Trump’s narrative on South Africa

IT is easy to dismiss Donald Trump’s tweeting on ‘white genocide’ and ‘land expropriation’ as simply the result of alt-right post-truth exaggeration. A deflection of the global attention from more pressing US domestic issues. Less apparent is the impact the twitter-lead spat will have on cooling relations between the two countries, and amidst rising tensions between the BRICS bloc, and the USA over China, and also relations with EU and Turkey.

Trump has for some months now, threatened to pull out of AGOA, a trade pact formulated under Mandela involving South Africa, the AU and the US.

State Department spokesperson has reiterated risks and consequences if South Africa embarks upon wholesale land expropriation without compensation, but the country is “not Zimbabwe”.

In a statement President Ramaphosa responded: “This is no land grab; nor is it an assault on the private ownership of property. The ANC has been clear that its land reform programme should not undermine future investment in the economy or damage agricultural production and food security. The proposals will not erode property rights, but will instead ensure that the rights of all South Africans, and not just those who currently own land, are strengthened. SA has learnt from the experiences of other countries, both from what has worked and what has not, and will not make the same mistakes that others have made.”

Both Congress and the Senate have recently shown cause to question what the US is getting in return for Africa’s unfettered access to US markets. The last round of trade wars, however saw cheap poultry being dumped on local markets to the detriment of the South African industry, with the country coming off second best.

It is therefore important to remember( in the same week that saw the demise of UN secretary-general Kofi Anan), that South African politics, often loud and boisterous, has tendered towards moderation and pragmatism at the end of the day, and that the ANC has a legacy of support for multilateral international organizations. South Africa a former British colony, still has strong ties to the Commonwealth.

In this respect, the country, one of the G20,  has one foot in the first-world and another foot in the developing world, an unenviable consequence of defeating apartheid and not simply the result of a troubled colonial past.  Pragmatic consensus-building and alliance-making based upon political realties may be the only path forward.

It would be a shame if the democratic order were to be upset by ideologues on either side of the Atlantic.

Letter: US Appeals Court Rejects Apartheid Cases

Dear Ed

US Appeals Court Rejects Apartheid Cases Against Ford, IBM 27 July 2015 refers

I write this letter in regard to the latest finding by the 2nd Circuit concerning the prominent role played by IBM information technology in the foundation of the apartheid regime. In particular, I wish to draw your readers’ attention to the tragic use of IBM technology in the management of population data and labour control, which has echoes in Nazi Germany.

The German ‘Extermination by Labour’ campaign depended upon specially designed IBM systems – the ‘custom-designed prisoner-tracking’ Hollerith punch card equipment which allowed the Nazis to efficiently manage hundreds of concentration camps and sub-camps throughout Europe.

Edwin Black’s ‘IBM and the Holocaust’ published in 2001, details these three-part IBM Hollerith machines leased to Nazi Germany and which involved a system of paper forms, punch cards and processing machines.

The technology allowed for the centralisation of sorting, tabulating and printing of documents used in the management and assignment of compulsory work, slave labour, and finally euthanasia.

Similar equipment leased to the apartheid regime by IBM was used to process black labour via the infamous Dompas or passbook, carried by all black South African’s restricting movement without permission of an employer and effecting denationalisation of subjects who were relegated to what were known as apartheid bantustans.

IBM technology was further used to conscript white South African’s into the SADF engaged in illegal acts of aggression in the townships and also during the illegal occupation of Namibia (South West Africa).

As an activist in the anti-apartheid movement, I can testify to the role played by IBM technology in the profiling and apprehension of my associates, and worse, the abuse and torture of conscientious objectors, tracking of war resisters, and dirty tricks campaign against supporters of SWAPO, as well as counter-operations against MK guerrillas.

For the 2nd Circuit to once again pronounce on the Alien Tort Statute by limiting its scope and powers, has severe implications for civil rights around the globe, and does not bode well for future abuses of human rights. The decision as it stands, painfully ignores the eminent domain inherent to any lease of technology and equipment by a US company around the world.

That US courts disclaim all knowledge of apartheid, and likewise other similar acts of state abuse of labour, such as the Nazi Holocaust and Stalinist Russia, is so beyond the pale that it beggars belief.

The 2nd Circuit has said IBM cannot be held liable for the actions of its subsidiary, “because the allegations fell short of showing IBM acted purposefully”. It thus appears confused about the instrumentality and role of information technology and data capture in the pursuance of the egregious and despicable labour practices associated with apartheid.

It further misstates the case by saying the plaintiffs “cannot plausibly allege that by developing hardware and software to collect innocuous population data, IBM’s purpose was to denationalize black South Africans and further the aims of a brutal regime,”

South Africa under apartheid was not simply a brutal regime, it was a well-thought out scheme to deprive black South Africans of control over our own labour and the civil rights many take for granted, such as the vote.

That IBM was complicit in this system of servitude and forced labour, which included infamous labour camps on the mines, is an historical fact. To call such a diabolical scheme, ‘innocuous’ is a slap in the face of all free-thinking persons around the world.

I therefore call for access to justice and support of an appeal to the US Supreme Court, on behalf of the victims and survivors of the apartheid system.

Published by Cape Argus, 30 July 2015

Dolezal: If you identify with the past, present and future of all black people, you black.

APARTHEID never worked, thousands of South Africans were reclassified according to the various race categories created under apartheid. It was enough to have just “one drop of niggers blood” reminds Louis Farrakhan to be considered black.

It was enough to associate with black persons via fraternisation and (Lord forbid) fornication for the authorities to take steps. Families were split down the middle. Much the same way the Rachel Dolezal story is playing itself out. Except here, her Christian Conservative family are apparently denouncing their daughter for being a white turncoat, a traitor to the supposed white race.

Being black is not a matter of pigmentation – being black is a reflection of a mental attitude.” – Steven Biko

If Dolezal was passing herself off as blonde, nobody would question her hair colour. If she was a transexual, or became a man ditto, but in an eerie flashback to the scientific racism of apartheid and the race segregation of the American Deep South, the world is now being entertained by the question behind her motives for wanting to be black, or the crass possibility of lucrative contracts.

Happy Sindane pictured weeks before his murder
Happy Sindane, “the boy who tried for white”

The Huffington Post’s Zeba Blay has gone so far as attacking Dolezal’s perm for being “culturally appropriative“, and suggests comparisons with transgendered persons are “detrimental to trans and racial progress”. In the process reducing blackness (and race oppression) to some weird physiognomy club, that excludes albinos, Asians and anyone who doesn’t pass the proverbial “pencil test”. The tragic case of Happy Sindane “the boy who tried for white” springs to mind.

The last time I read such an obscene resort to cultural norms, community standards and simple appearances, was during apartheid, when South African ministers routinely trotted out arguments about Christian “good neighbourliness” “own affairs” and “separate but equal.”

None of the accusations conveyed by the press are supported by any science or rational argument, for a good reason, there is no science behind race. Nations are not races. The legal fiction of affirmative action is just that, a fiction. And so what if Rachel Dolezol ended up employed by the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) for a decade, doing a sterling job fighting to the rights of minorities as a black changeling? Let’s read that again: National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, for a minute there, I thought it said: African Americans, as in Africa, the continent, not Coloured as in Mixed Race Identity Syndrome.

The NAACP was founded in 1909, is America’s oldest and largest civil rights organization, it advocates for rights for ethnic minorities but also fights for social justice for all Americans. The term “Coloured” is anachronistic and harks back to the days of racial segregation, when being a bastard could result in sterilisation.

Scientific racism along with eugenics and the apartheid heresy is a discredited field of research. There are no objective criteria which hold true for all human beings and proposals for such criteria tend to reinforce the problems with apartheid, which was a race-based system which never worked.(1)

Thousands of South Africans were imprisoned for resisting institutional racism, a system in which millions of people were classified by the state, and often forceably reclassified, or forced by the Immorality Act and Group Areas Act to apply for reclassification merely so that lovers and lifetime acquaintances were not separated by the law. One can only wonder at how the lesson of apartheid appears to have been lost on a Post-Mandela generation brought up on ready-to-eat TV meals.

What is irksome is the bald assertion that Dolezal has lied or committed a fraud. In order to lie, Rachel Dolezol would have to assert something which is not true. Her assertions however, are entirely valid and true, unlike the many Ad Hominem objections being raised in the media. (According to Jelani Cobb of the New Yorker, if she was lying, she was lying about a lie, the lie of race.)

We are surely in dangerous terrain if we deny an individual’s right to an identity, to a self-identity, and instead reach out for the jackbooted arsenal of  the apartheid-era Population Registration Act (which was abolished in South Africa in 1994), or like so many twitter users, argue for the creation of a new race classification board under some modern schema.

Individual identity or individuation is not reducible to skin colour or even genes. People are exposed to life experiences, and socialisation, (nurture as well as nature). In an interview with Dolezal’s parent’s, her family appear to have Native American heritage and thus could also be “trying for white”. The case also appears to be an abject lesson in what can go right or wrong in interracial adoption, when your “white child” adopts the identity of your “black child”. So much for appropriating oppression, this looks more like being faced with oppression head on.

Dolezal’s complicated background in which she appears to have either rejected, or has been rejected by her family, makes it even more difficult. According to a recent interview on network television, she “identified as a black person age 5, when she drew a self-portrait with a brown crayon”.  

Dolazal believes herself to be black, for all we know, she was brought up in a ghetto, and has had a relationship with a black man. It is trite that like her parents, Dolezal “tried for white” in her teens and failed

The laws of gravity apply to all people equally regardless of shape, colour, gender, or sexual orientation. There is no black science or white science, and there should be no legal consequences attached to terms such as black or white.

Race is a bad fiction

Any definitions of race are therefore bound to be fictions, and bad fictions at that. Both assertions of whiteness and blackness in regard to Rachel Dolezal are therefore coincidental and also true. The solution is intersectionality, the delineation of race as an oppression, in and of itself, not further racism.

Sadly, as an activist and writer, I face similar accusations by an apartheid-era media company. (This blog has carried my expose of the company and its active involvement in the maintenance of apartheid and also a media cartel covering up the truth)

The ludicrous and incoherent 2010 labour court decision written up by a corrupt labour broker moonlighting as an acting judge of the Labour Court of SA, who I shall call Judge Cheat, states that I am an “absurdity” for referring to myself as a “coloured person”.

I further stand accused, variously in papers and court testimony of a) being a Hindu, b) passing myself off as a Jew, or not being a Jew c) not being an Observant Jew d) de facto fraternising with black people at a mixed race nightclub in breach of my supposed religion.

The courtroom inquiry held in Cape Town was anything but a model of fairness and impartiality (The acting justice faces criminal charges lodged with the NPA of corruption and forging of documents) involved obscene questions about my hair and body features, and exactly why did I say: Jou Ma se Robbie Jansen?

I have a history of involvement in the anti-apartheid struggle. I have been sectioned under apartheid laws and subject to prohibitions on intergroup fraternisation. I even have a Jewish Bobba from Maitland, who grew up with both a white card and the card enumerated by persons such as C Vogel and A Abdhuramen, who illustrate the problems of Coloured identity and the race criteria used by legal authorities. Viva District Six.

For some, I have been assimilated into the “coloured” community of Cape Town. For others, I have “multi-race identity syndrome” or worse “protest psychosis” and the black disease outlined by Johnathan M Metzl, who explains how schizophrenia became a black disease associated with runaway slaves and belligerence against colonial masters.

My petition before the Constitutional Court of SA (lodged with the JSC, not the JSE, but who can tell the difference these days?) for instance states amongst other things, that I am considered a Khoisan and a Griqua by the Griqua Nation. So far as the Khoisan are concerned, if you identify with the Earth, you are a Khoisan. Ditto for the Bantu. A Bantu by all accounts from South Africa is nothing less than a human being and arguing otherwise is likely to result in an assagai being thrown in your general direction.

So far as I am concerned, I am nether black nor white, but rather a member of the species homo sapiens sapiens. This is neither a liberal position, nor a solely humanist assertion, but rather, a plain and simple scientific fact.

So like the controversy over Dolezal, the case against me, (not in the Middle Ages, but in the modern era of democracy, the 21st Century), is rather what is absurd here, that I have somehow “passed myself off as a “Coloured Person” during the struggle to advance the cause of the Coloured, and on the basis of this deception, I have gained employment at a “Coloured” newspaper, published by South Press and then also Grassroots.” And now that bastion of race profiling and compartmentalised racism, the People’s Post. The whole thing stinks.

If people think there is anything to be gained by being a black man or woman, think again. Being niggarised like Jani Allen, or reduced to second class citizenship and labour servitude by white supremacists, isn’t what one could call good clean fun, and all this merely in order to be treated as a bone fide member of some or other dinkum race group?

Get out of here. Nobody in their right mind would think like this, unless of course, you just swallowed a load of bull put out by the Ku Klux Klan and their local offshoots, the AWB.

Humans have much genetic diversity, but the vast majority of this diversity reflects individual uniqueness and not race.

The Obama Contradiction

SPEAKING in front of the U.N. general assembly, 26 September 2012, U.S President Barack Obama called on world leaders to confront the forces of intolerance and extremism within their own countries and permit more freedom at home. The blatant deception in these remarks is so startling that when I heard it on the radio in my car; I had to dig out my sunglasses to avoid causing an accident.

Over the past two weeks U.S. embassies, predominantly in the Arab world, have been bombed or attacked in a somewhat knee-jerk reaction to the airing of a U.S. produced anti-Islamic film. Obama’s statement is a clear condemnation of the acts committed by terrorists who often obliterate the lives of the innocent in religious defiance of anything that is seen as a threat or menace to the Islamic world.

Condemnation rightfully so, yet there is something quite contradictory in the utterances by the leader of the “free world.” As the saying goes “all’s fair in love and war,” yet little over the better part of a decade has been fair in this much loved game of war.

Terrorism, especially in its 21st century U.S portrayal, takes the shape of fundamental extremism. As Communism ground to a halt, the American economy required a new source of capital flow. War, real or perceived, is vital for its economy to stay afloat.

Exceptional examples of American prosperity under war are littered throughout the annuals of time; none more so than U.S. involvement in the second world war. However, events that took place during the presidency of Ronald Reagan set the wheels in motion for the political trend that is evident today. During his tenure in office, Latin American countries became the new “promised land” for a large number of American based transnational companies. Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador at one point or another fell prey to the neoliberal doctrine practised so vociferously in the best interests of American prosperity. In the name of democracy, global peace and poverty alleviation the U.S. unleashed a terror similar to that of the Spanish conquistadors. Instead of blankets covered in smallpox, they received democracy in return for exploitation. So called evil empires, run by dictators that did not have the best interests of its nations population at heart needed to be removed.

When, in 2003, George W. Bush invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, the intentions were not so clear. The logic behind the story goes, dislodge a disingenuous, tyrannical and populist movement and liberate the masses under the sacred banner of democracy. The actual intentions were three fold. One: money follows blood. The longer and more violent a war, the more arms manufacturers stand to benefit as does the economy. Two: oil. With vast, oil rich resources, anyone with the ability to manipulate Iraq’s oil supply – especially in an era when non renewable energy resources are on the decline – essentially develops or reaffirms global hegemony. Third and finally: an enlarged Middle Eastern sphere of influence. With Israel as it’s only ally in the region the U.S. has managed to distance Iranian influence from an increasingly nuclear Pakistan by strategically placing itself in Iraq. It also shields Israel from threatening, but often not unprovoked hostilities from Iran.

When Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th American president back in 2008, he did so off the back of an election campaign promising change. His perestroika of change went along the lines of promising to forbid companies in bankruptcy from giving executives bonuses, to enact windfall profits tax for oil companies, and, in consultation with the Iraqi government, to end the war safely and responsibly within 16 months of taking office, among a multitude of other promises. None of these so called promises of change have been enacted. In fact, since taking office, Obama picked up the baton where his republican predecessor George W. Bush left off. To quote from his address to the U.N, it makes sense that he has spent more money on the war in Iraq than Bush.

“Make no mistake: A nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained, it would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations and the stability of the global economy.”

When the U.S. invades nations under the guise of liberators, it is akin to the kind of atrocities committed by extremist Islamic sects, only the implications of such acts are more clandestine in nature. The 9/11 attacks claimed the lives of nearly 3000 people. The war in Iraq has claimed the lives of some 114 732 people, with this number still rising.

“People need to confront the forces of intolerance and extremism within their own countries and permit more freedom at home.”

If the U.S. was serious about this claim, it would be more tolerant of nations that do not, by general consensus, wish to live under U.S. imposed democracy. Some nations do not want to adopt free-market economic principles. These are not wrong choices, yet they differ from those that are championed by the “liberators” of the world and must therefore be tyrannical, despotic and deplorable.

For real change, change that the world can believe in, Obama should – by way of introspection, take his message to heart. As dangerous as a person with C4 explosives strapped to their body may be, so too is a nation famous for its veiled neo-colonial ambitions. Terrorism by another name is still as dangerous. Come willingly or there will be hell to pay!

Warren Gwilt is an independent political analyst and social activist based in Johannesburg. He has a BA Journalism degree from the University of Johannesburg.

Ideological Exclusion: Habib visa refusal challenged

NEW YORK – A leading US civil liberties group mounted a legal challenge against the US government on Wednesday over its refusal to grant a visa to a leading South African Muslim academic.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the case in Boston challenging the US Departments of State and Homeland Security, who refused scholar Adam Habib a visa accusing him of engaging in terrorist activities.

government failed to explain the basis for its accusation, let alone provide any evidence to prove it,” the group said in a statement.

“The ACLU, in today’s legal complaint, is now demanding that the government substantiate its ban on Habib or grant him a visa.”