Thursday, 24 February 2011

No happy endings in real life.

The late Teddy Pendergrass once said, “life is a song worth singing”, but when I look at what is happening in the world and around me, he couldn’t be more wrong. Life seems to be a song one has to sing because there is no choice. I have seen people struggle their whole life. A friend of mine Michael was born to a loving family, they were a God fearing family that goes to church every Sunday. I remember vividly they were the envy of many as they use to wear look alike suits (suits were really rare for kids in our community in late 70’s to early eighties.

Mike was Fourteen years his brother Hloni and Tumi were 11 and 9 respectively and younger sister Nono was a baby.  One rainy afternoon their mother was struck by lightning and their house was burnt down to ashes. The family member had to share kids as their father was working for Johannesburg mining companies that kept only men in hostels. Mike was sent to live with her Gogo (grand mother) from his mother’s side. Like most men, their father discovered a new woman and later moved in with her. He was no longer going home to visit his kids. When Michael was 18 he came to work in the mines like his father. He didn’t do much to uplift his siblings either, and it was not long before bad luck struck again. He was retrenched for joining a union (NUM) and went to sit at home. His siblings were still living separate lives like strangers even worshiping at different churches.

I know this because I went to initiation school with one of his young brothers by then he was trying to reopen their neglected home, which still bore the scars of lighting that struck years ago. Mike wanted them to be a family again as he worked as a seasonal worker in Cape farms. During off-season he got another job as a security guard for Security Company that was transporting money. He was given a day off one Monday and on that Monday his colleagues were ambushed and undisclosed amount of money was taken. He was the prime suspect because he was not on duty. He was never convicted, but he lost his job anyway.

He had to stay with a relative and he seemed fine even though at his age he was uneasy. Their relatives had lost faith in them even though they were still good people. Unfortunately a relative he was living with also passed away and she was a widow and had no kids. He was forced to leave as the relatives were fighting over the house, but another relative took him in. It was not long before news broke out. The wife of that relative was pregnant and Michael was the father. He went to ground for sometime.

Sometimes God can see when you are desperate, a big supermarket chain called Boxer soon employed him. Three years later he lost his job under unclear circumstances that he doesn’t want to discuss with anyone. By then he had build a life for himself and his younger sister. By then he was married with a kid. He was back to square one, but now there were two more mouths to feed. Forced to reopen their home with the hope that they will make it. His wife became a hard working hawker in Town. Luck was still on his side. He got the job in the farms outside of Cape Town and he was looking after his family well and in the process of stopping to drink. One evening I received a depressing call from him he wanted us to me as he was coming to Tygerburg Hospital for a check up. I agreed and I was living just a stone throw away from the hospital in the nearby Parow Valley. He was diagnosed with Throat cancer. This was so advanced that the hospital applied for grant on his behalf and order him to stop smoking and stop working.

The only good news is that he is still alive living on the meagre grant with wife and 3 kids. The kind of life they live thought them to be independent, but no one went to school beyond standard 7 (grade 9). He is depressed drinking cheap home brew beer to forget about his worries that he wake up to daily. The circle continues as his kids are already struggling to pay school fees.
Will there be a happy ending I don’t think so. This is just one case there are worse cases in rural South Africa.

Monday, 21 February 2011

MAT is still boiling under

The most talk about topic in 2010 was not the public servants strike which was suppose to hog the fast lane, but the Media Tribunal.

The ANC led government rightly feels that the media is focusing on what is wrong instead of building the young democracy (I am not sure for how long will it remain young) I am personally not against discussing any issue that will help shape our democracy especially our media. Our media is elitist by its nature as a result if you start an African language newspaper it is likely to drawn and die.

The ANC saw this, but instead of finding new ways to improve the mechanisms that exist they went for the new Animal called “MAT”
What makes this animal scary is that some of the ANC cadres are calling it a done deal why waste our time fighting it. At Wits University debate on media tribunal Joe Tlholoe said something very important. He said in 5-10 year time even ICASA will be useless, so this debate is already  “obsolete”.

It is the truth that cannot be disputed that our media is elitist and focuses on the elite. This has to change some how but cannot be achieved by putting gun on the media via tribunal. Jackson Mthembu said there would be no need to amend the Constitution to accommodate the MAT. As a Chapter five institution MAT somehow will need Constitutional amendment to function well, what was he thinking?

The media need to stop being defensive and listen out and take what is useful in the debate and try and implement it trough Ombudsman. Thanks goodness they are busy doing that. (Apparently the ANC only wished them luck) The ANC Government must stop using 2 thirds Majority to push down our throats what ever they think is right for our consumption.

Public Transport in Gauteng

Gauteng province in South Africa is one of the most congested provinces in Africa if not the world. It is has a World-class city (Johannesburg) in Africa. Prior to the world cup a lot of upgrade was done to the airport rail and roads.  The government was taking responsibility and credit for all the upgrades, but for some strange reason they left that responsibility to a private company when it comes to the roads after the World Cup. Now the private company is doing every thing to extort money as quickly as possible from road users by installing expensive tollgates on all the roads that have been upgraded. They even proudly told road users that government is not part of it any more (literally saying Drivers you are on your own) . Now the country is up in arms fighting back, but just like Mubarak our leaders are far removed from the sufferings of their people. The minister of Transport Minister Sbusiso Ndebele even suggested that we use Public transport which they failed upgrade since they took over from white government as well.

South Africa has badly managed and maintained public transport with major transport Railway and taxi the riskiest modes of transport one can ever think of.
For government to consider tolling the public roads the public transport upgrade should be their main priority. This would help to releave some pressure from the national roads.

Most roads that are in dire need of repairs in Gauteng are municipal roads, what this tolling system will do to them is to divert traffic away from national roads to these municipal roads putting unnecessary pressure on them . Municipalities are already struggling to maintain them but  money recovered from new e-talling won’t be used to repair these roads even though they will be under stress as a direct results of them.There is no question that we need better roads and that they don’t come cheap, but when the price of driving around you city become so expensive it defeats the purpose of a developing economy.

The impact of the e-talling with directly lead to high prices as we know in South Africa Tracks transport everything including coal on our roads. These prices of transport will be passed on to consumers thus leading to higher inflation.
Underpaid workers who depend on Public transport that the minister says we should consider, as an alternative will bore the brunt of these tollgates, as no Taxi owner will want to forfeit their profits. Trains are unsafe; as they are already not coping with pick hour passengers. You can see passenger hanging in opened door between carriages even on top.

The government seems to be detached from this and very soon municipal elections are coming. I hope they pull wool over our heads until elections and retreat to their safe suburbs, as all this does not affect them