Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Where to now?

Apartheid is being blamed again (would you expect anything else?) and yet the statement is made, “there are now more poor people since the ANC took power.”

Huh?

So, what you are saying is: that evil apartheid system was actually better for blacks because there was less poverty.

The ANC inherited a First World country. Crime was under control, corruption was the exception rather than the rule, ergo the ANC was handed a functioning African powerhouse.

Today it is a Third World rubbish hellhole.

Which is it? You can’t have it both ways. Do you blame the people that have ruled for 14 years that let it slip into decay or do you go on forever about a system that has ceased to exist?

Do the Russians still go on about communism for their woes or did they lace up their bootstraps and get down to work to make their country work? Do the Japanese blame the US for dropping two nukes on them? Do the Germans blame the Allies for reducing their country to rubble sixty years ago?

What is it about this black victimisation mentality? The blacks in the US STILL blame slavery for their shit today! Mad Bob in Zim blames colonialism which stopped 28 years ago!

I do not go on about the cultural differences between blacks and whites often but does the fact that the Russians, Germans and Japanese are not black mean they stopped making excuses and just got on with it - or is it a black thang to just blame others and historical injustices for their failures perpetually? Are blacks unable to rule properly fullstop?

My guess is apartheid will be blamed for the next 1000 years and as long as apartheid remains a convenient excuse for bad governance, nothing will improve.

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A burning tire around the neck of a terrified migrant. Neighbours turning on neighbours with violent rage. Hundreds huddling in police stations for fear of more bloodshed.

After South Africa's widely condemned apartheid regime ended in 1994, the country became a "rainbow nation" of truth and reconciliation, an African miracle of economic success, and a beacon of hope in a continent that had seen too much wanton destruction.

But the violence against African foreigners that began in a poor Johannesburg township and spread to other parts of the country this month exposed the bleaker picture beneath the air-brushed images.

"In 1994, in the (Nelson) Mandela era, people were really high on euphoria," says Mapeete Mohale of the South African Institute of Race Relations. "They believed the African National Congress motto 'A Better Life for All.' But life was not getting better, and inequality has grown."

South Africa's indicators are impressive. It is Africa's economic hub with a growth rate of 4.5 per cent. A middle-income country with a democratic government and political stability, one that others turn to for peacekeeping and mediation. And the host of the coveted football World Cup in 2010.

But it is also a country with deep and abiding troubles, many of them entrenched in the brutal apartheid era.

South African experts say the explosion of violence against foreigners – many from Zimbabwe and Mozambique – is a warning their government must urgently tackle social and economic ills.

In the past two weeks, more than 25,000 foreigners have been driven from their homes and at least 50 killed by rocks, knives, guns and arson attacks. Dozens more were wounded, and hundreds are fleeing back to countries so poor or strife-torn that their survival is in doubt.

"Johannesburg has calmed down, but unrest has spread to Durban and the North-West (province)," says Mohale. "People there have seen what's happening and are copying it. But even when it stops, the real problems won't go away. We have high inflation and high unemployment and poor black South Africans are angry."

Many blame President Thabo Mbeki of the ruling ANC for policies that have allowed about 3 million Zimbabweans to flood the poorest areas after losing homes and livelihoods in their country's economic meltdown.

Mbeki, who sees Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as a former comrade in arms against colonialism, has not pressured Mugabe to step down since he finished second in the first round of presidential elections. Nor has he persuaded Mugabe to stop his violent repression of suspected foes.

And by refusing to give those fleeing Zimbabwe refugee status, he also lowered their chance of help by international agencies.

Mbeki called South Africa's wave of deadly attacks on immigrants a "disgrace" and said his government would act firmly to curb the bloodshed amid growing criticism from African nations.

On Friday, Somalis were attacked in Cape Town suburbs and troops called out on the streets for the first time since the end of apartheid.

But the race relations institute says that inadequate policing of the borders – and corruption of officials – have allowed millions to enter the country illegally and set up homes in shantytowns.

Many of the newcomers are better trained and educated than impoverished South Africans, another source of tension in a country where the jobless rate is at least 28 per cent and above 40 per cent in some rural areas. About 35 per cent of the country is very poor, and the government has failed to deliver housing, hospitals and electricity to many.

"There are probably more poor people now than when the ANC took power," says Robert Schrire, a professor of political studies at University of Cape Town. "Education is a critical failure and a lot of black teachers are underqualified. Only 1 per cent of all black African students graduate from high school with a math or science major."

Black middle-class parents are taking their children out of public schools, while the poor majority are left behind, he adds.

With scanty skills and education, millions of South Africans are struggling for jobs. But labour laws that prevent hiring low-paid or casual workers make their efforts more difficult.

Meanwhile, deadly HIV-AIDS reduces the supply of homegrown professionals and highly skilled workers, a situation made worse by Mbeki's initial resistance to effective drug programs for people infected by the virus.

That now has turned around dramatically with South Africa hosting the world's largest AIDS treatment program. But it is also home to an estimated 5.4 million infected people, the highest total of any country.

Partly responsible for the spread are two dangers that menace South Africa today: violent crime and alcohol. Rape is at epidemic proportions and drinking is out of control in the poor urban suburbs.

"There's an enormous problem with young girls who get drunk and are vulnerable to rape," says Barbara Holtmann, who leads crime prevention research for the Council for Science and Industrial Research in Pretoria.

"Last year, there were 23,000 rapes of girls under the age of 18, and in more than 50 per cent of cases, the victim could be drinking."

The country is also awash in guns, which are responsible for hundreds of thousands of violent crimes a year.

Meanwhile, the middle class and wealthy barricade themselves in gated communities that are attacked by increasingly sophisticated organized criminals.

With such formidable challenges – and anti-foreigner violence threatening to spread further – South Africa's government is losing the confidence of those who embraced it with high hopes over a decade ago.

But, says Holtmann, "maybe this is the major crisis that will wake us up. Already people are responding to the violence by offering help. They're donating food, blankets and their time and energy. That is what South Africa is about.

"We are the miracle nation. We know how to support each other in hard times, and to move on."

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