Archive | March 2016

James Matthews: ‘teach youth about apartheid’

(This article was published in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper in the Western Cape province, South Africa, on March 27 2016.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Universities are bestowing honours on Cape Town poet James Matthews but he says these institutions fail to teach students about his anti-apartheid writing.

This comes after Rhodes University in Grahamstown said it would award Matthews an honourary doctorate this week.

The University of the Western Cape has previously done the same.

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Cape Town poet James Matthews at his home in Athlone. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

In an interview with Weekend Argus yesterday, Matthews, 86, said he was not “flippant” about his various awards from universities, governments and others.

But he wanted to see anti-apartheid writing taught at high schools and universities.

“I am grateful for awards. It means a lot to me,” he said.

“None of our youth read our stuff (writing). If our stuff is not accessible how will they know what happened?

“Our stuff is not on the curriculum. It should be on shelves at schools. It should be at universities. Schools should teach anti-apartheid writing.”

He added: “There are people who are well remembered in their countries for fighting injustice. We seem to be the only country where we suffered so badly but our writing is not available.”

Matthews was detained in 1976 for his protest poetry that was banned for many years. He was also denied a passport after his release from prison.

While jailed, Matthews wrote a collection of poetry, Pass me a Meatball, Jones. It was published in 1977.

Matthews said he still regarded himself to be a dissident poet, as he was referred to in a 2014 documentary film Diaries of A Dissident Poet by Cape Town-based filmmaker Shelley Barry.

“I am still a dissident poet. That is someone who is against the present state,” he said.

“All my earlier stuff was extremely critical towards the apartheid government… I should now go back to writing dissident poetry attacking corruption in certain sectors of our government.”

Matthews said under apartheid he could not “write art for art’s sake” but he has explored other topics beyond protest and pain since then.

“I refused to write about the flight of a bird or growing of a flower (during apartheid). I could not write about that when people are being killed by the system. I looked at people who are jailed or maimed,” he said.

“I am now a poet concerned about myself and people my age. You respond to different things at different times.

“You find yourself growing and writing poetry of a far different nature.”

Matthews has published a number of poetry collections, starting with his first book Cry Rage in 1972. Last year he published Gently Stirs My Soul.

Cape Town halaal authority loses favour with Malaysia

(This article was published in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper in the Western Cape province, South Africa, on March 27 2016.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

The local multi-billion rand halaal market could face a shake-up after the Malaysian government delisted the Muslim Judicial Council Halaal Trust (MJCHT) this month for not meeting various criteria.

The Department of Islamic Development Malaysia, also referred to as Jakim for short, told the MJCHT this month it failed an independent audit conducted last November.

Jakim said the MJCHT lacked expertise, systems and it found faults at slaughterhouses registered with the trust.

Being delisted does not mean the Cape Town-based MJCHT is unable to issue certificates to businesses that meet the requirements to sell meat products to Muslims.

Neither does it mean the MJCHT is unable to verify eateries as halaal, the Islamic term which refers to products that are permissible for Muslims to consume.

But it does mean Malaysia will not allow imports of any products the MJCHT has certified halaal until the latter meets its criteria.

MJCHT director Sheikh Achmat Sedick said they have a “window period of six to 12 months to implement the required corrective measures” before Jakim reinstates it.

“The MJCHT wish to re-iterate that Jakim’s audit and delisting are of a technical nature and that our halaal operation, halaal certification and confirmation are intact and haven’t been compromised in any way,” he added.

Jakim’s audits determine whether halaal authorities it works with meet international health and safety standards.

Sedick explained where it fell short of Jakim’s standards, the first being expertise.

“The MJCHT primarily consists of the ulama (religious leaders) and to breach the technical gaps, of which the ulama do not have expertise, the MJCHT makes use of independent technically qualified Muslim people and institutions for specialised jobs such as food technologists, biochemists, lab testing,” said Sedick.

“Jakim requires that the MJCHT have the above-mentioned expertise more directly on board.”

Sedick said Jakim wanted to see “documentary proof of qualifications and/or further training”.

Jakim also found fault with the MJCHT’s halaal certification system, said Sedick.

The MJCHT needed to show “tangible proof of implementation on all levels, example training of inspectors and monitors and audits reports”.

“The entire operation of the MJCHT must be documented in a standard operating procedure manual,” said Sedick.

The last problem area was at slaughterhouses where Jakim wanted the MJCHT to appoint a “halaal slaughter-checker”.

“(This person) needs to be positioned on the slaughter-line immediately after the last slaughterer in order to do a post-slaughtering check,” said Sedick.

“Jakim requested that all the halaal slaughterers be registered with the MJCHT with proof of training.”

Sedick said the MJCHT has “embarked on corrective action” and this included appointing a trainer for inspectors and slaughterers.

It is the second time in recent years that the MJCHT comes under fire.

In 2012 it was accused of negligence when it issued certification to Orion, a company that had allegedly labelled pork products as halaal. Muslims are forbidden to eat pork.

The MJCHT is one of various halaal certifying authorities in South Africa but the country does not have any independent and specialised halaal laboratories.

The Western Cape department of economic opportunities and agriculture said earlier this year it plans to establish a halaal industrial park.

The department said the halaal industry was estimated to be worth almost R45-billion in South Africa.

Jazz festival’s legacy lives on in Cape Town

(This article was published in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper in the Western Cape province, South Africa, on March 27 2016.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

If one were to divide the price of a ticket for next week’s two-day Cape Town International Jazz Festival by the amount of artists on the line-up it costs R12 per show.

Close on 40,000 tickets are usually sold for this annual event, now in its 17th year, and its director Billy Domingo says this income “does not even touch our cost”.

“The budget on this festival is insane,” says Domingo.

“People talk about, why don’t you just make the tickets more expensive. But the more expensive it is then the less people from the Cape Flats we will have,” he adds in reference to where Cape Town’s sizeable jazz following is found.

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FESTIVAL FRIEND: Billy Domingo is festival director of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, which he wants to keep accessible to most people by ensuring ticket prices do not soar too high. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

 

“It makes business sense (to raise ticket prices) and we need to get dividends for our shareholders. But we just get more sponsors to keep ticket prices low.”

Domingo says they want to keep the festival and its artists accessible to all kinds of people.

One of the ways they do this is via a free concert on Greenmarket Square in central Cape Town, usually on a Thursday night, before the main event unfolds.

“It costs us nearly R1-million just to do that. But it’s worth a trillion rand to see people relax and enjoy the concert,” says Domingo.

“It is about sharing this with people. This is how we tell Cape Town thank you for hosting us. Even if you are homeless, you get in to the concert. There’s no ticket, privilege or class.”

Domingo has been in show business for the last 50 years, including running the entertainment division at Sun City hotel in the North West province.

Domingo took over from previous festival director Rashid Lombard last year.

At the festival’s offices next to Access Park in Kenilworth, he feels “in limbo”.

“It’s surreal. I’m sort of relaxed because the team is incredible. They are all out and running and doing things. Everything is going well,” he says.

“We are sold out every year. People see it as more of a lifestyle festival than a jazz event. Some people come for the fashion and others come even just because they want to be in Cape Town.”

Domingo says their photography and journalism workshops are ready to roll as well as a host of other events, including a fashion show and photo exhibition.

“We have the training element because we want to have a legacy,” he says.

“No financial reward can equate to the outcome of the legacy programme. Out of the 18 people working at our company, eight of them came out of the training and development programme of this festival.”

The Cape Town International Jazz Festival runs at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on April 1 and 2. The Duotone photo exhibition runs at Artscape Theatre in central Cape Town from March 29 to April 2.

Wear local fashion, say South African designers

(This article was published in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper in the Western Cape province, South Africa, on March 27 2016.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Global fashion retailers descending on local malls coupled with cheap Chinese clothing imports have jolted South African fashion designers to work harder at pushing their products.

To this end, the Wear South African campaign, an initiative of the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (Sactwu), was launched to promote local fashion and secure factory worker jobs.

Wear SA is now running in its third year and will next week partner with the Cape Town International Jazz Festival to platform three local designers.

The designers will showcase their work at the Fashion and all that Jazz gala dinner next week on Thursday night, a preview of the festival where some of its artists will be performing on stage too.

Sactwu’s link with the jazz community means that local fashion designers reach new clients and ultimately secure jobs.

Magents menswear label designers Didier de Villiers and Theithei Letlabika are preparing their looks for next week.

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CREATIVE COMBO: Magents designers Didier de Villiers (left) and Theithei Letlabika are showing their latest creations at the Fashion and all that Jazz gala dinner next week. The event is part of the annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

De Villiers says they have looked at different business models in growing their brand.

“A lot of factories focus on a Chinese model.

Letlabika adds: “The Chinese want volume. It’s quantity and not quality. Chain stores push that too. It’s about producing a lot of goods for cheap.”

De Villiers says the Turkish model, on the other hand, “focuses on their own brands and exports that”.

“When you build a brand you can instill higher skills locally. South Africa is so small. We should focus on the niche and not the mass,” he says.

De Villiers says this model will set apart local designers from the endless, noisy rails of cheap imports.

Magents was started in the 1990s in Johannesburg and has already exported their goods to Canada, Europe, Japan and the United States.

Its store in Canal Walk mall opened a few months and plans are underway to open stores in other parts of the country this year.

While building their brand, De Villiers has also been growing other local businesses as they source fabrics from “only African-owned factories”.

“It took us a few years to develop that because it’s a bit more difficult in Africa,” says De Villiers.

“We don’t want to touch anything from Asia. Not that Asia is bad, but we want to stick to Africa. That is very difficult, but the people come first.

“We work with people who have families. We want them to know that what they are creating is something bigger than just putting a stitch into a piece of cloth.”

De Villiers says it also makes sense for them to work locally as logistics get in the way.

“It’s easier to manufacture locally because of the traveling and back and forth (when working offshore). It makes it easier than shipping back samples that are not right,” he says.

The challenge about working with local fabric manufacturers and assembly line businesses are their lack skills compared to foreign counterparts, says De Villiers.

“Our gripe with local factories is skills and machinery. And also their unwillingness to develop new stuff,” says De Villiers.

“A lot of factories are not willing to spend on equipment to make certain kind of washes (treating fabric for various effects). They just want normal fabric to work with. Then you land up with a touristy T-shirt.”

Letlabika says their label is intent on being “consistent”.

“We want to build with customers that want quality and also guys who are conscious of where the stuff is made,” he says.

Young designer Bokang Lehabe, based in Athlone and originally from rural North West province, says he too prefers to work with local fabrics and manufacturers.

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THINKING LOCAL: Young fashion designer Bokang Lehabe uses only local fabrics to produce his garments. He will also show his designs at the Fashion and all that Jazz gala dinner next week. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

The 25-year-old runs his women’s wear label Bookha Creations where the “people behind everything we do are local”.

“We are not getting all the parts from China and then putting it together here and saying it’s local,” says Lehabe.

“The fabrics we print are made in Cape Town. The products are locally manufactured.

“We need to revive the clothing industry in South Africa. We can’t do that if all we do is import.”

Lehabe says the challenge for local designers though is that we “don’t have much fabric mills here so it is expensive to source local fabrics”.

“But when you do, you get good products out of it. It is convenient to go to Asia to source fabrics, but it does not mean the quality will be better,” he says.

Lehabe says local designers are now “popping up everywhere” making supporting local fashion more accessible.

Lehabe is excited about showing at the Fashion and all that Jazz gala dinner.

“I have had only private shows. Some of the major retailers would send their people to see the direction we are going,” he says.

“I am in a good position now to be in fashion weeks. I needed it to make business sense. It’s pointless spending a lot of money on fashion week just for pretty pictures,” says Lehabe.

“It’s pointless to be in every magazine if you are not going to be able to survive in the long run. I’ve seen people come and go in fashion. I want to make this a business.”

Lehabe adds: “Showing at the jazz festival is an amazing platform. It will open a market for us and we will meet people who have not heard of us.”

 

CHECK IT OUT:

Wear South African (Wear SA) is a movement designed to encourage every South African to support buying local.

It is intended to encourage designers and retailers to think about where they will source their materials from in designing and making garments that can be sold in South Africa and worn anywhere.

This campaign is committed to making South Africa an economic clothing and designer powerhouse once again and asks that consumers consciously think about the products they buy – whether it is a fashion item or not.

Source: Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union

 

The Fashion and all that Jazz gala dinner is part of annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival running next weekend in the city.

This festival is referred to as ‘Africa’s Grandest Gathering’ and runs at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

The event has multiple stages with at least 40 artists performing over two nights. Up to 37, 000 music lovers attend the event. For more info log on to http://www.capetownjazzfest.com

Source: espAfrika, organisers of the festival

New laws to help small-scale fishing grow

(This article was published in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper in the Western Cape province, South Africa, on March 27 2016.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

New laws recognising small-scale fishers are set to ensure traditional coastal families can secure a livelihood without criminalisation, years after they started a battle with the government for this right.

The department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries will this week outline how the Amended Marine Living Resources Act will benefit the sector. The Act had been signed into law this month.

Abongile Ngqongwe, the department’s deputy director for small-scale fisheries management, confirmed the new law for the first time recognises small-scale fishers.

“There were many traditional fishers that were left behind with no commercial fishing rights. Communities and NGOs took the department to the Equality Court in 2005 and we now have new laws,” he said.

“The new policy took long because of the number of people involved in drafting it. We have been issuing permits for quite some time now to small-scale fishers. Now we are going to allocate fishing rights to communities all along the coast.”

Ngqongwe said this would affect at least 30,000 small-scale fishers in 280 communities.

Mamre resident Christian Adams, chairman on non-profit Coastal Links which represents small-scale fishers, said they would now monitor implementation of the amended law.

“There is still a lot of political will lacking in the department to implement laws. We still don’t know what quantum of fish will be allocated to small-scale fishers,” said Adams.

“The department is also handing out commercial rights. Our fear is that if all the fishing rights are given to commercial fishers then what will be left for communities?”

Adams said he currently needs to fish 130km from his home town because commercial fishers have been granted the right to fish in waters – instead of locals.

“Legislation has killed small-scale fishing. We had to take the government to court to change that law so that we could operate,” said Adams.

“And now not as much people depend on fishing anymore. We are about 100 small scale fishers that operate in Mamre. It’s not as vibrant as it used to be because we have been curtailed by the laws.”

Adams added: “There are still problems with the privatisation of the seas. We are getting arrested for doing something our grandfathers used to do. We are accused of poaching and depleting stocks. But industrial fishing is responsible for that.”

Ngqongwe said the department would “not allocate fishing rights to individuals but to communities”.

“They will form cooperatives. It will ensure employment,” he said.

“Permits will specify how many boats they can use and how many people can fish on that permit.”

Ngqongwe said the department will start to verify small-scale fishers in coastal communities from April 4 for a two-month period before granting permits to them. He said the permits were “partly to address illegal fishing”.

“We cannot run away from the fact that there is an element of organised crime as well. You have gangsters involved in fishing and it is linked to poaching,” said Ngqongwe.

“In some instances we have seen on the West Coast there are drug dealers involved. We have a big problem of poaching, specifically abalone.

“We have seen trends where a lot of lobster have been taken out of the sea illegally.”

Small-scale fishing regulations are intended to ensure “implementation and management of the new sector”.

The department a “full legal framework is now in place to implement the small-scale fishing sector”.

“Fishing communities who want to be part of this process need to submit an expression of interest form to the department by April 7,” it said.

 

 

Comedian ditches race jokes, turns to green issues

(This article was published in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper in the Western Cape province, South Africa, on March 20 2016.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Racial stereotypes often dominate comedy shows, seconded by stabs at politicians, but likely won’t feature when a local comedian abandons these overdone one-liners.

Cape Town-based comedian Nik Rabinowitz believes South Africans “don’t find that stuff funny anymore” when it comes to racial issues, which have in recent months taken centre stage in national debates.

His new show, Power Struggle, will instead focus on environmental issues.

“It’s the story of power through the ages. Not political power,” says Rabinowitz.

“I’ve put a lot of energy into political power. Now I’m putting my energy into energy.”

Rabinowitz has collaborated with a host of writers on the show’s script.

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COLLABORATORS: Cape Town comedian Nik Rabinowitz with Daniel Kutner, the director of his new show Power Struggle opening at the Baxter Theatre on March 29. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Power Struggle producer Sam Hendrikse has meanwhile connected the comedian with New York-based theatre director Daniel Kutner.

Rabinowitz says working with Kutner is a chance to “stretch” himself.

“I’ve been wanting for a while to add an international dimension to my stuff, which has been local,” he says.

Their intention is to produce a show that can travel beyond South African borders. It’s bound to also get audiences thinking about the environment.

“We get into buzzwords. What is global warming? Is that just a fancy name for summer?” says Rabinowitz.

“Ice caps are melting, polar bears are drowning, bees are dying. There’s all this stuff and a low level of anxiety.

“The idea was to create a show that looks at these issues but is also renewable energy. We want to promote these ways of using energy.

“I talk about all these things. I’ve done a lot of research on this show, on Wikipedia.”

For Kutner, this is the first comedy show he is directing. He explains the show is about a father thinking about the future of his child.

“This conversation about power starts with Nik being alone with his infant daughter for the first time when his wife goes to the book club,” says Kutner.

“There’s anxiety festering in him and he wonders what type of world his daughter would inherit.”

Hendrikse says he saw Rabinowitz a few years ago and now working with him wanted to “push it further”.

Hendrikse says he wanted to do something different, as since the start of democracy in 1994 the country’s comedic “content has always been the same”.

“It’s been race and do we need to have another show about how different we are?” asks Henrikse.

“I think most South African comedy is crap. It just reinforces stereotypes and issues we are trying to get past. This show is about bigger things.

“We live in a country where there’s load shedding, climate change, drought. If you are a parent these are things that are important to you. You are considering more than just yourself.”

Hendrikse says they want to take their show global too.

“We want to be in Japan, New Yorn and London,” he says.

Power Struggle runs at the Baxter Theatre from March 29 to April 16.

Businesses turn to green energy, avoid Eskom cuts

(This article was published in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper in the Western Cape province, South Africa, on March 20 2016.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Businesses are to play a bigger role in securing Cape Town’s electricity needs in a bid to counter national power supplier Eskom’s load-shedding impact on profits.

Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille said yesterday that businesses would play a role with local government to use renewable energy technology to generate electricity.

De Lille was scheduled to address a government meeting with businesses last night.

De Lille said Eskom’s power cuts, as part of its plan to spread a short-supply of electricity across the country, had led to “many periods of job-killing”.

“If we want to continue on the upward trajectory of economic growth and job creation in Cape Town, we need to act now to make our city and province energy secure,” said De Lille.

“We cannot leave the future of energy security in the hands of Eskom. We no longer want to merely be distributors of electricity but want to become energy creators as well.

“Traditionally, the city has had a very simplistic role when it comes to electricity. We would simply buy electricity from the national monopoly Eskom and distribute it to our household and businesses.”

De Lille said the city has a “number of projects where we are creating a new model for energy generation and distribution”.

“This allows household and businesses to play a part in providing the solutions to our energy shortfalls while building local resilience for the future,” said De Lille.

“We have signed small-scale embedded electricity generation contracts with Black River Park Investments and 17 other major commercial industrial customers who are able to feed electricity into the city’s grid.

“We haves also signed contracts with 43 residential customers who are able to feed into the city’s grid in a legal and responsible manner.”

De Lille said the city wanted locals “not to go off the grid but use PV panels to become energy producers and have the city’s electricity grid being utilised as an efficient storage and distributor of that electricity”.

“The reform for the business model for our electricity department will also consider ways in which we can make the more financially attractive for businesses and households to generate their own electricity with solar panels on their roofs,” she said.

“We are also leading by example in our own operations in by retrofitting the lights in our buildings, as well as our traffic and street lights.

“All 1 500 traffic lights now have efficient LED light bulbs and more than 25 000 street lights have been retrofitted.”

De Lille added: “The future is renewable energy, not nuclear. I therefore implore business and the green sector to work with the city and province to make sure we bring about an efficient energy system and a future that is energy secure.”