Fighting back without hate

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005

In 1975 everything was going well for a singer called Thandie Klaasen. She was climbing up the ladder quickly. She was making it.

Then suddenly her whole world fell apart. Some people threw petrol over her face – and lit a match.

Thandie Klaasen’s beautiful face was gone. She now had only terrible pain and a broken life. But she fought back. She started at the bottom of the ladder again.
Learn and Teach spoke to the brave Thandie Klaasen. She told us a bit about her life:

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005OUT OF TUNE
“When I first began to sing, I sang out of tune,” says Thandie. “I first sang in the school choir at St Cyprians in Sophiatown. I grew up in the old Sophiatown.

“A girl with a beautiful voice sang with us in the choir. She always stood next to me. When she sang, all eyes were on her.

“I wanted all the eyes to look at me. So I always sang louder – and more out of tune.”

The young Thandie thought about her problem. And then one day she began to ask herself some questions. Why must I try to sing like the girl with the beautiful voice? Why must I try to copy her voice? And Thandie soon had the answer. “I have my own voice,” she told herself. “Let me use my own voice!”

So Thandie Klaasen began to use her own voice. And the eyes began to look at her. She joined her first group when she was 18 years old. The group was called the ‘Gay Gay ties’.

“One day the group got a job in Durban,” says Thandie. “The leader of the group told me to go home and ask my parents if I could go to Durban. But I was scared to ask my parents. And I really wanted to go to Durban.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005“So I went to Durban – without asking my parents. We came back three weeks later. And my father wanted to kill me. I was in real trouble.

“Then I got an idea. I gave my father all the money I made in Durban,­ every penny. My father said something to himself. And he put the sjambok away.”

And on that day, Thandie Klaasen made up her mind. She was going to sing. And her father did not stop her.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005KING KONG
“Then King Kong happened,” says Thandie. “I got a small part in the show. We left for London on the 2nd February 1962. In London I shared a room with Abigail Kubheka. She was a good friend.

“The show was going well in London. Then the lead singer Peggy Pango got sick. I don’t think she was really sick. I think she was actinq. She thought the show was finished without her. But she was wrong. At the last minute they gave me Peggy’s part. That was my big chance and I was ready. King Kong was my big break.”

And so the show went on. Thandie was good and there were no problems. The show went to many places in Europe. “Before we came back we went to Rome,” says Thandie. “And we had a lovely holiday.”

In Rome I found a wishing fountain­ you throw coins into the fountain and make a wish. I wished for happiness for my family. And I wished for my singing to go far. I felt good at that wishing fountain in Rome.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005

ROAST BEEF AND DUMPLINGS
“When I came back to South Africa, I heard about a Mr Paljas in Cape Town. He wanted actors for his new play. So I went to Cape Town and Mr Paljas gave me the job. I was the only woman in the play. It was fun.”

Then Thandie got another big break. She got a job to sing in Japan. “I really wanted to go to Japan,” says Thandie. “I was already married with two little children. My husband said I must go. I then told my best friend about the job. And she told me to come for supper that night. She promised to make my best meal ­ roast beef and dumplings.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005

Thandie in hospital

“When I went to her place, I saw two boys at the gate. I greeted them and passed. I saw her sitting with her baby in the kitchen. Then I heard somebody behind me. And suddenly my face was on fire.

“She hired those two boys to throw petrol over me and set me alight. They were only 18 years old. She gave them R10 and a bottle of whisky for the job.

“I hurt when I think about that time. I don’t know why she did what she did. We had no arguments. Maybe she just didn’t want me to go to Japan.

“I stayed in hospital for over a year. Oh God, that was a terrible time. I don’t like to remember what happened to me. My husband left me. And most of my good friends forgot about me.

“But some people did not forget about me. My family helped me. The nurses and doctors were very nice. And a few old friends like Queeneth Ndaba stood by me. They gave a concert to pay for one of my skin operations.

“And of course, my fans were always there. They didn’t forget about me. They came to visit me. And they sent me letters. I got letters from far away places like Mozambique. And I always had flowers in my room.”

Thandie Klaasen had plenty of time to think in hospital. In the long nights,
she thought about her life. She thought about the girl with the beautiful voice in the school choir. She thought about her angry father with his sjambok. And she thought about the wishing fountain in Rome.

“I thought about those two boys for a long time,” says Thandie. “And after a while, I felt no hate. My face was burnt – but I still had my voice.

“And I also thought about my children. I knew they needed a mother – and I was their mother. I knew I had to fight back.”

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005THE FIGHT BACK
And so after a long, painful time, Thandie Klaasen got out of her hospital bed. She went back into the world with a different face. And she went straight back to the stage.

She got a job in a play called the Black Mikado. “My daughter Lorraine was also in the play,” says Thandie. “I remember that play with sadness. Some of the other actors gave me a hard time. When they turned their backs to the people, they laughed at me. They mocked my face. They mocked me in front of my daughter.”

Thandie suffered very much. But she did not leave the stage. In 1981 she went to sing in Lesotho. She met Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela when they gave a concert in Lesotho.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005Thandie now sings mostly at night­ clubs. And her voice is beautiful ­ when she sings, all eyes look at her.

Thandie Klaasen is slowly climbing up the ladder again. But it’s not easy. “I sometimes have no work for a while,” says Thandie quietly.

Thandie Klaasen gets stronger every day. “You know, I often see those two boys who burnt my face,” says Thandie. “I don’t hate them. Hate makes you weak. Now when people hurt me, they only make me stronger!”.

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Rape – the crime against women

untitled0-8“A few months ago, I was on my way home to Soweto. When I got on the train, I saw a group of men standing together, in the corner. I did not take any notice of them — till I heard a woman crying.

“I stood up to see what was happening. The cry came from the corner. I saw that these men were raping a woman, right there, on the train. I opened my mouth to say something. But the woman next to me grabbed my arm and pulled me down.

“Then she whispered to me, ‘If you say anything, they will go for you too. It is better to pretend that you see and hear nothing.’ When I looked around, I saw that everyone else on the train was doing just that.

“I got off at the very next station to find help for that woman. But as the train pulled out of the station, I knew that I could do nothing. But I will never forget that woman’s cry, as long as I live.”

Women are raped everyday — in fact, 400 women in South Africa get raped everyday. People think it is only young women who get raped. But babies as young as six months old and women of 90 years old get raped. Every woman lives with the fear of rape all her life.

WHAT IS RAPE?

In South Africa the law says that rape is when a man forces his penis into a woman’s vagina when she doesn’t want to have sex. But women think the law does not say enough. The law must change.

The law must say it is also rape when a man forces his penis into the mouth or the anus of a woman. Or when a husband forces his wife to have sex when she doesn’t want to.

WHY MEN RAPE

People think that men rape because they cannot stop themselves when they want sex. But rape has nothing to do with sex — rape is about power and fear.

Someone told us this story: “I have a friend who rapes. Once I asked him why he did this. He said that he started to work on the mines when he was very young. He was raped by another man. In the end he became this man’s ‘girlfriend’. Now he is used to men. He is frightened of women because he does not know them. So, to have sex with women, he does it by force.”

“I think rape also shows how men think of women. If men see women as less important than themselves, then they think they can rape women. They don’t worry about how women feel. Often when men feel weak, they rape women. Then they feel better. I also think that when a group of men rape a woman, they are just trying to show off to their friends.

“People think that rape happens in dark streets, by strangers. But most men rape women that they know, and many women are raped in their homes. Women are victims because they are weaker than men.”

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM RAPE

If a man tries to rape you, you must decide what is best — to fight back and try to get away, or to keep still. Only you can decide this.

Good ways to protect yourself are to kick a man in his groin very hard, so that he cannot walk. If you stick your fingers into his eyes, he will not be able to see. Even spraying a deodorant spray into his eyes will help you.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE RAPED

Many women do not want to report rape to the police. But it is good to report rape for the following reasons:

1. You can get a legal abortion —that is, doctors will stop your pregnancy if you report your rape.
2. Maybe you will feel safer if you know your rapist is in jail.
3. It makes people know what a big problem rape is.
4. It makes other women safer.

But there are also problems in reporting rape. Women find it hard to tell people about their rape time and time again. If you report rape, this is what you must do:

• You must go to the police straight after it happens. Do not wash or change your clothes — the police will want them for evidence.
• You must tell the polrce the whole story when you make your statement. You can tell the police you want to make your statement in a private room or to the Station Commander.
• The District Surgeon will examine you — he will try to find sperm in your vagina to prove you were raped. If you were hurt, the district surgeon does not treat you — you must go to hospital for treatment.
• When they find the rapist, you must point him out for the police. They make men stand in a line. Then you must show them which man raped you. You must touch him.
• If there is a court case, you go to court as a state witness. The court case is often a long time after the rape. You have to tell the whole story again to the court.

GETTING A LEGAL ABORTION

If you are raped, you can get an abortion. But you must ask for an abortion. If you are pregnant from your rape, you must go and get an affidavit — a signed statement — from the police, to say that you were raped.

Then you take your papers to the local magistrate. The magistrate decides if you can have one. If he say you can have an abortion, he gives you a certificate. You must take the certificate to the hospital. The doctors will do an abortion.

If you did not report your rape, you can still get an abortion, but it is difficult. You must tell the police why you didn’t report it. Then the police decide if they will give you a letter for the magistrate.

GETTING HELP

Very often women feel very bad after they are raped. Women do not like to talk about rape because sex is a private thing. Also some people blame women. They say, “Well, she asked for it.”

Now organisations have started to help women who are raped. They are called Rape Crisis. Rape Crisis helps people to talk about their rape. Talking helps women to feel better. It also helps to stop being afraid of men.

These organisations help women to report rape. They will go to the police station with you. And they will help you with the court case.

PROBLEMS WITH REPORTING RAPE

Rape Crisis say that often when women report rape, they are treated as if they are to blame for the rape. They say this is wrong. Raped women must be treated like people who report assault — that is, when someone hits you.

They also want police women to work with women who are raped. They say when a woman has just been raped, she cannot talk freely to a man.

Rape Crisis also says that women must be checked by women doctors. And they say the doctor must not just check the woman, — they must treat her if she was hurt. She must get drugs for’vuilsiek’ orV.D. And she must be treated so that she does not get pregnant.

CHANGING THE LAW

Rape Crisis says the rape laws must be changed. They say rape is not a special crime — it is the same as assault. If anyone hits you, they are breaking the law. It doesn’t matter what you say to them. Rape Crisis says it is the same with rape. It doesn’t matter how you dress, or what you say, no-one must rape you.

The big problem with rape is that if a man is found guilty of rape, he can hang. Because of this, judges must be very sure that a man is guilty. So they ask the raped woman many questions.

Women have said that in court, they felt they were questioned as if they did something bad — and not like someone did something bad to them. They were asked all about their sex lives. Rape Crisis says women must not be asked about their sex lives. And raped women’s names must be kept secret.

RAPE CRISIS CENTRES

If you are raped, or if you want to help women who are raped, phone these numbers. If rape is a big problem in your community, maybe you can start a Rape Crisis centre in your area.

All these numbers are for messages. You must phone and leave a message. Then the person on duty will phone you back.

The story of the Ladysmith Black Mambazo

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t is ten o’clock in the morning. Clermont, just outside Durban, is quiet. Most people have gone to work. But some people are singing softly. They sing so beautifully they can make you cry. It is practice time for Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Everyday at ten, Black Mambazo get together, in the garage of their leader, Joseph Tshabalala. They sing and dance to keep their rhythm. The children know when it is practice time. They are there too, singing and dancing — and dreaming that one day they will sing and be famous like their heroes.

JOSEPH AND THE HIGHLANDERS

Joseph Tshabalala, leader of Black Mambazo, learnt to sing from his father. “I used to sit on my father’s lap, and listen to him sing.” says Joseph. “And when we went to bed, my father used to sing us to sleep. Singing was always part of my life.”

Joseph left his home, Ladysmith, 15 years ago. He went to work in Durban as a “spannerboy” at a building firm. “I joined a singing group called the Highlanders.” says Joseph/The Highlanders were not a bad group. But they had one problem — drink.

“They used to drink too much. When they were drunk, they came late for concerts. But when they weren’t drunk, they didn’t sing well. This made me lose a lot of sleep.

JOSEPH HAS A DREAM

“Then one night I had a dream. In my dream, an old lady, my father’s mother, spoke to me. She said, ‘I can see that you are having problems with this group of yours. Don’t worry, go and see your cousins, Albert and Milton Mazibuko. They will help you.”

The very next day Joseph went to the Mazibuko’s home. He told Albert and Milton’s father about his dream. He said, “Uncle, give me your two boys. I will teach them to sing with me. And the old man said, “Very good, my son. Your brothers are bored. They are drinking beer and doing naughty things. Talk to them.”

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Black Mambazo on the road

A SONG IN A STRANGE LANGUAGE

“We started there and then,” said Joseph. “We sang the first song I ever wrote. That song also came from a dream. In my dream I saw little children singing beautifully.

“I caught the tune but I could not catch the words. They were singing in a strange language. I used the tune and I made up words. I called it Nomathemba. It was the name of a girl I loved at the time. This song took us a long time to learn. But once we knew it, it was our favourite.

HOMEBOYS GET TOGETHER

On that first day Joseph sang with the Mazibuko’s. They were just three. The next day Headman, Joseph’s brother joined them.

Joseph left the Highlanders. And the two families — the Mazibuko’s and the Tshabalala’s, became the Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Today the group has 10 singers.

Joseph says, “We sing to make people happy. We sing about everything, about love, amabutho, imbongi, God and many other things.

SINGING HIGH AND WALKING TALL

“When we sing at concerts, we all wear the same clothes,” says Albert Mazibuko. “We all dance together when we sing. Our dance is called ‘Cothoza mfana’. It means ‘Walk proud, boy’.

“Joseph writes all our songs and I show everyone how to dance. Our music is called ‘Mbube’ or ‘scatamiya’ music. ‘Mbube’ music started long ago. ‘Mbube’ groups only use their voices. We never use guitars or pianos. So our voices must sound very beautiful.

BACK HOME IN LADYSMITH

Today everyone knows Ladysmith Black Mambazo. But Joseph says the first time they sang together, people laughed — until they heard them sing. “It was Christmas time.” Joseph remembers. “We went to Ladysmith. When we got there, people said, ‘Shame, Mr Tshabalala, you are singing with new people. Now you are singing with such small boys.’ But when my ‘small boys’ started to sing, people could not believe how well they sang.”

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Black Mambazo give their fans all they have

‘RECORDS STEAL YOUR VOICE’

“We used to sing in lots of competitions at that time. We won them all. People loved us. Everyone used to ask us to make records. But we thought we would make records when we were old. We thought that if we made a record, we would lose our voices.

“In the end my cousin arranged for us to go to Radio Bantu. We went but we were very afraid. We spoke to Mr Thusini and another woman, Doctor Haskisson. They made us sing many songs for them. But they were not happy. We were singing other peoples’ songs, not our own.

“Then we sang ‘Nomathemba’. They both liked it very much. So we sang more of our own songs. Soon afterwards we made our first album “Amabutho”. And the next year we went on our first tour around South Africa.”

BLACK MAMBAZO GOES FORWARD

Since that time Ladysmith Black Mambazo have made 23 albums — all of them great hits. And they have been all over the world. They have just come back from America now.

Black Mambazo sing most of their songs in Zulu. But because people love them all over the world, they now sing in other languages. They have made some songs in German, Sotho and English. And who can forget their famous English song “Hello my baby, Hello my shokolate”?

SIMPLE PEOPLE AT HEART

All this fame has not changed them at all. They are still simple people, like you and me. Joseph spends a lot of time with his children. “My son has his own group.” says Joseph. “They call themselves ‘White Mambazo’. They say we must look out for them. One day they will be more famous than Black Mambazo.”

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Ladysmith Black Mambazo have started a fan club. So, if you want to write and tell them that you love their music, you can write to…

Phistus Mekgwe: Mr Distributor

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Phistus Mekge

“I was born in Soweto, Orldando East on 15 September 1957 but grew up in Rustenburg. It was a village of Luka, Phiring, part of the MoPhiriing clan. Phiri means “hyena”.

“However, for many Bra Fees was Mr Distributor, who was responsible for distributing Learn and Teach to unions, communities, churches. He made many trips to the post office too, posting subscriptions to the readers far and wide.

“When I left school in 1980, I went to work at SASOL, then only SASOL 2 and SASOL 3 was still under construction. SASOL 3 was also part of their plans. Then in 1981, I was transferred. There was no union.

“We organised ourselves into CWIU, which had their offices in Germiston. We were working with Tshidiso Modupi, who later became an organizer.

“Meshack Ravuku also worked with us, more or less underground, to form the union. Sasol at that time was under heavy security and did not like discussions or pamphlets on progressive things. They also lectured us about terrorism and unions.

“You see I had arrived at SASOL the first time, after the ANC bombing of which Solomon Mahlungu was implicated.

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Bra Fees with community activist Thusi Rapoo

“So the bosses were very strict with us, in terms of security. And I was an organising then members in the plant, in a very hostile environment.¨

“We organized for the simple reason: because our wages / salaries were very low, and Apartheid inside the company was very strong and the whites had a lot of power. The place was fully segregated: the canteens, the toilets, etc. One could not even use a mug that was reserved for whites…

“All these factors coincided in them responding to the call of COSAS for a national stay away. This all came 5 and 6 September 1984 when the mass strikes resulted in 6 500 workers were dismissed.

“One demand we made that was very important to us, was that of UNION Recognition… SASOL could not believe that the workers could join a union, after they tried to brainwash us, the workers.

“I was a shopsteward and a recruiter for members to join our union.

FIREDLearn and Teach’s Marc Suttner came to do a story on the strike. More or less at the same time, Mekgwe began to sell the magazines to striking workers, earning a small stipend whilst being on strike.

“Many of the workers were fired and some reinstated. In some cases, they were asked to re-apply. We re-applied but the cases of the leaders were rejected. The company had taken our photos and accused us of being the instigators of the strike… with the news that we will not be taken back. But many got back… Not me. I was one of those not reinstated.

“I was then approached by Learn and Teach. I had been a seller and was looking for work. So I began selling it at union meetings at COSATU and other union meetings.”

That is how Phistus became a contributor to knowledge creation and for him, sharing knowledge was very important.

Based on interviews Hassen Lorgat did with Bra Fees, on 17 January 2012

“Kippie Moeketsi is not dead yet”

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In the old days everybody knew Kippie Moeketsi. He was the best saxophone player around. He played with big bands like the Jazz Maniacs and the Harlem Swingsters. He played with Hugh Masekela and Dollar Brand. He played in big shows like King Kong.

Now Kippie’s life is different. He cannot find work. He lost his house in Soweto last year. He had no money for rent.

Kippie now lives in Mabopane. This is a township near Pretoria. He lives with Dolly Rathebe and her family. Dolly was a famous singer in the Sophiatown days.

Learn and Teach went to visit Kippie Moeketsi in Mabopane. He told us about his life.

Kippie Moeketsi was born in the slums of Johannesburg in 1925. When he was a baby, his family moved to George Goch location. Kippie’s father was a clerk in the municipality.

Kippie’s father loved music. He played the organ for the church choir. He wanted his six children to play music. All the children became good musicians. Jacob, the oldest son, played the piano for the Jazz Maniacs.

Kippie was the youngest boy in the family. All his brothers went to school and studied hard. Jacob passed matric. Kippie’s brother Andrew became a teacher. But Kippie was not the same. He did not like school.

Kippie had three good friends. They played together all the time. They were very naughty. Sometimes they missed school and went to the golf course. They got jobs as caddies.

“We only got paid one shilling and sixpence a day,” says Kippie. “So we stole golf balls. Then we sold the balls back to the guys we stole them from. We sold the balls for two shillings and six pence.”

They had another trick. They put sticky tar on the end of long sticks. They went to the shop in George Goch location. When the shopkeeper was not looking, they reached over the counter with the sticks. The tickeys behind the counter stuck to the tar. They went back to the shop the next day. They bought sweets with the same tickeys.

Kippie left school after standard five. He was 18 years old. He got a job sweeping floors in a men’s hostel. But the wages were low and the work was boring. He left the job. He got a job at a chemist. He delivered medicine on a bicycle.

Then Kippie got a present. His brother Lapis gave him a clarinet. At this time, Kippie decided he wanted to be a good musician. He worked in the day. At night he played the clarinet.

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Kippie Moeketsi and Dolly Rathebe are back at work again!

“I played that thing until 2 0’clock in the morning,” says Kippie. “On weekends I played for 12 hours a day. The neighbours complained about the noise. But I did not stop playing. I loved music too much.”

Kippie learnt how to read music. After two years he played the clarinet very well. Then he learnt how to play the saxophone. Soon he was also a good saxophone player.

Other young musicians also lived in George Goch location. They played jazz together. They started a band. They called themselves the “Band in Blue”. Kippie played the saxophone for the band.

The Band in Blue played in an old house near George Goch. The band played marabi music – the music of the people. The people from the slums came to listen. They bought food and booze. They danced until 4 0’clock in the morning. Kippie’s problems started now. He started boozing a lot. He never stopped.

Kippie enjoyed playing for the Band in Blue. But he wanted to play in the townships. The small bands did not play in the townships. The gangs did not let them.

Gangs like the “Russians” and the “Spoilers” ruled the townships. The gangs only let big bands like the Jazz Maniacs and the Harlem Swingsters play in the townships.

Then Kippie got lucky. In 1948 the Harlem Swingsters offered him a job. The Harlem Swingsters started three years before in a backyard in Western Native Township. But now they were famous. The great Todd Matshikiza played for the group.

The Harlem Swingsters mixed American music with marabi. And they mixed it well. Music fans followed them all over the country.

The Harlem Swingsters had six good years. Then people stopped liking them. Kippie left the group. He started a small jazz band called the Shantytown Sextet.

The Shantytown Sextet played with a group of singers. The singers were called the Manhattan Brothers. The Manhattan Brothers were the best singing group in Africa. They were famous allover the world. They sold thousands of records.

The Shantytown Sextet and the Manhattan Brothers played all over the country. “Those were the days’; says Kippie. “Our shows were always full. I always had money in my pocket. We ate well in those days.”

In 1954 the Manhattan Brothers and the Shantytown Sextet went to Cape Town. They needed a piano player. Kippie saw a young man playing the piano in a bioscope. Kippie asked him to play for the Shantytown Sextet. The man’s name was Dollar Brand.

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Kippie playing with Dollar Brand in the old days

“Dollar knew nothing about music at that time’; says Kippie. “He was just a skollie. He followed me around everywhere. I taught him a lot. Now he is a big man in music.”

Dollar went back to Johannesburg with Kippie. He lived with Kippie at George Goch. They played together at a place called Dorkay House.

At Dorkay House they met other young musicians. They met Hugh Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa, Johnny Getz and Nathaya Njoko. Dollar and Kippie started a new band with these men. They called themselves the Jazz Epistles.

“The Jazz Epistles was the best group I have played with” says Kippie. “We played at four or five nightclubs in a week. Sometimes we played at two nightclubs on the same night. Then the white musicians complained. They stopped us playing at white nightclubs.”

The Jazz Epistles broke up after four years. Kippie got a job with a show called King Kong. He went to London with the show. But Kippie was boozing a lot. He got very sick in London. He went to hospital for two months.

img19Kippie came back to South Africa. But most of his friends had left. Hugh Masekela and Dollar Brand were in America. Kippie had no work.

Then Dollar Brand came back to South Africa. Kippie played with him again. But again the booze was a problem. Dollar fought with Kippie about the booze.

“That was the end,” says Kippie. “I have not played with a band since then. In 1977 I made a record with Pat Matshikiza. But that is all.”

Kippie never got married. He lived with a woman for 13 years. Her name is Becky. He met her in Sophiatown in 1951. They have two children. Becky left Kippie in 1964. She lives with her two children in Soweto. Kippie often visits them.

“I’m not bitter,” says Kippie. “But I’m angry about one thing. The record companies didn’t give me a fair deal. They made a lot of money from me. The record companies are now very rich. And I have nothing.”

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“I am poor now, but I am not crying,” says Kippie. “I’m fighting the booze. I’m going to win. Dolly and me are making a come-back. We are working hard together. Kippie Moeketsi is not dead yet!”

NOISE: a big danger to workers

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“We need a better law.”

Are you going deaf? Do your ears “ring”? Are you sleeping badly? Do you feel tired? Are you losing your voice? Are you losing your balance? Do you feel sick when you eat? Do you feel nervous? Do you get headaches?

If you answer “yes” to one of these questions, you may have ear damage.

Over 250 thousand workers suffer ear damage in South Africa because they work in noisy places. The law does not look after these workers properly.

South Africa has only 32 factory inspectors for 30 thousand factories. The inspectors can only check a few factories. And factories only pay a small fine when they break the noise law. R200 is the biggest fine a company gets when they break the noise laws.

Learn and Teach heard about the noise problem from the Technical Advice Group (TAG) in Johannesburg. TAG is a group of engineers and scientists who help workers. They have made a study of noise.

Most of the noise laws are in a law called the Factories Act. But the Factories Act is changing next year. So TAG thinks next year is a good time to change the noise laws.

TAG wants the government to make these changes:

The government must make employers pay a bigger fine when they break the law. TAG says a R200 fine is not big enough. And the government must get more factory inspectors to check noise .

img5The law now says that noise must not be over 85 decibels (A). Decibels (A) tell us how loud the noise is. TAG wants the law changed to 80 decibels (A). And TAG wants workers who work with noise over 80 decibels (A) to go to an ear doctor every year. The doctor must check the workers’ ears.

The law says that workers must wear earplugs when they work with noise over 85 decibels(A). But TAG says this law is not good enough. Most workers don’t feel comfortable with earplugs. TAG wants employers to do more. Employers must share noisy work among many workers. Workers must not do noisy work all the time .

Employers must build special rooms. The rooms must have special floors and ceilings. Then the noise won’t harm other workers in the factory.

Employers must look after machines properly. Many machines are noisy because employers don’t look after them properly. And when employers buy new machines they must think about noise. They must try to buy machines that are not noisy – even when quieter machines are more expensive .

Workers who work with noise must have quiet rest rooms for lunch and tea­ breaks.

img7Workmen’s Compensation must pay much more money to workers who go deaf. Workers who go deaf get very little money from Workmen’s Compensation. And deaf workers must get money more easily from Workmen’s Compensation. Many deaf workers don’t get money from Workmen’s Compensation.

Some workers work in noisy places but the law doesn’t look after them. For example, the law does not look after road workers, building workers, brewery workers and mine workers. TAG says the law must look after all workers who work with noise.

But TAG says workers must not wait for the law to change. Workers must stand together to make their jobs safer. One worker alone can’t make his job safer. But workers in a trade union are strong enough to fight for safer jobs.

TAG says workers can do things to make their jobs safer. Workers can:

1) Measure the noise: Workers can hire special machines to measure noise. This is the best way. But there is a simple test. Two workers must stand back to back. One worker must say 10 different words (example: cat, house, soccer, spade, table, shoe, bus, heaven, radio, pencil). If the other worker only understands half the words, the noise is dangerous, But remember. the worker must not shout the words. He must talk the words.

2) Complain to the employer: Tell your employer when you think the noise is dangerous. Ask your employer to get people to measure the noise. Ask your employer to make the factory quieter. Ask your employer to let workers share noisy jobs. And when the noise is over 85 decibels(A), tell your employer to send workers to a doctor for tests once a year.

3) Get the inspectors to visit your factory: If your employer does not listen, write to the Department of Manpower. Tell the Department to send inspectors to your factory. When the inspectors come to the factory, tell them about your problems.

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If you need help or advice, write to TAG. They will try their best to help.

News about the skin lightening cream struggle

WELL DONE DRUM MAGAZINE!

In the last Learn and Teach magazine we asked magazines and newspapers to stop advertising skin lightening creams. Drum magazine was the first to agree. They will stop advertising skin lightening creams. Learn and Teach thanks Drum. We hope other magazines and newspapers will do the same.

TOP SKIN DOCTOR GIVES ANOTHER WARNING

Ban all skin lightening creams with hydroquinone – this message comes again from a top skin doctor in South Africa.

The skin doctor is Professor Findlay. He has warned people about skin lightening creams for many years. He gives his new warning in the latest American skin doctors’ magazine.

Professor Findlay says the law the Health Department made in 1980 is no good. (I n 1980 the Health Department said skin lightening creams must not have more than 2% hydroquinone). Professor Findlay says the law is no good because people will just use more skin lightening creams.

Another skin doctor told Learn and Teach, “I don’t know why the Health Depart­ment doesn’t listen to Professor Findlay. He is the best skin doctor in South Africa.”

SCIENTIST ALSO GIVES WARNING

“Skin lightening creams are dangerous. They damage peoples’ skins,” a scientist told Learn and Teach. The scientist works at a university in Pretoria.

The scientist did tests with skin lightening creams last year. She tested creams that have hydroquinone. Most skin lightening creams are made with hydroquinone.

The scientist rubbed skin lightening creams onto guinea pigs. She rubbed the creams onto the guinea pigs every 24 hours. She did not give the guinea pigs a lot of cream – she gave the same amount people use.

After two weeks the guinea pigs’s skins went hard. They got bleeding scabs. After six weeks their feet and noses turned black.

THE HEALTH DEPARTMENT MUST BAN SKIN LIGHTENING CREAMS!