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Andre Brink: His ink won’t dry

News of the death this past week of South African Afrikaner writer and novelist, Andre Brink, while traveling home from receiving an honorary degree in Amsterdam, Europe, caught me completely by surprise – leaving me, like so many of his readers, in a state of utter shock and sadness.

Best known for his large anti-apartheid canon, including such acclaimed works as An Instant in the Wind, Looking on Darkness, A Dry White Season, Rumours of Rain and A Chain of Voices, Brink’s work stretched from the years of life under apartheid through to the post-1994 era of a new, democratic dispensation in South Africa.

While, as a student at the University of Botswana (UB), in the late 1980s, I would occasionally write reviews of books that I happened to read for Mmegi’s then weekly ‘Arts and Culture’ column, I would nevertheless remain largely unaware of this great writer until one friend of ours – incidentally a long-term black, South African refugee residing in Botswana at the time – lent me some of his own copies of Brink’s work to read.

However, of all his works, the one book by this author that would leave an enduring and indelible impression on me was An Instant in the Wind, a book set in the 18th century colonial Cape society, published in 1976, in which, as could be expected only of Brink, and in complete reversal of the prevailing racial and social dynamics of South African society at the time, describes a rather unheard-of, interracial relationship between a white woman, Elisabeth Larson,  and her male, Hottentot slave lover, Adam.

Struck also by the book’s powerful and evocative descriptions of the Cape and the greater, semi-arid Karoo region’s landscape and vegetation, I would find myself getting re-immersed in its pages, again, aboard the Inter-cape coach during a trip to Cape Town, in the early nineties.  

Then, over time, I would also come across another one of Brink’s masterpieces, A Dry White Season, published in 1979, and written against the background of the turbulent era of the 1970s, following on the Soweto 1976 student uprising. In it, Brink chronicles the trials and tribulations of a white, Afrikaner schoolteacher – some Donald Woods or Braam Fischer type of character, as some might say – who finds himself increasingly drawn into the life of his black gardener, Gordon, who is searching for the truth about the fate of his son, Jonathan, who had been detained and died in police custody following his arrest at a student protest.

Now, reading A Dry White Season, you might also have thought, ‘Now, here is a white dude who is sacrificing all that his white skin entitles him to under apartheid, at great cost to himself and his family life, in order to help a black gardener look for his son who has disappeared while in police detention’

But, as Brink makes clear in this book, the struggle against apartheid was, at the end of the day, not only about ensuring that blacks enjoyed the civil and political liberties like other South African citizens, but for all of humanity to be, once and for all, rid of the shackles of a rabid apartheid ideology – one which the United Nations had long since denounced as a crime against humanity.  

As it is, then, the book showed in a very powerful and profound manner some of the daily and difficult choices faced by both black and white, alike, and at a more personal level, as they navigate their way through the maze of life under apartheid.

And though in his later books – The Other Side of Silence, Praying Mantis, The Rights of Desire, Philida, etc. – Brink had begun to turn his attention more pointedly at problems faced by the new, democratic society, his lasting impression in many readers’ minds will undoubtedly be one of an author who, quite early on, stood up to the apartheid rulers of the time to dare to envision a more just and equitable society in which black and white could live as equals and enjoy equal opportunities – this at a time when many of his contemporaries would have thought apartheid invincible and the so-called ‘white supremacy’ a given.

An accomplished and greatly celebrated author and academic, Brink had been a longtime Professor of Literature at Rhodes University in Grahamstown and, more lately, at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Perhaps inevitably for him, as one of the more prominent white public intellectuals with whom both the mainstream media and tabloid press at times get overly fascinated with – to the point of letting us know that at the time of his death Brink was in his sixth marriage – thus putting him in league with the likes of Elisabeth Taylor and Zsa Zsa Gabor, but who, as Brink commented in a later interview, were “not people I necessarily respect.”

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Death or Divorce – a tough choice for many

24th May 2022

Rebecca* is a woman in her late thirties. She holds her head high and walks with a sway in her steps. There is an air of confidence when she speaks. So when she tells me how her husband has been abusing her throughout their 17 years of marriage, I am taken aback.

“Everyday is a new experience for me. I don’t know what version of husband I’ll meet; the one who will scold me for forgetting to lay out his clothes or the one who will hit me for putting too much salt in the soup,” she says while wiping tears. 17 years is almost two decades. I ask her why she has had to endure all that pain for a long time but she only shakes her head and does not answer.

Like Rebecca, hundreds of women experiencing domestic violence find it difficult to leave. For some, it is for reasons best known to them, for others, they simply do not know why or have the words. People who have not experienced abuse find it unfathomable that survivors stay in their relationships and not leave. It seems almost like they enjoy it. But until an experience has been felt, it is easy to give directives on how to act.

For Ms. Ilavbare Goldfish Rahmatulai, it took 6 years to escape the suffocating grip of her abuser. “It was a traumatic experience,” she tells me. “I can tell you this for free; the same intensity used to abuse you is the same intensity used to beg. When he does this, pity begins to set in and you become confused on what to do.”

Ms. Ilavbare Goldfish Rahmatulai

I ask Ms. Demilade Lawal, a psychologist from the University of Chester, in an interview, if there is a psychological reason behind this and she affirms.

“For a lot of women, it’s a glimmer of hope that things are going to get better. And that glimmer of hope can be understood when we are aware of the social cycle of abuse. There is a tension phase, an abuse phase and a honeymoon phase. In the honeymoon phase the abuser temporarily changes his ways and alters the victim’s decision to leave. Then the tension starts and then abuse follows.”

Another reason women remain entangled with their abusers is the fear of the unknown, the unclear reality of what would be after leaving.

“The truth is, as much as this person abuses them, there is an emotional connection. They love this person, there is a traumatic attachment whether they are aware of it or not. It is not the best love environment but it doesn’t change the fact that this is how they feel about the person that abuses them. So the thought of starting afresh without this person whom they have grown to love despite the abuse is just as frightening,” Ms Lawal says.

Although this may sound like an unjustifiable reason to some who have not walked this path, Ms. Rahmatulai agrees.

“In my case, I loved him very much. I could not imagine going to tell my family members or friends that the man I loved started hitting me as early as a month into our marriage. I was embarrassed. So I stayed back, hoping it would get better,” she says.

Research shows that one of the many reasons why women remain in abusive marriages is a lack of income which results in total financial dependency on the abuser. Could this be a strategy to trap the victim in an abusive cycle?

“While I was married, my husband would give me very little housekeeping money. He knew I did not have a job and the money would be insufficient but I could not say a word. I had to feed my children. If I complained I would get beaten. He provided for everything in the house, what authority did I have to question him,” Ms Rahmatulai says to me.

I ask Rebecca if she has a job and she says no. She mentions she’s an interior decorator but she barely gets offers. When she does, her husband collects everything.

A major factor for avoiding abusive marriages is to identify red flags. However, these flags are sometimes mistaken for natural behavioural traits. In Ms Rahmatulai’s case, she tells me she noticed her husband was quick tempered and ill mannered before marriage however she waved them aside as he had never hit her during courtship.

How then can abuse survivors find the courage to leave?

“The decision to leave is a process, it takes a shift in perspective – realising that you deserve better and that your kids deserve to grow in a healthy home where they don’t learn to be abusers or think it’s okay to be abused,” Ms Lawal says.

“When I pack my bags to leave, my husband would hit me. When I unpack, he would hit me. I started going to school to get a degree and then later I started trading. When I had what seemed like enough then (N80,000/ $192), I left my husband regardless of the worst that could happen. I realised if I stayed long enough, I would be dead,” Ms Rahmatulai says.

“It’s been 20 years since I left. I’m 51 and a lawyer now. I have dedicated my life to helping women in abusive marriages leave. So many men have called me a home breaker but I say it’s better to break a home and save a life.”

*Rebecca has asked to stay anonymous by using a pseudonym.

Claire Mom is a Nigerian journalist and an advocate for human rights.
Twitter: speakclairely

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7 Days to go before As One Music Concert

24th May 2022

Multitudes of music lovers are expected to throng Francistown’s Obert Itani Chilume Stadium for the highly anticipated As One Music concert next weekend.

Updating WeekendLife on the preparations of the event, Kesego Okie said the preparations for the show are going well and they are working around the clock to make sure that they fulfill all logistics that need to be concluded. She said, ATI has been working hard alongside the featured artists to give Batswana the best experience at concert.

She said that the concert has been accepted well by Batswana and they are very happy with the ticket sales. ”But of course we are looking forward to more ticket sales as more people are showing more interest in being part of this historic event and we are grateful to all our partners and sponsors.”

She appealed to the Francistown Business Community to come on board and support the initiative as it’s a concert for the people. Okie said Francistown was chosen for a reason as they believe it is a gate way to a number of other strategic places in Botswana like Maun, Orapa, Phikwe and Kasane.

“We also felt that since the city has been greatly affected by COVID-19 an event of this magnitude was befitting to be held in Francistown so that we can also play our role in uplifting the socio-economic livelihood hence we believe it is vital for the business community of Francistown to embrace us so that collectively we can contribute meaningfully together as one to the community of Francistown”.

She indicated that they have a large number of artists particularly from Francistown that have shown interest during the show activation and other artists that have collaborated with ATI in the past and those that have contributed in the growth of his music, and it would be very difficult for them to fulfil the mandate of the show without support particularly from the corporate community in Francistown.

Tickets for the event are sold at P50 kids, P150 general, 500 VIP silver circle and VVIP for P1500. All tickets are sold at all Liquarama Outlets across the country.

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Phakalane soars to new heights

24th May 2022

Founded 30 years ago by David Magang, Phakalane Estates came from humble beginnings to gradually expand into developing one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the country which attract high income dwellers.

When the development began in the early 90s the estate was to be developed into 13 phases. It is then that a decision was taken by the developers to come up with plans that would be appealing to certain groups of the society.

Phakalane Estates continues to make its mark in the property development space, this year, they have managed to invests over P45 million on major renovations to the Golf Estate properties namely the hotel, golf course, and conference center.

Already the company has erected 84 single and double bedroom apartments which commenced early this year. The construction of these new apartments has been set for Peto Estates, a gated community within the Phakalane neighborhood strategically placed a stone’s throw away from multiple shopping centres such as Mowana Park and Acacia Mall.

“We want the best for our clients that is why even in Peto, we have various apartments for every one and also bearing in mind that the people should be not far from the complex,” Phakalane Estates’ Lesang Magang said in an interview.

So far the roads tarring has started at Sebote estate which is part of the estate expansion, it is expected that even things electrically will get handed to the Botswana Power Corporation which will be the last stage plus the lights on the streets. “In terms of infrastructure we don’t compromise we ensure that it is world class so that we don’t disappoint our clients. Those that brought houses earlier when they sell them it comes at a profit.”

Following the success of the launch of Peto Estates back in 2014, when over 300 plots ranging in cost from roughly P300, 000 to P1.4m were immediately sold out with a high surplus of demand, Phakalane Estates boasts strong confidence in the market demand for new apartments in the area.

The apartments are set to follow the trend of the estates with state of the art modern designs and facilities that will unequivocally catch the eye of professionals in the market for a smaller yet upscale rental property in Gaborone. Phakalane Estates CEO Subramaniam Parthiban has expressed plans for the creation of an all-new industrial park in Phakalane aiming to expand and consolidate the existing industrial strength the community already boasts.

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