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Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

Panashe Chigumadzi explains the difference between appeasing white guilt and tackling structural racism

Sweet MedicinePanashe Chigumadzi has written an article for The Times titled “We don’t want white apologies, we want our land back”.

In the article, Chigumadzi analyses the race debates that seized South Africa at the beginning of 2016, sparked by controversial statements by people such as Penny Sparrow, Justin van Vuuren and Chris Hart on social media.

This is a topic Chigumadzi is familiar with, having delivered a TEDxTalk in 2013 titled “A New Self-identity for Africans”.

Chigumadzi refers to a Facebook post by Anton Taylor which reads:

White South Africans play this strange game of calling each other racists. They write articles about how the Matric reading syllabus is party to a patriarchal racist colonial subterfuge but they can’t fucking bring themselves to drive a few kilometres down the road to help out at a women’s shelter. If you care that much about South African race relations then spend a few hours a week at a charity or go to isiXhosa lessons. For most white people, if we have the capacity for self-examination, we all (myself certainly included) do far too little.

As Chigumadzi points out, many black people would have a problem with this technique of combating racism. By way of example, she mentions Thando Mgqolozana’s experience and statement at Franschhoek Literary Festival last year.

Mgqolozana said:

“One of the things I advise – when young white people come to me and say ‘what can I do’ – the first thing you can do is stop the charity work you are doing in Khayelitsha, it’s not helping anyone. Just stop it. Stop the soup kitchens and donating blankets. It’s just making people more angry, it doesn’t change anything.”

At this point an audience member shouted out “bullshit!”

Chigumadzi explains:

Firstly, the thing about going to “spend a few hours a week at a charity” or at isiXhosa lessons is that they are actions that happen on white people‘s terms — they happen on his or her time, at his or her comfort. These are not terms dictated by black people.

Second, and most importantly, these are actions that appease white guilt but don’t do much to attack the very root of our historical “racial” problem. They do nothing to dismantle the structural racism that is founded on the theft of land and subsequent accumulation of white generational wealth on the back of black labour.

The fact that Taylor spends a few hours at the charity will not change the fact that the face of poverty in South Africa is a black woman.

Chigumadzi’s debut novel, Sweet Medicine, is available now.

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“Students Have Always Played a Critical Role in the Struggle” – Malaika wa Azania Comments on #FeesMustFall


Memoirs of a Born FreeAfrica is a Country has created a video about the #FeesMustFall movement.

Malaika wa Azania, student and author of Memoirs of a Born Free: Reflections on the Rainbow Nation, is quoted extensively in the video.

She says:

This democratic state has sought to present students as a bunch of hooligans, a bunch of rascals who have got no real, legitimate struggle to wage. We have been backed into a corner. We have got no other option now but to take to the streets and shut down these institutions.

Wa Azania says the student protests are “deeply linked” to other issues that relate to transformation. “The struggle for reduction of fees is not isolated from the struggle for institutional transformation, the struggle for economic transformation in the country,” she says.

According to Wa Azania, the police’s response to the protests is “very reminiscent of apartheid violence”.

There’s nothing more that the government fears than seeing masses on the streets. The government in South Africa only generally begins to act when they see masses on the streets.

During the apartheid era, when students would go and protest for very legitimate issues the government would respond with excessive force. When you see something like that happening in democratic South Africa it breaks my heart because it means that the government of this country has come to a point where in very many ways it’s beginning to shape itself like the apartheid government.

The fact that a minister who can see that there is a serious crisis happening in the country – students are on the streets when they are supposed to be writing exams – can simply, glibly sit back and say ‘there is no crisis’, and in the same breath as he’s saying ‘there is no crisis’ these institutions are calling police on us. It’s the same way apartheid was treating us. They would say ‘black people are not an issue, they are not a crisis’ and then in response would come and bring violence to contain us.

Wa Azania says this “silencing technique” is an apartheid technique, adding: “The government of this country really needs to sit down and ask itself what kind of country is it building when it’s bringing back the same things that we inherited from apartheid and bringing them in a democratic dispensation and using them against innocent, helpless students who are seeking a very legitimate struggle; who are fighting for a just cause.”

On the role students have played in South Africa’s history, Wa Azania says:

Students in South Africa have always played a very critical role. This is historical. I think we must understand that of course with regards to the prevailing material conditions of students taking ownership of this struggle and exercising their own agency, but also understanding that this is a historical issue in South Africa. This country has always been brought to its knees, the unfair treatment that government has meted out on people, has always been brought to its knees by students.

Students have always played a critical role in the Struggle. So we are continuing what has always been a historical pattern.

Watch the video:

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“We are Surely the Ones We Have Been Waiting for” – Panashe Chigumadzi on #FeesMustFall

Sweet MedicineThe launch of Sweet Medicine, the debut novel by Panashe Chigumadzi, has been postponed until further notice, out of respect for the #FeesMustFall protests.

Chigumadzi, a young media executive and 2015 Ruth First Fellow at Wits University, has released a statement clarifying her position.

Read the statement:

Dear friends and family,

The last week has been simultaneously inspiring and heartbreaking.

As a student at Wits University, my voice has gone hoarse in the last few days joining in the #FeesMustFall calls. Many of us in academia theorise about revolution, and here it is unfolding before our eyes as we witness one of the most important uprisings in “post-apartheid” South Africa.

For that reason, I am very proud to be part of this generation of youth. What a time to be alive!

In this time when students are being met with unprecedented police brutality, the Azania 6 and many other students from campuses such as UKZN remain in custody for doing the unthinkable by demanding to end this post-apartheid apartheid society, South Africa cannot carry on with business as usual. Likewise, I cannot in good faith carry on with business as usual.

In solidarity with my fellow students who are brilliant and brave as they agitate for the Uhuru that we were all promised decades ago, I will be postponing the official launch of Sweet Medicine until further notice.

I apologise to those that have been inconvenienced by this. In the words of Wits lecturer Dr Danai Mupotsa who was stopped by students on her way to work on the first day of protests, what a glorious way to be “stopped” and inconvenienced!

We are surely the ones we have been waiting for.

Pamberi ne ruzhingi!
Pamberi ne kubatana!
Pamberi ne Chimurenga!


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Listen to Award-winning Author Ishtiyaq Shukri Reading from “Losing London”, an Essay on His Recent Deportation

The Silent MinaretI See YouIshtiyaq Shukri has written a moving essay titled “Losing London” about the personal and imaginative implications of his deportation from London’s Heathrow Airport earlier this year.

Shukri was born in Johannesburg in 1968, and has been a permanent resident of the UK since 1997. His debut novel, The Silent Minaret, won the 2004 European Union Literary Award-winning. His most recent book is I See You. In May, Shukri was withdrew his work from consideration for the inaugural Financial Times Oppenheimer Funds Emerging Voices Award, after objecting to the classification “emergent” being applied to African writers.

While traveling to Heathrow in July, from where he was to join his English wife at their home in London, Shukri was searched and detained for nine-and-a-half hours, before being deported back to South Africa.

He decided to make a public statement about the incident at the time, to share his experience and to highlight “the increasing heavy-handedness facing African migrants at UK and EU borders”.

In this new essay, the author writes movingly about the relationship he holds with London, both personally and in his writing.

“On the 14th of July 2015,” Shukri begins, “I boarded a flight to London. I thought I was flying home. I had no idea that in fact I would be flying into a brick wall.

“Upon arrival at Heathrow, I was detained for more than nine hours, and then deported. My resident stamp of 19 years cancelled. I have written two novels in my study in our London home. The first of which is set in London. It is in all senses a very London novel. The landscape of my London includes Shakespear’s Globe, which opened in 1997, the same year I received permanent residence in the UK …”

Shukri goes on to describe landmarks and moments in London’s recent history that have shaped his life, before concluding:

“When border force officials decided on 14th July that my ties with the UK did not merit their protection those were the ties they cut and the life of 19 years they negated in just nine hours.”

Listen to the recording:


* * * * *

The essay has been published in full on Africa is a Country:

Losing London

I entered the world traveling. My first journey was the 1,4000km trek from Johannesburg to Cape Town, although I don’t remember it. I was just two weeks old at the time. I have lived fully in the world ever since. My first plane journey was when I was five. I still have the ticket with the old orange tail and blue flying springbok of South African Airways at the time. I still have the specially tailored jacket I wore on the flight. I remember staring at the surface of the water in my glass on the tray table, absorbed by how still it remained despite our great speed. My first international journey was when I was ten. With hindsight, South African apartheid had already made its mark because I remember noticing black and white people socialising together in public and black faces on billboards for products that were advertised with white faces in South Africa. I remain grateful for that first exposure so early on in life, and the enduring awareness that life could be otherwise than it was in 1970s apartheid South Africa.

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Mary Burton’s The Black Sash Commemorates “The Silent Sisterhood that Haunted a Government”

The silent sisterhood that haunted a government

The Black Sash50 years after joining the organisation, Mary Burton has written The Black Sash: Women for Justice and Peace (Jacana Media), a book on the organisation’s history and contribution to democracy. Its release will coincide with activities around Women’s Month.

Burton’s first Black Sash protest stand was in Kalk Bay on a fine day in 1965, after the government had threatened to proclaim the historic fishing village “white” under the Group Areas Act. Poster in hand, Burton and a group of women stood silently alongside the main road, black sashes draped across their bodies, the target of jeers – and the occasional murmur of encouragement.

She recalls how the background sound of the waves and the cries of fishermen bringing in their catch had underscored the “cruelty and stupidity” of breaking up the lives of those who depended on the sea for their livelihood.

Raised in Argentina, Burton joined the Black Sash barely four years after arriving here in 1961, the year South Africa left the Commonwealth. She was newly married to South African Geoffrey Burton, whom she had had met while studying in London.

She recalls how hard it was for her to process the apartheid system. Although she worked at the Service Dining Rooms’ soup kitchen for indigent people, she realised far more was needed. But it was the magnitude and significance of the Group Areas Act in particular that galvanised her into joining the Black Sash.

“In later years, protest stands and marches were restricted and prohibited, and breaking the rules led to attacks and arrests for many,” she said. “Black Sash women stood in all parts of the country in lone vigil, holding their posters, using the last bit of legal space left to them.

“And even when those single stands were legal, the women were often subjected to abuse and intimidation.”

New Book on Black Sash

Generations of women have been the backbone of an organisation Nelson Mandela once called “the conscience of white South Africa”.

Writing on the Sash’s 60th anniversary, Daily Maverick journalist Marianne Thamm recounts the organisation’s beginnings in 1955 “over a cup of tea by six middle-class white women outraged by the then-government’s attempts to remove ‘coloured’ citizens from the voter’s roll”.

These women launched the Black Sash’s forerunner, the Women’s Defence of the Constitution League. Their key strategies were “silent sisterhood” and “blacksashing” (wearing a black sash) during silent protest vigils. (The name “Black Sash” was adopted as a reference to the sashes they wore or draped over a replica of the 1910 constitution, which robbed the majority of South Africans of the right to vote.)

This silent protest included “haunting” cabinet ministers; standing at the entrances of places they were expected to appear – railway stations, airports, or official functions. In Parliament’s public gallery, the women were forced to remove the sashes, but devised ways of replacing them – for instance, by wearing long black gloves – infuriating National Party members when they glanced up. Outside Parliament, others stood with bent heads, holding placards protesting against unjust laws.

Hands-on activists

The group was also hands-on, grappling with the actualities of racial segregation, influx control, migrant labour, censorship, detention without trial, and the states of emergency.

For Burton, three areas stand out.

First, the Sash advice offices worked to meet the daily needs of thousands of people, initially under the pass laws and later under the burden of poverty and deprivation.

Second, the protest and advocacy work helped keep alive the public voice of opposition to injustice.

“For decades, this had demonstrated in a tangible way the view of white people who were prepared to stand against apartheid.”

And third, the group was determined to spotlight how poverty and violence affected women’s lives.

During the 1970s there was growing interest in Steve Biko’s Black Consciousness Movement, and many white liberals were concerned about the dangers of nationalism, whether black or white, says Burton.

“Yet Black Sash members worked with Steve Biko and the Black Community Programmes, and saw in the movement the value of developing independence and self-worth in the quest for liberation.”

Personal Story

The publisher’s blurb describes the book as “a story of hard work and dedication, of small victories won little by little against the odds, of personal courage in the face of injustice and repression, of vision, compassion and caring. It is a uniquely South African story”.

Burton’s personal story is closely entwined.

“Joining the Black Sash influenced the course of my life.”

For one, it brought her to UCT in 1979 as a mature student (she was 39).

“One of the most important realisations was that I did not know enough about South African history and political theory.”

She took four majors: political science, comparative African law, social anthropology – and English, “for the sheer love of it”.

“I went back to the Black Sash much better equipped to play my part in it.”

She was its national president in the tumultuous years between 1986 and 1990. The State of Emergency was in force; the ANC had put out the call to make the townships ungovernable, and there were rolling national school boycotts.

“The Black Sash found itself swept up in the mounting pressure for an end to apartheid, and played its part in protesting, monitoring and recording the drastic response from the authorities,” Burton commented.

“In the increasing violence, the Sash longed for peace, but understood that this meant working for justice. A new generation of members joined the older ones, but numbers remained small.”

As the work of the advice offices continued to grow, new outreaches carried their work into the wider field, opposing the forced removals of settled communities; even those far from the urban areas.

Redefined role after 1994

In the year after South Africa’s watershed elections, Burton took on a new role: one of 17 commissioners on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, serving on its Human Rights Committee.

It was then that she began thinking about writing a history of the Sash; many NGOs were redefining their roles in a changing society.

She had a vast collection of documents and newspapers that she augmented with records from the UCT and Wits archives, and recorded interviews with Black Sash members around the country.

In 2008, thanks to Professor Brenda Cooper, Burton became an honorary research associate in the Centre for African Studies (CAS), first under Cooper’s directorship and then under Professor Harry Garuba.

“This allowed me to deal with the mass of my accumulated papers, and to benefit from the contact with staff and students of the CAS.”

But the book is not only a chronicle. Burton saw that the Sash’s metamorphosis over six decades could serve as a model for other NGOs.

“I thought it would be useful to describe the often agonising process the Black Sash went through in 1994, resulting in the closure in 1995 of the membership-driven, broad-focus movement, and its replacement by a tighter, professionally managed advice office and advocacy organisation.

“I still think it is amazing that the process worked – and that the Black Sash continues its work today.”

* * * * * * * *

The article was originally published in Monday Monthly, a publication at the University of Cape Town, and is reproduced with permission.

Story by Helen Swingler. Photo by Michael Hammond.

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The Relevance of Thomas Sankara to the Greek Economic Crisis – Vashna Jagarnath

A Jacana Pocket Biography: Thomas SankaraVashna Jagarnath, a lecturer in the History Department at Rhodes University, has written an article for Rand Daily Mail about the relevance of Thomas Sankara’s teachings today.

Jagarnath writes that the former president of Burkina Faso’s famous quote on the vicious cycle of debt in a neocolonial world can be applied to the current economic crisis in Greece.

Sankara famously said: “Debt is neocolonialism, in which colonisers transformed themselves into ‘technical assistance’. We should say ‘technical assassins’.” In the article, Jagarnath gives insight into the type of leader Sankara was – a feminist president who was dedicated to “taking real action in the real world”.

For more about Sankara, read A Jacana Pocket Biography: Thomas Sankara: An African Revolutionary by Ernest Harsch.

Read the article:

With eyes of the world focused on the unfolding crisis in Greece, Sankara has taken on a new relevance. And as endemic corruption deepens in many African countries, Sankara — who, like the French revolutionary Maximilien Robespierre, was universally acknowledged to be incorruptible — has also become a symbol for the possibility of a virtuous politics.

Sankara was not one for the empty revolutionary rhetoric and posturing without effective commitment to action. He was committed to taking real action in the real world. Immediately after assuming power he took decisive steps to set about building an alternative society outside of the long arms of the global financial organisations.

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Malaika wa Azania: My Article, “I Was Not Liberated by Mandela”, Proves that Most South Africans Don’t Read


Memoirs of a Born FreeMalaika wa Azania, author of Memoirs of a Born Free: Reflections on the Rainbow Nation, has got people talking after writing an article for The Sunday Independent controversially entitled “I was not liberated by Mandela”.

Azania chatted to Lawrence Tlhabane on Power FM about her position.

“I am a writer,” she said. “My duty is not to say what people want to hear when people want to hear it. My duty is to comfort the disturbed and to disturb those who are comfortable.

“So I don’t think that there is a time or a place when certain discussions should be had.”

Read Azania’s article here:

The Mandelafication of the Struggle against apartheid is not by accident but by design, writes Malaika wa Azania.

‘I am not a liberator. Liberators do not exist. The people liberate themselves.” – Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Argentine-born revolutionary.

The narrative about how former president Nelson Mandela liberated South Africa from the clutches of the apartheid has been inculcated deeply into the minds of those of us born in the post-apartheid era.

Those of us who started primary school in the townships in the late 1990s have a vivid memory of how our teachers suffocated us in propaganda about Mandela, reminding us daily about how we were able to study without fear of police vans swooping on the townships to disrupt schooling.

Those of us who later attended multiracial schools in the suburbs have a vivid memory of how teachers would consistently remind us that in the not-too-distant past, we never would have been seated next to our white or Indian classmates. We were told it was because of Mandela that we were able to play on the same playgrounds with other races.

This did not end when we exited the school gates. At home, we were reminded daily how lucky we were to be born in a democratic dispensation – thanks to Mandela.

Listen to the Power FM conversation:

* * * * *

Azania also responded to her critics on her public Facebook page:

One of the things that the article I wrote, titled “I was not liberated by Mandela” has proven to me is that most South Afrikans don’t read. And this includes youth – which makes it all the more tragic. Nothing I said in that article is new or false. In fact, Nelson Mandela himself consistently raised the argument that he is not a liberator, but that ordinary people played a bigger role in our liberation struggle. Throughout his interviews and in his writings, specifically A Long Walk To Freedom that everyone claims to have read (but clearly many haven’t), he reiterates the point that he didn’t liberate South Afrika. In fact, in his own words when he was freed from prison, he said:

“I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands.
On this day of my release, I extend my sincere and warmest gratitude to the millions of my compatriots and those in every corner of the globe who have campaigned tirelessly for my release…”

I say the exact same thing – that the people liberated themselves and Mandela – and people get angry and emotional. Why? Well, firstly because people don’t read, period. They assumed I was attacking Mandela when in fact I was making a factual historical point that he too has acknowledged. And we must also realise the real possibility that many people read the headline and not the article – which would explain some of the irrational comments we see. Some claim I was seeking attention, which is another way of saying I was raising what isn’t popular. What they don’t realise is that I was raising what every revolutionary has raised (and this is not to say I’m a revolutionary, but that at least I have read many of their works enough to know what they believed). You go through the writings of Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Patrice Lumumba, Vladimir Lenin, Robert Sobukwe, Steve Biko, Joshua Nkomo, Thabo Mbeki and Mandela himself, and what they all share in common is the strong belief that people liberate themselves, and that there’s no one great man in history who has or can liberate people.

So what we can now say for sure after this while brouhaha over nothing is that many of you, dear friends, allege to be readers, but in reality, employ common sense view to scientific, historic discourse. And it is sad, considering how the Mandela you are defending was very passionate about the question of education serving as a liberatory pedagogy. You love the man and are prepared to defend him with your lives, and yet you actually don’t even read his works. If that’s not cult-mentality, I don’t know what is. If that’s not symptomatic of intellectual decay, I don’t know what is.

I am convinced there are many people who must just get off Facebook and read, because at this rate, opinions will govern discourse more than factual knowledge does.

I will leave you to it.

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President Jacob Zuma at 7th BRICS Summit: 99 Problems Including Economic Growth

BRICS: An Anti-Capitalist CritiquePresident Jacob Zuma is currently in Ufa, Russia, for the seventh BRICS Summit, along with the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

The newly released BRICS: An Anti-Capitalist Critique, edited by Patrick Bond and Ana Garcia, aims to fill the gap that can be seen in reporting on and studies of BRICS, by critically analysing the rise of the BRICS countries’ economies within the framework of an increasingly predatory, exclusionary and unequal capitalist system.

According to Alfredo Saad-Filho, Professor of Political Economy at the University of London, the book is a “uniquely valuable resource”, as contributors “pierce through every aspect of the discourse around the BRICS, showing the reality beneath the politically engineered triumphalism”.

Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa are also at the Summit.

In his address, Zuma said the BRICS Summit made clear the need for emerging economies to stimulate growth in a stagnant global environment:

“This august occasion .. further marks the imperatives of BRICS nations,” Zuma said. “Your Excellencies, this Summit takes place against the backdrop of an unfavourable global economic climate characterised by the sluggish economic recovery,” Zuma said.

“The socio-economic challenges that confront developing countries are similar, including poverty alleviation, creation of sustainable development, reducing inequality in standards of living and economic growth.”

Zuma has also identified several sectors as key areas of cooperation for South Africa to the world:

The sectors, which he said are hardly exhaustive, comprise food production, power generation, the petro-chemical industry, mining, tourism, renewable and nuclear energy, trade, transportation, communications and training.

“The time has never been more appropriate to advance our engagement to a next level, considering the major milestone anniversaries on the global agenda.

“Earlier this year, we celebrated the 16th anniversary of the Bandung Asia-Africa Conference and we will celebrate the 17th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and the creation of the United Nations, as well as adopt the post 2015 Development Agenda at the UN General Assembly session later this year,” he said.

He called for the bonds of friendship, solidarity and cooperation to be extended with the African continent as citizens seek to grow together in peace, development and prosperity.

“As member states of the BRICS formation, we share the sentiments as contained in our session’s theme that our Chairperson proposed, namely ‘Ways to increase the well-being of the peoples of our countries’.

“We find convergence in our respective priority areas for cooperation, including sustainable socio-economic development, boosting trade, economic and investment activities,” said the President.

He said the economies of BRICS member states are also involved in developing cooperation in high-technology sectors of the economy, modernising various branches of industry, implementing projects aimed to develop transport logistics, information communications and infrastructure, raising the economic competitiveness and improving the living standards of citizens.

“This in fact was the rationale that informed our first dialogue with African Leaders in 2013, as well as South American Leaders in 2014.

“I am delighted to now also interact with this important region, so strategically endowed with natural and human resources,” said President Zuma.

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A Hard Look at Rhetoric – Ahead of the 7th BRICS Summit – in BRICS: An Anti-Capitalist Critique

BRICS: An Anti-Capitalist CritiqueOn 8–10 July 2015 the Russian city of Ufa hosts the 14th summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the seventh BRICS summit.

The meetings will take place at a joint discussion platform for guests where the leaders of member-states plan to continue expanding their countries’ mutual ties in various areas of cooperation. A new economic partnership strategy is expected to be one of the main topics of the BRICS summit.

Many well-known analysts have greeted BRICS with outright enthusiasm, on the view that it represents a new power bloc that will democratise the world order or offer an emerging economic market for financial investors.

PenzaNews has shared an article about the upcoming summits. It presents a optimistic view of the BRICS bank’s potential for disrupting the dominance of America and Europe in the world of economics:

The foreign observers are closely monitoring the situation before the summits, some of them not holding back their opinions. In particular, Greg Shtraks from the United States writes in his article, published by The Diplomat, that the Ufa talks may change the power structure in the region, weaken the American influence, change the geopolitical world map and define the future developments of the Eurasian concept.

It is the aim of BRICS: An Anti-Capitalist Critique edited by Patrick Bond and Ana Garcia, to fill the gap that can be seen in reporting on and studies of BRICS. This is done by critically analysing the rise of the BRICS countries’ economies within the framework of an increasingly predatory, exclusionary and unequal capitalist system. The ingrained nature of this system is felt everywhere, including the BRICS countries themselves.

Alfredo Saad-Filho, Professor of Political Economy at the School of Oriental and African Studies, has says that Patrick Bond and Ana Garcia’s book is of great worth because of the alternate view of the BRICS it offers:

“This book is a uniquely valuable resource for development scholars, students and activists. It includes outstanding contributions written by a stellar group of authors. They pierce through every aspect of the discourse around the BRICS, showing the reality beneath the politically engineered triumphalism.”

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Don’t Blame Black Parents for Sending Kids to White Schools – Malaika wa Azania on Curro Controversy

Memoirs of a Born FreeCurro Foundation School in Roodeplaat, near Pretoria, is probably the most controversial school in the country this year after twice making headlines with shocking allegations of racial segregation.

In February a petition signed by black parents was circulated and sent to the media, stating that classes were being divided by race. This caused a large scale investigation in which the MEC for Education looked into closing the school.

Then, earlier this month, another scandal broke when a parent leaked a video of kids being separated by race on buses to a school field trip, which went viral. However, many parents – including black parents – defended both incidents, saying the division was based on language (English and Afrikaans) and not race.

Memoirs of a Born Free: Reflections on the Rainbow Nation author Malaika wa Azania has weighed in on the the controversy in a post on her public Facebook page, drawing on something she wrote in her book.

“Most of our Black working class parents, even as they cannot afford it, take us to multi-racial former model C schools with the hope that we will receive quality education. And let’s face it – those schools have better infrastructure than our schools in the townships,” Wa Azania writes, responding to the call for black parents to stop sending their kids to white schools.

Read her full comment:

I’m reading the commentary on the racial incident that transpired at one of the Curro schools in Jo’burg. Many people are saying Black parents are to blame for sending their kids to White schools. They argue that we must send Black kids to Black schools and leave White kids in the safety of their ivory towers of White supremacy. Quiet frankly, this is a problematic argument that wants to paint victims as the ones at fault and in the process, exonerate the real culprits.

Most of our Black working class parents, even as they cannot afford it, take us to multi-racial former model C schools with the hope that we will receive quality education. And let’s face it – those schools have better infrastructure than our schools in the townships. I make this argument in “Memoirs of a Born Free: Reflections on the Rainbow Nation”. I argue that the two-tier education system constructed by the apartheid regime, where the education of a White child received five times the funding of that of a Black child, has left a lasting legacy which is characterised by the quality of infrastructure in these former model C schools versus schools in Black communities.

I felt this first-hand in 2002 when I made my transition from Tshimologo Primary School in Meadowlands zone 9 (Soweto) to Melpark Primary School in Melville. Everything was better at Melpark. The teacher to student ratio was smaller, the classes were better equiped, the extra-curricula activities were more diverse as a result of better resources and above all, there was a conducive environment for learning. I saw a library for the first time in my life at Melpark. Until then, I never even knew schools could have libraries and computers for everyone.

The sad reality is that attending these schools puts Black children at a better position to access institutions of higher learning of quality. Had I never gone to a former model C school, I was never going to walk the corridors of Rhodes University. If I was lucky enough to, I’d have been hurled to an Extended Studies programme, as it would be argued that my command of the English language and my lack of computer skills make me unfit to be put into a mainstream degree programme. That’s what our universities do to working class Black students from rural and township schools. It is painful beyond measure.

So the real issue here is not that Black parents are taking their kids to these White schools. The issue here is that twenty one years into democracy, we still have a two-tier education system that disadvantages Black schools. The issue here is that we don’t have enough institutions of higher learning (traditional universities in particular) to accommodate the pool of matriculants we churn out annually, and so there’s tight competition to get into universities. Unfortunately, universities employ a merit-based system where the best applicants are accepted for study. These are often applicants from the very same White private or former model C schools.

So this blame that is being heaped on Black parents is not only unfair, it is indicative of lack of rationality rooted in failure to appreciate the reality of an untransformed South Afrika. Our parents don’t send us to these schools because they are bored or so sadistic that they enjoy seeing us wake up at 4am on cold mornings to make it to school on time, as we had to travel from the township using Putco buses. Most of the time they can’t even afford it. I know my own mother couldn’t afford to keep me at Melpark Primary School. The fees were suffocating her. Were it not for my academic performance, I’d have been excluded in my very first year. She sent me there because she understood that the only way out of our poverty is for me to get into a good university and increase my chances of economic upward mobility later in life, and the most probable way to get into a good university is to be from a school that is in a relatively upper quantile. And that’s what most Black parents are trying to do. So don’t punish them for wanting their children to survive this system. It’s wrong. It’s very cruel, in fact. Focus your attacks on this draconian anti-Black system and recognise the problem as White monopoly capital and racism…because THAT is the root of this issue.

The parent who took the video, Christopher Madumi Ramalingela, spoke to eNCA and explained why he felt it needed to be exposed:

A parent who filmed the excursion that has landed Curro Roodeplaat Private School in another racial segregation scandal, described the footage as disturbing and said he would take his child out of the school.

Dr Christopher Madumi Ramalingela said, “Initially, we just wanted to document our little girl’s trip and were shocked at what we saw.

“My wife was very disturbed by what she saw on the field trip. She had no idea the children were loaded onto the buses in that fashion.”

Read one of the other parents’ reactions, shared as a column on News24, for another take on the situation:

My son goes to Curro Roodeplaat which by now is properly the most controversial school in Gauteng. The reason we enrolled him there was due to fact that it is a double medium school. Which to us, as Afrikaans parents, meant that he will be afforded the opportunity to get exposure to all cultures and languages while receiving an education in Afrikaans, his mother tongue. He has friends from all the different classes, white, black and coloured and they play together at break time before and after school and together they do hip-hop, golf, tennis and yes, even rugby together. The kids are happy and they receive quality education with small classes and good teachers.

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