Corporate SA plans to give unemployed youth a hand up

CAPE TOWN 02 JUNE 2017 – Leading South African corporates have committed to creating more than 300,000 jobs annually, following the announcement that a staggering 58 percent of South Africa’s 14.6 million unemployed people are aged between 15 and 35. Watch full story here.

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Life of former Pollsmoor Prison inmate hits the big screen

“CAPE TOWN– An audience at a special screening at Pollsmoor was brought to tears by big screen images of the tale about life inside the maximum security prison. The story, scripted by the former prison inmate, also details his life on the Cape Flats.”

Watch full story here: http://www.enca.com/media/video/life-of-former-pollsmoor-prison-inmate-hits-the-big-screen

** I loved this movie and think everyone should see it. Beautifully written, masterfully directed and the actors were brilliant in their roles.

Source: eNCA

Unemployment key election issue in De Aar

DE AAR – With the local government elections around the corner, people around the country are becoming more vocal about what they want in their communities.

Residents in the Northern Cape town of De Aar say while they are desperate for basic services, job creation is more important.

People in the small town say if they had jobs, they would be able to afford services like electricity.

Some say they haven’t made a cent in years.

And those who have managed to open businesses, say it’s a struggle to stay open.

* Watch full story here. 

Literary Postmortem: Memoirs of a Born Free

I remember being insanely jealous when I saw this book being advertised when it was first published in 2014. Watching Malaika wa Azania doing interviews about the book, thinking “that’s what I wanted to do, surely that should be me”. I’m so glad the universe gave her the gig because this is honestly one of the best books I have read about the state of South Africa – now more than ever really.

This nation’s students stood up last year to say enough is enough and more importantly stood up for themselves when nobody else would. This book reads like a brilliantly timed prologue to what we have seen happen in the past few months at universities across the country.

I was part of the generation that has witnessed the end of our people being oppressed and trapped by the false belief that they owed their eternal gratitude to you (the ANC), and that there would be none brave enough to take you on. (page 167)

For the longest time, until recently,  people have expected and have thought about “born free’s” as one homogeneous group that is “non-racial”, not oppressed and has countless opportunities to drag themselves out of poverty and joblessness. This has never been true in this country and remains untrue today. This book made me acknowledge the nuances of inequality in this country, I’ll explain by way of example. memoirs of a born free

Malaika and I are exactly the same age. The schools we went to were relatively similar. We both fell in love with books an words in ways that changed our lives. Our experiences of whiteness in high school were quite similar. Our thoughts about this continent and it’s people on par. But even though we share some experiences there are a lot, too many that we don’t. And that is our reality. My heart almost broke when she shared a story about taking a friend home from school one afternoon. They ate and did what they did very other afternoon when they went to one another’s “houses” (I say houses like that because a shack isn’t isn’t a house). It started raining. Heavily. The topmost form of zinc protection between them and the heavens caved in from the rain. The shack flooded. Pots and pans floated around the girls. We see similar images on news bulletins every now and again but being inside the head of that little girl who was embarrassed that she had a friend over as they and everything her family owned took an involuntary swim. Some people routinely experience such things as  drainage systems and plumping systems are non existent in the places that house tin enclosures.

Merely by being born black in this country you had problems. I didn’t think I’d need therapy to cope with my own circumstances. (page 104)

Her life was rough, she dealt with and took on so much just to survive. There are some who would look at her story and begin telling the “magic negro/against all odds” narrative, that instead of speaking to and addressing the conditions that make people have to trudge through hell just to eat or have a place to sleep or gain entrance into an institution of further education, praises this magical black person who “overcame” those challenges and puts them on a pedestal with a placard reading “HARD WORK PAYS” as inspiration for the other lazy blacks – who are obviously poor because they don’t work hard enough, lol.

She has an amazing mind and can so easily put forth her observations in ways that had me screaming out yes on the train while I was reading this. It was like having one of those heated debates in a politics lecture that I miss so much, affirming and teaching me things at the same time. She speaks to the reality of now, the discord between the state and us, the animosity between black and white and the poverty keeping the majority of our people scrapping at the bottom of the barrel.

There are times when the only weapon a black child can use to fight against a system that dehumanises her is to be so angry that she is left with no choice but to dare to be alive.

While I bemoan the resilience narrative, I also found her political resilience inspiring. Fighting “the system” is an uphill battle with assured losses along the way, choosing to keep on fighting is necessary to achieving any kind of change. It’s not about winning or reaching a point where you get something that you want, like the vote, thinking that you have attained freedom once you have it. It is a journey, a continuous one that will not end any time soon if we rest at historical pit stops for a feast.

But comrade Malema was the closest thing to ourselves than anyone else at that point. (page 114)

I was particularly saddened by her account of what transpired while she was part of the EFF, the way they treated her really hurt and frightened me considering their trajectory and my allegiance.  Either way this woman is a fighter and I can only hope that one day I can follow in her footsteps in using words to paint truth bombs for pictures.

In other words, a must read.

 

ON: Gentrification

“If you drive over the bridge, you’ve gone too far. Then you’re in the CBD CBD” – this was the warning I would add when giving directions to my friends when I used to live in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. As a student it was public knowledge that crossing the Nelson Mandela bridge, meant leaving the relative “safety” of the patrolled, student filled streets of Braam and entering, “real” downtown Johannesburg.

Patrons at the Motherland coffee shop. Photo: Me
Patrons at the Motherland coffee shop. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

When I lived in Braam four years ago, the prettification of the place had only just begun. The trendy, art decor-ish apartment block I had moved into still had builders coming in and out, paint fumes choking us and an irregular electricity supply. But it was by far the safest and cleanest place around me. Standing on the balcony of my brand new apartment, with supplied furniture and 24-hour security and fingerprint access, were the rows and rows of rusty, bird-shit-stained, peeling walls that housed the bane of property developers and the state’s existence. The blaring gospel music and the sight of panties on balconies became mine.

The run down apartments – housing entire extended families – around me reminded me of Lucky Kunene, a fictional character in a local movie, Jerusalema. Basically this ex “baddie” buys rundown buildings in the inner city, promises reduced rent to inhabitants, collects it then forces the landlords to take the reduced rent. When they fight him on it, he makes running the place and evictions impossible; then buys the buildings when landlords inevitably give up. And when he gets control, the twisted Robin Hood of Hillbrow rids the buildings of drugs, prostitutes and general squalor. The apartments around me are the places we see red ants descend upon where people are evicted after not paying rent because of the lack of services, which are a result of unpaid rent and so on and so forth.

Dictionary definition of Gentrification: the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.

By the time I was in third year, our prettified part of the inner city had really come alive. Jolling in Braam was now a viable option. You could hop from Puma Social Club, to Great Dane to Kitcheners. None of which had entrance at the time, Great Dane just had a password some nights and if you didn’t have it R20 was your fine. In the daytime there was Post and Double Shot and Father – all of which my student budget could never quite afford but made an effort to save for come allowance day.

“Once you start to notice bike lanes in your neighbourhood – especially if you’re from the hood – that’s an indication that  the neighbourhood is about to be gentrified.” – Negus Korby in Not in my Neighbourhood (2013)

Thrift stalls at Kitcheners Cravery Bar. Photo: Me
Thrift stalls at Kitcheners Cravery Bar. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Then there was that whole “take the streets back” thing Nike had going on, I asked myself “back from who?” but those thoughts were quickly sanitised by the cute banana loaves and frozen lemonades at Motherland. At the time all the change happening on the streets I walked on daily was exciting. I spoke about the “rejuvenation of the inner city” with that hipster smugness we all hate. Without thinking about the people that lived on the periphery of these changes, on the other side of the bridge or even in the middle of these changes but not being able to enjoy the changes because of financial barriers.

I love Braam with all of my heart. As a girl from Pretoria it helped me begin to navigate the city in a way I never would have if I lived in res or at home. Of late, I have had to reevaluate this love. Gentrification and spatial violence in these rejuvenated spaces has come under some scrutiny. I’ve read the articles with an open mind, making me question myself and ultimately feeling guilty for my entire social life being based in one of these questionable spaces.

In 2013 evictions of informal traders in the inner city, saw over 2000 people displaced. Operation Clean Sweep (uncanny coincidence huh) was apparently an initiative aimed at ridding the city of “illegal hawkers”.

One of the things that has contributed to my mixed feelings is Not In My Neighbourhood, a unfinished documentary by Kurt Orderson. I saw the full version  this past week for the first time, screenings haven’t come up to the city of gold yet but I have spoken to him and he assured me it will happen at some point. Watching this actually made me think about spatial violence in our current context. The evictions we see in buildings too close to our little bubbles are akin to the forced removals of apartheid, are they not? But perhaps instead of bulldozers arriving suddenly, we now force people out with the exorbitant rental fees imposed after renovations.

“For inner city street traders, who are increasingly pushed into smaller and smaller spaces… Gentrification is also about – in Johannesburg – urban redevelopment is also about not just a particular aesthetic effect, it’s also a mode of governance.” – Mpho Matsipa in Not in my Neighbourhood (2013)

It had never occurred to me until I wrote this, but there are no street vendors in Braam, there are many little spaza shops and cellphone shops and salons – but no one has a little table set up on the street. Now I’m wondering if this is by design or perhaps there was just never a need for “informal traders” because everyone has a shop? Hmmm.

I don’t have an opinion on “gentrification”, I think I see both sides on this one. I get people who argue against it and I find their arguments valid but I also get people who are in favour of it and think that it brings positive change but for who is the question? I don’t have the answers, I’m just a girl with a blog, thinking out aloud.

 

ON: Sweeping #OperationFiela

Operation fiela. Fiela in Sepedi means “sweep away”. This is the name my government chose as a response to the recent spate of xenophobic attacks in the country.

This year it started in Soweto, when “foreigners” were looted out  of the shipping containers that are their livelihoods. Some kicked, slapped, knifed and burnt. Our leaders said it was all down to criminality, not xenophobia but added that perhaps sharing business secrets with unemployed, discouraged South Africans would help- because it wasn’t xenophobia.

“Foreigners need to understand that they are here as a courtesy and our priority is to the people of this country first and foremost. They cannot barricade themselves in and not share their practices with local business owners,” Lindiwe Zulu, Minister for Small Business Development (January 28, 2015)

Then last month “afrophobic” attacks (the chosen instigator this time) broke out in Durban and copycat attacks spread to other parts of the country. We were told lies about how many had died as a result, reminded that South Africans had also died. This time were even treated to the “third force” delicacy – nice. But back to operation sweep away.

In May 2008, South Africa witnessed its worst wave of xenophobic violence. An estimated 20 000 people were displaced, 62 died during clashes, 600 more injured, over 500 arrested but only 132 convicted for crimes committed during that time.

Screenshot from a short clip I took in Jeppestown, Johannesburg last month.
Screenshot from a short clip I took in Jeppestown, Johannesburg last month.

Often the names given to police or government operations have more bark than the implementations bite. Normally bad things happen, they say nothing for what seems an inordinate window between the occurrence and their reaction. And then (normally) things that make it look like things are happening happen – photos are taken, interviews conducted, live crossings on the scene – some people feel like something has happened because their voices are heard or a heavy police presence alters their daily reality somewhat. Then we all run towards the smoke of another fire in the distance and leave before a pile of ashes can form before us, at the current crisis.

Normally.

Sometimes the (re)action comes in the form of a temporary structure or a wrongful arrest – something, anything that will appease even the skeptics for a few beats.

This time they chose force, brute force and swift broom strokes to deal with the problem.

Every police man or government official I have spoken to has said that Operation Fiela is in no way linked to xenophobia, it’s just a standard joint operation to deal with criminal activity in certain areas (read hostels, informal settlements and other such places where they can stamp their boots with unadulterated impunity). Even though they’re collaborating with the same army that was deployed a few weeks ago and conducted humiliating night time raids.

“Large sections of police were unleashed on people, their doors kicked down and people were asked to show their papers. It was a military operation in the middle of the night,” Stephen Faulkner, Cosatu nine unions representative (May 12, 2015)

This week, Stephen Faulkner said it perfectly, to paraphrase: this entire operation needs  a rethink, we can’t go around unleashing the military on people and sweep them away (deport them) like rubbish.

Wayne Ncube, human rights lawyer, explained that deportation is a lengthy process with many steps, which is why they are concerned with the high number of arrests and possible deportations that have already happened. This week they are working towards consulting with about 400 of the latest victims of such a raid which took place at the Central Methodist Church last Friday.

I have not spoken to a single person who isn’t in government who has stood behind the operation. The raids never made sense to begin with, nor do the arrests. It would be easier to believe that these are “standard joint operations” if they were in actual fact standard. If we knew about weekly or monthly raids to seize illegal firearms, bust prostitution rings and arrest undocumented people it would have been easier.

But the timing – first the limp condemnations a week after the first attacks, then the army deployment and raids two weeks after that – the boasting and plenty photo opps say otherwise.

PS

Born free, but still in chains

Last week I gave an impassioned speech to a group of young, soon to be journalists at my alma mater. I told them that this might possibly be the best time to be a young journalist, the opportunities are endless, and other such brochure stuff.

They believed me. Hell, I believed me. And a part of me still does – there is so much we can do, yes we’ll run into and slog under organisations that are counter-revolutionary but it can be done. We can be authentic to ourselves and each other while running on this side of the tracks.

But a part of me faltered and scoffed at the hypocrisy of that talk we had when I read a report with statistics on everything “born free” and my oh my do the numbers look bleak.

The report, Born Free But Still in Chains: South Africa’s First Post-Apartheid Generation, was released by the South African Institute of Race Relations last week. Luckily their definition of a young person is different from Stats SA (which includes everyone between the ages of 15 and 34), in this report Born Free’s are defined as people under the age of 25.

There were many graphs and numbers broken down and presented in the 39 page report, some of the more jarring (personally), are in this quick infographic I made:

Born free graphic

The statistics aren’t new but I thought about the numbers a lot more personally this time – they are alarming, they are dire, they speak to a crisis even. They speak to the brazen young men we see and speak to at protests, the young girls who want my details so they can get a job (even if it is just carrying my camera bag). They speak to the anger on timelines and the rage that breaks into our homes and smashes windows.

The numbers mattered more now because I see the faces behind those numbers every day and that realisation makes it all so real.

In the report unemployment and education are highlighted as the two biggest concerns we have – unsurprisingly the former is often caused by the latter but not always. The bulk of those unemployed did not complete their secondary (high school) education, and on the other hand almost 400 000 varsity graduates sit without work – so who’s to say having a degree helps these days.

I have no answers at all, but I do know that the columns and warnings about us being a ‘ticking timebomb’ are true. We’re the generation that won’t let the empty promises be the hope we cling on to, we want answers and action and it makes me so happy to know that we are inching ever closer to making ourselves heard. It’s already happening, it’s already here. Like Fanon said we just have to collectively fulfil our mission, I think we have already discovered it.

These statistics cannot continue to rise. That there are people in positions of power who are blase about them (if I’m being polite) is sickening. They should know that their protection now is temporary, if we have to destroy to build they might be collateral – something to think about while they can.

There was a wealth of information in that study that also spoke to how many children are orphans, how many (overwhelmingly black) are child headed households, how HIV/Aids has affected them,  how many have never received any early childhood development, how their living conditions haven’t changed in 21 years (sleeping on the floor, washing and relieving themselves in buckets), their dreams and their hopes.

Read it. Gain some perspective before you run around telling people they are “lazy” – there are millions of children who have to fight every single day just to stay alive, be cognisant of that.

We definitely need new names

I have now written a few stories and filmed footage around the current spate of Xenophobic violence in South Africa. I have had debates about whether its xenophobia or afrophobia, about the good King and the reluctance from our government to shame him and about self-hate/unemployment/ignorance being catalysts for the violence.

I have thought about and consumed information on this topic for the past three weeks but I still feel like there’s nothing I can say. The shame coupled with the guilt and anger and sheer despondency have rendered me speechless.

I have nothing intelligent to add to the “stop xenophobia” calls and campaigns – particularly because I feel that a lot of the talking is happening at a level that doesn’t speak directly to the guys wielding pangas and knives on the streets. The guys who are drunk at 7a.m. with the whole day ahead of them to burn and loot and terrorise. The guys who we rarely think about outside of their sins.

A lot of the rhetoric from the top said: no matter what your frustrations are, you have no right to mete that out with violence against others. Another reminded us of the moral debt we owe to those who sheltered us in our time of need. But within those same ranks we had people in positions of power saying the amount of “foreign nationals” in South Africa was reaching a problematic level.

On the ground the guys I talked to said they don’t want “foreigners” in this country because they steal their jobs, sell drugs and steal “their” women. I didn’t know I was a thing that could be stolen. The same guys who told me that are also the same guys who felt it appropriate to try to kiss me, despite my continuous and unwavering “No’s”.

All of that aside, they were the first people I thought of when I heard this quote last night: “You lose your soul when you feel like the world has forgotten about you.”

I just don’t understand how another person from this continent can be called a foreigner. To me anyone who calls them that has no proper scope of history – they obviously know nothing about the false colonial borders, efforts by those same colonisers to have us identify and discriminate on “tribal lines” and obviously even less about the Bantu migration, we’re from Congo yo (but that is a story for another day).

I don’t understand how we let everyone and their mother walk all over us for hundreds of years then have the audacity to touch another African just because we know we can hit them and nothing will happen. It’s like men who beat their wives when they get home after biting their tongues for several hours saying “yes baas”. He bottles is anger and frustration, knowing that saying or doing something to “baas” will have real consequences, consequences a coward like him couldn’t possibly deal with. So he waits, stores that anger, until he can reach a target he can attack with the conviction that no one will be there to back his victim.

For me the reasons of anger and frustration at broken promises decades after democracy are secondary – this is about our level(s) of self hate. It runs deeps and cuts wide.

I say we need new names because we can no longer claim to be true sons and daughters of the soil, when we treat our own like this – I don’t know which words they might be but any that speak to a deep betrayal and self-hate will suffice.

PS

**Photo: Tracy Lee Stark/The Citizen

Gauteng honours 22 Nigerian church collapse victims

NOTE: Article first appeared on The Citizen website on November 20, 2014. 

Gauteng premier, David Makhura, said families who lost loved ones in the Nigerian collapse should be comforted by the fact that they died doing God’s will, at a mass memorial service held at Johannesburg City Hall this afternoon.

Bereaved families who lost loved ones in the Nigerian SCOAN church building collapse at a mass memorial service held at the Johannesburg City Hall, 20 November 2014. Picture: Valentina Nicol
Bereaved families who lost loved ones in the Nigerian SCOAN church building collapse at a mass memorial service held at the Johannesburg City Hall, 20 November 2014. Picture: Valentina Nicol

The memorial service comes two months after a guesthouse connected to prophet TB Joshua’s, Synagogue Church of all Nations collapsed and killed 116 people, eighty of which were South African.

Makhura said the nation is with the 22 families from Gauteng who lost loved ones. “They died in God’s name, they died serving him,” he added.

Seventy four bodies were successfully repatriated on Sunday, with a further 11 left behind. Earlier this week, Phumla Williams, spokesperson for the department of communications said the identification process for those left behind would have to start from scratch to “positively identify” the remains.

Sombre-faced family members made their way into the hall, some holding hands and others holding back tears.

The families have been asked to not view the mortal remains of their loved ones as the bodies were exposed for some time.

Makhura said government did their best in the repatriation process because “Jacob Zuma’s government is a government that cares.” The 22 families who will lay their loved ones to rest this week, need only ask if they need any assistance Makhura said.