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.)

This is how I remind me

Is it just the drugs, or when you get to my age, does your short term wotsit start to fail?
I find myself using words like wotsit instead of the specific noun I should have used – just like my grandmother used to do. Thingumie is only a short time away now. And from there I’ll start calling my auntie by my sister’s name* and then I’ll know I’m getting properly old.
But it’s not just speech. I have to start writing things down or I forget to do them – however important they may or may not be – and then I have to cross them off the list to remind myself that I’ve done them:

wash car
buy bread
charge ipod
 feed child 
write blog

If you’re in Cape Town, Brian Micklethwait’s Kings Cross sunset may help to jog your memory of drier, warmer times.

Sunset
Always the sun? Not this weekend.

Ah yes. I remember those heady summer days. And while Brian laments the lack of clouds in his sunset, if he’s really desperate, we’ve got a fair few here which I’m very willing to export. So – in the somewhat unlikely event that there is anyone in the UK currently missing the cold, damp weather – just send me a email and I’ll happily arrange a courier.

But all in good time. Right now, I have to go and find out why my son is crying and clawing at the kitchen door.

* not in a Josef Fritzl way though.

Some Freedom

Today is a public holiday in South Africa. The first of three this week. On May 1st, we have the ubiquitous Worker’s Day and on the 2nd, an “extra” public holiday which was only granted in late March, for reasons that no-one really knows or wants to ask about in case it gets taken away again. This means only 2 working days, which means that we have the obligatory dose of Short Week Service Syndrome ahead.

But celebrate, for today is Freedom Day – the National Holiday to commemorate the 1994 General Election and the “official end” of apartheid. While many were delighted to welcome the non-racial elections, there were some disappointments, not least the poor showing of the DikWankWetla Party, who only managed to capture 0.1% of the vote. I know very, very little about the DikWankWetla Party, but they have an absolutely awesome name and for that alone are probably worth a vote even if their policies are a little ropey.

So. How has SA done over the last 14 years?
I guess that would be one of those questions with a host of “no win” answers, basically drawn out along racial lines. Let’s just say that the majority of people in this country are better off than they were pre-1994.
Of course, it hasn’t worked for everyone. Somehow today, it was even more saddening to see the beggars with small kids and babies in tow at the traffic lights. Some freedom for them. One wonders if they recognise that today holds any special significance for the country.
I gave away an entire 2kg bag of apples on the 3km run back home from the supermarket. Not much, I know, but trying to help, at least. One day, I hope 0.6 will understand why he didn’t get his Granny Smiths today.

Happy Freedom Day, South Africa.