[VIDEO + GALLERY]: Zuma in Cyrildene

On Friday last week we went to Cyrildene for a meeting and for the opening of the Chinese arch. To my surprise the President Jacob Zuma attended the event. It was a grand affair and my first time seeing Zuma in the flesh. I took some pictures  to document my day. Here is a gallery of some photo’s i took at the opening.

[PHOTO ESSAY]: A little trip down memory lane…

Today I decided to go to the apartheid museum to see if I could track some sort of Chinese history during the 20th century.

To my surprise there was not much to document according to Chinese history. I went on the self tour walking through the museum. I revisited the apartheid regime and the very dark time our country went through more than a decade ago. However, Chinese immigrants documentation was not readily available.

The museum sticks to strictly apartheid affects and the issues that the indigenous people in South Africa faced. There was nothing on the Chinese migrants who came to South Africa to mine. The mining stories were those of the local miners and the torture they faced as miners during this time of apartheid.

The mining stories were documented by Ernest Cole, a photographer at the time who told stories of the miners through his photography, however there was no documentation of any Chinese people.

I decided to keep digging and see what I could find. This is what I came across.

As you enter the apartheid museum, you are greeted by this saying which Nelson Mandela said in 1999. It says "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." Photo: Prelene Singh

As you enter the apartheid museum, you are greeted by this saying which Nelson Mandela said in 1999. It says “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.” Photo: Prelene Singh

After proceeding through the specified gate for me which was titled "Nie - Blankes" which means non-white in English. I saw the Identity Documents of some of the non-white people who lived in South Africa at that time. The ID's were of Black, Indian, coloured and Asian people. I managed to spot this poster of an Asian woman's ID document. This represents that the Asian (Chinese, Japanese and Taiwanese) people were treated as "non-white" in South Africa and were therefore discriminated against under the apartheid laws. In 1985 almost 1000 people's race was changed according to the tone of their skin colour. Among them many was three Chinese people were turned to white citizens. They were reclassified from one race group to another by the stroke of a government pen.  Photo: Prelene Singh

After proceeding through the specified gate for me which was titled “Nie – Blankes” which means non-white in English. I saw the ID’s of all the non-white people who lived in South Africa at that time. The ID documents were of Black, Indian and Asian people. I managed to spot this poster of an Asian woman’s ID document. This represents that the Asian (Chinese, Japanese and Taiwanese) people were treated as “non-white” in South Africa and were therefore discriminated against under the apartheid laws. In 1985 almost 1000 people’s race was changed according to their tone of their skin colour. Among them many was three Chinese people were turned to white citizens. They were reclassified from one race group to another by the stroke of a government pen. Photo: Prelene Singh

I took a photo of this man as he had facial features of an Asian man. And the only one that I spotted on the ramp of infinity. This ramp represented the journey of generations passed and presently. The mirrored boards had photo's of the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of some of those who journeyed to Johannesburg following the discovery of gold in 1886. This photo is significant because it represented the far stretched history of Chinese people in Johannesburg. The ramp is built in such a way to represent the mining industry at the time and how miners were treated with the feeling of imprisonment as you walk up the ramp. Through my research I know that the Chinese were brought South Africa early in the 20th century as miners because the locals refused to mine under the inhumane conditions. Photo: Prelene Singh

I took a photo of this man as he had facial features of an Asian man. And the only one that I spotted on the ramp of infinity. This ramp represented the journey of generations passed and presently. The mirrored boards had photo’s of the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of some of those who journeyed to Johannesburg following the discovery of gold in 1886. This photo is significant because it represented the far stretched history of Chinese people in Johannesburg. The ramp is built in such a way to represent the mining industry at the time and how miners were treated with the feeling of imprisonment as you walk up the ramp. Through my research I know that the Chinese were brought South Africa early in the 20th century as miners because the locals refused to mine under the inhumane conditions. Photo: Prelene Singh

During apartheid we know that the Group Areas Act of 1950 caused the population of South Africa to be separated on the basis of skin colour, not even race. The Chinese people were separated but however on some of their legal documents they were classified as "white" people because they were fair and could pass as a white person.  This photo is a picture of separation which was painted on the walls of caves by the early San people. Photo: Prelene Singh

During apartheid we know that the Group Areas Act of 1950 caused the population of South Africa to be separated on the basis of skin colour, not even race. The Chinese people were separated but however on some of their legal documents they were classified as “white” people because they were fair and could pass as a white person. This photo is a picture of separation which was painted on the walls of caves by the early San people. Photo: Prelene Singh

This photo has nothing to do with Chinese history in South Africa but I took the picture because walking into the room with the 131 nooses hanging from the ceiling gave me shivers down my spine, literally. Knowing that each one of these nooses represents a person who was executed for political crimes in South Africa during apartheid. On the walls beside the nooses are the names of these people who were executed or was in police detention and subsequently died.

This photo has nothing to do with Chinese history in South Africa but I took the picture because walking into the room with the 131 nooses hanging from the ceiling gave me shivers down my spine, literally. Knowing that each one of these nooses represents a person who was executed for political crimes in South Africa during Apartheid. On the walls beside the nooses are the names of these people who were executed or was in police detention and subsequently died.

Egoli: A commanding view of the city of Gold greets you when you reach the top of the ramp. The modern skyline is reflective of the accomplishments throughout the decades of Johannesburg. It is important to bear in mind that the Chinese people played a role in the development of our city. Th Chinese helped in the mining process in the early 1900's when they mined gold. Gold was the key to the establishment Johannesburg and the history of discrimination and segregation in this city. Photo: Prelene Singh

Egoli: A commanding view of the city of Gold greets you when you reach the top of the ramp. The modern skyline is reflective of the accomplishments throughout the decades of Johannesburg. It is important to bear in mind that the Chinese people played a role in the development of our city. Th Chinese helped in the mining process in the early 1900’s when they mined gold. Gold was the key to the establishment Johannesburg and the history of discrimination and segregation in this city. Photo: Prelene Singh

This is a photo of the replica of the solitary confinement cell. Detainees who were held in these cells say that it was the worst kind of torture. Winnie Mandela said: "The mind finds it very difficult to adjust to such solitude. It is utter torture...It becomes so difficult to keep sane with absolutely nothing to do that I would actually hunt for ants. If I had an ant or a fly in the cell, I would regard myself as having company for the day." I stood in this cell and closed the door. If I laid down flat on my back that would be the size of the entire cell. Photo: Prelene Singh

This is a photo of the replica of the solitary confinement cell. Detainees who were held in these cells say that it was the worst kind of torture. Winnie Mandela said: “The mind finds it very difficult to adjust to such solitude. It is utter torture…It becomes so difficult to keep sane with absolutely nothing to do that I would actually hunt for ants. If I had an ant or a fly in the cell, I would regard myself as having company for the day.” I stood in this cell and closed the door. If I laid down flat on my back that would be the size of the entire cell. Photo: Prelene Singh

This is the inside of the yellow army vehicle. You can see the heavy appearance of the seats inside, the torn seats and the rusted metal bars. It is a scary sight and one could only imagine how it felt to be inside this vehicle as a political prisoner. Photo: Prelene Singh

This is the inside of the yellow army vehicle. You can see the heavy appearance of the seats inside, the torn seats and the rusted metal bars. It is a scary sight and one could only imagine how it felt to be inside this vehicle as a political prisoner. Photo: Prelene Singh

This photo shows you the imposing yellow armoured vehicle which was used by the police and the army called who called it a casspir. This is representative of the constant police presence in the townships during apartheid South Africa. It also became the central figure of the Soweto uprising of 1976. Photo: Prelene Singh

This photo shows you the imposing yellow armoured vehicle which was used by the police and the army called who called it a casspir. This is representative of the constant police presence in the townships during apartheid South Africa. It also became the central figure of the Soweto uprising of 1976. Photo: Prelene Singh

While these pictures are not all related to the Chinese history in South Africa I think it suffices as important context in understanding the state of South Africa before and after the Chinese came to the country. It is also important to understand how the Chinese were treated and why, under apartheid law.

It does not tell the story of Chinese people in particular but it helps to wrap your mind around why the Chinese had such a difficult time in South Africa then and why they still till this day experience discrimination form local citizens.

I have a few meetings lined up this week with people who be able to supply me with more information around the history of Chinese people in South Africa. And if time allows me I would like to speak to people of the apartheid museum about why this part of history is not documented publicly and find out if there is any new information and visuals they could provide me with.

For now 再见 (bye bye) from me.

Panicked perseverance

Today marked the beginning of the second week of in-depth for #teamvuvu. It was definitely a vibe in the newsroom in comparison to last week Monday when we started our research project. People were generally more relaxed but at the same time, the stress was kicking in.

We have six more days left of research before we are thrown into production next week. Some people were quite disheartened today, as I observed, due to many hindering factors which were bound to kick in at some point.

Not having sufficient sources who are willing to talk to us, people phones being off and thus being unable to reach them and the pressure of knowing that our time is running out and our final drafts of our features are due this week.

The lingering thought at the back of all our mind is: do we have enough information to write a 2000 word feature. Not a storytelling feature but something which reflects, through in-depth research, our topic excellently, after all this is investigative journalism and not sunshine journalism.

I suppose at this point it’s looking dim for some of us however, from past experience of being in this situation I know that when Friday or Sunday comes around everything will work itself out and we will cope. ‘Pressure makes diamonds’ as the old saying goes.

I would say I am one of the people who is feeling the pressure a little bit because I’m apprehensive about things going according to plan, because sometimes things tend to fall apart at the last minute.

I have an interview with Mr Pon and his family on Wednesday, however I was suppose to meet him today and on arrival at his firework shop on Commissioner Street I was told that he had left to buy more stock as Diwali is approaching and there will be a lot of business coming to his shop. I tried to call Mr Pon but to no avail.

I understand he is a busy man and therefore I will try again tomorrow and wait it out at his shop if I have to, so I can finalise the last minute details with him before Wednesday rolls around. After, Wednesday I can say I can breathe again because that would be the bulk of my story done. All I would have to do is my multimedia and write up feature, this should be quick as I have already done all the research I need to.

I think that what I have learnt is that you cannot give up your journey at every road block you approach because then you will never reach your destination. It’s just like seeing a beautiful rainbow after the storm. It’s the same principal, eventually your bad luck (if you can call it that) will run out and that is when the good has a crack to seep through.

I hope to crack before Wednesday and see that beautiful rainbow. Until then I will continue to fill that pot of gold and persevere. As someone once told me: “Nothing good comes easy”.

中国的内部和南非在外面

黃嘉麗 WONG Ka Lai, Kali: Monsters Family: Collec...

黃嘉麗 WONG Ka Lai, Kali: Monsters Family: Collection PolyU Fashion Show 2013. Photo credit: See-ming Lee 李思明

A visit to Francis Lai Hong‘s house yesterday was by far not what I expected, in a good way. Me and my fellow classmate had an interview with him at his house. I walked in not knowing what to expect but I knew it would probably be a quick interview and we would be out of there in an hour or so. Little to my surprise it was nothing like this.

We entered his house and were welcomed with open arms, he was very pleased to have us there. He had prepared a braai for us and a table full of delicious food. We were immediately served with ice cold cold drinks, which is all I needed after a full morning in the sun. We sat down in his TV room and began to chat.

We met his nephew who is a qualified actuary and is currently doing his articles through a London university. Christopher Kim Sing came and introduced himself and sat down and spoke to us while his uncle prepared the braai. Mr Lai Hong spoke to us open and freely.

We learnt that he was adopted and that in the late 1900’s many Chinese people had several children and they would normally keep one child and sell their other children off for a few pounds. This was the case for Mr Lai Hong. He did not know his parents and his siblings and did not want to, however he still identified himself as a South African, since he had made this country his home from 1958 when he arrived here, he was two months old. Mr Lai Hong came with his adoptive parents. This was quite interesting to me firstly because I did not know the Chinese di this and secondly because I could identify with it as my ancestors from India did the same.

Mr Lai Hong’s entire family was there, his eldest son who is a qualified Charted Account, his younger son who is in matric plans to go into computer science and his daughter who is also in matric plans to be a pediatrician and his wife all joined us at the table, as we ate out lunch. We sat outside on the deck which overlooked his blue pool and green garden, there was a slight breeze and the environment was so relaxed.

It was a lovely environment to have a conversation rather than a formal interview. I learned that some of the Chinese people I had been dealing with as part of my research we actually related to one another, which showed me that the Chinese community for the most part are united.

We could ask as many questions as we wanted. Although Mr Lai Hong rated himself a four out of 10 of how Chinese he thinks he is, his house was decorated  with Chinese garments and the cabinets had Chinese statues inside. So there is evidence of identity with his family which is portrayed through his house. Sometimes, interviewing a person at their house tells you more about them than you could ever ask them.

We spent about three hours with Mr Lai Hong and his family. It was an experience and something I would have never done if I wasn’t researching it for my project.

这是我的中国周末。今天,我们回到绘图板的旅程仍在继续。(That was my Chinese weekend. Today we back to the drawing board as the journey continues).

[EDITORIAL]: The essence lies beneath

Imagine a world with no inspiration, no creativity and no innovation. In the mind’s eye it becomes a world with a sombre, dull and melancholic atmosphere, lacking the essence of life and spontaneity. Innovation in many fields of study, including science, architecture and art, would cease to exist and so would our progression as humankind.

The importance of art and drama in our surroundings was brought home to us this week.

Team Vuvu made a trip to cinema nouveau in Rosebank this past week to watch the locally produced movie Of Good Report, directed by Jahmil XT Qubeka. The movie took us on a darkly comical journey in the life of a murderer. While many might review this movie as making a social comment on the “suga daddy” issue, some of us saw it as dealing with the mind of a serial killer.

Much controversy surrounded this movie upon its release. It was initially banned although this was overturned on appeal. After watching it and doing some research it became apparent the aim of the movie was misunderstood.

The protagonist Parker Sithole, played by Mothusi Magano, never uttered a word throughout the movie. Qubeka used the art of motion, expression and lack of colour throughout the movie to send a message not only about serial killers but also about gender imbalance in South African society.

This is the potential influence this kind of movie can have. People use art to structure society. It forces people to think about serious issues faced in society.

Simultaneously, art is also practised as a form of leisure and satisfaction. This should not be inferior to anything else in the world. What we perceive as important, is important.

It has been an innovative and successful year for Wits Vuvuzela and we as a student newspaper have definitely made a change in our community.

In addition to covering hard news, certain members of the team enjoyed the lighter and arguably equally important aspects of the news. We have covered a variety of campus initiatives and events throughout the year.

Trying to accomplish this in the midst of hard news coverage, which is expected of us, has been a task. Some of us particularly enjoyed covering the art exhibitions and performances produced by the Wits theatre this year, in celebration of their 30th anniversary.

The realisation that there are so many different forms of art was an unexpected discovery for many of us who signed up for journalism. 

Court week comes to a conclusion

Today marked the end of court week experience. I must say I have come out of this week more informed and educated about how the court system works in South Africa but also highly disappointed and shameful about the justice system in this country.

My last day in court was by far the most touching yet eye-opening day I have had in a long time. I sat through district court and met an attorney who was friendly enough to take me down to the holding cell for underneath the court where prisoners are kept until they appear in court.

I learnt that these prisoners who have committed less serious crimes such as theft of consumer goods, robbery and assault. I mean less serious in comparison to the more serious crimes such as rape and murder.

The holding cell

I went down to the holding cell and I was taken aback by the mere appearance of the cell. It was very cold firstly and considering it was winter it was even colder. The walls were dull grey with paint coming off it, there was a wooden bench on the side of the wall for the prisoners to sit and they were closed in by a squeaky metal gate. There were at least 10 to 15 prisoners who were transported from Sterkfontein prison and Sun City prison.
criminals

The treatment of prisoners

The constable had told us that everyday at least 1000 prisoners were transported to the courts for their hearing. Sometimes there are not enough buses to bring all the prisoners to court to appear and they are left behind and unable to appear in court and are left in custody until the court postpones their case.

I learnt that the prisons in Sun City were full. A prison cell which is made for 42 prisoners, have over 100 prisoners in them. I learnt that people who commit theft, robbery or assault are kept in the same prison cell as the murderers and rapists. There is no separation.

An older looking man walked to the stand in court to appear for his trial, which was postponed, had tears running down his face as he explained what was waiting for him after his trial was postponed.

He spoke out and told his interpreter that he would like to address the court. He told the court that he did not want to go back to prison because he is going to sleep on the cold cement floor tonight with no blankets and pillows. He is not going to eat because the other cell dwellers who have been there longer than him bully him into paying them after they steal his meal. He said they are forced to pay R50-00 in order to get their food and sometimes he does not even eat because he does not have money to pay them. The man who was expressing real emotion in court in front of everyone said they are treated like animals, they do not have a voice to speak out for themselves and he was dreading going back there tonight and staying there until he has to appear in court again.

The courts response

The court was not too interested in this man’s testimony and told him that we as tax payers pay for you to be in jail and therefore you do not have to pay for food and that you should speak out for your rights, he was then escorted out of court back to the holding cell.

Two observations can be deduced here. One, that he was intolerably dismissed by the court and second that the prison system in the country is not efficient.

He appeared in court just to hear that his case is postponed and he will remain in custody. This judgment happens at least 10 times in court on any given day. So it is basically a waste of time.

In this court there was a specific case where a case was postponed because the court did not provide a relevant interpreter for the accused and therefore she could not understand the court proceedings without someone who would translate it for her. The defense attorney voiced his displeasure about this. He said that the state is taking this issue of translators very lightly and therefore have failed to provide the relevant interpreters for the accused and because of this; the accused should not be punished for it. What does this say about the constitution of South Africa? A citizen of the country cannot even get an interpreter in her own language and has to face further costs when her case is postponed because of the states lack of responsibility.

I think a criminal should be punished because they have committed actions which go against the law of the country. However, I feel punishment needs to be set out in degrees. I also think that the efficiency of the court procedures in South Africa is strained and inefficient.

Conclusive thoughts

My court week experience was moving and it also proved to me that you are unaware of the way the povertised live, you are unaware of the problems in the justice system of the country and you are unaware of the lives of others until you experience it for yourself. I learnt that it is easy to sit back and judge criminals without considering their circumstance and the lack of education. Education makes you wiser and that has been proven many times in court last week. I think that the first step for South Africa is to address the low rate of literacy in the country; this would be a step in the right direction.