It’s not about fairness | Why “If the west does it, why can’t we?” Is stupid

I am absolutely exhausted by the argument that says we cannot complain about inefficient and corrupt African leaders because, “even Western leaders do it.” The follow-up to this point is usually the indignant “How come when white people do it, its OK?”

And by ‘it’ here the speaker is referring to plunging a population into a well of suffering simply because one can.

A few days ago I happened upon an article on The Root in which the gripes social media users have with the royal family were brought to light. The article was short and simple: a report on a report really.

In fact, ‘Swaziland’s royal family has found itself ensnared in the firm grip of social media users who are determined to expose the lavish lifestyle of “Africa’s last absolute monarch,” while most of the country’s people barely subsist on $1 a day per person, Agence France-Presse reports.’
Was basically the gist of it.

But the responses to it are what angered me. Of the hundreds of comments that this post attracted, many of them repeated the same idea: if the [insert white royal family] can do it, why can’t we?

I was so overcome with rage, I found myself doing the one thing I promised myself I never would: I left an angry Facebook comment. But that was not the end of it. The rage at the commenters, many of them African American echoing a sentiment often uttered by Africans too when our own leaders are to be held accountable for one act or another, did not go away.

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FICTION| The African Bull

“This girl, Margaret…when I met her she was cleaning toilets at a public library. She was at the edge of poverty. And now she has the audacity to even consider writing books about me? I am revolted!”

Thabo quickly realised that this rant required more than the sweet lubricant of an almost warm beer. He needed an audience. For the first time since he arrived, Thabo lifted his gaze from the beer before him and the empty bottles that stood abandoned beside it. He turned his head to search the bar for someone lucky enough to be an audience to his wisdom-building sorrow. What he found instead was a barroom filled with men whose eyes were glued to the screen before them. They were definitely far too interested in the English Premier League game to be torn away from it by even the frothiest promise of beer. Thabo turned his attention back to the bartender.cover_AFRICANBULL

“Sipho! Sipho!” he motioned to the bartender to come to him. ‘Sipho’ was not his name, but the bartender came anyway. Thabo did not seem the sort of man one corrected. Though Thabo had only been in Piggs Peak for two weeks, he had built himself a reputation as a trouble-maker. It was not quite as respectable a fear as his reputation in Manzini had provoked, but Thabo was grateful for the small moments of power it afforded him.

Like now as Sipho The Bartender said, “Nkosi,” and fastened a stiff smile onto his face.

“Yes. I was saying about my ungrateful wife—or shall I say, ‘ex-wife’? I know such a thing does not exist in your culture but I’m sure you can imagine what I mean.”

Sipho The Bartender’s expression remained unchanged, even as he began to collect the empty beers at Thabo’s side and throw them in a nearby bin.

“What I am saying is this…people have such short memories. You do something for them and they forget as soon as they get the chance!” he said the last sentence loudly; simultaneously proud of his great wisdom and disappointed that the only audience he’d have for it was an uninterested barkeep whose English proficiency he was unsure of. He continued anyway.

“Before me, Sipho, she was nothing. Nothing, I tell you! She could barely speak English when I met her—and now she thinks she’s too good for a man of my calibre? Matlakala!”

Thabo had lived in Swaziland for almost three years but still peppered his sentences with seTswana when he became impassioned. This was particularly unavoidable when he became drunk. Not that he cared to avoid it.
“If you expect me to be ashamed of my language you are about to get the shock of your life!” he once said to Margaret on a particularly lubricated night.

After all, he considered himself a man of great principle.

That morning, Thabo had gotten a phone call from some soft-voiced man that claimed to be a journalist from a South African paper. The man, whose name Thabo forgot as soon as he heard it, claimed to be calling to interview him about something called ‘The African Bull.’

“Mr. Sediba?”

“Yes?” Thabo had said, making sure to sound as annoyed as he was. There was nothing Thabo hated more than being called on his phone before noon. Everyone knew not to call him before his first drink, and normally he kept his cell-phone off until well into his second glass of whiskey, but ever since Margaret had left him he’d begun keeping his phone on all hours in the hope that she would come back to her senses and call to take him back.

So far the decision had brought nothing but trouble—debt-collectors, jilted lovers and drunks he met at bars, blew up his phone like it was a police station line and he had seriously considered selling the damn thing just the day before. So, I’m sure you can imagine that our comrade was in no mood for Soft Voice.

“What do you want?” he grumbled angrily as he searched the trousers nearest to his feet for a pack of cigarettes.

“Yes, sir. I’d like to hear what you think about the book”

“What book, sisi? Did someone foolishly tell you I review books? Don’t waste my damn time…” Finding a pack of almost crushed Marlboro’s in his front pocket, Thabo had straightened up to begin his search for a lighter.
Unoffended by being referred to as ‘sister’, Soft Voice had soldiered on flatly, “Are you not Thabo Sediba, former husband of Neo Mosigi?”

“Who?!” Thabo was now more confused than angered. “My man, what are you on about?”
“Neo Mosigi has written a book about being married to a Thabo Sedibi from Botswana. You are the only Thabo Sedibi in Swaziland, correct?”

Thabo mumbled an affirmation, but his mind was focused on trying to overcome his customary weekday hangover for long enough to sift through all this information for sense. ‘Neo Mosigi’? It came to him like lightening to a bewitched man.

“Are you talking about Margaret Sediba?” he said, now slightly calmer. Mosigi had been Margaret’s surname before they got married. And Neo was her middle name. When had she changed it?

Soft Voice cleared his throat before saying, “I’m not sure…did she write a book called ‘Being Married to the African Bull’?”

Thabo promptly vomited in the rubbish bin next to his desk. The desk where he had finally found his lighter. It had been cushioned beneath his leather-bound notebook and the Swazi Telecommunications phone directory.
That’s when he allowed his phone to slip from his sweaty palm almost immediately and landed into the bin along with his liquid dinner.

And that was the end of Thabo’s hope. 

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[VIDEO] Book Review | The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Today I review Junot Diaz’s masterpiece, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao:

“The book chronicles both the life of Oscar Wao, an overweight Dominican boy growing up in Paterson, New Jersey who is obsessed with science fiction and fantasy novels and with falling in love, as well as the curse that has plagued his family for generations.
The middle sections of the novel center on the lives of Oscar’s runaway sister, Lola; his mother, Hypatia Belicia Cabral; and his grandfather, Abelard. Rife with footnotes, science fiction and fantasy references, comic book analogies, and various Spanish dialects, the novel is also a meditation on story-telling, the Dominican diaspora and identity, masculinity, and oppression.” (Wikipedia.com)

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Open Letter to the African President

Your Highness

I know you may be wondering why a mere peasant dares to write you a letter—and an open one at that. I imagine you’re having one of your aides read this out loud to you while you stare out of the window in absolute repulsion at my gall. I apologise in advance for upsetting your day. Please bear with me.

It is officially 2014 now, and I’m sure you welcomed the New Year in a most majestic way—clinking glasses with your fellow oligarchs and marvelling at the sheer magnitude of wealth you all will be amassing in the new year. I truly hope you enjoyed the time you spent with your family and friends this holiday. Did you get something lovely from the Chinese Government for Christmas this year? I’m sure you did—and as usual, I’m sure you dared not insult their president by questioning the quality of whatever gift you received. You are above all, a man of great tact.

That’s what makes you such an amazing leader.

Now, you may be wondering why a 20-year-old girl from some dusty village had the audacity to not only address you so directly, but to do it so publicly. I am sure you are tired of the sheer clumsiness of the Open Letter and if you were like the majority of your constituents who don’t have the luxury of a lifetime supply of 4-ply toilet paper, you may view this piece as nothing more than a scrap to wipe your royal bum with. Once more I apologise.

In any case, this piece serves as a request. As a temporary representative of the young African—the future leaders of this beautiful continent—I come to you with one simple appeal: could you maybe, perhaps, a little bit, just maybe listen to us? This year (just for one year) can we have actual platforms for political discourse? Can you, perhaps, make us feel like the future leaders of this great place? Could we maybe, for a short while, have actually effective programs whose purpose is to groom innovative and strong leaders who will one day (soon – not in fifty years) make this place what our forefathers dreamt it would be? Can we get a real shot at political innovation; at democratic effectiveness?

Perhaps I am asking for too much. And I can understand if at this point you have slapped the aide reading this letter aloud to you, for his sheer foolishness in, what I imagine you view as, allowing me to waste your time. Once more, I have to apologise.

But let this letter be a very polite precursor to what this year will truly be in your land—a historical year of great change. Simply put, I’m giving you a chance to make it a simple process—for very soon, we will rise up and we will take this place where it needs to go.

But for now, please enjoy the tea your aide will bring you to soothe your aching head from reading (heading) this letter.

I wish you a happy new year, sweet President. And I thank you for your time.

Yours Truly,

The African Student

Siyanda Mohutsiwa is a 20 year-old mathematics major at the University of Botswana. Contact her at siyandawrites[at]gmail.com for inquiries or something.

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5 things NOT to say when trying to seduce an Afrikaner

This weekend my cousin invited me to her place for drinks. I anticipated nothing more than a night of heavy drinking (punctuated by an increasing number of slurred proclamations starting with the words “in life…”), followed by a morning of deep regret.

However, before I could get to my second drink and un-buckle my “drinking jeans”, the loud engine of a work-van parking in the guest-house garage  brought my attention to the finest product of South Africa I’d ever laid my eyes on. My jaw dropped (but not my drink…never my drink) as I watched a man so gorgeous that his muddy jeans and rolled up sleeves looked like they’d accompanied him straight out of a 1970’s romance novel titled “[the afrikaans version of] The year Hans, the tractor-mechanic re-awakened my desires” (or something), walk out of the van. His piercing eyes and confusingly arousing uni-brow shot sparks through my body and I immediately decided to seduce this man even if it meant my advances would have to be lubricated by the tears of my ancestors.

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The Dangers of Thinking Like An African

Last night the president of South Africa told a roomful of students, academics and businesspeople at Wits University in Johannesburg, in a ANC manifesto forum, to “not think like Africans.” Discussing the need for Gauteng residents to pay e-tolls, Zuma remarked: “We can’t think like Africans in Africa generally, we’re in Johannesburg.”

Now, when I first got wind of this my first reaction was of course, anger. As a full-time African (except when there’s a World Cup Final and it pays to be Brazilian); I found myself wondering why he believed that my manner of thinking would destroy his beloved city, if its residents were to adopt it.

But when he said that the freeway between Johannesburg and Pretoria was “not some national road in Malawi”, a light bulb went on in my head and I finally understood exactly what he meant.

But not only do I understand, I wholeheartedly agree! We really cannot afford to allow African Thinking to destroy Joburg like it has the rest of the continent. I mean, think about it – when has thinking like an African ever solved anything?

That’s when I realized that thinking like an African is what had stopped me from excelling during my university career. All the times I thought I was struggling with Abstract Algebra because it is a difficult subject, it was actually my African-ness that was preventing me from “getting it”!

Jacob Zuma has released me from the shackles of African thought patterns, and my heart is filled with nothing but gratitude. Now when I encounter a problem, my first thought is “Don’t Think Like an African!” and the solution comes to me as fast as white women to professional athletes! My life has changed.

Of course, people may wonder what exactly is African thinking – but the very thought pattern that leads anyone to ask that question is the biggest symptom of African thinking! Liberate yourself!
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Instead, think like a coffee-table and under-stand. That’s what I do every time I feel that nagging African in my mind imploring me to think in my native language. I think like anything else but an African.

Sometimes I think like a train when crossing the road. Other times I think like a carpet when I’m lying down. Most of the time I think like a t-shirt and just be. That’s what I figured out: in order to stop African Thinking, an African typically has to stop thinking completely. And it is clear Zuma has been doing it the best for years!

I mean the problem with African Thinking, is it requires an African to think. And that’s the last thing Zuma or any African president needs: thinking Africans. So we have to work together to combat this problem.

Please share this article to raise awareness about African Thinking, and save your own country from the dangers of contemplation.

Siyanda Mohutsiwa is a 20-year-old mathematics major at the University of Botswana. Contact her at: siyandawrites[at]gmail.com

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Its not about men | Why ‘stealing’ another woman’s man is not anti-feminist

I don’t know when I fell asleep and missed out on a new wave of feminism that prides itself on judging a woman’s politics by her behaviour in the romantic sphere. But clearly it happened sometime this year, and the comments section on this article was born.
Directed to it by its author I found myself flung into a dimension in which a question like “Is it anti-feminist to sleep with another woman’s man?” was not only considered – but was debated, quite heatedly, by a group of very diverse and seemingly intelligent women.
Needless to say – I was furious.
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#WhiteGenocide – How I Single-Handedly Caused Racism in South Africa

So this month I single-handedly created racism in South Africa. I know, I know – you’re probably wondering: “How on Earth did a twenty-year-old girl that lives in neither South Africa nor Cape Town, create racism here?” (and if you’re not wondering that, at least you should be wondering what you did with your weekend while some of us created identity-crises in an entire population. I mean, it’s starting to look like a ‘lazy weekend’ is code for chronic underachievement for you here, pal)

In the spirit of political satire I started a twitter-hashtag named “#whitegenocide” in which I sort to a) poke fun at whites that fear the onset of white genocide in South Africa upon Nelson Mandela’s death b) entertain myself because being a young person, I get bored quite easily.

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Speak Like Xulu

This Sunday Mlungisi Xulu took it upon himself to respond to the open letter to ANC President, Jacob Zuma that was penned by self-proclaimed “Sushi King” of South Africa, Kenny Kunene.

Kenny, who I can only describe as the sort of middle-aged fellow that has absolutely no qualms referring to himself as a ‘socialite’—thus conjuring up images of him out on the town in a mini-skirt of the Paris Hilton variety—had written a scathing letter to South Africa’s commander-in-chief to outline how disappointed he is in the ANC. (Because, who didn’t expect Kenny to use his years of experience as a nightclub owner as the podium for political change they are?)

Now, I’m all for open letters; so much so that I have not taken it personally that my own open letter to Kenny has been all but ignored by his people—not personally at all (you can tell that fatty yourself! [sobbing]) But Mlungisi Xulu’s letter left me positively fuming. It was not the letter itself, but the response to it on Twitter.

The letter was met with nothing but flabbergasted laughter. It began with the following excerpt:

Well, let me pervade you of the titillation, embedded in the eventual state of being a paragon of perfection in the ardent utmost utilization of logic, as an ANC inclined political activist. In idling times, one ought to augment the incessant purportion of being abreast, beauty par excellence, with the intellectual regime, and resist desolation yielding petulance, which fuels obliterated recusance, immiserating from expertise, lack thereof.

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