Soweto 1976 and Marikana 2012: any similarities?

Marikana, 16 August 2012
Marikana, 16 August 2012

With the cleansing ceremony for the Marikana massacre taking place today, I couldn’t help but think about similarities, if any, between the Soweto uprisings of 1976, and the Marikana miners’ strike of 2012.

First of all, the Soweto uprising on June 16, 1976, was a movement of school children protesting against the use of Afrikaans as a medium in school and the fact that this was essentially limiting their career opportunities leading them to mostly menial jobs later in life; besides Afrikaans was the language of the oppressor, and in itself a symbol of oppression.  The school children were reprimanded in blood by police from the apartheid government of John Vorster.  It was a brutal repression.  The pictures, particularly, that of Hector Pieterson‘s dead body being carried away by another student alongside his sister, were just heart-wrenching.

Soweto uprising 16 June 1976
Soweto uprising 16 June 1976

Over 30 years later, Marikana happened, albeit not on the same giant scale.  Miners protesting for wages were repressed in blood by the police on 16 August 2012; this time under the free government of the rainbow nation led by Jacob Zuma.  The violence used by the police was just as shocking, and has been compared by the media to the Sharpeville massacre.

Hector Pieterson being carried away by Mbuyisa Makhubo, with his sister running alongside (Photo by: Sam Nzima)
Hector Pieterson being carried away by Mbuyisa Makhubo, with his sister running alongside (Photo by: Sam Nzima)

The similarities are important: both events showed police brutality against unarmed school children (Soweto 1976), and unarmed miners (Marikana 2012); Note: there are some claims that one miner shot first at the police before the police opened fire at Marikana, and images show that some of the miners had machetes.  Both events showed poor judgment (more like lack of judgment) from government, and police repressive use of force.  Both events harbored bloodshed.  What Marikana 2012 showed us is that police brutality is the same decades later.  I always wondered why didn’t the police use fake bullets in both cases If the police was trying to restore order in both cases, why not use common sense and use rubber bullets instead?  They have the upper hand and the bullet proof vests (and the dogs), they should act like the adults in the play. 

Miners demonstrating at Marikana
Miners demonstrating at Marikana

The main difference, is that unlike Marikana, where the police was dealing with adults, the police in Soweto dealt with school children. Where is this world going when we now attack, hurt, and kill children? Has the human race descended so low?  And the apartheid government had a clear agenda against color and race, while the current government’s agenda seems to be driven by capitalism.  The children of Soweto were demonstrating for a better education, while the miners of Marikana were workers demonstrating for increased wages…

In the end, Soweto 1976 cannot be compared to Marikana 2012, where the government did not even conduct an investigation, and did not present apologies (or did they?) as they did not consider the lives of these Black children relevant in the apartheid society.  And even today, one can see the difference between both events in the length at which Marikana was covered in the South African press, and the small number of archives (accessible?) on Soweto 1976.  Besides, Soweto 1976 marked a turning point in the end of the apartheid regime.  One thing is for sure, both events should never happen in the history of a nation.

This is my two-cents on this… What do you think were the similarities between Marikana 2012 and Soweto 1976? Were there similarities in your opinion? As people protest around the world, how do you stop police brutality?  How do we ensure that lives are preserved, while populations’ protests are taken into account?

Mrs. Zuma, and the Contradiction of modern days

Mrs. Bongi Ngema-Zuma
Mrs. Bongi Ngema-Zuma

Today I would like to talk about Mrs. Gloria Bongekile Ngema-Zuma who just gave an interview to BBC. She is Jacob Zuma (J.Z.)‘s fourth wife, married on April 2012.  She is an accomplished woman, educated, and really I have to say it: a contradiction to many young African girls growing.  She is an accomplished professional accountant, and IT manager… and for her to become the fourth wife of somebody, even if that somebody is the president of a nation, is simply tasteless.  I know that it is prestigious to be a president’s wife, but come’ on for the sake of the young girls out there in South Africa, and Africa… is this really the example to be set?  So as a woman, you can be as accomplished as you want, but you are only worth to be a man’s fourth wife?  You cannot be your own person?  Or he cannot love and respect you enough to leave all his other wives?

Jacob Zuma and his fourth wife
Jacob Zuma and his fourth wife, Bongi Ngema

Now, some may ask me if I would have preferred for her to be his mistress? Of course not, but I find it revolting to have a president who has four wives.  I find it disgusting to have a president, in modern days, who holds onto the past, and who cannot make up his mind… because truly that’s is what it all boils down to: decisiveness, discipline, and control.  No wonder there has been violent attacks on Africa ever since Jacob Zuma became president of South Africa: destruction of Côte d’Ivoire after the 180 degrees turn of Zuma, destruction of Libya under the vigilant eye of Zuma, massacre of defenseless miners at the Marikana’s mines, etc.  Is promiscuity now allowed at the top of the state?  There is really something to having one wife, committing to marriage to only that person, and above all, having the oneness of mind, or rather a ‘single’ vision. What should a young girl growing up think?  She can only be powerful if she is in a polygamous marriage; even educated, she is only worth being somebody’s 2nd, 3rd, or 4th wife? Why can’t she be his only wife?

Flag of South Africa
Flag of South Africa

As I listened to Mrs. Zuma’s interview, I have to admit that I was appalled, as she could not even answer the simple question as to why? The only answer was:” I am a grown woman, making my own choices.” Of course, there are lots of grown women around the world making their own choices, but when you are a first lady, you no longer make choices for yourself, you also have to acknowledge impacts on society.  What about young girls?  How can you talk about modernism when there is so much contradiction in your thoughts?  Now, she says she is Zulu first, and then modern woman second.  Yes that’s true, but does she abide by all Zulu rules?  Are all Zulu women in polygamous marriages?  I am African first, but does that mean that our daughters should undergo excision? I am African first, does it mean that servants in the kingdom should still accompany the king in his grave? I am African first, does that mean that albino children or twins (in some African traditions) should still be killed at birth? Of course not!  For somebody, a first lady (or 4th lady), to blurt: “I am Zulu first, then xyz second,” … i.e. that’s why I live in prehistoric ages is simply disgusting.  No offense to Mrs Zuma, but I do not want any of our daughters to see her as an example.  Now, somebody could argue that: ‘maybe she wanted to influence young girls, and she could only do that as the president’s wife’… Sure, but she was already influencing young girls by being the great manager that she was.  If President Zuma and her loved each other, could he not have divorced to marry her? Couldn’t she have waited till the end of his term to be with him? Couldn’t she have influenced the president by demanding that he divorces his other wives? Now, that would have been the symbol of a strong woman whose influence on young girls would have been strongly felt over generations!

Thank goodness there are still other great African women out there who stand for their very own convictions and inspire young African women. What next for J.Z.? A fifth wife for 2013?

BBC Interview of Mrs Zuma

Celebrating 100 years of struggle: the African National Congress

ANC flag
ANC flag

Last week, on January 8th 2012, the African National Congress (ANC) celebrated 100 years of existence. I think a trip down history lane is in order.

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After the defeat of Zulu, Xhosa, and other African kingdoms in the late 1800s-1900s in the hands of British colonizers, South Africans had to find a new way to fight off the oppressors. Thus, in 1911, Pixley ka Isaka Seme called on Africans to forget the differences of the past and unite together in one national organisation. He said: We are one people. these divisions, these jealousies, are the cause of all our woes today. That national organization saw light on January 8th 1912, when chiefs, representatives of people’s and church organisations, and other prominent individuals gathered in Bloemfontein and formed the African National Congress. The ANC declared its aim to bring all Africans together as one people to defend their rights and freedoms. Its first elected president was John Dube.

South African miners
South African miners

The 1920s-1930s were marked by actions such as the 1919 campaign against passes by the Transvaal ANC; the militant strike by African mineworkers in 1920; and the social organization of Black workers…  The ANC went through several stages, first, as a church-based lobbying force, a non-violent nationalist movement, and then, as part of an alliance with Indians, Coloureds, and progressive Whites, including Afrikaners and Communists.

The Sharpeville massacre on 21 March 1960 where a group of 5000-7000 marched to protest against passes and were shot on by police forces showed the international community how ruthless the apartheid system was.  Karen Allen of BBC news recalled the massacre with this chilling description: “Thousands of protesters had gathered in Sharpeville, just south of Johannesburg, to protest at the use of the infamous passbooks, or “dompas”, that every black South African was expected to carry and produce on demand. It governed a person’s movement, was a tool of harassment and was one of the most hated symbols of the apartheid state. Sixty-nine men, women and children were gunned down on that day, killed when police officers opened fire on the crowd. The police station – where they had gathered – is now a memorial to the dead.

Nelson Mandela ca 1955
Nelson Mandela ca 1955

In 1961, the ANC took up arms against the South African White government. It morphed into a violent struggle of resistance and armed combat with Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) or Spear of the Nation, when the doors to non-violent change were brutally shut by white nationalists who built on British colonial racism to impose apartheid, a practice of physically relocating communities, regulating labour with passes and violent repression. During those years, not only did MK tried to make the country ungovernable to no avail (as they were no match to the repressive white supremacist government of South Africa), but many of its leaders were arrested like Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, and Walter Sisulu, while others like Oliver Tambo and Joe Slovo went into exile.

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