Imraan Buccus. Photo: Independent Newspapers
Imraan Buccus. Photo: Independent Newspapers

September’s a significant month in history

By Imraan Buccus Time of article published Sep 14, 2014

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As we rightly remember the victims of the atrocity of 9/11 let us remember the millions of others for whom September has significance, writes Imraan Buccus.


Once again, on Thursday, people around the world remembered and paid tribute to the 3 000 men, women and children who lost their lives in the atrocious events of September 11, 2001.

No doubt, that event has changed the world forever.

Thirteen years on, we are still trying to understand how people could be driven to commit such atrocious deeds.

As we remember what the date means to those who lost loved ones in the US, perhaps it would also be appropriate to remember those, in other parts of the world, for whom that date has long held significance.

Here in South Africa, September is when we mourn the violent death of Steven Biko (on September 12) and his vision of a genuine non-racialism – a vision that seems as remote as ever.

And one can’t help but think what Biko would have thought of the rampant corruption and cronyism that’s destroying South Africa.

But we would also do well to turn our attention to a beautifully written and moving little book published in 2003.

It features contributions from the likes of Pablo Neruda, Arieal Dorfman and Salvador Allende.

It is called Chile: The other September 11.

It was on September 11, 1973, in Chile, when General Augusto Pinochet, in a CIA-backed coup, overthrew the democratically elected government of Allende.

Subsequently thousands of people were killed or “disappeared” and concentration camps and torture chambers became commonplace across the country.

The greatest poet of the age, Pablo Nerudu died in despair shortly after his home was ransacked and his books burnt by Pinochet’s soldiers.

Many have also chillingly pointed out how the musician, Victor Jara had his hands cut off in front of a crowd in the Santiago stadium.

Before they shot him, Pinochet’s soldiers threw his guitar at him and mockingly ordered him to play – too stark a reminder of how Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was mocked by guards before his brutal hanging in an era where only a few countries support the death penalty.

As brutal a dictator as Hussein was, with the blood of thousands of Iranian children on his hands, the manner in which he met his death will remain an indictment on society.

In the Middle East, September 11 has also been tragic.

Following the 1917 Balfour Declaration, the British government proclaimed a mandate in Palestine on September 11, 1922.

Two years after the declaration that promised a home for the Jewish people, the British foreign secretary said: “In Palestine we do not propose to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country.

“Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-old traditions, in present needs, in future hopes of far profounder import than the desires or prejudices of the 700 000 Arabs who now inhabit this ancient land.”

Setting the scene for Israel’s attitude towards Palestine, Winston Churchill later said: “I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time.

“I do not admit that right. I do not admit, for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Native Indians of America or the black people of Australia.

“I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly-wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.”

By 1948, 76 percent of Palestinian land was captured, the state of Israel came into being, and moments later the US recognised Israel.

Like we all know, Bantustans, curfews, lack of water, unemployment, poverty and hopelessness remain the order of the day in Palestine.

Sadly, for all, but inevitably, the bloodshed hasn’t stopped with more than 2 000 killed in Gaza recently, 500 of them children.

The world needs peace.

But peace comes from justice and not from more killing.

As we rightly remember the victims of the atrocity of September 11, 2001 let us all remember the millions of others for whom the month of September has significance.

The millions who fought for justice in their own countries and in the world but who had their dreams smashed by coups, assassinations or structural adjustment programmes.

And let us also remember the thousands of ordinary men and women who are standing up in the fight for justice in South Africa right now.


* Buccus is Research Fellow in the School of Social Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Academic Director of a university study abroad programme on political transformation.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

Sunday Independent

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