Weekend reading: perspectives on money, French shirts and compost

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Love to read

Can We Change Our Childhood Perspectives on Money? This is such an important read for couples with differing approaches to money. The relationship Meg describes with her husband is pretty spot on for my partner and me. Ask yourself: If you found R1,000 would you spend it or save it? And what would your partner do? (You should also read 7 Tips for a More Equal Household.)

Authenticity Online. I’ve followed Jolie Ankrom for a little over a year now on Instagram (you can find her at @becomingjoile). I love her style, her approach to motherhood and her thrifting skills. She also introduced to me Whole30! But lately I have been touched by her insights into marriage and relationships. This piece she wrote is wonderful. You should read it if you’re in a long term relationship. I’ve read it a few times now and every time all I can think is “me too”. It’s a reminder that we’re not alone in our struggles.

How a Darth Vader selfie showed the worst side of social media. A reminder not to post your suspicions on social media. This poor guy had his picture shared over 20,000 times on Facebook after a stranger labeled him a creep and a possible sexual offender.

“What a horrible mother:” How a call from a “good samaritan” derailed these mothers’ lives. I remember staying in the car while my parents did the shopping – it was more fun than being dragged around the shops. Recently mothers in America have been charged with child endangered for doing the same thing.

Save Tax Free Investment Calculator. I thought this was a pretty useful tool for South Africans trying to figure out what tax free investment suits their needs.

French Speakers Hilariously Discuss What French T-Shirts Actually Say. “This is not even French. Putting “le” in front of a random foreign-sounding word doesn’t make it French.”

The 20 Most Beautiful Countries In The World. South Africa bags the top spot!

The Urban Death Project. If you don’t want to be buried or cremated you can be turned into compost. Sign me up!

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Jonny Steinberg on farm murders

The meaning of this violence has never been clear. On the one hand, the motives for the vast majority of the attacks appears to be robbery; the perpetrators flee the scene of the crime with guns, cars and money. And yet, so many attacks are accompanied by seemingly gratuitous violence, the violence itself performed with such ceremony and drama, that the infliction of painful death appears to be the primary motive. ‘Farm murders’, as South Africans have come to call them, occupy a strange and ambiguous space; they tamper with the boundary between acquisitive crime and racial hatred.

Jonny Steinberg. Midlands: A Very South African Murder.

This quote came out of my latest notebook. I read Midlands earlier this year on a Kindle – which explains the absence of a page number. Steinberg writes about a farm murder in the Midlands of KwaZulu Natal and the political, historical and racial factors at work in the community.

I spent my early years growing up in Weenen, the second oldest European settlement in KwaZulu Natal. The town was established two months after the Weenen Massacre, on 17 February 1838, when Chief Dingane sent impis to kill the remaining Voortrekkers following Piet Retief’s murder. The attack left 41 men, 56 women and 185 children dead. Apart from the Voortrekkers 252 Khoikhoi and Basuto people, who accompanied the Voortrekkers, were killed. The town’s name, Weenen, is dutch for ‘weeping’.

This is a picture of my sister and me in our garden in Weenen. I’m at the back and you can see the KwaZulu Natal Midlands stretching out behind me.

Eric Hobsbawm on making your life

Men make their lives, but they do not make them just as they please, they do not make them under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past and by the world around them.

Eric Hobsbawm in Jeremy Gordin’s Zuma: A Biography. Page x.

Let students – not baby politicians – lead our country’s Student Representative Councils

Prof Jansen over at University of the Free State has been given a hard time about the fact that he wants to limit political activity on the Student Representative Council (SRC). I just want to give him a pat on the back. I think that it is a step in the right direction and should become common practice across all South African universities.

I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of KwaZulu Natal and I have seen firsthand the negative effects that political agendas can have on student institutions and students. I believe that political organizations have an important role to play on campus but that they have no place throwing their weight around in the SRC.

Firstly, student political organizations receive a mandate from their national counterparts. That mandate instructs them to do one thing: garner support for the national agenda. These youth wings then spend their time doing just that. Their mandate is not to pursue student issues like funding, exclusions or housing shortages. Rather these student issues become the means to forwarding their national agenda. They use, for example, the lack of funding available to students to garner support for their respective political party.  They rally the troops, create a fuss, make promises and maybe stage a protest – and all the while, all they are saying is “look at us, we have support!” Most of the time the real issue falls by the wayside – forgotten or ignored. The students are then left with a shirt on their back and that niggling feeling that they are no better off than when they started.

Secondly, allowing political parties to contest SRC elections grants them an unfair advantage over independent candidates. Youth wings receive funding from their national political parties. This funding goes towards their administrative costs, election campaigns, posters, transport costs, banners and the aforementioned t-shirts. Compared with this level of funding an independent candidate can’t compete on an equal basis. This funding also creates a situation in which student political organizations are pressured to pursue certain agendas on campus – lest they lose their funding. It’s also ironic that their political activity tends to escalate in both quantity and quality come national election time. SRC election campaigns turn into displays of resources and the issues are ignored. Independent students who earn their seat on the SRC should be there because they have shown the student body that they are committed to their issues. Seats should not be won by flashy grand standing funded by national movements.

Thirdly, allowing political parties to run in most cases means that a party list will be used when elections occur. At UKZN there were 10 seats on the SRC and when students went into the ballot box they would cast two votes – one for a party seat and another for an individual candidate. When the party comes to fill the number of seats they have won they are able to choose who to place in that seat. This system does two things: it rewards party loyalty and reduces accountability. If members of a student political party know that their seat is dependent on being chosen by party leaders then their loyalty will be to those bosses. It will not be to the students that they are meant to represent. The SRC is meant to be accountable to the student body but if the students don’t know the names and faces of the representatives who will fill the party list seats how will they be able to hold them accountable?

Prof. Jansen’s suggestion seems legitimate considering the above. Do we really want baby politicians throwing their weight around SRCs around the country? Or do we want to offer students the opportunity to learn about leadership free of national agendas and undeclared funding? The SRCs on campuses around the country should be concerned with student issues. Let’s leave the SRC to students who want to represent their fellow students’ interest. SRCs should not represent the first wrung on the ladder for career politicians.

Just Nuisance on Women’s Day

I told my boyfriend on the weekend that today was Women’s Day. He looked up from the newspaper and gave me a skeptical look.

“Isn’t that Valentines day?” he asked

“No, no, no,” I responded, shaking my head in sympathy for this poor British boy who only has eight public holidays in his homeland compared to South Africa’s twelve, “that day is for men and women. Women’s Day is just for me.”

“Do I have to buy you a present?

“Yes, definitely. It’s a South African tradition that in commemoration of the 1956 women’s march on the Union Buildings you have to buy me a present. It’s what Albertina Sisulu would have wanted.” Which is actually a terrible thing to say because MaSisulu marched against having to carry a pass book and definitely not for my right to presents.

“You’re lying.” He’s a smart chap.

“Okay, well yes. But maybe we could do something nice – go somewhere to eat, watch a movie…or you could buy me a present.

Well, being students our Women’s Day was somewhat limited in its scope this year. While I imagine future Women’s Days to include spa treatments, macaroon feasts and unlimited kittens it seems as if our current financial means exclude these possibilities (budgeting for unlimited kittens is a nightmare). So, Ben and I decided that we would take in the best that Cape Town had to offer – free stuff. But for the 40km of petrol and two slabs of chocolate we didn’t have to spend a rand.

Our plan was to hike in the mountains above Simonstown and visit the grave of Just Nuisance. In lieu of unlimited kittens a soppy dog story would have to suffice. Just Nuisance was a Great Dane and was the only dog to be officially enlisted in the British Navy on the HMS Afrikander during World War II. Although I wouldn’t blame the Brits for enlisting a South African bred Great Dane during the war, he was enlisted for humanitarian reasons.

He used to walk from his house and visit the sailors at the Simonstown dock and naval base. When the sailors would catch the train to Cape Town Just Nuisance would follow them on and spend the day with them in the city. The sailors did their best to hide him from the train conductors but if he was found he would be tossed off at the next station. His owner was eventually warned that if he wasn’t kept off the trains that he would have to be put down. The sailors feared losing their mascot and wrote to the British Navy requesting that something be done and suggesting that he was purchased a season ticket for the train. Instead of the season ticket the Navy decided to officially enlist him. As an official member of the British Navy he received free rail travel and could continue taking trips into Cape Town with the sailors.

On his death Just Nuisance was buried with full Navy honours above Simonstown at Klaver Camp. At his funeral his headstone was covered with the Royal Navy White Ensign and sailors conducted a gun salute.

While his statue is easy enough to find in Simonstown his grave up in the mountains is not. Unfortunately we couldn’t find it but we’ll be back when we have more accurate directions. So, instead we sat on a lookout point above Simonstown eating our sandwiches and debating whether there should be a Man’s Day – with presents of course.

When in Cape Town…

#1 – Hike Lion’s Head

Lion’s Head was the first hike I did in Cape Town after moving here in February. We did it on a Sunday afternoon and reached the top in the early evening. We had packed snacks, water, binoculars and our camera to photograph the views and our achievement. About twenty minutes into the hike we were stopped on the trail by a tiny tortoise. Obviously employing the don’t move and they wont see me technique he stayed still long enough for us to snap this picture – only to hear the slow buzzing death rattle of the camera running out of battery.

So, this is the only picture we have of our hike. With the proliferation of Facebook albums chronicling every activity people partake in, it seems that if you have no photographic proof of doing something it didn’t happen.  But I cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die promise that we made it to the top and it was beautiful. I recommend it to both residents and visitors of Cape Town.