Three Things We Must Learn From The Battle of CAR

Mar 27, 13 Three Things We Must Learn From The Battle of CAR

Posted by in Featured, International

By now a lot of the dust has settled around the battle which waged for roughly 13 hours a few kilometres outside Bangui at checkpoint PK12. There is a lot of finger-pointing and many expectant questions of just why the hell we were there in the first place. Before larger allegations of uranium and oil deals emerge between South Africa, CAR, France, and god knows who else, we should take stock of three important points that can be learned regardless of how the forthcoming weeks proceed.   Our Soldiers Fought Well There has been a long-running misconception that our soldiers cannot fight. That they’re all HIV positive layabouts incapable of doing any actual soldiering. Naturally this might be true for certain portions of the military, as it would be for virtually any defence force around the world, but Saturday’s firefight proved, above everything else, that our soldiers are not only capable of defending themselves, they are able to fight back with a tempo that rivals most international forces of the same calibre. 200 paratroopers and Special Forces troops faced off against 3000 rebels advancing, according to the Chief of the SANDF, General Shoke, on a 1km wide front is no laughing matter. That our soldiers were able to hold their ground against a numerically-superior force armed with large-calibre machine guns, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and all other manner of weapons, is an impressive feat. That we were able to inflict an estimated 500 casualties on the enemy is an excellent outcome. The loss of 13 SANDF servicemen is tragic, but those lives were not given easily. No matter what criticism is leveled at higher command, the South African Government, the media, or any other outlet, the South Africans fighting for their lives this past weekend fought bravely and fought well, and that should put to rest any questions on the ability of our elite soldiers. Allegations and rumours of a hurried and panicked retreat in the face of the rebels is by all official and credible accounts false. Our...

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Rape persists because we fail as citizens

Feb 08, 13 Rape persists because we fail as citizens

Posted by in Featured, Politics

Rape in South Africa is unacceptably high. Abominably so. Not that there would ever be a level of rape that could be considered acceptable – ours is just so fantastically brutal as to occupy an entirely different and altogether elevated strata of the savage things that we are capable of doing to one another. But this is not a polemic on how terrible rape is. Such writing makes regular appearances in our national and local media with scarcely a reaction – the media equivalent of screaming into a jet engine. What this is, is a question of why years and years of detailed reporting of the rape of women, men, children and the elderly in South Africa fails over and over again to provoke any kind of real and sustained outrage.  Why, as a nation, are we so utterly impotent in the face of such an epidemic of violence? Like any complicated question, there are dozens, probably hundreds of threads that heavily influence the way we do or don’t respond to particular issues as a nation. Patriarchy is most definitely one. We consistently undervalue and oppress women. So too is the ongoing dehumanisation of each other that was one of the lasting gifts of apartheid. We find it so hard to empathise, because we have grown up in the shell of a society specifically engineered not to. Reclusive, elite fortresses like Dainfern, the prevalence of township tourism and infantile op-eds explaining blacks to whites and whites to blacks only make the point more sharply. It would be years before many white folks would dare to visit a township. Most haven’t yet reached the point of asking why they continue to exist. These problems are crippling. But not the one that I’m most keen to discuss here. For lack of space, more than lack of interest, because I am fairly sure whole books could be – and probably have been – written on patriarchy and broken humanity in South Africa. In the latter case, Wretched of...

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The Night Before Lonmin’s Explanation

Aug 16, 12 The Night Before Lonmin’s Explanation

Posted by in Featured, Politics

If Lonmin hadn’t happened today, it would have happened next month. Or a year from now.

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Intentions vs Reality: South African Edition

Jul 25, 12 Intentions vs Reality: South African Edition

Posted by in Culture, Featured

Most South Africans grow up without an innate sense of malice. The genuine, intentional urge to do harm to things and people is not normally there. At least, not in my experience with virtually anyone I have interacted with. So why then do so many of us end up doing so much wrong? We grow up learning not to litter, because it will destroy the environment, not to pollute, nor to be selfish, nor unkind nor violent nor disruptive, and yet that’s precisely what we end up doing when we grow up. At some point we reach the stage of remembering not to litter, but forgetting about the lives we harm through our professional actions. As kids we grow up in SA with the wildest dreams of becoming pilots and doctors, marine biologists and actors, the most incredible careers we can imagine, and nary a thought that this might be slightly impossible. Somewhere along the line, perhaps high school, perhaps university, perhaps from the parents, we feel this implicit (or otherwise!) pressure to become something purposeful. Someone who will earn a salary, pay taxes, and generally be a responsible human being. Somewhere along the line caring about what we do begins to matter less than simply doing anything, as long as it checks the financial boxes. In South Africa having any career is a major privilege. When virtually half the country is jobless having any career or job is a blessing, we are told, regardless of the profession. And yet, what kind of moral conscioussness are we breeding as a nationality if this is the mentality? Is anything permissable, as long as you are providing for you and yours? Does that justify the work you do irrespecive of the collateral damage it might create? I think some caution is worthwhile here, even when unemployment is rife and the country is on the border of a catastrophic societal rupture. I’m sure most kids who are lucky enough to go to university, and even luckier to study law, don’t start intending to...

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Youth want more than education

Jun 18, 12 Youth want more than education

Posted by in Economics, Featured, Politics

Youth Day 2012 in South Africa was thoroughly hijacked by the education activists. June 16th was about more than education access. Sure, education was, and still is, an important issue but the contribution of youth to the liberation of South Africa had to do with a whole lot more than just schools – it had to do with the bigger goal of a free country where opportunities exist equally for all. To reduce the challenges facing the youth to “education” is disingenuous. It is also a misrepresentation of the youth. Not least because education has so far failed the youth of South Africa. In the past 18 years, South Africa has invested an inordinate amount of money in education. Beyond the millions government invests, private sector dishes out CSI money to education projects at an alarming rate. Private citizens spend disproportionately on school books, uniforms, transport and fees. Parents and all too often grandparents sacrifice health and wellbeing to pay for tertiary education, often paying exorbitant prices to fly-by-night colleges. Even those attending reputable higher educational institutions, put significant resorces into an extremely high risk investment. There are stories of whole villages pooling their funds to send the one top performing child, sometimes one in four or five years, to university. Of course, given the inequalities of the system, a poor child from a rural, under-resourced school with no support system, often no proper accommodation and poor school-level preparation has an extremely limited chance of success. Especially in a tertiary education system where even those who could afford good schools don’t make it. The return on investment in educational opportunities in South Africa is far from guaranteed. I’m not talking here about the whining whites who think the only reason they don’t get offered a senior management position straight out of varsity is because of their race. Getting a matric or a diploma in South Africa does not translate into any job. An awful lot of people won’t get a job until they’re over...

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