Phansi, e-toll phansi!

strike-300x199The e-toll issue has been a rather contentious one. Since early last year when the announcement on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) was made (emphasis on announcement), both SANRAL(South African National Roads Agency Limited) and the government failed to even propose the idea to the general public. Surely citizens deserved consultation before the tolls were even built. 

Now that the public is speaking out against the tolls, they are being vilified. The e-toll saga reached its climax when the budget speech took place a few weeks ago. For months the launch of the tolls had been postponed due to public outcry. In the 2012 budget speech, Finance Minister Pravin Gordan made it clear that e-tolls are here to stay. He said that it is the responsibility of Gauteng taxpayers to pay and that the price cut was very generous on their part. Initially, the tolls were set to be 66c a kilometre which could see daily commuters paying up to and over R600 a month. Coupled with petrol money and service fees, driving would become an unbearable cost burden. Gordan considers the price cut from 66c to 30c per kilometre and the R550 capped fee for regular users as generous. There is nothing ‘generous’ about an added expense to road users.

The problem with the e-tolls is that they have already been built and people have been hired to work in the e-toll shops at various malls. If the tolls were just ‘scrapped’ as many are suggesting, hundreds of people would be unemployed. This is the emotional blackmail the Minister used in the budget speech. What he conveniently forgets is that if SANRAL hired those people, they are responsible for them. It feels like SANRAL in collusion with the government have bullied the public into a corner. This is not how democracy should work.

Why do we even need these e-tolls? The justification is that the money made from e-tolls will be ploughed back into road 532611496-300x240infrastructure and aid other national expenditures. Fine. But then what are all our other taxes for? They increase every year; yet it is hard for us to see this money being used efficiently. If I knew that my e-toll money went towards someone’s grant money, building schools and the like I would happily pay it. But I know better and so do you. That money will line the pockets of some fat cat and never be used for what it should. The government is taking advantage of us and we cannot allow it.

This is why I was in full support of the COSATU strike last Wednesday. Since the inception of the GFIP, Zwelinzima Vavi has been very vocal on the matter. He thinks that the tolls are an unnecessary burden, especially to the ordinary working man. He has encouraged commuters to boycott the e-tolls by not registering for them; something that could have heavy penalties (apparently). His comment after the budget speech was that citizens are being used as cash cows and this must be put to a stop. The strike/march on Wednesday was the first decisive measure to protest against the tolls. It was a very peaceful strike which garnered support from an estimated 60 000 people nationwide. The e-toll strike was held in collaboration with COSATU’s protest against labour brokers. What was most poignant about this strike is that among the strikers there were some white middle class citizens; a very reassuring sight.

The response to the strike had the same adamant tone as it did before. It was said in parliament the following day that they will not be making any changes; their decision regarding the tolls was final. COSATU say they will not rest until further concessions are made before April. For commuters’ sake I hope they don’t; these tolls are an unfair burden.

**NOTE: Post first appeared on exPress imPress on March 14 2012. 

MOVIE REVIEW: Otelo Burning

otelo1-201x300I got the opportunity to attend a private screening of this movie on the 11th of April 2012. As soon as we got there, we realised that this movie is a big deal.

As I stood in the line to get popcorn, I was losing my mind at the sight in front of me. Lungile Radu was standing there. Right there, in real life. Not on a television screen. Less than 2 meters away from me. Then just as I got over that excitement I see Jafta Mamabolo who is the leading man in the movie. This was indeed a big night. As I look up from tweeting about my celeb spotting, Ferial Haffajee just casually struts past us. But I digress.

It was a small viewing space, packed with a number of seemingly intimidating people. The movie started off with an intense scene that grabbed all my attention from that moment, right until the closing credits. I really don’t want to give anything away on this one. We should all go out and watch it. What I will say is this: it’s a very different view of the South Africa of the late 1980s/early 1990s. It effectively shows how the apartheid regime managed to seep into all epithets of not only political but social life at the time. It was an inescapable force that incinerated everything it touched.

otelo2-272x300It is a movie about freedom. How freedom has multiple meanings and that the attainment thereof is never easy. Tragedy is etched on the face of freedom and vice versa; the two are inextricably intertwined. It has elements of a variety of genres which makes it the rich movie it is. We laughed (a lot), we cried (a lot) but most importantly, everyone in attendance thoroughly enjoyed themselves. It must be said that the acting was amazing. It wouldn’t be as brilliant without that amazing cast. A most compelling performance was given by all and they rightly deserve all the awards that are sure to come their way.

We have so much talent in this country. The only way to nurture it is to support it. So do the right thing and go watch this awesome movie. It will be in cinemas from May 11. There is already an enormous buzz around the movie. It hasn’t even come out yet! Go watch it, you won’t regret it :)

**NOTE: Post first appeared in exPress imPress on May 1 2012. 

Second generation trauma

I attended an amazing seminar at the University of the Witwatersrand on Thursday 18th of August 2011. The speaker at the seminar was Eva Hoffman, who is both a writer and an academic. The topic of the seminar was “Lost and Found in Transition: Contested memories and moving on from difficult pasts” , and more specifically second generation trauma. A phenomenon I have recently come to learn about and find very intriguing. cover_lost_in_translation

Second generation trauma has to do with the aftershocks that the children of survivors of gratuitous violence experience. The expression was first used to describe the children of Holocaust survivors. I first came across this term when reading Maus, a great graphic novel by Art Spiegelman. He not only tells his father’s story of living through the genocide but also tells his personal story of trying to deal with that ‘passed on’ trauma. Eva Hoffman’s autobiography Lost in Translation does the same. She too is a “second hand” trauma victim.

Eva Hoffman described second generation trauma as encapsulating contested memories and transitions after great wrongs have been committed. This can prove problematic when trying to achieve reconciliation, especially because the afterlife of atrocity is long. She went on to say that democracy and freedom are difficult to negotiate after such a traumatic experience and that this initiation is necessary. Not from the victims’ side but from the perpetrators’.

In Jewish consciousness, the Polish were and are seen as being conspirators with the Nazi’s in contributing to Jewish suffering. In the same breath, she said that Polish descendants cannot be blamed or punished for their forefathers, but they need to acknowledge what happened. “After such wrongs have been done, they can’t be undone… Recognition, not forgiveness needs to be the starting point of reconciliation.”

As the seminar went on Hoffman delved deeper into the nature of second generation trauma. She said that it has to do with the transmission of memories but not exclusively; memory coupled with the after-effects of parental experience. This transmission often leads to the second generation being frozen in time, in so doing perpetuating the cycle of revenge within their generation. The children of survivors speak of despondency, depression and anger which all arise from trying to locate their parents’ context in history. None of the above can be resolved unless a second generation dialogue is initiated.

Second generation dialogue refers to the conversations that need to take place between the children of the victims and those of the perpetrators. We need to recognise that children of the perpetrators are also going through some form of trauma. They are traumatised by the silence of their parents, their inability to admit they were wrong. As a result they try to reject their parents but cannot do that because it is easier said than done. The fact that both sides are trying to deal with inherited trauma should be the condition that allows for a dialogue to take place. Trust and understanding are imperative for this dialogue to work. This dialogue is the only means of getting on a reconciliatory path and leading to an expansion of minds.

5_5_trc_cartoonI brought all of the above into a proximal context, a personal context. I consider myself as a victim of second generation trauma. I often wrestle with the issues that Hoffman raised. I am angry and despondent about apartheid and racial oppression, and so are a lot of my peers. It is particularly difficult for us to ‘move on’ because the lived reality of inequality is still very real to us. What I mean by this is that South Africa inherited structural violence and inequality. Today we refer to it as the legacy of apartheid.

How can we even begin to let go when the effects of that totalitarian system are still rife in our society? The racial disparities in our society are very obvious and this is something that needs to be addressed.

However, when one starts to speak about such issues we are met with contestations of being too racialised. I find that a lot of liberal whites and blacks want us to repress the past. This would be folly – the past needs to be acknowledged, remembered and addressed. “Wrong doers cannot get forgiveness until they admit to crimes and are willing to repent for them”, said Hoffman.

This brought up questions from the audience about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). One gentleman said it was highly idyllic and aimed to quickly cover up the past. He went on to say it failed because forgiveness is a Christian doctrine and forced people to adhere along those lines. To counter this, a young lady said we cannot look at the TRC as a defining moment but a mere example of things that can be done to help the nation move on. Hoffman answered this by saying: “The side most responsible for atrocities needs to make the first step”. This is where the TRC failed. To add on to this point, another young lady said it is astonishing to her that “those who weren’t allowed to vote before 1994 are now responsible for reconciling a nation that was destroyed by those who were allowed to vote”. Surely it should be the inverse.

I must say this seminar did help me in negotiating my position as a young black person. Along with this I had a defining “aha moment”. I never thought about the equally complex psychological disposition of my white peers. Both ‘sides’ cannot reject or abandon their parental history but we need to remember it is not our own. The second generation dialogue resonated with me; it is the first step we can all take on this journey of reconciliation. It will not happen overnight; it will be a process. We need to create our own history that will reflect our willingness to try and amend the past.

**NOTE: Post first appeared on exPress imPress on August 28 2011.

Who will get your vote?

Pheladi Sethusa, a second year Media Studies student, attended a local government elections debate held by the Wits Politics Department on East Campus today. She presents a report on the positions put forward by three representatives from the ANC, the DA and COPE.

The topic up for debate was the local municipal elections, which will be upon us in a matter of hours now. There was quite a large turnout. I suspect with the elections a matter of hours away people are desperate to gain as much insight into the various parties so as to cast a vote that will both benefit them and make a difference.

ANC11-300x200The first party to have their say was of course the African National Congress (ANC). Godfrey Madja, a representative of the Wits ANC Youth League, opened his speech with the classic “Amandla-Viva” chant to which the ANC supporters in the crowd responded positively. He spoke for eight minutes in what turned out to be a speech on ANC policy. He made the point that the ANC, unlike other parties, does not have a “cut and paste manifesto, but it has a historical policy”. He went on to speak about how the ANC will and is already implementing programmes for the creation of jobs, education and training programmes, health etc. Everything he had to say was related to what we have all heard President Zuma talk about in his addresses.

Next up was a representative from the Democratic Alliance (DA), Mohammad Sayanvala. For the first time in a speech about the DA, I heard about their manifesto and not just a speech that berates the ruling party. The DA’s policy platform is to create opportunities for all in society and to deliver to all. He emphasized that the DA rebukes the “jobs for pals” system that seems popular within the ruling party. The DA aims to award tenders and other such opportunities to the most qualified applicants irrespective of their race. Mohammad ended off on a strong note, saying that “the DA is no longer just an opposition party but a party of governance”.

The last representative was a young lady from the Congress of the People (COPE), Mukondeli Mphigalele. Her main argument was that people should not dismiss COPE as a joke of a party, as they NewDALogoResized-229x300are merely trying to fight for their rights like everyone else. She went on to comment on members who recently left the party and went back to the ANC as people who are clearly “capable of vomiting and once done, being able to eat that vomit”. This remark had the audience in stitches. There was no talk of policy and empty promises, merely the acknowledgement that the time for blind loyalty was over and that voters need to now vote for their own interests.

Then the floor was opened up for questions to the representatives. The first was a young black man who asked how the parties planned on putting a person like himself, who was born disadvantaged, on equal footing with a person who was born advantaged. Mohammad answered that “the DA will eradicate the legacies of Apartheid by creating opportunities for all”. The ANC rep Godfrey said: “We all need to remember that our democracy is only 17 years old. It did not take the apartheid government 17 years to marginalise us, so it cannot take us 17 years to eradicate all inequalities”. The COPE rep shied away from this question.

Another interesting question was why public servants like Helen Zille and our President do not make use of the public services they promote like public transport. The DA rep vouched for Zille saying she frequents public transport and the COPE rep followed in that vain. Godfrey said “as an ex-MK member and a public figure, President Zuma cannot travel with public transport for safety reasons. You forget that the AWB and people in Orania are still planning things and ready to attack”, ushering in another roar of laughter from the crowd. Most of the questions asked were left unanswered as we ran out of time.

CopyLogoNovember15-300x225I went into the debate thinking the ANC was the scum of the earth, the DA was merely the jealous middle child who wanted a chance in the spotlight and I honestly had no feelings about COPE. Unfortunately the latter has not changed. The COPE rep was not as convincing as she could have been. As for the DA I think they fail to point out how they plan to do the things they say they will. For instance, their response on affirmative action left the person who asked the question still wanting. The ANC appealed most to me in that the representative answered all questions posed effectively. If there was a winner, he would be it.

However, I am still not willing to be complacent in voting for the ANC or the DA. Neither parties proposed changes that met my immediate needs and neither were willing to offer evidence conducive to these planned changes of theirs. It is one thing to look fantastic on paper, but as we are all very aware, delivering on those promises is the number one problem.

**NOTE: Post first appeared on exPress imPress on May 17 2014. 

No under-21’s?

Cream soda only for next year’s Freshers’ bash? Pheladi Sethusa, a second year Media Studies student, discusses recent government plans to increase the legal drinking age.

Last week I saw a news report on the planned change of the legal drinking age in South Africa. The proposed legislation states that the legal drinking age will be moved up from 18 to 21. Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini said that they hoped that this change would help in the fight against not only alcohol and drug abuse in South Africa, but also the fight against crime. 

Myself at Matric Vac in 2009. That was really just colourful water ;)
Myself at Matric Vac in 2009. That was really just colourful water 😉

As we all know, crime is a huge problem in our country and many violent crimes are connected to drug and alcohol abuse result in domestic violence, robberies and assault. The minister also made the point that currently South Africa holds the record for the highest binge drinking among its youth. Binge drinking can be fatal in relation to one’s health, which is why the government feels that this social ill needs to be alleviated in any way possible. Changing the legal drinking age is one way of doing that.

I agree that alcohol abuse is a major contributor when it comes to the aforementioned issues but I believe that it is not the root of the problem. There are stringent laws concerning narcotics in our country but yet that does not stop the drug industry growing from year to year. This is undoubtedly a result of fraudulent and incompetent policing. At the moment, minors can access alcohol fairly easily in spite of the current legal drinking age. I understand that this change of legislature is the only one which looks likely to curb alcohol abuse among the youth but I fear that it may not be enough. I also think that it is unfair to accuse people in the 18-21 age bracket as being responsible for most of the alleged alcohol-related crimes in our country.

Along with my belief that this change will be ineffective, I also believe that this change may prove detrimental to the whole varsity experience and what I would call the-coming-of-age experience. The latter refers to what turning 18 means to myself and most South African youths.

When we turn 18 we are allowed to vote in national elections, drive and legally consume alcohol. Now while the last point seems the least important it is pivotal in the transition to adulthood. Matric dances, 18th birthday parties and most importantly Matric Vac would not be the same without the choice to indulge in alcohol. My matric year would have been rather dull without the alcohol component.

Some are of the view that you do not need to drink to make an event more enjoyable and to some extent I agree but it is a personal preference you should be allowed to make, considering that you are now a young adult who can make informed decisions. With regards to the varsity experience, I think the freedom of choice that comes with entering the varsity world would be severely hindered. Imagine the Wits Orientation Week events and parties without alcohol. No more beer garden and silly buggers vodka parties. Not to mention the Freshers’ bash – somehow a cream soda on the rocks does not quite scream bash.

Personally I feel the proposed change in the legal drinking age will be ineffectual in decreasing overall alcohol consumption amongst young adults as well as decreasing crime statistics. It is a step in the right direction but South Africa needs far more than that. The government needs to look at why people are drinking so much in the first place. Is it purely recreational or are people drinking and using drugs to escape their problems? Such problems may include poverty, unemployment and perhaps even stress. For me this legislation is similar to prescribing someone with tuberculosis normal cough mixture and hoping that that will help.

The ardent drinker in me feels that this law will have a negative effect on after school life and will deprive many of the experiences that come with leaving high school. It would rob youngsters of a formative experience. How can we be trusted with electing a party who will have sovereign power over our lives but not with when and how much we drink? There seems to be a disjuncture between the two, or is it just me?

**NOTE: Post first appeared on exPress imPress on March 23 2011.