Posts Tagged ‘south africa’

My letter to Jesse Duarte

July 11, 2014

It is common knowledge that the ANC has it in for Israel. Even though it is ‘official’ South African government policy to support a peaceful two state solution, we have become used to the regular verbal attacks against Israel by individuals within (or aligned) with the ANC. Personally, I am dismissive of these attacks and I put it down to ignorance, inflated ego and politicising. Come on, there are greater atrocities in this world that these so called leaders always choose to ignore. I don’t even need to get into examples, there are so many take your pick.

That said, I shivered in my boots when I read yesterday’s press statement  authored by Jesse Duarte and released on the ANC website (read: very public forum). It was absolutely disgusting and extremely inciting. I lay in bed last night frightened at the prospect of how words like this could dangerously impact on Jews living in South Africa, whether maliciously intended or not on our community. Jesse Duarte’s actions cannot go unchecked. Although it will ultimately be left to the appropriate representative bodies to campaign for the community and safety, individuals also need to lend a voice. These are my words..


FAO: The Executive of the ANC



Dear The Executive of the ANC

Re: My response to the ANC Press statement dated 10 July 2014 titled ‘The situation in Gaza Strip’ by Jesse Duarte


I hope this letter reaches its intended addressees.

Firstly, I would like to query if the statement titled ‘The situation in Gaza Strip’ authored by Ms. Jesse Duarte, in her capacity as the Deputy Secretary General of the ANC, and posted to the public ANC website, is the official position of the ANC regarding Israel i.e. the position of the governing party of South Africa?

The purpose of my letter is not an attempt to enter a debate with Ms. Duarte on her views on the politics of the Middle East (i.e. Israel and Palestine). Ms. Duarte obviously feels so strongly in her Anti-Israel views that she felt the need to proclaim her opinions on the official website of the ANC, with the tacit approval of the ANC infrastructure.  Any reader of the statement can interpret the message that Ms. Duarte’s (and the ANC’s) statement conveys: Pro Palestinian and Anti-Israel in the most damning tone.

My question to the ANC executive is if they have given any consideration to the impact of Ms. Duarte’s ANC press statement on the Jewish community of South Africa?

I actually wonder if Ms. Duarte actually considered as to how her inflammatory statements would impact on Jewish South Africans?  I am a Jewish South African citizen, and based on prior actions and statements by the ANC and its representatives, I have accepted that the government of South Africa is openly one sided against Israel. That stance within itself is cause for concern based on the fact that there is a strong Jewish heritage in South Africa.  It is an alienating stance.

I have never experienced anti-Semitism in South Africa in all the years that I have lived here. That is not something to be thankful for, that is something that one expects in a country of such strong convictions and diversity. However, the vitriolic tone of Ms. Duarte’s statement and explicit ‘call to arms’  against Israel was of such substance and hatred towards Israel that I literally went cold when reading it. My literal interpretation of such a strongly worded statement by Ms. Duarte was my first experience of flagrant anti-Semitism in South Africa. To me, Ms. Duarte has blatant disregard for the Jewish citizens of South Africa. She is experienced enough to know that she will invoke an angry response from the representative bodies from the Jewish community of South Africa (as was the case). Even if Ms. Duarte argues that her statement was Anti-Zionistic and not Anti-Semitic, many Jewish South African citizens I have spoken to feel the same way I do. And that is evidence enough of the damage the statement Ms. Duarte has caused a section of the South African population, no matter how large or small that section.

My own view is that such a strongly worded display of Anti-Zionism is a masked (yet increasingly) less-subtle form of Anti-Semitism. The recent comprehensive survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League into global anti-Semitism shows that 38% (or 13 million) adult South Africans harbor anti-Semitic views (and Ms. Duarte statement exhibits some of these views – in the form of a public official statement!! It blows my mind).  Considering that the ADL survey also shows that a large percentage of the population has never met or interacted with a Jewish person, only affirms for me the reckless and persuasive nature of the official press statement by Ms. Duarte.  Ms. Duarte is an experienced politician and public servant to the citizens of South Africa, therefore, she has no excuse to be so careless and biased in the most public of forums. She should know better to be so insensitive and to handle a delicate situation, well, delicately. The ANC should know better too.

Ms. Duarte should be the one who should be well reminded of the “atrocities of Nazi Germany”, as it is exactly this kind of rhetoric, her words, that inflames the hatreds towards the Jews of the world. Readers of these words, many who are not as well-informed as an experienced politician as Ms. Duarte, are not in a position to properly disseminate the propaganda preached by Ms. Duarte and are not able to differentiate between Israel and Jews. It sets a very dangerous precedent. Not only in South Africa.  Based on their very public and influential positions in society, Ms. Duarte and the ANC need no reminding that it is their role to act more responsibly towards the people of South Africa.  Ms. Duarte is setting a very dangerous, irresponsible and frightening precedent.

I am certainly no official or religious representative of the Jewish community (that is the job of the official organizations), yet in my view, the ANC needs no reminding that, despite the size of our community, the Jewish citizens of South Africa positively contribute to all aspects of South African society.   From what I can see, as an active professional in the South African business community, the Jewish community is totally committed to the betterment of our beautiful country.

I am just one voice, however, one that is not alone, and I am telling you that the statement by Ms. Duarte was unacceptable. I have had the opportunity to live elsewhere but I am a proud South African, and South Africa is my home. Don’t alienate me, embrace me… I guarantee you that your investment in me and my community will continue to pay off. As it always has…


Ps. Ms. Duarte, it was three young Israeli people murdered, not two as you incorrectly stated.

Goodbye Madiba – one South African’s tribute

December 6, 2013

It could have been so different…

But for the angelic force of one individual I, and millions of other South Africans, young and old, black and white, rich and poor, will never have to imagine how it could have been.

Barack Obama could not have summed him up better “For now, let us pause and give thanks for the fact that Nelson Mandela lived.”

For if there was no Nelson Mandela – what might there have been?

I am a white South African:  too young to remember the harshness of apartheid, old enough to live through the democratic change, and astute enough to appreciate the miracle witnessed as the subsequent years unfolded. And what a miracle it was.

My voice is but one of the countless South Africans who claim to have this mystical bond with Madiba. We did not get to meet Mandela, we did not get to speak with him, but yet we all feel this incredible connection to him. So much so that we all truly believe that each and every one of us sense that he, in some paternal way, was a spiritual father and tata to us all.  Its an unexplainable sensation. One only a South African will know.Nelson+Mandela+NelsonMandela5 (1)

As one correspondent described on CNN earlier, that when he visited South Africa in its infancy years as a young democracy, he not only had he sensed the spirit of Mandela, but the unyielding spirit of the people. All of the people. And that is the greatest tribute that Mandela will leave to his children – each and every citizen of South Africa. He showed us how. And lived by example.

Having been privileged enough to live and travel outside my home country, I am constantly reminded that if ever there was a citizen of the world who evokes warmth and smiles from another (foreign) persons face it is when you answer to them when they ask you where you are from “I am South African.” I can only think that when others hear those words coming from our mouths they see a living symbol for positive change – that from the darkest days of apartheid rose a country so proud, so free and so colourful that every person around the world can, in that one moment, dare to dream that anything is possible. We are all living proof to the world that anything, ANYTHING, is possible.

It is currently a time when the patience of all South Africans is being severely tested, as we are all frustrated that the principles and values of not only Mandela, but the forefathers of the ANC, are seemingly being forgotten by our current leaders. But it is a time for our resolve and that unyielding spirit to ensure that these bumps being experienced on our young road of democracy will be overcome.

And even though, it is a sad time, a poignant time for all South Africans, it is a time to celebrate Madiba – all 95 years of him – and to remember his message of love and peace and a truly unified South Africa. Let us not forget that most important lesson.

It could have been so different.

But it was not.

And for that… Madiba… this ‘one’ South African is truly thankful.

Rest in peace.


The implosion of South African Israeli relations by Howard Sackstein

August 21, 2012

Sharing a considered and thought provoking article, well written by a friend of mine. The focus of the article is not on the general ‘who is wrong, who is right’ debate regarding the Israel/Palenstine situation, but rather the South African governments stance thereto. As I commented “South African govt has lost its right to comment on, or to even try be ‘impartial’ in this conflict (which they obviously do not understand, or bother to understand, hey Ebrahim Ebrahim?) after what happened in Marikana last week, which was absolutely disgusting and embarrassing…”

The implosion of South African Israeli relations by Howard Sackstein

No one truly understands South African foreign policy, albeit that “policy” may be a strong word to describe our approach to the rest of the world.

One-by-one, we have watched our close friends and allies in the Middle East tumble from power in the Arab Spring. We have defended the military junta in Burma at the United Nations and we have supported some of the most tyrannical and vicious dictatorships and theocracies in the modern world.

Our support has been complicit in the gross human rights violations in our neighbours in Zimbabwe and Swaziland and we have cozy’d up to exemplars of oppressive regimes in places like Saudi Arabia, Iran, China and Sudan.

Our support for a no-fly zone in Libya, much to our horror and surprise, ultimately resulted in the overthrow of one of our closest despotic allies, Muammar Gaddafi. We knew that we should never make that same mistake again, and so we still watch silently as tens of thousands of Syrians are butchered at the hands of Bashar al-Assad and that country spirals irrevocably downwards into civil war.

Amidst our indifference to human suffering comes a new policy towards the Middle East, that of unbridled Israel bashing.

Now let’s face facts, Israel is no paragon of virtue. Its occupation of territories captured from Jordan in 1967 has resulted in the rule over more than 2 million Palestinians, none of whom want to remain under Israeli control. No occupation is ever benevolent and the Israeli control over the West Bank is no exception. It is however one of approximately 200 international territorial disputes including our good friend China’s occupation of Tibet.

Israel’s human rights record within its own territory, especially towards its minority Arab population is generally perceived as good; and towards the Palestinians it occupies, generally poor. The conflict has however been subject to more propaganda than any other dispute in living memory.

The collapse of Middle Eastern peace initiatives, ongoing Palestinian terror targeting Israeli civilians, the failure of many Palestinian groups to recognize the right of Israel to exist, the Hamas coup against Fatah in Gaza, Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Yasser Arafat’s rejection of all Israeli peace offers, ongoing Israeli security check-points, Hamas’ rockets fired at Israeli civilian areas, the blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt, the capture of Israeli soldiers as hostages and the detention of Palestinian prisoners have all contributed towards the morass of the conflict.

To make matters worse, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu seems unwilling to settle the conflict with Palestinians, while Iran threatens Israel with nuclear annihilation and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas seems unable to either get Hamas to recognise the right of Israel to exist or bring the Palestinian people along in any settlement deal.

The ANC has never had a particularly close relationship with Israel, but the Palestinian Liberation Organization (Fatah) did provide logistic support to the ANC in exile. For many within the ANC, they see echoes of their own struggle within the Palestinian conflict.

Thabo Mbeki visited Jerusalem in 1995 and President Nelson Mandela visited Israel in 1999. In 2006, then President Mbeki called on Hamas, the Palestinian group that controls the Gaza enclave, to recognise the right of Israel to exist – a challenge never consummated by the fundamentalist group whose militia literally threw Fatah supporters off tall buildings after gaining a majority in the Palestinian elections in Gaza in that same year.

Over the past few months, the South African government’s increasingly aggressive pronouncements have caused relations between Jerusalem and Pretoria to spiral to unprecedented lows. Under the guidance of Deputy Minister of International Relations, Ebrahim Ebrahim, government has embarked upon a concerted campaign to demonise the Jewish state.

Relations between the two countries started their decline during Operation Cast Lead (2009) where Israeli forces bombarded Gaza in retaliation for the continued kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and later a barrage of rocket attacks fired by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad at Israeli civilian areas.

Pretoria, who has always seen itself as a referee in the Palestinian corner, failed to condemn Hamas’ rocket attacks on Israel, the cross-border kidnapping of Shalit or the fact that Hamas used civilians as shields for their own forces. To Pretoria, Israel was merely exerting its force over the Palestinian enclave from which it withdrew in 2005. Hamas’ actions during that period were later labelled as war crimes by a United Nations Commission that singled out Hamas for its failure to neither investigate nor take any action against any of its forces guilty of such crimes.

When Turkey dispatched a flotilla of boats laden with activists to break the international blockade on Gaza in May 2010 – a blockade declared legal by a United Nations Commission which investigated the issue – Israel intercepted one of the vessels which refused to stop, resulting in the loss of nine Turkish lives and the bludgeoning and stabbing by the Turks of a number of Israeli soldiers. South Africa, Nicaragua and Ecuador were the only countries other than Turkey to withdraw their ambassador from Tel Aviv as a result of the flotilla incident. The South African action placed us firmly in the anti-Israel camp.

In 2011, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) under the force of anti-Israel Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions campaigners, cancelled its bi-lateral agreement with the Ben Gurion University of the Negev, resulting in Israel withdrawing its technology used by UJ in water purification projects in South Africa. UJ was the first academic institution internationally to formally cut ties with an Israeli university.

Earlier this year, the University of Kwazulu-Natal refused to allow Yaakov Finkelstein, Deputy Israeli Ambassador to South Africa, to address a gathering on its campus. So fierce was international condemnation of the University and its lack of commitment to freedom of speech, that the university was forced to issue an apology.

A spokeswoman at the Israeli Embassy commented that “Anti-Israeli elements have embarked on a campaign of intellectual terror which rejects everything that academia believes in, meaning dialogue, discussions, research, understanding and freedom of speech,” she said. “The use of bullying to silence freedom of expression in an academic setting is a very sad development.”

Meanwhile, at the behest of pro-Palestinian advocates, Open Shuhada Street, South African Trade and Industry Minister, Rob Davies announced that he was to issue an official notice “to require traders in South Africa not to incorrectly label products that originate from the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) as products of Israel.”

There was little doubt that Davies was technically correct. Products manufactured in the West Bank are not manufactured in Israel, they are manufactured in Palestinian territory first occupied by Jordan in 1948 and then captured by Israel from Jordan in 1967. Israel has neither annexed the territory nor laid claim to the land. Davies said that Pretoria recognized the State of Israel “only within the borders demarcated by the United Nations (UN) in 1948” and that these borders do not include territories occupied by Israel after 1967. His phraseology was interesting, primarily because almost the entire world, including the PLO, appears to recognize the boundaries of Israel within the pre-1967 borders not the 1948 borders. Once again South Africa appeared out of step with the international community, albeit that Davies may well just be ill-informed of the detail.

The detail of the labeling issue was less about the labels and more about the political message Pretoria was attempting to send to Jerusalem.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, claimed Davies’ notice displayed “unbelievable ignorance”. He said “We have chosen harsh words to respond to the labeling issue because it is merely the latest in a long line of insults and undiplomatic behavior toward Israel, which sometimes smacked of racism”.

Minister Rob Davies denied the move was politically motivated, saying that he was merely bringing product labelling in line with the Consumer Protection Act. The Minister’s statements were however soon contradicted by Deputy Minister of International Relations, Marius Fransman who told an audience in Athlone, Cape Town,  “economic diplomacy could be one of the most effective weapons of change in the Palestinian situation. Palestinians and their supporters, inspired by the economic boycott of apartheid-era South Africa, have been trying for years to emulate our success in that terrain. Until now their campaign of divestment and boycott has had negligible economic effect, but the voice of our government could be a symbolic boost. However, I am glad to inform you that our government, through the Ministry of Trade and Industry [DTI] has recently, in May 2012, released a government notice 379 of 2012, as a strategy to apply economic pressure on Israel.”

He continued that he was “highly inspired by the role played by organizations such Open Shuhada Street, PSG, the MJC, Al Quds Foundation and others.” A number of these organisations deny the right of Israel to exist.

In March 2012 the South African government granted entry to renown Hamas terrorist Abdul Aziz Umar to visit the country.  Umar, was given seven life sentences for taking part in the Café Hillel suicide bombing attack in Jerusalem which killed 7 people and injured 50 in a sidewalk cafe. Umar was released in the Gilad Shalit  prisoner swap deal.

Ironically, Umar whose organisation calls for the expulsion of Jews from the Middle East and for the establishment of a theocratic Muslim state in the current Israel, was dispatched to South Africa to promote Israel Apartheid Week.

So sympathetic has South Africa become to the anti-Israel cause, that terrorists last month felt comfortable enough to attempt to carry out an attack on Israeli targets in South Africa. While details of the planned attack remain sketchy, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu revealed some information about the foiled attack in the wake of the bombing of Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria, which left 6 people dead and 17 injured.

When a group of South African Jewish communal organizations and business leaders attempted to address the appalling service delivery record of our government by training South Africans in Israel, government immediately attempted to step in to stop it.

Over the past 60 years Israel has been training Africans throughout the continent and has been one of the largest contributors to Africa in the fields of agriculture, rural development and skills training. Israel is also one of the few countries which has transferred actual technology into Africa and the Israeli drip irrigation method is one of the most important advances in African food security over the last few decades.

Under the leadership of Yehuda Paz and the Afro/Asian Institute of the Israeli trade union movement, the Histadrut, black South African civic leaders, trade unionists and NGOs have been trained in Israel since the 1970’s. Yehuda Paz was banned by the Apartheid government from entering South Africa. Similarly today, a post Apartheid South African government attempts to use the same tactics to ban South Africans from travelling to meet Paz and his team at the Negev Institute in Israel. Paz and the Negev Institute have hosted many delegations from Africa, in general and South Africa, in particular.

The South African Department of International Relations has now attempted to put a stop to all of these exchanges. Israel has never sought publicity for its efforts in capacity building in South Africa, but behind the scenes many, even within the ANC, are furious at Ebrahim’s actions.

Last week, Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim went even further, now informing South Africans that Pretoria discourages all South Africans from visiting Israel. He said “Because of the treatment and policies of Israel towards the Palestinian people, we strongly discourage South Africans from going there.” He later told a Sunday newspaper “Israel is an occupier country which is oppressing Palestine, so it is not proper for South Africans to associate with Israel.” Days later, King Goodwill Zwelithini accepted an invitation from Israeli Ambassador Dov Segev-Steinberg to visit Israel.

Predictably the South African Jewish Board of Deputies described the Deputy Minister’s stance as “grossly discriminatory, counter-productive and wholly inconsistent with how South Africa normally conducts its international relations and contradicts its official policy of having full diplomatic ties with Israel.”

Probably the most eloquent and scathing criticism of the Deputy Minister came from the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Dr Warren Goldstein, who, in a statement calling on the Deputy Minister to resign said ” Most recently you have used your platform and title in an active campaign to prevent South Africans – and especially members of government – from visiting Israel. This is but one example of your irrational obsession with Israel to the detriment of the proper execution of your governmental duties. You have acted in breach of your government’s own foreign policy, in terms of which South Africa and Israel have full diplomatic relations.”

“Your actions hark back to apartheid-style control of information and censorship. Why would you try to prevent South Africans from travelling to Israel and seeing the situation for themselves? Do you think, Mr. Ebrahim, that the South African people are not as clever as you are, that they cannot think for themselves and that they need to be protected from the facts? For the sake of peace and justice, we need more information, not less; we need more dialogue, not less; we need more connections with other societies, not less. You clearly do not believe so, and hence you are unfit to hold public office. Do the honorable thing: resign.”

One of Ebrahim’s predecessors, Deputy Foreign Minister Fatima Hajaig, was herself dismissed from cabinet in 2009 after an anti-Semitic outburst against Jews to a Cosatu meeting in Lenasia.

Israel has little to gain from its contributions to South Africa. In the mind of Israel, South Africa is a underdeveloped nation battling with rampant corruption, spiralling unemployment, chronic under-education and crippling service delivery. To Israel, South Africa is an irrelevancy which during this past weeks Lonmin disaster, committed an abhorrent massacre against its own population.

Israel maintains close political and economic relations with the United States, Russia, China, India and the European Union. In fact, relations between Israel and the European Union were recently upgraded. The Israeli economy is booming while the South African economy languishes. Israel leads the world in its technological contribution in the fields of computers, agriculture, cellular technology, biomedicines and nano-technology.

We should all start fearing that Israel will take action to restrict its technology from being used in South Africa. Many farmers in rural Limpopo and other provinces around the country have moved from subsistence farming to commercial farming based entirely on Israeli knowhow and technology.

But the effect of the South African government’s decisions, go much further and will be felt in subtle ways around the world. Israel has many friends in the third world, in European governments and American politics. Our government’s approach to Israel may well start being factored into whether nations wish to assist us, trade with us or grant us preferential access to their markets. To all of these countries, Israel is a far more important ally and trading party than anything South Africa has to offer. Most worrisome for South Africa will be the danger that Ebrahim’s comments become an issue in the American elections as both American parties scramble for the crucial Jewish vote for November’s election.

South Africa’s bona fides reached an all-time low in the MTN-Turkcell case, currently before the US court system. If the Turkcell allegations against MTN are correct, it would appear that South Africa allowed its foreign policy to be rented to Iran in return for granting an Iranian cellular license to MTN. Iranian nuclear officials appear to have visited the South African government and with the alleged assistance of MTN bribes, South Africa agreed to protect Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Assisting Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, not only destabilises the entire middle eastern region but also puts South Africa on a collision path with most of the civilized world. Not only does it destroy South Africa’s entire international credibility but it positions us firmly as a destructive force in international relations. It also places us squarely in the anti-peace camp in the Middle-East.

The ANC have jumped onto this bandwagon hoping that a rabid anti-Israel policy will potentially win them lost votes amongst the Muslim community in the Western Cape, the only province not controlled by the ANC.

It is possible that the ANC’s gamble may well win them some votes in the Western Cape, but South African Muslim voters, like all voters, will rank poor service delivery, job creation, economic poverty and lawlessness far higher on their priority list of reasons to vote for any particular party in our next general elections.

Madiba’s birthday should be celebrated every day

July 19, 2012

Driving to work today my mind reflected back to 18 July 2010. I recall this date as the first time the concept of Madiba Day was sold to the citizens of South Africa as a day in which people should donate 67 minutes of their time or resources to helping a less fortunate fellow citizen.

We all got caught up in this force of generosity. One clear memory I have was noticing motorists giving ‘gift’ bundles (mostly winter warmers such as blankets) to the street beggars at the corner of Oxford Street and Glenhove road in Rosebank. Both motorist and beggar gave and received graciously and with smiles on their faces. On any other day of the year, especially at this rather large intersection, the motorist would be most bothered and react rudely to the beggars insistent invasion of the motorists personal space.

On 18 July 2010, all across the country, there was a genuine warmth, respect and gees (spirit) emitted by the citizens of South Africa towards each other. It was energising and empowering! I myself joined a group of friends in donating food to a homeless shelter in Johannesburg. The food would last probably a week, maybe a couple of days. But the longevity didn’t matter, it was the thought that counted. Our 67 minutes. And it felt great!

There was a twist though… Madiba Day of 2010 was celebrated exactly one week after the world cup 2010 soccer final in Johannesburg. National pride was at an all time high as the world came and the world saw, but it was OUR country who most definitely conquered. We conquered the initial perception by the world that South Africa would be incapable of hosting a crime-free first class event. And the nation, together as ONE, including the government and importantly the public services sector (read: law and order), the private sector and most importantly the people of South Africa, all rallied together to create probably the most memorable World Cup ever. Quite an achievement considering it is the world’s largest sporting event.

So it was easy to keep the spirit flowing of the World Cup into Madiba Day that year. We were ALL proud, we were all energetic, and most importantly we were all hopeful that the country had finally proved to the world, and more importantly, to itself, that it was most capable. We had turned a corner.

And then it all came to a screeching halt! Since those glorious few weeks, in which the problems we did face were challenged and contained, we have been bombarded, daily, with negative news and sentiment: The incessant fraud, corruption and maladministration from the highest levels in government right down to our local MEC’s. The constant back stabbing and infighting in the ANC, with ‘leaders’ more concerned in maintaining their status quo, rather than in ensuring that the children in Limpopo got their text books. The worrying increase in racial disharmony fuelled by populist and socialist politicians and aggravated by the tiresome recycling of the ‘race card’, the toll roads, the metro cops, the police brutality… Not a day goes by without some scandal making headlines.

There are multiple, and sometimes complex, contributing factors. However, I believe that one of the single biggest causes to the negativity is the seeming lack of respect and simple courtesy we have for each other and for due process. An general attitude of “I don’t care, I will do what I want”. Respect for your fellow countryman is what Nelson Mandela habitually preached. He was a man who led, and still continues to lead, by example. A man who lives by the principle of “Do what I do, not do what I say” (unlike current leaders, hey JZ?). And for one day of the year, on Madiba Day, we are ‘tricked’ into acting on Mandela’s principles of respect and harmony. The irony is, we actually want to do it. World Cup 2010 proved that. It showed us what we are capable of when every one of us pulls in the same direction. We will always have the social problems of a developing economy, but imagine if the billions stolen from the now bankrupt Limpopo was properly channelled as it was intended, it would go a long way to improving the lives of many.

Madiba Day provides us with a momentary glimpse of what South Africa could be like everyday if we wanted. Mandela said “One of the things I learned when I was negotiating was that until I changed myself, I could not change others”. Madiba would want us to adopt this attitude every day, and not just on the 18th of July. We are certainly most capable of it, to give each other mutual respect. It is really not that hard to do and best of all respect and courtesy costs absolutely nothing.

And this is the greatest gift the children and grandchildren of South Africa can give to their greatest Tata: Let’s celebrate Madiba Day every day!

My 67 minutes are up… Mzansi Fo Sho!

Just VOTE – it’s the right thing to do!

May 13, 2011

I was a non-believer. I never thought my vote would count. Like many disillusioned mlungu’s I also thought “what difference would one vote make anyway??” I felt like I was a transient passenger in this beloved country of ours. Proudly South African I liked to think, but not per the few radical politicians who preached that there was no place for whites in the new South Africa. Our presence was tolerated as ‘citizens’ of industry, living off the land of opportunity, trying our luck in the modern gold rush of the burgeoning economy. But don’t you dare ask for assistance from the government. I used to really believe this.

That was until the last national elections, when the ANC lost out on a two thirds majority by a whisker. The two thirds that would grant the ruling party the ominous power to change the South African constitution. And depending on who was in power that could be a very dangerous situation indeed. At least from a pessimistic point of view. AHA!! Now my vote counts! I have a say!

Pessimism is very Anti-South African. Despite it all: the rolling black outs, the Juju Malemas, the xenophobia, we are seemingly a country of optimists. Always believing that things will work out. Mandela illustrated this by example, and led us ALL into a new dawning with his positive attitude of reconciliation and unity.

So when the opportunity came to voice my opinion by applying to The Star Newspapers ‘The Peoples Panel’ – in which they select a small sample (30) of Joburg’s citizens to canvas opinion about the upcoming local elections – and then print their opinions in the newspaper I jumped at the chance to apply, to have a say that is a little louder than an anonymous vote, and to an audience just a little bit larger than a blog! I wonder if JZ was reading??

The question I was asked this week, and printed in today’s edition under the headline “Is withholding your vote good for democracy?” , was if I agreed with Cope’s co-founder Mbhazima Shilowa decision to personally boycott the upcoming local elections.   Whereas a few years ago I might have given a different answer, today my answer was an emphatic ‘NO”. I said that it is absolutely imperative that everyone exercises their right to vote, more so as a result of the general apathy seemingly stemming from the ANC supporters. I believe that Shilowa’s stance is counter-productive, and it is crucial for supporters of other parties to vote, which could affect the ANC’s grip on power in Joburg. I do not believe that the ANC will lose majority in our region, but any perceived lack of support could trigger the ANC into better performance in future years. The ANC’s performance over the years has deteriorated, and a large portion of the public believe that their leaders are more interested in lining their own pockets as opposed to acting in the best interests of the citizens, ironically, as they are appointed to do! Corruption is a fact, again proven by the latest auditor-general findings, and the biggest contributor to the decay of our democracy, in which many less fortunate people are crying out for basic services whilst their leaders pave the roads to their own personal gain.

The other day I was on the golf course, canvassing the opinion of the caddies who were part of our four-ball. The four caddies are young black men, all living in townships. Their aspirations are the same as any person from any background – to provide a better future for themselves and their families. The four caddies, all of whom I have come to know quite well, firmly stated that they were not voting. Their main reason? Corruption, and their lack of trust in the the politicians, who are all “stealing”. All four caddies are ANC supporters. Interestingly enough, when I asked them if they support Malema, there was a difference of opinion, an even split – 2 nays and 2 yays. This is where us whitey’s are flabbergasted. How could anyone support the little Mugabe? But Juju worryingly wields an influential stick amongst the youth. The one caddie, Sputla, who ironically has a remarkable resemblance to Malema (so I think), believes in the ‘nationalisation of the mines’ rhetoric.  I told him, that in my opinion, it is just further means for the fat cats to steal from the national coffers. Sputla seemed circumspect. Propaganda is an illusion.

However, when I canvassed if they would vote for the national opposition, the DA, the cadd’s put their differences aside and unanimously gave a resounding “NO”. When I inquired if it’s because the DA is perceived as a white party (historically, and because their leader Helen Zille is white), Vincent stated the ‘obvious’, “No, it’s because I won’t vote for a woman!”

At least they all said they would vote for me! Perhaps that’s because I was a paying customer.

Now is just as an important time as any to make your mark as a South African. Go vote next week in the Local Municipal Elections… after all, it’s the right thing to do!

Mzansi FO Sho!!

The Star People's Panel

The Greatest Shows on Earth. In Jozi.

February 19, 2011

“Wow, Wow, WOW!”…

… were the first words that political liberalist, activist for Africa, and eternal rock legend, Bono, was meekly able to express upon entering the seething cauldron of 98,000 fans that is the Soccer City, the Calabash (or FNB for the more commercially correct.)

Staking my place on the field last Sunday, right in the middle of the amphitheatre that just months ago played host to the greatest gladiators of the sporting world, it was only appropriate, somewhat divine perhaps, that one of rock history’s greatest bands, and one that sang for the freedom of Madiba, be the first major musical act to play at our – Joburg’s – stadium.

‘Wow!!’ is what the incredulous Mexican players must have thought as the decidedly one sided vuvuzela-blasting rainbow-nationed tribe belted out our proud anthem before the first whistle rang to kick-start the 2010 World Cup…

‘Wow’!! is what must have gone through the minds of the New Zealand All Blacks whilst their imperious Haka battle song was being unceremoniously drowned out by the “Bokke Bokke” chanting of the 95,000 green & gold tinged fanatical Springbok fans…

But Bono, through, what must be said was, an incredible sound system, was the only one who was able to actually express the moment, summing it up perfectly, “WOW!!”
It was the one constant: utter disbelief that this Calabash-cauldron could generate such noise, such vibe, such enormous energy! I remember it all so so clearly as I was blessed to be there for all three events. Three of the greatest shows on Earth.

U2’s biggest ever stadium crowd, and close to 100,000 of us. And not in London, not in Paris, not in New York, Tokyo or Rio. But in Soweto! SO-WHERE-TO must have crossed the collective minds of these well travelled Irishmen, as they braved the golden highway from their 5 star hotel to the south western township (well the outskirts at least). And nearing go time, the climax frantically built up, fuelled by the excitable Heineken-induced (good riddance Budweiser) force of the crowd ranging from the 1980’s Joshua tree- LP-spinning golden agers, through the Zooropa-Diskman-dancing crew of the 90’s, to the Get On Your Boots smart-phone-uploading-YouTubers. From the hardcore fans that slept through the night just for a chance to touch Bono’s fingertips, to those who came along, modern passengers of the experiential age, just so they can tweet to the world to say “I was there”!

As I type this, the Cape Town concert is being streamed live on 94.7 Highveld Stereo, and right now Bono is feeling his way through Amazing Grace, and the Edge is starting to rip through the timeless riffs of the anthem “Where the Streets Have No Name”, and I feel my fingers type faster, faster, to keep up with the chords, my hair is starting to stand up on the back of my neck, this drug-like sensation is streaming through my spine all the way up to the musical nodes in my brain, and I burst into memory: total recall of the moment I was standing alone, with 98,000 others, all of us who came to experience music nirvana, and “I want to run, I want to hide” it all just exploded… a blur that seemed to last forever. But it only lasted for 5 minutes.

Stuck in a moment I couldn’t get out of… Didn’t want it to end.

Mzansi Fo Sho!

Bafana to Bokke… back to Soccer City!

August 23, 2010

A friend asked me earlier which was a better experience? Being at Soccer City for the opening game of the world cup between Bafana Bafana and Mexico, or going back to Soccer City for the first rugby match ever to be played at the stadium between the traditional rivals, the Springboks and the New Zealand All Blacks?

A tough question to answer…

Firstly, I just can’t get used to calling it FNB stadium again. How could I? The old FNB stadium has gone through a complete metamorphosis. From the stark, somewhat foreboding, concrete caterpillar of the 80’s & 90s’s to the architectural marvel of the new millenium that has emerged from the cocoon to become the colourful calabash of Soccer City. For many millions around the world the first visual image they ever had of South Africa was when they first tuned in their TV’s to watch the opening game of World Cup 2010. I can only imagine what the Serbians, the Japanese, the Chileans must have thought of South Africa the moment our most modern coliseum filled their TV screens with the faces of thousands of yellow and green South Africans. Third world?? I think not! “Welcome to Soccer City!” is what the world will remember!

After many years of anxious waiting, and fretting like many others over our ability to pull it off, finally taking my seat at the World Cup opening game between Bafana and Mexico was a once in a lifetime experience. I vividly remember kitting up in my green supporters outfit, Makarapa & Vuvuzela et al, and heading out to the game on that typical sunny winter’s morning. I didn’t know what to expect. Did anyone? I remember the goosebumps I had the moment the UFO-like stadium first came into view as we came round the last bend of Nasrec Road. It was like those Umhlanga holidays I had as a young kid, driving for what seemed like eternity from the Joburg Highveld down to the Durban coast, and the rush of excitement I felt when my dad finally called out “kids, who can see the ocean?” and we would all screech out in delight as the vastness of the Indian Ocean rose up over the horizon.  The moment I stepped out the car and took in the massive expanse of the stadium that was about to swallow me up I think I started bouncing up and down like a little kid again. The events of that afternoon will live in South African folklore for time itself. Just being there, blowing my Vuvuzela as the teams walked out onto the field, to stand up and patriotically belt out our national anthem ‘Nkosi Sikelele’, and rejoicing Bafana’s  cracking first goal – the goal heard around the world – I have never felt prouder of being able to call myself South African. It was my moment, it was your moment, and it was bladdy well everyone’s moment! From Madiba to Zuma, from Francois Pienaar to Simphiwe Tshabalala, from the Boere in the platteland to the township kids playing in the streets of Soweto, from Pofadder to Mpumulanga, this was a moment when we could all call ourselves ‘Proudly South African’!

Now being back at the stadium this past Saturday to witness the two goliaths of world rugby, the old foes, do battle for the first time in the cauldron of the Calabash was also an outrageous experience. At the soccer I was a proud South African, yet, like many others in the stadium, the South African soccer culture was as foreign to me as the crazy Mexicans seated next to me. However, rugby is different. I am a Springbok rugby man by birth right. And like all fanatical fans I believe I could pick a better team than the coach (bring back Frans Steyn!) So being at this specific rugby match on Saturday was a call to arms, a battle cry – I just had to be there. I had to be there to witness the first time South Africa played rugby in one of the world’s most magnificent stadiums, I had to be there to be one of those 94,000 plus fans who made up the biggest crowd ever at a South African rugby game, I had to be there to drink cheap ice-cold Castle Lager beers (goodbye overpriced Budweisers!), I had to be there to pay respect to our Kaptein, John Smit, as he ran onto the field to a hero’s welcome for his 100th test, I had to be there to shout out “BOK-KE! BOK-KE!” in the most electrifying response ever witnessed to the All Blacks famous Haka chant


, I had to be there to sing the Zulu/Xhosa parts of our national anthem which is becoming just as loud as the Afrikaans/English parts, I had to be there to boo the ref for his perceived bias against the Boks and apparent favour for the opposition captain Richie McCaw, and I most certainly had to be there to jubilantly celebrate as the might of the South African forwards bulldozed over to score the first ever try in what will surely be the first of many Springbok games at our new ‘national stadium’. And I don’t think anyone missed the Vuvuzelas (they were banned).

Sadly the Springboks lost! And like all Bok fans I despaired about why and how we lost the game. Without getting technical my main gripe is how could a team, which is mostly comprised of players from the two teams (Bulls & Stormers) who dominated all and sundry in this year’s Super 14, perform so badly in the Tri-nations? My buddy summed it up best “We simply got outcoached!!” Enough said.

The main differentiation between going to the opening game of the world cup soccer and the first rugby game ever at Soccer City is that we hoped Bafana would win, but in the rugby we expected the Springboks to win. The sport might have been different, however the stadium was the same, the atmosphere was just as stirring and the GEES and patriotism at the rugby was as immense as that opening game of the world cup. As the cliché goes, word just cannot describe it…

So what was the better experience? I can still sense that rush of excitement as the world cup kicked off, and my voice is still hoarse from screaming at the ref on Saturday. Perhaps the opening game of the soccer pips it… just… simply because it was a once off event, never to be repeated. No time is better than the first time, but the Springboks will be back at Soccer city.

Either way, I was truly fortunate to be at both games for such momentous occasions in South African sporting history.

And best of all it all happened right on my doorstep in the city of Gold… and Green: Johannesburg.

Jozi Fo Sho!

Bafana BaGhana Basasta Disaster!

August 12, 2010

(AKA The lessons that were NOT learnt during the World Cup 2010…)

Its 8:40pm, and I should be at the game tonight.

Instead, I have just got home after an hour and a half joy ride trying to get to the game between Bafana Bafana and Ghana (BaGhana was sooo July ‘10), and now I have resorted to watching the game live on TV, match ticket in hand, as opposed to my unreserved seat at Soccer City, oops, I meant FNB stadium 🙂

This was supposed to be my much anticipated ‘Return of the Mlungus’ as my brother and I excitedly geared up for the match. It was like a scene out of Rambo as we laid out our battle outfits as we did countless times during WC2010: Makarapa – check, Vuvuzela – check, Bafana jersey – check, SA scarf – check, and the coup de grace, the green overall with “Mlungu 1” adorned in bright yellow on the back spotted numerous times at many world cup games. We were ready! A mocking parallel to those many freezing nights during WC2010 is that it was bitterly cold tonight. So we had to pack our Winter Warmer Emergency Bag including Beanie, Ski Gloves, and personally for me, knee high Ski Socks. After the recorded coldest night in the history of Joburg for the month of June, during the Brazil/North Korea game, we weren’t taking any chances!

We were up for it! Both of us were looking extremely forward to going to the game to support Bafana, to blow vuvuzela’s for our stars Mphela, Pienaar, Tshabalala, Khune et al and to play our part in carrying on the GEES generated by the World Cup!

Sadly, that is where it ended

Buying the match tickets on Computicket was the easy part. At R100 a piece to watch the clash of our nations favourites against our adopted & beloved quarterfinal cousins, it seemed fair value, compared to the R350 I paid to get a ticket to watch the off-form Springboks at the same battle ground next week. The only thing that raised an eyebrow was that the seats were unreserved? According to the SAFA spokesman, it seems many people haven’t been to Soccer City before so they will “struggle to find their seats”! (hmmm… I wonder how the Mexican, Brazilian and South Korean fans managed to find their seats during the WC2010?)

Getting to the game was potentially the deal breaker for making this gargantuan effort – note that the weather had no bearing on our decision to go. That said, based on the pleasurable experience of going to Soccer City no less than six (6!) times during the world cup, I assumed that the transport organisation would be if not as efficient as during the colonialists FIFA’s brief reign over South Africa, then at least up to a similar standard. In hindsight, as someone once said, assumptions are the mother of all…!

Being typically sceptical Joburgers we didn’t go into this one blindly. We double-checked of course, and after some nifty googling we stumbled onto the website, which conveniently emblazoned all over the home page travel arrangements for tonight’s match. The three options were: Train it; Rea Vaya bus it; or Park & Walk it (for the WC2010 uninformed that means DRIVE). The ‘specially arranged’ trains leaving from JHB Park Station were at 14:53pm, 15:36pm and 18:21pm. So for the working class that only left one feasible option: the 6pm train, also, who wanted to arrive 4.5 hours early?? Against making the 6pm train was fighting the notorious peak hour M1 South traffic to get to the stattion, and we couldn’t run the risk of missing the train. Thus Metrorail was ruled out. The fore-mentioned traffic hindrance didn’t seem all that appealing so Park & Walk was ruled out… although I did buy a ‘Shareworld’ Park & Walk ticket anyway as an emergency option (At R15 it was worth the safety net). The website clearly stated that Rea Vaya busses were leaving from “Con Hill” every “5 minutes between 5pm and 8pm”. As Con Hill was suitably located for us, with plenty street signs dotted along the way pointing us to the location, and also due to the great reviews this mode of transport had during the world cup, this was the option for us!

Con Hill here we come!!

But we came… and… left.

We arrived at Con Hill, and there was not a bus in sight! The security guard pointed us in the direction of the Civic Centre. But we weren’t taking our chances. If SAFA can’t get it right, what chance did the poor security guard have?

Cue the safety net Park & Walk ticket! Luckily for me, I learnt a secret route during the World Cup, via the western suburbs of Jhb snaking through the northern parts of Soweto, to get to Soccer City (if my mom only knew that her precious boykies were driving through Soweto at night!) If it wasn’t for the secret route we would have missed the WC2010 opening game due to the now infamous ‘Opening Match Gridlock’. As we embarked on my secret route through areas of Joburg my suburbanite brother had never seen before, we ducked under the highway and I noticed the peak hour traffic back up that we would now avoid. I quietly gave myself a pat on the back. The secret route worked again, and it took us next to no time to get to Nasrec Road…  But that was the beginning of the end.

There are only 2 ways to get to Shareworld – via Nasrec Road or via Main Reef Road. The route in from the other side was closed off by the cops (I know because we tried it!) During the World Cup we sat in traffic on Nasrec road, which moved along at snail’s pace but eventually we made it to the game on time. But that was with the advantage of arriving plenty time in advance and with a battalion of metro cops to marshal the traffic. Tonight the back-up down Nasrec road spanned the length of the entire road – that is a couple of kilometres – and not a metro cop in sight! Based on my world cup experience I knew that we were in for trouble, and there was no way in hell, with just over an hour to go before kick-off, that we would make it into the stadium on time, let alone find a parking in the chaos.

We had to make a call: sit in the car, tear our hair out and struggle to get to the game. Or call it.

Common sense prevailed – we called it!

I did suggest to my brother that we try finding an alternative route. But that was taking a chance it would be better elsewhere, further complicated that we did not know how to find any other way with no marshals to assist us. My secret route only knew one direction! As I did a u-turn to hit it back onto the highway, I felt guilty that we were wimping out of it. But my boet, wise beyond his years, consoled me with these words “It shouldn’t be this hard to get to the game”.

We came, we most certainly tried, and we sadly left.

All kitted out and nowhere to go!

So what does this all say about our post world cup abilities? For those who doubt my optimism and patriotism and think I am conveniently backing the naysayers, go read my other blog entries … I am the biggest Advocate for Mzansi! But this whole experience left a very bitter taste in my mouth, as I have read countless articles on how the Administrators of the game were going to take the lessons learnt from the world cup and move forward in a positive direction (and the leaders of our country on a more general basis). Yet, the first opportunity they had was blown. Badly. They spoke of how they wanted to attract more whitey’s (whose pale faces were plentiful at the world cup games) to support local soccer. But based on tonight’s experience, would I dare try it again? On tv the stadium was half full. I read an interesting article by the sports columnist Mark Gleeson in which he said that low attendances at local soccer games are caused by the “appalling experience” of going to a game, from the “transport, parking, seating, concession stands and general bonhomie in the crowd”. I cannot comment about the inside of the stadium, I never made it there, but from a transport point of view, the organisers definitely missed a trick. Even my mother commented to me, as I was despairing to her on the way home (moms give the best sympathy!), that how could it have messed it up SOOOO badly as there was a perfect transport infrastructure from the world cup!

And worst of all? I missed a perfect start to Pitso’s reign as Mphela scored a cracker for a 1 nil win!

We begrudgingly arrived home after the 1.5 hour ride around Joburg.

My brother got out my car, and all he could say was “Thanks for the ride…”

Mzansi Fo Sho!

* I have print-screened and saved the SAFA website transport details in case of any denials! Let the typical weak excuses begin. I am going to ask for my money back… watch this space!

Unused match ticket for sale!

Moving up in the world of blogging!

August 10, 2010

Sacksinthecity has been invited to blog for the up and coming Newstime website (

Check out my profile at!/97

Onwards and upwards!

Mzansi Fo Sho!

Does Joburg need Superheroes?

August 9, 2010

Yet another long weekend in Mzansi – we are truly blessed with our liberal culture of needing to celebrate and honour almost anything: woman, youth, freedom, Selebi going to jail – or is it all just an excuse to put our feet up and relax? I thought that’s what strikes were for! I guess it’s all in the name of Ubuntu!

Nevertheless, today gave me some time to do a spot of housecleaning. Or, as most spring cleanings tend to up for me, a few hours spent perusing through my old comic books.

Like many teenage boys of the time, I got caught up in the mid-90’s comic boom, a massive comic craze created by speculators who believed they could make a fortune in unearthing rare comics and selling them on for a handsome profit.  Together with a cousin of mine, I would trawl the handful of comic book stores in Joburg – I remember one being in Edenvale, another at the top of Grant Avenue in Norwood – debating which rare gem of a comic would lead to an early retirement.  This was before the days of the internet, and we had to batch-order new titles from overseas, and then wait excitedly for weeks for the snail-mail postal system to deliver the slew of newly created comic titles or yet another spin off series of X-Men or Spiderman.  It was only when I entered university, and happened upon my first Economics 101 lecture, did I learn about the phenomena of ‘Supply vs. Demand’. Needless to say, my Gen 13 #1 edition is worth less now than what I paid for it, and I never got to retire young!

My lasting legacy of this craze is the big box of individually plastic-wrapped comics that I now store in my cupboard (I didn’t sell one), together with my vast collection of Archie comics… Every now and again I flip through a couple of books and get lost for a few hours as my mind wanders through the imagined world of Metropolis or Gotham City.

I am a day-dreamer supreme, and I often lose myself in thought as my mind wanders through its labyrinth of crevices. So as I read through Green Lantern #56 this morning, I wandered what Joburg would be like if Superheroes were real, and if they were, what kind of characters would they be?  I think these heroes would specialise in tackling and combating the problems evident in our city. There would be characters such as METROMAN, the only honest traffic cop in the city. He would cruise around the city in his Orange customised superfast bike battling his arch-nemesis, HiACE, and his evil army of Taxi drivers. METROMAN would never accept a bribe, take no mercy on the cowboys who drive without number plates, would never hide behind a speed camera, and would certainly be in a physical shape capable of running at least 30 metres to chase down a suspect! Then there would be the dynamic duo of ELECTRO, and his boy wonder sidekick, HYDRO, who side with the honest citizens to rid the city of the lazy and corrupt ‘OFFICIALS  of the MUNICPALITY’ who hide out in their secret lair called ESKOM. Of course there would be a group of vigilantes, appropriately named ‘the CHOOKIES’, who would roam the streets of Joburg, during all hours of the night, tackling the scum of the city, the criminals, aka the TSOTSIS. Everyone has their favourite character, and mine would certainly be JACK TAR, who has the ability to shoot bolts of tar when he points at a pothole, instantly filling it up. In his  Tar-Tank, with indestructible wheels, he would seek out those Telecom company managers who dig up our roads (without fixing them properly), and puncture all their tyres! Cameo appearances would be made by characters such as THE REPORTER, who reports on the truth on matters that count, in total disregard of the mechanisms of dictatorship such as the Media Tribunal, and the creepy ghostly spirit TOKOLOSH, commandeered by the SANGOMA, who appears in the bedrooms of politicians during the middle of the night to scare the kak out of them whenever they say or do something stupid in the public eye. Julius Dilemma would be a frequent host of the TOKOLOSH.

Eish! My imagination is running wild…

But does Joburg need Superheroes? Do we really need METROMAN, or ELECTRO, or the TOKOLOSH. Or… do we simply need honest and capable officials, who perform their jobs admirably, with pride, and most importantly, put the needs of their citizens first and foremost.  Is that really such an outlandish, imagined ideal or does it need to be drawn up in comic books??

Whereas a Superman is an impossibly fantastic concept, a hard working city official isn’t. You don’t need an imagination for this one, all we need is a bit of faith, as perhaps one day the impossible will happen!

Now wouldn’t that be a great story to read about…

Mzansi Fo Sho!

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