Delightful LIRA at Kirstenbosch Sunset Concert


I confess. I had little idea what to expect at last night’s LIRA concert at Kirstenbosch. Often, no expectations mean fewer disappointments but disappointed I certainly could NOT have been. In fact, I was blown away by the warm, wholesome, happy vibe that LIRA inspired at her concert, dressed in jeans and a long, beautifully pink patterned cloak which swayed and moved to her rhythms.

It was one of those perfect evenings at Kirstenbosch: clear skies, not a breath of wind when all around Cape Town the wind seemed to have been blowing quite strongly, and that distinctly unified feeling of being one happy nation, oblivious to all the issues that threaten to pull us down at every opportunity: lack of water, too much crime, unpredictable politics. Music, like sport, is the one unifying factor in our diversity. So vital.

Lerato Molapo, known professionally as Lira, is a South African singer. She was born in Daveyton, on Johannesburg’s East Rand in 1979 and is a delightful performer with a strong, distinctive sound. At times, I felt she could be our own Diana Ross.

Her enthusiasm and contact with the crowd was quite superb. It is seldom that performers are so grateful and complementary about their audiences, constantly interacting and telling them how beautiful and wonderful they are. Her name translates to “love” in Sesotho apparently which was so fitting I thought.

She sang some stunning songs from her “Born Free’ album, including ‘Let there be light’ in which she urged the crowd to use any light they had with them, and hold it up in the air, shining a little light into the world. She prefaced ‘Listen’ encouraging us to listen to our inner voices, to listen to our breath, to listen and never stop breathing, never stop healing.

‘Something inside so strong’ was a firm favourite with the crowds, who spontaneously got up and swayed, many holding their cell phones high above the crowds to capture the special atmosphere which no doubt they will be playing and replaying in the days to follow.

The one thing about Sunset Kirstenbosch Concerts that always strikes me is the incredible sense of community, of oneness, of the inspiring but often elusive UBUNTU that surfaces at times like this when we are all united in our love of music.

And then it was the girls turn to be pleasantly surprised when she announced the next song- the theme track of Mowana! They both sang with smiley eyes, facing me deliberately so that I could see that they knew all the words, thrilled to know that it was LIRA who sang the theme track of one of their favourite movies.

Amongst the crowd of locals, there is always a noticeable lot of tourists at events like these, mostly German it seemed last night, with two separate groups seated close to us  and I can only imagine that for them, these concerts must be a highlight of any visit to Cape Town.

Even the guinea fowl with baby in tow wanted part of the action!


LIRA was accompanied by a brilliant band with strong sax and electric guitar sounds adding to her inspirational songs.

“In Africa” she proclaimed, “we do stuff with serious attitude…. There’s nobody with your body. You are unique. I don’t care how fat you are , how thin you are, how old you are. …Now’s the time to celebrate your body. What’s important is that you’re alive, you’re healthy! Now get on your feet, and get over all your issues and swing your hips, side to side….”

By the end of the concert, everyone was on their feet, and the baby belonging to the foreign couple to the side of us was happily enveloped into the arms of the one of a group of young good- looking women, their rhythms so natural, so effortless, so African.

It’s at events like these that make you proud of being an African.

What a superb way to start another beautiful week in the Mother City.

Thanks again to Conversations Squared for the trade exchange.


how to let go and why to hold on…

Writers are tricksters. We are taught that the headline or the first line must hook the reader. If the reader doesn’t care about your first words, you’re history. Kaput. No-one cares what you have to say next. You’ve only got about 15 seconds to catch your reader.

I get this though don’t always adhere to it because sometimes writing is about ridding yourself of deep feelings and revealing insecurities and to put a catchy hook at the beginning seems just a little contrived. That’s why writing in a journal or a blog is often so much easier than writing your book. It’s like your first ‘shitty’ draft except it’s also your final draft. You don’t have to worry so much if your editor is going to cut it, your reader’s gonna hate it and your publisher’s going to reject it.

(Alternative title for the first part of today’s blog: “The beauty of the blog “)

So in the interests of capturing your attention, I conjured up this heading which you think is going to tell you how to let go and why to hold on.

But it’s not. It’s just a rambling of thoughts and feelings about life and children and ageing and changing dynamics and dealing with stuff.

In the last few weeks, my two older of four children left home. Not far away and not overseas but they have left home. One to move into a student digs (after 2 years at home, while at university and needing a change of scenery ), the other into a student res because university is further from home in which case home is not an option. They may well be back but it will never be the same in my home again. Not the way it has been for so many years. So I’m trying to learn to let go and I just want to tell you- in case you’re wondering what the hell this blog is about – that it has been one of the hardest things I have experienced. I feel an emptiness and a kind of grief that can only be described as heart- wrenching. Is there even another word? A better metaphor? Nothing will describe it. But it hits me in the stomach every morning when I wake up and realize that they’re not there anymore. Two of my planets.

I was reminded of a Facebook post I’d seen. It’s that concept of the ‘always’ that she got so right. Always knowing their mood, the clothes they’re wearing, what they’ve eaten, how’s they’re feeling, their familiar scent as they breeze past us in the kitchen or the particular smell of their room. It’s the best description of how I’ve been feeling and I cannot do any better.

That’s why the title of the blog is a trick. I don’t know how to let go. I’m still trying.

Here it is in case you haven’t seen it before. I looked it up again and saw where it came from.  Beverly Beckham, August 27, 2006

I was the sun, the kids were my planets

I wasn’t wrong about their leaving. My husband kept telling me I was. That it wasn’t the end of the world when first one child, then another , and then the last packed their bags and left for college.

But it was the end of something. “Can you pick me up, Mom?” “What’s for dinner?” “What do you think?”

I was the sun and they were the planets. And there was life on those planets, whirling, non stop plans and parties and friends coming and going, and ideas and dreams and the phone ringing and doors slamming.

And I got to beam down on them. To watch. To glow.

And then they were gone, one after the other.

“They’ll be back,” my husband said. And he was right. They came back. But he was wrong, too, because they came back for intervals — not for always, not planets anymore, making their predictable orbits, but unpredictable, like shooting stars.

Always is what you miss. Always knowing where they are. At school. At play practice. At a ballgame. At a friend’s. Always looking at the clock mid day and anticipating the door opening, the sigh, the smile, the laugh, the shrug. “How was school?” answered for years in too much detail. “And then he said . . . and then I said to him. . . .” Then hardly answered at all.

Always, knowing his friends.

Her favorite show.

What he had for breakfast.

What she wore to school.

What he thinks.

How she feels.

My friend Beth’s twin girls left for Roger Williams yesterday. They are her fourth and fifth children. She’s been down this road three times before. You’d think it would get easier.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do without them,” she has said every day for months.

And I have said nothing, because, really, what is there to say?

A chapter ends. Another chapter begins. One door closes and another door opens. The best thing a parent can give their child is wings. I read all these things when my children left home and thought then what I think now: What do these words mean?

Eighteen years isn’t a chapter in anyone’s life. It’s a whole book, and that book is ending and what comes next is connected to, but different from, everything that has gone before.

Before was an infant, a toddler, a child, a teenager. Before was feeding and changing and teaching and comforting and guiding and disciplining, everything hands -on. Now?

Now the kids are young adults and on their own and the parents are on the periphery, and it’s not just a chapter change. It’s a sea change.

As for a door closing? Would that you could close a door and forget for even a minute your children and your love for them and your fear for them, too. And would that they occupied just a single room in your head. But they’re in every room in your head and in your heart.

As for the wings analogy? It’s sweet. But children are not birds. Parents don’t let them go and build another nest and have all new offspring next year.

Saying goodbye to your children and their childhood is much harder than all the pithy sayings make it seem. Because that’s what going to college is. It’s goodbye.

It’s not a death. And it’s not a tragedy.

But it’s not nothing, either.

To grow a child, a body changes. It needs more sleep. It rejects food it used to like. It expands and it adapts.

To let go of a child, a body changes, too. It sighs and it cries and it feels weightless and heavy at the same time.

The drive home alone without them is the worst. And the first few days. But then it gets better. The kids call, come home, bring their friends, fill the house with their energy again.

Life does go on.

“Can you give me a ride to the mall?” “Mom, make him stop!” I don’t miss this part of parenting, playing chauffeur and referee. But I miss them, still, all these years later, the children they were, at the dinner table, beside me on the couch, talking on the phone, sleeping in their rooms, safe, home, mine.

Beverly Beckham.

And then just yesterday, I was reacquainted with a friend who was at my Junior School in the 70’s and who I have not seen since I was 12 years old. 40 years ago. We met briefly after several thwarted attempts – he lives in New York for one thing- and I had a brief hour to catch up. It was much too short of course and we plan to meet again but what intrigued me –apart from being fascinated by people I once knew who live different lives in other parts of the world doing extraordinary things- is that when he spoke of his home in Parkview which is where I lived too, I had the most vivid recollection of a moment: the smell of wood and the memory of a staircase and a landing and once being just a young child in a certain space at one time. A moment in my memory which my mind was still holding onto.

Why? I don’t know. Moments and memories are the only non-tangible assets that accompany you in your life journey.

So how to let go and why to hold on? No answers. The sweet and the sad, and the doors closing and others opening? Simply a big collection of moments and rooms in your head and your heart.




Treated to a BEATENBERG Sunset Concert, Kirstenbosch

It was a treat to meander along the empty paths towards the soothing music of the Sunset Concert on Sunday, swinging my picnic blanket in my right hand. My son was carrying the heavier cooler box so my load was light in more ways than one. Our usual scenario would have been to stand in a long queue until they opened the gates at 4pm or so and then to battle the throng of other picnic and music lovers for the best patch of grass to view the concert.

This time we arrived in perfect time (it had just started) and wandered in casually with still plenty of space on the packed lawn to enjoy the soothing sounds of Alice Phoebe Lou singing “Something Holy”. My heart beat slowed almost instantly.

Alice was apparently discovered on the streets of Berlin, and it was her first concert at Kirstenbosch. She recalled how as a young girl she had spent many Sunday evenings listening to other performers there and how weird it was for her to now be on ‘the other side’.

She was super. Soft, soothing and mellow and it didn’t take us long to unpack our chilled wine, once we had settled ourselves on our picnic blankets. She soon added a few more band members to the stage, not wanting to sing all alone she said, and the drummer, guitarist, sax player and vocalists complimented her perfectly.

There were a delightful few bars of bass guitar as the intro to her next number, “Galaxies” which she explained was about our human insignificance, and how powerful it in fact was. I stood to survey the stage far below from where we sat, seen best in between the branches of the trees ahead of me. All I could make out were figures of people, her bottle green skirt swaying with her beautiful music, the guitar slung around her neck. She added a few more titles, ‘Paper Castles’ and ‘She’ and apologized for not having brought any ‘merch’ (merchandise) to sell to the concert goers, hoping only that we enjoyed it and promising to be back to Kirstenbosch soon.

I hoped so too.

By now, the breeze had picked up a little and people starting putting on cardigans and snuggling in closer to each other. It was time for some food and I assembled our wraps, adding some mayo and pesto to the cut strips of chicken, cucumber, lettuce, tomato and grated cheese. No utensils required!

And then it was Beatenberg’s turn which was heralded by much applause and a little dancing from people who continued to pass up and down the footpath in front of us, dressed in all sorts of interesting gear: a costume top, bold patterned pants, a jersey around a waist with a turban, or a flimsy white cotton dress. All around us were happy people: people mellowed by the music and buoyed by the beautiful venue surrounded by friends, family, toddlers and babies.

I looked up at the mountain to the left and wondered how lucky we all were to be sitting right beneath it. You would be easily forgiven if, for those few precious moments, you forgot about the critically serious water situation in our beautiful city of Cape Town, the seemingly unending spells of crime on our beaches and mountains, and the petty politics that seems to override it all.

On the thick green grass of Kirstenbosch amongst a floral kingdom you are allowed to lie in little piece of paradise, soothed by the sounds of a great band.

‘Sometimes it feels like heaven, and sometimes it feels like hell’ (title ‘Raphael’) was the first tune of Beatenberg, (from their 2014 album The Hanging Gardens of Beatenberg) and the words could not have been more appropriate for what I was feeling.

There was little chatter in between songs (not necessary in a concert such as this) and instead they just played their fresh, original sounds: ‘Beauty like a Tightened Bow’, ‘Scorpion Fish’ and a few others from a nostalgic trio, including a cover by the Beach Boys.

Sunlight was still visible at the top of the mountain when their unique sounds (though someone said they sound most like Paul Simon) came all too soon to an end, with ‘Chelsea Blakemore’.

We packed our bags, folded the blankets and walked back up to the top gate of Kirstenbosch Gardens, feeling a whole heap more soulful and satisfied than when we had arrived.

Amazing what a short interlude of outdoors, music and community on a Sunday evening can do!

Kirstenbosch Sunday Sunset Concerts continue until 1 April 2018.


Thanks to Conversations Squared for the tickets in exchange for this review.


What do you tell your daughter to do with the power she possesses?

I’ve been thinking so much about this whole #metoo #timesup and its many faces and now the #azizansari story and what I want to say about it that I’ve become almost paralysed by it. Perhaps that’s how “Grace” felt while she propped herself up on the kitchen counter and began sharing intimate parts of herself with a man she barely knew but desperately wanted to meet, carefully considering the exact dress she thought would be best for the date. Paralysed by the ambivalence of what she wanted and kind of didn’t really want all at the same time. And not quite sure how to either voice this to him or just show him with her actions  or was just so confused that she kept it to herself until she had an epiphany right in the middle of what they both apparently agreed to was acceptable for a first date. Cutting out any meaningless banter for a first date night and leaving just a little more to the imagination isn’t too important to “Grace” since it appears she’d been in a similar situation before, evidenced by her own admission as she walked out the door crying, “You guys are all the fucking same,”.

That’s the problem with us women. I’m a little like that too sometimes if I think about it. We’re complicated creatures. It’s really hard sometimes to communicate precisely and accurately how we feel about something and we can we feel aggrieved or upset if not properly understood. Often we sulk and that’s no good either. But as Caitlin Flanagan reminded me in her Atlantic article (

I was taught that if I didn’t like what someone was doing to my body, I had to get out of that situation fast! Slap him if necessary. Isn’t that what you were taught?

So there remains still one of the primary issues between men and women: ineffective and insufficient communication between us. Yes I know. Social workers go grey trying to work out best methods but clearly we still have a long way to go in this.

But there’s another big problem here and this concerns our young girls even more because it’s also about self-respect and social media; it’s about understanding corresponding rights and obligations and a sense of justice which to me is always preferable to raw revenge; it’s about trying to get to some sort of standard in the #timesup debate in a silent, respectful way because shouting was never as effective as whispering to get someone to listen. That’s what I was once told though that doesn’t mean I’m any good in practice, does it?

Maybe I’m just getting a little out of touch but it appears even Jessica Valenti, the outspoken and liberal feminist writer agrees that the ‘currently normal sexual’ behaviour of women is sometimes harmful. We need to start making some changes then, not so? What we maybe need to tell our teens and new twenty -something daughters is that it’s not such a bad thing to be a little more discreet with how we act and what we want and how much we should reveal to the outside world. Even in mainstream media, the messages seem to me too flippant, too crass, too raw. In the Huffington article (

the author (who happens to be the executive editor of the magazine) relates a similar story to “Grace’s” and I am thinking to myself, hang on a minute, are you sure you want to tell us all that? WHY?

The crux of her message is of course that she too realizes that we need to have ‘complicated conversations about sex that is violating but not criminal’.

Because somehow it feels like the only way to get attention and show how strong and capable we are is to act with free abandon and inconsequential intimacy because then we can be cool chicks. (And I’m talking specifically about our young ones here) But then if we don’t like it, we can just haul it all out on social media and create a big stink and make-believe that we had nothing to do with why we were there and what we really wanted and where we are in the world. And where we are, as women, is that we are trying so hard to get to equality that we have conveniently forgotten, that men have rights too. The older I get, the more I realize that ‘fairness’ is not an often used expression in the prospectus of school curriculums or in dealing with the prevalent patterns of patriarchy. More than that though, is that because the structures of ‘social conformity’ are regulated by a slow and expensive and often ‘unjust’ justice system, many believe it’s okay to use the world’s online stage as your own courtroom where you can stand as accuser and judge in the exact same line of #Twitter.

But perhaps this is NOT the way to get the mess of men and women to live happily ever after. Sometimes we need to recoil a little, be the tortoise in its beautifully geometric shell and think more carefully about how we want to be. And then creep slowly and quietly in the world.

Of course the pendulum always swings further than it should when it comes to big issues. And #metoo is a BIG ISSUE. I just wonder whether when it stops, it’ll still have a solid base from which to start swinging again.

There are far greater and more eloquent writers weighing in on all this. It must be so satisfying when you know that everyone is waiting to hear what you think about things; what you think and what you say and how your words can be copied around the globe. But now’s the time to be giving more woman a voice.

I agree with what Barbara Kingsolver says. We are indeed complicated creatures. “Men and women alike find ourselves disoriented, wondering what the rules are. Women know perfectly well that we hate unsolicited sexual attention, but navigate a minefield of male thinking on what “solicit” might mean. We’ve spent so much life-force on looking good but not too good, being professional but not unapproachable, while the guys just got on with life.” (

In the end though, we all come from different places, different perspectives. What’s vital now is to show our young girls that with youth and the privilege of opportunity on their side, they have the power to choose how they will conduct themselves in this intricate pattern of pleasure and pain they are sure to experience in a world full of men. For they are not alone in it.

Listen to the options our young women have. As Barbara says: “Women who wish to be more than bodies can use our brains to discern context and the need for cultural education. In lieu of beguiling we can be rational, which means giving the accused a fair hearing and a sentence that fits the crime …..Polarisation is as obstructive in gender politics as in any other forum.”

So let harmony and fairness outweigh hostility in every possible outcome.







To more moments in 2018

The sun was more light than warmth, the sand hard and cool, just enough for a footprint to be embedded before the sea washed it away. I picked up a beige pebble, rolled it over in my palm, watched a few grains of sand fall quietly. The smooth roundness remained, whole, and complete.

I stood up and breathed in deeply. It was the first time I’d remembered to breathe deeply for a while. The mayhem and madness of end of a year, Christmas, New Year, and then the thoughts on the road home back to mum, seeing her now in the hospital after she’d survived a horrific attack.

I wanted to give her the pebble to hold in her hand, to know that when she rolled it in her palm, she was gaining strength from the rush of the ocean, the fall of waves, her connection to the earth and of course my connection to her.

Life seems not so much a collection of years as a collection of moments scattered throughout your day, your life: like pebbles lying on the beach, bare and beautiful on the surface of the soft sand, some barely visible and lying on their side or buried just beneath the sand. Others are newly revealed after the sea has washed over them and lie exposed on the sand, others roll down the gentle curve of the beach with the wave, back into the ocean. Just like these pebbles, it seemed to me, are the moments we experience in our lives: some are apparent, obvious and openly observable, others are more oblique and unrecognized until they too, roll away with the years.

Much of what I’d read on the first few days of this new year had to do with resolutions: how to make them, how to keep them and why most people seldom succeeded in this. One was from a mother who resolved again, to be more patient only for her children to tell her she had named it for the year before too and in that she had failed. But she knew that, for her, this was not failure, it was a continuous step in the right direction, to practice her patience each year until she became better at it.

I went back to the beach again early the next morning. The sky had clouded over and the mood was softer. It is a long stretch of beach, mostly empty at this part, only the occasional person with a dog, or perhaps an early morning fisherman.

There were my beautiful pebbles again. I can never get enough of them. Over the many years I’ve walked this beach, I’ve picked up a few and they end up scattered somewhere in my home. Every now and then I find one in the little recess of my car door. I pick it up and move it around my hand with my thumb. It connects me back to the earth. Recently I used a few to fix into the base of a   cemented shower floor which needed re-doing. Here they would feel feet and warmth and be washed over with water.

This time, I took pictures of them to remember what they looked like. I didn’t feel the need to collect any more, separating them from their origins. They belong perfectly right there on the beach, part of the earth to which they belong and in this way they remain connected to us too. But I couldn’t help noticing how the pebbles somehow reflected the moments we live in our lives and how it was moments, rather than resolutions which we need to notice and recognize and treasure. Resolutions and goals are important to move you forward but if you miss the seemingly insignificant moments that make up most of your lives, those resolutions come to nothing.

Most things only happen in a single moment or at least your experience is momentary: the first sighting of a loved one you haven’t seen in a while; the clinking of glasses around the Christmas table, the first delicious sip of champagne; the moment you see a result you’ve been waiting for- Doctor’s results, exam results, a report from a Detective on a case; the first step onto the beach, the moment the first wave washes over your feet. Of course the big ones go without saying…the moment of birth and the moment of death.

But most moments are scattered in no sequence and take all colours and form. They lie quietly on your life making patterns in between the years, just like pebbles on the beach, lying quietly within the lines on the sand left by the waves of the sea.

I’m going to keep reviewing my 2018 resolutions, but hope to surrender to more moments too.

Here are some of the beautiful ‘pebble moments’ I saw that morning.

More oval than round, like a moment not quite perfect

Dark burnt red, uneven and interesting



All different colours, some lying together, most set apart

Waiting for sea to wash over

Next to a hard, rough rock

Covered by the water


Perfect white stripe



In the wake of Weinstein…

With the end of the year approaching, I feel myself becoming more nostalgic and more reflective. This is not an unusual feeling. I’m a big one for reflection and introspection and very caught up with endings and beginnings. (A beautiful title I’ve always thought of Redi Tlhabi’s first book, though her book Khwezi is, dare I say, even more important. Another I have yet to read.)

It’s probably got something to do with the fact that my oldest daughter has finished her school career and is, as I write today, waking up in a place I don’t know with a group of girls having partied with lots of cool guys and alcohol and my favourite son, my eldest and only boy is leaving his teenage years, tomorrow.

He turns 20 tomorrow which means that it was 20 years ago today that I walked around with a fine-looking pregnant- round belly, and the next day 3 December 1997, that belly changed shape and changed my life. My pre-kids existence was about to undergo a metamorphosis for which I was entirely unprepared and could never have foreseen in its totality of consequences. My second daughter has just completed her first year of high school and my youngest has one more year of junior school. It’s been a busy year in the kids department.

In its place- my life with kids- I have had the privilege of a blessed existence: blessed in so many respects that to set them out on an average Saturday afternoon in my little blog would make them appear facile and superficial. Setting them out to be read by people who care or not, most of whose faces bear no recognizable form would seem to undermine the very intention with which I wish to list them. In other words, sometimes blogs seem so pointless.

One of the things that have bothered me a little lately, though is the distinction between people on the planet who are either famous or ordinary with the whole Weinstein thing: ‘famous’ in the sense that the media seeks to capture their every move or perhaps just ‘notable’ or worthy of story. The power of the media and the power of story telling is fascinating. More so, though is that a celebratory-type status, however way you wish to define it, seems to occupy a place which elevates the plight of some in place of others. So when the Weinstein avalanche fell into the world and #metoo became a new noun, the stirrings of so many ORDINARY people must have been so tremendous, but because they didn’t have a notable voice, they were implicitly silenced.

There must be tons of these. I wondered about this divide between the ordinary and celebrity  and tweeted the author when his wonderful article about people who are campaigning and making movies about this whole world phenomenon on women and harassment came to my attention.

So I thought that I had one more important blog to add to 2017 before December’s Christmas madness starts to take hold. I hope though that it ends off with a message of hope, rather than misery because I think I have found something to hang my hat onto: hope in the dark, which is another delicious title of a book by Rebecca Solnit.

When the revelations broke, I wondered whether I too could claim the hashtag #metoo seriously. It didn’t take much memory to know I could easily claim it though the details of each incident are not the things I want to flesh out here. Nothing too horrific and scarring but harassment nonetheless. But the ones I do want to talk of are those which at the time frightened and confused me (and I say ones because it happened on at least 3 occasions when I was young girl, walking home along the paths of Parkview to school) . The men I feared and loathed were the same men for whom I later came to feel sadness and even empathy because I thought they must be so sick, so weird in the head and their lives so miserable.

You see, I was walking to school and saw a man standing near a tree. And as I got closer, I just knew what he was doing and that he wanted me to see and that I needed to get away. I didn’t believe he could physically harm me. I wasn’t even scared.  But I was incensed because this had happened to me before. It had happened more than once on a walk to school. The same kind of thing: a man in his car, stopping and leaning over to me to ask directions, or so I thought as I believed everyone to just be nice, and then innocent me, coming closer and being horrified and disgusted at the sight of him masturbating while pretending to ask me directions.

So this time I thought, No, this is not going to me happen again. He will not get away with leaving me feeling ashamed, overpowered, helpless, vulnerable. So I turned around and forced myself to remember the number plate  of the car behind him, assuming it was his as it was parked close to him and walked straight to the police station and reported it. It was a scary experience that followed. I had to identify him in an ID parade.

The policeman instructed, ‘Touch him gently with your right hand on his left shoulder. You don’t have to look him in the eye. But I’ll give you a hint: he’s the one in the brown shoes.’

The others were all plain clothes policemen with black clothes but I didn’t have to be told which one he was. I was certain who had taken my dignity away that day. From a little girl in a blue dress on her way to school. Needless to say, he was convicted and sentenced. A father with three children of his own I remember my mum telling me. Shame. Poor children I remember thinking.

Since it all first broke there have been tons of reports on the psychology of why men do this. Here’s one as an example.

It confirms that a sexual assault is ‘any type of sexual contact or behaviour that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.’ It refers to another article I read which describes these sorts of people as displaying ‘sexualized hostility’, possibly as a result of childhood sexual abuse they experienced themselves. Other therapists put it down to a lack of empathy for the victim.

The agreed conclusion though is that it all about a sense of control and power. No consent means that you have seized control without permission. And that’s no good.

(Okay, where am I going with all this now? This is not where I wanted to end.#streamofconsciousness #unedited #writingishard)

I wanted to end with how we are then supposed to deal with all this STUFF in the world?

And I think it all ends with stories.

‘If a story moves you, act on it,’ says Sisonke Msimang in a brilliant and funny TedTalk I listened to.

It’s a must- listen- to if you believe in the power of stories and justice as I do.

I have yet read to read her book, Always Another Country’ and can only attribute it to the fact that I would be stone broke if I had to buy all the books I thumbed through at Exclusive Books this week. That and the precious gift of time which must be prioritized, especially at this time of the year with children who are growing up and moving on and you are desperate to hold on to them a little longer.

But I’m going to end off this one which I think is an important reflection for 2017, and inspired entirely by Sisonke with her wise and beautiful insights she shared in her TEDtalk if I may, Sisonke?

For she says, (and this is my précis) though story tellers are important, it’s not only stories that make the world a better place, but audiences: audiences who are curious and skeptical, and even those who don’t necessarily like the protagonist in the story they read.

But it’s also justice that makes the world better, and so, she concludes, ‘it’s up to all of us to have a plan for justice’’.

I hope I have left you with someone to think about. You don’t have to be story-teller. But try to be an engaged audience if you want to see justice in the world.

And who doesn’t want that?

THE OSCAR OUTCOME and MADIBA’s MASIPA: my last word on this

This is a difficult piece to write- thank goodness it’s the last one- but it’s important for me to conclude on this since it Oscar has permeated my writing in the last three years and appears in my book which I am just starting to send out into the world. Its working title is Somewhere In Between. I hope you get to read it.

It’s difficult not only because quite frankly the whole Oscar thing is tedious in comparison to world events and climate change and how to engage in a meaning life and of course dragged on for far too long, but because in some respects at least, I have taken a slightly contrary view. But the one thing I can without doubt say is that my writing is not motivated by popularity. I am hell-bent on saying it like it is and making no apologies for it.

Let me preface what I have to say with this: I believe strongly in justice and even more so, in justice being seeing to be done. In a country which cries for some respite from the incessant and pervasive violence to women and children, from child abuse, from high, high crime rates of murder, rape and robbery, criminal justice is imperative. We all want to feel safe – South Africa does not rank highly on the prestigious list of most peaceful places to live. We need to remedy that fast and judicial precedents are a good starting point when it comes to deterring would- be criminals from pursuing hard- core crime.

When Judge Masipa’s verdict of manslaughter was overturned and replaced with murder (correctly so, I believe, since she had seemingly misconstrued that in fact it was a case of dolus eventualis and thus clearly murder) it was Masipa who had to deliberate on an appropriate punishment. In her view, though she acknowledged the “serious nature” of the crime, she cited many mitigating factors, and believed that long-term imprisonment “would not serve justice” in this case. She believed that Oscar had shown remorse, that he was a good candidate for rehabilitation.

Rebecca Davis in her Daily Maverick column reflects on the Pistorius case as occupying ‘a fraught spot in the public conversation because of its lingering ambiguity – in terms of the fact that no comprehensive motive was ever offered by the state for Steenkamp’s shooting.’

And that is indeed correct for the judgement states….

( 2017 158 or 2017 ZASCA 158)

[13] The admitted evidence revealed various contradictions in the respondent’s evidence as to why he shot at the toilet door that evening. It suffices to state that these contradictions were so serious that this court in Director of Public Prosecutions v Pistorius supra stated that ‘[i]n the light of these contradictions, one really does not know what his explanation is for having fired the fatal shots’.  Furthermore this court said that ‘[h]e paused at the entrance to the bathroom and when he became aware that there was a person in the toilet cubicle, he fired four shots through the door and he never offered an acceptable explanation for having done so’. This court also found that the evidence of the respondent was ‘so contradictory that one does just not know his true explanation for firing the weapon’.

Davis’s analysis of the final SCA judgment is that perhaps it will strengthen the importance of sentencing guidelines.

With all due respect, I’m not sure that the Pistorius outcome is going to do this. Sentencing is not an exact science. Sentencing depends on the triad of relevant factors and it depends heavily on the discretion of the judge.

It is also, unknown to most laypersons, very dependent upon ‘similar’ or ‘distinguishable’ cases and this depends very much on the way in which the South African Law Reports have been noted and published and in particular on the editors of these reports who compile the reports and summarise the thousands of very dreary and factually similar cases which come before the courts.

I can share with you my very limited experience of this because, with a legal background, I also had a brief stint as legal editor and reviewed many of the exceptionally similar facts of cases in which the sentences of the judges varied significantly. Sometimes, the same horrific crime of rape and murder would carry a sentence of 5 years, sometimes 10 years. For a similar accused with a similar personal background and a first offender. In fact, this significant variance in sentence was apparently even different in different provinces.

Of course none of these accused would have been able to afford the costs of appeals which is precisely why they didn’t. Neither would the NPA have bothered to appeal if the sentence were too lenient since they were not ‘important enough’ and the media was none the wiser. All were a homogenous lot of essentially similar persons of class and race and social standing.

Now there’s the miscarriage of justice.    

So that’s the one thing I want to say. And in our Friday editor meetings I raised this issue of how the reports needed to be somehow better restructured in order that the judges may easily see exactly what similar crimes carried similar sentences. It is not yet 100% accurate.

The other thing I want to comment on is the issue of remorse and the personal circumstances of the accused and the fact that Judge Seriti felt that Masipa had overemphasized the latter and misdirected herself towards the former.

She was criticized for having too much sympathy for him. She had referred to him as a ‘fallen hero’ and felt that he had suffered enough.

Seriti commented on this as follows:

[21] I find it difficult on the evidence to accept that the respondent is genuinely remorseful. In S v Matyityi 2011 (1) SACR 40 (SCA) at para 47 this court held as follows: ‘After all, before a court can find that an accused person is genuinely remorseful, it needs to have a proper appreciation of, inter alia; what motivated the accused to commit the deed; what has since provoked his or her change of heart; and whether he or she does indeed have a true appreciation of the consequences of those actions’. As stated earlier the respondent has failed to explain why he fired the fatal shots. The respondent failed to take the court fully into his confidence. To my mind the attempt by the respondent to apologise to the deceased’s family does not demonstrate any genuine remorse on his part. He failed to take the court fully in his confidence despite having an opportunity to do so during the second sentencing proceedings. It is clear herefrom that the respondent is unable to appreciate the crime he has committed. The logical consequence is that the respondent displays a lack of remorse, and does not appreciate the gravity of his actions.

[22] Having perused the judgment on sentence by the court a quo I am of the view that the trial court over emphasised the personal circumstances of the respondent. In S v Vilakazi 2009 (1) SACR 552 (SCA) para 58 this court said that ‘[i]n cases of serious crime the personal circumstances of the offender, by themselves, will necessarily recede into the background’. See also S v RO & another 2010 (2) SACR 248 (SCA) para 20 where this court said ‘[t]o elevate the appellants’ personal circumstances above that of society in general and these two child victims in particular would not serve the well-established aims of sentencing, including deterrence and retribution’. Based on the above-mentioned cases I am of the view that the court a quo misdirected itself in its assessment of an appropriate sentence.

[23] The court a quo also stated that in its view there was an indication that the respondent was a good candidate for rehabilitation and that the other purposes of punishment although important ought not to play a dominant role in the sentencing process. The court a quo seemed to have given rehabilitation undue weight as against the other purposes of punishment being prevention, deterrence and retribution. This court in S v Swart 2004 (2) SACR 370 (SCA) para 12 stated the correct legal position as follows: ‘[s]erious crimes will usually require that retribution and deterrence should come to the fore and that the rehabilitation of the offender will consequently play a relatively smaller role’.


There are two blatantly obvious issues here which, being a court of appeal and thus evidence being only on the court papers, must be brought to the fore.

And that is this:

  1. None of the five judges witnessed firsthand, the visual spectacle of Pistorius when he sat day after day in the court, retching and crying and if you look at the record or listened to the apology in court would have had the same knowledge Masipa had.

I think this may have had something to do with the fact that she believed, in her heart of hearts, that he must have felt remorse.


  1. Though I have not looked at the comparative facts of the cases Seriti quotes and the fact the personal circumstances should play a relatively minor role and his belief that she overemphasized the rehabilitation aspect,

I have no doubt that none of the accused in those cases had prosthetic legs or was an Olympic athlete.

But what I want to talk of briefly is Masipa. Because in all this mess, the masses ask, ‘how could she be so incompetent ?’

and more ignorantly , ‘how can he be sentenced twice for the same crime! and she got it wrong twice! ) and I feel that it’s precisely because of the prejudiced view of the incompetency of WOMEN , and particularly BLACK women that is so sad.

Read an article in the DE REBUS on this aspect.

‘Lack of advancement of black and female lawyers in the spotlight.’ De Rebus, July 2015:12 [2015] DEREBUS 4

And I want to ask why do we think it was that she felt he had suffered enough? Did she not believe in the functions of sentencing? In deterrence and retribution? Had she not viewed violence against women, and countless cases of horrific crimes.

What was it exactly that made her feel a certain empathy towards this white ‘gun-wielding’ male accused?

I like to believe that she had something of a mother and of a Mandela in her make up. It was of course Mandela that appointed her in 1998 and she was only the third Black woman appointed as a judge at the time. She was described as competent, respected, eloquent and reserved.  He was an enlightened, forgiving, extraordinary man.

Neither was she a stranger to horrific crimes. In an article outlining her past experience,

It is apparent that she had little mercy for abusive men. She had presided over a number of media worthy cases and shown her willingness to hand out maximum sentences. In one, she had handed down a 252-year sentence to serial rapist and robber, Shepherd Moyo. He was found guilty of 11 counts of housebreaking and robbery, three of rape and one of attempted murder. She sentenced him to 15 years for each of the 11 robberies, 12 years for attempted murder and life sentences for all three rape charges. In her judgement, Masipa is quoted as saying :

“What weighs with me very heavily is that the accused showed no remorse, therefore it is difficult to imagine he can be rehabilitated.”

In another case of a violent crime against a woman, in 2009, Masipa handed down a life sentence to police officer, Freddy Mashamba, for shooting and killing his wife, Rudzani Ramango. During an argument over a divorce settlement in May 2008, Ramango and her aunt, Patricia Ramango, jumped into a vehicle and tried to flee from Mashamba. The officer, enraged, gave chase until they stopped behind the charge office at the Louis Trichardt police station. It was here that he shot at his wife, hitting her seven times in the face and three in the chest. She died at the scene; Patricia Ramango escaped unhurt.

He was tried at the Polokwane High Court with Masipa as the judge. She said the sentence she handed Mashamba was meant to serve as a lesson to police officers that conflict cannot be solved with violence. “No one is above the law,” she said. “You deserve to go to jail for life because you are not a protector, you are a killer.”

I would also have loved a concurring judgement of Mokgohloa AJA, the only other Black Woman judge in this trial.

But I’m tired of all this now. And I’m mostly tired of the vitriol and hypocrisy of the masses, particularly from MEN who are pleased about the doubled sentence.

PLEASE DON’T GET ME WRONG. I’m not displeased that JUSTICE IS SEEN TO BE DONE. (Just as I not displeased that the premeditated of murder of PANAYIOTOU’s wife earned him a life sentence- he deserved this and more)

But I am frustrated with the lack of empathy and the vitriol of the world.

It reminded me of some of the reactions when the #METOO campaigns came out: those from men who thought perhaps too much was being made about the sexual harassment of women.

For it somehow struck me that the more laconic these men became about Pistorius’s fate, the easier it was for them to placate themselves that somehow, they are were ABSOLVED and exonerated from their own indiscretions towards women. That if they could point fingers at Pistorius, they could feel better about themselves.

Isn’t that a sad thing to say? I wish it were not true.

So now I’m ending off now with a hope.

I hope that one day, we can work some more MADIBA MAGIC around the world. I hope that by the time Pistorius gets out in 13 years and five months, we can see that his punishment has truly resulted in the purpose for which it was imposed and the REAL REASON FOR ITS JUSTIFICATION.

And that is that there is a MARKED AND NOTICEABLE decrease in the number of RAPES AND MURDERS in this country.

For the deterrence and retribution aspect it is supposed to serve.

Sadly, I have my doubts.