Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
The hastily spoken words “al-Bashir might be arrested ” instantly jolted my senses back to Sudan.
Hastily making her way into the newsroom, after the front page had been finalised, our editor Chiara Carter added: “Change everything. He’s coming to South Africa”.
My instinctive response: “He should be arrested. I used to live in Sudan. It’s a military state.”
Carter: “Where? Khartoum?”
Me: “Yes. I did some work with an aid agency.”
It was Saturday night last week. The Sunday edition of this newspaper had to be put to bed. Time for offering reasons why al-Bashir should be arrested was zero.
Our crime reporter’s meticulous lead story was replaced with news instantly reported worldwide: fingers tapped away on keyboards headlines that Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir was in South Africa.
Most people were wondering by Sunday morning whether this country’s government would arrest the African president and promptly hand him over to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Unsurprisingly, according to our cynical view, by Monday al-Bashir made his way home without being touched. As compensation, a South African court declared that he should have been arrested.
Subsequent debates raised questions about the ICC’s relevance. This was in line with previous dismissals from African leaders, saying the Netherlands-based court was investigating only the continent’s alleged abusive presidents for human rights crimes.
A number of other global figures go unchallenged for their wrongs, complained African leaders.
But whether or not any court finds al-Bashir guilty of crimes related to deaths in Darfur won’t erase the words a Sudanese friend told me in Khartoum.
“We are a good people with a bad government. We don’t deserve this,” said Waleed one afternoon as the sun clenched to our skin.
Waleed was running a small tour company when I’d lived in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, for seven months a few years ago. He was right: there were many good people in Sudan but they were constantly caught up in struggle.
A number of our conversations about the troubled Sudan, which had endured a 25-year civil war, focused on the political situation and the effect it has on locals.
Working in the humanitarian sector positioned me face-to-face with real-time developing world struggles. Unlike in South Africa, my home country, these were compounded by a military dictatorship, remaining tensions between the north and south of the country, and unchecked government corruption.
During my time in Khartoum, I would learn more about African realities, far away from Cape Town’s relative comfort. Power and water cuts were the norm and not many roads in the capital city were tarred. Come rainy season, muddy streets would need to be navigated. Overall, it was challenging.
It was during this time in Khartoum that I would also fast during Islam’s sacred ninth month, Ramadaan. And then the often-used word ‘ubuntu’ came to life.
Sudan is a country with predominantly Muslims and during Ramadaan they would fast along with many Muslims around the world.
As Ramadaan is a month of self-sacrifice and charity, the aid agency would deliver meals to less fortunate students, prisoners and patients in hospitals so they could end their day of fast with dignity.
We also made trips to orphans during Ramadaan, assisting them with clothes for Eid ul-Fitr, the festival marking the end of the fasting period. On this day, children usually get dressed in their best clothes to visit family and friends.
Closer to home, where I stayed alongside locals, the most interesting part about breaking the fast in Khartoum was how neighbours gathered in streets on straw mats.
Neighbours from each home in the street would bring something to eat or drink to the communal meal. Together, we would wait for the sunset call to prayer, which signals the time to eat again.
With this tradition cemented, it was guaranteed that many who may have been struggling behind closed doors would not remain hungry after a day of fasting.
It has been a number of years since I’ve returned safely home to Cape Town, where locals started fasting in Ramadaan this week.
It was also this week when chairperson of the national parliamentary portfolio committee on international relations and cooperation, Siphosezwe Masango, said attempts to arrest al-Bashir were an “opportunistic act only meant to pit African leaders against each other in the name of international law”.
Arguments about the ICC aside, this rhetoric ensures poverty remains entrenched in Africa, suggesting the continent’s leaders should remain united no matter how poorly their counterparts might be running other countries.
It speaks of an uncritical thinking that refuses opposing views questioning the actions of African leaders. It blames everything that is wrong on outsiders. It selfishly dismisses the humanitarian impact of incompetent governance.
Masango continued in a statement this week, after the African Union’s meeting in Gauteng, that the Ethiopian-based union “has serious business to consider including economies of Africa, regional trade integration, infrastructure development, xenophobia, illicit financial flows, and uncontrolled migration”.
“The task at hand that ought to occupy Africans is to make Africa a better continent whose place on the global stage is respected,” said Masango.
If I were to ask Waleed from Khartoum, the students, prisoners, hospital patients, and orphans, what would make their Africa better, they would likely say good leadership in government.
And right now they’re probably asking why the South African government failed to arrest al-Bashir. Like me, they know what it is like to live under a military dictatorship. At least I could leave a temporary insanity behind.
By the time I was reading the brilliant Sudanese novel ‘Season of Migration to the North’ at Khartoum airport, one of Africa’s most troubled countries made me hate the continent of my birth.
As an aside, two months of joyous journeying through Ethiopia immediately after that restored my love for the continent.
But Sudan shoved in my face all the stereotypical stains of a failed Africa: dictatorship, corruption, foreigners milking the aid agency system while locals play second fiddle, and an unenthusiastic limping through the mundane every day life.
Like many others leaving Sudan, I was surprised that one had to buy an exit visa. You don’t just leave the country. You pay the government a fee to permit your departure.
Ironically, during my first week in my next destination, Ethiopia, al-Bashir stood a metre away from me at an African Union meeting in Addis Ababa. At the time, I happened to be the only journalist near him and his seemingly relaxed bodyguards.
There was no urge inside of me to greet him, to extend a hand for a shake. That would have been betraying my friends back in Khartoum, who wanted nothing more than a good government for a good people.
Nobody knows if the headline “al-Bashir arrested” would ever make the news. Or if the ICC would prosecute bloodstained leaders in Africa and beyond, or remain simply a loud bark with little bite.
These things, it seems, take time.
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
The Green Point urban park could be handed over to a private management company to lessen the annual loss of millions to locals, according to a new report.
The public park forms part of the Cape Town Stadium precinct which runs at a loss of R35-million to the City of Cape Town and locals. This cost is related to maintaining the venue.
The stadium cost R4,5-billion to build when South Africa hosted Fifa’s Soccer World Cup in 2010. The city has not secured a stadium operator and has been unable to make money off it.
The city has turnaround commercial plan and employed The Environmental Partnership (TEP) to look into how this would affect the immediate surrounds.
TEP has issued an environmental impact assessment report available for public comment until July 20.
The report is available on TEP’s website and also the Cape Town central and Sea Point libraries for public viewing.
TEP recommends in the report the urban park could be run by a private company to save the city cash.
Its report recommends if a private company manages the park the city should has an “oversight role with regards to its maintenance and operation in the long run”.
“As the urban park does not generate financial revenue, the operator needs to explicitly provide means of funding its operation and management,” states the report.
“It must be ensured that equitable access to sports fields, playing grounds and sports-related facilities is provided to the approved sports leaseholders.”
The report also outlines potential billboard advertising on the stadium’s exterior building and use of the stadium for retail and commercial space.
The report states “illuminated signage or advertising” should fit within a “strategic lighting master plan developed and coordinated to avoid unnecessary illumination and energy wastage”.
“The display must avoid information which is likely to offend or negatively affect the health of onlookers,” states the report.
It adds: “Should places of late night entertainment be considered for operation within the stadium… (these) should be strategically located within the stadium to prevent noise emission outside of the stadium after business hours.”
The report forecasts a potential “1000 to 1500 direct jobs will be created as a result of the proposed commercialisation of 12% of floor space (approximately 20,000m²)”.
“As existing under-utilised space within the stadium is being promoted for retail, hospitality and service sectors, it is anticipated that this will attract businesses to the premises,” states the report.
“In turn, this will result in job creation… through the envisaged establishment of coffee shops, restaurants, speciality stores, gyms, sports centre conferencing and banqueting.”
The success of these recommendations though “depend largely on variables such as the operator, operating agreement, market demand and occupancy”.
At least R60-million would have to be spent on refurbishing sections of the stadium before tenants could move in.
The report forecasts tenants could potentially generate R31-million annually from office and retail space rentals.
“This is a significant source of revenue which will contribute towards the maintenance and running costs of the stadium. The balance is expected to be generated from… the development of suites, commercial parking, advertising, hospitality facilities and development of the Granger Bay Boulevard site.”
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
Internal factionalism would keep the Western Cape out of the ANC’s reach, warned its former provincial chairman as elections for the party’s new local leaders approach.
Ebrahim Rasool, also a former Western Cape premier, said this week in Cape Town that when he left the province the local ANC had “unraveled”.
In 2008, Rasool was fired from his post as Western Cape premier and current public enterprises minister Lynne Brown was tasked with running the province.
The ANC subsequently lost governance of the province to the Democratic Alliance in the 2009 national election.
Rasool was swiftly appointed as South African ambassador to the United States and ended his term in February this year.
Rasool is currently a scholar at Georgetown University in Washington, US, where he is focused on academic research and writing. He is back in his home city, Cape Town, for the Islamic month of fasting, Ramadaan.
Rasool said he was keeping an eye on local politics though, but not with an interest of returning to any political role in the province.
“One remains interested in what happens. Sometimes for selfish reasons, whether the legacy issues that we started will be maintained. Other times because of the people involved,” said Rasool.
“There’s no real political fervor behind watching it. I’ve resisted calls to join the fray because I’ve learned never to look back. I’ve had a great period in the Western Cape.”
Rasool said new leaders in the province would need to follow a “simple premise”.
“We were able to find a formula to bind all the different factions and interests in the ANC. It unraveled towards the end of my time here,” he said.
“That’s probably what they are dealing with. The simple truth is that for governing the Western Cape the ANC must be united.”
Rasool was at loggerheads shortly before his departure with his comrades, most notably Max Ozinsky, who had played a leading role in his election as premier.
Ozinsky had led a public campaign against Rasool, alleging the former premier bribed newspaper and radio journalists, with cash from the provincial government’s purse, to report favourably on the ANC.
Journalists who had been implicated lost their jobs, and the ANC shifted Rasool out of the province. Ozinsky, who has held senior ANC provincial positions, along with Rasool were temporarily suspended from the party for making their dispute public.
Rasool said he was still keen on pursuing political ambitions once settling back home.
“I’m not finished with South African politics,” he said.
“But I’m enjoying a reflective moment in my life where I can make sense of what I believe, think and what I’ve said. And really see if there’s a meaningful space for what I’ve learned.”
Rasool said his role as a politician has meanwhile broadened. He was the guest speaker this week at the launch of the book, The African Renaissance and the Afro-Arab Spring, at the city-based Institute for Justice and Reconciliation.
“There is now a sense of being appreciated globally as well. Just last week I was meeting with people from Bahrain. I’ve been involved in preparing for the elections in Haiti,” said Rasool.
“I’ve spent three days with commanders from the various anti-Assad Syrian forces to find if there is a political solution.
“You could not have experienced a transition led by Neslon Mandela and not have internalised some of the lessons. It has made me invited across the world.”
Current provincial ANC chairman Marius Fransman last weekend confirmed the party would elect new provincial leaders at a conference from June 26 to 28 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC).
Fransman said they were still battling factionalism and bribes from businessmen who wanted to benefit from elected officials in various municipalities.
Fransman and his team were appointed in 2011 to iron out the Western Cape ANC’s internal issues, following a tumultuous period that included reshuffling the provincial leadership and losing the province to the DA.
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
Scores of undocumented African foreigners were arrested in Cape Town yesterday, bringing home fears they would bear the brunt of government’s failure to process their paperwork.
Constable Noloyiso Rwexana, spokeswoman for the Western Cape police, yesterday confirmed the national home affairs department arrested 81 “undocumented foreign nationals”.
This was part of the police’s crime combating Operation Fiela, said Rwexana. She said police were accompanied by “traffic officials, Metro police, brand specialists, immigration officials and military officers”.
Rwexana said all the arrests were made when officials “descended on the Cape Town station deck between 10am until 2pm”.
“Counterfeit goods to the value of R150,000 were confiscated. Substantial amounts dagga seized, one taxi impounded and 86 arrests effected,” said Rwexana.
“Of the arrests, 81 are undocumented foreign nationals, one for possession of dagga, three for counterfeit goods and one for an outstanding warrant of arrest.”
She added: “They didn’t have papers with them. They were illegal immigrants. They are from different African countries.”
Rwexana could not say where the 81 arrested foreigners were being held and referred queries to national home affairs department.
Weekend Argus made several attempts to contact the relevant home affairs officials for comment.
The newspaper spokes to Mandla Madumisa, from the department’s immigration services, but he referred queries to departmental spokesman who could not be reached for comment.
Yesterday’s arrests come months after Weekend Argus reported that African refugees and asylum seekers were facing difficulties legalising their status in the country.
This was after the national home affairs department closed the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office (RRO) at Customs House on the Foreshore.
At the time, the non-profit Cape Town Refugee Centre (CTRC) said this placed refugees and asylum seekers at risk because many could not afford to travel out of the city to have their paperwork sorted at other refugee centres in the country.
The centre said there were “approximately 85,000 unresolved asylum claims that are being processed” by the time the reception office was closed last year.
The CTRC’s director Kathryn Hoeflich said there were “many organisations in Cape Town grappling with the fall-out of the closure of the RRO”.
Hoeflich said African foreigners “want to respect the law and apply for asylum because they need protection”.
“But now they cannot because the RRO in Cape Town is closed. They have no money to travel back to one of the open centres in Musina, Pretoria or Durban,” she said.
“Again, a vulnerable person is put in a more vulnerable position and is prevented from fulfilling their obligation to register and apply for asylum legitimately.”
She added: “Forcing good and otherwise law-abiding people to choose between putting themselves or families at great risk and financial burden or breaking the law is simply not good policy.
“We have many cases of families, elderly and infirm people in this situation and even a few unaccompanied minor children who had to travel on their own.
And there is also the issue of newcomers. These are often people who very recently fled their country of origin for fear of persecution. They arrive, are often terrified and ignorant of the process so they skip the border, spend their last dime in Cape Town.”
Yesterday’s arrests come days before the events are planned to mark World Refugee Day on Tuesday (June 20). These events focus on combating hate attacks against African foreigners during a recent surge of xenophobia in parts of the country.
Lobby group Right2Know Campaign along with the Khulumani Support Group and others will host an event for refugees at Community House in Salt River.
It said the theme would be “refugees are ordinary people, living through extraordinary times”.
“The event is to reflect on all the horrific violence from the countries and communities where people came from, a reminder that we can all seek lasting solutions to all the conflicts around the world that have forced millions of people to flee their homes to save their lives,” it said.
It aimed to “honour all those refugees who have made a positive contribution to their communities, and those who have lost their lives in any form of conflict”.
Doctors Without Borders have meanwhile called on “governments… to respect the rights and dignity of refugees, migrants and displaced people who have been forced to flee their homes”.
It said this year a “staggering 59.5 million people have been displaced”.
Statistics from home affairs indicate that between 2009 and 2013 a total 651,330 foreigners sought asylum in South Africa. Non-governmental organisations have claimed the department has been slow in processing the resultant paperwork.
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
When Cape Town cookbook author Salwaa Smith moved to the United Kingdom 14 years ago she made sure her family would not forget the tastes of home.
Surrounded by cuisine from around the world in the UK, Smith cooked all the traditional Cape Malay stews and staples she grew up with in Surrey Estate suburb. She relied on her trustworthy typed-up a list of recipes from home.
Three years ago those recipes gained wider appreciation when Smith started the Cape Malay & Other Delights page on Facebook.
This Facebook page currently has close on 100,000 subscribers, many of whom encouraged Smith to publish a book of recipes.
Earlier this month, Smith launched her self-published Cape Malay & Other Delights Cookbook in Cape Town, after an initial UK launch.
Smith says her desire to “create something” started two decades ago already when she “typed up all the recipes”.
“When we moved to the UK I had more time and did research online about Cape Malay cooking. I became motivated to do this,” says Smith.
“I worked for the Birmingham city council and went on a women’s empowerment course. One of the questions we were asked was, ‘What do you want to do in five years time?’ And I realised I still want to do the book.”
Smith writes in her book that Cape Malay cooking is “characterised by the liberal intermingling of spices and the influence of Indian, Indonesian, Malaysian, Dutch and French cuisines”.
“Bobotie is a Cape Malay dish which came with slaves who arrived from Java and various Indonesian islands in 1658 and being slaves, the Malays often ended up in the Dutch kitchens and their influence remains apparent in dishes such as bobotie,” she writes.
Slave history scholar Mogamat Kamedien meanwhile writes in Smith’s book that the author is “promoting and preserving vanishing heritage food practices and ordinary household meals beyond the celebratory food or ceremonial dishes”.
At the heart of Smith’s effort seems to be a desire for traditional Cape Malay food to remain on dinner tables.
“All over the world people value their own traditions. We should be proud of our Cape Malay cooking style because it is unique to Cape Town,” says Smith.
“From Facebook I saw that people are looking for easy ways of cooking. They also buy food instead of cooking. A lot of people don’t cook the more traditional meals anymore, but only for certain occasions.
“I am trying to make people aware again of traditional recipes. When they see these recipes they appreciate it because their grandmothers used to make this food and they haven’t had it in a long time. So now they are cooking it again.”
Smith adds: “It’s important to preserve these recipes as locals have moved all over the world. I wanted to preserve our Cape Malay way of cooking.
“I wanted to preserve this and teach my children also how to cook like this.”
Smith says people who did not grow up with Cape Malay cooking are also using her recipes.
Her Facebook fans from around the world send her messages and pictures of the dishes they have made using her recipes, which she also publishes on the page.
Smith says she has seen again and again how food brings people from all walks of life together.
“My mother was a good example for us. At Easter time she would make raisin buns and send it to all the neighbours in our road. At Christmas time she would make a tart and send it to the neighbours as well,” says Smith.
“We learned not to discriminate. And I try to inculcate that in my Facebook page as well. Cooking is for all cultures, for everyone.
“People enjoy food. It makes them happy. We learn about each other’s cultures through food.”
She adds: “Cape Malay cooking is for everybody. It’s not spicy, but flavourful and subtle. It’s very rich because we use a variety of different spices.”
In her book, Smith has included an overview of the spices and herbs used “abundantly” in Cape Malay cooking.
These include atchar masala, aniseed, breyani masala (a blend of spices), cloves, curry leaves, cardamom and barishap (the Cape Malay name for fennel).
The book includes recipes for appetizers, soups, main meals, stews, bread and roti, atchars and cakes.
Smith has included some “contemporary recipes as people’s food habits change”.
“The contemporary recipes complement Cape Malay cooking. It’s more or less the same. Some ingredients or sauces are different,” she says.
“For example, I’ve added chopped spinach to the Cape Malay chicken curry. I learned that from my son-in-law who is Pakistani.
“I also added chocolate brownies, which is contemporary, to the traditional deserts like potato pudding with stewed fruit.”
Smith has also created a mobile application that can be downloaded from iTunes. Information about her book and other recipes are found on her Facebook page Cape Malay Cooking & Other Delights.
WHO ARE THE CAPE MALAYS?
The Dutch colonised portions of South East Asia and introduced slavery to the Cape in the mid-1600s.
People who opposed colonisation were taken as political prisoners or shipped to exile at the Cape as slaves.
A large majority of those brought to the Cape were Muslims, captured and sent into exile from colonies such as Madagascar, India, Ceylon and the Dutch East Indies (known as Indonesia today).
Other immigrants were from Philippines, Japan, Macau, Malacca, West Indies, Brazil and possibly New Guinea.
The main group of African immigrant’s came from East Africa, Madagascar and West Africa. Many of these people were skilled artisans, such as silversmiths, milliners, cobblers, singers, masons and tailors.
This group came to be known collectively as Cape Malay, despite their diverse origins as far afield as East Africa and Malaysia.
The term Cape Malay was in reference mainly to the slaves who were Muslim and spoke Melayu, a language from present-day Indonesia, based in the Cape.
Under apartheid, this term was used as an identity classification for Muslim coloureds. As apartheid waned, coloureds denounced this problematic slave definition in preference of being labeled South African Muslims.
While the term Cape Malay remains contested, many still use it to refer to Cape Town’s Muslim population.
Some Melayu words are still used in Cape Town, a modern-day testimony to ancestral links to South East Asia. Traditional tastes and cooking style can be traced to these ancestors too.
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
With London and Sydney remaining top spots where South Africans buy overseas properties, locals are missing out on investment opportunities in other fertile markets.
Property investment company IP Global revealed in its latest research report this week a number of property markets with growth and easy access to South Africans.
George Radford, the group’s director for Africa, pointed to European capitals including Berlin and Edinburg as investment prospects.
He said these markets worked for locals looking for “offshore investments that generate income in Sterling, Euros, Australian or US Dollars”.
IP Global’s Global Real Estate Outlook report – a quarterly analysis – pointed to Berlin for its large rental market.
“Just 14% to 16% of the city’s residents are home owners, making it very much a landlord’s market,” said Radford.
Berlin is Europe’s third-largest city with “key regeneration projects (that) have reinvigorated previously neglected parts”.
IP Global’s report indicates “apartment prices rose strongly across 2014, with the average increase hitting 10.1%, with rents up 6.6% year-on-year”.
Berlin is estimated to have at least 250,000 new residents by 2030, pushing up the demand for accommodation.
Elsewhere in Europe, the group pointed to Dublin in Ireland and Edinburgh in Scotland.
Real estate statistics indicate Dublin has a “shortage of large-scale developments on the horizon this lack of supply will remain a feature of the market for the foreseeable future”.
An “extreme lack of supply” of new housing developments in Edinburg meant it too would see growth in property value.
On average, Edinburg’s property prices have climbed 21.5% annually, said IP Global.
Australia has for a while been a country where South Africans have emigrated too, with many settling in Sydney. IP Global’s research indicates Brisbane, also in Australian, would be another city locals could consider.
It said property prices in Brisbane grew 5.4% annually, “among the highest seen in Australia”. This city was also seeing major corporations settling there, affecting property values positively.
Radford said South African property buyers favoured Australia as a “convenient and familiar destination for investment”.
IP Global said other reasons for South Africans investing in overseas properties included “retirement and succession planning, children studying abroad, as well as potentially creating the option for relocation in the future”.
In 2014, the company found 90% of its local clients “invested in the UK and the rest invested in Australia”.
“The UK, particularly London, remains a leading global property investment market,” it said.
“South Africans also have historic links with the UK, which makes it even more compelling for property investment.”
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
The lawyer for University of Cape Town (UCT) student Chumani Maxwele yesterday threatened to “go straight to court” if his client is again suspended on Monday.
UCT said in a statement this week it had lifted a suspension order against Maxwele following his alleged racist attack on a mathematics lecturer on May 1.
The suspension was lifted after it was found Maxwele had not put forward his side of the story as required within 72 hours after the suspension was issued in May.
But UCT said hours after the suspension was lifted on Wednesday it would press head with a new suspension order come Monday.
UCT spokeswoman Gerda Kruger said the “facts that led to the decision to suspend Maxwele have not changed”.
“Maxwele has informed us that he will be out of town until 15 June (Monday). The vice-chancellor’s nominee intends to issue a new provisional suspension order on (his) return to campus,” said Kruger.
“This will be followed by a hearing within 72 hours after which the provisional order will be confirmed, varied or set aside.”
Maxwele’s lawyer Barnabas Xulu yesterday told Weekend Argus it was “clear our clients rights were violated by UCT relying on a unlawful suspension”.
“If they issue a suspension order again and proceed with their victimisation we will go straight to court,” said Xulu.
Xulu said they also had a matter pending in the Equality Court relating to “how UCT handled this affair”.
The court is yet to confirm a date when the matter would be heard.