Category Archives: Politics

36 days till the South African 2014 general elections

36 days till elections but not till the end of bad governance.

“Persistent poverty often breeds other kinds of social dysfunctions, like gangs, narcotrafficking, and general feeling of insecurity on the part of ordinary people”- F. Fukuyama

I am fraught with worry and my political confidence is battered- who the hell am I going to vote for on the 7th of May 2014?


Tagged , , , , ,

Kenny Kunene’s open letter to Jacob Zuma

Herewith the open letter by Kenny Kunene to President Jacob Zuma, as posted in today’s The Star newspaper.

Dear President Jacob Zuma…

I’m writing this because I’ve never been more disappointed with the ANC you lead. I was once your fervent supporter, I attended some of those night vigils during your trials, and, like many, I believed you would be the force for change the youth and the poor desperately need in our country. Like many others, I donated to your cause when I was called on, and allowed my facilities to be used for ANC and Youth League meetings, sometimes for unusual meetings where your political comeback was planned.

You may wonder what qualifies me to make any kind of political comment. As everyone knows, I’m just a socialite and a businessman, but it’s also no secret I am a hobbyhorse for politicians to ride whenever they want to criticise “crass materialism” and the decay of morals. It’s true, I like to spend, and I’m not an angel, but unlike politicians I’m not spending taxpayers’ money. My real point is that, as a socialite and a businessman, I meet many people, including politicians. When they speak to your face, Mr President, they tell you your imperial clothes are very stylish. When they talk to me, and feel they are safe from your army of spies, most of them admit that you, the emperor, have no clothes.

The Gupta issue alone should be the last straw for many South Africans. But the extent of how much the Gupta family controls you, and by implication this country, has not even begun to be understood. It’s amazing how terrified most people in the ANC are to speak about this reality, because they truly fear you. Even if you’re not in government, tenders are used to inspire fear among people of influence. Thank God my livelihood is not dependent on tenders. I’ll save you the trouble of trying to find out if I have any tenders so you can cut me out of them. I don’t have any.

You show no loyalty even to those who kept you out of prison. After the Shaiks and Julius Malema, the Guptas must know that you can drop them faster than they could drop your name. In your quest for self-preservation, you have become heartless.

The reason I supported you and your campaign is because you were marketed to us as someone who would unify us and get rid of the politics of fear, but today there’s more fear and more division in the ANC than ever before. In public you smile and laugh, but in truth you behave like a monster, a tyrant who will target perceived enemies ruthlessly, and because of that fear few dare to speak openly. We’d have had yet another Cabinet reshuffle if your wings had not been clipped a little in Mangaung.

Of course, I am not so naive as to blame everything regrettable that happens in the ANC on you. But in my home province, the Free State, the premier, Ace Magushule, imitates your behaviour and even seems to be trying to outdo you in being entangled with the Guptas. He learnt it from you. He thinks its okay to blow R40-million (or R140-million, others say) on a website. It’s not a great website either, by the way. When even your Kenny Kunenes start thinking a guy is wasting money shamelessly, you should know how bad it is. Of course, we’d all like to know where that money really went.

This is not what the ANC is or should be. We thought it was bad enough with the Shaiks – but who could have predicted your, and therefore our, wholesale nationalisation by the Guptas?

Even your immediate community, your neighbours in Nkandla, have to walk past your ridiculously overpriced palace donated to you by a once-unsuspecting public, knowing how you have your own private clinic they cannot use and their children must play in the dusty streets among the stones, while your compound has an astroturf sports field that cost the taxpayer R3.5-million and costs R100 000 a month to maintain. How is fake grass a part of security upgrades?

Everyone knows the Public Protector’s report will find damning evidence of what went on there – but something must be said now already, in case you find a way to shut her up too.

It’s no wonder the ANC lost the vote in Nkandla. If the people who know you best, the place you are from and where you occupy tribal land, do not trust you enough to vote for you, why should the rest of us?

This ANC is no longer the ANC of John Langa Dube, Oliver Tambo and other illustrious names. I’m also getting tired of hearing about how the ANC is bigger than any individual.

There are those who are stubbornly loyal to the ANC, as if it’s some kind of marriage, who keep the faith that some day the party will return to its roots. But even if they’re my friends, I can’t enthusiastically join in with the declarations of those who say they will die in coffins wrapped in ANC colours, no matter what, as my former business partner Gayton McKenzie once said to me.

Mr President, I don’t want to be one of those who tell you in fear that you have clothes on, when it’s obvious you are completely exposed. I know the dogs will be set on me for saying this, but you have been naked for longer than most of us were willing to admit. And you’re now stripping the ANC of the last shred of its integrity. The world laughs at us.

I love the ANC, or what it’s supposed to be, but I don’t love your ANC. For those of us who care, the question now is, as Vladimir Lenin asked: “What is to be done?”

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Apartheid is over. Deal with it- a message from the DA

I shall keep my opinions to myself on this occasion except to say: it’s on days like this that I miss Julius Sello Malema

apartheid is over deal with it_DA

Tagged , ,

God bless the Obama’s

In Obama’s own words: “Four more years”. What a triumph.

Four more years, Barack and Michelle Obama

Tagged ,

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.

Tagged , , ,

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

Tagged , , , , ,


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


Tagged , , , , , , , ,

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

Tagged , , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , ,