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Sawubona! (hello). Unjani (how are you?). In: isiZulu, language spoken in South Africa and parts of Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. The following entry is my first ever piece written in Zulu!!
Over the past 8 years Africa, international development, and health care have been the focus of my work and studies. Just last year (it's been a year already?) I completed an internship in South Africa at a center for children and youth affected by HIV/AIDS called VVOCF (Vumundzuku-bya Vana 'Our Children's Future').
Previous entry: a first glimpse: zonke
13 May 2008
South Africa is much the same and different as many African countries that I have visited. Same in the sense of the smell of burning oil and gasoline, shipping containers as buildings, the red dirt, the friendly people, passenger vans as taxis, crazy driving, dogs for security, chickens and goats roaming everywhere, and the seemingly common practice of taking things as they come. The differences and nuances come in the country's history - white minority oppressive rule. White people are not unheard of in this area of Africa and South Africa specifically - uncommon, but not unseen. You get a sense that you are always being watched, but in a different way than what may be experienced in other African countries without such a history. It is more of a, "why are you here" look instead of the, "oh! You are white." The history of white oppression and the current issue of white organizations taking away from the communities makes the dynamic similar in skepticism, but different in why.
I will now begin filling in the gaps from my summer travels. I was only able to post four times during my three months in southern Africa.
My travels began in South Africa's largest city, Johannesburg and took me to a community development project (which became an official non-profit organization (NPO) this summer) in an informal settlement known as Zonkizizwe. Shortened to Zonke, the settlement was started during the apartheid years as a place for people commuting to live closer to their mostly inadequate jobs as farm hands, domestic workers, miners, and other menial jobs. The settlement is surrounded by farmland from which it owes its birth. The former Afrikaner farmland now houses close between 150,000 - 200,000 people (estimates are not clear). There are now other Zonkizizwe areas known as extensions. Where I was is called Zonkizizwe Proper as opposed to the five other extensions just nearby.
[asset|aid=859|format=image|formatter=asset|title=cape-town-university.jpg|width=242|height=151|align=right|resizable=true]The student protests and revolutions that swept across the world in 1968 and 1969 still have a powerful effect on the people and institutions we live with and within today. In Cape Town, South Africa, it is no different. From Cape Argus [emphasis mine]:
The University of Cape Town is awash with nostalgia this week as it pays tribute to a student protest that shook the campus exactly 40 years ago, after a black academic was prevented from taking up a post there during apartheid.
Yesterday the headlines in South Africa's Times newspaper read, "Our children are dying." In South Africa 75,000 children die before they turn 5 each year. As one of 12 countries, South Africa has a rising child mortality rate. Of these 12 countries the top causes of a rise in child mortality is war and HIV/AIDS (and the UN Security Council disregarded HIV/AIDS as not important enough). The statistics come from a report released two days ago by the national health department, the Medical Research Council and the University of Pretoria.
Earlier this month I wrote about how South Africa's war into Mozambique has contributed to Mozambique checking in at one of the poorest countries in the world. It seems that the apartheid past is still too close at hand to allow Mozambique ample space to regain its footing.
A week of riots and clashes sparked in the capital as the government attempted to raise fuel prices by 50%. Mozambique is often unheard of in international news, but a week of violent riots in Maputo leaving 100 injured and four dead were enough to bring the world's poorest country to the headlines. The fuel price jump was proposed as a response to the 14% rise in diesel fuel costs. Food prices have also experienced an increase due to the rise in fuel costs. The reason that riots erupted was not only because of rising fuel costs, but mainly because of the low wages that people in Mozambique make. The more interesting question may be why is Mozambique so poor and why would the government seek a 50% increase in price to meet the demand?
An interesting topic that I came to by way of my African Studies professor. In a meeting of the Michigan Action Network on Africa (MANA), he was listing off a number of woes for Africa and among that list was a quick comment about many South Africans working in the controversial security firm Blackwater USA. I could hardly believe it. Could the US security firms really be recruiting from South Africa? I then caught an article in glancing and noticed that foreign diplomats believed that the best security personnel were the South Africans. I had to look into it further. While I could not find the article again I have found a few others that were just as helpful in my knowledge search.