Tag Archives: Nelson Mandela

“The Breath of Sparrows” on Soundcloud

sparrow-from-wikipedia

Photo from Wikipedia

I have many fathers. One who gave me flesh and bone, a few who guided my first steps in the world of words, some who don’t even know I exist, and then many now no more than dust. I shall not name them here. There is no need.

In that vein I wrote “The Breath of Sparrows” years ago and posted its early version here on matangmanok. It now finds a final version in print form in my forthcoming book, Wings of Smoke (The Onslaught Press, UK, 2017).

I did a rough audio recording of it. Please click this LINK TO SOUNDCLOUD to listen to the final version of “The Breath of Sparrows.”

Tell me what you think, if you have the time or inclination.

Advertisements

Sinking the ship you’re in so you can build a new one

 

That seems to be the only logic behind Zuma’s axing of Nhlanhla Nene as Finance Minister. From the broken pieces of this ship he’s surely sinking, Zuma promises to build a new South Africa – perhaps with China cheering him on.

The announcement came just as the so-called 16 Days of Activism Against Women and Children was coming to a dismal closure (from 25 November to 10 December, Human Rights Day). Zuma tells us to take his word for it, to trust him though he fails to explain why someone who has stood to fight corruption by taking on the untouchable Dudu Myeni is being shown the back door with the lights turned off down a dark alley. Maybe Nene is just one more obstacle removed so the Russian nuclear deal can push through. Will there be anyone bold enough to take on the shady dealings with petroleum corporations (led by Shell) and the proposed (already approved under the table?) fracking of the Karoo?

Zuma, even before he stepped into those big shoes Mandela left (and Mbeki who was ordered to go barefoot), set the local newspapers (and got international coverage, too!) on fire for months with the story of an alleged rape of a friend’s daughter. One has to remember he took a shower. Then there was the Schabir Shaik trial which magically left Zuma unscathed and apparently even revitalized, no, emboldened. The blood from Marikana miners didn’t seem to taint him either. The famed firepool of Nkandla must have some magical powers (interesting links here).

Is it just us who are mad to imagine there is even a sinking ship? All along we’ve witnessed things that were too hard to believe. Yet they keep happening.

My very good friend who showed me around Durban back in November, a day after the 2015 Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award, said Zuma is considered by his countless supporters to be a prophet. Perhaps there is no crisis. Only non-believers.


The Breath of Sparrows… for Madiba

Mandela from wikimedia commons
The Breath of Sparrows
for Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

So it has arrived, the news
of your departure. Last night
I dreamt I was in the house
of my mentor, as a frequent guest
who took a desk by the window.

A towering tree with red
and yellow flowers as big as hands,
the breeze slipping between each
petal finger. I went to his room
to ask the name of that tree.

He lay on his bed, resting
with eyes closed but aware
of the birds weighing down
the branches, leaves caressing
the roof. The breath of sparrows

like his own. There was no need to name
the tree, no need to name anything
at all at that moment. I bid him thanks
before leaving, my footsteps drowning
in sparrow wings.

-o-


How to Kill with a Paintball Gun: an International High Seas Musical for the Benefit of the Israeli Offensive Force (a not so new arm)

How to Kill with a Paintball Gun: an International High Seas Musical
for the Benefit of the Israeli Offensive Force (a not so new arm)


“The activists were armed with knives, scissors, pepper spray and guns.”
He said he was armed only with a paintball rifle. “It was a civilian
paintball gun that any 12-year-old can play with,” he said. “I saw my
friends on the deck spitting blood.”
A soldier identified only as a sergeant interviewed
after the massacre in international waters, 31 May 2010

Make bloody certain you only carry a paintball gun
As you descend from the heavens, or a helicopter,
Landing on the deck with images of Peter Pan
In your head twirling, because you can never

Know when the passengers of a ship you are boarding
Without permission might not be willing
To give just all the world’s hugs and kisses
To give just what your world misses

A paintball gun is all you need
A paintball gun is all you need

Sing with me, all of you still rappelling down from the heavens

A paintball gun is all you need
A paintball gun is all you need

Come on now, don’t be shy, to the top of your voices

A paintball gun is all you need
A paintball gun is all you need

Be bloody ready with your paintball gun brothers
Tell the passengers to open their mouths wide
Be bloody ready with your paintball gun brothers
Aim well, not too low and not too high

A paintball gun is all you need
A paintball gun is all you need

Point your toes brothers
Let’s shock and awe

So no one ever forgets
Such magnificent pirouettes

Now flood those bloody mouths with paint
Go ahead, can’t you hear them begging

A paintball gun is all you need
A paintball gun is all you need

BANG!

-o-


Elders Condemn Israel’s Actions

The Elders group of past and present world leaders, including former South African president Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, on Monday condemned as “completely inexcusable” the deadly Israeli attack on a flotilla carrying aid for Gaza.

…”This tragic incident should draw the world’s attention to the terrible suffering of Gaza’s 1.5 million people, half of whom are children under the age of 18,” the group said.

How to Kill with a Paintball Gun: an International Musical

for the Benefit of the Israeli Offensive Force (a not so new arm)

“The activists were armed with knives, scissors, pepper spray and guns.”

He said he was armed only with a paintball rifle. “It was a civilian

paintball gun that any 12-year-old can play with,” he said. “I saw my

friends on the deck spitting blood.”

A soldier identified only as a sergeant interviewed

after the massacre in international waters, 31 May 2010

Make bloody certain you only carry a paintball gun

As you descend from the heavens, or a helicopter,

Landing on the deck with images of Peter Pan

In your head twirling, because you can never

Know when the passengers of a ship you are boarding

Without permission might not be willing

To give just all the world’s hugs and kisses

To give just what your world misses

A paintball gun is all you need

A paintball gun is all you need

Sing with me, all of you still rappeling down from the heavens

A paintball gun is all you need

A paintball gun is all you need

Come on now, don’t be shy, to the top of your voices

A paintball gun is all you need

A paintball gun is all you need

Be bloody ready with your paintball gun brothers

Tell the passengers to open their mouths wide

Be bloody ready with your paintball gun brothers

Aim well, not too low and not too high

A paintball gun is all you need

A paintball gun is all you need

Point your toes brothers

Let’s shock and awe

So no one ever forgets

Such magnificent pirouettes

Now flood those bloody mouths with paint

Go ahead, can’t you hear them begging

A paintball gun is all you need

A paintball gun is all you need

BANG!

-o-


ET Found Home

I wasn’t born here. Everything was alien to me when I first arrived. Check that. I was the alien.

I gawked at the strangeness of the world I had come upon. From high up in the air curious circles dotted much of the landscape. Gold brown fields appeared like carefully braided locks of hair. Then the mountains came into view, majestic and ancient, bounded by deep blue waters.

When I had the chance to meet the inhabitants of this new world I was even more dumbfounded. Some walked with unimaginable weights on their heads, like TV sets and sofas. Some sang at the drop of a hat even in crowded trains. Others greeted me like a neighbour from a common village. Wonder and unexpected connections nearly every day.

And then there were those who sensed the alien blood in me. They must have felt the intrusion of the shadow around my feet, saw my unusual gait, shape of eyes, my hair. These folks made me aware of the blast of winter air, made me shiver. I knew I was unwelcome among them.

I had arrived the very same year this country survived its first democratic elections.  The whole world was in awe. Mandela, de Klerk, and Tutu quickly became household names. Boundaries were broken, new bridges spanned old differences.

That was then. These days different names are hitting the headlines. Malema, Terre’Blance. Cracks that were perhaps smoothed over are showing again. Seeping smell of blood.

They say this is a land of possibilities. It was possible in 1994, why not now? What has changed? What has remained the same?

Sometimes it takes an outsider to see the difference, or what hasn’t changed at all.

Within a few years of my staying here I was, at least on paper, declared a citizen, and very much to my surprise.

Yet deep inside I know I’m still an alien. Some people I happen to bump on the street still remind me of that every now and again. The shadows are there.

The odd thing is that I’ve come to love this strange land like my own distant home. I can’t imagine leaving it, good or bad.


Sorry, Mandela, I won’t be voting ANC

Nobel Prize winner Nelson Mandela

Nobel Prize winner Nelson Mandela

(NOTE:  Here I am pretending to be a political analyst, so please indulge my incompetence.  I am only one voter on a flimsy soapbox.)

The great Nelson Mandela was recently used as an onstage prop on the African National Congress’s campaign trail.  He was aided to get on stage and off.  He sat as if for a photo op.  One wonders what he really thought about the whole circus.

It used to be that any word from him would hit local and international headlines.  Now, nothing but silence.

Mandela has proven he can be brutally honest even to visiting dignitaries.  As in the case of the broadly smiling former US President Bill Clinton who was told years ago on nationwide television something not quite subtle.

“You can jump in the fucking river!  We will never abandon our friends!”

This was in reference to the US Government’s request that South Africa sever ties with Libya.  Well, he did say it in Afrikaans, and meant that Clinton could keep his two-faced smile throughout the whole stately proceedings.

But unlike in previous times, Mandela has not said anything about the current South African political situation.  Perhaps age has made him less able to speak his mind more freely nowadays?  Or has the ANC leadership decided not to hand him the microphone at all?

Mandela’s wise words could be just what we need right now in this country before the national elections in April.

In the historic free elections of 1994, Mandela and the ANC were admired the world over.  The ANC had not only the moral high ground but a set of policies that epitomized respect for human rights.

The years under Mandela’s leadership were not free of controversies and burning issues, but they were the first steps out of the dark times of apartheid.  Not everyone thought South Africa could truly make it, but it did.

Thabo Mbeki had a tough act to follow.  How many people can measure up to a living legend anyway?  But looking back to his years as president, Mbeki’s efforts improved the lives of many South Africans through sound social and economic policies – or so perhaps we have been made to believe.  And he had not a few critics, among them AIDS activists.

Mbeki was highly criticized for being too distant from the people he is supposed to serve.  Despite this, one could feel that he deserves your respect.

The orchestrated events that led to the unexpected removal of Thabo Mbeki from the nation’s seat of power, showed how boldly the ANC leadership had grown in paving the way for the crowning of its party leader, Jacob Zuma.  The ANC took Mbeki out of the equation unceremoniously but had the semi-decency to replace him for the meantime with Kgalema Motlanthe.

It seems that they wanted Zuma to “earn” the presidency with an expected majority vote for the ANC from the people of South Africa.

COPE logo

COPE logo

It might be beyond the belief of the ANC leadership that ordinary citizens could be outraged by this act.  Thus was born the breakaway group from the ANC, the Congress of the People (COPE).  Though new and untested in the amount of support it can garner in the coming elections, it is nonetheless one option for voters who crave for change and a move away from what Jacob Zuma and his supporters represent.

ANC President Jacob Zuma supporters already claim him as president-in-waiting of South Africa.   They will try everything and anything to derail all efforts by the National Prosecuting Authority to take him to court for numerous charges of corruption, money laundering, and bribery among others.

Disinformation tactics through “sms texts” and claims from “reliable NPA sources” hit the news a few days ago about the possible dropping of all legal charges against Zuma.  One can only guess the source of such actions.

The same Zuma supporters threw their noisy weight around the courts during his trial for the rape of a friend’s daughter.  This to the dismay of rights advocates.

Zapiros controversial cartoon

Zapiro's controversial cartoon

The ANC, with its countless dubious officials who have been found with their hands in various government funds time and again, likewise led the attack and subsequent demise of the high-level and very successful criminal investigation unit, The Scorpions.

The Independent Electoral Commission reported a huge turnout in voter registration, something unheard of since 1994.  Perhaps the ANC will get a big surprise on the 22nd of April.

I haven’t decided which political party to vote for.  But I am certain it won’t be for the ANC and Jacob Zuma.

-o-

Here is a very interesting article from the Mail and Guardian on the coming elections.