DAVID ROBERT LEWIS
PO Box 4398
6 August 2018,
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
1 Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA 94104
per email: firstname.lastname@example.org
COMPLAINT REGARDING WIKIMANIA CAPE TOWN
In addition to my role as an independent researcher at Medialternatives.com, I am an anti-apartheid activist, journalist and Wikipedia editor. My work for South Africa’s struggle press, including Grassroots, New Nation and South Press, all titles banned by the racist regime, refers, as does my decade of contributions to Wikipedia.
I write this letter to object in the strongest possible terms to the failure of the recent Wikimania Cape Town event to include any session on ‘apartheid memory’ and also the blatant exclusion of anti-apartheid activists such as myself from deliberations.
Furthermore, I challenge the manner in which the only working session on ‘anti-apartheid activism’ was not on the main conference per se, but rather arrived at by an invitation-only, closed-door ‘Preconference Event’ with the misleading title of ‘Decolonising the Internet’.
It is clear this was done so that the theme was effectively circumscribed and controlled by officials, who wished to avoid the embarrassment of Silicon Valley neo-colonialism, and also so that Dr Sean Jacobs could deliver a keynote, in a conference otherwise devoid of any link to the epic history of struggle within my own country. Doing this most certainly gave the topic short thrift on the important issues at stake, while allowing your foundation to myopically claim that the ‘box had been ticked’.
I thus only caught Dr Jacobs’ address outside the conference via Youtube (see below). While Dr Jacobs may be applauded for alluding to some details of the history of “Information Warfare” during apartheid, (surely my own part in alerting USA media to the role played by information technology in bolstering the corrupt regime, and which became the Khulumani case against IBM refers?), the address introduced a well-known fallacy which needs to be dealt with here.
The history of South Africa is most certainly not the culmination of ‘black history month’, resulting in a ‘black nation’. Rather our nation’s journey from the ‘multiracialism’ of the Freedom Charter to the ‘non-racialism’ of the Constitution is assuredly demonstrated by the historical ‘walk to freedom’ of our nation’s founder, Nelson Mandela. It was Mandela who embraced the Unity Movement’s ideal of a single stream of humanity during his incarceration on Robben Island — the self-same ‘common humanity’ referred to by US president Barack Obama in his recent address.
To reiterate, the rainbow nation is not about the colour of one’s skin, but rather the colour of one’s rights. As a person effectively reclassified several times, according to apartheid-era race categories, the organisers should know better than to host a conference in South Africa that introduces ‘racism of a special type’, while closing down any discourse on non-racialism. Doing this tragically removed any opportunity to debate prescient and significant issues related to apartheid memory and thus Wikipedia in its current format.
Doing this further denied activists such as myself any leg-room to raise important issues to do with the allocation of resources inter alia, lack of anti-apartheid online digital assets; problems with access to local archives not yet digitised; lack of online records prior to Y2K; historical problems with censorship, bannings and lack of inclusion and the takedown of anti-apartheid material (eg. Student Revolts of 1987; torture and detention of activists; banning of organizations during the state of Emergency).
Hosting closed-door sessions of special invite-only guests parachuted in for the occasion while black youths languish in the townships, is the exact opposite of the egalitarian and liberal values to which your foundation subscribes and purports to support. It is an insult and gross injustice to those in my own country who fought against apartheid, and who have volunteered their free time and provided gratis labour on the understanding that Wikipedia is an ‘inclusive and open community.’
It is therefore alarming to find, that not only was I barred from the so-called ‘Decolonising the Internet’ pre-conference, (and despite my making a substantial contribution to the subject matter; also as the organizer of the world’s first hacktivist event in San Francisco during November 1994, an event recorded by Radio Free Berkeley and The Well), but, that I was subsequently deregistered and removed from the main conference in Cape Town. This without being given any opportunity to make representations in the matter, and following my complaining about the ‘lack of engagement by organisers’ and ‘scant regard for human dignity’ when it comes to the significant contribution of the anti-apartheid movement.
The email correspondence received on 19 July 2018, and signed by James Alexander Operations Manager for Trust & Safety at the Wikimedia Foundation (see attached and my response) thus beggars belief. Not only are Mr James’ claims dishonest and devoid of any truth, but the letter itself promotes a gross fraud inter alia, by alleging that I have ‘misbehaved at WikiIndaba in Tunis’, (I can categorically state I have not been out of my own country for several years), and that I also allegedly disrupted the aforementioned ‘Decolonising the Internet’ preconference.
Since I was not admitted to either of these events held under the auspice of the Wikimedia Foundation, I categorically reject and refute this statement.
I also further challenge and protest the manner in which Wikimania organizers and officials sought to restrict my rights as a journalist, constraining and impinging upon my professional duties, and thus my right to record the movement of delegates outside of the City conference venue. I hereby lodge my objection in the strongest terms to the blatant attempt to censor the press by restricting or impinging upon the interviewing of several delegates and also the blatant attempt to gag and affect same on any video material thus privately taken and/or taken during the course of my duties.
I should not have to explain to you that South Africa is a constitutional democracy whose Bill of Rights enshrines the right to press freedom as well as freedom of association, and that your Foundation’s host country, the USA claims to accord similar rights to its own press, a right that is sadly under threat and being eroded by the current Trump administration.
Given the above circumstances, I believe that I am entitled to demand a reasonable explanation, and also an apology from your foundation
David Robert Lewis
+27+21 788 3119
+27+82 425 1454
Cc Wikimedia ZA
Dear Mr. Lewis,
My name is James Alexander, I am the Operations Manager for Trust & Safety at the Wikimedia Foundation.
I am writing to tell you that we have decided to cancel your registration to Wikimania 2018 in Cape Town for tomorrow (Friday), Saturday and Sunday. If you choose to try and attend anyway you will be asked to leave.
I realize that this may seem a bit abrupt however we received complaints from attendees feeling uncomfortable about your behavior at the Decolonizimg the Internet conference earlier this week in addition to concerns about your behavior at WikiIndaba in Tunis earlier this year. As I am sure you understand we need to take the safety and comfort of our attendees as a paramount concern and the decision has been made that at this time your attendance would disrupt that too much. I am sorry that this message came to you so close to the actual event as it did but unfortunately we were not able to fully understand the situation until today.
As always please let me know if there is any questions and I appreciate your understanding.
Manager, Trust & Safety
Manager, Trust & Safety (Operations)
RE Cancelation of registration to Wikimania 2018 DRL2
My name is David Robert Lewis, an independent researcher at Medialternatives.com.
As an anti-apartheid activist and journalist at several banned publications taken off the shelves by the apartheid state, I object to your blatantly dishonest and false accusations.
I therefore refute the allegations that I have in any way disrupted the Tunis Conference, since I have not traveled out of my country for several years.
Secondly I refute any allegation that I attended the so-called “Decolonising the Internet” Pre-Conference in Cape Town, since I was not admitted to the event, but was rather subjected to contempt by Anasuyas of WhoseKnowledge.org.
Instead of making space for my concerns about the obliteration and deletion of apartheid memory, in particular the deletion of inter alia, pages on Student Unrest on UCT campus, Apartheid Death Squads, Apartheid Dirty Tricks, bannings of journalists and torture of editors by the regime, and/or my concerns surrounding lack of anti-apartheid digital assets and digitization of archives, she proceeded to dispute my credentials, telling me that she would ‘only communicate with me when she got back to India’.
I therefore left the venue quite hurt and upset and proceeded to film some delegates entering and leaving the conference venue.
I interviewed a delegate from Brazil, a delegate from Mexico and latin America and was accosted by a Wikimedia Foundation official who instead of upholding my rights as a citizen, proceeded to attack my standing as a member of the press in public.
I had to inform her that South Africa has a free press and also that the preamble to our constitution compels citizens and non-citizens alike, to respect those who fought during the struggle for freedom.
I therefore once again, provide you with an opportunity to correct your course of action, to restore my credentials at the conference and to make space for apartheid memory.
SEVERAL pieces on the right-wing political site Politicsweb, a local news platform run by James Myburgh, demonstrates the narrow racialism of its multifarious contributors. The site purports to carry opinions from across the political spectrum, but has a seemingly limitless abundance of polemic and commentary from the likes of RW Johnson and the Freedom Front’s Pieter Groenewald,
First off there’s a familiar conservative spokesperson opining on the subject of the Ashwin Willemse incident ‘On racism, real and imagined: “Can a disagreement between sports broadcasters really qualify as news?” asks RW Johnson who then proceeds to denigrate the standing of the Equality Court, (in the process casting aspersions against its status in terms of the Equality Act): “Him and his lawyers are now proceeding to the Equality Court (the name has an Orwellian ring),” writes Johnson.
While our justice system if far from perfect, the Equality Court is a shining light in this regard. Rather it is conservatives who must be taken to task for dangerous double-speak, bigoted opinion that essentially denies that Willemse has access to any rights in terms of his own opinion on the matter. As the liberal mantra often restated by conservatives goes, ‘we believe in the audi rule so long as only one side to the dispute is heard.’
Andrew Donaldson, forever a lapdog of the effete rich and trendy wealthy, finds the time to wade in with a pathetic Cry racism piece that although erudite, willfully proceeds to miss the point entirely by cynically misstating the Equality case: “shoehorning the controversy within a racial context will restore moral order and present the readily outraged with a familiar, comforting paradigm’ that of Cry Wolf? No Mr Donaldson, this isn’t about racism per se, but rather apartheid denial, the rotting carcass of quotas and the sell-by-date of former apartheid-era darlings, a corporation with anything but a sterling history of opposing racism.
With all the tact of a charging hippopotamus, the grandson of Verwoerd and Oranie spokesperson, Wynand Boshoff’s ‘Ashwin, actually we know what you mean’ delivers a thinly disguised hatchet job, attempting to deflect attention away from Naas Botha and thus Afrikanerdom in general. Deploying the tired and anachronistic ‘blame it on the British’ schtick that is so often used by former members of the Nationalist party to ingratitude themselves with the ruling ANC whilst also affecting a crushing blow to us English-speakers.
It is not terribly surprising then to find South Africa’s own Walter Mitty, one Andrew Kenny delivering an equally destructive blow to the English language. Having affected a mid-life career change from failed nuclear pundit to “contracted columnist to the Institute of Race Relations” Kenny’s vivid imagination proceeds to shower us with bizarre details verging on the fantastical, “I know nothing about rugby” he says before embarking upon a sorry attempt at the nitpicking obfuscation for which he is perhaps renowned. The result is a failed piece of political bumph posing-as-commentary which merely demonstrates that Kenny has zero credentials and course-work when it comes to the social and political sciences.
‘Hurt, pain & Ashwin Willemse‘ deploys a scurrilous and appalling comparison between the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima, (perhaps to assert a vivid fantasy life in which Kenny recently acquired a moral position on non-proliferation?), to the aforementioned Supersport incident, before proceeding to freely mix metaphors and borrowing heavily from a Nixon-era public administration pundit:
“The politics of the university are so intense because the stakes are so low” is a saying attributed to one Wallace Sayre. It is thus rephrased as Sayre’s Law, which was all really just another patronising putdown to the students of the University of Berkeley and the victims of the Kent State massacre, and grist to the mill, for a decade of revolt which gave the world free love, women’s rights and equality. Enough to ruffle the feathers of today’s youth and our modern generation of die-hard de-colonialists?
To cap it all, there is also a strange statement released by the Freedom Front’s Pieter Groenewald “Minister of Sport and DA leader must apologise” absurdly blaming the Minister of Sport and the leader of the DA, for the incident. Apartheid collaborators are racists, full-stop. Instead Groenewald wants a fantasy-world where “people must refrain from attributing incidents where people of different races are involved to racism,” begging the question, what happens when racism isn’t about race per se but rather structural racism? The two apartheid darlings Mallet and Botha turned into on-air monuments, the post-apartheid wing, Willemse, forever in the studio shadows.
The Freedom Front shows its metal, providing uncritical support for the discredited Naspers-Multichoice and its pathetic inhouse finding on the matter, arguably, all the result of extra-judicial privileges founded upon race, and despite the matter being sub judice. The outcome of the labour proceeding in which Willemse was not represented, has been rejected by the former Springbok, as too should any similar proceedings not meeting standards of due process. There has yet to be an official inquiry into the role of sports administrators during apartheid in terms of the TRC Act, which allows the Minister of Justice to appoint special inquiries subsequent to the winding up of the first commission.
IT WAS bound to happen. The bizarre situation in which two apartheid-era springboks were taken to task by a post-democracy Springbok, over racism, quotas and paternalism. Followed by the media spin driven by Multichoice Supersport whose holding company Naspers refuses to come clean over its role in promoting separate development, race classification and segregation during the apartheid-era.
Naspers the company which owns Multichoice, ducked the subpoena handed out by the TRC to its former-director PW Botha, refused to participate in the media hearings at the commission, rebuked a group of journalists attending in their private capacity, and instead has stuck to a version of history that is anything but an accurate and fair depiction of the times.
After effectively being found guilty of gross violations of human rights by the commission, and thus a report which records “a total lack of concern for the company’s support of the racist system” (Volume 4 of the Final TRC report), the company proceeded to deny the reality.
“I worked hard to earn my own respect in this game… so, I’m not going to be patronised by two individuals who played in apartheid – a segregated era – and come and want to undermine… people” said Ashwin Willemse after a match last month between the Lions and the Brumbies.`
The Supersport public relations machine immediately went into overdrive. Holding their own internal inquiry, the company casually announced yesterday that it had found that “there was no racism involved in Ashwin Willemse walking out from an on-air broadcast” in the process exonerating Nick Mallett and Naas Botha, two darlings of the apartheid regime.
Apparently SuperSport CEO Gideon Khobane maintains the group was cleared by Advocate Vincent Maleka, and thus presumably a member of the Bar. The result is anything but an open inquiry before an independent tribunal, and echoes similar statements by manager Ishmet Davidson, who claimed on air the entire group had been cleared by the TRC back in the early 90s.
Davidson’s 2015 comments followed a case-limited apology issued by Media24 CEO Esmarie Weideman citing only one instance in which a ‘coloured employee’ had experienced difficulties with separate facilities.
Talk about undermining the Truth. Willemse did not participate in the internal review for obvious reasons. The attempt to legitimize apartheid-denial by acting as sole arbiter of apartheid history, must be rejected for what it is, a total sham.
Willemse’s lawyer Nqobizitha Mlilo told SAFM radio host Tsepiso Makwetla on Wednesday morning that Willemse “did not see any value in participating with the process” because the rugby analyst had already expressed his views …”
“We expressed a view to Adv Maleka SC that he (Adv Maleka SC) was being used to sanitise and chlorinate failures by SuperSport to deal with a number of reported incidents of racism by the gentlemen in question‚”
DISCLOSURE: The writer is currently suing Naspers via the Equality Court and is awaiting the outcome of a case brought against Legal Aid South Africa in this regard.
THERE is an emerging far-left junta in South Africa. A disparate red anschluss surrounding the egos of Malema, Shivambu, Ndlozi and Vavi, who equally view Mandela’s legacy with antipathy and Constitutional democracy, as a means to an end. Our Constitution, accordingly, is nothing more than a highly flawed liberal document ‘protecting the interests of the few’, and equally defended “by liberal jurists who want to protect this liberal constitution at all costs.”(1)
United in their common loathing of minorities, ‘Indians, Jews, Whites, Capitalists’, and consequently the rule of law, these strongmen, seek to move the country away from its democratic foundation and market-socialist centre under the ANC, towards a radical re-alignment with an Anti-West and Anti-Zionist ticket, that could see the removal of the Constitutional dispensation and its replacement by a Marxist dictatorship, with a few strongmen at the helm of a command economy.
The current demand by the would-be all-male junta, whose war council speaks to the militarism associated with the EFF party (see here), is for the state to nationalise and take control of all private property. Thus the state in their mind, would be the custodian of all the land, including bonded real-estate. Instead of drawing rates and taxes off the sale and resale of property, the state would be in effect, the sole title-holder as citizens are reduced to mere tenants under a totalitarian system.
More worrying than the move away from individual freedom and a mixed economic model where property rights are protected, is the racial rhetoric and faux radicalism emanating for the war council’s Floyd Shivambu, whose statements about struggle veteran Ismail Momoniat in Parliament resulted in a storm of criticism. This was followed by party founder Julius Malema’s equally galling statements outside of parliament, claiming that ‘the majority of Indians are racist.’
Daleep Lutchman, chairperson of the South African Minority Rights Equality Movement (Samrem) was moved to say his organisation would meet to decide what charges to press against Malema for “going back to the apartheid system of classifying people by race”.
Malema recently conducted an interview with Turkish Radio and International Broadcasting Association, and promised a revolution if his demands were not met at the ballot box.
Not one to shy away from controversy, Malema has often stated that if he were President, people like FW de Klerk would be in jail. The party also appears to want to jail its opposition, including former President Jacob Zuma and any Zionist Africans expressing support for Israel.
Unionist Zwelinzima Vavi has proposed a final solution for Zionists on national television. Under the EFF any supporter of Israel, whether black or white, would thus find themselves imprisoned. The statement was backed up by a marvel of conflation and innuendo. A tweet stating ‘any supporter of apartheid here and abroad including support for apartheid Israel must not be fired but must face prison term (sic) for supporting a system declared a crime against humanity.”
While apartheid was declared a crime against humanity, to date nobody has ever been jailed for the crime of apartheid.
The TRC process and negotiated settlement was contingent upon amnesty being granted in exchange for participation and acknowledgment of wrong-doing. The EFF thus appears want to discard the entire constitutional dispensation, including provisions protecting divergences in political beliefs and religious outlook.
Musa Novela, a spokesperson for the party’s Joburg region, thus released a bizarre statement last week condemning the DA’s Mpho Palatse, after DA Mayor Herman Mashaba had suspended the MMC of Health for her unauthorised participation at a ‘Stand with Israel’ event.
Embarrassingly, Novela’s statement claims that a 1974 (sic) UN resolution ‘declared Zionism to be a crime against humanity’. However resolution 3379 of 1975 ‘equating Zionism with racism’, was overturned in 1991 by the UN general assembly resolution 46/86 and thus adopted overwhelmingly by the majority of nations, 111 to 25. Although the ANCs Tony Ehrenreich has been known to call for revenge against supporters of Israel, this is the first time that a political party has proposed jail sentences for Zionists, and thus the limitation of their constitutional right to political and religious expression.
(1) Floyd Shivambu on the Justice Factor
READERS may remember the controversy surrounding the banning and destruction of material published by Medialternatives. In particular the circumstances surrounding the elimination of my book review of A Secret Burden by none other than M&G editor Ferial Haffajee.
The book itself was a collection of prose and poetry “written anonymously by young, white South African conscripts deployed during the so-called ‘Border War”, and my review brought attention to the problem of embedded journalists, the manner in which the SADF had literally paid for material published by the former Argus Group and Naspers, in the process lavishing pro-War attention via Scope, Sarie and Huisgenoot.
It is telling that in the aftermath of the Winnie Stratcom revelations, that one Terry Bell, lately of Media24, another outlet responsible for the destruction of material, including photographic images, is defending the track record of journos implicated in dirty tricks, at the former Argus Group, whilst referring to a list of as yet unpublished names. According to Bell, the problem remains, that State operative, turned TRC witness, John Horak is also dead. We beg to differ, since the TRC report exists, alongside credible records still in the possession of the commission, entered into evidence but only referred to in passing by the final report.
Readers should therefore be reminded that the following testimony does appear in the TRC report into the media under apartheid. One can only hope the Minister of Justice will take the opportunity, presented by the passing of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela to release evidence which are now classified documents. Information referred and alluded to in testimony to the general public, if only to set this matter straight. The group photo opportunities taken during the Border War, for which many journalists accepted junkets, will certainly make for interesting documentary and archival history on the subject, whilst providing all-important context:
“Williamson gave information about another STRATCOM-type operation which involved taking senior members of the media to Special Forces bases on the South African border for a bosberaad with the highest ranking officers of the military and intelligence agencies. The state’s relations with the media were, he said, seen as a “macro continuum” from the owners of the media, to the editors who controlled the newspaper, right down to the dustbin cleaners who cleaned the dustbins at night and stuffed material in an envelope to be collected by agents.” TRC Report Vol 4, Ch6, para 68, pg180
“Williamson also provided a photograph, taken on the Angolan border in July 1987, which contained virtually the entire general staff of the defence force, various government ministers and staff and Williamson himself, together with a number of highly placed journalists. The focus on that occasion was how South Africa and the newspapers would respond to what the Soviets were doing in Angola.” TRC Report Vol 4, Ch6, para 69, pg180
“State operative John Horak explained that there were four basic categories of media spies: agents, informers, sources, and ‘sleepers’. Craig Williamson confirmed this. An agent was a professional police officer with a job to do. Informers gave information either voluntarily or were recruited. He identified two categories of informers: those who were ideologically totally opposed to what the organisation was doing and those who did it for the money. There were also those who did it to get at colleagues for reasons such as competing for promotion. ‘Sleepers’ were long-term plants, people who knew things but would only provide information if their consciences were bothering them.” TRC Report Vol 4, Ch6, para 93, pg184
NOTE: In 2016 Naspers directors promised to investigate the whereabouts of several articles and images relating to South African jazz music history produced under my own byline but in their possession. At this time, the company has not responded. The items have in all likelihood been destroyed.
REVELATIONS that South Africa’s media were the targets of a dirty tricks operation at the behest of the apartheid government, named Operation Romulus, and that the victim was the late Winnie Mandela, were bound to cause a sensation. More so in the aftermath of her death. Embedded journalism is highly problematic. The least of which is the impact, it has had on several titles that may be implicated.
The untested claims attributed to Stratcom agent, Vic McPherson are all contained in the documentary on Winnie by Pascal Le Marche. The Citizen however, was forced to remove an article entitled “Stratcom Reporters at the Weekly Mail”, issuing an apology to then editor, Anton Harber, as did the Huffington Post.
Readers may remember the circumstances in which the apartheid government bought and paid for the Citizen in what became known as the Information Scandal, and the manner in which both South Press and Medialternatives itself were banned, the latter by none other than Mail & Guardian editor Ferial Haffajee, after yours truly exposed the problem of apartheid embedded journalism at the Independent Group (formerly Argus Group).
“We failed to seek out comment from Harber, Gqubule and Mathiane before publishing untested allegations. We are deeply sorry and apologise without reservation” wrote Huffpost editor-in-chief Pieter du Toit. A title, which is also the subject of some controversy surrounding its inclusion in the Naspers stable. An apartheid corporation, responsible for Stratcom and whose newsrooms until recently carried portraits of editors such as D F Malan and HF Verwoerd.
Thus it came as no surprise that Weekly Mail, along with its former racist bedmates, was now being implicated. After a sterling run as the bastion of progressive politics, the successor to the Weekly Mail, threw its lot in with 24.com, while the online version of the newspaper under Chris Roper, became the proving ground for former apartheid spies and journos.
Winnie Mandela repeats many of the claims in a recent interview conducted before her death. The result ended up in a takedown of posts at two media houses, both themselves implicated in the apartheid regime. The original Citizen article is only available as a cached page on google.
It may seem a little too convenient then, that Politicsweb, responsible for banning Medialternatives on Black Wednesday, rose to the defense of Harber, apparently quoting a 1995 Weekly Mail expose of Stratcom and thus the words of one Paul Erasmus
The article pictured to the left, by
embedded investigative journalist Stefaans Brummer, fails to examine the implications of a stratcom operation aimed at the Weekly Mail newsroom, and its NIA successors under the new regime.
Was Harber in fact also the target as many newsrooms were during the struggle? The full extent of Operation Romulus is only now becoming public record.
A fuller investigation into the many skeletons housed and embedded within South Africa’s press and their shortcomings during apartheid, is most certainly warranted. Declassifying documents may be the first step according to Open Secrets’ Hennie van Vuuren.
Watch eNCA below reflect on the media during this period.