Zondo vs Ngcobo – the strange tale of two Presidential corruption reports #Spygate

WITHIN the space of months, South Africa has seen two separate reports implicating the Presidency in alleged corrupt activities. The first report was that of the Zondo Commission into Allegations of State Capture, whose first volume was handed over on 4 January, followed by the the second, third and fourth volumes handed over on 1 February 2022, 1 March 2022 and 29 April 2022 respectively, to Director-General in The Presidency, Ms Phindile Baleni.

This was followed by volumes 5 & 6 including an ‘amended version of the Zondo Report which incorporated corrections made by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, who chaired the Commission. The October release followed the granting of permission by the Pretoria High Court on the 4th of October 2022, to allow Chief Justice Zondo to ‘make corrections to the final volume of the report’ which was submitted to the Presidency in June 2022.

Next up on 1 December 2022, the Ngcobo Report, emanating from a Section 89 panel chaired by Justice Sandile Ngcobo appeared. This secondary report detailed the strange events at Phala Phala, a game ranch associated with current President Ramaphosa.

Where the far larger Zondo Report comprising 5500 pages focused on corruption allegations implicating former President Jacob Zuma and his compound Nkandla, alongside the siphoning of millions of Rands into various accounts associated with what appears to be an elaborate, and treasonous attempt to create a corrupt parallel ‘state within a state’, the rather thin 82 page Ngcobo Report appears to be very tame in comparison.

The single volume Ngcobo Report found that President Cyril Ramaphosa may have contravened various sections of the Constitution, ‘acting in a manner that was inconsistent with his office’ and thus acts which may be considered impeachable offences. As Ngcobo put it, the president ‘had a case to answer to’ for events surrounding a 2020 burglary at his Phala Phala farm in Limpopo. Whether the result amounts to corruption in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act of 2004 remains to be seen. It is clear at first glance, that the President himself, was not involved in the actual burglary, but possibly involved in money laundering, at very least they are contraventions of the regulations.

The report itself however, is more an indictment of the executive than the President alone: “Given the high rank in the police hierarchy that these senior police office hold, we can assume they knew that theft which involves such huge amount had to be reported to the police official in the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation. Why they did they not do so? We do not have an explanation for failure to report the offence under Section 34(1).

Rogue Spy Boss

It is of grave concern that former Zuma spy-boss Arthur Fraser, whose name appears no less than 48 times in the document and who is a man also at the centre of the Zondo findings appears to be the sole source of much of the hearsay evidence referred to in the Ngcobo Report. As the Rand tanked, instead of resigning President Ramaphosa now appears to have taken the report on judicial review, while the US Chamber of Commerce issued dire warnings concerning the country’s future economic stability.

It should be remembered that it was the minority opposition party Cope which first laid criminal charges against Fraser citing allegations contained in the final section of the Zondo Commission’s report. He appears implicated in allegations on the mishandling and distribution of large amounts of money from the SSA. This fact alone would tend to disqualify him from presenting evidence in what seems like a smear campaign.

Fraser is also set to face criminal charges for unlawfully releasing Zuma from Prison, and by some accounts is potentially the most dangerous criminal in South Africa today, especially given the failure to implement the findings of the Khampepe Commission of Inquiry, his position within the intelligence community, and serious nature of the allegations involving his so-called ‘Principal Agent Network’ (PAN)? For example, a nerve centre that received information from PAN, was located in Fraser’s house, in the process compromising national security. The commission noted that ‘centralization of power in Fraser’ resulted in him’ ‘acting like he was the Director-General of the SSA. Secondly, there was no control by the Director-General; it became a free for all and Mr Fraser was a law unto himself’.

It is even more alarming that the six volume Zondo Report, was immediately preceded by the arson attack on the House of Assembly by one Zandile Mafe, an event which occurred alongside the burning of House records, and the extremely brief Ngcobo Report thus comes on the tail end of several such attempts at orchestrating a broad-based insurrection (such as occurred in July 2021) at the behest of those named in the Zondo Report.

Smear Campaign

Given the context of these events, the Ngcobo Report appears nothing less than a calculated, if thinly veiled attempt by the protagonists to distract the public’s attention with a similar, but less implicating controversy for the ruling party, a party which has been at pains to spin its ‘mass appeal’ and thus a ‘revolutionary narrative’. Wave another magic wand, and the masses I suspect, will think the next President is tastier than a Ranch Fried Chicken?

This whilst the perpetrators named in the Zondo Report, (also the subject of various shenanigans during and subsequent to its release) escape further scrutiny, and the grand party manages to shift public focus, to presumably recover electoral ground?

Forensic investigator Paul O’Sullivan claims “the President has been set-up”. He is certainly being framed for a fall during the next ANC leadership battle, whatever the outcome, this while the brains behind Nkandla and the associated spook antics during the course of the past months, set the stage for a come back?

Where the daily press were quick to label the events at Phala Phala, ‘#Farmgate’, no similar appellation was given the contents of the far more damning Zondo Report — a case of the press being captured? One need not go too far to suggest anything more fanciful than #Nkandlagate? So how about #Spygate? A common theme, all involving a massive failure in intelligence?

Citizens are bound to be asking questions as to whether any of the troubling cases referred to, from either of these two executive reports, will ever come up in court, but the bet here is that Ramaphosa’s case will reach a verdict a lot faster than the high treason surrounding Nkandla. One can only hope that our institutions prevail, that the country maintains its democratic path.

UPDATE: IOL are today alleging that the President received millions of Rands in donations from various foreign countries, apparently based upon Arthur Fraser’s Affidavit. The Affidavit only refers to an ‘undisclosed sum’ and does not mention these countries as the origin.

EFF commits itself to policy of murder on behalf of ‘the revolution’

JULIUS MALEMA has doubled-down on his statements calling murder a ‘revolutionary activity’. The party advocates the use of violence in dealing with what it terms, racism and ‘white supremacy’. Begging the question who gets to decide which is which, and with obvious problems presented by vigilantism? While South Africa may have laws against hate speech and even racism, we certainly don’t have a summary death penalty for either.

The SA Human Rights Commission had earlier found that EFF leader’s speech and posters and banners displayed at the party’s Provincial People’s Assembly in the Western Cape last month “collectively, constitute incitement of violence, hate speech”. 

In his speech before his party’s provincial assembly, Malema said a white person involved in an incident at Brackenfell High School in 2020, should have been be dealt with more brutally, and went from promoting the murder of his opponents, to providing a rationale for a resumption of armed struggle along similar lines once advocated by the late Nelson Mandela, before the advent of the current democratic order.

Malema said anyone standing in the way of his party’s own self-styled ‘revolution’ should be ‘eliminated’, and dealt with ‘by any means necessary’, by which one can only assume, he means to topple the current democratic dispensation, one which provides sanctuary and due process to those charged with a crime, and compensation to those wronged by abhorrent past race policies.

Malema in a video available on Youtube, can be seen telling EFF members that they must “not be afraid to kill” and that “killing is a revolutionary act”. 

The EFF leader is also quoted as saying: “Why did Mandela take up a gun?… He took up a gun because the revolution had reached a point where there was no longer an alternative but to kill.”

“Anything that stands in the way of the revolution must be eliminated. The EFF… is not a playground for racists and any racists that play next to the EFF and threatens and beat up the membership and the leadership of the EFF, that is the application to meet your maker with immediate effect.”

After the SAHRC decision, a press statement put out by EFF South Africa, deployed both Franz Fanon and dialectical materialism to provide a rationalisation for their reasons for embarking upon a path of violence. The party upbraided the SAHRC for ‘contradicting Fanon’ on issues to do with violence, written whilst the author was supporting Algerian independence from France.

Given 10 days by the SAHRC to issue an apology, Malema said, he would challenge the decision in court, and further claimed the ‘honeymoon for whites is over’.

SEE Gauleiters, the authoritarian left and its defense of paramilitary politics in South Africa

Kanye West: Yeezus, you ain’t Mr Jeezus

KANYE WEST is certainly never one to avoid controversy, but over the past weeks, his pronouncements on social media have been called out for being nothing more than vulgar anti-Semitism. The result was the cancellation of lucrative contracts with sports brand Adidas, the shelving of an unreleased documentary, and a major talent agency CAA cutting ties.

Both singer Boy George and celebrity Kim Kardashian have spoken out against the rapper’s casual resort to hate speech.

Kardashian wrote that hate speech is “never OK” or “excusable.”

“I stand together with the Jewish community and call on the terrible violence and hateful rhetoric towards them to come to an immediate end,” she added.

Instead of issuing an apology, West doubled down along his bigot-alley pronouncements by claiming the term ‘anti-Semite’ was now akin to the ‘use of the N-word’, before taking a month-long ‘vow of silence’.

His absurd attempt at issuing reverse psychology certainly fell flat, since such an equivocation seeks to deprive black Jews and Jews of color with what is, in reality a stock defence against racism. The term Anti-Semitism was coined in 1879 by  Wilhelm Marr to designate the anti-Jewish campaigns underway in central Europe at that time, it was later adopted by academics as a better sounding term than Judenhass, or Jew-hatred.

While some may feel a little sympathetic with West encountering contemporary cancel culture, and his views certainly deserve opprobrium, South Africans should feel ashamed that local news-outlets appear to have censored the news story.

One can only surmise that the reasons for doing so is because cautionary tales about bigots and thus the antics of the rapper also known as Ye, who just happen to be black, don’t sit well with editorial attempts to normalise anti-Semitism, at the same time Anti-Semitism’s proponents, seek to excuse racism whenever it appears convenient to do so.

A similar incident involving bizarre Holocaust statements (subsequently retracted) made by actress and talk-show host Whoopie Goldberg earlier this year, was similarly given the silent treatment by the local press, who seem to believe anti-Semitism doesn’t exist.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) ‘non-binding working definition of anti-Semitism’ states: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

In South Africa, a working definition might include ‘open hostility towards Jewish secular identity’.

If the brouhaha around David Unterhalter and the Judicial Service Commission was to be considered, a working definition could incorporate perverse anti-Secular ‘inquiry into religion’ in other words, religious inquisition or investigation that tends to avoid or exclude members of other religions, thus unfairly discriminating against members of the Jewish faith or persons who define themselves as Jewish

Dear Anton Harber, you’re nothing more than a Putin apologist

Dear Anton Harber,

YOU were once the editor of a weekly rag fundamentally opposed to the apartheid state. I read the Weekly Mail religiously every week, since the day it arrived on our newsstands, and followed often radical opinions, many white leftie columnists and also the writing of a sole, token black arts commentator.

In 1992 I visited your newsroom, and found to my dismay that unlike South Press, which was a veritable Rainbow Nation, the Weekly Mail was essentially an all-white newsroom, catering for academics and liberal-leftie types from Houghton.

On the strength of your paper’s success you became an adjunct professor at Wits.

In 2020 the EFF were forced to apologise for referring to you and Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki as ‘Stratcom agents’.

Absolutely nothing was said about the implications of testimony provided by one Paul Erasmus during the Timol inquest, which implicated the Weekly Mail in a disinformation campaign centering around a dirty tricks operation targeting the late Winnie Mandela, and also the struggle press.

This week, you issued an opinion piece published on News24 tackling the removal of Russia Today (RT) from Multichoice entitled: ‘Don’t silence voices to counter malicious disinformation’ in which you state:

“I dislike the Russia Today (RT) television channel because it is the propaganda tool of a dangerous and corrupt autocrat. It shows little respect for the truth, and is happy to propagate the most appalling lies. But every now and then, I would turn to it – briefly – to hear how the Russian government was seeing the world and to get an alternative – and sometimes challenging – view.”

The piece is behind a paywall, so I can’t read nor respond to the rest of your article, but it appears to place RT within the liberal ‘marketplace of ideas’, and thus merely one source of information, to which you occasionally turn to for fresh, often ‘challenging views’.

Since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine last month, and following the events of 2014, and the annexation of Crimea, RT has become anything but a source of ‘challenging views’ and rather, as you appear to admit, ‘a mere propaganda instrument’ punting the alternative world-view, of the Russian plutocrat and his oligarchs — especially when it comes to reasserting Russian territorial claims over Eastern Europe.

Unlike the USA where no restrictions on speech exist, South Africa has a particular history which has resulted in constitutional limitations on freedom of expression. Thus there exist in our constitution prohibitions against hate speech, incitement of violence as well as propaganda for war.

The Pro-Putin RT evangelism and calumny around war certainly falls into this category. It begs the question why you as a professor of journalism, feel the need to apologise for it, and raises the issue of whether or not you are even qualified to deliver such an opinion?

It was Michael Osborne, one of the legal representatives actively involved in the constitutional process who reminded me of the pitfalls of claiming free speech absolutism of the type currently espoused by Elon Musk on twitter.

“Would you shout fire in a crowded theatre?” he asked, beginning what is a well-trodden philosophical argument against absolute freedom of speech.

Surely you must understand, from your years spent, apparently combating apartheid indoctrination and brainwashing, (save for your paper’s vicious campaign against Winnie Mandela), there are consequences to speech, especially when it incites a nonchalance over violence and aggression that runs contrary to our constitutional value system?

Putin has been exposed as a liar and charlatan over his reasoning for the Ukraine invasion. The bombing of a Holocaust war memorial should put paid to the idea that this has anything to do with ‘denazification’. In truth this phrase is merely a propagandistic trope used in rallying the military, rather than the basis for a factual case, and despite its use as a casus belli.

The situation is clearly not one of moral equivalence in which two equal forces are somehow locked in a relationship of equanimity in a dispute in which civilians can simply choose which side they support, as if democracy, the rule of law and the liberal marketplace of ideas prevailed.

Putin has clamped down on press freedom inside Russia, passing laws which stifle commentary on the war. Leading to the arrest of at ‘least 2,776 people’ who have been arrested for protesting in the three days since the war began.’

This news from OVD-Info, ‘a Moscow-based organization that tracks arrests linked to anti-government activities across the country’, was not reported on its website, which was “inaccessible to Russians Saturday night” but on its Telegram channel.

In a separate statement on Saturday also reported by Canada’s The Star, “Roskomnadzor announced an investigation into the reporting of numerous media organizations over their accounts of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the language used to describe the offensive.”

The outlets are accused of publishing “untrue information about the shelling of Ukrainian cities and the death of civilians in Ukraine as a result of the actions of the Russian army, as well as materials in which the ongoing operation is called an attack, invasion or a declaration of war,” the statement said.

If your piece proceeds to defend journalists within Russia affected by Putin’s crackdown, then I apologise beforehand. However, I have yet to see you defend independent journalism inside the country — you certainly have remained silent when journalists such as myself are gagged by the very outlet upon which your views and opinions have been published.

I therefore reject your argument as diabolical considering the current circumstances in which Ukrainian men, women and children are being targeted by Putin’s death squads.

Sincerely yours

David Robert Lewis

Quinton: Bury my heart at ‘bend the knee’

IN HIS autobiography, Silent Gesture, published nearly 30 years after two African-American athletes displayed the black power salute at the 1968 Olympic games, Tommie Smith, wrote — ‘the gesture was not a “Black Power” salute per se, but rather a “human rights” salute’. The demonstration is regarded as one of the most overtly political statements in the history of the modern Olympics.

Contrast this with the latest debacle involving Quinton de Kock’s refusal to ‘bend the knee’ at the ICC T20 World Cup on Tuesday, after Cricket SA instructed the team to kneel ostensibly to demonstrate support for the global “Black Lives Matter” campaign.

There is much being made of his decision to avoid a symbolic gesture made popular in recent times by television series ‘The Game of Thrones’ and arguably appropriated by the Black Lives Matter campaign.

Almost nothing is made of its association with Christiandom, and ritualistic practices in the Anglican Church for instance, its resonance with the Crusades and Knights Templar.

That anti-racism interventions are beginning to resemble zealous meetings of the Hitler Youth and Italian fascists which similarly appropriated ‘volkish’ symbols, and even the Ku Klux Klan which appropriated themes from the Spanish Inquisition, can be put down to a lack of continuity with black struggles from the 1960s.

The symbolic act is not universally embraced, as a symbol of solidarity with anti-racism, and despite Lawson Naidoo’s contention that it is somehow the de facto gold-standard in sport.

De Kock’s own objections appear to be religious in nature, and are certainly not openly racist. Refusing to cowtow to authority has long been a theme of a religion synonymous with revolt against the Roman Empire.

That commentators ignore the fact that De Kock is well-within his rights to object and to refuse to engage in a symbolic act whose origin, provenance and message is open to interpretation and dispute, can be put down to the lack of appreciation for fundamental freedoms, in particular the right to dissent.

Race chauvinists and supremacists such as Khaya Koko were quick to issue invective and derision, in the process implicating the leader of the official opposition. There are many other ways to express solidarity, that do not involve appropriation of symbols or ritualistic acts which may be deemed offensive, for example, wearing a ribbon or armband.

Proteas skipper Bavuma says De Kock has his team’s support after refusing to ‘take a knee‘.

Freedom of religion is also freedom from the religious views of others. Refusing to engage in an act which at the face of it is not voluntary, but rather the result of coercion by Cricket SA, deserves our categorical and open support.

After all, its just not cricket.

UPDATE: The Proteas wicket-keeper has since offered an apology following pressure from Cricket SA.

READ: To take a knee or not

Steven Friedman’s lies about Corbyn deserve a careful examination of the truth

WHEN THE Equality and Human Rights Commission report into anti-Semitism in Corbyn’s Labour party was released, it was damning, writes Jay Elwes in The Article. “Facing allegations of anti-Jewish racism, the report said Corbyn’s Labour was “responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination” in an attempt to counter and dismiss those claims.”

The report found there were ‘three especially egregious breaches of the Equalities Act’, including: Political interference in anti-Semitism complaints; a failure to provide adequate training to those handling anti-Semitism complaints; and harassment.

This is a far cry from Steven Friedman’s blatantly dishonest account published in New Frame.

According the Friedman, not only was there no evidence of anti-Semitism inside the British Labour Party, but ‘the closest (the report) comes to finding that anti-Jewish racism is a problem in Labour is the claim that some in the party use “antisemitic tropes” and say that “complaints of antisemitism [are] fake or smears”.

Corbyn was thus an innocent ‘victim of a trick’, opined Friedman, one which ‘has been used for years in the United States and here to portray racial redress as racist. Less well known is that it is now used to paint opponents of racism as antisemites, people who despise Jews.”

That Friedman was ignoring serious complaints made on the left regarding harassment of members of the Jewish Labour Movement (an anti-racist group) which had resulting in 7 MPs including Chuka Umunna, a black MP leaving the party last year is clear.

He thus trots out a well-known criticism of the right, (‘mere tropes’) in an attempt to smear ‘black Labour’, as hopelessly tied to Israel, while promoting Corbyn’s reinstatement as leader of the party .

The only trick here is Friedman’s own chicanery and mendacity in attributing race to Jews and thus reducing all adherents to Judaism, to the status of simulacra. People who ‘look like they could be Jews’.

It is a common tactic of race-obsessed critics to focus attention on ‘Jews of European origin’, whilst forgetting there is a mosaic of difference within the Jewish diaspora, which includes inter alia Jews of Ethiopian, Nigerian and South African origin. Nations are not races, and rather the issue here is one of ethnicity.

In 2018 I wrote an open letter to Friedman questioning his apparent expertise on the subject of Jewish identity, his neglect of issues relating to secularism, and the problem of ‘who gets to decide who is Jewish or not?’ He failed to respond and continues to issue forth with blatantly false allegations, allegations which have not been tested in any court.

I have only to reiterate my own experience with racism and Anti-Semitism at Media24, to demonstrate, the lay issues at stake, have absolutely nothing to do with Zionism per se, nor the tedious opinions formulated by shoddy academics, over whether or not a Palestinian or Jewish State has a right to exist (why not?). But rather the manner in which open debate on the subject of Jewish secular identity in general and Anti-Semitism in particular, is circumscribed and defined by self-appointed political apparatchiks such as Friedman.

As Thomas Jefferson once stated: ‘I never will, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others.’

South Africa is a secular state with a “We, the People’ constitution. The phrase “In humble submission to almighty, God” was removed from earlier drafts of the constitution, and is a well-established narrative recorded by Judge Albie Sachs.

UPDATE: Labour of Hate

Letter: Seth Rogen: ‘I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel’ refers

Dear Ed,

Seth Rogen: ‘I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel’ refers

As an anti-war activist opposed to the abuse of the term ‘apartheid’ in the Middle East, I wish to respond to the latest binary correspondence on Israel and Palestine carried by The Guardian. In particular I wish to point out the tendency by either parties to the conflict to view the other in Manichean terms.

The resulting dualistic cosmology describing ‘a struggle between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil, material world of darkness’, has plagued the religious conflict over the final status of Jerusalem, for decades and is not helpful in arriving at a secular solution.

Like the actor Rogen, I too once believed that everything I had been told by my Jewish father was wrong. During the 80s I found the Rabbinical references to the biblical stories told of King David and the construction of the Temple inconsistent with the 1982 invasion of South Lebanon by the IDF under the government of Menachem Begin.

During my years as a student activist and member of the South African Union of Jewish Students, I drew parallels between the SADF invasion of Angola, and became an outspoken critic of Israel military aid to apartheid South Africa.

I was fed Fatah propaganda related to the Nakba and ended up believing that colonialist adventurism by European settlers was the cause of the problem, while Palestinians were the innocent victims. I even publically renounced my right to return as an Orthodox Jew after the construction of the separation barrier in 2000.

Several beatings by Jordanian-Palestinian immigrants and self-styled Palestinian activists set the stage for an end to my delusion. Nevertheless I still persisted in my Anti-Zionist views, attended various rallies, met with a group of Palestinian doctors and even appeared at a UCT seminar hosted by members of Fatah. There I was told the problems were the ‘Jews, Jews, Jews.’

The narrative provided by the PLO began to unravel shortly after I became the subject of a religious inquisition by a corrupt ANC official in 2009/2010, some of the details of which are available in my self-published Amazon book, ‘Life in a Time of Heretics’.

The final parting of company with the Palestinian version of reality coincided with my rediscovery of the missing narrative of Mizrahi Jews, the stories of dispossession and disenfranchisement suffered by oriental and North African Jews.

In particular my late father’s inability to talk about the Farhud Massacre, ‘the violent dispossession” carried out against the Jewish population of Baghdad, Iraq, on June 1–2, 1941, and followed by the expulsion and dispossession of property of Arab Jews following the events of 1948, put paid to the notion that this was a singular conflict between good and bad. Between 1920 and 1970, some 900,000 Jews were expelled from Arab and other Muslim countries.

Rogen’s revelations reported by Oliver Holmes in the Guardian, that “more than 700,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes or fled fighting in the 1948 war that led to Israel’s creation” is thus a one-sided tally given the magnitude of these expulsions and the enormity of the Holocaust.

The inescapable facts surrounding the complicity of Amin el Husseini, then Mufti of Jerusalem, and the resulting controversy also need to be weighed, as too the facts surrounding ‘Dhimmitude’, a permanent state of subjugation by either of the parties.

A 2015 Time magazine article addressing the question of whether or not Husseini was the source of the Final Solution certainly demonstrates the problem of focusing exclusively on the Nakba whilst denying the Holocaust. Not that one should make the cardinal error of assuming that all non-Jewish Palestinians are to blame, or thereby privilege one life more than the other.

To put this matter to rest, although Husseini canvassed Hitler before the infamous Wansee Conference where Hitler’s Final Solution was formerly adopted, the decision to ‘exterminate all the Jews, and not simply the Zionist ones’ had already been taken, and thus, the ‘invitations had already been sent out’ when the Mufti arrived to argue his case against Jewish immigration to the Holy Land.

The real nail in the coffin of apartheid analogy however, is when one realises that Husseini’s position in history is much the same as the father of apartheid, DF Malan who introduced the racist Aliens Act in January 1937, restricting Jewish immigration to South Africa before the war. Both men are responsible for condemning hundreds of thousands of admittedly, European Jews, to euthanasia camps in Poland.

Two wrongs do not make a right. An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. Banning points of view, with which one disagrees, and as Rogen and Holmes motivate by implication, is never a solution. Rather it is my considered opinion that the conflict in the Middle East represents a tragic case of injustice vs injustice, or as the writer Amos Oz has put it, a sad case of competing juridical systems.

Like Peter Beinart in the New York Times, I too no longer believe in the Middle East, but can imagine a Jewish home in an equal state.

Whether the result is a binational or plurinational solution is anyone’s guess.

Kind regards

David Robert Lewis

UPDATE: Since writing this letter I have come across further details about Hussieni which call into question my casual appraisal above, informed as it was by a Time article.

MOGOENG MOGOENG: STATEMENT BY TWO WAR RESISTERS

AS ANTI-APARTHEID activists, war resisters and peace-builders, with a long history of opposition to the unbridled use of force to achieve political goals, we understand the many predicaments faced by those wanting to build peace in the Middle East, and act in solidarity with those who refuse military service to the Israeli state.

The controversial statements by our nation’s Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng have thrown into stark contrast the divergences of opinion on the subject of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

It is not our objective here to issue dogma nor to take sides on whether or not sitting judges may issue forth with their private or personal views on the subject, nor even to take issue on whether or not Mogoeng Mogoeng was speaking in his capacity as the chief justice or as a private citizen.

Rather and more pertinently, we wish to state that the religious justifications for support of the Israeli state by some within the Christian faith, and a judge holding high office, raise crucial and important questions about the overall neutrality of our justice system, especially the right to dissent from religion when it comes to the issue of secularism.

According to George Holyoake, the man who coined the term, ‘secularism’, and who was imprisoned for his belief that all laws should be subject to rational debate, “Secularism is a series of principles intended for the guidance of those who find Theology indefinite, or inadequate, or deem it unreliable.” (1)

Holyoake went on to say:- “”A Secularist guides himself by maxims of Positivism, seeking to discern what is in Nature — what ought to be in morals … Positive principles are principles which are provable.”

Secularism is not the absence of religion, but rather the absence of religious rule.

For instance, Moses Mendelssohn, (one of the key figures of the Jewish Enlightenment ‘Haskalah’) outlined the central thesis of separation of secular and ecclesiastical authority, in his 1783 book ‘Jerusalem oder über religiöse Macht und Judentum‘, stating ‘the state declares laws, religion offers precepts.’

The principle of separation of state and religion is thus the basis for the Progressive movement within Judaism in South Africa, whose adherents are predominantly secular.

In a critical review of Tarek Fatah’s Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State (3) Professor Nader Hashemi writes, “given the European roots of secularism … the challenge for Muslim democrats is to develop coherent and indigenous arguments in favour of religion–state separation as part of a broader strategy for advancing democracy.”

It is important to note that our own democratic South African Constitution begins with the words:- ” We, the people of South Africa,” and not “In Humble Submission to Almighty God”.

We therefore wish to remind the Chief Justice of the controversy surrounding secularism during the adoption of the preamble and the elegant solution achieved by our country in creating a separation of powers and neutrality in religious outlook.

This was achieved by dropping: “In humble submission to Almighty God”, and appending Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika.

We further wish to commend Zane Dangor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for opening a necessary and crucial space for dissent on the subject of religion, by issuing a statement reiterating South Africa’s ethical leadership and moral stance on Palestine. One guided by International Law at the same time that it seeks to uphold the Chief Justice and his rights as a citizen, by stating “he has a right to differ with the foreign policy position of South Africa”

The conflict between Palestinians and Israelis has been waging and ongoing for over 70 years — the prospect of peace has continued to elude our generation. In seeking to find a solution, now is the time to open critical debate (4) by defending the rights of those with differing views within our own country, to speak. 

Talking out the many issues faced in the conflict, ‘Lusaka-style dialogue’, is the only way to solve problems without resorting to more violence and kragdadigheid.

SIGNED ON THIS DAY:

David Robert Lewis

Michael Graaf

IN Cape Town

NOTES

(1) Principles of Secularism, George Holyoake; Austin. & Co., 1871.

(2) Mendelssohn, Moses (1783), Jerusalem: oder über religiöse Macht und Judentum. Von Moses Mendelssohn. Mitallergnädigsten Freyheiten, Berlin: Friedrich Maurer

(3) Political Islam Versus Secularism — A review of Tarek Fatah’s Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State. Nader Hashemi, 2008

(4) Read Rabbi Warren Goldstein’s response to Judge Cameron here.

BRIEF BIO

David Robert Lewis has written and worked for several titles banned under the apartheid regime, including South Press, Grassroots, and New Nation. In 1987 Lewis refused to stand on a combined IDF-ECC platform alongside Cameron Dugmore and then SAUJS president Johnathan Handler. Handler had objected to SADF troops in the townships but asserted his unconditional support of the IDF. The ECC was later banned in 1988 along with its members, as was the Swapo Solidarity Committee, of which Lewis was a member.


Michael Graaf was sentenced to one year in jail, suspended on condition that he completes 2400 hours of unpaid community service at King Edward VII Hospital, at the rate of 72 hours per month. In October 1990 Graaf was found guilty at the Pietermaritzburg magistrate’s courts of refusing to serve in the SADF. Mike was objecting to a camp call-up for the 15 December 1989. The sentence was set aside in June 1991 and he was able to stop his long hours of portering at a Durban hospital.

Lockdown doing more than trashing our rights alongside the economy?

IT MUST strike readers as incredibly ironic, that a virus whose origin is China, has resulted in formerly free and open economies, closing shop and placing their markets in hibernation mode. Most economies including South Africa, UK, USA, France, Italy and Australia have implemented lock-downs and restrictions on movement and travel, with our own country choosing a ‘hard lockdown’.

Last night Professor Salim Abdool Karim outlined the events which have resulted in a low mortality rate and rate of infection (R0). Our country is not alone in this regard with New Zealand reporting similar outcomes, but unlike most experts who attribute the sterling results to the hard lockdown, Professor Karim was at pains to explain that the data needs to be ‘corrected by a fortnight’, or 14 days, to account for incubation, and therefore the elbow in the curve of infection which begins on the very day of the lock-down, is more likely the result of what had happened two weeks previously, in other words, the initial measures taken when our President announced the National State of Disaster, closing our borders, implementing social distancing and hand sanitation measures.

Several news articles rushed to misquote Professor Karim and did not carry his own interpretation of the data which he had presented. There is currently no evidence that the hard lockdown has done anything more to curb the spread of the virus, than closing our borders and tracing infections, and may turn out to be a case of Fear of Being Left Behind. However South Africa will know on 18 April if the countries fight against the coronovirus is inaccurate or factually correct.

Karim explains: “SA’s Covid-19 trajectory is unique, because unlike most other countries, it did not see an exponential increase in cases after its first 100 cases. The most likely explanation was that the country had seen three epidemics: one among travellers, a second among their contacts and a third epidemic of community transmission. By the time the lockdown began on March 26, the first two epidemics had largely burnt out, and community transmission was not occurring at a significant level,”

Nevertheless there was open speculation by yesterday’s panel on what would come next. According to the Professor, South Africa is doomed to experience a ‘delayed exponential curve‘ once the lockdown ends since the period had simply bought time, and thus various criteria for coming out of lockdown were elaborated including a suggestion that the elderly continue a voluntary lockdown until at least September.

He also outlined various measures to deal with potential hotspots, the ‘small brush fires that must be contained to avoid raging fires’. In theory a lockdown like self-quarantine creates dead-ends for infection, but so do many other measures. None of what he said is indicative of why an approach as that followed by South Korea was not considered nor whether a smart lockdown would have been better for our economy?

South Korea appears to have reined in the outbreak without some of the strict lock-down strategies deployed elsewhere in the world, while Sweden is showing data not all that different from countries which had delayed lock-down strategies.

Needless to say, the Department of Health must be commended for its proactive steps in regard to testing and lowering the threshold of surveillance of the disease , so too the unprecedented sharing of information and data as seen during last nights televised presentation. But there are many questions which remain unanswered.

The brutality and callousness with which the hard lockdown restrictions in terms of the Disaster Management Act (DMA) have been implemented by SAPS and SANDF over the past two weeks have taken many citizens by surprise. There are those who would have preferred a ‘smart lockdown’, as well as a growing list of virologists and medical authorities who question the efficacy of introducing steps which show little scientific merit, for example banishing citizens from the great outdoors in a respiratory disease epidemic where ‘fresh air may also save lives’. In this case the cure may be worse than the disease.

The economic fallout and risk of mass starvation and worse total meltdown, certainly needs to be weighed against any purported public health objectives moving forward. It is also questionable whether the DMA promulgated as it was, to deal with natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes and earthquakes is fit for purpose when it comes to a public health emergency.

Given the low mortality and infection rate, it is unclear whether the current health emergency, indeed fits the description of a national disaster if at all.

Witness images of SAPS and SANDF trashing traditional beer stills  and confiscating meat poitjies, effecting arbitrary arrests of joggers and dog-walkers whilst gangs of youths go free. The erection of concentration camps for the homeless, acts of arbitrary punishment and some 9 deaths and counting at the hands of the authorities, including the beating to death of an Alexandra resident, found with a bottle of beer inside his own home.

It is not too late to address those measures which have worked, the massive hand sanitation campaign, social distancing measures and adoption of face masks, while taking a long and hard look at those steps which appear to be little more than a brazen excuse by authoritarians to exert social control over the population.

Covid-19 Anti-Vaxers stage a comeback, but fail to check facts

IT STARTED with an interview on Al Jazeera, some brazen French researchers making shocking off-the-cuff remarks about a study on the potential use of the BCG vaccine against COVID-19 in Africa. Taken at face value, it appeared that the French were once again conducting openly racist, TB vaccine experiments in their former colonies. That’s TB as in Tuberculosis.

The story quickly escalated and amplified into a headline grabbing: ‘Senator Wetangu’la calls on African leaders to reject COVID-19 vaccine test on continent‘. As journalists failed to check if what was being said was relevant or even true. The French embassy was moved to caution that the researcher’s opinions “do not reflect the position of the French authorities.

By Sunday, Anti-Vaxers were having a field day on twitter, but hadn’t bothered to check the facts. Yes, Covid-19 Vaccine trials are being conducted on EVERY continent, not just our own,

The first was a Phase 1 clinical trial evaluating an ‘investigational vaccine designed to protect against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)’ begun at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) in Seattle, USA.

Phase 1 trials involve testing of drugs or vaccines on healthy volunteers for safety, and  also testing multiple doses (dose-ranging). Most countries such as South Africa have regulatory checks in place to avoid citizens becoming unwitting participants to phase 1 trials.

Our Constitution specifically outlaws such experimentation and states under Article 12  (2) Everyone has the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right— (a) to make decisions concerning reproduction; (b) to security in and control over their body; and (c) not to be subjected to medical or scientific experiments without their informed consent. 

Trials of Covid-19 related vaccines have already been conducted in Japan and elsewhere.

Large scale global trials involving patients from Argentina to Thailand under the auspices of the WHO are already underway.

There appears to be some confusion as to what a vaccine does, as opposed to antiviral treatment for COVID-19.  Ekurhuleni mayor, Mzwandile Masina, recently proposed using the municipality’s emergency funds “to procure the vaccine Inferon B from Cuba”, a proposal debunked by Africa Check.

The possibility that South Africa will also receive an actual trial vaccine is a big deal, not because we are likely to become lab rats, but because citizens will hopefully be able to volunteer for the phase 1 trials to assess the effectiveness of the vaccine in creating antibodies to the virus — a therapy which could prove to be a game-changer in the global pandemic.

As with any new drug or therapy, there will always be safety concerns, but the alternative is to live with permanent lock-downs and quarantines.

I would rather just get a jab in the arm thanks.

UPDATE: News24 forced to retract inaccurate coronovirus vaccine story