JOHANNESBURG – The Middle East is the melting pot of religions and the Bible attributes man’s origin to the region. However, the area is also where some of the fiercest religion-triggered frontier wars and sectarian civil wars have raged since time immemorial.
Yet the Middle East is now emerging from a camel-and-dates economy to a financial and real estate hub on the back of oil and petrodollars. It is a playground for the rich.
Conscious of the end of oil, the Emirates have envisioned themselves as a diversified tech-savvy nation, a true emissary of the fourth industrial revolution, and this is where oil currency is continuously invested.
I have criss-crossed the region during my tenure as South Africa’s statistician-general and witnessed swathes of male-selective migration trends.
Two weeks ago, I was on a mission to Beirut in Lebanon. It was the end of the Hajj pilgrimage, so there was a major traffic spike. The composition of the travellers on airlines was quite different. It was of families with infants.
These were young wealthy couples of the Middle East, so to say. They were accompanied by African women of up to three a couple. These minders are living a life of middle class and mostly fly business or first class, because they have to be with the babies all the time. This trend of domestic service raises a few pointers for deliberate policy to be explored.
First, I wonder, as a statistician-general, what advice I would give to African women who provide care as an increasingly professionalised skill of expats in the advent of robotics, ageing and child-minding.
Second, what will African governments do in the light of the demand for this innate but hitherto considered lowly profession? Is it not part of the fourth industrial revolution?
Third, in light of an exclusively racially-based train of black females serving light-skinned families, what is the culpability of the good book – the Bible, its authors and those who acted upon the message of the curse to Canaan, the son of Ham, and interpreted by Christians, Muslims and Jews for prejudice of why blacks are black and have to remain servants to others.
As I stood there I could not help but think that what I am witnessing is a stereotype pushed generation after generation, one who should draw water and hew wood for the masters to complement the domestic care activities of my sisters.
Fourth, when we think about colonial adventurism, the deep scars of racism in South Africa, global racism, the unending wars over the notion of a biblical chosen nation, the economic consequences of production and reproduction of poverty, inequity, violence and the threat to world peace that these spawn.
Fifth, and as a corollary, the land issue can thus not be interpreted like US President Donald Trump’s tweet on land in South Africa would wish. It is about remedial action to all wounded. In South Africa, it is between blacks and whites. It should further be remedy to the Khoisan and the rest, the ex-colonies of Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland relative to South Africa.
In the Israel-Palestine context and conflict, it pre-dates the 1945 UN resettlement plan. In Australasia it is about the maiming of the Aborigines and Maori by the marauding colonialists. In the context of the Red Indians of the US and Canada, it is about seeking these justices for those persecuted and deprived for generations. It is about granting equal rights and remedy to the Pygmies in the equatorial forests of Africa, to the peoples of the Amazon in Brazil. It is about leaving no one behind and addressing social, economic, religious, historical and political justice. In good measure it is diving into a theatre and melting pot of historical religious theatrics. The Middle East offers rich historical space and evidence.
Dr Pali Lehohla is the former statistician-general of South Africa and former head of Statistics South Africa.
The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
- BUSINESS REPORT