January 4, 2011


Filed under: manifesto — newritings @ 9:38 am

I found this tribute written in a magazine I use to write for. I thought I will share it with you. If you want to write to the Abu Asvat Institute, contact the Secretary Mr Jerry Waja:

Dr Asvat
for the people

LEARN and TEACH, number 1, 1989

Tribute of Dr Asvat.

A great man is dead. Murdered. Shot dead in cold blood.His name was Dr Abu-Baker Asvat — and his death has left a great pain and sadness in the hearts of all who knew him. It is not often that you find somebody who believes that his people come first, above everything. Above politics. Above money. Above himself, even. Dr Asvat was one such person. He gave his whole life to the care of his people — the sick, the disabled, the homeless, the squatters, and the poor.

Dr Asvat — known as Abu to his friends — was a true doctor. Often, he gave medical treatment to his patients for free. Sometimes, he dug deep into his own pockets to help poor people with food and accommodation. Always, he gave his time — at all hours of the night and day.


Dr Asvat was murdered by an unknown gunman on 27 January this year. He was killed while working at his surgery in Rockville, Soweto.

Immediately, messages of grief started to pour in.

The National Medical and Dental Association (Namda) wrote: “His assassination is a tragic loss to all the people of South Africa.” The Health Workers’ Association (HWA) said: “South Africa has lost a true son of the soil. But through his death, a new commitment will be born among all health workers.”

At a memorial service in Soweto, the President of COSATU, Elijah Barayi said: “Dr Asvat’s memory will live on in the minds of the people. Dr Asvat cared for our families and our children. Acts of violence like his murder will not destroy our wish to be free.”

But even sadder were the words of the doctor’s patients. One patient said: “Dr Asvat could not hurt a fly. He was like a father to the hundreds of people he served.”

Another old pensioner added: “The killers thought they were killing the doctor, but they did not know that they were really killing a people that is already down on its knees. His death has left us dead too.”


Dr Asvat’s long-time friend and nurse, Ma Albertina Sisulu, also wept. But she could not talk about her grief — she is a banned person and newspapers cannot report her words.

For many years, Ma Sisulu and Dr Asvat worked together nursing the sick and the needy and giving comfort to the poor. Some people thought this was a strange friendship because Dr Asvat and Ma Sisulu belonged to different political organisations.

Dr Asvat was a member of the Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO). Albertina Sisulu is one of the presidents of the United Democratic Front (UDF). But their different political beliefs did not matter to them. For them, the most important thing was to serve the community in the way they knew best — with generous love and care.

Ma Sisulu was at the clinic when the doctor was murdered. She was the first person to rush to his side after the shooting.

It was not the first attack on the doctor’s life. Two years ago, two knifemen tried to kill him. The doctor fought off his attackers and he was cut on the mouth. A few months later, he was attacked again, this time by a right-wing gunman. Luckily, the doctor was able to stop him.

Afterwards, Dr Asvat said: “It was the closest I have come to looking at death in the face. But it will not stop me from serving the community.”


Serving the community is something that Dr Asvat had been doing for a long time. After he got his degree in medicine in Pakistan, he came back home to Vrededorp where he worked as a doctor. When the government destroyed Vrededorp fifteen years ago, he moved his clinic to Rockville.

In 1979, he joined AZAPO. He became the Secretary of Health for this organisation. He was also a founder member of the Health Workers Association (HWA).

But Dr Asvat was not only interested in health matters. He was the chairperson of the People’s Education Committee in Lenasia. He was also president of the Crescents Cricket Club and vicepresident of the Cricket Association of the Transvaal.

With so much to do, Dr Asvat still found time to be a family man. He was married and had three children. As Namda  wrote: “Abu was a family man committed to his community and people, a man who gave his life for the poor and the have-nots of this land.” Dr Asvat’s good work was rewarded when the Indicator newspaper chose him as the winner of their Human Rights Award in 1988. The Star newspaper nominated him for The Star of the Community1 award in 1988.


Dr Abu-Baker Asvat was laid to rest at Avalon cemetery, under a bridge between Lenasia and Soweto. Six thousand people from all corners of the country and all walks of life came to pay their respects.

Together, Muslims and non-Muslims, nuns and priests, nurses and doctors, blacks and whites, AZAPO and UDF members, COSATU and NACTU officials, bowed their heads in tribute to this great man. They were united in grief and sorrow.

Even in death, Dr Asvat brought people together. He was a bridge-builder— and the finest tribute we can pay him would be to build on the foundations that he so bravely and lovingly laid.


grief— sadness or sorrow

commitment — a person with commitment believes strongly in something and works hard for it

generous — a generous person is somebody who gives a lot

a founder member — one of the first members to start an organisation


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.

September 22, 2010

Barça backs Pool…

Filed under: media release,some of my favorite things,sports — newritings @ 9:29 pm

(Not Liverpool…this is serious. Read on.)

Hassen Lorgat

Two people drown every day in South Africa and most of them are under 14, yet the Johannesburg Metro Council is closing at least 3 pools in Lenasia and two outside the township but also serving working class communities (Rhodes Park and Murray Park).

The Greyville Swimming Pool

The official reason given is there is no budget, but the cost of death in social terms does not add up. In addition, the pool in Lenasia, the Greyville Pool, has served this community well. It has taught many of the Lenasia community the basics of survival. Take the two sisters Kali Naidoo and Roshnie Moonsammy, clinical psychologist and Urban Voices  Festival director respectively, who said the closure was  a “shame, and a blundering disgrace… I learnt to swim and took it more seriously than learning to become a driver,” says Ms Moonsammy amidst laughter. It is true that she does not drive and thus, does not have to mediate her way through the traffic as we do, but she’s proud to say that she can swim to save her life and was keen to take up lessons to save her children’s lives, three years ago, when she heard that the pool was closed due to structural defects.

Empty pools

Terry Jeevanantham, Secretary of FC Barcelona supporters club and a former Bluebells United Player, has evoked memories of the Bells resistance against apartheid’s control over the Lenasia football grounds, because his team was playing in the non racial anti apartheid league. “The JCC then used their control of playing facilities to keep out non racial sport and give support for the white controlled football association of South Africa,” he said. “We resisted, and organised an international campaign to isolate Apartheid sport. Nationally we built up coalitions and we had our community, cultural activist, the bard of liberation Omar Mattera and progressive councillors like  Selma Browde to thank for their support.”

Capacity for 366 persons?

For Terry, it appears that today’s officials in the renamed Joburg Metro have forgotten the contribution of this community to democracy and  the fight for non racialism in sports. He should know as his family was one of the first five families that settled in the then Lenz farm, that became Lenasia.

“It’s illogical,” says musician and treasurer of Mzansi Penya Barcelonista, Gus Poonan, “why they would want to close pools in Black areas, if the Metro has a campaign called learn to swim. How can children learn to swim without a pool, and living 100 of kms from the sea?” he asked rhetorically.  To back them up, campaigners to keep the pool open say that learning to swim is not only for recreation but a life skill or a life saving skill.  During 2007, Swimming SA reported  652 drowning deaths, of which 44% were children under the age of 14. In addition, 144 children were four years old or younger. They also reported that if one excluded pedestrian deaths (transport related) deaths due to drowning was the leading cause.

Inspecting the field

FC Barcelona supporters got involved in the pool issue as part of their objectives to generalise the right to play for all children, and are negotiating to rehabilitate the park adjacent to the swimming pool. Last weekend, its principal officers visited the site and spoke to residents who advised them to start by campaigning for the reopening of a swimming pool that  has been closed for 3 swimming summers – pools traditionally open here on 1 September.

The Greyville pool served as a training ground for many of our swimmers in the area as it was the only pool and we remain unconvinced that the reasons for closure is a lack of funds to repair some apparent damage to the pool.  Many residents are saying that if the Metro Council can get funds millions of rands to bring beauty queens to Joburg, and to show off about being a world class city, why not show off to your own ratepayers by providing quality services? Lenasia, with a population of about 350 000 residents,  has currently only two functioning pools.

What is more, it served one of the most depressed communities of Lenasia, who lack basic recreational facilities, and now have been dealt another blow. But they will not be cowed and have joined forces with various other sports and cultural organisations including the leading role played  by Mzansi Penya Barcelonista (FC Barcelona’s supporters in South Africa), who approached individuals and organisations such as Atlantis swimming club, Dolphins swimming club, the Abu Asvat Institute and a range of other sporting codes and non governmental organisations to form Save Our Pool Campaign. The campaign has written to the Mayor Amos Masondo and, at the time of writing, has not yet received a reply. A mass protest is planned for 3 October, outside the pool area, in Greyville, Lenasia.

All sports loving fans are asked to write to the mayor to keep the pool open. If you love good sports, you love FCB

The Executive Mayor

Mr Amos Masondo

fax 27 11 339 5704


PLEASE copy us when emailing the mayor:

(writer is the chair of Mzansi Penya Barcelonista, and pics by Marta Garrich, adviser to the penya)

September 20, 2010

Alice has fallen up the cosmic black hole

Filed under: poetry — newritings @ 9:07 pm

The Matriarch of the Word, this time, on listening Alice Walker at the 11th Steve Biko Memorial Lecture (September 7, 2010, State Theatre, Pretoria)

Alice has fallen up the cosmic black hole
the malaikas
to hear her ruminating about cows with sweet smelling breath and
Extolling the virtues of burgundy sofas
and the broken things she holds in her heart
Tenderising men and pitying women with fenced eyes
Waiting for razor edged stones and bloody demise
Unveiled judgement
Ah Alice your wonderland of purple
So deep and soul haunting turns into a
Cloudy   mauve miasma of
Grandmothers sipping tea
In a Burmese tea garden as
Aung San Suu Kyi
Meditates under a bullet ridden
saffron sun.
for change you savour under stars
striped with the oily haze
of millions on desert plains far far away.

August 15, 2010

You ask me where the poems are

Filed under: poetry — newritings @ 7:04 am


Ntozakhe Shange was one of the women writers that inspired The Matriarch

We have been begging the Matriarch of the Word, or as she also jokingly calls herself in Afrikaans, “die ou tannie van die woord”, to send us some of her poems for publication. Always, we received the same reply: NO. However, last week, as part of Women’s month in South Africa she sent us this gem, you ask me where the poems are. Having begged, i can only guess that this was written in response to my nagging, and I refrain to ask her when she wrote it. One more thing about the matriarch you may know, is this: she is a feminist, and has been for a long time, and she was an English School teacher, and anti Apartheid activist. Today she spends her time reading, writing, loving her children and grand-children. She also co-ordinates a feminist study circle. Who is she?


You ask me where the poems are

They lie with a thousand men in a field

Their souls torn to ribbons

Tangled in the boots of tormentors

Who fear their breaths escape to the sound of

La illah ha illillah

They hide in a cave

Listening to the drones and baby cutters

Explode barefooted children into

Particles of dust that settle in their mothers’ hair

They sit   in the market place

In a boy vendor’s basket of bread

Listening to his joyous song

Fill the air with silence

As morning turns to crimson dusk

The colour of death

They waft in the wind

Filled with mustard

Harvesting through streets and fields

Its share of limbs and lives

Today and forever

They crouch in the midst of hopes

And dreams of a noosed rainbow in a western sky

Hugging knees in airtight tins of steel

Tipped in ferries on open seas

From hunger to eternal stranglehold

Drifting towards self debasement of

Body and soul

Where are the poems you dare to ask

Buried with a brother who didn’t say


A mother whose silken threads of wisdom

Bind every word as it grafts beneath my skin

I scratch and scratch

The bloody poems ooze on to the page

Blot and die.

August 7, 2010

No left cover needed, comrade Jeremy

Filed under: opinion article — newritings @ 1:21 pm

(most of text last week after cde Cronin’s piece came in The Times)

just cronin
empowering voice

The articles by comrade Jeremy Cronin supporting the need for an independent media tribunal is giving coverage for an idea and an institution that may undermine the very principles I know Jeremy subscribes to. In this regard, he is providing left cover, a sugary pill for those who may genuinely want to undermine democracy and public accountability.

The need for an independent media tribunal resurfaced with much energy after a number of revelations about the lifestyles of particularly elected leaders in cabinet and, more generally, in government. In an interesting encounter, the General Secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions Zwelinzima Vavi, relying on the media exposés by in particular the Mail and Guardian, dared two cabinet ministers to sue him, if they believe he was wrong. The two in question are Minister of Communications Simphiwe Nyanda and Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Sicelo Shiceko. Nyanda has been dogged by allegations of tender rigging, whilst Shiceko was inter alia accused of fiddling with his CV, and relating to staff in a manner not deemed to be respectful.

Every week we have been inundated with news of the misdemeanours, and in some cases abuse of power, of some persons in high office on their own or in an unholy alliance with corporations, national and international. Often the information has been passed on to the media by those with an agenda and/or a whistle-blower with genuine public interest at heart. Whatever the case may be, the public generally has been served by getting beyond the smoke or cloud and we have, at the end of the day, dealt with the real issues. Politicians and those power holders in the private sector must be held to account.

The proponents of a so-called media tribunal do not recognise these discussions as being in the public interest, and one can only surmise that these proposed less light will increase public accountability. I beg to differ: I fear that any attempt to stop activism resulting in diminishing the struggle for greater transparency and accountability will be bad for our democracy.

In my work as an activist in civil society (trade unions and NGOs), I have found leaders of some corporations as unscrupulous as some politicians when it comes to protecting their brand / their corporations. They do this not only through their ownership of some media agencies but also through their network and connections, their power to seduce, bribe and threaten – when appropriate. I have had occasion to take various media agencies both so called public (the SABC) and even the Sunday Times to the Broadcasting complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) and the Press Ombuds Office respectively. My engagement with the BCCSA has proven to be more problematic, and it may have to do with the fact that it is too close to the media players in that sector – the National Association of Broadcasters -, despite what it says on its website:

“Although the NAB provides the funds for the BCCSA, the BCCSA is, as a body corporate, entirely independent from the NAB.”

My experience with the latter, whilst it can be improved, was more interesting, as the Sunday Times was forced to apologise to the trade unions in a matter (which took months) where I believed public sector unions were unfairly portrayed if not maligned.

As you can see the issue for me is more complex: the SABC cannot remain praise singers of the government of the day and is yet to transform itself from being a state broadcaster into a truly public broadcaster. The struggle for media freedom, freedom of expression must involve us all: it is too important to be left to transforming, as important as it is, the print media. It must involve the SABC, and other broadcasters, the users of the services and government.

The private ownership and control of media remain largely unreformed, whilst the SABC has gone back, in some cases, to old familiar practices learned decades ago. It is also true that the media coverage of the unelected elites (viz private sector and celebrities) is far from critical, but hopefully the introduction of The New Age which will be aligned to the ruling party. It is my hope that they will, whilst praising the achievements of the government and the ruling party, spent some time to expose corporate greed and corruption. When they do this, they will invariably find that some comrades and ex Comrades will have to be there. How will they be covered is a matter to be seen; as we wait to see how former president Mbeki will be covered.

So when comrade Jeremy Cronin speaks of the orgiastic coverage by print media of COPE, he forgets that some of these very editors in some elections endorsed the ruling party, which was merely accepted with thanks. This included the editor of Business Day.

If the political motivations for the left for an independent Media tribunal, are couched in the language of diversifying ownership, enhancing the voices of the poor and marginalised voices, etc. – it will not happen. Such a tribunal will merely serve to once again give voice to the already powerful and empowered. What we need is more independent, quality journalism, a diversity of voices, and an active and critically engaged population.

It has been pointed out by many that the current proposals for an independent tribunal will lead to self censorship as well as to less accountability. The elites, both in government and in the private sector, must be held to account. So too must many of our institutions and organisations such as our government departments and institutions, the print media, our football associations, our political parties, our NGOs, and our SABC which has the greatest reach to our people. Sadly, the opposite will be guaranteed if the bill as it is goes through as is.what seems to bother many people that I speak to and work with, is that there is a lessening of the democratic space inside and outside many political parties, including the ruling party. This is clearly impacting on service delivery, and the further democratisation of our society. In addition, the Scorpions-like very public arrest of Mzilikazi wa Africa, a journalist (remember how many ANC leaders lobbied against this type of behaviour prior to Polokwane) specialising in a province where many politicos, were killed but with little police success adds to this climate of distrust that media space can be guaranteed by government. One unintended consequence of the bill, if it goes through, will be that media agencies with global links will run exposés of our body politic and thus the likes of the BBC, will once again be seen as authoritative, as the onerous obligations placed on national journalists will not apply to someone far away receiving confidential information.

So comrade Jeremy, for these few reasons, I do not think the media tribunal idea is a good one even if you think that it would work like some of the chapter 9 institutions. Reference to these institutions, opens up a hornets nest: a number of them are poorly resourced, and others have governmental interference that we would need to open a separate debate on them. The two you refer to (SA Human RIghts Commission and the Public Protector) are better perfoming better compared to the others, but not doing great in terms of their constitutional mandates. The 1994 ANC manifesto had this to say about the public protector under the heading “A New Style of Government” it read:

Government administration exists to serve the people. It must be answerable to them. The ANC will encourage private citizens to use the independent Public Protector to investigate corruption, dishonesty or violation of rules of conduct on the part of government officials – those found guilty will be dealt with. ” We await the Public Protector and the others to play to their full potential. Only more democracy, robust debate, criticism and self criticism will bolster and consolidate our democracy. Any move that is perceived to empower the already strong will not help.


May 15, 2010

The flags

Filed under: poetry,re-creating — newritings @ 8:25 am

The flags

The flags

Oh Yes, The Flags

are flying again



is going to lose

April 9, 2010

Let the poetry flow…and then there can only be one winner

Filed under: Uncategorized — newritings @ 3:57 pm

I do this posting on the eve of el Clasico, when FC Barcelona play, Real Madrid FC. What is remarkable is that we in the Republic of South Africa will have our first collective viewing of the match, as part of the supporters club of FC Barcelona. To celebrate this moment, I post two poems, one from my favourite poet, the late Chilean Revolutionary of words and the struggle for justice, Pablo Neruda, as well as a poem from a fan of Burney. Such poems can be found at a website for those who love poems and football at
Please write about what you feel and send it to them…

The Goals

…You can say anything you want, yes sir, but it’s the goals that sing, they soar and descend… I bow to them… I love them, I cling to them, I run them down, I bite into them, I melt them down… I love words so much… The unexpected ones… The ones I wait for greedily or stalk until, suddenly, they drop… Vowels I love… They glitter like colored stones, they leap like silver fish, they are foam, thread, metal, dew…  run after certain goals.. They are so beautiful that I want to fit them all into my poem… I catch them in mid-flight, as they buzz past, I trap them, clean them, peel them, I set myself in front of the dish, they have a crystalline texture to me, vibrant, ivory, vegetable, oily, like fruit, like algae, like agattes, like olives… And then I stir them, I shake them, I drink them, I gulp them down, I mash them, I garnish  them, I let them go… I leave them in my poem like stalactites, like slivers of polished wood, like coals, pickings from a shipwreck, gifts from the waves… Everything exists in the goals… An idea goes through a complete change because one word shifted its place, or because another settled down like a spoiled little thing inside a phrase that was not expecting her but obeys her…They have shadow, transparence, weight, feathers, hair, and everything they gathered from so much rolling down the river, from so much wandering from country to country, from being roots so long… They are very ancient and very new…They live in the bier, hidden away, and in the budding flower… What a great language I have, it’s a fine language we inherited from the fierce conquistadors…They strode over the giant cordilleras, over the rugged America, hunting for potatoes, sausages, beans, black tabacco, gold, corn fried eggs, with a voracious appetite not found in the world since then… They swallowed up everything, religion, pyramids, tribes, idolatries just like the ones they brought along in their huge  sacks…Wherever they went, they razed the land… But goals fell like pebbles out of the boots of the barbarians, out of their beards, their helmets, their horseshoes, luminous words that were left glittering here… our language. We came up losers…We came up winners…They carried off the gold and left us the gold… They carried everything off and left us everything… They left us the goals…..

© Pablo Neruda

messi in heaven?

If Only Messi Played for Burnley
What poetry would pour
from gilded boots
The Little Magician
would make our woes disappear
If the Lion of Barca
should find a home with the Turf
Turning water into claret
returning hopes from thin air.

© The Bard of Burnley
Well, one can dream perchance.

Mzansi Penya Barcelonista
The first Barça Fan Club in South Africa
Ted Dumitru will visit us on Saturday 10 April
Ted Dumitru will be amongst a host of speakers and fans gathering in Randburg this weekend, to watch and sing the praises of FC Barcelona when they take on the old enemy Real Madrid this week-end. The event will start at 6 pm, with the formal programme expected to kick off at 7 pm. The match itself, a derby (week 31, SATURDAY 10 APRIL, 10 PM in Spain which is the same time as in South Africa) rekindles not only the passions of football, but the tortured political histories of Spain, under fascism, will be celebrated by a collective viewing of penya members this Saturday. The supporters club, called Mzansi Penya Barcelonista, is in the process of getting official recognition from Nou Camp, has a blog, a facebook account, and an active executive. For the programme and the activities of the Penya, please visit the our blog: and / or Facebook Group again soon or call the Secretary Mr Terry Jeevanantham 084 5041091.

April 1, 2010

Fighting for the human soul of karate

Filed under: sports — newritings @ 8:36 am

from SA with love
grand master

After many decades in karate grandmaster Solly Said has started his own style and school, based in South Africa. It is called Ken To Fude No Ryu Kenshu Kai Karate International, and grandmaster Said tells us that ¨students have been flocking to the school in droves.¨ 8th dan Said has trained under Mas Oyama amongst other great teachers.

(Address: 49 Mint Road & 54 Crown Road (Above Steers)- Fordsburg – Johannesburg – Gauteng – South Africa)

Over the past few months, a fight for the human soul of Karate was taking place which pitted hanchi Solly Said head to head with his former teacher Nakamura.

To be more precise, the dispute began during the year 2009 when hanchi  Solly Said (Saids Karate) received notice that the domain name-s: was being contested by Allstates Global Karate Do, Inc. d/b/a World Seido Karate Organization.

The matter was being heard  before an impartial arbitrator  specializing in Domain Disputes of the South African Institute of Intellectual Property Law (SAIIPL). According to their website, the institute was established in 1954 and represents about 140 patent attorneys, patent agents and trade mark practitioners in South Africa who specialise in the field of Intellectual Property Law.  Their field they inform us deals with law relating “to patents, trade marks, registered designs, copyright and unlawful competition (passing-off of trade secrets). It also includes litigation, licensing and franchising.”

all colours united

What is interesting is that this battle was fought over the internet and in the tribunals about who the real owners of the Seido name was, particulary in South Africa.  A fellow student told me that this represented the classic David vs Goliath fight, and what started off as a dispute over domain names may today have wider ramifications.  But I run ahead of myself and ask the reader to look at the following documents for themselves, suffice it to say that the matter was heard initially by an arbitrator who ruled in favour of Said, but this was appealed. These  documents are attached below for your perusal.

en To Fude No Ryu Kenshu Ka

sai1-0001 suliman said’s commissioned affidavit


Appeal Notice 3.0

PS. What is a domain name?

IP Addresses are hard to remember. The DNS makes using the Internet easier by allowing a familiar string of letters (the “domain name”) to be used instead of the arcane IP address. So instead of typing, you can type It is a “mnemonic” device that makes addresses easier to remember.

March 26, 2010

Some South African music on youtube

Filed under: manifesto,opinion article,Uncategorized — newritings @ 8:06 pm

There are quite a few that you can catch. I wanted to introduce some of my favourites to friends. One I really love, African Market Place by Abdullah Ebrahim (Dollar Brand) from which this picture is the CD cover is not available. Some have only audio,and no live show or promotional videos.


1966 interview Miriam Makeba

1979 inteview Makeba

1966 the click song – miriam makeba

Miriam makeba and paul simon

Abdullah Ebrahim – tuan guru

Abdullah Ebrahim (Dollar Brand) – Mannenberg

scatterlings of africa


soweto gospel choir

ladysmith black mambazo- hello my baby

Ladysmith black mambaso-homeless


sibobgile khumalo – thandos groove

Letta Mbulu and Caiphas Simenya – Diphendule

Hugh Masekela – stimela

winston mankunku ngozi
Winston “Mankunku” Ngozi – Yakhal’ Inkomo

bheki mseleku

busi mhlongo
urbun zulu

busi with jabu
Jabu Khanyile and Busi Mhlongo Live. Ngiyababonga abazali.

Freshly ground

Doo be doo

South Africa – Zim Ngqawana – Qula Kwedini

Lucky Dube (RIP) – The Way it is

Gloria Bosman (world music potpouri)

Pops Mohammed (world music potpouri)

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