To Phumeza Thembakazi Losi: A Gift To The World… My Little Star.

If you ever come across the trophy of the Eastern Cape Winners of the Sowetan/Anglo-American’s Young Communicators Awards- you will see my name first, as the winner in 2000. You will see other names of incredible, talented learners who would go on to represent the province and bring it honour for years to come. You will see that in 2007, a young girl called Thembi Losi from Alexander High School in Port Elizabeth was the winner. I was present the day she won in East London. She stood up to speak, her eyes connected with her audience and they beamed. An incredible light filled her face and I swear it felt the sun itself was present in that room- such was her incredible aura.

I picked Thembi as my winner before she even completed her prepared speech. I was right. She won the Eastern Cape leg of the contest, & marched on to victory & won the nationals that year.

For many years after that day, I quietly observed her growth. Her young age seemed no obstacle or factor in the milestones and achievements in her young life. I would watch Thembi blossom into an incredible woman. Just before I left Cape Town last year where I had been working as a Specialist Journalist at SABC- I shared brunch with Thembi, my cousin and her fellow students at UCT and a small group of their friends- amazing young women who made my heart swell with such an incredible pride- because in them I saw why it’s a lie to say those younger than us are a ‘lost generation’.

I told a friend after that brunch, that if those young women represented the future of South Africa I had every right to be confident about the future of this country. They and Thembi- represented a singleness of will, purity of spirit, and an attitude totally untainted by the harshness of the world around them. And how they loved God. How eager they were to make their parents, their families, their communities proud of them. How ready they were to be the game-changers in this country and this world. I remember thinking how I wish I could just cover them under a protective blanket, hide them from all ills of the world… I last chatted to Thembi about three weeks ago. I told her I can’t wait for her to come to Johannesburg to start her career as an investment banker at Rand Merchant Bank. I told her she has a big sister in me. I told her how incredibly proud I was of her, that I’d be here for her to make sure she gets by and that I’d support her. I will never have that opportunity. God decided to take her from us on the 30th of December 2013.

Since I received the devastating news of her passing, I’ve been bitterly lamenting the tragedy of having to mourn such a young life and an extremely promising one at that. In so doing, I recalled AP Mda’s eulogy to Anton Lembede published in “Imvo zabantsundu”.

“It is not the tragedy of death that we lament, but the tragedy of life. We feel that death has been unkind. It nipped the bud in its first spring. Darkness descended at sunrise.”

Like Lembede, Thembi Losi feared God and loved her fellow human being. Like him, she believed that Education, is the gateway to high spheres: socially, politically and economically.

I will miss this exceptional young woman, not just in the present, but more so in the future. I believe South Africa as a whole is poorer for her passing. She was a young leader in the making. She was someone who would’ve easily ascended any position of influence when our generation’s time came. I can think of no better tribute to her her memory than to pick up where she left off, to live this life with vigor, with fire, and with the resolve that says our youth isn’t a time to slumber, but to dream with our eyes wide open and readily equip ourselves with all the tools we have at our disposal in making our dreams a reality.

One of the last things Thembi ever said to me, something I had shared with her many months prior in explaining that in all that we strive to become, however we choose to become it, we must ensure that those who quietly observe us from a distance, always recollect primarily of us that we were first and foremost good, upstanding human beings. She sent me a message, and all she wrote was: “I will say of you Sisi Asanda- ‘Ungumntu’.” I could choose to recall Thembi in terms of her accolades and achievements, but allow to simply say: “Thembi Pumeza Losi- I will say only this of you: ‘Ubungumntu’. You were an exceptional human being, a beautiful soul with a golden heart. Your life was a gift you shared freely and unhesitatingly. Your mind was an incredible fertile ground from which flowed incredible ideas of a better country and world you were proud to call your home. This world was a better place by virtue of you being alive in it. Whilst you were alive, you shone ever so bright. How fortunate I am to have known you and loved you. It was too short a while and too brief a distance but… Umzamo omhle uwuzamile (You have tried your best); Ugqatso ulufezile (You have completed the race).”

Rest in peace baby girl.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

When the Director yells “Cut”- real lives begin… (Incomplete)

I read somewhere that the reason for much of our unhappiness, is that we comparing our lives- sad day-to-day struggle and warts and all- with those we look up to’s showreels. An actor’s showreel is a short piece of video or film footage showcasing an actor’s previous work, usually four to six minutes in length. Actors who have a showreel are more likely to get work as it becomes much easier for them to promote themselves to acting agents and casting directors.
An actor will usually pay an editing company or an editor to put together the bulk of their work into a showreel that can be distributed on DVD.

It’s a long definition, but be careful not to miss the point: we compare our own lives, and dully and incorrectly perceive them less significant than people who are careful to project only their highlights. I learnt many years ago to never envy anyone on the basis that I perceived them to be far more successful, beautiful, glamourous… Because there was no way of telling their personal struggle- and the devastating story that mat belie the seemingly triumphant smile on their faces.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


The brave, brave woman’s transformation is near complete… I’ve found ‘me’

“It’s been a while, I’m not who I was before
You look surprised, your words don’t burn me anymore
Been meaning to tell you, but I guess it’s clear to see
Don’t be mad, it’s just the brand new kind of me
Can’t be bad, I found a brand new kind of free

Careful with your ego, he’s the one that we should blame
Had to grab my heart back
God knows something had to change
I thought that you’d be happy
I found the one thing I need, why you mad
It’s just the brand new kind of me

It took a long long time to get here
It took a brave, brave girl to try
It took one too many excuses, one too many lies
Don’t be surprised, don’t be surprised

If I talk a little louder
If I speak up when you’re wrong
If I walk a little taller
I’ve been under you too long
If you noticed that I’m different
Don’t take it personally
Don’t be mad, it’s just the brand new kind of me
That ain’t bad, I found a brand new kind of free

Oh, it took a long long road to get here
It took a brave brave girl to try
I’ve taken one too many excuses, one too many lies
Don’t be surprised, oh see you look surprised

Hey, if you were a friend, you want to get know me again
If you were worth a while
You’d be happy to see me smile
I’m not expecting sorry
I’m too busy finding myself
I got this
I found me, I found me, yeah
I don’t need your opinion
I’m not waiting for your ok
I’ll never be perfect, but at least now i’m brave
Now, my heart is open
And I can finally breathe
Don’t be mad, it’s just the brand new kind of free
That ain’t bad, I found a brand new kind of me
Don’t be mad, it’s a brand new time for me, yeah”

(Alicia Keys – “Brand new me”)

Finally, at age 30, I found me: Brave, beautiful, bold, fiery and free Ngqamakhwe girl “doing good”. One day I’ll find the words to tell you the painful tale of struggle, about my rise and fall, and my rise, rise and rise again… In the meantime, I’ll tell you this- I was begotten by the Word, and God is explicit in His book that His word will not return unto Him void.” I’m just doing the ‘me’ He intended me to be. And what an awesome ‘me’ it is… WHOOOOOOO-HAAAAAAAAAAH!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Young South African: Indeed, “You can”

Dear Kelly Baloyi and others

I am placing myself in your shoes as I write this letter. In your sincere gaze and impassioned quivering voice I recognised the young teenager I once was not too long ago. In the scene where you stand up from amongst your uniformed peers on courtyard of Vilakazi High School, I saw myself and the faces of my peers back then- and how we negotiated the ideas battlefield that were public speaking and debating school competitions we so boldly and passionately lived for. As you rose to speak I imagined that you feared your competitors ears and eyes less than those of the judgmental adult adjudication panel and members of the audience. Their eyes were always the most difficult to look into: there was no way to tell whether the pair would return the approving look of someone in awe of the wisdom and insight you display at such a young age, or the incredulous gaze belonging to someone disapproving of your passionate naïveté – divorced from the harsh realities of a word that doesn’t operate in black and white but with all shades grey in the in-between.

Your views are something I often hear expressed by your peers, as someone who often visits the platform where you share them freely- as an adjudicator of national public speaking competitions.

This letter is not to scrutinize FNB’s motives in doing the “You can” campaign. Neither is it to cast judgement on their decision to abruptly pull a campaign I anticipated solely to what you all had to say. Nor to give my 2 cents worth on the fact that those who appeared in the advert received payment for doing so (as if appearing in adverts isn’t a paid gig). I saw the casting call sheet that cast the net to catch the talent that would eventually be featured in the final adverts. The call sheet called for kids who are “….are outgoing, passionate speakers WHO naturally are talkative and compassionate. THEY SPEAK FROM THE HEART AND they care intensely about South Africa and the lives and futures of the people in this country are their priority. They should come from regular backgrounds (not privledged) Model C is NOT what we are looking for.” The specific call sheet whose contents I scrutinized made reference to “Boys that are on the student council, debate team, drama team, Boys who could be national leaders one day. Boys with vision and leadership qualities.” Reports of the content that subsequently made it to the final script therefore come as no surprise- to me at least.

I did not necessarily care that FNB decided to pull the adverts- one day you’ll awake to the fact that the absurd can be normal in politics. What broke my heart about your missed opportunity, is when I heard FNB’s chief marketing officer Bernice Samuels saying in an interview that they took down videos “as the participants are fearing reprisals.” Samuels alluded to that the description of the campaign as treasonous particularly unsettled you all. Such a pity, real or perceived danger to someone who dares raise their voice which happens to be contrary to the preferred praise-singing chorus.

Let me state from the onset that if anyone described something I was party to as being akin to trying to overthrow the government, I’d be well within reason to fear for my well-being, without having to wait to see if the emotive language used could indeed take root in the heart of a zealot happy to mete out justice to the offender of the state.

While reflecting on the weight that the youth’s voice carry- I recalled the foreword note written by Walter Sisulu in the book “Freedom in our lifetime: The collected writings of Anton Muziwakhe Lembede”. In it Sisulu reflects on the legacy of the young leader thus…:

“Fifty years after the founding of the Youth League, the message of Lembede, it’s first elected president remains clear: that it is the youth who have the capacity to renew the struggle, which today continues in a new form. It is the critical gaze of the youth who play the time honoured role of re-examining the status quo, sometimes to the discomfort of the ‘old guard’. It is they who have always had the capacity to renew and reinvigorate the ANC so that grassroots members could continue to play their rightful part in democratizing our society. And just as in Lembede’s generation, the youth have the flexibility to scrutinize their own positions and have the the courage to adapt them to changing conditions if need be.”

I dare not interfere with this great man’s words by adding commentary. I trust very much in your ability to do with them as you wish. If you take to heart his advice, I believe you are well on your way to becoming the sort of youth that our great predecessors would be proud of. I must mention to you that I am an alumni of a wonderful initiative called the Sowetan/Anglo-American Young Communicators Awards, that forms part of the rich “Nation Building” legacy of the late great Dr Aggrey Klaaste. It is a speech competition for non-first language English speakers, in which I represented the Eastern Cape in my matric year in 2000. Shortly after his death in 2003, I returned to the same platform to deliver a talk entitled: “Where have all the heroes gone”? What I told the youngsters gathered there was that was that what our democracy’s founding fathers left us in their legacy can never be taken lightly:

“I owe my being to you. I owe my life to you. My successes are thanks to you. You bore the burdens of the past in order that I would be free today. While you chanted “Mayibuy’iAfrika”, you informed my mother’s womb that when I came into my own, I would not be judged by the colour of my skin but by the content of my character. Whilst you undertook this fearful journey through this great nation’s dark, turbulent past you cast your wishes to the African skies. These wishes are the stars upon which I tread today. Tremendous is the responsibility you have left me in your legacy. It is one I must bear with dignity. A crown I will wear with pride.”

A generation burdened with the “lost generation” label must be at great pains to prove otherwise- and when it does, be celebrated.

Thirteen since I participated, the Young Communicators Awards- now in its 20th year- remains the platform where I return to hear SA’s young articulate views more assertive, angry, sober, jubilant and succinct in how they articulated the South Africa they saw through their growing eyes.

In the sound of fury that ensued your participation in the “you can” campaign, you may have felt that having an opinion and daring to influence the national discourse was the wrong thing to do. I am telling you it isn’t. My final message to you therefore is that I am rooting for you. May you never cower into silence. May you always realise that South Africa needs your in encumbered free mind to articulate views do bold and daring that one day, those at the helm listen attentively, and finally realise that the South Africa they govern must one day be handed over to your hands ready to carry out the legacy of freedom which demands that what your predecessors fought so valiantly for- remains the pride of generations to come.

Yours faithfully

Asanda N. Magaqa

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ndathi ukuze ndiziqonde, ndasabela kuBantu Stephen Biko

Ndithe ndiseluhambeni ngenkqwelomoya esuka eKapa isinge eRhawutini, ndibukele udliwano-ndlebe kumabona kude no Dollar Brand, ogama linguAbdullah Ibrahim- wathetha amazwi abenefuthe elimangalisayo kum. Lo mdlali womculo womngqungqo ube namazwi athi: “Xa ubhala, bhala ngento oyaziyo.” La mazwi afumene indawo yokuhlala engqondweni ebefumile kakade, nebikade izama-zamana nezibhalo nengxamango yeqhawe uBantu Stephen Biko. Sizifundile izibhalo zakhe, kwaye siyazazi neemeko awayebhala phantsi kwazo- imeko yokuphumelela kukaRhukumente wengcinezelo ekutshabalaliseni ubumna, ukuzingca nokuzithemba kwabemmi beloMzantsi Afrika abamnyama. Ndandingekazalwa ukuphila nokubulawa kukaBiko. Ndandingekabikho ngelixa lentsusa yeengcamango nokuqiqa kwenkolo ye-Pan Africanism- ngezo ntsuku amaqhawe namaqhawekazi ayephila kwaphambi koBiko lowo- ooNkwame Nkrumah, W.E.B. du Bois, Frantz Fanon, Julius Nyerere, Jomo Kenyatta, Stokely Carmichael, Patrice Lumumba, Malcolm X, Anton Lembede, Robert Sobukwe njalo-njalo. Andinako nokumlibala uBob Marley ca ecula esithi: “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery (Qhawula amakhamendela akuwo iingqondo yakho). Ndandingekacingwa nokuba ndakuze ndibe kwisizalo sikamama ngethuba ayefundisa amadoda namanina amakhulu- ethubelezisa izibhalo zikaBiko – uFrank Talk njengoko wayesaziwa, kodwa qiniseka ngoku: andiwazi nje amagama awayewasebenzisa uBiko, koko ndiyawaphila.

Kukho amazwi endingaqondi ukuba siwathabathela ingqalelo ngokupheleleyo; lawo abhekisa ekutshatyalalisweni kokuzingca kwethu njengabantu abamnyama- amazwi athetha ngqo nemeko yokuziqonda ukuba akukho mntu nawaliphina ibala, ongcono kunathi. Ndisitsho nje ndiwakhenkethile amazwe, kweli lizwekazi iAfrika naphesheya- neMelika imbala- ilizwe amanye amazwe alijonga ngengelikumgangatho ekumele sisebenzele ukuba kuwo. Apho ndiza khona kulapha: Awukho umahluko kudidi labantu. Otya emigqomeni eMelika ufana nkqwa notya emgqomeni apha eMzantsi Afrika. Onepokoto eziphuphuma imali ufana nkqwa naphina kwihlabathi. Ingaba kutheni ke nakule mihla sakucinga fana kukho apho sifeda khona njengabantu abamnyama xa sizithelekisa nabelungu? Ndiziva ndivakalelwa xa ndifunda izibhalo zikaBiko. Nangona ndandinayo ingqondo (nokuba yayingekavuthwa ncam) ngeminyaka yokugqibela yolawulo lobandlululo; nangona ndathunyelwa ngabazali bam ukuyokufunda kwizikolo zabelungu kwangaphambi ko1994- mna imbala ndingulo athetha ngaye uBiko xa esithi: “Ukuwutshayelela lo mba, abelungu kumele benziwe baqonde ukuba ngabantu, hayi ngcono. Kwangaxesha nye abantu abamnyama mabenziwe baqonde ukuba ngabantu, kwaye abangobantu abakumgangatho ongaphantsi kwabamhlophe”. “So as a prelude whites must be made to realise that they are only human, not superior. Same with Blacks. They must be made to realise that they are also human, not inferior”.

Umnyaka yayi ngu1991 apho kwafuneka ndiyokubhala iimviwo zokukwazi ukwamkela ndifunde kwisikolo I-Kaffrarian samantombazana eQonce. Injongo yezomviwo yayikukubona ukuba usemgangathweni okanye ukulungele na ukufundiswa uziqondisise izifundo. Enye injongo yayikukuqwalasela ukuba ulwimi lwesiLungu nanjengojuba kwakufundiswa ngesiLungu kuphela khona. Iimviwo ezo zaziquka nezo zezibalo (Maths), kwaye kukoluviwo apho ndazibona ndibhala izinto zomqala wam. Mandicacise: Ndicinga ukuba ndandingomnye wabantwana abakrele-krele- andizenzi bhetele. Kwisikolo samabanga aphantsi endandifunda kuso eZwelitsha eNontsapho ( neuatshintshwa yaba yiQaqamba ukubhukuqwa kukaSebe) ndandisolo ndiphuma kwindawo yokuqala eklasini ukuqala kwaSub A ukuyokuqhina kwaStd 2. Ndiyile ke ukuyokubhala iimviwo eKHS- ndathi xa ndijonga elophepha lezibhalo zabonakala zilula gqitha kum. Phi phi phi, kwathi gqii ingcinga kum ethi “Asanda, mis’ingqondo, kusebalungwini apha, kwaye bona bakrele-krele gqitha kunathi bantu bamnyama. Ukuze upase, sukuzenza ngohlobo oqhele ukwenza ngayo. Bohlukile abelungu, kwaye bakrele-krele gqitha kunawe.” Yaba kukuphithanisa izibalo zam ke oko. Nene ngenene, ndaluyshona uviwo. Andizange ndiyithethe inyani kubazali bam, ingakumbi umama wam, kuba ndandiqinisekile ukuba uyakundolula ngobo budenge bam, atsho enditswikila iingalo. Ngonyaka olandelayo, ndaphinda ndayokuzibhala iimviwo- ndenza njengoko ndandifundisiwe ngabahlohli bam abamnyama baseQaqamba, ndaphumelela, ndiyokufunda eKHS ngonyaka ka1993 kwibanga lesithathu.

Injongo yale mbaliso yam kukuzama ukukubonisa mfundi- ingakumbi wena useze ngobuso elizweni: masihlukane nomkhuba wokubhedesha ubumhlophe. Ulungile, uphelele, yonela kukuba mnyama.

Ndikhe ndeva into ithethwa nguMax Price, iNgqonyela yeDyunivesithi yaseKapa, ngeliphendula ukugxekwa kweUCT ngemigaqo eyisebenzisayo ehlukeneyo phakathi kwabafundi abamnyama nabamhlophe. UPrice ucacise ngokukhumbuza ingakumbi abamhlophe ngelithi manayiqonde eyokuba akukho mahluko phakathi komfundi omhlophe ofunda kwisikolo esiphucukileyo aze afumane u-80% kwiMaths neScience, nomfundi omyama elokishini ofumana u-60% efunda kwisikolo esingaphucukanga, nesingena lab iphucukileyo okanye ubuxhaka-xhaka bee-computer labs njalo-njalo. Ndiphinde ndongeze ndithi, ukuba aba bafundi bebelingana ngenene nangenyaniso- bekhulela phantsi kweemeko ezifanayo- ngeyengekho umahluko phakathi kwabo, kwaye ukuba kwakulingenwe kwasekuqaleni, mandulo, ngesingekho kwa isidingo sokuba kubekho imiqathango eyahlukeneyo yokubanika ithuba elifanayolokungena kumaziko emfundo ephakanileyo yeli. Kukwakho nomkhuba wokuphakamelana kwabantu abatsha nokugezelana ngenxa yokungafani komgangatho wokuthetha isiNgesi. Ufike abo babe nenyhweba yokufunda nabantu abakhumshayo behleka iziqhazolo xa besiva abanye abantu abangakwazi ukusithetha ngokufana nabo isiNgesi, ne-twang leyo. Nabelungu ngokunjalo ndide ndababhaqa ukuba ungade umogqithe ngokukhumsha oko: ndisitsho nje, utishalakazi wam kuStd 4 eKHS wade wandibiza emva kweemviwo zokugqibela zonyaka, efuna ukundixelela ezinkonqeni ndingaboni kwi-report ukuba ndibogqithe bonke kwibanga ngo96% kwizifundo zesiNgesi. Andizange ndaphinda ndayibhuda loo nkqubo- ungayondibuza kooMrs Linder, Dr George kwisikolo samantombazana saseBhayi I-Collegiate: bazakukuxelela ukuba ndandizibhala ziyokuxela iingaciso zikaWilliam Shakespeare mna ndade ndasigqiba isikolo. Konke oku kuthanda ulwimi lwesiNgesi kwabangelwa yinkolelo endandiyifundiswa nam ekhaya nake wabhala ngayo uFrantz Fanon kwincwadi yakhe ethi “Black Skin, White Masks” nathi: “A man who has a language consequently possesses the world expressed and implied by that language.” Ngamafutshane, umntu olwaziyo ulwimi (oluthile) ngenxa yoko unobunini okanye unako ukuyibanga yonke into eyeyabo bantu bathetha ulwimi olo.
Phofu wasithetha awasithetha isiNgesi- Ekuqhubekeni kobommi bam, ndiye ndafumanisa ukuba kukho abantu abakhumsha bagob’amalwimi, basikhuphe ngempumlo isiNgesi eso- uthi xa umamelisisa kakuhle kwinqontsonqa yentetho leyo, ufumanise ukuba akukho kwanto ileleyo kwiingqondo yomntu. Kwalapha ekuhambeni kwam, ndihlangene nabantu abangakwazi nokulithetha nelinye igama lesiNgesi, aze athi akundichubela imeko ngolwimi lesiXhosa, ndafumanise ukuba iingqondo zabo ziqulathe obona bulumko bemveli endandikhe ndabuva.

“Inyani yeyokuba akukho kugqama wedwa xa ungentla kunomnye umntu. Okona kubaluleka kukuba ube ngentla kunento obuyiyo ngaphambili. Akukho hlanga linegunya elilodwa lokwenza izinto ezigwenxa okanye ezinyulu, kwaye ukubaluleka komntu akunanto yakwenza nebala lakhe.
Ingozi kukuba abantu bangaphazamisa inguqu kwintetho, nenguqu yokuziphatha. Nangona onke amaMelika efunde ukuthetha ngokunga krwempiyo, kwaye bakho abo bangafundanga ukucinga ngenye indlela, okanye ukwenza izinto ezifanelekileyo. Ubuntsundu buhle xa umntwana ophuma kwimimmandla yabahlelelekileyo engena kwiziko lemfundo ephakamileyo, xa indoda ifunda isakhono esitsha kumsebenzi omtsha, okanye umama ophuma kwimimmandla yabahlelekileyo elwela umntwana wakhe ukuba aphile ubomi obungcono. Kodwa nabo ubumhlophe buhle, xa buguqula intlalo ukuze nabamnyama baxhamle. Ubumhlophe bubi xa bucinezela umntu omnyama, nobuntsundu abamkeleki xa bucinezela abamnye abantu abantsundu.” – Whitney Young, African-American Civil Rights Leader

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Traditional Courts Bill: The more things change the more they stay the same”

In thinking of the people’s struggle for the democratic South Africa we enjoy today: One particular narrative of a people’s struggle is playing in my mind: The Pondoland Revolt of 1946-1962. In a book entitled:”The Peasant’s Revolt” Govan Mbeki details South African peasants’ long and proud history of resistance to oppression. He writes that it is peasants who know what it is to be crushed by the armed forces of the whites, to be imprisoned without trial, banished to desolate parts of the country, and banned from normal social contact. For those whose History is rusty- (ulwazi lweMbali luhexayo) here is a brief reminder:

On 6 June, 1960, at Ngquza Kop in Pondo-land, the police fired on a number of insurgents and eleven were killed. The killings would continue at various and regular intervals and it would be several years before the dissatisfaction in Pondoland died down. How did things get to that point? Since the enforcement of the Nationalist Party’s policies by harsh and frequently violent means, peasant resistance had been widespread and organized. Africans resisted forcible removal from their homes to new territory. They particularly opposed the imposition of Bantu Authorities, the extension of passes to women, and schemes for the rehabilitation

“Several years before revolt finally flared, the government had made efforts to induce the peasants to accept Bantu Authorities. In 1953 it tried, through Paramount Chief Botha Sigcau, to force the rehabilitation scheme upon Eastern Pondoland, but at a meeting held in Lusikisiki at which Botha Sigcau was present, the people categorically rejected the scheme. The meeting was highlighted when one man by the name of Mngqingo turned his backside (mflathela) to Botha Sigcau, a sign of non-confidence; the people supported him and booed the chief and the officials. A few days later a large contingent of police entered the area, and Mngqingo took a large peasant army with him to the thick forests. When the government appeared to give up the affair, however, Mngqingo emerged and disbanded his impi. He was eventually arrested and deponed to the district of Cala and the opposition to the government measure gradually subsided. Discontent then manifested itself in the district of Bizana, which lies between Lusikisiki in the south and the Umtamvuna river on the border of Natal in the north. In September 1957, the Pondos of Bizana rejected Bantu Authorities, Bantu Education and the rehabilitation scheme at a meeting to which the peasants came in their thousands. They demanded that Botha Sigcau should publicly declare whether he was the head of the Pondo tribe or the boot-licker of Verwoerd, the then Minister of Native Affairs. Botha Sigcau left surreptitiously, and the meeting went out of control, ending in disorder and the widespread cry — ‘Umasiziphathe uya Kusebenza sifile’, or ‘Bantu Authorities will operate over our dead bodies.“

Fast forward to 2012 : The Traditional Court Bill is being mooted- a law to replace the Black Administration’s Act of 1927 which formed the heart of the revolts in rural South Africa in the 1960’s.
The Traditional Courts Bill, currently under review, will give the various traditional leaders in South Africa unchallenged, legal power over approximately 17 million citizens residing. Traditional leaders argue that the bill is necessary to enable them to enforce the decisions of the traditional courts as they see fit. The traditional courts bill will enable traditional leaders to be appointed presiding officers of traditional courts, where they will rule on both civil and criminal matters involving members of traditional communities. These presiding officers will be able to hand down fines, forced labour or, perhaps most controversially, remove “traditional benefits”. In the context of communal land ownership, common in most of South Africa’s traditional-authority areas, this includes access to land, which in turn translates into food, income and shelter. The ability to earn a living and feed one’s family will be dependent on the whims of traditional leaders. Chiefs will rule over their subjects, making laws, deciding on cases and handing down punishments, with near complete control over people, law-making and access to benefits and land.

Many of this paper’s readers will not recall how tribal authorities operated in the decades before 1994. However, I suspect that by reading the illustration above of the power tribal authorities will enjoy under this law- even the youngest reader of this paper will have the sense of what life in rural authorities will be going forward, and that it is indeed true what the English say, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Let us quickly look at the experiences of some rural women in post-democratic South Africa:

A few years ago, girl children were at the receiving end of the skewed implementation of the age-old custom of “Ukuthwala”. The female chief at the time, at a meeting attended by an all-male council, told me that it was of no use to say girls must first be 18 years of age before they are married- because by that age many had already given birth to one or more children. That was my personal experience of a tribal authority that didn’t believe in a girl-child’s freedom to choose whether she wants to be married; when she wants to get married; and to whom she is to be married to.

In the same community, a month or two ago, there were reports of how dozens of widows were forced to leave their homes and denied their right to property. Theirs was the common South African (and African) patriarchal society, where widows may be forced to marry their dead spouse’s brother, as what belonged to the brother essentially belongs to his family- and not to her or her children. So it was with these widows- they could not claim ownership to the homes they shared with their husbands, and these homes were then repossessed and redistributed to someone else- and this was done with either the instruction or the blessing of traditional authorities in that village. These women are homeless at this point.
In many traditional courts, women are not allowed to represent themselves or even speak during proceedings. This bill reinforces this by allowing for women to be represented by their husbands or family members (the bill prohibits legal representation in traditional courts) – entrenching existing discriminatory practices. Women’s groups and particularly rural women’s groups are justifiably outraged. 18 years into democracy, women in rural areas are about to be declared second-class citizens by their own government. In practice, many rural women already struggle with decisions by traditional authorities that regularly attempt to strip them of things like land access and inheritance rights. Other gaps include the fact that there is no explicit recognition of crimes such as physical and sexual abuse which are currently considered private or ‘domestic’ matters not fit to be brought before a public court.
There is nothing wrong with Customary Law. Those who support the bill vehemently argue that this is a necessary part of respecting traditional culture and that it is important because constitutional authority has undermined the power and authority of the chiefs. Those opposing it point out that the bill takes us right back to the era of a separate legal system for black people – an era that was problematic precisely because those living in the homelands, those who were deemed (through no will of their own) to fall under the authority of traditional leaders, were not equal before the law.

South Africa is a complicated country and the careful balancing of the rights of different groups is inevitably necessary. However, as one observer pointed out: “For this democracy to work, however, the rights of an individual to have a say in his or her future, to be treated equally before the law and to be recognised as part of the same system as everyone else, rather than being regarded as a subject with no say in the matter, have to be secure.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Woman I am- My story, in a nutshell…

“I have a tendency for the melancholy. I was born under the saddest star.” Sade, Musician, in an interview in 2010.

Mine isn’t a trip down memory lane. No. It stretches much farther, back to the realms of one’s life’s beginnings. You see- my beginning of life, also marked the end of one in particular, my great-grand mother, Nohlwele Gertrude Nguza. Now this might very well be an unfortunate coincidence, and a rather peculiar turn in Old Father Tempus’ clock… The emptying and filling of a gaping hole in a family’s heart. I do not view this chapter in my life lightly. Indeed somewhere in this story of mine, is an African historian’s testament on the significance of the event, such as this which took place on the second day, of the second month, of 1983…

And what a story it is. Now back to what I know.

The question “Who does she think she is?” is occasionally asked when my name comes up in conversations. It is usually followed by comments that I am ‘too assertive’ and ‘don’t know’ my place. These are justifications given whenever a door has been slammed in my face and opportunities taken from me. The answer to the question is quite simple: “I am young, black woman from Ngqamakhwe in the Eastern Cape; raised in a home where I was taught to follow my dreams. Journalism is my calling; and I intend to spend the rest of my life doing it well because it is a labour of love.

The past eight years of my career at SABC, in various capacities in News have cultivated these four character strengths: Hunger, Passion, Resilience and Humility. Hunger that saw me become the youngest Anchor (at the age of 21) of an SABC flagship Radio Current Affairs show in 2004 – “Laphum’ikhwezi” on Umhlobo wenene FM. It was hunger that saw me- without any TV Presenting training- step up and become the Anchor of ‘Asikhulume/Let’s Talk’ in 2007.

Passion made me find and tell the stories of the poor, marginalised and easily forgotten South Africans, and fulfill our collective mandate to tell their stories across all of our cherished public broadcaster’s platforms. These assignments often prove to be difficult, heart-breaking and even dangerous, but history needs us journalists as witnesses. It is Passion that sees the work I do get national and international acclaim with the awards I’ve garnered consistently since 2006 until now.

It is Resilience that saw me face life-changing personal tribulations, face an attack that caused me to suffer a complete nervous breakdown (and with the company’s support) – took time to find healing, refocus and again rededicate myself to my craft.

It is Humility that makes me understand I am the Journalist I am today, because in this company at all levels- there are those who have taken the time to coach me, encourage me, reprimand me with their constructive criticism and give me second and third chances while grooming me into being the accomplished Journalist I’ve always dreamt of being. They have proven to be my angels here on earth: “If I have seen further, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants.” –Isaac Newton.

I conduct motivational talks at schools in rural Eastern Cape. I feel obligated to, because youth there believes that in order to make it in life, you ought to come from more privileged backgrounds specifically in urban areas. The welfare of the girl child has proven to be my main priority. I do not get tired of telling them to never resign themselves to their ‘fate’, when patriarchal society dictates that we be content with predetermined roles that are not in line with our individual destinies. My message to them is: “Instead of using your body to mesmerize men, use your mind and determination to mesmerize the world. Behind every fairy tale of the person you look up to, there’s a story of struggle, determination, faith and bravery, therefore: Push boundaries. Push your critics. Push your body, mind and spirit. Push to love yourself.” Push to be the ‘next’ in line to whom you look up to- in my case, the legendary CNN Journalist/Anchor Christiane Amanpour.

“Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.

‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.”

-Maya Angelou

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments