Thursday, July 22, 2010

After the World Cup: that article

The LRB has now taken down the controversial piece by R.W. Johnson, after coming under considerable pressure. I have pasted it (and the comments) below so that you can read it for yourself. Its quite extraordinary that they thought it worthy of publication in the first place. Meanwhile, xenophobic attacks continue each day in SAfrica.

After the World Cup

R.W. Johnson 6 July 2010

Tags: south africa | world cup 2010

We are being besieged by baboons again. This happens quite often here on the Constantiaberg mountains (an extension of the Table Mountain range). Baboons are common in the Cape and they are a great deal larger than the vervet monkeys I was used to dealing with in KwaZulu-Natal. They jump onto roofs, overturn dustbins and generally make a nuisance of themselves; since their teeth are very dirty, their bite can be poisonous. They seem to have lots of baby baboons – it’s been a very mild winter and so spring is coming early – and they’re looking for food. The local dogs don’t like them but appear to have learned their lesson from the last baboon visit: then, a large rottweiler attacked the apes, who calmly tore it limb from limb.

Meanwhile in the squatter camps, there is rising tension as the threat mounts of murderous violence against foreign migrants once the World Cup finishes on 11 July. These migrants – Zimbabweans, Malawians, Congolese, Angolans, Somalis and others – are often refugees and they too are here essentially searching for food. The Somalis are the most enterprising and have set up successful little shops in the townships and squatter camps, but several dozen Somali shopkeepers have already been murdered, clearly at the instigation of local black shopkeepers who don’t appreciate the competition. The ANC is embarrassed by it all and has roundly declared that there will be no such violence. The truth is that no one knows. The place worst hit by violence in the last xenophobic riots here was De Doorns and the army moved into that settlement last week, clearly anticipating trouble. The tension is ominous and makes for a rather schizoid atmosphere as the Cup itself mounts towards its climax.

In the lull before the semi-finals there has been a great deal of speculation about the fact that none of the big names came off – Ronaldo, Rooney, Messi or Kaka. The press is looking for new stars – Miroslav Klose and David Villa are the names most mentioned – but the more obvious point would seem to be that soccer is a team game. The Germans quite openly say that the teams they are beating are more individually talented than they themselves are and that what’s important is to pick players who conform to the team plan, not virtuosos. Ladbrokes make Spain and Holland the joint favourites (2.87 to 1), ahead of Germany at 3-1, but the real point is that they have Uruguay at 12-1 – in effect they’ve decided the winner will be European – so Holland are more favoured than Germany because it’s assumed their path to the final is easier. When it comes to the Spain v. Germany match itself, the odds are evens. This seems to rely heavily on the fact that Spain beat Germany in the European Cup final, for it is difficult to say that Spain has played as well as Germany here so far.

Some local Afrikaners have rediscovered their Dutch roots sufficiently to support Holland but Cape Town is awash with visiting celebrities, ranging from Angela Merkel to Mick Jagger and Paris Hilton, and they make more of a splash. Merkel was so thrilled at her team’s performance against Argentina that she actually went into their changing room afterwards – a bold move for a woman. It’s not clear who Jagger is supporting now: the local press is full of jokes about how he can’t get no satisfaction. He isn’t the only one. The baboons are getting hungry and I’ve decided to encourage them to the extent of giving them bananas.

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Comments on “After the World Cup”

  1. A.J.P. Crown says:

6 July 2010 at 7:06 pm

You be careful of those baboons.

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  1. Camus123 says:

7 July 2010 at 7:39 am

Nature takes its course. Foxes moving into the towns, baboons in South Africa. I prefer the foxes, but wolves are returning to Eastern and Central Europe. During earlier World Cups, commentators liked to draw comparisons between the performance of a national Football team and the state of politics in the country. England 1966 – winning was just one more jewel in the crown. Germany in 1990 – success as a facet of the euphoria (if it can have one) generated by Unification. It breaks down in 2010 I think, because Germany has a terrible government, Holland is going right-wing and Spain’s economy is about to implode. Maybe winning will help one of them.
Books on Football? Cricket seems to produce the more literary volumes – anybody who hasn’t read ‘England, their England’ should read that chapter with the village cricket match as a little light relief from these blogs.

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7 July 2010 at 9:24 am

That’s true about cricket, there’s CLR James too.

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  1. Martin says:

7 July 2010 at 10:57 am

My sentiments exactly, RW. Whenever I see the baboons descending from the crags to raid my garden, my first thoughts are of those pesky Zimbabwean, Somali, Malawian and Angolan migrants come to scrounge for work in South Africa. Of course there is a subtle difference: when the violence erupts the rottweilers will be the ones doing all the dismembering.
Now, if only rottweilers liked bananas.

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    • Camus123 says:

7 July 2010 at 2:34 pm

Do I understand you correctly? “to scrounge for work” is a pejorative term to use for those migrants. The Somali migrants aren’t pesky, because they set up shop? Some explanation please!

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      • Martin says:

7 July 2010 at 10:21 pm

Um, I seem to have commented on an earlier draft of Mr Johnson’s post. Who’s doing the editing here? I’m calling foul. Unless I was hallucinating this morning, RWJ made a direct – and highly distasteful – comparison between marauding baboons and black migrants from other African countries. My earlier comment makes no sense now that the original post has been sanitised. Even the ‘rotweillers’ have become full-blooded ‘rottweilers’.
On another point, RW shows a shocking lack of knowledge about baboon-human interaction on the fringes of urban areas and a disregard of the many many warnings in this regard. As the signs say in the zoos: ‘Don’t feed the animals!’
The more I look at RW Johnson’s post the less sense it makes. What is the author’s point?

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        • Martin says:

7 July 2010 at 10:53 pm

A footnote: baboons are not apes. They are monkeys.

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  1. Imperialist says:

7 July 2010 at 11:56 am

Perhaps if the foreigners start a football team South Africans will be more sympathetic. Or throw them a parade at Melrose Arch.

Very disturbing.

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  1. Oliver Rivers says:

7 July 2010 at 2:57 pm

Who is being compared to what here? The baboons are itinerant (“the dogs appear to have learned their lesson from the last baboon visit”) so perhaps we’re supposed to think they’re more like the “Zimbabweans, Malawians, Congolese, Angolans, Somalis and others” than the “local black shopkeepers”. But that can’t be right, because the baboons are vicious killers, whereas it’s the Somalis who are getting murdered.

Or is Johnson suggesting that black on black violence is in some way the same as rotweilers being torn apart by monkeys? I doubt that, but his sloppy writing makes it extremely hard to see where, exactly, are the similarities to which our attention is being drawn.

Confusion reigns.

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    • Martin says:

7 July 2010 at 10:24 pm

Absolutely. And what exactly is he encouraging the baboons to do by enticing them with bananas? Doesn’t he like dogs?

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  1. Marmaduke Bradley says:

11 July 2010 at 4:59 pm

I wonder just how much more foolish and explicitly racist Johnson’s ramblings will have to become before you’ll stop publishing him.

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  1. Abraham Esau says:

12 July 2010 at 1:24 pm

So in a blog post about the real threat of xenophobic violence, Johnson by largely poor black South Africans against black African migrants from elsewhere (white migrants to South Africa don’t face this kind of hostility as they fall right into white privilege), brings up brings up baboons and bananas. We get it R.W. Baboons. Bananas.

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  1. Abraham Esau says:

12 July 2010 at 1:25 pm


So in a blog post about the real threat of xenophobic violence from largely poor black South Africans against black African migrants from elsewhere (white migrants to South Africa don’t face this kind of hostility as they fall right into white privilege), Johnson brings up baboons and bananas. We get it R.W. Clever. Baboons. Bananas. Blacks.


Anonymous,  12:56 pm  

I'm throughly confused by the article... i'm too stupid to get the comparisons i guess...

what was the point to be drawn from the article? immigrants will fight with the local traders, yes. somalians are doing well, yes. govt refusing to recognise the problem, yes.

dogs, baboons, apes, rottweilers, give them a banana, dogs won't attack anymore???? WHAT???

Jeremy explain pls...

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