“Project… South Africa, a reconciled nation” if you squint

The quote in my heading comes from a comment by DA Leader Mmusi Miamane in the Daily Maverik . This column is his response to racism which reared it’s ugly head over the festive season in a way we hadn’t seen for a long time. A spark had taken flame and a lot of people said things they shouldn’t have and either regret because their has been a backlash or regret because they probably said something they shouldn’t have in a way they didn’t exactly mean. But once you say racist things in South Africa it’s very difficult to wash yourself clean again.

Unfortunately, instances like these make all my efforts to highlight how great South Africans are, and how well things are going from a race perspective seem like twaddle. To quote Onkgepotse JJ Tabane in his recent Daily Maverick piece “how could [they]” these people who decided to spew hateful and derogatory things over social media have made South Africans take several steps back and look at each other as “us” and “them” again. The debate carries on and it seems like our legal system has to step in to try and make people behave. I really thought most of us were past this. I know there are still racists but I really hoped they would keep quietly to themselves so that us normal South Africans could carry on without influence.

I suppose the one bitter sweet thing that comes from this is that we clearly have to realise that there are still a lot of conversations which have to happen around this. We may have to re-have some conversations.

As Mmusi alludes to we have to also recognise that the inequality is still rife and that stems from historic racial divides. We have to try and help. So, I will do what I always do. I hereby ask people to please help each other, expect more from your government and frankly, just find your humanity.

Good luck to all true South African citizens

 

 

Great South African Grub: A braai

Braais are not unique to South Africa. I know America and the UK have barbeques and cook outs and I’ve had a version of a braai in Germany.

The thing about a South African braai is that it one of the things we can agree on as a nation. Everyone braais. Everyone has their family traditions and everyone has their favourite braai meat. But ultimately it comes down to the most important thing: Spending time under a South African sky enjoying the great weather and the great company of your friends and family. We love it so much we even now celebrate Heritage Day as Braai Day as instigated by Jan Braai

Jan Braai will have you believe you can braai almost anything but I prefer the simple tradition of:

  • Worse
  • Steak
  • Fresh Garden Salad
  • Garlic Bread
  • Pap n Sous
  • Braaibroodjies

(We’re South African. We can have two to three starches at any meal.)

These are all served as the main meal but at some point during a braai you’ve also snacked on crisps and large slices of watermelon. By the time the meat is served you’ve also had a lot of time to drink some ice cold alcoholic beverages. South African men love their beer, I like G&T though I have also discovered Beergaritas which are the most fun you can have in your own back yard.

If your host is a good one you’re starting your meal at around sunset and so you can all sit quietly and watch the country say goodnight in the most spectacular fashion while feeling blissfully content in that moment.

Braais are not eat an run affairs and so you stick around for more beers and probably ice cream and chocolate sauce for dessert. A few hours later you’re still visiting and by now you’ve relished in more watermelon and the quick guests have made light work of the leftover wors (that’s why you’ve got to have it handy)

Eventually wives drag husbands away and sleeping kids are bundled into the backseat. You’ve had a great time and you’re so pleased that your cousin has invited you around to his place for the same affair next week.

 

Parkrun South Africa

I know that Parkruns are nothing new but as I plan my New Year’s Day run I thought it worth writing a bit out this great ‘activity’.

It was thanks to Discovery Vitality that I came across Parkrun . This is an international movement which encourages people to get out of bed on a Saturday morning and have some fun outdoors. Participation in outdoor activities are becoming a bit of an anomaly in most households so it’s great that someone thought of a way to encourage people to get out there – and for free for that matter.

Parkruns tick quite a lot of boxes for me: Outdoors, physical activity, quality time with my dogs and husband, an opportunity to compete in a non-threatening environment because you’re ultimately only competing with yourself, taking part in a social activity – Parkrunners are friendly and Vitality points. What more could you ask for really. Yes, we don’t have a mountain or ocean but there’s nothing I can do about that.

In South Africa Parkrunning is most important for two reasons: We have a real obesity problem and historically a lot of people can’t afford to exercise or have a safe place to exercise for free (jogging in your neighbourhood alone not always the best idea). Parkrun now gives people access to safe venues and because you’re timed you can measure your progress. You can also run/walk at your own pace so no matter how unfit you are you can start (at the proverbial) “somewhere”. Physical activity has always been a chore for me but now I look forward to the weekly run and my future self thanks me for it.

The second reason is more obvious in that it brings South Africans together.  It’s great to see the same people week on week and know that they have gotten out of bed for the same reasons you have. It’s easy enough to have chat with them and so you can make new friends. Being a volunteer really open up potential for this as you spend quite a lot of time together setting up. Also It’s become popular to Parkrun no matter where you are over the weekend and so Parkrun has become a way for people to explore each other’s cities. JHB is infamous for having ‘nothing’ to do and ‘nowhere’ to go other than a mall so it’s nice to show off a bit of our natural beauty and social tendencies to people from other parts of the country. Jo’burgers are not all money driven snobs.

I hope that 2016 will see several more Parkruns starting up as it becomes more and more popular. Some runs now easily have 1000 runners a week and I suspect these numbers will only grow as people realise that Parkrun is also Parkfun (sorry, I couldn’t help myself).

So, this is my new thing, it could be your new thing. Try it out.

 

 

The Good and Bad bundle

The last few weeks in SA have not left me feeling particularly optimistic and that’s why I have reserved the urge to comment on so many things that have been going on the in my country recently. However, today I feel considerably better and I thought I should do a very brief retrospective on news stories which have caught my attention recently.

Before I do that though I think it’s important to say that although a highly passionate person I do try and see things from all perspectives. I did a year of Philosophy at university and am actually qualified as a Journalist so I fully appreciate the need to be measured and empathetic. Below is not a news report though and should not be seen as such. This is my opinion on matters based on how I have interpreted issues based on the information I was exposed to at the time.

#feesmustfall :

This topic makes my head spin a bit as there are so many ways to look at this. I could have dissected this in an entire blog post but in the spirit of a retrospective I will be pointed. Firstly, I believe education should be affordable. It is sad that qualifying people can not study because they do not have the funds. Yes, they can get loans but there seem to be issues and irregularities there so this might not be the optimum Plan B to pay for your studies.

However, I do believe that there should be qualifying criteria for people who want to study. You can not simply be “entitled” to a tertiary education. There are worldwide expectations for someone who has a degree and it aggravates me that people do not want to work in order to obtain a degree. The benchmark for educational standards in SA has become too low and it’s disgraceful.  We are sending young people into the world ill prepared of what the working world should be expecting of them. I do think that a lot of these people are often the cause for protests of this nature and want to cause ructions because they believe in this entitlement. That is not acceptable. These people should be taken to task.

Ultimately #feesmustfall was a victory for students but it does concern me that now young people think that violent and disruptive activities will get you what you want. They need to learn that there are alternatives to such behaviour and at the end of the day you should still need to study for your qualification.

The disenchanted youth:

This is not a defined issue or headline but it’s something that I am recognising as having an ever increasing presence. There are so many talented young people in South Africa who simply have not seen the dreams of a free and fair state realised. These are often the people who have just been left on the sidelines and they don’t know what their options are. These are the kind of people who respond to radicalism and will believe whoever seems to be making progress on their behalf. The government missed the boat completely on these young people and it’s sad and will have negative consequences over and above a few statues being pulled down if things carry on.

Oscar Pistorious:

It makes me ill even thinking about him and all the drama around his conviction(s). This is why I write about it here though because people should really ask themselves why they are so interested in such a sad situation. While the brutal killing of a person makes me sad its people’s obsession with this killing that makes me sick. This trial gets all the attention because he is (in)famous but what about all the other cases which often just don’t get resolved because our justice system is so bogged down. While people suddenly pretend that they care enough about Reeva to want “justice” for her and her family I do wish we would care enough about all victims to demand the same justice for them. Most people are following this case for all the wrong reasons.

Heineke Meyer:

I’m so glad he’s gone .He was bad for SA rugby because he does not seem to have the ability to analyse his opponents or even his own players. He had access to some of the best talent in rugby and let South African’s and the players down.

Strike season:

Yes, that’s a recognised term in South Africa. I have no problem with people taking action within the confines of the law, but unprotected strikes are unacceptable. Even worse is that often strikes lead to the damage of property and willing workers getting victimised and hurt. That is not acceptable. Damaging the infrastructure your company requires to provide the service that provides your salary is not logical. Unions need to start reflecting on what they tell their members and made responsible decisions regarding true economic matters.

The water crises:

We’re clearly in a drought and so it’s no surprise that municipalities have put water restrictions in place. However, some questions were raised around whether failing infrastructure was part of the problem. I have no evidence to that extent so I wouldn’t carry on with that. However, what I have evidence of is people who still blatantly waste water. Why are companies washing their parking lots in a drought? Why does my neighbour still water his perpetually green lawn? Why do you taps still leak? People need to also take responsibility for themselves and realise that a group effort could curb a lot of waste. One encouraging this was how many people took to Twitter to report burst pipes and in JHB the municipality did respond quickly as far as I could tell – may the trend far outlast the water crises. 

Three finance ministers in four days:

This is the topic of the moment. From the second I heard about Nene being replaced I have had the following Kimya Dawson’s lyrics stuck in my head “And we’ll pray, all damn day, every day, that all this shit our president has got us in will go away”.  It seemed apt at the time.

For me, replacing Nene was one of the hardest moments to face as a South African optimist. It really seemed that this move threatened our country and our democracy because it became very evident that the President could do powerful things without parliamentary approval.

Panic was clearly an option a lot of people chose. My husband is an economist and was suddenly getting questions from friends about what they should do with their investments. It wasn’t panic without reason. We lost a lot of money in a few days and prospects for next year looked bleak. I chose not to panic because I believed this was a storm we could weather albeit it uncomfortably.

But then something else happened. South Africans lived up to their true potential and rallied against this sudden move. It happened so quickly that full analysis will be hard for anyone (but I’m sure there are a few Masters students out there who are going to try) but the point is that is happened on an unprecedented scale across all sectors even across all political movements. South Africa was unhappy .

And so comes Sunday night when the President countered with a startling move “new guy out, older guy in”. Of course this was also a surprise but a welcome one. This does not magically change things but it does stem the negative consequences. More importantly though it shows that the South African democracy still means something. My personal opinion is that “the investors” knocked on the Presidents door and just said “no”. Other people think that it was a politically motivated decision because popularity is important after all. Whatever the reason something positive came from something which made all of us very distressed.

That’s as brief as I could make this retrospective. I’ve covered some important issues and some less important issues but these are things which I have noticed in the country recently. There are many more things that have happened though so expect a second instalment of the retrospective soon. If anyone wonders where my optimism stems from (other than the fact that I think South African’s a good people who will strive for a great future) it comes from the fact that I enjoy living in interesting times. The Chinese and Terry Pratchette interpreted this as a curse but I think it’s an opportunity and I feel privileged to live in these times.

A weekend in Jozi

A lot of people complain that there is “nothing” fun to do in Jo’burg as far as extracurricular weekend activities go. It’s a metropolitan area with no mountain to climb and no sea to swim in. People seem to think that all we have to offer are blinged out malls and frustrated drivers.

Well, I hate malls but that doesn’t mean my only other option is to twiddle my thumbs at home and binge on series. I’m happy to say there is a lot to do in Jo’burg over a weekend and here are some of my favourites

  • Saturday Parkrun in Delta Park. I like Delta Park because it’s free, close enough to home, I can take my dogs and the park users are really friendly. It also helps that I get Vitality points. There are many other Parkruns in JHB and surrounds so find one that’s close to you and join the fun. It’s worth getting up early for.
  • Brunch at a cosy restaurant. So many eating places in Jo’burg have amazing food and great atmosphere and so dinning is a firm favourite past time for many Jo’burgers. Brunch is one of my favourite indulgences so of course I go out to find the perfect breakfast lunch combination out on the town. Post a Parkrun, Husband and I often end up at Craft because there food is good, their service friendly and they allow dogs. I couldn’t really ask for more. Other favourite brunch places are Salvation Café, Knead, and Grand Central. They are all slightly different but they all have a relaxed atmosphere and good food in common. These are all quite close to home so while these are my top choices I am sure there are lots of other amazing places in Jo’burg. Check out your neighbourhood and find “your” spot and do some people watching over delicious food. My mouth is watering just thinking about Brunch.
  • Visit a food market for brunch or lunch or to top up on some artisanal food products.  Maboneng has a great food market on a Sunday. Everything is stuff your face on the spot delicious. The Sheds is also a fun place to get some food and they’re open till late over weekends so you can even stop for a drink and listen to some live music. Neighbourgoods in Braamfontein is also a popular option on a Saturday but do note that it’s always very busy.
  • Sundowners is not something I do often but it’s a good option for a Friday or Saturday night. Neighbourgoods has a nice roof bar and The Factory also has a roof with a view and a craft beer bar. Churchills is a good bar to relax at on a Friday after work. They offer a cigar lounge feel while you sip expensive drinks and enjoy their free harvest table fare.
  • Maboneng is a great place to eat but also shop for local art and clothing. It’s an eclectic place in the heart of the city. There is a lot to do in the precinct. Check it out.
  • Picnics under an African Sky are a lot of fun. Packs some snacks and head out to Emmerentia or Delta Park for a relaxed afternoon. Both parks are also great to take the dogs and yourself for some exercise over the weekend.
  • The Wilds or Melville Koppies are other good places to get some walking done in the city.
  • Of course, braaing under a South African sky is the ultimate pleasure of living in Africa. So set up the braai, invite some friends over and just have a jolly good time.
  • Braais are great but dinners out are also sumptuous. Early dinners at Hundsons on a Sunday make me really happy as they play good rock music and their burgers are absolutely delicious. We went to The Supper Club at Coobs recently and that was pure indulgence. It’s pricey but worth it a 100 times over. The food is scrumptious and the service amazing. The wine fabulous. If you don’t have the budget for Supper Club pop into Coobs. I haven’t been there* but the food also looked great and I’m sure the good service spills out into there as well. Other great options for dinner are Croft & Co and Stelle , both in Parkview. There are sooooo many places to choose from – find your favourite.
  • If partying is more your thing go down to Braamfontein on a weekend evening. Here the bars and mini clubs are spilling over with fabulous people and you’re bound to have a good time.
  • The Theatres also show a variety of great shows. Check them out and choose something to your liking

So, that’s my list. Yes, I like to eat a lot, it’s totally a pastime because going to a pub or restaurant gets  you out the house and you can indulge in some sunshine, good service, great food and great company. At least I also exercise in the outdoors. What do you like doing in JHB? (If you even mention an Expo I’ll delete you

Update* I have now been to Coobs and the food and atmosphere there is also really good. The Supper Club lifts their menu off the Coobs menu and both are equally good. Go to Coobs for casual dinning, Supper Club for a special occasion.

We’re clearly in a hard place

Between the country’s youth feeling disenchanted and the president saying he will put his political party ahead of the country he swore to serve it’s a hard time to feel anything but distressed about the state of the nation. The president’s spin doctor says his speech was taken out of context. Of course he would say that. I just hope he realises what damage his speech did to his party because the disenchanted youth would have heard this. The disenchanted youth are also scary because they think disruption and violence are the answer to their problems but heck, they are currently taking power away from this self-centred president. So, let them do what they need to do for now.

In the meantime, it seems as if the rest of South Africa will sit without much recourse. We have a lot we could potentially strike about but who can afford to take time off work or risk being beaten up by police. Also, most suffering South African’s are old and simply don’t have it in them anymore. They fought a hard battle to gain “freedom” and while they technically achieved this a lot of suffering has not been alleviated. As POWER FM put it “I did not struggle to be poor”. Struggle refers to “the struggle” and I’m sure people who were part of that struggle thought that the government would be their saviours and present them with real opportunity to grow wealth. I believe a lot of poor people would work if they just had jobs to go to. 21 years later, enter a  youth who really have no options – so much for government promises – hence the disenchantment. Hence I don’t blame them for acting out – I which there was a different way for them to do it but apparently there isn’t a fast enough answer so they resort to bad behaviour.

Also, lack of options find a lot of young girls falling pregnant because at least they can get child care grants which will help their families. Never mind the child they are brining into this world who will also have no options. But if you’re hungry now and a baby will bring you money now who can really expect you to think of the future because somewhere in your teenage mind you think you’ll have a job in your adult life – your kids will be fine. But there are not enough jobs. It’s a vicious circle.

So, what is the solution? What can normal South African’s do. Us who mean well and want to work hard and want to help those around us. The vote only comes round every five years so let’s not hold our breath for a change in government or at least a better leadership within the same government.

The answer is not an easy one and I don’t think I have it in it’s entirety. All I know is that I have to try and help those closest to me and talk to them about these things. I need to be kind where I can. More importantly though is that I can not accept what it happening. I need to find ways to hold my leaders accountable. I need to tell them that a 35% pass rate is too low as it just sets children up for failure in the working world. In between universities and colleagues have to deal with 18 year old who are almost illiterate. I feel sorry for these institutions. They’re doing what they can but then student’s wonder what universities spend their money on. I should always about bad service and compliment good service. If I can offer a needy person a good word or a free English lesson I should do that. I should be part of the solution instead of just complaining. These are just some of the small things I can do. It’s a constant struggle but if I can encourage people to expect more from themselves and expect more from others then we will rise to a higher standard. We all have to strive for this together though. We all have a way we can contribute. It’s also not a quick solution but here we are – we have to do something.

“African Sky Blue, will you bless my life” – Johnny Clegg

So, I was brave enough to make the pilgrimage to Oppikoppi this year. I say brave because spending three days in all that dust surrounded by 20 000 festival revellers is not for the faint hearted. I go because I love music and want to support South African music. I go because I like hanging out with my friends and marvelling at the people who attend these events. While there though you have to deal with scorching hot days, freezing nights, dust (all the dust), sleeping in a tent and porterloos (bleg). It’s awesome and trying all at the same time.

When deciding to go to Oppi you need to ask yourself “Which bands on the line-up makes all the dust worth it?”. It’s a fair question because you’re not going to travel to Oppi if you only like hip-hop and house, it’s a rock festival after all. They try and cater for wider tastes by hosting DJ sessions at the Red Bull stage but ultimately it’s for the rockers. My answer to this question this year was firmly Johnny Clegg. I have always loved his music. I loved his music before I knew what a activist/struggle musician was. I didn’t care – I liked his music. I was raised with rock and alternative music so it makes sense. As I learned more about him I liked him even more, and obviously his music resonated with me on a different level because I so appreciate what he did for the country. So, off I go to Oppi to watch Johnny Clegg.

I had been for the first time 2 years ago. We went to watch Deftones which literally involved: arriving early afternoon, visiting with some friends, eating a pizza, watching (and loving) Deftones, catching a fitful nights sleep, and buggering off at 4 the next morning. It was a very short stay but I immediately realised there was one notable difference to this Oppi than the one in 2013: there were a lot more black people. Another thing I noticed which I didn’t quite register last time is that most of the white people are Afrikaans. Historically not a good mix.

For years Oppi was a “white” festival. Not by design but because of the past and because “white” rock music had not ever been widely distributed into the black culture. It’s one of those things. Different people like different music. But, in the same way that a lot of white people now prefer R&B and Hip-hop and Kwaito or whatever, more black people have been exposed to rock and have decided that they prefer that. Of course I’m stereotyping but I do so with fair accuracy.

Therefore, it stands to reason that more and more black people will want to come to Oppi – it’s where their music is at. What overjoys me is that the integration seems to have happened almost naturally. There was no evidence I saw of “us” and “them”, there was no”get away from me” or “I’m scared you’re going to punch me in the face because you don’t think I belong.”

Yes, people are different and some people still stereotype but generally everyone seemed to get along. Everyone was there for their own reasons and people didn’t just pick a fight based on their difference (not that I saw or heard of anyway). It was great. And, with time there will be more and more balance between the revellers cultures and races and we’ll all just be South Africans partying together to enjoy the same music. That is the dream.

Johnny Clegg spoke about this briefly during his show. He said that in the past there were “black festivals” and “white festivals”. He admired that Oppi was heading in a different direction. It is notable and it’s great.

Johnny Clegg was one of the original multicultural rock stars and he is a legend in his own time. I cried throughout most of his set because as an adult is this screwed up time my country is going through he reminds me that we can get through things again with the right attitude and an open heart. African Sky Blue resonated with me because as a South African I would appreciate some Devine intervention right about now because this country with it’s beautiful, diverse and exuberant people deserve something better. As everyday citizens we’ve come such a long way and to have our politicians and political spin drive us apart just isn’t right anymore. It has to end and I think turning to our blue skies for a blessing isn’t unreasonable. We are a religious nation afterall.

I know I can’t just pray for help and all will be better but my point is really that we need to recognize that we all share the blue sky above our Africa and if we allow ourselves to be united good things will happen. We have to work towards it and sort things out. There is a very long way to go but together I know we can do it.

I’ve said so many times that us South Africans, the Scattelings of Africa, are mostly generous and kind and we need to focus on that to make the blessings rain down. I truly am heartbroken when I think of all the segregation and hate that still rears its ugly head so often and I need to believe we can stamp it out. Just stand your ground as a good South African, lead by example and help others where you can. Don’t stand by and ignore the beautiful sunshine on your face while you look down in being suppressed by the minority of crap people in this country. This is my Africa I will fight for it.