"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." -- Theodore Roosevelt

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Lunacy and Peril in South Africa

Check out Caroline Glick's essay "Out of South Africa."

Much of the essay is about the growing of an already robust anti-Semitism in South Africa. It's interesting and I highly recommend reading the entire piece. However, what was especially interesting to me is the current state of modern South Africa.

From Glick's essay:

"Last month I was invited to South Africa by the South African Zionist Federation. The visit, my first to the country, opened my eyes to the daunting challenges facing the country and its dwindling Jewish community of 70,000 16 years after the end of the apartheid regime.

"South Africa is a country of paradoxes. On the one hand, it is exhilarating to see the blacks now in charge after their long struggle. On the other, the ruling African National Congress' record of governance is at best a mixed bag.

"On the positive side, in 2008 it peacefully and democratically replaced the failed former president Thabo Mbeki with his opponent, President Jacob Zuma.

"But the negatives are glaring. Corruption is endemic. Rather than punishing officials for criminal behavior, the ANC is going after the messenger. South Africa's ruling party intends to pass a draconian media law to bar journalists from reporting on governmental corruption. The ANC has dismissed opposition to the bill as racist, accusing opponents of attempting to advance a 'white agenda.'

"Auguring particularly ill for the future is the fact that ANC's Youth League is one of the most illiberal bodies in the party. Aside from being among the most enthusiastic supporters of the move to end press freedom, the Youth League is also one of the primary forces driving foreign investors away from the country. Its leader Julius Malema's signature policy is his demand to nationalize the country's mines.

"This has been a great year for South Africa. Throngs of tourists visited during the World Cup soccer championship, and the international press coverage was fantastic. Unfortunately, the relative safety enjoyed by World Cup tourists was a striking deviation from the norm. The ANC has failed to provide personal security for South Africans. According to the UN, South Africa has the second highest per capita murder rate in the world. South African sources place the annual murder rate at 23,000.

"South Africa is the rape capital of the world. In a 1998-2000 UN survey, one in three women said they had been raped in the past year. One in four men admitted that he was a rapist. Carjackings are a commonplace.

"Even more devastating is South Africa's AIDS epidemic. Nearly 20 percent of South Africans are infected with the HIV virus.

"One of the impetuses for removing Mbeki from office was that he denied that AIDS is caused by the HIV virus, claiming instead that AIDS is caused by poverty and the legacy of white oppression. Owing to this view, Mbeki refused to allow South Africa to participate in international programs to distribute anti-retroviral drugs which stem the development of AIDS."

The perception of South Africa is particularly interesting in this country. Most Americans became united in largely, lip service demands for the removal of the apartheid system and the white oligarchy that the system maintained. After its removal in 1994 and the election of Nelson Mandela and his African National Congress Party, many Americans swooned, patted themselves on the back for backing the morally right horse, and then paid little attention. After all, had the good guys not won?

Sure, Oprah would do some show about how wonderful her school in South Africa was doing between molestation and sex abuse scandals (the first accused molester was acquitted by South African courts in 2010-- a decision which left Oprah "profoundly disappointed."), but beyond that most Americans paid little attention to the country. What news was reported was generally given a positive spin. Very rarely was the astronomical crime rate cited, and often those dwelling on it were accused of being apartheid sympathizers and racists (I was accused of such in a college class after mentioning South Africa's horrifying statistics regarding rape and other violent crimes).

The reality is that South Africa, after freeing itself from the very real evils of apartheid, has not prospered into that Hollywood happy ending so many Americans expected. It has instead spiralled toward becoming yet another African country controlled by misinformation, distrust, xenophobia, and despotism. The reasons for this are manifold and quite complicated. I will not go into it here-- though I will state it has nothing to do with racial inferiority, or any other idiotic, racist nonsense.

Most Americans continue to ignore the current South Africa. Of those who do deign to look in South Africa's direction, they quite often do so with the selectively ignorant, rose-colored glasses needed to maintain the old '80s/Lethal Weapon 2 narrative-- a narrative that promised liberation from apartheid was all that was needed for South Africa to prosper.

Ignored is the lunacy (is there another word for it?) propagated by President Mbeki that AIDS is the result of poverty and racism. Other government officials have made questionable proclamations such as: "It is imperative to get rid of merit as the overriding principle in the appointment of public servants." - attributed to Mario Rantho an ANC MP. Or that "[t]here is going to be interference from the Government in every sphere of life and activity in South Africa..." - attributed to Steve Tshwete, Minister of Sport.

Ignored is the abuse heaped upon the utterly neglected refugees from Zimbabwe. As Glick notes: "Countrywide xenophobic riots in 2008 in which some 62 people were reported killed and thousands injured have been followed by sporadic, often murderous violence against foreign refugees. Rather than protect the refugees, the ANC just announced a new visa policy that will likely see the deportation of millions of them."

Ignored is the rampant corruption within the ANC and other major political parties. From today's (Nov. 10, 2010) edition of the South African Times:

"The party [The ANC] has also welcomed the granting of bail to ANC Northern Cape chair John Block, effectively leading to his release from incarceration.

"Block was granted bail of R100 000 in the Kimberley Magistrate's Court.

"Block and 8 others have been charged with tender fraud estimated at R112-million.

"The allegations against them relate to the purchase of water purification equipment from Intaka at inflated prices in 2005 and 2006."

From the South Africa Times op-ed by Mondli Makhanya: "It may be quite a distance to go still, and we may yet be able to turn the bus around, but what we do know is that we are certainly on board that bus to the republic of the damned.

"Our seats on the bus were confirmed by the most nauseating business deal in recent memory, when a bunch of politically connected individuals were paid handsomely for a mine they filched and also scored a lovely R9-billion stake in steel giant ArcelorMittal."

Makhanya goes on to describe, in some detail, the opportunistic grabbing up of the mines by the politically connected (including President Zuma's son, Duduzane) under the auspice of South Africa's Department of Mineral Resources. Read the whole thing for a small taste of South Africa's flavor of corruption.

Ignored is the rising oppression of the press. From the NYT: "Business executives, civic leaders and journalists have responded with increasingly dire warnings that stringent measures being advanced by the governing African National Congress would threaten press freedom, enshroud much official activity in secrecy, potentially punish offending journalists or whistle-blowers with up to 25 years in prison and undermine the fight against corruption in the continent’s largest economy.

"On Friday, the South African writers Nadine Gordimer, André Brink, Achmat Dangor, John Kani and Njabulo Ndebele added their voices to the protests. 'This is the threat of a return to the censorship under apartheid,' said Ms. Gordimer, three of whose novels were banned in that era."

Rarely reported is the ANC's close alliance with South African Communist Party (SACP), despite the fact that the SACP is one part of the Tripartite Alliance that currently runs South Africa-- the ANC and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) making up the other two partners.

Americans need to pay attention to South Africa and not write it off as the completion of some noble cause. They need to give the country a hard look free from what Americans' once wished for the country, irrespective from what they would like the country to be. Americans need to abandon the outdated '80s anti-apartheid narrative-- that brand of apartheid is gone and fortunately for all it's not coming back-- and see the very serious issues that face South Africa today. Everyone didn't just start floating on clouds and eating tofu once Mandela's presidency began-- far from it.

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