X Marks the…

As we look forward to next year’s polls, -what with some of us being first time voters- I can’t help but think how there are more questions than answers when it comes to the current state of South African politics. I can effectively say that I have no clue who I intend to vote for.

This is not because our country is spoilt for choice (that would have been wonderful), but because we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. More so that some would rather keep their right to vote to themselves than vote for any of the political parties campaigning at this point.

This will not deter some of us who intend to vote, even if it comes to an “eenie-minee-mo” situation, something HAS GOT TO GIVE! When Dr. Mamphele Ramphele launched the “political platform” AgangSA earlier this year, there was a lot of certainty on my part about who I would be voting for.

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With her struggle credentials, corporate leadership experience, own money and racial inclusivity, this woman made sense to me. So strong was my conviction that I swore I would become a card-carrying member; hell, even I was surprised. I have never been interested in party politics.

I have to admit, though, that the effervescent euphoria initially felt has all but fizzled. For starters, the strange voyeuristic feel of this political party was problematic, perhaps it’s one of those things that one needs to get used to.

Then again, the Patricia De Lille’s of this world also sported their peachy smiles all over street posters for a long time before that marriage to the DA. It is arguably a one-(wo)man show, with the rest just handling the logistics and sundry bits, preferably, for the middle class citizens of this country. Not really inclusive now, is it?

Let’s not forget the proposal to review BEE policies from its very beneficiary. At least we are familiar with the fact that hypocrisy is by and large a prerequisite for any politician.

When the brain-child of none other than BigBaby aka Julius Malema, EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) was born, I was sceptical. After being stripped naked by the ruling party (with good reason) and the Receiver of Revenue, it wasn’t hard to see why Malema would clutch at straws. So goes his rhetoric about fighting for the “under-dog”; the poor, the disenfranchised, the working class.

Perhaps it is easier to mobilise these groups and to declare shared empathy now that Malema himself has descended from his splendid Sandown mansion’s balcony views. There are many corners of society, particularly the liberal cliques that are quick to shoot this party down as nothing but a get-together of fools with highly romanticized ambitions. Ambitious, it is. So are the radical policies on land reform, nationalisation and expropriation of land. I wouldn’t be so quick to do so, however.

The question is whether the EFF’s policies appear absurd because of Malema’s leadership? Is this vehicle likely to sink simply because of who is in the driver’s seat and not necessarily because society does not recognise the need for such policies to be tested?

I reckon it is naïve to assume that those who have joined (or support) the EFF need to have their heads examined, or that they lack intellectual capacity. It would also be naïve to assume that those with vested interest in maintaining the status quo as far as land ownership is concerned wouldn’t want to fight tooth and nail to keep it that way.

Most importantly, it would be virtually irresponsible to let some individual who has obvious personal scores to settle with the ruling party, and never mind a long trail of greed and rot behind him lead us anywhere. Some of us were born semi-shackled. That is, not quite as politically energetic as the 1976 generation yet not as politically indifferent as the Born-frees’.

I harbour little emotional attachment to the ruling party except for the nagging need to hold them accountable for their actions because they have direct impact on ordinary citizens. Credit can be given where it is due and criticism likewise.

I am more eager than ever to put an X on the ballot paper next year because of the increasingly arrogant stance of the ruling party. It will be more an exercise in getting the chip off their shoulder than one in acknowledging that AgangSA or EFF resonate with me. They have yet to prove their stripes.

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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.

When We Can’t Afford Silence

 

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Where I come from, an air of mistrust exists towards people deemed to be “too” quiet. These people, otherwise known to you and me as introverts are faced with the perception that they are too deep and secretive. Dropping bombshells when people least expect is their speciality. Perhaps this is what irks people; that they don’t know it all hence the discomfort.

A few frustrated outbursts have come my way once too often particularly from my mother. She, of course knows the introvert in me all too well. ‘Still doesn’t understand her, me…it. As it would occur, introverts not only like their words at a minimum, they like their space too. I have settled for being ‘misunderstood’.

There’s an old song titled “Silence is golden”. While the high pitched melody can be confusing irony, the phrase in itself is true. Silence, in comparison to noise and much ado about nothing, is dignified and  can reveal more about an individual’s sense of integrity than anything else. Let’s rememberwhen he was ‘recalled’ from office, former president Thabo Mbekiremained silent while the rest of us bemoaned the treatment rendered to him by his own comrades. It was silence that also hurt KgalemaMotlanthe’s chances in the presidential race preceding the ANC elective conference in Mangaung.

Who knows how things could have turned out had Motlanthe been vocal enough? Possibilities abound, however, we will never know. Of course some will insist that one fakes in until he makes it. In this case, being strategically silent until the crap that hit the fan dissipates.

 I reckon our dearly beloved President Zuma is one of those who believe in this tenet. How can one assume differently when all but the man spoke out during the many scandals of his career? Corruption trial  –silence. Rape trial –silence. Concubines –silence. Nkandla –silence. Guptagate…

This kind of silence is not of a golden nature, I’m afraid. It is one that is actively pitting one South African against the other. It is of the kind that says, “I’m out of my depth and God, I don’t even know it!” Hence when something is uttered, statements like “The problem with South Africa is that everyone wants to run the country”are first in line. Oh well.

Over the past week social media has been abuzz, as has been traditional media with the Gupta clique landing their jet at a National Key Point (without proper customs procedures being followed and with absolute disregard for the sensitivity of our national sovereignty by those who authorized the landing) and receiving high level escort to the wedding venue.

While the president has not been implicated in this storm-in-a-tea cup, his ties to the Guptas go far beyond acquaintance level. The loyalty exhibited by his loyalists is admirable but I reckon it is time some took off their rose coloured glasses. This current scandal is a clear indication that our country has been sold to the bearer of the deepest pockets. So, which Master do we really serve?

Silence is not golden. It is fatal. A collective silence from the masses to the decline of our country into a state that does not command respect in all the necessary arenas, demanded by those who are against criticism of those at the helm of government, is an active reversal of the strides made by others in the past. Our silence will be the vehicle ensuring that the narrow interests of a few continue to flare corruption and rot in our society. We cannot afford to keep silent.

Marikana, What About Patriarchy?

I have watched, like millions of other South Africans as Marikana, a small area on the outskirts of my hometown was turned into yet another battle zone. See, we have come to expect a spectacle every year: Those events that force our country to take notice; events that form a large part of our braai conversations, our commutes to work, and unfortunately one of those events that we eventually forget.

 

That is how it is. That is how terribly desensitized we have become to brutality and senseless violence from civilians and law enforcement agencies alike. I prefer not to delve too much neither on the sequence of the events that led to the tragic demise of 34 striking miners nor on the opportunistic elements that have been hovering over emotionally volatile miners like vultures. I would much rather look at one aspect that came to mind as I was busy perusing this past Sunday’s copy of City Press.

 

This issue gave an in-depth view into the victims of the so-called Marikana massacre-no more just body count and faceless corpses scattered across a dusty plein but as brothers, husbands, sons and friends of those who remain behind. Lest we forget, miners downed tools to demand a wage increase from R 4 000 to R12 500 monthly.

 

By any standard their current wages is pathetic, nothing but small change especially in the face of rising fuel and commodity costs. So, it was startling to read of men who are responsible for more than one household. Even more startling was the fact that in this day and age some men are fathers to more than seven children, (and their names aren’t Jacob Zuma) and have unemployed wives while living off this measly salary.

 

On a monthly intern’s stipend I can attest the difficulty with which I personally manage my existence as well as that of my daughter’s. However, I manage if only barely because she is my only dependant. It was therefore disturbing to read of one deceased miner’s who was his family’s (wife and eleven children aged between four and twenty-eight) only breadwinner. Many of them are sole breadwinners.

 

This is by no means news to yours truly; it’s a lot like looking at the mirror and noticing something that has always been there but viewing it with a different outlook and renewed intensity. These are the faces of migrants who work in our mines-men from disadvantaged, rural and underdeveloped backgrounds.

 

The greed of the mines is something to be expected- the Malthusian Population theory argues that “if wages continued to rise with capital accumulation, the level of profits would fall” In real terms Lonmin and other mining companies aren’t in the business of making people feels secure or comfortable, hence labour is replaceable and a lot of communities around mines remain poor.

 

In reality they don’t care how many dependants a miner’s salary supports. But should we really blame mining companies for the patriarchal order that so many men carry on their shoulders? Should we blame external entities for the men and women who continue to over-burden themselves with more responsibility than they can handle?

On average the take home salary of the Swazi national, if divided equally among himself, his wife and children means that they lived on just R307, 69 a month. Note that this is not inclusive of his own living expenses and the occasional travel between his home country and South Africa. This amounts to just $ 37, 56 per person per month. It is obvious that miners were not only buckling under economic pressure but to structural and patriarchal pressure as well: The pressure of being ‘real’ men, measured through the number of children or the number of women in one’s life.

Please don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe in men playing their role as providers and protectors and I support the role of women as nurturers. However, in a modern society both men and women can interchange and share these roles for the welfare of their families.

Re-thinking Families

The president recently discussed what he terms the “Green Paper on Families” and though I felt the discussions around it are important, I also feel that this is one area where the state has to lay off from. It is something that society has to figure out on its own given the many contradictions that we see from the government itself. The truth is that family structures of miners remain largely traditional and organic thus they are not in sync with the current demand for ‘rational’ families, that is, families that are sustainable and don’t contribute towards the growing number of the poor.

While applauding these men for taking care of their own, the consequences of large, unsustainable families aren’t only visible when one has died. They are visible in the quality of education and quality of health care children get.  Most importantly they are visible in the quality of life a child has, in their upbringing and nurture. These are hardly possible in poor, large families and that in itself is a form of deprivation.

In the aftermath of the Marikana tragedy the glaring reality is that the families of the 34 miners will swell the ranks of those living in abject poverty and both men and women are to blame for these consequences. The women for bowing to patriarchy by not taking control of their sexual and reproductive health, and the men for thinking they could carry the world on their shoulders. Isn’t it about time we became agents of change, isn’t it time we stopped perpetuating poverty? Isn’t it time we stopped giving Lonmin and co. too much credit for the circumstances we may have helped create? Isn’t it time we took responsibility?

Book Review

EIGHT DAYS IN SEPTEMBER: THE REMOVAL OF THABO MBEKI

FRANK CHIKANE

Unfortunately, one other thing that I have carried around in my bag for months (very unnecessary) was a senior colleague’s copy of Reverend Frank Chikane’s book. One would have thought that yours truly would have finished the book in the blink of an eye judging by the initial excitement at having it lent to me and for reasons pertaining to the book not being mine.

Though I also subscribed to a book club, I admit-sheepish grin in tow- that all I have done is watch that stack of books pile up on my shelf. Oh, they are no longer on my shelf by the way, had to move them to the closet instead so they wouldn’t gather any more dust. It has been proven that South Africans do very little reading, for one reason or the other, which is why there are various NGOs and NPOs running reading and literacy projects across the country [Please see links below] to encourage active reading.

Though I suspect book reviews on this blog will be few and far between -because the author employs a devastatingly slow reading pace- I solemnly swear to do my best.

One of the first things to come to mind as I picked up this book to read was the sombre memories of the “recalling” of former statesman, Thabo Mbeki. You best be advised that South African politicians have some of the most interesting vocabulary, so the use of BIG words is a prerogative in these circles. What the hell does the word ‘recall’ mean, anyway? A polite way to say, “You’re fired”?

Though I was, quite simply, one of those people who had grown tired of Mbeki’s bully antics in government, his monopolising of law enforcement bodies; his almost naked defence of corrupt former police commissioner Jackie Selebi and the disbandment of the Scorpions, nothing could have prepared South Africa-or Mbeki himself- for the humiliating manner in which he was “recalled” from his presidential seat. This politically tumultuous period is the very matter covered by Rev. Frank Chikane. He captures the mood of the period acutely in writing that the president’s official residence

-“[was] full of comrades and some family members …some wept in disbelief at what had happened and others pondered why he could not be allowed to finish his term of office…Greeting them was as much of a challenge  as doing so in a bereaved family.”

The premise of the book rests on his personal experience of that period, having been hurled into the storm in his position as Director-General (DG) in the Presidency, as Mbeki’s confidant and comrade. Mostly, he makes reference to the relationship between the African National Congress (ANC) and Mbeki. The book also covers the transition that the entire country had to witness as one sitting president was swapped for another. However, Mbeki’s leadership style and significantly, his (at times tainted) legacy, remains the common thread running throughout.

Here are some of the things that stood out for me; a lot of which kept me nodding in concurrence (hint hint, BIG word). One of the critical things that the ANC continues to overlook is, as alluded to by Chikane, that the liberation movement was the means to an end, and not merely an end in itself. Perhaps then the complacency, greedy personal agendas and large-scale rot reflected in the media is a result of the comfortable position the ruling party believes it has carved amongst the majority of the populace.

The beast reared its ugly head in Polokwane, 2007, where Mbeki contended for a third term against then favourite deputy-president of the ANC Jacob Zuma. Though Chikane maintains that Mbeki is a man of principle, it is hard to understand why he was willing do like many other African leaders who just wouldn’t let democracy run its course. This is perhaps the reason why ANC top brass spared little brutality upon ousting him.

The urgency with which the ANC wanted Mbeki out is clear through the fact they cared very little about his impending international engagements. It is clear that the most important thing was getting rid of Mbeki and getting revenge though a lot of processes could have, in real terms, taken months to wrap up. An example of this is the hand-over process that the president had to do, moving from the official residence, the provision for the sorting of high level classified or declassified state information, etc. Yet there was pressure and demand for it to be done in less than a week.

Needless to say, Mbeki obliged and followed through on the ANC’s demands though it is clear that this was emotionally taxing for him, for those who served him and those who were loyal to him. He also remained a member of the party though some of his loyalists, like Mosiuoa Lekota staged an exodus to form a splinter party. I guess the one thing that is disturbing is that some people were victimised because of their relationship with Mbeki but that, I suppose, is the very nature of politics.

Chikane also speaks about former president Kgalema Motlanthe who held the fort for the seven months after Thabo Mbeki’s recall. The irony is that the former could very well be the country’s next president. How often does a former president become president again? Seriously though, Motlanthe is depicted here as someone who was very helpful and accommodating to Mbeki and the immediate staff that had to run his affairs; someone who was a reluctant but very capable leader and cadre of the movement.

The reverend remains fair in his depiction of Mbeki, especially because he is aware and admitted therefore that Mbeki was not perfect, that some things could have been done differently. Mbeki’s legacy is an admirable one, especially in terms of the African Renaissance, putting South Africa in a strategic position for trade and investment opportunities, etc. Fortunately no one can “recall” that legacy.

Links:

  • Vulindlela Reading Clubs

www.littlehandstrust.org.za/

  • Project Illiteracy

www.projectilliteracy.org.za

  • The Readers Society of South Africa

www.charitysa.co.za/the-readers-society-of-south-africa.html

  • The family Literacy Project

www.unesco.org/uil/litbase/?menu=13&programme=43

  • World Vision South Africa

www.worldvision.org.za

The battle for domination

 

How can I begin to explain the confusion I felt when my horoscope for the week starting on the 9th warned that the mogul with the money “calls the shots”? I desperately tried to avoid that “duh” moment. Its not so much that is was obvious, but in all honesty it left me perplexed. I mean it is very auspicious and perhaps meant for the wrong person here…I’m not Julius Malema. In fact, it’s his star sign that ought to have read thus, not mine. It’s not like I have fights to pick with rich folk or anything, right? Anybody can tell you that’s Julius’ forte. I certainly hope he is not an Aquarius otherwise he would give some of us a bad name. If I had to be honest though, I’d say my star sign was spot on. I spent an entire week trying to find an angle to my post about some tendencies affluent people have. I have never been materialistic, in fact I’m one of those people who don’t obsess about money but nonetheless recognize and appreciate its importance. I owe this to the manner in which I was raised. My parents didn’t entertain the culture of instant gratification and it was one of their most important lessons for us; one I hope I will entrench in my own child in future.

 

So, one of the side-effects I constantly experience from my apparent lack of the chromosome called materialism is distaste towards the relationship between money and power. I have reluctantly come to accept that money has the ability to change people for the better or worst. Mostly it’s the latter…and it’s a problem. Some say our so-called Black Diamonds or New Money are mostly afflicted by this, I don’t know. It is a problem when people become detached from their sense of compassion only to replace that with various levels of arrogance. Personal experiences have enlightened me to the condescending attitudes that some powerful individuals continue to bear towards people they perceive to not be in their league. Admittedly, my distaste at money-power relations may be short-sighted because SA needs the emerging black middle-class to build wealth and fill the skills gap to grow the economy. They usually say, “If you can’t beat them…” which is where Julius Malema comes in. I’m certain he does not even know when he joined the rest of the folks he claims to detest of late.

 

So the ANC decided to put its foot down  when they met two weeks ago in a press conference to “denounce alien behaviour”, as stated by secretary-general Gwede Mantashe. I’d say they put their foot in it judging by their “united front” while the public is well aware of their divisions. Truth be told, it’s hard to ignore Julius Malema. He is not unlike a rogue mosquito that keeps buzzing in a person’s ear. I’m one of the people who thought after his expulsion Julius would quietly submit himself into his farming venture…that IS what he said he would do after all. It would appear that I grossly underestimated the man or rather, gave him too much credit. Needless to say, Malema has come out with guns blazing-and that does not include taking up arms to defend the Zulu ‘boy’-and we have to put up and bear witness to his emotional downward spiral. Though he has given a new meaning to the expression “empty vessels…” he gave me ample food for thought when he ranted the famous quote by John Emerich Edward Dalberg: “Power corrupts  and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Yes, his outburst that the president is a ‘dictator’ was largely uncalled for and miscalculated-because dictator is the last word I’d use to describe the president. And yes, Jacob Zuma has become the number one scapegoat; having been his number one supporter back in 2008 Malema assumed that the favour would be returned just the same. His mistake. Power is constituted by two things; wealth and influence, both of which elevate an individual’s status in society. As it would occur, a lot of ANC members have in fact fallen victim to the charms of power. Contrary to his own dreamt up perceptions, Malema is not different from the rest. Louder than the rest, yes. Individuals who continue to collude with friends/family to acquire government tenders, individuals who use their influence to fill up their own coffers  and to gain leverage in their spheres of influence- all sum up to corruption. In my previous blog I had resigned myself to bidding Malema farewell albeit with pity but like a bad dream, he just won’t go away. The battle for- and shifting of power, in the ANC is the very reason why the party is battling to save face.

 

It is no wonder that Julius is feeling stuck in limbo. His power rug has virtually been pulled from under his feet, leaving him in the wilderness without the support of his party. Perhaps Julius should have just not taken school for granted and I paid closer attention to the Marxism lessons in class. The nature of Capitalism has long been nick picked by Karl Marx. The unfortunate consequence of the mishandling of power is what follows ultimately.

 

Our Blood Is Red…

I have discovered that being a writer, your work goes along wherever you go- carrying a pen and notebook come standard. Other than that one can always keep the story in mind for future reference.

I say ‘work’ because over the past three years or so I have fully immersed myself in the craft. It is not a job title, because as per South African statistics I remain one of the hundreds of thousands unemployed graduates.

Writing is not something I chose-rather, it chose me and it is a part of who I am. One other thing I did not plan to do was make my blog a political one, I actually wanted a balance because life is multi-dimensional. I would like to think that mine is a vibrant kaleidoscope-much more than politics-, otherwise I’m the world’s biggest bore.

After my afternoon nap I switched on the TV and thought I might watch music videos until my eyes bulged. What else could I do when the chilli from Monday’s hot wings still burned in my gut…amongst other areas? I stumbled upon the eNews Channel’s documentary aptly titled “Our Blood Is Red”, a sheer reminder that politics are at play and intrinsically blended into our lives.

Race relations in particular is a sore topic for many South Africans: It continues to divide the country into those who think moving on is the answer, those who are still coming to terms with their scars; those who are angry and those who would gladly continue to exploit this anger. I watched the documentary for two reasons; it was recent and went across the colour spectrum for opinion on this matter. Where do I stand?

Well, I’m not angry about the fact that the minority still pulls the economic strings, I’m rather grateful that the majority has the space to effect positive change for all citizens of this country. I may not be angry but do think it would be naïve to assume that ‘moving on’ is simple after only eighteen years of democracy.

It is not even a fraction of the amount of time that oppressive rule was law.  Anyone who expects an adolescent to act sensibly is out of their mind, and that is exactly what South Africa is- a pubescent rug rat who does not care whether the wind blows East or West but is nevertheless trying to navigate through life’s complexities.

At best, our country is going through the motions. It is continually faced with crippling corruption, abuse of power, slow service delivery and a pathetic (public) education system. In addition, there is a huge misconception that the mentality of entitlement emanates from the majority but if you look closely, the series of racial spats at Virgin Active branches around the country is another case in point.

unityThose verbal (and sometimes non-verbal) expressions like, “we DESERVE our own gyms…” or “you people want to take everything” are not dissimilar to, “we SHOULD have better jobs”. Just like a volcano waiting to erupt, we are simply boiling underneath the surface patiently waiting for the poo to hit the fan.

It was hardly surprising to watch as a man who advertised a room for accommodation over-charged one woman, providing her with one option for accommodation only to give a different woman a different rental price while giving her two options of flat rental space.

You can make your own assumptions about race. Then we turn around in disgust to face cronyism and nepotism of those in power. Of course we have been furnished with freedom of choice, yet our society is gravely lacking when it comes to our responsibility not to discriminate on the grounds of race, gender, age, religion or sexual orientation-the list is endless.

Our blood is certainly RED. We are all a human race but misguided prejudices and disinterest in learning about others are stopping us from realizing this.

 

Not An Activist, Just A Part of The Movement: Reflecting on Human Rights Day

 

Not an Activist, Just a Part of the Movement:  Reflecting on Human Rights Day

South Africa observed Human Rights Day on Wednesday the 21st of March amid protests in Sharpeville where 69 people were massacred on the day in 1960. It is clear that our people have not moved beyond “owning the pain” as shown by disgruntled residents of the township. It is disheartening that the spirit of entitlement persists even where the marking of national milestones is concerned; when it should be of importance to celebrate the strides made thus far.

Today, fifty-two years on we continue to observe and commemorate human rights and dignity for all which are the core and basis of our constitution as we know it. Equality remains at the helm of the South African agenda eighteen years after democracy, though it has not been without challenges. During a round of questions from opposition parties in parliament last week, President Jacob Zuma made assurances that the proposed review of the powers and rulings of the Constitutional Court was “routine”. Like any other state organ, Zuma argued, “the Concourt needs a service…and there is nothing unusual about that.” To date the constitution has been amended sixteen times. The proposed amendment to the Access to State Information Bill (Secrecy Bill) remains a controversial matter. Though government has stated otherwise, the perceived threat to limit the media reporting extensively on the state is real. Furthermore, despite inviting public and civil society participation on different issues the ANC-led government’s disregard for public opinion and the abuse of its majority vote in government is worrying.

Human Rights Day is not about the ANC nor is it about going out of my way to criticize the ruling party, it is about the scores of people who died at the hands of the brutal apartheid regime so they could be recognized for the human beings they were. Most of all it is about every one of the inhabitants of this country. It is because of those very people that you and I enjoy the rights as drafted in the Bill of Rights adopted in 1996. Those rights made it possible for a black family to live side-by-side with their white neighbours; homosexuals to enjoy married life and for women to have control of their reproduction. Whatever one’s prejudices are as far as these are concerned, it is nevertheless important for every individual to experience freedom in its entirety to ensure quality of life and for meaningful contribution to society. Hence as a collective we have a moral responsibility to handle our rights responsibly and to respect one another for our diversity. This is not exclusive of the state, which needs to honour its citizens by upholding these rights because democracy is a two-way street after all.