Presentation on theme: "MODULE A: Conflicting Perspectives. You do not need to “know” every little detail of these texts – it is not a “content” based study! You SELECTIVELY."— Presentation transcript:
MODULE A: Conflicting Perspectives
You do not need to “know” every little detail of these texts – it is not a “content” based study! You SELECTIVELY INCLUDE the parts and the chapters which help YOU answer the question.
Apartheid – former official policy in South Africa (racial segregation involving political and economic and legal discrimination against people who are not Whites) ANC – African National Congress - political party which was banned in South Africa because of its opposition to apartheid Afrikaner – (white people of South Africa whose ancestors were Dutch and who speaks Afrikaans) Amnesty International – Independent, international organisation which supports human rights, especially prisoners of conscience Bantustan – a section of South Africa known as a “homeland” set aside for black people.
Appearance and reality South Africa Vs International community Dependence and independence Law and justice Fear and courage “blacks” and “whites” State and subjects Authority and individuals Quick think: What other conflicts exist here?
Robertson selects to include the voice of Mr. Tshishonga to ridicule him personally He is a symbol of the falsehood of Venda He is a comic caricature Robertson uses him to further his main point that Venda was not really independent, but was being used as an outpost by South Africa where they could get away with things. It’s a guise! As is Mr Tshishonga. Corruption!
That states/governments/authorities can abuse their power over people That individuals given too much power can use their positions to do bad things to others That individuals should have full access to basic human rights That South Africa was using Venda as a place to imprison and torture ANC people
Robertson visits the area in 1984 Robertson is working for Amnesty International Robertson’s purpose: observe the pastors’ attempts to sue the police who had killed a lay preacher Secondly, so that the prosecution and judges in South Africa have the sensation that they “were being watched” – so they cannot be a “rule unto themselves”
“The most courageous man I ever met…” (Superlative) We immediately see him as heroic, brave, strong “He was not a political activist but a poet” Connotations of poets include artistic, sensitive, articulate… “His crime was minor…” “I was privileged to observe this man’s thought processes as he became a prisoner of conscience, probably at the cost of his life…”
Venda was a bantustan in northern South Africa Now part of Limpopo province. Founded as a homeland by the Apartheid Regime for the people, who spoke the Venda language. Declared self-governing on 1 February Declared independent by the South African government on 13 September 1979 and its residents lost their South African citizenship. In common with other bantusans its independence was not recognized by the international community. Being nominally (by name, rather than in actuality)independent it was possible to set up a casino which was done in the early 1980s, staffed in the main by British workers. At independence in 1973, the population of Venda stood at people. (From Wikipedia)
“…a country of which I had never heard until Amnesty International asked me to go there, and which no longer exists – if indeed it ever really did” We doubt the veracity of this place and its people immediately! “Unlike an elephant, you would not know Venda when you saw it.” Tongue-in-cheek – tone!
“In 1979, when Venda had declared independence – or rather, had ‘independence’ declared for it by South Africa as a ‘native homeland’. This was nonsense, since South Africa supplied its public funds and did not permit any political initiative without its approval.” A. What is the effect of using inverted commas here? B. Why does he use a dash to clarify that independence was declared for Venda rather than by Venda? C. What is he suggesting about the Republic of Venda? D. Venda’s laws were South African laws, its sole judge an Afrikaner…
“No country in the world other than South Africa recognised its ‘independence’, a fiction which allowed Pretoria to pretend that the murders committed in Vendan police custody and the electric shocks administered to those suspected of supporting the ANC were none of the South Africa’s business.” What is Robertson’s opinion, here?
“The comic opera side of Venda was immediately apparent …” “…signs which proudly pointed to ‘Foreign Embassies’ on ‘Embassy Row’, because the only Embassy in town was not foreign: it was the South African Embassy.” “The state airline, Venda-Air, was a car-hire service” “The largest government department was Foreign Affairs, which lacked any foreign recognition…”
“There was one luxury hotel; where Afrikaner farmers enjoyed vices illegal in South Africa” What is the implication of this inclusion? These Afrikaner farmers “came to gamble at the casino, watch hardcore pornography…and then have inter-racial sex with black prostitutes (on ‘independence’ in 1979, the Immorality Act was the only piece of apartheid legislation not applied to Venda) What is the implication of the fact included in the brackets, here?
There was a parliament, but the building was locked and my enquiries met with the elliptical response “Parliament is not in session because it is an election year”. What does elliptical mean? What is the effect of the inclusion of this illogical/ironic response?
“one of the smart new breed of Vendan civil servants who were put forward to answer questions about the torture of prisoners” Tone? “I am secretary of the committee which is looking into this matter. I cannot tell you what we are doing about it because our proceedings are confidential” How does this irony help to shape your response to Mr Tshishonga?
“One of the detainees died of typhoid contracted in prison?” “Yes, that was very unfortunate. But how on earth were we to know the old man was sick? He did not complain.” He was “half glad to see me” – in an “unrecognised country, my visit counted as some confirmation of his existence, if only as an apologist for torture and neglect and murder” How does the inclusion of two conjunctions “and” here make meaning? How does “apologist” help to position Mr Tshishonga?
“He was vexed about Amnesty, however: “We get all these letters from your members. They say the people we convict are innocent. How on earth do they know?” Robertson contradicts Mr T’s point immediately: “Amnesty letters never say this: they are carefully worded to complain only of breaches in minimum standards of justice or prison treatment”
Mr T, to prove his point, says “If you like, I will show you the file” and “clapped his hands to summon his secretary”, saying “Bring me the file for Amnesty International”. Excited now, he emptied all the letters onto the desk. “There, see for yourself!” “Not one of them had been opened. I pointed out to Mr T that his minister did not seem to read his mail. Mr T’s “mouth fell open” and he said “The minister has been on holidays. Since…since…” he scrambled for some postmarks, “since last year. He is still on holidays…” What is the effect of the inclusion of this episode with the unread letters? How do we perceive Mr Tshashinga and his ‘government’?
The letters, may never be read, but, “they at least brings home to the servants of brutal, isolated states, that somewhere, someone is watching them” South Africa had been made a “pariah state” because of its policy of apartheid. “South African judges and politicians and Attorneys General always received Amnesty observers with a nervous politeness, and usually allowed us into their courts and prisons” and “wanted us to like them and approve of them.
Robertson represented Amnesty International “Amnesty’s measured reports did more in the long term to persuade apartheid’s defenders that the system was indefensible”
Responsible for aqcuitting the policeman who killed the lay pracher The Times, London – criticised him for this. He claims he, like his father, has been “libelled” by them. He says: “They attacked my father twenty four years ago, when he was South African Ambassador to britian and had to explain why our actions in Sharpeville were necessary” (In 1960, South African police had massacred sixty nine peaceful protesters there) Because he comes from a similar common law background to Robertson, Van Rhyne speaks frankly to him. “I am so upset about this because I admire you English lawyers. I once had the great privilege of meeting your Lord Denning. You English lawyers know that rules must be followed.” Lord Denning tended to make up the rules as he went along. ‘Like my father, I to am an ambassador for South Africa.’ No he wasn’t. He was a judge. How does Robertson’s subjective narration, undermine Van Ryhn and position us to see him as an inaccurate bumbling idiot?
“I am sacrificing some years of my life to help these unfortunate people, before I go back to the South African Supreme Court.” But we were in South Africa, really. These perspectives are in direct conflict with each other. Robertson tells us, with irony “He alone would decide whether to compensate the black Lutheran pastors” Highlights the unjust/unfair nature of the law in a Republic like Venda.
Lawyer for black pastors (who were seeking compensation) Robertson tells us his “was an impossible task” Robertson was “anxious to meet him” “His specialty was driving coaches and horses through apartheid legislation. (In Pretoria, the draftsmen talked about making their laws ‘Mahomed-proof’)” He was the “first black to become a senior counsel after a career in which he suffered every petty humiliation, se he was undaunted at the prospect appearing before Van Rhyn.
“were brutally treated in detention (the medical evidence was overwhelming)” but “were gentle churchmen with no wish for revenge: their leader gave talks entitled “Why I forgive my torturers” The lawyer offered the state a deal – admission of police guilt and $10,000 per plaintiff – Robertson thought that, because it was important to expose police brutality through trials, that they had made the wrong decision to make this deal. Robertson, however, understood their decision after witnessing their “distended bellies of the famine victims” They are the heroes who have not only been tortured but are starving and will take a cash deal to feed their poor and starving people.
“was offered a bargain as well” He had been charged with “harbouring ANC guerrillas” He gave porridge when the “boys from the bush” turned up on his doorstep. Dobbed in by fellow-sympathiser who had dogged him to get a lower sentence himself. “It was hardly a serious offence…” Minimum term of prison had been set to five years…but – a new deal was on offer…” “Van Rhyn would make a show of being even more merciful, and sentence to eight months” “Any time in Venda’s typhoid-ridden prisons was dangerous…and the five year sentence was often a death sentence”
“This deal was immediately accepted by the first ‘harbourer’ brought to court” “Van Rhyn nodded in my direction as he began his sentencing homily. “The attitude of the State in this case has been fair, lenient and almost compassionate…you will find my sentence extremely lenient.” He was talking to Amnesty and to “The Times of London” as he said this – he had never given a sentence so low for a harbouring offence and would not do so again, I sadly suspected, when Amnesty was no longer watching him.” What is the implication of Robertson’s subjective inclusion here?
“He was forty-five, a man of the most extraordinary presence and dignity.” He had produced from the sole of his shoe “his prison diary” and had “written several books of verse” – he was “Venda’s only published poet” To plead and accept a deal that was less than five year sentence, he would have to acknowledge that he had committed “high treason with the intention to harm the sovereign state of Venda” To this Ratshinga said “There is no way, absolutely no way that I can bring myself to acknowledge the existence of the State of Venda” There was no moving him. His lawyer tried and…so did I. What kind of man is Ratshinga, according to Robertson?
But this man, for all the pain and privations of five further years of imprisonment, could not acknowledge the existence of Venda as an independent constitutional entity.” “He was right, of course, as a matter of principal: the State of Venda was a sick joke perpetrated by south Africa as a cover for apartheid. But would it really matter to anyone if he accepted that he had impaired its non-existent sovereignty? It mattered to Robert Ratshitanga. “He unswervingly declined to receive mercy at the hands of a country in which he did not believe. He was truly, thereafter, a prisoner of his own conscience.” Robert Ratshinga was found guilty, as he undoubtedly was, and jailed for five years as a terrorist, which he undoubtedly was not. He was “the epitome of courage” “A man who refused to save himself either by lying to the court or by copping a fraudulent plea…”
Robertson believes that the State/government can use their power for “bad” Is he, in some ways, the “typical’ anti-authoritarian Australian? He includes a situation where Ndenzile Thembani was shot by police and how the police seemed to be covering something up. “He claimed that 800 youths had been stoning his caspir, but he could not explain the absence of stones on the road.” He lists a series of rhetorical questions which seem to prove that the officer was suspicious if not guilty of Thembani’s death. “Why had he not helped the wounded?” He was not going to say any more. “It was another example of the random shootings of the time, as police and army aimed to kill or cause serious injury, without any credible claim to be acting in self-defence…”
Concession: “Judges in South Africa were not all like Van Rhyn and Human – many…maintained a fidelity to the law unfazed by the pressure of apartheid politics” “The scale of human-rights abuse later revealed by Bishop Tutu’s “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” shows how much the state had hidden. South Africa was putting on a show with trials and appeals which suggested that justice, if not in robust health, was still breathing. At a submerged level, enemies who did matter were simply executed without trial or even arrest…”
Ian Gray – Australian missionary “an idealistic youth from Toowoomba” “An innocent abroad” Arrested by government officials after distributing Bibles from his combi-van Inside were message he was carrying to the leader of Renamo, a rebel force in combat with Marxist govt. Accused of spying. Punishment – death, unless persuaded otherwise Renamo “group of thugs and desperadoes originally recruited and trained by Rhodesia’s white army to destabilise a hostile neighbour.
I respected the sincerity of Ian’s beliefs. (First name basis!) but doubted the facts on which they were based. Ian’s fate would be decided in secret by a court which frequently handed down death sentences, and it had never allowed legal representation Robertson is his lawyer Aim: to convince Revolutionary Missionary Tribunal to spare Ian Gray’s life
“Punishment left to history or to God does not deter the brazen or the Godless, and most State killers are both.”
Control over Malawi Couldn’t handle criticism – ordered that four of his members of Parliament be killed The police chief…carried out these orders…they were arrested, and “bashed their brains out” Bodies put in a car and pushed off a cliff Cabinet Secretary announced they had met with a road accident
“There was no inquest, as the law required, because Hastings Banda was the law” Their bodies were delivered to their families in dirty blankets, not only dead, but dishonoured. There names were never mentioned in official records again; they became ‘non-persons’”
1992, Robertson meets Dr. Banda Had been running Malawi for 28 years “personally enshrined in its Constitution as President for Life” Robertson is critical of his “familiar, colonial story” and how the British systems were used to support it. “briefly imprisoned by the British, released to become the leader upon independence, quickly dispensing with democracy and then proceeding to use British law…to suppress all dissent, helped by British lawyers” Dictator? Tyrant?
“The army he kept weak…television was banned and developments in the outside world were filtered through the nation’s only radio station and newspaper which he owned… Regular celebrations of himself…were held…” Includes his voice, to help caricature him: “I am Nkhoswe (powerful man) and…I like Mbumba (women)!... They love me and I love them…Wherever I go…the women sing and dance for me!” Robertson compares his remarks to “Me Tarzan, You Jane” – making him seem primitive, inarticulate and chauvinistic.
“waved his ornate ebony fly whisk” Robertson uses statistics to show that Banda’s leadership had done nothing for the country: “an infant mortality rate of 15.35%, an average life expcetancy of merely forty six years and a literacy rate of barely 25%. Twenty eight years of Dr Banda’s rule had brought few benefits” except for “his friends and relations” Robertson says “You would not have thought so, to hear him speak” and then includes minutes from his meeting with Dr. Banda…” (SEE OVER)
BANDA’s VOICE is selectively included: “Milawi is one of the most prosperous countries in Africa. It is a star performer. The IMF and World Bank are full of praise. This makes me very happy…There is no poverty, the villagers are prosperous – glob! Glob!glob! (The Life President indicates with his hand how the rain water was prone to drip down) – because in Milawi when it rains it pours! My people are happy. They dance for me and they sing for me. You are very welcome because you have brought a Mbubma with you” Robertson interjects with “This man had the power of life over nine million people” – simplicity of sentence = profound statement. Frightening! The irony, the contradiction (when compared with the statistics) is hilariously, (and scarily) audacious. CONFLICTING PERSPECTIVE Robertson caricatures this man skilfully – we are positioned to perceive this man as an ignorant, womanising, maniac who lies through his teeth or at best, is in complete denial about the country he leads.
“Banda’s Mikado laugh, a kind of hacking, chortling paroxysm which shook him whenever he mentioned the death of an opponent” What MEANING do we get from this?
By 1992, there were only ninety-seven lawyers for nine million people in Malawi – lowest ratio in all the world. “I remember most vividly the low voices in which church leaders and judges spoke when whispering…even the mildest criticisms of the way in which the country was run. Spies were everywhere and punishment was at the whim of the Life President.”
He includes secret requests to Banda which were found later. Banda’s orders were scrawled on the margins “Have this man arrested, tried, imprisoned and after whatever sentence he serves, he must be detained indefinitely.” Or, on another secret memo he wrote “Pick the man up right away and lock him away forever”. Robertson tells us the man’s “crime had only been to come to Dr Banda’s attention and be the son of a man the Life President did not like”
“By now the country was only surviving on international aid and the donor nations were becoming nervous about Malawi’s appalling human- rights record…” “In September…an opposition party was announced: our lawyer hosts allowed their names to be published amongst its founders, hoping that our presence would help them survive, as at least we would observe their disappearance” What is the implication of this statement?
The new government wanted to prosecute Banda for murder, which carried the death penalty. I advised them that hanging him was not the way to eradicate the memory of a regime which exterminated its opponents. So he was prosecuted for conspiracy to murder (which carried ten years’ imprisonment) – Robertson is anti-death penalty?
True, a man I believed guilty of a crime against humanity had avoided conviction. But the trial had been conducted openly, under rules which were fair to the defence, and the verdict had established what the defendant himself had deprived his people of for so many years: the precious possibility of innocence.