Thursday, 28 July 2016

Political assassinations in the run-up to the Elections

As the 2016 Local Government Election looms next week, Daily Maverick journalist Marianne Merten has pointed out that political assassinations have become so common that they are often dismissed by the police (and the media) as a normal part of the democratic process in South Africa: Marianne Merten on political killingsHer words reminded me that Prof Jane Duncan had warned two years ago about the rise of a culture of political killings - and the impunity that goes with much of the slaughter. And it also reminded me of a section of Drinking With Ghosts in which I recalled investigating the murder of an ANC councillor almost a decade ago: 

Refongkgotso, Vaal Dam, 5 July 2007

The gruesome mob murder of Free State ANC Town Councillor Ntai Mokoena at his home in the Refongkgotso township on the outskirts of Deneysville yesterday has given local government the jitters for it is clear that the South African resistance-era practice of political assassinations die not die with the coming of democracy. Shop-stewards are still gunned down for building unions; mayors are still slain for backing the wrong political faction; rival taxi bosses are shot in turf wars over taxi ranks and routes; even the police are both the hunters and the hunted.
Photojournalist Paballo Thekiso and I head out on Thursday afternoon after Deneysville United Democratic Movement (UDM) Chairman Isaac Mokhatla and 16 other suspects appear in court in the industrial town of Sasolburg facing charges of murder and public violence – an hour and a bit’s drive south of Joburg, to the town of Deneysville nestled on the western edge of the Vaal Dam, with its 1970s boom-time facebrick homes with ageing speedboats in many yards, and out to the formal township of Refongkgotso, with its neatly fenced plots, modest brick homes and corrugated iron roofs. The media have smelled the blood of a political feud in the water, for there drives the Sowetan news-crew, and here we pass an SABC camera team. The trick of grafting for a weekly, when covering what every other news outfit is also working on, is to find an inside track that will remain fresh and unsurpassed by the dailies, online and wire services and the broadcasters by the weekend. “Damn! What do we do?,” I ask Thekiso. “We’d better at least do the house,” he replies, so I ask a bunch of youngsters where to find Mokoena’s house, and they direct us just around the corner, and to the right, on a road that loops off the township’s main street.
The house is sunny in pale yellow paint, with its typical red-polished cement front stoep gleaming, but other than being a little larger, does not stand out from its neighbours – except for its shattered windows and the crowds of mourners coming to pay their condolences. We park, remove our peaked caps and, assuming the correct respectful attitude, ask relatives if we may enter and if there is anyone we may talk to. We know we will not be able to speak to Mokoena’s widow, for she has now entered her sacred mourning period, and indeed we find widdow Nofisi Radebe sitting still and isolate on the floor before a single lit candle in a corner of the lounge, a dark blanket covering her head. We make a few discrete inquiries, but get nothing that explains the murder, so bow out.
Where to next? We drive to the Deneysville Police Station and interview Captain Stephen Thakeng who at least gives us a little backround, claiming that yesterday’s rioting that lead to the murder had its roots in a meeting convened by the UDM’s Mokhatla at the Deneysville Council offices to discuss an apparent Council plan to remove residents of the squatter camp next to Refongkgotso, named Holomisa after UDM leader, retired Transkei General Bantu Holomisa who took the mostly-Xhosa movement out of the ANC in 1997. The relocation to a settlement called Amelia near the Highveld fuel-from-oil industrial town of Sasolburg was opposed by the UDM and Holomisa residents because, we are told, they will have to pay rent they cannot afford and will be further away from friends and relatives. 
Captain Thakeng tells us that several hundred people, mostly women, attended the meeting, at which they were told they would be addressed by the ANC’s Councillor Mokoena. But instead, a riot erupted and spread out from the offices, so the police called in reinforcements from Welkom, Bloemfontein and the Vaal who dispersed the rioters. It was thereafter that a mob had stormed Mokoena’s home and killed him. Things are still way too unclear for Thekiso’s and my liking, so we drive to the Council offices and taken note of the bent gate and broken windows, but are still at a loss to explain as to how the meeting resulted in murder.
So we drive back through Refongkgotso, and enter Holomisa, a really depressing settlement clinging by the skin of its teeth to the promise of the proper houses, tarred roads, electric lights, piped water and decent jobs that they stare at daily across an uneven stretch of veld where fresh green shoots pierce the ashes of an old veld-fire. Here there aren’t even graded dirt roads, just tracks weaving through the wasteland. An icy winter wind cuts straight across the desolate, litter-fouled fields, tugging at loose flaps of rusted corrugated iron and clapboard. Refongkgotso mans “give us peace,” but the very civil peace achieved by its relative prosperity was a thorn in the side of hardscrabble Holomisa.
By this stage it seems the other news crews have left the scene already, having got the shots and quotes they needed, but we need to understand how and whyit all unravelled, so we hang about in Holomisa. It’s just plain uncomfortable in the cold wind and getting moreso as the big smog-smeared red sun heads towards the horizon, but we just bide our time. A gap-toothed 67-year-old man complains about the removal plan: They want this place for a graveyard; the dead are better off than the living.”
Then Thekiso strikes up a casual conversation in Tswana with a group of three open-faced young women hanging laundry in the ill wind, a 24-year-old mother of one in a checked shirt, a 27-year-old in a grey tracksuit, and a 32-year-old wrapped in a blue blanket, carrying her baby on her back. Cigarettes and chit-shat are swapped, and finally, it just comes out that the women were at the Council meeting – and were involved in what happened afterwards.
“For six years, they [the Council] have been saying ‘we’ll come and install taps and electricity,’ but it’s all empty promises,” the 24-year-old tells us, saying they had still attended the meeting to see what was on the cards, “But no-one was there. Then Councillor Mokoena arrived in his car. He saw us and just laughed and drove off, so we closed off the street with stones so that no-one could see what we were doing and we broke the gate and vandalised the place. The police came, but didn’t stop us,” she said, though the police at least dispersed the mob – but it recoalesced around Ntai Mokoena’s house.
“We went to Ntai’s house and started stoning it,” the 27-year-old admitted to us. “We opened his gate forcefully. Ntai arrived, driving like a maniac; he drove into his yard and into the legs of one of Mokhatla’s right-hand men, and collided with his wall. He climbed out and beat up this mentally-disturbed boy who was on the march, then went inside – we think to go and get his gun. When he came out, he fired three shots in the air and got on top of his car.” 
Except for the beating of the boy, the young woman’s version is confirmed to us by a neighbour of Mokoena’s who fiddled nervously with a tin of Zam-Buk ointment while saying Mokoena had spotted across two men hiding behind his neighbour’s wall; Mokoena had stacked bricks for the extension of his home in this neighbour’s yard, and the men had apparently been throwing bricks through his windows. The neighbour said the councillor had fired a shot at the feet of the men, but that unafraid, they had advanced on him. With tears streaming down her face, the neighbour said: “I have known Ntai for seven years. He was a nice guy...”
The 27-year-old rioter claimed rather that Mokoena had fired a shot directly at the two brick-throwers “but missed – and as he was cocking his gun, one of the men pushed him and he fell and lost the gun. Then the crowd came and stoned him and sang ‘Let this dog die!’ The men beat him, but the women were ululating. When I saw blood I ran away.”
A 15-year-old scar-faced boy doing tricks with a football with some friends near the murdered man’s house picked up the tale: “People were staring at him and not helping. He was breathing badly.” Mokoena died in the arms of his wife shortly after he arrived at hospital. “Some people are happy he’s dead,” the youth said, “they say he was a bad man because he tarred his own street only” – and indeed the loop of road on which the house sits is tarred unlike the other dirt roads which run off the main street. “We were promised houses with bathrooms inside, but it hasn’t happened – but his house is being extended and he bought his son a quad-bike,” the youth claimed. Already, UDM leader Mokhatla’s home, perched on the very border between Refongkgotso and Holomisa, has been petrol-bombed in reprisal.
The 27-year-old mother says: “I’m sorry that he had to die. It was not our intention.” The woman with the baby on her back grimly nods agreement: “We had no right to kill him, even if he didn’t help us. With the murder, I don’t think we’ll ever get houses. And with Mr Mokhatla in prison – he knew all the right tactics – who will defend us now?” The three women sensibly decline to give their names because tonight is the vigil for Mokoena and rumours of revenge are rife. One of them says: “The ANC is saying someone [among us] will have to follow him into the afterlife.”


[ENDS]

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Lesotho Authorities Must Protect the Right to Freedom of Expression

The statement below, co-signed by ProJourn, was issued on 15 July. More on the story from the inside was published this week by Daily Maverick: Keiso Mohloboli's story



Joint Civil Society Statement: Lesotho Authorities Must Protect the Right to Freedom of Expression

The undersigned organisations condemn the increasing acts of harassment and intimidation against journalists in Lesotho, exemplified by the recent attack against the editor of the Lesotho Times newspaper and the institution of criminal defamation charges against its publishers. We call on the Lesotho authorities to take effective measures to protect the right to freedom of expression and the physical safety of all journalists in the country. In addition, the authorities must expeditiously and impartially investigate the attack and bring those responsible to justice.

On 9 July 2016, Mr Lloyd Mutungamiri was attacked and shot at his house in Maseru, Lesotho. He was taken to Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital where he remains in a serious condition. This attack comes shortly after the publication of a story in the 23 June 2016 edition of the Lesotho Times which referred to an “exit strategy” for current commander of the Lesotho Defence Force, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli. On the day this article was published, Mr Mutungamiri and the journalist who wrote the story, Miss Keiso Mohloboli, were summoned to the police station, interrogated by police and forced to reveal their sources. 

In addition, the publisher of the Lesotho Times, Mr Basildon Peta, has been charged with criminal defamation and crimen injuria in connection with a satirical article about Lt Gen Kamoli which was also published in the 23 June edition of the paper.

The ability of journalists to work safely and without fear of reprisal is paramount to the right to freedom of expression, protected under article 9 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Lesotho is party.  Media freedom is essential to the exercise of this right. The role the media plays in any society is vital in ensuring the free flow of information, including the legitimate criticism of all public figures. 

It is deeply concerning that Mr Mutungamiri and Miss Mohloboli were forced to reveal sources for one of their stories. International human rights law recognises the need to protect the confidentiality of journalistic sources because of its importance to the right to freedom of expression. We call on the Lesotho authorities, including law enforcement officials, to desist from using intimidation tactics to force journalists to reveal their sources. 

We also note with concern the criminal charges brought against Mr Peta, and condemn the persistent use of criminal defamation laws to stifle dissent and intimidate journalists in Lesotho. The African Commission and the Human Rights Committee have recognised the disproportionate effect the offence of criminal defamation has on the practice of journalism and have called on states to decriminalise defamation.  The Human Rights Committee has stressed that under no circumstances should a person be subject to imprisonment for defamation. The Lesotho authorities should drop the criminal defamation charges, and if other legitimate charges for an internationally recognised criminal offence are to be brought, must ensure that all fair trial guarantees are respected at all stages of the criminal prosecution. 

The authorities have not yet clarified who is responsible for the attack on Mr Mutungamiri. The Lesotho authorities must ensure that a prompt, thorough and independent investigation is carried out and that effective measures are taken to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice. 

These incidents – and particularly the attack on Mr Mutungamiri – constitute serious infringements of the right to freedom of expression in Lesotho. No journalist should operate in fear during the course of their work. We urge the Lesotho authorities to implement effective measures to both protect the safety of journalists and to ensure that there is no impunity for attacks against them. The authorities must send a clear message that such acts are not tolerated.

Signatories:

amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism 

Amnesty International

Freedom of Expression Institute 

International Commission of Jurists

Institute for Democracy

Lawyers for Human Rights 

Lawyers for Human Rights (Swaziland)

Media Institute for Southern Africa – Zimbabwe Chapter

Media Monitoring Africa

Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa

PEN Afrikaans

PEN South Africa

Professional Journalists’ Association of South Africa

Right 2 Know Campaign 

SOS Coalition 

Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network

Southern Africa Litigation Centre

Transformation Resource Centre 

Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Progress on getting Johannesburg on board ICORN

Last week the Southern African Cities of Refuge Project was invited to present on its initiative at a two-day conference run by the Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN), founded in 2013 as a result of an increasing trend in the region for governments to erode human rights by first attacking those who defend them. The scene-setting country presentations given on the first day, 4 July, by representatives from Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe showed clearly that human rights abuses, while differing from country to country, remained a serious problem in the region.


I will write up a detailed report for the Project, but suffice to say that the conference, run in Johannesburg by OSISA, was an extremely valuable event. With simultaneous translation booths on hand, delegates were able to fluidly exchange views and best practice. Speaking for the Project to get Southern African cities, starting with Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Johannesburg, and Windhoek, aboard the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) www.icorn.org, I introduced the Project. The Project was initiated by the Professional Journalists' Association of South Africa (ProJourn) and PEN South Africa in 2012, and I spoke of our confidence that the City of Cape Town would become the first ICORN City of Refuge for persecuted writers, journalists, musicians and artists. 

I then used as a practical example of the pitfalls of such work, the emergency relocation to a country of refuge that ProJourn had just accomplished of a Zimbabwean human rights defender at serious risk of assassination by Zimbabwean Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) agents (two of his colleagues were murdered in Pretoria so far this year and a third was forced to drink poison but narrowly survived, having been found in a coma by his landlord). The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) provided the funds for the emergency relocation. The challenges were many, serious, and nerve-wracking but the human rights defender is now safe in his new country of exile. 



On the second day, I availed my typing skills to take the minutes of the breakaway group examining the very difficult task of fund-raising around protecting human rights defenders; I am confident that our group - all women except for myself - came up with some very creative thinking and several concrete, doable proposals around the issue. We closed the second day with a Twitter campaign in solidarity with our Kenyan comrades after the extrajudicial killing (apparently by police) of a human rights lawyer, his client, as shown in the photograph below. 

Apart from making great human rights advocacy contacts in Southern Africa, particularly in Namibia and Angola where I am doing work, it became apparent that the Project's plans to turn Johannesburg into an ICORN City of Refuge perfectly dovetails with a parallel plan by the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network - the continental umbrella body that embraces SAHRDN - and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) to turn Johannesburg, Abidjan, Tunis, and Kampala into "safety hubs" for refugees, so we have already initiated a discussion around merging the two projects regarding Johannesburg.


Veracité versus Verité: Seeking Justice & Truth after Genocide

Below are my notes for a talk at the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre for the closing of the commemoration of the 22nd Anniversary of the "100 Nights" Rwandan Genocide following the first South African screening of Beate Arnestad's documentary Telling Truths in Arusha. The film follows the genocide trial at the International Court of Justice on Rwanda at Arusha, Tanzania, of Catholic priest Father Hormisdas.


Michael Schmidt
The Ulu Club for Southern African Conflict Journalists
11 July 2016

1. Thanks: Holocaust and Genocide Survivors, Centre Director Tali Nates and her staff for the use of this appropriately sombre yet light-filled venue, Beate Arnestad for the use of her film, and guests for attending on a cold night.

2. Introduction: I’ll speak briefly on behalf of The Ulu Club for Southern African Conflict Journalists, a project of the Professional Journalists’ Association (ProJourn), which hosts events like this during which the public are able to interrogate journalistic ethics when we work in communities in conflict. The Association also runs the Southern African Cities of Refuge Project (find us on Facebook) which aims at getting cities in the region like Johannesburg to become safe havens for persecuted individuals (look up www.icorn.org), which coincides with a project of Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network to turn Johannesburg, Abidjan, Kampala, and Tunis into safety hubs for refugees – we will be merging our projects where Johannesburg is concerned.

3. Themes: A Roman Catholic priest was reported in Time magazine on 16 April 1994, ten days after the Genocide began, as saying: “There are no devils left in Hell. They are all in Rwanda.” 

As we meet here tonight, it is with bitterness that I have to report that forensic and eyewitness evidence is being painstakingly compiled of year-old mass graves in Angola where MPLA forces massacred perhaps 3,000 people at Mt Sumi in April 2015, and of fresh mass graves in Mozambique as a result of the return to civil war between Renamo and Frelimo there. It is a tragedy that the political resort to mass murder – often justified on ethnicised grounds – continues unabated in Africa.

Rwandan Genocide eyewitness, US journalist Scott Peterson in his book Me Against My Brother (2000) trawled through the looted ruins of President Juvénal Habyarimana’s mansion and, sparked by items he found there – a framed photograph of Tutsi homes burning during the so-called “Apocalypse Revolution” in 1959, a book dedicated to Habyarimana by President François Mitterand, and a private Catholic chapel – speculated on three pillars of the Genocide:

● Firstly, the deliberate cultivation of Hutu supremacist ideology, driven by Agathe Habyarimana’s Akazu inner circle and its extremist Zero Network, dating especially from the 1990 publication of the genocidal Hutu 10 Commandments by the extremist newspaper Kangura! (Wake Up!), then the formation by Habyarimana of the ruling MRND party’s Interahamwe militia, and the Coalition por la Défense de la République (CDR) and its Impuzamugambe militia, and then – and this is often forgotten – the “trial runs” of massacre that had already left around 2,000 people dead in the two years before the Genocide began. 

Accused but at liberty: Agathe Habyarimana

● Secondly, the unblanching support by France for the MRND regime, regardless of its growing extremism – including the uninterrupted supply of weapons shipments even during the height of the Genocide when the extent of the killings was obvious. The French flew Agathe Habyarimana and select Akazu members to safety in Paris just after the Genocide began, and Mitterand officially welcomed at the Quay d’Orsay at the end of April 1994 – during the Genocide – Hutu extremist Foreign Minister Jérôme Bicamumpaka (acquitted by the Arusha Tribunal in 2011) and CDR commander and RTLMC hate radio head Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza (later convicted of genocide, and died in 2010).

Dead: convicted genocidaire Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza

● Lastly (and this touches on the theme of the film), the acquiescence of the Catholic Church as the preparations for genocide became irreversible, especially because since Belgian missionaries had supported the 1959 Genocide that left 100,000 dead, following independence in 1962, the Church had become so integrated into the Hutu regime that the Archbishops of Kigali, including the incumbent during the Genocide, Vincent Nsengiyumva (who was killed by the RPF), were invariably high MRND leaders as well, and in some cases such as at the Ste Famille Cathedral in Kigali, during the Genocide, priests such as Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka openly wearing pistols, expressing Hutu supremacist views and allowing the death-squads to select from among those seeking sanctuary there for killing (he was later convicted of genocide at Arusha but continues to live freely in France).

At liberty: convicted genocidaire Fr Wenceslas Munyeshyaka

4. Introducing Hamilton Wende: Tony Wende is a South African journalist who worked as the sound-man on a BBC crew that went to Rwanda during the Genocide with the almost impossible mission objective of trying to explain why the Genocide was happening. In his book True North (1995), as with Peterson, Wende also speaks of the impact of Belgian ethnic classification in the 1950s – despite the fact that other than the so-called Tutsi royal clan, Rwanda consisted of 18 clans that were of mixed ethnicity – and Belgian support for the 1959 Genocide, but unlike Peterson’s work which has the benefit of hindsight, Tony’s work digs into the moral twilight zone of the Genocide as it was unfolding.

He uses some resonant phrases such as “spiral of madness” to describe what he was seeing – but the one that may assist us here is “Republic of Dementia” and he describes his journey into what he calls an “incoherence of darkness,” “half-drowning in a spiritual Interzone, grasping at the flimsy edges of our own rationality,” as both a physical and metaphysical journey. 

Already, back in 1994 we see Tony interview the mayor of the nearest town in the Nyarubuye Parish where some 4,000 people were slaughtered by the genocidaires: the interview takes place in the UN’s Bonacco refugee camp full of tens of thousands of perpetrators of the Genocide, and as Hutu extremist radio pushes out a revisionist line over the airwaves of the refugee camp, claiming it is the so-called “invading cockroaches” who are committing genocide, the mayor, who is accused of organising the Nyarubuye massacre, turns nasty and evokes anti-Tutsi sentiments, convincing Tony of his guilt.

It is here that the French language is of assistance in that we need to distinguish between veracité (fact) and verité (truth) – and what we have seen from the film is that fact and truth are not necessarily the same thing, neither for the survivor, nor the journalist, nor the perpetrator, nor the judicial officer presiding at Arusha. And the search for a fact-based and fundamentally true justice is perhaps hardest of all. I’ll turn over to Tony at this point.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

After Mandela: The Implosion of ANC Alliance Politics?


After Mandela: The Implosion of ANC Alliance Politics?

Michael Schmidt, Johannesburg, South Africa. Talk at the Museum of Wellington City and Sea, Wellington, New Zealand, 13 March 2014 [with additional comments made in 2016 in square brackets].

[There is a liberal-left thesis that South Africa only got into trouble after Mandela's presidency, that it represented the high-water of a stainless ANC Alliance politics which has since been hijacked by crooks more interested in what Joburg band The Slashdogs call "progress through plunder". But what if the Mandela era was in fact a continuity not only of some pretty conservative, even at times right-wing, black nationalist politics, but in the final analysis, the ultimate fulfilment of the white nationalist National Party's strategic plans for the continuity of rapacious capital?]

South Africa’s tragedy was turned into a global triumph. So how did the great hope of the first democratic elections in 1994 turn into state-sanctioned mass murder with the Marikana Massacre in 2012?

1912: South African Native National Congress (SANNC, later ANC) formed. The SANNC is formed by mission-educated black professionals who believe in politics by petition. Until the rise of the more radical ANC Youth League in its ranks in 1944, it remains conservative black nationalist and only opens membership to all races 74 years after its formation. [In contrast, the Industrial Workers of the World, established in South Africa in 1910, was the first political formation (for it was more than merely a union) in the new country to throw open its doors to all races, seeding a libertarian socialist working class revolutionary line that had far-reaching impact in Southern Africa].

1921: Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) formed. In 1920, a libertarian socialist CPSA is formed by the industrial syndicalists who built the first SA trade unions for people of colour [over 1917-1919: the Indian Workers’ Industrial Union, the Industrial Workers of Africa, the Clothing Workers’ Industrial Union, and others]; but it is eclipsed by the “official” Bolshevik CPSA formed the following year. In 1924, the official Party, which until the collapse of the USSR remains among the world’s most orthodox Stalinist, adopts the “Native Republic thesis” which sees it seek unity with the ANC, a parasitic relationship finally cemented in 1947. 

1941: Atlantic Charter signed. Although in essence a statement of Allied war aims intended to undermine Nazi hegemony in the conquered territories, the Atlantic Charter promises freedom for all nations and appeals to the ANC, a tiny petit-bourgeois party compared to the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA, later SACP) which has a mass base as a result of its penetration of the Council of Non-European Trade Unions (CNETU).

1955: Freedom Charter signed. In Kliptown, Soweto, the Freedom Charter is signed between the black ANC, the white Congress of Democrats (front of the outlawed SACP), Indian and coloured organisations. The liberation movement remains racially compartmentalised [even though allied]. But the Defiance Campaign of the 1950s against the pass laws at last makes the ANC a (black) mass movement.

1959: The ANC splits to the left; formation of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC). The Africanists in the ANC, wary of increasing Communist influence, split away to form the PAC under S’mangaliso Robert Sobukwe. The PAC establishes its own armed wing Poqo (later the Azanian People’s Liberation Army, APLA).

1962: ANC fund-raising tour for uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK). In Algeria in 1962, MK Commander & SACP Politburo member Nelson Mandela visits the Algerian FLN whose guerrillas he thought would be good role models for MK. The trip was partly a dud: Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere suggested he suspend the armed struggle until the PAC’s Robert Sobukwe was released from jail to lead the revolution; and Ghana’s Kwame Nkhrumah refused to meet with him. The Xhosa ethnic and SACP dominance in the ANC is what concerns them.

1976-1977: First Insurrection; rise of the Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO). A Soweto working class revolt against the raising of rates and service charges by the Western Services Council broadens out into a national uprising. Though no political parties organised resistance, the Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO) and its exile Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), formed in 1979, are the greatest beneficiaries.  The ANC is tiny, isolated and in exile, having split to the right in 1975 with the formation of Inkatha (later IFP).

1985-1989: Second Insurrection; destruction of the PAC and AZAPO. Flush with Soviet funding and using the notorious necklace method of torture-murder, the ANC fights primarily against [right-wing] IFP, [and left-wing] PAC and AZAPO communities, slaughtering tens of thousands. From the ANC’s 1990 unbanning to the first democratic elections in 1994, at least another 25,000 people would die.

So, how did a party that was nowhere in 1977 come to dominate in 1994?
1985: Congress of SA Trade Unions (COSATU) formed and dominates organised labour (SACP moles in COSATU defeat [politically autonomous] “workerists” to tie the formation to the ANC and give it an ersatz mass membership);
1985-1994: Mass-murder campaign against PAC, AZAPO, the IFP, ANC dissidents and unaligned blacks;
1990: Tripartite Alliance: ANC/SACP/COSATU; heavily foreign-funded, this centrist bloc leads transition negotiations with the white National Party (NP) government (the ANC absorbs the remnant NP in 2005); proof surfaces of SACP “Plan B” to assassinate Mandela to provoke a Third Insurrection [should negotiations fail].
1990: Illegitimate and unilateral disbandment of 119-organisation anti-apartheid United Democratic Front (UDF) by the ANC which sees it as a challenge to grassroots control.

Who pays the piper calls the tune. Mandela was at first an anti-communist black nationalist who became a communist who became a neoliberal supporter of the murderous Indonesian neo-Fascist, Saudi Salafist and Nigerian military dictatorships – all depending on where the ANC’s blood-money came from.

Mandela’s shady friends: Fidel Castro, Muammar Gaddafi, King Fahd… etc. It goes without saying that these were/are some of the world’s most notorious dictators. Castro was a fan of Mussolini in his youth and friend of pro-Nazi Juan Perón of Argentina when in power; Gaddaffi was a delusional president-for-life so popular that he was killed in the Arab Spring uprising in Libya; while Fahd sponsors ultra-right patriarchal Islam the world over.

General Sani Abacha, dictator of Nigeria gave the ANC £2,6-million + $50-million. Abacha stole $3-6-billion from the Nigerian coffers in his five years in office, had famous writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni activists executed by kangaroo court, and was friends with US race-hate leader Louis Farrakhan.

General Muhamed Suharto of Indonesia gave the ANC $60-million. In Cape Town in 1997, Nelson Mandela gave SA’s highest award to Muhamed Suharto of Indonesia, whose New State has the blood of perhaps 1-million on its hands – for funding the ANC. Suharto embezzled $15-35-billion in his reign of terror from 1967-1998.

Mandela in office: 1994-1999
Heads a party that was racially-exclusivist for 74 years – from 1912 until it finally opened all ranks to all races as late as 1986;
He’s a multimillionaire living in SA's most obscene parasitic enclave of Houghton who barely had to earn a cent after his release;
He’s a neoliberal who dismantles the nominally socialist apartheid state and sells off national assets to private interests, and who implements the neoliberal GEAR [Growth, Employment And Redistribution] austerity programme; 
The war on the poor continues with forced evictions, the dismantling of the shacks of the poor, water and electricity cut-offs;
The ANC regime enforces a new form of race classification – one that entirely "disappears" the indigenous Bushmen;
The SANDF illegitimately invades Lesotho in 1998 to crush a pro-democratic mutiny while the government does nothing to support the beleaguered pro-democracy movement in Swaziland;
The ANC regime settles white right-wing farmers in Mozambique in 1998 [under the Mosagrius Accord] by dispossessing the indigenous peasantry; and
The ANC regime does nothing to break up the banking cartels, and corporate monopolies and does little to break up massive private landholdings in South Africa – instead, it merely integrates a tiny black cadre of some 300 families into the elite.

Reconstruction of the Securocrat State
More than 10 apartheid-era laws that restrict the free flow of information are still on the statutes, including the National Key Points Act under which scrutiny of the R200-million in public expenditure on President Jacob Zuma’s private ranch at Nkandla has been obscured;
New legislation including:
      - The Terrorism Act (overly broad definitions potentially criminalises social movements and all in opposition to the government)
      - The Secrecy Act (up to 25 years in prison for journalists and whistle-blowers who reveal state information arbitrarily declared to be related to “national security”; no public interest defence)
      - The General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill (would beef up internal spying powers on the citizenry including communications interception);
      - The Independent Communications Authority of SA Amendment Bill (would corporatise the vibrant community radio sector by forcing stations to have government appointees sit on their boards, and force them to broadcast from municipal premises)
      - Abuse of existing legislation such as The Gatherings Act, under which the remilitarised police and municipalities have assumed magisterial powers they do not possess to outlaw gatherings and protests.

What is the nett result of this continuity from Apartheid?
South Africa is the world’s most unequal society according to the GINI Coefficient;
South Africa falls behind the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the UNDP’s Development Index;
Unemployment ran at 40% (70% in many rural areas) before we lost 2-million jobs in the 2008 Recession, so diseases of extreme poverty are common;
The SA Police, remilitarised after being demilitarised in the early years of democracy, are engaging in planned assaults like the Marikana Massacre so conflict is escalating in poor areas; 
Rampant corruption has not only resulted in the loss of 20% of GDP, but has seen COSATU’s largest union, the mineworkers’ NUM, lose 80,000 members last year [2013], while metalworkers’ union NUMSA with 338,000 members split away from COSATU; and so
We have all the elements for nascent black fascism: right-wing populist parties (EFF, etc) and separatist movements; corrupt yellow trade unions linked to the government and the oligarchs (COSATU); a heavily-armed private security sector (Mapogo a Mathamaga etc); a culture of political assassinations of shop stewards, white farmers etc; murderous xenophobic organisations (Malumalela Social Movement for the Unemployed etc); the spread of ultra-conservative religious cults; and a new Stasi-trained securocrat state reliant on dumbed-down public education and a militarised police force, which has launched an assault on press freedoms, independence of the judiciary, and Section 9 institutions which defend the Constitution.

[New points to be made in 2016:
“State capture” by the capitalist elite has its roots in the 1910 incorporation of South Africa (Pty) Ltd as a shotgun wedding between the defeated Boer Republics and the British Colonies, under racist British imperialism, and as such, the entity has been under the control of crime syndicates, secret racist cabals, and monopoly cartels since then. The revelation of the “state capture” by the Gupta family cartel of the national Cabinet is merely the latest incarnation of this – yet it grows more Kafkaesque by the week;
The ANC has steadily assaulted democratic organs, including the judiciary (with “cadre deployment” to the Judicial Services Commission and the Constitutional Court), the prosecutorial authorities (the destruction of the Scorpions and the erosion of its replacement, the Hawks, and with meddling in the National Prosecuting Authority), the media (calls for a statutory Media Appeals Tribunal, the establishment of loyalist outfits The New Age and ANN7, the capture and purging of Independent Newspapers, and the reversion of the SABC from a public broadcaster to its “His Master’s Voice” role of the apartheid era), the Constitutional Chapter 9 Institutions supporting democracy (underfunding of the SA Human Rights Commission, Gender Commission etc), the 1996 Constitution itself (calls for an overhaul of the document to strengthen the state and weaken civil society), and even well-functioning elements of the state (undermining the SA Revenue Service, and Parliament with the expulsion of the Parliamentary Press Corps and the use of cellphone jamming and strong-arm “white shirt” tactics in the House).
The ANC has staunchly retained race classification and a scientifically unsupportable and politically dubious race-essentialist stance on public race debates, its leaders have often been outspokenly racist and have openly voiced the need for racial social engineering along apartheid lines (suggesting breaking up the “overly numerous” hostile coloured voting bloc in the Western Cape by forced relocations, with similar sentiments expressed for the Indian voting bloc in KwaZulu-Natal).]

Conclusion: the ANC/SACP “National Democratic Revolution” continues the neoliberal war on the poor started by the National Party in 1973. [It is now a de facto counter-revolution in its deliberate erosion of even its own democratic gains from 1994. Franz Kafka once wrote that “Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy.” How prescient he was: decades later, in 1979 during the height of liberation movement hubris, First Insurrection student leader turned libertarian socialist Selby Semela slagged off the ANC and SACP as “the old spinster-huckster parties.” By 2003 and well into the democratic era, my late friend the former SACP stalwart Alan Lipman who had bailed out of the Party in disgust at the indefensible 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary, turning leftwards and becoming an anarchist, told a crowded community hall in the giant Orange Farm squatter settlement: “I spent 35 years of my life supporting the liberation struggle, but the ANC has now become an anti-liberation movement. Now we need a real ‘People’s National Congress’ – under people’s control – to take real liberation forward.”]



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I Walk the Line: Joburg's Cultural Divide

I Walk the Line: Joburg’s Cultural Divide

By Michael Schmidt, 9 May 2016

The Triumph of Sophiatown

It has long been a joke that if you traverse certain parts of Johannesburg, you cross a subtle, semi-invisible cultural line and need to present your passport. That three decades ago these internal borders were real, and if one was of colour one did in fact have to present a dompas to some dour cop in a kortbroek, seems strangely to have been forgotten. 
Sure, the official municipal cartography has since altered: the Johannesburg of my youth, with two distinct working-class, mostly Afrikaans, suburban wings to the central Witwatersrand, the East Rand and the West Rand, has given way to a new invented geography of a “Johannesburg” shorn of these wings, which are now designated as other to us, as Ekurhuleni and Mogale City. 
But we’d already separated them out, for it was usually in reference to those wings, their skylines studded by cyanide-stained gold mine tailings dumps, their bar-counters swarmed with Afrikaner sparkies, motor-mackies, and other blunt-fingered tradesmen, that the old joke was applied by my nameless tribe, the English-speaking-white-South-Africans, to delineate the cultural divide between those wings and our Johannesburg. 
The usual term for that divide is the Boerewors Curtain and it has a certain reality. In more recent post-apartheid years, I lived in the mostly lower-middle / working class coloured and white suburb of Westdene, to the west of a bar-and-restaurant strip developed along a street of 1920s bay-windowed, pressed-ceilinged stores, a place called Melville. 
In the mornings, from my home, you could hear a recorded muezzin from a speaker bolted to a stairless minaret call the Slummos to prayer and feel the subaural whoomp of open-cast mine detonations out towards Carletonville, and at night, if the Cameroonian immigrants weren’t partying too hard and arguing over the latest soccer scores, the lonely hammering of a diesel train making its way into Coronationville, near the presses of The Citizen, founded as a pro-apartheid front in the 1970s, near the cemetery where Walter Sisulu was buried after his teddybear-like visage finally succumbed to eternal inertia. 
A decade ago, I was married at a Catholic church in Coronationville, which lies cheek by jowl with the coloured gangland of Westbury – one block from my house – where Drum photographer Bob Gosani’s son’s dreams of following in his father’s footsteps went to die when tsotsis stole his cameras. 
Here, in a warren of dead-end streets live the cart-drivers, most of them descendants of the Bushmen, who, in echo of the rural Karretjiesmense, earn money by removing builder’s rubble and garden refuse in their horse-drawn carts in the manner of the Brazilian Catadores whose shotgun shacks I once visited at Gravataís in southern Brazil for acidic wine, potluck and great company. 
I once drove my 1970 Ford Mustang with the spiderwebbed 351 large-block Cleveland engine and its peeling black paint into Westbury to give one of the cart-drivers the ride of his life, and a chance to show off to his friends. A regular lover of mine, a sassy, petite coloured girl with a cute ass who used to bring me booze to drink under my desk at Sunday Times when on deadline, lives with her mother and two teenage children in a ghetto there. 
For my wedding, my wife, an Indian woman from a family in Estcourt whose father, since deceased, had been a lawyer who was friends with Steve Biko but who eschewed a city-slicker legal career for a rural practice where he once defended a murder suspect for R7 and who, as a good Catholic, wrote a book called In Defense of Jihad, had her hair and makeup done for the wedding by a Syrian dude who made her look like the perfect Middle Eastern habibi with heavily-kohled eyes – for that was his ingrained version of beauty.
So, it was there in the cultural mash-up of Westdene, with my Cameroonian neighbours who slaughtered pigs and goats in their back yard to celebrate – much to the consternation of my SPCA rescue dogs who no doubt thought they were next – where drunk knifemen reeling out from the barricaded shebeen around the corner once stabbed my 26-year-old neighbour to death for his cellphone, a neighbourhood crammed between a sweet-scented biscuit factory and a noisy steelworks, with used-car lots and cheap hair-braiding salons – that I used to quip that my house was “a watchtower on the Boerewors Curtain.”
Indeed, on the rare occasion when I climbed up on my rusted corrugated-iron roof with a bucket of tar to seal the holes, I could sit and look westwards across the Curtain. In reality, I was located right next to Sophiatown, what had in the 1950s produced probably South Africa’s most famous culture, a vibrant melting-pot, though mostly black, that had produced the likes of gangsters like George “Kortboy” Mpolweni of The Americans, do-gooders like Father Trevor Huddleston, torch singers like Thandi Klaasen, and Drum hacks like Henry Nxumalo. Then, of course, the place fell under the pall of the forced removals, and the rigidly conformist Afrikaner residents that replaced its hep culture had the place renamed Triomf by their masters, as if this was a significant defeat for the forces of darkness in apartheid’s race-war.
With the rescinding of Group Areas and eventually the entire apartheid edifice (except for its stolen wealth), Triomf reverted to Sophiatown again, and while never recovering the vibe of the 1950s, turned into the rough-and-tumble suburb I lived in; a place where the Afrikan Freedom Station played jazz and promoted pan-Africanist literature. In recognition of this demographic shift, I came up with a more subtle joke: “You know you have crossed the Boerewors Curtain when the black guys at the robots selling cellphone kits are replaced by white guys selling sjamboks.” 

Mlungu Trash

That was at least anecdotally true, based on my observations travelling westwards out from Westdene towards the Tarlton International Speedway, the drag-strip where I would go irregularly to show off my ‘Stang, and watch souped-up Beemers be beaten hands down on the quarter-mile by innocuous-looking bakkies with god-knows-what under the hood, and to thrill to the whine and flaming thunder of the improbable jet-cars. 
I had hoped to watch Nascar races while living for a month in North Carolina, but the state was disappointingly short of hillbillies and petrolheads: in fact, I only saw one Mustang while I was there, hanging out with my neighbour Catherine Haywood, a pretty, long-faced, rust-haired rockabilly Bettie who worked as a cook, pretty much the only working class person I was able to befriend there.
All of the drive-ins of my youth, the Top Star, the Veldskoen, and others, have shut down, so Tarlton is pretty much the only place to get in touch with a cheap hotdog-and-motor culture that I had only tangentially intersected with as a teen; my father was the bookish one among his engine-stripping brothers and he passed that quiet ethic on to me; I was always nervous of the motocross kids who squinted into the sun and were at home with dirtbikes and roasties, with zol and girls.
Besides, my folks had climbed out of the working class into the comfortable, rather prissy middle; my mother, one of seven children, had literally lived on the wrong side of the tracks as her shared “bedroom” was an enclosed verandah overlooking the railway line. 
As with the lines that black folk could not cross back then, those tracks weren’t just an impolite cultural joke, they were a real barrier to advancement. Now, realising that I am probably irrecoverably slipping in the class rankings, at least back into the lower middle class, I felt the need to test my mlungu trash credentials; not that I had much to show except for my Mustang – earned from suing a brass-rail bar in Rosebank n the North, the floor of which collapsed, breaking my left knee and hip – my rough-and-ready neighbourhood, my crappy journalists’ salary, and my hard-on for a brassy Marisa Tomei teaching the Alabama prosecution about automotive engineering in My Cousin Vinny. 
Suffice to say that it is a hard task to figure out who the fuck one is supposed to be in this ethnically complex society. I mean, I really don’t resonate with the Voortrekker Monument – whether or not it is filled with Chinese tourists, or whether or not it is actually secretly a Masonic shrine as some conspiracy theorists speculate – as it’s built on a pact with a god that I think is an absent landlord at best, a genocidal maniac at worst. 
But I do feel the pain of my young Afrikaner rock ‘n roller friends trying to discover what it means to be a white African today when the geographic and cultural lines are being redefined, often arbitrarily, by the mandarins of racial gerrymandering: our “national democratic revolutionary” state actively promotes a crude oversimplification of apartheid race-classification. For the would-be gatekeepers of a certain cultural rectitude, my Afrikaner friends’ search for identity in itself damns them to perdition. 
Yet that sense of locating oneself is necessary to be able to navigate this society: one of my ancestors, Anna de Koning, was the daughter of a Bengali slave, and via my paternal great-grandmother, who was Mayan according to family folklore, I am also descended from Belize in Central America, so how does an Afrikaner-Bengali-Mayan born speaking English fit into the mix? 
In this impossible situation, rock ‘n roll has become a usefully viable identity and one I embraced in its gothic rock aspect back in 1987: derived from the alchemical combination of West African and Irish slaves in Hispaniola, channelled via the blues of Louisiana, rock ‘n roll expressed not only the multicultural blending of “low” cultures, but their transcendent virtues, whether uttered by the mouths of vodoun horsemen speaking as the Loa, or by the mouths of Southern Baptist preachers speaking as the Holy Spirit. 
So it’s African and European, spiritual yet irreligious, as good a place as any to start. Rock ‘n roll has its own delineations, though, and while subterranean, subliminal, and interstitial cartographies remain, they too have shifted. By interstitial, I mean the interstices, the between-states nature of much of the being part of human being. 

Our Mason-Dixon Line

So in barroom conversations over recent years I have come to recognise that there is indeed an “us and them,” a cultural divide that is not at all English/Afrikaner, or white/black, but rock ‘n roll/pop. This sounds like a laughable and inherently flimsy if not facetious argument, but hear me out. There really is a geographic divide across Joburg, what I term the Mason-Dixon Line, after the division between the Northern and Southern States in the USA: although the Line used to lie along the M2 highway, it now runs raggedly diagonally, south-east to north-west, roughly along the course of Barry Hertzog, and delineates what we Joburgers see as “Northern” and “Southern”.
Northern is Dainfern with its faux-Tuscan palaces in anodyne gated communities where a Pekinese is considered a dog, Northern is the hubris of a Sandton that has so many yuppies shitting in one place in its newly-built steel-and glass towers that the drains back up, Northern is the idiotic delusion of a Montecasino restaurant where the waiter asks if you want to sit “outside” under the concrete sky, Northern is Fourways where people believe that taking their 4x4 monstrosities “off-road” means parking in the disabled bay at the mall.
Southern is Emmarentia where people still use the public park and botanical gardens with a dogged determination to truly be outdoors, Southern is Melville where people actually speak to and befriend strangers in bars, believing in inherent human goodness and working out later whether they are rare assholes, Southern is Yeoville which has embraced a true pan-Africanness that actually makes those Northerners who pretend to it by upholstering their couches in zebra-skin, shudder in a reflux of Mau-Mau nightmares of blacks with pangas coming for them in their beds. It is perhaps telling that there is no oversized statue in the South of Nelson Mandela, whereas it became a necessary accessory to Sandton Square as a tribute to the Master of the Continuity of Privilege.
Northerners have gin-and-tonic festivals and dream of rogering Jenna Jameson; Southerners celebrate Porra-Mozambican food and dream of screwing Patricia Lewis. Of course it is not a neat delineation, for there are working class areas, like down-at-heel Randburg in the north, and craft beer oases like wanky Maboneng in the city, but as a rule of thumb, including these exclusionary enclaves, the line holds true; cross it travelling north and prices and pricks rise; cross it going south and prices and pretentions fall.
At least on the annual occasion – the Taco Kuiper Investigative Journalism Awards – when I am invited to smoke cigars and tilt chalices of Chivas Regal on the balcony at one of those snooty Northern enclaves in the South, the Rand Club, I remember that a century ago, black-tied “gentlemen” had their batmen reload their pistols on that balcony before taking murderous pot-shots into the working-class crowd demanding their freedom from capital’s chains below. 
The gentrified Fitzgerald Square in Newtown just a few blocks away is named after the radical socialist “Pick-handle” Mary Fitzgerald who in the 1910s used to fuck up the cops with said bludgeon; hipster hangout Arts on Main is located in the workshops of the old Joburg tramways where the first anti-racist trade union, the Industrial Workers of the World, the IWW, was established in 1910. We’ve certainly forgotten the original working-class delineations of Joburg!
If my stance has pissed some of you off it is probably because of one of two things: either you are a Northerner and feel offended by the caricature; or you are a Southerner and know that I have exaggerated our virtues and the North’s vices. I deliberately use the term caricature, however, for caricature rings true to the listener because it is a lampooning of certain widely recognised facts, or at least observable phenomena, whereas stereotype rings true (or false for that matter) to the listener because it echoes (or refutes) certain narrow prejudices of that listener. That I have exaggerated is certainly true, but all searches for centre of gravity of a culture test exaggerated caricature against nuanced experiences, yet if we recognise ourselves and our neighbours here it is because we have all seen the North-South divide function socially in real life.

Ghost Radio

To use my posited rock/pop divide for an explanation, when Radio 5 started out in the 1980s, it was very obviously rebel radio because it played the music of disaffected white and black youth under grey conformist late apartheid, which back then basically amounted to metal and reggae; it was swinging, vibrant, angry, celebratory music. Today, as 5FM, the once-independent station has not only long ago made the transition from medium wave to FM and been absorbed into a media empire, but its music has become teenybopper pop and milquetoast R&B, the music of a bland mainstream; it is squeaky, banal, somatic and devoid of significant content.
Now this is of course an old complaint, that a radio station has “sold out” or that the music genres it plays have become “commercial”, and it seems at first glance to be the whinge of the ageing rocker, that things now just aren’t as good as they were in one’s youth. But leaving aside the obvious location of the music of one’s youth within a hormonal wave of sex, angst and experimentation, it is in real terms an expression of past intersections of time and space – for the vibe of Rockey Street in Yeoville of the 1980s can never be recreated in the altered circumstances of 7th Street in Melville of the 2010s – and is also a marker of a real decline in some places.
One the one hand, to deride music as “commercial” is to pooh-pooh success, as if musicians really want to eke out a marginal twilit existence from their craft, but on the other it is a recognition that some music has either gone over to The Man, or was even from inception grown synthetically in his factory vats. It is the recognition that two decades of hard work and raw talent has seen The Slashdogs get no airplay whereas more “radio-friendly” acts such as The Parlotones with nowhere near the power, skill or message, secure greasy KFC sponsorships.
It is not a matter of taste but of real musical history to recognise that the schmaltzy would-be millionaire pyjama-party music called R&B is distinctly different to, and an afgenaaide distant cousin of its distant origins in rhythm & blues – itself a true child of the original rock ‘n roll, which in turn is rooted in Mississippi Delta blues, which was midwifed by vodoun. This is why even punks hail an “old school” that is truer, more visceral, more honest, than latter-day reworkings: it is UK Decay versus Blink 182, Army surplus boots versus Converse; something true – we know it in our bones – has been lost in current attempts to recapture the past.
And so, the search for cultural authenticity. Is it fake for a Northern hipster to affect the attitudes of a beat generation that was dead before he was born, or for a Southern rocker to strike a stance of a similarly passed rock ‘n roll generation? Well, some cultural transmissions from the past, like some sort of ghost radio broadcast trapped in the ether, exert powerful influences on the present; authenticity is often recognised by its longevity, but then longevity has to be at least in part a measure of “commercial” success, and while Carl Perkins was more authentic than Elvis Presley, his music reached its widest audience via the King of Cover Versions. 
Yet we still know at gut level that The White Stripes is more authentic than Mumford & Sons – even when both bands do a cover of Dolly Parton’s Jolene. Or at least, Melville recognises The White Stripes as rock ‘n roll, while Greenside, north of the Line, recognises Mumford & Sons; only in a post-modernist culture where all things are relative and have no inherent value can both be true; in the South, where onanistic po-mo obscurantism has little purchase, only the first assessment is on the mark. 

Melville versus Greenside

Put another way, Greenside revels in the parody gangsterism of Die Antwoord’s Baby’s On Fire, while for Melville, those slick millionaires are patent frauds faking poor whiteness, while Melville nods at the truths of Jack Parow’s Cooler As Ekke, which the best contemporary working class put-down of the nouveau-riche I’ve heard in the democratic era. 
Half-recovered from a long-ago fire, pizza joint The Ant doesn’t play Edith Piaf on the stereo or feature framed photographs of a nude Bettie Page on the raw-brick walls because these are “ironic” cultural references – as would be the case if it was located in Greenside – but because Piaf really is sublime, and Page really did have insousciance.
We Southerners have fun mocking the lumbersexuals, those faux-Boere-bearded pretty-boys in their checked shirts who eat tofu rather than venison they shot themselves, with tons of skin moisturising products but no clue how to skin an animal, or fix anything other than their coiffure. But the North/South divide is not simply a matter of competing cultures, with music taste or hairstyles being its obvious signifiers. 
For one thing, there is a generational difference: I do not mean that Melville is all old rockers while Greenside is all young hipsters; no, while Greenside is all pretty much uniformly twentysomething, Melville is multi-generational; you will find the old rockers in their brothel-creepers chatting easily to the tattooed young rockers in their skinny jeans, so you have an actual live transmission of rocker culture from the old to the young – and back again as the youth test the mettle of their guitar heroes against the high-water marks of times past. In Greenside, the test of excellence is being hailed by one’s peers, but more usually, congratulating oneself on one’s selfies.
For another thing, while Greenside is fairly monocultural, or at least bicultural, consisting primarily of spandexed yuppie cyclists who work corporate careers and of trendy youth who ooze satisfaction with their niche jobs in invented pseudo-professions such as marketing, Melville is multicultural, from skint black UJ students hailing from far-flung rural areas to old SADF and MK veterans, from funky young lesbian couples to the odd corporate stray who prefers quality conversation, from visiting Free State farmers to foreign scientists.
Next, when Northerners go out partying they go out in hermetically-sealed friendship cliques to which they cleave xenophobically through the evening, barely talking to other folk – unless out hunting for a sexual mate – while Southerners often go out alone, knowing they will run into loads of people they know, and they will approach a stranger at the bar and initiate a conversation that might lead to a new friendship; we are never alone even when solitary.

Hospitality, Culture & Class

Face it, the South is more hospitable, and if we were to be honest, as South Africans we know that the welcoming geselligheid of which I speak is derived not from English, but from Afrikaner and black cultures, which are not only very similar in their rural expressions, but are more communal and less individualistic than the values of the English-speaking-white-South-African (can we please come up with a proper noun for these folk?). Which means that unlike the North, the South has been truly interpenetrated and transformed by those formerly excluded by law or cultural prejudice from the heart of Johannesburg.
But lastly, there is an obvious class aspect to the Line. I once dated a wealthy Sandton woman who was nothing short of horrified that I lived in Westdene, though she’d never visited there so her idea of its reality was a fabrication of pure class prejudice – despite her obvious attraction to someone who was a product of that other.
Likewise, it is somehow acceptable for the rudest New Yorker hucksters to sneer at the supposed unsophistication of Appalachian hillbillies to their south – although as Kenneth Rexroth tells in his tale of hillbillies treeing a fox without harming it merely to give their hounds some exercise, so one should never underestimate the sophistication of the poor. The dignity I have seen exhibited in many squatter camps defies the squalid environment and the erudition of many working class folk often exceeds that of the most learned varsity graduate. 
So yes, our bars are dives and not brass-rail, and yes, we have our barflies, but also what former diplomat to France and unelected King of Melville, Charles Visser, calls boulevardiers, perceptive observers of the passing parade, and probing, philosophical discoursers on current affairs and the human condition: acclaimed authors share insights with brawlers, gays and straights exhibit genuine affection for each other’s subcultures, and engineers find common cause with artists. 
A decade and a half ago, I moved into Brixton because of the presence of an amazing local bar, The Abelarde Sanction: owned by semi-retired mercenary Taz Viljoen, the place was postered with outrageous Daily Sun newspaper bills about pastors drowning in baptisms and so on, featured a large portrait of Chinese nationalist Sun Yat-sen over the bar, hosted emergent live bands like Running with Scissors and Damn the Icebergs, and operated as the home of the Expat Mercenary Union (a boozing club for Taz and his mates), and the Female Head-shaving Association (Clair Cantrell’s charity fund-raiser). 
Diversity, that seemingly retreating lodestone of the New South Africa, was alive, well and tangible at the Abelarde back then, as it is at Xai-Xai in Melville today.

[ENDS]