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State of the Union of South Africa; The Afghan Youth Orchestra Tours the US

Aired February 13, 2013 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

Tonight, what is the state of the Rainbow Nation? We will soon find out, as South African President Jacob Zuma prepares his much-anticipated yearly address. South Africans are expecting their president to focus on unemployment and inequality, issues that have long plagued the country. But they're also demanding something else, a change in the culture.

Sexual violence has come to the forefront this month after a heinous rape case two hours away from Cape Town, which has outraged much of the nation. People expect the president to address this incident in his speech, and he's already called for the harshest sentences for the attackers.

Even the doctors who tried to save the victim's life were traumatized by the gang rape of Anene Booysen, a 17-year-old girl, who was so brutally mutilated and left to die at a construction site in her hometown, Bredasdorp. She succumbed to her injuries and she was buried this weekend. But before she died, Booysen was able to identify one of her attackers. It was a family friend.

He and another man hid their faces as they were charged with the crime. And residents of her town are distraught about the whole terrible incident.


SOPHIA EUROPA, BREDASDORP: There is no use in giving birth to a baby boy if men treat women lower than animals.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like a dog, even like (inaudible) like this. We've never seen something like this (inaudible).


AMANPOUR: Harsh indictment, indeed. And so is this a watershed moment for South Africa? The facts are startling. Some 70 percent of South African women report being victims of sexual abuse and according to these statistics, a woman is raped every four minutes there.

Lindiwe Mazibuko is one of South Africa's loudest voices calling for change. She's a member of parliament from the opposition Democratic Alliance Party, and lives in the province where this awful rape occurred. She joins me now from Cape Town.


AMANPOUR: Ms. Mazibuko, welcome to the program. I want to ask you, is this, in fact, a watershed moment? Do you believe that some change will come from this terrible attack?

LINDIWE MAZIBUKO, MP, SOUTH AFRICA: Good evening, Christiane. I believe that this can be a watershed moment. I believe it's up to South African society, political leaders, the government and those in the criminal justice system to decide whether or not this will be a watershed moment.

We've heard comparisons with what happened in India, where another young woman was gang raped on public transport. And a lot of people have made the comparison between India and South Africa and asked why is it such a casually acknowledged part of South African life, that women must be regularly victimized in this way.

So I hope very much that this will be a watershed moment. But the outrage isn't enough. It has to -- it has to translate into action. And that's where the government comes in; it's where civil society comes in, and that's where parliament comes in.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you, because we said that the president is going to be having his State of the Union address. Do you think he has done enough? Can the government do more? He's called for the harshest penalties for these perpetrators.

MAZIBUKO: I think the very fact that a 17-year-old young woman has been brutally assaulted by a group of young men -- by the way, it's important to remember how young the accused are, 21, 22 years old. A woman has been brutally assaulted, treated like an animal, gutted, raped and left for dead in the dust.

It's taken this kind of heinous act for the government to actually stand up and say we need to do something about this. And so on some level it is clear that enough hasn't been done. And certainly, as a leader of the opposition in parliament, we spend a great deal of our time trying to hold the government accountable for the failure in the criminal justice system.

What we have in South Africa is a broken system, where from start to finish, it's not made clear to citizens and to potential criminals that if you commit a crime in our country, you will be caught; you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and you will go to prison.

There's a sense that criminals are not made to feel the wrath of the law. And as a consequence, the rate of violent crime, contact crime against women is unacceptably high.

So there's certainly no question that the government hasn't done enough. But it is still heartening to hear the president stand up and say, actually, this is outrageous. I feel what the nation is also feeling. And my government needs to do something about it.

AMANPOUR: And specifically what about your party? I mean, your party is in power in this province where this took place. What has your party done to address this? I mean, before this crime? What has your party put on the table locally to make sure this is not perpetrated with impunity and it's held fully accountable?

MAZIBUKO: The South African constitution gives provinces oversight over the national police service, which operates in all of the provinces. So one of our responsibilities as a provincial government is to conduct oversight of its South African police service. And we've done that as much as is possible in the province that we govern.

We have ensured that there are victims' support centers in every single police precinct in the western Cape. We've ensured that there are communication lines open between the South African police service and members of the community.

And where there have been failures, we've instigated investigations to establish why the criminal justice system has been failing members of the community on the ground.

So we fully take responsibility for our sphere of government and where we govern. But we also acknowledge that it is a multipronged solution that is required. The three spheres of government -- local, provincial and national -- need to work together, hold each other accountable in order to make sure that the system operates as a whole.

And at the moment, there are just too many chinks in the armor, too many ways for people to get away with this kind of violent crime, and that incentivizes those who would be criminals, rapists and assaulters of young women and children.

AMANPOUR: Let me play you something -- our reporter in South Africa, Nkepile Mabuse, spoke with a man who raped a woman decades ago and recently he sought her out to apologize. He apparently now works in a gender equality organization to stop sexual violence.

Listen to him explain why he committed the rape -- and he seemed to sort of portray it as part of the culture.


DUMISANI REBOMBO, GENDER EQUALITY ACTIVIST: I had pressure to go on. This seen as one of the voices at the time. So I did it.

NKEPILE MABUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How did you feel? Obviously she was screaming.

REBOMBO: Terrible. Terrible. And I felt so guilty. See, I'm scared if my mother would find out, my father would find out. No thought about how the victim was feeling at all.

MABUSE: Why? Why do think that was the case?

REBOMBO: It's because when the environment accepts that behavior as the norm, it's -- you don't pay too much attention to it.


AMANPOUR: Wow, I mean, that's at once really incredible to hear and very open, admitting that the environment pretty much allows this, if not outright condones it.

You've called, among other things, for a sort of a national dialogue in South Africa about this kind of thing. You met with a deputy president today. What did you learn about whatever changes may be in the offing?

MAZIBUKO: I have called for a national dialogue on sexual violence because all the stuff I spoke about earlier, about the criminal justice system being broken and needing to be addressed, are the punitive measures that come after the crimes have been committed. But we need to deal with the symptoms.

We need to deal with the fact that we live in a society where there is an unequal relationship between men and women to the extent as this man has just described, that men feel like women are possessions with which they can do whatever they like.

And it starts in seemingly small ways, with a young girl having her leg grabbed by a taxi driver, having her buttocks tapped by a school teacher. And it accelerates to sexual harassment in the workplace and so on and so forth until women are being assaulted by men in public and people stand by or look away and don't actually stand up and do something about it.

So there's something broken in our society, and I know it's a consequence of apartheid; it's a consequence of our difficult past. But we haven't done enough to look it in the eyes and say, this is what South Africa is like.

And unless we're willing to tackle these problems, we're going to continue to have to deal with the symptoms, which is the violent crime.

So I had a very good meeting with the deputy president this afternoon, and we discussed the ways in which parliament can work to become a center for national dialogue, a place where survivors of rape and sexual assault can come and tell their stories so South Africa can look itself in the mirror and say, this is actually what the Rainbow Nation has become.

It's no longer like a dream; it's now a prison for women from the moment they're born. They must constantly be at odds with the society that thinks they're second class citizens.

And then on top of that, as the legislators in parliament, what we need to do is bring in experts, members of the government, criminal justice institutions and hold them accountable as well as ask them what needs to be done and what can be done in terms of lawmaking, regulatory policymaking, what can be done in order to strengthen our criminal justice system in order to address the social problem.

And you need to think about the feed-in problems as well. The president is going to be talking to the nation tomorrow about the state of South Africa. He's going to talk about jobs, education, unemployment -- these are feed-in factors.

Young men who feel emasculated in a country where they can't work, where they can't feel like they are validated by some kind of economic activity, become susceptible to a situation where a woman becomes a punching bag for them to take out their frustrations on. So there's a whole dialogue that needs to take place.

But the first thing that needs to happen is we need to look ourselves in the eye and say we are actually not where we thought we'd be 18 years into democracy. Things are actually not where they should be and we need to do something about it.

AMANPOUR: Lindiwe Mazibuko, thank you so much for joining me.

And a culture that allows the degradation of women is not a culture at all. It's a plague. And we've seen its brutal consequences in South Africa, India and other countries. In Afghanistan, women have long been a target of the Taliban. In his State of the Union address, President Obama last night announced an accelerated drawdown of U.S. forces there.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tonight I can announce that over the next year another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan. This drawdown will continue and by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.



AMANPOUR: And that leaves Afghan women and girls petrified. Like these two orphans who are aspiring musicians, they're wondering about their future.


AMANPOUR: Music was banned by the Taliban, but it's being revived in the Afghan Youth Orchestra. These two girls and their fellow musicians came to America this month on a mission of musical diplomacy. And they performed last night here in New York at Carnegie Hall. How did they get there? We'll tell you when we come back.





AMANPOUR (voice-over): Welcome back to the program. And here in the studio, we have something very special.

Now for the world's would-be musicians, there's a famous maxim here in the United States, how do you get to Carnegie Hall? The answer: practice, practice, practice.

Well, for Afghanistan's only national orchestra, the road to this esteemed concert hall here in New York began in Kabul, where not so long ago playing music was illegal. When I covered Afghanistan during the war years, under the Taliban, I saw them round up and destroy instruments and cassette tapes, string their entrails on branches as a warning. Public performances, of course, were banned.

That tune has been changing now since the fall of the Taliban more than 11 years ago. Thanks to the Afghan Ministry of Education, to a lot of money from the United States and its international partners and also to their maestro, Afghan musician Ahmad Sarmast, the student musicians here with me now performed at Carnegie Hall.

Sarmast was studying music in Russia. And when the Taliban came to power, he fled and sought asylum in Australia. He only returned back in 2006 to found this Afghan orchestra and the institute that trains 141 students now between the ages of 10 and 21. Incredibly, half of these students are orphans and street children; 41 of them are girls.

And last week on the first stop of this, their American debut tour, they performed with young American musicians at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. They performed Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" with a distinctly Afghan twist.


AMANPOUR: Such a famous piece of music, performed by this youth orchestra. And in a moment, I'll speak with Ahmad Sarmast and his students.

But first, an Afghan folk song now, called "Lila John (ph)," performed here in our studio by Aziza Safi and Sapna Rahmati, who are 10 and 11 years old, on the piano; and Reshad Afzali, who's on the drums. And he's 18 years old.


AMANPOUR: That is beautiful. Well done. Excellent.

Let me ask a couple of the musicians here.

Reshad, how have you enjoyed being in the United States? What's all this meant to you?

RESHAD AFZALI, DRUMMER: Well, for me, it was such a great and wonderful and beneficial experience to play with the other musicians, I mean, that we never played with them, and to play in two popular and famous places like Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall (inaudible) --


AMANPOUR: Did you ever dream that you would be here?

AFZALI: Well, no, no, really, it's something like -- it was something amazing for me. I really enjoyed; I loved it.

AMANPOUR: Let me talk to Aziza and Sapna.

Do you like playing the piano?


AMANPOUR: Yes? You're 10 and 11 years old; you've come from Kabul. And you're playing for people in New York and Washington, D.C., all these important people. What is it like?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We feel great, because we're representing Afghanistan. And we want to show those who think Afghanistan doesn't allow girls to go to school or study music that we can.

AMANPOUR: How special is your school for you, your musical school?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I play music, I feel very good about it. Some people say playing music is bad. But it is very valuable to me.

AMANPOUR: Is it important, especially as a little girl, to be doing something this important?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. It is very important, because the first time we have been here and performed in a concert hall like Carnegie Hall.

AMANPOUR: Excellent.

I remember how bad it was for people who wanted to play music in the '90s. Why was it important for you and for Afghanistan to create this institute, these young musicians?

SARMAST: It's very, very much connected to the discriminative policies against music and musicians that happened in 1990s up to early 2002.

AMANPOUR: When the Taliban said absolutely no, nobody's allowed to play?

SARMAST: Yes, but at the same time, after the collapse of the regime of the Taliban, it was significantly important to return the musical rights of Afghan children back to them and --


AMANPOUR: Why? Why was it so important for you to give them back those musical rights?

SARMAST: Because no country can exist without having its own musical identity. And also it's not just the musical identity of Afghanistan, but at the same time, the establishment of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music was significantly important to revive, preserve and transmit the Afghan musical tradition which became almost obsolete during the years of war.

AMANPOUR: Those of us who know about Afghan music, we recognize some of the traditional instruments. But it's not usual to have a piano in Afghanistan. That's not an Afghan instrument.

SARMAST: Yes, but Afghanistan should be part of the international music making. Afghan children should have access to the same musical instrument that it's given for granted outside Afghanistan to other children.

Students should have the ability to play Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, as it's part -- as this music is part of the musical heritage of humanity.

AMANPOUR: It's incredible for me, when I read about this orchestra, that a lot of them are either orphans or street children or had no other opportunity. How did you even find them? How did you select them? How did you train them?

SARMAST: We are working in close collaboration with a number of orphanages, which are caring for the Afghan kids. This cooperation and collaboration allows us to organize auditions for the disadvantaged kids of Afghan society and to identify the talents and enable them to further develop and polish their talent and become the master musicians of our country.

AMANPOUR: Fantastic.

SARMAST: It's a great honor.

AMANPOUR: So you think this will continue, even when the U.S. leaves, even as it's becoming a little bit more conservative and people are more afraid now of -- if the Taliban gets more influence in this (inaudible)?


SARMAST: I strongly believe that the -- believe that the Afghanistan National Institute of Music operating within the Ministry of Education will survive, not only because it's part of the government, but at the same time, the people of Afghanistan, the mentality of the youth of Afghanistan, enormously changed in the last 10 years.

I believe that the youths of Afghanistan and the people of Afghanistan will not allow anyone to return the wheel of history back.

AMANPOUR: Good luck, everybody. We wish you all the very best. And we'll be watching. And thank you for coming into the studio.

And we're going to leave you now with another excerpt from their repertoire. They'll be performing "Anar Anar," which means "Pomegranate Pomegranate." And performing again is Reshad Afzali on the drum, Abu Kadir (ph) and Mustafa Darwishi (ph).



AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, we've spotlighted a few of this year's Oscar nominated documentaries because of the important stories they tell about the real world we live in. Two of them, "The Gatekeepers," and "Five Broken Cameras" focus on the ongoing war and tragedy between Israel and the Palestinians.

One, called "The Invisible War," documents rape in the United States military. But another contender for the Academy Award is set against the apartheid era of South Africa. And it tells how one man's music helped bring down those walls even though he never knew it.



AMANPOUR (voice-over): "Searching for Sugarman" begins far from Cape Town in Detroit, Michigan, in the 1960s, when an obscure singer-songwriter named Rodriguez made an album called "Cold Fact." The critics liked it, but the album bombed and that, or so it seemed, was the end of Rodriguez. But in fact, that's where the plot began to thicken.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's sort of a bit of a mystery how the first copy of "Cold Fact" actually came to South Africa. But it spread very quickly. To many of us South Africans, he was the soundtrack to our lives.

Everybody knew his records. The message it had was "be anti- establishment." Really the first opposition to apartheid, they'll tell you that they were influenced by Rodriguez. But nobody knew anything about him. He was a mystery.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): That mystery and his popularity was fueled by the legend that Rodriguez had killed himself onstage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of people have different versions of the story. He set himself a lot on stage. He reached down and pulled up a gun. I thought it would make a good story, find out how Rodriguez died.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): The filmmaker set out to solve this mystery. The search led back to Michigan to Sugarman, as Rodriguez came to be called. Very much alive, but completely unaware that in South Africa he was bigger than Elvis.

Now this remarkable film has resurrected the man and his music, much like the Rainbow Nation itself. And today, Rodriguez is back on stage in South Africa and around the world, inspiring audiences with his story.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for keeping me alive.


AMANPOUR: And that's it for tonight's program. Meantime, you can always contact us at our website, Thank you for watching and goodbye from New York.