South Africa’s Second Coming: the Nongqawuse syndrome

The reason I have written so little art this blog (and not participated in the excelllent discussions) recently is because I’m preparing the manuscript of my book, Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience for Oxford U. Press. One of my chapter deals with the Xhosa Cattle-Slaying of 1856-7. In trying to keep up with the recent literature on the subject, I ran across an article by Achille Mbebe, a Cameroonian post-colonialist writer who has penned a blistering indictment of the post-Apartheid government of South Africa which i thought would interest the readers of this blog. Here it is, below, with comments.

Among other things, it underlines two major points: 1) the difficulty of establishing a working democracy; and 2) the almost certainty that any Palestinian state – a fortiori a “one state solution” to the Arab-Israeli problem would produce a failed “democracy.”

South Africa’s second coming: the Nongqawuse syndrome

Achille Mbembe, 14 June 2006

A dozen years after apartheid ended, a dangerous mix of populism, nativism and millenarian thinking is inviting South Africans to commit political suicide, writes Achille Mbembe.

The deputy chair of the South African Institute of International Relations, Moeletsi Mbeki speaking recently at Witwatersrand University, made an arresting comparison between the current political situation in South Africa and the one prevailing in the period leading to the Xhosa cattle-killing in 1856-57.

The dance of the ghost

By that time, the Xhosa had been involved in nearly a half century of bloody and protracted wars with colonial settlers on the eastern frontier of their homeland. As a result of the deliberate destruction of their means of livelihood, confiscation of their cattle and the implementation of a scorched-earth policy by British colonialists, they had lost a huge portion of their territory and hundreds of thousands of their people had been displaced. As lung-sickness spread across the land in 1854, a number of prophets proclaiming an ability to bring all cattle back to life began to re-emerge.

Note that the way the British behaved in South Africa, especially under the rule of Lord George Grey, makes the Israelis in Palestine absolute angels. The Brits engaged in deliberately targeting civilians as a way to crush the rebellion. By comparison, the “collective punishment” of blowing a suicide-bomber’s house, looks most civilized. And, of course, unlike the British, whose colonialism came after a brutal conquest, the Israelis settled the land without conquest.

Then, a 16-year-old girl, Nongqawuse, had a vision on the banks of the Gxarha River. She saw the departed ancestors who told her that if people would but kill all their cattle, the dead would arise from the ashes and all the whites would be swept into the sea. The message was relayed to the Xhosa nation by her uncle, Mhalakaza. Although deeply divided over what to do, the Xhosa began killing their cattle in February 1856. They destroyed all their food and did not sow crops for the future. Stored grain was thrown away. No further work was to be done. Days passed and nights fell. The resurrection of the dead Xhosa warriors never took place.

In his book The Dead Will Arise: Nongqawuse and the Great Xhosa Cattle-Killing Movement of 1856-7, historian J.B. Peires contends that by May 1857, 400,000 cattle had been slaughtered and 40,000 Xhosa had died of starvation. At least another 40,000 had left their homes in search of food. According to Dr John Fitzgerald, founder of the Native Hospital who witnessed the events, one could see thousands of those “emaciated living skeletons passing from house to house” in places such as King Williams Town. Craving for food, they subsisted on nothing “but roots and the bark of the mimosa, the smell of which appeared to issue from every part of their body.”
As the whole land was surrounded by the smell of death, Xhosa independence and self-rule had effectively ended.

Achille Mbembe is a research professor in history and politics at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He is the winner of the 2006 Bill Venter/Altron Award for his book On the Postcolony (University of California Press, 2001)
A slightly different version of this article is also published in the Sunday Times (South Africa)

What’s going on?

Not long ago, many thought that South Africa’s overthrow of institutionalised racism and its attempt to build a truly non-racial, modern and cosmopolitan society was the best gift Africa had ever given to the world. Less than fifteen years after liberation, it is no longer clear that the country has the moral and intellectual capacity to generate an alternative meaning of what our world might be, or to become a major centre in the global south.

It turns out, it’s not enough to overthrow tyranny in order to establish democracy.

As the former national-liberation movement the African National Congress (ANC) implodes, the stakes are getting higher. The Nongqawuse syndrome – the name for the kind of political disorder and cultural dislocation South Africa seems to be experiencing – is once again engulfing the country. This is a syndrome South Africa has always suffered in times of demoralisation and acute social and mental insecurity. The Nongqawuse syndrome is a populist rhetoric and a millenarian form of politics which advocates, uses and legitimises self-destruction, or national suicide, as a means of salvation.

Note that a the Cattle Killing embarrasses many modern African commentators who dislike intensely the way white scholars speak of the Xhosa committing suicide at the prompting of a 15-year old prophetess. But here, it’s clearly referred to in just such a negative fashion.

It is a syndrome many other post-colonial African countries (Liberia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Sudan) have experienced with tragic effects over the last fifty years.

There are good reasons to believe that the current political disorder in South Africa closely follows the Nongqawuse pattern. There are three ways in which the latter can be recognised.

First, there must emerge a false maprofeti (prophet), generally a person of very humble origins. Backed by a certain level of mass hysteria, the maprofeti then claims that a great resurrection is about to take place. Whenever questioned about the sources of his actions and authority, he invariably refers to the authority of his “ancestors”, his “tradition” or his “culture”.

Despite Arafat’s veneer of secularism, this is a close description of the Palestinian leadership.

Second, the maprofeti usually exhibits exuberant behaviour. Indirectly, and mostly through his silences, he tends to condone the rule of the mob and does not rule out violence itself as a as a catalyst for the great resurrection.

The parallels with Arafat are striking:

    Those close to Arafat describe his mood in the first months of the conflict [the Second Intifada] as high, nearly euphoric. The intifada was described in the international media in romantic colors; the international community supported the Palestinian’s struggle; in Arab countries demonstrations of support were held… the Sharm Summit in the middle of October returned Arafat to the center of the world stage after the isolation that was forced upon him when he was blamed for the failure of Camp David.

And whence came this euphoria?

    One of Arafat’s cabinet members later explained that Arafat didn’t want to stop the conflict because “he thought that the world was on our side and the continuation of the armed struggle would only serve us. At that time Arafat believed that he could control the violence and to use it against Israel.”

Third, the elite display cowardice in the face of the challenge. As the maprofeti’s message spreads fervently among the multitudes of disadvantaged and disaffected poor, the elite keep laughing at, and ridiculing, him. The elite know very well that should things really turn nasty, they could simply pack and leave.

Death and the “revolution second coming”

Twelve years of limited democracy, wealth accumulation without purpose and unfinished transformation have created the conditions for the emergence, in South Africa today, of all sorts of prophets, healers and swindlers.

A growing chorus of discontent is swelling from the multitudes of disadvantaged and disaffected poor young black men, many of whom firmly believe in the craft of witches and occult forces. How can it be otherwise? Their life expectancy is fast diminishing. They hardly trust the constitution. They deeply resent the new rights granted to women. Often, they will use rape as a means to discipline them while compensating for their own perceived loss of power. With nothing to lose, it is easy for many to choose predatory behavior over political life.

From all corners, they are surrounded by death. In fact, today’s Aids pandemic is not unlike yesterday’s lung-sickness. Just as yesterday’s cattle, today’s poor blacks are dying in a particularly horrible manner. They cough and gasp for air. Fluid creeps over their lungs and as the disease spreads, they putrefy from the inside. Unable to eat, they are wasted and die mere skeletons. All over the country, cemeteries are full. Who can reasonably argue that such a frightening scale of death, such a racialised way of dying, does not have radical implications for politics and culture?

This is the context in which a class-oriented millenarianism and nativist revivalism are fuelling mass disillusion, if not outright discontent. The discontent is spearheaded by the trade unions, the ANC Youth League and the South African Communist Party (SACP).

Although of a secular nature, this new millenarianism and nativist revivalism is using the eschatological language of the “revolution second coming” in order to paint as the epitome of the Antichrist one of the most worldly, cosmopolitan and urbane political leaders modern Africa has ever known. Even though the followers of the maprofeti do not believe in the morality of the Christian church – especially in matters of adultery – they are threatening President Thabo Mbeki with God’s wrath. They want to exact vengeance, to humiliate him and to punish him for his alleged political sins – a neo-liberal, aloof, secretive and paranoid intellectual who is bent on centralising power and on driving South Africa towards a Zimbabwe-style dictatorship.

In the process, they are not only holding the entire nation hostage in an increasingly nasty and unprincipled power struggle. They are also stirring the darkest brew of South African culture: its addiction to prophecy, consumption and small miracles; it’s deeply held phallocratic ethos shared by blacks and whites; the corrosive violence that is tearing apart its social fabric; its xenophobia and, among blacks especially, its rooted belief in witchcraft and evil forces. That this populist, secular movement, has an evangelical flavour while being profoundly anti-Christian is only dramatised by the increasing viciousness of its rhetoric, forged out of the shards of a conservative urban, migrant, lumpen culture whose antics have left countries such as Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Congo, Ivory Coast or Sudan bleeding to death.

The dark night of the soul

The marriage of millenarianism, nativist revivalism and politics is not new in South Africa. For a long time, it was the backbone of white supremacy in this country. The emergence, now, of a “democratic mob” led by self-appointed champions of the poor who claim to speak for the “common man” is itself the result of recent seismic shifts in the realm of South African political culture.

Years of apartheid violence and, more recently, the utter degradation of urban public life have had devastating consequences on the culture of law and civility. Poverty, crime and disease, hunger and pestilence are weakening state and civil institutions while tearing apart the moral roots of civic and ethical life.

Thus a civil polity unravels. Democracy is a constant accomplishment. Israel, surrounded by cultures of violence and corruption, is a daily miracle.

Crime, in particular, is fast eroding the hard-worn freedoms. It is lowering the quality of life in major cities, fostering a general climate of fear and suspicion, and damaging the civic and moral fabric of the society to an extent the current government does not seem to be aware of. Violent protests are increasingly the norm, along with the tendency, among many, to take the law into their own hands.

A culture of corruption, impunity and non-accountability is fast becoming the norm. In the aftermath of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), public and private lives are conducted as if forgiveness was an inalienable right.

Wonder where that came from…

Nobody being responsible for his or her conduct, everybody is presumed innocent until proven guilty. And even when proven guilty, punishment is seen as illegitimate and repentance is unnecessary as long as the belief is that one’s crime was the result of a righteous alienation or simply part of one’s “culture” and “tradition”.

Just saw an extremely interesting David Mamet play called “Race.” About the total skewing of moral compass by the effort to undo a racist past.

Even more dangerous is the shift away from the project of non-racialism to a re-segregation of the public sphere. To the continuing denial of white privilege, many blacks are responding with an exacerbated sense of victimisation and disempowerment. In the name of the “right to self-definition”, they are paradoxically recreating and consolidating the mental ghetto – a lethal device white rule so effectively used in order to inflict on them maximum psychic damage during the times of bondage.

Here’s an interesting variant. Palestinians didn’t learn their ghetto mentality – e.g., the demand that there by no Jews in Palestine – from the Israelis. They are the original, imperialist mentality faced with an upstart people. They despise them without any need to learn from others: shake the faith in his own confidence of a man/culture used to dominating, and they can only wash their shame in blood.

The recent founding of the Native Club or the strident calls to black intellectuals to go back to “traditionalism” are but two examples of the nativist revivalism engulfing the country. Having lost political power, many whites have retreated into safe enclaves, hoping to one day leave for Australia instead of fully exercising their citizenship and creatively renegotiating the terms of their belonging to the new nation. Further evidence of nativist reassertion are the ongoing controversies concerning the use of Afrikaans at the university of Stellenbosch and the opposition, including among white liberals, to any kind of economic redress after so many centuries of looting, exploitation and theft.

If, historically, white nativism has always been about racial supremacy and the defence of immoral privilege, black nativism has always been a by-product of dispossession. As a form of cultural and political protest, the task of nativism is generally to create a common language of grievance. Because nativism is never attached to any concrete social or political programme of reform, it can never be a progressive force. In practice, it always tends to repeat the sorry history it pretends to redress. A real danger for South Africa today is that the country may be sliding back into a situation where, once again, the language of racial destiny becomes so all-encompassing as to render impossible other ways of connecting the various fragments of the nation.

The overwhelming presence of death and rape, especially in black people’s everyday life, only serves to dramatise this predicament. Black life in South Africa today is almost as cheap as it has been since the early years of conquest. Weekly funerals have become the dominant way in which time is remembered – Aids death, death on the road, death on a train, random death in the hands of criminals, death from tuberculosis and malnutrition, and more and more cases of outright suicide in the townships and squatter camps. An obscure desire for suicide – the Nongqawuse syndrome – is at the heart of the new marriage of millenarianism, nativism and politics. It is such obscure desire that is manifested in the act of taking a shower after sex with an HIV-infected person in the hope of reducing the risk of contamination. The same suicidal behaviour is what is at work in the way in which our government is dealing with the Aids pandemic.

Many poor whites are growing resentful. White professionals who genuinely want to belong are called “settlers”. At the same time, many young blacks are angry. They feel victimised by their own government. They still cannot get even the crumbs from the gluttonous feast going on around them – the economy growing at more than 3% a year; the minister of finance triumphantly announcing tax breaks; the governor of the Reserve Bank gloating about the low level of inflation. In the middle of the huge commercial emporium South Africa has become, their own experience is still one of joblessness, hunger, pestilence and disease. Who is to be blamed if they conduct their lives with a deep suspicion that, after all, liberation might have been but a cynical ploy to keep them where they have always been?

One of the sad and difficult things for liberals to learn is that before the advent of modern civil polities (with some rare exceptions like the Jews), elites have never treated their own people well. The idea that the black elite would treat blacks better than whites did was a liberal fantasy. (And in this case, the whites hardly treated the blacks well.) In the case of Israel, the observation that just does not compute with liberals and progressives who blame Israel, is that they treat Arabs better than Arab regimes treat Arabs. And all those Palestinians who want to be in Israel rather than in Palestine makes it clear that they understand.

Such is the context that has created a desperate yearning of salvation by some heroic maprofeti eager to get back his machine-gun at a time when other nations compete with their knowledge and technologies.

We have therefore entered a very dangerous moment. But South Africa is still a democracy. There is still room to manoeuvre and there are still choices to be made. What is alarming for many is that the scope for choice is gradually being eroded by those intent to re-segregate the public sphere and to constrict what it means to be South African and African in today’s world.

The questions are therefore urgent:

    * how to foster a genuine commitment to the democratic premise that common men and women have something valuable to contribute to the formation of public opinion?
    * how to contain populism in the safer channels of electoral politics?< ?li>
    * how to recapture the ideal of non-racialism and attend to all South African citizens, black and white, in a resolute attempt to build, for the first time on this continent, a truly modern and cosmopolitan society?

The current political arrangement in South Africa is no longer serving this goal. The so-called “tripartite alliance” (of the ANC, the SACP, and the Congress of South African Trade Unions [Cosatu]) has outrun its usefulness. It is now becoming a major factor of instability for the country. It would be in South Africa’s national interest for it to disband. Fractions of the Communist Party, the trade unions and the ANC Youth League should form their own political party and contest elections in their own name. A new political mainstream committed to a liberal constitution, to an explicitly social democratic agenda and to an Afropolitan cultural project should emerge.

In turn, constitutional reforms should be introduced. Their aim would be to give back to the people as a whole (and not to a party) the right to elect their president. As in every other major democracy, members of parliament and other representative bodies should be elected by their constituencies and should be accountable to the latter. More whites should leave their hiding places and exercise their rights as full citizens of a democratic country – and, if they so wish, as “Africans” in their own right. That is how South Africa will make the necessary escape from millennarian thinking and begin to carve a new democratic future.

31 Responses to South Africa’s Second Coming: the Nongqawuse syndrome

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  5. At says:

    Very good good to know their is some people in the world understanding what is happenning here in South Africa and also in the rest of africa

  6. Don Cox says:

    “It turns out, it’s not enough to overthrow tyranny in order to establish democracy.”

    Examples are the English Civil War and the French Revolution. It took many decades after these events before anything like democracy was achieved.

    And the process is far from over. There is a lot of work still to do in improving the methods of government in democratic countries, especially in Europe.

  7. sshender says:

    There is a mandatory piece by the Free Republic which relates to African culture hindering their integration into Europe:

    Out of Africa – Illegal Immigrants, Crime, Terrorism, Polygamy And Aids

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1692109/posts

    Here’s an excerpt:

    “To my knowledge, there is not an African society which does not hold belief in mystical power of one type or another,’ writes John S. Mbiti in his authoritative study “African Religions and Philosophy.” “There is mystical power which causes people to walk on fire, to lie on thorns or nails, to send curses or harm, including death, from a distance to change into animals (…) power to make inanimate objects turn into biologically living creatures; there is power that enables experts to see into secrets, hidden information or the future, or to detect thieves and other culprits. African peoples know this and try to apply it in these and other ways.” Sorcery, witchcraft (evil employment of mystical power), evil magicians, witches, medicine-men and priests still play an important role in the life of many Africans. Witchcraft “is part of the religious corpus of beliefs.” There is also a widespread belief in spirits, spirits are blamed for all forms of illness. “Spirit possession occurs in one form or another in practically every African society.” Daniel Etounga-Manguelle from Cameroon puts forward the idea that Africa needs a cultural adjustment program. “A society in which magic and witchcraft flourish today is a sick society ruled by tension, fear and moral disorder.” In his view, it is the Africans and their culture which are to be blamed for irrationalism, widespread practices of corruption (“the elites have access to large amounts of money”), inefficient African bureaucracies, tribalism and the negation of the individual. There is also a “propensity to feast that suggests that African societies are structured around pleasure.” “The African works to live but does not live to work.” (In the Summer of 2004 I had a long and friendly conversation with the Sierra Leonan film-maker Sorious Samoura who emphasized: “It’s easy to blame the West for Africa’s huge problems, but we in Africa must first look at ourselves before we start blaming others.”) The costs of irrationalism, says Etounga-Manguelle, are high: “Sorcery also extends to government. Witch doctors surround African presidents, and nothing that really matters in politics occurs without recourse to witchcraft. Occult counselors, responsible for assuring that authorities keep their power by detecting and neutralizing possible opponents, have power that the most influential Western advisors would envy. The witch doctors often amass fortures, and they themselves end up with official designations, enjoying the direct exercise of power.”

    There is also a widespread irrational belief in Africa that aids can be cured by magic or having sex with teen-age virgins (the more the better), or eating and drinking according to a regulated or prescribed system. The latter is advocated by South-Africa’s Minister of Health, Mrs. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who claims that garlic, African potatoes and olive oil can cure the disease.

    Migrants from Africa take their views, habits, cultural and social manners with them. For example, Nigerians introduced voodoo practices to Holland, Belgium, Britain and Italy. Young girls from Nigeria are forced into prostitution by Nigerian traffickers and sent to Europe. Before going to Europe such a girl first has to visit a priest or witch doctor who often has sex with her as part of some sort of initiation ritual. Then he cuts her nails and takes some of her pubic hair and performs a magic ritual called voodoo, thus enforcing the girl’s loyalty to the criminals who will send her to Europe. The terrified girls are told that they will die should they dare to escape before they paid their debt to the criminal organization. In Britain and Italy, some – certainly not all! – African migrants have introduced cannibalistic rituals. They believe that eating parts of the human body will give them extra powers. (This is what African dictators like Emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa, Idi Amin and Charles Taylor did; Amin, a Muslim with strong ties to the Arab world, was also frequently consulting witch doctors.

  8. Michelle Schatzman says:

    I don’t know about South Africa, but in the case of France, the article is exaggerating quite a bit. Not every french man is afraid to walk in his street (I am not afraid to walks in the street of my mixed neighborhood, even at night). This does not mean that the view of South Africa given by this article is false – just it should be backed by other references. By the way, this article dates from 2006. Don’t we have something better, more recent and more reliable to read and/or recommend?

    • Henry says:

      I live in South Africa, and this is probably the most insightful piece regarding the situation here I have ever read. Perhaps the author can add that to his references: Joe Citizen (ZAR)

  9. Richard Landes says:

    what are you talking about in the case of France. there’s nothing in the article about France is there? as for up to date, i took this article because it’s about the Xhosa cattle killing, and since that’s over 150 years ago, i thought four years ago for the article isn’t too stale. i’d be interested in comments on how well this analysis has held up over the last years.

    • Henry says:

      I am utterly amazed to hear this article was written so long ago. Many of us are only becoming aware of the depressing assertions now.

  10. sshender says:

    On South Africa, here’s another piece I once came across, but I’m not sure about its credibility:

    http://www.captaincynic.com/thread/25062/10-years-after-apartheid-south-africa-in-a-crisis.htm

    But from my experience with African post-colonial “liberation”, it does not look too far fetched.

  11. RickD says:

    The cattle slaughter is reminiscent of the plains indian ghost dancers. As their world and culture were coming to an end in the late 19th century the plains indians believed that the whites would be swept away. They also believed that certain amulets would protect them from bullets, and of course they died while fighting white soldiers.

    Maybe the similarity is just that both were millennarian movements, with magical thinking and beliefs.

    The indians had an honor/shame culture, not that dissimilar to the Muslim tribal societies. While the african culture has a big-man-take-all culture their belief in spirits and magic is probably different from the Muslim culture. I guess the plains indians also had a belief in spirits and magic so maybe that isn’t inimical to having an honor/shame culture.

  12. Michelle Schatzman says:

    rl, it was about the article quoted in # 7 and #8 by sshender. My apologies for being imprecise.

  13. News from Spain

    Of course, along comes the demopaths and Dupes

  14. Stan says:

    I have lived in South Africa all my life (52 years) and work in the high tech industry (software engineering). Here are some observations I have made on the situation as it exists today:
    1. Africans tend to vote along tribal lines and don’t seem to understand that democracy is more effective when there are more smaller parties rather than a few big parties which forces elected leaders to be more accountable (i.e. you didn’t deliver – so I’ll vote for someone else). This leads to a situation where after the elections – the people who voted for the goverment – go on the rampage, trashing the streets to protest the non-delivery of housing and services by the government (duh – I thought thats why we had elections).
    2. The big parties (e.g. ANC) stand for everything including things that conflict (e.g. capitalism and workers rights) so nobody knows what they are getting and only when the president acts do u know what he stands for.
    3. In my field (engineering) IMO there seems to be a distinct lack of innovation amoungst black engineers who seem to think that the solution to all problems should be read-up in a book (i.e. can’t, won’t, not part of culture – to brainstorm and propose out-of-the-box ideas, even if they are ridiculous).
    4. South Africa can currently be best described as a Cleptonomy (cleptomaniac autonomy). If something of value is left un-attended – it will go missing. The core industries that employ the masses are still the Iron and Steele industries (She irons and he steals).
    5. Hunger is a very large driving factor – unlike Palastinians there are no Snipers, Suicide Bombers and Back Stabbers – give an African a belly-full of food and drink and he will sing and smile.
    6. The break-up of the larger parties is, for the reasons above, IMO a good thing for democracy and accountability, but it might (for myself) expose the real requirements of the masses which I might not like.
    7. Zimbabwe is a disaster and illustrates how democracy (and the championing of democracy by the West) can be used to overthrow an existing responsible regime (Smith govnmnt) and once elected to revert immediately to a totalitarian winner-take-all regime (Mugabe) where the oposition is silenced through genocide (Matabele) and the masses live in abject poverty – far worse than anything dished out by the previous regime – and the West remains silent and umoved – even though when the Whites ruled never a day went by without protest and protest action being undertaken in London etc. This is the model I think that would apply to the Israeli-Palastinian conflict -if in a 1 state solution an election were to be held, it would be the last election ever to be held – after the genocide of the Jews and the Sunni VS Shia massacres and suicide-bombings – out of the rubble that was once a prosperous Israel would emerge a ruthless dictator who would hold on to power ruthlessly and at all costs (refer Gaza, Iraq) – and the current Western left liberals who fail to see the Kings (Saudi Arabia, Jordan) and Despots (Syria, Egypt, Yemen etc) and Theocracies (Iran) that rule by fear and an iron-fist – would be silent – and having “liberated” Zimbabwe and Palastine would move on to the next disasterous cause – feeling no guilt whatsoever – for the misery and suffering left behind that they have caused.

  15. Cynic says:

    Michelle,

    Had I known that this would come up I would have collected the media links to the killing of people, young and old, for body parts to be used in “black magic” this century in South Africa.
    The general criminal violence is pandemic and I should imagine that the majority of houses in the big cities have contracts with security companies to respond automatically to a breakin and with “panic buttons” in each room to call them in an emergency.
    The houses now have 2 metre high fences/walls with electrified fencing above which in some cases has not been successful.
    The viciousness of the violence employed in the assaults on homes is terribly frightening and some have commented to me on the similarity to that witnessed in the attack on Chabad House in Mumbai for torture and mutilation.

    I thought that things were bad in Rio de Janeiro where robberies with shootings were ten a penny but never did we witness such debased humanity.

  16. Cynic says:

    Just for the record, Moeletsi Mbeki the brother of Thabo Mbeki, former President of SA, was prevented from appearing on TV and speaking on radio because of his criticisms of the government.
    He was also outspoken about Western aid which just went into the pockets of the politicians and did not get to entrepreneurial use and the creation of jobs and wealth.

    Liberate Africa from Its Political Elites

    As the G-8 summit approaches and the leaders of the developed world contemplate huge increases in aid to Africa, we must ask ourselves what has become of the billions of dollars already poured into the continent. Africa remains wracked by poverty and disease while other former colonial outposts like East Asia are booming. At the root of Africa’s problems are ruling political elites that have squandered the continent’s wealth and choked its productivity over the last 40 years.

    The list of abuses is long and impressive. African political elites have systematically exploited their positions in order to line their own pockets. They have given favors and won influence through the funding of huge loss-making industrialization projects. They have exploited the natural resources of their countries and then transferred profits, taxes, and aid funds into their own foreign bank accounts at the same time that they ran up enormous debts to finance their governments’ operations.
    ……….
    This division is made easier by the modern African state, which in most countries was created by European imperial powers that had little regard for ethnic and religious differences among Africans. From the early days of independence, competing and antagonistic groups were forced together in the political process. The political elites that took over African countries in the 1960s thus saw government as a source of power and personal enrichment. “Seek ye first the political kingdom and all else shall be given,” urged Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah. The region’s political leaders have been doing so ever since.

    It is amazing that people like Moeletsi Mbeki never come to power to be able to put into practice their ideas.

  17. sshender says:

    Michelle,

    The article I provided does not deal with South Africa (as opposed the one Richard brought up), hence the confusion.

    Personal perceptions can sometimes (though rarely) be deceiving, when dealing with ethnic or cultural generalizations. In both directions. Your feeling safe walking the streets does not mean that the article isn’t correct about a more engrossing phenomena. Actually, I find it hard to believe. Having had the opportunity of wandering about the northern, predominantly immigrant, outskirts of Paris (Gonesse, for example), we felt a constant feeling of unease creeping up on us whenever the locals darted us with their prying eyes. True, nothing happened (we were smart enough to stay put at nights), but from many locals (including the Ibis hotel staff) we got the impression that we’d be better off without this kind of sightseeing. Oh, and speaking of personal safety, how about you venture out with a pro-Israeli T-Shirt. I’m sure you won’t feel just as safe, and what is safety, after all, if it’s only there up to a point…

    And I’m sure that the stats don’t lie either. Blacks are in the “vanguard” of crime almost everywhere, and no matter what the multi-culti “all men are equal” crowd says, discrimination alone is not enough to account for that. Other factors are at play, and the article does a good job of outlining some of them.

    And come on, this is not the early 90s we’re talking about here – it’s just 3 years ago, for christ’s sake. The last time I checked there weren’t major tectonic shifts with that regards since the time the article has been published till this day. As a matter of fact, I could not think of a single one such example. You’re just trying to play devil’s advocate here, and not doing a very good job.

  18. sshender says:

    Cynic,

    Of course they can’t come to power. That would require an intelligent, independent and assertive electorate, which is non-existent in Africa. It sounds cruel, but as I see it, the African people deserve their leaders. If a true liberal-democrat with the best intentions for his people would attempt to run for office (where that is ever possible) not only would he be smeared by the opposition (and the smears wholly believed by the populace), but he would be so off tune with the prevailing culture, morals and attitudes that he would not stand a chance of gaining significant ground, let alone winning the elections.

    In spite of all the African post-colonial pep talk, the only way for Africa to get out of its cesspool is to have a “noble dictatorship” (of the Singaporian type) enforced on them. Preferably, of white Western origins.

    Stan,
    I find your observations befitting my preconceived perceptions. And this is not the first time I’ve come across South African whites and educated blacks voicing similar opinions. It sounds racist, but hey, reality is. The analogies with the AI conflict seem plausible, albeit not for the same reasons.

  19. Cynic says:

    Even though the followers of the maprofeti do not believe in the morality of the Christian church – especially in matters of adultery – they are threatening President Thabo Mbeki with God’s wrath. They want to exact vengeance, to humiliate him and to punish him for his alleged political sins – a neo-liberal, aloof, secretive and paranoid intellectual who is bent on centralising power and on driving South Africa towards a Zimbabwe-style dictatorship.

    It is to be expected I suppose that Mbeki gets all the blame while the AsaJew Ronnie Kasrils who had a lot of influence in supporting Mugabe in Zimbabwe gets off scot-free.
    The people cannot see that the person who disparaged the Jewish Community in South Africa and trashed the Israelis was as consistent with the destruction of the Zimbabwean proletariat.

    As for:

    Nobody being responsible for his or her conduct, everybody is presumed innocent until proven guilty. And even when proven guilty, punishment is seen as illegitimate and repentance is unnecessary as long as the belief is that one’s crime was the result of a righteous alienation or simply part of one’s “culture” and “tradition”.

    Now isn’t this just so Western in concept where the criminal becomes the victim and the victim becomes partly or wholly responsible for the victim’s righteous alienation?

    Deconstruction of society with pious politically correct platitudes. Maybe I should just say PC humbug.

  20. JB says:

    To be honest, I think that this Nongqawase analogy is grossly exaggerated. It really does not quite fit the present muddled reality of South Africa with all its problems. There are hard rationalists in the top ANC leadership, but the strains in the alliance are showing and the corruption is pervasive. Suicidal I think not.

  21. Western (White) Guilt and Suicidal Moral Masochism…

    We are all familiar with the person who “has it all” yet manages to ruin their life. Not all such individuals have unconscious guilt which causes them to seek ways to punish themselves, but unconscious guilt as a motivator for……

  22. SE says:

    Some responses to your post:
    1. You can’t compare what nations did 150 years ago to what goes on today. Presentism.
    2. I think a closer comparison would be to Joan of Arc, no?
    3. You make an excellent point about tyranny and democracy. I think the West – and here I think we can include the Right, W., not just the MSM, etc. – has this notion that every society would immediately set up a democratic govt if only given the opportunity, as though democracy is a natural, instinctive form of govt. This is far from the case. Democracy is form of govt that only a civil society can enjoy – the culture must have reached that level of development on an ‘evolutionary scale,’ and not every society is ready for it. The belief that democracy is the preferred and natural human state is a form of projection, cognitive egocentrism.
    4. I don’t see how Arafat fits this paradigm. He projected himself more as a man of war, military struggle – hence he always appeared in military garb. Nor do I see any mass hysteria on the part of the Palestinians, or Arafat’s religious/mystical /prophetic appeal. Your evidence does not support your contention. All it says is that Arafat was happy with both his military success and in winning global support.
    5. The information about resentment of women’s liberation strikes me as deeply honor-shame related; the remarks about widespread horrible death and the prediction of a rise in millenarianism remind me of the Black Plague and what ensued.
    6. The paragraph about the financial growth of SA undercut the article’s power for me. How can you have such a prosperous, expanding economy (especially these days) when there is such rampant violence and hopelessness?

  23. obsy says:

    SE: “You can’t compare what nations did 150 years ago to what goes on today.”

    That sounds like: “you cannot learn from history”.

    “How can you have such a prosperous, expanding economy (especially these days) when there is such rampant violence and hopelessness?”

    Natural resources? Diamonds, Gold, …
    There can be other reasons.
    Take a look at todays fast growing economies.

  24. SE says:

    You can learn from history, but you cannot claim moral superiority to a time when different morals held sway.

  25. Cynic says:

    SE says:
    6. The paragraph about the financial growth of SA undercut the article’s power for me. How can you have such a prosperous, expanding economy (especially these days) when there is such rampant violence and hopelessness?

    The price of gold principally and massive exports of strategic materials to China (lots of Chinese “imported” to construct the World Cup venues).
    “Prosperous” is very one sided in this case as no jobs have been created for the masses while infrastructure and social services are allowed to deteriorate to the detriment of the population.
    Just as the British during its colonial period basically sucked the blood out of its colonies so the Chinese are doing today and Zimbabwe is a prime example. Maybe South Africa will get there yet and experience deja vu?

    With regard to #23.
    If one learned from history and if one applied the lesson correctly then one can claim moral superiority; but if all one did was learn how to do it and copied then no.
    The big question today is how those claiming moral superiority are applying their “morals”.
    Is there integrity in the application of their claim or is it, for example, still the same Which Human, What Rights for what is basically the human rights cliché applied in so much political scamming nowadays?

  26. Cynic says:

    Here is an article that should add something to the post in terms of historical perspective and the currnet situation
    The bitter-enders

    A point is made in a comment above
    1. You can’t compare what nations did 150 years ago to what goes on today. Presentism.

    but that is exactly what the world is doing today.
    They are criticizing a culture of hundreds of years that lived in isolation of the progress of Europe for the most part and was expected to conform suddenly.

    The article is a bit short on facts especially about British behaviour who arrived almost 150 years after the original community was established to later flee their handling at the hands of the British.

    But then we have enough experience on the blog of COGNITIVE EGOCENTRISM.

  27. Esther says:

    I think any comparison between South Africa and Israel is baseless. There’s no similarity whatsoever. It’s just propaganda to convince the world that the destruction of Israel would be moral.

    The European rule in South Africa was part of an imperialist-colonialist project, in which European countries sought to expand their territories all over the globe. The Jews, on the other hand, were a small people that was exiled from its own country by imperialist forces into a condition of statelessness that led to centuries of persecution, wandering and misery. The Jews have historically lived in the land of Israel for centuries, and some for millennia, both as independent Jewish polities and under the various imperialist forces that ruled it, and remained deeply connected to it throughout the diaspora. The Jews were not looking for expansion, power and spoils, but for national liberation and independence in their ancestral homeland.

    The Muslims conquered the land as part of their own vast imperialist-colonialist project. It became just a neglected, insignificant little corner in the vast Islamic empire throughout most of the empire’s existence. Under Muslim rule all non-Muslims were at best relegated to second class citizens. There were ups and downs, and all in all it might have been better than in Europe, but Jews have suffered a lot of persecution and oppression under the various rulers and changing moods in the Muslim empire.

    The main Jewish community in Europe was founded 1000-1300 years ago, although Jews arrived in Europe long before that through the Roman empire, as immigrants and as slaves. For people of European descent to now attack the Israeli Ashkenazi Jews as European imperialists-colonialists is profoundly immoral, dishonest and cynical since in Europe the Jews were never considered Europeans, but aliens of a different nation and a different race. Throughout their stay in Europe the Jews were subjected to persecution, expulsions, forced conversion and massacres. My father’s family was murdered exactly because they weren’t European. But now I’m suddenly a European? How come? Of course, not all Europeans were involved in this, but all Europeans have at least a vague knowledge of this history, so for them to compare the Jews to European colonialists isn’t ignorant, but deeply dishonest and lacks intellectual and moral integrity.

    When Jews from Europe started settling in the 19th century in what was previously known as Judea, it was just a tiny part, a fraction of one percent, of the Ottoman empire. There were no countries or nations in the Muslim empire, it was a huge Islamic state. There was no Palestinian nation back then, nor any time before that. Palestine was just a province or part of a province in the Islamic state. Estimations of the size of the population vary, but they are all in the hundreds of thousands, not millions, on both sides of the Jordan river (that is Jordan, Israel and the disputed territories), which means it was largely depopulated in spite of the current propaganda. The Jews bought lands from Arab and Ottoman owners. They started developing the land and created job opportunities.

    When the British entered Palestine in the 1920s they counted a million inhabitants on both sides of the Jordan river. They immediately gave 3/4 of mandatory Palestine to the Arab Hashemite emir Abdallah who collaborated with them against the Ottomans, as a consolation prize after his brother, Faisal, was expelled from Damascus by the French (Faisal himself later received Iraq). That would become Jordan. The rest of mandatory Palestine was later to be partitioned into an Arab state and a Jewish state. But the Arabs that counted didn’t accept the plan (some did, but were too weak to have any influence). Basically the Arab dream was to revive the Arab empire, or at least be in control of all the new states carved from the cadaver of the Ottoman empire, at the expense of all other ethnic-cultural groups in the Middle East (Kurds, Amazigh, Assyrians etc.).

    In 1948, when the British left, 5 Arab armies plus divisions from 2 other Arab countries attacked Israel with the goal of destroying it. During the war hundreds of thousands of Arabs fled or were expelled from Israel. Since 48 and through the following years nearly all Jews in the Middle East were expelled or fled from the countries where they lived for centuries or millennia. Nearly a million Jews, most of them resettled in Israel. They and their descendants make the majority of Israeli Jews today. The Arabs who remained in Israel were granted citizenship and full civil rights. They vote and get elected for parliament.

    This is not a race conflict. It’s a national-religious conflict. The Jews don’t view the Arabs as a different race, but ironically as “cousins”. We are genetically related. Of course, the Middle Eastern Jews come from a Middle Eastern gene pool. The Ashkenazi Jews are racially mixed – about 90% have Middle Eastern paternal ancestry, the maternal ancestry is more diverse. Anyway the Jews never considered themselves native Europeans.

    Skin color is completely irrelevant to this conflict. The skin colors of Middle Eastern Jews, as well as other Near East populations, range from white to dark brown. Most Ashkenazi Jews have white skin, but some are darker. Mahmud Abbas has white skin. Syrian president Bashar Asaad has white skin and blue eyes. The white/brown dichotomy is a Western projection, as well as generally imposing a racial interpretation on the conflict.

    In 2000/1 and in 2008 different Israeli Prime Ministers offered different Arab Palestinian presidents 95%-100% of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (including land swaps), a settlement in Jerusalem and reparations for the refugees. Both proposals were rejected, the first by Arafat and the second by Abbas.

    A so called one-state solution will only lead to a very bloody civil war with many dead on both sides, and finally to the genocide of the Jews. Only ignorant people or starry-eyed delusional lefties can believe it would lead to anything else. I’m center-left myself, I support a two-state solution, but I can’t afford to be delusional. It’s my life they’re talking about, not some images on TV.

    Indeed, the Muslims as a religious group, as well as the Arabs as a national-cultural group, are used to domination. To the Muslims the idea of dhimmies having sovereignty on any piece, however small, of what they consider Dar al Islam is inconceivable, let alone a small group of dhimmies winning wars against Muslims. It’s worse than an insult, it goes against what they believe to be the natural and just global order – Muslims rule and dhimmies submit.

  28. mikemellor says:

    Talking about mass hysteria. Last happened in South Africa 156 years ago. Happens every 4 years in America.

    Talking about national suicide. Look at the global warming myth and carbon taxes.

    I don’t believe in god but if there was a God’s Own Country, South Africa would be it. Viva.

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