A few things on my mind

 

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I have like many been fascinated by the response to the #Saveourgirls campaign. As a woman and a mother this is something which obviously concerns me. And as much as it has received global attention, it will eventually be overshadowed by some other world tragedy. But while it still has the spotlight, maybe we should be looking at the root of this problem – that worldwide women are a commodity – and one without much value.

The abuse of women is endemic. Women are raped, trafficked to be sold as sex slaves drug mules and still no one has managed to put a cost the loss of their dignity and self-worth because you can’t put a monetary figure to it. I was once held up at gun point and during the robbery – I was shaking as a leaf – and one of the robbers said to me “Don’t worry, we don’t rape” I could have kissed him had it not been for the gun pointing at my face. The second time was only a few weeks ago when my husband woke up to find a man tiptoeing out of my room. I, clad in nothing else but a t-shirt– the perpetrator left with nothing but a cell phone – made sure he did not wake me up. It could be that he thought he had just entered a scene from ‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose’- I snore. I am being facetious I know – but I have been lucky. And that is what we are now calling it – because the chances of being raped a higher than of not.

I went to wedding once and the priest’s sermon was about placing value. He told of a prince that was ready to wed and after a country wide search he could not find a suitable princess. However, there was a local village girl that he had taken a liking to. Not overly convinced, the king agreed and said that at least she would not cost them the dowry a princess would have cost. To which the prince told his father that whatever the dowry he was going to pay for the princess, the king must triple it for this local village girl. Surprised by the prince’s demand, the prince responded “It is only through us placing value on her that the rest of the kingdom will follow suit” 

He was saying that all men must place value on their women, husbands on their wives, fathers on daughters and sons on mothers. The amount of value these men place on the women in their lives, it is the value that society will place on them. Every year you see the most influential leaders across the world congregate at places such as the World Economic Forums to discuss the facilitation of ‘peace’ and globalised trading, but the sexual misconduct against women and children still does not make it on the main agenda. Yes there will be side meeting on gender inequality – but that is again in the workplace where the money is. The plight against women doesn’t feature on the main agenda is because we are not deemed as a valuable asset – well we don’t have a monetary value.

It took the questioning of costs relating to our President’s house for him to mention that the upgrades to his house stemmed out of a need for heightened security because one of his wives was sexually violated at that house. Would you then not have thought that this would be the man who would have zero tolerance on sexual abuse in this country?  Would that not have made him want to make sure South Africa was the safest place for women to be in?

My husband always says the day that boys start finding interest in our daughter, is the day that he buys a gun and will take every visit by the suitor as an opportunity to clean his gun. And we all know those dads – the ones that you knew that you fuck with that his daughter – he will come sort you out.

Where then have these men gone? The ones that are able to stand up for their women, be it mothers, daughters, sisters and say “Not on my watch” Imagine is every potential perpetrator knew that every man in this world would put him down without hesitation if he touched any women inappropriately. I guess it would be up to the men to find it inappropriate first.  

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ImageFriendships are the most complex of relationships – more so than family.  I have been fortunate that I have acquired many friends over the years and we have formed a circle of friends. I always think of it as the same as King Arthur’s famous roundtable, where everyone who sits around this table is of equal status.

Back on the complexities of friendships, I have realised that same as family, friends seem to be the only relationships that even when they have crossed you – you seem to always forgive and come back to each other.  I speak from experience as I over these years have dealt with my fair share of crossings – either instigated by me or with me on the receiving end.  

One of the friends, who was then still not part of the circle, after observing a few of these crossing was surprised by the recipient’s  ability to forgive and move on – her exacts words were “Is there a shallow grave amongst you guys?”

Over the past week, I started thinking, as I do…. Imagine how hard it would be to keep such a secret. It would require so much work. For a secret as dark and deep as a shallow grave you would need to have a very tight knit circle of friends. However, there is no such thing as a shared responsibility on a secret. Even around King Arthur’s table there was a chair designated for King Arthur and he remained the king – the well-being of the kingdom rested on his shoulders, his responsibilities are slightly more than of his knights – as valued as they are. Even amongst his knights, I would imagine the ones that sat closest to him, were closer to the issues than those on the far end of the table.

That would be the same with the shallow grave, as much as the circle was privy to the existence of the shallow grave, there would still be the ones responsible for the incident behind the shallow grave. They would be the ones burdened with ensuring the secret was kept.

However, I am often surprised by how some people value themselves by how trusted they are with other’s secrets. You must have heard it before, “You can trust me with your secrets” and those are people that you should never tell your secrets to. Often the ones with a secret worth keeping have the ability to identify these people early on – hence their position in the circle. The challenge is that these people are almost always never aware of their shortcomings.

In their determination to claim some form of relevance – these are the people who plot and plan their rise to the top. Their choice of allies and modus operandi is always questionable, bringing into question their abilities – which almost always end up in not achieving their desired goal – a seat next to the King.

I must say I do empathise with the knight. I would imagine it would be difficult to explain to one’s ambitious wife, how you as a knight around King’s Arthur’s table do not enjoy the same privileges as some of the knights – when all are equal in status.

However, I would imagine once the King and his knights hear of the ambitions and possible impact on the well-being of the circle/kingdom/shallow grave, they would gather and put a plan in place to quell all ambitions permanently.

Shallow grave ….. what an imagination.

wet towel on bed

My family wakes up at 6am, even Pompies who I believe wakes up every morning thinking today is the day that something interesting happens in his life. I wake up half an hour beforehand. I need the time to gather my thoughts. Mostly because my mornings are unbelievably hectic, but most importantly I need to have gathered my thoughts so that I am ready to address the life critical issue/challenge that my husband is going to pose at me as he opens his eyes to greet the day – issues ranging from my plan to curing AIDS, solving the high unemployment rate in South Africa to the not so critical things such as advising NASA on its next launch to the moon. As you can see I need to be prepared. Unlike him, I need time to gather my thoughts and formulate a plan.

Once everyone is up, I then take up my other big tasks for the day, finding limbs, finding ‘Where is Floppy’, saving lives – my son’s normally, who in a swift moment has found ‘Finding Floppy’ and is about to tear the book into pieces – risking his short stupid life. Of course the potential killer is cranky because once again she did not heed the call to go to sleep on time. A lecture that I am once again privileged to hear my husband deliver with the same fervour as yesterday morning, the morning before that, last week, dare I go on.

In between all of this, is my husband showering and my picking up after him. My favourite thing to do though is picking up the soaking wet towels off my bed. Then it’s picking up his clothes from the bathroom floor into the washing basket which is miles away from where he dropped his clothes. It is picking the shower gel, bath soap and shampoo off the floor and putting them back on the gel/soap shampoo holding thing.

We are now late, again so getting everyone in the car, we share a car – is another crazy experience. This means him opening the gate, strapping our daughter in and closing the gate behind me. We are going to be stuck in traffic. My daughter’s school is six minutes away, and in that six minutes, she has asked me twenty fucking times if she is going to be late for school. Which I respond “No baby, your school start 45 minutes from now, you are fine, its daddy and I who are going to be stuck in traffic and possibly be late”

Traffic in Joburg is a nightmare, so you need to be able to catch either the beginning or the tail end of it – minutes matter here, get it wrong and you are screwed. Of course we always get it wrong. This means an hour of us bickering in the car about the best route to take. If you have not noticed I am a creature of habit. I believe that having a routine enables you to plan. Tried and tested methods leave no surprises – a philosophy my husband does not share. Therefore every morning we each try out this philosophy to prove either one wrong.

Then it’s the evenings, supper with its normal threats, the begging and pleading and then shouting to get the two into bed. Followed by the terrorist’s refusal to sleep and the more tired he is, the crazier he get. At 20:30 there is dead silence. My daughter is in bed in a position that would put any contortionist to shame. My husband passed out on the couch – defeated again. My Pompies in my arms – boob in mouth – all is well in his world.

There is a reason I am telling you all of this. Two weeks ago my husband spent 10 days in hospital. And all of the things above, that have been the biggest issues in my life became the small things I missed. Even the biggest event of my life this month, where I came home from hospital exhausted, left the gate unlocked and my car door wide open, resulting in my waking up to find my car emptied out – did not compare to what my life would be like without him in it.

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A day before I went back to work, I went to my friend’s house for lunch to try squeeze out the last bit of our holiday. You know once back at work – there is no more time for leisurely lunches – even on weekends.

So as I am about to leave she says to me in Sesotho “Oh back to work, to go speak English, write in English, hell think in English” While watching TV that night – my welfare channels aka SABC, eTV and Soweto TV – I noticed that all the black people speak English – even on programmes that are predominately targeted at the black population.

 Back at work – I overheard a conversation between two of my colleagues – and the one said “If it is the last thing I do, I will teach you Afrikaans” And then during drinks on Friday – we were sitting 10 of us (9 black and 1 white) and as would be expected, we started speaking in vernacular, to which our white colleague said “Guys I am here” to which we apologised and duly went back to speaking English.

Looking around I thought – I have white friends that I have known for twenty years, some of my closest white colleagues I have known for over 6 years and none of them have ever greeted me in Sesotho. What is this democratic South Africa we make reference to?   

As we are about to celebrate 20 years of our democracy, our freedom and transformation and economic inclusion – hope you can see that I am using all the buzz words – how included and transformed is this country? This transformation and inclusion is legislated – there are policies that we have to implement, quotas that have to be reached. However, unlike learning my language if it’s not legislation – don’t worry about it. No one is doing it just because it is the right thing to do.

Our transformation and inclusion seems to have come with the same conditions as buying an insurance policy. A grudge purchase, but you know you have to have it. And just like an insurance policy, you don’t have to know it well; just enough to make sure what it can get you. You will never bother to get intimate knowledge of its workings, and if it does not work out – take it or go.  

Boy and Mandela

My December holidays were pretty quiet – but therapeutic. I went home to go visit my parents’ graves. It had been three years. Sitting on the side of my mom’s grave, I realised that 22 years down the line, I had been living to die.

People always say ‘Life is too short’, life has been nothing but short for me – you know what they say about a watched pot.  So I made her and myself a promise that I was going to start living.

My new lease on life has come with some challenges – mainly the need to be honest with myself and others. That is not fun – it’s like an alcoholic going through the 10 steps programme. In face a very close friend of mine said the first step is to forgive myself – as I am the one that I have cheated the most.

Secondly, there is the need to catch-up. I am now aware of how much I have taken for granted and what I have missed out on. One of the things is how little I have accumulated. This has been going on for a while – a few years back a friend of mine had come to visit my place and said my place looked like I had just moved in, and I had been living there for over three years! I had all the functional stuff but nothing that would require much packing should I not be there the next day.  Now I am making lists of things I need to get, of stupid shit, like buying a mop and broom for my house.

Lastly, I am going to be critical of who and what I surround myself with – I want to be around people who inspire greatness, share a similar vision and have the commitment to make it happen.

I know what I have not achieved in the last 20 years; I am really excited to see what I can achieve in the next 20 years.

Everyone must have a manifesto 😉

This is video footage of President Clinton receiving a tour of Robben Island by President Mandela.

A 1990 Town Hall meeting with Nelson Mandela of South Africa anchored by Ted Koppel on ABC Nightline in New York.

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