Slide1Last night I cried for a long time after getting into a hurtful discussion on Facebook. It was entirely unexpected because I can safely say I didn’t wake up on Monday morning and expect to find myself dropped into a national debate on hair. Zuma, conspiracy theories, citizen activism – sure. I’d buy that story in a heartbeat. So hair? It took me by surprise.

We all know that a national debate is raging on the issue of black girls’ hair styles. Many of us have oversimplified what is clearly a very complex issue – not only because there are decades, if not centuries of beliefs entrenched in this story, but also because the situation at Pretoria Girls High is clearly not a simple hairstyles debate. This is just the tip of what appears to be a very deep iceberg. Just as there is so much more underneath South Africans’ hesitant forays into national discussions about a traumatised country trying to reconcile with itself.

So when someone who has not been affected by growing up with insecurities about their hair, who has not spent hours of their lives getting their hair to conform to a Euro-centric standard of beauty, and who has not, at any point in their lives, been told that they are less than by virtue of their skin colour – when that someone tries to minimise this discussion to “rules” and “facts”, I am once again reminded that without empathy, we are doomed to become victims of deeply entrenched positions that totally polarise us along racial, cultural and political divides.

I for one am no longer up for such a narrow conversation. I am also no longer prepared to debate on social media when I’m minimised for having feelings based on lived experiences, when I’m limited to an interpretation of “facts” as viewed by one person, “facts” that choose to ignore a very recent history of oppression. The racial conversation unfolding in our country is emotional – plain and simple. The majority of this country have lived through things that no human should experience, and they continue to live through them today. Guess what? With those credentials, they’re allowed to be emotional about stuff.

So, let’s get back to some home truths about this situation and address some misperceptions. Firstly, limiting this discussion to whether one black girl’s Afro is too big is not the debate we should be having. One girl’s problem with her hair does not a revolution make. There are clearly other girls who have experienced negative perceptions and suffered under some form of discriminatory practice for it to have advanced to this stage.

Secondly, the bigger picture here is that an environment has been created where these pupils have had to defend their right to be who they are. They are not allowed to congregate in groups of 4 or more. They can’t speak their own language (which, by the way, is a constitutional right) and they are told to straighten their hair to make it look “neat”.

The opposing side is quick to point to the Code of Conduct of the school, which seems very generous in their humble opinions. Here’s the thing, the ANC manifesto looks pretty good too. Unfortunately, there seems to be a bit of a disconnect between the theory and the reality right now. Whilst we are only going on the word of the pupils, I doubt that they’ve made up a story about being told to straighten their hair merely to garner attention. If you’ve seen images of these young girls comforting each other while they cry, you too would wonder why they’d put themselves at the forefront of this kind of national  pressure for no reason other than to rebel against rules. If we can’t believe our children, then where are we really?

Now, let’s get down to a very important part of this discussion: what is the impact this is having on the girls’ education and their right to learn in a conducive environment? For me, this is where the meat of the matter lies.

As most people know and acknowledge, we homo sapiens do not come in component parts. We don’t pitch up to school with only our brains, or to a sports field with only our bodies. We are whole human beings and thus need to be recognised and treated as such. Increasingly, the global education reform movement is honing in on the fact that we need to teach not only an academic curriculum, but a socio-emotional one too. We need to equip children with skills to manage their emotions and their repercussions better, because those who are caught up in the emotional whiplash of mismanaging themselves and their relationships have very little capacity to engage with their education in a meaningful way.

We see instances of this as studies reveal the long-term effects of the trauma of poverty. Even when in a decent school environment, childrens’ brain size and capacity has been so diminished by trauma that the ceiling for achievement becomes very low. Emotions play a strong role in academic outcomes.

So what happens when you make a child feel marginalised and angry because of a race-related construct of what neat and tidy looks like? Not a whole lot that is ultimately beneficial to the child if you ask me.

But what about conformity you ask? What about learning to adopt to social norms and standards so that we can all engage in a corporate culture one day and be wildly successful? The same is true for a white child. If children’s hairstyles become the main thing their educators are worried about, who wins and who loses ultimately? As our world shifts, so too should the way we teach our children to live in this world.

As we now know, wildly successful people are not typically the best at conforming. In a world where educationalists are increasingly understanding that a single standard of success simply isn’t cutting it, where schools & teachers are gaining an awareness that children learn differently and at their own pace, with different strengths to draw from; in this world, we are no longer a factory line. We are becoming a society of individuals who are allowed to express their individuality in unique ways. And it is this uniqueness which brings change and innovation, which creates new and exciting ways to live, work and play.

In the same breath, I agree that there are some rules of engagement. Wearing gang colours or cutting gang symbols into your hair is one of these. I’m sure there are others. The main thing though is to create an enabling environment for learning instead of imposing rules for rules’ sake.

Allow me to deviate one last time before wrapping up. Last week, images from a beach in France spread across the globe. French police approached a Muslim woman on a beach and forced her to remove her Burkini, which was somehow offensive and insulting to the French people. My question is this: was tolerance & peace promoted or destroyed here? Did the Frenchman walk away having improved the world in some way? Or was a single woman humiliated by a European standard that is, quite frankly, simply the end game of a belief system that one culture chose over another? Did wearing a Burkini somehow violate the human rights of any other person on that beach?

In the same breath, does wearing natural hair, whatever shape or form it might take, violate another other South African’s constitutional rights? Does it infringe on their dignity? And most importantly, does it limit or negate their ability to learn and ultimately become successful, fulfilled adults one day?

Our polarised social media debates and demands that others adhere to some interpretation of a universal set of rules for how we engage intelligently on these platforms is not working. The internet is becoming an intolerant, hate-filled thing where people can say what they like with impunity. “Psychologists call this the online disinhibition effect, in which factors like anonymity, invisibility, a lack of authority and not communicating in real time strip away the mores society spent millennia building.”

So, as you choose your internet battles, especially as they unfold in an incredibly racially charged South Africa, please consider the feelings of other race groups, their histories and their hurts (real, not imagined) before plunging into one-sided discussions that probably have had little to no effect on your life. Take a moment to ask yourself if your conversation is promoting cross-cultural understanding or furthering unity in any way. I’m willing to try, despite my pathological need to be right. Are you?

youth-dayWhen I was 21 years old, I was part of a simulation in which people had caught a life-threatening illness and were dying off en masse. I was selected to be part of a group that would be safeguarded from this plague so we could go on to keep the human species alive and well after the crisis.

About halfway into this calm, self-actualised plan to repopulate earth, I lost the plot. I couldn’t believe we were sitting having this ridiculous conversation about an as yet non-existent future whilst there were people outside DYING.

At the time, the HIV/AIDS crisis was the predominant theme in my world as a young med student in Baragwanath Hospital. At the time, most hospitals didn’t have widespread access to life-saving anti-retroviral treatments.

Today, I feel that same sense of panic, but this time the flavour is a bit different. This time, I have been deeply embedded in the world of education and South Africa’s youth. What’s not different is this: while we’re having crazy, never-ending debates about every little trick our politicians are pulling out of the woodworks, PEOPLE ARE DYING.

In some senses, this is literal. Our death rate is 17.49 deaths per 1,000 – making us the number 1 country in death rates according to the CIA. Our highest incidence of death is between the ages of 30-40, putting us on par with countries at war.

But I want to talk about the not-so-literal definition of this. On June 16th 1976, scholars in Soweto took to the streets to demand a better education, one which was NOT in a language they couldn’t speak, but one which at least gave them a CHANCE to actually absorb the content being taught at school.

Tomorrow, 39 years after this nation-defining moment, our youth continue to languish in schools that are as bad, if not worse, than the ones South African youth accessed way back then. We are ranked last on maths & science education globally & 3rd last on technology education according to the World Economic Forum. And sure, there are vociferous arguments against this, but the reality is, if we were all that much better than reported, surely we wouldn’t have a youth unemployment rate above 36%? The arguments are pointless in the face of the facts. And the facts are this: there aren’t enough jobs to absorb the unskilled labour our schools are producing; our economy is stagnant and growing at only 2% per annum currently, well below the projected 5% we need; and our government, no matter WHAT the story or excuse is, are simply unable to respond with any sort of efficiency to the crisis at hand.

Mark Heywood, the social activist who has been at the forefront of battles such as access to treatment for those living with HIV and the Limpopo textbook crisis, said this at The Daily Maverick’s “The Gathering” event on Thursday, 11th June 2015: “The damage that is being done today is irreversible.”

He’s not being dramatic. I’ve watched youth in Soweto, Alex and Diepsloot try to get a decent matric pass over the years with little change in success rates from year to year. And now, the government has created a false lull of “a higher pass rate”. Were this because of anything other than a drastically lowered standard to pass, surely we’d be seeing the fruits in some form beyond just a better national pass rate?

Children are losing their chance to do something decent with their lives. With each year that we wait for government or business or some other unknown entity to “fix our problems”, we lose another batch of youth to unemployment, teenage pregnancy, drugs, gangsterism and social grants. We lose them, not only because of a careless government’s actions, but because of a careless citizenry. We are each, individually and collectively, responsible for the fate of this country and especially, ESPECIALLY for the fate of our youth.

On the Tuesday, 16th June 2015, we ask that you stand in solidarity with the sentiments expressed in this article by wearing black clothing or a black armband to mourn the passing of another generation of youth since The Soweto Uprising. If you know anyone who’s been affected by poor schooling, lack of resources at schools, unskilled teachers and unemployment, do this for them. The only way we create change is by speaking up against the injustices we see and then bringing our collective power to the fore to demand something better of our leaders.

Today was another blow for politics and democracy in our country. And it’s a particularly devastating one. Our president elect, “man of the people” and general big man about town just openly mocked anyone who has ever countered him on his blatant corruption in the Nkandla saga.

Not only did he mock us/them, he then also went on to get his team of “experts” to sell us the biggest piece of PR bulls*@t we’ve had the privilege to bear witness to in a while. Sure, they’re not really saying anything new, but to hear how they’ve perfected and convinced themselves of some pretty shaky “truths” about security upgrades is just frightening. When the magician starts believing his own magic, it’s time to start worrying.

But perhaps what is most fascinating about all of this is how we, his very devoted audience (and devoted we are, whether in love or in hate) are basically playing into every single role he wants us to play into.

Let me unpack that a bit. Zuma and the ANC have built a following based on divisiveness. They cry “Apartheid” and racism whenever anything hits too close to home. And the white people write him off as an idiot. What they don’t realise is he’s speaking a truth which is very close to home for the majority of our country. A majority who, after two decades of “freedom” are no better off than they were pre-democracy.

So whilst the white folk can (and do) point fingers at the government, the black folk are saying, “Hang on. There’s something to this.” Because the reality is, when the black folk walk past the big houses in the suburbs and see them (mostly) populated by white people, Apartheid doesn’t feel all that far away.

And so the government cries “Racism!”; the white people cry, “Incompetent idiots!” and; the non-white people trapped in poverty keep voting for the ANC because they’re hinting at holding someone (the white people in this case) to account for their misery.

But here’s the catch: just about EVERYONE in this scenario is acting out the dream scene for Zuma and his team to carry on doing exactly what they’ve been doing all along: to continue being corrupt & carry on milking us for all we’re worth. Because, we’re so busy pointing fingers at them and at each other that nobody is paying too much attention to the underlying issues that are causing this whole mess in the first place!

Again, I don’t claim to have the answers. I wish I did, because then I’d throw myself heart and soul into implementing them. But I do know this: the rhetoric of blame and segregationist views we continue to perpetuate is fueling the fire, not setting the framework for a “new South Africa”.

Not in My Name South Africa is a platform to seek a new way, together. If you are a citizen that wants to do more and have a voice or a skill to offer, inbox us on Facebook and let’s get to work. Until we do something DIFFERENT, the story is not going to change. And flip! It’s about time the story changed. Let’s do it. If not for ourselves, then for our children.

I had a somewhat disturbing interaction on our Facebook page the other day. I posted an article entitled, “A Nation of Victims” which focused on how a lot of South Africans are only looking at the negatives and are ready to write the country off and blame anyone and everyone for how bad things are. However, the article went on to say, foreigners who come to SA have a very different (and far more positive) outlook on the country. See article here: http://www.news24.com/Columnists/MaxduPreez/A-nation-of-victims-20150505

I posted this article not because I am unaware and unaffected by the very big and very serious problems we’re facing as a nation, but because I too am tired of the constant negative rhetoric about a country I love very much. Also, there is a lot of good going on, but the media and the conversations have hyped up the negative so much that we seem unable to see the other side of the story.

A case in point: the individual I was arguing with on the Facebook post took a figure in the article and quoted the wrong statistic. He had just read the article, but instead of quoting the figure of 1,737 deaths from farm attacks between 1994 and today, he saw the number of 3,494 attacks and extrapolated that to 4,000 deaths since 1994.

Now am I arguing that the 1,737 deaths are acceptable? Hell no! Of course it’s plain wrong. But my point is, we are so fine tuned and trained to hear the worst about this country, that even when the facts are right in front of us, we make mental leaps to the worst conclusion. Surely, even as an adamant naysayer who hates this country and everything about it, surely, even then, living with actual lies and falsehoods is not a useful way to live your life???

And if you’re going to dig through the Facebook posts to try to find the exchange, I’m afraid you won’t. I put a language filter on the page and it basically chucked out this individual’s comments as a result. Again, even if you don’t agree with something, how is it useful to throw out swearing and angry vitriol on a social media platform against someone you don’t even know?

All of this has highlighted something very strongly to me: I need to very clearly define and describe what the aim of this community and platform is, so that those who aren’t interested in the stance we take can elect to disengage from the page and website rather than get upset and mad when we say or do something they disagree with.

I will lay the mission out in detail in my next post, but as a starter, let me say this: Not in My Name South Africa is about acknowledging and recognising the wrongs in this country. It is about educating us as South Africans as widely and as accurately as possible about injustices – both in terms of the xenophobic crisis, but also key issues that drive these kinds of attacks, like poverty, violent crime, lack of education, etc.

But most importantly, Not in My Name SA is NOT about blaming and pointing fingers and saying this has nothing to do with us. It’s about saying ENOUGH and then owning that – becoming active citizens and taking action to match the beliefs we spout. Because here’s the thing: if everyone refuses to take ownership of the mess we’re in, if all the intelligent and passionate people choose to ignore “them” or “that government” or “those criminals” – then “those people” are just going to continue doing the things we hate. And they’re going to thrive because nobody is doing anything to stop them. So the things that are marring our beautiful country will just grow and grow and we’ll keep saying it has nothing to do with us, but the situation we’re living in will just get more and more dire.

So, this community is about doing things. It’s about sharing ideas and resources and finding a way to change the narrative. If that’s something that appeals to you, this is the community for you. If you’re looking for a group that’s going to hate the country and all its evils with you, then spare yourself the pain and please rather disengage with this blog and Facebook page because it’s not what you’re looking for.

I look forward to the next steps of a journey that will hopefully start shifting some of the things that should no longer be committed in our names in this country.

 

 

During Apartheid and the years following liberation, my father taught me to call myself a “citizen of the world”. He was trying to teach me how I was more than the labels a flawed and immoral government had given me and that I was in fact part of a global family that was far bigger than the crappy things I’d heard about my too-curly-hair or my too-brown-skin.

At the time, this truth was a fit for me. I needed to see beyond the lies we’d been taught and know that there was more to me than just a conglomeration of physical features and societal judgments. But after standing toe-to-toe with all the hard and what felt like embarrassing truths (at the time) of my background and culture, I have finally emerged to be ridiculously proud of being a coloured South African. It has meaning. It has history. It defines a culture. And that’s important.

So when someone had a bit of a go at me earlier this week for saying that I taught my sons they are coloured and should identify themselves as such, I found myself quite taken aback. This person said that in this day and age, surely we’d moved beyond that and we should all simply call ourselves South African.

Funny how nobody ever makes that suggestion to a German or French person. Why shouldn’t they all just call themselves European and do away with the details? It’s because there’s an identity, a shared experience, a childhood immersed in a culture that can’t captured by the blanket term, “European”. In the same way, I would never ask a black South African not to identify themselves as Zulu or Sotho – because that would be stripping them of a very big part of who they are. And an IMPORTANT part of who they are.

So yes, I tell my sons they are coloured. I tell them because I want them to understand what it means to be part of a big, crazy Cape coloured family who fills up a family gathering with off-the-wall personalities and ridiculously fast, impossible-to-understand Kombuis Afrikaans. I tell them because I want them to know how my mother’s family were split down the middle by something stupid called the pencil test back in the dark days. I tell them because I want them to be proud of the journey our culture has been through to find identity and meaning in who we are.

And sure, there are some things I’d rather they didn’t associate with – gangsterism and teenage pregnancy and some of the not so spectacular parts of life in previously “coloured” areas. But just because Shaka Zulu killed a whole bunch of people once doesn’t make you embarrassed to call yourself Zulu. We all have our issues – but we are also bigger than them.

Whilst being South African tells so very much about me, there is a uniqueness about being “coloured” that the blanket term, “South African” cannot and does not capture. So yes, I am first and foremost a global citizen, an African and a South African, but I am also coloured. My sons are coloured. And I’ll be damned if anyone or anything ever tries to make me feel ashamed about owning that title ever again.

Emmanuel Sithole

Posted: April 19, 2015 in Uncategorized
Image taken from timeslive.co.za

Image taken from timeslive.co.za

Maybe you know this story. Maybe you don’t. Either way, I think it’s worth hearing again as we all try to absorb the death of Mozambican foreign national, Emmanuel Sithole.

Not many people leave their homes because they desperately hate it and want to be somewhere else. Leaving your home and moving to a completely foreign place that doesn’t know you, doesn’t know your history or your family or the thing you love most about your cultural identity… that’s hard, and it takes a big impetus to make that choice.

I’ve been traveling in America and just about every cab I get into is driven by an immigrant who is absolutely passionate about their country but has had to leave it behind to come earn money in the USA. They miss home. They miss chats on the sidewalk with people they’ve grown up with. They wish they could hold their grandmother’s hand as she gets older and gets ready to leave this world.

But somehow, they need to earn a livelihood for themselves, their immediate families and their extended families. Something has gone very wrong in their countries and the economy is just unable to support their livelihood adequately.

Is this their fault? Well, in the same way we are not the perpetrators of xenophobic violence, they have probably not actively supported the leadership of their country to decimate its wealth. They’ve had to live under colonialism and wars and fights to survive.

So when they come to a new country, it’s not a decision taken lightly. And it’s at a great emotional cost. Immigrants have to give up a huge chunk of what they love simply to earn enough money to keep their families fed and clothed and hopefully even educated.

My gardener/handyman is from Mozambique. Already, that sets me apart because I’m privileged enough to have that luxury – so maybe it’s hard for me to understand what he lives through. And yet, my family and I have the most incredible relationship with this gem of a human being.

I don’t say that lightly. Our gardener, let’s call him Jackson, is one of those people everyone wishes they had around. He works tirelessly. He thinks ahead and takes care of things we would never even think of. He is also every man in that his commitment to uplifting the lives of his family back home is something we see as a theme across the immigrant population from the continent to work in S.A.

He has systematically saved up over YEARS to build a house for his children. He saves up a bit each year and then goes back home and adds another layer to his house. From literally putting down the foundation to finally putting on the last coat of paint. Jackson’s excitement and pride when he eventually showed us the pictures of the final product was palpable and overwhelming.

The point of all of this? Emmanuel Sithole was killed in cold blood in Alex yesterday. I don’t know his story. In fact, we may not even have found out his name were it not for a cellphone left on him. But I gather his story is not all that different from Jackson’s. Emmanuel probably came out to SA to earn money to send home to his family – and what’s going to happen to them now is anyone’s guess.

Empathy starts here. It starts with speaking to someone who you perhaps wouldn’t engage with ordinarily. It is about understanding where people come from and what they struggle with. There is no greater aspiration in life than to extend your humanity beyond yourself and use it to hold another human being up to the light. I invite you to do that today. Get to know “the other” so that they become your friend, your ally and your fellow African in this journey to justice and equality.

Let your empathy guide you

Posted: April 18, 2015 in Uncategorized
This image is taken from a Reuters article on a displaced Roma family

This image is taken from a Reuters article on a displaced Roma family

I’d like to share a personal story for a moment. Before I tell it, I want to emphasise that the experience in no way compares to what foreign nationals are going through right now, but it does perhaps capture some of the emotions of feeling displaced.

 

When I was 13 years old, my father lost his job and our family had to sell our home very quickly to deal with some of the financial implications of that. We also did not have any real savings, so went from an upper middle class existence to zero in pretty much a matter of months.

We had a single (old) car to our names at that point. Literally. And even that wasn’t really ours because we had a mountain of debt that had to be put on hold whilst we figured out the next step.

If it wasn’t for the love of a kickass extended family, I don’t know where we would have ended up. My uncle (he just happens to be my favourite of course!) literally took us in and offered us his home. He was commuting between his place in Cape Town and his job in Namibia and he gave us full access to his house for a year whilst we got back on our feet.

So we packed our bags and made the move from Joburg to Cape Town. Grateful as I was for the option, I was also a bratty teenage girl who just hated, HATED being moved from everything I’d ever known, leaving my friends behind and going somewhere because of MONEY issues of all things! It sucked. It was hard. It was embarrassing. And it was crazy lonely.

As I said at the beginning, this is just my little story which in no way reflects the stories of those displaced in the last week or two. But what it does offer is a context for empathy. My family’s story could happen to almost anyone. Losing everything because of unemployment or some other crisis is a real possibility for a lot of people.

Now imagine adding violence, fear for your life and your family’s, the urgency of getting out quickly so having to leave behind everything you’ve worked so hard for… And pause right there.

 

That feeling you’re feeling? A sense of breathlessness, discomfort and vague panic – multiply that by a thousand. That is only the start of what victims of the xenophobic violence are experiencing.

Let your empathy be your guide as you decide how to respond to this crisis. If it were you, how would you want another human being to help? Then do that thing. Our humanity depends on it.

If not us, then who?

Posted: April 17, 2015 in Uncategorized
I am me because of you

I am me because of you

One of the scariest things about World War II is how an entire nation blindly followed a morally corrupt and repugnant regime. Yes, Adolf Hitler was a persuasive, scary man with lots of military power behind him, but German nationals not only accepted what he was doing, they took pride in it and formed a national identity from it.

And in thinking through why this violence, in an absolute sea of other problems facing our country – from corruption to rape to crime on unprecedented levels – I am reminded of this quote: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. – Edmund Burke

South Africans, especially those of us in a slightly more privileged position, have become passive. Sure, we get mad and we rant and rage about the injustice, lack of accountability and general inanity of the situations unfolding, but very few of us actively engage in the solution.

And when I say solution, I am not referring to making our walls higher or taking out extra insurance policies or finding a way to remove ourselves from the realities on the ground even further. When I say solution, I mean actively choosing to engage with the issues: getting involved with NGOs responding to education, rape, housing and disaster events and lending your time, money and skills to a good cause; making sure your employees are paid a living wage instead of the bare minimum you can get away with paying them; stopping to talk to the lady with a baby on the side of the street and giving her the dignity of caring about her as a human being.

All small gestures in many ways, but if we can create a mountain of small gestures, maybe, just maybe, one day the tide will turn. And maybe we can stop feeling so angry, helpless and lost and instead, feel like we’re building the South Africa our great Tata Madiba dreamed of.

Let me leave you with this tonight as you consider what your next steps will be from here. Desmond Tutu, often the moral compass of our nation had this to say on injustice: If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.

I implore you, do something different today and this weekend. Reach out to a foreign national and show them that we as South Africans are not the brutal, ugly monsters taking lives and livelihoods away right now. In the words of Mahatma Ghandi, Be the change you want to see in the world.

 

It was once you

Posted: April 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

quote-never-never-and-never-again-shall-it-be-that-this-beautiful-land-will-again-experience-the-nelson-mandela-118479

Our country is on fire. At least 5 people are dead in the recent wave of xenophobic violence that has hit South Africa. I fear that this number may see a sharp increase in the next days and weeks if we do not take drastic action against it. At least 10,000 have fled and 2,000 are in the temporary safety camps that have been set up in Durban, the city at the centre of the attacks.

Word on the street has it that agitators are actively taking the violence beyond Kwa Zulu Natal and are attempting to go nationwide by as early as tomorrow, including in Gauteng, our economic hub and home to many foreign nationals.

I watch as South Africans on the other side of fence band together to present a different face, an alternative dialogue in the form of protests, aid at camps, etc. But I want to propose a different response.

When our struggle leaders were ostracized, banned and forced into hiding, our African brothers and sisters across the continent opened up their homes and took them in. Pause on that for a moment: they OPENED UP THEIR HOMES.

At Madiba’s memorial service not too long ago, an African leader spoke about him literally leaving his shoes at his host’s home as he believed he would have to come back there at some point.

The struggle survived and succeeded because Africans believed in us and supported our cause so strongly that they were willing to inconvenience themselves and host us in their inner sanctuaries, feed us, clothe us and give us comfort.

Today, I want to challenge the South Africans amongst us who still believe in the dream our Tata Madiba fought for, the cause that people died for and the belief that nobody, not a SINGLE PERSON in our land would experience oppression by one person over another. I want to challenge you today to do what our African brothers and sisters did for us over all those years: open up the doors of your homes and let the victims of this atrocity in.

I don’t say this light-heartedly. I am very aware that this is a big ask and may make you feel exposed and at risk. I am also aware that isn’t very convenient to bring someone into your home, amongst your family. But ladies & gentlemen, if we don’t, PEOPLE WILL DIE. This is LITERALLY a life or death situation for many.

As a mother, I keep thinking about how I would feel if I was in a situation where my child’s life was in danger, where they were exposed to brutality and seeing extreme violence unfold right in front of them. I am so overwhelmed by the enormity of just thinking about this that it moves me to tears & heart palpitations. I can think of nothing worse than not being able to protect those who depend on me for their safety.

Fellow South Africans: those of you who say something must give, those of you who want to help but don’t know where to start, those of you who LOVE the country our leaders bled for, I implore you to stand up with me today and take a bold and unflinching stance on the most horrific behaviour we’ve seen in the past year.

Join me in showing those who are suffering under this madness a different face of a South African, one who insists that if this kind of abomination is taking place in our country, at the very least, it will not be done in my name.