If The Teacher Only Knew!

During my school days, the teachers used to beat us like crazy. Many kids dropped out of school because of corporal punishment. They called this truancy. It was a system inherited from the apartheid era. Teachers ruled by fear.

I used to have panic attacks every Sunday evening on the thought of Mr Mabuza alone, the Maths teacher because Maths was not my strength.

I in particular remember this other day when we were doing oral reading. This is where you were required to stand in front of the class and read a story assigned to you by the teacher.

A number of children didn’t know how to read. These were particularly the older kids of the class! Who were known to have repeated every grade. The teacher would then ask, what’s wrong with you? Are you brain damaged? Are you retarded? and the class would laugh at them, HARD.

Those were hostile and dark days, If you would have asked the teachers if they knew about ADHD, ADD, Autism or Dyslexia they would in fact beat you for thinking that you are smarter than them.

Thinking about all of this now I feel very sorry for those poor kids. They are adults now, I’ve seen one of them some couple of weeks back when I went to Nelspruit my home town. He used to sit with me in class and I would deliberately let him copy my work. We never spoke about me letting him copy my work, it was something we both knew I had to do because we both knew his struggle with learning!

This guy is now running one of the biggest shops and butcheries in the township, he also has a tent business, where he hires out tents. He is indeed a very successful business person. A thousand folds better than the teacher who used to make fun of him.

And I’m thinking but this guy couldn’t read in class in fact I’m pretty sure to this day he still can’t read because he dropped out of school because of his struggle to read!

This write up is to say I’m sorry for laughing when the teachers made fun of our friends. THE TEACHERS DIDN’T KNOW THAT THEY DIDN’T KNOW!

“It’s all in your head.”

Seeing the picture of Rashied Staggie, the (former) leader of the notorious gang “The Hard Livings” from the Cape, reminds me of one of the ferocious killer and criminal we’ve ever had in Pienaar, the township I grew up in.

His name was Skara,

You see, as a kid I was tall and my name????… Let’s just say I was bullied a lot because of my height and name as a kid and so, I tended to be a loner.

Skara on the other hand was one of the most feared criminals in my township, he spent half his life in prison. He was particularly known for his violent temper. You really didn’t want to cross paths with him!

Skara was my neighbour, and the day he was stoned to death by the whole community I was there! Before he died he asked for water from me. And everyone was astonished to hear him mention my name and asked for water because Skara didn’t have any friends and didn’t talk to anyone!

This though was not an accident or came as a surprise to me because I only and only I, was privy to a side of Skara not everyone knew. His softer side.

Skara grew up a tall child like me, and the name “Skara” was a nickname from jail, so he identified with me but didn’t say anything. And me being me as a kid didn’t figure out why the notorious thug liked me so much!

He sure was thinking that I was gonna turn out like him. Full of extreme anger and hate!

Skara didn’t figure out one thing though. That it’s not about how you look or your name, even where you come from or your sexual orientation or what people think of you. It’s about your mindset! It’s all in your brain!

I realised this from an early age!

Am I A Monkey or A Man?

This is my respond to Penny Sparrow a real estate agent woman from KwaZulu Natal (KZN) who shared a post on Facebook comparing holiday makers that flock to beaches in KZN on New Year’s Day to monkeys.

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When apartheid died, the millions who firmly believed in it didn’t die with it, in fact they are still here with us hiding behind pseudonyms secretly pushing the apartheid agenda everywhere from schools to corporate to public spaces. I’ve been called all sorts of racial names by racists like ‪#‎PennySparrow‬ and I’m just glad that finally there’s a face

Asking for a bland forgiveness

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No madam, apology not accepted madam. Not only because it is loaded with sarcasm instead of sincerity but also because your initial statement was truthful to your thoughts. For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.

Your initial post is not a bad joke, or a distasteful utterance, it is the honest truth of how you really think and feel about black people. The problem here is that you are not the only person who sees us as stupid monkeys who deserve nothing better in life. White supremacists like yourself keep raping this forgiveness that we as black people are extending to your kind. We are expected to “move on already” because it doesn’t matter anymore, when there are people like you who will not gracefully share a public beach? If you’re disgusted by the presence of black people in a public beach, how repulsed and revolted are you when you have to spend days on end selling a house to them? Oh! Wait, you wouldn’t sell a house to a monkey!

We live in a society where we have to scrape our way to get basic things like education, housing and medical care. We work in industries that try their best to exclude us. Our intelligence and leadership skills will not be acknowledged without government legislature like BEE. We continue to be sidelined and denied opportunities because we are black. We have a generational poverty inheritance to undo while still trying to obtain economic freedom and accumulate our own wealth that we will leave for future generations.

This whilst racism and fascism is blocking our every endeavor. It is extremely hard for us to live everyday hoping and working hard to make this country a better place , letting go of the justified resentment and grudges that we should be holding. We extend a hand, we are civil and welcoming to white people,we give you the benefit of doubt by not assuming that not all white people are racist. Then comes you, insensitive white supremacist racist, in the nature of the monkey you call us, you swing feces at us! How long must we forgive the same people who insist on poking the same wound we are trying to heal?
So no madam, your apology doesn’t mean anything to us, because it means nothing to you either. Apology not accepted. In isiXhosa we say uyasinyela straight.

A way forward

The only reason that so many people are shocked by comments made by this Penny Sparrow is because of the fact that as South Africans we pretend as if all is well, things are not okay in this country, racism is still rife in this country, majority of black people live in extreme poverty, yet we pretend as if everything is okay. We pretend that black and whites live together in harmony, no it is not like that and we all know it. Deep down, behind closed doors we all have issues that we still have to deal with. In the dawn of democracy in 94 we pretended that we like each other, but we knew it that it wasn’t the case.

We pretend under the so called Rainbow Nation. South Africans racism is alive and we all now it, but we pretend as if it doesn’t exist because we don’t want to look bad in the eyes of the world. We pretend that it doesn’t exist because we don’t want to upset the spirit of Mandela and his reconciliation. Stuff that, let us face issue and deal with them head on, because this pretending will never take us anywhere as a nation. So stop acting so surprised when the likes of Penny Sparrow and co reminds us of the brutal truth. South Africa is still far from being racism free, unless we wake-up, stop pretending and do something about it.

My views on the recent Xenophic attacks in South Africa.

Ghana must go

I strongly feel that the country should prioritize these issues of xenophobia because the fact that it has died down “for now” it does not mean that it is over. A lot of blame has been put on the Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini for his utterances that “all the foreigners must pack their bags and leave South Africa”. I feel he should have addressed it differently.

This issue is not a South African issue but an African one. If you follow African Politics and history you will remember that in 1957, after Ghana gained independence, many Nigerians began migrating to Ghana. Kwame Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party (CPP) had maintained a liberal immigration policy because of his pan-Africanist ideology and his desire for Ghana to be in the forefront of African unity. For example, in the 1960 census, immigrants particularly Nigerians made up 12 percent of the Ghanaian population of 8.4 million people. The relationship became sour when the influx of immigrants began to shift the demographics of the country, which made people unhappy. The most widespread reason for discontent was economic competition and, also, some Ghanaians blamed immigrants for a wave of crime that occurred in the late 1960s. Thus, under former Ghanaian president Kofi Busia’s Aliens Compliance Order of 1969, Nigerians and other immigrants were forced to leave Ghana. The order required that all foreigners in the country must be in possession of residence permit if they did not already have it or to obtain it within a two-week period. Kofi Busia expelled 20,000 to 500,000 Nigerians in a time period of 14 days to 3 months. The order angered some West African governments, especially Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Mali, Niger, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso whose citizens were mostly affected by the expulsion. The 1969 Order also affected Ghana’s image in mainland Africa and the rest of the world. In 1983, the Nigerian government expelled 2 million Africans out of Nigeria. Ghana was facing severe drought and economic problems, so many Ghanaians were welcomed in the 1970s by Nigeria, which was in the midst of an oil boom and in need of cheap labor.

In early 1983, as the oil boom faded and Nigerians needed a group to blame for their economic and social woes, the government enacted the Expulsion Order and up to 700,000 Ghanaians were expelled from Nigeria. When the Ghanaians were leaving Nigeria, most of them hurriedly packed their belongings in a big silk bag with red and blue stripes. The Nigerians, either by affection or ridicule, began to call this bag “Ghana must go”. This name gained a fast currency in Ghana and up until today, that bag is still identified by that name. fancy-ghana-must-go-bags

Another xenophobic spot in the sub-region is Guinea. Guineans are known for their solidarity against foreigners notably Liberians and Sierra Leoneans who fled to Conakry after the breakout of war in their countries. In Cote D’Ivoire, Burkinabe immigrants have come under increasing attacks from locals. For years, The Gambian authorities have maintained straight regimes against encouraging Liberian refugees into the country.

So as much as these recent xenophobic attacks are attributed to the Zulu king Zwelithini, he in fact kindled something that was there for a very long time. I only think he should have been wise enough and addressed the right people ( the government in this case). I love you South Africa.

It’s been 55 years since the Sharpeville Massacre!

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For some reason some members of our society loose interest when one starts talking about how they were persecuted by the system of shame, I don’t know maybe it’s because their forefathers were directly involved on that system or they simple think you are playing the race card again. Mind you whenever there are commemorations to remember our fallen heroes, they don’t attend such events, in-fact they would even change the TV channel broadcasting such event and simply choose to call the day “braai day” !! anyways let me briefly narrate this story without delving into too much detail.

The Sharpeville Massacre happened 55 years ago today  (21 March 1960), at the police station in the township of Sharpeville not far from where I’m sitting writing this blog now. South African police opened fire on the crowd of about 5000 people who were peacefully demonstrating against the carrying of dumbpasses (pass books) killing 69 people. The government relaxed the pass laws after that.

Change of heart

Being influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, Mandela thought he could fight the apartheid system through peaceful means, through negotiations, through reasoning with the apartheid principals, but the Sharpeville Massacre was a watershed moment and a turning point in his life. He was forced to go underground, take up arms and fight on.

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Last year I was based in an archive institution putting Johannesburg into Wikipedia. Believe it or not I know the history of almost all the buildings of Johannesburg including who commissioned their construction, who designed them, the original plans, maps and I’ve also seen records of how much each labourer was paid.

But I still don’t know on top of which building this picture was taken. I know it’s inside Johannesburg. I understand it was the last day Mandela left the country to exile.

Ruth Mompati, who is a very well respected politician today was Mandela’s secretary at the time. I think she must know where this picture was taken. In-fact I understand she was the only person (besides Tambo) who knew that Mandela was leaving South Africa that evening.

A week after this picture was taken Mandela appeared on a BBC interview declaring war against the apartheid state. He was officially a terrorist to my girlfriends parents and a freedom fighter my parents.

(hash tag the colour of the skin of my girlfriend is an opposite to that of mine)
I love you South Afrika.

I had first hand experience of how Antisemitism feels like. Thanks to my height !

I’m tall….However I’ve never measured myself or have any interest in doing so in future but people I meet say I’m 6.6 or 6.7. Most of the time people don’t see me but they see my height first before they can see me. This was so true today when I met this elderly couple while queuing to pay for my lunch at the supermarket. They were behind me and exclaimed “gees, you are tall”. Then they went on and on with the usual narrative that I have to deal with everyday from complete strangers like:

Do you know you are this tall?

What’s your height, It must be cold up there !

Tell me is it from your mom side or your dad side?

Who’s the tallest in your family?

Do you play basket ball? ( as if all tall people need to play basket ball, worse I don’t like basket ball)

And to tell you the truth I don’t know how one can answer these questions because they are weird and uncomfortable. Well the man then said something I certainly didn’t anticipate.. He said ” if you were Jew in an extermination camp, you were certainly gonna be one of the first people to be executed” . And I thought to myself isn’t that rude !! I mean I know I’m black and tall but Isn’t that some kind of antisemitism !!.

Other experiences…

At one point I had an interview at a restaurant and in the middle of the interview I excused myself and went to the bathroom, when I returned back the interviewer said God you are tall. Why didn’t you tell me that you were this tall ? and I replied you didn’t tell me the prerequisite of the Job entails that I need to be short, he laughed (I didn’t), he never hired me.

All this is nothing compared to when I got a scholarship to study in Indonesia. Nothing prepared me for what was coming my way.

I didn’t choose to go to Bali which is a tourist Island because I knew that I really won’t experience the real Indonesian lifestyle and culture. I knew that if I wanted to achieve such I needed to be with the real Indonesian people on the ground so that I can learn as much as I can about the culture and the Bahasa language since English is not an official language of Indonesia.  I chose a college in Sumatera. The first six months was hell. The food was different. There weather was different, There were earthquakes ( something which we only saw on TV in my part of the world) and one more thing I was the only black and the tallest person than all the people in that Island. The people have never seen a black person and especially a tall one like me. So you can Imagine how that must have been like….. I digress

This experience with the couple brought me close to experience how hard it was for Jews, Gays and Lesbians, Gypsies, Disabled people in Nazi Germany. Worse how hard they still have to deal with the discrimination to this day !!!.

“People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite… Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never explained.”…. Nelson Mandela

My experience on the release of Nelson Mandela from prison.

Yesterday we marked the release of one of the greatest statesman in the world. To most people he was an icon, to others he was God. Most of the white section in our society viewed him as the biggest terrorist and a devil while most if not all blacks viewed him as a freedom fighter.

I was 10 years old. My mom, my sister and I were gathered around our small black and white TV at home. There was great anticipation and tension in the air. All of a sudden for the first time I saw this man I’ve always heard about since I was a baby. No one knew how he looked like, for showing his picture was a crime carrying the death sentence.

Behold, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela !!

As we were watching him on TV coming out of prison it was as if he was coming to us. There was great jubilation from every house hold in my village. People were singing, dancing and shouting songs of freedom . It was amazing how all our freedom was tied in one individual.

I had mixed emotions as I helplessly watched my mom weeping uncontrollable at the sight of Mandela. I did not comprehend the gravity of the situation at the time. My mom hugged and kissed both my sister and I and she exclaimed “It’s a watershed moment we are coming far”.

The impact the release of Mandela had on my family was great !

A few years before the release of Mandela we just lost an uncle who was abducted and killed by the apartheid security forces. Although through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) his killers came forward and admitted to his murder. They however refused to show us where his remains were because his death involved higher ranking government officials who refused to come to the TRC.

I digress…

It was not until I saw Mandela in person at Chris Hani’s funeral 36 months later that I grasped how important his release was. How important it was to forgive.

I love you South Afrika.