Central African debacle testing South African identity.

Where exactly are the borders of South Africa in a New World Order of changing economic relationships such as BRICS?

Questions over whether South Africa is South of Africa, or simply South of the North must have been plaguing diplomats last week in the rush to explain the loss of between 13 and 36 soldiers of an “expeditionary force” supposedly protecting assets in the Central African Republic before the local president was toppled by rebels.

With little clarity coming from South Africa’s President Zuma, who characteristically claimed “debate about the Central African Republic threatened national security” there was a lot of speculation in the media on the true motives for the military endeavor.

At first we were told that the loss was simply a “tragic accident”, then as independent reports emerged confirming heavy causalities by an elite parachute battalion, one of several such regiments, it transpired the deaths were the result of a full-scale battle deserving of military honours – the Battle of Bangui. Like the invasion of Angola by the apartheid regime, the “training mission” had turned into a “military operation”. Yet Operation Vimbezela as it is known, was referred to as an “expeditionary force” as far back as 2010, which gives us some insight into how the ANC securocrats and the emerging covert government of bilateral and trilateral global deals is running things.

South Africa’s heaviest military loss since apartheid raised prickly questions for Zuma over why our troops were sent to an area where South Africa has no immediate strategic interests.

This week our “brave SANDF troops” were being redeployed to a new frontline in the DRC, ostensibly under United Nations supervision. Another day, a different country, with a different set of politics, or is this what they want us to believe?

The words of ousted President Francois Bozize pointing fingers at Chad and urging further action in the ongoing war in the Sahel is cause for concern.

South Africa appears to be wavering in the face of an international resource conflict which is raging between various powers across Africa and also in the Gulf region. The Times carried reports of party-political involvement in some of the trade deals carving up the continent in a scramble for minerals.

What exactly are our obligations to the African Union and shouldn’t we be protecting our national sovereignty rather than our own economic interests to the possible detriment of member states? In short where exactly are South Africa’s borders?

That we have a military which still thinks in terms of extra-territorial interventions and army expeditions North of the Limpopo river without any concern for the possible logistical backlash in terms of our own national preservation and self-defense as a nation is alarming to say the least.

SANDF soldiers had to beg for essential equipment from French paratroopers deployed in the region.

This must leave some citizens worried that South Africa could very well end up being forced to host foreign military supervisors, with the possibility of aggressive intervention in our own affairs, for example, any one of the BRICS nations has a far greater and more capable military. Not that residents in Soweto would object to receiving protection from well-heeled Indian or French troops, but do we have to put up with the Chinese and Russian hawks at the same time?

The cost of the latest South African Community of Central African States airlift is estimated at between R277 and R370 million and will be paid by the SANDF,  according to communication head Siphiwe Dlamini.

At the end of the day the only barrier South Africa has between it and the rest of the world aside from land mass is a nebulous moral claim to being a free Republic with a human rights-based Constitution, — this appears to have been rendered null and void the minute our government started lying to its citizens while intervening in the affairs of another country, resulting in calls by the opposition for the impeachment of the Head of the Republic, Commander-in-Chief Jacob Zuma.

UPDATE: Open letter from M23

South Africa’s Dignity Wars – The Brett Murray Painting

DIGNITY AND indignation have a common etymologic root. When people speak of “Dignity” they often mean “Dig-ME-ty” as in the popular Whitney Houston anthem which goes: They can’t take away my dignity… because the greatest love of all is happening to ME.” We often reserve the right to become indignant, not realising that common law defines dignity in a very different way. Dignity or dignitas implies restraint, not indignation, the very opposite of the sentiments expressed in the “greatest love of all.”

The only restraints on freedom of expression (including love) in our constitution inserted, excuse the pun, by our constitutional assembly, refer to hate speech, incitement to violence and advocacy of war. Although we may become indignant about a particular work of art, how is an artwork which has no life to speak of in the real sense of the word, an affront on human dignity, which as the song says, cannot be taken away?

Brett Murray’s controversial print-work, The Spear, may portray our president in an undignified fashion, and we may have every right to become indignant at the sight of our president’s exposed genitalia, but how does this affect our rights and freedoms in terms of their intrinsic humanness – their basis not in things or objects, but our fundamental human condition?

It is revealing to find the president declaiming on his own image or likeness in public. Doing so merely perpetuates the notion that what we mean by dignity is dig-ME-ty, and that what is occuring is essentially an issue related to vanity, not human rights or frailty. [ Mike Van Graan, former head of the struggle-era Community Arts Project, appears to concur]. Public figures must learn to roll with the punches — but to take the portrait serously, even though it may be in extremely bad taste, is to risk reification, (see Gillian Schutte contrarian view on Big Dick-ness and the President’s Penis) worse still it reduces the artwork, and all artworks for that matter, into nothing more than literal or figurative representations, in the process denying the rights of citizens to interpret (and reinterpret) what they see.{Here is one attempt at reinterpreting the work by remixing it with a popular open source graphic tool, Gimp. Yes, Gimp is the sadist’s tool of choice, go figure.]

Censoring Brett Murray in this way is thus bound to backfire by turning into censorship of the body politic. Imagine laws being formulated on what can and cannot be portrayed in an artwork? We are all left the poorer for the resulting strictures and insistence on dignitas and gravitas whenever the office of the president is mentioned, as playwrite Zakes Mda puts it “as a person whose work was banned by the previous oppressors I’m against censorship even for those works that are not to my taste.” South Africa’s dignity wars thus risk turning the ANC into an advocate of the same right-wing politics which saw the banning of Ronnie Harrison’s 1961 Black Christ by the National Party government.

The Presidency should thus avoid drawing itself into public visual arts debates, debates which are best left to artists and art lovers. Doing so merely perpetuates the idea that South Africa is essentially leaderless and without the necessary “cojones” to rise above the challenge.

Dalai Lama problem just the tip of the iceberg

South Africa is a country which despite having a remarkable constitution has shown scant regard for the human rights outlined by Chapter 2. The recent debacle around the Dalai Lama is unfortunately, just the tip of the iceberg. If you recall, Chapter 2 is the chapter of the constitution in which our Bill of Rights exists.

Is there any right that the SA government has not trampled on with its denial of a visa to one of the world’s great peace activists and religious leaders – His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama?

One can name a number of freedoms off the top of one’s head, supposedly guaranteed by this document, all flouted in the name of political expediency.

Three essential freedoms which have been trashed, (and which I find most troubling), are religious freedom, freedom of association and freedom of movement. The China First policy being advocated by Presidential candidate Jacob Zuma flies in the face of all that we hold dear as a nation — are we about to see on unfolding of racism and xenophobia in the form of South Africa for South Africans?

To think that influx control and the dompas or passbook was in use, within living memory and barely twenty years ago, is stupefying. What is more, the days of Christian National Education and separate development appear to have no meaning for the ANC leaders of today.

I recall attending a mass rally in the 80s held at the Cape Town City Hall, called by the Tibetan Friendship Society in which the Dalai Lama appeared, calling for the release of Nelson Mandela and the unbanning of political parties. No wonder FW de Klerk found it impossible to contain local and international pressure and assented to the inevitable, for which he was rewarded with a Nobel Peace Prize. The real story has not been told, surely now is the time to set the record straight?

Unfortunately, like so many ANC leaders, even Nelson Mandela has found it impossible to break away from the Mephistophelean dance involving the ANC and National Party. The Long Walk to Freedom might as well be a history of the NNP for all it exposes is the manner in which isolation created a parallel universe in which Mandela was literally brainwashed into identifying with his jailers.

The history of the freedom struggle is not a history solely comprised of political intrigues masterminded by politicians. It is easy to forget the role played by ordinary people and our religious leaders. It is convenient to let go of the ethical and moral debates that surrounded those who attempted, on the one hand to argue that apartheid was a crime against humanity, and on the other, those who wished to justify their actions along with segregation, as somehow informed by the Christian Bible.

My own discrimination case against Media24 is yet another example of the denial of fundamental rights and freedoms in this day and age, in which a company comprised to a large extent of white, Christian males, is battling to assert its authority over the Jewish Sabbath. Media24, has yet to provide me with a bona fide contract recognizing my rights as a Secular Jew, and all that I am saying is – what I do on a Friday night is between me and my Friday night and has nothing to do with Media24.

In my mind there is no contradiction between Buddhism and Judaism and one might as well talk about Hashem and THE BUDDAH, along with every other prophet who gained enlightenment, since surely in the universe, all is one, there is only one G-d at the end of the day? Then there is the possibility that infinite intelligence produces multiplicity of possibility, each one as logically consistent as the next, in which case, G-d is every G-d that has ever existed. More on this subject in the following weeks to come.

SEE: Zuma state visit to China

SA peace meet postponed over Dalai Lama visa

Sunday Saloon: Hypocrisy as usual as whites barred

WHILE the outrage expressed by certain journalists of a paler complexion, at Friday’s re-launch of the Forum of Black Journalists (FBJ) is understandable (some white journalists were denied access while others were barred entry) – this blogger can only shake his head and remark at the hypocrisy of all concerned.

SANEF launched into a full scale uproar at Friday’s event, with a reaction which some called “rather stage-managed”, and yet the corporate editors forum continues to turn a blind eye to similar situations involving journalists in the lower ranks employed by its own affiliates.

SANEF have yet to comment on several allegations of discrimination against Media24 — a labour case has been lodged before the Labour Court in which it is alleged the company maintained and continues to maintain a system of racial profiling and racial segregation, particularly in one of its newspaper divisions, amongst other things.

As a struggle journalist who experienced the system of racial segregation first-hand, and having fought against racial prejudice, one would have thought the SANEF at least possessed the temerity to issue a letter of support. Not even a statement from the Freedom of Expression Institute has managed to galvanise these corporate sycophants into action.

Yes, the FBJ are being hypocritical in railing against the legacy of the apartheid system while at the same time, denying others the same right. No less than a show of solidarity amongst brothers will dispel this concern — If the FBJ is a product of the system, then surely it should not be prolonging the system any longer than is absolutely necessary?

Any structure based upon race is an obvious anomaly in the new South Africa, but is such a thing as the FBJ an incongruency out of step with the times? As many still argue, such structures are needed to address unique issues and special concerns raised by black journalists. To argue otherwise is to ignore the conditions under which black journalists have had to work, so the FBJ has my support.

SANEF on the other hand, are clearly nothing more than a gang of reactionary nincompoops driving around in expensive limo’s and as Polokwane has shown, increasingly out of step with the masses. SANEF has also been quick to criticize structures such as the FBJ — those which it perceives as a threat to the colonial legacy of baaskap under the current neo-conservative agenda while dragging heals on others.

What is good for the goose is surely good for the gander? Unfortunately SANEF does only what is necessary when it is convenient to do so and when its actions are unlikely to eat into the profits of its affiliates. Sheer hypocrisy of the highest order, amongst those who should know better.