Wednesday, August 4, 2010

dear mzanzi...

dear mzanzi...

thank you.

thank you for mountains, for ocean, for endless sunshine, sand, and beach.

thank you for the eastern cape, the garden route, and of course, the mother city.

thank you for kirstenbosch, for franschhoek, for stellenbosch and kalk bay.

thank you for four seasons in one day.

thank you for cheesefest, for bastille day and world cup.

thank you for hues of green, for skies of blue, yellow, orange, pink, purple, red, for cloud masterpieces that never fail to amaze.

thank you for 31 bowden, for tenzing, for sunday recovery in the courtyard and the best housemates anyone could ever ask for.

thank you for sundowners, sunrises, and every part of day and night in between.

thank you for sea point promenade, waves crashing on the shore, and walks to clear the head.

thank you for mind-blowing meals, world-class wine, palate-pleasing beer, mouth-watering fruit, and desserts that even a salt tooth could love.

thank you for the market, bloody marys, and lazy saturdays in the sun.

thank you for being a photographers dream.

thank you for prince william, who has brought so much delight to all our lives.

thank you for the mildest winters I have ever known.

thank you for oysters.. for oysters…for oysters..

thank you for late night dance parties and kick ass homegrown music.

thank you for my friends, my wonderful brilliant diverse hilarious witty gorgeous supportive deliciously fun friends.

thank you for my students, for their strength, their beauty, their voices, their laughter, their endless talent and inspiration.

thank you for affording me two and a half years of eye-opening and horizon-broadening experiences like no other, for humbling me, for teaching me about myself, for showing me how much more I have to learn.

and most of all, thank you – thank you so very very much – for reminding me of my blessed privilege, every single day.

until we meet again kaapstad…ndisafunda.

                                                                       - august 4, 2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

in the end..

It is almost three years since my first meeting with the Advisory Board of Education Without Borders. At that time my knowledge of the organization and ideas on the Fezeka Project was limited to a brief conversation with Bonny Norton, and information gathered on EwB’s Website. Filled with an overflowing zeal at the thought of what this opportunity might offer, I was determined to fly to BC to meet the rest of the team.

I clearly remember that beautiful sunny day which was my first time in Vancouver in over 25 years. I recall being awestruck by the impressive presence the mountains cast over the sparkling city. Little did I know I would soon be living in the shadow of another extraordinary mountain, in a completely different world-class city.

Meeting with the Board I was asked about my expectations for the experience. My answer came easily: I ‘expected’ nothing. I only hoped for an experience that would allow me to grow as an individual, and put my diverse skill set and enthusiasm to use.


Suffice to say that this experience has been all that, and then some.

From my arrival at Fezeka – meeting the staff and learners, finding my way around the school, travelling to and from Gugulethu with my colleagues, them blaring Xhosa gospel music on the car stereo – to becoming acquainted with the city that I would love immediately and soon grow to call my second home, it has been a non-stop rollercoaster ride. And like all great rollercoaster rides, I don’t want to get off.

But, as they say, all good things must come to an end. Or, as I have been saying, we must finish one exciting chapter before moving on to the next. And while once we have lived a chapter we cannot live it again for the first time, we can go on to the next chapter, and the next chapter, and the next.

My experience at Fezeka has been life changing in many ways. Not least of which is the way I have struggled to learn to accept that there may be things I cannot change.

It was difficult, coming to this reconciliation. Having been raised by a woman who instilled in me a belief and conviction that I could accomplish whatever I set my mind to, the seemingly insurmountable challenges at Fezeka were of a completely different sort.

Surprisingly, (or perhaps unsurprisingly), some of the biggest challenges I faced came not from the students, but from my colleagues. I could write (and have written) volumes about the non-existent work ethic of some of my fellow educators. Infuriatingly, there seems to be little that I as an individual could have done to change this. Leading by example was the best I could manage, and even this seemed to at times garner me more detractors than friends. Undeterred, I continued doing what I knew best, eventually investing all my time in the learners, my true reward and joy.

The endless hours I have spent in my classroom with my students will remain some of the happiest and most inspiring moments of my entire life. These young people, to whom life has dealt the harshest and most difficult of hands, have an unimaginable hunger for learning and seemingly never-ending patience with educators that continue to neglect them. Having never been taught their own worth, or made cognizant of their right to an education, they remain silent – made voiceless by a system that passively condones this negligence by standing idly by while it continues, or makes accountability for such behavior all but impossible to enforce.

Along with the poor quality of education the learners receive at the primary level right up on through to secondary school, this institutionalized discrimination is in my opinion, the greatest tragedy this country currently faces. A whole generation – if not two or three – of young people are growing up with an inadequate education, ill-prepared for the competitive workforce that comes part and parcel with living in a country with an emerging economy.

Even typing those words – thereby acknowledging them – is difficult for me. But I have learned to accept that the way in which this will play out was written long before I came along. One cannot expect to change in a year or two or three or even ten, what is the result of more than a half-century of oppression.

But we must not give up hope. The light that burns inside so many of these young people will not allow us to. We must continue in whatever way, by whatever means, to try and enable these young people to grow, learn, feel free to ask, stand up for themselves, have their voices heard, and thrive. Simply surviving is nowhere near enough.

To employ the age-old adage: Rome was not built in a day. This clichéd but timeless lesson can surely be applied in reference to EwB’s involvement at Fezeka. I share the organization’s determination that things can and will change at Fezeka for the kids, one volunteer at a time, student by student. Change on a large scale can be very challenging to bring about. By working with students on a micro level we can hope to plant a seed that will grow into something great, somewhere down the line.

We must not allow ourselves to be discouraged by the setbacks, and focus solely on the achievements. We are in unchartered territory, governed only by our wits and initiative. In my opinion, we must focus on the students – on working with them, sharing of ourselves with them, in whatever way we can. Teach them, encourage them, offer guidance and above all, listen to them. For many, we as educators are the only ones in their lives who do.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone at Education without Borders who played a part in helping me live the experience that I have lived at Fezeka. I am forever changed, forever grateful, forever learning.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

an exercise in patience

IF you are a person of colour, from a foreign country, if you struggle with English, or happen to lose your temper at the unbelievable incompetence of the people working in the South African Department of Home Affairs and their way of doing their jobs, good luck to you.

You will be sent away, to the back of the queue, told that the person serving ‘cannot understand you, you must return with someone who speaks English’, or your application will somehow – mysteriously – get ‘lost’.

For a country that touts itself as an international hub, that welcomes visitors from around the world and has as recently as 2 weeks ago hosted the biggest sports tournament on the planet, the services at the offices of South African Home Affairs are disgraceful.

Not once – Not. Once. – in any of my countless visits to their fluorescent-lit offices, have I had a good customer service experience.

I have spent 7 hours waiting, repeatedly told that my file was being located, only to be later informed that it cannot be found, or, that the offices are closing and I must come back tomorrow.

I have seen people sent away in tears after being told that their files cannot be found and they must start the application process from scratch.  When a flood destroyed thousands of documents at the central Cape Town Home Affairs office last year, an equally high number of people were told that they must resubmit all their documents.  Just like that.  Never mind that for many, some of those documents were originals, sent from their home countries, at a cost to them that they couldn’t afford, and were impossible to replace. Or that these new unforeseen costs meant that many would have to leave the country.  You have to start over.  End of conversation.

I have listened to those who tried to stand up for themselves, or others (like myself) who try to stand up for those who struggle to do it for themselves, being told to SIT DOWN, I TOLD YOU THAT I WOULD BE WITH YOU WHEN I WAS READY.

I have watched staff sit around their desks drinking coffee and joking with their colleagues, while a packed room, overflowing with people breathing in stifling air that is thick with the smell of sweat, despair and stale man, waits for their attention.

I have witnessed otherwise calm and respectable members of the public come close to blows with others who sit with them, when they think that they have cut in line or won’t give up the chair they are sitting in, despite none of the chairs being marked as designated for anyone in particular, the frustration of waiting for hours having taken its toll on them.

I have encountered staff who are rude, self-righteous, selectively deaf, lazy and offensive, the plywood table that separates them from the public somehow giving them a godlike complex which they exercise freely and at will.

I have waited in a queue – a queue that I have been directed to wait in by the person sitting at a table labeled ‘information’ – for hours, only to be told when I reached the front that I have been waiting in the wrong queue and must start at the back of another, equally long one.

I have friends – successful entrepreneurs, both South African and foreign – who have been put through the hellish ringer, to the point where were it not for the beauty of the country and people, might have been forced to abandon any hope of even attempting to live here. Oh and if you are South African and you lose a loved one, don’t think the pain of that loss is all you will suffer. Home Affairs must sign off on the death certificate, and until they do, all pensions, life insurance payments and other reparations for the bereaved are withheld. As if the loss of your spouse/parent/child isn’t enough, we are going to leave you penniless until someone who ‘has nothing to do, gets around to sorting through the pile of miscellaneous admin’. End quote. From a Home Affairs employee.

I am not a black single mother domestic worker or a manual labourer from another country who barely speaks English for whom missing a day of work means my children won’t eat.  I am an assertive, privileged, white-skinned, first-language English speaker who has the luxury of taking time off work when needed, and I struggle to get my needs met at Home Affairs. Add to that my difficulty in remaining calm and composed in situations where incompetence and injustice abounds, and it is a sure bet that every time I leave their offices my blood pressure is elevated, my palms marked with deep indentations from my nails being dug into them, and my teeth worn down jut a bit from grinding.

Today I visited Home Affairs in their new digs in the Foreshore.  Unsurprisingly, the same frustrations have persisted. New address. Same bullshit.

Come on Home Affairs. Get it together. 

Monday, July 26, 2010

before the fall..

Monday, 6pm.

I sit at my favourite beach facing café in Mouille Point. The sun is setting and warms my back through the glass of the window behind me. To my left the sky casts a beautiful pink shadow on the big red lighthouse across the road. Directly in front of me, not far away, lies Green Point stadium, looking significantly less menacing then when grey skies were overhead a few days ago. Cars pass, coffee cups clink on china. I look around the café and see people reading newspapers, enjoying conversations with friends; others like me work on their computers.

In 10 days I will make the move to London. Leave behind the life I have built here, the friends, the home, and most of all, my kids, my learners.

Since I finished teaching a month and a bit ago, I have been to school a number of times – to meet with students, take care of various admin; tomorrow I will go again to finish cleaning out my classroom. Not unsurprisingly, returning to school these last few times has become increasingly more difficult and sad. When I am there, I spend my time in my classroom and don’t announce my presence at school. When I stopped into one of my classes last week to drop off some exam scripts, the whole classroom of students erupted in cheers and applause. It was so lovely, but I could barely look at them. As I hurried out, a few of them asked me hopefully – ‘Miss are you back?!’ A sad smile and shake of my head was all I could muster.

Mentally, I have already begun detaching myself from my life here. A coping mechanism, what have you, it is a necessary for me to wrap my head around the goodbyes that are coming at me fast and hard.

Recently I had a conversation with a friend of mine here who reminded me that I have done this before – I have lived other places and left. And she is right. In my early twenties I lived in both Australia and England for a year. Much has changed since then though. One year when one is aged 24 is much different from almost 3 years when one is 31. Everything means so much more now. Time. Energy. Effort. Love.

At school yesterday to clear out the last of my classroom, at their request, I ended up doing a short story lesson with my grade 12s who were struggling with the material and said they missed the way I taught. Despite the sadness I felt at the departure date that is sprinting closer with every hour, when I was with them, I was unbelievably happy. They are such a wonderful group of young people, to whom I feel so incredibly attached and connected. And as I have said before, like most teachers who love teaching, there is little happiness greater than being in my element, with students.

But it’s more than just the time I have spent here and where I am at in my life. It’s the experience I have had with the students I have been privileged to work with at Fezeka. The endless encounters I have had with people here – both South African and from abroad. The conversations I have had. The walks I have taken. The music I have heard. The beauty I have been exposed to. The food I have tasted. The wine I have drunk. The scents I have smelled. The infinite greens and blues I have seen in the trees, mountains, skies, oceans. The warmth I have felt – from the sun, and from the people.

Two and a half years years ago I sat down and wrote my first blog on the flight here from Toronto. I had no idea what to expect, no clue about what awaited me. I read my early blogs and can’t help but smile at my candor. While being open and honest – particularly in my writing – is part of who I am, in the beginning my entries were almost child-like in their observations, not unlike someone discovering the world for the first time. And of course I was, discovering the world of Cape Town…learning about South Africa and its history..meeting new people, ideas, beliefs…being forced to wrap my head around how different things are in this country from other countries that I have lived in and travelled to. Over the years my writing evolved, along with my understanding and perception of this country and city – my exposure to the various facets of Capetonian life more broad.

In many ways, I believe my experience of living and working Cape Town has been quite different than that of many people who come here from overseas. For that matter, different from that of many people who come from here.

As it so happens, many of the people I have become good friends with here in Cape Town enjoy a particularly affluent lifestyle. By contrast, during the week, young people who are hungry and colleagues who struggle to put food on the table for their children surround me. It took me quite some time to mentally reconcile myself with this dichotomy. Eventually I did, although my reconciliation was and is more about a resignation to a harsh reality. My friends still comment on how much money I give away to people on the street. Reconciling myself does not mean I cannot justify giving away money that I know I will not notice and I know will mean someone can eat today. Enjoying the extremely privileged lifestyle that I do here only further cements this belief.

And as the sun sets and another day comes to a close, the moments…minutes…hours…continue to escape me…

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Bittersweet Game

I am quite cross with myself for never getting around to writing a proper blog about the World Cup before it began. This was not for lack of want or material to write about, more about procrastination and a grasp of time that seems to slip away with an ever increasing speed as the weeks whiz by.

In any case…

The weeks leading up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup (Feel it! It is here!), were a crazy time in South Africa. The anticipation in the air was palpable, as was the growing number of foreign tourists slowly filtering into the major cities. 2 weeks before kickoff, from what I heard, Johannesburg was the place to be. The energy in the air was impossible to ignore, and people in general were incredibly excited.

Here in Cape Town, things were significantly more subdued. Out on the Saturday night before kickoff the following Friday, our usual haunts were no more busy than usual. And all of us wondered what this meant for the month to come.

Had I written this a month and a half ago, I would have expressed concern about what lay ahead. About whether South Africa was prepared for what was coming – both the good and the bad. About how the tourists expecting a sunny vacation would cope with torrential winter downpours in the Western Cape. Not for the first time, I would have wondered if giving South Africa the tournament had been a good idea. 

And then…suddenly…finally!...after years and years of waiting and preparation, it began.

From the time the first ball dropped (no pun intended), everything changed. When Shakira and Xolani walked on stage at Soccer City during the opening ceremonies and told Africa that this time was for them, the subdued city of Cape Town turned into a sparkling hub of energy. When Siphiwe Tshabalala scored the first World Cup goal ever for Bafana Bafana, South Africa and the whole African continent exploded. This explosion would grow in intensity and contagious enthusiasm with every match. When overseas visitors began to filter into the Mother City as we approached the second week of the tournament, the din of vuvuzelas became a constant chorus - with intensities varying from mild in some of the Southern Suburbs, to deafening in the downtown core and ear-splitting in the stadiums at the matches.

On the flipside of this growing excitement, one question was becoming glaringly obvious – Where were all the people?

Halfway through the tournament, the number of tourists in Cape Town and around the country was far lower than had been expected. Those who were being hit hardest were at both ends of the income bracket. Some luxury hotels sat at quarter occupancy, with business even worse than usual for the winter months, as the regular visitors had stayed away because of the World Cup. Cabs sat empty, their drivers desolate and sullen, the money they had borrowed for licenses and cars for this very purpose showing no signs of being made back, let alone making a profit. When Bafana Bafana was eliminated in a nail-biting game in the first round and each of the soccer titans fell one by one in early games, the countless street vendors who had invested small fortunes in flags and team paraphernalia saw their potential goldmines go down the drain. Empty seats were seen at many games, despite the public being told the matches were sold out. According to Fifa this was because of overseas and corporate ticket holders not showing up for games. Either way, it was a bitter pill to swallow for those who would have given anything to go to a game. For many who generally live below the radar, spirits were low.

Not that most people caught up in world cup excitement would have noticed. On the whole, the vibe in Cape Town was intoxicating.  While I remember remarking on how the popular restaurants and nightspots that my friends and I frequent weren’t any busier than normal, I am only aware of the empty hotels and unhappy cab drivers because a friend told me. No, I, like so many others, was at this point fully caught up in world cup fever.

Fortunate to be able to attend some games, I had the incredible opportunity to experience matches in several different parts of the country. Each stadium stunning in construction, each city alive with its own particular brand of Ayobaness.

In Cape Town, the fan walk - a 2 km long stretch of road and cobblestone between the city centre and Green point stadium flanked with vendors, musicians, and packed to the gills with happy revelers wearing all the colours of the rainbow – was an adventure in of itself.

In Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela stadium struck an impressive profile against the sky and the heavens held back until the game we were at just ended before drenching its 34000 occupants in warm winter rain.

In Durban, I felt the most spirit. Aside from the impressive beauty of the Moses Mahbhida stadium, with its pointed steeple and almost string instrument-like roof, Durban was something else. 26 degrees even in winter, Durban’s beach-lined promenade that led from the stadium right up to the fan park was full of smiling people speaking countless languages was magic. People weaving their way through the crowds to the huge screen that had been erected on the beach, metres from where the warm Indian Ocean caressed the white sand of the coastline.

A stop in Johannesburg during the last week of matches afforded a look at Soccer City and its beautiful tiled mosaic exterior. Afternoon lunch in Melrose Arch coincided with a meet and greet with the Ghanaian squad – arguably the true heroes of the tournament.

Back in Cape Town for the thrilling Semi-final between The Netherlands and Uruguay, the days following that match and before the final were palpably less chaotic. The approaching feeling of anti-climax waited in the wings, impossible to ignore.    

Sunday July 11th was the date of the 2010 World Cup final. Years of planning, preparation and hope, a month of goals and red cards and vuvuzelas and tears, it all came down to this. Spain took on The Netherlands in an aggressively played match where players from both teams seemed to forget the spirit of good sportsmanship. In the end, Spain emerged victorious. And while an unbeaten tournament record and second place finish is nothing to scoff at, this is after all sport, where second place is first loser, and the crestfallen Flying Dutchmen went home empty-handed.

After watching the game at a local restaurant that was filled to capacity with patrons wearing orange and red and yellow, we surfaced onto Long Street, where celebrations were well underway. Surrounded by people from around the world who had all been infected by the fever, we kissed the morning and said goodbye to the 2010 World Cup. It was on this evening that one of my most lasting and heart-warming memory of the tournament was made.

Just after midnight in the packed bar, I found myself dancing on stage, facing the crowd. Then the DJ dropped two songs that will forever be remembered as the anthems of the 2010 tournament. One, the official song of the cup – ‘Waka Waka’, the other, the song of one of the main sponsors – ‘Wavin’ Flag’.

It is difficult to describe the feeling that came over me as I scream-sang the lyrics to each of the songs along with every other person in the bar, hundreds of hands waving and feet jumping…even now just typing about this memory gives me goose bumps. For in that moment, it wasn’t about any particular team, or player, or about who had won the tournament, or where everyone was from.  In that moment, it was about celebration. Ayobaness. Ubuntu. And the one event that unites people from across the world, World Cup soccer. It was a moment I won’t soon – and hopefully not ever – forget. And I am confident the same can be said for everyone else with whom I shared that moment, and everyone who shared similar moments with people all over the world, throughout the tournament. 

The day after the final was an appropriately gloomy and grey day in Cape Town. Pathetic fallacy at its best. About 60% of South Africa called in sick that day, no doubt global statistics were comparable. It was like the whole world was hung over.

Two days later, it was still quiet. The tourists had gone, the vuvuzelas had stopped blaring, and the whole city seemed less colourful.

Newspapers around the world heralded South Africa for a job well done. From my side, despite not being a national, I could not be more proud of my adopted second home. The entire event was superb – from the gorgeous stadiums, to the seamless ticket collection at the airports, to the weather – which in Cape Town was completely uncharacteristically gorgeous and sunny, to most importantly, the beautiful people of South Africa, who warmly welcomed the world with smiles and friendliness and very little of the crime that the international media had the world believing awaited them in big bad Mzanzi.

It is now 10 days since the closing ceremonies, and business as usual as usual. Were it not for the stadium and the banners welcoming the world that still flutter on the lampposts along the N2 highwayS and the occasional wail on a vuvuzela, one might never know that anything out of the ordinary – anything extraordinary – had happened.  And even still, it’s all a little different. A little sadder.

Driving along the road that flanks the stadium this afternoon, I could not believe this was the same place that just weeks ago was drowned in a sea of people and colours and lights and sounds. Today the whole area was deserted and a feeling of emptiness overcame me. The banners seem almost mocking, a grim reminder that it is all over. The sound of the vuvuzela that occasionally punctuates the air somehow sounds changed – no longer jubilant, now mournful.

And the average South African – the mama selling her wares in Green Market square, the car guard who hoped the World Cup would afford him enough tips to go back to see his family in the the DRC, my students who wrote me essays and essays about how the tournament would change the country in a positive way – is anything different for them?

The short answer is no, says the cynic in me. The optimist in me wants to think that the World Cup was just the beginning for South Africa and the continent, that tourists will come back in droves now that they have seen its beauty and that it is actually not as dangerous as everyone says. The realist in me knows this is likely untrue.  The idealist in me pipes in that hosting the tournament was better than not hosting it. The pragmatist in me knows that the debts that have been incurred as the host country will take decades to pay off.

And so? Where does this leave things?

I don’t pretend to have any answers or to offer any profound insight; these are only my thoughts, a random assortment at that.

In summation, the World Cup, for me and so many others coming from a position of privilege, was amazing. A once in a lifetime experience that I enjoyed from start to finish.

Unfortunately, my enjoyment and reflections will do little to comfort the manual laborers employed to build stadiums, or the temporary workers who worked in them who all now find themselves without a job. Or the people living in townships who STILL don’t have toilets and sit shivering in their electricity-less shacks as the cold front moves in, and the winter weather that stayed away for the tourists shows up for the locals. Or the street side merchandise vendor who tonight will wish – wish more than anything – that his unsold box of Azzuri scarves was food, so that he could be able to feed his hungry children.

Monday, April 12, 2010

the beginning of the..

Monday April 12, 2010

It’s hot. I sit at my desk feeling the thick heat all around me, though under my skin I feel cold. The familiar chorus of students voices echoes around my classroom. Today is the first day of the last term I will teach at Fezeka.

This realization hit me the moment I woke up this morning, my sheets drenched and anxiety causing my heart to beat far too quickly. The sinking feeling was further deepened during morning assembly today, when the returning deputy principal reminded students that this is the shortest term they will have ever attended, with exams starting in only 3 weeks. The entire school calendar has been shifted because of the upcoming World Cup, and school breaks earlier than usual at the end of this term. I will not be back when it reopens.

It is a bittersweet reality, as my departure from Cape Town means I will soon be starting the next chapter of my life with my partner in London – something we have both been looking forward to for some time – at the same time it is almost impossible to ignore the feeling of deep sadness I feel at the thought of leaving. I told my barely half-full classrooms (attendance of the first few days of term is generally low) this morning about this being my last term at school. While I had told them this at the beginning of this year, they all visibly recoiled at the news and my grade 12s in particular asked me why I couldn’t stay to see out their final year.

One of my students came into my classroom this afternoon and gave me poem he had written me. I got as far as the second stanza before my eyes blurred with tears and I had to put it down. And I am still here for another 4 months. How will I be the day of my departure?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

'I am a living dead person.'

Friday, 3:20pm

Alone in my classroom I sit, bewildered. Outside my door and in the adjoining classroom voices of students can be heard, members of the debating society who stay late most days to practice, Friday after all the other kids have gone home being no exception.

I have just had an almost 2 hour conversation with one of my students, T. Of all the stories about all the lives of all the students I have been privy to since I began at Fezeka, none have shook me more than the one I just heard.

In class today I noticed that this usually vivacious and social young man was uncharacteristically silent. His face betrayed the truth when after class I asked him if he was okay. He told me he was fine but was not even able to smile. I asked him to come see me after school.

When he sat down I told him that he didn’t seem to be himself today and if there was anything he wanted to talk about. He sighed.

The conversation starts with him telling me that he is unable to concentrate at home or study because his mother always has people in the house (a 2 room shack), people drinking alcohol and smoking weed.

He goes on to tell me that sleep at 2-3AM each night as this is when the last of her friends usually leave. After only a few hours sleep he wakes up, goes to a nearby field to train, then walks an hour to school

When I ask if he has spoken to his mother about her behavior and how it affects her, he tells me that he has told her many times – many, many times – and each time she tells him that she was drinking and smoking before he was born so why should she just because he came into her life?

After this disclosure, his story comes fast and hard. The two-room shack that he and his mother share consists of a kitchenette and a bedroom – his mother’s bedroom that he shares with her and sleeps on a mat on the floor of.  The shack is in yard of a house owner who rents out 4 of the 5 shacks he has built almost on top of each other the yard for R150 a month. At one point all 5 shacks were rented but those tenants moved out, as they could no longer take the unsanitary and horrific living conditions they provided. I notice he does not mention a bathroom in the house so I ask. He tells me that all those living in the shacks share the toilet but house owner locks it and keeps the key. They must ask permission to go to the toilet and the owner questions their reasons for using bathroom. T says this is ridiculous: ‘Why should we have to justify why we need to go to the toilet?’ he asks. I agree, making no effort to hide my immediate hatred for this slumlord. I ask about showers and he tells me there is no shower, they bathe using boiled water and a baby bath. ‘We cannot wash our face with the same water we have washed our bodies with, it gets dirty,’ he tells me. ‘But when we heat more water to use to wash our faces the house owner tells us we are using too much electricity.’

His mother is a full-fledged alcoholic who is unemployed and smokes weed chronically. She is a lesbian who has many lovers that come in and out of the house til all hours of the night. His mother spends most of her time drunk. When she gets drunk she goes on tirades and gets into fights – both verbal and physical. T often has to go and get her out of the situations she has gotten herself into and they have had to relocate all over the Western Cape upwards of 6 times because she has burned bridges in so many places.

Often, she will get drunk and go up on top of a roof, yelling at people, airing all kinds of dirty laundry. If she has a grievance with someone, T tells me, the whole yard will know.

T’s mother has thrown him out of the house many times and he has slept outside lots. He tells of a time, year before last, when he had to sleep outside during the winter. He would be so cold that he would wake up and his teeth were so cold that they became loose. His toes were completely numb that he could not feel them for days. He tells me that he often thinks of giving up, and for a time considered dropping out of school and joining the community of street kids living in Sea Point who ask tourists and wealthy residents for money. This seemed a more viable option to him because at least he was more likely to not go hungry.

If his mother doesn’t work, I ask, where do they get money to eat? He tells me that he has gotten used to not eating. He may eat one meal a day, sometimes not for a couple days at a time. ‘I don’t let it bother me,’ he says, ‘I have gotten used to it. Any money my mother gets she spends on alcohol and dagga (weed). I tell her I need food to eat; I cannot concentrate in school on an empty stomach. She tells me to find a way to get money if I want to eat.’

He won R1000 once, in a debating competition. He gave all the money to his mother. She spent the vast majority of it on alcohol for her and her friends, and on fixing up the rotting wooden walls of the shack.

I ask him if his mother ever hits him. ‘Not anymore,’ he tells me. ‘About a year and a half ago I told her she must not hit me anymore because I would hit her back. She has not hit me since. But boy did she used to beat me. She would throw me into walls, kick me, punch me.’

T goes for long walks when his mother is drunk, sometimes at 8pm at night. He will walk for hours. I ask him if it isn’t dangerous for him to do this, to walk alone in the township at night. He says that most of the gangsters know him, know he is a leader and focused on school so they leave him alone for the most part. The same applies at school. He says that he thinks he is well known among the students and aside from making fun of him for his prowess in English and dedication to his studies, generally they leave him alone.

Making use of his usually cheerful disposition, T often has to put out the fiery outbursts of anger that his mother has set in the community, though he tells me that he has heard that people question his authenticity as they think his kindness is only because he wants to suck up to them so they wont think he is like his mother

While she is currently unemployed, he tells me, his mother has worked various jobs at some stage or another, but was fired from all because she would show up to work drunk or get into fight with colleagues or bosses

It’s very difficult. Very, very difficult, he tells me.

His father is not around and T has only met him twice. ‘He called me ‘boy’,’ he says.

His mother wanted him to meet his father though it is not clear how old he was when this happened. When he did, she told him to ask his father for money. When his father didn’t give him any money his mother unleashed the fury, calling him names, making a scene and embarrassing L. Had his father given him money though, she would have been happy with him, he thinks.

The hardest part about not having a father, he tells me, is that there is no one to take him to for esuthwini (the circumcision ritual that represents the right of passage of a boy making the transition to adulthood). I have heard this from other young men before. Boys who do not have an older male relative to take them to the circumcision ritual usually rely on a man from their clan (most black South Africans belong to a tribal clan, based on their name and/or where they were born). Having no blood relative to accompany you on this most important of rites of passage makes these young men feel very ashamed and alone.

At one point T mentions a brother. I ask about the brother. He tells me that his brother died when they were younger.

Life in the Eastern Cape.

T tells me that his life as a child in the Eastern Cape was not easy. I cannot comprehend how much more difficult things could be but I am about to understand

When most kids his age were starting school, T and his brother were sent on the road every day to beg for money and food. They would leave in the morning were told by their mother not to return home until they had something to show for the day. They would walk for up to 20 kms a day. If night fell and they had not ‘earned’ anything, they would sleep on the road, in the bushes, covering themselves with plastic or pieces of paper and resume the search the next morning. He was 6 years old.

He would usually do better [at getting food and money] than other boys, he says, because he liked to talk to people and was a good storyteller. If his child self was anything like the young man who sits in front of me, this is not difficult to imagine.

This went on for some years – they would leave in the morning and walk all day, in search of money and food. He tells me they would have respect for white people because they would usually give them some food or money. ‘They would take pity on us,’ he says.

Others would not be so kind. They would turn them away – he 6, his brother 8, telling them not to come to their door. Others would give them R2, others R5, and tell them never to come back. But, he says, they knew they would see them again.

He talks of one time where he went to a house and asked for food. The man took a loaf of bread – moldy bread – out of the bin and gave it to them. He then asked them if they were thirsty and they said yes. The man filled a glass with water from a pail that he had in his garden. The pail had salt water in it. Apparently there is a belief that if you keep salt water in your garden it will keep you safe from crime and intruders. The man gave these children moldy bread and salt water to drink. ‘We ate the bread and drank the water,’ T tells me, ‘and it tasted awful and was so salty. We still ate it though as we were staving. After walking all day on empty stomachs we didn’t have a choice. We called him names to each other as we ate though,’ he laughs.

‘You know,’ he says, ‘apartheid was officially over at that time (roughly 1999), but it really wasn’t. Some white men would chase us off their property with a gun and tell us that if we came back they would kill us. We knew they weren’t joking.’

A popular way to get money, he tells me, was to sell metals of any kind to a scrap yard. The scrap yard owners would give them money for the metal, which they would use to buy food. Because it was practically impossible to find metal to sell, some of the boys took to stealing from the scrap yard and then selling it back to them. It wasn’t long before the owners caught on and hired armed guards to patrol the yards. T’s brother was shot trying to break into the scrap yard. He died. He was 10 years old. T says he has lots of friends who died that same way, shot by the guards at scrap yards. The yard owners gave them orders to shoot to kill, he tells me. The bodies of the boys would be dumped over the fence or far, far away from the scrap yard and never found. ‘So many boys died like how my brother died,’ he says. ‘They died looking for food.’

T speaks of older boys, 18, 19-year old boys who would get the younger boys  - 5, 6, 7 and 8 year old boys – to do their bidding, forcing them to break into homes and steal things for them. Those who refused would be beaten or raped by the older boys.

T says he was never raped and that the older boys liked him because he could tell stories. He has always been a good storyteller and today is an incredible poet. The older boys liked hearing his stories and would tell him to listen to the 9pm story (it is unclear if this is a radio or television show), and then repeat it to them. He was able to do it almost verbatim, which they loved. ‘And they didn’t beat me,’ he says, ‘because they knew that when they beat me I wouldn’t talk for the whole day, no matter how hard they beat me.’

He tells me that it was so very hard, the long days, walking barefoot under the hot sun or the cold rain of winter. He never cried though, he tells me, and used to tell himself that men don’t cry. He and his friends, children just like him, used to sing struggle songs to keep their spirits up and from crying from the pain – physical and other. He tells of the thorns, glass and rocks that would cut their feet and bodies as they walked. I ask if his feet are still to this day scarred. He laughs a strange laugh.

He tells me he has many scars and begins to show them to me. A huge welt on his right ankle, scarred in two places. Various other cuts and gouges have healed all over his arms. He tells me he has scars on his thighs and of a time when an older boy came at him with a red-hot poker that had just been heated over an open flame. The boy attacked him in the back with the poker and T managed to move and the poker caught him in the nape of his arm. He bends his arm and demonstrates how the poker was trapped in between his forearm and bicep against his skin. When the poker was pulled away, he says, he could see pieces of his skin attached to it. He does not show me that scar and I do not ask to see it.

Then he tells me that he was hit by a mini taxi when he was 8. An older boy had wanted him to go rob a house and L had refused. The older boy then pushed him into oncoming traffic. He was 8 years old. T managed to dodge the first car but when he turned to catch his balance, a mini taxi hit him. He says he doesn’t remember much about the accident just that he tried to run after he was hit but his leg wouldn’t move. Then he passed out and woke up in the hospital. He spent 9 months in hospital recovering from the accident. I am confused as to how he could have spent so long in the hospital and not have any visible neurological or physical damage from the accident. He then asks me if I notice anything different about his shoes. I never have before but when I pay attention I see that the toe box of one of them is bent up, almost as if he is missing toes on his left foot. He begins to unlace his shoe and stops. ‘I don’t know if you are ready for this,’ he tells me. ‘Do you think you are?’

‘If you want to show me,’ I tell him.

He unlaces his shoe and takes off his sock. My breath catches in my throat and I am unable to speak. His foot is completely deformed, a huge angry scar cutting across the bridge on the diagonal. The toes have not developed properly, and his damaged left foot is somewhere between 1.5 and 2 sizes smaller than his right.

He tells me that the taxi ended up running over his foot and seriously damaged his leg and knee. It was a hit and run. Thankfully, he tells me, one of his friends, a slightly older girl was nearby. She was a good student and spoke English well. She was brave, he says, braver than the rest of us. She wrote down all the information about the taxi and took note of the driver’s face. It was a white man driving, he tells me, and a white man owned the taxi. Somehow this young girl managed to convince the taxi driver to get him to the hospital. He says that this girl disappeared soon after. Word on the street is that she is living someplace else in a nice house because the driver gave her lots of money to not report him to the police. I shudder at this story and have to force my mind to not think about what likely really happened.

He does not remember much of his time in hospital, though he remembers telling his friends not to tell his mother that he was in the hospital, because he feared she would be upset with him. Eventually though, she found out and she came to see him.

When he got out of the hospital he was a year behind in school. Not one ounce of self-pity is evident in his demeanor though, as he tells me that before he came to Fezeka he was a top athlete and won medals in all kinds of competitions at his last school. ‘There is nothing that someone with two perfect feet can do that I can’t,’ he tells me. I believe him.

He moves his foot for me and shows me that he has mobility and feeling in his toes, though for a long time he didn’t, he says. He doesn’t walk around barefoot though, as the sole of his left foot is not used to being on flat ground.

Looking at his foot I struggle to hold back tears. I have never seen anything like it.

I ask him if he has ever seen a specialist about his foot. He smiles and says that no, but he dreams of when he is older and making money and being able to do that. His mom tries to get him to play up his injury, to hobble around and walk with a cane to gain sympathy from strangers, similar to what the older boys used to do with him when he came out of the hospital. He grimaces and says he won’t do that.

‘My main problem is with my shoes,’ he says, ‘because my feet are different sizes so my left shoe usually wears out before the other one.’

Looking at his mismatched feet, it would seem the best solution would be to buy two different pairs of shoes of different sizes and have him wear one of each. Obviously this has not been an option for a young man who can scarcely afford to eat.

I ask him if he has any pain. He tells me that no, he doesn’t. When he used to walk barefoot he says that his left knee used to give him pain but if he doesn’t do that it is okay. He said that when he was younger people used to tell him that as he grew he would heal, that his bones would fix themselves. One look at his underdeveloped and mangled foot tells me this has clearly not happened.

I make a silent pledge to myself to get him to see a podiatrist as soon as I can.

He puts his shoe and sock back on and we sit in silence for a few moments. I ask him how he feels about telling me this. He says it is strange telling me, as he has never told anyone the things he has told me. He does not tell anyone his own age, he says, because he does not trust anyone. Those close to him have betrayed him so many times, and the friends he has confided in have time after time spoken his business to others. So he keeps his mouth shut.

I ask him if there are ever times that his mother is kind to him, times where she acts like a mother. He tells me that yes, sometimes, when she is not drunk. When she is not drunk and he tells her that he has done well at school or in one of the countless (debating, environmental club, drama, poetry, student council, peer educator) extra curricular activities he is involved in, she will tell him that is good. But this does not happen often.

‘I am always cheerful and friendly,’ he says, ‘even when I don’t feel it, even when I feel empty and numb inside, because people expect me to be that way and sometimes it is easier to pretend. I know I must work hard because I have to be able to support myself to get anywhere. This is my only option. So I work hard. I study hard. There is a small storage area in our yard. I spend lots of my time there, reading my books. There is no roof so when it rains I get very wet.’ He tells of a time last winter when he fell asleep in the shed and it began to rain. He woke up to find all his books soaked.

‘There is a streetlight right above the storage area that is on all night, so there is always light for me to read.’

I ask him about his classmates and how they receive him. I am conscious of the general feeling among students towards those who are exceptional. The crabs in the bucket/tall poppy analogy holds very true here, and students often mock and try to knock down those who rise above the rest. This is not altogether unsurprising, as I have been told there is a similar mentality in many of the communities that if you succeed, you are a sell-out.

He says his classmates vary on how they feel about him. They have voted him class rep for the student council, and sometimes acknowledge his strengths as a leader, asking him to lead the class in a lesson when the teacher hasn’t shown up. Other times they make fun of him when he answers questions, calling him a ‘model C boy’ who thinks he is better than the rest of them. On a recent geography test of bodies or water in Africa he scored the highest mark in the class, and rhymed off at least 12 different rivers and lakes on the continent while he sat in front of me. He says his classmates couldn’t figure out how he knew all the answers. ‘They have the same books as I do,’ he says. ‘Only I read mine.’

He tells me that he used to have a map of Africa pasted to the ceiling of his mother’s room that he used to look at every night from his mat on the floor.

‘What happened to it?’ I ask.

‘She took it down,’ T answers. ‘I don’t know what she did with it.’

I ask him what he needs most.

He pauses.

‘Well I have a school uniform,’ he says, ‘so that is the one thing I really need. One of my teachers was able to get me it from a student who had left the school.’ Though the collar of his sweater is badly torn, it is not the first time I have noticed that his shirt is always crisply ironed.

I ask him about toiletries, soap, toothbrush, deodorant. He tells me that he uses his mother’s deodorant and soap but that he has his own washcloth. He doesn’t mention a toothbrush.

He has a cell phone that an older Nigerian friend of his who refurbishes phones gave him. Since he gave it to him, the friend often calls T to watch his container whenever he goes to town. Usually T is not doing anything when the guy asks so he doesn’t mind. He sits inside the container and reads his books. Plus, he continues, he doesn’t really have a choice because the guy would probably ask for the phone back if he didn’t do it.

And casual clothes?

Not really, he says. ‘I have one pair of shorts and 2 t-shirts. I had a pair of jeans but they got so ripped that I can’t wear them anymore. One time this guy gave me a new outfit. I was so happy to have new clothes and couldn’t wait to wear them. When I was walking in the street wearing my new gear these gangsters robbed me. They took everything, even my underwear, and left me naked. I was so sad that day. Not about being naked but about losing my new clothes. I had never had new clothes. And I didn’t even have them for one whole day.’

People often ask him why he is so serious, he says. It is not that he is serious, he continues, it is just that he doesn’t have much to smile about. He tries to focus on his books as much as he can because that is all that he has. He doesn’t have any friends (that he trusts) who he can talk to, his mother is drunk the majority of the time, and with hardly any street clothes, going out of the house anywhere but school is not easy.

I give him R100 and tell him that I want him to use it to buy groceries. He mustn’t give it to his mother. He doesn’t take it at first and I can see he is holding back tears. Fighting them back. But he wont let himself cry, especially not in front of me. Eventually he takes it from my hand and his voice cracks as he thanks me. I have to look away as I am on the verge of losing it.

He makes a hasty exit telling me that he should get to the debating club meeting that has been going on during our whole conversation. He thanks me for listening, tells me that it has been really good for him to talk about it. I tell him that it was my pleasure and thank him for sharing, that anytime he wants to talk I am here.

He can see on my face how sad his story has made me and in his typical fashion, smiles and breaks out into a laugh.

‘Don’t let my story kill you,’ T says as he walks out the door. ‘It has already killed me. I am a living dead person.’

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Food for thought.

Although I would love to dedicate a good chunk of time to looking at advertising and the power of the media with my students, as I think the importance of young people being critical consumers is unparalleled, unfortunately timing does not allow for it. That said, I am able to spend a couple lessons on the subject, especially as students are sometimes asked to analyze and answer questions about a print ad in exams.

I began by talking to them about the power of the media in its various forms and why it is important for them – impressionable young people living in a world that is increasingly image-driven – to be aware that much of what they see on TV, in magazines, movies, music videos and in the world of celebrities, is not real. From there we moved on to a discussion on advertising, and techniques advertisers use to draw potential consumers in and to attracted them to their product. We talked about how through the use of images, colour, hyperbolic superlatives (!!), slogans, music, celebrity endorsement, branding and fonts tailored to the target audience, advertisers try to evoke an emotional response in consumers, hoping to convince them that their lives, or they as a person, will be better with this product in their lives.

Students were asked to bring in print adverts torn out of magazines, which we examined and deconstructed as a class, while discussing the methods and techniques used in each ad campaign.

As always, it is interesting to see how socialization and social location affect one’s interpretation and understanding of something and how it relates to their own lives. When asked to name some popular slogans – the first three given were ‘Keep walking’ (Johnny Walker), ‘Yebo Gogo’ (Vodacom), and ‘The Bus for Us’ (Golden Arrow, a public transport bus service provider). My most memorable takeaway from our discussion however, was when a timid young man raised his hand.

‘Miss, I can think of an example of how advertiser trick us,’ he said.

Encouraged by and excited about what he was going to say I urged him to continue.

‘Well Miss, like on TV, when they are advertising fridges, they always show the fridge full of food. But when you go to buy the fridge Miss, there’s never any food in the fridge, it’s just an empty fridge. That’s a trick, right?’

Thursday, March 11, 2010

How do you spell bullshit again?

On Sunday Catherine and I were on our way to a friend’s birthday braai. Stopping on Wale Street (on one of the main roads that runs through town), to get flowers, we noticed a group of people gathered on the other side of the street. The bulk of the group were wearing fluorescent green X-vests, the kind worn by the municipal government-employed foot patrol guards of the Central City Improvement District (CCID).

At first we were distracted by the flower purchasing, but then suddenly a young man burst forth from the crowd and began running around the street screaming. Blood covered his face and was streaming from his head. He ran around screaming, then yanked off his tshirt and threw it on the ground. Neither Catherine nor I could understand what he was saying, though it was clear he was in pain and very unhappy.

I asked a young man who the injured man had just spoken to what was going on.  He told me that the guards had hit his friend on the head with a radio. What? A man pushing a baby in a stroller mentioned that he recognized the man as someone who had worked as a car guard in the area for around 5 or 6 years. Two other men in uniforms who appeared to be heading home from work confirmed this. The flower vendor added that he was known in the area for being rough – that if people whose cars he was watching didn’t give him any tip that he would throw rocks at their cars and scream obscenities at them.

We crossed the street and approached the crowd, which by this point had grown larger. There were now roughly 10 fluo-vested guards and a patrol car had just pulled up. The man with the bleeding head was still running around the street screaming. I asked one of the guards what had happened. He told me that the young man had tried to steal the purse of a woman who was walking with her child and a friend (who were as he spoke being piled into the back of a bakkie that soon pulled away). Alerted to the situation, the security guards began to pursue the alleged perp on foot. As he was running away, the guard told me, the young man slipped and hit his head on the curb.

The next few minutes were quite chaotic. The young man eventually returned from running down the street, shirtless and his face absolutely covered in blood. I asked him what happened. He was yelling that he was going to open a case against the card, who he claimed had stabbed him in the head with a hidden knife.

3 people, 3 different stories.

Using my teacher voice I announced to the guards that this man was seriously injured and needed to be taken to the hospital. I asked who would be responsible for taking him to get medical attention. The man closest to me said that the police were on their way and that they would be taking care of the matter. The police? I asked. This man is bleeding from his skull and you are waiting for the police? He said that yes, the [now absent] women wanted to press charges against him for attempted robbery. The police would be the ones to handle this, and then, he assumed, they would take him for medical attention.

While him and I were speaking, one of the guards had found a bottle of water (that looked like it had been around for a while), and began to pour it over the bleeding cut on the top of the man’s head while the man’s friend cleaned the blood off his face with a dirty towel.

This was especially troubling for 3 reasons:

1.    How exactly does one fall and cut the top of one’s head?
2.    The cleanliness of the water was likely non-existent.
3.    Not one of the guards was wearing plastic gloves.

The fact that the man had a cut on the top of his head lends some truth to what the man and his friend were saying – that it had indeed been the guard or more than one guard who had inflicted the injury on him. As they were cleaning the wound, I caught sight of it. It was an open gash, right on the top of his head. To cut himself like that by falling on the ground, as the guard had said he did, the man would have had to fall directly onto some sort of sharp object, directly on the top of his head, which implies that he would have almost been upside down from at least the waist up at the time of his injury. Though I will concede that nothing is impossible, this scenario is very unlikely.

While not much can be said about reason 1, aside from the fact that mobile response units should carry with them some sort of sterile solution for cleaning injuries such as these, the lack of latex gloves worn by the guard does open itself up for discussion.

South Africa is a country with an HIV rate of 18-20%, or approximately 1 in 5 South Africans. Bearing this in mind, it is potentially fatal for people who work with the public – particularly in the capacity that these community security guards do – to not don latex gloves while cleaning this man’s head. Although it is possible that these guards did indeed have access to the gloves but chose not to wear them, I am inclined to believe differently.

Soon two police bakkies pulled up. I poked my head in the first car and asked the officers who would be taking this man to the hospital as his bleeding had slowed but had not stopped. They told me that they would take care of it.

By the time we left, more people had arrived on the scene. We walked back to our car feeling very uneasy about everything that had just gone down and rode in silence for the first little while. I do not know what happened to this man – if he was taken to the hospital, if he had been trying to rob the women, how he sustained the injury on his head, where he was from, how he ended up on the street in the first place – and I couldn’t begin to imagine how he felt during that incident. If he had indeed been a victim of some kind of brutality in behalf of the guards, which I think is quite likely, the frustration he probably experienced must have been overwhelming. In all likelihood, he is a foreigner, in the country illegally, which means he hasn’t hardly a foot to stand on when it comes to his rights being violated.

Catherine, who works for the Department of Health, was especially concerned about this extreme safety hazard posed to the guards (as well as the treatment of the young man), and wrote an email to the Cape Town Central City Improvement District, the municipal government division responsible for the CCID. Their email exchange follows:

From: Catherine White [] 
Sent: 08 March 2010 02:32 PM

On Sunday afternoon (march 7) at 17:00 on Whale Street (by harley's liquor) an altercation ensued between an informal car guard and multiple "safety officers". 
The car guard was not cooperating (one story is he stole a purse, another is he was belligerent towards a person parking their car on the street) but some how he started bleeding from the head. 

I was watching the altercation from across the street at the flower sellers and didn't see the physical incident but the worrying thing is when I went to ask what happened I got varying responses.  The injured man was crying and screaming and running through the streets.  He said he had been hit on the head by one of the security officers radio.  Another person said he was stabbed by a hidden knife.  From where I was standing it looked like he hit his head on the spiked fence (and the blood spatter looks like it was possible).  Another security guard said he tripped and fell and hit his head on the pavement (this is the least likely explanation as there wasn't a blunt force injury or marking on the pavement).  It is a bit worrying when all people were standing around when the incident occurred in front of them but no one could say what actually happened.
I was extremely concerned with how the security guards treated this individual.  I stayed around to watch their behavior to ensure the car guard was treated humanely.  
I was also extremely concerned that NONE of the security guards had latex gloves.  In a country/city with a high rate of HIV no one who works at the coal face with people who regularly get injured/bleed/have open sores should be working WITHOUT barrier protection.  This is the first principle of first aid. 

In this particular incident the security guards poured water from a coke bottle over the guys wound (unsanitary) and cleaned the blood up (risk of transmission of many diseases especially HIV).

I was told he would be taken to New Somerset Hospital for care however I doubt this actually happened.  
Moreover, I don't blame the car guard for not wanting to go.  He was accosted by the security guards, was not helped, people just stood around and man handled him (again he wasn't cooperative but to be honest I wouldn't have been either if I was treated the way they treated him) and then he was supposed to trust these same people to put him in a car and take him to the hospital?  I wouldn't have gone.  I wouldn't have trusted the security guards.

Anyway, my two incents being reported are:

1.  The treatment of this man

2.  The lack of safety equipment for the security guards. 



Catherine White

M&E Coordinator: HIV Treatment Programme

Western Cape Department of Health

Sent: Tuesday, March 09, 2010 9:10 AM
To: 'Catherine White'

Good day Catherine,
Thanks for your email. I am copying in our security manager to look into the matter.

Kindest Regards,

On 09/03/2010 at 09:37:

Hi Catherine
Thank you for bringing this to our attention. The CCID does not condone violence in any form and will treat this concern in a serious light.
The report is being investigated and the outcome of which will be reported to you.


On 11/03/2010 at 14:18

Hi Catherine

I tried to call but you were unavailable

The incident was actually an attempted robbery where the suspect attempted to rob 3 ladies

The CCID was alerted to the incident and attempted to arrest the suspect. He tried to flee and in the attempt to capture him, he fell to the ground and sustained injuries to his head.

The suspect refused medical help and was formally arrested by SAPS as all 3 ladies wanted to press charges against him.

The second part of the complaint pertaining to the rendering of medical services without gloves was also addressed with the team concerned. They were informed of the dangers to personal health and also the breach in the companies standing instructions. All officers received verbal warnings on this account.

Should you have any further queries do not hesitate to contact me



So how do you spell bullshit again?