Archive | October 2013

Child rights group lobbies for ombudsperson

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Child rights group Molo Songololo has initiated a campaign to lobby the national government to establish the office of an ombudsperson focusing specifically on children’s issues.

Patric Solomons, director of the Cape Town based NGO, said they would meet various sector stakeholders on October 31 to outline their plans.

The NGO wants an independent ombudsperson to “receive and investigate complaints… act as a spokesperson for children… and hold government accountable”.

Solomons said the ombudsperson would also “champion the rights of children in government and civil society”.

“It will bring to the attention of government and civil society the problems children are experiencing, such as not having school books, not going to school or completing school, or not having access to clean drinking water or sanitation,” he said.

“It would also look into the situation of children caught up in gangsterism and gang violence, or children who are trafficked, prostituted and exploited.”

This office would be a space where “children’s voices are heard and opinions considered,” said Solomons.

He added: “It would investigate individual complaints from children or of children whose rights have been violated. It would report on its findings and make recommendations to government or civil society.

“It must be independent and impartial, established by an Act of Parliament and financed by the government.”

The Western Cape government committed to the establishment of a local commissioner for children, as provided for in section 78 of the provincial constitution.

The province’s Blueprint of the Modernisation Programme, a document outlining various goals, states though that the “matter was accordingly discussed at the provincial cabinet where a decision was taken not to proceed with the drafting of provincial legislation establishing a children’s commissioner, but rather that a children’s champion appointed in the office of the premier”.

Solomons said it was “nothing new” though for governments to establish child ombudspersons since the idea “originated in Sweden in 1970”.

“Today, about 70 countries have established independent human rights monitoring instruments for children,” he said.

“We need a champion for children. Every day our newspapers, radios and TV headlines confront us with horrible stories of neglect, abuse and crimes committed against children,” said Solomons.

“Most victims are children and young people from poor and under-resourced families and communities. Many are abused and hurt by the very people entrusted to care for and protect them.”

Molo Songololo’s meeting will be held at the Centre for the Book in Queen Victoria Street, opposite the Company’s Garden.

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Western Sahara refugees use film as activist tool

(This article was published in the Weekend Argus regional newspaper in the Western Cape, South Africa, on Sunday, October 6 2013.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Morocco’s “illegal occupation” of neighbouring Western Sahara should be stopped “sooner than later”, said the national arts and culture ministry as it prepares to meet the region’s refugees at a global gathering this week.

The arts ministry is not the only public supporter of thousands of Saharawi refugees displaced when Morocco laid claim to their land in 1976, after Spain withdrew from its former colony.

Oscar-winning Spanish actor Javier Bardem also recently backed 30,000 refugees in a remote Algerian desert where the annual Sahara International Film Festival (FiSahara) highlighting their cause starts on Tuesday (OCTOBER 8).

Bardem spoke from Madrid a week ago when FiSahara’s programme was unveiled. FiSahara organisers said this year’s film programme “includes documentary to animation, short films to blockbusters”.

Films will include Life of Pi, Five Broken Cameras, The Impossible and a “series of films on social justice and the Arab Spring”. It will also include films by Saharawi refugees.

The arts and culture ministry in its statement ahead of the festival rejected Morocco’s “excessive force and torture in order to suppress dissent” by the Saharawi’s “against illegal occupation”.

It supported the Polisario Front that “founded the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic in 1976 and was formally admitted into the Organisation of African Unity, resulting in the withdrawal of Morocco from that regional organisation in 1984”.

The ministry has offered funds to two film festivals that screen documentaries supporting Western Sahara’s independence. One of these festivals is the Tri Continental Film Festival (TCFF) held countrywide during September.

The other is FiSahara to be held in Dakhla refugee camp in Algeria from October 8 to 13. Organisers said the remote festival required guests to “fly to Tindouf, Algeria, and travel over 100 miles in convoy into the desert”.

Bardem attended this festival in 2008 and called it “nothing short of a miracle”.
FiSahara will feature film workshops for refugees, music concerts, camel races and screen at least 30 films daily after sunset.

Organisers said guests would include “over 200 international actors, directors, human rights and video activists and cinephiles, alongside thousands of Saharawi refugees”.

“A strong South African contingent with filmmakers, activists and representatives of the ministry of culture attending and running workshops” would also attend, said organizers.

The arts and culture ministry said the South African government “continues to render political support and humanitarian assistance to the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic under the African Renaissance Fund”.

“South Africa coordinates several projects… This support is aimed at sharing experience on how the medium of film and cinema during the struggle against apartheid was used as an effective tool to beam images across the world of the oppression and suffering of black South Africans under the regime,” it said.

Its support was to assist the Saharawi population to “use film as a communication tool to do the same for the situation of Western Sahara”.

TCFF director Anita Khanna said they partnered with the ministry and FiSahara to schedule local films for the desert event.

Khanna said the ministry assisted TCFF last month to bring a Palestinian poet to its festival to raise awareness about “colonised people”.

“As the primary human rights festival in Africa we are concerned that there are still colonised people. Many are aware of the Palestinians and we want to use film to raise awareness about the Western Sahara,” said Khanna.

TCFF last weekend scheduled a Pretoria screening of the film ‘Mayibuye I Western Sahara’ by filmmaker Milly Moabi.

This film “explores the history of solidarity between South Africa and Western Sahara and drawing parallels between their respective struggles for freedom”.

Khanna said Western Sahara would remain unchanged though because “Western governments have turned their backs on the Saharawis who have no power to change the situation”.

“We do ask if it isn’t arrogant that a group of famous, wealthy people think they can make a difference about it. They can only raise awareness and get people to do something about it. Ultimately, governments must address the situation,” said Khanna.

FiSahara’s international coordinator Stefan Simanowitz said the film festival “has done much to raise awareness of the terrible situation facing the Saharawi”.

Simanowitz said they worked closely with the Polisario Front and Algerian security forces to ensure safety at the event.

“We have been assured that right now it is safe to hold the festival and to bring an international audience to Dakhla, but we are monitoring the situation on the ground very closely and will continue to do so before and during the festival,” he said.

Blacks Only comedy show lands in Cape Town

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Cape Town needs to “be ready for black people to invade their spaces” said Johannesburg-based comedian David Kau ahead of his show in the city tonight (OCTOBER 4, 2013).

Kau will start his three-city Blacks Only Comedy Show series in the city, ahead of stops in Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg. The series runs annually in different cities and this year it is billed as The Bling-Bling Tour.

Comedian David Kau in Cape Town. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

Comedian David Kau in Cape Town. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

Kau said the last time he performed the Blacks Only show in Cape Town was 2009.

“We performed at the Cape Town International Convention Centre and were asked if we had extra security for the show. They thought there would be too many blacks showing up,” said Kau.

“There are black associations for accountants and soccer players. When you come with a black comedy show then people freak out… People say I’m racist (to do this). But it’s fun at the same time.

“Some guys ask if they can bring their white girlfriends. One guy said that now he won’t have to buy two tickets because his girlfriend is white as this show is for blacks only.”

On a more serious note, Kau said he started the Blacks Only concept nine years ago because when he started out as a comedian he was “the black guy and I would make jokes about that”.

“I realised that I was just performing for white people for years. I would walk into a venue and there were 3,000 white people. Those were my first comedy shows. I counted that the only black people was just me and the waiters or someone that I brought with me to the show. I decided to start Blacks Only,” said Kau.

“I then decided that if a black comedian decides to perform in any other language apart from English they must have a platform. The idea is to create a platform for black comics so they can build a career,” said Kau.

He added: “The name of the show, Blacks Only, is also a rip off of the apartheid signage. Even though it’s called Blacks Only, the funny thing is that there are always white people in the front row… Every other comedy show is whites only, it’s just not called whites only.”

He said in Cape Town “most people still freak out when they hear the show is called Blacks Only”.

“They are insecure about their racial prejudice. They are not scared of blacks but this title brings up things that they don’t have to confront… We haven’t really discussed racism in our country,” said Kau.

“We live like everything is sorted and we’re just moving on. People think you can just forget apartheid and move on.”

Kau said the Blacks Only shows run three to four times a year in Johannesburg and sell a total 12,000 tickets annually. He selects up-and-coming and established comedians for a line-up, including a “token white comedian”.

Even though Blacks Only has a political connotation, Kau said his aim remains “to make people laugh for a living”.

“I don’t make jokes to get some message across. If something is not funny I’m not going to say anything about it. The message is secondary for me,” he said.

He does find himself often having to explain to people that he does not make jokes all the time, especially when they meet him for the first time.

“I’ve spent a lot of time telling people I don’t walk around telling jokes. I spend a lot of time telling people the worst thing you can do when you meet a comedian is ask them to tell you a joke. Come to my show,” he said.

“(The late TV presenter) Vuyo Mbuli asked me on Morning Live (TV show) to tell him a joke. I asked him on TV, ‘When you see a prostitute do you ask her to give you a blow job?’ He didn’t ask me to do that again.”

When Kau is not on stage, he’s running a film production company and has been commissioned by Mzansi Magic satellite channel to write, direct and produce five feature films.

Kau also recently traveled to Cannes to promote his film Blitz Patrolie at a film festival in that French city.

The Blacks Only show in Cape Town will feature puppet master Conrad Koch who was told to “bring a black or coloured puppet on the show”. Marc Lottering will also perform at the one-night-only show at the Grand Arena.

Cape Town TV goes global via satellite

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Even though community station Cape Town TV (CTV) starts broadcasting on a satellite channel this month to woo a global audience and advertising, it would not be “selling out”.

Station director Karen Thorne said the channel would broadcast from October 10 on DSTV’s channel 263. It would also retain its two free-to-air channels accessible via any TV screen in Cape Town.

“The satellite channel doesn’t cost us anything. DSTV offered to carry us for free. It’s a one-year contract,” said Thorne.

“There are already other community TV stations on DSTV. It’s been a game changer for them. Media planners and people with money watch DSTV. It’s going to be a boost for CTV because we can source revenue.”

She added: “We’re will still be a Cape Town channel. We won’t be a commercial channel. We’re not selling out.”

Thorne said CTV needed to drastically increase its advertising revenue.

“We need to derive at least 50% advertising. At the moment it’s 20% and the rest of our income is from donors. We hope to do this via the satellite channel,” she said.

CTV statistics reveal that it has 400,000 viewers in Cape Town. The channel this celebrated its fifth birthday with a party at City Hall in central Cape Town on Tuesday night. It also announced its satellite channel’s plans.

CTV board chairperson Martin Jansen said advertising revenue has to date been low. He urged: “The state should subsidise community broadcasting.”

CTV’s broadcast manager Mike Alridge said the station needed funds to also continue its community training programmes. He said CTV “annually trains 120 persons in TV production”.

“Trainees start off in the TV studio where they learn basic camera studio work. Then they get involved in basic field production. They could go out into the field and make inserts for the station’s shows,” said Alridge.

“That gives them the skills to get work with other production companies.”

He added: “Apart from that, we also have the open studio show where people can present their own talk shows. There are also internships where we place persons in different departments, such as marketing, news and broadcasting.”

Demolish Cape Town stadium, say angry residents

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

“Just demolish it,” was among angry resident’s demands at a public meeting this week outlining business plans to stop Cape Town Stadium from bleeding taxpayer’s money.

The meeting was held inside the stadium on Wednesday night. Residents in areas around the stadium – Green Point, Sea Point and Fresnaye – mostly attended.

Its purpose was to inform locals about the legal changes required and environmental impact of proposed business plans for the economically failing stadium. The venue costs R52-million to manage annually but earns only R13-million over the same period.

Geoff Underwood, director of Planning Partners, said the stadium manager City of Cape Town wanted a “more commercial approach”. Underwood heads a team leading the process to turnaround the stadium’s losses.

Underwood said the City needed to rezone the stadium from a community property to a general business zone.

He said the City’s business plan proposes using space inside the stadium for office suites, mixed retail spaces, franchised restaurants and contract parking.

Carmen du Toit, managing director of The Environmental Partnership, said among the legislation that would need to be amended include the National Environmental Act. This was to rezone the stadium and subdivide it from the public urban park on the same property.

Du Toit said an environmental impact assessment would consider how upgrades to the area could “block existing visual resources”. She said they would have future meetings across the city before finalising their submissions to the City in the mid-quarter of next year.

Residents angrily voiced their objections to the business plans though. Green Point businesswoman Colleen Anderson said the stadium has “been an enormous waste of money”.

“It’s a monstrosity we’re sitting with that doesn’t bring in any money. We are paying for this and you’ve all lost sight of that. Theses people just suck our money out of us. It costs us R52-million to keep this empty building,” said Anderson.

Green Point resident John Hall added: “It will never be viable.”

“Let’s mitigate our losses. It’s a shambles. It’s all airy-fairy stuff.”

But Underwood would hear none of it. When one resident stood up and demanded, “just demolish it (the stadium)”, he said their “mandate is not to knock down the stadium”.
“We are here to make this wonderful facility work. For those who regret it, it’s here,” said Underwood.

“The community was concerned that shopping malls would creep up on the common. That will not happen.”

Skaters ride off with R5-million cash

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Professional and amateur skateboarders walked off with prizes totaling R5-million at the country’s biggest championship for this sport held in Kimberley this weekend.

The third annual Kimberley Diamond Cup, organised by the Northern Cape government, drew almost 200 local and foreign competitors.

Among the youngest winners was Jagger Eaton, 12, from Arizona in the United States, who beat grown men to win first place in the best big air trick category. Eaton flashed a silver smile – he has braces on his teeth – as he walked off with a R50,000 cheque.

Jagger Eaton won R50,000. (Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien)

Jagger Eaton won R50,000. (Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien)

“I’m going to buy a heck of a lot of toys… I wasn’t intimidated. The bigger guys because encouraged me,” said Eaton.

His father Geoff Eaton said they had already competed in skateboarding competitions in Brazil, Spain, Germany and the US this year. He is a former professional gymnast who represented the US at global events.

“We enjoy this and travel around the world to compete. I’ll support my kids if they can avoid growing up,” said Eaton.

In the amateur category, Braxton Hane, 19, from Durban took R20,000 first prize. Hane competed in this category in the last two annual competitions held at the Kimberley Skate Park. He won third place last year and second place in the inaugural year in 2011.

Braxton Hane won R20,000. (Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien)

Braxton Hane won R20,000. (Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien)

“I’ve been skating for the last ten years. I’m stoked that I won. Next year I hope to compete with the pros. That will take a lot of practice,” said Hane.

“To get a big cash prize is cool. I recently had a baby boy with my girlfriend so this money is to take care of him. Our son’s name is Maverick and he was born on September 5. He’s going to skate before he can walk.”

Spectators traveled from various cities for the weekend event. Kyle Bruintjies, 16, from Panorama drove to Kimberley with his parents, sister and cousins.

“I had to save up to buy skateboards and stuff. I saved my monthly allowance for eight months. It wasn’t difficult to save because I was determined to come here. It’s a fun event,” said Bruintjies.

“I want to compete next time because I would like to win R20,000.”

Friends Dom de Villiers, 15, and Liam Loughnane, 17, from the northern suburbs traveled to the event “for the vibe and to watch the pros”.

“I competed in the first two competitions and we need more skateboarding competitions in South Africa,” said Loughnane.

Robert Gale from Johannesburg traveled to the championship for the first time with friends who competed.

“There are one or two skate parks in Johannesburg but nothing like this. There are also competitions in Johannesburg but this kills every other competition that there’s been in South Africa. This is the biggest one,” said Gale.

“There should be other events outside the competition. Maybe they should have some DJs and after parties. It’s a bit quiet in Kimberley.”

John Block, the Northern Cape’s MEC for finance, economic development and tourism, said the provincial government has spent R60-million over the last three years on the championship and skateboarding development.

“We are rolling out skate parks in the province. We have a team of skateboarders who go out and teach children how to skate. We’ve invested a lot in infrastructure,” said Block.

“The biggest return is getting young people interested in sport. We want to get them off the streets. So this is not just about skateboarding.”

Block added: “We are also promoting Kimberley as an extreme sport destination. We now have people coming from different countries to compete in this event. We’ve never had so much exposure as a city and province. It’s paying off.”