WE HAVE just emerged from having celebrated Deaf Awareness Month. This year, the campaign reflected on the great strides the South African Deaf community, a cultural minority group, has made since 1994.

Our exposure to deafness is often based on what we see at the bottom corner of our television screens during prime time live newscasts and televised statements of national importance.

We might not understand the sign language and gestures we see but have grown to trust that what we witness is correct.

It all changed in 2013 at late president Nelson Mandela’s memorial service when we were left with egg on our faces.

The interpreter, who rendered his services next to dignitaries that included the then-US president Barack Obama, was, in fact, a fake. Oscar-winning deaf actress Marlee Matlin tweeted about the atrocity as the organisers embarrassingly removed the fake interpreter from the stage.

The procurement and vetting faux pas made international news headlines, and some of us boasted that we smelt a rat from the start.

“What he signed just didn’t make sense to me,” and “It was very different to the SABC interpreter’s sign language” immediately became the opening lines to the national discourse that followed. We have certainly become more cautious about whom we trust in the blue box. Nowadays, we glance to the left bottom of the screen whenever the president speaks. Be it to catch a meme moment or simply to check that what is signed is correct.

Since the start of Covid19 and the president’s fortnightly “family meetings”, we have been inspired to come up with memes that make fun of serious issues.

A shot which involved the “sign lady in a blue box” depicting a person rolling a zol, smoking a zol and sharing a zol following Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma’s briefing, catapulted the memes of both women to fame.

The interpreter certainly knew how to pull a blunt in front of a nation. Be that as it may, have you ever wondered how interpreting works? WE HAVE become more cautious about sign language interpreters and their authenticity, says the writer. I African News Agency ANA Scholars in the field of translation and interpreting studies refer to simultaneous interpreting as a strenuous cognitive task.

That is because the interpreter listens to what the speaker says, deciphers the meaning of the spoken word and transfers the information into a signed language readily understood by the deaf community.

The interpreter anticipates what the speaker might say next and finds ways to adapt a linear language into a visual, gestural three-dimensional, nonlinear language. The interpreter mediates between a hearing world based on sound and phonetic nuances to a “silent” world based on visuals and nuances expressed through facial expressions. When producing a film, a director translates a carefully crafted script to the silver screen. Similarly, the signed language interpreter adapts spoken language to a visual language with the same intent as the speaker.

When the interpreter is not familiar with the subject matter, simultaneous interpreting increases in difficulty. A difficult task becomes more demanding when the interpreter must decipher unfamiliar accents or when the environment is too noisy to concentrate.

Interpreting is indeed a stressful cognitive task that requires advanced problem-solving skills, as they facilitate communication between a majority culture and a minority culture, of which, the latter continues to experience marginalisation, discrimination and disempowerment based on the lack of equal access to information.

In dealing with the societal and cultural complexities within a South African context, the interpreter must understand the psyche of both hearing and deaf members of society.

It is no surprise that simultaneous interpreting is considered one of the most stressful occupations, equal to aviation control. How then do interpreters successfully create equal access to information to both hearing and deaf people?

No, interpreters do not possess enhanced cognitive abilities because of a Darwinian evolutionary intervention. Interpreters follow a strict code of ethics that promotes professionalism, accuracy, impartiality, and continuous development. Their experience allows them to mitigate the high cognitive demand they experience.

We certainly need to appreciate the impartial conduits often confined to blue boxes in the corner of our television screens. Remember that they operate in high-demand, low-control settings.

Du Toit is the head of the Information Systems Department’s Deaf Centre at DUT and writes in his personal capacity.



By Vimbai Chibango,

The COVID-19 pandemic is a global health emergency that has taken central position in service provision – pushing HIV to the periphery. This is an issue of concern in South Africa, a country that had made substantial progress in the prevention, treatment and care of HIV.

As more focus and efforts were directed towards finding strategies of maintaining and mitigating COVID-19 and its deadly impacts, HIV services were generally side-lined. A recent study by Dr Dorward and colleagues from the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) found that the provision of antiretroviral therapy remained constant while HIV testing, and antiretroviral therapy initiations were adversely affected. Interruptions in HIV counselling and testing have adverse impacts on the health of the infected persons as this delays their initiation on antiretroviral therapy, weakening their immune system as a result.

The hard lockdown measures were meant to ensure that the COVID-19 virus is contained, so as to reduce and prevent the spread but this has had adverse effects on HIV service provision. South Africa has wide coverage of HIV testing and counselling services which are provided at its mobile clinics and facilities. Due to the restrictions, these services were also discontinued. The questions that come to mind are around how people would know their status? Additionally, if they cannot test, they would not know if they have to be initiated on antiretroviral therapy. Of concern too is the fact that the majority of people who rely on these services to access condoms were by no means left unaffected by these measures.

The number of people infected by COVID-19 and those living with HIV in South Africa is alarming. The National Institute for Communicable Diseases states that there are 2 829 435 confirmed COVID-19 cases and about 83 899 COVID-19 related deaths. In terms of HIV, the report from Statistics South Africa states that approximately 8.2 million people in South Africa were living with HIV in 2020, which accounts for approximately 13,7% of the total population. We know that despite being one of the countries with the highest number people living with HIV in the world, South Africa has the largest rollout of antiretroviral therapy (ART) in the world. The country has documented an extraordinary progress on ART roll-out in which by 2020, 71% of HIV positive adults and 47% percent of child were on ART. In addition to this excellent result, a recent report from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) states that South Africa became the first country in the sub-Saharan African region to approve of the Pre-Exposure prophylaxis that is given to people that are at high risk of HIV infection. Other countries in the world have documented success of their ART rollout. In comparison to South Africa, Latin America has an HIV prevalence lower (2.1million) than South Africa. However, its ART rollout is analogous to South Africa with 61% of adults and 46% of children living with HIV on ART. In order to maintain the flagship in HIV prevention and treatment, the government would ensure an interrupted supply of ART so as to prevent HIV-related deaths as well as to prevent increase in HIV incidence resulting from lack of prevention.

The link between HIV and COVID-19 is something to worry about as it points to the high health risk for people living with HIV. A report from the UNAIDS states that people living with HIV experience more severe outcomes and have higher comorbidities from COVID-19 than those not infected with HIV. The World Health Organisation disseminated the following evidence as HIV and COVID-19 is concerned:

  • People living with HIV were 13% more likely to be admitted to hospital with severe or critical COVID-19 after controlling for age, gender and comorbidities.
  • They were more likely to die after admission to hospital with COVID-19; people living with HIV had a 30% increased risk of death independent of age, gender, severity at presentation, and co-morbidities.
  • Among people living with HIV, diabetes, high blood pressure, being male or over 75 years old were each associated with an increased risk of death.

 Under such circumstances, it is expected that people living with HIV be considered as a priority in any of the COVID-19 mitigation strategies. However, it is shocking to learn that by mid-2021, globally; most people living with HIV had not received the vaccine.  In South Africa, where above 13% of the population is living with HIV, prioritising vaccination of this key population is crucial. Nonetheless this subject has not reached the national conversation in any significant way; and there have not been any campaigns to encourage people living with HIV to get vaccinated.

While most of the efforts are exerted onto maintaining and mitigating COVID-19 and less attention is given to HIV, we may run the risk of reversing the gains that were brought about in the fight against HIV over the past few decades. HIV and COVID-19 are twin pandemics which may not be treated in isolation due to the adverse effects COVID-19 can have on people living with HIV.

Dr Chibango is Post-Doctoral Fellow in Gender Justice, Health and Human Development at DUT.


Has South Africa improved since apartheid was abolished?

Original Author/Publisher: Mr. Bradley Puckree
Original Publication Date: 5 September 2017
Original URL:

Yes, it has. Being a South African citizen by birth (born in 1993 of Indian descent), I am what you would call a “born free”. Growing up in the democratic South Africa I cannot recall a time when I have been racially abused or discriminated against in the open public, be it in public transport, in shopping malls, at service stations or anywhere for that matter.

There is a sense of calm within society in general despite a few racial slurs thrown occasionally, which are widely condemned. Having been educated about apartheid laws and history in school, I would say the previous system was much harsher than it is today and can be compared to the Jim Crow laws that occurred in the United States.

BUT, there are still many flaws within this country. Unemployment is rife (about a quarter of the population) and by neglecting black education during colonialism and the apartheid era we can safely say this was caused partly by past wrong doings and also the current government failing to improve the situation (In fact making it worse). In 2017 we face problems of high-level corruption and so-called state capture. Crime is still rampant.

Widespread and sometimes violent protests take place voicing unhappiness about the current government. The state of the economy is worrying, remaining stagnant and showing little improvement.

In the apartheid era I would say it was a race war, in today’s South Africa it is every man for himself, the sky is the limit and we can be anything we set our mind to. Cheers!



Zwanga Matsila and Colin Thakur
The Star, Cape Argus and Daily News
29 September 2021

“UNHINGED” and “anarchy” were some terms used to describe the July mayhem in our beloved country.

The chaos, ostensibly triggered by the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma, spiralled into the country’s worst post-democratic era unrest. At least 330 citizens were killed and more than 200 shopping malls devastated.

The overwhelmed police could do little but stand and watch. Citizens and businesses, in hitherto unheralded acts of confluence, formed vigilante groups to protect people and property.

While the vigilante groups had the effect of mitigating some damage and violence, they also fuelled racial discordance. Vigilantism occurs when civilians act in a law enforcement capacity without legal authority.

In the aftermath, South Africa rekindled the ubuntu spirit, creating its own supply chains to freight food hampers of oil, bread and other essentials to citizens, without fear or favour.

Citizens, spurred by the pandemic-induced cabin fever, resorted to online crowdsourcing to find the perpetrators.

The process of taking vigilantism online is called digilantism. Facebook and Twitter activists swung into gear, combining their digital skills with vigilantism morphing into digilantes. Digilantism is an area we are researching.

Are there precedents for digilantism? The most recent was the FBI using digilantism to find and identify the Capitol stormers on January 6 in Washington DC. If they can, so can we, right?

The danger is that people, however well-intentioned, take the law into their hands. Distributed “evidence” is taken as factual. A likeness of a person is taken to be fait accompli. It hardly seemed to matter that some shared material was recycled from other unrests, from movies, was dated, or even fake.

Even worse, when the images are true with respect to date and geolocations, they were of such poor quality or duration that circumstantial accusations were impossible.

While humans excel at recognising faces, they appear abysmal in recognising photographic faces in photographs which is a mystery to neuroscience and psychology.

Even video surveillance is proving problematic as the US government is probing whether surveillance software can be deployed against protesters, with California considering banning the police use of such technology.

Is there any evidence of crime-sourcing events through internet images being “wrong”?

The 2013 Boston Marathon, with 26000 participants, was marred by a sadistic bombing, killing three runners and wounding hundreds. The marathon inspired digilantism, and our research, as outraged US citizens, tried all means to identify the culprits. Internet sleuths waged through photo and video-graphic footage and tried to triangulate that with available witness accounts to find the Boston Bombers.

The unintended tragic consequences were that they got the identifications horribly wrong, leaving innocent people fearing for their safety, while one person, tragically, committed suicide.

Charlie Beckett called the Boston fiasco a “media literacy seminar” and hoped that “people are learning to be less stupid. You don’t want to be the person who names a suspect who turns out to be innocent”.

Consider digilantism and the 2018 Moses Mabhida Stadium MMS soccer riots. As videos of the MMS rampage went viral and before the police asked for help, internet sleuths began experimenting with reverse image search software such as Google and TinEye to try to identify the hooligans.

People felt vindicated as the PSL and police asked for help in identifying some suspects.

The authors themselves tried and did not get many “hits” from the grainy public-posted MMS videos and photographs, although the system reported close comparisons.

However, even with the naked eye, the comparisons looked dubious, at best. This experiment demonstrated how unreliable the process could be.

The research demonstrates the difficulty of using social photographic and videographic images to apportion accusations affirming the need for a formal academic exercise to be pursued. Does this sound familiar in the current riotous context?

This is the reason unemotional police detective work is crucial. Police have a methodical process to make an accusation, which may well appear pedantic or terribly boring. Further, an allegation must be arbitrated by a court of law. These checks and balances point to a functional democracy. Social media does not need the “cry wolf effect”.

The fable belongs to the print era. Matsila and Thakur are researching digilantism at the Durban University of Technology. The views expressed are their own.


Beware those lurking on the sidelines as government and police fail

Claire Raga and Savo Heleta
Sunday Times
26 September 2021


On September 5, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that a new task team will investigate the reasons for citizens’ lack of trust in the police, particularly when it comes to the failure of the police to prevent the July riots in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, or to protect people, property and infrastructure.

Public perceptions about the failures of the police – and all levels of the government – are nothing new. Since the beginning of the democratic dispensation, SA has seen a great number of failures and setbacks in the ability of national, provincial and local authorities to govern, provide services and meet the basic needs of the majority of citizens. This, in turn, has triggered thousands of protests by desperate people demanding jobs, better pay, service delivery and livelihood improvements.

The failure to govern and provide security became particularly evident during the July unrest, when the country was appalled by the vicious cycle of rampant looting and destruction of shopping centres, businesses, warehouses and other facilities and infrastructure in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. The destruction and turmoil have affected the poor and middle class, privately owned businesses and state-run facilities, and provincial infrastructure. The impact of this on society, the economy and the country’s stability will be immense in the months and years to come.

The exact causes of these tumultuous actions remain to be confirmed. Some have pointed fingers at pro-Zuma supporters and prominent government and ANC figures, accusing them of prompting and instigating the violence and looting to expose what they see as the failures of the opposing ANC faction that is in power.

Others have highlighted the extreme poverty and inequality in SA that saw poor, hungry and desperate people, long forgotten by the government, entering shops and businesses in search of food and other basic necessities. And there were also opportunists who saw the chaos as an opportunity to steal.

Whatever the reasons for the unrest and whether any of the above is true – or there is more to it – the events over the past few weeks have shown that the government has a long way to go to transform the country, govern effectively and offer basic services to large sections of the population.

During the unrest across KwaZulu-Natal and in parts of Gauteng, one thing became painfully evident: in a time of great need, South African authorities and the police were completely absent. While this has been a reality for so many in the country for a long time – whether we consider security, social protection or delivery of basic services – the recent crisis and devastation exposed this on an enormous scale.

Where the government is absent, incapable or where it fails, there is likely to be someone else willing to take the reins and exert control and influence. Gangs have been doing this in SA for years. In many communities where the government has failed to govern and provide basic necessities, and where the police have failed to provide security, gangs have taken over, exerting a great deal of power and influence and even providing food, job opportunities and other necessities to struggling people. In essence, gangs have been able to utilise the failures of the government and police to their benefit and in the process grow their illegal enterprises.

As tensions rose across the country during the recent chaos in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, there were fears in other provinces that the turmoil and destruction could spread. In the Eastern Cape, the South African National Taxi Council stepped in to protect local shopping centres.

The taxi industry got involved after appeals from the premier, Oscar Mabuyane, who understood from the scenes of violence and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng that the police and authorities were incapable of protecting property, people and institutions and providing basic security. He turned to the taxi bosses in the province, asking them to protect the communities, businesses and infrastructure.

While the actions of the taxi industry in the Eastern Cape must be commended, it is important to ask critical questions about their motives. The first observation is that the taxi industry was motivated by its own interests, as it would suffer a loss of income if looting started in the Eastern Cape, given that its primary source of income is the transportation of people.

However, other, more sinister, motives should not be overlooked. There are some who worry that the taxi industry will use its intervention to protect the province to hold the provincial and local authorities to ransom in the future. This should not surprise anyone given the numerous violent shutdowns of the cities and towns in the province by the taxi industry over the years. In May this year, the Eastern Cape was rocked by widespread violent protests by the same taxi industry that recently came to province’s rescue. And now, only two months after they helped save the day in the province, the same taxi industry is waging a war against e-hailing drivers, causing chaos in Nelson Mandela Bay.

As heroic as the Eastern Cape taxi industry’s actions in July to prevent looting may seem, it is important to consider the long-term consequences of the failure of the police, other security services and the provincial authorities to provide security and basic services, and turning to the taxi industry for help. If the South African Police Service cannot provide protection and security to communities, businesses and industries, what is the point of the police? If the government cannot govern and provide basic services, what is the point of having the government at all? Should South Africans perhaps begin to ignore the uncaring, incapable and corrupt government and instead organise progressive “solidarity councils” across the country to work towards more effective and just change and service delivery, as a recent editorial in the New Frame suggested?

SA remains the most unequal country in the world, where the inequality is rooted in the colonial and apartheid looting and oppression and the failures of the democratic dispensation to improve the lives of millions of desperate people. Unless things fundamentally, structurally and systemically change – and change quickly – the country will remain fragile, unsustainable and on the edge of the abyss.

Until the national, provincial and local authorities are seen as effective actors able to govern without corruption and nepotism, provide basic services and meet the needs of the citizens, other groups will be lurking on the sidelines, ready to jump in and “save the day”. And, in most instances, this will create new complexities and problems.

Claire Raga works at Nelson Mandela University. Dr Savo Heleta works at the Durban University of Technology. This piece is written in their personal capacity.


Opinion Piece by Dr David Mohale, Director: Special Projects at the Office of the Vice-Chancellor at The Durban University of Technology


“YOU have got so wrapped up in the sugar business you forgot the taste of the real honey”. This line comes from the 1992 movie, Scent of a Woman, that stars Al Pacino as the highly irritable, blind, medically retired army lieutenant colonel, Frank Slade.

Even though the context in which these words were expressed is different, the words themselves offer an interesting learning opportunity for diagnosis of the problems and the subsequent search for solutions, in particular regarding the perennial problem of youth exclusion in postapartheid South Africa. Three important events triggered the thought to pen this article. Firstly, South Africa commemorates the lives and times of the late Steve Biko every September. Secondly, September month is the birth month of two historically important youth organisations in South Africa, the African National Congress Youth League ANCYL and the South African Students Congress Sasco , which recently celebrated their 77th and 30th anniversaries respectively.

Thirdly, September is known for the celebration of the elusive South African heritage. It is well established that the country commemorates Youth Month in June, which also has a connection with Steve Biko because of his leadership and influence in the 1976 uprisings, his youthfulness and the reality of the youthfulness of the membership of these two organisations. Thus justification for dedication of this article to young people and their problems. Importantly, the article asks whether there is, what could be called South African youth heritage? and if that could be used by the current generation to resolve the novel and perennial problems?

At the outset, I propose that unquestionable stoicism ran through the three generations of young people whose combined efforts in each phase of the struggle ultimately birthed democracy in 1994.

The first generation was ably led by Sol Plaatje and Pixley ka Isaka Seme when they broached the idea of the formation of the African National Congress, and led the efforts toward realising the idea and formed part of its leadership.

The second generation is the founders of the ANCYL in the 1940s, which straddles the founding generation of the ANC and the generation that saw transition to democracy. The third generation is the 1970s generation that filled the lacunae that were created by the outlawing of political parties, with many leaders and activists forced to be in exile or go underground, if they were lucky to escape imprisonment and or death.

All these three generations understood the inherent responsibility of young people, which is to always surpass their elders in order for society to move forward. One would suggest that they might have heeded the whisper of Xi Jinping in his address to the Chinese youth when he said, “Young people need to boldly assume the heavy responsibilities that the times impose on you, aim high, be practical and realistic, and put your youthful dreams into action…”.

Common to all these three generations is the premium they placed on first learning and understanding the obtaining situation of the time. This explains, in part, why Alfred Xuma had referred to the smaller organising committee of the ANCYL as intellectuals. They immersed themselves in deep theoretical and ideological questions.

The often romanticised narrative of the formation of the ANCYL tends to miss this important nuance, which explains discernible intellectual differences between the 1944 Launching Manifesto and the 1948 Basic Policy Statement. Similarly, Steve Biko and his generation invested a lot of their time in understanding the concepts of Black Consciousness, and how the course in South Africa would differ from the United States and elsewhere.

Concepts should be understood for their impact on behaviour. Many times people think that results only come from behaviour. That is not entirely the case.

Human behaviour is informed by their worldly outlook. If you want to see significant changes in results, focus on changing the perspective that informs the behaviour, not the behaviour itself.

It is against this backdrop that one is suggesting that pinning the hopes of young people on what is analogously another form of trusteeship demand for quota , to resolve persistent youth exclusion is tantamount to being wrapped up in the sugar business while missing the taste of the real honey.

Young people will most certainly claim that they are adequately conscientised, and thoroughly understand the complexity of issues they are dealing with. They may well argue that they are being realistic in their approach. But what if settling for a mere quarter of leadership seats is merely acceding to being tamed because somebody feels youthfulness is synonymous with being infantile, reckless and risky?

Biko said that conscientisation involves helping people to grapple realistically with their problems so that they can provide answers for themselves. Demand for quotas is not really a quest to provide answers for youth by youth. It is nothing but cooptation, accommodation and perhaps taming the shrew in a Shakespearean way, as we recently saw in how some of the most critical voices have been disciplined by dangling carrots.

There is a problem with this approach by young people, which I argue is tantamount to being wrapped up in the sugar business instead of the real honey.

This accommodation has not translated into substantive policy change and tangible outcomes.

We saw about 20% of young people being coopted and accommodated into councils and legislatures in 2016 and 2019, with no evidence of a truly youthful voice and impact on policy. Instead, we have seen the results of sugar business: good salaries for accommodated individuals; relocation to posh suburbs; competition for latest German sedans; imported designer labels and all other instantaneous display of wealth, which is often facili tated by access to unsustainable debt.

The beneficiaries of cooption and containment become the enthusiastic defenders and advocates of the status quo, concocting all sorts of reasons for the wretched to be patient with the authorities. On the other hand, young people who daily bear the brunt of exclusion suffer from the disease called sullen acquiescence. They are honestly fed up with exclusion, but they choose inaction with a hope that one day they will be next in the queue for cooption.

Ideologically, it is curious why young people think that minimal representation in ANC and state institutions will give them the taste of real honey. Both the ANC and the state have repeatedly acknowledged that the state is meek in its relationship with business. This is what makes the possibility of a developmental state a dream deferred, if not stillborn.

Business behaves as it wishes, with little hope for the state to rein it in. Business is the real honey. This is where young people should intentionally be taking their fight. This is where young people must force their right to participate meaningfully since unemployment is essentially a youth crisis, not fight to be accommodated.

Drawing lessons from the rich history of previous generations of young people, the current generation needs to learn that sugar is shortlived and often does not require big sacrifices. Mandela and Tambo had to forfeit their law firm in order to taste the real honey, which was only realised with the euphoria of 1994.

Many young people either died, like Steve Biko or had to escape into exile and forfeited the sugar school and other niceties they were enjoying at that moment. What sacrifice is the current generation willing to make?

The taste of the real honey that young people of this country deserve is indivisible freedom. A right to vote for the government of your choice is only an end to the means. Young people need to have access to substantive freedoms that are enshrined in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution.

Poverty and unemployment deprive youth of these substantive rights the real taste of honey. These rights will not be ushered in by cooption and accommodation of the few on the table of plenty. Cooption and accommodation are mere placebos.

Pictured: Dr David Mohale

Story and picture taken from Sunday Independent.


Opinion Piece by Dr Imraan Buccus, Post-Doctoral Fellow in Gender Justice, Health and Human Development at The Durban University of Technology


The enormity of the chaos and violence that gripped Durban and other towns in KwaZulu-Natal in July is still sinking in. The death toll keeps rising, and the evidence that is coming in about the brutality of the vigilante killings is more and more sickening.

There is clarity about many aspects of what happened. We know that the unrest was triggered by small groups of well-organised pro-Zuma forces acting from within the ANC. We know that the bread riots over the first two days were a result of endemic hunger and deprivation, and were not linked to support for Zuma in any significant way. The general looting that followed was mostly a matter of opportunism, but there was also participation by organised crime and the pro-Zuma forces did open up key infrastructure to general looters. We also know that during the chaos the pro-Zuma forces targeted infrastructure with military precision.

We don’t yet know how the bulk of the people who died lost their lives, or exactly how widespread the support for the attacks on infrastructure was in the KwaZulu-Natal ANC. We also don’t know how much of the racial incitement on social media was planned, and how much was spontaneous. But some clear conclusions can be drawn. We know that the levels of unemployment and hunger are not sustainable, and if they are not addressed there will be another social explosion in due course. We know that there is a significant chunk of the ANC, and its associated tenderpreneurs in this province, that is willing to engage in violence, and even treason, to protect its access to easy money.

We also know that neither the police nor the political leadership in the province seem willing to act against these people. The best way forward for the state will have to take three forms. One is the swift arrest and prosecution of as many of the organisers of the campaign of sabotage as possible, as well as those responsible for the vigilante killings. Another is a clean out of the provincial ANC, with the expulsion of everyone who can be shown to have been part of, or in support of, the attacks on infrastructure. The third component must be a massive programme of social support for people who are unemployed and have been suffering from hunger throughout the COVID period.

The levels of unemployment and hunger are not sustainable, and if they are not addressed there will be another social explosion in due course. However, we cannot only look to the state. We also need to examine the role that society can play as we try to rebuild some sort of social cohesion. Many of the positions that need to be taken are clear. For instance, we must demand that those responsible for vigilante killings be brought to justice and that racial incitement be opposed.

But positions without real popular support are just words. One of the worrying aspects of the crisis was the almost complete absence of leadership. The ANC in the province was mostly silent, apart from a few bland pro-Zuma statements. There was also a deafening silence from the trade unions. The unions were such a powerful progressive force in the 198os, and among older people there is often nostalgia for those days. But while many unions continue to do important work around opposing retrenchments and fighting for a living wage, they are no longer able to give leadership to society. The last time they did so was when, acting in a secondary role, they supported the Treatment Action Campaign in the struggle for access to lifesaving medication.

In the July crisis, and its aftermath, the leadership that was given came from grassroots community organisations. The Phoenix Residents and Tenants Association acquitted itself well in opposing racism and vigilantism and working to build solidarity. Abahlali baseMjondolo also took carefully considered progressive positions after consultation with its members. If the unions are in the sunset of their capacity to give leadership to society, it seems that the future lies with the progressive grassroots organisations, and that this is where we need to build for the years to come.

Pictured: Dr Imraan Buccus, Post-Doctoral Fellow in Gender Justice, Health and Human Development at DUT.

Story and picture taken from the Daily Maverick.


Nalini Chitanand and Shoba Rathilal


Pic for Reflection piece

A call for Reflective Pieces regarding COVID-19 has been made by the Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) Department.

The request is being made by CELT’s Nalini Chitanand and Shoba Rathilal, who are Academic Development Practitioners at CELT. 

This was a very different and innovative initiative that caught their attention especially in the time of rapid emergency actions.  We chatted with Chitanand and Rathilal about what drove this initiative, what is the plan on reviewing of submissions and the future plans in CELT

According to both Chitanand and Rathilal, this is what motivated them to take on this innovative initiative. “Uncertainties can be a time of great anxiety but a time of great possibility…a discourse of anxiety should give way to a discourse of critique and a discourse of critique should give way to a discourse of possibility. And a discourse of possibility means that you can imagine a future very different from the present” (Giroux, 2019).

“We consider this extract (above) by Henry Giroux to be apposite in this current moment. This era is indeed momentous. Much of what we are experiencing, we are unlikely to see in our lifetime again (well, hopefully not!).  We probably will not capture the intensity of the experience when we narrate it to future generations and of course as the story passes through generations it may become more of a rational rendition of an era. The capturing of the moment as it’s experienced is likely to be in its most authentic form at this present moment,” they added. 

Furthermore, “COVID-19 has forced us, amidst uncertainties, anxieties and disruptions to re-arrange our personal lives – how we manage our homes and families – and our professional lives – how we manage our pedagogical activities, research and engagements. But this forced moment also affords an opportunity to think anew about all these aspects of our personal and professional lives. Not a different form of the same but something new. We draw inspiration and hope from Henry Giroux (2019), that we are presented with such an opportunity to ‘imagine a future different from the present’. This may require that we disrupt our deeply held assumptions about our ways of knowing, acting and being.  As universities globally ushered in online learning and teaching, at CELT we have acknowledged the need to also focus on the curricula that we will be enacting in our multimodal platforms. This meant that we have to make choices about the selection, sequencing and pacing of knowledge. Implicit in this decision making, is the need to consider our contexts and how these contextual realities are influencing higher education plans in light of COVID-19; who our staff and students are and their realities and lived experiences; the knowledge and curriculum and what is privileged, valued or legitimated during these pedagogical encounters,” explained Chitanand and Rathilal.

In addition, the two recognise the need to capture their experiences of the current moments and reflect on them for new imaginings to emerge. Critical reflection is an important aspect of transformative learning in higher education. The Call for Reflective pieces provides an opportunity for DUT colleagues to capture and record these experiences so that they may generate their DUT story.  They invite DUT colleagues to share their experiences as they believe these can offer insights about the decisions made, their impact on the self and society and the educational agenda.

The process of creating a reflective piece also provides an opportunity to engage in a therapeutic exploration of the experience that caught us by surprise and required immediate responses with very little time to reflect and plan accordingly. 

Elaborating their work, Chitanand and Rathilal added that, “The reflective process is an activity that allows for an awareness of the self and our relationship with others so that we act in conscious and not just instinctive ways. Drawing on posthumanistic thought we include all human and non-human entities with whom we share our earth, in our deliberations. This emphasises our rationality with each other and our natural environment and this is intimately linked to our African philosophical approach of Ubuntu – ‘I am because we are’. And in this spirit of Ubuntu, we have witnessed over the last few months, the collegiality and comraderies’ among our colleagues. We have witnessed sharing and caring and co-creation of knowledge for enhancing our pedagogical encounters. And we have witnessed how the creation of opportunities for dialogue and collaboration can enable communities of practice, foster innovation and build stewardship toward our common vision, Envision 2030”.  

Their (Chitanand and Rathilal) intention is to not be judgemental. They are inviting pieces that extend beyond a descriptive narrative but rather show evidence of deeper thought. Their intention is to offer colleagues feedback, suggestions or questions that extends the reflective piece to include the self-experience, the reactions, the possible assumptions underpinning these responses, how this relates to broader societal questions, challenges and possibilities.

So colleagues will have opportunity to submit drafts, and revise if they wish. The process is meant to be developmental. They encourage creative expression of thought, emotions and critique.

CELT has adopted a multi-pronged approach to support the academic project during this time. The office has provided and continue to provide staff and students with technical support related for the various multi modal platforms. This was a necessary component to address the anxiety among staff and students that arose from the lack of preparedness to manage online platforms. In their staff development programmes, CELT has always focussed on extending the professional learning and development within a transformative approach so that the change in modalities are used as an opportunity to relook at what is being taught (in other words what knowledge and attributes CELT is legitimating in its programmes), how they assess and maintain constructive alignment in curriculum redesign particular to our contexts.

The motto is to be transformative through developmental programmes that are offered in supportive environments, so that they may contribute to higher education that is fair, equitable, inclusive and socially just. So what they are essentially concerned with staff and student well-being.  CELT contributes to this through reducing anxiety around the unknown by providing professional learning opportunities for the various online platforms, exposure to new approaches that allow staff to question their current practices and their assumptions of what is important or not, make choices and reflect on the implications of those choices. Most importantly they have and will continue to provide a collaborative space for sharing and learning through the community of practice. 

“We also need to remember that prior to Covid-19 higher education in South Africa was already confronting challenges, especially associated with the decolonial turn, epistemic and social justice. In this regard we concur with Fataar (2020) that some of these challenges are “currently being marginalised by popular educational discourses during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the socio-technical imaginaries of 4IR discourses circulating in mainstream discourse”. We encourage colleagues to reflect on these important higher education imperatives and share their reflections,” said Chitanand and Rathilal.

Fataar, A. (2020). Comments at a launch discussion of Pam Christie’s book: Decolonising Schools in South Africa: The Impossible Dream (2020). Presented at a webinar arranged by UCT’s School of Education, 23 July 2020

Giroux, H. (2019). All education is a struggle over what kind of future you want for young people.

This promises to be a fantastic opportunity to be part of the DUT history going forward.  Nalini and Shoba are keen to engage with colleagues who wish to submit and require assistance.  The deadline has been extended to the 30 September.  We strongly urge that you consider submitting a piece. 


Crispin Hemson

Put an end to stupidities of the past by Crispin Hemson

Events during apartheid made very little sense; it was all about oppression without much thought. A researcher from New York met me to understand the assassination of a friend in 1978. He knew in great detail the events of the time – he even had the Security Police records of the sae events, a mixture of useful factual information, cold hostility and paranoid ramblings. (read full article…)

— MERCURY (First Edition) 08 Apr 2013 page 6



Ever-changing force that apartheid refused to acknowledge: 29 February 2012 The Mercury

Learning the language of the forest: 21 November 2011 The Mercury

The story of humility and silence: 20 October 2011 Mail and Guardian

The challenge of moving on after a history of violence: 5 September 2011 The Mercury

There’s more to great old age than confusion and chaos: 24 August 2011 The Mercury

Peace cannot be bought with a bullet: 6 May 2011 The Mercury


Prithiraj Dullay

Travelling down the road to discord