Tuesday, 17 December 2013

In state, in State.

For three days following his passing, the body of Nelson Mandela was placed in state for viewing at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. I would like to believe it to be an act of having offered the public a chance to meet the great legend, despite circumstance, rather than a parade of some sort.

However, on the second day of viewing, a picture of Mandela's body was taken at the display by a viewer. Unfortunately, like every other unmatched area, item, or in this case, irreplaceable human body, no pictures are allowed at a secure public viewing, and viewers were given an opportunity to view the body in a filing manner, simply walking passed the body to pay respects.

A person took a photo and it instantly went viral, but the commentary and disapproval by majority of the public made me realise that just like Mandela had faith in the majority (whom people perceived as mere slaves of colour), so should I.

And to the attention-hungry hyena,

Really? Did you think Twitter would die over it in your support? Facebook? Instagram? The world? No. We're still talking about about what an ass you are.

'Respect' - learn it. 

Monday, 25 March 2013

Stand against violence against women in South Africa, or remain sitting ducks?

The injustice against South African women is real, and ignored.
Brutal regimes and societies oppress women, but South Africa- a country that rests on a pedestal of freedom and equality- still hosts inhumanity against women. Inhumanity in the form of insecurity.
During the early 1900s, women started taking their resistance against oppression to the streets, organising mass movements against what will always be remembered as one of the most unjust, discriminative and harsh regimes- the Apartheid regime. The crucial role of women in the liberation of South Africa displayed the extent of the humiliation they were slapped with, the trials they faced, and the struggles they overcame. I speak of them as heroines; as women of every race in South Africa.
During the uprising against Apartheid, women would protest and sing songs of freedom, lift their skirts and stomp their feet on the soil that was stolen from them. Oppressed, they resisted further ill-treatment and unfairness. They held meetings, initiated pickets and were crucial in the fight for freedom, many of them losing their homes and families to the struggle. Black, White, Coloured, and Asian- they protested together. They protested against being branded as “kaffirs,” “kulies” and “bushies.” Togetherness is what made South Africa a rainbow nation- right from the time they took the struggle to the streets.
They stood at the front line with their children and risked their lives for the people. They were beaten with batons, shot with guns, chewed on by police dogs, and massacred. They encouraged their children to fight against the regime, and remained steadfast on their intention that they would die fighting for freedom. Dressed in traditional skirts, beaded jewellery, saris and Hijabs, with their fists raised to the skies as one nation, they showed no weakness. 
Their husbands served sentences in prison, some dying before they could see their loved ones again. These women faced detention and solitary confinement in women’s prisons for their part in the struggle, refusing to testify against freedom fighters. While imprisoned, they often learnt of their families being tortured to death. To the day, these heroines still ask for no sympathy- only solidarity.  Some of the women recognised by the freedom that South Africa hosts so proudly are: Helen Joseph, Ruth First, Albertina Sisulu, Winnie Madikizela Mandela, Mamphela Ramphele, Mary Moodley, Florence Matomela, Dora Tamana and Frances Baard.
However, in today’s free South Africa, women cannot roam the streets in confidence and faith. The faith we have in our land is minimal. Uneducated societies still force their women into polygamy, using tradition as the backdrop to their acts. Allowing children to play outside is a risk many women will not take- children as young as toddlers are raped, murdered, abused or hacked for body parts that are used in traditional healing and medication. Their severed bodies are often found ravaged by animals or cannibals, burnt, dumped in rivers or tied up in suitcases. Girls do not leave their homes unless in groups or with escorts. Women are tormented in the streets, their private parts are touched and upon reporting it, they may be laughed at, sent out of the police station or even sexually harassed. Perpetrators do not need to be in groups to hurt or torment women- they are confident on their own. In that regard, it is not only men who are the perpetrators. Recently, women have been showing their faces as abusers and rapists too. They should be equal in status because is not “equality” what we rest on? Equality is fairness, even in abuse and violence.
Violence has been described as becoming a “norm” in South Africa. Is this the element of DNA that is becoming apparent in the very people who were dragged into the streets for peacefully protesting against violence? Is being violent what South Africans will be known for?
Nelson Mandela is often portrayed as a hero who led the liberation struggle against the brutal Apartheid regime, but he was not alone. He was not without women. The countless freedom fighters that fought for freedom during Apartheid are not remembered as they should be, and we don’t give them the justice they deserve. We should be doing our duty to them- paying tribute and continuing the legacies they have left us with.
If only the women of South Africa were angry and brave enough not to tolerate the injustices against them, they would live up to the heroines who gave their lives and loves for them.
I speak as a South African- a child of the free South Africa:
If we cannot be motivated by living for the future- for an even better South Africa, then we should at least be motivated by the past. We are weak, we take no action- we must act and retaliate because it is OUR duty to OUR people.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The Life of Al Quds

Even if you are at war with a city...you must not destroy its trees for the tree of the fields is man's life.

Deut. 20: 19-20

Dried of gold,
Her clothing, crumpled, torn.
Her body, drained, frail.
Dying, dying, but resisting,
Refusing to cry.

Ripped from her home,
The earth of Palestine,
Crushed by the bulldozer.

She cries out in pain,
White phosphorous spewed across her beauty,
Roasting her skin.
Her skin, bearing the sun of Al Quds for all these years,
Once sheltering and protective,
Now burns and peels away
As if it never belonged.

But quietly, she blows in the wind.
She blows in the easterly wind of Jerusalem,
Her pieces scattered,
Her roots intertwined beneath the boots of an Israeli soldier.

But will you write with my branches in the sand, she asks.
The sand.
Begging at the sand,
Will it ever open,
How does it bear the weight?
Will you drown the settlements, she asks;
The settlements that steal the rays of sunshine?
The sunshine.
Deathly rays,
Will they ever burst into flames?
Burn the bullets, she shouts.
Burn the bullets!
Light the hearts instead.

The hearts.
The sore, sore hearts.

But I would rather be burnt, ripped, destroyed.
I would rather be killed, than be taken.
I will not be theirs, she says.
I reside within the rich sand,
I embrace the beaming sunlight,
I mend the broken hearts.
I will not be theirs,
For I belong to Palestine.
I am the life of Al Quds,
I am the life of Palestine.

Crouched over after many years,
Her body struggling to sustain her,
The indents of suffering mapped across her skin,
Telling her story.

She whispers,
“The olive tree, I am the olive tree.”

Shake me, and my leaves will fall.
Break me, and my stem will tear.
Rip me, and my roots will die.
Burn me, and my ashes will blow.
Hurt me, 
Hurt me,
But wherever I lay to rest, 
My seeds will always live on.
Palestine will always live on.
Palestine will always be.

Remain, the Eclipse.

Like the moon,
Hiding beneath her light.
Shy behind her skin,
She hides behind her enigma,
Behind her beaming shine.

Living within herself,
Like an oyster,
Trying to form a pearl of own, blackened heart.
But the pearl is nothing but the disease of an oyster.

Her alone.
Her alone feels so good.
But she’ll have you –
She’ll have your terrifyingly strange beauty.
She’ll have you,
She’ll have you.

She is,
She is a loner,
Jealous of her,
Confused souls;
Jealousy of beauty in the absence of logic.
Mere wealth confused with happiness;
Quantity confused with abundance;
Information confused with knowledge.

Tame the moon,
Seek her beauty, seek her mind.
And if the moon can’t be tamed,
Tame the sunset.

But you cannot control the sunset.
You don’t want to control it.
It’s perfect, with its burnt shades of orange.

Her sunset,
Her entrance to the night,
The very sun of her existence,
The moon.
Holding onto the sun,
Like the owl’s talons clenching the heart.
She seeks it all,
Every sacred moment.
Everywhere -
In the illuminating flames;
And nowhere at all -
In the deepest darkness,
Her alone.

The moon,
She chases the sun,
Barely holding onto rays of sunshine.
And when they kiss,
The world stares in awe of their eclipse.
Their love,

You are my sun –
The eternal sunshine of my spotless mind,
Beautifully annihilating,
You are mine.
And at the awe of our eclipse,
Because a lifetime is not enough.

And when the concrete jungle of reality betrays you,
Seek solace in the wilderness of my mind.
Because more and more this earth is not a paradise,
Though I find pockets of heaven in the most unlikely places –
In the wealth of your mind,
In the sincerity of your silence.

Delving into my mirrored pool of thought,
Your burnt orange rays flicker brightly.
Burning my darkness,
Streaking my blackness,
Enveloping my heart.

At the awe of our eclipse,
Because a lifetime is not enough.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013


Where does it come from,

 This quest?

 This need to solve life’s mysteries,

When the simplest of questions can simply never be answered?

Why are we here?

What is the soul?

Why do we dream?

Perhaps people are trapped, not looking at all.

Not delving,

Not yearning.

That’s not human nature.

Not the human heart.

That isn’t why we’re here.

But this quest,

This need to solve life’s mysteries,

In the end, what does it matter,

When the human heart can only find meaning in the smallest of moments?

It is here, among us.

In the shadows,

In the light, 


Does it even know yet?

Destiny, following us,

This quest, to chase who we hope to be.

This need to solve life’s mysteries.

We imagine ourselves the agents of our destiny,

We believe we are the tellers of our own fate,

Capable of determining our futures,

But have we truly any choice when we rise, or when we fall?

Or does a force larger than ourselves bid us our direction?

Is it evolution of the human mind that takes us by the hand?

Does science point our way,

Or is it God, who intervenes,

Keeping us safe?


But for all his bluster,

It is the sad province of man that he cannot choose his triumph.

He can only choose how he will stand when the call of destiny comes,

Hoping that he will have the courage to answer.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

My tribute to South African women, my plea to African women.

Today I trade my controversial commentary and cynisicm for admiration and enthusiasm, lined with history and wrapped in many, many layers of sweet South Africa.


Today, I pay tribute to our women.



I want to speak not of oppression but of resistance. I might recall that the African women were the first to carry on large-scale, organised resistance against the obnoxious pass laws, way back in 1913 and that was the first glorious episode in the modern national movement in South Africa.


 In the 1920s and 1930s, for various reasons, the African women were the most militant leaders in the trade union movement which organised a million workers in struggle. On August 9, 1956, the women organised a national, multiracial demonstration in Pretoria against pass laws a historic demonstration which required tremendous organisational capacity. That was one of the greatest demonstrations under very difficult conditions in South African history.


I remember reading of a demonstration of Indian women on United Nations Human Rights Day in 1962. Police sent their dogs to attack and pull their saris, but they stood firm. You know of the great demonstration of African school children in Soweto on June 16, 1976? The children decided to defy the police batons and guns, and many hundreds were killed and wounded. I can think of nothing like that massacre of children in history. But what did their mothers do? Did they stop and scold their children for getting into trouble with the police? No, they stood by their children, in spite of all the pain and anguish, and brought out the adults in support. All of us, all over the world, should bow our heads before them.


You have heard of the young freedom fighters, Solomon Mahlangu and three others who were executed in South Africa? They are heroes. But equally heroic are their mothers who stood by them. They did not tell their children to confess or beg for mercy to save their lives. They declared that they are proud of their children and will carry on the struggle until they meet their children in heaven. They too deserve our humble tribute.


Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison for leading the liberation struggle and whose stature in South Africa and the world grows with every passing day. The United Nations once described him as a "prince among political prisoners" and he has, I believe, received more honours than any living person. But we cannot think of him without thinking of his wife during the struggle, Winnie Mandela.


They were married in 1958 and they had hardly three years of normal married life. Winnie Mandela had been restricted almost continuously since 1962, except for a brief spell in 1975. She had been constantly harassed and jailed. In 1970-71, she was detained for more than a year and kept under solitary confinement for many months. Although she had a heart condition, she was cruelly interrogated. At the time of the Soweto uprising, the African children looked up to her when she organised a committee of parents. The Government then banished her to a remote town where she was not allowed to see more than one person at a time. Three white women were even jailed for visiting her. Her bedcovers were confiscated as they had ANC colours. But she remained steadfast as a magnificent symbol of the spirit of liberation, and of African womanhood. She deserves honour, but I am sure that she would be the first to say that there are others who deserve it equally, if not more.


I think of Mrs. Albertina Sisulu, wife of Walter Sisulu, a friend and former prisoner with Nelson Mandela. When the Sisulus were married, Anton Lembede, a leader of the movement, warned the bride:

"You are marrying a man who is already married to the nation."


But Mrs. Sisulu had been married to the nation as much as her husband. She became a women's leader and founder of the Federation of South African Women. She was arrested many times and had been under restriction from 1964 to 1981. Her daughter, Lindiwe, was tortured in prison and escaped from South Africa.


After the restrictions were lifted, Mrs. Sisulu began travelling throughout South Africa and organising the masses against apartheid. At 66, she faced charges of furthering the aims of the ANC, and faced imprisonment. That is the spirit of defiance of this great woman.


I think of Rita Ndzanga, a trade union leader, and wife of another trade union leader, Lawrence. They were both detained for over a year in 1970-71 with Winnie Mandela, and tortured. They were again detained a few years later. Her husband died in prison, presumably of torture. She was not allowed to bid farewell to her husband, and was only released a day after his funeral. But as soon as she came out of jail, Rita returned to organise the new trade unions. Meeting and seeing her now, you could not possibly imagine what she had gone through.


 I think of another trade union leader, Emma Mashinini. She was detained in solitary confinement for several months. She had to be sent from prison to the psychiatric ward of the hospital. She remained sick after her release from prison, and trade unions in Denmark offered her treatment in Copenhagen. After her recovery, she plunged herself back in to the trade union movement. Her spirit was uplifting, as if nothing had happened or as if nothing could ever move her from her struggle.


I think of Shanti Naidoo, detained with Winnie Mandela in 1970. She was a young Johannesburg bookshop assistant of Indian-Tamil origin. Shanti had first been "banned" as a political activist in 1963 for five years. For her involvement in the struggle, she was kept in solitary confinement for six months as a potential witness and deprived of sleep for several days. Following her refusal to give evidence in the trial of her comrades, who included Winnie Mandela and Joyce Sikakane, she was imprisoned for a further six months; 371 days in total. She was finally released in June 1970. Shanti is now in London now and she never asks for sympathy for herself or her family, but only solidarity for struggles around the world.


A remarkable fact about Shanti Naidoo’s family: Her father was the adopted son of Mahatma Gandhi. For three generations, every member of her family had been imprisoned by the South African government for opposing apartheid. Most of them had become, and remain freedom fighters.


I think of my first passion: journalism. I think of the journalists who lost their jobs and who lost their limbs to make the struggle known. I think of a journalist, Ruth First. Her 117 days in solitary detention in 1963 were recorded in a book and in a BBC documentary. After leaving South Africa, she remained a tireless and effective campaigner for liberation. She left as a heroine and grew to write many books. She became a professor in England and then in Mozambique. She was killed by a parcel bomb, but remains a symbol of the struggle, her suffering etched within the brutal memories of Apartheid.


I think of the remarkable people I’ve been privileged to have met. I think of the ones who have inspired me. I think of Mamphela Ramphele, a doctor who set up a self-help clinic for black people in King William's Town in the 1970s. She was banished to an isolated, remote area in 1977, thousands of miles away, and dumped there. She had been the lover of Steve Biko, leader of the Black Consciousness Movement. A few weeks after her banishment, she learned that Biko, the father of her unborn child - the man who will forever remain one of South Africa’s most recognised and inspiring leaders - had been brutally tortured to death. But Dr Ramphele recovered from the tragedy. She set up a day care centre, a clinic, a feeding scheme, a library, a bursary fund, a literacy programme, a crache, and a co-operative to serve the 50,000 people in the impoverished area she was banished to. She was named the woman of 1983 by The Star, the major white newspaper (at the time) of Johannesburg. She has received a number of awards, is now a representative of the South African government, a motivational speaker, and is involved in a number of movements and organisations.


I think of many, many others: Helen Joseph, Mary Moodley, Florence Matomela, Dora Tamana, Frances Baard and so on.


These women were the beacons of hope for South Africa. If they were not black women of South Africa, there would have been outrage in the world. The major Western Governments would have denounced apartheid and imposed sanctions long before they actually took action.


In regard to the current socio-political and economic problems Africa currently faces, we have occasional condemnations but little action.


I have often wondered, have we, who belong to the third world or to the oppressed peoples, done enough? One hears of border problems and other conflicts in Africa, but do they matter at all when the dignity and honour of the African man or woman are at stake? When Winnie Mandela and others were being tortured, did any government warn the South African police against touching a black woman? When commanders rape Congalese women and gauge their eyes out, do we look at them with ours and save their sight? We can retaliate if we are determined.


If only the black people of this continent are angry enough and committed enough not to tolerate the crimes against the black women of Africa, we will be able to see the end of oppression, migrant labour, rape, crime, murder, poverty and suffering. We should pay homage to the heroic women of South Africa. But, above all, we should get angry and demand that all governments, all organisations, all institutions break with the African regimes and unequivocally support the struggle for freedom.


This is my tribute to South African women, and my plea to African women: Remember that you are women; you are Africans before you allow yourselves names. You are of the earth and of the land - protect Africa’s dignity, and protect your dignity.