Mhambi has been redeployed.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Mhambi has now moved

To There is no need to chnage your feed subscription, I shifted it to the new blog.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Mhambi.blogspot to move to

It's been a great two and a bit years since I started this blog.

Because of the Blogger platform limitations I decided a while ago to switch to a self hosted version of the open source Wordpress platform. But the longer I wait the harder this will be to do. No least since all the Google Pagerank juice I have acquired.

So this is my last post. I will keep this blog, and definitely link to it, but all new writing will go onto the new site.

So how popular was Mhambi?

Here is a pic of my Google analytics stats from April 2006 to now. (My tracking code was down for a month but the figures are still more or less correct).

Not bad hey. 24,371 Absolute Unique Visitors. Lets break this down a bit. How many people came how often?

Unfortunately almost 70% came but once, and never again (A number I hope to improve on with a Wordpress blog).

But quite allot (more than 3500) of people have visited the site more than 9 times. A whopping 470 people have visited the site more than 200 times. Whey! Want to buy Mhambi t-shirts guys?


So what's my most popular posts? Well that's a bit unfair, some posts have been out there for more than 2 years, while others are barely a month old.

Still its quite interesting.

The General De La Rey's music video trumped all. I suspect that most of those visitors that came once came for that.

Two of my better posts, His big white self and Quito: A background to a battle are in the top 10.

Other posts I rate like Are Afrikaner's the planet's worst racists?, The unbearable whiteness of being, and De la Rey the left wing icon also has done well.

Some posts that I would recommend you read if you have not includes Afrikaner vs Cuban: the irony of Cuito Cuanavale, Of generations, arseholes, Israel and volkstate and Apartheid reporting and moral double standards. It was written before the well publicised xenophobic violence.

With regards to this recent violence I am particularly proud of the analysis I did in The rainbow racists are nationalistic and not that poor and Mbeki's ANC is Africanist not Nationalist.

A number posts with racey pictures or about sexuality have done well, much better than they should have.

But when MP Andries Nel responded to a post on my blog, I decided its time to clean up and get serious - Mhambi has entered high society.

(I also noticed my older sister had subscribed via email ;) ).

Where did all my traffic come from?

Besides the obvious candidate, Google, a surprising amount came via, the Afrikaans link recommendation site.

, the South African version of Technorati has not been that great at all at driving traffic, that's despite Mhambi being in their top 30 South African political blogs for ages.

Other sites of note that drove traffic to me is Pierre De Vos's Constitutionally Speaking blog and Moneyweb who featured one of my articles, as well as a Dutch TV station's site.

As soon as my new site is live I will let you know.

In the mean time, a 25 part documentary series on the Angolan Border War called Grensoorlog starts on Sunday on Kyknet. It features over 200 interviews with ordinary grunts (including the very first Swapo insurgent), the operators like Jan Breytenbach, to the big boys like Pik, Chester Crocker and Gorbachov.

You can watch it over the Net at Kuduclub. I directed two episodes and researched and help write the program structure. Watch it if you can you'd be surprised how compelling this part of South African history really is, and how much of what happened you don't know.

And yes there's a whole two programs dedicated to Quito Cuanavale.


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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

South Africa is going down

Mhambi is really depressed. If you have been following this blog it's a no brainer to figure out why. South Africa is going down.

When things started to go awry round 1997 (ok, their were earlier signs but we all chose to ignore them), Mhambi was one of those who put the blame on the ANC's neo-liberal economic policies. I read Patric Bond, and nodded at the sage words of Sampie Terre'blance.

Spiraling crime, the lack of government could all be laid at Mbeki's laissez faire door. The fact that respected anti-apartheid campainers like Dennis Davis were being sidelined for criticising black apartheid sycophants should have warned us that more was rotten.

Unfortunately, the reality of the new racially exclusive Africanism of Mbeki and its pervasive acceptance amongst the black elite only dawned on many when he made his two nations speech. Even then the business world and whites choose to ignore it, the economy was doing just swell, and if you were wealthy so were you.

Aids? Well nobody really knew what to make of that. To ghastly to contemplate. It had me seething with rage and incomprehension.

Corruption? Debilitating. Well it was a Mbeki, a neo-liberal thing. The arms deal, Travelgate and so many more happened under his watch.

Zuma and the left seemed to be a universal panacea to me. He was not a racialist, not a denialist and he was left inclined. At last we could get the state to take care of its citizens.

It was not to be...

Then Shaik and the arms deal transpired, and Zuma was tainted. And the rape case.

Still I believed nothing could be worse than Mbeki. Besides the evidence against Zuma in the rape case was flimsy.

...but... the nagging doubts... technicalities aside, what does it say of Zuma's supporters that they still wanted a man so tainted as president? Is this a movement or a one man hagiography?

Some influential supporters would not wait any longer for us to make inferences of their character. ANC youth leader Julius Malema is threatening the Constitutional Court with promises to die for Zuma. Not to worry, don't take me literally he avers.

How are we to read that?

Even more worrying is Zwelezima Vavi's parroting of murderous threats. We are used to idiotic statements from the Youth league. We expected allot more from the leadership of an workers organisation like Cosatu.

Zuma's own lawyers have now stooped to a level where they are trying to degenerate the reputation of the court.

Now I am wondering. Is the Zunami a genuine left movement for the benefit of poor South Africans or a cult of personality ready to usher in a new elite?

Is the Zunami going to give us a social compassionate state at the expense of the rule of law? Unfortunately the first is always dependent on the latter.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

All of us must become activists in the service of our Constitution

It's time to take a stand.

Kader Asmal has drawn up a Deceleration in defense of our Constitution.

This significant moment in our history requires that all of us become activists in the service of our Constitution.Each of us must act as a steward, if not as an owner.

We, the undersigned, take note of recent threats to kill uttered by a youth leader and a trade union federation official in the context of cases presently before the Constitutional Court.

We abhor and reject such intimidatory and threatening tactics in a constitutional democracy such as South Africa.

Just as we condemn the anti-democratic and violent practices in Zimbabwe, we must condemn South African leaders who threaten to kill to achieve political objectives.

You can read it all here, or download it (PDF) sign it and fax it to (27) +11 250 2505.

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African Union has its hands full

Mandela yesterday, to his credit, referred to Darfur and South Africa, besides Zimbabwe as crisis hot spots. It so happens that the African Union will have a summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh from Monday.

In reality there's allot more going down at present. I have made a map with the main conflicts and crises under way in Africa ahead of the African Union summit.

Click on the icons for more details. (The information on this map come from here.)

Foreign policy magazine has also just release their Failed states index. 4 or the top 5 is in sub-Saharan Africa.

View Larger Map

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mandela - a tragic failure of leadership in Zimbabwe

"We watch with sadness the continuing tragedy in Darfur. Nearer to home we have seen the outbreak of violence against fellow Africans in our own country and the tragic failure of leadership in our neighbouring Zimbabwe."

Nelson Mandela condemned Robert Mugabe at a dinner in London last night. Judging from comments on UK websites many think its too little too late.

But as I posted yesterday, considering the history of antagonism between Mandela and Mbeki's ANC, I think people should cut Mandela slack.

It is also encouraging that he focussed not only on Zimbabwe, but on Darfur, and our own countries problems. Thabo Mbeki will no doubt be furious at Nelson's interference and 'pandering to the West'.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Is Nelson Mandela's silence on Zimbabwe OK?

Much is currently being made in the British Press of Nelson Mandela's visit to the UK for the concert celebration of his 90th birthday.

Not because of the planned star studded line up mind you. But because Mandela has not condemned Robert Mugabe's government of late. There's even talk on a mini protest by the likes of activist Peter Thatchel. Thatchel wrote in the UK Independent that Mandela's "silence is connivance". Christopher Hitchens has joined the chorus in Slate, asking, why the Lion has not roared.

I recently had the chance to speak to George Bizos, the heroic South African attorney who was Mandela's lawyer in the bad old days and who more recently has also represented Morgan Tsvangirai, the much-persecuted leader of the Zimbabwean opposition. Why, I asked him, was his old comrade apparently toeing the scandalous line taken by President Thabo Mbeki and the African National Congress? Bizos gave me one answer that made me wince—that Mandela is now a very old man—and another that made me wince again: that his doctors have advised him to avoid anything stressful. One has a bit more respect for the old lion than to imagine that he doesn't know what's happening in next-door Zimbabwe or to believe that he doesn't understand what a huge difference the smallest word from him would make. It will be something of a tragedy if he ends his career on a note of such squalid compromise.

Hitchens is wrong. A word or two, or a torrent of condemnation would make no difference whatsoever.

Mugabe has no time for Mandela. The Mbeki government, which has some influence over Mugabe, detests Mandela's interference more than it detests human rights abuses.

In 2000, at the the time of the first Zimbabwe farm invasions Mandela was trying his best to go quietly into retirement. But events in Zimbabwe and Mbeki's Aids madness proved too much. Mandela spoke out.

In May 2000 when Mbeki controversially embraced Mugabe at a trade fair Mandela attacked 'tyrants' who cling to power: 'We have to be ruthless in denouncing such leaders' he said.

Mbeki was livid.

Mbeki's disagreement with Mandela over foreign policy and quiet diplomacy had gone some way back. In 1995 When Mandela was president Mbeki persuaded an outraged Mandela not to condemn Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha (who wanted to execute writer Ken Saro-Wiwa) and give quiet diplomacy a chance.

When Abacha went ahead and executed Saro-Wiwa, Mandela, his voice quivering with anger, pledged that South Africa will lead the campaign to isolate Nigeria.

Mbeki thought that Mandela had made a mistake. What's more he was just pandering to the West. To Mbeki this condemnation by South Africa would only serve to loose influence with Nigeria. It turned out that Mbeki was wrong. Nigerians resented South Africa's silence. Abacha's regime would not last long.

There is no doubt that Mbeki resented Mandela deeply, and not just because of him being in the right. But because Mandela was larger than life. And because Mandela enchewed Mbeki's racial Africanism for reconciliation in South Africa.

As a result Mbeki tried to ignore Mandela during much of the time of his presidency. Mandela would joke that he had no trouble speaking to any president in the world but his own.

According to Mark GeVisser, many of Mbeki's acolytes believe that Mandela took up the issue of Aids in order to break with his quiet retirement and join battle with Mbeki. This he did at an Conference on Aids in July 2000 in Durban, saying the dispute over the cause of Aids was distracting the battle against it.

Apart from this comment Mandela refrained from publicly criticising Mbeki, instead he wanted to meet the President. After being fobbed off my Mbeki's government for over a year, Mandela took action.

In December 2001 while visiting a treatment center during World Aids Day he said Mbeki was "in dereliction of duty".

Finally in early 2002 he was granted a meeting, but according to GeVisser Mbeki was so dismissive that Mandela decided to take the most provocative action to date.

The Mbeki government was just busy appealing a court ruling compelling it to distribute an Aids anti-retro viral drug called Nevaparine.

On the night before Mbeki was supposed to give the annual state of the nation address, Mandela gave a prize for two South African doctors championing the drug. At the awards after loosing his place and stumbling over his words Mandela looked up and said: "At least I am willing to admit when I have made a mistake."

This was serious.

So serious that matter was duly debated in March 2002 at the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) with Mandela present. 'Speaker after speaker stood up to admonish the former president for being "undisciplined". No one came to his defence.

But although chastined, Mandela had won the Aids battle. In April 2002 the government, forced by the party changed it policy.

This, combined with his increasing frailty, says GeVisser made Mandela take his foot of the throttle. In July 2003 came the reconciliation between Mbeki and Mandela.

In a draft message for Mandela's 85th birthday Mbeki lauded Mandela as an example of "the triumph of the human spirit". When Mandela read this his eyes welled up with tears and he asked his assistant to get 'my President on the line.'

Should Mandela break the truce and speak out on Zimbabwe again? In Southern Africa there's little doubt where Mandela stands on the matter. His voice is unlikely to carry any weight with Mugabe, and serve only to antagonise Mbeki - the only person outside Zimbabwe that could lean on Mugabe.

I hope Mandela does say something Friday, but if he does not, I for one won't hold it against him. He has done far more than his fair share.

Mbeki and the South African government is the one that deserves the opprobrium. If there is a protest it should be outside the South African embassy and not in Hyde park.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

BBC looks at SA reconciliation success and failure

This week Mhambi's favorite radio station BBC Radio 4 has flighted two good documentaries about reconciliation in South Africa. The one, is positive and represents all we could hope to have achieved. It tells the story of musician Roger Lucey and security branch policeman Paul Erasmus. Paul effectively destroyed Lucey's career.

Today they are close friends.

The second, Race and Reconciliation, tells the depressing tale of the rise of racism in South Africa. It includes interviews with students from the University of Pretoria and the Skierlik killer's pastor. It was made before the outbreak of xenophobic violence but is good none the less.

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The bitterswet taste of Chinese chocolates

Mhambi read two interesting articles this week, both relating to the Chinese and blackness. The first is a Chinese reporters account on a blog of 'Chocolate City'. Chocolate City is the name Chinese taxi drivers have given to a 10 square kilometer area centered around Hongqiao, the area in Guangzhou China where Africans have settled.

Touch Africans in China
Originally uploaded by triciawang 王 圣 㨗.

'Many taxi drivers aren’t willing to take on “chocolate” customers. They don’t like the nose-irritating perfume, nor the constant bargaining on every trip. Some drivers will use excuses that “you’re too big, the car won’t fit you”, or “I don’t understand your foreign language”; but some don’t care, “driving anybody is just business.”

Based on official statistics, since 2003, the number of Africans in Guangzhou has been growing at 30-40% annually. Based on a report in the Guangzhou Daily, there might already be 100,000 in the community. They come from Nigeria, Guinea, Cameroon, Liberia, and Mali. Amongst these, Africa’s most populous country Nigeria claims first place.'

The other is news that South African Chinese will at last be considered 'black' under Black Empowerment legislation.

'The Pretoria High Court on Wednesday granted a landmark ruling that Chinese South Africans are to be included in the definition of "black people" in legislation designed to benefit previously disadvantaged groups.

Judge Cynthia Pretorius granted an order in terms of which Chinese South Africans are included in the definition of "black people" in the Broad-Based Economic Empowerment Act and the Employment Equity Act. Both laws cover Africans, coloureds and Indians.'


SA labour minister Minister Membathisi Mdladlana has been accused of racism for his remarks about the classification of South African Chinese as black.

He said he believed the Chinese who brought the application were targeting the benefits of black economic empowerment.

"That's why other people are having fears, because the fear is that they are business entrepreneurs. I hear people for instance saying, 'We are going to be flooded by everything from China.' We don't know whether that's one of their objectives, that they flood us and then we don't challenge them because they are coloureds. So I suspect that on the BEE front, there could be some serious challenges there."

"On the labour market, I don't think they have given it careful thought, because there they are going to have some serious difficulties in relation to the way they are treating the workers in the workplaces."

"Because in some workplaces, that we have visited together with some of the inspectors, they even refuse to speak English. They say, 'We can't speak English.' Chinese pretend to be dumb when they are not. We know they are not. Chinese are very clever people."

Mdladlana said 90% of Chinese factories inspected by his department had been found "wanting".

"I suppose if I stand up now and say I want to be classified as pink, so maybe a court will agree that you are pink, even if you are not pink."

The Star on Wednesday quoted Patrick Chong, chairperson of the Chinese Association of South Africa, as saying that he was disappointed by the minister's comments.

"I don't think he has missed the point; I think he has missed the entire community. The community that went to court are as South African as the next person and speak English and Afrikaans fluently. We had to learn these languages. Also, the South African Chinese don't own many factories. I can think of only four, and they are in the Western Cape," Chong told the newspaper.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Hlophe - the slope just got slippier

"But where's the hope going to come from?"...

Hardly two weeks have gone by since FW de Klerk in an BBC radio interview declared to a concerned Evan Davis that South Africa's legal institutions are sound, and that these legal institutions would be the ballast, the anchor of our ship South Africa, to the certainties and protection of constitutional democracy.

constitutional court
Originally uploaded by saajana.

Hardly had he and today we have the biggest Constitutional Crisis in the country's history. How did it come to this?

Is it because ours is a Constitution born slippy? A slip-shod job at the negotiation table in Kempton perhaps? Were all the legal nuts and safeguarding bolts not fastened? Did we not need more rules on legal decorum and regulations to bolster the importance and sanctity of the judicial institutions?

Sadly, Mhambi does not think it would have made a difference.

All functioning societies require the actors in it to buy into the social contract. To step back from the brink in times of friction for the sake of the whole. It's a kind of rational thing to do.

No state can police everybody. For the great and the good and the great unwashed alike, rules should be obeyed more by way of self imposed deference for them, than by enforcement.

It's supposed to be only crooks that the state has to hold in check through force. And these felons should not be able to count on silence and even acceptance from sections of the ruling elite and society at large.

But ours is a country where Police Chiefs and Judges toy with the law. Ours is a country where senior public officials denigrate their office by refusing to resign until they are proven guilty. Ours is a country where big men are more than big laws.

What exactly transpired when the Constitutional Court decided to release a media statement that they will complain against Judge Hhlophe to the Judicial Service Commission instead of just complaining is unclear as of yet.

But with the benefit of hindsight it was most probably a mistake.

But far greater was the mistake of the JSC not to give Judge Hhlophe the boot earlier, which was after all a clear cut case on more than one serious ground.

But Judges like Bernard Ngoepe seemed more concerned about how it would look to the public if it came to be known that a Judge had not filled in his tax forms than whether he was fit for office.

Transcripts of the hearings show that Judge President Howie asked whether Hlophe had declared his income from Oasis (the company he was earing money from for which he could not produce written consent) for for tax purposes.

When Hlophe sought to evade the question, saying “I have not had any queries raised from the tax authorities”, Howie refused to let him off the hook, demanding that he provide the relevant information to the commission.

Ngoepe later tried to get Howie to back away from this line of questioning, saying he was “quite uncomfortable about such direction because what if someone hears that he has not disclosed that in his tax returns, which means a criminal offence ...”

Er... yeah

That a Judge would approach members of the Constitutional Court Bench in such a brazen fashion and threaten them as is alleged (That he would be the next Judge President and therefor keeper of their judicial fortunes), boggles the mind. I mean if somebody had told me that would happen circa 1994, I would have thought them deranged or racist rabbit hole fantacists.

That the two new Constitutional Court Judges Nkabinde and Jafta allegedly approached by Hlophe now sent a statement to the JSE that they are in fact not complainants and don't intend to give a statement (other than this one), is of course also the stuff of rabbit holes - a very deep stomach turning one.

According to City Press, this came as a surprise to the rest of the Court. I bet.

The JSE has in the meantime asked for the Court whether they should proceed, it can not operate without evidence. That both of the statements made it to the public domain is also extremely peculiar and irregular as they were both intended for the JSE's and parties concerned eyes only.

According to City Press the Constitutional Court wants to fight on, claiming that the two Judges do not have a right to remain silent in this context. I would think that Legal Philosophy would support that view. How could two Judges' silence hold the countries future at ransom? Their silence makes a mockery of Constitutional Court Judges's roles as protectors on the Constitution.

And legal philosophy is what we will need to look to because this is legal terrain so new that little precedent exists.

Bayart points out in the Criminalization of the State in Africa that strong states is antithetical to how much of power is organized in Africa. Real power is often wielded in opaque networks behind the scenes. And power is all that matters.

Open Constitutional Courts have a tendency to get in the way of this kind of power wielded to benefit predatory elites.

This is another sign post on the road to hell.

We might well ask again, where will the hope come from?

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Monday, June 09, 2008

No Afrikaans - Would it be a loss to the planet?

The other day jewish South Africans on It's Almost Supernatural were in a tizz about a letter.

"The letter entitled “We fought apartheid; we see no reason to celebrate it in Israel now!” angers me on so many levels, but none more so than the official endorsement of the letter by the ANC."

Commentator after commentator criticised the ANC as if the end was nigh.

"The logic is quite simple. The ANC (rightly) hates supporters of South African apartheid. If they believe that Israel is an apartheid state then they will hate Israel and its supporters. So if you are a Zionist, let it be known, the ANC officially hates you and would probably prefer it if you left South Africa. If there was no affluence in the local Jewish community, I wonder whether we would still have our place in the South African sun?"

And then I replied:

'This is not logic guys. How can you infer that they would probably prefer that you all leave?

Get a sense of perspective. Jeez. Gary goes on about the murders in Israel. There's no accurate tally but it's been suggested that more than 2000 farmers have been killed in this country since 1994.

You guys are not half as threatened as Afrikaners are and your going on as if the world has ended. If I was you I'd concentrate on defending what you have already achieved - Israel - by making some justified concessions and ignore the ANC.

At the rate things are going now your going to be a minority in your own country and you'll be screwed. Get rid of the illegal settlements for your own sake.'

My point was that Afrikaners are more at peril, because it's a language based identity. The Jews have a state and besides they have a religious based identity and not a language based one. The children of Afrikaner emigrants won't speak Afrikaans.

But a certain contributer, Blacklisted dictator commentated pointedly:

""Afrikaners "have a language based identity" which would be lost by emigrating. If that is the case, it might be better to lose your culture rather than your life?...

If speaking Afrikaans is the be all and end all of your culture/existence, then you should perhaps have a re-think about the meaning of your life. However, I have a clever solution to your dilemma..learn Dutch and emigrate to Amsterdam. It is a great city. Much better than Pretoria or Stellenbosch...

If being Afrikaans is "more than a language", what else does it include?

I supposes, it is primarily direct contact with other Afrikaners in South Africa? The question still unfortunately arises whether Afrikaners have a sustainable future in South Africa. I believe that they don't. As I have previously stated all colours and all faiths should make plans to get out."

And then the coup the grace.

"Would it be a loss to me if this planet lost the Afrikaans culture?

I think that you should put this question in context. Many many cultures are being lost annually throughout the world. It is a sad fact of life."

Indeed, would it be a loss to the world? Would it be a loss to Afrikaners? Does it matter?

I decided not to answer the Blacklisted Dictator. Instead, inspired by Andries Bezuidenhout I made a little compilation of Afrikaans songs about emigration, loss, verlange and heimwee.

Andries was queried about Afrikaans by Wits Phd student Mandisa Mbali recently. Mandisa asked him why he sings in Afrikaans, a dying language? Andries replied, "We want to give it a beautiful funeral."


Afrikaner diaspora songs (best when flying or driving)

When things are going well...
Originally uploaded by j.dubb.


Rian Malan - Trekboer (About missing Africa but being scared of it)

Gert Vlok Nel - Epitaph - (About dreaming of being as far away as possible)

Koos Kombuis - Vêr Van Die Ou Kalahari (About feeling guilty about running away)

Valliant Swart - Banneling (About being an exile)

Andries Bezuidenhout - Bus na Toronto (Remembering the struggle and wars from the safety of the North)

Gert Vlok Nel - Moenie My Hier Vergeet Nie, Dixie (The angst of being left behind in a country where whitches are still burn't)

Gazelle - Die Verlore Seun (Bright lights big city - cause there's a whole world out there - Careful, includes hidden track)

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Friday, June 06, 2008

Mbeki's ANC is Africanist not Nationalist

...and that is the problem.

Nationalism - A double edged sword?

This week Ivor Chipkin, Wits Professor and author of Do South Africans Exist? roundly denounced African Nationalism in a commentary The curse of African nationalism published in the Mail & Guardian.

Chipkin argues that everything from the denial of the current spate of xenophobic attacks to the government response to Aids can be laid at the door of anti-white sentiment driven by African nationalism.

"It would not be an exaggeration to say that government responses since 1994 to as diverse a range of challenges as macroeconomic policy and HIV/Aids have been informed by a preoccupation with race and white racism in particular."

The reason for a pre-occupation by the ANC with whites is obvious he says. "Apartheid was a phenomenon of mass, institutionalised white racism sustained over many decades."

But says Chipkin, because whites held all the human and financial capital - economic development and racial redress were contingent on managing white racism.

This of course makes sense. But the problem was the wildly divergent ways of seeking redress and managing white racism between the Mbeki and Mandela governments.

Mbeki holds the view that whites can not escape their racism. In exile Mbeki even lobbied to deny Joe Slovo leadership of the South African Communist Party on the basis that he was white.

Before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission whites could, so the theory goes, "by recognising their personal and collective complicity in this violence, resurrect their humanity and enter the new South Africa."

But even the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which was to be whites' bapticism of fire is insufficient for Mbeki's racial view of the world.

Chipkin is on the button when he says that one of the key ideological tenets of the Mbeki administration has been - "if whites could not escape their racism, then they could not be trusted in public life." This is the essence of what the government transformation policy is says Chipkin.

This thinking is closely associated with "African nationalism" he ads.

"It is distinguished from the politics of non-racialism by its insistence that the post-apartheid government is a black government."

And he diagnoses the negative fall out of this kind "African nationalism". The dismissal of all criticism which is invariably equated as racism. And it works quite simply like this:

1. the government is a black government;
2. criticism of the government is, therefore, criticism of blacks; and
3. criticism is racist.

"The inability to come to terms with the agency of black people is, ironically, the hallmark of African nationalism. It is driven to reduce the actions of blacks to the machinations of others (white racists, in particular). Claims of a "third force" are merely instances of this political logic -- a refusal to come to terms with the racist nationalism of those committing ethnic cleansing throughout the country."

And this is where Mhambi disagrees.

Yes, it's endemic of not just the ANC but also white left-wingers like law blogger Pierre De Vos to present black South Africans as marionettes and to routinely abrogate them from responsibility. Rhoda Kadalie was right when she said that black South Africa has clothed themselves as perpetual victims that makes them oblivious to their own hate.

My problem with Chipkin's piece comes from the description of this phenomena as African nationalism and equating the xenophobic events in the townships with the government's ideology.

As I pointed out in another post it may well be a chauvinistic nationalism that drove the xenophobic violence. It may well be that the fantastical Africanist ideology of the government made for fertile xenophobic soil, by not controlling immigration. But the xenophobia should not be confused with the government's "dominant racially exclusive Africanist ideology" as Van Zyl Slabbert describes it.

Even if this racial Africanism tries to excuse the chauvinistic nationalism, the nationalism actually stands in opposition to much of Africanism.

I would argue that this Africanist ideology is not classically nationalist at all.

Anthony D. Smith of Nationalism and Ethnicty School at the London School of Economics, is considered one of the founders of the interdisciplinary field of nationalism studies.

According to Anothony Smith, the preconditions for the formation of a nation are as follows:

  • A fixed homeland (current or historical)
  • High autonomy
  • Hostile surroundings
  • Memories of battles
  • Sacred centers
  • Languages and scripts
  • Special customs
  • Historical records and thinking

Those preconditions may create powerful common mythology. It's easy to see why on a massive continent with so many divergent culture's, and such weak transport and communication links, the drive for one African Nationalism is a fantasy and out of kilter with reality.

Smith also posits that nationalisms are formed through the inclusion of the whole populace and not just elites. And nations can me multi-ethnic. It's easy to see how the joint fight, often organised on a civic basis, by the grass roots against apartheid could have contributed to a uniting of our different ethic mythologies. Combine this with labour mobility, good transport, and even achievements like winning the rugby world cup and it's easy to see how South Africans can begin to see themselves as a nation.

Although Smith thinks that nations often have some much earlier pri-mordial base that helps the building of the national myth he recognizes that nationalism as a powerful force first presented itself in the 19th century as civic nationalism. It was an age when the winds of change blew through Europe.

When the uniter of Italy, the nationalist Garibaldi arrived in England he was welcomed by English radicals as a progressive. Why?

Because this is the form of nationalism in which the state derives political legitimacy from the active participation of its citizenry, from the degree to which it represents the "will of the people".

This nationalist movement had it's base in the people, uniting them against autocratic rulers.

It is often seen as originating with Jean-Jacques Rousseau and especially the social contract theories. Civic nationalism lies within the traditions of rationalism and liberalism.

When Jacob Zuma was warned to wild cheers to shape up or ship out in a township in Springs, we witnessed perhaps the benign side nationalism introduced to Europe in the 19th century that is normally so lacking in Africa.

A nationalism that not only makes it citizens ask, what can I do for my nation, and not what I can get from my nation. It makes it's people citizens in the first place.

Compare this to Africanism with its woolly insistence of African unity and it's often criticised disrespect for Africa's difference. In this respect the Africanists are much like the Euro centric westerners they despise, they all see Africa as a country.

Africanism is elitist, and sees the whole African continent as the domain of the powerful. The people itself, nevermind their will is all but ignored. Practical evidence of this is for all to see. African leaders at African forums rarely choose the side of populations in opposition to their elite piers.

This clash between nationalism and Africanism explains the ANC and Thabo Mbeki's acute embarrassment when well organised xenophobic nationalism burst his Africanist dream. The people attacked were not white. And allegations of the attacks being driven by Zulu's not withstanding, the hatred united South Africans across - until recently very divisive - ethnic and regional lines.

Intellectually Mbeki would have been allot more comfortable if it was white South Africans being attacked. It would have fitted neatly into his grand narrative of incurable white racism as the source of the countries ills.

After all his biography, A Dream Deferred, references a favourite Mbeki poem used by him to sound a warning to whites in parlaiment.

What happens to a dream deferred?

It explodes.

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Friday, May 30, 2008

What happiness science can teach SA on xenophobia

Wealthy people have a greater potential to suffer than the poor.

A True Smile
Originally uploaded by ~FreeBirD®~.

Think that statement is controversial? Here is some more:

Being more wealthy than others, and particular your peers, makes you feel happier; Being poorer than others, particular your peers makes people unhappy. One of the greatest sources of happiness are sound relationships.

These and other revelations came from a book I recently read. The book Happiness, Lessons from a new science, from the pen of Richard Layard, a Professor in Economics at the London School of Economics makes claims that will annoy and please left and right wingers alike.

And it makes for interesting insights when applied to South Africa.

The study of happiness in economics is very new but growing rapidly world wide. But why study happiness?

Traditionally, especially in western democracies and Japan, politicians and economists have aimed for maximising economic growth. The argument was that the greater wealth of the population, the greater the feeling of well-being.

For some time now however, economists have noticed that although wealth have increased in the west, levels of happiness have not. In fact in most western countries levels of happiness have actually started to decline even when levels of wealth has grown.

It would seem that once a population reaches a certain level of wealth, becoming richer does not add to a sense of well-being.

Adaptation: As people get used to higher income levels, their idea of a sufficient income grows with their income. If they fail to anticipate that effect, they will invest more time for work than is good for their happiness.

Layard explains that reason why happiness is decreasing in wealthy societies is exactly that in attempts to earn more money, individuals have less time.

And less time means a decline in relationships in general and the quality of relationships. And quality relationships along with good health is one of the prime ingredients of happiness.

Another problem is that earning more often requires individuals to move and settle in different places. This movement and displacement is unsettling and also impacts relationships. It makes individuals unhappy.

A sense of belonging is also central to happiness. This militates against the idea of individuals alone in the big cosmopolitan city.

Layard's research is a strong argument for government intervention to make society more equal. As I mentioned above being poorer than your peers is one of the main causes of unhappiness.

Social comparisons: In contrast to what traditional economics predicts, happiness is derived from relative income as well as from absolute income. That is, if everyone gains purchasing power, some may still turn out unhappier if their position compared to others is worse. This effect may not turn economic growth into a zero sum game entirely, but it will likely diminish the benefits people draw from their hard work. In an economy where not only companies, but individuals are constantly forced to compete with each other, life and work are experienced as a rat race.

But Layard's studies suggests caution:

Loosing what you have, is a greater cause of unhappiness than if you are already poor. A state should therefore be sensitive when introducing re-distributive policies as it can make a part of the population very unhappy.

There are many indicators that in the period 1994 - 2002 South Africans have become poorer. But since 2002 when many socials grants were introduced or broadened, the poor's wealth have indeed increased.

But inequality has increased throughout 1994 to now, and none more so than in between blacks themselves. As the closest peers to poor black SA, the huge difference between rich black SA and poor black SA is a huge potential cause of unhappiness.

There is another key insight Layard provides that might help to explain some of our own xenophobic violence. As I have pointed out, places where the violence broke out were poor, but not the poorest townships in South Africa.

The science of happiness would suggest that once you have a developmental state that looks after the poor, this poor will be less willing to accept outsiders that threaten what they have.

This is wholely consistent with the findings published in the Sunday Times that Mozambiquecans and Zimbabweans are less xenophobic than their neighbours - the relatively wealthy Namibians or South Africans.

Layards research can also be used in other ways to advance the cause of restrictions on immigration. Unstable populations where inhabitants do not know each other, are unhappier places than familiar tight knit communities.

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De Klerk BBC Radio Interview

The BBC's Today program interviewed FW De Klerk (Audio) about recent events in South Africa this morning.

a book and a word3
Originally uploaded by madamofo.

He is asked, "where will the hope for political change come from?"

De Klerk is "not loosing sleep". He puts his trust in the courts and the new top leadership of the ANC he says who is showing encouraging signs.

He condemned the xenophobic violence but says the root causes is unemployment and crime.

Mr. De Klerk is a bit too sanguine and simplistic in his analysis me thinks. But I digress.

Asked whether the seeds of this violence lays in the legacy of apartheid, De Klerk retorts that apartheid was developmental and that such a claim would be a great over simplification.

Asked whether if apartheid ended earlier it would have made for a smoother transition in South Africa, De Klerk claimed that would not have happened because of the ANC links with and the risk of expansionist Soviet Communism.

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Beware stumbling blocks

The people shall govern - a man confronts Zuma in Bakerton

"If you are a stumbling block, we are going to kick you away"

Mhambi is perplexed. In vain I have waited for the media to cover this warning on their front pages. And nobody connected it to the Sunday Times research findings that claimed that nationalism is driving xenophobia.

We had one or two analytical pieces, but nothing matching its potential import.

Is this stark warning to the leader of a governing African party and the rapturous applause in which it was received, not totally novel on this continent?

As Mhambi reported at length in the post, Rainbow racists are Nationalistic on Sunday, what happened in Bakerton, Springs might possibly be the most striking example of an attitude that could change South Africa for the good.

Thabo Mbeki is a disgrace
How strange to see Mbeki visibly upset and outraged at the violence in the country.

What about your own citizens Mr. Mbeki? And how about the Zimbabweans in Zimbabwe? Or the Burmese? I don't understand you Mr. President.

Ah, I get it. The killing of other Africans by South Africans in South Africa have violated your Pan Africanist ideologies. Shame.

Mr. President you are a disgrace, it is all your fault.

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Anti-xenephobia march video

Here's a video of the march against Xenophobia in Hillbrow Johannesburg. In it you can see how happy these immigrants were to see South Africans take a stand.

You have to feel for these people, many who come from the most desperate countries imaginable.

There are many reports of thousands of Mozambiquecans leaving South Africa. Their country is stable and economy booming (although from a small base). Many other immigrants don't have that luxury.

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Yeoville still a haven for immigrants

A while ago I wrote about my meeting with Kleinboer, the award winning Afrikaans author that lives and has lived in exotic Yeoville, Johannesburg for many years.

The view from Kleinboer's porch

Kleinboer took me on a tour of his hood.

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

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

I also told you about the mustachioed Congolese gentleman that welcomed us to a Congolese bar.

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

"You must come back in 2010."

Kleinboer protested, but not too much.

During another visit we encountered one of those dramatic high-veld thunderstorms, and were forced to braai in Kleinboer's garage. It was here that a South African neighbor of Kleinboer told me in no uncertain terms.

"You just wait, one day we will rise up and kill all these foreigners."

The neigbour was evidently regarded as a well adjusted member of the community. With a lovely house, children and a wonderful wife.

I spoke to Kleinboer on the phone the other day. Apparently Yeoville has not seen any violence. Immigrants try and stay off the streets at night.

He opinioned its probably because in this area the immigrants are a majority. Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Kenya's The Nation on South Africa

One of the most interesting and correct assesments of the xenophobic troubles in South Africa comes from Kenya's Daily Nation.

"The country’s reputation is now in tatters, more so in Africa where it likes to be seen as special."

Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The rainbow racists are nationalistic and not that poor

Much have been written of late as to the root causes of the wave of xenophobic violence that has rocked the "rainbow" nation.

Press reports of comments by the marauding attackers themselves gave the reasons as follows:

* Foreigners commit crime;
* Take our jobs; and
* Sleep with our women;

Clever commentators have embellished on these prosaic themes: It's due to poverty, increased inequality, rising food prices, followed closely by government neglect and widespread corruption by the state when dealing with township dwellers. I endorsed and still do endorse these views to an extent.

Another view was expressed by the likes of Rhoda Kadalie. Kadalie argues that black South Africa has clothed themselves as perpetual victims which makes them oblivious to their own hate. Foreigners that are successful threaten this victim edifice.

Some pointed at a nation brutalised by apartheid.

Xolela Mangcu reckons the nature of the violence is the ANC's fault for using and creating a theatrical and terrifying form of violence to attain political hegemony.

Some commentators have pointed fingers at negrophobia. Black South Africans are hating themselves and projecting this hate onto people that are perceived to be more black.

Others have suggested that its a Zulu thing, and that Zuma's acendency have made the marginalised more bold.

Certain members of the ANC has pointed a finger at a "third force" with links to apartheid agents.

"Third force"

A third force
Let's deal with the last reason first. These events might have been organised. Yes.

But that does not make this some kind of a 'third force'. Mhambi worked as an investigator at the TRC, and South Africa did have a real 'third force' in action come 1989 to 1993.

How organised they were was never properly established but we do know this. From ordinary policemen to senior police generals were complicit in everything from destroying evidence against Inkatha operatives (like Themba Khoza who was caught red handed at a massacre in Sebokeng) and gangs, to supplying IFP members with Ak 47's and hand grenades.

Perhaps Krappies Engelbrecht is dishing out golf clubs from the back of his boot in Boksburg. But I doubt it.

All the other reasons advanced above are probably true to some extent, but there are also a few myths to be busted. Alexandra where this latest bout of violence started is not one of South Africa's poorest townships.

More importantly its one of the few townships surrounded by wealthy suburbs and therefore a very desirable address for job seekers. Most township dwellers spend a significant amount of their pay traveling to and from work.

So far there have been very few incidents of attacks in the Northern Province, South Africa's poorest region. Or in KwaZulu and the Eastern Cape, the other really poor provinces.

The Sunday Times publishes today two interesting pieces of research:

* The World Values Survey on International Attitudes to Immigration
* The Southern African Migration Project (Samp)

I have never met a nice South African
This song aimed at white apartheid South Africa is probably actually true for all of us.

We are according to these reports the most xenophobic nation in the world. Add that to the biggest man made hole as a feather in our cap.

The reports show that Mozambicans are far less xenophobic than we are. But it ads, they are also allot poorer.

The most unequal neigbours
We have the report says “perhaps the most lopsided regional economics in the world”, in which, per capita, Mozambicans earn 36 times less than South Africans, and Zimbabweans far less than that.

An imbalance that was greater even than that of some of the world’s most unequal neighbours – such as that between Mexico and the US, or Burma and Thailand.

It also mentions -

# An 81% food price hike in three years;
# The reaching of the “tipping point” of more than 25% of residents in informal settlements estimated to be illegal migrants;
# Widespread corruption at the Department of Home Affairs (Foreign nationals have been buying South African ID's and government subsidised homes for the poor.);
# The failure of the government to heed isolated xenophobic attacks and regular warnings from the SA Human Rights Commission, Idasa and the National Intelligence Agency; and
# “A perpetuation of negative stereotypes of migrants in the South African press” — and from public figures — according to a major report by Queens University, Canada, and Samp, which found that 52% of press reports on migration from 2000 to 2003 included negative references to migrants.

It confirms that all of South Africa is very xenophobic but: "For black South Africans, it’s personal. The 2006 World Values Survey showed that 21.3% of black South Africans did not want an immigrant living next door, compared with roughly 1% of whites, coloureds and Indians."

Black South Africans were significantly more suspicious of black African migrants than immigrants from Europe or North America.

Is this Negrophobia then?

Money makes you nasty
Well the report makes for some further interesting reading. It says that all of this happened in a context of an existing xenophobia.

One of the most severe in the world in fact - born of an acute nationalist pride over the “Rainbow Nation” and the fear that poorer African nations wish to plunder a rare African success.

And it says, South Africans are not xenophobic against all comers. Citizens of Botswana are sharp. But “positive views” of Zimbabweans, at just 12%, and Mozambicans, 14% and Ghanaians, at 11%, contrasted sharply with the 44% registered for Botswana.

Nationalism, the silver lining in a dark cloud?
And Botswana and Namibians, who earn close to the average South African wage, showed levels of xenophobia almost as high as our own.

The report says that South African xenophobia is a unique brand in Africa; distinct from that in Botswana. Its xenophobia of the nationalist stripe.

The questionnaire included an apparently arbitrary category – “It’s our country – keep out!”, which recorded scores of 3 and 4% for most SADC countries.

However, researchers were astonished to find that this was the most important factor for over 15% of South Africans – higher, even, than concerns about foreigners importing crime.

Could this outbreak of violence, actually be an unforseen part of what Idasa's Steven Friedman has called a flowering of democracy? He recently said in reference to the Zuma ascendancy:

"IS THIS the best of times, or the worst?"

Perhaps it is both.

And just today the studies assertion of South African nationalism was confirmed, as was its democratizing potential, when Jacob Zuma visited the trouble spots.

"While the leader was loudly welcomed by the crowd -- packed into a small community centre -- he received an unusually tough response as members demanded the government deal with the influx of foreigners.

A young man shouting from the back of the hall urged Zuma to ensure government kept out foreigners from neighbouring countries.

"You talk to (Zimbabwe President Robert) Mugabe, you talk to (Mozambique President Armando) Guebuza. Tell them to tell their people they must not harass us in our country. This is our country."

He said foreigners in the country were "riding on the gravy train".

"We are looking to make you our president (in 2009 elections) so beware. If you are a stumbling block, we are going to kick you away," the man warned, as the crowd erupted with deafening support for the sentiments."

Mhambi has written before on how lack of nationalism is one of the biggest impediments to African development. Could there be a lining around this dark cloud??

When nationalism first flashed onto the European scene in the 19th century, it was seen as a progressive force. Strengthening and uniting the people against the power of hereditary monarchy and ushering in democracy.

In his book The Criminalization of the state in Africa Bayart points out that - counter to popular belief - African culture is hyper individualistic. This individualism causes all manner of social ills such as corruption and state failure.

Nationalism is an antidote to the rampant individualism found in African culture.

It's an antidote to big-man syndrome, tribalism, corruption and predatory elites. But only if harnessed and channeled correctly. Nationalism can breed fascism in certain conditions. Many of whom are all to present in South Africa.

If this survey is correct, we should draw the following conclusions. The xenophobes are acting rationally on what they believe is true. They acting in concert because of government inaction.

This report suggests that if the white cliffs of Dover towered just South of the Limpopo, and if the English border control resembled a sieve, and their police and home office was corrupt, then perhaps Conservative British MP Enoch Powell's Rivers of blood speech would have become true. Yes, even in England's green and pleasant land.

Western lefty inspired slogans adopted by our anti-xenophobia marchers with slogans like "no one is illegal" are romantic but misplaced and insult the intelligence of the poor.

Yes, the US and Europe can afford and carry many more unskilled migrants, but South Africa, whose future is far from certain can hardly be a successful developmental state without population control.

If South Africa uplifts its poor as the new pro-poor ANC intends, the impetus will be even greater for others to come.

Or look at it this way. If South Africa with a GDP of more than 40% of the continent fails and becomes a failed state it will drag all of Southern Africa and parts of East Africa with it. South Africa surely will fail if it can't better the lives of its poor. The levels of inequality is not politically sustainable.

So what should we be campaigning for?

We should be campaigning for anti-corruption measures, proper border controls, efficient officials, political asylum, prosecution of xenophobic attacks, action on the crisis in Zimbabwe, for the legal status for those foreigners that have been living here and attracting immigrants with skills.

We could also conclude that the attacks won't readily spread along tribal lines, and also will not become black on white.

That is if the ANC stops it's startling non-management and non-rule, if they don't, all bets will be off.

Zuma can not say he has not been warned.

For another interesting perspective, hear what Professor Sakhela Buhlungu has to say. (Audio)

Sphere: Related Content

Friday, May 23, 2008

Violence reaches Cape Town

Die Burger reports that at least one Somali was killed last night in Cape Town, while up to 50 shops were looted. Foreigner's shops were burnt to the ground in Brits, North West Province, and 5 Somali shops were torched in Knysna.

News 24 also has a Google map plotting where incidents have taken place.

Sphere: Related Content

K-words are stil alive

Originally uploaded by jaysen.

Mhambi found these anti-xenophobia posters on Flickr.

The intent is good, but Afrikaans speakers might feel it's prejudicial to them. Fokof is Afrikaans for Fuck off, and Kaffir came to South Africa via Afrikaans from Arabic.

MaKwerekwere is the derogatory onomatopoeic word South Africans use for foreigners.

Or is the end justified?

PS: Don't show this to Xolela, he'll be really upset.

Sphere: Related Content

The New Apartheid - YouTube video

Mhambi has found this incredible documentary made two years ago by Channel 4 in the UK. Startling in fact. Nothing in it is news to me but its weird to see what we South Africans have become, on screen.

And in the context of what has happened afterwards - the xenophobic eruption - even more compelling viewing.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, May 22, 2008

PASSOP civil society is back and this time it's personal

SATAWU made us proud when they refused to unload Mugabes's guns. Before them the Treatment Action Campaign made us pround when they forced government (and still are) to provide anti-retrovirals for HIV sufferers.

xenophobia Wits demo
Originally uploaded by Christo Doherty.

Tomorrow Cape Town will host a vigil against Xenophobia. Mhambi calls on all my readers (all 98 of you who come every day, yes and you to Afriforum & Solidarity supporters) that's in Cape Town to try and go.

Civil society is building up a head of steam. And we sure need it. The next stop? The battle for the Scorpions.

We need to make the biggest statement that we can. We need to get the message out that we are against xenophobic violence. Please bring your partner, child, work-mate, friend, whomever you can think of bringing along. We need to lift the atmosphere of fear! We need to persuade ourselves that poor turning against poor is not the answer. The poor need to be united to collectively solve their problems.

Please print out this e-mail and make posters to place up where you work, learn or live for the benefit of those without e-mail. Place this advert on or in any forums you are aware of.

AbaForeigners AbaRefugees Sawubona iSouth Africa ! Foreigners and Refugees are Welcome in South Africa!

Called by Cape Town Action Forum Affiliates: - COSATU, SA Municipal Workers Union, National Mineworkers SA, Walmer Estate Civic, Delft Anti-Eviction Campaign, Right to Food Campaign, Keep Left, APDUSA and others

Outside Parliament, Plein Street corner of Roeland Street on Friday 23 May 2008 from 5pm to 6pm

Die stryd duur voort!

Sphere: Related Content

Reitz condemnation shows the road to xenophobia

"And so when that video from the University of the Free State emerged, the government, the media, writers and certain institutions went to town, condemning the entire university as racist, barbaric and anti-black, instead of doing a thorough investigation into how the video was made, why black women participated, and why it was released at the time it was."

Mhambi is a bit busy, but I thought I would link to two of my favourite commentators posts on our recent racist... oops sorry, xenophobic violence.

The above quote comes from the brave pen of Rhoda Kadalie. Kadalie argues that black South Africa has clothed themselves as perpetual victims which makes them oblivious to their own hate.

She continues:

"This one-sided portrayal of victimisation perpetuates and feeds into the “woundedness” of black people and breeds an entitlement often lacking in refugees and immigrants. It breeds an ethos in victims that they can never be wrong and, given the circumstances, are “owed” a livelihood. And when refugees and foreigners leave their countries for whatever reasons and come here and make it, it challenges the victim status quo. The lesson these outsiders teach us — not to depend on the government and not to expect handouts — goes against the inclination of those done hard by to find a solution to deprivation."

My other favourite commentator with the sharp suits, Mr Xolela Mangcu chimed in. He mentions what many other commentators have as why the violence is the governments own fault. Corruption, lack of service delivery, a whole plethora of factors that amount to this - non governance. And then Xolela says:

"the violence is the leadership’s own creation in one other important way. Long before we had xenophobia, the leadership of the liberation movements planted a violent culture in our communities in the 1980s. They legitimised violence as the mode of political practice in the townships in the name of organisational and ideological hegemony. There is something about this violence reminiscent of that period. This is the impi-like organisation, the open brandishing of weapons, the dancing around burning people. The criminals who were recruited into the revolution are now in control of the state.

The past is making its presence felt in a frighteningly ferocious way. And that is because the brutalisation of any group of people is not a tap the leadership can turn on and off as it pleases. And now they are afraid of their own political Frankensteins. What we have been experiencing has been as much about xenophobia as it has been a demonstration that we do not have a government in this country. We do not have a leadership that can attend to the wounded and brutalised soul of this nation."

Tendai Biti of the Movement for Democratic Change will deliver a lecture on the crisis in Zimbabwe and the related xenophobia at the Wits University Great Hall at 6pm tonight. Go if you can.

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Indololwane - your elbow can save your life

Yfm reports that Indololwane, the Zulu word for elbow is being used to identity foreigners in South Africa.

Says Yfm:

"Knowing this word could have saved hundreds of people from being hacked to death in so-called black-on-black violence.

The same word is back and darker skinned Africans in Jo’burg better know it and pronounce it correctly."

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, May 19, 2008

Death revives Live in Joburg video

Mhambi almost forgot about Neill Blommenkamp's Live in Joburg video. But after the xenophobic violence around Johannesburg of the past few days, it's as relevant.

A mixture of actual SABC TV footage, live action and excellent special and computer generated effects makes for great sci-fi social commentary.

Sphere: Related Content

Xolela Mangcu - all human beings are not capable of racism

Mhambi really likes Xolela Mangca, South Africa's celebrity intellectual-cum-assassin. His acerbic assault on and sharp analysis of Thabo Mbeki was entirely warranted and long overdue.

Xolela Mangcu
Originally uploaded by BOOKphotoSA.

But I find his recent hairsplitting statement about the current violence very odd. He said in the article Calling a spade a pick digs a big hole.

"...which tends to be the way many white people treat racism. It is simply the view that all human beings are capable of racism. This then makes it easy to dismiss the black experience of racism by simply saying “you were not the only ones affected”. What I would counsel Wolpe is that we need to respect the integrity of all of our historical experiences.

Racism was a specific historical experience invented by white people to subjugate black people. The Holocaust was not racism, it was the Holocaust; ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia was not racism, it was ethnic cleansing; genocide in Rwanda was not racism, it was genocide; tribalism in Kenya was not racism, it was tribalism; xenophobia in Alex is not racism, it is xenophobia."

OK then Xolela. Can we have a term then for discrimination against Palestinians by Israel, what Afrikaners suffered from the British, a name for the massacres of Matabele's in Zimbabwe. The discrimination against Tibetans by the Chinese.

To say that a view that all human beings are capable of racism is wrong is very odd. Unless you want to use it to justify something, something horrible.

I noted that on the UK' Guardian's Cif blog site today somebody called Horrorshow commented in relation to our violence:

I find it interesting that mainstream news organisation in Britain often describe "native" white attacks on white immigrants as "racist", example.

Yet they have NOT used this terminology in reporting the current violence in South Africa, instead calling it "anti-immigrant" or "xenophobic".

Since this is treating what is essentially the same situation differently on the basis of skin colour this double standard of the BBC and others would indeed meet the definition of racism itself. So what does it say about how the British media establishment view the concept of racism and do not apply it equally irrespective of skin colour?

What do you make of that Xolela? Seems the media agrees with you. The same media that ignored these racist oops... sorry xenophobic attacks for months.

It's true to an extent however, I myself have argued that not all examples of racism are the same.

But let's not split hairs when people are dying.

Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Time to call the army?

A policeman pulls a blanket off an unidentified man who was set alight in Reiger Park, south of Johannesburg. (AP)

Mhambi is refreshing his news feeds, and the news is getting scarier and scarier. Should the government not deploy the army? We need to stop this violence against foreigners now.

A policeman guarding a victim of the attacks in Johannesburg. Photograph: Kim Ludbrook/EPA

Mhambi this evening spoke to a friend in the know and they cautioned against the use of the army. The SANDF is not trained to deal with these kinds of situations and there are serious question marks over the armies current training in general.

Much better to deploy more police apparently. The Police have more local knowledge and can deal with the subtleties of each situation. The army is a blunt instrument and could make the situation worse.

But perhaps the SANDF could be deployed to guard certain areas while the police go to work on the mobs.

Imtiaz Sooliman of the Gift of the Givers, a charity group that has been handing out blankets and food to affected people all week, said his organization had been called in to help at a police station in Germiston, east of the Johannesburg city center.

He said that violence had raged for four hours overnight and that by the end of it 2,000 people were waiting for help.

"My staff said it was like a war zone," Sooliman said. "There was lots of police, and stones being thrown. They said it looked like the police couldn't cope."

Eric Goemaere, the head of Médecins Sans Frontières in South Africa, said his staff was helping to treat people with bullet wounds and back injuries - the result of being thrown out of windows.

He said that the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg, home to hundreds of Zimbabweans, had been under siege overnight and that the police had told people they should be prepared to defend themselves.

"It's a crisis," Goemaere said. He called on the government to declare Zimbabweans - there are believed to be up to three million in South Africa - as refugees and give them proper protection.

Apparently the Johannesburg CBD is a war zone.

PASSOP's Braam Hanekom has expressed fears that the violence will spread to the Cape.

People Against Suffering Suppression Oppression and Poverty (Passop) spokesperson Braam Hanekom said what foreigners in Alexandra had experienced was appalling.

Hanekom went as far as comparing the treatment foreigners received in parts of South Africa to the treatment the Jews suffered in the early years of "Hitler's rule in Germany".

"They are hunted down, searched for their IDs and chased away. The state needs to take a fair share of blame as they are the ones who do not give the immigrants the necessary documents they need to live in this country.

"By not giving these immigrants the necessary documents, communities interpret that as if they are criminals. We've got a huge problem of thousands of immigrants not having documents to be in this country."

He said he hoped the latest string of xenophobic attacks would not spread south, although he feared there was a good chance they would.

Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, May 15, 2008

In defence of racist Alex

Is black SA irredeemably racist? No, of course not.

Many of the mitigating reasons listed this week as to why the brutal xenophobic attacks happened, have more than a grain of truth in them.

Alexandra and places like Diepsloot and the Brazzaville settlement in Atteridgeville are desperately poor. As in so poor you won't believe.

Other commentators mentioned that South Africans at the bottom of the social ladder are getting even poorer, and that must also contribute. Job creation has just not kept pace with the growth in the population.

Add to this potent mix of deprivation the nearly doubling of essential food commodities like cooking oil.
Down Town Alex

Are foreigners involved in crime? According to security specialist Anthony Altbeker many are. Almost all of the individuals involved in the massive shoot out with police in Jeppestown that left four policemen dead were indeed Zimbabwean. The fact that we accord foreigners no legal rights whatsoever is bound to make some of them loose canons in an explosive society.

More importantly, the world over, even in comparatively wealthy and proudly tolerant England, an influx of strangers into an area causes friction. It breaks down public trust. It's fertile soil for the nasties. Read this How racist in Britain if you want a lowdown.
Taxi: Alexandra to Ranburg and Back

And Winnie Mandela had a point when she said it's because of a failure of service delivery.

Not just a lack, but there's untold corruption going on. It's service delivery in reverse. And the poor, being the weakest, bear the brunt.

Corruption like this by the police erodes the social fabric and trust like very little else does. It makes Margaret Thatchers' harsh brand of "there is no thing like society" capitalism feel like a caring hippie commune in comparison.

Society has broken down in Alexandra. The sun may shine but it's Dickensian in the extreme. Life is nasty and brutish, and you can depend on nobody.

No wonder the crowds did not respond the the ANC leadership's calls for three whole days.

None of this really excuses the levels of violence and hatred on display.

But the biggest defense I could offer for the people of Alexandra's racism is this: Our governments racism.

In this country there are people with the skills to be effective town clerks, detectives and bureaucrats. People with skills to make the governments social programs work.

But they are the wrong skin colour.

For another perspective, read Reggies blog.

Aubrey Matshiqi has also written a great article on Alex.

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