In part two of this interview, Sizwe lets Ntsiki in on some personal matters. Read as Sizwe speaks family, culture, religion and politics. We pick up where we left off with Sizwe as he further unpacks his relationship with his father.
N: With your father being an Easter Cape man, do you have a very father – son relationship or can you be like; “hey buddy?”
S: (laughs) We’re not quite there, but I am always pushing the envelope. My dad is a very cultural man and understands the benefits of culture, but he is also quite liberal in some regards. I mean he had a son with my mother…
N: How do you feel about the position of culture in our society at the moment?
S: In occupying so many different cultures, you are able to see the benefits and detriments of culture. I do not like culture if it means blindly following what someone older than you told you to do, because “that’s juts how it is”. However I do like culture when you consider something and have gone through and experiences and are able to relate with to other people. There are parts of culture that we need to relook; for example the abuse of women in the name of culture. That I do not believe in. I am also not sure which came first; the culture that created this idea that it is okay to have multiple women and I am not referring to polygamy, but some things are taken way out of context and that needs to be looked at. I also underwent the traditional initiation ritual and I have not found anything in the culture that we live in right now that comes close to mirroring the depth of that experience.
N: I would argue that just because you underwent a ritual to become a man, it does not make you a man and it does not directly translate into being able to relate to other people, respect them or how to be a leader. I mean I do give you the credit for going through that as it is quite intense, but I do not feel that it then makes you able to lead a household or run a business or lead a family or manage finances and so forth.
S: I agree with you. As a person there are things that make you or break you and if you look at the people who have been through the experience, there is; Nelson Mandela, Biko, Mbeki and those are all people that are considered as important in this country. The other thing is that the culture itself has been messed up; if you do it properly – you will learn a lot about yourself on the journey to manhood. But if you do this in a place where the guy who is meant to be looking after you, is also looking after 50 other people and not teaching you the actual message that you are supposed to learn – it is no wonder you come out doing the same things you did before you went in. If we look at the rural areas, the men who came back from the mountain were like people who went to the army – you are given this huge respect as a man, but you are unemployed, uneducated and there is more growth that needs to happen.
N: What is your stance on how government comes into play with such rituals and the discussions that are currently happening around the subject?
S: My stance is that it should be regulated. Xhosa and cultural leaders along with the government must establish certain standards. You should be in a place that is certified, go for a medical check-up before and after, there should be HIV testing, the traditional nurses should also be certified and schools where people die should be shut down. What is also missing in the debate is that people do not see the benefits. We do not see the thousand Xhosa men who get up and say ‘I’m going to do something with my life. I am going to take care of my family, because I am a man now’ and we need to amplify that. I also believe and uphold the secrecy of the ritual and what happens there, but I think it should be spoken about, but where people feel certain details should not be shared, that must be respected. We need to also dispel this notion that one is a ‘fully-fledged man’ when coming out of that experience. Mandela speaks about it in his book ‘Long walk to freedom’ and says how he was not a man, but had just begun on his journey.
N: I think it is a good discussion to have. For us to respect and understand one another, we need to be able to leverage all these things, to fortify ourselves as a generation and understand where we stand and not lose these important messages.
It was once proposed in government to have an “intervention period” after high school, where instead of going directly to university or to work, pupils would attend an army programme. Do you think such a system would work?
S: I have thought about that and I was an initial supporter of it, but I think it needs to be modified. I do feel the state must give people freedom, even though something initially seems like a good idea, imposing anything on people can have unforeseen circumstances that are detrimental. For example, if you were to say ‘everyone who gets good marks in matric has to spend a year teaching at a school’, which I did –
not to say that I got good marks necessarily-but I taught. That is unfair and people could then think ‘eish, do I really want to get good marks?!’ I would much rather have it modified and say we have a volunteer programme that funds people who want to and we have a target for how many people we want to reach. We can offer a stipend as an incentive and hopefully people would be interested. Then simultaneously, we solve unemployment and education – which would be amazing.
N: I like that. How do you feel about the Protection of Information Act and Secrecy Bill and that current debate?
S: (laughs) Talk about getting the full view. I think people are being asked to choose between two alternatives, one that they do not understand and where the information is not presented so well. So they are saying ‘we are going to protect you from information, we are not going to tell you why, but believe us – you really do not want to know’. Thing is, if I knew what it was that I was not suppose to know, then I would be fine, but I am very curious to know what I do not want to know and why I should not know it. I think the fact that a public interest clause has been included is good progress. Finally, you have to look at what the government is doing, not in isolation, but as a whole. I am interested in the arms deal and the bill means that information will be protected and we do not want wrong motives pushing the bill. Even looking at what happened with eNkandla, that report was classified, for reasons that have not been made clear yet. The States defence is that it is going to compromise national security and then we had ‘Gupta-gate’, so I am still worried about it.
N: True, especially when you pay taxes then you get told Gupta-gate is classified. My question is why, because surely the people currently in charge of protecting the state, protect information that we already should not know about and do a good job at ensuring national security.
S: We have to know that the government’s motives are true and that is why Gupta-gate really undermines it for me. If the president’s friends can fly into our air space and land where they please, that compromises security and if government can not protect and respect that, then how can they expect we trust them. I am still not trustworthy of this administration.
N: We’ll get there. On a lighter, more interesting note – you are married to a Muslim lady and you are 24. a few things I would like to know is; going from a Xhosa boy, normal guy and then having to convert to Islam… why the decision?
S: Well, I am going to have to take you way back. My mom is British and her father was a British diplomat, so he went to different places around the world, so I have family in the Middle East, therefore Islam has been in my family for a while and we are a great mix. I have visited my cousins who live in Dubai and my older brother, he is Muslim and has been Muslim for about a decade now, so it has always been in my family as Christianity has always been in my family. I must say I do not find much of a difference between the two. I actually thought we were getting to a lighter note – and this is deeper (laughs). For me religion matters in so far as it governs how you treat other people. I really do not care about what you do with yourself, how often you pray-what you do or don’t eat, and far too often people focus on that and that is not the important stuff; that is just how you choose to interact. If you look at how Christianity says you should treat other people and you look at how Islam says you should treat other people, it is virtually identical. They are reinforcing. So when I made the jump from Christianity, I did not feel like I was savouring Christianity, but rather embracing another way of viewing the world – without losing the other. I go to church with my mom and I’ll fast with my brother.
N: I hear you and I think people should not follow blindly, but consider the word for themselves. When you look at being a Christian or a Muslim and even being Jewish; there a lot of principles which overlap. The main difference is that one edifies the Christ and the other two do not, or rather that the Messiah has yet to come. Where do you stand with that?
S: That is a whole long discussion, I can not define God for anybody, but if you ask on a practical day-to-day bases do I take lessons in my life from the life of Jesus Christ and apply those in how I live; absolutely!
N: Okay, and how has married life been?
S: It has been amazing! You think you know someone, until you get married and then… the funny thing about marriage is that you learn so much about yourself. You discover all these things that you did not know you did or did not like. I use to think ‘I’m Mr easy to live with’ and then I was like ‘this is not happening!’
N: Do you think there is an ideal age to get married? People will always argue about being too young or taking time to fine yourself and so forth…
S: It is totally an individual choice. I once asked my dad that and he said 60.
N: (laughs) Sounds like any father to their daughter; “no my baby, maybe wait until you’re 40.”
S: It is just one of those things; you do not know what it is like until you are married. So do it when you feel it is right and take it from there.
N: Do you think there are some key things one should have in place before taking the leap into marriage?
S: Definitely. But not the things people would think like finances. With my wife, a lot of people said to us you are not established or financially stable and how can you get married if you do not know where you are going to be. For us it was more a case of, “I would rather grow with you and go through difficulties, and then I know its ride or die.” (Laughs) If I have achieved everything I wanted to achieve and then I get married, then what was the point, because I did not take anyone with me and I did not share it with anyone. That said, you need to know what you believe; you need to know what you are okay with and what you are not okay with. If I had any advice it would be that there is such a difference between love and marriage.
N: (laughs) True story.
S: It’s not as simple as you love someone, you marry them. You need to know where you want to live, what you believe, what you care about, what are your limits and only marry someone who falls within those limits.
N: How do you balance it all?
S: I do not know. Everyday is different. I do compartmentalise my life now, because I cannot worry about everything at once.
N: In terms of travelling, how do you work though distance?
S: You figure it out because that is marriage. You do not say; ‘we are going to have this easy road and we are going to have this future’- you say ‘whatever happens we are going to try make it work.’
N: So when you look back, say when you are 50, what is the one thing you would like to be able to say “I did that!”
S: That I was a better rapper than AKA (Laughs) but seriously, that is difficult to say, because it is only what I can control. I would love to make a serious impact on history and South African politics and unify people, taking the country forward into the next generation – but I cannot control that. I would like to be an example of diversity. I think South Africans do not know each other – my family is my one example of people who know each other and understand their differences. I would like people to look at my life and take that as an example. I would honestly appreciate that. Whatever I have achieved, I know it is because of my diverse background and I hope people recognise that.
N: who is Sizwe at home, when you are not out pursuing such greatness?
S: I have a lot of energy and my wife asks where I get all this energy. Relaxation for me is reading,making music, watching YouTube videos, learning and just doing different things.
N: Will you make more music?
S: I have been thinking about that for like 5 years and after the Eastern Cape experience I felt I would not, I thought hip hop was very materialistic and all that. Then I got married and I wanted to focus on my marriage- and you learn from your partner what is okay and acceptable, you must think ‘does she want me to be this guy that is out every night, rapping on stage and at a club?’ No! Do I want to do that; no. However I have been thinking recently that there is only so far you can reach people through a speech, but if I put a track down I can reach more people. Also, I do not want to lose my talent, because I took a long time to develop it. Now my thinking is around how I can use this for political ends or social ends.
N: Maybe you can rap the Constitution and the Bill of Rights so more people can know what is in there.
S: that is an option (laugh) I also produce. I produced a lot of the Entity album and I have always made music for myself. If that means putting down a beat and calling up AKA to rap on it about the elections to get people going, then that would be great.
N: You could get together all conscious rappers and have a whole thing going…
S: True, but you do not want to encroach on people’s space. Everyone is doing their own thing…I would not want to be in that world again – I do not want to be that guy in the club, but music has an incredible ability to touch people and that I am keen on.
N: What fundamental things would you say are important to you as a man?
S: Tolerance of one another, treating people with an equal amount of respect – which is something I learnt from my dad. My wife is important to me. What gets me up in the morning is this; “let’s change the game”.
N: What is the one truth that you hold onto?
S: Truth is a difficult thing to find.