Viewpoint: Revolution and Afrophobia
In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, Zimbabwean filmmaker and columnist Farai Sevenzo considers the role of revolution.
I have had very little to do down here in South Africa since the football finished.
End Quote Farai Sevenzo
Apartheid, though dead in law, seems to still live on in some people's heads”
It seemed foolish to pack up and leave when I am so near home.
The Springboks are being hammered mercilessly in the Tri-Nations by New Zealand and Australia, and much of the gloss of them being the current Rugby World Cup champions has long faded.
I do not even know who has been watching, there is a massive dose of sport fatigue after June and July.
Endless hours of sport - specialist channels of highlights and yet more channels dedicated to repeats of the very same sport - makes me feel like I'm hurtling towards old age, a beer belly and cemetery expiry.
No thank you very much.Another lion meal
Instead, as the Cape Town Book Fair got under way, I am reminded of the fact that there are more Nobel laureates for literature around these parts than anywhere else.
Throw in Wole Soyinka's presence in the country at the moment and the late Alfred Nobel would probably have given up his dynamite fortune for South African citizenship instead of staying Swedish.
I've seen the apartheid museum, I know the Soweto tourist route and there seemed little point in heading over to the Durban International Film Festival without a film and, what's more, game parks are for tourists and I vainly leave myself out of that category when in Africa because I know what lions look like and have no desire to make the headlines as another lion meal.
So what to do?
Second hand bookshops are two or three to a pavement in some parts, there are libraries and many of those grotesque shopping malls have a bookshop or four.
Not in vain
Long before Nelson Mandela's autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, a category that should be called apartheid literature has always been endlessly fascinating to me - sitting as we are 16 years into the miracle of apartheid's demise.
They are still there, the jails that housed this country's liberation heroes - black, white, coloured, Indian, Afrikaner and Jewish - and the books reliving those years are enthrallingly engaging.
So we are reminded of the sacrifices of men like Bram Fischer, Roman Eisenstein, of the evil of apartheid through the pettiness of prison wardens, of the great African revolts of the 1970s and the 1980s, of the value of patience, of the violent loss of women like Ruth First and of a time so barbaric it is a wonder it went on for so long.
Revolutions, by their very nature, should not be belittled - not by forgetting them nor by entrenching laws which make it a criminal offence to criticise an ageing president - but they should be enhanced by committing them to memory on the written page and remembering that so much life lost was not in vain.The laws of nature
I packed all my reading into a long uninterrupted week and emerged to the headlines of the present day which were saying current ministers are spending millions of taxpayers money on stays in five star hotels and the odd rare bottle of brandy.
End Quote Farai Sevenzo
The word, xenophobia, I thought out loud, was not really enough”
That tenders are being handed to the undeserving and a culture of corruption has taken over the roots of the revolution.
That four white students from the Orange Free State have been fined $2,700 (£1,700) each for humiliating five black workers in a supposed initiation ceremony which involved making the workers eat food the students had urinated on.
Apartheid, though dead in law, seems to still live on in some people's heads.
Meanwhile, every day the people's lives are no easier, but the cream of the revolution seems, as if by the laws of nature, to be rising to the top of the glass.Running rumours
As the nation celebrated Mandela Day, a friend suggested I might like to witness an African National Congress (ANC) meeting.
In Mandela's 92nd year on this earth, the theme of the meeting was to be "Say NO to xenophobia".
It seemed an appropriate way to see how the ruling party were dealing with the widely reported rumours of xenophobic attacks in Cape Town and parts of Johannesburg.
After the love affair with Ghana's Black Stars, the end of the African affair seemed far too sudden, and rumours were filling the papers that attacks on foreigners were about to begin.
But the police denied this, and warned the reporters not to provoke the situation by running unsubstantiated rumours.
Of course, that did not stop the local television crews filming Zimbabweans crossing the Beitbridge border post with their fridges, beds and wardrobes, vowing to watch events from the other side because some of them had already lost fingers, ears and other bodily appendages to xenophobic attacks in the 2008 mayhem.Endless generosity
In the end the meeting at the ANC's Sonia Bunting branch in downtown Joburg was preaching to the converted.
As well attended as it was, no-one could deny that the old man whose birthday the world was celebrating was in fact an avowed pan-Africanist, who talked in his book of meeting the Kaundas, the Senghors, the Haile Selassies, the Nyereres and a host of African leaders to further the ends of the ANC's newly formed armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe.
And the speakers acknowledged too that South Africa's famous toyi-toyi protest dance was inspired by the Zipra forces then fighting Ian Smith in what was to become Zimbabwe.
South Africa owes her existence to the endless generosity of Africans during the struggle, when there was nothing like "too little to share" with South African exiles across the whole continent.
Young Ivorians and Congolese men in the audience got up to say they loved their adopted country, and to claim that in spite of police harassment they had done everything to fit in including learning English when it's not even their first, second, third or fourth language.
So why all these attacks on Africans?The silent majority
Early the next day I was a guest on one of Jozi's hip radio stations and the presenter wondered what I thought of the xenophobic attacks that had occurred overnight.
The word, xenophobia, I thought out loud, was not really enough in these circumstances.
For no Englishmen, Serbs, or Russians have been attacked, the vast majority are black Africans.
Alfred Noble would not be noticed as a foreigner here.
And many agree that we should really call it Afrophobia, which is not a fear of afros but of Africans.
Of course here in Johannesburg you will find no radio presenter or politician who approves of such attacks, and the politicians will tell you of the ANC's vast African credentials.
But it is the silent majority who are confused by the lack of progress in their fortunes, who see other nationals climb the greasy poles of corporate wealth and turn to violence as an expression of their frustrations.
In this respect, this great land has much to do.