The power of an empty hand

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Sensei Solly Said (standing second from the right) with the great Kaicho Nakamura (sitting on the left)

Solly Said has walked the hard road of karate for 21 years. He has found the real power of karate not in his punch, but in his spirit.

Solly is a teacher of karate. He is called ‘Sensei’ by his students. The word ‘Sensei’ is a Japanese word. It is a respectful way of saying ‘teacher’. You are called ‘Sensei’ when you get your fourth black belt.

Karate began in Japan many hundreds of years ago. The sport was started by the poor people who worked the land. They were not allowed to have weapons in those days. Only their masters, the Samurai warriors, were allowed to carry weapons.

But the people had their hands for weapons. Their hands were enough. The word ‘karate’ means ’empty hands’.

“NO FIRST ATTACK”
True karate students believe that karate should only be used for self defence. Sensei Solly could be more dangerous than a leopard in a fight. But he does not want to fight anyone.
“There are rules in karate,” says Solly. “One of the rules is ‘no first attack’.”

This rule means that karate students must try not to get into fights. The true karate student only fights when he or she is training. Solly explains: “Karate should be used only for self defence. And to uphold truth and justice, and to help people who need it.”

“People think karate is about violence. But it is really about non-violence. The most important thing about karate is that it builds strength of spirit. It helps you to grow and become a better person.”

A PEACEFUL SPIRIT
It is the peaceful spirit of karate that makes it so different from other sports. Solly tells a story to show how a karate student should build his spirit.

“Long ago in Japan, a great karate master was riding home on a riksha (a light cart). It was at night, and a group of thugs tried to attack him. But he jumped off the riksha and ran home.

“The next day he was teaching at his dojo. (A dojo is the place where karate students train). Some people came to see him. They were the thugs who attacked him the night before. They had come to say they were sorry — and to thank him for not fighting them.

“They only found out who he was after they attacked him. And they knew that he could have hurt them very badly . But he chose not to fight. He was true to the spirit of Karate.”

UNDER ATTACK
But sometimes you do have to fight. Solly was once attacked by two tsotsis as he was walking with his wife. One of the thugs stabbed him with a long Okapi knife.

Solly could not use his left arm because of the knife wound. But he dropped the first thug with a kick. Then he turned, fast as a whip. Another hard kick from Solly knocked the other tsotsi down. They ran off, leaving Solly to bandage his wounds.

Solly is glad that he was able to chase his attackers off with his karate skills. “But the best fight,” he says, “is the one which is not fought at all.”

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Solly fights mostly with empty hands – but he can handle weapons too!

FINDING THE WAY
Solly has made karate his life. It started for him in 1967. Then he was a young boy who loved sport. He played soccer, and he played the game with all his heart. But he lived in a rough area in Johannesburg. This area was called ‘Chinatown’. The people who lived here were poor — and they were tough.

Young Solly Said played a good game of soccer. But he was small and thin. He bounced around almost as much as the soccer ball when the game got rough. And he ended up in fights too.

“I needed to do something to protect myself,” Solly remembers. “I started looking around — there were only two or three karate schools in Johannesburg then. But they were for whites only. Karate was banned for blacks at that time.”

Maybe the whites in those days thought blacks who knew karate would not only break bricks, as karate people can — they might knock down houses too!

But the young Solly Said did not give up easily. He joined a youth group. One of the sports the youth group did was karate.

LIKE A ROCKET!
“Once I started, it just took off like a rocket!” says Solly. “I couldn’t think about anything but karate. My schoolwork suffered because of it!”

When Solly’s father saw his school marks go down, he was angry. “He gave me three days to decide if I was going to do karate or play soccer,” laughs Solly. “I took karate — and I’ve never looked back.”

Solly had a dream. And that dream was karate. He trained hard with the youth club’s karate team. They had to practise in secret because of the ban on blacks doing karate.

They trained on the mine-dumps. And they trained in schools after everyone else had gone home. They had to be careful that the night- watchmen did not catch them there!

But Solly was young. He wanted more than just mine-dumps and back-yards. He wanted adventure.

THE ROAD TO JAPAN
“When I finished matric, I planned to hitch-hike to Cape Town. I was going to get work on a ship, to go to Japan.”

It is the dream of every karate student to go to Japan. It was Solly’s greatest wish to go there. But things happened differently for him.

The Japanese government would not give him a permit to enter the country. So he saved all his money and he caught an aeroplane to the other side of the world — New York, USA!

Solly heard that a great karate teacher was in New York. His name was Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura. The word ‘Kaicho’ means ‘grand master’. Solly had heard strange things about this man, Nakamura. That he could fight 100 men at once. That he could catch arrows out of the air. Solly went to New York to see for himself.

A MAN OF FEW WORDS
Kaicho Nakamura is a man of few words. He says little — but Solly learned much in the time he spent as Kaicho’s student. Solly trained hard during the day. And he trained hard again at night.

Solly has painful memories of New York. “The training there is very, very tough,” he says. “Each class lasted about two hours. The last 30 minutes were left for fighting (called ‘kumite’). You had to stand up and fight anyone in the class.”

“Many times I remember walking to the dojo, and just praying I would live to the end of the class!”

But the biggest test was still to come. At last it was time for Solly to go for his black belt. It was a time that Solly will never forget.

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Black belts can fly too – but they can’t get past Solly!

THE TEST
To get a black belt, you must prove you are good enough. So you have to fight against students who are black belts themselves.

As Solly walked past the other black belts for his test, he heard one of them say, “We’re dealing death — is this punk going for black belt?” Solly was scared. But he knew he had “the best teacher in the world” — Kaicho Nakamura.

After the test, Solly was black and blue with bruises. His friends had to help him to walk out of the dojo. Solly did not know how long he had been fighting that day. The kumite had started at 3 o’clock. And it ended at 6 o’clock. Solly felt like a worn-out punching bag. But he had passed the test.

A DOJO AT HOME
Since that time, Solly has gone back many times to New York. And he has trained in Japan too. He has opened his own dojo in Johannesburg. His karate club is called Seido karate.
The head of Seido is Kaicho Nakamura.

Now Solly trains his own students in the Seido style of karate — just as Kaicho Nakamura trained him. Solly’s dojo is non-racial. His students are of all races.

This non-racialism caused some problems when the dojo opened in 1976. The police visited the dojo a number of times. At that time, South Africa was thrown out of world sport because of apartheid. So the government could not close the Seido dojo. This would have made South Africa stink even more.

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Kiaaaaai! Seido students shout the power of their punch

LIKE A FAMILY
“We are like a family here at Seido,” says Solly proudly. “We have 19 black belts now. The black belts teach the other students. They must listen to their problems and show them the way.”

Nesan Naidoo is one of the Seido black belts. He is still young — but his body is tough and hard from the long years of karate training. He started karate when he was five years old.
“Karate is more than a sport,” he says. “It is something you do because you have a love of it.”

Another black belt, Kalil Koor, agrees with Nesan. “I find karate is good for the mind, the body and the spirit. It is for people of any age. It is not like other sports which have an age limit.”

A SPORT FOR LIFE
Jerry Mothlabane is 44 years old. He has been doing karate with Solly for 14 years. Jerry tells how he started karate. “I was working with Sensei Solly,” Jerry remembers. “He said I should train too — so I thought I would give it a try.

“I found it was not just self-defence. It has changed my life completely. Now I understand more about people, and about life too. I learned that you have to understand yourself before you can understand others.”

How long will Jerry carry on doing karate?

“As long as I live!” he replies.

Solly, Nesan and the others all nod their heads in agreement. They have found a sport for life. They have discovered the power in an empty hand!

NEW WORDS
self defence — to protect yourself
thug — tsotsi
non-racialism — when people are not judged by the colour of their skin
age limit — when only people of a certain age can do something

Mikhail Gorbachev – the man and his vision

Soon after Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union in March 1985, he did what all new leaders of that country do. He went on a “walk-about” to meet the people of Moscow.

But then he did what no other leader has ever done. He did not go to places where people were waiting for him with flowers and flags — and with everything spic and span.

He went to a supermarket and spoke to shoppers about the food shortages. He went to a creche and spoke to mothers who were fetching their children.

Then he visited a hospital and asked the staff about their work. They told him everything was fine. Gorbachev looked them in the eye and fired some questions: Do you have bandages? Do you have gut for sewing stitches — I know that’s always in short supply? Then he went through a list of drugs —did they have those?

The doctors looked at each other in surprise — and then they opened up. They told him about the problems and the shortages — like not having enough sheets to change the beds often enough, and how the patients got cold food because the kitchens were too old and small.

“You have to learn to tell the truth,” said Gorbachev. “We can’t help you if we don’t know what you need.”

Then he saw a little old woman looking at him from around a corner. He went to speak to her. “Babushka (granny), what do you do,” he asked gently. She said she was a cleaner. What did she earn? Eighty roubles a month — the minimum wage. How did she live on that salary? “She can always get a second job in the evenings,” chipped in the hospital director.

Gorbachev spun around to look at the director. “You have to start paying people enough so they don’t need to do a second job,” he said angrily.

A NEW KIND OF HONESTY

Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev, the eighth general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, brought a fresh, new style to the job — and a new kind of honesty.

He came with a message — a message that he summed up by bringing an old Russian word back to life: “Glasnost”, which simply means “openness”. Under Gorbachev, the spirit of “glasnost” is sweeping through the Soviet Union. People are looking at themselves as they have never looked before. People are talking about things they haven’t spoken about for years.

There is open debate in the newspapers and on television, in the factories and on the farms. People who were banned have been unbanned. Books that could not be read are back in the libraries. The missing pages of Russian history are being collected — and the mistakes of the past are being studied and discussed.

There is the sweet talk of democracy in the air. State officials now have to answer to the people — and the crooked ones are being thrown into the dustbins of history.

THE ROAD TO SOCIALISM

The new winds of “openness” have breathed a new life into a people who have walked a long, hard road to socialism.

Since the Communist Party came to power in the Revolution of 1917, it has turned the Soviet Union from a poor, backward country into one of the strongest in the world. There may be shortages and problems — but it is a country where nobody goes hungry. Everybody gets free education and medical care, and nobody is out of work.

But the people of the Soviet Union have paid a heavy price for the journey they have made. Millions of people died in the two world wars — and millions more died at the hands of the Russian leader Joseph Stalin, who ruled the country with an iron hand from 1927 to1953.

SILENCE UNDER STALIN

The methods of Stalin went against the true spirit of socialism — and against the thinking of Vladimir Lenin, the first general secretary of the Communist Party and one of the founding fathers of socialism.

Stalin let nothing get in the way of his plans — no matter what the cost. He believed this was the only way to build the country. A country that is so large that it takes eight days to cross by train. A country so huge that it can be day in one part and night in another. A country so big that its people speak over 100 different languages.

Stalin believed that to push the country forward, he could not allow people to ask questions. There was no room to disagree and people were forced to be silent.

Since Stalin, there have been times when some “openness” was allowed. This happened for short periods under leaders Nikita Khrushchev and Yuri Andropov. But they could not change the system that Stalin built. The silence remained.

WHO IS THIS MAN?

So who is this ” straight talking” Mikhail Gorbachev who is now breaking the silence — and who is speaking of the need for “glasnost” or openness?

Who is this man who is saying that there must be no “blank spots” in the history of the Soviet Union?

Who is this man who has the courage to say his country has made mistakes — like the sending of Russian troops into Czekoslovakia in 1968 and Afghanistan in 1979?

Who is this man who is allowing his country’s writers, artists and newspapers a new found freedom — and who says that there wiil be no more political prisoners in the Soviet Union by the end of this year?

Who is this man who is now saying that it’s time to look at the problems and weaknesses of the Soviet economy — and who talks of the need for “perestroika” or “restructuring” to put it right?

Who is this man who is talking about making the world a better and safer place — and who says that there should be no nuciear weapons left on earth by the year 2000?

Who is this man who has given a new look to the Soviet Union — and who is taking socialism to new heights with his strong belief in democracy and the socialist way of life?

Who is this man who talks straight when dealing with other countries — and who has even won the respect of the “cowboys” who like to believe there is a “red under every bed”?

Who is this man who has brought a new hope and a fresh vision to his own country — and to millions of other freedom loving people all over the world?

“A COUNTRY BOY”

Mikhail Gorbachev was born on 2 March 1931 in the village of Privolnoye near the city of Stavropol, about 1400 kilometres south of Moscow. This part of the country lies between the Black and Caspian Seas. It is one of the most fertile areas in all of the Soviet Union.

Gorbachev came from a family of peasant farmers, who were loyal members of the  Communist Party. His grandfather was a founder and chairman of a collective farm. His father, Sergei, was a tractor driver and a combine harvester operator. He was “a modest man, deeply respected for his skills.”

There is not much information about his mother’s side of the family — except to say that she is still alive today and that Mikhail has never forgotten to buy her a present on her birthday!

Three years after Gorbachev began his education at the village school, the Second World War broke out. His father went off to fight Hitler and never came back. He died in action.

In 1942 the Nazis came to Gorbachev’s village. The young Gorbachev saw the terrible cruelty of the enemy soldiers. He remembers travelling around after the war and seeing the great cities of Russia lying in ruins.

“A MODEL WORKER”

At the age of 14 Gorbachev began his first job. He was an assistant to a combine harvester operator at a “machine tractor station”. These stations ploughed the fields of the farms in the area. In the evenings Gorbachev and his fellow workers attended night classes to learn about the history of socialism and the Communist Party.

From the start, Mikhail Gorbachev was a “model worker”. At the age of 17 he got an award for his hard work — the Order of the Red Banner of Labour. This honour is not given to many.

Gorbachev was also a brilliant young student. He got another award — a silver medal — when he finished secondary school. He then went to study law at Moscow University.

The fact that the “young country boy” made it to one of the best universities in the country says a lot about the fairness of the education system in the Soviet Union.

“A POPULAR STUDENT”

At university Gorbachev was an official of the Komsomol — the Young Communist League. An old friend and fellow student remembers him as “intelligent, bright, popular and openminded.”

In 1952 Mikhail Gorbachev became a full member of the Communist Party. The following year Stalin died and the chief of the KGB (the Committee for State Security), Lavrenti Beira, took over. But he did not last long before he was kicked out.

Nikita Khrushchev was the next teader — and, for a while, there was a new feeling of openness. It was an exciting time at the university — and Gorbachev “joined in happily”. Looking back, this was an important time in Gorbachev’s life. It shaped his thinking for the future.

This future was soon to be shared by a bright, young woman called Raisa. Mikhail met her at the university — and married her a few years later. Raisa, an expert on family life in the Soviet Union, believes strongly in her husband’s ideas. She has, in many ways, been the driving force behind Gorbachev’s wish to further the rights of women in the Soviet Union.

Gorbachev passed his final exams “with distinction” — and in the summer of 1955 he went back home to begin his career as a full time party worker.

WORKING WITH THE YOUTH

At first Gorbachev worked with the youth members of the Komsomol. He organised lectures, parades and elections. He also recruited volunteer youth workers. In the Soviet Union the party youth help with harvesting, and the building of dams and power stations. Because they do this work on week-ends and in their spare time, they are called “subbotniks” (little Saturdays).

In March 1956, after less than nine months in the job, Gorbachev read Khrushchev’s “secret speech” about the crimes of Joseph Stalin. It was secret because it was only read by party members. It was never made public.

Up till this time, Stalin was treated like a god. So Khrushchev’s speech was an important step in the political education of young party officials like Mikhail Gorbachev. It was a flickering of glasnost, a beginning of the wish to uncover the “blank spots” of history.

CLIMBING THE PARTY LADDER

Gorbachev rose quickly up the party ladder. He soon became first secretary of the Komsomol, which gave him a seat on the party’s ruling council in the region.

In 1961, he went to Moscow as a delegate to the twenty-second congress of the Communist Party. At the congress he voted for Stalin’s body to be removed from the place of honour in Red Square, where the body of Lenin lies.

The next year, at the age of 31, Gorbachev was given a new job in agriculture – as an organiser for the collective farms in the area. He now studied part-time for a degree in farming. Besides being a trained lawyer, he was soon an expert on soil and on crop production.

In 1966 Gorbachev was made Secretary of the Communist Party in Stavropol city. Two years later he was Secretary of the whole Stavropol region.

At this time, Gorbachev became friendly with a powerful man, Yuri Andropov, who came to the Stavropol area for holidays. He was chief of the KGB. Andropov liked and respected the young Gorbachev — and helped him rise to the top of the Communist Party.

But it was not only powerful friends that sent Gorbachev to the top. He also had ability. He showed this by starting a quick, new way of ploughing and harvesting. He sent “fleets” of tractors and combine harvesters to the corn fields. This helped to speed up the work of the farms in his area — and won him the praise of party leader, Leonid Brezhnev.

It was not long before Brezhnev called Gorbachev to Moscow — and put him in charge of farming for the whole of the Soviet Union.

A SKILLED POLITICIAN

As one writer puts it: “Gorbachev started with a bang. The harvest of 1978-9 was the best the Soviet Union had ever known…”

But the next year, the harvest was one of the worst. While others may have lost their jobs, Gorbachev showed a lot of political skill. He said he knew what was wrong and how it should be put right.

For example, he told the government to build better roads in the countryside. He said that lorries travelling from the farms to the railways lost a fifth of their load because of the bad, bumpy roads.

But not all of Gorbachev’s ideas were accepted — like his idea to increase the size of private plots for farmers. He believed this would make farmers produce more.

When Brezhnev died in 1976 after 12″stale” years in power, Gorbachev’s old friend Yuri Andropov took over. Under Andropov, Gorbachev became secretary of the central committee of the Communist Party. He and Andropov saw eye to eye on many things.

SOME IMPORTANT LESSONS

Andropov and Gorbachev believed that farm workers should have more control over their work — and that those who produced more should earn more.

But there was a problem. Even if farmers produced more and earned more money, there was no point if they could not buy anything with that money — or if the things they could buy were of poor quality.

Gorbachev was now learning some important lessons. When leaders like Andropov and Gorbachev said things “should be allowed to happen”, they often did not happen.

There was a reason for this. There were state officials who did not want to see changes in case they lost their power.  This is an old problem in the Soviet Union, going back about 300 years.

Andropov began to remove those officials who were standing in the way of change. He wanted to put new people — like Mikhail Gorbachev — in their place. But Andropov was a sick man and did not live long enough to see the changes he wanted. He died early in 1984.

The next leader, Konstantin Chernenko, was a “Brezhnev man”. He believed in the old way of doing things.

But Chernenko was also a sick man. He died after only 11 months in the job.

It was now the turn of Milkhail Gorbachev. He had learned much on his way to the top – and it was with these lessons in mind that he spoke of the need for “perestroika”

FACING THE PROBLEMS

Mikhail Gorbachev has explained the meaning of perestroika in his book “Perestroika — New Thinking For Our Country And The World.”

Gorbachev says that the Russian people are proud of the great progress they have made since the Revolution.

But he says things began to slow down from the late 1970’s. The people on the farms and in the factories are not working at their best — and they are not using modern methods.

The Soviet Union is the biggest producer of steel in the world — but there are shortages because of wasteful use. The country is one of the biggest producers of grain — but they
have to buy millions of tons of grain every year for animal food. The country can send rockets to the moon, but Soviet appliances — like TV sets and fridges — are of poor quality.

“Our society is ripe for change. It has long been yearning for it,” says Gorbachev.

THE FIRST TASK

He writes: “People are the makers of history. So the first task of perestroika is to wake up those who have fallen asleep…”

He says it’s time to get the people going – and for people to have more discipline and self respect.

“Every single person must be part of perestroika….workers, managers, farm machine  operators, journalists and politicians… everybody must look at their style and method of work….

“We must prick everybody’s pride….We must look at the way we live and the way we act. If we learn to work better, be more honest, and more decent, then we shall create a truly socialist way of life.”

A LITTLE STORY

Gorbachev says that perestroika will only work if people are positive in their work. He tells a little story:

A traveller went up to some people who were building something. “What is it you’re doing?” he asked. One replied angrily: “Oh look, from morning till night we carry these damned stones.” Another got off his knees, straightened his shoulders and said proudly: “You see, it’s a temple we’re building!”

Gorbachev says that if you see your task as the building of “a shining temple on a green hill”, the heaviest of stones are light, and the most tiring work becomes a pleasure. “Any job one takes on must be grasped and felt with one’s soul, mind and heart — only then will one work an extra bit harder…”

“DEMOCRACY IS THE KEY!”

The key to perestroika is more democracy, says Gorbachev. Workers must be in control of their work, as well as all other matters in their lives. There must be more self management in the factories and on the farms. Managers must be elected by the workers.

Factories and farms must start paying their own way. Those that make a loss will be closed down. Once farms and factories meet the production targets set by government, they will be free to decide what to produce and where to sell.

Farmers will be given bigger plots of land to farm for themselves — and people will be able to start small family businesses.

“Does perestroika mean that we are giving up socialism?” asks Gorbachev. “No,” he says. “We are looking within socialism, rather than outside it for the answers to the problems…We will proceed towards better socialism rather than away from it. We say this
honestly without trying to fool our own people or the world.”

SEARCHING FOR PEACE

Gorbachev believes that perestroika will only succeed if there is a lasting peace in the world. He believes that a country cannot grow properly if it has to spend money on guns.

“We are all passengers on one ship, Earth, and we must not allow it to be wrecked… We want a world free of war, without arms races, nuclear weapons and violence.”

“We are all students, and our teacher is life and time…We want freedom to reign supreme in the coming century….We want people of every country to enjoy prosperity, welfare and happiness…”

Gorbachev believes that there is only one way to end wars: “Every people and every country must have the freedom of social and political choice.”

A MEETING WITH TAMBO

There are some people who believe that if Gorbachev wants perestroika to work, the Soviet Union will have to start saving more money and looking after its own needs. This means cutting down on the help they give to the people who are struggling for freedom in different parts of the world.

Gorbachev says this is not so. He says his country has always supported, and will keep on supporting, liberation movements around the world.

The ANC is one of the liberation movements Gorbachev has in mind. He writes: “When I met Oliver Tambo, President of the African National Congress, I said to him: “We side with
you in your struggle against the apartheid regime and its henchmen, for a democratic state…”

Gorbachev says some people like to believe there is “a communist plot” in southern Africa. But this is not so. “The Soviet Union has no special interest in southern Africa. We want only one thing…peace and stability.”

IN THE HANDS OF THE PEOPLE

The chances for such peace and democracy in South Africa — and other troubled spots  — are now much greater with the coming of Mikhail Gorbachev.

He believes that openness and common sense is the only way to solve the problems of the world — and that people should sit around a table and talk to each other.

But we should not fool ourselves. Gorbachev’s vision for his own country and the world will not last if it stays just a vision for too long.

Gorbachev needs results — and to get these results he needs help and support. He has, in many ways, put the future of his vision and himself in the hands of his people — and everybody else who believes in what he is doing!

THE ROAD FORWARD

The conditions in the Soviet Union and South Africa are quite different – and we are at different points in our struggle. But there is still much we can learn from Mikhail Gorbachev and the people of his country.

Perhaps the most important thing we can learn is the need to keep looking at ourselves honestly.

And to ask questions: like — are we doing enough in our lives? Are we grasping the task at hand with all “our soul, mind and heart?”

Is there enough “openness” among us? And even with the great difficulties of detentions, state of emergencies and sometimes even death, can we truly say that the spirit of “glasnost” and democracy burns bright in our organisations?

And for those of us in these organisations to stop and think: Are we working well enough? Is there a better way of doing things? Would some restructuring help?

Perhaps we can even take it further and ask: When apartheid is dead and buried, will “glasnost” be part of our every day language? Will we learn and build on the lessons of “perestroika”?

If we can answer these sorts of questions honestly and truthfully, then we will surely have taken a step forward on the road to our “shining temple on a green hill!”

Bra Zacks, father of “our kind of Jazz”

Who is the father of our kind of jazz? Why, Bra Zacks Nkosi, of course. He was the man who could make a saxophone talk.

He did not have a Mercedes Benz or a big double-storey house. He never wore fancy clothes. Bra Zacks lived in an old brick and mud house, ate dombolos and liked to wear amahiya in the traditional way.

Last month Bra Zacks was remembered by a group of his loyal fans, the famous and the not so famous. They met in Alexandra on a Sunday morning to pay their last respects to a son of the soil. They came to put a tombstone on his grave to honour his name.

Outside the house where Bra Zacks used to live, Ntemi Piliso and the Jazz Pioneers brought back memories of Bra Zacks as they played some of his songs. The dust flew as some old toppies jived the tsaba-tsaba, just like old times. It was a day to remember.

A BAND IN THE HOUSE

Isaac Zacks Nkosi was born in Ingogo in Natal in 1925. Later his parents moved to Alexandra where he grew up.

Like so many other musicians of his time, Bra Zacks began his career by playing a pennywhistle and a paraffin tin guitar.

Then one day his sister Minah bought him an old organ “to keep him off the streets.” The organ changed his life.

“He fumbled with it until he got it right,” remembers Aunt Minah. “Then the other kids started coming over and before we knew it we had a band playing in our house.”

Zacks learned to play almost every instrument he could get his hands on. But it was the saxophone that became his biggest love. With this instrument he did not fumble!

SWEET TO THE EARS

Bra Zacks started playing music at a time when many other jazz musicians were playing American jazz. But he believed in our own music, mbaqanga.

Many people then thought mbaqanga was old-fashioned and not for city people. They believed this music belonged to the ‘Jim comes to Joburg’ types — the people from the farms.

But they had not heard Zacks playing. His music did not sound like Charlie Parker or Duke Ellington, but it was sweet to the ears. This was jazz with a new township beat — our own kind of jazz.

In 1940 Zacks joined a big time band called The Jazz Maniacs, and played alongside such greats as Zuluboy Cele. The young Zacks played at halls throughout the country.

“The forties and fifties were a good time for him,” says Aunt Minah. “He played with many bands like The Havanas, which he started himself, the Boogie Woogies “and the City Jazz
Nine. People were crazy about his music.”

“HE MADE US PROUD”

Mr Mike Mazurkie Phahlane, jazz critic and former editor of Zonk magazine, says Zacks’ death in April 1980 was a blow to South African music.

“He was a great musician and music writer. The man’s fresh talent can be heard from his old hits. ‘Alex Township Jive’, ‘Zavolo Blues’ and ’10th Avenue’ are still the country’s best ever jazz hits.

“If they had given prizes to the best musicians of the forties and fifties, Zacks would have taken them all. No one can fill the gap that he left.”

Bra Zacks may be gone but his music is still with us. He will always be remembered for making us proud of our own music and roots — mbaqanga.

NEW WORDS
tombstone — the stone on top of a grave
fumble — to do something in an unsure way
former— something that happened in the past
a music critic — someone who writes about music
gap — a hole, an empty space

Letters

Dear Learn and Teach,
I am a girl of 19 doing standard 9. I would like to thank all the people and organisations who are fighting to save the lives of the “Sharpeville Six”. The judge in the case admitted that there was no evidence to show that anyone of the six actually laid a hand on the dead councillor, Mr Khuzwayo Dlamini. So I say that clemency should be granted to the six. The death sentence is an unfair sentence, especially in South Africa, where there is apartheid and racism. A punishment must teach a person a lesson so that he is warned. You don’t learn from dying so I say the death sentence must be abolished.
Ngesi
Beaufort West

Dear Learn and Teach,
I am a new reader of Learn and Teach – I am very happy with this magazine because it teaches me a lot. I read about the Small Claims Court in Number 1, 1988. Now I am going to claim my money from a man who cheated me. He owes me R600 but when I go there to get my money, he tells me to come back next week. I have spent a lot of money going to him every weekend to ask for my money. Because of Learn and Teach, I know how to take him to the Small Claims Court.
Gilbert Ncube
Soweto

Go for it, Gilbert! We hope you get your money back.

Dear Learn and Teach,
I just want to say ‘Forward with Learn and Teach’. Thank you for your magazine – I have learnt so many things from Learn and Teach. Most of all, I have learnt about the history of our people. Even under this state of emergency, victory is certain. Forward Learn and Teach!
MN
Fort Beaufort

Dear Learn and Teach,
Please help me with this problem – it makes me feel like killing myself. I was arrested for stealing last year and I am worried that this record will mean that I cannot go to teacher’s
training college. My elder brother has promised to pay for me to go to college, but what if they do not accept me because of this police record? What will I do with my life if I can’t finish my schooling. I think I have destroyed my future.
JL
Seshego

Thank you for your letter. We don’t think you need to worry about the college turning you away because you were arrested. We spoke to some principals, and they say they do not check if students have a criminal record or not. The only thing they check is your school results, so you must try to do well in your matric exams. They will call you for an interview at the college, but they will not ask if you have a criminal record. Don’t let this worry you – so long as you do not get into trouble with the police again, and you do well at school, your future will be bright.

Dear Learn and Teach,
I want to get a licence to run a taxi. Where must I go for it?
Albert Ethusang
Germiston

Thank you for your letter, Albert. If you want to drive a taxi, you must get a Public Service licence from the municipal licensing department. If you want to run your own taxi, you must have a permit from the Local Road Transportation Board in the area you will drive the taxi. You can find the address under Transport in the government section of the telephone book. The application costs R10 and if you get the permit, it will cost R100. It takes about six months to get a permit. If you want to find out more about running a taxi, applying for a licence and permit, you can write to the South African Black Taxi Association. Write to:
Mike Ntlatleng,
Head – Communications Dept.
SABTA, P. O. Box 269,
Pretoria 0001.
Tel (012) 325-1570

Dear Learn and Teach,
I am unemployed. I was retrenched last December. I don’t see any chance of getting another job. So I want to get a licence to work as a hawker. I want to join the hawker’s association because I think it will help me to defend myself.
Crayton Faye
Tembisa

Thank you for your letter, Crayton. You can join ACHIB – the African Council of Hawkers and Informal Business. Their address is;
ACHIB
Room 803,
Medical Towers,
Jeppe Street,
Johannesburg, 2001,
Tel (011) 23-0542.
They also have a branch in Tembisa at  the Tembi Shopping Centre, Xaxa Section. You widget your hawker’s licence much quicker if you apply through ACHIB. They say it takes a few days through them, but if you apply on your own, you can wait several weeks.

Dear Learn and Teach,
Thank you for all the hard work you are doing for the readers of Learn and Teach. I hope that you will help me to find my wife. She left me in 1977 with our child. Since then I have been trying to find them. Last year my brother-in-law told me she was working on a farm near Rosendal, but was leaving for Johannesburg to find work. She complained about suffering to bring up the child. Now I want to be together with my family again. Please heip me to find them.
Sammy Khoaisi
Weltrix

Thank you for your letter, Mr Khoaisi. Wehope your wife sees this letter and gets in touch with you. It is eleven years since you’ve seen each other, so it might be difficult to get back together again. Maybe it will help if you go to see her family and ask them to help you find her.

Dear Learn and Teach,
Please help me to get my certificates from the Transkei Department of Education. I lost my Std 8 and Std 10 certificates in 1986. I applied for duplicate certificates from the education department in Umtata and they sent me forms to fill in. I returned the forms with a payment of R2. I have written to them and sent them a telegram, but they did not reply to me. I really need my certificates, please help me to get them.
L M Qushwana
Cleveland

Thank you for your letter, Mr Qushwana. We spoke to the Transkei Education Department, but they could not trace your application. Please write again, by registered letter to Mr Mathandabuzo at Private Bag X5003, Umtata and complain about the delay in getting your certificates. Please give him all the dates and details of the postal order you sent.

Dear Learn and Teach,
I am a 16 year old white middle class person. I regard apartheid as a sin and morally I support the liberation struggle. But I have not really done anything to help end apartheid. I have lived comfortably all my life and have done nothing to help others less fortunate than myself.
RS
Kew, Johannesburg

Thank you for your letter. There are many whites in our country who share your problem. But there are things you can do. Join a progressive organisation, such as Links (an organisation of white school students) or Joyco (Johannesburg Youth Congress). Read progressive literature and educate yourself – and educate your friends too. For information about progressive organisations, events etc. write to: Jodac (Johannesburg Democratic Action Committee), PO Box 93118, Yeoville 2143.

Dear Learn and Teach,
Hello! I’m writing to ask for help with my English. I learned about ‘prepositions’ from the English lesson in the magazine. Now I want to learn about ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ speech. I will be very happy if you can do an English lesson on this.
Johannes
Taung

Thanks for the letter, Johannes. We have passed on your letter to the people who prepare the lesson in the magazine. They say they will try to write a lesson to help you. They also thank you for the idea – and say they will welcome other ideas from our readers. Please write to:
English Lesson,
Learn and Teach Publications
P.O. Box 11074
Johannesburg.

Dear Learn and Teach,
The South African government is waging war against God. They have banned democratic organisations. Now the next thing they are going to do is silence the media and the church. The Bishops, the Archbishop and the priests are under attack! The Lord said to his disciples: Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul, rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell.
A.M.
Bleskop

Dear Learn and Teach,
I hope you will help me to get my ID book. I was born in 1961 and my mother died when I was very young. My mother was never married to my father and I have never met my father in my life. I grew up with a friend of my mother’s and I use my mother’s surname. I went to Home Affairs in Durban for an identity book. They told me to bring proof of date and place of birth. I explained everything to them. They sent me to the social workers, but they did not help me. I was called to the Home Affairs office again, and they told me they can’t help me to apply for a birth certificate because I don’t want to bring them the proof of date and place of birth. I have told them I don’t have the proof – what can I do?
Thabiso Kgapole
Durban

Thank you for your letter, Thabiso. We think the “proof” that the Home Affairs needs is just a sworn statement (affidavit) from you, and from your mother’s friends who brought you up, to say when and where you were born. You can get help in making this affidavit, and having it signed by a Commissioner of Oaths, if you go to the Black Sash Advice Office 27 Ecumenical Centre, 20 St Andrew’s Street, Durban, 4001, Tel (031) 301-9215. The Black Sash is open from 8 30 to 1pm and 2pm to 4pm Monday to Friday and you do not need an appointment. They do not charge for their services.

A mother speaks

“I greet you with a broken heart.” This was how Cecilia Ngcobo began her story of how her children have been taken from her, by death and by detention.

She was speaking at APARTHEID ON TRIAL, an all-day protest meeting held at the University of the Witwatersrand on 23 April. It was organised by the Free the Children Alliance.

The ‘trial’ was held to show the world how the system of apartheid treats its children. And many ‘witnesses’ came to tell their story. There were doctors, lawyers, social workers, priests, mothers and, of course, the children themselves.

They spoke about detention, torture and vigilantes. They spoke about children coming out of detention and not being able to sleep at night. They spoke about what apartheid has done — and is still doing — to the children of this country.

The meeting heard that since the government brought in the first state of emergency in 1985, over 8000 children have been detained. At the moment 300 children are still in detention.

THE FIRST WITNESS

Cecilia Ngcobo from Soweto was the first ‘witness’ to speak at Wits. She is the mother of eleven children.

Ma Cecilia, who has worked as a night cleaner in Johannesburg for the past 20 years, told the meeting what it is like to bring up children under apartheid — and of the hardships mothers have to suffer when their children are part of the struggle for a better South Africa.

She spoke of the heavy price her children have paid. Three have been detained. One of them is still in detention. Another is dead. Her eldest son, Jabulani, was killed in Swaziland by soldiers from South Africa on 16 December 1984.

100 BULLETS

When Ma Cecilia heard that Jabulani was dead, she went to Swaziland to bring his body home. “His body had more than 100 bullets. There were bullet-holes even in his hands,” she told Learn and Teach after the meeting.

“At first they wouldn’t give me the body. I had to fight for a long time to get it. I felt very hurt. I just wanted to bury his body.”

It cost her R784 to bring the body back to Soweto, and R356 for the coffin — more than three month’s wages. Jabulani, Ma Cecilia’s eldest child, who was killed in Swaziland in 1984

DETENTION…AND MORE DETENTION

Ma Cecilia’s suffering began in 1982, when her second son Chris was arrested at Fort Hare university in the Ciskei. Chris was a member of the Azanian Students’ Organisation (AZASO). He was detained for eleven months.

At that time Cecilia didn’t know about organisations like the DPSC that helped the families of detainees — so she went to the Ciskei by herself. She was not allowed to see him.

When Chris came out of detention, he went to study at Wits university. He was detained again in June 1986. The next day they took her third son, Bheki. At this time Ma Cecilia did not sleep.

At night she worked — and in the day she went to police stations, and to lawyers and the DPSC for help and advice. Her husband Maxwell, who works as a driver, was not able to help her. He works during the day — and if he does not work, there will be no food for the family.

Cecilia went from one police station to another looking for her sons. “They wouldn’t tell me anything. I tried for a whole week. In the end some students phoned. They didn’t give their names, but they told me where my children were.”

RAIDS … AND MORE RAIDS

In June 1987 Bheki’s twin brother, Gerry, was also detained. Gerry was an organiser for the Transport and General Workers’ Union.

But Ma Cecilia’s problems didn’t end there. The “blackjacks” and the army raided the Ncgobo home again and again. “They turned the house upside down — stoves, fridges, everything. The blackjacks couldn’t read, so they took everything, even my church book. When I complained they threatened to beat me.”

Gerry was charged with keeping banned literature. The SACC paid his R300 bail, and he was released in August 1987. He was then charged and found not guilty in February 1988. Bheki, was released in July 1987. Chris is still in detention at Diepkloof Prison, 21 months later.

But even when the children come home from prison, there is no peace. Three days after Bheki came out of prison, the SADF came to the house at four o’clock in the morning. “They took me and beat me up,” says Bheki. “The next day they brought me home. Now I don’t like to sleep in my house. I am afraid they will come back.”

A TRUE MOTHER

Ma Cecilia Ngcobo has been through a lot with her children — but like a true mother, she has stood by her children through thick and thin. It has not been easy: now she has high blood pressure because of all the worry. Her doctor has told her that she will have a heart attack if she is not careful.

Ma Cecilia’s health has suffered — but that does not mean her spirit is also broken. One good thing has come out of all the suffering. She is no longer afraid.

“I used to be afraid. Now I am not,” she says.

The same is true for many of the other ‘witnesses’ who spoke at Wits university. They had also suffered, or seen suffering. But like Ma Cecilia, the fear is gone. They are not afraid to
stand up and talk about it.

They were not afraid to say that the children of this country have suffered enough. They were not afraid to agree with the speaker who said: “A country that destroys its children is destroying its own future.”

The verdict at the end of the ‘trial’ was clear.”Apartheid: guilty as charged!”

NEW WORDS
alliance — when different groups work together to fight for the same thing
witness — a person who speaks about something they have seen
torture — when people are badly treated, like when they are beaten, given electric shocks or kept alone for a long time in a prison cell
threaten — to scare somebody with words
banned literature — books, magazines and papers that are against the law
release — to set free
verdict — the decision at the end of a trial: guilty or not guilty

The Olympics of the Oppressed

Later this year a flame will be lit in Seoul, South Korea. The flame will mark the beginning of the Olympic Games.

It is a time when thousands of sportsmen and women from all corners of the earth meet to decide who is the strongest, the fastest and the best. It is the greatest of all sporting events.

But winning is not everything at the Olympic Games. For the sportspeople, and for the millions who watch them, just being there is a great moment in their lives.

Under the glow of the Olympic flame, they will join hands in a spirit of peace and togetherness.

But it is a moment that the people of South Africa will not share. Because of apartheid, South Africa is banned from the Olympic Games. It has been this way since 1960 — and it will stay that way until apartheid is destroyed.

A FLAME OF HOPE

But here, in the darkness of South Africa, the flame is not completely dead. It burned brightly in Cape Town for a few days over the Easter holidays.

SACOS — the South African Council on Sport — brought over 500 sports -loving people together to take part in a big festival. They called it the “Olympics of the Oppressed.”

The festival was to mark Sacos’s 15th birthday. The organisation was formed in 1973 to bring together sporting organisations from the oppressed communities in South Africa. Sacos believes that you cannot separate sport from the freedom struggle. Their battle – cry is “No normal sport in an abnormal society.”

EASIER SAID THAN DONE!

In 1982 SACOS also held a festival. At the last minute the only sponsor decided not to back the festival, and SACOS had to fight to get funds for it.

This time the funds came from different sponsors, and the Sacos Olympics were a big success.

For five days there was a feast of over 20 sports. People filled the stadiums, halls and swimming pools. There were speeches about sports and the struggle for freedom, and there was a programme of music and other arts. Crowds shouted “VIVA SACOS” and sang the national anthem wherever you went.

THE OPENING CEREMONY

It was easy to see how exciting the world Olympics must be. The opening ceremony started with a big gymstrada. Over 600 schoolchildren and college students took part.

They had practised for four months for the festival. Dressed in black and yellow, they made beautiful patterns all over the playing field. When they formed the word SACOS across the field, the crowd stood and clapped for a long time.

There was a march-past of all the people chosen for the SACOS games, followed by the presidents of each sporting body: athletics, baseball, boxing, chess, darts, bodybuilding, cricket, tennis, table tennis, squash, swimming, softball, weightlifting, rugby, soccer and hockey.

The SACOS executive was introduced to the crowds. Speakers told of the struggles and hardships of sportspeople who practise and play without proper grounds, and with few or no training facilities. They also spoke of apartheid in sport and how it divides people in our country.

At the opening ceremony one of the speakers said: “The SACOS Olympics will help oppressed people to take their rightful place in a new South Africa. A South Africa free of divisions based on colour and wealth.”

THE GAMES BEGIN

The standard in all the events was high, and the spirit was friendly and sporting. In the athletics there were many brilliant performances. Shaun Verster, one of the fastest runners in Africa, was a big attraction for the crowd.

The volleyball games (male and female) produced a thrill a minute. In the packed hall there was a lively, cheering crowd. The SACOS invitation team played exciting volleyball for over five hours. They showed the skill and fitness that come from years of practice and discipline.

Surf lifesaving was something new for many in the crowd. On a cloudy and windy day, hundreds of people went to Strandfontein beach to watch. The lifesavers gave a great display of their strength and knowledge of the sea.

The swimming gala was also very impressive. The swimmers showed  that they are able to compete against the best in the country. The most attractive event was the water gymnastics. Three teams of young swimmers moved through the water in time to the music.

A DING—DONG AFFAIR

The soccer match between the South African Soccer Federation amateur team and the National Professional XI was disappointing at first — but it came alive in the second half. The amateur team showed good skills and scored the first goal. But the professionals soon showed their class and came back to win the game.

The table-tennis games were a dingdong (or ping – pong?) affair. Scores in each game were close, and here too the standard of play was high.

On the last day it was athletics again, with high quality softball and baseball games in the afternoon. It was windy, rainy and cold, but the crowds came anyway. Many athletes had taken part in the Senior Schools Sports a few days before, and they were tired — but they came to the Olympics to show their support for SACOS.

A SUCCESS FOR SACOS

All in all the SACOS games were a success for both players and spectators. The festival showed that one day the oppressed people will be able to take their place at the highest level in a future South Africa free of apartheid.

As one player said: “If we can do so well now with so few opportunities, think how much better it will be when all sportspeople in South Africa have the same facilities for training.”

SACOS President Frank van der Horst was pleased. “It was a huge success. People are very excited. They can’t decide if we should have the games every four years or every year.”

There was a sad note, however. There were not enough faces from the townships in the crowds or in the teams. It shows that SACOS needs to work harder to take its place among the people. There is no reason why it cannot do so.

NEW WORDS
“the oppressed” — the people who are pushed down
glow — the light from a flame
sponsor — the people or company with the money
gymstrada — when lots of people do gym together, a gym display
training facilities — the space and the equipment you need to train.
impressive — very good
compete — to play against
attractive — very nice to look at

Forward with the Women’s Struggle

They came, singing and clapping, from all over South Africa — and together they made history.

It was the first time that the women of Cosatu came together to talk about their problems — and what it means to be black and a woman and a worker in South Africa.

The Cosatu Women’s Conference took place at the Rand Showgrounds in Johannesburg. It lasted for three days, from the 2 2 – 2 4 April.

MESSAGES OF SUPPORT

Workers from all over the world sent messages supporting the Cosatu women. Letters came from Sweden, Holland, Italy, Britain and Norway. Even the ANC’s women’s section sent their greetings to the women at the conference.

Some women came from far away. Three comrades came from Namibia. They came from the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW). Helene llonga lives in Windhoek. She is the chairperson of her local Domestic Workers’ Committee. She 18 says: “I was chosen by the union to come to the conference. I was very excited. We were very happy to come here to share our thoughts and to learn from our comrades in South Africa.”

SPLITTING INTO GROUPS

The women sat together and listened to what the Cosatu leaders said. They then split up into four groups and started talking about the women’s struggle.

• The first group talked about women at work — in shops, in factories, on farms and domestic workers. They spoke, for example, about how women sometimes do the same work as men but are paid half as much. And sometimes women want to do such work, but they are told they cannot because they are women.

• The second group spoke about women in the unions. They discussed why women do not take part in.union activities as much as men do — and why there are so few women in leadership positions. They spoke about – the many problems that women face which make it difficult for them to do these things.

• The third group spoke about health and safety. Women must often work in dangerous and unhealthy conditions. They can do the same work as men. But they are different to men because they must bear children. This causes many problems for working women.

• The fourth group looked at the problems of women in the community. They talked about women in rural areas and in urban areas. But women all over share the same problems — like housing, childcare and uncaring husbands.

MANY DIFFERENT IDEAS

At the conference they talked about ways and means of bringing women together to solve their problems. Some said, “Cosatu must organise women to take the struggle forward”. Others said, “No, it is for the women’s organisations in the community to organise women.”

Said one Cosatu member: “We were not surprised that there were some difficulties. It was the first time the special problems of women at work, in the unions and in the community were looked at seriously.”

But people agreed that women’s organisations in the community should carry on their work. They would work together with Cosatu women, and Cosatu women would work with them in the community.

They decided that women from different unions must come together to solve their problems in the Cosatu Women’s Forums. And they agreed to take the issues of women to Cosatu’s next National Congress.

At the end of the day the women stood together and sang the national anthem. Then they shouted with one voice: Amandla!

SOME OF THE RESOLUTIONS

The conference made many resolutions. Here are just some of them:

• Women should have the right to be pregnant and give birth when they choose. Pregnant women must have full job security and be given at least 8 months paid leave.
• There must be research and education about the dangers to health at work, especially dangers to women. Union members should set up health and safety committees in their workplaces to fight for better health and safety conditions.
• Cosatu must campaign to educate men not to beat or rape women. Cosatu must work with other organisations to fight for the right of women to have an abortion.
• Cosatu should educate its members about AIDS.
• Farm workers and domestic workers should also get unemployment fund (UIF) money like other workers.
• Cosatu members must be educated about women’s issues. They must know that women can also do union work, and so they must elect women to positions in the unions.
• Cosatu must fight to get equal work for women and men, with equal pay. This would form part of the Living Wage Campaign.

NEW WORDS
local — nearby, nearest to you
conference — a big meeting
issues — problems, things to speak about
resolutions — the things people at a meeting decide to do