Monday, June 30, 2008


As the end of our trip draws closer, I can't help but wonder what will happen to all the people I have met.

I have their stories scribbled in my notebooks. The stories sit-waiting to be revised, edited and reworked. The people in the pages among my scribbles and notes are waiting too. They are waiting to find out what will become of their futures.
Maxwell Kazembe, a father of eight, lives out of a tent in the Rifle Range Camp. Pascalina, Maxwell's 2 year-old daughter, wants ice cream and to have a place to color. Maxwell is hoping for a better future for his children.

Joseph,19, wants to come to the United States to study. He wants to return to South Africa to help the people of the country. Before Joseph went to Rifle Range Camp, he was connected to the U.S. He had been emailing students from the U.S. he had previously met. After a while they stopped writing. Joseph wanted to know what he did wrong. Now, he wants a chance to get his education.

In between the gap of wants and needs, Maxwell, Joseph, and the other countless people I met at Rifle Range are faced with uncertain futures. When will they be able to leave Rifle Range camp? Where will they go when their time at the camp is finished? What will they do once they leave? Can they go back to living with the same neighbors who attacked them? Who will help them?
I don't have the answers. As a journalist, answers are what I look for.

Today as I get ready to venture back into Alexandra, a township where much of the xenophobic violence started, I have a quote I read earlier this morning running through my head.

"Each time a person stands up for an idea, or acts to improve the lots of others, or strikes out against injustice, (s)he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and caring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightest walls of oppression and resistance" -Robert F. Kennedy

As we press on into the last two days of our trip, I'm still looking for the answers to all sides and currents of the story-past, present, future.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


As I promised here are some photos for your viewing pleasure. A little variety from what I've been working on the past week. Comments are welcome and a more detailed update soon to follow as in, hopefully tomorrow.

Friday, June 27, 2008


I got the call at 9:10 am, Tuesday Morning. I had just “finalized” my plans for the rest of the week when UNL photojournalist professor Bruce Thorton invited me on a two day jaunt to the Mozambique border. I had heard that this excursion was to transpire, but never in my wildest imagination did I think I was to be on it.

From the get-go, I told myself that this trip was going to be a success regardless of what happened, but I couldn’t help but to immediately get on the computer, and do some research hard-core cram style.

It was difficult for me to find stuff, but by that evening the Arizona State student-journalist had made some pretty good contacts and I was very excited to know that they were also going..

I set my alarm to go off at 4am Wednesday Morning, but to be honest didn’t even need it. It’s not everyday that you travel to a new country, and I woke up a couple times that night due to sheer excitement.

By 5:30 we had loaded up the van and were ready to ride. It was my first time being out in Jo’burg in the early morning hours, and let me tell you, this city never sleeps.
We must have seen thousands of people during the pre-dawn hours, doing everything imaginable at the hypersonic pace, I have barely become accustomed to during our two week stay here. Boy there are times when I don’t see how people do it….but that’s just another reason I was glad to be seeing something new, if only for a couple days.

Thoughts about the ride out to Maputo….

After making it to Pretoria we rode through a thick smoky fog, courtesy of the brushfires. In South Africa it seems like the authorities just let these fires rage on, concentrating there efforts on other things.

The scenery between Pretoria and the S.A. – Mozambican border is breathtaking. We rode through mountain after mountain and were treated to one panoramic view after another. This was the most physically striking landscape I’ve ever encountered.

. Driving on the N12 in South Africa felt like driving an interstate highway in the United States. There were plenty of tourist type gas stations and eateries, signs were everywhere, there were even speed raps. I didn’t really make anything of it until I got to Mozambique, and realized that everything was different. Seriously, crossing the border between South Africa and Mozambique was like going back in time 200 years. Most stretches of highway were completely devoid of human contact, except for every 10 miles or so when we would see a collection of shacks.

Quick History Side-Note (caution: may be a little nerdy)

Many of the streets in Mapoto are named after communist revolutionaries such as Karl Marx, Ho Chi Minh, and Kim Song II etc. Our approach to the city was done on Vladimir Lenin Ave; that was interesting.

Metro Maputo

Metro Maputo was definitely a sight to behold. Miles and miles of shacks flank the highway on the approach to the city center. These communities resemble the townships in Jo’burg, but seemed to be even less developed. On the sides of the highway there are vendors who sell everything, clothes, food, etc. Even in downtown Maputo commerce is primarily conducted with vendors rather than in stores.

Will write more later…

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Zim Rally

Late this afternoon, there was a rally on the Nelson Mandela bridge in Jo'Burg in support of solidarity and radical change in Zimbabwe. It was pretty exhilirating because a bunch of professional photographers we've spoken to were also covering the rally. For example, Shane Robinson from The Star and Jerome DeLay from AP.

Above isn't the greatest picture in the world. But a photographer who came to chat tonight told me that the raised hand signifies support of the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change).

Most of the people I talked to at the rally were South Africans. One woman told us that she went to Zim when she was younger and she thought that the country was just beautiful. She said that she came to the rally to support change because Zimbabweans are her neighbors.

After the rally on the bridge, the people moved down to Mary Fitzgerald Square where there were Zimbabwean bands, poetry readings and a candlelight vigil.

Duck, Duck, Hooose.

Jenna, Anna, Charlie and I spent all of yesterday in Pretoria. We met up with Eddie from the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum in the morning and we all went back to the tire shop we visited just a few days ago.

Since we had more time, we explored more than we had previously. When you first come in, there is a huge open space. People sit around, there's a fire and clothes are draped across from one side to the next.

On either side of the open space, there are two areas closed off with thick plastic and tin walls. Inside of these areas, the people have set up rooms. The rooms are all divided up by thick blankets and tires. They make beds out of stacked tires, planks and blankets. It makes for a little bit of privacy.

Jenna and I were walking through one of the areas and we saw a young woman sitting in her room. We asked to talk and she invited us in with a warm smile.

She told us about the day that her shack was burnt. She said that she recognized some of the people as her neighbors. She said that the only explanation she could think of was that they were jealous. She came down from Zimbabwe and she worked hard, she said. She worked hard, earned money and bought things. Now everything she had is gone.

Jenna asked one man if he would take us to where his shack used to be. He declined saying that it would be too difficult to see his belongings in his neighbors' houses.

The leader of the group told us that they hadn't had a food delivery since June 14th. Yet, a health official came and left, she comes everyday.
There was a man who was sick. The leader said that he has been sick for a long time, but they have no medicine. While we were there, Doctors Without Borders came and took him away.

We taught the kids how to play Duck, Duck, Goose ("duck, duck, hooose"). That was probably the most I have laughed this whole trip.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Poverty is Everywhere

Today I visited a white squatter camp. This is a community occupied by white people. They hire blacks to do their laundry and to clean their houses. These people live each day as a community with each person having their own role. Peter, one of the farmers says he enjoys where the farm is located. To him it's far enough from the city but close enough for them to be able to get supplies. Peter helps to plant spinach, strawberries and just about anything else that grows. His house, only one room is enough for a bed, and a table with a tv. Give or take some storage space. This life for him, is perfect. The inhabitants of this farm pay R150 (a little less than $20 a month) to live in this camp. Those that pay rent are only required to work from 8-11 while the few people who can't pay rent are required to work in the camp from 8-1. Peter works all day because he has nothing better to do and it keeps him busy, he likes keeping busy.

This camp was a sight. It by no means looked poor, but more simple. It seemed to be very organized in terms of dividing up tasks and everyone seems to be content with their contribution to the community. Don't get me wrong, this isn't perfect harmony either. I say this because Peter did mention there was some sort of disagreement the previous day and one of the inhabitants involved hadn't been seen at all today. I'll be sure to post photos once I get them converted to jpegs, which is my goal this evening.

Simplicity is what I like about South African life. No one seems to let the daily routines completely dictate their lives. They take there time as if never to be rushed. Being at the squatter camp, life is still rough because they don't make much from the vegetables they sell and the money they do make is used to pay rent and buy groceries. But in a community where everyone eats and prays together where can one go wrong?