This Sunday the talented and beautiful Ziphozakhe Zokufa will represent South Africa in the Miss Universe contest to be held in Miami. Now, I don’t follow any body beautiful or fashion contests. I get my kicks from the politics of economics. My delight, when I heard, was in seeing zero derogatory comments on the news report. In 1993 Jacqui Mofokeng took the Miss SA title and hell, there were some choice phrases there.
Back then I didn’t need Jacqui, or anyone else, to tell me that the black women of Southern Africa were beautiful. As a young man I’d worked in the rural areas of Rhodesia. I’d seen ladies that the average whitey sitting in his apartheid given house with his doors and windows closed, driving to his sponsored job and pricey whites-only entertainment, just didn’t. For him Jacqui taking the bouquet must have been sudden, and horrifying.
‘I’d die for a figure like hers,’ Tannie Margie would have been thinking.
‘I’d give that a ride on the old tractor,’ Oom Henk would have been musing.
‘Black bitch,’ both would be muttering.
But not all whites are average. At the close of WWII heavyweights Malan, Strijdom, Verwoerd and Co were horrified to see the level of ‘mixing’ and promptly pulled white and black apartheid. In Rhodesia the party in charge, the Rhodesian Front, had a major headache. 1965’s UDI was about the need to retain government in responsible hands only to find a good number of responsible white penises in the hands and glands of women distinctly dark. Desire filled white men trolling the unlit dead-end streets of Bulawayo for a fling were such a problem we had Special Branch agents on the job.
Throughout our Rhodesian Bush-war I was to hear of lone wolf white security force men making ‘love’ to black women. These were big-city men. They had advanced politically to the point where they had realised that all they’d been fed as growing boys with dang sore balls was tripe. Except for a massive education gap the ladies were, can we agree on, quite acceptable? ‘Make sure you give her a good scrub with a yard broom first,’ was the classic line, the one that got the boys hooting and slapping the bar counter as another round gurgled down. All joking, of course.
My biggest eye opener was the sincere liaisons I saw between a few South African police sent up to us on border duty. In the court of a Headman of the Wankie Tribal Lands they volunteered to pay maintenance for the cappuccino coloured kiddies that would be arriving, once they’d made the trek home to Joburg. There was sorrow on both sides at parting.
The girls the lads were humping hadn’t the painted finger-nail’s worth of sophistication or education of Jacqui or Ziphozakhe but something must have worked. Something must have changed in the minds of the men for them to find the lasses of the country-side beautiful. At the simplest level of understanding they must have thrown out their conditioning that blacks were a sub-species of the human race.
But those were the young black women. What about the older?
During my growing days of the 60s and 70s I knew very few obese older white women. Instead I remember the rush of lust the moms of most of my friends (not just their sisters) caused in my tummy, swirling down to my 15 year old groin. Yet, as a 20 something District Assistant in the Department of Internal Affairs running tax and fee collections, meetings and discussion groups in the tribal areas, invariably the black moms attending would be enormous, they’d struggle to rise to their feet. My memory is that any black woman over, say, 25, was getting very heavy.
Why? Is it that white genetics and black genetics are different? Is it that black culture (whatever that means) glorifies a big fat tum and bum as a sign of wealth and prosperity, or are both of those ideas as BS as South Africa’s Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act of 1949?
Malnutrition is a disease we Europeans brought to Southern Africa. When Rhodes’ band of fortune hunters parked their horses and wagons in Bulawayo and a little later on the plateau we came to call Mashonaland, ladies of Jacqui’s stature were the norm, not the exception. And not by figure alone; they were educated in the ways of their civilisation. The men too were finely muscled and fit beyond white Olympic standards of the time. But this ageless beauty, as attractive then as it is today, was not to last. Soon the various tribe’s social and economic networks were destroyed. They were summarily dispatched to what we Rhodesians euphemistically called Tribal Trust Lands (TTLs), but which in practice were surplus labour holding camps, places for those not employed for cheap in the towns (at about R25 per day today).
Labour ships I’ve come to call them, thinking of the slave galleys in which Christian governments and businesses hauled blacks across the ocean to the Americas. We Rhodesians avoided that expense; we simply shooed them into the rigidly determined areas, registered them and explained that that registration mark meant they could reside only there, in that district, the one designated on their paper pass, in the lands we’d allowed our appointed Chief to keep for the moment.
Across the border South Africa followed suit. They examined our system and updated it by bringing an additional 5.3 million (approx.) into Capitalism’s ‘Homelands’. And they added a whole bunch of Indian Indians. This was the beginning of the body change. As we (both the Rhodesian Rhodies and the South African Slopies) explained:
‘By order of the Great Kings of England who are of the gods of white heaven, no longer are you blacks allowed to gather good forest game, fruits and veg and practice paddock grazing management. You will have to settle in one spot forever and ever. What you had is now … read here, oh, you cannot … hmm … tough. Anyway, what was yours is ours now and in the name of productivity, in particular the reduction of costs, you are responsible for feeding yourself.’
But being the liberals we were and because we said ‘feed thyself’, we introduced and gave basic instruction on the growing of the new wonder cereal brought from America; maize. Exactly as we of the 1st world have worriedly debated the likelihood of our food taking the shape of pills (red for breakfast, yellow midday and a bright purple for dinner) we said to our requiring-evolution but instead detained blacks of the 1920s and 30s:
‘If you’re smart, if you realise that maize should become your staple, you’ll live longer, be stronger for work and have nice shiny white teeth. After all, corn is (one of) the world's healthiest foods containing health-supportive antioxidants and a remarkably good source of fiber.’
In years to come the experts were to write, and people were to say, ‘maize was their traditional food’. Wrong, mate, wrong. It was imposed by the Capitalist whites. Traditional foods were close to what is nowadays referred to as a paleolithic diet, the aforementioned forest foragers’ fare. But what were they to do? Us whities had the latest colonist’s tool; the Maxim machine gun times plenty and he only a shield, his wife only a decorative thong.
They learnt well and given their circumstances they did well. They ate their fill of maize meal for breakfast, lunch and supper. In fact the 2.2 million Shona folk banished (fortunately) to the very suitable and temperate lands of central and northern Rhodesia (technically Southern Rhodesia at that time) did so well that the handful of white farmers on their pick-of-the-lands had to demand from the government protection, subsidy and all the mod-cons that enable agricultural Capitalism to work.
But in the most-times-dry-as-a-bone south and west, the 44,000 Matabele farmers had extended periods where drought and regulation had them at starvations door. There no black farmer was allowed to plant anything until his lands were declared erosion protected. There no black got a land before he had from the authorities a registration saying he was entitled to be in the district. Then he started with petitioning the Chief, the Headman and finally the Kraalhead for a plot. Certs obtained he went back to the authorities to request an allocation. That done he applied for a map of the erosion-protection works he’d need to dig. Phew.
In all the years I worked in the TTLs, out of the million or so I helped ‘administrate’ I met only two men whose names I would have forwarded to the Rhodesian Rugga Union as having potential as players. Most were scrawny imitations of their fathers and grandfathers. Why were they skeletons when their women were lard? A feature of my service time in some of our Rhodesian towns was the 100s of men who, attempting to be pro-active, flooded our government offices or sat patiently, morosely and without hope at informal worker-collection-points. The men did a lot of work looking for work and while they were away from the hut in the bush they had no, no, no food. Although we whites all had a maid they represented but a drop in the ocean. Most black women were sentenced to a life revolving around the hut, the inevitable children and local forays to find fuel and fetch water – not a high cardio way of life at all. And they ballooned.
Of the myriad of environmental factors which influence the development of babies in the womb and during infancy nutrition has to be the most important single feature. ‘A proper balance of nutrients in this formative period is critical for normal brain development … and shortages of essential nutrients are often irreversible’.
In all my years the best I saw was the medium size three-legged pot full of thick stodgy sudza (maize), beside it a much smaller pot with a few wisps of wild spinach and sometimes beside it, a similar sized pot with a gravy bubbling, made from boiled and boiled again bones.
As a young administrator on stations far from civilisation I’d get totally wasted with the other bachelors and, grabbing the nearest government vehicle we’d go night hunting springhares in the fenced off government reserve . The hares were classified vermin because they bred so prolifically and because they damaged agricultural land so quickly. We’d hold them in the bright lights and roar after them with cricket bats. Even though they offered only thin, stringy meat and were always blanketed with fat blue ticks we never had trouble getting rid of our night’s kill, straight to the local Africans employed by and getting a wage from government. They were in district terms of the wealthier. The hare here and there who ventured into the TTLs didn’t last more than a night. Meat to supplement their maize meal simply wasn’t there.
In those Trust Lands the rickets-thin children stood awkwardly outside their measly huts overlooking the Zambezi, shoulders thrust unnaturally back to balance their equally unnatural, swollen tummies. They were so passive us young white soldiers remarked on how stupid they seemed, so content to stand and stare whereas the blue-eyed and long haired children we’d left behind would be squirming out of Mommy’s hands (or Maid’s) in a quest to explore and investigate, ‘no’ never being an acceptable answer. Those kids were not 400, 40 or even four years behind in brain connectivity. Their mental signal strength had been engineered and guaranteed to be the weakest possible.
As they grew our white man assumptions were validated through the crappy schooling we allowed them, so much so that they didn’t develop the knowledge skills to appreciate they were being poisoned in the first place while being processed for a life of servitude. And, like alcohol, an unlimited diet of maize builds, one rough portion upon the other, until the once beautiful black women of Southern Africa and their men had to adopt the European myth, ‘fat is it’.
Today, 40 years on, downtown Harare is any man’s health plaza as the magic medicine of pretty women perform; strutting, sauntering, striding and standing about chatting. Sure their clothes are a year or two out of date but as I said I’m not into fashion, I find the expense degrading. Besides, all a real man looks for in a woman is brains and a great smile attached to a great body with legs all the way to the bottom of her bum. While it is true more black-folk live an acceptable life under Mugabe than they did under Smith, and while the ladies shopping in Harare plus Jacqui, Ziphozakhe and a few hundred thousand others who’ve been able to break out and into the economic classes that can afford a proper diet are looking their beautiful best, for millions of others the position hasn’t changed. It’s worse.
The latest estimate is near to 60% of the black women of Southern Africa are in the obese category. This means to me that nearly every African family that has been left behind, excluded from the much vaunted independence-of-Africa economy, still exists in the imposed life-style of the colonial era. This has to change, but how?
The solution to better nourishment for the poor is simple; better food.
In mid-2013 Rainbow Chicken wrote that there was a severe oversupply in the industry, but that ‘oversupply’ does not seem to be getting to the people who need it most. Oxfam has long said that there is more than enough food to feed everyone – it is a question of distribution.
One of South Africa’s nutritionally worst faring provinces is Limpopo, yet there Granor Passi processes 220 000 tons of fruit. South Africa also has two international majors in the dairy/yoghurt scene, add the too-many chickens and we’ve a balanced diet – surely?
But even as more than 50% of all South Africans live below the bread line the country exported food to the value of US$6.8-billion in 2010. That 80% of what South Africa produces is farmed by only 20% of its farmers suggests a giant commercial profit-first exercise. And recent data indicates that demand for South African agricultural products is not only holding steady, but growing.’
Now there is something wrong there, mate. Is the Dutch or Japanese palate more important than the tummies of our needy?
Of course there is the argument that if producers start selling (discounted it would have to be) to the poor, how would they meet their dividend promises? And if they don’t meet them, bang goes investment for larger export opportunities to pay even more out to shareholders all of whom (who count) live outside of the country.
Okay, so let’s leave the giant corporations and industries. If mass produced food cannot be distributed effectively, what then?
What is needed is an immediate implosion of investment into our own country and our own people via, say, community involved public works programmes, community kitchens, all the way down to intensive and extensive community gardens just to kick off an ‘eat healthy’ campaign. Research shows that small community based gardens can do a massive amount to supplement the nourishment of a community, to foster a heightened sense of community and ownership, a greater connection to the earth and a greater connection to each other which, in the right circumstances, can have far-reaching effects. Something as simple as effective landscaping can lower crime rates. Crime is a product of despair, hope is the antidote.
Why can’t public money be found to create enough of these initiatives? Why are effective charity and social upliftment schemes largely in the hands of private NGOs rather than government? Why is charity the responsibility of private citizens?
A country whose leadership views maximum profit as its central flaming ideal cannot show effective care for its needy people.
Today in South Africa and Zimbabwe billions are being lost to waste, fraud and bribes. Much of the countries’ senior cabinet are known offenders and seemingly with the support of the party. There is a massive slide in public trust toward Zuma and the ANC in general – from 257 points to just 37. One survey showed that 35% see Zuma as corrupt. Given that only roughly 37% of South Africans voted for him it puts him in a league above Robert Mugabe. And no, it’s not a new development.
The resolution of the nutritional problem can only happen when men of stature decide that they have the balls to be transparent and those who are privileged to share. If this happened, if someone like Ramaphosa, Zuma, Maharaj, Sexwale discovered their zips, real change could happen.
What would be the effect of Zuma declaring that Nkandla was a mistake, that he is responsible, and that he will pay back the money?
What would be the result of Mugabe doing something as simple as curtailing a Grace Mugabe shopping spree or land grab (the latest orchestrated, apparently, from Singapore while shopping), and instead transparently proclaiming that the money that would have been spent is instead to be invested in feeding and training schemes?
How would it be if corruption and self-enrichment were effectively policed, the perpetrators convicted and a culture of personal responsibility entrenched at the top?
Everything would change. Effective social works would no longer be the private reserve, it would be the natural inclination of government. Inevitably, the psyche of the entire country would turn around.
But government, as it is, is not there to protect its people, it is there to protect the system in place. The system demands that the bulk of the population live close to poverty conditions so that they can be exploited for cheap labour as well as bulk consumption, a reincarnation of that same old ‘homelands’ concept. The Capitalist model requires constant growth, and therefore must have a pool of consumers ready to consume, ready to prostitute themselves to earn money and the deeper in debt they go, the better.
Ultimately, the solution to the nutrition problem among the poor is good leadership, not the lack of accountability and outright cronyism South Africans and Zimbabweans are faced with today. Until the legacy of the past is changed, until we as a collective include all rather than simply the lucky few like beautiful Ziphozakhe whose parents escaped, Apartheid with just a small change of form will continue to perpetuate itself.
Jacqui’s victory in 1993 crowned more than a beauty contest, but we still haven’t been able to move from acknowledging blacks as beautiful to deciding how to change South Africa into a sharing nation so all can be beautiful in mind and body. Zuma doesn’t appear to be interested. It’s fair to say we’ve swapped Capitalism of the white fascism format for Capitalism of the black in white fascism form.
PS. I acknowledge I haven’t mentioned sugar. Briefly, sugar (along with tea, bread and Coca-Cola) was introduced in the 1960s and it has added a horrific dimension to destroying not only the lives of our poorer citizens but all economic classes as well. Australia’s obesity figures mirror our own upper-lower and lower middle classes and the position is serious. Obesity rates in Australia are climbing faster than anywhere else in the world. The difference, however, is that the obese of Australia have the money to opt to change their lives. Others don’t.