Mandela?s First Memo to Thomas Friedman

Arjan El Fassed

The Electronic Intifada

29 March 2001

Editor?s note, 28 June 2013: This article was written by Arjan El Fassed in 2001 in the satirical style then being employed by Thomas Friedman, of writing mock letters from one world leader to another. Although it carries El Fassed?s byline, it has been repeatedly mistaken for an actual letter from Mandela. It is not. It is a piece of satire and has never been presented by?EI?as anything other than satire. El Fassed has written?this history of the piece and how it subsequently was mistaken for a real letter, on his personal blog.

Memo to: Thomas L. Friedman (columnist New York Times)
From: Nelson Mandela (former President South?Africa)

Dear?Thomas,

I know that you and I long for peace in the Middle East, but before you continue to talk about necessary conditions from an Israeli perspective, you need to know what?s on my mind. Where to begin? How about 1964. Let me quote my own words during my trial. They are true today as they were?then:

?I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to?die.?

Continue reading “Mandela?s First Memo to Thomas Friedman”

Waiting for My Own Mandela?

By Nalaka Gunawardene?courtesy Groundviews.org

Banner outside Drik in Dhanmondi celebrating Nelson Mandela's (Madiba) 95th Birthday The bed next to him is in Fatima Meer?s house at 148 Burnwood Road, Durban, where Mandela, Tutu, Sisulu and Tambo would take shelter in. 15th July 2009. South Africa. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World.
Banner outside Drik in Dhanmondi celebrating Nelson Mandela’s (Madiba) 95th Birthday The bed next to him is in Fatima Meer?s house at 148 Burnwood Road, Durban, where Mandela, Tutu, Sisulu and Tambo would take shelter in. (Mandela Photo taken on 10th July 2009. Beg photo taken on 15th July 2009. South Africa. This photo taken on 18th July 2013. All three photos by ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World.

I never met Nelson Mandela in person, but once listened to him live.
I watched him speak — in his characteristically thoughtful and cheerful manner ? for a few minutes, and was mesmerized. Continue reading “Waiting for My Own Mandela?”

Nelson Mandela?s greatness may be assured ? but not his legacy

Mandela, too, fostered crony relationships with wealthy whites from the corporate world, including those who had profited from apartheid.

By?John Pilger

Nelson Mandela in 1990. Photograph: Getty Images
Nelson Mandela in 1990. Photograph: Getty Images

When I reported from South Africa in the 1960s, the Nazi admirer B J Vorster occupied the prime minister?s residence in Cape Town. Thirty years later, as I waited at the gates, it was as if the guards had not changed. White Afrikaners checked my ID with the confidence of men in secure work. One carried a copy of?Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela?s autobiography. ?It?s very eenspirational,? he said. Continue reading “Nelson Mandela?s greatness may be assured ? but not his legacy”

Jodi Bieber at Chobi Mela

Jodi Bieber to attend Chobi Mela VII International Festival of Photography

Photo by Jodi Bieber

Photo by Jodi Bieber

Jodi Bieber
Jodi Bieber

Jodi Bieber ? Artist?s Talk
Tuesday, 29 January, 7PM
Goethe-Institut

Jodi Bieber ? Workshop: Masterclass on Story-telling
26- 30 January
Pathshala

South African photographer Jodi Bieber will be holding an artist?s talk as well as conducting a workshop during Chobi Mela VII. She worked extensively as a photographer in South Africa leading up to and during South Africa?s first democratic elections and focused on her country of birth in her book?Between Dogs and Wolves ? Growing up with South Africa, a project Bieber worked on over a ten-year period between 1994 and 2004.
Bieber?s photograph of Bibi Aisha, an Afghan woman whose face got mutilated by her husband, brother-in-law, and three other family members, has seared itself into the memory of each and everyone. A brutal symbol of the violence that so many Afghan women face, the photograph, which was on the cover of?TIME?magazine, was selected as the?World Press Photo of the Year?in 2010.
Bieber also?works?on special projects?for non- profit?organisations, such as?M?decins Sans Fronti?res.

?Visit the website of?Jodi Bieber

South Africa Mine Killings: Thousands Protest

 

South African police reveal 34 miners died and 78 were wounded when armed officers opened fire on strikers

By KEITH GLADDIS
Link showing video of shooting and protest (graphic content)
Police in South Africa say 34 miners were killed and another 78 injured when officers fired at strikers armed with ‘dangerous weapons’.
Police chief Mangwashi Victoria Phiyega told a press conference today that her officers acted to protect themselves when miners armed with spears and machetes charged towards them.
Shocking video of the incident emerged yesterday, showing police fire automatic weapons and handguns into the crowd of strikers for about a minute.

Aftermath: South African protesters lie motionless on the ground as heavily armed police officers check them at the Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg, South AfricaAftermath: South African protesters lie motionless on the ground as heavily armed police officers check them at the Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg, South Africa Continue reading “South Africa Mine Killings: Thousands Protest”

Under African Skies

An Album About Healing, Made in a Wounded Land
?Under African Skies,? About the Paul Simon Album ?Graceland?

NYT Critics’ Pick

Luise Gubb

Paul Simon with Ladysmith Black Mambazo in ?Under African Skies,? a documentary about his 1986 album, ?Graceland.?

By 
Published: May 10, 2012
Music, politics and race: To what degree does a style belong to the people who developed it? At what point, if any, does musical fusion become musical theft? Is the greater good served by a noble project if it involves the flouting of solemn rules? And once the rules have changed, and the noise has died down, how much do these debates really matter?Those questions echo throughout?Under African Skies,? Joe Berlinger?s enlightening documentary about the making of ?Graceland,? Paul Simon?s masterwork, on the occasion of its 25th anniversary. The film, by the co-director of the ?Paradise Lost? trilogy, does an excellent job of recapitulating the controversies surrounding the album?s creation without bearing down too heavily on old news, while subtly taking Mr. Simon?s side against his critics. Continue reading “Under African Skies”

Homecoming for Stark Record of Apartheid

Subscribe to ShahidulNews



Share



By?CELIA W. DUGGER

Published: New York Times November 17, 2010
JOHANNESBURG ? When he was only in his 20s Ernest Cole, a black photographer who stood barely five feet tall, created one of the most harrowing pictorial records of what it was like to be black in apartheid South Africa. He went into exile in 1966, and the next year his work was published in the United States in a book, ?House of Bondage,? but his photographs were banned in his homeland where he and his work have remained little known.
Ernest Cole the photographer. The Ernest Cole Family Trust/Hasselblad Foundation Collection
In exile Mr. Cole?s life crumbled. For much of the late 1970s and 1980s he was homeless in New York, bereft of even his cameras. ?His life had become a shadow,? a friend later said. Mr. Cole died at 49 in 1990, just a week after?Nelson Mandelawalked free. His sister flew back to South Africa with his ashes on her lap.
Boy in School. The Ernest Cole Family Trust/Hasselblad Foundation Collection

Mr. Cole is at last having another kind of homecoming. The largest retrospective of his work ever mounted is now on display at the Johannesburg Art Gallery, built in the neo-Classical style almost a century ago in an era when South Africa?s great mining fortunes were being made on the backs of black labor. It is a collection of images that still possesses the power to shock and anger.
?How could white people do this to us?? asked Lebogang Malebana, 14, as he stood before a photograph of nude gold-mine recruits who had been herded into a grimy room for examination. ?How could they put naked black men on display like that??
Mr. Cole conceived the idea of his own portrait of black life after seeing?Henri Cartier-Bresson?s book ?People of Moscow.? He got this particular picture by sneaking his camera into the mine in his lunch bag, under sandwiches and an apple, Struan Robertson, who shared a studio and darkroom with Mr. Cole, recounted in an essay for the book that accompanies the exhibition, ?Ernest Cole: Photographer.?
On a recent Saturday afternoon at the museum here in a crime-ridden downtown that long ago emptied of white people, three visitors wandered through cavernous galleries lined with Mr. Cole?s work. Lebogang, an eighth grader, had drifted in from a nearby single-room apartment that he shares with his mother, who is a maid, and his younger brother. His father is in jail. ?It?s very sad,? he said as he lingered over the black-and-white images.
Jimmy Phindi Tjege, 27, who like many young black South Africans has never held a job in a society still scarred by apartheid, had come to the exhibition with his girlfriend, Nomthandazo Patience Chazo, 26, who works for the government and has a car. They had driven from their black township, Daveyton, about 30 miles away.
Scraping previous day's porridge bowl. The Ernest Cole Family Trust/Hasselblad Foundation Collection

Ms. Chazo was struck by a photograph of four hungry children scraping porridge from a single pot set on a concrete floor. Mr. Tjege singled out another picture, one of a serious boy squatting on the floor of an unfurnished schoolroom, clutching a chalkboard, with two tears of sweat running down the side of his face.
?I feel angry,? Mr. Tjege said, as he gestured to the rest of the gallery with a sweep of his hand. ?This room is full of anger.?
Mr. Cole?s captions and photographs are imbued with wrenching emotions.
?Servants are not forbidden to love. Woman holding child said, ?I love this child, though she?ll grow up to treat me just like her mother does.??? The Ernest Cole Family Trust/Hasselblad Foundation Collection

Next to a photograph of a maid holding a white baby girl whose lips are pressed to the woman?s forehead, the caption says: ?Servants are not forbidden to love. Woman holding child said, ?I love this child, though she?ll grow up to treat me just like her mother does.???
The caption for a picture of a hospital ward where the floor was crowded with sick children reads, ?New cases have their names written on adhesive tape stuck to their foreheads.?
A series of images of tsotsis, young black gangsters, picking the pockets of white men is accompanied by a caption that reads: ?Whites are angered if touched by anyone black, but a black hand under the chin is enraging. This man, distracted by his fury, does not realize his pocket is being rifled.?
Finding the unmarked trains designated for blacks involved guesswork. Passengers had to jump across tracks, and some were killed by express trains. The Ernest Cole Family Trust/Hasselblad Foundation Collection

The son of a washerwoman and a tailor, Mr. Cole quit high school in 1957 at 16 as the Bantu education law meant to consign blacks to menial labor went into effect.
When he was 20, the apartheid authorities deemed his family?s brick home and the black township where it sat as a ?black spot? and bulldozed them into rubble.
Being seen in a white area was sufficient cause for a black person to be arrested. The Ernest Cole Family Trust/Hasselblad Foundation Collection

Somehow, pretending to be an orphan, Mr. Cole had by then already managed to persuade apartheid bureaucrats to reclassify him as colored, or mixed race, despite his dark skin. His fluency in Afrikaans, the language of most coloreds, probably helped. His ability to pass as colored freed him from laws that required blacks always to carry a work permit when in ?white areas,? and this mobility proved crucial to his photography.
Joseph Lelyveld, a retired executive editor of The New York Times who was The Times?s correspondent in Johannesburg in the mid-1960s and worked with Mr. Cole, then a freelancer, described the young photographer as a wry, soft-spoken man.
?His judgments could be angry, but he had an ironic, almost furtive nature, conditioned by what he was trying to pull off,? Mr. Lelyveld, who remained a friend of Mr. Cole until his death, said in a telephone interview. ?It wasn?t easy to be a black man walking around Johannesburg with expensive cameras. The presumption would be you stole them.?
A police officer detains a boy, who must show his pass, in central Johannesburg. The Ernest Cole Family Trust/Hasselblad Foundation Collection

In the mid-1970s, when Mr. Cole was destitute and homeless in New York, Mr. Lelyveld said they went together to a cheap hotel where Mr. Cole had left his negatives and the photographs he had of his mother, only to discover they had gone to an auction of unclaimed items.
For years rumors circulated that a suitcase of Mr. Cole?s prints had survived somewhere in Sweden. David Goldblatt, a renowned South African photographer, had heard they were with the?Hasselblad Foundation there. When Mr. Goldblatt received the Hasselblad Award in 2006, and traveled to Gothenburg to accept it, he asked to see them. He said he was agape paging through?the images, saying, ?They can?t lie in a vault.?
Later, when he carefully studied scans of them at his home in Johannesburg, Mr. Goldblatt, now 80, said he began to realize that many of the photographs in ?House of Bondage? had been cropped severely to enhance their impact in a powerful anti-apartheid polemic. But the full frames showed Mr. Cole?s artistry.

?He wasn?t just brave,? said Mr. Goldblatt, who has been photographing this country for more than a half-century. ?He wasn?t just enterprising. He was a supremely fine photographer.?
For example, the picture of naked mine recruits photographed in a line from behind, their arms outstretched as if they were being held up, had a water basin on the wall at the end of the line. It was almost entirely cut out in the book.
Mining recruits at group inspection. Cole smuggled his camera in his lunch bag. The Ernest Cole Family Trust/Hasselblad Foundation Collection

?Cole was careful to include the basin, and the basin is like the full stop or exclamation mark in a sentence,? Mr. Goldblatt said. ?It just brings another dimension. It makes it banal. It?s not just dramatic, it?s banally dramatic. This is the kind of thing photographers live by, these details.?
Next year the exhibition, organized by the Hasselblad Foundation, will travel to Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban and Mamelodi, the black township outside Pretoria where Mr. Cole?s family still lives. The foundation is now planning an American tour that probably will include San Francisco, Detroit, Atlanta and New York.
A version of this article appeared in print on November 18, 2010, on page C1 of the New York edition.

Speech at the Funeral of Sarah Bartmann

Subscribe to ShahidulNews


Share


By Thabo Mbeki

9 August 2002

Fellow South Africans:
The day should be a day of celebration and joy. After all, today is National Women’s Day as well as the historic day when we return the remains of Sarah Bartmann to the land she walked as a child and a young woman.
Difficult as it may be, we must still celebrate. But we could not be human and not be deeply saddened and weighted down with grief as we reflect on the short life of Sarah Bartmann who has, at last, returned to her people.
This occasion can never be a solemn ceremony in which we bury her remains and bury the truth about the painful circumstances of her death as well.
To this day, 186 years after she died, we feel the pain of her intolerable misery because she was on us and we, of her. When we turn away from this grave of a simple African woman, a particle of each one of us will stay with the remains of Sarah Bartmann.
We cannot undo the damage that was done to her. But at least we can summon the courage to speak the naked but healing truth that must comfort her wherever she may be.
I speak of courage because there are many in our country would urge constantly that we should not speak of the past, They pour scorn on those who speak about who we are and where we come from and why we are where we are today. They make bold to say the past is no longer, and all that remains is a future that will be.
But, today, the gods would be angry with us if we did not, on the banks of the Gamtoos River, at the grave of Sarah Bartmann, call out for the restoration of the dignity of Sarah Bartmann, of the Khoi-San, of the millions of Africans who have known centuries of wretchedness.
Sarah Bartmann should never have been transported to Europe.
Sarah Bartmann should never have been robbed of her name and relabeled Sarah Bartmann. Sarah Bartmann should never have been stripped of her native, Khoi-San and African identity and paraded in Europe as a savage monstrosity.
As the French Parliament debated the matter of the return of the remains of our Sarah to her native land, the then Minister of Research, Roger-Gerard Scwartzenberg said: “This young woman was treated as if she was something monstrous. But where in this affair is the monstrosity?”
Indeed, where did the monstrosity lie in the matter of the gross abuse of a defenceless African woman in England and France! It was not the abused human being who was monstrous but those who abused her. It was not the lonely African woman in Europe, alienated from her identity and her motherland who was the barbarian, but those who treated her with barbaric brutality.
Among the truly monstrous were the leading scientists of the day, who sought to feed a rabid racism, such as the distinguished anatomist, Baron Georges Cuvier, who dissected Sarah’s body after her death. It is Cuvier who said after he had dismembered her:
“The Negro race… is marked by black complexion, crisped of woolly hair, compressed cranium and a flat nose, The projection of the lower parts of the face, and the thick lips, evidently approximate it to the monkey tribe: the hordes of which it consists have always remained in the most complete state of barbarism…. These races with depressed and compressed skulls are condemned to a never-ending inferiority… Her moves had something that reminded one of the monkey and her external genitalia recalled those of the orang-utang.”
It was the distinguished Baron who wrote:
“The white race, with oval face, straight hair and nose, to which the civilised people of Europe belong and which appear to us the most beautiful of all, is also superior to others by its genius, courage and activity, (And that there is a) cruel law which seems to have condemned to an eternal inferiority the races of depressed and compressed skulls… and experience seems to confirm the theory that there is a relationship between the perfection of the spirit and the beauty of the face.”
Almost two centuries later, an honourable Member of the Parliament of France, Jean Dufour, sided with the truth and said:
“Enslaved, exploited, shown as an animal, (Sarah) was dissected by scientists who wanted first and foremost to confirm their theory of the superiority of a race over the others.”
A German predecessor of the Baron Cuvier, Johann Winckelmann, a priest and art historian, had stated the batter boldly, thus:
“The European, called by destiny to run the empire of the globe which he knows how to enlighten by his intelligence, tame by his abilities, is man par excellence; the others are nothing but hordes of barbarians.”
It was as one among these barbaric hordes that Sarah Bartmann was sucked into evil purposes pursued by those who defined themselves as a “man par excellence”, with a manifest destiny to enlighten and to tame.
When she died, Sarah Bartmann had indeed been enlightened about the ways and the barbarism of “man par excellence”. But she was not tamed.
Continue reading “Speech at the Funeral of Sarah Bartmann”

AN OPEN LETTER TO MR. JACOB ZUMA

Subscribe to ShahidulNews


Share/Bookmark



HAIDAR EID ? AN OPEN LETTER TO MR. JACOB ZUMA, PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA
10 September, 2009 ??Palestine Chronicle

People in Johannesburg March in Solidarity with Palestine

Dear Mr. President,
I am writing to express my dismay and disappointment with both your attendance at the national conference of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies ? a racist organization by any standards ? as well as the content of your speech at that forum.
I am a naturalised South African of Palestinian origin. I spent more than five years in? Johannesburg, during which I earned a PhD from the University of Johannesburg and lectured at the-then Vista University in Soweto and Rand Afrikaans University in Johannesburg.
I would like to take issue with the manner in which you express your support for the two-state solution: ?It is a solution that fulfils the aspirations of both parties for independent homelands through two states for two peoples, Israel and an independent, adjoining, and viable state of Palestine? (emphasis mine). Allow me, Mr. President, as a resident of Gaza, to express my shock with the fact that ? only 8 months after the Gaza massacre, in which 1500 civilians, including 434 children, were brutally murdered ? you still believe that there are two symmetrical sides. You even call it the ?Israeli-Palestinian conflict!? Was that your belief in the 1970?s and 80?s; that there were ?two-sides? to the South African ?conflict?? Were there two equal parties, namely White and Black, with equal claim to the land and equal historical responsibility for the-then status quo? No doubt, this sounds like a bizarre interpretation of South African history?and one which we Palestinians find equally astounding when applied to our history and our reality today.
Mr. President, these words of yours are even more disturbing, given your own involvement in the commendable struggle against the brutal, anti-human apartheid system and the notion of ?independent homelands? which were based on the separation of human beings. Your struggle as Black South Africans, was morally superior to apartheid because it was inclusive where apartheid focused on separation; it was embracing where apartheid focused on division; it was life-affirming where apartheid was violent and murderous.
The South African anti-apartheid goal, adopted by anti-apartheid activists all around the world was unequivocal: the end of the racist system and ideology of apartheid. There could be no toenadering (rapprochement) with apartheid ideologues; no creation of homelands and puppet leaders: the system had to be dismantled in its entirety. Many South Africans supported by a sustained global anti-apartheid campaign, sacrificed their lives to bring down the Bantustansan euphemistically, called independent homelands by the apartheid regime.? Mr. President, Steve Biko, Oliver Tambo, Chris Hani, the Mxenges, the Slovosac to mention but a few anti-apartheid heroes must have listened to the speech to the JBD and wondered what happened to the universal values and human rights espoused by the ANC.
Comrade Jacob (if I may),
I would like to brief you on the nature of the powerful party, i.e. Israel ? with whom your post-apartheid government still, amazingly, maintains exceptional diplomatic and economic ties.
Unlike the new post-apartheid South Africa, which you helped to create, in the State of Israel all human beings are NOT equal. There are fundamental artificially created and selectively rewarded? a level of of citizens in the state. Israel defines itself as a Jewish State. It, therefore, creates a bizarre distinction between ?nationality? and ?citizenship.? Almost 22% of the citizens of Israel are Palestinians who are excluded from such a definition. Israel thus, by definition is NOT the state of its citizens, but rather that of ?The Jewish People?, most of whom, like the members of JBD whom you were addressing, have no birthright connection to it. The question which begs an answer is what the status of those Palestinian citizens in a Jewish state is? The answer is, as every single ? to use a word you must abhor ?non-white? South African knows: Racism.
The delegates at the national conference of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, Jewish, but at the same time, South African citizens ?enjoy full rights? in Israel, rights that apartheid Israel denies to us, the indigenous people of this land. They also call us ?Israeli Arabs?,? ?Jerusalem residents?, ?Arabs of the territories?, not to mention the refugees living in the Diaspora, whose mere mention always spoils any party, and whose right to return and compensation is sanctioned by International Law (UNGA resolution 194).
Israeli nationality, therefore, is non-existent. Instead, there is ?Jewish Nationality?. To make such a bizarre term comprehensible, think of ?White Nationality? as opposed to South African. In your speech before the JBD, you state very eloquently that ?(m)uch as we are conscious of who we are culturally and otherwise, it must not take away the national identity, as we should be South Africans first?.
The International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crimes of Apartheid, Article 2, Part 3, clearly defines apartheid as:
?[a]ny legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country and the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or groups, in particular by denying to members of a racial group or groups basic human rights and freedoms, including the right to work? the right to education, the right to leave and return to their country the right to a nationality, the right to freedom of movement and residence.?
This definition, in its entirety, clearly applies not only to the Palestinian people residing in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but also those living in Israel itself. This is precisely the reason that the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in the Occupied Territories, a fellow South African, John Dugard, concluded that ?the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid appears to be violated by many practices?.
If you were born to Palestinian parents living in Israel ? a fate you have been spared, Mr. President ? you too would be denied the rights of? ?Jewish Nationality? and been forced to submit to institutionalized inferiority or choose to resist it.
Furthermore, ICSPCA (quoted above), Article 2, Part 4, makes it crystal clear that:
?[t]he term ?the crime of apartheid?,? shall apply to ?any measures including legislative measure, designed to divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate measures and ghettos for the members of a racial group or groups The expropriation of landed property belonging to a racial group or groups or to members thereof..?
Comrade Jacob, the word apartheid never appears once in your speech before the JBD! A listener would never know that you were speaking to an audience who actively support apartheid in another country.
Did you know that racist laws used to forbid Black property ownership in white areas in apartheid South Africa are in force in apartheid Israel? Indigenous Palestinian citizens of Israel are not only prohibited from living on land owned by ?Jewish institutions?, ?but are also not allowed by force of ?law? to reside in any areas designated ?Jewish? either.
I, myself, Mr. President, a resident of Gaza, like so many Palestinians, have legal title to my parents? land in Israel, but have no ?legal? right to it because my parents? property, like that? of millions of other Palestinians?, was taken away from us and given over to Jewish ownership. The facts are that Jews owned only 7% of Palestine before 1948; today 93% is considered ?state land? and can only be owned by Jews or Israel.
This is only one example, Comrade Jacob, of the nature of the state your government deems ?democratic?and ?friendly? despite its past strategic ties with apartheid SA. In your presidential campaign, you were quoted singing ?kill the Boer!? And yet, in your speech, you ?unequivocally? condemn ?all forms of violence from whatever quarter?, particularly where civilians are targeted!
I fail to understand this contradiction. Is this a reflection of the difference between comrade Jacob and President Zuma? Do you, as president, think that Palestinians have no right to resist their occupation and dispossession? You even equate our resistance with the War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity committed by the Israeli Occupation forces in the West Bank and, in particular, in Gaza.
Is it too much, comrade Jacob, for us, representatives of Palestinian Civil Society organizations to ask your government to sever all diplomatic ties with apartheid? Israel, and endorses not to say lead the growing global Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel? Is that really too much to ask a democratic post-apartheid South Africa for?
Is this the embodiment of Fanon?s prophecy about the ?Pitfalls of National (Racial?) Consciousness??? Is it because the Black Middle class which your government represents and which has taken power from the White Middle class is underdeveloped? Fanon, whom you? must have read while on the run from the apartheid police, says that this national middle class ?has practically no economic power, and in any case it is in no way commensurate with the bourgeoisie of the mother country which it hopes to replace.? Is this why you are prepared to kowtow to the South African Jewish community which ?has been called one of the most tightly-knit in the world, overwhelmingly united in its support for Israel??
Your government, Mr. President, turns a blind eye to the war crimes of its own citizens against Palestinians. The South African war criminal David Benjamin was allowed to freely move around South Africa and share his tactics of support and defence for the? Israeli Occupation Forces in its recent onslaught against the Gaza Strip with impunity. There are seventy other South Africans that are known to have links with the destruction of the Israeli Occupation Forces who enjoy the same impunity. It is left to individuals and civil society organizations in South Africa to take action against these criminals that should rightly be the task of the government.
Your post-apartheid government, Mr. President, unashamedly, supports the two-state solution: one for Palestinians (Muslim and Christians), and one for Jews. In other words, you support the re-birth of Bantustans, albeit in the Middle East this time. The two-state solution is a racist solution, comrade Jacob. If you did not accept it for yourselves in South Africa, why force it on Palestinians instead of supporting us as we demand the right to our homeland every single inch of it?
Mr. President,
A politics based on narrow-minded, selfish pragmatism was rejected by all anti-apartheid forces, locally and internationally during the years of the anti-apartheid struggle. What was promoted, instead, was adherence to universal principles of equality and dignity.
I truly hope you will reconsider. I know that it is my constitutional right as a citizen of the New South Africa ? which I am proud of ? to address you directly. I do so to express my deep disagreement and dissatisfaction with your government?s Middle East policy and its continued support for the apartheid policies of the Israeli government, given that this support undermines and actively harms the Palestinian struggle for liberation and self-determination.
Sincerely,
Professor Haidar Eid
Gaza, Palestine
– Dr. Haidar Eid is Associate Professor in the Department of English Literature, Al-Aqsa University, Gaza Strip, Palestine. Dr. Eid is a founding member of the One Democratic State Group (ODSG) and a member of Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).

Related posts:
The Mandela Moment that changed South Africa
67 Minutes for Madiba
South Africa: Zuma presidency: New era or business as usual? By Fazila Farouk
Letter from South Africa By Cynthia McKinney
AN OPEN LETTER TO BRANFORD MARSALIS
Goldstone banned from grandson?s bar-mitzvah in South Africa By Ran Greenstein
Revive Lincoln?s Monetary Policy ? An Open Letter to President Obama By Ellen Brown
Ken Loach open letter to the Edinburgh Film Festival
Socialist Green Coalition Launched in South Africa
An open letter to Caryl Churchill from a Palestinian Mother 3 May, 2009
Video: South Africa ? Forgotten freedom fighters Part One
Sign MAP?s Open Letter to Gordon Brown- end to the blockade, end the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza

67 Minutes for Madiba

OK. I?ll admit it. I do have a soft spot for older women. My grandmother, my mother, Shejokhalamma, Chotokhalamma, Chotomami, Sufia Khala (poet Sufia Kamal), Didi (Mahasweta Devi) were all pretty special. All in their eighties or so.? I can?t be entirely to blame though.? When a woman says, ?I?ve been waiting for you all day. I?ll wait all night. You must come.? How can one say no? Especially if it?s a woman you haven?t even met. And Fatima Meer was some woman.
It was a long route from Mexico City. I had stopovers in Frankfurt, London and Dubai, but it was Johannesburg I was headed for. There had been an initial panic when Professor Yunus?s assistant Lamiya told me that the meet and greet with Nelson Mandela had been scheduled for the 8th.? There was no way I could make it over from Mexico by then, but my good luck held out. Madiba rescheduled for the 10th! Arriving on the 9th evening, I headed off to Kensington to the home of Wilson and Rayhana. Wilson had been at Pathshala for two years, and they had kindly offered to put me up.
The Lamborghini, two Porches, a Ferrari, a Bentley and a Rolls that I saw parked next to each other in Mandela Square, spoke of the huge inequalities that still had to be dealt with in South Africa. Watching “Jerusalem – The Promised Land” on the flight in, reminded me of the post apartheid expectations that needed to be matched by ground realities. The British had lured in Indians with the Dick Whittington story of streets paved with gold. Now the youth in Hillbrow wanted to see the gold, and they wanted it now. As Mandela had said upon release, the long walk to freedom had only begun. Lucky? Kunene wanted short cuts.
This was no ordinary assignment, and I knew there was not going to be a second chance. Checking out with Lamiya what the drill was for the 10th, I charged my batteries, cleaned my lenses, emptied my memory cards and double checked all my equipment. There was too much at stake. Access to Madiba was always going to be difficult. Robin Comley, the picture editor of the Times had only obtained permission for her photographer to be part of the pool. The foundation would vet the low res images, and select which ones would be released. The pictures were to go out in the foundation?s name. There was no chance of an exclusive session. I was privileged and very much the exception.
Yunus bhai had put in a strong recommendation for me. The fact that I had written about Dr. Yunus and had historical pictures of Grameen, had helped. My photograph filled the front page, and my article was the key feature of the foundation?s brochure for the 7th annual lecture. So while I was theoretically only allowed limited access to Madiba’s room in the Mandela Foundation, I ended up being the first one to go in and the last one to leave. To be face to face with the legend was stupendous in itself, but he looked frail, and I found myself asking why we were making this wonderful man put up with this parade. Madiba and his wife Graca were waiting inside. Yunus Bhai, Lamiya, Kamal Bhai and I made up the Bangladesh delegation. Three others from the international film crew, who were not allowed to film, also came in. The official photographer and cameraperson made another two, and of course the officials of the foundation joined.

Yunus meets Nelson MandelaNobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank meets Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, former president of South Africa and leader of the ANC, Nelson Mandela at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg. 10th July 2009. South Africa.?? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Shaking hands, posing for pictures, repeated shakes for the camera, one sided conversations continued. I had photographed royalty and heads of state before. This was typical of a ‘meet and greet’, but? though I felt uncomfortable, I also wanted to be selfish. I wanted to talk to him, to soak up his presence, even an urge to be photographed with him. But as a photographer I needed to snap out of my reverie. Yunus meeting Mandela was of huge significance to Bangladesh. A few functional shots, of the two meeting, shaking hands, a short video clip. I had ticked off my check list. Now I wanted the picture I had come for. Madiba as I had pictured him. The statesman, the leader, the rebel, the visionary.
There was only one part of the room where the light was just right. Yunus Bhai was in front of me. I could hardly move him out of the way, and there was no question of shifting Madiba. So I prefocused on Madiba, and waited for a gap to emerge. One frame, another, he slowly turned, looked at me and smiled!

Nelson Rolihlahla "Madiba" Mandela a former President of South Africa, the first to be elected in a fully representative democratic election, who held office from 1994?99. Before his presidency, Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, and the leader of the African National Congress's armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe.Nelson Rolihlahla “Madiba” Mandela a former President of South Africa, the first to be elected in a fully representative democratic election, who held office from 1994?99. Before his presidency, Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, and the leader of the African National Congress’s armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

We had made contact the way a photographer makes with a subject. We were doing this together. I remembered Sasa talking of how Madiba, in an official ceremony, had shortened his speech, so that he and the other photographers soaking in the rain, could go on home. More importantly I remember Zapiro talking of how Madiba had called him after his critical cartoon of the ‘slipping halo’. He was worried that he had offended the most powerful man in the country. Instead, the president had praised him for his work. As for the criticism? “But that’s your job”, he had replied. I had been pleasantly surprised to see the ‘offending’ cartoon, displayed in both the Mandela Foundation and at the exhibition in the Apartheid Museum. My mind was wandering, but the minders were waiting to usher me out. I took one longing look at my hero, and left.

slipping-halo-by-zapiroSt Rolihlahla. Cartoon of Nelson Mandela ? Jonathan Shapiro AKA Zapiro

The City Hall in Johannesburg was packed with glitterati. The vice president of South Africa, Professor Yunus, Achmat Dangor, the CEO and Professor Jakes Gerwel, the chairman of the foundation, were all on stage. I was uncomfortable sitting in the front row, knowing Winnie Mandela, the rest of the Mandela family, Oliver Tambo?s daughter, Graca Machel?s daughter, members of the cabinet, the Bangladeshi High Commissioner were all behind us.
I didn?t stay in my seat long. I needed to search out the best angles, find the right light. But this was one situation where I could not be disrespectful. Sello Hatang, the information and communication officer nodded to me, letting me know when Madiba was about to enter. Officially I was not allowed this space, but I could read the signals. They trusted me and were going to turn a blind eye. I would be allowed to go where I wanted.

Nelson Mandela with wife Gra?a MachelNobel Peace Laureate and Former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela with his wife Gra?a Machel at the stage during the 7th Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture by Professor Muhammad Yunus. Johannesburg. South Africa. 11th July 2009. ?? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

The crowd rose like a wave, as he entered, helped along by Graca Machel, but walking with just the help of a stick. He looked less frail, made more eye contact, had small conversations. The crowd was there to see him. The great man responded.
The haunting voice of Zolani Mkiva set the scene. Professor Yunus, ad-libbed his hour long lecture. The audience was spellbound. Gill Marcus, the deputy governor of the reserve bank, wept. It was a different Bangladesh that South Africa was seeing. As the crowd mingled at the end of the talk, I went looking for Sello. I had promised my students at Pathshala that I would ask for a message from Madiba for their first book. I knew it was too much of an ask. Winnie walking past, squeezed my arm and gave me a tiny pinch. She had enjoyed my capers as I had wandered down the aisles looking for the best angles.
winnie-at-7th-national-nelson-mandela-lecture-6433

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela attending the 7th Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture at City Hall Johannesburg. 11th July 2009 South Africa ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

I had meant to take the morning flight to Durban to see Fatima Meer. Vinay Lal from UCLA and his friend Goolam Vahed, had given me the contact details. I had even rung to let her know that I would be coming over. The day had gone on captioning pictures, uploading files, informing clients. I had rung Maarten at World Press Photo, checking up on phone numbers for photo editor friends. “What was it like with Madiba?” he had asked. “The pictures came out well” I had said, “but it would have been sufficient for me, even if I hadn’t taken any pictures. Just being around him would have been enough.” “I thought so too” Maarten had said. “I know you as an activist”. I reluctantly rang the freedom fighter Fatima Meer to tell her I wouldn’t be able to make it. It was too late to call on her. The woman who had spent time in prison with Winnie, and along with her husband Ismail, had been one of the closest friends of Madiba, had other ideas. Quickly searching the Internet for the cheapest flight, and taking along the minimum equipment, I got into Wilson?s car. There was no time to charge batteries or empty cards. but it would be OK, I thought. After all, I’d only have a few minutes with her.
It took a while to find 148 Burnwood Road in Durban. As I went up the stairs to see this woman wrapped up in her easy chair I thought of the fiery activist, whom the apartheid government had tried to assassinate. I remembered the irony of Nelson Mandela, Fatima Meer and all other members of the ANC, having been listed as “terrorists” in the US, even until last July. The apartheid government, which had openly conducted so many targeted assassinations, had never been on that list.
?Have you eaten?? was her first question. I remembered I had entered an Asian home. A stroke had left her left side paralysed. “Lucky it was the left side,” she said. “I can still work.” She then got busy arranging for a place for me to sleep. The corner room was ready, towels, soap, fresh blankets, had all been put in place. I was happy I didn?t have to find a hotel that late at night. I was hesitant to ask if I could record what we were saying. I needn?t have worried. Gandhi, slavery, Mandela, the movement, her mind was a repository of South African history. When I heard that Mandela had stayed in this house upon leaving Robben Island, I had asked which room he had stayed in. Sensing my reasons, she said, Desmond Tutu, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, had all slept in the middle room. Calling over her night nurse, she quickly instructed. ?Fix that room for him. He is going to sleep there.? I was going to sleep on the bed that Mandela used to sleep in!
The bed in Fatima Meer's house where Mandela, Tutu, Sisulu and Tambo would take shelter in.
The bed in Fatima Meer’s house at 148 Burnwood Road, Durban, where Mandela, Tutu, Sisulu and Tambo would take shelter in. 15th July 2009. South Africa.?? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
She talked of the Koran that Dada Abdullah had given Gandhi when he sent him over to South Africa. Of the Sura from the Koran which he had read when thrown off the train. Of how it had inspired him to resist. She talked of the house being surrounded by fire, and they being shot at. About how her husband Ismail, even while in jail during the treason trial, had helped her in carrying on the resistance. Thinking she might be tiring, I suggested we have a break. ?Let?s get on with the recording? she said. We talked of the ‘bronze giant’ Mandela chatting her up and teasing her. But also of wanting the couple’s opinion about Winnie, before the new relationship had formed. She had loved the ‘black pimpernel’ in the 1960s. She loved him still.
She talked of establishing the Women?s League for Durban Districts, and rebuilding alliances between Africans and Indians following the race riots of 1949. She spoke bitterly of how the riots had been instigated by the whites, in retaliation for the Gandhi inspired resistance by the Indian community. But she had questions too about Gandhi, and Madiba, and the present government. Gandhi had been too British initially for her liking. Madiba’s handing over power to Mbeke, was a misjudgment. “He failed to build the second tier of leadership.” She spoke of the tyranny of the ANC, the party she had helped to build.
I soon ran out of memory cards. I did have my computer with me, so was able to download the movies to make space. Then I ran out of batteries. I had woefully miscalculated the vitality of this eighty-plus woman. I still needed portraits, so I would have to leave it till the morning, hoping the batteries recovered sufficiently for me to take a few shots. Fatima was more than willing. It was 3 in the morning. My flight was at 8:40. I woke up just before sunrise, and quickly packed. There was barely enough light to photograph the room and the bed. I needed to conserve battery for the portraits. Fatima knocked on my door. As I went over to her side and asked her if I could take the photographs,? she simply said ?Let me do my hair first?. The hair was done, the photographer was called. She had put on her sunglasses. I was happy to photograph her with her glasses, but also wanted pictures of the way I remembered her. The animated face recounting those wonderful tales. ?Will you smile for me?? I had asked. ?Well I haven?t put on my dentures,? she said, but smiled anyway. This woman had certainly won my heart.

Fatema Meer at her residence in Durban.ANC activist Fatema Meer at her residence in Durban. South Africa. 14th July 2009.?? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

There had been a call for each citizen of the world to provide 67 minutes to commemorate the 67 years of service that Mandela had given to South Africa and the world. ?This recording will be our 67 minutes. This story needed to be told,? were Fatima?s parting words.
As her trusted taxi driver, Babu dropped me to the airport, I remembered Fatima talking of how prison had robbed the nation of the best years of their greatest leader. I remembered Madiba, delicate and frail. This giant of a man would be leaving us at a time when we needed him the most. He had fought against white domination, and he had fought against black domination. He had a dream of a democratic and free society. A dream he had been prepared to die for.? It is for those of us who live on, to realise that dream. I now knew why Fatima had wanted the story to be told.
Happy Birthday Madiba. You built the road to freedom. We need the courage to walk it.
18th July 2009
Dhaka.