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

Ghetto Rough

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You can’t take the ghetto out of me!

“You can take me out of the ghetto, but you can’t take the ghetto out of me!”

Sounds familiar, right?

You wouldn’t be wrong for saying that it does. It is, after all, what the famous South African rapper, KO, says in his hit song “Cara Cara”.

But what we may or may not agree about is what he meant when he said this. Did he perhaps mean that you can take someone out of the ghetto, but you can’t take tsotsi-taal and kasi style out of him? Or did he simply mean that we can even take the person to New York or Paris, but we can never make him forget about his neighbourhood and its people?

I grew up in an age where we constantly had Zola, Arthur Mafokate and Mandoza on TV and on the radio. They were the faces of Kwaito. But even more than that, Mandoza and Zola (especially the Zola in “Yizo Yizo”) represented what was known as being “Ghetto Rough” or being a kasi tough guy.

This meant you were a kasi guy who knew the ways of the ghetto and you survived no matter what difficulty you faced. You were a no-nonsense kind of guy who got respect from all circles of the neighbourhood, but you also knew how to have fun and enjoy yourself with those around you. Seeing all of that, other guys wanted to drink, smoke, hang out and be seen with you. Girls saw you and blushed. They were attracted to you. You were the MAN!

That’s the kind of guy we saw when we grew up. And that was what being ghetto or kasi meant. Back then if you told someone “you can take me out of the ghetto, but you can’t take the ghetto out of me”, it meant that they can put you in fancy hotels and dress you up in suits, but they will never make you forget tsotsi-taal, your kasi friends, and the kasi’s style and the toughness it needs from its men.

The interesting question is: what does it mean now, in 2015, to be ghetto or kasi?

Does it mean wearing leggings or skinnies with Carvelas, Lacoste ankle-boots or even All-Stars?

Does it mean having a weave, a gold-tooth and drinking beer at the local shebeen?

Well, if you ask Masixole, a close friend of mine, he will tell you that he’s not even kasi or ghetto. In fact, he’ll tell you that he wants to move to a different area – a fancy apartment somewhere in the city to be specific. But what he doesn’t want to forget about the kasi when he moves is his family (his mother and two younger sisters), amagwinya (vetkoeke or fat cakes) and umbengo (braai meat).

Personally, I’m not sure if I also want to move away from the kasi, but one thing I do know is that I agree with Masixole about not forgetting my family and kasi food if I do happen to move to the suburbs. I love amagwinya, umbengo, umngqusho (samp and beans) and pretty much every other meal prepared in the kasi. And that is what it would mean if I said to someone that they can never take the ghetto out of me.

#ChatBack: But what does it mean to you?

What does it mean to be a kasi guy or kasi chick?

Is it about the food, the fashion and the tsotsi-taal?

And would you be willing to leave all of that behind and go live in the suburbs, for example?

Black Tax

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Not too long ago I read a Facebook status that spoke about something very interesting.

The status spoke about how black guys in their mid-twenties cannot be compared to other guys in the same age-group from other races. Basically, it said that these young, black guys all have to pay what’s called the black tax, as soon as they find a job. Now, this “black tax” as I understand it, means that young, black men have the responsibility of supporting their families as soon as they start working. This is said to include paying the school fees of younger siblings, maintaining the household by paying for expenses including groceries, electricity and water bills.

It’s easy to think, of course, that this week’s topic is about race or racism, but as the title says, “it’s about culture, not race”.

When I was still living with her, back in 2003, my mother always told me stories about how hard she worked in her younger days, both as a domestic worker and as a dressmaker to make sure that we were not only fed and clothed, but that we went to good schools as well. Her role, she said, went even further than that because she also had to make my grandparents proud by supporting them and others in the family and community as well.

She recalled how she would arrive from Johannesburg and Cape Town in style in the Eastern Cape with bags full of freshly-sewn clothes, plenty of leftover padkos (or umphako, as we Xhosas call it) and parcels full of groceries as well. She was the pride of the community. That, she said, is the price she paid for being the eldest and most hardworking daughter in the family.

Her story sounds familiar, right?

Well, I’d be surprised if it didn’t. It’s very much the same as the “black tax” that the Facebook status spoke about. To her, though, it was about making a difference, because of lessons that her culture and family had taught her. It was about taking whatever skill she had and using it to benefit her family and community. Her father had, for a long time, taught her about the importance of being kind and helpful to others starting with one’s family.

I think it’s fair to say that there are a few lessons that can be learnt from my mother’s stories. One of those lessons is that it is not only black young men who carry the responsibility of supporting their families or even communities, young women also do it. The second lesson is that it all depends on the culture that exists in your family and community, whether or not you pay this “black tax”. If, in your family (as in mine), you are taught from an early age to share what you have and to work hard so you can be helpful to others, then that means you have a responsibility to use your money to support others.

Of course, some people would say that it’s not just a cultural thing, but a racial one as well, because research has shown that a lot of white people in this country have never really had the same responsibilities. The reason for that is that their family members or neighbours often don’t need that financial support, because they have access to opportunities that they can use to succeed.

Obviously, it must be said that not all white people are wealthy, but it is fair to say that they’re not in the same situation as black people. They never had to deal with Apartheid laws that limited their educational qualifications and, because of that, they are often financially secured and don’t have to worry about lifting themselves up from poverty.

I guess what we can say, ultimately, is that the responsibilities that come from the “black tax” are both cultural and racial.

That’s how I understand it.

But now that we’ve heard what my mother and I had to say about the “black tax”, it’s time to hear what you have to say.

#ChatBack: Do you think that it’s fair for a family or a community to expect its working young people to use their money to help?

And if you think that it’s not fair, what are some of your reasons for thinking that, and what would you rather spend your money on, then?

Let’s continue this conversation on Facebook too. What’s poppin’ eKasi!

I don’t love you anymore…

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In Xhosa we have a saying that goes: “into engapheliyo iyahlola”, which basically means that if something has no end to it, that’s a sign of bad things to come (or bad omen, as some would say).

Of course, people in relationships would probably do everything in their power to stop that from applying to their relationships. They’d probably tell you that their relationships were meant to last forever. Hell, some would even tell you that their relationship was blessed by a pastor or even a sangoma.

What those people ignore when they say all of that is that a relationship has two people in it and that, because of who those two people are, the relationship can be either good or bad. The crazy thing is that sometimes people look at a couple and say that the couple is a happy couple with a good relationship, but it comes out a few weeks or months later that they’ve broken up. Clearly, then, whether “good” or “bad”, a relationship could surprise and suddenly end.

But if all relationships could suddenly end in a break-up, does that mean that no one should fall in love? Does that mean that we’re all “doomed” to being single for the rest of our lives?

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on what you were expecting), I don’t want to talk about giving up on love. That’s perhaps a topic for another day. Right now I want to talk about the break-ups.

In my experience, break-ups come in all sorts of ways. There’s no one way of breaking up with someone.

And if there’s one person who’s been involved in a number of break-ups over the years, it’s me. I remember 2012 clearly. It was after Valentine’s Day. I had told her on the day that I “adored” her, but the reaction I got was far from what I was hoping for. I got a text later on in the day in which she told me that she NEEDED to speak to me.

My heart jumped from my chest into my throat as soon as I read it. Somehow, I just knew she was going to give me bad news. I could sense that I was about to be dumped. True enough, the next day she gave me the classic it’s-not-you-it’s-me speech. “It’s not you, it’s me, Sicelo. I really tried to love you the way you love me. I really don’t mean to hurt you.”

At that point, my pride kicked in. My male ego was on overdrive. As soon as I heard her say the words “hurt you” I became offended, because she made it sound like my whole world was going to end just because she broke up with me.

I went on a mission to “hurt” her back. The next day I called her and said that I NEEDED to talk to her about something. As soon as she came, I confessed that she wasn’t the only girl I was seeing. I confessed that there were two other girls – all from the Law Faculty, one in her class and the other in mine. The crazy thing is that I was so angry I didn’t even realise that I was possibly causing more drama.

I almost told her who those girls were, even though she would’ve known both of them and possibly confronted them. A part of me didn’t care that one of them was in her class, and that I had introduced the one who was in my class, to her as a friend.

Luckily, I didn’t cause more drama. And, eventually, we became good friends and she helped me through a difficult time in my life.

The moral of the story, you ask?

Break-ups happen. They happen even when you don’t expect them to. And when they do happen, they can hurt like hell. They disappoint, anger, make you want to scream and cry at the same time, but the one thing that remains true is that you must never act in a way you will later regret. In other words, don’t beat up her next boyfriend or call her a slut. Don’t beat up his next girlfriend or go around spreading gossip about him and stalking him.

That’s why for my part in the drama with my ex, I’m sorry. I regret cheating, because not only did I betray her trust, I also set the two other girls up for heartbreak when I got them involved. And I also regret telling her about it just to spite her. Since then I’ve realised that I should’ve just told her that I wasn’t happy with our relationship instead of cheating.

The other thing I’ve realised is that I could’ve handled the disappointment she gave me in a much better way – without acting like a jerk and an emotional bully. One of the things that make me feel better about the whole situation is that we’re closer now than we ever were, because I’ve since become a better person.

So now that you’ve heard my break-up madness, it’s time to hear about yours.

#ChatBack: What is your experience with break-ups?

Do you think it’s understandable for people to be hurt, disappointed or even angry during break-ups?

And what are some of the lessons that you think can be learnt from it all?

The Lost Generation…

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I’d be surprised if you haven’t heard this before, because this is what they call us, the young people of the 21st century. And when I say “they”, I mean the older people that were also at our age in the nineteen seventies and eighties.

They call us the nineties babies, born-frees and call themselves Apartheid babies. Of course, I guess we can’t really protest the fact that we are nineties babies (being born in ’91, I guess I definitely can be considered a nineties baby). That’s not my point. That’s not what I want to talk to you about this week. What matters is whether we’re a lost generation or not, and that’s what I want to talk to you about this week.

Usually, in my experience, this name-calling happens whenever people start talking about the heroics of the 1976 generation, youth unemployment, pregnancy rates, drug use and the use of money. And that’s where I wanted my focus to be in trying to understand why we’re being called the lost generation.

I can remember being told from as far back as grade ten until I finished high school, that the 1976 generation of young people was willing to push the boundaries in order to make a difference in their communities, schools and country, most importantly. I remember being told about the importance of following political news so that we could know what our politicians were doing to make our lives better.

This, I was told, was because the country’s votes would soon be led by us and we would play a huge role in the way the country was run, just like the 1976 generation did. I was excited and scared at the same time, because I had always thought that voting was for grown-ups and I wasn’t ready to be treated like an independent adult yet.

Next, I was told about youth unemployment, pregnancy rates, drug & alcohol use and the use of money. I was told that this generation is lazy and will not even try hard to get the most basic qualification a person can have in South Africa – a Matric certificate. This, as they explain, increases youth unemployment. And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, they also say that young people are obsessed with partying even though it leads to drug & alcohol abuse and the waste of money on buying party outfits and other stuff like that.

Personally, I think calling sixteen-year-olds or even eighteen-year-olds and twenty-two-year-olds for that matter, a lost generation is giving up too soon. Life has ups and downs that you learn as you progress through it, and, because of that, sometimes it takes a mistake you make when you’re eighteen to prevent you from failing when you’re twenty-three. So, ultimately, I don’t agree with what the older people have to say. I think there’s still hope for this generation of young people.

But what do you think?

#ChatBack: Do you think that today’s young people know what it takes to be good citizens in South Africa?

Do you think they care about their communities and about this country?

Check out my Facebook page and chat with me.

Follow the money!

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What if I told you some parents take the child grants they get from the government for their children and spend it on alcohol, clothes, paying debts, while their children don’t even get a cent?

I was watching television the other night and I saw this on a show that usually talks about these kinds of topics. They interviewed a six-year-old boy whose mother lives in Johannesburg while he lives with his grandparents in the Eastern Cape. The sad part about this story (or the part, in fact, that really makes me angry) is that the boy isn’t living with people who can afford to raise him. His grandmother even told the news reporter that sometimes she goes to bed hungry, because she takes whatever food she has and gives it to him so that he doesn’t have to go to bed hungry. It was clear, at the time of the TV interview, that she was sick. Hell, even her husband seemed to be suffering from the difficulties of old-age.

Where or how does the boy’s mother fit into all of this, you ask?

Well, one thing I can immediately tell you is that she doesn’t. She is far away in the land of gold (Gauteng) and doesn’t even send a cent for the support of her son.

And it gets worse.

It turned out that for years she’s kept the card used to withdraw the boy’s child grant to herself and dropped the phone whenever the grandparents called to ask her about it. The boy also speaks about how she not only spent his money on supporting herself, she also abused him and took whatever money his father sent and wasted it too.

If you think that’s the worst story we’ve heard about how government money is used, you’ll have to think again. This is only the smallest part of the problem.

If you’re a Twitter person then I’m sure you’ve seen the hash tags (#Nkandla and #PayBackTheMoney). And if you’re a TV news or newspaper person, I’m still pretty sure that you’ve seen pictures and videos of our president’s home and how his neighbour lives in a small, shabby-looking mud house with a rusty roof. Thuli Madonsela, the public protector, has had her say about how our president is supposed to pay back at least some of the money, because the government was wrong in making some of the upgrades it made to his house. The government, in response, has had its own fair share of announcements about how Thuli Madonsela cannot legally force the president to pay back the money. They have also claimed how all the upgrades weren’t a waste, saying rather that the president needed them for his safety. In doing all of this, of course, they were ignoring the fact that our constitution allows the Public Protector to act the way she did. It seems that they are merely trying to cover up yet another scandal rather than addressing the real issue.

The real issue, in case you’re wondering, is how some people continue to use government money meant to help poor South Africans, in selfish and corrupt ways. And the really sad fact in all of this, or so they say, is that many young people don’t care. We watch all of this happening on the news, see the hash tags on Twitter and the posts on Facebook, but we don’t want to find out how to make our government do the right thing (or hold them accountable, as some say). And, even when we know what to do, we don’t do it. According to reports, it gets worse than this, because these young people also influence others into not caring about politics and money.

The question is – do you care? And, if you do, do you care enough to take action and do something?

#ChatBack: So I ask you, then, do you care about how the government uses money or how your neighbours, for that matter, use their social grants? Would you be willing to take action if you found that they were using it in a corrupt way?

Like my page on Facebook: What’s poppin’ eKasi.