Category Archives: The South African Series

How South Africa’s Xenophobic Attacks Have Revealed Ghanaians Own Superior Attitudes

In a chorus there are many voices, and indeed there are millions of people speaking up both for and against the attacks on foreigners living in South Africa. There are numerous South Africans, frustrated youth primarily, who believe that all foreigners who have come to “steal” their jobs should leave the country immediately. Then there are those who recognize that the problem doesn’t lie with a foreign influx, but rather with the lack of education and opportunities that plague a large swathe of South African youth. In general, these disadvantages render them less desirable candidates for open positions from potential employers and have also failed to provide them with incentives (or knowledge) to begin businesses of their own. Education reform has been abysmally lacking in South Africa, and this is the great shame of the ruling ANC who instead of elevating education standards, recently lowered the threshold for student passing grades in order to artificially churn out more “qualified” graduates. How many of us want to be operated on by a doctor who only got a 30% passing grade in med school?

Of course in this chorus are those whose voices have been cut short, whose last utterances on this Earth were screams of anguish after having been burned by fire or hacked to death. While the images are real, and they are horrific, they are sadly nothing new. When I visited the township of Qolweni in 2011, I was introduced to a Ghanaian who had opened up a small hairdressing business in the township because there was none. Customers flocked, money rolled in, and jealousy blossomed. He showed me the stab wounds inflicted from angry young men who accused him of “stealing their jobs”. They burned down his shop and tried to kill him. Twice. He survived to tell the tale.

Mandela visits Ghana During the Rawlings regime.

Mandela visits Ghana During the Rawlings regime.

And then there are the sympathizers who see the madness in this all. We click our tongues and go on Google scavenger hunts to dig up long forgotten ideas and manifestos from African leaders now long dead, who gave blood, support, ammunition and funds to help South Africans in their fight to end Apartheid. How easily and quickly they’ve forgotten how it was other Ghanaians, Zimbabweans, etc that they kill today that helped them yesterday! In that refrain lies a more sinister group who have asked a question I’ve seen pop up in social media again and again. It chills me to my core.

“How would they like it if we did that to them?”

What an idea. So now we are to condemn the violence of others by proposing violence in return? What a singularly stupid idea! I have only heard this proposal from other Ghanaians, so I cannot say definitively that a Kenyan or a Somali has not said/thought the same. Right now, I can only speak for Ghana and hope to point out our own hypocrisy and minimal understanding of the South African plight.

South Africans – as we all know – experienced colonialism in a way that was unique from the rest of Africa. The English never came to South Africa with the intention of setting up permanent residence…but the Boers did. In a time when they were also escaping their own ethnic cleansing and religious persecution in Europe, South Africa represented their version of the “promised land”. They convinced themselves that the land belonged to them. To wrestle the land from the natives meant they had to employ the sort of subjugation tactics that we north of the Limpopo have never had to grapple with or imagine. While we dealt with the scourge of slavery – and even actively participated and profited from the sale of our brothers and sisters – native South Africans were massacred where they proved inconvenient, enslaved on their own land for convenience, and genetically modified to create a new caste system to further divide. They have never fully healed from that psychological and physical abuse. Coupled with an abysmal education where they have not been taught to see themselves as partners in a Pan African vision, it only makes sense that they would see another African thriving on their land as a throwback to an invasion. I’m not condoning their actions in the least. I pity these misguided souls who carry out these disgusting attacks. They are confused and crazed. But their confusion and insanity doesn’t make a Ghanaian better…and this is a sentiment I’ve seen frequently all over social media.

“At least a foreigner can come to Ghana and feel safe.”

“Our murder and crime rates are WAY lower in Ghana than in South Africa.”

“We in the rest of Africa are just BETTER HUMAN BEINGS than they are in South Africa.”

(These are actual quotes I’ve seen in Twitter. I’m not linking the accounts because I don’t want these guys trolled.)

Let’s first address the foreigner in Ghana. Foreigners feel “safe” in Ghana because we values foreign life far above our own. This plays out in many ways in everyday life. A foreigner will be served at a restaurant or entertainment attraction before a Ghanaian will. When my friends and I went to Fanta’s Folly in the Western Region, for example, the porters saw us approach with our luggage and let us walk to the front desk unaided. We were all Black women. An hour later when the boyfriend of one in our group met us there with only a backpack, two men leapt from their seats to help the scrawny white American man with his 10 lbs bag. We were shocked, but we shouldn’t have been. Look around Osu today for evidence of the same obsequious behavior and you will find it.

A Ghanaian would never dare attack a foreigner in Ghana because he knows (or thinks) that they foreigner is the key to his economic well-being. The foreigner brings jobs and investment. Just this morning, a user left a comment on Joy Online stating that “Ghanaians are good, and that is why the World Bank has come to help us!”

How can we compare our murder/crime rates to South Africans when we don’t even have the mechanisms to track those rates? Look at rape, for example. We can’t even decide as a nation what actions “qualify” as rape, let alone track it. Add to that, our crimes are horribly underreported in our country. Some tried to challenge me on this on Twitter. I asked him to name to official database that houses our crime statistics. He could not. Instead he hit back with “you think every crime in South Africa gets reported? SMH.” Of course not. But at least they have a baseline for projection and estimates. With our penchant for Fa ma Nyame (give it to God) and accepting GHC100 in recompense after a girl has been sexually assaulted by a neighbor or uncle, we can’t say with all honesty that we are “better” or “less violent” than the South African population. Instead, we are more diligent about concealing our lawlessness and offenses.

How then does that make us better human beings than our South African brothers and sisters? We’re better because we do our deeds in the dark, whereas they do theirs in broad daylight for the world to see? There is a reason that just 2 years ago, Ghana was West Africa’s golden boy, whereas today we are a pariah to our development partners. It’s because we are frauds, and our façade has crumbled. We have deluded ourselves and continue to think we can fool the world. We are not better. We are just as corrupt as the South African. Just as violent as the South African. Just as mentally enslaved as the South African. The only difference is that our chains rattle to a different tune.

My husband and I made friends with a Boer man named Henne in Plett a few years back. We had a potluck dinner and he regaled us with all sorts of tales. One of the stories he told me both fascinated and saddened me. It was about a movie he had watched, whose title has long escaped me.

It was about the Boer British War in 1899, where both sides committed horrific atrocities against each other. The war ended with British gaining administrative control over the Trasvaal, while provided several concessions to the Afrikaners.

“I tell you, I cried when I watched that film,” Henne said. “Two see those men fighting like that…ach! But at the end of the film, the two sides looked at each other and promised that no white man would ever fight each other like that again…and they never have since.”


Think about that.

As Henne tells it, to this day, English South Africans and Boers really don’t ‘like each other’, but they have learned to get along for the benefit of their common ambitions: to succeed in SA. What are we doing, people? What are we doing to ourselves? We have to unite as Africans, and these supercilious attitudes and false assumptions about our individual/national superiority is not going to foster that. We will continue to be defeated if we don’t extend our hands in cooperation right now.


Shouts Out to Cameroonian Coffee. It Changed My Life

I was going to blog about the noises Black women hear when their mates speak, but a little bag of coffee got in my way.

As a Ghanaian, I didn’t grow up with coffee culture. As British subjects, the mark of sophistication was to start one’s day drinking tea, and so we have a tea culture. Do we grow tea in Ghana? No! We import it from India and China, but that’s not the point. Successful white colonialists drink tea, and therefore so do we. If we DO drink coffee, it comes in the form of that swill better known as instant Nescafe. If you are even a slight coffee connoisseur, it would not be a stretch to consider it a cup of some of the worst stuff you will ever choke down your throat.

As the Ghanaian palate expands and develops with travel, migration and interracial relationships, coffee is becoming a more integral part of our appetite. Food makes up a huge part of culture, and as our culture shifts to one that is more capitalist in its existence, the business of what to drink takes center stage. A guest of any importance who walks into an office will be greeted by the secretary with a series of questions which often include what said guest would like to drink.

“Would you like coffee, tea or water?” she/he may ask.

If the guest replies “coffee”, how cool would it be to follow up that request with “Ethiopian or Cameroonian coffee?”

Ahhh, but you see, the Ghanaian mentality would be to continue to import Nescafe because it is “French” or to get coffee from Colombia…because well, it’s Colombia. How many of us on the continent know that some of the best coffee in the world is grown right on African soil? I knew this in theory – because I consider myself a part time champion of made in Africa goods – but I didn’t have a chance to confirm it until today. And now that I have, I am SO mad at Chantal Biya, her husband, and the entire nation of Cameroon. African Unity is about sharing, and they have been keeping the good stuff from us for all these years!

In 2013, Marshall and I went on vacation to South Africa, and I wanted to buy myself a souvenir outside of the typical mask, painting or jewelry. While in Cape Town, we went to a wonderful restaurant called Moyo that also sells a myriad of items in the stalls that encompass its grounds which included CDs, some art and coffee. My coffee purchase was a last minute decision, as I only had a few Rand left in my pocket after a day spent shopping and eating. The merchant allowed me to smell some pre-ground beans from different parts of Africa, and the Cameroonian variety appealed to me the most. It was a sweet, earthy scent. It clung to my senses like a long lost cousin. Part of the coffee drinking experience is not just how it tastes, but the aroma as you sip from your mug as well. I gave the man my last R49 (about $5) and took my bag back to America where I vowed to only drink it on the “most special occasions”.

And for two years, it sat in the back of my freezer, completely forgotten. Why do we treat “special” things in this way? Like good dishes. Why do we only use our best dishes on special occasions? Isn’t every day you draw breath a special occasion? Anyway.

This morning, I found myself out of my usual brand of “American” coffee (which always comes ground). That’s when I remembered the small bag I had purchased from SA. I fished it out of the back of the freezer, assuming it was “ready to prepare”. I was so excited that I live tweeted the process of making myself a cup.

coffee1 coffee2 coffee3 coffee4 coffee6 coffee7 coffee8

It changed my life, you guys. I don’t think I can ever go back to regular, pre-ground coffee. Geographical limitations will not allow me to get coffee from Africa (and I refuse to give the exploitative Borg that is Starbucks $22 for a bag of Ethiopian, no matter how good their marketing is supposed to make me feel), so I will make do with what I can get a hold of. But for the rest of my people on the Continent: Please. Let us stop all this suffering, eh?

Let us commit to partake in the goodness that the land has yielded for us. Let’s share our resources with each other. Boko Haram is sharing war and plunder with Cameroon and may expand to the whole west African region…why should we expect evil to spread and not love, ESPECIALLY the love that sits at the bottom of a great cup of coffee? I have seen the light. We need a summit on intra-African trade. We need Moroccan argan oil to be on every beauticians shelf in Africa. We need Malian cotton to cover our African beds at night. We need Ethiopian spices to flavor our African dishes. We need to trade within Africa at a higher level, because this is some bull! I can’t believe I lived this long without ever tasting a cup of Cameroon coffee. Jesus be a commodities trader and importer!

Fix it, Lawd… fix this!


Guest Post from Field Ruwe: Independence: African Lazy Day

By Field Ruwe

I could go to prison just for the title; for dampening the spirit of commemoration, and yet I would gladly go. This is a title that befits the occasion. Google the world and see what I am talking about. We are at the very bottom of the totem pole stuck neck-deep in the primordial mud. We are too languid to use our intellect and figure out how to clamber out of the “dark continent.” The world is saying indolence is our virtue. It has turned us into bloodsuckers. The world is right.

“Yes it is,” quipped a cynic Dole.

I bumped into John Dole at the American independence celebrations at the Esplanade by the Charles River in Boston. I spotted him out of the crowd because of the T-shirt he wore. It bore the map of Zambia with words “Northern Rhodesia Worldwide” running across. He was a six-footer Caucasian with an indelible African sun tan, more like Ian Douglas Smith.

“This looks familiar,” I said, as I approached him.

“Yeah, this is Zambia as I would like to remember it,” he said. “Are you from there?”

“Yes,” I gladly replied.

“I don’t think much of Zambians, I can tell you that,” he said rather discourteously. “That’s why I proudly wear this T-shirt. It is the difference between black and white, you and me.”

“Have you been to Zambia lately?” I calmly asked.

“I just came back,” he replied. “It was a heartbreaking pilgrimage. For years I had wanted to return to my birth place, Chingola. I grew up in Twin Rivers next to Kabundi East. Do you know where that is?”

“Of course,” I replied. “I lived there.”

He continued: “I worked as a Safety Engineer in the mines. Together with other basungus, with the help of blacks, of course, we dug the Nchanga open pit in the 1950s. We toiled day and night like ants and created the second largest open cast mine in the world. We also built what became known as the cleanest town in the country. I mean it was clean, even the black compounds were well kempt with lawns and hedges well maintained and manicured.”

I knew where he was heading, I could tell from the sudden tense hush. When he lowered his voice I readied myself for the assault.

“It makes me upset to talk about Zambia,” he said. “I lived in Zambia up to 1970. When I felt unwanted I went to Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and eventually ended up here. For years I yearned to return to my childhood, to Nchanga Mine Hospital where I was born. Friends who had been there warned me, but in January this year I went anyway. When I got there I openly wept, right in the middle of the town center. The town in which I was born was a heap of rubble. You guys have destroyed all our work—buildings, roads, everything white is deplorable—Chingola Primary School, the Vestra Cinema, Tennis Club, Nchanga Swimming Pool, Racquets Club, the cricket fields, rugby, everything. You’ve added nothing new of significance.”

As he spoke, my mind gazed out beyond Boston, across the Atlantic, to my country. I saw not only Chingola, but Chililabombwe, Kitwe, Mufulira, Ndola, Kabwe, Lusaka, Livingstone…I saw them, dilapidated structures; I saw broken windows, stained bathtubs and toilets—I saw broken souls; hungry, diseased—I saw people used to poverty because “that’s what God meant it to be”—I saw graves; I saw my beloved Zambia. With teary eyes I looked at Dole and allowed him to hit me with the words—to whip me; to flog me as hard as he could.

“Nchanga mine is a catastrophe,” he said in a raised voice. “You’ve turned it into a pyramid and allowed treasure thieves to loot and ransack you. What’s going on there is daylight mine-robbing. What is wrong with you people? What planet are you from? Are you all so damn you can’t see ticks are sucking your lifeblood?” He paused and for a second held his breath. “What the heck, it’s a waste of time talking to you. I mean all of you Zambians. Anyway, I had planned to spend a week in Chingola, but I decided to leave that very day. I tell you, another day I would have been arrested for assault because I was as mad as hell.”

He continued: “There was one Zambian who really pissed me off. He gave me the usual bull about white civilization taking hundreds of years. I told him to shut his dirty mouth and keep dozing under the mango tree. You all must do that, keep eating those rotten mangos on the ground and get the diarrhea you deserve.”

He shook his head. “My God you guys are lazy. If we, white people had remained in Chingola, we would have pumped some of the profits from copper into modern infrastructure and build some skyscrapers. Roads would be excellent and Chingola would be adorable. That’s the difference between black and white. Give both of us the Sahara, I’ll turn it into a paradise and you’ll die like a rat.”

He looked me in the eye. “Let me tell you something, as I boarded the plane back home the following day, I felt proud to be white. When I got here, I had this T-shirt made, and I wear it without shame.”

Suddenly fireworks rang in my ears. The sky lit up to the brilliant marriage of thunder and music by the Boston Pops Orchestra. John watched with gratification. He wanted me to see him celebrate the achievements of his race. I, on the other hand was battered; deflated. What I had thought would be a night of fun, turned out to be a disaster. I was trying very hard to bear humiliation without losing heart, but couldn’t, the celebration was overwhelming. The colors in the sky—aquas, lemons, chartreuse, orange, pink were captivating. They left me with failure as my undertaker. When the last cracker went off there was an afterglow of satisfaction in John’s eyes and those of many.

“That’s how you celebrate independence,” he said, beaming. “The people here are not only remembering their founding fathers, but are proud of their sacrifices and achievements. They are proud they have not let their ancestors down.”

I had about enough. I extended my hand to say bye because it was futile to be in Dole’s company—too painful. I did not have any defense mechanism. There was nothing to cling on to—not a state-of-the art hospital; not a research or technical university; not a car, bus, tractor, plough, television set, computer; not even a razor; none of my inventiveness.

“It was a pleasure meeting you,” I said.

As I walked away, I was thinking John Dole was lucky I was not King Cobra. He would have spat in his face: “You bulali (bloody) fool, you empty my pockets then you start saying fyo, fyo, fyo. How do you expect me to build with no money, eh? You imperialist, get out. Leave us alone to remember how we defeated you white people on October 24, 1964.”

Yes, it is on October 24 that freedom was attained, and laziness came naturally. No martyrs of sacrifice showed up; no daredevils or geniuses that could illuminate our country like Thomas Edison, and reveal its endless talent. Like poison ivy laziness warped our minds and condemned us to third-rate life. Yes, we sat under the Mango tree and let aliens pick our best fruit.

For all I care we might as well call October 24 the “National Lazy Day,” a day we take a rest from being lazy. What I am saying is that we do not deserve the Golden Jubilee; we have not earned it. Without achievement the world sees our Golden Jubilee as hailing laziness. On October 24, 2014, we shall be celebrating fifty years of free of responsibility and void of creativity. In other words, we shall be reveling irresponsibility and laziness.

Admittedly, freedom was hard work, but it is our accomplishments over time that we should be celebrating. The efforts of Kaunda, Nkumbula, Kapwepwe, and other freedom fighters should climax with contemporary achievements. That is what independence is all about. It is not only self-governance, but also self-sufficiency, and self-reliance.

To all energetic, gifted, intelligent, learned youthful Zambians reading this article, please hear me. Zambia with its abundant natural resources; with all its minerals, flowing rivers, fertile soil, and tourism potential has just been declared the poorest nation on earth with 86% of the population in poverty. If this does not hurt then there is something wrong with you.

Wherever you are, whatever you have achieved, whatever your ideology, pause for a moment and think about how you can salvage our country from shame. Start by taking this beautiful country away from old politicians. For fifty years they have suffered from chronic and contagious laziness and have been riding on other people’s backs like parasites. They are not in it for you, but for themselves. Many are thieves. Please take this country away from them and lead us on a Third World-to-first path.

I know I am flogging a dead horse, but it is worth trying. A few more strokes might just trigger a pulse at this very critical moment in our existence. Remember, it is in the next fifty years that you shall become extinct if you don’t get up and do something about it. Remove the wax in your ears and listen to your heart. Tap into your innate intelligence, the ingenuity that we all possess, and create an over-arching strategy that will save your relatives from dying of hunger and disease.

Reach out to your friends and peers in the country and form one body and one heart. Create a mosaic of talents and dare mighty things so you can taste and celebrate triumph every October 24. By doing so, you will be giving the color of your skin some glitter and respect.

You should have seen the sparkle in the eyes of the Americans as they the sung “God Bless America,” as a symbolic conclusion to their independence celebrations. They deserve it. It is in creative toiling that they have found the joy of achievement. Why not us? What have we done wrong? Why can’t we endure and enjoy hard work? God why? I can’t write any further, I just can’t…I can’t…


Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner, historian, author, and a doctoral candidate. Learn more about him on his website On it you shall access his autobiography, articles, and books. Contact him, blog, or join in the debate. ©Ruwe2012.


Open Letter to Nelson Mandela

*Disclaimer: One of the possible side effects of meningitis is temporary insanity. And yes, I am aware that Nelson Mandela cannot read this letter on the Internet. Unless… Wait! Is there Internet in the afterlife? I certainly hope so. Wouldn’t it be nice to have Hulu in Heaven?


Dear Nelson Mandela,

Molo! I trust the ancestors and the Lord of Hosts have greeted you all properly by now? Good, good. I remember when I heard the news of your passing, and how I felt. It was light off in Adenta, so I didn’t get the full pundit/commentary/analysis of your passing from TV news. All I got was a crude Facebook announcement that “Madiba has died!” What was that? I must confess, I was relieved when I heard the news. You had been sick a long time, and I don’t like it when people suffer for prolonged periods of time. After all, what else was there for you to do on this earth, after all the years of hard work? I hope it was peaceful and that you are resting comfortably on a cloud near you.

Do you remember earlier this year – just before your birthday – when the world was “praying for Madiba”? We were all encouraged to submit supplications to the Most High for your prolonged life. Your 95th birthday came and went and within a week there were no more “pray for Madiba” hashtags on Twitter. You should have seen how they spoiled your name.




Ah! I wanted to scream. What’s all this? Just say #NelsonMandela and be free!

I must apologize to you, Nelson. I have never written to you before, and I know that that is a great shame. A girl my age should have written to at least one of the heroes of her life time at least once, but I never have. I suppose I still have time to pen a greeting to Mugabe in the coming days. I swear that man will never die. And you know what else is strange? The older he gets, the less villainous he appears in my eyes! Imagine that. Robert Mugabe may have been right all along. Considering Bill O’Reilly’s recent tirade on Fox News proclaiming that YOU, Nelson were “A great man…but [he] was a Communist!”, and that American democracy was no real friend to Black Africa for centuries, I understand old Bob a bit better.

danny gloverIs it true what they say, Nelson? (You don’t mind if I call you by your first name, do you? You see, I never knew you as ‘Madiba’ until that movie Invictus came out. And prior to that, I thought you and Danny Glover were the same person.) Is it true that God downloads your transformed spirit with all the mysteries of the universe, unlocks them and instantly releases full wisdom and understanding? If so, there is something I’d like you to do for me, although I know you probably won’t.

Shogun_(TV)There was once a TV miniseries called Shogun that was released while you were still imprisoned. You would not have seen it. Anyway, in one of the opening scenes, the European explorers step off of their vessel and were met by the Japanese army. They were ordered to lay on the ground prostrate before the general. They complied. The Japanese general steps over to the captain of the ship, hovers above him, and promptly proceeds to piss on his head, much to the captain’s ire and dismay. Mr. Mandela, would you kindly ask God for a hall pass into Hell and piss on Hendrick Verwoerd’s head, Shogun style?

I know it’s a long shot, but I thought I’d ask anyway. You’re so down with forgiveness and reconciliation and all. No? Fine then.

Ei. Did you see the antics surrounding your funeral? My word. Over all, it was well organized and nicely done. There was an incident involving Mr. Obama and a cell phone camera that didn’t go over too well. That was contrived controversy, as it turns out. What was NOT contrived was that dolt they had standing behind 80% of the world’s leaders doing fake sign language. Eruade Yesu! I know you saw it. He said he was suffering from schizophrenia, and that’s what made his hands go crazy. I would have rather he told a better lie and said he was signing in Xhosa.

The real reason I’m writing to you is because I’m very upset about one thing in particular, now that you’ve passed. And that thing is the pervasive perception of your personhood. They are doing it again, Nelson, and it is vexing me. They are turning you into a Messiah.

They did the same thing to MLK, you know? Bundled the entire Civil Rights era into one man and buried it with him. It’s become all very mechanized now, this Black Messiah Manufacturing process. That way, they can neatly bring up the struggle on an appropriate/convenient day for celebration. Second Monday in January usually works well for the American government. Civil Rights gets a bank holiday and we are all supposed to eat our government rationed cheese and chicken. Now they are doing the same thing with the apartheid struggle. Western media has dubbed you “The Father of Freedom” or some such nonsense, and now they want to bury the struggle and all the impending issues with your body on a grassy hill in the Eastern Cape. Not so, I say!

Have you ever considered how liberation movements are treated in the West? The French Revolution, as was the American Revolution, was borne of the people.  There is no one individual that has been afforded the crown of singlehandedly bringing about the end of tyrannical bourgeois or colonial rule. It was an effort carried out by the masses, and we have all grown up understanding that. THAT idea unites the masses, and births the belief that change is affected as a collective. But with BLACK liberation and struggle, they want us to believe that we must have ONE leader, ONE head… and when those heroes emerge, our entire struggle must be bound up in their personhood. What happens then when they die?

Yeah. I know. You guessed it.

You as well as I know that YOU alone did not end apartheid in South Africa, but that is what they are selling us. The struggle against White minority rule began as far back as the Anglo-Zulu war. It has been a continuous fight, and you were a cog in the wheel of that machine, not the machine itself. This is what they are doing, Nelson! They have turned you into a tank!

Hei! Now come and see. They are now having stupid debates about “Who was Africa’s greatest liberator: Kwame Nkrumah or Nelson Mandela?” What kind of divisive nonsense is that? As I understand, President Nkrumah wasn’t too keen on the ANC. He considered your organization too “bourgeois”. They say he was more in league with the Pan African Congress , because PAC supported armed resistance. In short, he said you talked too much, your clothes were too nice and you were ineffective.  However I’m certain he changed his tune when you were caught returning into the country carrying weapons of mass destruction in the late 60’s. Perhaps he’d died by then, so maybe not. I’m a little fuzzy on the dates.

I’ve said a lot, and I still have so much more to say. However, my husband has accused me of being pedantic at times, so I don’t want to overburden you with my plenty thoughts. In closing, my hope is that the media will do better honor to you memory by encouraging us to read about and remember the masses who were involved in the liberation movement in South Africa:

The 67 children shot in Sharpesville.

Ahmed Kathrada.

Miriam Makeba.

Walter Sisulu.

Steve Biko.

Oliver Tambo.

Even your own once beloved Winnie.

Don’t let them turn the struggle against injustice into the life of one man, Nelson! I beg, tell God for me.


With respect,


“I Spy” on the Garden Route

There are many beautiful places on the earth, but I am convinced that South Africa is the Queen of them all. Considering that I am neither God Almighty nor Dora the Explorer and that I neither created the world nor certainly have not traversed the face of it, I realize that this is certainly a bold statement. However, I have watched countless hours of Nature on PBS as well as The Discovery channel and am completely persuaded that my view is absolutely correct.

I have only visited The Garden Route in South Africa, but the natives tell me that the rest of the country is no less stunning. The Garden Route stretches from Heidelberg in the Western Cape to the Storms River. I’ve written about the drive along the N2, the national highway that takes you along The Garden Route. We took the N2 to Cape Town where we spent 3 nights in the city. The last time we went, the fields were blanketed with a yellow plant that we were told was canola, but it is very similar to the rapeseed we saw in Germany during our 11 hour layover, so I don’t know who to believe. In any event, they were not in bloom on this trip; which was probably just as well. It gave me a chance to pay attention to things I missed during our last trip.

It’s hard to focus on one thing when you have so much beauty assaulting you in the face. Watching the gorgeous Garden Route landscape whiz by while trying to take it all in at the same time was like running face forward into a hail storm. My mind and my eyes were in pain, trying to decide what to pay attention to first.

cloudsRegal mountains lay to north of the shore like an army of ancient giants that laid down for a rest in a time before men and beasts roamed the Earth and refused to awaken from their slumber. Their peaks kissed billowy clouds that hovered over them, and they in return caressed the mountaintops with delicate touches as an attentive lover might do.

sheepFattened, wooly sheep grazed contentedly on an abundance of verdant grass, now dewy with recently fallen rain. Every once in a while, an egret might invite himself for a drink from their watering pans. Never once did I see them bother to drive him away.

Even the desolation is beautiful. Felled trees and scorched earth dotted areas of the terrain where someone may have set a bushfire or cut down too much wood for kindling; but shrouded in a gossamer mist, the lifeless patch of earth looked like a haunting painting that took your breath away.

By chance you might see – as I did that day – a traditional Xhosa man wrapped in a black, red and white blanket sitting comfortably by the side of the road, watching traffic go by. Perhaps he had just gotten off work for a lunch break. Perhaps he had no job at all and was merely wandering about the country. Only he and the road know.

As they were in years past and will be in years to come, the vineyards at this time of year were plucked bare, yielding fruit for unique wine of the most acidic quality.

sunsetFinally, hours later, you arrive in Cape Town via Stellenbosch and all that rural magnificence gives way to urban sprawl. Try as they might, the buildings will never topple the heights of the mountains on which they rest, and the fro-hawked city chick with a pea coat and pierced nose is not quite as interesting as the rural wanderer. Regardless, the city is impressive in its own right, for I have never seen a sunset more beautiful than one that settles over the ocean horizon of Cape Town.


Table Mountain In Very Simple Terms

Greetings, members of the MOM Squad and other Random Readers dropping by. You’ll have to forgive me this morning. This post will not be completed with any elaborate eloquence. My body is wracked by pain, but it is my duty to report the events as they unfolded as I made a fatuous attempt to climb Table Mountain yesterday – and drug my poor husband along as I did it. In fact, I’m going to write this post as if I’m talking to my sister. In fact, feel free to stop reading now. It’s going to be ugly.

table mth 

Chaaaley. A-Dub. Why? Who sent me to go there? Eh? Why?!?!

First, let me say that Table Mountain is not the type of place you go in order to get fit. You only venture there if you already are fit. I can admit that now.

When we came to Cape Town last time, at least a handful of people asked if we had ‘done’ Table Mountain. I told them no. I’ve climbed several mountains as you know, and come out tired, sure… so why shouldn’t I climb Table Mountain as well?


We made some simple inquiries and some guy told Marshall and me that it was like climbing stairs.

“It should only take an hour and a half,” he said. “It’s like climbing a bunch of stairs.”

Oh fine! I can walk for 90 minutes; no problem.

Then when we arrived in Cape Town, the inn keeper at our B&B said that that was not exactly true. It would take more like two hours. Still; no problem!


And then we arrived at this foolish mountain. We had to park 20 minutes from the base of the trail. They told us to look for a brown shack.  The trail begins then. I had romanticized images of our ascent. The mountain looked very green from a distance, and I fabricated images of a wide, green valley leading to the summit. Perhaps I might frolic in wild flowers along the way. Feeling very confident about our impending ascension, we finally reached the bottom of the mountain. That’s when I heard it speak to me. I spoke back in defiance.

lions headHeh. Black Woman. What are you doing here?

What do you mean?! I am Malaka Gyekye and I have to climb you!

Have you seen any other Black Women here?

Mtseewww. Nonsense. Am I every Black Woman? I say I am Malaka Gyekye and I have to climb you!

I’ll punish you ooo.

Shut up! I say, shut up over there! The Bible says if I say to the mountain “be thou removed” I can move it! Do you want me to send you to Singapore?

Then the mountain was silent. I took that as an indication that it acknowledged my superiority.

Up we went, into the mouth and bowels of Table Mountain. It looked as though we were going into a rocky version of Hell.

Forty minutes later, when we had climbed 300m (about 984 feet) we came to a sign that said we had two choices: either go down the ravine to the lower cable card of go up to some guy’s gorge.

“Malaka. This is no longer pleasant,” Marshall breathed.

I know what he meant. He wanted to quit. He wanted to go back like that American woman who admitted she couldn’t finish the climb and had to go back down. I was not having it.

“You can go back if you want to, but I’m getting to the top!”

“But the sign says not to split up.”

“You have the cell phone. You back without me. I’ll be fine.”

Now of course my husband wasn’t leaving his wife to climb some treacherous mountain all alone without a cell phone. How would that look? He took a seat, cleared his head and said he would continue on with me.

I was eager to get a move on, because 3 other couples had passed us by as we were debating our next move.

The sun was very bright, and it reflected off the white and grey rocks. Fortunately I was wearing sunglasses, which I seldom do. Also, and perhaps more fortunately, I had a bottle of water. We were encouraged to take one by the parking attendant. I will be forever in his debt. I was absolutely planning on making this climb with no water. (Remember this part A-Dub. It’s important. Marshall and I had ONE 12 oz bottle of water to share between us.)

There is nothing to report about the beauty of Table Mountain. I couldn’t see it. I saw razor sharp rocks and my impending doom if I took one misstep. Unlike our national parks in the States, there were no guardrails to protect you as you made your climb… only barbed wire fences that stood as a barrier between you and the ravine below.

We climbed and climbed, A-Dub. And when we thought it could get no worse, it only got worse still. To keep my spirits up, I sung spiritual songs and hymnals in my head.

Jesus! Be a fence, all around me e-ver-y day!!

When that didn’t work, I muttered curses under my breath.

This is some f*ckin’ bullsh*t.

In time, we made it to the middle of the mountain… or so we thought. We were informed by an elderly White man making his way down that the middle was still 2 hours way.

“Are you okay?” Marshall asked him with concern.

“Oh, I’m fine,” he replied nonchalantly. “You see when you get old, you skin gets very soft. I cut myself on a branch and these are the results.”

What were these two talking about? I looked in the direction of my husband’s gaze and saw the reason for his concern. The old man’s arm was gushing blood. Dear God!

He left us with some parting words of wisdom: rest when you need to and drink water. I looked at our bottle of water, which was now more than half empty. Two hours in and we had not even cracked half the mountain…

Eventually we go to this enormous rock where there were notes left by climbers of yore.

Just keep walking, one exhorted!

rock encourage


By this time, there was no choice. We had to go up. If we chose to go back down, it would have been a disgrace. Marshall later revealed that his pride would not let him go back. Good man. Good, foolish man, following his foolish wife.

What more is there to be said about terror, barbed wires, slippery slopes, spritely blond men and their brunette girlfriends running past you as you make a tortoise pace up to the apex and the theme song from Lord of the Rings and Gollum’s demented cackle playing in your head? Not much. You get the hint by now, I’m sure.

Let me tell you now about hope.

Eventually I had to leave Marshall behind. He was stopping every few feet and frustrating me in the process.

“The longer we stop, the longer it’s going to take us to get to the top!”

“Then you go.”

So I did. I got to the top a full 30 minutes before he did. But before I got there, I was serenaded by the softest, most beautiful music. I was going mad, I thought. Turns out I wasn’t. There was a Xhosa man sitting on a ledge playing a homemade xylophone. He told me the traditional name for it, but of course I’ve forgotten it. I had only had room for two ambitions at that moment: getting to the top and finding more water.  Neither seemed like they were going to be my reality any time soon.

“Eiii. Sistah! Don’t give up,” he said, trying to encourage me. “It’s only 20 more minutes to the top!”

(But because he was Xhosa, he said “*click*wenty”, not “twenty”. God’s honest truth.)

“Really? 20 more minutes?”

I was desperate and so tired. And I needed to pee ever so badly.

“Yesss sisi. At this pace, *click*wenty more minutes.”

“And if I was going faster?”

“Ten,” he said with a genuine laugh.

That gave me all the power I needed. I thanked him and told him my husband was some ways behind me.

“When he comes up, please tell him it’s only a few more minutes to the top!”

He promised he would, and went back to playing his xylophone. That’s when this South African and English couple behind me over took me and stopped to take pictures. As I took the opportunity to rest while they commandeered the path way I looked over the ledge for my poor spouse. I didn’t see him anywhere. I didn’t hear the couple speak to me over the sound of pounding blood in my ears and my worried thoughts. Maybe I never should have left him…

“Will you snap a photo for us?”

“Huh? Oh! Yes! Of course!”

I took a picture of this happy, fit 20-something couple with their tight bodies and grinning faces. We chatted for a bit and then they said they had to dash. They were in a ‘race’ with another couple.


“Would you like me to fill your water bottle?” asked the girl with manic blue eyes and a grin to match. “You look a little low.”

“What? Oh no… I couldn’t. I can’t take your water.”

“We have two bottles,” the man assured me. “And they’re both full.”

Look closely on my cheek.

Look closely on my cheek.

I passed them my bottle without another word. You see, by this time I was so dehydrated I was sweating salt. There were actual, literal, granules of SALT coming out of my pores.

I talked to a few more people as I waited for Marshall to show. A gay guy with hipster glasses and perfectly coiffed hair and a married couple from Phoenix who sympathized with Frodo’s trek to Mordor as I did.

“Shoooot. Cast ME and the Ring into the fire,” I snorted.

They laughed and wished me luck. Marshall still had not made it. It was getting cold in that part of the mountain so I needed to move. Finally the end was near. The mountain split at the summit like a giant labial fold, and I emerged dripping wet like a newborn calf. For you see, in its final act of degradation, the mountain dehumanized me by drip-pissing on my head as I struggled up the final 80* incline.

It was now 1:14pm. At 2:05, Marshall appeared. I was elated.

“I saved some water for you babe!”

“Thank you,” he heaved, chugging it down. “Let’s go find some more.”

And so we did. In a bathroom. I drank BATHROOM water. And when I finally did take that piss, it was the color of week old Guinness. Though they rhyme, the two should not look alike.

And that’s it. I climbed Table Mountain, and I sweated salt. I will never do  either again.

The Pursuit of Chocolate is the Pursuit of Happiness

Whenever I feel down, I medicate myself with food. And whenever I feel especially down, chocolate serves as my one true panacea. The range of emotions I’ve felt in my first few days in the country – which included elation, disappointment and despair, all finally culminating in a certain ambivalence – have forced me to seek out culinary and confectionery healing.  Now that I have absolved myself from any duty towards solving any problems, no matter how miniscule, I am finally free to enjoy my vacation and that means eating, and eating in abundance.

There is no better place to feed oneself than in this corner of South Africa.

The portion we stay in is part of the garden route, and that means an abundance of wine, cheese, meats of all kind, fresh vegetables and chocolate of all designs on your plate within mere hours of production. As anyone who has lived close to their food source will tell you, there is absolutely no replacement for fresh fare. It makes eating a delightsome event, rather than an obligatory one.

I personally began my quest for an oral orgasm at Sedgefield Market earlier this week and have not stopped since. My first indulgence was a traditional farm breakfast, which included a rasher of bacon, a side of sausage, scrambled eggs, cherry tomatoes, and nutty toast. I then moved on to freshly squeezed lemonade and samosas prepared right in front of me. Once I had satisfied my savory senses, I moved on to the sweets.

cheesecakeStall after stall, sat all manner of brownies (as big as your head!), fudge of the dark chocolate and caramel varieties, pies, pies, and yet more pies, and cheesecake, each begging to be ravenously devoured. Oh the things I did to that cheese cake. That four inch deep, 3 inch in diameter, topped with strawberry shmear cheesecake…

Of course all this eating has wreaked havoc on my waistline; but I couldn’t care less. I could help my cause by drinking water, but that has proven difficult seeing as there is so much rooibos tea to imbibe. And not that imitation crap we get at Publix either! You can taste the earth in this tea. It’s warm, hearty and filling.

This might look better in Instagram sepia, but trust me, the was the TRUTH.

This might look better in Instagram sepia, but trust me, the was the TRUTH.

Did I mention the ostrich, by any chance? Not only do they make excellent belts and purses, but it turns out ostrich makes a delectable fillet as well. I had mine with some sort of squash pie, chips and cabbage. Everything comes with chips in South Africa. That’s the Dutch influence I suppose.

The face of a woman who's eaten way too much

The face of a woman who’s eaten way too much

Speaking of influence: one of the most positive things to come out of the Indian Ocean and Dutch slave trade (when they brought a few million Asians and Indians to South Africa as slaves and conscripted soldiers) has been the cross-cultural influence on food. You’ll find some of the most authentic Thai food you could ever stuff in your face in this part of Africa, peppers and all. Last night, we ate tapas at a Greek restaurant in Cape Town, and Mexico (strangely) has a pretty substantial influence here as well.

But even better than the eating is the shopping.

South Africa has quickly emerged as one of the finest and most luxe fashion centers in the world. I have the personal belief that there are as many fashion magazines and editorials as there are citizens. One pleasure that I indulged in, and that Marshall financed, was a genuine red ostrich leather handbag. I can’t show it to you yet, because it’s being specially made direct from the factory and will be ready for pick-up this Friday. They’ve even promised to personalize it with the letter ‘M’ somewhere on the bag. *Insert high-pitched, girly squeal here.*

The factory, called Der Lederhandler, was an accidental find. We happened upon it on our way to Oudsthoorn, which exists as both ostrich and ‘Klan’ country. Apparently, it’s one of the oldest and most historically racist cities in the nation. Like George Wallace was an icon in these parts. We didn’t see any racists though. I guess they had shut up shop for Sunday.

Anyway, I met three wonderful colored women at Der Lederhandler: Jocelyn, Ophelia and Anne-Marie who made absolutely sure that I did not walk out of that factory empty handed. In addition to my special order purse, I got some brown leather sandals that fit my foot like… a glove? Do we wear gloves on feet? Whatever the case, my foot slid right in. I felt like Cinderella with size 10 boats.

IMG_3174Later today we are going to attempt to ascend Table Mountain (which is a lot taller and bigger than I remember from last time; But then again I wasn’t considering a climb, was I?) and then taking a tour to Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned for 20 years. Did you know that he spent an additional six years at Pollsmoor Prison after being transferred from Robben Island? Apparently, he and other senior ANC leaders were having too much influence over younger activists who were being ferried into the prison camp. What a crime…

Okay MOM Squad! This post is coming to you early so that you can begin your prayers. Pray that neither the mountain nor the Robben Island tour breaks me. And pray that if either of them do, that I would make it safely to one of the three chocolatiers I saw on Kloof Nek Road last night…