on Ethnic Relations / Rapports sur les relations
following section is consisted of part, full or summaries of
articles from diverses sources (newspapers, newsletters, etc...).
La section suivante est constituée d'exraits, de la totalité
ou de résumés d'articles provenant d'origines
diverses (journaux,bulletins, etc..).
/ 00 / 2003
& GUARDIAN (South Africa)
The article: "South Africa:
A state of permanent transition"
We have been told endlessly that we live in a society in transition.
I suppose no one can tell us when the transition will be over
and we can start living like real human beings, like the rest
of the world. In fact, the Leadership has long given up talking
about transition, while at the same time expecting us to go on
living with transitional emblems as if they were a fact of life
— the "y-fronts-lying-down" national flag, the
ridiculous cut-and-paste national anthem, dodgy political alliances
with former arch enemies like Inkatha and the National Party and
all the rest of it.
fact that the date for implementing part of the new schools curriculum
keeps shifting is another indication that we are not in what Leon
Trotsky or Mao Tse Tung would have described as a state of permanent
revolution, but have rather made a name for ourselves by declaring
a state of permanent transition.
there's the race thing, of course. Or the non-race thing, depending
on where you stand. Black people still talk about whites all the
time, but whites (at least when there are blacks around) don't
talk about blacks anymore. In fact, white people shudder openly
when they talk to blacks about apartheid. "What a horrible
thing, thank God it's over," they say with straight faces.
was so horrible about it for you?" I always want to ask,
but somehow never do. But I do often bring up the fact that apartheid
is not exactly finish en klaar if we still live with apartheid
institutions like blacks-only townships, those blitzed-out, treeless,
overcrowded areas reserved for the majority of the population,
where life is cheap, infrastructure is non-existent, and anything
goes — all this cheek-by-jowl with opulence and splendour
for the lucky few just down the road.
up this issue with whites or blacks is not popular, and the other
person will always change the subject. The blacks will look at
you as if you are mad and the whites will raise their voices and
tell you that everyone is equal now, and please don't bring up
the past. So I shut up.
we have the white-owned, white-run Apartheid Museum to prove to
the world that all that stuff really is a thing of the past.
before I get hand-bagged once again for having nothing positive
to say about our wonderful country, let me look at some other
areas where our transition is really beginning to show some interesting
results. Let us look, for example, at the fascinating Johannesburg
suburb of Melville.
suburb where I and a lot of other former Yeoville layabouts now
live, or simply lounge about, is certainly interesting to observe,
transition-wise. To those not in the know, it is worth remembering
that Melville sits right next door to Westdene, which is the poor-white
suburb whose outraged voice finally persuaded the Nationalist
government to remove the "black spotÿ 94 of Sophiatown
in the 1950s, and make Johannesburg more solidly and securely
pretends not to share this racist history, of course, but if you
listen closely you can still hear that irritating Westdene accent
on Melville's genteel streets. Suburban boundaries are a fantasy,
after all. In other words, during the days of apartheid Melville
had no problem with being whiter than white.
things are changing now. For example, when I am feeling particularly
low on energy (about four times a week, depending on what has
been going on the night before) I like to take an early lunch
at a certain sushi restaurant on Seventh Street.
sushi joint is an excellent vantage point for observing the South
restaurant itself is something of an interesting anomaly. Sushi,
after all, is a Japanese speciality that has spread its rubbery
tentacles across the world. But no one who hangs out at this particular
spot seems to notice that the expert Japanese sushi chefs are
actually Chinese. I suppose all the Melvillites who drop in are
too stoned or hung-over to be bothered to work out the difference.
it is the ongoing live movie that runs past your eyes as you gaze
out of the door that is most fascinating.
street traders of Seventh Street have had a long-running on-and-off
battle with South Africa's transitional authorities for years
now. The black guys who make a precarious living selling ingenious
creations made out of wire and beads seem to have negotiated a
reprieve that allows them to ply their trade unmolested, for now
at least. They live in uneasy coexistence with the formal shop
and restaurant owners of the street, who (until the arrival of
a Rastafarian fashion boutique a few months ago) are all white.
informal car stewards have not been so lucky. Irritating as it
might have been for seasoned car drivers like ourselves to be
told how to park their automobiles by shabbily dressed former
street urchins, the guys performed a useful service in other ways
— for example by persuading you to have your car washed
at regular intervals, and running to the sushi joint to warn you
when traffic cops were about to slap a ticket on your windscreen.
For all this you paid a modest tip at your discretion.
shop and restaurant owners, however, do not seem to have been
so well-disposed to these friendly servants of the people. How
ill-disposed they were suddenly became evident just before Christmas
when, overnight, the informal sector was ousted by a para-military
outfit called Ushaka.
is a name that sounds afrocentric enough. But in reality it is
a white company fronted by steely-eyed guys with blonde crew cuts
and bullet-proof vests who employ a sub-group of mostly black
guys dressed in peaked caps and white gloves, like Negro minstrels.
neighbourhood has become slightly uptight again as a result of
this invasion. The black customers are incensed on behalf of their
dispossessed brothers from the informal sector, and the white
customers are cheering a silent "hooray" at the prospect
of order and discipline coming back into their topsy-turvy world.
laid-back life of Melville goes on. But, as I say, transition
is by no means easy, and it looks like it's still going to dog
us for a long time to come. (John Matshikiza is a fellow of the
Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research)