Zimbabwe votes

Zimbabweans went to the polls yesterday to elect parliamentarians and a president. For the first time since I was born, there was a very notable absentee on the ballot paper. Robert Mugabe who, until late last year, ruled Zimbabwe with little in the form of opposition was not up for election as he was deposed in a wave of change that saw his rule successfully challenged for the first time since his rise to power in the 80s.

Zim election preliminary results
Results circulating on social media seem to indicate an advantage for MDC but then again, social media does not vote

A part of me is hopeful that what happened last year is the beginning of the end for Mugabe’s Zanu PF party. However, another part of me, the one that felt this type of emotion many times only for Mugabe to emerge as a winner, is sceptical about this whole election. I find it hard to be as hopeful as some of my friends. I left Zimbabwe in 2005 and I am out of touch with what is happening on the ground but I know the narrative all too well.

Zanu PF uses its financial muscle, sway and its struggle credentials plus its rural support base to garner support. They stifle all forms of opposition with varying degrees of brutality in the name of getting rid of criminal elements. They lose the election, or as they would say it the election is ‘a close one.’ They have a runoff that they rig like they tried to do with the first one. After all, if one is cheating the best way to do so is with some semblance of legitimacy. Results take a long time to be released all the while all the African Election observers pass the election as a free and fair one. Finally, the results are released announcing the ZANU PF and the constitution of Zimbabwe as the overall winners. There are disputes but the squabbling is pointless although it drags on even to the next election.

So far this script is not running to this plan as there have been few reports of irregularities and violence. As I write this, MDC leads the early count (according to unofficial reports mostly from friends in Zimbabwe) but I find myself thinking they’ve done that before only to lose at the end. It’s hard not to think that this early lead is all part of the script. We are after all dealing with the behemoth that is Zanu PF.

Like most of my peers, I don’t know anything else but a ZANU PF led Zimbabwe. For that reason, I don’t believe that a party that held on to power for 37 years will willingly let go of power that easily. Only time will tell.


#data will fall

In a ground-breaking move, South African mobile operators have announced a deal whereby people who cannot afford data would be able to barter their goods in exchange for data bundles. The new deal is set to come into effect in 2017 as some ground work needs to be done to design a structure of how this system will work practically.

Speaking to reporters, Vodacom’s Jal nied ta jus Pay said, “we are tired of the FOMO that is going on out there because people cannot afford data and as one of the biggest networks in the country we have taken it upon ourselves to bring data to the people.”


The system will see collection centres being set up across the country to collect goods and other items in exchange for airtime/recharge vouchers. Although it is still unclear what goods will be exchanged for which amounts of airtime, unconfirmed reports also suggest that those who have nothing to exchange will even be offered the chance to get contract deals as long they can work it off in 24 months.


The deals on offer range from getting a Huawei p9 with 1G of data per month in exchange for doing the Vodacom CEO’s gardening for 2 years to getting an S7 with 5G of data per month for doing lap dances at Teasers on the outskirts of Johannesburg. The latter deal would see the club covering your contract costs.


Experts around the world are hailing this new cost model as the way most mobile network providers will go especially in developing countries where data costs are so prohibitive that some people are even unable to respond to friend requests from as far back as 2 years ago.


A spokesperson for the Ministry of Communication said, “hopefully this brings down the cost of airtime and who knows people could free up more money to afford university fees making the feesmustfall hashtag obsolete and in turn all the (insertproblemhere)mustfall hashtags”

Why passports are a disadvantage in South Africa

Since I arrived in South Africa in 2005 I’ve found that doing any dealings with banks, western union, letting agents, Insurance companies, furniture shops, post offices, security guards at most Johannesburg residential complexes and DHL (by DHL I mean all shipping companies) always leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth.

It amazes me how all these groups of people seem to want different documents from me to verify my identity every time I need to make use of their services. In a normal world it is usually enough to provide some form of valid ID and proof of address when dealing with most companies in the service industry. However in South Africa, particularly if you are human being of the foreign variety, sometimes these requirements morph into an exercise that seems akin to trying to get a visa to visit the planet Krypton (No it does not exist).

For example, I tried sending money through Western Union. I had my passport and proof of residence with me simple enough right? Wrong! I was told that since I am not South African I would need to provide my passport, my valid work permit, proof of address, a 3 month bank statement, a recent pay slip not older than 3 months and a letter confirming my employment.

After a return journey home to fetch all these documents, a quick call to our bemused HR lady to email me the employment stuff and a quick turn to the print shop I found that the lady who had served me earlier had left and there was a new lady at the counter. She proceeded to give me forms that I duly filled in. She made copies of my passport, my permit, my proof of residence, my bank statement, handed me back my pay slip and confirmation of employment letter saying I wouldn’t need them and processed my transaction.

The next time I went to Western Union you can guess like any logical human being I took with me the documents that had been needed the last time only to be told again that I still needed my pay slip and a confirmation of employment letter. The only difference was that this time these documents were actually copied.

On a separate occasion I tried to visit a friend living in one of the flats in the Johannesburg CBD. All these flats require that you sign in at the entrance (most of which are manned by security guards) using some form of ID. Upon signing in I was about to enter when I was told by the security guard that I could not enter the flat because he had noticed that my work permit had expired. When I explained that my passport was valid and I was awaiting the outcome of my new application for a work permit (this is not to say that I understood why I needed a work permit to visit a friend) his response was that sadly he could not let me in because after all rules were rules. It seems even for a mere visit to a friend I needed a valid work permit.

Then there was the time I tried to register an online profile with Edgars (a clothing store) so that I could manage my account with them (I have learnt that using the internet often means I do not have to deal with people and this is usually an advantage because the computer has no idea that I am not South African. Or does it? Anyway that’s another story). I got to the part where you enter your ID number and I entered my passport number only for ‘the system’ (a word I hear a lot round these parts) to reject my registration saying I needed to enter an ID number that was 13 digits long (the format for all South African ID numbers). In my anger and disappointment at this obvious example of discrimination I did what any self-respecting person would do … I wrote a letter to them. Not counting the automated response that came seconds after I sent the letter, I have not heard back from them.

I have had many experiences like this and as a result have resorted to moving around with everything. So the next time you are rummaging through my bag (maybe that would also be a requirement for some service I need from you) do not be surprised if you find my passport, work permit, 3 month bank statement, proof of address, letter of employment, pay slip, my employment contract, police clearance certificate, signed medical certificate proving that I am fit and healthy attached to radiological reports, marriage licence, University transcripts, degree certificates, my 1st place ribbon from the egg and spoon race I won back in crèche and my Pokémon cards in case the requirements at a bank state that I need to battle and defeat another Pokémon before I can be given a line of credit.

Are you a foreigner? What is your experience of South Africa?

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. I’m not one for resolutions but more posts will follow in 2015.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 23 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Why Africa will never win the soccer world cup

After years of research, and by years I mean five minutes of glancing at a few soccer related blogs, I have finally figured out why Africa will never win the soccer world cup.

You can never be good at everything. If there’s one thing that soccer pundits around the world will agree on it’s the fact that no one does sports celebrations quite like the African teams. Of course that’s if we’re not counting the American Major League Baseball mascots. Think Roger Milla and his wiggling waist, Nigeria’s Julius Aghahowa’s back flips or Rashidi Yekini’s arms through the net. All this comes at a price. Since we are so exceptional at celebrations we’ve had to sacrifice actually winning when it matters on the world stage.

As much as we all seem to get infected with varying levels of African patriotism during World Cups very few of us actually believe in our hearts that the African teams can win the World Cup. I sometimes dislike the way we are quick to judge people who openly say this when we actually believe the same.

Since it’s inception (in 1930) no African team has ever won the soccer World Cup so it boggles me to no end that we turn it into an issue every time we don’t do well at this tournament. There is a lot that is wrong in African football from administration, payment issues, Taribo West’s green and white braids (good thing he retired) to Asamoah Gyan wearing the no.3 shirt when he is a striker. Winning the World Cup would go a small way in fixing that but by no means would it mean an end to our footballing woes.

And to qoute another blogger who rightly corrected me “World Cup soccer is for nations, not for continents. So indeed, Africa will never win it. Nor Europe by the way.”

So with that said as Africans let’s stop the bickering and do what we’ve always done every World Cup since Pele… keep calm and support Brazil!

Biko, consciousness, oppression and the South African Media.

Black consciousness recognised two forms of discrimination or oppression against black people:

1. Institutional oppression e.g, laws that restricted blacks from travelling or residing in certain areas, poor education and laws that protected white workers more.

2. Oppression by way of attaching good to all that is white and bad to all that is black.

The term black in this post is used inclusively to refer to all people who were oppressed by the apartheid system in South Africa. It therefore includes people who today would be more commonly referred to as Indians and coloureds.

The origins of the black consciousness movement in South Africa are usually traced to the break of SASO (South African Students Organisation) from NUSAS (National Union of South African Students) in 1969.  The break was caused by the fact that on one hand some members supported NUSAS’ liberal non racialist ideal while on the other hand some, mostly black students including Steve Biko, felt that this way of thinking was out of touch with the reality of South African society at the time.

This group felt that white students were part of the section of society privileged by apartheid intentionally or unintentionally due to the pigmentation of their skin. It was therefore felt that white students could not continue to lead an organisation concerned with championing the cause of black students and black people in general when they were not oppressed or exploited by apartheid in the same way black people were. Steve Biko was one of the founder members of SASO and was elected its first president.

Black consciousness can be defined as the state of awareness by black people of the need to come together so as to defeat all that holds them in a position of perpetual inferiority in relation to the white man socially, economically and politically (Biko 1987). Black consciousness seeks to infuse in black people a pride in who they are.  The black consciousness movement espoused by Biko defined black people as all those socially, economically, legally and traditionally discriminated against in South African society.

South Africa’s history has resulted in identity being understood very much in racial terms. A lot has changed in terms of politics and this is evidenced by black people’s dominance in this field (Steenveld 2004:102). In terms of the economy very little has changed because economic power is still dominated by white people and this is reflected especially in media staffing, ownership and media products. The media industry in South Africa is controlled by a few largely white owned media companies (Steenveld 2004:102).

While institutional racism still exists, the democracy now available in South Africa means that to a large extent, ideas about inferiority and superiority amongst different races are changing. It is no longer acceptable in our broader society to attribute superiority, intelligence and rationality only to people of certain skin pigmentation. The role of black consciousness in changing these ideas is important.

In South Africa, in a media environment where media production is accused of becoming more and more westernised, it is important to question the dominance of certain ways of thinking over others even after the end of apartheid. Black consciousness therefore still has relevance in helping black people shape and negotiate their identities. This is especially important given that definitions of who is black in post-apartheid South Africa are also changing. So this blog is a small step for me, a black student of culture and media, in my attempt to break into the African media.