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Happy Birthday Daniel Radcliffe!

Daniel Radcliffe, the famed young British star of the Harry Porter movie series, celebrates his 23rd birthday today, 23rd July 2012. Frankly, I do not really deem myself part of his core fandom nor that of the Harry Porter film series. I probably have only seen two out of the eight Harry Porter releases and, out of his several other movie and theatre appearances, I have only seen the December Boys. However, as he celebrates his birthday today, something about his life beyond the big screen has sparked a little more interest in him here in South Africa beyond his new movie (The Woman in Black), which premiered here over the weekend.

City Press, a popular South African newspaper, has revealed that Daniel Radcliffe is partly South African! According to the paper, his maternal grandfather was a South African and Radcliffes mother was born here in South Africa. It is reported that Radcliffe did not often talk about this part of descent because his South African grandfather was not really a pleasant man and did not treat his grandmother quite well. The situation led to his grandmother and his mom (two weeks old at the time) leaving the country for the UK.

In any case, all the way from the Rainbow Nation, we send you rainbow postcards and wish you more colourful accolades in your illustrious career as we say: “Mini Emnandi Kuwe” (and many more happy returns)!

South Africa has been labelled by some as the rape capital of the world, and that is not without reasons. The most recent statistics supporting the ignominious label are utterly outrageous. Hardly does a week go by that there are not at least two reported rape incidences in the news. By the end of last year (2011), results of researches and surveys carried around the country estimated that over 25% of South African men have raped someone, at least one in three women in South Africa had been raped and about 500, 000 rape incidences occur annually in the country. Put in another way, a woman is raped in South Africa every 17 seconds, and this does not include cases of child rape which the country also leads in. Unbelievably, about half of the culprits of these dastardly acts believed their victims enjoyed these harrowing experiences. The numbers are expected to keep rising, as has been observed over the years, if the social malady is not put into check. As things stand, it is estimated that one in two women would be raped. In addition, considering that it is believed that about 90% of rape incidences go unreported, it is no wonder South Africa is considered to have the highest occurrence of this deviant sexual proclivity around the world.

The question remains unanswered as to what is at the root of the horrifying social ill, and subsequently how to combat it holistically. Many are quick to blame it on the legacies of apartheid. Though that might be part of the problem, I believe there is more to it than the throes of apartheid. How does apartheid account for a situation where about a quarter of schoolboys interviewed in Soweto said that “jackrolling”, slang for gang rape, was fun? This was evident in the horrible incident in March where a group of schoolboys recorded themselves raping a mentally challenged teenage girl and circulated the video around. One wonders if kids get to learn about virtues that they are supposed to be taught in their Life Orientation, religious studies and home training. Nevertheless, one need not wonder too long considering the number of single parents and the number of rape cases perpetrated by relatives of the victims (even their fathers/guardians) and schoolteachers in the country. There is also the sore manner in which the educational sector is run (like in many other African nations).

There is also the common belief that sexual intercourse with a virgin would cure a man of HIV/AIDS. This has led to the appalling rate of the abuse of infants as young as eight months old. This surely has nothing to do with apartheid (as the myth is also believed to exist in Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe). Neither does the issue of corrective rape that is being perpetuated against lesbians or women perceived to be one. Again, the tendency to accuse rape victims of lewd dressing is akin to a car burglar blaming the victim for parking the car at an exposed space. That does not justify the felony. Some of the blame would also go to the distortion of the cultural custom of bride abduction (ukuthwala) practised in some parts of the country, where a teenager would be kidnapped by a man and be forced to marry him in exchange for cows. This is an abhorrent show of disrespect for women.

Again, there is the feeling in some quarters that the police and the judiciary had not been dealing with reported rape cases adequately, thus discouraging victims from reporting most incidences and invariably stimulating the attitude of impunity displayed by the perpetrators. Reports suggest that the police sometimes ask rape victims demeaning questions (e.g. Did you enjoy it?), while the courts sometimes are accused of not dishing out fitting penalties. Just yesterday, two men got eight life sentences each at the South Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg) for raping two paramedics. But on the same day, a magistrate at the Cape Town Regional Court gave a 65-year-old man (who is a repeat sex offender) only a 15-year jail sentence for sexually assaulting and raping a woman before her two-year-old son. With the pressure of overpopulation on the nations prison system, one would not be surprised to see some of the convicted rapists roaming the streets again someday.

Ultimately, exigencies exist for nationwide sensitisation and reorientation programs. Men need to learn to discipline themselves and control their sexual urges, not always seeking instant gratification for them. Men must also learn that women are not their properties, accord them the respect they deserve and not seek rape as a show of power and dominance over women. Even couples in relationships need to learn how to communicate about sex in relationships.

Who/what do you think is/are to be blamed for this cankerous epidemic?

Advertising is an area of visual/media arts that many South Africans and South African companies have always exhibited and continue to exhibit high levels of talent and creativity. One of the companies on top of their game in this area is Nando’s, a worldwide famed South African fast food chain especially known for its peri-peri chicken. In recent years, Nando’s have become known for their parody-spiced TV campaigns for their products. Their satire-marinated ads often make viewers laugh first, and then make them think (beyond the chicken). A few times, however, their ads have sparked controversies. Hence, it was surprising to some, and not to others, that their recent Diversity TV campaign (an ad that satirised xenophobia in South Africa) got banned in South Africa in June.

The commercial opened with a voice saying, “You know what’s wrong with South Africa? Its all you foreigners.” It went on to call out different foreigners (Nigerians, Camerounians, Chinese, Europeans) who kept on vanishing in puffs of smoke. This pattern continued even with the mention of ethnic groups like Zulu and Venda. But when it came to the turn of a traditional Khoisan man (the only one left), he said: “I’m not going anywhere. You @&*$# found us here.” The commercial ends with the tagline, “Real South Africans love diversity”, as they introduce the two new additions to their chicken menu. Tongue-in-cheek, but clearly, Nando’s intended this as a call to South Africans to espouse diversity, a message pitifully lost on the broadcasters.

First, the national broadcaster, South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) refused to flight the ad, and then DStv and e.tv followed suit and pulled it off their platforms after running it a couple of times. It is over a month ago that these events played out, hence it is old news. Still, I may want to add that Nando’s came out with a print version of the said ad which was read all around and beyond the corners of South Africa. What is more, at this moment, the video has been viewed at least 500, 000 times over on Youtube.

Last month, William, a Congolese immigrant in South Africa was introduced on Rhythm City, a drama series which e.tv airs. On one of the episodes, William narrated the story of his fellow Congolese who suffered a xenophobic attack from South Africans in one of the informal settlements. Subsequently, William himself also experiences xenophobic sentiments in later episodes. Very recently, I went online to read the Rhythm City teasers for July and found out that William also would be subjected to more flippant, albeit spiteful and insensitive xenophobia. It was then that I began to wonder why e.tv banned the Nandos Diversity commercial, which it said trivialised xenophobia…a sensitive and volatile issue in South Africa, according to Monde Twala (e.tv’s head of channels). As far as I can deduce, Nandos 53 seconds advert is a succinct version of what Rhythm City and e.tv are trying to do for hours. Hence, I personally think that banning the commercial was an opportunity for more viewer rating and revenue impetuously thrown away.

Talking about rating and revenue, DStv who initially shelved the commercial with the explanation that it could be deemed offensive, later backtracked just two weeks after. It was the same DStv that said that we are not convinced that all our viewers will interpret it in the way intended, referring to parody in the commercial. The pay-TV broadcaster later claimed it decided to lift the ban on the ad after the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA) dismissed complaints about it. However, Thabang Ramogase (marketing manager at Nando’s) said Nando’s would rather not flight the commercial on DStv anymore as the broadcaster’s volte-face was a reaction to the fact that TopTV, who happens to be DStv’s competitor, accepted to flight the advert.

On SABC’s part, and may be in line with their motto (Broadcasting for Total Citizen Empowerment), the broadcaster said the advert contained xenophobic undertones and could engender violence. This is inanely ironical, considering that the so-called xenophobic ad used satire to champion the call for the fight against xenophobia. More so, the commercial is a part of a larger charity campaign by Nando’s (in partnership with a non-profit group, Cheesekids) that seeks to build several pop up soup kitchens in parts of the country that suffered xenophobic attacks. This was Nando’s walking the talk, something SABC and the other broadcasters should actually consider exemplar and strive to promote, instead of insulting the intelligence and discretionary faculties of South African television viewers. Oh, and SABC also stated that the commercial contravened the ASA Act, an assertion that was squashed by the ASA who stated that the commercial clearly contrasted the “voice of xenophobia” with the “voice of reason”. The same SABC promotes “Man on Ground”, a movie inspired by and loosely based on the events of the xenophobic attacks of May 2008, on its website with the title, “SA film provokes debate on xenophobia”. Well, the Nigerian-born South African producer/director (Akin Omotoso) is one of their own.

Frankly, I was and am still happy that I saw the commercial on e.tv (at least, twice) before it was banned. It made me laugh. Then, it made me think. It made me read up a little more on South African history. Then, it made me read up more on African history. Xenophobia is not peculiar to South Africa, but if South African leader’s would rather the threat not be dealt with head on, then it would likely become an inimitable South African malaise. Hopefully, Christians would not be banned from quoting Leviticus 25:23 or 1 Chronicles 29:15, where we were all called aliens, strangers, foreigners, sojourners…

What do you think?

HALLO! MOLWENI! DUMELANG! SANIBONANI!

Welcome to my blog!

This is an avenue to recount my encounters and experiences with arts (creative, literary, media, visual, etc) and culture while living in the Rainbow Nation (South Africa) and express my evaluation of these experiences.

This will be in (but not restricted to) the form of reviews, commentaries, critiques, narratives, biographies, lists, etc.

It is my hope that you enjoy every bit of your precious time that you spend here.

Dankie! Enkosi! Ngiyabonga! Kea Leboga!

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