Category: Activism

COVID-19: Our People’s Health is an Environmental Issue

SOUTH AFRICA is one of the few countries to have secured the right to a healthy environment alongside the right to health in its constitution, yet it took the crisis of a global pandemic for apartheid-era hostels in Alexander township to be deep cleaned. As our own Department of Health moved to contain the spread of COVID-19, questions were being raised as to why the Minister had waited so long, and why had the Department of Health (DOH) not acted with similar vigour during previous TB and Pneumonia epidemics?

As the nation went into lock-down, many found cause to question the apartheid spatial planning which meant that black South Africans were disproportionately affected by problems related to access to food, lack of water, sanitation and ablution facilities. As one mother put it, ‘Our family share a single tap with four other households, social distancing is problematic for us.’ While most white folk were hunkering down in luxury apartment blocks, the poor were being relegated to townships and informal settlements where little has changed during the democratic period.

The cause is a virus which many scientists believe has come to the fore because of the same underlying factors effecting climate change. One should talk here about the ecology of disease.

“The interconnectedness of our globalised world facilitated the spread of COVID-19. The disruption this continues to cause has made evident societal dependence on global production systems,” says Vijay Kolinjivadi, a  post-doctoral fellow at the Institute of Development Policy at the University of Antwerp.

He observes a disjuncture in our response to the double crisis: “Although both COVID-19 and climate change are rooted in the same abusive economic behaviour and both have proven to be deadly for humans, governments have seen them as separate and unconnected phenomena and have therefore responded rather differently to them.”

“While we do not get daily updates on the death toll caused by climate change, as we do with COVID-19, it is much deadlier than the virus.”

Although a lot has been made about animal rights and the beneficial decrease in pollution caused by the pandemic, the result of what researchers such as Kolinjivi see as a ‘positive degrowth’. Now is not the time for complacency on air standards, emissions and climate change.

Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland writing with Daya Reddy, President of the International Science Council, says: “The COVID-19 threat has shown that governments can act swiftly and resolutely in a crisis, and that people are ready to change their behavior for the good of humanity. The world must now urgently adopt the same approach to the existential challenge of climate change.”

In South Africa the ruling party has instead utilised the pandemic as an opportunity to escape commitments made during successive UN Conference of the Parties (COP) rounds. Readers awoke last week to find that Gwede Mantashe, had published new amendments to the Mineral Resources Development Act (MPRDA) on the first day of the Covid-19 emergency lock-down in order to escape accountability, while air pollution standards had been gutted, enabling Eskom and SASOL to double sulphur emissions.

There is palpable fear amongst activists, that in focusing on the pandemic, the nation will lose its impetus on climate change alongside its civil liberties.

“The disruption brought on by Covid-19 could reverse efforts made by governments thus far to reduce carbon emissions to tackle the climate crisis. What is needed is a way to connect the two calamities to capacitate a sustainable revival in the aftermath” writes Luveshni Odayar, a Machel-Mandela Fellow at The Brenthurst Foundation.

It is therefore imperative that we view public health (literally the people’s health) as an environmental issue, in the same way that apartheid was linked to the struggle for environmental justice by myself and others, back in the 1980s, resulting in the emergence of Earthlife Africa and other activist formations.

In fact the two health struggles, that of the public in general (and body in particular), and that of the environment at large, are so closely interlinked and intertwined, that they cannot be seen as distant relatives.

Whether food security, urban and peri-urban spatial planning, climate change or coronovirus, the rights of all citizens to live in harmony with nature, while enjoying quality of life, free from disease and illness is non-negotiable.

The result of this crisis must be an expanded concept of health and health-care-for-all, and thus a public policy which encompasses physical well-being as much as it does the Earth. That it has taken a virus to make us all aware of this deep connection, can only be seen as one of the positive lessons to be drawn from the pandemic.

Our recovery and future is dependent upon making this profound realisation a reality, and thus a yardstick which motivates and drives our country.

Mr President, we’re not officially at “War”

THE DEPLOYMENT of SANDF military personnel in support of SAPS enforcement of an unprecedented ‘lockdown’ in terms of the Disaster Management Act and National Health Act has resulted in at least three deaths, and countless examples of brutality and ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ reminiscent of the apartheid era.

The new regulations gazetted in terms of the legislation, and which appear to reference the colonial 1919 Public Health Act, may also turn out to be unlawful, as too the many contraventions of South Africa’s Bill of Rights.

The Disaster Management Act was drafted primarily to deal with natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts and floods, and does not grant the President the kind of powers contemplated by the latest round of executive policy-making decisions.

Similarly, the National Health Act is focused on providing health care for all, and does not contain any reference to the Public Health Act written during a period in which black South Africans were deprived of property rights and other rights such as habeous corpus.

The past days stream of online visuals of combined law enforcement officials invading citizen’s homes without search warrants, shambokking residents on private property, pointing shotguns at civilians queuing for food, affecting arbitrary arrests of civilians, and in some instances, forcing South Africans as well as migrants, to do humiliating squats, brutally knocking others to the ground, rolling them on the streets and pavements, are all brutish acts calculated to force compliance with the latest rounds of regulations. As such, they deserve greater scrutiny from both our government and opposition parties.

To date, the official opposition DA has merely written a letter calling for military investigation into the incidents whilst parliament is in recess. Minister of defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has meekly cautioned members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) against their heavy-handedness during the lockdown.

With all the talk of war South Africans could be forgiven for thinking that the nation had officially declared war against the virus. Unfortunately we are in uncharted terrain so far as this is concerned, and Parliament has yet to pass a War Powers Act which would be required to allow President Ramaphosa to act as a war-time president.

At the start, the President acknowledged that the 15 March, Declaration of a National Disaster was one step away from the so-called national lockdown and a long way away from a State of Emergency. The shelter-in-place directive is unprecedented in modern times, but clearly necessary from a public health perspective. Law enforcement officials however seem to be a little overzealous in jumping the gun when it comes to the State of Emergency and special War Powers that would be needed to drive a command economy under military supervision.

Goods deemed non-essential, and therefore currently restricted from sale, quixotically include vegetable seed, general hardware, and cleaning equipment such as brooms.

Though generally muted by the past weeks events, our courts are still operating and functioning under special rules, and to my knowledge, the rule of law has not yet been suspended. It is unclear how citizens are expected to access legal aid during a lockdown.

Nevertheless Magistrates were quick to roll out summary fines of up to R5000 for contraventions of the new regulations, the magnitude of which will take some time to circulate within our communities. Legal professionals were generally silent or bunkered down, but eager to offer advice on the drafting of wills. Did we scrap the Audi rule alongside the National Environmental Management Act in the process?

We can only hope that the President supplies us with a timeline to the resumption of normality and that attempts to get ahead of the crisis will not come at the further expense of human rights.

The lockdown may be extended indefinitely, as in many other countries.

Tension over who’s boss of courts

How SA bungled the Covid epidemic and looks set to repeat the mistakes of the Spanish flu

INSTEAD of focusing efforts at containment, the country was transfixed by what President Ramaphosa described as an `exercise to carry the pride and hope of the nation`. Instead of closing borders to the new epicentres of Italy and Spain, the country was welcoming travellers, without so much as a Covid-free certificate. No quarantines for incoming tourists from Spain, Italy or Hong Kong for that matter. Our national effort focused on the plight of less than 150 citizens living in Wuhan. In the process the ruling party sacrificed a massive opportunity to contain Covid-19 until a vaccine could be found.

Our efforts at containment are too little, too late, and will in all likelihood cost the lives of some 3 million citizens once the epidemic is over.

Airport screening is largely futile, research shows. 

Singapore’s MOH has expanded the definition of suspect cases to include ‘persons with pneumonia or severe respiratory infection with breathlessness.’ The country has rolled out a new portble swab test at checkpoints.

Meanwhile in the Cape Metro, our Health MEC issued guidelines that excluded the possibility of Community Infection.  A poster issued by the City 11 March directs persons with Covid-19 symptoms to seek assistance ONLY if they have travelled overseas or have come into contact with a person already diagnosed with Covid-19.  Achieving what other countries could not with a stroke of pen.

The same posters were then translated into several of our national languages with better graphics and type and rolled out this week, in a total waste of resources.

Instead of lowering the threshold of surveillance, MEC Nomafrensch Mbombo raised the bar, excluding assistance to anyone who may have gotten an infection from a traveller or tourist. A public health policy which merely feeds into a testing system overly dependent upon private pathology labs, and where Covid test costs are anywhere R1400 – R900.

It is a policy which appears to also have originated from the previous SARS epidemic in which no tests nor vaccines were available, and where case definitions relied upon excluding various symptoms in the absence of treatment modalities.

Senegal a country with experience  from recent Ebola epidemic, is able to produce 10 minute tests which cost R16.50

Massive testing has been a key factor of successful combat of the epidemic in South Korea and Canada. The linchpin of South Korea’s response has been a testing programme that has screened more people per capita for the virus than any other country by far. ‘By carrying out up to 15,000 tests per day, health officials have been able to screen some 250,000 people – about one in every 200 South Koreans – since January’.

Australia has issued an order directing new arrivals to the country to self-quarantine for 14 days as has Canada and New Zealand.

Independent reports of citizens using the national toll free number, confirm that no Covid assistance will be forthcoming to anyone who suspects community transmission. A report of the country’s first confirmed community transmission in the Free State was withdrawn last week, apparently the result of ‘misinterpretation’.

After dithering on the issue of testing the Trump administration announced sweeping reforms on Friday which included free testing for all citizens, a policy already mandated by congress. The declaration of a state of emergency in the USA has also paved the way for pharmaceutical company Roche to access federal emergency funding for a massive rollout of SARS-CoV-2 Test to detect novel coronavirus.

If one uses German Chancellor Merkel’s estimates that 40%-60% of the population will invariably be infected: South Africa with a population of 52 million must plan for some 20 800 000 to 31 200 000 cases of which 1.8 – 3.4 % will be critical. In other words we stand to lose 561 600 to 1 060 800 and 374 400 to 707 200 people during the course of the epidemic.

Extrapolating stats from the North presents certain difficulties, the least of which is our country has many informal settlements and an under-resourced public health system. The figures therefore need to be corrected by a factor of 3 — we could end up shedding anywhere between 1 200 000 and 3 million people if critical cases do not receive treatment.

Editorial note: Readers please refrain from comparing raw exponential data surrounding an evolving epidemic to events which are static, and without same variance like annual mortality rate for car accidents, since according to statistician, NN Taleb, ‘this introduces a flaw in standard statistics’.

A local epidemiologist Jody Boffa, says she suspects ‘that once COVID-19 is more established in South Africa, the numbers of people requiring hospitalisation for pneumonia and other severe complications will be higher than 1.7 to 4 million if we do not take preventive steps now because of specific health issues in our population that affect the immune system of younger populations as well; specifically HIV, tuberculosis (TB), and malnutrition.’

A guide on ‘Interpreting and using mortality data in humanitarian emergencies’ cautions on the imprecision inherent to all epidemiological models but nevertheless insists such impact data ‘should be used to drive policy decisions’.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has issued a statement calling on the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, to institute a mandatory self-quarantine period of 14 days for all travelers from high-risk European countries whether the person is symptomatic or not. The party could not explain why the City’s own Covid-19 programme excluded those who have not travelled overseas or have not come into contact with a person already diagnosed with Covid-19.

During the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic South Africa was one of the five worst-hit parts of the world. About 300,000 South Africans died within six weeks. This represented 6% of the entire population.

In 1918, the city of Philadelphia threw a parade that killed thousands of people. Ignoring warnings of influenza among soldiers preparing for World War I, the march to support the war effort drew 200,000 people who crammed together to watch the procession. ‘Three days later, every bed in Philadelphia’s 31 hospitals was filled with sick and dying patients, infected by the Spanish flu.’

The UK has announced a preventive quarantine programme for the elderly as well as other measures to combat the fast-moving epidemic.

Covid-19 is more infectious and contagious than previously assumed. R0 value is likely to be between 4.7 and 6.6., and not 2.2 to 2.7 as previously reported.

Coronavirus turns deadly when it leads to ‘cytokine storm’; identifying this immune response is key to patient’s survival

The most common symptoms of COVID-19, according to the WHO: fever (in 88% of cases), dry cough (68%), fatigue (38%) and sputum/phlegm production (33%). Shortness of breath occurred in nearly 20% of cases, and about 13% had a sore throat or headache, the WHO said in a report drawing on more than 70,000 cases in China.

Veredus Laboratories has announced development of detection kit for Wuhan Coronavirus. 

The credit card sized kit is a portable Lab-on-Chip application capable of ‘detecting the Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) i.e. Wuhan Coronavirus, in a single test’ in about 2 hours.

See Covid Simulator

Covid-19 – Do we trust a health administration that keeps getting its decimals and policies in the wrong place?

UPDATED 14/03/2020

HEALTH SOUTH AFRICA’S inability to detect a Covid–19 patient incoming from a red zone (Italy) is cause for alarm. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize characterisation of so-called ‘patient zero’ as ‘no big deal’ amidst a rush to give South Africa the ‘all clear’, the failure of his department to pre-empt and stall the arrival of the country’s first patient, is most definitely A BIG DEAL.

Unlike South Africa, Senegalese scientists are on the forefront of testing. In partnership with the UK-based Mologic, scientists at Dakar’s Pasteur Institute are helping to develop a handheld coronavirus test kit that could diagnose COVID-19 within 10 minutes.  Lab-on-a-Chip PCR testing exists today, and can detect Covid-19 incubation within 10 minutes. An industry journal describes the method for creating PCR tests on ‘microfluidic devices’.

It is abundantly obvious that our Dept of Health (DOH) lacks the technology to test for Covid-19 during the 5.1 day incubation period and that Dr Mkhize has absolutely no idea how to go about treating patients other than via self-quarantine. There are currently no plans it seems, to acquire portable PCR Kits for all South Africans. The PCR acronym is short for Polymerase Chain Reaction, the method by which a very small sample of DNA can be amplified to an amount sufficient to study in detail.

Given South Africa’s previous experience with the HIV pandemic, it is particularly galling that our own science sector appears to not have received any previous funding to produce portable PCR–testing and the dept of Health is unable to provide any answers to the problem of incubation detection, other than to reiterate that pathology labs exist and stock-outs have occurred with PPE.

It appears incoming arrivals are being tested purely on the basis of a symptomatic case-definition which includes high temperatures and ignores the incubation period.

Remarkably, in media briefings reminiscent of the HIV-denial era, Dr Mkize disingenuously claimed over the weekend, ‘there is nothing overly infectious’ about Covid-19, and South Africans are thus in ‘no immediate danger’ from the pathogen. This viewpoint gained support from ‘religious leaders’, as the Minister of Health (MOH) announced the so-called patient zero had been miraculously cured, Sunday, after being admitted on Thursday.

Nevertheless, an event which had necessitated the activation of ‘tracer-teams’ to locate other members of a group of 10 who had visited Italy.

Sending patient zero back home may be premature, given the likelihood of reinfection.

Several persons related to the group of South Africans who traveled to Italy was also found to have the Covid-19 virus. A school was closed down yesterday, due to an educators ‘close proximity to a positive Covid-19 patient’. The DOH meanwhile called for calm, but stopped short of calling the closure, ‘irresponsible’.

Reports of the country‘s first ‘community transmission‘ in the Free State yesterday were retracted by the DOH. There are currently 16 confirmed cases,

Instead of announcing stringent testing protocols on incoming flights Dr Mkhize has moved to give South Africans the all clear. Our Minister of Tourism has meanwhile outlined three possible scenarios, the worst being presumably internal travel restrictions. This contrasts with the UK which this week announced a robust ‘containment and delay strategy’.

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During the 2003 coronavirus outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), a passenger aboard a flight from Hong Kong to Beijing infected people well outside the WHO’s two-row boundary. The New England Journal of Medicine noted that the WHO criteria “would have missed 45 percent of the patients with SARS.”

The Harvard Business Review published an article Feb 28, on the need for cheap Covid-19 diagnosis, stating: “Testing at a broader, global scale may be necessary, .. would require a point-of-care “rapid” diagnostic kit. We made the same case for combating the less-widespread albeit tragic Ebola and Zika crises. Such broad testing cannot depend on specialized equipment and a relative handful of centralized labs; people need to be tested in clinics and perhaps even at their doorsteps. Our most recent models indicate that in order to control coronavirus within a year, 80% of symptomatic patients would need to be tested and isolated within a day of symptoms appearing.”

Am therefore not reassured at all by the approach outlined by the Minister, and totally agree with Dr Anthony Fauci of the Whitehouse Covid-19 task-team that ‘millions of diagnostic tests are needed’, and thus ‘a more robust approach to testing‘. Over-reliance by our own department of health on a symptomatic approach and post-infection ‘tracer-teams’ presents many dangers, including the possibility of community infection.

Karl Greenfield, the author of a book on SARS writes “I noticed a pattern in how the media, governments, and public-health systems respond to infectious-disease outbreaks. There are four stages of epidemic grief: denial, panic, fear, and if all goes well, rational response”.

A comparison between the experience of Hong Kong and Italy is useful. “In Hong Kong”, says first-responder Michael Coston, “they assumed the disease was already in the community, and they not only continued to work to prevent further entry, they put very tough measures in place to prevent its spread. Italy, on the other hand, has been mostly reactive. Waiting for community spread to become obvious, and then dealing with each outbreak as if it were a limited event, rather than a systemic problem.”

We cannot afford to simply wait for patients to present themselves to doctors. Let’s not become like Mauritania where several patients fleeing a red zone were apprehended, or Iran, where failure to quarantine has lead to a massive public health disaster.

Even Zimbabwe, with limited resources has a better policy than our own Health Dept in demanding persons entering Zim supply a Covid-19-free certificate. Have we forgotten about yellow fever? I should hope not. The global spread of the virus appears to have outstripped plans outlined in a presentation by Kerrigan McCarthy of the DOH. They involve development of a single questionnaire for travelers from China, and ‘provision of additional thermometers and staff to support screening.’

The latest announcement of a lowering of the threshold of surveillance of pneumonia cases in both public and private health systems is unlikely to impact on future case numbers, however expanding the definition of suspect cases to include persons with pneumonia or severe respiratory infection with breathlessness, as Singapore has done, will offer many benefits.

Coronoviruses are a family of hundreds of viruses that can cause fever, respiratory problems, and sometimes gastrointestinal symptoms too, and include Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS).

Covid-19 with a reproduction number or R0 of 1.4–3.8 is bound to turn into a community disease extremely quickly if we all carry on pretending, like Iran, that the science doesn’t matter, it does. To give an indication, SARS had an r0 of 2-5, while MERS was 0.3-0.8. Anything greater than 1 is able to spread, with Measles at the top of the list of airborne diseases with a whopping R0 of 12-18. Reports carried by South Africa’s PE Herald appear to confuse Covid-19 with MERS, and consequently are based upon a lower R0!

The virus is several more times infectious than the Flu, and has a high mortality rate, according to Dr Richard Hatchett, who heads up the UK Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. However a piece in MIT Technology Review suggests a different rate of infection: “The flu has a shorter incubation period (the time it takes for an infected person to show symptoms) and a shorter serial interval (or the time between successive cases). Coronavirus’s serial interval is around five to six days, while flu’s gap between cases is more like three days, the WHO says. So flu still spreads more quickly.“

comparison between the seasonal flu and Covid-19 shows that while average mortality rate for seasonal flu is just 0.1%, mortality spectrum for the novel coronovirus is anywhere between 1%-18% depending upon age group. This is an order of magnitude greater! For the common flu the spectrum is just 0.01-0.83%. Our DOH has its decimals in the wrong place! The official WHO average Covid-19 mortality rate is 3.4% Italy is reporting a 4.2% apparent mortality rate. (see How Deadly is the Coronovirus?) and (Covid-19 Facts Checked).

If one uses German Chancellor Merkels estimates that 40%-60% of the population will invariably be infected: South Africa with a population of 52 million must plan for some 20 800 000 to 31 200 000 cases of which 1.8 – 3.4 % will be critical. In other words we stand to lose 561 600 to 1 060 800 and 374 400 to 707 200 people during the course of the epidemic.

Extrapolating stats from the North presents certain difficulties, the least of which is our country has many informal settlements and an under-resourced public health system. The figures therefore need to be corrected by a factor of 3, — we could end up shedding anywhere between 1 200 000 and 3 million people.

South Africans must demand better screening technology and protocols now! “The clinical picture suggests a pattern of disease that’s not dissimilar to what we might see in influenza,” according to a report carried by online news site Bloomberg, as to why the disease turns deadly.“The progression from mild or moderate to severe can occur “very, very quickly,” says Bruce Aylward, a WHO assistant director-general who co-led a mission in China that reviewed data from 56,000 cases”.

A doctor on the front line of Italy’s fight against coronavirus has described the epidemic as a “disaster” and warned the public is underestimating the threat posed by the disease because of a “war on panic”.

By some accounts, Covid-19 also appears to operate as a ‘Flu-like Malaria’ in effect, resulting in similar respiratory complications and according to a paper published via Pubmed,treatable by chloroquine phosphate. Anti-virals such as lopinavir-ritonavir have also proven effective in Spain, as have the use of protease inhibitors. Some have therefore also likened the disease to a form of ‘HIV Flu’, but this is an overstatement and predicated upon the use of effective viral disruptors. A more accurate description would be ‘viral pneumonia’, but how to explain the reports of fever?

The virus can live on surfaces for up to three days.

We therefore need to demand evidence-based decision-making and rollout of at very least, a nation-wide hygiene and hand-washing programme. A political sermon from Minister Mkhize on how to go about treating the victims, given the current low numbers in our country, is inappropriate in the absence of answers to the problem of incubation and Red Zone arrivals at our ports-of-entry. So too, is the prejudice shown against persons of Chinese origin, by those who also ignore the fact that patients are also recovering.

Now is not the time however to be sacrificing public health in the quest for individual patients rights, yes all humans have rights and yes, we need to defend them vigorously, but we also need to ask our Minister of Health: who decides who is going to live or die if our public health system is flooded to over capacity by government inaction and negligence? Without sufficient preemptive intervention as opposed to post-infection mitigation, the pandemic will in all certainty, escalate and impact our nation.

SEE: Coronovirus why you must act now

Why bother with law when you can simply capture the justice system?

IN 2009 the ANC under Jacob Zuma, exercised its influence to place then director of the Resolve Group, Michael Halton Cheadle on the bench, at the behest of a cartel active in South Africa’s media.

Cheadle, who was at the time, in partnership with Max Sisulu and media group, Kagiso, proceeded to preside over a matter involving the media, a complaint of unfair discrimination effecting his own client and business partners. The former professor of law at UCT, admits as much in a 2011 report to Cape Law Society but denies any culpability. The admission that the respondent in the labour matter, Media24 was Cheadle’s client drew absolutely no censure from the law society governing the legal profession, after a complaint was referred to the body by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

The JSC paradoxically claims it lacks jurisdiction to hear complaints effecting acting judges.

In the report, Cheadle denies having any business relationship involving the media and justified his directorship and shareholding in Resolve on the basis of a decision handed down in Bernert v Absa Bank. In that matter a judge’s over-the-counter shareholding came under scrutiny and was found to be de minimus and not sufficient to effect the outcome.

Cheadle’s directorship and shareholding in a labour brokerage and financial services firm was clearly not de minimus and amounts to corruption in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act. To put this another way, why pay an attorney when you can buy the judge? Several partners at Resolve had ties to Media24 and/or Cheadle Thompson Haysom (CTH) and/or the ANC, including Peter Harris, Nicola Galombik, and Murphy Morobe.

Galombik at the time was the executive director of Yellowoods, then majority owned by TBWA Hunt Lascaris who listed Media24 as a client. (“TBWA Media24 showcase”)

Far from being insignificant, Cheadle’s shareholding flouted the ‘nemo rule’ (nemo judex in causa sua), one of the bedrocks of our justice system. For those who cannot read Latin, the phrase translates: ‘no one should be judge in his or her own case’, it is a widely known principle of natural justice.

How did we get here?

Kagiso Trust Holdings (KTH) was founded in 1985 during a ‘period of intense struggle in South Africa’. The company’s website states: “During this tumultuous time, we strongly opposed apartheid by providing support to development institutions and initiatives across a range of sectors.”

Whilst South Africans were being entertained by what many referred to as the ‘Roelf Meyer and Cyril Ramaphosa show‘, another relationship had blossomed at CODESA, that between the Sisulus and the Ruperts. The result was the creation of an entity known as New Africa Investments Limited (NAIL) and holding company Phaphama Holdings, setting the scene for the Sisulus to get into bed with Remgro, the former Rembrandt Group, and thus the company which had financed apartheid.

It appears NAIL was one of the first empowerment vehicles, ‘which had emerged from Nasrec’. (1) An ’empawamenti’ sweetheart deal calved from Sanlam’s stake in Metropolitan. (2)  It was thus the first black-owned business to be listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. NAIL chairman, the late Zwelakhe Sisulu would find himself actively involved in New African Media as his Urban Brew later became an asset owned by Kagiso, and Nail and Kagiso merged despite objections being raised before the Competition Commission. (3)

It is not the purpose of this piece to examine the multifarious ANC deployments to the ‘commanding heights of the economy’, during this period, and the rapid recapitalisation of the economy during an initial boom period, other than to emphasise the party’s central relationships which emerged to form the Resolve Group, and thus the relationship between Resolve and a group of Afrikaners who are invested in South Africa’s media.

In 2003 Kagiso expanded its media holdings and took up a 30% stake in Resolve, a substantial holding in a company which would later turn out to be extremely useful in keeping labour and dissident voices in check. The Resolve Group aimed to provide a ‘total solution in workforce management‘ and included inter alia Resolve Workplace Solutions, Resolve Encounter Consulting, Tokiso Dispute Management, Converse Consulting, Mediaworks, Resolve Career Transition, CCI Growthcon and Resolution Logic, all involved in the employment, placement and management of workers and professionals.

As a result of the intertwined business relationships developed at NAIL, in 2005 Remgro took up a 37% stake in Kagiso, with the result that Rupert Bellegings Pty Ltd, the holding company of Remgro, now had an effective stake in the former struggle press. The project which began at CODESA had come full circle. Readers may remember that CODESA 2 was instrumental in the restructuring of the SABC which would result in the late Zwelakhe Sisulu also taking the helm of the public corporation (1994 to 1997) and setting the scene for a controversy before the Zondo Commission involving Naspers’ Multichoice.

Max Sisulu was thus a director at Resolve, a labour and financial services firm during 2010, whilst his brother was at NAIL/Kagiso. Max is a prominent member of the ANC. At the time of the corrupt activities involving Resolve, he was then speaker of the House of Assembly, where he divided his time between chairing the 6th House, and his duties at Resolve.

In 2004 ANC members Max Sisulu and Murphy Morobe had been approached by Peter Harris to take up shares in the Resolve Group, Harris had practised law for 15 years at Cheadle, Thompson & Haysom and in the early 1990s was ‘seconded to the National Peace Accord, after which he headed the Monitoring Directorate of the Independent Electoral Commission for the 1994 election.’ Morobe significantly had been the ‘administration head’ at CODESA, and his relationship with the Sisulus stretched back to the days of Khotso House and the UDF.

Harris was thus instrumental in turning Resolve into a party political clearinghouse, that provided entry to the justice system and those seeking to influence the outcome of events.

Just about nobody batted an eyelid when Remgro (the former Rembrandt Group) and one of the financiers of apartheid, acquired a stake in Kagiso. And no journalist bothered raising an eyebrow when warning lights would signal that the result would turn into a highly interconnected, networked media empire, in which both Remgro and Kagiso provided content to Multichoice, at the same time they were effectively invested in Naspers, and with the Ruperts holding the purse strings over an empire which comprised, banking, insurance, media and fibre optic cable.

The strategy which had played itself out at Nasrec and CODESA was clear — draw the ANC top brass into the Afrikaner Laager, gain strength and economic position in the ensuing rivalry between various arms of the new emerging black empowerment class, and use this advantage to stall any attempt to gain traction on apartheid litigation. Litigation which might have involved the Tobacco industry, an industry which at the behest of the Ruperts, had bailed out apartheid-era banks when sanctions had brought the country to its knees.

As I write this, there is a call by Khulumani an organisation representing apartheid survivors, to establish a tribunal in the aftermath of the TRC, to make good on the transitional justice framework which granted amnesty to those who came clean, but demanded that justice be served against those who did not.

Oscar van Heerden writes: “if the commissioners were not convinced of the truth or if the evidence did not tally with your version of the truth, then amnesty could be withheld. However, if you elected not to come forward and hide the truth because you might be under the mistaken impression that secrets would remain secret, if the truth was found, and you were implicated, you would be prosecuted and perhaps even imprisoned. Those were the rules.”

Then there are those individuals such as Johann Rupert whose testimony before the commission is a marvel of invention, a narrative in which he fails to explain what his family was doing at the very heart of the racist system.

Rupert continues to claim today that he was unaware of any financial contributions to the National Party, despite there being extensive evidence of collaboration with the system. His assertions have not been tested in a court of law. Open secret’s Hennie van Vuuren for instance, has already demonstrated extensive links between the Naspers corporation and the National Party.

The letters between Anton Rupert and various National Party leaders such as PW Botha, all point to the fact that the Rupert’s business partners included apartheid finance minister Owen Horwood and titular head of the country, Nico Diederichs.

The Rupert’s though critical of the apartheid policy of separate development, had instead advocated a form of “Volkstaat” in the form of a Swiss Canton System, which would have kept large swathes of the country under white rule. The logical extension some might say to the policy of apartheid bantustans, and which would, in the Rupert’s view, have been maintained in comparison to the federalist position, a position which resulted in the system we have today.

Since the winding up of the TRC, there have been several inquests, notably the Timol Inquest and Aggett Inquest in which apartheid agent Paul Erasmus has given damming testimony of the dirty tricks campaign waged against activists and the anti-apartheid press under the aegis of a state funded by the Ruperts.

Surely time for the Zondo Commission to expand its terms of reference to include the many sweetheart deals involving ANC party officials and the media, the least of which is the role played by PW Botha in his award of South Africa’s only pay-television licence to Multichoice, and the corruption which has kept apartheid litigation out of court, despite the TRC process. It should be remembered that those who received amnesty did not receive amnesty against future crimes.

NOTES

(1) Objections lodged before the Competition Commission by Johannic to a merger between Kagiso and NAIL were overruled in 2003, since ‘Tiso consortium had effectively bought up to 81.9 % of the “N” shares in Nail and 31.8 % of the ordinary shares’.

(2) https://hsf.org.za/publications/focus/issue-27-third-quarter-2002/the-tale-of-nail

‘New Africa Investments Ltd was founded in the early Nineties by Dr Nthato Motlana, with 16 per cent of Metropolitan Life, unloaded by an altruistic Sankorp in the cause of ’empawamenti’. The hammer behind Nail was token mlungu Jonty Sandler, who had earlier cost his bankers a bundle at Nasrec’

(3) Some 11+ subsequent mergers by Kagiso were given the green light by CompCom.

(4) https://www.theguardian.com/world/1999/apr/22/chrismcgreal

‘Criticism has focused on the four directors – three black, one white – of New African Investments Limited (Nail). They planned to ask shareholders to grant them share options worth £13m, which would have put about £2m in the pockets of each.’

(5) https://www.timeslive.co.za/sunday-times/lifestyle/2014-04-27-bee-deals-a-skimmers-dream-come-true/

‘The first empowerment deal done in South Africa was Sanlam’s sale of a stake in Metropolitan to a little-known entity called New Africa Investments (Nail). In 1993, more than 10 years before the first BEE legislation was introduced, Sanlam rushed the sale through when it heard that Anglo American was about to do a similar transaction with its insurance operation, African Life.’

De Klerk treason, Jou Ma Se FW, Nuremberg revisited

FALLOUT from the past weeks De Klerk statements need to be seen within the context of equivocation by those responsible for apartheid. The Preamble to our Constitution makes it abundantly clear that the alpha and omega, the sine qua non for South African citizenship, adherence to our law, is ‘recognition of the injustice of the past’. Denying both the criminality and instrumentality of the apartheid regime is certainly deserving of the same punishment meted out to those who attempt to undermine the integrity and status of the Republic.

President Ramaphosa said as much in his response in the National Assembly. “Apartheid was immoral from its conception” and “so devastating in its execution that there no South African today that it is not touched by its legacy … I would even go as far as to say to deny this is treasonous”.

It remains to be seen whether or not De Klerk’s past apologia before the Truth Commission, at the face of it, an unequivocal recognition that apartheid was wrong and thus a submission which elicited forgiveness by all those affected, including amnesty from prosecution, will extend to his recent comments prevaricating and equivocating on the matter. This was followed by a rather sinuous and insincere retraction,  as his foundation moved to withdraw statements essentially calling various UN resolutions,’ the work of Soviet Era agit prop’.

The ease with which the De Klerk Foundation was able to launch such an attack against fellow South Africans, whilst supporting  the last white President under apartheid and his prevarication on the matter, begs the question as to what damages may be awarded any activists who seek to sue the Foundation on the behalf of the country?

Ayanda Mdluli of the Independent Group was moved to write: “Just like the Nazi at the Nuremberg trials after the Second World War, he must be brought to book, along with the many apartheid co-conspirators and perpetrators who were let off the hook by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in the early 90s”

De Klerk’s raising the subject of whether or not apartheid was a crime against humanity, is a stance which has elicited widespread condemnation. The least of which is that Desmond Tutu was moved to address the ‘appropriatness of the former President, debating the terribleness of apartheid’.

It is unclear whether or not De Klerk is able to claim parliamentary privilege as a former President, since his remarks are clearly defamatory and aimed at the anti-apartheid movement. Their wrongfulness may be demonstrated by the fact that not all opponents of apartheid were communists, nor are they necessarily doctrinaire socialists, for that matter.

Indeed the lessons of both the TRC and Nuremberg need to be learnt and studied.  It was South Africa which first proposed an alternative to the Nuremberg process. Instead of bringing the perpetrators to immediate trial, they would initially be given an opportunity to come clean before a commission of inquiry, which rewarded those who appeared with amnesty while leaving it up to the justice system to punish those who did not.

In theory, the system worked if sufficient funds were made available to those wishing to pursue post-TRC prosecutions. Unfortunately, our government failed to create the necessary support services for those activists like myself, who were faced with an unenviable predicament — as it turned out, there were still agents of apartheid who clung to apartheid denial, who refused to appear before the commission, and who now proceeded to act with impunity.

Worse, the justice system itself was captured by apartheid denialists, those like Ton Vosloo, who had waged a campaign against the TRC from day one, and who had chosen to hide behind constitutional guarantees of a free press, whilst denying others the selfsame rights to speak.

Mdluli’s piece alludes to problems presented by the Naspers corporation, which until recently was merely an organ of the old National Party. I have written extensively about the Naspers-sponsored campaign against the TRC . Clearly it is not enough for our President to simply issue condemnation after condemnation, without taking practical steps against persons like De Klerk, who have sought to capture both the organs of state, and our judiciary under the pretence of national reconciliation.

It cannot be that apartheid denial is the order of the day, nor that any court is allowed to defenestrate both our Preamble, and transitional justice system which created the Constitution. Bear in mind, that it was the TRC Act of 1993, and thus the TRC itself which was a necessary pre-condition for the Constitutional Assembly to create our Constitution in 1996.

Again it needs to be stated, that any courtroom wishing to overturn the 1973 UN Convention on the Crime of Apartheid, would be subverting not only the international justice system, but the justice system created by the will of the people.

I therefore have no hesitation in condemning the blatantly irresponsible and perfidious decisions handed down in Lewis v Media24 (2010) and Lewis v Legal Aid South Africa (2019) and issued in favour of apartheid functionaries .

The people of South Africa deserve better than apartheid denial from our justice system.

SEE: Afrikaner academics condemn apartheid as a crime against humanity

SEE: FW’s ‘truth’ a sickening read

 

Sorry, but the facts don’t support Iqbal Survé’s latest opinion piece

IN AN editorial published on IOL today, Iqbal Survé CEO of the Independent Media Group, a group with 9 daily newspapers, 10 Weekend Newspapers and 2 financial papers, doesn’t seem to get that the role of newspapers is to reflect back the diversity of opinion in the country.

Instead he seeks to cast his hopelessly conservative brand based upon prohibition rather than permission, as a ‘progressive’ voice ‘pitted against “a morass of anti-progressive Fourth Estate propaganda machines operating in this country, apparently bent on preventing true freedom of speech.”

In order to substantiate his argument, he then goes on to attack the online Daily Maverick without any evidence, for apparently being funded “by the Oppenheimers and other well-placed businessmen and families” and the Mail and Guardian, a niche weekly, for being ‘funded primarily by overseas backers who themselves have certain political interests’.

Significantly, he avoids the implications of a massive cartel within the daily news (print, television and radio) whose ultimate control is assuredly, a company known as Rupert Bellegings Pty Ltd.

Survé further fails to note that INM is itself, funded by our own government investment arm, the PIC and also organs of the Chinese government. He fails to explain what steps he has taken to defend ‘freedom of speech” in particular on issues related, to Tibet, Taiwan, Myanmar, and the Uyghurs, a Moslem minority in China. And closer to home, on issues related to divergences of culture, religion, politics and opinion.

An example would be the LGBT community, which following the takeover of INM by Survé, appears to have been rendered invisible.

Or the Jewish community, a sizeable minority, which is no longer granted the same status as other, more favoured groups.

In 2007 the ANC banned the Dalai Lama.

I therefore challenge Survé to demonstrate how his newspapers are in any way independent and ‘progressive’, other than their slavish subservience to the prescient political party of the day.

A news media which censors on the basis of ones purported political and cultural affiliations, whether proven or not, is not a progressive media. Rather, such organs are more in keeping with the Soviet era and its Pravda news agency.

SEE: Closure of the Mind, Independent Media’s suppression of open debate and a free press