ANC hand is in cookie jar, Zondo & tax rands

WITH every revelation from the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture comes new evidence of the plot to redirect public funds into the private hands of politicians. It is remarkable that this arrives at a time when SARS has over-collected taxes by a whopping R38 billion, raising questions as to the overall tax regime in the country.

Botswana is doing incredibly well for its size with a corporate tax rate of 22%, sharing the same tax bracket as Indonesia, another success story and only slightly above Finland the ‘happiest country in the world’ at 20%. Botswana is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, averaging 5% over the past decade, this is in no small part due to its progressive tax system and intolerance of corruption.

South Africa at 28% corporate tax is still two points above the USA at 25% (a developed country) and has one of the highest maximum personal income tax rates in the world at 45% compared to Botswana, 25%. All of which acts as a disincentive to investment.

SARS has over-collected tax over the past 12 months following the lowering of interest rates during the Covid pandemic. Unlike countries where tax is put to good use, the revelations of the Zondo Commission show how tax has invariably ended up in the hands of politicians, whose sole motivation appears to be to rip off the exchequer.

Many on the left are running on a ticket of raising taxes whilst also raising salaries, essentially targeting the economy as if it were the enemy in an inflationary proposition if ever there was one.

The country has now embarked on an interest raising round driven by imported macro-economic inflation caused by the Russian-Ukraine war and quantitative easing in the USA.

In South Africa, all citizens irrespective of socio-economic position are taxed on the sale of goods via Value Added Tax which is a high 15% compared to Switzerland at 7.7%. Other taxes include a Fuel Tax and Capital Gains Tax. The Fuel tax was reduced temporarily to accommodate higher gas prices and the benefits of this experiment still need to be assessed.

Lower taxes are counter-intuitive, since they tend to drive local investment, act to boost entrepreneurs who sustain businesses, which in turn create jobs, with the resulting increase of economic activity. High taxes tend to constrain investment as they act as a disincentive. Merely lowering interest rates during the Covid epidemic resulted in a massive boost for local investment.

IOL peddling ‘alternative facts’ as decuplets shortlisting axed

INDEPENDENT MEDIA has sought to reframe its fraudulent ‘decuplet scoop’, within a narrative of human trafficking. Not only is the health department pursuing charges, but the latest attempt to insert authority into the storyline by gaining a nomination for its own ‘miniseries’ on the subject, which is nothing more than a sad repackaging of events, appears to have fallen flat, after the organisers were alerted by SANEF.

“After the Inma awards competition shortlist was made public on March 8, certain concerns were brought to our attention regarding a social media campaign promoting a baby trade story in South Africa.

“Inma understands how important trust is to news media. The shortlist process can be, and in this instance has been, used to provide additional information which the judges had no access to at the time of judging. 

“Given the opportunity to review information from all parties related to the concerns raised, our international judges have reconsidered the entry, and it is no longer a finalist. We respect the jury’s decision.

That the owners of a nation-wide daily news outlet saw fit to ignore an internal review of the fictional story promoted as fact, by Pretoria News editor Piet Rampedi must surely rate as an abuse of the public trust? Instead of coming clean, and apologising for the lack of editorial oversight, IOL doubled-down, calling the SANEF position, ‘vindictive’.

That they now seek to legitimise the baldfaced lies and outright falsehood by creating promotional works which are clearly in the realm of propaganda, and should hardly be considered publicity and public relations, must raise questions as to the role of the company in claiming to generate news. As the saying goes, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, not a sorry attempt to provide plausibility with what looks like a first-year video project produced by a journalism cadet.

Over the past weeks, Medialternatives has noticed the appearance of a plethora of paid propaganda pieces relating to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, stemming from questionable sources, such as Russian, Chinese and Iranian state media. It is clear that Independent believe they are able to promote the ravings of an autocrat and dictator in Moscow, whilst pushing for South African support of an emerging Anti-Democratic nexus surrounding the Eurasian despot.

We urge readers to be wary of where they gain their sources of information.

Putin is South Africa’s problem

FOR too long my own country South Africa has been trading off bloodshed — the 69 deaths at Sharpville, the apartheid-era massacres of Boipatong (45), and earlier loss of life at Bulhoek (163) and Leliesfontein (35) which occurred under the colonial authorities. As a consequence, of our hard-won transition to democracy and peaceful end to apartheid, we have taken it upon ourselves to lecture all and sundry on human rights. No longer.

The introduction of an alternative UN resolution on the war in Ukraine — a resolution which did not mention Russia at all — was resoundingly rejected by the General Assembly, ‘leaving South Africa’s facade of neutrality in the conflict in tatters’. It literally went down like a concrete Dolossus chucked into Table Bay.

The Ukrainian Ambassador to the UN likened the South African motion to ‘knowingly giving a dying child a placebo instead of medicine’ and slapping ‘fresh paint on the moldy rotten structure of the assembly’ and ‘criticised South Africa for neither condemning Russia nor consulting with Ukraine on the matter.’

As the events surrounding the massacre and atrocities at Bucha play out, absolutely nothing to do with a ‘natural disaster’, as the SA rhetoric might suggest, one can only hold one’s head in shame, apologise to the world community while calling for restraints on ANC top brass — sanctions that could include restrictions on members’ international travel, and even the removal of South Africa from international organisations such as the UN Human Rights Council if necessary.

The ANC has been scrambling to reframe South Africa’s position on the humanitarian crisis, with Naledi Pandor issuing statements to the press on Friday saying the country “always opposed violations of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of member states and we don’t choose which member state”, whilst she also opposed Western intervention in the crisis, and insisted that Russia was the real victim, ‘an injured bear being constantly poked with a stick.’

Ramaphosa telephoned Joe Biden late Friday evening in a diplomatic effort around his thus far unsuccessful mediation efforts, and in an attempt to rescue trade relations. 

For nearly a decade, South Africa “unquestionably represented Russia’s biggest foreign policy success story on the continent. As relations soared during the ill-starred presidency og f Jacob Zumaer (2009–2018), the Kremlin sought to wrest a geopolitically significant state out of the West’s orbit and to create a partnership that could serve as a springboard for expanded influence elsewhere in Africa,” writes Andrew Weiss of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“Moscow’s strategy was multifaceted,” he says, capitalizing on well-established close ties with Zuma, a former African National Congress senior intelligence official with extensive Soviet bloc connections. Russian President Vladimir Putin and other senior officials pursued a series of initiatives, such as the inclusion of South Africa in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) grouping and the launch of ambitious forms of cooperation between state-backed energy interests primarily in the nuclear sector.”

To its credit, the so-called BRICS bank has placed a temporary halt on new Russian loans. The same cannot be said of the Ramaphosa administration which has been reluctant to sanction the Russian regime. Pandor hypocritically favours sanctions when it comes to the Palestine issue, but non-alignment and no sanctions when it comes to Ukraine. It remains to be seen whether or not the temporary suspension by the BRICS bank will hold, especially when alternatives to the SWIFT embargo are proposed from the far-left in South Africa.

The second largest opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters, (EFF) openly supports Russian aggression, while the official opposition Democratic Alliance is more supportive of Ukrainian independence from Putin.

Russian-South Africa nuclear projects keep on reappearing in various forms, though currently halted by the country’s robust environmental movement — the latest plans touted by Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe suggest Russia still has a role to play in South African energy policy and despite the presence of international sanctions.

Deputy President David Mabuza for instance, defended South Africa’s decision to buy gas from Russia some days ago.

Mabuza is reported to claim there was nothing “sinister” about his close ties to Russia and the country’s gas deals in the wake of the war in Ukraine. He said that ‘his visits to Russia for medical reasons should not be viewed with suspicion as the country tries to access more natural gas.’

Gazprombank, owned by Russia’s state-owned gas supplier, confirms it is considering a bid for what is potentially a multibillion-rand contract. The country is considered an essential part of Putin’s geopolitical grand strategy and is part of a minority of African states which refused to condemn Russia.

Though South Africa’s constitution is pacifist — a democratic instrument which has translated into a multiparty democracy, with a semblance of an independent executive and judiciary — the revelations of the Zondo Commission of inquiry into corruption under the Zuma administration paint a picture of a state which in many ways, is eerily similar to Putin’s Russia.

ANC ties reach back to the days of the struggle when the old Soviet Union was a major sponsor of the party.

It is no coincidence that the ANC has modelled itself after the oligopolistic, post-Communist Putin regime in which many parts of the economy are beholden to the Kremlin. South Africa’s 700+ State-owned Enterprises have acted to hobble our nation’s energy, transport, and telecommunications infrastructure, in the process breeding corruption and graft, a situation which has only begun to be corrected under Ramaphosa.

Given South Africa’s failed UN resolution, some would say the would-be reformist President is surely past his prime and unfit to govern? It is perhaps apt, that in Greek mythology, Dolos, (also a South African invention) is the spirit of trickery.

CORRECTION: Earlier versions of this article had 64 deaths at Sharpville taken from the SAhistory.org.za site.

A version of this piece was published by Daily Maverick 9 April 2022

Serial litigator, Terry Crawford-Browne is at it again, this time in support of Putin

OVER the years, former gold-dealer and banker, Terry Crawford-Browne has proven to be somewhat of a jaded crusader against war, that is, an opponent of militarism whenever it suits him. Thus while he opposes Western arms deals under the rubric “Economists Allied For Arms Reduction” and especially local arms-procurement, he has often ended up supporting the stratagems and policies of foreign dictators and autocrats

Crawford-Browne rose to fame on the coat-tails of the Anglican Church’s sanctions campaign against apartheid, and then proceeded to oppose the controversial realignment and hardware acquisitions of the new government and South African National Defense Force. The result was that along with Patricia de Lille, Crawford-Browne was given a platform to pursue a political agenda that has involved, inter alia, promoting Hamas and Putin’s Russia.

That judeophobia and denazification make for strange bedmates can be seen by Crawford-Browne’s latest scurrilous attacks against US President Joe Biden at the same time as he promotes a Pro-Putin narrative that has been thoroughly debunked by news organisations which include Deutsche Welle.

Crawford-Browne claims: “Biden, then as vice president, orchestrated the 2014 Maidan Revolution ‘regime change’ in Ukraine, in which the US ‘invested’ $5bn.”

He then goes on to infer that the President’s son, Hunter Biden’s position on the board of an obscure Gas Company Burisma, is untoward and indicative of this conspiracy, a minor scandal in US politics according to Vox, and one which deserves to be compared to the equally stricken Nord Stream 2 deal between Putin and Germany.

Though money was certainly spent by the US Department of State, and by NGOs which had government grants, the result is far from an ‘orchestration of events’. Not only was the money ‘over the table’ and not in the least bit clandestine, the financial help to organisations committed to development of civil society and Democracy, occurred during the course of many years .

Assistant Secretary Nuland at the USA-Ukraine Foundation Conference for instance specified USD 5 billion in aid since 1991, which is a far cry from the latest story being touted by Crawford-Browne, who is not simply the author of conspiracy stories involving arms dealers and intelligence operatives, but a peddler of blarney, and a litigant held in contempt of court, for defaming Trevor Manual amongst others.

In 2014 Crawford-Browne similarly went before the Arms Deal Commission and proceeded to claim that the person really responsible for the assassination of Chris Hani in 1993 was none other than “former Defence Minister Joe Modise”. An outrageous, unproven conspiracy story, that to date, has never been substantiated by any evidence, and despite the primary problem — both Clive Derby-Lewis and Janus Waluz were found guilty, alongside a plot by the right-wing.

Earlier in 2008 Browne was found guilty of contempt of court over his claims that Finance Minister Trevor Manuel is corrupt and was interdicted from repeating the corruption claims until a defamation action in which Manual was asking for a permanent gag on Crawford-Browne was settled. In the end, Manual was unsuccessful in his bid to permanently silence Crawford-Browne, in part due to his bid before the Constitutional Court to reopen the arms-deal inquiry — a move which itself turned out to be unsuccessful, with none of the issues ever finding any resolution.

In an opinion piece published by Business Day, Crawford-Browne finds an opportunity to repeat many of the lies being touted by Putin apologists. For example, the 2014 Russian invasion of Crimea, was merely a ‘secession’, thus no actual invasion as such occurred. It was the Azov battalion, (a Ukrainian militia formed in response to the creation of Pro-Russian militia after Putin flooded Eastern Ukraine with arms) who are responsible for the breakaway move, since they are in reality “Nazis flying Nazi Swastika flags” — an Anti-Jewish menace behind the ‘deaths of 14 000 Russian speaking Ukrainians in the Donbas region.’

There is no source provided for the death toll, nor even a vague consideration of the deaths of either Ukranians and Russians, whether Jewish or Gentile, in Putin’s latest military invasion which has resulted in 4 million refugees and displaced persons, and which is certainly not restricted to the Donbas.

While the Azov adoption of a nationalistic symbol once associated with the Waffen SS, drew criticism from Israel at the time, resulting in the battalion being absorbed into the regular Ukrainian army, the result is far from the picture of white supremacy painted by Crawford-Browne, who is himself, white.

A statement by 250 Scholars of Genocide, Nazism and World War II thus rejected the “Russian government’s cynical abuse of the term genocide, the memory of World War II and the Holocaust, and the equation of the Ukrainian state with the Nazi regime to justify its unprovoked aggression.”

“This rhetoric is factually wrong, morally repugnant and deeply offensive to the memory of millions of victims of Nazism and those who courageously fought against it, including Russian and Ukrainian soldiers of the Red Army” they said.

Leftsplaining Ukraine: Why does EFF support the Far Right in Russia?

JULIUS MALEMA cynically used an event held to commemorate the 1960 Sharpville massacre to lend his support by implication, to the bombing of a Mariupol Theatre four days earlier, in which 400 persons including children were sheltering. He thus praised Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine on a National holiday, now called Human Rights Day, more commonly associated with an apartheid-era massacre which killed 69 people.

Contrast this with Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek economist and former Finance Minister who has written a manifesto of sorts, on the Ukraine conflict. He says: “When a country or region is invaded, I am overcome by one duty: To take the side of the people facing troops with direct orders to violate their homes, to bombard their neighbourhoods, to destroy the circumstances of their lives. Without hesitation. Unconditionally.”

Varoufakis then proceeds, like many Pro-Palestine activists around the globe, to draw an analogy with events in Ukraine and children in occupied Palestinian territories throwing stones at “Israel Army bulldozers”. 

If that is not an indication of where many on the left find themselves in this conflict, then I don’t know what would rank as a typical leftist, albeit misguided position? The position of the leader of the so-called Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) on the other hand, can only be termed, despicable, and is perhaps redolent of nostalgia for the past?

Malema made much of the fact that Russia, during the Soviet period had armed MK guerrillas with Kalashnikovs as well as other war materiel and financial aid. He didn’t bother to inform his comrades that the Anti-Communist and fascist philosopher, Ivan Ilyin once expelled by Lenin, is considered to be a major ideological inspiration for Putin, who was personally involved in moving Ilyin’s remains back to Russia, and in 2009 consecrating his grave (see below).

Varoufakis states: “Today we must stand with Ukraine, unconditionally. And we must say it out loud: Putin is a war criminal whose campaign sits in the same category as the Hitler-Stalin invasion of Poland or the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. No ifs, no buts. Our task must be one: To help Ukrainians gain their independence against a ruthless invader.”

Like many anti-war resisters, I stood against USA and its war in Iraq, in the same manner that I oppose the war being fought by adults against children in the Middle East. I was thus an organiser and marshal at an event in 2002 (held on my birthday), which saw 100 000 people marching down Adderley St calling for an end to the war.

And while we may differ ideologically on the rationale and context of the issues affecting the two sides in Israel and Palestine (from my end, it’s a tragic case of injustice vs injustice, complicated by secular and religious identity), we can at least agree that we are opposed to war in principle, as a means of solving our problems, since at the end of the day, ‘it is not about who is right, but who is left that matters’.

Unlike the South African Communist Party (SACP) whose starting point is a universal ‘stand for peace’, or the Pan African Congress (PAC) whose position, much like the ANC, is seemingly one of non-alignment,( in this case, Pro-African non-alignment, rather than a flailing Pro-Brics effort at neutrality under Ramaphosa ) — the far-left EFF appear to have swallowed the lies being punted by Vladimir Putin, who is really nothing more than a white Christian Nationalist and despot.

One has merely to watch Putin addressing a flag-waving crowd, calling for Russian unity, whilst quoting from the bible to realise this is true.

Julius Malema, attempted pretty much the same feat by coming out in open support of the invasion, before a unified throng of red overalls,he reiterated: “We are not with America, we are with Russia.”

With deputy Floyd Shivambu earlier urging renewed support of Russia, the EFF appear to ignore the fact that Putin has been shown to be a disciple and scholar of Ivan Ilyin — a far-right Russian nationalist and anti-Communist expelled by Lenin in 1922, — and also Alexander Dugin, the Eurasianist and fascist geopolitician, who rank amongst other ‘symbols of classical Russian historiography’ quoted by the leader in the run up to the invasion.

Ilyin much like Malema, provided a metaphysical and moral justification for political totalitarianism, which he expressed in practical outlines for a fascist state.

Read Putin’s 2021 essay outlining his claims over Ukraine, as a central part of a Greater Russia.

Malema of course, didn’t let on that since he is 41 and born 3 March 1981, he was not much older than 10 when the USSR broke up, paving the way for South Africa’s own negotiated settlement. In short, Malema never carried a gun during the struggle and was never part of the anti-apartheid movement, as anything more than a minor.

He thus requires a further lesson in history. For Ilyin, ‘any talk about a Ukraine separate from Russia made one a mortal enemy of Russia’. The philosopher disputed that an individual could choose their nationality ‘any more than cells can decide whether they are part of a body.”

This is a far cry from the collegiality and internationalism for which communism was once famed, and even the Pan Africanism which informs many political schools of thought in South Africa.

Dugin can be credited with relocating Ilyin’s ideas within a geopolitical quest for Empire and apartness, what some would term multipolarity. As he puts it “we are not part of the global civilisation, we are a civilisation ourselves”. In this view, liberal values such as multi-party democracy, LGBTIQ and women’s rights are not necessarily shared values.

Dugin is a leading strategist behind the United Russia Party, which supports Putin in the Kremlin. A fascist and anti-Communist, he is the author of a Russian version of “Manifest Destiny” known as Foundations of Geopolitics (1997), a work used as a textbook in the Academy of the General Staff of the Russian military.

SEE: An Introduction to Ivan Ilyin, the Philosopher Behind the Authoritarianism of Putin’s Russia & Western Far Right Movements

Dear ‘Wokus Pokus’ Saffer Putin Supporter

Dear ‘Wokus Pokus’ Saffer Putin Supporter

Yes, I mean you. One of the many pseudo lefties in South Africa who claim “Russia is surrounded by Nato” despite the country sharing a border with Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China. The average, misguided socialist wannabee stuck with what Nigel Gibson writing on newsite ‘Africa Is A Country’ calls “crude anti-imperialist positions that are silent about the actual invasion of an independent country.”

Always returning to the Marxist ‘bully pulpit’ to support a country which is no longer the USSR, for the sake of ‘solidarity’ with a cause that was dead and buried when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991.

One of many pathetic small minds who always seem to claim allegiance to a big man — today it is the dictator and homophobe, Vladimir Putin, despite his track record of poisoning his opposition and locking up girl bands like Pussy Riot, who criticise him — tomorrow who will it be?

As Mokubung Nkomo writes in ‘Russia has become a far-right, Orwellian oligarchy — any historical solidarity is with a state that no longer exists’ : “Unlike the socialist USSR, Russia has become an unapologetic, mainly mixed economy, with an oversized oligarchic disposition. There is a huge substantive difference in the philosophies and political economies between the old USSR and the Russian Federation.”

Like England’s Henry VII, the Kremlin seizes the property of its critics, says veteran political analyst Keith  Gottschalk. This week, the country arrested several anti-war protesters for holding up blank pieces of paper.

Perhaps you would care to study some Russian history?

The country was one of the parties to the 1884 Berlin Conference which redrew the map of Africa. Czarist Russia was represented by Count Pyotr Alekseyevich Kapnist, a diplomat acting on behalf of the Czar, who consented to the result which gave the British, French, Germans, Italians and Portuguese, African colonies, so that the Russian Empire could cling to its own European territories which included the Baltic, Poland, Finland and Eurasia.

Russia consented because it wished to keep its benefits from an earlier period of serfdom and white slavery in the face of European abolitionists, and though landlocked for the most part, Russia was happy to see the West doing what it was doing in Africa so it could expand into territories which are now Asian Republics.

Czarist Russia also supported the Boers in the Anglo Boer war, and committed mercenaries on the side of the Afrikaners in order to prop up white supremacy whilst it was committing pogroms against Jews in the Baltic — my own family history, surely demonstrates that immigrants are not always self-serving colonials, but often those simply fleeing tyranny?

Though the subsequent history of the Russian Revolution and the formation of the USSR is a lot different, a riveting piece of world history, it really is of no consequence to the current events playing out today, since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, leaving only its successor, the so-called Russian Federation?

While you’re frenetically busy spreading Pro-Putin propaganda for a dictator who routinely silences dissent and are tediously, claiming this to be a noble fight ‘between socialism and capitalism’, try to quit Leftsplaining the conflict?

Why should we need to bother defending Russian state television RT and the loss of a solitary news feed from the Kremlin, if this means ignoring independent voices and media within Russia itself?

Consider the fate of Rain TV network, forced to close because of a Putin decree making it a criminal offense to criticise the Russian military, a law making it illegal to refer to the military operation as an ‘invasion’ or even a ‘war’.

Are you neglecting Russia’s many wars and invasions? The invasion of Afghanistan 1979? The invasion of Hungary 1956? The wars in Chechnya 1994 and 1999? ‘It’s exactly the same playbook as we’ve seen before in Grozny, in Chechnya and in Homs and Aleppo in Syria’.

Consider the resulting disorder and disruption experienced by millions of refugees across Europe in the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945? The targeting of civilians in a campaign that resembles an earlier Russian effort to prop up the Syrian butcher Assad, a man who gassed his own people?

While you foolishly ‘rabble-rouse’ on the alleged racism experienced by Africans at the border with Poland only to end up being played by Putin, consider the losses experienced by African students forced to flee Ukranian universities? Before the war, in 2019 the country was listed in the top 20 for those seeking refuge including migrants from Africa It is now the World’s number one source of refugees.

And while you needlessly deploy the rhetoric of ‘whataboutism’ in a vain and selfish effort to string together each and every war and conflict around the globe in your hip, ersatz and cheap, anti-Western invective, pause to consider the uncomfortable ‘what-abouts’ — like what-about Saddam Hussein and his gassing of Iranians? Or what-about Osama bin Laden and his bankrolling of 911 hijackers? Or what-about Muammar Gaddafi, and his penchant for throwing his opposition in prison?

Did you also miss the fact that Gaddafi sent his jets to bomb his own people, forcing Sarkozy to react when pilots who refused to do so, started seeking asylum in France? Maybe it was because you were too busy watching Russia Today and ignoring France 24 and the BBC?

Criticise the West and its many wars, oppose all war if you will, but let’s get some facts straight:

The Russian Federation is not a socialist utopia, but rather models itself on the earlier Imperialist Russia, along with its oligarchs, aristocrats and billionaires. A recent stadium address by Putin has all the fanfare of an evangelical meeting of white Christian nationalists.

Ukraine broke from the USSR in 1991 and willingly gave up its nuclear warheads in exchange for guarantees of territorial integrity from Russia and the West, the so-called Budapest Memorandum: “On December 5, 1994 the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Britain and the United States signed a memorandum to provide Ukraine with security assurances in connection with its accession to the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state. The four parties signed the memorandum, containing a preamble and six paragraphs.”

Putin invaded Crimea, a Ukranian territory in 2014 following the events surrounding “Euromaidan” a wave of demonstrations and civil unrest in Ukraine, which ‘began on the night of 21 November 2013 with public protests in Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Kyiv’ and resulted in a popular overthrow of Pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, who then fled to Russia.

The Crimean Invasion was the beginning of the conflict in which Putin still seeks to install a government more to his liking in what is known as ‘regime change’. It is significant that Russia has done this on more than one occasion — Crimea was a vassal-state under the Czar, a Khanate under the Tatars, and a colony under the Ottomans.

Putin’s ambassador to South Africa claims Russia is merely defending the rights of Ukrainian separatists, but this has in reality, turned into an all-out war of occupation and conquest, as seen by missile salvos over Kyiv.

Since 2014, Putin has labelled any Anti-Russian opposition within Ukraine, the work of ‘Neo-Nazis’. By Putin’s own definition, instead of fleeing Russian Cossacks, my own family are Nazis since my Great Grandmother once criticised the Czar.

Putin’s pathetic claims of denazification have been shown to be totally false, the current Ukrainian President Zelensky is not only Jewish and his family Holocaust survivors, but Russia proceeded to bomb a Holocaust memorial last week and has shown no restraint in targeting civilians, including women and children, claiming that the Ukranian Defence Force are using them as ‘human shields’.

Instead of greeting the invasion with open arms, and the Russians as liberators, the Ukranians have shown fierce resistance to the aggressor.

Putin promises to purify Russia of scum who enjoy gender rights in the West

Dear Anton Harber, you’re nothing more than a Putin apologist

Dear Anton Harber,

YOU were once the editor of a weekly rag fundamentally opposed to the apartheid state. I read the Weekly Mail religiously every week, since the day it arrived on our newsstands, and followed often radical opinions, many white leftie columnists and also the writing of a sole, token black arts commentator.

In 1992 I visited your newsroom, and found to my dismay that unlike South Press, which was a veritable Rainbow Nation, the Weekly Mail was essentially an all-white newsroom, catering for academics and liberal-leftie types from Houghton.

On the strength of your paper’s success you became an adjunct professor at Wits.

In 2020 the EFF were forced to apologise for referring to you and Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki as ‘Stratcom agents’.

Absolutely nothing was said about the implications of testimony provided by one Paul Erasmus during the Timol inquest, which implicated the Weekly Mail in a disinformation campaign centering around a dirty tricks operation targeting the late Winnie Mandela, and also the struggle press.

This week, you issued an opinion piece published on News24 tackling the removal of Russia Today (RT) from Multichoice entitled: ‘Don’t silence voices to counter malicious disinformation’ in which you state:

“I dislike the Russia Today (RT) television channel because it is the propaganda tool of a dangerous and corrupt autocrat. It shows little respect for the truth, and is happy to propagate the most appalling lies. But every now and then, I would turn to it – briefly – to hear how the Russian government was seeing the world and to get an alternative – and sometimes challenging – view.”

The piece is behind a paywall, so I can’t read nor respond to the rest of your article, but it appears to place RT within the liberal ‘marketplace of ideas’, and thus merely one source of information, to which you occasionally turn to for fresh, often ‘challenging views’.

Since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine last month, and following the events of 2014, and the annexation of Crimea, RT has become anything but a source of ‘challenging views’ and rather, as you appear to admit, ‘a mere propaganda instrument’ punting the alternative world-view, of the Russian plutocrat and his oligarchs — especially when it comes to reasserting Russian territorial claims over Eastern Europe.

Unlike the USA where no restrictions on speech exist, South Africa has a particular history which has resulted in constitutional limitations on freedom of expression. Thus there exist in our constitution prohibitions against hate speech, incitement of violence as well as propaganda for war.

The Pro-Putin RT evangelism and calumny around war certainly falls into this category. It begs the question why you as a professor of journalism, feel the need to apologise for it, and raises the issue of whether or not you are even qualified to deliver such an opinion?

It was Michael Osborne, one of the legal representatives actively involved in the constitutional process who reminded me of the pitfalls of claiming free speech absolutism of the type currently espoused by Elon Musk on twitter.

“Would you shout fire in a crowded theatre?” he asked, beginning what is a well-trodden philosophical argument against absolute freedom of speech.

Surely you must understand, from your years spent, apparently combating apartheid indoctrination and brainwashing, (save for your paper’s vicious campaign against Winnie Mandela), there are consequences to speech, especially when it incites a nonchalance over violence and aggression that runs contrary to our constitutional value system?

Putin has been exposed as a liar and charlatan over his reasoning for the Ukraine invasion. The bombing of a Holocaust war memorial should put paid to the idea that this has anything to do with ‘denazification’. In truth this phrase is merely a propagandistic trope used in rallying the military, rather than the basis for a factual case, and despite its use as a casus belli.

The situation is clearly not one of moral equivalence in which two equal forces are somehow locked in a relationship of equanimity in a dispute in which civilians can simply choose which side they support, as if democracy, the rule of law and the liberal marketplace of ideas prevailed.

Putin has clamped down on press freedom inside Russia, passing laws which stifle commentary on the war. Leading to the arrest of at ‘least 2,776 people’ who have been arrested for protesting in the three days since the war began.’

This news from OVD-Info, ‘a Moscow-based organization that tracks arrests linked to anti-government activities across the country’, was not reported on its website, which was “inaccessible to Russians Saturday night” but on its Telegram channel.

In a separate statement on Saturday also reported by Canada’s The Star, “Roskomnadzor announced an investigation into the reporting of numerous media organizations over their accounts of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the language used to describe the offensive.”

The outlets are accused of publishing “untrue information about the shelling of Ukrainian cities and the death of civilians in Ukraine as a result of the actions of the Russian army, as well as materials in which the ongoing operation is called an attack, invasion or a declaration of war,” the statement said.

If your piece proceeds to defend journalists within Russia affected by Putin’s crackdown, then I apologise beforehand. However, I have yet to see you defend independent journalism inside the country — you certainly have remained silent when journalists such as myself are gagged by the very outlet upon which your views and opinions have been published.

I therefore reject your argument as diabolical considering the current circumstances in which Ukrainian men, women and children are being targeted by Putin’s death squads.

Sincerely yours

David Robert Lewis

New SABC household ‘hut tax’ mooted

STATE-OWNED enterprise, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has approached Parliament with a scheme to raise what is essentially a media levy on each and every household, irrespective of whether or not one possesses a television set. The scheme resembles the ‘hut’ taxes of old, which were used by the colonial authorities as a form of ‘poll tax’ (see below) to force people into the migrant labour system, and are unprecedented in modern times.

PetroSA for example, doesn’t levy fees on motorcars as such, but receives taxes at the pump. It certainly doesn’t tax those without vehicles, and the same may be said of Eskom, which charges fees for connection to the grid, but ignores the temptation to charge those without any access to electricity.

SABC now want an unusual ‘device independent’ tax to plug a gap in funding that has emerged as increasing numbers of South Africans turn to the Internet for content instead of media provided by the broadcaster. The broadcaster currently receives funding directly from the fiscus and also advertising revenue, and it remains to be seen whether or not it possesses any legal basis nor power, to implement such an extraordinary levy.

The earlier threat of a license targeted at general purpose computing and smart phones appears to have subsided somewhat, and there are a number of objections one may make when it comes to taxing the Internet, since many providers such as this outlet, provide content for gratis. In effect SABC would be charging consumers for content over which it does not possess copyright nor any resale royalty agreements.

Before the emergence of Multichoice, SABC were essentially a national broadcaster. The only pay-tv channel Mnet was that provided by a single private company. The SABC television license was thus essentially an operating tax on televisions, levied by the government, to kickstart broadcasting in the country.

The SABC is not a government entity as such but rather a corporation owned by the state, competing alongside other private companies. State-owned enterprises do not posses the power to tax the public and it is unprecedented for them to approach parliament in this manner. Telkom for instance, doesn’t tax its competitors and neither does the Post Office foolishly charge those who do not use its services, but rather email.

At the end of the day, it is the government which needs to fund its public mandate. It should do this via the usual channels — VAT, Capital Gains and Income Tax — not via introduction of a special tax, nor by attempting to create revenue streams that would place it in the world of commerce.

South African are unlikely to accept a Household ‘Hut Tax’, which is really just another way of saying ‘Poll Tax’ ( also known as head tax or capitation) which is a tax levied as a fixed sum on every liable individual (typically every adult), without reference to income or resources. In the case of a Hut Tax, the tax is levied on every dwelling or household.

Nor should we stoop to concede to the implementation of a separate tax for government media, in other words paid propaganda. Whether or not the public mandate will be fulfilled by the SABC or other service providers remains to be seen. There is no reason why other cheaper outlets for government information should be considered, instead of imposing yet another tax on already-stretched consumers.

Ukraine: Enter Dugmore & the Tankie Left

TANKIES are leftists who defend Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, but who are otherwise opposed to the use of tanks to resolve disputes. It is a term derived from an earlier generation of Western leftists who backed the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956 — and who also defend Russia’s behavior today. It may applied to any situation of paradoxism in political outlook involving the use of state force, such as invasions, pre-emptive strikes and the like.

The ANC’s Cameron Dugmore best epitomises South Africa’s tankie left. In 1987 as UCT SRC president, he appeared on a combined ECC – IDF platform alongside then SAUJS President, Johnathan Handler. It was the first of a large group of 23 objectors, which included Christian pacifists, Jewish and also Atheist objectors

Handler opposed the use of SADF tanks in the townships, but paradoxically supported the IDF and its war in Lebanon. It was the 1982 invasion of Southern Lebanon under direction of then Defense Minister Ariel Sharon  which had lead me to a path of opposition to the use of force by the State of Israel. Of course, I naively assumed at the time, there were parallels between the SADF war in Angola and what was happening in the Middle East (you can read my response to Seth Rogen here).

This week at a combined Russian and South African gathering, hastily called to celebrate apparently ’30 years of solidarity’. Dugmore took issue with the Democratic Alliance (DA) for wanting to light up Cape Town’s public buildings in the colors of the Ukrainian flag. He also attacked what he claimed was the parties ‘refusal to debate issues to do with Palestine’.

That Dugmore shares the Russian autocrats homophobic and misogynistic worldview is not that surprising given Palestinian opposition to LGBTIQ+ rights, and the Tankie left should pause to consider that Putin is admired by Republicans on the far-right, and the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy is Jewish.

Russia proceeded to bomb a well-known Holocaust war-memorial yesterday, commemorating Babi Yar, a site where some 150 000 Jewish Ukrainians were massacred.

Many on twitter were quick to point out that Ukraine had also been a part of the USSR, and if anything, South Africa owes the country a debt of gratitude for its support of the anti-apartheid movement.

South Africa itself has ties with the Russian people and the former Soviet Union going back over 70 years and to World War 2 where it fought alongside the allies. The attempt to recast Putin as a contemporary savior figure has been condemned as nothing short of foolish nostalgia, the result of the ANC’s moral agnosticism.

Naledi Pandor for example was quick to jump on the ‘unconscionable racism’ experienced by many Africans attempting to flee Ukraine under martial law amidst unavoidable restrictions on travel — nothing less than ‘supporting evidence’ for Putin’s claim that he was ‘denazifying the country by invading’. (read my previous open letter to the Minister)

Poland for example has a 1 in 10 policy, only letting in 1 Foreigner for every 10 Ukrainian women and children. Africans fared a lot better at the Hungarian border, where unlike Poland, there were no far-right groups objecting to their presence.

Meanwhile a Russian millionaire offered a $1 million bounty for the arrest of Putin, stating: “As an ethnic Russian and a Russia citizen, I see it as my moral duty to facilitate the denazification of Russia. I will continue my assistance to Ukraine in its heroic efforts to withstand the onslaught of Putin’s Orda.”

And by that he means to De-Putinise Russia.

Though our own country is a partner in BRICS, (an economic block dreamt up by economists, in the same vein as FAANG, a Wall St acronym), there is little to be gained by equivocating on the issue. The government has been taken to task for being on the ‘side of the oppressor’.

The much-vaunted BRICS bank is bound to come under pressure from economic sanctions, even China has baulked at the prospect of a financial fall-out from Putin’s war, bearing in mind that the Chinese economy has just experienced a major event in the managed deflation of a stupendous property bubble.

President Xi Jinping can ill-afford to bankroll his neighbours war adventure in the Ukraine, and neither is South Africa able to afford the luxury to go it alone so far as international sanctions and pressure on Putin is concerned, –our own sovereign debt and junk rating, must rank high on the agenda of our finance minister.

South Africa chose to abstain from a UN General Assembly vote this week, condemning the Russian invasion. Pretoria may live to regret its lack of action.

Yes, Adriaan Basson is automatically a racist

BOUWER van Niekerk, a Johannesburg-based attorney penned an opinion on a statement this month, written by a group of concerned advocates who “were outraged by what they viewed as racist attitudes toward black legal practitioners.” In the process he unwittingly raises a point in law, regarding the status of persons who like Basson, may not have gained amnesty for crimes under apartheid.

Niekerk states without any sense of irony: “If I utter racist views, I should be held accountable and prosecuted accordingly. But the mere fact that I may differ with the views of the concerned advocates should not automatically make me a racist. Such a conclusion is simply erroneous. (And, for the record, I am not a racist.)”

The trouble with this assertion, which of course, assumes the parties, including Basson and Dali Mpofu are ‘innocent until proven guilty’, is that when it comes to an opinionated critic of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), Basson is also an “editor-in-chief of South Africa’s largest website News24” and former editor of Die Burger, and thus a member of an organisation opposed to the ‘transitional justice process’, in other words the outcome of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

Basson is essentially the pitbull for a publishing concern which, despite its case-limited apology in 2015, clings to a version of history that is anything but truthful. A case of the pot calling the kettle black, since he took Dali Mpofu to task for his unsubstantiated aspersions against Judge President Dunstan Mlambo, during a round of hearings before the JSC, but thought nothing of his company deploying the exact same tactic when it came to hearings involving the TRC?

Naspers and its subsidiary Media24, has gone to elaborate lengths to avoid history, including tarnishing and scandalising the truth and reconciliation process before the courts, in the process engaging with acts of malfeasance and state capture (documented here), all calculated to stymie the victims and survivors of the apartheid regime. The company gave the ANC R1 million last year.

In its conclusions to the special inquiry into the media, Volume 4 of the TRC report stated: “As predicted by the chairperson of the Commission at the start of the media hearing, the absence of the Afrikaans press led to its being condemned as an extension and willing propaganda organ of apartheid.” [para 103, page 186]

The report thus issued its findings, including that: “The Afrikaans media (at least until the last few months of PW Botha’s tenure as State President) chose to provide direct support for apartheid and the activities of the security forces — many of which led directly to gross human rights violations.” [para 115, page 189]

It found also that: “The racism that pervaded most of white society permeated the media industry. This is supported by ample testimony presented to the Commission concerning the failure of many white journalists to delve thoroughly enough into allegations of gross human rights violations involving black people.”

“With the notable exception of certain individuals, the mainstream newspapers […] failed to report adequately on gross human rights violations. In so doing, they helped sustain and prolong the existence of apartheid.

Persons such as Basson were thus essentially found guilty in absentia in a proceeding whose legal authority and standing has never been tested in a court of law.

SEE: TRC: No to Naspers dirty tricks

SEE: Naspers “half-apology” ignores decade-long battle for justice and contrition

SEE: Following Reconciliation Day, an open letter to the TRC Commissioners