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  • Tony McGregor 6:42 am on September 29, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: business people, entertainers, movie makers, movie stars, musicians, , , sports administrators, sports people   

    Why “Brickbats and Backchat”? 

    From the Oxford Concise English Dictionary:

    Brickbat – (1) a highly critical remark; (2) a piece of brick used as a missile

    Backchat – rude or impudent remarks”

    On this blog I intend to make “highly critical” and sometimes “rude or impudent” remarks about things that are going on around me. And I invite any readers who might chance on this site to add their own.

    All I would ask is that, however rude, impudent or highly critical we might be, we maintain a sense of civility towards each other on this blog. After all, we all have the right to our opinions, and opinions are best understood when they are respected. And they will be more easily shared if we know that they will be accorded at least some respect – I don’t expect people to agree with me, just to hear and respect me!

    So no ad hominem arguments – let’s play the ball not the person.

    But beyond that – be as critical, impudent or rude as you like to those who you think are making a mess of our world – politicians, business people, public servants, sports people or sports administrators, movie stars or movie makers, musicians and other entertainers – these are all fair game.

    Most especially those whose sense of self-importance is in need of some corrective slap-downs – let’s have at them!

  • Tony McGregor 6:21 pm on July 15, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: apartheid, , identity, , race,   

    African and/or white? Thoughts on race and identity 

    I was born in Africa, raised in Africa, the soil of Africa has roughened my toes and the sounds of Africa have nurtured my soul. The smells of Africa enliven my nostrils and the tastes of Africa are the tastes of some of my favourite foods.

    But I am not black and can never fully enter into the black experience. I have never been stopped and asked, “Waar’s jou pas? (Where’s your pass?)” I have never had to gulp down a clandestine drink at a “sip and fly” . I have never trembled at the approach of bulldozers coming to demolish my house nor have I ever had to suffer the indignity of being addressed as “Kaffir!” I have not had to stand for hours in a queue for “non-Europeans only” although I am not a European.

    Indeed I have been privileged by the “Abelungu Bodwa” (Whites only) signs that marked out the special treatment whites received in apartheid South Africa. The shortest queues, the nicest beaches, the best park benches carried that “Abelungu Bodwa” sign very prominently.

    The best schools with the best teachers, the best hotels and restaurants, the best jobs and the best neighbourhoods also carried that sign, even if only metaphorically.

    Buses marked “Abelungu Bodwa” carrying a handful of passengers in relative comfort routinely passed crowded, hot and uncomfortable buses filled to capacity and more; and these buses usually had much further to go than the “Abelungu Bodwa” buses, over potholed and dusty roads to “locations” far from the “Abelungu Bodwa” city. And in the “location” the experience of “Night screams, barking of half-starved mongrels, the rattle of wagons loaded with human manure collected from lavatory buckets … the smell of night … the throb of life seeking at once some violent release, some affectionate contact and a corner to deal with the terrors of night, to take stock of the hurts, the buffetings, the braveries of daytime …” (From Es’kia Mphahlele’s autobiography Afrika My Music. Ravan, 1984).

    How can I, privileged white that I am, enter meaningfully into that world? In the South Africa of the early 21st Century that is no academic question. We live in a country riven by race and I cannot without great difficulty imagine myself in that world, in that kind of Kafkaesque world described by Lewis Nkosi in the early 1960s: “For a black man to live in South Africa in the second half of the twentieth century and at the same time preserve his sanity he requires an enormous sense of humour and a surrealistic kind of brutal wit, for without a suicidal attack on Dr Verwoerd’s armed forces, these qualities seem to provide the only means of defence against a spiritual chaos and confusion which would rob any man of his mental health.”

    It is no academic question as it has to do with the very essence of being white in a country where that has had, over centuries, a very special meaning, a meaning of privilege over deprivation, a meaning of access over denial, a meaning of quality over meanness.

    It is no academic question as I as a white person struggle to find my place in a country in which formerly everything was geared to the advantage of the white person and the detriment of others.

    It is no academic question to ask how I can avoid the taunt of Steve Biko against those who tried to maintain their privilege by denying complicity in oppression with the claim to “have black souls wrapped up in white skins”? (Black Souls in White Skins, 1970; in I Write What I Like, edited by Aelred Stubbs CR, Bowerdean Press, 1978).

    It is no academic question how I with my inescapably “white” skin can assert my African identity in a country in which “African” is most commonly used as a synonym for “black”?

    As philosopher Samantha Vice has written (“How Do I Live in This Strange Place?”; Journal Of Social Philosophy, Vol. 41 No. 3, Fall 2010, 323–342.): “…my experience as a white South African raises starkly some questions about the nature of the self and the place of self-concern in a context in which injustice is the norm.”

    Does my white skin mean that I cannot claim to be African, in spite of the African dust between my white toes?

    Who am I in “This Strange Place”? This is a very pertinent and practical question, one which all “white” South Africans need to ask themselves as we struggle to come to terms with this country in which everything has changed, and yet nothing has changed.

    Back in the 18th Century the Dutch-speaking farmers of the nascent Cape Colony began to speak of themselves as “Afrikaanders” – “Africans” – to distinguish themselves from their Dutch overlords of the Dutch East India Company. But this self-identification did not imply any sense of community with the black indigenous people, Khoisan or Xhosa – the “Afrikaanders” described themselves also as “Christians” over against the indigenous people whom they called “schepseln” (creatures).

    This in spite of the fact that a great many of the “Afrikaanders” took concubines and even wives from among the “schepseln”. One very famous “Afrikaander”, Coenraad de Buys, even took the mother of a Xhosa chief as his wife – one of many, none of them white, be it said.

    As Mphahlele wrote: “Race. Colour. The most emotive words in the dictionary of human relationships. All my life I have had to grapple with their meanings, with the energy they generate.”

    I think all South Africans, of whatever “colour” have felt at one time or another in their lives the weight of Mphahlele’s words without perhaps being fully aware of the struggle.

    Whether we individually like it or not, race has been for a long time a large component of the self-identity of each of us who call ourselves “South African.”

    Poet Lionel Abrahams wrote of the difficulty we have in understanding others who are different in his poem “Into the Skin” from his collection The Writer in Sand (Ad Donker, 1988):

    My way into you, stranger-neighbour,
    is not to ask the way:
    no instruction can lead me,
    and nor can I practise or think
    or feel my way in to be black or a woman,
    victim or addict of blood
    or money or prayer.

    For me there are two related issues here – firstly the weight each of us gives to race in our self-concept, and secondly the way we individually and socially use the concept of race to maintain or strengthen our self-concepts.

    The issue of how whites can relate authentically in South Africa today is not an easy one, to be sure.

    Much as I would like to ignore or deny my white skin, it is a very definite part of my identity, especially in the eyes of others (I don’t notice the colour of my skin too much myself, after all). It becomes, in the race-ridden country that we share, a badge of privilege, a mark of history, and so separates me from others who perhaps see the skin and don’t want to see any further.

    I could become very defensive about this and try to blame others for it. But I think, as a white, that my attitude needs to be very humble and to listen to my fellow South Africans with a keen awareness that I was extremely privileged by apartheid. And that the privilege continues today. I still live a “white” life, a life that was guaranteed me by apartheid. The guarantee has since run out, but the product still works, although it has definitely reached beyond its “sell-by” date.

    “Digging old memories
    is a manner of putting the future
    under scrutiny.
    Otherwise the future
    is a void.” – from “No Lullaby for my country” by Vusi Mavimbela

    Vice’s article can be found here:

    Also see Sipho Hlongwane’s article can be found here:

    • Gemma Wiseman 10:09 pm on September 10, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      A powerful, hard-hitting article highlighting the “dilemma?” of being a white African! In particular, I love…”Does my white skin mean that I cannot claim to be African, in spite of the African dust between my white toes?” We outsiders definitely align Africa with “black” and somehow wriggle uncomfortably with the any other African “colour”!

  • Tony McGregor 11:26 am on July 15, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: history, , land tenure, ,   

    On land and theft. 

    Steal: take (something) without permission or legal right and without intending to return it. (Concise Oxford English Dictionary.)

    There have been, to put it mildly (and to quote Mr Julius Malema) huge volumes of hot air, containing copious quantities of self-righteous anger, blown about by many white commentators since Mr Malema spoke of whites being criminals and having stolen land from blacks. His proposals about nationalisation have generated, if anything, even more.

    Many white commentators have latched onto the theft concept and ask, what, if anything, have whites stolen?

    A little historical perspective is perhaps required, and there is no better time to start the examination of this question than 1812, the time of the first great “forced removal” of blacks from land which they considered their own.

    Lieutenant-Colonel John Graham, after whom Grahamstown is named, was tasked by the then colonial governor, Sir John Cradock, to clear the Zuurveld (later named Albany) of the amaXhosa who were in possession of the land at the time. They believed their claim valid on the point of a treaty signed with a previous governor, Janssens.

    Graham did as he was told, with some relish and what he termed “a proper degree of terror”, chasing some 20000 amaRharhabe out of the area and building forts and the military outpost which became Grahamstown to keep them out.

    This was followed by other “forced removals” (though the term was not used until much later) in other parts of South Africa.

    This whole process of dispossession was brought to a head in 1913 when the new Union Parliament passed the Natives Land Act which set aside 35000 square miles, about 7.3% of the total land in South Africa, as scheduled African reserves. Blacks were not allowed to buy any more land in the so-called “white” areas of South Africa. Blacks were not allowed to own land free hold in any other parts of South Africa.

    It is very difficult to see this as anything other than theft considering that blacks, before the great movement of whites into the South African hinterland, had, with justification, considered this land “theirs”.

    Blacks were deliberately kept out of the decision making process in all of this. They did not consent to it and indeed made impassioned pleas against the dispossession at the time and ever after. It was forced on them and they simply had to comply.

    This led inevitably to the more-or-less permanent impoverishment and disempowerment of blacks. As historian De Kiewiet noted in 1941, “The natives were the victims of too few acres.”

    Or as Sol T. Plaatje noted in his 1916 book Native Life in South Africa: “Awaking on Friday morning, June 20, 1913, the South African Native found himself, not actually a slave, but a pariah in the land of his birth.”

    Into the late 20th Century the “forced removal” of blacks from land continued, even at a faster rate. Figures are not easy to obtain but best guesses of the number of blacks removed during the apartheid years is around 3 million.

    This is fairly close to the definition of genocide or of so-called “ethnic cleansing” which has since been so much condemned, especially when the victims were hot black.

    So when Mr Malema says that “all whites are criminals” he has some justification.

    We whites need to listen with some deeper understanding to what is being said here.

    The present situation in South Africa has come about precisely because blacks were deliberately kept landless, voiceless and poor by successive governments which represented only white interests in South Africa.

    Every white voter who voted for the Nationalist Party, or even the old United Party, has to take responsibility for this. Those two parties, especially after 1948, directed and collaborated in the deliberate and planned dispossession and impoverishment of blacks, with absolutely no intention of giving it back.

    There is no nice way to say these things. There is no way to sugar coat the theft. It was theft, it was on a huge scale, and it has led us to a situation where land tenure, the ownership of the land, is a political nightmare.

    What is needed is not more hot air, but an attempt at understanding and restitution.

  • Tony McGregor 11:35 am on March 24, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    Zuma: No Malema probe without proof 

    President Jacob Zuma has faced off calls to probe allegations of tender fraud by ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, saying he could not do so until he was given evidence of wrongdoing.

    I would have thought the reason for a probe would be to discover such evidence or the lack of it!?

  • Tony McGregor 12:26 pm on January 15, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: cartoon, , freedom of expression, , , , Zapiro   

    Uproar over new Zapiro cartoon 

    The latest Zapiro cartoon in the M&G has incensed the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, who blasted it as “distasteful” and “deplorable”.

    Whatever happened to freedom of the press? Not to mention freedom of opinion?
    Here are the relevant paragraphs from Chapter 2 of the South African Constitution:
    16. Freedom of expression

    1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes ­

    1. freedom of the press and other media;
    2. freedom to receive or impart information or ideas;
    3. freedom of artistic creativity; and
    4. academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.

    2. The right in subsection (1) does not extend to ­

    1. propaganda for war;
    2. incitement of imminent violence; or
    3. advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm.

  • Tony McGregor 12:14 pm on January 15, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , medical parole, Schabir Shaik,   

    Shaik’s medical reports uncovered 

    Details of the medical reports which led to Schabir Shaik’s controversial parole have been released, and indicate that while he is not well, he is not terminally ill. Other prisoners have to wait for their sentences to take their course. Because they don’t have “corrupt relationships” with the Big Man. Too bad, hey?

  • Tony McGregor 9:17 am on October 15, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ,   

    ANC convoy arrives in Sakhile 

    ANC NEC members have arrived in Standerton in a convoy of eight police cars with sirens blazing, to discuss the service delivery protests in the area.

    And all they will do, once they have looked into the "facts" for themselves, will be to look for ways to protect the ANC councillors from their constituents. Councillors who have been delaying service delivery by grabbing for themselves will be re-deployed and new councillors will get to shove their snouts in the trough!

    And at the next election the people will still vote for the ANC?

  • Tony McGregor 7:24 am on October 15, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    R47bn arms deal scandal rocks shocked MPs 

    In one of the most serious tests to President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet yet, it will have to cancel a R47-billion freight aircraft transaction gone wrong.

    The arms deal just gets more and more sleazy and unspeakably wrong. Who got money for this latest disaster, one wonders? Any more 4X4s? And that’s R47bn over and above the R60+bn the original arms deal has now grown to.

    And all the while those who were really supposed to benefit from the ANC’s pledge of “a better life for all” have to go on the rampage to get the ANC bigwigs to listen to them If the ANC leadership would take their snouts out of the feeding trough for a while they would be able to see the flames that are starting to burn. Those flames will soon burn JZ and his henchmen.

    As a former ANC supporter I am just disgusted. The ANC came with such high moral standing, such promises, and now they look like a bunch of second-rate crooks, from the top down, wallowing in 4X4s and other fancy vehicles while children have to go to school in the open air, mothers lose their children in under-funded, under-capacitated hospitals, people have to make do without adequate shelter or basic services.

    Sies to all of you – Trevor Manuel, Blade Nzimande, etc. Your moral bankruptcy is showing through your arrogance. Pick your heads out of the trough and start doing what needs to be done, stop wasting money on arms and planes that are not needed. Get your departments to do what is needed to help the people.

  • Tony McGregor 8:30 pm on October 13, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: cabinet, ,   

    While the country burns the Cabinet buys cars – very expensive ones!

    A revolution is brewing in South Africa, a real one, not one that Julius Malema would recognise. And it has to do with the poor not getting what successive ANC governments have promised them – access to basic services.

    And in the midst of this revolution the Government has spent more than R40 million on cars for ministers since the inauguration of Jacob Zuma, the man of the people.

    Even the Public Protector,  Lawrence Mushwana, has warned of the negative impact of this kind of spending. And he has taken the government to task for corruption that is causing the poor to become poorer: "Many public servants and politicians who received government tenders did shoddy work on their contracts, kept the money and left poor people to suffer," he said.

    How a so-called "man of the people" like President Zuma can allow his Cabinet to spend so lavishly on cars as the country faces rising service delivery protests is beyond me. Maybe Malema has an answer. But he, who is usually so quick with his tongue, is strangely silent on this matter. Maybe the cushy home he has bought in an up-market suburb is starting to soften his revolutionary fervour.

  • Tony McGregor 6:51 am on October 13, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    No end to fiery Standerton protests 

    Sakhile township residents are incensed by a failure to act on forensic audit highlighting corruption.

    The government has failed the people and the people are, rightly, angry. Corruption is indeed one of the issues. The ANC has allowed its members to feed their greed.

    The major cause of both the corruption and the poor service delivery is the lack of proper performance management at all levels of government. This leads to a lack of accountability and the result of a lack of accountability is corruption.

    See my article on this issue here:

    The situation is serious and dangerous. Unless the legitimate demands of the people are met I think we will see a revolution in South Africa – a real one, not a silly Malema one!

  • Tony McGregor 9:29 am on October 9, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    Breaking News: Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize 

    US President Barack Obama’s “extraordinary efforts” have earned him the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

    This is great news!

    It is going to worry the many anti-Obama people in the US though and I think we can expect some kind of backlash as a result.

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