Our 14 point action plan

1) Fire No 1 and pay back the money

2) Cut back on five hour lunch sessions, R1bn wagyu steaks for No 2

3) Dump the Gupta Raj and the British East India Company kickbacks.

4) Reduce size of cabinet to pre-Zuma levels

5) Break up SOEs into smaller units, sell SAA.

6) Dump Eskom and introduce an Energy Commons

7) Introduce a Social Wage for all (including Basic Income Grant)

8) Household responsibility to provide home economics

9) Income equalisation for periodic work

10) Rent Stabilisation for those renting

11) Compulsory Civics classes for young scholars and new immigrants

12) Adopt David Robert Lewis’ Electronic Freedom Charter

13) Celebrate the Earth Rights we got into the Constitution

14) Hire competent staff at finance ministry

Competing visions for a new South Africa

TWO parties, each with contradictory and competing visions for South Africa’s future, hold centre stage. In the one corner, the African National Congress with its legacy of struggle against apartheid and nation building, that has increasingly come under the spotlight with revelations of corruption and state capture, and the failing economic policies and antics of its president Jacob Zuma

In the other corner, the Democratic Alliance, an opposition political formation with market friendly policies, but hampered by a troubling legacy, fraught because of its historic support from white capital versus the emergence of black capital under the ruling party, and yet presenting a different vision of reconciliation, inclusion, and equal opportunity.

So far as DA leader Mmusi Maimane is concerned, the struggle is about keeping the reconciliation project alive while creating an open and inclusive society in line with a constitutional vision that is the antithesis of the creeping totalitarianism and authoritarianism of the current administration.

Over the past months, the ANC has diverted itself from the proud nation-building of past administrations, towards an increasingly tribal vision of a society not unlike the Bantustans of the apartheid-era. A country defined by race, where domination of one group by another is the order of the day, and where expropriation of land without compensation is matched by the growth of state and tribal authorities.

And yet within the ANC itself, there exist competing visions to what has been broadly condemned by the investment community as “Zumanomics”, an unworkable recipe for economic disaster.  Thus a lively debate on so-called ‘radical economic transformation’ has ensued at the party’s organising conference.

So far as ANC NEC member and Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa is concerned, “South Africans should focus less on the colour of monopoly capital and rather focus on contesting monopoly capital in all its forms”

“We shouldn’t be aspiring to change white monopoly capital to black monopoly capital. The uncompetitive nature of monopoly capital makes us raise an issue of contestation, whether it will be black or white,” Mthethwa told reporters during a media briefing this week.

It was party spokesperson Zizi Kodwa who thus also articulated a view that is in direct contrast to the DA faction under Helen Zille and seemingly the ANC under Zuma. According to Kodwa, “the new South Africa creates a clean break from our ugly past giving birth to a new nation with new prescripts. South Africa is not an improved version of the past or a case of taking our better past forward, South Africa is a new nation.”

Can the DA match its own rhetoric and the propaganda of the ruling party, with a victory at the polls? The alliance has seen major victories during the past general election in several of South Africa’s metro’s including Johannesburg, and Nelson Mandela Bay. As the ANC moves to reduce its opposition to the left, it invariably risks losing the middle ground, where the most votes in the next election are bound to reside.

Thus as the party erodes the opposition EFF base, whose red shirts are now ironically being deployed in support of the DA — the ANC policy conference and its adoption of far-left language, risks reducing the party’s central mandate as articulated by the NDP and will come as a blow to those arguing for moderation.

All good news so far as the DA is concerned.

What Happens When Billionaires Own Journalism?

KOOS BEKKER is a very rich South African. He effectively controls a massive portion of South African news and media. In many ways, he can be considered the Rupert Murdoch of Africa. He has a net worth of roughly $1.6 billion and is the chairman of Naspers, which controls or owns outlets such as the South African Huffington Post.

Rupert Murdoch is an apt comparison; he’s not the only billionaire who has a huge stake in journalism. The owners also aren’t exclusively in news media, and to many, their news outlets are a side project, a way to project power or simply something to have (like a car or an extra mansion).

Naspers and Ties to Censorship

Corporations and the extremely wealthy, as a general rule, do not care much about censorship. In fact, the only thing most of them will oppose is a lack of profits. For example, Naspers was complicit in the apartheid regime, and the Afrikaans press was used to keep the oppressive regime in place. They’ve apologized for their actions, but this only occurred far after apartheid turned out to be the losing side. In other words: when it was profitable and politically expedient to do so.

Naspers, having many interests that get in the way of the truth and holding ties to many companies and countries that can prove to be a competing influence (as opposed to the public good), is the perfect example of this.

To go into more detail, Naspers owns Media24, a media group that states it’s interested in freedom of the press and other media freedoms. Yet that comes into conflict with the fact that Naspers’ largest stake is in Tencent, a Chinese tech and social media company who enforces social media censorship by the Chinese government.

This raises a major concern: Do Naspers’ Chinese ties and Koos Becker’s business interests compromise the integrity of South African news? It would be easy for such a company to keep a few unfavorable stories quiet.

Media Consolidation

Even just fifty years ago it would be considered possible for a new startup, with some capital and resolve, to break into the news and media business and hope to succeed.

Now, given the equipment that is needed and the poor returns in general of the newspaper business (or the entire news industry), along with the fast-paced nature of online news, journalism is a rich man’s game, and that isn’t a good thing. In America, for example, 90 percent of their media is controlled by six companies. South Africa’s situation is hardly different.

These barriers to entry remove variety from the press, eliminating competition and lowering the standards of news for people. People will either get compromised or poorly-formed journalism or nothing at all. Unfortunately, there are few examples showing there’s a better way.

Voices Get Silenced

If the press isn’t free from corporate interests, it’s hardly different from government control. It’s merely serving a different entity with different priorities. Larger entities tied to power won’t report on threats to that power to avoid giving them their justified attention and public interest. When was the last time you heard about the Shack Dweller’s movement and their protests on a major station?

Individual voices and good journalists also get regularly silenced when they try to make the difference. Desmond Cole and the Toronto Star is merely one example of this outside of South Africa. Others accuse the media, including News24, of not showing good news whatsoever and inciting violence amongst the people.

People Fighting Back

The situation looks grim, but people can and will fight back against the oligarchic control of information perfectly encapsulated by Naspers’ actions. Billionaires, try as they might, do not have control of reality.

Citizen journalism has become a trend with the advent of social media and information technology. A video at a scene cannot be so easily denied as false, and a trending topic or a viral post cannot be so easily ignored by the media elites if they want to keep credibility with the public. While it’s not perfect and certainly does not meet the standards of independent professionals, its mere existence is a threat to corporate control and a step forward.

Other people continue to expose the truth while hiding from the limelight (and the wrath of those companies). People will cover their tracks and use tools such as online proxies to stay anonymous as they bring us the truth about conglomerates, from inside or without. Without people like this willing to fight back, there’s no telling what the state of the news media would be today.

Conclusion

This problem will not go away on its own, and it will likely get worse before it gets better. People need to know what is happening and how the billionaires are controlling them to feel the anger to fight back. There are more protagonists out there besides Naspers, and even if one person is taken out of the news arena, more will appear,  blocking genuine change in the way things are done or avoiding a viable alternative. There is a chance to change the flow of information, and South Africans can’t afford to miss out.

Do you happen to know anything else about Naspers or have a story you would like to share? Are you concerned about the growing consolidations of private media and the news? What else do you think they’re hiding? Please leave a comment below and tell us your thoughts.

Black opinion: Rationalists versus Irrationalists

TWO rationalist pieces, thoughtfully debunking the legs of Helen Zille’s argument in favour of ‘colonialism not being all that bad’, need to be seen alongside an incredible piece of sensationalist and irrationalist nonsense, authored by self-proclaimed saviour of the ‘black race’ one Andile Mngxitama. The embarrassing piece (compared below) merely demonstrates that when it comes to black opinion, and criticism of colonialism, there are better tools, than a racist free-for-all.

Reported on News24 , without any scientific evidenceMngxitama claims that the recent Cape storms are all the ‘fault of white monopoly capital’. It is a crackpot thesis devoid of any merit — touting an unproven conspiracy theory whose achilles heel is the fact that China is the world’s second biggest emitter of CO2 —  far from being an ‘all-white affair’, climate change is rather the result of a rampant consumer society, one occupied by black and white alike, for which anyone of any colour, utilising its benefits, needs to take responsibility.

CO2emit

South Africa CO2 emissions 1988-2012 showing a peak and plateau strategy

One has merely to remark that it is the ‘black majority’ South African government, which commissioned two of the largest mega-coal projects on the continent this decade, and so far as Nature is concerned, the impacts will be felt by all, regardless of skin colour or pigmentation. What was once true of apartheid South Africa, and its skewed electrification policies, no longer holds. My own research published by the Panos Institute in 1991, alongside that of Mamphela Ramphele, reported the racial bias impacting upon a then output of 246 million tonnes of CO2 pa.

South Africa is currently the 13th largest emitting country based on 2008 fossil-fuel CO2 emissions and the largest emitting country in Africa. Saying: “the ecological disaster awaiting planet earth is a direct creation of white people,” is not just shoddy science, it is assuredly evidence of a racist political agenda. There is no data, to my knowledge, showing that skin colour has any impact on the behaviour of litter-bugs nor that of conspicuous consumption.

The only reason Mgnxitama gets published in the mainstream press is because of his vocal position as leader of the ‘Black First’ front. An organisation with much in common with Donald Trump’s America First movement, and thus deserving of similar criticism to that levelled against France’s Marine le Pen. Though he differs from these two politicos in at least recognising the existence of climate change, is no recommendation.

That Mngxitima’s writing is increasingly on the fringes of rationality and scientific argument, can be seen by the emergence of writers whose opinions are eminently more sensible and suited to the important issues of the day. Thus we turn to Tembeka Ngcukaitobi writing in the Conmag, for our guidance on Helen Zille, who correctly observes, that “neither England nor Holland can claim the same robust system of judicial supremacy that we do” and “the notion of an independent, fair and just legal system ‘which is not influenced by politics whatsoever’ first emerged in the writings, not of a lawyer, but a journalist: John Tengo Jabavu, the editor of the Xhosa newspaper, Imvo Zabantsundu, in the late 1890s.”

“Jabavu’s writings in a marginal Xhosa newspaper were unsurprisingly ignored by the colonial government of the day. But they found fertile ground in the organisation which he did not found, but whose foundations he clearly influenced – the South African Native National Congress.” Ngcukaitobi’s writing on legal history thus traces the emergence of the ruling party and our own constitution, before tackling the second of Zille’s claims “which draws a link between colonialism and the development of our transport infrastructure [which] is equally distortive of history.”

“It was an official policy of the colonial government,” he says, “to use prison labour for infrastructure. Large numbers of Xhosas imprisoned after the last frontier war in 1878 were taken to Cape Town and, on arrival, turned into unpaid labourers, in the development of the rail infrastructure.” This transportation and technology theme is given better treatment if not short thrift in a parallel piece published by a blogger known simply as VaPunungwe, who asks: “what model car was Cecil John Rhodes driving?” 

The same question may well be asked of Jan van Riebeeck — what cellphone brand was he using? Technology is thus to be seen within its own context, not as some imported novelty, but rather as an historical construct, within a milieu as it were. It would thus behove persons such as Mngxitama to rather stick to writing on what one knows for certain, instead of punting racist theories and speculative rhetoric as easily debunked as that of Helen Zille’s.

 

 

Zille and all that Mmusi Jazz

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A ploy to raise the stakes in bid for Presidency?

IT WAS inevitable that the opposition Democratic Alliance would arrive at its own Rubicon. The saga involving party stalwart Helen Zille, what she said or didn’t say, what was meant or not meant, the affectations of white liberal insiders, the embarrassing grand old colonial edifice and all its past glories, suddenly rendered impotent by a growing and vocal group of black entrepreneurs to its left and the irony of a conservative Afrikaner establishment to its right. Let’s just say that the old model of opposition politics no longer holds.

While cavalier, Mmusi Maimane was certainly reading the mood of the electorate, setting the stage for the 2019 general election, and his run for President in standing firmly against superiority, class attitudes and snobbery within his own party. Admittedly with this type of populism, it is all about political demeanour, perceptions and the will of the masses on the ground.

That national student movements such as SASCO found themselves weighing in on the subject, meant the DA, an alliance if ever there was one, was suddenly finding itself cast into the national spotlight. Provincialism of the kind articulated by Zille and her followers had no place. And hence while some bemoaned the outcome, a tragic fait accompli, it was inevitable that the party would find itself at a cross-roads, with a choice of futures. Can the DA ever hope to govern the nation, without creating tensions amongst its provincial partners?

It was no less than Douglas Gibson who first characterised the problem, Zille was past her sell-by-date. Thus Tony Leon soon found himself publicly praising Maimane for taking tough action against Helen over the colonialism tweets. While the prevarications and equivocations by the premier went from bad to worse. That the Cape Town lady was deploying the politics of World War 2 in her defence, admittedly of an Asian economic model merely made her arguments seem antiquated.

This was not a society gone racially mad but a case of corrective action, a necessary medicament arising from the furore surrounding a simple online tweet, and requiring a better perspective, than the past fiasco which had been a case of not growing up, or too much too soon —  the party head-hunted struggle stalwart Mamphela Ramphele mid-flight, in the last general election was unable to broker an effective alliance with its grass-roots ticket and thus a broad coalition of partners that could have produced a major victory for moderate black voters and their allies in the civil service and SOEs.

If the party is to have any hope of winning the next general election, it has to move forward under its current leadership. There are a number of caveats. Can the social wage be protected if not by social democrats? Whereto the provinces versus the national vote? Is there a way of saving the Western Cape’s unique character, given that the DA is an alliance, which has done remarkably well in South Africa’s metros? Where to Mmusi from here?

It was thus apt, that Zille announced her suspension today, with a tweet “DA has suspended me. They have agreed I can share my reasons why I should not have been suspended. Here they are:

Screenshot from 2017-06-08 18-51-45

Only time will tell whether or not this emerging political formation, untrammelled by the corruption within the current Zuma administration, and unhindered by the ideological baggage of the far-left, will pull through to its destiny in a future national cabinet. My bet is surely on Maimane for president, and come the next election, anything but the current Mafiosi state of Jacob Zuma.

Book Review: Apartheid Guns & Money

apartheid_guns_money_covWITH the current national fixation on “state capture”, public fascination with the intrigues of the Zuma administration and calumny surrounding the Guptas, it is easy to forget the blueprint for graft was laid decades earlier. Apartheid, Guns & Money, a 600+ page doorstop of a book by Hennie van Vuuren, and published by Jacana Press, debunks several popular myths associated with the past regime — that corruption is a purely racial phenomenon, that apartheid South Africa was an “isolated state”, that democratic freedom signalled a break from the past, that the defeat of apartheid was inevitable and that we cannot undo this wrong.

Van Vuuren reveals in painstaking detail, utilising research garnered from recently declassified documents and interviews with key players, how a secret economy — “a global covert network of nearly 50 countries was constructed to counter sanctions” and “allies in corporations, banks, governments and intelligence agencies” helped move cash, illegally supplied weapons for the apartheid money for arms machine. ‘In the process whistleblowers were assassinated and ordinary people suffered.’

Revealing a ‘hidden past in a time of oppression”, the work is a masterful coup, providing details on the Special Defence Account (SDA), long the bane of the anti-apartheid movement. An investigation into the assassination of activist Dulcie September is both poignant and long overdue. Dulcie was “not just murdered she was erased.” Obtaining a copy of the TRC investigation unit’s report into the murder, kept under lock and key for 20 years by Dept of Justice officials ‘took an enormous effort by a team of lawyers and the South African history archive’.

The full extent of the apartheid enterprise under PW Botha and Magnus Malan et al, will come as a shock, as we finally discover the details of the secret projects, many of which were only alluded to in proceedings of the TRC, and its 3000+ page report prefaced by an awkward explanation that many documents pertinent to the proceedings had already been destroyed.

It is an extremely disturbing picture which emerges, the more so since it speaks, both to a current generation, for whom the machinations and covert nature of the regime will come as a surprise, as too survivors, many of whom may have been too young to appreciate the high level of manipulation occurring. That the TRC report has its failings can be seen in the statement by Van Vuuren, that not all documents were destroyed by Armscor in Project Masada. There also appear to be tonnes of documents sequestered in archives such as that of the National Party, and this begs the question on what is being done to preserve South Africa’s heritage of the past struggle for future generations.

Sections on “Naspers: the tap root of the National Party” vindicate my own investigation into the subject, as does the discovery of correspondence by one Ton Vosloo gifting the National Party with ample funding. The role of PW Botha, as a Naspers board-member, is also aptly described, as too the controversial incident involving his company’s opposition to the TRC, (the appearance of 127 apartheid collaborators who walked away from the commission, as conscientious journalists) and it is trite that many of the corporate entities upon which the late Anton Rupert sat, and related to the enterprise, like that of Christo Wiese, were also involved in the regime. But according to van Vuuren, nothing has emerged yet from the recently discovered archives, directly linking the Rupert family to the PW Botha administration and earlier Nat administrations, save for his generous donations to party successor FW de Klerk.

One cannot help thinking that any story about Federale Volksbellegings and sanctions-busting would be incomplete without relating the history of one of its founders. It thus appears the author has either not read Anton’s own biography about “the organisation that finally lured Rupert away from academia”– or has sought to downplay the Rupert factor for some political reason, as they say, ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’. This failing, minor in comparison to the great work in uncovering details of the SDA speaks to the need for peer review and perhaps a more scientific approach to the puzzle. There are still quite a few surprises in store for readers, and especially related to covert information regarding previously unknown collaborators and I won’t give the game away by relating all the dirt here, suffice to add that Apartheid Guns & Money is certainly a great start for information activists and a must have in any private collection of apartheid arcana, and deserves to be made available to scholars via public and academic libraries.