Category: Activism

Mogoeng is misinformed, disingenuous and unhelpful

IN A LENGTHY statement to the press early this month, South Africa’s Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng warned those ‘making allegations against judges and the judiciary to stop hiding behind fictional identities or names’

He claimed further that he never received any formal complaints against his colleagues.

“Only a sworn enemy of our constitutional democracy would make allegations so grave against the judiciary without the evidence to back them up.”

He said he never received any formal complaints against his colleagues.

“Make your true identity and contact details known to us and the South African public. Tell us which judge has been captured, corrupted and by whom.”

The chief justice said for the sake of a South Africa that deserves a corruption-free judiciary, those making allegations should be willing to give evidence even in a court of law.

He said he never received any formal complaints against his colleagues.

That the Chief Justice was being disingenuous and more than unhelpful can be demonstrated by the fact that Independent Media have published criticism of the judiciary as a prominent OP-ED piece under my own byline, not a nom de guerre , in which I proceed to refer to a sworn affidavit and supporting documents regarding the capture of a well-known member of the legal profession performing judicial duties.

Medialternatives can reveal that the individual, who presided over a 2010 discrimination case involving his own client and business partners is none other than Halton Cheadle, and that my affidavit details the lengths to which I have gone in informing inter alia, SAPS, NPA, JSC and the Cape Law Society.

My Op-Ed also makes note of the manner in which South Africa’s justice system has turned into a mere business system, and one should add, a system that is not evidence based per se, but rather an opinion-based system inherited from the past period of colonialism and apartheid.

Until the evidence in my affidavit  is heard before an impartial court of law, in a fair hearing in which I possess an attorney, there is  absolutely no likelihood that the Chief Justice’s advice will be adhered to, and any averments in this regard should be rejected by free-thinking citizens.

Other statements attributed to the Chief Justice claim that he has requested SAPS to investigate allegations against the judiciary, but fail to record that the NPA appears to have a policy of doing nothing about the problem, when it comes to corporate and party-political capture of judicial officers.

 

Discipline and Punish: the troubling end of spanking.

WITH LITTLE or no debate on the issue in the public sphere, (no Imbizos, lekgotlas nor indabas ) South Africa’s constitutional court delivered yet another major decision. This time making the country the 57th nation in the world to ban child spanking.

That we appear to be moving away from the casual resort to violence towards a regime seemingly based upon peaceful dialogue, openness and problem-solving is obviously to be welcomed (see below). If only discipline and punishment were as simple as sending ones dear child a memo, or informing a potential brat, your own offspring or an abusive parent about the new law.

That the ruling was equally couched within the tinsel baubles and holy sheen of an ongoing debate between those who resort to religious texts to defend their actions and those like me, who do not, is equally bound to be controversial. The decision stems from a case involving the beatings received by a 13-year-old inflicted by his father.

More worrying and irksome, is the manner in which a well-established common law defence of ‘justifiable chastisement’ has been replaced, or so it seems, by the noble rhetoric of ‘positive parenting’ — an effete legalistic notion that will needlessly bring an end to family life — now with the merest domestic squabble under judicial and state scrutiny and child discipline in effect, under the exclusive aegis of the state?

Pundits were moved to play down the implications of a sudden growth in new categories of felony and misdemeanours, for which both parent and child could pay an enormous price, if only to weed out those parents who really do engage in acts of petty assault, and hang-on, didn’t the list of activities which may be construed as common assault just get a lot longer?

Much is being made by a vocal minority, of a ruling which apparently overturns various biblical psalms, who could have guessed?

Think nothing of destroying what little remains of parental privacy and civilian-based discipline — thanks to the religious nutters,  that sacred bond between parent and child is, well, no longer so sacrosanct.

The impact of the ruling on privacy in the home, remains unexamined by the media — will private acts regarding child discipline now fall under the purview of the state?

Let’s be open and frank here, as a parent and child-rearer — my daughter Vumani Nina Lewis was born without being spanked by a doctor, in the privacy of our own home. Instead of being assaulted by a medic, she was revived by a midwife, granted air by the judicious use of a simple hand pump.  Thus she arrived smiling instead of yelling.

So where is the bar in this matter?

Just about nobody accuses rugby players of assault when they tackle per the rules of rugby, but I fear, doctors will have a harder time persuading patients and the state that they didn’t commit a crime when they applied the Heimlich Manoeuvre, and likewise, parents when they give a slap on the wrist, or a clip to the ear.

Yes, the ruling is a major victory for those wanting freedom from the religious condonation of private violence in the form of beatings, circumcision and the like,  and a major setback for those who have always relied upon secular arguments to justify spanking.

Like many South Africans I was brought up with corporal punishment in school, and the threat of beatings with a belt, applied by my own mother.

Canadian guidelines for instance allow spanking under a number of conditions including corrective force (or physical punishment) that is minor or “transitory and trifling” in nature; no physical punishment on children younger than two or older than 12 …

Corporal punishment, i.e physical punishment inflicted by the state in the form of caning,  went the way of the Dodo after 1994, but justifiable chastisement lived on. In an effort to appear trendy and with-it, the common-law defence of ‘reasonable and moderate parental chastisement’ has been ‘rendered constitutionally indefensible’ by the nation’s moral guardians. One would have thought that the defence would have been restricted to certain categories of chastisement, but no.

Henceforth, all children will be free to accuse their parents of assault for the merest reprimand, while parents will suffer needlessly the consequences of vexatious and trivial allegations of unlawful aggression.

What can be done to rectify the overreach of South Africa’s juristocracy? The law-lords who appear want to invade our living rooms at the same time they move for privacy in drug use and the onward march of progress in every arena, except when it comes to equality before the law for TRC victims?

How to limit the effect of every case before the ConCourt turning into a day vs night, Roe v Wade moment?

At first one should add that the state itself is an unfit parent. The republic and its judges have not disavowed themselves of the need to discipline and punish. Instead they have reserved this power for themselves. You may read my published criticism here.

The case appears to have revolved around religious justifications for chastisement, not secular and civil arguments, and it does not immediately follow that each and every justification is henceforth, null and void.

Citizens, including children will still be subject to a system of justice which is anything but modern, extremely expensive, time-consuming, wasteful and whose penal codes inevitably result in obscure interpretations of law on the one hand, and overcrowded prisons on the other.

Household discipline, parental authority, the right to chastise, call it what you want, necessarily keeps children away from the criminal justice system.

As Michel Foucault the author of Discipline and Punishment, would have put it: “Where there is power, there is resistance.”

In this arena, expect resistance.

Let’s face it, South Africa’s judiciary leaves a lot to be desired.

SOUTH AFRICANS may be suffering under a collective delusion, the rule of law. If one reads the latest round of media commentary, we are either stricken with a hopelessly corrupt judicial system, or driven by ulterior motives to question an infallible judiciary. In this binary view judges are either devils in black robes, or angels and saints in silk who can do no wrong.

The reality is that for the most part, we have an imperfect system inherited from a period of apartheid and colonialism. A time when citizens were not accorded equal rights and status before the law.

Attend judges chambers at the High Court of South Africa in Cape Town, and you will be greeted by the portraiture of past judge presidents on floor one, going all the way back to the Cape Colony and Apartheid. Obscene pictures of Centlivres et al, still hang from the walls in an eerie twilight reminiscent of that macabre republic. Our institutions however, are rather proud of their racist lineage, and the tainted display is headed up by a current photograph of a grinning judge president Hlophe, still under investigation by the JSC for misconduct.

Under the present system, the process of impeachment of sitting judges who possess tenure, requires a supermajority in Parliament. The process for the removal of acting judges on the other hand, those drawn from the profession on an ad hoc basis is less clear. The manner in which such persons gain authority, often in conflict with their standing as directors of various law firms and businesses, is an awkward one.

For Raymond Edward Chalom, who has been in the legal profession for almost 50 years, the judiciary is a hotbed of corruption. He says “judges are appointed on the basis of friendship, trade-offs between lobby groups in the sector and affiliation to legal bodies rather than history, legal minds and experience.” I can only concur with this observation and possess an as yet  unserved affidavit alongside supporting documents,  demonstrating the resulting corruption of influence and manifest bias by a well-known member of the profession.

The process of judicial reform has not been easy. The South African system is really just an elegant compromise, for the most part, a sorry colonial edifice to which several innovations such as Family Court, Equality Court and the apex Constitutional Court have been bolted.

And therein lies the rub, since our constitution, a visionary, civil rights document if ever there was one, requires that all citizens gain untrammeled access to rights yet is seemingly oblivious to the reality of a legal process that is overly circuitous and expensive at best. The justice system in our country has unfortunately turned into a mere business system, one designed for millionaires and their cohorts in management and the professions, but where access to justice for ordinary citizens is a practical and tragic impossibility.

Witness Steven Friedman’s recent column in Business Day. According to the newspaper’s resident lefty in the debate among middle-class people which shapes politics, hardly anyone undermines courts and judges. In stating the obvious, (qui bono, who benefits?) Friedman avoids the uncomfortable fact that the majority of the country’s citizens are neither middle-class, nor possessed of sufficient financial clout required to be considered readers of his own column. The working class is drawn from the ranks of the dispossessed, the downtrodden and unemployed, for want of a better phrase.

The reality for most of us, living in the aftermath of a crime against humanity, and several decades of misrule by the ANC, is that nearly every legal issue these days, ends up turning into an expensive constitutional drama, one which only the apex court is able to rectify, resulting in the juniorisation of the High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal.

For instance it took nearly three decades to end cannabis prohibition via the courts while effecting a delay on the promise of rights gained in 1994.

Sadly the lower courts with one or two exceptions, (cannabis is an exception) have shown themselves either powerless or reticent to enforce new freedoms, preferring to solicit business for the entangled profession. Our Bill of Rights for such individuals is little more than a ‘carrot on a stick’, bread and butter for an academy that has seen fit to create exclusion after exclusion to our rights.

Witness my own troubles with gaining access to legal aid in a matter affecting the life of the TRC and its final report (Lewis v Legal Aid SA). Application dismissed by AJ Martin without so much as leave, in the process creating a racist and unacceptable exclusion to the Preamble to our Constitution. Racism on the bench here has simply grown in leaps and bounds.

The Constitution, for all intents and purposes, adopted in a piecemeal fashion in 1996, has meant that the status quo for the most of us, still resembles the old order, while the new order which was meant to be, including our rights and freedoms, has vanished like a chimera.

Take a problem inherent to any system overly reliant upon the settling of disputes by intermediaries known as attorneys. In this jury-less world, professional jurists, comprising entirely of members of the self-same profession of law, adjudicate and interpret law, and then deem themselves fit to determine the facts.

The result is a system that is not evidence-based as such but rather scholastic, obscurantist, medieval. The Earth circles the Sun, well that’s just an opinion so far as these hucksters are concerned.

When it comes to facts about apartheid, the profession has not been exactly the cradle of rocket scientists. Witness PW Botha’s successful defense of his racist position in the face of a subpoena by the TRC. Or Wouter Basson, a darling of the courts.

South Africa is certainly stricken by an over-reliance on interpretation and opinion. Not evidence-based terrain so much as thick, fat, obscenely bureaucratic, opinion-based largess writ large. Access to a jury option in capital crimes and defamation cases would put such quibbles to rest.

Spare a thought for the victims of rape, in case after case, often dropped by the justice system, or reduced in value by the lack of mandatory sentencing for offenders, making rape no longer a capital crime in South Africa so far as the law is concerned.

On the whole South Africa’s legal system is too caught up with kowtowing to prevailing authority from the old days, to notice when it gets science spectacularly wrong. Instead of deriving truth from facts, as a nation, we tend to derive truth from ideology, in this respect our legal system is no different. Ditto the debate on legal positivism, and a position that is increasingly absent in our supposed secular world.

Attorney’s writing up judgements, well, that’s just par for the course.

Acting judges advertising their services and experience on the bench to clients when they’re not moonlighting as articled clerks — just another modern innovation in letters.

Apartheid happened, separate development, the Land Act — all facts not speculative conjecture, as our courts have deemed fit under the Cheadle Doctrine, while slipping into a void of  fantasy and fable. Apartheid denial is the very essence of a decision handed down by the labour court in 2010, in which I myself am the complainant.

Where jokes have abounded that ‘the rule of law so frequently turns into the law of rules’, I merely have to cite my own sad experience with a rotten system to observe that the law has failed us all miserably.

published in part, in Star & Daily News 12/9/2019

Rethinking the Courtroom

Justice for Neil Aggett

TIMES LIVE reports that justice minister Ronald Lamola apparently wants the deaths of anti-apartheid activists Neil Aggett and Hoosen Haffejee to be re-investigated. Only time can tell if he is serious this time.

Lamola announced on Friday, according to the online daily, that he had requested the judges president of the Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal divisions of the high court to each designate a judge to reopen the inquests in relation to the deaths in detention of the activists.

The justice department is reported to have said Lamola’s decision was in terms of Section 17(A) of the Inquest Act of 1959 and follows an application by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for the reopening of the inquests.

Readers may remember that Aggett was a doctor who died in detention in Johannesburg in 1982, aged 28. The inquest into his death held that no one was to blame. Yet another reason not to trust the apartheid-era justice system.

READ MORE HERE

Fact check: Rupert’s Alleged Opposition to Apartheid debunked

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Graphic attempting to show some of Rupert holdings, source Twitter

THERE is no evidence that the Ruperts were during the 1980s, for all intents and purposes, in favour of anything more than apartheid euphemism and cant — the shallow transformation which characterised PW Botha’s much-vaunted tricameral Parliament and which for a short time, allowed for separate houses of parliament for citizens classified as Indian and Coloured. This while maintaining a bantustan system which disenfranchised, de-emancipated and dispossessed black South Africans.

The families’s own submission to the Truth & Reconciliation Commission demonstrates a willful obfuscation of the truth, and despite elegant pleading, contains a number of half-truths and a strange anomaly. On the one hand, it is claimed that they were opposed to apartheid which they considered ‘an immoral, oppressive attempt at social engineering’ and consequently had chosen the path of ‘loyal resistance’ to ‘fight the system from within’, writing letters to NP officials stating that apartheid in its then form, was unsustainable since the Afrikaner was being crucified: “it is destroying our language, it is degrading a once heroic nation to be the lepers of the world.”

On the other, the submission, fails to explain what they were doing inside the system, in the first place, and thus why Rupert maintained a loyal membership of the National Party to the very end, refusing to break ranks by siding for instance, with the then all-white opposition Progressive Federal Party? A party which as its name suggested promoted a federal solution and held seats until 1989 when it became the DA?

Johann Rupert  (JR) went so far as to claim at the TRC, that he was unaware of any financial contributions to the National Party, despite there being extensive evidence of his corporate involvement with the system. His assertions have not been tested in a court of law. This despite Remgro (former Rembrandt Group) being fingered in an apartheid bail-out scandal.

The letters between Anton Rupert and various National Party leaders such as PW Botha, all point to the fact that the Ruperts business partners included apartheid finance minister Owen Horward and titular head of the country, Nico Diedrichs. Far from advocating a ‘one-person, one vote’ democracy and majority rule, as Johann Rupert would like us to believe — which would have made him a champion of the cause and policies of the ANC and PAC — the truth is rather different.

The Rupert’s though critical of the policy of separate development, 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.

In essence they had argued for a more refined version of the plans laid out by the infamous Rubicon speech of PW Botha, a proposal which would have maintained the boer republics of old, had it not been for the guarantees on property rights issued by the ANC.

This telling fact can be seen at pages 288 and 289 of Anton Rupert, a Biography by Ebbe Dommisse.

Johann has gone so far as to claim at the TRC and without any evidence, that he had the confidence of the BC leader Steve Biko, whilst he was head of student organisation SASO, but has shied away from quoting his own father on the subject of what was to be done about the situation. Significantly, JR dropped out of university to pursue a career in business and did not figure in university politics.

The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) on Monday said “Biko never even met Rupert and they have records of the Struggle icon, which will back this up.” Medialternatives has covered previous Rupert gaffes, such as his specious claims about being on the receiving end of Magnus Malan’s death squads.

To say the Ruperts were “openly critical of the apartheid system, both at home and abroad” as a current article on Wikipedia does, and that they have been lauded by President Thabo Mbeki for calling upon the Apartheid leadership to “do something brave” by creating a partnership with the black majority in the ’80s,” ignores the fact they were the financiers behind apartheid, and consequently demonstrated an absence of any tangible and practical support for democratic forces within and outside the country. Witness the sad fact of their proposed ‘canton model’, the self-same politics which produced the white enclave of Oranje.

One does not therefore, hear Johann Rupert taking any credit for this small and somewhat discredited achievement, and his submissions to the TRC  as a cherry-picker of facts, surely need to be revisited, if only to set the matter straight. If anything JR, like his father, favoured a gradualist approach to the problem of loss of white minority power, preferring a plan which would have maintained the status quo indefinitely had it not been for the momentum of history which resulted in the CODESA negotiations.

Bear in mind that it was Verwoerd, the architect of grand apartheid who explained apartheid as simply ‘good neighbourliness’, and who like Rupert snr, was more than prepared to accept that all human beings are equal, so long as race segregation and partition of power could remain in place. The ‘separate but equal’  madness of the multiracialist school of thought, which epitomized the regime’s many racist adherents.

Neither completely ‘verlig’ nor totally ‘verkrampt’, as the Afrikaans terms of the day for liberal and conservative suggest, Rupert is better cast as himself, in an obscene privileged position, pulling the National Party purse strings as it were, whilst maintaining his own ill-gotten advantage — all-important brokers behind the apartheid system. An unmatched aegis without which nothing would have happened at the negotiating table.

Far from being allies of opposition politics as some would have it, nor positioned like myself and many of my fellow South Africans, within the internal and external freedom struggle, the Ruperts, were in reality part and parcel of the apartheid state apparatus to the very end, negotiating a deal, which resulted in an interim constitution and various ‘sunset clauses’.

In this respect they benefited immensely as kingpins, financiers and powerbrokers from the super-exploitation of labour which continued past 1994, so too the sanctions busting era, which occurred alongside the dirty tricks campaigns against opposition leaders and the likes of Winnie Mandela. After their successes in global financial circles, to their own benefit and the benefit of the NP, the Ruperts bailed out apartheid’s banks to form Amalgamated Banks of SA, giving the lie to claims made about the lack of money available for such an endeavor.

The Rupert hagiography, refers to humble beginnings in the Tobacco industry. JR, is current chair of several JSE listed companies, including Richemont, Reinert, Remgro and Mediclinic. The truth behind the apparent success — the family succeeded in extracting capital garnered from the Rupert’s cosy relationship with the state, (State Capture 1.0) and with the help of Horward and Diederichs, achieving the truly remarkable — sequestering apartheid slush money in Switzerland, while granting an unfair advantage when it came to the post-democratic period.

This is quite the opposite of the strange claim that there were ‘no sweetheart deals’ with the regime.The Ruperts are named in the CIEX report commissioned in 1997 to investigate the theft of R26 billion of state money during apartheid.

In 2017 Medialternatives exposed a cartel active within South Africa’s media, the result of a cross-networked entity with Rupert at the helm, and with assets comprising investments in Remgro, Kagiso, Caxton and Naspers. The resulting corruption and influence peddling, included the rigging of a 2010 labour case involving Media24 — a company which had previously attempted to gag me from speaking out about racism, race profiling and de facto newsroom segregation at its community newspapers division.

The case remains unresolved.

And so Naspers borrows from its own book on rebranding apartheid

FOR DECADES Naspers was during the apartheid years, an incubator for racist government, producing no less than three Prime Ministers. PW Botha, HF Verwoerd and DF Malan. All had the backing of the corporation formed by the Broederbond. With the appointment of a new local CEO, following a listing in Amsterdam, the company has once again attempted to rebrand itself.

Unfortunately, the focus on assets avoids questions as to why Naspers was a ‘traditional sinecure for the national party’, providing funding, propaganda and support. This is a lot more involvement than today’s media spin-doctors would have us believe.

Naspers collaboration with apartheid is given short thrift by the likes of Joseph Cotterill of BDlive, who believes the group was simply “a publisher once condemned as a mouthpiece of the apartheid regime in SA .” These reports all fail to mention ongoing litigation against the company, and continued opposition to the Truth & Reconciliation Commission.

A more balanced view of the campaign against the commission can be found in a review of Ton Vosloo’s biography “Across Boundaries” by veteran journalist and former Mail & Guardian editor Anton Harber.

Lizette Rabie also finds time to present her case in support of the so-called ‘TRC rebels”, a group of former apartheid collaborators who succeeded in turning themselves into ‘conscientious journalists” while ignoring the plight of those in the struggle press, recipients of Naspers dirty tricks.

TRC rebel Tim du Plessis presents his version of events in the Nieman Report.

But according to Hennie van Vuuren, the company was also a ‘tap root of the National Party’.

So what exactly is going on?

After 1994, the corporation found itself on the back foot politically-speaking. Sanctioned by the TRC for its failure to come clean over its role during apartheid, but with PW Botha avoiding a subpoena to appear, the company grudgingly introduced a BEE scheme, appointing Jakes Gerwel of the President’s office to the board, alongside Francois Groepe.

And so the game of political chicanery continued.

With Groupe moving on to the Reserve Bank, Chairperson Gerwel passing on in office, and the company still attempting to gag me for speaking out about racism, race profiling and de facto newsroom segregation at its then community newspapers division.

The resulting anti-Semitic and anti-Secular counter-case, was more than simply a corrupt and unfair proceeding before the labour court of South Africa. Nothing short of a racist miscarriage of justice involving a Naspers business associate and labour broker presiding over a matter involving his own client, while I was restrained from calling witnesses. The corruption is currently the subject of an as yet unresolved complaint to the Judicial Services Commission.

Two days after filing a further Equality Court complaint regarding the Group’s ongoing campaign against the Truth & Reconciliation Commission and thus the trashing of the report by Naspers council, then Group CEO Esmerie Weideman issued an apology to the heavens. The 2015 statement references one case-limited example of a single employee of colour, Conrad Sidego, who had experienced problems with separate facilities.

The EC case is currently in abeyance pending an appeal of a decision by Legal Aid SA not to grant legal aid where a substantial injustice would result from my not possessing an attorney in the matter.

If you wish to fund my action against LASA, you can do so on BackaBuddy.

Needless to say the latest racist decision by the High Court, once again trivialising the TRC report, (‘too long to read’, according to AJ Martin) in the process, creating an exclusion of the Preamble to our Constitution, cannot hope to gain any approval under our nation’s Constitutional dispensation.

With pressure mounting for change, and with a sophisticated new share structure that preserves white privilege, in the process moving the now multinational operation out of the country, Naspers mandarins have once again dealt out a hand that seeks to gain influence within South Africa’s political sphere.

The appointment of no less than Ramaphosa Foundation board member Phuti Mahanyele-Dabengwa to manage Naspers South African operations, echoes the groups earlier effort to inveigle Mandela. This while Ramaphosa is on the ropes following a report by the Public Protector.

Time can only tell whether the strategy of co-opting the incumbent President, while maintaining apartheid profits within the company, (now outside the country), will succeed in burying the TRC Final Report once and for all. 

Dear Extinction Generation

IT WAS June of 1991, the apartheid government had just unbanned political parties such as the ANC and PAC, exiles were returning to the country, and negotiations towards a new democratic dispensation were in full sway. The First National Conference on Environment & Development, organised by myself and my colleagues from the Cape Town Ecology Group (CTEG) and World Council on Religion and Peace (WCRP) was being held at the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

It was here that the campaign to include sustainable development in our country’s new constitution came to a head, with a mandate to ‘ecologise politics and politicise ecology’.

Solly Skosana of the PAC was of the view that ‘land apartheid had not disappeared and that a constituent assembly was the only mechanism in which environmental concerns over land distribution would be able to be addressed.’

There was consensus among delegates that unequal land distribution was a major cause of environmental problems in South Africa and that the land itself needed protection under the law.

Speaking on behalf of the ANC, Cheryl Carolus criticised the lack of political involvement by environmentalists in the past and made the point that her decision to get involved in politics had ‘arisen out of a desire to empower herself and to regain control over her environment.’

The issue of workers’ involvement in environmental issues was taken up by Nosey Peterse of the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) who told delegates: “You can talk about environmental degradation but while you talk workers are losing their jobs because of environmental degradation.”

It was here too that I stood on a podium alongside Mike Kantey of Earthlife Africa, Ebrahim Rasool of WCRP and Julia Martin of CTEG, with delegates from across the political spectrum, to rally against apartheid while calling for a future in which the needs of future generations would not be compromised by the demands of our own generation.

As the conference drew to a close, we had no inkling of the dire consequences our nation would be facing today, with water shortages, air pollution and threatened ecosystems, nor did we realise back then, what it would take. Our actions back then simply introducing article 24 of our Constitution, enshrining Earth Rights, to impact and affect climate change and the lives of those yet to be born.

It was thus a twisted and tortuous politics which saw successive appointments of environmental ministers, from then Minister of Environment General Magnus Malan, to Dawid de Villiers, Pallo Jordan, Valli Moosa, Marthinus van Schalkwyk and Edna Molewa, each taking the credit for the groundbreaking inclusion of ‘ecological sustainable development’ in our nation’s constitution, and yet collectively responsible for the allied policies of the ruling party. Despite becoming the first country to include the environment in its bill of rights, the party proceeded to pave the way for mega coal projects, increasing of GHG emissions and lowering of air pollution standards.

You can read about the campaign to put Earth Rights into South Africa’s constitution here.

At the same time that the Mbeki administration was hosting the 2002 WSSD (the acclaimed “Earth Summit’ which produced very little of real substance) the ANC was promoting a crackpot policy sans physics which became known as ‘peak, plateau and decline‘. A neat phrase cooked up by the DEAT to describe a strange new political compromise between our constitutional imperatives, ‘the needs of the future’, and the diktat of the fossil fuel industry, in particular the opportunities (read curse) presented by our own country possessing abundant supplies of coal.

Thus when Min Gwede Mantashe opened a new colliery, while myopically claiming: “our vast coal deposits cannot be sterilised simply because we have not exploited technological innovations to use them,” he was articulating this self-same policy. It describes the apparent trade-offs to be made — ramping up our GHG in the short to medium term, so that we are on par with the West economically speaking, before reaching an abstract ‘plateau’, whereupon we will by some act of the imagination, decline our GHG profile (perhaps via slight of hand and creative accounting) — the introduction of a Carbon Tax, is yet unproven.

Every year, the time frame for the plateau and reduction of local GHG targets has been shifted, while the much vaunted Carbon Tax is slow on the uptake and still being implemented. The Climate Change Bill introduced in 2018, focuses on mitigation and adaptation as opposed to implementing a drastic about turn in energy policies.  Bare in mind the Carbon tax is an economic charge which Greenpeace has said, will not be ‘effective enough and far from adequate’.

Every policy decision thus far made by the ruling party, has been on the basis of the bad maths of these mantras introduced without much scientific consensus, and there is no precedent.

After negotiating a COP-out deal at Paris, which has allowed our country to continue with business as usual — South Africa’s pledge under the Paris Climate Agreement is ranked as “highly insufficient” — we are left with a Promethean struggle involving several massive coal mega-projects versus the reality of today. At 510.2377 mtCO2e pa our GHG profile is currently on par with the UK, a country with a population of 66 million people, as we begin to exceed the West in air pollution. Our country has been criticised internationally for “ delaying the development of policies to cut emissions.

It is thus with some sadness and poignancy that I read a letter addressed to our president and signed by some 50 local environmental organisations, demanding ‘an emergency sitting of Parliament to deliberate on the recently issued UN report on 1.5°C increase in planetary temperature and its implications for South African climate change policy.’

This while 300 kids marched from Parliament to the City Hall in Cape Town last Friday, to hand over a memorandum demanding government take “immediate action on the climate crises”. Following a mass demonstration on 15 March where thousands of school learners protested, calling on government to act against climate change. In various parts of the Free State, Mpumalanga and Limpopo, where “youth collectives are meeting to learn about climate justice and organise, “writes Alex Lenferna

“Outside of the Union Buildings, young people rallied and delivered a petition to the president calling for climate justice now.”

Instead of declaring a climate crisis, President Ramaphosa, has chosen to skedaddle and bamboozle with stats and an unhelpful allusion to the climate problem during SONA. The government clearly lacks any real programme to deal with the crisis. This is not the first time that the ruling party has attempted to colour itself with the revelry of the green movement.

Stating that the President’s  ‘recognition of the climate crisis is the first step to fundamental change“, as a 17-year-old environmental activist Ruby Simpson does, is expecting a serial climate change denialist, to suddenly get science and find Gaia, because the reality is our nation’s policy of ‘peak, plateau and decline‘ is founded upon a tragic denial of the existential threats facing our planet and its people.

Regrettably, one can only express skepticism of presidential lip-service, uttered with pro-coal cynicism — successive ANC Presidents and their cabinets have shown themselves to ‘talk green, but walk with coal’. One has only to witness the abject failure of the President to address the detailed requirements of a ‘just transition’, and thus his startling refusal to acknowledge the implicit question of ‘whose justice?’

Without an immediate adoption of a climate emergency, articulated by the 2011 Durban Declaration, there can be no justice. And without a complete u-turn in our energy policies, there will be no future for our country.