Getting Stuck in Statistics

30 05 2008

by Stuart Buchanan

I don’t really know what there is to say about Rape that isn’t blatantly obvious or hasn’t been said before. When researching the subject for our recent Television News project, there were a lot of statistics flying around at Rhodes as well as on the internet. It’s often the starting place for many activists to rally people to their cause, by quoting a statistic like ‘A woman is raped every 26 seconds in South Africa’. Not only is it shocking and disgusting, but it often has the effect of getting people to speak out, or show their support in some way.

At Rhodes University, a different statistic was used. Less than one in nine cases of rape are reported, and of those an even smaller percentage are successfully prosecuted. With this, volunteers gagged themselves for a day to represent this silence, while a few remained ungagged to explain the protest and represent the few voices that do speak out.

The volunteers were wearing T-shirts which further explained the protest, and also quoted a number of other statistics. While the protest was successful overall, in the days that followed I found some interesting discussions going on about the incorrect use of statistics. The figures seem to change with every website you visit – POWA quote stats without revealing their source, the SAPS figures show a different total to what the Rhodes volunteers quoted, and the One in Nine Campaign haven’t even updated their website since 2006. With all these different figures flying around, it is understandable to see how some people can criticise these activists for phoney stats that detract from their cause, and make it seem as if they are exaggerating the facts to enlist members.

Personally, I don’t take that view. What’s the point? Why criticise a good cause? Stats are important to legitimise a cause, but the fact is we all know that rape is a problem in South Africa. A huge problem. Can we not move away from getting the facts straight and understand that something needs to be done anyway? Just because the figures are fuzzy, it doesn’t mean these activists are exaggerating things. Why would they need to – the real situation is bad enough. And furthermore, each case of rape is a traumatic experience for every survivor. The fact that rape happens at all is disturbing enough. When are these stats-obsessed people going to be happy? When the figure is 5 in 9 or 7 in 9 instead of 1 in 9? Why don’t we just focus on the cause and less on the figures? Well done to the volunteers at Rhodes for doing just that.


For the people, by the people?

28 05 2008

By Fatz

In school, the first definition of democracy we learn is “a system of government for the people, by the people”. Even your average 13 year old could argue that ‘the people’ should be a part of their own democracy. I argue that the actions of the Makana Municipality in one specific issue, what I like to refer to as “the car wash controversy”, has not only excluded ‘the people’, but also  blatantly disregards the needs of these people and the municipalities responsibilities towards them.

Grahamstown is not the city of gold. Hell, it’s not even the city of tin. If you’re looking for job opportunities, this is certainly not the town to venture into. There are no major industries, no big businesses or factories (that I know of at least) and as an unskilled worker your best hopes are Pick and Pay or a petrol station.

You would imagine that in a town where unemployment is rife and many people have to look for jobs in neighboring towns and cities (public transport costs are not as friendly as they used to be), the local municipality would establish job creation initiatives and skills development programes?

And so they did. In the form of the municipality car wash on Beaufort street. Costing more than R1million, this ‘majestic’ car washing facility stands tall and proud- right next to an informal business, Liyakhanya Car Wash, which has been operating in the neighboring taxi rank for 4 years. 

A summary of the situation: The municipality made an agreement with the workers at Liyakhanya that on completion of the new car wash premises they would be moved in and taught the necessary business skills to operate and maintain a successful operation. All was good, and everyone was happy. Until the building was completed and other individuals were named beneficiaries instead. It is at this point that the story becomes a bit hazy. No one has really identified a solid reason for the change of heart, but this hasn’t stopped people from speculating. Corruption. The first thought on everyone’s mind.

But wait folks, the plot thickens. Now Liyakhanya has been served with an eviction notice for not having a lease agreement with the municipality (the taxi rank it operates from is municipal land). But for 4 year no one has raised an eyebrow over their lack of a lease. Afraid of a little friendly competition perhaps?

For many of the workers at Liyakhanya, it is their only source of income. They now face unemployment. A real tragedy, considering they are the lucky ones in a town where more than half of the population is unemployed, who have actually managed to secure a job.

Entrepreneurs choked by the hands of bureaucracy? The very hand that (in theory) feeds them? Lets admit, there is nothing sinister about the new municipality premises. A wonderful job creation initiative with the aim of benefiting those in the Grahamstown community who need it the most. Fine, so they’ve moved other people in for whatever reason,  then why add insult to injury to those who were promised the new premises, and now evict them from theirs? The municipality argues it has great plans for the land which is now a taxi rank. The long term goal is to develop a small business hub, where individuals can set up stalls and shops, and pay only a small fee for rental. Again, a wonderful idea- which will not materialize for a good couple of years. So why the immediate eviction? I’ve stewed over this for long enough, and yet still, a simple justified answer alludes me.

In an interview with a municipal official who works closely with the car wash project, an open minded, diplomatic and reasonable man, he expressed his personal feelings that all hope is not lost for the workers of Liyakhanya. He believed that through negotiations an amicable solution could be found. Finally! Some sense amongst all the insanity of the situation. If only the parties were sitting at a negotiating table instead of meeting before a judge in court (the eviction notice is currently being challenged by Liyakhanya).  

Dear Makana Municipality                     

As a local municipality, an arm of the South African government, your every action should serve the interests of your constituents. Suffocating those who attempt to create employment for themselves when you cannot provide it, is not an action for the good of the local community. To suffer at the hands of bureaucratic bull***t, political agendas and downright selfish aims of making a little cash on the side, is not what the citizens of a democracy should face. Why not sit down at the proverbial round table (hell, a couple of empty beer crates would suffice) and engage in dialogue. Discuss the future of the premises, allow the people to air their fears and grievances, see how they can fit in to your plans and make them a part of seeing them through to fruition. Making plans for the people and then excluding those very people from your decision making not only casts a shadow over your good intentions, but defeats the purpose of a democracy in which an electorate is engaged and actively apart of.

Democracy?car wash

Hip Hoping for Change

27 05 2008


By Daniel Epstein



I got into hip hop when I was about 12. There was something cool and relatable to its sound. The first album with hip hop that I bought was the soundtrack to Blade 1. Although hip hop is in no sense monolithic, there is in almost all its music an underlying dissident voice, a voice that is angry, or at the very least, displeased. This is, of course, excepting the new dirty South crunk that has swept through much of American hip hop culture – the ‘made-it’ black voice that celebrates materialism and misogyny. My interest in hip hop, like the interest of those artists I admire, has been forced into the underground, that which has been labelled ‘conscious’ hip hop.  


Much of their subject matter regards ‘the street’ and street values. It’s the cry of the once, and in most ways still, marginalized, and it’s filled with the harshness of this reality. Its not too difficulty to work out how this sound can appeal to people from various walks of life. Although the lyrics might not directly reflect your story, it’s the underlying dissonance which is relatable. As I’ve said once before, rap artists criticized the socio-political system. Kids transpose the artist’s derision onto any other permutation of that ‘machine’- school, domestic relationships, money, or all of it. This is not to describe hip hop as being in some way morbid. It harnesses its power in an expression that is vibrant and colourful. I can’t deny the side of me that connects simply with its cool sound. Whatever the reasons for its widespread appeal, much of it seems to be relatable to youth with even the slightest instinct for rebelliousness (and this, once again, I do not take to be something negative).


In South Africa, like much of the rest of the world, rap and hip hop culture has staked its place in the milieu of our cultural environment. There is also a sense in our local artists, like many in the US, to remain authentic to their roots. This means engaging with the community from which they come. This makes hip hop an ideal vehicle for community engagement. Since 1990 Cape Town artists such as Brasse Vannie Kaap and POC have engaged critically with South Africa’s political landscape. Black Noise also started Heal The Hood (, an anti-racism and anti-crime campaign.


In the small town of Grahamstown too, hip hop artists are engaging with their community. Fingo Revolutionary Movement, headed by Xolile Madinda, or ‘X’, arranges events that uses hip hop to empower local Grahamstown youth. This can be through rapping, breakdance or poetry. The latest event was a collaboration with the Gender Action Project, a breakdance competition that was used to raise funds for the establishment of a safe-house for victims of sexual violence. Although hip hop often contains violent content, sometimes even regarding sexual violence, people like X would agree that hip hop is not about that, and that it can be used to create awareness about social issues of this type. 


Related video to be uploaded soon.

mc on the micmcdj

Car wash politics

26 05 2008

The recent attempts, by the Makana Municipality, to evacuate Liyakhanya Car Wash at the Beufort Street taxi rank is nothing less than bullying and greed on the part of the municipality.

Liyakhanya, a very popular carwash, played a big part in keeping young people out of the streets and creating employment but now municipality claims to have better ideas for the venue of the car wash. If it really has better plans why it doesn’t find another place where it can start from scratch and give even more people jobs. As far as I understand the situation the municipality claims that it

Instead of using the resources to help Mbulelo Kitsili, the manager of Liyakhanya, to develop his business, the Municipality opted to use taxpayers’ money on expensive legal action against him. This is not only a clear sign of disrespect for the Makana community but also an abuse of taxpayers’ money.

However, these developments are not surprising at all; countrywide greedy civil servants are willing to go an extra mile to ensure that they get what they want even if that means some people have to lose their only source of income. It’s embarrassing how the very same municipality that claims to be fighting unemployment contribute towards it.

Why then do the workers have to suffer? Most of the workers at Liyakhanya Car Wash receive their only income from this car wash. If the car wash is closed down these people will not only lose their salaries but they will also be left with nothing to do. Let’s face it people, in a town like Grahamstown where unemployment is rampant. 

car wash

The road to hell

15 05 2008

by: Matthew von Abo

The world is speeding down dual carriage traffic-less freeways of uncertainty with severe and unrelenting twists and turns that punish the populace which cling to its surface. The world economy is slowing down to stagnation as the world credit crunch suffocates the banking and property sector. Global inflation is climbing at an unrelenting pace and the desperate search is on as an energy crisis looms. The castigate for the poor and ultimately all who live and breathe on this good earth will then be affected ultimately by potentially one of the greatest humanitarian predicaments imaginable: the dramatic upward swing in global food prices. According to the World Bank, the research analysts at Bloomberg and the World Food Program, global staple food prices have soared in recent history. For example rice which is considered one of the world’s staple food products and which fill the stomachs of over 3 billion people on a daily basis. It has increased by 74% between March 2007 and March 2008. But this pales in comparison to the tremendous increase in the price of wheat, which has increased as much as 130% in the one year. This crazed increase thereby helps drive the poverty cycle as poorer families will spend more than 80% of their income on food to sustain life. The global food crisis has been in latency over the last ten years and has presented itself as a fiendish spectre in present day. It is made up of multiple causes but all are integrally interrelated and reliant on one another. Firstly it starts at the rise of fuel prices. In the past 4 years oil has jumped from an average of $25 a barrel to a present day price of $124.13 (15 May 2008- Bloomberg) a barrel. The mechanisms of food production within modern society are completely dependant on energy provided by oil products; this starts from fertilizers to ploughing to sowing to reaping to packaging to transport and many more activities. The next is an unprecedented rise of the emerging economies of China, India and Brazil. These countries have received near exponential growth in the past few years which have soaked up energy resources and inevitably food. With this sudden growth, consumption habits have changed as the population of these respective countries have climbed the class ladder. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation the meat consumption in China has increased 20 Kilograms from 1980 to 50 Kilograms per capita in 2007. It requires a massive amount of resources for meat production, e.g. as much as 13 000 litres of water are needed to produce one kilogram of beef. The next cause is that related to the previous two; global climate change. Climatic instability has destroyed crops and has plunged regions of the world into weather extremes which are only expected to intensify, thereby forcing yet another surge in food prices. Ultimately, the fourth cause which is considered the saviour of the planet as a viable green energy source; Bio-fuels. Bio-fuel is now a preferred crop over food production in the developed world, as the global energy crisis’s shadow only intensifies. Rising oil prices and fears over climate change have seen a massive rise in the use of maize to make bio-fuels thereby pushing up food prices even further. According to the World Bank, more than 40% of maize grown in the United States is now used for fuel. A United Nations envoy called “bio-fuels a crime against humanity”. In essence food that can be used to alleviate the supply/demand issue is rather used to jump-start the ailing world economy and soothe the guilt over climate change. These four contributing factors, which can be likened to the four horsemen of the apocalypse, are dragging the world into unfamiliar territory. No longer is it just the sole concern of the nation state; it is now a global issue. An issue which can very quickly grow out of control.

food costsfood protestfood

Deaf, dumb and blind

1 05 2008


By Jade Fernley

You only need to google the words “Grahamstown rape” in Google News to know that this is an issue. Maybe it shouldn’t even be labelled a “issue” because we tend to gloss over them and turn a blind eye to what is happening in our town everyday. It’s more than just something we need to find a solution to when people’s rights and bodies are constantly being violated. We know it’s happening. But I don’t know if the majority of us let this sink any deeper than a superficial : “Yah, it’s hectic hey.”

But there are those who do let this sink deeper. There are people who are refusing to turn a deaf ear or a blind eye (pick your preferred cliché). They chose to be dumb, in the ‘not speaking’ sense of the word. About 100 volunteers had their mouths taped shut from 07h00 to 18h00, willingly choosing to remain silent, without food or water in solidarity with rape survivors. “Because to respond with silence or indifference when an injustice is witnessed simply means you condone the actions of the oppressor” is the quote on Studentzone. This isn’t just a response by a couple of people passionate about activism and angry about rapes and assaults in Grahamstown. The writing on the back of the shirts worn during the day states that 54 000 rapes were reported in South Africa in 2007. Read that again: 54 000. One in nine rape survivors report their rapes and the other eight are silenced by sexual violence. Of those reported rapes, only 4 percent are successfully prosecuted. This is not something that is just limited to females though, as this year males also wore shirts saying that men should also speak out. The sexual offences bill is really clear on this. There is no gender when it comes to rape!

Breaking the Silence is one event of many for Rhodes’ Rape Awareness Week, just like a single rape or assault reported on campus is one of many that are reported around Grahamstown and South Africa. Our university has reported two sexual assaults in April alone, from people brave enough to stand up and put across the message that THIS SHOULD NOT BE HAPPENING TO ME, OR ANYONE! In 2007, The Times reported that, according to statistics released by the Safety and Security Minister, SIXTY FOUR children are raped daily in South Africa, and that a woman is raped every FOUR MINUTES and THREE children are raped every day. To say that rape is simply an issue would be an understatement.

I think it becomes all too easy to read the numbers and hear the news and become apathetic about this. When you get down to it, if you really let yourself think: more than two children are raped daily. Over 86 women are raped daily (and please remember these are just the reported ones). Just think about the effect that has on even ONE person’s life. 

Let us move away from seeing this as a problem that just needs a solution. Let us see that what happens on our own campus is only a microcosm for what is really happening in our province and our country. Let there be more than just One of nine reported rapes when over 86 women are being raped daily.

Let us stop being deaf, dumb and blind.


Trying to create good from the past.

29 04 2008

The issue of name change in South Africa worries the public from preachers to politicians, as much as it worries black journalists. Pastors from the Grahamstown East churches are now pushing for the name change.  Sasco invited the Eastern Cape MEC of Agriculture Mr Gugile Nkwinti during the freedom day and he holds similar views about name change. The comments are the same as the reasons behind the formation of Black journalists forum . I read an article from MG about Black journalists forum and I decided to share it with you.

Mr Nkwinti and some Grahamstown pastors believe that changing names can’t be important for the poor people, because they are more concerned about other issues, such as better housing and safe water. However, we also need to realise that the colonial domination left something that can’t be changed such as Settlers 1820 and the only way to honour black heroes is to build the same building as the 1820 to show that blacks and whites are equal. Take Egazini monument for example, you can easily tell that, that monument perpetuate a stereotype that blacks are still inferior, because it is smaller than the 1820 settlers monument. According to the belief the process of name changing is a way of decolonising our minds and the country as a whole.

Similarly, the forum of black journalists seeks to infuse the black community with a new-found pride in themselves, their efforts, their value system, their culture, their religion and their outlook to life. However, poor people from the other side of ‘Grahamstown’ township have a different view, they think that government can use the money for development, because even if you change the name the memories will still remain the same. For example, changing ‘Graham-stown’ won’t change the fact that European people honoured colonel Graham after the good job he did for them, killing a lot of amaXhosa. Can we really create good from the past or we can only create good for the future?