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.

Sensationalist reporting is back!

Today’s Cape Times runs a front page story on the a problem which put the Table Mountain Cableway out of action for a whole 35 (thirty-five) minutes yesterday afternoon. Woo. [link]
Yet, despite the fact that there were a total of no injuries, no snapped cables, no plunging tourists, merely a blown fuse, we get 1000 words and an overflow onto page 3 about upset people waiting to use the cable car and how Eskom cut the power to it in January (an incident objectively described by the reporter as the passengers’ “worst nightmare”).

Nerish Rempul of Durban, who was looking forward to his third cable car ride, said the situation was “terrible”.
“I’m here with two friends but we’re leaving now. We probably won’t get another chance to use the cable car because we’re going home tomorrow. It’s truly terrible.”

No, no, no. Honestly, are all Durbanites quite so dramatic?
“Truly terrible” is when the local bottle store runs out of Castle Milk Stout.
A half-hour delay on the cable car is “mildly irritating”. In fact, if you happen to have some Castle Milk Stout with you when you get delayed, then a half hour delay can even be “quite alright” as it means “extra drinking time”.

All in all, reporter Caryn Dolley has done her best to make a story out of nothing, and she must have been amazed when it ended up on the front page, pushing murder, rape, earthquakes, fishcake recipes and rugby deep into the bowels of the paper.

I hate it when the press do that – not least because I don’t have time to get to page 18 on my tea break (although I often don’t have breadcrumbs to hand anyway) – but the South African press is worse than most when trying to drum up a story that isn’t. I might have hinted at that here.
My annoyance primarily stems from their cherry-picking and publicising the worst and most violent crime stories in order to get readers: a process which has the unfortunate side-effect of making the world think that we all get hijacked at gunpoint on a daily basis here in SA, which in turn keeps the tourists away in their droves (which then reduces income, increases poverty and… er… fuels crime).
This is counterproductive.

Some would argue that this tactic only works because people want to read about the worst and most violent crime and they’d be right. Without such tales, dinner parties in the better-off areas of SA would be strangely quiet, save for briefly mentioning how badly the Bulls are doing, questioning whether Julie is going to report her gynaecologist to the HPCSA and passing on the latest ZumaRuma™*. But that doesn’t excuse it.

To the editors of the South African press, not least Tyrone August of the Cape Times. Up your game please. This is rubbish.

* ZumaRuma – a piece of information (which may or may not be true) about our country’s president-in-waiting. 
   e.g. “Jacob Zuma ate my hamster”. (This may or may not be true.)

Problems in Zim, Problems in Sheffield

Just when the poor people stuck just over the border (though admittedly a border a long, long way from me here) thought that bent elections, crooked politicians, ridiculous inflation, food shortages, violence and intimidation were the only minor issues they had to face upon getting up this morning, comes this.

Yes, according to the BBC News website, African leaders have now taken their lead from Thabo Mbeki and Mad Bob and are further conspiring against the Zimbabwean people – and not just any Zimbabwean people – some the most vulnerable: Amputees.


BBC News spells it out clearly. No arms for Zim.

I am appalled.  How are these unfortunate people supposed to find gainful employment when their prosthetic limbs are denied entry to the country over some inconsequential political spat?

Meanwhile back in Sheffield, copper theft from electricity substations is out of control, apparently.
No – wait – surely I mean Cape Town?
Hmm – this is the perfect home from home, it seems.

Can you write me off too, please?

Great news! (if you’re Cuban, that is.)

According to this morning’s Cape Times, the South African government has written off a 12-year-old debt owed to it by Cuba for export insurance relating to diesel engines, pesticides, Joost van der Westhuizen promotional mechandise and biltong.  
Very generous. Very, very generous in fact, when you hear that the debt totalled R926,8million. Now although the current exchange rates mean that that princely sum would only buy you a prawn mayo sandwich in London, it’s still a whole lotta Rands.

Government communications head Themba Maseko told a media briefing following Wednesday’s regular Cabinet meeting:

Given the assessment of Cuba’s debt position, government is of the view that Cuba was not in a position to meet its obligations in the foreseeable future.

I’ll bet that little gem of an announcement was slipped in right at the end of the briefing, following 4 hours waffling about exciting social grant allocation, fishing subsidies, landfill waste statistics and annual concrete price fluctuations. “Oh – and for those of you still here and still awake, we also voted to write off a billion Rands worth of debt to the Castro brothers. Thank you all very much, see you next week.”

At this point, I’d like to introduce you all to my bond. My mortgage. The money I borrowed from the bank to pay for my house. Now, to coin an official government phrase, “Given the assessment of my debt position, I am of the view that I am not in a position to meet my obligations in the forseeable future.”
This, by inference and extrapolation, together with a good dollop of subjectivity and bias, therefore means that my bank can write off all that I owe it and I can celebrate with a few mojitos and a fat cigar. Right?

Wrong. Despite the fact that I could be doing better things with my cash than throwing it into the ever-deepening pit of excessive interest payments, a pit which now dwarfs Kimberley’s Big Hole (and here I refer to the city in the Northern Cape, not the lass on Sea Point Main Road) – I still have to pay it back. Life is just so unfair.

Seriously though, what could South Africa have done with that billion Rand? Well, maybe the answers are right in front of us on the same Cape Times website:
Prevent deaths through water-borne disease in Soweto?
Fight the scourge of alcohol abuse and tik which is ruining students futures?
Reducing child mortality rates, which are still on the rise?

Look, I know Cuba has problems too. But I pay tax in SA. For SA.