Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Monday, January 17, 2005

Am I an African?

"It probably seems odd to be wrestling with the concept of being a white male in South Africa, but in fact it is. What felt like a bit of an elitest position when I was younger (not in a "I am white and better than you" kind of way, but more of a "White people seem to really be organised around here gosh darn it"). Then you grow up. Then you realise you are a foreigner. Then you have an identity crisis because you are not a foreigner, but you don't necessarily feel like you deserve to be a South African, because of the wrongs your elder generations partook in. Then you say "Dammit I am a South African". And then you start getting interested in learning about the country you live in, from an untainted, and self built perspective."
Bradley at

"...... I walk around and still see people hanging around in colour groups and realise that the young black South African has a powerful identity and heritage while I do not feel I am entitled to. I have realised that I need to forge myself a young white South Africa identity. This is not to say that I want to value my race over another, no, I would rather it be its own part of the greater South African, rainbow identity. I don't know how to do this, I know that I need to."
Dominic at
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The above quotes are from some recent discussions in the local blogosphere. I've mostly dealt with my issues around what it means to be a white South African. Am I an African? Obviously not in the sense that a black person is an African. Being a second generation South African, my history on this continent doesn't go back for hundreds of years, I don't share a common language or cultural traditions with black South Africans, or a common history of having being discriminated against. So no, in that sense I'm not an African, but I am a South African - because if I'm not a South African, then I'm nothing, at least as far as my national identity goes. I did go through a "white identity crisis" but about a year ago things fell into place. While I was in South Africa things seemed unclear, but then I went to Australia, and being in a different country made me aware of my "South Africaness". I am South African because of the way I talk, the things I find funny, my memories, my frame of reference, the way I look at the world, the way I dress. And I am a South African because I love this country, it's part of who and what I am. And that's something that no-one can deny you or take away from you.

"[A nation] is a named human population sharing an historic territory, common myths and historical memories, a mass public culture, a common economy and common legal rights and duties for all members."
Anthony D. Smith, National Identity.

Many countries, although things are rapidly changing with the way people emigrate and move around in today's globalised word, share a common culture and common national creation myths. Obviously, this is not the case with South Africa when we have so many different ethnic groups, but I think that the government has gone out of it's way to prioritise a committment to creating unity and reconciliation within the understanding that we are all different and that's okay-we should celebrate this difference with the rainbow nation concept. I think that this is starting to work, but obviously it will take time, yet I think we are building a solid foundation for the future. It is kind of wierd and difficult as Dominic says not to be able to share the powerful identity and common heritage of black South Africans, especially since as a white person you share the history of the race of the perpetrators of apartheid - but we have to move forward.

For me moving forward doesn't mean, as I've heard so many whites express themselves on radio call ins or letters to the editor, that we should get over the past and forget about about it -just as jewish people remember the holocaust, all South Africans are entitled to remember the past brutalities of apartheid, wounds are still raw, and for me as a white person I feel I need to try and understand that. I have to forge my own identity and feel comfortable within myself. Yet, if I am to be perfectly honest, there is still a part of me that feels like maybe I don't belong - but that comes more from my perception of how I feel black people might perceive me and is probably not true of the majority of the population.

by Michelle Frost

Within my soul, within my mind,
There lies a place I cannot find.
Home of my heart. Land of my birth.
Smoke-coloured stone and flame-coloured earth.
Electric skies. Shivering heat.
Blood-red clay beneath my feet.

At night when finally alone,
I close my eyes - and I am home.
I kneel and touch the blood-warm sand
And feel the pulse beneath my hand
Of an ancient life too old to name,
In an ancient land too wild to tame.

How can I show you what I feel?
How can I make this essence real?
I search for words in dumb frustration
To try and form some explanation,
But how can heart and soul be caught
In one-dimensional written thought?

If love and longing are a "fire"
And man "consumed" by his desire,
Then this love is no simple flame
That mortal thought can hold or tame.
As deep within the earth's own core
The love of home burns evermore.

But what is home? I hear them say,
This never was yours anyway.
You have no birthright to this place,
Descendant from another race.
An immigrant? A pioneer?
You are no longer welcome here.

Whoever said that love made sense?
"I love" is an "imperfect" tense.
To love in vain has been man's fate
From history to present date.
I have no grounds for dispensation,
I know I have no home or nation.

For just one moment in the night
I am complete, my soul takes flight.
For just one moment.... then it's gone
and I am once again undone.
Never complete. Never whole.

White Skin and an African soul.
(poem via Vhata)

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Homecoming Revolution

Anyone travelling down South Africa's highways during the December period will probably have noticed billboards advertising the Homecoming Revolution - a publicity campaign encouraging ex-South Africans to come back and help rebuild the country. Personally, I find this whole Ra! Ra! campaign a little nauseating. Undoubtedly South Africa stands to benefit from the professional skills of those who decided to leave, and if they want to return good and well, but I don't see why we should have to entice them to come back, and convince them that South Africa's not the nightmare that their often racist and fevered imaginations make it out to be.

The majority of people who left pre 1994 under the cover of "not being able to live under a racist regime" were, granted afraid of a violent revolution, but mostly had no faith in the ability of a black government to run the country. If they cared so much about the brutality of the system why didn't they stay and do something about it? After all they were the ones making a big political statement by leaving, or maybe they thought that leaving the country was protest enough - although hardly likely to overthrow the apartheid government. I realise some people left because they didn't want to risk their sons lives to the apartheid army for a cause they didn't believe in, others left for professional reasons, and post 1994 many people left due to the crime situation or cited the crime situation as a reason for leaving. But out of the roughly estimated 5 million South Africans who decided to emigrate, I suspect the majority didn't want to live under, or had no faith in a black government. If people want to return because they're passionate about the country and want to be part of it again, wonderful, but I don't think we should have to make a special effort to entice them.


A quick update to my previous entry- the unwitting "plotters" were released on Friday afternoon without any charges having been brought against them. I guess this incident is what you might call a comedy of errors. Quite a few people must have egg, of the ostrich variety on their faces right now. Wayne from Commentary also has some thoughts on the matter.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Plots galore

In a new twist following hot on the heels of the Mark Thatcher mercenary saga, two curators, and a director of the War Museum in Saxonwold Johannesburg, have been arrested and accused of plotting a coup to take over the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Okay, maybe not….but the above mentioned persons from the above mentioned museum have indeed been arrested for the illegal possession of suspected stolen military vehicles. reports that police seized at least four military vehicles and two cannon from the museum’s premises, where horror of all horrors, considering that this is a war museum that we are speaking about, they were actually on display. According to the Defence Force the vehicles were supposed to have been destroyed and were at the museum without their knowledge. As the treacherous trio were led away in handcuffs, a visibly upset John Keene, the museum director commented, “They are going to destroy the vehicles. It’s like throwing paint on the Mona Lisa.” Let’s hope that this incriminating statement will not be used against him in court. Doing their bit to augment this little melodrama were Dr Pallo Jordan, minister for arts and culture, and Prof Itumeleng Mosala director general of arts and culture who raced to the scene as soon as they heard about the raid. Shedding light on the situation, Mosala said, “We don’t know the facts and therefore cannot comment.”

Adding flames to the fire, Sapa sensationally reports the story by claiming that the men were arrested for “stockpiling working weapons and military vehicles” Hello, Saddam Hussein. Said acting museum director Sandy Mckenzie, "It is our function as a museum to collect and preserve such artifacts in working order. Are we then also guilty of stockpiling medals, flags, badges and uniforms?"


Reuters also has the story.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Nigeria in Asia

In this cold hard world that we live in, it's good to know that there are still altruistic, caring individuals out there who sacrifice everything to do good things for their communities, like helping orphans for example. I got this in my inbox today, and I feel really honoured to have been singled out by one such person who has reached out to make it possible to do the same good in my own country so that I too can for example help impoverished orphans. In the same spirit of human generosity, here are the details in case anyone else would like to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate.

Dear Beloved,

I'm Rev Sunny Musu, a kuwait citizen, transfered to Asia Dioceses in Malaysia, after the war that happen in Iraq. And the sole owner of (Sunny Foundation!!)but made fame in Iraq.I've been into helping the ophans for the past10 years. I became a great man when i had a licence to be an international crude oil maketer 5 years Ago. I've help so many orphanages homes,needy homes and the less priviledge accross the African continents,with the wealth God gave to me.The last conflicts that happened in Iraq made me to loose all i've worked for.I lost entire all i've worked for.Now i am very ill with cancer. The doctor said i've a little more time to stay in this planet.
My good friend, i want you to do me a favour.i will want you to assist me with the distribution of funds to ophans that you know in your country. I kept some amount of money in a private security and Finance company,here in Malaysia Asia country where i am now and this amount is usd$6 million dollars.

I want you to take the place of my next of Kin.I'm doing this base on the short time i've on Earth. Please this should be confidential between you and me. If this transaction is sucessful,which i believe it would. i will want you to take 20% /10% will be for all the expenses and 70% should be distributed amongst the orphanage homes in Africa/And your country. Please get back to me Urgently, as i am sending you this mail via my foundations email. I will want you to email me back via the foundations

May God bless you
Rev Sunny Musu.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Back to reality

I'm back from Cape Town and back to work and reality. Cape Town was incredible, it is just such a beautiful place to be, and although I'm not the most well travelled person on earth, I think that the western Cape must be one of the most beautiful regions in the world - at least in summer, and with the exception of the wind. Here are a few highlights:


Scarborough, just close to Cape Point, is my favourite place, and if there is anywhere that I dream of being able to live one day it's here. This picture of the Scarborough coastline says it all. Scarborough is a small hamlet consisting mainly of houses, many of them holiday houses, and has a small permanent community. It nestles against steep fynbos covered cliffs, and runs down to a magnificent unspoilt white beach with heartstopping icy water. There's one main road, two restaurants and that's it, for any shopping you have to go to Noordhoek. What I love so much about Scarborough, other than the sheer beauty of the place, is it's stong sense of being elemental, of the elements. At the risk of sounding like a shoo wow, shoo wow Cape Town neo-hippy, there is something about the place that heightens your awareness of the powerful forces of nature - wind, sun, sky, sand, mountains and sea, and it makes you feel as if you want to be creative, to write, to draw...but I'll leave it there before I get completely carried away.


Spier Lake

Spier ducks


This was my first visit to Spier, and I was very pleasantly surprised, it was much nicer than I expected. It's set in beautiful, tranquil surroundings with a lake and green lawns and mountains on the horizon. You can lounge under tented canopies on comfy sofa's at Moyo's for drinks or grab a selection of fine foods from the Spier Deli and picnic by the lake. I really recommend going there, on the day we went we had perfect weather with blue skies and a breathe of wind.

Hout Bay

Seal colony on Duiker Island

American crane barge that ran aground during a storm in 1994

For the reasonable sum of R45 per adult, you can go on an hour long cruise out into the bay to see the seals and a shipwreck.

Robben Island

View of Table Mountain from Robben Island

Poster of last political prisoners to leave the island. Caption on the poster reads "We want Robben Island to reflect the triumph of freedom and human dignity over oppression and humiliation."

Finally made it to Robben Island. The tour is extremely popular with both local and international sightseers so I recommend booking ahead over the December season.


Penguin colony at Boulders Beach in Simonstown

V & A Waterfront