On That ‘Riot on Long Street’ piece

OK, little bit awkward this, because I generally enjoy (enjoyed?) Sipho Hlongwane’s stuff. However, while reading his “Night Out on Long Street Turns Into Riot” article here, I couldn’t help but giggle as I related some of the lines and thoughts in there to Private Eye’s Luvvies and Pseud’s Corner columns.

Don’t get me wrong; his description of Long Street’s seedy side was excellent and sadly accurate, although the poetic licence required to drop

The promise of danger looms heavier than the famous mountain just over yonder

into his opening remarks made me feel that he was already waxing rather too lyrically about the night’s events. Perhaps it was the way that he had spent his evening that brought this creativity forth. For what followed was surely one of the best lines in any column about public disorder, alleged police indifference and annoyance at media apathy that I have ever seen. And I’ve read a lot of columns about public disorder, alleged police indifference and annoyance at media apathy – mainly written by Sipho Hlongwane.

Here it is:

We arrived on the scene walking in a north-easterly direction towards our hotel in the early hours of Sunday after a night spent revelling in an avant-garde theatre performance.

Fantastic! They didn’t walk down Long Street, they walked “in a north-easterly direction”.
They hadn’t just been to see a play, they had revelled “in an avant-garde theatre performance”.

Brave Sipho, notebook in hand (probably, anyway) rushes into the fray and almost gets caught up in the nastiness. He (having run to get to the middle of the riot), is obviously a little puffed, and, as the angry mob turns on him, the notebook seemingly overlooked, he feels that it would be a good idea to inform them that he is a journalist. But in the confusion, they almost don’t hear him.
How on earth will Our Hero™ get his message across?

I summoned every last scrap of breath to shout back that I was media. It took two or three roars for the message to sink in.

Amazingly, despite this Herculean and apparently final respiratory effort, Sipho continues to live. And he continues to report. There’s no mention of where his girlfriend is right now, but I also always find that in the midst of a riot, it makes sense to split up and leave my loved ones in a place where the promise of danger looms heavier than a famous mountain just over yonder.
And that famous mountain is pretty heavy, yo.

But I digress. Often.

Back to the action now, where Sipho, having jotted down enough shorthand and somehow fortuitously become reunited with his other half, quickly heads for the safety of his hotel room to escape the full-on riot that the local police force aren’t doing anything about, save for watching.

No. Wait.

We decided to walk away. We went for the delicious Asian food that Long St specialises in

This follows a bit of a trend. Few of us could forget (because he keeps reminding us) that Sipho was at Marikana during the heinous events of August 2012. What even fewer of us know, however, is that he headed off for a burger before he wrote up his Daily Maverick columns on the subject. [This assertion may not be entirely accurate – Ed.]

Anyway, just before collecting their food (the details of which are not shared), they quickly save the lives of the friends of a white girl who has been mugged:

who knows what would have happened if we had not arrived and intervened?

before heading back out into the safety of… er…

the riot continuing unabated outside

where Sipho finds yet another group of tourists in distress. And he promptly saves them too, despite this act requiring further pulmonary effort:

They were from some European country — I forget which — and were so immobilised with fear and trauma that we had to repeatedly ask them to get off the street and to safety before they would move.

Selfless. And I love the little dig in there – imagine if I, as a *gasp* white European, had dared to describe some African country as “some African country” and dismissively chosen to “forget which” one it was? And that despite having a notebook (although I’ll concede that it’s difficult to write when carrying delicious Asian food).

Hell to pay, I tell you.

Back then, eventually, to the safety of their hotel room, from which they can watch the continuing riot beneath them while they eat their delicious Asian food (sorry for you if you had to endure the smell of black bean sauce when you booked in the following afternoon).
As things wind down and the protagonists and pugilists head back home, the raw emotion of the whole situation finally hits Comrade Sipho and he has to take immediate and drastic action:

It was all a bit too traumatic for me. I watched football on the iPad to calm myself, and went to sleep.

Probably an Arsenal game. That always makes… me… so *yawn*… sleeeeeeepy… But never when I see it on anything as mainstream as a television, obviously. I mean, how on earth is that going to help? Jeez.

But Sipho is still irritated by a few things:

I am furious with the police who did not care

Yes, understandably. It’s disgraceful.

and the journalists who did not turn up to cover this

Well, there was you, thrice roaring about being media, but you didn’t get a single photo or interview despite witnessing the whole thing – some of it from a lofty vantage point – and having a notebook. [Are we good with the veracity of the notebook thing? – Ed.]
And sure, you can be furious about the lack of any further coverage, but is your anger because no-one bothered to report a riot in Long Street in which “a pretty white girl got hurt”, or is it because it the media apathy kind of defeats your argument that township violence is selectively ignored, the media choosing only to tell us about these sort of things when they happen uncomfortably close to home or when a pretty white girl gets hurt?
(But not in this case, obviously.)

and the bystanders who shrugged and walked by.

And hang on just a moment. Wasn’t this also you, to a certain extent? I know you saved some tourists from Pretoria and then saved some more tourists from some European county (I forget which), and for that, you should rightfully expect a pat on the back. But then, with this riot continuing outside, you stood, you watched and you ate delicious Asian food.

Have you reported the police officers concerned (or unconcerned, I suppose)? Have you made any effort to tell anyone of any influence that you were an eye-witness to a young man getting stabbed, for example? Because, as someone once said

It is not good enough to shrug and say, “Long Street, hey” and move on.

I share your frustration, but if you do nothing, this will happen again and again and again. And next time, you might not be there to abandon your girlfriend, roar at some rioters, interrogate some allegedly incompetent policemen, and – wearing your undies over your pants and with a big ‘S’ (for ‘Sipho’, obvs) on your T-shirt – to save those tourists.

So yes, this deserves more effort. From all concerned.

Sipho does Steve

Because my most important reader is me and I might like, one day, to recall Sipho Hlongwane’s open letter to Steve Hofmeyr, delightfully entitled “Need any help removing your head from your arse, Steve?“, I’m documenting it right here and now.

And yes, this excerpt is quite funny, but it’s probably best that you click the link above and read the whole thing for maximum entertainment.

I also find it quite funny that you “own” Westernism, just because you’re a white man. Don’t give me that “us” vs “you” nonsense. Where were YOU when the printing press was invented, Steve? Where were YOU when the nuclear bomb was invented? Did you help Gottlieb Daimler with that first motor vehicle? Did Thomas Edison consult with you when he had that light-bulb idea? Until Julius Malema drives a car that YOU built, and wears a shirt that YOU designed, don’t come at me with that humus.

The irony of having to hear a lecture on originality from a man who sings Neil Diamond covers for a living isn’t lost on me either.

Steve, here’s a word of advice. I know you mean well. You had the moral upper hand and everything, but you squandered it by being a cracker. Leave this sort of thing to the people who know what they’re doing when they put pen to paper, alright? Go back to doing whatever it is you do when you aren’t riding bike in the veld. Go back to impressing suburban housewives with that lush goatee of yours.


SpeakZA – Bloggers for a Free Press

SpeakZA – Bloggers for a Free Press

Last week, shocking revelations concerning the activities of the ANC Youth League spokesperson Nyiko Floyd Shivambu came to the fore. According to a letter published in various news outlets, a complaint was laid by 19 political journalists with the Secretary General of the ANC, against Shivambu. This complaint letter detailed attempts by Shivambu to leak a dossier to certain journalists, purporting to expose the money laundering practices of Dumisani Lubisi, a journalist at the City Press. The letter also detailed the intimidation that followed when these journalists refused to publish these revelations.

We condemn in the strongest possible terms the reprisals against journalists by Shivambu. His actions constitute a blatant attack on media freedom and a grave infringement on Constitutional rights. It is a disturbing step towards dictatorial rule in South Africa. We call on the ANC and the ANC Youth League to distance themselves from the actions of Shivambu. The media have, time and again, been a vital democratic safeguard by exposing the actions of individuals who have abused their positions of power for personal and political gain.

The press have played a vital role in the liberation struggle, operating under difficult and often dangerous conditions to document some of the most crucial moments in the struggle against apartheid. It is therefore distressing to note that certain people within the ruling party are willing to maliciously target journalists by invading their privacy and threatening their colleagues in a bid to silence them in their legitimate work.

We also note the breathtaking hubris displayed by Shivambu and the ANC Youth League President Julius Malema in their response to the letter of complaint. Shivambu and Malema clearly have no respect for the media and the rights afforded to the media by the Constitution of South Africa. Such a response serves only to reinforce the position that the motive for leaking the so-called dossier was not a legitimate concern, but an insolent effort to intimidate and bully a journalist who had exposed embarrassing information about the Youth League President.

We urge the ANC as a whole to reaffirm its commitment to media freedom and other Constitutional rights we enjoy as a country.

Blog Roll



Tomorrow, 6000 miles… will join many other South African blogs taking part in Sipho Hlongwane’s #SpeakZA campaign against the ANC Youth League’s recent attacks on media freedom.

On Thursday March 18, Sipho Hlongwane, a 21-year-old law student from the KwaZulu-Natal midlands, read a piece on the Daily Maverick news site entitled, “Political journalists complain to the boss about ANC Youth League spokesman Floyd Shivambu.” The piece, you may remember, republished a letter sent by nineteen of the country’s top political journalists to ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe. The journalists’ complaint was that Shivambu had threatened them when they questioned the authenticity of a dossier he’d attempted to leak. The subject of the dossier? The private life of City Press reporter Dumisani Lubisi, who, you may also remember, was instrumental in exposing Youth League president Julius Malema’s various business interests.

Hlongwane, on reading this and further concerns raised in the letter – for instance, Malema’s public warning that he’d personally “arrest” journalists caught breaking the law (ja, he said it) – realised he was being informed of a worrying new phenomenon.

“For the first time I got a shock,” he remembers. “I realised the lengths to which the ANC Youth League would go. This was the most blatant attack on media freedom I could remember. I thought, ‘What can I do?’ Social media seemed like a good answer.”


Word on the street is that the campaign post may well include the word “hubris”, and if you think that sounds a bit rude, maybe you need to go and look it up. Or you can just pretend you know what it means and giggle about Floyd Shivambu’s (apparently “breathtaking”) hubris, like I did.

UPDATE: Sipho’s thoughts are now up on 6000 miles… and a whole lot of other blogs, too.