Letters to the editor | Amandla Issue 22/23

by Feb 14, 2012Magazine

While the socialist left are playing their violins our townships are bleeding

At what stage is the left going to respond to the horrendous killings that are a daily feature of life on the Cape Flats? Are you not losing an opportunity to intervene in a meaningful way when you don’t open dialogue with the community organisations who try to address these issues? One gets the impression that the details of the working class peoples’ lives are sacrificed at the altar for the latest sexy Grand National Campaign when often the potential of building alliances with the immediate issues affecting the poor is right under our noses.

Is it not ironic that many on the left who lambasted and attacked the UDF in the 1980s now crave a similar movement but refuse to get their hands dirty? They rather choose shortcuts and lofty manifestos and declarations – while lacking any real relationship with those they claim to represent.

I will refresh your memories on the building of the UDF: it was a long, slow grind-along that got down and dirty about things like young people and gangsterism – it never solved it but it contained it. Partially because it provided a political analysis of how the system breeds gangsterism and conditions that kill the poor on so many levels. Progressive movements in the slums of Rio, Mexico City and Bogota recognise the mobilising necessity of fighting the scourge of gangsterism – so why not us?

Brief timeline of the bleeding on the Cape Flats:

November 1: Bonteheuwel – one-year-old baby caught in the crossfire when gangsters open fire on a family member

October 31: Wagieda Jabaar, 25, killed in crossfire while on her way to hospital

October29: Hanover Park – young mother of two killed in open field

October 23: Lavender Hill – William Borens is shot outside his home and robbed of R40

Oct 19: Carmelita Martin killed after being hit in the neck by a stray bullet outside her home

July 13: Hanover Park – Shamiel Neil, gang member, killed outside Hanover Park taxi rank after surviving assassination a week earlier

Born in the struggle
Mariam, David , Hoosein, Angela

Dear Amandla!
How come your very informative magazine never covers issues related to sport? Ronnie Kasrils wearing a Springbok rugby jersey does not count. (Amandla! Issue 21, October 2011)
Sport is increasingly related to politics, finance and the broader economy. I would like to read intelligent analysis of sporting events. But I would also like to read about why women’s sport receives such miniscule coverage in the media and support from the state. Why is it not possible for Amandla! to write about the crisis of schools’ sport? Surely if we want to transform our sporting codes and have more working class and black players playing at the highest levels then it would be necessary to develop school sport and put much greater energy and resources into this?
Like most other things in this world, sport is political, of interest to millions of working class and poor people and reflects the inequality of the broader society. Surely this lends itself to regular features, articles and columns?
John Dawes
Corruption is rooted in the system

Dear Amandla!

South Africa is a country that has so many pandemics that have entangled it, in a way that we cannot see society without them. They are entrenched in the mindset of our citizens. The main three are HIV/AIDS, unemployment and corruption. Corruption – is this a South African problem only? Is this a new problem that only started after the false-independence? We can debate these questions till thy kingdom come.

Most of our focus is on state institutions only, when in fact corruption is everywhere. You find corrupt officials in the labour movement, cooperatives, NGOs and in the business sector. There is no sector or individual that is immune to corruption. We can track this in SA way back to 1997 or 1998 when Dr Mandela was still the president. I am not implying that he was implicated in the arms deal saga, but he held the highest office in SA.

Is it because money in itself corrupts and breeds greediness in those who have power over it? Well this is another question I am going to open widely to the Amandla! readers. I have been reading about other countries besides SA and international institutions where government-related or independent corruption has been the main problem that its leaders have been trying to curb.

All I am saying is that money is the root of corruption. Money (bank notes) in itself is corruption. Do we think we would have corruption if there was no money? Would we have a corrupt official if the Minister of Human Settlement was given bricks and cement and all the necessary equipment to build houses? The problem is deeper than individuals or organisational greed. It is rooted in the system.

Thank you,


Letter from Hanover Park: we must not give up on our youth!

I am a mother and a community activist at the forefront of organising around social issues affecting Hanover Park. Along with other women we rally the community to address the scourge of gangsterism, drugs and unemployment. There are many reasons for the recent surges of violence: peer pressure, lack of hope, broken families, idle youngsters and unemployment … Schools don’t accommodate our young people who display learning problems or aren’t academically inclined; kids are bored by school and very often feel left out and frustrated. Who are the gangs? They are our youth, and instead of condemning them I regard them as our people, people that need help. They are very vulnerable to the temptation of drugs and gangs, very often coming from single-mother homes where things are hard, where they lack affection and love. They get drawn to company that destroys them, people with no self worth. Our coloured communities were devastated by apartheid and it hasn’t ended, it continues in horrible ways.

I have been in Hanover Park for almost 30 years. I came here as a teen when we were forcibly removed from Lansdowne, when it was declared white. Although there was gangsterism back then, it was not like now. I was involved as a young person in youth clubs, music and lots of activities. It seems to be different for young people today: even if extra-murals are offered, the kids don’t go. I feel sorry for them, they have no ambitions. These young gang members touch my heart and must not be given up on. My husband and I started a project called the Ecosoundmusical Forum to give hope to young people. We bought music instruments ourselves and started a brass band and the kids respond well. It keeps them off the streets. I wish schools could offer these things: many of our kids are practically minded and enjoy working with their hands and doing creative things. Our house as become a haven for such children, they fix tings like bicycles etc. but it is still not enough. We try.

Oh how I wish people would realise what the gang leaders are doing! They prey on the weakest kids, which is so sad. There must be community efforts to rid us of these people but also to build hope in our area.

Thank you,

Debbie Hofmeister from Hanover Park

Let us not forget Linton Kwesi Johnson’s awful political record

In Andre Marais’s appraisal of LKJ in the previous issue of Amandla! he very conveniently appropriates LKJ as a fellow socialist while ignoring the very real inconsistencies in LKJ’s brand of socialism. We must not allow the euphoria around the recent British riots to blind us to the awful political record of LKJ and particularly his involvement with Darcus Howe and Race Today.

As Andre Marais very well knows but prefers to omit from his article, during the 1981 Brixton Riots, LKJ and Race Today refused to campaign for the arrested black and white rioters. Rather, they insisted on holding blacks-only meetings, and in doing so they passed up the chance to build black and white unity against the police. Similarly, LKJ’s stance on the miners strike was in political terms abstentionist. He and Darcus Howe did not recognise the strike as the most significant political struggle at that time, and did not show any organising support. Race Today and LKJ got much of their inspiration from the ex-Trotskyist CLR James and the new wave of writers influenced by black, nationalist ideas. It was this understanding and analysis that paralysed Race Today in relation to genuine working class struggles and even on day-to-day race issues.

Throughout the 1980s they continued on this route, ignoring the struggles that involved organised and unorganised black workers on strike. Is it not LKJ that attacked the British white left for being the ‘worst kind of white liberal racists’ (‘Independent Intavenshan’)? Also, according to the song, the white trade union movement was completely contaminated by racists. Johnson’s assertion that West Indian culture is a radical political act in itself invited a justifiable ticking off on television once by the late Michael Smith, the late Jamaican dub poet. A healthy reassessment of LKJ is therefore necessary.



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