About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

29 April 2011

Winnie the Opera

A brand new opera, based on one of the most colourful (and controversial) politicians in South Africa; had its premiere at the South African State Theatre, last night. The venue was symbolic, as Winnie herself commented "was one of the institutions we tried hard to bomb", after the show in a vote of thanks to the cast and crew.

Any biographical art piece on a living subject, particularly a polarising subject, is difficult - and in my opinion, the opera failed. The opera focused quite a bit on the TRC proceedings and the Stompie Seipei incident, which the TRC itself judged "Ms Winnie Madikizela Mandela politically and morally accountable for the gross violations of human rights committed by the MUFC" (see the Wikipedia article). However, there was little focus on what made Winnie out to be the "Mother of the Nation", and what makes her a strong politician. In fact, Winnie Mandela's vote of thanks to the cast and crew after the show, provided far more insights to her ability as a politician than the opera itself.

My other criticism of the opera revolves around the lyrics - perhaps it is because of the language (most of it was in English), but the lyrics just didn't sound musical - and did not give any one character, particularly Winnie, any real solo parts to really show of their skills.

That said, the opera did have a number of high points. The production was spectacular in terms of costumes, set design, excellent score and the various use of video projections were stunning. The individual performances were also impressive - and the three main characters, Tsakane Maswangayi (as Winnie Mandela), Otto Maidi (as Columbus) and Pierre du Toit (as Major Swanepoel), coupled with some impressive backing performances.

There is a very limited run right now (5 shows), and the opera is comparatively short (only 90 minutes), and the performances well worth supporting. Perhaps, the opera was designed with popular audience in mind; hence the shorter duration with less focus on the broader story. While I wouldn't watch it again, it was certainly an enjoyable performance.

24 April 2011

Pikitup Strikers - Shouldn't they really be heroes?

The Pikitup (the municipal agency in Johannesburg, which is responsible for garbage removal) ended on Thursday, after approximately 3 weeks. The non removal of garbage from across the city has had its impact, and there are off course a number of calls in the media to be not charged for services not delivered. On top of this, the ANC has accused the union SAMWU, its ally, of sabotaging the ANC election campaign in the upcoming local government elections.

Amongst all this, the subject of why Pikitup workers were striking seem to be conveniently forgotten. The workers had three agenda points - investigation of corruption and nepotism in senior management, the treatment of temporary workers and wage disparities. The fact that they settled the strike without any agreement on wage disparities - the subject of almost all industrial action in South Africa in the recent past, shows that this strike was nothing to do with money.

What I find worrying, is not that there was a strike which affected all residents of Johannesburg, but that the workers were striking to get action to investigate allegations of corruption and nepotism. Has our municipal system become so corrupt, that the only way to draw attention of corruption and nepotism in the senior management of municipalities is through striking? Has the political leadership of the municipality completely lost it?

So unlike many of my fellow residents, I will not criticise SAMWU or the workers of Pikitup. In fact, I think they need to be commended for taking a stance. And perhaps the rest of the residents of Johannesburg should actually complain, not about the strike, but the leadership higher up that should have resolved the issue of corruption and nepotism long before it got here.