SAfrica Protest


SAfrica SciFi

Life in South Africa before apartheid - which took control of the government after WWII - was similar to that in any first-world country in America or Europe. Its infrastructure and standard of living - for both whites and blacks - was what other African nations dreamed of and wished for themselves. Neighbouring Rhodesia, now called Zimbabwe, looked on in horror as South Africa began its economic and political descent (and then itself descended in similar fashion, ie being taken over by Stalinist China and run as a brutal totalitarian state).

It isn't often a person reads much about life in South Africa these days (except for progress on massive soccer stadiums they're building for the 2010 World Cup) but in today's news there is a story.

As in most New York Slimes articles the pro-Communist slant is there (just as in the 1930s its Moscow correspondent wrote glowing reports of life under Stalin when all the while Russia was in famine - with food reserved only for Party members - and millions were being tortured as thought criminals and shipped as prisoners to be worked to death as slaves in the frozen Gulag) but in between the pro-ANC spin (African National Congress, the Communist party headed by deified Nelson Mandela) the article below portrays a vivid picture of living conditions in South Africa now - fifteen years since the so-called "end of apartheid".

This article comes in timely fashion as later today I'm going to the theatre to watch DISTRICT NINE on the big screen. It's filmed on location in a slum in Johannasburg, South Africa and is part-documentary and part sci-fi thriller about a secret agent whose been infected by alien biotechnology and must go on the run from the oppressive government into "District Nine", an internment camp where "non-humans" have been forced to live since landing on Earth nearly 30 years ago.

The theatre may be packed with kids (it being a holiday weekend and this being a sci-fi blockbuster) but I'm thinking the audience may also include some of the many South Africans who have emigrated here to Canada over the years (along with others applying for refugee status because of racial reverse-persecution). I wonder what they'll think of the movie. Probably they'll cry for what's become of their once free and democratic first-world homeland. And probably they'll be hoping their adopted country doesn't fall into similar slumhood and tyranny although - regrettably - it appears our turn could be coming. But unlike in Africa and most every other nation where it happens, there won't be a bleat of protest from the docile sheople of Canada.~ Jackie Jura


South Africa’s Poor Renew a Tradition of Protest
by Barry Bearak, New York Times, Sep 7, 2009

Siyathemba, South Africa — This country’s rituals of protest most often call for the burning of tires, the barricading of streets and the throwing of rocks. So when the municipal mayor here went to address the crowd after three days of such agitation, the police thought it best to take him into the stadium in a blast-resistant armored vehicle. Chastened by the continuing turmoil, the mayor, Mabalane Tsotetsi, known as Lefty, penitently explained that all of the protesters’ complaints would be given his full attention. But by then official promises were a deflated currency, and rocks and bottles were again flying as he retreated.

The reasons for this community’s wrath — unleashed first in late July and again briefly a month later — were ruefully familiar to many South Africans. "Water, electricity, unemployment: nothing has gotten better", said Lifu Nhlapo, 26, a leader of the protests here in Siyathemba, a township 50 miles east of Johannesburg. "We feel an anger, and when we are ignored, what else is there to do but take to the streets?” Civil unrest among this nation’s poor has recently gotten worldwide attention, and is often portrayed as unhappiness with South Africa’s new president, Jacob Zuma. Actually, these so-called service delivery protests have gone on with regularity for a long time. They vary in intensity — mild, medium and hot — and their frequency seems to rise and fall without a predictable pattern. Oddly enough, the protests can be seen as a measure of progress as well as frustration. Since the arrival of democracy 15 years ago, the percentages of households with access to piped water, a flush toilet or a connection to the power grid have notably increased. Those people left waiting are often angry, and so far their ire has not usually been directed at the president — who has been able to use the protests to his political advantage — but at municipal officials they consider uncaring, incompetent and corrupt. "No one wants to be worse off than their neighbor", said Kevin Allan, managing director of Municipal IQ, a company that monitors the performance of local government. "People get impatient".

The places most ripe for unrest are neither the poorest communities nor those with the longest backlog in setting up services, he said. Most commonly, the protests are rooted in informal settlements that have sprung up near urban areas, where the poor who do not receive government services rub up against the poor who do. Whatever the causes for the protests, the governing African National Congress appears to take them quite seriously. Party leaders have been dispatched to hot spots, where they usually end up investigating their fellow party members. Local government, like national government, is largely dominated by the A.N.C.

In Siyathemba, the emissary from on high was Mr. Zuma himself. On the afternoon of Aug. 4, his helicopter set down on a rocky soccer field, with bodyguards and a BMW waiting. He eventually proceeded to the town of Balfour, the seat of municipal government. Mayor Tsotetsi, at home at the time, rushed back to the office to meet his unannounced visitor. Commentators had a good laugh about that, presuming the mayor a goldbrick who likes to knock off early. "There is no place that will be hidden from me", Mr. Zuma announced, leaving the impression he was now a sort of caped superhero who would pop up wherever malingerers were not earning their government paychecks. Though the president also denounced lawbreaking by protesters, his visit seemed an endorsement to those here who had vented their anger. "Zuma agrees with us, that all these mayors and councilors who are not performing have to go", said Zakhele Maya, 26, another leader of the demonstrations.

Siyathemba has a population of about 6,000 and an unemployment rate of 82 percent, more than triple the nation’s rate, according to official statistics. Most here live in shacks of corrugated metal, the roofs kept in place with strategically placed rocks. Many of the dwellings sag in the middle as if they were melting in the hot sun. Clusters of shacks here look about the same, but some are settlements that have been "formalized", which means that the hovels, however dilapidated, have electricity inside and a water tap and flush toilet nearby. Those people living in communities without this imprimatur must light their homes with kerosene or paraffin and wait in lines, pail in hand, at a single communal spigot. "This is no way to live", said Mercy Mbiza, 38. "We have to dig a pit for a toilet, and when it’s full, we dig another. They tell us we are on a waiting list to get services. Whether I will die first, I don’t know". Rumors — true or not — are dangerous combustibles in places like this. People are suspicious that money meant for them is being stolen or wasted by the big shots in Balfour. Some goings-on simply make no sense. For instance, Arlene Moloi’s house has four pillars and a roof and only emptiness in between. The municipality paid someone to construct it in 1996, but the builder suddenly disappeared after starting the job. "The officials tell me they are waiting for the same man to come back and finish", said Ms. Moloi, a 54-year-old widow. "But it already has been 13 years".

The Siyathemba protests began with a meeting of disgruntled young people, some of them members of political youth groups, others players on sports teams. They compiled a list of their many grievances. They wanted more water and electricity, yes. But they also wanted better roads, a local hospital and a police station. Beyond that, they wanted jobs. This list of demands was left at the municipal hall in Balfour. "Some of these things — hospitals, police stations — these are matters to take up at the provincial level", said the municipality’s spokesman, Mohlalefi Lebotha. "Where is the money for these things, not just to construct them but to sustain them"? At first, Mr. Tsotetsi did not meet with the disgruntled. Nor did he call a special session of the municipal council as the protesters had demanded. This slow, even indifferent response seemed to mock the petitioners’ seriousness. After a mass meeting on a Sunday, many protesters took to the streets. The police confronted them, relying on a rather indiscriminate spray of rubber bullets. The crowd fought back, shouting "azikhwelwa", meaning that everything must shut down: no one goes to work, no one attends school. "People knew how to act from the days of the liberation struggle", said Mr. Maya, the protest leader. "We sang the songs, telling those who are scared to step aside so the brave can move ahead and advance the struggle. "In South Africa, the struggle is not yet over".

Africa rips asylum for white man in Canada
by Lesley Ciarula Taylor, Toronto Star, Sep 2, 2009

Canada's landmark decision to grant asylum to a white South African because he feared black persecution in his homeland is "racist" and "alarming," the South African government said yesterday. Brandon Huntley, 31, who lives in Ottawa and spent three years as an illegal in Canada before asking for refugee status in 2008, had argued that his life and his livelihood were threatened in the African National Congress's South Africa. Huntley demonstrated "a picture of indifference and inability or unwillingness" by South Africa to protect "white South Africans from persecution by African South Africans," William Davis, a member of the refugee protection division of the Immigration and Refugee Board wrote in his decision Thursday.

The ruling ANC branded Huntley's claim that police would not intervene despite his being attacked seven times as "sensational and alarming. "Canada's reasoning for granting Huntley a refugee status can only serve to perpetuate racism," the ANC said. Huntley's attorney, Russell Kaplan, called Davis' decision "a landmark case because as far as we know this is the first case in Canada of a white South African at risk for his life at the hands of African South Africans." Huntley did not win refugee status because he had been attacked, said Kaplan, but because he was "at risk of persecution" in a country with an overwhelmed police and discriminatory hiring policies. "The police just cannot cope with all of the crime that is taking place."

District 9 warns us of a dangerous future
by David Cox, Guardian, Sep 7, 2009

Sci-fi films are often read as allegory. The provenance of District 9 has led some to see it as a reflection on apartheid. Perhaps, however, it has as much to tell us about the future as the past. Apartheid, like its last-century sibling, the holocaust, was seen by its instigators a way of disposing of the indigenous other. District 9 deals with our response to intrusion from outside.

An alien spacecraft breaks down over Johannesburg. God knows, that city has enough problems, without a sudden influx of troublesome and unintelligible strangers. Why couldn't it have been Stellenbosch, the hard-pressed Jo'burgers might have inquired, just as Dover's beleaguered burghers ask why their unwelcome cross-Channel guests couldn't have been visited instead on the bleeding-hearts of Hampstead. District 9 may remind South African audiences less of apartheid's victims than of the Zimbabwean refugees who in recent years have been flooding across the Limpopo; fugitives welcomed by their southern neighbours with 12-ft electric fences topped by razor-wire. Of those who've managed to breach these defences, scores have been murdered by South Africans fearful of the newcomers' supposed designs on their property, jobs and womenfolk. Survivors have been herded into insanitary, shelter-less camps even less inviting than those provided for their interplanetary counterparts in Johannesburg's District 9.

Audiences in other parts of the world may also recognise local analogues of the film's setup, as immigration disrupts communities across the globe. In Britain, we may not yet have resorted to concentration camps, but the apparent distaste of many for new arrivals has helped fill detention centres in France whose conditions have prompted self-mutilation, attempted suicides, arson and riots. Climate change, with its consequential food and water shortages, seems likely to trigger population movements on a scale much greater than anything we've seen so far. More and more societies will face waves of would-be incomers bringing with them unfamiliar habits, downward pressure on wages, burdens for public services and strange cooking smells.

One of the many virtues of District 9 is that it doesn't duck the real threats immigrants pose to their hosts. Its aliens are unruly, ungrateful, slovenly and ill-tempered. They eat cat food, just as West Indian newcomers to England were once reputed to subsist on Kit-e-Kat sandwiches. They indulge in antisocial behaviour, usher in bestiality and perpetrate acts of violence. Though they're treated with unthinking heartlessness by their custodians, they're also the beneficiaries of the kind of bureaucratic rectitude that our own asylum seekers would doubtless recognise. No one suggests that they should simply be exterminated. They can't be evicted from their camp until they've signed a consent form. Nonetheless, their predicament is far more affecting than you might have expected.

Plenty of films have pitied the poor immigrant. Yet, the adventitious status of District 9's hapless occupants turns out to make their plight more, not less, affecting than that of many of the big screen's human scatterlings. This time, we're not presented simply with one tribe muscling in on a rival but conspecific tribe's patch. We're shown a challenge to territorial control in the purest of forms. You can't dismiss shipwrecked aliens as economic migrants, suggest that their homeland needs their services or demand that they should be repatriated. There's no escaping a direct appeal for a share of your space from fellow beings who need it. As a result, you're forced to wonder why the chance inhabitants of any particular place are accorded so much privilege. Is it right that incumbents alone should determine the fate of would-be new arrivals? Possession may be nine tenths of the law, but what about the other tenth? Maybe extreme exigency should invest the desperate with emergency rights of the kind currently enjoyed only by those in proven fear of persecution. Perhaps the dispossessed should be formally entitled to claim a share of turf whose more fortunate existing occupants seek only to repel them. As District 9's credits roll, we learn that South Africa's encamped alien population has come to be numbered in millions. Eventually, their human counterparts may be billions-strong. It's time we faced up to what that's going to entail. This film gives us a much-needed prod.

South Africa urges review of white refugee case
Agence France-Press, Sep 2, 2009
Cape Town — South Africa will seek a review of a decision granting one of its white citizens asylum in Canada, which the ruling party has said is racist, the deputy foreign minister told parliament Thursday. Sue van der Merwe said the decision to grant refugee status to someone on the basis that he was persecuted by blacks "shows a lack of familiarisation with the facts and reality of South African society." "While we have incredibly good bilateral relations with the Canadian government we will be pursuing this matter and following diplomatic procedure in order to express with the Canadian government our views on this matter." A decision by Canada's immigration board to grant the Cape Town born Brandon Huntley, 31, refugee status has caused a race debate in South Africa. Huntley told The Star newspaper Wednesday that he had won asylum because he fears that he could face violent persecution for being white, a claim the ruling African National Congress (ANC) dismissed as "sensational". "We find the claim by Huntley to have been attacked seven times by Africans due his skin colour... sensational and alarming," the ANC said in a statement. "Canada's reasoning for granting Huntley a refugee status can only serve to perpetuate racism," it added. Huntley claims he was attacked seven times, including three stabbings, by blacks who called him a "white dog" and a "settler" during attempted robberies and muggings. But he said he never reported the crimes to police, nor had he approached the government about the attacks. "I refuse to talk to the government," he told the paper. He refused to discuss the details of his case, saying he feared his family still living in South Africa could face reprisals, but claimed he had highlighted the problems of modern South Africa. "I've opened people's eyes", Huntley told The Star. Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board said privacy laws prevented them from commenting on the case. "We cannot comment on refugee claims. This type of claim is heard in private," spokesman Stephane Malepart told AFP. South Africa's main Jewish group also raised concerns about the decision, pointing out that all South Africans suffer from the nation's alarming crime rate, with an average of 50 murders a day. "If anything black South Africans are more vulnerable to crime due to the sad historical reality of higher poverty levels in their communities," said Zev Krengel, head of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies.

South Africa lambasts "Chinese tsunami", Business Day, Aug 24, 2009
Anger is mounting in Africa, particularly in SA, about what the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) calls a "tsunami of cheap Chinese goods" stifling local industries and wiping out jobs.... The Textile, Garments and Tailoring Senior Staff Association of Nigeria estimates 350,000 jobs have been lost directly as a result of Chinese competition and 1.5-million indirectly after more than 50 textile industries were forced to shut down over the past five years. SA's textile union estimates 800 manufacturing units and 60,000 jobs have disappeared in South Africa since 2001 because of unfair competition from China. SA has imposed antidumping duties on Chinese products such as face cloths, door locks and handles, and blankets. But some analysts say these are token measures, perhaps reflecting a desire by South Africa not to antagonise China with its giant economy, which is growing in leaps and bounds. African countries have for decades faced a dilemma in dealing with China on trade because of Beijing’s solidarity with Africa in its fight against colonialism in the 1950s and 1960s and support of liberation movements in southern Africa. In Lesotho, which is dependent on textiles for 90% of export earnings, the garment industry collapsed after the end of World Trade Organisation restrictions on Chinese exports killed off Lesotho’s US orders.... Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven said the greatest challenge for SA was that China’s products were being produced by “exploited workers” without labour rights and earning appallingly low wages. “It is for this reason that Cosatu believes SA should impose tariffs on all Chinese products,” he said.

South Africa strike hits stadium work
BBC, Jul 8, 2009
Some 70,000 construction workers in South Africa have gone on strike, halting work on stadiums being built for the 2010 World Cup. Unions are threatening to wreck the tournament if their demands for a 13% wage increase are not met. Organisers say they are confident the grounds will still be ready, unless the strike continues for months. On Monday judges rejected a request from the employers to outlaw the strike, which unions say is indefinite. The BBC's Mpho Lakaje in Soweto says scores of workers are outside Soccer City stadium wearing blue overalls and brandishing sticks. "We are struggling for our country," they chanted after downing their tools at midday. Soccer City union organiser Patrick Geqeza blamed management inflexibility for precipitating the strike. "We feel bad about going on strike. [But] they don't want to meet us half way," he told AP news agency. At present most of the workers are being paid 2,500 rand ($310; £192) a month. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), whose members include construction workers, has rejected the 10% wage increase offer from employers. One of the stadiums which will be used during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. "The government must help us, otherwise we are going to delay 2010. We will strike until 2011," AFP news agency quoted NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka as saying. Protesters outside Durban's Moses Mabhida Stadium were forced to disperse because their application to protest was turned down, the South African Press Association reported. Before they left, the NUM's Bhekani Ngcobo told workers the union would make sure that no temporary labourers were employed. Five entirely new stadiums are being built for the World Cup, while five are being modernised. Danny Jordaan, head of the World Cup organising committee, said he respected the right of the workers to strike but felt the dispute would be resolved without affecting the construction schedule. "The construction workers have been the lifeblood of the 2010 Fifa World Cup project," he said in a statement. "Their hard work has ensured that we are on track to meet our deadlines and that our stadiums will be among the best in the world next year." Correspondents say if the strike continues projects such as the high-speed rail link between the airport and Johannesburg will be of greater concern than the stadiums. The rail-link is scheduled to be operational just two weeks before the tournament starts. The next World Cup will be the first to be hosted by an African country.

Zimbabwe's Rhodesia Ian Smith was right (post-colonial corrupt venal villains turned beautiful continent & lovely people into a wasteland inhabited by wretched of earth) & Ian Smith declared Rhodesia independent (severed link with Britain in 1965). Telegraph/BBC, Jun 30, 2008

Canada students honour Nelson Mandela (gov't, school boards, teachers endorse). CanNewsWire, Apr 22, 2008

Lionizing Mandela, a lifelong subversive (President Mbeko his political clone)., Apr 22, 2008

Why "Cry The Beloved" wife fled S/Africa ("President Mandela said we're cowards; but crime is rampaging through the land"). by Anne Paton (widow of Alan Paton). Sunday Times

South Africa's Mandela silent on Mugabe (neighbour Zimbabwe in hands of madman). Mirror, Apr 22, 2008

Durban dockworkers refuse Chinese cargo (77 tonnes of genocidal weaponry). Guardian, Apr 17, 2008

ZIMBABWE SPADE RED CHINA (...The South African president Thabo Mbeki "waved through" an arms shipment from China destined for Zimbabwe, which ran contrary to what the media reported elsewhere. These weapons are now being used against the Zimbabwean citizens in what is labeled by those outside the country as a coup d’état....)

Zimbabweans swimming Limpopo river (crocodiles, 3 layers of fence in hope of job in South Africa). BBC, Jul 21, 2007

Farms of fear in South Africa (2,000 white farmers & Afrikaans murdered by racism & envy since 1994 apartheid). Sunday Times, Apr 2, 2006

NKUNDA SAY CONGO OWNS RESOURCES (...One day I told him: You are coming with your tanks to ask us to shut our mouth. But Congolese can enjoy today [prefer] to be a British colony instead of being what we are today. When I go in the former British colonies, there is infrastructures from the colony and there is education. But in Congo there is nothing: education nothing, infrastructure nothing.... I gave him an example of South Africa. I said South Africa was under opposite [British colonizers], and this opposite was in some kind reinforced by your countries. And this so-called opposite raised South Africa today as the first strong country in Africa economically and politically. But even so, South Africans opposed themselves to opposite - the first economy in Africa; the tenth in the world - bringing itself to represent Africa in the [U.N.] Security Council....



CHINA RAILROADING CONGO RAILROAD (...Cecil Rhodes had died in 1902 without ever having acquired Katanga or his Cape-to-Cairo railroad, but his deputy Sir Robert Williams managed to find his way inside Katanga. Desperate for funding to begin mining, Leopold partnered with Williams's company Tanganyika Concessons Ltd, granting them a stake in mineral rights in exchange for helping finance a railroad to the mines (this merger would later become Union Miniere). To build the railway, Williams brought in British-owned contractng firm Pauling & Company, who'd built railways in South Africa and Rhodesia. The nearest rail station to Katanga was 212 kilometers south of Lubumbashi [Elizabethville] at Broken Hill mine in Northern Rhodesia. The station was the northern terminus of a railroad that extended east to the Indian Ocean port city of Beira Mozambique. The objective was to extend this railroad into Katanga thus connnecting Katanga to the ocean.... The ultimate goal was the National Route finally opened in 1928, an all-Congo rail and river network from Katanga to the Atlantic.... By the 1950s Sir Robert Williams had achieved a dream of his own, the 1,348 kilometer Benguela Railway across the barren landscape of Angola, Congo's southern neighbor, which provided Katanga with an even shorter route to the Atlantic. Congo had built a link with the Benguela line in 1931, so by the time of the war the colony divided a large chunk of its export between the Benguela's all-rail network and Congo's own National Route.

7.Systems of Thought and 10.Rulers

Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~