The South African government’s response to people’s desperation and hunger, exacerbated by Covid-19, has been eloquent and reassuring – but ultimately delivered little.
In this short, lockdown film, the voices of activists, researchers and organisations echo powerfully that it is people’s lives, and not a statistical line on a graph, that are at risk. But beyond the immediate Covid-19 hunger crisis, the system is broken. Try as we may, small-scale interventions by communities and individuals will not restore food security and sovereignty. Real change in access to land, knowledge and sustainable farming practices, along with establishing an equitable and just society, are the only ways to prevent the fabric of South Africa from tearing apart.
The film is one of a series of 10 film on the food crisi during Covid-19. The series is available as a free teaching resource through the Human Rights Media Trust.
BECOMING: Three Infants Observed was launch virtually with an international panel of psychoanalysists and psychotherapists in late January 2021. 1400 participants watched the film and nearly 800 joined the panel discussion. Since then the film, and the unedited material behind the documentary, have been used by mental health training institutions around the world.
Somewhere in South Africa, three families welcome three babies into their midst. Leago, Banele, and Sophia are 10 days old when we meet them, and we witness their crucial first year as their own eyes and senses focus on their immediate surroundings. As we watch the details of these intimate moments, space opens up in the film allowing us to wonder about how the interaction between each individual infant and the care they receive, the people who handle them, and the incidents they encounter, will forge their future relationships in the world.
BECOMING is a 1.5 hr documentary taking the viewer on an intense journey through the pleasures and pains, the ordinary and extraordinary, first year in our three infants' lives. It invites us to reflect on our own process of becoming.
‘Let us get our house in order and clean our land of lice...’ Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, tells his followers in 2015.
VOETSEK! US, BROTHERS? explores the shocking outbreaks and the reactions to the widespread xenophobic violence between 2008 and 2015. The film was made over a period of ten years and it features film footage of those directly involved in the conflicts. The testimonies of South African perpetrator Aggree Mathebula and three victims of the violence – Jonathan Zulu (Zimbabwe), Emile Kilozo (Burundi) and Alex Msambia* (DRC) – as well as the ambiguous public statements emanating from a two-faced government, help to create a nuanced, intimate and awkward insight into the causes and entanglements that triggered and sustained the xenophobic violence. The term ‘Voetsek’ can roughly be translated as ‘Fuck off’ and is usually reserved for use on animals.
With xenophobic attitudes being normalised across many European countries and the USA, now is a crucial time worldwide to be stirring up some introspection and conversation. Voetsak! Us, brothers? does exactly that. You will soon be able to rent the feature length film. What this space.
* Alex Msambia, and a friend from the DRC, were brutally murdered by a lynch-mob near Isipingo in December 2018. Although the perpetrators were known, no arrests have ever been made. Further, Xenophobic murders and intimidations have continued on a regular basis with no action from the South African government.
The Lawyers for Human Rights report: Blyvooruitzicht Mine Village: the human toll of state and corporate abdication of responsibility in South Africa (2017) states: "For over seven decades, South Africa’s Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mine (“the Mine”) operated as one of the world's largest and most profitable mining concern, yielding some one million hillograms of precious metals and other commodities over its life. The Blyvooruitzicht Mine Village grew up around this operation: a thriving, relatively integrated community of Mine employees, their families, schools, health clinics, churches, playgrounds and meeting spaces. As in many mining towns in South Africa, the Mine provided access to all basic services, including water, sanitation, rubbish collection, and security, despite that these are the legal responsibility of the state. In August 2013, however, the Mine abruptly initiated insolvency proceedings. Overnight, operations stopped, thousands lost their jobs, and environmental mitigation measures ceased entirely. Residents’ continued access to basic services and their homes was threatened, and an adequate standard of living for the area collapsed.
The Village of some 6 000 exists on the edge of the defunct Mine with residents battling health concerns resulting from exposure to unrehabilitated shaft and tailings dams. They fight for continued access to water and sanitation. They face continual uncertainty about their ability to remain in their homes.
Grinding poverty is rampant. Industry and government stakeholders acknowledge that the Village is in crisis, but residents’ ability to obtain relevant information and participate in directing their futures remains nearly impossible.
The catastrophe at Blyvooruitzicht is the result of a toxic cocktail involving private sector abdication of responsibility, an inadequate legislative framework and state enforcement effort, and an underestimation on the part of all role players in anticipating the scope and severity of the impacts of a sudden liquidation of a major mining operation. The surrounding community has borne the brunt of this systemic failure.
The plight of the Village residents may also be a harbinger of a much greater and more widespread crisis to come, as the country’s largest gold and platinum mining districts enter the twilight of their multi-decade lives. If the experience of these individuals is a template for the scores of other South African mining communities, the next decade will give rise to a crisis on a much wider scale. More broadly, the Blyvooruitzicht story is an important warning to mining-based economies across the continent" (LHR, 2017).
Since the completion of the Report and film, Blyvooruitzicht has been bought and some of the stripped assets replaced. Mining activities restarded in one of the shafts. However new problems face the mine and Village residents. For an update on the situation read Daily Maverick these articles from April 2021: Death and labour disputes tarnish Blyvooruitzicht gold mine’s shine, and Gauteng’s Blyvoor mine reboot hits a violent snag after union leader’s murder.
This film, Rhinos Under Threat was made in 2011 and has been viewed online over 107 000 times. At the time about 330 Rhinos were killed in South Africa in a year. That number increased to a grim peak in 2014 with 1215 rhinos killed. Figures for 2019 report 594 killings and a drop in 2020 to 394. 2020 numbers are likely a combination of the Covid-19 lockdown restricting movement of poaching syndicates, rangers and security personelle operating at their posts, and some more focused conservation technology and methods. However, the rhino population in the Kruger National Park has dropped by about 70% over the past 10 years - even with all the protection mechanisms implemented. Read Ed Stoddard's 2021 Daily Maverick article for more insight. And this Reuters piece on increasing post-Covid-19 lockdown poaching.