Wednesday, August 12, 2009

No Coffee in the Wild Coast, LOL

I was provoked to write the following post after the recent comment by Black Coffee, "...there is no reason to believe that Africans would not have developed had they not encountered Europeans."

Many of you may have been acquainted with the Wild Coast region, formerly known as the Transkei region. The Wild Coast forms part of the eastern half of the Eastern Cape, which is inhabited by Xhosas mostly.
From an agricultural and mineral perspective it is a region that was INCREDIBLY rich in natural resources. Yet absolutely nothing became of these resources for more than 30 years, when the region had independence from the apartheid government between 1963 and 1994.

Since the ANC government came into power in '94 the Transkei region became a priority development area. Funding has been poured into the region for the past 15 years, yet still there is f*ck all to show for it.

By the way, many senior government officials come from this region. If you came from Mthatha you were practically guaranteed a top job in government.

The road network is practically non existent, apart from the potholed and livestock inhabited national road that passes through from Kokstad to East London. That national road covers a total distance of approximately 400 km between the region's northern and southern boundaries. It is for the brave hearted only due to frequent and horrific road accidents. The pic shows a typical track found in the coastal and mountainous regions, away from the national road.

These typical mud huts are found everywhere in the Wild Coast, from the mountainous inland areas to the coast. Brick houses are very rarely built outside the major towns, which are almost exclusively found along the national road.

I had the privilege of flying the entire region (approximately 45,000sq km) in a helicopter and observed the phenomenal extent of the damage to the natural landscape due to over grazing, subsequent soil erosion and alien weed invasion. I've worked with the communities to resolve some of their environmental problems. I've tried to get someone, ANYONE, to take ownership of the land. Aikona! (Translated from Xhosa - no f*cking way!) These communities only took ownership of the land when there were potential profits to be made, otherwise they let the land go to the dogs.
NOTHING was ploughed back into land to ensure its sustainable use for future generations. The entire region is littered with valleys and wetlands that have been eroded due to over utilization.

Black Coffee's ilk will argue that these people didn't have the financial backing, knowledge and such likes to develop the region successfully. The horror or beauty of it, depending where you're coming from and how badly you are willing to make a point, is that pretty soon the rest of South Africa will degenerate into this state of absolute primitive existence. There are still traces of the old, glorious towns that were build by the Germans. (Ron, boer forefathers?) All that remained were the dilapidated, dirty old skeletons of once beautiful buildings.

I would love to know how people like Black Coffee can believe that Xhosas in the Wild Coast are developed, when they refuse to take responsibility for the management of their land even though they are the ones that would benefit from its responsible management.

35 Opinion(s):

Exzanian said...

There are further examples such as Lesotho and Swaziland. The latter in particular, despite being completely landlocked and supported by greater SA, has 75% of it's workforce employed in subsistence farming. Nearly 8 of 10 people there live as their neolithic forefathers did. The culture itself is pure African, virtually everyone lives in beehive units (literally, straw roofed mud huts) whilst the King (Mswati) rules the roost with impunity, glutted with wealth. This is in perfect accordance with Bullard's hypothesis.

Viking said...

I've discovered that most South Africans of ALL colours consider the Transkei to be the armpit of South Africa!
Shame, it looks beautiful.

Islandshark said...

Very good point, FishEagle.

FishEagle said...

Viking, I've seen some of the most beautiful South African scenery in the Wild Coast! The northern parts are very sparsely inhabited i.e. the environment is still pretty prestine. They have the most beautiful forests, waterfalls, dramatic ravines and most intersting vegetation composition due to the unusual geology of the area.

Viking said...

so when can I come visit?!?!

I think that whether people live in mud and straw huts is irrelevant. If they choose to live the way they want to live, then they can go for it.
The relevant point is that when most Africans in power are given the choice of how to live, they'll take the Range Rover, HDTV and a jacuzzi anyday.

If they consider our influence such an infection, they can move back to the Transkei and carry on. Nobody is stopping them.

FishEagle said...

@ Viking, you are such a tease. Maybe when you come back from Canada.

Anonymous said...

Soil erosion due to livestock overgrazing (overstocked cattle and goat "wealth") says it all in Transkei, KwaZulu, Vendaland, Swaziland, Lesotho, etc: No topsoil, no food.

Ranger Tom said...

"...there is no reason to believe that Africans would not have developed had they not encountered Europeans."


I guess the same could be said of the South Pacific Islanders my uncle, who was in the Marine Corps in WWII, told me of the islanders still living like they had done for millenia... Basically in the Stone Age until the White Man came along, never having developed even a written language.

But then again, BC will have something to say about the White Man destroying the idyllic sereneness of those islands, without first thinking about that if it wasn't for Japanese Imperialism, those same serene islanders would have never seen a white man in the first place.

FishEagle said...

Anon, my point exactly. The locals are the ones suffering due to bad land management practices since they survive on subsistence farming. But since it is all 'communal' property, no one takes ownership of the problem. Had that land in the Wild Coast been under whitey's management, it would have been some of the most productive land in South Africa.

FishEagle said...

RT, There is EVERY reason to believe that Africans, and other primitve people of the world, would not have developed had they not encountered Europeans.

BC, learn to make observations please. That's what science is about!!!!!

Anonymous said...

It is totally immaterial what people like Black Coffee think.
Gravity would still exist even if the Black Coffee Brigade would be of the opinion that it does not.

Dachshund said...

Brilliant post. Communal areas are a no-go because whether you work the land or not, there is equality of reward: the non-workers get to eat just like the workers.

The only other incentive is fear. Africans understand the kraal system with a chief cracking the whip.

Mud huts are perfectly natural habitats for stone age subsistence beings.

jeff said...

Wow you guys don't have a clue about the history of the 'Kei and the issues we face here.

Firstly, the Transkei was the only area of South Africa that was never conquered by the British or the Dutch. Only 2 tribes never succumbed to colonial rule: the Gcaleka in the south (Kei River), and the Mpondomise in the north (from before the Umzimvubu and further north toward the Umzimkulu).

Their lifestyle encompassed great open lands; and every son moved from his father's home to establish his own kingdom. They moved about for grazing, and their lifestyle saw little need for the trappings of modern civilization.

Secondly, most importantly, and somewhat paradoxically; because the area fell outside of the settled land of SA, they were never given title or freehold to their own land. The Bunga building was established in the early 1920's to act as a central parliament for the disparate tribes. This only 40 years or so after the 9th Frontier War, which never really ended here.

Then in 1963, after the "Poqo Uprising", Transkei was granted self-governance, and in 1976, independence.

And so the land was held in stasis. Or Tribal "Trust."

Local empowerment or development can never happen without a sense of personal ownership. It is a travesty and discrimination that holds us all in it's sway.

Your thinly veiled contempt. All of you. Is no more that total ignorance on your own part.

At this point now, the people should be entitled to the same land rights as anyone in Cape Aghullas, Port Edward, or Jeffrey's Bay. Without these Rights nobody can make any progress. So we wait, and fight against the spectre of mining and encroaching industrialization.

It is a double-edged sword though. Because if we allow people unfettered rights to their own heritage, then there is going to be development. And we will likely lose all that we love about the Wild Coast, and Transkei.

For the record, further, these beautiful Xhosa people have a sense of dignity, compassion, sharing, and community that makes a mockery of western "civilization."

I highly recommend you read "The Land of Phalo" by Prof. Jeff Peires, for some insight into the 9 Frontier Wars, and the people that were subjugated to this tragic place in history.

Viking said...

so what solution are you offering then?
Seems that nobody is stopping people in that area from getting whatever it is that they want. Like I said, let them live however the hell they want to live - but that way is clearly not enough for the thousands of residents of the area who rock up in Cape Town every week looking for someplace to build a shack.
I also trust the word of our regular contributor who posted this piece and intimately knows the region and its people.

oh., and PS:
"these beautiful Xhosa people have a sense of dignity, compassion, sharing, and community that makes a mockery of western "civilization.""
Spend a day in a State hospital in the Eastern Cape and see how true you think that gem is.

FishEagle said...

Jeff, you practically proved my point for me. It's certainly true that, "they were never given title or freehold to their own land.."
Also that, "It is a travesty and discrimination that holds us all in it's sway."
And, "Without these Rights nobody can make any progress...."
And last but not least, "their lifestyle saw little need for the trappings of modern civilization."

As you said, the land is in tribal trust and no one is stepping up to take care of it. The consequence has been the complete degradation of the environment. The Department of Agriculture won't even touch this region. They've given up enforcing the Conservation of the Agriculture Act, because....wait for it....there is no ownership of the land!

I just don't agree with your statement, "For the record, further, these beautiful Xhosa people have a sense of dignity, compassion, sharing, and community that makes a mockery of western "civilization."" My personal experience is that the people are racist, unfriendly, unable to to take ownership of their problems, corrupt, criminal and let's not forget all the notorious muti killings from this region that have made the news headlines in the past few years. (especially the Port St. Johns and Butterworth areas). Just as much as you've idolized these people, I despise them.

Well, as long as you can enjoy the abundant beauty and atmosphere of the place, why should you have any contempt?

FishEagle said...

@Viking, exactly. It is a no mans land that is just good for plundering. Nothing gets put into its management. Jeff will probably agree on that point. I've made many, many trips to the region for almost 10 years now and in all that time I never came up with any solutions. This is not a problem whitey can fix.

PS. The Wild Coast is like a miniature South Africa in some ways. The local whites don't like to discuss the local problems with outsiders because they consider the land their little gem of hidden wonders, which is to be shared with as few as possible.

FishEagle said...

There was a harbour in the Umzimvubu River's mouth as recently as 1944. Now it is a good grunter fishing spot. There was so much soil erosion in the catchment area that the river completely silted up. For those in the know, it's just shocking.

Black Coffee said...

I find Jeff's comments interesting but will reserve further comment because I have not been to former Transkei. However, I will definitely try to visit this area on my next trip to SA. Viking - what is it like at a state hospital in Eastern Cape?

Viking said...

You should go - it is one of the most devastatingly wild and beautiful regions in the country.

That aside, when I came here I asked a lot of SA doctors (I figured they were the most neutral and knowledgeable people to ask about the country- and they are) what it was like working as a doctor in state hospitals, and two had worked at Cecilia Makewane (sp.?) in the Eastern Cape.

Aside from the lack of equipment etc, the lack of dedication from local nursing staff is tangible.
Nurses walked out of operating theatre in midst of surgery, nurses sitting watching a man bleed to death because they're "on tea" - ask any doctor and you'll hear similar stories.

The most bizarre has got to be one I was told about nurses who filled out their patients' blood pressure charts for the FOLLOWING DAY so they could sleep late in the morning.

Then there's the cockroaches... and stories for another time.

Mark JS Esslemont said...

@ Jeff: Dumb case of total ignorance, denial and wearing rose tinted glasses.

Being a Natalian, I lived in the Eastern Cape for years and travelled through Transkei many times during the 80s and early 90s. Soil erosion was appaling and many homeland farm schemes in Transkei / Ciskei turned to crap due to murders, theft and resistence from Xhosa, despite the best intentions of white developers who tried to make a difference, putting their lives and the lives of their families at risk, living and working amongst Xhosa. Not to mention big bucks made by white industrialists using cheap Transkei labour e.g. OTH Beier. Or Sol Kerzner with his corrupt casinos.

Black pigs, cattle and poultry dangerously wandered across the N2, polluted with plastic bags and other junk. I saw wooden sleds pulled by bullocks, wheeled carts were ignored. Unhygienic, primitive circumcision schools were held in the bush, and Xhosa women smelling of wood smoke sat around wearing beads, blankets, turbans, and smoking long handled pipes.

I found Eastern Cape people especially East London whiteys the biggest hypocrites I've ever met. I experienced an APLA bomb blast in EL's Oxford Street municipal building, which wasn't even mentioned in the Daily Dispatch.

Ex president Thabo Mbeki and his dad Govan came from Idutwa district, and what a mess they and their commie racist ANC made of SA. You ignore the lowered standards of education in the Eastern Cape since 1994. You ignore the mess made of state hospitals e.g. Frere Hospital in East London during ANC misrule. My brother, before his troopie conscription, did volunteer work at Holy Cross Mission Hospital in 1973.

You ignore the depredations of cattle theft on whitey "Border" farmers, the many whites / Xhosa killed in the Eastern Cape during APLA's and Holomisa's time e.g. King Williams Town Golf Club massacre (a friend got blown up); East London's Highgate Hotel massacre (close to my home); Mdantsane Bahai Church massacre (my son's friend's Iranian father murdered); SADF Umtata retaliatory raid, to mention a few...

Your history ignorance: You ignore the civilizing influence and benefits the Trek Boers and later 1820 British Settlers gave to the Eastern Cape, the German Settlers influence and benefits, the Great Trekking Boers hating the Brits and Xhosa and their thieving connivance. You must ask why there were 100 years of 9 Kaffir / Frontier wars in the first place? Read Noel Mostert's "Frontiers.." Many cattle thieving Xhosa and Brit soldiers fought and died in those wars, and some became famous too e.g. Sir Harry Smith.

Doberman said...

Well said Mark

Viking said...

I wonder if there are certain elements in the Transkei who want it to remain just as it is, so it can retain its status as a tourist destination.
If it were to develop, maybe the local people would move out of their quaint, tourist-friendly huts and move into proper homes, with proper roads and services.
Do you think there are any financial interests keeping people there in the stone age? or it the area just badly run plain and simple?

FishEagle said...

Mark, good comment.

Viking,there certainly are many (mostly white) people that don't want the Transkei to be developed although the tourism industry doesn't seem to have too much clout in the political circles.

There are no financial interests keeping the people there in the stone age. They are really desperate to have decent homes, schools, hospitals, etc.

Personally I don't want the region to change its character. It's like entering a time warp when you leave the old SA border. I like it. My concern, when I wrote the post, was two fold. Black Coffee was making comments again about things he knew nothing about and the environment was being completely wrecked because the people didn't know how to manage it. The place is not going to stay like it is for long unless the people learn to take care of the environment. That is considered 'developement' too, not just the building or infrastructure or the uplifting of the people. Like you, I also say the people should be left alone to live as they are. It wouldn't be their choice though.

Dachshund said...

And of course, the Matanzimas and Stella Sigcau did great things for the Xhosas in the Transkei when they were in power. LOL

Jeff said...

Ad-hominem attacks and irrelevant facts aside, I was there. It was war. I narrowly missed being blown up in the Queenstown Spur, too.

The ANC did not make the former republic a priority. In fact it was dismantled and the seat of government for the EC region became Bhisho. The radio stations were closed down (Capital, and Radio TKI), the airline, the agricultural and development parastatals were closed or moved, industrial incentives were revoked, the defence force was integrated and scaled way back, etc.. The budget, which in 1993 had been R12.2 billion, was reduced to R8.8 billion for the whole Eastern Cape: 4 times the geographical area with twice the population. We were brought onto tax parity with SA while the local receiver was also closed down. Thousands of people lost their livelihoods, and once thriving businesses toppled like dominoes, and closed their doors one after another. Mine included, after retrenching 12 people.

So there really is f* all to show, but the urban areas like Umtata have started to see some economic growth based on welfare pensions, disability and child grants. The urban jungles serve little other purpose but for transient businessmen selling life policies, funeral plans, and subsistence at a price.

Yet somehow everyone expects the unemployed, people working day jobs for a pittance, or subsistent on welfare, to be able to develop economically when they don't even own their own land.

It will take generations just to see the standard of education improved in the rural areas. (Something I'm not ignoring. We've put computer labs into 5 schools in the area so far.)

Unlike the OP's contention, the road network has been maintained (sometimes) and has grown (in some places). Running water and electrification are spreading slowly but surely.

We are faced with huge paradoxical issues, though. And I'm no fan of the tri-partite alliance either. The paradox is that the reversion to tribalism in the Transkei pertains only to land rights, while they simultaneously undermine the traditional structures and attempt to create a communist proletariat without individual land or personal ownership rights.

Stofile gave a speech to the House of Traditional Leaders in 1998 wherein he said "it is incumbent upon Traditional Leadership to seek to purge the institution of all illegitimacy by being prepared to commit class suicide when the audit of Traditional Leadership takes place."

My solution is based on historical precedent: we should be given retrospective rights to title-deed the same as everywhere else in SA. Then we will see some motivation and development. Existing PTOs should be converted to Title, and the CLaRA restrictions which we are placed under can simply be used for disputed areas.

Fisheagle, you're right and wrong, I don't have any contempt, but I don't idolize anyone. I am aware of, and respect, cultural differences. Keep your arguments focused on bad governance and encroaching fascism by all means. Not tired old prejudice.

The Wild Coast is one of the poorest regions of SA, so families and communities come together and support each other in times of trouble. Us whities live such parochial, insular lives by comparison, and can certainly stand to learn the lessons of compassion and Ubuntu.

You receive what you put out on this planet.

I'm also not ignoring, nor referring to, the travesties of governance (I agree), or the behavior of ignorant people subjected to poverty and city/ghetto life. And I hardly need to stress the inherent evil of the apartheid regime. It was a war, and the victims, on both sides, are still bitter.

Regarding the so-called civilizing effect of the European settlers: some might refer to that rather as The Grammar of Domination. The actions of Harry Smith and D'Urban, amongst others, were barbaric infringements on the sacred tenets of human dignity and rights.

Exceptions prove the rule in every society and nation. We're all equal.

Viking said...

Once again, thanks for your contribution to the topic.
I can't help but think that you're contradicting yourself in a big way in what you say. You correctly point out (and I doubt anyone would disagree with you):
"everyone expects the unemployed, people working day jobs for a pittance, or subsistent on welfare, to be able to develop economically when they don't even own their own land"
Of course that's madness - but that IS their culture; the culture you say you respect. Unless I've been misinformed, the chief owns the land and lets other people live on it as he sees fit i.e. Feudalism.
In fact, the Western concept of individual ownership of property is your own (correct) solution to the economic stagnation of the region.
The concept of Ubuntu lies in the path of this concept, they are not compatible. You cannot have your cake and eat it.

FishEagle said...

Viking, your comment is spot on.

Jeff, you accused me of making arguments based on tired old prejudice. You need to explain your statement.

Jeff said...

"Just as much as you've idolized these people, I despise them."

No further comment. The paradoxes are already clear.

FishEagle said...

Actually Jef, the more I think about it, the more your statement sounds like the "you are racist because you critize blacks" mantra. I've expressed my disgust because so little work is being done to protect the environment in the Wild Coast region. Maybe I was wrong not to place it in the context of all the regions that I've worked in. Compared to the other parts of the Eastern and Western Cape that I've worked in, the environmental management of the Wild Coast is absolutely shocking. That better?

Jeff said...

No Fisheagle, you're racist because in your words, you "despise blacks." Or perhaps you just despise the Transkei people, amongst whom I live, and are subject to our "evil axis" of power.

Their is no contradiction, Viking, (and thanks for acknowledging my input. I appreciate it) between Ubuntu and personal rights. The Transkei was held in stasis, as I've said, because it was never colonized. And before (it wasn't colonized) that there was no written language, let alone title-deed; yet every man owned his own kingdom.

So that does not mean that we don't aspire to the same rights and privileges as the rest of SA, and the modern world. You can't hold out 2 differing standards just because there was never an initial conquest.

(I said before that the 9'th Frontier War never ended here.)

Viking said...

I don't understand your comment that 'every man owned his own kingdom' before there was whatever there is now, when you've also just pointed out that there was no written language, so presumably no way of knowing what it was like.
It was Marx who argued that before modern man was a period of "egalitarianism" or primitive communism. But he was wrong.

Secondly, if the area was never colonised, shouldn't the status of ownership etc be the same now as it was when the Xhosa people first colonised the area?

I've just taken a moment to speak to a friend of mine who also knows the Transkei well and she corroborates what you've said about the land being in 'tribal' hands.

I've had to read back over to find out exactly what your argument is, and from what I've gathered you think that the above state of affairs (i.e. 'tribal' trust) is a good thing because it's tradition, but bad because it doesn't allow for individual ownership of land. Have I read you right?

That's just the contradiction I'm trying to get my head around.
Saying that they need to have the same land rights as anyone in South Africa sounds fine to me - but that is NOT how it stands in their culture. What is it they want?
I'm all for their right to be allowed to live their traditional way - although a cynic may point out that Apartheid was also only designed to help them return to such a traditional way of life.

Also, evidence suggests their children don't want to remain there and aren't interested in the traditional ways. (As happens in many parts of the world), they move to the cities, with the end result that they produce a lot of ill-education offspring with no useful urban skills for once they get there. This leads of course to their exploitation (at best) or their turning to crime (at worst).

This last part is just speculation of course, but my question remains the same: Are you suggesting individual title deeds to land such as most city-dwellers enjoy, or a 'tribal' deed system where all tribal land is owned by the elders etc, thus formalising/ legalising their oral traditions?

FishEagle said...

Jeff, first off, I am racist. That's nothing new and it didn't take a genius to figure that out from my statement that I despise blacks. Duh!!!

My personal experience with the Transkei blacks clearly differed from yours. I've described that bad experience to you in my previous comment.

I didn't let my personal feelings about blacks influence my ARGUMENT in any way. I have a passion about speaking up when I hear other people talking tripe. That was the case here, after I read Black Coffee's ignorant comment about the developmental stages of the respective races. My counter argument is that it's not logical to assume the races would have achieved equal developement, had they been allowed to develope in isolation from one another.

Your comments have no logic. Viking picked up a few of the threads to try and make sense of it. What exactly are you trying to say? We agree that the root of the problem lies with the fact that people have no means to take responsibility for their land. So where exactly is the disagreement then?

The Wild Coast culture of indecision sure has rubbed off on you. So that just proves that it is not a race thing, assuming you are white. Interesting.

FishEagle said...

Come to think of it, if I had compared the Wild Coast to other parts of the Eastern and Western Cape that I worked in, the argument could have been considered racist.

Anonymous said...

@ Jeff. Ubuntu is an emotionally blackmailing concept spouted post 1994, e.g. archbishop D. Tutu, journalist A. Sparks, to bamboozle, bewitch, bebugger whiteys to give, give, give, and continue giving till doomsday.

Strange: my Zulu lecturer umnumzaan Mzolo at Natal Uni, early 70s, never mentioned ubuntu. Even stranger: contant murder, assault, muti mutilations, theft, rape, corruption, other crimes also slither in the slimy ubuntu concept.

FishEagle said...

I don't mind being called a racist but I don't like it when my ideas are called racist. There are times that I hate blacks and coloureds, but there are also times that I love them. Like the times when I'm in the heart of the beauty of the Wild Coast. Those are just my personal feelings that may change at any point in time.

My arguments are consistent though. Let's compare a racist and non racist argument:

Racist argument:
1. Black Coffee is a white, ignorant pig because his argument is so Euro centric. Whites deserve to be wiped off the face of the earth by other races.
2. The white race is supreme because it developed more than the useless, worthless black race, when comparing the (black managed) Wild Coast region to its neighbouring (white managed) South African regions.

Non-racist argument:
1. Black Coffee did not use logic to come to his conclusion that all races would have developed equally had they had no contact with each other.
2. The Wild Coast is an example of a geographic area with a relatively isolated Xhosa population and the region has not developed much at all in terms of infrastructure and environmental issues.

I am well aware that the primitive life-style of the Xhosas in the Wild Coast may be superior to the white, first world life-style, in terms of survival. In the long run, these Xhosa people may survive longer than whites. Then again, maybe they won't. Nobody knows the answer to that question. I've made the observation that the Xhosas in the Wild Coast region have failed to grasp the need for taking care of their environment, from which they will benefit. That's not racist because blacks have made exactly the same observations.

My argument did not presume to take a stand in favour of either blacks or whites and therefor it is NOT racist.