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FEATURE: From Queenstown to the world, Siphokazi Jonas shares her poetry and theatre journey
11 July 2020, 3:03 PM

Creatives Under Lockdown is a SABC News feature that focuses on issues affecting artists. This week poet, writer, and director Siphokazi Jonas shares her journey.

 

Poet Siphokazi Jonas. Instagram@Siphokazi_J.

The theatre production #WeAreDyingHere which is currently streaming online confronts the prevalence of Gender-based Violence in South Africa.

It is a response to the people that have been dying at the hands of their partners, the abuse and rape culture in the country which has seen some people take to social media to voice their anger and frustration.

Producer and writer of the poetry and music production, Siphokazi Jonas, says it is a result of the despair that she was feeling as more women were being killed.

“It was an idea that came to me in 2019, after the death of Uyinene (Mrwetyana) and a number of women who then trended under different hashtags. I think for a lot of us, especially women in South Africa, felt this deep sense of fear and hopelessness that we were not being heard, nothing concrete is being done about gender-based violence in South Africa. But above all, it was this overwhelming sense of despair in many of us left with the question, am I next?”

University of Cape Town student, Uyinene Mrwetyana was raped and murdered by a post office employee, Luyanda Botha in August 2019. He dumped her body in an open field in Khayelitsha, Western Cape, and set it alight. Botha is now serving a life sentence and will not be eligible for parole for 25 years.

Jonas says the production is an opportunity to express feelings brought about by these incidents.

“As a writer, I wondered how I could speak to that particular void. At first, I did not feel that the arts could have anything to say because the reality of our situation seemed so overwhelmingly grim. But after a conversation with a friend, she helped me understand that it is not just about changing the behaviour of the perpetrator for example, that when we have these artistic interventions we have an opportunity to articulate or help ourselves articulate our own stories and to express what we are really feeling and that, for me, was a beautiful point of departure.”

 

Production 

Jonas is no stranger to dealing with issues affecting women through her work.  Around the Fire, which she wrote and produced started as a series of poems in 2015 and turned into full production.  The production, which follows the stories of three women in Cape Town, ended up being featured at the Artscape Spiritual Festival.

“It was an interesting narrative. I had interviewed three women in Cape Town who told me their stories and it speaks to homelessness in Cape Town. It speaks to, you know, class issues. There is this one character who has to move from the flats to UCT and she is assaulted in that space and she is negotiating a number of different things, and what it means to have women having relationships and building a sense of community, coming from different backgrounds. So, they sit around this fire on a winter night and share their stories.”

Jonas is also the first of many. She is the first African poet to perform at the spoken word event Rhetoric in the United States; the first Cape Town Ultimate Slam champion; and she was the headline of the first South African Poetry Tour. She says performing at the Rhetoric was a dream come true.

“That was certainly what felt like a once in a lifetime experience. First of all, going to perform at Rhetoric, the platform itself when I had spent so many years watching their material and being a fan of so many of the poets. I remember how excited we were when they came to South Africa for the first time. It is really unforgettable because there is something about having like 3 500 people in this massive church who love poetry and are here to support it and the poets.”

 

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Focused.

A post shared by Siphokazi Jonas (@siphokazi_j) on

Stage journey

Jonas’ stage journey began when she played a hippo in a Grade 4 Noah’ Ark school play. She spent most of her childhood days in Queenstown, Eastern Cape at the library.

“I think my love of art has been with me because my parents were in a choir. My mom was a choir conductor and my dad was in the choir. I come from a very musical family. Unfortunately, I did not pick up a lot of that. Musically, it is very average. But I was surrounded by it in that way.”

Jonas is currently busy together with two other writers, working on an animated feature for young teenage girls.

“I am hoping to do some television writing as well. You may see my name on some credits in the next year or so depending on how things go with the coronavirus. We would like to take #WeAreDyingHere on tour.”

The production #WeAreDyingHere will be streaming online until 13 July.

Interesting facts about Siphokazi Jonas

Q:  Who is your favourite writer or poet?

A: It shifts, but right now: Gabeba Baderoon. 

Q: What career would you have chosen had you not been an artist? 

A: Inventor

Q: What inspires you?

A: Humans being at their best and being invested in the wellbeing of others.

Q: What is your biggest regret?

A: That I didn’t believe in my abilities as an artist sooner.

Below is a podcast with Siphokazi Jonas:

Related: Part 1Starving artist’ a more meaningful phrase amid lockdown

Related: Part 2: ‘I don’t know myself outside my world of acting’

Related: Part 3:  Letshego Zulu on fitness under lockdown 

Related: Part 4: Uzalo’s Wiseman Mncube shares his journey

Related: Part 5: Artists advised to spend prudently in order to survive rainy days

Related:  Part 6: Thabo Malema on the new enemy, his dream and COVID-19

Related: Part 7: Musician Tribute Mboweni on her collaboration with DJ Ganyani

Related : Part 8: Musician Shade on life as an independent artist

Related: Part 9:  Kabelo Letshwene talks about fine art

 

13 674 new coronavirus cases recorded in SA, 129 more deaths
9 July 2020, 10:09 PM

South Africa has recorded 13 674 new coronavirus cases bringing the total number infections to 238 339.

A further 129 COVID-19 related deaths have been reported. “One from Northern Cape, 26 from KwaZulu-Natal, 28 from Eastern Cape, 37 from Gauteng and 37 from Western Cape,” says the Department of Health in a statement.

The Department has also corrected an error from yesterday’s statistics. “We also indicate that the current total deaths in Limpopo is 33 (not 44 as reported yesterday). This was a data interpretation error which has been corrected. Reallocation has since been done and we have confirmed the current total with the province.”

The total number of COVID-19 related deaths now stands at 3 720. “We convey our condolences to the loved ones of the departed and thank the health care workers who treated the deceased. “

The number of recoveries is 113 061, which translates to a recovery rate of 47. 4%.

The Health Minister has also noted that the country has reached another milestone. More than two million tests have now been conducted in South Africa.

Court allows prosecutor access to Trump’s financial records
9 July 2020, 10:00 PM

 The United States Supreme Court has ruled that a New York Prosecutor can have access to President Donald Trump’s financial records as part of a grand jury criminal investigation, pouring cold water on assertions that the President enjoyed absolute immunity while in office. 

In a second ruling, the nine Justices denied Congress access to Trump’s tax returns, for now. In both cases the Court decided by a seven-two majority to send the Congressional case back to the lower courts for more consideration of significant separation of powers concerns while deciding that a New York Prosecutor’s subpoena can also be further litigated on the merits. 

What the Court did critically decide is that the President does not enjoy, as his lawyers put forward, absolute immunity, ruling that the Manhattan District Attorney may see Mr. Trump’s tax returns and financial records but that the President can still fight the subpoena in lower courts on the merits. 

“It’s a critical takeaway because the President’s attorneys argued that as President of the United States he had absolute immunity while he was in office and the court rejected that because under two prior cases, important landmark cases, the Nixon case in which President Nixon tried to hide, or he didn’t want to disclose the tapes in the White House and the Court there said he did not have immunity and that led to his resignation.

And similarly, President Clinton tried to hide documents in the sexual harassment case against Paula Jones and in that case, as well that was used in his impeachment trial. So there are precedents for this. What is remarkable about this case was that the two prior cases, the Clinton and the Nixon cases, the courts were unanimous,” Professor Penelope Andrews of New York Law School explains.

Separation of powers 

 In the Congressional subpoena’s case, which sought the President’s records as part of three investigations into whether Mr Trump had manipulated his financial statement to avoid tax obligations, possible money laundering through property deals and whether he was vulnerable to foreign influence, the Justices sent the question back down to lower courts to consider the question of separation of powers between Congress and the Executive.

 “The question of separation of powers obviously is very, very important, the bedrock of the American constitution and government. What the court is saying is, they’re not saying Congress never has the right to seek that information but they must provide justification and in the lower courts, the Congress had not demonstrated sufficiently justification for the subpoena and once of the justifications is that it is required to enact legislation so it was a defeat for Congress with respect to the here and now of these Congressional hearings but it’s not a defeat with respect to overall immunity and the right of Congress to seek testimony and to seek documents from the President through a subpoena.” 

The Manhattan DA case related to hush-money payments made to two women who claimed sexual relations with Mr. Trump, a possible violation of campaign finance laws. With all sides claiming an element of victory, in practical terms, it’s more complex than and win or a loss.

“Both sides have had victory but for some, it’s a temporary victory, so for the President, it’s a temporary victory, in the Manhattan DA cause the Supreme Court has said it goes down to the lower court and the president still has the opportunity as in every case in which there’s a subpoena to fight against the relevance and the details of the subpoena, so it’s a temporary thing, of course, the Manhattan DA has won on the legal principle but practically it means that the President’s financial records may not be disclosed to the American public for a very long time.

Similarly with the Congress, the President has a victory here with respect to the Congress but it’s a temporary victory because the court has not said that Congress never has the right to obtain this information, the Court has basically said you justify it before the lower courts and you did not do that.” 

In the video below, is a discussion on the ruling:

A victory for the rule of law 

In a nutshell, the documents will not be released anytime soon, certainly not ahead of November’s election. While President Trump complained on Twitter that this was a political prosecution, not fair to his administration and that the Supreme Court had in the past given broad deference to Presidents, but not him, Professor Andrews says both decisions were a victory for the rule of law.

 “He’s wrong, the absolutely wrong, it’s not the first time he’s wrong, he’s wrong on the law. As I said the Clinton case and the Nixon case are precedents, the idea that the Supreme Court is very clear about the limits of Presidential immunity. They’ve said the President is not above the law. “ 

President Trump had long promised the release of his tax returns but has fought tooth and nail to keep them secret. The Supreme Court’s decision is now making his position far more tenuous than before. 

The enigma of Mandela’s foreign policy
9 July 2020, 9:19 PM

As part of celebrating Mandela Month, the Nelson Mandela Foundation announced that this year’s Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture will be delivered by the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, António Guterres on the 18th of July 2020.

The appropriateness of the choice of the guest speaker is also a stark reminder of the time Mandela consumed at platforms of the multilateral body in pursuit of South Africa’s foreign policy.

Speaking as president of the African National Congress (ANC) at the UN in 1993 about his country’s desired foreign policy, Mandela said, “South Africa’s future foreign relations will be based on our belief that human rights should be the core concern of international relations, and we are ready to play a role in fostering peace and prosperity in the world we share with the community of nations”.

As head of state, Mandela seamlessly and effortlessly adapted both soft and hard power diplomacies to achieve this foreign policy objective. Under Mandela, South Africa’s diplomats in 1995 facilitated key agreements among well-known nuclear powers and the developing world for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

Therefore, other areas in its foreign policy for which South Africa was applauded included the non-proliferation and disarmament of weapons of mass destruction and conventional weapons, including landmines. The government viewed this as an extension of its commitment to social justice, human rights and democracy.

SA’s reconstruction

In the UN, Mandela found an appropriate platform to further his vision. It must also be noted that Mandela put up a fight at the UN in 1995, albeit one which he lost, arguing that the South African government was not liable for an apartheid government’s debt of US$ 2.65 billion at the time.

Speaking as a debutant state president at the General Assembly, Mandela appealed to all UN members to continue their interest in his country although this time it would be to better the conditions of the lives of South Africans – black and white.

Following this appeal, the UN, subsequent to the General Assembly resolution 48/258, encouraged its members to assist South Africa’s reconstruction and socio-economic plans. At the 1995 United Nations Women’s Conference in Beijing, South Africa, under the stewardship of Mandela and his quest to protect human rights for all, came out strongly against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

This stance did not go down well with some fellow African delegates who opposed  South Africa for raising the topic of sexual orientation. South Africa downed the opposition off explaining that its constitution barred discrimination on sexual orientation grounds.

Firm diplomatic tactics 

Whereas he was a firm beliver in negotiations and pursuation as forms of diplomacy, or soft power, history records that Mandela did not shy away from applying strong-arm diplomatic tactics when a situation demanded.

Nigeria’s military ruler, General Sani Abacha was among the first recipients of Madiba’s “other” diplomatic side. Following the execution of Ogoniland activist Ken Saro Wiwa by the military junta, Madiba led the charge which resulted in the suspension of Nigeria from the Commonwealth, and even demanded diplomatic isolation plus economic sanctions against the oil-rich nation.

As an example, Mandela withdrew South Africa’s High Commissioner from Nigeria. Contestant Toyin Enitan Raji was also forced to withdraw from the Miss World peagant held at Sun City, South Africa, hours after being awarded the Miss Personality title of the contest.

This followed pressure applied by track two diplomacy activists in South Africa. This fallout between South Africa and Nigeria also played out in the Soccer Diplomacy field.

That Bafana Bafana won the 1996 Afcon is a celebrated milestone in South African soccer history. However, for Nigeria and the Super Eagles soccer squad fans, Neil Tovey lifted the cup because the defending champions opted to snub the competition. Nigeria’s absence from the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations was effectively because of Madiba’s diplomacy.

Abacha claimed to be concerned about his players’ safety, while in diplomatic circles it was interpreted as a reaction to Mandela’s campaign to get Nigeria isolated for executing Saro-Wiwa and eight other dissidents.

Economic diplomacy 

Whereas Mandela’s foreign policy may have concentrated on mending relations and establishing new ones with the international community, under Madiba, South Africa quickly directed its international engagements towards a solid economic diplomacy component.

Its intentions were to increase investment and trade, including information technology cooperation. There also was a notable output of economic and financial resources towards African governments and programs. To illustrate this, South Africa signed the Abuja Treaty in 1997 thereby committing itself to the policy of strengthening African integration through regional economic communities (RECs).

While Zimbabwe and Angola had committed troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1998, Mandela, as chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), opted for regional summits to discuss a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the country. He had after all facilitated the negotiations between Mobutu Sese Seko and Laurent Kabila.

However, Mandela’s opposition to military intervention was later reversed and he offered his support to Angola and Zimbabwe. During the conflict in the DRC, South Africa was in the midst of formulating its foreign policy on its involvement in international peace missions.

Towards the end of 1998, the guiding document in this regard was the White Paper on South African Participation in Peace Missions. The White Paper was succinct on the subject as it declared that “South Africa will therefore support the United Nations and, where relevant, the Organisation of African Unity and the Southern African Development Community by making an appropriate contribution to international peace missions”.

Backed by legislation on its side, South Africa pulled all stops to ensure peace in the DRC. Mandela had always argued that South Africa opts for hard power in order to protect human rights. In those instances, Mandela would nevertheless still seek consensus for such actions.

“To supply arms to Rwanda was influenced by humanitarian consideration that people who are unarmed are going to be victims of that army which is operating outside the borders”, said Mandela, adding with emphasis that “but that decision was taken in consultation with the leaders in that region”.

Intervention in other countries 

Meanwhile in September 1998, Madiba maintained that South Africa’s armed forces, accompanied by Botswana Defence Force soldiers, intervened in Lesotho “to ensure that there is peace and stability, so that the Basotho themselves can now sit down and explore a political solution”.

Arguing for a negotiated political settlement, Mandela said “our belief is that issues of this nature can’t be settled through military intervention”. This, after South Africa had initially arbitrated diplomatically, setting up a commission made up of regional legal specialists led by South African Justice Pius Langa, to assess Lesotho’s opposition parties claims that the ruling Lesotho Congress of Democrats had rigged elections.

According to Mandela, South Africa believed in “peaceful solutions”, however added that, “whether we’re going to continue with that policy indefinitely must depend on the reality on the ground”. He conceded that force was used, but only after peaceful interventions failed.

This was despite SADC ‘not having a working procedure to handle a crisis situation of this nature’. The aforementioned demonstrate the paradoxical nature of Mandela’s international relations.

Nevertheless, the events reveal that Mandela’s foreign policy  adapted the use of hard power tactical interventions in order to create conducive conditions for soft power diplomacy.

By CEO of Institute of Foreign Affairs – Mpho Tsedu

SAA BRPs lose bid to appeal retrenchments ruling, two unions chuffed
9 July 2020, 8:47 PM

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) have welcomed the decision by the Labour Appeal Court to dismiss the appeal launched by the SAA Business Rescue Practitioners (BRPs). 

The practitioners wanted the court to set aside the Labour Court’s decision, barring them from proceeding with retrenchments at SAA without a Business Rescue Plan.

In May, the court found that the proposed retrenchment at the airline was procedurally unfair. It then instructed SAA and BRPs Siviwe Dongwana and Les Matuson to withdraw the retrenchment notice. 

The Labour Appeal Court has upheld that decision, which found that Section 136(1) or Chapter 6 of the Companies Act does not empower a business rescue practitioner to lay off employees without a business rescue plan. 

 “How do you consult on retrenchment when there is no plan? How do you know where to cut costs? That is senseless. It must be guided by the plan. The business rescue plan is the central vehicle for deciding this,” says the unions’ legal representative Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC. 

Importance of the judgement 

Numsa and Sacca say the case is important for setting down clear guidelines for BRPs.

“There are many companies which have filed for business rescue in South Africa, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason. This judgment effectively means that BRPs may not be used by employers to prune the business by cutting jobs, and the fundamental challenges threatening the company’s survival must be addressed in the BR plan.”

They have urged business practitioners to adhere to the law.

“We are pleased that the LAC found in our favour. It was important for us as unions to defend the decision of the Labour Court because BRPs are not a law unto themselves. They cannot be given unfettered power to simply cut jobs as they wish, without adhering to the law which governs their existence. Numsa and Sacca continue to drive an agenda for the working class, by putting the interests of workers and their families’ first. This court victory is another example of our commitment to defending workers and protecting their rights. 

Severance packages 

On Tuesday, six major labour unions and the government reached an agreement with regard to severance packages for SAA employees. Unions say the airline will retain 1 000 employees and a further 1 000 will go on a training and layoff scheme.

Training will take place through SETAS.

In the video below, Hlubi–Majola says they are pleased that more jobs will be retained:

Weather

 

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