Saturday, December 17, 2016

Case Of a Class Injustice

A weekend or two ago I went to visit my sister in Cape Town, and since my life is what it is, I had to take a taxi. No, not Uber, not American or British taxi, this is the kind that is supposed to sit sixteen but somehow (though not always) I find myself among the twenty or so that are lucky enough to have a seat with four other people squatting or standing somewhere packed like squashed loaves of bread.

For this particular trip I had a seat but I was unlucky because I found myself seated directly in front of the SDO (Sliding Door Operator). He insisted that we’re meant to be together forever and in due time I’ll realize how big a mistake I made by telling him to leave me alone and move along. This is all while he is sitting on the engine with his back to the passenger front seat and my legs between his. I suppose I should have been grateful for the SDO’s chatter because as soon as his chatter subsided I became painfully aware of the of the man beside me who had his arm on the backrest of the seat we shared and was sweating profusely onto my shoulder. I take taxis all the time and it always annoys me, but it’s not the fact that I had my legs between some stranger’s legs but because I realized some people have to go through this every day and some have been doing it for decades and it doesn’t change. The system does not care for the poor.

The taxi eventually dropped me off at another bus/taxi stop and I stood with a bunch of other people who, by the resigned and tired looks on their faces, had just clocked-off work and were on their way home. While I stood in the dark with strangers wondering whether my sister would eventually find me, I watched My Citi buses come and go on the other side of the road, and the group I stood with get smaller as they got on Golden Arrow buses and taxis on my side of the road, I felt anger brew slowly in my chest.

The My Citi bus service is part of an Integrated Rapid Transit (IRT) system in Cape Town that is funded by the National Department of Transport’s Public Transport Infrastructure and Systems Grant. I’m not sure how the system actually works but I guess it works much like the Gautrain only it’s a bus.  You get a MyCiti Card and you load money on the card and you can use that card to take you on any of the routes that the bus covers so long as you have credits (or whatever) on the card. There are several My Citi stations spread out across Table View, Blaauwberg, Atlantis, Dunoon, Joe Slovo and Parklands. I probably missed a few but that’s not the point.  MyCiti buses have their own lane, that (as far as I’m concerned) other vehicles cannot use, the stations (I think that’s what they’re called) look rather fancy and cozy. The service (disregarding everything else) is what I hope the rest of public transport becomes.

The aim of the whole project is to reduce the use of private vehicles for everyday commute and consequently deal with traffic congestion and reduce carbon emissions. Throwing a tantrum because not everyone can use the bus service would not only be a waste of time but it would also be idiotic since the bus does not travel everywhere in the Western Cape.  But I’ll still throw a tantrum. The bus lane is not accessible to all public transport providers, i.e. taxis (yes, the sixteen/twenty-seater that I use) and other buses that aren’t MyCiti buses; the shelter that My Citi stations provide is only accessible to card holders, these two facts are the source of my grievance. So the rest of us that don’t have membership (or whatever it’s called) stand in the cold and watch those who can afford sit in fancy-shmancy MyCiti shelters across the road. My phone camera probably ranks among the worst but I hope the pictures below or above  (or somewhere on this page) still communicate my   point.

The claim that one of the main aims of the project is to reduce traffic congestion is a lie. Instead the project aims to save money for middle and upper class citizens (especially with the trend that fuel prices seem to following). The system was developed because private commute is not as convenient as it used to be!

If the aim of the project is truly to reduce traffic congestion it shouldn’t be so exclusive. The bus lane should be accessible to sixteen/twenty-seater taxis, jammies and other public transport providers! We can all agree that taxis can be annoying and are the cause of much road rage. Taxis have been around for decades if not centuries, they are used by lower class citizens. However, there are very few (if any) measures to improve the taxi system or public transport delivery to the poor. And because capitalism, class discrimination (and consequently racial discrimination) are in intrinsic part of the wretched system that governs our country efficient and effective solutions to social problems are tailored to benefit the middle and upper class. The very people that don’t particularly need these solutions.

It is no secret that quality service delivery to the lower class has never been a priority in South Africa, service delivery to the poor (especially in the Western Cape) is but a facade. Those that need the services the most are bypassed. The people whose tax is and was used to build public facilities don’t have access to the very same facilities that their money went towards building.

The system and the people that are part of the system that governs this country govern it in such a way that it benefits them and their peers and not for the benefit of the general public (especially the poor). This is just one case of a class injustice; the country is riddled with such cases. The next generation (our generation) has to do a better job at providing for the poor. Citizens that have a voice and an audience must speak up for those that don’t.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

This Democracy Is A Lie

Source: Media Cache
It’s a full week since the disaster that is the American elections, the shock has worn off for some and others are still in mourning. For some, the outcome of the elections came as no surprise, I tend to think these are the people who have long given up on humanity. For some of us, somewhat optimistic, we hoped and thought the outcome would be different.

While I could go on about how tragic the outcome is and how it’s an indication of the racial and gender discrimination that still exists and is deeply rooted in our society (because this really isn’t just about America) I will instead talk about post the election.

Hillary seems to have lost this election in a similar manner to Al Gore in 2000, while Hillary hasn’t won the election she won the popular vote. I’m not entirely sure how the voting system works but a candidate can either win both the popular vote and the electoral college vote or they can win just the electoral vote (I’m not sure if I’m using the right words here). In order for a president elect (smirk, big words) to win the election the candidate must receive a majority of electoral votes (there are 538 electors on the college).

According to NBC news Clinton won the popular vote by a bit over a million votes, yet the orange one gets to run the country (the picture along side is a bit biased but I don't care :) ). I’ve said this before (in my previous post actually), I’m a firm believer of the quote by Emma Goldman that says “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal”. A candidate who hasn't won the popular vote has been sworn in four times in the American democratic history. I could go into a long winded lecture about who (unjustly) lost the election when and what the circumstances were, but I refuse to be such a bore. All I can say is it’s happened four times before this and the last time it happened was in 2000 when George W. Bush was declared the winner of the general election despite having lost the popular vote to Al Gore.

Following George W. Bush’s rather unfavorable actions during his presidency (This is according to some shady website I found called the dailydot) I would have thought there would be a change in the American voting process. According to this website George W. Bush failed the American people; he failed to bring those responsible for the September 11 attacks to justice. His policies led to the great recession, and last but not least he did not advocate on behalf of the LGBT community (He and Trump are alike this way).

The American people chose Hilary and they got the orange one that goes by Trump instead. This goes to show that this democracy is a lie, how can the opinion of 538 flawed (probably old white) men sideline the opinion of some 130 million people? I understand that this system was probably established based on the fact that the 583 are probably chosen by the general population and their opinion is therefore an indirect representation of the people’s opinion. But shouldn’t the electoral vote then be disregarded in the case where it differs from the popular vote? The electoral college evidently doesn’t always know what the people want.

That being said, we can all agree that the American voting system is a bit peculiar, it takes forever, and then when it does eventually come to a conclusion the people don’t always get what they want. One of the things that stands out for me is that it is biased towards a certain class and race. State representation on the electoral college is not based on the size of the state (writing more about this would leave me confused and angry but here’s where you can read up on it if you are interested:

Besides the election outcome itself (I kid you not, when I first saw that Trump won the election I thought it was one of those fake news that Facebook has been publishing lately) what I find surprising post-election is the strength of the US Dollar against major currencies (i.e. Euro, Japanese Yen, Canadian Dollar, and the Rand)! Somehow I had assumed it would plummet if Donald Trump won the election, but obviously I was wrong.

There is a lot that I could go on about (If I may be so vain) relating to the US elections but nothing I would say would be new and I don’t know enough about US politics to write anything that’s life changing, and I won’t risk my blog being riddled with more factual inaccuracies (nobody knows how much of what I’ve said is actually correct). Besides my factual inaccuracies we can only hope that Trump won’t be the disaster of a president that his speeches and interviews indicate he will be.

EoP (End of Post)

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Smart Protests

Source: The Daily
This post is (OBVIOUSLY) inspired by the recent protest but I also thought it would also be a good follow-up post for my Fees Must Fall post, and maybe, just maybe it will change the direction that protests are taking (and if I may dare to dream) change the way that people protest in the future.

So I dared to use Google definitions (at least that’s what I think it’s called), and said Google defines protests as “a statement or action expressing disapproval of or objection to something” and strikes “a refusal to work, organized by a body of employees as a form of protest, typically in an attempt to gain a concession or concessions from their employer” so obviously the two are not synonymous (and yes, I googled the definition of synonymous as well, just to be sure). If you have read my blog at least once you know that this is about to be followed-up by a rant that might (or might not be) constructive, and I think the pictures below are the essence of this ‘rant’.
Source: Grazia Dialy

The first picture is of Hector Pieterson being carried by Mbuyisa Makhubo, Antoinet Sithole running beside them. The the second picture was taken last year at UKZN during the Fees Must Fall protests. There a few things that are wrong with the pictures: the brutality, the looming death (in the one), the hopelessness and helplessness (I could go on for a few years, but you get the point) but one that I think we need to address in the time difference. Some forty years later we are still using the same methods to protest the actions and policies of the powers that be, and received with the same brutality as we did forty years ago! Forty years ago it worked, it was an effective and efficient way to protest whatever you were protesting because everything was so dependent on manual labour. I saw a quote by Emma Goldman the other day about voting, it said “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal”. And I think the same can be said about protests, the only time that the needs of or the demands of the protesters are addressed and met is when the whole world has decided to take action against whoever is in power.

Evidence of this is the FMF (Fees Must Fall) protests last year. Half the population was criticizing and condemning the students that were part of the protests. Until Universities in the United States, Europe and wherever-else started hash tagging FMFSA, and making public statements about how FMF movement is a worthy movement and how it’s all for a worthwhile cause. Only then did people start taking action. Marikana was officially declared a massacre, people died fighting to get a decent pay, others injured and valuable time lost. Were their demands met? NO! because the Marikana strikes had not made it to the rest of the world and the rest of the world had not managed to guilt trip the powers that be.

I won’t go into the conversation about whether or not I agree with violence because I obviously don’t (I’m not a dumb-dumb now am I? well at least we assume I’m not). Do I agree with disruptions? I can’t say for fear of prosecution. But if you were to have a shower moment with yourself right now (where you strip yourself bare and are honest with yourself). Do you really think that the powers that be would do anything if students were to walk up and down the streets of Stellenbosch singing “Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound”? Would actions be taken to realize free quality education within our lifetime? Somehow I really don’t think so. At the beginning of this whole struggle (if I may call it that), protests were peaceful, students sang struggle songs and shared bread (I’m kidding I don’t know if they shared bread). But did anything get done? It took mobilizing of all of South Africa (parents included) to get no increment in fees. Students shouldn’t have to protest every year to get the government and whoever else is in charge to make a solid commitment to realizing free education.

The solution to this running-in-circles-trying-to get-people-to-listen should come to an end. Of the million (at the very least) students that are protesting I am certain that there is enough brain power to protest digitally. Digital protesting meaning occupying digital spaces. Instead of occupying the admin building, occupy the admin building’s Wi-Fi or occupy the company’s/university’s servers, at least this is my interpretation of it. No damage is done to the property but temporarily you MAKE THE POWERS THAT BE LISTEN! Everyone is severely reliant on the digital space so that’s where protests should be focused, because people evidently listen once they have something to lose and when you hold that something in your hand, only then are you declared worthy of being listened to.

Is digital protesting illegal in South Africa? I don’t know, if it is go back to that quote by Emma Goldman. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it up to here (gestures at triple chin) seeing blood all over the place when people are demanding to have their voices heard. The brutality and blood we are seeing with the FMF movement needs come to an end and I think the solution to the brutality is digital protests, smart protest.

I may be way off with my thoughts here, are there are other ways we can facilitate smart protests? Don’t forget to follow and subscribe to Stellies Afro Chick.
Peace Out.

EoR (End of Rant).

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Fees Must Fall

First things first, I finally got myself to tell other people about this blog. The response has been great so thank you to everyone who is reading, if you enjoy reading the stuff I write please check in every week or so, I should have a new post. Or you could just do me a solid and follow the blog so you don’t have to keep checking even when there’s no new content. If you could comment on each post and let me know what you think, that would be really cool. Moving on to serious matters…. #FeesMustFall

I’m really not writing this just because I want to leave early for home this year (last year I only got to go home on the 15th of December, ten days before Christmas). I realize that writing about such a hot issue is a bit risky because I may step on more than a few toes but I’m hoping the damage won’t be too much since I’m so dainty and slight (lol! I’m anything but).

Last year universities across South Africa stood in solidarity and protested tuition and accommodation fee increases (I think somehow we forgot to add free textbooks!) and we got what we wanted. There was a 0% increase in fees going from 2015 to 2016. Those who had budgeted for the fee increase used the extra cash to go on holiday (that is if you booked your flight and things before the president pulled the prime minister stunt). However, the battle hasn’t been won since we’ll most definitely be seeing fee increases going into 2017 and we’re once again protesting fee increases in 2016.

Source: HNGN

The Fees Must Fall movement was not just about the 2016 fees hike, it was (and still is) about realizing affordable tertiary education while we are waiting for tertiary education to be free. Ultimately the movement is about free tertiary education within (or in, English is not my mother tongue) our lifetime, right? I could be wrong about this, if I am let me know. Although there was a Stellenbosch Bonfiire question centered around how tertiary education should be funded (I entered and got zero likes! :( I have been nursing my bruised ego since, kidding), there has been very limited discussion on how free tertiary education will be funded so the assumption is that the government will do it (I want to snort at this assumption, but I’m a lady, dainty and slight so I won’t do it).

So let me try and put things into perspective. The life expectancy in South Africa is around 57 years, since we want free education within (or in) our life time it means we want free tertiary education in the next 30 odd years, right? This implies two things:
  1. In the next 30 odd years the government should be able to tell left and right apart. This means that unemployment numbers will have improved, inequality reduced, economic growth and development realized, that public employees live like public employees and not kings and more importantly that the government budget will be in an immaculate condition.
  2. Most importantly, it implies that we will be better leaders than those in power. By being part of the Fees Must Fall movement we all individually commit ourselves to doing a better job at managing the country and providing for the poor.

While I agree with the goals/aims of Fees Must Fall and I agree that protesting is necessary to get your point across (because management seems to think one is not serious enough until you protest) I have a question or two. 1) are we going to protest every year for the next 30 years until free education is realized? 2). Are current protests against fee increase for 2017? 3). If current protests are against the fee increases going into 2017, how is this fee cut going to be made up for?

Let me talk straight and personal for a paragraph (was going to say minute but since this is text paragraphs seems more fitting). I’m one of nine children, I come from a beautiful rural area that is somewhere on the side of the road somewhere in KZN and there is no way I would have made it to university without a bursary (#Vodacom for life, don’t start the #dataMustFall conversation with me), so more than anyone I understand and vouch for the Fees Must Fall movement.

I will now proceed with the stepping on toes

However, as much as I am for the Fees Must Fall movement I don’t think that a 0% fee increment for the next however many years is realizable because more than a third of South Africa’s population is situated in rural areas. These are areas that are largely underdeveloped and are in need of government TLC. You’ll be surprised at the number of places that still don’t have electricity in South Africa, the number of areas that don’t have running water, and whole communities that don’t have schools (both primary and secondary school) and health facilities (clinics and hospitals) and these are all issues and challenges that the government has to deal with. As sad as it makes me to say this, free (or affordable) tertiary education is a first world privilege and unfortunately South Africa is a second world country, kidding, third world country.

Sure, free tertiary education is ultimately to the benefit of the poor, but right now it won’t be. The poor are still very reliant on subpar  public secondary education, children that go to school in rural areas struggle to meet university entrance requirements (don’t talk to me about how you went to a public school and had world class facilities because obviously it wasn’t in a rural area and the education wasn’t free so your point is moot), so ultimately the privileged make it to university because they can afford quality secondary education and if tertiary education is free those who can afford to pay for tertiary education just get to advance themselves in other ways and the poor stay poor. I don’t know if I am articulating myself well but I hope you kind of get the picture.

Now, to those people that think our parents were just lazy to save and it’s their fault we can’t afford to pay for tertiary education. The people that believe if your parents work hard enough and make enough sacrifices they should be able to pay for our tertiary education. How does a 45-year-old woman who is raising four children by herself on a salary of a domestic worker (no more than R2000 a month) save for an education that costs around R100 000 a year? Saying she should look for a better job or she should have worked hard in school is not only insensitive but displays a level of naivety and ignorance that I find disgusting (I apologize for the language and rudeness, actually I don’t). The assumption that everyone is in control of their circumstances is only true to a limited extent.

Moving on from the ignorant ones, breaking doors and windows doesn’t seem to be getting us anywhere (I don’t think we broke anything last year but we go what we wanted right? At least in Stellies we didn’t). Vandalizing (there I go again with the toe stepping) makes us look like hooligans that will protest about anything, like we are just looking for something to let off steam instead of fighting for a cause and fighting for those who don’t have a voice. In the same breath I will address the brutality directed at students that is rampant in universities across South Africa. None of it is acceptable, I don’t know if law enforcement officers realize this but protests that are aimed at changing the way tertiary education is structured is also to the benefit of their children, so instead of brutalizing (if this is even a word) students that are fighting for the future of their children they should work with students to ensure that their children have a better future. Treating students like animals is not acceptable, brutality and violence should not be tolerated. And even though we are mad at the system, vandalism does not make us louder or more effective.

In conclusion (lol, so formal!), freezing the fees this year will cost someone, I don’t know who it is but the way the system is set up makes me believe that it will be those that we are trying to speak up for in the first place, the poor. Because they don’t have a voice, they don’t have a platform and they don’t have and audience. At the end of the day though, I still want free tertiary education realized, but I want is as much as I want to see the development of rural areas and the advancement of the poor but right now the once seems to be happening at the cost of the other. But that’s just me…

This a rather long post now isn’t it… sorry…

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Monday, September 5, 2016

Not Just Hair

Source: IOL
Yes, yes, I’m being typical and writing about what’s driving me up the wall this time around: Hair Issues at Pretoria High School for Girls (PHSG)! The debate around the prestigious school has taken many twists and turns (kid you not, at some point it became weaves vs afros, I don’t know how). But my first thought when I saw posts and videos and read articles about what’s happening at PHSG were: “This makes me so angry on so many levels”! My face got hot and my ears burned every time I watched a testament by one of the girls that attend the school. I have since had a few glasses of wine, calmed down and become rational.

My take on the whole thing: It’s being romanticized and reduced to hair! The child leading the struggle is not some hero come to save our children from relaxer forever, she is a child! None of them should even be having this debate! The reality is that this is not just about hair, it’s about a system that is in place that does not cater for nor meet our needs nor accommodate out various cultures, the problem is way bigger than hair. The problem is that some two decades into the democracy we are still fighting to be included in the system. All attempts at being inclusive of black people are almost an afterthought or a foot note in a journal of endless pages. Unfortunately for Pretoria High School for Girls, they are the platform and catalyst for a conversation that’s been a long time coming.

I took the liberty of going through the section on general appearance in the code of conduct of PHSG. To their credit they have more than most schools have on how African hair should look. But in its inclusivity it’s so exclusive. It says things like “hair shall not cover the elastic band”, if in a bun “it must be in the neck and not on top of the head”, ponytails must “not be visible from the front”.  This is all good and well when your hair is relaxed or you have braids on, but when you have an afro these all become rather difficult. I’ve been growing my afro for three years now, I still can’t tie a ponytail (when I do try, it merely looks like I’m trying to hide a dead bird in my head, a rather fuzzy bird), I don’t even know what a bun that lives in the neck looks like, I can never bring ALL my hair to my neck. Whenever I do tie my hair tough, it has to be at the top because that’s where I have the most hair.

Source: Twitter
Keeping in mind what I’ve just said about afros, the code of conduct does not accommodate afros (unless it’s plaited into corn rows). This opens up a different can of worms: the expectation that the black woman will not keep her hair natural, has no desire to keep her hair natural, and is not expected to keep her hair in its natural state. This is the real issue, as far as I’m concerned. It’s not an attack on those that do relax their hair, or wear weaves, or whatever, it’s simply a call to let the black woman be black and natural. A lot of people will argue that the girl leading the protest can tie her hair and whatever but the majority of us don't get hair that big. People can’t say she must then not participate in the protest because: we don’t see horses leading protests for animal rights now do we?

And we all know that’s what’s down on the code of conduct isn’t always what schools enforce! I went to a good school (as far as I’m concerned) that had the exact same lines when it came to general appearance (minus the lines about corn rows and braids and what not), but every time during uniform inspection they’d pull at my hair and say it was too long. Throughout high school I had hair shorter than most high-school white boys (this is for reference, I’m not making it a race thing). What students experience, and how the school system makes them feel cannot not be reduced to a piece of paper that no one can vouch for!

It’s easy to deem the students hooligans and rebels when you know nothing about the struggles of having natural hair as black woman in South Africa. The end game is to deal with a system and society that dictates how a black woman should look. Sure one can argue that one has to adhere to school policy or ship out, but how much shipping (this sounds so inappropriate, I don’t even know if it’s an actual word) before you run out of good schools!? Girls shouldn’t have to give up their natural hair in order to get a good education nor should they have to give up a good education to grow natural hair. That is the kind of mentality that got us here in the first place, exclusion based on appearance.

We shouldn’t even be having this hair conversation! It makes me angry that we are still talking about the same damn things that we’ve been talking about for the past decade! A lot of people argue that black people make everything about race, it’s hard not to make all our struggles about race when they stem from the fact that we are black! People need to stop saying that black people like playing “the race card” as if this is something that gets us all giggly and high when it actually comes from a place of frustration and discomfort. These are real issues that affect us not only as children but also eventually when we grow up and the fact that children aged 13 have to protest for such things is ridiculous and should be setting off alarm bells in everyone’s head. So it’s not just hair, it’s a system that’s hell bent on bending us to  fit a specific prototype! And the system  must be changed…

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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Out of Touch

“people were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason why the world is in chaos, is because things are being loved and people are being used.”
This past week has been an infant nightmare, the coming week seems like a teenage nightmare and the week after that will be full grown drunken adult (very difficult to handle). Yes, yes, test week is upon me and there’s nothing I can do but prep myself for it. This past week was not a nightmare just because I had a handful of deadlines but also because four years ago this week the Marikana massacre happened.

The events leading to and following the Marikana massacre were a direct result of the fact that management was (and is still) out of touch with the people that are on the ground. I read a quote by John Green earlier this week that said “people were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason why the world is in chaos, is because things are being loved and people are being used.” I don’t know how long ago he (funny if it was a she John Green) said this, but at I find this most applicable today.

I think the biggest problems with the way that employers or managers or whoever try to solve challenges and unrest in the work place are:
  •  The fact that they are out of touch with the people. Their inability to empathize with their subordinates.
  • Their inability to deviate from traditional methods of solving unrest. They use mediation and negotiation techniques that were being used a century ago.
  • They’re not creating a spirit and culture of loyalty to their company or brand.
Source: Mobile Toilets

Perhaps the class gap between the workers and management is the reason that mediation is always such a sham. I’ve been in situations where people (who will most probably be in leadership positions someday) say things like “They should have worked harder when they were younger, they wouldn’t be cleaning toilets if they’d worked hard” or when people litter and they say “I’m creating employment”. There’s no way that these kind of people will be leaders that can sympathize or empathize.

I’ll give you an easy example of management that is out of touch and I hope this example doesn’t get me in trouble. The working conditions of car guards at (or in, not sure which is applicable) Stellenbosch University. I took photos of their supposed office, or room or whatever the thing is really. I think there are a few of them around campus, but the reality is that it’s not just Stellenbosch but all over the country, guards and security persons work under similar conditions.

We put the people that are responsible for or safety and security in spaces that are no bigger than a mobile toilet and we expect them to not only take their job seriously but also to take pride in what they do (because if we don’t expect them to take pride in what they do we really don’t expect them to do their jobs properly).

What about this 1m2 area will make the man (or woman) working here want to protect you or your car or your cat or whatever you are protecting? The man can’t even make a cup of coffee (and God knows winter in Stellenbosch is dreadful). If you can install a switch for the boom gate in the damned cubicle I see no reason why you can’t install a plug for him to boil a kettle for a cup of tea. Is giving a man some leg space too much to ask?

Keeping in mind what miners actually do on the daily basis, and the fact that on average the miner gets paid around R4750 the Marikana uprising should have come as no surprise to Lonmin management. In fact, it should have been something that they had prepped for! Inflation is a living beast, and the cost of living in South Africa is rather unfortunate, but Lonmin management should have prepped for the uprising or perhaps simply handled it better. There are many ways that the lives of many could have been saved over those few days.

In that situatuin one could have negotiated a deal with one of the leading supermarkets, like pick ‘n pay (my ‘p’ still doesn’t work so I can’t get uppercase ‘p’), Checkers, or Shoprite. Negotiate a discount (of say, 20%) on all products for Lonmin miners. This way they're ensuring that a basket of goods for the miners is a bit cheaper, and on the other hand they are guaranteeing Checkers (or whoever) a few million customers. The mining sector employs around 13 million people!

One could also donate money to a few schools (where miners are concentrated) where children of miners could go for a discounted amount (don’t say basic education is already free in South Africa, basic education that’s free is just that! Basic! And very few of those children make it to university, this is the reality). This not only ensures that the children of your employees get a better education but you’re also taking a chunk off your tax. It's a win win.

I could vent about this for days (because that's what this is really, me, venting) about a thousand other injustices, but all that's left to say is it really doesn’t take much to make someone happy. Especially someone that is in a dire situation. All it takes to make someone else happy is a desire and will. The problem is that management doesn’t care. They have no reason to take care of their subordinates, however, in the end not caring costs more than caring. Until management decides to care we can expect a lot more uprisings (if this is even a word). 


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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Celebrating Women’s Month

Neglect doesn’t even begin to cover the way I have been treating this blog but hopefully that will change. A lot of things have happened since I last posted something: I have a new nephew and a niece (yes new because I have like 621 older ones, kidding), Melania Trump happened, Brexit happened and the ‘p’ on my laptop stopped working and just two days ago South Africa celebrated the 12th national women’s day.

South Africa’s national women’s day commemorates the 1956 protest against the Urban Areas Act of 1950. The protest was led by (among others) Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophia Williams. The month of August is dedicated to not only celebrating women who’ve played a significant role in shaping South Africa's past and its future but also to celebrate the seemingly ordinary woman that has survived a world designed to accommodate the man. Although South Africa has made great strides since the march of 9 August 1956 it has yet to see a female president and women are still marginalized.

Source: SAHistory
Source: Allan Grey Orbis Foundation
Source: Google Arts and Culture
Although formal red tape around women entering industries like engineering, medicine and law enforcement has been removed, a virtual tape still exists. Evidence of the fact that there is a glass ceiling in these industries is the fact that of the total number of engineers registered with the Engineering Council of South Africa, only 11% are women and only 4% are professional engineers (Marna Thompson). Marginalization of women does not manifest itself in occupation choices and career progress only but also in the sexualization, abuse and objectification of women.

The marginalization, sexualization and objectification of women seems to see no end. Although there are many fighting to see women treated as equals with men, treated with dignity and respect and see the violence against women and children come to an end, rape culture continues to make bold faced appearances and rearing its grotesque head. Women are still payed less than men (for doing the exact same job as men) in many sectors and rape incidents are still on a hike.

I don’t know if I’m the only one who finds social media and social networks (such as Facebook and Instagram) a little sexist. Women still cannot post pictures with their nipples showing on Facebook or Instagram without being banned (temporarily) from either social network. Breastfeeding in public is still considered shameful and inappropriate by some (as if they’ve never seen boob before, and they were not nurtured by the same organ they now find ‘inappropriate’). “What did she think would happen when she wore a skirt that short” is still a phrase spoken regarding female rape victims. And I’m still 1 of (at most) 20 girls in my class of at least 150 students.

Sure, there are various organizations and movements dedicated to improving the woman’s prospects and circumstance. Organizations like WomEng (which I was fortunate enough to be a part of this year). And movements like #EndRapeCulture, #1MillionGirlsInSTEM and many others. However, progress remains slow and tedious. But, as the saying goes, anything worth anything takes time. But to what end is all this effort?

As much as I care about all that I have mentioned above, I also can’t help but wonder if it’s worth it. Obviously this statement does not relate to anything that has to do with rape or violence against women and children. But I mean all the fuss we make about having women in Engineering and what not all. Is it really worth it trying to get girls to want to be lawyers and whatever? Are we not forcing nature and changing the dynamics of the universe for nothing? Don’t get me wrong, I love engineering. I dream of nothing else but to solder all day and burn my fingers and do cool stuff that will change the way that humanity does things. I’m all about the engineering life, but is the engineering life for me (and other women)? What if we’re working so hard to get 1 million girls in STEM only to have 500 000 of those depressed (even though they are in STEM)? This is not me being an anti-feminazi but it’s worth a thought.

Even though I have my qualms about how far we are to take this ‘career women’ movement there is no doubt that there is still a lot of work to be done. To at least give women equal opportunities in the tech industry (and let the paint or whatever if they don’t like it), and to reduce crimes against women and children. I do believe that women bring a fresh perspective to things in general and are therefore an integral part of any process. But most importantly I think women deserve freedom, freedom to do whatever they want regardless of what it is that they actually want.

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Sunday, June 12, 2016

Men and Makeup

I’m going through this phase of really long but empty days. Today was one of those and I found myself watching a contouring tutorial for guys and it got me thinking “why isn’t makeup for guys a thing?” I don’t know about you but I have never seen an advert that even hints at make up for guys.

The reality is that guys have skin problems too and for some the makeup would really go a long way to boosting their confidence. Or maybe guys just don’t have confidence problems? It doesn’t have to include long winged eyelashes and eyeliner like women’s make up but small things like contouring and stuff. Sure I myself don’t know jack about makeup and makeup jargon because I prefer to look like a zombie ninety percent of the time but foundation and some bronzer wouldn’t hurt, right? Even if it isn’t an everyday thing but for special events like graduation or your wedding or just a date.
Don’t guys watch movies and adverts and think ‘I want to look like that’? I want to have eyebrows like that or a jawline like that or whatever guys want?

Look at Beckham, he's sexy! But you bet your breakfast his eyebrows aren’t that thick (unless he had implants at some point, I don’t even know if this is scientifically possible) but you get what I’m saying… He could be wearing mascara and you can’t even tell (assuming he’s wearing any). He just looks great! Guys on television do it all the time but sold as natural.

And the Asian community (Korean specifically) are already ahead. Have you seen how fresh ALL Asian guys look? That’s because they’re already way ahead in the makeup industry and they do so without looking gay, not that there’s anything wrong with looking gay, makeup isn’t just for gay men actually. Check out these before and after pictures, although the guys come nowhere near Beckham but they look pretty good with the makeup!

Source: beautymakeuptutorial

There really is no shame in wearing makeup up as a guy and I don't understand why there aren't more guys doing it. There is a market for make up for men and it’s just sitting there patiently waiting to be harvested. 

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Friday, June 10, 2016

"The One"

Source: blackchristiannews
Man’s plight: the desire to marry. Somehow we all ate a bug that modified our genetic description and made us all so fond of not only finding “The One” but also marrying "The One", because duh, what’s the point of finding him/her/shim/himsh and whatever if you’re not going to marry him, right? And OBVIOUSLY once you’ve found him you have to marry him because in this day and age people don’t do this thing of living together without marrying (eye roll)!

I, for one, haven’t been for nor particularly against marriage, I just don’t want to die alone and if this means that I have to marry then so be it. I’m also not very trusting, particular reference to potential husband (should this happen). I cannot be certain that he won’t one day wake up and decide that I’m too fat for his liking and leave me, so I’d prefer to have children instead. And marriage has the added benefit of children. My kids can’t really leave me (at least not for eighteen years), they have no other option but to love me. And you’re probably thinking that I don’t need to marry to have children, however… I’m a tad conservative so I'd prefer to be married if I have children.

But seriously, how is it that one of the highest ranking human desires is to marry? Where does this desire come from that it plights both genders (and all the others in between) and across nationalities and races?

Perhaps the desire to be with someone in matrimony has a religious background. The Christian Bible at some point (I’m pretty sure of this) says multiply and fill the earth. However, a condition of sexual relations in the Bible is marriage, hence our desire to marry. Islam, Bahá'í faith, and other religions also prohibit pre-marital sex. Buddhism encourages people to not be attached to nor crave sensual pleasure (which removes them from this argument completely).

The religion argument could easily hold if we actually waited until we’re married to have sex.  If we were in such a hurry to be married because we want to have sex perhaps then our intense desire would be justified by the religious background. But the reality is: hardly anyone waits until marriage to have sex these days. I doubt that the death of Saving-myself-for-marriage was even mourned.

Said religion could also be the reason behind Saving-myself-for-marriage’s unfortunate death. The fact that women expect to marry the person they’re dating (or are being courted by) and if they are to marry they are going to end up having sex with the person anyway so they might as well do it before marriage. Which sort makes sense if you consider the fact that the anthem of this generation is: “why date him if you’re not going to marry him?”.

Perhaps the oppression of women in history would explain our desire for marriage (at least for women). Women’s sexuality has been rejected, not recognized, acknowledged and even scorned in the past. And perhaps marriage was the only way that women could be sexual and express their sexuality. Married women could be said to have been allowed to be more free about their sexuality.  They could hide their pleasure behind trying to please their husbands, perhaps.

This argument fails once again because women in the twenty first century women have more freedom than they did in the twentieth and earlier centuries. We are sexual beings; this is acknowledged even though we don’t have as much freedom as men do. So the sexuality argument can’t play too much of a role.

Two friends of mine attributed it to movies and our parents. The first one because the media sells both sex and the butterflies-in-my-stomach feeling. The idea behind most movies (and this is inclusive of action movies) is that someone somewhere out there will look at you with fire in his eyes and melt your butter heart. Since the saying goes “You are what you watch, listen to, and talk about” this could be true.

The second one said it was because of our parents. We want the love that they have (or don’t have) and it creates the longing to find someone. When you know you parents have been together since the stone age and are still together and love and support each other like they only met a year ago you can’t help but want the same for yourself. It could also be the absence of one of your parents, seeing you mother (or your father) struggle as a single parent could lead you to vow to never have to go through what they’ve had to go through by yourself.

Because of this desire and idea we have of marriage we find ourselves too committed to infant relationships (or maybe I’m just a commitment-phoebe). We find ourselves in serious relationship one after serious relationship and leaving pieces of ourselves, our happiness and our souls with every Jabu, Thabo and Sizwe (Tom, Dick and Harry) we date. Maybe our desire for marriage is a cause for many social and psychological issues. Body image issues, lack of self-esteem, and many other similar issues.

Although it could be said that my conclusion is unfounded and lacks evidence but I think it’s one that’s worth exploring. If marriage is as important to people as it seems to be, then what are its effects? According to the laws of nature everything has a cause and effect. I’ve tried exploring the causes but I can’t begin to explore the effects. At the end of the day the question is this obsession healthy but most importantly is it worth it?

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

isiZulu-Pessimistic, Beautiful Nonetheless

I really shouldn’t be writing this at all since I have an exam tomorrow and everything but anyway, this is going to be short.
I’m Zulu (as far as I’m concerned) so I find myself comparing isiZulu (which is a beautiful language just by the way) with other languages a lot.

So I greeted a friend a few days back (who also happened to be Zulu) and I noticed that almost all greetings are not an expression of your actual state but just livelihood. A typical conversation for example:
Person 1: Sawubona. (Hello-direct translation is something close to “I see you”)
Person 2: Sawubona ntombi, unjani kodwa? (Hello girl, how are you?)
        Person 1: Ngiyaphila ntombi singezwa kuwe? (direct translation: I’m alive girl,
        let’s hear about you?)
        Person 2: Ay, sivukile bandla. (Direct translation: we woke up (it has this tone of
        regret or sadness to it))
A typical reply is anything from “kube  nomkhuhlane kwaSiban’-ban: there’s been a flu (or sickness)at so and so house” (when someone has died), to we “akukho lutho olubi bandla: There’s nothing bad ”.

I can’t think of a phrase that is equivalent to “I’m great, thank you.” that wouldn’t sound awkward. Even that ‘thank you’ at end of most polite English greeting is so unfortunately awkward and misplaced in isiZulu.

And we use bandla a lot (adds that element of sadness/regret/sorrow/depression/humility-I don’t know), so I we find ourselves saying ‘shame’ a lot in English. Not out of pity/sympathy/embarrassment, just because there’s no equivalent to Bandla in English.

Are we so sad or depressed or pessimistic as a people that even our greeting isn’t remotely joyful? Or perhaps we’re just realistic about our circumstances…? I think it’s the latter.

Obviously we have expressions for joy and happiness and all that mushy stuff, but we don’t use any of it when we greet…

It’s still a beautiful language though…

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Monday, May 9, 2016

The Importance of Art

"We consume what we see on 
TV and American content 
dominates our Screens"

The pursuit of education in the arts department is often mocked, ridiculed and not prioritized. I obviously cannot speak of nor to other continents, countries or even universities because I have no knowledge of what goes on elsewhere but I can speak of Stellenbosch University.

Stellenbosch has a tendency to relate certain degrees with levels of intellect and thus importance. For example, if you’re working towards being an actuary (studying actuarial science), you’re considered smart and crème de la crème. And if you’re studying BA law or doing journalism, you’re not particularly smart or particularly dumb; you’re just here to find a man. I’ve heard more than one person referring to a BA degree as BA man vind (direct translation: BA man find). I haven’t heard of anyone (maybe because they keep it on the down low) who’s studying BA and has a bursary (that isn’t from the university).

If you graduate cum laude and you’re doing BA the reaction is “obviously” whereas if you an engineering graduate everyone slaps you on the shoulder and tells you how great you are even though your academic record is a series of 50s. The reality though is that different degrees have different challenges. For me, my creative side died when I got to university. I dread words! Especially if they are intellectually material, the main reason I use my textbook is to look the examples because I don’t understand the written explanations. Someone doing English though, probably loves words and dreads equations.

We have different strengths and weaknesses and specializing in different departments enables us to make the most of our unique talents. In my opinion arts is not emphasized enough. Sure engineering, medicine and law are important in our infant and malnourished economy. But we’re at a time where what the world thinks of us and sees us as a country plays an important role in trade, investment, and other sectors where people in the art department play an essential and influential role.

As a country we are our art! We are the movies and documentaries we make, we are the books we publish, and the art we paint, the moves we dance, the songs we sing, the clothes we make and the ads we produce! And right now we are at a unique position where we tell the American and European story. Our ads promote the European and American lifestyle, the clothes we wear and make are American reproductions or products. We are not forging our own style and path but following the one already well traveled by other countries, perhaps because we are not cultivating our art.

In the April issue of Destiny Tiisetso Maloma is quoted saying: “We consume what we see on TV and American Content dominates our TV screens” and I cannot agree more. I was listening to a song the other day (I think it was by Emtee or Nast C, I’m not sure now) but it said something about peanut butter and jelly! REALLY! Peanut butter and jelly!? In South Africa!? I’ve attached images of South African jelly and American jelly. The one is a bread spread the other is a dessert of sorts. Or he's speaking of actually jelly (the dessert) and peanut butter, which is disgusting even though I've never tried it. If it's the  former, that is rather unfortunate. You cannot be a South Africa using American names for stuff, it's not helping tell our story. South African’s have to start telling, writing and painting stories that portray South Africa’s narrative.

This is American jelly, but in                        I don't know what Americans call this but in
South Africa this is Jam.                               South Africa this is jelly.
South African stories are told by Americans. Invictus, is a film that tells the story of SA during the 1995 world cup. Wikipedia describes it as “ a 2009 American-South African biographical sports drama”! It starred Samuel L. Jackson (they really could have chosen a better person for the role) and Matt Damon (who both got academy award nominations for their respective roles). Sarafina! on the other hand, is a south African movie, telling a South African Story, directed by a South African, with South African actors and actresses (with the exception of Whoopi Goldberg) and is an exceptional film! However, it didn’t get as many (if any) awards or nominations. Maybe it was because of the times at which they were made, I don’t know. But the reality is South African stories aren’t being told by South Africans and when they are told by South Africans they don’t get the credit they deserve!!!!!

Now some effort is being made to cultivate young South African talent, e t.v. has their Monday eKasi stories. A slot that show stories told by emerging producers and actors I guess. But how much are they investing in those shows? If you’ve watched them, have you seen the quality of those things? It hurts to watch and it breaks my heart! I don’t know how much goes it to the production of those films but the people look orange, lighting is always an issue, the filming in general is questionable and I’m not even a movie critic.

Journalists and writers in general have a unique opportunity to write our stories without making us look like invalids. When man builds a car from scratch in Africa it’s a big thing, but the way in which the rest of the world tells the story  does not highlight the man and his intellect but the dire circumstances under which he built the car. Our success stories are written about, sure, but they are usually poverty porn and do not help improve how the rest of the world sees us. If the story was told by one of our own the narrative would be different.

I’m not saying that all south African art is a shambles and is unsuccessful. Tsotsi the film was a success, Isibaya a is totally kick ass soapie, Dean Simon is an exceptional artist, Mafikizolo and The Soil make good music. But how many of these success stories are there? Maybe I just don’t know about them, that in itself is also a problem because it doesn’t mean we aren’t producing phenomenal artists and work but we just aren’t promoting them.

The United States has done a great job of selling itself as great nation (the basis of this is a debate for another day), but they’ve done so through their art! Their movies (They make movies titled Captain America for crying out loud!), the way their rappers rap and dress (The baggy clothes and everything) they do not fail to mention America and its greatness at every turn! America is no longer just a country but it’s become a brand of sorts. There is no reason South Africa shouldn’t be doing the same! And the people to do this are people in the arts department, people we do not give enough credit!

The point I’m trying to make is that the people that tell our story (as South Africans) aren’t engineers, or doctors or accountants. It’s our artists. And we don’t give our artists credit unless their material is American and the stories they write go viral when they expose the weaknesses of our country! We’re not promoting their work nor emphasizing their role and importance. They’re truly successful once they’ve gone to Hollywood, we’re not doing enough to make them want to stay and uplift our country! They have the opportunity to portray our country; it’s history, hopes and dreams form a personal point of view without malicious intent. They’re at a position where they can influence our economy in a big way, and we need to give them the due credit and treat them like the assets that the are.

We undermine the importance and role of art and artists and this need to change.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Africa’s Virtual Independence


While looking for information for this post my frustration with Africa (and South Africa in particular) was further emphasized. It seems all the sources of information available (on the internet, documentaries and books) seem to be written by foreigners (and I use this term loosely in the least derogatory manner). As a people we don’t seem to have a handle on information processing and preservation and making it accessible. Or maybe I’m the one who is unable to find information and looks in all the wrong places, I don't know.

This post is (perhaps) on an old issue (Africa's independence, or lack thereof) that has been written about over and over again. But since I find myself frustrated by the same things I was frustrated about 5 years ago I feel like I'm allowed to write about it. Maybe if enough people write about the same frustrations we'll begin to see change (I'm a pessimistic opportunist).

According to the last African country to gain independence (from a non-African country, since South Africa and Ethiopia also tried their hand at colonizing) was Zimbabwe in 1980. Now, according to google dictionaries independence is the state of being independent (i.e. a state in which one is "free from outside control; not subject to another's auhtority". However, the reality is we are not entirely independent, the way world economics and politics are structured don't enable any one county to be truly independent. at least not with world trade, foreign lending and investments, tourism and other factors being relatively important in our various economies. However, counties are not equally influenceable (if this is even a word).

George Orwell said it best in 'Animal Farm': "All [countries] are equal, but some animals are more equal than others". Independence was never meant to level the playing field, colonization was a tool used by the big dogs to spunge off Africa (to put it simply and bluntly). All that independence did was take away the excavator (colonization) and give the big dogs a shovel (sanctions, foreign policy, financial aid). World politics and economics is like a playground really. There are cool kids and not-so-cool kids. If the cool kids don't like the way you are doing things they prohibit you from participating in their activities and starve you of fun; it is equivalent to economic and political bullying.

Evidence of the economic bullying are the sanctions against Cuba. The United States of America put an embargo on exports to Cuba (excluding medicine and food) after the Cuban government nationalized American owned oil refineries without compensation. However, the reality is how many times in the colonial times did America (and countries like America) do this? How many times did they take over companies in the colonial states and not compensate the the people of the state. How many companies were established in colonial states using the state's resources and the colonizing countries still benefit from those ventures and continue to not compensate the former colonial states?

How many mines in South Africa are owned solely by South Africans? ( :D now I don't know the stats because of the aforementioned problem). But seriously, the few companies that are solely owned by South Africans are probably owned by white South Africans (another issue for another day). The big dogs implement red tape or sanctions to bar countries from making the most of their independence (even if the most means that the country shall suffer for a while; counties, like individuals, learn from their mistakes).

One might argue that countries that colonized African countries have since tried to redeem themselves by offering one or other form of financial aid to said colonized country. Even this is a fallacy. The reality is that there are a lot of keep-africa-on-a-leash policies and the financial aid is one of them. I'm not saying that African countries don't need aid, I'm just saying the form in which it comes is not best for the recipient. If a man is starving, you give him a fish sure. But it is much more beneficial and empowering to give the man a fishing rod and teach him how to fish than have to give him fish all the time. The way in which foreign aid is facilitated to African countries is delivered in such a way that Africa as a whole is kept on a leash. It is swe rely on foreign aid for sustenance, poverty is still rife (although much improved), sustainable economic development and growth continue to elude us.

I've come to the end of my rant and I feel like I've achieved nothing by writing this piece. I've stated a problem we are, perhaps, all aware of an I've come up with no solutions for the status quo. But honestly, how do we relieve ourselves (as a country) of the world pressured but still meet the needs of the people, accelerate economic growth and development? Is it even possible or is it one of those unattainable goals? I for one, don't know enough about the economy to come up with solutions and don't have enough power (at least for now) to implement to solutions.

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