It’s been some time since I sent my last post because of intermittent internet connection where I’m staying in Orlando West which still hasn’t been sorted. Between returning to London from Palestine on 17 March and leaving for South Africa I had a very hectic 6 days, which included celebrating my 65th birthday on 20 March in London and Edinburgh with my children. I’m once again staying with my friend Mamatsi in Orlando West and have realised since arriving that it’s 15 years since I first visited. Because I’m here for a longer visit I now have a room to myself in her yard and have cooked for myself regularly. I’ve realised very quickly that being here longer than before changes the relationships with Mamatsi, her family and foster children with whom I now have a closer engagement, I feel like ‘one of the family.’ This extends to taking trips to the Zoo with Mamatsi, and her close family and going to the movies with the teenage foster children and Mamatsi
I’ve already emailed some of you about supporting Mamatsi on the first weekend I was here with one of her older ex-foster children who still with her in returning A, a 15 year old young woman to her home after she’d run away. We were assisted by the local Police. A’s account of her time away has been very concerning because she initially stayed with an ex-resident who procured her on behalf of a 28 year old man for sex. She said she was ‘sold’ to this man, however she doesn’t want to make a complaint to the Police. Mamatsi and I will make Statements so that Police have a record of what happened but it’s unlikely any action with either the ex-resident or man with whom A had been staying. I found it interesting that the issues for the adults and professionals involved were similar to those I’ve had in my UK based social work.
In Soweto I’ve tried to think about the issues that feel relevant for me now and how I want to use my time here. I’ve told people that I want to celebrate 20 years of South African democracy and will be here for the elections in May. I want to get a sense of how the situation has changed over this time for the family with whom I’m staying and people I meet. I’ve done some reading in preparing my thoughts, Peter Hain’s autobiography called ‘Outside in’ published in 2012 which has a very interesting account of his childhood in South Africa with parents who were very involved as anti-apartheid activists, emigration to London, leading the Stop the Seventy’s Tours from 1969 onwards then moving onto campaigning for a boycott against South African sport. I’m also reading ‘The Fall of the ANC What Next by Prince Mashele and Msukize Qobo published in 2014. I’ve found their analysis of the ANC since Nelson Mandela was released and the 1994 elections very interesting because it’s contemporary. They’ve included 2 chapters at the end of the book with predictions what might happen here with the Party which I’m not reading because I want to form my own views first.
I’m also thinking of a book I read when I was last here in September 2012 by Father Michael Lapsley about his career as a ‘turbulent priest’ in South Africa, being expelled for his activities then becoming a ‘terrorist,’ campaigning for the ANC in exile. In 1990 in Zimbabwe Father Lapsley was seriously injured by a letter bomb. After recovering from his injuries in post-apartheid South Africa he saw the whole nation needed healing. He found a new role, using his own experience of trauma to promote healing in others, first in South Africa, and now other countries. From his involvement in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission led by Bishop Tutu Father Lapsley brought together combatants from both sides in South Africa and in Northern Ireland, extending the work of the Commission in South Africa and elsewhere.
I’m heading out of Soweto next week for a week in Cape Town with Mamatsi, I thought we were celebrating her being 70 in June and my 65th birthday this year, it turns out she’s only 69 years old! When she returns here after a week I’m staying in Cape Town to meet a guide I’ve supported there and walking the last stretch of the Table Bay to Cape Point walk, exploring the city and surrounding areas. I leave there on 14 May to attend a Tourism Convention in Durban.
This is because I want to develop with the Hector Pietersen Foundation and veterans of the 16 June 1976 Soweto protest march a Trail from Morris Isaacson School where the march started to Orlando West, passing where Hector Pietersen and Hastings Ndlovu were shot. The concept is based on the ‘Robben Island’ model, with march veterans guiding visitors. If it works Morris Isaacson School, the Memorial acre next to it, guides, the Foundation and a hospitality team will provide tours which include having lunch. If it works the local tourism income will increase from extending the options for visitors here.
Time passes very quickly. Besides working on the Trails what I’d also like to do is work with one of the Children’s Homes in Orlando about staff supervision, using my Palestinian experience. I’ve got links with a Gauteng Charity called Childline and have been asked by the foster carers to support them in establishing a Forum to campaign on their behalf because the allowances they are paid are less than the costs of caring for the children whom they foster. Quite an Agenda, isn’t it? I’m going to post less frequently while my internet problem persists, hopefully more quality than quantity? While I’ve not posted I’ve learnt how to download photos, so I’ll start sending photos from Israel and Palestine then adding my first ones from here. In my next post I plan to describe my initial thoughts and feelings about being here.