Archive | May 2014

Protesters fight genetically modified foods

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Protesters against genetically modified food took to Cape Town’s streets this weekend, vowing to boycott retailers that fail to label products containing artificially engineered ingredients.


Anonymous Cape Town and other concerned locals organised the protest. It started at the Grand Parade in central Cape Town and moved to Parliament.


It passed a Cape of Good Hope Methodist Church gathering on Darling Street, calling on terror group Boko Haram to release kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls in that country. This was one of two such protests in the city centre on Saturday.

Anonymous did not obtain City of Cape Town permission to protest and instead joined forces with Platinum Workers Support Committee that had a protest permit. The latter’s Shaheed Mohamed said they had permission and wanted to ensure that “all citizens have the right to freedom of expression”.

Anonymous’ protest follows claims released this week that various local white bread companies were not adequately labeling their produces containing genetically modified substances.

Last Thursday, the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) released a research report entitled ‘GM Contamination, Cartels and Collusion in South Africa’s Bread Industry’. It tested white bread and found it “contains high levels of Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) soya and that most companies are unashamedly flouting GM labelling laws”.


Monsanto is a multinational agricultural biotech corporation based in the United States. It produces genetically engineered seeds used to make food.
ACB’s executive director Mariam Mayet said a “small number of unscrupulous cartels control and benefit from the value chains of our staple foods, maize and bread”.

“They have been repeatedly sanctioned for anti-competitive behaviour, have been complicit in saturating our staple food with risky GM ingredients and its associated pesticides and are behind a campaign to undermine proper labelling of GM food and the consumer’s right to know.”

ACB’s statement read: “The nation consumes about 2.8 billion loaves of bread a year, handing over more than R28 billion of their hard-earned cash to a cartel comprising Tiger Brands, Premier Foods, Pioneer Foods and Foodcorp, that controls the wheat-to-bread value chain.”

Its white bread test results showed that level of GM content of soya flour used in white breads sold locally. It found that Checkers used 91,09% GM content in soya flour but this was not indicated on the retailers labeling of the bread.

Woolworths used 85.62% GM content in soya flour while its label stated that the bread “may be genetically modified”.

Spar, Blue Ribbon, Pick n Pay, Albany and Sunbake all used GM content in its soya flour to make white bread but none of the packaging of the bread is labeled to reflect this.

ACB said: “The Consumer Protection Act requires that every ingredient in food products containing 5% or more GM content must be labelled ‘contains GMOs’ or ‘produced using genetic modification.’ The current labels are either misleading, confusing or completely absent, leaving consumers utterly in the dark.”

It said these bread manufacturers were also “lobbying under the aegis of the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA) to revise and weaken GM labelling regulations”.

ACB in its report said a “chemical used in the production of GM soya, called glyphosate, has been linked to numerous health risks including increased risk of chronic kidney disease, birth defects in humans and animals and spontaneous abortions”.

“Recently, samples of urine and breast milk in the United States showed an accumulation of glyphosate in breast milk… residues of glyphosate can remain in food long after the harvest and South African authorities have scant capacity to monitor these residues in food products derived from GM organisms (GMO).”

One of the retailers, Woolworths, said its “preference has been to remove GMO from our food or label the products containing GMO”.

Its spokesman Neeran Naidoo said it started labeling GMO foods since 1999.
“Woolworths white sandwich bread currently contains significantly less than 1 % soya flour. Woolworths is in the process of investigating sustainable and commercially viable alternatives,” he said.

“Our approach helps customers make the choice that is right for them… We check all ingredients back to source, and where we cannot guarantee that the ingredient was not derived from a GM crop, we label the product as ‘may be genetically modified’.”

Matthew Rohleder, one of yesterday’s protests organisers, said they “don’t want poison in our food”.

“We want to make that message clear. We will boycott retailers that don’t label products with GMO,” he said.

Monique van Vuuren added: “Supermarkets should label GMO products. I have a disease that affects my stomach if I eat wheat products. So labeling is very important to me.”

Christo Lotter, who stopped traffic when he lay down in front of a bus, said consumers “want to know what we are eating”.


“It’s ridiculous that we are dictated to when it comes to what we put in our bodies. There are health concerns. It’s our right to know what’s in our food,” said Lotter.

Beezy Bailey on his latest ‘creative blood transfusion’

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Painting with American-based rock singer Dave Matthews was like a “creative blood transfusion”, says local artist Beezy Bailey of their collaborations on show at a Cape Town art gallery.

Bailey and Matthews have known each other for almost three decades. Their latest effort Itica Pritica opened late last week at the Everard Read gallery at the V&A Waterfront.

Beezy Bailey in his art studio. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

Beezy Bailey in his art studio. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

Matthews was not at the Cape Town opening but was in New York for the show, where the two artists created the paintings.

Matthews was born in South African but started his band in the United States. He has sold at least 30 million albums globally.

Bailey said they worked on the paintings in Brooklyn, New York.

“He’s a friend. He arrived to stay at this house about 15 years ago. He’s one of my brother Prospero’s best friends,” said Bailey of Matthews.

He said Matthews was the third musician he has worked with to date.

“It’s a bit of a lonely thing making these paintings. When I can work with someone who can jam with me, I love it. It’s got nothing to do with what’s out there but what we want to make,” said Bailey.

“When we work, it’s like playing music together. In all three cases, the artists all studied at art school but went into music. The first musician I worked with was David Bowie. The second was Brian Eno. The third was Dave Matthews.”

Bailey added: “I realised that I wanted to be a rock star and they wanted to be painters. It was a perfect marriage.”

Matthews said: “For me, painting with Beezy was very new territory. He had worked with musicians before, so I knew I was in good hands and good company, but the prospect was still unnerving.”

He said the two “have known each other for nearly three decades”.

“We have wanted to do something creative together for much of that time but, until recently, have not managed to come together. When at last we began working together, I leaned heavily on Beezy’s confidence and experience and gained courage from his exuberance,” said Matthews.

“We chased different images. Some went too far, some not far enough but the experience was therapeutic on one level and transformative on another.”
Bailey recalled working with Bowie in 1995, describing the prolific musician and actor as a “creative juggernaut”.

“Bowie was in his late 40s and was doing his Outside album at the same time. His energy was demonic. It was extraordinary,” said Bailey.

“He was acting as (artist Andy) Warhol in a movie and painting 50 paintings with me. All at the same time during a two-week period.”

“Bowie said when we enter the studio we leave our egos at the door. It’s so far removed from the rock star glitz. It’s so much to do with the process, the real thing about making marks (on a canvas).”

Bailey said he was working with Eno on a show that merged “paintings with sound”.

“I’ve collaborated with Eno for the last four years. We are looking at putting together sound paintings. You would stand under a dome that would be a specific sound for that painting,” said Bailey.

“To work with this extraordinary man, who is utterly humble, is a great privileged.”

Bailey currently has show of his landscape paintings at the Everard Read gallery in Johannesburg. He also launched a documentary film about his career and life this month. Itica Pritica runs until June 5.

Khoi San language lessons revives ancient tongue

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Sounds of the Khoikhoi language fill a hall at the Castle of Good Hope where classes to teach South Africa’s first indigenous language are held every weekend.

Bradley van Sitters, who runs the classes, says this Khoikhoi Language Revitalisation Initiative is about “preserving our oldest linguistic heritage”.

Bradley van Sitters runs Khoe Khoe language classes. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

Bradley van Sitters runs Khoe Khoe language classes. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

Sitters is part of the Khoi and San Active Awareness Group (KSAAG) whose members have traveled to different parts of Southern Africa to research and document the language that they now teach.

Their goal is to reintroduce their language and culture in the Cape, where it was eliminated by centuries of colonial and apartheid rule. KSAAG is a non-profit and the classes are held at no cost to participants.

Sitters explains: “The Khoi-San are the most researched people on Earth. But little has really been done to safeguard our most ancient linguistic expressions known to humanity in totality.”

“The click languages of the Khoikhoi and San, or Bushman, represent one of the oldest language family groups in the world, and the cultures which they transmit have taken thousands of years to develop. This initiative falls within the scope of the Western Cape language policy to elevate the status and advance the use of indigenous language.”

He adds: “One of the most fascinating aspects of the Khoikhoi and San languages is the fact that they left an unmistakable linguistic residue in other languages spoken in Southern Africa.”

Sitters says this includes the “click sounds found in Nguni languages”. KSAAG aims to “preserve, promote and development our most ancient linguistic heritage for present and future generations”.

The first class was a mix of young, old and various races. A group of teenagers traveled from Belhar to “come learn about our heritage and culture”.

One of them, Grayton Bernadus, 15, says he connected with the language immediately. For him, learning this language is empowering.

Young people who are learning the language. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

Young people who are learning the language. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

“When we sang those songs, something just came out in me,” says Bernadus.

“I’m a Khoi Khoi person and I didn’t know that. Most people look down at me because I’m coloured. They disrespect coloureds. They call us ‘hotnots’ to mock us. That’s an insult to us.”

Bernadus adds: “We are not ‘hotnots’. It’s just not right to call me that to try to bring me down. People who call me that, they don’t want to see me. But I’m stronger than that.”

Tammy-Lee Chambers, 15, says she plans to continue Khoikhoi lessons because she “learned more about my culture and that is good”.

Caleb Piekaan, 15, says he would like to some day “teach this language to others as well. I want to go to other places where they speak this language.”

Jill Williams, who works with Sitters on the project, says the young people’s comments reflect that their work is about “healing minds and bodies”.

Jill Williams works to promote Khoe Khoe language and culture. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

Jill Williams works to promote Khoe Khoe language and culture. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

“Language is connected to memory and we are trying to preserve our heritage. To do that, we need to preserve this language. There is power in the language and that power is spiritual as well,” says Williams.

“Doing this work, I see myself as a dynamic agent of change. We are descendants of the Khoi-San and want to be able to speak, learn and sing in our own language. And that extends to rituals and music. When you speak it, something resonates within you.”

Williams says their classes would continue while they lobby for Khoikhoi language lessons at public schools.

“It all starts with education and the language being recognised as an official language that is part of the school curriculum so that children can learn it. For now, we will focus on community education,” says Williams.

Priscilla de Wet, an indigenous studies academic focusing on the Western Cape, says learning this language “gives people something tangible as an alternative identity”.

“It’s not just coloured. We are not a bastardised race. We are descendants from a noble people who occupied the Cape before Jan van Riebeeck (the Dutch coloniser). We need to get the language back into our minds, bodies and mouths,” says De Wet.

Chief Hennie van Wyk of the Gorachou Qua tribe, that traces it roots centuries back in the Cape region, says KSAAG was playing a role in “reviving the culture that existed here”.

Chief Hennie van Wyk encourages learning Khoe Khoe language. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

Chief Hennie van Wyk encourages learning Khoe Khoe language. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

“Our language is an umbilical chord to our culture. It is a powerful tool. By using another language, we are bound to that identity. So we need to develop our language,” says Van Wyk.

“We will enlighten generations to come about their identity as Khoi or Bushmen and not coloured. By teaching our children this language, it will also bring them closer to their ancestors and release them from the traumatisation of our people that has taken place. It is a positive reinforcement for our people, to find ourselves.”

Striking miners come to Cape Town

(This article was published on the website Ground Up at this link:

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

North West province mineworkers striking for better salaries are lobbying with the power of film to gain support for their cause countrywide.
Three mineworkers who are on strike are currently touring the Western Cape with the film Miners Shot Down.

The film, directed by Rehad Desai and launched this year, informs locals about the fatal killing of Marikana miners on 16 August 2012. Police officers shot dead the miners who had been on strike for a salary increase at the Lonmin mine in the North West.

One of the miners on tour, Jacob Khoza from the Anglo American Platinum mine in Rustenburg, said their aim was to build links across the country.

Khoza and two other mineworkers will show the film in Cape Town and end their tour in the Eastern Cape on 1 June. He said a team of miners was also presently traveling to show the film in Durban.

Khoza is a winch operator at Anglo and he is also a shop steward for Association of Minerals and Construction Union (Amcu) which is leading the strike.

“We are here to get support and to show the people of Cape Town what happened at Marikana. People are getting information that Amcu is not a peaceful union. But we know we are looking only for our money, not for any trouble. We just want a decent wage for workers,” said Khoza.

“We are talking to people and explaining to them what happened in Marikana and what we are fighting for. We are working for peanuts. It’s not enough. We need to support our families.”

Khoza said he earned just under R6,000 a month and their demand – since late 2012 when the strike started – is a monthly salary of R12,500.

“We are still struggling. Our employers said they don’t have the money. We said we would give them four years to address the issue of paying us R12,500 a month,” said Khoza.

“We feel bad that we are the ones taking out the platinum and we are still struggling. We hear that we have 20 years of democracy but we are still suffering while we are working.

“The people who are benefitting are chief executives. They even get bonuses while we are on strike. And all they do is just to take the platinum overseas.”

It has been reported that there are 70,000 workers on strike in North West and Limpopo, with between 150,000 to 200,000 direct dependents. They are from various mines but their demand is the same: a salary increase to R12,500 a month.

Khoza is from the Free State province but moved to the North West to work at a mine. He said he was struggling financially to pay rent for a room in the North West and still send money home to support his family.

A number of civil society initiatives have been set up to assist the miners. Among these is the Cape Town Marikana Support Campaign that is organising a tour of Miners Shot Down screenings and public talks for the miners.

It said in a statement it would grow support for platinum belt miners who have been on strike for 19 consecutive weeks this year.

It said miners were “aware of government’s attempts to delay and manipulate the Farlam Commission (to uncover the events of 16 August) and of management’s failure to honour the wage agreements of 2012.”

“Workers clearly hold unresolved anger. In this bargaining game, they have been persistently lied to, while management has tried underhand tactics to break the strike, fuelling violence and mistrust,” it said.

“As the mineworkers enter their fifth month of strike, the situation on the platinum belt is a humanitarian disaster. While ongoing attempts unfold to reach a settlement to the dispute, the reality on the ground is that children, women and men are facing daily hardships that will persist even after the strike is settled.”

Gift of the Givers has also launched an appeal for support for the striking miners and their families. The humanitarian organisation said that on 24 May it assisted “hungry and starving men, women and children” in North West mining towns.

It said a total “2,300 families received food parcels, 6,000 were fed a hot meal, over a thousand were treated by a 25-member medical team and 300 were given blankets and tinned food in an attempt to give something to everyone of the 10,000 desperate people who turned up” at its public gathering in Marikana.

Imtiaz Sooliman, head of Gift of the Givers, said his team “returned exhausted and satisfied as we witnessed the happiness of a people who were exemplary in conduct satisfied with what little was on offer in the knowledge that someone cared for them and took notice of their plight.”

Public screenings of the film Miners Shot Down:
29 May: UWC Anthropology Lab Sociology Dept. UWC, Bellville, 11am-1pm
30 May: St George’s Cathedral, 5 Wale St, Cape Town, 7.15am service and picket at 4pm
31 May: Robertson
1 June: Barrydale and Ladismith

Cape Town protests!

Protesters did not let the weather get in the way of being heard this morning in central Cape Town. They demanded Boko Haram to free Nigerian girls held captive, large mining companies to ensure better salaries for mineworkers and that retailers tell consumers whether food they are selling has been genetically modified. Throw in also some Free Palestine support and a bit of this and that. All pics by Yazeed Kamaldien

















Nigeria’s Boko Haram is “against Islam”

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Leading Muslim organisations in South Africa have denounced Nigerian terror group Boko Haram for having “nothing to do with Islam”.

The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) and its affiliates has joined the #BringBackOurGirls campaign and held a rally in the Company’s Garden, central Cape Town, this weekend.

It aimed to raise public awareness and support for a campaign calling for the release of 223 Nigerian schoolgirls that Boko Haram has held hostage since April 14.

Anita Christiaans, a bookkeeper and “mother of a young girl”, is organising the rally. She contacted the MJC and others to gain signatures for a petition calling on the South African government to assist Nigeria free the schoolgirls.

“We want our government to send troops to Nigeria and help find the girls. We need to stop terrorism in Africa,” said Christiaans.

“I’m a Christian and I’m doing this in my personal capacity. I approached the MJC because there are so many people blaming Muslims for this. But this is a terrorist group. This is not Islam.”

She added: “I’m not Muslim but my sister turned to Islam and I know the basic teaching of the Qur’an. And this is not Islam.

“There is now a lot of fighting about religion on the Internet because of this. But that is taking the focus off the girls who are missing.”

MJC secretary-general Moulana Abdul Khaliq Allie said Boko Haram has “an identity that does not conform to Islam”.

“It’s foreign to us. Islam does not condone what they do. The unfortunate situation is that in every denomination you find groups that violate their religious guidelines and scriptures. This is an extremist group,” said Allie.

“Islam stands for the principles of safety and security for all. This is a violation of the rights of these young girls. We want to see their safe release and return to their families.”

He added: “The MJC invites people of all religions and walks of life to support this call because this is a humanitarian response.”

Sheikh Fakhruddin Owaisi, chairman of the Western Cape branch of the national Sunni Ulama Council, also denounced Boko Haram as a “terrorist group tainting the message and image of Islam”.

The council is a group of theologians that aim to “preserve and promote an understanding of Islam” in South Africa. Owaisi has researched Boko Haram, reportedly involved in violent activities in Nigeria since 2009.

“They claim to be working for Islam and want to establish an Islamic state. But what they are doing is a wrong interpretation of Islam. This is a fringe, terrorist movement with a radical, extremist view of Islam,” said Owaisi.

“The majority of Muslims know this is not Islam. They have no right to do this in our name. They are committing a major crime. We condemn and reject this.”

Owaisi said he has spoken to Nigerian scholars who said Boko Haram “were even killing Muslims who speak against them”.

“They believe any Muslims who speak against them are not Muslim. They have even killed Muslim leaders inside mosques. They are a real danger,” he said.

“It gives us who are more safe and outside Nigeria the responsibility to speak out against this.”

Owaisi described Boko Haram as “takfiri, which is a fringe trend in Islam”.
“Takfiri is a trend found all over the Muslim world. It’s a minority trend but they are getting a lot of attention. They are terror groups all over the Muslim world,” he said.

“They believe others who don’t support them are not Muslim. They want to force people to be Muslim, but this is not Islam. They know nothing about Islam. The majority of Muslims are not interested in this because it is violent.”

Owaisi added: “There are socio-political reasons for takfiri’s existence. They are mostly from poor areas and are fed up with corruption and other social ills. But they have leaders that want power and have created enemies even of Muslims. They brainwash supporters with these ideologies.”

Owaisi said groups like al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Boko Haram all fell under the takfiri category, which has supporters that mostly use violence to enforce Islam.

Boko Haram reportedly carried out three attacks, killing at least 50 people, in Nigeria this past week. On May 13 it allegedly was behind a twin car blast in a central market in Jos, Nigeria, that led to 118 deaths.

It claimed responsibility for kidnapping 276 schoolgirls from a school in Chibok, north-eastern state in Nigeria, on April 14. It captured another eight girls from Warabe, Nigeria, on May 5. Of this, 223 girls remain missing.

It demands the release of its members from Nigerian jails in return for the hostages. An international support campaign as well as military support has gained momentum in pursuit to free the girls.

The US has sent military officials to Nigeria and neighbouring Chad. West African nations Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger met in Paris earlier this month to plan a strategy to eliminate Boko Haram in the region.

Banking vault now a city playground

(This article was published in the Cape Argus, a regional daily newspaper in the Western Cape province of South Africa, on May 22 2014)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

A vault that once housed gold, diamonds and cash beneath Adderley Street is being converted into a spot to host exclusive and intimate gatherings.

The defunct African Banking Corporation used the vault during the early 1900s. With the Taj Cape Town hotel acquiring the right to use it, the vault is set to become a hidden treasure for those seeking alternative playgrounds.

The old vault under renovation to become The Reserve. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

The old vault under renovation to become The Reserve. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

Michael Pownall, general manager at the Taj, says the underground section of the heritage building currently being converted intends to be a “super cool place for special events”. It is part of the three separate spaces where private functions can be held in a renovated bank now called The Reserve.

“Its name is a play on words. This is an area where the old SA Reserve Bank used to be. Reserve also indicates something private. When you reserve a table at a restaurant for dinner it would be for you only,” says Pownall.

The Reserve houses a transformed banking hall that has previously served as a nightclub and restaurant. Its original interiors – made of teak, brass and marble walls – remain intact.

The old elevator leads to the vault. Pic Yazeed Kamaldien

The old elevator leads to the vault. Pic Yazeed Kamaldien

The vault has never been accessible to the general public though. A launch date has not yet been made known to the public either as construction is underway.
Pownall says they had to be “sensitive about making any changes to the heritage buildings we are in”.

There are three ways to access the vault. An entrance on Adderley Street takes one through the banking hall and either down a steep staircase or old elevator to the vault. One can also access it via an entrance on St George’s Mall and take the stairs or elevator underground.

A more interesting entrance though is via the hotel’s restaurant kitchen. Pownall says this will be used when the banking hall or the entertainment area at the St George’s Mall entrance are in use.

“This gives it an even greater feel of being hidden away,” he says.

A walk through the kitchen does give an evening of socialising in an underground vault a sense of bizarre adventure. It feels naughty to trespass into the chef’s headquarters.

Once downstairs, one walks through narrow passageways that Pownall says they want to line with candles and lanterns to give it a “rustic feel”. One then enters into a space with burglar bars that once secured South Africa’s wealth.

Pownall recalls that this former Dutch and English colony was “developed around gold and diamonds”.

“All that came here to Cape Town to be shipped to Europe. When it was transported here, it would have been held in bank vaults. Three-quarters of the country’s diamond and gold output would have been housed in this area,” he says.

“A lot of SA’s wealth would have passed through Cape Town. I want people to understand the history of the building as well. We might put memorabilia of the old bank on the walls.”

An intriguing history exists on the former financial corner that housed the Board of Executors (BOE), the Reserve Bank and also the Cape of Good Hope Bank in decadent buildings.

This well-known pedestrian precinct in the city centre was a playground for the rich, famous and notorious, including former colonial era figure Cecil John Rhodes. With a bit of underground digging, this history will be rediscovered.