January 7, 2011

The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House

Filed under: poetry,testimonies — newritings @ 11:35 pm

by Audre Lorde

From Sister Outsider, The Crossing Press Feminist Series (1984)

I agreed to take part in a New York University Institute for the Humanities conference a year ago, with the understanding that I would be commenting upon papers dealing with the role of difference within the lives of American
women: difference of race, sexuality, class, and age. The absence of these considerations weakens any feminist discussion of the personal and the political.

It is a particular academic arrogance to assume any discussion of feminist theory without examining our many differences, and without a significant input from poor women, Black and Third World women, and lesbians. And yet, I stand here as a Black lesbian feminist, having been invited to comment within the only panel at this conference where the input of Black feminists and lesbians is represented. What this says about the vision of this conference is sad, in a country where racism, sexism, and homophobia are inseparable. To read this program is to assume that lesbian and Black women have nothing to say about existentialism, the erotic, women’s culture and silence, developing feminist theory, or heterosexuality and power. And what does it mean in personal and political terms when even the two Black women who did present here were literally found at the last hour? What does it mean when the tools of a racist patriarchy are used to examine the fruits of that same patriarchy? It means that only the most narrow perimeters of change are possible and allowable.

The absence of any consideration of lesbian consciousness or the consciousness of Third World women leaves a serious gap within this conference and within the papers presented here. For example, in a paper on material relationships between women, I was conscious of an either/or model of nurturing which totally dismissed my knowledge as a Black lesbian. In this paper there was no examination of mutuality between women, no systems of shared support, no interdependence as exists between lesbians and women-identified women. Yet it is only in the patriarchal model of nurturance that women “who attempt to emancipate themselves pay perhaps too high a price for the results,” as this paper states.

For women, the need and desire to nurture each other is not pathological but redemptive, and it is within that knowledge that our real power is rediscovered. It is this real connection which is so feared by a patriarchal world. Only within a patriarchal structure is maternity the only social power open to women.

Interdependency between women is the way to a freedom which allows the I to be, not in order to be used, but in order to be creative. This is a difference between the passive be and the active being.

Advocating the mere tolerance of difference between women is the grossest reformism. It is a total denial of the creative function of difference in our lives. Difference must be not merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic. Only then does the necessity for interdependency become unthreatening. Only within that interdependency of different strengths, acknowledged and equal, can the power to seek new ways of being in the world generate, as well as the courage and sustenance to act where there are no charters.

Within the interdependence of mutual (nondominant) differences lies that security which enables us to descend into the chaos of knowledge and return with true visions of our future, along with the concomitant power to effect those changes which can bring that future into being. Difference is that raw and powerful connection from which our personal power is forged.

As women, we have been taught either to ignore our differences, or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces for change. Without community there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between an individual and her oppression. But community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.

Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference — those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older — know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those others identified as outside the structures in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.

Poor women and women of Color know there is a difference between the daily manifestations of marital slavery and prostitution because it is our daughters who line 42nd Street. If white American feminist theory need not deal with the differences between us, and the resulting difference in our oppressions, then how do you deal with the fact that the women who clean your houses and tend your children while you attend conferences on feminist theory are, for the most part, poor women and women of Color? What is the theory behind racist feminism?

In a world of possibility for us all, our personal visions help lay the groundwork for political action. The failure of academic feminists to recognize difference as a crucial strength is a failure to reach beyond the first patriarchal lesson. In our world, divide and conquer must become define and empower.

Why weren’t other women of Color found to participate in this conference? Why were two phone calls to me considered a consultation? Am I the only possible source of names of Black feminists? And although the Black panelist’s paper ends on an important and powerful connection of love between women, what about interracial cooperation between feminists who don’t love each other?

In academic feminist circles, the answer to these questions is often, “We did not know who to ask.” But that is the same evasion of responsibility, the same cop-out, that keeps Black women’s art out of women’s exhibitions, Black women’s work out of most feminist publications except for the occasional “Special Third World Women’s Issue,” and Black women’s texts off your reading lists. But as Adrienne Rich pointed out in a recent talk, white feminists have educated themselves about such an enormous amount over the past ten years, how come you haven’t also educated yourselves about Black women and the differences between us — white and Black — when it is key to our survival as a movement?

Women of today are still being called upon to stretch across the gap of male ignorance and to educate men as to our existence and our needs. This is an old and primary tool of all oppressors to keep the oppressed occupied with the master’s concerns. Now we hear that it is the task of women of Color to educate white women — in the face of tremendous resistance — as to our existence, our differences, our relative roles in our joint survival. This is a diversion of energies and a tragic repetition of racist patriarchal thought.

Simone de Beauvoir once said: “It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our lives that we must draw our strength to live and our reasons for acting.”

Racism and homophobia are real conditions of all our lives in this place and time. I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives there. See whose face it wears. Then the personal as the political can begin to illuminate all our choices.

Prospero, you are the master of, feminist and lesbian
Lying is your trademark.
And you have lied so much to me
(lied about the world, lied about me)
that you have ended by imposing on me
an image of myself.
underdeveloped, you brand me, inferior,
That ís the way you have forced me to see myself
I detest that image! What’s more, it’s a lie!
But now I know you, you old cancer,
and I know myself as well.
– Caliban, in Aime Cesaire’s “The Tempest”


January 4, 2011

Why I write…

Filed under: testimonies — newritings @ 9:28 am

Gaele Sobott November 2010

I didn’t sit down one day and say I am going to write for this or that reason. Why I write is probably a lifetime process. Little bits of the answer are always changing. I need to go back to my earliest writing, actually I think it is more about stories. I’ve always loved listening to and reading stories.

I was born in Yallourn, Victoria, Australia – an open-cut, brown-coal mine. The town was built especially by the State Electricity Commission of Victoria to house their employees. My father drove Euclid trucks. He was a member of the Eureka Youth League and a union delegate on the labour council. We travelled a lot. My parents moved from town to town looking for work and better opportunities. I think I was five when my father started explaining Communism and Capitalism to me. It was during one long trip from Yarram to Melbourne, we’d got as far as Traralgon when Father Christmas drove by in a horse and cart and threw some lollies into the car. I don’t know which were more delicious those sweets or those big words I was rolling around in my mouth.

My parents always emphasised not only the importance of education but that everyone had a right to it. My father read books to me every night before I went to sleep. The Triantiwontigongolope by C.J. Dennis was one of my favourite poems. He’d recite poems by Banjo Patterson and Henry Lawson – a young drover drowning in a flooded river, second class passengers waiting on a railway platform. He also made up stories about three kangaroos, Hoppy Skippy and Jumpy. I absolutely devoured fairy tales. I read every fairy tale in the local library and then searched for more. My German grandmother delighted in telling me stories from Der Struwelpeter, particularly the one about Little Suck-a-Thumb. As I sat thumb in mouth she would whisper watch out for the tailor with his giant scissors! He’s coming to cut off your thumbs! She’d tell me about the tricks that Max und Moritz got up to. There was a rebelliousness about those boys that appealed and I loved the way they taunted the tailor. Schneider, schneider, meck, meck meck! (It seems Germans have a thing about tailors?). She would tell me about her time in the orphanage, about the Black Forest, about the adventures of the little church mouse that sat framed in a glass cabinet amongst her crockery. There was an intriguing darkness and an almost grotesque humour to her stories. I did the rounds of all the church denominations. There were only Christian churches around country Victoria in those days. I loved the Bible stories and they gave out free books. My father wasn’t too keen on God but I went anyway. As I got older he plied me with books of short stories by Gorky and John Steinbeck. He gave me Grapes of Wrath, Frank Hardy’s Power without Glory, Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist and a little yellow hard-cover book about Paul Robeson in Peeksville. I was too young to understand the full implications of these works but they did well and truly satisfy and develop my love of stories that expressed the pain of oppression and the gritty reality of everyday lives. This was reinforced by the records my parents played; Pete Seeger, Harry Belafonte, Paul Robeson songs, Tennessee Ernie Ford Sixteen Tons, about life in the mines Johnny Cash, Bitter Tears. I was particularly touched by Paul Robeson’s rendition of traditional spirituals which moved me at a very basic emotional level beyond the language of books.

I thrived on the stories that surrounded me. My uncles talked amongst each other about the depression years, hardship in the bush, work, life in inner city Melbourne. One was an ambulance man during WWII in New Guinea and was very much against war. He was awarded bravery medals which he dismissed as rubbish! One uncle deserted from the army up in Queensland. Towards the end of his life he found it more comfortable to walk backwards. One uncle was an SP bookie and always on the run from one thing or another. Neighbours, farmers, my mother talking to people when she was shopping, the stories just kept flowing in. It was almost as if I was an invisible presence floating sponge-like absorbing and collecting personal testimonies as to what life was about. Every piece I collected was a highly-prized jewel.

My first writing consisted of my personal thoughts and emotional reactions to the events around me. I always had a pad or exercise book that I kept in my bedroom. I took notes gleaned from other people’s conversations and wrote vignettes of real and imagined characters. I also drew sketches and cartoons of people. I never kept a diary. I still have an aversion to writing the day-to-day personal details of my own life. At school I loved writing English and History essays especially when we had the choice of writing in the first-person narrative. I got pleasure from imaging the characters, their voice, their circumstances and their historical and social context. I wrote for the school magazine. In the seventies I was reading books of all kinds but The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee were the two I treasured. I think travel has influenced my writing greatly in varied ways. I went to Greece in 1976 where I lived for two years. I’d write short pieces based on what Greek friends told me and my experiences with them. Some had been imprisoned for their activities against the Regime of the Colonels and only just released. They taught me a lot about Greek politics and culture. Wherever we went there were always animated discussions. They were particularly into the Rebetika revival of the time. Apart from the lyrics, the music had it’s own emotive story to tell. In 1978 I followed my parents to Botswana. There I met and married the father of my two eldest children and became a citizen of the country. This was one of the most formative periods of my writing and my life. I hungrily absorbed the oral traditions; the myths and proverbs that were so much a part of everyday life. I learnt through osmosis by going to weddings, funerals, barbecues, working, partying, having children, making friends, visiting relatives in South Africa. I was a white woman married to a black man during the Apartheid era so there were many interesting and sometimes challenging personal experiences but more importantly it was a time of huge political change with the Rhodesian army making incursions into Botswana in the north, Internal Settlement and eventual independence of Zimbabwe. The resistance to Apartheid was growing and becoming more and more effective but also the response of the South African regime was more and more brutal. It was impossible to live in Botswana then and not be part of that change; not to respond to the harsh injustices going on around me.

I found African literature for the first time in the Botswana Book Centre. Bessie Head’s Collector of Treasures and Mhudi by Sol Plaatje. I immersed myself in these books. Mhudi remains one of my favourites. Staffrider was first published in 1978. The magazine had a non-racial, non-elitist publishing policy. Writers who weren’t getting the chance to publish under Apartheid were published. It was the kind of writing I loved. There was this sense of knowing the characters, walking with them through their day-to-day existence, learning about their lives. I was also really impressed by the lino prints especially those by Bongiwe Dhlomo. I sent Staffrider a story called The Hill based on the tales I’d heard about the lovers who went up Kgale hill and disappeared. It was published in 1985. That was one of the major highlights of my writing life. Staffrider gave me the encouragement I needed to become a published writer. Then the South Africa Apartheid regime began its attacks on Gaborone. In response I wrote a short story called Hide them Under the Bed. It was published in Staffrider in 1986. I still feel a need to write more about these events. I haven’t written it out of my system yet.

When my children were at primary school in Gaborone I realised they were reading books from England with English contexts relevant to English people. In 1986 Halley’s Comet was passing over Botswana. I went to a parents-teachers evening at the school and was both saddened and angered to see the teacher, an English woman, had put a big banner up across the front of the classroom. It read, ‘ The Bushmen don’t know what Halley’s Comet is but we do!’ I wanted to apologise to all the peoples, all the civilisations who have observed and named this comet over the ages, hundreds and hundreds of years before that Englishman called Halley. I decided to write children’s stories relevant to Botswana. The first story I wrote, The Magic Pool, drew on general mythology associated with rivers and water holes and was published by Heinemann Junior African Writers Series. I published more children’s books with them and other publishers including Baobab Press in Zimbabwe. I enrolled for an arts degree at the University of Botswana. That’s where I really learnt not only about African literature and history, and Shakespeare for that matter, but also about rigour. I gained a solid understanding of the principles of research, of analytical and literary crafting skills. It was about this time that I began to read books by women writers. Any woman writer I could find. I read heaps. The University library had the journals of Anais Nin so I read every one of those and I read all of Alice Walker’s books. I loved her. I loved Toni Morrison too. Then I did a Ph.D. on twentieth century black South African women writers. This also affected what and how I write. Meeting these women writers whom I absolutely admired, interviewing them, discussing their writing and their thoughts on life was fantastic. Their courage, their humour, their ability to survive the pain of Apartheid and live and create with dignity has created a lasting impression on me. Juby Mayet, Fatima Dike, Jayapraga Reddy, Miriam Tladi, Gladys Thomas, Nise Malange, Ellen Kutswayo, Gcina Mhlope and so many more. I also learnt from reading the works (translated into English) of early women writers who published in their own languages particularly Lota Kakaza ‘s Intyatyambo Yomzi (1913) and uThandiwe wa kwa Gcaleka (1914), Violet Dube’s Wozanazo:Izindaba Zika Phoshozwayo (1935), Natalie Nxumalo’s, Ubude Abuphangwa (1936). I liked the way Kakaza and Nxumalo used (Xhosa and Zulu) myths, idioms and proverbs in what are largely autobiographical works. I also learnt from Dube’s short stories which successfully transport Zulu oral tales into written form while, as I read it, also occasionally making tongue-in-cheek allegoric commentaries. I published a collection of short stories, Colour Me Blue, with Heinemann African Writers Series in 1995 which reflects my understanding of oral traditions, the history and everyday life in Botswana and South Africa during the 1980s and early 90s.

My life has taken many twists and turns. I lived in England, France, spent time in Algeria and now live in Australia. Even though I have always sought out oral tales, myths, legends, proverbs, idioms, I am not an oral story teller. I am a writer. I enjoy the distance, the time to craft, the protection from immediacy that writing provides. I am constantly observing, listening, watching. I write to translate the musicality of language onto the page to represent characters and communities through the colloquialisms, the swear words, the idioms, myths but also through their actions. I write to represent the way people relate to each other and to the world we live in. There is a lot to celebrate about human beings including humour, compassion, versatility and ingenuity and there is a lot to celebrate in the natural world we inhabit. I write to fight injustice. I write because I believe in the power of the metaphor and imagination to bring about positive change. I write because I enjoy writing.


My latest book, My Longest Round: The Life Story of Wally Carr is a biographical account of the Australian and Commonwealth champion Aboriginal boxer who held over twelve titles, from featherweight to heavyweight. He fought the 15 rounders and over 101 professional bouts. This book took me on an amazing journey in understanding humanity: Aboriginal, rural, working-class urban, boxing and sporting, male and so much more of what it is that makes a community in Australia. I wrote this book because I believed Wally had not received the recognition due to him, because I wanted to contribute to the fight against the injustices perpetuated against Aboriginal people in Australia and because Wally had a story to tell! Nothing pleases me more than telling a story that should be told and isn’t being told.

March 20, 2010

The South African Federation Legends – still living and fighting

Filed under: sports,testimonies — newritings @ 6:21 pm

the Gauteng leadership

This afternoon was another memorable day. Old players and administrators from the SA Football Federation (FPL) met to  discuss how they can recuperate the memory of their struggles for building non-racial sport in South Africa. The coordinating committee of SA Fed Legends, led by some able administrators from yester year – Don Mudaly and K Pops Chetty, the current chairperson of the iniative which was established in Kwazulu Natal in 2007 -, had come to Johannesburg, Gauteng to form its provincial structure. They are building up towards a national meeting after visiting all provinces where the FPL had some foothold.

Alan  Moonsammy, Virgil Padiachee, Smiley Moosa and a number of ex-players were present to support the able adminstrators such as Billa Singh, Kokie  Singh, Boetie Eshack and others in this endeavour.  Community radio East Wave promised to host talk shows and explore a dinner dance to celebrate the heroes of non racialism.

The draft constitution lists some of the objectives as follows:

To unite, give recognition and support to  players and officials of  the South African Soccer League and the Federation Professional League from 1960 to 1990.

_ To render moral and physical support, counselling and aid to families and of  players who may need assistance.

_ To unite players and officials of the SASL and FPL from 1960 to 1990.

_ To give recognition and honour to the players and officials who fought  for the cause of non racial soccer.

_ To encourage and promote the spirit and  camaraderie among The Legends through sporting, recreation and social activities.

The Legends initiatve agreed to form a Trust to  support ex-players of non-racialism that are in need. To date the organisation has assisted former Verulam star Vasu Chetty who is now a paraplegic, by providing him with a wheel chair, and have also donated a buffing machine to his former teammate, Valiant Alley, who lost a foot due  to illness. It is hoped that he will be able to have  greater mobility throught their assistance.

I attended the reunion and loved meeting some of my heroes of yester year.

“You guys have nothing to be apologetic about”, I said to Smiley Moosa, who had to play white turning up for Berea Park to show off his  skills as a skilful  player. Essop was not white but he was fair  in colour and just in spirit. I told these comrades that they fought the  good fight, and “if we are fighting to recuperate the memory in politics of men (and mostly women) who have been written out of history, it is fighting the good fight to be recognised because  you guys rid the sport of the politics of hate and exclusion”. To the peace time warriors of today, I say you cannot obliterate the contribution of these stalwards from our minds, even if you try to keep it out of public  debate.

February 18, 2010

Viva CAF, Viva South African Soccer Federation, and UP the Bells…

Filed under: sports,testimonies — newritings @ 12:03 pm

At this historic time of the 2010 World Cup, pause a moment and remember all those who made it possible. The unsung heroes and heroines of the non-racial sports movement. Here we focus on football and mainly the Federation Professional League (FPL) of  the  South African Soccer Federation. At that time in our areas, organised football, was largely a male game. This is being  addressed, slowly, in SA and worldwide…

(This post has been updated, adding in some names of the non-racial football greats)

Viva CAF! Viva SASF and UP the Bells

Hassen Lorgat

Some of you may not know what the Fed was, but it was the Mainstay of non racial football, to take the name of one of its  longest “big” sponsors. They were truly the liberation fighters using the football and, sadly, now forgotten at our highest point of foot-balling excellence. The short term memories of some of our elites are staggering, as many of them seem to  have forgotten the mammoth contribution that Black players made in denying themselves the chance to play at the highest level of their game. Their tool? The total isolation of apartheid sports, and football was to be kicked about.

And during those years of gallant struggles, when days were dark and friends were few, Bluebells United FC stood up and was counted. We cramped the local stadium to watch local derbies between Bells and Swaraj and Bells and Dynamos, and in the process learnt about the politics of boycott and not collaboration with the enemy. Yes, the language was eerily cold war-ish. We spoke of players that “defected” to play with the racist leagues and we fought hard to isolate them personally,  and politically. Not all the tactics and strategies were conducive to building the non racialism we espoused but most of it was. The poets recognized it and so did some in FIFA although, as you will see in this essay, its leadership was part of the problem in getting a speedy and equitable solution to the sports problems of South Africa.

The bard of liberation Omar Mattera wrote To the Bells…

Ring out the challenge my valiant brothers

Ring out the cry of the oppressed and the down-trodden

You that must suffer for great and pure principles

The Bells, ringing against discrimination in sport

Tell the Whiteman you are his equal, if not better

The trumpets sounding in the distant

Light of invincibility, against the darkness of Apartheid,

So ring out the message loud and clear

Man was not born to live in fear

Ring Bells, and be proud of your heritage

Your name inscribed in Freedoms page

This poem was written after the non racial football movement fought to get playing fields in white ruled Johannesburg city council where its officials doubled up as members –if not agents of Apartheid supporting Football Association of South Africa (FASA).

FIFA in contrast to their bland history of SA football, written as part of the Countdown to the  2010 World Cup in South Afirica, which I will briefly reflect on below comment:

– Racial integration in football has always been a source of pride with the sport helping to break the apartheid barriers, albeit in a slow process. But the Inter Racial Soccer Board organised representative matches from 1946. In the Natal province, the Indian, African and Coloured FA’s competed for the Singh Trophy. In the old Transvaal province, it was the Rev. Sigamoney Trophy.

– The South African Soccer Federation, which led the campaign against segregated sport and received its first major boost in Paris in 1955 when the International Olympic Committee acknowledged and recorded that discrimination against “non-white” sportspeople in South Africa existed.

– In 1971, the National Professional Soccer League came into existence with Orlando Pirates crowned as the first national champions. Today the professional league has changed its name to the Premier Soccer League and there is still a sprinkling of clubs from the first league in 1971 playing in the top flight.

FIFA then fast forwards to the formation of the South African Football Association on 8 December 1991, which it says marks the “culmination of a long unity process that was to rid the sport in South Africa of all its past racial division.” Thereafter it goes on to give the miracle interpretation of reading South African history by providing this linear narrative of how SAFA attending CAF Congress and eventually winning SA re-entry into FIFA on June 1992.

The highpoint of the South African football winning the 1996 African Nations Cup

One has to go to another section on the Fifa site to get some version of our struggle against racist oppression and exploitation. In From apartheid to the World Cup – four decades in the sporting life of South Africa (written in 2004), at least they  talk of the suspension of the white football body, from FIFA, at the Tokyo Congress of the organization in 1964. They proudly point out that “FIFA were among the first international sporting organisations to take action against apartheid in sport policies and insist on the eradication of racist regulations.” It was only at the Montreal Congress in 1976 after the election of Brazilian Joao Havelange that the suspension was strengthened to expulsion as those who thought SA would change had lost their battle and racist SA was expelled from the organization. The FIFA comment is incisive as it clearly pointed out that, with the world pressure after mobilizations of the masses and the eventual killing of hundreds of youth in 1976, culminating in June 76, FIFA had no choice but to expel SA. The SASF gets this mention, when Fifa writes:

“The dispute over the country’s status within FIFA began as far back as 1952 when the affiliation of the whites-only Football Association of South Africa (FASA) was questioned by an inter-racial body of black, coloured (mixed race) and Indian associations, who had formed an alternative body to run soccer in South Africa at the time.

They were called the South African Soccer Federation (SASF) and repeatedly asked FIFA to recognise their existence and to grant them affiliation. At the same time, they consistently requested that FIFA terminate the affiliation of FASA because it practiced racial discrimination.

FASA refused to merge with the SASF, arguing it was against the laws and custom of the country to do so. Instead, they proposed the federation join as an affiliate without any voting rights. FIFA sought to try and engineer some unity in November, 1954 and following the failure of that bid set about the process of forcing South African football to end its racist policies.” (We will discuss these views later, suffice it to say that it is a lie. FIFA was  an obstacle to unity and I will show how football greats of the oppressed participated in the South African Soccer League, where greats like Dharam Mohan, Bernard Hartze, Rashid Khan, etc.  were destroyed by the control of the local authorities over sports facilities which in effect ostracized those that played within the values of freedom. Then the greats of SA football, Pirates , Moroka Swallows (Big xv) , Real Fighters and Blackpool could no longer play in the league – thus leaving the SASL only with affiliates from Durban, Pietermaritzburg and one  team from Cape town remaining in the professional league. Their struggles need to be  remembered.)

One thing is clear: that CAF (Confederation of African Football) was more principled than the world body and they booted FASA out of African football in 1960 – a body it helped to found, whilst the world body prevaricated for a few more years before the eventual expulsion.  Many oppressed people regarded Sir Stanley Rous, a conservative person and most importantly the FIFA president from 1961 to 1974, as an apologist for Apartheid and the SASF had been consistently at logger heads with him. It is widely recorded that Rous fought – in the face of African opposition (CAF) – for the readmittance of SA to FIFA in 1963. In their extraordinary meeting, CAF resolved to work for the total expulsion of FASA in the Tokyo world congress in 1964, because of the “damnable Apartheid policy” that the football association practiced. Despite the reluctance of FIFA to countenance expulsion of South African football from FIFA, the motion was put, thanks to the growing body of solidarity, amongst African, Asians and Soviet bloc countries, as well as the Arab nations. Globally the anti apartheid movement succeeded in expelling SA from the Olympic movement, putting pressure on FIFA very directly.

In its various correspondence to FIFA, SASF made it clear that they objected to Sir Stanley Rous collaboration with racist FASA and its key personalities. (It is worth noting that as soon as  FIFA expelled South Africa from the world body, the new body Football Council of South Africa chaired by reknown sellout  George Thabe, who ran the NPSL, was formed.)

A very informative article published in the Sports Historian No. 21 (1) by Marc Keech, THE TIES THAT BIND: SOUTH AFRICA AND SPORTS DIPLOMACY 1958-1963, details the treachery of FIFA boss Sir Stanley Rous when he backed white SA  over Black Africa. However, the campaign to isolate racist SA was gaining momentum but the internation sporting  institutions (and others too!) at that time were mostly controlled by European administrators and officials and in some cases under US hegemony. They had to power to undermine democratic decisions as we will  show.

When FIFA decided to first suspend white SA from its fold, Marc Keech shows that:

– its president Sir Rous did, his utmost to try to reinstate them.

– Sir Rous  listened to a suggestion which may sound stupid today , but which he  quietly sanctioned , to have a whites only team play in the 1966 World Cup in England

– to reinstate SA into world fooball,  Apartheid South Africa´s allies plotted that,at the Santiago Congress  of FIFA in 1962, to vote for the setting up of a  FIFA commission to investigate the problems of football in South Africa.   Sir Stanley Rous and Jimmy McGuire of the USA were to constitute the mission with the mandate “to ascertain whether FASA was in anyway responsible for (other) associations and clubs not becoming members of that association (FASA).”

Maggie and Stan

It is here that Keech brings about what is often ignored when he writes that “SASF attempted to challenge Rous’s membership of the committee. SASF most urgently request recusal of yourself from the proposed FIFA Commission on grounds that you are deeply committed, by statements from within FASA,, to lifting the suspension of FASA. Some examples of these statements include:

a) Mr. Fell (at the Annual General Meeting of FASA) stressing ‘he had no doubt that Sir Stanley would have the suspension lifted.’

b) that delegates at the AGM of FASA revealed to the press that FASA and Sir Stanley have been in correspondence with each other and that FASA has been advised by Sir Stanley on the lines and policies they must take to have the suspension lifted.

c) Sir Stanley Rous, probably the most powerful man in world soccer, is determined to keep South Africa in FIFA.

SASF suggests that if Sir Stanley insists on coming as commissioner our federation would have lost faith and confidence in the commission and that the confidence which the non-whites in this country have reposed in FIFA for their emancipation from racial oppression would have been shattered.”

When the so-called mission arrived to the country in January 1963, SASF officials were treated shabbily and were not allowed to prepare properly, whilst FASA were being treated as super favourites. Keech writes that it “was reported that Rous had said that no provision in the FIFA constitution required its members to apply the principle of multi-racialism: if South Africa applied segregation in soccer, that was its concern. He stated that ‘All we are interested in is to see the controlling body of soccer in this country furthering the cause of football to the best of its ability’.”

Despite the marginalization of SASF, they put up a good show at the Missions meeting pointing out in terms of the commissions terms of reference, that SASF “represented 46,000 players whereas FASA and its affiliates represented only 20,000. SASF asked the commission to recall that FIFA had previously criticised the way FASA ran football in the Republic. The letter to which they referred followed the previous commission some seven years earlier. It stated that FASA did not comprise and control all clubs and players in South Africa, and that FASA did not have the standing of a National Federation required to govern and develop football in accordance with the structure of the population.”

The African National Congress, the ruling party in South Africa today, echoed these sentiments in their 1971 Report to the United Nations – as part of the campaign to isolate white South Africa in sports and culture. It repeats what is said above, but I quote in full to show that what the double dealing of FIFA leadership was well’ known. The ANC narrated the history of resistance thus: “By 1955 the non-racial South African Soccer Federation had made representations to the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA). It was pointed out that the non-racial body had more than twice the membership of the white body, the Football Association of South Africa (FASA). Because of the large number of friends of the all-white Association who held influence in FIFA, it was not until 1961 that FASA was first suspended. But this led to even more concerted efforts on the part of these friends to reinstate the offending member. The device chosen was to send a FIFA commission to investigate the situation in South Africa. Sir Stanley Rous of Britain, President of FIFA, and Mr. James McGuire of the United States constituted the mission. During their visit to South Africa in January 1963, the Johannesburg Star of January 9, 1963, reported Sir Stanley as having said that no provision in the FIFA constitution required its members to apply the principle of multi-racialism: if South Africa applied segregation in soccer that was its concern.

“All we are interested in is to see the controlling body of soccer in this country furthering the cause of football to the best of its ability.”

The commitment of Sir Stanley Rous to keeping FASA as a full member of FIFA, despite its colour-bar, was also evident in the lengthy correspondence between him and the British Anti-Apartheid Movement, which called for the exclusion of the racialist body from international football.

The report to FIFA recommended the reinstatement of the racial body and this was done in 1963. This decision met with widespread opposition in Afro-Asian countries with the result that the suspension was reimposed at the 1964 Tokyo congress of FIFA. In retaliation the South African Government imposed banning orders, including 12-hour-a-day house arrest, on Mr. George Singh of the non-racial Soccer Federation.

This brief account of developments in the field of soccer reveals a pattern of behaviour which was repeated in other battles to eliminate racialism from sport. In most cases the most important and senior officials of international bodies worked desperately to maintain the status quo and retain the all-white bodies as full members. The South African racialist organisations were, therefore, very well placed to receive high level advice about ways of retaining membership, as well as support for their position.”

I have quoted the ANC faithfully and  fully because it leaves me baffled why, with all this recorded history available and with non racial rule attained in South Africa, we choose to ignore those that did battle in the sportsfields?

I think that the partial reading of history in the earlier section could easily lead a casual reader to distort the contribution of thousands of sport people as it does not fully affirm those members of the Federation such as like Bluebells, Santos, Dynamos, Swaraj, Glanville, Manning Rangers, Verulum Suburbs, Cape Town Spurs, Maritzburg United, and many others that remain unsung and lost out at becoming Peles and Maradona’s. It does not recognize the fight led by SACOS and SANROC, by the likes of Hassan Howa, Frank Van der Horst, Colin Clarke, Morgan Naidoo, Sam Ramsammy, Dan Qeqe, Dan Thwala, Reg Feldman, Dennis Brutus, George Singh, MN Pather, Ashwin Trikamjee and many many more.

It would be good for FIFA to rewrite the history of SA football before the World Cup 2010  in South Africa to include the contribution of those that struggled to isolate racist South Africa, and not only glorify those INVICTUS movie moments. If FIFA’s files do not reflect these struggles, our files do, as do our minds and hearts. Players and supporters of non racial sport cry out for recognition and affirmation.

In 1974 to the tournament that Bluebells were holding, FIFA General Secretary  Dr Dr Helmut KÄSER (SUI) (period of GS of FIFA 1961-1981 – and himself  not always a friend of non racialism in sport too) wrote (3 may)  that “It is understood that the tournament is being staged to recoup the losses suffered as a result of promoting Professional Football in a no racial basis. This is highly commendable and we sincerely hope that the citizens of the Transvaal assist them in doing just that.

We are quite aware of the gallant fight with which these young men are putting up… FIFA greatly admires such young me who dedicate themselves for the sake of sport.”

KÄSER wrote that he hoped that the “splendid example” will inspire other soccer bodies to “follow this progressive and constructive step” which he hoped in the near future will lead to the “discarding any racial label, so that your doors are open to all South Africans, regardless of race, colour or creed.”

The year 1974 was also significant for other reasons – globally in sports as it marked the new era of non racial sport internationally, which unfortunately in later years with mass television of sports and the iniquitous globalization, and crass selling of players, exploiting of fans and accumulation of big bucks in sports -for a few. Havelange in replacing Rous in 1974, marked the end of European control of the game, (Rous was backed mainly by the European associations) as he was the first person from a developing country that took the highest office in football. History records that there was a record attendance at the at the Ordinary Congress in Frankfurt, prior to the 74 World Cup ,by poor countries and those who could not attend for various reasons including costs of travel etc. The voting (first round) Havelange obtained 62 votes, Rous 56, with a two-thirds majority (79 votes) being necessary to becoming president. In the second round Havelange got the necessary two –thirds when he polled 68:52, which made him president. Rous was elected a lifetime honorary president.

Without national media support, or should I say despite anti media coverage in the main – the movement led by the South African Council on Sports, SACOS (internally) and the South African Non Racial Olympic Committee  (SANROC) , (largely in exile) which was ,supported by liberation movement outside the country in particular the African National Congress SA was culturally  isolated.

Bells management and leadership too played a critical role. Vincent Govindarajinh Naidoo, a visionary and friends and critics agree a dreamer too, but for him Bells to become, like the FC Barcelona of today’, …mes que un club. More than a club. He fought to have professional football played in the then Transvaal and led the fight against the local authorities bringing in the likes of Selma Browde into our fold. It was with her assistance that non racial football eventually won access to the Lenasia stadium, to play the beautiful game without compromises to principles of human rights and equality.

He fought and continues to fight  the good fight, and set up even a Bluebells international. City Councillor and Dr Selma Browde writing in the 1974 brochure recognized Bells for being the “only club prepared to make sacrifices to take up the fight to revive non-racial professional football in the province. They suffered serious financial losses for the sake of the game.” She added that “if they had taken the simple way and ginen in to the sports policy of the City Council and toed the FASA line, they could have been much better off financially, but they held on courageously for the brand of soccer that only Federation is producing, and soccer has benefited. The proof that Federation can definitely provide top class soccer lies in the fact that every organization apart from the Africans now belong to the Federation.” (The fact is that most of the African players were playing in what was then called the racial leagues  in line with government policy. The weakness to get greater numbers of the players to to join the non racial fold was a great weakness to the struggle for nonracial sports.) History must record that Dave Marais and Viv Granger (with a little help from some within FIFA) were hell-bent on destroying SASL because of the non-racial campaign to isolate white football and to make it the official recognized football body of SA.  Terry Jeevanantham footballer and commentator on football, says that the “great A great Orlando Pirates team that included Rashid Khan , Ralph Hendricks , Bernard Hartze was dismantled because Bethuel Morolo wanted them out and have an Africans only league .

Dr Ram Saloojee, who was to become a prominent ANC, then using the platform of the Lenasia Management committee, speaks of the councils denial of the football grounds as being based on “ a denial basedon the false values of racial exclusion and colour prejudices” (Bells brochure 1974). He called on the public to support the courage of “our beleaurered sportsmen and to leand our moral and material strength to their desire to play the game, in the spirit of the loftiest traditions of the sporting code.”

The founder member of the South African Soccer Federation – Dan R Twala, wrote in the brochure of how politics of exclusion stopped “our boys “ from “donning the SPRINGBOK COLOURS for south Africa in the International Sporting fields vying for kudos and professional recognition with the PELES, and the EUSEBIOS OF world soccer fame.”

Ameen Akhalwaya – human rights activists and journalist loved Bells and spared no time and space to give them space in his Daily Mail and eventually when he founded his own paper, where he wrote about Bells nostalgically. Today the Lenz Times – founded by Waheed Camroodien remains a stalwart support of the Bells years and its attempted revival.

Jayprakash Zanof Ramdin (vice president ), Roland James, Rodney Moonsammy, Derek Moonsammy, Billy Morgan, yousuf Eshack,  Patrick Naiker, Silvyn Naidoo,NN Naidoo, G Saley, V Moodley, Bizza Naidoo, Vela “vandemaderam” Padiachee, Abu Mia, S Bhaga, AC Fakir, R Pillay, R Fakira and numerous others still to be acknowleged. (Please write in and fill in the blanks).

Players from the cradle of Bells heart – Lenz -we cannot forget are they likes of Terry Jeevanantham, Alan Moonsammy, Agmat Mohammad, Prega Thandrind, Ratin Padiachee, Louis Jeevanantham, Goona Padayatchi, farouk hassen, with old favourites from outside Lenz, Voes, Phil Mthimkulu, Doza, Trompies, Ralph Chame, Grooving Malope, Augustine makalakalane (now coach of banyana banyana, Big boy Kholoane, and others.

blue bells picBells and other FPL and SASF stars would not have shone if it was not for the worthy adversaries like Tobie Hatia (Dynamos), Ingel singh and Vincent tantie Julius (Sundowns); Deena Naidoo, Dougie Carelse . The talent from the Cape teams knew no end,  Gauteng export Rashid Khan, Boebie Williams, Boebie Solomons, Siraj Desai,  Neville Londt, Bernard dancing shoes Hartz (Capetown Spurs, Capetown united), Dudu moonsammy, Kola and Virgin Padiachee, and Shakes Mashaba (Swaraj), Kishore Kara, Burri Martin, and many many more. The stars before yesteryear, which was always a memory for young Fed Fans but we heard their names…Excellent Mthembu, Dharam Mohan, Sugar Singh, Cedric “Sugar Ray” Xulu  who were crowd pullers. Players of such skill and popularity must live today in the year of the African World Cup.

Administrators that fought for Bells and non racialism in this period include the likes of MN Pather, JN Bhoola, Hassen Howa,  RK Naidoo, and Ameen Akhalwaya, Butch Ralph Hendricks, Ivan Naidoo, DR Soma and many others.

Bluebells United Supporters Club during that time was led by A Fakir (chair) and Linda Moonsammy (secretary)  who campaigned under the slogan “UP The Bells” and to make the Lenasia stadium “the Mecca of Soccer”.


It would be fitting for these known and unknown hero’s of the struggle for normal sport in an normal society be acknowleged. We know our society with gnawing poverty and inequality is not equal and this is abnormal, but, the small victory of those who fought for human dignity in sports and culture – using it as a lever to change society is what the 2010 world cup is supposed to be. But is it?

If you remember those who played the good fight, please add their names and we will update them in the hall of non racial sports struggle fame – and as in this case those that played the beautiful game-ethically.

To check the South African History Timeline on soccer, read more.


August 9, 2009

Celebrating August 9- National Women’s Day in South Africa – a poem in solidarity

Filed under: poetry,re-creating,testimonies — newritings @ 7:44 pm


Today, we attended a community public meeting celebrating women and kamu (our son, aged 7) made his maiden speech celebrating the power of women. This took place in my home town Lenasia organized by Committed Friends and Women for Peace (they promise to write this up too). It was a truly “local and lekker affair” with chicken and veg breyani and song and dance all thrown in to pamper the mothers, sisters and those who are getting in touch with their feminist side. However in this post, I have the pleasure of using a poem sent to me by my Jamaican sister Staceyann Chin, who recently was in South Africa as part of the Urban Voices festival, organized by Southern Africa Arts Exchange. My personal contact and sharing with the whole group was amazing and i too have promised that i will write about it soon…
All Power to the Women!

Ode to a Broken Woman

survivor of wind and rain
what have you got to fear
now that you still breathing
after your father
and his fists
after his open hand laced with the poison
pumped into a thousand tiny girls screaming
silent in similar rooms

long after his lamp has gone out

you are still here
still walking
through the swamp of impossible memories
side-stepping towards the warped rhythm sliming
to poetry on your callused hands

Look up
at the bright light seeping
from your window of resolve
God is a song trapped inside your chest
breathe out

there is nothing to fear
but the ugly paralysis
of not moving
not doing what you have always done

the discomfort
of unexpected convection
will always provide
the current for your unconventional convictions

movement is how you have always danced
sing that low moan
for all those baby girls
hiding under steps
and falling unlucky from ladders
landing way too early into womanhood
sing it for me
and my mother and the midwife who delivered us both
bend all the way back
to the first time you discovered that love
could unfold itself
faithful from the kind hand of a white woman
obsessed with collecting things
and camping

Pull the kernel of laughter
from Chicago
and how you found the room
to giggle with your mother days after Barry White died

Find the connection
to those beautiful feet of yours
Step light right back into
the fight you already know
jump into the fracas of days frenzied with your fire
and your bullet sharp focus

Trust the same compass
that has brought you this far
release your fanged wings again
woman crouch
but only in preparation for the lunge
plunge one arm/shoulder deep into the swirling sky
break open the clouds that hang there
soar upwards
your silhouette rimmed with purpose and silver lightning
feel the frightened flesh fall away from you
funnel your face into the flight
show all the world watching
that a wounded phoenix
can still fly

If we do not speak, who will?


June 27, 2009

The Role of Sports in Society

Filed under: manifesto,sports,testimonies — newritings @ 6:13 pm

IN this series we continue our focus on sports and society. We reproduce a paper by the former president of the Anti Apartheid Sports movement because we believe that it is of immense interest to the global community concerned about the role of sports as part of society, and seeking answers whether sports can contribute to questions of personal liberation, expanded democracy and personal and societal development.

This piece by FRANK A VAN DER FRANK A VAN DER HORST written for a conference in 2005 can be read in full on this site, but we reproduce the concluding section here to broaden the debate.

I am and was an avid supporter of the organizing slogan that one cannot have normal sport in an abnormal society, but as a trade unionist, activist with a left orientation, I have equally believed that leisure time and recreation was critical for working people, to enjoy not for continued exploitation, but to reflect and strengthen ourselves to resists control by corporations and capital in general.

Betrand Russel in his essay, In praise of Idleness, has pointed out that “The idea that the poor should have leisure has always been shocking to the rich. In England, in the early nineteenth century, fifteen hours was the ordinary day’s work for a man; children sometimes did as much, and very commonly did twelve hours a day. When meddlesome busybodies suggested that perhaps these hours were rather long, they were told that work kept adults from drink and children from mischief. When I was a child, shortly after urban working men had acquired the vote, certain public holidays were established by law, to the great indignation of the upper classes. I remember hearing an old Duchess say: ‘What do the poor want with holidays? They ought to work.’ People nowadays are less frank, but the sentiment persists, and is the source of much of our economic confusion. “

So I guess when we discuss the role of sports we should not only focus on its mobilising impact, which I think refers more to players and associations being supporters of a particular cause or line, but they equally give free expression – both mental and physical – to human beings to explore their full potentialities. If this is the perspective, we may have to adopt a less harsh line on the new reality of non racial – multi racial sports being played in South Africa, and push for radical reform at every effort, for each player (female, disabled and Black especially) denied the right to play.

It does mean that the opposition will be not outside but inside and protracted, a daily struggle. It is here that the sports movement can learn something from the trade union movement. The struggles are continuous, involving negotiation, action and consolidation and again another hurdle forward. If we do not adopt a new approach to how we push for continued radical transformation of the various sporting codes we could be rejecting our children, brothers and sisters who today still make progress against great odds. We have to use the success of the Brian Habana’s and the few Black coaches to push for more and sustained transformation that will free us not only from Apartheid control and its legacy but the new corporate take over of global sports.

If our children do not pursue their dreams we will be failing in our goals of full human liberation and, what is worse, the elites -new black elite and the traditional elite – (the leisure classes) will continue to enjoy their lives whilst the vast majority continues to serve them. Pushing for full and equal participation without corporate control is long and hard but it is our only option. Opting out is not a real choice today.

In solidarity



The South African Council on Sport (SACOS) was founded on 17 March 1973 as the response of black oppressed sports bodies to the inhuman oppressive apartheid system of white minority rule, its policy of white domination in the political, social, sporting and economic arena, its expropriation of the country’s wealth, and its system of black subjugation and denial of human rights. These policies were brutally enforced through racial discriminatory laws, racist institutions and a powerful repressive police force, secret service and army. The rich privileged ruling class ‘whites-only’ sports bodies which represented South Africa in international sports federations, test matches and the Olympic Games systematically excluded blacks.

Bold, new, integrated and revolutionary strategies are needed to build an egalitarian society that will require determined political will-power and purposefulness to fundamentally change society and urgently deliver quality results within strict time frames. Some are listed below.
1. Although the policy of white domination has been rejected and all racial laws abolished, the glaring social, sporting and economic (class) inequalities still persist and are visibly worsening for the vast majority of people except for a growing black middle class. This self-seeking middle class does not uplift the poor but merely acts as a social buffer to protect rich big business from the poor exploited working class. Real economic power and most of the county’s wealth is still in the hands of big (white) business in spite a small black empowerment elite that is mostly beholden to big capital.27 Almost 50% of the population live below the poverty line. The dominant ideas in society are still those of the capitalist exploitative ruling class. The unequal distribution or control of wealth must be radically changed to eliminate the massive power of big capital corporations and to build an egalitarian non-exploitative democracy. Correct the huge chasm between rich and poor and abolish the associated social and economic class barriers that perpetuate privilege and inequalities in society.
2. Most of the prime land whether choice residential, fertile agricultural, mining, industrial and commercial areas are still controlled by the same cartels albeit with a black empowerment component and land restitution is mainly for poor subsistence farming. Solve the agrarian problem and land hunger by effectively providing viable redistribution or equitable social control of land. Introduce modern sustainable mechanized agricultural farming methods, education or training to improve crop quality, productivity and ecological awareness to preserve our resources for future generations. Prosperous farming communities will then enjoy better quality of life and improve sport in their leisure time.
3. The migratory (essentially cheap, black surplus) labour system is still operative. Introduce a stable settled educated work-force with rapid competitive job creation in manufacturing, commerce or computer based service industries to eliminate unemployment and poverty. Introduce global-quality skills training with continuously improving competitive standards, improved production levels, income, standard of living and sporting achievements.
4. Public education (as opposed to expensive private schools), is in a virtual state of collapse, especially the teaching of science, mathematics and modern technological skills (compared to global standards).28 A free compulsory modern top class education system with well trained and qualified teachers are essential for highly competitive management and production systems that power economic, social and sporting development in global competitions.
5. Local municipalities have (at present) only 8% of the requisite skills or experienced staff and are collapsing in the face of basic service delivery, rapid changes of former ghettoes and essential forward planning for required new economic growth and social development. Rapid people-orientated skills training (with sustained mentoring and supervision), education of engineers and other professional or technical staff is required and must become a national priority for improved country-wide municipal service delivery.
6. The grave existing housing shortage is growing exponentially as fewer houses are built annually relative to the yearly family formation or growing demand.29 Adequate durable quality housing stock must be rapidly built conforming strictly to National Building Regulations like health, fire, safety, long-life and structural requirements and serve as a kick-start for economic growth and job creation for the entire population.
7. The provision of health, sports and civic amenities in former black areas remain poor, as hospital and clinic services have limited budgets, overworked staff or lack modern equipment.30 Provide adequate affordable well equipped fully staffed health services (with well-funded research to cure AIDS and other diseases), civic amenities and sports facilities.
8. The high ethical standards, voluntary service, transparent accountable governance and sound moral values of the SACOS era have been destroyed with open mercenary greed, fraud, numerous corruption scandals, cronyism in job appointments and even bribed referees. Many public sports and public administration officials pay themselves unjustified astronomical salaries, rich bonus awards (in cash-strapped bodies), travel or entertainment perks or give contracts to pals. Administrative chaos and scandals abound over take-over bids as competing groups of elites fight over the financial spoils. This mindset is merely a cancerous continuation of the corrupt ways of the previous regime that is damaging the bonds of civil society. Ruthless measures are required to drastically eliminate all forms of corruption and greed from all government, public, private, business and sports bodies coupled with the promotion of exemplary sound democratic governance.
9. The aspiring mandarins and fat-cats forget about performance management or quality service delivery. Poor administration is aggravated by rapid firing of coaches, outdated training methods (Staaldraad), old-style prejudices or values and racially skewed selection of representative teams. The malaise is reflected by poor and declining performances against international competition in rugby, soccer, cricket and particularly, the Olympic Games. High ethical standards of governance, public accountability and people- orientated development must be developed and even enforced.
(10)The high rate of formal unemployment (41%),31 job losses and poverty, coupled with social insecurity, violence, rapes, murders, increasing suicides, gangsterism, growing influence of druglords and overcrowded prisons (a training centre for gangs) alienate people and undermines social well- being. More than half of the population are marginalised from ever excelling in economic growth or sporting progress. Eradicate fear, violence, gangsterism, drug abuse and associated social problems in a decisive way so that the entire population own and drive the development processes, experience tangible social and economic prosperity and develop as enthusiastic interested stakeholders.
(11)Modern fully equipped sports facilities and top class sports developmentacademies should have been provided at provincial and national levels. Young talent must be identified, nurtured, trained and provided withintensive modern specialised training and coaching to world-class standards.
(12) Break down privilege, prejudice, class and economic barriers to build a prosperous, mutually co-operative, non-racial, cohesive united democratic nation. Create a sense of caring, sharing, people-centred development that promote friendliness, confidence, individual and social well being, visible change, prosperity, progress and patriotism in the entire population
The huge and growing chasm of economic and social inequality, poverty, class division, lack of continuous improvement, service delivery and socio-economic development in South Africa has resulted in increasing unrest, bigger demonstrations and deepening chaos in sport and society. Under these appalling conditions, the old SACOS motto of “NO NORMAL SPORT IN AN ABNORMAL SOCIETY” still rings particularly true and meaningful, in the quest for social and sporting justice.
FRANK A VAN DER HORST B.Sc. B.Sc.(Civil Engineer). Sec Teachers Dipl. Property Dev. Dipl. (All U.C.T.). B.Admin. (Hons) School of Government. M.Comm. (All U.W.C.).
Delegate from South African Hockey Board to SACOS: 1973-77.
Vice President: SACOS 1977-82.
President: SACOS 1982-88.


June 5, 2009

MAKEBA, how we miss you

Filed under: testimonies — newritings @ 12:23 pm

In this posting we feature the story of one genius musician that like so many of us was a victim of racism. What is sad, as musician Gavin Poonan writes, is that many of the media have ignored to remember him, even in passing, when Africa’s lady of song, Miriam Makeba died. They were married once, although I do not think women or men for that matter should be remembered for whom they married. But this was not the point, as Gus tells, that this may have to do more with bad journalism than active prejudice amongst us Black people. Sonny was a South African of Indian origin.

A glance at some obituaries fascinated by her marriages is revealing. Take the one of the Mail and Guardian: “Makeba’s song of truth” (November 14, 2008) for example: it was in part a marrialogy (to coin a phrase), (she did indeed marry a few times and one wonders if men who marry a few times get obituaries written like this?) but having gone down that road forgot to mention some of the husbands by name and character.

When apartheid was introduced to South Africa in 1948, Makeba was old enough to grasp the consequences and to see the limitations placed on the career of her mentor, Dolly Rathebe, her senior by four years. Makeba gave birth to her daughter Bongi at the age of 17 and was then diagnosed with breast cancer, which was treated unconventionally, but successfully, by her mother. The first of her five husbands left her shortly after.

A second marriage, in 1959, proved short-lived. In 1964 Hugh Masekela became her third husband and she went to perform in Algeria and at the OAU conference in Accra, Ghana. Backstage at a show in San Francisco, a Kenyan student taught her a song that would become part of her standard repertoire. Called Malaika, it is a Swahili love song that she was wrongly informed was a traditional composition. In 1966 she earned a Grammy award with Belafonte.

Increasingly involved in, and identified with, black consciousness, Miriam became associated with radical activity not just against apartheid but also in the civil rights movement and then black power. In 1967, while in Guinea, she met the Black Panther leader Stokely Carmichael, who became her next husband the following year.

Carmichael changed his name to Kwame Toure and she returned with him to his own place of exile in Guinea, the West African Marxist state whose leader, Sekou Toure, gave sanctuary to enemies of the capitalist West.

After that fourth marriage ended in divorce in 1978, she turned down a proposal by the president, but two years later married an airline executive and moved to Brussels.

And the Washington Post

She was married five times, including once to Masekela. A daughter from her first marriage died in 1985, and she had trouble paying expenses for a coffin, according to Agence France-Presse. She said she had signed away royalties on her greatest hit, “Pata Pata.”

“My life has been like a yo-yo,” she told Salon in 2000. “One minute I’m dining with presidents and emperors, the next I’m hitchhiking. I’ve accepted it. I say, ‘Hey, maybe that’s the way it was written, and it has to be.’ And that maybe there’s a reason why I’m still here.”

I was surprised that even the progressives did little better on the gender front. See an example:

She was married several times and her husbands included the American black activist Stokely Carmichael, with whom she lived in Guinea, and the jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela, who also spent many years in exile.

In the United States she became a star, touring with Harry Belafonte in the 1960s and winning a Grammy award with him in 1965. Such was her following and fame that she sang in 1962 at the birthday party of President John F. Kennedy. She also performed with Paul Simon on his Graceland concert in Zimbabwe in 1987.

But she fell afoul of the U.S. music industry because of her marriage to Mr. Carmichael and her decision to live in Guinea.

In 2006, one blog ran this about Miriam and Sonny:

Makeba recorded many 78s with the Manhattan Brothers for Gallotone. along with her first headlining effort, “Lakutshona Ilanga.” This Xhosa song of lost-love became a hit, and to reach an American audience an English language version, “You Tell Such Lovely Lies,” with lesser lyrics was penned. Even though it was illegal for a Black to sing in English, Makeba recorded this version at the insistence of her record company. Gaining experience and skills, and a new found interest in local music, in 1956 Makeba released her first composition, “Pata, Pata” (Touch-Touch). The song was also a hit and part of a major dance craze in South Africa.

While loosely still with the Manhattans, around 1956 Makeba sang with a similar style all-female ensemble put together by Gallotone called the Skylarks. The group featured three other remarkable voices, Abigail Kubheka (Kebeka) and the sisters, Mary and Mamie Rabotapa. She also began extensive touring with promoter Alf Herberts’, ‘African Jazz and Variety’. This was a very popular review, with Makeba, her idol and chief singing rival in the day, Dorothy Masuka, and two future husbands, Sonny Pillay and Hugh Masekela. In general the female singers still mimicked American pop-jazz vocalists like Ella Fitzgerald. This was the sophisticated direction Makeba was taking. Later she would offer a prime example when she scat sang Ellington’s, “Rockin’ in Rhythm.” (on the collection, Something New From Africa , 1959).

So there you have it: women of song, struggling in life as she is in death? She lived a full life, learned and lived for the oppressed and Africa in particular. She broke barriers of race, class and gender. long live Miriam.



MIRIAM MAKEBA, by Gavin (Gus) Poonan

I miss your beautiful face, I miss you Mama Afrika, I miss your smile and I will miss your inspiration. You inspired my mother who was an excellent pianist and a great singer who in turn inspired me to sell my soul to the Music Gods and become a slave to the rhythm. My mother in turn was inspired (and taught to play the piano) by her brother Sonny Pillay who settled overseas and sang in opera houses all over Europe.(Not the same Sonny Pillay who married Mama Africa) I believe that most South African musos are missing her too.

How is it that in all of the obituaries written except one our writers MISSED mentioning her marriage to Sonny Pillay pianist and also a singer .There are lengthy stories written about our Mama Africa and the ommission is glaring as if it is irrelevant – a piece of useless information – not noteworthy, newsworthy, or being reported.

‘Insignificant’ comes to mind but then again her first ‘abusive husband’ was a policeman is mentioned in some of herstories told. Insignificant again when one of our prominent writers and commentators writes : “That skinny Indian fellow on stage by the name of Sonny Pillay” that was all that was mentioned in a lengthy feature about bygone artists as captured by Drum magazine. the Durban Post, etc. (an article I am sure we can get our hands on – featured in Lifestyle magazine Sunday Times about a year or two ago)

When Ma Brrr (Brenda Fassie -this is incredible weekend special is playing as I am writing this) was being paid tribute to on SABC. There were rolling credits and tributes paid to all the muso,s that had passed on in South Africa. There were names like Bles Bridges being mentioned but no tribute to Lionel Pillay one of the greatest piano players in his time in South Africa ironically I think composed music for the SABC as well.

A whole book could be written on this musical giant, a most sought-after session musician, who played on practically everyone’s records in South Africa. He recorded an album called “Deeper in Black” which can be reviewed now, which I believe would still be relevant in this day and age. The Shayennes, The Flames , Madi and the Goldfingers, Ivan Ross, Marsala (was not a good singer but sold a good few hundred albums “let me into your life”) are names that have a history and a place in South Africa it is homegrown. My heart pains at this exclusion, I keep crying: WHY Not even a MENTION?

The reader must note that I take the political self definition Black to include all peoples that are exploited and oppressed by Apartheid and racism in general. But I also believe that we must have this debate amongst Black people in particular and South Africans in general about who is included or excluded when we talk Black or the nation.

The big question thrown up in part by the Makeba story and also my life as a musician and activist is this: Are South Africans of Indian descent being deliberately written out of our history books. The participation of so called Indians or South Africans of Indian descent (or however you want to define it) in any arts or sports is always met with suprise, shock and suspicion.

The polarisation in our country has contributed to the stereotypical perception that other groups in South Africa have of the Indian. We are now 15 years into our democracy and still have these issues to deal with, most of which is downright disgusting.One can be forgiven for the history we have been fed by the apartheid clowns the kind of history where everthing was in favour of how the white man (was the most superior being) and only he achieved greatness. But how can our historians, writers (young people too) ignore in their scholastic research all the information available to make an honest appraisal of the participation – true picture of equal participation in all the arts forms in the country.

Do we do quality research or are are not qualified enough or are we simply biased? This is a shame when one consider that half the writers-journalists, grew up in relatively privileged circumstances and were not exposed to blatant racism and prejudice compared to the what the unsung heroes that I write about were indeed exposed to.

Something that I would like to share with you, something that unsettled me for many years when I was guitarist and co band leader in the group called OZILA. We were relatively successful and popular thanks to a hit record “Lifesaver I’m Suffering” which became synonymous with the struggle, and the song had a distinct handclap that was easily identifiable.

On touring most of the country we always were well received, however being the only member of Indian descent I received ‘special treatment’. some could not believe that I could really play, and on occassion, someone will oome up to me and stroke the strings of my guitar and also tap my microphone to see if it was on like I was faking it. I think this guy could not believe that a Black of Indian descent could be that talented sing and play guitar solos, etc. I’s not suppossed to be, it is just not cricket, cry foul!!!

The reluctance to accept that I was there on talent and talent only -no affirmative action ,was difficult to swallow even among some muso’s. I have been inspired by Kenny Mathaba my fellow guitarist and we saw pass all of the prejudice that I had to face and made a succes of our time together.

What I write about is not fiction but true life experiences. To conclude I say I am a true African and no biased fucking fellow black South African will deny me or my fellow South Africans our place in history. So if you do not like it why don’t you ..F…!!!

May 25, 2009

“…But the truth is that in the political world I have been far oftener discriminated against because I am a woman than because I am black.”

Filed under: manifesto,opinion article,testimonies — newritings @ 9:57 pm

This speech is part of an ongoing debate amongst friends and comrades about the complex interrelationship between race, class and gender discrimination-oppression. Made almost to the day 40 years ago by Shirley Chisholm, at the US House Representative from New York, it is still relevant to current debates, in the US, South Africa and elsewhere. The speech can be viewed on youtube ( ) Enjoy and learn…

Shirley Chisolm 1972 unbought and unbossed
Shirley Chisolm 1972 unbought and unbossed

Address To The United States House Of Representatives, Washington, DC: May 21, 1969

Mr.Speaker, when a young woman graduates from college and starts looking for a job, she is likely to have a frustrating and even demeaning experience ahead of her. If she walks into an office for an interview, the first question she will be asked is, “Do you type?”

There is a calculated system of prejudice that lies unspoken behind that question. Why is it acceptable for women to be secretaries, librarians, and teachers, but totally unacceptable for them to be managers, administrators, doctors, lawyers, and Members of Congress.

The unspoken assumption is that women are different. They do not have executive ability orderly minds, stability, leadership skills, and they are too emotional.

It has been observed before, that society for a long time, discriminated against another minority, the blacks, on the same basis – that they were different and inferior. The happy little homemaker and the contented “old darkey” on the plantation were both produced by prejudice.

As a black person, I am no stranger to race prejudice. But the truth is that in the political world I have been far oftener discriminated against because I am a woman than because I am black.

Prejudice against blacks is becoming unacceptable although it will take years to eliminate it. But it is doomed because, slowly, white America is beginning to admit that it exists. Prejudice against women is still acceptable. There is very little understanding yet of the immorality involved in double pay scales and the classification of most of the better jobs as “for men only.”

More than half of the population of the United States is female. But women occupy only 2 percent of the managerial positions. They have not even reached the level of tokenism yet No women sit on the AFL-CIO council or Supreme Court There have been only two women who have held Cabinet rank, and at present there are none. Only two women now hold ambassadorial rank in the diplomatic corps. In Congress, we are down to one Senator and 10 Representatives.

Considering that there are about 3 1/2 million more women in the United States than men, this situation is outrageous.

It is true that part of the problem has been that women have not been aggressive in demanding their rights. This was also true of the black population for many years. They submitted to oppression and even cooperated with it. Women have done the same thing. But now there is an awareness of this situation particularly among the younger segment of the population.

As in the field of equal rights for blacks, Spanish-Americans, the Indians, and other groups, laws will not change such deep-seated problems overnight But they can be used to provide protection for those who are most abused, and to begin the process of evolutionary change by compelling the insensitive majority to reexamine it’s unconscious attitudes.

It is for this reason that I wish to introduce today a proposal that has been before every Congress for the last 40 years and that sooner or later must become part of the basic law of the land — the equal rights amendment.

Let me note and try to refute two of the commonest arguments that are offered against this amendment. One is that women are already protected under the law and do not need legislation. Existing laws are not adequate to secure equal rights for women. Sufficient proof of this is the concentration of women in lower paying, menial, unrewarding jobs and their incredible scarcity in the upper level jobs. If women are already equal, why is it such an event whenever one happens to be elected to Congress?

It is obvious that discrimination exists. Women do not have the opportunities that men do. And women that do not conform to the system, who try to break with the accepted patterns, are stigmatized as ”odd” and “unfeminine.” The fact is that a woman who aspires to be chairman of the board, or a Member of the House, does so for exactly the same reasons as any man. Basically, these are that she thinks she can do the job and she wants to try.

A second argument often heard against the equal rights amendment is that is would eliminate legislation that many States and the Federal Government have enacted giving special protection to women and that it would throw the marriage and divorce laws into chaos.

As for the marriage laws, they are due for a sweeping reform, and an excellent beginning would be to wipe the existing ones off the books. Regarding special protection for working women, I cannot understand why it should be needed. Women need no protection that men do not need. What we need are laws to protect working people, to guarantee them fair pay, safe working conditions, protection against sickness and layoffs, and provision for dignified, comfortable retirement. Men and women need these things equally. That one sex needs protection more than the other is a male supremacist myth as ridiculous and unworthy of respect as the white supremacist myths that society is trying to cure itself of at this time.

Sources: Congressional Record – Extensions of Remarks E4165-6.

May 12, 2009

Grace Before Dying

Filed under: some of my favorite things,testimonies — newritings @ 9:53 pm

By Lori Waselchuk

If you live in and around New Orleans, Grace Before Dying will be shown at the New Orleans Museum of Art for three days during the opening weekend and preview of The Art of Caring: A Look at Life through Photography, May 15 – 17, 2009.

The website for the exhibition and traveling schedule for 2009 – 2010 is now live:

Lori Waselchuk

If you love her work as we do, check her out. Here we found other stuff on the web:

April 30, 2009

Happy May Day

Filed under: testimonies — newritings @ 11:25 am

David Webster shortly before his death

COSATU has many rallies planned nationally with its top leaders speaking. Be there. visit for details.
IN addition, academic and anti-apartheid activist David Webster is to be remembered by the City in the renaming of a park, to take place on the 20th anniversary of his death. According to the city’s website:

On 1 May 1989, Webster was gunned down outside his home in Troyeville by one of apartheid’s killing agents, Ferdi Barnard. A decade later, in 1999, Barnard was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder.

On Friday, 1 May this week, Bloemenhof Park in Troyeville, several blocks from where Webster lived and died, will be renamed David Webster Park. A mosaic plaque by artist Jacob Ramaboya from the suburb’s Spaza Art Gallery, will be placed on a wall in the park.

The plaque reads: “David Webster 1945-1989 Assassinated in Troyeville for his fight against apartheid – lived for justice, peace and friendship”. A head and shoulders mosaic portrait of Webster will also be unveiled.

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