Archive | February, 2016

Free Gender Khayalitsha Is Cape Town’s Fierce And Brave Voice Of Black Woman’s Bodies By Cheryl Roberts

26 Feb

Free Gender Khayalitsha is not only an NPO (a not for profit organisation) but a fierce, brave, critical home for black non-heterosexual women. Free Gender was never founded on the thought of being an NGO/NPO to ‘attract funding, especially foreign donors’, but as a pivotal need for black lesbian community to have a place known as a comfortable and safe home.

While many funding-dependent NGO’s have been and are struggling to survive and organise, this is not so with Free Gender. For sure, they battle to administer and work without money, but answering to foreign donors and national funders and sponsors is not their mandate or reason for their existence. For this community-rooted black woman’s voice, it is protection of black women’s lives and bodies which matters most.

Formed over 6 years ago in Khayalitsha, on the Cape Flats by battle-weary and resilient human rights activist, Funeka Soldaat, Free Gender gave hope and freedom to young black women and black people to know and believe that they could and should exist in South Africa on their terms, according to their sexuality and lifestyles.

Because Free Gender was never founded on foreign donor and funding allocations, the doors of this fierce and strong community voice are never threatened by closure. They don’t have an upmarket city office. For many years it was the humble home of Funeka Soldaat and her partner that was used as a meeting and gathering space. Late last year, the organisation acquired its first official office space; in Khayalitsha, the community its serves and exists for.

Most LGBTI/Queer human rights organisations and structures cannot exist without funding. That is understandable, sometimes. What Free Gender demonstrates is that passion, heart and commitment can carry your community voice, despite operating in adverse and financially constrained conditions.

Free Gender organises in community, around community and with community, without lavish financial resources, yet pulls off victories so needed and so vital for protection of life, whatever one’s sexuality.

Free Gender has been in existence for under ten years, just over five years. It has been a welcoming space and home, especially for young black gay and lesbian women coming from family homes out of Cape Town.

The foundation of Free Gender is the much respected and internationally admired Funeka Soldaat who founded and launched the community structure. Funeka knew the need for a community voice in Khayalitsha such as Free Gender; she had worked in and with LGBTI and human rights organisations outside of Khayalitsha.

Free Gender didn’t have a lavish launch to announce its arrival. It launched with a plunge into advocacy and resistance.  Attacks on black women’s bodies because of their sexuality has been consistently, openly and fiercely condemned by Free Gender with Free Gender showing fearless commitment and resolve with street protests.

Young black gay women have grown into beautiful, fearless and proud beings within the organisation that is Free Gender which also encourages them to speak out, to find their voice and to protect their being from the vicious assaults of ill-informed and negative thinking community members. Free Gender does not wait for the outside of community to look after them; Free Gender acts when the need and demand arises. As an advocacy, resistance, protest, protective, fierce and brave organisation, Free Gender has also spearheaded many queer/lgbti campaigns and has presented several memorandums of demand to government, for serious and pivotal government intervention into assault on black lesbian bodies and lives.

Forget about heaping praise and recognition on internationally funded organisations who can work only when international donor money is their bank accounts. It is unfunded community organisations like Free gender that deliver! It is Free Gender that speaks for the community of black lesbian women and protects them.

It is Free Gender that is the voice of black women’s sexuality. And this is the voice that achieves and advances and resists and protests without big sponsorship, city of Cape Town funding and international donor support. In Free Gender, black lesbian and queer  women have the voice and power that is organically and authentically theirs!

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Varsity Sport In SA Is Not Divorced From Student Resistance And Protests By Cheryl Roberts

23 Feb

 

 

The past year’s resistance and protests against structural inequalities and questionable teaching and research in higher education, linking student and workers struggles at South Africa’s educational institutions, have gone largely unsupported and assisted by organized sport in South Africa. Actually, not one statement has been released by organised sport in support of student struggles.

Society’s intersections and linkages have seemingly left sport unaffected, despite the deep-rooted inequalities which exist in South African sport. Sport as a reflection of society and sport’s social positioning in an unequal society also went untouched by the student resistance movement and protests. I don’t recall ever seeing any mention of campus/varsity sport having to be de-colonised. Why has sport left untouched?

Despite there being inequalities in sport on all of the higher education campuses with regards to funding of sport and participation in sport, the resistance and questioning of higher education’s accountability to society, was ignored. I often wondered about this and found the answer in the mercurial presentation of sport in neo-liberal South Africa as being ‘on its own’, as being ‘apolitical and non-political’.

Monday’s student protests at University of the Free State which spilled over onto the rugby field and its subsequent volatility and vicious assault of protesting students, indicates yet again how most SA’s in sport and sport consumers prefer to see sport as being divorced from society’s going on, as being separated from discourse, debate, accountability and most importantly, from resistance and protest action.

Privileged students obviously like those sorted out with university tuition payment and accommodation get into their sports clubs and events seemingly unperturbed and not hassled by grievances and protests of many other struggling students. For the privileged and sorted student, as long as they are playing sport, they are seemingly taken care of and are happy.

The rugby players and supporters of the rugby game at UOFS were reminiscent of South Africa’s apartheid rugby and white/racialised Springbok teams and supporters who never spoke out against apartheid but supported the government’s horrific apartheid legislation and policies.

I recall 1976 when Soweto was burning and student protests and struggles engulfed apartheid South Africa, yet the white Springbok team hosted New Zealand rugby (the All Blacks) on a tour of SA. International protests followed apartheid’s rugby tours, also when SA’s apartheid Springbok teams toured the United Kingdom and New Zealand. I’m mentioning this to demonstrate the intersection linkages between sport and society’s inequalities and oppression and resistance and protest action.

Visual images of white rugby players and supporters of the varsity rugby game, show white students attacking and brutalising black students.  This is the sport’s inheritance onto young white South Africa; those who parents and families have benefited from and supported apartheid sport. White people’s knowledge and generational past which has been passed down is to play sport ‘without political interference’ and support and enjoy rugby like its next best after serving GOD .

Despite coming out of a horrendous past of apartheid sport, those who control and manipulate sport in democratic South Africa, mostly sports officialdom and sponsors and including government representatives, have chosen to make quiet sport voices against inequalities and make people involved in sport believe they are flying a rainbow nation flag for a country where everything is seemingly okay because sport is supposedly about merit and participation in sport and definitely not about ‘politics and protests’.

Sport is vastly and structurally linked to society; sport demonstrates everything about a country and society. In South Africa’s scenario, sport is loaded with social, class and gender inequalities and with corporate control of sport.

So along came the student resistance movement and sport on campuses went along and got played and supported as if sport was happening in another society and country, but not theirs. This is the cocoon that organised sport lives in. Towards the end of the 2015 academic year, those involved in campus sport were more concerned about how and whether they would be able to play their annual varsity sports events and throughout the year varsity sport went on as if everything was not affecting varsity students in sport.

Corporate control of sport, together with those who manage and organise sport, and those who don’t have a critical consciousness, allow and perpetuate sport to be seen as divorced from all other goings on in society.

What the student resistance movement has demonstrated is that varsity sport is not exempt from student struggles and resistance aimed at installing equal and de-colonised institutions of higher learning.

The consciousness of all students, including sport students, academics and support staff and workers, must be radicalised to understand how an unequal society operates to maintain long lines of struggle and immersion in situations that people find unbreathable and difficult to get out of.

Varsity/tertiary sport is not immune to resistance and protest at institutions of higher learning. College/varsity sport is big, student sportspeople get exploited and used. Most importantly, varsity sports are affected by inequalities because they in a society of inequalities demanding structural change and de-colonisation.

Beware Of South Africa’s Camouflaged And Reactionary Privileged Black Middle Class By Cheryl Roberts

17 Feb

In his fantastic intellectual and clear thinking writings, Karl Marx warned us about the ‘middle class’, that class of people with privileges who can and do waiver between the upper/elite privilege class and the upper working class, that class of people in the middle who never know where they stand but take sides according to their middle class benefits and interests.

The class privileges and elitisms of the black middle class, rich and wealthy and white people as a bloc of white privilege is disgusting, especially when these middle class and elite groupings of people call out resistance behaviour by disadvantaged students as being ‘negative’, ‘wrong’, ‘unthinkable’ and ‘damaging’.

It irks me when the middle class and elite, from their comfortable zones of their suburban homes and social media and most times bored and uninteresting relationships and marriages take to social media and scream out against student resistance against a higher education system which does all it can to keep out struggling students from the corridors of higher and formal education.

I’m not saying that they should not be speaking out. I’m calling out how they call out and emphasise on the negatives of the resistance and protests.

South Africa’s unequal and economically divided society has been exploded into reality by the student resistance of 2015. This resistance is ripe for revolutionary change to take hold, for people’s protests to widen with more community participation, to escalate against government and administrations which serve to entrench elitism and advance the rich, wealthy and privileged.

I’m not saying that we must lay our lives down for regime change. What I’m saying is that our democratic government has failed people’s needs; the people who voted it into power and gave it the mandate to implement the Freedom Charter.

To come back to the student protests and resistance….…..Why do middle class, rich and privileged people assume they have the right to comment about resistance aimed at the working class and struggling student? The privileged and middle class were nicely living, earning comfortable and sometimes very high salaries, their children were being educated at private and expensive schools and they managed to fund their higher education. All this being done amidst struggling and disadvantaged students being excluded from admission, being turned away and having their results kept on hold.

Did the elite, privileged and middle class speak out on behalf of the working class students? No, they did not? They kept quiet, assuming all was well because all was quiet. Or so it seemed. Then exploded the student protest against higher education institutions and the privileged, after tentatively supporting the students calls for less expensive fees

began to go quieter again. But the student resistance continued because their demands and grievances were not being answered and struggling students were still struggling.

When you attack behaviour and actions of the student resistance do you really understand and acknowledge the structural limitations placed on financially struggling – this means black – students? Were you not a struggling student just about 20 or 20 years ago during the harsh apartheid era? Did you not participate in student protests against ‘the system’? And why are you calling out the student resistance  of 2015 and 2016?

The answer is obvious! It’s because you have attained a comfortable life and status position in society and in your life that you think you can call out from your black middle class ivory tower the wrongs of struggling students.

Universities are using vicious security on campuses to sometimes ‘protect’ and sometimes to brutalise students but the black professional sector and middle class and wealthy and white privilege wake up from comfortable beds and homes and condemn only the student’s negative behaviour. There’s nothing more damaging than such reactionaries who have acquired upward progress in neo liberal South Africa screaming at the struggling students, here on social media. You’re just exposing your middle class and elite position in society.

Beware Of South Africa’s Camouflaged And Reactionary Privileged Black Middle Class By Cheryl Roberts

17 Feb

Source: Beware Of South Africa’s Camouflaged And Reactionary Privileged Black Middle Class By Cheryl Roberts

Beware Of South Africa’s Camouflaged And Reactionary Privileged Black Middle Class By Cheryl Roberts

17 Feb

In his fantastic intellectual and clear thinking writings, Karl Marx warned us about the ‘middle class’, that class of people with privileges who can and do waiver between the upper/elite privilege class and the upper working class, that class of people in the middle who never know where they stand but take sides according to their middle class benefits and interests.

The class privileges and elitisms of the black middle class, rich and wealthy and white people as a bloc of white privilege is disgusting, especially when these middle class and elite groupings of people call out resistance behaviour by disadvantaged students as being ‘negative’, ‘wrong’, ‘unthinkable’ and ‘damaging’.

It irks me when the middle class and elite, from their comfortable zones of their suburban homes and social media and most times bored and uninteresting relationships and marriages take to social media and scream out against student resistance against a higher education system which does all it can to keep out struggling students from the corridors of higher and formal education.

I’m not saying that they should not be speaking out. I’m calling out how they call out and emphasise on the negatives of the resistance and protests.

South Africa’s unequal and economically divided society has been exploded into reality by the student resistance of 2015. This resistance is ripe for revolutionary change to take hold, for people’s protests to widen with more community participation, to escalate against government and administrations which serve to entrench elitism and advance the rich, wealthy and privileged.

I’m not saying that we must lay our lives down for regime change. What I’m saying is that our democratic government has failed people’s needs; the people who voted it into power and gave it the mandate to implement the Freedom Charter.

To come back to the student protests and resistance….…..Why do middle class, rich and privileged people assume they have the right to comment about resistance aimed at the working class and struggling student? The privileged and middle class were nicely living, earning comfortable and sometimes very high salaries, their children were being educated at private and expensive schools and they managed to fund their higher education. All this being done amidst struggling and disadvantaged students being excluded from admission, being turned away and having their results kept on hold.

Did the elite, privileged and middle class speak out on behalf of the working class students? No, they did not? They kept quiet, assuming all was well because all was quiet. Or so it seemed. Then exploded the student protest against higher education institutions and the privileged, after tentatively supporting the students calls for less expensive fees

began to go quieter again. But the student resistance continued because their demands and grievances were not being answered and struggling students were still struggling.

When you attack behaviour and actions of the student resistance do you really understand and acknowledge the structural limitations placed on financially struggling – this means black – students? Were you not a struggling student just about 20 or 20 years ago during the harsh apartheid era? Did you not participate in student protests against ‘the system’? And why are you calling out the student resistance  of 2015 and 2016?

The answer is obvious! It’s because you have attained a comfortable life and status position in society and in your life that you think you can call out from your black middle class ivory tower the wrongs of struggling students.

Universities are using vicious security on campuses to sometimes ‘protect’ and sometimes to brutalise students but the black professional sector and middle class and wealthy and white privilege wake up from comfortable beds and homes and condemn only the student’s negative behaviour. There’s nothing more damaging than such reactionaries who have acquired upward progress in neo liberal South Africa screaming at the struggling students, here on social media. You’re just exposing your middle class and elite position in society.

 

District Six Residents’ Memories Are Archived In People’s Hearts By Cheryl Roberts

15 Feb

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As I stood on the steps of the Moravian Church in District Six, with my camera in hand ready to capture the moments, feeling the power of resilience, of remembrance and heartbreak of an oppressed community who were forced out of their homes by a horrendous apartheid regime, I wished I had the power to restore District Six to its era of humanity and community where people lived.

 

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This was on Thursday 11 February 2016 when the District Six Museum in Cape Town held a commemorative event to remember the lives of humans who were forcibly removed from their community because of South Africa’s legislated apartheid policies which implemented the racial group areas act.

 

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The event was attended by many humble and ageing former and last residents of District Six, human rights activists, allies of District Six Museum, including South Africa’s Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, Gugu Nkwinti.

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The remembrance was painful. But there was much laughter amongst the former residents, like Mrs Abrahams, 65 and Mrs Bam, 92 years old. Former neigbours met up at the event and they recalled how they moved road by road, to various newly set up neighbourhoods on the Cape Flats. Some went to Lavender Hill, Hanover Park, Mitchells Plain and so on.

 

 

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Some residents told stories about how they stayed on in their District Six homes, refusing to move out. Then the bulldozers arrived and they were forced to move.

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It was an enjoyable and pleasurable walk from the District Six Museum in the city centre to the Moravian Church, next to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). On the walk I heard stories about the good and fabulous times in District Six, how sugar and salt were borrowed and readily exchanged between neighbours and how New Year’s Eve celebrations were the best in Cape Town.

 

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They haven’t forgotten the memories; that’s the people of District Six. They also haven’t gotten over the pain and heartbreak.

 

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They’ve gone on with their lives, loaded with heavy hearts of the pain of loss and forced removals. They long to be back in a District Six they knew and loved. They want to get back the District Six they lived in; that was their community of sharing and interaction.

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Some residents have returned; thousands more of the 60 000 strong community that was District Six are still awaiting their return. As we walked up the slopes towards the Moravian Church, people stopped and talked about their homes; they pointed out where they lived and what buildings stood where. And they did this with much pride and passion.

 

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‘That is where we stayed,’ indicates a pensioner to an enquiring tourist on the walk. ‘Just here is where we played on the streets with our cricket bats and football,’ indicates another.

 

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It’s on the steps of the Moravian Church where I pause. No photographs are taken. I’m just taking it all in as I keep my gaze on the District Six residents, as they get to the top of the slope, look out at the adjacent land being developed by bulldozers and recall a memory of a life sacred to them.

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These are the residents, who have never forgotten; the residents who are prepared to walk many miles and take several steps just like they remembered the iconic ‘seven steps’ in District Six;  this to get back what was theirs in their lifetimes.

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Religious affiliation is very much evident amongst the residents as the mostly Christian and Moslem residents enter the church. ‘We didn’t bother which religion you were’, recalls an ageing resident. ‘We lived as a community, as one people’.

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Residents of whatever religion enter the church and also speak in the church. And when proceedings are concluded, and people walk out of the church on a hot summer’s day in Cape Town, the stories and memories are again continued as District Six’s residents walk on and write their stories on note paper given to them before the walk started, still desiring the return of their land that was District Six.

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‘Restitution’ is what the District Six residents are demanding. It was the people’s community that they lived in and made their own. Forced removals were violent, oppressive and inhumane. The community that was District Six cannot come back in its past format. At least, the District Six community and their generations after them can reclaim and own the land that housed them and also destroyed them. There still remains the chance to make people once forcibly removed from their community, feel human again.

 

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It’s Disgusting To Make South Africa’s Sportspeople Pay To Represent Their Country By Cheryl Roberts

9 Feb

Tevin Kok in south african hockey teamKwezi Duma - IMG_5668 

#SportsRepresentationPersonalCostsMustFall

It’s difficult to believe that South Africa’s sportspeople and athletes must still personally pay for their costs to represent their country. Admittedly, this doesn’t happen in all sports; certainly not in the corporate sports such as rugby, football and cricket. But it is happening in many other sports, like hockey and swimming and most sports at provincial levels of representation.

This contributes to and sustains class division and inequality in sport and also subscribes to white privilege being maintained because the reality is that in South Africa it is whites who have access to money; much, much more than black and working class people.

Sports like hockey and swimming are white-dominated with some black participants and clubs around the country. But having to pay towards coast for international and national participation takes its toll and stresses black and working class parents who eventually can’t manage the burden anymore. This impacts on the black child and youth in sport who eventually fall off the sport’s radar and out of the sport, leaving the sport to be represented by mostly whites.

One of South Africa’s promising teenage hockey players, Tevin Kok got selected to represent SA and make his internationals senior debut in January. 19 year old Tevin, from Kokstad in KZN managed got his parents to pay his air fare to Cape Town and he secured accommodation with a friend, so that he could represent his country in an international series.

Another hockey event is due to be played in Cape Town in late February and young Tevin got selected again. Up until yesterday Tevin thought he wouldn’t be playing in the tournament because he’s parents said they couldn’t afford to pay for him. Fortunately, Tevin has enrolled at the University of Pretoria and the university’s hockey club has stepped in, saying they will pay his travel costs.

For the past years, players of both women’s and men’s senior and junior teams representing hockey, have been called upon to contribute personally towards their costs of participation.

This also happens in swimming where seniors and juniors participating in various swim championships are told they must pay towards their representation. One of SA’s promising junior swimmers, 14 year old Kwezi Duma has represented her country but her parents have had to pay towards her international participation.

This pay-to-represent doesn’t occur when athletes and sportspeople are representing official events administered by SASCOC, such as the Olympic Games and All African Games and others, and when the athletes are being supported by SASCOC. But this happens often when the sports federations participate in events organised by their continental and international federations.

In South Africa, a country of vast social and economic inequalities, this challenge of contributing and paying personally to participate nationally and internationally in sport lends itself to class status and white privilege being maintained in a sport, because whites are more able to have the money or access money, unlike black parents.

Although white parents also complain about the pressurised demands of having to pay personally for their child’s representation, the white athletes always seem to come up with the money while the black players (all athletes who are not white) struggle and sometimes get left behind.

This also happens every year for provincial representation, especially in sports like netball, softball and baseball where players in various age group teams get selected then get told they must pay for their representation and participation.

Instead of concentrating on tournament preparation, the players must concentrate on tournament fundraising, get stressed out and nervous because they don’t know if they going to make the tournament.

The national teams of hockey, swimming and netball are white-dominated with a few black players. National sports like netball are popular in working class communities and amongst blacks. Having to pay for provincial and international representation also means erecting barriers for black players in sport.

South Africa’s national sports policy should be that no athlete of whatever colour, class or gender or sportsperson must pay for international representation.

However, with so many sports federations affiliated to SASCOC and most of them, like sailing and show jumping, being white-dominated and elite, perhaps a national policy of international participation should be adopted by SASCOC, stating that only sports with majority black participation will be funded/assisted for international participation.

This is not a racist opinion or viewpoint. This is a positive, transformative opinion, one which will ensure that black and working class athletes, because of their class and colour status, will not be excluded from national and international participation in sport, because of money.