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.

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 attended 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

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

 

COVID-19: Our People’s Health is an Environmental Issue

SOUTH AFRICA is one of the few countries to have secured the right to a healthy environment alongside the right to health in its constitution, yet it took the crisis of a global pandemic for apartheid-era hostels in Alexander township to be deep cleaned. As our own Department of Health moved to contain the spread of COVID-19, questions were being raised as to why the Minister had waited so long, and why had the Department of Health (DOH) not acted with similar vigour during previous TB and Pneumonia epidemics?

As the nation went into lock-down, many found cause to question the apartheid spatial planning which meant that black South Africans were disproportionately affected by problems related to access to food, lack of water, sanitation and ablution facilities. As one mother put it, ‘Our family share a single tap with four other households, social distancing is problematic for us.’ While most white folk were hunkering down in luxury apartment blocks, the poor were being relegated to townships and informal settlements where little has changed during the democratic period.

The cause is a virus which many scientists believe has come to the fore because of the same underlying factors effecting climate change. One should talk here about the ecology of disease.

“The interconnectedness of our globalised world facilitated the spread of COVID-19. The disruption this continues to cause has made evident societal dependence on global production systems,” says Vijay Kolinjivadi, a  post-doctoral fellow at the Institute of Development Policy at the University of Antwerp.

He observes a disjuncture in our response to the double crisis: “Although both COVID-19 and climate change are rooted in the same abusive economic behaviour and both have proven to be deadly for humans, governments have seen them as separate and unconnected phenomena and have therefore responded rather differently to them.”

“While we do not get daily updates on the death toll caused by climate change, as we do with COVID-19, it is much deadlier than the virus.”

Although a lot has been made about animal rights and the beneficial decrease in pollution caused by the pandemic, the result of what researchers such as Kolinjivi see as a ‘positive degrowth’. Now is not the time for complacency on air standards, emissions and climate change.

Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland writing with Daya Reddy, President of the International Science Council, says: “The COVID-19 threat has shown that governments can act swiftly and resolutely in a crisis, and that people are ready to change their behavior for the good of humanity. The world must now urgently adopt the same approach to the existential challenge of climate change.”

In South Africa the ruling party has instead utilised the pandemic as an opportunity to escape commitments made during successive UN Conference of the Parties (COP) rounds. Readers awoke last week to find that Gwede Mantashe, had published new amendments to the Mineral Resources Development Act (MPRDA) on the first day of the Covid-19 emergency lock-down in order to escape accountability, while air pollution standards had been gutted, enabling Eskom and SASOL to double sulphur emissions.

There is palpable fear amongst activists, that in focusing on the pandemic, the nation will lose its impetus on climate change alongside its civil liberties.

“The disruption brought on by Covid-19 could reverse efforts made by governments thus far to reduce carbon emissions to tackle the climate crisis. What is needed is a way to connect the two calamities to capacitate a sustainable revival in the aftermath” writes Luveshni Odayar, a Machel-Mandela Fellow at The Brenthurst Foundation.

It is therefore imperative that we view public health (literally the people’s health) as an environmental issue, in the same way that apartheid was linked to the struggle for environmental justice by myself and others, back in the 1980s, resulting in the emergence of Earthlife Africa and other activist formations.

In fact the two health struggles, that of the public in general (and body in particular), and that of the environment at large, are so closely interlinked and intertwined, that they cannot be seen as distant relatives.

Whether food security, urban and peri-urban spatial planning, climate change or coronovirus, the rights of all citizens to live in harmony with nature, while enjoying quality of life, free from disease and illness is non-negotiable.

The result of this crisis must be an expanded concept of health and health-care-for-all, and thus a public policy which encompasses physical well-being as much as it does the Earth. That it has taken a virus to make us all aware of this deep connection, can only be seen as one of the positive lessons to be drawn from the pandemic.

Our recovery and future is dependent upon making this profound realisation a reality, and thus a yardstick which motivates and drives our country.

Why bother with law when you can simply capture the justice system?

IN 2009 the ANC under Jacob Zuma, exercised its influence to place then director of the Resolve Group, Michael Halton Cheadle on the bench, at the behest of a cartel active in South Africa’s media.

Cheadle, who was at the time, in partnership with then speaker of the National Assembly, Max Sisulu and media group, Kagiso, proceeded to preside over a matter involving the media, a complaint of unfair discrimination effecting his own client and business partners. The erstwhile professor of law at UCT, admits as much in a 2011 report to Cape Law Society but denies any culpability. The admission that the respondent in the labour matter, Media24 was Cheadle’s client drew absolutely no censure from the law society governing the legal profession, after a complaint was referred to the body by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

The JSC paradoxically claims it lacks jurisdiction to hear complaints effecting acting judges.

In the report, Cheadle denies having any direct business relationship involving the media and justified his directorship and shareholding in Resolve on the basis of a decision handed down in Bernert v Absa Bank. In that matter a judge’s over-the-counter shareholding came under scrutiny and was found to be de minimus and not sufficient to effect the outcome.

Cheadle’s directorship and shareholding in a labour brokerage and financial services firm owned by the media was clearly not de minimus and amounts to corruption in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act. To put this another way, why pay an attorney when you can buy the judge? Several partners at Resolve had ties to Media24 and/or Cheadle Thompson Haysom (CTH) and/or the ANC, including Peter Harris, Nicola Galombik, and Murphy Morobe.

Galombik at the time was the executive director of Yellowoods, then majority owned by TBWA Hunt Lascaris who listed Media24 as a client. (“TBWA Media24 showcase”)

Far from being insignificant, Cheadle’s shareholding flouted the ‘nemo rule’ (nemo judex in causa sua), one of the bedrocks of our justice system. For those who cannot read Latin, the phrase translates: ‘no one should be judge in his or her own case’, it is a widely known principle of natural justice.

How did we get here?

Kagiso Trust Holdings (KTH) was founded in 1985 during a ‘period of intense struggle in South Africa’. The company’s website states: “During this tumultuous time, we strongly opposed apartheid by providing support to development institutions and initiatives across a range of sectors.”

Whilst South Africans were being entertained by what many referred to as the ‘Roelf Meyer and Cyril Ramaphosa show‘, another relationship had blossomed at CODESA, that between the Sisulus and the Ruperts. The result was the creation of an entity known as New Africa Investments Limited (NAIL) and holding company Phaphama Holdings, setting the scene for the Sisulus to get into bed with Remgro, the former Rembrandt Group, and thus the company which had financed apartheid (see below).

It appears NAIL was one of the first empowerment vehicles, ‘which had emerged from Nasrec’. (1) An ’empawamenti’ sweetheart deal calved from Sanlam’s stake in Metropolitan. (2)  It was thus the first black-owned business to be listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. NAIL chairman, the late Zwelakhe Sisulu would find himself actively involved in New African Media as his Urban Brew later became an asset owned by Kagiso, and Nail and Kagiso merged despite objections being raised before the Competition Commission. (3)

It is not the purpose of this piece to examine the multifarious ANC deployments to the ‘commanding heights of the economy’, during this period, and the rapid recapitalisation of the economy during an initial boom period, other than to emphasise the party’s central relationships which emerged to form the Resolve Group, and thus the relationship between Resolve and a group of Afrikaners who are invested in South Africa’s media.

In 2003 Kagiso expanded its media holdings and took up a 30% stake in Resolve, a substantial holding in a company which would later turn out to be extremely useful in keeping labour and dissident voices in check. The Resolve Group aimed to provide a ‘total solution in workforce management‘ and included inter alia Resolve Workplace Solutions, Resolve Encounter Consulting, Tokiso Dispute Management, Converse Consulting, Mediaworks, Resolve Career Transition, CCI Growthcon and Resolution Logic, all involved in the employment, placement and management of workers and professionals.

As a result of the intertwined business relationships developed at NAIL, in 2005 Remgro took up a 37% stake in Kagiso, with the result that Rupert Bellegings Pty Ltd, the holding company of Remgro, now had an effective stake in the former struggle press. The project which began at CODESA had come full circle. Readers may remember that CODESA 2 was instrumental in the restructuring of the SABC which would result in the late Zwelakhe Sisulu also taking the helm of the public corporation (1994 to 1997) and setting the scene for a controversy before the Zondo Commission involving Naspers’ Multichoice.

Max Sisulu was thus a director at Resolve, a labour and financial services firm during 2010, whilst his brother was at NAIL/Kagiso. Max is a prominent member of the ANC. At the time of the corrupt activities involving Resolve, he was then speaker of the House of Assembly, where he divided his time between chairing the 6th House, and his duties at Resolve.

In 2004 ANC members Max Sisulu and Murphy Morobe had been approached by Peter Harris to take up shares in the Resolve Group, Harris had practised law for 15 years at Cheadle, Thompson & Haysom and in the early 1990s was ‘seconded to the National Peace Accord, after which he headed the Monitoring Directorate of the Independent Electoral Commission for the 1994 election.’ Morobe significantly had been the ‘administration head’ at CODESA, and his relationship with the Sisulus stretched back to the days of Khotso House and the UDF.

Harris was thus instrumental in turning Resolve into a party political clearinghouse, that provided entry to the justice system and those seeking to influence the outcome of events.

Just about nobody batted an eyelid when Remgro (the former Rembrandt Group) and one of the chief financiers of the apartheid regime, acquired a stake in Kagiso. And no journalist bothered raising an eyebrow when warning lights would signal that the result would turn into a highly interconnected, networked media empire, in which both Remgro and Kagiso provided content to Multichoice, at the same time they were effectively invested in Naspers, and with the Ruperts holding the purse strings over an empire which comprised, banking, insurance, media and fibre optic cable.

The strategy which had played itself out at Nasrec and CODESA was clear — draw the ANC top brass into the Afrikaner Laager, gain strength and economic position in the ensuing rivalry between various arms of the new emerging black empowerment class, and use this advantage to stall any attempt to gain traction on apartheid litigation. Litigation which might have involved the Tobacco industry, an industry which at the behest of the Ruperts, had bailed out apartheid-era banks when sanctions had brought the country to its knees.

As I write this, there is a call by Khulumani an organisation representing apartheid survivors, to establish a tribunal in the aftermath of the TRC, to make good on the transitional justice framework which granted amnesty to those who came clean, but demanded that justice be served against those who did not.

Oscar van Heerden writes: “if the commissioners were not convinced of the truth or if the evidence did not tally with your version of the truth, then amnesty could be withheld. However, if you elected not to come forward and hide the truth because you might be under the mistaken impression that secrets would remain secret, if the truth was found, and you were implicated, you would be prosecuted and perhaps even imprisoned. Those were the rules.”

Then there are those individuals such as Johann Rupert whose testimony before the commission is a marvel of invention, a narrative in which he fails to explain what his family was doing at the very heart of the racist system.

Rupert continues to claim today that he was unaware of any financial contributions to the National Party, despite there being extensive evidence of collaboration with the system. His assertions have not been tested in a court of law. Open secret’s Hennie van Vuuren for instance, has already demonstrated extensive links between the Naspers corporation and the National Party.

The letters between Anton Rupert and various National Party leaders such as PW Botha, all point to the fact that the Rupert’s business partners included apartheid finance minister Owen Horwood and titular head of the country, Nico Diederichs.

The Rupert’s though critical of the apartheid policy of separate development, had instead advocated a form of “Volkstaat” in the form of a Swiss Canton System, which would have kept large swathes of the country under white rule. The logical extension some might say to the policy of apartheid bantustans, and which would, in the Rupert’s view, have been maintained in comparison to the federalist position, a position which resulted in the system we have today.

Since the winding up of the TRC, there have been several inquests, notably the Timol Inquest and Aggett Inquest in which apartheid agent Paul Erasmus has given damming testimony of the dirty tricks campaign waged against activists and the anti-apartheid press under the aegis of a state funded by the Ruperts.

Surely time for the Zondo Commission to expand its terms of reference to include the many sweetheart deals involving ANC party officials and the media, the least of which is the role played by PW Botha in his award of South Africa’s only pay-television licence to Multichoice, and the corruption which has kept apartheid litigation out of court, despite the TRC process. It should be remembered that those who received amnesty did not receive amnesty against future crimes.

NOTES

(1) Objections lodged before the Competition Commission by Johannic to a merger between Kagiso and NAIL were overruled in 2003, since ‘Tiso consortium had effectively bought up to 81.9 % of the “N” shares in Nail and 31.8 % of the ordinary shares’.

(2) https://hsf.org.za/publications/focus/issue-27-third-quarter-2002/the-tale-of-nail

‘New Africa Investments Ltd was founded in the early Nineties by Dr Nthato Motlana, with 16 per cent of Metropolitan Life, unloaded by an altruistic Sankorp in the cause of ’empawamenti’. The hammer behind Nail was token mlungu Jonty Sandler, who had earlier cost his bankers a bundle at Nasrec’

(3) Some 11+ subsequent mergers by Kagiso were given the green light by CompCom.

(4) https://www.theguardian.com/world/1999/apr/22/chrismcgreal

‘Criticism has focused on the four directors – three black, one white – of New African Investments Limited (Nail). They planned to ask shareholders to grant them share options worth £13m, which would have put about £2m in the pockets of each.’

(5) https://www.timeslive.co.za/sunday-times/lifestyle/2014-04-27-bee-deals-a-skimmers-dream-come-true/

‘The first empowerment deal done in South Africa was Sanlam’s sale of a stake in Metropolitan to a little-known entity called New Africa Investments (Nail). In 1993, more than 10 years before the first BEE legislation was introduced, Sanlam rushed the sale through when it heard that Anglo American was about to do a similar transaction with its insurance operation, African Life.’

UPDATE: What the ANC deployment committee minutes reveal about how the party works

Sorry, but the facts don’t support Iqbal Survé’s latest opinion piece

IN AN editorial published on IOL today, Iqbal Survé CEO of the Independent Media Group, a group with 9 daily newspapers, 10 Weekend Newspapers and 2 financial papers, doesn’t seem to get that the role of newspapers is to reflect back the diversity of opinion in the country.

Instead he seeks to cast his hopelessly conservative brand based upon prohibition rather than permission, as a ‘progressive’ voice ‘pitted against “a morass of anti-progressive Fourth Estate propaganda machines operating in this country, apparently bent on preventing true freedom of speech.”

In order to substantiate his argument, he then goes on to attack the online Daily Maverick without any evidence, for apparently being funded “by the Oppenheimers and other well-placed businessmen and families” and the Mail and Guardian, a niche weekly, for being ‘funded primarily by overseas backers who themselves have certain political interests’.

Significantly, he avoids the implications of a massive cartel within the daily news (print, television and radio) whose ultimate control is assuredly, a company known as Rupert Bellegings Pty Ltd.

Survé further fails to note that INM is itself, funded by our own government investment arm, the PIC and also organs of the Chinese government. He fails to explain what steps he has taken to defend ‘freedom of speech” in particular on issues related, to Tibet, Taiwan, Myanmar, and the Uyghurs, a Moslem minority in China. And closer to home, on issues related to divergences of culture, religion, politics and opinion.

An example would be the LGBT community, which following the takeover of INM by Survé, appears to have been rendered invisible.

Or the Jewish community, a sizeable minority, which is no longer granted the same status as other, more favoured groups.

In 2007 the ANC banned the Dalai Lama.

I therefore challenge Survé to demonstrate how his newspapers are in any way independent and ‘progressive’, other than their slavish subservience to the prescient political party of the day.

A news media which censors on the basis of ones purported political and cultural affiliations, whether proven or not, is not a progressive media. Rather, such organs are more in keeping with the Soviet era and its Pravda news agency.

SEE: Closure of the Mind, Independent Media’s suppression of open debate and a free press