Monthly Archives: November 2011

Words, thoughts, music and art

An original Rothko- not.

The media declared the 22nd of  November 2011 as “Black Tuesday”; a campaign against the Protection of State Information Bill. Is it just another suburban middle class concern?

Political analyst Steven Friedman writes in the Business Day: “If we want to protect our freedoms, we need to make sure they are not seen as the concern of only a few”. He believes the Bill has been misconstrued as it will not hamper investigative journalism or prevent the media from reporting on corruption.

COSATU said “There is immense potential for conflicts of interest to influence decision-making and illustrates the potential breadth of the Bill’s impact on rights of access to information and the promotion of the principles of transparency and accountability”. They are also concerned with the bill’s lack of proper guidelines, possible interpretations and “problematic” definitions.

The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory said South African’s should be worried because the Bill trumps any legislation inconsistent with it. Furthermore “The Secrecy Bill provides that a classified record must be declassified before it is released. If it is released prior to declassification both the person releasing and the person receiving the information may be subject to criminal prosecution.”

The South African National Editors’ Forum views the bill as a danger to democracy, and a threat to their rights. We had hoped MPs would hear the clamour at the gates of the legislature, but they chose to stop their ears.”

Various civil society groups, media houses, opposition parties and even church representatives are enraged. They are of the view that the bill will serve to protect corrupt leaders and bad governance.

I watched half of the American Music Awards. I reached breaking point and went to bed when Enrique Iglesious tried to con us into thinking he was still relevant with his good looks and a choir.  Anyways, this is not completely unrelated to the topic. The bill may have been passed. It may serve to cover up indiscretions (Don’t you love that word?  It’s so polite). It may require media houses to start budgeting for more frequent meetings with lawyers. It may suggest that democracy is something we aspire towards yet never fully achieve.

However, Osip Mandlestam, Soviet poet and literary critic still wrote poetry under Stalin’s totalitarian regime. Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and Vusi Mahlasela still sang their hearts out against the cruel apartheid regime. Dada and other surrealists continued to paint the sad aftermath of World War I. Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o wrote even in detention for raising political consciousness in 1977. We still have words, thoughts, music, art in all its forms and of course, Enrique. The internet alone has multipied available forums for frank discussion and revelations. The Bill does not even begin to threaten freedom of speech… in my opinion.

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For the Love of H2O

Last Monday I fell asleep at my desk after lunch. I mean like a proper snooze fest interrupted by the two people I share an office with. That’s got nothing to do with this blog post but I found it amusing. I blame it on the heat!

There is no doubt it’s summer, which makes hydration uber important. Luckily South Africa has great quality tap water. We have an entire ministry dedicated to making sure our water resources are well taken care of. If you don’t like the taste, there are inexpensive filters available.

This leaves me a little boggled about people who insist on buying bottled water. Evian spelt backwards is Naive. Rumour has it the company started by filling bottles with tap water and selling it to naive consumers. I’m sure it’s not true but I have no proof that any bottled water comes from some fancy, untouched and pristine spring. But, I do know that South Africa’s bottled water industry is coining R1.7billion a year. That being said, if you’re travelling out of the country or are in an unfamiliar region, you shouldn’t assume that the water has been through a million tests before reaching the tap. According to water.org nearly ONE BILLION people have no access to safe drinking water.

For clarity, what does it mean when a bottle is labelled “spring water”? After a little rain or snow the water collects underground and rises to the surface of the earth and forms a spring. It goes through a natural filtering process and is different from tap water because it contains no chemicals. Sometimes, a borehole is drilled to extract the water from the earth’s surface.

On the other hand, mineral water is collected from hot springs containing high concentrations of dissolved salts. Purifying the water removes some of the necessary minerals. There is debate whether the water is healthy or not, claims that people who only drink mineral water live longer and that sometimes the water can be too mineral rich. Anyways, drink water, it’s good for you.

  1. 70 % of an adult’s body is made up of water
  2. Drinking too much water can lead to water intoxication. (Water intoxication occurs when water dilutes the sodium level in the bloodstream and causes an imbalance of water in the brain.)
  3. While the daily recommended amount of water is eight cups per day, not all of this water must be consumed in the liquid form. Nearly every food or drink item provides some water to the body.
  4. Of all the water on the earth, humans can used only about three tenths of a percent of this water. Such usable water is found in groundwater aquifers, rivers, and freshwater lakes
  5. By the time a person feels thirsty, his or her body has lost over 1% of its total water amount.

– All about water.org

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Motswako

Host of Motswako- the mix, Penny Lebyane

Last night was my first television debut as a blogger. It was… strange seeing as I would much rather be asking the questions than answering them. Whilst watching the show, all I could think was: “my nose looks really big!”

In future, I hope to be a little bit more prepared, it really isn’t easy answering what this blog is about. In the first few posts I had a clearer idea but if you ask me now, you might receive a long pause and blank stare. Then you get questions like “How do you define South Africa’s middle class?” At which point I refer them to an African Development Bank paper which states that Africa’s middle class is made up of those earning an average of R 30,423/ $ 3900 and above per annum- completely controversial!  Then people get intense and ask: “What are you trying to achieve? What is the overall aim?” and I get all flustered like “What am I trying to achieve?” as if I know what I’m going to say.

As much as this blog is about phones that do everything but make breakfast or the dullness of not having an electric gate, I really want to use that to draw attention to the more pertinent stuff. The stuff that makes me thankful for living a privileged life and aware that it is by no means a God given right. I have to continue working hard to live above the poverty line and even harder to help those that I can.

Whilst on set I took advantage of the opportunity and turned the recorder on Penny Lebyane. She is the host of the popular talk show Motswako on SABC 2. Here is how the interview went, she seems to share the same sentiments:

Phakamani: What really irks you about South African middle class?

Penny: Anyone living in the dream that the whole of South Africa is a big city. There’s actually rural parts of this country! Quite frankly, 80% of it is rural and people don’t realise that so their concerns are based on “Oh the potholes!” –There are people who just need water… sometimes when you have a little high platform try to speak on behalf of those people because they need more voices.

Phakamani: What would you say is your contribution? Is it being thoughtful about it…

Penny: My contribution is, (as much as I live in the city) to try and look at things from a point of view of someone who is not in my situation. It makes me very appreciative of what I have but then at the same time it makes me not to be arrogant. Because you’ve got everything you just think you want more, more, more! I want to say actually I’m grateful for what I have now. It’s just about thinking about that but it’s actually getting in my car and going to those places and contributing to the betterment of those areas. Whether it’s through talking to young kids in a school to say it’s good to live out of a village but don’t forget the village that you come from.

Phakamani: What is the difference between you and the people who lack the ability to think that way?

Penny: We can get lost in the lights, in the city, in “my life”, “my this and that”. I try to remind myself that I come from that rural background. Not to just define myself as a city girl and that’s it but to embrace all elements of my background: the rural and the township parts and the fact that now I’ve got the opportunity to be exposed to what middle class lifestyle is but ultimately that’s not what I am… it’s something to remind yourself every day.