When we prioritise books over people, we only create new symbols of oppression

A library went up in flames, and it’s all some of us can think about. For those who attended UKZN, like myself, it's personal. These are our libraries. It’s where we learned to read and write in the language of privilege, to argue and fight. It was our respite during exams, our hideaway from the clamour outside. It is only natural to be stirred violently by the developments at UKZN. To be sick to the gut, to be upset, to feel claustrophobic and to cough in the smoke. Asking why this is happening is a start. But asking "Why…

Zulaikha Patel: How we all wish we were you

I don't think I have ever seen anything quite like it. The little girl - now known to all as Zulaikha Patel - standing in front of a row of three white males, refusing to back down, calling on them to follow through with their threats to arrest them - for their hair. "Take us all," she said, for half a dozen girls at the school. "They want to take us prison ... take us all." It was an act of extraordinary courage that left us tingling. Who were these brave girls and how had they secured such resilience against authority? I…

Caster, you remind us that we all have a place in this mad world

When Caster Semenya won the 800m heat at Olympic final in Rio on Sunday, the entire nation was sleeping. Well, most of us, at least. Some, of course, had set their clocks for 1:30am to catch a glimpse of Caster’s tryst with history and destiny. A minute 55 seconds and 28 milliseconds later she was an Olympic gold champion, catapulted into a realm of stardom only a few in this world will ever accomplish. There is no more venerated podium in sport. Caster has been vilified since 2009. When she won the World Championships, all…

Some of our politicians walked, stood in queue and voted. Wow.

Democracy is not meant to be a VIP event. One human. One vote. But some politicians woke up this morning thinking their vote was more special than others. Here is how some of our good politicians cast their ballot. Some walked, others didn't. Some cut corners while others stood in line. Current Mayor of Cape Town and DA mayoral candidate,  Patricia de Lille stood like a decent human being in a queue at the Pinelands Town Hall. She then said: "I am so pleased to see that our democracy is beginning to stabilise and people are…

We like to pretend that our churches are bastions of progress and not temples of doom

AZAD ESSA feels the role of religion in our politics must be interrogated. When Pastor Andre Olivier said that white people hadn't taken anything from black people during apartheid, he disrespected his congregation, but he also disrespected his faith. Of course, he wouldn't be the first religious leader to do so. History is filled with examples of brazen characters - Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or otherwise - who usurp religious texts for personal gain, or find reason to diffuse blame. So his comments are neither unique, or…

Now the South African government is playing with our online freedoms

It's as if they thought we wouldn't find out. While the world has been going to shit of late, with bombings here (Istanbul, Saudi Arabia), shootings there (Iraq), hacking and broken hearts a little further on there (Bangladesh), the South African government quietly tried to weaken a UN resolution geared to protect our freedoms online. The idea of the resolution paid reference to article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and was designed to ensure that "the same rights people have offline must also be protected…

On youth, dissent and disobedience

Hindsight offers cowards the chance to celebrate history, writes AZAD ESSA.  Today, we celebrate the zest of the youth of 1976 as though they were celebrated then at every turn; as if their impatience was met with universal aplomb. We imagine they said all the right things, walked a pious path, burnt nothing but their demons. We have chosen to remember 1976 as "a moment", rather than a complex series of events that encountered resistance, mockery and ultimately, appropriation. And there is an unmistakable violence in hailing…

This is what the Proteas must learn from Virat Kohli

MS Dhoni taps a tame James Faulkner full toss to the wide long-on boundary and India record a famous victory. At the non-striker's end, Virat Kohli removes his helmet and drops to his knees in a spectacular sequence. It's Easter Sunday after all, and if you didn't know any better, you'd think Kohli had just triumphed in a holy war. The city of Mohali, bathed in shallow lights, reaches a crescendo. If India do not progress any further in this competition, it doesn't matter. Australia has always been its reckoning. Kohli would…

Editorial: This is how BDS-SA responded when we offered them the chance to reply to their critics

It’s “f***** malicious” to publish criticism of BDS-SA. Also, we must have a vendetta against Muhammad Desai - but likely not. If you’re confused, so were we. But that sums up the thread of responses we received when we asked BDS-SA to respond to Steven Friedman and Minhaj Jeenah this week. Let’s start from the beginning. Last Friday, we spoke to BDS-SA’s Muhammed Desai and informed him that two opinion pieces we were running in the coming days would be criticising his organisation’s work. The articles were part of our…

#StandWithJNU and #FeesMustFall: The reemergence of the student movement

It is young people, in India, as in South Africa, who may be our last hope. As the fervour of revolt spreads, it is as if history has begun to take shape. And those who decry the apathy of youth should take note. In the ongoing collusion of big capital and the State, it is young people who have picked up the baton of protest, argues AZAD ESSA. In Delhi, the story begins with a protest. On February 9 student activists mark the trial and execution of a Kashmiri Muslim man charged for his role in the attack on India’s…

Can we please talk about Malema’s apologies to Mbeki?

According to AZAD ESSA, the EFF leader’s theatrics cannot disguise a losing struggle. On Tuesday, Julius Malema, in his response to #SONA2016, began his rebuttal with an apology to Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki for making Jacob Zuma president. "We are here today to once again apologise to former president Mbeki for being part of those who removed him on the basis of lies and rumours spread by the sitting president," he said. But what exactly is the point of appealing for the forgiveness of Mbeki and Mandela? Mandela is…

Peacekeeper as predator: when sexual abuse by UN forces runs rife

UN peacekeepers are notorious for sexually assaulting the vulnerable people they are meant to protect. But why isn’t the world raising a bigger stink about it, asks executive editor Azad Essa. I In a flash, innocence is lost, dignity stolen and a spirit beaten. It is a power so encompassing that it holds no space for compassion for the disenfranchised. II It is a familiar tale. Stopped at a routine checkpoint by armed officers, a little girl is raped. At a food distribution point, two teenage boys are sodomised for daring to…

It’s the brazenness of Penny Sparrow’s racism that shocks us

Within hours of Penny Sparrow posting a racist diatribe on Facebook bemoaning the dirty escapades of black people on a Durban beach, she has unwittingly inherited the mantle of public enemy No. 1, until now held by one Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma. Sparrow was not alone on her side of the fence. There was also Standard Bank economist Chris Hart’s tweets about “majority entitlement" and another random Justin van Vuuren’s Facebook post describing black beach-goers as animals. As outrageous as these posts were, let’s be honest,…

Pride, prejudice and the Springboks: a response to Stephen Grootes

Stephen Grootes assures us in today’s edition of The Daily Maverick that he is indeed proud to be South African, and we have the Springboks to thank for that. But it's not that easy if you're not white. AZAD ESSA tells us why. In what can only be described as an episode of privileged nostalgia, Grootes relates the tale of how the Springboks' 1995 World Cup victory assured him of his place in a fledgling South Africa. Grootes' piece reads like intellectual debauchery: his assumption that anyone cares about "how" a privileged…

Why Haroon Moghul is wrong about BDS, Mandela and the end of apartheid

American writer and academic Haroon Moghul thinks boycott, divestment and sanctions won't help Palestine because Palestinians don't have a Mandela-figure to negotiate with Israel. But Daily Vox executive editor AZAD ESSA says this emphasis on iconic leaders is an American fallacy. American writer Haroon Moghul displayed a curious grasp of the expanding Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories recently when he dismissed the role sanctions played in defeating Apartheid in South Africa. On Sunday, he tweeted: "South Africa…

Part II: Why are Muslims not talking about the horror unfolding in Yemen?

Since March 2015, around 4,000 people have been killed in Yemen after a Saudi-led alliance began airstrikes on the country. Humanitarians describe the events as a catastrophe, as the invasion plunges the country further into disaster. Yemen is not getting the attention it deserves from the Western world, but our executive editor AZAD ESSA asks: Why aren’t Muslims raising hell over the ongoing disaster? Little would be done, but if 1,000 children were killed in Gaza, you’d at least hear about it. But after 1,000 children were…

Part I: The Western world is not the only one ignoring events in Yemen

The bloodshed in Yemen has been continuing for over a year now. With thousands dead and cities razed, the situation has been described as a humanitarian catastrophe. The conflict has received scant media attention. But the Daily Vox’s executive editor AZAD ESSA says it’s not just the Western world that’s been ignoring events in Yemen. RELATED: Why are Muslims not talking about the horror unfolding in Yemen? Last Friday, the city of Taiz in the Yemeni highlands woke up to the smell of death. Sixty-five civilians, including 20…

Pretzels, pomegranates and figs: a Zionist conspiracy

The Daily Vox's executive editor AZAD ESSA responds to comments about his recent column concerning the Virgin Active/BDS-SA t-shirt saga. We’ve been inundated with questions, comments and complaints since we published the column "Like active virgins, BDS activism is an oxymoron” last week. Some said it felt like a personal attack on Desai, others said the timing was off, still others said it demanded an unrealistic standard of ethics from activists. And then there were those who said Israel was not imploding and that moves…

Like active virgins, BDS-SA’s activism is an oxymoron

Pro-Palestinian activist Muhammed Desai was thrown out of a Virgin Active gym on Wednesday, for the free-speech-protected act of wearing a political t-shirt. Daily Vox executive editor AZAD ESSA says Virgin Active has some explaining to do - and so does Desai. After his dismissal from a Virgin Active club in Houghton on Wednesday evening, Muhammed Desai, national co-ordinator for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign in South Africa (BDS-SA), is going to have a very busy day. Desai was sporting a Young Communist …

The Paris attacks were not about freedom of expression

I am a writer, a journalist, even a satirist sometimes. I understand the value of freedom. And I also understand that part of our responsibility is to defend most precisely that which we do not agree with. Similarly, it is incumbent on us to call bullshit when we see it, argues AZAD ESSA. The events of the past two days have left us startled, angry and confused. By now, it is common knowledge that two men walked into a magazine office armed with AK47s and opened fire on a group of writers, artists and satirists in Paris.…