How revolt in Egypt, Tunisia plays in South Africa
As the number of young people in South Africa increases and access to the Internet improves, so too will access to the kind of resistance we’re witnessing in Egypt and Tunisia, writes guest blogger Khadija Patel.
(Page 2 of 2)
In a televised address to the Tunisian people he said: “I hope your sanity returns and your wounds heal, because you had a big loss that will never return.”Skip to next paragraph
Latest leader to redefine term limits: Senegal's President Wade
US troops against the LRA? A war worth winning
Congo election aftermath: some possible scenarios to avert crisis
Africa Rising: Carbon credits save Sierra Leone's Gola Rainforest
Eastern Congo braces for election results
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Protesters have cited soaring food prices, coupled with a rising cost of living. But crippling levels of unemployment, rising food prices and poor education systems are hardly unique to the Middle East and North Africa.
The story of Bouazizi and his native Sidi Bouzid has reminded me increasingly of scenes in my own pocket of Johannesburg.
In Bird Street, Mayfair, a short walk outside the boom gates separating the enclave of larger, newer homes from the rest of the suburb, between the thriving Somali restaurant and the Pakistani tuck shop, is the Tanzanian fruit seller who echoes Bouazizi’s experiences.
I’m reminded of a winter’s day two years ago when from the comfort of my Toyota, I watched her attempt to pack her things in a sack, grab her son and attempt to flee the marauding troop of Metro police officers demanding a permit, tea money, or God-alone-knows-what from street vendors a corner away.
Later that day, I watched Metro officers unceremoniously dump her stock of fruit and vegetables on the back of a truck, her usual station at the corner, empty. I imagined her hiding in the Somali restaurant some meters away, watching her goods being confiscated and helpless to stop it, thwarted by the reality of eking out a living in the margins of formal society.
While we South Africans agonize over who exactly is awarded the right to be called “African”, we’ve neglected the shared experience that entrenches a sense of Africanness. It is a shared legacy of colonialism, a present set of imperfect circumstances and a driving will that ultimately is more definitive than a geographical location, or ethnic heritage. And yet thorough analysis and well thought-out opinion has been conspicuously absent in our coverage of both Tunisia and Egypt in South Africa.
Most newspapers, reporting on unrest in Egypt, carried the same generic wire report over the past weekend. We have indeed been too busy cringing at the national police commissioner, clawing ourselves out of potholes, and attempting to make sense of the billing chaos — in between observing a vigil at Nelson Mandela’s sick bed — to really look at fires burning beyond our border, but it’s not just the rest of the world that we’re losing track of, we are failing as well to give voice to that facet of the South African experience that strongly resonates with the Egyptians and Tunisians.
As young people in South Africa grow in number and access to the internet improves, so too will access to the kind of resistance we’re witnessing in Egypt and Tunisia. The grand South African narrative may well be re-written.