Mhambi has been redeployed.

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.

Sphere: Related Content

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.

Sphere: Related Content

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.

Sphere: Related Content

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.

Sphere: Related Content

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.

Sphere: Related Content

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.

Sphere: Related Content

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".

Sphere: Related Content

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.

Sphere: Related Content

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."

Sphere: Related Content

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.

Sphere: Related Content

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."

Sphere: Related Content

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"

Sphere: Related Content

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.

Sphere: Related Content

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.

Sphere: Related Content