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Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category

The Jabu Stone Theatre of Hair explains: How to start your dreadlocks (Video)

Turning Passion into ProfitThe name Jabu Stone is synonymous with hair care, especially dreadlocks, and his love of natural hair combined with his entrepreneurial spirit were the driving force behind one of the most successful brands in South Africa.

The man himself has recently released a handbook for entrepreneurs called Turning Passion into Profit – a must read for people interested in biographies, entrepreneurs, mentors and people in the hair care industry.

Stone has also started a YouTube channel, which contains vital information for those wanted to know how to care for their natural hair.

The first video is titled: “How To Start Your Locks”. Take a look:

1. Go to a stylist or skilled friend.

2. Your hair must be natural or unrelaxed with 5-6cm of length.

3. If you go to an experience stylist, they will be able to lock your relaxed hair from the new growth just before the relaxed section using Jabu Stone’s Invisi Wax.

4. Sectioning is exceptionally important as it determines your entire look.

Watch the video for more information:

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A handbook for entrepreneurs: Turning Passion into Profit by Jabu Stone

Turning Passion into ProfitKmm Review Publishing is proud to present Turning Passion into Profit by Jabu Stone:

To many South Africans, the name Jabu Stone is synonymous with hair care, especially dreadlocks, which has earned him the nickname “Mr Dreads”. His love of natural hair (and his quest for an alternative to the harsh chemicals women were using on their hair) and his entrepreneurial spirit drove him to create the brand that carries his name – one of the most enduring and successful brands in South Africa.

Turning Passion Profit chronicles the journey of a resourceful businessperson,from his formative years to his identifying the gap in the market and pursuing his vision, even when others could not make sense of it. For over 20 years he has been an example to those embarking on their own business ventures as well as those who have been in business for a while.

Not having a mentor when he was starting out led Stone to understand and appreciate the value of mentorship and its role in success. Passing on what he learned by trial and error over the years, and sharing this has become important to him – and this book is the perfect vehicle for this. Along with three partners he also created The RIOT (Rise, Innovate, Occupy, Transact) hands-on mentorship programme.

As a handbook for entrepreneurs, this book shows that no dream is too big and that living your dream is possible.

This book is highly recommended for readers interested in biographies, entrepreneurs, mentors and people in the hair care industry.

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‘She listened until the screams from her husband disappeared’ – Jestina Mukoko recalls the Matabeleland massacres

The Abduction and Trial of Jestina MukokoFormer broadcast journalist and human rights activist Jestina Mukoko was interviewed by The Freedom Collection about Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.

In 2008, Mukoko was abducted and tortured because of her work with the Zimbabwe Peace Project.

Her book, The Abduction and Trial of Jestina Mukoko: The Fight for Human Rights in Zimbabwe, is a gripping and chilling account of Zimbabwe’s history.

Mugabe came to power in 1980, when Mukoko was entering high school. She says she remembers Mugabe as a charismatic leader.

“In those early years he was really everyone’s hero. We had just come from a protracted liberation struggle, and he came out as a hero of that struggle. In those early years we were basking in the euphoria of getting out independence.

“For me it took a bit of a while to really see the man that he was.”

Mukoko recalls talking to the women whose husbands had been killed in the the massacres of Matabeleland in the 1980s, when an estimated 20 000 people are thought to have died. She says it was the stories she heard from these people that really affected her.

“Some of these women had experienced their husbands being buried alive. I remember one woman saying to me she listened until the screams from her husband disappeared.”

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Revealed in Jestina Mukoko’s new book: Zanu PF minister tried to rescue her after abduction

The Abduction and Trial of Jestina MukokoThe Abduction and Trial of Jestina Mukoko: The Fight for Human Rights in Zimbabwe tells the story of how a former broadcast journalist and human rights activist was abducted by the government and put on trial in a wave of massive human rights abuses in Zimbabwe’s history.

Mugove Tafirenyika recently wrote an article for the Daily News about a particularly interesting fact revealed in Mukoko’s book – the Zanu PF Women’s League leader at the time, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, had tried to assist her family in finding her.

In a poignant paragraph, Mukoko describes how the Environment Minister hugged her like a long-lost daughter, when at long last she was released from captivity.

Read the article:

My lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa was convinced that if Muchinguri-Kashiri had not been a member of Zanu PF, she would have taken to the streets to protest my disappearance.”

“When I did finally meet Muchinguri-Kashiri, she hugged me like a long-lost daughter. Three years later she told me she had not known what work I was doing and had put her head on a block, despite the fact that it made her unpopular, simply because I was a woman in trouble,” Mukoko wrote.

Related stories:


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Read a chilling excerpt from The Abduction and Trial of Jestina Mukoko: The Fight for Human Rights in Zimbabwe

The Abduction and Trial of Jestina MukokoKMM Review Publishing has shared an excerpt from the newly released book The Abduction and Trial of Jestina Mukoko: The Fight for Human Rights in Zimbabwe by Jestina Mukoko.

Mukoko is a former broadcast journalist and human rights activist who was abducted and tortured because of her work with the Zimbabwe Peace Project.

While she was imprisoned, Mukoko’s family were desperate to find her, visiting government offices for assistance and getting none, searching hospitals and morgues and feeling hope and despair whenever the body of a woman was found – even visiting the much-feared Goromonzi prison.

Mukoko’s recollections provide a gripping and chilling account of one of the most turbulent and repressive periods marred by a wave of massive human rights abuses in Zimbabwe’s history.

Mukoko has received many local and international accolades for her work as an activist, among them the United States Secretary of State Women of Courage Award. She is based in Harare, and is currently the National Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project.

Jestina Mukoko receiving the United States Secretary of State Women of Courage Award from Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama

Read an excerpt:

* * * * *

I had heard a number of people come in and dreaded the turning of the key, which meant continuing where my interrogators had left off the previous night. I heard voices and realised that the boss was there.

I could hear my heart thudding away at such a pace that it threatened to break out of the covering of my chest, which was heaving and out of control. My brow collected strings of sweat and I was uncomfortable in my own skin. The room had suddenly become very hot. December is the height of summer and the small window was closed. I was not called immediately and the waiting gnawed at me slowly. I had decided not to put on the wet panties, but used them as a fan in an attempt to dry them and slipped them on as soon as I sensed the big woman dragging her feet towards the room.

‘Now that you have had some sleep and know what we want, do you remember the name of the police officer?’ I did not. The interrogation shifted. ‘How do you get the information in your reports and how do you identify the people that you assist?’ I tried to explain, but they were not interested in my answers, it seemed they wanted particular answers but I did not have them.

The short man questioned me about how the ZPP gets its information. ‘Some of the incidents you report happen in the middle of the night and you get the information correct?’ I responded that the people who provide information are concerned Zimbabweans who want to see the rights of citizens respected. He then handed me a piece of paper and demanded that I list the names of these concerned Zimbabweans.

I said there were many of them and I would not know where to begin. His body language told me he was not impressed by my response and I thought I might be punished for refusing to write names as instructed.

The subject of the interrogation turned again to Botswana. ‘When you travelled to Botswana who did you meet and how many staff members did you leave there?’ asked Mararike. Tired of responding to the same question I held back a while then explained again that I had not met and did not even know the people that they thought I had met – if they existed at all.

The short man was unarmed, perhaps he was not angry enough to collect his weapons. However, he embarked on a strange ranting sparked by the perception that I was an MDC-T stalwart and that while I was detained others in the party would scramble for positions in the new government. ‘While you are here, your colleagues in the MDC-T are going to be appointing a director of information because you have decided not to reveal the names of the big fish,’ the man raged.

Mararike sat on a chair facing me, while the boss seemed to be expecting someone or something. He stood close to the window, his attention divided between the interrogation and what was happening outside. My chest continued to heave and I struggled, dismally, to control it. I suspected the reason was that I feared more beatings.

The boss moved a few steps towards me, pointing a finger at me as if addressing a child. ‘I am not governed by the 48-hour or even the 96-hour rule. You simply have to follow what we want here or you go extinct. There are several others buried around here,’ he added, gesturing at the surrounds of the building.

According to the old Constitution anyone taken into detention must appear in court within 48 hours or the detaining authority must seek a 96-hour extension for further detention of the suspect. ‘No one will find you here even if they try, so you might as well behave and tell us what we want. There are two options – either become a state witness or go extinct. It is your choice,’ raged the boss. I was very afraid. I knew that people had been killed in similar circumstances and the thought of that happening to me lingered. On one of the days after this interrogation I realised that there were people digging behind the interrogation room and my mind resolved that it was my grave being dug.

At that moment I made an undertaking to myself that I would try to fend off sleep so that if I was to be killed I would have the opportunity to look into the eyes of my killer.

The boss left the room several times and, although it took a long time for the truncheons to be brought in, the short man punched the desk more than once. The loud music and the banging on the desk were frightening.

As if trying to curry favour with me, Mararike, who was fidgeting in his chair, said, ‘there is no hurting of the flesh today. All that is required is for you to give us all the information we are looking for.’ But I was not the right person to help them.

As the day wore on it became clear that someone had been after me for a long time. They knew about the places I frequented, the car I drove, where I had worked and lived and the campaigns I had been involved in. They questioned me about the distribution of T-shirts and caps in my home town of Gweru when I was still with Radio Voice of the People. We had run a campaign to publicise the frequency of the station so people could tune in.

With most radio and television stations controlled by the state, Radio Voice of the People offered an alternative voice.

In the afternoon, well after lunch, there were still no truncheons, but the short man continued to bang on the furniture and each time he did so I feared he might leave to fetch the weapons of his trade.

After supper Mararike announced that because I had failed to give them what they wanted they had no choice but to ‘take you to our bosses, whose faces you will not see as yours will be tied in a sack. We have no control over what they decide to do.’ He signalled that I must put on the blindfold. Before I did so I noticed that one of the men who had sat next to me in the car from home was waiting in the next room.

I groped in the induced darkness, trying to be sure where I was stepping and the door of a van – the type known in Zimbabwe as a kombi and used for public transportation – slid open. I was instructed to lie on a seat that was more like a bench than a car seat. There were a number of people in the vehicle and I could identify ‘Guns’ and Mararike by their voices. After I was asked a few similar questions to those I had been asked in the afternoon relating to my distribution of T-shirts I sensed that they preferred to talk about other things among themselves.

The drive lasted for what seemed close to two hours on a winding road. After a while the kombi stopped and there was some shuffling between it and some place. For a while I sensed that I might be alone in the vehicle and strange thoughts troubled me. Perhaps they were going to blow it up, or maybe they were making a huge fire outside to throw me in. I dared not get up for fear that someone might be close to the vehicle, and, besides, I was blindfolded. After a good 40 to 50 minutes the door opened, the ignition was turned on and the car moved off again.

This part of the drive was equally long and I was sure I was back in the same place because the radio was blaring. I was led into the interrogation room, where Alice was fast asleep. She asked, ‘Where are you people coming from at this time? It is one in the morning.’ I was not best placed to answer her, it seemed she was not happy being woken up at such a late hour.

As I sat on the mat that she had left free for me something hot gushed out of my body and I felt a sharp pain in my lower back. I asked to be led to the bathroom and, just as I suspected, I had my periods. When I was growing up my mother had taught me that monthly periods are a private affair that are not announced to strangers, so what should I do? This being the first flow I knew I could manage through the night and I did not think Alice would be pleased to be burdened with searching for sanitary pads at this ungodly hour.

The next morning Alice asked what my totem is. A totem is a form of traditional identity in Zimbabwe. Totems are drawn from animals or birds that families identify with. The tradition is so strong that a man and a woman with the same totem cannot marry as they are considered relatives. If, for some reason, they have to marry, a ceremony is held to untie the relationship. Remembering that I had heard that people could be killed by using their totem, I made one up. The logic is that if your ancestors are approached using a totem they can identify with they can open floodgates for tragedy to strike.

My totem is the zebra – mbizi in ichiShona, dube in isiNdebele, but I told Alice that it is a lion. ‘That is the same totem as my mother,’ she said, and began to call me ‘moms’, the street lingo for mother. The zebra is a majestic animal that walks with a certain gaiety in its step. The stripes, which are like fingerprints – no two zebras have the same stripes – look extremely beautiful in the blazing Zimbabwean sun. The zebra adapts to difficult situations, for instance, never losing weight even in times of drought. There are praise songs for different totems and most Zimbabweans love to hear their own. When I have done something good for my mother or the family she takes time to sing ‘Maita Mbizi, maita varihowera, varikumasumbureru, gwara’, interspersing the words with ululation and clapping with cupped hands.

There was no interrogation on the third day and in the morning I told Alice about the need for sanitary pads, hoping that she would deal with it herself. During the day I had to use toilet paper and frequented the bathroom more than usual because it was only towards early evening that a man brought in the pads and two new pairs of panties. The items were in a shopping bag from the upmarket store, Bon Marché. The next day the boss wanted to know, ‘Did you get your parcel?’ Anyone listening would have been forgiven for thinking that he had bought me a Christmas present.

My periods had not been due for another two weeks and I was experiencing a lot of pain, anxiety and the fear of not knowing what would happen next. Supper came early and I was told I was going on another drive.

This time I was taken in a saloon car with two men flanking me, my head on the lap of the one to the right. The drive did not take long and when we arrived at our destination the driver blew the horn and waited for the gate to open. One of the two men who were sitting in front went out and, after ten or so minutes the rear left door opened. ‘Come with me,’ came the instruction as the man sitting next to the door got out to make way for me.

As I walked, forcing my sore legs along, I thought that perhaps the ‘bosses’ had been unavailable the day before and had made time today.

I went up one step and there was a change of hands on my arm – someone else was now leading me. The room I entered was carpeted and, after a few steps, an order was given. ‘Sit down!’ I prepared to go all the way to the floor but something caught me. I was on a chair. I was uneasy in this chair, just occupying a small space of its base, not trying to sit back. I thought about the threat of extinction. All my strength transferred to my mouth and, between gritted teeth, I prayed quietly. My torso was constrained between a table and the back of the chair.

The furniture in this new interrogation was expensive and the room was well curtained and more opulent than the first. Later I was to wonder whether a particular house on Enterprise Road in Harare, between Arcturus and Glenara roads might have been the place. Whenever I drive past it I get goose bumps and I always want to look in when the double black gate is open. There are always unmarked vehicles parked there, some of their windows tinted.

A new male voice instructed, ‘Remove the blindfold.’ There were ten people in the room, five on either side of a huge pine boardroom table. Nine of them were men and the one woman there was drowned by the mound of lever arch files beside her. She was close to me and, as she perused one, I tried to see whether I could read what she was reading.

‘Be careful with that file, Jestina is trying to read,’ said a light-skinned burly man, the only one who had spoken so far. She shifted the files out of my sight. I could only make out the frames of those at the end of the table, it was difficult to see them clearly because I was still without my glasses.

They did not tell me their names, but the light-skinned man, in an authoritative voice, broke the silence, bellowing ‘We are from the law and we are here to talk to you.’ Four years later I found out the man’s name when I travelled with him on a flight from Cape Town to Harare. In the arrivals hall our eyes met and he knew and I knew that we were not meeting for the first time. I asked a colleague I was travelling with if he knew the man, who had moved to the other end of the hall while we waited to claim our bags from the carousel. He was an assistant commissioner in the Criminal Investigations Department.

My hosts were given refreshments – tea, served in a beautiful tea set and a jug of water for the Mazoe orange cordial drink. A burly man wearing a loose white lace African caftan offered me refreshment, but I declined. On my immediate left were two fairly young men, one wearing spectacles. They were all smartly dressed and the one without glasses was wearing a black lace shirt. The woman’s hair was pulled up into a bun, with a hairpiece that dropped to her shoulders. She was wearing a black top and slightly faded jeans that defined her curves. She stood up once or twice to search for a file.

The interrogation followed the same lines as the previous ones. ‘We want to know the people you are working with in the MDC-T and we also want to know about the police officer who came to your office,’ demanded the assistant commissioner. I still did not remember the name of the police officer and I made it clear that I did not work with the MDC-T.

The assistant commissioner continued, ‘We know you met the police officer in your office and he came ready with your stated requirements of an identity card and a photograph in police uniform.’ This is not how it happened. I had met the officer in Broderick’s office and I was already holding my handbag and my notebook because I was in a hurry to get to a meeting outside the office.

The police identity card had been on the desk when I entered Broderick’s office. As if to chide me, the assistant commissioner said, as though to his colleagues, ‘Do you remember Jestina asking the officer, “Wazvipira here kufira nyika yako [Are you committed to die for your country]?”’ The name of the police officer might have slipped my mind but I am sure I never asked that question.

Visibly angry in response to my denial that I had made the statement or that I had met the officer in my office, the assistant commissioner charged towards me, going around the table to approach me from the left. By the time he reached me I was shaking and I think I now know why people soil themselves in the face of a threat. He stood very close to me and I could swear he could hear my heart thud. ‘She thinks she is still talking to the people where she is coming from who are not doing their job properly. Bring my stick and I will teach her a lesson.’

‘It is unfortunate the people holding you are using kid gloves with you,’ said the assistant commissioner. It seemed that I was expected to confirm all the accusations they had put on the table. The pain in my feet was no kid glove show. I could hardly sleep or walk after the beatings and I was tempted to lift my feet to show what had been done to me.

‘Don’t look at me,’ he raved. It was difficult to ignore a threat that was so close and was hovering over my head, but I looked down, though from time to time I raised my head. A short, dark man brought in a one-metre long bamboo stick, but the burly man in white advised him, shaking his head from side to side and looking him in the eye, ‘Don’t do it’. He slowly moved away.

‘I feel sorry for you because you are wasting your time and ours – soon we will catch them all,’ swore the assistant commissioner. Although he did not physically leave a mark with the bamboo stick, what he put me through left a deep scar that swelled and took a long time to heal.

A huge, dark man sitting towards the end of the table stood to address me. He banged on the table and the vibrations reached my end of the table.

‘Uchamama [You will defecate], Jestina, when we are done with you.’

I could not believe that these words had come from a grown man. What I know is that as a child if I had said something like that and my mother or any other adult had found out I would have been severely punished.

During my court appearance I would hesitate to repeat the words but Beatrice, my attorney, insisted that I do so.
‘Where did you leave your child?’ the man asked arrogantly. I confirmed that I had left Takudzwa at home. ‘Is your son still at home?’ the man wanted to know. My heart sank. Since I had been taken from my home Takudzwa had occupied my thoughts – I was, after all, his only surviving parent.

Distracted from the goings-on in the room, I wondered just what had happened to my son. The woman forced a thick needle into my heart: ‘By not giving us the information that we require from you, what you have done in the process is to sign away an opportunity to unite with your son. Only an irresponsible mother does what you are doing.’

One of the young men to the left confronted me: ‘There are figures that you presented at a meeting on 2 December, where did you get them?’ I told him the information had come from the community-based monitors the ZPP deployed.

Later that night, back in the first interrogation room, which was now my bedroom, I knew I was in deep trouble. Would I survive two interrogation centres? I began to hum my mother’s favourite hymn – number 106 in the Anglican hymn book.

Mubatsiri wedu Mwari,
Tariro yeduzve,
Mudziviriri munhamo,
Chivimbo narini

(The Lord our helper,
our hope and strength,
the one who deters trouble our eternal hope)

I managed just one stanza because I did not know the others well without a hymn book. However, when I did get my hymn book, when I was in Chikurubi, I learned the words and now I do not need to look up the hymn.

Humming the hymn ignited emotions I failed to deal with. I cried myself to sleep. But also, somehow, the hymn brought me closer to my family.

I could almost touch them. In good and in bad times my mother sings and dances to this hymn and I knew that since 3 December it had echoed many times both in Gweru and in Norton.

This feeling would later be confirmed by my brother, Cosmas. ‘At times I felt sorry for mbuya Mukoko and gogo Dizha because they would wake everyone up with either hymn 130 or 106, leading them in prayer. One time I looked at my watch and it was 3am.’

I would return to the second interrogation office on three occasions. The second time I was interrogated by a smaller group, without the assistant commissioner. I was told that I had to write a statement when I was returned to what had become my ‘home’. As it turned out, I would have to write three statements before one was accepted. In the third statement I was instructed to say that I had referred the police officer, Hwasheni, to my friend Fidelis Mudimu, who had handed him the money. It was all fiction, no money had changed hands. I also had to include in the statement the names of my late father and my mother as well as my mother’s residential address. On the third occasion that I returned to the second interrogation office a video was recorded in which I was asked to repeat what I had said in the statement.

The burly man informed me that I was being recorded in order to establish whether I would qualify to be a state witness. I wanted to know what that would mean, as the ‘boss’ at the detention centre had told me that if I became a state witness he could improve my living conditions.

The burly man giggled. ‘It does not mean going home but rather into protective custody because in your case your friends will think you have sold out. Hwasheni [the police officer to whom the ZPP was alleged to have given money] is in protective custody. Harrison [Nkomo, a lawyer who would be a member of my defence team] and other lawyers have the opportunity to visit him.’ When I later asked Harrison about the visit he told me that Hwasheni had been ‘wearing a suit, holding a television remote control and wanted us to believe that he was comfortable, but his body language told a different story’.

That day, taking advantage of the burly man’s good mood, I asked to use the telephone. My request was followed by a prolonged silence and the burly man, who seemed to be the only one talking to me, asked who I wanted to call. Looking him in the eye I told him it was nearly the festive season and I wanted to speak to my son. In fact, what I wanted to do was establish Takudzwa’s whereabouts and whether he was in any trouble. The man’s response surprised me. ‘I hope you do not think we could be that cruel.’

On the fifth day of my incarceration I was in the bathroom looking out through the mesh wire window when I saw a Mazda 626 pull up on the gravel driveway and watched as Broderick was led into the detention centre.

Later that afternoon during my interrogation Mararike was not his usual self. He banged on the desk and shouted, ‘You think we are children, but today I will show you we are not because all along you have been lying to us since day one.’ I insisted I had not lied. ‘You deserve to be punished and that is all I can say about your behaviour. For your information, the record has been set straight and from now on think hard about your answers because we know everything,’ he said.

In his rage, Mararike stormed out, and my mind focused on just one thing, the truncheons. When he came back he was holding something in his fists. He came to where I was sitting, emptied his hands and made two mounds of gravel. ‘I want you to kneel,’ he instructed, pointing to where my knees should be placed. The mounds reminded me of my childhood. When friends wanted to challenge each other we would make two sets of such mounds, which we called a mother’s breasts. The kicking of the opponent’s mother’s breasts resulted in retaliation and the start of a fistfight.

As someone who is socialised to kneel, I thought it would be a piece of cake. I was so wrong. The pain was intense, numbing. I drifted out of my own body and watched this woman from the ceiling.

Despite the pain I still could not name people from the MDC-T. I had not worked with them on any project. I did not meet with anyone in Botswana to discuss the training of youths. I still did not remember the name of the police officer and I did not give him money to go to Botswana. The interrogation went on for about two hours and the pain was unbearable, the small stones kept pushing up bruising the hard skin of my knees.

The interrogation team was thinning out by the day and, on that day, there were only three of them. I was saved when all three filed out to respond to a phone call. I remained on my knees for more than 10 minutes, not knowing whether they would be coming back, then I heard a vehicle leave and the ‘watering can man’ came in to relieve me. The gravel had left marks on my knees and I had a cramp. I spent the next few minutes massaging my knees. I cannot believe that people leave home to go to work where their business is to inflict pain on others.

Broderick, I was to learn when I finally managed to speak to him, had been interrogated in the same room in the morning and was punished for being conservative with the truth. After he was beaten the soles of his feet turned black – a discolouration he carried for several months afterwards.

After more than 14 days in this detention place the ‘watering can man’ brought me my meal one evening and left me shell shocked when he said, ‘My name is Cosmas’. When he returned to collect the plates and have me wash my hands he spoke softly, ‘But I am a better Cosmas because I know where you are, unlike the other Cosmas, who is getting desperate and appealing to anyone who might know where you could be.

‘I hear the other Cosmas regularly making passionate pleas on Studio 7,’ he continued before disappearing again. I was shocked that someone from the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), which, I had established when I overheard a telephone conversation, was responsible for my incarceration, listened to those stations that had been declared to be ‘pirate’. They included shortwave Radio Africa broadcasts from the United Kingdom, Studio 7 of the Voice of America from Washington, DC and Radio Voice of the People, broadcast from Cape Town, South Africa.

I am still not sure if Cosmas was his real name and I am torn between believing he was deployed to be pleasant as a bait to fish for information and considering that he did what he did out of the goodness of his heart and hoping that the Lord blesses him. Once he gave me an old magazine, Fair Lady, which helped distract me from the nightmare that continued to unfold and without which I might have lost my mind.

On another occasion he brought me a Mills and Boon novel, whose title I never got to know because its covers were torn. As someone within the system he knew the effect of solitary confinement. One night, while on night shift, Cosmas said I could sit between the two desks in my room to watch the television in the next room. It was always on so loudly when there was power that it hurt my ears. It was during a brief loss of power, when the music and the television were silent, that I had overheard the telephone conversation that suggested I was in a CIO detention centre.

I declined the offer to watch. Being short sighted I have trouble seeing things from a distance so I avoided straining my eyes, but my ears heard every word. Thus I learned about the death of the then Zanu-PF political commissar, Elliot Manyika, who was killed in a car accident on 6 December and was interred in the National Heroes Acre on 11 December. I listened to the address by the president at the burial, thinking I might hear him mention a woman who had disappeared. There was no mention, instead he scoffed at the idea of intervening in response to the cholera epidemic.

On one occasion I asked Cosmas about the digging outside the interrogation room. He explained that the workers were digging for ants the ‘boss’ liked that came out during the rainy season. The explanation came as a relief and I did not reveal my fears to Cosmas.

‘Sisi (sister), I hear you wear glasses and I have been told that carrots improve eyesight,’ said Cosmas during one of his meal duties. ‘I have carrots in my garden and if you like mealie cobs I can bring those for you.’ He brought the goodies, telling me to put them in a drawer until the coast was clear, meaning when all the vehicles had left the facility at the end of the day.

One night, during another power cut, I overheard the operative known as ‘Guns’ educating Cosmas about the movie The Transporter.

… there is a driver who is supposed to take commodities and people between point A and point B without opening the goods or speaking to the people. He does this well several times but one time when he transports a woman he makes a mistake. The woman, who is gagged, requests to relieve herself and he allows her and the woman flees.

As I listened I got the sense that Cosmas was being warned about getting too close to me.

Late one night, long after activity in the detention centre had died down, I experienced real terror when I saw the glass door that separated my room from the television room being covered with a curtain by the short operative, who had to stand on a chair to reach for the curtain hooks. I wondered why it had suddenly become necessary for the door to be curtained. Sweating and sensing danger I sat up, watching intently. I thought the worst was about to happen and I wanted to see the person who was going to do it. He did not see my movement because the room was dark, as it had been during my entire time as a ‘guest’. I said a prayer quietly and started humming an Anglican hymn – number 130:

Mukristu usanete
Inzwa ingirosi yako
Uripedyo pemhandu
Namata urinde

(Christian! seek not yet repose,
Hear thy guardian angel say;
Thou art in the midst of foes -
Watch and pray.)

Singing hymns always brought me closer to the family during the dark days and nights and somehow after singing I gained a bit of courage to face my tormentors.

For a long time, perhaps an hour, I heard people talking in the next room but the voices were low and difficult to catch. My mind went wild as I speculated about the reason for the curtain.

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The Abduction and Trial of Jestina Mukoko: A gripping and chilling account of Zimbabwe’s history

The Abduction and Trial of Jestina MukokoNew from KMM Review Publishing, The Abduction and Trial of Jestina Mukoko: The Fight for Human Rights in Zimbabwe:

The book tells the story of Jestina Mukoko, a former broadcast journalist who parted ways with the Zimbabwean state broadcaster in 2000 after becoming concerned about the level of editorial interference.

In 2002, while she was working for an independent radio station, she became a human rights activist.

Mukoko poignantly describes how, at the crack of dawn, in her nightclothes and in front of her teenaged son, she was bundled into an unmarked vehicle and abducted. In flashbacks combined with narratives related to her childhood, her family, and her work at the Zimbabwe Peace Project, Jestina documents what happened to her between 3 December, 2008 and her first appearance in court on Christmas Eve of the same year.

During her many appearances in court and continuing persecution, Mukoko challenged her abduction, torture, and the fact that she was not protected by the law. Mukoko’s family also suffered in their desperation to find her, visiting government offices for assistance and getting none, searching hospitals and morgues and feeling hope and despair whenever the body of a woman was found – even visiting the much-feared Goromonzi prison.

Mukoko’s recollections provide a gripping and chilling account of one of the most turbulent and repressive periods marred by a wave of massive human rights abuses in Zimbabwe’s history. In doing so, the book stands as a testament to the power of the human spirit and the will to survive.

Mukoko has garnered many local and international accolades for her work as an activist, among them the United States Secretary of State Women of Courage Award. She is based in Harare, grew up in the high density suburb of Mambo in Gweru and attended the University of Zimbabwe. An award winning peace and human rights campaigner, she is currently the National Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project.

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Brigalia Bam delivers Chief Albert Luthuli Memorial Lecture, praising his ‘faith’

Democracy - More Than Just ElectionsFormer IEC Chairperson Brigalia Bam delivered the annual Chief Albert Luthuli Memorial Lecture recently.

The lecture was held at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban.

Luthuli was a teacher and activist, and became the president of the African National Congress. He was awarded the 1960 Nobel Peace Prize, becoming the first African to be awarded the prize.

Bam said it was important remember to remember that, as an activist, Luthuli remained deeply involved in his community as a spiritual leader.

“He is comparable to other world leaders that we know, like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Theresa, the Dalai Lama, and others,” Bam said.

“These were leaders who were moved by their faith in waging the struggle for social and political justice.”

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Brigalia Bam reflects on the ‘suppressive streak of the Mail and Guardian’ after Thabo Mbeki article

Democracy - More Than Just ElectionsBrigalia Bam, former chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and author of Democracy – More Than Just Elections, has written a response to the way in which the Mail & Guardian reported on the first of former president Thabo Mbeki’s series of articles on the period of his presidency.

Bam is Chair of the Board of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation.

The article in question was published on Thabo Mbeki’s Facebook Page on January 11. In the article, entitled “The tragedy of history: When caricature displaces the truth”, Mbeki addresses the documentation of the struggle and the subsequent “characterisation” of leaders of the liberation movement. He refers specifically to the controversy related to Minister of Safety and Security, the late Steve Tshwete.

Read the article:

For various reasons many of us who were directly involved in our struggle for liberation have not taken the time to write about this struggle and the subsequent efforts to build a democratic, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa.

One result of this is that people who were essentially observers of both these periods have written much of what has been published about these times, a good part of which has come to be accepted as authoritative and definitive, with no suggestion whatsoever that the authors of these supposedly authoritative and definitive histories had their own political or ideological mind-sets.

Some of this writing has sought to define my character as I served as President of the ANC and the Republic, and argued that this characterisation helps to explain various developments during this period.

On the January 15, the Mail and Guardian published a doctored photo of Mbeki with the headline “There’s an old sheriff back in town”, leading to a scathing editorial that asked the former president “to go back to not ruling from the grave”, and criticising his writing and choice of topic:

For all his reputation as being aloof and unaccountable, we always had at least some idea of what Thabo Mbeki was thinking during his time as president. Not always a clear idea, mind you; his use of impenetrable allusions and convoluted logic caused us a fair bit of head scratching. We had something to work with, though. Regular as clockwork there would be a lengthy essay in the ANC Today online newsletter, or a long academic speech to unpick. Mbeki was never a Twitter-length politician.

In her article, also published on Mbeki’s Facebook Page, Bam explains the context of Mbeki’s article and questions the newspaper’s response to it.

Read the article in full:

* * * * * * *


Dr Brigalia Bam 
January 17, 2016

Perhaps reflecting a dry week in the news business, an inability to make sense of so much that is happening in the world around us or just exhibiting an existential crisis of sorts, this week’s edition of the Mail & Guardian led with a piece pretending to be an informed explanation of the first of former President Thabo Mbeki’s articles on the period of his Presidency.

Accompanied by a photo-shopped image of the former President donning cowboy regalia and a hunting rifle, the total package (the headlines: “There’s an old sheriff back in town” and “Mbeki is back, with guns blazing,” the photo-shopped image and the article) sought to conjure an image of a vengeful Mbeki on a mission to settle old scores.

Reading the story, one imagines a shebeen where all manner of urban legends proliferate. And so, the less said of it, the better.

The editorial (“Please put a lid on it, Mbeki”) on the other hand is worth a brief engagement for its extraordinary counsel. It advises
former President Mbeki to stop writing; to shut up!

At last, the Mail & Guardian, one of our country’s self-proclaimed defenders of free speech, has let the guard down, revealing its true belief. Freedom of expression applies only to itself and those with whom it agrees!

The supposed reasons Mbeki must shut up are that his first article did not discuss his “stance on HIV,” his supposed “failure in oversight that led to current electricity and water shortages,” his alleged “role in making the ANC into the patronage-dispensing machine it is today,” and that there are ANC factions who, like the EFF, allegedly want to rehabilitate Mbeki for their own ends.”

Supposing that we agreed with the Mail & Guardian, are these the reasons for gagging someone in a democratic society? What business are ANC and other political parties’ factional machinations to a paper which professes non-partisanship? Is this an inadvertent admission that the Mail & Guardian is not, after all, as non-partisan as it claims; worst of all that it intervenes in political parties in a factional manner?

The baseless charge that “Now Mbeki … shows every sign of wanting to influence South Africa’s path again” is in similar disposition as the Mail & Guardian’s extraordinary desire for a gag on him. No one, certainly not Mbeki, has explicitly stated or remotely implied that the articles are about issues other than those that served on the agenda of public discourse during his Presidency.

On December 15 last year, the CEO of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation, Max Boqwana, published a notice on this Page on the “Forthcoming articles by Thabo Mbeki.” Among other things, Boqwana wrote that: “The Thabo Mbeki Foundation (TMF) regularly receives requests from South Africans and others in Africa and abroad asking President Mbeki to comment or speak on a whole variety of issues.

“Some of these communications request that President Mbeki should comment on matters which arose during the years he served in our country’s Presidency. These include direct criticisms that were and have been made over the years concerning his own personal conduct in Government.”

In the first article about which the Mail & Guardian complains, Mbeki would confirm that it is the first of many articles to come. Why then does the Mail & Guardian think that Mbeki must not continue to write if his first article does not raise the issues they protest it omitted? In principle, why does the Mail & Guardian think they have a right to determine for him or anyone for that matter, what to write and, by implication, what not to write, especially when the issues are of public interest?

Again, the reason can only be that the Mail & Guardian has long determined that Mbeki represents views with which they fundamentally disagree and do not want heard. The perverse reality is that the Mail & Guardian, which pretends to be one of our country’s torchbearers of free speech, is, at the best of times, effectively a Censorship Board, unafraid to gag and to set the agenda of public discourse by means subtle yet no less asphyxiating as those of the Censorship Board of yesteryear.

Alas, somewhere in the dark corners of the psyches of these purported defenders of free speech lurk an Idi Amin: “You have freedom of speech, but freedom after speech, that I cannot guarantee you.”

One might be expecting too much, but even in its Idi Amin mindset, the Mail & Guardian can surely do better than regurgitate swear words and phrases of no meaning and analytical value. What, for instance, does this verbiage mean? – “It was vintage Mbeki, right down to the hint of a whiff of pipe smoke and armchair leather – and the blinkered paranoia, the disconnection from reality, and the belief that he can change by decree how South Africans interpret facts.”

How does an article amount to a decree? Do South Africans interpret facts the same way? Which reality, which facts, whose reality, whose facts,
determined by who and why is a change in the interpretation of facts deemed impermissible in a democratic society?

The false and insulting charge that Mbeki believes that he can “change
by decree how South Africans interpret facts,” reveals more than it conceals the Mail & Guardian’s own undemocratic perspective which consists in the belief that society has a one size fits all lens of interpreting facts. We are firmly back to the era when it was widely
believed that the earth is flat, with the most grotesque and barbaric
violence visited upon those who dared to suggest otherwise.

But the newspaper may want to ponder the words of Naom Chomsky: “Goebbels was in favour of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re really in favour of free speech, then you’re in favour of freedom of speech for precisely the views you despise. Otherwise, you’re not in favour of free speech.”

We are indeed in the fortunate position that Mbeki’s articles are being published in a medium other than the pages of the Mail & Guardian. It gives South Africans the opportunity to interpret facts variously and differently from the lenses by which the newspaper interprets them. This surely can’t be a heresy in a democracy!

Dr. Brigalia Bam is Chair of the Board of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation.

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Rediscover an iconic South African artist: Dumile Feni

The Beauty of the LineGallery MOMO in Cape Town recently held a special exhibition of South African artist Dumile Feni’s work, including many never-before-seen pieces.

This exhibition rekindled interest in one of South Africa’s most iconic artists, stressing the importance of Chabani Manganyi gripping biography The Beauty of the Line: The Life and Times of Dumile Feni.

This book is a celebration of an eminent South African artist, who carved a place for himself, in art circles in South Africa and abroad.

The subject of diverse interpretations, Feni was a larger than life figure whose reputation as an artist is evidenced by his captivating sculptures, drawings and sketches.

With skilful narration, Manganyi weaves intimate stories from Feni’s friends and acquaintances such as Hugh Masekela, Willie Kgotsisile and Louis Maqhubela, who reflect on his personal challenges and how these impacted on the creative processes behind his artistic flare. The author’s portrayal of the famed artist will engage and entice the readers into the nooks and crannies of Dumile Feni’s life, and the expressive power of his art.

Feni’s work is featured on many respected platforms. Have a look at his work by visiting some of these art websites:


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Brigalia Bam Provides a Glimpse Behind the Scenes of the IEC at the CCR Public Dialogue (Podcast)

Democracy - More Than Just ElectionsThe Centre for Conflict Resolution hosted a public dialogue earlier this year on the role of Chapter Nine institutions: those organisations, as laid out in Chapter Nine of the South African Constitution, which have been set in place to guard democracy.

Chapter Nine institutions include the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities; the Commission for Gender Equality; the Auditor-General; the Electoral Commission; and an independent broadcast regulation authority.

The CCR discussion was chaired by Professor Barney Pityana, with speakers Brigalia Bam and Mfanozelwe Shozi attempting to answer the question of whether or not Chapter Nine institutions have fulfilled their constitutional mandate.

Bam is the former chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the author of Democracy – More Than Just Elections. Reflecting on her years as the head of the IEC, Bam explains the challenges that the IEC have had to face, such as issues of independence, budgets, impartiality and so forth.

“Chapter Nine institutions do work that is specialised in a way and we find that in the particular case of the Electoral Commission some people are not familiar with the acts of the commission, with the number of things that we do,” she says, adding that there is much confusion across the board with Chapter Nine institutions on who they are, how they work and what they do.

Listen to the podcast for this fascinating look at the inner workings of the IEC in particular, and Chapter Nine institutions in general:


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