THE PRESIDENT’S youngest son Tumelo Ramaphosa recently appeared on national television, punting blockchain technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and a digital financial future. Some of his previous projects include turning wildlife into digital tokens via a crypocurrency investment scheme for stud farmers called StudEX, and a swathe of more ephemeral ways to fleece (some might say leverage) the startup space in San Francisco.
Apparently drones to track SA wildlife conservation efforts are being funded in part by auctioning off Dad’s bulls via cryptocoins. Aside from the unfair advantage that comes with being the president’s son, one can think of far better ways of spending one’s pocket money than reducing animals to mere fractions.
As Elon Musk stated during his encounter with Jack Ma, ‘don’t assume that artificial intelligence research is being conducted by intelligent people’. Indeed there are many critical and exceedingly dystopian concerns about the emerging paradigm that looks set to surpass humanities ability to comprehend the impacts of AI.
A recent research paper published by Yale fellow Michael Kwet paints a rather bleak picture of how smart CCTV networks are driving an AI apartheid.
In the process video analytics are reinforcing racial and class divisions, creating a world in which the poor are lo and behold, excluded by the rich. The latest round of criticism has an eerie similarity to my complaint made to the US press back in the 1980s. In a letter published under a pseudonym and carried prominantly by cyberpunk magazine Mondo 2000 I outlined the manner in which the apartheid regime had weaponized the banking sector, deploying ATMs as a convenient means of entrapping activists.
The complaint predated the later unsuccessful IBM case brought alongside a suite of apartheid litigation against Ford and other US companies, which unfortunately never made it out of the starting blocks, thanks to overly broad generalisations in the founding papers, lack of public interest here and abroad, and a US second circuit decision striking down the Aliens Tort Act.
Suffice to say, that IBM were most certainly responsible for the technology behind the Dompas and thus apartheid race classification technology.
The mind shudders to think what would have happened if the apartheid state had access to AI technology, although somehow I like to think that the anti-apartheid movement would have probably hooked onto blockchain and crypto in the same way that Rhodes Must Fall/ Fees Must Fall took to social media.
If the thought of racist rednecks weaponising AI is a little disturbing, a recent news article warned that a group called OpenAI had ‘declined to release research publicly for fear of misuse.’ Apparently “the creators of a revolutionary AI system that can write news stories and works of fiction – dubbed “deepfakes for text” – have taken the unusual step of not releasing their research publicly, for fear of potential misuse.
What is new, are privacy concerns such as mine, about the potential of AI to unlock passwords, defeat cryptography, and reassemble data in new and innovative ways. On the flipside, AI will improve our understanding of past civilisations, forgotten languages and art.
A Japanese research team using AI recently uncovered some 2000 new Nasca lines, previously invisible images in the Peruvian desert.
Back home, this jump in processing power, represents an incredible opportunity to recover ancient memory lost to pre-colonialism. Settlements such as Mapungubwe and Great Zimbabwe have a lot to offer. Deciphering and protecting texts surrounding the university of Timbuktu, will undoubtedly grow in leaps and bounds, but not if AI is simple code for venture capital and used tech salesmen, while our nation’s research institutions are quietly stripped of intellectual capital.
Again, AI for all its scifi brohaugh is really a misnomer, the correct and better phrase is ‘machine learning’.
In particular, the terrain of intercultural communication could take off in significant ways, if our country were to set national goals, for instance providing each and every citizen with the tools to communicate across the linguistic divisions which have traditionally acted as hurdles to our understanding of each other.
As an individual afflicted by the presence of several African languages each competing for his or her attention within my own household, I can only hope that instead of auctioning off bulls via blockchain like our president’s son, our nations youths, instead present us with with a workable plan to grant each and every South African the benefit of instantaneous machine translation — a fact of life still missing from the Southern African region, but surely one that will become a boon in the future?
IT WAS during the dying days of apartheid, that I wrote a series of articles promoting ‘ecological sustainable development’ and deep ecology. The pieces published by Grassroots and South Press were extraordinary, the least of which is that they were published by a working class imprint shortly after the state of emergency.
They dovetailed my criticism of race-based conservation efforts by elements within the regime, for example the Rupert Family, and addressed perceptions that the emergent environmental justice movement in the country was, to put it crudely, an all-white affair.
The result was the ‘First National Conference on Environment and Development’, in which academics and activists from all quarters joined hands on a broad eco-justice platform which included both the ANC and PAC, and which resulted in the placing of Earth Rights at the centre of our Constitution, in the form of article 24.
Today’s political pundits Carilee Osborne and Bruce Baigrie , conveniently ignore the history of environmentalism in South Africa, preferring to situate their respective struggles within the contemporary milieu of the Climate Strike — the recent Cape Town March which saw some 2500 people from various organisations and civic structures take to the streets in what they view “as one of the largest environmental protest actions in South Africa’s history.”
This is no mean feet and without wishing to downplay the successes of these epic events during the course of the past year, one should always remember that the environmental justice movement arose as a foundation stone of our Constitution during a period of mass democratic action, the likes of which have yet to be repeated. And thus a struggle which was situated not upon my own writings, nor the writings of any one particular individual, but rather the Freedom Charter, which (within the colour of the time) called upon people black and white, to “save the soil”, whilst sharing the land, and assisting the tillers of the land.
A similar mistake in historical proportion and misreading of history occurs within the various articles penned by one Farieda Khan. She writes in “Environmentalism in South Africa: A Sociopolitical Perspective”, (an otherwise excellent paper written over the turn of the millennium): “The first extra-parliamentary political organization to commit to a formal environmental policy was the Call of Islam, an affiliate of the United Democratic Front (the South African front organization for the then-banned African National Congress).” She goes on to state: “The Call of Islam had a formal environmental policy since its inception in 1984, due in large measure to the efforts of its founder, Moulana Faried Esack.”
If only history were so convenient as to claim environmentalism on behalf of any one religion or individual, whether Islam, or the Church, as many within SAFCEI and SACC would have it, or on behalf of one or more important groups or class formations formulated by those on the left, as those within AIDC would have us believe.
Rather, I think it more accurate and best to take a broader arc of history — one that includes the Freedom Charter and reaches forward to the essential humanism espoused by the deep ecology movement of the 1970s, whose distinguishing and original characteristics are its recognition of the inherent value of all living beings: “Those who work for social changes based on this recognition are motivated by love of nature as well as for humans.” And by extension, as much of my writing and published work from the 1980s suggested, an African environmentalism which realises that Ubuntu is not simply being human because we are all human, but rather, a common humanity contingent upon the necessary existence of our habitat, without which we could not exist as a species.
Instead of situating the environmental movement within so-called ‘working class’ struggles, or working class factions as Osborne and Baigrie attempt in “Towards a working-class environmentalism for South Africa”, and thus the binary of a grand populism vs narrow neoliberalism which simply perpetuates the idea of man’s dominion over nature and thus a struggle which of necessity is juxtaposed alongside the authoritarian grip of party politics, another path must be found.
It is all too easy to issue anti-capitalist prescriptions, leftist directives and cadre-based imperatives calling for the end of free markets whilst, forgetting that it is Eskom’s captive market, Eskom’s socialist ambitions, and Eskom’s coal barons which have pushed South Africa ahead of the UK in terms of GHG emissions, a country with 10-15 million more people. Although only the 33rd largest economy, South Africa is the 14th largest GHG in the world. Our national energy provider, Eskom has yet to adopt GHG emissions targets.
All the result of the boardroom compromises of the statist, authoritarian left, whose policies have seen our country embrace ‘peak, plateau and decline’ alongside a COP-out strategy excluding South Africa from the Paris Agreement, and thus a national environmental policy which is not based upon empirical science and evidence-based research but rather class driven kragdadigheid and Big Coal.
If those on the far left expect us all to reject secular humanist values alongside Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess who introduced the phrase “deep ecology” and thus an environmentalism which emerged as a popular grassroots political movement in the 1960s with the publication of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, simply because these persons are lily-white, or tainted by the liberal economics of the West, then they are sorely mistaken.
Instead, I believe, that it is far better to formulate an African-centred response, and rather a Pan-African struggle which is broad-based and inclusive of our collective humanity and common habitat. Such a broad-based struggle out of necessity includes an African-Centered Ecophilosophy and Political Ecology.The draft Climate Justice Charter is one such vehicle and deserves our full support.
The struggle for survival during the collapse of the Holocene, includes those already involved in conservation and preservation efforts and those who now join because of concerns about the detrimental impact of modern industrial technology. When one talks about climate justice we thus need to include the voices of those who have not been given an opportunity to speak, and remember that without mass mobilisation, nothing would have changed during apartheid.
SOUTH AFRICA is unique in the world so far as right-wing Christian theology is concerned. The so-called ‘Covenant of Blood River‘ is one of the few instances in which settlers went far beyond racist concepts such as ‘manifest destiny’ and ‘eminent domain‘ . The Boers literally declared themselves one of the lost tribes of the Hebrews at the Battle of Blood River, which during apartheid was remembered as the Day of the Vow. After 1994, the holiday became Reconciliation Day.
We should thank Angus Buchan for putting his foot into the racist muck, because in so doing he stepped on a minefield of racist cant and apartheid theology, of the type espoused by Media24 council and one AJ Cheadle, who during 2010 thought nothing of reframing my case of racism and race profiling, to summarise, as a contravention of the ‘Covenant governing the South African People’.
The bizarre statement made by controversial evangelist Angus Buchan that ‘only Jewish and Afrikaans people have a covenant with God’ was met with derision, and caused quite a flap amongst those seeking to score cheap political points at the same time that they patently ignore the ecclesiastical charges put to me by our politically-compromised general bar and judiciary.
Apparently I am in breach of “God’s Will” for referring to a Media24 editor’s statements about the effects of apartheid separate development, being pretty damn close to the racist dogma touted by the NGK before they dumped theological justifications for apartheid. Race segregation is not a current teaching of any major religion.
Calling the after-effects of ‘separate development’ a mere ‘coincidence of homogeneity’ i.e an accident of nature (all memorialised in the decision written up by the respondent), while pushing a hard-line on Sabbath observance, is so beneath the pale that the corrupt judgement deserves a comparison with the statements made by Buchan and commentators such as Alan Horwitz.
According to Horwitz quoted in the daily press ‘there was no special covenant that the Jewish people had with any higher force’. Accordingly Jewish people have merely an ‘obligation’ to ensure that the 10 Commandments are followed and adhered to. “This does not mean we are elevated above anyone else,” he said.
The gist of the racist and irregularly-gained 2010 decision in which I was restrained from calling any witnesses, and did not possess an attorney remains in full view of the public. The sole witness for the respondent was allowed to make false statements under oath including defamatory remarks regarding several music-industry related articles and interviews — and apparently I was the one holding up the Covenant i.e God’s Law whilst seeking to break it by attending a mixed race music venue on a Friday evening.
All my papers filed in the matter refer to my wish to defend my Jewish identity and culture from racism and Anti-Semitism i.e. opposition to secular Jewish identity.
Furthermore, all my evidence lead in the matter refer to the fact that Judaism is not monolithic, thus there are many divergences within Judaism, in particular the Enlightenment put an end to the bizarre belief that the ‘Torah was written by God hand’, and so far as I am concerned, what one does on a Friday night is a private matter between oneself and one’s maker, the same way that freedom of religion is also freedom from the religious views of others.
South Africa, a country which banned the Dalai Lama, is a secular country in name only. Its people continue to espouse pathetic, libellous and racist views, whilst critics equally engage in apartheid double-standards.
As we speak, I am also one of the few citizens to be excluded in recent times, from the Preamble to our Constitution.
I therefore beseech readers to reconsider their views on the subject.
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.
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.
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.
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.