South Africa: FIFA, not migrants, are the real tsotsis

Image removed.

By Patrick Bond, Durban

June 25, 2010 -- South Africa's soccer-loving critics have long predicted the problems now growing worse here because of its World Cup hosting duties:

  • loss of large chunks of government’s sovereignty to the world soccer body FIFA;
  • rapidly worsening income inequality;
  • future economic calamities as debt payments come due;
  • dramatic increases in greenhouse gas emissions (more than twice Germany’s in 2006); and
  • humiliation and despondency as the country’s soccer team Bafana Bafana (ranked #90 going into the games) became the first host to expire before the competition’s second round.

Soon, it seems, we may also add to this list a problem that terrifies progressives here and everywhere: another dose of xenophobia from both state and society.

The crucial question in coming weeks is whether, instead of offering some kind of resistance from below, as exemplified by the Durban Social Forum network’s 1000-strong rally against FIFA on June 16 at City Hall, Durban, will society’s sore losers adopt right-wing populist sentiments, and frame the foreigner?

This is not an idle concern, as the FaceBook pages of hip, young Johannesburg gangstas exploded with xenophobic raves after Uruguay beat Bafana last week. Wrote one young punk, Khavi Mavodze, “Foreigners leave our country, be warned, xenophobia is our first name.”

Even the ordinarily defensive African National Congress national executive committee and the South African cabinet have both recently expressed concern about a potential repeat of the May 2008 violence that left 62 people dead and more than a 100,000 displaced.

This at least is progress, for 30 months ago the Africa Peer Review Mechanism panel of eminent persons issued a warning that went unheeded: “Xenophobia against other Africans is currently on the rise and must be nipped in the bud.”

The then notoriously out-of-touch president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, replied that this was “simply not true”, and after the xenophobia calamity began six months later, deputy foreign minister Aziz Pahad called it “a totally unexpected phenomenon” -- notwithstanding dozens of prior incidents.

So when current president Jacob Zuma told his party executive in May that the “branches of the ANC must start working now to deal with the issue of xenophobia”, it was depressing when another politician combined denialism and stereotyping.

Replying that there “is no tangible evidence”, police general Bheki Cele added, a few days later: “We have observed a trend where foreigners commit crime -- taking advantage of the fact that we have an unacceptable crime level -- to tarnish our credibility and image.”

Generalisations against "foreigners" as prolific perpetrators of crime are baseless, as no scientific "trend" can be discerned because no reliable data exist to confirm whether immigrant tsotsis (thugs) represent a greater ratio of their numbers than indigenous tsotsis. (We don’t even know roughly, to the 500 000th, how many immigrants there are in South Africa, because of the porous borders.)

Cele’s fingerpointing at immigrants for crime is just one of the scapegoat strategies. The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa this week called xenophobia a "credible threat" in part because “some perpetrators appear to believe they have the tacit support of local political actors”.

Root causes

In addition to increasing its moral suasion, prosecuting those guilty of xenophobic attacks, resolving local leadership turf battles that have xenophobic powerplays, and establishing emergency response mechanisms, the state has an obligation to address root causes for the social stress which is often expressed as xenophobia: mass unemployment, housing shortages, intense competition in townships among shopkeepers and South Africa’s regional geopolitical interests, which create more refugees than prosperity.

The state won’t tackle these root-cause problems, however, because making substantive progress would probably throw into question class relations and the mode of production itself.

To illustrate, if observers believed (as did I) that the replacement of Mbeki with Zuma in September 2008 might mean a change in Pretoria’s foreign policy so as to end the nurturing of Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe repression, then that was naïve, as Zuma showed in London by lobbying hard for an end to smart sanctions against Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Pariotic Front (ZANU-PF) ruling elite a few weeks ago.

South Africa’s post-apartheid leaders are simply unwilling to reverse a 120-year-old structural relationship of exploitation, by which Johannesburg-based companies – such as those involved in eastern Zimbabwe’s bloody Marange diamond fields, controlled by Mugabe’s army – rip-off the region’s resources. Marange is the world’s largest diamond find since Kimberley, South Africa in 1867.

How does this work? Consider the case of a victim of elite South Africa-Zimbabwe minerals-extraction collusion, the courageous civil society researcher Farai Maguwu (a former student of mine at Africa University). Maguwu was jailed on June 3 because, according to his (ordinarily very reliable) account, a South African named Abbey Chikane set him up for an arrest and maltreatment by Mugabe’s police.

Chikane is a leading officer of the Kimberley Process, a deal cut exactly a decade ago between industry, government and international civil society watchdogs, meant to halt trade in blood diamonds. The sign-on by the monopolist DeBeers was crucial, for the formerly South African company (now London-based) needed to deal with the growing global diamond glut and to restore some public relations after a gloomy period.

In a hotel room in the eastern Zimbabwe city of Mutare on May 25, Maguwu provided Chikane information about hundreds of murders at Marange since 2006, at the hands of Mugabe’s army.

Instead of using the information to write a critique of Marange, Chikane turned out to be a narc, reporting Maguwu to the Zimbabwe police. When cops drove up to his modest house the next day, Maguwu went underground. During the search, the police beat and tortured family members, leading Maguwu to surrender. After a week in prison, he was hospitalised on June 18 due to maltreatment, and then was denied bail by a pro-Mugabe judge.

`Resource curse' and collusion with Israel

There’s a great deal at stake in this story, emblematic of so many aspects of Africa’s "resource curse" corruption and poverty.

The Zimbabwe army leadership’s inflow of illicit diamond funding (via Dubai, where the Kimberley Process is apparently ignored) represents the prime source for its own embourgeoisement, as well as for waging Zimbabwe’s next national election campaign. (Looting state resources is much harder for Mugabe’s gang since January 2009, when Zimbabwe lost its currency and with it, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s money-printing, hyper-inflationary, crony-capitalist patronage.)

Chikane soon issued an official report finding that Marange complies with international diamond trading guidelines, leading this week’s Kimberley Process meeting in Tel Aviv to deadlock over whether to continue excluding Zimbabwe. Because of its cutting industry and the threat of boycotts, divestment and sanctions, Israel has become a strong supporter of Zimbabwe’s, insisting that Marange stones not be labelled blood diamonds.

According to the respected newspaper The Zimbabwean, several South African mining houses will benefit if Chikane’s whitewash continues, including his cousin Kagiso Chikane’s African Renaissance Holdings and black tycoon Patrice Matsepe’s African Rainbow Minerals – with whom his brother Frank Chikane (formerly a leading anti-apartheid cleric) works – as well as two financiers supporting Johannesburg diamond miner Reclam: Capital Works and Old Mutual.

Abbey Chikane has, in the process, wrecked the Kimberley Process’s reputation for monitoring blood diamonds in the same way that Mbeki-Zuma soiled Pretoria’s when it comes to justice and democracy for wretched Zimbabwe. The last decade has witnessed a variety of similar betrayals of their people by the South Africa and Zimbabwe elites.

Zimbabwe refugees in South Africa

Given such relationships, it’s not surprising that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees last week reported that there are 158,200 Zimbabweans currently seeking formal asylum internationally, of whom 90 per cent are in South Africa. (That’s more than three times as many as the second-place country, Burma, which was followed by two Washington-backed regimes: Afghanistan and Colombia.)

There are at least a couple million Zimbabweans in South Africa, many illegal as low-waged but often highly skilled workers, who regularly come under intense pressure from the unemployed locals. A genuine solution to workers’ plight across the region would include not only a reversal of Pretoria’s geopolitical approach, but also its macroeconomic policies. (Statistics South Africa announced last week that another 79,000 jobs were lost in the most recent quarter-year, bringing to nearly a million those shed since the world crisis hit hard in 2008.)

Home affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma did make some concessions for Zimbabweans, allowing a somewhat longer stay in the country and work permits (so as to better collect taxes), but at the same time radically reduced the inflow from Lesotho to South Africa, even though a large share of Lesotho’s GDP comes from migrant workers.

Real criminals

If South African police chief Cele was actually serious about foreign criminals he might concentrate a bit more of his force’s effort on a really dangerous crew: FIFA. With the possible exception of Wall Street and the City of London, no more larcenous gangs of white-collar thugs are to be found than in Zurich, both in the banks which financed apartheid when no one else would, and at the soccer body’s temporary hideout south of Johannesburg.

The latter mafia is so self-confident in dealing with General Cele’s mentally corrupted South African Police Service that on June 18, FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke openly bragged how they will spirit away US$3.2 billion in pure profit (50% more than the $1.8 billion taken from Germany four years ago).

FIFA pays no taxes, ignores exchange controls, and is quite likely preparing South Africa for a currency crash in the process.

To ensure the heist is complete, Cele’s police are obviously on the take, observers confidently conclude -- but not because there’s evidence of FIFA’s fabled fraud squad at work. No, just as debilitating is the above-board commercial, contractual corruption in evidence these past few days.

  • In the service of the main company providing security at the World Cup games, Stallion -- a firm which should have been banned last year, as promised by labour minister Shepherd Mdladlana, and which in 2001 was responsible for a soccer stampeded in Johannesburg that left more than 40 fans dead -- the police enforced Stallion’s exploitative low-wage regime, heaving stun grenades and tear gas at hundreds of unpaid workers after a night game in Durban, and even shooting a Cape Town bystander multiple times with rubber bullets in similar confrontations;
  • No wonder, because Linda Mti – the former prisons commissioner linked financially to the notorious, privatised Lindela transit camp for arrested immigrants (as well as a triple arrestee on drunk driving charges) -- is head of security for FIFA’s Local Organising Committee;
  • Defending that pissy US beer Budweiser, the police were again at FIFA’s service when they arrested two Dutchwomen during the Holland-Denmark game, because their subtle "ambush marketing" amounted merely to wearing orange dresses with a tiny Bavarian beer logo;
  • At a Fan Fest at Durban’s South Beach, police arrested local environmentalist Alice Thomson for passing out anti-FIFA fliers regarding the June 16 march to City Hall; and
  • A man caught with 30 game tickets "and no explanation" got a three-year jail sentence, while hardened criminals roam the streets freely.

Thieving and trademarking the local culture, as well, FIFA and corporate partner Coca-Cola also tried to steal Africa’s soul by paying Somali singer K’naan to raise spirits with his easy "Wavin’ Flag" lyrics. But that won’t work, for much more challenging tunes for FIFA to digest have been produced – and are free to download on the internet -- by hip-hop artists Nomadic Wax and DJ Magee ("World Cup"), the Chomsky AllStars ("The Beautiful Gain") and, best of all, Durban’s own Ewok ("Shame on the Beautiful Game").

On July 3, another City Hall rally – this time against xenophobia - will let Durban reproduce a genuine African ubuntu spirit that can withstand Bafana’s defeat, FIFA’s profiteering and all the other losses we are suffering.

[Patrick Bond directs the Centre for Civil Society in Durban, which offers a daily World Cup Watch update on politico-socio-economic exploitation:]

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Tue, 07/06/2010 - 14:12


The Mercury

England nearly lose their underwear as well as their dignity

June 29, 2010 Edition 2

Beauregard Tromp

The defeated England team will be able to return home with their
underwear and a Fifa gold medal, if not their dignity.

And while the likes of Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard tried their best
to salvage their battered reputations, staff at their hotel in
Rustenburg were rifling through the players' designer label closets,
helping themselves to briefs and boxers and a selection of other items.

Whereas the hordes of English supporters refused to see the writing on
the wall for their team, the cleaners at the state-of-the-art Royal
Bafokeng Sports Palace, where the team have been based for nearly four
weeks, seemed to see their opportunity fading before their eyes.

With the team having drawn two matches and facing the prospect of not
proceeding past the group stage and going home, the cleaning staff at
the Royal Marang Hotel started their spree, collecting nearly R80 000
worth of clothes, personal belongings and £485 cash (R5 500) over five days.

A case of theft was opened on Saturday. In less than 24-hours Thulane
Fortunate Mongake, 26, Ernest Zimisile Klaas, 28, Thapelo Joseph Senne,
21, Basimane Levy Njielane, 34, and Catherine Motsilanyane, 28,were
arrested, tried and sentenced to three years or a fine of R6 000 in the
Tlhabane World Cup Court.

"We searched their houses and recovered everything that was stolen,"
said North West police Colonel Junior Metsi. Among the items recovered
was a Fifa gold medal from another tournament.

The English team left South Africa last night.


The Sowetan

Robbery at Fifa headquarters confirmed
29 June 2010

A robbery at the Fifa headquarters in Johannesburg was confirmed by
national police commissioner General Bheki Cele on Tuesday.

"Yes we know there was burglary there. We are looking into it," Cele
told a national press club briefing in Pretoria.

He said seven trophy replicas and two jerseys had been taken during the
incident which led police to believe that the crime was perpetrated by
people familiar with the offices.

It was not immediately clear when the incident took place.

Meanwhile Cele said since the start of the World Cup 316 people had been
arrested, 207 of them South Africans, for tournament related crime.

He said 109 of those arrests were of foreign nationals with Ethiopians
topping the list at 11.

They were followed by Algerians (nine), UK citizens (eight), six people
each from Mozambique, Zimbabwe, America and Pakistan, five people from
Argentina and four Slovakians.

"It’s the United Nations of crime," he quipped to much laughter.

Cele said 90 percent of the arrests had been in connection with theft
and by far the majority of these cases could be attributed to negligence
on the part of the lawful owner.

This was as cellphones and laptops had been left unattended and then stolen.

He said police were also increasing their vigilance outside the stadiums
as to date 29 cases of unauthorised ticket scalping had been reported.

"Thirty three persons have been arrested in these cases of which 14 are
South African and 19 are citizens of other countries," he said. - Sapa