Cool kid on campus

LITERATURE SMART: Mafule Moswane standing up for women in his writing. Photo: Kayleen Morgan

IT IS National Book Week, and this week’s cool kid on campus is nothing short of a book worm. Word smith, literature enthusiast, author, entrepreneur and an avid feminist. Mafule Moswane is currently doing his master’s in geography and environmental studies at Wits and is the ambassador for Club Readership, an institution created for Africans and those in the diaspora to engage with African books written by African authors.

Mafule is also an author of two books, Katrina and other untold stories and A Learner’s guide to academic success.

Determined to break and make a valuable contribution to gender and cultural barriers, Mafule penned the story of Katrina, a woman frowned upon for defying cultural norms.

Katrina and other untold stories is an anthology of African short stories. “It’s me narrating my stories about my bae Katrina who I love so much. Unfortunately, in the rural areas they don’t want her because she can’t cook. She’s an academic and a businesswoman. I’m in love with her, but at home they are like if she can’t cook she doesn’t meet the minimum requirements to be a wife,” Moswane says.

“My work is challenging old ways of thinking and introduces a new way of thinking and encourages a conversation between generations. A conversation about feminism, gender roles and patriarchy,” he says.

It’s no surprise that Moswane’s everyday crush is feminist and Nigerian author, Chimamda Ngozi Adichie.

He shares his birthday and also looks up to the Harry Potter series novelist JK Rowling for inspiration and enjoys the author’s creative writing style.

Moswane believes he is compelled, as an author, to rewrite the wrongs of oppression and fight for women. He believes that his stories are unique and finds that it is important that Africans tell their own tales. “My stories are unique, they are told by an African and for a long time African stories were being told from the outside perspective,” he says.

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SLICE OF LIFE: United we shall stand

One thing that I was weary of when writing this piece was how difficult it is these days to express an opinion without being dragged on social media or offending someone.

I’m not sure why but, in recent years, it seems as though there has been a lot of negativity in the air, not just within the walls of the university but within the country as a whole. Yes, there are many reasons to be despondent about our country, given all of the political, social and economic issues that we are bombarded with on a daily basis. There are, however, many things that we as South Africans can be proud of, with regard to the country as a whole and, most importantly, with respect to the people that we interact with every day.

As someone who has had the privilege of being able to travel outside of our borders, I can honestly say that there is no place like home. The people are what make the country and, in most cases, we are the friendliest and most welcoming people anywhere in the world. It’s that compassion that makes tourists rave about how great we are. So, why is it difficult for us to extend those same courtesies to each other?

South Africa is a place with great diversity and cultural influences. From our languages, people and food, to sport and music, our country has become known as a “rainbow nation” due to the melting pot of cultures that really makes South Africa a place I am proud to call home.

The diversity of the people is something that is very unique to our nation and something that should be celebrated rather than frowned upon. The fact that we are able to interact with people from all walks of life and, for the most part, accommodate everyone’s beliefs and traditions, is something that many other countries aspire to and commend us for.

As someone who is passionate about sport and the power that it can have in uniting people, I always think of the 2010 Fifa World Cup. That, for me, was one of the best times to be a South African. It was a time when all of the country’s problems seemed to just melt away and everyone was united.

Although Bafana Bafana did what they do best and disappointed us, the camaraderie among South Africans carried on long after the home team had been eliminated. South Africans began to rally behind other African nations, such as Ghana, that still had a chance of winning the tournament.

However, in the years since that amazing time, xenophobia has been a major issue in the country and people seem to have lost that sense of togetherness and support for one another. There have been many reported instances of racism, and it baffles me that in this day and age there are people who still think that they are better than others based on the colour of their skin.

While this might be a very idealistic and naïve view on the country at the moment, the fact is that we were united once, in the not-too-distant past, so why can’t we be united again?

SLICE OF LIFE: Students suffering in silence

I had taken my fifth consecutive loss for the week. Nothing was going right, none of the stories I was working on for the week were coming together. This was about four months ago. I was failing to accomplish my deliverables for that week. As I sit here reminiscing, I’m reminded how student life can show you flames. By the second block of your first year you’ve already felt the burn. Now imagine feeling that sting while you are homeless and hungry at the same time. This is a reality confronting many students at Wits.

After realising that nothing was coming together, I decided to take a camera and walk around campus in hope that a good story would miraculously appear and I would be safe for the week. Instead I sat on the stairs near International House under the jacaranda trees, contemplating the decision of why I took this route, questioning whether this path was meant for me or not after my third failed interview for the week. Everyone has a bad week, some more than others. As I sat there deep in thought a young lady approached me, she was very timid and spoke very softly. She asked me if I could please give her something to eat for lunch. I could have said, that I don’t have anything, and walked away like I often do. The truth is that I did not have anything, I had left my wallet and lunch in the newsroom at University Corner. I directed her to the Wits Community Citizenship Outreach (WCCO), at that time I was working on a story about the soon to be launched Masidleni Lunch Meal programme.

Masidleni now provides warm meals for hundreds of students a day. The young woman was not aware of the WCCO offices and services they offered to students in need. When I urged her to collect a food parcel she simply replied “I won’t be able to cook the food because I do not have a place to stay”. On the other hand, she needed something instant because she had not had anything to eat that entire day. She was homeless because she had not received financial aid for this academic year and therefore could not find appropriate accommodation. At this point she was living and sleeping wherever she could.

Sleeping in the libraries and computer labs, washing in the campus toilets and being anxious about where the next meal is going to come from, is an everyday reality for some students. You do not realise that some of the students that you sit next to in lectures and on the bus are actually suffering in silence.

I offered to help her with her laundry however she was reluctant saying she did not want to over burden a stranger. It wasn’t a burden. I told her that it is important for us as students to look after one another. Being a student is not a joyride, we’re confronted by so many personal, academic and financial challenges. We need to assist one another to make this journey less difficult and more bearable.

No student should be without a meal and a place to sleep after a long and taxing day of trying to fulfil their academic expectations. I urge you to help wherever you can, share if you have plenty. Being hungry and homeless is dehumanizing and people are scared to share their stories of suffering. Speak to the person sitting next to you on the bus, you never know how making “small talk” could help someone else or even you.

We all want to realise the dream of becoming successful graduates but we’ve all witnessed that the journey is filled with obstacles – we need one another.

SLICE OF LIFE: All the women inside of me are tired

 

Last week I spent three days in court for a reporting assignment. The assignment exposed me to more than I had mentally prepared for.

Three out of the seven cases I listened to were criminal cases on murder and rape charges. This meant sitting one bench away from somebody who had allegedly raped or killed (or both), a woman or had been found guilty of doing so.

Hearing the details of murders and experiences of rape victims during cross-examination and trials left me shook. The victims were an ex-girlfriend, wife or woman who knew the accused.

I couldn’t comprehend or accept that these were actual occurrences. Two of the men accused of rape and murder didn’t fit the image of what I had thought a murderer would look like. The first, arrived with a branded track suit, clean shaven and seemed unshaken, while the second individual who had been charged with four counts of rape, attempted murder and kidnapping arrived in a fitted suit.

The only reminders that these individuals had allegedly committed crimes were the chains on their ankles. As much as it didn’t feel real while I listened to the court cases, it started affecting my day-to-day interactions thereafter because it is now difficult to encounter a man who I don’t know without questioning their motives.

With the upsurge and current spotlight on gender-based violence following the death of Karabo Mokoena, Nosipho Mandleleni and numerous unnamed victims, the rise in females speaking out on their experiences on social media has made it overwhelming to be a female. The violence has reminded me of a line from an untitled poem by Nayyirah Waheed: “All the women inside of me are tired.”

The ‘Men Are Trash’ hashtag on social media sparked debates on gender-based violence and also brought issues of patriarchy in our society to light. Many men and even women on social media disagreed that #MenAreTrash, insisting that #NotAllMen are trash. The #MenAreTrash, however, allows the traditional concept of masculinity, which is currently problematic to be questioned as a whole.

The hashtag should be seen as an opportunity to engage issues that not only include women, but all members of society. Men should not feel attacked as a result of the hashtag. Women and even men should be allowed to discuss the challenges of being a female in society without being told that there are men who are good and responsible in their own spaces.

#NotAllMen, as a response, is a measure of consoling oneself as a man while overlooking  the fact that women face problems such as groping, cat-calling, being afraid to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, to name a few. It seems as if because men feel attacked by #MenAreTrash, the leaves of a problematic tree are being pulled, instead of the roots.

The cycle of patriarchy is vicious and leaves even the males who do not agree with patriarchy in a negative position where they, just as women, become vulnerable when speaking against patriarchy because it means they are disqualified from what it means to be a man.It is okay and courageous for a man to speak up against patriarchy.

Patriarchal norms and gender-based violence need to be collectively challenged. If being a good and responsible man in your own space means #NotAllMen are trash, then why has being a ‘good woman’ not reaped its fruits?