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Issues big and small for all in Big Issue

Published: 9 March 2012

The latest edition of The Big Issue offers readers of all demographics a smorgasbord of content, from hard-hitting exposes on gay refugees facing persecution in South Africa, to entertaining interviews with local bands and top comedian Riaad Moosa.

Issues big and small for all in <i>Big Issue</i>
“Because The Big Issue has such a wide and diverse readership, we aim to ensure there’s something in the magazine for every buyer. The latest issue is a great example of this, offering a balance of entertainment, investigative journalism, humour, social advocacy pieces and even analysis,” said Melany Bendix, editor.

The cover star for the early March edition is stand-up comedian Riaad Moosa, who has just hit the big-screen with his new movie Material at cinemas nationwide. In an in-depth interview he tells The Big Issue how he avoids the trappings of fame that being a “G-list celeb” brings and, on a more serious note, about his struggle to stay true to his Islamic faith while pursuing a career in stand-up.

The next big feature is on the so-called 'Dagga Couple' — Jules Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke - who are fighting to have marijuana legalised in South Africa on the basis that it is their constitutionally protected right to puff pot on their own plot. “While the story has some serious legal basis that will no doubt divide readers’ opinions, I have to confess to chuckling long and hard at Stobbs’ somewhat poetic way of phrasing his argument,” said Bendix. “Read it to see what I mean.”

The Big Issue then breaks the story of how South Africa is no safe haven for gay refugees who have fled homophobic persecution in other parts of Africa. “We have for some time noted with concern the rise of homophobia in Africa, particularly Zimbabwe and Uganda, and aimed to raise awareness of this,” said Bendix. “This story, sadly, shows that although South Africa has the most progressive constitution on the continent to protect the right to sexual orientation, we are not immune from the wave of homophobia sweeping Africa. What’s worse is that gay refugees seeking asylum in South Africa are suffering the double blow of homophobia and xenophobia.”

Flipping to the state of the nation, Kate Lefko-Everett, a researcher at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, trawled through hundreds of comments on the President’s Facebook page on the day of the State of the Nation Address. In her analysis, Lefko-Everett found that what the people really want is a lot more than big ideas and empty promises.

Moving onto science, the magazine carries a report explaining why researchers from Nasa will be descending on the Namib next month to look for signs of life on Mars. Local music features, too, with an interview with Sixgun Gospel, a Capetonian Roots Rock band that is spreading the true word of old-school blues through foot-stomping hoedowns across the city.

The magazine showcases an agent of change in each edition, and this time it’s TrashBack. This new NGO has pioneered a recycling scheme which turns rubbish into rewards in the Imizamo Yethu informal settlement in Hout Bay.

“We’ve also got news you won’t find elsewhere, such as how millions of poor South Africans are living in fear that their state aid will be cut off during a massive switchover to a new social grant payment system, beginning this month,” said Bendix. “And there’s a report on unorthodox research being conducted to establish whether doling out cash to impoverished African girls will help curb the spread of HIV.”

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