Generational Dynamics: Forecasting America's Destiny Generational
 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 31-May-2008
South Africa will create "temporary shelters" for migrants, not "refugee camps"

Web Log - May, 2008

South Africa will create "temporary shelters" for migrants, not "refugee camps"

Tribal differences are reasserting themselves and destabilizing the country.

Xenophobic violence against immigrants, originating in last week in Alexandria, a suburb of the capital city Johannesburg, has spread east into the Zulu heartland of Durban and west into Cape Town since then. Dozens of immigrants have been killed, and hundreds of have been wounded. At first, refugees from Zimbabwe were particularly targeted, but now any foreigner is targeted.

"It's war I tell you; it's South Africa versus Maputo [capital of Mozambique]," says a 20-year-old South African who roams around shanty towns seeking foreigners. "We just ask them Zulu words that any South African knows. If they get it wrong, we hit them."

Tens of thousands of immigrants have been forced to flee for their lives from their homes and businesses, often with no time to collect their belongings before their homes and businesses are looted and destroyed. The immigrants collect outside of police stations and armed forces bases as protection. The violence and looting are generally perpetrated by young South Africans from the Zulu and Xhosa tribes.

With immigrants seeking refuge at police stations, stadiums, community centers, and other public buildings, South Africa's government is facing a classic refugee crisis.

South Africa's refugee crisis

South Africa's slogan is "Proudly South African," pointedly proclaiming that the country is a melting pot of many ethnic groups, but that ethnicity no longer matters. It's the same melting pot concept that the United States has historically held.

Thus, the refugee crisis is not just a problem of violence, it's a blow to South Africa's entire self-image.

On Wednesday, the BBC reported plans for seven refugee centers across the country, taking up to 70,000 refugees. International aid agencies reacted quickly, saying that South Africa didn't have the expertise to run large refugee centers.

The SA government issued a quick denial. Putting tens of thousands of black refugees into large fenced-in areas not only violates the "Proudly South African" melting pot self-image, but even brings back memories of Apartheid, when white governments did similar things.

A statement issued by the government said in part, "Government has noted with concern media reports that cabinet has taken a decision to establish refugee camps. Government wish to put it on the record that cabinet has not taken such a decision and that the reports are baseless and therefore not true."

According to a statement by another official, "We are not setting up refugee camps ... it is shelter for those who have been displaced. Typically, refugee centres are long term, we are really looking for a solution for the short-term." Thus, the government is planning smaller short-term shelters.

And this is where South African officials are making an error -- they're assuming that this is a short term problem. They're assuming that the people perpetrating the violence will get tired of it, and that the violence will die off.

One article compares the violence in South Africa today with the "xenophobic violence" on Detroit streets in 1968, where businesses and homes were looted and burned. The national guard and federal troops were brought in, and there were several dozen deaths and hundreds of injuries. The rioting ended within a few weeks, leading to the assumption, by comparative history, that the violence in South Africa today will end in a few weeks. This assumption is wrong.

1968 was the height of America's generational Awakening era. Violence during an Awakening era is typically political in nature, and fizzles after a while. That's what happened in Detroit in 1968.

South Africa today is in a generational Crisis era, 63 years after the end of World War II. Xenophobia has been increasing in countries around the world, especially between China and the West, and between Christians and Muslims. So it shouldn't be surprising that it's increasing in South Africa.

What typically happens in crisis eras is that violence increases in spurts separated by pauses. Each new spurt is usually triggered by some unpleasant shock or surprise, and is usually more genocidal than the previous spurt.

There seems to be little doubt that things have gotten significantly worse in South Africa than in even the recent past. One web site reader pointed out to me, "We have very high violent crime levels here in South Africa and as a result there has been high levels of white emigration over the last 10 years. Half a million South Africans live in London alone! So I tend to see the current violence against foreigners as part of the overall ongoing violence."

And yet there are three significant differences between the recent violence and previous violence:

The fact that the nature of South Africa's violence has changed only recently is described by one reporter, based on his years of experiences:

"I only realised how serious the attacks were when I saw a photograph of a man being burnt alive in a township east of Johannesburg.

Having worked as a photographer in South Africa for more than 10 years, I was no stranger to violence: I had seen angry people chanting slogans, blocking roads and destroying property.

But burning a man alive was evil and barbaric, a flashback to the worst violence under apartheid when opponents of the white minority government were shot and tortured by police and informers were "necklaced" with burning tyres.

That photograph of the burnt man was not mine, but in the following days I came face-to-face with this new brutality as attacks on immigrants spread across Johannesburg and to other cities. ... I've covered violence before but this was bad. I was disappointed that my countrymen had turned against their brothers and sisters from countries that had helped us during apartheid."

This is typical of the progression of violence that occurs during generational Crisis periods. What triggered the most recent change?

The following is my guess as to the shock that triggered the change from "ordinary" violence to the current explosive violence:

For years, the government has been promising the poor Zulu and Xhosa groups a better life -- better homes, better jobs, and end to poverty. And the government has failed to deliver. Then the Zimbabwe crisis occurred, resulting in a huge influx of millions of Zimbabwe refugees. They were welcomed warmly by the South African government, and to the Zulus and Xhosa, it may have seemed that the Zimbabwe refugees were being treated better than they (the Zulus and Xhosa) were.

Add to that the fact that SA's president Thabo Mbeki refused to criticize his old pal Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe, even though Mugabe had single-handedly destroyed his country. In the logic of genocide, all of this meant that either "they must die or we'll die."

The point is that the violence is not going to just fizzle and die off, as many people are expecting and hoping. There may be pauses and truces, but it's very unlikely that the "short-term" refugee shelters are going to disappear.

Brief generational history of South Africa

[Note: This is a rewrite of the similar section in my previous article on South Africa. I am indebted to a web site reader from South Africa for providing a great deal of relevant historical information, and correcting several historical errors in my previous account.]

Southern Africa, showing colonial names in red
Southern Africa, showing colonial names in red

South Africa has several different generational timelines, based on ethnic groups:

On May 10, 1910, the Union of South Africa was created from the Cape Colony, Natalia, Transvaal, and Orange Free State. South Africa became an active part of the world community, and with the Afrikaner and tribal (Zulu and Xhosa) timelines merging into common generational Awakening and Unraveling eras, there were sharp political divisions along racial lines. Both the Zulus and the Afrikaners became extremely nationalistic, leading to the segregationist Apartheid policy.

All of these different timelines merged in World War II. Different political factions wished to side with the British or with the Germans, or stay neutral. But since South Africa was part of the British empire, it fought on the side of the Allies. South Africa's fighting troops were all whites, but blacks served in non-fighting roles like drivers and guard duties.

The end of Apartheid

The Apartheid policy came into full force after the war, and received worldwide condemnation until it was finally dismantled in 1994.

It was Afrikaner FW De Klerk who is credited with taking the steps that brought apartheid to an end. After being elected president in 1989, he released hundreds of black political prisoners from prison, including the charismatic Nelson Mandela. Working together, De Klerk and Mandela dismanted apartheid, and the two won the Nobel peace prize in 1994, the year in which Mandela and the ANC won the presidency in the newly democratic country.

In a recent interview, De Klerk gave a very interesting answer to the hypothetical question of whether another president could have ended Apartheid 15-20 earlier than De Klerk did:

"I think that hypothetical question really is hypothetical. I don't think any leader of the National Party could have scrapped Apartheid even 15 years [before I did]. Because I sincerely believe that we benefited from a window of opportunity which was opened when the Berlin Wall came down, and when international expansion of Communism imploded. Until that time, there was a real threat. Until that time, the ANC wasn't just a liberation movement. It was in partnership with the USSR. There were hundreds of thousands of Cuban troops in southern Africa, and in that sense there was great truth in the fact that South Africa was the target of expansionist Soviet Communism.

When that feel away, it helped me to take a quantum leap. Rather than to abolish Apartheid step by step, rather than to negotiate on the basis of giving a little bit here, giving a little bit here, stretching it out, I could make that 180 degree turn. So it's really a hypothetical questions."

The fact is that a number of Awakening climaxes occurred in this same time frame -- the end of Apartheid, the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, the 1988 massacre of demonstrating monks in Burma. De Klerk claims that the fall of the Berlin Wall is linked to the end of Apartheid. Are all of these linked together in some way? Generational theorists ought to research this subject, in the same way that historians research the connections between the different battles of World War II.

The end of Apartheid did not come easily. A particular problem was a war between Mandela's Xhosa and the Zulus, led at that time by Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

Today, 63 years after the end of World War II, South Africa is well into a generational Crisis era. Old tribal hatreds left over from Mfecane, something that occurred 180 years ago, are reasserting themselves.

African National Congress politics

The African National Congress (ANC), founded in 1912, was the leading political force that brought about the end of Apartheid. As a political party, it's won every election since Apartheid ended in 1994.

During South Africa's Awakening and Unraveling eras, in the 1960s-80s, almost all blacks throughout southern Africa were united in the common goal of ending Apartheid, and the end of Apartheid represents a significant Awakening climax. (In America's recent history, the 1974 resignation of President Richard Nixon represents an Awakening climax. For China, the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre was an Awakening climax.)

Since 1994, however, those alliances have been under strain.

The ANC hero, Nelson Mandela, a Xhosa, became the first president of the new democracy. The current president is Mandela's hand-picked successor, Thabo Mbeki, another Xhosa.

The ANC was left sharply divided in December 2007, when Mbeki lost a bruising battle for ANC leadership with a Zulu, Jacob Zuma, the successor to Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Not only did Zuma win the ANC presidency, but his preferred candidates for senior ANC positions beat Mbeki's preferred candidates, all by the same margin, about 60% to 40%.

What we're seeing here is the kind of pattern that's occurring around the world, as governments of countries that fought in World War II as crisis wars become increasingly paralyzed by internal bickering.

In the United States, bickering has paralyzed Congress for three years, as I've described several times on this web site.

Within America's Democratic Party the internal strife has been increasingly bitter. Since the 1970s, the Democratic Party has supported the "politically correct" view on issues like "racial equality" and "gender equality," among others. These two issues represent major blocs competing for money and power. As long as there was plenty of power and money to be had, the two blocs could cooperate. But now that there's less money and power to be had, these two blocs are becoming bitter enemies, as the Democratic party realigns itself. And the bitterness will only get worse.

The same kind of thing is happening in South Africa, as the Zulu and Xhosa power blocs that were united during Apartheid are now jockeying against each other for power.

One bizarre symbol of all this is the Zulu song "Umshini Wami," or, "Bring me my Machinegun." This was a solidarity song that originally appeared during the 1960s, sung among groups fighting against apartheid.

The "politically correct" view is that this song is no longer appropriate, since apartheid has ended, and so there's no longer anyone to fight against. And yet, it's become the victory song of Jacob Zuma and his power bloc, and it's also become a Zulu anthem, in a country where tribal differences are supposed to have disappeared. Here's a video of Zuma singing this song, complete with gyrating hips, at his victory speech in December.

It gets even more bizarre when you realize that "Umshini Wami" actually surfaced much earlier -- in February, 2006, during the trial of Jacob Zuma on charges of rape. It turns out that the Zulu words "Umshini Wami" mean just "Bring me my Machine," and the "machine" that was a machine gun during the anti-apartheid struggle now had an entirely different phallic significance during the rape trial. The rape charges were dismissed, but Zuma is widely condemned because he admitted to knowing that the woman had HIV/Aids when they had consensual sex, but insisted it was OK because he took a shower after having sex.

"Umshini Wami" was heard being sung last week by Zulus bashing migrants near Johannesburg, which Zuma has strongly condemned.

"Umshini Wami" has also been heard at corruption trials of Zuma. Zuma faces another corruption trial in a few months, but he's also considered the favorite to be elected President in the next elections, less than a year away. So we can expect to hear a great deal of "Umshini Wami" in the next year.

As a reaction, the Afrikaners are popularizing their new song, "De la Rey," telling the tale of Afrikaner general De la Rey during the Boer war that ended in 1902. The British won that war, but De la Rey inflicted a serious defeat on the British in one battle. Here's a music video of the song. The words are in Afrikaans, but at least you can make out the words "De la Rey," sung over and over.

The future of South Africa

Those who expect South Africa to return to "normal" in the next few months are going to be disappointed. South Africa has clearly entered a generational Crisis era, and what we've seen recently indicates that the country is becoming increasingly unstable.

Politically, the ANC is expected to win the next election, but that could be derailed. The bickering of the old folks -- Mbeki and Zuma -- is vulnerable to attack by a younger candidate. Just as rock star Barack Obama has promised American voters "Change you can believe in," without having the vaguest clue what that change will be, a young new South African candidate could promise to unite the country and end poverty, even though such promises could never be kept.

Beyond politics, the anti-migrant violence has crossed a line from which South Africa will not return. The gory violence by Zulus and Xhosa directed at migrants may have pauses, but it will only return in worse form. Whether it will lead to some kind of full-fledged civil war cannot be predicted.

One issue that cannot be overlooked is the strategic importance of the southern African cape, including the Cape of Good Hope. As we approach the Clash of Civilizations world war, South Africans are going to play an important role, whether they want to or not. The country's slogan is "Proudly South African," but this slogan may have a completely different meaning before all this is over. It's hard to see any future for South Africa that does not contain enormous turmoil. (31-May-2008) Permanent Link
Receive daily World View columns by e-mail
Donate to Generational Dynamics via PayPal

Web Log Pages

Current Web Log

Web Log Summary - 2016
Web Log Summary - 2015
Web Log Summary - 2014
Web Log Summary - 2013
Web Log Summary - 2012
Web Log Summary - 2011
Web Log Summary - 2010
Web Log Summary - 2009
Web Log Summary - 2008
Web Log Summary - 2007
Web Log Summary - 2006
Web Log Summary - 2005
Web Log Summary - 2004

Web Log - December, 2016
Web Log - November, 2016
Web Log - October, 2016
Web Log - September, 2016
Web Log - August, 2016
Web Log - July, 2016
Web Log - June, 2016
Web Log - May, 2016
Web Log - April, 2016
Web Log - March, 2016
Web Log - February, 2016
Web Log - January, 2016
Web Log - December, 2015
Web Log - November, 2015
Web Log - October, 2015
Web Log - September, 2015
Web Log - August, 2015
Web Log - July, 2015
Web Log - June, 2015
Web Log - May, 2015
Web Log - April, 2015
Web Log - March, 2015
Web Log - February, 2015
Web Log - January, 2015
Web Log - December, 2014
Web Log - November, 2014
Web Log - October, 2014
Web Log - September, 2014
Web Log - August, 2014
Web Log - July, 2014
Web Log - June, 2014
Web Log - May, 2014
Web Log - April, 2014
Web Log - March, 2014
Web Log - February, 2014
Web Log - January, 2014
Web Log - December, 2013
Web Log - November, 2013
Web Log - October, 2013
Web Log - September, 2013
Web Log - August, 2013
Web Log - July, 2013
Web Log - June, 2013
Web Log - May, 2013
Web Log - April, 2013
Web Log - March, 2013
Web Log - February, 2013
Web Log - January, 2013
Web Log - December, 2012
Web Log - November, 2012
Web Log - October, 2012
Web Log - September, 2012
Web Log - August, 2012
Web Log - July, 2012
Web Log - June, 2012
Web Log - May, 2012
Web Log - April, 2012
Web Log - March, 2012
Web Log - February, 2012
Web Log - January, 2012
Web Log - December, 2011
Web Log - November, 2011
Web Log - October, 2011
Web Log - September, 2011
Web Log - August, 2011
Web Log - July, 2011
Web Log - June, 2011
Web Log - May, 2011
Web Log - April, 2011
Web Log - March, 2011
Web Log - February, 2011
Web Log - January, 2011
Web Log - December, 2010
Web Log - November, 2010
Web Log - October, 2010
Web Log - September, 2010
Web Log - August, 2010
Web Log - July, 2010
Web Log - June, 2010
Web Log - May, 2010
Web Log - April, 2010
Web Log - March, 2010
Web Log - February, 2010
Web Log - January, 2010
Web Log - December, 2009
Web Log - November, 2009
Web Log - October, 2009
Web Log - September, 2009
Web Log - August, 2009
Web Log - July, 2009
Web Log - June, 2009
Web Log - May, 2009
Web Log - April, 2009
Web Log - March, 2009
Web Log - February, 2009
Web Log - January, 2009
Web Log - December, 2008
Web Log - November, 2008
Web Log - October, 2008
Web Log - September, 2008
Web Log - August, 2008
Web Log - July, 2008
Web Log - June, 2008
Web Log - May, 2008
Web Log - April, 2008
Web Log - March, 2008
Web Log - February, 2008
Web Log - January, 2008
Web Log - December, 2007
Web Log - November, 2007
Web Log - October, 2007
Web Log - September, 2007
Web Log - August, 2007
Web Log - July, 2007
Web Log - June, 2007
Web Log - May, 2007
Web Log - April, 2007
Web Log - March, 2007
Web Log - February, 2007
Web Log - January, 2007
Web Log - December, 2006
Web Log - November, 2006
Web Log - October, 2006
Web Log - September, 2006
Web Log - August, 2006
Web Log - July, 2006
Web Log - June, 2006
Web Log - May, 2006
Web Log - April, 2006
Web Log - March, 2006
Web Log - February, 2006
Web Log - January, 2006
Web Log - December, 2005
Web Log - November, 2005
Web Log - October, 2005
Web Log - September, 2005
Web Log - August, 2005
Web Log - July, 2005
Web Log - June, 2005
Web Log - May, 2005
Web Log - April, 2005
Web Log - March, 2005
Web Log - February, 2005
Web Log - January, 2005
Web Log - December, 2004
Web Log - November, 2004
Web Log - October, 2004
Web Log - September, 2004
Web Log - August, 2004
Web Log - July, 2004
Web Log - June, 2004

Copyright © 2002-2016 by John J. Xenakis.