RIP Tata: A day we will never forget

RIP MADIBA

RIP MADIBA

Following the passing of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela on Thursday December 5th 2013, the country had come to a stand still. Since then there have been plans for a memorial and funeral. Today December 10 marks the day when South Africa, its people and the world have the chance to celebrate Madiba’s life and bid farewell to him.

“When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace”

The famous words uttered by non other than the father of our nation, Nelson Mandela. A few words said by the man who himself practiced what he preached. It seems a life that has come full circle and a cheerful irony that he who said this is one who can finally rest in peace.

A mood of nostalgia and celebration pours out from the people of South Africa today as the stream into the FNB stadium in Nasrec for the memorial service of Nelson Mandela.

Sitting in the EWN newsroom, buzzing around as reporters run into a frenzy covering the memorial, we all remember the importance of relaying information to the public simultaneously remembering to bear in mind the importance of today.

The huge impact Mandela made on the lives of millions will never be comparable.

The huge impact Mandela made on the lives of millions will never be comparable.

It is a rainy and overcast day in Johannesburg, however this has not stopped the nation from arriving in the thousands to the stadium to celebrate the life that was Nelson Mandela.

An estimated 90 000 people will be present for the #MandelaMemorial today with 90 head of states from around the world also flying in for the huge event. Most them, which include US President Barack Obama and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, have already landed at the Waterkloof air force base this morning.

A momentous time in history would be an understatement. South Africa, Johannesburg is by far the most important area in the world right now and the former President of our country being the central figure of all this celebration.

I feel privileged to have lived in the time of Nelson Mandela and I feel further honoured to be present in this city for the time when we are able to say goodbye and celebrate how far our country has come since aparthied because of Madiba.

Whether you met Mandela, watched him on television, listened to him on radio, or read his books, if you lived in South Africa or you are a person of colour living in other parts of the world, Mandela affected your life.

It is a sad day when we realise that our father has now passed on and he has left the future of this country in our hands now. He has brought us through 19 years of democracy and now it is time for him to rest. A beautiful, influential and legendary 95 years it was while Mandela blessed us with his presence. Rest In peace Tata.

I am grateful for the life I have now because of your struggle, your fight and your determinant soul and peaceful nature. Thank You!

[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.

Inspiring aid for children in need

KIDS STUFF: Robyn Brown shares a story with children at the Wavecrest Educare Centre. Photo: Provided

KIDS STUFF: Robyn Brown shares a story with children at the Wavecrest Educare Centre. Photo: Provided

This article first appeared in the Sunday Times on July 14, 2013

NELSON Mandela’s love for children has inspired a Vodacom change the world volunteer to spend Mandela Day this week reading and playing with a group from a poor community.

Robyn Brown has already been doing her bit for charity as one of 20 volunteers in the initiative, in association with Times Media Group, that allows professionals to work with a charity of their choice for a year and be paid for it.

Brown, an outreach programme facilitator at Bright Start, will be reading storybooks and enjoying games with the children at the Wavecrest Educare Centre, which caters for 105 children from an informal settlement near Hout Bay.

Her chosen charity, Bright Start, offers educational support to children from disadvantaged homes. it will help her with a campaign  to encourage Cape Town people to donate books and toys for Wavecrest.

Another volunteer, Norma Young, communication officer for LEAP Science and Maths Schools, said a quiz show called “Are you smarter than a LEAP grader” would put five of their pupils against adult members of various corporations. Other volunteers who are going all out to do their bit for Mandela Day include:

  • Caitlin Longamn has orgainsed massages for elderly residents of Park Care Centre in Johannesburg;
  • Michael Stevens, from Jumping Kids Prosthetic Fund, in association with Avis, will donate chalkboards to rural schools around the country;
  • Kilptown Youth Programme’s Stephanie Venter will organise eye tests for 300 pupils, because poor eyesight might affect their ability to do their homework and study;
  • A five-ton food collection container has been placed at Benmore Gardens shopping centre in northern Johannesburg by the Afrika Tikkun organisation, whose volunteer, Naazneen Tarmohamed, will distribute food to needy people; and,
  • Alta Brown Steenkamp, who works for the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, is organising bikers from Gauteng to Limpopo to build a wendy house, playground, vegetable garden and fence for a Limpopo orphanage.

“Mandela once said education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world,” Brown said. “So I’m happy to be fulfilling the spirit and purpose of Mandela Day.

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