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.