Archive | June 2014

Agang SA battles factionalism, debt of millions

(This article was published in Weekend Argus, a weekly regional newspaper in the Western Cape province, South Africa, on 29 June 2014.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

The battle for Agang SA’s leadership faced a showdown today, with one group supporting the party leader Mamphela Ramphele obtaining a court order to prevent another from ousting her.

The party’s Gauteng office was able to prevent a faction from meeting in Alexandra at 12pm today to hold a “vote of no confidence” against Ramphele.

Shamane Mashishi, national deputy secretary-general of Agang SA, said last night the Alexandra meeting is “not a legitimate gathering of the organisation”.

“We have tried to reason with these people not to have this gathering. They decided to go ahead with it anyway. We want the court to stop them,” he said.

“They are legitimate members of the organisation but if you are going to have a conference you need to follow processes. They have not followed these processes.”

He added: “If the meeting doesn’t go ahead, we want them to come to the table so that a solution can be found. They want to drag the name of the party president (Ramphela) through the mud.

“If they continue, we will take them before a disciplinary and sort it out internally.”

The party’s “national executive committee” called for a meeting at the East Bank Hall in Alexandra, Gauteng, at 12pm. The party’s chairman Mike Tshingshonga, who has publicly campaigned against Ramphele, called the meeting.

Its top priority was to ensure the voting of a “motion of no-confidence of the president”. It also aimed to “call for nominations for and voting on a new president and five members of the NEC (national executive committee)”.

Agang SA has been plagued with internal factionalism that emerged strongly after the May 7 election, when it gained 52,350 votes and two seats in Parliament.

Agang SA appointed Merle O’Brien, convenor of a task team that had to look into leadership, financial, structural, policy, communication and constitutional issues within Agang SA, issued the party with a report to the party’s national executive committee. This team was appointed on June 19.

“The organisation has debt of R12-million. A recommendation was that a finance team engages creditors on a payment plan,” said O’Brien.

“The national executive committee needs key positions filled to stabilise the party. It needs a secretary-general, treasurer and a policy convenor. The Parliamentary office has not been functioning and provincial structures are not working optimally.”

She added: “The party also had to update its constitution with the Independent Electoral Commission, amongst other legal matters that had not been taken care of.”

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Healthier diet urged for Ramadaan fasting

(An edited version of this article was published in Weekend Argus, a weekly regional newspaper in the Western Cape province, South Africa, on 29 June 2014.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

While fasting during Ramadaan has health benefits, doctors warn the first evening meal that Cape Town’s Muslims have could be less sugary and oily.

Ramadaan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and started this weekend. Muslims worldwide who fast stay without food and drink from dawn to sunset for 30 days.

Doctors have pointed out that fasting is part of a healthy lifestyle as it lowers cholesterol, hypertension and high blood pressure.

But in the evening, in Cape Town at least, koeksisters, samoosas and a host of other oily savouries and sugary delights are devoured.

Dr Junaid Akoojee, who practices in Surrey Estate, says Muslims should consider a healthier diet in Ramadaan.

“The challenge is that these foods are part of the local culture. We need to cut down on the oily and sweet things, especially because of diabetes,” says Akoojee.

“It’s also not supposed to be a feast in the evening. That’s missing the point. There are people around you who need food. Many people prepare a feast and there’s so much food left over. You can’t eat that much in the evening.”

Akoojee says the high sugar intake is a “quick fix and it doesn’t sustain your body”.

He recently teamed up with the Muslim Judicial Council to host educational talks, about healthy diets and diabetes during Ramadaan, at mosques and also on Muslim community radio station Voice of the Cape.

The focus was on “healthy living for the family” against the challenge that “lifestyle changes are the hardest to implement,” says Akoojee.

“We advised people to get up early in the morning and not rush their meal. It’s better to have enough time to eat. Have proteins, like eggs and oats, to sustain your body for longer during the day. Also have enough fluids,” says Akoojee.

The most important to remember in the morning and at night especially is: “Eat in moderation.”

“We should be eating sufficiently to sustain ourselves but don’t go overboard. Healthy eating would also encourage more natural foods.”

Akoojee is currently completing his doctorate studies in diabetes via Cardiff University in the UK. His public talks also focused on advice to diabetics who want to fast during Ramadaan.

People with illnesses are exempt from fasting, but Akoojee says most Muslims want to participate in the spiritual aspect of fasting even when doctors advise them against it.

Others exempt from fasting are those who are traveling as well as women who are menstruating, pregnant or nursing.

Akoojee says: “Despite medical advice warning that they are unable to fast, many diabetics still fast because they want to follow the religious teachings. The best we can try to do is make it safe for them to fast.”

“Diabetics must consult their doctor and work out a Ramadaan programme. They must of course listen to their doctor and not fast if it is harmful to their health. Well-controlled diabetes is not a problem though.

“The most important thing is education so that the patient understands the disease. Dietary advice can help them.”

Locals are meanwhile also looking at healthier eating plans during Ramadaan.
Mitchell’s Plain resident Fatiema Baradien Khan, who has four children who will be fasting, says their day will “start with juice, milk and wholewheat toast”.

“I want my children to start the day off right with whole. I’m going to add muesli, yogurt and fruit to their morning meal. We adults love coffee but we’re going to try going decaf this month,” she says.

“A good balanced start will keep you going throughout the day and you crave less sweet or oily snacks at night.”

Amiena Davids from Observatory says her intention is to “purify and strengthen my body, mind and the soul”.

“The Qur’an (Islam’s sacred scripture) states we should eat of the good and wholesome things but indulge in excess. I want to base my diet on fresh, natural foods. For me, a balanced food and fluid intake is important between fasts as hydration is vital,” says Davids.

“I’m going to try to avoid fried and spicy foods as it could cause heartburn or indigestion.”

The future of denim: jeans made of recycled plastic bottles

(This article was published in Weekend Argus, a weekly regional newspaper in the Western Cape province, South Africa, on 29 June 2014.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Local environmentally conscious trendsetters can now literally walk their green talk in a pair of jeans made of cotton and recycled plastic bottles.

And while it might sound strange that ‘green’ jeans are made partly of recycled plastic bottles, this is what the future of denim looks like, believes clothing retailer Woolworths.

It is leading the pack, becoming the only local retailer to work with suppliers to manufacture jeans made with recycled materials. To this end, it recently launched RE:CYCLED, a range of men’s jeans that contain at least 12 recycled 500ml plastic bottles.

Michelle Land, technical manager for brands at the Woolworths head office in central Cape Town, explains that each pair of jeans contains 65% cotton sourced from various African countries.

The remaining 35% of the fabric is polyester made from recycled plastic bottles. She says this “process uses eco-chemicals, reduces water usage by 67%, and reduces energy usage by 62%, enhancing the environmental benefits”.

“Sustainability is a huge focus for all the top (clothing) brands in the world. They are working with less chemicals. I wanted to get that into our stores. We started talking to our suppliers,” says Land.

Denim for the jeans are made in Mauritius, where the garments are also finished and packed to South Africa. The production process has also been streamlined to lessen its environmental impact.

Land explains: “In the past, a jean, from the beginning of making the fabric to the end product, used 90 litres of water. Now that process uses 35 litres of water. Our manufacturers are using washing machines that use less water. Chemicals used are also not harmful.”

Luke Fobian, who manages the recycled jeans brand, says there is “definitely a move towards sustainability throughout the world”.

“Denim is probably the most pollutant in terms of garment manufacturing. It wastes a lot of water. Using recycled materials in denim is the future,” says Fobian.

“This jeans is such an iconic garment but so harmful to the planet. Manufacturing jeans has been damaging to the environment. Future designers need to think about manufacturing jeans in a sustainable way.”

Woolworths might be the leading local in terms of using recycled goods in clothing manufacture, but this principle has already taken root with big brands and major fashion labels.

Legendary jeans manufacturer Levi’s introduced denim made with polyester that comprises recycled plastic bottles almost two years ago. Its clothing tag informs: “These jeans are made of garbage”.

Its Waste Less denim jeans and jackets last year reportedly contained 3,6 million recycled plastic bottles and food trays. And that was only for its Spring season collection.

Ethical fashion has led UK fashion designer Stella McCartney, daughter of legendary Beatles singer Paul McCartney, to refuse using leather or fur in any of her products.

McCartney says on her website that she also works with wool suppliers that “show documentation stating that our wool comes from sheep that do not undergo inhumane practices”. Her fragrances are also not tested on animals and Meat Free Mondays are encouraged.

Mathematics vital for Africa’s future growth

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Hopes are high for 49 students from 20 different African countries who graduated with a master’s degree in Mathematics in Cape Town this week.

The students – from countries including Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa – completed their studies at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) located in Muizenberg.

Former South African president Kgalema Mothlanthe attended the ceremony on 25 June.

“No modern society progressed without Maths as a driving impulse … South Africa, Africa and the rest of the world looks forward to your contribution. I hope that you will put this highly privileged knowledge at the service of society,” Mothlanthe told graduates.

Former president Kgalema Mothlanthe seated in the front row with maths graduates. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

Former president Kgalema Mothlanthe seated in the front row with maths graduates. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

“Students who do exceptionally well in Mathematics and natural sciences are the brain power [of society]. Innovation and invention is their domain. If we hope to take Africa higher we need more mathematicians and scientists.”

AIMS director Barry Green said their intention was that the “flame for mathematics has to be ignited in the young … This is what we do at AIMS … to create a new future for Africa,” he said.

Students travel on scholarship from various parts of the continent and are housed in Cape Town throughout their studies. They study with partner institutions, including the University of the Western Cape, University of Cape Town and the University of Stellenbosch.

Horace Ekete from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) completed a degree in computer science before traveling to Cape Town. She said she planned to return to the city to further her studies.

Horace Ekete from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

Horace Ekete from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

“For now, I will go back to my country. I am a computer scientist and want to continue with my academic career. But we don’t have this quality of education in DRC,” said Ekete.

She said, when she started the master’s degree, she did not “even know the importance of mathematics … It was not easy to believe that mathematics can help for the development of country. Mathematics is everywhere,” said Ekete.

“You could have a problem related to health or the economy and we can apply mathematics models to solve the problem.”
“We learn about mathematics models. You could have a problem related to health or the economy and we can apply mathematics models to solve the problem.”

Saga Abdalla from Sudan completed a degree in physics before embarking on her master’s degree in mathematics.

Saga Abdalla from Sudan. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

Saga Abdalla from Sudan. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

She said of AIMS: “This programme can change Africa. It is a key to go to other places … After I came to AIMS, I applied for the Italian scholarship. I think they selected me because of AIMS because we have good professors.”

Abdalla said it was the first time she traveled to a foreign country where Arabic was not widely spoken.

“It was strange because there were so many people speaking different languages. The advantage of living with many people is that you can understand different people,” she said.

Abdalla intends to “work in Sudan and transfer what I have learned”.

“The education system in Sudan can improve. I see myself playing a role in that,” she said.

Fanuel Otieno from Kenya will return to his country to do an internship with a statistics centre.

Fanuel Otieno from Kenya. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

Fanuel Otieno from Kenya. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

“I’ll be doing data analysis specifically linked to farming and agriculture,” he said.

His goal is to ultimately “be a top, professional statistician who consults with Kenyan organisations in solving their statistical problems”.

“The master’s course has increased my mathematical knowledge. We are able to see how we can apply mathematics to solve problems in everyday life,” said Otieno.

“I feel very independent now. I can do research on my own.”

Otieno said the teaching method at AIMS differed from his studies in Kenya.

“In Kenya, the institutions are exam and assessment oriented. At AIMS we do assignments, and you are encouraged to spend time researching,” he said.

“When you do the assignment you have a broad understanding of what you have learned.”

AIMS describes itself as a “pan-African network of centres of excellence for postgraduate education, research and outreach in the mathematical sciences”.

It is a partnership between six universities: UWC, UCT, Stellenbosch University, Cambridge University, Oxford University and the University of Paris-Suid. It was established in 2003 and hundreds of students have lived at its Cape Town main building since then.

Township tour turns homes into art galleries

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Township tours have often followed the same approach: tour operators bussing in visitors to stop at local craft shops or to experience a braai at a popular tavern.

And when tour companies focus their visits on another area, township residents and craft shops are without income.

Siphiwe Ngwenya, founder of the Maboneng Township Art Experience, set out to change that though. Maboneng, means ‘place of light’ in the seSotho language, runs annual festivals in townships as a means to generate income for locals.

Ngwenya has also worked alongside residents of three townships and turned their homes into the Township Art Galleries (TAG) project.

Ngwenya is from Alexandra township in Johannesburg and has lived in Cape Town for the last five years. One of his TAG initiatives is located in Rubusana Avenue, in Langa township, and encompasses ten brightly painted homes.

He says TAG is about placing ownership of a tourism product in the hands of township residents.

“Ten homes are turned into galleries, showing different artist’s work. These are township artists. Anyone can then visit the galleries on a tour that costs R100 per person. Visitors can also buy local art,” explains Ngwenya.

He adds: “Art can create eco-systems if it is people-centred. We are trying to create structures that are sustainable. We don’t want a state of apathy. We don’t want to create poverty tourism. People must be able to help themselves.

“Families who are involved know they need to create curiosity around their neighbourhood and not just get tourists. It’s also about making new audiences out of local residents. They are art distributors and owners.”

A walk through the ten homes in Rubusana Avenue reveals humble surroundings and families passionate about their project.

Unemployed Nomonde Msizi lives with two children, her brother and his one child in their house, with a lounge that exhibits paintings by Velile Soha from Langa. Music instruments are also stored in the lounge; her nephew “plays marimba in Langa at restaurants on weekends or when he’s free”.

“I’m unemployed,” says Msizi.

Nomonde Msizi. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

Nomonde Msizi. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

“I liked when they told us how TAG works and would uplift the community. Since last October we have been involved. People are coming, but it’s not booming yet. We can see that if more people knew about it then we could make something.”

Msizi says she “shows tourists around the gallery”.

“I even show them my brother’s record collection because he likes to party. Many tourists from all over have come to my house,” she says.

“It was tough in the beginning because I was not used to this. But as more people started coming, I was able to express myself and tell them our history.”

Ngwenya worked with residents to create a community landmark. Participating houses all painted their walls with bright patterns guiding tourists along a route. Signage has also been painted at the entrance of the street.

Msizi says they also needed to learn a bit more about tourism – on the job.

“We painted our houses so that when people walk down the street they can see it’s an art gallery. Tourism does take a lot of time. We open at 9am and close by 4:30pm. We must be ready to receive tourists any time or day,” she says.

Her neighbour Nosiviwe Taule, also unemployed, says they “want to grow this into a long-term business”.

Nosiviwe Taule pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

“I never thought I would be involved in something related to art. I worked in a call centre but am not working there anymore. This is very positive for us because we need work. The more people who come in, the more business we do,” says Taule.

“It’s not a hassle to have my house as a gallery. It’s nice having these paintings on my wall. There has been an income every month, even if we can only buy bread for our kids. Where else would we get that money?”

Xhanti Ndabula, 15, a high school learner says his family is “happy to be involved in this project”.

Xhanti Ndabula. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

Xhanti Ndabula. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

“We meet tourists from overseas and we are building relationships with lots of people. I’m also becoming more interested in art. I am learning how to understand art,” he says.

“With this project, we are finding out more about artists in the township. There are more artists that we don’t know.”

Ndabula says they make tourists feel comfortable on their tours.

“We also offer them something to eat, like beans or an African salad, or drink to make it more interesting. We tell them about the history of Langa township,” he says.

For more information about Township Art Galleries contact Siphiwe Ngwenya on 073-777-8937.

Cape farm workers fight for right to strike

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Farm labourers are this week fighting their farm boss at the Labour Court to get their jobs back, after being dismissed more than a year ago.

Two of the three workers from La Maison fruit farm in Robertson, almost hours drive from Cape Town, trekked to the court in central Cape Town where the matter has been heard since Tuesday last week. The Labour Court’s Judge Anton Steenkamp is expected to conclude the matter this week.

Christian Philander (44), Adam Louw (23) Jakobus Burger (36) were dismissed on February 25 2013 for conducting an unprotected strike for a salary increase.

Farm workers Christian Philander (left) and Adam Louw want their jobs back. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

Farm workers Christian Philander (left) and Adam Louw want their jobs back. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

Attorney Raphael Brink, the legal representative for the workers and their union, said their aim was to “defend the right to strike, even though it was not a protected strike”.

“Their strike was for the purpose of improving wages from R69 a day to R150 a day. The government declared after that strike that farm workers should be paid R105 a day,” said Brink.

This strike was part of wider farm worker strikes for increased wages on various farms in the Western Cape.

Even though dismissed, the three La Maison workers could not be evicted from La Maison as the Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers Union (CSAAWU) initiated a complaint against the farm owners.

This complaint was lodged with the Council for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and the matter was then referred to the Labour Court in Loop Street, central Cape Town.

Brink explains: “They are protected under the Extension of Security of Tenure Act and cannot be evicted until the labor dispute has been settled.”

In court, lawyers for La Maison, represented by the Michael Bagraim firm, argued that CSAAWU as a “responsible union would have advised workers that what they are doing is illegal and they should not do it”.

This was in reference to the fact that workers had not taken the proper steps to launch a strike, thus an unprotected strike ensued.

The union’s assistant general secretary Karel Swart told the court they had “told the workers the strike was unprotected”.

“The strike was already happening. We had to support the workers… You need radical change on these farms,” said Swart.

Lawyers for the farm also accused the union and farm workers of taking “militant action”. They said farm owners were unable to afford salary increases.

CSAAWU has dealt with two other matters involving farm workers dismissed for participating in 2012/13 strikes that were widely reported on and that sometimes turned violent.

Philander and Louw said life has been tough for them without full time employment. Their work on La Maison entailed picking various fruits, including peaches, grapes, apricots, prunes.

Louw recalled: “When we came from the strike we were put aside from the others and we were given harder work to do.”

Philander added: “We had to do work that was not usually for us. Our hands were broken and our bodies were sore. We couldn’t work anymore. When we wanted to go to the clinic, we were told we should leave the farm if we don’t want to work.”

They faced internal disciplinary action on the farm and were fired on February 25. But they want their jobs back.

“My children are still small. One is seven, I have twins that are two and a daughter in Grade 10. I had to find part-time work on different farms after I was fired. I haven’t found a new job,” said Philander.

Louw said: “I support my mother who doesn’t work. I still live on the farm with my mother. I’m the only one at home who can work. My sister is six years old and my brother is at high school. I looked for part-time work on other farms so that I could support them.”

German bank funds Cape Town projects worth millions

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Drakenstein and Theewaterskloof municipalities are set to benefit from a crime prevention plan costing R71-million and fully funded by the KfW German Bank over the next four years, it was announced this week (on THURSDAY, June 19 2014).

German ambassador ambassador Horst Freitag back left and Helen Zille next to him during the R71 million agreement signing. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

German ambassador ambassador Horst Freitag back left and Helen Zille next to him during the R71 million agreement signing. Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

Western Cape premier Helen Zille, German ambassador Horst Freitag and provincial government and KfW representatives signed the R71-million agreement.

In a joint statement, the government and its project funders said proposed projects for the various municipalities would include:

In Drakenstein:
· The Groenheuwel library and community centre are to be upgraded; and
· Lighting to be improved in certain areas in order to increase the safety of pedestrians.

In Swartland and Saldanha Bay:
· Pedestrian routes and walkways to be made safer; and
· The integration of schools, early childhood development centers and sport facilities to be prioritised in order to promote a safe environment for children and the youth.

In Theewaterskloof:
· A community police forum to be established and CCTV cameras installed in strategic areas;
· Infrastructure, such as water purification, sewage and the provision of electricity to be improved.

In Breede Valley:
· A community safety forum to be established; and
· Active boxes or safe houses to be built in certain areas.

Municipalities had to undergo a tender process for the German funds.

Zille explained: “We looked at where it will be successful. We needed to look at whether there’s competence to do the job.”

“The funding will be used to roll out the highly successful Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) programme… We need to come up for a better acronym for this programme though,” added Zille.

She also said the project would “chase down illegal shebeens in areas where other businesses can develop”.

In their joint statement, the partners confirmed this “programme has already been implemented by the City of Cape Town in partnership with the German federal ministry for economic cooperation and development (BMZ) and the German Development Bank (KfW) since 2005, with the aim of improving living conditions and reducing crime at the same time.”

“It has been rolled out in a number of areas in the city, including Harare in Khayelitsha. The project is about creating infrastructural improvements through innovative urban planning and promoting active citizenship in communities, which in turn increases safety in these areas.”

It continued: “A total of R291-million has been made available by Germany so far to increase the safety and security of people in Khayelitsha and to generally improve living conditions.”

“Another key priority under this programme has been the reduction of murder and violence. In the VPUU areas in Khayelitsha, murder rates have decreased by 33%, compared with 20% in other areas – a 13% difference.”
Zille said: “Women are also benefitting from the well-lit pedestrian routes that have been established in the area and now feel safer coming home from work, even at night.”

Freitag said Germany the R71-million agreement was part of the German government’s R5,89-billion German-South African cooperation agreement signed with the country’s national finance minister Nhanhla Nene on June 13 2014.

He said this agreement was within a framework of “stabilising Africa”.

“South Africa is an important and indispensible partner to promote stability in southern and sub-Saharan Africa. If Africa is to become a continent of the future and of growing opportunities, as we want it to be, then we need to overcome remaining challenges and risks,” said Freitag.

“You need strong partners. We have to work to stabilise Africa. We should not turn a blind eye to it. It’s in our own interest. If there’s a strong partner from the south, and we will find other partners, so much the better.”

Zille cautioned: “We don’t need to be suspicious of people’s motivations… I’m glad that people are still investing in us. They could say, ‘Goodbye, you now have your democracy’.”

“In a Europe that’s battling to recover from a major financial crisis, they are still investing R5,9-billion to ensure that South Africa can succeed.”