Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Recent and ongoing political upheaval (and dare I say it, revolution) in the Middle East is the first of its kind to be dubbed 'cyber-resistance'. From Egypt to Syria, people have been informed, persuaded and inspired, not to say mobilized, by social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. So much so that the ousting of Egypt's Mubarak has been labeled the 'Facebook Revolution', while the earlier protests in Iran following that country's 2009 presidential elections have become known as the "Twitter Revolution".

Whether this is media-hype or not is beside the point. The internet is a powerful tool, and Twitter and Facebook are the means to a lot more interesting ends than banal, vapid status -envy.

With this is mind, here's a bit of what-if: what would Apartheid in South Africa have looked like if the internet and its' attendant social networking capabilities had existed during, say, the 1970's and '80's? 

How would the banned and exiled ANC have used Twitter to rally the people of South Africa against the Apartheid regime?

How would the beleaguered National Party government have made use of Facebook to marshal the troops to hold back the tidal wave of Die Swart Gevaar?

It's an intriguing fantasy. Of course, humanity doesn't need technology to affect political discourse, but it sure helps. Kira Baiasu makes the point in a piece entitled Social Media: A Force For Political Change in Egypt, saying that social networking gives protestors invaluable anonymity, instant access to the masses and an opportunity to politicize an otherwise apathetic or disinterested body politic.

So allow yourself to imagine the Struggle on Twitter. Umkhonto we Sizwe's Facebook profile. The Robben Island group page. The 1976 Soweto Uprising sending out invites. End Conscription Campaign emails. Black Sash tweets. Chris Hani's status updates. 

Or, for that matter, AWB blogs, National Party 'likes' and SADF Google campaigns.

I'm not trying to be facetious. I would love your suggestions on what could've been.

Of course, the obvious next step then is, "Well, if not then, why not now?"

No wonder Julius Malema suggested closing down Twitter last year...

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

Robert Kennedy, Cape Town, 1966

This is Andries Tatane, a 33-year-old maths teacher, a resident of Meqheleng, a poverty-stricken township just outside of Ficksburg in South Africa. 
Andries is lying dead in a friend's arms, having just collapsed after a brutal beating by eight riot policemen that ended in one of them shooting him.

You can watch his beating and death on YouTube if you want to.

Why was he killed? 
He had intervened in the over-zealous policing of a group of protestors. He stepped in front of an old man being sprayed with a water-cannon, took off his own shirt and told the police to spray him instead of the old man. In response, the police beat the life out of him.

This happened on April 13 2011.
Last week.
Not during apartheid.

Why were the people protesting?
After 17 years, the people of Meqheleng are still waiting for the State to provide them with basic amenities. 'Service delivery'. That's the buzz-word in these post-Apartheid Rainbow-Nation days. 

So, Andries Tatane is brutally beaten and killed by the government's police force. 
Police Commissioner Bheki Cele's new policing policy is 'shoot to kill'. Zero tolerance of crime. And zero tolerance of people too, obviously.

Andries Tatane, a brave husband, father and South African, who lost his life at the hands of the State by standing up for another.

Look familiar?

Please tell me you know this famous photograph and what it represents.

Please read the Deputy Chief Executive of the South African Institute Of Race Relations Frans Cronje's open letter to the Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa

So far, the police have failed to suspend the policemen involved, and neither Bheki Cele nor Nathi Mthethwa have offered to resign. 

What are we to make of all this, people? 
One thing is for sure, you can't ignore it. 
But somehow, most of us will. 'It's just the government', we say. 'It's just politics'. 
'It's nothing to do with us'.

Tell that to Andries Tatane's family.

A luta continua.

Devemos resistir.

Viva Andries Tatane Viva!

Friday, April 15, 2011


The biblically-proportioned storm currently raging in the U.S. over 'Hipper-Than-Thou' pastor Rob Bell's new book "Love Wins" looks so different from out here at the end of Africa. Don't you think? 

More like a storm in a tea-cup.

Like jealous minor celebrities squabbling over who's boss of the sand pit.

And also, like what it probably really is, a massive payday for HarperOne, Twitter, Mars Hill, John Piper, Time magazine and everyone else who's risen to the surface.

The essence of it all is Rob's new book, subtitled 'A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived'. It's Famous Pastor musing, really, and an interesting addition to a debate that began organically years ago: what does it really really really mean to call yourself a 'Christian'? 

John Piper set Twitter on fire with a three-word tweet: "Farewell Rob Bell". Neo-Calvinist (read: tone-deaf Christian fundamentalist, pretty-much-everyone-goes-to-hell-except-people-who-buy-my-books") Piper insists he meant "Fare Well Rob Bell". Dagnabit, AutoCorrect sucks hey John?

If you live in America and are an Evangelical who thinks Rob Bell rules (and of course, Brian McLaren just goes too far), then this will all feel very close to home. You attack Rob, you attack Jesus, basically. Even you, John Piper.

Out here in Africa, it looks more like a publishing war, followed closely by a social networking Event. Cynical? Moi

People's ideas about heaven and hell will change naturally. 
On their own. Over time.

We do not need to be led into a revolution by celebrities.

We can think for ourselves.

And Christianity, as with all religion, will evolve.

Yes, I used the word evolve.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


He that has a Gospel
To loose upon Mankind,
Though he serve it utterly-
Body, soul and mind-
Though he go to Calvary
Daily for its gain-
It is his Disciple
Shall make his labour vain.

Rudyard Kipling

In 1911 Pixley ka Isaka Seme pronounced, "Forget all the past differences among Africans and unite in one national organisation." The end result was the African National Congress, which, all current shenanigans aside, generally and successfully opposed political oppression in South Africa and served (and still does) as the source of political freedom for millions of South Africans. The nature of revolutions, however, is such that freedom fighters invariably end up as bureaucratic oppressors. Even Karl Marx dissociated himself from much of the 'Marxism' that sprang up in his lifetime. In terms of Kipling's verse above, how does Mandela feel today about the activities and public outpourings of modern ANC 'disciples' such as Julius Malema, Jimmy Manyi and Jacob Zuma? How would Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu or Chief Albert Luthuli react to the state of their 'gospel' today? And yes, ok, is modern Christianity really what Jesus was talking about? Would Frank Sinatra approve of the modern music industry? Would George Washington want to live in modern America? Do the disciples end up destroying the gospel of the saviour?