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Township seminar at UP

Click here to listen to the podcast

Half of the speaking team.

Mark Gevisser;
Sakhela Buhlungu;
Angus Gibson;
Mpumelelo Paul Grootboom;
Anton Harber;
Tsepo wa Marnatu;
Chris van Wyk.

Place to talk across boundaries. In and outside of university. Across that boundary.

All male panel. Ironically women are vulnerable (corrective rape) in township. Apologizes that women will remain vulnerable.

Will each speak for 10 mins on their work and how it changes how we think of township. Then the resident scholar will comment on what they said and ask questions that bring it together.

Jokes about the diff between Wits and UP.

Doesn't describe Diepsloot as a township. Reasons why he'd wanted to write about Diepsloot. 1994 arose. Product of transitional period. Townships are enforced segregation. Calls it a settlement. Core area is called the reception area (received for allocation). People are stuck there. Diepsloot is JHBs reception area.

Legal and technical sense. Diepsloot had a delay because PTA and JHB argued about who should provide the services. So Diepsloot is an aspirant township. Only one section is informal so it's not an informal settlement. It's structure and organized. The state has to assert it's authority.

'Service delivery' is so passive. They are not active participants. 'consultation 'participative development'. Local business people got the tenders - 'corruption'? RDP one size fits all. Complex reality, pride of origin and a desire to leave - residents are ambivalent.

What did 'township' never mean? The positive and romantic, ubuntu. The township is a place people go back to for funerals and for the vibe. It's a ship that never went to town. The place remains the same.

Not Soweto. It's changing. So forget Soweto. It's good to be born in the township, but don't die there. It's not fit for humans. People there lack agency, no advancement, victims, valueless, no future. Art shows those things. Contrasted to suburbia. Why would you want to show that there are good things about a township. It's unconscionable.

You'd dress up to come to town. You have to raise yourself to go to the city - a better place. The city keeps marginalizing you. You work hard to be a part of it, but the city doesn't want you.

'As long as' is a Bantu expression, make do for the time being, at leastness. At least you have a school. The least of being. Toilet is outside. Public, exposed. Spectacle.

We have at leastness leaders. Some leaders had less. The leader has a higher bar he has to attain. He's not good enough for the big world. We see the leader from this bifocal way.

Townships are an insult to people's humanity. Why are they still there. The formula is flawed.

Tries to look for redeeming aspects of township. Wanted to show gritty, but came up redeeming. Beautiful confusion. The beautiful mess.

He hated the township. Grew up in Soweto. Lived near the hostels. Faction fights between parties. Spent little time in schools because of disruptions. Necklacing. Stayaways. Felt there was no hope. School was a way to get out. As a writer he was more objective and nostalgia takes over. Grandparents missed townships. Long after apartheid they are still there. Still growing. Homelands are hated. Townships should be hated.

There are people living there, it's not that they are destitute. There are all sorts of classes. The community functions.

The desire is to represent where you come from. Make the people rounded, make the audience shocked that those people are the same as people from the city.

From Durban. Overlooked the sea. Culture was over the sea. The local view repelled. Radio depressed. The timbre of white radio.  First political memory - mother say Verwoerd has been stabbed to death. Didn't know who Verwoerd was. Family disconnected from South Africa. Goals didn't involve local. Didn't see or register images of townships.

Blacks wore American stuff with their own style. This interested him. The minedump he once climbed showed him Soweto for the first time. The scale of that image that something that big could be hidden for so long was shocking. Afraid to go there.

Those were the streets that hooked and kept him here. Absence of image of township and black life. Designed as spaces that one doesn't linger in. Migrant labour that goes home. White people needed permits to go into township. Footage of townships was shot over police shoulders. Wanted to make verité films and needed a collaborator an insider. A poet and intellectual and his pal, the thug rub shoulders together.

Found archival images that we are familiar with but that couldn't be seen in the 70s. Few images of blacks and they were victims. He made documentaries in a vacuum. People could only speak about their own experience. Absence of the naturalist image. Yizo Yizo wanted the people to be what they really were.

Van Wyk:
White people have a preconceptions of what happens in the township. Horrified at being introduced by a whitey as choosing between gangster and writer. Not true. People knew the gangsters on the township, but not the names of the writers.

His township book - it's skinner. Should he use their real names. Not realising that it would sell 20 000 copies. Worried about it but the editor didn't think it was necessary. He had to move.

The people love that he wrote about their story. That they are interconnected.

Now lives in a sterile white suburb. You don't have to end up in the township. But has visited the township. People think that his accent will change.

Will respond to the presentations. Sociology professor focuses on activism. Labour. Politics.

Township is familiar. People have something to say. It symbolizes many things. Resistance, suffering, battles, wars, apartheid, shameful. They have produced leaders and rapists. Two contrasting views - jewels or hellholes. There's a website. South African townships are true jewels of the country. Heritage. Art. Sports. Culture revival.

Skosana carried a cross and did a hunger strike because the hellhole of crime still exists. It's a burden to be black today.

Issues: the good and the bad live side by side, difficult to untangle. Are the townships fir whites, colored and blacks the same? Place where people can practice their culture. Standards are relaxed, the bar is lowered. If a crook offers you goods you buy them. Celebrate and tolerate mediocrity.  Materialism is good that's how you measure people. How you got them doesn't matter. I only steal from white people. State has promoted and encouraged entitlement. Service delivery is the worst thing in post 1994. The grant. What's next. Individuals never have to take over.

What he feels we should talk about. Can you talk about townships without talking about rural areas and white suburbs. Mobility means move away. Townships are diverse. There's apartheid in the townships. What are the differences between the kinds. Hierarchy. Has that been demolished. The protests don't happen in the townships. Townships move. White suburbs become townships because the whites move out when the townships arrive. Apartheid was about space and ascribing that space with power or powerlessness. That hasn't ended. It's going to stay with us. The politicians abandoned the townships first. The majority is represented by people who don't live with them.

Alumni culture, money should be reinvested into home. Mamatu: We must start over. Get rid if the townships. Raze it  accountability of the rich, are they looting the poor. Gibson: working on a science fiction, envisioning an idealistic view of what can happen. Buhlungu: black diamonds (people who make it in the white suburbs) won't be attacked. Politicians are attacked, it will accelerate.

Townships are racialised by the speakers, but everyone lives in a version of the townships. What about what the role of the township is today. The past of the township is different from the present. Soweto is a farce, it always matters where you come from. Structural elements make it hard to succeed. Oprahvisation of the township. We don't show them as they are. We mutter about potholes, the labs in the township schools are derelict.

Diepsloot's trouble were political, not that they were attacking their neighboring white suburb, Dainfern.


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