(Column first published in the Daily Dispatch 16/02/2016)

FUNERAL black is a more appropriate colour for our South African Valentine’s Day. Love in this country can be a matter of life and death as the records show.

The term intimate partner femicide should be as well known as the term rape or HIV/Aids. The Medical Research Council last reported that every eight hours intimate partner femicide occurs in South Africa, the highest rate anywhere in the world.

Simply put intimate partner femicide means that, a South African woman is more likely to be murdered by her husband, boyfriend, lover or former lover. In other words, she could be murdered by her valentine’s date.

Reeva Steenkamp’s boyfriend, Oscar Pistorius, shot bullets that resulted in her death on Valentines’ Day 3 years ago.

Last week news reported that ten school boys appeared in court for gang raping a 15 year old girl in Durban. The alleged incident took place within the school’s premises.

Constitutionally our republic is a “non-sexist” society. There has never been a period in our history where women have been more legally liberated or empowered than in our current democracy and yet, violence against women persists. Girls are not always safe at school. There are rape cases that are currently under investigation at the University of Cape Town. Last year, a Port Elizabeth man, Christopher Panayiotou, was charged with the murder of his wife Jayde.

There is a certain lacking response from men who could be positive agents of change in this regard.

It is a response I once witnessed as a rural Transkei child. We children were mimicking the way women wail when they respond to news of a family member’s death. In a matter of minutes of our loud wailing, a troop of rural men appeared- in haste, carrying their traditional sticks. I have never seen men so distressed. They were of course furious with us for our foolish childish games. Needless to say, the game was never repeated.

But I have never again seen so many men completely ready to save us. Today I cannot help wondering what it will take for men to stir from their relaxed state and become impatient with violators of women and children. What will it take for men to once again become unapologetic defenders of women and children?

Must we set up a clock that rings every eight hours which sounds like the voices of women wailing across this land? These voices will be crying out on behalf of the women whose voices have been cut off through intimate femicide. And when children ask, what is that sound, they must be told that a woman has just been killed by her partner – and we want it to stop. Girls must know that their lives matter and boys must know that too.

Such an alarm would undoubtedly be unpleasant but some kind of alarm is required to propel people towards an urgent response like those rural men once did. Violence against women in our country is alarming. The alarm must ring before another man kills his lover in the next eight hours.


 photo credit: Siki Dlanga 

Women must claim 2016 as a Woman’s year. 60years ago South African women of all races led a march to the Union Buildings in order to say no to pass laws. To be a South African woman today means to escape rape, intimate femicide, poverty and yet it also means to be a bold leader against the worst forms of oppression. According to the example of these 1956 women it also means to reclaim our dignity, voice and visibility when we say “no” together.


The bell must ring and the voices of wailing women must be heard across this land, so that any man or boy who even thinks about raping a woman will be haunted by the wail before he commits the crime. “No” means “no,” boys need to understand that She said No, whether …

She is black

She is white

She is Indian

She is coloured

She says NO


Stanza taken from Siki Dlanga poem called She said No.



Marikana: the gold, the dust & the women

I am the woman you overlook. I cannot speak English. My husband is the one shot at Marikana. I am her. These feet are hers. The earth knows me because my feet dance until the dust speaks. Dust to dust. Dust. It’s dusk and the dust will confess what it knows.

I am the impoverished woman. I am the one who wears jewels on my ankles to make music for the soil. The soil knows my name.

The soil knows the souls it hides for it hid them in gold mines long before they were shot. It hid them and hit them with rocks of gold to enrich men in suits who have not danced for a day in their lives.

Men who don’t know the smell of dust. Men made of dust who postpone their death with shiny gold that drips with our blood, but they do not see it.

They kiss bars of platinum and bars of gold counting their wealth but that gold too is dust. First it passed through our dancing feet. Blood stained wealth. Our men are that gold we bury, that gold that is only dust to men in suits.

They kiss the gold and forget about us because we are but dust to them. They kiss the blood stained gold but it is dust for our souls live forever. Gold perishes.

The dust knows that. Men in suits worship dust with our blood as sacrifice. The dust knows. The dust will one day speak. So I make music with the soles of my feet.

I wear jewels on my feet to awake the dead from their slumber. I do not speak English, nor does this dust.

A lament for Africa 

Africa lost at least 3 million of her sons and daughters to slavery. Some African countries don’t even have a population of 3 million people today. This would have been at a time where the population of the world was not even half of the population today. Imagine, whole tribes sold into slavery, whole regions. Imagine empty houses, son-less inconsolable weeping mothers. 

Imagine the shock of grandparents who lost their grandchildren and their children in a day! Imagine the pain of betrayal, imagine the loss of leaders, chiefs or kings lost to the ocean, stripped of their royal garments and chained worse than criminals. Imagine the sadness of creation, the devastation of the land as their sons and daughters left it screaming never to return. 
No more rituals. No more family. No more languages. No more songs. And those left behind too, left unable to continue life as it once was. Africa sapped of her strength and beauty because of the cruelty of godless men who made themselves god over others. 
Imagine the wounds or the mistrust of those who lost their friends, mothers, uncles, children to the ocean? Such violence to the soul of a continent? And then on the back of that coloniasm happens to those left behind. Another kind of oppression. 

And the people weep in many tongues “senzeni na?” 
There is no love for her children but to see her children, her diamonds and precious stones as commodities. She is raped. She is called despicable names until she loathes herself, even her skin and hair.  
Colonialism ends and the sword rules. Blood spills on the African soil. Brother against brother. She despises herself even more. She longs to be anything but herself. She bleeds. The rapists are her brothers too. She bleeds. 
Where is her deliver? When does she shake off her shackles and reach out across the ocean to heal the children she long lost? When does she stand tall and wear her royal robes? When does she sing a new song? When does she lead like the Queen of Sheba once did? 
When does she silence the accuser by her virtuous actions? When does she castrate the rapist? When does she break the sword and exchange it for a shovel? Imagine her head lifted up and crowned. Imagine her healed and healing even those who once broke her? Imagine all that was taken from her twice restored! Imagine her children restored to her? Will it not be said of her “the Lord has done great things for her?” 
Who will prophecy and say? 
Psalm 126

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.   
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter then, and our tongues with shouts of joy. Then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”   

3 The LORD has done great things for us; and we are glad.

4 Restore our fortunes, LORD, like watercourses in the Negev.   

5 Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy. 

6 Though one goes along weeping, carrying the bag of seed, he will surely come back with shouts of joy, carrying his sheaves.


The pavement tea drinker

He is sitting on the sidewalk of a quiet suburb holding a white cup of tea on a saucer with his left hand, with his right hand he smokes. He is old and possibly on his tea break. He is so at ease and at peace in comparison to my big rush. I wished I was sitting next to him, drinking tea on the side of the pavement. I had to smile when I saw him with his tea and cigarette. For that brief moment I too sat on the pavement drinking tea – well, not literally. He responds to my smile by greeting me:”Hello.” He says with a toothless smile. 

I smile back, rushing and say:”Hello.”

He quickly responds: “I’m fine.” 

To my hello before I even get to it and I was walking fast I would not have had time to ask “how are you.” His eagerness to tell me that he is fine makes me smile even more. 

I shout back laughing: “Yes, I can SEE that you are fine.”

He laughs with that old smoker laugh. I leave him to his tea-smoke break.

An interesting moment 

My interesting morning encounter: A man quickly grabbed one of my heavy bags and together we chased the train. He could have caught it without me but he knew that I might miss the train because of my load. Once inside the train he told me that he wants to be a politician in his country, Malawi. He asked me for advice on how to make that a reality. And there he gave me an opportunity to be a political adviser. I had about 4 station stops to give him the advice he needed.

The moment was gold. I got off the train and wondered if one day we will meet again. It’s as though he had received something tangible, he was so focused. At first I found the question daunting. What was more is that he expected me to give him sound advice. Then I had to rise to the occasion. Deep draws unto deep. You bet that man did not walk away empty handed, he had received what he needed to hear. I left him in deep thought. 

I also left wondering what just happened.

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