Monthly Archives: March 2011

anti-BlackPeopleLoveChicken pro-Water Conservation

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I despise any stereotype linking Black people to a genetically based obsession with chicken. But walking past Chicken Licken or KFC, it’s difficult to defend my people.  It simply isn’t a party without a drumstick or a thigh. There are family politics based on which chicken piece goes to whom. I was assigned a wing till I was 13 years old, and then I was allowed a wing and a drumstick from 14 to 18. Now I typically go for a breast to assert my newly found adultness.
I recently heard a story about a man who collapsed at the doors of KFC; he was woken up with a glass of water and offered an apple. In response, he said, “If I wanted an apple, I wouldn’t come here now would I?” Add to that, a friends’ grandmother insists she breaks out in hives if she doesn’t have her pap and chicken every day and in another instance, my God Mother was describing how beautiful the wedding she had been to was. There was one problem…”No meat!” Sigh. The stories are endless and I’m running out of clear justifications for this madness.
As a semi- tree hugger (i.e. when I feel like it) and an anti-BlackPeopleLoveChickenist, I tried Meat Free Monday. It worked, mainly because pasta and bottled sauce are a dream after a long day; 12 minutes max and dinner is served. Sometimes I’d add a salad on the side but that’s another 10 minutes too long. Notice how I’m talking in past tense? Meat Free Monday has left the building… and the kitchen… and my life. I found myself rebelling; if I want to eat meat on a Monday, I will! Who’s going to tell me otherwise? Then cropped up the question how much is my chicken or beef intake really destroying the planet? Then I forgot about it one too many Mondays and it became something I had once tried.
Time for some real talk. It takes 1000 tons of water to produce 1 ton of grain. 70% of world water use is devoted to irrigation. A modest reduction in the consumption of meat, milk and eggs could cut grain use per person by 100 kilograms each and therefore reduce the use of water dramatically. In 2005, meat consumption was at 260 million tons globally. For some reason, more income means more meat consumption. An obvious solution is to stop eating meat but a more realistic solution is to moderate our consumption and shift to more grain efficient products (e.g. soy bean and tofu). If you don’t particularly care for a cow or chickens life, let me guilt trip you by pointing out that (1 in 8) or 884 million people in the world have no source of safe drinking water. In addition, here’s a badly kept secret that we keep archiving: there is no new technology that is going to produce more water.
Thank you to my neighbour and confidant Stephanie Eaton for suggesting this topic. She had an attempt at being vegan but in a sad twist of fate found out her body requires a small portion of meat for the optimum amount of protein, minerals and vitamins. Unlike her, I don’t have the strength to resist a medium to well done beef fillet; a strip of bacon after a heavy night out or a home cooked chicken stew. The documentaries and movies about how ‘meat is bad for you’ don’t faze me and I’ve seen chickens, sheep and cows being slaughtered from an early age. I roll my eyes at Peta campaigns and yawn at their demonstrations but I cannot stand the thought that we are consciously heading towards a water crisis.
Lester Brown writes one of the most enlightening books on this topic. Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble is available online to read at your own leisure but essentially: 

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What is respectable about this author is that he provides sustainable solutions. Governments and corporations are not likely to listen to the ramblings of a full time tree- hugger but you can.

I suppose I have to do as I preach, Meat Free Monday is back on and I found this South African Vegan Blog for some excellent advise on how to eat more consciously. Happy Monday folks.
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MIddle Class Problems


Blog Title: Never Trust A Womble
When you curse if Waitrose runs out of focaccia.
When you sympathised with Margaret Thatcher.
When an ill-judge tweet costs you your social stature.
You might have middle class problems.
When you feel awkward speaking to the cleaner.
When the okra you cooked has stained the steamer.
When wearing last season ruins your whole demeanour.
You might have middle class problems.
When the rosé’s gone flat ’cause you left it uncorked
When the weather’s inclement but the pug needs to be walked.
When it turned out it was the postman, and you weren’t being stalked.
You might have middle class problems.
When you have aches and pains from your last squash lesson.
When you can’t have that barbecue because you’ve run out of venison.
And when your iphone is your most treasured possession.
You might have middle class problems.
When downloading aps has given you thumb-strain
When your new suede shoes are ruined by rain
When next door’s Christmas lights cause you emotional pain
You might have middle class problems.
When your Green Tea you made has too much honey.
And selling home made jewellery online isn’t making you money
And no one at the cabaret night thinks your poems are funny.
You might have middle class problems.
Poverty and suffering’s all very well,
But an under-dressed salad is your vision of hell.
I think you have middle class problems.

I do!

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For this blog post only lets assume that I believe in the institution of marriage. Which also means I believe in a lifetime soul- mate; when two become one, the apple of my eye, someone who completes me. Indeed, for this post only, I believe in love ever after.
I have a few friends who worry that when Mr Right proposes; I will be auctioned to his family. My family will settle on thousands of Rand’s (add to that an Aston Martin and a mansion in Houghton) and that shall guarantee my services as the best wife ever! My family will be sent a receipt and there will be no refunds. The tradition of lobola as such, has become a contentious issue.
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Lobola/ mahadi/ bride price are all terms which describe the custom in which the brides family is given cows or money by the grooms family for the young lady’s hand in marriage.  I was tempted to say “in exchange for the brides hand in marriage” but I fear many will get stuck on the word “exchange” when in fact the focus is really on bringing the two families together and ensuring that the couple has a comfortable start in their marriage.
Formal negotiations regarding the appropriate “toll” that the groom should pay take place over several days. The groom’s parents as well as his uncles conduct the negotiations. Originally, lobola was paid in cows but in modern times, cows are symbolic of the amount that will be paid in money. The monetary value of at least ten cows authorises the couple to wed. As described by Zukiswa Pikoli: “Lengthy lobola negotiations constitute a respectful, yet comically animated game of cat and mouse (or in Africa we would say a game of catch between a mighty lion and a graceful gazelle). The bride’s family is thus able to determine the sincerity of the groom’s marriage proposal”.
We cannot ignore the financial factor. As my friends’ mother once said “you don’t want to start by arguing about who is going to pay the water bill or who bought the last piece of bread ”.  The groom must be able to prove that he will be able to provide a stable home for the lass. This does not mean that the bride may put her feet up and resort to her skills as a Chardonnay Queen (definition: a trophy wife who turns to the bottle for something more stimulating than waiting for your husband to return from work). More likely than not, the money agreed upon will go towards assisting the couple in establishing a new life with a positive bank balance. In addition, the other element is the gratitude from the groom and his family towards the brides’ family for raising such a gem. Although the girl was not raised solely to be a good wife he and his family must acknowledge that the combination of brains and beauty is hard to find.
For most families, it is the first time they get to connect with each other. In respect for our parents most African youths don’t bring home the guy or girl their dating until they are sure that he or she is the one. To bring home every mistake you date is an insult and an indirect confession that you’re not shy with the opposite sex.
The process is without a doubt open to abuse. If you are not able to describe what the custom means to you and your future partner, I would suggest you take some time to think about it. This custom is characterised by respect, dignity, unity and eventually joy and celebration. Stay away from marriage if you view it as an opportunity to extort money from the very people you’ll be asking to settle your water bill when things go wrong.
An exorbitantly high bride price is a commitment to slavery. You will in some way or another have to pay for that Aston Martin you eagerly received. If you look at the true nature of lobola you will recognise the principles of trust, loyalty, respect and unity that should be echoed in our society.
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Rows of Poverty

Picture by Baba- Tamana Gqubule from
Those hordes of vital statistics, those hysterical masses, those faces bereft of all humanity, those distended bodies which are like nothing on earth, that mob without beginning or end, those children who seem to belong to nobody, that laziness stretched out in the sun, that vegetative rhythm of life- Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, 34: 1965
Every now and then during my 5 year, all expenses paid for vacation at Rhodes University, I would be shaken by a course. It would shift my paradigm and change my reaction to certain future events or haunt my conscience. One of these courses was Politics 201 by Richard Pithouse. The essay question I chose to answer was “Are squatters a threat to the city”. I hadn’t thought about the essay for a while until this past week.
Not to gloat but I was at a 4 star wine estate in Kuilsrivier (Cape Town), eating to my hearts content, mixing with NGO leaders and engaging in a vibrant rule of law debate. It was nothing short of glorious until we drove into the Cape Flats for a seminar at a sexual violence centre called Thuthuzele. The essay I wrote 4 years ago once again became relevant. On the way to and from the hub of luxury and comfort we passed squatter camps that spanned for a distance further than I could fathom.
The revised and shorter version of the essay goes as follows:
Are the people living on the outskirts of the city a threat or danger to thriving towns? Squatter camps are typically located on the edge of urban spaces such Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban in South Africa. They are characterised by rundown housing, overcrowding, poverty, inadequate access to safe water and sanitation and constant insecurity. Perhaps this is made even more obvious because they are en route to cities with space, strong buildings, efficient government services and access to private healthcare, education, transport and security.
Judging from the way government and the upper-crust members of society exclude squatters, it’s easy to conclude that indeed; squatters are a danger to city dwellers. They are viewed as a disease to tourism, investment and economic growth and the general consensus is that they should be rooted out, they are a fundamental or structural problem. God forbid we see reality as it is; instead lets cloak it and divert funds to building a stadium we’ll never use again and when ‘they’ contest this- we’ll beat them!
In the course of eviction, squatters often turn to violence to use it as a defence against aggressive police behaviour, denied permits to protest or little media attention. Forced removals increase the feeling of domination and oppression over squatters. The 7 o’clock news will show footage of a possessed mob, composed of drunk or irrational men and women but never has it been reported that both privileged and underprivileged realise that there exists a need for change.
It’s easy to forget that within those endless rows of plastic, tin and wood are women who have travelled from the rural areas to live with their husbands as a family or that someone is running a crèche for young children out of their home and that there are entrepreneurs profiting from their “spaza” shops. Others live envious of city life, hoping to find employment and a better way of life. But the imposed reflection of squatters typifies them as “a sort of quintessence of evil” who lack values and ethics and are therefore a threat (Fanon 33:1965).
If you are choosing a different route to work to avoid the rows of poverty, who is investigating the truth about the lives of squatters? The Abahlali baseMjondolo (Shack Dwellers) Movement began in 2005 (. It serves to protect the needs of squatters and expose those who violate their rights. When squatters are being subjected to attempts of illegal eviction, toxic dumping and threats of violence form landlords and police, they retaliate. This is a group of people who do not retaliate because they view the government as some sort of commonwealth organisation but because they do not accept poverty as their fate.
The lack of information surrounding the needs of squatters is a reflection of city dwellers ignorance towards their plight. Squatters maybe a structural problem conflicting with the thriving personality of cities but they are certainly not a threat to the city. This perception is a manifestation of rumours, propaganda and the boundaries we’ve built for ourselves.
As Andy Warhol once commented on American popular societies in the 1960’s: familiarity breeds indifference. In a similar vein, the real threat to the city is familiarity, ignorance and ill-informed opinions that blur the true issue- a need for change.Ps. Follow me on Twitter @PhakamaniLisa

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