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Rewind: Ladismith Drought (2015)

I came across this while looking through old emails. This was the first story I wrote with my then mentor. We travelled to Ladismith in the Western Cape to cover the devastating drought, and water shortage there.

Because the Western Cape is going through this current drought, despite occasional rain, I thought the parallels were interesting. Only a few lines were used from my original story, that is copied below in its entirety.

 

The lifeblood of a Karoo town is at stake as administrative bungling could cost Ladismith its water supply. The small town in the Kannaland municipality is used to droughts and dry spells as the concentric circles of the near-dry dams show a dwindling water supply.

However, in-fighting and political manoeuvring could cost the locals their most precious commodity.

Leon Blignault, the technical manager for the municipality, said the town was not out of danger yet. “At this stage we only have 22 days of water left. We have to keep moving the water pump to adjust to the water level”.

In the dam, a sizable pond is visible, however when Blignault points out the markers for how high the water level is allowed to be, the situation becomes clear.  White stones mark a ring around the top of the dam, with the actual water far down below.

Municipal manager Morne Hoogbaard said at present, the town has experienced a water problem for years.

Hoogbaard, the longest serving municipal manager said the time is right for change, as there is “managerial and political stability”.

A new dam is currently under review, and is expected to be completed by December 2016.

“Water Affairs will fund the biggest portion of the R100-million cost, which will subsidise the percentage of poor people, who get free water. We are submitting in March for the final plan,” he said.

“We have equipped two boreholes that will take care of 30% of our needs. We plan on equipping ten boreholes, that will provide 70% of our water,” he said. The cost of the two boreholes is R2-million, but R10-million is needed for all ten, plus an additional R5-million for further exploration in Zoar. He said the situation in Zoar is “equally serious”.

“It is similar in size to households in Ladismith. It is a coloured community with very little industry,  he said.”

He said meetings take place every week as part of a drought management team, with disaster management, water affairs and the municipality.

“It’s not a problem. That’s something that can be solved”

These were the scathing words of principal of Dankoord VGK Primary, Isaac Hartman.

“The pipe starts up there,” he points to the nearby mountain, “so why does it not reach us down here?” he said.

Hartman alleges that the farmers have siphoned off water before it reaches the community below.

“The problem is that the farmers use the water for their households, not just for farming. Those two tanks can’t run dry in one day. They need to investigate it,” he said.

The health of the learners is a major concern. “We have 144 kids. If that many kids use the bathroom with water, you can imagine”

In the sprawling community of Zoar, 10 kilometres fromLadismith, the situation is dire.

“Mense se magies is in hulle moer,” (People’s stomachs are messed up) said resident Cindy Fortuin. Many in the community have complained of diarrhea.

“The dam is like slime. We don’t have money to buy water,” she said.

Ella Ambros, a mother of three, said she has to buy water for her children, aged 2, 5 and 14.

“We have to cook all our water, and sometimes we have to buy. They don’t tell us what the problem is. There is no notice. We had no water at Christmas. You can’t even wash your white laundry. The old people are also getting sick,” she said.

Councillor Hyren Ruiters from the ICOSA party, who has lived in Zoar all his life, said the solutions are coming, but they’re too slow.

“This is an old system. The pipes are too old. There is some work being done on the main line, but its not enough, and borehole water is expensive. There is also the problem of water theft,” he said, referring to tampering of water meters.

“In December, families come home from Cape Town, then water use increases. Another problem is the bucket system. It uses twice the number of water. Over summer, there is a greater demand for water, but our system is never fixed”.

“The provincial government is not as supportive. They’re just there to make promises, and nothing happens on all levels. All support comes from national. ICOSA and the ANC work well together here.”

He warned of the impending danger of further shortages. “The farmers were affected, and that means our people on farms will be layed off too,” he said.

“Oom” Len Hauptfleisch, with his shock of blonde hair, stands in his dilapidated house that he is trying to fix after it was ravaged by a fire. The dribble of water that he could muster was not enough when the fire broke out in is home.

“I got two buckets and threw it on the bed. That little I got from the bathroom didn’t help”

He jokes that sometimes the water goes from drip system to “no system”.

“Sometimes there isn’t even a drop,” he said. Newly painted walls surround the mess of the fire in his living room, where his daughter sits, as he tries to rebuild his life.

“I can’t count how many times I got water from the neighbours on the main water line. Not for drinking though” he said.

“People are very unhappy here. Administration is the problem. I don’t think the reservoir was ever full,” he said.

Back in Ladismith, local farmer, and chairperson of the Klein SwartbergRivier Water Forum, Hennie Kotze said beyond the actual water crisis, there has been a dire lack of communication between key players.

The forum was established in 2012 to deal with the recurring water crisis.

“The farmers have to share the source with the municipality. With all due respect, we get very little co-operation from the municipality. They want the water, but don’t want to discuss it with us”

He conceded to the conditions of the water act, but emphasised that it should be “only for human consumption”.

He was disgruntled about the lack of cohesion in the forum, which, in theory, includes businesses and representatives of the municipality.

“Provincial does nothing. Last week provincial and Water Affairs were here. We heard nothing. We weren’t involved or recognised.”

“If they’re not willing to talk to us, we’ll take it (the water) back,” he said.

<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

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Thoughts on the Palestine Problem/ Israel Issue, and South African Complacency

  As I sit at my desk, I write in stillness. I write thoughtfully, both wearily and warily, and also angrily. It’s a strange combination of emotions from someone who only realised the full extent of what is happening in the Middle East later in life. Yet what has happened recently has left me dumbfounded. To reiterate, I am a blogger, and all the facts (or what you may think they are) are available widely, what I present is simply my opinion.
  

My first inkling of what was happening there was at a very young age. Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister was assassinated in 1995. I was 10 years old. It was a big news story, but it still never hit me how big the situation was over there. “Over there” is an apt description for this problem, but more about that later. In South Africa we were basking in the afterglow of our democracy and hard-won freedom.
  

Ten years before that I was born during a state of emergency in South Africa. Stones were thrown, rocks were hurled and people were arrested. Gross human rights were inflicted on a people who wanted dignity and freedom which they felt they deserved. If I were not an infant, had I been born twenty years earlier, I probably would have been on the front line throwing a stone myself, or even a makeshift bomb. Who could say how one would act, and react, when forced to live that way?

    The world turned its back on South Africa, and its apartheid policies and the concept of good neighbourliness. After all, (I say with extreme sarcasm, lest it not be detected by some) we were neighbours! Europeans and non-Europeans were given their own land and were told to be content with said land, despite the immense discrepancy between the two, and the non-Europeans being deprived of rights available to others.

   So am I excusing Hamas of firing rockets at Israel? Without being an apologist, and at the risk of being reductive, yes I am.
   

Because just like if I were an adult of apartheid South Africa, which also started in 1948, the same year as the inception of the state of Israel, then there’s no saying what I would have been doing or where my life would have ended up. Similarly, the ghettoization of a people extends to the ghettoization of the mind. Ideological and physical spaces are related, and the two are absolutely affected. Therefore the frustration felt by the collapse of endless peace talks and promises, and the hopelessness they must face, while the other side of the wall flourishes, should be enough of a reason for this whole “war” to end immediately.

   So yes, I can’t condemn Hamas for firing those rockets. Now WHO they are firing them at is unfortunate, because I do not want a single death or injury, especially innocent civilians.

   What I don’t condone is anti-Semitism and Hitler comparisons. That is cruel and not fair. I sympathise with Israeli people, because they simply wanted a land of their own, especially since the end of the holocaust. But to expel others from their land, and then constantly violate human rights and international law is deplorable. The fact that the irony of this escapes Israelis is very sad to me. But I get the feeling that Israeli people do not want sympathy; they want to hang on to that land, whatever it takes. They want the image of being in charge and in control, so no, I don’t foresee a bright future here.

   Israel is a broken nation, of broken people. They are hurt and need to heal. This is another South African similarity expressed so beautifully by poet Lebo Mashile on an episode of The Big Debate. The episode was about race, yet I feel her comment about white South Africans was one of the most insightful indictments I have ever heard. See that here.
  

 While I believe that the Jewish people deserve a homeland, I do not understand why it has to be at the expense of the Palestinians. The political rhetoric is an indication of how this is a “war” that will be waged for a very long time. But like I always say, if you trace a problem back long enough, the origin will reveal itself.

   This viral video, in its simplicity (and, I think, tongue in cheek nature) captures what I understand the problem to be so well. And like the message the video tries to espouse, it doesn’t matter who started it, or when it started, right now people are dying and it has to end somewhere.

  But back to the “good neighbours” concept: How laughable. How insane that people are made to be grateful for being allowed to live. Let me try this analogy: My neighbour comes up to me and slaps me. I get a gun and shoot him, because I’ve been beat up before and felt victimised, and my friend is the local magistrate. My neighbour was not right for hitting me, but I was equally wrong for hitting back, and the level of proportion was unfair on my part. You can do the math for yourself by casting the roles of Hamas, Israel and the USA.
  

  Now I am fully aware that I am contradicting myself for this example with my above comment on Hamas, but I think the point is made, and remains.

   The past week and the killings of Palestinians and Israelis made me so sad because, once again, ordinary people are the pawns in a game so much bigger than we know. One such game is the arms race. America funds Israel, yet Israel is America’s biggest buyer of arms. It reminded me of a reading in an ecology lecture in which the USA and India sent the same amount of wheat to each other, simply to keep their trade relations afloat. They could have just grown the wheat and given it to their people, but then there wouldn’t be any money involved.
  

The machine of war needs to keep churning and feeding, or it risks dying. It is in the best interests of those who like their money big to keep the world in some state of war.

  When I see people on social media angry at what is happening, the killings and the complacency, I can’t help but smirk knowing that this is a business, and the broadcasters simply have to go where the money is. Speaking of social media, hypocrisy and anger, a friend posted a Facebook status. It read:

 

“I’m all for ending wars, and I firmly believe that the latest attacks on Palestine are horrendous. I also think the war in Syria is atrocious (where over 400 children are dead). The Chinese occupation of Tibet is diabolical (over 15,000 deaths thus far). Can we all maybe unite for them as well seeing that uniting against wars is a HUMAN CONDITION. Please guys don’t let your activism be a fad. Don’t let it end with Palestine. FREE TIBET! FREE SYRIA! FREE PALESTINE!”

 

  I shared the status update, and I fully agree. I didn’t, however, agree with the timing of it, but it also highlighted how complacent we are. Not only South Africans, but also the world. If it were happening to your country, you would want others to speak up and fight with you to end the killing and oppression. As someone who tries my best to remain conscious and educated about all issues, local and international, I fully agree and will wait what will happen once the smoke clears. Will we move on to the next hot-button issue?

 I am aware that my blog post is a blip on the radar, but all I can do is hope to enlighten and that the suffering will end soon, for all.

Author Jerome Cornelius

So who do we blame? (Another child rape)

Not ourselves, surely. We are upright, do-good citizens, right? We do our parts for ourselves and for others and the problem is theirs, not ours. Government should do something about it… and so it goes…

Yesterday, it was reported that a girl from Mitchell’s Plain in Grade R was raped by two boys in Grade 2. I was 5 in Grade R (then called pre-primary) and 7 in Grade 2 (Sub-B). Read about that here and another disheartening case also reported this week here. [I wrote an article last year for Good Men Project which mentions Mitchell’s Plain and my own distant understanding of the area as a child, and dealing with trauma “out there”. Read that here.]

If you read this and feel a sense of shame, then good. We need that. If you read this and start going on a blame rampage, stop. Do not even think about it. This happened on our watch. Just like I’ve said before, we might as well say “fuck the children” if we continue this way. That would be more honest, and fair. At least they’ll know what to expect. At least we wont be pretending to give a damn.

 

As I was walking and thinking yesterday, I was going to write about children and supposedly “bad” role models. I met a political leader who I think is an actual role model, yet he remained humble and wondered why he should be considered one when he is simply doing what is expected of him. I’ve written about  the hypocrisy of celeb role models before (this time it was going to be about Beyoncé and her latest sexual incarnation, and the way in which Bill O Reilly has been criticising her), and I maintain that we cannot blame pop stars and media coverage alone. My main argument remains – we can blame pop stars all we want, but at what point do we turn that lens back on ourselves for our own failures and realize that blaming is a simply a tool of deflection and procrastination.

Let me tell you a little something about my sexual awakening.

I was under ten years old – I think 7 or 8. It could have been a year or two younger, but I don’t think older. I was young. I was watching a film that probably had a PG rating, possibly PG 13. There was nothing explicit about it. In a scene, there is a male stripper. Something happened in me that day. I’m often asked when I knew I was gay. That’s a pretty dumb question (and those same people are dumbfounded when I ask “So when did you know you were straight?”) and shows how ignorant we are about othering.

The point is, I saw something and experienced something that was not a “normal” part of my development. At an age where I did not understand what was happening sexually, I also had to contend with the issue of orientation. This would only become a social issue later in life, but it was still something to think about as I knew that something was different.

I had strict parents. I did not know this until I saw the level of freedom that others had. I look back now and, while I still wish that they had loosened the reigns ever so slightly, I am also grateful. My point with the sexualisation of pop stars and the issue of role models is that it absolutely cannot exist in a vacuum. This is true with most things, however with children it is a different issue because we are dealing with lives – blank slates that need guidance and shaping.

My 5 year old nephew was watching TV with me and there was a promo for an award show. There was the briefest glimpse of naked Miley Cyrus on that wrecking ball and he gasped, looked at me and said “That lady was naked”.  He had a smile that seemed like a cross between incredulity and embarrassment for both he and Miley. We had a surprisingly mature discussion about it and reached the conclusion that it doesn’t matter. I hope that I drilled it into him that what she, and anyone else, does should in no way have an effect on his life, or the way he treats others.

My own sexual journey was relatively tame, with a personality and the temerity to not feel the need to act out. As immature as I was, and can be, I’m glad that I understood the implications of my actions.

These kids are not old enough to understand. Who or what were they emulating? Where was their mature and frank conversation with an elder? Where was the uncle/brother/father/mother/aunt to explain to these boys that what they did to that girl is not ok? Who is going to be there for her for the rest of her life (besides professional counselling) to guide her out of the confusing feelings she might experience?

I am sick of these problems being issues that are “out there” and not our problem to deal with. If you are a human being, this story should move you, and make you angry and want to do something about it, whether it is speaking out on the still sickeningly high levels of patriarchal arrogance on an everyday basis, or attending a protest. Something has to change.

If you are on this planet, then what happened is your fault. It is my fault. We have not done enough to change our world.

Those boys did not know any better. Their lives will never be the same again. That girl did not know what was happening to her. She will have to live with this for the rest of her life. Lives have been changed, and it happened while we were living. We have to live with ourselves, knowing that this never should have happened.

 

 <p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

Cape Town Gay Pride? Let’s hope so

Disclaimer: I have shared many hyperlinks in this piece. I don’t usually do that. They are all previous posts by me, and are relevant to what I am saying.

What is there even to say about Pride at a time like this. Please refer to Google and check out the brilliant archive that is gay rights and the year that was… all two months of it thus far.

This is the first Cape Town Gay Pride march that I will not be attending, simply because I am not in Cape Town. But even if I were, would it have made a difference? This is a question I have heard often. Also, the endless critiques of Pride marches. Do we still need them? Absolutely.   I have personally seen shifts in people. I have also seen people regress and become absolute ignorant homophobes. We are here for both of them. The more that we are ourselves, the more others will have to accept that we are not going anywhere.

And yes, we. Accepting that you are part of a community is vital. You may be gay and not like that you are boxed into the same acronym as a trans-gendered individual, but you both are being discriminated against for something that is sexuality-linked and out of your control. It makes sense to me. Deal with your discomfort and realise that you are wasting the power of community. Stand up! And if you witness stupidity, stand up again.  And if you see more, keep standing up until you are tired. That’s why we encourage community. We need not only fighters, but supporters.

I have been hearing a lot of blanket statements lately. Let me remind you, there are no good stereotypes. Taking pride in how you are is acceptance of who you are, and your place with others – in this case, your gay self. This does not mean that you have to conform to any standard, even your own. I am so sick of pople looking down on femininity in men, and in so doing glorifying masculinities. There is no such thing as an ideal/perfect man/woman. Just be conscious of who you are and what you are doing. When someone says something offensive, stand up and call them out on it. I have not been entirely good on this, I have to admit. But how will the world change if we are not comfortable with fighting injustices, especially the small ones.

Pride is without a doubt a party. I have had the best times of my life at the last three marches. I do want the community to be more, as i wrote last year. But it also has its issues, and it is also a political statement. Who could forget Joburg Pride and what happened with the 1 in 9 campaign? If you can remember that, then we will get along just fine and I wont have to call you out on anything.

To end, a friend recently posted something on Facebook lamenting the situation in Uganda. It is pathetic and the violations of human rights being ignored around the world will come back to haunt us. Once again, people are paying a price for simply being. But we are also not entirely innocent (not that we are to blame), but how many of us have jumped on a bandwagon and been activists in isolation?  Are you only campaigning and fighting for your own cause? Will we move on to the next issue as soon as Uganda has died down and the people there have found a way to deal with what is happening? Do we picket the Nigerian embassy for a few weeks then realise that some other state has implemented their own homophobic laws?

This was my take on my friend’s anger regarding Uganda, and what “we can do about it”:

Well, to me it’d this belief that we are powerless because we might not have resources to make a difference. What about intention? Look at that horrible Kony campaign. That was completely self-serving and it seemed to be done with an end in sight, which is a little unrealistic. This Uganda issue is a huge deal too, as is our other favourite, Palestine. We must use the resources we have at our disposal, and not be despondent when they “don’t work”. Here comes the esotericism (I’m sorry), but what we do will emanate outwards [to others, and touch them in some way]. So how often do you laugh at a homophobic joke? When last did you rap along and say the n-word [in a song]? When last did you walk past an incident of injustice and not speak up? That’s the difference. The same can be applied to social media, and doing what we can with what we have. Be consistent, militant and conscious.

We are dealing with people and lives here. This is not a school project. If we are serious about changing the world, then it will start with us (you). Once we realise that, then it will be a brighter day.

 

<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

The Alternative South African Elections 2014 – who to vote for.

With the weekend of manifestoes behind us, the EFF, ANCYL and DA have told us what we already knew – “We here!” Calm down, girlfriends, we know.

But what other choices do we have? Come May the 7th, there are a number of other parties of which you may not be aware.

So I’ve compiled the list of these parties which you may not have heard about – the new kids on the starting blocks, ready to fight and lead.

Alcohol Now Council

This new party is also known as the continent’s newest and oldest (looking), libation movement. Because when the dust settles and Commanders Zille and Zuma have trampled on the grass of the people, what will be left? Cockroaches and alcohol.  I bet COPE wished they had thought of this one. You’re welcome, Mzansi.

 

HOOH

With its roots firmly entrenched in hair politics, HOOH stands for Hands off our Hairlines.

Pronounced however you want, but preferably to rhyme with “Yhu” or “Hawu”, because this is a resistance movement for resistant hair.  This is an important growing movement which has grown out of the lack of growth on our heads. How much longer will black women walk around with hair fighting for space to compete with their political views? How often will men have to dodge the razor at the barber trying to even things out? Haven’t we had enough of that in the past? Why must our heads be political spaces?  Not to be confused with…

HOW party

Not to be confused with the Hawus, although the vernacular pronunciation of this party is more in tune with “Hawu” than How. Less a platform for change, and not so much a resistant movement as a deeply embedded systematic hierarchy of historical confusion. Get it? HOW? As we throw our hands up in the air and toyi toyi like we just don’t care. Because we don’t care. This party consists of endless talks and speeches, finger-pointing, alliances, re-alliances, promises, laughs, laughter, laughable promises and a lot more to come, it seems.

Daggah/ Green (with envy) party

This movement aims to provide daggers to stab in the backs of others. It’s become a growing trend and has grown exponentially in recent years, Comrades. Especially since the publication of a little known text called Julius…

Caesar.

The Movement Movement – or the shit party

This is the unofficial name for all parties in politics in the history of politics.

Beret Party

This moniker is a particularly delightful South Africanism. The way some of us pronounce “filet” as fill-IT, or “buffet” as boo-FET.

Speaking of the French, gone are the days of head-covering gear with communist implications. Calm down, girlfriend. Beret is pronounced as “berate”, because with freedom of speech we can beret whoever we want.

The Blue(s) Party

Not only is the colour of this party a dashing shade of royal, but their crooning attracts lots of black people who love the sound of their promising melody. That is until the white figure comes along and takes all the shine. Wait, what did you think I was talking about? This is about Elvis and the genre known as the blues.

The Reds

No, calm down with your communist implications. And no, this is not about white nationalism. Although Red is an Afrikaans word which means “save” and this party does wear red. If only this saviour wore white and converted wine to water instead of drinking it without the messianic promises. No? Just me? Oh well…

And there you have it, the alternative parties who will be expecting your vote this coming election. Choose wisely.

<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

Our Generation

What is the struggle for our generation? It seems that every generation has its own epoch-defining struggle, or moment. Unfortunately this seems to be tied in with violence, or some other trauma.

In South Africa we had Apartheid. That has defined us, and will for a long time. Even though it is still with us in many ways, it is no longer our fight. The cause has morphed into one for more than just rights. The right to be is one that we all must join, yet many don’t. Whether it’s gender, race, poverty, education, or all of the above, our issue seems to be one of grappling.

This yearning for a cause, a defining moment or feeling, this absence of something, has characterised us. The world we live in is lacking (while we are slacking). This is the reason why terrorism is such a hot button issue, and why we have so many invisible enemies. But maybe the enemy is within. Maybe we are too complacent and idle.  Maybe we lack idealism, as well as reality, because right now we have too much of either, and no balance.

I started this train of thought when I was thinking back to one of my favourite tv shows, American Dreams. It was known as Our Generation in Australia. What made this show (starring a young Brittany Snow)  so outstanding for me was the way it captured 1960s America so succinctly. The civil rights movement, the war, the restlessness of trying to belong was what made it so special. It was anchored by the American Bandstand-inspired music show, around which all the drama revolved.

Check out the theme tune below, by Emerson Hart.

I wrote this short lament, which I realised later  was inadvertently inspired by We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks.

No we can’t shut up
We won’t sit down
We shant
We won’t speak right

Because we’re ladies
And gentle men
Because we’re girls
Because we’re boys
Cause we’re goys
We make noise
We worship Allah, and God
And we know they are the same

We won’t sit down
We won’t talk quiet
Until we all can
Because it’s our choice

Because we’re soldiers
Fighters of our own definition

We are the people positively draped in rainbows
Flying flags
Riding on the backs of trucks
Beating drums
Screaming for change
Shoving our cameras in their faces
Singing struggle anthems
Asking questions
Indicting

We are the generation after X

But we are not next

We are the nation, confused and tired

weary and scared.

Hoping for change, but not changing for hope.

Hoping to fight, but not fighting for hope.

The people who care to care,

looking for a cause.

We are the folk who don’t give a fuck.

We are the people,

crowded around a point of power.

Hungry for more.

Staring at a screen, blank eyes.

Inter nets and alia, we’ve forgotten ourselves-

who you are, just a search away.

But still, we are the people
And no we won’t sit down,

we wont shut up,

we wont be,
Unless we choose it.

 

<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

For the love of irony: reblog and reminder

Remember that time we were all worried about the Secrecy Bill? How we pulled out our hair and agonised over freedom of speech and how that was essentially coming to an end, like the world? Well…

And just to prove to the world that we South Africans can appreciate irony, the bill was passed the day before we celebrated Freedom Day. Happy F*****g (that’s “Fucking”. Sorry, the ANC deemed that as a threat to state security. Psh!) birthday, Young Democracy!

The bill has been amended, but one must still ask the question: What do you have to hide?

I still believe a government should fear its people. Already we have government overspending and many issues (Arms Deal and Nkandla amongst others) still unresolved. I’m still not that worried that all free speech will be monitored and curtailed, but you never know. It always starts somewhere.

Below is a link to a previous short post about this subject.

https://jawonthefloor.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/jy-se-nie-vir-my-nie-or-not/

 

<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

Activism in Isolation

On Friday the 19th April 2013, I attended the Out in Africa Gay and Lesbian (LGBTQI  themed) film festival. I attended the screening with members of the LGBTQI society on campus, and was particularly struck by a film called “Two Stories”. This is a local documentary, very short (just 12 minutes), yet within the opening frames, I was in shock.

This film was about the township in Grahamstown where, like other townships in South Africa, Black lesbians are being brutally raped and killed. The story by one of the survivors was so striking because, like she said, being raped will NOT change her. This determination seemed almost stupid, and made me feel ashamed for how strong these women are in the face of such extreme adversity.

The men in this township who were interviewed had the audience fuming. They were filmed speaking about their hatred of homosexuality. They believe that it is an abomination, that the government should send “them” out of the country, to Robben Island or kill them. These men (“men”?) were so incensed by their hatred; they could not even see the flaws in it.

The following day, my friends attended the Cape Town Pride AGM, to discuss the future of CT Pride. This meeting, as I was told, was filled with White, gay males. There would be nothing wrong with this statement ordinarily; however, that is where it ended. There were very few other demographics represented (my friends are a black lesbian and a queer black male).

What this observation highlighted was the division not only within the LGBTQI community, but also the faults with activism.

I consider myself an activist. I also think that there are too many “unconscious” activists around today. These are idealistic individuals who attend a march or meeting for the latest cause, and that is where it ends. I could include myself in this group at the best of times, however, I am trying to constantly educate and enlighten myself.  People assume that because you campaign and fight for a cause, that that’s where it should end, however I disagree. This is where “activism in isolation” comes in.

The problems with CT Pride this year was that fact that there was another short march and then the gays and lesbians were confined to the caged in De Waterkant village in Greenpoint. But to those who cared to crane their necks over to across the road would have seen a whole lotta black people, drinking outside. This is the South African (and particularly Cape Town) problem, where a single division, like a road, can separate two classes of people. The idea of two people being unequal because of socioeconomic reasons should, in itself, be archaic and antiquated, however it still exists.

[For those who did not read it, this was my take on Pride 2012:  https://jawonthefloor.wordpress.com/2012/03/07/pride-2012-theme-containment/ ]

The problem is the idea of pride. How do we celebrate it for one portion of a community only? We have Black pride, yet there is only a small section of the Black population with a fair income and living conditions.

I’ve heard many people say that they do not like the idea of a gay Pride march, because it has lost all meaning and become nothing but a big party. I would have no problem with just a big party; however, we have such a long way to go before we get to this point. How do we celebrate and dance around when there are people still being killed for being who they are? [this is the part I often struggle understanding. How do Black people, condemned by a racist government for being who they are, condemn others for… being who they are?]

Overseas, Pride has become a huge party and massive money spinner. This would be passable in South Africa, except that these other countries do not have our unique situation and context to consider. I do not hear many stories of “corrective” rape in townships in America, Australia or Europe.

This does, however, bring me back to that short film and activism in isolation. South Africa, I do believe, will always have these divisions and problems if we always focus on one area, and not the other.

What I am suggesting is that people consider more than just their own cause. We cannot fight for education and expect people to study while hungry. We cannot expect people to find work when they do not have a decent house. We cannot demand that people stop stealing when they do not have employment.

There are too many issues to solely focus on what appeals to you. Of course I am not suggesting that people fight for every single cause out there; that is impossible. You would wear yourself out and no one would win the good fight. But these men in the townships have been disenfranchised and are not even aware of how humiliated they have been.

They have endured racial oppression which lingers to this day in many forms, and are often without education or work. They feel threatened and seem to need to lash out at a scapegoat to reclaim their power. Gays and lesbians seem to threaten the very idea of manhood with which they simply cannot contend. How do we expect a man, living in a shack and who cannot provide for his family, to be a smart and open-minded individual? This is virtually impossible. Let’s not be naïve about the cesspools of intolerance created by poverty, and when we campaign for dignity and rights for some, forget that there are other causes which feed into that cause.

<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

Violence Against Women: UWC and South Africa, where does it end?

This is an article I wrote for the CPS (Campus Protection Services) newsletter at UWC.

 

On the 26th of February 2013, the University held an event in response to the recent spate of violence against women in South Africa. The event was held in the main hall and was well-attended by both students and staff. This event highlighted the seriousness of these crimes.

However, the news statistics read by student volunteer Chanell Oliphant, as well as the opinion of many, contradicted the timing of this event. While lauded for their efforts, many have questioned why so many institutions are acting now. There were loud gasps from the audience when Oliphant read these statistics. Some of these include the number of unreported rapes, with only 1 in 20 being reported to police, with 147 women raped on a daily basis in South Africa. Does it end with a gasp, or will there be action from this shock?

After the event, audience members were asked to sign a pledge board with their ideas as to how to stop the violence against women in this country. But how many of them would go home and enact these pledges? One of the many problems with the issue of violence against women is the mistaken idea of power being lost by the individual, which then leads to shame. What others do in their individual lives is, of course, their business. However, the familiar case of only acting up when it hits too close to home has played out all too often in this country, and still not enough being done on a regular basis to change it. While the event hosted by the University, and even condemnation by President Jacob Zuma, was appreciated, it was too late for Anene Booysen and other persons who were victims to these crimes.

A bleak picture was painted when a staff member told me about how she witnessed a male student acting abusively towards his girlfriend on a Sunday morning on campus. The male student, when reacting violently to opposition from the staff member, threatened others too. This student is apparently well-known by other students and even security, which was called to the scene. The excuse given for not handling this case is that it was a “lover’s quarrel.” Protocol, it seems, is not clear in this case.

One of the many problems with violence against women is the number of unreported cases. It could be asked, where exactly is it safe? And whose job is it to keep others safe? Blaming the victim has become a popular theme which has been used by some, and not spoken out against enough by others. In speaking to students about this issue, an interesting case came up. On Friday, March 1st 2013, a student was accosted by a taxi driver at the Modderdam Road exit to get into his taxi. She chose to wait, and when she was grabbed by the driver and protested to be left alone, was slapped by him. A fight ensued and four other drivers approached. Two female students approached to intervene and that’s when the scuffle ended.

With this issue, it could be argued that the jurisdiction of campus security ends when a student leaves the gates of the University. But with a number of cases of abuse, both physical and sexual reported at an alarming rate, it’s safe to ask, where exactly is it safe?

 

<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

Gallery

In defense of Ramphele: our culture of cynicism.

A tough week In South Africa saw the announcement from one of the most underappreciated figures in this country. On Monday the 18th of February 2013, Mamphela Ramphele announced the launch of her political party platform, called Agang, to contest the 2014 elections.

That introduction mirrors other generic introductions that were brandied all over the media, competing momentarily with the Oscar Pistorious headlines. However, the reaction has been surprisingly suspicious.

Her speech was torn to pieces and over analysed to death. I don’t think that the media, opposition and ruling party should go easy on her by any means, but they seem to be dismissing this powerful person, with the potential to lead a party that could be a real contender.

As a female she has blazed trails unlike many others. That she has only flirted with formal politics now shows the resolve of someone with a strong voice.

One of my biggest issues is how her accomplishments are not being fully recognised. Sure they are mentioned, but they seem to be thrown about with disdain.

She has horrible dress sense and a jerry curl. She is totally out of the loop with the people of this country. She has minimal struggle credentials and was the mistress to Steve Biko. She helped formulate the Black Consciousness Movement, but South Africa has since moved on and is in another era. She is merely an academic and does not have a real understanding of the plight of ordinary South Africans. How will her party be any different to the others?

This is the general sentiment that I have been reading in various articles before, and after her announcement.
For those who don’t know, Steve Biko was a big deal during the struggle. Or as he is now know, not-Mandela. This is what I’ve realised many people see other struggle heroes who did not get as much exposure as Madiba. If anyone had said that Nelson Mandela needs to stop riding the wave of his prison time and move on, it would have caused quite the furore, and rightly so. I don’t think it is necessary to compare struggles, because that is an argument where no one would come out on top. However, I do not see it as necessary or appropriate to denigrate the credentials of others. Speaking of which, Ramphele’s credentials should really be more than enough to be labelled as credible and a fierce and worthy opponent for the other parties in South Africa.

Helen Zille, it could be argued, has been using Steve Biko for her own cause. As the journalist who broke the story about his death at the hands of security forces while in detainment, is widely known as her big foray into politics. So why does no one tell her to shut up about that?

Zille was, in fact, one of the many who have dismissed Ramphele, and Agang. This party appears to be more than just an idle threat to the two big powers. With the news this week that Ramphele wanted the DA to dissolve and start a new party with her, it seems that she has the confidence to go against the big boys and girls. She has also been a thorn in the side of the ruling party, appearing on various platforms, establishing herself as a voice of the people, a defender of those who do not have the platform that she does. The recent FNB ad debacle has proven that the ruling party are afraid of opposition where they cannot use the race card.

I am a fan and supporter of Ramphele, but I too am sceptical about this turn to politics for her. The tricky thing about the machine of politics is that no matter who you are, you have to conform to party norms, rules and ideals. You could be new to the game and a revolutionary thinker, but the mechanisms are intricate and people are forced to change who they are for the sake of getting votes.
I have voted for many parties in the national and provincial elections, and my vote was going to the DA for this coming election.

I am now undecided.

It might even go back to the ANC. But the announcement by Ramphele was such a welcome relief as it brought another side to politics in addition to bringing out the other side of other parties. When I think back to the 2009 formation of COPE, it really was ego-driven and not about the people. Agang appears to have bided its time and while it has been criticised for starting this platform too soon to the upcoming elections, it has put the people of South Africa first in its consideration of the opinions of the constituents.

Instead of welcoming the challenge, the DA dismissed it and seemed extremely selfish in their own plight. They saw it simply as another party splitting the rightful votes of the opposition. I was not entirely surprised by ANC pitbull Gwede Mantashe’s rant about the imminent new party. Accusations that Agang would destabilise the country are dramatic and unnecessary. The new party would not shake the ruling party’s hold on the country, at least not yet, but this reaction is positive for the new party. A government should be scared of its people, and to have a party that incites this reaction in a party that has had a majority since the inception of democracy, would hopefully remind the ANC what they are meant to be doing.
Many people forget that the DA is an alliance, comprised of many parties which the DA machine had taken as their own to garner votes.

I have no problem with this, however if they are to dole criticisms for the messages of other parties such as Agang, is it then not fair to label the DA as fragmented with its composite of faces, which increase with every election? Agang comes complete with a face, which is not only black, but also smart and accomplished as a businesswoman and political

Another critique is her dress sense. For this I would go back to the now familiar, but still not credible “What if she were a man? Would that even be relevant?” The fact that she does not seem to be fazed by mainstream opinion of dress and beauty sets her apart from the other politicians who have bowed to convention. Ditto for her being the “mistress” to Biko. Why is this a hot topic, rather than “intellectual equal” to Biko? Because it attempts to diminish what she has accomplished.

She’s being criticised for being a bureaucrat and academic and having minimal political credentials. But what have the people with the supposed credentials done lately for this country? I see a lot of squabbling in a country in crisis. All the hype surrounding her announcement couldn’t have been in vain. The media did not wait eagerly for her to announce this platform for nothing. Why do we feel the need to turn on her now?

I do hope that she sticks to her guns and does not compromise for the sake of the powers that be. My final hope is that the journalists and pundits put aside their cynicism for a moment and not label her simply as the great black hype, soon to die amidst the mire. Because right now, hope is one thing we really need. With a name that translates to “let us build”, indicating their ambition, it is a stark reminder that the ruling parties have forgotten that we still have a long way to go to rebuild South Africa after a tumultuous past. A party that is ready to tackle these issues, and highlight those that are too quickly forgotten, can only do us good.

Maybe a fresh mind, and party, from an experienced individual from the margins is exactly what we need.

 

<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

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