The "post-apartheid" period is now over, it seems. Whether one dates the change from the massacre of miners at Marikana in 2012, the death of Nelson Mandela in 2013, student protests in 2015, or the municipal elections last month, a generation has now passed since the high hopes of the first democratic elections in 1994.
South Africans, particularly the generation known as the "born-frees," are coping with the realization that that political victory was only the beginning, not the achievement of the hopes for social and economic transformation so many had hoped and died for.
As in other African countries a generation after the achievement of political independence, and in the United States a generation after the dramatic gains for political rights in the 1950s and 1960s, it is clear that centuries of history of oppression are still deeply embedded in current stubborn structures of inequality, as well as in the dominant culture. The number of years counted in a generation are generally taken as somewhere from 20 to 30. But changes in consciousness are uneven, and sharply marked by transformative events.
Those experiences differ, of course, from country to country and continent to continent. But in the age of hashtags such as #BlackLivesMatter and #FeesMustFall, there are also striking convergences and linkages across continental boundaries. Yet the unequal balance in global media (including social media) means that the outside world is far less aware of the changes in South Africa than of the highly publicized events in the United States.
Today's series of two AfricaFocus Bulletins, therefore, focuses particularly on South Africa.
Another AfricaFocus Bulletin, not sent out by email but available on the web at http://www.africafocus.org/docs16/sa1609b.php, contains excerpts from a forthcoming chapter by Patrick Bond, focusing on the link between student protest in South Africa and the current heated debates about the government budget and economic priorities in South Africa.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin includes, as is our normal format, several articles and additional links related to selected topics: recent protests by black girls against racist hair codes at elite private schools, analysis of the aftermath of the municipal elections, and the planned launch of a new progressive trade union federation.
A new feature this week, however, consists of links to a Youtube playlist of highly recommended videos available for free watching, including two acclaimed feature films on the Marikana Massacre of 2012 (Miners Shot Down) and on the student protests of 2015 (The People Versus the Rainbow Nation) as well as shorter videos and interviews, such as the explosive speech by ANC veteran Sipho Pityana at the funeral of ANC leader Makhenkhesi Stofile in last August. You can find the listing below, with links to each video. But, if your time right now is limited, I suggest you save this email for later reading and go directly to Youtube to pick what to watch and save any you are interested in to "watch later." See "South Africa in the 21st Century in Video: A Youtube Playlist," available at http://tinyurl.com/hqpr255.
Watching these videos and preparing the playlist has been both enjoyable and highly informative for me, but it is also much more time-consuming than selecting written material from email and web. So I would much appreciate feedback on whether readers find any of the videos useful, and whether you would like similar playlists to be an ongoing feature for AfricaFocus.
To provide feedback, after you have watched a video, please fill out this form: https://goo.gl/forms/skDu3L9MxgfpJIJj2
If you prefer audio to video, and have time to listen (a bit less than an hour), note that KPFA radio host Walter Turner interviewed me about South Africa after the municipal elections on his program Africa Today. For the discussion with Walter, focused on trying to understand South Africa's present situation in comparison to the parallels in the United States, visit the KPFA site at https://kpfa.org/program/africa-today/, and scroll down to the program for August 15, 2016. I'm not doing a form on this one, but if you listen, any feedback (email to firstname.lastname@example.org) would be welcome.
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on South Africa, visit http://www.africafocus.org/country/southafrica.php - Editor's Note
Zulaikha Patel: How we all wish we were you
by Azad Essa
Daily Vox, August 30, 2016
[For regular progressive coverage of South Africa, follow The Daily Vox on Facebook or subscribe to the weekly "Top of the Vox" at http://tinyurl.com/z5fvnpm]
I don't think I have ever seen anything quite like it.
The little girl - now known to all as Zulaikha Patel - standing in front of a row of three white males, refusing to back down, calling on them to follow through with their threats to arrest them - for their hair.
"Take us all," she said, for half a dozen girls at the school. "They want to take us prison … take us all."
It was an act of extraordinary courage that left us tingling. Who were these brave girls and how had they secured such resilience against authority?
I watched the video on a loop on Instagram. Stolen moments from a protest that left me breathless. I think it was five times before I dared to blink. And still, there was an artistry in the execution of their defiance. A calmness that betrayed possible consequence.
For Zulaikha - her resolve was as natural as the curls on her head and the light creases on her young face. It was earnest, determined and uncomplicated.
Their actions were undeterred by mortgage payments and outstanding car loans. Unconcerned about the impact of her actions on "her career" or "that promotion".
A free spirit, asking only for the right to be herself.
The photo of her standing tall with steely eyes, arms outstretched and fists folded above her irresistible afro in a defiance of an antiquated, warped and racist policy will be studied and fluttered over for years to come.
We learnt later that Zulaikha had been previously put in detention for her hair. That she had to leave three schools because her hair challenged the system. Her sister said she was continually mocked, her hair described as "exotic" and looking like a "cabbage". She would come home in tears. It is remarkable then that she didn't look for ways to mend the "problem".
I know I would have. I know I turned a blind eye to any whispers or condescension from teachers or classmates at both primary and secondary school reserved for the few brown and black faces in the former Model-C schools I attended. I know I put on a purported civilised face each morning I entered that school and showed my true colours each afternoon back home or with fellow brown savages at the local madrassa.
Then, as profiling at airports or certain cities continue to proliferate, so many of us are shifting our behaviours, assimilating, changing the way we curl our tongues so we fit in, or draw attention to ourselves. And if we protest, it will be decided after a cost-benefit assessment: based on time and place, potential to win and lose, energy levels and interest to take on the prejudice or let it slip. We are all in awe of Zulaikha, because we wish to hell we could have all been her, growing up. We wish we could be her, as a grown up.
While so many of us were trying as children, and then as adults, to make the world work for us, we forgot that world already belonged to each and every one of us. We've been left so insecure and desperate to "make it", we've been wired to forgo anything, including ourselves.
I wondered after watching the clip another five times: what if there hadn't been a video to record the sublime protest initiated by the girls of the school? The reported narrative would have never gone viral. It would not have brought the school to its knees, its policies into the spotlight. It might not have brought politicians and policymakers into the discussion. Zulaikha might have found herself immediately suspended, or expelled, maybe jailed. It might have all been in vain.
We don't know, as per her sister's admission, how all of this attention will impact on Zulaikha. She is just a 13-year-old after all, acting on her own accord. And this is not a fight she was ever meant to fight.
But she has provided a most memorable lesson.
Justice, it turns out, simply needs people to speak out against injustice.
And it's apt, that it would take a child to make us remember that.
See also, for a description of the protest and its background, "Pretoria Girls High: A protest against sacrificed cultures and identities," by Greg Nicolson, Daily Maverick, August 30, 2016 ( http://tinyurl.com/hjqpzek).
The Sun Also Rises: And the Darkest Hour is just before the Dawn
Daily Maverick, 29 August 2016
http://www.dailymaverick.co.za - direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/grp9h3a
[John Matisonn is the author of God, Spies and Lies, Finding South Africa's future through its past, and host of Cape Town TV's Between the Lines, a series of half-hour programs each featuring an interview with a key South African newsmaker or analyst.]
[For a Youtube playlist of Between the Lines beginning in June 2016, visit http://tinyurl.com/jsotek5 - For links to selected interviews, see "South Africa in the 21st Century" below]
I guess I'm cursed to be a contrarian. By late 1996 I could see that this democratic government so many had risked life and limb for would not be strong against corruption. I saw it first-hand when it sided against the honest in the first big corruption scandal of the ANC era, at the Independent Broadcasting Authority. Everyone else was optimistic, and I, an IBA councillor, was out of step.
Now, as President Jacob Zuma's rank disdain for the people he governs has seen in some a spiral of despair, I feel positive. Why? Because August 2016 will go down in this country's history as a turning point. Zuma is not finished yet, but my crystal ball tells me that whatever damage he does before he goes, and there will be damage, politically speaking he is a dead man walking. The South African voter has awoken. And you can take that to the bank.
Of course this may not be the end of the ANC. If good leadership, leadership with vision and integrity, takes the helm, the ANC obviously can rebuild. Too many people care about it to abandon it if given new reasons for hope. But every day Zuma remains in charge is a blessing to Mmusi Maimane and Julius Malema. For them, the president is the gift that keeps on giving. And from the day after Zuma goes, he will be like apartheid: Support Zuma? Who, me? Never happened!
The cascade of good people coming out against Zuma and for Gordhan should bring tears of relief to the patriotic eye. Let's be blunt for a moment, like we know South Africans are at home: a lifelong Communist of Indian descent has the hopes and admiration of a grateful nation. His courage, smarts and sensibleness have brought out the best in leaders in every field and of every ethnicity.
Not a day goes past without an icon of the struggle, or a gaggle of academics or a billionaire business leader, scathingly attacking the president. And Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has finally lifted his skirt. After a seemingly endless period of the unseemly grovelling necessary to stay in his job, he's given a limited idea of what we are asked to believe is the real Cyril: he backed Pravin Gordhan unequivocally at an ANC funeral.
Don't bet the farm that Cyril will not cover those ankles again. Zuma retains the majority in the decision-making National Executive Committee, and Ramaphosa knows how to count. But for ordinary South Africans, either the ANC throws out Zuma, or voters continue to nibble away at the ANC's eviscerated credibility and votes.
It will be a long time before all of us -- commentators, politicians, businesspeople, academics and the jobless -- digest the news of August 2016. Around 10 percent of the national budget, and hundreds of thousands of jobs, are no longer controlled by the ANC. Even in the unlikely event of a 2019 ANC recovery from these local election results, further losses will accrue in provincial and national legislatures.
The ANC lacks the tools for opposition politics, except perhaps in Johannesburg, where the outgoing mayor, Parks Tau, retains his skills and moral compass.
If Herman Mashaba messes up as mayor of Johannesburg, Tau's people will be back in 2021. That's in the future. For the rest of this decade, the defeated will have to adjust.
The new metro governments have something going for them. That hunger and lack of entitlement, the feeling they have no God-given right to govern and everything to prove, may serve them well.
Do not underestimate the prize: even if they do not get the ANC below 50% in 2019, think about the thousands of town councillors who lost their jobs this month, and the MPs and MPLs who know they will be unemployed in 2019. Think about the tens (hundreds?) of thousands of cadres whose guarantees of deployed positions just evaporated. They must prove themselves competent, or they're next. Those old enough will remember that apartheid slugger John Vorster's famous phrase: adapt or die.
The adaptations to come will boggle the pre-August 2016 mind. Zuma seems determined to take out Paul Mashatile as ANC Gauteng provincial leader. He, Tau, and Gauteng premier David Makhuru represent the best in the ANC. Urban, urbane, modern and honourable. What will they do?
The answer follows logic: some will stay ANC to the bitter end. But others will switch parties. It may still seem impossible to imagine, but when they are out in the cold, their choice will be fairly simple: DA or EFF. Perhaps COPE or the UDM will attract a few, but they lack the infrastructure or heft to make it on their own. The future is with three parties. Only in KwaZulu-Natal will the fourth, the Inkatha Freedom Party, remain in the running, though the age of its leader, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, and his failure to prepare for succession mean it too is on borrowed time. As in the white politics days of the United Party's Douglas Mitchell and before that the British imperialist Dominion Party, the languid politics of our tropical province will be slow to catch up.
The country needs to move to debate that's more concrete. Probably nothing is more critical or central and essential to debate than reprioritising the national budget. That requires a public argument tied to what the government is actually doing as opposed to what it says it's doing.
To give but two examples: Every government leader says we are prioritising infrastructure, but the companies that would be building infrastructure -- construction companies -- are staving off collapse because so little is being commissioned. Infrastructure brings jobs and growth, both short-term and long-term.
Second, the government wants a zero fees increase because it is scared of students. But it hasn't offered a way to pay for it. Universities are a top priority. They provide the job creators (as opposed to the claim especially by the American right that cutting already low taxes on the 1% creates jobs).
Where should the money come from? That is what the debate must be about. But first, a major step must be to cut the public sector payroll. If we don't we will be Zimbabwe -- where Robert Mugabe has stayed in power for 36 years by protecting public sector salaries at the expense of the economy. In 2016 that chicken (his party symbol is the rooster) has finally come to roost. This week, after he proved unable to meet the payroll yet again, he finally agreed to the cuts. That is the worst possible way to do it -- to cut when you have no money to redirect productively.
What happened on August 3 may be the best possible outcome for a number of reasons besides giving the ANC a well deserved bloody nose. The fact that the transfer of power occurred largely peacefully is a good sign. That makes it more likely that the ANC will accept the next round of losses.
As important, this slow easing of power away from the ANC is better than an overnight landslide, for this reason: South Africa is extremely hard to govern. Its complexity, managing unruly and compromised trade unions and increasingly confident traditional leaders, remain substantially the ANC's problem.
So keep your chin up. Take the long view. The wheels of democracy grind slow but sure. The majesty of democracy is a wonderful thing to behold. South Africa will be back. China won't bring it back. America and Europe won't bring it back. Only we, South Africans, can and must. DM
See also Sahra Ryklief, "South Africa's 2016 municipal elections - why the excitement?," GroundUp, August 23, 2016 ( http://tinyurl.com/jvbx4aw)
"Zwelinzima Vavi's address to the FAWU [Food and Allied Workers Union] National Congress" 22 August 2016
[Brief excerpts from beginning of speech by the former general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and convenor of the Steering Committee for a New Trade Union Federation. Full text available at http://tinyurl.com/j8b6roc]
It is also a time of extreme hardship for millions of workers and thousands of your own members, particularly on the farms, where far too many employers still act as if apartheid had never ended.
Poverty pay, casualisation, exploitation and racism are widespread and even getting worse, as the job-loss bloodbath continues. Entire industries are in danger of disappearing. Unemployment at 36% is among the highest in the world, and employers have been quick to exploit the desperation of the unemployed to find or keep jobs at any cost in order to drive down wages and working conditions.
As well as outsourcing, casualisation of work and using labour brokers, the bosses are now waging a concerted campaign to sabotage collective bargaining structures and weaken the power of organised labour. Some, like Uber taxis, want to redefine all their workers as self-employed so-called 'partners', with no benefits or union rights.
Inequality is widening globally, but South Africa remains the worst in the world, and it is still blatantly racial as the gap gets wider between the white, super-rich capitalist elite and the black working class majority, women in particular, who remain even more firmly mired in poverty, hunger and squalid living conditions. Wealth is shifting further into the pockets of the white capitalists.
This widening inequality fosters a mood of growing anger and despair as the problems which the ANC keep promising to solve remain as bad as ever or get even worse. Community protests against the lack of basic services, corruption and unaccountable local officials have become so frequent that they rarely make the news headlines, except in traffic reports when they disrupt motorists travel plans!
This is all aggravated by the unchecked explosion of maladministration, corruption and theft of our wealth not just by a few rogue families but the entire capitalist class and their political allies in the ANC, DA and other political parties. It is not just President Jacob Zuma and the Guptas who are plundering the wealth created by our labour, but the entire corrupt capitalist system of which they are part.
More and more reports are leaking out revealing systematic tax evasion and money-laundering by big business. Millions of rands are disappearing from the country as investors put their cash where they will make the quickest and biggest profits, with no regard for the welfare of the people, the environmental price and least of all the conditions of their workers who produce the wealth in the first place. Big business is sitting on R1, 5 trillion in the banks and it blames this investment strike on 'uncertainty'.
These are all the real reasons for the decline in the ANC vote and the record high number of abstentions on 3 August. Although it is still the biggest party, the ANC's vote dropped from 62.9% in 2011 to 54.4%.
South Africa in the 21st Century in Video: A Youtube Playlist
Videos selected by AfricaFocus Bulletin (http://www.africafocus.org) as key resources for understanding South Africa today. The full playlist is available at http://tinyurl.com/hqpr255
Miners shot down [Full documentary] Award-winning 2014 film on the 2012 Marikana Massacre. 1 hour, 26 minutes https://youtu.be/EN199WpXBmU
Shutting Down the Rainbow Nation: #FeesMustFall by Africa is a Country Short film on #FeesMustFall student protests. October 2015. 11 minutes https://youtu.be/ksgrJyOrd7A
The People Versus The Rainbow Nation by MTV Base Africa Feature film. May 2016. Inside look at students and the issues behind the protests. 1 hour, 2 minutes https://youtu.be/Yu-1Wlo5_Hs
Between The Lines Episode 1 by Cape Town TV Interview with Sylvia Vollenhoven, June 2016. From rediscovery of history of the Khoisan to corruption and illicit financial flows in the mid-1990s. 26 minutes https://youtu.be/uSZE05ZvIRg
Between the Lines Episode 3 by Cape Town TV Interview with Andrew Feinstein. June 2016. Corruption in the South African arms deal & the global arms trade. 24 minutes https://youtu.be/2hUptxmxkhg
Between the Lines Episode 6 by Cape Town TV Interview with leading university educator Jonathan Jansen. July 2016. The state of South African higher education. Financial & policy neglect. 26 minutes https://youtu.be/mS5pJ1sWUgI
Between the Lines Episode 8 by Cape Town TV Interview with #FeesMustFall activist Akosua Korenteng at University of Cape Town. August 2016. 26 minutes
Between the Lines Episode 11 by Cape Town TV Interview with election analyst Bob Mattes. August 2016. Data-based analysis of municipal election results. 24 minutes https://youtu.be/Ef-KstOcqEI
Full Speech: Sipho Pityana Attacks Jacob Zuma at Makhenkhesi Stofile funeral by Tribe2Tribes Devastating critique of regime corruption at funeral of respected ANC leader. August 25, 2016. 30 minutes https://youtu.be/gWA1R986iOc
"Sipho Pityana speech at Stofile funeral," News24, 2016-08-26. Background and partial transcript at http://tinyurl.com/glhkhgx