15th Nov2010

Victorine Ntambo in the spotlight

by admin

Isaac Themba Mnguni interviews Victorine Ntambo about the ins and outs of her research on virtual communities, identity and the Cameroonian diaspora.

ITM: What are you currently studying?

VN: Honours degree in Media Studies.

ITM: What motivated you to go back to school?

VN: I obtained my degree in Journalism and Mass Communications some 10 years ago, in 1999 to be precise. I have worked since then. Going back to school was a means of filling a vacuum that was created by not studying further than a BA degree. You know a degree in the workplace today is compared to matric some few years back

ITM: How did you find it? I mean embarking on studies again after working for 10 years?

VN: Very challenging. A lot has changed. Lectures have become more interactive and also everyone in my class was so young. I expected to be treated differently you know, given that I was the only worker-turned-student in my class. I felt very old but again proud of myself that I could give up all the luxury in working life to be confined to lectures, assignments and exams.

ITM: What is your research topic?

VN: “Diasporic voices of opposition: Virtual pursuits for identity and secession on AMBASOS, a Yahoo group discussion forum by Southern Cameroonians”.

ITM: Why did you chose that topic?

VN: A difficult question but to cut things short, I am in the diaspora myself and would like to find out how the issue of identity comes to the fore when diasporic communities decide to challenge their governments.

ITM: What have been the challenges that you have so far faced in your research?

VN: My supervisor is wonderful in giving me support. At the beginning, I had no schedule and working without one made it difficult to accomplish tasks (that were most often unknown).

ITM: You are a parent, house wife, business woman and a student. That’s a lot. How do you cope?

VN: Support structure is very important in life. As a parent, my husband is very supportive and a good listener and in business my staff members are standing by me. In school, my lecturers alongside my course mates have helped in guiding me. Above all to God be the glory.

ITM: What advice do you have for emerging researchers?

VN: I am also an emerging researcher. Hahaha. However, all I can tell anyone studying is that goal setting is the ultimate. No one can make life better for you than yourself.

ITM: Do you have any tips about managing your relationship with your supervisor?

VN: Meeting deadlines, giving more than expected, honesty and most importantly not thinking that you know more than s/he.

ITM: What is your view on Julius Malema’s refusal to pay fines for the statement he made denouncing the victim of the alleged rape case by President Jacob Zuma?

VN: I would not like to comment on this particular issue but would want to assure readers that your future begins today. If we teach respect, that is what we shall get. Should the legal system be flexible enough to let Malema go free, consequences must be borne by South Africa as a nation.

ITM: What are your future plans?

VN: Studying further is my immediate objective. In my life I hope to touch many people and possibly nations by advocating the fact that educating a girl child fast-tracks development.

ITM: What is your favourite quote:

VN: “Knowledge is the new currency. Acquire it, and it is yours forever” (my own quote).

10th Nov2010

Does Waka Waka originate in the 1980s or 2010?

by admin

For those who enjoyed music in Cameroon in the 1980s, 1990s and even today, Waka Waka is not equivalent to Shakira. Victorine Ntambo explains as follows.

The original Waka Waka – which is not different from the FIFA 2010 version – is known as Tsamina or Zangaléwa and was a hit in Cameroon in 1986. It was originally sung by a makossa group from Cameroon called Golden Sounds who were beloved throughout the continent for their dances and costumes. The song was such a hit for Golden Sounds that they eventually changed their name to Zangaléwa. According to a Facebook page ‘Shakira IS NOT WAKA WAKA‘, which was created to discredit the originality of Shakira’s version, the song pays tribute to African skirmishers (aka tirailleurs) during World War II. Most of the Golden Sounds band members were in the Cameroonian army and used make up, fake bellies and fake butts for comic relief.

According to a Wikipedia entry:

The song is still used today almost everywhere in Africa by soldiers, policemen, boy scouts, sportsmen and their supporters, usually during training or for rallying. It is also widely used in schools throughout the continent – especially in Cameroon – as a marching song. Almost everyone in the country knows the chorus of the song by heart. The song was also popular in Colombia where it was known as ‘The Military’ and brought to the country by West African DJs.

The men in the group often dressed in military uniforms, wearing pith helmets and stuffing their clothes with pillows to appear like they had swollen butts from riding the train and fat stomachs from eating too much. The song, as many know it, is a criticism of black military officers who were in league with whites to oppress their own people. The rest is Cameroonian slang and jargon from the soldiers during the war.

According to Jean Paul Zé Bella, the lead singer of Golden Sounds, the chorus came from Cameroonian “sharpshooters who had created a slang for better communication between them during the Second World War”. They copied this fast pace in the first arrangements of the song. They sang the song together for freedom in Africa.

The lyrics, which are in a Cameroonian language called Fang, read like this with the same rhythm as used by Shakira:

Tsa mina mina eh eh (Come)
Waka waka eh eh (Do it – as in perform a task)
Tsa mina mina zangalewa (Who asked you to come?)
Ana wam ah ah
Zambo eh eh (Wait)
Zambo eh eh (Wait)
Tsa mina mina zangalewa (Who asked you to come?)
Wana wa ah ah (It’s mine)

Recently, Shakira – in collaboration with the South African band Freshlyground – produced a song called Waka Waka which was the anthem for the 2010 World Cup in Africa. And the lyrics appear to mean the same thing.

It should be noted, however, that many other artists around the world have previously sampled this song as well. They include:


Las Chicas Del Can, their version is called ‘El Negro No Puede’

The Surinamese group Beatmachine. Their version is called ‘Samina Mina‘

The movie ‘The Lion King’ also feature samples of this song.

Tom Pease in ‘Daddy Starts To Dance!’ (1996)

Trafassi (Suriname), ‘El Negro No Puede’ (1997)

Blacks à Braque and the Tambours Majeurs from the album ‘Les Hauts de Rouen Percutent’

Laughing Pizza in ‘Pizza Party’ (2004)

Nakk in ‘Zamina’ (2006)

Zaman in ‘Zamina’ (2006)

Didier Awadi (‘Zamouna‘) from the album ‘Sunugaal’ (2008)

BB DJ in ’Enfant Poli’

Mr. Tucker in ‘Zamina Zamina Pele’

What bothers me is that most South Africans came out to condemn the fact that Shakira is not a South African and therefore does not qualify to sing the FIFA 2010 anthem. None of them raised a voice against the originality of the song. Is it because no one knew about this? If so many musicians have used Zangalewa in the past, why is it that the use of the same music by Shakira has sent a stir amongst Cameroonians and others who really bothered? It definitely would not have been so much of an issue should Shakira and the mighty FIFA have had the decency to obtain permission from the peasant group ‘Golden Sounds’ before using their song or should I say lyrics?

In my opinion, Shakira and perhaps FIFA took advantage of the fact that Cameroon was until now the number one soccer nation on the continent. They decided on giving credit to or maybe taking credit from this number one nation’s position to make their show popular. Another incident where Africans are being exploited. Again I ask: Where did this leave Zangalewa?

03rd Nov2010

Age and leadership: Africa versus ‘the West’

by admin

Does age influence leadership skills and ability? Just how old must you be to lead effectively? Without any more questions, consider the following stats which recently circulated through email and in the ‘blogosphere’

The ageing Mugabe

Abdoulaye Wade (Senegal): age 83
Hosni Mubarak (Egypt): age 82
Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe):  age 86
Hifikepunye Pohamba (Namibia): age 74
Rupiah Banda (Zambia): age 73
Mwai Kibaki (Kenya): age 71
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Liberia): age 75
Colonel Gaddafi (Libya): age 68
Jacob Zuma (South Africa): age 68
Bingu Wa Mtalika (Malawi): age 76
Paul Biya Mbinvondo (Cameroon): age 77

This brings the African leaders’ average age to 75.6 years, easily rounded up to 76 years.

In the ‘First World’, the ages of presidents are as follows:

The youthful Obama

Barack Obama (USA): age 48
David Cameron (UK): age 43
Dimitri Medvedev (Russia): age 45
Stephen Harper (Canada): age 51
Julia Gillard (Australia): age 49
Nicolas Sarkozy (France): age 55
Luis Zapatero (Spain): age 49
Jose Socrates (Portugal): age 53
Angela Merkel (Germany): age 56
Herman van Rompuy (Belgium): age 62

The average age of these leaders is 51.1, left at 51 years

If we take away 51 from 76, the difference is 25 years. Now, any wonder why Africans live about 25 years behind the superpowers? Stop wondering and start thinking about how much the age of the leader influences their leadership skills.

Victorine Ntambo

28th Oct2010

Depression leads to suicide. But is it so evident?

by admin

Victorine Ntambo discusses the many pressures of life in the 21st century which frequently lead to depression and even suicide.

The end of the year comes with so many challenges and responsibilities to mankind. Students and lecturers face the end of the academic year while workers are faced with financial expectations by the dependents. Some might fail their exams, others might lose their jobs and most could not get paid the 11th cheque. It might feel like the world is crumbling on you. We should be conscious of the fact that in a capitalist society where people seem to live on the fastest lane, many lives reach the end before they are lived. We have heard, seen and even know people who threaten or think of taking their lives for one reason or the other. Some have even killed themselves or gotten killed by others. We often see depression as sadness. This sadness, however, lasts for as long as two weeks or more with the depressed person having no interest in life, being hopelessness, and having little energy.

Depression sets in when we have our minds trapped and our pride placed before the self. Many parents in South Africa and the world today are under tremendous pressure to meet the socio-economic demands of the environment in which they live. They barely can keep up with the demand for designer labels for both themselves and their children. Everything seems to cost money and every effort seems to take sleep away from you. Distressing feelings can affect one’s ability to perform their usual tasks and even the activities of daily living.

An extra burden comes along when parents have to shoulder the load of children rendered orphaned by friends and relatives. Some are single parents trying to raise their kids and they juggle with other pressures of the times. Similarly, children and students live with the pressure from their parents who expect them to grow up quicker than has ever been the case. As they provide the needs of their children, parents’ voices repeatedly echo in the mind of their children whenever they get to spend this hard earned money or use the things bought with this money. Most of the voices are similar and very familiar to you and I. Many parents now say: “I took out a loan to provide you with this” or “I gave up this or that to make sure you have this”. As a result, children grow up carrying a burden that is not naturally theirs. A burden created either by ignorance, by the pressure of the society and by the rhythm of the times.

In a student environment like Wits, there are many reasons why people could be so depressed and why they could commit or attempt to commit suicide. The pressure from mum and dad for us to be responsible and pay not just our bills but theirs too. The pressure for us to – in some instances – get a rich man or even woman. Peer pressure, self-imposed pressure, the pressure from lecturers, pressure from the institution as a whole and the pressure brought about by other external expectations are amongst the reasons. We must mind the choices we make in life. These choices range from the type of company we take and keep, the type of messages we retain, the goals we set for ourselves, the attitude we develop and the brand we want to build for ourselves. We should be able to develop milestones and reach each milestone at a time.

As you read this note, be reminded that many other children and students are placed in your position or in worse off positions. That you are a trillion-folds better off than millions of boys and girls out there, particularly in this dark continent. That you came this far because you could make it in life, that most people within your community admire your strength and wish they were you and that if the world does not give you a reason to live, you could give it many reasons to be here.

You could be depressed but one person around you could be so depressed that they contemplate suicide. As you associate with people, be on the lookout. Most depressed people contemplate suicide, either as individuals or as a group. Always make sure that both in yourself, your friends and your family members, you look out for warning signs of suicide. They include: talking about death or expressing to want to die, deep depression, a sudden lift in mood and preparing for death by for example talking about last days on earth, and giving possessions away. Do the right thing. Walk away from depression – think not of suicide. Be positive and happy, no matter what circumstance you find yourself in. Talk about your life and believe me, you will find out that people go through worst circumstances than you do. Examine yourself to know whether you need help or not. Seek help if you need to. Make yourself fulfilled and make a person happy. Place a value on happiness and life in general.

For more info, please check the website of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group. Depression helpline: +27 800 20 50 26 (8am-8pm Monday to Sunday). Suicide emergency helpline: +27 800 567567 (24hrs), or sms 31393 with your name and they will call you back.

22nd Oct2010

Student strike for marks? Human right or a misdirected request?

by admin

In a previous article, Victorine Ntambo analysed how mothers, sisters, heroines, mentors, siblings and friends in the teaching and nursing profession teach and strike. Now, she reviews how school children boycotted preliminary examinations shortly after the public service strike in South Africa. Did they learn from the striking women?

Everyone is aware that the public servants’ strike in the country went on for three weeks and then was suspended for 21 days. The effects, that this strike might have, have been down-played. From every indication, it has had a crippling effect on the public and the citizens of South Africa. The most immediate victims were patients and school children. Without any major changes to the timetable, the matric class of 2010 has to sit for their preliminary exams just after the strike.

During and even after the public servants’ strike, the Department of Basic Education devised options that will help students to recover school time lost, as far back as time lost during the FIFA World Cup held in June 2010. Apart from options that encouraged the formation of study groups, increased classroom times, use of weekends and the September holidays for intense studies, the Department also called on parents, schools, teachers, the private sector, volunteers and non-governmental organizations to help the learners. As the strike loomed, most privileged students turned to the radio, TV and even mobile phones to close the gaps in their subjects, especially in mathematics.

Many volunteers and retired teachers turned up in their numbers and are still helping the students till date. However, all these efforts meant nothing to the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) who decided to boycott and disrupt classes in demand of ‘pass one, pass all’ or a free 25 percent that contributes to the final year examination. Because their demand was rejected by the Minister of Basic Education, they decided to disrupt the preliminary exams. The strike and call on fellow matriculants to boycott examinations was because, according to COSAS, the learners are ill-prepared for the exams after a three-week gap in schooling brought about by the public service strike.

The strike and demonstrations were so severe that students across the country were arrested and some wounded. At least one student was killed. In writing this article, I am prompted with questions such as: Is a student strike justified? Is it really worth it to go out and demonstrate for marks that are not earned? I think the Minister of Basic Education, Angela Motshekga, was right when she announced in both radio and television interviews that marks cannot be allocated for free.

What is striking about the occurrence and timing of this students’ strike – in a country that just came out of a massive public servant strike – is that we seem to groom a generation that would lay claims to things they never worked for. If these students have the audacity to go out and ask for marks, what else do we think they will ask for once they are no longer students? You could now be saying that South Africa is a free country and that students too have their rights. Your position does not stand to be disputed.

But what has happened to our entire system? Are we likely to see any motivation among students for their studies? Will more and more people stand up and earn what they desire? How does the future look like? We need to be more accountable as individuals before we look up to other groups and government for accountability.

14th Oct2010

Do foreign-owned banks bring prosperity to developing countries?

by admin

Reuters recently reported that the worry of most South Africans is that three of their top four banks have a substantial foreign owner. As it stands, Standard Bank is 20 percent owned by Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, while ABSA is majority-owned by Britain’s Barclays. Now there is an approved HSBC’s $8 billion bid to buy 70 percent of Nedbank. This leaves only the FirstRand under total domestic control. Who knows, as you read this article, there might be a deal on the way for FirstRand too.

However, most industry insiders view HSBC as a stronger foreign owner for Nedbank than Old Mutual, which has its roots in South Africa but is now based in London. Currently, Old Mutual said it would apply for permission to the Central Bank to take out 1.5 million pounds ($2.32 million) of the proceeds to pay down debt (capital flight). The rest of the money, it says, would remain in South Africa. Some analysts claim that the deal would be positive for the rand while others disagree. Addressing businesspeople in Soweto, the Reserve Bank Governor, Gill Marcus, was recently quoted in Business Report as saying that ownership of South African banks was a difficult question and needed careful consideration: “In South Africa, it’s more complex. We have ownership that’s mixed. Mixed ownership of banks does have risks. It does create a situation of complexity and that needs careful consideration in my view”.

As a developing country, economists may argue that such investment gives a positive image to the country and even to the Rand. What most of them and – and the Bank’s shareholders in particular – do not consider is the fact that foreign ownership leads to more foreign workers and this subsequently leads to more capital flight from the country. When we look at the ownership and control of South African banks, it is important to be conscious of the fact that development has a price. That price could lead to complete foreign control of many sectors and industries as is the case in many developed countries.

Victorine Ntambo

01st Oct2010

A day to remember

by admin

Jozi a city of crime and bad news only? Victorine Ntambo problematises the usual stereotypes about our city.

Ever heard of TEARS OF JOY? I write this note because I just want to shout out to South Africa, to Africa and to the world at large. There is love and care in South Africa and there are still some very good people among us.

This is my story.

Just after 7:30am on a chilly morning, I left my house for school. Traffic was a little slow on the M1 south of Johannesburg and I noticed a taxi driver trying to reach out to me. At first I thought of ignoring him but his persistence drew my attention. After a failed attempt to stop me, the driver took the Melrose off-ramp. Then almost immediately, I decided to stop and check out the direction at which the car was pointing.

To my surprise I had a flat tyre. Flat tyre? I bet you, I could not even notice the difference as I drove. Typical as with most women, I picked up my phone to call my husband trying at the same time to think of the closest filling station. On raising my head, I noticed a white BMW had its hazards lights on. It was parked about two hundred metres in front of me and there came a gentleman walking towards me. So many questions went through my curious mind. Did I park at the wrong demarcation? I looked around. Do I know him? I did not remember. Did he and the taxi driver arrange something? I was not sure. How did he know I’m in trouble? Because I just got out of the car now. Is he also having a fractured tyre? …

Bear with me for my details but as a black foreign woman living in South Africa, it occurred to me like a dream to find out that this man is approaching me to take the load off. Mr. Chris Newland (I later found out his name), a white man in either his late 30s or early 40s offered to help. I light-heartedly tried to resist but this neatly dressed gentleman with an appealing smell diligently rolled up his sleeves and went to work. He did not care about his well-ironed pair of trousers. Immediately, he did what some people do for money. In fifteen minutes, he had finished the work and my car was drivable again. “What do you do to appreciate such effort?”, I thought. I thanked him, took his details and we parted ways. All of a sudden, Christ remembered he was late for work. He turned down my offer to drive him to his car, making sure I took off as he watched, smiled and waved goodbye. Honestly, I felt like I had just fallen in-love again. It felt like a flat tyre is not a burden anyway. I smiled all along as I set out for my day.

Long after this incident, I decided to shout out this gesture for the world to know that there are still some good people in our midst. There are some people who look out and draw your attention to danger, who will risk their lives and that of their car on the highway, go down on their knees, roll up their sleeves and be late for work just to help a person they do not know. A person who before then did not deserve their favour and a person they might never meet again.

SIYABONGA, Mr. Newman.


21st Sep2010

Women who strike

by admin

Women protesters during recent public service strike

Victorine Ntambo reflects on popular perceptions of the recent public service strike and the gender dimension of the protests.

We call them sisters. A very soothing title for a profession made up of a handsome number of women.  Nurses all over the world – and particularly in South Africa where hospitals are under-staffed – work long, difficult hours, yet they are underpaid. The government and many people think nurses’ rewards should lie in being of service to others. At the same time, teachers enjoy their jobs because they took an oath to empower our children and even some grown-ups too. Their working conditions are terrible and most of them do not have offices. They do most of their administrative jobs from their homes; houses that are often in a terrible condition. But the government and many non-teachers think they do not have the right to decent salaries and housing allowances.

During the recent public service strike in South Africa, newspaper images and television screens were filled with images of groups of women toyi-toying in response to the government’s refusal to an 8% salary increase. These groups comprised teachers and nurses, alongside their public sector colleagues. The public has responded with disappointment and anger, especially where demonstrations have turned violent and because schooling and medical services have been disrupted. Because to them, teachers and nurses are lucky to have jobs and they knew what they were letting themselves in for when choosing the profession.

I do not write to condone violence nor the disruption of classes and the treatment of patients and non-strikers. I will never do that because the strikers have civil rights. What they do not seem to remember though is that while it is everyone’s democratic right to strike, it is also everyone’s democratic right to decide not to strike. As such, it becomes unacceptable to threaten or intimidate people who make either decision.

Let us assume that teachers are in this profession because of their call to educate the nation while nurses are angels of mercy. It is assumed that women are by nature educators and nurturers because amongst other things, they often come to the aid of those in need for nothing in return. When teachers and nurses go on strike, it seems to touch a raw nerve in our country’s consciousness because it is similar to a mother who goes on strike, and refuses to nurture the family or do any housework until she gets some recognition for it. When people protest to violent acts by women, it is because the picture painted in our minds seems like that of mothers who abandon their homes and children to go to war. Images of violent women during strikes evoke horror sights.

Teachers’ unions, nurses’ unions and COSATU have all been very vocal in stating that compassion does not pay the bills at the end of every month.  In fact one striker stated on television news that they (educators) are the ones who make the directors and ministers of government who they are. I guess on the other side of the coin, nurses put forward a similar argument. Teachers and nurses are expected to give everything, and get very little in return for it. Loyalty and care is a two-way street, isn’t it? The government should be able to give what it expects to take.

Is it right for me to ask why the demand of these teachers and nurses has to be so irrelevant that the strike has to result to violence? Looking at the gender composition of these two professions and of the service profession in general, I am tempted to state that its employees find themselves at the very bottom of the public service pay scale because about 80% of the teachers in this country are women. The figure for nurses is possibly higher. In my opinion, these women should be paid more for working in the frontlines of education and social care, for dealing with children’s emotional and social challenges, for being the parents to our children during the day, for touching blood, bedpans, dying patients and for being in the front lines of overworked and stressed principals, head teachers, doctors, midwives and other specialists.

I am not for a moment denying that you find lazy, inefficient and disinterested teachers and nurses who are insufficiently trained and have bad attitudes, just like in every single profession. In fact the point I make in this article is that the responsibility for caring for patients in state schools and hospitals is that of the government. That the government has to create the kind of scenario in which teachers and nurses have the right to office space, equipment, expertise, support, financial encouragement, and other working conditions in order to do their jobs. Otherwise, the government will be failing both the teachers, nurses and the citizens. People now blame the teachers and nurses whose frustration has reached boiling point. This, in my view, is blaming the victim rather than the perpetrator.

21st Sep2010

Mozambicans die for bread

by admin

@ Reuters

Victorine Ntambo reports on the recent bread protests in Mozambique and the global increase in food prices.

It is terrible for Mozambicans to die for bread. The prices of basic commodities and utilities have been on the rise across Africa – and possibly all over the world for some time now – but the average man’s salary barely increases. This seems to be of little or no concern to most governments who expect their citizens to cope with the little they take home.

In most countries, these increases have not lead to massive rioting, even though people have protested in silence. To increase the price of bread by 25% looks like punishment to heads of households because in most households, bread and related wheat products are consumed at least once a day. When wheat prices went up because Russia had placed a ban on wheat exports, the price of wheat products was forced to go up as well.

Mozambicans decided to take it to the streets after their government announced that the 25% increase in the price of bread and other increases were taking effect from Monday 6 September 2010. As a result of the strike, 13 people gave up their lives and over 400 were left injured. In a country with little cellphone access, Bloomberg News reported that SMSs were a successful communication tool used to spark the riots. After two days of serious rioting, injuries and deaths, the government suspended the hike and restored bread subsidies. For the friends and families of the dead and even the injured, this is a very high price to pay for a basic commodity like bread.

Basic commodities are meant to be accessible to the poorest of all poor people. In Mozambique, where an approximately 80% of the population lives in poverty, this access has been proven possible only by the lives of the dead. Prices may continue to go up internationally. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the following six reasons explain the increase in food prices:

  • The fall of cereal production from 2005 caused by bad weather in major producing countries;
  • Low stock levels which magnified the impact of production shortfalls as markets worry about the lack of a buffer;
  • The high correlation between petroleum prices and food prices. Thus the rapid rise in petroleum prices exerted an upwards pressure on food prices as fertilizer prices nearly tripled and transport costs doubled over a two-year period;
  • An increased demand from the biofuels sector also tended to push prices upwards;
  • Economic growth in some large developing countries is leading to changes in diet and increased demand for food crops;
  • And trade policies put in place by some countries, such as export bans, have contributed to higher prices in certain cases.

Going through these points, it seems the common person can do nothing to remedy the situation. It seems mothers still have to cope using their fixed allowances to put bread on their tables irrespective of the number of people in their household. It seems the highest burden is borne by developing countries whether or not lives are lost for bread.

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