The South African Civil War – a short historical essay

No-one truly believed that South Africa would escape the descent into civil war at some stage – that was sadly inevitable – but I would wager that few of the naysayers and doom and gloom merchants could ever have accurately predicted the source of the conflict. It seems likely that, if pushed, most of them would have plumped for one of the more obvious causes: poverty, inequality, politics, corruption, race. But of course, that wasn’t it.

No-one ever realised that the previously-docile, overtly-privileged, white upper-middle class would rise up after the rumours that the City of Cape Town had threatened to close Newlands Spring. Even looking back, it seems ridiculous that this could be a trigger for any confrontation, let alone a protracted armed engagement between citizens of the Republic, but no-one thought about it. Well, why would you?

No-one foresaw that springing (no pun intended) from an online petition (where else?) set up by local businessman, ex-water collector and now infamous instigator of widespread civil unrest, Riyaz Rawoot, would come an army of discontented middle-aged white people. Never mind that the alleged closure turned out to be an entirely unresearched story put out by a local newspaper in order to incite outrage in an attempt to increase their dismal sales figures. That’s just incidental. It’s history now.

No-one would have believed that a barrage of strongly worded letters from the Southern Suburbs would be all that it took to bring down the elected leadership of Cape Town and the Western Cape, after they were unable to provide a satisfactory response within the 10 working days as promised in their electoral manifesto, prompting mass resignations in the higher echelons of provincial government. We had always thought that the war would be fought twixt electric fences and long knives (or at least machetes from Builders Warehouse). But the pen, it seems, is indeed mightier than the panga.

No-one ever thought that the effect of that sudden power vacuum in the south west of the country would be so disastrous. That it could come to this. That the alleged threatened lack of access to a slightly broken 4 inch plastic pipe at the end of a cul-de-sac in an affluent Cape Town suburb could drag the entirety of Southern Africa into bloody conflict.

No-one ever considered the butterfly effect; the implications of the true powerbase of the country getting swept up in a wave of outrage over a misunderstanding of what was frankly a rather trivial issue anyway.

No-one should ever underestimate how something so small could lead to our collective downfall.

Have a nice day.


It’s all the outrage these days to be outraged about things. It’s driven by social media, and fuelled by the websites of the local tabloids and the brain-dead, act-first-don’t-think-later people who populate those places. It seems that people are almost going looking for things to become upset by, a sort of Münchhausen’s Syndrome for the modern generation. And the things that people are getting outraged by are getting smaller, pettier and ever more difficult to predict.

We had this over a misread price label, we had outrage over the outrage over the reaction (or lack of reaction) to the Paris attacks, we’ve had people trying (but not really succeeding) to light outrage fires, and we’re going to have outrage over something else today. Probably.

But I got thinking (foolishly) about the stuff that we haven’t had outrage over yet. Stuff that, given the current climate for instant up-in-arms-ism, you’d have thought would have set the masses off.

  • The carbon footprint of the light aircraft that flies over Cape Town during rush hour, and over Newlands during rugby and cricket matches, towing a big advertising banner behind it.
  • The company that it advertises on the big advertising banner it tows behind it 90% of the time, which is a lap-dancing club.
  • People wasting water. As the so-called “water crisis” bites harder in SA, why has no-one come up with the #watershaming hashtag yet? When we had no electricity, people were quick to point out those being wasteful. With water shortages in 4 (is it 5?) provinces already, why has the same not happened with water?
  • The police vans that push their way through the traffic on the M3 each morning, taking inmates from Pollsmoor prison to court.
  • iTunes. All of it.

And that’s just for starters.

I’m both surprised and irritated that these things haven’t been considered adequate fodder for widespread outrage. Not least because I’d like to see something done about iTunes.

And Today’s Word of the Day is “Unrepentant”

Just a quick mention for a superb column from Irish journalist Ian O’Doherty, who upset several (or more) people from Liverpool when he made the outlandish suggestion that their namesake football club should feature a permanent black armband on their kit because the club:

… goes through so many commemorations of disasters and deaths

Cue – you guessed it – outrage.

When I heard that he’d written a column for the Irish Independent on the matter, my heart sank a little. Another brave soul who stuck his head above the metaphorical parapet and was now being forced back into submission at the hands of an angry mob and a spineless editor.

None of it!

Because today’s Word of the Day is, as we mentioned in the title of this post: Unrepentant.

Ian fights back ‘gainst the naysayers, the terminally offended and what he (quite rightly, but somewhat clumsily) terms “the Outragerati”.
There are abjectly acerbic, decidedly defiant and unashamedly unapologetic soundbites galore:

What a pity we have taken perhaps the most important technological tool ever created and decided to use it to mainly share pictures of kittens and form electronic lynch mobs who dribble with righteous and incoherent fury whenever they are exposed to something they don’t like.


Liverpool fans have a widely established reputation for being a humourless lot (while at the same time saying they’ve the best sense of humour of any group of fans), but this was just the latest drizzle of stupidity in what has become a downpour.

Oh, and let’s treat ourselves to just one more:

It’s no longer enough, it seems, to disagree with someone. You now have to completely shut them down. It’s a sort of intellectual blitzkrieg, which means even the most innocent remark is now seen as “hate speech” and so must be obliterated before it gets a chance to gain traction. Most western countries have a system of political checks and balances to protect people from the tyranny of the government. But what we now have is the tyranny of the people as these unelected, self-selected commissars stalk the land, deciding what everybody else can see, hear or say.

Invariably, this is done in the name of the suffocating, intolerant brand of dumb illiberalism that currently holds sway in society.

Preach, brother!

If you read one thing this week, read his column, inoffensively entitled: If I had set out to deliberately offend the Scousers, I would have gone a lot further, because it is absolutely beautiful.

Drop the Bass

I’m obviously too old to go out clubbing these days. Hey, I was never even hardcore enough to beat up a cleaner in a car park or urinate on a taxi driver from a balcony, so maybe I wouldn’t have fitted in to the local scene anyway. However, I’ve been doing some rudimentary research and it seems that I’m actually still allowed to enjoy the music and be aware of the currently popular genres.

Thus, I was very amused by a recent spoof article, which uses zeitgeist language and convention to poke fun at those who use social media and the internet to demonstrate their over-sensitivity.

I feel like it is not my body anymore.
They can never say or do anything to make this up to me.
She was still distressed the following day and was allowed to go home early from her job.

That wasn’t the spoof article, by the way. That’s a real story (albeit in the Daily Mail).
Be upset? Fine.
Be annoyed? Absolutely.
Get in touch with all the national newspapers over a simple mistake? Get a grip, luv.

But anyway, back to the dancefloor – and this:

A local clubber who was left “embarrassed and ostracized” when he threw his hands up too early during an extended trance drop has decided to sue the club for emotional distress. Johnathan Entwhistle is taking legal action against the nightclub, which cannot be named for legal reasons.

It’s funny, because it rings so very true.

Fellow clubbers reported on the initial premature fist pump claiming, “We were so embarrassed for him. He looked so smug and “in the know” when he fist pumped. But when the beat didn’t kick in he just looked like a bemused, out of place, fool,” recounted one clubber. “He’s a good looking guy but after seeing that I find the notion of sex with him laughably unlikely, and I have very low standards.”

Very clever. But, as “Mr Entwhistle’s lawyers” point out, society now forbids us to go against convention, as the DJ on that fateful night chose to do:

“We’ll take this all the way to Native Instruments if we have to. You can’t just go against years of tradition and expect to get away with it. This isn’t just some tradition you can throw away as useless like Catholicism, or monogamy.”

Eina. But if there was ever a career where convention overrules all other considerations, it’s surely club DJ’ing. People love the music and the culture for its repetitiveness, its familiarity and its reliability:

Very good. “Davincii”? Hmm. I wonder who they’re poking fun at there.

Offence and Outrage

It has become de rigueur nowadays to take offence and be outraged at anything and everything. Some of the minuscule things that prompt outrage these days are such that I swear there are some people that go out of their way to seek out reasons to be offended and stuff to be outraged by. I’ve mentioned the transient, ridiculously subjective and thoughtless nature of modern day outrage in posts previously, but, as ever, a picture is worth a thousand words, and this cartoon took my fancy (and I’m going to be outraged unless it gives my fancy back):

outrageTo be fair, while this demonstrates the selfish, subjective and hypocritical character of offence, many would not have got that far, already having been up in arms at the use of the term “Green Idiot” (although if you’d seen that party’s election manifesto in the UK, you’d probably agree wholeheartedly). Then, of course, “Moron” is discriminatory against… er… morons, and defining someone by their colour (whatever that may be) is obviously right out, isn’t it?

In sharing this cartoon (ironically, sometimes a fairly dangerous thing to do, because “offence”) and documenting my thoughts on this subject, I’m not expecting anything to change.

Not for the better, anyway.