Sorry seems to be the hardest word

Exactly what are our politicians up to while the well-documented violence against foreign nationals spreads to each and every corner of the country?

President Thabo Mbeki has been widely criticised for his lack of prompt action when the attacks started in Alexandra last week (or earlier, according to some sources). And rightly so, I would argue. Whether or not you believe that deploying troops sooner would have stopped the violence from spreading (I don’t), not deploying them merely allowed the attacks to continue almost completely unabated as the police, outnumbered and outmanoeuvered by the mobs in the townships, were obviously unable to cope.

Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, a woman generally well-respected since her intervention in the country’s HIV policy-making decisions had been quiet – until yesterday. At which point, I wished she’d stayed quiet. Visiting Nigeria, Mlambo-Ngcuka issued South Africa’s first public apology for the violence. Like this:

We are very much concerned and apologise for all the inconvenience that the incidents have caused

The “inconvenience”? That’s what I expect from the local supermarket manager when they don’t have stock of seedless raspberry jam. It’s what I want to hear on the loudspeaker on Platform 6a when my train is 10 minutes late. Personally, I don’t think “inconvenience” is quite enough to cover over 40+ dead and 20,000 “displaced” (read “fleeing for their lives”). Another government own goal?
Even charismatic Jacob Zuma, our President-in-waiting, who spoke out early on against the violence, has since fallen silent as the wave of attacks continues to escalate. I find this very strange – Zuma has previously been quick to capitalise on any sign of Mbeki’s weakness. It’s almost a trademark stategy of his. So could it be that even JZ doesn’t have an answer to these problems?

So while the ANC provaricates and struggles to provide answers, solutions, reasons or even a half-decent apology for the violence, what has the oppostition been up to? Well, finally, Helen Zille, leader of the DA, has come out with a statement. Not surprisingly, she blames government policy for the troubles and not surprisingly, she suggests that her party would do better if they were given a chance to run the country. Keep dreaming, Helen.   
What’s missing from that statement is any short-term solution. And while most people are well aware that the reasons for these problems need to be addressed, people are being killed every day. So yes, we need “proactive steps to address the root cause of the xenophobic violence”, but first we need to actually control what is happening in the informal settlements across South Africa right now.

I mentioned yesterday that Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils had noted the involvement of opportunistic elements in the violence. And in an interesting opportunistic move, the Zimbabwe Government – the reason that most Zim immigrants are here in the first place – have offered to help repatriate those displaced by the attacks. Presumably, those repatriated individuals will then vote ZANU-PF in the upcoming Presidential run-off.

Other developments:
Tourists cancel trips to SA – an over-reaction
Army kills man – not an over-reaction
Miners may leave – completely normal reaction

6 thoughts on “Sorry seems to be the hardest word

  1. This morning on 567 Cape Talk, Aden Thomas had a piece by the Premier of the Western Cape, Ebrahim Rassool, who pontificated on about what they will be doing (having done not too much it would appear from comments later)and compared it with what HAS been done by the City Council and took the opportunity to run down Helen Zille at whom he always loves to take a shot. Even Aden managed (eventually – he’s somewhat verbose and rather talks around a subject instead of getting to the point)to ask what manner of man uses this national tragedy and shame to attempt to score politically and have a go at his pet hate.

    charmskool’s last blog post was: Xenophobia! Ugly word for ugly deeds (Note: 6000 miles… is not responsible for the content of external internet sites)

  2. Hey you, yes you, the guy from Sheffield, you can also read my answer at

    but here is it anyway:

    You said:

    The irony of a xenophobic comment being put on my post about xenophobia has just struck me like a panga on the back a Zimbo’s head.

    Look, I pay my taxes, which pays for the politicians wages (amongst other stuff). I’m not allowed to vote.

    But I can like to say what I want when I’m writing about SA. Really. Read the Constitution.
    I say;

    The real irony is that your blog imply that South Africa is not civilized — that UK is THE civilized country —— and now you think you can write about xenophobia in a country where you are a guest at best.

    Yes, you may say what you want about SA, but what about plain good manners in a country where your are just a guest?

    Everybody who works pays taxes — you owe that to the society —- the money is not only going to the politicians — and paying taxes or not paying taxes *** nothing to do with this post.

    I think your discontent is rooted in your UK-history —- you cannot live at peace with yourself and your immediate neighbours —- tell me, how long are you at war with the Irish???

    No brother, first get your country to stop assisting USA in killing Islam, then change your blog name to something like: “9600 kilometers from my own ****”, and then we can talk/blog/post again….

  3. When you asked what if there had been any creports in the UK press of the violence in SA the answer was yes. You have to remember that its news that sell news papers, well sport, tickle tackle and pin ups, so now events in SA are old hat. The China earthquake was up there at the front for a while but that didn’t last, Burma made a bit of a come back but it’s gone again. Even the devastating defeat of the government in a by-election last week is fading fast. As for the violence spreading to Cape Town, nothing. On the plus side the government have not issued warnings about travel to South Africa. This could be because they don’t think there is a threat or because they are too busy thinking of ways to save their backsides. Sill I might just hedge my bets and see what interest there is on e-bay for two tickets to Cape Town for November

  4. @My name is Botha (as in Earl): Hi there. Thanks for visiting. I saw your comments at Bosparra. I was amused – “tickled” as they’d say back “home”.

    A couple of points. Firstly, please don’t use bad language in your comments. My mum reads this site. Secondly, please don’t suggest that SA is at peace with her immediate neighbours: that’s laughable.

    Finally, many thanks for laying down those conditions for my further contribution to the internet. However, I have very limited interest in (or input into) the conflicts in Iraq and the ‘Stan, I have absolutely no intention of changing the name of the site and I’ll blog and post as and when I wish.
    Anyway, since I find conversation with you a bit like masturbating with a cheese grater: slightly amusing, but mostly painful; I’ll leave it at that for now. Do pop back soon!

  5. I do understand that sorry is lust reconsulation it do not help in this situation because lives are gone. Those who has affected with these attacks is very painfull to them. the main cuase of these, I Blame E.T.V for all these violence because of showing people of Zimbabwe crossing to South Africa Bother

    NELSON CHAKE’s last blog post was: A lesson in Greek cooking (Note: 6000 miles… is not responsible for the content of external internet sites)

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