Funding Journalism: An Insurance Policy for Our Nation

Funding Journalism: An Insurance Policy for Our Nation

“It may not always feel like it but South Africa is in a better place than it was this time in 2017 – and the media played a critical role in getting the country to this point.” Jessica Bezuidenhout: “Journalism in a time of State Capture” Daily Maverick 15 August 2018

I feel extremely challenged as I read the stories of the whistleblowers who brought #GuptaLeaks and State Capture to light. Some of them spoke at this week’s 10XDaily Maverick Media Gathering in Cape Town. The #Guptaleaks pair appeared for the first time in a pre-recorded interview from an unknown location outside South Africa, faces blacked out and voices distorted to protect their identity. Ex-Trillian CEO Bianca Goodson appeared with Eskom’s former head of legal and compliance, Suzanne Daniels. These (extra)ordinary people – amongst many others – risked their lives and careers to help save South Africa from ruin. Then there are the journalists and editors who work with the whistle-blowers to bring their stories into the public domain. This too is gritty work. Without their skill and bravery nothing would come to light.

I feel challenged by these people’s work because – whilst I am enjoying the enormous benefits of living in South Africa – there are people out there putting their lives on the line to ensure that I continue to do so. They have been willing to sacrifice their place in this country – and indeed their personal safety – for you and me. What kind of person is willing to give up everything for their country and their people?

During the Daily Maverick Gathering, SAFM host Stephen Grootes hosted a panel discussion with some of the country’s top media minds; Kate Skinner, executive director of SANEF, Mondli Makhanya, editor at City Press, Adriaan Basson, editor at News24 and Stefaans Brummer from amaBhungane. They all agreed that the role of a free press was as important as ever before and entities such as the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism and the Daily Maverick need our support to keep doing the exceptional investigative work that they are doing.

We can’t all be whistleblowers and journos, but we must get behind these brave South Africans and help them to do the work of upholding democracy. amaBhungane (“…a non-profit newsroom that exposes wrongdoing, empowering people to hold power to account”) and Daily Maverick are doing superb work. Pick one, click on a link below and help to fund them. 

This is the best money you will ever spend in terms of an insurance policy for our nation.

Daily Maverick: https://bit.ly/2N2fWPq 

amaBhungane: https://bit.ly/2OFIJd4

Blog image courtesy of the Daily Meverick

Inequality – It’s In Our Hands

Inequality – It’s In Our Hands

During the 16th Nelson Mandela lecture, former US President Barack Obama humbly and vulnerably took issue with a side of humanity that few are ever brave enough to; the side that says that more is always better.  He said: “Right now, I am actually surprised by how much money I got…There’s only so much you can eat. There’s only so big a house you can have. There’s only so many nice trips you can take. I mean, it’s enough.”   

The questions we might ask when presented with this thinking is, what is a former US President’s definition of enough? What is my enough? What is your enough? But by asking such questions we lose ourselves in ‘for instances’ and ‘hypotheticals’ and we miss the essence of what he is suggesting; that inequality is – at least to some degree – in our hands to fix. He is basically suggesting that as long as one of our number is in lack whilst I am not, then I have more than enough.

Of course, in our capitalist world where ‘more’ is the only game in town, this thinking is naïve. It sounds like charity speak. But that is where we have gone wrong; we have commoditized giving. We have turned what should be a normal everyday human response to inequality into a system of points, rewards and tax breaks.

But President Obama is asking us to look at inequality differently, perhaps a little more like my child who looks at the beggar on the street and says: “Give that man our money – we have enough!”

How do we do this well? It begins with a shift in mindset: What can I go without, so people can have what they need to survive? This may be a physical thing like a meal or a movie or some new clothes, or it may be less tangible like a degree of financial security or the size of my savings account. Having begun to think this way then we begin to free ourselves of the constraints of our own poverty mentality. We can then think about doing some of these things:

  • Enjoy the fact that our tax goes in large part to feeding the poor. We can pay it thankfully and think or pray for those who have less.
  • We can become radical tippers. I loved the story of the Brit who was so impressed by having his petrol pumped by an attendant that he tipped 10% of the value of the full tank of fuel. We can make 15% – 20% restaurant tips the norm. R10 minimum for car guards and bag packers in supermarkets. 
  • R20 an hour is not a living wage. We can pay R30+ an hour which is okay but still not great.
  • We can employ more people – especially women – than we necessarily need. We won’t do work that someone else can do for us and be paid for. 
  • We can help our domestics, our gardeners with educating their children, maybe by arranging that they attend a better school, and maybe by assisting with the fees.

Does all this sound naïve? It may do – but the alternative is not: The alternative is a society slowly but surely torn apart by inequality.

Justin Foxton is founder of The Peace Agency. 

His writing is dedicated to the memory of 17 year old Anene Booysens: gang raped, mutilated and murdered  and Emmanuel Josias Sithole: beaten and stabbed to death.

The Humble Jaffle – Igniting Peace and Reconciliation

The Humble Jaffle – Igniting Peace and Reconciliation

On a recent holiday in our beloved second home of Mpumalanga province, we decided to take a day-trip into the Kruger National Park. The idea was a gentle game drive up to the Skukuza day visitors’ area where we would light a fire at the communal braai area and make Jaffles.

Now, if you are anything like me before meeting Cathy, you will not know what a Jaffle is. Suffice to say for now that if food could ever be categorised as being race specific, Jaffles would have to be called pure “white food”. I mean just the name is white right? What self-respecting black person would ever refer to anything as a “Jaffle”? (This reminds me of the many work trips I took with my friend and colleague Akhona Ngcobo. Note: never refer to biltong as “billies” if you are with a black person!)

But a Jaffle is basically a toasted sandwich done on an open flame. The difference to a regular toastie (ahem…. sorry black friends!) is that they are round, not square. You put whatever you want between two slices  of bread, squash it all into a round metal mould that is secured on the end of a longish, heat resistant handle, cut off the corners that are now protruding and oozing out of the sides of the mould, shove it all into the coals for about 5 minutes a side and Bob’s your aunty.

Now, imagine the scene…. two white parents plus their one black daughter set up for their lunch in the communal braai area at Skukuza. They lay down their little pile of 6 or 7 briquettes (you don’t need a big fire when Jaffle making) which they ignite with the same number of fire lighters. They then make their cheese and onion filling (which all comes out of separate little colour-coded Tupperwares), spray the hell out of the Jaffle maker with “Spray ‘n Cook”, cut off all the corners and proceed to braai their very small, round toasted sandwiches.

In the cultural nightmare I had the night before our day trip, there was much incredulity amongst the black families who were there braaiing their lunch with us (as an aside, have you ever seen white people using communal braai facilities? I haven’t. We don’t seem to braai together in public.) As they set fire to whole bags of charcoal and braaied proper amounts of nyama the questions were written all over their faces: “Why go to all the trouble of lighting a fire to make such a small sandwich?”; “Why such a very small fire – even if the sandwich is small?”; “Why no meat?”; “Why cut the corners off the sandwich – isn’t it small enough as it is?” “Why not just get a toasted sandwich from the tea room?” “You look hungry, would you like some of our meat?”  

But as always, the experience of being together with people different to us was profoundly enriching. We all braaied our separate ways; we smiled and laughed, spoke about what animals we had seen and blew our coals to get the flames going. So much was the same, but much was different. And those differences are what made the experience colourful and rich and fun.

At one stage our braai neighbour commented that he had seen Jaffle makers in shops and now he knew what they were used for.

I resisted the urge to ask for a piece of his chop.

Child Abandonment: Our Solution to the Increasing Crisis

Child Abandonment: Our Solution to the Increasing Crisis

In South Africa we have a great many babies – apparently some 3500 known cases – that are abandoned annually.

These are the ‘lucky ones’ that get found alive because figures show that for every abandoned child found alive, two are found dead. Some of their deaths are intentional others unintentional.

This is the typical journey of the babies that are found alive: They are often discovered in plastic bags or tucked behind clinic buildings, in dustbins, on driveways or in public bathrooms. They get handed to the police who hand them to the courts who hand them to Child Welfare who hand them to us. We run a Baby Home. A place that wants those abandoned babies that no one else does; a place that loves children in a way that all children need and deserve to be loved.  

Trouble is, there is simply too many of these little ones.  A Baby Home like the one our NGO runs in Durban North, Kwa-Zulu Natal is registered as a place of safety, specifically for abandoned babies and children in need of care and protection. Legally, we can have up to 6 babies/toddlers in our care. But a recent crisis which involves the Kwa-Zulu Natal Department of Social Development all-but halting adoptions in the province, has meant that Baby Homes like ours are having to take in 7,8,9 and 10 babies at a time. This is dangerous and compromises our ability to care for and love each child individually. But what can be done? These babies are in severe crisis and need immediate care.

As an NGO we are beginning an initiative to address this crisis. We cannot afford to keep opening Baby Homes like the one in Durban North, but we can support individuals who have the heart and the capacity to take in one baby at a time and care for them until permanent arrangements can be made for that child. This could be for a weekend, a week or a few months. It is what is known as Kangaroo Parenting and it is a life-changing intervention for any child who has experienced the trauma of being abandoned or given up by their parents.

If you are in the Durban area, please consider joining us in this effort. Perhaps you are not in KZN or South Africa – or perhaps you know that Kangaroo Parenting is not for you – but you would be able to assist us with formula, nappies, clothes or funds. All assistance would be most welcome. We are BBBEE level 1 and a fully registered NPO and PBO. 

Should you wish to find out more about becoming a Kangaroo Parent, please e-mail jo@peaceagency.org.za. Should you wish to support the initiative with donations or funds please e-mail cathy@peaceagency.org.za

Changing the World – One Story at a Time

Changing the World – One Story at a Time

Our country is gearing up for the 2019 election and so predictably, the seeds of division are being sown.

Racist rhetoric, polarisation, distortion of facts and even hate speech are going to be the order of the day for the next 12 to 18 months. This sets us back in our efforts to bring healing and restoration to our democracy. But there is a simple antidote that each of us can employ.

“It’s hard to hate anyone whose story you know” – Roslyn Bresnick-Perry.

Have you taken the time to tell your story to the people in your life? Have you taken the time to hear their story? I am talking about people once or twice removed from you: Your boss, your staff, your colleagues, your fellow worshippers. When we spend time together sharing our life’s journey, walls come down and unity rises.

“Stories can conquer fear. They can make the heart grow bigger” – Ben Okri.

When we hear one another’s stories, we are startled by the resilience people have; by their courage and their creativity. Soon, differences of colour, religion, class, political affiliation and age matter less as we discover the person with all their past struggles and future dreams. Fear of difference begins to evaporate. 

“An enemy is one whose story we have not heard” – Gene Knudsen Hoffman

Story telling is the only way that we break down suspicion. Stories help us to see the real person beyond our pre-conceived ideas, our stereotypes and prejudices. In the process we develop understanding, empathy, forgiveness, acceptance of difference and real enjoyment and love of one other.

I recently came across a fantastic campaign that is being run by an outstanding NGO called Heartlines. It is called What’s Your Story (www.whatsyourstory.org.za) and it advocates story telling as a tonic for a nation desperately in need of that healing. They are rolling the campaign out in schools, businesses, churches and on-line. In these environments, people are beginning to share their stories and unity is being created. You can go onto their website, share your story, read other stories and even help to fund the roll out of this powerful initiative to 1 million people. 

Take a look at this short clip to hear more and get involved. https://whatsyourstory.org.za/donate/

Peach & Brown vs Black & White: Slipping Out of Past Realities

Peach & Brown vs Black & White: Slipping Out of Past Realities

If you are bringing up small children in South Africa, you may well have heard the words “brown” and “peach” used to refer to black and white people.

I simply cannot express in words how these terms irritate me. They irritate me even more than that other new South African buzz term “colour blind”. More on that another time.

The reasons for my grave dislike of these two terms are many. I shall limit myself in this post to just two:

The terms are used mostly by liberal white people (or black people with liberal white mates) who are trying to be politically correct. This is well intentioned, but it backfires dangerously. This is because the colour classification of a human being (as much as we may disagree with it) has come to represent vastly more than simply the colour of my skin; it is who I was, who I am and who I will be; it is the suitcase I am packed up in – but it is also the contents; it is my body yes, but it is also my soul and my psyche. I am black; I am white; I am coloured; I am Indian encompasses the way I see the world, the way the world sees and treats me and the way I live and move and have my being in the world. It is everything, with actual colour just a part of the story.

So, changing people’s colour is not only naïve, but damaging; we are tampering with something foundational and intrinsic and indeed good. People are not just walls you can paint over when the old colour doesn’t match the decor anymore. By changing black people’s colour to brown – without asking I might add because it certainly wasn’t black people who started this – we in effect negate their ‘blackness’; that thing that travels such a long journey beyond just colour.

And the terms are not just problematic for black people. Peach – which let’s face it conjures up images of happy romps through orchards on a spring day – allows us to slip out of the past reality and the harshness of our whiteness and into a new and far more gentle and comfortable outfit. With one word we are able to say: “It wasn’t/isn’t me. I didn’t/don’t benefit from my whiteness because I’m not white, I’m peach!”  But the thing is, I am white and until I learn what that really means and deal with it warts and all, no amount of peach paint is going to change me.

And when do we stop this charade with our kids? The world calls people black and white, coloured and Indian, Russian and Jewish and Muslim. Is it like swearing – they can only use these “bad words” when they are adults? We are white inside and out – and we are beautiful. We are black inside and out – and we are beautiful. God created us all in His image – black and white; beautiful inside and out. We must celebrate who we are and not try and paint ourselves in a different light.

Our kids will handle it.