Michell Joyce Raduva said NO to the trauma of child detention … and won!

June 1st 1987. International Children's Day

June 1st 1987. International Children’s Day

On April 6, 2008, two police officers arrested 15-year-old Michell Joyce Raduva and her mother and held them in custody overnight. Michell’s father came to the police station to secure their release, to no avail. Both were released the next day, without imposition of bail, and ultimately no charges were filed. But Michell and her mother knew the arrest was wrong, and so they immediately sued for wrongful arrest. They lost, repeatedly and at various levels, until last week, when the highest court in South Africa unanimously ruled that Michell’s rights, as a child, had been violated in the arrest and detention. The Court decided South Africa’s Constitution “seeks to insulate them [children] from the trauma of an arrest by demanding in peremptory terms that, even when a child has to be arrested, his or her best interests must be accorded paramount importance.” Amen to that.

The case is fairly straightforward. Two police officers came to the Raduva house to arrest Michell Joyce Raduva’s mother. Michell tried to intervene. The two were then arrested. The daughter was arrested for obstruction of justice. They were taken to the police station, booked, and held overnight. Whether the police knew Michell’s age at the time of arrest, by the time they arrived at the police station, they knew she was a minor. Not that that matters, since the police said, in court, that they would have arrested and detained her anyway, minor or not. To this, the Court responded, “What is more disconcerting is … a lack of knowledge and appreciation by the police officers of their constitutional obligation when arresting a child to consider her best interests as demanded by section 28(2). They demonstrate that the police officers did not care whether the applicant was a minor or not. Sergeant du Plessis said it expressly, that even if he knew that the applicant was a minor, he would still have arrested her. This is because he considers it to be his job to arrest. The fact that the arrestee is a minor would make no difference.”

According to Judge Lebotsang Bosielo, who handed down the Court’s decision, while the situation may be messy, the Constitution is clear: the best interest of the child is paramount. Period. In the balance of rights, the best interest of the child is paramount. In the actual existential moment, the best interest of the child is paramount. In this, the South African Constitution agrees with human decency and common sense, but, too often, not with State practice, not in South Africa nor the United States nor Australia nor England, where the State “considers it to be his job to arrest” and detain.

Judge Bosielo notes, “Under any circumstances an arrest is a traumatising event. Its impact and consequences on children might be long-lasting if not permanent … Detention has traumatic, brutalising, dehumanising and degrading effects on people … The applicant was seriously traumatised by this experience. Her detention has left her with serious psycho-emotional problems. Wounds that are still festering. These are the deleterious effects of incarceration against which the Constitution seeks to protect children.”

Being arrested is traumatic; being detained is traumatic … for anyone. For children, each can be catastrophic, and combined they can be life altering in the extreme. Michell Joyce Raduva and her mother sued so that we might all know that, so that we might all remember that children are children are children. Children are children are children. Each child is a child and must be treated, and respected, as a child. That’s the law.

 

(Image Credit: South African History Online)

Whether they vote or not, the excluded, oppressed and routinely killed are NOT stupid!

If previous trends continue, millions of people will choose not to vote on 3 August in the local elections across South Africa. According to Eusebius McKaiser people abstain from voting because they either think voting will not make a difference, or they think it will implicate them morally in a system they do not agree with. These reasons are ‘stupid’, according to McKaiser.

It is breathtakingly arrogant to judge people stupid without knowledge of their goals, and, unlike McKaiser, I do not presume to know the goals of the millions who will not be voting. It is however necessary to say that it is not at all stupid to refrain from doing something you believe will not change anything. To do or not do something for moral reasons, even if it affects you materially in bad ways, only seems stupid to people who believe material self-interest should always be the only or main motivation for political actions.

Perhaps it is more important to remember that there are good practical reasons to abstain from voting for an important group among those who are staying away from the polls. In their case we have a good idea of what their goals are, because they have been articulating it since at least the elections of 2004. I am referring to the various social movements and protest groups that have arisen against the neoliberal capitalist approach of the state and taking positions like ‘no land, no vote’ or ‘no housing, no vote.’ Examples of these movements include the Landless People’s Movement and the Anti-Privatisation Forum.

While the early post-2000 social movements have become much weakened or defunct, their line of thinking has continued to find resonance. The latest group to take it up powerfully is organizing under the hashtag #IamSpoilingMyBallotWithMyBlood in the Cape Town township of Bonteheuwel. This campaign is led by a group of activists mainly associated with the Joint Peace Forum. They are resisting the waves of gang violence that killed thousands of Bonteheuwel residents with the complicity of the police and politicians of all stripes.

The most important idea behind the actions of these activists is that the system oppresses them to such a degree that they need to build movements as alternative sources of power capable of fighting the system as a whole. This does not mean voting and working within the system is morally wrong or does not make any difference. It means that the changes possible within the system still leave people trapped in the hellhole Bonteheuwel has become. It is also based on the calculation that whoever is in power of those on offer, people are better off when they have strong grassroots movements.

Far from being stupid, the decision to refrain from voting serves this movement building agenda perfectly. As we learned from boycotting the tricameral parliament and other Apartheid institutions, building effective liberation movements require foregoing the marginal benefits of working within the system, in favor of the more important benefits of drawing a clear line between oppressor and oppressed. McKaiser cannot see this, because his watered down liberalism tells him we have the best possible form of democracy. Those excluded, oppressed and killed routinely, beg to differ. It’s stupid to think of them as stupid.

(This series is about the unbreakable link between means and ends in politics – the tyranny of politics.)

 

(Image Credit: IOL)

 

One social worker per 50,000 high school students is not okay

Today, one of the youth I work with calls me, and tells me that it’s her birthday. I start singing to her, but then hear she is crying, so I ask her what is wrong. She tells me her 25-year old big brother hung himself today, and she had found him.

We are living in a painful painful world. And while some of us encounter emotional turmoil in our privileged lives, others’ turmoil stems from economic poverty and inequality. In South African high schools, there is on average one social worker per 50 schools – that’s one social worker per 50,000 students, when problems such as rape, alcoholism, violence, gangs, depression, family turmoil, absentee fathers and family deaths abound.

This is not okay. We must do better.

(Photo Credit: Rape Crisis Blog)

The Kanga was in the room

This day in 2006, Willem van der Merwe handed down a prison sentence to a rape survivor. It wasn’t just a prison sentence, it was an ex-excommunication. An exiling. A sacrificing at the altar of hetero-patriarchal politics. A public lynching. An annihilation. An erasure. A powerful exhibit the criminal justice system as it is, is an instrument of power and the powerful. A tool of racist, classist misogyny. Designed for aiding, abetting, cementing the citadel of the hetero-patriarchal system.

The trial showed us things about ourselves, the people who govern us today, our society that explain why navigating life is a “nightmare” experience for the people who live in bodies called “women”.

Yesterday we celebrated with tears of grief and joy, One in Nine Campaign’s 10th birthday. The Kanga was in the room. She spoke of how she has been rising since that day. How she has been leaving and fighting to live, in search of a home since then. How she has been building her nest in the place inside that they couldn’t annihilate. How that beautiful mother became sword and shield. How feminist friendship and solidarity is our ultimate hope for survival and triumph against the system whose tentacles are forever multiplying.

It was a sad day. It was a happy and beautiful day. It was a celebration of feminist courage. It was a séance to the many bodies of courage, to young women at universities and the streets who are saying to the system ‪#‎timeisup‬! It was a bold confrontation to the rest of us: what else are you still afraid of? What else can they do to you? What else is there to lose?

 

(Photo Credit: Siphokazi Mthathi)

On the run

On the run

(women) going strong
in a Brave Run
against violence 
(and patriarchy) 
from Khayelitsha
 to central Cape Town

Not waiting
(waiting in vain)
for our ritual
16 Days of Activism
for No Violence
against Women and Children

(when one and all come out
to be seen and heard)

Manenberg’s Rock Girls
and others braving
crime-affected areas
(and the country’s male-folks
who rape and murder)

(combined with
454 kids murdered
in (a) single year
combined with
smacking kids
making them anti-social)

On the run
braving the elements
(not the weather)
an inaugural event in memory
of the killing of 2 teenage girls
(raped and murdered in the same week)

On the run
not running away

 

“Concerned residents, activists sweat it out as Rock Girl uses 34km run to call for safety” (Cape Times, April 25 2016), “Brave Run links city in fight against violence” and “454 kids murdered in single year” (Weekend Argus, May 1 2016). See also “Smacking kids can cause them to become anti-social” (Argus, April 29 2016).

 

(Photo Credit: Rockhoppin’ Trail)

I don’t like (to be black)

 

I don’t like (to be black)

A mere chess game it was
where a young lass had
to decide on the hue
of her chess pieces

I don’t like to be black
she duly declared
not a hint of anything

no Freudian slip
no racism

not even an appreciation
(in a manner of speaking)
of the import of her words

I cringe almost instantly
peering around furtively
in the local library

in the local library
these things happen
not just in places
of ill-repute

(you know like
board-rooms like
sub-committees like
on official government forms
and in Public Holiday speeches like)

I don’t like to be black
merely a game of chess
two sides of different shades
one light and the other dark

there are pawns too
doing their bidding
some pieces more
valuable each trying
to capture the other

I don’t like to be black

A mere chess game it was

Our emperor’s relapse into black-white during the anti-racial-non-racial-tolerance part of his Human Rights Day speech, reminds one that we have far to go, still, 21 March 2016.

 

(Image Credit: WallPapersCraft)

Berta Cáceres, Nelson Garcia, Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe: We must take action!

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
John Donne, “Death Be Not Proud”

Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe, chairman of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, on the Wild Coast of South Africa, was brutally assassinated last night, and so joins Berta Cáceres and Nelson Garcia, and who knows how many others martyred in this month alone? The Amadiba Crisis Committee, largely made up of women, has been struggling to stop mining in Xolobeni, the Mgungundlovu area of Amadiba Tribal Administrative Area in Pondoland, and to continue a program of people-driven, sustainable development. The response has been a reign of fear and intimidation. Repeatedly, the women and men of Xolobeni have said, We are ready to die for this land. Last night, Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe was murdered, or better executed. It did not come as a surprise. As Nonhle Mbuthuma explained, for the last year, the police have waged a campaign of intimidation, and, when called on to stop the violence, “There has been nothing.”

Men come with guns and women respond, “My tears won’t fall on the ground for nothing. You can bring your machine guns. I am prepared to die for my land; I am not going anywhere.”

The crisis is not mining. The crisis is violence: violence against nature, women, the community, and democracy. Nonhle Mbuthuma has grown up in the struggle for a decent and better life, and for a State where one can’t say, “There’s too much `democracy’ in this democracy”; and Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe is dead, having striven to make that democracy-to-come a reality today.

It is not a reality today. Reality today is State violence, from Honduras to South Africa and beyond. As Berta Cáceres exhorted, “We must take action!” We must turn the swords of murder into the ploughshares of sustenance. Berta Cáceres, Nelson Garcia and Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe will not rise out of the earth, no matter how fervently some might pray, but their dream, their collective unified dream, cannot be killed. We must take action!

 

(Photo Credit: United Front)

Memory and other mirages

Like June 16th, March 21st and the many dates in between, another missed opportunity to advance a truthful discourse on ownership of both the past and the present looms. The politics and ethics of memory present an ongoing tension for countries such as ours, which are emerging from a period of deeply fragmented recollections of what was and was not. Andre Brink suggests that: “the best we can do is to fabricate metaphors – that is, tell stories – in which, not history, but imaginings of history are invented. “ Although deeply dissatisfactory, this seems to be the narrative pursued by Official historydom.

South Africa is not the only country that is contending with heritage as a site of political battles.

Memory is an act of defiance particularly because erasure is an instinct of conquest. Cultural identity and truthful interpretation of the past are scarce currency in South Africa today. This is largely because the official archives and accounts of political exploits and the historical context of Apartheid colonialism are constructed to privilege partisan political interests. Equally inimical is officialdom’s insistence on erasing or diminishing the wrong doing of former oppressors. The act of remembering is nourished by deliberate and vigilant consciousness that is anchored by a strong ethical framework. It must be divested of party political claims that clutter the national discourse.

A particularly capricious form of national identity and nationalism, which is often utilised in neo–colonial states, can promote or consolidate political objectives. The fabricated reconciliation, as part of South Africa’s heritage, serves the merchandising of the fictitious rainbow nation rather than the redemption of the Afrikan psyche. Such sentiment is difficult to reverse or reshape once wielded. The United States has similarly built itself on the imagination of the American Dream even though the contradictions of racism, sexism and class oppression have kept a huge part of the population in conditions of poverty, early death, police brutality, unemployment and despair. Despite this, millions of people enter America to partake in a heritage that extends to very few people beyond the white, male, middle class. The South African scenario is similarly unfolding and the practise of manufactured nation building has come at a price of dispossession, coercive silencing and constant un-remembering. This contributes to creating the condition of unknowing and unseeing the truth as a survival mechanism.

The ethics of remembering should not allow the sacrifices of the dead to be diminished by acts of political vandalism. The vandalism that we witness daily has multiple locations. The education system has remained uncritical of allowing a colonial aesthetic to shape the minds and discourses of young minds. The manipulative form of nationalism that has been sanctioned over the past twenty years seems determined to reconstruct a nation of disfigured memories and half-truths. The heritage industry is sometimes another site of vandalism rather than a broadly representative recollection of the past 350 years of battle and painful formation of this nation in all its contradictions. Corrosive recollections are not unique to this country. They reflect the characteristics, power and intent of the ones who shape history.

The most spurious wars such as the ‘War on Terror‘ have been valorised for posterity in some quarters. Enquiry of memory must be accompanied by an underlying discomfort and reality that memory is often subjective and chauvinistic. This necessitates greater space for multiple and competing narratives. In the context of neo-colonial nation building, these narratives should be anchored to formation and celebration of Afrikan stories, contexts, histories and herstories. The extent of the genocide on our being, our continent, our imaginations and humanity requires an ongoing and dynamic rehabilitation of our core. An ethical memorial framework should transfer not only political and economic power, but also transfer the sovereignty of memory and Afrikan identities.

Erasure has allowed and enabled the men and nations who violated the ‘comfort women ‘during the World War 2 to remain unaccountable. Erasure has enabled the slave trade in Congo, which reduced the population by 70%, to be airbrushed even in national discourses. Erasure was the catalyst for the forced removal of millions of aboriginal children in America, Australia, Canada and New Zealand (Aotearoa) from their loving families, in order to be culturally whitewashed in cruel state orphanages or adopted into white families. Erasure is the reason that Welsh and Irish children’s tongues were cut in English run schools, to prevent them from asserting self-knowledge in Gaelic. Erasure has removed Shaka from Heritage Day, removed Moshoeshoe, Bambaatha, Manthatisi, Modjadji and countless others from the national calendar. The names and battles of the ones who fell and continue to fall today should be etched in our consciousness .

Heritage is always contested and the uncomfortable connection with colonial legacies is evident in the architecture around us, the food we eat, the music we hear, the languages of instruction and commerce. This hybrid of culture should neither confuse nor befuddle our aspirations towards Afrikan consciousness embodied in our poetry, languages, literature, moments of national remembrance and ways of being. Millions of Afrikan minds, ideas, words, thoughts, inventions, musical notes, physical efforts, intellectual endeavours and epistemic undertakings have contributed towards and built imaginations, monuments and empires across the world. Despite this, the US and European empires remains unapologetic and impervious to the huge debts they owe to Afrikan creativity, brilliance and blood. The subjugation of others seems to be an indelible core of those empires and the defence of the indefensible an inherent legacy born out of a culture of conquest.

The interrogation of memory and the heritage creates is an ethical requirement of nation building and also a powerful opportunity to reframe and challenge the narratives of “reconciliation and truth” that have been efficient midwives for erasure and amnesia. It is a potent instrument of vexing political sentiment. Democratisation of memory removes domination of memory discourse from those who can write or conquer media & publishing houses to essentially frame a narrow and often disjointed interpretation of history. Democratisation brings the stories and accounts of communities and individuals across the socio-political spectrum to the centre. Shared or social memory is the gamut of traditions, languages, food, struggles, legends, taboos, spirituality, battles and interpretations of events and that lend themselves to the act and practise of being Afrikan. Self-knowledge is the highest forms of sovereignty and any nation or people who do not protect or even recognise multiple forms of knowing and remembering are disfiguring their identities.

The negation of one set of memories over another is inscribed by the negation of one set of experiences over another. The politics of negation and erasure in neo-colonial South Africa have resulted in a particular framing of patriotism that has dislocated the Africanist and Black Conscious contributions from the struggle and corralled collective thinking accordingly. Equally problematic is the elitism and othering that is promoted by the framing and site of heritage. Rather than being diminished to a dashiki or Seshoeshoe once a year, heritage ought to form the normative acts, symbols and forms of our daily existence. Traditional clothing is a powerful symbol of being and rather than being fetishised once a year, should from the tapestry of our community, work places, schools until the colonial imagination is diminished. This tapestry includes the languages, names, poetry, literature and human ethic that contribute to the people we are. Nation building requires that we stand as witnesses to the full truth of the past and the present. It requires a critical mass comprising of the plurality of the many who know, who see and who speak.

To quote Cabral: “The colonists usually say that it was they who brought us into history: today we show that this is not so.”

 

(Photo Credit: Mail & Guardian / Gallo)

#Shackville: This is what it looks like to be at an institution so resistant to change

Last night on lower campus. Fire, police vans and screaming students – this is what it looks like to be at an institution so resistant to change that it would rather eat itself from within.

I’ve been here 6 years and every year brings the same stories of heartlessness from student housing: of students sleeping on campus because they have no where to go, of students from rural KZN, Limpopo etc getting off busses with nothing but a plastic bag and being told they don’t have the bed and food they were promised.

Last night the police were grabbing students at random on Rondebosch main so the argument that they were dealing with specific aggressors isn’t true. I had a gun pointed me while literally standing on the sidewalk and tweeting.

I honestly wish people would stop clogging up social media with so called social commentary and just be honest about the fact that they’d rather everything remain the same. They’d rather not know about the countless stories of dispossession and desperation because it makes them uncomfortable and it makes them complicit for saying nothing. I grew up middle class – I know that we are socialised into ignoring the struggles of the poor – things are going to have to change whether you want them to or not. ‪#‎HomelessAtUCT‬ ‪#‎Shackville‬

 

(Photo Credit: Dela Buhle Gwala)

Remember Marikana

 

(Photo Credit: Dave Mann / The Con)