Politics in Polite Society!

Everyone knows that when in polite society one should avoid talking about religion and politics.  Polite Society, I’ve always thought of as strangers with polished etiquette.  Not so. Some friends with their own versions of etiquette count as polite society too.   I was POLITE SOCIETYrecently reminded of why one shouldn’t talk politics in polite society.   Polite society is irrepressible in returning political opinion.  I wonder if the ‘Polite Society’ rule isn’t there to protect us from the irrepressible ones?

My Polite Society friend is nervous about what’s going to happen after the coming elections.  She hasn’t felt so nervous since 1994.  My polite society friend, who is South African because she emigrated from Europe in 1975, during the dark days of apartheid, has predicted civil war.   Among her indicators are the current troubles in the mines coupled with the memory of Marikana, e- tolls, Nkandla, and the too many lack of service delivery protests.  She is convinced the strikes and protests will end in all of our tears.

“I’m telling you, Tselane, there will be a civil war in this country very soon”.

“Well I hope you’re wrong.” I said.  I wasn’t taking her seriously because I’m not ready to contemplate civil war.  Civil war is so unnecessary.

“Julius Malema will cause war because those farmers won’t just give up their land”.  She said.  “He’s going to kill all the white people.  Look at Zimbabwe.”

“I don’t believe he will,” I responded.  I hoped my tone was placatory.   I didn’t want to talk about Zimbabwe.  Talking about Zimbabwe is how people fuel their agitation.  My polite society friend was already agitated.  I didn’t want to exacerbate her.  I was quite amused.  I laughed at the idea of Mr Malema and his colleagues actually killing a farmer and a Boer.  I’d watched the first white member of EFF on the news a few days earlier.  He’s the first, but I’m sure not the last. images I’d read a prominent white playwright’s account of why he’ll vote EFF in April, or whenever we can manage an election.  Obviously these two ‘white’ gentlemen have no expectation of being killed by Mr Malema & co.  They’re voting EFF because they’re fed up with our current president and his crew.  Who isn’t?

I went on to explore the possibility that Mr Malema’s ideas may not be entirely without merit.  He makes some valid points.  Though it could be considered a little concerning that his Economic Freedom Fighters call themselves ‘fighters’, and that they have a war council; one should consider the probability that it’s deliberate brand reputation building meant to provoke a frisson of worry.  The Fighters are not to be trifled with; they’re certainly not to be dismissed as  impotent boy scouts!  “Economic freedom in their lifetime.”  Yes.


And is this EFF not drawing everyone in on some level?  Politics aside, when they wear those zooty Che Guevara berets in that divine shade of revolutionary red, is it not a total style coup?  Everyone wants one of those berets. Those berets are the must have fashion accessory du jour.  Even people who won’t wear one in public want to own one.   Some have gone as far as to change the logo on the red beret to suit their personal political affiliation.  And love or hate Mr Malema you have to admit, he does make the red beret look good.  Some people will say that the simple wearing of a red beret can’t be considered a political coup.  Until a couple of weeks ago I’d have agreed.

My friend was on her own thought trajectory.  “Why can’t the whole country be like Cape Town?”  She said.  “Cape Town is perfect.”

“Cape Town is far from perfect.”  I pointed out.  “Cape Town’s great if you’re white.  Black people aren’t having such a fun time there, and we don’t want Mrs Zille as president do we?”

“You’re a racist, Tselane,” she exploded at me.

‘What?  What makes me a racist?  People aren’t throwing human faeces on the streets and airports of Cape Town because they’re happy.  Something is rotten in Cape Town.  We need to take notice.”

“You are a racist.  Helen Zille is great. She’s better than the ANC who go around burning children.”

Well, if you want to shut my mouth, that’s the way to do it.  I was aghast.

“Burning Children?  What are you talking about?  Which children?”

But, she had moved on from the burning of children.  “And they rape!”  She said.

“What do you mean they rape?  And what children do we burn?”  I thought perhaps she was referring to our president’s rape case.  Oh please, move on from thence.  Our President did not rape that woman.

I tried to inquire if she was talking about that case, but it was difficult to be heard because she was now shouting at me about the glory of The Zille, and alleging a litany of evils committed by the ANC upon innocent children and women.  I had never realised before that, to her, we in the ANC were the devil’s spawn, the axis of evil.  I say ‘we’, but naturally she meant the other ANC members, not me.   ‘Present company excepted!’  I’m her friend.  I’m different, I think.

Where does she get this stuff, I wondered.   Did she think it up alone, or was it misinformation fed to her by other paranoid immigrants?  I couldn’t ask her because she hadn’t yet stopped yelling about how we rape, and burn children and we’re corrupt and we don’t’ care about our people.  I wanted to defend us, but I didn’t think there was any point in trying to yell over her.   There was clearly going to be no discussion on any of these points today.  I ventured, as she paused to take a breathe, to ask her again what children the ANC had burnt, but I was shouted down, irrepressibly,

“Just shut up. You always want to speak. You never want to listen. Listen!  Listen to me.”  She was hysterical.

“Wow! This is fear”.  I thought to myself.  I sat back, sipped my tea and allowed her to rant.  I listened.

I made a mental note that next time I see her we’ll stick to topics prescribed for polite society.  Topics like menopausal dementia, deciphering men, and the latest trends in fingernail fashion.   Unknown



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The Pope Didn’t Say………

The Pope said,

“Through humility, soul searching, and prayerful contemplation we have gained a new understanding of certain dogmas. The church no longer believes in a literal hell where people suffer. This doctrine is incompatible with the infinite love of God. God is not a judge but a friend and a lover of humanity. God seeks not to condemn but only to embrace. Like the fable of Adam and Eve, we see hell as a literary device. Hell is merely a metaphor for the isolated soul, which like all souls ultimately will be united in love with images God.” 

It’s just too much, isn’t it?  And I take this very personally.   “The Church no longer believes”?  I was stopped in my tracks at that one.  But surely it’s not a matter of believing or not believing.  What we believe can be erroneous.  But what the church says, surely, is more than believed it is known.   Surely, they know that they know that they know, as they say in church.  Surely what they know is a certainty because they know it to be ordered by God.  Surely, they were told what they know by God, directly.  Surely, it is God’s indisputable word.  What is the Pope saying?  ‘No longer believe’?                            

“There is no literal Hell?”    There’s no hell?  How can there be no hell?  Then where do all the bad people go?  If there’s no hell then where does The Devil live?   Or is there also no Devil?  If there’s no Devil who is causing all the wars and famine and the common cold.   If there is no Devil who is hiding socks that go into the washing machine as a pair and come out as singles?  And who made that cricket guy get involved in match fixing? Hmm?

But wait.  He said there was no ‘literal’ hell.  So is there a figurative hell?  Is it inhabited by a figurative devil?  I can totally appreciate a figurative devil.  I can thoroughly appreciate a imagesfigurative hell.  It makes sense to me that hell and the devil are practical anomalies, describing life on earth, inner peace and happiness, or the lack thereof.  Because why should the people who do bad things to us be allowed to live good lives and wait till they’re dead before the figurative Devil gets hold and whisks them off to eternal damnation in the pit fires of  figurative hell.   Eternal damnation for the evil ones needs to start now.  Now!  It needs to start here on earth where we can see it.  Yes Lord, let it be! At least, let it be so for those who have hurt me.  Vengeance is God’s.  So let’s set God on them.  Now! –  Perhaps I’m missing the point.

I grew up on “God’s going to strike you down”.  “You’ll live with the devil in hell forever, you naughty little girl”.   “You devil child”.   “You’d better say Hail Mary 50 times if you don’t want to go to hell and swim in the lakes of fire for eternity”.   The Nuns carrying that threat did their best to rescue me from the fate of Hell.  Redemption was found in learning, then reciting chunks of the Bible, sitting in a dark corner alone in a dark room repeating ‘Our Father who art in heaven etcetera one hundred times, and the imposed flagellation of cleaning floors on hands and knees, or having the backs of my thighs, or the palms of my hands hit hard with a stick or a ruler,  and all this before the age of eight.  I grew up in figurative Hell.

No, it wasn’t my Mother.  Mother was love.  It was the Nuns.  The sadistic daughters of God.   My very first fear was the fear of God.  It was a very clear fear gained as soon as I had vague powers of comprehension.  Mine was fear as in terror and trembling, tears and trauma. “Beating upward to God’s throne in loud ‘excess’ of shrieking and reproach”; begging Him not to strike me down; promising to be a good girl if He’d please not punish me by striking me down, or sending me to hell.

Now here comes this Pope Francis saying he’s changed his mind.  There’s no place called Hell.  God is nothing but ‘infinite love’.  Well, it’s too bloody late now, isn’t it?  The damage is already done.  There is Fear of God!   God is not condemnation?  What?  Then, why did I have to go to confession to avoid imagesthat condemnation? ‘Confess and be forgiven’.  They said.  If there was no condemnation why did I have to sit on my knees and beg to be forgiven?  I was raised in that same Catholic Church of this Pope Francis.  I did my First Holy Communion.  I was ‘Confirmed’.  Confirmation is a Church of England thing, I know.  But I was covering bases.  Otherwise it was burning in the Hell fires with the devil for eternity for me.  I tried to be good, but my nature was naughty.  ‘Character full’, is a better way of putting it.  Fear?  I alone knew the meaning and loneliness of that word.  Do you want to talk about Hell?

He said “Hell is a literary device”.  A what?  I am so offended by that.  Has God lost his mind?  It’s a metaphor now?  A metaphor?  I take issue with all Popes right there.  How dare they spend 2000 years torturing us with the threat of Hell?  How dare they inspire artists to paint it, poets to write it and priests to preach it only to come two thousand and fourteen years later and call it a metaphor,  a ‘literary device’?  How dare they?  What’s wrong with them?

This seems like a good time show them their literary device in action; to introduce some of the condemnation that God apparently failed to effectively achieve.  To demonstrate to them, figuratively, Hell!  Perhaps there should be another inquisition pertaining to belief in Hell.  Perhaps we should do to those high up in the Catholic machine what the great papal dynasties, the Borgias and the De Medicis did to those who crossed them.  imagesBecause we Catholics, or former Catholics or lapsed Catholics, or whatever you want to call us, have been crossed.  We have been lied to by fraudsters if Hell is a ‘literary device’.  ‘Figuratively’ we can send the perpetrators to Hell.  We should condemn them to eternal literary device.  We should show them condemnation.  They could be dressed in rags, and shackled, then marched down to St Peter’s Square and……..  well, vengeance is God’s.   He’ll be His own instrument.  How about that?  We could poison  their food.  That’s what the Borgia Popes did.  We could send them to those Nuns.   They could be lynched and excommunicated.  That’s how the De Medicis dealt.  Am I being excessive?  But, we’re talking about the Catholic Church.  The Catholic Church excels at excess.

Ok, God says I’m being unforgiving.  God says “Forgive”.  I must forgive?  Did God really say that?  Did he really mean literally “Forgive”, or is forgiveness also a literary device?

The Pope eludes to the fact that Adam and Eve didn’t exist?   The Devil doesn’t exist.  Hell doesn’t exist.   Well, what does exist?  God exists.  I refuse to relinquish God.  Did God say ‘let there be light’?   Yes, dammit, he did.  I refuse to relinquish a single piece of Catholic indoctrination.  That indoctrination is part of my foundation, and I don’t want to be rescued from my foundation by a metaphor.  My early life’s torture at the hands of the Catholics is my comfort.  I feared Hell and I liked it.

So, here’s some truth as chosen by me. –  God said, “Let there be light”.   After he said it hell_is_realthere was a Big Bang and voila!  A few planets and a bit of a cosmos were created, and there was light.  Lots of it.   Then God and the Angels got busy with designing and tweaking, perhaps a little twerking, and there were fish and dinosaurs and birds and plants and seas and land and etcetera.  And then he made Adam and then he made Eve.  Then he made a snake with an apple and there was knowledge and there was fornication and Voila!  There was humanity.  Then an arrogant  Angel fought with God and was packed off to Hell to live in lakes of fire and that Angel became The Devil and since the very beginning The Devil has fought with God for souls.   God’s punchline (your heart’s desire) is better than The Devil’s punchline (lakes of fire) and so we all want to go to Heaven.  It’s in the Bible.  It must be true. Unless the Bible is also a literary device.  Someone said “Popes come and go, but The Word is constant”.  It’s those damn Popes who tweaked the Bible in the first place, and twerked The Word and insisted that their results be called constant.  Now that The Word is made constant they can’t just change their minds.  “No longer believe?”  Who ever heard of such a thing?  It’s simply bad form.  Reprehensibly bad form.

Is The Bible a literary device?  I mean, we know a whale didn’t really swallow Jonah.   What else didn’t really happen?  Was there really Sodom?  Was there Gomorrah?   Was there a virgin birth?

The way I see it, if the church changes its mind about one single thing it calls into question everything and the idea of the church changing its mind, the idea of The Word being inconstant is too traumatizing.  It’s too traumatizing for speech.  I feel the nig of trauma coming upon me at the mere contemplation.

So, you can imagine the excess of my relief when it was pointed out to me that the Pope didn’t say any of it. None of it, at all.  The whole thing was a hoax.

devilThat article was the work of The Devil.

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Our Madiba Farewell!

mandela-programmes_2761364cIt wasn’t a national holiday.   I was surprised it wasn’t a national day of mourning.  Who wanted to be at work, when the world watched by the world’s news networks, and the world’s leaders were in our country mourning with us one of the greatest sons of our soil, of any soil.  Did they come to mourn without us?  It’s a momentous day when you have a memorial to eulogise Tata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.  It deserves to be marked by giving the nation time to mourn and celebrate, to eulogise and agonise, to comfort one another, to do church; to be together at this beautiful, painful moment in our nations history.  It means so much to us.

My heart soared with pride as the Presidents arrived.  Obama flew from America, Cameron flew from London. The Dutch, the Indian, the Chinese, the Brazilian. 90-something of themimages or more from the four corners of the globe.  They came to FNB Stadium in Soweto, our Soweto, to celebrate our beloved Madiba.  Our beautiful South Africa is the result of the gargantuan sacrifice made for us by our beloved Madiba.  He was the face of our struggle.  He was our first democratically elected President.  We all, without exception, love him.  

imagesThe atmosphere held the promise of a celebration of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela as only we, his people, know how.  The world would see us at our South African celebratory best.  We were on  CNN  and Al Jezeera and BBC and Sky, CCTV  and every other news network in the world’s 258 countries.  It was our moment to shine like the bright star that we are.

The weather was horrible.  It rained, but they said the rain was a blessing, so we accepted imagesit as such.  I felt sorry for those who sat in the rain.  I also really appreciated them.  What love is that?  For who do you sit in the relentless rain for all those hours?  Only for Nelson Mandela, I thought.  Only for love.images

The memorial wasn’t what I expected.  I expected to see Mkhonto we Sizwe march.  They’re soldiers.  They’re strong and would have stood as a guard of honour and respect despite the rain.  They would have saluted Madiba, their leader.  One of the former Generals of MK would have been a speaker and talked of Madiba, the first Commander in Chief of MK, and expressed the respect and grief of the veterans and told of Madiba as a commander, as a soldier.    It would be moving, emotive, sincere, surprising and personal.  The absence of Mkhonto we Sizwe was loud, I thought, the void cavernous.

When the first booing came I was inside the hospitality suite and I wondered who had arrived that we dislike so much. But then I got talking to someone and I forgot about it.

imagesI was in my seat and paying attention when they showed Barack Obama on the big screen and the people cheered.  I smiled.  We know how to make Barack feel welcome and appreciated, I thought.  I was proud of us.  Then they showed our JZ and the people booed.  I was shocked.  My friend said, “You should see your face”.  I should have seen it because I’m sure it registered disbelief beyond measure.

I was painfully aware that the world in its entirety had its eyes on our Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma the moment his people registered, unequivocally, their imagesdispleasure.  On this day?  Are they mad?  Unbelievable!  I really felt for Msholozi.  I felt. I did.  It must have been the very last thing he expected.  It surely wasn’t even the kernel of a thought in his mind that this could happen on this day, at this time, when he is hosting every President in the world, as we celebrate one of South Africa, Africa, and the world’s greatest, most outstanding men.  Wow!  Engakholeki! Unbelievable! Haibo!

How embarrassing and humiliating for JZ.  How do you make them stop?  “Make it stop”,  I thought.  I expected they’d get someone to lead the people in struggle songs, lots of struggle songs.  I thought the people imageswere bored with the turgid, repetitive speeches from people they didn’t know, and who couldn’t be heard over that appalling sound system.  We, the people, had come from far and wide, and there hadn’t even been an “Amandla”!  Why not?

I thought the event was very de-ANC-ized.  Maybe the people were unhappy about it.  I understood them being unhappy about it.  I was also unhappy about it.  The members of branches, who sat up at the top of the stadium out of the rain were doing their own thing and singing struggle songs and Madiba songs and celebrating him while the speeches continued.  But they were told they’re undisciplined and they must shut up and sit down.  Hauw!  They were spoken to like that in front of the world!  Again, unbelievable!

Did the people not come to sing struggle songs? Did they not come to raise their fists high and shout a fervent “Amandla”?  Did they not come to respond with a powerful, ardent “Awethu”?  Is this not what Madiba was to us?  Why was Amadla totally absent?  It was as though someone outside the ANC, who doesn’t’ know the ANC, or South Africa arranged the program and controlled the event.

“Its not about the ANC, its about all the people of the country.”  Someone said to me.

imagesWhat? Are they joking? It’s totally about the ANC.  It’s about Nelson Mandela, and if Nelson Mandela isn’t about the ANC, then who is?  Who? Practically every person who came to the Stadium came from an ANC branch.   The stadium was full of the ANC’s people.  But on the stages, and in the Stadium, there were no ANC flags.  There were no banners.  Most people wore ANC t-shirts and hats and carried flags.  They sang ANC stuggle songs.  What is this about if not the ANC?

I was there when we buried Uncle Chris Hani, and Uncle Govan Mbeki, and Auntie Albertina Sisulu, and Uncle Walter Sisulu, and my Daddy, Comrade OR, Oliver Tambo, and my Mum, Mama Adelaide Tambo and we sat under the colours and flag of the ANC.images  The streets were lined with ANC flags and posters.  They were the ANC just as Madiba was the ANC.  How do we not sit under the colour and flag of the ANC when we bury Uncle Nelson Mandela?  He was the living symbol and face of the struggle because he was ANC.  He was President of our country because he was ANC President.  He went to jail for 27 years because he was ANC, and he stood by 184299_166481513401450_3038320_nthe ANC when the boers offered to release him early.  He refused to be released and betray the ANC.   If he hadn’t been jailed he would have been President of the ANC from 1967 when Chief  Albert Luthuli died.  My father, Oliver Tambo, would not have been President of the ANC.  I believe there was talk of making Nelson Mandela President of the ANC even though he was in jail.  ANC!  ANC!  This is about Nelson Mandela, the leader of the ANC; the President of the ANC.  And not an ANC flag adorning that stadium?

Instead of singing the embarrassing boos away, or joining the singing and dancing of the people in the stands, or taking over the leading of the people in struggle songs, which only made sense because it was what the people had come to do, the Deputy, Deputy President, Mr Ramaphosa told the people off.  He told them off like they were disorderly middle school children.  He told the people that they were ‘ill-disciplined’.  He told them off in English.  He told them off at length – in front of the entire world.  And then he told them, in isiZulu, that they were embarrassing the President, as if they didn’t know that; as if that wasn’t what they intended, as if the isiZulu wasn’t going to be interpreted for the benefit of every person in the world.  He didn’t say, “This is no way to celebrate Madiba; remember why we are here”, he didn’t deflect the booing with song, or celebration, requiem, or Amandla!  He said, “Not in front of our foreign guests”.

I’ve heard it said, ‘When people don’t have reason, they bully’.   Police were dispatched Image 1into the stands to ‘watch’ the crowd and ‘escort’ out anyone who gave a sound of a boo, a struggle song or an Amandla.  Some government minsters went through the stands telling people to be quiet, to stop singing.  People were celebrating one of the most outstanding leaders of the ANC, and the ANC members were shut down?  They were shut down, and a dragoon of storm troopers was sent to enforce the shutting down.

When the President finally got up to speak the booing began again.  It no longer surprised me. It did disappoint me.  I’m sure our guests would have much preferred to see us being the celebratory us.  We sing celebratory songs and requiem so beautifully.  Senzeni Na?  Senzeni na? Senzeni na?  Sinzeni na! Sono sethu, ubumnyama? Sono sethu yinyaniso? Sibulawayo. Mayibuye i Africa.  This is where our nation comes from.  Apartheid is over because of Madiba, and those he led in MK, and those with whom he was incarcerated on Robben Island, and those who mobilised in the streets, and those who were forced into exile .  This song was always sung to mourn when a cadre fell.   Madiba was one of our leaders and most brave cadre.   We should sing!

We’re beautiful when we’re ourselves and we sing to celebrate or mourn, and we toy toy,  and we celebrate our victory over apartheid.  We should forever celebrate our victory over apartheid and those who led us to that victory.  It is something worth celebrating.  We must celebrate without shame.  We should not hide.  We must celebrate Madiba with both mourning and victory because he paid a huge price to bring us to victory.  We are here and free to celebrate Madiba because of the price he paid for us.  As the wise ones say,  “Our Freedom was not free!”   Surely they remember the days when funerals were held with security police breathing down their necks and police caspers standing by and tear gas disrupting the proceedings.   Of course!  They remember better than me.  They were there.  Those who died, died for us.  Our President is marvellous when he leads the people in song.  I was surprised that he didn’t do that. The singing of  Senzeni Na, led by Msholozi would have been emotive, stirring, graceful, beautiful.

Why are people booing the President?  You can’t just be angry that they are booing.  You have to ask why.  I thought maybe, if it wasn’t about the lack of ANC in the programme, people were expressing their unhappiness about the perennial issues and challenges that daily haunt us.  Challenges of  lack of service delivery and the inefficiencies of the health, education, welfare, employment, housing, and etcetera departments.  Then there’s Marikana and Nkandla and Tatana, and rape stats, and e-tolls and etcetera.  Maybe they saw this as a perfect chance to express displeasure at the fact that our government leaders provide extravagantly for themselves while the people are still suffering.  People said it’s wrong to do that on this day because this day is about Madiba.  Yes it was a day about Madiba, the same Madiba who fought to give the people freedom and democracy.  He didn’t fight to give us a tyrannical, selfish, self-serving, dictatorship.  The people exercised the right that Nelson Mandela fought to give them.  The right to freedom of expression.  How better to honour him than by freely expressing?

When you slap, starve, dishonour, deprive, steel from and kill people, how do you complain that they expose you?  What do you expect to happen?  How do you complain that they retaliate?  It’s their duty to do so.  They must not be silent.  Our parents in the ANC exposed the evils of apartheid to the world.  It was their duty.  Our President, JZ is one such hero.  We are the children of that ANC.  It is in our blood to oppose oppression.  Starvation, homelessness, lack of education, unemployment, deprivation of any kind is oppression.  I suggested to some of those sitting around me that perhaps that was it.    They said, “No, this is not the time.  There must be order.”   But, the reality was that the crowd was not concerned with order, even at this inapropriate time.

My other question was, ‘Were the people embarrassing the country’?  Are we not perennially embarrassed?  Is it not embarrassing that there is such homelessness and poverty in South Africa, yet R250 million of the tax payers money went to build Nkandla?  Is it not embarrassing that the miners at Marikana were shot, killed, mowed down by our democratically elected government’s Police Service?  Is it not embarrassing that the rape stats are higher than anywhere in the world?  Is it not embarassing that this far into our democracy the government departments still suffer from such enormous inefficiencies.  Is a little booing more embarrassing than that which precipitated the booing? And why not today?  Why not now?  The world is always watching.  Always!  Our embarrassments are not news.  The world already knows of our embarassments.  Is it not embarrassing that the world knows of our journey from victory to embarrassments?  I understand and agree that we were honouring Madiba that day. I though it unfortnate that the people chose to interrupt the honouring of Madiba.   But, evidently not everyone wanted to honour him the way the President and Deputy, Deputy President wanted him honoured.images

Amandla!   Awethu!   Those are words that formed us.  I had expected to hear those words often.   I had expected to see a stadium filled with MK soldiers, and the ANC women’s league, and ANC  youth league and cadres and choirs and children. Did Mum Winnie not want to mourn with the ANC and the MK veterans?  She is a mother of the ANC.  Though now ex, this was her husband.  She still carries his name.  Surely she would have wanted Amandlas and Awethus.

imagesimagesSurely Mum Graca would have found comfort in the expression of the great love we will forever have for her beloved husband.

Before the end of the memorial the stadium was empty.  While JZ spoke, the stadium was emptying.  When the ten or so MK soldiers finally came onto the field the stadium was almost empty.  There were more foreign dignitaries than MK veterans visible at Madiba’s memorial.

Long live the spirit of Comrade Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela!  Long Live!”  How come no one said that?


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Oh Me of Little Faith!

I was mortified.  I felt rejected.  Well, maybe not rejected, but I certainly wasn’t accepted.  It’s more than a little embarrassing.  I felt embarrassed, even though no one knew.  I suppose I could just shut up and pretend it never happened.   I knew a woman, years ago, who was doing an MBA with UNISA.  I saw her doing spreadsheets and who knows what homework when we were on a lecture circuit.  I’m being grandiose. It wasn’t a lecture circuit.  It was a Women’s Workshop circuit for a women’s magazine.  I was one of the speakers.  Nonetheless, she was doing the MBA. She talked about the fact that she was doing the MBA.  Then one day she announced that she had been accepted on an MBA programme at an illustrious university in another country.  I said, “Aren’t you already doing an MBA with UNISA”?, and she said “NO”.  I left it there.  If she wanted to blot out UNISA and install something more illustrious who was I to stand in her way?  So in that spirit, maybe I can just blot out the fact that I applied and went to an interview to do, not  an MBA, not just a course, but a Social Entrepreneurship Programme that I need and that I know will be more than useful in helping me reach my goal, and I wasn’t accepted.  I could pretend it never happened.  Mortified!

As an actress you face rejection all the time.  When I went to audition for my very first part many years ago I had a chat with the director.  He said he liked my voice.  He asked me about my past, where I went to school etcetera, then told me, “Thank you”.    I hadn’t done anything.  I’d prepared an audition piece, but I hadn’t performed it.  I pointed this out.  He said, “You’re just not who we’re looking for”.  That was that.  They knew what they wanted for the part, and I didn’t fit the bill.  I’ve been through a lot of that over the years.  I stopped taking it personally very quickly.  If you take it personally you end up a substance abuser with self-esteem issues.  It’ll destroy your spirit.

So why am I feeling like taking this personally?  Is it because it’s academia?  Is it because I care so much about what I want to do, and it scares me that I don’t’ know enough?  And if they don’t think me worth teaching, who will?  What the hell, right?  Buy a book and read it.  I could educate myself.  But, that really is the hard way.  If I don’t know what I don’t know, how am I going to know what to read?  I so really, and totally truely want to go to GIBS, do the SECP course and learn.  That’s what I want.  It’s been over a week since the interview.  They said they’d inform us within a week.  I guess they only inform the ones who have been accepted.

There are only 50 places.  Maybe I was 51 on their list.  Maybe I didn’t even make the list. I feel crushed.  My vanity is bruised.   I think I’m intelligent.  I thought I was.  I speak well.  I’m passionate about what I want to do.  I’m doing it without the knowledge.  I’m guessing my way through and I’m managing, I suppose.  But I don’t want to guess my way through.  I want to have the security of knowing that I know what I’m doing.  I want to be as sure as I am in a theatre or in a TV studio, or on a film set.  In that arena I know exactly what I’m supposed to do, what’s going on and what’s supposed to happen.  In that arena I’m not confused at all.

I know some very wise and knowledgeable people.  I guess I’ll be buying them lunch, or tea and picking their brains.  In my experience people don’t mind their brains being picked.

And so my dejected little soul continued.  ‘Cheer up, you’ll be fine.  Just keep doing what you’re doing.  You’ll figure it out’.  I told myself.  I was sure I would figure it out.  I do figure things out, but  I was disappointed in myself.  I felt that I’d failed.  It’s one thing to fail the course, but to fail to even get on the course.  That, to me, was failure.  Then I got the email.

It is my pleasure to inform you that your application has been successful and you have been accepted to be part of the SECP 2014 delegation.”

I read that sentence six or seven time.  I was so excited that I almost screamed.  Accepted.  I jumped up from my seat in front of the computer and did a little dance and then I pressed my hands together and said a little prayer of thanks, and I apologised for being impatient and having no faith in myself, or God.  Only the night before I’d told God, ‘I prayed for this.  How could you not give me this?  If you have another plan for me I hope it’s better than this, but I don’t want another plan, I want this’.  I’d run through my interview  in my mind and chastised myself for being too chatty, not academic enough, not intelligent sounding enough, not demure enough, simply not enough.  Why did I tell them that anecdote about the event co-ordinator woman?  How could I be so inappropriate?  How could I be so stupid?  And the self-flagellation went on.  But now I had the email.  “It is my pleasure to inform you….”.  And it is my pleasure to be informed.

The last time I was this excited about school it was when I was accepted into Drama School.  I’d auditioned at RADA.  They didn’t want me.  I’d auditioned at several other schools and none of them wanted me.  I was miserable.  They were awful auditions.  You went in to a room where a panel of actoours and teachers sat.  You gave your name.  They looked at a piece of paper and ticked you off.  Then, they said, “When you’re ready,” and that was your cue to be angst ridden, or tearful, or uber cheerful, or whatever your character was for two minutes.  It was horrible.  You needed three years of Drama School Unknowntraining just to be equipped to handle the Drama School audition.  Then there was the ALRA audition.  The Academy of Live and Recorded Arts situated in the most awesome Gothic style, nineteenth century, ‘Royal Victoria Patriotic Building’ in South West London.


The building itself was a drama.


The ALRA audition was different.  It was a day of classes.  There were script reading classes, acting classes, dance classes, voice classes,  singing classes, even a fencing class.  The classes were such fun and they were an opportunity, not to show how well you could perform a monologue, but to show your overall potential.  ALRA accepted me and the rest is history.  I loved Drama School.  I’ve loved being an actress.

So now I am accepted on the Social Entrepreneurship Certificate Programme 2014 at the gordon instituteGordon Institute of Business Science, University of Pretoria.  It’s a year of learning.  I’m so highly delighted I could burst.

It’s the beginning of – The Life of Tselane. Part II.

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The Difference Between Us

The Difference Between Us.

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The Difference Between Us

“I would get these ones, I find them comfortable.”  A friend told me while she imagesaccompanied me shopping for shoes comfortable to walk in.  They were nice, and expensive looking.  They were sensible, rubber soled loafer type of shoes that didn’t speak of me.  I don’t wear that.  I liked the imagesballerina pumps.  I showed her the ones I liked and she just shrugged.

It made me think of how extremely one-sided, or self-sided we all are.  The shoes are irrelevant, obviously, but I found it fascinating that all she saw was her choice for herself.   She even seemed a little peeved that I wasn’t going to do what she would do.  I mean, in loafers I would have been being her.  What sense is there in that?

I was talking to another friend about a friend of mine who is married to a gay man.  It’s not unheard of.  It even has a name.  “Mixed-Orientation Marraige.”  Of course this woman always knew the man was gay.   Does anyone marry a gay man by accident any more?  She loves him.  He loves her. It’s a marriage about love and mutual respect, friendship, and companionship.  They work it out as suits them.  Whose business is it but theirs?  They both have extramarital lovers.  They each know the other’s lover.  They’re all friends.  They’re a very contemporary couple and they are very happy together.

“I’d never do that.” she exclaimed in shocked horror.  Again, I was struck by the subjectivity.

“No, you wouldn’t, but it isn’t about you.”   I said.

She lives, as-married, with a man who she doesn’t love and about whom I have heard her say only insulting and negative things.  I get the constant impression she doesn’t even like him. But he’s got pots of money, so she doesn’t have to work and he lives in a divine mansion with copious servants.  He pays her kid’s school fees and he buys her jewellery and designer clothes and takes them on holidays in Europe.  He irritates her, she says, but she needs the perks.   So yes, she’s with him for the money.

Now, that’s something I’d never do.

Many years ago, when I was at high school we had to write opinions about one subject or another for a general knowledge class.  It was a class scheduled into the curriculum and usually consisted of debate on issues in the newspaper.  One would, for homework, have to write an opinion.  Then, in class one had to defend the opposing opinion.  It was fun. It was mind expanding. You had to see all sides and in so doing you reinforced your belief in your own side; or you changed your mind.  At least you knew why you thought what you thought.  That was the point.  You had to be unemotional, rational and you had to listen to and understand the other side of the argument.

However, sometimes all sides don’t present themselves.  I don’t understand the hunting bachman17n-10and killing of animals, be it bears, lions, rhino or elephant.  These are magnificent creatures.  Why kill them?  I don’t get it.  No one has ever satisfactorily explained to me the necessity of it and I cannot fathom the necessity without intervention.

I don’t object to the wearing of fur.  I have a mink coat.  I love it.   What do minks do except make coats?  They’re rodents.  I’m helping them live out their purpose on earth.  Someone in France once released hundreds of minks from captivity on a mink farm. I read it somewhere.  Those pesky rodents ravaged the land, ate the crops, and impoverished the farmers.   They attacked livestock and pets.  They were a nightmare.   ‘Revenge of the Minks’?  Evenually, after much damage was done, they were caught or killed or both and made into coats.    I know there are arguments for not wearing fur.  I’ve heard them, but I don’t care.  Many people will not see why I don’t care.  I’ve been asked why I abhor the killing of elephants but not minks.   I have a handbag from the 1960’s, which belonged to my mother.  It’s elephant hide.  It’s beautiful.  Why don’t I object to that?  Perhaps that elephant died of natural causes.  Perhaps I’m shallow.

I went to a dinner party a few years ago in America, where a man told me that he came to South Africa to hunt lions.  I bristled!  My first question, “Is that even legal”?  Apparently it is.  My second question, “Why would you want to shoot lions”?  The answer was bachman17n-12something about sport.  I didn’t get it.  I still don’t.  My third question,  “Is there not something in your own country that you can kill for sport?  Must you really come to our country and murder our animals”?  The answer was a kick under the table from my friend and the uncomfortable mutterings of others who were trying to cover up my ‘blunder’.

I was more than a little outraged, to tell the truth and I think I exercised admirable restraint.  The guy had no satisfactory answer.  I think he was ourtraged that I was outraged.  How dare I question him! I didn’t know he was supposed to be someone important.  I didn’t care.

bachman17n-2“If you can’t justify coming to my country to kill my lions, why do it?  Why do you want to kill beauty and majesty? What’s wrong with you?”   That was how I put it because that was how I saw it.  But, one doesn’t want to ruin a perfectly lovely evening among posh American Republicans, so I backed down and the subject was closed before it all became too contentious.  I try to see the point in defence of the murder of majestic Rhino, Lions and Elephants.  I simply don’t see it.  The point is hidden from my view.

Why would you dislike another person because their skin is a different colour to yours?  It makes no sense to me.  I don’t understand it.  I’ve never understood it.  I had a friend, when I was a teenager, who had dreadlocks.  Other friends didn’t like him.  They mistrusted him because of his choice of hairstyle?  How totally irrational is that?  He was a white guy, and his dreadlocks were not thoroughly unusual  in the early 1980’s.  That was the day of mohawk headed punk rockers,  white guys with big afros embracing blackness. Guys with blond haired dreadlocks embracing ganja culture.  People with tattoos on their heads instead of hair.Unknown

My friend was embracing Jah and Rastafari, or so he thought.  Shame, he was ignorant but not maliciously so.  Even if he was way off the mark, to dislike him was bizarre.  He was reaching out.  Black people didn’t trust him.  White people thought he was wierd.  He was wierd, but he was a perfectly personable person.   I totally failed to see the point of view of my other friends.  This guy and I got talking because of his dreadlocks.  I met him at a party.  I said,  “I like your hair”, which opened us to conversation and we became friends.  Actually, I didn’t like his hair, but that’s just my aesthetic preference.  He loved his hair and I liked him.  I thought he should investigate Rastafarian culture, which is deeper than smoking spliff and wearing dreadlocks.  But hey, he took from it what he wanted.   Can you fault that?  I couldn’t.  Today he has short hair.  He’s an engineer.  He’s ‘normal’.  He’s less interesting.  We’re still friends.

When I was a full time zealous – church every Sunday – Bible study every midweek Christian I had a secretary who was Muslim.  Some of the ladies from church came to my office for some churchie business. They met her.  Afterwards, at least four of them phoned to tell me that I couldn’t have a Muslim secretary.  The obvious question was “Why not”?

“You’re unevenly yoked,” they said.  We’re what?  What does that even mean?  What kind of religious apartheid nonsense is that?  Must she think what I think in order to be my secretary?  No!  She must be herself.  They were telling me that  I must fire my secretary because she’s Muslim?  I refused to fire her.   It was a long time ago, but I still think of that, sometimes.   It stays in my mind because it’s one of the stupidest, most insulting things that was ever said to me.

“Vive la difference!”  Right?

I notice that many people get angry when your point of view differs from theirs.  Why?  I must admit, I get angry when presented with bigotry of any kind.   I don’t believe people have the right to bigotry.  I’m like that.  Well they have the right to freedom of thought, of course,  but hold back expressing your bigotry when in my presence.  I’ll tear you apart.

How many cultures are there in the world.  One country has how many cultures. In South Africa diversity is our middle name.  Can a Pedi person hate a Zulu because he is Zulu?  Actually, we have a bad track record both among ourselves and with foreigners, so perhaps I shouldn’t try to use us as a shining example of diversified unification.  I sometimes wonder if we’re even on that jouney any more.  But how rediculous is that?  With our vast diversity of ‘Peoples South African’ we still have space to discriminate.  We make no sense.

When you think of how many countries, regions of those countries; cities, villages and towns in those regions; people in those towns, cities

photographs-of-vanishing-tribes-before-they-pass-away-jimmy-nelson-3__880 photographs-of-vanishing-tribes-before-they-pass-away-jimmy-nelson-26__880 photographs-of-vanishing-tribes-before-they-pass-away-jimmy-nelson-31__880 photographs-of-vanishing-tribes-before-they-pass-away-jimmy-nelson-13__880 photographs-of-vanishing-tribes-before-they-pass-away-jimmy-nelson-17__880 photographs-of-vanishing-tribes-before-they-pass-away-jimmy-nelson-28__880 photographs-of-vanishing-tribes-before-they-pass-away-jimmy-nelson-37__880and villages and the numerous languages and dialects there are in the world;    when one thinks of the differing cultures,  and religions in all those countries, regions, towns, cities and villages; not to mention the remote tribes; surely common sense leads one not necessarily  to reject or accept any of the ideas and points of view,  but,  at lease to listen to them with an open mind.  One should, at least, accept that there will be differences.  Should we hate people because they see the world differently? Different experiences will produce different world views.  Dare we judge otherness and find it wanting?  No, we dare not be so stupid.  We dare not be so ignorant.

It is my considered view that the difference between us is a beautiful thing.


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First Rain

The first of the summer rains made quite an entrance this year.  It was a subtle opening scene made up of drum rolls of thunder followed by the quick burst of a rain shower and then golden hairs of lightening decorating the discontinuous grey and cerulean sky.  It was lovely.  The air went from dusty and acrid to fresh and pungent with a slight and welcome coolness.

I was out for a walk.  It wasn’t exercise.  It was one of those, ‘I walk in the hope of inspiration’, type of walks.  I have given myself a massive task to achieve.   I’m positive about it all, but with the occasional healthy balance of fear fed jitters.  I was walking in the hope of being touched by inspired solutions to the many challenges that linger.  When the first droplet hit me I gasped.  Then came another droplet.  I looked skyward. Then a shower hit my face, followed by a torrent and then it stopped.  The whole drama lasted for two minutes, or less.  The word ‘anointing’ popped into my mind.

Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never is, but always to be blessed – What is the first rain without a little poetry?  This is from Alexander Pope.  It popped into my head immediately after the ‘anointing’ billboard.  And since this first rain moment is unredeemable I decided not to waste it on worry for a moment longer.  My pent up tears made an instant metamorphosis becoming feathers of hope –  Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words – (Emily Dickenson).  Dancingintherainlarger

I promised myself I would dance to that tune in the second burst of first rain.


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