As those of you who were reading Tenured Radical last fall know, our household (minus the travel-averse Portuguese Water Dog) spent several months living and working in South Africa. Therefore, although work will not be entirely suspended today chez Radical, tasks will be chosen with an eye to their compatibility with World Cup football. I am also wearing my orange National Sea Rescue tee shirt for luck. I haven’t gone mad, however: good wishes aside, Bafana Bafana (which roughly translates from the Zulu as “The Little Guy”) has small hope of beating Mexico today.
In other news, can we please not take this opportunity, in which South Africa gets to show off just a little bit, to caricature South African sexuality? Yes, along with intense poverty, sexual violence is a terrible problem in South Africa, as is AIDS. But frequent assertions in some of our best American newspapers that, because Jacob Zuma has been married five times and currently has three wives, polygamy is legal in South Africa are ill-informed. Polygamy has no legal or civil standing in South Africa. It is a Zulu tradition that powerful men keep more than one wife, and Jacob Zuma is a very well-to-do Zulu who can afford to have as many wives as he likes. Not only does it cost money to maintain each wife and her children in her own household, but one also pays a steep bride price, or lobola, to the woman’s family before a marriage can take place. Zuma has been roundly criticized for his polygamous practices and illegitimate children — five out of twenty have been born outside these marriages — by Christian churchmen (South Africa is 80% Christian), his political opponents, and more cosmopolitan South Africans. But one suspects that Zuma’s public embrace of Zulu identity is part of his popularity: polygamy is a shrinking practice, but not unusual in the areas of the country where the ANC is strongest. Illegitimate births are not particularly stigmatized either, particularly when the father acknowledges and takes financial responsibility for the child, but also because it is not unusual for parents not to wed until they can do so respectably — in other words, when the husband can pay lobola and set up his own household.
You might also want to start following three South African bloggers, two of whom are currently in my sidebar. Afrodissident targets reactionaries, demagogues and corrupt public figures of all kinds, particularly those (like Julius Malema, head of the ANC Youth League) who pose as radicals. Khayelitsha Struggles is written by activists from inside the vast township on the Cape Flats that stretches from the Capetown airport down to False Bay; the most recent post announces a “township” of tin shacks that will be built outside the multi-million dollar Greenpoint stadium to protest dollars that were diverted from housing for, and extending utilities to, the poor. Constitutionally Speaking examines political and social issues in South Africa from the perspective of constitutional law. Although today he admits being temporarily uncritical due to being caught up in the excitement, go here for blogger Pierre de Vos’s “World Cup Guide To South Africa.”