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Ask Gayleen 1 — South African Progressivism


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): The Good Men Project

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/03/08

Gayleen Cornelius is a South African human rights activist from Willowmore; a tiny town in the Eastern Cape province. She grew up a colored (the most ethnically diverse group in the world with Dutch, Khoisan, Griqua, Zulu, Xhosa Indian, and East Asian ancestry). Despite being a large Demographic from Cape Town to Durban along the coast, the group is usually left out of the racial politics that plague the nation. She has spoken out against identity politics, racism, workplace harassment, religious bigotry and different forms of abuse. She is also passionate about emotional health and identifies as an empath/ humanist. Here we talk about South African progressivism.

Starting on the points about forming the first progressive publication in South Africa, of which I was privileged to take part, Cornelius spoke about the story of the construction and growth of Cornelius Press. 

Cornelius stated, “We live in a very Afrikaner (Dutch) area known as the Garden Route. Local newspapers and media outlets aim to preserve the culture and never brings up progressive concerns unlike bigger cities like Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg or Durban that have progressed out of apartheid norms. News publications in these major cities are not dedicated to progressive issues either because they do not find the need to; their diverse communities are already liberal.”

The purpose of the publication was to counter some of the racism in South Africa. In particular, since the apartheid regimes, Garden Route has not progressed, as it remains white dominated with a hiddenness inside of wine and hop farms and forests. Those forests overlooking some of the Southern parts of the Indian Ocean.

Cornelius’s partner, Takudzwa Mazwienduna, chose to develop the publication for the complete set of progressive African concerns in order to balance the not necessarily progressive media seen by some South Africans.

“Social trivia (with a lot of reports on speculations about witchcraft allegations), political propaganda and tourism journals summarizes everything there is to know about Southern African media. We tried our best to juggle our livelihoods with this new initiative, but our barriers by far outweighed anything we could handle at that time,” Cornelius stated, “South Africa is undoubtedly the most progressive country in Africa. It was the first to recognize LGBTQ rights on the continent, did away with most repressive laws (especially from Apartheid), pushed for secularism in public schools and recently legalized cannabis for recreational purposes. A lot of people will attest to the fact that South Africa is a lot more liberal than most first world countries.”

These are important statements from individuals living in a somewhat demonized area of the world, except for the legacy of the late Nelson Mandela and others. Cornelius spoke on a variety of rather terrible atrocities including the purportedly ‘corrective’ rape of lesbians. In fact, this is common, not rare.

Cornelius said, “A lot of the demographics that make up the population still uphold inhumane cultural norms like how domestic violence is considered normal in African communities, arranged marriages in Indian groups and racism in white communities. These unhealthy social vices that people overlook slackens our progressive legislation.”

She went on to describe the workplace too. It is a bad place for undocumented African immigrants. Those who lack rights and can be abused, then the abuse or violence against them is not reported in any way. She explained parts of this as the reason for the extreme crime rate and violent strikes within the country. There are progressive policies. However, there needs to be follow-up.

“Inhumane cultural norms, racism and a low regard for worker’s rights are the three main impediments holding the country back in terms of progressivism. There is need for cultural reform. Cultural practices that infringe on human rights should be ruled out. There is need for race relations to improve too. There has been cases of white farmers who kill their black and coloured workers for sport, black workers who retaliate; repaying violence with violence,” Cornelius concluded, “When the news comes out from the white owned publications, it is just the black workers who are pointed out as murderers. The media and politicians should give a non racialist view when dealing with problems affecting South Africa to encourage all the citizens to work together with a common goal. Worker’s rights should also be addressed discouraging the culture of exploiting workers.”


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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