Sorry Ms Butler, you don’t represent me

THE argument that Israel represents the ‘Jews of South Africa’, often made by members of the SAJBD is as fallacious as the equal assertion that BDS and its leadership represent the diversity of Jewish history and culture, in particular the legacy of Jewish activists during the freedom struggle.

A letter by a US academic Judith Butler written to UCT and published by the Mail & Guardian, ironically refers readers to a committed Zionist and treason trialist, Arthur Goldreich, alongside a liberal supporter of Israel sovereignty, Helen Suzman. This in order to embroider upon an evolving work of fiction — the false analogy between the ongoing struggle of the Palestinians and our own country’s struggle against apartheid.

Butler maintains, that “BDS draws on longstanding traditions, some of which were importantly developed in the context of the struggle against apartheid”. While the two struggles may appear similar in mode at the surface, there are significant and important divergences, differences which we disregard at our peril.

For starters, the South African struggle was an epic battle against colonialism and white domination in support of democracy and secularism. Activists such as myself were pitted against a white regime which was theocratic, undemocratic and avowedly Christian in outlook.

Butler goes on to write: “Let us not forget the large numbers of Jews who have fought in social justice struggles, including the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa (Joe Slovo, Arthur Goldreich, Ruth First, Albie Sachs, Helen Suzman), who contest the radical inequalities that form the basis of Israel’s claim of Jewish sovereignty and its claim to maintain Jewish demographic advantage at all costs.”

The claims made with regard to Goldreich and Helen Suzman are instructive and bear greater consideration. A piece published by Benjamin Pogrund for the Helen Suzman Foundation states: “Use of the apartheid label and repeated references to “genocide” against Palestinians and denunciations of Zionism as “racism” are at best ignorant and naïve and at worst cynical and manipulative.”

Unlike the South African struggle where Jews enjoyed leadership roles, and where persons such as Joe Slovo were in many respects over-represented than other minority groups, both Fatah and Hamas have failed miserably to include Jews in top positions.

Palestinian claims about the alleged “Jewish race” share more in common with the racist objectives and malicious aims of the puritans of the Nationalist Party than the alleged non-racialism of the ANC. To reiterate, nations are not races.

Unlike the Palestinian struggle which lacks any meaningful document such as the Freedom Charter setting out winnable aims and objectives, civil rights for all, the South African situation is rather different, and thus the recipe for achieving a negotiated outcome and peace settlement in our own country was founded upon a winning constitutional formula.

BDS have failed time and again to canvas the opinion of persons either referred to as ‘Jews’ or self-defined as Jewish, in a skewed solidarity politics that ignores the problem of Jewish identity. Butler is only able to espouse her own views because other views and Jewish voices have been silenced by the BDS politburo.

Though Butler’s misguided rhetoric on anti-semitism is to be welcomed, let’s be forthright and stop beating around the bush, anti-semitism is open hostility towards secular Jewish identity.

Attempting to provide a non-violent and anti-racist veneer to a religious struggle in which both sides are informed by religious texts in a battle over the final status of Jerusalem, avoids the open inquiry and evidence-based empirical research that needs to occur if we are understand the many dimensions to the problem.

As a person whose Jewish identity has become the subject of a racist legal inquisition in South Africa at the behest of the perpetrators of apartheid, I therefore do take exception to the banning of opinion and obliteration of independent voices outside of these two diametrically opposed camps, injustice vs injustice.

The experience of BDS campaigns within South Africa itself has not been a pleasant one.

​I can only commend UCT council for not caving into the zealots.​

It is not too late, nor out of the bounds of reason, to embrace a secularist and non-partisan ‘third way’, that avoids scapegoating of those who disagree with leaders and pundits on either side, and which avoids sacrificing democratic freedoms, freedom of speech, while protecting constitutional rights in our own country.

NOTE: For the record, DRL a graduate of UCT Center for African Studies, is opposed to the separation barrier, is in favour of a limited arms embargo against the State of Israel, and does not support any cultural or academic boycott targeting persons of Jewish descent on the basis of our alleged history and identity.

Published in part by Mail and Guardian 12/04/2019

Response by David Saks of SAJBD 18/04/2019

SEE: Ronnie’s Sermon from the Grand Masjid

SEE: Dear Steven Friedman

SEE: BDS Abolition of the Right to Dissent 

Lewis v Legal Aid South Africa

I have sought leave to appeal the judgement in a TRC-related matter concerning the right to legal representation, and a decision handed down by Acting Justice Martin. Needless to say I had to hand deliver the following document containing my grounds for leave to appeal, to the judge in chambers on floor 1 of the High Court. Walking past a long lineup of apartheid and colonial-era judges, their pictures still  hanging on the wall. The respondent, Legal Aid South Africa, has already served notice of intention to oppose on behalf of the executive of the country. Does Cyril Ramaphosa have a heart? Obviously not.

 

Copyright Amendment Act ‘discussion’

SOUTH AFRICA’s Copyright Act is stuck in the 1970s paradigm of ‘fair-dealing’, in this interview on Capetalk, it may appear that the main innovation here is fair-use. This discussion avoids the troubling issue of the failure of legislators to include permissive licensing schemes, which currently fail by default under the Amended legislation.

In terms of the amendment, there is no way to opt-out of the default copyright regime, and creators will not be able to ‘sign-away’ or gift their copyright in favour of permissive licensing, for example under the creative commons.

This is a significant failing in the new act and the last time I looked, the legislation erred in favour of large collection agencies and publishing houses such as Independent Group who feel entitled to publish without payment.

In effect we still in the old days of agencies collecting on behalf of creators who never receive a penny.

The debate also touches on the successful campaign to include resale royalties waged by persons such as myself.

Readers may be aware of a dispute in the visual arts world in this regard going back to the 90s and the resulting backlash by monied art-dealers.

Medialternatives has written about this issue here and here.

We’ll let you enjoy the audio

Refilwe speaks to Tusi Fokane Coordinator of ReCreate

 

Heartless NUMSA official claims cyclone which wiped out Beira is a lie

ON NATIONAL television, NUMSA official Phakamile Jola claimed that the cyclone which destroyed “90 percent” of Beira, a city of about a half-million people ‘was a lie’. Apparently, the resulting loss of power from the massive Cahora Bassa hydroelectric scheme which powers Gauteng, is merely a ruse by our government to promote privatization of Eskom.

Beira is Mozambique’s fourth largest and faces the Indian Ocean, while the inland Cahora Bassa scheme in Tete province was unfortunately in the path of the storm which also wreaked havoc in Malawi and Zimbabwe.

The power lines came down over the weekend, causing massive power outages in South Africa.

The shameful failure to get to grips with climate change and baseload energy dynamics comes at the expense not only of Mocambicans, but  the poor and unemployed of South Africa.

In an editorial, Zimbabwe’s state-run Herald newspaper said that climate change was responsible for the extreme weather, and that the country must brace itself for more. “Tropical Cyclone Idai brings vital lessons that climate change is now with us’.

Some 850 000 people are affected.

NUMSA continue in their legal challenge on behalf of well-heeled coal truckers in the country seemingly oblivious to the suffering caused by climate change, the result of emissions from mammoth coal-fired power-plants such as Medupe and Kusile.

While privatization may not be the only solution to Eskom’s woes, IPPs are certainly part of the necessary corrective to the state monopoly and its over-reliance on state-sponsored debt to drive expension.

 

SciFest Africa ‘rediscovers’ Periodic Table

THE theme for this year’s SciFest is “Discover Your Element”, which celebrates the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements, as proclaimed by the United Nations.

South Africa’s National Science Festival, “SciFest Africa” from 6-12 March 2019 in Makhanda (Grahamstown), Eastern Cape, will also be celebrating its 23rd anniversary.

The theme also commemorates several anniversaries in the history of chemistry including the 150th anniversary of the periodic table’s creation by Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869, 350 years since the discovery of phosphorous, the categorisation of 33 elements in 1789 by Lavoiser’s and Döbereiner’s law of triads in 1829.

While the theme is chemistry orientated, it also encourages  visitors to explore the many exciting exhibitions and workshops at #Scifest2019 to uncover their passion within the field of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

For the first time in Scifest Africa’s history, the 2019 festival will be curated by Dr Stephen Ashworth from the University of East Anglia (UK), who will also deliver the Brian Wilmot Lecture at the official opening of this year’s festival. Scifest Africa looks forward to welcoming the Department of Science and Technology delegation, led by Director-General Dr Phil Mjwara, who will give the official opening address.

Scifest Africa’s 2019 festival lecture programme offers a remarkable list of lecturers and researchers from South Africa and abroad, who will be sharing their wealth of knowledge with us. Many of our guest speakers are women, which pays tribute to the well-earned recognition and respect that these Women in Science have received thus far.

Notable speakers include theoretical physicist and Mars One Astronaut Candidate Dr Adriana Marais, Dr Daniel Cunnama (South African Astronomical Observatory), Dr Lotte Lens (Institute for Heavy Ion Research), Dr Robert Scerri (University of California). Dr Mathabatha Setati’s lecture is supported by the Department of Science & Technology’s Women in Science Award Programme. 15-year-old Eskom Expo for Young Scientists awardee of the Science Communication Prize, Lunga Nkosi, will also give a lecture on her latest ground-breaking research.

All interactive events that are not classified as exhibitions, lectures or workshops fall under the Etcetera section of the official festival programme. One such event is a special live show hosted by BBC World Service’s CrowdScience, where presenters Marnie Chesterton and Anand Jagatia will be joined by a panel of experts to answer questions sent in by listeners on everything from space travel to solar power. Questions can be sent to: crowdscience@bbc.co.uk.

More information

Socialist complexity at heart of Eskom’s problems.

WHEN Medupi and Kusile were announced by our government in 2004 and 2007 respectively, the two coal-fired mega-projects were both seen as emblematic of South Africa’s democratic progress —  key to the ruling alliance and its plans for the future.

The ruling labour-left coalition was at the height of its power. With its roots in the victorious anti-apartheid struggle, it had made no secret of its desire for a ‘mixed economic model’, in which a socialist command economy would prevail alongside the capitalist economy, and where the energy sector, would imitate policies from the days of the former Soviet Union. What could possibly go wrong?

According to Pretoria technocrats, a new era of cheap coal would herald in cheap and plentiful electricity with which to ‘build the nation’. Both consumers and workers would benefit. The latter from long-lived and extended public works programmes centred around coal, which in turn would drive salaries and feed households which had experienced some of the worst ravages of apartheid ‘separate development.”(1)

Thus it was that these two projects ballooned into costly engineering exercises, as complexity driven by the technocrats, bureaucrats and party officials, armed with Marxist texts and presidential directives, ruled the day. That Marxists tend to overtheorise economic problems, relying upon ideas such as ‘dialectical materialism’ and the ‘labour theory of value’ to arrive at their conclusions, in effect the triumph of ‘ideology over pragmatism’, has already been remarked upon.

What has not been said in the mainstream media is the manner in which unions such as COSATU, emboldened by socialist think-tanks such as the AIDC whose research is anything but lopsided (2), and with a culture of intolerance for differences in opinion, quixotically feed unemployment, climate change and the national debt. While the rest of the world is moving away from coal, South Africa’s coal ambitions have instead risen and include plans for at least several new coal plants such as Thabametsi, each one able to take our country into poll position as one of the top GHG emitters in the world.

Eskom’s coal-fired power plants persistently and significantly violates the air pollution limits in its licences.

“The main cause of its troubles” say Adjunct Professor Rod Crompton, is Eskom’s decision “to build two of the biggest coal fired generating plants in the world, (Medupi and Kusile). These plants are running way behind schedule, they’re over budget and the bits that are complete don’t work properly. They are probably the single largest disaster in South Africa’s economic history.”

Medupi is literally drowning in ash. The result of socialist bureaucrats implementing design changes via committee without sufficient input from scientists and engineers, whom they invariably ignore. This lack of concern for evidence-based research and scientific methodology in favour of ‘political education’ is not a new one, witness the failed Afro 4000 train debacle .

An editorial published by Engineering Weekly for example, debunks concerns from COSATU and others, surrounding loss of jobs due to renewables, and yet the union continues to demand a state-owned power utility on steroids, with little concern for loss of jobs in the broader economy and the tragic impact upon the livelihoods of those affected by outages and inefficiency.

“There is considerable support in South Africa” says Tobias Bishof-Niemz  for the notion that a transition in the electricity system from coal to renewable energy will trigger a jobs bloodbath at both Eskom and the Mpumalanga coal mines. A detailed analysis of the job numbers, however, suggests quite the opposite. In fact, it points to there being at least 30% more jobs in a fleet comprising solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind farms when compared with an energy-equivalent coal fleet”

Meanwhile the brazen union federation staged a protest march this week, in response to the President’s plan to unbundle Eskom, in effect calling for Eskom and its mounting debt, to be supersized. Unbundling alone may not be enough to offset the crisis. Creating completely separate, independent and regional power utilities able to compete with each other would have a better chance of survival.

NOTE:

(1) See Rudzani Mudogwa’s recently published defense of coal which relies heavily on  statements made by Gwede Mantashe.

(2) An article doing the rounds in the local press  purporting to be by “Dr Sweeney, an AIDC visiting researcher, with the City University of New York’s ‘School of Labor and Urban Studies’,” claims splitting up Eskom ‘will result in privatization’. If one follows the logic of the argument presented, it is the West (including NY City) that is in the grip of rolling blackouts and massive debt run-up by Energy Companies since they were unbundled from the State. No citations, case examples nor evidence is provided by the ‘researcher’.

Medupi alone is a R145bn disaster

Liberalism’s ideologues and their coalfaced discontents