#FeesMustFall – a Cry of Our Nation

Karen Lancaster

The other day while driving back to the office after a meeting I was listening to Redi Tlhabi’s show on the radio discussing #FeesMustFall. I was excited about how this was history in the making and decided impulsively to head on over to Wits and see what was going on and get some footage on Periscope, my latest social media love.

I parked my car in Braamfontein and walked to the gates at Wits where I encountered a few peaceful looking students. I asked them where all the action was and they told me to head down to Yale Road. As I walked down the road I came across groups of students milling around and so I started interviewing them on Periscope. I must say that the students that I spoke to were calm and thoughtful, not the rabble-rousing hooligans that I had been reading about in the media.

By this stage there was much activity, singing and chanting down the road, so I walked over to take a look. Students from the University of Johannesburg (UJ) had initiated a march from Braamfontein to the UJ campus in Kingsway Road. They were encouraging the Wits students  to join in. I decided to join them and “scope” the proceedings.

The march took place with hundreds of students and the mood was festive with lots of singing and placards. There was a small police presence who walked along with the students. The only time I saw any animosity was when we marched next to the student digs and campuses. The marchers saw students who were not participating and jeered at them, yet others called out to them urging them to participate. Absolutely no violence was evident.

We finally arrived at UJ six hot kilometres later to find that the marchers were locked off the campus. The students inside the gates were watching the action from the bridge that spans Kingsway Road. UJ’s private security company were watching the proceedings as students sang and chanted, “Fees must fall!”

A lively student managed to climb up on the slab over the campus turnstiles, waving his flag vigorously and causing the students to cheer loudly.  I was watching all of this through a fence on Kingsway Road. The next minute chaos erupted and students started running and screaming. The security were directly ahead of me and I clearly saw them picking up bricks and hurling them at the students, within the campus and outside of the gates. It was mayhem. It seemed that tear gas was released somewhere because my eyes started watering and we started coughing as we breathed in something foreign.

A few of the students were incensed and started throwing the bricks back at the security. Myself and other onlookers quickly took cover under the bridge.

Eventually it calmed down and I managed to run out from under the bridge and away from all the action, watching from further away. Some of the students were shouting at others, “No violence!” Others continued chanting. I could see that things were going to continue for a while and I needed to get back to work, so I decided to make my way back to my car – all the way in Braamfontein.

The very next day the protest at the Union Buildings took place with all of it’s drama.

So, what do we make of all of this?

Well, for the first time in ages, I feel a stirring of hope for our beloved nation. It’s great to feel respect for our youth, apart from the few who apparently  took part in acts of hooliganism. It made me wish I was young again. We need the youth of South Africa and we need them to speak out loudly. May the rest of us who complain daily of the corruption in our leadership also find a voice and join the next march against corruption.

It has made each of us look at where we stand in the necessary transformation of South Africa. Words like “privilege” have been highlighted causing questions from every spectrum of society. Many white people have been offended by it and many “born-frees” have misinterpreted it, however the best explanation I have managed to find is found on this video and is well worth taking the time to view.

I believe that #FeesMustFall is about way more than the tuition fees, although it is vitally important to make education accessible to all in some creative and constructive way, it is actually about the mismanagement of our beautiful nation. The youth have been gutsy enough to take the government on and make a stand. Our own mini “Africa Spring.” However, surely it is time for the rest of us to take up the call?




How Important is Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?

It has been said that EQ is even more important than IQ when it comes to success in life and in business. Emotional intelligence helps to nurture close, healthy relationships, which are a key to growth in business. It helps how we are seen and responded to socially. EQ points to improved decision making processes and is a strong forecaster of success in business. It also develops our self- expression.

Fortunately we can develop and improve our emotional intelligence in the following ways:

  • Become aware of our thoughts and feelings – Being aware of our thoughts and feelings as they happen allows us to assess them and act intentionally, rather than reactively or from habit. Work out what triggered our emotions, then try breathing deeply to focus on our feelings. Once identified, accept those emotions and take control of them. Our thoughts induce feelings, which give us important information for our emotional intelligence.
  • Observe our behaviour – The more aware we are of our behaviour, the more we can notify our behaviour to act and meet our needs. We begin to act more appropriately and positively in different situations. Let’s take a moment each day to observe our reactions and responses.
  • Take Responsibility – We need to take control of our emotions. We cannot change others actions, but we can change how we respond. We also need to eliminate blame and excuses from our lives. It is helpful to listen to constructive feedback from a trusted other.
  • Respond, rather than react – We should slow down to assess the situation in order to respond appropriately. This is a form of managing stress. Be mindful by watching ourselves in situations that could be upsetting. Pay attention to how we think. Then pause. We can watch our initial reaction, then let it subside. Then respond.
  • Be Empathic – Reading people and situations. Understand why people react the way they do and show them that we understand. Think of others. Suspend our judgements. Give attention to others. Listen more. Always treat others with dignity and respect.
  • Connect – Make an effort to understand the person and encourage a connection. Be interested, accessible and responsive. Look at things from the other person’s point of view.
  • Understand what’s behind our anger
- Anger is rooted in other emotions, such as shame or insecurity. When angry, we need to focus on what we’re feeling and thinking. Deal with it by using some of the old tricks, such as counting to 10, taking deep breaths and dealing with the matter when we have calmed down.

Pic by Cara Lancaster 


By Karen Lancaster

The Business of Bungee and the Bungee of Business

The business of bungee

I recently had the privilege of being invited to bungee jump at the new Play at Heights Skybar in Pineslopes. Being somewhat of an adrenaline junkie, I simply could not turn down the offer, but as the hours drew near to the allotted time slot, my nerves of steel disintegrated into nerves of candy floss.

I was most impressed with the process. The staff were well trained and professional, encouraging me all the way through and being firm at the last moment, when I decided that this was no longer a good idea. The attitude they displayed was fantastic.

My bravado in the queue while I was being hooked up soon turned to a pathetic pleading as I stood on that ledge with nothing between me and the ground so very far below. I felt terror in every ounce of my being and simply refused to let go of the pole on one side and the man on the other side of me.

“I can’t do it!”

“Yes, you can, Karen, and you are going to jump right now.” He answered as he gently pried my fingers loose, placed his hand on my back and began the countdown.

“5, 4…”

Time seemed to slow down as I shakily put my arms out in front of me, terror engulfing me.

“3, 2..”

Shit, this was the point of no return. What was I thinking?

“1, bungee.” He gently nudged me forward.

Oh my frikking hell!

A scream poured out of me as I plunged at one heck of a speed groundward towards a pathetic little square of astroturf. As if that is going to help if anything goes wrong.

Before I knew it I was bouncing up again, fully alive with blood pounding through my veins. Oh, this is living! Adrenalin coursed through my body making me drunk with excitement.

What a rush the business of bungee is. Now, how about the bungee of business. The rush of new ventures, new relationships and new ideas in established businesses.

Just like bungee, business is an adventurous risk, however the risk needs to be an informed one. I jumped because I knew that the staff were trained, experienced and professional and that they would not let me down (excuse the pun).  They encouraged me and talked me through the process and were firm when they had to be. Find someone to coach or mentor you in your business who will guide you through the processes and gently nudge you over the edge when it is time. Don’t be like the onlookers, loving the show, but missing the exhilaration of facing and overcoming fears. The bungee of business, the informed risks and getting things done, makes it all worthwhile.

the bungee of business

By Karen Lancaster

What is This Elusive Thing Called Happiness?


I spruced my self up and made my way to the Business School ready to learn how to be myself. The topic sounded interesting and the speaker looked like a well rounded, successful business man. Maybe I could learn a thing or two.

When I arrived I was greeted by angelic smiles from groups of women dressed in white saris, while esoteric music played in the background and the faint scent of incense hovered in the air.

I looked around and noticed that we were a diverse group gathering in the room, from the hippy looking “eat, pray, love” types to formal business men and women and everyone in between.

The speaker was Mike George and he was advertised to speak on Being Yourself. I have a ‘thing’ for authenticity and so I was attracted to the topic.

Although I gathered by now that this was some sort of religious group, I was deeply impressed with what Mike had to say and how he said it. No hype, no hysteria, just good common sense with a profound simplicity.

Basically, we are motivated by happiness, but get distracted by pleasures. Happiness can be described in so many ways, but generally boils down to contentment, joy and bliss. Happiness actually comes from within, not the external pleasures that we spend so much of our lives pursuing. Contentment, joy and bliss are all internal, yet we chase after beauty, possessions, ego and so many other external commodities.  And the cherry on the top, in order to find this elusive thing called happiness, we need to learn the lifelong lesson of acceptance, which banishes judgement. It’s a tall order and yet it makes a lot of sense.

Mike spoke on all of these things for an hour and a half, so I have obviously mentioned the kernel of his talk that resonated within me. I found myself deeply challenged and wonderfully at peace to find such a simple answer to finding happiness. I don’t doubt that I will forget much of this in my daily living, but if I can return here each day and practice it, I will be a lot less stressed.

By Karen Lancaster

How Can We Not Say No to Xenophobia?



I look around this beautiful nation bemused and horrified at all the recent events. As much as load shedding, crime and corruption has upset me, nothing prepared me for the trauma of the xenophobic sentiments that have resulted in brutal murders and displacement of innocent people.

As always in the midst of horror the compassionate and courageous face of humanity also shines through. Thank God for the many people who are trying to do something to stop the madness and care for the victims.

Having worked in Alexandra during the riots in the early eighties and managed a shelter for abused women and their children in Midrand, I have always been caught by surprise at mankind’s ability for cruelty. My geographical travels have taken me through Pol Pot’s regime in the Killing Fields of Cambodia and seeing the results of the sex trade in Thailand from the Hill Tribes in Chiang Rai to Bangkok’s sleazy brothels. My literary travels have included Nazi Germany and the Vietnam War, to name but a few, and I am dismayed at our barbaric potential as humans.

I consider myself to be a pretty average individual, no more courageous or wicked than the next person. Yet in my very worst moments, I could not harm another creature intentionally. Perhaps I would succumb in the case of self defence or protecting my family. So what causes masses to wilfully and violently harm others as in the examples above? No matter how different a person is to me or no matter how much I may dislike them, I couldn’t bring myself to hurt them.

Or could I? Would I become violent when whipped to a frenzy in a crowd? Would I follow the crowd? Do we know how we will react in certain situations?

All I know is that we have to do something to stop the xenophobic attacks in South Africa. Hats off to groups like Gift of the Givers, Bedfordview Methodist Church, IAMAFRICA and many others who are giving us a means of helping in practical ways. It restores a little faith in humanity after all. Apart from funding, marching or volunteering, how can I make a difference in everyday life?

Remember Mother Teresa’s famous quote, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” The same applies in this situation. For every one of us who change our attitude towards people different from ourselves, there may be another influenced to follow suit.

It starts with me. How do I view others who are culturally different to me? What do I say about others? How will I say No to Xenophobia?

I will fight against labelling you and looking at our differences and rather focus on our similarities. I choose not to fear you but to try and understand you through engaging with you. Rather than look for who to blame, I will look within. I will fight all temptation to surrender to discrimination in all of it’s different forms. Please help me and join me in changing self.  Say No to Xenophobia.

Seasons Greetings

network explosionDespite the load shedding, unpredictable weather, traffic jams and stressed out people, this is a great time of the year. Over half of the Joburg population is racing time, trying to update their work load and fit in Christmas shopping before leaving for the annual holiday. The frenzy adds to the excitement of the busy Johannesburg lifestyle, so in the middle of all of this, I would like to take time out of my frenetic schedule and wish you all the best for the holiday season. Enjoy your holiday, wherever it may be, and savour the time spent with family and friends.

Network Explosion, together with businesses that we collaborate with, took time out this week to celebrate a great year with a year end function in Fourways. Hilarity was the theme and relationships were strengthened as we laughed our way through a lunch with loads of refreshments and seasonal spirit.

Thanks to clients and co-workers for all of your support this year and may we move into 2015 with hope and anticipation of growth and good things.

Seasons greetings to you all and a Happy New Year!

network explosion

By Karen Lancaster

Digital Media Coach, Social Media Marketer & Periscoper

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