“The past is always derided, it’s hateful, it’s bad. There is violence there. Now we have no violence. This kind of myth building is a very sad thing about modernity.” – Jennifer Armstrong
Last week South Africa was in the middle of a media blackout amidst what could generously be called national unrest, but actually resembles low level warfare. The SABC is in management turmoil over the blackout in coverage. Simmering hatred between old warring factions (tribal, racial, political) inside South Africa are boiling over into anything from labor disruptions to burning commercial interests. Crime rates compete comfortably with some of the planets hottest warzones according to Nickolay Mladenov of the UN.
— Leandri J van Vuuren (@Lean3JvV) June 21, 2016
But no one is talking about it, especially no one in the West. Ignoring incidents that contradicts the Western narrative that social homogenization is the answer to all problems is not a new phenomenon. It will likely take an act of egregious mass violence for South Africa to get global coverage. That’s when the paranoia will escape South Africa and spill into the broader Western zeitgeist. Until then the silence will continue and South Africa will suffer.
— Simm Chittz (@simmchittz) June 25, 2016
“History doesn’t repeat, but it does rhyme.” – Mark Twain
Media blackouts in Africa are nothing new. Indeed, what is emerging in South Africa has an eerie echo from history, courtesy of their northern neighbor Zimbabwe. Although, South Africa is a separate country with their own social dynamics, their slow slide into chaos and economic ruin is a hallmark of many post- colonial African countries. That includes Zimbabwe.
The Day a Country Died
Jennifer Armstrong was 15 years old when her family migrated from Zimbabwe to Australia. This was a period when Zimbabwe had just moved from white minority rule to black majority rule. Under white rule, the country was known as Rhodesia. Rhodesia had completed a violent civil war and transitioned to black majority rule under Robert Mugabe. This too was a time of media blackouts and disinformation campaigns. Decades later Zimbabwe would endure enough self-inflicted wounds, such as expelling trained white farmers, that it would stop being the “bread basket of Africa” and suffer barren land and crippling inflation.
It Wasn’t Always Bad
Before the war…“The mood in Rhodesia had been like Britain in the 1780’s, industrialization was starting, William Blake, and all these romantic poets, and it was a romantic atmosphere. That was a wonderful aspect to it. My childhood, in that respect was idyllic.”
“Then there was the other aspect in Rhodesia. It never seemed to demobilize after World War II. It remained very much a society that was interested in war and saw itself as a kind extension of Britain in the sense of being very pro-Western Christianity and maintaining that through a system of training the young people as potential soldiers.”
Even so her childhood memories were still bright.
“As children we grew up very wild, barefoot, kind of running around and exploring things and getting hurt. Basically in the African wilderness.”
Then the War. Then Gukurahundi.
During the course of our interview I learned about the incredibly tumultuous period when Ian Smith’s Rhodesia proclaimed a UDI (Universal Declaration of Independence) from the UK in 1965. This led to global sanctions against the renegade country. During the 70’s, a formidable rebellion began to take hold. In this period information was hard to come by. The media presentation to Western audiences was a simplistic story of black nationalists over throwing an oppressive white minority regime. But in fact there was much underneath the sanitized Western version of what was taking place.
Maoist-backed factions headed by Robert Mugabe and the Soviet-backed groups headed by Joshua Nkomo ensured that international interests would be central to the conflict. After all, this was the Cold War and any part of the planet was in contention by colliding ideologies. Further complicating the situation was latent tribalism between the Mugabe Forces and those of Joshua Nkomo. After the war ended those latent tensions would come to full bear in a little known genocide called Gukurahundi. This was a silent, full scale, mass murder of Nkomo’s tribe.
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