Conservatives Target Greenlining
Pedophiles & Popes
Hungry By The Numbers
Living in District 9
keith harmon snow
2006 BP Probe
NAFTA & Immigration
The Past & Democracy
Herbert P. Bix
Media, Culture, Reviews
UGC & Media
Klare's Rising Powers
Zaps - 07-08/10
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Living in District 9
A stranger in Johannesburg immediately notices serious security measures everywhere. High walls are topped with electrified razor wire. Dogs are visible or audible behind the walls. Signs warn of alarms that will bring “rapid armed response” from one of many thriving security companies. The presence of so much defensive and offensive hardware prompts a question: what’s going on here? South Africans have pondered that question since the late 1940s when apartheid became the country’s official policy. Much has changed since the 1940s and much remains the same. Apartheid was abandoned in 1990, after moral censure and economic pressure from the rest of the world. The country’s first free elections in 1994 brought a black majority government run by the African National Congress, which continues its monopoly on political power. Under ANC leadership, a new black elite emerged, blurring the traditional South African equation of race with class. Recent demographic data from the Human Sciences Research Council shows that “the proportion of people living in poverty in South Africa has not changed significantly” in the post-apartheid years. In fact, “those households living in poverty have sunk deeper into poverty and the gap between rich and poor has widened.”
Each morning black workers stream into commercial and residential areas in large numbers, getting down from trains and buses and vans that serve as collective taxis, setting off on foot, sometimes for long distances, to work. Every afternoon, this process reverses as blacks migrate back to the poor townships and shanty towns where they must live. This strange and troubling ritual feels anachronistic and wrong. But with South Africa’s rate of unemployment above 25 percent (by some estimates, closer to 40 percent), anyone with a source of income, however meager, is not the least fortunate.
Apartheid’s bad old days were much worse for the black majority, of course. That past is on display in many places, including the former women’s prison downtown, now a museum, where black and white political prisoners were confined separately for their activism. Newtown’s Africa Museum has a large exhibit detailing the six-year treason trial of prominent anti-apartheid activists, many of whom later became government leaders. Soweto’s Hector Pieterson Museum reruns period TV footage of the 1976 protests in which police opened fire on unarmed students, killing dozens. The Apartheid Museum provides details of massacres like Sharpeville and the cold-blooded state murder of black leader Steve Biko.
Diepsloot north of Johannesburg houses about 150,000 people in an informal settlement—photo by Arndt Husar
Symphony Way Temporary Relocation Area, AKA Blikkiesdorp—photo from Wikimedia
Thousnads of Oukasie residents protested in March against inadequate services to rural areas while millions are spent on the World Cup—photo by Jaco Marais
Last year’s off-beat science fiction movie, District 9, identified the shadow over Johannesburg. The movie’s plot involves the forcible relocation of aliens—who resemble giant prawns—from their long-time ramshackle detention site in the center of the city to a more remote location. The prawn people are portrayed as detestable and incomprehensible, but highly intelligent and dangerous. Beneath the high-tech make-up and special effects, the film is really a documentary metaphor about South Africa. Forced relocations of “undesirables,” a hallmark of the apartheid years, were also part of South Africa’s preparations for the World Cup soccer tournament in June. Clean-up efforts involved relocating residents of unsightly shanty towns from their previously visible sites. Under the euphemistic “breaking new ground” policy, Cape Town officials shifted township residents from their homes along a route between the airport and the city to a remote location invisible to soccer tourists, “with minimal infrastructure and far removed from people’s places or potential places of work,” in the words of reporter Robert Wilcox. “Looking much like a concentration camp, this settlement was named ‘Blikkiesdorp—Tin Town,’ by those herded there.”
South Africa hoped that by staging one of the planet’s premiere sporting events, the country would receive a financial windfall and lots of favorable international publicity. Germany made a tidy profit hosting the 2006 World Cup, but South Africa will find it harder to duplicate that feat. The long, expensive flights, the recent economic downturn, and inflated ticket prices have caused a revision downward in the number of visitors.
According to Bloomsburg’s Mike Cohen, “South Africa has spent 34 billion rand ($4.6 billion) to host the soccer World Cup.” So who stands to benefit? “The big secret about the World Cup is that only the rich will get richer from it,” in the words of South African playwright Mpumelelo Paul Grootboom. The lion’s share of World Cup income will benefit sponsors and international media. Some owners of four star hotels and restaurants will no doubt reap benefits. Also profiting are the government officials who got kickbacks from the contractors awarded the construction contracts. Ordinary people, some of whom have been football fans for years, were excluded. As journalist Claire Byrne notes: “The stadium...women from townships who serve up cheap local fast-food at games are being moved out to make way for FIFA sponsors, such as McDonald’s.”
Most South Africans tell pollsters they are “no better off” now than in 1994 when apartheid was abolished. In fact, there has been a net job loss since then. Afraid of racial retribution, nudged out of jobs, or limited in their career trajectories by the ANC policy of black affirmative action, many whites have fled the country, taking needed skills and knowledge with them. The ANC’s promised commitment to education in order to train a new generation of skilled workers to run the economy has not materialized. The largest crisis is one of confidence in the government and in the future.
Many outsiders think of South Africa in terms of Nelson Mandela’s triumphs. Mandela’s “long walk to freedom” is surely one of the 20th century’s most inspiring stories. But contemporary reality is not Invictus or happily ever after. R.W. Johnson’s South Africa’s Brave New World provides a disheartening account of how the ANC dumped their socialist agenda in order to appease the IMF and attract international investment. Once in power they succumbed to corruption and cronyism, playing to the aspirations of middle class blacks and their own political elite, ignoring the hopes and desperation of the poor majority who voted for them.
Thabo Mbeki, the powerful government organizer behind Mandela and the person who succeeded him in office, dismissed all criticism of ANC’s ineptitude or malfeasance as “racist.” Conditioned by his decades of exile, dodging assassination attempts as his father sat in prison, Mbeki centralized control and purged his rivals from within the party, sometimes brutally. A few grim statistics from the daily media show how Mbeki’s policies are coming home to roost as 1,000 South Africans a day are dying of AIDS—part of Mbeki’s legacy. As the nature and the scope of the epidemic was becoming clear in Africa and worldwide, Mbeki construed calls to fight the disease as a political attempt to blame Africans for this plague and stigmatize them anew. He disputed the science and refused to take responsible action when it could have saved millions of lives.
South Africa’s current president, Jacob Zuma, has pledged a renewed commitment to AIDS education and testing, but he recently opined that the country only has about four more years to blame their former white supremacist rulers—who left office in 1994—before they must assume full responsibility for their own problems. That’s almost exactly how much time Zuma has left in his presidential term. Four years seems a long time to justify political drift and not to address pressing social problems such as the crime rate. There are 50 murders a day in a country of about 50 million people, the same number of murders as in the United States, which has 6 times the population. Much of this violence is directed toward foreigners from Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Africa who are perceived to be taking jobs away from locals, since they will work for less money.
Many South Africans would agree that their country is in crisis right now, but conditions in Zimbabwe and the Congo, among other nations, are so much worse, that the flood of immigrants continues unabated. Five-hundred people a day cross the border from Zimbabwe into South Africa. More than 25 percent of the economically active adult population of that country has fled to escape the despotism of Robert Mugabe. For decades Mugabe and his friends have looted the land, ruining the economy and persecuting anyone who objected. As the ruler of Zimbabwe’s most powerful neighbor, Mbeki was uniquely placed and morally obliged during his presidency (1999-2008) to intercede against Mugabe’s policies and many here and around the world pleaded with Mbeki to do so. But he refused. The result of Mugabe’s megalomania has been the slow starvation of a once prosperous nation and a desperate exodus that has caused bitterness and bloodshed in South Africa.
ANC youth league leader Julius Malema has built his own career by calling for vengeance against the hardcore resistance of Afrikaner farmers, the Boers. In his public appearances, Malema likes to sing an anti-apartheid song that includes the lyrics, “Kill the Boer,” which often receives large applause. In early April, not long after Malema had regaled another audience with this violent anthem, a white separatist farmer named Eugene Terre Blanche was murdered at his farm. A divisive extremist, Terre Blanche founded an Afrikaner Resistance Movement and famously threatened civil war to maintain white rule in Africa. After three years in jail for assault and attempted murder, in 2008 Terre Blanche began calling for a “free Afrikaner republic” to be created inside South Africa’s borders. Terre Blanche is only the most recent and most famous white farmer to die from violence. The South African Human Rights Commission estimates that about 2,500 white farmers have died as the result of more than 9,000 violent attacks since the end of apartheid. (White farmers’ organizations claim the number of fatalities is closer to 3,000.) The Commission found that the rate of attacks on white farmers has increased 25 percent since 2005. The vengeful racist massacre that many feared when apartheid ended, but which Mandela seemed to have averted, is taking place in its own protracted way.
The once-impoverished, poorly educated Malema now lives in splendor in Sandton, one of the most upscale sections of Johannesburg. A few weeks before the World Cup matches began, Malema was publicly reprimanded by the ANC and ordered to attend an anger management class— though most of his outbursts appeared calculated, if not scripted. For Malema, the Boers are convenient prawn-like foils to deflect blame from the enfranchised ANC back to the ghosts of apartheid. Zuma, too, seems content to pin his nation’s problems on the past. Many unemployed South Africans, meanwhile, consider the immigrant population, legal and illegal, as the biggest threat to their well-being and perhaps to their survival.
The fear and revulsion humans feel for the alien prawns in District 9 holds up a sci-fi mirror to this sort of scape- goating. Infected by the prawns, the protagonist of the movie begins to mutate, slowly becoming a prawn person himself, which horrifies him and everyone he knows. More hideous even than having to co-exist with the Other is becoming the Other. This fear has driven the policies of the Afrikaners and British for 300 years in South Africa, leading to the madness of apartheid, and continuing even today.
James McEnteer lives in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, where his World Cup runneth over.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.