Mhambi has been redeployed.

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.

Sphere: Related Content

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Zonke Majodina in Alex - denial, incompetence & prejudice at the SAHRC

In this SABC video Zonke Majodina, is in Alexandra. Next to the police station where women and children are cowering after having been chased from their homes and some raped.

Zonke Majodina, Deputy Chairperson of the South African Human Rights Commission is completely unsuitable for her important job.

No wonder the SAHRC has had such a terrible record of addressing racism and equality in South Africa over the last few years. A toothless Chapter 9 institution (Of the SA constitution) if ever there was one.

Why? What did she say?

They came up with a number of strategies to address the violence she says. Asked who's responsibility this is? Ms Majodina says its the International Red Cross, and the United Nations and the City of Johannesburg's responsibility.

The people can't come back she says because the locals don't want them to; But not to worry, they will set up a mediation team Ms Majodina says.

And this is the clincher, the coup the grace: "Of course we will come out with strong media statements condemning this."

Fantastic, that's sorted then.

The SABC interviewer asks "do we understand why the attackers were so brutal to make women bleed, women with children?"

Then Majodina tells us that this had been taking place for so long, and there has been no concrete solution.

And then comes the socio-babble laced with prejudice.

"When we talk xenophobia in this country, you have to look at the socio-economic status that influences the way xenophobia plays itself out.

Socially we can't expect South Africans to immediately embrace foreigners, you know. If we do so we will be ignoring or denying the most elementary facts of our history.

And so its understandable to some extent... and then we have the problem of unemployment and poverty and where people are seen to take jobs from South Africans."

An exasperated SABC interviewer asks "yes press statements, yes the government, but what about the people here?"

"You have got to understand"
she says, "the xenophobia has a perceptive element to it.

People have fears, prejudices, it's racially motivated in the sense that we don't perpetrate xenophobic attacks on white immigrants, but we only do it to Africans."

Zonke Majodina has been with the SAHRC since 1999.


Meanwhile this has been going on today in Alexandra. Zwelinzima Vavi has warned that if the situation is not adressed we will have many more Alexandras. Can we put him in charge of the SAHRC?

Update 2
The Times report that there has been some incidents of shooting in Diepsloot Soweto.

Late last night, Metro police spokeswoman Superintendent Edna Mamonyane confirmed that men in several bakkies, apparently from Alexandra, drove to Diepsloot and opened fire on residents.

She said: “ It seems like it is the same thing that is happening in Alexandra.”

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Racist attacks in Johannesburg

The news of yet more xenophobic attacks and killings in Johannesburg is sad, but part of a familiar pattern . The only silver lining this cloud has is that the press both locally and internationally has at last picked up on the race riots.

Here is a Voice of America radio report. And that of the International Herald Tribune.

And so its should, this act is far worse than what happened at the Reitz hostel. In reaction to Xolela Mangcu's denial and attack on white racism who said recently:

"But right now, racism is not a black people’s problem, ridiculous charges of reverse racism notwithstanding."

I wrote this:

I spent a month in Yeoville recently and many black South Africans admitted brazenly - in a manner that would raise an eyebrow in a Ventersdop kroeg - that they were going to wipe out all the African foreigners there. We must just wait and see I was told.

Anybody in doubt about the seriousness should read this report. Or this one where one where Yvonne Ndlovu from Zimbabwe was taunted by four women to go home while blood was streaming from her face. A Malawian who had lived in Alexandra for 25 years was also beaten up. One Zimbabwean women was raped four times.

According to The Times, in an act resembling the passover, terrified South Africans have started to mark their shacks with South African names like, Madondo, Ndlovu, and Masinga.

Three persons are confirmed dead, and the chief executive at the Alexandra clinic, Abel Mangolele, said that between Sunday night and Monday morning alone 58 patients had been brought in with injuries sustained during the attacks.

He said an additional 56 were brought in on Monday and a further 39 were brought in for treatment between Monday night and Tuesday morning.

Last night I found the website of the Somali Association of South Africa, it cronicles the violence foreigners faced in South Africa.

The association claims that more than 100 Somalis have been killed in South Africa the last few years.

Cosatu and the SACP has come out strongly against these attacks. On its Allmostsupernatural, a South African Jewish site, these attacks are condemned. I hope that organisations representing other minorities (like Afrikaners) will do the same.

Pictures: News 24

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Of generations, arseholes, Israel and volkstate

'Don't you think your a bit too idealistic about Afrikaners?' alleman asked me the other day.

I had the pleasure to meet alleman for the first time. I have admired alleman's blog for some time now. And I find it hard to disagree with most he says.

This week a 'hewige' (heavy) debate raged on my blog. Somebody even called alleman a communist. A certain Marthinus, a young AWB sympathiser nogal, told us:

'Forgive me for getting worked up, but when i speak to older whites in south africa that still advocate this 'democracy' that we so suffer in, it just makes me see red. You wil have to go very far to find a liberal white youngster here in sa. Putting all political convictions aside, we will have to work together if we want a future here in africa. The only way 4ward for us is to create an exclusive afrikaner state. A simple fact is that we are white so the volkstaat will be white too otherwise its just another mini new sa, with all the same issues.'

I won't repeat all that was said in that debate wholesale. Go read it yourself.

But I thought about what alleman asked allot lately. Perhaps Afrikaners are irredeemable arseholes and I'm really wasting my time.

I mean Marthinus feels insulted that I said that the old ZAR Transvaal Republic was liberal. Which it patently was. The word liberal is a swearword to him. Incredible. Marthinus agrees with all those that say we were always arseholes. And apparently we should be proud of it!

My pro-Afrikaner arguments on this blog is probably over egging it on occasion. Marthinus has a point. Afrikaners are conservative. But I don't think Marthinus has been paying attention to the news lately.

The current government has been supporting the Burmese, a military dictatorship, the Sudanese, an ultra conservative Islamic state with a taste for genocide, and have been advocating beetroot as a cure for Aids instead of scientifically tested drugs. How do you out conservative that? Last time I checked a Kenyan tribe refused to give up power even though they lost an election. Time to learn a lesson from Afrikaners perhaps chaps?

What I find interesting is that somebody like Marthinus actually bothers to debate these issues with us. Recently (warning: name drop) I was speaking to Andries Bezuidenhout. Andries said its 'quite weird, when we were students, before the end of apartheid when we rode into a town with our long hair and boerepunk clothes we were made to feel distinctly unwelcome. Even in Pretoria you had men hanging out of windows shouting "Sny jou hare!" (Cut your hair!)

Now when traveling the small towns in the Free State your welcomed with open arms. Invited to braai's and fetted in the kroe (bars). But we still kinda look the same. '

It was true.

Afrikaans dorpies like Parys are pinning for more gays to move there, because nothing regenerates and ads cool to a town AND pushes up the property value like gay neighbors.

So what's changed? Power has changed. Power has a tendency to make you ugly. Lack of power makes people so much more accommodating.

But back to Marthinus. Apparently young Afrikaners are tired of us older ones telling them to give the new SA a chance.

We too felt fed up with our elders circa 1989. We listed to Johannes Kerkorrel singing "Ons is moeg vir apatie, ons soek anargie, ons soek 'n nuwe energie"

And boy did we get what we were asking for. Anarchy galore. I have often wondered where I would have stood politically then if I knew what I know now. I might make that a subject of a post sometime. But if you think this is a Damascus blogging moment, your out of luck. I would still have campaigned for the end of apartheid.

But I have to concede that many of the things the Afrikaners Nationalists had learn't from a 300 year history in Africa should probably not have been so easily been dismissed by us.

My message to the likes of Marthinus would be. Sure, we made some mistakes, but there's much you can learn from the ouer garde. We know what a white state of repression was like. We know that apartheid did not work practically and it was wrong.

And we helped lay the foundation - in a modest way - for Afrikanerdom to live and indeed perhaps to die in justice.

Coincidentally yesterday was the 60th commemoration of the founding of the state of Israel. Despite its power and military success the web is littered with articles of Israelies fearing for their countries future. Israel has secured its future and in the process of going about this securing they lost the moral high ground. Metaphysical rats are gnawing at the mighty Israel's soul.

And its having practical results. Increasingly educated and secular jews are choosing to emigrate. The country is becoming more fundamentally religious, more intransigent, less a hotbed of innovation and research and stretching the patience of even the USA. It's a vicious circle, if it spirals out of control it will threaten to reap a whirlwind that could destroy Israel from within.

Afrikaans poet N P van Wyk Louw wrote a long time ago that it's better for a nation to cease to exist than to live forth in injustice.

But of course nations don't just die. Not just like that.

In this era when it seems that half of white middle-class SA is contemplating emigrating I have been thinking of that concept that was in vogue shortly before 1994. An Afrikaner Volkstaat.

Personally I think the idea is premature. We have to see to what extent the new ANC can change it ways. There has been some encouraging signs. More importantly South African civil society has started to flex its muscles at last. If South Africa could work. It would be a remarkable country. It is an idea worth fighting and holding out for.

Most of my Afrikaner friends aver that they would not like to live in a Volkstaat. Some have an ideological objection to one. Personally I feel that if your contemplating emigration you can not really object to a Volkstaat per se. Many Afrikaners are not in a position to emigrate.

But the shape and conduct of such a state will matter very much to all Afrikaners whether you live in it or not. Just ask the jews.

PS: There's now an interesting blog form a BoereJodin. (An Afrikaner jew)

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Zanu ain't no heroic Cubans

In the last week two interesting more pieces have been written about Zimbabwe and what it portends for South Africa.

In the first, Gavins Evans, former journalist, and member of the ANC underground tells of his travels to Zimbabwe in the 80's. Evans worked and recruited for MK the ANC's armed wing.

He tells of the ANC's difficulties with ZANU and the awareness of ZAPU persecution, but that Real politik made them look the other way. Evans has a little sympathy for ZANU. Afterall Britain had not met their obligations for land reform he says.

Evan's lists why he thinks South Africa will be different. And the answer is primarily a much more active civil society.

Jeremy Cronin
Originally uploaded by BOOKphotoSA.

In the second, Jeremy Cronin, the South African Communist parties deputy general secretary, echoes much of Evan's thought. South Africa's battles were fought by trade unions, journalists and a plethora of other civil society groups he says.

And interestingly he alludes to the fact, as I mentioned in a previous post, that it is precisely because MK was unsuccessful militarily that one of he primary engines of potential ZANUfication is not present in SA. The ANC had to rely on the broad South African public.

Cronin also has this to say about Mugabe's insistence that its Britain's fault the land reform program failed.

We are told, for instance, that ‘land reform’ did not succeed because the British failed to meet their financial obligations as agreed in the Lancaster House negotiations. But what kind of heroic anti-imperialist liberation movement is this? Can you imagine the Cubans arguing two decades after their revolutionary breakthrough that they had not implemented land reform because the US refused to subsidise it?

Well said.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

AWB now in Amazon

Mhambi was amazed when he did a search for the term 'Afrikaner' on the Amazon UK site. Up popped none other than the facist Afrikaner Weerstands Beweging (AWB) flag as a fridge magnet.

The company selling the magnet sells everything from Rhodesian to post liberation Angolan flags.

I have written to Amazon to complain. It's up to everybody to fight intolerance and facism everywhere we find it. Even in the electronic jungle.

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