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19 Aug, 2018

Political Commentary

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9min440

How does one begin to commemorate a giant such as the late Veronica Sobukwe?

A woman whose contribution and selfless sacrifices have been erased and hidden from the public eye, so much so that we know her only as a wife rather than the strong, resilient and fighting activist that she truly was.

Born on July 27 in 1972, Zondeni Veronica Mathe was born in Hlobane (now known as Kwa-Zulu natal).

Her contribution to the liberation struggle began in her youth, where she was at the forefront of championing a labour dispute between nurses and hospital management. At the time she was a trainee nurse at the hospital and due to this strike she was expelled from Lovedale College, the (Fort-hare) ANCYL deployed Veronica to go and deliver a letter to Walter Sisulu informing him of the unhappy nurses and their cries. It was at this time that she and Robert Sobukwe, built a close bond, and in June of 1954 Veronica became Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe as she and Robert Sobukwe got married.

Together Again: Mma Zondeni Veronica and husband Bab’ Robert Sobukwe.

From the days of her youth, it is evident that Veronica cared about people more than she cared about herself. She continued to be the backbone and strength of the community, as she selflessly served and gave hope to the hopeless black community. Like many other unsung heroines, she carried the burden of a fatherless community on her back, she was the embodiment of courage to the women whose husbands were in prison or dead somewhere in South Africa.

Whilst being the strength of the community, she was raising her children, alone as her husband was in prison on Robben Island.

She was consistent in fighting a white-racist apartheid regime, and evidently so when she would challenge the government under the leadership of Voster and his collective, demanding the release of her husband and other prisoners. She wrote endless letters to the offices of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice, her letters were not only rejected they were ignored. She fought to keep the name and legacy of Robert Sobukwe alive.

During the TRC in 1997, she again challenged the apartheid regime, questioning the death of her husband. She believed that the government had poisoned his food and as a result caused his untimely passing. She was determined to fight for her husband.

It is heart-breaking that the names of great women such as Veronica, Albertina Sisulu, and Winnie Mandela are erased, that the history books in schools mention them as wives and mothers-that their immense contribution the liberation movement and the liberation of South Africa is downplayed.

Mma Sobukwe never turned a blind eye on the needs of the black people, and selflessly ensured that she did what she could to ensure that they were met.

Today we see her images flooding social media and the media at large, because the society we live in recognizes people when they’ve passed on. If only people could take time to truly get to understand her immense role in the struggle and fall in love with her downplayed legacy. If only young people could take upon the heavy baton she has now left behind.

Mma Sobukwe had to live in the time where she witnessed the freedom she fought for being tainted. Where young people are imprisoned and deprived of an education for fighting for equal and free education, where young girls live in fear of men in their own country and where children still live in fatherless and motherless households.

Mma Sobukwe has been consistently isolated and neglected, from the time her husband was imprisoned, to the time he was announced dead all the way to when she was announced dead, on August 15 2018 at the age of 91.

 

IMBI LENDAWO

The Baton passed over (A letter to Veronica Mathe)

Oh Mama Azania, Imbi Lendawo, when you die they flood your images on social media
but they failed to celebrate you when you were alive, they let your contribution and existence fade into thin air
They ignored your sacrifices
They feared the legacy you were to leave behind, the baton you would pass over to another generation of women

Your life teaches us to be women of courage, of fortitude, of resilience and of strength, to fight fire with fire, to fight fearless. uQinisile mbokodo

Mama Lendawo Imbi, you lived in a time where you witnessed the freedom you fought for bought at the price of gender based violence, and wrapped in patriarchy.
Mama you witnessed the freedom of your people tainted by corruption and self-seeking leaders
Mama you witnessed the black nation dying, the young people imprisoned for fighting for their educational rights, whilst rapists and criminals roam free.
They failed to put in words your immense contribution
The baton young women carry in their hands is heavy, but we will fight patriarchy, mama we will tackle, and champion gender based violence, we will expropriate the land.

May you stir up in us your courage, strength, selfless, compassionate and caring nature, to conquer, to challenge and to shake this world
We will not weep for you, we will ensure your feared legacy continues to shake tectonic plates, we will ensure the history books don’t forget your name.
Qhawekazi, siyaku bonga.- Boitumelo Thage

 


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10min1040

NEVER have we seen, at least in recent history, South African females channelling the spirit of the women in 1956 as they did yesterday with the Shutdown marches that took place throughout the country.

A noble initiative organised by ordinary women, that charged females in South Africa to shut down the country by staying away from work to march against women abuse that the country has disgustingly and embarrassingly gotten use to.

“…Only to have one of the female march marshals to say ‘Leave her, let’s go comrade’ and for the life of me I couldn’t fathom what she said….”

Whether you were in Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth, Nelspruit or even Maseru in Lesotho- all women were invited to join this historic and important occasion. The marches were delivering 24 demands to the government, including President Cyril Ramaphosa.

#Total Shutdown itinerary.

Thousands of women were part of the procession in Pretoria, which Palesa Makua was part of. It had women gather at the old Putco depot, where they walked to the Union Buildings to leave their demands at the President’s office. Makua caught up with the march in town. “The atmosphere was so intense…heavy…somewhat triggering. Not merely the physical presence but also the virtual world made sure that we knew we were not the only one,” says Makua.

“I also imagined how the older generation eyabo Mama Lilian Ngoyi and her likes felt when they marched. Even though it was for a different cause but still, the fact that women stood together side by side was absolutely moving and heartfelt.”

There was adequate police presence that helped regulate traffic. But at the arrival to the Union Buildings, a scuffle broke out between police and women protesters. Protesters refused to hand over a memorandum to Minister Naledi Pandor on behalf of the government and demanded President Cyril Ramaphosa personally receive their demands.

Makua, who is also the founder of the Her Skin Speaks exhibitions, was disheartened by the inhumane act or lack of sympathy, by some of the women marching. En route to the Union Buildings, the marching females came across a woman from Venda who was robbed. “She was promised a job interview, only for it to be a scam. She had nothing but her qualifications with her.”

The traumatised lady was crying hysterically as Makua and her friend walked past her, then approached to find out what happened. “Only to have one of the female march marshals to say ‘Leave her, let’s go comrades’ and for the life of me I couldn’t fathom what she said. I mean, we are claiming to march for women who are victims and here is one, a practical example and we’re told ‘move along comrades’ I was so livid and sad. My friend gave her money to get home and we caught up with the march.” Makua says.

“To me, that showed just how much middle class these marches have become. Ignoring the primary women who are actual victims. Even the language we use to communicate our cries, does not accommodate women and children in the townships who had no idea what actually happened today.” Among those in attendance in Pretoria, was the mother of Thembisele Yende who was murdered at Eskom in 2017.

There were schisms days prior to the march between #Totalshutdown organisers and the ANC Women’s League Young desk. The Total Shut Down march organisers made it a prerequisite for women to be draped in black with a touch of red, to which if not heeded, you wouldn’t be able to be part of the march. The ANC women’s league young desk had apparently also planned a march for August first. The ruling party then proposed the idea to march together with the momentum-gaining Total shutdown, but instead they would wear ANC doeks with all black attire. That didn’t go well with the Shutdown group, as they are an apolitical movement that had strict rules against party regalia. Also, the Total Shutdown made it clear that no men should be part of this march, which the ANCWL also disagreed with.

The ANCWL march took place in Joburg, where ladies and some gents met at Constitutional Hill and marched to the Luthuli House in the CBD and also where a moment of silence was observed.

It’s rather disappointingly childish that one, who endorses the same policies you do, is barred from marching together with you merely because they are wearing different colours. Imagine Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates supporters, arguing about team colours on a march to the Premier Soccer League offices about how the league isn’t commemorating victims of the Ellis Park massacre.

A woman, who said she was ANC’s provincial secretary of the Women’s League in KwaZulu-Natal, was marching together with the Total Shutdown women in Durban. Speaking to the eNCA’s Dasen Thathiah, she said “Yesterday we spoke to them telling them, that this is a united march against gender based violence. [They] said no political regalia is allowed, but we told them that people are from different wards and different branches, some came with their regalia on.”

The sisters of Zolile Khumalo, the Mangosuthu University Of Technology student who was allegedly murdered by her boyfriend a few months ago, were also present in Durban to support the purposeful march.

Makua says another friend of hers, who was in Joburg was prevented from getting on one of the buses that picked people up from their various stations, to the meeting point. “…Just because she wasn’t dressed in black…what the hell is that?”

Except those little big things, Makua believes the march served its purpose. “I actually hope it did. Although we were marching, there were cases of some of the women we marched with, one car got broken into and another stolen. This to me, means even when we are trying to communicate with the male figure, they are still not interested.”


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5min170

Like Moses who led the Israelites out of Egypt but never saw the promise land himself, so is the late Morgan Tsvangirai, who would’ve enjoyed casting his ballot together with millions of Zimbabweans in today’s historic election.

There was a time when the MDC leader was the only vocal critic of then president Robert Mugabe, when everyone else kept their silence in intimidation. Hearing current MDC leader, Nelson Chamisa’s bravado as he spoke after casting his vote, you get a clear picture of the stark difference between now and what took place a decade ago in that country when they had elections. “I represent the young and the new. My part is to play a positive role, in making sure that there’s peace in this country. Zimbabweans need peace, Zimbabweans need to build their nation. And I know that we’re winning this election…we have won this election, I’m here to confirm that we are ready to lead and ready to govern, we’re ready for a new Zimbabwe,” said Chamisa.

Nelson Chamisa

In the 2008 elections, Tsvangirai outpolled Mugabe by 48% to 43%. But Tsvangirai informed the electoral commission that he was withdrawing from the election after citing violence and the intimidation of MDC supporters. Threats of war, the participation of uniformed soldiers in Zanu-PF ­campaigns, the MDC’s lack of access to the state media, the banning and disruption of MDC meetings and rallies, the disenfranchisement of many voters, the barring of his party from rural areas and the electoral commission’s failure to ensure free and fair polls. Months later, the results came out that Zanu PF won the elections by 90%.

Tsvangirai said 86 people had been killed and 10 000 injured in the violence. About 10 000 homes had been destroyed, displacing 200 000 people.

Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai and Thabo Mbeki.

Today’s elections have a different feel to them. International observers have the liberty to carry out their duties without any intimidation, while local and international media is free to cover every process of the election without looking over their shoulder.

There’s novelty to these elections, as it’s the first time in more than 30 years that former president Mugabe won’t be running for presidency after being removed from power last November by the army.

The aging Mugabe addressed the media yesterday outside his house, where he vehemently said that he wouldn’t vote for his former party Zanu PF. All this because party leader Emmerson Mnangagwa, worked together with the army to remove Mugabe from the presidential seat.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa

The door of change is opened from inside. And millions of Zimbabweans will have their hands on the door knob of change, as they cast their ballot in the country’s elections today. As a South African, I truly hope this election brings needed change to the people of Zim, as Tsvangirai had always dreamt.

 


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8min270

Given that they are on the microphone and talking directly to the audience, soloists will be the ones hogging the attention. While the bassist, who has the thankless job of carrying the music, is relegated to the background.

History has placed Oliver Tambo’s crucial role in the struggle in that precarious position, while an individual is upheld as the messiah of a movement.

In a year swamped with centenary celebrations for the late Nelson Mandela, South African and USA artists plus their politicians will pay homage to the life of Tambo through a double disc album titled Voices On OR- a musical tribute to Tambo.

“To me, movements are always about more than just the person who is sort of the leader or spearhead of it,” says L.A bassist Miles Mosely.

“That person is very important, we know for the freedom fighters, that the work [Nelson] Mandela did is something that the entire world celebrates. But for me, as a bass player who is often times behind the soloist, to me studying the story of Tambo allowed me to understand that he was this foundational character. Somebody who was the kind of earth of the movement and had to explain complicated ideas to the rest of the world- I really connected with that idea. Oliver Tambo was the bass player of the freedom fighters, you know,” says Mosely, laughing.

The Upright bassists talks to Tha Bravado about his his involvement in the project. The vocalist, producer, composer and arranger was asked to be part of Voices On OR after his performance at the Cape Town Jazz Festival last year.

Mosely is an accomplished musician that has worked with Mos Def, India Arie, Lauryn Hill, Terrence Howard and also played on three tracks on Kendrick’s To Pimp A Butterfly.

He also worked on three songs on Voices On OR, one of the songs I got a chance to listen to at the Downtown Studios where the recording takes place, was Roving Ambassador, which has an unmistakable African sound that captures continent’s warmth and enthusiasm.

Miles Mosley_Photo cred Aaron Woolf Haxton

“Unfortunately my lineage was thrown in the ocean. So I don’t know what specific cultures, tribes and traditions I come from. So I try to celebrate as many as I can and I try to understand as many as I can. Some of them ring in my heart and come out on my bass or the piano, a bit truer. That feeling and that sound for that song, is something that resonates deeply with me in my heart.”

He credits this to his time at UCLA, where he studied Ethnomusicology, learning music of the world. “All music, as far as I’m concerned, starts and stops in Africa and African traditions. Everybody says that and keeps it moving. But I really wanted to make sure that it was an inescapable part of it, not something that’s to be modernised or changed.”

The double album is musically directed by renowned singer Gloria Bosman while seasoned saxophonist McCoy Mrubata is tasked with the role of producing. Among others, the project will include Jonathan Butler, Tsepo Tshola, Mandisa Dlanga, Jabu Magubane, Herbie Tsoaeli and Steve Dyer. Performances in the recording will be characterized by interpretations of musical themes based on events around OR’s life. Included will be a composition titled Tambo’s Dance – a song inspired by an event in 1963 where Tambo got so excited by the contents of a document for Operation Mayibuye, that he leapt out of his chair and did a jubilant dance.

Crossing the Limpopo with Father Tambo – blends poetry by Mongane “Wally” Serote, narration by former President Thabo Mbeki and singing by Ladysmith Black Mambazo with music accompaniment from  the Beda Hall Double Quartet Band. The band is named after Tambo’s band at Fort Hare, to which Tambo was vocalist.

Forming part of today’s Quartet is Paul Hanmer, Ayanda Sikade, Khaya Ceza, Shane Cooper, Tlale Makhene and Feya Faku.

The US is represented by R&B singer Eric Bennet, rapper Javier Starks and former US president Barack Obama who will be narrating some of Tambo’s life. The project is funded by the National Lotteries Commission and should be out in October.


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11min980

He is most probably the world’s most loved politician and equally, the most hated. The latter has been bubbling under since the dawn of South Africa’s democracy in 1994, but is rising to the brim with each generation of black young South Africans, who are detaching themselves from the legacy of Nelson Mandela.

Tata, Madiba, Father of the nation, South Africa’s founding father…and other rhetoric of that ilk, will be on the tongues of many all over the world as today, marks what would have been, Mandela’s 100th birthday.  Brand Mandela will be celebrated through different initiatives- former USA president Barack Obama delivered a moving speech yesterday at the 16th annual Nelson Mandela lecturer which was attended by nearly 10,000 people at the Wanderers Cricket stadium; DSTV has launched a pop-up channel in honour of the man. In Germany, members of the Music Is A Great Investment (MIAGI) Youth Orchestra will embrace their contrasting origins and background to spread Madiba’s legacy through song. Since yesterday until tomorrow, the Southbank Centre in London will launch a free exhibition of the life of Mandela while in America, United Nations staff and diplomats will also carry out a public service activity in Mandela’s name, all in cooperation with the New York City Mayor’s office.

It should be noted that the common thread in all these activities, is that it stems from Caucasians or organizations ran by white people.

But looking and listening to young black South Africans, July 18 is just another day on the calendar. The disgruntlement comes from how South Africa’s democracy was found and the country’s inequality today. Usually dubbed the ‘sell-out’, Mandela is criticized for not putting the needs of black people first in the negotiations that took place before the African National Congress (ANC) took over the reins.

White South Africans who engineered the draconian apartheid system, were never sufficiently chastised for their generational costly deeds.  That black people still are the most impoverished in the South Africa is telling. CEO positions are still mostly occupied by white people.  The resentment of Mandela grows with each Mandela Day, as he is blatantly professed as the saviour of South Africa.

Years ago, waiting for a train at the Tembisa train station I eavesdropped on a conversation, between women who are domestic workers in the Kempton Park area. “I really thought that, after apartheid white people would be the ones working for us now. I thought I’d be bossing them around,” said one lady, followed by a burst of laughter. What she said and the manner she said it in, has always stuck with me. Her statement talks to the expectation that black South Africans had, when they went to cast their votes on April 27 in 1994, while her laughter resembled, how black people, time and time again, find humour in the darkest situations.

But she was old enough to vote, over 20 years ago and has somehow found a way to live in the new South Africa, much like what happened during apartheid. But the current generation of black youth is gatvol. Rightfully so. Co-founder of Soweto Art and Craft Fair, Seven Colour Sundays and Dinaledi Lifestyle Market, Mbali Radebe wrote on Facebook “Post 100 reasons why black people should let go of the so called ‘Mandela legacy’” and a number of people heeded the call, although she didn’t reach the 100 mark at the time of writing this, the response was telling.

Speaking to Tha Bravado, Radebe says the Mandela legacy serves no justice to black people. “It’s a legacy built on lies, most of the struggles our people are facing today were caused by the decisions he made at the most critical time of South Africa,” the 31 year-old Radebe says.

The Fees Must Fall movement was just sign of the growing impatience, from young people who were raised by parents that long gave up on the promises that came with a new South Africa. “They have finally realised that the legacy was all just a front. No education for the black child has been free, our parents have never had better opportunities, they have always been subjected to working for the white man and this has caused difficult living conditions for  youth post 1970, will now with ‘the born frees’.”

Madiba is blamed for not taking back the land and everything else that wasn’t rightfully aquired by white people in South Africa and for being too forgiving, in the name of building a Rainbow Nation. But a transition period was necessary; black people in Mzansi at the time weren’t in control of the army, police, healthcare, food supply nor education. Civil war is no child’s play and I believe, without a doubt that it would be helpless black people who would’ve suffered most, had Mandela decided on a civil war.

“The blame is put on him because he was the leader at that time and he could have lead the ANC differently,” says Radebe. “However we could say it’s the party as a whole. The Chris Hani mission or act which I wish all young black South Africans can get a chance to watch his documentaries, about the plan to set up the military which Bab’Hani was conducting in South Africa with Mum Winnie [Mandela] under the MK structures. We were ready for retaliation if only the action was taken under orders of Bab’Hani.”

It was the wise decision not to go to war at the time, but after Mandela’s first term in 1999, a conversation around land should’ve immediately taken place. But instead, we’re watching land debates on eNCA, in 2018.

It’s as though the ruling party was underestimating people’s intelligence, by supplying RDP houses, but it’s clear that project isn’t a long-term solution as majority of black people are still stranded in poverty.

Radebe says Madiba didn’t do much for her township, Soweto. “He left nothing. But Mam’Winnie left a more powerful legacy than him. She was the backbone of the black youth, and was the reason why people knew about Mandela whilst he disappeared, she fought for us.”

Crying over spilt milk could never solve anything, but the ruling party needs to address people’s needs that they ignored for the past two decades; to quell the anger that a lot of black youth who harbour resentment for a man that has died but whose legacy will never demise, in our lifetime at least .



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