South Africa and the New World Order

South Africans are inclined to moan about so much…the fact that things don’t seem to function, the corruption, the crude avarice of the new elite, the poor performance of Bafana Bafana, the crime. Add to this Julius Malema, Jacob Zuma's polygamy and the scandal of the mismanagement of our parastatals and you have a picture that evokes images of imminent collapse for the chattering classes.

From the side of the largely white middle class, there is a deep sense of, "We told you so: blacks can't really run this country!" And almost in response there is a kind of knee-jerk defensiveness from the black middle classes and from patriotic whites, calling on the whiners to leave the country and, in the case of the World Cup, on all patriotic South Africans to rally to the cause to prove that we really are capable of running an excellent World Cup.

Underlying the perceptions of both the racist whites and the defensive blacks is the same set of assumptions. We have much to prove to the world in showing that we really are "world class."  We often hear middle class suburbia moaning that the behaviour of some of our politicians is making us the laughing stock of the world; that tourists will be aghast at this or that aspect of South African life; that our behaviour will drive foreign investors away; and so on and so forth.

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Reaping what you sow: reflections on the Western Cape farm workers strike

Reaping what you sow: reflections on the Western Cape farm workers strike

The series of strikes and protests that recently took place in and around farms in South Africa’s Western Cape Province was fuelled by the deep-seated anger and frustration that workers feel. On a daily basis, farm workers face not only appalling wages, bad living conditions and precarious work, but also widespread racism, intimidation and humiliation. The extent of the oppressive conditions run deep and it is not uncommon for workers to even be beaten by farm-owners and managers for perceived ‘transgressions’. Indeed, life for workers in the rural areas has always been harsh, but over the last two decades it has in many ways gotten even worse and poverty has in many cases grown.

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Workers' Strikes and the Battle for Public Opinion

04-07-2011-15-07-01-484mdf37715Ah, so we have the strike season with us again. And with every story goes the same tiresome media refrain: “intimidation.” This, of course, is bolstered by every tame economist saying what they are so well paid to say: “The strikes are bad for the country. Labour laws are too rigid and strikes will only scare off investors and drive up joblessness. The demands being made are way above necessary, and therefore, certain to fuel inflation.”

This is the kind of journalism akin to the millionth re-enactment of a long-running play – Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap, for instance, where the script has long ago been written and it’s only the casting of the central characters that gets adjusted.

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The Youth Wage Subsidy: Mixing Farce with Force

da_jpg.eyewitnessThe spectacle of the blows between a Democratic Alliance-led crowd and COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) would have been the stuff of farce if it weren’t so tragically unedifying. The DA has every right to march and be “provocative”. COSATU’s response betrays its own hard-won struggles in the past for the right to march, assemble and protest.

This was no kristalnacht or fascist street gang about to storm the workers’ movement. This was a DA rent-a-crowd happy to don any T-shirt. The simplest response would have been to take their memorandum and invite them to the next COSATU meeting. After all, there are so many COSATU resolutions about organising the unemployed and the unorganised.

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Basil D'Oliviera Had a Much Larger Significance

220180dolly_buzzboxcom“What do they know of cricket, who only cricket know?” the famous injunction by Trinidadian socialist writer, C.L.R James, in his book Beyond a Boundary, widely regarded as the best work of social analysis of sport ever, may well be apt in the case of media coverage here in South Africa on the death of Basil D’Oliviera.

Tributes were confined to the sports pages where everyone picked up on the significance of the D’Oliviera affair, which led to the cancellation of the 1968 England tour of South Africa. Thereafter the dominant narrative was one of how dignified he was in the midst of the political turmoil and how much this opened the eyes of the outside world to the viciousness of apartheid and eventually led to its collapse.

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Mazibuko and Malema: New Profiles, Reshuffling Social Forces

Two events have been the subject of recent media comment: the ANC Youth League’s (ANCYLs) march for “economic freedom” and the rise of Lindiwe Mazibuko as Democratic Alliance (DA) leader of the opposition. These rather over-shadowed a third, Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan’s, Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF).

Gordhan’s message of pre-emptive austerity - doing “more with less” - of course couldn’t compete with Mazibuko’s rise and, as many would hope, Malema’s fall.

A common feature of media analyses is that the broad-church ANC is bleeding -- losing key sections of its congregation, the black “born-frees,” to the transformed DA and the poor unemployed youth to Malema’s ANCYL. Gordhan’s MTEF then passed by largely unnoticed because it is apparently so much common sense in these tough times that comment was superfluous.

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