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Archive for November, 2007


Helen Suzman, the paragon of the ‘liberal tradition’ in South Africa and frequent interlocutor for the rightwing Sunday Telegraph on life after apartheid was interviewed by BBC 4 Radio to mark her 90th birthday, where she explained her motivation for going into politics. As reported by News24.com today:

… She remembers that she wanted to pack up and leave the country when the National Party came to power in 1948.

She said she tried to persuade her late husband, Moses, a medical doctor with good contacts in the United States, to leave, but he didn’t want to know about it.

“So, I thought to myself: you’re a clever girl. You can do something. You can become more involved (politically).”

She said the realisation that she would have to make do overseas without household staff, finally convinced her not to emigrate.

“Very selfishly, I wondered who would do all the housework. That clinched it for me, and I stayed and became more (politicially) involved.”

Full story here.

Suzman of course is a formidable political personality and her role in formal opposition to apartheid has to be recognized for what its worth — between 1961 and 1974, she was the only opposition MP in the whites-only ‘Parliament’. [Although it is tiring to see non-South African media referring to her as ‘South Africa’s leading anti-apartheid campaigner.’ Ha?]

When I read the story today, I was not surprised that she holds contradictory views all at once. At best her holding this contradictory views explains for me to some extent her more recent comments about postapartheid South Africa to some media outlets (especially the UK Telegraph, who used Ian Smith — and this is in no way to compare Suzman with Smith who is now invented as a non-racial democrat after his recent death — in that same capacity when it came to Zimbabwe).

The fact that Suzman herself is now so candid, is also illuminating. One explanation may be that this is a sign of age. For me, however, perhaps more positively is the fact that she is not telling the story of ‘no whites ever supported apartheid’ and shows how immersed her own destiny was in white privilege.

However, probably the most curious thing for me in reading this, was that Suzman cites this as motivation for not emigrating and getting involved in ‘politics.’

If you read it literally: she was fighting to keep the help.

* The image is from Ed West‘s project Casting Shadows.

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The Financial Times likes its African ‘leaders’ to be of a certain type.

In a profile of former Nigerian finance minister and new World Bank managing director, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the newspaper’s William Wallis can’t contain himself:

Tough, articulate and Harvard educated, but dressed traditionally as a Nigerian, she is the ideal Davos African, in demand round the world.

The full article, which also praises here for speaking ‘… the right language at G8 summits,’ can be accessed here.

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If you are in Cape Town this weekend, check this out (I’m promoting this since I am a contributing editor for the magazine Chimurenga):

Pan African Space Station, the soundsystem of Chimurenga Mag, will set up at Cafe Ganesh during the Obs Festival on Saturday 1 December. DJs Ntone Edjabe and Mogale will be at the controls. And there’ll be a loose mic – bring voice. Broadcasting starts at 6:30 pm. Entry is freer than the new SA Cafe Ganesh at 38 Trill Road (corner Lower Main + Trill)

More information here

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When British journalist Patrick Neatee, visiting South Africa, was first introduced to Mr Fat, one half of the nucleus of Brasse vannie Kaap, he was immediately impressed by the larger than life MC:

“… I meet … the owner of Ghetto Ruff, a guy called Lance Stehr who’s been in the South African music industry since time. Ghetto Ruff also puts out records by a Cape Town hip hop crew called Brasse vannie Kaap (BVK) and they’re currently in Jo’burg… Lance takes a phone call and pulls me to one side. He smiles ominously and says, ‘Mr Fat once to see you.’ I feel like I am in a movie. But … you can’t get to grips with hip hop in South Africa without getting to grips with Cape Town. And when Mr Fat wants to see you? You go and see Mr Fat.”

Yesterday Mr Fat (government name Ashley Titus) passed away.

I felt compelled to quote Neate’s description of this larger than life figure who was hip hop in Cape Town and South Africa for a long time along with hip hop pioneers Prophets of da City. (Incidentally, it is not clear where the boundaries between the two groups begin and end: Ready D, the pioneering DJ of Prophets, also served as DJ to BVK). Two frontmen became the faces of BVK: Hamma and Mr Fat. Mr Fat was always going to be the bigger presence, literally and figuratively. Neate described meeting Mr Fat as having ‘… the vague sense of meeting a Mafia Don.’ I never personally met him, but saw Mr Fat and BVK perform a few times at various festivals and clubs (including at previously all white venues in that city, including the one at the top end of Roeland Street.
But the gig that best represented for me the skill of Mr Fat was the last time I saw him perform: and without his ever-present partner in BVK, Hamma. Mr Fat was rapping live over beats concocted collectively by singer and guitarist Max McKenzie (also of the Goema Captains of Cape Town and who brought out his excellent album Healing Destination) with among others saxophone player Ezra Ngcukana, accordionist Alex van Heerden (who also played with the Goema Captains and earlier with Robbie Jansen) and DJ Ready D. (I think the nucleus of those playing came from the band Gramadoelas, but my memory is failing me now).

The point is: since then I have always wanted to see that collective play together again as it best represented the coming together of different strands and generations of Cape Town’s musical heritage so well.

Now I won’t have the chance.

Instead I ended up playing cuts off BVK’s second album, Yskoud, all day today.

I’ve blogged previously about the historical significance as well as cultural and political impact of groups like BVK and stand-out artists like Mr Fat here and here (including his legacy for the next generation of artists like Terror MC, Jaak Jacobs and Jitsvinger), so in this post I thought instead I would link to online sources of Mr Fat and BVK’s music as well reports of his passing yesterday.

These include a link to Bush Radio‘s website (‘the mother of community radio’) where Mr Fat was part of the original crew that started the seminal hip hop show, The Headwarmers. Bush Radio broke the news of his Mr Fat’s passing here. The station also made available the text of an earlier interview one of its journalists conducted with Mr Fat (published in a local newspaper and accessed here).
MK, the South African-based DStv (satellite) music channel — where Mr Fat hosted the show HIP HOP in his native Afrikaans language, posted a tribute to his memory here. (The text of the MK tribute forms the basis for this English-language story in the Mail & Guardian newspaper here.)

There is also this brief clip of Mr Fat promoting BVK’s latest album, Ysterbek, on Youtube.

Finally, a group of fans and contemporaries of Mr Fat started a ‘RIP Mr Fat’ group on Facebook where another rap pioneer Shamiel X posted priceless audio of an interview and a live performance (of Mr Fat’s original group Jam B) recorded at famous Cape Town hip hop club The Base in 1991. You can hear the interview here).*

Rest in Peace, Mr Fat.

* On the Facebook site, the audio is credited as taken from ‘Rap City,’ a radio documentary produced by Shamiel X for Caset Audio Trust, later known as Bush Radio. The live performance is courtesy of Steve Gordon of Making Music Productions.

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Spotted in what passes for the New York Post’s Sunday Magazine.

You can’t make this stuff up.

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Is Jacob Zuma guaranteed to be South Africa‘s next President?
In an analysis piece today the BBC World Service‘s suggests so.
Zuma seems to be made of Teflon as far as ANC branches are concerned.
They are the key to election as party president at the ANC National Congress in December.
That also means that Zuma is by default the ANC’s Presidential Candidate in the 2009 elections–unless the ANC leadership comes up with an injury time rule change or he goes to prison on corruption charges.
So he’s on his way to be the third South African President after apartheid.
The linked BBC article also suggests that whatever machinations dreamd up by current ANC and South African President Thabo Mbeki–whether behind the scenes or in the open–have had little effect in stopping Zuma.

Full piece here.

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The New Monastics
by Dennis Brutus

Tall black-shadowed cypresses
slender beside arcaded cloisters:

thus were monastic enterprises: now with our new doctrines
secular-consumerist we bend
with similar devoutness in service

to our modern pantheon –

Bretton Woods, its cohort deities

– World Bank, IMF, WTO –

diligently we recite

“We have loved, o lord, the beauty of your house

and the place where your glory dwells”
“Amen” we chorus in unison

as ordered by our Heads of State

obediently we traipse to our slaughterhouse

directed by our Judas-goats
Mbeki’s herds tricked out in shabby rags

discarded by imperialist gauleiters

who devised our Nepad subjugation

— ActionAid Economic Justice course, Kenyan School of Monetary Studies in Nairobi, November 26, 2007

* First posted earlier today on DEBATE, ‘… a listserve that attempts to promote information and analyses of interest to the independent left in South and Southern Africa.’ Photo Credit: BookPhotoSA‘s Victor Dlamini.

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