Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Grandma and Farmer Nagel : a tale of two Identities

I grew up in Apartheid South Africa in the Mid'80s. Now what is interesting with that time was the chasm between black and whites. Growing up in my grandmother's rural homestead I had a lot to learn about human relations. Grandmother, Ennie Nompitimpti Nyauza was one formidable woman. Nompitimpiti means traffic to those uninitiated to the Xhosa vernacular. Grandmother a force of nature as her name implied. she drank a lot, took snuff and was generally energetic. Neighbours in our small village used to brew sorghum beer for her specifically, call her and let her have a time of her life. Drunk, she would come home and harass us all. She would tell me in her drunken stupor that "Yes, I'm struggling with you here while your wayward mother is having fun in Johannesburg. I buy shoes for your, pay your fees at school while nobody cares about you suka![get out of here] " But all in all gradmother was a lady of the people. One side of her that never failed to amaze me was that she was also deeply spiritual. Said her prayers every night when she went to bed. I struggled with these different versions of her. Another fact is her unusual yet cordial friendship with one farmer called Oom Nagel- an Afrikaner boer who use to come to our village and sell everything, from wood, milk potatoes and tomatoes. Mind you, this was at the height of apartheid. Oom nagel with his battered lorry will come every week...toot!, toot! toot! He will hoot. "Ouma melk, tamaties, dikgong (wood) he will advertise his wares as he drove slowly down the street passing our home. Well, you might ask why is this relevant? Here is why: around that time we were taught to fear the white man. He was the baas. The system afforded him such power over the natives. Hey! Not to my grandmother. She could bargain with Oom Nagel each and every time, complaining that his wares are not to good standard. Grandma was able to get her points across each and every time, and each and every time she won. She would buy a load of wood from the old white man and if she was not happy with something she definitely let it be known. "Hhayi, izinkuni zaka Nagel zi manzi. Zenza umsi." [No,no,no, Nagel's wood is wet. It does not burn and it smokes a lot].She would say this in no uncertain terms. Or maybe she would complain "Nagel's milk is watery. It does not have cream at all. I won't buy it next time". Now Oom Nagel was an old man himself...with peeling heels, craggy face that was papery as though it is a scone with too much self-raising agent in it. Week in, week out Oom Nagel will come, and every time grandma will buy something. In my young mind it appeared as though they enjoyed each other's company and the banter that always developed between them was something to behold. Oom Nagel will never pass our house without calling out grandma. It was unheard of then. For a white man to be so cordial with an uneducated African old lady. It taught me one important lesson- that friendship can cut across the colour line...and that human beings are one and the same after all. It does not matter the language you speak. If you can be able to find each other's souls then the world can be a better place.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

All that glitter is not gold

I very much like the saying. It captures everything about me though I am not being anything near narcissism. I know how the very use of the word tend to make one appear such. Let me point out from the start I am very far from that hated state. Well, human beings like to talk about themselves, isn't? I guess its got a lot to do with the very nature of our existence. We exist precisely to make meaning of our lives. Our sense meaning, by its very nature, tend to be subjective. That is the conclusion I had made ever since I was able to differentiate wrong from right, and form my own opinions. Do I sound redundant? Well, forgive me for committing this cardinal sin. I, Themba Joe Nyauza who is, by the way, not narcissistic had realized I am attracted to the very simple things in life. The other day I was with a couple of friends on a research trip in Cape Town where we happen to visit the V&A Waterfront in the city. What is funny is that every time we were there I tend to fall sick. I would feel bloated and gasping for air for no apparent reason. Even the food on various top-notch restaurants did nothing to whet my appetite for the so- called "good things in life". Everything around me felt stuffy and I feel trapped. I longed for the open clear air by the sea not that air - conditioned environment. One of my friends even thought there was something in the air of this world class shopping mecca that made me sick. I would like to agree with her. Talk about dancing to a drum of a different beat... Funny enough, to those with me I could see they were all starry eyed. Their went "wow" like Alice in the wonderland. I could see their eyes taking in the d├ęcor, terribly expensive clothes and whatnot. They were so enthralled by this spectre of capitalism at its zenith. Like kids in a candy shop...or make that a toddler in TOYS R US department store. It was the same at the glitzy Cavendish Square and Access Park shopping paradise. They were flitting from store to store fitting this clothing item, trying this wrist watch and feeling the comfort of this high-end sneaker. Man, it was heady! Myself I did not enjoy any of this. Poor me... I only became myself when we were in the Townships around Cape Town where I was able to immerse myself in the local culture. Or when we visited famous land marks like the Chapman's Peak, Ostrich farm and the majestic table mountain. Now that was something that captured my mind. I was like wow!! I enjoyed trying out the local cuisine and tasting a juicy, succulent piece of steak prepared over coals by the locals. Long street downtown was another spot that I enjoyed immensely. It may be due to its bohemian disposition that made me feel at ease I don't know. Tasting different brands of craft beer was quite an experience as well. I guess these mumblings point at nothing but the fact that all that glitter is not gold. At least to some of us. It is anything but. Adios....

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The universality of the ubuntu principle

Talk about the concept of Ubuntu principle to anyone who is not an African in a true sense of the word then you're bound to be met with some snorting through the nose, especially in our race obsessed South Africa. To cynics it is like you are Thabo Mbeki misquoted as saying HIV does not cause Aids. Well, what do you expect? We are the nation that perfected apartheid and racism and called it "separate development". The cheek! Bigots in our midst when you utter such a word they be going like "what do these Africans think they are? I am here to tell you that Ubuntu-botho (Humanness) is a universal principle shared by all of us. Yeah, I mean that! This principle became clearly shown in aftermath of the recent runaway fires that ravaged the greater part of Kynasna in Cape Town. The way people of all hues rallied together to help the victims of those fires is a case in point. It was heartening to see people donating clothes and foodstuffs to help the unfortunate victims. Watching the evening news these passed few days my belief in this principle had been reinvigorated. Strangers were willing to help those in need, be it through clothes or blankets, especially when one thinks of the biting Cape Town winter in this time of the year. I am here to tell you that the United Nations was founded on this principle. Right?! Ohh Kay! Even the evil systems of apartheid and colonialism was predicated on this notion no matter how perverted they were. It must be pointed out that though these systems were divisive and hated at most, they serve the basic need of some sort. Protecting and making sure one of our kind is well taken care of. Whatever way you wanna look at it this systems were basically designed to protect "those who like us". A broerderbond (brotherhood) of some sort if you like. This is my layman's take on these systems anyway. This principle is pervasive right through the entire human population. Talk European Union, NATO, African Union and the like. All these institutions are undergirded by this basic principle in their conception. Looking out for "one of my kind" is the motto. Even the lucrative Development Aid programmes that offer hefty renumeration packages to aid workers are primarily guided by this notion. At least that is the understanding, regardless whether evidence on the ground seem to point at something different. The overriding aim is to seek to help another human being, right? Anyway, this is not pretending to be an academic piece but just rumblings of my restless mind...

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

When did the senseles rush to acheive become so maddening?

What all the fuss about this rat-race to achieve? The need for achievement had reached fever pitch in recent times that one can only label as mind-blowing. Many among us about to burn out. Phaa! Out in the ether of nothingness. This headlong rush to become has reached epidemic proportions and with it goes our most basic element...simplicity. A very fulfilling way of living in my book. Most people around me are infected with this 21st Century malady. Why? Where did we go wrong? How did we lose the plot? I am sitting here and mulling over this as we speak. Well, achievement is a good thing if it only make us better beings. But this?! No ways man! It has become our obsession. I happen to share a house with this one guy who seem to be afflicted with this madness. Thwaa! It hit him in the face while he was sleeping one night, it may be. I don't really know. The workaholic housemate of mine is going straight to an early grave. Working from Monday to Sunday, up by five O' clock in the wee hour of the mornings and coming back in the early evenings. Jesus Christ of Nazareth! To make what? An extra buck so that he can buy that car he is always talking about? Oh please! It pathetic way of existing. For a piece of scrap metal. Jeez! He has become what I had picked somewhere in my Sociology class the other time. A cog in the forever whirling wheel of the grand capitalist system. Trying to become a bigger cog in this dog - eat - dog pathetic system. It is so sad when I think he could be taking time out to enjoy life. To feel sunlight in his face and listen to the beautiful, angelic sound of Enya crooning Carribean blue on the sound system. Watching all this unfolding in front of my eyes I sometimes feel choked. Precisely by watching nice specimen of human beings losing their selves in things that have no value in the greater scheme of life. My guiding principle in life is that no one will remember my material achievements when I die, but they will most probably remember the time I spent with them. When will we be able to enjoy the simple things in life if most of our lives are taken by this senseless need to achieve? To be more? Huh? Damn right. My plan is to go out every now and then and enjoy the open veld. I want to feel the fresh air of the savanna beating softly against my face. To listen to the distant sound of thunder when the rain clouds gather. To hold a small, feeble lamb in my hands. Enjoy its softness on my face To feel the soft sand on the beach under my feet with water breaking against the rocks. To see a genuine smile spread across my friend's face as we sit talking...watching the sun going down on the horizon. Such a pointless rush to nowhere is getting stuffy for my liking. It has turned humans into robots with numbed senses. And as empty vessels we watch life passes us by. Numbed by our innate need to keep up with the Joneses even if it means working our fingers to the bone. I'm sorry such pathetic existence is not for me. Nah! Thanks, I will pass.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Bathabile Dlamini's sartorial faux pas

I was watching the evening news the other day when the Minister of Social Development, Bathabile "let them eat cake" Dlamini was being grilled by the Parliamentary portfolio Committee on Social Development about her misdemeanors. The issue on the agenda was centred around her unauthorized use of the public money for private use. Well, this is Africa. News reels had been written about this scourge to no avail. To cut the long story short. The Minister was accused to have used State money for security upgrades at her children's residence. The Portfolio Committee was trying to rectify this seeing that it put government officials in a bad light. Now you may be asking why is it wrong for the mother to make sure her kids are safe and secure? We know the story of South Africa and its rampant violence, right? Well, to me it seemed wrong for the Minister who is presiding over a very important portfolio to be found wanting. Social Development Department is such an important portfolio in a society where 26% is unemployed and, therefore depend on welfare. She is supposed to be the custodian of the poor. The down and out and those of us who fall within the cracks of our Guptarized economic system. One thing in particular did not sit well with me that night when I was sitting there watching her trying to extricate herself from a sticky situation. Listening to her trying to justify her decision smacked of unaccountability. But here is the rub. What really caught my attention was the Minister's glasses. You know, those made infamous by nerds. It was almost as if the Minister was trying to pull the smart girl look. I am here to point out the she failed spectacularly! What she managed to achieve was the crass-I-don't- give- a - damn look. It was as if she did not care about spending that obscene amount of money on matters unrelated to her work. In South Africa that is toiling under the yoke of poverty and destitution! Let me not mention the violence that is putting South Africans under siege. The next time the Minister appears on National television she should at least consult an Image Consultant so that she can package her into the caring Mother Theresa her Department requires her to be. Honestly. What she managed to achieve by wearing those glasses was the cheap girl look if you ask me. She only needed to chew a bubblegum to complete the look. Crass and utter irresponsible in my book! She should definitely take a leaf out of Winnie Mandela's book. Now that's pure class! Especially when it comes to sartorial elegance. If I were you Madam Minister, I would most definitely fire my assistant for letting me go on a national television looking like that. You should be striving for the look that says "I care about the welfare of South Africans". That crass Marie Antoinette look is a no! no! Please!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Letter to my ten year-old self

How are you my little brother? It has been such a long time! How have you been anyway? Not too bad under the circumstances, I guess. Well, for me it has been twist and turns, but then I hope this applies to you as well. I just want to tell you how much lucky I feel to have met you back then. Things were interesting hey, didn't they? Do you still remember your close friend Anele in Orlando East? That scruffy, dirty looking boy from Phiela street? Even today I cannot remember his last name, but never mind. Geez, how close you two were! Soul buddies, I must say. Well, the last time I heard about him is that he had cleaned up pretty good. Quite charming young boy he was. If I could turn back the hands of time maybe I could hook you up with him. If it was only that possible. Remember little girl Sophie and her great birthday parties; and Tarzan on the television? Ufana ne mfene kaTarzan...haa,haa, haaa!! Then let me take you back to the days on the farms and the village. I remember seeing you running all over the place. Full of life and happy. Do you recall when you disturbed the bees' nest and ran away and let every kid you were playing with be stung by the angry bees? Such a rascal you were. And when you took the whole box Brooklux chocolate laxatives, ate it thinking it was chocolate? There you had parents very worried. By diarrhea that resulted from that? Your mother was worried sick as to what happened to you? They only realized what happened after finding the box of Brooklux empty inside your mother's bag. Then the penny dropped. You ate them thinking it was chocolate. What about that shepherd that you and your friend, Ntsokolo, use to harass? What was his name by the way? Oh, Simon or Sy. He was much older than you two. How you use to sneak up on him and then scream "Sy with a big dick". Oh my, how he used to be angry with you two! He would chase you all over the place with his face twisted with some kind of anger that could make the weak shake in their boots...but you never gave up. The allure of fun was too much to resist. Then there were those Friday nights at the soccer field were you use to be in the company of older boys. Those bon fires you use to make out of old tyres were legendary. All the kids in the village use to come together and that old boy, Dodo's tape recorder blaring music into the night. Those tyres were probably stolen somewhere in the village...from the farmer's yard. The fun of it! Dancing to Om' Rex Rabanye "O nketsang" and doing break dance to Bejamin Ball's tracks. It was pure joy. The children of today must take the leaf out of your book. Their kind of fun pales in comparison. Our fun was only stopped by one lunatic parent with a sjambok. We stopped after that lunatic slashed open the thigh of the boy called Vicks with a sjambok.That was beacause we were becoming a bad influence to his kids, and kids being kids his used to join us. He was a fanatical disciplinarian that old man. Vicks still bears his scar even today. Everybody used to love you. The old girls, especially. What was the nickname they use to call you by? Oh, now I remember...Alosto. I didn't know what it meant. Then at primary school it was another part of your life that need remembering. Do you recall little Stevie with the gruff voice and Mandla? Best friends ever! The gruffly- voiced Stevie was the provider of everything. His father had deep pockets, you know. The only sad part of your life was when it was time to bring home school reports. You use to hate that because you'll have outperformed the rest in your family. This did not sit well your brother because the parents use to compare reports. He was not academically gifted like you. Gifted in other ways, but then parents use to rub it in as some way to encourage him. You use to cringe at the snide remarks he use to pass at you. Slowly you died inside because he let you believe that your worth was only through books. That use to hurt you a lot. You are still carrying those scars today. The thing is you use to look up to him as a brother. He violated that reverence that you use to give him. He could be comical fellow on his day. Everybody liked him and used to laugh at his wacky jokes. You wished to be like him and make people happy. He could talk to anyone, young and old with relative ease. You like being like him. Such was life man. But let me tell you one thing. He was a damaged kid. There was some deep hurt and shame right down his soul. It use to descend on him sometimes. It is just that you never noticed. As such he became vindictive and you struggled to cope with that. That was his method of coping. Please understand that. I know how much damage that negativity did to you. This made you to withdraw into yourself, and books became your friends.Koeketsa Kitso ya Lefatshe and Crhis van Wyk's books became your friends. Some of your friends use to enjoy reading them and tell you that you have interesting books. Don't you remember? They told of interesting places and things. That somehow managed to lessen the hurt you use to feel inside. I am writing to you now to tell that that whole experience was just to make you stronger. Here you are after all these years. Well, life happened, and it will continue to happen as it should. So far you prevailed. Please enjoy all the experiences because that is what life is all about. What does not kill you makes stronger. I am telling you this because I love you and will never forsake you. There are still going to be mean and ungrateful people out there when you grow up. Please don't let them steal your shine. Live your life as you see fit. Make mistakes and learn from them. Other than that do what pleases you and learn to laugh at yourself and your sometimes stupid mistakes. Love you to bits...take care. Your older self... Adios amigo.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The anachronism that is job interviews

Let me say something that has been bothering me for quite sometime. Job interviews suck and they should have been thrown out of the window by now. I mean in this information age where everything we need to know about someone is at the tips of our fingers. They are an anachronism that let pure talent slips through our fingers sometimes. Especially those hated type...the panel interview. My God! Who is that sadistic individual who invented this method of interviewing? He or she should burn at the stake, at a public place nogal. They are pain in the ass!(excuse my French). Here is a typical example: You'll get the all important call that you have been waiting for to tell you to come for an interview for the post that you have applied for. The happiness that comes from getting that call! With your heart beating in your ears you go yay! Then reality sinks in. It will be a panel interview! You start stressing. What is the appropriate attire to wear, then about what kinds of questions are they going to ask to whether you should arrive an hour earlier of five minutes just before the actual interview. I think this is just useless rubbish that should have long been forgotten. I mean for starters you have proven that you have a modicum of a teachable mind by going through the education system or whatever training that you might happen to have gone through. That should count for something, right? Unless, of course you are applying for public office like, say, the Presidency or anything similar that will require public speaking. Why do you have to go through this useless torture? Then you arrive in your best attire. They ogle you. Your posture, your tone of voice, blah, blah, blah. If you ask me, the whole thing should be overhauled. Interviews should be made as informal as possible. Maybe held at the local Restaurant or at park. I remember arriving at an interview one day with a spring in my step as a ploy to calm my nerves. Then I met this woman who look something akin to Winnie the Pooh. I was in my element, extolling my virtues and whatnot. I was so taken away by my narrative that when I was done I caught Winnie the Pooh looking at me as if I am some kind of a lunatic. The whole incident felt like when you answered your door and find the Jehova's Witnesses standing on the other side and you are not actually in the mood to talk about God but you don't have the polite way to say so. It was kinda like sad when I think about it. We could have avoided the unfortunate incident had Winnie the Pooh took the trouble to go online and check my personality there. She could have gotten a clearer picture of what kind of person I am or was. What makes me tick or what makes suck. That kind of thing. Then there this stupid question that they like to ask: Tell us about yourself. For me this sounds narcissistic. I can tell you more about myself without being asked so pointedly and I think It can save everybody trouble. I remember a very fruitful Job interview that I once attended. It was so informal for it was held at a Coffee shop. The ambience was so relaxed that I even forgot I was in an interview. I bet my interviewers got to learn more about me more than they could have been at any other setting. See? Yes, I think standard job interviews have passed their sell-by date. They are an anachronism like so many other things that I can think of. We have facebook,skype, twitter, the lot! Jesus, why can't we get on with the times?