Mhambi has been redeployed.

Friday, August 25, 2006

How I never quite fell for South Africa

Rory Carroll - UK Guardian reporter - has left South Africa after four years as their man in Johannesburg. In an article in the Guardian two weeks ago, he tried to unpick why my beautiful, complex, vibrant nation ended up leaving him cold. Carroll is yet another lefty not impressed with the new South Africa, decribing it as a "a boot camp for progressive ideals". He never really tells us explicitly why the country challenged his progressive ideals, and he leaves that up to us:

After almost four years in Johannesburg, the time has come to move on, and I do so with a sense of detachment. This never really became home. Partly it was running to the airport every other week for overseas trips; partly it was being white and European; but mainly it was because South Africa was such a fraught place to live. The anxiety about crime, the crunching on racial eggshells, the juxtaposition of first-world materialism with third-world squalor - it all added up.

Which is a shame, because there is much to love. This is a complex, beautiful, extraordinary country. The people are among the warmest I have encountered anywhere, smiles as wide as they are genuine. From the ashes of apartheid here is a stable, peaceful democracy with a surging economy. It is a beacon for the continent, drawing millions of migrants. I am optimistic about its future. On occasion I lost my heart here but more often I lost my peace of mind. This can be a raw society and it took a sledgehammer to some cherished liberal views on race, sex and crime. I did not enjoy their bashing, though those that survived are stronger for it. Imagine a boot camp for progressive ideals.

Read his whole article here.

Now Mr.Carroll mentions a few reasons he never quite fell for the rainbow nation. The South African crime problem has featured on this blog, and I don't wish to dwell on it again. All Mhambi has to say is that Mr. Carroll reacted like I suspect most middle class Europeans would. They really ain't used to crime, can't tolerate it and don't want to make any accomodation for it. This of couse is not a bad thing. If the UK experienced the kind of crime South Africa has, the army would have been on the streets by now. The government would have fallen.

Mr. Caroll's hesitation about dating black single women seemed less convincing.

"No way would I ever sleep with anyone from here," said an American friend.

Statistics suggest black South African women are more than twice as likely to have the virus (Aids) as white women. Condoms slash the risk of transmission - but there is still a risk. Is it wrong, then, to date only white people, or expats? it just English modesty that precluded Mr. Carroll from asking his potential partners to go for an HIV test? Or was he hoping to go out on the pull for a quick shag? Well then yes, a quick shag is risky business in this neck of the woods.

The bigger issue here is the fact that black and white South Africans still don't mix, (Afrikaans and English whites don't do that much either - but thats for another day.) and this impacts even foreign visitors hopeful of shatterring through the race barrier.

Carroll is certainly not alone, and I know very few left wing South African whites with meaningful friendships in the black world (as opposed to the asian and colloured).

Paradoxically while white european (and South African) lefties in the time of apartheid visited township shebeens and frequented and lived in multi-racial hangouts like Yeoville, this ain't the case no more.

Now a mostly shallow mingling between black and white takes place in the boardrooms, clubs and bars of the rich. Black South Africans don't seem to feel the need to meet lefty whites, no matter how anxious the latter are for some real black friends to cement their fundamental beliefs. The trend whereby Africaness is increasing racially defined as not coloured, asian or white, and thus black by government does not help.

I suppose the question then becomes, what is the white left to do if it seems impossible to form meaningfull relationships with fellow black South Africans?

Aids menace

One other comment. I can understand his frustration and anger at the SA government's monstrous bungling and incompetence in the face of the Aids menace. Mhambi for one finds it hard to articulate the feelings their behaviour illicit. History will judge them very harsly.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Secure dreams / nightmares

Secure dreams / nightmares
Originally uploaded by Wildebeast1.
...this weekend I visited my father at his brand new home in a security village situated in a town called Krugersdorp, on the western side of Johannesburg.

Apparently the value since they bought a few months ago has already shot up from 70 000 pounds to about 80 000.

...the security village is one of many popping up all over South Africa. Apparently Brazilian social scientists - when faced with this phenomena - called it "Apartheid-ization" of Brazil. Now, a friend tells me, South African sociologists call it - the "Brazilianization" of South Africa...

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Rock, Shoes and women with attitude

This weekend Mhambi was to see the Afrikaans Metal / Hard rock band Rokkeloos, but alas it was not to be. Their show was cancelled, the reason given: The drummer broke her ankle. (Mhambi was planning on chucking his underwear on stage if he was suitably impressed, but never got the chance.)

Rokkeloos has acquired quite a reputation in a short space of time. Combining hard and heavy - but well executed - rock and metal, with glamour and an in your face attitude.

Their first album: Nooiensvaart (Maiden voyage) is very good, with a varied sound and it packing lyrical punch, without taking itself too seriously. See and listen Baked beans and cocaine here.

On the subject of creative, sexy and in your face women: Here are two pics of two very interesting women photographers on Flickr (Olive and Rose), whom Mhambi has been following for a while. They too have a thing for shoes...

hugs not drugs
Originally uploaded by tetheredtothesun.

tulips unite
Originally uploaded by tetheredtothesun.

...and staying on the subject of footwaer - today the BCC reports that:

South African women value shopping above sex, survey results suggest.

Of women who took part in a "Fantasy Survey" promoted by a drinks company, 45% said they valued shopping over sex. Only 26% voted the other way round.

Three quarters of the women who took part described themselves as having a shoe fetish while 70% said they did not have enough clothes in their wardrobes. Almost half (48%) of women surveyed said men had no real understanding of their needs and desires.

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Mhambi means traveller

For those that are wondering. Mhambi means traveller and its a Zulu word. I am toying with "Soutpiel" for a name of this blog however. (Excuse the pun.) I do live and work between the UK and South Africa after all.

Soutpiel (Afrikaans: Salt cock) is the nickname given to those who live in South Africa but don't give up their links with the UK. It refers to those with a leg in Sa and another in the UK while their member is dangling in the Atlantic.

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Cape town footwear industry battling ahead after taking Chinese hit

The past week my girl friend and I visited a number of footwear factories, tanneries, footwear designers and bespoke workshops in the Western Cape South Africa. Ironically this was thanks to the names and addresses provided by SACAWU union organiser Etienne Vlok.

Shoe factory
Originally uploaded by Wildebeast1.

At a first take the situation is gloomy. China's entry into the WTO has delivered a severe blow to many companies, and those that have survived have all cut their local production drastically. They tend to focus on leather shoes which they claim the Chinese can't do. It seems the consensus among local manufacturers.

Those that are surviving seem to be doing very well supplying the local market at the moment. Very little is exported however, which will be disappointing to strategists in the SA government. Trade liberilisation was supposed to lead to a boom in South African exports.

Another thing is clear. South Africa has no shoe designing skills to speak of. The handmade shoe makers that supply the few independent shops in Kloofstreet all expressed the need for training, while the designs we saw at the factories were downright ugly.

Good news is that the SA government has identified shoe making as one of the key industries which they would like to support, so young entrepreneurs, with a sound business plan and a comfort with risk should feel free to apply for some money.

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Yellow is for danger

Barely one week into my South African sojourn and knews of the terrible impact of crime. My father's best friend, Oom Oostewald - who he met as student in England - his daugther was shot and killed today. Louisa, like her father a doctor, was gunned down in Mamelodi. The details of the murder are not clear yet, but she was car-jacked on her way to work at this Hospital in Pretoria/ Tswane's largest township.

In he 80's another doctor (and also an outsider to Mamelodi) was brutally killed in the area, Dr. Rebeiro. He also tried to help the community but was killed by the South African security police.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Green is for go

Green is for go
Originally uploaded by Wildebeast1.
As I mentioned below, I'm about to leave for South Africa for 3 months. My girlfriend - a shoe designer - is coming to Cape Town for the first week. She's going to inspect textile and footwear factories while were there. She is interested in manufacturing her shoes and clothing in a developing country, and South Africa fits the bill.

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Back to SA for the Angolan war

Mhambi will spend the next 3 months in South Africa, to help produce and part direct a TV documentary series on the Angolan war, a war between South Africa and Unita rebels, and the MPLA Angolan government and Cuba and Russia.

This will be my longest visit to South Africa in 8 years, and I look forward to the experience. I will write down my observations about South Africa on Mhambi.

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