Mhambi has been redeployed.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

De la Rey loves NY

Shout out to Sista locura (aka Nerina) in Brooklyn NY and Mike Smuts for pointing out that De la Rey has made it to the Big Apple as well. An article has appeared in the New York Times. Interesting, their reporting is definitely a notch superior that of the UK Guardian (see post below).

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De la Rey on Carte Blanche

Over on the Inside South Africa blog, you will find Carte Blanche's take on the De la Rey song saga. Carte Blanche is the premier English language South African actuality program. It features former Vrye Weekblad (a now defunct Afrikaans left wing paper) editor - Max du Preez, editor of the largest Afrikaans newspaper Rapport's Tim du Plessis, and Wits sociologist/ rock star Andries (Roof) Bezuidenhout.

Besides the astounding political naivete of Bok van Blerk and his co-song writers, most of the commentators have interesting things to say. But Max du Preez looses a serious amount of credibility when saying Afrikaners have had nothing to be proud of for more than 100 years. Mhambi strongly disagrees.

Bok (or Pepler as he is actually known) and his producers/ writers do not only seem politically naive, they seem to be in this for the money. Apparently the good choice of 'dove' De la Rey (De la Rey was against war) was pure luck. It rhymed better and according to the Bok team could have been any other Boer War general. These boys are astute businessmen but class-c politicians.

Bezuidenhout sees the worst in the song - bitterness because of a loss of priviledge, while Du Plessis sees the positive - Afrikaners are finding a voice. (A note of caution with TV - Carte blanche obviously only used those excepts they wanted and might not have reflected all the views expressed.)

Perhaps its both; they are finding a voice fuelled by bitterness. Lets hope they use their voice to add in a constructive way to the new found open political debate that South Africa has rediscovered in the last year.

What is this Afrikaner bitterness

But what is the content of this bitterness so simplistic? It's strange that these incisive social commentators make no mention of South Africa's rediscovered open democratic discourse and that the De la Rey phenomena is happening at precisely this time. Is there no connection? Do Afrikaners live in some bitter bubble, unconnected to whats happening around them??

Strange also that no mention is made of the insensitive, often a-historical steamroller way changes of towns with Afrikaans names have been conducted. Surely in an age rife with identity politics, this is an obvious clue? Or of that little issue called crime.

Most major shifts in Afrikaner history was precipitated by periods of insecurity precipitated by threats of physical violence or doubts expressed on whether they belong in Africa at all. We have another one now.

Instead both Du Preez and Bezuidenhout (who I admire allot) only talk about loss of priveledge and that Afrikaners have nothing to stand for. Du Preez says the Afrikaner's is an imaginary suffering.

Mhambi does not buy this simplistic answer. I bet my bottom dollar that Afrikaners would be willing to pay allot more tax if they knew the money would be effectively spent on the poor, and would reduce crime. Paying more tax is preferable to immigrating to a semi in Slough (The dead drab UK suburb of The Office fame).

And Du Preez misses another crucial point. For the Afrikaners - weaned on concepts of selfless public service, Vaderlands liefde/ patriotism, Anglo Saxon style individuality and riches translates into a very shallow happiness.

During the Great Trek Afrikaners left behind their whole lives - farms, in flight - if you believe historian Giliomee - mainly due to fears for their security. (Others being the abolishment of slavevery and Afrikaans in public life). It's crucial that security was considered more important than material riches.

Could it also be that Afrikaner's are also disgusted - like Township dwellers - at the governments inability to address poverty, the corruption and its criminal Aids policy? Shock! Horror! No!?!?

And Mhambi is not the only one that thinks Max is wrong.

What Afrikanerdom means today is eminently up for grabs, by cutting them no slack, by expecting the worst, intellectual left Afrikaners will help define Afrikanerdom as intrinsicly right wing. That is sad because its simply not true.

As an aside, its always weird to see pictures of staunch Afrikaners waving around the old South African flag, which after all - has the British flag on it. Duh!

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Monday, February 26, 2007

De la Rey makes it to British shores

Mhambi was reading the Guardian on the tube this morning. It's difficult as the carriages were so full, it requires you to be a bit of a gymnast to keep standing and turn the pages simultaneously.

But I managed, and as I turned a page came a surprise: there, low and behold was a full page story dedicated to the De la Rey song controversy.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

De la Rey - the left wing icon

General De la Rey, peace or war icon? Image: Mhambi, Green background: Peet Pienaar, Hat: Ernesto Che Guavarra.

There is much debate about what Bok van Blerk's the De la Rey song could mean. Is the song a call to war? Is the song treacherous? Is De la Rey an icon of the right?

Mhambi thinks not. The right might want to appropriate him - but it won't stick. De la Rey was an anti-colonial freedom fighter. And a reluctant fighter at that. He opposed war and anti-immigration policies.

What is clear - whatever the intentions of the songs writers - is that the De la Rey phenomena is a search for and a reassertion of Afrikaner identity. To some that makes it right wing.

Mhambi disagrees. A key part of that identity is a struggle for justice. De la Rey represents an era when the Afrikaners were the heroes of a global struggle for justice against colonialism. When Mhambi was young I turned against Afrikaner Nationalism because it was clearly incompatible with what I was taught Afrikaners had stood for.

Mhambi finds it very weird how perceptions, pronouncements and reality diverge, especially in South Africa.

Even the legacy of the Nationalists need to be reappraised. Your having a laugh I hear you say.

Nope. Ask yourself why do people like Guardian reporter Rory Carrol call South Africa a 'boot camp for progressive ideals'.

For all their overt institutional racism the Nationalists were in practice economically left of the ANC in many key respects. They were hands on, never laissez faire. They favoured regulation as opposed to a rampant free market.

Afrikaners know that government can make a difference to poverty and inequality, because they tried it and it worked.

It is a somewhat astounding fact that the Nats during their rule, consistently decreased economic inequality amongst and between all South Africans, something the ANC has failed to do so far. First they lacked the intention, dumping the redistributive RDP plan for the growth of Gear policy. Now they profess the will to adress poverty through Asgi-sa, but seem unable to make it happen.

The Nats built local industry to move South Africa away from being only a supplier of commodities to the West. It is indeed ironic that without the Hertzog government's efforts to build the local economy and industry in particular, there would in all probability not have been a big and mighty trade Union like Cosatu.

Crucially the Nationalists were anti-bling and ostentatious displays of wealth. Were their moto was Suid-Afrika eerste (South Africa first) , the ANC seems to have a very different one: Me, me, me. The Nats valued unselfish public service, rare in a continent blighted by predatory elites. Corruption, what Francois Bayart and his colleagues describe as "the privatisation of public resources" is spreading.

The ANC has so-far presided over an ever increasing gap in economic inequality. It has presided over de-industrialisation. It has allowed mining companies like Anglo-American to list in London, while the English language South African press acquiesced. Would the Nationalists have allowed this capital flight?

The Afrikaners launched Africa's largest body of literature, covering the whole gambit of human experiences, including feminist, and even gay literature. Allot of it severely self critical. The one dimensional stereo types just don't do Afrikaners justice.

It's time for a major reassessment of the Afrikaner's role on the continent. They are the ghostly vanguard of the Thabu Mbeki's "African Renaissance". But now Africa's largest skilled force of effective and loyal public servants are not only not given their due recognition, they are also being shunned.

Afrikaners themselves need to see where their formative roots lie, when the likes of De la Rey were anti-colonial freedom fighters - and champions of the poor and oppressed. They should understand and admit the tragic impact of apartheid and they should work towards making a symbolic gesture of contrition - a la Germany's Willie Brandt.

The ANC needs to recognise that without harnessing the Afrikaners, culturally, socially and in the public sector - all of South Africa will be poorer.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Aren't you happy?

aren't you happy?
Originally uploaded by avolare.
The good news is, i'm crazy.
the bad news is, matt has to put up with me. This is sly commentary on some young men today
- the tags read on Katie West's picture.

Like Rose and Olive, Katie West is another girl photographer Mhambi has found on Flickr.

Justin Holt, a novelist from the States, recently interviewed her and it is now posted over at his site,

“Come for the breasts. Stay for the heart.” is the tagline to Katie West’s website. Find yourself exploring the site one minute, and an hour later, eyes all bloodshot, mouth still ajar, you’ll see the tagline fitting.Read the rest here!

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Democracy is sacrosant (2)

This article continues from Democracy is sacrosant (1).

Hippiedom was rife in Hillbrow. Narcotics inspector Fanie had allot to do. But sometimes Fanie had help from zealous citizens. In 1970 on the 10th of October - Krugerday - there were to be a rock festival in Milner park, Hillbrow. Mhambi got some snippets of stories and pics of Hippie Hillbrow on the excellent 3rd ear Music website.

Hillbrow 1975 Photo - Glyn Griffiths (Used without permission)

Now the name of the venue for the concert - Milner park - certainly could not have endeared the Hippies to their attackers. (Lord Milner was the racist English Administrator who instigated the Boer War, oversaw the concentration camps, banned Afrikaans and was a self proclaimed British race patriot.) But is was the terminity of the takhare (longhairs) to organise a rock festival on Kruger day, (heroes day - named after President Kruger who fought the British in the Boer War), that really got their backs up in the first place.

The fact that the festival flier, was only written in English says allot about the divisions at the time.

Neil Big Mac MacCallum was at Milner Park that day helping out.

"The only reason I went down to Milner Park that night was to pitch my relatively complicated tent for Abstract Truth to hang out in. We chose a spot near the back so that the boys could have relative privacy to get up to whatever it was they needed a tent for in the first place.

Everybody was fashionably stoned so I unpacked all the tent stuff and laid it out while everybody else stood around giving expert advice... Slack-jawed, stoned-out people stood and took it all in. I suddenly started moving backwards rapidly. Two HUGE buggers had me by the arms and were running as fast as they could towards an open gate at the back of the stadium. My feet didn't touch the ground for the first hundred meters.

We (they) were running at full tilt through an advancing crowd of young men carrying pick handles and other blunt instruments. I thought I was going to be taken out into the dark show grounds and beaten to a pulp. As we went through the open gate I saw a security guard standing by, watching the fun.

HEY! HELP ME, MAN! He just laughed. He had obviously opened the gates for the hit squad in the first place. What do you ous think you're doing? We're just going to take you to Pretoria and give you haircut, they reassured me. They were gawe ouens. So I wasn't going to die!

I engaged my captors in conversation in Afrikaans, which surprised them. What was this all about? You people were warned that Helde Dag (Kruger Day) is a sacred day for us Afrikaners and still you are having your Pop Festival. We have decided to teach you a lesson you'll never forget. We are going to cut off your hair and make a man out of you."

An Afrikaans newspaper article tells about the indignation Afrikaans students felt that the rock festival would be held on this important day.

Now, here another Mhambi secret. I know this modus operandi and the motive - this must have been students from Sonop, at the University of Pretoria. It's the residence Mhambi went to, and I too was as a first year, in 1990, a proud owner of a pick handle, which I named Corpus delicti (Latin: object that inflicts damage). For a while I was ready to defend the honour of Sonop against all and sundry. Still, for all my loyalty Mhambi was asked to leave Sonop, because I refused to cut his hair.

But back to Neil's story:

We pulled into the Fountains parking lot. There were a lot of people waiting there for the raiders to return. Ours was the first car back. The driver got out of the car to report to the ou manne. A crowd came over to the car. You ouens promised to look after me, hey! Don't worry! I was worried.

A guy called Herman opened the driver's door and leaned into the car. So you're one of the Communists! He slapped me in the face as hard as he could. I didn't feel it. I became aware of the fact that a part of me was observing this madness coldly and dispassionately...

Herman dragged me out of the car and delivered me to the waiting mob of children. My abductors, to their credit, they did try to intervene but to no avail... I was grabbed by my arms and legs and my backside was positioned to offer a tempting target. A guy started whipping me with an army belt. He worked really hard at it. I still felt no pain and even started laughing at the absurdity of the whole situation. This infuriated my abuser. Eventually, the blows became more and more feeble and petered out. Soutpiel, jy's 'n taai moerskont! (Englishman, your a tought cunt.) I presumed that this was meant as a compliment, coming from a divinity student and all.

By this time other cars with other victims had arrived. Haircutting was in progress. All of us longhairs, about eight in all, were pushed down to the ground in front of some cars that had their lights on. My hair was hacked off by a number of people brandishing scissors.

A festival - Pic: 3rd Ear Music

But the festival wen't on. As the 70's drew to a close the Hippies dissapeared but Hillbrow remained and increasingly became a space where all South Africans could escape the strictures of the Nationalist's rule. It and surrounding areas like Braamfontein and Yeoville became home to record labels, book shops, theatres, publishers, clubs, including gay-clubs.

While Hillbrow had a crass glamour neigbouring Yeoville was the home to a community of intelectuals, artists and discontents. It was here at BaPitas where you came if you wanted to buy your first acid, and it was here at places like Tandoor where you could play pool against very stoned but deadly accurate Rastas. It became the hub of a vibrant counter culture that defied all that apartheid stood for.

It was in Braamfontein that the Weekly Mail opened their offices and down the road was the Vrye Weekblad. The two weeklies were a powerful twin barrel searhlight exposing the activities of murderous security forces.

Venues like the Black sun provided a platform for political music. It was here that the brilliant mucician from the East rand James Phillips (aka Bernoldus Niemand) played. Soon Koos Kombuis and Johannes Kerkorrel came to share a flat in Hillbrow in the 80's, and like Leonard Cohen in New York, got laid in Hillbrow's own landmark but seedier Chelsea hotel.

It was here were they plotted the acent of their Voelvry movement - an up yours to the nationalists in their own language. Here in Hillbrow they held their first gigs, and where people like Ryk Hattingh (author and founder of Loslyf - the first Afrikaans porno mag) upon hearing music like Gee jou hart vir Hillbrow - wept "vat dit weg, vat dit weg." (Take it away - the Nationalists and all they represent that is).

Reshada Crouse, a friend of author Rian Malan decribes bohemain Yeoville in a recent article in the UK Observer:

Just down the road was the first block of flats in the whole of South Africa to have mixed couples. 'It was like New York in the Sixties,' Reshada says. 'Everyone was partying, great decadent fun.'

Yes, Hillbrow and Yeaville had its crime, but it was an utopia of sorts. Most significantly in the South African context, Hillbrow and it surrounds were multi-racial.

Democracy is sacrosant (3)

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Solidariteit (and NUMSA) top of the Union pops

Wow! Solidariteit has won the Labour Website of the Year 2007 competition. And the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa came 8th.

This is the first time 3 websites of the developing world made it into the top 10, two being South African and one from the Philippines.

This is how the winners were described on the labour-start website:

1. Solidarity - 872 votes. The winner this year is the South African union Solidarity. Solidarity placed second in last year's competition and this year won in a close race. Its highly professional website is fully bilingual (English and Afrikaans), you can join online "in under a minute", and the union has a mailing list of 30,000 email addresses. Its members are obviously enthusiastic and are proud of the effort their union is making online. Congratulatory messages may be sent to its Deputy General Secretary, Dirk Hermann -

2. UNISON - 809 votes. With over 1.3 million members, you'd expect the largest union in Britain to have a first rate website, and it does. UNISON very nearly won this year's competition following up on last year's win by another British union, but fell only a few dozen votes short.

8. NUMSA - 206 votes. The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa is one of two South African unions to make it to our top ten this year, the first time that's ever happened. A COSATU affiliate, this 216,000 member union has a long history of standing up for workers' rights -- and a website to be proud of.

And if your wondering why Mhambi bothers writing about unions, here's why. In South Africa they togther with the courts are the last and most effective line if defence against government (or non government). And they are one of the best ways to organise and mobilise society. Just look at what happened in Zimbabwe and in South Africa in the 80's.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

about space heaters or it could be an extended metaphor.

Here is some more of Texans Rose and Olive, Flickr's brilliant photographer-poet-muses.

Some of their pictures come with a:

Warning: fires and burns caused by contact with or close proximity to the flame, heating element, or hot surface area.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Democracy is sacrosant (1)

This whole business of Z Pallo warning potential De la Rey song traitors that it's wrong and bad news to organise against a democracy has set Mhambi thinking.

...and Mhambi came to this conclusion, I think Pallo is right, it's morally indefensible to organise against a democracy.

Hillbrow Skyscrapers basking in the Highveldt sun
Originally uploaded by nicky_joburg.

But this week Mhambi was watching telly, BBC 2's Newsnight nogal, and low and behold, up pops Hillbrow, Johannesburg. It was swartgallige reportage. Crime on the streets of Hillbrow is according to John Simpson, on bad days, as bad as anything he has encountered in Iraq.

To compound it all, the South African chief of police is a mafioso and the minister of Safety and Security says those that complain about crime "should immigrate". And the President? Well he is in denial again.

Most of you will know the story. You could be forgiven for thinking its a black comedy, but actually it's a very very sad tragedy, now with an growing international audience. Genugtig, Mhambi thought - South African crime has now gone prime time.

Then Mr. Simpson said something that I heard two other people say recently - something significant and it got Mhambi thinking again. Simpson commented that when he covered apartheid South Africa in the 1970's, Hillbrow was a place where white and black could mix. In spite of apartheid.

I remembered that once, in 1997, a pretty astute police detective told me - I think Fanie was his name - that during the 70's he was a narc and Hillbrow was his beat. Fanie got very animated about his experiences in Hillbrow.

I was a bit of a raver at that time, and like most ravers a sucker for stories of about a sub-culture that begat mine.

He told us how he and his colleagues had to stalk hippies that were tripping out of their skulls, on the roofs of Hillbrow's tall flats, while basking in the highveld sun. I could tell by the glint in his eye that Fanie liked that time.

When I spoked to Fanie, he was a frustrated detective in the investigation wing of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The reason, Fanie and hois team sat around allot of the time with very little direction and little to do.

Democracy is sacrosant (2)

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

they fold up

they fold up
Originally uploaded by tetheredto.
South African politics can be tiresome in the extreme. So instead, here's a lovely pic from Rose and Olive for a relaxing Sunday eve.

they fold up

These are loose women who smoke by themsleves.
You meet them up at night and leave after coffee, like friends,
in the morning. They're all young, they all want
your eyes, your attention. They like to laugh
and act so refined. If you go for a walk in the hills,
watch out for the rain: they fold up like little girls.
But they know how to make love. Know more than a man.
They're alive and so sleek, and even when naked
they'll talk with their usual spirit.

-- cesare pavese

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Tim du Plessis on the new Afrikaner

Tim du Plessis, editor of Rapport disagrees with lefty Afrikaner journalist Max du Preez. Max reckons the De la Rey song phenomena is due to bad old attitudes refusing to die and an inability to adjust. Du Plessis, has already warned that the Afrikaners are restless and that he thinks that when Afrikaners stand together, it's a bad news. But now he his opinion has shifted somewhat.

I Believe in Light
Originally uploaded by Arnold Pouteau's.

Like the Soweto generation of 1976, who brushed aside the "quiet diplomacy" approach of their parents, the De la Rey generation of 2006 is telling my
generation (50-plus): "If you feel hesitant to reclaim your Afrikaans identity,
then make way. We don't."

White Afrikaners, even progressive ones, firmly believe that only cities and towns with Afrikaans names are being targeted for name changes.

And they were quite upset to learn that the, mostly white, military conscripts who died in the conflict in Namibia and Angola in the 1970s and 1980s will not be honoured in the proposed wall of remembrance in Freedom Park in Pretoria, while the names of the Cuban victims, who fought with the ANC and Swapo, will be there.

Does all of this mean an Afrikaner rebellion is brewing? I don't think so. Rise and resist to achieve what? End up in C-Max like the Boeremag trialists?

No way, though some people did feel a tinge of sympathy, especially when seeing the gloating presence of police commissioner Jackie Selebi in court following the arrest of the two fugitive trialists three weeks ago.

Afrikaners are merely migrating to a new space. It's a natural, spontaneous process without the erstwhile marshals of the Nat party, the Broederbond and the Afrikaans churches.

It's not the dead-end radicalism of the Boeremag, but it's also not ANC
co-option personified by the acquiescent presence of Marthinus van Schalkwyk in
the Mbeki cabinet.

They had no choice but to become new South Africans. Now they want to be new Afrikaners.

Read the whole article here.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Pallo is a Bok for sports but no treason

Mhambi is getting a bit tired of serving up stories about Bok van Blerk, but the plot thickens, and I have to do my duty.

The South African Ministry of Arts and Culture have no doubt stoked the fires with this statement that claims the De la Rey song could become "a rallying point for treason."

James Myburg reports that a statement issued on Tuesday the Ministry warned that the song was "in danger of being hijacked by a minority of right-wingers who not only regard De la Rey as a war hero but want to mislead sections of Afrikaans-speaking society to think that this is a struggle song that sends out a call to arms."

But to be fair to the department, Die Huisgenoot - an Afrikaans magazine - asked for an opinion from the department on the song. And much of the rest of the statement is sensible. Mhambi wants to bet his bottom dollar that smarty pants Pallo himself wrote it:

As the Ministry of Arts & Culture, we want to state it categorically that the Minister Dr. Z. Pallo Jordan together with countless other unsung heroes - spent his entire adult life and much of his adolescence and youth fighting for the right of freedom of expression.

Whatever the intentions of the composer, be they to mobilize White Afrikaans-speakers, or "the Boers" as the singer calls them, to oppose the democratic government, provided that opposition is within the terms of our Constitution, we as the Ministry see no problem.

However, there are two very important considerations which everyone must weigh. Firstly, during the time the song refers to, the White Afrikaans-speaking communities of the then Oranje Vry-Staat and Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek were at war with the British Empire. Unless the composer, performer and his audiences regard themselves as in a state of war with the rest of the population of South Africa, the song is merely a historical curiosity.

Secondly, today, in terms of our Constitution, every citizen of the country, irrespective of race, colour, creed, gender or home language has equal rights. As such even the most discontented White Afrikaans-speaker has the untrammeled right to organize a political party, to go into the hustings and persuade fellow citizens to his point of view, and contest elections. Provided he/she commands a sufficient number of votes, they will win seats in the national, provincial or local legislature and they have an equal opportunity with all fellow citizens to make their concerns known. We would have thought that the taking up of arms was superfluous in such circumstances.
Z Pallo of course knows full well that as a minority Afrikaans speakers do not stand a chance when organising in this fashion and contesting an election. But he is technically correct. He continues:
If there are White Afrikaans-speakers who feel they are besieged by crime, it will not help matters for such persons themselves to engage in criminal activity. Taking up arms against a democratically elected government, no matter how much one dislikes that government, is a crime, and a grave one at that.

...but z Pallo - i'm sure - is being disingenuous and aware that one of the first duties of a state is to protect its citizens. The point is that Afrikaners want more state involvement not a non-government.

Pallo continues:
The oft heard complaint that Afrikaans culture and the language are under threat is a nonsense, disproved by the very existence of journals like "Huisgenoot", "Rooi Rose", "Sarie Marais", and a host of others plus at least two daily newspapers. Are there equivalents of these in the largest language community, isiZulu? Are there equivalents of these in the smallest language community, shiVenda?

Afrikaans speakers, White, Coloured, African or Asian, have exactly the same rights as other South Africans. It would be a terrible shame if a handful of misguided individuals hope to use an innocent song as a rallying point for treason.

The law on the issue of treason is clear, as the accused in the current "Boeremag" Trial are discovering. Those who incite treason, whatever methods they employ, might well find themselves in difficulties with the law.

It is significant to note that Van Blerk himself has denied that his song has any contemporary relevance.

Mmmm.... Pallo has conjured up the spectre of the Boeremag.

Boeremag ghosts
Let me let you into a secret. Mhambi knows some of the accused in the Boeremag trial. I was a junior student in the same residence as some of them at university. The Pretorius brothers and their friends relished ******* on our ****** when we could not remember their names, room numbers and girl friend's names, which in my case, was often. I had a good visual memory but trouble remembering numbers. The Pretorius brothers had particularly firm hands.

They harrassed me because my hair style offended them. I must admit that I had a pretty bad hair style, but I thought it was pretty over the top of them to get so upset. At least my hair style changed. Their hair was shockingly ordinary day in day out.

One night hooded men stormed into my room, demanding I cut my hair and to stop being so stubborn. I had to endure a few more *******. I imagined the Pretorius boys were there that night.

Yes, they are a pretty unpleasant lot these Pretorius brothers. Not just because I say so, others would agree. They together with characters like a certain Cristiaan van der Merwe, made a hell of a comotion when Nelson Madela was about to give a speech - in Afrikaans nogal - at the university. I did not get it, Nelson's hair was short and neat - he was fresh out of prison.

When the Boeremag was caught, they had little sympathy from the vast majority of Afrikaners. The whole criminal justice system that is dealing with their case is made up of Afrikaners. This did not surprise me one bit. It is not such a big community. Allot of us knew them or knew about them. The type of people that would not be out of place in stereo-typical Hollywood portrayals of Afrikaners - and we don't like bad movies.

The Boeremag would not have been going down, without the support of the Afrikaans population at large. But they are going down.

But I digress. I forgot to mention Z Pallo's coup de grace.
As the Ministry of Arts & Culture, we wish the singer, Van Blerk good luck with his song, and who knows, if it's really good, it might even become an international hit, like Solomon Linda's "Mbube"."
Ouch! Pallo - that hurt. What a bitch slap!

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Monday, February 05, 2007

The story of Koos and Bok

The debate around Bok van Blerk and his De la Rey song is showing no sign of abating. Koos Kombuis (Wikipedia), the Afrikaans singer, poet, writer and counter-culture libertarian icon has spoken about the surprise he felt at the strong contradictory feelings the song elicited in him.

Kombuis attracted some controversy just recently when he publicly resigned from Afrikanerdom, Koos wanted to rid him of all that Boer baggage.

And the song *had* felt wrong. It felt like a call to war. But on the other hand, Koos found himself, when ever he heard the song, involuntarily sing along: "De la Rey, De la Rey, sal jy die boere kom lei De la Rey. De la Rey, Generaal, Generaal, soos een man sal ons om jou val, generaal De la Rey". (English translation here.)

Koos realises - as he thought might happen - that the song is becoming huge, it's something-like-a-phe-no-me-na. Bok has to be stopped.

And then one day Koos said so, in one of his Rapport articles.

And to Koos's amazement he gets an email from Bok. He wants advice about life, the universe and South Africa.

Koos meets Bok in one of South Africa's cathedrals to materialism and the non society, the Centurion mall. Koos expects the devil. He did his research and apparently Bok used real farmers when making his music video. But he had to use girls to play the Khakhis because the farmers refused to play the British. Koos also suspects he used Jafta - the black servant - to dig the trenches.

Bok does a very un-Afrikaans thing and arrives late for his appointment.

But when he does arrive Koos is amazed. Bok seems vunerabale, sensitive. He looks like someone whose been through life's treadmill.

He reminds Koos of Johannes Kerkorrel! Johannes you will remember was the singer and spokesperson for the Voelvry movement - an Afrikaans music movement against the cultural and political shackels of the Afrikaner Nationalists. Johannes commited suicide.

Koos is stunned, but still suspicious of his feelings, he sets out to research who this De la Rey was.

Koos is truely amazed.

It turns out De la Rey was the last Anglo Boer War General to go to war, after arguing in parlaiment passionately against it, often enduring accusations of cowardice.

De la Rey also opposed, together with General Joubert, the anti-foreigner policy of President Kruger.

But when war was inevitable he joined the fight and soon he was the most succesful General in the War. Alobg the way he is credited with inventing new guerilla warfare tecniques.

After the war ended he strove ceaselessly for reconciliation between Boer and Brit.

Koos realises that De la Rey was not a Terreblanche, not a George Bush or a Tony Blair but an Afrikaner Steve Biko. An enlighthened man of action, conscience and peace. And he realises that Bok is right. South Africa needs leaders like that - leaders of action, wisdom and peace.

But is that not why Bok came to Koos?

Is Bok and the volk not desperately looking to people like Koos and other credible Afrikaners for guidance? But Van Zyl Slabbert in no longer an Afrikaner, Bad boy poet Breyten's ego just keeps on getting in the way, and Koos has resigned his membership. But if they won't, Mhambi thinks others might.

To qoute Kerkorrel: "Ons soek 'n nuwe energie."

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Skyscrapers do not belong in Africa

I had a pretty vivid and dramatic comment on one of my posts on Bok van Blerk this week. Mhambi wonders who could have left the comment. But Mhambi has a hunch. Hint: I think his names begins with a D.:

Fact of the matter is that candy coated apartheid goes under the guise of culuralism now. As an ex SADF boykie who did his bit up there in the big A I can tell you that I still have nightmares of the Brutality of Africa, and its all very noble about De La Rey but at the end of the day Africa, including my beloved South Africa is not a place for Europeans and Africa will claim back its own. Afrikaner culture in essence is European not African hence despite beautiful lyrics it is going to be a tough fight which in the long run is unwinnable UNLESS Afrikaners reject their European identity and live by African Ideals. It reminds me of the death scene of Roy Batty in Blade Runner... I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams ... glitter in the dark near Tanhauser Gate. All those ... moments will be lost ... in time, like tears ... in rain. Time ... to die. All our monuments to our westernism (working electrical grids, skyscrapers, infrastructure) will be lost like tears in the rain because it does not belong in Africa... Like tears in the rain...

This reminds me of a song by Roof Bezuidenhout, Nero van der Merwe se lied. He sings about a city whose trains have stopped running, a city in ruin. But he ads, a city that's burning does look pretty from afar.

Beautiful funerals

I once heard a Cambridge student ask Roof if he does not think the Afrikaans language will die out and why he sings in this endangered tongue.

He said that he sings in Afrikans because, "we want to give it a beautiful funeral". Which is rather nice. Think of Mhambi as a serial funeral bulletin.

Talking of funerals, this week South African Anglo-Zulu historian David Rattry was buried after he was murdered a few days before. The international press was buzzing - no other murder of a South African has managed this media frenzy. Some commented on how South Africa was loosing its moral compass. Which was a bit strange because stats show that the killing in this country is (a little bit) less than before.

South Africa's image has always been mediated, shaped by the western media and specifically the English media. And it is when somebody is murdered that the English can closely identify with, that the English media takes notice.

The Telegraph had this to say:

there are 20,000 murders in South Africa every year. Here's a comparison. The Iraq Body Count website estimates that between 55,373 and 61,060 civilians have perished since the 2003 invasion. That is: a hot war, followed by a violent and organised insurgency that has turned into a civil war in all but name. By my rough calculation, over the four years since the whole thing started, that's around 15,000 casualties a year. That is, then, 75 per cent of the death toll for peacetime South Africa.

I end with a few lines from another Roof song:

En die vroue vra:
is Afrika se nagte dan soveel donkerder
as dié van ander kontinente?
skyn Afrika se son dan soveel skerper
as dié van ander kontinente?

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What are these rooinekke like?!

Some historians think that both black and Afrikaner nationalism in South Africa was fashioned as a reaction to English imperialism. So, what exactly is this English identity that South Africans reacted to? A new book, The English National Character is a tad academic but according to the UK Guardian, insightful:

The thesis is basically this: taking the 19th century as his starting point, he argues that conceptions of English national identity during the period were largely influenced by a fascination with England's Anglo-Saxon roots, what Mandler - echoing Matthew Arnold - calls "Teutomania". This then gave rise to the idea of the "great Briton", the John Bull stereotype, which the Boer war and then the first world war soon put paid to, John Bull diminishing in stature and size in the popular imagination to the figure of the "little man" epitomised, according to Mandler, by Sidney Strube's usefully titled cartoon "Little Man", which ran in the Daily Express between 1920 and 1947. Since the end of the second world war, the idea of a coherent national identity has collapsed.

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Mhambi blogs therefore he is

Zadie Smith
Originally uploaded by
Mhambi loves blogging. It leaves me strangely fulfilled. Look its Saturday night, and here I am typing away. Mhambi wondered why this might be so? And two weeks ago, Zadie Smith, the talented young London writer, provided a possible explanation.

Mhambi posts excerpts of Zadie telling us that when we write we must - Fail better.

Writers feel, for example, that what appear to be bad aesthetic choices very often have an ethical dimension...

Style is a writer's way of telling the truth...

...writers are in possession of "selfhood", and that the development or otherwise of self has some part to play in literary success or failure.

We were taught that authenticity was meaningless. How, then, to deal with the fact that when we account for our failings, as writers, the feeling that is strongest is a betrayal of one's deepest, authentic self?

When I write I am trying to express my way of being in the world. This is primarily a process of elimination: once you have removed all the dead language, the second-hand dogma, the truths that are not your own but other people's, the mottos, the slogans, the out-and-out lies of your nation, the myths of your historical moment - once you have removed all that warps experience into a shape you do not recognise and do not believe in - what you are left with is something approximating the truth of your own conception.

That sounds very grand: maybe it's better to start at the simplest denomination of literary betrayal, the critic's favourite, the cliche...

With a cliche you have pandered to a shared understanding, you have taken a short-cut, you have re-presented what was pleasing and familiar rather than risked what was true and strange. It is an aesthetic and an ethical failure: to put it very simply, you have not told the truth. When writers admit to failures they like to admit to the smallest ones - for example, in each of my novels somebody "rummages in their purse" for something because I was too lazy and thoughtless and unawake to separate "purse" from its old, persistent friend "rummage". To rummage through a purse is to sleepwalk through a sentence - a small enough betrayal of self, but a betrayal all the same. To speak personally, the very reason I write is so that I might not sleepwalk through my entire life.

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