DAVID BROKENSHA ~ FISH HOEK NOTES, May 2010
Friends have asked me how things are
in South Africa, and I find it difficult to be as optimistic as I usually am about
my country’s future. In the last (December 2009) Fish Hoek Notes, I expressed my concerns,
and today these have deepened.
Malema, Eugene Terre’Blanche (ET)
and “Kill the boer”.
Let me start with this unedifying saga,
which illustrates many of our contemporary fault-lines. These events
have had much media attention in UK, but
little in the U.S., so I will summarise.
¶ Julius Malema (a
29 year old high school drop-out) is
the fiery and controversial president of the African National
Congress Youth League (ANCYL), an important organisation, founded by
Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo and other great ANC
leaders. Malema, a radical populist, appeals to two classes: first,
young unemployed Africans, who are fed up with the lack of improvement
in their living conditions since 1994, and second, certain senior members
of the ANC. Some suggest that these politicians use Malema as
a stalking horse, (or decoy?) allowing him to make outrageous
statements, so as to draw attention away from yet another political
scandal. There may be some truth in that. Others suggest (conspiracy
theories abound here, as elsewhere) that Malema has some knowledge of
misdeeds by President Jacob Zuma and other leaders, so he can blackmail
them. Malema has been described (by Pierre de Vos) as “the most dangerous man in Africa for half a century”
and also as “a little
fascist kleptocrat”, referring to his fondness for
“bling” – a $35,000 Breitler
watch, Chivas Regal whisky, a luxurious Range Rover,
grand homes in Sandton, Johannesburg’s up-market suburb.
In addition, Malema is director of several
companies, one of which was awarded major building contracts in Limpopo, Malema’s home
base; the projects were shoddy.
Malema has been widely criticized for
publicly singing the “struggle
song” which includes the words
"awadubule bhunu", “kill the boer, kill the farmer”.
After complaints, the SA Human Rights Commission declared this to be
hate speech, and a judge said that this was “incitement to murder”. Undeterred, Malema said he would
ignore the “untransformed
judiciary “ (the judge was
white) and continue singing the song. Some Africans, even some white
liberals, alleged that this was merely a struggle song, directed
against apartheid, not at individual farmers.
The popular Afrikaner song
,about the Anglo-Boer War General
de la Rey, was regarded by many Africans
as provocative and offensive, yet it was allowed. "Since
the dispute over "De la Rey" began, a ban on singing it has
been issued and revoked at Johannesburg's Loftus Stadium, the nation's most hallowed rugby field, the culture
minister affirmed his support in Parliament for people's freedom of
expression and Nelson Mandela's personal assistant defended the song
as a youthful cry for direction." New York Times, February
We are in sensitive territory here,
because many white farmers have been murdered
since 1994. Exact figures are difficult to find, but the number
is between 1.800 and 3,000. Some, of the murders have been committed
by disgruntled farm-workers, after disputes over pay and working conditions.
I know, from my fieldwork with Mexican-Americans in California, in
the 1960s, something about farm-workers – that
they are usually among the lowest paid, with the worst and most
dangerous working lives. Both in California and
in contemporary SA, farmers use labour contractors, who are very often from the same racial groups as the workers; they
tend to be unscrupulous and highly exploitative. In SA, they hire many
Zimbabwean refugees, who in desperation accept low wages and forfeit
basic health and safety measures, and workmen’s compensation enrolment.
(See Jonny Steinberg’s book Midlands : A Very South African Murder for an acute analysis of a farm murder
in KwaZulu Natal).
Malema has also:
history, claiming (on its 50th anniversary) that the fateful 1960
Sharpeville massacre (when 69 unarmed, peacefully protesting Africans
were killed by the police) was orchestrated by ANC, not by the Pan African
• alleged that the woman who accused Jacob Zuma of raping her,
in 2005, “had clearly enjoyed
it”, because she did not leave JZ’s home immediately;
• been abusive to a BBC journalist who questioned him at a press conference.
• travelled to Zimbabwe, where he embraced Mugabe, praised the mess that Mugabe has created , and ridiculed Prime Minister Morgan
Tsvangirai. Of course, this raised again the
spectre of “SA becoming another
Zimbabwe”, which Malema seems to wish for. Not that I am an expert
forecaster, but this scenario seems , at present,
Eugene Terre’Blanche (ET)
Now I turn to another unsavoury character,
Eugene Terre’Blanche (ET) who
was murdered (aged 69) on April 2, 2010. ET was notorious
for founding the right-wing Afrikaner
weerstandsbeweging (AWB) “Afrikaner Resistance Movement”)
in 1973. He organised two spectacularly unsuccessful protests, and served time in prison. The murder occurred
when there was wide discussion about the
song “kill the boer”,
and some said that his murder was inspired by the song. However, one
man and a 15 year old boy gave themselves up to the police, and it seems
that there was an argument about pay, culminating in ET being battered
to death. The trial of these two will be held in camera, (one of Director
of Public Prosecutions Simelane’s
curious decisions) supposedly because of the age of the second defendant.
Many would prefer to have the trial held in public, to settle the many
doubts about the murder. Investigation into this murder has been hampered
by lack of forensic skills in SA, and
also by political interference. There have even been allegations of
homosexual activity between ET and his killers.
ET was, and Malema is, a dangerous demagogue,
both stirring up hate and spreading accusations of racism. There seems
to be more writing about “racism”
(both white and black) today than in any of the previous ten years that
I have lived here. However, I cannot say that I have experienced any
racially inspired animosity, in my (admittedly limited
¶ SA - the Good News:
(A reminder – I needed to check
population statistics. In round figures, the total population of SA
is 48 million, nearly 80% being black, with whites and coloureds each
representing +/- 9% and Indians just
Here is a cheering report from SA
- the Good News:
"While it might still be too
early to say that the political storm in South Africa has blown over, the past week has seen
the torrent of threats, racial slurs and irresponsible
statements from the camps of the AWB and ANCYL supporters make way for
a more constructive narrative.
Instead of the racial war that some
media were so quick to predict, the effects of the events have been
more of a testament to South Africa's 'middle ground' - the majority
who feel increasingly uncomfortable with the statements made on behalf
of their racial group by the likes of Julius Malema or supporters of
the late Eugene Terre'Blanche
South Africa: The Good News
¶ Jacob Zuma
continues to be weak, indecisive, without vision and with a complete
lack of leadership. Moreover, he has been described as “morally bankrupt” after the disclosure
that he had fathered a child on a young woman, the daughter of his “good
friend” Irwin Khoza, the notorious soccer boss. JZ’s
apologists made half-hearted attempts to excuse his conduct by explaining
that he was merely following traditional culture. This back-fired, when
several Africans took JZ to task:
• The Zulu kingdom should
be ashamed of how you have paraded its culture of polygamy… you
are not a beacon of hope for me, but rather one of disaster. (Lukhona
• What he (JZ) is doing has
nothing to do with African culture. (Sempuve Sesanti).
Other African correspondents criticized the ANC:
• In the ANC you either agree
or you ‘go hungry’.
• There is a culture of fear…..why
are we afraid?
• The ANC has an Orwellian
culture, some are more equal than others.
• The ANC is sacrificing all
And Nqabayomzi Kwankwa
of Guguletu (a Cape Town “African township”), after quoting
W B Yeats and Adam Smith, deplored "the
crass materialism, the conspicuous consumption and the acquisition of
wealth at all costs".
a former ANC Minister, is one of the few prominent politicians to openly
express his disappointment with the ANC. In a speech when he received
an honorary degree from the University of the Western
Cape, Asmal bravely
denounced "the bullying and
intimidation that now characterizes the ANC".
I have quoted these African critics because, as I wrote last time, the
government might pay more attention to their complaints than to those
of white writers.
Many critics have urged the government
to control the in-fighting between the various wings of the party -
this battle is partly ideological, but it seems also to be about “snouts in the trough’ : the state is seen as the means to wealth and
of private advancement" (Franz Fanon). Smuts Ngonyama, a former presidential
spokesman, is reported to have said, defending his purchase of an expensive
home, "I did not join the struggle
to be poor". With these prevailing attitudes, it is
hardly surprising that many South Africans, black and white, feel increasingly
alienated from the government.
Nearly all commentators urge the government to concentrate on the important
sectors – education, health care, rural
investment, jobs, the judicial system and crime, infrastructure. Here
are a few notes on these sectors:
• 2/3rds of schools
lack libraries, and laboratories;
• 2/3rds of “learners”
do not reach Grade 12, the matric year;
• 40% of those
who wrote the matric examination failed , even after standards were
“dumbed down”, 30% in 3 subjects constituting a pass.
(Professor Emeritus of Medicine, UCT) explained why
the proposed National Health Service was an impossible dream.
SA is a middle income country, with a massive burden of disease and
the largest number of HIV/AIDS patients in the world. SA does
not have the necessary “minimum
critical mass of well-trained dedicated medical personnel at all levels”.
Spending on private health care is $1500 per capita, against $150 for
the public system. SA needs “an
innovative and pragmatic approach” as well as improvements
in nutrition, sanitation, housing, education, employment…..
I receive, online, a daily “Word of the Day”, (
), an amusing
diversion. Recent words included hugger-mugger,
bedizen and popinjay, which were familiar, but I did
not know today’s word: malversation, defined as “misconduct
or corruption or extortion in public office”; singularly appropriate
South Africa. And columnist David Bullard claims that there has been “institutionalised venality in the ANC since 1994”.
An African journalist coined a new and appropriate word –
tenderpreneur : so many politicians, their
spouses and their associates, are given rewarding tenders, despite lacking
capacity to perform the contracts, when there are other tenders, often
lower, from established firms.
I will take one case study to illustrate
corruption in SA. ESKOM, the national Electricity supply parastatal,
has been under pressure to ensure an adequate power supply. The World
Bank made a loan to SA of $3.75 billion,
$3b of which was to help build a new coal-fired 4800MW power station
at Medupi, in Limpopo
province. ($260 million
was for wind/solar projects). There had been serious objections to this
loan on three grounds:
- local residents complained of the adverse effects
on health ,and also that they would receive no benefits;
- Environmental groups were critical of the reliance
on coal, a “dirty” fuel, rather than other sources;
- In 2008, the ANC signed
a $38.5 billion contract with the Japanese firm, Hitachi, to supply boilers for Medupi. A
new company, Hitachi Power Africa , was formed,
with Chancellor House (the “investment
wing” of the ANC) receiving 25% of the shares at
a very nominal price. ANC shilly-shallyed, but it became clear that
the ANC would be receiving huge – and illegal – donations
from Chancellor House. Contradictory statements
have been made by ANC, but it is uncertain whether Chancellor
House will sell the Hitachi shares.
Nanda, the Minister of Communciations,
was allocated an official residence in Cape Town
ago. But he has not yet moved in, preferring to stay at The 12 Apostles
(two of our top hotels) at
rates of about $600 per night. His office does not respond to questions. (Note: at least we still do have a free and lively press,
with outstanding investigating reporters).
After that depressing litany, I quote
from the conclusion of David Welsh’s book, The Rise
and Fall of Apartheid (reviewed by Stanley Uys, who described
this volume as “outstanding”).
"….democracy has survived, and
even if it is democracy of a poor quality,
is nevertheless a vastly better society than it was under apartheid".
I heartily agree, and I try to remind myself of this salient truth,
when our politicians behave badly – as they often do.
also try to gain perspective by thinking of the grave problems –
of different types - faced by
other countries; Certainly the US is still in deep trouble, despite
Obama being president; and if I look at Greece, Mexico, Russia, Israel…….then
I reckon that we are not doing too badly
Although – as I wrote last time
– SA has not suffered from the recession as severely as the US
European countries, nevertheless 1 million jobs were lost in 2009, mostly
by young African males. On average, five people depend on each worker.
The growing inequality and the poverty (13 million receive social grants)
constitute an ominous time-bomb. I am always saddened and worried when
I leave “the leafy suburbs” where I live,
and drive past the endless rows of “informal
housing”. SA ‘s “Two Nations” are as starkly divided
as were Disraeli’s in late C19th Britain.
Hundreds of poor urban communities have
staged protests, often violent, against lack of service delivery of
basic services. Now many affluent (nearly all white) rate-payers have
started to withhold their rates, paying them into trust funds, in protest
against (a) lack of services, and (b) increasing and illogical rate
increases. Local governments are furious.
the new Minister of Housing, made a good start when he admitted that
40,000 RDP (low-cost) houses had been built so badly that they needed
to be renovated or even demolished, at a cost of over Rand 1 billion. A commentator
wrote that one major problem here was the absence of the old “Clerk of Works”, an official who
monitored all building projects, ensuring that standards were met. More
than 900 of these officials have been “let
go”, because they were “demographically disadvantaged” – i.e. white.
And there are hardly any black persons with the necessary experience
to do this vital job.
In the 1960s, there was much discussion,
in international development circles, of the problem of maintenance.
So many development projects started off well, then collapsed in a few
years because no provision was made for maintenance. Bernard
and I saw graphic examples of this in Kenya,
in the 1970s, when Kenya’s Rural Special Development Programme financed the provision
of water to remote areas in Mbeere. No allowance was made for maintenance,
nor for education in water management, and in a few months, most
taps were broken, and large sections of pipe had been stolen by local
Here in SA, major works are needed on infrastructure, particularly on
roads. The Western Cape
roads are not in very bad shape, but elsewhere (especially in the
north, and in KwaZulu/Natal) enormous and dangerous pot-holes are common.
The railway line runs past my house, but for some months the final stretch,
from Glencairn to Simon’s Town, has been closed, because of damage
to the track – caused by lack of maintenance. One unexpected and
welcome result of the closure of the rail line is that the previously endangered African Black Oystercatchers
(Haemotopus moquini) have begun breeding in the rocky coastline:
I am happy when I see them, and I hear their shrill cries, from my
I was cheered by this incident:
last week; when the water main outside my home broke, interrupting supply.
A team from the City Engineer’s department soon arrived, dug down
1.5 m, and within a few hours had restored supply of water, Moreover
the hole was covered and tarred over by the next day.
The FIFA World
The new soccer stadium, Green Point,
With the first match due to be played on June 10, there are many questions
about this event.
- Will air travel disruptions from the
volcanic ash affect the World Cup? (It seems at this stage we are spared)
- Why were here not more “cheap” (Rand
140 = $19)
tickets available for local people?
- Why were ticket sales handled so badly?
- Will there be far fewer visitors than expected?
- Why were local traders treated so disdainfully by FIFA?
- Will there be disruptive strikes before or during the games?
- Is security adequate?
JZ recently announced the appointment of Jon Qwelane as the new ambassador to Uganda,
which was debating a bill to introduce the death penalty for homosexuals.
Now Qwelane is a notorious homophobe, who, in his career as a DJ, often
made hateful remarks about gay men. JZ ignored the national and international
protests from gay and human rights groups – and went ahead
with the appointment - this despite the South African Constitution prohibiting
discrimination against persons on grounds of their sexuality. Black
lesbians still lead hazardous lives, cases of “corrective rape” having been reported, and many more
After many scandals and charges of “malversation”,
The KwaZulu/Natal Minister of Executive Council, Dube, “asked the mayor and other councilors to step down
“ putting this municipality under administration. The new mayor
is Mike Tarr, who is a white man. The
Governor of the Reserve Bank, Gill
Marcus, Barbara Hogan, Minister of Public Enterprises,
and several other senior officials, are also white, showing that the
racist lines are not absolute.
The local classical music scene is
lively, with regular concerts, of high quality, both at the Lindbergh
Foundation in Muizenberg ( chamber music) and at the ornate Edwardian
City Hall (Symphony Concerts). For evening events, I continue to be
lucky in getting a lift with Martin and Val West, who now live near
me, and who are also “culture-vultures”. On Good Friday
we went to a superb performance of the St. Matthew Passion, at
chapel. The six soloists all had splendid voices, particularly the Evangelist
(tenor), Christ (baritone) and the counter-tenor. The first two are
men of colour; incidentally, the enthusiastic audience was 99% white,
which is fine with me: I do not expect Bach choral music to have a universal
I continue to go regularly, with Bill and
David to Live at the Met, movies
from the Metropolitan Opera. This year we have seen
Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Der Rosenkavalier, Carmen, Simon Boccanegra and Hamlet; all were
Sadly our local Cape Town City Ballet,
which has a long (for South Africa – 75 years) history and an
excellent reputation, faces closure, after three failed
requests to the National Lottery , which is sitting on millions
of unspent Rands.
Athol Fugard, South Africa’s best known – and most prolific – playwright
directed his new play, The Train
Driver, at the new Fugard Theatre, located on the edge of
District Six. Like most of Fugard’s work, the play is bleak, but
was superbly acted by Sean Taylor and Owen Sijake. I look forward to
seeing more outstanding plays in the
stunning Fugard Theatre.
at the Kalk Bay Theatre (2 kms away) was another gripping play. Also
a two-hander, it featured two women, an illegal Nigerian immigrant,
and an elderly Jewish woman, both living in Sea Point, Cape Town. Despite
Cape Town having a population of nearly 4 million, the arts world is quite
small: for example, I know both Ross Devenish, co-director of The Train
Driver, and Nicholas Spagnaletti, who wrote London Road.
• POW pals
with Stan Smollan on his 90th birthday,
I had mentioned being re-united with Stan
Smollan, my benefactor who gave me a great-coat at our
North African POW camp. I did go to
for Stan’s 90th birthday party. I never attend large school,
university or army re-unions, but this was special, a thrill to see
Stan still very active, with his children, grand-children and great-grand-children . On the topic of generations, I am now a great-great-great-uncle,
my eldest niece’s grand-daughter (in
) having given birth to a little boy.
Indeed I am blessed in having a loving and close family,
consisting (counting Bernard’s side as well) of
: six nieces, one nephew; fourteen
great-nephews, six great-nieces;about
(Bernard was better than I at keeping track of the generations)
fifteen great-great nephews and –nieces; one great-great-great-nephew,
FIVE generations in one photograph!
(From Left): Paddy Blackwood, Deirdre’s
son; Margaret Thurso, Deirdre’s Mother; Meghan, Paddy’s
daughter; with her baby son Leon; Deirdre, my niece, Guy’s daughter.
Our family has been affected,-
as have most white, and many black -
South African families, by the diaspora, but several still live in
. My niece Judy and her
husband Roger come each March to
Cape Town for a two week stay
in their time-share in Sea Point. This gives me a welcome opportunity
to have long beach walks and talks with
Judy. In April, I flew to Durban to spend a long week-end
with Judy. My nephew Garry took me to a rugby game, his local team,
the Sharks, beating the visiting Auckland Blues in the “Super
14” league, teams from SA, NZ, and OZ. I seldom watch rugby, but
I really enjoyed the whole ritual, finishing with a braai in the car
park. One of the Sharks black players is Tendai “Beast”
Mtwararira, from Zimbabwe
. As I had written in
FH Notes for April 2009, it was weird to hear thousands of fans roar,
Judy, Fish Hoek Beach, March 2010
Bernard's former nurse, S, calls in about once a month, for
a cup of coffee and a chat, and to give me news of her family. Her husband
has throat cancer, and can do only light work, so S is the main bread-winner.
Her two elder boys are both in their final year at High School, The big
event for them is not the Matric examination,
but rather the Matric Ball, for which the boys will have to hire Evening
dress suits, and incur other expenses. I contribute to school fees,
but not, feeling a little like Scrooge, to Matric Ball expenses. I first
read Thorstein Veblen on “conspicuous
consumption” sixty years ago, and I remember the same
feeling of impatience when I saw how poor Mexican-Americans in
Central Valley indulged, despite their poverty, in conspicuous consumption –
in relation to weddings and funerals. S’s eldest daughter is completing
a three year nursing course, intending to work with disabled children.
The second daughter is, like her older brother a keen golfer, desperately
hoping to find a sponsor. (I have no idea where they get the money to
play golf, nor to arrange transport to and from the golf course).
When I stayed,
last August, in the Bachmuths’ flat in London, there was
no TV, and I became accustomed to its absence. Since my return from
my RTW trip, at the end of October, I have not watched any TV at home:
I am happy to read in the evenings, always having a backlog of books.
Also Donald, my computer adviser and friend, lends me DVDs from BBC
televison (sent to
him from the UK): at present I am much enjoying Owen Sheer's excellent
series of Poets in
Britain. Most of you will know that I have limited
computer skills, so I should explain that I rely on Donald to put these
Notes in an attractive format, and to edit and place the photographs.
Over the years, I have been gratified when former UCSB students have
contacted me; recently a new record was set, when I had an email from
Robin Witt, who had taken a class (“Social
Change in Africa”) from me at UCSB in 1967. (I had
just started teaching at UCSB, and I was nervous, wondering whether
I was getting through to the students). Now Robin is
a speech-writer in
, for the Californian legislature, and the grandfather of five,
I remember him, vaguely, as an intense (those were intense years)
young man. He told me (I had forgotten this) that he had
wished to enter a Lutheran theological college, and I had tried
to dissuade him, saying he was too immature. ”Boy, you were right!”, he wrote, explaining that he had dropped out after
a year. He had found me through the Internet, and had read Brokie’s Way.
DWB & Elspeth, Overberg Nov. 2009
I have often written about my “magical
farm”, Appelsdrift, in the Overberg. Sadly, some of
the magic has gone, as Elspeth
Jack died (ovarian cancer) on February 2. A few days
before her death, Elspeth and her winemaker (Flagstone and Fish Hoek wines)
son Bruce, planned her funeral, choosing both music (Elspeth
had taught guitar at UCT for many years) and speeches. On April 17,
(Father) Bram, who knew and also loved Elspeth) drove me to
the farm, to perform a simple and moving ceremony for the burial of
the ashes. This was for family only , and I was thrilled when Ishbel, Elspeth’s elder
sister, said “And David
you are part of our family”. I am fortunate in having
such loving support from my friends here.
• Best times of Day
I enjoy particularly dawn and dusk.
I have been in the habit of walking on the beach, for about an hour,
really early, to be there at first light
and to greet the dawn. On Easter Sunday, when I was at the far (Clovelly)
end of the then deserted beach, a young (?20)
African approached me, said that he had been robbed and asked me
for money. I told him, truthfully, that I had none, we shook hands and
I continued walking. I felt a movement on my back, and this rascal was
rifling the pocket of my back-pack, probably searching for a cell-phone.
When I turned around, he ran away . No harm done, but it was a warning, now I go ½ hour
later, when there are always other walkers – and their dogs –
on the beach.
Dusk is, by established custom, my sundowner time. I sit on my terrace
with a libation: depending on the weather, and my mood, this might
be wine, or Scotch, or cane and tonic. I say “Cheers, Bernard”, as I have done thousands of times
to himself in person, and I sip my drink. There is always something
to see – lovely cloud formations, sailboats, canoes, especially
on Fridays when there are races, para-surfers, a lone seal, great flocks
of cormorants, pairs of African black oyster catchers, occasionally
a school of dolphins, even this week a one whale, at the “wrong”
time of year for the Southern Right Whales.
Here is a happy note for my ending.
35kms north of Durban is Mount Moreland, where the 35 ha. wetland attracts each
October between 3 and 5 million barn swallows (hirundo rustica), which have flown the 6000 kms from Europe
. One of the world’s
great avian spectacles (see photo below) is the dusk descent of huge flocks of these tiny
birds, as they return to the wetlands. But the nearly completed $1billion
King Shaka International Airport (just a few kms away, and built for the World Cup) threatened the migratory birds. To protect the birds,
a special radar system was built in the U.S. at
a cost of $300,000; this will monitor the birds, and enable flight controllers
to delay or alter flights. (from the website
of “South Africa : The Good News”).