Suntosh Pillay

Umngqusho, koeksisters and defining South African culture

Being a vegetarian I never imagined that I would find myself (happily) plating 12 dishes of a braised sheep’s head and fried chicken feet. But these are the kinds of delicacies you end up serving if you’re ever tasked with showcasing South African food. “Smileys” and “walkie talkies” are what they’re called in Khayelitsha, where…

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Why it doesn’t matter if Zuma reads our letter

Thirteen of us wrote an open letter to President Jacob Zuma last week asking him to resign. It was first published on The Daily Vox, and then republished just about everywhere. Did he read it? I doubt it. Do we care? Not really. I’m being glib, but I was asked by print and radio journalists…

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Urgently rethinking mental health in South Africa

As troops of psychologists flocked into Joburg last month, Emperors Palace morphed into a marketplace of ideas. My everyday work context is a busy public hospital setting, so as I prepared for this annual congress, mental health was on my mind. And it still is, because October is mental health month, and Saturday was World…

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The pointless hypocrisy of pretending to be homeless

The eThekwini Municipality recently offered “an opportunity of a lifetime” for residents to sleep on the streets – for a night. Along with I-Care, a non-profit helping homeless kids, the purpose was to give people a taste of the hardships experienced by being homeless. “Participants will spend one evening with homeless people of the city…

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Statues will fall: A critique of four newspaper columns

The Sunday Tribune carried four articles on April 12, 2015 analysing the Rhodes Must Fall debate in the context of transformation in general. Thank goodness for Shose Kessi’s brilliant analysis that saved those pages from being completely out of touch with activist sentiment on the ground. I want to unpack the complexities that each writer…

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Terrorism or mental illness? Why race matters

When co-pilot Andreas Lubitz crashed the Germanwings plane, killing 149 people, “mental illness” was deployed as an explanation. If he wore a turban and had a beard, and if I were a betting man, I would put my money on the media labelling him a terrorist. Where would you put your money? Be honest. Have…

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In 76 countries, love is still a crime

Where are the gay couples in Valentine’s Day advertising? February 14 is another reminder that even the most intimate aspects of our lives continue to be controlled by enduring social, religious and political forces that are reticent to fully embrace sexual and gender diversity. While most criticism is against the commercialisation of love this time…

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Why Zuma’s resignation is true if we say so

How do you get more than 350 000 visits to your website in just a few days? Claim that the South African president has resigned. Siyathokoza Khumalo created an online media frenzy with a blog post on November 3 facetiously titled President Jacob Zuma has resigned. Social media went nuts and the hashtag #ZumasResigned is still…

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Show’s over: Beyond the abracadabra of political promises

The magical abracadabra promises of “houses, jobs, beer for all” are not unlike a magic show where you know it’s staged but you suspend logic for the entertainment. But, deep inside you is that secret desire that maybe, just maybe, there is truth to this magic, and somehow it is real, more than a sleight…

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Voting is not enough: Beyond the ‘good story/bad story’ debate

It is easy to be an extremist. Taking a blind, one-sided, all-or-nothing viewpoint on an issue allows you to skip the nuance, texture, and blurry greyness of debates. South Africa’s “good story/bad story” debate has politicians locking horns as the extremities in political speeches now surface. Poet Maya Angelou once mused that, “all great achievements…

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