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A void deep in their souls is driving these young people into orgies of consumption


HAD heard about Izikhothane, a group of young people for whom material possession is a matter of life and death. They first started in the townships of the East Rand but have now spread to other townships. They dress to the nines, in the latest fashion and the more expensive the outfit, the better. They meet at local parks and party hard. Very hard. Expensive alcohol flows as they rock to pumping sounds. When I saw images of them on my television screen, showing off their expensive luxury brands, boasting about how much these cost and vowing that they would do anything to outdo one another in this orgy of conspicuous consumption, I, like many South Africans, shook my head in consternation. But it was only when I stumbled upon an Izikhothane gathering in Soweto last week that I was filled with a profound sadness. And it wasn’t just the young men who were dancing and burning clothes and money that made me sad, but the adoring fans who were cheering them on and urging them to be even more outrageous. While the young men took turns to mesmerise the crowd

When I stumbled on an Izikhotane gathering I was filled with a profound sadness with their dance moves, others took off their clothes, splashed expensive alcohol all over themselves and taunted each other in a macabre competition. Izikhothane’s noisy gatherings are not just about partying and looking good. They end with a bizarre ritual where they burn their flashy new clothes and whatever money is in their possession. This seems to be the highlight of the gathering. Many of these young men do not come from rich families.

Some of their parents do not work and those who do are ordinary hard-working men and women who do not possess any special skills. They understand poverty because they have tasted it and continue to see its manifestations in their townships. Big show-offs and materialistic young people are not unique to Izikhothane’s generation. Many before them have found ways of making the statement “I have arrived.” But Izikhothane are in a league of their own when it comes to exhibitionism. It is easy to dismiss them as the lost generation, children who have not been raised well or are cheeky, spoilt brats. But watching this event from the comfort of my car, I knew that the narrative was not that simple. What I saw on that street corner was devastating. Their ritual tells a sad story of a void deep in their souls and a society that is not able to fill it. If materialism was their core value, then why destroy that which tells the world they have arrived? Once they have attained these glitzy possessions, they seem to actively subvert the materialism for which they are known by burning and destroying their possessions amid loud cheers. This paradox tells a complex story of a group of young people for whom overindulgence and profligacy is essential, yet the other layer of the story says they don’t care about retaining their possessions. So what do they care about? What are they yearning for? Looking at them revelling in the cheering of the crowds, I was saddened that they felt they had to engage in such outrageous behaviour to feel worthy. The latest census confirms that South Africa’s population is made up of mainly young people. This should excite us because, with the right investments, young people can be a powerful resource to our burgeoning society. If we are to understand ourselves and work towards a brighter future, then as a nation, we need to understand what the aspirations of these young people are and whether we are doing enough to create a society that affirms them and gives them tools to face the world. Izikhothane are no different to you and me. They want the same things we want — respect, validation and the knowledge that they live in a country that affords them the space to pursue their dreams.

“This left me wondering if he actually believed the nonsense that was being peddled in that document. “We had thought that this abuse of state power came to an end with the Polokwane outcome,” he said. This was supported by two other national executive committee members mentioned in the report, who said Zuma’s failure to discuss the report with them meant that the president had believed it to be accurate. They believe the report was a ploy to force those ANC leaders who were seen as a threat to Zuma’s secondterm bid to publicly pledge their allegiance to him in the run-up to the Mangaung conference in December this year. A former ANC Youth League leader said he would have been happy if Zuma, after receiving the report, had instituted an investigation so that those who were accused could clear their names. The Mdluli saga also appears to have played a major part in the falling out between Zuma and axed police chief Bheki Cele. Although Cele was not widely known to be a Zuma man prior to 2006 — when he led scores of ANC supporters in Durban in a “prayer” for Zuma, the embattled ANC deputy

Sunday Times

Ramaphosa articles provoke mixed response

Life in SA is a horror show

FINALLY, voices of reason! Thank you so much Redi Tlhabi and Ray Hartley for your frank, honest and well-reasoned pieces on the Ramaphosa fiasco, “Ramaphosa was guilty of bad grammar, not ordering the murder of 34 miners” and “Ramaphosa was right to call for action” (October 28). Advocate Dali Mpofu owes Mr Ramaphosa a serious apology for such an accusation. This matter is clearly political now. We must not forget that it was Ramaphosa who finally expelled Malema, the man who used to be represented by the very same Mpofu. It is disgusting how ANC politics are influencing such a serious, painful moment in our history. Ramaphosa, you have done nothing wrong. Anyone who thinks you have needs a serious mental assessment. — Thabo Msibi, by SMS RAY Hartley’s article is devoid of substance and thus amounts to an unwarranted attack on Advocate Dali Mpofu. Implicit in his misguided assertions is that Mpofu has a personal vendetta against Cyril Ramaphosa in that the former represented Malema at his ANC disciplinary appeal hearing chaired by Ramaphosa, and that the latter made the final call to expel Malema. It is the duty of the commission to make findings, and not Hartley’s. To attack Mpofu on the basis of his opening statement is evidence of Hartley’s intellectual indolence. I strongly recommend that Hartley reads Technique in Litigation by H Daniels. The Johannesburg Bar and the General Council of the Bar must rally behind Mpofu. As a junior advocate I am inspired by Mpofu’s independence. Bizarrely, after the commission Mpofu will not receive any government brief. — Boitumelo Babuseng. Kimberley RAY Hartley’s article is the best article I have read in the Sunday Times for years. It is very factual and gives a big picture of the circumstances that led to Ramaphosa correctly branding the murderous Marikana mobs criminals after they had brutally killed 10 people. It is a pity that the Sunday Times’s sister daily The Times of October 24 was the worst culprit in Dali Mpofu’s spin doctoring. The Times had a sensational, emotionally charged full-page article — Ramaphosa exposed — where they (The Times) painted a very bloody picture of Ramaphosa and the Lonmin executives without bothering to explain the context within which the exchange of e-mails took place between Ramaphosa, Roger Philimore, and Albert Jamieson. At least it is reassuring that there are still people left at The Times stable who are not influenced by the Mangaung Fever in their reporting. — Professor Bonke Dumisa, KwaZulu-Natal RAY Hartley, thanks for the most accurate account of Marikana I have read. — Manya Kruger, CT I JUST cannot agree more with Ray Hartley’s opinion on Cyril Ramaphosa. Dali Mpofu represented Malema and now illegal strikers. To me it seems as if he is using his profession to defend those who are on the wrong side of the law — those who are truly and blatantly violating other people’s human rights and dignity. He must be ashamed of himself. He does not have to make a name for himself by defending those who trample over

Rocky road ahead for the president ý From Page 1




president at the time, ahead of one of his court appearances — there is no doubt that he became one of the central campaigners ahead of Polokwane. So when Zuma became president and the post of national police commissioner became vacant as a result of Jackie Selebi being removed, it came as no surprise that Cele was selected. But from the outset there were signs of trouble. A month before Cele was named as the new police chief, Mdluli was made crime intelligence boss — a move that was read by Cele’s associates as a sign that Zuma and his Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa, did not entirely trust him. With just over a month to go before the start of the Mangaung conference, it increasingly looks as though Vavi’s 2009 prophesy is going to be proved wrong: leadership succession will be a major issue, with Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe likely to be nominated as Zuma’s challenger. A significant number of those who stood behind Zuma as he took on Mbeki in 2007 will be rooting for Motlanthe this time around. So far, indications are that Zuma will win the contest with the majority of ANC branches believed to be supporting his retention. But even if he does, the long list of political foes he has made since 2009 mean his second term will not be smooth.

REGARDING the picture titled “Dead on their feet” (October 28). It won’t be wrong to say that the majority of people in SA are living like zombies. No food, no medical treatment, nowhere to stay, and yet they still vote for those who turned them into zombies. — G M Short, by SMS ON the picture about zombies invading Cape Town. Question is, how can you tell? They look like normal Capetonians to me. — Paulie, Joburg WALKING DEAD: Zombies gather at Three Anchor Bay in Cape Town for the annual Great Zombie Walk last week Picture: HALDEN KROG

others’ basic human rights, like not participating in an illegal strike, or those who find joy in tarnishing other people’s image and integrity. Shame on him. Shame on him. — Jack Nkutha, by e-mail I THINK there is a high conflict of interest in what Mr Ramaphosa is doing — being a politician and a businessman simultaneously will always backfire, “Ramaphosa to testify” (October 28). He must choose one, he can’t do both within the South African context. Mr Ramaphosa will always use his political connections to satisfy his

Veteran beef TO Mondli Makhanya, “This easily riled army is all too ready to fight again” (October 28): Not all Umkhonto weSizwe Veterans’ Association members are people you can’t “hold a rational political conversation with”. Maybe Makhanya met a few and he thinks he has met all of them. — Dr E Mnisi, by SMS

Zim dollars JUST to let Hogarth know that Zimbabwe does not use Zimbabwe dollars. This is in reference to the prize he offered in “Riddle of the double strip“ (October 28). — David Toshke, by email

Sniffing coffee WONDERFUL to read Xolela Mangcu’s

Arabella Koopman

personal business interests. Ramaphosa could have been kind and offered the R2-million to workers before lives were lost but instead he opted for lefu lahaye lamphidisa, meaning that those that lost loved ones will have financial benefit from the deaths of their loved ones. I find it ridiculous that Ramaphosa wants to clear his name and has already approached the Marikana commission through his political connection. I personally think if the commission needs Ramaphosa to testify they will approach him. — Maphumzane Stanley Semelane, Kempton Park

“Smell the coffee, comrades, things are bad” (October 28): I also had a lump in my throat reading Thabo Mbeki’s Oliver Tambo memorial lecture. Time for all old struggle buddies to exit African politics and make way for the modern, educated youth . . . And, yes, welcome back to the public domain Mr Mbeki. It is amazing how things change when you’re not sitting on the throne guzzling taxpayers’ money. — Tim Hagger, by SMS

Wake-up time SAMPIE Terreblanche has spelt out the future in South Africa in “A final wake-up call to forestall revolution” (October 28). Hope the Motsepes of the country wake up and see what they are doing by playing

footsie with Zuma. — Frances McComb, by SMS OUR future lies with a dynamic industrialisation programme. Many of our factories have come to a standstill because we import. — E Schwentzek, by e-mail

Justice’s voice IN “Zuma drops cartoon damages claim” (October 28), President Jacob Zuma’s spokesman, Mac Maharaj, said he was not in a position to comment. Neither was Lady Justice! — Paul Martin, Australia

Fed up, SARS Regarding the SARS advert in Review 1 last week — “Thank you, your tax touches lives’’ — we know where our taxes go, and we’re fed up. — JP, by SMS

Colour-blind classrooms THE “Call to hire more black teachers” (October 28), should be a call to change the way we think about teachers of race. It is not sufficient to transform the pupil population so that you have greater diversity, but children of all races need to have role models across all cultures and from all backgrounds in order for them to believe in a future filled with hope. Sacred Heart in Johannesburg has teachers of colour teaching in key gateway subject areas. In the high school, they teach mathematics, physical science, accounting, history, technology and Zulu. In the primary school, Zulu is taught by one of the best methodologists in the country, and she is an umlungu. We noted in the article the claim that black parents were demanding white teachers for their children. Putting aside our concern that a statement like this perpetuates a stereotype, our experience has been that when teachers do a good job, parents of all races give no thought to the race of the teacher. This was confirmed in a survey of the Sacred Heart parent body this year. The lesson that schools wanting to improve their diversity must learn is that it is not enough to simply hire more black teachers or enrol more black pupils; one has to be willing to accept that the cultural dynamics within the school have to change as well, and this sometimes means you have to give up some of your cherished traditions in order to create new ones. — Colin Northmore, by e-mail

Women show the way I READ two inspiring articles in the Sunday Times of October 28. One was about North West premier Thandi Modise, “Thandi Modise hits back”; the other was by Malawian President Joyce Banda, “My plan to fix Malawi”. Most importantly, they have clear commonalities. They are clearly both capable women in leadership in a culture that seeks to keep men in leadership roles. They both represent a negative element of

African culture and are standing firmly against it, namely, patriarchy. They both function in terms of the “third liberation”, namely, to overthrow dysfunctional economic systems, including corrupt practices. They both address the issues they face in their country and province to be a more successful place, with reality, not ideology. It means that they have both put their own interests aside for the sake of the common good. Banda has taken a 30% cut in salary and got rid of the presidential jets and fleet of cars acquired by the previous president. Modise has stood by her sound principles with regard to corruption and factionalism. Several years ago, someone said this was the century for Africa. He justified it with: “As black women become educated, they will start to become the leaders of Africa and they will not put up with being put down in any way by their menfolk.” These two women are sterling examples of that comment. — Margaret Ferguson, Cape Town I HOPE Zuma reads Joyce Banda’s plan, “My plan to fix Malawi” (October 28). — Russell, by SMS

TV licence-fee blues I’VE been plagued for years to pay R20 000 for “outstanding licence fees”, despite notifying [the SABC] that my set was stolen 20 years ago, “TV licence fee ‘bullies’ in line for huge fines” and “Reveal more about SABC” in Readers’ Views (October 28). I recently inherited a TV set and tried to buy a pensioner’s reduced-fee licence, being 77 years old. I was informed that I must pay the full rate and that they will send me a “credit letter” for my overpayment. This is both false advertising and extortion. How much interest do I earn on my “credit”? Needless to add, staff at the SABC, Rocklands, and on the telephone were sadly in need of a basic public relations course. — Barbara Robinson, Cape Town THE SABC must cancel the licence fee and stop bullying honest citizens because of their greed. — HTT, by SMS

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Great stories for all will make our country grow

There’s an excruciatingly small selection of books for youngsters who don’t speak English or Afrikaans at home


NE of my favourite storybook characters as a child was Mrs TiggyWinkle from The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle by Beatrix Potter. She was a hedgehog who miraculously reinvented herself daily — without ever compromising her true identity — into an industrious entrepreneur who ran a laundry service! There she was, bustling across the rolling green hills of the English countryside, a world that for me existed only in storybooks, the conversations of my parents and birthday cards from relatives. I was a South African Englishspeaking child steeped in a world of unearned privilege that included access to a wide range of storybooks in my home language. I cannot imagine my childhood without the books on my bookshelf and those I carefully selected each week from our wellstocked local library. Of course, I loved the stories my parents told me to pass the time on a train journey, for example, but it is cuddling up with my dad and a book at bedtime — a ritual that lasted until I was about 10 or 11 — that remains most deeply etched

in my memory. Storybooks also inspired many hours of fantasy play where my friends and I became the characters we had read about and were instantly transported to different places and times. So what of the children who did not — and still do not — have early access to picture books in the languages they use at home? We are often reminded about South Africa’s appalling literacy levels and how, for the majority of our children, books are things you only encounter at school. Every now and then, in response, we put vast amounts of time and energy (not to mention money!) into reconstructing school curriculums to ensure that children spend more time on learning the mechanical skills of reading, like sounding out letters and making sure they have access to “readers”. So, what kinds of books are these “readers”? Because if they are the only books some children encounter, they need to be the best children’s literature on offer, otherwise there is little chance children will get “switched on” to reading. Are they books that entertain children, immerse them

in the richness of their language, inspire their imaginations and allow them to dream big? Unfortunately, they are not. Those books are mostly still the privy of children who speak English or Afrikaans at home. So what about those parents who use languages other than

Are the ‘readers’ books that entertain children? English and Afrikaans at home and who read to their children? If they want to buy books or borrow them from the library, within weeks they would have exhausted the entire supply of books available in their languages. How can it be that in South Africa in 2012 we have a wealth of wonderfully rich children’s books in English and Afrikaans, but have an excruciatingly small selection for children who speak other languages? When children see and read their languages represented in the

storybooks they choose, it affirms for them that their languages are important enough for people to write and publish in them. What then does it mean to a child’s developing sense of self — to which language is essential — to have to read and be read to in a language that is someone else’s? The United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child, to which South Africa is a signatory, asserts that all children have the right to develop to their fullest and to participate fully in cultural and social life. Reading enables children to contextualise their experience of the world against the backdrop of that of others. It can connect them to others and to help them build a sense of who they are and who they might become. In other words, it has a critical role to play in children’s developing

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sense of identity. Building a better society requires the affirmation of all children and giving them equal opportunities. Part of doing this has to be by ensuring we develop a quality children’s literature in all our official languages. This is not something that happens overnight and without significant resources. It requires people in positions of authority to roll up their sleeves and help create a landscape in which children’s literature in all our languages flourishes in the long term. It requires skilled and talented writers, illustrators, translators and publishers who think and act creatively with the intention of connecting with, and inspiring, children. Unfortunately, unless we begin to make good on our commitment to all South Africa’s children we’ll be saying these same things in another 10 years’ time. ý Koopman develops and manages materials for the Nal’ibali Reading-for-Enjoyment initiative (, driven by the Project for the Study of Alternative Education in SA at UCT