Category: Activism

Aggett Inquest, Mandela Release 30th Anniversary, Oh Shucks

IF YOU READING this piece, then you one of many South Africans turning to alternative media for a different perspective than the mainstream press.  It is small consolation that we are all witnesses to the Aggett Inquest, continuing during the 30th year following the Mandela Release ,while FW de Klerk still refuses to admit any wrongdoing on behalf of the former National Party.

The party responsible if you recall, for deaths in detentions of persons such as Steve Biko, Ahmed Timol and Imam Haroon. Then there’s the assassination of David Webster, one of the defining points of the period prior to the velvet revolution which lead to the release of Mandela.

A man who some believe, would have been better off having not been released, if only to continue the struggle via other means.

Apartheid was (and still is) a crime against humanity  — the daily news briefings abound of the tragic circumstances immediately proceeding the death in detention of Neil Aggett, an icon of student protest surrounding the anti-apartheid movement, are to be welcomed.

Yet I can only manage to howl and weep, because too little has been done to rectify the situation in which apartheid apparatchiks are allowed to go Scot free, while the victims more often than not, are given short thrift, with very little recourse when it comes to the law.

Hopefully the current generation, both black and white, will be inspired by the sacrifices which have been made, and speak out at the travesty which is occurring in the name of national reconciliation. Our children deserve better than the vacuous and tired explanations for these murders provided by those in authority.

As I write this, I am still bound by a racist 2019 decision handed down by one Bernard Martin of the High Court of South Africa, effectively removing my right to legal representation as contemplated by the constitution in a matter effecting the status and integrity of the TRC and its report, (and thus a matter filed before the Equality Court in 2015). As yet no legal professional has stepped forward to provide assistance, while Legal Aid South Africa has been allowed to escape its mandate of providing aid in cases where a substantial injustice would result from my not possessing an attorney.

If defending the TRC report from egregious attacks by apartheid criminals is not an odious task, requiring immediate assistance, then I fail to understand what would qualify?

It therefore remains for us to shout out to all and sundry, and from the rafters and pulpits if needs be, — it is not merely the apartheid justice system which is on trial at the Aggett Inquest, but rather, the entire South African justice system.

A justice system which began the year under a cloud of calumny, and in which the credibility of the entire system is still in question.

That the Aggett inquest may be too little, too late, is  surely to be remarked upon by commentators, who no doubt may also question the manner in which the previous Timol inquest occurred, not because funds were made available by our government but because of the valiant and heroic activism of the Timol family.

It is not too late to call for a further commission of inquiry into the entire post TRC process, if only to demand that funds be made available in order to access legal aid in such matters.

In terms of the TRC Act, the Minister has the requisite power to call further commissions of inquiry, to hold further inquests and to assist those in need of legal aid. Instead the Minister has chosen to duck and dive, passing the buck under the current administration. An administration which will no doubt be wrong footed, and in contempt of the freedom struggle, which is the hallmark of the preamble to our constitution.

 

 

 

 

South Africa’s judiciary, too many gone to the dogs?

IF THE probe of 5 Kwazulu-Natal judges fingered in a UK investigation of a $2 trillion-a-year (R28 trillion) money-laundering ring isn’t enough to grab your attention, or the revelations of judicial impropriety, influence-peddling and nepotism levelled against Western Cape High Court Judge President, John Hlophe by Deputy President Patricia Goliath, doesn’t get your goat. Then surely, the revelations before the Aggett Inquest by Advocate Howard Varney of state capture of the justice system is certain to raise your ire?

The problem is a lot more widespread than reported, (see my comments below). In his opening remarks before the court, counsel for the Aggett family, Howard Varney, said the Aggett inquest has “been plagued with ongoing delays”.

“We now know that post the winding up of the TRC [Truth and Reconciliation Commission], decisions were taken at the highest political level to close down the investigations into the cases referred by the TRC to the NPA … including the Aggett case.”

“Such interference” he says “amounted to state capture of the criminal justice system in relation to this class of cases. It allowed powerful forces in society to impose their will on institutions meant to uphold the rule of law. In doing so they guaranteed total impunity for some of the most serious crimes ever committed in South Africa.”

As a post-TRC litigant I can confirm the extant of the capture of the judiciary by nefarious forces associated with the past regime.

Not only has pressure been brought to bear, to influence the appointment of judges, as in the allegations against John Hlophe, while criminal syndicates are allowed to operate out of courts as alleged by civil rights group Constitution Accountability, Sedition, Independent, State, Access (CASISA), but both the NPA and judiciary have actively suppressed the TRC transitional justice mechanism, acting as if the judicial instruments of the apartheid state are somehow concurrent with the constitutional dispensation.

What appear to be a series of boardroom deals brokered by apartheid financier Johann Rupert and members of the Sisulu family during the CODESA negotiations have directly lead to the situation —  one in which Rupert Bellegings Pty Ltd, the ultimate controller of a vast media cartel involving businessmen Koos Bekker, Ton Vosloo and Terry Moolman and invested inter alia, in Remgro, Kagiso, Caxton and Naspers, was able to suppress a TRC-complaint before the Labour Court and by implication, the Equality Court.

The direct capture of the Labour Court was most certainly effected via a company known as the Resolve Group, whose director at the time Michael Halton Cheadle also held a directorship at Cheadle Thompson, Haysom (CTH). The respondent, Media24, a company which had previously attempted a gagging order, for my blowing the whistle on newsroom racism at WP Koerante, the owners of the People’s Post. Media24 were at the time clients of CTH at the same time that both Kagiso and Remgro were providing media content to MIH, a subsidiary of Media24.

In papers before the Cape Law Society, Cheadle acknowledged Media24 was a client of his law firm, but failed to explain why he had not revealed this fact on record before the court. He further attempted to justify his relationship on the basis of a decision in Bernert vs Absa Bank in which a judicial officer’s holding of over-the-counter (OTC) shares of the bank, during the proceeding, had been found to be de minimus, in other words not significant enough to effect the outcome. 

Far from being insignificant,  Cheadle’s shareholding flouted the ‘nemo rule’ (nemo judex in causa sua), one of the pillars of our justice system.

Kagiso then owned a 25.9% stake in Resolve, alongside former speaker for the House of Assembly Max Sisulu (5.7%). In 2005 Remgro (formerly Rembrandt Group) bought a 37% stake in Kagiso (reduced to 36.3% when Kagiso-Tiso was formed). Significantly this meant that a company with strong ties to apartheid, bought into a group associated with the former democratic struggle, in the process making good on a business relationship which had bloomed during the CODESA process.

Several partners at Resolve had ties to Media24 and/or 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”)

The NPA have declined to prosecute a complaint, after a docket was handed to the authority. The JSC appears to be toothless according to William Saunderson-Meyer. 

Further allegations against Hlophe have surfaced in a piece by the Daily Maverick.

In March of last year, AJ Martin handed down a racist decision trashing the TRC report, “as too long to read”, in the process crushing hopes of legal representation in a collateral matter before the Equality Court brought to defend the TRC from vicious attacks emanating from Naspers and Media24 counsel. (please see my open letter to the TRC Commissioners). The unlawful, irregular and repugnant Labour Court finding most certainly played a part in the outcome of Lewis v Legal Aid SA.

Records from the trial of General Magnus Malan, a Pretoria secureaucrat implicated in apartheid death squads appear to be  missing from the South African legal information institute database.

This week, the official opposition party, DA called for John Hlophe to be immediately suspended, as did National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADEL) and Freedom Under Law (FUL). John Steenhuisen said the allegations faced by Hlophe were a threat to the credibility and independence of the judiciary at large, and said they had to be taken seriously. Constitutional law scholar Pierre de Vos is also talking about a “credibility crisis” as is Legalbrief, an online law professions site.

“The current head of the Western Cape High Court is compromised. Until such time as a proper investigation is completed and all consequential processes – which may include impeachment – are completed, Judge President Hlophe cannot be allowed to exercise the powers of a judge,” said Nicole Fritz, Executive Director FUL, in a statement, supported Nadel’s call for the suspension of Hlophe.

The same principles should apply to  allegations emerging from the Aggett inquest, in particular the latest revelations that it was a piece of paper provided by Barbara Hogen, which lead to the arrest of Aggett.

Ethical norms, not political compromises, should also apply to those behind the campaign against the TRC being waged with the full support of a captured judiciary.

As former solicitor-general under Reagan and Harvard Law Professor Charles Fried said of Trump: “You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.”

 

Remgro Organogram showing 36.3% Kagiso-Tiso holding

Kagiso Asset Management Organogram, showing Remgro 32.6% holding of KTH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MORE READING:

https://ewn.co.za/2020/01/22/spat-between-deputy-judge-president-goliath-and-judge-hlope-plays-out-in-public

https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/goliath-vs-hlophe-deputy-claims-cape-judge-president-wanted-judges-favourably-disposed-to-zuma-on-nuclear-deal-case-20200121

https://www.politicsweb.co.za/opinion/the-problem-isnt-hlophe-its-the-jsc

 

 

 

 

 

Cannabis & Canapax: healing not dealing?

WHILE THE Canadian state of Ontario was removing the cap on the number of marijuana shops in the province, South Africa’s drug enforcement agencies were busy taking down a dagga dispensary franchise operation known as Canapax. News of cannabis operations being opened to the public overseas were met by stories of SAPS beating up on local dagga activists. The death of Rastafarian Jan de Bruin at the hands of law enforcement, is a particularly galling example. De Bruin’s crime, having the audacity to grow weed in the small town of Wellington.

The country’s inability to deal with the ramifications and nuances of the end of prohibition  follows a groundbreaking ConCourt ruling last year which allows use of the herb in private, yet expressly forbids dealing, while granting Parliament a period in which to review regulations.

Canapax, a going concern was ostensibly rolled out in terms of the ‘Traditional Health Practitioners Act of 2007’ (THP). The result was a tragic case of magical thinking. Franchisees sincerely believed that Canapax had all its papers in order, and was operating as a registered entity under the act.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire, to put it mildly. Since in terms of the law, it is still an offence to practice as a traditional healer without a licence  — health practitioners may not prescribe nor examine patients without authorisation under a regime, which is essentially based upon a medical model.

Fields of Green a website published by Julian Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke maintain that the real reason was that THP precludes healers from prescribing any ‘dependence producing or dangerous substance or drug.”

The statement were supposedly backed up by a briefing issued by SAPS and comes after a directive was issued by the NPA on the subject calling upon officers to obey the ConCourt decision.

That both law enforcement and the so-called Dagga Couple had it wrong can be seen  by the fact that our apex court had already ruled that dagga was no longer a dangerous , dependency causing substance but rather could be used in private. The law in this respect had yet to be confirmed by parliament.

As I suggested to Gareth Prince and Richard Kraak, during the period of the High Court trial, your crime is essentially, ‘baking bread in a no-baking zone’. Microbrewers of gin don’t have the same problem as growers of cannabis in selling their product,  nor do bakers of bread, what exactly is going on?

The ConCourt decision essentially shifted weed from the realm of the narcotics and medicines act into the realm of the liquor act, at least insofar as harm was concerned. Ganga is no more harmful than a tipple and in many respects less harmful than alcohol.

Here is another way of looking at this: Under Dagga Prohibition, the law had three pillars; 1) Dagga is a dangerous, dependency causing substance and therefore is prohibited 2) It must follow that no dealing or possession is allowed 3) You cannot grow or produce a prohibited substance.

Along came the ConCourt decision, down went pillar one:

1) Dagga no longer dangerous

2) It read into law the decision, and gave Parliament two years to come up with regulations.

3) It maintained the regime with regard to dealing, but stated that possession and growing in private was allowed.

It doesn’t take much further reasoning to show how dagga prohibition came to an end, and how dealing in dagga today, is about as bad as dealing in bread without a licence.

Yet absolutely nobody gets bust for baking bread or distilling alcohol these days. It serves no purpose to continue to claim that dagga is harmful and ergo, must be regulated.

There really is no sense in cannabis culture continuing to pursue a medical model ( ditto patient confidentiality?) and for regulators to continue to pursue a regime which no longer has constitutional validity.

If anything Canapax erred in not seeking proper registration with the THP council. Under THP penalties are imposed on individuals who practice as traditional healers sans registration.

This model was clearly not the best vehicle for a commercial dispensary operation, and yet, significantly, THP does create a system for dispensing ganga which is no longer considered dangerous, but only if you happen to be licensed. No need to read new laws, while we here, may as well state the obvious, ganga has been prescribed for many decades by registered alternative health practitioners, they are not dealing, but healing.

Evidence lead during the ConCourt “trial of the plant’ was that dagga had many health benefits, and the evidence is both mounting and persuasive.

Clearly, Traditional Health Practitioners may prescribe cannabis,  as a complimentary traditional therapy, but may run foul of the law in calling it a medicine.

It is surely up to our legislature to clarify and refine the regulations.

Following Reconciliation Day, an open letter to the TRC Commissioners

Messers Desmond Tutu, Sisi Virginia Khampepe, Wynand Malan, Yasmin Sooka, et al.

Dear Commissioners,

I write this letter having had good cause to reflect upon several events of this past year on Reconciliation Day.

It should be noted that Reconciliation Day, formerly ‘Day of the Vow’, or ‘Day of the Covenant’ or ‘Dingaan’s Day’ became the source of some controversy this year when a well-known pastor made a reference to the Covenant within racist terms that brought back memories of the quasi-religious holiday commemorating the ‘Voortrekker victory over the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River in 1838′.

As a secular humanist of Jewish origin, I have on more than one occasion, rejected theological justifications for race segregation, in particular the apartheid euphemisms used to justify separate development as a mere ‘accident of nature’, or a ‘miracle of sameness’ and the like.

My beliefs and faith (or lack thereof) unfortunately became the subject of a race-based interrogation of my Jewish identity during the course of an unfair proceeding in 2010 in which absolutely nothing was done to protect my rights. The least of which is that the TRC itself was under the machinations of senior council reduced to ‘merely a commission’, and your report ‘merely a report’. And where those selfsame euphemisms were trotted out to justify racism.

It was thus within a bizarre inversion of reality, that I was deemed not to ‘be a credible person’ on the basis of my ‘opposition to apartheid’, by a corrupt adjudicator presiding, it appears, without the necessary authority, over a matter effecting not only his own client, but also his business partners. All explained away in a report to the Cape Law Society in which a corrupt relationship is justified on the basis of a decision in Bernert v Absa Bank Limited.

The labour proceeding against Media24, was anything but a fair hearing, an ‘irregular proceeding’ if you will —  not only did I not possess an attorney (following the group’s 2007 gagging attempts which put paid to my legal insurance), but I was further restrained from calling any witnesses. I was therefore not present when the decision was handed down, was not granted leave to appeal, nor did I secure a successful petition to appeal to the Labour Appeal Court.  This after the respondent’s ecclesiastical case alleging inter alia, I was more than simply a “Jew in breach of my religion” but also ‘guilty of driving a car on a Friday night, and/or attending a mixed race nightclub apparently in violation of my religion’. Nothing less than a piece of savage quackery, written up by the respondent and cut and pasted, and handed down as the purported decision of the court.

In 2015 I thus filed a distantly related complaint before the Equality Court against then Min. of Justice Micheal Masutha and also Naspers, the holding company of Media24, citing the former’s failure to exercise powers in terms of the TRC Act and thus the astonishing failure of the TRC Unit to defend both the TRC and its recommendations from ongoing acts and omissions in the face of racism and a culture of impunity.

My filing sheet thus also listed an apartheid media company named as a ‘gross perpetrator of human rights violations’ in the final report that all TRC commissioners signed off on. It was filed two days before Media24 issued a mea culpa to the heavens referencing one case-limited example of a single ’employee of colour’, Conrad Sidego, who had apparently experienced problems with separate amenities.

It further went on to list several shortcomings of the first TRC, in particular the failure to deal with extra-curial evidence — evidence arising after, and subsequent to the first commissions winding up. It noted other failures, including errors with acronyms, Congress of South African Writers ( COSAW) is not Congress of South African War Resisters (COSAWR).  It may be demonstrated that TRC One represents the absence of an in-depth inquiry into the role played by women, war resisters, the struggle press, the environmental movement, the use of technology by the state, coercive psychiatry and so on.

Despite the merits of the case,  I once again found myself in court sans attorney and I was eventually granted leave to formerly seek legal aid by Judge Bozalek after the Equality Court had previously acted under Judge Veldhuisen to deny me access to legal aid.

I thus sued Legal Aid SA in a collateral matter before the High Court, Western Cape, which took some three years of my time.

It was more than a little alarming to find that in the interim, ‘apartheid memory’ had been relegated to the dust-heap by our judiciary, alongside our constitution. That portraits of apartheid and colonial judges still hung from chambers, and AJ Martin of the High Court of SA, now agreed with a racist merit report by John van Onselen, of Legal Aid SA, stating in his decision of 2019, that he was now ‘entirely satisfied that the TRC report would take a long time to read, and may thus be ignored’.

Despite my application for leave to appeal the racist decision, and despite oral testimony citing the High Court’s misreading of the Separation of Powers, (Legal Aid SA is not a constitutional entity as such, but rather directly answerable to parliament — a result of the Legal Aid Act, which makes LASA subject to the Public Finance Management Act, as a Schedule 3 entity alongside Boxing SA) both the application for leave and for Martin’s recusal from the proceeding were rejected out of hand. In the process a racist exclusion to the Preamble was created, one which has had the deleterious effect of derogating rights commonly held under our constitution.

As we near the end of 2019 following a troubling period in which several well-known activists of my generation have passed away, including Peter Horn, Sandile Dikeni and Ben Turok, I find myself reaching out to a public case that has been at the back of my mind ever since the TRC Report was released.

Surely, you as commissioners knew that when you signed your name to the report, that it was an incomplete report at best, and would require further redress in the future?

Surely,  you as commissioners, knew that when the TRC Act was promulgated under the interim constitution, that it was a necessary pre-condition for the constituent assembly to pass Act 108 of 1996, in other words our Constitution, whose Preamble says, ‘recognising the injustices of the past’?

Surely, TRC commissioners are aware that if you did not broker any guarantees from the state, to make good on the recommendations issued that you would be opening the doors to accusations that you are yourselves complicit in a crime against humanity and the after-effects thereof?

Surely you as commissioners are aware that in doing nothing except write letters to our President, of which there have been quite a few following the winding up of the first inquiry, that you would indeed, stand accused, as you do now, of doing absolutely nothing of any consequence to uphold the legal framework upon which the entire transitional justice arrangement was based, and that anyone wishing to bring civil litigation to defend rights in law is now faced with the odious task of defending the public record left by yourselves?

I therefore have no hesitation in stating here on Reconciliation Day, that the current TRC process is an abject failure.

Not simply because of the conduct of the Minister’s TRC Unit, but because of the collective conduct of the TRC commissioners.

Instead of defending the report to which you have placed your signature, you have instead been regaling all and sundry on the joys of turning the other cheek, travelling the world like religious pilgrims claiming to have discovered a novel process of reconciliation.

Engaging conference after conference and airtravel that merely pumps out CO2 while promoting your own estate as a national treasure and depriving the victims of restitution.

Those persons like myself, who were never called to testify, and yet suffered the consequences of apartheid dirty tricks need to be told the truth.

Future generations and ordinary South Africans need to be told the truth of what has occurred in the name of the TRC and in the the name of justice.

I beg your forgiveness, as fellow citizens, it may no doubt still be in the public interest to motion for yet another TRC process, TRC Two.

Sincerely yours

D R Lewis

 

SEE: Corruption could undermine the integrity of SA’s legal profession

SEE: Mogoeng Mogoeng’s lack of judgment

Deep Fakes, AI and the New Electronic Struggle

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 Alien Torts 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.

The ability to fake and control news in the process driving public influence is not a new concern, as movies such as Videodrome (1983) and Network (1976) have already pointed out.

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. Like any tool it may be used for good and bad.

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’. Its a synonym for AI, not a sub-set as in ‘reinforcement 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?

UPDATE: Ramaphosa’s son slammed for cancelling conference without notice

Ramaphosa Junior’s blockchain belly-flop

 

Towards an African, humanist environmentalism for South Africa

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.