Posts in Category Politics

by Heinrich Böhmke

No Promises Left

At the bottom of my street every Monday, on the nursery school drive, a phalanx of ragged beggars rummage through green wheelie bins outside a Tudor-style housing complex.  I slow down at the stop sign and press the requisite button on the car’s console.  Bent at the hips, African men rummage for calories and chucked-out crap to add to their swag before the garbage truck arrives.  The guy with the dark-glasses is a pro.  You see him everywhere, neat and bustling.  Most of the others come from the children’s park they’ve taken over.  It’s hand to mouth for them and whoonga in between.  Like a conjurer, a young man...
By Heinrich Bohmke | June 3, 2015 | Politics

From Red to Blue- Abahlali, Survival and Ideology

This article first appeared in Africa Report In May 2014, news broke that a radical shack dwellers’ movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo, had thrown their weight behind the centre-right Democratic Alliance in Kwa Zulu Natal. This was a shock to most in the South African left. The shock reverberated in all the places this remnant finds itself; that is to say, twitter, facebook, social science faculties and on listservs anticipating revolution. At face value it is shocking. Abahlali was the poster child of total autonomy in social movements, giving their voice to no one but themselves. Scholars of the movement told us that, at the movement’s core, not only as strategy...
By Heinrich Bohmke | May 6, 2014 | Politics

Canal and Control

This article first appeared in Africa Report   It’s 21 years to the day that the MK unit in which I dabbled assembled to discuss what to do about Chris Hani’s assassination. It was obvious that it was not a hit by the state. There was going to be groot kak raining down that did not suit the Nats. This left two options, rogue cops or the white right. The climate for Hani’s assassination was just right. With election talks stalled, the ANC needed a bad cop to whip up the spectre of insurrection again. Hani and Winnie were rumoured to have resuscitated some sort of military capacity across...
By Heinrich Bohmke | April 17, 2014 | Politics

The valleys of broken thongs

This piece appeared in Le Monde Diplomatique, March 2014 I’ve just returned from the Eastern Cape, from dirt roads that dwindle into two spur tracks and then just impressions in the grass, around clefts in mountains that open into sublime valleys, each with a few foregone sandstone farmhouses, with stoeps and overgrown gardens and subsiding kraals. Among the dilapidation, one can still see the farmstead and the footpaths of work that took place within it. And for me, I imagine I can still see the places where lovers pressed into each other, by the leaking dam with the cool moss, in that outbuilding whose thick, warped glass slants light...
By Heinrich Bohmke | February 28, 2014 | Politics

Marrying for the mob: What the DA can learn from Numsa

This article first appeared in the Africa Report. February 2014 Politically it was an audacious attempt by the Democratic Alliance to rebrand itself ahead of elections. In each poll since 1994, the DA has essentially stood for what is good for old suburbia. But this secure constituency is also a low ceiling. South Africa’s electorate is 80% Black. To grow, the DA needs more Blacks to vote for them. Many Blacks, however, are wary of white intention and largely still appreciative of the steep moral, social and cultural elevation brought by national liberation. I suppose one could call it BSC – Black self-consciousness. Even if the economic dividends are meager...
By Heinrich Bohmke | February 7, 2014 | Politics


Every two years or so this really nice training gig comes up. I grab two boxes of files and some branded pens, get on two planes and head to Kimberley in the Northern Cape. I’m hired to train a unit within the South African Police Service how to fire those within their ranks who contravene Regulation 20 (z) of their disciplinary code. Regulation 20 (z) is reserved for murderers, armed robbers, rapists, fraudsters and, mostly, extortionists. Owing to a useful quirk in our law of evidence, it is easier and faster to dismiss cops who commit criminal offences than it is to put them behind bars; the latter hardly...
By Heinrich Bohmke | January 13, 2014 | Politics

PW Botha was defeated, Thatcher lives on

16 April, 2013    (in Le Monde Diplomatique) Street parties thumped in Brixton and Edinburgh the night she died. Hundreds gathered.  Anarchists, Old Labour, miners, students. People carried signs, saying “Gotcha” and “Rot in Hell”. A riot was planned at Trafalgar Square during the funeral. There was a campaign to get Judy Garland’s song “Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead” to number one on the UK pop charts (It narrowly missed, placed at number two). I don’t get the joy in celebrating the death of the witch. The air of victory is puzzling.  Granted, I did not live with her overbitten monologues on telly as PM every night. Nor did...
By Heinrich Bohmke | May 13, 2013 | Politics

The Social Movement Hustle

Originally published in New Frank Talk 13, March 2013 On 8 January 2013, Harvard International Review published an article by Heinrich Böhmke, the Social Movement Hustle, on its online journal.  Within hours, John Comaroff, a Harvard Professor of Anthropology mailed the editor opposing the publication.  The article was removed within a day.  The correspondence below, between Böhmke, Comaroff, editors of the Review and even Harvard’s security department makes for a fascinating study in censorship and a lively expose of academic hypocrisy.   Download that edition of New Frank Talk 13 Correspondence between Prof John Comaroff and Heinrich Böhmke Correspondence between Harvard International Review and Heinrich Böhmke The Social Movement Hustle Introduction – Athi Mongezeleli Joja...
By Heinrich Bohmke | May 12, 2013 | Politics

Marikana: A lesson in late liberal democracy

Thirty-four miners were shot dead by police at a mine outside Rustenburg, South Africa last week. The 3000 rock-drill operators, from a Lonmin owned platinum company, had been gathered on a hill for four days, demanding a wage increase from recalcitrant owners. Heinrich Böhmke, 22 August 2012            (originally in Africa Report) The leaders belonged to Amcu, a militant breakaway from the Cosatu-aligned National Union of Mineworkers.  In the days before the massacre, ten people were killed in skirmishes, including two police officers and a NUM shopsteward.  Police gave a final ultimatum for the workers, carrying pangas and spears, to disperse.  They refused.  Television footage showed a...
By Heinrich Bohmke | May 11, 2013 | Politics

The girl with the Egyptian flag

As Egypt lurches towards democracy, South Africa lurches within it. A comparison between the two countries’ very different struggles. (in Africa Report) 09 February 2011 As a student of revolt I sat transfixed this week before television and computer screens, imbibing a riot of Egyptian coverage. In Cairo, Alexandria and Suez hundreds of thousands – first the youth, then older folk, Islamists and secularists, middle-class and poor people – poured onto the streets, into the face of beatings, bullets and tanks. They were there to reject resoundingly the rule of their dictatorial president, Hosni Mubarak. These were unprecedented scenes in a country governed with a granite fist for 30 years by...
By Heinrich Bohmke | May 10, 2013 | Politics

Branding of Social Movements

Heinrich Böhmke, April 2010 Introduction  For a few years, controversy has been bubbling beneath the surface among activists involved with social movements in South Africa about how these movements are represented in the academic and activist literature.  In short, questions are being raised whether the claims made about or on behalf of some of the movements are substantially accurate.  This controversy about knowledge production has been sharpened recently with the added critique that the movements’ politics, strategies and tactics have waned to a point where many of the best-known organisations are a spent force; more liberal NGO than radical movement.  When the historical propensity to exaggeratedly praise social movements faces...
By Heinrich Bohmke | May 10, 2013 | Politics

The shackdwellers and the intellectuals

Abahlali base Mjondolo and the missionaries from the academy. Heinrich Böhmke, 21 October 2010 Africa Report Don’t talk about us talking about the poor When the ANC came to power it was on a mandate to implement policies to bring about a “better life for all”. The social inequalities bequeathed by apartheid meant that the new government would have to take dramatic steps to uplift the masses of the Black poor from their desperate conditions. The ANC marked its arrival in the Union Buildings in Pretoria with the promise, on a mass scale, to build houses, provide water and electricity and to develop new infrastructure. However, for reasons that will keep...
By Heinrich Bohmke | May 9, 2013 | Politics

The Call For a Tribunal is Urgent and Correct

Published in Sunday Tribune, 22 August 2010 There is a class of citizen in our country whose occupation gives them enormous influence. They are capable of spreading unsolicited opinion and news that affects us profoundly. What they say can cause stock exchanges to fall, reputations to be destroyed and public fear and panic to be sown. Despite the incredible power they wield there are no formal qualifications needed to hold this job nor do practitioners have to pass any professional enquiry into their moral fitness. They are appointed by their bosses and are answerable largely only to them. Naturally, there is some oversight in the industry but it takes...
By Heinrich Bohmke | May 8, 2013 | Politics

The White Revolutionary As Missionary

Below is the text of ‘The WHITE REVOLUTIONARY AS MISSIONARY”. It was carried in New Frank Talk, critical essays on the Black condition, No 5, January 2010. A comment by Andile Mngxitama and poem by Aryan Kaganof follow after the main text. The White Revolutionary As Missionary Contemporary Travels and Researches in Caffraria I.  “Your Missionaries have dived into that mine from which we were told no valuable ore or precious stones could be extracted; and they have brought up the gem of an immortal spirit, flashing with the light of intellect, and glowing with the hue of Christian graces” So reads Reverend Richard Watson’s inscription opposite the frontispiece to Stephen Kay’s...
By Heinrich Bohmke | May 2, 2013 | Politics

Liquidation, A Stilfontein Story (2005)

A documentary about the devastating economic ripple effected by the closure of the DRD gold mine in the town of Stilfontein in South Africa. Abandoned by their employers and the government, the unions and local residents came together to avert a food crisis. Produced by Heinrich Böhmke of Xalanga Peak Productions. Co directed by Aoibheann O’Sullivan and Heinrich Böhmke. Music: “Skeleton Coast” courtesy of Nibs Van der Spuy, from the album “Lines of my Face” © 1999 Greenhouse Music “Hoekom” courtesy of Disselblom, from the album “Goud en Marog” © 2004 Geblikte Afrikaans. Additional Stills: Reint Dykema Links on youtube: Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eaA9DUvef0 Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruCS4j9CC1E Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HvwMFDejPxY...
By Heinrich Bohmke | February 23, 2013 | Media, Politics


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