ALL STATES are oppressive, some less so and all oppression creates a state of war. Israel and Palestine are no exceptions. In the latest contribution to the debate on the Middle East, the SACP’s Solly Mapaila once again relocates the term, apartheid and the anti-apartheid struggle to the conflict being waged over land ownership in the Levant. In so doing, he undermines the struggle for human rights in his own country by joining those who seek to obliterate the memory of the struggle for freedom in South Africa by denying that apartheid ever happened.
While the actions of apartheid demagogues such as Eugene de Kock, the man responsible for Vlakplaas death squads are in the process of being whitewashed as “common criminality”, and white Afrikaners are once again excusing the apartheid system as “natural” and “good neighbourliness” both defenses of which have been accepted by the South African Labour Court, the SACP is engaging in a form of scapegoating, in effect seeking to blame the Jews for apartheid.
Calling such criticism an insult to “South Africans and our struggle against Apartheid”, Mapaila engages in an intellectual shell game, in which he juggles legalistic terms to arrive at the startling conclusion that the 1913 Land Act, Group Areas Act, Mixed Marriages Law, pass laws, and Bantu education are all Israeli inventions, or rather that these laws or similar laws, are the root of the problem in Israel and Palestine. That he is able to achieve this mental feat is due to the novel definition of the term apartheid adopted by the UN International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (ICSPCA) which applies to “similar polices” as practiced in southern Africa, and which focuses on the actions of the state security apparatus, and not race segregationist policies per se.
The manner in which the apartheid state oppressed its population through acts of state-sponsored terror and the use of excessive force and violence are well known. It is not the purpose of this piece to examine the details of the detentions, assassinations, torture, forced removals, and maltreatment of both citizens and those removed from citizenship by the apartheid state, suffice to say, that the secondary definition of apartheid reiterated by ICSPCA in general terms and without any of the particularity of the apartheid experience is what is at play here.
Apartheid is thus stripped of its historical message and particular meaning and repackaged as a general term — simply a policy or system of discrimination on grounds of race, and then redirected towards any policy or similar policy by a state targeting ethnic groups. So far as the UN act is concerned, it could have been applied to Rwanda and Serbia as well as Egypt and nearly every state where state sponsored oppression of ethnic groups exists. Today ICSPCA is used exclusively to target Israel.
Mapaila’s further contention is that we need to distinguish between petty apartheid i.e bus segregation and segregation in public parks, and grand apartheid, which as we know, involved the denationalisation of black citizens and their removal to the so-called independent homelands or bantustans. Both terms are relics of the apartheid era. Calling the Group Areas Act, Immorality Act and race segregation, “petty apartheid”, trivialises what was a gross violation of human rights. Again, the term “Grand Apartheid” seeks to provide legitimacy to the endeavour which relegated Africans to so-called independent homelands.
Irrespective of these concerns, there are indeed many reasons to question the existence of the state of Israel and to remark on the similarities in experience of Palestinians and black South African’s consigned to the homelands. There is also similarity between both of these cases and the experience of Greeks. Under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne signed by the governments of Greece and Turkey, approximately 2 million people (around 1.5 million Anatolian Greeks and 500,000 Muslims in Greece), were forcibly made refugees and de jure denaturalized from their homelands in a population swap. Unlike the Greek example, the apartheid homelands were never recognised by the international community.
Israel is in itself, the result of a UN sponsored bantustan policy which sanctioned population and land swaps, in a series of events which were never accepted by the Arab League. The missing piece of the picture painted by the SACP is the issue of Jordan, carved out of the British Mandate of Palestine. It is not an internal homeland as such, yet received the majority of displaced Palestinians. The West Bank on the other hand, has none of the characteristics of the apartheid bantustans, unless one wants to make believe that Jerusalem is the Sun City of the Middle East. Three of the holiest sites for all three of the major religions are on the West Bank, including Rachel’s Tomb and the Temple Mount.
Israel, far from being a Zionist entity in which Jews simply practice their religion, is rather a refugee state created on the ashes of Nuremberg and the Holocaust.
Some 250,000 European Jews were displaced by World War II after 6 million were murdered by the Nazis. During the ensuing 1948 war, 700 000 Arab Jews were displaced from Arab States and in turn 400 000+ Palestinians were displaced from the newly created state of Israel. It is these refugees on both sides which form the basis for ongoing discussion in the Middle East regarding a peace plan.
Recently PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas downplayed the suggestion that he wanted to flood Israel with some 5 million Palestinians living in Jordan. The extension of Israeli citizenship to the offspring of the original 400 000 Palestinian refugees would have left only 1 million people living in Jordan in a territory more than 5 times the size of Israel. Peter Hain, a long time anti-apartheid activist, with excellent credentials as a bipartisan who has shown solidarity with both Palestine and Israel, says that after decades of failure, “a one-state solution – the establishment of binational state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians – must now be seriously considered.” His contention is that the land no longer exists in order for those 5 million Palestinians to return.
Whatever ones reservations about the ongoing conflict, we also need to remember that Nelson Mandela himself was a bipartisan leader. In 1990 on the Ted Koppel Show, Mandela said: “The support for Yasser Arafat and his struggle does not mean that the ANC has ever doubted the right of Israel to exist as a state, legally. We have stood quite openly and firmly for the right of that state to exist within secure borders.”
As South Africans, gifted by the Freedom Charter and a Bill of Rights guaranteeing fundamental human rights, it is incumbent upon us to raise such uncomfortable observations, as the predicaments posed by bipartisanship, to continue to oppose state terror and excessive force, and to do so in an even-handed way, one which does not scapegoat any particular ethnic group, and which does not further compound the problem by revising apartheid history in a ongoing propagandistic war that serves no-one.
In a brazen “State of the Nation” address, uncharacteristically published by local newspapers over the weekend*, Malema, who technically cannot stand for parliament whilst under curatorship for mismanaging his own finances, called for mass expropriation of land and property rights. (See Ivo Vegter’s take on this issue here)
“We will pass legislation which will make the state the official and only custodian of all land in South Africa, in a similar way the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act has made the state the custodian of our mineral and petroleum resources.”
Common property ownership has long since been abandoned in China and Russia. In South Africa it would instantaneously turn property-owners into tenants or wards of the state as all citizens suddenly became government employees in a perverse system that myopically fixes the problem of jobs with a stroke of the pen without actually creating any new jobs.
With the state controlling banking in South Africa under Malema, citizens will be expected to hand-over their current accounts to the state for safe-keeping — do we really trust the government to secure our money? Malema however chooses to deflect such criticism in his address, by referring to the “South Korean” banking system and thus may already be in talks to establish his own private investment bank.*
The ANC breakaway faction which has become the EFF party platform has simply adopted a hodge-podge of leftist demands, along with many of the supposedly radical policies of the North Korean dictatorship on the other side of the 38th parallel.
For example, the
The only bank available to citizens is thus the solitary Central Bank which has over 220 branches, all providing exactly the same choice in government banking.
The release of an unprecedented United Nations report detailing crimes against humanity by the North Korean regime of Kim Jong-Un has focused world attention once again on the problem of totalitarian states.
Startling details of the centralised, command economy of North Korea have emerged, such as the fact that each and every North Korean home has a speaker directly linked to a government propaganda machine.
Reports that children as young as 5 in North Korea are given special political education classes in which they are taught to hate “imperialists” as well as their own parents are rather troubling.
Despite the myriad problems, so poignantly related by images of malnourished children, Julius Malema, who resembles the portly Kim Jong-Un in stature, has already modeled himself on the classic “personality cult” figures once associated with Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and Mao Zedong, choosing to brandish a beret and the banner of ‘class warfare against the oppressor‘.
If may be early days, but the comparison with Kim Jong-Un , Pol Pot and other regimes such as the Castro dictatorship in Cuba, in which political education classes resulted in torture camps and political prisons overseen by psychiatric doctors, is not all that far off the mark.
The ANC once had its own system of political detention camps in Zambia. EFF are again taking up the cudgels on behalf of abandoned Marxist-Leninist policies.
NOTE: *Speculation is rife that Malema could be a Manchurian candidate for Asian business interests who wish to install him in government without bothering with an election result.
Like all South Africans we have been mourning the father of our democracy, Nelson Mandela, and asking ourselves how to express both our grief and our gratitude for the life of a man whose spirit touched the whole world and inspired us.
The Day of Reconciliation on 16th December reminded us of his example in reaching out and embracing all citizens. We cannot help but measure our country’s progress against the vision of a unified country that he set out to achieve.
South Africa today is a shadow of its apartheid self in many ways but if we’re honest with ourselves, truth and reconciliation still eludes us.
While apartheid had the unintended consequence of uniting black people, irrespective of culture, creed or nationality, in the 20 years since we entered democracy and particularly in recent times, we have seen the prospect of unity across all cultures unravelling.
The wounds of apartheid still linger – poverty still exists along racial lines – and these wounds have been aggravated by the government corruption that has robbed our people of their dignity and caused distrust and bitterness.
Tribalism rears its ugly head, often encouraged by politicians. Targeted xenophobic attacks against Africans continue. We need to sort out land and affirmative action now, not later. As race groups we are perhaps less trusting of one another and less willing to cooperate with one another than we ever were before in democratic South Africa.
We have reached a stalemate. We can no longer look each other in the eye and say ‘we’ve done everything we can so that all our brothers and sisters have freedom’. We need to take forward the founding ideals of our democracy – dignity, equality, freedom for all – and change how we speak to each other so that we work together to realise them.
We believe we urgently need to look at the failings of the first Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Amongst these is the fact that the TRC was never meant to be an event but rather a process. Just as apartheid wreaked havoc on generations so too must the process of truth, healing and reconciliation be carried on across generations. There are other issues too, including the matter of the hold-ups in paying out the reparations promised reparations to victims.
That is why the Agang SA Youth Forum is calling for TRC II, and not just in the form that we had. While TRC I focused on truth and reconciliation primarily between races, we feel that TRC II should have an expanded scope to examine the truth and reconciliation that has to happen between socio-economic classes, between labour and capital and between political parties and the electorate.
Even in the most difficult times Madiba thought with his brains and not with his blood. It is not enough to just scream at one another; as a mature democracy we need to now find ways of reaching meaningful agreement. We need to engage honestly with our hearts and minds and out of that come to practical and shared solutions as South Africans on how we address our concerns.
To that end the Agang SA Youth Forum invites South Africans to engage on the best way to make TRC II come alive.
We are working to ensure that TRC II becomes Agang SA policy because whilst our party has the policies to restore the promise of freedom for all South Africans, we believe that a TRC II process would ensure that they are implemented in an environment in which they can have the most impact.
Since the initial TRC more information has come to light that has opened up old wounds and there are new wounds as socio-economic divisions have widened still further. We live in the most unequal society on the planet.
For the millions of our poorest brothers and sisters who remain dispossessed, the world will not change until we change the political and social context.
Our best moments as a nation are where we have found cause to work together and walk together towards a common goal. But the depth of our anger and resentment is such that we now struggle to contain it even when grieving for Madiba. We need leadership towards a point of meaningful, constructive engagement that produces concrete improvements to lives of all South Africans.
To get things moving we will be seeking an audience with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other key players in the TRC I process and other stakeholders in the private, public and social sector to look at how TRC II could be structured to make change now and to lay foundations for the next 20 years.
Agang SA Youth Forum Convener
BRITISH Labour MP and former cabinet minister Peter Hain says a one-state solution could “more easily resolve the deadlock than the two-state solution I and many others have long favoured”. In an article published by New Statesman, Hain says the establishment of a binational state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians – must now be seriously considered
“For close to seventy years the cycle of violence and hatred has ripped the region apart. Stop-start negotiations to achieve a two-state solution – an Israel with secure borders, not living under siege from its neighbours, and alongside an independent Palestine – have led nowhere, despite the fact that a majority of both peoples (Palestinian and Israeli) continue publicly to support it. ”
“I am both a longstanding supporter of the Palestinian cause and a friend of Israel.
As a British Minister for the Middle East in 1999-2001 Hain worked closely with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
“My record of fighting apartheid, racism and anti-Semitism is long and recognised.”
Hain is the first British figure with direct ministerial experience to argue that after decades of failure, a one-state solution to the conflict should be considered.
This comes as both Arab and Jewish Palestinians are engaged in peace talks involving the United States brokered framework agreement.
The latest proposal involves land swaps in which Israel would gain sovereignty over 70% of Jewish settlements on the West Bank in return for the resolution of the Jewish refugee land question involving 100 000 sq/km of deeded property owned by Jews which was confiscated by Arab States following Israel’s declaration of Independence in 1948 and the war which followed after these states refused to accept Israeli independence.
The talks have faltered on the issue of *Jerusalem and the extension of citizenship to some **6 million Jordanian-Palestinians living in Jordan.
NOTE: Medialternatives has already presented the case for a binational “one-state solution” also known as the three-state solution in which two states coexist within the borders of a third on the basis of a constitutional arrangement. Such a plan may involve a strong federal system as in South Africa, or a weak central government as is the case in Belgium.
* The original partition plan for “Palestine” involved the creation of a Corpus Seperatum, in which the UN declared that the city be placed under a special international regime. During the 1948 War, Jordan captured the old city of Jerusalem and the City was effectively partitioned until 1967 when Israel gained control of the West Bank and the East City. Islamic fundamentalists continue to maintain that Jerusalem should be the capital of an Islamic Empire which includes Palestine. However, there are now several such Palestinian entities, including the self-declared “State of Palestine” in the Levant. Its independence was declared on 15 November 1988 and only recognised by the UN in 2013.
**Under the Lausanne treaty following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, a population exchange between Greece and Turkey, occurred whereby 1.1 million Greeks left Turkey for Greece in exchange for 380,000 Muslims transferred from Greece to Turkey. Similarly, under the Belfour Declaration, population swaps occurred between the newly created state of Israel and the new state of Jordan. Because of an ongoing theological and territorial conflict amongst the Arab States, Jordan invaded Israel and occupied the West Bank until 1967.
THERE has been quite a bit of commentary online about the kiss which went too far, namely the failed merger between Agang and the DA. With Cape Times columnist Max du Preez uncharacteristically calling it the “kiss of death” — the criticism, mostly from men, of the moment when it looked as if South Africa’s opposition was about to be lead by a women’s coalition comprising Helen Zille, Mamphela Ramphele, Lindwe Mazibuko and Patricia de Lille — has been rather irksome.
Even more tiring is the predictable riposte from Zille, reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher’s response to Labour complaining about the fact that the gap between the rich and the poor had grown under Tory rule. Thatcher famously retaliated that Labour wanted nothing less than policies that would make the poor, poorer, “provided the rich were less rich.”
South Africa’s own iron lady, Helen Zille has thus reduced the Agang proposal for a merger, to an inappropriate request to decrease the gap between the rich and the poor. Yes, the entire party funding circus, in which the DA shifted blame for its own ineptitude on Agang, only to be caught by a rejoinder from the ANC, is really a bit like kissing a bride, and then making out with the best man, who happens to be the Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek.
Hayek who has some interesting ideas about what motivates the market, may have gotten some elements of economic theory right, but he sure as hell never understood the ‘animal spirits’ and love affairs of John Maynard Keynes.
It may well be that funders pressed the two parties into a premature election arrangement, and it might also be the case that such funding would be more efficient for two pro-market parties — if they both shared resources — but this leaves out an important difference and point of departure while deflecting attention from the issue of foreign donors.
Agang, unlike the DA, favours an inclusive citizenship, in other words, a social welfare state backed up by a market economy. Agang thus would have brought an important addition to the DA rhetoric of service delivery. The DA under Zille’s leadership however, wanted nothing to do with such “socialistic” tendencies, choosing instead to back unbridled capitalism and unhindered market forces.
The party thus jettisoned any hope of the necessary corrective that Mamphela Ramphele’s social welfare “builders democracy” would bring, while reducing the Zille-Ramphela kiss to a kneejerk kick in the crotch. All really a childhood misdemeanor with serious consequences for the electorate?
The DA has increasingly seen itself at odds with the centrist-left ANC over issues such as National Health Insurance. Most recently the problem of Patient and Patent Rights with regard to generic medication has raised eyebrows. At one point, back in noughties, (what ever do we call the past decade?) the DA actually supported a liberal proposal for a Basic Income Grant.
With progressives at its centre, the party was even hammering the ANC and its red faction on its slow roll-out of ARVs, but these progressive policies now appear to have been abandoned, or at least they are now firmly on the back-burner, as conservatives within the party appear to have gained the upper hand to the detriment of social welfare.
If another centre-left opposition coalition attempt fails, the DA may yet enter the evangelical Christian right-wing collective. In order to do so, it would have to first abandon woman’s rights such as Choice in Termination of Pregnancy and other traditional progressive policies such as the teaching of Evolution in Schools.
IT WAS bound to happen. With the collapse of the DA/Agang coalition, a new opposition coalition has stepped into the breach. This time it looks decidedly misogynistic and woman unfriendly. The Collective for Democracy (CFD) which formed in December last year has been under the radar until now. With the breakup of the much feted Zille/Ramphele relationship, a new political swing formation has been quick to capitalise on dissent.
CFD may have all the allure of a progressive movement but in reality it is nothing more than an evangelical Christian Coalition comprising the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), Congress of the People (COPE), the Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus), the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the United Christian Democratic Party.
CFD policies on the table include a hodge-podge amalgam of anti-abortion rhetoric, the end of abortion on demand, the teaching of creationism in schools, protection of white and black ethnic identity and if the EFF has its way, land redistribution and nationalisation.
Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and its firebrand leader Julius Malema could enter the coalition if the party gains seats in Parliament. The unproven red fascist party has entered a no-contest pact and partnership with the IFP.
IFP have attempted to distance themselves from CFD, but the rumours of an all out alliance if the ANC loses its majority in the election, persist.
Whether or not CFD, with so varied a political platform, will ever find the means to implement any of its policies, or broker the necessary political will and electoral expediency to get both the IFP and EFF on board, remains to be seen.
For starters, there are major contradictions within the collective and its partners.
For example, the COPE party manifesto promises the end of gender discrimination, but the party is governed by men such as Mosiuoa “Terror” Lekota, Lakota is a Roman Catholic, and while he may no longer be against the use of condoms for the prevention of HIV transmission, he most certainly is not in favour of abortion on demand.
The IFP on the other hand has tended to support those who oppose discrimination on the basis of religion, although the party favours Zulu traditionalism, it is not averse to siding with the evangelical agenda.
The EFF’s Julius Malema recently went on a pilgrimage to visit Nigeria’s foremost charismatic preacher, TB Joshua where he received blessings and elecution tips on how to approach the situation at Marikana. His oratory has much improved and he now claims to have found God.
EFF has been punting an essentially black supremacist outlook, but recently have taken to the same tactics as the DA in the quest for electoral power. The “rent-a-white” publicity stunts involving Wiekus Kotze have been all over social media. That a right-wing Afrikaner party such as the Freedom Front Plus could end up in a coalition with the EFF goes to show just how strange and fluid South African politics has become.
Arguably, EFF are the black version of the Freedom Front, and both party’s extreme quasi-socialist policies are really no different from each other. FF+ however, come from a tradition in which national socialism in the form of job reservation for whites, was in the exclusive domain of the Afrikaner minority.
Or will we see women’s rights disappear after the election, the repeal of the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1996 along with abolition of pink rights such as the right to sexual orientation, contained in our constitution ?
Will we see a return to theocracy and the end of the separation of Church and State? Only a reasonable turnout at the ballot box will solve this one.
A WEEK in South African politics is like a lifetime in the developing world. What started out as the “game-changing” realignment of South Africa’s major opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, soon descended into acrimony and mudslinging with party leader Helen Zille fielding questions about the withdrawal of funding. What had initially appeared to be a shot-gun wedding, a quickie marriage, soon turned into a divorce. What had possessed Zille to go back on her announcement the previous week, that Mamphela Ramphele would not only be South Africa’s first, ever black female Presidential candidate, but rather the DA’s presidential candidate of choice?
It appears that several factors related to the pact between the two parties, namely Agang and the DA, played a role in Zille retracting her decision and issuing an ultimatum that, now seems absurd in the runup to a general election.
The issue of the inclusion or merger of Agang into a unified political platform in which the DA was to be the major stakeholder and anchor tenant appears to have been the deal-breaker which ended up sinking the ship. Instead of drawing in Agang and Ramphele’s unique brand of politics which includes an enormous amount of work done on policies affecting education, labour, health, development and the public service — in effect Ramphele’s outlook on the South African economy — the visionary dream thing, of citizenship, welfare and service delivery — “building the country, for the builders, by the builders” — the DA instead decided to play hardball.
“Agang must collapse its structures” demanded Zille. DA analysts pointed to the party’s supposed “lack of traction”, “funding crisis” and “non-existent’ presence in Parliament. ANC aligned critics were in the meantime, maligning the arrangement and proposed merger as an example of “rent-a-black”. Was the DA simply “cherry-picking” or “parachuting” in a black face to cover-up for its lack of black representatives in Parliament? Agang may not have a well-oiled political machine, but it most certainly has members, many of whom would never vote for the DA.
Zille could have stepped forward with a 12 step plan to take both the DA and Agang forward. Instead she lost traction within her own party, squaring up to a revolt in the ranks, as Ramphele moved to quell dissent within Agang with her pleas for a unified opposition. Leadership is not about getting into the nitty gritty of contract, it is all about understanding the broader picture, in which collective decision-making, consensus-building, and being ‘first amongst equals’ matters more than personal issues.
The prospect of playing second-fiddle to a powerful business-woman like Ramphele must have given Zille nightmares at night.
Three women, all of different complexion is a neat “triumvirate” but four women? That’s an uncomfortable crowd that cancels out the secret feminine “locus of power”. Did Zille go too far in playing the Ramphele card?
Should she have at least have tried to include a few men in the picture?
The debacle has most certainly allowed both Maimane and Mazibuko to come to the fore.
As the saying goes, no press is bad press. The huge amount of exposure for both Agang and the DA served to take the wind out of the sails of the ANC and its political cohorts for at least a week, more importantly, it presented South Africa with a brilliant alternative. For a brief while, citizens across the nation dreamed of a future in which a black woman could become president.
Whether or not this dream will ever be realised is up to the politicians involved.