Izikhothane: South Africa’s Bizarre Money-Burning Trend

The South African youth craze dubbed izikhothane

CR: Youtube

Izikhothane (or Skothane or Ukukhothana) refers to South African showmanship or dance battles in which individuals or groups of individuals compete against each other in front of large crowds to determine which party is wealthier. These ‘battles’ are performed using material items such as money, mobile phones, clothes, and/or alcohol. In most instances a battle is won by the intentional destruction or wastage of one’s own expensive items in order to demonstrate the lack of concern for such material possessions due to the ability to afford more of the same. A competitor’s chances of victory are improved by having items that are more expensive than those of their opponent.

Izikhothane Mode
The word Izikhothane is a slang word that originates Zulu word “Osikhotheni”. Osikhotheni mean people who live the bushes/bundus, and that is derived from the Zulu word “Isikhotha” that mean “bush”. The singular form of this Zulu word is called “usikhotheni”. This term is township slang for the hustlers who live a lavish life styles (nice expensive clothes, shoes, nice cars, etc) without a job or owning business. You can called them modernized beggars who live by doing illegal ways to satisfy hunger for lavish life styles.

A key characteristic of the ‘Izikhothane’ is wearing eccentric clothing and colourful Italian shoes.
Izikhothane originated in the early 2000s in the South African townships of Soweto and Diepsloot. The act remained largely unnoticed until it gained popularity in 2011 and 2012. A similar trend called uSwenka existed in South Africa in the 1950s where migrant workers and laborers dressed themselves in their finest suits and shoes to compete in contests. The winner of these contests would win money, household necessities or livestock, which they would send back home to their families.
The problem with this movement is that it’s a mad rush to keep up: it starts with clothes costing 500 rand [around €37], and ends with jackets by Guess or Dior perfumes costing more than 5,000 rand [€370]. A lot of people can’t keep up with this, and some young people as a result live in poor conditions.
Music & Dance
The aim of the dance battle is to show more abundance than your opponents as this determines the winner of the battle. There is no tangible reward for winning an Iziknothane battle, just the recognition and affection from the audience that witnesses the battle.

The movement’s origins don’t seem to have any political basis. But at its core – when you listen to them – they want to act against politicians, whom they say are doing nothing for young people, and against Western products that symbolise White society. Their ‘guru’ is a businessman called Kenny Kunene, an exuberant figure known for his penchant for ‘body sushi’ [eating sushi off women’s bodies], his gigantic free parties, as well as provocatively questioning politicians on his twitter account.

Kenny Kunene
Kenny Kunene is a convicted criminal, South African businessman and former Secretary-General of the Patriotic Alliance.

The movement started out as something positive: they were young people who had fun, who promoted non-violence, and who just wanted to prove who was cool. But looking at the way it’s being practised today, it needs to be banned. At university, young people I speak to regularly tell me outrageous things, that they’re ready to anything, such as hitting their parents, in order to have money; they would blackmail them by threatening to stop their studies. It’s taken a turn for the worse. Now the movement doesn’t know how to stop.

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