Mhambi has been redeployed.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Reitz students 'gedra hulle soos varke'

Pissing on Afrikaners - Reitz racists

Mhambi had to say that in Afrikaans. The Reitz students behaved like pigs. If you don't know this already, white students at the University in Bloemfontein have humiliated some university workers on video, making them eat and drink food that had been urinated in. These workers are people who's trust the students obviously had, and had grossly deceived to make the video.

This despicable act, demonstrated clearly the kind of racism and arrogance found amongst some Afrikaners. And now its up to Afrikaners to incisively clean up this mess else it will be a festering sore. These guys should be punished and punished good.

As an Afrikaner I am angry and ashamed. I am glad Afriforum and the Vryheidfront has condemned these acts in the way they have. The more protest from Afrikaners the better. In fact Afriforum should organise a march against this behavior and ask for the strongest possible sanction.

AfriForum, the civil rights initiative linked to the Solidarity trade union, strongly condemned the incident. "The group of students' actions was inexcusable," said Kallie Kriel, CEO of AfriForum, adding he was sure that the small group's behaviour would be condemned by the majority of the students of the university.

He hoped the incident would not be used to portray all students at the university in a bad light.

Freedom Front Plus (FF+) youth leader Cornelius Jansen van Rensburg distanced the organisation from the "atrocities screened on a video reportedly produced at the University of the Free State". He said in a statement that the FF+ youth would never condone nor justify the violation of the human dignity of any person.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Expanding Israel is heading for apartheid

US foreign policy is utterly in the grip of a loose but extremely effective group of pro-Isreal lobbyists. And this is not only bad for the US of A, but for Israel as well.

"Shema israel"
Originally uploaded by ido1.

Mhambi attended a speech on Friday evening by John Mearsheimer, who recently together with Stephen Walt, published a highly controversial book called 'The Israel lobby'. Controversial it should not be. It was a well argued but actually rather obvious point he made.

But the fact that it is so controversial just underscores his point. The lobby is stifling an open exchange of ideas around Israel's future.

Unconditional support

Mearsheimer argues that the USA is the only country with any real influence in the region. Consecutive US Governments have thought that the only possible successful resolution of the conflict, is a solution based on the Two States, and would entail the creation of a viable Palestinian state.

Yet even though Israel is the largest recipient of US Aid in the World, has been shielded by the USA in the security council, against express US wishes, Israel has continued to build and expand on Palestinian land.

So, what's the rational explanation for this unconditional support that the USA is giving Israel? It's not justified on strategic grounds. On the contrary, it's a strategic liability because the unconditional support is creating considerable resentment towards the USA in the Muslim world and elsewhere as well.

It can not be explained by US electoral pressure either. Surveys done in the US have shown that although US citizens have sympathy for Israel, this sympathy is not unconditional. They would rather their be a resolution to the Middle East conflict.

Is it not justifiable due to the fact that Israel is a democracy? There are many democracies, like Spain, and New Zealand, and they do not get unconditional support he argues.

So what explains this seeming irrational US foreign policy? The lobby he says. Who is this lobby? They are an extremely successful example of a typical American form of political organization. Another good example is the National Rifle Association.

The lobby consists of many groups, they are not centrally controlled, but are extremely well organized, well funded and very influential. Many of the are in fact Christian Zionists and other fundamentalist Christians and not Jews. And one of their most effective weapons is the smear.

Like for instance calling critics of Israely policy anti-Semites. As an example Mearsheimer mentioned Jimmy Carter, who's book which compared Israely policies with apartheid, was greeted with accusations that he is in bed with clansman David Duke.

So effective is the lobby, that no sitting US politician would dare criticize Israel. A few have, but very few have survived in their posts or progressed in their careers.

The lobby is harming Israel

But the result is not only bad for the USA, its actually harming Israel as well. Why?

Israel has basically three options if it does not choose the way of the Two State Solution and continues to pursue the path of a greater Israel.

The first is that greater Israel becomes a regular democracy affording all its citizens, including the Palestinians equal rights.

But says Mearsheimer, if he was a Jewish Israeli he would not be too excited by this option. Bi-national states do not have a very good track record. And what's more, soon the Palestinians will outnumber the Jews. (I would hazard a guess that not many Afrikaners would endorse this option as a sensible course for Israel to take.)

The second option is a kind of ethnic cleansing. This does not have to necessarily mean mass killings. But the expulsion of all the Palestinians from Palestine. It's unlikely that the Palestinians would leave without considerable resistance though. I say.

The third option is to have the Palestinians as second class citizens, so that they can not gain power even if the Jews are a minority. This option inevitably leads us to apartheid state.

Not great choices are they?

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

The FBJ's intolerance and exclusivety reminds of Afrikaner Nationalism

Mhambi has for some time now been going on and on about the creeping racial exclusiveness among black South Africans. As the latest furore about the barring of white journalists from a meeting of Forum for Black Journalists (FBJ) rages, it might be worth remembering similar happenings in our past.

David Goldblatt
On Monumentkop at dawn: preparing for the parades and speeches of the Republic Day festival, Pretoria, Transvaal (Tshwane, Gauteng), 31 May 1966.

And unfortunately, if your an Afrikaner, it makes for uncomfortable reading. If your a black South African it is instructive and so to if your an English speaking white.

Alan Paton, South African liberal and writer, could speak Afrikaans fluently. In 1938 he was excited about the centennial celebrations of the Great Trek. Knowing Afrikaner history, he had sympathy for the resurgence of Afrikaner Nationalism.

On the 16th of December ox wagons would converge on Pretoria from all over the country. This day would also mark the opening of the big Voortrekker Monument, on a koppie just outside of town.

Patton decided to go. He even grew a beard and got him some Voortrekker dress. He completely got with the program, besides the beard and the clothes, he organised two ox wagons for his group. Flying the Vierkleur flag of the defeated Transvaal Republic, Paton rolled into Pretoria. In 1970 he wrote:

"We arrived on a hot day, and I went straight into the showers. Here I was greeted by a naked and bearded Afrikaner patriot, who said to me, 'Have you seen the great crowds?' I said 'yes'. (There were a quarter of a million people there.) He said to me with the greatest affability 'Nou gaan ons die Engelse opdonder'. [Now were gonna give the English hell].

The great day was full of speeches, and theme of every meeting was Afrikanerdom, its glories, its struggles, its grief, its achievements. The speaker would only have to shout 'vryheid', to set the crowd roaring, just as today a black speaker who shouts 'Amandla!' [power], would send a black crowd roaring.

A decedent of the British 1820 settlers who gave Jacobus Uys a Bible when he set out on the Great Trek was shouted down because he gave his greetings in English as his forebears had done."

They were not asked to leave like the white journalists in Sandton, but it was "a lonely and terrible occasion for any English speaking South African who had gone there to rejoice in the Afrikaner festival."

"After the laying of the stone I left the celebrations and went home, I said to my wife, 'I'm taking off this beard and I will never wear another'. That was the end of my love affair with Nationalism, I saw it for what it was, intolerant, self centered, exclusive."

A part of this story makes me feel ashamed. But a part makes me think, after what had been inflicted on Afrikaners by the English, what did he expect from such a big crowd?

Part made me think, why did some Afrikaner leaders, not show others the folly of their ways? After all, Paton was associating with Afrikaners in a way that very few English people did.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

No creeping racial exclusive ideologies? Really?

In the light of my recent post on black racism, jvr and my recent debate as to the real colours of the ANC, and what Van Zyl Slabbert said a while ago, that we are seeing a creeping racially defined Africanist ideology, I read this today with interest.

Chairperson of the newly formed forum's steering committee Abbey Makoe, said the FBJ was an association "who would politically in the South African context be defined as of African descent, coloureds and Indians".

Makoe said the body's "modus operandi" was to "redress inherent past imbalances which affect journalists as they attempt to work in the public domain".

Any member of the media could join the forum, as long as they are of African descent, coloured or Indian.

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Originally uploaded by Wildebeast1.

Trompsburg is a peaceful little town in the Free State where a number of friends of mine bought this house for R250 000 (less than £15 000's or $30 000).

The town has one famous inhabitant, writer Karel Schoeman. I have only read one of his books, By Fakkelig, which was about the Irish struggle for freedom from the British, and an allegory for the Afrikaner but also black South African's struggle for freedom.

According to my friends, the best book written in Afrikaans the last couple of years is also one of Schoeman's books - Afskeid en vertrek. (Take leave and go)

In The New York Times George Packer described it thus:

" "I AM trying to keep a soul alive," says the dying narrator of J. M. Coetzee's novel "Age of Iron," "in times not hospitable to the soul." In the violence and decay of Cape Town, the setting of Karel Schoeman's "Take Leave and Go," the time is now and the times are the concern of the novel: how one can continue to live inwardly, love and create in a society that appears to be disintegrating."

Do even Afrikaners have a right to their Proust?

I was quite struck the last paragraph of Packer's review and what it shows about views of Afrikaners circa the 90's.

"Those readers of "Take Leave and Go" who expect some token of protest or guilt will be disappointed; perhaps even protest and guilt are assumed. Adriaan and his friends aren't ignorant, nor are they apologists. They're bewildered by the destruction going on around them; they neither approve nor disapprove, but find themselves painfully estranged from a country they once knew.

Do even Afrikaners have a right to their Proust? Do their inner lives, too, deserve autonomous treatment? I would have had doubts; I would have heard the passionate voice of Nadine Gordimer proclaim the unity of private and social destiny. But then I read Karel Schoeman."

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Was I wrong about the Zunami?

Mhambi has gone on record a number of times that Jacob Zuma might be a better president than Mbeki. He would struggle to do worse. He is more approachable, direct and that he would be a better candidate for the South African poor, because he is left leaning.

Well, is the new ANC more left? Or are we due for some more talking left walking right?

Two recent pieces of commentary and the actions of the ANC themselves have made me have serious doubts.

John Kane-Berman said earlier this week that several commentators argued that the real opposition to the government now comes from within the ruling party, not from opposition parties.

"There is a grain of truth in this, but it is mainly nonsense.

...on matters of policy, the Mbeki government seldom faced much opposition from either his parliamentary caucus or his party at large. Former education minister Kader Asmal last year spoke out against President Robert Mugabe. This belated lone voice aside, Mbeki’s policy of appeasement towards Mugabe has all along had his party’s support. Steal elections, ruin the economy, destroy the rule of law, squash human rights and ruin lives — none of this stopped the ANC, taking its cue from Mbeki, from cheering Mugabe when he jetted into town.

Nor was there much dissent on AIDS. Mbeki flirted with dissident theories and employed an equally misguided health minister, but nobody in the ANC spoke out while they thus trifled with people’s lives.

No dissent either when the government stifled the probe into the 1999 arms deal by the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa). Scopa started off its probe in a non-partisan manner. Then Mbeki and the deputy president, Jacob Zuma, weighed in with the help of ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni and the acquiescence of the speaker, Frene Ginwala. Mbeki was not prepared to permit an independent investigation.

Nobody in the ANC was willing to stand up for the right — and duty — of Parliament to hold the executive branch of the government to account for its expenditure of the public’s money. Since holding the executive to account is a parliamentary function prescribed by the constitution, this means that the majority party’s willingness to stand up for the constitution is open to doubt.

Nor is there much prospect that anyone in the ANC will object to plans to destroy the independence of the Scorpions or to undermine that of the judiciary.

These are all matters of principle, not party-political issues. But there has been little dissent on key areas of policy either. This includes the pervasive policy of racial preferencing. If black empowerment policies have been criticised, it has been on the grounds that they benefit an elite rather than the poor.

In Beards only sign of a move to the left Aubrey Matshiqi agreed:

This shift to the left is supported neither by the resolutions of the ANC’s December conference nor by the content of the budget speech, unless an increase in social spending should be seen as the victory of Marxist-Leninist-Hugo Chavezist thought over Hugo Boss-inspired policy orientations.

In my view, any shift in the short term that may occur in the ANC’s economic policy trajectory will most likely fall within the 1996 macroeconomic paradigm. This flows from my belief that the clash between newly elected ANC president Jacob Zuma and former party head Thabo Mbeki was more about a rift within the establishment and less about tensions between the establishment and an anti-establishment impulse.

Further more, the forces that united behind Zuma’s presidential ambitions should not be given some mythical leftist agenda — the support for Zuma by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) had no ideological basis.

Zuma is much closer to Mbeki in ideological terms than he is to Zwelinzima Vavi of Cosatu and Blade Nzimande of the SACP. This is why he went to the World Economic Forum in Davos and told investors there would be no change in economic policy.

Aubrey is also concerned about the increase in the budget surplus because of unspent Government money.

"What I know is that I am less excited about the budget surplus than I was before. It seems a large chunk of the surplus comes from money that the government departments fail to spend.

...This is the same Parliament that has very little influence in determining budget priorities. The problem is that the budget continues to be the tail that wags the policy dog."

But the problem is of course that the government do not have the staff and the skills to implement their budget allocations. This will be a subject of another post of mine.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

What should South Africa's intellectuals do?

Xolela Mangcu today writes about the role of intellectuals in current South Africa. To him, they have three choices, emigration, loyalty to the party and making themselves heard.

Now let me get back to the relationship between the intellectual on the one hand, and the party and the nation on the other. While it is relatively easy for intellectuals to opt out of party belonging, it is virtually impossible for intellectuals to define themselves out of the nation — unless they do one of three things.

ALBERT Hirschman described these three things as exit, loyalty and voice. The intellectual can divest himself or herself of national belonging through exit, which is often through emigration.

However, there are those intellectuals who remain behind but express their national loyalty through what Thandika Mkandawire calls “incantation of the thought of the leader”. And then there are those who also remain behind but do not belong to the party. They do not belong to the party because their insistence on critical autonomy soon runs up against the protocols and strictures of the party.

For example, it strikes me that the bankruptcy of the political party as an instrument of democracy and nation building has never been more exposed than it is in our country right now.

Wheres the good people?
To Xolela the choice is stark, and would require more good people to speak up.

An idea that has received little attention is the role of prominent personalities or civic notables from the progressive movement itself in speaking up for the values of the constitution. In short, a rebellion against the thuggery that often comes shrouded in the name of party and nation.

That would require good men and women to speak out more often than they have done over the past decade. The alternative is certain ruination.

In the last few days some have already spoken out. Lets hope this number grows.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Of the ANC and black racism

In reference to Mhambi and jvr's lively debate yesterday, I would like to point you to two recent posts both from Thought Leader. (Jvr argued that the ANC was always like this, an organisation only for black interests and we should have realised this before 1994.)

In one post Christi van der Westhuizen, a former supporter, lashes out against the ANC for derailing our democratic dream, chronicling some events where we went wrong.

Maybe this is why the ANC still likes insisting that it is a liberation movement engaged in a “national democratic revolution”, rather than just another political party. This insistence is a final grasp at the mythology that many of us believed about the organisation when it was still banned.

As tales of the real ANC in exile emerge, it is sliding seemingly irrevocably into exactly the same morass of expedience, patronage and power-mongering that has led citizens from the United States to most of Africa to disengage from politics. Indeed, when questioned about unsound practices, the response from ANC spokespeople has sometimes even been: “So what? It is done elsewhere.” Did we not, as South Africans, set a higher bar for ourselves than what exists “elsewhere”?

Now Mhambi never believed the ANC would be better than political movements in the US and UK, but at least similar: self interested, conniving, deceitful. But I think the ANC behaves far worse than that Christi. Their delinquent behaviour is off the charts, to the extent that it threatens the whole body politic.

Perhaps its only our uncritical voters that separates our ANC from that of parties in the good old US of A. But I doubt it.

In another post Sandile Memela, speaks out against black racism. He writes in Callous ‘black diamonds’ and the poor white problem

It is time that we asked the question whether the non-racial struggle has, ironically, delivered its anti-thesis of black racism.

In a strange way, there is an unconscious disposition among privileged black Africans — now called the “black diamonds” — to be unkind in a racist way towards fellow South Africans who happen to be white.

I'm glad people are speaking up about this at last. Unfortunately Mr. Memela its not limited to black diamonds. A recent study commissioned by the Sunday Times confirmed racism is is rife amongst all of black society.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Afro-pessimism is spiralling out of control

In today's Business day Prof Anthony Butler of UCT's Public policy department sets forth that simultaneous events have conspired to seriously dent confidence in South Africa, both internally and externally. These dents were possible in the context of widespread perceptions of crime, corruption and problems in the health service.

Apparently the Financial Times have talked of a “loss of faith” and the Wall Street Journal has been lamenting a “Dark South Africa”.

He sees the emigration accelerating and investment falling, and that this will feed a vicious circle that will make skills even dearer and harder to find, this in turn will exacerbate the problems of corruption, service delivery, crime, public health and especially Aids.

He also warns of white fears becoming irrational bleak.

Such multifaceted uncertainty about the future can open the door to a more profound, irrational terror. Some whites, in particular, when they reflect on their deepest fears, discover a submerged expectation that poverty and pent-up frustration must eventually result in a vast social explosion.

Others fuel their fears with a vague and unarticulated sense that the postcolonial African state must always fail. In minds where such doubts lurk, there is always fertile ground for apocalyptic visions to grow. Practical challenges become interlinked in a vicious cycle of crime, skills loss, moral breakdown, AIDS, political instability, panic, and emigration.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

More South African photographers on Flickr

Originally uploaded by alet pretorius.

Mhambi has found a number of really cool photos by South Africans on Flickr. Some like Alet Pretorius I have featured before. Others like those of Arnold Erasmus (which I can't import) is amazing, dream like, otherworldly.

He says: "I use photography as an expressive tool rather than an documentary instrument. Obvious influences are diverse artists such as Man Ray, Edward Weston, Sally Mann and Nobuyoshi Araki but hopefully my art has its own voice."

Another photographer Ohjaygee, took his Lomo camera to Johannesburg's skyline and suburbs. The result is a gritty colour feast.

Now if only these gents will change their Flickr settings so one could import their pics.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Ag please Zwelinzima Vavi

Mhambi was very disappointed to hear about Cosatu's support for the disbanding of the elite South African anti-corruption unit, the Scorpions.

Originally uploaded by Egui_.

1989 poster celebrating May Day and COSATU's Living Wage Campaign in South Africa.

I have to admit that I am a bit amused about the relative fuss about the Scorpions in the press and the public. Is the preventable Aids deaths of thousands, the lack of service delivery to the poor, what happened in the hospital in Frere, the murder of foreigners in our country, the corruption in that Arms deal - documented in After the Party, to name but a few examples, not enough reason to be up in arms? Should people not have been in the streets a while ago?

Having said that, its clear there is a sea change in public opinion around the issue of the Scorpions. And this should be nurtured.

What can one do? Well perhaps organising a public protest is in order? Mobilise people, make posters, stickers, SMS, write songs, wear t-shirts, create a web site.

A quick Google and I found the email addresses for Cosatu's Secretariat and other departments. And here is a feedback form for the SACP. Both organisations supported the disbanding of the Scorpions but both will (hopefully) be more susceptible to criticism than the ANC had been. Now if all of us sent an email to them that would be a start.

Mhambi sent a letter to the General Secraty of Cosatu Zwelinzima Vavi.

Cosatu Secretary General Zwelinzima Vavi has been taken to task by the African National Congress
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos.

Dear sir

I have been a staunch believer that Cosatu will be able to influence our government to be more pro poor in its policies. I was very optimistic when I heard of the election of someone like Gwede Mantashe to the ANC top structures. I have been gladdened that after the Polekwane conference government already seems to be making pro-poor policy decisions.

However I was shocked that Cosatu has expressed its support for the disbanding of the Scorpions. This reeks of politics as usual and not of the usual principled positions Cosatu is renowned for. Please make us proud and stand up again for what is right.

Yours faithfully
Cosatu supporter

Wessel van Rensburg

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Don't imagine, just do it

Richard Barbrook, has published another book, called Imaginary Future's. Essentially it's an argument against technological determinism. An argument against the belief that superior technology is going to make the world a better place. It's still up us to decide how to use technology best he says. It's for us to shape the technology.

Richard wrote a great polemic a few year's ago in which he claimed that most New Media/ Internet fundies, techies and entrepreneurs are beholden to an ideology, which is a hybrid belief system that mixes left inspired libertarian philosophies like feminism and civil rights, and right wing market capitalism. He called this the Californian Ideology.

In the video Barbrook explains a bit about his book, which he says is "a history of the future".

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Monday, February 11, 2008

BBC Panorama reports on South Africa

...and it ain't good. View the South Africa Panorama report (video stream) here. Or read about it here.

Called No more Mandela's and made by long time Africa correspondent Fergal Keane, it is at times over dramatic and at times it contains faulty and shallow analysis, but its tone is right.

Hardly had Mhambi predicted that the ANC will suffer from left wing international attention two damning reports have come from the BBC.

Fergal Keane did an interview on the BBC World Service about the documentary. Listen to that here.

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Zimbabwe refugees under the spotlight

This morning on the BBC's Radio 4's Today program Mike Tomson started a 5 part series on South Africa for the station.

The first program is titled ZIMBABWEAN EXILES (Audio download). It paints a grim picture of thousands of refugees, unwanted in South Africa, risking life and limb and living in fear.

It tells of how they are resented by South Africans for causing crime, how they have been forced by locals to flee townships like Shoshanguve. And of police brutality: female police officers with crowbars and belts beating refugees in the Central Methodist church, Johannesburg.

An estimated three million refugees from Zimbabwe
are living in South Africa, pouring over the border at the rate of several thousand a day. There is widespread resentment about their arrival amongst many South Africans who blame them for rising crime and taking their jobs. On arriving at the border many of them are attacked by Zimbabwean gangsters. Robbery, rape and murder is common.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

The difficulties of meaningful human connection in spiritually vacant environments

In a previous post Mhambi was telling how he felt guilty for two reasons. One was that I'm not in South Africa.

Mistress Storm, brothel, Slough, UK, 2002, from No Love Lost by Michael Grieve.

The second guilty feeling is my fascination with sexuality, with beautiful nude people, in particular women. I'll explore my guilty feelings (perhaps for a last time, because my blog is now being read by respectable people) in a next post.

Porn shoot, Cuffley, UK, 2006, from No Love Lost by Michael Grieve

But not today. Today we'll take a peak at Michael Grieve's photographic project, No love lost.

He describes it as a complex work about the difficulties of meaningful human connection in spiritually vacant environments. Mhambi recently accompanied a South African writer to a brothel in Hillbrow Johannesburg. I'm doing a documentary about him. After he had seen one of the girls they came downstairs togther and proceeded to eat pap and sous together, from the same plate. It was pretty endearing, yes intimate seeing them (client and prostitute) eating like that. "This is not like Europe the writer assured me."

Michael Grieve on his project:

No Love Lost is a visual project that inhabits sexual environments in contemporary Britain. People featured are active in the increasingly entwined and performative worlds of pornography, prostitution and stripping. What they share is a measured psychological engagement with strangers in close proximity that is a purely physical and sexual union lacking in affection. Fantasy is played out within the frame of constraints and closeness is kept at a distance. Menace is always present, control is often threatened. These are emotionally charged settings, both plastic and primitive, where the ‘stuff’ of life is all too present.

In essence, No Love Lost is a complex body of work that is about intimacy and dislocation in a theatre of sexual commodity. No Love Lost does not attempt to be a statistical documentation but works as a lyrical documentary metaphor in a factual world about real fictional encounters and conveys a sense of the difficulties of meaningful human connection in spiritually vacant environments.

Break in porn shoot, London, UK, 2003, from No Love Lost by Michael Grieve

— Michael Grieve

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

What South Africa could learn from China

Recently Mhambi was following another afro-pessimist debate (What's wrong with Africa) on the Mail and Guardians's Thought Leader blog.

Residents opposed to an encroaching train line in Shanghai were warned that gatherings like the one above could result in arrest. (Ryan Pyle for The New York Times)

The defenders of Africa's problems averred - "Hey! The troubles are because Africa imported western style democracy that's not suited locally". Others retorted that democratic rules had not been implemented properly, and yet others yearned for apartheid.

A friend of Mhambi loves China. He speaks Mandarin and travels there regularly. On one of his sojourns in the poor Chinese hinterlands an incident occurred that clearly had made an impression.

He was buying some food from an old Chinese gentleman, a street vendor. As this deal was in progress a passing youngster started shouting at the old man. "You are charging the foreigner too much! How can you exploit him like that?! What will he think of China!"

My friend was a little surprised but did not really mind the 'extra' expense. The 'dear' food was dirt cheap to his pound based purse.

He stayed in a local In that night. Early the next morning he was woken with a knock at the door. It was the old man who had brought him a free food parcel for his days travels, all the while apologizing profusely.

Last week Mhambi was listening to a report on Radio 4's From our own Correspondent. China has in the last few years been racked by hundreds of mini protests. Many Chinese feel left behind in the countries incredible race to economic riches, there is reports widespread corruption, while there is no democratic outlet for the people's grievances.

Recently the government has clamped down mercilessly on corrupt politicians and businessmen.

But reported Radio 4, there has now been two protests, where the Chinese government has set up dedicated telephone lines to deal with grievances. One of them the International Herald Tribune reported on.Said the IHT:

"under President Hu Jintao's policy of "harmonious development," the state has made tentative efforts to solicit public opinion."

China is now in the midst of an icy weather storm, and reports the BBC:

As China froze, and its electricity and transport lines failed, and millions huddled and shivered in train stations, China's top leaders rushed to calm and reassure their people.

And not only did they apologise - they empathised.

At Guangzhou railway station in the south - where hundreds of thousands were stuck - Prime Minister Wen Jiaobao addressed the crowd.

"Comrades, I'm Wen Jiabao," he shouted through a loudspeaker.

"I am here to comfort you. You have suffered a lot and I feel your pain."

It might be autocratic, but the Chinese government is obsessed with the collective welfare of its citizens. As the population is getting richer, this obsession is driving them to be more consultative.

But it's not just the authorities that feel and act responsibly. The Chinese population themselves are fiercely patriotic and obsessed with the good image of their society.

The result of this and this is the sad fact: Your average Chinese is better off governed by autocrats than your average South African in today's democratic South Africa. The average Chinese seems to feel more responsibility for their society than the average South African citizen.

And this brings me to my point. The problem South Africa is facing is not just one of which rules to implement. Rules will only bring us that far. Our challenge is changing an attitude and culture. We are still looking for Ubuntu.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Go Obama

Obama Listens
Originally uploaded by sumrow.

Mhambi is routing for Barack Obama today when Americans go out to vote during Super Tuesday. What amazing symbolism if the USA becomes the first predominantly white country to elect a 'black' president. And Oprah agrees with me.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

The global left haunts the ANC

A week ago John Minto, the man responsible for organising vociferous protests in New Zealand against the Springbok rugby tours in the 80's, told the South African government: If you ever thought of giving me an award, not to bother.

John Minto
Originally uploaded by farrioth.

We protested to fight apartheid and were proud of that and then Minto continued:

However while political rights have been won and celebrated, social and economic rights have been sidelined. It is now 14 years since the first African National Congress government was elected to power but for most the situation is no better, and frequently worse, than it was under white minority rule.

The number of South Africans living on less than $1 a day more than doubled to 2.4 million in the first 10 years of ANC government. Despite strong economic growth overall poverty levels have not improved and the gap between rich and poor has increased with many black families being driven more deeply into poverty. Unemployment remains high at around 26%.

At times I feel just a little sorry for Thabu Mbeki and the ANC. Why? Because of what John Minto said next:

"Apartheid was accurately described as a “crime against humanity” by the United Nations and the ANC. I could not in all conscience attend a ceremony to receive an award conferred by your office while a similar crime is in progress."

"Long batons fly in Newtown as riot police block protestors in Rintoul Street from reaching Athletic Park for the second test, 29th August 1981".

Apartheid was very very bad. But it has to be said, the Nationalists had some very stiff competition if one wanted to judge governance, exploitation and violence in this part of the world.

And quite frankly they never made it into the premier league of any of these categories. Want violence I'll name you tow dozens other countries that were worse. Governance? I'll name even more, exploitation? You kidding me? The governments of Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Sudan, the Congo, Algeria, Kenya, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, the Ivory Coast, Liberia, Angola to name but a few, were all at times much more bloody, corrupt and in greater neglect of the well being of their citizens, than apartheid South Africa.

In short apartheid does not deserve the moniker of a crime against humanity, in the context of what was going down routinely all across Africa, unless you want to concede the title to half the countries on the continent.

For various but very particular reasons (left wing moral relativism, simplistic analysis, historical Anglo antipathy towards Afrikaners) South Africa got the lion's share of the global left's opprobrium. Opprobrium that was completely out of proportion if one considers the suffering caused by an array of brutal regimes and the scant attention their actions received.

This 'exaggerated' attention morphed into uncritical support for the ANC. This helped the ANC enormously. It helped them set up office and organise. It helped them hide the Stalinist closed authoritarian nature of the organisation's external operations. It helped them cover their incompetence, and it helped them cover the torture and disappearance of their own members.

A woman show signs of battle after protesters and red squad police clashed at the Luxford Street-Rintoul Street intersection during anti Springbok tour demonstrations in Wellington, 1981."

It helped obscure the fact that for many black ANC members the organisation was, not the creature of the Freedom charter, not liberal or progressive either. But a black Nationalist organisation at best, and for yet others it was just an instrument to attain power and resources.

But it helped the ANC secure negotiations and it helped them beat the Nationalists during negotiations.

But most importantly it also helped all South Africans, but particularly black ones get rid of the apartheid system. And less important, but also significant, it helped Afrikaners get rid of the Nationalists stifling and controlling morals and strictures.

After 1994 this global left's 'gaze' helped hold open debate in the country in a vice of silence, nobody dared criticize the ruling party. That was until the Aids deaths of thousands, creeping levels of inequality, blatant corruption and the intolerant battle for control of the ANC finally broke the spell.

But this progressive spot light has not gone away. As enamored as the Spanish speaking and American left of the world is with Venezuela, the English speaking world's lefties are fascinated by and have invested intellectually in South Africa. They are looking in a new way and they do not like what they see.

And as unfair as comparisons as the one above is in absolute terms (especially when compared to our neighbors) - they are still going to be made.

It's no help for Mbeki to point out that particularly since 2002 his government has with robust growth and an array of social grants - grants that very few developing countries have - managed to address poverty levels.

We are still measured with a different yard stick. The sword that helped struck down apartheid turns out was double edged. It will be wielded against the ANC. Their every move will be monitored like no other African government's actions will. But for South Africans by and large, like with the battle against apartheid, this is still a good thing.

John Minto again:

Receiving an award would inevitably associate myself and the movement here with ANC government policies. At one time this may have been a source of pride but it would now be a source of personal embarrassment which I am not prepared to endure.

Hear hear says Mhambi.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Goeie genugtig - The end is nigh?!

Adding insult on top of injury. The Mail & Guardian reports that an ANC front company, Chancelor house, has a huge stake in the build of new power stations that is now planned.

Chancellor House’s 25% stake in Hitachi Power Africa, which will perform 60% of the contract, translates to about R2,8-billion of the R18,5-billion total value. Coming on top of its R3-billion stake in the Medupi contract, this almost doubles the ANC company’s known stake in Eskom’s capacity expansion programme to about R5,8-billion. How much of this will be profit is not known.

In another report it was claimed that some mines are already planing job cuts as a result of the power loss induced closures.

And just to make sure we spread the doom with the gloom, a Finweek report claims an educational crisis is at hand. And it's getting worse, not better.

For the past 16 years, fewer than 7% of Senior Certificate candidates passed higher-grade maths, according to a 2007 Centre for Development Enterprises survey on maths and science in schools. But in 2006, only 4,8% passed higher-grade maths, and only 5,7% passed higher-grade science, Finweek's report says.

The prognosis for the matric classes of 2010 and 2011 is not much better.

When the class of 2010 (now in grade 10) was in grade three in 2001, the national survey of performance showed that 30% did not achieve the required standard in numeracy, and 54% did not achieve the required standard in literacy.

For the class of 2011, the 2005 grade-six evaluation showed that only 28% performed at the required standard in numeracy. For literacy, it was only 38%.

In addition to the education crisis, South Africa is losing skilled professionals to other countries that use South Africa as a hunting ground for recruitment, says Finweek. A study recently found that the loss of one skilled professional in South Africa costs up to 10 unskilled jobs.

Then theres a report of a water contamination crisis. According the Mail & Guardian the report is the latest of several recent indicators that the government is no longer able to monitor effectively and manage its vast infrastructure of dams, pipes, pumps and treatment facilities.

Adding to the stink is this report of sewerage flowing into Durban harbour.

And in another Mail & Guardian report, refugees arrested inside the Johannesburg Methodist Church, have claimed that they have been mistreated, denied medical treatment and bribed by police.

Never mind all this says Xolela Mangcu. The intolerance the ANC is now showing to the Mbeki backers within the party is the real bell weather of the problems our country if facing.

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The Afro-pessimists are restless

The Mail and Guardian blog sections have published two interesting posts yesterday. In one Percy Zvomuya pessimistically asks, in reaction to events in Kenya What is wrong with Africa?.

He should have been more careful because in another post, The new is not yet born: The battle for African democracy, Stephen Friedman calls these "Afro-pessimists — a long, fancy word for people who don’t believe black people in Africa can run anything." But concedes that they have no shortage of ammunition right now.

In the first comment underneath Steven post Ivo Vegter retorts: "The real problem is that in all the racist analysis, everyone gets cast as either an Afro-pessimist or an Afro-optimist. Critics and racists alike go into the first category, and those who vote their racial loyalty or guilty conscience go in the latter. Oddly enough, this feeds off the notion that Africans are somehow different, that the question of whether Africans are capable of self-government is still unanswered. Of course Africans are capable of self-government. Why wouldn’t they be?"

Ivo wants us to argue about the policies of these governments and put the lables behind us.

For a long time Mhambi has agreed with Steven's central contention however. What has transpired in Zimbabwe and in the ANC were signs of democracy. He states this case better:
"In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe’s government ruled largely unchallenged until 2000, when it lost a constitutional referendum, a thinly disguised signal that the people wanted it gone. This forced it into a lengthy attempt to stay in power despite the people’s judgement. Since then, politics in Zimbabwe has been about the elite’s desperate and often violent attempts to shore up their power in the face of democratic forces’ attempt to win change.

In Kenya, tensions were suppressed (but simmered below the surface) while Daniel arap Moi imposed his will on the people for two decades. Democracy was partly achieved when some members of the elite, most notably current President Mwai Kibaki, went over to the opposition and won the last election. But the Kibaki government proved far more like the one it had replaced than Kenyan democrats had hoped and so the ODM emerged to challenge Kibaki. Despite the mealy-mouthed response of the international community, the evidence suggests that the ruling elite thwarted this attempt to deepen democracy by creatively embellishing the election results. Again, the conflict is caused by democratic pressures and the old elite’s response to them.

In Nigeria, a new push for greater democracy began with the fall of the Abacha junta. Previous president Olusegun Obasanjo was elected at the polls but tried to change the Constitution to give himself a third term. Parliament rejected the attempt and so he relied on a strategy also tried in some other countries — he stayed on as head of the ruling party and hand-picked its presidential candidate. But he continues to face resistance, both because the election in which Obasanjo’s choice, Umaru Yar’Adua, won was riddled with irregularities and because Yar’Adua has not turned out as compliant as his predecessor had hoped (a problem that also faced some other presidents who tried to control their successors after their terms were up). Again, the cause of the conflict is the push for more democracy and the elite’s reaction to it.

Here, Jacob Zuma’s victory was prompted by claims that Thabo Mbeki was not accountable enough to the ANC — and fears that a third term would entrench him further. We do not know whether the new leadership will be more democratic than the old — but it remains possible that ANC activists will hold it to account if it is not.

The pattern is clear. The “right” of African presidents to rule for as long as they like, regardless of what their people may think, is under threat.

Mhambi hopes Steven Friedman is right, Mhambi himself is struggling to keep the faith at times.

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