THREE decades of online communication, and an ongoing electronic struggle and yet our country South Africa, is desperately lagging behind the West when it comes to the dissemination of knowledge and information technology.
Compounding this problem is neo-colonialism, hegemony, the ‘loudhailer on steroids’ issuing forth from Northern Countries, dominating the wires and fibre optic cables and literally flooding our computer screens with trivia about an emerging global culture, one which to paraphrase Brian Eno, “is incomplete without Africa”.
Billed as the “first ever conference about centering marginalized knowledge online”, Whose Knowledge decolonizing the Internet“ is a pre-conference in the runup to this years Wikimania, which is being held in Cape Town later this week.
“51% of the world is online today,” say the organisers “but the Internet doesn’t represent our diversity.”
“The knowledge of marginalized communities is the knowledge of the majority of the world. Yet most online public knowledge still skews towards white, male, and global North knowledge. It is a hidden crisis of our times.”
The organisers plan to “convene marginalized community organizers, technologists, scholars, artists, and Wikimedians in the first conference of its kind.”
“The change we hope to create: With these newly created alliances and networks, we will work together towards more diversity and inclusion in the experience of internet design, architecture, content, and governance. We intend to dramatically change the way the internet represents the majority of the world.”
DEAR older generation. You were wrong about apartheid, you were wrong about same-sex marriage, and you were wrong about dagga. When the Western Cape High Court affirmed the rights of all citizens to the use and cultivation of dagga in the privacy of our own homes, thus suspending the drug laws for two years and allowing Parliament to amend the legislation, it corrected an historical wrong committed by the past regime.
The first law prohibiting the sale of dagga was put in motion by the colonial authorities in 1910. Following racist campaigns against the plant in America by William Randolf Hearst, who believed the use of dagga resulted in fraternisation between the races, in particular the scourge of white women consorting with black men, the world saw the roll-out of laws aimed at limiting dagga use. South Africa thus became a signatory to various international conventions, each one reducing the scope of the plant’s use, until the final scheduling of the plant alongside Heroin and other hard drugs.
Dagga use was thus synonymous with the counter-culture surrounding the anti-apartheid movement, in turn the apartheid state pilloried activists as mere ‘drug-users’ wanting to create mayhem to overthrow the state. Law and order was thus contingent upon the banning of people’s consciousness and our innate rights to freedom of thought. Alongside the Botha government’s Bureau of State Security (BOSS), the narc squad and thought police, armed with an ideology supplied by the NGK, which had decreed race segregation to be divinely inspired by God and the Afrikaner grip over the African hinterland to be the result of a “Covenant at Blood River”.
When the ANC finally came into power, there was every indication that dagga-smoking revolutionaries were going to legalise the herb whilst recognising the contribution to the struggle by the Jamaican Defense Force. Instead, activists like Trevor Manual exchanged their berets, dashikis and the proverbial stash, for bespoke suits, champagne and cognac. The transformation of the liberation movement into a political bureaucracy built upon corporate largesse meant that adopting the white man’s laws alongside those UN conventions supporting prohibition was now paramount.
All of this toenadering came tumbling down this week, as the Zuma administration revealed itself to be nothing more than a personal fiefdom without the support of the party, and as the President fired half his cabinet, retaining the controversial Bathabile Dlamini, the burial of struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada turned into a platform for criticism, then private dagga use was suddenly given the greenlight.
It was thus a momentous moment on Friday which saw the supporters of the Dagga Party and Gareth Prince, celebrating outside the High court. The ruling by three judges overtook political events and removed the wind from of the sails of those kind souls hoping that a parallel legislative process surrounding the use of medical marijuana would finally lead to a new regulatory environment, albeit over the slow pace of the coming decades.
The Medical Innovations Act, whose regulations are still being discussed, certainly opens the door, moving the plant from the domain of criminal law to that of public health, but the decision of the Western Cape High Court meant that constitutional considerations and private use, in particular harm reduction, will be paramount. It is merely a formality that the decision will be confirmed by the ConCourt. The ruling does not allow for the sale of the plant and only affects private use.
THIS YEAR marks 30 years since the banning of the ‘Towards the People’s Culture’ festival by the Botha government in 1986, with a festival event appropriately titled Marking the ’86 People’s Culture Festival
The original festival was meant to gather prominent artists in a collective response to the injustices of apartheid whilst deploying the arts as a tool for social justice. Instead we all found ourselves on the wrong side of the law, as the de facto military junta behind the Botha government clamped down on student resistance to apartheid, unleashing strong-arm tactics that would result in the banning of artists and musicians.
A pivotal moment, I remember walking down Loop Street, Cape Town, having just received the news that the festival which included bands such as Smoking Brass and Raakwys, had been banned, and thinking, now the @#$& has really hit the fan. It came as a big shock, still in my debut first year at UCT, and merely a member of a Nusas sub-committee, (signed up upon orientation), assisting with the festival, we found to our horror, that the colour of ones skin was absolutely no protection from the ‘State of Emergency’.
If a bunch of white, privileged students, including Ivan Toms could get banned en masse, where would it ever end? If music was illegal, where was the humanity in the system we were opposing?
The suppression of the festival radicalised students, many of whom ended up participating in covert underground operations. It also lead to the creation of the Kagenna Project & Earthlife Africa, as the reality started of ad hoc bannings, the police invasion of campus, the very next year, and the eventual outright banning of the End Conscription Campaign two years later.
Not broken in spirit, there would still be many underground festivals, and secret arts venues where students for instance pretended to go to a Woman’s Rights or Gay Rights party, only for it to turn into a full-blown Anti-Apartheid Event, replete with appearances by banned & underground MK cadres.
Love affairs would occur across the barricades. Spies on campus would be uncovered. A dirty tricks campaign would manifest itself. We would get regular visits from the special branch or stopped and searched by the apartheid military, those infamous conscripts in casspirs, as the State of Emergency made itself felt, even in leafy Atlantic garden suburbs.
This 10 December 2016 we will mark the banning through a series of events that include a market, musical performances, live installations and a symbolic lantern procession through the streets of Salt River.
Organisers of the commemorative event, Cornerstone CEO, Noel Daniels, said on Friday, “This event will not only mark the banning of the festival, but will also comprise a symbolic unbanning.”
Acclaimed Cape Town songstress Tina Schouw will reflect on the halcyon period in the 80’s.
Another iconic 80’s band Raakwys ( featuring Valmont Layne, Andre Sampie and Aki Khan) will perform songs that look back at just how far we’ve come along on the road to freedom.
Mthwakazi will ‘honour the sense of ceremony with her mesmerizing and haunting hybridized style of music’ which is apparently a crossover between Xhosa Indigenous Bow music and Opera.
Sylvestre Kabassidi will close the night with sounds from his native Ponte Noire, DRC.
The full programme is as follows:
16:00 Market opens
17:00 Performance by Tina Schouw
19:30 People’s Education participatory liberation songs intervention
20:00 Lantern procession through Salt River (lanterns available for purchase at the Market)
20:15 Performance by Mthwakazi
21:00 Performance by Sylvestre Kabassidi
Parking is available at 121 Cecil Road, Salt River for R10.
Media Enquiries: Ukhona Mlandu, 084 462 2237 or firstname.lastname@example.org
General Enquiries: Hylton Bergh, 021 448 0050 or email@example.com
DO YOU remember when the internet still spread hope? After its invention in the‘80s, we had access to a mass of information, sites such as Napster allowed us to share so-called “private property” easily and, most importantly, we could publish what we had to say ourselves – and people actually listened. It was participatory in nature, without much visible regulation from above. Nowadays, with net neutrality being at risk, mass surveillance and the threat of clamping down on copyright infringements as an excuse for censorship, the web often induces more fear than encouragement.
Narcolepsy sufferer Aaron Bale – mentored by “the internet’s own boy”, Aaron Swartz, and inspired by the success of the SOPA blackout in 2012, when 20 million people effectively stopped an anti-piracy bill – has come up with an idea to return some power to internet users: BitVote. He hopes his project will let us have some say again, without being completely overrun by the powers-that-be.
What is BitVote?
As a decentralised app operating on a BitCoin-like blockchain technology with a KeyValuePair store of data strings everyone can access, BitVote will add value to ideas without a human authority having to oversee the process. The coding will be completely transparent, so everyone can improve, build and analyse the tool as they wish. In the interest of, “I don’t agree with your opinion but I’ll fight for your right to speak it,” it’ll be completely neutral and compatible with all current systems as well as third-party add-ons.
How do I vote?
Votes will be measured in units we can all relate to: minutes, hours and days of our life. You’ll be able to choose a link (or create your own) to something you feel strongly about – say it’s the fight against Monsanto’s food monopoly. After pasting it into BitVote, you can dedicate an appropriate amount of token time to it. If you have 24 vote hours, you could use all 24 hours towards Stop Monsanto. But you could also, if you don’t care about the GMO giants as much, only use four hours (or one, two, five etc.) and save the rest for a different cause. Your vote will be recorded and your available hours will drop accordingly. The time-units are easy for everyone to grasp, yet they’ll provide multiple factors for analysis. What, for instance, is more important – many people spending small vote units on a cause or a few people spending large vote units on a cause?
Bale and BitVote coder Jasper den Ouden haven’t agreed whether all voters will accumulate vote hours from the day BitVote launches or from the day you were born, but the consensus is that the assigning of “vote currency” needs to be equal for all. Importantly, although vote hours will increase every 60 minutes of your life, they’ll gain value through scarcity. This means that those who don’t use the internet so often – the elderly, people living in rural areas or just generally less tech-savvy people – will actually have a stronger impact when things get heavy. Say something drastic happens and a president decides to go to war. The above-mentioned demographic might be motivated to vote and have more hours to spend than enthusiastic internet users who vote everyday.
You might be thinking, how is this different to slacktivism? It’s just a bunch of symbolic hours after all; spent in a virtual system, via a click from your armchair. Bale realises that the vote hours won’t do anything as such. But what they will do, is show what people care about. If you’re fighting for a cause, you might feel more confident addressing it in the real world if you know 80% of BitVoters feel the same way as you. Ultimately – although BitVote can be used for a vast variety of reasons, from market research to activism – the system’s strength is perhaps that it could offer evidence of betrayal. If the Film and Publications Board South Africa says pre-publication censorship on the internet is what the majority wants, citizens could take to BitVote to prove the opposite. Whether a bunch of votes will actually stop officials from executing their plans is hard to imagine, yet – if the system really is widely used by technophiles and technophobes alike – it might be more powerful than a Twitter storm or liking causes on Facebook.
What about mob-votes?
A concern is that a mob of people, who might be very uneducated on the subject they’re voting on, could get together to cast a potentially dangerous vote. Imagine this was, “kill all homosexuals”. Bale tries to explain this problem with what he calls “The Zombie Example”. “If there’s a zombie apocalypse on the rise and 99.9% want to legalise cannibalism, authorities have the option not to act on this, and the population will thank them later. You can use common sense.” Moreover, it’s an alarm bell. If a large number of voters plan to kill homosexuals, he would try to physically intervene. He believes it probably won’t come to tyranny-of-the-majority votes though because of the way people interact online. “Not in close physical proximity, and anonymously. There’s trolling, but there’s not a lot of abuse of authority. The internet doesn’t kill people.”
Also, he explains, if a tyrant boss in an oppressive regime gets a 1000 of his employees to vote at gunpoint, these workers can cast a counter-vote anonymously to get “the asshole fired”. He adds that there are a lot of scams around and BitVote isn’t immune to them – but often people have ways to figure them out. An instant “vote bomb”, in this case a 1000 people voting for a dodgy cause at once, might spur some scepticism.
Although users will be completely anonymous by default, a positive aspect is perhaps that you’ll have the option to disclose your geographical location. Imagine the City of Cape Town decides to evict a group of people from their shacks, again claiming to have the interest of the people at heart. The majority, who are not being evicted from their homes, might vote for the eviction of the shack-dwellers because they don’t understand their conditions – thus providing the City with a plausible back-up to their statement. The affected community could, however, start a location-aware vote to show that everyone who lives in the area does not approve of the eviction. In other words, the people at the river should have more authority to decide whether it’s polluted or not. Bale also points out that, because anyone can build an add-on tool, it’s easy to create filters. This might be useful if BitVote gets flooded with porn.
As well-intentioned as BitVote may sound, if it wants be legitimate and effective, there can only be one user per real-world identity, which is difficult to prove without compromising anonymity. The geek word for this is Sybil security – a tricky problem many organisations are currently trying to solve. While none of them are perfect, the BitVote team members have some ideas. Options could involve “ID pools”, i.e. having users play a game simultaneously, or reputation systems. A lot of methods have loop holes and would be extremely costly though. According to Bale, so-called Sybil attacks, also called “sock puppeting”, are often of a “social nature”, meaning they don’t necessarily involve a lot of technical know-how. Therefore, Bale welcomes everyone to help solve this problem. If you’re a social orientated professional, such as a sociologist, political student, social-engineer hacker, activist, doctor, or just someone with a good idea, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At this stage it’s unclear when BitVote will launch officially – funding still needs to be secured and Sybil security solved – but the team is working on getting a small scale system up and running soon. This will function as an invitation-only experiment for people whose identity has been verified in the real world.
Until then, we might not be sure of the project’s practical implications. But one thing Bale said might be valuable to keep in mind: “With BitVote the concept of authority is constantly changing. The ideas themselves will gain authority, not people.”
What do you think? Are you sceptical? How would you use BitVote?
Please post your ideas, critiques and praise in the comment section – it’s a project everyone is encouraged to participate in.
Text: Christine Hogg
On Saturday 20th October, the legal advisor for the UBUNTU Party, and the New Economic Rights Alliance (NewERA), Raymondt Dicks, was overpowered at his home office, in a military style operation by between 6 and 10 armed men.
Mr. Dicks, who was a legal advisor to the SA police and Army for many years, says that the event was executed with absolute precision and intent to gain access to his documents and legal files.
He and two other people who were there at the time were tied up on the floor for over 3 hours while the intruders ransacked his office. It was a clear attempt to make it look like a robbery but it is quite obvious what they were after – all the pertinent research and legal documentation relating to legal action against the banks.
The investigating officer took no more than a few minutes to determine that this was not a normal robbery but most likely had an ulterior motive behind it. Mr Dicks is the legal representative for New ERA and the UBUNTU Party and UBUNTU Liberation Movement. He has been representing Michael Tellinger in his personal capacity in various actions against the bank, mainly Standard Bank. Earlier this year he drafted the Constitutional Court papers that Tellinger served against the four major banks, the Reserve Bank and the Minister of Finance.
Mr. Dicks has been investigating and gathering extremely sensitive evidence to lay criminal charges against the banks for their unlawful activities against all the people of South Africa.
The intruders left behind obvious items of high value while they searched meticulously through all of Mr Dick’s legal files creating a huge mess of all the paperwork. While being careless with other laptops and electronic equipment causing some damage to it in the process of gathering it, they took great care to remove his computer undamaged together with the back-up drives and all the secondary backups that were well hidden on the property.
It was only the next day when Dicks tried to analyse his losses that he discovered the files relating to the cases of Michael Tellinger, UBUNTU Party and New ERA were missing.
“It is very clear to me what they are after – it does not take a rocket scientist to work this out” he said “their decoy did not really work because the files they removed are very obvious” he added.
The entire horrific experience was captured on security cameras showing the whole operation from the beginning. The most disturbing part of the footage is that it shows what seems to be two police vehicles with flashing lights, escorting the other vehicles containing the intruders, while they closed off the road next to his house, allowing the operation to happen uninterrupted.
Michael Tellinger says: “We trust that the South African Police will take this matter extremely seriously because it goes to the core of our socio economic structure and the wellbeing of everyone, exposing those who are behind what can only be called the largest legalised organised crime syndicate in the world – The banksters that rule our lives and manipulate our government with impunity and no recourse.” He urged all South Africans to “take this as a clear sign that we are very close to exposing their unlawful activity and to unite in the support for the UBUNTU Party in their mission to put an end to this abuse of our most basic human rights and to restore all the power to the people – where the power should always be. ”
Press Statement released today by The Ubuntu Party http://www.ubuntuparty.org.za