Archive for September, 2019


The Demonisation of Mahatma Gandhi

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The Demonisation of Mahatma Gandhi.

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Insidious.
Persistent.
Revisionist.

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The gradual chiselling away of what they call the facade of the great soul.

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The thin man in homespun loincloth who galvanised a nation to take on the might of the British Empire stands alone today.

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The man who spawned a revolution of thought and action the world had never seen before, the concept of struggling against evil through non-violence is being corroded by forces narrow and machiavellian.

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Today, the life and times of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi are being picked at slowly and at times savagely, in attempt after attempt to sully the actions of a man of flesh and bone called the Apostle of Peace.

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The Mahatma Gandhi of today’s revisionist historians and social and political activists is a feeble, racist, casteist, sexual deviant, among also being a toothless panderer to minorities during some of the most horrific times that the peoples of the Indian subcontinent had ever experienced.

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We stand today overlooking a dangerous precipice, as the forces of reaction and naked racism and fascism are on the ascendancy.

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These forces have been biding their time for a while now, quietly infecting the undercurrents of different societies with their narrow sectarian and fascist notions of religious and racial superiority.

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The perfect storm that has been brewing for decades now is coming to pass, as the forces of reaction and the so-called “noveau-activists”, often called “peacetime revolutionaries” by Nelson Mandela’s comrade Ahmed Kathrada who spent 27 years on Robben Island during the harshest years of Apartheid tyranny and hegemony.

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Was Gandhi all the negative things said about him today?

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Quite possibly so when as a newly minted barrister from England he traveled to South Africa to take on his first case. Dressed in his very English suit and tie and still steeped in his Brahmin upbringing, Gandhi may well have been many of the things his detractors accuse him of being.

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But history has shown us repeatedly how human beings evolve and how their political and social and personal attitudes and principles and values morph over time.

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The Nelson Mandela revered today as a man of peace and non-racialism was a young man once, who political thought evolved from being a fiery young man who did not approve of other racial groups from being a part of the struggle against the Apartheid regime, but thanks to giants of the South African liberation movement like Walter Sisulu and others, it is all the more admirable when history shows the transformation of Nelson Mandela into a man of inclusivity and a fierce believer in the equality of all races.

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The Nelson Mandela acknowledged by history as being a man of peace was instrumental in the formation of the African National Congress’ armed wing – Umkhonto-we-Sizwe or the Spear of the Nation. This man of peace understood and accepted the needs of the moment to change the course of the liberation movement in South Africa from one of non-violence to one that understood that the Apartheid regime was not going to be defeated by Gandhian principles of non-violent struggle.

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In Nelson Mandela’s own words – “There are many people who feel that the reaction of the government to our strike – a general mobilisation, arming the white community, arresting tens of thousands of Africans, the show of force throughout the country, notwithstanding our clear declaration that our campaign is being run on peaceful and non-violent lines – closes a chapter on our method of political struggle. There are many people who feel that it is useless and futile to continue talking about peace and non-violence against a government whose only reply is savage attacks on an unarmed and defenceless people.”

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The Nelson Mandela who struggled and campaigned in a peaceful manner came to the practical realisation that armed action against the Apartheid regime had to be a part of the struggle for racial equality and freedom.

So too with Mahatma Gandhi, whose views from a narrow sectarian and racially biased position, given his being raised in a ‘high-caste’ Brahmin family, which also mirrored Nelson Mandela’s being born into a royal household, were shaped over the years to the Mahatma Gandhi whom Albert Einstein said of “that generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as he, walked this earth”. No small praise from a fellow individual who’s works led to the invention of nuclear weapons even as Albert Einstein remained a campaigner for peace his whole life.

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So too with many of the great figures we hold in high-esteem today, it is often the case that over a period of time and of political and social development of thoughts and of ideologies, there can be not one individual who can be singled out as being a born progressive and revolutionary thinker and activist.

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Ernesto ‘Ché’ Guevara, Amilcar Cabral, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Jomo Kenyatta, Fidel Castro, Karl Marx, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and many others were all flawed human beings, many being sexually and personally unfaithful to their partners.

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To judge these men by the standards of today is a legitimate historical endeavour.

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But to demonise them as being “sell-outs” and “sexual deviants” and “having been co-opted by the enemy” and of being “racist” and “tribalist” and “casteist” and “sectarian” by today’s standards of moral compasses is to ignore the revolutionary leaps they played in the struggles for universal dignity and freedom from want and grinding poverty and the countless horrors faced by the 99% of the world’s population today in 2018.

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The most startling aspect of this revisionist history is that the almost seamless confluence of the forces of fascism and reaction with the forces of “progressive thought” and activism for meaningful political and social change seem to agree upon.

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To the resurgent right-wing these individuals are regarded as traitors to their “own kind” and are actively and concertedly being demonised, and the word demonise is not an exaggeration.

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To the many progressive forces of social and political activism for true and meaningful and humane change, these individuals are singled out as being “racist” and “tribalist” and “casteist” and “sectarian” whose place in historical context must be viewed by the yardsticks of 21st century beliefs and societal and political norms.

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This is the most dangerous aspect – the confluence of thought between fascists and progressives on their iconoclastic quest to gradually, and often times not that gradually, demonisation of these figures of history.

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It is very easy to vilify our grandparents for the views they held, as repellant as they are to us today, and similarly it is convenient to vilify countless figures in history as being “backward” and “anachronistic”, and rightfully so – but to simply dismiss those who came before us by painting them with the same brush is to do a disservice to history itself.

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Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated by a right-wing Hindu extremist who believed that Gandhi was a “sell-out” to his “own” people – the very same ideological thoughts that are being actively espoused by the successors to those very same notions of “our own pride” and “total and complete adherence to our religion”.

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Yes, Mahatma Gandhi was a deeply flawed human being, yet his contribution to the Indian freedom struggle cannot be simply cast aside, as with Nelson Mandela and Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, amongst so many leaders amd activists of movements the world over who dedicated their lives and many of whom were killed by the forces of imperialism and colonialism.

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The shared demonisation by both the rabid right-wing, and by left-wing activists who are agreed about the legacy of these figures of history, is a dangerous nexus of convenience – especially in a time when the world is swinging dangerously towards the narrow populism of jingoistic and racist thought spouted by a dangerous man, who happens to be the “leader of the free world”.

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This is a time for all progressive and like-minded people to concentrate their efforts in order to be the vanguard against the obscenity of right-wing governments popping up in so many places in the world.

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The virtual “acceptance” of raw and crude and vile capitalism needs to have the barricades set up once more as we witness the daily horrors of deprivation and grotesque wealth on the other side.

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The spectre of the damning of historical figures, as flawed as they may have been, plays directly into the hands of the forces who wish to sow division among the peoples of the world.

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This is a dangerous road that is being chartered, once again, especially when the world is in a dangerous place where racism and the hatred of the “other” is being preached from the pulpits of power.

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It is especially corrosive at a time when wars of blatant aggression in the pursuit of plundering the countries invaded in the most overt adoption of neo-colonialism and neo-imperialism.

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The simplistic interpretation of the history and historical contributions of the individuals being vilified, dove-tail chillingly as both right-wing and many left-wing activists are agreed about one thing and that is their reading and conclusions reached about the legacy of these and many more figures of history.

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Zhou Enlai, the first leader of post-revolutionary China was once asked what he thought about the French Revolution, he responded with the following:

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“It’s too soon to tell”

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South Africa Heritage Day 24th September 2019.

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What is heritage – it is where we all come from and it is what we all share through the millenia.

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Barely an hours drive from Johannesburg is “The Cradle of Humankind” where scientists and paleoanthropologists have discovered that the human race originated from right here.

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That is why we shame ourselves and our ancestors when we descend into xenophobic toxicity.

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We, the entire human race comes from but just around the corner from where I scribble these words.

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It is our ancestral home.

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We should and must welcome all those returning home.

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Maropeng, which is a Setswana word meaning ‘returning to the place of our origins’, takes visitors on a fun and informative journey of discovery using spectacular methods to tell stories of the evolution of life and the origins of humankind.

https://www.maropeng.co.za/

https://www.gauteng.net/attractions/cradle_of_humankind

The Cradle of Humankind, one of eight World Heritage Sites in South Africa, and the only one in Gauteng, is renowned as the place where humankind originated. It is here that the first hominid, Australopithecus, was found in 1924 at Taung in the North West Province by Professor Raymond Dart of the University of the Witwatersrand. And is one of the major tourist attractions in South Africa.

The Cradle of Humankind area boasts 13 excavation sites that are recognised as national heritage sites, both internationally and by the South African Heritage Resources Agency. For those wanting to experience the birthplace of humankind firsthand, the official visitor centres for the Cradle of Humankind, Maropeng and the Sterkfontein Caves, are within an easy hour’s drive from Johannesburg.

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Is it me?

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Is it me or is that a conscience I see drowning in the apathetic gutter?

Is it me or is that a expletive I hear a gucci-clad man to a homeless person mutter?

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Is it me or is that a pure heart I spot, being savagely ripped with malice?

is it me or is that a soul being drowned in an obscene ostentatious chalice?

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Is it me or is that the sickening drone of the few carping on about their bank balances’ erect phallus?

Is it me or are they the same who regard the homeless as living in an under-the-bridge palace?

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Is it me or is that the chilly wind of apathy I feel a-blowin’?

Is it me or are those streams the tears of numberless mothers that keep on a-flowin’?

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Is it me or is that the hallowed bourse where human dignity like derivatives are calculated and sold?

Is it me or is that the flogged dignity that the many try so hard to grasp onto and hold?

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It must be me, even though my eyes see nothing now but the repellant glare,

of the overflowing glittering pot of plenty from which only the 1% share.

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It must be me because when basic humanity is an endangered sentiment glimpsed at, only here and there,

It must be me when exhausted labourers have to scrounge around just to eke out their daily bus fare.

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It is me for I laze on my throne, dashing off these meagre absolving scribbles,

It is me for it is from my mouth that each hollow “I’m-so-shocked” dribbles.

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It is me as I “like” photographs of squalor and famine on Facebook et al,

It is me for I am the one who remains self-absorbed as the forests burn, and the last rhino awaits the grandiose cull.

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It is me alright, no doubt about it at all, as I smirk at the weakened who stumble and fall,

It is me alright, who rides my chariot through the hungry throng, just so I can make it to the glittering ball.

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Of course it is me, with my hifalutin words and my hollow don’t-give-a-shit attitude,

Of course it is me, just as long I can scribble meaningless platitude upon platitude.

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Of course it is me.
That much I know to be true.

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But,
just possibly,

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could it be you too?

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copyleft afzal moolla 2019

For Bantu Stephen Biko

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For Bantu Stephen Biko.

Born: 18 December 1946
Murdered: 12 September 1977.

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You fanned the fires of black pride,

facing down the racists trapped in their hollow white hide.

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You breathed inspiration, infusing the many with renewed vigour,

though always knowing you were in the crosshairs of Apartheid’s trigger.

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You never wavered, you stood tall and strong,

your words decimating the paltry platitudes of the fascist throng.

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Your spirit, your courage, your words fanned the embers of resistance, with unshakeable determination,

you stood firm, always upright as you battled the scourge of racial discrimination,

and today, we as a people owe you the grateful tributes of a democratic nation.

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They tortured you, they killed you, they murdered you, but they could never quell,

the conviction you instilled in a generation, the thirst for freedom and for dignity, and the tolling of the bell.

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We salute you, fearless son of Africa, we remember you today, as we shall in all the tomorrows yet to come,

we shall never rest until the principled ideals for which you were killed are through our collective struggles won.

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Only then shall we honour your selfless sacrifice, your dream of an equal society for all,

Only then shall we have truly honoured your eternally defiant, your ever valiant,

your forever truthful revolutionary call.

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Viva the undying spirit of Steve Biko!

The struggles continue!

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http://www.sbf.org.za

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Caution: A Counter-Revolutionary Rant …

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A quarter of a century later, a whole generation and beyond – long into a democratic and free South Africa, we witness all around the quislings become recipients of National Orders, we see comradeship once hewn into souls being wrenched out, we see ‘the other half’ and we hear the platitudes from up above.

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We witness the brutality of xenophobic carnage, the murder of the sons and daughters of African countries, who themselves had barely cast off the shackles of colonialism but who still – who still welcomed the African National Congress to set up military bases and who opened their borders and said welcomingly – “you are home”.

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What stings is the total and convenient selective amnesia and sudden forgetting of those who came before us and of those who still are with us but who made sacrifices that no words can never do justice to.

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The immense dedication and commitment to the struggle against racial discrimination and Apartheid tyranny was not an “I pay my monthly dues to “Greenpeace” (with no offence to Greenpeace!) type of commitment but a choice forged in the crucible of oppression and “lived” each and every day knowing their lives could, and for countless martyrs did end far too soon.

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Those were and are still the truest of the true revolutionaries who have not traded their ideals and principles to hop a ride on the gravy-train that is heaving with a mass of individuals who now believe it is “owed” to them, the obscene and ostentatious riches they amass and are amassing every minute the stock-ticker moves on the Exchanges of the great Neo-Liberal “Free Market”.

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What a crock of bull.

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“Free Markets”?.

Free from whom?.

Free for whom?.

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We know the answers as the answers stare us in the face daily, and with the virtual annihilation of the “will to serve The People” -ideals that so, so many struggled so much for and so, so many paid the ultimate price to attain.

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How insulting, how flung aside are those true revolutionaries who have been consigned to be but names of hospitals and road signs, “Steve Biko” and “Charlotte Maxeke” and sickeningly so, to be the “informal” names given to “Informal Settlements” such as “Chris Hani Squatter Camp” and “Winnie Mandela Informal Settlement”.

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What is an “Informal Settlement”, by the way?.

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What is a “Squatter Camp”?.

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A slum.

Let us call them for what they are.

Slums.

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All the while the essence of what these sons and daughters of Africa believed in and what they willingly sacrificed so much for, including their lives, has been watered down so that even the revolutionary icon Madiba has been re-branded into a warm fuzzy grandpa figure with his revolutionary ideals washed over and scarcely mentioned if ever.

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“Hey kids, coming soon – your very own Madiba Teddy Bear”.

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Who even knows the demands “The Freedom Charter” demanded so clearly – and not just from the regime at the time but timelessly for when the “The People SHALL Govern” then “The People SHALL share in the Country’s Wealth” and other slogans that are now belched out at bussed-in meetings and at Business Breakfasts at the Sandon Convention Centre and in other gleaming monuments to capitalism.

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What an exceedingly conceited “truer-revolutionary-than-thou” I sound like, and you what? I’ll take it on the chin, thank you very much.

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A Poem …

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“Brother, can you spare me some change?*”.

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The parched and thirsty,
still walk soul-less avenues,

and alleys of want and hunger.

Empty and barren,
coursing through heartless streets of need and despair.

“Change will come”,

said the promise of Freedom and Democracy and of Capitalism with a Conscience.

“change will come in time”.

Yes.

“Change” comes,

when scratching through pockets,

through purses,

for some loose change.

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* – inspired by “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”, also sung as “Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime?”, is one of the best-known American songs of the Great Depression. Written in 1930 by lyricist E. Y. “Yip” Harburg and composer Jay Gorner.

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X E N O P H O B I A

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This was written in January 2013.

Utterly shameful, obscene, and inexcusable that it is true today.
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It ain’t Xenophobia? Really?
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it’s not xenophobia?

the refrain is the same,

it’s the criminals to blame,

we still won’t be calling the attacks by their stinking name,

‘xenophobia’

yes,

that’s what it is,

but,

let us not be simplistic,

we have to face the ugliness of our collective shame,

because when mostly ‘foreigners’ get put to the flame,

how can we ignorance feign?

it’s xenophobia,
simple and plain,

with poverty & unemployment barrelling on a runaway train,

and it won’t just ‘go away’,

for as long as ignorant complicity continues to reign …
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Xenophobia’ is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as:

” noun:

intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries “

The synonyms for xenophobia are:

chauvinism, racial intolerance, racism, dislike of foreigners, nationalism, prejudice.
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As a citizen of South Africa, I am acutely aware of the many challenges that our young country faces.
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The iniquities of our tortured past, the legacy of Apartheid, socio-economic issues etc. are just a few of the many problems that South Africa is grappling with.
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What is extremely disturbing for me is something that I have personally encountered, in conversations with friends, family, and fellow citizens from all walks of life.
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That something is how rife ‘anti-foreigner’ sentiment is within our various, and still divided communities.
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I have heard the most atrocious, insensitive, hate-filled utterances regarding the ‘foreigners’ who ‘take our jobs’, and ‘take our women’, and ‘are the cause of all the crime’, and ‘they must go back to their countries’, and most chillingly ‘we will kill these foreigners’.
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I am also aware that many intellectuals, think-tanks, NGO’s, and sociologists etc. have written and spoken volumes about how the failure of proper service delivery by the government and local municipalities, and the myriad other shortcomings that plague our country have played a part in the emergence of this abhorrent xenophobic sentiments that are being spouted almost as if one was talking about culling animals in the Kruger National Park.
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We have already witnessed the scourge of xenophobia, and not long ago, when organised bands of people marked, attacked and killed ‘foreigners’ in a frenzy of blood-letting and looting.
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This was in 2008.
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And today, as the father of the nation, Nelson Mandela lies ill in a hospital bed in Pretoria, I hear similar disturbing and blood-curdling hate-speech directed against ‘the foreigners’.
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What is going on?
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Where and how have we, as a country, failed, or more worryingly, chose to ignore the signs of this cancer that has to be dealt with, and dealt with as a matter of national priority.
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The synonyms for xenophobia include racism, racial intolerance, and prejudice.
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The neo-Nazis in Europe and elsewhere are xenophobes.
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No one disputes that.
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The neo-Nazis in Europe and elsewhere talk in almost exactly the same terms when they spout their rhetoric, when they go on ‘Paki-bashing’ sprees in England, when they deface Synagogues and Mosques and Temples, or when they beat up and kill ‘foreigners’ who ‘take our jobs’, and ‘take our women’, and ‘are the cause of all the crime’, and ‘they must go back to their countries’.
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What is particularly disturbing about the rise of xenophobia, especially in the South African context is the complicity of silence, and by extension, a shocking acceptance of these racist and murderously dangerous views, by ‘normal’ citizens.
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We are Africans.
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And above all, we are all human.
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This may seem like an obvious and unnecessary fact to point out, but when certain friends, family members, and people one interacts with daily, spew such xenophobic drivel, it needs to be taken seriously.
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Pogroms, xenophobic attacks, racism, intolerance, prejudice, casteism, religious bigotry, sexism, and homophobia, do not simply arise out of nothing.
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There are societal, religious, traditional, cultural and other factors that do indeed create fertile ground for some of these noxious sentiments to germinate.
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It is incumbent on us all, people, just people, to engage with people, however close they may be to us, and challenge and make our voices heard that we will not stand mutely by, as such hate-filled venom is chucked around nonchalantly.
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We cannot be conspicuous by our silence and inaction when a large segment of our society, those who have chosen our country to be their home, often fleeing economic hardship, political and social violence, and numberless other factors that force, and this is important, people are forced into leaving their countries, often making hazardous and painful journeys in order to find safe-haven amongst fellow human-beings.
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As South Africans, we know just how friendly countries welcomed us during the darkest days of Apartheid repression and tyranny.
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Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and the other ‘front-line’ states paid dearly for offering South Africans fleeing Apartheid a place of refuge as well as a base of operations against the oppressive Apartheid system.
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Apartheid agents and security forces attacked, fomented insurrections against the governments in the front-line states, and still South Africans of all races, creeds etc. found a welcome home in these comradely countries.
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We should never forget this.
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Ever.
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Our government needs to be more vocal about its stance on xenophobia, and by doing so it will send a message that it will not stand by idly while people from other parts of the continent are constantly under the threat of being attacked.
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That said, we as citizens have a voice, and it is morally incumbent on all of us to do our bit so that the scourge of xenophobia is excised from this land.
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There is a simmering undercurrent of the possibility of attacks on foreigners as I type these words.
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If this is not taken seriously and dealt with, sadly we may see scenes similar to those we witnessed in 2008.

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AND IT IS HAPPENING NOW. TODAY.

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Mayibuye-i-Afrika!

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What Happens
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By Erich Fried*

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It has happened

and it happens now as before

and will continue to happen

if nothing is done against it.

The innocent don’t know a thing about it

because they are too innocent

and the guilty don’t know a thing about it

because they’re too guilty.

The poor don’t take notice

because they’re too poor

and the rich don’t take notice

because they’re too rich.

The stupid shrug their shoulders

because they’re too stupid

and the clever shrug their shoulders

because they’re too clever.

It doesn’t bother the young

because they’re too young

and it doesn’t both the old

because they’re too old.

That’s why nothing is done against it

and that’s why it happened

and happens now as before

and will continue to happen.

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* –

Erich Fried

1921-1988
Erich Fried (6 May 1921 – 22 November 1988), an Austrian poet born to Jewish
parents who settled in England, was known for his political-minded
poetry. He was also a broadcaster, translator and essayist.

Erich Fried (6 May 1921 – 22 November 1988), an Austrian poet who
settled in England, was known for his political-minded poetry. He was
also a broadcaster, translator and essayist.

Born to Jewish parents Nelly and Hugo Fried in Vienna, he was a child
actor and from an early age wrote strongly political essays and poetry.
He fled with his mother to London after his father was murdered by the
Gestapo after the Anschluss with Nazi Germany. During the war, he did
casual work as a librarian and a factory hand. He joined Young Austria, a
left-wing emigrant youth movement, but left in 1943 in protest at its
growing Stalinist tendencies. In 1944 he married Maria Marburg, shortly
before the birth of his son Hans. In the same year his first volume of
poetry was published. He separated from Maria in 1946, and they divorced
in 1952. In the same year he married Nan Spence Eichner, with whom he
had two children; David (1958) and Katherine (1961). Erich and Nan
divorced in 1965. In 1965 he got married for a third time to Catherine
Boswell with whom he had three children; Petra (1965), Klaus and Tom
(1969).

From 1952 to 1968 he worked as a political commentator for the BBC
German Service. He translated works by Shakespeare, T. S. Eliot and
Dylan Thomas. In 1962 he returned to Vienna for the first time.

He published several volumes of poetry as well as radio plays and a
novel. His work was sometimes controversial, including attacks on the
Zionist movement and support for left-wing causes. His work was mainly
published in the West, but in 1969, a selection of his poetry was
published in the GDR poetry series Poesiealbum, and his Dylan Thomas
translations were published in that same series in 1974. The composer
Hans Werner Henze set two of Fried’s poems for his song-cycle Voices
(1973).

In 1982 he regained his Austrian nationality, though he also retained
the British nationality he had adopted in 1949. He died of intestinal
cancer in Baden-Baden, Germany, in 1988 and is buried in Kensal Green
cemetery, London.

An Austrian literary prize is named after him – the Erich Fried Prize

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Erich Fried

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