There is a growing authoritarian impulse in South Africa, including among some student activists. Mark Wessells/Reuters
South Africa is sinking into a political, social and economic crisis. Running in parallel is a growing disillusionment about the post-apartheid project of transformation.
The death on June 25 2016 of Adam Small, the South African Black Consciousness activist, Afrikaans poet and revered academic, was not unexpected. In the twilight of his years, in his public interactions, he came across as alert but increasingly frail, often teary-eyed. In his last creative writings such as “Klawerjas” (2013) and “Maria, Moeder van God” (Mary, Mother of God, 2015) he often referenced impending death or retraced the vagaries of a life lived.
Protesters allied to South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) have been on a rampage following a fallout over the party’s choice of a mayoral candidate for the Tshwane metropole, which includes the administrative capital Pretoria. The Conversation Africa’s politics and society editor Thabo Leshilo put questions to political scientist Keith Gottschalk.
Is political violence part of the South African political landscape?
Yes. Both in terms of violent protests, as in Pretoria, as well as political assassinations.
Frank Mukhaswakule Primary at Mashau village in Vuwani, Limpopo, was burnt down by protesters. Worldwide, attacks against schools and hospitals take place four times a day. Picture: SOWETAN
IT SHOULD worry all politicians that in the run-up to the local government elections masses of people are taking to the streets to hurl rocks, burn tyres, and — in the most extreme cases so far — raze dozens of schools.
What exactly has gone wrong since 1994? What was done and not done, and who did or did not do it, that has left South Africa in the mess it is in in 2016?
More to the point: in what measure should we blame our failures and threatening instability on our history before 1994 and on the white minority, and how much blame should we place on bad governance, corruption and a lack of vision by the elected governments since 1994?
We are academics raised and educated in various parts of the world, and now living and working in South Africa. The predicaments of its higher education landscape and society mark our work and thought. In this article, we approach that story from our other locations: the rest of the African continent and India.
Last month, the Harvard Art Museums reopened, and with them another addition to Harvard’s museum landscape: the Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African and African American Art, which will host rotating exhibitions of American, European, and other black art traditions. World-renowned architects Italian-born Renzo Piano and Tanzanian-born David Adjaye designed the respective spaces. These events took me back to a difficult 20-plus years fight to bring African art into equal footing at Harvard.