Mhambi has been redeployed.

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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Monday, October 15, 2007

Emigration: A heel against the head

Mhambi is beside himself with excitement. The Springboks have qualified for the Rugby World Cup Final!

Originally uploaded by fabdany.

According to most pundits the Springboks are favourites nogal. But they have one major Achilles heel. South Africa does not have a good scrummaging tighthead prop forward, and England has the most menacing loosehead prop namely Andrew Sheridan.

And as he proved in a game against Australia, he eats weak tightheads for breakfast. This causes an opposing scrum to reverse, winning the opposition ball, disrupting their structure and sapping opposition forward strength.

But there are good South African tight heads at the World Cup. In fact two of the best are Saffas. Malmesburys's Pieter De Villiers that plays for France, and Durbans Matt Stevens, England's tighthead prop forward.

In fact one could almost make up a whole and very powerful team of South Africans playing for other countries. South Africa is not the only country that exports players to others, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji all do. In fact so do New Zealand and England. But South Africa is one of the few top rugby nations that export players to other top rugby nations.

Daniel Vickerman plays for Australia (Cape Town)
Canada - DHT van der Merwe (Worcester), and Nick Trenkel (Randburg)
England - Mike Catt (Port Elizabeth) Matt Stevens (Durban) and now Nick Abendanon. (Johannesburg)
France - Pieter de Villiers (Malmesbury)
Italy - Carlo Dal Fava (Umtata), Rolland de Marigny (Durban)
Namibia - Lu-Wayne Botes (Johannesburg), Johannes Meyer (Bloemfontein), Jacques Nieuwenhuis (Brakpan), Piet van Zyl (Worcester)
USA - Philip Eloff (Mossel Bay), Chad Erskine (Pietermaritzburg), Owen Lentz (King William's Town)
Wales - Ian Evans (Johannesburg)

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All is fair in life and death

There are worrying reports from South Africa that the editor of its largest newspaper is due to be arrested. The reason?

The Sunday Times reports claimed that, in two stays at the Cape Town Medi-Clinic for a shoulder operation in 2005, Tshabalala-Msimang, the countries controversial health minister, sent staff to buy alcohol, threw drunken tantrums, abused nurses and washed down medication with wine and whisky.

Tshabalala-Msimang, you might remember recently fired her deputy Madlala-Routledge who was making the right noises and implementing policies to address the countries Aids menace. Tshabalala-Msimang famously questions and has wavered on anti-retro viral treatment for HIV positive South Africans.

The newspaper report also said she had used her position to secure a new liver while hiding her alcoholism from the public and had been convicted of stealing a watch from a patient while superintendent of a Botswana hospital in 1976.

A Health Ministry statement said the allegations were "false, speculative and bizarre". Mbeki has shrugged off opposition calls to fire the minister.

As a friend put it to me, these are highly damaging reports and they (probably) broke the law to get the information, so they have it coming.

And so did the minister. She responded by taking the Sunday Times to court for illegally obtaining her medical records. The newspaper admitted having copies but denied stealing them. The paper however was ordered to return her medical records, finding that they had been illegally obtained.

Now this does pose a legal-philosophical dilemma. When Mhambi was at law school we were posed what we thought were unlikely moral and legal conundrums. If you are in a boat and you need to eat one of the passengers to stay alive, what do you? Should the police be able to tap a persons phone, or even break into their house, or wait, even torture to get crucial information and doing so they could save thousands of lives. And so forth. Interesting examples to argue about over a cappachino.

The problem is what should be extraordinay academic examples is part of South African public life today. South African truth is stranger than fiction.

Journalists should not be above the law. The law however makes many exceptions to this general rule, almost always when the journalists action is in the public interest.

Is getting rid of the Minister in the public interest?

As Nicoli Nattrass has carefully argued in her recent book, Mortal Combat: AIDS Denialism and the Struggle for Antiretrovirals in South Africa, denialism is a multifaceted attitude that purports, in the name of rigorous scientific inquiry, to “question” the science of AIDS.

Evidence of denialism by the government of South Africa is found in the fact that Mother-to-Child Prevention Prophylaxis (MTCTP), as well as the ARV roll-out in the public sector, were embarked upon only after the Treatment Action Campaign took the government to court. In the MTCTP case, with the health minister present, the government’s counsel argued that nevirapine was akin to thalidomide. This the court found false and specious. Immediately after the constitutional court ruling on MTCTP, the health minister told the media, “I must poison my people.” (July 2002)

Using the Actuarial Society of SA’s 2003 model, Nattrass estimates that had programmes not been inhibited, about 340000 lives might have been saved.

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What doesn't move, the snow will cover

What doesn't move, the snow will cover
Originally uploaded by tetheredto.

Here they go again, my favourite Flickr photographers - Rose and Olive. This pic is lovely & strange I'm sure you'd agree.

But what is it with this intrigue in naked women, and is it art? In this weeks Guardian Germaine Greer, in response to a new exibition on Naked Potraiture, explained why women artists started taking their clothes off for their art .

a tenacious misfortune lodges in the loveliest bodies
Originally uploaded by tetheredto.

Mhambi as you may know has himself been intrigued, informed not to mention tittelated and charmed by the many intimate pictures by females of themselves found on Flickr. Some of it is unashamedly erotic and (self) exploitative (watch those page view counters grow) some gorgeous, viceral, disturbing and poetic.

According to Greer models in Renaissance nude paintings - even of female subjects - were almost always male, but by the beginning of the 20th century the naked portrait was becoming something of a female speciality.

Girl in red shoes
Originally uploaded by Miss Aniela.

"Only courtesans allowed themselves to be painted, naked and bejewelled, often horizontal, usually thinly disguised as goddesses and personifications, by the best artists of the day. The elegant female figures of Lucas Cranach the elder, nude but for massive gold chains and sumptuous hats, are almost certainly paintings in this genre. The painting by Raphael known as La Fornarina, with its deliberately erotic play of dark eyes and half-smile, is probably a portrait of a courtesan called Beatrice Ferrarese. Portraits of Diane de Poitiers naked outnumber portraits of her clothed; her naked effigy in stone still rules over her house at Chenonceau. Gabrielle d'Estrées posed naked nearly as often as Diane de Poitiers; the double portrait of her pinching the nipple of another naked lady (whose identity is the subject of some disagreement) is probably the best-known work of the Fontainebleau School, and parent to dozens of half-length portraits of naked ladies. All the painters of the Venetian school limned the beauty of the city's chief stock in trade, for the courtesans themselves, for their protectors, and for their clients to take home as mementoes.

speaks like dead fingernails
Originally uploaded by joycake.

The nakedness of respectable wives is not exposed to the public until very much later. Even the picture by Rubens that is usually supposed to be of his second wife, Hélène Fourment, emerging naked from a fur coat is probably no such thing, and the model for Rembrandt's Bathsheba may not have been his common-law wife, Hendrikje Stoffels.

gone crazy
Originally uploaded by calico courtney brooke.

If the art of the 19th century is revelation of the troubled self, the art of the 20th is revelation of the self as body. For reasons that feminism has explained ad nauseam, embodiment is a crucial issue for all women and creative women especially. In 1983 Edward Lucie-Smith wrote that the naked portrait was becoming a female specialty, citing Sandra Fisher's portrait of Ron Kitaj in Jerusalem, as well as naming Polly Hope, Maggi Hambling and Sarah Lloyd.

how many ways can i tell them that i love them?
Originally uploaded by dirtyfeet.

Women artists have always produced a disproportionate number of self-portraits; what is striking is how, in the early years of the 20th century, they took their clothes off to do it. In the beginning, the male artists more or less kept pace. When Paula Modersohn-Becker painted herself naked, she had Edvard Munch, Oskar Kokoschka, Egon Schiele and Lovis Corinth keeping pace with her. Since then, a horde of women artists who use their own bodies as their principal medium of expression has overrun the art scene. When Alice Neel paints her naked self, palette in hand, at the age of 80 she is doing much the same thing as Lucian Freud in 1993, painting herself as she might any other subject. The younger generation are doing something very different.

Originally uploaded by avolare.

When it comes to the work of Hannah Wilke, Francesca Woodman, Helen Chadwick, Jo Spence, Joyce Gunn-Cairns, Lucy Jones, Sarah Lucas, Tracey Emin, Elinor Carucci, Jemima Stehli, Joan Semmel and Alexa Wright, the artist's body is not just another subject among many. To list such work as naked portraiture is to maroon it in a lesser genre.

Originally uploaded by kometa_raketa.

Hammer (the organiser of the exhibition) seems unaware of the heroic dimension of Hannah Wilke's work, and includes her piece Super-T-Art as if it were no more than an elaborated projection of the artist's own likeness. For Wilke, her own body was an art object that she deployed in performances, videos and photographs, acting out internalised masculine fantasy. The capitulation was of necessity partial, and feminists found much to complain of in Wilke's exploitation of her own undeniable beauty. After Wilke was diagnosed with lymphoma, she documented the devastation of her beauty in much the same way as she had earlier enacted ritual mutilations. She remains an artist too important to be lumped in with pedestrian makers of naked portraits.

self-portrait waiting
Originally uploaded by olya.ivanova.

Wilke died in 1993; Jo Spence's journey through terminal cancer had ended a few months before. Again, we must conclude that her subject is not herself but the conceptual system in which women struggle to function. Helen Chadwick is another artist whose subject is not her elegant nude body but the world of illusion in which that body has its being.

Erotic Ambivalent & Cruel
Originally uploaded by CinemaCowgirl.

When Francesca Woodman turns her back to the camera and cowers in a filthy corner, we must question whether her practice can safely be called portraiture. Something far more significant seems to be happening, something that lines her up with Ana Mendieta, for example. We might as well call the woman-shaped depressions Mendieta made in the ground when she was working, and even when she leaped out of a window to her death, self-portraits, as lump Woodman in with the self-publicists. Woodman, too, committed suicide by jumping out of a window, three months before her 23rd birthday, leaving us hundreds of extraordinary photographs. Female body art is a high-risk business.

Originally uploaded by .séverine.

Naked portraiture is a poorly defined sub-class of a pedestrian genre, calculated to appeal to a culture both besotted with celebrity and visually illiterate.

In terms of abiding aesthetic value, Polly Borland's photograph of me naked on my bed, for example, has nothing to offer beyond the footling detail of the toile de jouy wallpaper of my bedroom, which is at least in focus, unlike my face. It was the photographer's whim to photograph me in my bedroom, and mine to wear nothing, because I own neither a nightgown nor pyjamas."

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Who's Che? Argentina's or South Africa's?

Tomorrow night South Africa and Argentina meet in the semi-final of the Rugby World Cup.

Argentinean captain Augustin Pichot has described revolutionary and freedom fighter Che Guevara as his country’s emblematic figure.

This week represents the 40th anniversary of Guevara’s death in the Bolivian jungle, but his fight and his rugby roots live on among Pichot and his teammates.

Pichot, in an interview with renowned French writer and Geuvera biographer Jean Comier, said: “I am proud to be his compatriot. I also know that during his guerrilla campaigns, Che used tactics that he learnt from our sport.”

The story of Argentina, South Africa and Che is an interesting one.

Che of course left Argentina and adopted Cuba, the revolutionary island as his home. Much like South Africa in Africa, Argentina was seen as too European in the South American sub-continent.

Cuba attracted Che because it was a willing fighter of colonialism. And this is where it gets interesting and ironic. Che's anti-colonial campaigns took him to the Congo where he was almost trapped and killed by South African mercenaries. Later South Africa and Cuba would do battle in Angola.

Che was a war monger, that is true. But he saw war as essential to achieve social justice.

All the while the Argentinians supported the white government in Pretoria. We and they send rugby teams to play with each other, while our and Cuba's young men fought each other all over the African continent.

The irony is this. Cuba had fought one of the first anto-colonial wars in 1896 against the Spanish. In order to bring the islands inhabitants to submission the Spanish built the worlds first concentration camps. Thousands of Cubans died.

The next big anti-colonial war was just about to kick-off and when the British best made plans went awry they turned to the Spanish example in Cuba: Concentration camps. Camps were set up all over South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War. 10% of the Afrikaner population died.

It is perhaps here that one could say that our General De la Rey and Che would have been keen friends. Both were anti-colonial freedom fighters. The difference was perhaps that De la Rey was a campaigner for peace and arguably a better guerilla soldier. Both believed in social justice.

How strange and sad then that Cuban and South African forces ended up battling each other in Angola.

But we were the ones that went astray, not the Cubans.

After more than a century of being told by the British that we and our language were no better than that of the Africans, we started to pretend we are European. And we would use Apartheid to try and keep us that way.

But we have mended our ways. The bottom line is this.

If Che was alive he would support South Africa and not Argentina.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Argentina and South Africa's very different battles

Mhambi is just back from a sunny Marseilles where I went to watch the Springboks play Fiji.

A few observations then from this trip:

1. An unfortunate amount of middle aged South African rugby supporters are obese. At times I was embarrassed, they looked like caricatures of Americans we see on TV.

2. South Africans, especially white ones, need to learn to sing and dance. Even England's stodgy renditions of "Swing low sweet Chariot" is more musical and charming than our chant "Bokke", "Bokke".

I was in mind to create a banner, "Ha-ba-na, Ha-ba-na, sal jy die Boere laat dans". (Ha-ba-na, Ha-ba-na, will you make the Boers dance) A pun on the controversial De la Rey song: Habana - a coloured player - leading the Afrikaners through throwing shapes. But through inertia I never did. What a pity. We are in need of a bit of coaxing.

3. The night before the game I watched France pull of the near impossible feat, beating the mighty All Blacks. We were in a bar in the French town of Arles. As the win became a possibility, the French crowd burst out in song with a passionate rendition of Les Marseilles, their rousing anthem. There was no English type qualms of nationalism or the like.

End of the game
Originally uploaded by fabdany.

4. There was another banner I wanted to make but never did. When Argentina beat the Irish I spotted a banner in the crowd that read: "Argetine existe". Argentina has for years been excluded by the elite Rugby countries. They were by beating big teams, demanding respect and recognition.

It immediately struck me to make one that read: "Les Pumas jouent pour exister. Les Springboks jouent pour rester vivant." (The Pumas play to exist. The Springboks play to stay alive.) I never made this banner either. It's weird, but making it felt like identifying yourself as a victim. Mhambi was not comfortable with that. Not yet.

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