September 7, 2016 (160907)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
The "post-apartheid" period is now over, it seems. Whether one dates
the change from the massacre of miners at Marikana in 2012, the
death of Nelson Mandela in 2013, student protests in 2015, or the
municipal elections last month, a generation has now passed since the high hopes of the first
democratic elections in 1994. South Africans, particularly the
generation known as the "born-frees," are coping with the realization
that that political victory was only the beginning, not the
achievement of the hopes for social and economic transformation so
many had hoped and died for.
As in other African countries a generation after the achievement of
political independence, and in the United States a generation after
the dramatic gains for political rights in the 1950s and 1960s, it
is clear that centuries of history of oppression are still deeply
embedded in current stubborn structures of inequality, as well as in
the dominant culture. The number of years counted in a generation
are generally taken as somewhere from 20 to 30. But changes in
consciousness are uneven, and sharply marked by transformative
Those experiences differ, of course, from country to country and
continent to continent. But in the age of hashtags such as
#BlackLivesMatter and #FeesMustFall, there are also striking
convergences and linkages across continental boundaries. Yet the
unequal balance in global media (including social media) means that
the outside world is far less aware of the changes in South Africa
than of the highly publicized events in the United States.
Today's series of two AfricaFocus Bulletins, therefore, focuses
particularly on South Africa.
Another AfricaFocus Bulletin, not sent out by email but available on
the web at http://www.africafocus.org/docs16/sa1609b.php, contains
excerpts from a forthcoming chapter by Patrick Bond, focusing on the
link between student protest in South Africa and the current heated
debates about the government budget and economic priorities in South
This AfricaFocus Bulletin includes, as is our normal format, several
articles and additional links related to selected topics: recent
protests by black girls against racist hair codes at elite private
schools, analysis of the aftermath of the municipal elections, and
the planned launch of a new progressive trade union federation.
A new feature this week, however, consists of links to a Youtube
playlist of highly recommended videos available for free watching,
including two acclaimed feature films on the Marikana Massacre of
2012 (Miners Shot Down) and on the student protests of 2015 (The
People Versus the Rainbow Nation) as well as shorter videos and
interviews, such as the explosive speech by ANC veteran Sipho
Pityana at the funeral of ANC leader Makhenkhesi Stofile in last
August. You can find the listing below, with links to each video.
But, if your time right now is limited, I suggest you save this
email for later reading and go directly to Youtube to pick what to
watch and save any you are interested in to "watch later." See
"South Africa in the 21st Century in Video: A Youtube Playlist,"
available at http://tinyurl.com/hqpr255.
Update September 10, 2016
Angela Davis, 17th Steve Biko Memorial Lecture,
Pretoria, September 9, 2016
Watching these videos and preparing the playlist has been both
enjoyable and highly informative for me, but it is also much more
time-consuming than selecting written material from email and web.
So I would much appreciate feedback on whether readers find any of
the videos useful, and whether you would like similar playlists to
be an ongoing feature for AfricaFocus.
If you prefer audio to video, and have time to listen (a bit less
than an hour), note that KPFA radio host Walter Turner interviewed
me about South Africa after the municipal elections on his program
Africa Today. For the discussion with Walter, focused on trying to
understand South Africa's present situation in comparison to the
parallels in the United States, visit the KPFA site at
https://kpfa.org/program/africa-today/, and scroll down to the
program for August 15, 2016. I'm not doing a form on this one, but
if you listen, any feedback (email to email@example.com) would be
[For regular progressive coverage of South Africa, follow The Daily
Vox on Facebook or subscribe to the weekly "Top of the Vox" at
I don't think I have ever seen anything quite like it.
The little girl now known to all as Zulaikha Patel standing in
front of a row of three white males, refusing to back down, calling
on them to follow through with their threats to arrest them for
"Take us all," she said, for half a dozen girls at the school. "They
want to take us prison take us all."
It was an act of extraordinary courage that left us tingling. Who
were these brave girls and how had they secured such resilience
I watched the video on a loop on Instagram. Stolen moments from a
protest that left me breathless. I think it was five times before I
dared to blink. And still, there was an artistry in the execution of
their defiance. A calmness that betrayed possible consequence.
For Zulaikha her resolve was as natural as the curls on her head
and the light creases on her young face. It was earnest, determined
Their actions were undeterred by mortgage payments and outstanding
car loans. Unconcerned about the impact of her actions on "her
career" or "that promotion".
A free spirit, asking only for the right to be herself.
The photo of her standing tall with steely eyes, arms outstretched
and fists folded above her irresistible afro in a defiance of an
antiquated, warped and racist policy will be studied and fluttered
over for years to come.
We learnt later that Zulaikha had been previously put in detention
for her hair. That she had to leave three schools because her hair
challenged the system. Her sister said she was continually mocked,
her hair described as "exotic" and looking like a "cabbage". She
would come home in tears. It is remarkable then that she didn't
look for ways to mend the "problem".
I know I would have. I know I turned a blind eye to any whispers or
condescension from teachers or classmates at both primary and
secondary school reserved for the few brown and black faces in the
former Model-C schools I attended. I know I put on a purported
civilised face each morning I entered that school and showed my true
colours each afternoon back home or with fellow brown savages at the
Then, as profiling at airports or certain cities continue to
proliferate, so many of us are shifting our behaviours,
assimilating, changing the way we curl our tongues so we fit in, or
draw attention to ourselves. And if we protest, it will be decided
after a cost-benefit assessment: based on time and place, potential
to win and lose, energy levels and interest to take on the prejudice
or let it slip. We are all in awe of Zulaikha, because we wish to
hell we could have all been her, growing up. We wish we could be
her, as a grown up.
While so many of us were trying as children, and then as adults, to
make the world work for us, we forgot that world already belonged to
each and every one of us. We've been left so insecure and desperate
to "make it", we've been wired to forgo anything, including
I wondered after watching the clip another five times: what if there
hadn't been a video to record the sublime protest initiated by the
girls of the school? The reported narrative would have never gone
viral. It would not have brought the school to its knees, its
policies into the spotlight. It might not have brought politicians
and policymakers into the discussion. Zulaikha might have found
herself immediately suspended, or expelled, maybe jailed. It might
have all been in vain.
We don't know, as per her sister's admission, how all of this
attention will impact on Zulaikha. She is just a 13-year-old after
all, acting on her own accord. And this is not a fight she was ever
meant to fight.
But she has provided a most memorable lesson.
Justice, it turns out, simply needs people to speak out against
And it's apt, that it would take a child to make us remember that.
See also, for a description of the protest and its background,
"Pretoria Girls High: A protest against sacrificed cultures and
identities," by Greg Nicolson, Daily Maverick, August 30, 2016 (
The Sun Also Rises: And the Darkest Hour is just before the Dawn
[John Matisonn is the author of God, Spies and Lies, Finding South
Africa's future through its past, and host of Cape Town TV's Between
the Lines, a series of half-hour programs each featuring an
interview with a key South African newsmaker or analyst.]
[For a Youtube playlist of Between the Lines beginning in June 2016,
visit http://tinyurl.com/jsotek5 - For links to selected interviews,
see "South Africa in the 21st Century" below]
I guess I'm cursed to be a contrarian. By late 1996 I could see that
this democratic government so many had risked life and limb for
would not be strong against corruption. I saw it first-hand when it
sided against the honest in the first big corruption scandal of the
ANC era, at the Independent Broadcasting Authority. Everyone else
was optimistic, and I, an IBA councillor, was out of step.
Now, as President Jacob Zuma's rank disdain for the people he
governs has seen in some a spiral of despair, I feel positive. Why?
Because August 2016 will go down in this country's history as a
turning point. Zuma is not finished yet, but my crystal ball tells
me that whatever damage he does before he goes, and there will be
damage, politically speaking he is a dead man walking. The South
African voter has awoken. And you can take that to the bank.
Of course this may not be the end of the ANC. If good leadership,
leadership with vision and integrity, takes the helm, the ANC
obviously can rebuild. Too many people care about it to abandon it
if given new reasons for hope. But every day Zuma remains in charge
is a blessing to Mmusi Maimane and Julius Malema. For them, the
president is the gift that keeps on giving. And from the day after
Zuma goes, he will be like apartheid: Support Zuma? Who, me? Never
The cascade of good people coming out against Zuma and for Gordhan
should bring tears of relief to the patriotic eye. Let's be blunt
for a moment, like we know South Africans are at home: a lifelong
Communist of Indian descent has the hopes and admiration of a
grateful nation. His courage, smarts and sensibleness have brought
out the best in leaders in every field and of every ethnicity.
Not a day goes past without an icon of the struggle, or a gaggle of
academics or a billionaire business leader, scathingly attacking the
president. And Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has finally lifted
his skirt. After a seemingly endless period of the unseemly
grovelling necessary to stay in his job, he's given a limited idea
of what we are asked to believe is the real Cyril: he backed Pravin
Gordhan unequivocally at an ANC funeral.
Don't bet the farm that Cyril will not cover those ankles again.
Zuma retains the majority in the decision-making National Executive
Committee, and Ramaphosa knows how to count. But for ordinary South
Africans, either the ANC throws out Zuma, or voters continue to
nibble away at the ANC's eviscerated credibility and votes.
It will be a long time before all of us -- commentators,
politicians, businesspeople, academics and the jobless -- digest the
news of August 2016. Around 10 percent of the national budget, and
hundreds of thousands of jobs, are no longer controlled by the ANC.
Even in the unlikely event of a 2019 ANC recovery from these local
election results, further losses will accrue in provincial and
The ANC lacks the tools for opposition politics, except perhaps in
Johannesburg, where the outgoing mayor, Parks Tau, retains his
skills and moral compass.
If Herman Mashaba messes up as mayor of Johannesburg, Tau's people
will be back in 2021. That's in the future. For the rest of this
decade, the defeated will have to adjust.
The new metro governments have something going for them. That hunger
and lack of entitlement, the feeling they have no God-given right to
govern and everything to prove, may serve them well.
Do not underestimate the prize: even if they do not get the ANC
below 50% in 2019, think about the thousands of town councillors who
lost their jobs this month, and the MPs and MPLs who know they will
be unemployed in 2019. Think about the tens (hundreds?) of thousands
of cadres whose guarantees of deployed positions just evaporated.
They must prove themselves competent, or they're next. Those old
enough will remember that apartheid slugger John Vorster's famous
phrase: adapt or die.
The adaptations to come will boggle the pre-August 2016 mind. Zuma
seems determined to take out Paul Mashatile as ANC Gauteng
provincial leader. He, Tau, and Gauteng premier David Makhuru
represent the best in the ANC. Urban, urbane, modern and honourable.
What will they do?
The answer follows logic: some will stay ANC to the bitter end. But
others will switch parties. It may still seem impossible to imagine,
but when they are out in the cold, their choice will be fairly
simple: DA or EFF. Perhaps COPE or the UDM will attract a few, but
they lack the infrastructure or heft to make it on their own. The
future is with three parties. Only in KwaZulu-Natal will the fourth,
the Inkatha Freedom Party, remain in the running, though the age of
its leader, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, and his failure to prepare
for succession mean it too is on borrowed time. As in the white
politics days of the United Party's Douglas Mitchell and before that
the British imperialist Dominion Party, the languid politics of our
tropical province will be slow to catch up.
The country needs to move to debate that's more concrete. Probably
nothing is more critical or central and essential to debate than
reprioritising the national budget. That requires a public argument
tied to what the government is actually doing as opposed to what it
says it's doing.
To give but two examples: Every government leader says we are
prioritising infrastructure, but the companies that would be
building infrastructure -- construction companies -- are staving off
collapse because so little is being commissioned. Infrastructure
brings jobs and growth, both short-term and long-term.
Second, the government wants a zero fees increase because it is
scared of students. But it hasn't offered a way to pay for it.
Universities are a top priority. They provide the job creators (as
opposed to the claim especially by the American right that cutting
already low taxes on the 1% creates jobs).
Where should the money come from? That is what the debate must be
about. But first, a major step must be to cut the public sector
payroll. If we don't we will be Zimbabwe -- where Robert Mugabe has
stayed in power for 36 years by protecting public sector salaries at
the expense of the economy. In 2016 that chicken (his party symbol
is the rooster) has finally come to roost. This week, after he
proved unable to meet the payroll yet again, he finally agreed to
the cuts. That is the worst possible way to do it -- to cut when you
have no money to redirect productively.
What happened on August 3 may be the best possible outcome for a
number of reasons besides giving the ANC a well deserved bloody
nose. The fact that the transfer of power occurred largely
peacefully is a good sign. That makes it more likely that the ANC
will accept the next round of losses.
As important, this slow easing of power away from the ANC is better
than an overnight landslide, for this reason: South Africa is
extremely hard to govern. Its complexity, managing unruly and
compromised trade unions and increasingly confident traditional
leaders, remain substantially the ANC's problem.
So keep your chin up. Take the long view. The wheels of democracy
grind slow but sure. The majesty of democracy is a wonderful thing
to behold. South Africa will be back. China won't bring it back.
America and Europe won't bring it back. Only we, South Africans, can
and must. DM
See also Sahra Ryklief, "South Africa's 2016 municipal elections
why the excitement?," GroundUp, August 23, 2016 (
"Zwelinzima Vavi's address to the FAWU [Food and Allied Workers
Union] National Congress"
22 August 2016
[Brief excerpts from beginning of speech by the former general
secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and
convenor of the Steering Committee for a New Trade Union Federation.
Full text available at http://tinyurl.com/j8b6roc]
It is also a time of extreme hardship for millions of workers and
thousands of your own members, particularly on the farms, where far
too many employers still act as if apartheid had never ended.
Poverty pay, casualisation, exploitation and racism are widespread
and even getting worse, as the job-loss bloodbath continues. Entire
industries are in danger of disappearing. Unemployment at 36% is
among the highest in the world, and employers have been quick to
exploit the desperation of the unemployed to find or keep jobs at
any cost in order to drive down wages and working conditions.
As well as outsourcing, casualisation of work and using labour
brokers, the bosses are now waging a concerted campaign to sabotage
collective bargaining structures and weaken the power of organised
labour. Some, like Uber taxis, want to redefine all their workers as
self-employed so-called 'partners', with no benefits or union
Inequality is widening globally, but South Africa remains the worst
in the world, and it is still blatantly racial as the gap gets wider
between the white, super-rich capitalist elite and the black working
class majority, women in particular, who remain even more firmly
mired in poverty, hunger and squalid living conditions. Wealth is
shifting further into the pockets of the white capitalists.
This widening inequality fosters a mood of growing anger and despair
as the problems which the ANC keep promising to solve remain as bad
as ever or get even worse. Community protests against the lack of
basic services, corruption and unaccountable local officials have
become so frequent that they rarely make the news headlines, except
in traffic reports when they disrupt motorists travel plans!
This is all aggravated by the unchecked explosion of
maladministration, corruption and theft of our wealth not just by a
few rogue families but the entire capitalist class and their
political allies in the ANC, DA and other political parties. It is
not just President Jacob Zuma and the Guptas who are plundering the
wealth created by our labour, but the entire corrupt capitalist
system of which they are part.
More and more reports are leaking out revealing systematic tax
evasion and money-laundering by big business. Millions of rands are
disappearing from the country as investors put their cash where they
will make the quickest and biggest profits, with no regard for the
welfare of the people, the environmental price and least of all the
conditions of their workers who produce the wealth in the first
place. Big business is sitting on R1, 5 trillion in the banks and it
blames this investment strike on 'uncertainty'.
These are all the real reasons for the decline in the ANC vote and
the record high number of abstentions on 3 August. Although it is
still the biggest party, the ANC's vote dropped from 62.9% in 2011
South Africa in the 21st Century in Video: A Youtube Playlist
Shutting Down the Rainbow Nation: #FeesMustFall
by Africa is a Country
Short film on #FeesMustFall student protests. October 2015.
11 minutes https://youtu.be/ksgrJyOrd7A
The People Versus The Rainbow Nation
by MTV Base Africa
Feature film. May 2016. Inside look at students and the issues
behind the protests.
1 hour, 2 minutes https://youtu.be/Yu-1Wlo5_Hs
Between The Lines Episode 1
by Cape Town TV
Interview with Sylvia Vollenhoven, June 2016. From rediscovery of
history of the Khoisan to corruption and illicit financial flows in
26 minutes https://youtu.be/uSZE05ZvIRg
Between the Lines Episode 3
by Cape Town TV
Interview with Andrew Feinstein. June 2016. Corruption in the South
African arms deal & the global arms trade.
24 minutes https://youtu.be/2hUptxmxkhg
Between the Lines Episode 6
by Cape Town TV
Interview with leading university educator Jonathan Jansen. July
2016. The state of South African higher education. Financial &
26 minutes https://youtu.be/mS5pJ1sWUgI
Between the Lines Episode 8
by Cape Town TV
Interview with #FeesMustFall activist Akosua Korenteng at University
of Cape Town. August 2016.
Between the Lines Episode 11
by Cape Town TV
Interview with election analyst Bob Mattes. August 2016. Data-based
analysis of municipal election results.
24 minutes https://youtu.be/Ef-KstOcqEI
Full Speech: Sipho Pityana Attacks Jacob Zuma at Makhenkhesi Stofile
Devastating critique of regime corruption at funeral of respected
ANC leader. August 25, 2016.
30 minutes https://youtu.be/gWA1R986iOc
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