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South African sci-fi

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There has been some excellent writing and drama from South Africa over the years, and much of it is serious stuff.

One thinks perhaps of Athol Fugard and J.M. Coetzee. Even the titles — Sizwe Bansi is Dead and Disgrace — convey a certain gravitas, at the very least.

So, a science fiction movie set in Johannesburg comes, to many outside South Africa at least, as something of a surprise.

For those who haven’t seen it, South African-born director Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 is the story of how a mysterious space craft appears over Johannesburg.

Was it right to grant refugee status to white South African?

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Canada’s decision to grant refugee status to white South African Brandon Huntley has drawn anger from the ruling African National Congress, which described it as racist, and has again stirred the race debate in South Africa 14 years after the end of apartheid.

Huntley had cited persecution by black South Africans as the reason why he could not return to the country of his birth. The chair of the Canadian panel that granted his request said he had shown evidence “of indifference and inability or unwillingness” of South Africa’s government to protect white South Africans from “persecution by African South Africans”.

How will South Africa reward Caster’s triumph???

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South Africa ’s  Caster Semenya returned home today following her 800m gold medal-win at the  World Athletics Championships in Berlin .

She was greeted by headlines from the country’s newspapers, expressing collective  national pride for her achievement.  “Welcome home, Caster, our champ. Caster, this nation is proud of you and we stand behind you, from Cape Town to Musina.”, screamed  the Johannesburg-based The Times Newspaper.

from Left field:

IAAF would do well to leave Semenya alone

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semenyaAll eyes were on Caster Semenya when the South African lined up for the start of her 800m final on Wednesday, but for all the wrong reasons.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) said on Wednesday, hours before Semenya was due to run, that the procedure for a gender test had started following her rapid performance improvement in the past year.

South African fury at sex test for track star

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Eighteen-year-old Mokgadi ‘Caster’ Semenya is being celebrated as a national hero in South Africa after winning the 800 metres at the World Athletics Championships, but the decision by international athletics officials to order a gender verification test has stirred deep anger – and brought accusations of prejudice against the country and the continent.

Many in South Africa feel a victory by their talented young athlete is being tarnished by bad losers and a world all too  ready to mock. Sensitivities to prejudice are never far from the surface in the country where apartheid white minority rule ended just 15 years ago.

Zuma’s time to deliver?

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Poor South Africans have called upon newly elected president Jacob Zuma to keep his election promises on service delivery. The past week has seen a number of protests flaring up across South Africa against what protesters called poor service delivery.

In one township in the country’s Mpumalanga province residents barricaded the entire township, burning tyres, throwing stones at policemen and calling for the head of the local mayor, whom they described as “good for nothing”. “There is no development. You can see for yourself,” one resident told journalists. He spoke of alleged neglect and apparent self enrichment from local government officials.

Is Obama Snubbing Kenya on Africa trip?

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President Barack Obama’s choice of Ghana for his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office has stirred debate in his father’s homeland Kenya.

Some Kenyans believe Obama ought to have come “home” first. Others, especially among critics of President Mwai Kibaki’s government, say he has deliberately shunned the country to show U.S. disapproval of rampant corruption and nepotism in political circles here.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Confederations Cup defies pessimists but is World Cup on course?

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So, the Confederations Cup is over and much of the pessimistic handringing beforehand proved unfounded.Despite some real logistical problems, the general verdict seems to be that the tournament was a success with enthusiastic and colourful crowds and some classy and unpredictable football, not least the United States' shock semi-final defeat of Spain and a thrilling final where Brazil went 2-0 down to the Americans before storming back to win 3-2 and ensure the football world was not thrown off its axis.Crucially, South Africa's own team, Bafana Bafana, did a lot better than many of their own fans had expected. The side suffered a lot of bad press from their terrible pre-competition form -- they did not even qualify for next year's African Nations Cup finals -- and Brazilian coach Joel Santana had been treated with scepticism by football writers and fans alike. Even Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the organising committee for next year's World Cup, expressed concern over their form. After a slow start, however, South Africa turned in a creditable, if not outstanding performance. They reached the semi-final and held eventual champions Brazil until the 88th minute when they went down to a scorching free kick by Daniel Alves. And in the third place final they pushed European champions Spain into extra time before finally losing 3-2, again to a freekick.They badly need more strike power and it looks like Santana must make peace with English-based striker Benni McCarthy who was dropped from the team for his apparent lack of commitment. But their performance gave grounds for some optimism.Bafana Bafana's Confederations Cup performance was key to the 2010 World Cup because it will encourage local fan participation -- a constant worry for the organisers, who expressed concern before this tournament about lack of home enthusiasm.Nevertheless, there are continuing worries that even the cheapest World Cup tickets are still too expensive for working class South Africans and that they will be unwilling to pay in advance for entrance in a year's time, something which goes directly against the entrenched local custom of buying tickets on match days.World Cup matches attended predominantly by foreign fans and restrained, middle class South Africans would be a huge disappointment for the first World Cup held in Africa, where the unique local atmosphere was a major selling point.That isn't the only worry in considering what the Confederations Cup tells us about the likely success of next year's much bigger global competition.FIFA boss Sepp Blatter gave organisers 7.5 points out of 10 for the Confederations Cup but World Cup veterans said this was nothing to be complacent about, given his likely tendency to talk up the tournament. Even Blatter said South Africa had to do "a little bit more" and FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke was more direct, acknowledging problems with transport, security and accommodation capacity, which is still significantly below what will be required next year.Security is a particularly sensitive issue, given South Africa's frightening reputation for violent crime, so it was unfortunate that the Confederations Cup saw alleged thefts from both Egyptian and Brazilian teams, although some of the circumstances remain mirky.More serious were security lapses in access to stadiums and other areas. Such failures must be cleared up in the time that remains if fans are to follow their teams without constantly looking over their shoulders.So the Confederations Cup provided both encouragement and warnings. Okay so far, but much more to be done. The next 12 months may be both nerve racking and frenetic for the organisers but we are all still hoping for a reasonably trouble-free football extravaganza with the special atmosphere that only Africa can give it--including those pesky vuvuzela trumpets...PHOTO: A South African fan at the June 28 Confederations Cup final REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Money will talk louder than any vuvuzela

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The debate around the vuvuzela was always going to generate big noise but for some South African commentators it has become almost a neo-colonial conflict.

The noisy trumpet, which dominates the sound waves around the stadiums during the Confederations Cup, has got a lot of people covering their ears.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Confederations Cup shapes up well…except for the weather

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For all their scepticism about South Africa’s potential to host the World Cup, the build-up to the test event, the Confederations Cup, has so far gone without any major hitches.

It is a dream scenario for the home nation and FIFA, still trying to temper the doubters and persuade the world all will be ready by 2010, has added to the chorus of congratulations.

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