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

Apartheid gentrification haunts Cape Town and the world

Last Monday, Reclaim the City reported, “Reclaim the City has been approached by a woman (who wishes to remain anonymous) whose rent has been increased by the City of Cape Town (‘the City’) by more than 2000%. She has rented a City council home in Salt River from the City of Cape Town since 1995. When her and husband moved in, they signed a lease agreement with a rental of R220 per month. The house was an uninhabitable mess. Over the years, they improved, fixed and maintained the property at their own expense. Due to minor rental increases, her rent is now R243.81. She has never defaulted on her monthly payments and has lived happily in her home for the last 24 years. In August 2019, the City of Cape Town sent her a letter saying they are increasing her rent to R5 500 per month. This is an astronomical increase from the R243 she is currently paying.” For millions across the globe, this is an all too familiar story, but what exactly is the story? In what world is it acceptable that anyone receive a rental increase notice of more than 2000%?

1995, Cape Town. Apartheid is officially ended, and, across the country, the new South Africa is on everyone’s lips, minds, and hearts. Reconstruction and Development Programme community flora are meeting everywhere … or almost everywhere. There’s a new President, a new Parliament, and a new dispensation.  A rainbow hovers over the nation and over the Mother City, as Cape Town is called.

While some of this picture is accurate, missing are the plans to “re-develop” Cape Town, to turn Cape Town into a thriving “global city”, replete with a metropolitan economy largely driven by real estate development. In the midst of all this, a couple move into public housing, twenty-four years ago, in the working class neighborhood of Salt River, a neighborhood known largely for second-hand shops, a diverse array of working class communities, and Community House, a center for community and labor organizing. It’s also known for the empty textile and garment factories that closed during the 1980s, when the apartheid regime invested heavily in Export Processing Zones that gutted the vibrant garment and textile economies of the Western Cape.

So, this couple moves in, signs the lease, fixes the place up (at considerable expense to themselves), never misses a payment, makes a home for themselves and for their neighbors. This couple survives and makes a life of dignity and self-respect. For their great labors and contributions to the municipality’s well-being, they are rewarded with amounts to an eviction notice. 

The couple have appealed, Reclaim the City and their supporters are organizing to help them remain in their home, the City continues to threaten eviction. Given the recent pattern of “spiraling” evictions in the Cape Town region, this comes as no surprise. As Reclaim the City notes, “If anyone needs more proof that the City is anti-poor and anti-black, this woman’s exorbitant rent hike is case and point.”

Anti-poor, anti-Black and committed to growing inequality as the key to urban development. For millions across the globe, and especially those living in so-called urban cities driven by service sector economies and predatory real estate development, this is an all too familiar story. But what exactly is the story? Remember, this working-class couple in Cape Town live in public housing. Their landlord is the City. The City raised their rent by over 2000 percent. When they responded and asked for help, the City threatened them with eviction. In this instance, eviction is exile, because a couple seeking to pay less than 300 rand a month won’t find anything anywhere near livable in Cape Town. 

What is public housing, if this is how the State acts? What is the public, if the State has committed to exploiting, oppressing and, if all else fails, assaulting the working populations who make it possible for the Public to function? What exactly is the story? That question has been answered recently in the streets of Ecuador, Sudan, Chile, Lebanon, Hong Kong and beyond. This story is not yet over, neither the local one in Cape Town nor its global counterpart; the struggle continues. Apartheid gentrification, gentrification that condemns working people to forced removals to distant regions, haunts the world. In what world is it acceptable receive a rental increase notice of more than 2000%? Our world. Another world must be possible.

(Photo Credit: Twitter)

South African domestic workers win in court, expanding domestic workers’ rights everywhere!

Sylvia Mahlangu, Maria Mahlangu’s daughter, in court

Great news from South Africa! Yesterday, October 17, 2019, the Gauteng High Court ruled that domestic workers injured on the job in the past can claim damages, under the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, COIDAThis ruling includes the family of Maria Mahlangu, a domestic worker who had worked for the same family for twenty years. While washing windows, Maria Mahlangu slipped, fell into the pool, and drowned. Her family received no compensation. More the point, the family offered no compensation and the State, at that point, excluded domestic workers from COIDA. On May 23 of this year, the North Gauteng High Court ruled that that exclusion was unconstitutional, but they did not rule on those who had been injured prior to the ruling or in past jobs. Yesterday’s ruling clears all that up. The Court ruled that the Constitutional invalidity of the exclusion of domestic workers means that all domestic workers are due unlimited retrospective COIDA compensation. The case now goes to the Constitutional Court. Today, we must celebrate, support and give thanks to all those domestic workers and domestic worker organizers, past and present, who brought the Court to make a decision. They refused to bargain with the State, and said, simply and directly, “Our rights are non-negotiable.”

Founding member of the United Domestic Workers of South Africa (Udwosa), Pinky Mashiane, said, “This is a victory for us and we will now approach the Constitutional Court with confidence that it will also rule in our favour. Government had denied domestic workers their right for a long time as it discriminated against us. We will move forward with the confidence that those injured on duty and the families of those who had died, will at long last receive compensation.”

In July, Myrtle Witbooi, the President of the International Domestic Workers Federation and General Secretary of the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers’ Union, explained, “The government ratified International Labour Organisation Convention 189 (dealing with the rights of domestic workers worldwide) in June 2013, which meant that they had a year to include domestic workers in COIDA. We had several campaigns, but all we got were promises. In 2016, the government told the ILO that COIDA would be extended to domestic workers, and it was gazetted in 2018. It is now 2019, and we are still waiting … While we have been fighting for domestics to be included in COIDA, many women have lost their lives or have been injured while on duty and have received no compensation at all.”

Pinky Mashiane and Myrtle Witbooi have called for expanded and deepened support for their campaign from all social justice sectors in South Africa. Hopefully, many will heed and respond to the call. At the same time, this is a case that crosses beyond the borders of South Africa and beyond the African continent. Many countries across the globe, including the United States, continue to exclude domestic workers from labor laws and from labor law protections and rights. That time is coming to an end. Domestic work is decent work, and domestic workers demand recognition, formal recognition, of the dignity of their labor. Tell your family, friends, colleagues and neighbors about Maria Mahlangu and about this week’s decision. Remind them that the struggle continues, and as it does, it expands the horizons. Amandla!

(Photo Credit: Zelda Venter / IOL)

Cyril means well. He’s been compelled by womxn making life uncomfortable

This story about amending laws to solve the problem. Cyril means well. He’s been compelled by womxn making life uncomfortable to see that this issue is serious. But fixing bail, sentencing laws as a solution in and of itself, no. The laws already tried to do that quite well in the late 90s – no one really cared to implement them well. They don’t have an impact because you’ve got to change the criminal procedure act. That’s a more radical change, shift the power in the courts towards survivors ‘complainants’ give them standing, more control in the court. You’ve got to change that they are dependent on prosecutors that get their ‘sensitivity’ training, but are not held to account when they treat womxn like a hassel. The laws changed so that the rules of courts could be more alive to the patriarchal construction of rape, but the magistrates, they let the old way of doing things carry on, the prosecutors are weak, they don’t fight, and the defence attorneys, the rapists – well they just laugh and commit more violence on the womxn who stand there further humiliated. That’s got to change. Zero tolerance that. Hold them to account for the laws already changed – show that the standards already in place are worth fighting for, then, by all means, add some new layers. 

Then this sensitivity training. Really, that’s the best that you can do. We worked in the 90s on that. It doesn’t work if you don’t also show leadership on those standards presented in this training – from the Preseident, Ministers, MECs to the station commissioner, the senior prosecutor, the health facility manager. It doesn’t work if you spend a bit of money (never enough) and get some person who doesn’t really ‘get it’ to talk the rank and file through the 20 points of sensitivity and then send them back into the same fucking system. It doesn’t fucking work.

(Image Credit: The Daily Vox)

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)

On xenophobic violence: Press Release by Pan African Network in Defense of Migrant Rights

10 -September -2019

The entire continent is watching in pain, confusion and anger as South Africa struggles to contain massive social implosion  and manifestations of profound  contradictions. The loss of all life and disunity among Afrikans is everything that progressive formations including the Pan African Network in Defense of  Migrant Rights (PANiDMR) stand against. The symptoms of these contradictions have most recently  leaked into  attacks among  the marginalised and  neglected underclasses, where precarity and desperation co-exist.  State responses include deploying ‘social cohesion’ programmes as a catch all attempt to mop up these violent social conditions.  

The recent attacks  on 13 Africans in South Africa form part of an undercurrent of historical fissures. The nature of  violent  interstate, attacks that have been witnessed in the past seven days pre-date the end of the colonial apartheid  dispensation. In the 1980s what is  now often described as Afrophobia or Xenophobia was mischaracterized  under a blanket of  political violence.

The historical DNA of South African political contestation is embedded in ways of addressing difference that  is situated in the theatre of vanquish and  party political extremism. The bloodshed across urban South Africa in the 1980s and 1990s pre-1994 was partly stoked by various political interests, played out on Black bodies. The necklacing in African communities was the most vivid and vicious instrument to enforce political discipline of real or imagined infractions and betrayals. It was also a marker of deep inter-community distrust primarily among political and ethnic communities. The specter of being labeled as  ‘other’ was sometimes  sufficient cause for comrades to sell each other’s lives in return for their own. The inherent trauma that communities are still carrying with them was largely airbrushed by the  ‘Rainbow’ narrative even though it is clear that centuries of dehumanizing behavior was not going to go away as  new flag was raised.

This occurred in the context of the South African state machinery that  systemically dehumanized and brutalized African people in this country. The colonial imagination legislated and constantly enforced the idea that African people are sub-human interlopers in a racialised and privileged ‘White’ world. This was prescribed through structural enablers like labour, education and land legislation all of which created an intergenerational cohort of African people who would always  be  a marginal , sub class of work horses. In the era of growing unemployment , this too has created a subaltern formation that are fully disposable and for whom the State has no tangible plans beyond ‘social cohesion’ to bring from the margins. 

There are further problems emerging from this. Firstly, South Africa has done very little to alter the social and economic  pathways made available to the African majority in this country. White priviledge through land, economic ownership patterns, social relations and life outcomes has been left virtually intact.  In tandem to this , multiple countries in the global South and across Africa were virtually disemboweled by structural adjustment and ongoing incursion of capital into State power. Instances of civil war and ongoing wars that some States wage against their nations – both often with the ‘ invisible hand’ of Western interests – have resulted in weakened States and limited economic opportunities. 

There are other issues that include the expectation by locals to  have first preference for jobs while many companies choose to employ vulnerable migrants for lower wages, creating working toxic and inevitable class resentment. In addition to this, porous borders with weak and often corrupted border controls, sloppy and complicit police are adding stress to a difficult situation.  Well documented reports of criminal rings run by a section of  African compatriots were a large cause of  the attacks in Tshwane (Pretoria) last week. In many areas including there, police have failed to investigate allegations or make arrests, which contributes to the ‘those people’ narrative rather than situating this within a failed and compromised criminal justice system.

Naturally, there will be movement in search of better lives and perhaps naturally, to  countries that appear to offer the most hope, possibility and for some refuge from political repression.

Tragically for all these periphalised people, the South African state has not deconstructed the machinery of ‘othering’  the most vulnerable and as the Marikana massacre showed, is well able to unleash brutal force against Black bodies, many of whom were migrant workers.  The exodus  of millions of people to South Africa from across the world illustrates a  shared aspiration that they have towards the victory over political apartheid that South Africa still represents. 

And yet co-ordinated and periodic combustions related to inadequate public service delivery, organised labour strikes, student uprisings, and other demonstrations of public anger are a huge part of the character of modern South African politics. A politics steeped in historical trauma, ongoing dispossession, a breakdown in state institutions and frenzied attempts by the government to ‘act normal’ for the benefit of international investors while the underclass of all nationalities battle for scarce resources in the most brutal ways. Local and migrant Africans across the African continent are exhausted by the wait for something more from our governments. 

Self-serving elites have driven many African compatriots to South Africa only to find that many South African political actors have fallen into a similar abyss of myopic disregard for the masses. The statements issued  by President Ramaphosa in recent days lacked empathy, class analysis and any semblance of a Pan African understanding of how deeply embedded our fates are tied together as African countries. This is an opportunity to raise a challenge to our African leaders to create nations that are nourishing and  accountable. Nations that appreciate the talents at their disposal, create environments where all Africans can thrive and contribute. The retaliatory attacks on South African businesses across the continent ultimately hurt the marginal and working classes yet again and though this may be a  temporary ‘blue eye’ for White owned corporations, it only fuels more resentments while eroding authentic African  economic and political agendas. 

 At the time of writing, 13 Africans are reported dead, 8 of whom are  thought to be South Africans. Most regrettably, attempts by formations such as PANiDMR and Trade Collective to obtain the names and countries of origin from relevant  authorities have so far yielded no results. Beyond dying a dehumanising death, our family members have died namelessly. So emblematic of the State’s careless, dispassionate relationship with the underclass. PANiDMR sends heartfelt condolences to the families, friends, communities of the Africans killed over the past week and all the years before. We pray that the death toll of 13 will not rise further and renew our commitment to building a Pan African vision that affirms and valorises African lives and Black lives in and out of the Diaspora.

(Photo Credit: News24 / Kola Sulaimon / AFP)

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)

Maria Mahlangu is still dead. How many Maria Mahlangus died without justice?

Maria Mahlangu is still dead. We do not know how many Maria Mahlangus died without a voice, without their story making news, without justice. Many domestic workers are in jeopardy because our homes (their workplaces) are not always safe workplaces. We can end this, by joining the call of thousands of domestic workers to end the era of exclusion, of them being treated as third-class workers. 

Domestic workers, predominantly Black women, make up “more than 8%” of Black workers in South Africa, far outnumbering Black professionals in our workforce. The way we treat domestic workers (in law and in our homes) is an expression of our disdain for Black bodies, for Black women’s bodies and their labour as a nation. The extent to which we continue to extract their labour with little recognition of their dignity and rights, and even less legal recognition, is a moral outrage, a profound injustice. This is a cause we are obligated by our morality and our sense of justice to get behind. If there are more than 2million domestic workers in this country, this is a cause of millions of us in this nation. 

Let this be where we begin our full stop to injustice, gendered injustice. It is an outrage that this had to go to court to begin with, but it has come to that. Tomorrow domestic workers will be in court to defend what should be a constitutional right. How will you stand with them? It is not enough to be nice to Mavis, although Mavis deserves all the respect you should give. We can do something more fundamental than that, that improves the lives of all the Mavis’s. So, dear friend, how will you show up for the people who show up for millions of our families every day? 

Domestic workers, their union formations and those who support them started the campaign under the Domestic Workers Rising banner. They are co-founders of #Shayisfuba, an intersectional movement of womxn individuals and formations who’ve come together to build solidarity with each other, to learn about and fight common struggles. The movement is saying a feminist government would have prioritised equal protection for all workers, particularly the least protected, domestic workers. It is not too late!

(Image Credit: New Frame)