Weekend Special, No.1976

Happy Father’s Day.

This was the week of June 16th–the commemoration of the 1976 Soweto Uprising, which gave impetus to the long last phase of the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa. (If you’re wondering about the contemporary incarnations of that revolt, look no further than #FeesMustFall, #RhodesMustFall, the Economic Freedom Fighters and groups like Equal Education and Reclaim the City.)

Speaking of youth politics: Friday was also the birthday of the late poet Tupac Shakur (1971-1996). He would have been quite middle aged had he been alive: 46 years old. As I wrote in 2011, “… his intensity did not just appeal to just young people here in the United States, but also on the continent.”

And this time last week in 1980, Walter Rodney (Google: “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa“) was assassinated by a pro-American black nationalist regime. As the poet Linton Kwesi Johnson said about Rodney’s crime: “… all that him did wan’ was fi set him people free.”

Speaking of pro-American regimes: We posted on Paul Kagame. That brought out the trolls on Twitter.

Meanwhile, “fewer African students are coming to universities in South Africa due to xenophobia fears and long visa delays – and it could be affecting the future rating of [the country’s] universities …”

From a friend in Britain about the Grenfell Tower fire in Central London that killed (by last count) 58 people; another 54 are presumed missing (and thus dead); mostly working class people, including a large number of African immigrants: “I have never seen such class anger on my TV since the Miners’ Strike in 1984.” As Linton Kwesi Johnson said (yes, him again): Inglun is a bitch. But as my friend continued: “The sympathy for the victims are cross class but its a class issue. Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational electoral result has given working class people confidence–it’s so obvious.”

On Corbyn’s victory, I wrote an article for a South African newspaper, The Mail & Guardian, on what it all means beyond Britain, especially for Africans starved of political alternatives (it’s behind a paywall). Here’s an excerpt:

In contrast to the excitement around Corbyn, politics on the continent is largely stale, dominated by national liberation movements or legacy political parties (including communist, socialist or labour parties) that are long discredited, either rigging elections, suppressing voters, using violent tactics to silence critics, and in cases, where there are free and fair elections, to organize politics via patronage and influence trading (Nigeria), presenting voters with political parties that are ideologically indistinct (Kenya, Ghana) or taking voters for granted by assuming past achievements make them immune to losing office (the South African ANC). In most cases, the alternatives are clean-cut, personality-driven politics combining austerity with market reform.

… Corbyn’s draw, as the left American writer Bhaskar Sunkara wrote in Jacobin Magazine, was that he stood up for socialist ideas beyond simplistic populism and argued for them in public, despite ridicule from media and political-economic elites: “Labour’s surge confirms what the Left has long argued: people like an honest defense of public goods.”

In South Africa, for example, the ANC’s empty rhetoric of “radical economic transformation” combined with a vacuous Afropolitanism is looking more and more like a cover for looting the state. But South Africa also points to the most exciting possibilities for a new kind of politics. Perhaps the most profound takeaway for Africans from Corbyn and Labour’s showing last week is that after years of lip service to left programs, we now have evidence that a real commitment to such programs can mobilize previously apathetic or excluded constituencies. This is something that a combination of South African movements such as #FeesMustFall, left populist movements like the EFF, trade unions (the ones who broke away from Cosatu), the planned Workers’ Party and social movements like Reclaim the City, could rally around together for 2019.

‪Remember this description of Mobutu Sese Seko? “The all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, goes from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake.” It’s been updated.

BTW, this whole ‘debate’ about cultural appropriation is so much time wasting. Both ‘sides.’ Exhibit 1,000,0001.

This is a good policy: to put condoms in South African schools.

If you’re a South African football fan, this is big news: “Finally, South Africa has beaten Nigeria in an official competitive match.” But not everyone got the menu, like this South African football writer who can’t distinguish between the weight of that competitive fixture and a friendly match. I give up.

Is there anyone who actually believes South Africa’s ruling party, the ANC, is suddenly serious about renaming South Africa? The curator and arts activist Valmont Layne has seen this playbook before: “The pattern seems to be 1. take a legitimate and emotive issue in the body politic (eg. economic transformation). 2. Save for an opportune moment to seed a controversy around it (eg. to reduce the heat from #Guptaleaks). 3. Plunder while the debate rages. 4. Repeat.”

Since he won’t shamelessly self promote: Boima Tucker, our managing editor, made an album with his group, Kondi Band. Read it about here, here and here. It also comes with a music video of Boima wondering through Hong Kong:

What will we do without Snoop Dogg. We’ll even forgive him the “Coming to America” themed birthday parties:

Finally, NPR ran an article about the popularity of Latin American telenovelas in Africa; about how it reflects aspirational culture on the continent; “… the Latin American telenovelas work in Africa because they feel authentic.” Not so fast, according to a Brazilian friend of mine, the novelist Marilene Felinto (in an email): “Brazilian telenovelas are export products of Rede Globo Television, not only for Portuguese-speaking Africa, but also for Portugal, China, among other countries around the world. Rede Globo is the largest Latin American media conglomerate. Globo’s telenovelas are experts in creating propaganda mechanisms that perpetuate, in the unconscious of Brazilian poor and middle classes, compliance with social exclusion and class discrimination. The telenovelas, which have high technical quality, are, ironically, another reason for the embarrassment of being Brazilian–not to mention what constrains us today: an illegitimate government, a coup d’état, retreat in social policies … also promoted and supported by Rede Globo and other media conglomerates.”

HT’s and shoutouts: Valmont Layne, Anakwa Dwamena, Marilene Felinto, Peter Dwyer, Abraham Zere and Dylan Valley.

Sean Jacobs

Sean Jacobs is the Founder and Editor of Africa is a Country. He is on the international affairs faculty of The New School in New York.

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