Now violence hits the Cape

Not every comment makes it through the 6000 miles… vetting process. Nor does every email I receive get a reply. Some don’t deserve the time or effort and the delete button only takes one click.
Despite the fact that this is my blog and I am fortunate enough to live in a country which allows me freedom of speech, there have been a number of people who have told me to remove my opinions from this site, seemingly simply because they disagree with them in some part or other. One even called me “valueless”. Ouch! As a public service announcement, may I ask you not to waste my time and yours by sending offensive or vulgar emails and comments. You won’t get them published or replied to.

As widely predicted, the xenophobic violence has spread across the country from Gauteng. Last night, there were attacks in Du Noon, Cape Town. It sounds pretty awful. That said, the report I’ve linked to is by Caryn “worst nightmare” Dolley who was the reporter on the “truly terrible” Cableway breakdown story I mentioned last week, so maybe things aren’t actually a bad as they sound. But I’m willing to give Caryn the benefit of the doubt on this one. The TV pictures which have been shown across South Africa and the world make it clear just how horrendous the violence is.

And now the question “is this really xenophobic violence?” has been raised. Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils suggests that there may be more to these attacks than just plain hatred of foreigners, suggesting that they were the result of opportunistic elements exploiting and manipulating genuine local grievances for their own sinister ends:

We must better educate our people in tolerance, resolutely dispelling any erroneous perceptions about foreign nationals, which are fuelled in circumstances of relative socio-economic disadvantage.
It is these variables that ultimately create the poisonous context for opportunistic elements to exploit and manipulate genuine local grievances for their own sinister ends, with tragic consequences.

And certainly, this same opportunism can clearly be seen in SA blogs, with many right-wing writers using the situation to pour fuel onto their racist fires – urging the white minority to rise again while the country is in disarray. I find it ironic that they suggest that this would never have happened under the Apartheid regime. Remembering back to the 1980’s when I lived in the UK, my only images of South Africa were the news pictures of township violence. I have chosen not to link to their sites, but Google will surely help you if that’s the kind of thing you like to read.

But of course those elements I mention above, be they xenophobic blacks or racist whites, don’t represent the views of the vast majority of South Africans. Back to the late 80’s again, when I was English and a football fan. So to the rest of the world, I was a football hooligan.
I tore up seats and threw them onto the pitch. I fought with rival fans just because they didn’t support United.
No, of course not. For a start, I was only 14 and it was only a tiny number of people who were involved in that scene. But that didn’t stop me being tarred with their dirty great brush.
Nic Haralambous sums it up nicely at SA Rocks, noting that the voices uniting against the violence are the ones transcending colour, creed, race or nationality. I’m not sure I would go so far as to agree with his comment that this is an “uplifting” experience for the country, though.

The BBC quoted my arbitary line: “It seems likely that this situation will certainly get worse before it gets better”.
It was a weak bit of writing, to be honest. But sadly, the point still stands.

BBC, baby!

As Thabo Mbeki finally pays heed to everyone’s pleas to bring in the army in order to try and quell the xenophobic violence which has flared up across South Africa, the BBC News website quotes 6000 miles… amongst others in its 21st May article, SA Bloggers want end to violence.

Fame at last.

I am also available for bar mitzvahs, opening of local fêtes and judging this year’s Idols competition.
My rates are very competitive.

These xenophobic acts are undoubtedly a political issue. Our politicians obviously need better advice from better educated people. You could make a difference to South Africa’s future by visiting jonnyharvard.com and sending one of those political advisors to Harvard. Do it. Please.

Return of the Daxk

Daxk is back with a belter of a comment that sums up many SA expat’s feelings perfectly. Perhaps.

Aaah yes,6K,I really dont understand what the fuss is about,its been going on for about a week and they’ve only killed about 25,going back to the famous Crime Blog post,and the normal 50 murdered per day on average,its hardly going to make a blip on the figures,is’nt it?
Besides, the police services have been saying for years that its the illegal Mocambican and Zimbabwean immigrants who are responsible for the Hi-Jackings and armed home invasions, not to mention the daily cash in transit robberies.
will be interesting to see wether there has been a decrease over this period.
Hate to say it,but its only been noticed because its all on Camera.
Ho Hum! Another day in Paradise.

When responding to something like this, I often find it difficult to know where to start. Then I remember Maria’s advice – “Start at the very beginning – a very good place to start”.
So maybe we should start with the fact that Daxk is right in the thick of the action, in Ireland. And no – that’s not the name of a township just outside Jo’burg, it’s the place 11,000kms away where they make Guinness and film the pisspoor Ballykissangel.

Moving on from that shock revelation, I’m assuming that the “famous Crime Blog post” Daxk refers to is the BSACP, which was voted as the second best post written on any South African blog in the whole of 2007. (Just behind one about buying condoms, but that’s not important right now.) Daxk doesn’t agree with the sentiment of that post, despite the fact that it quite clearly states:

South Africa has a big problem with crime… The stats show that South Africa remains one of the most violent societies on earth – the figures are shocking.

I don’t know. Maybe I should have made it a bit more melodramatic.

Daxk goes on to say that because the murder rate in South Africa is so high, we shouldn’t really be bothered about this minor problem – “they’ve only killed about 25”. Perhaps Daxk would call that attitude “desensitization”. Most others would choose “cold”, “unfeeling” or “callous”. 

And then, the pièce de résistance – the affirmation that illegal immigrants (those from Mozambique and Zimbabwe, anyway) are responsible for armed home invasions, hijackings and cash-in-transit robberies – and a suggestion that because of the xenophobic violence against foreign nationals, the numbers of these crimes may have decreased over the last week. This would be laughable, if it wasn’t quite so inaccurate, irrelevant and downright sick.
The mobs roaming informal settlements in Gauteng at the moment are targeting anyone suspected of being foreign – legal, illegal, men, women, children. Several deaths have been South African nationals who were mistaken for foreign nationals. The excellent Special Assignment on SABC3 devoted their whole show to the issue yesterday evening – including interviews with the families of the victims of the gangs’ “mistakes”, something you may have seen if you weren’t in Ireland. Instead you rely on iol, news24 and Tannie Brenda for your third hand information.

The figures suggest that there are somewhere between 3-5 million immigrants in SA. (Incidentally, I think that the breadth of those numbers quite clearly indicates the huge problem with border control in SA.) And yes, crime is high in South Africa, but the suggestion that around 1,000 of those immigrants being displaced, many of them women and children (60+ injured, 23 dead as of last night) would make a difference to the number of armed robberies is a bit of a stretch. A desperate one.

And yes. It’s all on camera. And, in some ways, thank goodness it is. This is not something that should be or can be brushed under the carpet. Just because the victims are immigrants, because some foreigners may be involved in crime, because “they’ve only killed 25” doesn’t make this situation any less of a crisis. 

Please note: anyone – Daxk included – is welcome to share their views by commenting on 6000 miles… provided they abide by the rules available here.

The Umshini Wam Plan

Further information is coming out of the townships where xenophobic violence has erupted – namely that those individuals perpetrating the attacks on foreign nationals and immigrants have allegedly been singing Jacob Zuma’s infamous Umshini wam “theme” song. Cue another ZumaRuma™.

Zuma is unimpressed:

He said he had heard that people attacked others while singing the song Umshini wam.
“That is a serious matter, for that song belongs to the ANC, it doesn’t belong to unknown people.
The question is, who are those people who are misleading the public by singing an ANC song when they’re doing the wrong thing?”

Who indeed? I’m certainly confused. I could give you the shortlist* I’ve made up if you wish. Just ask.
But it’s brought a heap of somewhat unjustified criticism onto Zuma’s shoulders and has played right into the hands of his detractors.

Let’s get this perfectly clear and right out in the open – seriously – JZ is not personally responsible for the xenophobic attacks in Alexandra or anywhere else for that matter, is he?
Just because the person with the big stick is singing his song, that doesn’t mean that it’s actually him. If that were the case, I’d have been going around for the last 10 years wearing a wig and battering people while singing Sicky Dion’s My Heart Will Go On in a perfectly reasonable attempt to get her put away in a (preferably soundproof) (actually, preferably airproof too) cell.

It’s all getting a bit silly now. Stop trying to score cheap political points and sort this mess out.

Said shortlist does not contain the name of any fmous Holly wood actors. Or does it?

South Africa’s Xenophobic Attacks

We, more than many other nations, should know better. We should know better because we have just emerged from more than three centuries of the horror of settler colonialism and apartheid… This madness has to stop. There is simply no justification for attacking people simply because they are not South African nationals.

Editorial, City Press

 

But xenophobic violence continued today, especially in the townships around Johannesburg. The police (SAPS) who had previously warned of a growing undercurrent of xenophobic unrest have accused criminal elements of hijacking the issues which have caused these attacks and worsening the situation. And while the police responded to the trouble with rubber bullets and tear gas, they have regularly come under fire from live ammunition. 

Burning man 
Immigrant alight (BBC)

 Section 201 of South Africa’s Constitution allows for the army to be called in by the President to assist the SAPS: 

Only the President, as head of the national executive, may authorise the employment of the defence force ­… in co-operation with the police service; 

 I would suggest that the time for that decision has already passed. With every news bulletin, we are hearing of more problems, more casualties, more deaths. However, whether Mbeki will (for once?) act decisively in this situation remains to be seen.

 Now there is the distinct possibility that the situation will spread to other cities across SA, including Cape Town

About 30 Somali shopkeepers trading and living in Du Noon have received warning letters telling them to leave the area, fuelling fears that xenophobic attacks occurring in Johannesburg could spread to Cape Town.

It seems likely that this situation will certainly get worse before it gets better. In fact, listening to the news on the radio, it’s getting worse even as I write this. Once again, huge negative publicity for South Africa and huge issues for the 3-5 million (depending whose figures you believe) immigrants in this country at the moment. And what choice for the Zimbabwean immigrants particularly – starvation in their own country or the threat of violence in this new home.

I’m sorry. I don’t have any answers. Even deploying the army in these hotspots will only see the trouble move elsewhere and does nothing to cure the underlying issues which have led to this situation.
“Send them back where they came from” suggests to these people that violence is the answer. It surely isn’t.
And me? An immigrant here myself – “taking their jobs”.  I’m just glad that I am where I am and not facing what those less fortunate than me are facing right now.

More on this issue will surely follow over the next few days on here as the situation develops. Don’t miss out.