A Nigerian, a
Mozambican and a South African are sitting in a Soweto tavern having a pint of beer.
The Nigerian grabs his beer, downs it, throws his glass into the air, draws a pistol and shoots the glass in mid-air. He shouts: "In Nigeria we have so many glasses we never drink out of the same glass twice!"
The South African finishes his beer, puts the glass down on the bar, picks up the gun, shoots both the Nigerian and the Mozambican and says to the barman: "In South Africa we have so many Nigerians and Mozambicans that we never have to drink with the same guys twice!"
Yep, a little South African zenophobic humour. The people I know and work with are as
appalled as the rest of the world at what happened (continues to happen in
pockets) a couple weeks ago. It was much
more wide-spread than news reports had it.
My friends in villages reported incidents to me and there were several
incidents in and around
Those in poverty are very, very angry.
Many promises were made to them in 1994, at the time of the transition to democracy, and they feel
they have gotten nothing. Below is a political cartoon from after the worst of the violence. It shows a government representative feeding a refugee while saying "you should be ashamed of yourself" to a starving South African.
In actuality, the government has provided electricity and water to most areas, though many rural areas remain without water, requiring the women to walk for miles, frequently, and carry the water home in buckets on their heads or in a wheelbarrow, though you usually see men using the wheelbarrows. The major zenophobic attacks, however, took place in townships outside the large cities, where there is electricity and water. However, when you have been promised a house and you need a job and food and energy prices keep climbing, you become a very volatile individual. This is a very precarious time for this young democracy and it is very easy to pick it apart. There is so much that screams out for change but you would have to be here for some time to truly understand how complicated the situation is.
Thabo Mbeki (the president) has made lots of mistakes but he has a cool
head, one of his weaknesses in this current mileau. His nemesis, the current head of the ruling
party, Jacob Zuma, is hot headed, uneducated and charismatic and has major
appeal to the youth and poverty-stricken, in particular. They are expecting to be better taken care of. Most
black youth are poorly educated and unemployed; most whites continue to do
pretty well. There is a large black
middle class, I’m told, around Joburg, but I sure don’t see it here. It’s very frustrating to try to think this
through because it is so very complicated and so multi-layered and, sometimes,
so incomprehensible to the Western mind.
I am currently reading Jonny Steinberg’s book “The Three Letter Plague”
and it explains, as well as anything I’ve read, the concept of the stigma which
keeps South African's from testing for HIV. It
explains it, I’ve read it, I understand the words but I still don’t
truly understand why one would choose dying in solitude to living on ARVs. That said, I recommend it to anyone grappling
with AIDS in
Hopefully, my friend, Dot, will be back from the states,
where she has been with her mother, who is at the end of her life, in time for our trip. We plan to leave Mafikeng on the 27th to
By the way, I gave up on Windows Vista, took it off my computer and loaded XP; my computer is behaving much more normally now. It is just not powerful enough for Vista!