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Africa Day is for Big Men: Reflections of a bitter woman
30 May 2018, 4:11 PM

I have no nostalgic feeling for Africa Day though I love Africa for reasons to do with history and oppression and ingenuity even as I know it makes no sense to indulge in this strange kind of nostalgic solidarity. Perhaps knowing this, you will forgive my scepticism about African leaders and my cynicism about the day they have designated for us which we now stretch into a month.

I believe in African people even as I have no patience for the Big Men who rule Africa. I do not however, believe Africa Day or month or whatever, has any value.

“We neither a theory nor a movement. We are open space: Africa’s newest genre. We are the unemployables, dissidents, techies, pan-Africanists, designers,etc. coming out in the 21st century, in our different corners, to challenge the centuries’-old notion that Africa does little thinking, trades badly and is even worse at buying….Afro-Moderns know how badly their stupid forefathers performed in the past and are now refusing to mourn it.”

– Pwaagulongii Dauod, winner of the Gerald Kraak Prize 2018

Africa’s Big Men have always been good at talking. My whole life Big Men in politics have talked and talked and eaten and eaten. When I was born they were talking. Back then the ones who talked the most were bestowed with the names Mobutu and Houphet-Boigny and Banda and Moi. They stayed and stayed in power, occupying office, taking up space. They were still there even as I grew up and reached the age of 20. The Big Men cut ribbons and opened clinics and celebrated roads that would quickly melt in the sun, until finally they had to be dragged off by protesters who had grown too tired and angry to stay quiet the way good citizens were supposed to.

Today, in my fourth decade, I watch the same old shiny motorcades filled with Big Men – the politicians and the newly rich Big Men who do not hold office but instead have captured markets. Now the old Big Men are dead but there is Kabila the Second, the son of Kabila the First. As though Congo is a monarchy and not a democratic republic. Today, Museveni and also Kagame still do not want to move. Now there are wealthy men – the ones who own private jets and drive four-by-fours. They are a slightly different breed but they are Big Men nonetheless; with the mannerisms and prejuidices of Big Men. They like their women ‘just so.’

There are other kinds of men in Africa too. Big Men who know when to leave: Look at Ghana, our shining Black Stars. Look at Botswana and even Zambia with its stuttering democratic process.

I know.

I know…There are also ordinary men. The ones whose hearts break when their lovers leave them. The ones who walk to work. The ones who bring sweets home for their children. Some of them are good, but they are not Big Men and so their goodness is inconsequential.

The pride I once had – the pride of a naïve African girl who believed in kings and queens and the beauty of the past – has shrivelled. Ha! I am a bitter woman. Every political leader I ever respected stayed too long and broke too much or was simply too inert – too compromised to be taken seriously. So that by the time the last century was ending, I looked upon them all with a sense of fury and shame. Mandela does not count. He had 27 years to burnish his skin with something no one is allowed to touch. The rest are something else: The misery they heaped on top of the misery colonialism left me ill and tired.

I have no nostalgic feeling for Africa Day though I love Africa for reasons to do with history and oppression and ingenuity even as I know it makes no sense to indulge in this strange kind of nostalgic solidarity. Perhaps knowing this, you will forgive my scepticism about African leaders and my cynicism about the day they have designated for us which we now stretch into a month. I believe in African people even as I have no patience for the Big Men who rule Africa. I do not however, believe Africa Day or month or whatever, has any value.

My whole life, Africa Day has merely provided an excuse for Big Men to talk about the things Big Men like to talk about on days when they feed crowds and give speeches. They do this without irony or shame. The applause soothes their egos. I wonder what it does to their consciences.

Their shamelessness has angered me too much and so I have turned my face away from Africa Day. I have done the same with many other Days. Women’s Day, Youth Day. These are not days for celebration. They are days when our betrayals should be catalogued. They are days that ought to shame those who know how little they have done.

I am tired of Africa Day because I am tired of the many ways in which Africa kills its young. I am tired of news of desperate desert crossings; of the sea turned Red by the blood of those too young to stay. I am tired of the knowledge that we die of Aids because good sex is better than a bad life. I am tired of gay kids who suicide because the rainbow flag won’t protect all their colours.

So really, what can Africa Day mean to the thinking, breathing African who is not part of an economic harem? What can it mean to an African who is not close enough to a Big Sugar Daddy Man to stroke his belly and make him laugh until he releases a few coins? What can Africa Day mean to an African woman who is tired of abusive power and gluttony? What can Africa Day mean if you are sitting in a church where your very existence is a sin in the eyes of a Big Man pastor whose hate-filled prayers drip on your skin like saliva?

On another day I will write about the colonial legacy and how it continues to stalk Africa but today I will not. Today I am writing about the Big Men who are elected and the Big Men who sit on boards, the Big Men in churches and mosques and the Big Men in offices. Today I am writing about their wives and daughters who ask us to celebrate a day that holds no hope because it marks the day when the Organisation of African Unity was formed.

The Organisation of Africa Unity was – like so many of the ideas of the Big Men – a field of dreams that went uncultivated. It made small wins and nurtured symbollic acts and as a consequence, it made little progress. Today, the African Union continues in the same way – tilling fallow land; ignoring areas that are fertile and over-investing in all that is barren.

Africans are moving fast. We are brilliant but the Big Men of Africa are not. With their Unions and their non-existent trading zones, they slow us down and take us backwards. They bury us in paperwork and stamp out our excellence with their rules and heirarchies.

The freedom and forward momentum African people have been able to achieve are a function of our own efforts. After Independence the Big Men simply held their annual meetings and talked too much with their excessive deliberations and their long stays in large hotels where their delegations grazed on hors d’oevres while on the hunt for the flesh of girls and women whom they hoped would not put up a fight.

In rejecting Africa Day as a special day, I have accepted that Africa is not the place Big Men have told us it is. And so my dismissal is not cynical. My refusal to be told when to clap and when to smile and when to open my mouth to eat and when to dance in the blazing sun and how to wrap my wrapper beautifully so that the face of the Big Man who adorns it spreads lovingly across my backside – all of this is a beautiful and considered resistance.

Africa is what I decide it will be. My Africa is full of queers and women, it is crowded with misfits and big mouths and all the people in my Africa are irregular. My Africa is full of everything the Big Men fear.

They are afraid because growth and change and love are frightening and exciting. Big Men quake in the face of all that is new and kind and full of a strange kind of love they cannot comprehend. They prefer order and stability and they live in the version of history they wrote. That version is now obsolete. The Big Men who created Africa Day in their own image in 1963, said they loved us but then they betrayed us and so we – their bastard children – have no need to respect the day they made.

I respect freedom and I respect the future and so I respect the moment in which we live today – if only because it is in this moment – this today – that I find myself free of the adulation of the Big Men of yesterday. I scorn the Big Men and I adore the small people. I hold them up – the women and the men and those who are neither and both; the unemployables, the dissidents. They will show us the future by walking towards it; by refusing to make grand statements. They will not decree days of waste and needless celebration. They will lead the way simply by refusing to be Big Men.

– Sisonke Msimang is a writer and essayist. She also served as the head judge of the Gerald Kraak Prize for 2017 and 2018, and editor of the anthology As You Like It (Jacana, 2018), alongside Mark Gevisser and Sylvia Tamale.

This article was originally published in The Journalist. Follow @TheJournalistSA

Cash heist suspects at Matlala appear in Seshego Magistrate’s court
30 May 2018, 4:02 PM

Six of the seven suspects in the cash heist at Matlala outside Polokwane on Monday have appeared before the Seshego magistrate’s court in Limpopo.

It is not yet clear why the seventh suspect did not appear in court with his co-accused.

The seven were arrested a few hours after they allegedly attacked an SBV cash van and made off with an undisclosed amount of money on the Polokwane-Matlala road on Monday.

The legal representative of five of the suspects told the court that his clients were severely assaulted for hours and forced to make confession statements by the police.

The presiding magistrate has instructed the police to ensure that the suspects who had visible scars on their hands and faces receive medical attention.

The Hawks spokesperson Matimba Maluleke says the circumstances around the seventh suspects who did not appear in court are subject to police investigations.

Meanwhile, police have foiled the latest cash-in-transit heist attempt, this time in the Nkomazi area in south-eastern Mpumalanga. A vehicle rammed the cash vehicle.

Police spokesperson, Mtsholi Bhembe says the security officers escaped unharmed and no money was taken.

“The speedy reaction by police ensured that the suspects only managed to get away with the firearms that were taken away from the security officials, as well as the keys to bakkies. They just fled the scene. Right away police have launched a manhunt for the suspects, and we appeal with anyone with to come forward they can call.”

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Agri SA welcomes passing of National Minimum Wage Act
30 May 2018, 2:12 PM

Agri SA has welcomed the passing of the National Minimum Wage Act by Parliament on Monday as a step toward certainty.

However, the agriculture body says it’s advising stakeholders to exercise caution about the effect the minimum wage will have on financially vulnerable farming operations.

It’s warned that many farming operations are already loss-making through a combination of drought conditions and low international commodity prices.

Agri SA says it will focus on ensuring that all its members are aware of their rights and responsibilities in terms of the Act.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) says it voted against the National Minimum Wage Bill because it has not been subjected to proper public consultations and will push hundreds of thousands of people into unemployment.

It says many provisions contained in the Labour Relations Amendment Bill are a departure from what was agreed at NEDLAC – an objection which many unions made during committee deliberations.

The DA says the voice of organised labour and business have been silenced through what it terms the sideling of NEDLAC. It says the three bills, including the Basic Conditions of Employment Bill do little to improve the labour market in their current form.

“The DA has voted against the National Minimum Wage bill. In reality what we believe in is a minimum wage but not on a universal basis, it should be implemented per sector. In other words, if you look at a particular sector, and see what it can stomach, and what it can use, and that sector itself then becomes the reality – and you don’t loose jobs because they check at what place it can be sustainable,” says DA shadow minister of Labour, Michael Bagraim.

 

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HIV/Aids ribbon
HIV/Aids pandemic rate slowing down
29 May 2018, 2:23 PM

HIV/Aids has had far reaching socio-economic consequences in South Africa, however research indicates that the rate at which the pandemic is infecting the population is slowing down.

The rate declined from 1.9% in 2002 to 0.9% in 2017. South Africa has had the biggest HIV/Aids epidemic in the world.

This has shrunk the labour pool and decreased productivity. Economist says despite the decline in the impact of HIV/Aids, government continues to spend more money on fighting HIV/Aids than other countries.

“Our health care spends a lot higher than other countries. Government’s earning has to spend a lot more money on fighting HIV and other diseases that are coming to the patient like tuberculosis, and as the economy we spend a lot more.

“The second thing is the life expectancy in South Africa is the 14th lowest in the world and that also is contributed by HIV/Aids and that means there’s not enough time to recuperate in Investments and Education,” says Economist Mike Schussler.

Mexico fail to break down Wales
29 May 2018, 1:47 PM

Mexico failed to turn possession and pressure into goals as they were held 0-0 by Wales in a World Cup warm-up at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California on Monday.

Mexico, who have been drawn in Group F alongside Germany, Sweden and South Korea at next month’s tournament in Russia, created a host of chances but could not find a way past Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.

Brothers Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos put the Welsh goal under pressure in the closing stages after coming off the bench in the second half but could not beat Hennessey.

Wales, who missed out on qualification for the World Cup, were playing without Gareth Bale after he helped Real Madrid to the Champions League trophy on Saturday and managed just one shot on goal.

Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio, who has yet to name his final 23-man squad for the World Cup, will hope his side find their scoring touch when the face Scotland in another friendly at the weekend.

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