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Fabulous fabulous leads and a whole lot more

Review: West Side Story, Fugard Theatre production at Artscape opera house

Run extended until April 22

In this mad and fast-moving world appetites change constantly, attention spans narrow and it is easy to dismiss things as old or tired. That said, this fabulous pairing of a sensational Maria and a reliable and gorgeous Tony in a grand-scale production of West Side Story is anything but.

Lynelle Kenned as Maria is out of this world. Hers is an absolutely sensational voice that seems to soar ever higher and higher. Even when the whole cast of 40 is singing their hearts out her crystal clear soprano is unmistakable. US-born actor Kevin Hack as Tony, in a role he has performed almost 400 times, provides a powerful balance to her brilliance.

These two alone make the trip to Artscape worth it and you might even get tickets now that the run has been extended to April 22. But don’t muck about: it must end then.

This production of the classic inspired by Romeo and Juliet and set in New York in the Fifties, by Eric Abraham and the Fugard Theatre, blew us away in the winter of 2015.  It is back at Artscape for one final season in South Africa “due to overwhelming demand”. Well, that is what they say (and judging by the full house and standing ovation they might just be telling the truth).

The story is so well-known and borders on the cheesy but an unforgettable score that marries stirring music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (“Something’s Coming”, “Maria”, “I Feel Pretty”, “Tonight”, to name a few ) blows any cynicism away.

High octone dance-fighting scenes between two warring street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, add a helping of excitement and brash big bang thrill.

Go on, take your kids, take your Mum and Dad, take the bridge club or your drinking buddies. There really is something for everyone in this very impressive production with a few absolutely standout performances.

Other principal cast members reprising their roles are Bianca Le Grange as Anita; Stephen Jubber as Riff; Sven-Eric Müller as Diesel; Craig Urbani as Shrank; and Richard Lothian as Officer Krupke. Daniel Richards re-joins the cast as Bernardo and James Borthwick plays Doc.

Matthew Wild is director, Charl-Johan Lingenfelder is musical director and conductor, and Louisa Talbot is the choreographer, with Grant van Ster as resident choreographer.

Last time it was the set that stole my heart …

(full review from August 2015 available here)

I managed to secure some of the last seats at the Artscape Opera House for West Side Story. The balcony was all that was left. I was only a little disappointed, knowing that a seat upstairs gives such a great view of the group pieces, in this case two gangs of hot young dancers play-fighting with choreography by Louisa Talbot under the direction of Matthew Wild. What’s not to like?

Being a little way back also helps me not fall in love with one performer and follow them around the stage to the detriment of the others, in this case, so many others in a large and talented cast of 40.

Blah-di-blah … A fragile balance is upset … Cue hatred and violence … breathtaking, high tempo dance scenes. Blah blah blah (as I said, full review from August 2015 available here)

Seamless mood changes are achieved by deft set changes between cavernous, clunky, concrete landscapes and intimate love scenes on a balcony or in the sewing factory where Maria works.

About my special little stage crush for the night, I will admit to being a bit mechanical here. Lead contenders had to be Maria (Lynelle Kenned), so sweet and winsome until she opened her mouth and filled the auditorium with soaring vocals, and the sexy Anita (Bianca le Grange), who is Bernardo’s girlfriend.

Le Grange, a South African sweetheart of an order I have heard compared with the way America adored Natalie Wood, who played Maria in the original film version of West Side Story, is one of those performers who doesn’t need a spotlight, her performance is already illuminated by her own fiery red circle of hotness.

But this time the crush award went to … [add drumroll here please] … the stage itself: the mechanics of a three-story set being moved seamlessly on and off stage; the lighting – sometimes knock-out sparkly, other times delightfully subtle; the stage that seemed to go on forever. (I really did lean over the balcony to check if they had fitted in more than a few rows of seats downstairs).

The grocery store we’ve all been waiting for

I am just back from my first visit to Nude Foods, the grocery store we have all been waiting for! I do mean all of us. Cape Town’s new plastic-free grocer is heaven for hipsters, for sure, with its hemp seeds, healthy hair products and earth-friendly body and home products, and a veritable lezzer nirvana with all those non-GMO pulses and legumes and natural fibre face clothes.

But even if you are a totally unreformed meat-eating, booze-guzzling, SUV-driving capitalist you will probably like the raw understated style of the green-green grocer with its exposed brickwork and sexy container-ing of extra virgin olive oil, balsamic and friends.

Plus there are many other little tricks and treats such as  an all-natural stain remover stick that removes even that environmentally friendly extra virgin olive oil should it be splashed on your favourite blouse, I am reliably informed.

The target-obsessed, outcomes-focused busy bees will love the convenience of it all.

Just a few minutes away from worshipping at the altar of your own busy-busy-busy-ness and you will have achieved low cost, high impact efficiency (and probably a few super cool selfies) as you filled your hessian sack with delicious and affordable wholefoods. That’s a nice little update for LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram … that should get you some Likes!

After being offered a glass straw at the Alexander Bar last week I was delighted to see bamboo straws at Nude.

The glass straw is a nice idea and a very luxurious experience, but somehow it doesn’t feel realistic to hope that it will take off on a meaningful scale, kinda like washing your hair in Evian (Kim Bassinger and I really tried to make that take off but it just didn’t catch on).

Plastic straws seem to be widely hated at the moment; they are the gateway drug du jour and I am happy to have turned my back on them forever.

Seriously, whether you are a hipster or a total hick you will love Nude Foods at 5 Constitution Street, East City Precinct, Cape Town.

It is unforgivable not to even attempt to do your bit. See you in the water queues…  

PS I was happy to see that there is one kind of plastic that is welcome here and that they are using Yoco. I do love a little disruption!

Yoco, poster child of SA as global fintech hub

Am I beautiful? Oh yes I am!

 

 

What a treat to see Zanele Muholi profiled in the Weekend FT.  It brought to mind my first encounter with the riveting work of this activist-photographer …

GRAHAMSTOWN, July 8 2016: In this challenging two-part exhibition at the Standard Bank Gallery as part of the annual National Arts Festival, photographer and activist Zanele Muholi provokes and pleases as she explores different ways of asking the question, Am I beautiful?

The first part, Somnyama Ngonyama (an isiZulu phrase which translates to Hail, the dark lioness), is a collection of self-portraits taken as Muholi travelled the world. They shout defiantly, “I am me!” And even, “I am beautiful aren’t I!”

The exaggerated blackness of her skin in the pictures brings ideas about race and the politics of pigment to the fore, creating a whole subset of questions for the viewer.

Muholi writes: “The black face and its details become the focal point, forcing the viewer to question their desire to gaze at images of my black figure. By exaggerating the darkness of my skin tone, I’m reclaiming my blackness, which I feel is continuously performed by the privileged other.”

Invite to the opening of Muholi’s show at Stevenson Gallery, Woodstock, August 2017

The photographs of Muholi dressed up as different personas are taken in such glittering cities as Paris, New York and London and reference black and white portraiture and fashion photography. What’s not to love, you might ask.

The second part of the exhibition, 12 portraits of queer beauty queens, men and women – taken in South African townships, villages and cities – seem to ask, “Please look at me … Ummm … Do you think I am beautiful?”

These are 12 different kinds of beautiful, all of them tapping into a gorgeousness that transcends the environment, an ill-fitting swimsuit, a few extra kilos, a scarred leg. They are all out and proud, beautiful in a most vulnerable way.

Curated by Lerato Bereng, this exhibition shows a broad spectrum of the arc of beauty.

*The 12 photographs are part of the body of work for which Muholi is best known, her life-long project of documenting members of the black LGBTQIA community of South Africa. Brave Beauties catalogues hate crimes against the LGBTIQIA community and seeks to raise awareness about corrective rape and other violent crimes against the community.

 

Same-same; so different …

Through a series of photographs and short essays Alexia Beckerling takes the reader on a private, magical soul-searching journey to wholeness…

A goddess in a headdress

Very familiar and completely vreemd

How I wished I didn’t have to read the surtitles in Moedertaal. Whenever I listened to the Afrikaans words spoken by Sandra Prinsloo I understood snatches of a beautiful, lyrical Afrikaans that cannot be translated. When I heard the Afrikaans and saw the translations in English I wanted to shout out: “That is not what she said; it is definitely not what he meant!”

That’s right, I said ‘he’. Hard as it was for me to believe, a man wrote this poignant and intimate story told in a very powerfully feminine voice by Prinsloo, that grande dame of South African theatre. Familiar and vreemd indeed.

Written and directed by Nico Scheepers, Moedertaal is the third instalment in Sandra Prinsloo’s trifecta of one-woman plays that began so beautifully with Die Naaimasjien. Scheepers, who also composed the music, has been described as “one of the most exciting young theatre-makers in this country”. He and Prinsloo make a formidable pair.

Evocative, compelling narrative (even in the translated surtitles … although less so) grabs us from the beginning. ‘Almost-poetry’ that brings to mind and body the feeling of bare, dusty feet as we explore with Nellie her dead uncle’s farm. (The family has moved here after he put a gun into his mouth and pulled the trigger in a tragically familiar narrative.)

We feel the air thick with sticky, plummy smells and a sweet conspiratorial bond as she helps her dad make moonshine from the maroela fruit.

We feel the fire on our skin and our hearts break as the orchard burns down one night. Later, our hearts repaired a little, we are overcome by awkwardness when Nellie meets her life’s love as a teenager.

Their story is three-quarters familiar, populated and coloured in by many versions and vignettes of our white South African stereotypes. The rest of it we watch from a distance, sometimes amused, often horrified. This quarter is the deeply personal, unique happiness and pain that can never be shared, the private journey between two people in love, touched occasionally by a third: a parent, another lover or, most importantly, a child.

As in life, even as each of them is uniquely quirky, there is a certain familiarity to all the misfits, the loners, the nut-jobs … in Afrikaans and in English. We think we know them and fear what they might want from us, so we back off and thank the heavens we didn’t end up like that … although we can remember more than a few moments when things looked to be heading that way.

Moedertaal gives us a tiny flash of how little we know about all the others – their lives, their loves and their losses – even if it looks so familiar that we thought those dusty bare feet were our own for a minute.

Review: Moedertaal, The Fugard Studio Theatre, November 14 to December 2. Performances are Tuesdays to Fridays at 8pm and on Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm. Tickets (R130-R165), available via 021 461 4554 and Computicket

Pop in to the one and only Dias Tavern next door for pre-theatre dinner, best chicken peri peri and calamari in town, booking essential 021 465 7547

Spekbombing and other suburban dreams

As the windy season gets underway in the Cape of Hope and Storms we sit on a couple of ticking timebombs, one of them a natural disaster of epic proportions.

Many of us feel helpless in the face of the corruption and the selling off of the state. The ANC, founder of the Rainbow Nation, seems to have gone for a ball of shit. There go our neat little dreams of a happy ending where our silent acquiescence, complicity even, when we were too young, too scared or too comfortable to even see things as they were, gets swept under the carpet.

We feel helpless, too, in the face of the drought. The City Council, NGOs, water experts and so on squabble about who is to blame and who has had too many baths. The national government, the aforementioned and recently unhinged ANC, turns away to hide their chuckles as the DA-run city faces its own Armageddon.

My first cuttings … but is it definitely Spekboom? Buddha seems to think so …

Most of the people who might read this will be fine. Whatever happens, we will likely be able to buy water (for those few pesky applications where wine won’t work as a substitute) and antibacterial gels and vegetables and meat at “disaster” prices, and medicine even, should it come to that.

It is the others, the silent hundreds of thousands who have never been on the internet, who will  become parched, disease-ridden water refugees. They will wrap up their few possessions in bags and battered suitcases, pick up their many children and start walking, leaving livestock dying and bloating in the fields.

These are not pretty pictures but more of us are becoming aware, way too late, that they are realistic scenarios and actually quite probable. It will eventually become all of our problem.

Those of us not scratching a living in an increasingly inhospitable land, suburbanites who have the benefit of the time and space to ponder the future, are not always in touch and realistic in a meaningful way. But many of us in the wine-soaked middle classes aspire to being good citizens … well kind of, as long as we don’t have to miss aerobics. (It costs quite a lot you know)

Much as I hate to say it, even those of us who see the likelihood of an Armageddon around the corner, want to “get involved” only in ways that do not involve too much risk … or effort even. Be a good citizen without too much effort or real danger: it’s the South African suburban dream.

And [add drum roll here please] along comes Spekboom, which is not just a gardener’s dream, although it is that too. This tree, like many plants that are indigenous to this region with its capricious weather and varied environment, will grow forever (or, at least, 200 years) on a hint of moisture and the distant sounds of laughter and the wafting smell of braaied sosaties.

Listen to the podcast that got me started … (I don’t know who made it but she said please share it)

 

Those of us who missed the Struggle, because we were too young, too white or too ordinary are now excited by the call to arms of guerrilla gardening; Spekboom is our only ammunition. This indigenous miracle plant, presumably stripped out of forests and gardens in favour of English Roses in the colonisation of the landscape, is a veritable warrior against drought and climate change. And … wait for it … it is delicious in salad!

I am serious … a master of carbon sequestration and delicious and nourishing to boot. This takes cool cuisine to another level. Being incredibly fire resistant it makes perfect fire breaks, it grows in the desert (which we might soon be living in) and is a source of water for human and animal consumption.

The call to arms here is to pick it, share it, propagate and plant it. That’s my kind of war.

And in an effort to avoid being on the wrong side of history again I checked with a friend who is a conservationist. She, who has spent a lot of her career managing the removal of invasive species,  said there was no reason at all not to go Spekbombing.

Bombs away!

Zeitz Mocaa: It’s about us

Even in Milan, in London, in New York and other art-obsessed places it would have been difficult this week to totally escape the hype around the opening of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz Mocaa), the world’s largest museum of contemporary African art, in Cape Town.

In the Mother City, too, there was a haze of sparkly dust. Some of us also got a street-level, bottoms up view inside the belly of the beast and saw a lot more than hype: less smoke, more mirrors.

How we gasped when we heard about the many millions spent on re-imagining and refurbishing the old grain silo at the V&A Waterfront.

How we ‘Oohed’ when we were told that tickets to the opening VIP reception cost R70k a piece. How we ‘Aahed’ when we heard the party was being hosted by Gucci, as if the Italian fashion label was a better choice than, say, MaXhosa, Stoned Cherrie or David Tlale (but of course we are still trying to turn our gaze away from those crumbling old edifices in the north).

Thankfully, two icons who featured large in stories about Zeitz Mocaa (which is widely being called “Africa’s Tate Modern” because it couldn’t possibly just be what it is of course) in newspapers around the world were our very own, universal superstars, Desmond and Nelson. Tutu, Mzansi’s beloved Arch, was at the VIP launch, probably not wearing any Gucci at all. He is reported to have made a phone call to the recently departed Tata of the Beloved Nation, Nelson Mandela, and reported: ‘Madiba says Yes!’

Cartwheels on the roof

That was surely the green light for the last of the cynics and doubters…

Whether you got caught up in the hype or not, totally ignored it, rejoiced in it, let it get up your nose or smiled wryly as it slid elegantly off your gold lame tank top … the only thing you should not have done is let it obscure the actual point of it all.

Did you see it? Did you go? Oh the beauty, the newness, the poignancy and the pure playfulness of this enormous space filled this hopeful continent’s creative minds.

Even if the Letraset-style descriptions of the work in the brand new galleries were already shedding the odd letter and the café on the top floor is not yet open, you could have stood in the cavernous spaces and just let yourself consider the possible connections between the past and the future and all the millions of points along that continuum.

You could have felt fussed and freaked out about “all these white guys” who still seem to be large and in charge. You could have felt angry that the whole show seems to be built on an outdated and out of favour power system. You could have felt annoyed at the American and European names, or you could have felt grateful for the opportunity to stand in front of the art. In that moment you could have felt that most exclusive of things: the feelings that were available only to you in that exact moment and specific space at that limited time … which is over now, like the rest of the past.

William Kentridge is a white guy, too, but wow he gives so many of us a lot of pleasure and makes us pause as we wonder at how we feel so constricted by our past and free of it at the same time.

The Gucci party was probably pretty fab but, as Italians superstar moments go, I think it was eclipsed by a golden moment in Milan this week when the original supermodels Carla Bruni, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford and Helena Christensen joined Donatella Versace on the catwalk to mark the passing 20 years ago of Gianni.

It just goes to show that everything has a perfect place and time. PS The five were dressed in gold, floor-length gowns and the late George Michael’s Freedom was playing as they walked along the runway. A golden moment indeed!

Back in Cape Town, you might be thinking of the Zeitz Mocca opening weekend: “Oh puh-lease, I live in Cape Town, I don’t have to be part of the bun fight of an opening weekend with its free tickets.”

You might add: “I am not one of those people who turns up to queue rain or shine (both of which were options on a typically capricious Cape Town spring weekend). I will go once the fuss has died down, it will be nicer and quieter then.”

That misses the point totally. The opening weekend was packed with all the usual suspects, plus a lot of people who don’t normally ‘do art’.  They posed and people-watched and took selfies in front of Nicholas Hlobo’s haunting dragon in the cavernous atrium while their children did cartwheels on the roof, providing a totally different show and a snapshot of us.

It is, indeed, about us. You can choose to see it or not.

 

Pleasing to the mind, the body and the soul

Andile Ndlovu, Thami Njoko, and Javier Monier in a new ballet by Adele Blank

If it feels too good to be true, it probably is, the saying goes. Too good to be true = couldn’t be better … or could it?

It was certainly dreamy enough watching a wonderfully varied programme of top quality dance at the SAIBC International Ballet Gala at the Artscape recently, with professional dancers from as far afield as Mongolia, Armenia, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt and Mexico. (Patriots need not worry: this international smorgasbord also showcased brilliant South African dancers Angela Malan, Andile Ndlovu and Thami Njoko.)

All this took place at a theatre in downtown Cape Town on a warm, wind-free Saturday evening at the beginning of Spring. So what disrupted the total self-satisfaction and bliss, you might wonder. The discovery that one of the next stops on this tour takes place with the bushveld as the backdrop. Ballet in the Bush at the Legend Golf and Safari Resort in Limpopo on September 9 is a fantasy so perfect that I can’t quite get my head around it.

It would be remiss not to mention the two other performances of this programme at Cambridge Mountain School at Hartbeespoort on September 5 and at the Mosaiek Teatro in Fairland, Johannesburg, on September 7.

Feeling is everything: Angela Malan with Javier Monier and Thami Njoko

But back to my own night of near-perfect bliss at the Artscape. The combination of riveting pas de deux and solos from Giselle, Swan Lake, Paquita and Le Corsaire and neo classical works meant the programme lived up to the promise of being #BalletLikeWeLikeIt, pretty much whomever the ‘we’ was.

The jaw-dropping power and grace of the classic dances together with the mind-bending surrealistic thrill inspired by the shape-shifting neo classical numbers results in a programme that talks to mind, body and soul, young and old, traditional and modern.

Bengingazi, the world premiere of a new piece by South African choreographer Adele Blank, particularly, was the sort of dance that is brand new yet incredibly familiar. It is whatever you want it to be. Feeling is everything; thinking nothing, if at least for those few moments.

Thinking is nothing: Javier Monier, Thami Njoko and Andile Ndlovu

Presented by Dirk Badenhorst, the chief executive and founder of the biennial South African International Ballet Competition (SAIBC), the programme was presented in association with Artscape and supported by South African Tourism. Ballet in the Bush, dance tourism … they seem to be on to something.

Performers included: Maria Rudenko, Artemiy Pyzhov, Monier Javier Jouve,  Anujin Otgontugs, Hassan Eltabie, Mariam Karapetyan, Jonhal Fernandez, Lissi Baez, Dzianis Klimuk, and South Africa’s Angela Malan, Andile Ndlovu and Thami Ngoko.

Book: Computicket. For tickets in Hartbeespoort call Dirk Badenhorst on 083 324 0940, and for ‘Ballet in the Bush’ at Legends email reservations@legendlodges.co.za or call 012 443 6700

Swing into spring in downtown Cape Town

Gangsters and their molls, bootleggers, poets and playwrights, flappers and assorted dandies … just another night at your favourite tavern in town, you might think, but Cape Town’s monthly swing nights, which are launching on 1 September at the Reserve at the Taj, promise a whole lot more.

As winter breathes its last misty breaths, Gerald Schreiner, Daneel van Der Walt, David Lubbe and the Swing Cats will present a night of Prohibition era swing, jazz and blues music you can dance to.

Think foxtrot, swing, tap and jitterbug, and tunes like “It’s too darn hot”, “Let’s call the whole thing off” and “On the sunny side of the street”.

These Prohibition era nights (sans Prohibition of course) will bring a little Speakeasy-style decadence to Cape Town’s kinda sleepy city centre.
Guests are asked to dress the part, although it is not compulsory.

“Think of an old school dinner dance, of speakeasies, flapper dresses, flatcaps and champagne glasses moulded off the breast of Marie Antoinette,” the organisers said in a statement.

A sit-down dinner will be available from 7.30pm, and the show starts at 9pm.

Expect this to become a Capetonian institution!

Tickets available here: https://speakeasyswing.co.za/

Give reality the slip at the Wild Coast 

The more things have changed the more they have stayed the same since the days when it was one of ‘Sun King’ Sol Kerzner’s original palaces of relaxation and fun in the nominally independent Bantustans of apartheid era South Africa.

The resort – set on 750 hectares of natural bush on the Indian Ocean Coast, where the sun always seems to shine – continues to offer a haven from the chill and the rest of reality outside.

You can see forever: The bright blue pool seems to be surrounded by ocean

In this wonderfully warm and friendly world, real life and the flood of news about corruption and capture seem very far away indeed.

One doesn’t want to spend too much time in complete denial of reality, but a little break from it all surely does wonders for mind, body and soul.

For a high-speed re-set I recommend a quick visit to the casino, which always helps to shift me into a different gear entirely. Watching ordinary looking people bet thousands of rand on a single spin of the roulette wheel always has me aghast, setting a kaleidoscope of judgment, envy and thrill spinning in my head.

For a minute you might, as I did, imagine yourself in a faraway imagined place or on the silver screen with Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore playing with a lot more than their entertainment allowance, as they did in that racy and hedonistic tale, Indecent Proposal.

A few lucky spins stretched my own entertainment allowance and kept me amused for a couple of hours. I didn’t mind at all, though, when that came to an end since much fun was to be had outside under beautiful clear winter skies.

Better than cocktails: Foot massages by the pool

A more wholesome but equally heady and fantastical way to forget your cares is a horseback ride on the beach.

This highlight of so many bucket-lists lived up to the dream for me as the sweaty beast I was riding headed calmly for the shoreline and splashed through the foamy waves for most of the ride. I was reduced to the gulping, giggling teenage girl I had never been as I took in deep breaths of fresh sea air and pure thrill.

Even in midwinter a large bright blue pool, which seems to be surrounded by ocean, was always alive with children and the odd adult splashing around.

Less daring adults reclined on loungers around the pool sipping cocktails, reading books, admiring 180 degree seaviews and having foot massages.

Slippery slopes: The Wild Waves water park

An award-winning golf course, multiple beauty and wellness spas, Segway tours and the Wild Waves water park are just some of the other options at the resort, which is much more about family fun than its reputation might suggest.

Once known as a haven of gambling and the risqué entertainment that fell under the banner of “immorality” in the era of extravaganzas, these days you are more likely to see birdwatchers than topless dancers.

At another point in time when South Africa seems to be a corrupt and captured place, the Wild Coast Sun offers a break from it all with loads of sunshine and good times.

Give reality the slip at this resort less than 2 hours drive from Durban, where everything seems a few degrees warmer and happier even on a midwinters’ day in 2017.

Dump maths? Sounds like a race to the bottom

10X Investments called on South Africa’s Department of Basic Education this week to reconsider the “potentially catastrophic proposal” to remove mathematics as a pass requirement in the education system.

“Just when you thought we needed to raise our game in terms of maths literacy, the national education department starts a consultation on lowering the standards,” the asset manager said in a statement.

The education department confirmed earlier in the week that it had started a consultation on proposed amendments to pass requirements for pupils in grades 1 to 9, which would see mathematics removed as a compulsory pass requirement.

10X – which is disrupting the asset management sector by offering simple, low cost, index tracking products as alternatives to the confusing and expensive array of choices available in what has been described as “the most profitable sector ever” – warned this proposal risked exacerbating a number of simmering crises in the country.

“South Africa already has an unemployment crisis, a pensions crisis, a growing crisis of confidence in the education system,” it said.

“Basic mathematics is an essential building block in many of the sectors that are driving the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution. To fulfil the promise of this revolution, which is to use new technology to leapfrog many in the developed world, young people need to be given the tools essential to mastery of the technology. Without maths it is hard to imagine how this is possible,” the 10X statement continued.

“The world economy is becoming increasingly science-orientated, with less complex pursuits at risk of automation. Those countries that fall behind in maths will fall behind in global growth and global competitiveness. Those who lack maths skills immediately close the door on many future career choices.

“Besides, maths is not simply about mastering numeric skills. A maths pass is a certificate in problem solving, in logical thinking, in systematic thinking, in applied thinking, in deductive reasoning, in discipline, in application.

“These skills are not only essential for success in many careers, they are key to making good life choices. From balancing the household budget to choosing a pension provider who does not take the lion’s share of your savings, basic skills of reasoning are important.

“The future already looks bleak for thousands of graduates who are unable to find work.
“It looks bleak for the working population too. According to National Treasury only 6% of the population will have accumulated enough money to retire comfortably.

“Who will create jobs and opportunities for these young people? Who will support these old people? It is hard to imagine how having more graduates with lower competencies will help anyone.

“By improving results by merely dropping standards the Department of Education will be equipping a generation of South Africans with nothing but false hope.”
10X called on the Department of Basic Education to reconsider the proposal.

“Let’s avoid a race to the bottom,” the statement added.