Sunday, June 26, 2016

Oh No, Not Another Rape Victims Story!

My post published in News24
By Fareed Kaloo

I don't want to bore you with stats and figures of rape in our country.
I don't want these words to be lost in the cacophony of the debate on rape.
I don't want the two statements above to minimize the very real importance of having serious discussions on the subject of rape.
What I do want is for us to instill some very real truths in our dialogue on the subject.
I will have achieved this objective if, at the end of reading this, you don't simply exclaim “Oh no, not another rape victims story!”

Now, it is incumbent upon us as human beings not to just talk about the truth, but to actually seek it, to find it, to live it. My teacher taught me that. My parents instilled this in me from a very young age. The same truth I hope to impart upon my two young daughters. To be the seekers of truth, but to have the firm conviction that their voices are powerful enough to have their truth heard. And for those voices to carry an equal weight, equal to the voices of their male peers.

What is it in us that seeks the truth? Is it our minds or is it our hearts?

I set out to prove that men and women perceive rape from the same perspective; that those demanding justice for the victims of rape are as much men as they are women; that the punishment for rape is the same requested by women and Rape Crisis Centers and Rape Support Groups as it is from men and male driven rights groups; that we are all equal in the eyes of the law.
That's not the truth, because the eyes of the law are human eyes -- yours and mine -- and until we can see each other as equals, justice is never going to be evenhanded. It will remain nothing more than a reflection of our own prejudices. So until that day, we have a duty to seek the truth, not with our eyes and not with our minds where fear and hate turn commonality into prejudice, but with our hearts -- where we don't know better.

Now I want to tell you a story.
I'm going to ask you to take your time, and read each sentence slowly.
I want you to imagine every aspect of this story as I relate it to you.
I want you to read these words, and truly understand their meaning.
I want you to listen to yourselves as the words sink in.

This is a story about a little child walking home from the grocery store one sunny afternoon. I want you to picture this little child. I want you to imagine this little child dressed in a school uniform, walking home and looking forward to watching some TV and laughing and playing with the rest of the family. I want you to see the innocence of youth in this little kids eyes.
Suddenly a car pulls up.
Two men jump out and grab this little child. They drive off and after some time, drag the kid into a nearby field and they tie the kid up, and they violently rip the clothes off the panic-stricken child. Now they climb on, first one then the other, raping, violating, and shattering everything innocent and pure -- vicious thrusts -- in a fog of drunken breath and sweat. And when they're done, after they've killed every ounce of innocence, murdered any chance for a normal life, desecrated the very sanctity of youth, they decide to use the limp and almost lifeless body as a sheath to plunge their rusty sharpened knives into. So they start savagely beating and stabbing this child. The fear and terror in those innocent eyes have now been replaced by complete numbness.

A numbness borne of trying to understand why.
Why is this happening?
What have I done to deserve this?
Why is nobody here to hear my screams?
Why is nobody here to protect me?
Why is everything around me suddenly going dark?
Why is my world suddenly so silent?

Can you see this child?
This beautiful child raped, beaten, broken body, covered in dirt, soaked in their semen, soaked in it's own blood -- left to die.

I want you to picture that little angel.
Still dressed in a school uniform.
A school uniform symbolizing all the hopes and dreams of our precious little children across this beautiful land.

Now I want you to imagine this child as a little boy.

Until men of all races and creeds, in every nook and cranny, in every suburb and every township, in every sports-bar and every shebeen across our amazing country, begin to realize that the discussion of rape is a human epidemic and not just a female issue, we will never understand the problem.
Until men realize that it takes a village to raise a child, and that downplaying rape by accepting rape culture and condoning rape jokes teaches our sons that the village protects rapists, we will never stop this plague.
Until men realize that their duty as fathers is as much about teaching their sons to respect women as it is about teaching their daughters to respect their bodies, we will always find a victim in the females and never find a rapist amongst our males.

For far too long men have associated rape with female victims, perpetrated by rapists who are nothing like them or their friends and peers.
Speak to the friends and families of every rapist, and they will tell you that it was completely out of character and they simply cannot believe that he is a rapist.
I say “he” without dismissing the fact that females can be rapists too.
The premise of this piece however is to focus more on the culture in which we are bringing up our young men.

Until we change the culture of what is expected of our young men; until we challenge the gender bias that it's acceptable and expected of boys to compete to win and failure is not an option; until we understand the destructiveness of teaching these young men that women and jobs and trophies and acclaim are not challenges to be won at all costs; until we reprogram our sons to respect all women as they would and should their mothers and sisters and wives and daughters; until we make each of these young men and boys champions of all rights and liberties, never afraid to raise their voices and call out injustices against women; until we shame the rape and sexual abuse apologist with the same vigor we've begun to shame the racist with; until we're ready to send our sons into the world with the absolute certainty that they have neither the capacity to condone rape culture no the capacity to commit any acts of sexual abuse; until then, we will always react to shocking truths with “Oh no, not another rape victims story!”

I'd like to end with this quote, which epitomizes the fear men have of broaching subjects they're uncomfortable with.
A fear we need to urgently overcome.

“Most of us tend to belittle all suffering except our own," said Mary. "I think it's fear. We don't want to come too near in case we're sucked in and have to share it.”
― Elizabeth Goudge, The Scent of Water

It's time we get sucked in and it's certainly time we overcome our fear.
Begin the dialogue with our sons and fathers and friends.
Break down those barriers to discussions on rape and sexual abuse.
Be the ripple that begins the tsunami against this societal ill.
And never ever think it's ok to say “Oh no, not another rape victims story!”
For until we completely stop rapists, we are all victims.

I make no apologies for this article being loosely based on Jake Tyler Brigance's closing argument in trial in John Grisham's book “A Time To Kill”.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Hlaudi With A Chance Of Meatballs

My latest article published in

Sometimes a story is so far-fetched and beyond belief, you’re left wondering if it’s simply satire or just a slow booze-induced week at the local papers. Unfortunately this story about SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng is neither satire nor some drunken fabrication for laughs. It seems that management at our public broadcaster really have gone off the rails, and things at Auckland Park really are Hlaudi with a chance of meatballs.

The debate still rages on regarding the SABC’s recent fatwa to all their stations demanding 90% of local music content to be aired across the airwaves.
There are two sides to this argument and objectively one can easily understand both. Understanding doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with. While I understand the need to increase local content exposure, I quite frankly don’t agree with the manner in which the SABC has gone about it.

I think the SABC bit off more than they could chew with this 90% local content decree, and I think Hlaudi’s choir is going to be singing a different tune in the not too distant future.

I’m not a huge fan of Lotus FM simply because I find the content on Highveld Stereo more appealing to my taste in music. However, one can safely assume the demographic and target market of Lotus FM to be Indian. The station is one of only a handful which caters to the Bollywood-loving Indian community, and keeps its tiny audience of listeners tuned in by playing the very latest hits from the Bollywood circuit. Advertising revenue to the station is the grease which keeps the cogs turning, and advertisers target this niche audience with ads tailor-made for the Indian community.
Asking this microcosm of minorities with it’s own unique language and culture to suddenly embrace a 90% influx of local content to their radio station would be akin to having The Natal Sharks Board call you up and inform you that they need to house 20 species of shark in your goldfish bowl or else you don’t deserve goldfish.

Someone called in to a radio station the other day and said the problem can easily be rectified by simply increasing local content providers or getting more Indian musicians to submit their material to Lotus FM.
I can only imagine the caller had never heard local Indian music.
I have.
That’s why I listen to Highveld.
Take nothing away from the talented local Indian musicians out there, and I’m pretty sure this new decree will benefit them. But can they make up 90% of local content? The good one’s at least? I have my reservations about this.

I think Hlaudi is going to need his choir.
He’ll certainly need them to drown out the sound of dissent coming from the smaller radio stations who simply can’t fulfill this 90% local content quota.
I hope I’m wrong.
I hope that within a year our airwaves are bustling to the sound of local music.
I hope the SABC is lauded for making our radio stations proudly South African.
I hope the choir at the SABC know the words to “Hlaudi With A Chance Of Meatballs.”
For in this wonderful nation of ours where leadership make hasty decisions, costing taxpayers millions and doing no favors to Brand South Africa, one can only hope.

Hlaudi is doing to the SABC what Malusi has done to tourism and what Dudu continues to do to SAA. Where there is a lack of accountability and no regard for consequence, the words “Corporate Governance” are simply big phrases found in useless textbooks.

Friday, May 20, 2016

No More Load Shedding? Don't Rejoice Just Yet

My post published in News24
Dated 09 May 2016

Load Shedding.
First experienced in South Africa around April of 2008.
By March of 2014 we were already bracing for long, cold winters as our state power utility Eskom warned the nation of it’s inability to keep up with electricity supply.
Then last week our President joyfully informed us that Load Shedding was a thing of the past.
No more load shedding? Don’t rejoice just yet.

Before we pop the champagne and celebrate our victory over dark forces, let us unpack this announcement and shine a light on how we got here.
Quoting megawatt production and supply capacity from power stations would be a snore fest quite honestly. To the man in the street who is paying higher tariff rates and more per month on his electricity bill, Eskom’s data on consumption is like the number of illegal immigrants crossing into our borders. We know its high; we know something needs to be done; but quite frankly there’s not much we can do about it.
What we do know is that Eskom asked NERSA (National Energy Regulator Of South Africa) for R22Billion for the 2016/17 financial year, and they were told to bugger off (in more diplomatic terms of course.)
Eskom then said they couldn’t guarantee that the country’s lights would remain on. A veiled threat, but a threat nonetheless. NERSA subsequently granted Eskom R11.2Billion.
Still not convinced that this would solve the problem, Eskom took it’s brightest (oh the irony) and sharpest analysts (and I’m guessing anyone and everyone in management who felt they deserved a holiday paid for by the taxpayer) to a 3-day retreat in order to start the spend on that R11.2Billion paycheck in earnest.

Somewhere between a cut of Wagyu steak and a glass of Pinot Noir (note previous point above as to who was footing the bill for this retreat), an Eskom genius (already on the WWF endangered species list) realized that consumption figures for electricity were falling. This would ease the need for electricity supply. This in turn would take the strain off the power utility. Ultimately meaning that Eskom no longer needed as much as R22Billion to keep the lights on! EUREKA!

Armed with this fantastic news on Day 1 of the retreat, management decided that 2 more days of pampering were in order. After all, the country had just been saved a whopping R11Billion electricity bill!
When management finally did present these new findings to Number 1, Nkandla was forgotten and the new Presidential Jet was ordered.
The South African Money Tree is so fertile and our cup just runneth over and over and over.
Blessed is this land we call Africa!

Economists and analysts will tell you that true electricity consumption is down for the following reasons:
* Eskom electricity production has been declining since 2007
* Consumers and businesses are becoming more electricity efficient
* The biggest consumer of electricity (mines, smelters and big business) have been laying off staff, shutting down operations and down-scaling
* Alternate energy producers have entered the playing field
But let’s be honest, what do economists and analysts really know?
None of them have R250million homes or fly in R4Billion jets.

Eskom not implementing load shedding and our government celebrating this, is like celebrating our annual road death toll figures coming down because we’ve started removing our tarred roads and national highways.
I won’t be celebrating the unemployment levels, loss of mine jobs, inefficiencies at our power stations and consumers just so annoyed and frustrated at load shedding that they’ve had to find alternate means to keep their lights on.
I certainly won’t be celebrating the news that load shedding is a thing of the past.
Those dark forces will simply come back in another form to bite us in the butt!

If there is any lesson to be learned from this whole sorry saga, and one that our esteemed ministers (sleeping and awake) should certainly take heed to, it’s this:
If we fail to plan, we should plan to fail.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Mall Of Africa : One Mall To End Them All

The smartest minds in investment, property and forward planning have just sat down at a polished mahogany boardroom table. The discussion centers around the future of the South African economy, the state of our local currency, and the looming recession. Concern for investors and shareholders is deeply etched into every wrinkle on white capitalist faces. Business and residential foreclosure is at an all-time high. Bad debt is spiraling out of control and household savings is almost non-existent.
Suddenly a voice in the room cuts the doom and gloom with the surety and confidence of a Zuma ‘Finance Minister’ selection.
“What Gauteng and this country really need right now, is a mammoth shopping mall!”
Instantaneous cheer and applause and the popping of champagne as another white elephant is expected to come marauding through Africa.
The idea for a Mall Of Africa has just been born.

With a population of 55 million at last count, South Africa is ranked 6th in the world for most number of shopping centers. While Canada may be 5th on that list with a population of 35 million, let us not forget that the Canadians don’t have half their population living below the poverty line. According to a 2015 report, 27 million South Africans live on an average of R779 per month . Poverty Report
Put into perspective, that’s less than the average price of a t-shirt from Armani Exchange at The Mall Of Africa.

The fact that investment in the country is sorely needed is unquestionable.
The question I pose regards our social responsibility.
We have a booming middle-class who have more exposure to ways of spending disposable income than they do to ways of investing that disposable income. Fancy cars and trendy brand-name clothes compete with retirement plans and long-term investments, and the latter is coming up short. Terribly short.

One only needs to view the auction pages every week to see the number of cars and homes being sold at the drop of a hammer. Simply because a middle-income earner with a promotion or new high-paying job was enticed to compete with his neighbor for the shinier German car or spankier home, without being educated about looking after his or her personal finances. The auction houses are doing brisk trade. Banks are doing brisk trade. Unsecured loan companies are doing brisk trade. Unscrupulous loan sharks preying on the desperate are doing brisk trade.
The guy trying to make ends meet while deciding between his Sandton bond, his BMW installment, his Versace store account, or his case of 2-minute Noodles bought on his Credit Card as a priority… that guy isn’t doing anything briskly accept dodging phone-calls.

What then is our social responsibility?
Maybe we should start with educating ourselves about the difference between “Wants” and “Needs.”
As Walter Slezak once said, “We spend money we don’t have, on things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like.” All in an effort to keep up with the Joneses, who quite frankly are trying to keep up with someone more in debt than they are.

Where do we start then?
We start by embracing and promoting a culture of saving.
Here’s a scary statistic to show just how bad South Africans are at saving:
Our BRIC’s partners have saving ratio’s ranging from 5% for Brazil to 30% for China (that’s the percentage of household saving compared to income). How do we compare? Try -2.3% for size. Yes, that’s negative 2.3%! Household Saving Crisis
We suck so badly at saving, we’re practically borrowing money when we do try to save!

This financial education needs to start at primary school level. We need to start teaching our early generation of learners the importance of money, and the importance of saving money. We need to have programs in place throughout our schooling system that focus purely on fiscal management. We need to have more, many many more, courses for our middle-income earners and adults and pretty much everyone earning a salary. Courses that focus on savings and investments. Courses that teach the difference between Wants and Needs. Courses that teach about the perils of Impulse Buying, of Credit and of Interest.

Failure to do this ultimately leads us down a slippery slope of more malls, more borrowing, more debt, more poverty, and more social crisis.

The smartest minds in investment, property and forward planning have just sat down at a polished mahogany boardroom table. The discussion centers around the future of the South African economy, the state of our local currency, and the looming recession.
Suddenly a voice in the room suggests an investment in more public schools better equipped at teaching finance and economics to the youth.
Instantaneous cheer and applause and the popping of champagne as another inspirational project is expected to bring prosperity through Africa.

Friday, April 1, 2016

President Thuli Madonsela?

Local and international media headlines have been dominated by news of the South African Constitutional Court ruling on the Nkandla matter. Articles and blogs and airwaves abound with expert opinion and analyst quotes regarding the future of the country. Even the embattled Rand, long regarded as the whipping boy of currencies by forex traders, rallied to pre-Nene malarkey lows against the Greenback.

In all the joyous celebration of justice prevailing at the highest court in the land, one couldn't help but wonder at the response from the ANC Women's League.

Once proudly seen to be the bastion of rights and equality for all women, the league was previously led by tremendously strong and accomplished women. However, this arm of the ruling party has of late become much of a disappointment in championing the cause of the fairer sex.

An organization with as much clout and influence as the ANC Women's League cannot be seen to be struggling with the advancement of women's rights. It certainly can't blunder on the issues facing women.
One will recall the "Steenkamp must rot in jail" comment by none other than the the league spokesperson. This blunder would have been funny had the headlines across every media format not made evidently clear that Steenkamp was in fact the victim, and Pistorius the accused. News24Link
More recently, the exposing by some of their members of buttocks and breasts at a Tshwane protest against the outcome of their party's general meeting didn't win them much favor. Social media was quick to react at the insensitivity and irony of the champions of women's rights, expressing themselves with lewdness and gratuitous nudity. News24Link
Less than 24hours after the Constitutional Court ruling, the Women's League once again found itself in the headlines; this time for showing its unwavering support for the President after the judgement. No surprises there. News24Link
The ruling party has been challenged to find within it's ranks a suitable female candidate to lead the country from the highest seat of power.
A female President.

Many suitable candidates with sterling leadership records and more that the required skill-set have been discussed and proposed. Many elders within the party leadership think the time could be right. Citizens from all walks of life outside the party would not disagree.

If a poll were done immediately after the Constitutional Court ruling, and if anything of substance could be taken from callers on talk-radio stations across the country, there would be an unprecedented landslide victory for one name: Advocate Thuli Madonsela.

She has been the finest example of integrity and measured calmness this country has seen in recent years. That statement holds true across all sexist and political lines. She seems to be a unifying force able to harness popular opinion by her sense of righteousness and honesty.
If she can't be counted for the post, the very least the current leadership can do is learn from her office.

President Thuli Madonsela
Finally a name that would make all the headlines for all the right reasons.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Leathered Shoe

It was the leathered shoe
That sheathed the weathered foot
That had walked countless measured steps
That whispered to me
In hushed tones of tired limbs across polished wooden floors

Of a life lived
Lived in the rich tapestry and splendor of nothing
Nothing more majestic than the ordinary
Ordinary in every way but for the stories
Stories of a life lived

By a leathered shoe

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Buccleuch Muslim Community Defeats Residents Association At High Court

Masjidul Khaleel in Buccleuch

"Over my dead body!"
A quote from one of the directors of a marginalized Buccleuch residents association. So certain were they that the Muslim residents of Buccleuch would never have a masjid of their own.
Today the residents were triumphant and victorious in proving that a community can never be dictated to by the whims and fancies of a mere handful. The battle was taken all the way to the High Court, and sanity prevailed. The masjid will open as planned and service the community as intended.

Well done to the community and the trustees of Masjidul Khaleel for putting up a good fight and never wavering in their commitment to have a place of worship in Buccleuch, just as every other religious denomination is catered for in this beautiful suburb .
Justice has prevailed and the sweet sound of democracy can now fill the homes of every Muslim resident of Buccleuch at least 5 times a day.

In other news, the Buccleuch Steering Committee (BSC) which is an all-inclusive body serving the interests of every resident within the suburb will continue to denounce and eradicate the scourge of elitism and bigotry so prevalent in associations who haven't yet embraced the spirit of Ubuntu more than 20 years into our new democracy.

The winds of change are sweeping across our universities, across our boardrooms, and across our suburbs.
Let us never find ourselves on the wrong side of history, for we will be judged and judged harshly.