And South Africa belongs to...?

2013-10-09 00:30

''...all those who live in it'', at least according to the Freedom Charter. Cute, don't you think? Ah, reminds me of when I moved out of my parents' home to pursue 'first-time renting'. Though I snagged a tight-spaced bachelor unit, next door to a Celine Dion friend-who often blasted her music into the wee hours of

the morning, it was all worth it and liberating because I finally had a

place of my that belonged to me (despite the little fact that

it was Mom and Dad who were responsible for shelling out their pretty

pennies on rent, utilities and furniture).

Just like the Freedom Charter, the body corporate ensured that the place

was mine, simply because I dwelled there. Did that mean I was entirely

free to do anything that I wanted with or in the flat? Well, maybe if I

did not have to constantly seek permission from or report to either my

folks, the security guards, Janet (who was the caretaker), the landlord

and of course, the big bosses-the body corporate, it would not have been

profoundly naive to think the newly-found pad was really mine. So let's

rather put it like this: I just happened to have occupied a space that

already had 'owners'-those who called the shots.

So again, who does South Africa really belong to? Or rather, who serves

as the parents, the caretaker, security guards, landlord and body

corporate of our beloved rainbow nation?

China takes on South Africa (and the rest of Africa): 21st century

version of neo-colonialism?

Could South Africa be in the hands of China? It's a possibility, an

alarming one. Though China's presence in the country and the rest of the continent continues to bring with it, a number of opportunities, we

can't be oblivious to the storm clouds that are also present. Given

Africa's rising productivity and economic growth, it comes as no

surprise to learn that the world's second largest economy is actively

courting the continent (with SA included).

In 2009, China had become our largest trading partners as the South

African government usually warmly welcomes their presence due to the

offers of trade, aid and investments without 'strings attached'. This

was confirmed by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe who mentioned that

the Beijing Declaration, signed in 2010, ''aimed to increase trade

volumes and encourage investment by both countries''. Since then,

Africa-China trade reached $166 billion in 2011, while earlier this

year, China pledged $20 billion in loans to SA and other African

quarters, double that of its 2009 commitment. However, like former

colonial countries, China backs its trading relations with aid, debt

relief, preferential loans, scholarships, training and the provision of

specialists. I am also aware that Chinese business mostly adheres to a

familiar neo-colonial pattern of resource extraction, labour

exploitation and infrastructure projects that fail to emphasize the

development of local capacity- all of which account for a growing

feeling of disquiet that I just can't seem to shake off as a concerned

South African. I am even tempted to suggest that presence of China in

the entire continent is imperialistic, paternalistic and exploitative.

Or am I just paranoid that we might, yet again, cede economic and

political control over our foreign investors, the economic goliaths? I

don't know.

Meanwhile in the Jo'burg CBD (and most townships across the


you are most likely to find foreign nationals (most of them being fellow

Africans) competing with the poorest South Africans to eke out a menial

living. Did I say 'competing'? Well, surely if these are hot-spots of

localized competition for political and economic power, then I'm afraid

the locals are trailing behind.

It turns out that black foreigners in South Africa have come to be perceived as a direct threat to the future economic health of the country. They are seen to be sponging off public services while diligently chipping away at the economy for their own selfish survival. This belief goes on to suggest that the socioeconomic burden created by the influx of African migrants is unsustainable. Since then, there has been a wave of xenophobic attacks on foreign-owned businesses. In May 2009 local business people sent letters to Somali traders in Khayelitsha threatening them if they did not move out of the

area within a week. More recently, xenophobic looters left Port Elizabeth shops owned by Somali and Pakistan nationals in flames.

What this basically implies is, there is no way we are going to lose our country's economic power to fellow Africans but when it comes to a different (white) type of foreigners, ones that come bearing fruit from their first world countries, it's all good and well...right?

The Government

Perhaps South Africa actually belongs to its government. Meaning, they call the shots, make up rules as they please with their spin doctor (Mac Maharaj or Jackson Mthembu- your pick) there to justify all of know? Just like how it is on George Orwell's celebrated allegory on revolutions- Animal Farm. For those who have not read or heard of Animal Farm: it's a story of some farmyard animals who overthrow their tyrannical human farmer, only to discover that their leaders, the pigs, have adopted his clothes, moved into his house and are walking around on two legs, carrying whips, protected by ferocious dogs.

Not only have the new leaders assumed the lifestyle of their former master, they have also abandoned their revloutionary ideals: their founding principle that all animals are equal has become the cynical dictum, all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others. Sounds familiar?

The heady rhetoric of the ending of Apartheid, the uplifting messianic epic of Nelson Mandela, tended to mask what was really going on in South Africa. While most of us saw it as a handover of power from minority to a majority, what actually happened was a handover from a minority to another- a change of ruling elites.

So I guess South Africa belongs to a number of entities: power hungry

foreign investors, African migrants who also want a piece of the pie

and generally a better life, citizens, who, like tenants in a rented

flat, occupy the space, our Animal Farm-like government and possibly,

the Guptas because there are close to neigh chances that an ordinary

Hlongwane family from Benoni would land a private aircraft at the

Waterkloof Air Force Base 'without any authorisation'.

Let's have a chat on Twitter: @fizicss


AB praises selfless skipper

2010-11-21 18:15

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