Archive for the ‘What’s poppin’ eKasi’ Category

National Apology Day

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I was at my old high school the other day, speaking to the Grade twelve learners there and trying to inspire them. I asked them to tell me about what they think are some of the most valuable lessons that the young people of our generation can learn.

As an answer to my question I thought they’d tell me about the importance of studying hard or something like that. I must say, of course, that I would’ve still been impressed if they’d given me those sorts of answers. But the answer that I did get from one of them was both interesting and very different to what I expected them to say.

A short, light-skinned girl, with a crazy afro, raised her hand and I asked her to stand up. Blushing a bit from all the boys in her class whistling at her, she composed herself and told me about an idea she had for a National Apology Day. She told me that on that day every young person would apologise for all the things they’ve said and done that have hurt others in any way.

If, as a young person, you’d talked back to an older family member when that person was scolding you, you’d use National Apology Day to apologise. Or if you’d been mean to someone or done some other thing wrong, this would be the day you’d use to apologise. In continuing to explain her idea, she said that one of the things she struggles with the most is to say “sorry” when she’s done or said something wrong.

But on National Apology Day, that can all change. All of this, she said, would teach a young person how to be humble. It would teach a young person that in every argument the feelings of different people are involved, and that if you respect and try to understand those feelings you can have better relationships with people.

Personally, I think that apologising for doing or saying something wrong is really important. But before we can even get to the point of deciding if we should even apologise or not, we first have to look at our feelings, words and actions. We have to ask ourselves tough questions about what could possibly be wrong with our actions and words.

Once we’ve realised how our actions and words were wrong, we can get to what really matters, the apology. Because, remember, if you can’t apologise, how can you expect someone else to apologise when they’ve done you wrong? And, in fact, it doesn’t even end there. An apology isn’t enough.

You need to change the way you act and avoid repeating what got you into trouble in the first place. I mean, think about it. If you take the train, for example, you’ll know that they always apologise when it comes late and tell us “we apologise for the inconvenience caused”. But the thing that makes people really angry about the trains is that they always come late again and again even though the railway operators apologised. They never stop coming late!

And that’s where you and I can be different. We can make sure that after we apologise for doing something wrong, we try very hard to not do it again.

But what do you think?

#ChatBack: Can you think of an example of when you looked at your actions or words and asked yourself whether you were wrong or not?

And if you thought you were wrong, how important was it to you to apologise?

Let’s continue this chat on Facebook: What’s poppin’ eKasi.

Independent women

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When I was growing up in the Eastern Cape I was never surprised to see my mother working in the garden every morning, lifting heavy rocks, trimming trees, ploughing the soil and watering the vegetables. Later on in the day, she’d sit at her sewing machine and start doing what she was she was known for in the whole town: dressmaking. In the late afternoon, when dinner needed to be prepared, she’d wash her hands and go into the kitchen to start cooking. That was her routine.

All I remember ever doing to help her out in this routine, is being asked to cook once or twice and planting potatoes during a time when she had been away from home for a week during planting season. She clearly didn’t need us, her sons, to do any of the heavy lifting. As her kids we watched in awe, as she went about every day, working herself to death. The lesson was clear: don’t expect someone else to do for you what you can do for yourself.

But in many other houses in our neighbourhood I saw a different story. Most of the women in my neighbourhood had husbands, uncles, brothers and sons who did the heavy lifting in their gardens and around their yards. Other men and women that spoke to me and my friends, though, sang a different song to the one my mother sang. They pretty much told me that it wasn’t a woman’s job to do the heavy lifting. It was a man’s job. I was told that a woman’s job was to take care of the kids, do the cooking, and perhaps even work on the sewing machine (a lot of women had sewing machines in our town).

It was also the old men’s job to over-see cultural ceremonies that were performed at the house and ensure that things were done in the ways of our ancestors, while the older women would advise the younger women of their role during those ceremonies.

It was a system everyone seemed to have accepted – except for my mother. It always felt like it was my mother, in one corner, versus the rest of the women in the community. Sure, there were a handful of women who had pretty much the same views as my mother. They were independent, kept to themselves whenever possible, tried to be business oriented, but they just never seemed to click with her. Whenever my mother tried to do business with them, there always seemed be some sort of conflict arising between them.

My mother would tell me how the other women judged her for being so independent and not needing a man in her life. She’d point out to me how even some of the widowed older women were expected to find themselves men to live with just to fit into what the rest of the neighbourhood was doing.

Looking back, I realised how difficult it must have been for my mother to be as independent as she was and not to conform to the majority of women in the neighbourhood’s views on the role of women – that there were jobs that women couldn’t do and shouldn’t do. Every day she would prove them wrong. And I think even though, as her kids, we never actually told her, she knew deep down that she made us proud with all her displays of strength.

I can’t say the same about the other kids in my neighbourhood. Somehow, I sensed that they feared my mother and just wanted to steer clear of her. I never understood what the reason for that was.

It is still hard for the women in my neighbourhood to truly be independent and empowered. There are many challenges standing in their way. There are always a bunch of men ready to take away any power women have claimed for themselves.

I’ve asked myself why?

Is it because the men feel threatened by independent women or is there some other reason?

Like is it, because a lot of women aren’t as physically strong as men and so men understand that to mean that women must be doormats?

Interestingly, my mother used to point out to me that it was also the women in our community who were convinced that a woman shouldn’t have that independence and empowerment that allowed them to stand as equals to men in all things, including work.

Changing attitudes that have been entrenched for forever is a challenge – is a huge one.

Maybe the men and women in your neighbourhood are not as stubborn as mine when it comes to change in the ‘traditional’ roles of men and women. Maybe in your neighbourhood men and women have accepted that times have changed, and that women can do what was traditionally seen as a man’s work.

#ChatBack: Do you think that times have really changed for women in 2015?

What is it like in your community?

Do women fight for their independence and empowerment and what are the the challenges that they face?

Pay back the money?

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First of all, let me take the time to say: welcome to South African politics!

Welcome to the land where our president has been accused of so many different things, on so many occasions, that he probably gets angry if he wakes up in the morning and his name isn’t mentioned in the news somehow.

Welcome to #Nkandla; #FirePool; #Nkandla-Gate; and last, but not least, #PayBackTheMoney.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard about this story on TV, from the radio and all sorts of newspapers. The political parties all say the same thing: “pay back the money!”; “pay back the two-hundred million, Jacob Zuma!”

The sad thing is that I haven’t heard enough ordinary South Africans like you and me, give their opinions on this topic. Yes, I’ve heard about radio and TV shows, interviewing people, but where are the heated discussions in the trains, taxis and busses? I just haven’t heard enough of those. Maybe it’s because some of us feel that those in power don’t care about whatever we have to say. Or maybe it’s because we just don’t care enough to even express an opinion. Either way, something needs to be done. Something needs to be started.

I was watching the news this morning and I found out that even Mac Maharaj, the guy who was working closely with our president, told a newspaper in London that the president should at least pay back some of the money. I agree. Our president is not a billionaire so I’m not saying he should pay back everything.

All I’m saying is that if you ask me to work at your house and fix the windows for your safety and I choose to also fix the roof, doors and lawn, then someone has to pay. Surely someone has to, especially if we hear you saying that you would’ve fixed the roof, doors and lawn with your own money and you didn’t need me to fix it. So why don’t you just use that money you were going to use and pay back at least some of the money I used to fix your roof, doors and lawn?

That’s the question I’ve heard people asking about this Nkandla thing.

Jacob Zuma said in parliament that he planned to fix his house with his own money, but that the government told him to stop and used our money to pay for it instead. So here’s my question to our president: why not just take the money you were going to use to fix Nkandla and pay back some of that two-hundred million that the media has been going crazy over?

If I had a chance to ask our president these questions I already know what he would say. He’d tell me that the Minister of Police said he doesn’t have to pay back a cent and that, for him, would be the end of the story.

But what do you say?

#ChatBack: Is the whole Nkandla debate a waste of time, because our president deserves to live like a super-rich king?

Or does he owe us at least some of the money back?

What do you think?

Hit me on Facebook also: What’s poppin’ eKasi, would love to hear your comment.

Out with the old, in with the new!

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The one thing that the older people in my family and community seem to agree about the most is that this new South Africa we live in has changed the way some of our oldest traditions are practised.

They say that the way amaKrwala (newly initiated men) act and dress is different to the way their fathers and grandfathers experienced it. Hell, even the chicks aren’t safe from the elders’ criticism.

They also say that Abatshakazi (newly married women) act and dress differently to the way their mothers and grandmothers did. But that’s a topic for another day. Right now I’d like us to talk about oobhuti abatsha (amaKrwala).

Every Xhosa person knows by now that after a boy emerges from initiation school as a new man, he comes home to umgidi (celebrations for the family and community) where he’s welcomed home and accepted as a new member to Xhosa manhood. One of the problems with this new South Africa, the older people say, is that this new man doesn’t dress the way our culture says he must dress. According to them, iKrwala starts his journey into manhood by wearing a suit (or a blazer and formal pants – as long as they are formal) and a cap or a hat (not a straw hat) for a period of six months after his umgidi.

There are rules about which colours he must wear and how he is supposed to wear his suit. He may not wear bright colours like orange, yellow and especially red. The fear is that these colours make him look too noticeable, like some sort of clown, when he is supposed to be doing everything he can to earn respect and carry himself with dignity. That’s why iKrwala isn’t even supposed to look around, run or be loud when he is walking on the streets. He’s supposed to wear a plain-coloured cap and long plain-coloured socks – not ones with stripes and bright-coloured dots or things like this.

And, to add to that, he isn’t supposed to wear his suit after dark (so from 6 pm he must change into a jersey or something) and must, in fact, not even leave the house after that time. He’s also supposed to wear face paint called imbola from the morning until 6 pm.

That is what the elders say they expect from iKrwala.
So how is the new generation of men different, you ask?
Well, for a start, the elders say, they wear bright colours – extremely bright ones! And, then, only wear their suits for three, two or worse, one month. You find some of them in taverns or walking the streets after dark. Others whistle at girls or stand with their girlfriends in the street and when you, as an older man, point it out to them, they react with anger and cheek as if you’ve disrespected them.

But is all this change wrong?

#ChatBack: Is it wrong for the new amaKrwala to dress differently to how the elders dressed back in their day or should change be allowed in culture?

Hit me with your comments on Facebook too. Share your thoughts with us.

I’m talking about cologne, shoes and watches, baby!

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For as long as I can remember, watches have meant something in my neighbourhood and even in my family. They’ve been a symbol of money and power – a statement.

As a kid growing up in the informal settlements of Philippi, I became excited whenever my brother said that he’d bring me new toys to play with. But my real excitement came from the digital watches that he used to bring me. To me (and most boys in my area), having a watch meant that you had money. We were convinced that only people with real money could afford gold watches with leather or metal wrist straps, for example. And if you could top that off with a gold chain as well, you were treated like royalty. Beyond that, it also meant that you were a tough guy as well, because it seemed to us that only guys who had money and weren’t afraid of being robbed dared to wear watches.

That was in the nineties and early 2000s. Fast forward to 2015 and you find that watches are still important. In fact, some would even say that having a watch now is more important than it’s ever been.

A colleague of mine even went so far as to say that a guy’s image is incomplete without their watches. Another colleague of mine said shoes are the most important thing that a guy must have when he goes out into the world every day. The reason, she says, is that a woman can tell a lot about a guy from his shoes. According to her, a woman can tell whether the guy is an easy-going or serious, professional kind of guy based on him wearing either All-Stars or Kurt Geiger formal shoes.

This conversation started, of course, after I asked each of them what they would choose a guy to have between a nice watch, cologne and shoes, if he could only have one. I had asked a male friend of mine the same question two weeks earlier and he’d told me he preferred to have all three and couldn’t choose one. Tamara, the third colleague of mine I asked this question agreed with Masixole, and said that a guy must have all three. She even went on to say that she prefers a watch with a metal strap, not the ones with leather straps, and that guys should stay far away from digital watches if they want to be taken seriously.

If someone asked me the same question, I’d probably also find it difficult to choose between the three. I must say, of course, that I agree with Tamara about the digital watches. I just feel like digital watches were big when we were kids, but they don’t really have a place on a guy’s wrist as a fashion item nowadays. The only time I would say is okay for a guy to wear one is if he is out jogging or in the gym or something like that, no other time. The nice thing about having a proper watch is that you make a fashion statement even from across the room to someone standing on the side of the room.

With cologne, on the other hand, the person has to be standing pretty close to you to smell it, because a fashionable guy knows not to put on too much cologne and suffocate the people around him. So people standing across the street or the room looking at you would not even know you have the cologne. If you’re wearing it to make a fashion statement, how would you make it then?

A proper shoe or sneaker is different from cologne, though. It does the same thing as a watch and makes a statement from afar. The condition of the shoes can also tell you a little bit about the person wearing the shoes. If they’re dirty (and perhaps even smelly) it tells you that the person might not be the cleanest person in the world. (As you can probably tell, I’m not a big fan of the trend that’s been going on for a while now where people wear dirty All-Stars.)

What I’m ultimately saying, I guess, is that if I had to choose between the three, I would choose shoes. I mean, think about it. What’s the use of having a nice watch and cologne if you’re going to have shoes that are falling apart? And trust me, ladies and gentleman, I know what it’s like to be so poor that you can’t even afford lunch, never mind a good pair of shoes. That, after all, was my experience in first year. Anyways, my point is that you can still look good even if you just have a good pair of shoes, with no cologne and watch in the picture.

But what if you had to make that choice?

#ChatBack: Do you think a nice watch could look good on you or does it have to go together with shoes and cologne?

What would you choose between the three?

Share a picture of what you would rather have (shoes, watch or cologne) on Facebook.