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mysehnsucht, this is basically an answer to your last post, but I was hesitant to clog up your comments page with my rambling stream of consciousness!!

A co-worker gave me some perspective last week. In the time since I left school, I partied, travelled the world, got an education (somehow), got a job and got married. I made lot of mistakes, not all of which I regret. In the early 90's, his family was forced off their farm in Zimbabwe and they fled to UK with nothing. They literally had the clothes on their backs and a handful of photographs and trinkets that they were able to put in their pockets. I can't imagine anything worse than losing your history like that and I think that I was brought up to believe that because of the holocaust. The past 15 years involved my colleague never taking a wrong step, because to do so would have jeopardised the livelihood of his entire family. No parties, little education and a focus on survival.

It's hard to explain why I link this to mysehnsucht's post but I'm actually agreeing with what she said. You miss the South Africa you grew up in and that is the most profound statement because my colleague can long for Zim if he wants but he knows he's basically longing for Rhodesia.

The thing is - he is so completely like us - he looks and sounds like a South African cricket player. All of that happened to someone just like you and I.


South African's are so desperately telling themselves that what happened in Zim won't happen in SA. Even if they say it and fear it, they can't quite imagine the people coming over the horizon to kick them out of their gated suburbs.

But what we're really doing is longing for, believing in and defending a country that simply doesn't exist anymore.

Development in Zimbabwe and Mozambique once compared to South Africa. Now, Mozambique is often listed as the poorest country in the world and they have ethnic cleansing and rape camps in Zimbabwe.
Rwanda was very, very similar to South Africa in 1994. Beautiful cities with modern architecture surrounded by slums and then rural areas. And then in 3 months genocide took 800,000 lives. The fastest genocide in history. (Or if I may completely misquote the US, "it's possible that some acts of genocide might have occurred".

Except that what happened in Rwanda and what's happening in Zimbabwe (and Mozambique) was ignored by the world. No one cared. Planet Earth just loves to ignore this kind of stuff and then get all self-righteous and hold war crimes trials.

A history of engendered hate and the oppression of one class of people by another in order to promote the luxury of the elite few; a country desperately impoverished and looking to believe in any politician who promises a solution; a populist appeal to the masses, promises of retribution and incitations to mass action; a general atmosphere of lawlessness and a complete disregard for human life; a disenfranchised, uneducated and impoverished youth; a government rife with rumours of corruption and scandal; and finally, evidence of incredible wealth in the midst of hunger, homelessness, poverty and hopelessness. Those are factors that have been central to the wars, genocides and mass murders in Africa (and the Balkans and Germany for that matter). Those are factors that are currently very present and very real in South Africa at the moment. It's like a ticking bomb.

My standpoint is not to convince my friends to leave SA, not to convince people it's worse than anywhere else on Earth, not to be a hate- or fear-monger, not to be paranoid or closed-minded and generally not to be politically conservative, naive or vague.

My standpoint and purpose is to constantly remind myself (and my poor long-suffering friends' list) that it can happen to South Africa, to continue to read up on African history and to familiarise myself with the social, political and historical reasons behind war and genocide and finally, to continue to talk about my findings and research and to be of use both on a personal and social level if it ever does happen.

About Mandy Southgate

Mandy Southgate is an accountant living and working in London. She is passionate about world events such as genocide and apartheid and has a desire to understand how these events continue to occur in the modern world. With a focus on the 20th and 21st centuries, A Passion to Understand reflects her continuing research and reading on these topics.
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