December 29th, 2008

Chris Keeley

South Africa

AMY GOODMAN: Breyten Breytenbach is one of South Africa’s most famous poets. He’s also an award-winning writer and painter, well known as an anti-apartheid activist, outspoken advocate for justice around the world.


The exiled poet was born to an Afrikaner or white South African family in 1939. He moved to Paris in the early ’60s and became deeply involved with the anti-apartheid movement. In 1975, Breyten Breytenbach returned secretly to South Africa under a false passport. He was arrested, charged with terrorism and imprisoned for seven years. One of his most famous books, based on his experience in prison, is called The True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist.


Today, Breyten Breytenbach divides his time between New York University, where he teaches creative writing, and the Goree Institute in Senegal, West Africa.

I talked to Breyten Breytenbach earlier this month in New York and asked him to paint a picture of contemporary South Africa.


    BREYTEN BREYTENBACH: Well, I think one needs to preface, whatever one says about South Africa, one tends to forget that enormous advances have been made since early ’90s. You know, to bring down apartheid, the system of discriminatory laws, segregation, it was a huge task. We’ve come a long way since then, but not necessarily heading in the right direction entirely.


    The situation at the moment is that we are heading for national elections in very early in the new year. The majority party, which is the ANC, which at the moment has a two-thirds majority, will be appointing a new president. That is the constitution, South African constitution. The president is not elected by popular vote. We’ve just now had a split within the majority party, a breakaway group. They call themselves the Congress of the People. Their very name is being disputed in courts by the African National Congress, who says that Congress of the People is something so associated with the African National Congress party, nobody else should be able to use it. One doesn’t quite know yet whether there’s going to be a significant opposition, because really there is no opposition to the African National Congress.


    We had a major meeting, a conference of the ANC last year at Polokwane, at what point—that was when Jacob Zuma was selected as the new president of the ANC, and thereby he will become the new president of South Africa. That’s also when the decisions were made to destitute Thabo Mbeki from power.


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Chris Keeley

Sothern Africa 2

And, by the way, if I may just jump sideways, a more—even a more painful case, was going to become more so as we move on in history, would be Algeria, where there were real democratic forces emanating from the liberation movement, from the FLN at that time, that the West just turned their backs on, because these people were socialists. The [inaudible] defining line in Africa, unfortunately, for a long time, during a civil war and even after there was, was not whether you were being dictatorial or not, whether you were socialist or not, and the West would do anything possible to prevent a real indigenous socialist-inspired government to come to power, any case.

In the case of Somalia, then it deteriorated into internal civil war. Somalia is essentially—and that, under most circumstances, would be an interesting thing to look at—is made up of tribal allegiances and regional allegiances. And one could imagine that if one had some kind of a federal system, you would have a lot of local autonomy. In any event, there has not been a stable government ever since.

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Chris Keeley

Ray Close

How Not to Make Peace in the Middle East - The N Y Review of Books
To: undisclosed-recipients

In the process of reviewing three very important current books on the Israel-Palestine peace process, Robert Malley (International Crisis Group) and Hussein Agha (Oxford University), both primary experts on the subject, have given us a hard-hitting and in many respects shocking summary of the recent history of efforts to reach a negotiated settlement of that tragic problem, along with a concise and  highly insightful set of suggestions for future action.  The three books that they review are by Aaron David Miller, Daniel Kurtzer/Scott Lasensky (jointly), and Martin Indyk ---  all prominently involved in Mideast Paece negotiations for Bill Clinton and George W .Bush.

Rob Malley and his co-author are remarkably candid in describing the mistakes made in the past by U.S. policymakers (including the authors whose works they are reviewing), while they are also brutally frank in their analysis of the many mistakes made by both Israeli leaders and their Palestinian adversaries. Their concise and clearly-written article in the New York Review of Books is a very valuable addition to available analysis of this red-hot issue.


Click Here: Check out "How Not to Make Peace in the Middle East - The New York Review of Books"