Sunday, April 4, 2010

This is Real Trouble in South Africa

Those with security concerns pertaining to the 2010 World Cup appear to have been looking in the wrong direction.

Imported terror? Terror from outsiders?

Maybe not all that big an issue. And never was.

The problem in South Africa has always been internal violence. And never more than right at this minute.

The country doesn't have a race war. Yet. But it has taken more than a few steps down that path over the past week. And it would seem as if most sensible outsiders would not want to visit a country where people are being killed on the basis of their skin color. Race wars are really bad for tourism.

The latest: The murder of another white farmer/rancher, but this time it was the infamous white supremacist Eugene Terre Blanche. Whose political associates seem to be vowing revenge.

This is getting ugly. No other way to describe it. And the Johannesburg Times doesn't sugarcoat the situation when it runs a story with this headline: "Fears of racial tensions grow." Uh, yeah.

Backing up a bit.

South Africa has had problems of late with Afrikaner farmers being attacked and killed. "Afrikaner" meaning, in South Africa, the mostly Dutch-Huguenot whites (also known as Boers) who dominated politics for most of the last century. Who erected the apartheid regime.

In theory, South Africa got past all this during the reconciliation period of the mid-1990s. When its black majority took control of the government.

In practice, the reconciliation at the moment looks more like a patch than a cure. Demagogues on both sides are trying to ride racial tension into personal power. As the Johannesburg Times wrote in an editorial today, "There is evidence across our society that the spirit of reconciliation that that characterized the transfer of power is wearing thin in a country still divided by one of the world's widest wealth gaps."

Perhaps the most obvious case of an individual who seems to be fanning the fires to advance his own agenda is the odious lout Julius Malema, president of the African National Congress Youth League and all-around embarrassment to the nation.

A few weeks ago, he led students in Johannesburg in a chorus of a ANC anthem that includes the words, "Kill the Boer."

That led to various South African political groups going to court asking that the song be classified as "hate speech" and banned. And it was, much to Malema's annoyance. But not before several more white farmers were murdered. Killings which some whites have laid at Malema's feet. At the least, the timing was unfortunate for those who prefer peace.

And then a few days ago, Malema went to Zimbabwe, just north of South Africa, a failed state of epic proportions, sang the "Kill the Boer" song again, embraced Zimbabwe's disastrous president, Robert Mugabe, and then suggested that South Africa would do well to follow Mugabe's ruinous example and nationalize farms and mines owned by whites.

Now we have real problems. On several levels.

--Mugabe's economic/racial policies essentially destroyed Zimbabwe, a country that was once self-sufficient in food stuffs and now is an abject charity case. However much animus black Africans hold toward white farmers, the reality is that they were the bedrock of the Zimbabwe economy. Many have fled; others have had their property seized by Mugabe's party. Some have been killed.

--South Africa was supposed to be the anti-Zimbabwe. The exception, where the colonial whites could stay on and prosper and build the country along with black Africans. In part, this would work because the Afrikaners, the Boers, have been in the country so long they feel it is as much theirs as anyone else's. In part, because Nelson Mandela and other far-sighted black leaders decided South Africa needed all its citizens, not just its black ones. But now, just as the World Cup is coming into view, this social compact is fraying dangerously.

--The Afrikaner minority, especially the farmers, and especially when provoked, are a very hard bunch, and prone to violence. They fought the British to a standstill during the Boer War of 1898, at the height of Britain's power. A minority of perhaps 20 percent of the population enforced the race-based apartheid system for decades, helped prop up Rhodesia (Zimbabwe, but when whites still ruled), ran Namibia and intervened in the Angolan civil war. All at the same time. It must be assumed they are well-armed, hard and organized men. They would not win a civil war, but anyone with an ounce of brainpower should be keen to see it never, ever comes to that.

Before, we've talked about expensive airlines and hotels. And a high murder rate. South Africa has issues on those fronts.

What is going on right this minute, however, it by far the most dangerous moment for South Africa 2010 since the country was awarded the World Cup. Rest assured, Sepp Blatter is watching this very, very closely. Fifa risks dropping its big event into a country dividing into armed camps. A potential disaster.

This might be a good time for Fifa to flex some of that muscle it likes to use and go directly to Jacob Zuma and tell the president to muzzle Julius Malema, make sure the police actually do investigate the murder of Terre Blanche and other farmers ... and not allow white extremists to gain any momentum among the trigger-happy fringe.

This is a dangerous situation. It bears close and ongoing examination.

1 comment:

  1. The Design and Bed of Our Penal Colony [Today's News Poem, April 4, 2010]
    “There have been more than 3,000 murders of Afrikaner farmers in remote homesteads like this since the end of apartheid 16 years ago.”
    --BBC, 18:58 GMT, Sunday, 4 April 2010 19:58 UK
    “With an attitude of respect and concern for other beings, we can create an atmosphere of happiness, real harmony and real brotherhood.”
    --The Dalai Lama, Twitter, about 12 hours ago via web as of 2:38pm PST

    White power sleeps and never dies,
    It simply make a compromise.
    To pause the never-ending war.
    The other races seek to score
    In turn. The tribal instinct stays,
    For human beings will never stray
    Too far from those they think as kin.
    The eye, it lies. They think the skin
    Has deeper bonds than blood they share.
    The science (if you must compare)
    Confirms that which one ought expect
    To hear from self when ones reflects
    On totems; such as anger, rage.
    Unless one seeks to self-engage
    And not excuse the whim or gene
    With reason—with our great machines—
    Unless we make an atmosphere
    Of harmony, we make the gears
    Of something that will evermore
    Both dig and fill the earth it scores.