Friday the 13th may be an unlucky day for some, but for vendors of The Big Issue South Africa it’s sure to be a windfall of a day as they hit the streets armed with an edition featuring an exclusive cover interview with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
The now 76-year-old Dalai Lama gave the interview and rare photo shoot to the International Network of Street Papers, an umbrella organisation for street papers in 40 countries, including The Big Issue South Africa. During the interview, he praised the street paper model, which empowers unemployed vendors who buy magazines at half price and sell them on the streets at the cover price.
Crucially for South Africans facing the threat of a media clampdown due to the proposed Protection of State Information Bill, the Dalai Lama stressed the importance of an independent and objective media free from state control.
“When I meet media people, I tell them that they should have a long nose and investigate all sides — not just the front side but also behind,” he says. “People have every right to know the reality, particularly in democratic countries.”
Recognised as an icon of peaceful resistance, the Dalai Lama also spoke candidly about maintaining hope, the pointlessness of worry and how moral ethics are the basis of a happy life for all, no matter what religion you are, or aren’t.
“This exclusive cover interview with the Dalai Lama is another coup for The Big Issue, following on from other icons such as Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and even Richard Branson gracing our cover and showing their support for The Big Issue and our vendors,” notes editor, Melany Bendix.
Readers can expect the rest of the edition to be jam-packed with more unique content, including a report on how South Africa is unlikely to fair well at the London Olympics as far more investment is needed for the country to “buy” Olympic gold.
In the second of a four-part series, The Big Issue visits more communities around South Africa who are living off-the-grid — where the inhabitants aren’t reliant on the state for water and electricity.
The Agent of Change for this edition is the Bicycle Empowerment Network (BEN), which empowers previously unemployed people to start-up their own bicycle repair businesses in Lavender Hill in addition to getting more “bums on bikes” for a greener, healthier Cape Town.
The edition also carries its usual mix of social advocacy news and special reports, starting with how the closure of the Maitland Refugee Centre will negatively impact hundreds of refugees seeking asylum.
“Our report on the Department of Home Affairs’ ruling that all newcomer refugees must now travel upcountry to apply for permits pokes holes in the department’s tagline ‘We Care!’,” says Bendix. “The impact on refugees is wide-reaching and we believe the department has a lot to answer to which, to date, it has refused to do.”
Another special report follows-up on previous coverage of the Western Cape’s new work-for-food programme. The pilot has now been pushed back to October, but the Department of Social Development has already scaled back funding to the majority of the province’s feeding schemes in preparation for the programme’s launch. “The result,” notes Bendix, “is that many NGOs across the city and beyond are struggling to feed the hungry during the dead of winter — a time when the poorest of the poor need a warm meal the most.”
Entertainment & winning big
In art and entertainment news, readers can expect the low-down on what’s on stage and on the walls at galleries this month, as well as book and music reviews. There’s also an interview with Black South Easter, a vibrant and diverse local band who are about to release their debut album.
As an added bonus, The Big Issue and travel company Busabout are offering supporters the chance to win a R43 000 trip to Europe for two. The competition, which also can be entered online at www.bigissue.org.za, (or visit our own site www.whatsupcompetitions.com) closes on July 19.
“That’s just a small taste of what the lucky Friday 13th edition has to offer,” says Bendix. “Get it from your nearest vendor for a good read, as well as a good deed.”