What do they learn (in school today)

What do they learn (in school today)

a hawker deliberate
she open-mouthed at the youths of today
unmasked undistanced
outside their local high

What do they learn
in school today
assembling now
up close and personal in our Covid-19 era

do teachers not teach about these new times
about this invisible enemy
along with the other
linking all pandemics in critical thought and analysis

(do they just stick
to the usual to the syllabus to what is dictated
not wanting to stir)

What do they learn
in school today
it being just a day
before June 16
a Public Holiday

are there doctors here
epidemiologists too
gathered boisterously
it being just a day before a Public Holiday

Remembering June 16 1976
of struggles past and present

South Africa’s Youth Day, June 16 2020

(Photo Credit: Simon Fraser University)

Still many rivers to cross

Still many rivers to cross 
(with apologies to Jimmy Cliff)


Still many rivers to cross
for those whose language
includes words and phrases
the world has heard before

Riots and Rioters
Vandals and Vandalism
Terrorists and Terrorism
(Destruction of Property)

Did we here smile
a smile of Deja Vu
at images of that statue taking a river-dive
(where else were there)

not just a statue 
but a symbol of it all
just as those uniforms are
the planet over

Still many rivers to cross
will we find our way over


Television scenes of that piece of stone taking a dive, brought the 1969 Jimmy Cliff song to mind.

(Photo Credit 1: Daily Mail) (Photo Credit 2: INews / PA)

We didn’t get to finish

Tembinkosi Qondela

We didn’t get to finish

We didn’t get to finish
a social media dialogue
in between the music
I sent TQ to keep
our spirits up

We didn’t get to finish
he asking leading questions
in response to my saying
that I miss the schoolchildren

What will you do he asks
when most are infected 
the school has to close 
and you can’t even 
visit them at the hospital 

Children whose nutrition 
and immune system 
is compromised are also 
vulnerable and then they 
bring it home to those 
who are more vulnerable

Whizz Centre suspended classes 
for 60 of their learners 
who were a major source 
of the Centre’s income
putting people’s health first

This is the TQ we knew
health before profit
health before economy 
not economy before health
he maintained you cannot sacrifice 
people’s health for the economy

Then he asks me
what is this economy 
we are talking about  
are we talking about 
food or gold

We didn’t get to finish

(Photo Credit: Facebook / Tembinkosi Qondela)

Perfect day

Perfect day

it is
with a young author
all of 11-year’s old
on my morning radio


she bubbling away
enthusiastic is she
about writing
and reading too


(World Book Day
has passed virtually)


A tad later
another is on
she somewhat 
longer in the game


Perfect day
is her first 
choice of music


a song surely 
to bring cheer 
to humanity


surely not
what with we all
held to ransom 
by a virus


one that has exposed
the planet’s cracks
for all to gasp at
and then to act on


A Perfect day


Two authors and a Lou Reed song on Michelle Constant’s show get this going, on South Africa’s Lockdown Day 31.

(Image Credit: “Joy” by John Von Wicht: Smithsonian Museums) (Video Credit: YouTube / Eagle Rock)

There shall be

There shall be

There’s a Manifesto
There’s a Party Political
There’s a Charter and 
a Statement too 
of some intent

There shall be
the usual smoke
come election-time
(and no doubt after)

Plenty for all
All for plenty
in the many
Lands of Plenty

Plenty of material 
for PhDs and movies
cartoonists and satirists 
and even for comedians
to stand up

Plenty now dressed
in their appropriate
Aims and Objectives
(no red carpet here)

from this stage
to every other stageist
in this phase or that
in this queue or that

There shall be
no walking of dogs
says a talking hat
(face on straight)

But
There shall be
Post-COVID-19
Elections 
and the beyond

There shall be
Plenty for All
to remember 
here and beyond

Dogs walking or not

Lockdown Day 5 went by, with a weekend Zapiro cartoon (Daily Maverick 4 April).

(Photo Credit: The South African)

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)