Tag Archives: South Africa

Take Anyone, Just Leave Madiba

I’m really scared that Nelson Mandela’s going to die while I’m out of the country. [Read up.]

If that sounds selfish to you, that’s because it probably is.

I want to be around when South Africa experiences its figurative tsunami. South Africans are an emotional people, and they’ve been through a lot. They’re also an immensely proud people. And no one makes them more proud, and I mean NO ONE, than former President Nelson Mandela.

Madiba is more than just a figure. He’s more than just a hero. He’s the representation of everything South Africa needed to believe in to come out of the hell they were in. He’s the mascot of democracy and hope. He’s the glue that held this nation together for a long time. His passing will be the moment when the fates remove their fingers from holding the porcelain pieces of South Africa’s shell together and, with millions holding their breath, see if it holds together.

To be honest, I know this country’s built of stronger stuff than the nostalgic memory of a man. But man, it’s hard to imagine a South Africa without Madiba. It really is. He is no less than a legend, and to use that word on anyone after him would really be to weaken its power.

So, coming back to my original statement, I want to be there when the wave hits. I want to be part of the mourning. I want to watch a nation fall to its knees with tears and gasps, because I want to watch it pick itself up afterwards. The first staggered steps will be beautiful, because they’ll be unified.

South Africa will have to learn how to breathe again after Madiba’s lungs have failed him.

[My prayers and love to him and his family.]


How to Speak South African

This is a story told from Canadian and South African perspectives. It should give you a nice idea of the linguistic differences between the two nations. And maybe some other differences too.

Note: ‘South African’ is not actually a language. Don’t go looking for “South African for Dummies” on the bookshelves. You will not find it.


I went to a barbecue at my friend’s house today. On my way, I got stuck at a few red lights, plus I had to stop for gas, so I was a bit late.

“What’s up?” Jon said, as I got to the front door.

“Not much, thanks. Let me get the hot dogs out of the trunk, and then I’ll be in!” I responded.

I carried my meat and beer through the house, and my friend ushered me through to the back yard, where the barbecue was already lit.

“It’s looking good. Anything I can do to help?” I said.

“No, everything’s pretty much taken care of. Did you catch the hockey game last night?”

“Yeah. Awesome stuff. An overtime win! So epic.”

“Totally. This food’s smelling so good, by the way. I’m so hungry!”


I went to a braai at my mate’s house today. On the way, I got stuck at a few red robots, and I had to stop for petrol, but I was still half an hour earlier than everyone else.

“Howzit?” Jono said, as I arrived at the front door.

“It’s cool, man! Shot! Let me get the boerewors out of the boot, and then I’ll be in!” I responded.

I carried my meat and beer through the house and headed to the back, where Jono was busy lighting the braai.

“Cool vibes, man. Anything I can do to help?” I said.

“Nah, it’s chilled. Did you catch the hockey game last night?”

“Does anyone even care about hockey in this country?” I asked.

“Field hockey, sometimes,” Jono offered.

“Yeah, but still…”

“Yeah, never mind.”

There was an awkward pause as both he and I tried to figure out why he had mentioned hockey.


As the sun slowly sunk away for the night, the air began to cool. We gathered closer around the campfire, rubbing our hands together to stay warm.

We laughed and talked about Stephen Harper and Rick Mercer and how much we dislike Americans as we ate our fill from the barbecue.

I wiped off my hands after eating my third s’more. I decided it was time to head out for the evening, so I waved goodbye to those still huddled around the fire, and headed back to my car.

It had been a good night.


The food was eventually ready, as the sun sunk away for the night. The air cooled off a bit, and everyone freaked out about how cold it was. Someone lit a fire in a pit in the middle of the lawn.

“Is this legal?” I asked.

“Legal for what?” someone replied.

As the fire started to grow, Thando dropped her wors into the flames, because she was gesturing too much with her hands. A chorus of “yoh!”s and “shame!”s broke out, but luckily there was another one to replace it.

We laughed and talked about Jacob Zuma and Trevor Noah and how much we dislike Americans as we ate our fill from the braai.

I wiped off my hands after chowing some milk tart. I decided it was time to bounce, so I hugged every single person goodbye, and headed to my car. I tipped the car guard even though he hadn’t been there when I arrived and it looked like he had made his ‘official’ vest himself.

It had been a good night.

Zuma, it’s not okay

Police brutality has been front and centre in the South African media lately. The latest instance, the death of a Mozambican taxi driver, has the honour of being the “just another” example. And now South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has come out and said that there’s no need to investigate the police force. “It’s fine. It only happens sometimes, and what are a few extra unnecessary deaths in this messed up country of ours anyway?” (my version of his words)

Well, Zuma, I think police accountability is extremely, vitally important. Being able to trust those in authority in one’s homeland is crucial to a country’s development. I agree with your statement that not everyone in the police force is a problem. Unfortunately, they all wear the same uniform, and if I hear that even 1% of the police are untrustworthy, I don’t trust any of them.

This realisation was crazy for me. Growing up in Canada, I grew up being taught that the police and fireman and all of those guys are awesome. I get this warm, fuzzy feeling when I see cops coming into Tim Horton’s to get their free coffee. I admire what they do, and am grateful to live in such a well-protected part of the world. It’s only on TV shows like Numb3rs and NCIS that you see cops doing sketchy things, and I usually don’t associate those stories with reality.

But yesterday, I came to the shocking conclusion that South Africans don’t get to feel the same way. Here’s the sequence of events that led me to this conclusion:
I was chatting to my homeless friend the other day, and he shared some horrific stories about being picked up by police, beaten up, and thrown back onto the street. From his perspective, it sounds like certain officers find pleasure in asserting their power. That is the last person I want to see ‘enforcing the law’ on the streets.

Then yesterday, I was at McDonald’s and saw a few police officers there eating breakfast together. As the familiar warm, fuzzy feelings began to appear, an ounce of doubt appeared in my mind. Are these the good ones? What if one of these guys participated in beating up my friend?

That’s sickening. It breaks my heart that the symbols of safety and honour that I grew up with aren’t actually honourable a lot of the time in most countries.

And I don’t want this to sound like I’m showing off how great my country is. I sincerely wish that everyone in the world could trust their police, their government, and their streets.
Zuma, this needs to be a priority. Corrupt police officers can’t be police officers anymore. They just can’t. If the ones in charge don’t know the difference between right and wrong, how is everyone else supposed to?