Mhambi has been redeployed.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Party pooper: Andries Nel - Sies!

Mhambi has decided that its time to expose, to hound and to damn. Now and again I will chronicle online those ANC members (and others) that have damaged good governance and democratic values in South Africa.

Quite often important information is revealed in books, information that never makes it to a wider audience. Which suits some people just fine. By writing about this information online I will do my bit with the help of Google. There's no escape from information on the superhighway.

Mhambi reserves the right to profile who he wishes. Those who are mentioned and named are of course, welcome to reply.

The South African Parliament
Originally uploaded by Wildebeast1.

Charity (and putting right wrongs) should start at home.

And to me that home is the institution and people at the University of Pretoria who shaped my early lefty political views. Hell hath no fury like an idealist betrayed.

Hence ANC deputy chief whip Andries Nel is Mhambi's first Party Pooper.
(Andries Nel's response is here)

He was the pinnacle of lefty Afrikaner commitment at the university when I was a student. Other prominent lefties during my time included the likes of Hedwig Barry, Andries Bezuidenhout, Danie Brand, Irma du Plessis, Graham Maitland, Karin van Marle, Nico Bezuidenhout, Jacob van Garderen and Dawie Nel etc.

But after university Hedwig eschewed politics for a career in design, Andries, Danie, Irma and Karin went for academia. Dawie, Nico and Jacob stayed in politics of sort, and while Dawie has been doing sterling work as the director of Out (A gay and lesbian support organisation), Nico is working for IDASA in Angola, while Jacob has just been appointed the head of Lawyers for Human Rights. Graham, as far as I can gather is a big shot in the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Sies Andries

In the meanwhile, Andries Nel, who became an ANC MP in 1994 has been quietly climbing the ANC ranks. His loyalty must have been noted early on, as he was appointed to the Party’s whips office. Andries’s father, it must be noted, was a loyal servant of the Nationalist government.

Since the ANC has been losing whips at a rate of knots, Andries Nel is now a relatively senior deputy chief whip.

According to Andrew Feinstein of “After the Party” fame, Andries Nel has contributed to the demise of the moral fibre and the growth in corruption of the ANC thus:

On 11 October 2000 the then Chief Whip of the ANC Tony Yengeni wanted to see Feinstein and Laloo Chiba. These two gents had been selected by the ANC study group (the ANC component of Scopa, the parliamentary committee charged with investigating public accounts) to lead the questioning during the forthcoming public parliamentary hearing into that corrupt arms deal.

It was to be the most important public oversight meeting in the history of our fully democratic parliament.

Yengeni told them ‘I don’t think a public hearing is a good idea, this matter should be dealt with internally, like the Maduna matter.’

The Maduna matter refers to unconstitutional remarks made by Penuell Maduna, then minister of Mineral and Energy Affairs, about the then Auditor General, Henry Kluever.

Maduna misunderstood according to Feinstein a fairly standard accounting entry, and accused the AG of hiding a significant loss in oil reserves, for bad apartheid-era reasons. He persisted in these accusations even after the error had been pointed out to him by Barbara Hogan, a fellow ANC MP.

Maduna refused to retract his accusations, and thus caused a minor constitutional crisis.

Rather than allow a full investigation, the ANC decided to exonerate the Minister through the creation of an ANC dominated ad hoc committee of Parliament. This committee was chaired by ‘an ultra-loyal ANC whip, Andries Nel’. (Feinstein, p.161)

Despite hearing damning evidence against the Minister, the Committee found in his favour.

This is the precedent that Tony Yengeni wanted Feinstein to follow now.

To his credit Feinstein pressed ahead with the meeting regardless, and so the snowball that was the revelations into the arms deal (some of which are still being uncovered) was set in motion.

Yengeni, and most senior ANC members (but interestingly at this stage, not Zuma), including Mbeki, was furious that the hearing had taken place.

As time passed direct pressure was put on Feinstein to stop a thorough investigation through Scopa. The ANC had put out public statement contradicting most of Scopa’s findings. On 29 January 2001 Yengeni again called the whole study group (the ANC component of Scopa) to his chambers.

Yengeni said ‘Comrades we have decided to strengthen the Public Accounts Committee. Feinstein will no longer chair the Study Group. Geoff Doidge will be the chair. He will be joined by comrade Andries Nel.’ ‘The ANC, from the President downwards, will exercise political control over Scopa.

The new members of the committee were openly hostile to Feinstein. As far as Scopa was concerned the arms deal would be investigated no further.

Sies Andries! Sies, skaam jou.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

It's time...

Originally uploaded by Elisabetta Dell'Olio.

...its the end of an eventful year. Mhambi will blog only one more post (not the one above on Andries Nel), a summary of the year that was.

Then I drive from the metropolis of Bloemfontein to Cape Town, via lovely weird towns, armed with a Polaroid camera....

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...for fun...

Originally uploaded by tetheredto. here is some more gratuitous gorgeousness, this one of Rose, an old favorite of mine...

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Leah Embracing the Sun in the Mojave Desert near Boron
Originally uploaded by shadowplay.

...and I must admit, I'm missing my own lovely who in Galicia, Spain now....

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Out of our blue heavens - Machine guns

South Africa is wonderfully baffling. Last week Mhambi was listening to the opening of the ANC Polokwane conference on SAFM.

Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma confer at ANC conference in Polokwane, South Africa.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos.

After Thabu Mbeki and Jacob Zuma entered the conference, and Zuma-ite delegates were persuaded to stop singing Awuleth’ Umshini Wami, it was announced that it was time for delegates to sing South Africa’s charming schizo National Anthem.

Now Mhambi is not sure whether it was perhaps SAFM’s microphone set-up’s fault, or perhaps the lingering tension of Umshini Wami that went before it.

But the opening strains of the Nkosi Sikilel part of the anthem, was well, strained. Nobody was in the mood to evoke God to save Africa when delegates had just boisterously called for their machine guns.

Slowly delegates gathered themselves and Nkosi picked up a head of steam, from a death march to near death experience she went.

After this tepid performance what would transpire when they reached Die stem, I thought, half expecting the ANC crowd not to even attempt to go into ‘ve^r verlate vlaktes’ in this state.

But out they belted ‘Uit die blou van onse hemel…’ and nope this was no mirage, out came ‘die diepte van ons see’ as well. Full throttle all the way they powered to ‘South Africa our land’.

What’s going on here I thought? Was it because of the Springboks’ proud nation building Nkosi rendition at the Rugby World Cup, which was now being reciprocated?

Was it because the scheming Thabu had sometime ago maligned Die Stem, as he has done with so many other things and people, and now it was time for some of those people to rub his nose in whatever things they could find to rub his nose in?

Soon it was Thabu’s turn to deliver his ANC President’s speech. A dour two hour regurgitation of the successes of his administration, but without mentioning that were in the middle of a global commodity boom, or Aids and the crime pandemic.

When he mentioned the Springboks, Thabu brought the house down for the first and it transpired later, the second last time. The last time was when he stopped his speech. As he sat down Umshini Wami reverberated again.


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Friday, December 21, 2007

You've got to fight, for your right, to Party!

By the time Jacob Zuma was confirmed as ANC president a few things had already dawned on Mhambi. To many, especially in the SABC, the ANC is equated with the state. Presenters on SAFM on a few occasions casually referred to “we are waiting for the new president to make his speech” with no qualification whatsoever. To them the ANC president was president of the country.

ANC delegates standing at the Polokwane conference.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos.

And from the amount of coverage the ANC conference received, it is clear that no other party can expect any parity coverage of their conferences. There simply wont be any time for that, even if the will was there.

The SABC could well argue that there was a countrywide interest in the goings on of the party, well beyond the world of ANC members. Which brings me to my next point.

Perhaps its time to give up on the pretense of having a multi-party state (for now anyway). It is clear that for some time to come, the ANC’s struggle credentials will triumph all comers, regardless of how corrupt and controlling the ANC has become as a government.

All South Africans should join the party forthwith, and start participating and voting from within it. Yes, as Andrew Feinstein has noted that this is a party that values loyalty above all else. So a mass joining will probably be followed my mass firings, but at least we'd have tried.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

the lovers

the lovers
Originally uploaded by the.beautyseeker.

Mhambi adores the intimacy of this picture. It's great to be naked with someone you like.

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it's fun...

woman and man.
Originally uploaded by the.beautyseeker.

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Originally uploaded by Godiex.

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Lightsaber attack!
Originally uploaded by oj smith.

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Originally uploaded by lizorak.

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Sex - the Church has allot to answer for

Photo and copyright by Frugal Instinct. Fun and Marriage? More pics.

It's not only Polekwane on my mind. Mhambi has been worried about the Afrikaans girls who don't want to have sex.

Now I discussed this with a friends, one of which is a pre-eminent sociologist, another a film maker and another working for a bank. All Afrikaners and two of them female. And this is our considered conclusion.

It's the Church's fault. You see most of these Afrikaans girls 'saved' themselves for marriage. Many still do refrain from sex until they are married.

Aprt from inducing un told anxinty on their nuptial nights, it probably spiked any chances of haveing fullfiling sex lives.

I mean an individual's sex life is such a complex nuanced and specific thing. Some are sexed crazed, some submissive, some dominant, some straight acting gays, some like it orally etc. Not trying before you buy is like playing Russian roulette with your future bliss.

The chance of firing a blank is so much greater than blowing... well getting satisfaction.

And there ain't no denying. The chances of a happy relationship without the possibility of expressing your sexuality with your partner is greatly diminished.

Good sex is like a canary in a mine shaft. If the bird stops singing the end is nigh.

Somebody should stop the church before it ruins more lives.

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We are marching to Polokwane, Polokwane

Mhambi has a "lied is sy hart" this morning. Not entirely sure why I'm so lyrical, but perhaps its because I'm in lovely South Africa and the paradoxical jittery energy induced after a bout of too much red wine last night.

This week after having read After the Party my suspicions that a Zuma presidency could do the country some good was roundly confirmed.

And today Steven Friedman and Sipho Seepe lifted my already good mood with two articles in the Business Day (Weird how South Africa's best social journalism comes form a business newspaper).

In an article tittled The open contest nobody could stop Friedman muses about the good that this open content is doing us, "...unless someone in the ANC leadership pulls a last-minute rabbit out of the hat, next week will see the first contested election for ANC president in 58 years — for the first time since we became a democracy, the leader of the governing party will have been chosen not by other leaders but by those to whom that person is responsible.


This country achieved democracy partly because adversaries who realised that they could not eliminate each other accepted that their best interests lay in negotiating democratic rules. The rules were not anyone’s first choice, but not only have leaders learned to live with them — they now enjoy wide public support.

This is not unique to SA, or even unusual — leaders often settle on democratic rules because they are the best way of adjusting to realities they wish were otherwise. So misgivings about the presidential race inside the ANC may not prevent it becoming a watershed. ANC insiders who lament an open contest may later look back on it fondly as the time when the principle of open elections was established. Even if they do not, they may find that the contest for members’ votes which they failed to avoid this time becomes the only conceivable way of doing things in future."

In another article Chance for SA to recommit itself to democracy Sipho Seepe, lays into the ANC's culture of intolerance and the corruption of the Mbeki regime. Polekwane is to him a chance to reassert our liberty.

"WE ARE led to believe the ongoing bloodletting in the African National Congress (ANC) is somehow alien to the party.

Far from it, this is a consequence of the ANC’s culture of intolerance and its insatiable appetite for power. The culture can be traced as far back as the 1980s when the ANC sought to entrench its political hegemony.


Mandela was labelled an agent of the pharmaceutical companies when he called on the government to roll out antiretroviral medication to pregnant HIV-infected women. Cronin was told that the ANC did not need a white messiah. Similarly, Tutu was branded a liar and a creation of the white media.

The bloodletting we see is a case of chickens coming home to roost. The ferocity of the attacks is fuelled by the scramble for resources and the corrupting patronage that has become a defining feature of the Mbeki regime. We mistakenly overrated the ANC’s democratic credentials by equating the struggle for democracy with a commitment to democracy.

The declaration by ANC parliamentarians that the Zimbabwean elections were fundamentally free and fair despite the state-sponsored terror preceding them should have sent warning signals. The ANC is not beyond resorting to similar undemocratic practices should its political power base be threatened.

The deployment of ministers, state resources and state organs in a last-ditch attempt to preserve the status quo should come as no surprise. The vulgarity of ministers carrying bags of money to buy votes speaks volumes about the investment attached to the Mbeki project. is not uncommon for leaders to be asked to recuse themselves from office once they have suffered defeat. PW Botha was replaced by FW de Klerk when his party lost confidence in him. The same happened to Margaret Thatcher and recently to Tony Blair. Only those who fear democracy can advance such baseless notions that removing Mbeki would be undemocratic.

Democracy involves fundamentally changing the guard. SA should not short-change itself in its embrace of the democratic project. We need to remind ourselves — the price of freedom is eternal vigilance."


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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Of reputations and truth

This week Eugene de Kock took umbrage at a passage in Christi van Westhuizen's book, White power - the rise and fall of the National party.

He briefly succeeded in halting sales of the book, and Zebra press, its publishers have agreed to remove the offending section, and republish.

The problematic passage reads.

"Another example would be Eugene de Kock, braaing and drinking for hours next to a corpse that they had set on fire."

De Kock claims that this is untrue and tarnishes his reputation.

In the book, Christi attributes the allegation to ex Nationalist minister Leon Wessels.

I myself have heard this claim on BBC Radio 2 in 2004. The BBC journalist’s guide to Vlakplaas made the claim.

Christi has remained defiant and is fighting the case in court. Her argument all turns on whether De Kock could indeed have a reputation.

Can a killer have a reputation?

"Media lawyer Dario Milo, acting for Van der Westhuizen, said the case involved fundamental issues of media law.

In particular whether De Kock could have been awarded an order given that his reputation is already tarnished.

Faizel Ismail, acting for Van der Westhuizen, said in sentencing De Kock to two life sentences plus 212 years imprisonment Justice Willie van der Merwe at the time called him a cold-blooded, calculating, multiple murderer who tortured his victims callously and without compassion."

And according to press reports she won her action on Friday, although the judge declined to give reasons for his decision until next year. By that time the book would have been sold many times over during the Christmas season. Mhambi wonders whether he needs time to think of some?

Van der Westhuizen said afterwards that the ruling was a victory for freedom of expression, specifically where people like Eugene de Kock was seeking to silence her on a section of South Africa's history during which human rights abuses occurred.

The ones terrorist is the others liberation soldier

In a fractured society like South Africa reputations are fractured. During the 80's the courts saw their way open to give damages to an individual, who had been 'besmirched' by being called a communist. It would not provide remedies for those who had been accused of being apartheid ideologues. The opposite court verdicts would probably be true today.

Jacob Zuma's behaviour towards women and utterances about homosexuals would render him unelectable in many countries, yet it would seem the vast majority of South Africans want him President.

Our health minister is according to some reports a petty thief. On the one hand that she is not litigating to protect her reputation indicates that the courts might find against her on the grounds that the allegation is true and in the public interest.

On the other hand that she has not been fired indicates that the ANC does not see her reputation as being so damaged as to be an electoral liability.

Crook honor, Soldier honor

In this fractured landscape De Kock has to some a sterling reputation. Names are like brands. And brands are built on reputation. Eugene de Kock's name was used by more than one black Koevoet member as name for their children. That is a pretty strong endorsement.

De Kock was held in extremely high esteem.

It's no secret that Koevoet - created by De Kock - was one of the mainstay's of the previous governments counter insurgency war against SWAPO in Namibia. No unit had a higher kill rate. Neither is it a secret that Vlakplaas, who he came to command had been geared up to fulfill a similar role internally, if more clandestinely.

Eugene no doubt will claim that he was a soldier at war. That his job was to kill, a job he was decorated for. And unlike Tony Montana in the Scarface flick's twisted and bemusing sense of gangster honour, Eugene's reputation was officially backed by a one section of our society, the Police and the Nationalist Government.

But even in our divided society one could argue that Eugene's reputation had been compromised by his actions as head of the Vlakplaas Unit. Particularly those times late in his career where he was not acting within a political ambit and orders. One of these ordinary criminal events for personal gain in the winter of 1992 was indeed the only one he went down for.

What about Truth?

So De Kock's reputation is damaged, even within his own moral universe. But is that the point?

Whether a damaged reputation makes one fair game for further allegations seems odd, if not unjust.

When an allegation is made that damages a person’s reputation there is - if I am not mistaken - two crucial aspects that have to be considered.

One is that the allegation must be of such a nature that indeed it must be damaging to a persons reputation. And I would argue that this is one such case. Not because De Kock is identified again as a killer, he is now a sick and bizarre one.

The second is that the allegation must have been untrue. If an allegation is true, it can be made in the public interest regardless of how damaging it could be. This case is clearly in the public interest.

Mhambi finds it peculiar that Christi – a respected journalist - does not attempt to prove the allegation true. Afterall in such a fractured society, its all the more important we try and stick to truth as closely as possible. The court record of De Kock’s case, as well as his and other Vlakplaas member’s amnesty applications are public records. Does the truth not lie there?

She instead acknowledges that this passage is hearsay.

Is Van der Westhuizen saying that it’s ok to repeat a claim about an incident, as if it is true, if this has not been established? Especially when the claim is made by individuals - like Police minister Leon Wessels - that are trying to dilute their responsibility for apartheid crimes?

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Welcome to our country

Mhambi often wishes he could write better. My writing is wooden.

Originally uploaded by theGentleman™.

Yesterday my inadequacy was reinforced when I met Kleinboer - the boer with the potent libidinous inter-racial libido and disarming words. To him Johannesburg has swapped "kont vir klont, en kondoom vir helmet." (Cunt for gold nuggets, and condoms for hard hats)

Once dubbed the Michel Houllebecq * of Afrikaans, no other than André Brink praised Kleinboer's first book Kontrei.

"Kontrei is a fucking good book. It is one of the most agreeable reads in a long time... A man who can write like this knows his job." said the fellow Lothario.

(* Like Houllebecq's Asian prostitutes, Kleinboer reckons black girls often enjoy their work. Not so the white girls.)

My first neighbourhood - Yeoville
Originally uploaded by ambermbabane.

A very friendly Kleinboer took me round his hood. Yeoville is where I occasionally hung out when I was younger, and where most whitey progressives and artists lived.

Today Kleinboer is one of very very few whites in the area. He bought a house here in the early 90's, from a couple traumatised during a violent break in.

Kleinboer looks at utter ease.

"This is the building where the guy from the band Koos jumped off the balcony", he gestures to a block of flats. It's a bit low I tell him. I mean, theres no certainty in jumping off that building you will die?

"This is where James Phillips lived."

We spot an old white guy. "The only whites left in the area are old ones to poor to immigrate."

Every now and again somebody greets him and asks after his wife.

Kleinboer reckons the area has already hit rock bottom and is now on the way up. Not to long ago his house was worth R100000. Now he thinks its three times that. It's all because of the immigrants he reckons. Especially the Congolese, and the Nigerians. He says that although he thinks about 50% of the blacks in the area are South African, 80% of the businesses are run by immigrants.

He also reckons the variety and kinds of foods to be found in the various new restaurants, trumps the local fare.

He loves the area, but he concedes, he does not have any black friends with whom he can discuss the things that matter to him. For interaction he goes onto the net, Litnet to be exact.

Currently he is upset about all these name changes, he tells me. He has book of the history of place names of South Africa.

Kleinboer took me in to a lively Congolese bar. We were greeted by a gentleman with a heavy French African accent and an old style Pretoria mustache.

"Welcome to our country!" he said, while shaking our hands vociferously.

"You must come back in 2010."

Kleinboer protested, but not too much.

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No sex please - were Afrikaans

Just looking...
Originally uploaded by Star_gazer_32.

Mhambi met an old friend for tea and cake yesterday. The friend, like many Afrikaans white middle-class girls of her generation (32 and older) had an independent career, was wealthy, married and worried.

First a familiar concern I have heard from numerous people during this visit to South Africa. She was worried about the country. Did she leave it too late to immigrate?

But that's not all.

She alleged that she, and her female friends all are bored of sex. It's a drag. Just too much effort for such a small pleasurable return. She only wants it once every two months.

Mhambi knows that on average male libidos are more powerful than your average female's. But this admission struck me as a bit over the top?!

Mhambi's experience (albeit very limited and no scientific sample), with females outside of South Africa has been very different.

Something is very very wrong. Mhambi is worried.

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Don't say Mhambi did not tell you so

Prof Anton Harber confirmed today that he agrees with Mhambi. Zuma's showing in ANC nomination bodes well for the ANC, democracy and the country.

I think this is a moment to celebrate, a time to step back from the question of who is winning and recognise the victory for the processes of democracy. The test we have passed, and countries such as Zimbabwe and Angola have failed, is our capacity to challenge incumbency. We have made it clear in the past few weeks that, however dominant the ANC is as a party, no president can be secure in office if he or she neglects their base. The party leadership failed timeously to challenge Mbeki on such disasters as his AIDS policies, but the party membership rose to the occasion when their time came.

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Great holiday reads: Corruption, racism and death

Mhambi has gone on a Jo'burg shopping spree. I have bought Andrew Feinstein's After the Party (it was sold out at many book shops), Christi van der Westhuizen's White Power, and Mark Gevisser's Thabu Mbeki, A dream deferred and Kobus!'s album Swaarmetaal.

So far I have only done with Kobus!'s raucous offering. Technically magnificent, it has one standout track - Witman (White man) Another song about white anxiety in the new South Africa. But here it's delivered with no subtlety.

A song from Kobus!'s new album

But alas I'm no fan of heavy metal and even though their music may be tongue in cheek, brilliantly executed, the compositions are not as good as their previous albums. AND the song Doodstraf (a call to mobilize support for the reintroduction of the death penalty) does not sit comfortably with Mhambi.

The death penalty is back on the South African political agenda after presidential candidate Jacob Zuma voiced his support for its reintroduction.

The original finding of the death penalty as unconstitutional by the South African Constitutional Court left open an attack. The court found that if it could be proved that the penalty acted as a deterrent on serious crime, it would be sympathetic.

If it could be proven that the death penalty acts indeed as a significant deterrent, then I to would be in favour. A cursory glance at the internet serves to confirm that with current research its not clear at all.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Niemand, truth and innocence lost at Cassinga

In May 1978 South Africa launched their largest offensive paratroop operation ever. The target was Cassinga, a little Angolan town a few hundred kilometers from the Namibian border. When the recriminations flew soon after, the South African Defence force claimed it had been a large SWAPO base. SWAPO claimed it was a refugee camp.

A participant in the attack suggested to Mhambi - as if it exculpated - that their intelligence showed that there was, besides a considerable military presence, a brothel at Cassinga.

There certainly were civilians, and so was the head of SWAPO's armed force PLAN, Dimo Amaambo, on the day of the attack. Cuban presence was 15 km south of Cassinga, at the village of Tetchamutete (Chamutete).

View Larger Map

At the time an international solution, namely independence for Namibia was on the cards. Amazingly prime minister Vorster's cabinet had already approved the plan in principle. A plan that would see international monitors conduct a multi-racial election for the South African administrated territory.

Then, barely two weeks after after the cabinet approval, at the insistence of the aggressive defense minister P W Botha, the attack on Cassinga came.

The South African attack began at dawn, and comprised several bombing raids and a large paratroop jump led by the larger than life Colonel Jan Breytenbach.

The jump went partially wrong and several paratroops landed in the marshes and river that bordered the town. One soldier that fell in the water told how he stood on the tip of his toes. He could barely lift his head above the water. His heavy equipment held him down. But passing South African troops saved him when they heard his cries.

The soldier just behind this one in the jump, one Niemand, was never seen again.

After the bombing raids and after the paratroopers had reorganised heavy fighting ensued.

The Cubans came to the aid of Cassinga with tanks and armed vehicles. Still 1000 inhabitants of Cassinga died that day, many of whom were women and children. And with them the peace deal was swept off the table.

The War would continue for 12 more years.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Mbeki pole-axed at Polekwane?

All week dark clouds have gathered around Johannesburg. It was cold and miserable. And then today, alas, the sun broke through.

But in the posh coffee shops of Parktown the mood is somber.

As the Polekwane leadership contest for the ANC's top job (and perhaps the countries) nears, all indications are that the much reviled Jacob Zuma will win.

Zuma, you might remember, has fallen out with many: Not only Mbeki's cronies, but also the champagne socialialists, as well as polite middleclass South African society in general.

Mhambi is more sanguine: I'm on record saying that Zuma can not be worse than Mbeki and that he might be better.

A more open ANC?

Something else that many people seem to miss is how remarkable the situation is, particularly in an African context. A party kicks out the incumbent President by way of its branch membership. That is very rare.

Is this revolution only an example of banal factionalism, or a sign of the ANC as an organisation's inherently mature democratic core?

That will depend on how the ANC treats the loosers. Whether the party and government becomes beset by a Stalinist kind of control freakery and stifles debate as it did a few years ago during Mbeki's zenith of power.

In the mean time I'm enjoying the sun shine.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Our police: Everyone a shabby entrepreneur

In today's Business Day Jonny Steinberg tells of his anxiety for South African society. He attended the scene of a murder with the South African police and the experience did not portend good things.

The uniformed patrol I was accompanying came to the scene about 25 minutes after the murder. Together with a stunned and largely silently group of Ephraim’s neighbours, we stood there until dawn watching the paraphernalia of murder-scene procedure unfold: the paramedics who pronounced the man dead, the police photographer with his studio lights and cameras, the detective, and finally, the mortuary van.

The gathering of neighbours spoke very quietly among themselves.

I stood close to them and listened. They talked of two Zimbabwean brothers, Saul and Steve, who had lived in this informal settlement until a month ago, men who carried guns, who were quick to bully, and who had threatened Ephraim and his brother many times. Steve, they said, had been seen in the shack settlement that afternoon for the first time in four weeks. He had been with his friend Chookies, another troublemaker; Chookies’s shack was visible from here; he and Steve could well be in that shack now.

Some in the gathering conferred with Ephraim’s younger brother. Was it indeed Steve? Did you recognise him? I didn’t hear his answer, but I know that in the coming weeks, these people would stick to their suspicion that Steve was the murderer.

The delusion came the following Monday when the investigating officer was assigned the murder. Jonny tagged along again. They interviewed several witnesses.

But nobody spoke of two Zimbabweans called Saul and Steve, nor of their friend Chookies, nor of Chookies’s shack. They said they had no idea who the killers were. It was dark, Ephraim’s brother said; I could not see.

Jonny sounded out an older investigating officer about this perplexing turn of events.

“You should not be so surprised,” Sgt T told me. “People do not speak to an investigating officer if they don’t know him.”

“Why not?”

“Because who’s to say what he’ll do with the information they give him? Maybe he’ll sell it to the murderer, and then those who have spoken are in big trouble. The only people who speak to an investigating officer are his informers.”

Then Jonny asks us to think about what has just transpired.

It is worth pausing for a moment and taking in the scene.

A man is murdered in front of a witness. The investigating officer, an agent of the state, appointed by it to investigate the taking of a human life, is assumed, when he arrives, to be a shabby entrepreneur.

Indeed, as far as Ephraim’s neighbours are concerned, the state will never arrive on this scene. There are only entrepreneurs here, only buyers and sellers of information; everyone is potentially treacherous.

When thoughts like these are widely held they become self-fulfilling. For if nobody is prepared to talk to a cop they don’t know, then the only information that ever flows is exchanged for money, for allegiances, for loyalty. It is a game, every player is an informer of sorts, and who is to say who is working for whom?

Then Jonny proposes we take the long view as to understand the genesis of this state of affairs. To him this is due apartheid.

Under white rule, black urban spaces were never properly policed. People in search of security — and who isn’t? — could not turn to the state and so they went elsewhere. Throughout the 20th century, security was traded in urban spaces, for money, out of ethnic loyalty, out of political solidarity.

Mhambi only agrees to an extent with Jonny on this. Apartheid and colonialism only can answer to this to some extent. Has a comparative study been done north of South Africa's borders to see whether other African police forces engender more trust with the local population? Yes, and corruption and fear of the police appears to be rife all over the continent. In fact South Africa, the country that suffered white domination for longest, is at the top of the right end of the African corruption league table.

Jonny does concede that his answer is only partially right -

"This is, of course, just the beginning of the story. There are further questions about why. They relate to police management, and to the government’s understanding of the nature of the South African populace.

Mhambi has been racking his brains recently to try and understand corrupt behavior in South Africa. Then Xolela Mangcu wrote an article where he quoted a book “The Criminalisation of the state in Africa”.

In the book they call corruption the privatisation of public resources, which is a rather interesting definition.

The book claims that a number of factors conspire to make African administrations criminal. One of the strongest is that - contrary to popular opinion - African culture is highly individualistic.

It highlights the enduring corrupting impact of existing and invisible family and tribal relationships on governing and government: an invisible nebulous state.

Another conspiring factor is the value attached to what they call “the trickster” in African culture: The hero status of the individual that can bend the rules, and get away with it to make it big.

The book also points out that African populations only know their government for its coercive power and not service delivery.

Before the onset of centralised colonial administrations, the only forms of tax paid in Africa were forms of tribute and submissions (with no services rendered in return) paid to local chiefs. If you did not pay you were liable to armed raids: it was coercive power.

Even in the colonial period the vast majority of taxes in most African countries were collected from foreign companies and by customs officials with respect to trade.

Today taxes are still seen by the general public as an expression of the states external sovereignty (in the form of taxes on foreigners and trade flows) but also an expression of the states coercive power.

The coercive power is demonstrated by the principle of taxing the weak, and those that are not directly connected to those in power.

Jonny Steinberg is a visiting research fellow at Oxford University’s African Studies Centre. It is time for the likes of Jonny to start investigating the nature of our society in earnest. We really do need to get to the bottom of this lack of social cohesion and trust.

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Another immigrant dies

Another immigrant has died, after being tazered by police. Not a Zimbabwean, no - this one was Polish and the Police force in question was not South Africa's but Canada's.

Robert Dziekanski, a 40-year-old construction worker, arrived in Vancouver on Oct. 14 to begin a new life with his mother. After a 10-hour delay caused by immigration processing, Dziekanski became upset when he could not find his mother, Zofia Cisowski, who waited several hours before returning to her home in Kamloops, British Columbia, under the mistaken impression that her son had not arrived in Canada.

Unable to speak English, Dziekanski became distressed and began shouting in Polish, moving furniture around, shoving a computer off a desk in an arrival area and, at one point, throwing a chair. His actions soon attracted the attention of other passengers and security officials.

A family lawyer said he was likely distraught after a mix-up at the airport in which he waited for as many as 10 hours for his mother in a secure area, while she waited for him on the other side of a wall in the public arrivals area.

By the time he emerged to find her gone and panicked, he had been traveling for 25 hours, said the lawyer.

When airport security officials first appeared, passengers could be heard shouting to them that Dziekanski did not understand English.

Moments later, four members of the Mounties arrive in the waiting area wearing bulletproof vests. Dziekanski repeatedly shouted either the Polish word for "help" or "police," which sound similar, before walking away with his arms raised in the air. There was a brief conversation followed by a loud sound, apparently a Taser shot, and Dziekanski fell to the ground screaming in pain.

A member of the public captured all this on video.

The recording captured what appeared to be a second Taser shot as three officers piled onto Dziekanski to subdue him. One minute and eight seconds after the police arrived, Dziekanski appeared to have stopped moving, and the recording ended shortly afterward.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Montreal's Anglo-French apartheid

Last night Mhambi learnt something starteling. We were in a bar in the cool Plateau area of Montreal. Right on Avenue St Laurent. Leonard Cohen's house is just down the street. Way cool. And then we were told we were standing right on a dividing line.

Corner St-Laurent / Pins
Originally uploaded by citymontreal.

"Everything West of here is English speaking Quebec, and everything East is French speaking."

Wow, kind of bizarre.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Canada's struggles does and does'nt mirror that of South Africa

need more flags?
Originally uploaded by JukeBox.

Mhambi is in Montreal, Canada. Now, Montreal is the capital of the Quebecois (see correction below). That is to say, the French speaking bit of Canada.

A few observations. English speaking Canadians - at least the ones I observed - make no effort what-so-ever to try and speak even the most rudimentary French in shops etc. Most of the French Canadians speak English, often begrudingly. So in that respect its a bit like in South Africa.

In the past the creation of Canada had a very direct influence on South Africa. The governor of the Cape, Mr Frere, got some of his ideas for a grand confederation of South Africa (incorporating the Transvaal, the Cape, the Free state and Natal), from the Canadian federation between the French and English speaking peoples of Canada. (Of course he was only considering the white South African population when making these plans, as did the Canadians.)

The difference and the problem for Frere of course was that while the English speaking Canadians outnumbered the French ones in Canada, the Boers of the Republics and the Cape Afrikaners outnumbered South Africa's English. In fact South Africa was and is home to the largest Anglophone community in the world without direct political power.

The other marked difference, and this you notice today, is that neither the French or the English Canadians saw themselves as not connected to their colonial motherland. It was almost as if the cross English channel battles were transplanted: In the form of cultural wars on Canadian soil.

On the English side of Canada you find Royal this, and Elisabeth that, while the Quebecois flag, Montreal Street and suburb names are all full of references to France.

None of them were and are now calling themselves something like Afrikaners or Americans. They were or are colonials and proud of it.

Another difference is that there is very little sign here of the original inhabitants of Canada.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Are things ok or not?

Mhambi wrote a week ago that the stats say its better. That was in response to a survey by Stats SA that showed on many levels (like housing and access to water) that the lives of South Africans have improved markedly.

Well, now a report from the South African Institute of Race Relations has come out which says, levels of poverty (persons living on less than $1 per day) has doubled from 1996 to 2005.

This is at the same time as a Word Bank Report that concludes that growth in many African countries appears to be fast and steady enough "to put a dent on the region's high poverty rate and attract global investment".

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The life and times of Adonis Musati

The BBC reports that Adonis Musati, the Zimbabwean that died in Cape Town foreshore, meters from the Department of Home affairs was a policeman. He had left Chimanimani Zimbabwe a month before, looking for work. He planned to send money back to his family.

Mhambi has been to Chimanimani. I hitch-hiked to there with a good friend Collin Minnaar way back. We were on the way to Zanzibar, via Malawi and Dar es Salaam Tanzania.

It was the end of 1994, just after South Africa's fully democratic elections. We - that is a bunch of Tukkies hippies - thought we should celebrate our reintegration into the African fold with an epic journey from Pretoria to the spice island.

The hippies at Mandela's inauguration, May 1994 - Photo Jan Bezuidenhout

It was before Zimbabwe's marked decline. The people, although poor, were proud and healthy. There were little sign of political tension, but then again we were not looking for it. It felt much safer than back home. Two of my friends, Jan and Cecilia, even got a lift in a fancy car with a senior ZANU PF member.

Collin is very bad at getting up in the morning, which can be a problem when travelling. But he is very good at writing. In fact he is one of the most creative writers in Afrikaans. A joy to read, his emails never failed to surprise me.

As far as I know he does not write anymore. He immigrated a few years ago to New Zealand, and works, funny enough, in New Zealand's Home Office. His beat? Immigration.

Chimanimani is situated in Zimbabwe's eastern highlands. We got there on an open truck that krept up its hills. We spent a night in a tent, it was freezing. Chimanimani is small, it had little traffic and worse of all: It was a dead-end. We could not reach Mutare that way. We had to turn around and we were stuck for hours. But it was gorgeous.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Racial quotas ruled out

In what marks quite a sea change in opinion Sports Minister Makhensi Stofile, brother of SARU vice president Mike Stofile, who expressed a contrary opinion less than a week ago, has ruled out racial quotas. He pointed out that development needs to happen from an early age, and this should include focusing on nutrition. Many South African rugby fans remain sceptical.

Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile on Tuesday ruled out racial quotas for national sports teams.

"Quotas are out," Stofile told the parliamentary sports committee....

Stofile said black children, mostly poor, needed proper nutrition and facilities to help them develop the bone structure and muscle tone required for sports participation from an early age.

"We must kill the myth that … black people cannot play certain sporting codes because they are black," the minister told MPs.

About R200-million would be needed for this purpose annually, said Stofile, who argued for the creation of a national developmental rugby squad.

"We (the government) are not going to decide who must be on the team.

"All we are saying is: expose everybody, give them an opportunity."

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Gevisser: Mbeki is still an Aids denialist

According to the UK Guardian, Mbeki admitted to Mark Gevisser that he is an Aids denialist, but was forced to withdraw from the debate because of pressure from cabinet colleagues.

Gevisser reiterates the opinion that Mbeki's thinking on Aids is driven by his views on race and sexuality. A point made by previously by Judge Edwin Cameron.

It also mentions the 100 page paper Mbeki wrote on Aids. Mhambi is amazed that it has not yet found its way onto the internet.

Thabo Mbeki: The Dream Deferred describes how the president contacted the author earlier this year to reiterate some of the views that caused uproar in the medical community before Mr Mbeki stopped talking publicly about Aids several years ago. Mr Gevisser also describes how the president's view of the disease was shaped by an obsession with race, the legacy of colonialism and "sexual shame".

The book will reinforce the view of Mr Mbeki's critics who say his unorthodox opinions have cost hundreds of thousands of lives by delaying the distribution of medicines, and that the health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, has continued these views.

Mr Gevisser recounts how Mr Mbeki phoned him late on a Saturday evening in June to discuss Aids. The president asked the respected Johannesburg author whether he had seen a 100-page paper secretly authored by Mr Mbeki and distributed anonymously among the ANC leadership six years ago. It compared Aids scientists to latter-day Nazi concentration camp doctors and portrayed black people who accepted orthodox Aids science as "self-repressed" victims of a slave mentality. It describes the "HIV/Aids thesis" as entrenched in "centuries-old white racist beliefs and concepts about Africans".

The author said he did have a copy but the next day a driver from the presidency arrived with an updated and expanded version. "There is no question as to the message Thabo Mbeki was delivering to me along with this document: he was now, as he had been since 1999, an Aids dissident," the author writes.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

After this Party: Broken reputations and hangovers

Pierre De Vos runs an excellent and informative blog, Constitutionally Speaking, on South African social, legal and constitutional issues, (as well as J P Pietersen and Bryan Habana's good looks).

He has just finished reading Andrew Feinstein's book After the Party, on the ANC and that arms deal. According to him the book is an indictment on the lack of principle of a number of our leaders. And it sheds some light on what is happening at present.

Ag please Frene

Says Pierre: "The list of people who suddenly ceased having any principles in this matter is very long indeed: Frene Ginwala, Mosiuoa Lekota, Alec Irwin, Jacob Zuma, Bulelani Ngcuka and Shauket Fakie all caved in to the Presidency.

What also surprised me from the book is how easily even the good guys were intimated and ended up fearful and nervous. Gavin Woods - the hero of the book, if there is any hero in it – was so scared and worried that “he looked like a broken man”, according to Feinstein."

Frene Ginwala, you will remember, has been tasked with investigating the current Pikoli affair and pronouncing on the Head of the Prosecuting Authorities' fitness to hold office. For the uninitiated, Pikoli is the current Head of Public Prosections in South Africa. He issued a warrant for the arrest of the Commisioner of Police. Soon after he found himself suspended by President Mbeki.

As Pierre pointed out in a previous post, the Pikoli enquiry's terms of reference does not inspire much hope:

"It is a very clever move to try and make the enquiry about national security, because it will allow Ginwala to have some or most of the enquiry behind closed doors, thus allowing a stitch-up without us knowing about it."

Pierre points out that it is sad to read that in the arms deal case, the Auditor General and the National Director of Public Prosecutions caved in to the Presidency. The AG allowed the Executive to make substantial changes to the arms deal report before it was published.

And Pierre is right to point out that it sheds new light on the Pikoli affair.

"It is difficult not to conclude that in the past the President had not suspended or fired the National Director because the National Director had followed his orders.

Feinstein states as fact that the initial decision to prosecute Schabir Shaik but not Jacob Zuma was taken on instructions of President Mbeki. He also suggests that the decision not to prosecute the biggest crook in the arms deal scandal, Chippy Shaik, was influenced by political considerations as set out by the President."

The Chip that did not go away

It seems evident that with the arms deal Mbeki's perennial Achilles heel, that massive racial chip on his shoulder, again played a role.

"President Mbeki had argued that there was nothing wrong with the awarding of the main contracts and that to argue otherwise was racist because it suggested that all Africans were corrupt.

It must therefore have come as a rude shock to President Mbeki when he ordered Mr Pikoli (through one of his surrogates) to stop the investigation against Police Commissioner, Jackie Selebi, and Mr Pikoli refused to do so."

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Adonis Musati's death a blot on SA's name

Adonis Musati, a Zimbawean familiar with the Department of Home Affairs was found dead, presumably from hunger, meters away from the Departments office in Cape Town.

Bennett Hodi, the last to see Musati alive, said he came zigzagging across the road towards the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Friday morning and asked a construction worker for money to buy a loaf of bread.

Hodi, a guard at a nearby construction site, said although none of the workers had money, a colleague decided to buy the bread as they could see Musati was hungry and weak.

"He told us he hadn't eaten in two weeks," said Hodi. "We gave him the bread and he finished half a loaf in seconds.

"He then asked for water and swallowed a few sips before lying down under a tree on the island opposite the Convention Centre.

"A few minutes later we noticed he was lying on his back with his legs and arms stretched out. That's when we rushed over and saw he wasn't breathing. We immediately called the police."

Braam Hanekom, chairperson of People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression and Poverty (Passop), was greeted by a crowd of people standing around Musati's body after being released from the holding cells at Cape Town Central police station on Friday afternoon.

Braam Hanekom was arrested the previous day when asylum seekers fought the South African police.

...a group of about 40 refugees had refused to leave the department's premises after waiting for more than seven hours to be served.

One irate Zimbabwean refugee said he had arrived at the department at 2am, hoping to be one of the 100 firstcomers that the department recently agreed to serve.

"After waiting for seven hours, they told me I needed to fill in a form with my details and they would phone me on Wednesday to be helped. I can't wait until Wednesday because I may be picked up by police who will arrest me and deport me," the emotional man said.

Despite being informed that they might be arrested for trespassing, the angry group staged a sit-in at the offices, refusing to leave until they were served.

Helpless officials then called the police who explained to the group that they could not sleep in the centre because the department was not liable for their safety.

After 30 minutes of negotiating, the police called for back-up.

A Cape Argus team witnessed a group of about 15 police officers disperse the group using pepper spray.

A Zimbabwean refugee, who reiterated that he could not leave because he would miss his turn in the queue this morning, curled into a ball and started crying.

Attempts at asking him to leave failed and about seven policemen started kicking him.

Passop chairperson Braam Hanekom then pleaded with the police to stop and requested that they remove the man without force.

Upon exiting the building, police taunted the crowd by laughing at the injured Zimbabwean and a scuffle ensued between Hanekom, another Passop member and the police.

Police again sprayed the crowd with pepper spray and chased the group from the premises, warning that they would be beaten with batons and arrested.

Hanekom and a Passop member known only as Ben were handcuffed and shoved into a police van. The two are to face charges of riotous behaviour.

Braam Hanekom said to the BBC: "It is a disgrace that someone should die of hunger in one of South Africa's richest cities"

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Coloured is not enough

Mike Stofile current Vice President of SARU has said that future qoutas of black players should not include coloureds.

"I don't want to give a figure, but I don't agree that there should be seven black players in the team," said Stofile. "We cannot say only seven. And I also think that black should not include coloureds. That would minimise the players of colour's chances of making the team.

"We must be honest with ourselves and realise that there are many different communities out there who play rugby - black, white, coloured, Indian and so forth. If those communities are not represented, then how can we then say that we have transformed rugby?"

This confirms Mhambi's fears for the team and South Africa's on going identity politics shambles.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Mbeki and Zuma have no moral authority

Mhambi has had a running debate with James over the merits of Thabu Mbeki and Zuma. Yesterday former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein launched a stinging attack on Mbeki and Zuma, saying neither is suitable to lead the country.

Andrew Feinstein
Originally uploaded by BOOKphotoSA.

And he took the words right out of Mhambi's mouth:

“The frontrunners have not displayed the requisite moral leadership to lead the ANC or the country,” Feinstein said. Mbeki’s leadership of the ANC had, he said, fundamentally changed the values of the ANC which he had so revered, and this was a tragedy.

Mbeki’s position on the HIV/ AIDS pandemic, which had seen tens of thousands of lives lost, was unforgiv able. Mbeki had also, in handling allegations relating to the arms deal, undermined the institutions of SA’s democracy — most notably Parliament.

Also, Mbeki’s support for Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and national police commissioner Jackie Selebi was “inexplicable,” he said.

He had undermined the culture of the ANC, Feinstein said. Under his watch the party had divided into factions interested only in power and patronage.

He also reminded his listeners of Zuma’s relations with convicted swindler Schabir Shaik, and opinions voiced in his rape trial.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

White Power & Rise and Fall of the National Party

Hot off the press! Christi van der Westhuizen's long awaited book White Power & Rise and Fall of the National Party is soon to be published.

White Power invite - JHB
Originally uploaded by BOOKphotoSA.

It promisses to be a thought provoking read, from a very eloquent and critical Afrikaner.

Those of you that are lucky enough to be in Johannesburg can go to the book launch on the 6th of November at Constitution Hill.

Here is the Sowetan's review.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

The stats says it's better

It's not all bad news. Mhambi has been very critical about the Mbeki government in the past. But Stats SA has just release new figures from a large public survey that points to significant improvements for all South Africans.

Life is improving steadily - at least in the area of housing and basic service delivery - for the 48-million people living in South Africa, according to Statistics South Africa.

According to the survey, 70,5% of households now live in formal dwellings, reflecting what Stats SA said was a "steady increase" from 64,4% in the 1996 census, and 68,5% in 2001.

The proportion of households with access to piped water grew from 84,5% in 2001 to 88,6% this year, with the Western Cape leading the pack with a figure of 98,9%.

Households still using bucket toilets halved to just over 2%, though just over 8% still had no access to any toilet facility.

Use of electricity as the main energy source for lighting increased from 69,7% in 2001 to 80% this year.

The survey found that the number of households owning a cellphone has more than doubled over the past six years.

In 2001 the percentage stood at 32,3%; this year it stood at just under 80%.

This was accompanied by a swing away from landlines.

Also showing a notable increase was the proportion of households owning a radio, television and refrigerator "in working order".

Those owning a computer almost doubled to 15,7%, but only 7,3% had internet access at home.

In the area of education, the proportion of people over 20 with "some secondary" education grew from 30,8% in 2001 to 40,1% this year, though the percentage of those with a grade 12 qualification dropped from 20,4% to 18,6%.

Though there was also a slight drop in the percentage of over-20s who had completed primary education, there was a substantial decrease - from 18% to 10% - in those who had no schooling at all.

The percentage of those aged from five to 24 years who were in school had increased by over 10% over the last decade to 74%, though the figure was now over 90% for those between six and 15 years old.

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Rhamaphosa enters ANC succesion battle while Cosatu warms of divorce

The Rondebosch branch of the ANC has nominated Cyril Ramaphosa as its leader. The branch counts five Cabinet ministers among its members. That is good news indeed. Mhambi is of opinion that Zuma could be a better president than Mbeki. Ramaphosa would be much preferred however.

On Mbeki he has a common touch, charm, a welcome lack of race paranoia, an understanding of the struggles of ordinary workers and the ability to appeal to all communities in South Africa. On Zuma he has brain power, fine organisational abilities, a thorough understanding of economics and business and unblemished moral stature.

Let's hope that the National Union of Mineworkers, South Africa's largest single union the union he used to represent support him.

On Sunday Cosatu warned that if Thabu Mbeki were to re-elected ANC leader, it would mean the end of the tri-partite alliance between it, the ANC and the South African Communist Party.

That would be momentus indeed, and in many ways not a bad thing either.

Meanwhile in Groutville, the party branch founded by former African National Congress (ANC) president Albert Luthuli, has nominated Thabo Mbeki for ANC president.

Arch-rival Jacob Zuma did not even make the branch's list of its top six preferred candidates.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Mhambis quotables: Booby Skinhead

The victorius Springboks toured Durban today, and the Guardian reports that:

The bus stopped for a moment outside the Durban City Hall, where KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sbu Ndebele congratulated the team and hailed those from KwaZulu-Natal.

Heads turned in media circles as he proceeded to name the Sharks players, including "Bobby Skinhead" (Skinstad).

Sbu, a Freudian slip perhaps? :)

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Gee die bal vir Bryan Habana

Mhambi is way too negative. Mbeki said such nice things yesterday, and everybody was so happy. Maybe a victory by the Boks can make the country a better place. Perhaps there's hope for our blighted rainbow nation.

So - in this change of mood - lets discuss Springbok tactics. It's simple and effective, like most good strategies.

Gee die Bal vir Bryan
Held van Suid-Afrika
Held van Pretoria
Bryan Ha-ba-na-na Bryan Ha-ba-na-na

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The signposts on the road to hell

Today Mhambi will further analyze his post rugby blues. Yes the title of this post sounds rather melodramatic. But bare with me and you will understand.

Originally uploaded by Christo Doherty.

'This is scary. Do you know what this means for the country?'

Mhambi had his first signpost flagged up to him in 1997 by a respected sociologist working for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It was there, plain for all to see, I was told in a trembling tone.

I could clearly recognise that something was very wrong, but I did not quite get its import. Mhambi was working for the TRC, and we were investigating the murders of a couple of boys by Winnie Mandela's 'Football club'.

The Commission had at its disposal an amnesty application by the former head of the Football club, in which he fingered Winnie. The TRC had Liela Groenewald investigate the matter. Liela is tough, she had to be, she received death threats.

But the TRC had at its disposal a statement by Albertina Sisulu, one of the ANC's most respected leaders (and wife of Walter Sisilu) that were very damaging to Winnie.

The whole top brass of the ANC had gathered for Winnies hearing. Winnie denied all. But we had Albertina right, she will be rock on which the Titanic Winnie will flounder.

Albertina however kept stum.

This fact, that somebody as respected as Albertina, did not feel herself able to stand up against Winnie, in the presence of the senior ANC leadership and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, I was told had very serious implications for our future.

It kind of made sense. I mean what was going on here? Was she being loyal and if so why? Or was she scared? Surely not? She was too important herself to be scared? But soon I put the whole incident out of my mind.

But last night I was reading a bit more about the Judge President Hlophe and Pikoli case, and I remembered.

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UK deportation halted due to crooked SA police claim

A British judge today blocked the deportation of a former South African police officer sergeant David Andreason. The officer left the police in 2001 due to stress fled Durban for Britain after an attempt on his life in 2005.

The British Home Office has sought to deport him back to South Africa, but his lawyer claims that the South African police has been infiltrated by gangs to such an extent that his life would be in danger.

"The police -- the very organisation which should protect him -- poses a risk to him," she added.

Judge John Mitting said Andreason's claim that there was a "strong possibility" that he and his family would face harm by gang members had not been rebutted.

"This is lent some general support by reports about corruption within the South African Police Service," he said.

"[Andreason] claims at all levels in the South African Police Service there are officers who are corrupt and lend assistance to the gangs."

The judge allowed his bid for a judicial review of the Home Office's rejection of his asylum application, and blocked his removal from the country at present.

This is a significant judgement, and could pave the way for numerous policemen with very incriminating information about the SAPS to skip the country for the UK.

The South African Commissioner of Police Jackie Selebi has been linked to Glen Anglioti, an Italian with links to the Mafia.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Alet Pretorius's South African snaps

Originally uploaded by alet pretorius.

A picture by South African photographer Alet Pretorius.

She captions this with: "Illegal squaters in Pretoria train with handmade equipment".

Originally uploaded by alet pretorius.

Another picture I found on flickr by South African photographer Alet Pretorius.

She says:
Portrait of boeremusiek (traditional afrikaner music ) musician Manie Bodenstein playing a concertina.

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Telkom doth protest too much

Mhambi read Telkom's response to Icasa's threat to forcing a cut in the wholesale fees that other operators paid to use its bandwidth with some interest. Telkom fielded Deloitte consultant Chris Williams:

"Forcing wholesale prices down would remove any desire by Telkom to invest in more infrastructure, he said.

An unexpected side effect of Icasa’s “remedy” would be to discourage other operators from building their own networks, further stifling the industry’s development, said Telkom’s specialist for regulatory and technical strategy, Richard Majoor.

Operators would compete by offering rival services over the same infrastructure only if that was cheaper than building their own. This would restrict the choices open to consumers."

Good point Chris, which is exactly why we need this regulation. Look at what happened in other countries. Having duplicate networks especially in the so called 'last mile' (the bit that goes to clusters of homes) is economically wasteful and prohibitively expensive to build.

Competition is only realisticly possible in long distance lines, as there are fewer of them used by thousands of people.

Personally Mhambi thinks regulation of the last mile is very difficult, and I have serious doubts about Icasa's ability to do so. Thats why Telkom should be nationalised like I explained here.

Telkom, please stop holding the country back.

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Mhambi's post rugby blues

After the Springboks won the Rugby World Cup Mhambi felt strangely empty. It was not how I expected to feel. How weird, because Mhambi only just dared to hope that the Bokke will pull off a victory.

Lets be clear, considering the trails and trebulations of this team, the difficulty on winning the World Cup, what a victory would portend politically and the potential ramifications it could have, this was enormous.

Originally uploaded by fabdany.

The decline of Springbok rugby
Let's just recap. Here we have a team, once arguably the best in the world, who had four years ago slipped to such an extent that countries like Scotland (no offence Scotland) thought the Boks would be for there for the taking.

The UK Guardian prior to the previous World Cup in 2003 described the Springboks and being dinosaurs on their way to extinction.

Partly this lack of form was because of the morose depression amongst the mostly Afrikaner rugby playing public. The future was uncertain, crime was rife, there was no room for an expression of political decent or other identities in the country. Whites were immigrating in droves.

But there were more immediate reasons for the loss of form. The team was forced to choose a quota of black players to make it more representative of South Africa. Often the team coach had only a handful of choices of players who cut mustard at a provincial level. And on an international level these few players were often just not good enough.

Jake White chose his quota players in positions where he believed he could get away with it. At prop where knowledge of the dark art of the scrum could be a useful screen of defeciencies. And at wing, where cover defences have more time to react. But this practise did not always mask the deficiencies and oposition teams cottoned on to the weak links. Weak scrumming cost the Boks losses against teams like Wales, a team South Africa had never lost to. It cost us record losses against The All Blacks.

The incredible difficulty of managing a team like this is illustrated the fact that when the team suffered an injury of a black player at wing, White had to also replace another position where he had a black player available (like at prop), if the replacement wing was not black himself. An all white rugby team was simply politically unacceptable.

The pretence of representation
Why this aggressive push by the ANC in an attempt to make the Boks black? This push was not couched in the language of inclusive representation. The struggle for South Africa is as I said before, not just about race. But it is also about two competing sets of nationalism: Afrikaner and African nationalism.

It has been said that the team should be majority black and not merely be more representative. It has even been suggested that the likes of Habana and Pietersen, coloured players, are not black and therefore African enough. And not too long ago ANC members called for this team's white member's passports to be confiscated to prevent them from going to France. And weeks before the World Cup were to start the ANC called for the Springbok name and logo to be replaced.

To Afrikaners who increasingly claim their culture, contributions and history are being wiped from South Africa, this announcement was of more devastating import than the recent name changes of Afrikaner named towns.

When Mhambi wears his cynical hat, this effort from the ANC looks more like a ploy to extend centralist control into another part of South African life, while at the same time killing off one of the only remaining platforms of Afrikaner culture, identity and expression.

But some qouta selections came good. Breyton Paulse for instance developed into a quality and classy international wing. And then came the likes of Bryan Habana. Not only would he be of international standard, he is arguably the best in his position in the world. Come the World Cup White needed at least one other black player to satisfy the politicians. Try as he might Ashwin Willemse was not showing his early promise. J P Pietersen, the man with weak defence and butter fingers made a match winning tackle and ran dangerously, scoring regularly. He became another winger that came good during this World Cup.

Mecurial Percy Montgomery went on to kick all the goals that mattered, Butch James toned down his testosterone, and Frans Steyn did nothing stupid.

And incredibly the Boks went on to win the World Cup.

Wow. And hey, Mhambi has to admit that considering our history it was great that the team was not all white.

rugby world cup2007.jpg
Originally uploaded by jimfitzpix.

So why the empty feeling Mhambi?

Standing on the shoulders of giants
The sight of Thabu Mbeki, the politician that did so much to ditch the talk of reconciliation and reracialised South African political discourse, being carried victorious shoulder high at the Stade de France was nauseating. How Thabu would love a bit of Madiba magic to rub off on his paranoid shoulders in an election year. As the rugby writer Siyabonga Mchunu observed, “it was not the Springboks that needed Mbeki’s support ... It was Mbeki who needed the support of the World Cup champions.” What a farce!

When the Springboks won the cup in 1995, Mhambi was dancing in the streets along with black and white South Africans, brimming with positive hope for the future of our young democracy.

How different it would feel 12 years later. Hlophe, Selebi, Manto and manifold other ghosts haunt our country. Mhambi thought to himself, is this the last time South Africa celebrates, ever? What does this victory mean? Is it but a parting shot? A blip in our terminal decline? After all just the night before the victory reggae star Lucky Dube had been shot.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

I'm a prisoner in my own country

South Africa's biggest Reggae Star has been killed in a botched car-hijacking. His former keyboarder Eugene Mthethwa wrote in todays Guardian. Lucky Dube's first album Rastas never die was banned in South Africa.

Lucky was one of the artists that this country did not honour accordingly, but buried him while he was still alive. He was more appreciated outside South Africa than in his own country. During apartheid, when he was singing against the system, he got much media coverage and love from the South African people, including the state itself, but post-1994 when we achieved the freedom he was fighting for, he never got the love he deserved, even from our state.

I am reminded of an incident when I was still his keyboard player and we were invited to perform in the then South West Africa, now known as Namibia. The booking never indicated that we would be performing at a military camp for the South African Defence Force. We only realised this when we arrived for the actual performance and saw white men in army uniforms.

We knew that we were trapped in a situation that might kill Lucky Dube's career due to the political incorrectness of the performance and a possible bomb attack from the military wing of the South West African Political Organisation led by the former president Sam Nujoma.

We got together to discuss the issue but had no answers as we could not pull out at that time. The contract had already been signed and all payments made. We ended up getting on stage and performing against our will and our principled stand against the state.

All I can remember is white soldiers dancing to lyrics like, "I am a prisoner in my own country," and here and there Lucky would sing derogatory words in Zulu so that they didn't pick up the meaning. We laughed about the incident all the many hours back to Johannesburg, as we were travelling by road and not by air.

In essence I am bringing back these memories to highlight our ruthless and non-appreciative attitude towards our own history, which we should embrace and look after by all means necessary.

War and Crime Lyrics - Lucky Dube

Every where in the world
People are fighting for freedom
Nobody knows what is right
Nobody knows what is wrong
The black man say it' s the white man
The white man say it' s the black man
Indians say it' s the coloureds
Coloureds say it' s everyone
Your mother didn' t tell you the truth
Cause my father didn' t tell me the truth
Nobody knows what is wrong
And what is right
How long is this gonna last
Cause we' ve come so far so fast

When it started, you and I were not there so
Why don' t we
Bury down apartheid
Fight down war and crime
Racial discrimination
Tribal discrimination

You and I were not there when it started
We don' t know where it' s coming from
And where it' s going
So why don' t we

I' m not saying this
Because I' m a coward
But I' m thinking of the lives
That we lose everytime we fight
Killing innocent people
Women and children yeah
Who doesn' t know about the government
Who doesn' t know about the wars going on
Your mother didn' t tell you the truth
Cause my father did not tell me the truth

Together as one - Lucky Dube

In my whole life,
My whole life
I've got a dream (x2)

Too many people
Hate apartheid
Why do you like it? (x2)

Chorus: (x3)
Hey you rasta man
Hey European,Indian man
We've got to come together as one
Not forgetting the Japanese

The cats and the dogs
Have forgiven each other
What is wrong with us (x2)

All those years
Fighting each other
But no solution (x2)

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The future is black

Originally uploaded by Emmenis.

Some South Africans nailing their colours to the mast. Mhambi's friend Willem took this photo at the South Africa Fiji Rugby World Cup game in Marseilles France.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Gavin Evans we're Gatvol of instinctive (and deeply unreflective) racism

Mhambi was shocked this morning by an article published by the UK Guardian. An article full of factual errors and blatant bigotory that one person decribed aptly: An exercise in instinctive (and deeply unreflective) racism.

Trying to pass the lines
Originally uploaded by fabdany.

I was going to post excerpts but decided to post the whole thing, plus selected comments. You have got to love the internet, first I was depressed but then I saw these comments I knew that this article will come back to haunt Mr Evans. Two of the comments were from well known Afrikaner and Dakar goer Chris Louw. Also the writer of the Boetman is Gatvol article. He worked with Evans at the Mail and Guardian in the eighties. I have already posted my own opinion on this subject (race and the Springboks) and you can read that here.

Rugby a reflection of nations' true colours

Look at a picture of South Africa's rugby team and it is hard to sidestep a rather embarrassing conclusion: doesn't look much like South Africa, does it? Or rather, it looks all too much like a different South Africa, the old one, when rugby was run by white men for white men (with perhaps a fleet-footed, dark-skinned wing recruited for the sake of appearances).

This unsettling portrait - basically unchanged after 15 years of "non-racialism" - is prompting South Africa's politicians to lace up their big boots. Suddenly, affirmative action has become real, and from 2008, politicians say that two-thirds of the national rugby team must be black. When that happens, well, there will be a temporary dip in performance (because so few black players have been brought on to an international level), and a lot of whining, but clearly, it is a change that is overdue.

But what about this lot? Aside from sublime play from one of the team's two black players, Bryan Habana, is there anything to celebrate about South African rugby? Has anything really changed since the bad old days?

In 1995, when South Africa won the World Cup, I tried and failed to break a 21-year habit of wishing the worst for them. On the one hand, there was Nelson Mandela in a green- and-gold shirt and embracing Springbok captain Francois Pienaar. But on the other, there were the team-mates of Pienaar's who unambiguously represented the old order - for instance, one of them had been arrested for spewing out a stream of racist invective and seriously assaulting a black teenager in a nightclub. And behind them, as president of the South African Rugby Union, was the grotesquely gloating Louis Luyt, an apartheid-backing tycoon who treated the game as his personal fiefdom.

Luyt then appointed as national coach the incompetent Andre Markgraaff - soon dismissed for raving about "fucking kaffirs". He was replaced by Carel du Plessis, a coach with no qualms about picking the hooker Henry Tromp, who had been jailed for beating a black labourer to death. And even after this lot were gone, the old breed kept popping up - such as the prop Toks van der Linde, who had to be ordered home during a tour for calling a black South African woman a "kaffir girl".

The root causes of all this are fairly straightforward: rugby was first brought to South Africa by an English clergyman in 1861, but by the 1880s it was already attracting an enthusiastic following among young Boers, and throughout the 20th century it was the prime passion and pastime in Afrikaner life. It epitomised a certain approach to life; it became synonymous with the particular brand of machismo associated with the Afrikaner male. When democracy arrived in 1994, Afrikaners had to adapt more than their English-speaking compatriots, who had wider options when it came to emigration. Afrikaner privileges were eroded, their schools integrated, their sense of personal security challenged, their destiny questioned. But rugby remained a constant - the one part of life that could still bind and give hope. And there was a reluctance to share it.

Ironically, rugby is also a game with deep roots in black South Africa. For several decades rugby has been the number one sport among Africans in the Eastern Cape, with strong bases in the so-called coloured townships of Cape Town and Johannesburg. In apartheid days, black players had two choices: either collaborate by playing for teams approved by the white establishment, or play within leagues sanctioned by the anti-apartheid South African Council on Sport, whose lack of fields, facilities and expertise made for a relatively low level of competition. Not a brilliant choice, but at least there were black players out there, and when apartheid crumbled, it should, on paper, have been a fairly simple task to seek out young black talent to improve that portrait of an almost all-white team in a country that is 78% black African (and that figure does not include Asian and mixed-race Africans). Yet it never happened. It turns out - as South Africa has learned in so many arenas - that previously racist institutions can be difficult to change. Instead, most of the black players who emerged were products of elite schools, and they were a rarity who seldom rose beyond the provincial shallows.

While it would easy to blame the likes of Jake White, the Springbok coach, for not including more black players, the fact is that if the team is chosen on merit alone, there just is not, for whatever reasons, the talent available. Among the black potentials, only Habana and his fellow winger, the former Cape gang-member JP Pietersen, were deemed worthy of the final cut - and it is also worth mentioning that in old apartheid parlance, Habana and Pietersen are "coloured", rather than black. In South Africa, this has real significance: there are still no players coming from the most oppressed sections of South African society.

And yet, for all this, there is a different feel about the 2007 squad from the squad of 1995. Perhaps it is just the gusto of their national anthem singing, the deep sense of camaraderie, the absence of any obvious racists among them, and, dammit, the way they play: so much more expansive and creative than the old days. It is hard not to get ecstatic about the play-making brilliance of Fourie Du Preez and those breathtaking Habana runs.

In the late 1990s, South Africa's finance minister happily announced he would be backing the All Blacks against the Boks. Today, the deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, cracks jokes with the team and they all laugh along with her. Maybe something really has changed.

I did an entirely unscientific vox pop of black South African friends yesterday and every one of them said they would be yelling for the Boks. One of these black friends, admittedly from rugby-mad Port Elizabeth, gushed: "People everywhere are wearing the green and gold jerseys - even the workers in the garage - and the shebeens are screening the matches. Everyone in the country supports them - but we just wish they could find a few more black players."

Come Saturday, I will be hoping the South Africans do the double on the English. And then? It will be time for the politicians and their move to compulsory quotas to do what 15 years of voluntarism have failed to achieve - a South African team that reflects the new South Africa.


October 16, 2007 9:35 AM

I was in a Tesco supermarket in Dublin yesterday and saw a black woman with her approx 6 year old son, both wearing the green and gold shirt. They may be black and they may have left South Africa but they obviously support the Boks.


October 16, 2007 9:49 AM

When I was about three quarters of the way through the SA half of the article I was reading it with a heavy heart. I have a south african girlfriend and some good south african mates and
I thought there's no way i can forward this article as it's 'support south african rugby and you support the old regime' but thankfully I was wrong, OK so the vast majority of the team are white but they're in the final and I think it's an opportunity for South Africa to do what the article from the English perspective allured to, which is unite behind your team. I am going to be far more magnaminous in defeat if we loose on Saturday (yes I'm English on Saturday, not even British ;), 'cause I get the impression that regardless of race or colour the team will be supported by South Africa as a nation and for that I can bear to loose. Just.


October 16, 2007 10:02 AM

The scribe better get his facts right before he gets dragged into court. It was in fact Markgraaf who picked Henry Tromp (late 1996) - he never played under Carel Du Plessis.

Also, but not as serious, the former gang member is Ashwin Willemse, our star player in 2003 WC, just returned from injury but in the current


October 16, 2007 10:02 AM

Jingoism dressed up as serious socio-political analysis - this is more pernicious even than the bare-faced tabloid xenophobia that inevitably rears its head alongside big sporting occasions in this country on account of it's creeping nature and implied tone of authority.

OK certain areas of South African society have a long way to go but of course they do it's a long way back from apartheid - this article says nothing to me about that.

Ask yourself. Do you think this 'analysis' of the SA team would would have been done if they weren't playing England in the final? No.

Absolute disgrace playing the 'South Africans are still racists' card. Absolute disgrace.

And while I'm at it - England team as some kind of shining beacon of society's inclusiveness. Please. OK there are a couple of players who don't come via the classic middle class privelege route but trying to dress an Ampleforth pupil up as some kind of Italian ice cream peddler's underpriveleged son is laughable. Paul Sackey may be of Ghanaian ethnicity but it doesn't sound that he exactly came up the hard way having gone to a traditional rugby school and selling exotic cars to multimillionaires hardly puts him in the man of the people bracket. What do you think he has in common with most first generation West African britons? Well there's one obvious thing....

Jason Robinson is the exception but what talent - the guy would be accepted in any company for what he brings and the way he comports himself. This is no criticism of the guys in the team, they work hard and they are exceptionally talented and - it turns out - have an incredible depth of character - but they absolutely do not represent what this article is claiming.

Er, and the bit about the token black guy on the SA wing because he's quick. Bryan Habana! The guy would walk into any rugby team on earth.

OK it's a big game but lets keep the buildup honest at least.


October 16, 2007 10:18 AM

Gavin Evans may be entitled to his opinions, but the fabrication of facts is a doubtful way of gathering support for a conceited argument.

Henry Tromp was never jailed for beating a black worker to death; he was acquited of the charge -- as South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel discovered when he supported the All Blacks against the Springboks on the same fallacious assumption.

JP Pietersen should take Mr Evans to court for lible for calling him an ex-gang member. Pietersen is an upright young man with an unblemished past who recently finished school. Mr Evans is confusing him with Ashton Willemse. The only factor the two have in common is that both are "coloureds".

I remember working (as political correspondent) with Gavin Evans at the Mail & Guardian BEFORE apartheid was abolished. He constantly addressed me as "Jan", the most common Afrikaans name, even though my name is Chris. It seems he is still suffering from the same habit -- finding it difficult to distinguish between individual Afrikaners and coloureds. After all, they all look alike, don't they?

Mr Evans should rather support England. That is the (white) country in which he prefered to live since apartheid was abolished. The white Springboks are all committed to living in South Africa under a black-dominated ANC government. Mr Evans seemingly not.

Frankly, we want neither his arrogant advice nor his support.


October 16, 2007 10:48 AM

As other commenters have noted, South Africa is coming from a different history and the way the headline, subhead and comparison is set up doesn't feel particularly neutral or fair.

My personal view is that the symbolism of the Springboks is so important to the country that quotas are probably unavoidable. If the team wasn't of such significance to the country you could argue that sport should be free of politics, but they seem too closely woven into the national identity for that to be realistic.

However, I haven't spent that much time in SA, so I couldn't claim any great precedence for that view.


October 16, 2007 11:09 AM

I'm not sure how often you are in South Africa these days but what is and has gone on there is nothing short of modern day miracle. This Springbok team are the first in years to seem genuinely relaxed, focused, united and completely without any trace of race consciousness. They are reflective of the vast majority of South Africans who now live and work every day in that complex but ever hopeful country. Like all South Africans they want to win this tournament and make the WHOLE country proud of them. Race and identity are still the two biggest elephants in the global room but it is to South Africa that the world should look for fresh ideas, not as as a constant dustbin to pluck out tired and over-trodden stories about racism and strife. Yes Gavin, things really have changed. Now let the team get on with winning this game.


October 16, 2007 11:13 AM

i was astonished to read the second part of this article. it simply does not tally with my experiences of south africa.

aside from the obvious factual errors which others have pointed out, i found some other areas of concern. mr evans asserts that:

"For several decades rugby has been the number one sport among Africans in the Eastern Cape, with strong bases in the so-called coloured townships of Cape Town and Johannesburg."

my wife is from East London (in the Eastern Cape). i have friends stretching from Durban to Plettenberg. and this is genuinely the first time i have ever heard rugby referred to as the 'number one sport among Africans in the Eastern Cape'. i cannot imagine that this is so.

in addition, Johannesburg and Capetown are clearly not part of the Eastern Cape - what with Joburg being Central and Capetown being, erm, West.

furthermore, i would be most interested to hear Mr Evans explain - or defend - his choice of words regarding townships. what is 'so-called' about 'coloured townships' in either city?

a little further on comes another troubling assertion:

"it is also worth mentioning that in old apartheid parlance, Habana and Pietersen are "coloured", rather than black. In South Africa, this has real significance: there are still no players coming from the most oppressed sections of South African society"

since institutional apartheid is something of the past, is Mr Evans claiming that the coloured population have an easy life? that they are not 'oppressed', or at least not as meaningfully as the black population?


October 16, 2007 11:24 AM

Your piece shows a distinctly arrogant British (perhaps more specifically English) misunderstanding of South Africa favoured by mollycoddled first world journalist who feel they are somehow in a position to be the moral commentators on the world's injustices.

Work is being done and paid for in blood by the people on the ground trying to remedy the countries inequalities and social problems. The fact that the national rugby team is mostly white and the national soccer team is mostly black is neither here nor there when the real issues are trying to house and feed the disenfranchised.


October 16, 2007 11:38 AM

...I'm taking the bait: Why should it be of any importance whatsoever whether Mr Gavin Evans supports South Africa or not? I'd rather black compatriots support the Springboks. That seems to be the case, judged by a "vox pops" insert on last night's SABC TV News bulletin. (And the SABC's biases are well known.)

The diversity of opinions in England would have been better served by an piece written by a black South African rather than by a priveleged whitey who prefers life in the First World to living in a majority-ruled African country. Gavin Evans is not the only person who got a few klappe from heavy-handed security branch members in the previous dispensation; some of us have made peace with that part of our past and are involved in day-to-day living in South Africa.

Mr Evans' opinions on Liverpool and Arsenal would be more relevant. Who cares one Springbok drol about who and what he supports?

Originally uploaded by fabdany.


October 16, 2007 11:40 AM

Gavin Evans,

What a plonker you are,
two wrongs will never make a right and I am amused at the fact that you can't wait for a new form of racism to be enforced. You rebuild from the ground up, no quick fixes, 14 years are nothing!

I would like to know how you would feel if you where at the top of your sport, the best of the best. You worked long hard hours, suffered blood sweat and tears to be where you are, and then someone tells you sorry mate too white, black, blue whatever.
It was wrong then and it will be wrong in the future.

Our schools are now integrated, no more special treatment for this colour or that, and in time, if a white kid can make it to the Bok team then so can a black kid. Go to Loftus and be amazed at a crowd that would cheer the roof off for anyone scoring a try in a blue jersey!

Mind your own back yard Gavin, and we will mind ours!


October 16, 2007 11:51 AM

When I read the article six hours ago it made me cross but now I just find it funny. Being lectured in the Grauniad by a 'South African sports writer' (sic) on the continuation of racism in post-apartheid South Africa reaches the heights of farce when he can't tell one Springbok of colour from another. Maybe they all look the same to him. Especially when (see GE's web pages)he claims to teach would-be journalists and sub editors (does he lecture on accuracy and importance of checking?)and keep a foothold in Cape Town (a handful of kilometres from where JPP and AW grew up). Memo to Grauniad: if you are going to outsource stuff to people who claim to have local knowledge then next time make sure you get the real thing. Memo to GE: have a good look in the mirror.


October 16, 2007 11:58 AM

There was a stage when people from Mr Evans' kin controlled not only the South African economy, but 80% of the local Stock Market. They are still, in terms of numbers, over-represented in every sphere of public life, including government and the economy.

Afrikaners are an easy target. They live and breath rugby from an early age. That's why they are succesfull players of the game.

To ask that the Evans' participation in public institutions and the economy be proportionate to their numbers is immediately construed as anti- the S-word. On what moral grounds should Afrikaners (and whites in general) be weaned from a game in which they currently excel?


October 16, 2007 12:25 PM

Gavin: I remember well your time on the Mail & Guardian. I enjoyed your writing. My favourite was probably your defence of boxing as a legitimate working class pursuit, particularly on a publication staffed so heavily by more-left-than-thou vanguard-of-the-revolution types.

However, you've been gone a while and you're out of touch not in big obvious ways, but in terms of being able to recognise the shifts in mood, thinking and the way ordinary people interact. Either that, or when you are here you remain stuck in the same tight circle of the self-righteous as before.

It's not about dramatic steps, it's about a gradual blunting of sharp edges and softening of devoutly held ideologies. I've remarked before on another thread that where we've got to is imperfect, incomplete and occasionally traumatic. But it IS different and it's just not the same world you're portraying, however much you like to think you're in touch with what's happening here.

Like the struggle heroes who can't stop fighting the old wars, you need to move on from this kind of simplistic setting up of straw men only to gush with support for the Boks because, implicit in your piece, some black guys gave you permission. If you're still in touch with the person who is now editor of your old employer, you might recognise another one who thinks she's fighting yesterday's battles: Unable to recognise her own status as a beneficiary of affirmative action, she supports intensification of the policy - occasionally failing to disguise her hatred of white males

If you ask people directly, they're either strongly opposed to affirmative action, or they're in favour of it but deny that they are a beneficiary of it. If you live with it in practice, in business, the reality is very different and much more mixed. The people making the exceptions to affirmative recruitment rules are increasingly black - in my personal experience. Representivity is still important, but merit, skill and competence are gradually making a comeback.


October 16, 2007 12:40 PM

Dear Sir,
Might I suggest that you visit Ladbrokes and place some money on the South African team winning the IRB World Cup. If England win, at least you will be able to regain some of your dignity with claims of impartiality.

If South Africa win, you'll be able to afford to have your foot surgically removed from your mouth.

Please excuse me for now, I have to go and light the cross on my lawn and wash my swastikas in time for Saturday night.


October 16, 2007 12:47 PM

For new readers, the story so far. The Grauniad has deployed its own Eng-ER-LAND!! psy/ops team to compete with the redtops and the Times ahead of the final, (an even more rancid unit than the competition for being dollied up in 'progressive' sloganthink about race and class) .... but all they could get was cannon fodder as inept and professionally incompetent (research, analysis, on-the-ground-information, fact checking)as Richard Williams and Gavin Evans ..... now read on (or back).


October 16, 2007 12:53 PM

Much as I hated Apartheid and acknowledge the need of redressing balances in South African education and employment, I feel the prospective introduction of quotas in the Springbok team will be deeply counter-productive.

There are talented black South African players coming through and you can see them in the Sevens side, but to suddenly declare that 10 of the 15 shall be black leaves me wondering where the hell are they going to find 10 test standard black players, especially in the forwards? They are going to have to play the All Blacks 2-3 times a year and will be in severe danger of enormous, disheartening thrashings.

The fact is, white South Africans are immersed in rugby from birth, in the same way New Zealanders (of all colours) are. By effectively excluding a huge proprtion of them from the pinnacle of the sport, all that talent and knowledge will (and is) go abroad, leaving a black population who are not yet immersed in the sport and do not yet have a deep knowledge of the game.

This change has to be effected from the grassroots up and even if it takes 20 years, the long hard road is always better than the easy political fix.


October 16, 2007 12:57 PM

Please would the editors of Mail & Guardian, remove this racist and provocative drivel writer Gavin Evans from the list of correspondents, and the article from this website. As a rugby player of colour, I demand an apology.


October 16, 2007 1:22 PM

Leftiebeard has beaten me to it - my thoughts summed up in a couple of trenchant sentences. This sort of drivel should be left behind in the sixth form. The Guardian's blogs increasingly seem to be infantilising the whole enterprise. It's depressingly predictable and predictably depressing.

And I would bet my right nut that the majority of readers of this shite are white and middle-class. Self-loathing is the prerogative of the privileged, and this website (and increasingly - and tragically - the paper which bears its name) have turned it into an artform.


October 16, 2007 2:46 PM

Gavin Evans' obvious dislike of Afrikaners devalues what could have been an illuminating article on the subject of political interference in sport. SA Rugby has opened up its outreach programmes to all sections of South African society but results won't be achieved overnight.

At present the standard of Rugby is higher in Afrikaner communities than in Black or Coloured ones so its unsurprising that the majority of players are white especially when also combined with the longer traditions of Rugby in Afrikaner communities.

As Rugby interest grows in non-white SA society the players will come to prominence and they will compete with whites on a meritocratic basis and not on some crass patronising quota system promulgated by the likes of Gavin Evans and his politician mates.

Gavin Evans cherry-picks some racial issues (some factually dubious if a response upthread is accurate) from the past to ground his view that one form of racism should replace another. The real dividers in SA society are the Gavin Evanses of this world and not the white, black and coloured players building a succesful sport through their dedication and effort.


October 16, 2007 2:53 PM

My view on this is that "of course rugby is the game of the priveliged classes - and it doesn't really matter very much at all".

But skesteve's figures are interesting.

Basically it seems to me that the two teams are almost exactly equally representative in some ways [i know that one has a history of apartheid etc ect but bear with me].

According to the internet:

(a) 6.6% of kids in the uk are privately educated (see the table in; and
(b) 9.2% of south africans are white (see

So in a 22-man rugby squad you'd expect, if teams were truly representative of a country's demographics:

(a) 1.45 privately educated players in the england squad; and
(b) 2.02 white players in the SAF squad.

what we actually have according to skesteve is:

(a) 14 privately educated players in the england squad; and
(b) 20 [this is right, yes?] white players in the SAF squad/

So the ratio of actual priveliged players to the expected number if the squads were representative is:

(a) 9.64 for england; and
(b) 9.88 for south africa.

so, well, there's something like a tenfold bias towards the priveliged minority in both cases. this won't come as any sort of surprise to anyone who has the slightest familiarity with the game in either country.

and... my question is still "so what"?


October 16, 2007 3:04 PM

In his article Gavin Evans advocates racial discrimination against white South Africans. I am surprised and disappointed that the Guardian, which should know better, has chosen to publish what can only be described as instinctive (and deeply unreflective) racism. Is the Guardian's position really that racism is unacceptable; except when it is directed against a morally unpopular minority?


October 16, 2007 3:57 PM

So, the rainbow nation has a cloudy sky while multicultural Blighty hasn't joined all the dots yet? Hmmm. Quelle surprise!


October 16, 2007 6:13 PM

This is a lowpoint. It's beneath the dignity of the Guardian, or it should be. For shame.

For all the sledging that goes on and the lines that have been crossed (the rumours about O'Gara and his wife etc.) this is a bridge too far. There are no excuses for English media attacking the inclusiveness of the SA team to stoke the flames before an event of this magnitude. Is the intent to provoke the Springboks so that England receive their comeuppance.

Can we stick to the rugby and leave the racial stereotyping and ill-formed rants behind.


October 16, 2007 6:21 PM

This happens every time England, AUS or NZ play SA: their media finds something about race to bring up because, well, that's a synonym for SA and you cant do a movie, write a book or turn out for sport without that theme. And it can proves highly distracting.

So, good, anticipated gutter journo tactic ahead of the game, but I think this team has the nous to shake it off. Its a weak article, anyway, easily attacked.

Your reasoning is that Catt, Rathbone, KP, Strauss have left the Rainbow Nation and gone to holy England thereby making them just and righteous? You have some players of colour and that exonerates the colonial legacy?

The SA coach job is highly sensitive, you cannot pick your best team, and the reverse is not true viz. there are no quotas in place for those of Indian, coloured or white descent to be pushed into traditionally black sports.

When apartheid SA booted england out of Africa by declaring a Republic, that was 1961: 46 short years ago. Those white strips your sportsmen wear do not declare the cleanliness of your socio-geo-political consciences.


October 16, 2007 6:33 PM

One thing that most people keep overlooking with the whole race issue in South African rugby is the simple fact of genetics.
People look at American football and basketball and how they are dominated by black players and automatically assumed that because South African rugby is not that is must be due to racism.
However, American blacks' ancestors' are mostly from West Africa and anyone that have seen the numbers from Nigeria, Ghana, etc in the Olympic 100m finals will know West Africans are fast. However most black South Africans' forefathers came from East Africa - Kenya, Ethopia, etc - more known for their marathon runners than speedfreaks. This explains why SA has a gold medalist in the Olympic marathon, but the South African 100m record is still held by a white man.

South African sport scientist have predicted that the next 100m record holder will probably be from the coloured community because their ancestors also share in the West African gene.

So although history does play a role in the make-up of the current SA team, I think, most has to do with the simple facts of DNA that no quota system will ever change.


October 16, 2007 8:46 PM

Yes, South Africans remember Gavin Evans in his noble days during the apartheid struggle. Seems he left the country years back for First World comforts 'up north' (as so many of that crowd did) and is now out of touch with what's really going down in SA, as others on this thread have pointed out. In particular, his factually incorrect smear about Pietersen and his strange comments about Eastern Cape 'black rugby' annoyed me. Gavin, if you don't live in South Africa, where people are dealing hands-on with difficult real-time issues of social transformation, I would advise you to think and fact-check before you opine from your English armchair.


October 16, 2007 8:49 PM

While Mr Evans is entitled to his opinion as regards the failings of South African society in developing a team he believes truly represents that country, I find it unfortunate that he should talk up (in Jingoistic fashion) the values of a society that helped create the problems South Africans face in the post-apartheid era. The balanced approach of Donald McRae in his interview of Jake White (Oct. 16) Rob Kitson's interview of Bryan Habana (Oct. 16) and Richard Williams in his praise of French efforts to stage a wonderful world cup (also Oct. 16)contrasts sharply with the tone and content of Mr Evans' position.
I suggest that we should all be celebrating the achievements of the best players each country had to offer in reaching the final of their chosen sport this year, not prescribing a method to ensure that South Africa never again challenges the "superior" english way of doing things.
After all, we're all the same, aren't we?

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