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Is this a catfish moment?

I’ve been waiting for a Catfish/ Punk’d moment but everything is as it is. I’m at the right place at the right time and feeling deserving of it. When you are your own biggest critic it is a rather strange feeling- like losing weight and forgetting to let go of the big girl mentality.

A few years ago I was researching the possible ways authoritarian regimes could emerge into democracies. My point of reference was North Africa during the Arab Spring (2011). For the most current updates, I followed blogs, Facebook pages and my Twitter feed looked like an activists’ timeline. But- what I loved the most was that behind each tweet or post was a lived experience and in curating those stories, I could have a 360 view of a place I had never been and people I’ve never met. Needless to say, I never finished my paper on authoritarianism but I did sharpen my social media skills and knowledge.

What a thrill! To then  join a global company, take advice from the best communications experts and have leeway to establish South African best practice in online content marketing. An experience second to none. Immeasurably thankful to FleishmanHillard for the opportunity and laissez-faire leadership style. And a shout out to some of South Africa’s most loved brands for letting me try- succeed- oopsie- and succeed again.

Today I woke up and I was LoveLife’s Marketing and Social Media Manager. Not “woke up” as in I hadn’t worked for it but as in I had always planned to heal the world and today I made the transition from feeling overwhelmed to being part of the change needed.

So here it goes: I dedicate the next few years to telling authentic stories about South Africa’s young, unemployed, uneducated and vunerable and facilitating their transformation into responsible, energetic and innovative future leaders.


A road trip from Harare, Zimbabwe to Vilanculos in Mozambique is all fun and games until you discover the civil war that ended in the early 90s is not really over.

The cheer and merriment came to an abrupt end when an armed soldier told us we’d have to spend the night in Mxungu because the village was surrounded by ex- rebels. Speaking in Portuguese all we could gather from his speech and hand signals was “in Mxungu… person shot…sleep here.”

Seven hours into our trip we were unloading the 15 passenger combi to spend the night at a truck stop. We slept with one eye open anxiously waiting for break of dawn when the soldiers would escort us out of the area in a convoy with commercial trucks and private vehicles.

Mounds of research later, we now know that Mozambican politics are a betrayal to the countries breathtaking sea view’s and sunset’s. Opposition party Renamo are fighting against the ruling liberation party, Frelimo, for electoral changes that will aid political and economic fairness.

On 21 June of this year tensions heightened when Renamo forces attacked and killed three truck drivers (number not confirmed) making it unsafe for drivers to use the only highway linking Mozambique’s northern and southern regions. We drove past the harrowing scene- a giant burnt truck that had been carrying canned beverages.

A curfew has been imposed on the area and there is heavy military presence since.

In addition, coal and gas investor’s have temporarily come to the rescue by paying Renamo forces $18 million for “peace”- small change in relation to the projected $5 billion per year mining sector.

And the ruling party’s position? Frelimo staged nationwide protests against the attacks on June 22nd. But political fragmentation continues in a time of major economic growth.

Mozambican concerns

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Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

And so the year 2013 began…


Even more beautiful than I remember

Even more beautiful than I remember

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

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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.

December body

My body conditioning routine which only works if I stick to it!

Without sounding too snooty, one of the privileges of this middle class life is that you get to choose what you put into your body. December is just around the corner and you either want to be bikini or summer frock ready. Who wants to be carrying extra pounds in this heat? The days of comfort eating should be left behind with the winter chill.

I declare, on 26 October 2011 that I, Phakamani Sivuyile Lisa am not at my best weight. The pot belly is ever present and my thighs need a break from each other. There’s no one to blame except myself because just last night I had 2 jacket potatoes with sour cream and lamb curry for dinner. As if a light salad and grilled chicken breast wouldn’t have sufficed.

A few changes need to be made. Firstly, I need to incorporate some exercise into my life. I have a little body conditioning routine which I adopt and abandon at random. Today, I pledge to be consistent. Nothing worse than somebody who insists they eat celery sticks and gym frequently but remains the same size.

Secondly, I need to let go of my Chocolate Cornetto McFlurry obsession. It started with the KFC Chocolate Brownie Avalalanche. It’s made up of chocolate sauce, 4 mini brownies and soft serve ice cream. For this I blame photographer and fellow blogger Mapodile Mkhabela. Then another friend of mine, Amy Criticos (designer and childhood friend) introduced me to the world of chocolate sauce, chocolate chips, bits of sugar cone and soft serve under the family of McFlurry’s. You can imagine the irreparable damage such indulgence has.

Did Kate Moss say “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”? She clearly hasn’t had 800g sweet and sticky pork ribs in a while but then again, she’s not trying to drop 5kg’s in the next month. So, no more Woolies meals or take-away for lunch. It’s back to whole wheat bread, avo, lettuce, peppadews and pastrami. Yogurt and juice in the morning and tonight I’m doing sushi for dinner.

This is not a prescribed diet. I’m just trying to lessen my salt, sugar and carb (carbohydrate) in take without completely removing them. I have a serious love affair with the spud. However, I’ve watched enough health shows to know that water, vegetables, fruit and exercise are crucial for healthy living. Here’s to my December body and lowering the risks of getting diabetes, blood pressure, cancer, heart disease, depression and gout amongst other things.

Kids Rule!

Hi folks,

As part of my job, I’ve been watching videos which have been collected throughout Eastern and Southern Africa.

A lady from Zimbabwe said she went to a rural school in the Masvingo province and the kids were desperate for something to play with. They provided the school with balls for soccer and netball- school attendance has since increased. It just struck me how much of a difference a ball can make when you’re a young-un.

Children all over the continent are having the burden of looking after their parents due to HIV and AIDS, some have been orphaned and are passed from one relative to the next. Some are the sole supporters of the household. I’ll admit that the media often neglects the good stories that come out of Africa. But we can’t ignore that millions of kids are survivors of a very cruel reality. Many kids are exposed to rape, abuse, disease, hunger and other social issues related to poverty. I would love to take them away from all of these nasty conditions and place them in Neverland.

Until such a time, I’ll be nagging all family, friends and friends of friends to donate any toys, clothes or books for Christmas.I’ll be collecting goodies every Saturday (6/13/20/27) of November 2011 in Johannesburg. Saving one starfish at a time type-stuff.

Any help with time or donations are welcome. I’ll start with a few teddy bears and my copy of James and the Giant Peach.
Many thanks x
Ps. Please also suggest any prefered childrens homes which are deserving of your kind gesture


Cartoon a Day

My spelling has gone from shocking to atrocious. I realised this when I spelt champagne like champaign. It was partly autocorrects fault but it took a second look before I realised something in the name of bubbly was horribly wrong. I’m not even half way through this blog post and I’m already debating the use of ‘spelled’ and ‘spelt’.

I used to be really good at this spelling thing- above average even but now where’s and were’s get lost in autocorrect. I drop important words in my speech. I speak in direct translations from my vernacular and I add Twitter hashtags like “death by” “smh” and “that awkward moment when”. I’m not sure I really know what awkward means anymore. I run out of vocabulary and say things like “well that’s a higaldy- pigaldy” instead of “I see you’ve gotten yourself into a spot of bother”. I use ellipses without discretion…

Years of studying the English language and literature, poetry collections by Keats, Mills and Wordsworth and it all lies in the cold hands of autocorrect as well as red and green zig- zags. Could it be the end of my writing career? What will future generations say about our grammar?

There is a website dedicated to these language faux pas called Damn You Autocorrect. We need an adult spelling bee. Stat!

Light + Love

I’ve become near obsessed with my orchids. My first one was rescued from the trash. My mom pronounced it dead after it had lost its flowers. Two months later, it’s taller, stronger and more beautiful than ever! I have been documenting its growth on my celli and realise that with a little light, love and pampering: joy comes in the morning.

I’m stuck in pansy-mode (definition 2) after the Coldplay concert and repeatedly singing “..the light’s will guide you home, and ignite your soul, and I will try to fix you”. Sometime in the next week will be the return of a more serious post 😐

Happy Friday

“We need other people, not in order to stay alive, but to be fully human: to be affectionate, funny, playful, to be generous. How genuine is my capacity for love if there is no one for me to love, to laugh with, to treat tenderly, to be trusted by? I can love an idea or a vision, but I can’t throw my arms around it. Unless there is someone to whom I can give my gifts, in whose hands I can entrust my dreams, who will forgive me my deformities, my aberrations, to whom I can speak the unspeakable, then I am not human, I am a thing, a gadget that works but has no ashes”

City of Gold

Over the weekend, I got in touch with the city of Johannesburg. It’s safe to say there’s plenty of gold.
After living in a small town for 5 years, I thought I would have to come back to Joburg and conform to the club scene or preferably stay at home. Going to clubs brings tears to my eyes: the only pair of heels I have hurts. I can’t jerk, dougie or pop and lock. I certainly don’t have R60 to pay for a drink and the attitude of club- goers stinks! Guys will push in front of you and girls will stare you down for chipped nail polish (-it was just that one time).
So my friend Steph and I went on a little search for something more hippie- chic and less 6- inch heels.
We paid a visit to the much talked about NeighbourGoods Market on Juta Street. There were cakes that looked like edible ornaments, sweet and savoury crepes, Spanish paella, homemade lemonade, flavoured brews, organic vegetables, fresh flowers, vintage clothing and I had a refreshing pineapple mojito that tickled my taste buds.   

Rochelle’s edible ornaments

Assortment of fresh vegetables

Goat cheese samples and we are all about sampling!

Just a hop and a skip from the market is 70 Juta Street design hub. Historically, Braamfontein used to be part of Joburgs thriving business district. Over the years it lost its popularity as companies moved north. The area has recently been revamped and is shedding its seedy reputation. Totally worth the visit if you’re looking to define what South African design is about.

70 Juta Street. Photograph from

Over the Nelson Mandela Bridge is Newtown. It’s the location of Museum Africa where we went for a book launch and reading session. Chicago author, Yorli Huff shared a few passages from her memoir titled ‘Veil of Victory’. Yorli went from a difficult childhood to working undercover as a Special Drug Agent. Parallel to this, was a dysfunctional marriage as well as racism and discrimination in the work place.  Everyday has been a challenge to triumph over adversity. The book has been described in many ways but to me this is a story about how the scorn and strength of a woman is something to be feared and admired. 

Available at Xarra Books @Constitution Hill
Music duo at the book launch

Steph and sculpture outside the Market Theatre
To round off the day, we went to our usual chill spot on 4th Avenue Parkhurst. It often feels like I’m in happyville when I go there. People walking their dogs, young couples showing off their first kid and old couples rekindling their love. A few weeks ago we went to a restaurant in the area that doesn’t take cards. We were short of R20 and the manager allowed us to settle the bill the next day- no fuss! I love this city 🙂
4th Avenue Parkhurst