Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
Millions are needed to fix problems at the Western Cape provincial parliament, its speaker told this newspaper, while the provincial finance ministry has confirmed it would help.
Sharna Fernandez, speaker for the provincial parliament, or legislature, told Weekend Argus on Friday she needs an immediate R34-million to get her house in shape. She has appealed to provincial finance minister Ivan Meyer for cash.
“Our parliament (or legislature) has always been the leanest, meanest machine trying to do as much as we could with few resources. But we need to grow our staff complement in order to deliver a service that is compelling,” said Fernandez.
“We need funding. It’s not a matter of when we get it… We need R34-million.”
From her sixth-floor office in Wale Street, Fernandez said this would help her address staff shortages as well as upgrade financial and technological systems.
Weekend Argus last week reported on the impact of austerity measures at the legislature, based on an internal report its secretary Hamida Fakira presented to its oversight committee.
Fakira’s report highlighted weaknesses with the legislature’s finances, information and communication technology, security and management facilities as well as human resources.
The report warned understaffing had led to “fatigue and burn-out”, with the legislature’s 16 committees unable to deliver effectively as a result.
Fernandez did not deny any of the report’s claims, but said the legislature was not on the brink of collapse, as the report alluded.
“The report wasn’t a shock for me. We know our committees are under pressure. But I can only fix it if I have money. As long as I don’t have money I can’t fix it,” said Fernandez.
When she left the corporate world after three decades to join the legislature 15 months ago, Fernandez stepped into a leadership role that demanded a “tightening of belts”.
“I did say to staff that we needed to do more with less. But I didn’t mean more work with less people. I meant less money but we have to get the job done,” said Fernandez.
“There is no access to a bottomless pit of money. There is a crunch on the system. There are severe financial constraints.”
Fakira meanwhile said her report “should not have gone out with emotion” that it contains in its written form, which Weekend Argus obtained.
“We have been having a lot of discussions about it. We do have financial pressure. We have a shortfall,” said Fakira.
“It’s an ongoing discussion and we have to come up with a solution. There was also anticipation about whether we are going to meet our targets or not.
“We don’t have money and that’s why we have doubling up of staff. We are doing a patch up here and there. We are doing whatever we can without money.”
By Friday night, Western Cape finance minister Ivan Meyer said his ministry would step in.
“We have a plan to deal with the situation. I am in discussion with the national Treasury about this matter,” said Meyer.
“The ministry of finance will assist them (legislature) in the short term and is already supporting them. I am also supporting them to set up a fully functional budget and treasury office.
We are providing them with financial technical expertise as a transitional arrangement.”
Meyer asserted: “There is no crisis.”
Legislature staff are grumbling though, alleging that austerity measures “only work towards the ground and defies gravity when it comes to the speaker”.
Staff members who did not want to be named, stating they did not want to lose their jobs, said Fernandez had been on “unnecessary” overseas trips and wasted money.
Fernandez said her trips were work-related, adding that her door was always open to all 94 staff members to address their concerns.
“I am concerned that we have staff who feel that way. I’ve spoken to almost every single staff member. I told them to talk to me,” said Fernandez.
“There are the few who are disgruntled, who might have historical issues they haven’t resolved and they might have developed a gripe.
“But we have no monsters and dragons lurking here. What you see is what you get.”
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
Cape Town actor Mehboob Bawa, a star of the latest Leon Schuster comedy opening at cinemas countrywide this weekend, has his eyes set on making his own feature film.
In ‘Schuks! Pay Back the Money!’, Bawa plays an “enterprising traffic cop” who takes home a missing rugby Currie Cup trophy to his wife who ends up making curry in it (ha ha ha).
Schuster’s film is described as a “riotous journey… to create a documentary film that shows South Africa in a positive light”. It also features a “series of candid camera gags” which sees the legendary comic actor beaten up quite a bit.
Closer to home, Bawa is working with a screenwriter on a feature film, ‘Bhai’s Café’, about gentrification in Woodstock. His wife’s company Razia Bawa Productions is making the film.
Bawa says the film is about an Indian corner shop owner who challenges major developers buying up entire blocks of property in Woodstock.
This reflects the reality of what has been happening over the last few years in lower-income parts of this suburb near the city, ensuring closures of landmark cafes and introducing shifts in the long-standing communal spirit of the area.
“This story is synonymous with Cape Town but it is also global,” says Bawa.
“Wherever my wife and I traveled we would find an Indian corner shop. We thought it would be cool to highlight that shop. So our film is about the corner café that is an institution.
“It is about the Patel family coming up against a property developer, but Bhai (the shop owner) doesn’t want to sell. It also has a love story angle, so there’s a lot of drama and tension.”
Bawa is yet to decide if he will play a lead role in the film or step behind the camera as film director.
Working behind-the-scenes would not be unfamiliar to Bawa anyway, as he has for the last few years been working as a line producer with Film Ad.
The latter is a local production company that facilitates Bollywood filmmaking in Cape Town.
It is currently working with Bollywood film director Vikram Bhatt and his stars on a feature called Love Games.
“A Bollywood producer comes in and says they want to shoot in Cape Town. We source locations, book crew, accommodation, transport, sort visa applications, from beginning to end,” says Bawa.
He says along with his Film Ad partners Nizam Allie, Noorie Hassan and Aleem Allie they have successfully lobbied for Cape Town to become a narrative element in some Bollywood films.
“Over the last few years that has happened. It means they (film crews) stay here longer,” says Bawa.
He says the production company making Love Games has already made 15 films in Cape Town over the last 12 years, using the city as a location to double up for Dubai, French towns and even Russia.
“We work on about four to five Bollywood films a year. Directors that I have spoken to say Cape Town is like heaven on earth. It’s a similar reason why Hollywood comes here to make films,” says Bawa.
“Plus we have the infrastructure and world class crew.”
Apart from acting and working on Bollywood films as a line producer, Bawa has kept romantics company for more than a decade on local radio stations.
As the well-known Love Doctor, first on KFM radio and now with ‘Smile Love Songs’ on Smile radio station, Bawa plays heart-melting songs every night to an audience interested in that sort of thing.
And it seems Bawa was destined to be the Love Doctor as his name means ‘the beloved’ in Urdu, an Indian language he understands.
It was also perhaps foresight from his paternal grandfather to name him after Indian film director Mehboob Khan who made ‘Mother India’, the first Indian film nominated for an Oscar award.
“I always say it’s thanks to my dad’s dad that I was destined to be in the film business,” says Bawa.
As if all of this is not enough for a hard working freelancer, Bawa also just this month wrapped up filming a TV series for SABC1.
“It’s a boxing drama called Jab, written by a fellow Livingstone High schoolmate Paul Johnson,” he says.
“I play a doctor and that goes on SABC in early 2016.”
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
Evergreen protester, actor and director John Kani, who has fought throughout his adult life against apartheid, is eloquently dismissive of present-day South Africa.
“We became a democracy, we did not become a free country,” he asserts.
This poetic reflection was delivered during an interview with Kani at the Baxter Theatre, where his play Sizwe Banzi Is Dead is presently running.
Kani’s voice is not bitter though when he speaks about the dream that never happened, at least for him, in post-apartheid Mandela-land.
It is much more than that. It is angry.
“We found out the situation would not change unless there is reparation and redress. We don’t have restrictive laws but we are not paid the debt we are owed from the past,” says Kani.
“Business booms with the maintenance of slave salaries. When miners want better salaries it does not mean the price of gold is affected. It just means the mines make less profit.
“You get ‘delivery protests’. It’s not delivery protests. It’s the disillusionment with democracy. It’s a too-long-wait protest.”
Kani adds one final nail in the coffin: “Art became business. The people who are producing this are no longer driven by the love of art, but money.”
What he says and the way he says it isn’t even remotely depressing. Rather, it stirs. It is a defiant-as-ever call for yet-to-come better days.
To understand Kani’s protest, one must know that he is the granddaddy of protest theatre. This protest business is sewn into his DNA.
And his vigour seems to be watered with each new government scandal that explodes. It is this same energetic protest that initially led him to theatre stages worldwide.
Rewind to 1972, when Kani was “fired from work at the Ford Motor Company because I refused to work overtime”. That was in Port Elizabeth.
“I was part of a theatre group… I went to Athol (Fugard, the playwright) and Winston (Ntshona, the actor) and said it’s time we take this (acting) professionally,” says Kani.
The result was the play Sizwe Banzi Is Dead that they worked on together. It was performed in 1975 and went on to tour to America and England.
Awards and praise was not in short supply for the creative team that dared to risk standing up against apartheid.
“It was meant to articulate the plight of black people under the pass laws (which compelled blacks to carry permits on them all the time),” says Kani.
“We never wrote it as a political statement. We were fascinated by the story of a man who walks into a downtown studio to take a photo and send it home. And the question was why.”
Its synopsis reads that the work is “about the universal struggle for human dignity, as a black man in apartheid-era South Africa tries to overcome oppressive work regulations to support his family”.
Kani and Ntshona won the Best Actor Tony Award for their performances in the play.
Back home, upon arrival, they were solitary confinement prisoners for 23 days.
Kani walked out of prison undeterred and continued to make work against injustices.
He is still at it and in recent years wrote, directed and performed in plays that provoked relevant questions about South African politics.
“My work will always be the conscience of my society. I will always guard jealously our democracy, constitution and justice. Through my work this will be dealt with,” says Kani.
“We are faced with so many challenges in this country. The role of the artist is to hold a mirror to society.
“When art does not concern itself with that which affects its community it has relegated its responsibility to become entertainment.
“I’m not saying we need to speak politics all the time. But when you come to the theatre we want you to engage with us. And be left with a little question.”
One wonders if Kani thinks protest theatre is still relevant though. Cape Town has a range of theatres stretching from Camps Bay to Kalk Bay, all offering theatre plays that struggle to consistently attract audiences.
For Kani, protest theatre basically “talks about issues and the way it impacts on our broader community”.
“It sill comes as stories and we will tell stories.”
He adds: “Protest theatre is the reaction of artists to any injustice or denial of human rights.
“The role of the artist is to hold a mirror to society. When an artist does a painting he expresses how his inner-self is affected by the surroundings.”
(This article was published in the Weekend Argus, a regional newspaper in the Western Cape province, South Africa, on 22 August 2015.)
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
Around the table sits veteran Cape Town photographer George Hallett with protagonists from contemporary art collective The Burning Museum, talking about interpreting his photographic archive.
Hallett steers the conversation, giving space also for the collective’s younger voices to share their thoughts. Coffee and ideas are indulged.
The conversation’s centerpiece is Hallett’s photographic archive, some of it currently on the walls of Gallery Momo, a Johannesburg-found entity extended to Bo-Kaap this May.
Hallett’s exhibition, ‘Same Same but Different’, opened at the gallery on August 20. His photographs – mostly black-and-whites, with a few colour prints – are artifacts of his 50-year career of documenting peasants, anti-apartheid activists in exile and democratic South Africa’s first president, Nelson Mandela.
Gallery Momo called up The Burning Museum, comprising five young artists from Cape Town, to create new work drawing on Hallett’s archive. They were given access to use book and album covers as well as some photographic prints.
Hallett says he “didn’t interfere” much and the collective confirms it treated his work with “respect”.
The entrance hall of the expansive gallery’s tall white walls bears Hallett’s black-and-whites from his early photographic work in District Six and Bo-Kaap.
These images show a familiar yet erased narrative, much like the gentrified spaces where The Burning Museum locates its public artworks.
From the entrance’s 1960s moments, one moves through to the 1970s when Hallett lived in exile in Europe, documenting other dissenting voices forced to flee their apartheid-diseased homeland.
The exhibition then follows the trails of Hallett’s ventures in southern France, where he photographed peasants “with dignity”.
Also featured are multi-racial scenes from elsewhere: unheard of, unseen and deeply forbidden in South Africa at the time.
Enter democracy: a few snapshots of those promising days. Hallett and countless other South Africans fled exile en masse for a reinvented life back home.
“It’s been a tough process since I came back from exile. People said I was overrated. They had ‘laanie gedagtes’ (ideas of being a boss). I wasn’t going to be anyone’s slave,” says Hallett.
To that end, he walked away from local galleries while maintaining his independence. He has been digging into his archive to put together other collections for exhibitions worldwide.
A much larger retrospective of his work filled the walls of the South African National Gallery in the Company’s Garden last year.
Hallett says he is now working on a visual autobiography, in book form, that tells the story of his family and life.
“There’s a hell of a lot of work I still have to do. I am overwhelmed a little bit,” he says.
Two of the Burning Museum’s visual artists, Justin Davy and Tazneem Wentzel, appear appreciative of the chance to reinterpret an archive comprising a strong body of photographic protest pieces. The image confronted apartheid.
In one of Gallery Momo’s rooms, they have installed their archival interpretation, ‘Cover Version’.
The group decided to create a series of overblown album covers, merging Hallett’s images with their own.
Protest persists as Davy says ‘Cover Version’ is an extension of their efforts to “address historical gentrification”.
“There is a strong theme of exile and displacement in his (Hallett’s) work. We look at waves of gentrification throughout our history,” he says.
“That’s through the genocide of the Khoi, forced removals and the (present) gentrification in Woodstock (suburb).”
The Burning Museum and Hallett also share a parallel, as they aim for their work to remain accessible beyond the exclusive art gallery realm.
While Hallett’s prints are now sold for thousands of Rands, he has in the past taken his work into public spaces at his own expense.
“When I lived in exile in the south of France, there were little villages of peasants who worked on farms. I photographed them with dignity,” recalls Hallett.
“I had an exhibition of those photos in villages. The workers didn’t go to art galleries and had never seen themselves like that. I gave the pictures to them for free because they couldn’t afford it.”
The Burning Museum’s tactic has been to post work up in contested public spaces.
“We put work up in the street. It’s about burning preconceived ideas of how to memorialise and maybe take things out of a museum and put it out on the street,” says Davy.
“We are interrogating how museums memorialise history as remnants, as colonialism and apartheid.”
Wentzel, who studies museum and heritage at the University of the Western Cape, says working with Hallett’s and other archives is their way of “trying to make sense of our present situation”.
“Museums played an important role in the colonial process and we need to look at the museum’s role today,” she says.
Gallery Momo’s showcase of Hallett’s archive meanwhile intends among other things to be a “conversation” with the Bo-Kaap community.
The gallery’s owner Monna Mokoena says he wants to run an inclusive space.
“Most galleries turn their backs on communities and become exclusive. Galleries should be spaces for dialogue and not just commercial,” says Mokoena.
“We want to involve the local community which has been here for years. We want to bring children into the gallery and create workshops.
“Maybe in this area there are artists that can be touched.”
Mokoena says he opened a Cape Town gallery to showcase his artists here, but also because the city “can do with a new way of looking at things”.
The B-Kaap gallery’s director Igsaan Martin adds: “We want to shake up Cape Town”.
“We have been around for 13 years in Johannesburg. We are using this space as a platform for our established and up-and-coming artists,” says Martin.
“We want to do exciting things.”
‘Same Same but Different’ runs at Gallery Momo, located at 170 Buitengracht Street in Bo-Kaap, until September 26. Contact 021-424-5150.
(This article was published on page one of the Weekend Argus, a regional newspaper in the Western Cape province, South Africa, on 22 August 2015.)
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
The Western Cape legislature faces collapse if it does not fix a list of crises, including overburdened staff, a shortage of security cameras and outdated technology.
A review report by Hamida Fakira, who serves as the legislature’s secretary, yesterday highlighted these and other concerns to an internal oversight committee.
Weekend Argus obtained a copy of this report, which looks at the “impact of austerity measures” on the legislature’s staff and services.
It unpacks the crisis at the provincial government’s Wale Street headquarters, pointing to weaknesses with its finances, information and communication technology, security and management facilities as well as human resources.
The legislature’s committees face the gravest risk as understaffing and increased work demands have led to “fatigue and burn-out expressed by team members”.
Committees are considered the “engine-rooms” of the legislature as they ensure all laws face vigourous debate before being passed.
Fakira’s report warns that committee staff output was faltering as additional committee coordinators were needed.
“There are currently 16 committees, that are serviced by 9 committee coordinators, indicating that more than 56% of these staff support more than one committee and/or multiple portfolios of departments per committee,” states the report.
This has led to a “decline in the quality of work and ability to meet standard timelines for outputs”.
The report recommends a budget allocation to employ more staff to strengthen committees.
“The (report’s) concerns of the impact of the austerity measures on the committee section are not fully exhaustive,” it states.
“Austerity should not mean that a system should be allowed to collapse. The cost of rebuilding it will be much more.”
Committee support staff also need to be beefed up, recommends the report.
“There is no dispute that the nerve centre of any functional parliament (legislature) is its committee system, because that is where most of the work that eventually find conclusion at plenary level is done,” it states.
“The related support services is equally critical. At present, the committee support service is on the brink of collapse if much needed interventions do not materialise sooner.
“Austerity measures have meant that the much needed growth of the committee support service will not materialise sooner.
“Not only has the parliament (legislature) increased the number of committees to be serviced, but it has also developed a programme structure that requires servicing outside of the normal working hours for which most of the staff were contracted for.”
It adds: “This has been at great risk to their (staff) well-being, and without any additional compensation.
“There are real signs that the service is no longer able to absorb all the pressure extended on it, and more importantly on the individuals who comprise it.”
A “sufficient budget (should be made) available for overtime compensation” and the “psychological effects on staff because of austerity measures” should be addressed.
At an operational level, the legislature’s information and communication technology (ICT) system was also on the edge of disaster, according to the report.
“The WCPP (legislature) cannot implement disaster recovery which places the institution at risk in the event of failure or loss of ICT infrastructure equipment. Even though we take back-ups of all the data, we do not have an alternate site for restoring the data and systems… resulting in corporate and parliamentary services coming to a standstill.
“The ICT infrastructure (servers, network switches, cabling) were acquired in 2009. This equipment is overdue for replacement as they have reached their end of life.
“Additionally, whilst the amount of information and systems have grown, no new significant ICT equipment have been purchased to cater for this growth.
“This places the institution at risk that we will be running out of ICT resources (servers, disk storage) shortly.”
Security was also at risk at the Wale Street building, with its sliding glass doors and easy accessibility from street level.
The report states to “improve security and surveillance in the building more cameras must be installed”.
The legislature’s work with the public is meanwhile also curtailed due to budget constraints.
“There is increased demand on the public education and outreach unit to reach more communities in the Western Cape,” states the report.
Public education programmes were needed, with funding to be directed to the “production of existing and new education material”.
In response to the report, chairperson of the legislature’s oversight committee Mark Wiley yesterday said he was “not in a position to answer immediately”.
Wiley is chief whip for the Democratic Alliance in the provincial legislature.
“It is an important document and it needs thorough investigation. I can only get back to you early next week,” he said.
Pierre Uys, the ANC’s chief whip in the provincial legislature, said the Western Cape government needed to “come to the table”. He is part of the oversight committee.
“The legislature has been under-budgeted but there is millions of Rands available,” said Uys.
“It’s close to collapse and the crisis is deepening. When you read the report you ask how could it happen.
“It’s like people just haven’t been caring about what’s happening.”
Uys said he went to work daily and saw “staff here are overworked”.
“Representatives of the people of the Western Cape can’t function properly. People that must exercise oversight, if they are not properly resourced, it undermines democracy,” said Uys.
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
Far away from Cape Town’s inner city noise of hooting traffic and bodies colliding is a quiet Camps Bay music studio where invention is born.
Here, not only new sounds are created for a decades-old band, but gadgetry to enhance the sound of music has also been built from scratch.
Inside this studio, brothers and musicians Mike and Tully McCullagh are listening to beats off their recent album, Work In Progress.
While Mike has over the years produced musical shows, Tully has wrapped his thoughts around the technical side of making music and making it sound better.
The results have been rewarding, as Tully has invented a microphone that he confirms famous musicians from Katy Perry to bands like Maroon 5 have been using while either performing live or recording songs.
Tully’s Tul Mic, which he assembles by hand, is a combination of three microphones. Its magic is in how music or voices sound once projected via it.
Tully points out and exhibits that the sound is not altered in any way. What comes out of the microphone is simply a clearer, fuller and less polluted sound. It is far clearer than the noise that comes with standard microphones.
“It has a special circuit inside,” says Tully.
“Normally when you put a microphone in front an amplifier, it colours the sound. You have to fiddle around to get the sound right. But with this you don’t need to. You just pluck it in front of the guitar.”
About two years ago Tully was sitting in his studio when Mike’s son James McCullagh, who is based in the United States, asked him if he could find a way of combining three microphones into one.
James was working with a music producer at the time and they were recording American rock band Journey.
“The band journey has three guitar players and they needed to use three microphones per guitar player to get the sound right,” says Tully.
“I got the three top brand microphones (they were using) and strapped them together to see what the sound would be like.
“I examined the waveform and worked for weeks on the sound quality. That’s how invented this microphone and sent it to James.
“Then people started hearing the sound. And they asked for the microphones.”
Tully has since then been sending microphones to music producers, musicians and bands in the United States and Germany.
“And it’s all hand made. I get the cases made and assemble all the electronics myself,” he says.
Tully has produced two microphones: one that can be used in studios for recording, and another for live music playing.
Mike says his son James has been the main connector in the picture.
“He was a natural and was born into this,” says Mike.
Mike introduced James to the music business when he and Tully’s band McCully Workshop recorded albums and played live shows from the 1970s.
“James was my sound engineer from about 15. He worked with Tully and did studio recordings as well,” says Mike.
“When he was 22 years old he went to London. He got a break and became (English female singer) Josh Stone’s engineer in London.
“When INXS reformed in about 2004, he then became their sound engineer. He toured the world and became well known.”
That led to various links to world famous celebrities.
“His girlfriend at the time became Katy Perry’s production manager. Katy later ended up using one of Tully’s microphones,” says Mike.
Tully says another big break was when music producer Bob Rock, who worked with heavy metal band Metallica, got hold of the Tul Mic.
“Bob is just unknowingly the ambassador for the microphone,” says Tully.
“He has ordered two microphones to record artists with. Everywhere he goes, people want the microphones too and they contact us.”
Mike and Tully used the microphones to record their recent album, Work In Progress, which won the Best South African Group award in June at the Wawela Music Awards in Joburg.
Mike says it “made us sound better immediately”.
“It sounds more international,” he adds.
McCully Workshop intends to start playing live concerts again, while Mike plans to continue his work in musical productions.