My first blog

I was inspired to create my own blog by reading a fellow friend’s blog. What appealed to me the most, was the ability to write about what is on one’s mind without the character limits. So here I go, attempting to create a blog that hopefully people will like to read, and most importantly, create a platform where I can fully express my opinions. Being the Humanities student that I am, I looked up the definition of a blog, to ensure that I am on the right track.

A blog is defined as a “personal website or web page on which an individual records opinions, links to other sites, etc. On a regular basis”. Okay- I know for sure I can do that! Blogging has existed FOREVER and the time has never been more ripe to create my own.

So here I go…I, Iris Nxumalo, a daughter, sister, cousin, friend, International Relations student and soon to be much much more, pursuing the inevitable path of a blogger ☺

My favourite books this year

“There is no doubt, also, and in the spirit of honesty, that books create an escape that I have needed this year…a way to stop thinking, stop analyzing, stop over-feeling certain emotions, and just read.”

When Being a “Big Girl” is Simply Not Enough…

I thought I was a big girl

An independent daughter of two loving parents who had steadily released me from the nest

I thought I was a big girl

Until I hopped on a plane and flew 13000km away

To a place that rekindled my childhood longing

For mommy’s care and daddy’s assurance

I thought I was a pretty big girl

Until I couldn’t control the tears that negated my “I will be strong” messages

Until the tears resisted all my protestations and caressed my cheeks in solidarity with all the familiarity I left at home


I mourned…

The loss of conversations in languages I mastered,

The loss of the normalcy of my being

I mourned…

The loss of commonness about my being

That was never reduced to “exoticness”, “strangeness” and “otherness”


Oh, how I longed for the moments where people asked me “where do you live” as opposed to “where do you come from”

How I long for the lengthy conversations in the Gautrain with people I barely knew instead of the long stares from people who found me quite – curious.


I thought I was a big girl

Until I moved into my student accommodation

And cried the entire night because I felt so alone

I cried for the absence of my family’s thoughtfulness and for my sister who tempered the flares, when the stress of the move was unbearable and the amount of possessions I owned was unfathomable


I thought I was a big girl..

Until I locked myself in a room for three days, unable to come to terms with the with all that I had temporarily lost

Because in that moment,

My reality undid all the “big girl-i-ness” that I had accumulated over the years

Reducing me to an emotional foreigner, who just realised how amazing home was



will be…


So maybe perhaps I am a big girl…

Who is in a process of becoming…

And perhaps the only way that I can speak life into this process

Is by writing to my being.

‘Y’ is For Yes | Layers A to Z Blog Tour

I am certainly learning the importance of saying yes to myself in all spheres of my life! This post reignited my commitment to prioritise the “YES” in my life! Yes to life, yes to excellence, yes to self-mastery, yes to living a fulfilled and impactful life! YES 🙂

Addressing the root causes of African conflict

In an informative talk hosted by the African Development Bank on Ending Conflict and Building Peace, a range of prominent leaders exchanged ideas on the causes of African conflict and how to address these issues.

What struck me the most was the group’s diagnosis of African conflict, which was reduced to a failure of leadership and an inability to address socioeconomic challenges. As a result, these findings dispel the myth that conflict is primarily a result of underdevelopment and the existence of heterogeneous societies that struggle to construct a national identity in order to build national unity.

As I reflected on these findings, I thought about my own country, which has such vast inequalities and struggles to find innovative solutions to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. I kept on asking myself: “what do these findings mean for my country, and what does this say about the potential of conflict in South Africa?”

I suppose in a way, tensions have already erupted in South Africa. Not only do we have the highest rate of protests in the world, but also, our strikes are very violent in nature. So yet again, I ask myself, what do these findings mean for South Africa? Are these strikes indicative of a looming conflict? Are these strikes the smoke that calls? Will the marginalised and disenfranchised take up arms to fight this structural injustice that strips them of their dignity and their ability to determine their own future?

Former President Thabo Mbeki and Rwandan President Paul Kagame correctly asserted that our leaders could address many of the root causes of conflict. So essentially, one of the key ingredients to reducing the prevalence of conflict in Africa is the presence of committed, innovative leaders who possess the ability to address socioeconomic challenges by probing the structures of society that affords power and privilege to some- to the detriment of many. It requires eradicating notions of “second-class citizenship” and “dual economies” by empowering people and societies as opposed to handing out social grants that make living in poverty a little more bearable.

If leadership is the issue, does this mean that strong leadership is the solution? Does this mean that we have the power to eradicate conflict in our continent by investing in the leaders of tomorrow? Does this mean that we have the capacity to address the root causes of conflict by building leadership capacity though leadership development, self-mastery, education and instilling the significance of values-based leadership?

By adapting Achebe’s observations on the state of Nigeria in 1967 to the current state of Africa in 2014, once can confidently assert that:

“when [Africa] learns to deal fairly with all its citizens…its prospects for prosperity and stability will be infinitely brighter”.

Where is Africa in my education??

I have always had a deep longing to study African history, culture, literature, politics and African philosophy. Being in an African state, I was shocked to discover that knowledge about Africa could only be found at the margins of intellectual inquiry. I find it odd- to this day- that the study of Africa (in Africa) is an alterity that is pursued at the periphery of academic discourse. Why did I have to wait until my second year in university to study African history? Why has it often been the case that African concerns occupy a section in my academic course whilst European thought dominates my course content? How can I endeavour to make a significant contribution to my continent- if I have no knowledge of its history, political thought, values and norms?

Perhaps it is necessary to critically evaluate the methods and content used to educate African scholars, with a view of understanding how current methods impact the ability of scholars to not only understand their surroundings- but also to change them. Do we not find it odd that we often utilise ‘Western’ methods and models to educate Africans about their own society? Do we not find it strange that we encourage our youth to understand Western history in an attempt to understand African history? And then, to my amusement – we find it strange that Africans move to the West to study African Studies.

 The purpose of this ‘critical review’ is not necessarily to question the foundations of Western knowledge but rather to challenge its applicability within the African context. Ultimately, the desired outcome would be to envisage a form of education that places a high premium on African concerns at the centre of intellectual inquiry. A type of education that enables Africans to apply the knowledge that they have acquired into their everyday lives and by this act, effectively bridging the gap between (Western) theory and (African) practice.

An education, that enables us to appreciate the beauty of Africa’s heritage and intellectual thought and by implication, enables us to regain Africa’s dignity by placing her at the centre of our academic discourse. It is my hope that in doing this, we will disseminate the multiple histories of the African continent that have been oppressed by a focus on Africa’s colonial history. It is my hope that this kind of education will breed a class of African scholars that are dually committed to transforming the continent whilst acknowledging the rich diversity, accomplishments and strengths of this continent. In doing so, perhaps this ‘African education’ will inculcate a form of African identity, pride and unity towards collectively shaping our future- for the better.

Post Traumatic Healing

The World of Special Olympics

In the world of Special Olympics, we’re accustomed to the trauma of physical challenges and even more, the trauma of social injustice. Intellectual differences sometimes come accompanied by physical pain and worse, with exclusion and ridicule and name calling. The trauma can often be sharp and lasting.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years watching our athletes, it’s that healing is always possible. No matter how many times the world has said “no” to us, it’s still worth trying to assert our own “yes” to the future and to each other. That’s the message I saw last month in Aaron Banda who despite years of untreated seizures caused by cerebral malaria, is now playing football (soccer) and going to school. That’s the message I saw in DJ Ficca who has been battered by infection and misdiagnoses but who showed up for our recent Special Olympics Unified Game…

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What’s the right analogy for Rwanda?

Rachel Strohm

As the 20th anniversary of the start of the Rwandan genocide approaches on April 7, people who don’t usually pay much attention to African politics will be seeing two main types of commemorative stories about the country.  The first will focus on the incredible progress that Rwanda has made in areas like fighting corruption, promoting economic growth, and rolling out universal health insurance.  The second will acknowledge these domestic policy achievements, but note that Kagame’s government has also been repressing political expression, physically attacking its opponents, and fostering rebellions in the neighboring DR Congo.   Underlying some of these concerns about domestic repression is the fear that ethnic grievances from the genocide era have only been partially addressed, and that these could spill over into renewed conflict in the future.

These two sets of stories present such diametrically opposed visions of the country…

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Love in the Age Of Autism

Rocky Parenting

image I recently revisited a Temple Grandin TED talk, The world needs all kinds of minds , from February 2010. I have watched this before and my son and I even saw her speak on this topic at the local University. But, each time I watch it I get something new out of it. What really stuck out to me on this viewing was a question asked of her at the end. Speaking for parents, the moderator asked, “Is it unrealistic for them to hope or think that that child loves them, as some might, as most, wish?” The question crossed me as strange and I think, based on her expression it may have crossed Temple Grandin as strange too. She answered saying, “Well let me tell you, that child will be loyal, and if your house is burning down, they’re going to get you out of it.”

I have never…

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Reflections on my disillusionment with South African Politics

Disclaimer: I am having a tough time studying for my test so I decided to blog the very thoughts that were making it impossible for me to study. 

Over the past few weeks, I decided to stop following the news and just digress into the fictional world of African literature. I found solace in the rich descriptions provided by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her book, Half of a Yellow Sun, because I just couldn’t stomach the current state of South African politics. To be honest, I have been disillusioned since 2008, but last week just reaffirmed my dissatisfaction with the conduct of public officials. The ‘issues’ I have with South African politics extend far beyond the Nkandla debacle or the ANC’s disregard for the South African electorate. My issue is with the lack of inspirational, ethical leadership in South Africa. 

I do believe that we are facing a crisis of leadership in South Africa. The ethos of service that should underpin our administration today has been eroded by those who seek to maintain power and privilege in the new dispensation. Many reflections on South Africa’s democracy have highlighted this and attributed many of the administration’s failings to a lack of political will, cadre deployment and the pervasive patronage networks that strip our politics of its dignity. So my disillusionment and my reasons therefore, are not anything novel or significant at this point. But I think my recommendations may prove slightly more meaningful. 

In the late Chinua Achebe’s book, An Image of Africa, he cautions Nigerians to avoid future catastrophes by taking a hard and unsentimental look at the question of leadership and the manner in which political power is wielded. Achebe posits that the ‘trouble’ with Nigeria is simply a failure of leadership. He identifies tribalism, corruption, inefficiency and mediocre leadership as the causes for the leadership abscess in Nigeria. Although Achebe published his book in 1983 (just after the attempted secession of Biafra) it is sad to see the parallels that South Africans can draw from this book. 

It is my contention that South Africa is in an analogous position to that of Nigeria’s in 1983. It is therefore important for us to take note of the advice provided in Achebe’s work, and reflect on the state of leadership in South Africa. Instead of “chilling” on our cynicism and disillusionment, lets have an open and frank discussion about the lack of leadership in South Africa. Let our discussions empower us to articulate the qualities that we long for in our leaders, and that in some way, we will demand and fight for these qualities when we lead in years to come. I always find it difficult to propose solutions to our crisis of leadership, because solutions do not always come from a ballot box.

However, I do believe that it is time to reflect on the state of leadership in South Africa, because the political agenda of those in power, “has been defective at the best of times”.