26th May2014

Can I touch your hair?

by admin

20140404_191141~2Pontsho Pilane looks at issues around touching a person’s hair.

Very few things create tense debate like any topic related to black women’s hair. In fact, I believe very few topics spark controversy as much as social issues related to women of colour (particularly black women)- but that is a topic for another day.

I remember going to a job interview and being asked about my hairstyle instead of my qualifications and what I would offer to the company. The interviewer, who happened to be a white woman seemingly around the same age group as me, innocently asked me if I could untie my braids so she could see what exactly is “going on” with my hair. This is not the first time that I have been prompted for such. I was fortunate enough to be afforded the courtesy to be asked instead of having strangers peruse through my hair all in the name of curiosity and interest in my very ‘different’ hairstyles.

In October 2013, Antonia Opiahorganized a public exhibition called “You Can Touch My Hair” in order to investigate the seemingly controversial curiosity with black women’s hair in the US. In an essay she wrote for Huffington Post, Opiah states that she wanted to understand the curiosity with black hair, especially in its natural, non-chemically treated state. I watched her documentary and found myself agreeing with what women in that video had to say. I agreed because I too am tired of having to be reduced to a petting zoo when I am out in public, trying to live my life. I understand that many people (especially people who aren’t black) are curious about afros and braids; however I refuse to be the source of their knowledge when Google exists. I question the intention of the curiosity. Are you really curious? Then why do you not independently explore that research? Why do you have to wait until you spot black women with an afro in a queue at the bank to explore your curiosity? This curiosity is similar to the curiosity that many French citizens had with Saartjie Baartman’s body that Opiah also talks about in her documentary. That curiosity led to Baartman being caged and put up for show, because she was different to what they were familiar with. Although there is no excuse for what was done to her; one’s curiosity led to such. There is no excuse of not being familiar with certain kinds of hair, if there is a general interest one has towards it.

I feel strongly that there is a need to question this curiosity and its intention, not only from the perspective of people who aren’t black people but also black people. When I decided to get a fade (pic above), I had black women asking to touch my hair and asking how I got it to “stay up like that”. I was perplexed. I realised that there are black women who do not know the natural state of their own hair and they too are curious to see it in this form.

This issue raises questions about more concerns in our own black communities and the perception about our hair. I know many people who went to South African schools that forbade afros and dreadlocks. It is entrenched in little black girls’ minds that their hair is not acceptable from the time they have to start school. Many of us were subjected to the torture of (chemical) burning from relaxer on our hair to get it neat and straight for school; because kinky and coarse hair was too much “work” to maintain.

There are issues that I have had to work through about my own hair, unlearning certain notions and ideas I observed and I was told about my black hair when I was growing up. I do not need someone frisking through my hair; I have enough on my plate already. So no, you cannot touch my hair.

26th May2014

#BringBackOurGirls- a result of desktop activism

by admin

2014-05-25-22-08-36--745705319Pontsho Pilane looks at desktop activism.

#BringBackOurGirls is probably the most intense social media movement since the #StopKony campaign that emerged in 2012 after the non-governmental organisation The Invisible Children’s YouTube video went viral. The video, that currently has over 99 million views on YouTube, was responsible for the social media outbreak of many hashtags demanding the capture of Joseph Kony and his army of terrorists. When it comes to online presence, these campaigns are seemingly similar through the use of social media platforms such as Twitter. However, the #BringBackOurGirls campaign has generated different reactions in the public.

“Who is being asked to bring these girls back?” asks Dr Dina Ligaga, a Media Studies lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand. She finds it amusing that it has become a trend to “show awareness” about the situation and believes it is not true social activism. Critics of the campaign believe that the hashtags and selfies with a piece of paper are oversimplifying the situation and the predicament that young women face on the African continent. Lebogang Molefe, a 21 year old Politics and International Relations third year student, also likens this campaign to that of Kony. She admits that she is not at all moved by the social media outburst and believes that her lack of involvement can be equated to people who use the hashtag on social media. “This is inactive mobilisation. We’re so isolated from the actual problem and hitting the ‘like’ button will not change that.” she said.

However, Priyankha Thakur, a 19-year-old Law and International Relations student from Wits seems to be double-minded about the campaign. She attended an arts based protest that was organised by Amnesty International Wits Chapter, which aimed at creating awareness and standing in solidarity with the families of the kidnapped girls. “I don’t think hashtagging is going to bring any girl back, but I was involved to raise awareness about what actually happens in Africa” she explains. She further explains that a campaign that is run on a global scale such as this one requires an easy way of being accessed, and social media being so popular has been used as a platform.

After National Geographic photographer Ami Vitale realised her photographs of girls from Guinea Bissau went viral and became the faces of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, she was not happy. She was concerned by the misrepresentation that was occurring in the name of “awareness”. Misrepresentation is often accompanied with such initiatives, especially when people get involved without fully understanding the problem. Sibusisiwe Khuzwayo, a 20 year old Chemical Engineering student, says she genuinely cares and she is sad that the girls were abducted. “It has become cute and trendy to post #BringBackOurGirls but there is nothing we can do as civilians to actually get the girls back. However, there is some kind of awareness.”

There are thus clearly mixed feelings about the campaign; with some people claiming to be really concerned while others say they do not even care and in fact they are annoyed at this campaign. One can only question the false consciousness that we, as a society, have generated about such issues. It is tricky to determine the actual effectiveness of such a campaign, however the general consensus and motivation behind being involved is that there will be ‘awareness’ about the situation. As to what exactly the world is being made aware of is the real crux of the matter.

07th May2014

If not the ANC, then who?

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PP1Pontsho Pilane looks at issues she considered when thinking about todays Elections in South Africa.

Today is the day our country goes to vote and I still do not know who I am voting for. I envy those that have found homes in political parties, I really do. Politically I am homeless and in between homes, looking for a foster parent who will shelter and care for me today. However, the danger of looking so late may result in me being adopted by the wrong party.

I was born and raised into a family that are fully-fledged African National Congress supporters; my father used to joke that our blood is black, green and gold. We had pictures of Nelson Mandela in our house, we celebrated him and the ANC and for the longest time I did not know that any other political party existed

 

 

besides the ANC. When I first voted in 2009, it was clear as day who I was voting for. But Thabo Mbeki being recalled in Polokwane, a few months before almost shook me out of the home I have grown to love. My own father, a cadre in his own right, was obviously disappointed with the ANC and its decision to put Mbeki out. Nevertheless, we had hope.

Fast track to 2014, I do not know if it is because I was young, but the past five years with our current leadership in office felt like ten years to me. It slowly emerged as a term that was riddled with one controversy after the other and I started losing hope in the ANC. I started to question why I have pledged allegiance to this party. I then began considering alternates.

I leaned towards Congress of the People (COPE) for a while but their in-house fighting left a lot to be desired for. The Democratic Alliance (DA) was an option until I looked at their policy. To me it seemed that their very capitalist policies did not favour the working class, which is predominantly black in this country.

Just when I thought that my life cannot get any more complicated, Julius Malema introduces us to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). A movement that they describe as “radical and militant” on their website. I did not particularly consider myself militant or radical. I certainly did not want Malema leading me in any radical or militant manner either.

So, here I am, so close to casting my vote yet still trying to decide who deserves it. There are 26 parties on the ballot paper and none of them seem to have fully persuaded me so far.

My love for the ANC is clear, however I am scared of disappointment for yet another five years. I have lost confidence in the organisation. I find it hard to believe in them in the same manner that I used to. Realistically I do not see myself voting for any other political party, but my home has been ransacked, defiled and I find it very difficult to live in it like before. I still however do not feel at home anywhere else. I do not want to be part of a dysfunctional family where everyone is fighting to have the last say. Or part of a family that doesn’t take care of all its members. Or a family so fuelled by anger that they are willing to destroy everyone to provide for us. I am homeless and all I can think about is “If not the ANC, then who?”

31st Mar2014

My Scandalous addiction

by admin

Pontsho Pilane looks at television show Scandal/ The Fixer.

pp1I am not usually a fan of series, because I do not have the patience or commitment to consistently watch one television show until its end. This statement could still be true had Shonda Rhimes not written the script of Scandal (known as The Fixer in South Africa). For those of you who have been living under a rock since 2012, Scandal is a drama/ thriller television series based on the life of Olivia Pope and her superpower abilities to get anyone out of any situation- no matter how sticky. The series revolves around her crisis management company and her dramatic affair with the President of the United States. So basically, Olivia Pope, played by Kerry Washington, is the woman every elite person in Washington calls when they are in some kind of trouble: whether you are a senator that killed his wife’s illicit lover; an ambassador’s wife that is trying to leave a controlling husband or an unmarried bachelor who is running for congress as a republican and your party members have suspicions that you are gay- Olivia Pope will help you!

pp2She works with a team of dysfunctional people, all of whom she seemed to have helped at some point in their own life. Her team at Olivia Pope and Associates are made up of: a former government special agent who is their resident hacker (Huck); a former trophy wife of an abusive politician from a well-connected family that does most of the snooping around (Abby) and a former crook turned litigator who now who paves the legal way for all their clients (Harrison). Olivia and her gladiators in suits (as they affectionately call each other) will do just about anything to protect their clients.

The synopsis (that I just gave now) alone was enough to get me glued through the first season of the show, which was only 7 episodes long. However, more than the excitement, it was the fact that a black woman was cast into such a role of power. Until date, I have not identified another prime time show, to the calibre of Scandal, where the show is led by a black woman- who as the main character Olivia Pope, is strong and does not conform to stereotypes floating around mainstream media about black women. Many other viewers of the show share these sentiments because for many years, the Hollywood Modus Operandi for black (especially female) characters has been left unchanged with a few exceptions to shows such as Girlfriends. It feels good to see something different!

However, the affair between Olivia and the President has given me ulcers and heartburn. I do not know how something so wrong can look so right. The passion between Liv (as he affectionately calls her) and Fitz is incredible. There have even been times were I found myself justifying why they should be together. While I feel that their affair is wrong I find myself tuning in just to see how wrong it would be every single episode.

Although the affair is not the pivotal point of the show, many critics have criticized how negative the portrayal is. The Feminist Wire argues that the affair between Olivia and Fitz fits into the stereotypes about black women that exist in Hollywood and it is therefore not progressing the representation of black women at all. I do have my reservations about this affair and the role it plays on the representation of black woman; however the contradictory emotions I get from the show are addictive and keep me wanting more.

Scandal airs in the US on Thursday nights at 10pm, it is only available on series websites afterwards, therefore accounting for the time difference between the States and South Africa, the episode is usually uploaded at 3am on a Friday morning. I love Scandal so much that I have prioritised my studying schedule with the show. I sleep earlier than usual on Thursday nights in order to be up by 3am to watch the show before my lectures. I also do this to avoid American Twitter, because many fans will be tweeting about the episode and they might ruin it for me.

For me, the constant shockers in every minute of the show make it worthwhile to watch. Shonda Rhimes has crafted this show with so much genius that it has become addictive. Its unrealistic frame of reference of time, the power Olivia has and everything else that is bizarre about the show makes it a good way to escape from reality.

Another thing that keeps me glued to Scandal every single week is Kerry Washington. She is an amazing actress; I remember seeing her in The Last King of Scotland and Ray and thinking “Wow! She is beautiful and amazing.” Slowly but surely Hollywood has made a space for Kerry through her other movies as well and she has been able to show us her incredible acting skills.

Issues and flaws in the show aside, for me Scandal is a must watch. If you haven’t watched an episode yet do check it out. It is likely that you will be hooked too!

 

31st Mar2014

Six seconds of comic relief

by admin

Pontsho Pilane looks at social network Vine.

pp4We live in an era of social media, and social media applications drive our daily lives. Since the boom of Facebook and Twitter, many other social networks were created, however many seem to not have staying power and therefore dwindle. The popularity of a social media application is based on its reception by users and how they can get the best out of it. This is why Twitter has had the success that it has had in eight years of its existence.

Vine is no different; this is one of the latest social media applications to gain popularity in its circle. Vine is an app that allows users to make six-second videos and then upload them on the site, just like you would a picture on Instagram. These six-second video clips, referred to as vines, have been the reason this application has gained the popularity that it has in the year it has been launched. According to The Verge, the social media application was birthed in January 2013 and it has received quite the welcome. It was named the most downloaded free application on iOS AppStore. Although Vine is popular in the United States and some other parts of the world, the vine craze has not fully hit South Africa yet. However there are people in South Africa, myself included, who watch Vine videos on YouTube. Some people even call this kind of viewing a Vine binge. Furthermore, its popularity in the US is based on many users who use the application as comic relief- for themselves and others.

Here’s a little How-To guide on using Vine, with a little help from Mashable

First you need to download the application from your iOS, Android or Windows Phone. Then you will be prompted to sign-in.

You can start following different people and friends you may know who are already users. Another easy way to follow people is by going through the “Popular Pages” and “On the Rise” pages. Like with any social media application, there are always the popular users and the easiest way to get the best out of Vine is through following the likes of Jerome Jarre, Brittany Furlan, Ry Goon, Simone Shepherd, King Back and many more viners. Celebrities such as Eric Stonestreet are also popular viners- not because he is famous, but because he is genuinely funny which comes across on his vines.

Vine is mostly used by up and coming creatives – mostly comedians, animators and special effects guys- however, some of the users are just ordinary people who express themselves. There are common “vine formulae” that most users tend to follow, sort of the hashtag version of vines. One that seems to be the most popular is the “Be Like” vines: This is a satirical way of expressing cultural and social observations from certain groups of people. The “Be Like” vines ridicule certain behaviours from these groups in an over the top manner. Some of the most famous and funny “Be Like” vines are centred on stereotypes about men and women, like the vines in the video below.

Vine is a breath of fresh air to the social media scene- it is like tweets have come to life. I love how creative ordinary people are and how they make fun of ordinary situations. It makes me realise how fun life is! This application is for anyone who finds humour in just about anything and would like to share that with the world- you would be surprised how many people feel the same way. Are you not convinced about Vine? Here are a few videos that I hope will convince you about how awesome this application is. Enjoy!

17th Mar2014

Wits Israeli Apartheid Week a Success

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Pontsho Pilane looks at Israeli Apartheid week that just took place at the University of Witwatersrand.

pp1Human rights activists from different parts of the world spent the past week commemorating and raising awareness for the tenth annual Israeli Apartheid Week. According to the official Apartheid Israel website; Israeli Apartheid Week, also known as IAW, is an annual series of events that are organised across many cities and university campuses to raise awareness of “the nature of Israel as an apartheid system”. The website further explains that this movement aims to strengthen campaigns for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Support for the BDS movement is gathered through rallies, film screenings and many other events that take place during IAW that oppose the occupation of Palestine.

pp3I had the privilege of attending some of the events that were organised by the Wits Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) in commemoration of IAW. The events I attended included a documentary screening and panel discussion; a student rally and a closing concert featuring Simphiwe Dana and Thandiswa Mazwai; who are known for their political involvements as much as they are for their talents. Their twitter feeds are some of the most interesting when it comes to discussing the current state of affairs in South Africa, as well as the world.

The documentary that we watched at the screening was called Occupation 101; which was a thought provoking film about the historical aspects that have caused the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be in the current aggravated state that it is in. According to the documentary film’s official website; it aims to expose what the life for Palestinians is like under the Israeli military rule and how the United States is involved in funding the continuation of these human rights violation against the people of Palestine. After the screening, a panel discussion facilitated by the Chairperson of Wits PSC, Shaeera Kalla, took place. This discussion was important because it introduced issues in the region to some students who were not familiar with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The students rally that took place on Thursday consisted of four main speakers: Qassam Barghouti, son of Palestinian political prisoner, Marwan Barghouti; the Young Communist League (YCL) Deputy National Secretary, Alex Mashilo; President of the South African Students Congress (SASCO), Nthuthuko Makhombothi and the African National Congress (ANC) Deputy Secretary General, Jesse Duarte, who was also the keynote speaker. All speakers pointed to the fact that the solidarity that the international community took during South Africa’s apartheid regime was instrumental in ending the system, and that is the only way Palestinians will experience freedom as well.

The Electronic Intifada states that a call of sanctions and public protests against the previous South African government accelerated the process of ending apartheid, through making South Africa a pariah state. Even though the United Kingdom and the US continued to rally behind the apartheid government, their major exclusion from economic, political and social interaction with the rest of the world as well as on-going protests across the world were the key factors in destabilizing the regime. That is why the speakers highlighted the importance of boycotting Israel through academia, economic and social interactions and continuous protest and solidarity, beyond IAW. After the speakers we done; green, black, red and white balloons (the colours of the Palestinian flag) were released by all those in attendance to show solidarity.

pp2The last of the jam-packed week full of events that I managed to attend was the free benefit concert that took place at the University of Witwatersrand Great Hall on Friday night. This concert was headlined by Simphiwe Dana, a South African Jazz artist and also featured a surprise performance by Thandiswa Mazwai, a South African Afro-soul artist. Both musicians are known for their career achievements as well being very well versed in political matters, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Both musicians, who publicly announced their solidarity with the people of Palestine, performed to a packed hall of mainly Wits students. The concert was not only entertaining, but also the organisers used the opportunity to inform students about what IAW and BDS; and why they are important in helping the Palestinian movement.

What struck me during this week is the important role the media played in the campaign’s success. Media has become an integral part of the world we live in today; more especially in countries that have developed and/or are developing. On a daily basis, media is routinely consumed in different forms. It is particularly interesting and exciting for me as a Media Studies student to have witnessed how Wits PSC, BDS and other organisations that are also in support of the people of Palestine have used different sources of media to spread their message out. From documentary films, paintings, panel discussions, social media and music- knowledge and awareness was transmitted to places it may have never reached without media. Mpule Ngoepe, a Chemical Engineering student at Wits, expressed how informative and educational Israeli Apartheid Week was for her. “I do not consider myself a politically inclined person but I learned so much from the documentary and even more from the concert.” She giggled, “I don’t like ‘hard news’ and music speaks to me more. Thandiswa and Simphiwe’s performances brought our struggle in South Africa as well as the struggle of Palestinians into perspective for me.” The Wits leg of IAW 2014 was evidently bigger and better than the past years and it can be attributed to the tremendous work that was done by Wits PSC and everyone that came to support the cause.

Fellow Media Studies student and Wits PSC member, Aisha Dadi Patel summed up the relevance of having such campaigns in our country: “Apartheid was defined forty-one years ago by the UN’s International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the crime of apartheid as ‘inhuman acts’ committed for the purpose of ‘establishing and maintaining domination by one group over another, and systematically oppressing them.’ To me, it’s very simple. One group of people oppresses another in every possible way and violates their dignity and basic human rights; what good are you if you sit back and allow such to happen without condemning it? The only way to actively be conscientised is to get involved. People stood in solidarity with our country while we endured a struggle and it’s only fair that we lend our support to others now in the same situation, and the best was to do that is through the boycotts, divestments and sanctions movement.”

10th Mar2014

Labour systems of the past

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Pontsho Pilane looks at labour systems of the past and the effects of these systems that are still seen today.

pp1The discovery of minerals in the late 19th century was the birth of migrant labour in South Africa; which was a model that was used by the apartheid government to cultivate cheap labour from Bantustans (homelands) and other neighbouring countries. Furthermore, according to the South African Government News Agency, this migrant worker system was also used to control these workers. According to South African History (SAHO) Online, migrant labour system was created to ensure that there was labour readily available for foreign-owned mining companies. The government introduced taxes into Bantustans and young men saw the need to go into the city to find work, in order to pay taxes to their chiefs. Thousands of black men were coerced to live in crowded single-sex compartments, called hostels, without their wives or children. This was to ensure that they lived as near as possible to the mines and did not have the distraction of their families, who were described as “superfluous appendages”. SAHO also documents that these men were not allowed to frequently go home; besides, they were not paid enough wages to actually afford to. Subsequently, many went home once or twice a year, eventually never- destroying the black family. These international mining companieswere the major benefactors from this migrant labour system and supported the apartheid regime because of it.

pp2In no way am I putting all the blame of fathers that abandoned their families on the apartheid regime and the multinational corporations that operated during its reign; however structural pressure, such as the one from the apartheid government played a role in these circumstances. In sociology, there is one central argument, called the Structure-Agency debate; we, as individuals, are either influenced by society (structure) or we are independent of the social institutions that surround us (agency). However, depending on how much pressure, these structures exert on us they shape our decisions in one way or the other. With regards to migrant labourers, this pressure manifested through different ways: men in the mines got accustomed to a western lifestyle and eventually settled there, instead of in the farms. These men could not marry until they worked a certain amount of labour for their chiefs, increasing the number of out-of-wedlock children. According to ethnographic research done by Dunbar Moodie in 1982, the long periods away from wives also resulted in extra-marital affairs and marital conflicts in many cases. All of these circumstances systematically disrupted families, and the traditional societies were broken up.

The First Step’s to Healing the South African Family report, compiled by the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR), states that “South Africa has a number of unique circumstances that affect the structure of families. They include its history of apartheid, and particularly the migrant labour system.” In 2009, the data they collected shows that the proportions of absent fathers between 1996 and 2009 increased from 42% to 48%. Furthermore, it was evident that black children (under the age of 15 years) have the lowest proportion of fathers that are involved in their lives (30%); as compared to 53% in coloured community, 83% and 85% for whites and Indian children respectively. A racial dimension is quite evident, showing the black community as the most affected.

It is very difficult to talk about the current state of South Africa (and its media) without looking at the historical structures that have shaped it into its present day. Many foreign-owned companies such as these mining companies are responsible for the effects apartheid has had on the family structure of black communities and the gender identities (especially when it comes to masculinity) that were formed. However, I do not see them assisting government and other concerned third-parties in an active manner yet they continue to operate in South Africa 20 years into its democracy. The inability to hold various multinational corporations (MNCs) accountable for the role in which they played in the exacerbation of the apartheid regime is a huge problem.

I feel that these companies could do a lot more to assist in the development of family life in South Africa. From a media point of view I feel that an example of such would be getting involved with sponsoring and funding shows like Khumbul’ekhaya. Khumbul’ekhaya, which means “remember home”, is a South African docu-reality show that helps reunite estranged family members with their families, as explained by TVSA. Khumbu, as it is affectionately known by those that watch and love it, is not merely an amber alert for missing persons. This show is dedicated to bringing healing, peace and restoration to many of South Africa’s broken families. According to TVSA, the show was created in 2006, to commemorate the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) 10 years anniversary; because the crux of the show was to also deal with reconciliation and forgiveness. Created by the legendary playwright, actor and director, John Kani; Khumbu desires to reverse some of the ramifications of South Africa’s apartheid history, which have directly and indirectly caused broken families in the black communities around South Africa.

While not every story on the show links to absent fathers or directly to apartheid I think the show is a good space for those corporate companies to get involved in rebuilding families. Obviously, just sponsoring the show would not be enough but I do think it is a start. Seeing that many families are reunited, such a sponsorship would especially be necessary if some of the stories looked at on the show link directly to families being torn apart because of the apartheid laws. It is very difficult to talk about the current state of South Africa without looking at the historical structures that have shaped it into its present day. Furthermore, by these corporate companies sponsoring shows such as Khumbu, it shows their own remorse and repentance towards their actions during the apartheid regime. This fits perfectly with the show’s aim at bringing closure and reconciliation to the lives of many South African families.

14th Oct2013

Seeing red

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Pontsho Pilane looks at the recent Red October campaign.

pp9To many South Africans, October 10th has indefinitely changed and the colour red has a new found meaning; 10 October 2013 was declared Red October. Red October is “Worldwide protest against the oppression of and violence against White South Africans!” as stated on their website . The press release further states that “No longer will we be silent about the oppression of the White South African Ethnic Minority! No longer will we silently endure the killing of our people on our farms and in our towns and cities!” The “we” that is being referred to here is the “white ethnic minority” in the country. The organisers of the march believe that the violent crimes (being committed by the black majority) that are happening in South Africa are targeted at the white minority and it is has become a systematic white genocide.

When I first saw tweets about #RedOctober that progressively became the trending topic throughout Thursday and some of Friday morning; I was in disbelief and shock at the absurdity of the idea; however, things were put in perspective when I came to the knowledge that one of the prominent voices of this campaign was Afrikaans Pop Singer, Steve Hofmeyr. Steve is not only known for his music, but also for his many controversies in connection to South African politics: After Julius Malema (former ANC Youth League President) publicly sang the song “Dubula Ibhunu” (loosely translated into “Shoot the Boer”), Hofmeyr threatened to include the word “k-word” in one of his songs. It was only fitting that one of the faces of the Red October March be a right-wing extremist such as Hofmeyr.

I was offended with this initiative and as it was evident on various media texts on Thursday, I was not the only one who found Red October wrong (on many levels). My offense, or rather concern, is varied. The campaign raises various sensitive topics with concern to this country’s history. Firstly, the use of words such as “oppression” and “genocide” is simply sensational and it insults our intelligence. The Oxford Online Dictionary defines oppression as “prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or exercise of authority” and genocide as “the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular nation or ethnic group”. Crime is a generic problem for every South African- of all race groups. Therefore, for Red October supporters to single out white people as the victims of crime, as if they are systematically being targeted is ridiculous. Subsequently, the South African Police Services reported that for every one white person that is murdered, 33 blacks are murdered as per their crime statistical report. I fail to see where the oppression lies in this. Using words such as genocide is therefore not necessary.

My second concern is the manipulative use of Christianity and “God’s Word” to fuel this campaign. I think it is very selfish and careless to use God as a justifier of this, simply because there were extensive efforts from Christian (and other religious) leaders during apartheid and post-1994 that were dedicated to making this a better country. To take those efforts and reduce them to their (Red October supporters) fundamentalist ideas about what the Bible says about your agenda is reckless- given the history of how Christianity was brought into South Africa and also used as a tool of oppression during apartheid (Immorality Act). That offends me, as a devout Christian!

Protest is an integral part of South Africa; according to The South African website; we are the protest capital of the world, so it is not a surprise when a group of people with the same objective decide on a protest, as a way of making their voices be heard. Remarks from Hofmeyr about their “peaceful” and “orderly” protests showing how people really get a point across- not throwing excrement at politicians’ cars or holding an illegal strike demanding wage increments or blocking roads or even looting a whole town to get one’s point across is barbaric. I am concerned with how drunk and disillusioned Red October supporters are with their own white privilege; to actually think that people would do all these things in the name of fun or just to prove a point. The South African discusses how protests are not just about service delivery or wage increments, but it is the rebellion of the poor; poor people are tired of being poor and being marginalised by a country that they know they also have a right to reap benefits for. When your voice has been ignored for so long that all you can do is through a tantrum to get the attention of the media, government or private companies- that is what people will do. A friend of mine volunteers at an orphanage and for one of her birthdays, she decided we would celebrate by spending time at the orphanage. As we were playing with the children, we realised how attached they get to each of us; to a point that we could not put them down without them crying and getting hysterical. My point is that poor (black) South Africans are tired of being neglected- they were neglected during apartheid and now in a new South Africa, they are also being neglected? Like the children at the orphanage, I would also get hysterical. Their protest methods are as a result of desperation and hopelessness- not intent to harm. It is not until the shooting that the Marikana miners were heard; even though the strike had begun days before.

My last concern is with the idea that there was something good about apartheid; the audacity to justify it is shocking. In a twitter interaction with Hofmeyr, I asked him what is it about apartheid that was good as he and his fellow Red October supporters seem to be somewhat nostalgic over a system that is synonymous for the institutionalisation of racism and the (real) oppression of non-whites in South Africa. He replied; saying healthcare, crime rate, education system, the rand, the murder rate of farmers and a list of other things that were exclusively and legally better for the same white minority, that is now supposedly oppressed. So Red October supporters are saying that they would rather have a government that is oppressive to every other racial group but their own in order for them to be happy? That to me does not sound right at all, in fact, it is scary to even think of finding a positive perspective of thousands of unjust murders of Black South Africans for almost a century. Without the intention of insinuating that every white person in South Africa is responsible for apartheid, it was a systematic intention to empower the white minority at the expense of everyone else who would get in their way (in which most, if not all, white South Africans directly and indirectly benefitted).

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May the souls of those whose lives have been lost to violent crimes rest in peace; may their loved be comforted. Violent crimes are not exclusive to white farmers and their families- every race is affected. Black men are not just raping white women- men of all races are raping women and children in this country. The education system is in shambles! More children of colour’s chance of going to university (and leaving with a qualification) are being lessened by the year. Our country, South Africa, is in a state of emergency in many different ways; it is the responsibility of all of us to fix ourselves and our country; initiatives such as Red October only serve as a divisive instrument to the efforts of many individuals to get the country to where it is.

“We, the People of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know:

that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people …”- The Freedom Charter. As adopted at the Congress of the People, Kliptown, on 26 June 1955.

14th Oct2013

Finishing Strong

by admin

Pontsho Pilane shares her approach towards adopting a healthy lifestyle.

pp6I think the most annoying thing to hear is “OMG Pontsho! You have gained so much weight”. Really?! I kind of missed that interval of my life when my pants wouldn’t fit or when I had to buy a size bigger the other day. Totally did not see it coming *insert sarcastic tone here*. I have always been chubby- well, until 2005/6 when my excess exercising and eating healthy worked! For the first time in my life I wore short shorts, the ones that go above your knees you know?! I think that was the most awesome thing ever. Well, I went from a whopping size 40/42 at the age of 14 to a 38 and at my lightest I was a 34 bordering on 32; and I stayed there for as long I could.

In June 2010 I started picking up weight. Long story short, in three years I had gained more than 30kg. I don’t know exactly how I gained the weight but it was a combination of the food I eat at university, not exercising anymore and just plain laziness on my part. My weight gain hit me really hard when I weighed and measured myself; I checked my BMI and I was well on my way to being the obese girl I thought I left in 2005. It physically hurt to be over-weight; everything just becomes harder to do when you have excess weight. I had forgotten how it felt to be that heavy. It was a constant battle to go shopping- a task that I went out of my way to avoid. After spending 2012 wallowing in my own self-pity of how ugly and fat I felt; I realized that will not make me feel better.

pp5In January 2013, I was sick and tired of the unhappiness, discontentment and negativity I had built-up; I had issues from my high school years creeping up on me in my adulthood. They were begging me to deal with them; and I had to because my warped body image was affecting my interactions with people. I decided that I want to lose the weight and it was a nine month long journey I do not regret. While I was exercising and eating clean, I also put my mind on a detox; I worked on accepting who I am no matter the body I am. If I cannot love myself where I am, I will not love myself where I am going. So, I have lost 15 kilos over the past year and I plan on losing even more. The processing of a healthy lifestyle has taught me that life is journey and sometimes taking the scenic route is more fulfilling- even though it takes longer! It is about the journey and not the destination. With 78 days left in the year I cannot weight to see where I will be. Starting with the end in mind makes everything possible. 

23rd Sep2013

It is here, through the ages

by admin

Pontsho Pilane looks Heritage day in South Africa.

pp1As South Africans we know that September is Heritage Month, simply because we celebrate Heritage Day on the 24th of September. Heritage Day is a public holiday which celebrates the cultural heritage of South Africans; that which makes us a rainbow nation. However, in the age of rapid transformation of technology, globalisation and information fatigue, the true meaning of our heritage can be questioned. In attempts to understand what Heritage Day means to different people, I took it to the streets. Many people connect heritage to their culture; 21 year-old Zodwa Mavuso (studies Human Resource Management at Mangosuthu University of Technology) says “It is a time to celebrate our culture, wear our traditional clothes and sing our traditional songs”. Thabile Fakazi, a high school teacher, says that “Heritage Day means to celebrate our culture(s), however we must not forget that culture is fluid and ever-changing. Today’s culture is not yesterday’s”. The intention of this article is to not condone Apartheid monuments or those that enforced unjust laws to black people in the past, but it is to illustrate the point that getting rid of our past, as a people, does not mean we are celebrating it. Furthermore, I believe that the key to a better South Africa is can be achieved through acknowledging where we came from, that way, we will properly move forward.

The word heritage means “something that belongs to one by reason of birth, an inherited lot or portion.” This simply means that as South Africans we do not choose our heritage- (our past), it is given to us. Isn’t then apartheid part of our heritage? So why then are we in such a hurry to forget apartheid by removing its monuments? In a country that is riddled with unemployment (25% according to government, but in reality 40% including informal workers according to John Graaf’s Poverty and Development), how can we afford to remove a significant part of our heritage? Many people believe that we must change every street, dam and town name in order to show that we are truly living in a democratic country, when the current education system is not very different from Verwoerd’s, when the people of Langa , Alexandra and Diepsloot are still living in the same poverty stricken circumstances as they did pre-1994. As South Africans, we need to stop putting on layers of make-up to cover up our bruised face; at the end of the day we need to wash our faces and go to bed with our real selves, which is something we are struggling with. We need to come to grips with the reality that was apartheid and its consequences in the present day.

We need to create a new heritage by building on what is already there. Paul Kruger and Louis Botha are part of our heritage as a people. It might not be a good heritage, but it is a heritage nonetheless. Removing these statues and names is robbing ourselves of a history that has to be remembered, in order to prevent us from going back to our past. Many argue that it is a slap to the faces of black South Africans to have towns such as Harrismith and Ladysmith exist especially with the history that is associated with how those towns were named. And those people are right to an extent; however, what seems to be an even greater slap is the fact that life for some of the families that were subjected to oppression by Sir Harry Smith and the likes, are being oppressed by their own. Government corruption, poor service deliveries and high levels of crime and poverty are all examples of this.

The culture of today isn’t yesterday’s, but we need yesterday to live through tomorrow. Our history still plagues us and exhibiting our “cultures” once a year will not change that. Subsequently, disregarding the history of South Africa is not the same as celebrating it and for us to really move on, this past must be fully acknowledged.

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