On xenophobic violence: Press Release by Pan African Network in Defense of Migrant Rights

10 -September -2019

The entire continent is watching in pain, confusion and anger as South Africa struggles to contain massive social implosion  and manifestations of profound  contradictions. The loss of all life and disunity among Afrikans is everything that progressive formations including the Pan African Network in Defense of  Migrant Rights (PANiDMR) stand against. The symptoms of these contradictions have most recently  leaked into  attacks among  the marginalised and  neglected underclasses, where precarity and desperation co-exist.  State responses include deploying ‘social cohesion’ programmes as a catch all attempt to mop up these violent social conditions.  

The recent attacks  on 13 Africans in South Africa form part of an undercurrent of historical fissures. The nature of  violent  interstate, attacks that have been witnessed in the past seven days pre-date the end of the colonial apartheid  dispensation. In the 1980s what is  now often described as Afrophobia or Xenophobia was mischaracterized  under a blanket of  political violence.

The historical DNA of South African political contestation is embedded in ways of addressing difference that  is situated in the theatre of vanquish and  party political extremism. The bloodshed across urban South Africa in the 1980s and 1990s pre-1994 was partly stoked by various political interests, played out on Black bodies. The necklacing in African communities was the most vivid and vicious instrument to enforce political discipline of real or imagined infractions and betrayals. It was also a marker of deep inter-community distrust primarily among political and ethnic communities. The specter of being labeled as  ‘other’ was sometimes  sufficient cause for comrades to sell each other’s lives in return for their own. The inherent trauma that communities are still carrying with them was largely airbrushed by the  ‘Rainbow’ narrative even though it is clear that centuries of dehumanizing behavior was not going to go away as  new flag was raised.

This occurred in the context of the South African state machinery that  systemically dehumanized and brutalized African people in this country. The colonial imagination legislated and constantly enforced the idea that African people are sub-human interlopers in a racialised and privileged ‘White’ world. This was prescribed through structural enablers like labour, education and land legislation all of which created an intergenerational cohort of African people who would always  be  a marginal , sub class of work horses. In the era of growing unemployment , this too has created a subaltern formation that are fully disposable and for whom the State has no tangible plans beyond ‘social cohesion’ to bring from the margins. 

There are further problems emerging from this. Firstly, South Africa has done very little to alter the social and economic  pathways made available to the African majority in this country. White priviledge through land, economic ownership patterns, social relations and life outcomes has been left virtually intact.  In tandem to this , multiple countries in the global South and across Africa were virtually disemboweled by structural adjustment and ongoing incursion of capital into State power. Instances of civil war and ongoing wars that some States wage against their nations – both often with the ‘ invisible hand’ of Western interests – have resulted in weakened States and limited economic opportunities. 

There are other issues that include the expectation by locals to  have first preference for jobs while many companies choose to employ vulnerable migrants for lower wages, creating working toxic and inevitable class resentment. In addition to this, porous borders with weak and often corrupted border controls, sloppy and complicit police are adding stress to a difficult situation.  Well documented reports of criminal rings run by a section of  African compatriots were a large cause of  the attacks in Tshwane (Pretoria) last week. In many areas including there, police have failed to investigate allegations or make arrests, which contributes to the ‘those people’ narrative rather than situating this within a failed and compromised criminal justice system.

Naturally, there will be movement in search of better lives and perhaps naturally, to  countries that appear to offer the most hope, possibility and for some refuge from political repression.

Tragically for all these periphalised people, the South African state has not deconstructed the machinery of ‘othering’  the most vulnerable and as the Marikana massacre showed, is well able to unleash brutal force against Black bodies, many of whom were migrant workers.  The exodus  of millions of people to South Africa from across the world illustrates a  shared aspiration that they have towards the victory over political apartheid that South Africa still represents. 

And yet co-ordinated and periodic combustions related to inadequate public service delivery, organised labour strikes, student uprisings, and other demonstrations of public anger are a huge part of the character of modern South African politics. A politics steeped in historical trauma, ongoing dispossession, a breakdown in state institutions and frenzied attempts by the government to ‘act normal’ for the benefit of international investors while the underclass of all nationalities battle for scarce resources in the most brutal ways. Local and migrant Africans across the African continent are exhausted by the wait for something more from our governments. 

Self-serving elites have driven many African compatriots to South Africa only to find that many South African political actors have fallen into a similar abyss of myopic disregard for the masses. The statements issued  by President Ramaphosa in recent days lacked empathy, class analysis and any semblance of a Pan African understanding of how deeply embedded our fates are tied together as African countries. This is an opportunity to raise a challenge to our African leaders to create nations that are nourishing and  accountable. Nations that appreciate the talents at their disposal, create environments where all Africans can thrive and contribute. The retaliatory attacks on South African businesses across the continent ultimately hurt the marginal and working classes yet again and though this may be a  temporary ‘blue eye’ for White owned corporations, it only fuels more resentments while eroding authentic African  economic and political agendas. 

 At the time of writing, 13 Africans are reported dead, 8 of whom are  thought to be South Africans. Most regrettably, attempts by formations such as PANiDMR and Trade Collective to obtain the names and countries of origin from relevant  authorities have so far yielded no results. Beyond dying a dehumanising death, our family members have died namelessly. So emblematic of the State’s careless, dispassionate relationship with the underclass. PANiDMR sends heartfelt condolences to the families, friends, communities of the Africans killed over the past week and all the years before. We pray that the death toll of 13 will not rise further and renew our commitment to building a Pan African vision that affirms and valorises African lives and Black lives in and out of the Diaspora.

(Photo Credit: News24 / Kola Sulaimon / AFP)

only colour light and music

only colour light and music 

only colour light and music 
to our hearts and souls
says the Daily Maverick
reporting on the passing
of Johnny Clegg (1953 – Forever)

1953 – Forever they say
as his music will
be played on
a long time after 
the glowing accolades

Yet another says 
The dance ends
for Johnny Clegg
South Africa’s beloved 
musical storyteller

born out yonder Rochdale
to my knowledge
no-one here has
called him an alien
or anything the nastier

raised a bit in Zimbabwe
then peri-urban Johannesburg 
and its townships were
his teenage stomping ground 

this 15-year-old was taught
Zulu music and traditional dancing
by Charlie Mzila following him
guitar in hand to all 
the migrant labour haunts
from hostels to rooftop shebeens

(this we hear from 
the Final Journey official programme)

he who brought only 
colour light and music 
to our hearts and souls
has now made
his final journey

(Photo Credit: RFI / Alliance DPA)

Welcome at last to the 21st century

Welcome at last to the 21st century

so wrote a colleague-past
at my reportage of now
having one of those devices
you see folks walking 
into stationary poles with

is it any good
I enquire
as it seems
I have not been

I hear there is
running water
electricity even
and plentiful
(so politicians say)

Welcome at last to the 21st century
where you can see
hunger on a world scale
from local Bonteheuwel
to the beyonds of Syria
and darkest Africa too 

the 21st century
where humanity
behaves as though
there is another
planet to go and ruin

the 21st century
where women
and children too
would want there 
to be another planet
to shelter from the storm

there is illiteracy
and innumeracy too
on this man-trashed sphere
most especially down here
Africa South way

Welcome at last to the 21st century

(Photo Credit: Mail & Guardian / David Harrison)

(we) laugh it off

(we) laugh it off

we laugh it off
democratically
(even though
there was none
back there in 1976)

we laugh it off
myself and a folkie
a work colleague into 
Dylan Baez and Jim Croce 

June 1976 it was
circa the 16 and 17
a stay-away from work
(my first it was)

a manager fellow it was
(we are being genteel here
as he was harsher labelled)
suggesting we get
a police escort to work

we laugh it off
explaining to him
that they oversaw
apartheid and the like

(in the name of law and order
keeping us safe from the red peril
keeping us safe from the yellow peril 
keeping us safe from the swart gevaar)

June 1976
the Soweto uprising
the Soweto student rebellion
(there are those who
called the event a riot)

many exiled in its wake
before and after

Youth does it matter 
to you today
what this political holiday
was all about

Will it make tomorrow
any the better if you did

(Photo Credit: South African History Online)

Maria Mahlangu is still dead. How many Maria Mahlangus died without justice?

Maria Mahlangu is still dead. We do not know how many Maria Mahlangus died without a voice, without their story making news, without justice. Many domestic workers are in jeopardy because our homes (their workplaces) are not always safe workplaces. We can end this, by joining the call of thousands of domestic workers to end the era of exclusion, of them being treated as third-class workers. 

Domestic workers, predominantly Black women, make up “more than 8%” of Black workers in South Africa, far outnumbering Black professionals in our workforce. The way we treat domestic workers (in law and in our homes) is an expression of our disdain for Black bodies, for Black women’s bodies and their labour as a nation. The extent to which we continue to extract their labour with little recognition of their dignity and rights, and even less legal recognition, is a moral outrage, a profound injustice. This is a cause we are obligated by our morality and our sense of justice to get behind. If there are more than 2million domestic workers in this country, this is a cause of millions of us in this nation. 

Let this be where we begin our full stop to injustice, gendered injustice. It is an outrage that this had to go to court to begin with, but it has come to that. Tomorrow domestic workers will be in court to defend what should be a constitutional right. How will you stand with them? It is not enough to be nice to Mavis, although Mavis deserves all the respect you should give. We can do something more fundamental than that, that improves the lives of all the Mavis’s. So, dear friend, how will you show up for the people who show up for millions of our families every day? 

Domestic workers, their union formations and those who support them started the campaign under the Domestic Workers Rising banner. They are co-founders of #Shayisfuba, an intersectional movement of womxn individuals and formations who’ve come together to build solidarity with each other, to learn about and fight common struggles. The movement is saying a feminist government would have prioritised equal protection for all workers, particularly the least protected, domestic workers. It is not too late!

(Image Credit: New Frame)

man-up

man-up

It is said
about men
that they 
have it

The balls

that fascist ruler-past
out in Brexit country
she had it they say

The balls

we hear now
that she can
our Caster Semenya

she can
man-up
and race
against men

she still 
facing a testing time
in a world insensitive 
to anything unlike

(a strong girl she is
post-Saartjie Baartman
post-apartheid’s pencil test
and virginity testing too)

man-up
they say
those folks

are they men
one and all

those folks
who run 
athletics

man-up
they say

not yet
Uhuru

(Photo Credit: Athletics Weekly)

#SADecides2019: Today I’ll be voting for the future, for the ones that will bring us closer to ourselves, to each other

Every minute I believe this. It’s what keeps me going, why I do what I do, what explains the choices I’ve made in life and perhaps those I shall yet make, what makes me who I am. The unwavering belief in the power of people to make a country, a society. To heal themselves and each other. They may get lost in the woods sometimes, sometimes for quite a while. But eventually, they find themselves. 

I’ve come to know intellectually, intimately, how broken societies are a manifestation of broken people.

Today I’ll be voting for the future. For the political formations of the future. The ones that will bring us closer to ourselves, to each other. Those that will inspire us to heal, and to lead ourselves and each other from the inside out. Those who will remind us to honour our own promises to ourselves, and to make promises to each other that we can keep. The promise to love, to value genuinely, to care deeply. Those who will not inspire us by grandstanding on highwaters waving the pennant of empty militancy to our fragile hopes. Those who will remind us that we have survived this long because we are powerful and not because political parties of so-called leaders did anything for us. Who will reconnect us fiercely to our power within, our power to, our power with.

I am sick to my core of big bombastic words and shallow philosophies of big men who perform their fragile masculinity like it’s some spectacular show we zombies must cheer at. After so many years, I’m done with this fake show. As I go out to vote, I am carrying Alice Walker’s poem in my hand, in memory of my mother, my grandmother, all the broken ones in my family, my movement homes, the people known and unknown that I believe in because they believed in me, all the womxn and the theys who are the source of my belief in our hopeful future, the ones who literally hold up the sky from falling and crushing us all. 

And of course also I carry this book to keep me company in case I find no friends in the queue to talk to, such as Xthi Nxngxmso and Mmatshilo Tumelo Motsei. I’m also carrying this book to give as a gift to a new friend I may meet in the queue and discover could use it. It’s that kind of day, maCom.

Alice, thank you for the words, sisi wam, may we find our power in our brokenness!

I WILL KEEP BROKEN THINGS
                        by Alice Walker

I will keep
broken
things:
The big clay
pot
with raised
iguanas
chasing
their
tails;
two
of their
wise
heads
sheared
off;

I will keep
broken
things:
The old
slave
market
basket
brought
to my
door
by Mississippi
a jagged
hole
gouged
in its sturdy
dark
oak
side.

I will keep
broken
things:
The memory
of
those
long
delicious
night
swims
with
you;

I will keep
broken
things:
In my house
there
remains
an
honored
shelf
on which
I will
keep
broken
things.

Their beauty
is
they
need
not
ever
be
‘fixed.’

I will keep
your
wild
free
laughter
though
it is now
missing
its
reassuring
and

graceful
hinge.

I will keep
broken
things:

Thank you
so much!

I will keep
broken
things.
I will keep
you:

pilgrim
of
sorrow.

I will keep
myself.

#SADecides2019: I am taking my weary soul to the polling station now

I am taking my weary soul to the polling station now. Present in my bones is our countries histories. I want to keep walking. Even in my moments of despair, I want to keep finding the will to walk forward. 

The past few months found me deeply immersed in a Realising a Feminist Government Campaign with many womxn and gender non-binary people. We dreamed the campaign into reality from years and years of being in conversation as feminists at different times and in different spaces. Feminists who thump our chests and stand solidly in our rage, our pain, our expansive love, our willfulness. Feminists whose patience has worn thin. Feminists who demand a governance system that smashes all forms of oppression. 

The rolling actions around the country were spaces of radical healing, deep sharing, tears… tears…., song…song…., imagining futures where even currencies look different and spaces of rest are wherever we want them to be, and it’s safe and our bellies are all full. It’s not impossible with the right intention. 

Today I am with myself – just me and my ballot paper. Tomorrow is another day we will keep mobilizing and invoking the kind of world we want, until we are in it!!!

Shayisfuba #feministgovernment #dreamingfeministfutures 

SHAYIS’FUBA! SHAPA SEFUBA!

(Image Credit: Twitter / SHAYISFUBA)

#SADecides2019: We made our mark

We made our mark. This is one of the most hotly contested elections, and the trajectory will change, and it must. 

I walked up to the voting booth feeling nervous (maybe a bit emotional even) and happy with my choice, throwing a fist in the air as an activist would, as I walked out. Lol. Even though we are so angry and just gatvol of the looting of the state, of failure of government to deliver, failure to deliver on basic services and rights, to failure of government to take gender based violence seriously, to white privilege and wealth still firmly intact, especially in Cape Town. 

There is a lot to be angry about and disillusioned about, but my vote is my voice and my power as a citizen. As long as I have right to vote, I will, even if the choices are hard. My parents and grandparents fought hard for us to have this vote and so I must exercise my right even if I don’t have much faith in the system as it stands. But rest assured WE WILL HOLD GOVT ACCOUNTABLE. 

Twenty-five years ago was the first time Black people could vote. There are many people across the world who can’t vote in their own country and will be killed for their vote. I am feeling privileged to go vote with my mum, my sister, our baby Tatum and Peter. As long as we have a vote, we have a voice and we must speak and use it. For the people who fought for this freedom and for fighting for our future generations. Be Bold. Be Brave.

(Photo Credit: Facebook / Lucinda Van Den Heever)

We see remarkable women

The team at Centre for Early Childhood Development, Cape Town

We see remarkable women

We see remarkable women
says Professor Eric Atmore 
Stellenbosch University graduate
and he who puts children first

We see remarkable women
every day working with
young children and living
the Mandela legacy

they do it for long hours
with shockingly low pay
they do it for nation building

We see remarkable women
yet they are few and far between
up the poles where politicians are
plying their trade

We see remarkable women
says Professor Eric Atmore 
revealing that less than a third
of children under 7 in South Africa
get quality pre-school learning

(only 30% of our 7 million children
under the age of 7 are in
a quality learning programme)

he tells us too that we need
a policy champion (in cabinet)
as the state does not have 
the political will capacity 
or money to support
its early childhood development programme

We see remarkable women
Now don’t you

We see remarkable women
Now what are you going to do

We see remarkable women
Now what is to be done

“Policies need proper backing, prof says” (Tatler April 11 2019)

(Photo Credit: Southern Suburbs Tatler)