A roundup of the most interesting and important news items that cropped up during vac.
By Adam Butler
Fifteen Palestinians were killed, and hundreds injured, when Israeli military forces opened fire on a protest in the Gaza strip on March 30th. Over ten thousand Palestinians, confined to the 388km2 Strip, marched to the borders of the territory to protest their imprisonment by the Israeli state, which refuses most Palestinians the right to leave the Strip (it refuses them a great many other things too – for many, the right to life). Conditions within the Palestinian area are dire, with unemployment close to 50% and access to electricity for only a few hours a day – not to mention the constant threat of imprisonment, abuse and death from the Israeli forces. Verified reports show that some protesters were shot in the back while running away, by those same forces that patrol the borders and raid schools and hospitals.
More recently, on April 6th, Yasser Murtaja (a Palestinian journalist) was fatally shot, despite wearing a vest that clearly marked him as a member of the press. Reporters Without Borders has alleged that Murtaja was “obviously the victim of an intentional shot,” and therefore that the Israeli state actively targets, and murders, journalists. Palestinian hospital authorities believe, from forensic analysis, that Israeli forces were shooting to kill or severely injure during the protests, rather than simply dissuading protest.
There will be a vigil, organised by the Palestinian Solidarity Organisation, for the dead on April 17th at the Drostdy Lawns.
Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela-Mandela, struggle leader and legend, passed away on April 2nd. A key member of the ANC who became a highly public leader of the ANC while her husband at the time, Nelson Mandela, was imprisoned on Robben Island, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela cemented a place in South African history with her courageous and unwavering determination to fight injustice. Her contribution to the struggle, and to post-Apartheid politics, are both avowedly feminist and far eclipse a narrow role as the wife of Madiba. This political clout, and the immense suffering she endured at the hand of Apartheid torture, banning and imprisonment have made her an icon to millions of South Africa.
Her popularity stems in part from her intense humanity, and the flaws which her years of Apartheid abuse engendered. Her involvement in the Mandela United Football Club and its various crimes, her drinking and her extramarital affairs have drawn criticism, but also place her as an incredibly relatable figure to all those whose good intentions are sometimes led astray. It is also increasingly evident that the Apartheid, and even post-Apartheid, governments have actively tried to besmirch her name and fuel this criticism.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was an incredible woman, whose determination and persistence are indubitable. With the amount and length of suffering she endured, it is perhaps inevitable that, in her own words, “things went horribly wrong.” But whilst crimes must always be mourned and critiqued – even necessary ones – it should not limit our understanding of the complexity and brilliance of a South African legend.
The ANC has quietly backtracked on the issue of expropriation without compensation, with Deputy Public Works Minister, Jeremy Cronin, informing the media that “the emerging view within [the ANC] is that the Constitution does not require an amendment.” This does not mean that expropriation is to be abandoned, but may herald a softer stance on the issue.
Given President Cyril Ramaphosa’s repeated attempts to calm business interests, however, it might well prove the beginning of a long – and no doubt painful – U-turn on the issue. This can only be a step backward, even for those opposed to such expropriation, as any perceived weakness on the part of the ANC will be vigorously attacked by the “we’re-more-radical-than-you” EFF. The result of such “debates” have always been the polarisation of issues into mud-swinging battles that obfuscate the actual ideas at hand.
The issue of land as discussed in parliament has yet to delve into the realities of effective redistribution, and a consensus on the necessity of expropriation (Constitutional change or no) would be the first step to allowing such nuances to enter the discourse. With the EFF’s proven track record of influencing public discourse, the value of actual parliamentary engagement would not only be useful for policy drafting, but also to enhance the ability of the public to contribute meaningfully to the discussion.
The ANC’s backtracking, whether ultimately the right decision or not, is also symptomatic of putting business interests first, whilst pretending to pander to the poor (here, the EFF is no better). Perhaps a good example of this is the ANC delegation to Moria, the headquarters of the Zionist church, where millions of the church’s members gather for Easter. The increasing association of ANC members with the church, where they often ask for blessings and prayers, is a desperate ploy to maintain contact with a conservative African base they have nearly lost through transparent allegiance to big business and corruption. If they do abandon expropriation, they may well end up losing even more of this base, and Ramaphosa will almost certainly have to kiss goodbye to what remains the ANC stronghold in KZN.
Cricket – A Gentleman’s Game
On March 24th, Australian cricketer Cameron Bancroft was caught on live television attempting to alter the state of the ball with a small yellow item, during their third Test match against South Africa. He then tried to hide the sandpaper (initially claiming it was tape, he later admitted to using sandpaper) down his trousers, when the referee called him over. It later emerged that at least captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner were involved in the attempted cheating, with several alleging further complicity in the team.
The event sparked a number of investigations, and widespread condemnation of both the act, the players involved, and the culture of the team. Those investigations resulted in Bancroft, Warner and Smith all being suspended by their own cricketing association, and losing lucrative sponsorship deals. More generally, the team was slammed for their arrogant conduct throughout the series, with implications that cheating may well have been more than a once-off occurrence.
Both the scandal itself and the response to it seem to have uncovered something we been knew about us white people: often the most “genteel” and “civilised” aspects of our culture are the ones that hide the corrupt, profoundly unfair practices that enable the arrogance of thinking we are above the law.