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Monday, May 19, 2008

Three on the Race Riots in South Africa

posted by on May 19 at 11:55 AM


Some 6,000 people have fled a wave of attacks on foreigners in South Africa, which has left at least 22 dead, aid workers say.

“This is a classic refugee situation,” Rachel Cohen from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) told the BBC.

Many of those who have sought refuge in police stations, churches and community halls are Zimbabweans, who have fled violence and poverty at home.

One: How is it that black South Africans are so racially distinct from black Zimbabweans? Not even a thousand miles separate them, yet there are such strong differences in tone of color, shape of eyes, nose, and cheek bones. Does the diversity of races within black Africa have anything to do with the diversity of languages?

Two: I wonder if the South African hooligans are also targeting Zimbabweans from Matabeleland, home of the descendants of Mzilikazi Khumalo, a general who in the 1830s split from Shaka and settled his massive army in what Europeans called, after purchasing it from Mzilikazi’s son, Lobengula, Rhodesia, and the black African nationalists renamed Zimbabwe after the success of the second chimurenga—the second rebellion and first proper war for national independence that was instigated by the decedents of Mzilikazi and completed by their former subjects, the descendants of the Rozwi Empire, the Shona speakers. In short, many Zimbabweans in South African are racially linked to the Zulus.

Three: Because of the content in the newspapers and news sites in cyberspace, I often feel I’m the only Zimbabwean in the world who is not having a hard life.

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It's hard to read news about race riots from someplace one comes from, because it feels so personal. I remember, when I was in the Army, I'd hear news and see it on TV about racial attacks between English and French people from the area of B.C. I was from - and yet I was in another part of the country and hadn't lived there for a few years, so it felt very strange.

People seem to fear a lot.

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 19, 2008 12:07 PM

Talking to a Canadian friend and resident of Capetown while visiting, there is a strong sense of black entitlement. We pulled up to a gas station and the chipper attendant ran up to fill us up. He speculated the guy must not be local given his enthusiasm: turned out he was from Congo. My friend told me native South Africans tend to be real slow to help out and prefer to laze about instead of really working.

Posted by Mr. Joshua | May 19, 2008 12:30 PM

As for your first question:

Yes. Y-Chromosome DNA and Mitochondrial DNA studies that prove that human life began in Africa do so by showing that there is greater genetic diversity in sub-Saharan African than between super-Saharan Africa and Europe and Asia. What that sub-Saharan genetic diversity shows is genetic time--the amount of time involved in generating such vast degrees of genetic diversity between Africans.

These studies confirm the degree to which an African racial identity is not genetic.

Posted by FooFootheSnoo | May 19, 2008 12:44 PM

I remain deeply saddened by the images coming from S. Africa. It is distrurbing that tribalism and xenophobia are responsible for yesterday's riots and deaths. As if Zimbabwean emmigrants needed anymore crap dealt them. That they flee their homeland with dictator Robert Mugabe in power only to be received by their neighbour, S. Africa with this horror is most appalling and embarrassing to both governments.
Alas, as long as hyperinflation continues and Mugabe rules there will be great unease in both countries, S. Africa & Zimbabwe.

Posted by lark | May 19, 2008 1:52 PM

French vs. English riots in BC? Recently? Do tell.

Posted by Fnarf | May 19, 2008 2:07 PM

I am totally ignorant on the subject of Africa but I have to wonder: Since the "nations" of Africa, for the most part, are the divisions made by the colonial powers in the last century without any regard to the traditional tribal make up would it not make sense for long term stability for the nations of Africa to remap themselves to be reflective of the traditional tribal locations? Consider that a United States of Africa be developed with the "states" being broken down on the tribal divisions instead of the current national breakdown on a map.

Would such a USA have the resources available to it locally once this was done to not only survive but to thrive in a way that would benefit it's people?

Crazy idea I know but what can you expect from a gay white guy?

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | May 19, 2008 2:49 PM

this must truly break the hearts of many ANC south africans who lived in exile in zimbabwe during the darkest hours of apartheid. to see their countrymen do this by the thousands must break their hearts.

it is sad to see this xenophobic anti immigrant attitudes through out the world, you see it in mexico against central americans, in argentina against bolivians in costa rica against nicaraguans, in the dominican republic against haitians. all through out the world it seems to be the new trend.

Posted by SeMe | May 19, 2008 2:54 PM

You came very close when you mentioned language. A pejorative, "makwerekwere" is commonly used by South Africans to denote the economic and political refugees from elsewhere in Africa, since "when they speak, all I hear is 'kwere, kwere.'" In other words, it's a fine version of "barbarian." Given the recent studies that show babies prefer people of any race who speak the same language to people of any race of speak another language to a tremendous degree, it might be that learning a local language and neutralizing their accents is the key to acceptance.

Posted by Gitai | May 19, 2008 3:26 PM

oh, gitai, and i thought esperanto concept was dead. it's funny--'cause you're probably right--but it would take a fascist dictatorship of a world magnitude to make it happen. see any other way?

Posted by ellarosa | May 19, 2008 7:30 PM

My last year (college) roomate was Zimbabwean (sp?). I would read about horrible things happening in her country and hear her talking on the phone about the recent elections, but I always felt like these things didn't really affect her, like maybe Zimbabwe isn't really all that bad because she was able to act so casual about the fact her country was crashing to the ground.

Posted by Kelly | May 19, 2008 8:02 PM

Mel Brook's 2000 Year Old Man, on the very first national anthem:

Let 'em all go to hell... except for Cave 76!

Charles, I don't have my copy handy to double check, but I suggest a good overview/answer to your first question is in the book, "Guns, Germs & Steel", in a chapter titled, "How did Africa become black?"

Posted by CP | May 20, 2008 4:29 PM

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