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Victor Dlamini

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Michelle Obama’s Secular Sermon to Soweto: Fight Your Own Cause First

There is a danger that many of ­today’s youngsters will end up believing that the only way they can get ahead in life is through the intervention of some powerful institution, or the wholesale change of laws.

But Michelle Obama’s speech in ­Soweto this week suggests that there are other ways for young people to find meaning and ­purpose in their lives.

At the core of her message, Obama suggested that some of the most remarkable ­social achievements are brought about by strong, actionable, individual belief.

This is a very necessary and timely perspective ­because it reimagines the sources of success away from grandiose projects to smaller, ­personal ones.

It is appropriate that Obama’s message was one that centred so strongly on the power of personal belief because South Africa’s own struggle for freedom leveraged the power of belief to inspire young and old to bring down a rotten but powerful regime.

Sadly, today all one hears about are “resources, resources, resources” and it leads people to throw their hands up in despair, feeling that there is not much they can achieve without a big institution or huge infrastructure.

As Obama spoke of her own modest ­upbringing and how she had followed her heart, not her career, it was clear that she wanted to remind the youth that their own choices still mattered.

Of course, Obama did not come to ­Regina Mundi to preach; she came to speak to young African women leaders. But by the time she’d finished her rousing speech, it was clear that even though she had not come to preach, she had delivered a secular sermon for a new age.

Hers is a most important ­message because its power lies in the depth of her personal beliefs that the greatest change comes not from changing laws, but changing people.

It was truly remarkable to listen to the wife of the most powerful ­president in the world using not the language of institutional power, but that of personal power.

When Obama took to the podium, her speech was filled with the diction of one who is familiar with the power of the places of worship that also double up as the places of ­resistance and rejuvenation.

She placed this solidly built church in Soweto within the axis of those places that earn the right to be called “sacred”.

For those of us who forget or are urged to forget our own history, it was deeply moving to hear the US First Lady remind us that ­Regina Mundi is more than a church, but one of our most important sanctuaries.

She regaled us with the historic events of June 16 1976 with an enthusiasm that spoke of her own grasp of the rejuvenating powers of fresh memory.

But it was her ability to ­connect the struggles of her own country some 50 years ago to those in South Africa 35 years ago that uplifted so many in the ­audience.

In an era in which the mantra of the economy can often be deafening, drowning out all other impulses, especially those towards social justice, Obama revalidated the right of the young to fight for their own causes.

She was correct to point out that many of the victories that are available to today’s young leaders may not get their names ­emblazoned across the pages of history, but this does not make them any less valid.

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Are we a bunch of malcontents?

There are days when you have to wonder if South Africans are addicted to complaining. They complain so often, about the most serious things, but also about the pettiest. First thing in the morning when you are brave enough to try a little Talk Radio, someone is already complaining. The next caller will try to outdo the first caller with their own tale of why something sucks so much. As if not to be outdone, the animated host will throw in her own experience from hell and before you know it, morning radio is like a convention of malcontents.

So you switch to the CD player, and lo and behold the lyrics are catchy, but when you listen closely, the Cape Town musician is complaining. And you wonder why on earth the lyricist would spoil such a great tune with such sour words, then you think maybe you are not qualified to judge musicians. Still you tap to the irresistible rhythm even as you shake your head. So you decide to go for a breakfast, and as you wait for a table you pick up the daily newspaper, and by chance you turn to the Letters to the Editor. What do you know, but these letters have to be written by the unhappiest lot under the sun.

So you decide that you’ll take it easy the rest of the day and not read any media or listen to the radio, but it’s easier said than done and as you head home in the evening you instinctively switch your radio on. It’s nearly midnight but the callers are still firmly on the complaining bandwagon. When they are not ranting about the Springbok Coach, they are bitterly complaing about how expensive books are, or about how corrupt our officials are, or how dirty the streets are nowadays, or how everything is just so bloody expensive. They never run out of things to complain about, and even when one brave voice does try to stick in a little praise for outstanding service somewhere, they quickly shoot him down. So the whingeing wins the day and those who want to shout that they are having a great day, no, a great week, maybe even a great year eventually succumb to the fashion of the day and they too join in on the act and they too become habitual whingers.

And the biggest act in town carries on as they complain, complain and complain till you wonder if they will ever know happiness if it hit them in their hearts. Because, because, who knows? Perhaps they are secretly happiest when they are tell themselves that they are unhappy. So maybe, just maybe, we are a bunch of malcontents and there’s nothing we can do about it but play out this dull drama of those that believe that true happiness comes but once to these shores. Like when there’s a Rugby World Cup, the FIFA World Cup, or when Bono and his U2 outfit jet into town ready to improve the world in their Louis Vittons and glistening designer jeans. Black of course.

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Europe is deeply resentful that the Fifa World Cup is coming to Africa

My latest column in The Daily Maverick

Someone finally had to say it. Europe is deeply resentful that the Fifa World Cup is coming to Africa.

The Europeans have a sickening sense of entitlement to the soccer tournament, and ever since Fifa announced South Africa as the 2010 host, they have tried every underhanded method to discredit the country. I’m glad that now Fifa president Sepp Blatter has spoken up – he’s probably had enough of the whining from spoilt Europeans about ‘security’ in South Africa during the World Cup.
As well as responding to security concerns, Fifa has already commented on other negative perceptions of South Africa. Last month Fifa general secretary Jerome Valke called for “fair treatment for South Africa”, and told (implicitly European) fans: “Don’t kill the World Cup before it has even happened.” He acknowledged that there were some problems, and that it was “very difficult to find a seat from Europe to South Africa for the World Cup”, but said he found it sad to wake up every morning and read articles saying: “Fifa and (Sepp) Blatter made the wrong decision to host the World Cup in South Africa.”

Now Blatter has added his opinion, and he knows what he is talking about when he says: “There is still this feeling in the so-called ‘old world’ that why the hell should South Africa organise a World Cup. Why the hell?” Blatter has decided that it’s time to call Europe’s bluff and state publicly their deeply-held opposition to Africa’s hosting of the Fifa World Cup. The European lobby tried to gang up against Blatter during 2006 his bid for re-election to the Fifa presidency, attempting, unsuccessfully, to oust him from his position because of his support for Africa’s right to host the World Cup.

Blatter’s angry words stem from the comments made by German Football League boss Reinhard Rauball who “demanded” South Africa must take action following the attack in Togo. Rauball’s language is telling. He “demanded”, and one wonders if he has forgotten that just prior to Germany hosting the Fifa World Cup in 2006 there were acts of terrorism in neighbouring Spain that left nearly 200 people dead. And yet no one “demanded” Germany to do something about what was clearly a domestic Spanish security problem. The European press did not go into a frenzy about how unsafe the 2006 World Cup in Germany would be as a result of the Madrid attacks. Yet the same hacks somehow make the connection between the attack on the Togo team in distant Angola with security in South Africa.

Over time it has become clear that for the highly organised Europe lobby, security is a convenient red herring, their real goal is to sow long and lasting doubt about the ability and crucially, the wisdom of bringing the Fifa World Cup to Africa. They understand that if they can create and sustain a feeling of unease and insecurity about Africa’s ability to host a safe World Cup, then next time an African country bids to host this tournament, the odds will be stacked heavily against them receiving Fifa’s approval.

Who can forget the fury of the Europeans when Fifa announced that the World Cup would be held on a rotating basis by the various continental federations during the bidding for the 2006 Fifa World Cup? Once they had digested the import of the rotation system, the Europeans were outraged, and their well-oiled PR machinery took Fifa head on.

Then UEFA boss, Leonard Johansson, led the chorus of protests at this Fifa decision. “Do you mean that Europe has to wait for 16 years before it hosts a World Cup?” one of them famously asked. Blatter himself was the main sponsor of the rotation system, as he believed that it was no longer equitable for Europe to host every other Fifa World Cup, as has been the practice till the 2006 Fifa World Cup held in Germany. Blatter went around the world, passionately arguing in front of the various confederations that it was time soccer adapted. He had naively assumed that the Europeans believed in the spirit of fair play that is part of the Fifa ethos, but he was badly mistaken.

In October 2007 Europe’s all-powerful anti-rotation lobby finally bullied Fifa into submission and a terse announcement announcing the end of rotation was made in Zurich following a decision by vote at a Fifa executive committee meeting. The announcement is striking for its understatement. It simply said: “The World Cup will no longer be rotated among continents, a decision… that will open the race for the 2018 tournament. The decision came in a vote by soccer’s governing body.”

This backward decision dealt a body blow to the aspirations of the other continents and confederations to host the Fifa World Cup on an equal footing with Europe. As it was, Europe has already unfairly hosted the bulk of the tournaments, and while the Fifa executive committee decision of 29 October 2007 ostensibly announced the end of the rotation system among continents, in effect it reinstated Fifa’s unofficial policy of awarding Europe every other World Cup. After all the fanfare that accompanied the introduction of the rotation system among continents, which Blatter had sold with such passion, eloquence and sincerity, the shocking decision to reverse this equitable system was slipped in via the back door.

Once again Europe’s highly funded, highly organised and highly vocal soccer bullies had used their over-representation on the Fifa executive committee to get their way: this time to conveniently scupper the rotational system before the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football could host the World Cup after South America. So Europe got what it always wanted: to keep things the way they always were. The motto of the European lobby seems to be: “Forget fair play, forget any sense of decency and democracy and just treat the Fifa World Cup as if it were Europe’s property that can be shared with others at Europe’s pleasure.”

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