Masters Bursary opportunity: Migration, Mobility, Transnational Urbanism, Climate Change and Environmental Migration

Background

Migration and mobility have become pertinent in academic discourse, particularly in relation to political and economic crises, large-scale urbanization, climate-change, environmental degradation, and vast economic inequalities between countries (especially the global South and North). The field of migration studies is both exciting and challenging, and requires multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches to existing challenges. Connecting the causes, processes and the effects of migration on urban populations has often proved a challenge to academic research. More so within the southern African context, where South Africa continues to occupy the central position in intra-continental migration, where many of the migrants originate from rural areas in the neighbouring countries and experience urbanisation in South African cities.

Does exploring the interconnections between migration, climate change, urbanisation and other similar challenges, excite you? If yes, this is your opportunity to become a 2019–2020 Global Change Institute (GCI) scholar.

Bursary award

The bursary includes  R 25000 contribution to tuition fees, R 60000 annual stipend, and project running costs. The bursary is tenable at the University of the Witwatersrand for a period of 2 years, annually renewable depending on satisfactory progress.

Deliverables will include:

  • Completion of an MPhil/MA/MSc thesis by December 2020
  • Participation and presenting in GCI internal seminars
  • Supporting the transnational urbanism project (up to ten hours per week) – for example, organising workshops, undertaking desktop research, social media posting and blogging.
  • Contributing to 1 individual or co-authored publication with Dr Khangelani Moyo

Minimum requirements:

  • A minimum of an upper second class Honours degree in any of the following or related disciplines: Sociology, Political Science, Anthropology, Migration Studies, Geography and Environmental Science
  • The candidate must also be highly motivated and able to work well in a team

Expected start date:February 2019

To apply, please submit a detailed CV with full contact details of at least two academic referees, academic transcripts, motivation letter explaining your suitability for the bursary, and a sample of written work to Dr Khangelani Moyo (Khangelani.moyo@wits.ac.za) by 15 February 2019

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The consuming fires of Soweto #black foreigners lives matter!

South Africa is composed of many diverse people. Some welcoming and others less so. I was taken aback by the violence that has once again flared up in Soweto. There is a sense that, these episodes of violence are a tool/resource that is held in place and readily deployed when desired. As to who controls or owns this violence I have no idea, but someone must be held accountable. If it is the community leadership, they must be called out and held to account for their actions. There is certainly a lawful way of handling disputes in communities and fixing wrongs other than resorting to violence. I sense that there is a breakdown in communication and a lack of credible leadership. I doubt that any community worth its salt would allow criminals to take charge as we are often told about criminal elements looting the shops. The irony is that, these same people that accuse Somalis of selling fake goods are the ones at the forefront of looting sprees. Why are they looting fake goods? are they looting these goods for disposal, inspection or consumption? So where does the fake goods narrative come in, who has introduced it and who is perpetuating it? The danger in South African society, I see it often in research where people talk about an “exception” as if it is the “norm”. In many instances, it may not be fashionable to talk about the norm and understandably there is the overemphasis on the exception which creates alarm. I am tempted to believe that, the fake goods story is just an exception rather than the norm and it is something that can be addressed through stronger enforcement and regular inspections. From what I know, the majority of Somali traders are law abiding and honest retailers who sell genuine products to communities.

The latest violence in Soweto is a clear demonstration of state failure. The South African state is failing in its duty to protect all people who live within the borders of South Africa, both foreign and local born. A working state intelligence would have gotten wind of the impending violence and dealt with the ring leaders beforehand or deployed plain clothes police officers in the community. As usual, the police only react to the violence rather than pre-empty it. Does someone have to die in order for the state to take action? Do black foreign lives matter in South Africa? Or maybe we should take a leaf from Trump and start talking about black African migrants’ genocide in South Africa?

On the end of the Nordic Charm!

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I have had my fair share of drama when it comes to international travels. If not a late night out and almost not waking up the following morning, it is the rush through airport security at the last minute and boarding the plane on the last call. Saturday, however was a different kind of drama, which revealed two opposing sides of Sweden. One side is that of warm and welcoming people who are willing to assist at the sight of distress or a lost stranger. I have my comparisons here, so excuse the bias. I know a city where you have to carry a bag full of coins to pay people for directions. I won’t mention names just yet. Excuse the digression, the other side of Sweden, is one that may be the exception rather than the norm yet it left an impression on me, “a fear of blackness” or the figure of “the black male” in a predominantly white country.

Here is the story of a lost stranger in a foreign land, perhaps a disclaimer for the Swedish immigration authorities, “I had no intention of absconding”. Having come to the end of my few days’ stay in Sweden, I traveled from the quiet former industrial city of Norrkoping to Arlanda airport in Stockholm on one of the public buses. Road transport in Sweden is not the fastest and a 200km journey will take you a good three and a half hours. There is both a good and negative side to slow speeds. In chaotic cities like Johannesburg, slow speeds can be the cause of massive traffic backlogs and even accidents. The drivers in Johannesburg are renowned for their impatience. There is always a sense of urgency about how people move about. An urgency that could be mistaken for productivity yet at times it is an urgency to the ground and a fatalistic sense of impatience that often ends in tragedy. Back to the bus in Sweden, lest we meander along the tales of taxi driverism. I booked my bus tickets a few weeks before and made the point to leave enough time/room for unexpected delays. This proved a really excellent idea as on my arrival, my flight from Dubai to Stockholm was delayed and I had to make a mad rush for the bus from the airport to Norrkoping. I thought I had everything under control and had done everything on time. I woke up a little after 9 am, mindful not to miss breakfast, “the most important meal of the day” and needless to say, the prices of food in Sweden are the stuff of legends. I had my breakfast and returned to my room to pack. Of course, packing for a return home does not require much effort as you just have to ensure that you don’t leave any of your stinking socks and undies. When that was sorted, I went downstairs and checked out of the hotel. My bus was only leaving Norrkoping at 3pm in the afternoon. There is quiet an obsession with time in Sweden, if you arrive a fraction of a second late, the bus won’t stop for you. So, I made sure that I arrive at least 30 minutes early for the trip to Stockholm. The driver, a stocky and dark Indian/Pakistani looking fella was very helpful. Well, there were two drivers, one white, Swedish I presume and another Indian/Pakistani looking. From the Indian sub-continent if you get my point. The journey itself was fine, no incidences, no traffic delays yet I still found occasion to create drama for myself. The first stop at the airport was on terminal 2 and the thick accent of the driver from the subcontinent kind of threw me off. For some reason, I thought there was going to be signage pointing to terminal five. But alas I was mistaken. I had to rely on the thick accent of the driver who spoke in Swedish to the ignorance of people like myself who had no flipping idea where we were headed. On arriving at the airport, I had seen road signs pointing to the direction of terminal five and when the bus was heading out, in my mind I thought it was now going to make a final stop on terminal 5, my mistake! The bus made its way on to the highway. Seeing that we were already heading out, I walked up to the driver, who delivered the bad news, “there is no other stop between the airport and Uppsala”. The bus will make a final stop in Uppsala which is some 30 something kilometers from the airport. Remember, buses here travel at painfully slow speeds, so you can get the calculators out and crunch the numbers regarding the time it takes to travel between the two places.

I had been on the end of Swedish hospitality a couple of times during my stay. I found the people very warm and accommodating, perhaps I can place them close to Ghanaians in terms of helpfulness and going out of their way to help a stranger. There is an easiness regarding the way that they go about their business, they are assured in their demeanour and they seem to share some kind of unspoken code of being polite and pleasant to each other and to foreigners. My blackness did not seem to matter. I did not feel objectified or seen as novel. If anything, people went about their business as normal, of course punctuated by the occasional greeting. Overall, the Swedish struck me as a people unburdened and a happy bunch. None seemed intent on dumping their lifetime of problems on me or my blackness, they seemed quite assured and happy to engage me at an intellectual level. Quite a far cry from the objectification I have experienced on my visits to China where my blackness was quite fascinating to some folks that they felt the need to ask for autographs, oh! excuse my Khalanga accent, I mean photographs. I was quite popular, where else can an uninspiring fella like me go and people scream to take pictures? Well, I experienced it in China. Quite phenomenal I tell you…

For a moment I thought Sweden was heaven, little did I know that even in heaven, there are sprinklings of Satan’s disciples, so to speak. My philosophy, which is a source of strength, is that, “I do not worry about things I cannot change or things I cannot do anything about” I only worry about things where I have the power to change the circumstances or to at least do something. In situations like Saturday, I do not panic, but I take a moment to think about what has to be done. Fortunately, I did not need to do the thinking in this instance, a wonderful Swedish gentleman did the thinking for me. He went out of his way to check for the available buses and train schedules for me. I thought I had seen it all, but not this much level of “considerate”. And checking for the transport was not the end of the story. This lovely gentleman, in the company of his 10yr old daughter recommended that I take the bus which would have been marginally cheaper than the train. When we got to the station in Uppsala, he showed me the way and off I went. Having arrived in Uppsala at around 18:55, I had to summon the speed of the Jamaican sprint legend Usain Bolt to make it on time to the bus terminal C1. In the rush, I decided to buy a ticket just before reaching the bus which was the biggest mistake I made, of course apart from“ukudlula lebhasi”. The ticket machine did not give me the English option, so when it took longer to process the payment from my credit card, in my ignorance I removed the card. You see, time is gold in these moments, 2 minutes is worth an hour. Yes, I wasted two minutes on the machine. The second time around, I got it right. Now, ticket in hand, I had to find bus terminal C1 and it was already 19:02 and the bus was leaving at 19:05, fine margins African child, very fine margins. This is not kasi where the bus waits for you or the mini-bus taxi reverses for 50 meters at the sight of a potential client/passenger. All this while I had confidence that I would make the time. Not quite sure where to go, I started asking people around. The first couple told me that they were also lost and they had no idea where C1 was. I walked over to an elderly Asian looking woman in the company of an equally aged white man. The reaction of the woman took me by surprise. I had gotten used to the warmth of the Swedish people and I was not prepared for the fear that I saw in the woman’s face. She froze and just looked at me without responding and quietly walked away as if to announce a case of Ebola on Swedish soil! I tried to ask the man in her company and I was met with the same indignation. What a waste of my precious 30 seconds. As I was walking away, three young girls approached me and asked what I was looking for. They were very friendly and warmly smiled at me when I told them that I was looking for bus terminal C1. They pointed the direction, “go up there and you will see the signs”. My faith in the Swedish hospitality and warmth restored, I walked up and duly turned in the direction of C1. Quietly impressed by the hospitality of the Swedes, I quickened my pace and as if to knock me back, the bus left as I was rushing towards it. Trying to signal to the driver to stop was none other than Peter, the gentleman that I had met on the bus. He asked me, “where have you been?” I told him, I delayed while buying the bus ticket. The disappointment in his eyes was palpable. He seemed genuinely concerned like it was him on the end of a missed bus. He had come specifically to check if I had made it into the bus. Well, all hope was not lost, Peter did a quick check on his phone and informed me that there is a train that will leave at 19:24 and I could catch it, it will arrive at the airport at 19:45 there about. Apparently, the train is faster than the bus, yet the only downside is that, I would have to pay more on arrival at the airport. An extra SEK120 levy. But I was not too concerned about the cost at this moment, only arriving on time for my flight back to South Africa. Well, they say the rest is history. I made it, with drama as always but a few lessons. I am still in awe of the hospitality of the Swedes. I felt the warmth and the kindness touching my heart, disarming my apprehensiveness, ending my fear of strangers.

Somehow, in my biased and myopic conception of Sweden, I am of the opinion that, the woman who’s afraid of blackness most likely is not from Sweden, she possibly is a foreigner and comes from a country where black brothers are a menace. Definitely no names of such countries…

 

“The little Portugal Still Lives in Our Hearts”: How former residents fondly remember their suburb

A drive down the streets of La Rochelle, gives one the impression of a suburb on the ‘brink’. While consensus is not probable, as to which ‘brink’ the suburb tethers on, our observations indicate some points of coalescence among the current and former residents that the area has not escaped the fate of similar suburbs in the old South which, have slithered into grime and decay. Conversations with former residents invoke nostalgic memories about the area in the 1960s and 70s when it was fondly referred to as ‘little Portugal’. 

 

The little Portugal still lives albeit only in the hearts of those that experienced it and still yearn for its return. In their hearts they are in exile and yearn for a return to the ‘promised land’ that they lived only once in their lives. To Mrs Chompkins, she tasted cakes like no other and is yet to taste them again in her twilight years on this earth. They all disappeared with the little Portugal and only sweet memories remain. The little Portugal was not only a symbol of beauty to the people that lived in it but also to the people that lived around and knew its beauty and what it offered: an experience of Portugal in South Africa. 

 

Not all is lost though as the little Portugal still offers great Portuguese cuisine in the handful restaurants still catering for its yesteryear clients. Once a year it creates a festive ten day season where the best Portuguese food is on show and beer is ‘on tap’ on the shores of the Wemmer Pan. This is the Lusito festival which to some flatters to deceive. At first sight, it is just a celebration but a little scratch uncovers a completely noble exercise all wrapped into the internationally acclaimed festival that celebrates the best of Portuguese culture. It is the talk of town and is listed as one of the key attractions to an otherwise criminally notorious part of Johannesburg South.

 

Dinner with Stalin and Goebbels in the digital age

Looking at Zimbabwe as a nation there are many ‘ifs’ and in this piece, I will focus on the ‘if’ in the media control and regulation. Have you ever wondered why the Zimbabwean creative arts sector is failing? Look no further than the Zanu Pf led Zimbabwean government. The obsession with the control of information has had the unintended consequences of stifling development in the creative sector and consequently stunting the nurturing of talent. The Zanu PF policy of controlling the media stems from the outdated Stalinist policies that can only be envied in North Korea. The Stalinist practices ensured the control of all media channels by the government and somewhat conceptualised the access to information as a resource in the manipulation of public opinion. Put plainly, it meant that the government controlled the type of information the ordinary citizen could access and in many ways shaped their worldviews.  In the context of rudimentary technology, it was possible to jam the airwaves and ensure that the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) is the sole source of news and information together with other state owned media. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the state broadcaster provided credible access to news and in many ways had considerable support from the greater Zimbabwean population. For instance, as kids we were always thrilled to sneak into our neighbours’ houses to watch wrestling and dramas produced by Amakhosi Arts. This was the era of the ‘black and white’ TV screen in Zimbabwe and owning a TV set was a symbol of pride and achievement. This alone, tells you ‘the reader of this piece’ about how long ago the state owned broadcaster was popular.

However, in the era of social networks such as Twitter and Facebook it is practically impossible for governments to control the flow of information. News and information dissemination happens in a matter of seconds and the audience is global. With the old media, the journalist had to gather information, verify the facts, write a story, and get the approval of the editor before it is printed and disseminated or included in the bulletin. Now the public can instantly upload photographs of incidents on their micro-blogging sites while the state journo is busy trying to be politically correct. While the first world societies are grappling with more sophisticated issues such as respect for intellectual property and rights on these sites, the Zimbabwean government agents visit the sites to prosecute people that make jokes about the president.

The bigger problem with the Zimbabwean system is that it is not only outdated but the architects are not willing to change with the times. The monopoly that the state broadcaster has over broadcasting space is not a viable option.  A good example is the proliferation of foreign-based media in the Zimbabwean broadcasting space. South Africa has also seen the opportunity to extend its soft power over the country as many Zimbabweans now consume media products packaged for the South African audience. The most recent case is that of the death of popular TV presenter Vuyo Mbuli. His death dominated discussions on facebook and twitter among Zimbabweans as if he was working for a Zimbabwean television channel. This speaks to the large number of individuals who tune in to the South African broadcasters every day and get involved in discussions about the goings on in South African soapies such as Generations, Scandal, Rhythm City, Muvhango and others. A decade ago, only the rich could access South African TV channels by installing DSTV decoders. However with new technologies that enable access to free to air channels it is possible and a widespread practice to pay the once off installation fee and have access to the SABC and ETV channels in any part of Zimbabwe. Increasing numbers of people in Zimbabwe now watch South African television and ignore ZTV.

The media is a powerful tool for cultural dissemination and preservation in any country and society. When this space is closed, it means that people will find other avenues of entertainment and access to cultural goods. The South African broadcasters have gladly filled this gap. The ‘powers that be’ ought to realise that one state-controlled media channel cannot sufficiently capture the aspirations of 12 million people. Zimbabwean stories need to be told by Zimbabweans and broadcast on Zimbabwean media channels. The space needs to be opened, as there is certainly no rationale for the continued stranglehold by the government. What this stranglehold has done is that it has killed creativity in the arts and it will take a long time to undo the damage. When the space is opened, the incoming broadcasters will have the unenviable task of matching the quality of the long established South African broadcasters in order to attract the Zimbabwean viewership. The South African broadcasters have been in business for a long time and use the latest technology, which means that, it will take a lot of monetary investment for the future Zimbabwean broadcasters to offer innovative goods. The broadcasters also work with production companies that feed content to local programming, which means that this sector will also need a revival.

 

The worst affected region is Matabeleland whose people have many similarities with the South African Zulus in terms of language and cultural norms. Artists from the region have the difficulty of having to match the quality of products produced by South Africans in order to be competitive. In a country with media freedom, it would have been a little easier for Zimbabweans to find the outlets for their talents and offer locally designed and targeted programmes. When the broadcasting space eventually opens, it will take a very long time for Zimbabwean companies to catch up and wean the audience off the South African content. In recent years, talented Zimbabwean artists have begun to break into the South African industry, a development that can only add further problems to the prospects of reviving the Zimbabwean arts sector.

I am an optimist, my hope is that Joseph Stalin, and Joseph Goebbels will one day exit the political scene together with their outdated philosophies, corruption and all the other ills so that we can have a new and democratic Zimbabwe in which individuals will not only have freedom of speech but also the freedom after the speech. 

The Street Speaks

It is not in the private domain or in closed quarters but on the street-face that appropriation and accentuation of identity is evident. The relationship that one has with the street is manifest in the symbols and ethnic imprints on the spatial fabric surrounding their commonly inhabited spaces. The names you give to your street speak volumes about your relationship with it. When I was a little younger and growing up in the streets of Bulawayo, it was a common practice for the youth to sit on storm drains and the small bridge-like structures in the townships. Smoking dagga was common among the idle residents of the streets who practically owned the specific bridge and waterways (umgelo/umgero). This represented an annexation of a specific part of the street and insertion of markers of identity by the youth who would spend significant amounts of time sitting there and occasionally harassing young females passing by.