It is hard to fathom that the very media that was paramount in highlighting black South Africans’ plight for a just and equal society to the rest of the world is being viewed with suspicion and every effort being made to effect censorship.

This then begs the question as to what the role of the media is. In addition to its informative, educational and entertainment value, media has the responsibility to “assist in the articulation and pursuit of the national interest; to monitor the performance of government with a view to preventing their deviation from clearly stated objectives and to help strengthen the economic, social and political fabric of the nation.” [Africa Leadership Forum: Excerpt from the Farm House Dialogue-1991]

While I concur with these, I am of the opinion that the latter requires collective effort from all corners of society and should, in practice, be a top-down approach. The fact that our elected leadership expects to look at the mirror to find a rosy reflection is astounding and using the media as a scapegoat even worse.

The word ‘patriotism’ now serves the purpose of emotional blackmail aimed at making the citizenry feel guilty about disclosing information that continues to harm and threaten the quality of our democracy. When will the governing clique realise that they are accountable to the people through transparency and disclosure? Perhaps the poignant question to ask would be, Dear ANC, have you taken a look in the mirror lately and really seen what you resemble? -The Rubicon speech maybe?

Keeping the Faith

There is nothing as conflicting as being at a crossroads. That point in one’s life when you are not sure whether to go right, left, backwards or forwards-or to simply remain grounded. A few months ago I criticized religion and Christianity in particular for holding many Africans to ransom. I’m not planning to write a retraction because I still have reservations.

After sitting down with my colleague who is a staunch Christian, she left me with ample food for thought and a stern reminder-if not warning, that sitting on the fence for too long has its consequences. I pride myself on being a fair person who neither favours nor fears but I reckon a lot of the time I have simply sat on the fence, appeasing others from the sidelines. In reality, it is a very thin line to tread.

Our conversation opened my eyes up to a myriad of things like the meaning of faith, of standing firm for one’s values, morals, beliefs, ideals, etc. What am I really about? What do I stand for? For a long time I have comfortably settled under the label of “liberal”-arguing that people should live their lives the best way they know how, as long as it makes sense to them. I still stand by that though I now realise, in more ways than one, that I was somewhat a…drifter: Neither here nor there.

 

It has been an extremely testing, if not frightening couple of days. Having to choose the unknown always elicits great fear and doubt. There really is no sense in standing for two things that completely contradict and repel one another, like Christianity and the practice of African culture. According to wikianswers.com the term Secular Christian refers to people who “believe that Jesus was the son of God, but are [the] opposite of the spectrum when compared to fundamentalists and extreme conservative Christians. Furthermore, “they tend to believe in equal rights…”

Having observed the negative perceptions towards cultural practices from some black Christians one wonders whether those that practice both are bigger hypocrites. Are they nothing more than fence-sitters? Are they commitment phobes? Is there really a conflict of interest, seeing that one is religion and the other culture? What about insinuations that that those who believe in ancestors are ultimately without God? Does it matter what the perceptions are? Yet more questions.

Religion and politics are two things that individuals are constantly advised to avoid when conversing in social circles. Both are especially volatile because of the level of emotion that people attach when referring to them. Perhaps therein lies the lesson that people who have strong beliefs aren’t afraid to fight for whatever it is that they believe in.

I don’t know much, but I know that there have been numerous times when I flirted with danger and I came out unscathed. I do know that I have some foresight that is encrypted in my dreams and countless moments of dé jàvu. I do know that I feel some energy around me sometimes. I do know that there are things beyond my control, beyond my reach…and frankly, it scares the shit out of me! Of course it might just be a superstitious mind in overdrive-or a sign that I’m deeply connected to my roots, my ancestry. Yet I still don’t know how acknowledging all of this equates to some kind of distance between myself and the Creator in one way or the other because I still believe in Him.

I was raised to be a kind, giving, thoughtful and respectful individual. If they deviate from religious teachings for the mere reason that I have a lineage of ancestors that communicate with me once in a while, then I don’t have a clue. While they are a way of life for me, I have realised that Faith is a far more complex thing-it is a work in progress. Perhaps one day I will be able to decipher the meaning of all my experiences, perhaps I won’t. Maybe the easiest way is to remember Rex Rouis’ words- “Seeing is not believing. Faith comes by hearing, and seeing comes by believing and acting what you heard.”

 

 

Maid to Last….

 

The piece of advice given to us by one of my cousins when our last maid was hired was to treat her like she was “one of our own”. It was all in good faith of course, seeing that the maid at his house has stuck it out for little over three years. We have all generally concurred that she has done a stellar job so far and has indeed become a ‘member’ of the family. It is no wonder that there is a certain lift of the eyebrow when people discover that you have a purely business relationship with the maid in your house; where there is no sharing of secrets and you aren’t moping that your hubby is no-good, your mother-in-law an absolute cow, etc. Nothing of the sort just a supply and demand relationship.

 

The central tenet of Ubuntu is for people to treat one another with the dignity and respect with which they would expect from others. Ubuntu or Botho in my native Setswana is responsible for that last piece of meat you reserve for the guest in your house when there is nothing to eat. It is responsible for you sleeping on the floor to make way for a guest to sleep in your bed. It is the basis for all things polite and selfless… there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, I do think sometimes the concept of Ubuntu is also our downfall especially when it comes to things like keeping a maid. Employers are usually expected to fall over backwards to please the maid, if the maid expresses her dissatisfaction by quitting you best be sure someone will be rolling their eyes with robust assumptions about what YOU did wrong. That will certainly make you think twice about mentioning the mass exodus of maids from your house at social gatherings.

 

Let’s face it, our so-called sisters and mothers-and I say this because this is what is generally the orthodox in reference to maids- would rather, dare I say, be working for our pale compatriots. Our last maid said as much albeit not wanting to implicate herself much. Though my mother and sister did the hiring, it was really disheartening that none of the maids hired ever took the latter seriously. The main reason being that she was younger than the women hired. There is nothing like insubordination and utter lack of respect for the mere reason that you happen to be younger than the person you pay. Then there is that other reason…that you are Black. Yes indeed that is the case, as echoed by Siyabonga ‘Slikour’ Metane in his article titled “Why Blackz Are Fools” (City Press,  Apr 8th 2012) where he observed how as a nation of black people we refuse to work hand in hand and side-by-side to progress socially, economically and psychologically.  iMaverick’s Sipho Hlongwane stated in the article “Township life Sucks, And That’s the Truth” (iMag, Mar 18th 2012) that though he does not wish to see the kind of abuse against black women in “White kitchens” perpetuated today, he still does not see what the fuss is about having a maid. But that’s just the problem, a lot of these women still romanticize working in households that aren’t filled with black people, Of course that shouldn’t be an issue because work is work is work!

 

It’s very peculiar to have someone who can barely make ends meet look down on their employer simply because they share skin colour. This is not limited to maids only; its everywhere, where perceptions about the mediocrity of black leadership emanate from our own quarters. Seemingly the so-called “black condition” persists and it is disturbing, to say the least that we don’t consider ourselves fit to hold positions of power or superiority; that we are limited to the inferiority complex we have so comfortably wrapped around our heads.

 

We have had five helpers-and here is to being politically correct-over the space of a year. All of whom resented supervision even though they barely cut the grade and all of whom left after being paid their dues. I have no doubt that our demand for excellence and initiative was their point of departure. Why should we settle for less than excellent service? This brings me to my next point; I also believe that there is a distinct difference between women who worked as maids in the apartheid era and those that do at this point in time. The difference is that the latter are also beneficiaries of the state grant system. While it has ensured that the majority of the populace does not live in absolute poverty, it is also the reason why some lack interest in finding-and keeping- jobs. Isn’t that why it is so easy to abandon a job when unemployment is a problem? Stories of the things some maids get up to when employers are not around can simply put one off. Only recently an HIV positive maid was discovered to have been feeding a child in her care porridge laced with her infected blood. In another case a woman was alerted by a neighbour about her child being used by the maid for begging purposes at a traffic intersection. Other cases include maids assisting criminals to gain access into the households they work in. Scary, huh? With the constant demands of the modern world most working mothers with small children continue to have little choice but to hire help and it is often than not a huge leap of faith.

 

Of course it wouldn’t be fair to paint everyone with the same brush; unfortunately experience has taught us otherwise. A purely business relationship between maid and employer is not devoid of compassion or communication. It’s a job like any other; it’s not fun and games. I think the sooner society accepts that it is not the responsibility of the employer to nurse lazy tendencies, the better. It takes a lot of bravery to let a complete stranger into one’s home especially when small children are around and if being picky is the way to go, so be it!