Sunday, September 8, 2013

From the annals of South African apartheid

From the annals of South African apartheid: although segregation in South Africa began under Dutch & British colonial rule, apartheid as an official policy wasn’t installed until 1948 & didn’t end until 1994. Hard to believe there are distinctions of consequence between segregation & apartheid but there are--especially in the forms & brutalities of social control.

This elderly worker is part of a group of striking textile workers in Gauteng, South Africa in 1961 being charged by truncheon-wielding cops. Note how the apartheid regime borrowed from the annals of US genocide against Native Americans by employing Black cops to enforce apartheid--as the US used Native Americans to police reservations.

So what has changed in South Africa in the nearly 20 years since apartheid ended? Well now the cops wear full riot gear & supplement their truncheons with live ammunition. In August 2012, when thousands of mine workers in the Marikana region went on strike to demand better wages & living conditions, the regime ordered riot cops to massacre them. Forty-four people were killed & (if you can believe it, after over one year) a yet undetermined number were injured. Most of the victims were shot in the back. Cops say they acted in self-defense against a mob armed with clubs & machetes--illustrating that the post-apartheid regime is not averse to using racist imagery to justify its barbarisms.

The disreputable government set up a commission of inquiry into the massacre but over a year later they still can’t bring themselves to indict or prosecute their own asses for egregious violations of human & worker’s rights & for murder. The response of South African workers has been increased labor rebellions & wildcat strikes. The so-called post-apartheid regime would be advised to remind itself that miners played a key role in the anti-apartheid struggle. They damn might well be the wrong people to go after with cattle prods & bullets. Once again, being exploited doesn’t make you stupid; it often makes you real pissed off.

So if apartheid has ended but violence against South African Blacks only crescendoes perhaps the problem of racist exploitation has become so integrated into modern capitalism that you cannot definitively destroy one without destroying the other & replacing it with a system of liberty, equality, & human solidarity.

(Photo by Ian Berry)

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