Do you (wash your hands)

Pilate washing his hands

Do you (wash your hands)

Do you 
wash your hands
in these trying times

of the politricking
not just from those
financially ahead
at the royal feeding trough

there are soothsayers
and clever-dicks and all
those who phone in
incessantly to radio stations
and pen social media epics

Do you 
wash your hands

You who are
Unemployed and Unwashed
(even Poor and Unshaven)
Malnourished and Starving
Unhoused and Landless
and Illiterate too to boot

Do you
wash your hands
of Gender-Based Violence 
and all that goes with it
(is there a Gender Audit)

Are you stocking up
on toilet paper and batteries
and baked beans and the like
perhaps even travelling points

as you daily go
from your dark place
to light

as you daily go
from the ghetto
of your mind
to that of others

Do you
wash your hands
of all of this

and look at yourself

Pilate washing his hands

(Picture Credit 1: The Metropolitan Museum of Art) (Picture Credit 2: The Tate Gallery)

He said he didn’t know

He said he didn’t know

There are many
who are there
right here
out Africa-way

Knowing
knowingly
and not knowing

in denial
and denying

they are beyond too
on the rest
of Planet Earth

He said he didn’t know
the little enclave’s last
does as many have done
and many will continue to do

Might Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s
haunting Homeless
be a reminder
a little hint

that the system 
he oversaw
had been declared
a crime against humanity

some even have it
that it was 
an unfortunate past
a glitch on the horizon
of the planet’s timeline

like the Little Troubles
over in (Northern) Ireland
like the fall of Saigon
(and not the people’s struggles
against various imperialisms)

He said he didn’t know
notwithstanding the scars
the scarred and the scared
still

(Image Credit: African Activist Archive)

His hands were up

His hands were up

His hands were up
He was reaching out

So remarks the presenter 
interviewing Section 27
on morning SAFM radio

His hands were up
five year-old Michael Komape’s 
he drowning in a pit toilet

(learners and teachers
forced to learn and teach
in the state we are in)

His hands were up
He was reaching out

Now there is justice
some 5 years later
his family awarded 
damages for emotional
shock and grief

A most appalling
and undignified death
says the judgement
(Supreme Court of Appeal)

The SAFM interview also
tells us of the insensitivity
and callousness of officialdom
in this regard

(have we lost our principles
along with so much else)

His hands were up
He was reaching out 

How many more

See “Michael Komape’s family awarded R1.4 million in damages by appeal court” (Franny Rabkin, Mail & Guardian, 18 December 2019), and “Komape family awarded R1.4 million for emotional shock and grief” (Ciaran Ryan, 18 December 2019 © 2019 GroundUp).

The Komape family was represented by public interest law firm SECTION27

(Image Credit: Daily Maverick)

Tell me why (Moody’s)

Tell me why (Moody’s)

Tell me why
we are to join
the dubious ranks 
of the downgraded

(I mean the country
has just been upgraded
to number 1 as it beat
England in a little game)

Tell me why
we seem to be 
your whipping boy
responsible for all
the ills of planet earth

We are not after all
bombing invading
or waging war 
against any country 

(we are only at war
with ourselves and
our women and children
not to mention those
who don’t look like us)

there is concern in Soweto
about Marathon runners’ safety
was the Ethiopian winner at risk
what with an politician waxing on 
about different cultures and races

and an amnesiac sports presenter 
says at the end that the rugby win 
was for the whole of Africa
(where has she been most recently)

Tell me why
Moody’s

is it the economy
stupid

The English of Domestic Violence, and The Domestic Violence of English

The English of Domestic Violence, and The Domestic Violence of English

We split infinitives
We split the atom
We split a skull

What wonderful beings
we are (we men)
we who are superior
to all things

We crack a walnut
We crack a joke
We crack a (spare) rib

We blow out a candle
We blow into our hands for warmth
Those same hands that 
strike a blow

We strike a match
We go on strike – 
and come home to strike
a woman and (girl) child
(in the quiet and dark 
of family life away
from the glare of the public)

We build confidence
We build houses (albeit matchbox ones)
We build relationships, which we
then break down like they are
our matchbox houses

We march, against apartheid
(of the statute book and the mind)
Sometimes we even march against 
capitalism and woman and child abuse

We name our children
We name hurricanes
We call women names

We take up burning issues
and bride-burning continues

We arrange our furniture
and we arrange marriages

What wonderful beings
we are (we men)
we who are superior
to all things

(Penned Saturday, October 08, 2005)

Photo Credit: Silindelo Masikane / enca)

only colour light and music

only colour light and music 

only colour light and music 
to our hearts and souls
says the Daily Maverick
reporting on the passing
of Johnny Clegg (1953 – Forever)

1953 – Forever they say
as his music will
be played on
a long time after 
the glowing accolades

Yet another says 
The dance ends
for Johnny Clegg
South Africa’s beloved 
musical storyteller

born out yonder Rochdale
to my knowledge
no-one here has
called him an alien
or anything the nastier

raised a bit in Zimbabwe
then peri-urban Johannesburg 
and its townships were
his teenage stomping ground 

this 15-year-old was taught
Zulu music and traditional dancing
by Charlie Mzila following him
guitar in hand to all 
the migrant labour haunts
from hostels to rooftop shebeens

(this we hear from 
the Final Journey official programme)

he who brought only 
colour light and music 
to our hearts and souls
has now made
his final journey

(Photo Credit: RFI / Alliance DPA)

Welcome at last to the 21st century

Welcome at last to the 21st century

so wrote a colleague-past
at my reportage of now
having one of those devices
you see folks walking 
into stationary poles with

is it any good
I enquire
as it seems
I have not been

I hear there is
running water
electricity even
and plentiful
(so politicians say)

Welcome at last to the 21st century
where you can see
hunger on a world scale
from local Bonteheuwel
to the beyonds of Syria
and darkest Africa too 

the 21st century
where humanity
behaves as though
there is another
planet to go and ruin

the 21st century
where women
and children too
would want there 
to be another planet
to shelter from the storm

there is illiteracy
and innumeracy too
on this man-trashed sphere
most especially down here
Africa South way

Welcome at last to the 21st century

(Photo Credit: Mail & Guardian / David Harrison)

(we) laugh it off

(we) laugh it off

we laugh it off
democratically
(even though
there was none
back there in 1976)

we laugh it off
myself and a folkie
a work colleague into 
Dylan Baez and Jim Croce 

June 1976 it was
circa the 16 and 17
a stay-away from work
(my first it was)

a manager fellow it was
(we are being genteel here
as he was harsher labelled)
suggesting we get
a police escort to work

we laugh it off
explaining to him
that they oversaw
apartheid and the like

(in the name of law and order
keeping us safe from the red peril
keeping us safe from the yellow peril 
keeping us safe from the swart gevaar)

June 1976
the Soweto uprising
the Soweto student rebellion
(there are those who
called the event a riot)

many exiled in its wake
before and after

Youth does it matter 
to you today
what this political holiday
was all about

Will it make tomorrow
any the better if you did

(Photo Credit: South African History Online)

man-up

man-up

It is said
about men
that they 
have it

The balls

that fascist ruler-past
out in Brexit country
she had it they say

The balls

we hear now
that she can
our Caster Semenya

she can
man-up
and race
against men

she still 
facing a testing time
in a world insensitive 
to anything unlike

(a strong girl she is
post-Saartjie Baartman
post-apartheid’s pencil test
and virginity testing too)

man-up
they say
those folks

are they men
one and all

those folks
who run 
athletics

man-up
they say

not yet
Uhuru

(Photo Credit: Athletics Weekly)

We see remarkable women

The team at Centre for Early Childhood Development, Cape Town

We see remarkable women

We see remarkable women
says Professor Eric Atmore 
Stellenbosch University graduate
and he who puts children first

We see remarkable women
every day working with
young children and living
the Mandela legacy

they do it for long hours
with shockingly low pay
they do it for nation building

We see remarkable women
yet they are few and far between
up the poles where politicians are
plying their trade

We see remarkable women
says Professor Eric Atmore 
revealing that less than a third
of children under 7 in South Africa
get quality pre-school learning

(only 30% of our 7 million children
under the age of 7 are in
a quality learning programme)

he tells us too that we need
a policy champion (in cabinet)
as the state does not have 
the political will capacity 
or money to support
its early childhood development programme

We see remarkable women
Now don’t you

We see remarkable women
Now what are you going to do

We see remarkable women
Now what is to be done

“Policies need proper backing, prof says” (Tatler April 11 2019)

(Photo Credit: Southern Suburbs Tatler)