Tag Archive: Khayelitsha


spag

i do not have adequate words to describe last nite.

i am scared that the ones i use will do it injustice as there is no adequate way to capture what went down at our home as some friends from Sybrand Park, Khayelitsha, Kayamandi, Wynberg, Nyanga, Manenberg and Southfield came together for a meal and some intense conversation.

Spaghetti is a contradiction food all in itself. It is NOT good first date food. It is messy and at some point in the evening someone is going to have to catch your eye and give a nervous cough and indicate that you have some food on your face, or your clothes, or lap.

And that’s kind of how the conversation went. It was messy. And this is probably one of the greatest things that we as South Africans need to learn. MESSY IS OKAY. Messy is necessary and so is uncomfortable and awkward and even angry and confused and devastated. We will not move forwards until we can start having those conversations comfortably, or uncomfortably, so to speak. Both at a political leadership level but also maybe more importantly at a grass roots, neighbour level.

messi

Step one was the phone basket. As you arrive to have a meal with us, you turn your phone off and add it to the basket as a symbol of your commitment to be unplugged and engaged with us for the evening.

Step two was a simple meal. i mean a really delicious and amazing meal that tbV put together including garlic bread and delicious salad and tasty spaghetti, but nothing crazy fancy beyond that. People brought drinks if they could and we shared a meal together.

Step three was introductions. Not even tbV and i knew everyone as one of our friends brought a mate with him, but each person at the meal knew at least one other person. We had an even mix of black and white but from all kinds of backgrounds and current story situations. With this particular meal, we were looking at diving a little more deeply into the idea of race and location and boundary and so you were invited to tell us a little bit about yourself and where you live and why you live there.

As that process happened, people interrupted with questions and clarifications and we got joyfully sidetracked on to deeper conversations of different aspects of race and privilege and prejudice. A lot of laughter. Some silence – a moment after one of our friends stopped talking and tbV wisely said that, ‘The white in me wants to respond and fix and make sense and explain and speak to what you have just said. But I think I just need to listen and let it sink in and really hear and sit with it for a while.’ And so as a room we sat with it for a while. And it was a little awkward and a little uncomfortable [for me, maybe not at all for everyone else or maybe even more so, i don’t know] And then we continued.

There was a lot of passion that erupted. It definitely felt like there were some ‘I have a dream’ speech moments where heart just completely overflowed and it was intense but beautiful. And challenging. There was a strong moment of one participant saying, ‘I feel the same way as you’ and being challenged boldly back. “Where did your children go to school? Oh really, well then they had that choice. How can you possibly feel like me?” Privilege exposed and named in a powerfully tense but amazing moment. At the end of the evening the two of them ended up in a car together as the one gave the other a ride home.

i definitely learnt some things. One of the things i learnt was that for many years the line “Education is the answer” has been held as the carrot before the proverbial horse as if black people just need to educate themselves and get a university degree and then everything will be okay. Apartheid put them on the educational back foot and so one of the ways of overturning that part of the past was through education and lifting oneself out of it. But last night we heard stories of people with masters degrees manning petrol pumps, unable to find work. And that is the story for a large number of people. Education alone has proved to not be the answer. There are much bigger things in play.

i felt hugely uncomfortable. One thing that made me feel uncomfortable was the moment i drove into our driveway with Nkosi and his friend Monde who i had picked up at the taxi rank. Having visited Nkosi and understanding a little of his home situation in Khayelitsha, the thought of him seeing the absolute luxury i live in, was a difficult thought. But it was later on during the story telling when one of our friends shared how 32 of them [not a typo!] lived in a three bedroom house, that i was just blown away. i feel like i have had an idea of poverty and the idea that a lot of people are squeezed into small space so maybe 6, 7, 8 people in a room. 32 people in three rooms. i cannot get my head around that. There are reasons why we live where we live right now which are completely valid. But there are also some inherent contradictions that are part of it as well. At the moment, while we live here, there is the absolute commitment to use the space we have for life-changing transformative conversations like we believe happened last night.

Step four was really just picking up threads that had come out of the introductions and conversation that preceded. But to be honest, the richness of last night was in hearing peoples’ stories and challenges and ideas about where the country needed to go. By the time we got past introductions, i think it must have been 11pm [four hours since starting the meal] and we wrapped up just around 12. One of my highlights of the evening was our one friend who had to be somewhere at 8 and then just got so completely invested that he skipped his other function and was one of the last two people helping clean up after midnight, when i returned from giving someone a ride home.

What’s next is more of these dinners. Having done two now [both going for more than four hours of intense conversation, the previous one being conversations around church] tbV and i have realised that as amazing as they are, they are also really tiring and so probably won’t be moving them to once a week happenings just yet. But once a month feels manageable. We want to have one around money/economics and we are thinking about doing one around marriage. And then we’ll see from there. The next one will happen after we get back from the USA which will be July so maybe end July. If you’re interested in being part of one, let us know. That doesn’t necessarily mean you will be, but it’s good to know who is interested.

i also chatted to Nkosi this morning and he was saying how last night was great and the next step is to get a black church and a white church together and host a conversation like that. i am super amped to do that. So that is something we will chat about and hopefully look to doing later on in the year. If you’re a church leader and interested, let me know. That could really be ultimately country-changing.

These dinners are not the solution to anything. But they are an incredible catalyst for change. i was sitting there last night thinking, ‘This does not happen naturally. Not a lot anyways.’ It needs to be a little intentional and it is likely to always start off a little bit awkwardly. But what if more and more South Africans [because one of our participants from last night is going to be doing something similar with his mates tonite] decided to be more intentional about Deeper Conversation meal times [on whatever topics] and started hosting meals and bringing different people together?

Arguments on Facebook [with the lack of tone that being online robs you of] can only go so far. tbV and i have decided that if you have a strong argument against something that we say or do then sit across from us at a dinner table and let’s talk about it face to face. If we are truly grappling about something [church, race, money, marriage] then let’s commit to an evening together with people who think differently and see what can be learned. Let’s learn to listen together and let’s encourage each other to speak boldly and honestly.

Let’s eat spaghetti on our first date and let’s be bold and realise that we need Messi in our team.

i want to have a positive influence on the state of our nation. This feels like one good way to get started.

Read Nkosi Gola’s reflections on the meal…

Read Brian van Zuydam’s reflections on the meal…

Take in my wife, Val’s thoughts about the evening…

Some related thoughts from my mate, Portal Pete…

Babalwa Nyangeni adds some of her reflections…

Who else is up for giving this a try? i would LOVE to hear how it goes…

flag[For some more ideas of how to move towards progress in South Africa, click here]

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Avuyile

Hi, my name is Avuyile Tu, I hail from Khayelitsha, originally from the Eastern Cape from a small town called Lady Frere. I studied a B Com degree from the University of the Western Cape, majored in Economics and management. Currently I am employed as an assistant finance manager here in Cape Town. I am the first born son at home; I am a Christian, passionate about Christ and serving my people. I write poetry on the side for relaxation and trying to voice out the pain of the nation.

In today’s South Africa, everyone is deemed to be free and lives in a democratic society. To be free means freedom of speech, one can enter places which were specifically classified for different races under the regime of apartheid.

Now that is all said and done, but the real question is, are we all really free? This now presents a challenging and very sensitive topic to many, who assume if one brings this topic up; they push an agenda of violence and racism. Put bluntly, South Africa today is a free country as compared to the apartheid era and that is a commendable achievement, however, the disheartening factor is that a large majority of the population still live in sub-standard and poor conditions.

It is a phenomenon which one cannot easily miss as it is a big problem for the country. After two decades of freedom and democracy, many of the country’s residents (mainly black), still live in poor conditions. Everywhere around the country you will find people living in unhygienic conditions, without electricity, proper housing, water and sanitation. They struggle to make ends meet and they live in informal settlements so as to be closer to their places of employment.

This brings us to a statement that may seem biased, however, to many it may ring true (many referring to the majority of the people in question). While the whole world may see South Africa as a free country, not all its citizens are free entirely free. Freedom is no freedom if one is inhibited and limited to only certain and few choices and liberties in life. It is commendable that today people from all races are able to mix; it is commendable that we all have access to the same institutions of higher learning but for some it requires more sacrifice to just gain access to such liberties. While the South African constitution lists a whole lot of human rights, many can barely enjoy benefits to basic health, proper housing and sanitation. If one could take a tour through Khayelitsha, one can really begin to understand and to experience the atrocities left behind by the apartheid legacy.

Furthermore, some parts around Khayelitsha still have no proper houses; service delivery is so slow that these areas are prone to violent service delivery protest all year round. Now others may view this as hooliganism but if one would take a moment so as to understand the heart and pain felt by the black living in these conditions, one cannot help but feel their pain. The plight of the people living in these conditions is so dire it can be likened to those suffered and experienced by the people of Zimbabwe during their recent economic recession. (No offence to Zim citizens)

In contrast to the standard of living and the conditions in which the people of Khayelitsha are facing, one would find that the residents of a place like Camps Bay for example, live in a world totally different to that of Khayelitsha. Now the question arises, why would you make a comparison between these two areas? The answer is simple; one is “predominantly” a white area and the other a black area. According to Poswa (2008), “it is estimated that the proportion of people living in poverty in South Africa has not changed significantly between 1996 and 2001. In fact, households living in poverty and the gap between rich and poor have widened.” We all know that the majority of the country’s race is black (about 72% and about 6% white, check stassa) which then translate to a large proportion of the country’s poor. So the above said further encapsulates the main focal point, that white people and black people are still not equal, especially when it comes to economic freedom.

If one could conduct a quick study of the richest people in the country, you will notice that list of those people is dominated by white people. We do acknowledge the growth in the number of black people climbing out of poverty, but what about the vast majority that still has to go through the vicious cycle left behind by the apartheid legacy? Now whether we choose to be ignorant and say that black South Africans are lazy or look at the real factor, that one can never attain total freedom without economic freedom. Furthermore, with the current government, it does not help in the plight of the black nation as it acts in ways that further entrench the legacy and the institutions left behind by the apartheid legacy.

It is sad to be stopped by an armed response patrol unit in a white suburb area and asked what is your business in the area but take the very same person you went to visit to a black community that person will not even once be stopped and searched or asked. It is also disturbing that you have a mother of 4, leaving the house every day at 4:30 just to be at the workplace at 7am. She has to contend with muggers along the way, public transport delays just to make it on time and work 8-12 hours just to R100 for the day but the employer is able to pay that same minimum wage for a meal and pay the waiter R50 tip. From that money she has to have transport fare, food for the kids and other household essentials, there is also tuition and school uniform that she also has to factor in.

Poswa (2008) further argues:

In the City of Cape Town, like the rest of South Africa, there are vast disparities between the wealthiest communities comfortable first world conditions and the poorest, who live in conditions similar to the worst found in developing countries mainly determined by broad socio-economic and environmental factors such as income, sanitation, rather than the availability of health services, it is not surprising that there are gross health inequalities resulting from the history of apartheid. (.p.3)

Now the violent service delivery protests that are showed on the news almost every day are a culmination of the black people’s frustrations with regards to their living conditions. If we continue to ignore all the warning signs, if we continue to turn a blind eye to the plight of the black nation, many atrocities will continue to happen. It is much like the West in helping the African nations affected by the Ebola pandemic, no one has moved because it will not benefit them in any way. We may have the majority seats in parliament but that does not to absolute power as the white many still holds economic power. We have inherited a system that supports and drives the ideas of a white, which ensures he lives a life of comfort at the expense of the black nation.

To rectify and eradicate all the inequity between the people, proper justice should be done which is land restitution. In that way we shall fulfil a section of the constitution that says the people of this country shall share in the wealth of this country. Ideas as to how this can be done I have not formulated yet, however, let us give each other true justice. One needs to remember that with true justice there is pain and sacrifice. As the other party gains what was lost, the other lets go of what they gained unfairly. This does not purport violence against the white people but rather that the white man can listen and hear the cry of the black man. It is preconceived ideas and the feeling of superiority that led to this mess, now it is time to enter through the veil of neutrality and level the playing field.

[Other posts looking at First Steps towards a Truly New and United South Africa, click here]

[For other South Africa-related posts on my blog, click here]

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