Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: political (Page 1 of 21)

Cape Town and the DA

I know #whataboutists will tell me about Solly Msimanga and Herman Mashaba – both DA mayors of big cities (notwithstanding some of their votes of no confidence faced and other xenophobic utterances), but I am so completely grumpy with the DA’s Brett Herron standing for mayor I could scream.

Even John Maytham couldn’t hold the disbelief out of his voice when interviewing him yesterday. Really? A white, male candidate? Another Athol Trollip moment? Every single thing about this possibility makes me know that the DA is pedalling backwards on the totally dysfunctional bicycle lanes it spent millions on.

I am no fan of Brett Bicycle Lane Herron. I totally believe that he is unable to separate from his upwardly middle class white experience of Cape Town. I wanted to scream when he cried big white tears after catching the train from Khayelitsha that first time because suddenly he was shocked by how people had to travel every day of their lives. I was enraged when I saw the pictures of him proudly handing over keys to a few ‘Bo-Kaap facaded’ (in his own words) houses in the arsehole of the world, Fisantekraal, like he was doing a good thing.

I know that for whatever bullshit auntie Pat was up to, and that there was a lot of it, and I suspect she sold a piece of her soul to the devil(opers), she still had a relatively good idea of how the poor of CT live. Brett Herron has yet to deliver on his promise for decent transport and social housing close to Cape Town. And that was his portfolio. Why on earth would this man be a good mayor for Cape Town? I cannot see him moving away from the absolutely traditional white response to this city. And it is a response that allows for rampant gentrification, the arse licking of developers, the perpetuation of the accurate myth of the city being a little bit of Europe, and the complete polarisation of its population into old, apartheid geography.

Brett Herron’s track record reflects his position clearly. He has prioritised service delivery to those less in need of it. He has bought band-aids for photo opportunities. He has perpetuated Zille’s legacy. He is not what we need.

My 2c worth.

The Whiteness of Being

I don’t even know how to write this. I am going to piss off many who will say, “So what?” I am going to be the critical voice, the moaner, the killjoy, the maker of the mountain that shouldn’t even be a molehill. And still.

This afternoon two friends and I went to the Christ Church in Constantia for one of their monthly music concerts. They’re even called The Christ Church Concerts. I have never been before, but I am on the mailing list, and this one I really wanted to go to. Franz Liszt performed by Christopher Duigan. I have loved Liszt since I was a child, influenced by my father, who would play the rhapsodies loudly on our record player and I would dance.

Before I say anything else, I must say how lovely and beautiful and familiar and fun and delicious the music and the pianist were. Christopher Duigan is cute and charming and humble, and then he plays his heart out and his fingers fly. I loved it. And, that should be the point. Of course it should.

But something started niggling and I couldn’t let it go. My maths is shit, but I estimated that there were at least 350 of us there, in the lovely church. Tickets were an affordable R100. But there was not one, single person of colour amongst us. Not one.

What planet was I on? How was this possible? How could it be that I was in a crowd that size and there were only white people in the room? How was it possible that for all these people this was absolutely, totally normal? Whites only.

This is possible in Cape Town. No, this is accepted as normal in Cape Town. And it shook me to the core.

When we got up to leave we were some of the last; a recently divorced and well oiled lady was telling us more of her story. Then I noticed a team of coloured and black men enter the church. They had come to stack and move the chairs.

Megan to Cape Town. We have a problem.

Story

I am thinking about stories, telling them, remembering them, listening to them, sharing them and even being in them. They are my work, blood, passion and entertainment.

And, I want to write about them. I am writing lots of stories at the moment, but none are in first person, even though everything I write is informed by me. But I also just want to write about my stuff. So this is a true story about last night.

I pitched up at my friend Leonard just before 6pm. He lives close to town, and we were waltzing off to What if the World gallery in Buiten Street to an exhibition opening. We decided to walk; something I don’t do often, especially in the evening.

We did a brisk trot down Long Street; avoiding looking like tourists and the accompanying people who have a long story of their own about why you need to help them.

The gallery lights spilled down the ramp way/steps of what used to be where people drove their cars for fixing. It’s a gorgeous clean space, with levels and grey floors, and special gallery lights. Pink bubbles were served in short stylish cylinders. Brilliant and provocative art (from white men) bounced off the walls and filled the spaces and were viewed by a slick, chic and exceptionally gorgeous segment of Cape Town’s white art viewers. I had a moment of feeling I was in Norway.

Then we scurried further down Long Street to Church Street for another exhibition opening; a friend of a friend’s friend. Another space, this time darkly lit with the focus on the finest lined drawings by Marsi van der Heuwel. I liked the tiny lines.

We crossed the pedestrian road to AVA. At last. Actual black people; both artists and attendees. I fell in love with Nkosinathi Quwe‘s work; huge brilliant paintings depicting rituals. This is what he says about himself and his work. “Nkosinati Quwe is a painter who considers himself a visual messenger carrying the ancient story of the people – telling stories that have been told before, but from his perspective…”

Upstairs I got sucked in to watching a video installation. I think the artist was Mexican. A man collected bricks from rubble, built a kind of wall, made wooden squares, set them on fire, then smashed the wall. I became entranced with the sounds. For the first time I understood the weird and pervasive contemporary phenomenon of the people who make those brushing, licking, scratching videos – ASMR – autonomous sensory meridian response.

Then, from the balcony I played a delicious mime game with a toddler on the ground floor. We pretended to throw and catch things to and from each other. We laughed.

Leonard and I spilled back onto the street and walked with purpose, ignoring the woman who needed me to get her milk and bread for her toddler please mam, not for me mam, but for my child. The irony was not lost. We entered the safe and most absolutely Cape Town Royale Eatery; for me a vegan burger, and for Leonard a bunless meat but no carbs option. The irony was further not lost.

It was a huge and delicious meal. I was so glad to have been there after such a long time. Afterwards I said to Leonard that we would have to run up the road I was so stuffed full. We started a brisk walking jog. A big black man shouted out “Easy!” I told Leonard, “I think he thinks we are afraid of him.” On the next corner another young black man approached us. “Hey, why did you guys run? Are you scared? Are you Jewish? I can see you are Jewish!”

It was Tebogo, a young Sotho man from the North West. We chatted on the corner, getting to know each other. We explained our full tummies, and he explained his love of Jewish people. Leonard and I also had to explain that we weren’t a couple. It was a complicated, confusing, fabulous and fresh chat; on the corner of Kloof and Rheede.

I jumped into my car. Talk radio was all about fynbos. I switched off so I could listen to the world while I drove. I was remembering what Leonard had reminded me of; the Chinese scientists who had come to Sutherland, known for its pristine skies and also for its quiet, so they could listen to the sound of the world turning.

White Privilege and the Loaded Baggage of arrogance, patronage and patriarchy

I thought about writing a twitter thread on white privilege but then I realised that I probably had too much to say.

I have been conscious of my own white privilege for a long time, courtesy of a father who explained the difference between my suburban primary school and the ones that were in such trouble in Soweto on June 16, 1976. I was 11.

I was painfully aware of white privilege without having access to the words of it as I was grown up by another woman who was not my mother, or even a family member, Lilian Mpila. She ‘lived in’ while her own children lived somewhere else far away with other people. She fed me, dressed me, punished me (subtly, because it wasn’t her right), and because she was strong, we suffered each others’ micro-aggressions. The ones she directed at me were to teach me, painfully slowly, what it was like to have a paid slave in our house, and what that did to her psyche. The ones I directed at her should have been received by my mother.

Everything I am is because of how I grew up. The fact that my family was not rich and didn’t manage the veneer of middle class does not give me comparison rights to poorness. It is the fault of my family that it did not fare better under apartheid. It should have. It had such a massive head start and truthfully, my grandparents and parents didn’t take enough advantage of the total privilege their whiteness provided them. They were less than mediocre achievers (something I have inherited and am not critical of that at all), and would most definitely have been part of the working class who had not risen up by their bootstraps if it were not for the running head start of being white and having access.

So when white South Africans claim the poorness of immigrant parents and grandparents I want to scream, “That’s their fault! They had every single thing they needed to get out of that!” And I also want to interrogate how quickly they managed to get out of it. The journey that most dirt poor, white European refugees from war took when coming to South Africa was one that started them above at least 70% of the population of South Africa, who were not even seen, counted or considered. Every corner shop (my paternal grandfather started with a general dealer shop in Tulbagh) could only be owned by a white person. Every office job was done by a white person. Every house owned by a white person. Every teacher was white. Every sportsperson. White immigrants got bank loans and bursaries and built houses with cheap labour.

When the DA’s Natasha Mazzone claimed to have come from a poor family of immigrants who arrived here with nothing my response was, well, considering the circumstances they really should have done better. She should be embarrassed about how little they took advantage of their privilege on a platter. They had immediate access to virtual slave labour, land, commerce, cheap and good education, and all this was by law. Every single thing that black people were by law deprived of.

This same white privilege is also responsible for white ‘colour blindness’; the kind that has raised its vile and idiotic head with the Ashwin Willemse saga. Because underneath all the ‘disappointment’ speak around whatever went down and how these white men are not racist, is the complete inability to understand that although these men share a studio, the journey that brought them to it is incomparable. Ashwin’s is miraculous. A one in a million chance. A chance against every single odd. What was handed to Mallet and Botha throughout their lives, on every level, was the daily, weekly, monthly and yearly entitlement of whiteness that they do not even know how to recognise or acknowledge.

What needed to happen, even though it was too late, was a huge, heartfelt apology by Mallet and Botha, for being so unconscious that they had no idea they were causing hurt. I don’t think they meant to. That is possibly even worse. That is white privilege.

I have no idea why this white privilege, glaring and obvious at every turn, is so difficult to own. I do know that not owning it is the most dangerous thing any white person can do.

South African Jews for a Free Palestine

It was a no brainer that I would march on Tuesday with many other Capetonians who are horrified by the atrocities committed by the state of Israel and its IDF against Palestinians. I was emotional about being one of the few South African Jews who were there, but committed to holding a section of the SAJFP banner. As we traipsed across the patch of rapidly greening grass to gather in Kaizersgracht Street we walked past these people in these tents and I got hysterical about land again.

People are living in these tents on this patch of land under the shadow of the mountain. I watched as Jesse Duarte and her ANC entourage in their shiny black cars came to march. They drove past these tents. They were our government marching for the rights of Palestinians. It was hard to swallow the irony.

But, back to the march. Please indulge me here for a moment. (I am taking licence because this is my blog, about my stuff). Never before have I had that kind of connection with people, and I am an old and seasoned marcher. Men and women thanked me, hugged me, embraced me and kissed me. Women held me and whispered their gratitude for me, us, our little group. They spoke about how brave we were (I didn’t feel brave) and their eyes glistened with tears.

Before we walked people took photographs of us and the banner. While we walked people made space for us, wanted us to be seen and acknowledged. One of the organisers of our little group was clear that we were not the focus nor the forefront of the march, yet I have never felt more seen or visible.

I felt human and connected with humanity on Tuesday, and yes, I do know that it isn’t about me, wasn’t about me, but I am spurred on to do things to try and make it better for those who are victimised, demonised and brutalised by others; here and elsewhere.

About that Land thing

I eavesdropped on a casual conversation between two white Woodstock residents who were ignoring their dogs’ poo in the park. They were ‘ventilating’ the notion of social and affordable housing in Woodstock and they were kinda whinging about why Woodstock had to ‘get social housing’. ‘Why them, where they live and have recently spent a total and absolute fortune on their newly revamped old Victorians or built from scratch mixed development apartments?’ is what I think they were getting at. And I thought about the people, mainly tenants, who had had to make way for these revamps, and those who had been evicted to make way for the snazzy developments that show only white people in their artists’ impressions. What interested me more than their ignorance and short memories was that they saw absolutely no irony in the fact that Woodstock had been a social housing and affordable option up until they had moved here.

I got home in a prickle. I couldn’t get their voices out of my mind. I also kept seeing the smile on Brett Herron‘s face as he handed keys to a resident of a social house in the, to use his words, Bo-Kaap facaded, development in the arse end of the world, Fisantekraal. He was so proud. Fisantekraal. In the photo of the Bo-Kaap facaded houses Table Mountain looks tiny because it is so far away.

Brett Herron is in charge of transport and housing in the city. Brett Herron lives in Newlands. Brett Herron has explained to Reclaim the City that the only place evictees of Woodstock can be temporarily housed is Wolwerivier (not Blikkiesdorp anymore because it is even more terrible and isolated than Wolwerivier).

People in the wealthy suburbs of Cape Town have made it abundantly clear that social or affordable housing schemes are not welcome in their ‘hoods. Their main argument is that it will bring down the value of their property. Well, folks, your property became valuable because poor people were either forced out or were never allowed in. The birth of townships like Imizamo Yethu is a perfect example of poor people having nowhere to live or transport to get to work for the rich in suburbs like Hout Bay.

No apartheid campaign was as successful as the forced removal of communities, and the destruction of homes, history, livelihood, stories, culture, families, livelihoods and access. Nothing deserves our attention more than redressing this. And yet, it gets a band aid, photo opportunity, pretend solution of Fisantekraal. It also provides the worst possible excuse for those who do not want affordable housing anywhere near their unaffordable housing.

What I don’t understand even a little bit is why these rich snobs of the fancy suburbs are even allowed to voice these concerns. Why is there any delay in identifying land, and building on it right now? Why is this not happening in Maiden’s Cove, Sea Point, Constantia, Hout Bay, the CBD, Milnerton, Pinelands, Rondebosch, Claremont (where people were forcibly removed), District Six (where people live in holes in the ground), Simonstown, and on any single tiny patch of land owned by the city of Cape Town?

Every (white) one is hysterical about land expropriation without compensation in theory, but these same people are clinging to a notion that they can spout ‘property values’ and not be racist and complicit in perpetuating the radical spatial and geographic apartheid of this city. And the city of Cape Town is complicit and active in perpetuating this too.

 

 

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