Monthly Archives: February 2011


Like any good parent, my mom didn’t allow me to drink coffee. After a trip to Graaf- Reinet with my father, I returned a 5-year-old coffee- drinker. A distant relative/ coffee dealer prepared it for me and all the other kids on the block. It was served after a bowl of Kellogg’s Cornflakes. At just the right temperature, I drank the percolated brew. Since then, I instinctively flare my nostrils at anyone offering me tea. Something about the texture of coffee granules, the perfect measure of sugar, the accurate method in pouring hot water and a splash of milk says: tea and hot chocolate are for pansies! Of course, as my good chum Kate Chauncey has pointed out, the coffee granules are the gateway drug to plunger coffee and gradually, frequent visits to Vida, Illy, Seattle and Homeground.

According to Café Bar: in 850AD an Ethiopian goat herder noticed his goats acting particularly lively and playful after feeding on the berries from a bush that was later to be known as an Arabica bush. He tried the berries himself and had a similarly uplifting experience. Thanks to this fellow, more than 2 billion cups of coffee are gulped everyday globally.

However, for coffee farmers, my warm and fuzzy memories of early coffee addiction mean nothing. The café culture that has embedded itself in many societies barely affords them food for their families. Black Gold (the movie) explains that “Ethiopia is the largest producer of coffee in Africa. Over 15 million people in Ethiopia depend on coffee for their survival” and yet the international price of coffee is established in New York and London.

The price of coffee, like many other primary goods, is at an all time low. Many farmers who depend on coffee for income are in debt or have been forced to abandon their farms or switch to alternative crops. If you want to put a face to United Nations statistics, coffee farmers and harvesters are some of the people “living under a dollar a day” (R7.08 today). This is despite the fact that since 1990, coffee retail sales have increased from $30 billion to $80 billion a year! Kraft, Nestle, Proctor&Gamble and Sara Lee are the four multinational corporations that dominate the world coffee market. I can just imagine their board members shrugging their shoulders and expressing fake sympathy to any coffee price negotiators, saying: “I wish we could do more but we cannot intervene in the market. Perhaps we can drop the farmers a few bags of wheat from the sky”.

In any international forum, Africa is always the poor, black, snotty, sad, scantily dressed kid. This is no different for African countries at the World Trade Organisation (WTO former GATT), which is the “roundtable” for formalising and negotiating trade agreements. It is simply another forum enabling wealthier economies, countries or corporations to impose heavy prices at the expense of poorer countries like Ethiopia. This is a contributing factor to the low price of coffee. Negotiations for higher prices are placed at the bottom of the priority list.

At the core of this blog is a wish for ordinary people to be aware of the on-going injustices that afflict countless Africans. I urge everyone who starts his or her day with a cup of coffee to watch Black Gold and Google “coffee price crisis” for more in- depth information.

Besides having an opinion about the matter, what else can you do? Start buying and asking for Fairtrade coffee, which ensures producers get fair payment. Some of the onus is on consumers to demand a product that is not easily available. Visit Fairtrade Label South Africa for information on Fairtrade products available in South Africa.

Ps. Follow me on Twitter @PhakamaniLisa


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Cellular Telephones

I got my first cellular telephone when I was 14. It felt like the gods had “made it rain”. I could choose any monophonic ringtone, change covers and I quickly made it to level 4 of Snake. It bulged out of my front jean pocket but I was not ashamed to show anyone that I had a Nokia 5110. Not to mention the privacy! I could send a text without my mother lingering in the kitchen to hear whom I’m talking to on the landline (she still does it).

A few years later my friends and I were in awe of the colour screen, MP3 ringtone, camera and a bigger memory that could save more than 15 messages. Following my final high school year I could browse the web, download music, record videos, email, MMS and IM. Keep up because if you have a child who has a cellphone, they are using all these features and applications!

This middle class concern is about violating student privacy and raiding their cellphones for pornography and sexts (sexy texts). The technological improvements I’ve mentioned where the start of some rotten behaviour. Generation Y has taken playing “doctor- doctor” /”mommy and daddy” a little too far and in the process played a large part in distributing child pornography. Etv’s investigative programme 3rd Degree caused quite a stir after exposing teen sexting. I wondered if mom’s and dad’s where not listening in on their children’s conversations anymore?

Results from a survey conducted by Cosmo Girl and The National Campaign: prevent teen and unplanned pregnancy says 22% of teens (13- 19yrs) have sent or posted nude pictures or videos of themselves. In addition, 39% have sent sexually suggestive messages. Texts, email and instant messaging are even more prevalent than sexually suggestive images. Most teens and young adults who send sexually suggestive content are sending it to boyfriends/ girlfriends whilst others say they are sending such material to those they want to ‘’hook up’’ with or to someone they only know online.

Let me make it clear, this means that potential employers, university recruiters, teachers, parents, friends and strangers may all be able to find pictures or videos of you that have been posted on the internet, even after you delete them. I barely make a new friend without checking out their Facebook profile first. It is impossible to control what your 15 year old pimply boyfriend is posting about you. Even if you have second thoughts and delete a topless photo, someone has already copied that photo and posted it elsewhere. So? Raid those phones!

Last year the Sowetan reported: “A group of 13-year-old girls were caught sipping vodka and watching a pornographic video on a cellphone – allegedly of one of the girls having sex with her boyfriend” at Port Elizabeth’s Collegiate High School. Those students are free to sue the school for invading their privacy and violating freedom of speech rights. But the Bill of Rights also speaks of the “limitation of rights”. I am no lawyer but unsupervised hours on the net and those cute little Blackberry’s may risk your child’s mental health as well as spiritual, moral or social development.

Thank you to my Aunt Funeka for suggesting this topic. The one question I couldn’t address is “who has set the tone for this?” It’s hard to imagine myself as a teen sending nude pic’s to a stranger. The fear of God, Mom and teacher were always too high. I would love to hear your comments. Until this has been tackled, my niece and nephew can look forward to 5110’s bulging out their front jean pockets.

Ps. Follow me on Twitter @PhakamaniLisa

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Soldier of Love

I was going to write about the state of the nation address but the First Lady’s’ outfit upset me too much. Instead, I’ve been inspired by a tweet from Sibongile Mafu: “So who’s going to break it to the adults? Valentine’s Day doesn’t exist”.

I don’t want to subscribe to Valentine’s Day. I think it’s sick that I expect a gift from a special someone even though I have no plans to return the favour. I don’t want to give anymore thought to wearing something red and white and I’m disappointed at myself for the teen years I spent being bleak over not getting a long stem rose. This might be a good time to confess that in my 11th grade I orchestrated a flower delivery from a ‘secret admirer’. They were actually from my mom; I had handpicked each rose and watched the florist assemble them in clear cellophane.

In aid of trying to understand this annual middle class illness, I’ve researched the origins. In short: Valentine was a Roman priest who defied Emperor Claudius II by marrying soldiers to their sweethearts in secret. Claudius believed wives and family were a distraction to the soldiers and when he found out, he sentenced Valentine to death. The date of Valentines official death is reported as 14 February 270 AD. Yawn, still doesn’t explain the spectacle. I’m looking for the idiot who romanticized this heartbreaking death. Hallmark… is there something you would like to say for yourself?

In the spirit of red hearts, Swiss chocolate, dinner for two and a cheesy proposal here is a list of things to fall in love with about South Africa:

  • Our national anthem: “Uit die blou van onse hemel, uit die diepte van ons see. La la la la la shim sha dom do do ta ta la la!”
  • Sport: Rugby, Soccer and Cricket supporters are merging. Wearing your Bafana Bafana T- shirt to a Springbok game is not a political statement.
  • Political Heroes: Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Chris Hani, Steve Biko, Joe Slovo and so many unsung heroes.
  • Dorpies: My favorite dorpie is Bathurst in the Eastern Cape. Blink and you miss it. Their claim to fame is a giant pineapple and you wouldn’t want to miss it!
  • Braai/ Tshisanyama: The family that braai’s together, stays together.
  • Our sense of humor: This blog is proof that South African’s have a great sense of humor. My slating of the political scene in “Effective Representation” has been well received.

So in response to @sboshmafu, let’s spare the adults. Expectations are high. Even lonely hearts have made plans to rent out The Notebook for the umpteenth time. Personally, I’ll be having a romantic TV dinner for one and thinking of all South African’s around the world who desperately regret having left.

Ps. find me on Twitter @phakamanilisa

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Effective Representation

I haven’t registered to vote in the 2011 municipal elections. There- I’ve said it!

Here’s the thing: I haven’t registered which means I can’t vote. If I don’t vote, it means I don’t have a say in the running of the municipal area I live in. And what really irks me is that the statistics will count me as another apathetic member of civil society. Dear Jacob Zuma and the Independent Electoral Commission, am I apathetic if I don’t have a party which represents my interests?

In order of preference…

Cope: I think we can close the coffin; the sight and stench of a dead corps is unbearable. Even the media is bored of reporting on the he said- he said fiasco.  Mosiuoa “Terror” Lekota we appreciate your 8 years in prison in aid of a free South Africa. Your work in the United Democratic Front as well as the ANC remains admirable. The same sentiments go towards Mbhazima Shilowa and Lynda Odendaal. Many of us had hoped Cope was going to bring together a fragmented opposition atmosphere. Alas, they have followed the protocol of many break- away parties: how to fail before the next elections.

DA: To be honest, I have nothing against the Democratic Alliance. They are doing their part in demanding decisive action from President Jacob Zuma. DA policy places job creation and economic growth as a top priority. They have built a reputation around transparency and accountability and let’s face it, Helen Zilla is a Cougar (without a cub). However, even in politics, I like the idea of women representing women. Nkosazana Dlamini- Zuma (Minster of Home Affairs), Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya (Former Minister of Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities) and Edna Molewa (Former Minister of Social Development) are a few names that come to mind as an example of this. I do understand that women in politics have the constant pressure of balancing the masculine rules of the game whilst representing and transforming gender rights and equality.

ANC: Lunch is at 13.00, where’s my food parcel? No seriously, if there’s a cheese platter, some cranberry tea, BBQ chicken wings and some roasted vegetables tossed in rosemary and olive oil- I might just change my mind. Firstly, I was crushed when Mbeki was ousted from power after the Polokwane conference in 2008. I watched Mbeki transfer his powers through a handshake to a dancer/ singer wearing a brown leather jacket (Ntate Zuma). Secondly, I hate the Socialist façade. The fraud, bribery, abolishment of the Scorpions and wasteful expenditure on conferences, cars and luxury hotels kind of gives you away guys! Lastly, thank you to Gwede Mantashe for clearing up that eating sushi off a model is “politically incorrect”. I think a lot of us weren’t sure, I personally thought of hosting a R700 000 party and inviting some businessmen and socialites to eat sushi off my chest.

Is it worth debating and unpacking the relevance of the Inkatha Freedom Party, Independent Democrats, Freedom Front Plus and other such registered political parties? Ag shame, I guess we can be proud that we have a multi-party political system. In the meanwhile, I’m looking for a party that will represent my interests.

PS. The State of the Nation Address is taking place tonight at 7pm

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Middle what?

I have to credit my dear friend Gugulethu Mhlungu for introducing me to this term. It has made me so aware of South Africa’s quick acclimatisation to ‘la dolce vita’ since the end of apartheid. The 60 year long divide between races seems to be a footnote in the daily lives of middle class South African’s.

Perhaps I should begin by defining the term in the context of the blog. It is a satirical look at the worries that plague South Africans once they are in a higher income bracket and change social habits. Things, which are really not important, become imperative. My first entry is about the shock I experienced when a friend of mine didn’t know who Oprah is. It’s only upon reflection that I realised this was a middle class concern (MCC) and why should I care so much when in fact Oprah doesn’t know me!

I hope this will inspire you to reflect on your own concerns (middle class or not) and view them in the context of high poverty rates, the spread of diseases, poor infrastructure, healthcare systems and education. As well as high unemployment rates and a welfare regime that runs parallel to neo- liberal practices lining the pockets of business tycoons who see nothing wrong with mixing corporate and politics.

I also expect anybody reading this blog to send in his or her own MCCs- if you don’t mind being the butt of a joke.

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You don’t know Oprah?

My French classmate and friend Victor Brunier has never heard of Oprah. As somebody who doesn’t miss an episode and cried when she announced her retirement as talk show host, you can imagine the shock!

The question though is why should I be shocked? Not knowing who Oprah is a middle class concern. After all she is a female- made phenomenon, famous for her give- away shows, judgmental interviews and a dodgy friendship with best friend Gayle King (doesn’t stop me from watching).

Victor can name all 53 African states, share a fact or two about each and he has recently completed his masters in International Relations. The fact that he doesn’t know Oprah is in retrospect quite meaningless. Surely global politics overrides cultural imperialism; I certainly wouldn’t have been shocked if he didn’t know SABC 3’s talk show host Noleen Maholwana-Sangqu. By the way she’s talking about Joburg fashion week tonight…or I’ll wait for Top Billing to cover it.

The point is, I’m blinded by the CNN effect; blasted with images of troubled child stars and possessed by new fashion trends. It’s a relief to know that the rest of the world does not think International Relations refers to Angelina, Sandra Bullock and Madonna adopting children from “Africa”. In some respects it makes me love the French for being French. They refuse to conform or change to global standards and are extremely protective of their culture.

We need to adopt a more ‘vivre l’Afrique’ attitude particularly with the changes going on in North Africa. Please join the Facebook page in support of a democratic revolution in Egypt:  ‘A Virtual “March of Millions” in Solidarity with Egyptian Protestors’

Ps. Victor is currently making his way from “Durban to Damascus” and you can follow his French written blog about his travels.

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