SLICE OF LIFE: Loving our African people


African people have become hostile towards each other over the past couple of years, and there have been quite a few people who have remained silent about the impact it has on the relations between African countries and its people.
Following the xenophobic protests and attacks against foreigners in Tshwane over a week ago, I had my daily check-in from social media and morning news channels. It honestly did not have any effect on me until a very close friend (partner) from Nigeria said to me; “Thuli, did you hear about these xenophobia attacks? Yah, nor it’s scary. I am not safe in South Africa at all.” That moment “shook” me. I stood still and had no response to his question, comment and fear.
Xenophobia is understood to be the dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries. South Africa has been one of the few countries on this continent that has regularly experienced xenophobic attacks against foreign African migrants for almost 10 years.
Well, this is my response.
How does a South African, like myself, maintain a level of patriotism when my fellow South Africans are involved in deliberate attacks against a fellow African? Why do we (South Africa) have to go through discriminatory violence and prejudice? Who is to blame for this incitement of violence?
In December 2016, Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba made some reckless public statements blaming illegal immigrants for crime and calling on them to leave the city. “Illegal immigrants are holding our country to ransom and I am going to be the last South African to allow it,” said Mayor Mashaba.
Africa is a beautiful and a big-enough continent to accommodate all those who wish to live here. One finds it hard to believe that South Africa is an exception. For instance, during the apartheid regime a number of people escaped to different African countries, and those countries opened borders and homes to accommodate them. How quickly we (South Africans) have forgotten.

How does a South African, like myself, maintain a level of patriotism when my fellow South Africans are involved in deliberate attacks against a fellow African?

On March 5, 2017, Eyewitness News reported that a coalition of organisations had warned government leaders and politicians to refrain from making statements which could incite xenophobia. The organisations, including Sonke Gender Justice and refugee organisation UniFam, marched to Parliament last Saturday to demand that government protect foreign nationals.
As a reaction towards the recent xenophobic attacks, the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, Enugu state chapter, threatened it would fight back if the killing of Nigerians in South Africa reoccurs, saying, “enough is enough”.
The worst thing one can experience when visiting a family member, friend or workplace is to find that your presence is unwelcomed.
Why can’t we live as one community with all our differences of race, nationality, ethnicity and religions? Africa is for all Africans.

I believe that we are African before we are South Africans. My support lies with those who are against the attacks on foreign nationals.

I believe that we are African before we are South Africans. My support lies with those who are against the attacks on foreign nationals.
“South Africa never leaves one indifferent. Its history, its population, its landscapes and cultures – all speak to the visitor, to the student, to the friend of Africa,” wrote Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss-Moroccan academic, philosopher and writer.
Xenophobia and unfair discrimination of human beings is childish and unacceptable and it needs to stop now.


Wits VuvuzelaWitsies say ‘no!’ to xenophobia. April 2015.

Wits Vuvuzela,  New website to blow the whistle on xenophobia. August 2016.

Wits Vuvuzela, Youth league marches against xenophobia. April 2015.

Sharing the pain of “adulting”

I remember my mother sending me a text message late last year in December nonchalantly saying: “By the way you’re on your own for medical aid beginning next year…”

She was speaking of 2017.

The amount of sad and crying face emojis I sent her immediately tossed her into a laughing frenzy. This was her way of telling me, “Welcome to the world of adults.”

Shock! Horror! “Adulting” soon became a reality. One that still has me #shook.

I felt like I was being kicked while I was down and out. Ok, maybe not down and out. But in my eyes, having just moved back home as a graduate, after years of being away at varsity and being broke counted towards my struggle argument.

Do you remember your first day in first grade, high school and the dreaded first day of university? Well, none of these phases could have prepared you for the “adulting” world that social media has turned into a trend.

If you haven’t noticed, Twitter and Instagram have become abuzz with the #Adulting craze lately. These are mostly young adults who have taken to these platforms to share their daily struggles and victories of being an adult. Most, who are not of our generation, think of “adulting” as a vain manner in which we self-congratulate.

Writer Danielle Tullo in Cosmopolitan insists that the word “adulting” implies that being an adult is not a necessary part of growing up but rather a life choice you’re hesitant to fully buy into.

I beg to differ. The thing is,we are already in this “adulting” thing whether we like it or not. We are fully aware of it but we choose to share these “adulting” moments with friends, acquaintances and loved ones because of a simple need to feel like we are not alone in the struggle. Yeah sure, we get a couple of giggles and likes along the way. But it is the mere fact of knowing that I am not the only twenty-something-year-old stressed about bills, savings and responsibilities with my barely-enough-to-go-around salary – we’re in this together.

“Adulting” is having to deal with the fact that for the first time in your life you are expected to have it all together: career, finances and relationships, amongst other things. It is finding yourself sitting behind your work desk even when it is raining cats and dogs outside and you would honestly rather be at home in your pyjamas watching series. But you understand being here pays your salary and that will ultimately afford you that first car you’ve been dreaming of.

Now that I have my newfound freedom – including no curfews – you’d think I’d have more time to hangout and party with friends but hardly any of that is coming my way. See, with “adulting”, spontaneity is almost always a myth because now you resort to planning engagements with friends since everyone is always busy. Delayed gratification becomes the norm.

The reality of taking on adult responsibilities is no easy task. There are days when I’m able to get through the ups and downs. There are other mornings when the dread and constant feeling of being thrown into the deep end can be overwhelming, making me want to crawl into bed next to my mother and have her comfort me through it all.

The reality of “adulting” is having to make things work even when you don’t have it all figured out.

So, excuse me and the other young adults who want to self-celebrate and give ourselves a pat on the back every now and then for even the smallest achievements of this “adulting” life.

Existing outside social media

I recently deactivated and deleted all my social media accounts. The idea struck me on my drive home to the Eastern Cape for December holidays late last year. I drove down the Smithfield/Rouxville/Aliwal North route. Those who’ve gone down that part of the world will agree that there exists an abundance of land and sky and clean air, a welcome reprieve from the corrosive claustrophobia of the city.

A closer look at those large swathes of land along the N6 reveals barbed fences behind which spacious pastoral homesteads, concealed by clumps of trees, form the core building units from which the fulcrum of small towns like Aliwal North spreads out like a spider’s web.

Mud and corrugated iron townships dart the rims of this web, supplying farms and farm owners with black bodies to command and possess. Wikipedia says Aliwal North was named in tribute to Sir Harry Smith who was the governor of the Cape Colony when he established the town in 1849. According to the same Wiki entry he named the town “Aliwal” in memory of his victory over the Sikhs at the Battle of Aliwal during the First Sikh War in India in 1846. The entry doesn’t mention whether there were people already living in the area when Smith made it his own. Our so-called South African history is a compendium of subtractions and erasures. Our own collective amnesia further compounded by urgency of the politics of now.

This sudden realisation – sudden for I’d been preoccupied with Donald Trump and whatever else passes for a punchline on my social media timeliness – made me think, seriously, about what I choose to subtract from my everyday experience of the world. At that moment I was either going to instagram Umtali Inn (where I spent the evening) or I was going to google it and discover that it was more than 60 years old.

That in its colourful history people of my skin colour weren’t allowed to shack up in its tastelessly decorated rooms that still reeked of 80s apartheid aesthetic. My companion and I went for a swim in the unlit pool that evening and watched the stars stare back at our scantily privileged black bodies enjoying the exclusive decadence of apartheid in this small town where white men still call a black man ‘boy’.

In my bag I’d packed Paul Beatty’s The Sellout. It was sheer coincidence. In the book the narrator, Bonbon, re-instates segregation in a fictional Los Angeles town of Dickens. And here we were in this softly segregated town, no more segregated than the suburbs from the townships in the city. I wondered if there is much difference between class segregation and other institutional segregations. My thoughts recalled that old Orwellian metaphor about some animals being more equal than others.

I imagined there are books that make sense of post-colonies in current global capitalism and culture. I began to suspect that in these books I’d probably make sense of my place in the current form of the world. A world I have helped create whether by choice, by force, or by necessity. Later, I deactivated Instagram and its carefully curated scenes of happy, interesting lives. I thought of Aliwal North and relics like Rouxville and pondered how they performed non-racial, non-sexist post-apartheid democracy. And so, instead of looking for another world calamity or gossip on Twitter during the holidays I spent time at home reading Mahmood Mamdani’s Citizen and Subject and argued politics with my uncle over beers. The internet is bloated with free e-books and essays and lectures and good journalism. I’ve been downloading, borrowing from the library and jacking free music online. At times when I’m in the library reading a novel or a short story or a play (Parentheses of Blood by Sony Labou Tansi is worth a look) I wonder what I have been doing with my life these past 3 years.