Marikana & the EC Economy 

(This column is published on today’s Daily Dispatch newspaper)

Transkei born jazz singer, Simphiwe Dana, in her song called Nzima, laments the Marikana massacre, using Bawo Thixo Somandla, a traditional Xhosa lamentation choir song which is associated with the historical suffering of Africans. The video is as powerful as the lyrics: “God Almighty, what have we done, in this world/nation? We are bearing hardships!” She is dressed as a widow, only with short hair – a sign of mourning, re-enacting the traditional mourning practices of rural Eastern Cape people.

Dana may have grown up knowing mineworkers’ by name.

For as long as I have been alive, I have had numerous relatives who were mineworkers. One is in Marikana right now. This cycle of mineworkers has carried on for generations in much of rural EC. Some died in the mines. Some became ill or injured in those mines.

 It is for this reason that I am convinced that Marikana should be a wakeup call for the EC community and for a caring EC government.

Marikana was devastating and still is. It is the most brutal massacre to happen in the new South Africa and I pray that it is the last. Marikana however should never have occurred and the Eastern Cape suffered the most.

The mining industry in SA historically has a poor record for miners’ safety, living and working conditions; this is without even looking at miners’ salaries. The International Labour Organisation’s criticism of the working conditions of miners at Lomnin came as no surprise when it listed “falling rocks, exposure to high temperatures and high fumes” to mention a few. Over and above these risky conditions in August 16, 2012 the striking miners faced bullets from police too.

The Bench Marks Foundation, which evaluates corporate social responsibility in the mining sector, states that “the benefits of mining are not reaching the workers or the surrounding communities.”

Anyone who has had family members or visited villages in the EC where a lot of miners’ families live, need not study any findings to know that this is true. The cycle of poverty only continues from one generation to the next. The mining industry, in my opinion, may employ an estimated 1 million SAns and add to the country’s GDP, but if the EC will ever stand on its own feet economically, the mining industry has proved to be no true friend. Can platinum or gold bring back lost brothers, husbands and fathers from the dead? This may be the moment to turn our backs from losing more of what we can never regain. Will the mining industry invest billions of rands to the Eastern Cape economy for having drained so many lives and for so long? It should.

The EC is not without untapped wealth. It has potential to be a tourism hotspot because of its joyful coastline and history, dating back to pre-colonial times.

Wandile Sihlobo, an economist at Grain SA, noted that the EC has potential to make a significant contribution to SA’s food security and economy. EC subsistence farmers, particularly in the former Transkei region, must realise their potential as strong participants in mainstream commercial maize farming.  

The EC coastal region is not only a tourism attraction, the government has projected that there is an underexplored ocean economy in SA, which has the potential to contribute R177 billion to the country’s GDP.

Should the government take this up with the urgency of the 2010 World Cup, what would prevent an influx of those who once looked to the gold mines to return closer to the golden coastlines?

Let us make a monument of Marikana by building the EC economy. Otherwise, our people will continue to lament, singing Dana’s Nzima (hardship), over lost miners whose work enrich a few billionaires, at the cost of their lives. 

  

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Happy Woman’s Day South Africa 

To be a South African woman is to rise and lead! It is to be strong and soft. It is to be powerful beyond measure and gentle as a dove. It is to feel deeply and fight fiercely. To be a South African woman is to sing, dance, it is to shout ‘wathint’umfazi wath’inti mbokodo,’ “you touch a woman you touch a rock.” 

To be a South African woman is to be the most impoverished person and yet unbroken. 

It is to dream dreams for your children, dreams that will lead them to see faraway lands you have never seen but on television.

To be a South African woman is to be a rock, the foundation rock from which the new South African society is built. 

It is to be the kind of woman who is not afraid to address difficult matters in the presence of man. 

It is to be so bold that African women of less freer nations become nervous when you speak because you don’t subscribe to what is known as the woman’s place.

To be a South African is to be a super power in government and yet it is to be faced with a society whose women and children face rape. It is to carry this heartache and long for a day when poor children do not have to be victims of such cruelty. 

To be a South African woman is to be an investor yomgalelo. 

It is dream of getting out shacks. 

To be a South African woman is to be a madam and a maid.

It is to put your maid’s child through school. 

To be a South African woman is to be complex and hopeful. 

It is to be a victim and a victor. It is to raise children alone while raising the children of those who have father and mother. 

It is abound and to hunger. 

To be a South African woman is to be the last and the first. 

It is to be empowered and disempowered. 

To be a South African woman is to have a voice regardless of your abundance or poverty. 

To be a South African woman is to a woman with an unshakable calling. 
#HappyWomansDay #SouthAfrica #soproud

New Forms of Protest

THERE is little doubt in my mind that South Africans are generally speaking – very active protestors. Take the “poo protestors” for example. Poo throwing was disgusting but it was creative and radical.
An effective protest method though, should successfully address the concerns presented. Instead, as in the case of Andile Lili, the face of the poo protestors, negative attention tends to be drawn. Lili was arrested for inciting violence. He allegedly told a crowd that criminals should be “killed immediately and brutally”. This happened last week while he was outside court while on bail for the Cape Town International Airport poo-throwing incident.

Perhaps the correct word for Lili is reckless. Would he like to be killed for inciting violence if his statement is found to be a criminal offence? 

The poo throwing protest method was successful in the hands of UCT student, Chumani Maxhwele, who famously threw pig excrement at Cecil John Rhodes’ statue. The stench sparked a movement which saw the statue removed a month later. However, Maxhwele is currently suspended from the university for other reasons.

These poo protesters keep finding themselves in some kind of poo.

Poo throwing is a health hazard which is the point of the protest, I suppose. Other methods of protest can involve burning buildings or breaking into and looting shops. This is not only destructive but a violation of others’ rights, even if government property is vandalised.

The majority of our protests still mimic anti-apartheid style protests. These are sometimes negative and violent. We need creative forms of protest that reflect a mature democracy.

I am surprised no one has started a SA Creative Protest Agency – to assist the public with innovative, effective and legal forms of protest. That is a free business idea. This would most likely put the unions out of business.

We are so good at protesting we have even witnessed a political party protesting in parliament. Yes, you know who, the EFF! President Jacob Zuma has been interrupted more than once with their chants of #paybackthemoney!

He was also the target of embarrassing booing at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service. That too was a protest.

Protest is necessary. It is part of a healthy democracy. Our protest culture however, tends to reflect a mindset of entitlement where we are forever making demands. In such a context the 67 minutes for Mandela is refreshing, even though a little cheesy.

Possibly the most powerful protest for our society will be the day we decide to take responsibility to actively make a difference in each other’s communities, not just once on Mandela Day.

If the power to make a difference is grasped by the people, government will surely have to deliver in order to win our votes. This could shift the power dynamics so that the government can no longer behave like our master, nor our bully, but our servant.

Protest must be accompanied by a culture of service. The people of SA know how to liberate themselves from an oppressive regime. How much more can we achieve under a democratic government? It was not a government that liberated this country but an unstoppable movement of people who refused to postpone their freedom. They would not be stopped by intimidation or death.

Mandela emerged as the greatest in the liberation movement of the ANC. Even after his retirement, he knew the work of liberation was far from complete. In his poverty speech in London, Trafalgar Square, Madiba called poverty a man-made prison that could be eradicated by other human beings.

It is time for South Africans to rise up against corruption and poverty. But we will need new songs and new methods of protest, far away from poo or blood.

 This column appears on today’s Daily Dispatch newspaper on print.

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