Archive | April 2016

Protester violence prevents voter registration in Western Cape

(This article was published in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper in the Western Cape province, South Africa, on April 10 2016.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

A helpless policeman stood over the burnt remains of an Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) tent after protesters set it on fire and disrupted municipal election voter registration across Paarl and Wellington.

During what is the IEC’s last voter registration outreach nationwide, 600 protesters from Mbekweni township in Paarl launched senseless havoc a few hundred metres from their homes shortly after 9am yesterday.


Mbekweni resident Lucas Magwa, a member of the local committee organising protests, said residents marched to the Drakenstein municipality building near their homes because the local government “ignored” the township’s need for electricity.

Eye witnesses outside the municipality building did not want to be named “because it’s dangerous to be named” but said protesters “chucked the IEC tables”.

Magwa said: “We chased them away. We told the municipality we won’t listen to them. They ignored us. We are the leaders.”

By mid-morning protesters had burnt down two IEC tents and forced the closure of all 14 voter registration stations in Paarl and neighbouring Wellington, a 50-minute drive from central Cape Town.

Their disruptive service delivery protest started last week already, at the same time that President Jacob Zuma said the countrywide municipal election would be held on August 3.

The IEC said this was “not the official proclamation of the municipal elections” and “eligible voters can still register until the official proclamation”.

Magwa said their committee which represented “all the people who live in shacks” did not tell locals whether they should vote or not.

“But we told them we can’t vote until we get electricity. That’s all we want,” he said.

Magwa walked through the shacks to show Weekend Argus how people lived without proper access to water, toilets and electricity. He pointed skyward to dangling wires leading to homes that have electricity.

“We are taking electricity from houses and we are paying them. This is unsafe for our children,” said the father of two.

“Children are dying because of this. It’s uncontrolled. It can set alight.”

Nocawe Sitshixo, who lives in a shack with her six children, said she “won’t vote until we get electricity”.

“We use paraffin lamps and it can cause fires. Electricity is safer.”

When asked if they would disrupt the municipal election, Magwa said: “We will see what we will do.”

At the Lukhanyo Youth Development Organisation centre in Paarl, protesters had torn down IEC banners.

Centre manager Sydwell Magqazana said the IEC “told us to close it so they can’t get in”.

“This is negatively affecting voting. We understand their demand. It’s a valid demand. But there are so many better ways they can conduct their struggle,” said Magqazana.

“To vandalise… now how could we support their struggle? They could have come to us, as part of the community, and tell us their need.”

In neighbouring Van Wyksvlei in Wellington residents recalled how protesters ran down their street and set alight an IEC tent shortly after 10am yesterday.

Resident Kaatyie Williams said they had “heard in the week they had a protest at the municipality”.

“We heard they were throwing over cars and smashing windows. They said they would do this. We heard they were coming,” she said.

“They were running down the street. We went into our homes when we saw them throw petrol and burn the tent. The women had knives and cut the tent.

“We came out when they left and used water to put out the fire. People came to register but saw the tent was burnt.”

Paarl police had last week reportedly arrested 23 people from Mbekweni after they set on fire cars and marched on the municipality for electricity.

Another voter registration tent in Wellington was also burned yesterday.

Francina Lewis, whose shack is next to the open piece of land the tent was standing on, said she “thought my house would burn”.

“The flames were up to my fence. We got water and put the fire out,” she said.

The IEC’s Western Cape electoral officer, Courtney Sampson, said they had to temporarily shut down 14 voting stations when the protest started.

Sampson confirmed: “Two of our structures were burnt. We re-opened the stations except for three (of the 14) where people were traumatised.”

“None of our staff were injured but events like that traumatise people.”

Sampson said all stations would be open today (SUNDAY) for registration.

There were also “problems” with voter registration yesterday in Khayelitsha “but all the stations were functional”, said Sampson.

“The issues were community protests and discontent. There were two that started late because of protest action. That was resolved and they were open,” he added.

“In Manenberg there was gangware that closed one station.”

Western Cape police spokesman Captain FC van Wyk said protester damage was estimated at R25,000.

“No arrests were made as the crowd had dispersed. Instruction was given by the IEC that all voting stations in Mbekweni be closed,” said Van Wyk.

“SAPS (police) members started monitoring the group and they re-grouped outside the Mbekweni municipal hall. The crowd of approximately 500 was monitored as they marched throughout the Mbekweni area.

“The group dispersed in Drommedaris Street after being monitored until 12:40pm.”


Deadly horse sickness detected in Western Cape

(This article was published in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper in the Western Cape province, South Africa, on April 9 2016.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Thousands of Western Cape horse owners have been told to lock up their horses, with an indefinite quarantine announced in the province to prevent a deadly horse disease from spreading.

The province’s economic opportunities minister Alan Winde said yesterday the quarantine has taken hold after a Paarl veterinarian detected a case of African Horse Sickness (AHS) in a horse this week.

“Samples collected from the colt tested positive for the AHS virus,” said Winde.

“We activated a routine surveillance programme immediately. Our vets are working in the area to determine whether any other animals on the property are affected.

“Movement restrictions are in place and no movement of horses is allowed into the containment zone without a movement permit from a state vet.”

The quarantine is in place for a 50km radius around Paarl and has led to the cancellation of various horse-related events planned for this weekend.

The discovery of AHS could also affect South African horse exports to the European Union, said state veterinarian Gary Burhmann yesterday.

Winde added: “We urge horse owners to stable their horses from two hours before sunset to two hours before dawn to minimise the risk of the vector (the Culicoides midge) having contact with their horses.

“In addition, we appeal to owners to use a registered insect repellent during the vector feeding periods.”

The quarantine is to spread as far as Gordon’s Bay, Riebeeck Kasteel, Malmesbury and a number of other areas, with horses prohibited from being transported along major highways such as the N7 and N2.

Burhmann said veterinarians have been dispatched to various horse farms.

“We are checking out horses (for AHS). This sickness is extremely virulent and fatal. Literally thousands of horses are affected,” said Burhmann.

“People don’t want their horse exposed. We export horses to the EU, so in order to export we have to notify them and take precautionary measures.”

Burhmann said “everything in a 50km radius (of the viral detection) becomes a no-go zone”.

“Horses can’t go off the property. We advise people that their horses must stay in their stables. If they can’t, we would recommend spraying them with insect repellant during the night,” he added.

Burhmann said the Culicoides midge was a “small insect that you can’t see with the eye” that bites an infected horse and transports the virus in that way to other horses.

“You can only see this insect under a microscope but they can cause so much damage. The virus stays in the midge for seven to 10 days,” he said.

“It’s like malaria, when a mosquito picks up malaria from one person and then transfers it to another.”

Burhmann said the virus could have been transported to the Western Cape via an infected horse from elsewhere. He said visible AHS symptoms in the horse include “swelling above the eyes and sounds from their lungs”.

A horse can die within hours of the symptoms being spotted, he added.

Horse event organisers yesterday said they were losing cash as a host of their weekend events have been cancelled.

Peter Roodman, who organised this weekend’s Western Cape Horse of the Year show in Paarl, said they heard about the quarantine at 1pm yesterday. Their first show event was meant to start two hours later.

“It’s a huge financial loss. You have to hire caterers and it’s everything that goes with it. I’m sitting with a lot of meat and 200 cheesecakes,” said Roodman.

“We had main sponsors flying down from Johannesburg and our judges were from out of town. They were at the airport when we told them we have cancelled.”

Roodman said participants had 160 horses entered into the competition and were traveling from across the province.

“We have to look at the animal’s welfare and people understand that,” he said.

“Most of the events have been shut down for the next 40 days. We will hold our event in June.”

Altus Hanekom, president of Western Cape Endurance which organises long-distance horse riding events, also cancelled their weekend races on the West Coast.

“We would have 65 participants for a 40km and 80km endurance ride,” said Hanekom.

“Everything has been cancelled as a precautionary measure. We are trying to minimise the movement of horses. We phoned guys who were on their way to turn back.”

Amadou & Mariam: Our music spreads peace

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Quintessentially African with a rock-sounding punch at times, Mali’s blind duo Amadou & Mariam were in Cape Town this weekend to spread their message of “peace, love and fraternity”.

In an interview this weekend, Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia talked about their music mission that emanated from a troubled land.


AFRICAN VOICES: Mali’s famous blind couple Amadou & Mariam talked about their musical careers in Cape Town yesterday. They were headliners at this weekend’s Cape Town International Jazz Festival. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

“We want to play music for people all over the world. It is important for us that everybody understand our important message of peace, love and fraternity,” said Amadou.

“Thanks to our music, we can meet with politicians. We can share messages with them.”

Amadou said their music was not political but their aim was to “speak about peace all over the world”.

“Artists are there to share messages,” he said.

“When politics was difficult, (South African singer) Miriam Makeba shared her message (against apartheid). It’s the same for us.

“When something is wrong in the world we want to share our message.”

Mariam talked about the duo’s collaboration and how they have been writing songs together.

“We are happy together. We have been married 40 years. We have three children and we are happy to travel together,” said Mariam.

“We create songs together. I write the lyrics and Amadou writes the melody.”

She added: “One of our sons is also a musician. He likes rap music. We want to make a song with him.”

The duo have played alongside some of the world’s best known musicians, including Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton.

On stage at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival on Friday night, the duo stood side by side without much movement. Mariam was embellished in gold jewellery.

“I like gold jewellery. I like perfume, bags and shoes,” she said about her style during this interview.

“When I was young everybody called me ‘smart’.”

Nostalgia, friends at the Cape’s jazz festival

(This article was published in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper in the Western Cape province, South Africa, on April 3 2016.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

When local reggae band Dr Victor & The Rasta Rebels performed Eddy Grant’s Gimme Hope Jo’Anna we could not continue our conversation about who buys local visual art and which artists are being bought.


South African singers Dorothy Masuka and Abigail Kubeka had fans dancing and roaring. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

A Cape Town-based visual artist, his Chinese friend who works for an opera company and myself ran to the Manenberg stage where the band was performing on Friday night. The crowd was singing along to every line.

“This is the song of our democracy!” I declared.

“They were good for 1994,” said the visual artist with a laugh.

Okay, that song wasn’t recorded in 1994 – the year South Africa was reborn as a democracy – but it was around the early 1990s when the whole country was hopeful about our shifting landscape.

It was a song we remembered from our childhood, when our country got a new national anthem and loads of we-are-free songs captured an exhilarating era.

Think about another one of those songs, Vicky Sampson’s ‘My African Dream’, and you get the nostalgia we were channeling.

And so the annual two-day Cape Town International Jazz Festival, which concluded last night at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, had probably been a universe for countless personal-historical moments.

Friday night belonged though to Mali’s Amadou & Mariam, the blind singing couple who have been married forty years, still traveling the world with their African rock beats.

Without moving much on stage, standing side by side, the couple moved thousands of fans gathered at the Kippies stage.

Having lived off their music at some point, it was near unbelievable that they were actually standing in front of my eyes. Singing those songs. Live.

And as usual, we were all running into friends from all over the country as the CTICC became a chorus of where-have-you-been hugs. We always joke that half of Johannesburg is in Cape Town for the jazz festival weekend.

Aging South African singers Dorothy Masuka and Abigail Kubeka had fans dancing and roaring too at the Kippies stage on Friday night. Penny whistleblower Lemmy Mabaso showed his lungs can still produce the goods when he shared the stage with the ‘Legendary Ladies in Song’, as their performance was billed.

Fans of American singers Sisters With Voices and Angie Stone turned up to cement that experience on their Facebook and personal timelines. Selfies were as usual the defining we-were-there factor.

There are too many other performers to mention in this snap review – 43 artists in performed for 37,000 fans across five stages.

By the time it all fizzled out, everybody was bound to walk away with those little moments of personal history at ‘Africa’s Grandest Gathering’.

Cape Town jazz festival delivers a good time

(This article was published in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper in the Western Cape province, South Africa, on April 2 2016.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Young musicians experimenting on a guitar and piano in one corner, a few tables away from them the famous American singing group Sisters With Voices (SWV) order a meal.

Up to the second floor, another well-known American singer, Angie Stone, does interviews with journalists.

These were some of the scenes at the Cape Sun hotel on Strand Street in the city centre yesterday.

Needless to say, the hotel was energised as the 17th annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival moved in.


American singers Sisters With Voices at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Music stars from various genres and parts of the world were on hand to talk about their craft at the press centre, bringing with them an aura of the magic that is music.

Most of the artists were very approachable and talked about their careers and songwriting without needing much prompting.

SWV and gospel singer Lizz Wright, also from the United States, even sang snippets of their music for a small audience of journalists.

Festival organiser espAfrika said it has sold 37,000 tickets for the two-day festival of local and international musicians performing at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC).

Musicians were lined-up to start playing on the main festival last night (FRIDAY) but during the week a host of festival-related events had already been underway.

The festival’s support for the Wear South Africa campaign culminated in the third annual Fashion & All That Jazz Gala Dinner at the CTICC on Thursday night.

Apart from a heavy dose of government propaganda from one minister, the event focused on fashion and its related industries. Factory workers were highlighted and praised for their contribution to the fashion and clothing industry.

The fashion show itself has grown into a top-notch affair, with the best local models hired to take to a ramp that could match – and even better – any other production of its kind.

Fashion designers part of the Wear SA campaign showcased their work, including Magents and Bhooka Creations.

Wear SA is an initiative of the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (Sactwu) and was launched to promote local fashion and secure factory worker jobs. SWV performed to a room filled with fans who knew every line of their 1990s hits.

Local one-hit wonder kwaito singer Mandoza also made a comeback on the night performing music he said he now hates.

Either way, government ministers and officials, diplomats, business executives, the fashion crowd and others at the dinner got up and danced.

The focus on music started already on Wednesday night though with a free concert on Greenmarket Square. Festival director Billy Domingo said this was their way of thanking Cape Town for making their event “Africa’s grandest gathering”.

That same night, the Duotone photographic exhibition also opened at Artscape Theatre. It closes along with the rest of the festival today (SATURDAY).

Domingo said developing young people and talent has been a major festival component over the years. Photographic and arts journalism workshops had been running all week, with participants covering the event’s press conferences and performances.

Golf development also featured this week when struggling local golf clubs were offered donations at an event organised for businesses linked to the festival.

It all concludes tonight (SATURDAY) across five stages at the CTICC. In total, 43 performances would have been witnessed. The festival’s line-up included Amadou and Mariam, Dr Victor and the Rasta Rebels and Mafikizolo.

Jazz singer Lizz Wright: I would have been a preacher

(This article was published in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper in the Western Cape province, South Africa, on April 2 2016.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

American singer-songwriter Lizz Wright learned how to sing in church and when she walked into a recording studio she made music her friends and family would like.

This meant her debut album Salt followed the traditional style of gospel music she grew up with in Georgia, United States.


PREACH: American singer-songwriter Lizz Wright is scheduled to perform at the Cape Town International Jazz festival tonight (SATURDAY). Wright recalled in Cape Town yesterday how she grew up in a Christian household without TV, which has had an impact on her music. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

This has not stood in Wright’s way though of recording blues, folk, gospel, jazz and pop music in subsequent albums.

Wright is scheduled to perform a selection of her recordings at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival this evening (SATURDAY) when the two-day festival ends at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

Wright yesterday recalled in Cape Town how her father wanted her to follow their family trajectory and join the church. She is one of three children born to a minister and musical director of a church.

“I come from a long linage of ministers and preachers. It was very tempting for me to take that path,” said Wright.

“My father said he would pay for my college tuition if I would study computer science and go to community college and get ordained.

“I just couldn’t go after it in this traditional sense. I have always had trouble marrying myself to any strict ideology.”

Wright said while she did not confine herself to one ideology she “studied a lot of them out of curiosity”.

“I’m called to the undercurrent beneath ideology and tradition that connects us,” she said.

“When it comes to my quest for truth or comfort, I look to nature and then look back at people and try to understand how nature is at play.”

Wright is now recording her sixth album and still likes the “call and response” style of gospel music that led to a “seamless transition to jazz”.

Wright said she had been surrounded by jazz musicians in church and that led to working with them regularly.

“A lot of the jazz musicians played in church on Sunday and in the week they played in clubs,” said Wright.

“I deeply appreciate that the world recognises me as a jazz artist but twentieth century gospel is really where I come from.

“My journey with making records has been interesting. I grew up in the church and music was all about communion with people. Since I was five years old to 19, all I done was sing in a way that made people sing back to me.”

“Gospel music is the root of all I do. In the south of America, intentionally, life has slowed down. And people are very invested in tradition.

“I learned these old ways of singing because that’s how I grew up.”

Wright said she has meanwhile lost the “self-centredness” that comes with being a recording artist where a life in the public eye becomes inevitable. Moving to the mountains of North Carolina state has helped.

“I live in close communion and observation of nature. I moved to the mountains,” said Wright.

“I live in my writing retreat when I’m not traveling or hanging out with friends in bigger cities. It gives me strength. It is my way of returning to the gifts of my childhood and it keeps me sustained.

“Nature reminds me that we never fall out of the cycle of life. We are never without to ability to create and learn.”

Retracing apartheid era footsteps in Cape Town

(This article was published in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper in the Western Cape province, South Africa, April 3 2016.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Walking with younger comrades this week, Philip Kgosana showed his spirit still hungers for protest as he re-enacted a march he led against apartheid’s pass laws decades ago.

Kgosana was 23 when he was secretary for the Pan African Congress (PAC) in the Cape in 1960. On March 30 that year, he led an estimated 30,000 anti-pass laws protesters from Langa to central Cape Town.


LANGA LEGEND: Eighty-year-old Philip Kgosana was 23 years old when he led thousands of people in a march against apartheid’s pass laws on March 30 1960. This week he re-enacted the march from Langa, where the mural in this picture has been painted in his honour. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

It is a date and event hardly mentioned in anti-apartheid history and Kgosana said this was the result ANC’s alleged hijacking of that collective narrative.

At 80, Kgosana is now on a mission to cement this historical day with an annual “celebratory” march. He believes the PAC’s march was victorious as it led the apartheid government to “panic”.

Kgosana is also part of a movement to rename De Waal Drive, the road on which he led the march into the central Cape Town.

To this end, he met this week with Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille whose first political home was the PAC.


COMRADES: Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille (right) with Philip Kgosana. De Lille is a former member of the Pan African Congress and said there were talks to rename De Waal Drive in Kgosana’s honour. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

De Lille’s respect for Kgosana was evident: “I must call him tata (father).”

At her sixth-floor office in the Civic Centre, De Lille said the march Kgosana led was a “turning point in the history of our country”.

“Tata Kgosana led people to Parliament against the pass laws,” she said.

De Lille pointed out her PAC roots were still in tact, even though she left that party years ago to start the Independent Democrats and then joined the Democratic Alliance.

“The late father of the PAC, Robert Sobukwe, said he believes there is only one race and that is the human race. And that is what I still believe today,” said De Lille.

“Pan-Africanism recognises we are all Africans.”

She added: “We are recognising 30 March as part of our history. We need to keep it in our history books.”

Kgosana visited the building where he stayed in Langa in his younger days.

He also stopped by a sculpture and a mural in Langa, both marking the historic march and depicting him in the shorts he wore when he led the march.

“I had been authorised to give all direction (of the march) without being questioned,” he recalled.

“As we passed Groote Schuur hospital and climbing on to De Waal Drive we saw these columns of soldiers in tanks coming out of Simon’s Town to occupy the Parliament area.

“There were two helicopters over us, watching us. The SABC (TV news) was broadcasting the march, telling the Western Cape there is a column of natives coming out of Langa.

“That excited people to pour into Cape Town to see what was happening. By the time we reached here (the city centre) there were already 15,000 people waiting for us.”

Kgosana led protesters to the Caledon Square police station on Buitenkant Street in central Cape Town.

He eventually also dispersed the crowd and later the apartheid apparatus clamped down on him and others. This led him into exile for more than three decades in different African countries.


REMEMBERING HEROES: Members of the Pan-African Congress along with Philip Kgosana this week re-enacted the party’s historic march in Cape Town that led to a state of emergency during apartheid. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Political parties, including the PAC, ANC and the SA Communist Party, were also banned just days after March 30, evidence of its impact on the apartheid state.

But Kgosana and his PAC party comrades remained undeterred. They continued their campaign against apartheid.

“Our demand was a total abolition of the pass laws. We pursued that until 1986 when the pass laws were abolished,” he said.

After Kgosana re-enacted his march, later in the day he went to the Cape Town Club, opposite the Company’s Garden on Queen Victoria Street, where he met the son of one of the police officers who could have killed him when he led the march.

In the old colonial hangout started in 1858, with its paintings of Cecil John Rhodes and Jan Smuts, Kgosana remarked that it was an evening of “reconciliation”.

“We owe it to the generations that come after us. They must know it’s not just (Dutch colonial) Jan van Riebeeck that made this city,” said Kgosana.

Kgosana said he hoped to be back on the Langa-Cape Town route next year. Perhaps then more than the 60 people who joined him would show up.

“This is the first attempt at organising people to recognise that we are going to have this events. It’s not the numbers that count. It’s a thing in our hearts,” he said.

“Our people died. I recall a woman from Langa who wanted to reach Groote Schuur hospital because she was carrying a sick child. The police told a fellow who was driving (a vehicle with the woman) that there was a line he should not touch. He touched it.

“The police turned around and shot the child. We will tell these stories. Nobody tells these stories except ourselves.

“There is a series of victories we have managed, which we would like our people to be proud about.”