The de-colonization project – a pretty prickly issue

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Where to begin?
Colonization is as much a thing of nature as it is of culture and is happening all the while we read and write here. Bacteria colonize organisms. Vikings raid and colonize foreign lands.
Comets are colonized.

In scientific parlance:

DARMSTADT, Germany — For the last two years, the Rosetta spacecraft has danced around a comet. Today, it finally made contact with the icy body — and sent its last signal.

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“Comets are primitive cosmic objects, left over from the time our solar system was just starting to take shape 4.6 billion years ago. Exploring the structure, composition and activity of these icy bodies could shed light on the evolution of our solar system, and help scientists write a more comprehensive history of how the building blocks of life were first delivered to Earth.” (www.space.com)

Foreign lands are explored, mapped out and subsequently colonized:

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John Thomson’s 1813 map of Africa. (Wikipedia)

“This hand colored map is a steel plate engraving, dating to 1813 by the important English mapmaker John Thomson. It is an early and historically important representation of the continent of Africa. Much of the continent is simply labeled “unknown parts”. Those sections that are known are surprisingly detailed. Caravan routes, temples, and even the distances between Oases are generally noted. Across the center of the continent Thomson details the mythical mountain range known as the “Mountains of the Moon”. The mountains of the moon were first postulated by Ptolemy to be the source of the Nile. This mysterious range remained on maps until the mid 19th century explorations of Burton, Speke, and Livingstone.” (Wikipedia)

Is colonization part of an regenerative process of shaking up existing states of things for their own good?

Is it, seen from the angle of the colonizer, an act of exploration only with the aim to gain knowledge about unknown parts of the world and universe? Or is it in any event a violent, destructive, rapacious intrusion of a well established natural or cultural realm for the intruder’s good?

Can it ever, from the angle of the colonized, be seen as an impulse to cultural renewal, testing the strength of defenses and developing capabilities to defend itself, absorb and digest?

Colonization is a good thing, of course. It means making the land and its people productive. Developing natural and cultural resources.

Colonialism however is not a good thing. It means the imposition of a foreign rule and exploitation of natural and human resources which can never be condoned.

To say colonialism was not all bad, it brought infrastructure etc. is tantamount to saying Hitler was not all bad, he built the Autobahn. Sorry Helen, this was, if not a calculated provocation definitely an unfortunate glitch.

Where to begin then with the project of decolonization?

Here are a few propositions what to do and not to do.

  • Do not tear down statues of classical colonizers.
    They are to be kept as reminders of the people’s history.
    To besmirch and pull down the statute of Cecil Rhodes is infantile.
  • Research and uncover knowledge disregarded by the colonizers.
    This might cover medicinal practices but also ways of looking at the sky and interpreting ways of being in this world.
  • Look at the difference between colonization and colonialism and separate the wheat from the husks. As much as colonialism is to be condemned, colonization has a lot to offer. This is where Helen got it wrong.
  • Empower all who are vulnerable, that is, all of us.
  • Try to dislodge the new colonizers, that is those in power who have usurped the position of the colonizers of old and are raping the country as of old.

The pricklyness of the de-colonization project lies in that the virus has disguised itself and has usurped the position of old under the mantle of liberation.
What are we to do?
What were the people of northern France and England to do when they were raided by Viking mobs?
They had to endure and bury their slain.
What are the Syrians to do in the enclaves of Mosul? They have to endure and bury their dead.
And South Africans? What are they to do to get rid of their new colonizers under the disguise of liberators?

We all are in a pickle. Attacked by all kinds of new challenges. To de-colonize is one of the least exciting issues. Let’s attend to the agenda of renewed colonial invasions in the guise of new forms of energy: fracking the Karoo to smithereens and Russian power plants dotted all over the country – the new colonial masters having been handsomely paid for their acquiescence already.

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With love from
Walter & Colleen
Stellenbosch 5 April 2017

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Into the New Year

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Hieronymus Bosch (c.1450-1516), Ship of Fools, fragment of a triptych. Musée de Louvre, Paris.

Dear friends,

Contemplating The Ship of Fools could well serve to alert us to the follies in our own lives if not the world at large at a time when all our good New Year’s resolutions have dulled away.
Bosch’s work speaks to us as freshly as it must have moved people at the turn of the 15th into the 16th century. People then stood with their minds and habits, thoughts, rituals, beliefs, expectations and realisations of life half still enslaved within the feudality of the Middle Ages and halfway into the era of modernity which is our own.

The ship of fools is very much alive in our time, adrift on the ocean of general intemperance, fanaticism, pernicious and evil intents, little fat clowns playing with intercontinental ballistic toys while watching the latest massacres and drownings in high definition.

We all know or feel that our world has come to an end in its present form and that the process of major reforms has already begun. These adjustments will be painful for all of us, in particular the ruling parties, and will invariably be met with subterfuge to derail the process of change.

There is no time for turning back. The time has arrived to be bold and brave. To fight the good fight where it counts: on the battlefield of personal commitment, never giving up on the dream of creating a world for all to thrive in.

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It is a fight worth fighting.

With love to all of you from
Colleen and Walter
Stellenbosch, 10 January 2017

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Cape Town’s Waterfront on a sunny winter’s morning

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The Waterfront in Cape Town is a working and truly walkable harbour.

 

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Tugs in a row.

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The ferry to the once infamous, now famous island.

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Another more powerful tug.

 

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A relatively recent addition to the entertaining elements with Table Mountain as a backdrop.

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Heroes of the struggle, crowded out.

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Nobel Square – the bronze statues of the four South African Nobel Peace Price recipients (from left to right): Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela.

Albert Luthuli (1898-1967) President-General of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1952-1967. He was awarded the 1960 Nobel Peace Price “for his fight against racial discrimination”. Luthuli House – the ANC headquarters in Johannesburg – is named after him. – Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu (born in 1931) received the Nobel Peace Price in 1984 for his “role as a unifying leader figure in the campaign to resolve the problem of apartheid in South Africa”.  – F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela  both received the Nobel Peace Price jointly in 1993 “for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa”.

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Tutu – a representation of His Grace Anglican Archbishop emeritus of Cape Town Desmond Tutu. A man without fear and with numerous honours bestowed on him, he too has raised his compelling voice against corruption and licentious spending of public funds by government officials.

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In the Watershed – a new home for African craft, art and design. – Spinning and knitting. The winters are cold enough in South Africa to make woollen garments highly desirable. South African wool and Mohair is of a supreme quality and now Alpacas have been introduced and are flourishing, almost as sumptuous as cashmere.

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These so-called “Colonials”, originally from West and Central Africa are very much in demand.

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Satirizing colonial officials or expression of new class consciousness? There is always a kind of humourous ironical smugness present in these figurines.

 

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Ardmore ceramics in KwaZulu Natal have opened a whole new world of elaborate and decorative ceramic crafts popping up everywhere.

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Elaborate jewellery is traditional and creates real treasures using, over and above glass beads, fibres of all kinds and wire work, creating rich embellishments.

 

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A jolly little steam train …

 

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… doing tours all all around the Waterfront.

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Music, formal and informal, ethno bongo, Jazz and vocal …

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… buskers and concerts, it’s all here.

 

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Jazz and Cape Town are synonymous – the talent overflows.

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“Tavern of the Seas”, Cape of Storms, now a place of real Good Hope, this waterfront development has elevated Cape Town from being a large town to a cosmopolitan city on a manageable scale.

With best greetings as always from
Colleen & Walter

Stellenbosch, Sunday 12 June 2016

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Autumn equinox in the Karoo – exploring remains of ancient Quena cosmology in Southern Africa

Portrait of a Quena/Ottentotou/Hottentot/KhoiSan woman by Samuel Daniell (1775-18811)

 

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Saturday 19th March 2016 we gather at a basic farmhouse in a part of the Karoo called Moordenaars Karoo and after being briefed about the route for the afternoon we head into the field. The plan is to experience a point in the universe or cosmos where, seen from earth in the direction of a setting and a rising sun, night and day will be equally long, after which the southern hemisphere will go into autumn and winter mode while the northern half will experience the first signs of spring and summer returning. Going back two thousand or more years in history, how and why were people here interested in such a phenomenon and how would they have known when this point in earth and cosmological time had arrived and how and where to observe and possibly celebrate it.

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First heap of stones.

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Markers in the veld.

If you think these are just a few stone scattered in the veld, you have not yet developed an eye for the purposefulness of these scatterings. There is, for the trained eye, among the stones an arrow pointing to cleft in the distant mountain range. This indicates and arrowhead, pointing 28.5 degrees southwest, to a V-shape gap in a distant mountain, where the sun sets at the summer solstice.

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Another group of stones, pointing to another distant mountain top.

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A rough 4×4 ride brings us to this dry riverbed where Marius introduces his father and scientific leader of our expedition: Dr Cyril Hromnik who’s politically challenging research into and publications about ancient Africa have met with sharp criticism from his academic peers. He for instance points out that the golden rhino from a burial site at Mapungubwe is not of African but Indian origin.

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An Indian rhinoceros with one horn only. (Photo provided by Sian Tiley-Nel, Manager & Chief Curator, University of Pretoria. Wikimedia)

We are now investigating a river front cave entrance where the walls are strewn with faintly visible images of tall figures, an eland, imprints of hands with one finger missing and clusters of red dots. All these representations would according to popular belief have been done by Bushmen or San people. Cyril Hromnik explains these as referring to ceremonial aspects of ancient Indian customs. You can imagine our surprise and disbelief because we are by now so well conditioned to think Bushmen/ San/ Kung! are the people who created these images. There is, of course no final proof of their originators or what true significance these images have.

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The representations here were, according to Dr Hromnik, not done by “Bushmen” as academics would have it, but by Quena people, who were influenced by contact with Indian gold and ivory traders.

From here we drive on and then walk up a hill side along a dry packed wall which looks like a fence but is in fact part of a cosmologically significant demarcation.

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This 72m long wall has basically 3 main functions: 1. Its northern end in connection with the Brandberg mountain and the stone Seat navigates you towards the rising of the Moon at the Moon Major Standstill Rising — once in 18.6 years. 2. The gap in the wall (not in the middle) gives you the Equinox Sunrise. 3. The length of the Wall gives the time within which the Full Moon switches the sides: from South in Summer to North in Winter and vice versa (source: Cyril Hromnik).

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The stone seat from where to observe the rising moon at the Moon Major Standstill Rising which happens once in 18,6 years. – The celestial event of the Moon Minor Standstill was observed by Dr Hromnik’s group in the Moordenaars Karoo on the night of last Tuesday the 26th of April 2016. This celestial event occurs also only once in 18.6 years.

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The observational seat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quena – according to Dr Hromnik’s research, presently disputed in main stream archaeology, a dravidian Indian word meaning “mixed people” connected to the trade of gold and ivory from Westafrica to India, a mix of Indian and indigenous bushmen origin, called Hottentots by early European travellers and subsequent settlers and today referred to as KhoiSan.

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Sunset at autumn equinox in the Karoo.

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Equinoctial sundowners.

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An oil lamp hollow to signal events to people on the opposite mountain side.

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Sunrise at the autumn equinox between two upright markers.

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Another temple site connected to the autumn equinox.

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Two parallel walls demarcating a corridor for celestial observations.

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Structure from a recent age: a Voortrekker bread oven.

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The temple mound from where the chosen souls may take their final way to the celestial North.

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Cyril – our guide and teacher.

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Bringing it all together.

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Cyril maintains the dead were burned here according to Indian tradition. To the left in the river bed a perennial spring feeds into the river.

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Karoo landscape near Laingsburg/Western Cape/South Africa.

This two-day exploration opened our eyes to things in the landscape which are normally dismissed as cattle kraals or similar earth-bound mundane objects.
Who would think of celestial clocks laid out in the Karoo two thousand years ago?
The fascinating aspect of this exploration is that you need no archeological diggings to look into the past – it is all there in front of your feet. All you have to do is open your eyes to the celestial connections in the night sky for it to fall into place.
The obstacles are as always, in the mind. This exploration opened our minds under the patient guidance of our tutor Dr Hromnik.

We should not be surprised to hear that he is called a maverick scientist.

 

The Curse of Racism

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On the Wild Coast, near Port St. John’s, on our way to Lusikisiki and beyond.

We belong to the human race.
The classification of humans according to essentially distinguishable traits is part of 19th century anthropology, subsequently throughout the 20th century, exploited as a political tool.
Behaviour among the human race that today still uses such classification openly or in subtle ways, is justifiably branded “racist”.
When and where the term “racism” is used today, the usage can be ambivalent and controversial: it could mark behaviour as racist, but it could also be used as a political instrument to disqualify certain behaviour even though it may not be racist at all.
There is the dichotomy: the ones shouting “racism” might well be racist themselves.
Where then is the qualifier?
“Race” as qualifier is a thing of the past.
“Race” is as qualifier in academic analytical writing.
“Race” as a behavioural qualifier has no place in everyday interaction between members of the human race.
While racism is still very much alive like other diseases of the past, we should refrain from its usage because if used it easily can turn into the curse it is.

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Magueye, Professor of German Language and Literature in Senegal. Here with Walter in our library in Stellenbosch, some years ago.

Writing about racism is virtually impossible. There are simply too many open wounds. It’s an emotional mine field. The recent verbal flair up is so very telling. It’s like an AK-47 – once you pick it up you might want to use it.

With love from
Colleen & Walter
Sunday 07 Feb 2016
On the day of the South African Catholic feast of “Our Lady of The Flight into Egypt”.

 

 

 

A People in Distress – Some Thoughts on the Passing of Africa Day

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Namibian desert moonscape.

The world around us is, and we in it are, in restless motion. And so is the universe of which we are part. And the greater and even deeper space around that and so on ad infinitum. It all is in motion. At no point ever can you hold “it” fast and pin it down. Even in death there is no finality. It is all in flux.
This notion of Πάντα ρει (panta rhei) – “Everything flows”, meaning that you can never step into the same river twice, as a philosophical concept, is attributed to the pre-Socratic thinking of Heraclitus of Ephesus who lived from ca. 535 to 475 BC.

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Heraclitus by Hendrick ter Brugghen (1588-1629)*

It is of course a quotidian experience which we, however, apportion to the passage of time. We can never catch up with it. If only we could stop time for a moment longer, and so on. We use “time” as the general expression of this movement.

Time is a cultural convention. There is no such thing as time as such. There is perpetual movement and our experience of it in terms of time as a conventional measure of orientation in this world of unceasing motion and constant change. Were you to sit under a tree, meditating about the world, and it felt to you that all was still and motionless, time too would lose its voice.

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Salvador Dali (1904-1989), The Persistence of Memory. 1931. Museum of Modern Art, New York. (Courtesy of WikiArt).

Science and philosophy have generated a number of questions, such as:
What and/or who has set it all into motion?
Are there any laws governing motion?
Does motion have a direction and an ultimate goal?

Ibn Khaldun

Ibn Khaldun

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Ibn Sina or Avicenna

While we normally cannot engage in meaningful discussions about the findings of science from Thales of Miletus (624-546 BCE), Ibn Sina (Avicenna) (980-1037), Ibn Khaldun (1334-1406) to Newton (1643-1727) and von Helmholtz (1821-1849), proposing and discussing ideas or concepts of development and goals, are commonplace in the polity, where it is easy for all to see into which direction things ought to move.

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Crayfish boats in Hout Bay Harbour near Cape Town.

The pessimistic outlook on Africa, as portrayed by the press, represents the blatant sufferings of the populace at large only. Trying to reach the shores of Europe in stricken vessels, children bonded as soldiers, the abduction and subsequent enslavement of school girls, genocide, rulers in contempt of the rule of law – Africa from that perspective, is a mess. Africa, it seems, would again have to rid herself from colonisers, this time of her own making. A people in fear of their rulers who treat their people with contempt, is a people in distress. It took Europe more than two centuries to establish herself constitutionally, how long will it take the people of Africa to set themselves free.

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Farm workers’ children on their way to the school bus in 2010 on the farm Vrede in the Camdeboo Conservancy near Graaff-Reinet/Eastern Cape.

Africa Day, meant to remind us of our common humanity, also prompts a number of uneasy questions, that we, having chosen to live in Africa and be counted as Africans, have to ponder:

Are we sufficiently evolved as a species to narrow the ever widening divide between poor and rich?
How can we dispose of unjust rulers without causing further social unrest?
Can nations develop and compete side by side in harmony with each other?
How can we exploit natural and human resources in an equitable way?
Can we harness self-interest, greed, addictions without curbing our zest for life?
Can we as nations wed tribal and national interests with mankind’s common interest?

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Tourists and tourist guide Hout Bay harbour.

What counts is: respect for each other, for life. And, let’s not forget – life without fun is no fun.

With love as always
Walter & Colleen
Stellenbosch, 31st of May 2015

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* Courtesy of Wikipedia

What is Xenophobia? – Some Thoughts on the Occasion of “Freedom Day”

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King Goodwill Zwelithini -king of the Zulus in ceremonial garb.

The renewed outbreak of violence against immigrants from other African countries – mainly from Zimbabwe and Malawi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Nigeria, Somalia – in South Africa is branded as “xenophobia”, but I am not convinced this is the adequate term to use here.
The Greek word “xenos” means “foreigner” as well as “guest” and everything in between. A “xenos” can be a foreigner you are welcoming into your home and someone hostile to you.
The “phobia” in connection with a “xenos” means you are afraid to take a foreigner into your home, you are suspicious of the foreigner’s intentions and deny him or her your hospitality.
This is what happened to Piet Retief and his team of trekkers in 1838 after they had successfully, or so they thought, negotiated a land settlement deal with the Zulu king Dingane who however, after having signed the treaty, ordered his impis to slaughter the negotiating party one by one and an estimated 500 men, women and children in nearby camps thereafter. This in turn, some months later, led to the Battle of Blood River where 470 Voortrekkers under Andries Pretorius withstood in their encampment along the Ncome river the onslaught waves of up to 20.000 Zulu warriors and made history.
Theirs was not xenophobia but eradication of a potential competitor for grazing.

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A nation wants to stand tall and proud.

Similar sentiments are at stake today. Foreigners are seen as competitors in a demanding job market. Our local labour force finds it difficult to compete with well educated workers from neighbouring countries, such as Zimbabwe and Malawi. While it is claimed that Nigerian nationals are holding the lion’s share in the drug and scam trade, it is no secret that Zimbabweans are very much in demand in the hospitality industry where our local labour force finds it difficult to compete. Similarly, traders from Somalia are offering competitive services to consumers while making profits through efficient networking. All of this has created a volatile situation where the local labour force, disadvantaged by inferior or non-existent education, hamstrung by labour union policies and dispirited by almost fifty years of de-humanising legislation, is becoming more and more frustrated. It’s a powder keg scenario where one word can be the spark to ignite it.

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Informal settlements near Cape Town.

Xenophobia is not a South African thing at all. On the contrary. South Africa has a long tradition of inviting foreigners into her home and integrating them into her industry and culture and that has made this country strong and great. The situation seems to be changing now in that the majority of the people see themselves as disenfranchised despite promises to the contrary. And while the tide of foreigners drawn to this country is rising dramatically, there is no real hope for a dramatic change in the ordinary man and woman’s lot.

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Wild coast/Eastern province road side exchange.

We cannot address xenophobia without addressing the underlying causes. For South Africa this means to dramatically increase the efficiency of our educational machinery. Educated people need not fear the foreign. They are equipped to integrate them into the general societal fabric and network. It is the uneducated masses that feel left behind and cheated out of their hopes and promises. And they are getting angry. Xenophobia in South Africa is an expression of this anger. It is misdirected, of course, and abused by all too ready background looters. Not the foreigner is at fault but government policies that have failed in providing the majority of people with a level of education that would enable them to compete with foreigners seeking work opportunities in their neighbourhood.

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Winnie, originally Malawian, now resident in Zimbabwe, plying her trade in South Africa.

Stellenbosch, Monday 27 April 2015,
“Freedom Day”, in commemoration of the first all-inclusive democratic elections in 1994.
With love from
Walter & Colleen