Nepad in Nairobi 2016 gives hope for African Renaissance 2.0

NEPAD together with Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) are hosting a continental get-together. With the backing of Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, and heads of the AU via the continents very own NEPAD agency, the African Union is finally  producing a “brilliant blue-print for African development in conjunction with Japan.

Since I am barely, what one could even consider a Japanophile, and thus only speak a smattering of Nihonji, and read absolutely no Kanji, lest I end up rewriting history, I  will instead post an official message below from Abe, addressing our “African Dream” ,  TICAD IV, (and thus NEPAD, and AU) to be held in Nairobi, later this month.

THE TICAD VI in Nairobi will have historical significance, as it will be the first-ever TICAD to be held on the African soil. TICAD, the most traditional forum with African countries, was launched after the end of the Cold War under the initiative of the government of Japan to promote development in Africa.

TICAD is a process in which Africa draws up a brilliant blueprint for its own development. The African Continent is the biggest frontier of the 21st Century. Having the highest economic growth rate among the major regions of the world, it needs the vitality of the private sector first and foremost to develop even further. Under the principle of “From Aid to Trade and from Debt to Investment,” the Japanese private and public sectors will support the development of Africa, led by Africans themselves.

Currently the “African Dream” is being crystallized in the form of Agenda 2063″. To realise this dream, Japan will contribute to two of the key pillars of the Agenda in particular, which will be addressed in depth at TICAD V1.

First, development of quality infrastructure is imperative. Infrastructure is essential for growth and therefore, it is necessary to have high quality and longevity of infrastructure. Japan will provide the African continent with quality infrastructure according to the needs of each country.

At the same time, Japan will work on establishing healthcare systems to protect people’s lives. Japan played a central role in incorporating the realisation of universal health coverage (UHC) into the SDGs, which was one of the main agenda items at the G7 Ise-Shima Summit in July this year. Japan will promote the realisation of UHC in Africa as well.

TICAD is an opportunity for Africa to present its own “African Dream” and work hand-in-hand with Japan to realise it. I sincerely look forward to meeting you in Nairobi on August 27 and 28 to discuss what Africa aims to become in 20 to 30 years from now.

Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan

Blasphemy making a comeback?

SOUTH AFRICA like most Western countries has a shameful history of blasphemy legislation associated with Judeo-Christian strictures on ‘invoking the lord’s name in vain’, prohibitions on satirising of the crucifixion and the retelling of biblical stories in any manner not condoned by the Church. Blasphemy laws came to an end when the country adopted a secular, “We the People”, constitution.

For at least two decades following the signing into law of the constitution by Nelson Mandela on 10 December 1996, South African institutions (bar one or two exceptions) have been reluctant to push anything resembling a theological point of view, and there are a number of key legal precedents in this regard.

The emergence of a powerful (and often violent), religious lobby group on the nation’s campuses has however, seen secularists and those accused of blasphemy on the backfoot. In a statement released to the press, over the weekend, the University of Cape Town’s Vice Chancellor, Max Price revoked an invitation issued by the Academic Freedom Committee to Flemming Rose last year. Rose apparently had been set to deliver the annual TB Davie lecture on Academic Freedom.

Rose is the cultural editor of the Danish magazine, Jyllands Posten. In 2005, he solicited and published a series of cartoons apparently “depicting the Prophet Mohammed”. The publication of the cartoons “generated extensive debate and controversy globally, regarding freedom of speech, blasphemy, and Islamophobia”, and was “also accompanied by public protests, riots and even loss of life. Most print media around the world refused to re-publish them.”

It is not the purpose of this piece to examine the Rose controversy, other than to state the case below, against blasphemy.

Previously under apartheid, a despotic regime banned sex across the colour line, placed stars on women’s nipples and forced anti-apartheid activists into hiding, theocrats were in power and religion was used to justify a war on the border. Clerics, theologians and especially the dominees of the Dutch Reformed Church (NGK), preached what was then known as the ‘heresy of apartheid’ involving racism of a special type, the battle of blood river and the ideology of separate but equal.

Thus in 1988 the Botha government, at the behest of the NGK, banned ‘The last temptation of Christ‘, a film directed by Martin Scorsese. The film is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Nikos Kazantzakis. The film depicts Jesus as a mere mortal as opposed to the divine rendition of him found in the Bible.

It is worth mentioning a similar incident in the United Kingdom, namely Whitehouse v Lemon, involving a poem by James Kirkup published by Gay News,  entitled: The Love that Dare’s to Speak its Name and for which the publishers received jail sentences.”The indictment described the offending publication as “a blasphemous libel concerning the Christian religion, namely an obscene poem and illustration vilifying Christ in his life and in his crucifixion”.

In 1989 the South African censorship authorities banned Kalahari Surfer’s album Bigger Than Jesus, due to concerns about the title and a song “Gutted With The Glory”‘s use of the Lord’s Prayer, which they deemed “abhorrent and hurtful”.

Later after the collapse of apartheid,  and under a democratic government, the music was unbanned and Scorsese film, along with all its homo-erotic and profane overtones, was permitted to be broadcast in 2008.

Likewise, in 1988 Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses was banned by an apartheid government, but later in 2002 under the government of Thabo Mbeki, the novel was unbanned. The Broadcast Complaints Commission of South Africa had earlier heard a complaint (in the same year) against MNET after the screening of the film Reservoir Dogs. “The Complainant, who is the moderator of the South Hills Evangelical Church, lodged a complaint with [the Commission]. The complaint was, in the main, directed at the taking in vain of the Lord’s Name by the characters in this film in the form of “Jesus Christ” and other forms.”

The complaint was not upheld.

Which leads us to the present moment in which SABC censors are once again censoring news stories in a manner reminiscent of the apartheid state, and where ICASA has issued a firm directive against SABC policy. Can one expect to see similar directives issued perhaps by the Minister of Education, countermanding the latest actions by the Vice-Chancellor of UCT? It all depends upon whose definition of secularism one uses, whether the previous claims by the apartheid regime hold any stock, and whether or not our current democratic government is serious about the rights vested in our Constitution.

SEE: How Free is UCT?

No, UCT was wrong by Jeff Rudin

​Racialising society is not the antidote to racism

IN A FANCIFUL piece on the supposed ‘new science of race’ published by Business Day, political commentator David Mathews resorts to long discredited theories of scientific racism, in particular social darwinism, in order to rail against non-racialists, who he says are nothing more than delusional pundits of political correctness.

“The politically correct mantra that race is nothing more than a social construct, and that “there is only one race, the human race” says Mathews “is not only not true, but is deliberately misleading. And not only misleading, but also inimical to any understanding of, or solution to, the major social problem of racism.” Admittedly, Mathews’ scurrilous fudge piece ends by redefining racism, but in order to unpack a pet theory, Mathews must first resort to a strange racist solipsism, a semantic self-induced coma, if you will.

Hurtling off to the dark-side of Darwinism and the survival of the fittest, Mathews says: “There is, as we know, only one human species, but contrary to the politically correct obfuscation above, there are indeed also many human races, when “race” is understood to be what the Oxford dictionary defines as, and Charles Darwin understood to be, “one of the major divisions of mankind having distinct and readily visible physical characteristics, with each group adhering to its own culture, history, language, etcetera”.

That a person such as Mathews so readily resorts to the company of Oxford dons, those like RW Johnson, whose self-referential piece equating ‘black persons and baboons‘ in the London Review of Books, and a controversy predating the Penny Sparrow incident, is really indicative of the general problem with the Oxford dictionary project as a whole, and especially its hegemony over language and meaning. The dictionary itself, is less a provider of hard science than a grab-bag of popular linguistics, off-the-cuff definitions, and semantic quibbles, that have resulted in the inclusion of words such as “conniption” (a fit of rage or hysterics) and “fankle” (to tangle or entangle something).

That Mathews is equally guilty of farnarkling the issues at stake here, can be seen in a popular Newsweek article: “There is no such thing as race” by one Robert Sussman. “The notion of race may be real, but the science is not,” says Sussman, “We are all the same, with no exceptions.”

According to Sussman, who unlike Mathews is not a self-published Amazon author (I admit, to also being one), but rather, the author of a reputable imprint published by Harvard Press, ‘The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea‘, “What many people do not realize is that … racial structure is not based on reality. Anthropologists have shown for many years now that there is no biological reality to human race. There are no major complex behaviors that directly correlate with what might be considered human “racial” characteristics.

Instead of grappling with the science, Mathews offers some ponderous merken of his own: “Why do the apostles of political correctness go out of their way deliberately and pseudo-scientifically to confuse the term “race” with the term “species” in the public mind? Because if people can be deluded into acknowledging that there are no such things as different races, then the concept of race cannot legitimately be introduced when the subject of racism is raised.”

In a review of RACE?: Debunking a Scientific Myth by an anthropologist and a geneticist, Ian Tattersall and Rob DeSalle, Jan Sapp  a professor in biology at York University, Toronto says:In biology, a grouping has biological meaning based on principles of common descent—the Darwinian idea that all members of the group share a common ancestry. On this basis, and on the ability to interbreed, all humans are grouped into one species as Homo sapiens, the only surviving member of the various species that the genus comprised. Species are arranged within the “tree of life,” a hierarchical classification that situates each species in only one genus, that genus only in one family and so on.”

“Nothing confuses that classification more than the exchange of genes between groups. In the bacterial world, for example, gene sharing can occur throughout the most evolutionarily divergent groups. The result is a reticulate evolution—a global net or web of related organisms, and no species. Among humans, reticulation occurs when there is interbreeding within the species—mating among individuals from different geographical populations. The result of such genetic mixing of previously isolated groups—due to migrations, invasions and colonization—is that no clear boundaries can be drawn around the variety of humans, no “races” of us.”

In raising the debate about species, Mathews  is certainly putting the linguistic cart before the proverbial horse. Just as the term Anti-Semitism, a polite academic phrase used to describe Judenhaas (Jew hatred), is all too often confused, (no it is most certainly not the opposite of Semitism), racism, the popular word for one of humanity’s most persistent bugbears, does not require that a science of race exist.

“There is no inherent relationship between intelligence, law-abidingness, or economic practices and race, just as there is no relationship between nose size, height, blood group, or skin color and any set of complex human behaviors,” says Sussman.

“However, over the past 500 years, we have been taught by an informal, mutually reinforcing consortium of intellectuals, politicians, statesmen, business and economic leaders and their books that human racial biology is real and that certain races are biologically better than others.”

“These teachings have led to major injustices to Jews and non-Christians during the Spanish Inquisition; to blacks, Native Americans, and others during colonial times; to African Americans during slavery and reconstruction; to Jews and other Europeans during the reign of the Nazis in Germany; and to groups from Latin America and the Middle East, among others, during modern political times.”

As a recent scientific paper published by the US National Institute of Health cautions:”Races may exist in humans in a cultural sense… Adaptive traits, such as skin color, have frequently been used to define races in humans, but such adaptive traits reflect the underlying environmental factor to which they are adaptive and not overall genetic differentiation, and different adaptive traits define discordant groups. There are no objective criteria for choosing one adaptive trait over another to define race. As a consequence, adaptive traits do not define races in humans.”

If race is merely an “informal taxonomy” and not science at all, then race is a fiction, and a bad fiction at that. Best not to racialise society by invoking discredited ideas of Social Darwinism and thus the theories of scientific racism, consistent with earlier epochs of colonialism and genocide, which carried ideas of inferiority and superiority, survival of the fittest and natural selection. Such ideas may once have been prevalent within the field of biology and evolution, but when it comes to politics and human society, they have proven to be nothing more than horrendous justifications for the system known as apartheid.


South Africa’s slow totalitarian embrace

THE PAST week has been a veritable political circus. In South Africa it appears the issues are more important than the principles at stake – picketers outside the SABC decrying what they termed Hlaudism (so-named after COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng strong-arm tactics which has lead to the banning and resignation of journalists, including Jimi Mathews) and holding up placards stating: Not in my Name. Then two incidents at international level confirming that the country is steadily careening into the icy-grip of totalitarianism.

All incidents demand the same level of mobilisation of voters calling for a return to civil rights and constitutional norms at the public broadcaster. A broad campaign against the emergence of an anti-democratic, unconstitutional, BRICS-lead contingent who myopically insist on slamming our nation’s political gains, whilst imposing policy from above – effectively sacrificing democratic values with the imposition of what can only be termed, Post-Mandela authoritarianism.

Regressive steps more in keeping with the past apartheid regime than the Rainbow Nation – and which by all accounts are contrary to the Bill of Rights whose 20th anniversary this year has been quixotically downplayed by the Zuma administration, in its faltering effort to avoid the inevitable comparison with past ANC presidents and administrations.

News that South Africa had joined China and Russia in voting against a United Nations resolution last week on the “promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the internet” was thus greeted with dismay by online users.  South Africa it turned out, had tried to remove provisions from a United Nations resolution that would prevent host countries from denying user’s open access, effectively switching off the Internet, alongside other freedom of expression violations.

Are we such a mean-spirited nation? Following the passing of the resolution, freedom of expression organisation Article 19 was moved to express its disappointment. The resolution seeks to protect human rights online such as freedom of expression and privacy, and ensures the release of those imprisoned for posting ‘legitimate’ views on the web. If it isn’t the scourge of online pornography which is driving legislators, it is the new threat posed apparently by online haters. Driving speech underground is far worse than challenging such persons to open debate.

A day later, and our nation was again greeted by another foreign policy fiasco,  this time, South Africa had once again declined to support LGBTI rights at the United Nations. It turned out that a UN Human Rights Council had adopted a resolution to appoint an Independent Expert on the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. South Africa – currently a member of the Human Rights Council – abstained from the vote, in order to stand against Gay Rights, alongside its new political masters –BRICS nations such as Russia and China, both of whom have extremely poor LGBTI protections. Gay Marriage is still illegal in Russia and China. A recent decision by a Chinese court rejected same-sex unions, and the Putin regime has thus been the butt-end of jokes about failing manhood.

Despite national institutions which seemingly guarantee civil liberties, South Africa has a dismal record of siding with oppressive regimes and voting against civil rights at a global level. That the country is once again acting against its own laws, its own people and the people’s constitution at a local level is not all that surprising, given that the SABC also appears to be acting contrary to policy set by the ruling ANC.

A leading party spokesperson Jackson Mthembu lambasted the public broadcaster this week:”The decision has never been consulted with or condoned by the ruling party. This is worrying as it amounts to change in policy of governing party…therefore if you want to change policy and don’t consult us, that shows serious disregard for the governing party,” Mthembu told reporters in Johannesburg. The damage though, has already been done.

Will Brexit give way to a Brixit?

THE EXIT of the United Kingdom from the European Community is not solely a result of economic forces (who would vote for market turmoil?), but is rather an abject political lesson in democratic power relations. Will Brexit give way to a Brixit, the dissolution of BRICS?

If it wasn’t the constant flow of immigrants from the continent that riled the British voter, then it was the growing centralisation of power in Brussels, the plethora of EU legislation, the imposition of European laws and legal precedents and the resulting erosion of the powerful common law in Britain, which appears to have put paid to the European union for the meantime.

As Larry Kudlow writing for CNBC online put it: “For a country which has routinely acted to limit the power of royalty, which holds stock in documents such as the Magna Carta … Britain will regain its political freedom, its autonomous self-government, and its independence from an European Union that is spinning out of control under the power of establishment elites, unelected and unaccountable socialist bureaucrats, and a court that is increasingly making legal decisions that replace Britain’s powerful common law.”

The same uneasy indictment could easily apply to other economic blocs such as SADC, the AU and its much vaunted rival and successor, BRICS. In the short space of two decades, South Africa’s political leaders have taken our nation into a number of regional and international, monetary and economic unions. The introduction of the Rand-based Southern African Development Community (SADC) on 17 August 1992 was quickly followed by the African Union (AU) 26 May 2001, and then BRICS on 16 May 2008.

By all accounts South Africa is thus a serial unionist. Having arisen like the United Kingdom as an aggregation of several states, including the Boer Republics, Cape Colony and Natal. The country’s first experience as an economic and political union was as a member of the British Empire, followed by the Commonwealth, a block of 52 nations. Then another bout of Republican nationalism followed, with successive periods of relative isolation resulting from apartheid.

Upon the emergence of the new era, a majority government,the Bill of Rights and an inclusive democracy, South Africa embarked on an outward path, which lead to a regional 15 member economic block in Southern Africa including Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland. This was quickly followed by the rise of the 54 member African Union under Mbeki. By all purposes, an attempt to emulate the emergence of the EU.

The result inside the country was a long boom, as South Africa became the gateway of choice to the rest of Africa. But then things began to unravel somewhat. Not content with being a regional superpower within the AU, South Africa, ever much the Casanova of politics, jumped into bed with Brazil, Russia, India and China to form BRICS. All of which, except for India, have atrocious levels of public debt and weak currencies. Brazil was recently given junk status.

It is this awkward attempt to create an alternative to the Post-WW2 Bretton Woods structures such as the IMF and World Bank, which has presented huge problems. The grouping is not simply a marriage of convenience, predicated on the numbers, like the G20, but has come to dominate foreign policy, to the detriment of both the SADC region and the increasingly insignificant AU. Under the Zuma administration, one could be forgiven for thinking that both SADC and the AU no longer exist. The result can be seen in the re-emergence of regional conflict, such as the political turmoil in Mocambique and continental instability.

Time to think the unthinkable. Time for a Brixit?

SABC political coverage placed on mute

THE DICTATORIAL leanings of SABC head Hlaudi Motsoeneng have raised the ire of journalists and activists alike. Concern about content and the composition of the board at the national broadcaster has routinely been under the public spotlight for years. If there was any doubt that Motsoeneng is taking his cue from the ‘ancien regime’ — the old apartheid state — then several incidents over the past days will have served to confirm this view.

It all started out as a shakeup of programming content. All good and fine. The sudden instruction from Auckland Park to its radio affiliates, forcing stations to carry 80% local music was initially greeted with enthusiasm by the music industry. Then Motsoeneng set his curatorial sights on television content — canning several popular international soapies and reality shows, much to the chagrin of gogglebox fans.

The rash decision to can almost all imported shows, drew widespread condemnation. Did anyone forget to mention the problematic roll-out of digital television, which could ostensibly provide greater spectrum, whilst preserving access to the Bold and Beautiful? One would have thought a referendum amongst license holders and viewers, would have been required. But then Motsoeneng isn’t exactly a democrat, and the broadcaster and its board, has been heading down the path of totalitarianism for some years.

After pulling SAFM’s The Editors, the propaganda chief of operations has now embarked on a new censorship regime at SABC News, effectively banning coverage of protest action around the country, and (by all accounts), unlawfully cutting down on news coverage of political parties and civil society groups — engaging in what appears to be an outright banning of the Right to Know (R2K) campaign.

All in contravention of the values of openness, transparency and democratic accountability which are the hallmark of South Africa’s secular constitution. The broadcaster is bound by the Independent Electoral Commission to promote and safeguard democracy in South Africa.

The recent suspension of several employees over coverage of a R2K protest outside the SABC headquarters and following last year’s boardroom shuffle and revolving door fiasco has thus got to take the cake so far as the failure of governance, and ongoing maladministration at the broadcaster is concerned. Economics editor Thandeka Gqubule, RSG executive producer Foeta Krige and Afrikaans news producer Suna Venter were apparently all served with the papers on Thursday stating that they were suspended indefinitely. Similar bannings and suspension of journalists during the apartheid era, in particular the state of emergency, were routine.

As a person effectively banned because of my involvement in the struggle press and opposition to apartheid, I would have thought that the SABC board would have taken a far more considered approach, avoiding any potential political backlash.

The job of a national broadcaster is surely to reflect the country, warts and all, both to its people and the outside world? Instead, we see a return to the perfumed propaganda and sanctions-era censorship for which South Africa’s very own Lord Haw Haw, Cliff Saunders was world renowned. In 2001 Saunders succeeded in removing himself from South African apartheid history, by claiming that he had been in London all along, instead of reporting on the supposed ‘communist onslaught’ and the prowess of PW Botha’s military machine. The increasingly insular and strongarm antics at the SABC are thus a cause for consternation.

If the SABC is finally changing its mandate from that of a public broadcaster, to a mere lapdog of Pretoria and the Union Buildings, then viewers can be forgiven if they rather exercise their freedom of choice, by turning off in droves. Switching to alternative news providers and other sources of information, may be a lot easier these days, and is really just a wifi connection away.

Unlike the previous racist government, there are a plethora of online media providers, and satellite channels eager to step into the gap. The resulting disconnect from reality at the SABC, does not bode well for the public broadcaster, so far as ratings agencies and advertisers are concerned.

SEE: Sanaf shocked by suspensions