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Wives.Widows. Survivors.

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August 16 2012. Thirty-four miners, mostly employed by Lonmin, on strike for a wage hike, were shot and killed by South African police in Marikana in Rustenburg, South Africa.

The men who died left behind wives and children who have suffered both pain and poverty in their loss.

FORBES WOMAN AFRICA visited six young widows who have now relocated to Marikana to work and be their families’ sole bread-winners. Most of them are cleaners earning a little more than their husbands did, living in a hostel at the Vulindlela Training Institute (that trains miners). They all share the same anger at the cops who shot down their men and changed their lives forever.

Walking around Vulindlela, you soon realize most of those affected by the Marikana massacre are resident in this area. It is now a community of the inconsolable, as they go about their lives at work or at school, returning to neighbourly chats, and time alone reflecting their fate.

They speak in chaste isiXhosa and seSotho, languages tough for an average Johannesburg-born city dweller like me to comprehend. But their emotions convey more than any language can ever do, as these pictures that follow show.

Double tragedy

When Lesotho-born Mathabile Monesa, 25, lost her husband Khanane Elias Monesa that fateful day in Marikana, she was pregnant. At the time, she was living with her in-laws in Lesotho and her husband was the sole provider to a family of nine.

There was more tragedy in store.

Weeks after his death, she was admitted to hospital and lost their unborn child, a son. Doctors put it down to stress and depression.

“It was painful knowing that our provider was killed, knowing that I now have to put food on the table for the family with the money I made from sewing,” says Monesa.

Monesa hopes the R12,500 ($900) the miners were fighting for will also be given to the widows in the future.

 

Loved dearly, missed sorely

Just two rooms from Monesa’s, 35-year-old Nombulelo Ntongo from the Eastern Cape is on the phone with her seven-year-old daughter, who suffers epilepsy, and who she only sees during the Easter break and the December holidays.

Before losing her husband Bongani Nqongophele, she lived with her mother-in-law, daughter and five other family members in the Eastern Cape.

“After the death of Bongani, it was hard, our child was sick and I couldn’t take her to the doctor; she was small and epileptic and I couldn’t even buy food and clothes, nobody could take Bongani’s place because he was the only one who could take care of us,” she says.

Today, Ntongo sends money home to her mother-in-law for food and doctor fees, as well as for her daughter’s school uniform. Lonmin pays the school fees.

“If I had an alternative, I would leave this job and go back home. I’m not here because I want to, I’m here because I don’t have a choice; it is not nice living here and the child living back home.”

Nqongophele’s memory lives on. In Ntongo’s little bedroom are pictures and messages from her daughter pasted on the door. Nqongophele was loved dearly by his family.

‘He was left to die’

Rebuselelitsoe Lefulebe, 26, from Lesotho and speaking Xhosa, can’t supress her incessant tears, even now, three years after her husband Bongani Mdze’s death in the Marikana massacre. She remembers the day like it was yesterday, when she was visiting him.

“He died upon arrival at hospital, he was left for more than an hour at the scene after he was shot; he was left to die; if he had received help, he would still be alive,” says Lefulebe.

Lefulebe recalls how Mdze had looked after his sister’s three children and his own child with his meager pay.

“Today, the children aren’t happy living with relatives back home; they tell me everything and mention things are not the same since daddy has gone.”

Mdze had applied and passed the test for a supervisor position. Had he been alive, Mdze would have earned more than Lefulebe does now.

 

The mother far away

A few blocks away, we visit a mother of five, Nosakhe Nokamba. Today, she is her family’s only bread-winner. Currently living with two of her children, she sends money home to the care-taker to feed the three others who she also sends to school.

When her husband Ntandazo died, he was 36, leaving young children.

“It’s been hard around here, when I sit alone and think you know you are not at home and the only reason I’m here is because my husband left us, and now I’m separated from our children,” says Nokamba.

 

‘Where is daddy?’

Twenty nine-year-old Nosihle Ngweyi is miner Michael Ngweyi’s widow. Before his death, Ngweyi lived with their two children in the Eastern Cape.

“The challenges I’m facing are the children. They ask questions I sometimes may not be able to answer. They would ask, ‘where is daddy? When is he coming home?’ I would respond by telling them not to ask that question again because daddy is not coming home,” says Ngweyi painfully.

She says after her husband’s death, she was left with a lot of responsibility and an incomplete house with only a fence. With the compensation she received after the tragedy, she built a two-room house and lived there.

Ngweyi’s therapy is school. She says after work she would rather go to school and learn and be busy, rather than dwell on the past.

‘I have to sustain them’

Masebolai Liau was married to Janfeke Liau and they were both from Lesotho. Today, she lives far away from her village, her home and the cows and sheep she has left with care-takers she remunerates every month.

She knows not in what state her livestock is.

“I try but it’s hard. I do this because I have to sustain the people and the belongings my husband left. His family, our family, our farmers and the farm, he could do this all by himself,” she says.

Liau wishes for a support group so people can express their feelings and find comfort in each other’s pain.

Current Affairs

#BlackOutTuesday Brings Music Industry To A Pause, But Some Artists Warn Against Obscuring Black Lives Matter Posts

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TOPLINE Black tiles flooded social media on Tuesday alongside the hashtags #blackouttuesday and #theshowmustbepaused as the music industry paused to remember the killings of black people at the hands of police, but some artists are warning that #blacklivesmatter posts are being silenced in the process.

Kehlani posted about the risk of useful information being drowned out by black tiles
 
(Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Warner Music)

KEY FACTS

The initiative was set up by Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, two black music industry executives at Atlantic Records and Platoon respectively, in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and “countless other Black citizens at the hands of police.”

The founders wrote in an online statement: “Tuesday June 2nd is meant to intentionally disrupt the work week…It is a day to take a beat for an honest, reflective and productive conversation about what actions we need to collectively take to support the Black community.”

They added that the initiative is not for 24 hours only. “We are and will be in this fight for the long haul. A plan of action will be announced.”

Major labels Warner Music Group, Sony Music, and Universal Music Group pledged support for the initiative, while Interscope records says it won’t release new music this week.

Companies observing the ‘pause’ have done so in different ways: networks BET and MTV went dark for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in response to Floyd’s death, while Spotify has replaced the artwork on some playlists with a black tile.

Businesses outside the music industry are also pledging their support for the initiative, including Rihanna-founded Fenty Beauty, which in a statement said it would not conduct any business on Tuesday.

The accompanying hashtags #blackouttuesday and #theshowmustbepaused have already been used more than 6 million times on Instagram. Blackout Tuesday was the top trending topic on Twitter with more than 500,000 hashtags used by people both in and outside of the music industry signalling their support.

CRUCIAL COMMENT

Thomas and Agyemang wrote in a statement: “The music industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. An industry that has profited predominantly from Black art. Our mission is to hold the industry at large, including major corporations and their partners who benefit from the efforts, struggles and successes of Black people accountable. 

“To that end, it is the obligation of these entities to protect and empower the black communities that have made them disproportionately wealthy in ways that are measurable and transparent.”

CHIEF CRITICS

Some on Twitter pointed out that people’s use of the #blacklivesmatter hashtag alongside a post of a black square could silence the movement, instead of amplifying black voices.

Several users are urging participants to use the designated hashtags #TheShowMustBePaused and #BlackoutTuesday to prevent the #blacklivesmatter hashtag, and vital information about ways to support the cause, being drowned out by black squares.

Singer Kehlani posted about the black tiles and the risk that they could drown out useful information. Others criticised participation in the initiative as performative and “virtue signalling.” Musician Bon Iver tweeted: “I love you all, but this music industry shutdown thing feels tone deaf to me,” before deleting the tweet.

Separately, the words “My Instagram” was trending on Twitter on Tuesday morning as users questioned the usefulness of the black tiles on their Instagram feeds. 

KEY BACKGROUND

The death of 46-year-old Floyd has reignited Black Lives Matter protests across the U.S. and the world, and companies are increasingly bowing to public pressure to stand by the black community and publicly denounce racism and police brutality, as well as donate to anti-racism efforts.

Isabel Togoh, Forbes Staff, Business

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Current Affairs

Facebook Employees Stage Virtual Revolt Against Zuckerberg’s Inaction On Trump’s ‘Shooting’ Post

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TOPLINE Dozens of Facebook employees staged a virtual walkout on Monday, in an escalation of protests against CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s failure to act on President Trump’s “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” post.

KEY FACTS

  • Staff members flocked to rival platform Twitter for a second day, to denounce Zuckerberg’s “do-nothing” approach to Trump’s post that threatened violence toward George Floyd protesters.
  • One employee, Owen Anderson, announced in a tweet that he had quit the company.
  • “To be clear, this was in the works for a while. But after last week, I am happy to no longer support policies and values I vehemently disagree with,” he wrote.
  • Employees have also been circulating messages internally, with one staffer writing on a staff message board: “The hateful rhetoric advocating violence against black demonstrators by the U.S. President does not warrant defense under the guise of freedom of expression,” the New York Times reported. Others urged Zuckerberg to take down Trump’s post.
  • Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said employees will not have the protest days taken out of their vacation allowance, Reuters reported.
  • The walkout, staged virtually as all Facebook employees are working remotely in the pandemic,was triggered by Facebook’s refusal to take action over Trump’s inflammatory posts, while Twitter took the unprecedented step of flagging his comment for “glorifying violence.”
  • Zuckerberg has reportedly pushed the company’s weekly employee Q & A session from Friday to Tuesday.

CRUCIAL COMMENT

In a joint statement, a number of the virtual demonstrators tweeted: “Facebook’s recent decision to not act on posts that incite violence ignores other options to keep our community safe. We implore the Facebook leadership to #TakeAction.”

TANGENT

Online therapy company Talkspace has cut ties with Facebook over the issue. CEO Oren Frank tweeted on Monday: “We at Talkspace discontinued our partnership discussions with Facebook today. We will not support a platform that incites violence, racism, and lies. #BlackLivesMatter.”

NEWS PEG

President Trump has driven a wedge between Facebook staff and the social network’s founder. Facebook’s no-leak culture, and the largely united front between management and staff had largely weathered previous storms in its march to “connect the world.” That accord was shattered in a flood of tweets condemning Zuckerberg’s decision to keep Trump’s post on the site. Before the walkout, several senior employees blasted Zuckerberg’s defence of keeping the post on the site. Design manager Jason Stirman tweeted on Monday: “I‘m a FB employee that completely disagrees with Mark’s decision to do nothing about Trump’s recent posts, which clearly incite violence. I’m not alone inside of FB. There isn’t a neutral position on racism.”

In a post on Monday, Zuckerberg said Trump’s post and use of the historically racially charged phrase did not breach Facebook policies. “Our position is that we should enable as much expression as possible unless it will cause imminent risk of specific harms or dangers spelled out in clear policies,” he said.

KEY BACKGROUND

The death of George Floyd after white policeman Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes last Monday sparked outrage across the U.S. and subsequent protests in more than 75 cities. Companies, facing public pressure to speak out, have released statements pledging support to the black community, including Amazon, Netflix, Twitter and Peloton. On Monday, Zuckerberg announced Facebook is donating $10 million to groups campaigning for racial justice.

Isabel Togoh, Forbes Staff, Business

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‘With Covid-19, See How Resilient Nature Is’

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Adjany da Silva Freitas Costa; image supplied

Adjany da Silva Freitas Costa, the youngest minister in the Angolan cabinet, is an intrepid adventurer, biologist and conservationist committed to saving the world’s last wild places.

Adjany da Silva Freitas Costa is not your ordinary minister. At 30 years old, the Luanda local is currently the youngest minister to serve in the Angolan cabinet and an intrepid adventurer with an inspiring hands-on background.

In 2015, Costa was one of the braves who undertook a four-month journey for the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project. The captivating trip documentary, Into the Okavango, follows the courageous crew of scientists (including Costa) who travel the riverine route. The journey began in the highlands of Angola and had the team meandering 2,400km by mokoro (a traditional canoe), camping wild along the Okavango River until they reached the town of Maun in Botswana. The trip illustrated how the Okavango Delta relies on Angolan rains, but also highlighted the costs of Angola’s lengthy war to its landscapes.

In April this year, Costa assumed the government position as Minister of Culture, Tourism and Environment. “It is not exactly unusual for a woman to join the Angolan government,” says Costa, “but it’s not exactly common either.” Currently, there are seven women ministers in the Angolan cabinet, creating a gender split of roughly 35% female.

“We bring a lot of benefit for the simple fact that we can bring inclusion to the politics forged in society,” says Costa. “I think that every single one of us brings a different perspective to the whole context of politics. Currently, I am the youngest minister to serve in the Angolan cabinet. It makes me feel like there is hope for youth and hope for the future. I do think we bring an innovative way of thinking and innovative vision into the current system that is very beneficial to change and to the improvement of the system here in Angola.”

The National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project expedition revealed new species (to date, ongoing field trips have resulted in the discovery of 26 species new to science, more than 75 species potentially new to science, and more than 130 species previously unknown in Angola). It also embedded in Costa a life-long commitment to saving the world’s last wild places. It short, it changed her life.

“It changed the whole perception that I had of everything, personally, professionally, academically,” Costa admits. “The trip helped me see the world and my participation in the world, in a very different way. In a very concrete way and I don’t think I would be sitting here answering these questions if I hadn’t participated. I have never, ever in my entire life “envisioned myself as a minister. I don’t think I’ve ever envisioned myself being part of politics, but there is a writer who once said, ‘You don’t choose politics. Politics chooses you’, and that’s exactly what happened. I see it as an opportunity to bring change from the outside. I am someone that has always applied the policy that’s created by decision-makers. I think it’s an opportunity to bring that applicability into the system and make it much more action-focused – and more than a piece of paper.”

In 2017, Costa was named an emerging explorer at National Geographic, and in 2019, she became the Young Champion of the Earth for Africa in the United Nations Environment Program. Before taking a seat in the government, Costa worked as an ethno-conservationist to pioneer projects that developed working conservation models for communities living alongside crucial wildlife hubs.

“Being a biologist is also a great advantage for this position. I believe that policies should be made to be applied and not archived,” Costa says. Another benefit for her position is that she knows all about being on the ground. “I started my journey in conservation, looking specifically at biodiversity and working directly with the specimens. I started with turtles, and all we did was patrol the beaches and look after the nests – and that was it. There was no engagement. For a long time, I always thought there was a separation between humans and wildlife – and that the separation was needed for us to protect wildlife. Working for the past five years in the East of Angola, I realized that it is the complete opposite. The gap that we’ve created with nature is what causes us to destroy nature in the first place.”

Costa has a masters degree in Biology and a PhD in International Wildlife Conservation Practices from Oxford University. In the wake of Covid-19, we are just beginning to see the harsh effects of tourism loss to wilderness protection.

“Rural communities are the true protectors of the environment around them,” Costa says. “Ethno-conservation is the art, and it is our privilege of being able to work with communities for the sake of nature. Not just for the conservation of biodiversity, but also the improvement of their own lives.”

The drastic decline in visitor numbers in the wilds of Kenya, Zimbabwe and across the African continent highlights the importance of such a conservation model more than ever as decades of conservation successes hunker in jeopardy due to tourism collapse. 

“Our main target for tourism in Angola is internal tourism. We have 29 million people that don’t know most of the country,” says Costa. “We have a lot of potential though; whether it’s landscape, culture, adventure or eco-tourism, it’s possible in Angola. We are very much focused on creating the services and infrastructure for internal tourism before we look outside of our borders.

“In terms of tourism, Angola’s biggest asset is definitely diversity,” Costa enthuses. “Not just naturally and not just culturally. The conditions that you find from one place to the other are so unique that you can go, within Angola, to 10 different places that feel like completely different countries. We literally go from a tropical forest, all the way to a desert in one row. Angola has partnered with different collaborators to assure the protection of these spaces. Whatever happens in Iona National Park is completely different from what happens in the Luengue-Luiana National Park (which feeds the Okavango Basin), and that’s completely different from what happens in the Quiçama National Park.”

She also believes that protecting such wild spaces enables wildlife to flourish.

“Nature has this incredible thing that is, to me, one of the most fantastic traits. It is resilient. Even now, with this Covid-19 situation, we have seen how resilient nature is. Wilderness itself can resuscitate, and wilderness can find a future – if we just know how to protect it.”

When asked about inspiration and the future, Costa cites other intrepid conservationists, Jane Goodall and Sylvia Earle as strong influences.

“If I have to send a message to young women around the world, what would it be? Do it. That’s something that I always say. Do it. Whatever it is that we set our minds to do. We can most definitely, definitely do it. We can achieve impossible things. I’m a minister today. That says a lot!”

 – By Melanie van Zyl

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