Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Terrorism vs Environmental Concerns?

An excellent editorial from one of the smaller American papers, The Des Moines Register, which highlights one of the reasons I don't support Bush.

"The single most important and pervasive moral obligation facing mankind is to ensure survival of a healthy planet for our grandchildren and theirs. We owe an incredible debt to the past, and an equally incredible obligation to the future, for the protection of the awesome gifts nature has bestowed. The political movement, the social order, the religion that won't recognize and act upon that obligation fails the most solemn duty." (More)

I don't think that the Bush administration has done enough on environmental issues, and while terrorism needs to be addressed, it will be pointless winning that war if we don't start doing more globally, and forming the right global partnerships for sustainable development.

Monday, September 20, 2004

More protests against lack of service delivery

Sapa reports today about more protests against lack of service delivery, this time in the Eastern Free State. Apparently about 500 residents of Zamani in Memel are blocking the access road to the township. Old car wrecks and dustbins were being used to build barricades and school children were among those protesting. This follows similar protests last week in the same municipality of Phumelela, where residents of Ezenzeleni township in Warden protested against the lack of service delivery in their municipality.

It seems as if protests against lack of service delivery are becoming a monthly occurence in South Africa, and I'm wondering if this could be the start of a potentially serious trend. The protests seemed to have begun after this years April elections, the first was a protest against the housing situation in Diepsloot just outside of Johannesburg, and that was sometime in July. Then towards the end of August there were protests in Harrismith during which one of the activists was killed after being wounded by police. And now these protests in the Free State.

It seems as if people are holding the ANC to their election promises, and that there is a lot of frustration and growing impatience on the ground at the lack of delivery. On the one hand, the protests are bad for stability, law and order etc, and may give SA bad press if picked up by the overseas media - BUT - I think they are a good thing in the sense that it will put pressure on the ANC to deliver. Ironically, even though people are protesting against the government for failing to meet their promises, I still don't see them turning away from the ruling party.

At the time of the Harrismith protests, Irin reported this comment from Paul Graham, executive director of the Institute for Democracy in South Africa: "Just because the ANC got 70 percent of the vote [during the April general election] does not mean people are not critical of their performance. I think the protest ... is just a concrete manifestation of the feelings of many communities: that things are not moving as fast as they could," said Graham. "Voting for people just increases the expectation that they will deliver."

Friday, September 17, 2004

Culture and History

From now on I have decided to make Friday's culture and history day on Mzansi Africa. My first contribution for today is one of my all time favourite poems. South Africa has an incredible body of protest poetry that grew up under the apartheid regime. I've loved this poem that I'm posting today for a long time, and it's a poem that is still deeply relevant - as a way of looking back to our country's turbulent past, but also as a way of respecting the optimism of those who were oppressed, and their hopes for a better future that indeed came to pass.

For Don M Banned

It is a dry white season
dark leaves don’t last, their brief lives dry out
and with a broken heart they
dive down gently headed for the earth
not even bleeding.
it is a dry white season brother, only the trees know the pain as they still stand erect
dry like steel, their branches dry like wire,
indeed, it is a dry white season but seasons come to pass

by Mongane Wally Serote

Hamba Kahle Dolly Rathebe

Picture by
Jurgen Schadeburg

South Africa has lost one of it's great jazz and entertainment legends. Dolly Rathebe died yesterday at the Ga-Rankuwa Hospital outside Pretoria at the age of 74. She had been admitted to hospital after suffering from a mild stroke.

Picture via Dispatch Online

"Dolly Rathebe rose to fame at nineteen years of age, in 1949, when she starred in the film Jim Comes to Jo’burg as a nightclub singer. After the film was shown she became a natural choice for Drum to feature on its cover but when Jürgen Schadeberg, a Drum magazine photographer, took her to the mine dumps to shoot the cover girl picture, the two were arrested for contravening the Immorality Act, which forbade interracial relationships. Dolly soon became the nation’s sweetheart. Her name, Dolly, became part of township slang meaning "okay". By the 1950s she was singing with Johannesburg’s top bands, touring the country and even going as far as Lourenço Marques with the Manhattan Stars and the Harlem Swingsters." (More)

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

'We prove that Jews and Arabs can live together'

The Guardian (UK) has an encouraging story of Israeli-Arab unity. Bnei Sakhnin is an Arab football club in Israel with Jewish and Muslim players. They are playing Newcastle United tonight in the Uefa cup.

Twenty-four hours before arriving in England for his team's decisive match against Newcastle United tomorrow night, the chairman of Hapoel Bnei Sakhnin, Mazen Gnaiem, still had no idea which airport his team was about to arrive at. Indeed, he was rather surprised to discover that London had more than one. The sudden upgrade from being an obscure Arab football club in northern Israel to an international team playing in the Uefa cup is still bewildering, and not only for Gnaiem. Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims around the UK are wondering whether Sakhnin deserve their support: some may yet boycott the team which, after all, plays under the Israeli flag, fields Jewish players, employs a Jewish coach and sings the Israeli anthem before its international matches. "As long as in the depth of the heart, a Jewish soul bustles, we haven't lost our 2,000-year-old hope to be a free nation in Zion," is hardly a text many Arabs will identify with. At the same time, Israelis in the UK are unsure whether Sakhnin can be considered a "proper" Israeli club - and British-Jewish football supporters wonder if they could be affiliated in any way to this strange team. And, on top of everything, they play this crucial match on the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana. (More)

Monday, September 13, 2004

American Jewish History

America is celebrating 350 years of Jewish history.

They were only "23 souls, big and small," exhausted after surviving storms and pirates on the high seas.Those five words in an early Dutch document describe America's first Jews, who had fled persecution in Brazil. They were captured by buccaneers in the Caribbean before a French ship, the St. Catherine, rescued them and brought them to what is now New York.The exact day the ship docked is unclear, but the document dated Sept. 7, 1654, mentions the 23 men, women and children who stepped off the St. Catherine, starting Jewish history in America.(More)

An undated portrait of poet Emma Lazarus. Lazarus, who penned the words on the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor huddled masses yearning to be free..." prayed at Shearith Israel, the first synagogue in North America. Shearith Israel consecrated its first synagogue in 1730 on the site of an old mill in what today is lower Manhattan in New York. The small Mill Street synagogue was for years North America's sole Jewish house of worship. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Shearith Israel)

Thursday, September 09, 2004

I'm Back

I am back to blogging, my apologies for the absence of updates, I guess I just got caught up with life in general and didn't make time to blog over what has been a very busy 2 weeks. I had lots of things that I wanted to blog about but somehow it all stayed in my head and didn't make it into cyberspace. This has probably been the longest period I've let my blog "stagnate" since I started it up which is a pity because my readership was starting to develop nicely. Oh well, I'm not giving up because it's something I do enjoy and I will try to update more regularly from now on.