Soweto is not just a suburb of Johannesburg located right near the mining belt; it is an enormous urban sprawl, with over 1.2 million inhabitants. It is more populous than Boston or Amsterdam.
It used to be a place synonymous with misery, with sadness, with the depravity of apartheid.
This is the township where Nelson Mandela lived with his first family and then with his second wife, Winnie. This is from where he was forced underground in 1961, before being arrested one year later and sentenced to life in prison by the pro-Western apartheid regime.
And this is where, in 1976, a student uprising against apartheid erupted, and up to 700 young people lost their lives, among them the 12-year-old-boy Hector Pieterson, whose death became a symbol of regime’s savagery.
Soweto, which gets its name from ‘South Western Townships’, with its tin roofs, unpaved roads and excessive crime rate had been, for many years and decades, an emblem of poverty and hopelessness.
But since the end of apartheid, South Africa became a totally new nation – progressive, socialist and increasingly compassionate. Two decades after the new rainbow flag was raised, Soweto looks cosmopolitan, upbeat and forward-looking.
Most of the roads are now paved; a commuter train system transports tens of thousands of people between Soweto and the center of Johannesburg. There are elegant, South American-style bus lanes, as well as a super modern motorway (‘Soweto Highway’, which branches from the N1) with dedicated lanes for public transportation.
Soweto counts an architecturally stunning stadium, with enormous playgrounds for children, new green areas, and countless lanes of high quality social housing. Not far from ‘Mandela House’, which has been converted into a museum, there are countless hip restaurants, cafes and art galleries.
There are also two modern medical facilities: the Baragwanath hospital, and the new Jabulani, 300-bed hospital that was handed over to the Gauteng health department in 2012.
New schools are opening their doors.
As written by Bongani Nkosi in 2011:
“The community of Soweto now has access to a state-of-the-art higher learning facility, following the multi-million rand upgrade of the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) campus in the township.
Formerly known as Vista University, the UJ campus is now of the same stature as universities in South Africa’s more affluent towns. It sports a more exciting look than Vista, which was built by the apartheid government to prolong racial segregation in tertiary education.
The university was transformed at a cost of R450-million (US$62-million), a sum allocated by the government in 2005. Science and Technology minister Naledi Pandor commented that the design “inspires creative thinking”.”
This is Africa; this is a proud and determined African nation rising, taking off.
It is not perfect; this is no paradise. But those of us who are well acquainted with hell; with those African countries that were forced to become client-states of the West, all over East, West and Central Africa, where the poor are literally made to eat shit, where the sick are dying in agony, where there is no justice for the under-privileged majority… for those of us who know, South Africa is a tremendous force, of enormous hope and true pride! This is BRICS, or more precisely, BRCS.
Few weeks after being told by slum-dwellers in New Delhi (the capital of ‘democratic’ India) that they would never dare go near ‘that enormous building near us’ (they were referring to the luxury mall), because the guards would beat them up, I saw several old women in Soweto pushing huge shopping carts out of the elegant, marble-glass-and-fountains, Maponya Mall.
Yes, in Soweto they now have malls and the huge Virgin Active Health Club.
I asked one of the ladies, whether she can really afford shopping here.
“It is cheaper here”, she explained. “Small shops are bit more expensive. And… it is very clean and nice here”.
Does she have any problems with the guards?
She does not understand my question. We smile at each other, and then she leaves.
But by now, there is a small group of people that has formed around me. Men and women are curious; they want to know why I find it so surprising that they are shopping here. I explain that in many capitalist countries like India, Indonesia or Kenya, people like this gentle old lady would never have been allowed to enter, or would never be able to afford to shop in a place like this.
There is laughter coming from the group, but it is friendly, encouraging laughter. People finally realized that I am a foreigner, and that I came here to understand and to write about their country.
“This mall was built for us”, explained an elderly man. “And in South Africa, we can go wherever we want and nobody would dare to stop us. We fought for this, and we won.”
I suddenly realize that at one of the entrances to the mall, there is a statue of a young boy, being carried…
“Who is it?” I ask, although I know the answer to my own question almost as soon as it leaves my lips.
“Hector Pieterson”, I am told. “A boy who died, in 1976, fighting against apartheid.”
Outside, after I enter a hired car, my Burundian driver explains as we begin driving towards Pretoria:
“South Africans have no fear. They can talk about anything here; they are very brave. They can praise or insult, they can criticize President Zuma or the police, military… no problem. It is a very free country. Before I only knew Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya – I could never imagine what it is to be free, to have no fear. A country where you can say what you think, go where you want to go, do what you want to do… In South Africa you see the guards, but they would never stop you… Poor people, black people: they can go to any of the expensive shops, even to the privately-owned platinum mines, and no one would stop them. Nothing would happen. Here, you can photograph anything, discuss anything… I never thought that such country could exist.”
I test that freedom on many occasions, during this latest visit of mine, to South Africa. I test it at the platinum mines, near the military installations, during clashes between protesters and the police. South Africa passes all the tests gracefully and confidently.
One day I go to the Constitutional Court of South Africa, in Johannesburg. It is not in session, but there are judges and clerks present there.
In front of the building, a young woman is shouting insults directed at the government of South Africa. She is very vocal and very vulgar, and her ‘audience’ consists of several confused and titillated foreign visitors (they perhaps feel that they are ‘witnessing a piece of history in the making’).
I knock at the door. The door opens. “I would like to enter the Court”, I say. A security personnel officer looks at me, embarrassed. “Could you come back in a few minutes? We are bit… concerned that the lady outside will try to enter and will try to shout inside, disrupting work…”
“But I have nothing to do with her…”
“Oh, OK then…” They let me in. I only have to put my phone and cameras through the X-Ray machine. Security procedures are lighter here than when entering a Kenyan supermarket. Then, soon, I am in. No questions are asked.
“A Luta Continua” is written on the wall. A revolutionary slogan, that means “The Struggle Goes On!”
I enter the courtroom. Nobody cares what I am doing or where I am going. I photograph and again, nobody cares.
I don’t know why the lenses of my glasses suddenly become foggy.
I talk to a judge… I am not supposed to be talking to a judge, on the record… We manage to get around the restrictions: I don’t ask his name, and he talks.
I ask about President Zuma, about that endless, toxic propaganda howls against him, coming from abroad.
“He was acquitted”, says judge. “The entire world, even the West, keeps repeating that South Africa has the best, or at least one of the best and freest, judiciary systems on earth. But when a decision is made, as in the case of President Zuma, and it is not to their liking, they are suddenly questioning the integrity of our entire judiciary system.”
‘President Zuma taking shower after unprotected sex’, or ‘President Zuma allegedly involved in corruption’. Over and over again, the same old tune.
One never hears: ‘The President of Indonesia used to be an army general responsible for atrocities in East Timor during the occupation, and then in charge of the on-going genocide in Papua… he is also unwilling to stop the plundering of the natural resources of the country…’ We never hear that ‘Both the presidents of Rwanda and Uganda are responsible for much of those 10 million deaths in the Democratic Republic of Congo; people butchered on behalf of Western governments and multi-national companies’. That is because all of them – SBY, Kagame and Museveni – have been dutifully serving the interests of the Empire.
While presidents Zuma, Mugabe and Afwerki, are committing the highest crime in the eyes of the Empire – they are trying to serve the interests of their people.
Much more apparent is that, the progress seen in socialist or socially-oriented countries/societies that are trying to improve lives of their people – such as South Africa, China, Brazil, Eritrea or Venezuela – the louder and more vitriolic the insults by the Western mainstream/corporate propaganda media, which does all it can to discredit and belittle their achievements, and smear these progressive governments.
Realizing that ‘socialist’ is once again seen as something positive, at least by billions of people all over the world, the Western propaganda is now using a very effective weapon of deception – it portrays countries like South Africa and China as ‘not socialist enough’, or even as ‘more capitalist than those countries in the West’. Unfortunately, it is an extremely effective tool of trickery.
On the other hand, brutally capitalist or feudal countries like India or Indonesia are hailed as ‘democratic’ and tolerant, even if these countries are openly devouring their own miserably poor majorities.
In Indonesia or in India, governments and the private sector can get away with just about anything – from genocides (in Papua and Kashmir) to corruption on an epic scale – as long as they are loyal to market-fundamentalist doctrines, and as long as they are willing to sacrifice their own citizens for the interests of the Empire.
Countries like South Africa or China are constantly under the microscope. They can get away with absolutely nothing.
South Africa is not unlike Brazil, its fellow BRICS country, as it used to be a decade or so ago. It is a rich nation with excellent infrastructure, but with deep social problems. It is a great multi-racial and multi-cultural society with enormous potential.
It is a beacon of hope, not only for the African continent, but also for the entire world.
South Africa matters! If it succeeds as a country, with a progressive political and social system, then it will deliver to its long-suffering people what they fully deserve: true freedom and prosperity. It would also offer another great alternative model for humanity. If it fails, much of the African continent will lose trust in daring and fighting for a better world. That is why South Africa should never be allowed to fall!
Chris Lwanga, Political Assistant to leading opposition politician, James Akena MP who is a son of the late progressive President of Uganda, Milton Obote. He expressed his opinion about South Africa, for this report:
“Potentially South Africa is the true engine and hope of Africa. This is in terms of resources both developed and un-developed. That potential couldn’t be fully tapped because the ANC went into talks for ending apartheid minus a global ally standing on her side. The formation of the BRICS states is good news for ANC/South Africa and Africa! It shall enhance the role of South Africa. It is supposed to play to realistic levels. Africa feels proud of the younger rainbow nation and treats South Africa as her newly-born child that is destined to defend and promote Africa in a hostile global world. A newborn child after the dismantling of apartheid and attainment of majority rule since 1994! Majority rule can be viewed as that of a child’s growth and development, one that must be nurtured! The emergence of the BRICS grouping is a move in the right direction that South Africa, Africa and the rest of the progressive world must support. And if South Africa matures into a socially responsible state, that would be a development the imperial and colonial forces don’t want to happen, hence an early attack on South Africa, its policies and membership of BRICS.”
Yes, hence an early attack! The usual strategy of the Western propaganda system: to vulgarize all genuine attempts to improve the lives of people in Latin America, China, Russia and Africa; to inject nihilism and to spit on enthusiasm.
In Kenya, Edris Omondi, who is a lawyer and Editor-in-Chief of Frontline International Magazine, is clearly inspired by South Africa and its prominent Marxist, Joe Slovo:
“I draw inspiration from Joe Slovo the then General Secretary of the South Africa Communist Party, that a party such as the ANC should consider the complex social fabric, ranked from communists, non-communists, workers, capitalists and middle class in designing its policy. He said: “It’s a forum of the people, the whole people, whereas the party goes beyond just the struggle against racism and believes that in the end the only rational form with which humanity should order its life is through a system in which one person can’t live off the labor of another, a system of socialism. And we don’t postpone the advocacy of that until after the ANC flag flies over Pretoria. We regard it as our independent task as a party to begin to explain, to get acceptance for the doctrine of socialism and its ultimate implementation in South Africa”. These words of Joe Slovo are the ultimate critical truth to salvage tribal politics in Kenya and any part of Africa and every political party work should embrace the same in their manifesto for ultimate party and national success.”
South Africa is increasingly inspiring the continent’s ‘Left’, which has been for decades derailed, beaten, manipulated, even murdered, mainly by the outside forces of former and present (European and North American) colonialist powers.
My friend, Mwandawiro Mghanga, opposition leader and Chairperson of the Social Democratic Party of Kenya (Marxist), a poet and former prisoner of conscience under the pro-Western dictatorship of Moi, explained to me, on several occasions:
“We are in contact with the leftist movements of Africa… we are actually connected to the South Africa Communist party… ANC is truly progressive nationalist political party. It consists of the COSATU and the South African Communist Party. They call it the Tripartite Alliance – ANC, COSATU and the Communist Party. The ANC is the great hope for Africa. It is serious and it is a progressive socialist party.”
I mentioned to Mwandawiro Mghanga, that South Africa in general, and President Zuma in particular, are steadily demonized in the West. He replied, passionately:
“They are! Very much so… but the only thing they, the West, can do is to bark to deal with it, because it’s the only party that is controlling the government; it was elected by the people, it’s in power, and they are very much alert about being constantly undermined. I have been reading and also receiving direct information from South Africa… You know we are partners to the likes of COSATU. Communists dominate it; even President Jacob Zuma is coming from there.”
Wherever I went, the eyes of Africans were pointing towards South Africa – be it in Ivory Coast, Uganda and Kenya, in Namibia and in Lesotho.
I witnessed the deployment of the South African police force, in Maseru, Lesotho, after the aborted coup there. Again, what came to my mind were Brazil and its acts of regional solidarity towards countries like Venezuela and Bolivia.
Even in Namibia, a country that had been occupied and battered by South Africa during the apartheid regime, most of the people see their big neighbor now as a country in transition, a nation that is taking off, and becoming a thoroughly sovereign and free homeland for all of its citizens.
“They do things well there”, a man who fought for both the independence of Namibia and Angola tells me in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. “It seems that the welfare of their people is the most important thing for the government.”
In front of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, the promise of the future, Preamble to The Constitution, is engraved in stone:
“We, the people of South Africa
Recognise the injustices of our past;
Honour those who suffered for justice and
freedom in our land;
Respect those who have worked to build
and develop our country, and
Believe that South Africa belongs to
all those who live in it, united in its diversity…”
South Africa is not a ‘perfect country’, because there are no perfect countries in this world.
But it is one of those very few places on earth, which manages to cover my body with goose bumps whenever I arrive, and encircle me with great sadness, whenever I have to leave.
It is a country that is capable of evoking great and pure emotions – a country worth fighting for.
My South African friend who works for the United Nations and therefore is not allowed to speak on the record, expressed his outrage over the treatment his country is receiving abroad:
“The West ran out of its propaganda ammunition against Zuma. They tried to smear him by all means: calling him a polygamist, ridiculing his sexual practices. But despite everything, he is still there and under his leadership, his country, our country, South Africa, is clearly improving.”
I mention that it is so obvious that huge progress has been made, all over the country.
“But of course there is!” Proclaims my friend, who is actually white, but to whom being African and South African in particular, means much more than the color of his skin. I don’t even know whether he voted for Zuma, it is irrelevant. What is essential to him is that his country should be judged and portrayed fairly:
“There is enormous progress, and people voted for Zuma again… Zuma came from the grassroots of the ANC. Some may say that ANC itself is not necessarily a left-wing party, anymore… But its youth-wing and its women league, its alliance with COSATU and the Communist Party – because of them its politics are left wing.
What irritates me the most is that Western media is using totally different measures and language, when it comes to South Africa. They don’t care what is happening in the political space of South Africa. They are just throwing stereotypes at Africans. I always feel like saying: ‘you propagate for democracy, but when it happens in countries like South Africa, you cannot accept it’. They refuse to understand that as in any other country on earth, there are social classes in South Africa. They do not judge us with the same measures as they judge themselves.
Some South African media outlets are also treating South Africa unfairly. It is because foreign interests own several of those outlets, and local elites and their interests own many. And the ‘elites’ have lost!”
Not to see how South Africa has progressed on the social front requires huge discipline.
I witnessed cheering children from poor neighborhoods taking a ride on that new legendary Gauteng Train, which now counts on three lines, connecting at the speed of 160km/h, the cities of Pretoria, Johannesburg and O.R. Tambo International Airport. What I saw was part of a school excursion, something one sees in the countries like Venezuela.
I saw people painting their fences and beautifying their streets, on so called Mandela Day.
I traveled to Alexandra that in the past used to be one of the most terrible townships in the country, and atop it the posh suburb of Sandton is located nearby. Now, everything here is in transformation, with several new areas dedicated to state-subsidized social housing, like Bothabela Village.
In the middle of Alexandra, I asked Richard Baloist about life in the township, and he answered without any hesitation: “Things are much better now. We are free now… and we are supporting this government… There is sanitation here, electricity and water…”
Ms. Irene passes by and when she overhears our conversation, she decides to join in. She is against Zuma and his government: “There is no change”, she utters.
I begin asking her practical questions and she replies, honestly:
“Yes, they dropped school fees… yes, they supply children with school uniforms, notepads, books… We have clinics here, and yes they are free, and so is medicine for the poor. We have ‘medical cards’, and the quality of medical care is OK… All mothers in South Africa get around $30 dollars a month per each child, and giving birth here is free, for both South Africans and foreigners.”
I ask Ms. Irene why she is against Zuma, and she replies: “I simply am… But most of the people here are voting for him.”
In almost every town of South Africa, there are public libraries, sport facilities, and playgrounds. In every township there are clean shopping centers and medical posts. And slums are undergoing great transformation, mutating into livable neighborhoods, from what had been something that could easily be described as hell on earth.
On the outskirts of Alexandra, there is still the appalling Mokuku slum, located right next to the river. But immediately across the bridge, there are entire neighborhoods of high-quality social housing and green areas.
I speak to a security guard of the Bothabela compound, which is part of a Johannesburg Social Housing Compound. He explains:
“Here, people are paying what they can afford, and they get all necessary services. As you can see, construction of social houses is everywhere – here or in Soweto, everywhere… Many people who live here are working, but there are also unemployed people living here, as well as single mothers. People are really happy to live here.”
Is crime an issue?
“In social housing, there is almost no crime. Crime is now generally much lower than 20 or 10 years ago. Even crime in the center of Johannesburg has gone down, dramatically.”
A man wearing a Zuma T-shirt approaches us, grinning happily.
I shout at him: “Are you supporting President Zuma?”
He looks at me as if I’d have fallen from the Moon: “But of course I support him!”
And he smiles and poses.
I feel like I am in Venezuela.
South Africa is becoming a true Rainbow Nation, a real tolerant and multi-racial, multi-cultural society.
It is not fully there yet, of course. The horrors of apartheid, its ‘boxing of people’, dividing them, has created a legacy which will take many years to fully dismantle.
As I am about to board my train from Cape Town station, bound for Simon’s Town, I hear some loud screams and I see two black women and a man being pushed by police off the station. There is actually no police violence; the officers are black and white, men and women. People being pushed off are shouting a few insults, trying to throw plastic boxes at the law enforcers.
I asked what happened. Police pointed at a convenience store owned by a man of Indian descent.
I go there.
“What happened?” I wonder.
“I can tell a thief before he or she begins stealing from me”, he begins shouting. “They came here for nothing good!”
I am beginning to understand that he called police simply on suspicion that something could be stolen from his store. There was no theft, no action.
A white man who entered the store begins shouting: “I already left this shithole country twice. I should have never returned!”
The violence of those outbursts truly shocks me. Especially considering that nothing really happened.
Buying my ticket to Simon’s Town, I get into a conversation with a local ‘colored’ (as people of mixed blood are called in Africa) girl. Soon she detects from my accent that I am not from South Africa.
“You know”, she tries to explain, “Things like this happen, but this not a norm, anymore. There has been great progress. People of different races now get along really well… most of them.”
“I know”, I say. “I have travelled all over South Africa…”
“And how do you find it?”
“I love it”, I reply, honestly.
“Really? That makes me… so happy.”
“I really do. I feel at home here, just as I feel at home in Venezuela, Cuba, China and Russia.”
She gives me a big smile. Then she pokes me on the shoulder: “Welcome to South Africa!”
On commuter trains in South Africa… here, along these lines it shows, it is so evident, how South Africa is struggling, how it is trying to fly high and to become a wealthy nation for all… But it cannot fly too high yet, although it will, soon, no doubt. There are still too many weights it has to shake off, too many ropes and bandages that it has to cut off. It is trying so hard, its muscles are working to the extreme, its brain is working, and its heart is pounding.
Cape Town stations, still painted with graffiti, still scary and tough… still barbed-wire… still the desperate look in the eyes of cornered teenagers.
Better, yes, much better, but still……
Steenberg… Almost there, to that cozy middle class neighborhood, but not yet there… too many fences and the pavement is too broken. Close by stand new and modern, elegant houses. Then suddenly a lake appears, and the lakeside, so similar to neighborhoods in Australia or New Zealand… rugby fields and suburban ‘bliss’. We laugh at suburbia in the United States or in Canada, but here it is not funny; it is millions of people rising up from poverty and for the first time, given a chance to live! Not really rich, but definitely ‘First World’. The population here is mixed, totally mixed. Finally! Oh South Africa! What a fight, what a struggle, what heart, what courage!
Then the train hits the coast, and suddenly it is moving along some of the most beautiful scenery on earth. It is bit like Chile, my faraway imaginary homeland.
Kalk Bay… Beaches and beaches all along the track… all the way to Simon’s Town… and beyond that, there is no train, only a road, just the marvelous wilderness until the very end, the very tip of Africa – the Cape of Good Hope.
On the opposite seat, a father, a white man, is playing with his two sons. One son is white and one is black. Perhaps they are from two different marriages. He is spoiling them both, corrupting them with candies and his love. He looks at both children with equal pride. Soon, one forgets that the children belong to two different races.
This is the new South Africa. This is Africa rising!
And here it is – that damned Lonmin Marikana mine; the mine strikes of 2012… the massacre that took 44 lives in total, and made South Africa ‘notorious’, just two years ago.
I don’t want to go into the political details of the tragedy, as they are too murky.
But I have to testify that this terrible drama was once again twisted and exploited by the foreign media and those who wanted to discredit South Africa.
The mine, let us not forget, is owned by a giant British mining company, not by the ANC, not by the South African Government, not by President Zuma. The fact that some ANC cadres had stakes in that mine is not proof of anything: the mine is one of the biggest in South Africa, employing tens of thousands of people. Many, many people have investments in it.
Then, it should be remembered that the AMCU (union organization) is the one that ordered the strike. And AMCU is a breakaway faction from NUM (that is COSATU-affiliated, therefore to a large extent, Marxist). AMCU proudly claims that it is “apolitical and noncommunist”.
Many believe that if the strike was organized by NUM, there would have been no bloodshed.
The Communist Party of South Africa strongly criticized AMCU for the way it was conducting the strike. It even called for the leaders of AMCU to be arrested.
Furthermore, the British owners of the mine kept the working conditions of the miners (at least until the 2012 strike and the massacre) at an appalling level, and they refused to accept the conditions of the strikers and to negotiate, which led to the escalation of tensions.
The South African Trade and Industry Minister, Rob Davies, testified that “the conditions in the mines was “appalling” and said the owners who “make millions” had questions to answer about how they treat their workers.”
I drove to Rustenburg and to Lonmin Marikana in order to speak to the miners.
I wanted to hear directly from them what really took place in 2012.
To my great surprise, this was the only place in South Africa, where fear was clearly detectable.
While the entire world ‘knows what happened’, or more precisely was made to consume a well-massaged digest of the events that took place two years ago, at Marikana itself, an investigator who dares to ask direct and ‘uncomfortable’ questions is greeted with blank faces and sometimes with a chilling silence.
Mr. Leonard is a 55 years old miner and he has worked here for 15 years:
“The company warned us not to touch or damage anything. The company was of course involved in the killing. I don’t know about the government. I was there when it happened. It was horrendous. All we wanted was to be paid a bit better and to have our conditions improved. The company refused. We were paid then, some US$500 (5,000 Rand) a month, for an 8h45min working day, and for 6 days a week labor. People here are getting sick from overwork. The working conditions are really poor. Now we are paid 7,000 Rand, an increase, but not a really dramatic one. We know it is a foreign – British – company. And it is only interested in profit and production, not the people. In 5 years from now, after I retire, I will most likely have nothing.”
I speak to a lady-miner. She refuses to provide her name. But she is pessimistic:
“Our working conditions have not improved. I have worked here for 3 years and it is now the same as before. I don’t understand anything: our country is improving, working conditions are improving everywhere… but not here.”
And then it comes: two miners, one after another speak to me, anonymously:
“We think that it was the company that paid the police and security forces to kill the workers, not the government. We actually think that the government in the end pushed for and secured many changes here, on our behalf. We are afraid to speak openly… Because the killings are still going on… if we talk, we could disappear…”
This is not the South Africa that I know and admire. This is not that brave and fearless country. This is a country that is still under the colonial boot. Here it is capitalism, exposing its sharp and ugly teeth, corrupting and murdering in the process.
After Marikana, I drove further, to the luxury and private resort, Sun City, a complex of casinos, resorts and hotels. There, for the first time in this country, I was stopped, right in front of ‘The Palace of the Lost City’, a six-star hotel
I asked the guard who is usually stationed there.
He looked uncomfortable. “Some stars”, he answered. “And…”
“Some executives from mining companies; foreigners?” I asked.
“Them too”, he replied.
The nightly rate in this hotel goes for between 1,100 dollars and 10,000, I was told.
The increase in the monthly wages of the miners was, on average, 200 dollars.
Situations and scenarios like this exist, of course, even in Latin America. It is clear that the private sector, particularly multi-nationals, want to tie-down, to enslave progressive governments, and to make them dependent. We all know, and it was so well described by Naomi Klein and others, what blackmail, and what tricks were used by the multi-nationals and Western powers against the young and inexperienced South African State, and its leaders, right after the country broke off the shackles of apartheid.
And once someone stumbles, Western and local right-wing propaganda go into top gear, claiming that the entire South African Left is ‘corrupt, money-hungry and essentially the same as the previous regime’.
For one week in my hotel in Pretoria I sat next to a judge who has been investigating Marikana case. I knew who he was and I knew how respected he is in his country. I also knew how exhausted he must have been. I was also aware that even if he’d want to, he would not be able to speak on record, while he was involved in the case. But at the end of my stay I approached him, and we spoke for one hour.
He spoke about his country with love and with passion.
At the end I gave him my full report on Marikana; I told him what I had heard and saw. I also pointed out that there is fear. Those who have something negative to say about the ANC or the government are not afraid – they freely put their names on the record. But those who believe that the company orchestrated the killings are petrified.
The Judge listened to me. Then he said: “But there is no investigation related to the government or ANC. There was no case brought against them in relation to the Marikana killing…”
I could talk much longer about South Africa.
About entering the “Joburg Theatre”, without being stopped, and about just sitting in darkness, admiring the rehearsal of a Brazilian play.
I could write about the bands playing on the historic Waterfront of Cape Town. About the great overhaul of public transportation, about new hospitals and schools, about so many things…
I could say many more great things about the country, and also pass some critical observations, like the one concerning the new immigration law from 2013, which could be considered as biased. And I could comment on some discrimination of foreigners, particularly Zimbabweans, who come here with great education, ready to take low-wage jobs, but encounter hostility, even violence.
I could talk about land, and how arduous the land reforms really are.
But no country is perfect, and immigrants face much worse violence in Italy, France, Australia and the United States, than in South Africa.
I could talk about BRICS. Here, unlike India, almost everybody knows what BRICS is. While in India BRICS is an abstract concept, more masonry than political, South Africa is fully with this proud and progressive project, and often on its vanguard.
My friend in Pretoria, Ibrahim, regularly watches RT.
“I love that station”, he says. “It is so objective; a real breath of fresh air!”
He follows and supports BRICS and their stand against the West. He says that many South African people feel this way.
At the Pretoria Art Museum, a huge event is taking place. There are several openings. Vernissages are for invited guests only. But when I mention that I make films for Venezuelan Telesur TV and write for RT, all barriers collapse and I am warmly welcomed to “come and see how we are doing.” Someone pats me on the back. The color of skin matters nothing. This is, after all, the rainbow nation. What I do matters.
In South Africa, everything is in motion; everything is changing. It is a peaceful but nevertheless determined and socialist revolution.
One of the most oppressed nations on earth is becoming one of the freest. One of the saddest countries is now one of the most vibrant, optimistic and onward looking. One of the most segregated places just twenty years ago, South Africa is now receiving its strength and brilliance from all the races and cultures of the world that proudly call it home.
Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. The result is his latest book: “Fighting Against Western Imperialism”. ‘Pluto’ published his discussion with Noam Chomsky: On Western Terrorism. His critically acclaimed political novel Point of No Return is re-edited and available. Oceania is his book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and the market-fundamentalist model is called “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. His feature documentary, “Rwanda Gambit” is about Rwandan history and the plunder of DR Congo. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.