It is a combination of the stench of raw sewage overlaid by frustration and desperation at a perceived theft of dignity by those who live in the Madala Mens’s Hostel which impales the senses.
Residents of the hostel in Alexandra, east of Johannesburg in the Gauteng province of South Africa, were the target of the second raid by the South African Police Service (SAPS), supported by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).
Generally considered a no-go area for police and outsiders alike, police were having none of it on Wednesday night as members stormed the building.
The raid – much like the Wolhuter Men’s Hostel raid in downtown Johannesburg late Tuesday night – was ostensibly for weapons, drugs, wanted people, and stolen property.
A massive police and military presence showed government could still flex its muscles if it wanted to and although in a support role, the deployment of the army has been welcomed by some and criticised by others.
The Stalinesque building is a rancid survivor from apartheid days when migrant workers were housed, women and children not welcome, thank you very much.
And if the outside of the building is decrepit and ominous, then inside it is dank, dark, and desperate with litter strewn wide and deep, where sewage battles to find a path to ground itself in the gutter.
Surrounded by bare ground and with jagged glass framing smashed windows, it’s not a place which inspires hope.
The rats at least seem to have no problem, ignoring the stomp of boots and the rapid fire click of media cameras, falling over each other as they tumble over each other in their multitudes looking for scraps to feed their sleek fat bodies.
There are no hungry rats in Alexandra.
Is the crackdown by government armed forces too much too late?
Police have confirmed there have been no attacks in the Gauteng area since the army was deployed on Tuesday following the shooting of a Zimbabwean couple on Monday night.
“I don’t like this,” Siyabonga Mdlalose says.
He’s young, clad only in a pair of white shorts on the chilly autumn night, with a ready smile for inquisitive visitors.
“We are South Africans, we did not do this xenophobia thing. This thing is not helping us,” he says, speaking softly while he gestures at the backs of the police walking down the bare cement corridor wearing body armour, helmets and – at odds with their forbidding attire – bright blue plastic gloves.
The contents of his room were tossed – literally – by police and its contents lie asunder. With a wry smile, he shakes his bent head, turns into his room, and closes his door gently behind him.
A quick passing glance inside numerous rooms while following the police members on their search and seizure mission revealed a cold, spartan commonality of cement walls, cement floors and cement ceilings.
There is more grey than on a misty day unrelieved by glaring bare bulbs switched on as police enter room after room. The stark light casts grotesque deformed shadows against unyielding walls as clothes flutter and flap through the air during the search.
Of course, the rank and file of the police – who despite large numbers and overwhelming firepower – are only bit players in the overall saga, as are their commanders scurrying about barking orders, as are the residents who must suffer the indignity of police poking through their possessions and the world peering at their lives through they eyes of the media, at the behest of a government at its wits end.
“Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world,” said Nelson Mandela at his inauguration as the first democratically elected President of South Africa, a day when hope for the future and pride at conquering our past shone at its brightest.
Is the hostel a breeding ground for xenophobia?
It must be if the police have targeted it in response to the seven deaths – three of whom were South African – and in particular the death of Emmanuel Sithole, brutally stabbed to death on Sunday.
It was Sitholes death, in the midst of yet another flareup of violence targeted against foreigners which saw the police approach the SANDF for assistance.
At least, aided by photographs taken by Sunday Times photographer James Oatway, the police managed to have four accused speedily in the box.
For the sporadic and ongoing violence targeted against foreigners and their small businesses, it is unlikely there will be any measure of justice.
Sporadic because it only flares up now and again, ongoing because it never seems to end.
Earlier this year Soweto was brought to its knees as gangs of youths ran rampant through the township destroying property after a foreign shop owner allegedly shot a child while trying to scare off raiders.
Yet the Madala mens hostel will stand until, as with the Cecil John Rhodes statue of the University of Cape Town, someone decides Something Must Be Done.
And after all the time and energy spent on the raid?
A few crates of beer confiscated, a small kit bag of hand lotion taken away, one man arrested for possession of SANDF uniform, one arrest for dealing in liquor without a licence, a stolen laptop was recovered, 9kg of dagga and a panga were all the booty which could be produced after searching six buildings of four floors each with between 250 to 300 rooms in each block.
Mandela also said at his inauguration, “Our daily deeds as ordinary South Africans must produce an actual South African reality that will reinforce humanity`s belief in justice, strengthen its confidence in the nobility of the human soul and sustain all our hopes for a glorious life for all.”
The bitter irony is, government knew. It was warned.
Nothing has changed.
Aluta continua, indeed.
where have all the writings gone
lost in the high definition 7 bajillion
colour pixelated world of crash boom
and specially effected bangs
where have all the writings gone
lost in a world of political correctness
chopped just as surely as a mawkish teenager
dancing in the beat of the night with
inelegant steps whispering lustful i love yous
on beer stained breath
we dont see any more
day by day we see even less
the splitter tittle of water in a fountain
the pattern of a dainty deer picked out
against the bulk of a mountain green
covered with the life of spring
we dont hear any more
day by day we hear even less
the silence healing the night
the darkness shedding the light
the cracking of dawn and
the vanity of the sun as it banishes fear and
lightens our burden of yesterfear
we cant feel anymore
day by day we feel even less
the tickle of air through body hair
a thousand little cotton tongues
flickering on our skin
the hot and cold
of new and blood
running lub-dub lub-dub
through our souls
its the time of the dance of 1s and 0s
we’re tied to digital puppet strings
of multiple platform digital streams
we’ve abdicated our greatest power
tied our imagination to a digital anchor
and even as we cry to be free
you and me
as black as sin
black sheep of the family
and like sheep everyone bleats
black people this black people that
even black people embrace, cuddle, masticate
the words black people
i dont know any black people
i know people with black souls
i know people with honey brown skin
hazel, chocolate-coloured, coffee-coloured, cocoa-coloured nut-brown skins
yet we fixate on black
slack black, dirty black, light sucking black, black hole black
aparthate planted the seeds of self hate
it must be
why else would a proud nation
own black enjoy black
it makes no sense
to privileged caucasian me
maybe my privilege blinds me
wont let me see
being black is more than its cracked up to be
being black is something better than me
i hope so i want it so
it would be so if language didn’t make black bad
white and black
its the great divide
we use it to hide our potentials
our futures our prides
we use it to wallow in
to swallow in our own poison
white is pure
white is angelic
white is clean
white is power
white is right
um no it fucking isn’t
we’re dying indelibly forever on our mountain of colour
its time to get over our colour
its time to colour this country with humanity
which has no colour
never forgetting our past
we can colour a brighter future
4.30am – Kruger National Park, Mpumalanga, South Africa
Long awaited spring rains finally arrived on Friday in the South African National Parks’ (SANParks) Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga.
In Skukuza rest camp; there is a crisp freshness in the air, as the Kruger slowly awakened with the dawn. The storm clouds have been shredded by gale force winds during the night, leaving thin grey streaks of cloud in the sky. The rain is gone for now, but threatens still. Now all that remains is for rangers to track today’s first rhino for translocation.
The process is in full swing now, with a limit of 500 set by Parliament in August. Rangers have until the end of October to move as many rhino as possible until stress inducing heat shuts down SANParks’ rhino management implementation strategy until autumn.
At Wildlife Veterinary Services, Operations manager Marius Kruger said Friday’s target was four white rhino.
“Because of the rain, we will have to work from the tar roads and walk in. So be aware of other animals, other rhino, other dangerous animals, so stay in a group,” Kruger said.
As the sun cracked the sky, a sense of urgency was evident in the capture team. The entire operation is heat dependent and time was a wasting.
SANParks has captured 16 rhino so far, black and white, with another 15 corralled in boma’s.
The blatting of the chopper in its distinctive yellow and green SANParks livery as it banks hard overhead destroys the early morning peace.
Battling gusting winds, chopper pilot Grant Knight herds a rhino up a hill towards the road. Experience has taught the crew rain makes the bush treacherous for vehicles so the rhino needs to be sedated as close as possible to the main road.
The game capture vehicles, massive 4×4 trucks, should cope, but there is no point in taking chances.
Rhino down. It’s done its characteristic high stepping dance but it’s powerless to resist the powerful opiate coursing through its veins, even as it tries to defend its calf, already knocked out by a smaller dose of the same drug.
A mad dash through the bush follows; there are only minutes to left to collect vital information. Horn length, blood and hair and skin samples for Rhodis, the rhino DNA database, and the actual size of the rhino cow are gathered.
Microchip the horn and the animal, check body condition, the cow is pregnant, about half way through its gestation period of 16 months.
The cow is more awake than for usual DNA tagging, it has to be walked to its container about 100m away.
With cloth tightly bound over its eyes to keep it calm, a train of men pull on a rope tied around its head and walk it slowly towards the container. As soon as it’s safe, the calf is brought to its feet. A year old, it is also a female, and heavier than it looks.
As is the way with many children, it’s a lot more stubborn than its parent, and has to be pushed all the way to the container.
It walks like a drunken man, strapping wide and short, and dodging its feet is a full time job.
Trying not to trip in the knee length grass either is also a full time job.
Done. Mother and calf are safely ensconced in their very temporary homes. They will be transported to a boma to be acclimatized to small spaces for when it is time to move them longer distances.
“Weather plays an enormous part in rhino capture. The animals also need to be close enough to the road,” said SANParks chief veterinarian Dr Markus Hofmeyr.
He says it is a first for SANParks to move rhino from their established areas into others, in this case, protected zones.
“This is an experimental exercise. We put transmitters on the ankle so we can monitor how they interact with others and to see if they leave the area,” Hofmeyr said.
As the first truck drives off with the rhino, the helicopter takes off; it’s time to find the next two.
Soggy, ankle-breaking terrain, vicious gusting winds which threatened to knock the helicopter out of the sky and soaring temperatures notwithstanding, the final rhino cow has finally been crated.
Four female white rhino, one of which was pregnant, have been taken to safer climes within the park.
Remember, says Hofmeyr, it is not only about protection. “This is also about increasing the number of rhinos by reducing competition for nutrition and social space so breeding levels can pick up,” Hofmeyr said.
He cautioned against thinking 500 rhino was a must-reach target, saying it was a limit, and in all probability it may not be reached because of the conditions the team faced.
old man Africa kissed me on the cheek
the other day
2014 freedom day
a day when he would remember
a lifetime of wrong
a day of sad song
no one would blame him for wanting to dismember
this caucasian this white this apartheid era ex-cop
he was sitting on a chair in the sun
i leaned close to him to ask him
that stupid question reporters have to ask in post-apartheid south africa
“Hello Grandfather, how does it feel being able to vote?”
and as he smiled a thousand years smoothed from his face
and i saw a proud young man in love with his country
with his wife his children his life
old man Africa pulled me closer
cheek to cheek his stubble was scratchy
i was panicky i didnt know the custom
what if he was an elder
what if i was doing
way to go amanda piss off a people already pissed off
then he released me
took my face in his soft leathery hands again
he laughed gently at me
his breath of fresh umqoboti (traditional beer)
washing over me
his energy and vitality
“This, my daughter, is how it feels,” said old man Africa
and i laughed too as his love cleansed me
and made me sad
i cried when i left
i cried for the wrongs, my wrongs
i cried for lives destroyed
because people say different is wrong
when it isnt
different can never be wrong
its only better
when different makes whole
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 20 trips to carry that many people.
Thank you all, for your visits, patience, and love. New Years resolution is definitly to post more here, and vist you all a little more. Thank you again,
Are you really a woman?
In my reality, yes.
Why? Is it a threat to you if I say I am, and I’m not? Is it a threat if I am not and I say I am? What about the binary of male / female is so critical and so threatening to the survival of homo sapiens that people can’t simply be who they are?
But no, the binary, societal conditioning, call it what you will, demands we be a what before a who. A shared consensus is a happy consensus, an oblivious consensus. No questioning if it is good for me, it’s safer in the crowd.
Everybody must fit into a socially defined mould that no-one knows who defined? It’s ridiculous and after 45 years on this planet, I refuse to pander to all societal norms.
Please. I’m so over proving anything to anyone except myself, so no.
What are your thoughts on Women’s Day in South Africa?
It’s a joke. I expand on this below.
Where were you during the struggle?
In school and to my shame, oblivious to the world around me. Hopefully, my work now will one day constitute an apology for the harm we’ve done to others and ourselves.
What are the most important issues facing us in 2013?
I believe femicide by intimate partners is one of our biggest issues. Sure, there is corruption, and ham-fisted politicking, but the genocide being perpetrated against women is terrifying.
Sparse attention was accorded to a recent report by the South African Medical Research Council regarding intimate femicide. Perhaps it was too inconvenient?
Good news, gals. The report concluded women were murdered by their intimate partners every eight hours during 2009, instead of every six hours as was the case in 1999. Celebrations are in order because femicide has increased, despite all the Women’s Day pontification. The leading cause of death for women in 2009 was at the hands of their intimate partner.
We are doing well.
This gives new meaning to the cliché love hurts… In a nutshell, the report concluded police work was sloppy, half-hearted, and damn near pointless.
Police continue to perpetrate second stage abuse on victims and lip service reverberates through the nation but no real change has happened. Male police officers still undress you with their eyes before they speak to you, they still hit on you, and it’s not unheard of for male cops to phone female victims of crime and hit on them again!
We are second class citizens in practical law. And if you’re a lesbian, then forget about service, whatever happened to you. You probably deserved it. In June a poll by TrustLaw, a legal news service of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, found that South Africa was the fourth worst place in the world to be female.
Simply, as a woman, South Africa is a dangerous place to live and your lover will probably kill you. It seems as if the entire patriarchal machine is there to grind women into grey paste that can be washed away so they don’t bother anyone. Sure, women are highly valued in our society.
As target practice, definitely. As an equal? Hardly.
What is your job/business/role and does your gender make a difference to it?
I am a reporter/attempted photographer. I believe being womyn does allow me to empathise and connect with people.
The million dollar question – what makes a woman?
It’s in the way she moves…kidding.
Seriously, until we stop being our worst enemy, extend our natural empathy to each other, accept instead of judge, and fight for each other instead of with each other, there will never be one thing that makes a woman a woman.