October 25, 2013

Book Review || The Youngsters Book Series

The Youngsters book series is specifically geared towards the young South African: Giving them insight into the minds and lives of some of the most influential young people the country has seen in a long time.

The series is edited by award-winning journalist and Eyewitness News reporter Mandy Wiener, who is an influential 'youngster' herself. According to the series' official website, the books that form part of it are meant to be an entertaining look at what it's like for young people in South Africa, and this is done through the writings of 'prominent young South African voices worth listening to'.

For the first selection in the series, Pan Macmillan chose radio DJ Anele Mdoda, singer Danny K, comedian Nik Rabinowitz (and his partner in crime Gillian Breslin), blogger Khaya Dlanga, and child of the struggle Shaka Sisulu.

I was lucky enough to get hold of the full series - barring the two new additions - and read them all in a week-long marathon, but some of the novels stood out much more than others.

Khaya Dlanga's In My Arrogant Opinion and Shaka Sisulu's Becoming are my two favourites. Although it was interesting to get into Anele's head in It Feels Wrong to Laugh, But..., I was most annoyed by her motto of being oneself throughout the novel, and in the end saying To Kill a Mockingbird was a favourite book because it was one of Oprah Winfrey's favourite books. Perhaps she was being sarcastic...

I really struggled through Nik Rabinowitz and Gillian Breslin's A Long Walk to a Free Ride, not because it didn't make some valid points - albeit through sarcasm and parody - but because that very same sarcasm and parody eventually became a bit too much and a bit too old by the end. It's certainly not because I don't have a sense of humour, and I understand that Rabinowitz is a comedian after all; it's that it really got to be a bit much when all I actually wanted to read about was Rabinowitz himself and his opinions - wasn't that the point of the series? - without having to dig through humour every step of the way.

Danny K's Take It From Me is very useful for anyone interested in making their way in the music industry, and he offers some good advice, but perhaps I didn't enjoy it because I'm not really the target for his book - I'm not really interested in making it in music.

Becoming and In My Arrogant Opinion are, to me, the most interesting novellas in this collection. They deal with real issues of gender, race, inequality, and politics in South Africa with honesty and frankness in a way that is easy to relate to and interesting. I really felt that, for youngsters in the New South Africa, their opinions and insights are perhaps the most valuable in this series. This isn't to say that what the other three authors have to say is not applicable or interesting; just for me, I thought these two novels were the best expression of current times in South Africa.

All the books are quick reads, and you won't lose anything by giving them all a look.

(Image credit: Facebook\PanMacmillanSA)
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October 2, 2013

Was Justice Served For Murdered Baby Samantha?

I cannot even begin to imagine the trauma that little 10-month-old Samantha went through as she was raped, anally probed, and abused so badly that she had broken ribs, a fractured skull, and liver damage. And all this done to her by her parents.

Samantha’s parents, Adriaan Netto and his girlfriend, were sentenced in court on October 2, 2013, for culpable homicide, child abuse, and rape. They were sentenced four years for culpable homicide, three for child abuse, and 15 for rape. The homicide and rape sentences would run at the same time.

As he sentenced the couple, Judge Majeke Mabesele said he hoped his sentence would serve as a reminder to communities that children’s rights may not be violated. The couple would have faced life sentences, but he has expressed concern for their other children.

I am not only disgusted that there are people like this on this good green earth, but that the punishment meted out was not more severe. I understand that children need their parents, but do they really need parents who can do such unspeakable things to a defenceless child? Bear in mind that a 10-month-old has almost just started walking? And also, won’t the children be without their parents in any case if they are to be jailed for 18 years?

But this is just the problem with South Africa’s justice system. Though we have seen major leaps and bounds in the sentencing of criminals, I believe that sentences regarding sexual assault simply have no consistency.
A quick survey of some of the reported cases on a local news site in just the last month shows that sentences varying drastically: 8 years10 years15 years18 years20 years; and even life.

How can a justice system with so many different sentences for the horrific crime of rape be sending a clear message that rape and assault of women and children will not be tolerated? Despite the call from people around the country, including the Minister for Women, Children andDisabilities, Lulu Xingwana, the children of this country are the ones who truly have to suffer.

Is there also a major issue with our social services? In another case from earlier this year, Bradley Connor and Malinda Marshall were found guilty for the assault of their child, who died a blind quadriplegic as a result of his injuries. In October 2003, he was admitted to hospital, and concerns were raised that he had been abused. A social worker decided he should return to his parents, but in the next month, he was admitted to hospital again, and was found to have brain damage, be blind, and bruised.

I also think that people are too afraid to report suspected abuse. In the Netto case, one of Samantha's caregivers could see the neglect, but as I understand it, she did not report it to anyone.

Do you think the sentence against Netto and his girlfriend is apt? 
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