Get down with the Mother City’s hippest DJs and hottest live music acts
Cape Town’s fearless females
We take a look at some of the Mother City’s leading ladies
We take a look at some of the Mother City’s leading ladies
National Women’s Day, celebrated on 9 August each year, commemorates the women’s national march in 1956 that petitioned against the ‘pass’ - an identification document that put the brakes on ‘non-white’s’ freedom to go where they please – and that marked the strength and resilience of the fairer sex.
Over 50 years later, the South African public holiday’s raison d’être has now broadened; it’s no longer just a celebration of a single act of female solidarity, but is rather a day devoted to a more general recognition of the spirit and accomplishment of women.
So, for our part, we’ve decided to shine the light on the savvy sisters among us. We know there are thousands of you, but it would be impossible to include everyone. So we’ve narrowed our list down to a few women in specialist fields - namely: arts and culture, politics, technology, altruism, education, and business - who are flying the flag for the bright, the brainy, and the brilliant.
Lauren Beukes - ARTS & CULTURE
Clever, creative Lauren Beukes is an author, TV scriptwriter, a ‘recovering journalist’ and, oh, a wife and mother. Lauren has carved her path to publishing success by making a name for herself in a genre - science fiction - that’s notoriously a boys’ club, and by heralding and celebrating the success of fearless females of past.
She’s the author of Zoo City, which won the Arthur C Clarke Award 2011 for science fiction; of non-fiction book Maverick: Extraordinary Women from South Africa’s Past; and most famously, of the sci-fi thriller set in future Cape Town, Moxyland. She’s also written for kids’ shows overseas, as well as helped create South Africa’s first full length animated TV series, URBO: The Adventures of Pax Afrika.
Lauren has achieved so much success with her creative career, it’s easy to feel positively lazy in her shadow, or to ponder the possibility that she has some kind of superpower - like one of her sci-fi characters.
Nonetheless though, she’s also incredibly modest, “A creative career takes time to build,” she says. “Your average overnight success takes about ten years of graft. It's 10 percent talent, 10 percent sheer bloody luck and 80 percent persistence and rolling with the gut punches. Be cheeky. Ask for what you want. The worst anyone can say is no. But don't be an asshat about it.”
What’s next for the literary queen of Cape Town (as crowned by The Sunday Times)? “I'm finishing the edits on The Shining Girls; it’s a book about a time-travelling serial killer.” Lauren has also just returned from a research trip to Detroit for her next book, Broken Monsters.
“The highlight of my career is having people get caught up in the worlds I’ve invented.”
• Krotoa-Eva: a Khoisan woman who was fluent in Dutch and worked as one of Jan van Riebeeck's interpreters. She had a mixed race relationship with a white Danish surgeon, no easy feat in 1600s South Africa, and went on to marry him.
• Ingrid Jonker: the Afrikaner poet who ‘shone so bright she burned herself out’. She lived and loved with a furious passion, but on 19 July 1965, she walked into the sea by Three Anchor Bay in Cape Town and committed suicide by drowning.
• Black Sophie: the brothel queen of Bree Street, then Cape Town’s seediest road. Not only a madam, she also used her opportunistic prowess to send drunken sailors to harvest guano on remote islands.
• Sara Baartman: a Khoisan woman who, in 19th-century Europe, was paraded at freakshows in London and Paris, under the name ‘Hottentot Venus’.
• Brenda Fassie: ‘Madonna of the townships’, Brenda was born in Langa Cape Town and was widely recognised as the voice of the disenfranchised black population. She was also well known for her outrageous and wild behaviour.
Lindiwe Mazibuko - POLITICS
She’s a young women in an ‘old man’s game’. Lindiwe Mazibuko, the Parliamentary Leader for the Democratic Alliance (DA), is, at 32 years old, not only one of the foremost females in politics, but is also the country's fourth youngest parliamentarian.
It was a rapid rise for Lindiwe. She was born in Swaziland, and first got involved with the DA when she chose Helen Zille (who now calls her a ‘rising star’) as the subject for her honours dissertation at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
After completing her degree, she worked as a researcher as part of the DA’s parliamentary operation; from there, she quickly became the party's national media officer during the 2009 National Elections. In no time at all, she was the DA’s National Spokesperson as well as the Shadow Deputy Minister for Communications. In 2010, her role changed to Shadow Minister for Rural Development and Land Reform, and it was in October 2011, that she was elected as Parliamentary Leader and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly.
Lindiwe’s rise can be attributed to her dogged commitment, her all-consuming work ethic, and her unshakeable belief in the party's policies - which ‘are very much in sync with her own ideologies and political vision for this country.’
Taking a leaf out of Lindiwe’s book: whether it’s politics or not, with any career worth pursuing, you need to believe in it whole-heartedly, or you won’t be very successful at all.
Margi Biggs - ALTRUISM
This big-hearted lady has brains to boot—she’s the founding chairman of StreetSmart South Africa, a non-profit organisation which raises money for street kids through restaurants who add a voluntary R5donation to their customers’ bill. She’s also recently been honoured with a Shoprite Checkers Women of the Year Award in the Good Neighbours Against Crime category.
The StreetSmart idea has its roots in the UK, and Margi was so inspired by the concept, she decided to set it up in the Western Cape.
“First, we planned, then we planned, and after planning yet again, we got going,” she says. “We started by fulfilling all the government requirements to register the NGO and NPO. Then we found some friends in the restaurant industry who liked the idea—and then more friends who work with street children.”
Margi’s advice to run a successful venture is to, you guessed it, plan. “And run it as a business; remember that time is valuable; our meetings don’t last more than an hour. Keep fastidious financial records and minutes of meetings. Also, ask beneficiaries what they need - don’t decide for them - and make the project self-sustainable. But most importantly, enjoy the process; I believe that service to humanity is the best work of life.”
Like most brilliant women, Margi isn’t keen to rest on these successes; she’s currently working on two job creation ideas. One is an ArtBank (a platform for emerging local artists to showcase their work), which she’s developing in collaboration with Mokena Makeka from MODILA (Museum of Design, Innovation, Leadership and Art). The other is a proposal, which she has put to the City of Cape Town, that looks to create jobs for performing artists.
Rapelang Rabana - TECHNOLOGY
Rapelang Rabana is the tech-savvy CEO of Yeigo Communications, a Cape Town based company founded by three graduates from the University of Cape Town (UCT), who refused to be boxed in and confined to the typical ladder of success.
Her philosophy is that ‘the most powerful way to create value is not by joining a corporate, but by developing innovative products that will influence how the world works and have the potential for quantum growth’.
Yeigo develops, in a nutshell, innovative solutions and software based technologies in the telephony arena – so everything from mobile apps to ‘cloud-hosted service’ (data services that are run and accessed over the internet) for businesses.
Rapelang was just 23 years old when Yeigo kicked off with the TelFree application, a ground-breaking, cost-effective solution for communication that works by providing a global flat rate to fixed lines and mobile phones for free to registered members. Similar to Skype, it allows you to speak over the internet too. Essentially, you to pay the same amount you would for a local call as an international one.
Instead of entering a corporate environment, where she would have had to ‘subscribe to their systems of strategy’, and most likely would have spent the first 10 years trying to break through the male-dominated systems, Rapelang carved her own path in a relatively new field, and saw much earlier success than she would have had she gone the more traditional route.
The moral of the story? Go for what you want by doing it your way.
Wendy Appelbaum - BUSINESS
This brilliant billionaire isn’t content to sit in her parlour drinking milk and honey while counting stacks of money. Not a chance. She’s one busy businesswoman, and she’s flying the flag for female entrepreneurs in the Western Cape. Wendy sees business opportunities in all sectors, from wine estates to finance, and is living proof that dogged determination pays pidends.
—OK take a deep breath: her career has seen her as director of Liberty Investors Limited, Deputy Chairman of Women's Investment Portfolio Limited (Wiphold) (the first women's controlled company to list on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange with then assets in excess of R1 billion), and as Deputy Chairman of the Connection Group Limited (an information technology and retailing company).
These days the businesswoman and philanthropist is the owner of De Morgenzon Wine Estate, where they are said to ‘pipe baroque music’ through the vineyards to positively influence the ripening process. She now spends most of her time here ‘living on a hill in Stellenbosch’, while still juggling other business commitments.
And another breath: she’s still actively involved in The Tribune Trust; an investment holding trust and a director of Sphere Holdings Limited—a black empowerment company. She’s also the director of the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre and is a trustee of The Donald Gordon Foundation, one of the largest private charitable foundations in Southern Africa, of CHOC (Children's Haemophilia & Oncology Clinic) and of the Helen Suzman Foundation. If that’s not enough, she’s also a member of the Global Philanthropists' Circle (GPC) and a director of the Southern African Board of the Synergos Institute.
How does she do it? As the daughter of Liberty Life founder and property magnate Donald Gordon, there’s no doubt she was born with a silver spoon (or two), but she’s also a tenacious businesswoman. Wendy is very clear about what she wants, and isn’t afraid to be vocal about unfair business practices. She has aligned her tight business acumen with even tighter ethics—a lesson we can all apply to our business dealings.
Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan - EDUCATION
Professor Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan is the head of the Zoology Department at UCT, and also chairs at UCT’s Science Faculty’s Marketing Committee.
But instead of battling dinosaurs in the male-dominated field of tertiary education, she rather celebrates them, the prehistoric ones anyhow. An internationally recognised palaeobiologist (a branch of palaeontology—study of prehistoric life—which deals with the origin, growth and structure of fossils), her focus is on educating people on African dinosaurs.
“I wrote Famous Dinosaurs of Africa,” she says referring to her book, “because it was so frustrating that our local kids knew about dinosaurs from America and China, but very few know that we have such a fabulous record of dinosaurs right here in Africa.”
The fascinating book explores dinosaurs found throughout Africa, including the Sahara Desert, the plains of Kenya and Tanzania and even the sandstone flats of the Karoo. While it is a children’s book, adults can gain plenty from it too.
Anusuya’s career highlights include: “getting my PhD; obtaining funding from the National Science Foundation to undertake postdoctoral studies in the USA; getting a job at the Iziko Museum (as director of Natural History) and then later at the University of Cape Town to do the research and work that I love.” In this time she also received the South African Woman of the Year Award as well as winning the DST, Distinguished Woman Scientist Award (both in 2005).
Her road to success has been directed by her atypical interests. “I think it’s important for women to realise that they don't have to follow the ‘usual’ careers. If they find they have an interest in something that is rather unusual, they need to pursue it. I think women often don't think ‘big’, but it is important that they set high ambitions to strive towards.”
Anusuya says that the future is looking promising for women in science. “The Cape Town Science Centre is being driven by Julie Cleverdon; and Capetonian, Anja Fourie, is Director of Scifest Africa—the biggest science festival in Africa.”
Looking for things to do this Women's Day 2012? Have a gander at our guide.