Bheki Mashile's Letter from Umjindi

Stop the negativity - we're going through trial and error

Nosey one’s trust me when I say life is much nicer when you approach it with the mentality of the glass always being half full.

That is how several years ago I decided to look at life. I can definitely credit this to my experience publishing the then local newspaper, The Umjindi Guardian, a lovely little but powerful rag – if I say so myself – which ended up covering so many negative stories that one could easily settle into a negative mindset. Well I refused to let that happen – and I am a very happy person because of it.

Case in point: I do not subscribe to this negativity too many of us have about our country and I live with the mindset that ours is going through a period of trial and error and what is wrong will someday be sorted out, hopefully sooner than later of course.

For example five years ago when I took my driver’s licence I, like everyone else, had to take an eye test. The testing machine was one of those that had the big E at the top but when you got down to the last row you needed the visionary powers of Clark – Superman – Kent: to see, read the microscopic lettering.

Well now of course I let the tester know exactly how I felt about this, especially after he told me, “you just barely passed your eye test”.

I recently went to renew my licence and lo and behold the tester proudly led me to the new machine and said, “Mr Mashile I think this time you will approve”. Approve? Nosey ones, after my test I was singing Johnny Nash’s  hit song, I Can See Clearly Now.

Oh my formerly semi-blind Mzansi brothers and sisters I am sure there are some of you who recently took an eye test for your driver’s licence and you will agree that the new testing machine with the required joy stick movements is designed for us earthly beings.

People, people, five years ago when I made that complaint to that tester I walked out of the Barberton traffic department full of confidence that this test machine matter would have to be sorted, after all if I am complaining there must be others too, hey we are not alone.

Hey, as I said, no negativity. Think positive because after all we are going through trial and error. Now this is not limited to governance, economics, etc. It also affects our arts and culture.

There are two songs that make me want to pull my hair out: Vicky Sampson’s African Dream and PJ Powers’s Jabulani with Hotline, whose bass guitarist George van Dyk wrote the hit.

In short I find these songs epitomise the word cheesy. Not just cheesy but cheesy of the highest order. Okay, they were recorded in 80s South Africa, so to some degree I can understand the motivation but it still does not take them away from the “argh man, change the station!” category.

However, recently I was watching one of these morning news shows and they had Ms Jabulani herself as their guest. All I could think was “I cannot wake up to this s***t”. But my don’t-be-negative voice said “hear her out”. And what a pleasant surprise as Ms Powers delivered a soulful,  gritty-voiced rocker of a song, and her now-aged, but still very attractive look, fitted perfectly with it.

But there is one thing I would like to advise Ms Powers: please oh please don’t do that air guitar thing when your song comes to the solo part, it makes you look, well, goofy. You have got to always maintain that rock-n-roll cool, think Annie Lennox.

And one more thing on arts and culture, can someone please stop dressing the singer Zahara in those hideous dresses that make her look like a matric dance reject. Please give her the Tracy Chapman look or Chrissie Hynde, simple cool white T-shirt with black jeans, which is what her music sounds like. 

I trust, for just this short while, you’ve forgotten about the state of the nation.  Have a good day!

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