We can forgive but we will never forget: Sharpeville survivors

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(First published at http://www.sabc.za/news)

Survivors of the 1960, Sharpeville Massacre say even though the day passed more 50 years ago, they still remember it very clearly, often with the memories accompanied by pain.

On Monday March 21, 1960, at least 69 black people protesting against pass laws in Sharpeville, Johannesburg were shot dead by police.

Elizabeth Chabane who was 11 years old and lost a finger and an opportunity at a normal life after being shot, says she still feels the pain of the day deeply.

In the video below, the survivors recall the day and how their lives were changed.

 

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A new book describes Mandela as “medical marvel”

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President Nelson Mandela has been described by his former physician as a medical marvel.

In a new book titled “Mandela’s Last Years” Dr Vejay Ramlakan shares intimate details of how South Africa’s first democratic president amazed doctors with his mental and physical tenacity, even till the last day.

Ramlakan, who led Mandela’s medical team from 2005, says the book is written to set the record straight about Mandela’s last years from the account of people who were responsible for taking care of his medical needs.

Though there are many rumours about Mandela’s last years, “the reality is that what was really happening in the last years was a story even more interesting than the wildest speculations and rumour mongering,” says Ramlakan.

Ramlakan first started communicating with Mandela in 1986 when him and others were on trial and Mandela, who himself was in prison was summoned to come give evidence on their behalf. The two only met in person in 1991 after both had been released from prison.

Ramlakan  was part of the team that was tasked with examining delegates who were attending the first internal conference of the African National Congress (ANC) after it was unbanned.

Because they were living in exile, many of the delegates at the conference had not received proper medical care for years, some even decades.  Nelson Mandela and OR Tambo were among the delegates at the conference along with the likes of Oliver Tambo.

Though he had communicated with Mandela before, when he finally met him in person, Ramlakan says he was still impressed by the man in real life.

“The first thing that strikes you when you first meet him is you expect somebody who is reserved; somebody who given the history to not be jovial, but what you are confronted with is someone who is very friendly, very polite, interested in everyone around, smiling all the time, highly intelligent and full of jokes,” says Ramlakan.

Ramlakan then become part of the team providing medical care to Mandela. In 2005 he started leading  the team that was responsible for the standard of care provided to Mandela. He describes the depths of Mandela’s strength and courage.

“We had never seen a human being survive six months of intensive care. We had never seen somebody who had stopped breathing but the next day was watching TV. We had never seen somebody who was unfailingly polite, courageous and humble, right to the very end of his life,” says Ramlakan.

He says Mandela’s physical strength, his ability to resist disease, his ability to undergo procedures, becomes what they called a “medical marvel”.
Earlier in his years, one of the doctors noted how “Madiba’s blood pressure would never vary no matter what the stress was, and he was totally in control of his emotions and had a very strong will.”

“What we were seeing is the greatest human being in our history that we were privileged to see,” Ramlakan recounted.

In his book, Madiba’s physician also describes the final night, Thursday 5 December 2013, when they stood next to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela as Mandela took his last breath.

“The medical staff on duty were all sombre and their faces drawn and blank. There was nothing to do but follow the protocol that kept Madiba alive over the last six months. Despite all the medical expertise available, nothing more could be done. [Zola] Dabula, [Steve] Komati and I stayed the whole day and attended to the family and official matters. When the ventilator alarms went off, Komati adjusted the machines so there were no loud noises.

“Madiba started the long deep sighing consistent with the last stages of respiratory failure. In barely a whisper, I heard Winnie Madikizela-Mandela saying : ‘doctor, he’s gasping’. Neither Komati or I could look at her directly, and she lowered her gaze. As the monitors indicated cardiac asystole, I glanced at my watch, it was 21:48.

The room was filled with a peacefulness that gave it a dream-like quality… Soundlessly the medical team performed some of the last rituals and tasks. Madiba lay with his hand in hers in the soft glow of the bedside lamp… all of us experienced a sorrow, the depth of which we had not experienced before.”

The book is available at major book stores.

Honour not just the dead but the living as well: June 16 survivor

This was first published on SABC News.

A survivor of the June 16 1976 massacre, Hengiwe Busisiwe Mayepu says she and her fellow survivors must be allowed to tell their own stories.

Mayepu says focus is often given to the students of 1976 who died and those who still live are forgotten. “They must not speak about us like we are all dead, we are not. We are alive, we can tell our own stories,” says Mayepu.

Mayepu, a former student of Morris Isaacson High School in Soweto, attended the youth day celebrations at Orlando Stadium in Soweto.

Like many others around her, she was wearing school uniform. But hers has a special story. It is the same uniform she wore on Wednesday June 16 1976. It is a blue Tunic with a yellow collar and yellow sleeve edges. Both the blue and yellow are faded.

“My mom bought this for me in 1976. The one I had before then had faded,” says Mayepu. She says she remembers the events of 1976 as if they had happened yesterday.

June 15 1976 was particularly important for her.

“Tsietsi Mashinini addressed us at assembly that day. He told us we are doing away with Afrikaans. He also told us, we are doing away with our Christian names,” Mayepu recounted.

“I had never seen a dead person before. So I was not sure if he was dead or alive. I was trying to figure out but while I was looking, the police van came back.”

Up until that point, Mayepu, like many black people had used her western name. She was called Margaret, her mother’s boss.

But after the speech by Mashinini on June 15 1976 she goes by her African names. “I became an African again,” says Mayepu who turned 21 at the time.

In that speech, she says Mashinini also told them to go back home and prepare placards for the following day.

“He told us. Don’t tell your parents, they are sell outs. They will tell their white masters what we want to do,” says Mayepu.

She says many students did as they were told; went home to prepare placards and did not say a word to their parents.

On the morning of June 16 1976, she says she marched with hundreds others from her school to the area that is now the Hector Pieterson Memorial site. While they were waiting for Mashinini and other leaders to fetch students from nearby high school, she says police came.
“We don’t even know who tipped them but they were there. They started shooting.”
She says she ran. When she thought things had settled down she went back to the area of the shooting. There she found one of her fellow school mate lying down with a bullet in his skull.
“I had never seen a dead person before. So I was not sure if he was dead or alive. I was trying to figure out but while I was looking, the police van came back,” Mayepu remembered.
She says she began running, she also remembered that the day before Mashinini had told them to run in “zigzags” so she did so. While she was running something hit the ground next to her foot. It was a bullet. She says she was saved when the police van had to go attend to the students who had just attacked a white doctor. “I was able to escape.”

Now on every Youth Day she wears her uniform and remembers the day she almost lost her life – the day some of her schoolmates and friends lost their lives for holding placards.
“And I want to tell this story. I am still alive.”

She says she will continue her efforts to get government to gather the survivors of 1976 so they can tell their stories and they can speak to the youth of today.

Conversations with my children on race

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This story was first published on SABC News.

Human Rights Month, observed throughout March in South Africa, saw many a politician, organisation or commentator call for a collective fight against racism, which, 22 years after the advent of democracy and end of apartheid rule in the country, continues to impair South African society.

SABC Digital News spoke to some parents to find out what kind of conversations they are having with their children on the subject, if any.

Click on the video for more on this story:

South Africa a dumping site for American poultry, says SA farmer

(First published on http://www.sabc.co.za/news)

Under its preferential trade programme on agricultural goods under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), American poultry should be allowed into South Africa by 15 March 2016. Is the deal a good or bad for SA farmers?

For many South African chicken farmers, the American poultry arriving in South Africa from the United States is a threat to their livelihoods and those of their employees.

According to Geoffrey Anderson, the CEO of Mikon farming, a local medium sized poultry company, American farmers will be benefiting from the deal, because the American poultry is by-products to dump at a profit.

Anderson says about 16 million kilograms of American chicken arrived in South Africa last week as part of the Agoa deal. This is only a portion of the 65 million kilogram expected annually for the next nine years. 65 million kilogram of chicken they can do without, Anderson explained.

He says American poultry farmers make most of their money from selling “premium” chicken parts in their country; what they sell to South Africa is just “by-products” so they can dump at a profit.

“They have already made their premiums from breast meat and wings. They have a huge market in America for breast meat and wings. They use it for burgers, chicken nuggets, schnitzels and buffalo wings,” says Anderson. He says in the American chicken industry, the leg quarter, which is the thigh and the drum, are considered to be by-products.

“So they are transporting them to South Africa at below cost prices. They don’t have a market for it – so they dump it here. Basically they are dumping, that’s what it is,” Anderson explained.

He says continued rising costs in producing chickens and increased international competition, make it difficult for local farmers to produce high quality products at profitable prices or even stay in business.

They don’t have a market for it so they dump it here. Basically they are dumping, that’s what it is.”

South African chicken farmers pay double what American farmers are paying for their chicken products and make about three times what they do for their products, he defended. This means they are not able to compete with their American counterparts.

In fact, some South African farmers are already moving towards buying chicken from international markets, re-injecting it and reselling it to South Africans. This would be cheaper for them than producing the poultry themselves. This however, would not only mean the closure of many businesses that act as support for poultry farmers but low quality chicken for South Africans.

Already by the time it reaches your supermarket, the chicken from America will be at least six week older than locally produced chicken.

“The shipping will take about six weeks to arrive here, immediately you have a product that is two months older,” says Anderson.

That means South Africans could in March, be eating chickens killed in January. Eating chickens killed months prior is only the beginning.

US chickens contain arsenic

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States admitted that over 70% of their chickens contain cancer causing arsenic. The department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries says it is aware of this study that was done in 2011 by the FDA.

“The source of the chemical was determined to be feed that contained medication which are used to promote the health of the birds and also promote growth. The arsenic was found mainly in the livers of the chicken, and very few in the actual poultry muscle/meat tested positive for Arsenic,” says the department.

The department also says there has been a systematic withdrawal of the drug from the US market, and such withdrawal is expected to be completed in 2016 and that South Africa performs a range of random tests on food borne pathogens on every consignment arriving at the Port of Entry regardless of the country of origin (USA included).

“These tests are currently being expanded to all potential hazards in meat including chemicals.”

July Mahlangu, a research technician at the Agricultural Research Council, says feed given to locally produced poultry does not have cancer causing ingredients.

Mahlangu explains how chickens are produced:

 

https://embed.iono.fm/epi/263402

The presence of American chickens in the South African market may also force South Africans to increase brine percentages in their chicken just to make ends meet says Anderson.

Brine injection into chickens was introduced in South Africa more than ten years ago to make the chicken a bit more “tender and juicy,” Anderson says. The brine not only makes the chicken soft, it also adds weight. To achieve tenderness, chicken may be given a 5 to 15% brine injection. SABC Digital News visited some popular supermarkets and many of their chicken products had brine levels of up to 30%.

chicken

Some producers have brine injections of up to 50%. That means a customer is only receiving 50% of what they are paying for, the rest is just water mixed with salt and some sugar.

The department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries says though the current prescribed brine level for whole chicken is 8%, there is no prescribed limit for brine injection for individual quick frozen (IQF) portion.
High levels of brine could pose health risks to some consumers, particularly those suffering from ailments like, high blood pressure.
“There are a lot of people who are not allowed to have salt in their diet but already it’s been injected into the meat,” says Anderson.

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is considering the regulation of brine injection levels on IQF.

Teenage pregnancy: When young people are set up to fai

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It’s a Wednesday morning around 5am and like many teenagers her age, 16 year old Nonhle from Tembisa, east of Johannesburg is getting ready for the day. But unlike her peers, Nonhle is not getting ready for school.

At eight months pregnant, Nonhle is going to her local clinic for one of her final check-ups before her baby arrives. The clinic she goes to opens at eight but because the queues are long, she has to be there at 6am. In the queue, she waits with other women, many of whom are older than her. After waiting for hours, she eventually gets to see the doctor at around 2pm.

When she comes out of the doctor’s room she gives a short smile. Both she and her baby are fine. She does not yet know the sex of the baby, partially because she wants it to be surprise but also because the clinic does not have a sonogram diagnostic machine. She would have to travel further to get to a hospital or clinic with a sonogram diagnostic machine.

Nonhle fell pregnant at the beginning of the year when she and her friends went out.

“There was a party at home and later that night my friends and boyfriend and I went out for drinks. You know at such outings one thing leads to another,” says Nonhle.

Nonhle says she and her boyfriend had been sexually active for a year already and they had always used condoms. But that night, they didn’t have one. They had sex anyway. The next morning when she sobered up she says she began to fear that she might have fallen pregnant. A few weeks later when her monthly menstrual cycle did not start, her fear became a reality.

Besides the physical aspects of being pregnant, Nonhle says not much has changed since she found out she would be a mother. She still hangs out with her friends and continues to go to school.

Nonhle is in grade 11 at one of the local schools. She says she is able to keep up with her school work because whenever she misses school, her friends update her on what was taught.

Nonhle says being pregnant is nothing special at her school, many others are in the same position.

According to Portia Serote from Treatment Action Campaign, Tembisa is one of the places with the highest rates of teenage pregnancies in Gauteng.

The Department of Education says that at least 20 116 teenagers fell pregnant in 2013/2014, with most of the pregnancies being from Gauteng province.

According to Stats SA, the numbers are as high as 99 000.

The map below shows different pregnancy numbers per province:

 

Please include attribution to with this graphic.

Graphic by Mamaponya Motsai

Serote says teenage pregnancy continues to be a problem in South Africa because government has set young people up to fail.

“They have the right at the age of 12 years to test for HIV. At the age of 12 a girl can go have abortion without parental consent, sex between minors is decriminalised. We agree with government that these rights are good but young people are not being given the space to safely practice them responsibly. Government needs to provide safe spaces for pupils to practice their sexual rights,” says Serote.

She says the fact that there are still no condoms in schools is one of the ways government is not providing a safe space for young people to practice the very rights they have acknowledged.

She says youth friendly clinics are a good initiative but at the end of the day, it will always be difficult for teenagers to collect condoms or contraceptives at a place where their elders are working. She says government must allow for condoms in school bathrooms were pupils will have access to them without fear.

“They are worried about having condoms at schools but our children are already getting pregnant,” says Serote.

In a survey done by the Department of Education on why teenagers fell pregnant, 66% of them said they did not use any contraceptive.

 

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Serote says access to contraceptives is only one part of the problem. The sex education provided to pupils at the moment is not comprehensive enough. She says though they are allowed into schools to teach sex education and related issues, there are limitations on what they can talk about.

“We are not allowed to go into detail when teaching on condoms. We cannot speak about STIs in detail or demonstrate how the condom is used,” says Serote

This she says shows how government is in denial about what is happening.

“The rate of teenage pregnancy in the country is telling us that our young girls and boys are having sex. So then if that is the case they should allow us to demonstrate how the condom is used and talk about things indepth, so that they know what they are doing and how to take the right precautions,” says Serote.

Nineteen year old, Nono, also from Tembisa, says she always thought she knew how to properly use a condom. So when she went to the hospital to have the lump in her breast checked, the last thing she expected was to be told that she was pregnant.

“When the results came back, they told me the lump in my breast was nothing to worry about but I was pregnant. I was very shocked. I could not believe it. My boyfriend and I always use a condom. I don’t know what happened,” says Nono.

Serote says issues of teenagers saying they don’t know what happened or the condom burst are due to either a lack of access to condoms on not knowing how to use them properly. Both of which could easily be avoided. She also says more must also be done to help pupils who come from poor backgrounds and end up having to sleep with older men for money.

This she found to be very common when working in Tembisa.

“I would have young girls saying to me, I am the breadwinner at home, I have siblings, I have to make sure that every day I put bread on the table. If my boyfriend who is a taxi driver calls me at half past twelve and says come, I want you, I have R500 for you. I will have to go. I don’t know where this education is going to take me. We see a lot of people with degrees and honours [degrees] sitting in the township like us, as if they are not educated,” says Serote.

She says if the problem of teenage pregnancy is to be solved, it has to be looked at from all aspects and socio-economic background is one such aspect.

Gender activist, Lisa Vetten agrees. Vetten says everyone must be involved in finding a solution, both girls, boys, parents and government. Vetten says parents need to be empowered to talk to their children about sex.

And since two people are involved in making a baby, Vetten says the same amount of focus has to be put on the boy child as in the girl child.

When Andile Lefera, now 23, found out almost four years ago during his grade 11 year that his girlfriend was pregnant, he decided he would stand by her and try to help as much as possible.

Though he was from a poor family, where his grandmother is the only breadwinner, he was determined to help care for his child.

He dropped out of school and went to look for a job.

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But many other girls do not have the father of their children offering support like Lefera did.

Vetten says it is important to remind teenagers, parents and government that it is not the end of the world when a pupil becomes pregnant. The focus should be on giving them the support they need and helping keep them in school.

According to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, even though there is no law prohibiting young mothers to return to school after child birth, only one in three do so. This is due to a number of reasons including, stigma and not having enough money for child care.

The idea of providing condoms to pupils at school has received opposition from a number of parties including the Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga and some MECs of education. Meanwhile, the problem persists.

The MEC of Education in Gauteng, Panyaza Lesufi, was recently quoted as saying that they had run out of ideas on how to deal with teenage pregnancy.

Serote, however, says this simply cannot be.

“They have not even tried. If we haven’t seen condoms at school they have not done much, if they have not provided comprehensive sex education they have not done much, if they have not spoken to parents to tell them , ‘sex education starts at home’, they have not tried.”

The Department of Education’s policy draft on HIV, STIs and TB is currently being reviewed. If approved, the policy will see condoms and other contraceptives being made available to pupils at schools.

That however, maybe a big if.

Kwaito: The sound of the new South Africa

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(First published on http://www.sabc.co.za/news)

On the eve of democracy, young South Africans were hungry for a new style of music. After decades of bloodshed, oppression, protests and sorrow, freedom was finally theirs. They needed a new song to go with the new lives they were about to have.

“The arrival of democracy required something new. In 1994 everyone was tired of the protest. There was a need for music that would appeal to young people and resonate with how the young people felt,” says University of KwaZulu-Natal professor of music, Christopher Ballantine.

Kwaito was born. “Kwaito is the music of the new South Africa,” says Ballantine.

At the time, House Music was already big in South Africa. “House Music became the cornerstone of Kwaito. Young black musicians in townships used the house influence, incorporated other forms of music and using cheap, simple digital ways of making music produced  a very distinct, South African sound known as Kwaito,” says Ballantine.

And though it had been influenced by other forms of music, Kwaito was very distinct. “They were not trying to imitate, they were using them as part of their recipe and the music that came about became known as Kwaito. It was different from its sources and it was not rapped so much as chanted,” says Ballantine.

Despite the fact that it was produced by relatively inexperienced people at very cheap ways, Kwaito was a hit, with some artists even selling as many as 100 000 copies.

“They were about having a good time, partying, sex and money. It was like a fantasy about a world without any responsibilities.”

Kwaito not for everyone

But Kwaito did not win everyone over. Many considered Kwaito music to be in appropriate and at one point then president, Thabo Mbeki, labelled the music genre a “distraction from real issues” and called on the youth to be aware of it. Some Kwaito songs were pulled off the air for being inappropriate.

“At the time, many of the Kwaito songs were selfish and shallow. They were about having a good time, partying, sex and money. It was like a fantasy about a world without any responsibilities. It was a reaction to the arrival of the new democratic order and an end to the repressive order,” says Ballantine.

Kwaito+CD

But by the start of the new millennium, the message in Kwaito songs began to change, Ballantine says. The message was more mature and more socially responsible.

It is not only the message in Kwaito songs that began to change, but the sound as well says Ballantine. “In the early days Kwaito was followed by a particular group of people. The Kwaito started to embrace other styles, for example mbaqanga, gospel, jazz, kwela, Hip Hop even musical styles from other parts of the world,” says Ballantine.

Even though it continues to change kwaito music still retains a local feeling and are still relevant to South Africa and its people’s way of life. “It’s changing but still remaining very much South African,” says Ballentine.

Kwaito artist, Lebo “Skhokho” Mpewa agrees. Mpewa says Kwaito is part of South African culture and will continue to grow, despite some saying the music genre.

Watch below as Mpewa talks about his love for Kwaito and why it is an important part of the new South Africa’s identity.

When he leaves, but the abuse continues

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It’s not yet 11 o clock at the Johannesburg Family court but the register book for those who are there on issues of child maintenance already has over 100 signatures.

Most of the signatures belong to women.

The women line the corridors outside the maintenance office and the courts, waiting for a turn at justice.

Nontokozo Jika, who does not want her real name to be used, is one of those women. Her case is being heard in court room nine. A maintenance case only gets to a court room if the parties involved have failed to reach an agreement with the maintenance officer.

Every now and then she steps out of the court room with her lawyer. They have a whispered discussion and go back in. Less than two hours after it began, her case is adjourned. She has won…

Nontokozo is a 43-year-old receptionist from Soweto, South of Johannesburg. She has been in child maintenance battles with her former partner of over 15 years since 2011. The first battle was to force him to pay more maintenance for one of their two daughters. He was paying R200, the courts forced him to increase it to R1000. The second battle, the one she just “won”, was to force him to back pay a year’s medical aid costs for the same child and continue with future payments.

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Nontokozo has two daughters, 24 and 11, with her former partner. He does not make any contribution towards the 24-year-old because she is an adult.She is reluctant to talk about the situation with the father of her children. She says talking about it almost always reduces her to tears and raises her blood pressure.She says they were never married, but their families knew each other and they lived together for over 10 years. Now her partner does not even acknowledge her presence. He refuses to take responsibility for their children.”He doesn’t talk to me. I don’t know why but he doesn’t talk to me. He passes me like he does not even know me,” she says, looking in the direction of her former partner who just came out from the court room they were in.More than the inconvenience of having to take leave from work or having to spend her money to travel to the court, Nontokozo says the real cost of the maintenance battle is the toll it’s taken on her emotional and physical well-being. “Every time I think about coming here I get sick. It’s one of the worst things I find myself having to do,” she says taking deep breaths between words. Her attempts to not cry fail completely when she mentions that her eldest daughter’s child of six is now going to pre-school and her former partner has never even seen the her… “He says that has nothing to do with him.”

Elzaan Rabie, a director at Vaneeden Attorneys, says that even though maintenance cases are common, many of them do not end up before a magistrate. Many times the parties involved are able to come to an agreement with the maintenance officers.

But even after a magistrate has given a ruling, some fathers continue to not pay or pay sporadically.

Some hope that recent amendments made to the Maintenance Bill will help defaulters to think twice before ignoring court orders. The new amendments state that if a person refuses to pay their child maintenance fees, the maintenance officer can “furnish that person’s particulars to any business which has its object the granting of credit or involved in the credit rating of persons”.

This amendment was supported by all parties in parliament, except the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). The EFF says that the amendment will end up putting the defaulter, who is normally the father, and the child, at a disadvantage. Rabie however says that if applied in the right way, the amendment could help mothers like Nontokozo whose former partners often ignore court orders. Rabie says a father or parent who continues to not pay child maintenance, despite court orders forcing him, could be arrested, and face emolument or garnishee orders. The infographic below explains the three in detail.

The children bear the brunt of maintenance non-payments

A floor down from Nontokozo. Pearl Mokoena, who also does not want to be named for fear of making her former partner angry, sits outside the maintenance office telling the women around her about the famous and rich father of her children who just could not be bothered. Pearl is trying to get the father of her two children, 9 and 6, to increase the money he pays for maintenance from R2 500 per child, to R3 500. When her name is called, she goes into the office. She comes out only a few minutes later with a smile on her face. Her former partner is absent but he has agreed. He will give her the extra R1 000 for each child.

She sits down again on the benches outside the office. Her smile is not only because he agreed to pay the extra money but also because he did not come. Pearl is terrified of her former lover, who is 18 years her senior.

He is a well-known presenter on national television.

Pearl (39) says she was afraid of him throughout their eight year relationship, and continues to be afraid of him after it ended almost five years ago.

“He always had this thing that he is wise and better than me. His opinions are what mattered. Mine could be dismissed,” says Pearl.

Theirs was a relationship where he made all the rules and she obeyed them out of fear. After their first child was born he only contributed financially towards their upbringing when he felt like it… “and even then he just bought a few clothes here and then. Then he would make it seem like he was doing me a favour,” says Pearl. She says she was too afraid to bring up the issue of child maintenance with him.

It was only after her businesses started failing and she was cash strapped that she went to the family court. She says they were still together then, and after he received the notice from the maintenance officer, he stopped coming to her house and cut off all contact with her.

“We never even officially broke up, he just stopped calling and he stopped coming over.”

Unlike Nontokozo, Pearl’s former partner agreed to the amount she requested while the case was still with the maintenance officer so she never had to appear in court.

Like Nontokozo, Pearl agrees that even though the financial struggles are hard, they do not compare to the emotional pain that comes with being a single mother; not because the father of your children is dead, but because he simply could not be bothered.

Pearl says that even when they we still together, the father of her children refused to spent any time with them or acknowledge them. When he came over it was only to see her.

Now they speak about him only when they have to and when his program comes up on the TV, they change channels.

The duty to support is one of the principles that helps the family courts come to decisions when deciding on child maintenance cases. Rabie says many parents forget this duty and make it all about the money.

‘It’s not about you and how much you earn. It’s about what is in the best interest of the child.”

The solo mother: Conversation on being a single mother

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(First published on http://www.sabc.co.za/news)

In South Africa, almost half of all mothers are single, according to Stats SA.

For many of these mothers, becoming a single parent was never part of their plan and they now find themselves having to carry the entire weight of being a parent by themselves.

In the video below, single mothers share the ups and down on single parenthood:

Women’s plea for right to end her life

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(First published on http://www.sabc.co.za/news)

s the National Prosecuting Authority, prepares to challenge a decision made by Judge Hans Fabricius to allow doctors to assist prostate cancer patient, Robin Stransham-Ford to die, Lani Schwart follows the court case with keen interest. The final ruling could have huge implications for her life.

“It’s my life. It’s my choice,” says Schwart, a cancer survivor who says she would rather end her life than go through what she went through again.

In 2007 and 2008, Schwart suffered from Lymphoma, a type of cancer that attacks the immune system.  She underwent “vigorous” chemotherapy and says nothing could have prepared her for what she went through.

“I died,” says Schwart (55).

She says for her, the chemotherapy was not necessarily physically painful but it was a kind of pain, a kind of hardship she never wants to go through again.

At first she struggles to find the words to describe her experience. She says it is an experience hard to put to words, but she tries anyway.

She says chemotherapy brought with it an “over whelming lack of energy that you actually cannot describe”.  She also could no longer taste food as her taste senses were altered and there was the loss of hair, a huge blow to her self-esteem.

At the time Schwart was living with her daughter who was only 16, the experience, was also scarring for her.

“I am not prepared to go through that again. There is almost a 100% chance that she will go through that again,” vows Schwart.

She says people know for themselves when it’s time to die, and she would sooner take her life than go through chemotherapy again.
https://embed.iono.fm/epi/178712

Schwart says she has considered all there is to consider for her and the only person she feels she needs to explain anything to is her daughter.

Anthropologist, Dr Nokuthula Hlabangane says there is certainly a portion of South Africa that is ready for the idea of assisted dying.
She says whether or not the idea is accepted in different communities or different families depend on many factors. Hlabangane explains some of those factors below, specifically factors that might affect a black family when considering assisted dying for one of their own.

https://embed.iono.fm/epi/178732

Religious and cultural beliefs are often the bone of contention when it come to the debate on assisted dying.

Ingrid Magner says that although she does not believe in ancestors influencing lives after their death or in the existence of a God, she does believe in forces.

She also believes firmly that those forces support her desire to end her life. Magner (52) has been suffering from clinical depression for over twenty years.  She became a paraplegic in 1995 after a failed suicide attempt.

“I remember waking up from the coma and feeling completely devastated that I was still alive,” says Magner. For her, just getting out of bed on many mornings is an uphill battle.

If the laws around euthanasia change in South Africa, Magner has already made up her mind on what she will do. She sees no point in living and says without hesitation that is given a chance, she would choose to die tomorrow.