This year has been quite an interesting one. I honestly can’t believe that 2008 has passed as quickly as it has. The year has had its ups and downs and it has also been a very interesting one in general, quite eventful compared to some other years. There have been a few interesting highlights and lowlights in 2008 in South Africa. This is a review of some of them.
Xenophobia: The issue came to the forefront in May 2008. 3 people were killed in the Alexandra township near Johannesburg, between May 11 and 13 and a total of 39 people were arrested when an angry mob took to the streets, targetting foreigners, declaring that they are not welcome. On 13 May, The SAHRC (South African Human Rights Commission) said that the government had been aware of the number of illegal immigrants in the country and that attacks have been happening for 10 years. It recommends that government needs to address poverty and directly and decisively deal with Xenophobia. On the 15th of May attacks spread to Soweto and Diepsloot, another 2 people die in the attacks. On the 17th May attacks spread to Thokoza on the East Rand. 6 people are arrested. 2 shacks are burnt down and a number of people are injured. At least 50 foreigners seek shelter at the police station. On the 18th May Violence spreads to Cleveland. 12 people are killed and 50 are injured. Mobs target the Johannesburg CBD and suburban slum areas, looting shops and burning cars. People and tourists are warned to avoid the Johannesburg CBD. On the 19th of May the death toll from attacks rises to 22 in Gauteng province as more violence is reported in Tembisa on the East Rand. A murder in Alexandra and looting in Cleveland as well as shack burning is also reported. It’s also said that there were isolated outbreaks of violence across the East Rand. Hillbrow, Jeppe, Cleveland, Tembisa and central Johannesburg were also said to have been affected. Police also came under fire in the Jerusalem informal settlement outside Boksburg as they tried to stop a group of about 500 people from looting shops there. Another person dies and 2 are critically injured in fresh xenophobic attacks in the Joe Slovo informal settlement in Boksburg on the 20th of May. Finaly on the 22nd of May, President Thabo Mbeki called in troops to help halt attacks on foreigners. In the end, the death toll stood at 42, about 400 people had been arrested and about 16000 had been displaced.
In my opinion, these attacks were bound to happen due to the influx of immigrants, both legal and illegal into South Africa since 1994. There are a lot of issues in South Africa, Insufficient housing, unemployment, poverty, non-providing of basic services, crime, AIDS, etc. The people who carried out these attacks against foreigners were fed up of being poor, hungry and unemployed and were looking for a scapegoat to blame. Instead of revolting and voicing their opinions and disgust with the way the government were handling the issues and choosing the peaceful route, they turned towards the foreigners. In my opinion, violence doesn’t solve anything, but it’s understandable that these attacks happened cause they were bound to sooner or later.
Shift in South African Politics: In a turn of events, following former Deputy President Zuma’s Corruption trial in Durban, President Thabo Mbeki resigned as the President of the Republic of South Africa in Sept 2008. This was after he was implicated in interfering with the NPA (National Prosecuting Authority) process to indict Zuma. He resigned before he could be fired. He was replaced by an interim president, Kgalema Motlanthe. This was followed by several cabinet ministers resigning and the formation of COPE (The Congress of the People). COPE is determined to win the next general election in 2009 in South Africa.
In my opinion, political change is good in South Africa and all these changes levelled the playing field in politics and gave some sleepy or half-sleepy politicians a wake-up call in the country. It truly was an interesting change in status quo throughout the 2nd half of the year. I’m curious to see how the newly formed party, COPE (The Congress of the People) will do in next year’s General Election. The ruling ANC (African National Congress) have lost quite a few prominent members to this party. I was quite surprised when former President Thabo Mbeki resigned, that was one thing I did not expect to happen this year.
Sport: This has been quite an interesting year in South African sport. There have been ups and downs. The Springboks (Rugby team) did relatively well with a few victories this year, despite some ups and downs and political pressure to remove the Springbok emblem, which did not happen in the end. The Springboks had a great finish this year, winning all the tests on their European tour. The team also had impressive victories over Australia at home and against England abroad. The most impressive victory of the year for the Springboks was the one over New Zealand at Carisbrook in the so-called “House of Pain” during the Tri Nations Tournament. It was a truly unforgettable game. Well done boys!! You do us proud wherever you are.
The most disappointing bit in sport this year was our country’s performance at the Beijing 2008 Olympics. The SA Olympic team returned with only 1 silver medal. South Africa has performed better than this in the past (in my opinion). Well done to Khotso Mokoena for bringing back the medal for 2nd place in the Mens long jump. In comparison, South Africa’s performance at the 2008 Paralympics was much more impressive. The SA team ended 6th on the medal table with 21 gold medals, 3 silver & 6 bronze medals.
In retrospect, the year 2008 was quite an interesting one in South Africa. There were many other issues in this land of cultural diversity, but to cover them all in a blog post would be nearly impossible. Let’s hope 2009 is another interesting and fast flowing year for the country.