South Africa

News: The real stories, lost in The Spear continuum

By Mandy De Waal 29 May 2012

As the nation is whipped into a frenzy over Brett Murray’s painting, real life continues throughout South Africa. It just isn’t being reported right now. MANDY DE WAAL looks at some of the stories lost to that painting.

On Tuesday, the ANC, Cosatu and SACP will march to protest The Spear at the Goodman Gallery, but there were no protests in Midrand this past week when Uganda’s ‘Iron Lady’, Cecilia Atim Ogwal, asked legislators in Africa to scrap human rights for homosexuals.

Speaking at the Pan African Parliament, which held its Global African Diaspora summit, Ogwal said: “Practices that are against African cultures are now classified as human rights. I am forced (by Western countries) to accept homosexuality. That is wrong and should be condemned. It cannot be accepted.”

“I swore by the Bible five times in Parliament of Uganda and at this Pan African Parliament; homosexuality and lesbianism are alien to Africa and are considered witchcraft,” she said in a story that’s carried on the Parliament of Uganda’s website but which was absent from local news. The only media that paid attention to this hate-filled call were activists that protect sexual and gender minorities like Behind the Mask, a media NGO that covers news about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people’s issues in Africa.

The very next day Africa’s infamous octogenarian, Robert Mugabe, added his voice to homophobia in Africa by saying that gay rights were not condoned in Africa. Speaking at the Global Power Women Network for Africa in Harare Mugabe said: “When a man says he wants to get married to a man, we in Zimbabwe do not accept it. In most Africa we do not accept it. We can’t talk of women’s rights anymore once we go in that direction.”

In a vitriolic rant the ageing Zimbabwean president declared same-sex partners “lower than dogs and pigs”. Media across the globe were united in their condemnation of this madness, but locally the story was absent.

Local media normally go gaga for news about Nelson Mandela but were very slow off the mark after the office of the president announced on Tuesday 28 May 2012 that the elder statesman was moving back home to Qunu in the Eastern Cape on Tuesday 29 May 2012.

Mandela had relocated to Houghton while refurbishments were underway at his Qunu residence, but indicated he was keen to go back to his family home.

“Madiba is in good health and we constantly assure him of the love, support and good wishes of millions of South Africans and people around the world,” President Jacob Zuma said, calling for people to respect Mandela’s privacy during the relocation.

In KwaZulu-Natal, the Rural Women’s Movement offered accounts of what it was like to live under traditional authority. The NGO has worked with over 50,000 rural women and fears the real impact of the Tribal Courts Bill “rather than ensuring that women are no longer discriminated against in tribal court settings” will be to give a state-backed sanction to the patriarchal power of traditional leaders.

They tell the story of an elderly widow whose only source of income is a social grant and food she grows in her garden. “Cattle from neighbouring eMangweni kept destroying her food garden. In trying to support her, we encouraged her to report the matter to the eMangweni traditional court,” the NGO reported.

This widow approached the eMangweni traditional court about 10m away from her home but was “sent away because the court ‘does not speak to a woman’. The court demanded that she be represented by a man.” The NGO reports that this woman lives alone, doesn’t have a man in her home and now no longer can grow food in her garden.

Modimolle in Limpopo was the scene of another gruesome murder when a Pakistani national torched his lover. Police have opened a charge of kidnapping and murder against the accused, with Modimolle locals saying they fear this murder may trigger xenophobia in the area.

Remember those fabulous folks who brought us Kony2012? We thought we’d never forget them, but thankfully we have because news moves on and other issues grab our collective attention. As an anecdote to the lunacy that was Kony2012, Semhar Araia, who blogs at the Diaspora African Women Network asked people to tweet what they loved about Africa using the hash tag #WhatILoveAboutAfrica.

The good news is that the hash tag is still active. The bad news is that people who know absolutely sweet blow all about the continent are tweeting things like: “#WhatILoveAboutAfrica its amazingly beautiful and those commercials about poor black ppl homeless is very misleading.”

But like Kony2012, bad news, and even good news, that hash tag will eventually die and go on to that big internet graveyard somewhere in the digital sky. Dear ANC, long live The Spear. DM

Read more:

  • Giant phallus that split the rainbow by Nathaniel Manheru I Herald in NewZimbabwe.
  • ANC vs. City Press: What lies beneath‎ on Daily Maverick.

Photo: Children play at a rubbish dump at an informal settlement in Soweto August 25, 2011. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko.


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