Apr 18





Daily Guide 18.04.2015

They have given them a pejorative name — “Makwerekwere”.


Just as the apartheid monsters used to call all Africans “Bantus” — not from a neutral, demographic starting point, but from a supremacist social stance, which in code, postulated that “Bantu” was synonymous primitive, backward, inferior: e.g. “Bantu Education Act”  (educating Africans [”Bantus”] in basic literacy so that they could  usefully service the South African economy, but not advance any further in intellectual development; at any rate, give them an education that was different from that given to  Whites!

And now, having learnt from the apartheid practitioners, Black South Africans have “raised” themselves above the “Bantu” level and created a new element in their society: the Makwerekwere.


These are blamed for almost everything that is going wrong inside South Africa.

Too many robberies? “Bo, I tell you it is the Makwerekwere!” As if there were no robberies in South Africa before Nelson Mandela became President in May 1994, and allegedly “opened the floodgates” to allow people from other African countries to go and live and work in South Africa. Ha — easy to forget that when the “Bantustans”  were striving to make something of the inferior  educational system bequeathed to them by the Whites, it was University graduates from other African countries who stepped in to provide quality education for Batustan inhabitants!


Too many unemployed people? “But what do you expect, Bo? Unregistered Makwerekwere migrants are taking all the jobs!” Again, easy to ignore the fact that the gold and diamond mines that give South Africa its wealth have depended, from time immemorial, on “migrant labour” from Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, Angola, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi.


Companies like the Anglo-American Corporation, working through the South African Chamber of Mines, played the “migrant laburers” against workers they could recruit locally from South Africa’s own  so-called “labour reserves”. Both sets of labourers were forced, through this “competition”, to accept lower wages, and terrible working conditions, exemplified by the single-sex hostel and/or compound system, that was the only accommodation available to  Black miners throughout the country.


By these obnoxious practices, South Africa’s White-owned mines became extremely wealthy, and paid huge sums of money to the Government by way of taxes. But  who are the Makwerekewere, now that South Africa has become  a free country, to seek to enjoy some of the fruits of this wealth that they helped to create, by continuing  to work or trade in the country?


Of course, the situation has changed and “migrant labourers” are not now forcibly repatriated  back home at the end of their short-term “contracts”.  But is killling or maiming them and burning their homes and properties the answer?


The complaints mount, however, against the Makwerekwere.  Rents are too high in the townships? “Ach, Bo! Why won’t they go up? The Makwerekwere are outbidding everyone by paying higher rents and advances.”


Too few shop spaces left for hire? “Yes – they come from as far as Nigeria and Somalia and before you can say “Yeebo!” they have got themselves a shop!”

Yes – the Makwerekwere have had it in South Africa. The origins of the  term itself is nebulous; some say it is how the South Africans hear other African languages that are spoken around them (from say Zimbabwe or Mozambique). But you get the idea: Makwerekwere are Africans who are strangers to South Africans.

The term is back in the news again (after it was widely used in the media in 2006 and 2008, when “xenophobia” in South African resulted in many non-South African blacks being brutally killed) because violent attacks against fellow Africans have begun again in South Africa. The current attacks started in Durban, in the Kwazulu-Natal Province: at the time of writing, five people – including a 14-year-old boy – had been killed and over 1,000 had been driven to seek refuge on a football field in Durban.

President Jacob Zuma has condemned the violence.  And the police have been  battling to bring the situation under control. And, to their credit, thousands of South Africans who do not agree with the way the attackers are ruining their country’s image, took to the streets in Durban, calling for an end to the attacks and condemning the “hooligans” who are baiting foreigners from other African countries..

The fuse to the current attacks was lit by King Goodwill Zwelithini of the Zulus in this speech he made at a ceremony on 24 March 2015:

QUOTE: “Most [South African] government leaders do not want to speak out on this matter because they are scared of losing votes. As the king of the Zulu nation, I cannot tolerate a situation where we are being led by leaders with no views whatsoever. We are requesting those who come from outside to please pack up and go back to their countries…”


The Zulu king must have very good speech-writers, for the speech also made a  snide attack on Africans who believe that they helped to liberate South Africa from the oppression of the apartheid practitioners and are therefore owed some gratitude, not brutal attacks. Said Zwelithini: “The fact that there were countries that played a role in the country’s struggle for liberation should not be used as an excuse to create a situation where foreigners are allowed to inconvenience locals. I know you [South Africans] were in their countries during the struggle for liberation. But the fact of the matter is you did not set up businesses in their countries,” Zwelithini said.


Is Zwelithini  aware that South African companies like Shoprite and MTN are currently making heavy inroads into the economies of other African countries? Does he know what “Anglogold Ashanti” signifies?

The Democratic Alliance, the main opposition party in South Africa, knows about these things and it has told Zwelithini that “given the recent spate of xenophobic attacks in South Africa, he [the King] should do the right thing — retract and apologise”. But the king is in no mood to do eother. Instead, he has blamed the media for “distorting”  what he said and meant!Oh yeah? What’s new? 

What King Zwelithini does not know is that his action will reignite the issue of the relevance of monarchy to present-day Southern African concerns, and by extension, the concerns of modern Africa in general. Zwelithini, along with King Mswati The Third of nearby Swaziland, spends a lot of tax-payers’ money marrying a multitude of wives and lavishing luxuries on them. More than 20 million South Africans live in areas that have kings or traditional leaders, who serve as a link to the ancestors of their subjects. “But” [notes one writer] “there is growing disenchantment” over their “taxpayer-funded lifestyles and abuses of power.”

Traffic stops in Nongoma, as South African Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini passes through his bustling capital in a Mercedes-Benz.The 66-year-old king is the most influential among South Africa’s 10 kings and one queen, each of whom receives an annual salary of about US$100,000. In addition, King Zwelithini gets about $10m from the KwaZulu-Natal government for the upkeep of his seven palaces, six wives and 28 children.

Not satisfied, Zwelithini attracted a lot of criticism from within South Africa when he paid several visits to the late Libyan ruler, Muammar Gaddhafi, who harboured a desire to be crowned “King of Kings” of Africa, and was known to spare “no expense” in trying to achieve that objective. Zwelithini was prevented, at the last minute, from signing “documents” proffered to him by Gaddhafi. This was on the insistence of the Kwazulu-Natal Provincial Administration, which, presumably,  did not want to have anything to do with the installation of  an African “King of Kings”.

King Mswati of neighbouring Swaziland, known by his detractors as “The Cock of Swaziland” has increased his budget to $61 million per year — a sizable  proportion of Swaziland’s annual budget. In 2012, much anger was expressed in Swaziland when it was learned that three of his 30 or so wives were to be part of a 66-strong royal retinue flying by chartered jet to the US gambling destination of Las Vegas Nevada!


The Swaziland Solidarity Network claimed that the royal party was expected to stay in 10 villas, each costing $2,000 a night. And the general secretary of the Swazi Public Service and Allied Workers Union described the expenditure as showing “the utter disdain that the royal family has for the people of Swaziland…, They can go on an expensive and indulgent trip like this when …there are people languishing in poverty, not knowing where their next meal is coming from. These people spend all this money on a shopping trip… this is is sheer arrogance and is more proof than ever that we need democracy in Swaziland to be able stop this abuse of public funds… We are living in a dictatorship… The king is an absolute monarch and his family is allowed to do as they please.”

But despite the unpopularity of the monarchs’ spending habits, their words are often translated into action by the more traditional-minded members of of the societies in which they rule. However, some observers of Southern African politics believe that the monarchs are only behaving like the French Kings did, on the eve of the French Revolution of 1789. They are, in fact, behaving in a fashion that brings to historians’ minds, the dictum of Stanley Baldwin, in that they have: “Power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.”

So, the King of the Zulus may live to regret inciting his people against the Makwerekwere. For after the people  have dealt with the “strangers” in their midst and tasted the fruits of misdirected popular anger, could  they not easily turn their anger upon those who deliberately waste tax-payers’ money? Tell that to Marie Antoinette!


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