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Showing posts from July, 2011

domestic workers

"To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others" - Nelson Mandela.


Domestic workers are such an assumed part of life in South Africa, that my refusal to have one seems strange and even selfish to some people. After all, how else will the millions of uneducated, even illiterate, especially among the older generation of black women in this country, find employment? Being a domestic worker, or ‘maid’ as old school South Africans still call them, is a good job, highly desired…so they say.
But I have never felt comfortable with the idea. Firstly, I don’t see this as meaningful, rewarding or empowering employment – which is what we need more of in this country (and the world in general). But even putting aside this idealistic objection, the fact is that while people still have black women cleaning their houses, nothing has changed in this country. The domestic, social and economic spaces remain, as under a…

uncomfortable questions...

He was running next to our car as if his life depended on it – and maybe it did! I felt a whirlpool of emotions, ranging from sadness and pity to fear and anger: fearful that he would be hurt or run over by our car, or another; angry that my husband didn’t just stop (he couldn’t - we were crossing a busy city intersection!); sad that his situation (and that of many in this country) could be so desperate that he would do this just to sell one magazine!
It was Saturday, and we were on our way to a movie. We had stopped at a traffic light, and started to call over one of the ‘Big Issue’ magazine vendors that are always there, when the lights changed, and we had to move on. The man eagerly ran over to catch us before we passed, but just then I realised we only had a R50 – the magazine costs R18 (of which half goes to the vendor) and we often just give a R20 as there is very little time to scramble for change…but R50?
While I continued to scrounge through the wallet for something else, he k…

burning the book

ID books - Fascist relics of the apartheid era: ever stopped to wonder why we still tolerate them?

Without a “green bar-coded ID book” in South Africa today, you can’t open a bank account, have a “cell” phone account, or any other sort of account, you can’t sign a rental agreement or buy a car, you can’t even register to VOTE (as I recently discovered)!! This infuriates me, makes me feel like a dodgy illegal immigrant in the country of my birth, and has often resulted in me saying “I just can’t wait to move back to Australia”.
Now hang on a minute, you might say- isn’t it essential to avoid voter fraud by identifying people when they register to vote – ensuring they are actually South African citizens? Well, I would answer that a passport should be good enough – and South African passports still have the fascist tracking (ID) number in it anyway, along with a photo – it’s valid for official identification all around the world. I should not have been disqualified from voting, as a born…