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.
READERS may be aware of the circumstances surrounding the hosting of an exclusive “Decolonising the Internet” conference in Cape Town.
A conference so exclusive that that it was not simply a well-funded invitation-only event, in the run-up to Wikimania Cape Town, but one which bizarrely excluded anti-apartheid activists — in the process failing miserably to include the very same persons referred to in its bold statements, cynically referring to ‘representivity, inclusivity, the marginalised and the local (see my letter to Douglas Scott, and my complaint to Wikimania).
The organisers still persist in claiming they were promoting “newly created alliances and networks, [working] together towards more diversity and inclusion in the experience of internet design, architecture, content, and governance” while further proclaiming: “We intend to dramatically change the way the internet represents the majority of the world.”
Exactly how this will ever be achieved by hosting closed door sessions dominated by ‘privileged white persons’ from the global North is still a mystery.
What the organizers did accomplish was some skilled (read manipulated) agenda-setting and box-ticking for the main programme’s half-baked keynote delivered by Dr Sean Jacobs, who parachuted in from New York to deliver an uneven address on the subject while claiming that Wikimania had done its homework on apartheid memory.
Witness Jake Orlowitz a Wikimania volunteer being interviewed by a clueless volunteer who ends her interview by stating: “you did all my work for me, I don’t even have to ask any follow up questions”.
The podcast is a nothing less than a puff piece for the closed-door fiasco, in which local activists were not informed by organisers that the event was being co-located by Wikimania, on an international programme held in Cape Town, which will be remembered for its failure to include a single session on apartheid memory.
Ditto Rhodes Must Fall.
Attendees were then bussed to Robben Island, and sites in D6 and local townships, without bothering to create a safe space for the very persons affected by apartheid separate development, and the latest round of academic exclusions on the nation’s campuses, nor given any other opportunity to air their views on the subject.
Orlowitz, much like so many megaphoned and amplified ‘male allies’ in the global women’s movement, proceeds to hog a debate on issues to do with developing world invisibility and ‘your’e not welcome’ implicit race bias, acknowledges its a ‘middle class hobby’, touches on issues to do with representation, in an 11 minute podcast published by ‘WhoseKnowledge‘ the apparent backers of the pre-conference.
Startling in that the obviously ‘white privileged male’ without a hint of irony, goes on to say ‘Wikipedia [is] struggling with inclusion’, ‘consistantly white men from the global North who do well .., and often who don’t see a problem’, “it’s not me, I’m not a part of it”.
Orlowitz claims his role is one of ‘using his privilege to raise awareness’ then bizarrely proceeds to speak on behalf of ‘folks who were born native and privileged’ as well as those who are ‘excluded from the system [but] ‘who carry so much knowledge’, before admitting, “I don’t even know what is missing”.
A point of view which rubbishes claims made by a member of the local Wikimedia Chapter, that the event was limited to ‘indigenes’.
Strangely Orlowitz calls systemic Wikimedia bias merely a ‘meme’; while claiming the decolonising pre-conference was inclusive of diversity and marginalised persons, but does not make any cogent argument for why the conference was closed.
That organisers wants to reproduce this closed model surrounding an online site famed for its apparent openness, is risible.
WhoseKnowledge is clearly one of many opportunistic organisations possessed of politically-correct do-gooder-speak, with all the resources but without the right model. Reverting to a previous era of closed and proprietary debate, is what is at fault here.
I therefore have no hesitation as a publisher and anti-apartheid activist, affected by Wikipedia deletions of apartheid memory, in once again rejecting the WhoseKnowledge organisation on the basis of ‘nothing about us, without us‘
DEFEND STATUS OF TRUTH & RECONCILIATION COMMISSION BEFORE THE COURTS
DEFEND THE PREAMBLE TO THE CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA
I have less than one month in which to file an SCA appeal in terms of s17 (2) (b) against AJ Martin’s racist decision (CA18417/17) to not provide relief with regard to representation in a matter affecting the TRC and its Final Report.
The High Court decision literally agreeing with Legal Aid SA in first instance, that it ‘would take a long time to read the report’ and therefore it can be ignored, and also, in second instance, upholding validity of LASA chief officer‘s view that the matter has somehow ‘prescribed’ since the commission ‘wound up its work some time ago‘, is demonstrably racist.
Attacking the legal basis of the TRC, an inquiry into gross violations of human rights under apartheid, still a crime against humanity, for which there is no statute of limitations, trivialises the report, lowers its status before the courts and denigrates the memory of the victims and survivors. It is certainly contrary to our Constitution and its preamble which states, ‘recognising the injustices of the past …’ not to mention several statutes each one promulgated in order to prevent ‘repetitions of the past’.
The decision impacts and affects my case before the Equality Court of South Africa (EC19/2015) brought to defend the report against the vicious and racist attacks by Naspers/Media24 and thus failure to defend the law by the former Min of Justice, Michael Masutha. My not possessing an attorney at state expense as contemplated in the constitution, is a substantial injustice when it comes to the odious task of defending the TRC.
AJ Martin’s sloppy and incompetent decision is nothing less than racist double standards, since I have already been taken to task on a previous occasion during the proceedings of Lewis v Media24 (2010) for my not having ‘read the report’, in particular chapter 4, and thus according to Adv Kahanovitz SC, ‘knew who I was getting involved with when I joined Media24’, a racist organisation at the time, opposed to the TRC.
Kahanovitz SC further claimed that the report was a ‘public record’ to which I could not claim ignorance, at the same time that he claimed the commission was ‘simply a commission’, and the report, ‘simply a report’. AJ Cheadle, who admitted to presiding over a case involving his own client (and thus a judgement written up by the opposing party), then proceeds to state in his 2010 decision at para 98: ‘His evidence is unreliable because he is engaged in a campaign against the Respondent for its support of apartheid and its refusal to apologise for doing so before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.’
Now Martin declaims loudly from the bench that it is okay to simply ignore the report, echoing Kahanovitz SC earlier direction that the report should be ignored when doing so favours his client, but be upheld when it affects my own legal standing.
Not only did AJ Martin refuse to recuse himself from the High Court, Western Cape on Monday 20 May 2019, after this contradiction was pointed out to him, but he has had the audacity to claim his decisions and findings in the matter are somehow obiter (merely in passing), and also “Judges can make mistakes that is what superior courts are for, correcting error.” There also appears to be some confusion here as to whether or not the court has the requisite power to review decisions taken by a ‘national public entity’ and thus other schedule 3 entities such as boxing clubs. Martin then proceeded to deny me leave on the basis.
The determination amounts to an exclusion of the Preamble to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, not to mention the Bill of Rights. The separation of powers is between the judiciary, the executive and the legislature, not the public sphere versus the judiciary and represents a new low so far as the justice system is concerned.
The calumny against the TRC Act is not surprising since the the High Court of the Western Cape still houses portraits of apartheid and colonial era judges. Albert van der Sandt Centlivres for instance, was the Chief Justice of South Africa from 1950 to 1957, and the result is an embarrassing racist rogues line-up, book-ended by a beaming portrait of current Judge President of the Western Cape, John Hlophe. Portraits of Centlivres et al deserve to be in a museum not the chambers of active judicial officers.
I urgently require assistance in filing my documents on appeal in Bloemfontein, failing which an appeal directly to the ConCourt. If I cannot retain an attorney to accomplish this, I will be required to travel to Bloemfontein and/Jozi. I am also required to furnish the SCA/ConCourt judges and parties with the transcripts and records of the proceedings, all of which costs money. Some four hours of transcription is required.
Please assist me in defending the TRC and its Final Report in the matter Lewis v Legal Aid SA CA18417/17. This matter affects similarly-situated individuals and is a major test of the foundation stones of our democracy.
NO TO HIGH COURT APARTHEID
NO TO RACIST DOUBLE-STANDARDS
THE argument that Israel represents the ‘Jews of South Africa’, often made by members of the SAJBD is as fallacious as the equal assertion that BDS and its leadership represent the diversity of Jewish history and culture, in particular the legacy of Jewish activists during the freedom struggle.
A letter by a US academic Judith Butler written to UCT and published by the Mail & Guardian, ironically refers readers to a committed Zionist and treason trialist, Arthur Goldreich, alongside a liberal supporter of Israel sovereignty, Helen Suzman. This in order to embroider upon an evolving work of fiction — the false analogy between the ongoing struggle of the Palestinians and our own country’s struggle against apartheid.
Butler maintains, that “BDS draws on longstanding traditions, some of which were importantly developed in the context of the struggle against apartheid”. While the two struggles may appear similar in mode at the surface, there are significant and important divergences, differences which we disregard at our peril.
For starters, the South African struggle was an epic battle against colonialism and white domination in support of democracy and secularism. Activists such as myself were pitted against a white regime which was theocratic, undemocratic and avowedly Christian in outlook.
Butler goes on to write: “Let us not forget the large numbers of Jews who have fought in social justice struggles, including the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa (Joe Slovo, Arthur Goldreich, Ruth First, Albie Sachs, Helen Suzman), who contest the radical inequalities that form the basis of Israel’s claim of Jewish sovereignty and its claim to maintain Jewish demographic advantage at all costs.”
The claims made with regard to Goldreich and Helen Suzman are instructive and bear greater consideration. A piece published by Benjamin Pogrund for the Helen Suzman Foundation states: “Use of the apartheid label and repeated references to “genocide” against Palestinians and denunciations of Zionism as “racism” are at best ignorant and naïve and at worst cynical and manipulative.”
Unlike the South African struggle where Jews enjoyed leadership roles, and where persons such as Joe Slovo were in many respects over-represented than other minority groups, both Fatah and Hamas have failed miserably to include Jews in top positions.
Palestinian claims about the alleged “Jewish race” share more in common with the racist objectives and malicious aims of the puritans of the Nationalist Party than the alleged non-racialism of the ANC. To reiterate, nations are not races.
Unlike the Palestinian struggle which lacks any meaningful document such as the Freedom Charter setting out winnable aims and objectives, civil rights for all, the South African situation is rather different, and thus the recipe for achieving a negotiated outcome and peace settlement in our own country was founded upon a winning constitutional formula.
BDS have failed time and again to canvas the opinion of persons either referred to as ‘Jews’ or self-defined as Jewish, in a skewed solidarity politics that ignores the problem of Jewish identity. Butler is only able to espouse her own views because other views and Jewish voices have been silenced by the BDS politburo.
Though Butler’s misguided rhetoric on anti-semitism is to be welcomed, let’s be forthright and stop beating around the bush, anti-semitism is open hostility towards secular Jewish identity.
Attempting to provide a non-violent and anti-racist veneer to a religious struggle in which both sides are informed by religious texts in a battle over the final status of Jerusalem, avoids the open inquiry and evidence-based empirical research that needs to occur if we are understand the many dimensions to the problem.
As a person whose Jewish identity has become the subject of a racist legal inquisition in South Africa at the behest of the perpetrators of apartheid, I therefore do take exception to the banning of opinion and obliteration of independent voices outside of these two diametrically opposed camps, injustice vs injustice.
The experience of BDS campaigns within South Africa itself has not been a pleasant one.
I can only commend UCT council for not caving into the zealots.
It is not too late, nor out of the bounds of reason, to embrace a secularist and non-partisan ‘third way’, that avoids scapegoating of those who disagree with leaders and pundits on either side, and which avoids sacrificing democratic freedoms, freedom of speech, while protecting constitutional rights in our own country.
NOTE: For the record, DRL a graduate of UCT Center for African Studies, is opposed to the separation barrier, is in favour of a limited arms embargo against the State of Israel, and does not support any cultural or academic boycott targeting persons of Jewish descent on the basis of our alleged history and identity.
SEE: Dear Steven Friedman
THE over-eager and misguided official who banned me from Wikimania Cape Town for allegedly ‘disrupting a pre-event on ‘Decolonising the Internet’ and also for ‘disrupting an event in Tunisia’, (both events which I never attended) is no longer at Wikimedia. According to users of website Wikipediocracy, which among other things, aims to “to inoculate the unsuspecting public against the torrent of misinformation, defamation, and general nonsense that issues forth from one of the world’s most frequently visited websites”, Alexander has left Wikimedia without so much as a farewell.
“Alexander came to the forefront for two issues during the 2018 Wikimania in South Africa” wrote a Wikipediocracy forum user “when, exercising his authority, he forbade one volunteer event helper to continue his work as reported in our August 2018 Special Report, and withdrew the registration of a South African newsman and anti-apartheid activist from the conference for reasons that were later confirmed to be partly incorrect as documented in YouTube (from 26:51) and had him ejected from the venue.”
and also this one on Wikipedia Sucks
In saying the reasons for my exclusion were partly incorrect, (and not true) the user fails to disclose the sequence of events which makes the entire episode Wikimedia’s own fault.
In my own response to the thread, I thus posted:
1. Responded to Douglas Scott of Wikimania
2. Documented the entire incident on video
‘Not only is Mr James Alexander dead wrong about Tunis, but he is 100% wrong about every other purported fact regarding the matter and the initial complaint made at Wikimania Cape Town.
Please read my initial complaint and watch the video.’
3. For the record, given the circumstances I can only welcome the apparent dismissal of Mr Alexander from Wikimania Foundation, and demand that the Foundation deal more adequitely with incidents of racism and exclusion on the basis of opposition to apartheid.
SOME TEN months ago, I published The End of the Anthropocene, my response to the H20 Day Zero crisis in Cape Town. Needless to say, it got people talking about climate change in a new way.
The resulting global debate around extinction has been simply phenomenal.
Not only did the IPCC released an alarming report in October, warning of the dangers of 2-3 degree climate change, in effect demanding drastic action, followed by a report by 13 federal agencies presenting ‘the starkest warnings to date of the consequences of climate change for the United States itself’ but the naturalist Sir David Attenborough was moved last week to issue a statement that climate change is ‘humanity’s greatest threat in thousands of years’.
A number of science reports issued this week confirm the shift towards temperatures last seen during the Eocene, which was some 18 degrees hotter on average than today.
Future global warming may eventually be twice as warm as projected by climate models and sea levels may rise six metres or more even if the world meets the 2°C target, according to an international team of researchers from 17 countries.
Scientists described the quickening rate of carbon dioxide emissions in stark terms, comparing it to a “speeding freight train” and laying part of the blame on an unexpected surge in the appetite for oil around the world.
The BBC reported Attenborough’s statements at the opening ceremony of United Nations-sponsored climate talks
Climate Change, he said ‘could lead to the collapse of civilisations and the extinction of “much of the natural world”.
Thus we can only congratulate the rise of an allied environmental movement Extinction Rebellion, which also intends making waves around the world.
The movement advocates direct action and civil disobedience in defence of human habitat.
“We are facing an unprecedented global emergency. The government has failed to protect us. To survive, it’s going to take everything we’ve got” say Extinction Rebellion.
Meanwhile, our own inept and scandal plagued department of environmental affairs, released a half-hearted statement reiterating the national position on climate change and calling for a ‘just transition to renewables’ amidst ‘aggressive awareness campaigns.’ GHG emissions however grew at an accelerating pace this year.
I’m afraid this type of DEAT public relations hot air in the face of intransigence by our energy minister isn’t going to cut it, and rather a change of government is required.
Extinction rebellion demands:
- The Government must tell the truth about the climate and wider ecological emergency, reverse inconsistent policies and work alongside the media to communicate with citizens.
- The Government must enact legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and to reduce consumption levels.
- A national Citizen’s Assembly to oversee the changes, as part of creating a democracy fit for purpose.