An important announcement

Helen Zille will never be allowed to rule this website – never ever.
Only God, who appointed me, will remove me: not the DA, not the British. Only God will remove me.

I hope this is clear. Also, I will not be allowing NGOs to work in the rural areas beyond the dining room without my express permission. And I’m already organising pre-printed voting forms for next year’s SA Blog Awards.

In other news, you can now enjoy some randomised rhetoric from the archives of this illustrious site by checking under the post from the past link about halfway down the sidebar on the right. So even if you’ve only just joined the 6000 miles… family, you can still show off to your mates by quoting something I wrote last March.

Brilliant.

It’s beginning to hurt

More and more of the column inches of the newspapers in South Africa are being devoted to inflation, interest rates, petrol prices and the cost of living. While the entire world is suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous oil prices and the so called “credit crunch”, South Africa – as a developing economy – has taken a harder hit than most.

Being a weaker currency than those of the developed economies, our Rand has taken a bit of a battering. This means that imported goods are more expensive – and that includes oil. And – as you may know (unless you’ve been hiding out in a cave with Osama) – oil has also been going up pretty quickly anyway.
The effect of this is known in economic circles as “compound misery”.
So – because everything costs more to produce – inflation goes up, the Reserve Bank tries to stop people buying things by increasing interest rates and eventually, we all end up living on the grass we’ve been growing in our back gardens. (Stop sniggering at the back).

We’ve been hearing about this for a long time now. But it’s only in the last couple of months that it seems to really be hitting home for the general population. It’s as if a line has been crossed.  Car sales are down 23% year on year. The housing market has stopped completely* in a way that would have the average Daily Mail reader contemplating suicide (oh go on then – if you must).
And then this from the Southern Suburbs biggest shopping mall on a Sunday lunchtime:

 
Cavendish Square – not square and not full

And yes – all the shops were open. It’s just that no-one has any money to spend in them.

We’ve been told to expect it to get worse before it gets better.
One wonders just how much worse we can manage.

* Although the headline “R110-million for SA’s priciest flat” might make you think otherwise…

RIP Ernesto Nhamuave

As this morning’s Cape Times reports, Ernesto Nhamuave – the “burning man” whose image brought the horror of the xenophobic violence in Johannesburg sharply and sickeningly to the attention of the world – has been laid to rest in his village of Vuca in Mozambique.

Two weeks on from that violence and those images and the world has moved on to the next big news story. In one way, I suppose that we should be glad that things have settled down, but once again, it demonstrates just how fickle the world’s media are.

The UNHCR estimates that South Africa has 42,000 people in need of shelter (and a whole lot more besides) having been displaced by the xenophobic violence. People in Cape Town and other affected cities across South Africa have pulled together to provide shelter, clothing, food and service for the refugees displaced by the troubles of the last few weeks; in our case, this is despite the well-publicised, childish spat between the City Council and the Provincial Government that has reportedly delayed help getting to those who need it. Sometimes, politicians are utterly pathetic. This is an ugly and embarrassing display by both the City and the Province. But guess what? It’s always the other party’s fault.

Although we had a bright weekend, it came after a run of several days of cold, wet weather and there’s more on the way this week. And while there is still no shortage in the number of volunteers or those willing to give items to help, one has to wonder how long that will last once the refugees’ plight starts to slip from the news and therefore from the public eye. Just in time for winter.
Sadly, it’s only vivid images like that of Nhamuave and stories like that of Adam Degol, who has not seen or heard from his wife or 8-month old son since he was attacked in Lower Crossroads two weeks ago, which will keep this matter in the news for any length of time.

How you can help refugees in Cape Town.

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

Exactly what are our politicians up to while the well-documented violence against foreign nationals spreads to each and every corner of the country?

President Thabo Mbeki has been widely criticised for his lack of prompt action when the attacks started in Alexandra last week (or earlier, according to some sources). And rightly so, I would argue. Whether or not you believe that deploying troops sooner would have stopped the violence from spreading (I don’t), not deploying them merely allowed the attacks to continue almost completely unabated as the police, outnumbered and outmanoeuvered by the mobs in the townships, were obviously unable to cope.

Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, a woman generally well-respected since her intervention in the country’s HIV policy-making decisions had been quiet – until yesterday. At which point, I wished she’d stayed quiet. Visiting Nigeria, Mlambo-Ngcuka issued South Africa’s first public apology for the violence. Like this:

We are very much concerned and apologise for all the inconvenience that the incidents have caused

The “inconvenience”? That’s what I expect from the local supermarket manager when they don’t have stock of seedless raspberry jam. It’s what I want to hear on the loudspeaker on Platform 6a when my train is 10 minutes late. Personally, I don’t think “inconvenience” is quite enough to cover over 40+ dead and 20,000 “displaced” (read “fleeing for their lives”). Another government own goal?
Even charismatic Jacob Zuma, our President-in-waiting, who spoke out early on against the violence, has since fallen silent as the wave of attacks continues to escalate. I find this very strange – Zuma has previously been quick to capitalise on any sign of Mbeki’s weakness. It’s almost a trademark stategy of his. So could it be that even JZ doesn’t have an answer to these problems?

So while the ANC provaricates and struggles to provide answers, solutions, reasons or even a half-decent apology for the violence, what has the oppostition been up to? Well, finally, Helen Zille, leader of the DA, has come out with a statement. Not surprisingly, she blames government policy for the troubles and not surprisingly, she suggests that her party would do better if they were given a chance to run the country. Keep dreaming, Helen.   
What’s missing from that statement is any short-term solution. And while most people are well aware that the reasons for these problems need to be addressed, people are being killed every day. So yes, we need “proactive steps to address the root cause of the xenophobic violence”, but first we need to actually control what is happening in the informal settlements across South Africa right now.

I mentioned yesterday that Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils had noted the involvement of opportunistic elements in the violence. And in an interesting opportunistic move, the Zimbabwe Government – the reason that most Zim immigrants are here in the first place – have offered to help repatriate those displaced by the attacks. Presumably, those repatriated individuals will then vote ZANU-PF in the upcoming Presidential run-off.

Other developments:
Tourists cancel trips to SA – an over-reaction
Army kills man – not an over-reaction
Miners may leave – completely normal reaction

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.