Theranos of the Nuclear Industry

THE WORLD has its fair share of prospective ‘revolutionary ideas’, objectives that have failed to pan out. Not for lack of trying, nor because a notion isn’t any good on paper but rather the expression of a thought may not be based upon sound physics, or could be missing a vital technological breakthrough or component. In the case of Theranos, the idea of a portable blood analysis machine was surely innovative, but the underlying technology did not exist and the project failed to deliver. The result is a fraud case involving over-sell — under-performance, gross deception and astonishingly optimistic claims by one Elizabeth Holmes.

Similarly in 2007 the Department of Environmental Affairs held a parliamentary inquiry into the nuclear industry, in particular the much vaunted Pebble-Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) programme whose technology was essentially borrowed from Germany. As it turned out the programme was fundamentally flawed, and was deemed unsafe by the Germany government following a pebble bed reactor accident at Hamm-Uentrop.(1)

At this stage some R10bn had already been spent without so much as a working reactor. Submissions by civil society organisations Koeberg Alert and Earthlife Africa, provided engineering analysis of why Germany had dropped the thorium-uranium programme, in part due to the ‘tendency of the pebble fuel to disintegrate’. Other serious issues included problems of safety, lack of containment, waste fission products and a host of other technical issues.

This didn’t dissuade South Africa’s nuclear industry. Though government input into the programme seemingly ended with Minister Barbara Hogan cancelling further funds, the PBMR took on a new life under Kelvin Kemm, who began touting a gas-cooled version called High Temperature Modular Reactor (HTMR) produced by his own company Nuclear Africa, along with a supposedly ‘new fuel’.

Billions of rands of governmental spend was thus, for all intents and purposes, simply transferred to Nuclear Africa, under the auspice of Kemm who was then chair of NECSA in order to further acomplex prestige project, one which readily leads to economic dependency (see below).

Steenkampskraal Thorium Limited (STL) is a subsidiary company ‘in the business of developing and commercialising thorium as a clean safe energy source for the future.” The STL company site however professes “The primary goal of the HTR fuel development programme at STL is to produce fuel spheres containing uranium for irradiation testing in the short term, thorium/uranium in the medium term as well as thorium and plutonium in the long-term.”

Enter the X Factor, Yet Another Fuel

Meanwhile Eben Mulder and Martin van Staden announced their company X-energy was using a new modular reactor design alongside a brand new fuel. “X-energy has developed the compact Xe-100 reactor, which delivers 80MW of electricity and is about the size of an elevator shaft in a four-storey building,”. They further claim, “the US military has also signed a contract with the company in March to deliver its Xe-Mobile reactors”.

While Kemm’s project certainly has some merit in its purported use of presumably thorium instead of uranium, but certainly fails when it comes to the economics of producing Thorium Dioxide (see below) the X-energy project insists it has developed an advanced new nuclear fuel known as “Triso-X”.

Triso-X appears to be nothing more than a complex “tri-structural isotropic (TRISO) particle fuel” already developed within the nuclear industry. The company thus also claims somewhat disingenuously: “We manufacture our own proprietary version (TRISO-X) to ensure supply and quality control.”

If the claims are to be believed, TRISO fuel may significantly alter the burnup rate of fission products and change the melting of fuel within reactors. It is claimed to “double the previous mark set by the Germans in the 1980s” and thus is ‘three times the burnup that current light-water fuels can achieve—demonstrating its long-life capability.”     

According to pundits “TRISO particles cannot melt in a reactor and can withstand extreme temperatures that are well beyond the threshold of current nuclear fuels.”

A 2020 Nuclear Industry Journal article on ‘Uranium nitride tristructural-isotropic fuel particle’, demonstrates “testing of a novel coated fuel particle, uranium nitride tristructural-isotropic fuel” and claims “this fuel particle offers significantly higher uranium density over historic manifestations of coated fuel particles and may be more optimal for a range of advanced reactor applications”

There is however no consensus in the industry on the resulting fission products produced by the TRISO process impacting upon health and safety, nor the longevity of the fuel. One can only suggest that many of the objections to the latest Thorium-Uranium project, also apply. In fact many of the claims made by X-energy, beg the question, why Thorium?

Or Else, Dr Nie and the coming of the Warlords

IT WAS a series of ‘inflammatory speeches’ made outside former president Jacob Zuma’s estate in Nkandla which had initially lead to the suspension of Carl Niehaus’s ANC membership on 7 July 2021. At a press briefing flanked by camouflage wearing cadres of uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) and members of the ‘Hands off Zuma’ campaign, Niehaus had issued an open threat of public violence the day before:

“We’ve warned the national executive committee of the ANC and also the justices of the constitutional court, and also the deputy chief justice Zondo that if cool heads and minds do not prevail, if president Zuma continues to be targeted and if president Zuma is eventually sent to prison, that our country will be torn apart.”

Railing against the manner in which the Zondo commission of inquiry into corruption, was being used in a ‘selective manner’ for party-political infighting, or so he claimed, he promised that members of his organisation would ‘form a human shield to protect Zuma’.

Thus set in motion a series of events which would ignite Kwazulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng, as Zuma’s support base was nevertheless, and despite such warnings, drawn into a partisan factional battle that had been brewing for months.

Convoys of supporters had already descended upon the Zuma compound over the weekend, and thus an early attempt at the arrest of the former president had been thwarted. Firing live bullets, singing struggle songs, they formed themselves into regiments, and told the press that they were ‘not scared to die for Zuma’.

It was then that the unthinkable happened, the ANC divorced its former military wing.

Niehaus had in turn released a statement of open defiance, flouting the ANC national executive committee (NEC) decision to disband the uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA).’

Shortly after the NEC announced its decision to disband the MKMVA, Niehaus had issued a ‘statement saying the NEC — the ANC’s highest decision-making body in between conferences — had been emotional and angry.’

Niehaus said the move was ‘unacceptable and the MKMVA would not accept it.’ “We are an autonomous structure, and it is not legally nor politically possible for the ANC to disband the MKMVA,” he said.

Though the stage had been set for a paramilitary showdown at Nkandla, with Zuma addressing both members of the ‘Hands off Zuma’ campaign, and his amaButho Zulu regiments, where he essentially worked the crowds into a partisan insurrection, the former president had appeared to blink, and seemingly backed off, instead handing himself over to authorities the next day.

On the following Friday, the high court dismissed an application to have Zuma’s arrest the previous night overturned in a case that was being seen as a ‘test of the post-apartheid nation’s rule of law’ by the international community. An hour before the ruling, a Reuters photographer saw a group of protesters shouting “Zuma!” burning tires and blocking a road.

By Saturday evening sabotage operations aimed at bringing Kwazulu-Natal and the rest of the country to a grinding halt were well underway as a powder keg of poverty caused by the ruling party’s lack of service delivery, turned into a weapon at the hand of KZN’s warlords.

This week, Niehaus released a statement essentially daring Minister Mbalula to arrest him and referring to a BBC interview in which the minister had not, contrary to his assertions, uttered so much as a word about the former ANC member.

That a virtual split in the ruling party was behind the sequence of events, can be seen by a march organised in its aftermath. The party was forced to issue a statement claiming that ‘motorcades and marches, held in the name of freeing former president Jacob Zuma, and linked to protesting “racist attacks” in Phoenix were not sanctioned by its provincial structure.

Meanwhile residents of neighbouring Ballito were bemoaning the fact that the Premier of the Province,  Sihle Zikalala, instead of assisting the community had attempted to prevent crowd-control barricades from being erected.

SEE: Suspended ANC Members Carl Niehaus and Andile Lungisa On WhatsApp Group for Planning Riots and Looting

Crackpot Chief Justice Mogoeng, now with added 666

THE FAR RIGHT agenda within South Africa’s judicial system reared its ugly head once again this past week, with Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng pronouncing upon the Covid Vaccine.

According to the elected head of the judiciary, some Covid vaccines might contain ‘triple-six’ or the ‘mark of the devil’. Only ‘non-Satanic’ vaccines should be accepted, he added.

It is a declaration that would be risible if it were not for the fact that Mogoeng Mogoeng, who alleges he is ‘not a scientist but rather a prayer warrior‘, is also a legal professional and a sitting judge.

According to Stephen Grootes, the ‘claim that some vaccines might be “triple-six” cannot be based on scientific fact.

“He himself admits he has no understanding of vaccines. His comments may reasonably be construed to lead to harm, particularly in a context in which it is currently illegal, during the State of National Disaster, to spread falsehoods about the virus.”

The judge, whose crackpot beliefs are certainly not backed by science nor academic research, defends his views rather, as being ‘in accordance with Christianity’.

That Mogoeng is a charismatic Christian is well-known, less evident is the basis upon which he issues forth his opinions in the form of prayer, and thus the claim that the rights guaranteed by our constitution accord his office the benefit of speaking on topics, for which he is no doubt unqualified to speak.

Notwithstanding the obvious intrusion of Church and State and undermining of the separation of powers. The Chief Justice claims rights which he denies others and is thus a mendacious hypocrite, suppressing the views of anyone who disagrees with his far-right Christian ideology.

In 2010 an irregularly-gained decision handed down by a corrupt ANC official, purporting to be the opinions of the Labour Court of South Africa, proceeded to demonise this writer, for asserting that the views of a Media24 employee resembled the now defunct ideology of the Dutch Reformed Church (NGK).

The contested decision anathematised a career in journalism on the basis of the writer’s opposition to apartheid and possession of a secular belief system.

It proceeds to assert that de facto race segregation and race profiling of readers at Die Burger (sic) not Media24 community newspapers, was ‘merely a coincidence of homogeneity’ i.e. an accident of nature or ‘miracle of sameness’, and the company in question could not possibly be in the wrong, since its sole witness was ‘Italian and a Catholic‘.

Imagine explaining the events at Brackenfell this year as a mere coincidence?

Race segregation is not a teaching of the Catholic Church, and likewise, the Covid vaccines being developed by Pfizer and Moderna are unlikely to be repudiated and excommunicated as the ‘work of the beast’, by the broader Christian establishment.

Needless to say, several complaints to the Office of the Chief Justice, i.e. the Judicial Services Commission were ignored.

See DRL condemnation of right-wing anti-secular revolt within SA justice system

See: Dr Glenda Gray to Chief Justice Mogoeng: Keep your religious beliefs to yourself

See: Scientists call for Mogoeng’s impeachment over vaccine conspiracy

See: The Chief Justice must be called to order

Getting out of lockdown may be essential to combating impact of the virus

THE LOCKDOWN was never meant to do anything more than buy us time to prepare. Time to allow the public health system to adjust, to stock-up on medication, to initiate testing and special counter-measures.

Unfortunately it appears that many South Africans and government officials are under the impression that the lock-down is some form of a cure-all. It is nothing of the sort. It cannot prevent the second and third wave of infections that will undoubtedly arrive come winter, and it cannot continue being extended if our economy and way of life is to survive.

Although a return to normal is not possible, and social distancing and other measures will be in place for a very long time, the cost of extending the lock-down must be weighed against the inevitable collapse in economic activity that will result. Given that for the majority of South Africans, adapting to a world where the only economic activities will be online jobs, is neither practical nor possible over the short term, nor is it readily apparent what unskilled labour is expected to do during the crisis?

Getting out of lock-down is essential to combat the impact of the virus upon the economy, on people’s lives and livelihoods, and to avoid the continued abuse of state power by the SANDF. Where those on the left including the ANC have supported the extension of the lockdown, it is only the opposition DA which has registered its dismay.

Many of the measures already in place have little scientific or health merit. Preventing people from playing in their yards, from jogging outdoors, or engaging in other activities such as drinking alcohol, that presumably might risk the spread of the virus, is not ideal. A zero tolerance approach to infection has consequences, chief of which is that unless the state can pay its citizens a basic income ,the possibility exists of mass starvation.

There is limited capacity within our country to simply go on dishing out food parcels, to place SMMEs on life support, to postpone bond and debt payments. This while rounding up the homeless, placing such persons in ‘temporary shelters’ that resemble concentration camps. The sheer density of many informal settlements has made such steps seem ludicrous.

One approach to the problem outlined by an Australian virologist, Professor Peter Collignon, is to gradually expose parts of the population to the virus. This controversial approach to developing immunity within the broader population has some merit and should not simply be discarded. In Sweden for example, where there has been no lock-down, admittedly within an excellent health care system, the mortality figures have not been all that different from those countries which have implemented lock-down practices.

In some respects the UK which early on adopted some of the measures in Sweden, before choosing a general lock-down, is an example of the counter-intuitive logic at play. The country at first sheltered the elderly and most vulnerable. Those dying today, would have died tomorrow, argue proponents, dead in future waves of the epidemic. Without a vaccine, the only option for so-called ‘herd immunity‘ is to control the rate of infection, to flatten the curve and stall the onset of the epidemic.

Faced with the prospect that a working vaccine may only be ready in September, in six months time, South Africa has an unenviable task, that of weighing up all the options, examining the case for and against an extension of the current five week lock-down.

published in part by Natal Mercury Letters

 

 

Mr President, we’re not officially at “War”

THE DEPLOYMENT of SANDF military personnel in support of SAPS enforcement of an unprecedented ‘lockdown’ in terms of the Disaster Management Act and National Health Act has resulted in at least three deaths, and countless examples of brutality and ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ reminiscent of the apartheid era.

The new regulations gazetted in terms of the legislation, and which appear to reference the colonial 1919 Public Health Act, may also turn out to be unlawful, as too the many contraventions of South Africa’s Bill of Rights.

The Disaster Management Act was drafted primarily to deal with natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts and floods, and does not grant the President the kind of powers contemplated by the latest round of executive policy-making decisions.

Similarly, the National Health Act is focused on providing health care for all, and does not contain any reference to the Public Health Act written during a period in which black South Africans were deprived of property rights and other rights such as habeous corpus.

The past days stream of online visuals of combined law enforcement officials invading citizen’s homes without search warrants, shambokking residents on private property, pointing shotguns at civilians queuing for food, affecting arbitrary arrests of civilians, and in some instances, forcing South Africans as well as migrants, to do humiliating squats, brutally knocking others to the ground, rolling them on the streets and pavements, are all brutish acts calculated to force compliance with the latest rounds of regulations. As such, they deserve greater scrutiny from both our government and opposition parties.

To date, the official opposition DA has merely written a letter calling for military investigation into the incidents whilst parliament is in recess. Minister of defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has meekly cautioned members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) against their heavy-handedness during the lockdown.

With all the talk of war South Africans could be forgiven for thinking that the nation had officially declared war against the virus. Unfortunately we are in uncharted terrain so far as this is concerned, and Parliament has yet to pass a War Powers Act which would be required to allow President Ramaphosa to act as a war-time president.

At the start, the President acknowledged that the 15 March, Declaration of a National Disaster was one step away from the so-called national lockdown and a long way away from a State of Emergency. The shelter-in-place directive is unprecedented in modern times, but clearly necessary from a public health perspective. Law enforcement officials however seem to be a little overzealous in jumping the gun when it comes to the State of Emergency and special War Powers that would be needed to drive a command economy under military supervision.

Goods deemed non-essential, and therefore currently restricted from sale, quixotically include vegetable seed, general hardware, and cleaning equipment such as brooms.

Though generally muted by the past weeks events, our courts are still operating and functioning under special rules, and to my knowledge, the rule of law has not yet been suspended. It is unclear how citizens are expected to access legal aid during a lockdown.

Nevertheless Magistrates were quick to roll out summary fines of up to R5000 for contraventions of the new regulations, the magnitude of which will take some time to circulate within our communities. Legal professionals were generally silent or bunkered down, but eager to offer advice on the drafting of wills. Did we scrap the Audi rule alongside the National Environmental Management Act in the process?

We can only hope that the President supplies us with a timeline to the resumption of normality and that attempts to get ahead of the crisis will not come at the further expense of human rights.

The lockdown may be extended indefinitely, as in many other countries.

https://mg.co.za/article/2020-04-02-tension-over-whos-boss-of-courts/

Socialism under the ANC begat state capture, graft, corruption …

THAT IT would all go so horribly wrong for the African National Congress is best demonstrated by comments made by Moletsi Mbeki on national television. The ANC he says is really a conglomeration of competing, ‘factions acting in their own self-interest’.

What unites the party, aside from its competing sectarian and nationalist aims, is its avowedly ‘socialist character’. Problem is, wherever socialism has been tried in Africa, it has failed. Whether Tanzania under Nyerere, or Ghana under Kwame Nkrumah, South Africa’s experiment with socialism and the so-called ‘mixed economy’ under the ANC has fared no better.

While a successful roll-out of a social wage, has arguably made the ruling party, the envy of the rest of Africa, the word socialism itself, does not appear in the party’s constitution as such.

Socialism so far as the ANC is concerned, and as its policies demonstrate, has more in common with the socialism (or volkskapitalisme) under the former white Nationalist regime, than multifarious examples across the continent. In both instances, economic policies aimed at reducing inequality (in the latter example, the inequality experienced by poor white Afrikaners) ended up unfairly benefiting the party faithful — well-positioned insiders who sought to ‘take control of the commanding heights of the economy’, and who in turn created opportunities for graft, self-enrichment, maladministration, corruption and ‘state capture’.

of the Free Market Foundation argues “corruption is a feature and not a bug of socialism. Every socialist system is guaranteed to have a high level of corruption.

“The reason why a socialist system can never work” says i  “is the trade-off that has to happen at the heart of it – individual liberty in exchange for more power given to the state.” The fatal flaw inherent to party centrism and a dominant government promoting statism, (read ‘economic intervention’ via ‘state-owned-enterprises’) — has been endless bureaucracy, fruitless and wasteful expenditure and a never-ending litany of corrupt officialdom.

The latest revelations from the Zondo commission paint an appalling picture of a socialist-leaning administration in which political bribes of well-known politicians, cabinet members and officials have become the order of the day, and not merely during the tenure of Jacob Zuma but also under current and prior administrations and thus grand larceny by, and on behalf of, socialists — ideologically-driven corruption which continues to manifest under the Ramaphosa government.

The Bosassa debacle comes after the revelations of the VBS bank saga, and the 2018 indictment of former president Zuma on corruption charges. For analysis of the impact on the economy, one need look no further than the corruption scandals plaguing South Africa’s SOEs in effect all ‘State-owned bureaucracies’.

Eskom on its own has created a massive and embarrassing debt bubble, which risks upsetting the entire economy, and whose economic fallout is still being bankrolled by consumers locked into demands for annual 15% pa rates increases. Latest figures, show a massive impending R100bn bailout by treasury.

The central party, unable to deliver coherent economic policy, hamstrung by unions hooked on fossil fuels, oil and gas cartels, and equally inept socialist partners, and compounded by the perceived need to reign in a boisterous far-left opposition grouping, has resorted to ‘lekgotla‘ after lekgotla‘, each one promising action.

A party plenary held over the weekend, promised to finally to breakup the state power supply entity into competing parts, all begging the question as to why a lot more was not accomplished in the past 25 year of ANC rule to boost efficiency, and at very least avoid the current dire situation?

SEE: Defend South Africa’s Social Wage

South Africa’s Anti-Climate Science lobby

IF THE latest IPCC intergovernmental report on climate change, didn’t draw your attention to the dire impacts of global warming at 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels then a new study of the Earth’s oceans, showing the planet is much more sensitive to fossil-fuel emissions than past studies have shown, really ought to get your attention.

Because of South Africa’s relative isolation, you are probably either reading urgent press releases reiterating the IPCC position on the likely effects of climate change or equally colourful reports purporting to debunk these pieces as alarmist. The cadence of environmental debate here is such that the nay-sayers are still being given equal opportunity to spread their jaundiced lies and scholastic gobbledygook, in the process smearing genuine climate science as hopelessly flawed.

Statements by Patrick Dowling of Wildlife and Environment Society of SA (WESSA), an organisation which was forced during the closing stages of apartheid, to include habitat as part of the broader picture of wildlife and thus environment alongside humans, after criticism of white privilege and shallow ecology published by South Press under my own byline back in the early 90s, thus appear alongside the work of professional hucksters and anti-climate charlatans.

Neo-Con columnist Ivo Vegter for instance, has made a career on purporting to debunk climate change, and his work regularly appears in The Daily Maverick

Stop for a moment to reflect on the content of the latest report carried by the venerable Independent, a UK based news outlet: The world’s oceans have absorbed far more heat than previously estimated, “suggesting global warming and climate change could accelerate faster than predicted,” according to new research.

“The results suggest over the past 27 years, the world’s oceans have retained 60 percent more heat each year than research teams had previously thought.”

All of which supports my own contention, as one of the founders of the environmental justice movement in South Africa (and author of a chapter on climate change in a book trashed by the apartheid regime), that far from being at the start of the Anthropocene, we are for all intents and purposes at its End.

The End of the Anthropocene is a geological period immediately preceding the point at which humanity itself becomes extinct. Our civilisation is not simply in peril from runaway climate change as the IPCC would have it, we may be endangered by a malignant cycle and impending catastrophe associated with previous mass extinction events, with a thermal max some 20 degrees hotter than now.

Alarmism has become acceptible, according to David Wallace-Wells writing in the Intelligencer

“We are on track” he says for four degrees of warming, “more than twice as much as most scientists believe is possible to endure without inflicting climate suffering on hundreds of millions or threatening at least parts of the social and political infrastructure we call, grandly, “civilization.” The only thing that changed, this week, is that the scientists, finally, have hit the panic button.”

Catastrophic climate change, has an upside. It is not all doom and gloom and the slow-moving disaster (by some accounts already locked in) may also be the catalyst that creates the first Post-Humans, that is if one defines humans beings, not simply as ‘human because of other humans‘, but rather human because of our collective habitat. In other words, human because of the necessary conditions for the existence of mammals and great apes on planet earth. In the future, entire Cities may be covered by domes, while we colonise Mars and our deep oceans, ironically, experiencing failing atmospheres on both planets.

Instead of grappling with the impetus, massive scientific consensus on global warming, and the credible problems and complications presented by new data which show that all our current climate models may be way off, and the situation worse than even the IPCC is willing to let on, online periodicals such as the Daily Maverick continue to peddle the climate debate within the narrow confines of a binary opposition. In effect, excluding any opinion beyond the centre, and to the left of the spectrum, and instead, entertaining us with neo-conservative claptrap.

That the 2018 IPCC report signals a turning point in the consensus view of climate change is clear from the language of the document. “Warming from anthropogenic emissions from the pre-industrial period to the present will persist for centuries to millennia and will continue to cause further long-term changes in the climate system.”

Drawing this position out and reiterating IPCC findings, is not the purpose of this piece. Suffice to add, that what is missing from the media narrative, is the counter-narrative supplied, not by those idiotic skeptics who believe themselves to be especially privileged by race, class and social status and thus ordained by neoliberal theology to defend the worst ravages of capitalism, but rather the absent history of the environmental justice movement in general, and equally the present litany of hatred against climate scientists in particular.

Take Naomi Oreskes, a science historian, earth scientist, and author, who first became a target of the anti-climate science movement in 2004 when she published documentation of the scientific consensus on climate change.

Fourteen years ago Science magazine published a peer-reviewed article by Oreskes on the state of scientific knowledge about anthropogenic climate change. “After analyzing 928 scientific abstracts with the keywords “global climate change,” she found no disagreement in the scientific community that human activities were resulting in global warming. All of the papers reviewed agreed with the judgment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the National Academy of Sciences, and other leading professional scientific societies and organizations on this point.”

Then Oreskes began receiving hate mail just days after her Science essay came out. The escalation of the hatred of our habitat forced her to “reach out to  climate scientist Ben Santer, who connected her with a group of scientists who had also been similarly attacked. The group helped Oreskes understand that the harassment wasn’t personal; it was about the role she plays in the conversation on climate science.”

“We weren’t being attacked because we’d done something wrong,” says Oreskes. “We were being attacked because we’d done something right. Because we’d explained something significant, we’d laid facts on the table, those facts had implications, and some people were threatened by those implications.”

Oreskes’ book Merchants of Doubt How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming” (an excellent read) went on to expose a network of ideologues that attacked scientific data on several issues: the ozone hole, acid rain, tobacco use, and climate change.

“The common thread among these issues is that the scientific implications of each imply the need for some kind of government regulation as a solution, challenging the ideology of laissez-faire capitalism. A common tactic used by those resisting policy solutions and attacking the scientific data is to sow doubt and confusion about the science among the general public — a strategy still being used today with climate change.”

Vegter’s latest unsubstantiated piece on climate change littered with straw man arguments on crop yields and biofuels, dated critique of alarmism and misplaced quotes by well-meaning UN officials taken out of the context of the IPCC and scenario planning and given the sheen of evidence and aura of credibility via publication in the Daily Maverick, must be seen in the same vein as similar denials by the tobacco industry.

“Dire predictions about the consequences of climate change” Vegter says “are a staple of the sensationalist media, but a lot of past predictions have failed to come even remotely true. Yet climate change activists want to dismantle the world’s capitalist economy by whipping up fear.”

Fear indeed.

 

How South Africa’ fuel fund turned into anti-consumer profit markets for oil dealers

LAST NIGHTS massive fuel hike, represents a record increase in the price of petrol products. The immediate result say economists of Rand weakness, and taxation by central government. Hidden from public view and the narrative of biannual price hikes as the new normal, is the backstory involving the sale of South Africa’s strategic oil reserves, their supposed “rotation” and the ensuing fraud associated with the former Zuma administration.

The result has been a strange parallel story of massive profits being made by oil dealers and involving oil traders, whilst motorists get stumped at the pump, and without a coherent electric vehicle policy articulated by central government moving forward, one which might mitigate the future effects of oil price increases.

According to Bloomberg there is still money to be made in South Africa out of fuel, “there’s no place quite like Saldanha Bay. When prices slumped in 2014,” says  “the  trading houses generated outsize profits by storing millions of barrels of crude in the deep-water harbor north of Cape Town.”

The same article goes on to tout the commercial potential of the storage area which once housed South Africa strategic oil supply.

The Strategic Fuel Fund (SFF), first created by the apartheid government during sanctions, was meant to cushion the consumer against oil price spikes and dollar fluctuations. Instead,  it has proved to be nothing more than a cash cow for close associates of Jacob Zuma and his family, in a corruption case known as Oilgate.

In May of 2016, there were revelations that former minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson “had sold off the Strategic Fuel Fund (SFF) reserves without the go-ahead of former finance minister Pravin Gordhan.”

The latest taxes may represent a claw-back strategy by treasury, but need to be seen in the contest of another corruption investigation involving the apparent allocation of oil-fields in the DRC and Nigeria, and open speculation surrounding the misappropriation of government funds, to the tune of R100bn and involving Khulubuse Zuma 

All pointing to government involvement in a scam to move away from a strategic investment benefiting the economy and broader public, towards continued private manipulation of the fuel supply.

The result is an unavoidable increase of input costs across all sectors of the economy which can only harm growth. Weaning South Africans off the petrol habit, and moving towards tax incentives for the introduction of energy efficient electric vehicles, is a policy which is perhaps long overdue.

In this respect, the country is far behind the West.

 

Liberalism’s ideologues & their coalfaced discontents

IT WAS the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald who said: “No grand idea was ever born in a conference, but a lot of foolish ideas have died there.” While the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche remarked: “We often refuse to accept an idea merely because the tone of voice in which it has been expressed is unsympathetic to us” and still Thomas Mann opined: “If you are possessed by an idea, you find it expressed everywhere, you even smell it.”

The reason I take the opportunity to provide readers with some philosophizing on the ‘history of ideas’, rather than the ‘idea of history’, is that there has been a lot of solipsising lately on the issue of liberalism and its purported antithesis, socialism, in the runup to and aftermath of the DA federal conference, billed as the ‘greatest opposition event ever’.

For those who might not already know, a solipsism (or circular logic) according to the urban dictionary is also “the belief that the person holding the belief is the only real thing in the universe. All other persons and things are merely ornaments or impediments to his or her happiness.”

Just how this applies to South African politics will become clearer. To begin, there has thus been a plethora of verbiage surrounding a relatively new idea in popular discourse, that of ‘black liberalism” with equal bouts of critique from humdingers, curmudgeons and opinion-makers on the left, schooled in dialectical materialism and political economy.

Thus Eusebius McKaiser’s A black liberal is not an oxymoron was followed by Mazibuko K Jara Black liberalism is an apology for capitalism  and Richard Pithouse The liberal licence to kill and more recently, Mmusi Maimane’s Building an African liberal agenda.

Jara opines that McKaiser’s “reclaiming of liberalism is ultimately flawed because it does not question capitalism’s core logic — the rights, freedoms and power of capitalists to maximise profits on the basis of appropriating the commons through the private ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the exploitation of labour and natural resources.”

Pithouse on the other hand raised an awkward caveat whilst attacking liberalism at its historical core, by listing its alleged policy sins. Despite its many problems, and yes, there are some positives, there is at the face of it, a common dilemma of seeing everything one disagrees with as mere “ornaments or impediments to happiness.” In South Africa,” writes Pithouse ” a high price has been paid for the ease and frequency with which attempts to assert principle in struggle — including commitments to feminism, democracy and, on occasion, even basic honesty — have been denigrated and dismissed as “liberal”.”

All this was water off a duck’s back so far as Maimane was concerned. A rallying speech by the leader of the old “Liberal Party” was big on building liberal sound-bites but short on substance: “As African liberals, ” he said “we have chosen a hard road. We have chosen to stand up to dictators and bullies of all stripes, even when it is politically incorrect to do so. We have chosen to defend the free expression of ideas, even for people with whom we disagree and whose views make us angry.”

One invariably gets the same point though.

Hence one of the reasons for writing this piece, partly out of respect for Pithouse, who defends civil liberties in the same way that Maimane does, but does so without suggesting any alternatives to the two dominant poles in South African politics, nor bothering himself with a critique of the abysmal track-record of the dominant political movement, is to provide readers with some all important context. That’s the ruling party whose ideological framework is abundantly socialist versus the avowed liberalism of the major opposition,

Please feel free to arrive at your own conclusions.

As “bookish revolutionaries” to use Julius Malema’s phrase were debating the pros and cons of liberalism viz. vi. historical materialism and its view of all history being the result of ‘a dialectical clash, of opposing forces’, South Africans were being entertained by the spectacle of the National Mineworkers Union (NUM) threatening to end its support for the African National Congress (ANC): “if government continues with its renewable energy programme,” said NUM, “clean power would “destroy jobs and create ghost towns in coal mining areas.” Please bear with me.

Earlier last month the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) along with Transform RSA, and the coal-truckers industry, had attempted to interdict the Dept of Energy from signing a raft of IPP renewable contracts to no avail. That ripe Marxist language and dialectical critique emanating from our unions, was geared towards a previous era of the steam engine, coal factories, fossil fuel barons, and coal-faced workers suffering under the whip of capital, and not the emerging 4th industrial revolution predicated as it is on digital innovation, open source electronics, and abundant energy distributed amongst the commons, in a dematerialised world in which the unions too, own shares, was becoming clear.

The trouble with soviet-style super-socialism and its advocates in the unions, many of whose members appeared outfitted in fatigues and whose leaders, some of whom bore a close resemblance to Fidel Castro, began with the protagonists wanting to ‘monkey-wrench the entire system’, the self-same mixed ‘market socialist’ economy which taxes and hands out benefits, and whose state owned utility Eskom and its mega-coal projects, meant that these very same unions derived further benefits from any extension of coal-contracts that were also part and parcel of the Gupta corruption schemes. It is important to note as Min Radebe did, there was no direct connection between the threatened closure of some coal powered utilities ending their life-cycle and the IPP programme.

One can see an emerging pattern here, a similar problem experienced during the Cold War 1950s, the problematic Marxist vision of ‘willing workers of the world’ uniting under a shared common cause to fight off the bosses and shareholders in any country, in order to become, what exactly?

The Soviet Union?

Here in the South Africa of 2018, a period no longer marked by communism and the Cold War, the unions were essentially complaining about the potential loss of a paltry 30 000 jobs, whilst jeopardising the creation of 60 000 new jobs in the economy, and more to boot. The unions was prepared to compromise air quality, emissions, the health and safety of millions, while ransoming the entire country with regard to climate change. One could not get more solipsistic and obstinate if one tried. In the eyes of union bosses, what mattered most in this struggle, was happy workers. The poor seeking jobs and thus a growing and sustainable economy, in which economic models were not based upon annual bailouts, but upon reality, the facts behind an economic model which worked, for these persons, the poor for all intents and purposes, did not exist.

So let’s give a bash at answering the moot question left unanswered by our nation’s critics. What are the alternatives to the liberal market economy, if any? And since I am not a liberal as such, let me explain briefly, as economic scholer Zhang Weiwei does, one such model, the China Model, significant in that it has pulled millions out of poverty and unlike the West, has not experienced successive periods of boom and bust. And before I do, let me place my civil rights cards on the table, since I don’t support many of the authoritarian elements still at play within the China of today.

The guiding philosophy behind the ‘China Model’, according to Weiwei can be summarised as  “Seeking Truth from Facts not from Dogmas, whether East or West.”

Weiwei goes on to say: “From examining the facts, leader Deng Xiaoping found that neither the Soviet Model nor the Western Model really worked, hence Beijing decided to explore its own way of development appropriate to China’s own national conditions.”

The system he says is oriented towards people’s livelihood. “Whether economic, social or political reforms, they must all be down-to-earth and produce tangible benefits … in material, cultural and other terms. This is why China has succeeded in lifting over 700 million people out of poverty, accounting for nearly 80 percent poverty eradication in the world.”

Special economic zones in which economic experiments are allowed to prove themselves first before being adopted by the broader system, are another factor attributed to China’s success.

Food for thought in a country which, despite its ideological stance, is still top of the list of the Gini coefficient marking ours the most unequal society in the world.

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

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Fascist by any other name?

THAT some commentators and journalists are rising to the defense of paramilitary politics in South Africa is not all that surprising. Far-right spokesperson Simon Shear, whom the Daily Vox’s Sipho Hlongwane insists is required reading on the subject of the EFF and the urgent topic of whether self-proclaimed “Commander in Chief” Julius Malema, is a fascist or not, needs to be congratulated for setting the matter straight.

Yes, the EFF are a Marxist-Leninist party, and if anything, Malema is a Stalinist not a Fascist in the traditional sense of the word.

That Hlongwane should find himself quoting the author of a piece purporting to debunk Affirmative Action, and thus “The case against Affirmative Action” is typical of so many on the authoritarian left, who see in Malema many of the macho characteristics and atavistic impulses they too, would wish to emulate, yet also find the need to meekly reinterpret their party dictator and thus to apologise for his often strident and offensive comments, which exist alongside the steady racial barrage and ideological violence of his many lieutenants.

Hlongwane rushed into criticism of Van Onselen’s piece on the EFF, calling Malema a fascist, a piece which he believes is “an ideologically inconsistent mess, but the overall intended effect is to take concepts such as whiteness (no matter how many times that this doesn’t refer to white people, but a social construct of power), socialism, and even black consciousness off the table.”

If taking Affirmative Action off the table, to promote Milton Friedman, as Shear does, while dissing the new dawn Ramaphosa ANC and its politics of unity and centerism, the Maimane DA and its equal opportunity ‘property rights for all’, and thus the Rainbow Nation, isn’t in the same league, as dismissing all Marxists as simply the descendents of proto-fascists, then I don’t know what else would rate as a critique of the authoritarian centre of the new paramilitary left?

An authoritarian cabal whose pundits are apt to quote Marx, Fanon and Sankara, while forgetting that the anti-hegemonic ideals propagated by these politicos were essentially founded upon humanism and the love of freedom as much as they are bound up in dialectical materialism. Marx was a fervent champion of press freedom, even if this means tolerating the excesses of the tabloids, writes Mark Thomas, citing Marx himself who said the “press, in general, is a realisation of human freedom,”

Not only does the belligerent EFF have a ‘war council’, in possible contravention of our pacifist constitution, but in many ways, its paramilitary operations have centred around the cult of personality which has evolved around Malema. A man whose daily diatribe and steady output of race-talk exists right alongside the politics of hate, symbols of outrage, and acts of political thuggery, which are emblematic of both National Socialism under the Nazis and Communism under Joseph Stalin.

Racism, hostility and ideological cant, all too familiar for many South Africans who may remember similar periods in which paramilitary organisations have graced the political stage, often urging violence, whilst seeking to play the parliamentary card of political privilege — thus it is almost impossible to check Nuremberg Rallies if they happen to happen in Vereeniging, or to counter Malema’s aggressive “cut the throat of whiteness” comment in the runup to an election in Nelson Mandela Bay.

Whether it be the brownshirts and swastikas of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging and the late Eugene Terreblanche or the Red attire of ‘White’ Communist Party leader W H Andrews, known as ‘Comrade Bill’, one of the Red leaders of the 1922 Rand Revolt, the denouement and rationale in authoritarianism, dictatorship and obedience to a leader at the expense of personal freedom, has always been the same.

In 1932 the South African Gentile National Socialist Movement of Louis Weichard emerged and quickly became known as the Greyshirts because of their clothing.

In 1939 a fascist and racist group known as the Ossewabrandwag (OB) was founded and along with its volkish symbolism, was also inspired by Adolf Hitler.

All were local South African fascist groups, and one should add that the term fascist does not necessarily connote a direct causal link with the politics of the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Yet his fascist progeny have invariably emphasised ethnic, class and racial differences. Thus for the fascist right, it was Aryan race rhetoric which was used to organise amongst the various poor white immigrant communities, while for the fascist Afrikaner Reds, it was a strange mixture of class revolt and cruel desire to preserve economic advantage over their fellow black workers, and thus race privilege amongst the ranks of those with jobs, that drove their Marxist fantasy and inspired revolt.

A third not insignificant group known as New Order, emerged in 1940 under the leadership of  Oswald Pirow.

In the case of Julius Malema, like his nemesis Jacob Zuma, the imperatives of equality and civil rights for all, outlined by our constitution, appear to have been bent by sleight of hand and trick of tongue, into a perverse demand for land but only for those within the political laager, those closest to the Red authority at the Red centre, while the constitution itself is seen as merely an impediment to the leader’s ultimate stated goals of power for the sake of power and Totalitarianism by any other name. Malema’s Newcastle statements on slaughtering the opposition and land ownership for example, contradict his recent statements at New Brighton, all part and parcel of the get elected at any cost, and by any means campaign, and therefore the leader’s poetic license to say whatever needs to be said to any group, at any given time.

It was an admixture of right-wing groups, (and quasi-leftists), some armed with socialist ideas such as volkscapitalisme, which eventually became the National Party, a political organisation responsible for apartheid. The NP was openly affiliated to the International Gentile Movement, and sought special privileges for the Afrikaner to the exclusion of all other ‘race groups’ while creating an authoritarian state, a country whose economy still shares many of the defects associated with the socialism of former Eastern European Bloc countries.

Like these earlier periods, the misreading of seemingly egalitarian texts, whether the Bible or Das Kapital, combined with a volatile confluence of popular disgruntlement with the ruling party, racism in the form of anti-white hostility, and the lure of the land debate, all appear to have invigorated the paramilitary EFF party. Its leader, Julius Malema, not an emerging leftist ideological oracle, has been catapulted into media headlines, as the ranks at the forefront of the authoritarian left swell, and as demonstrated, are articulated by apparatchiks and gauleiters, who are not ashamed to draw ideas from the fascists on the far right when it suits them.

Hence the internal contradictions of the ANC itself, a party which risks losing elements within come the 2019 election, that have always aligned themselves with dictators from Lenin to Fidel Castro, and thus the politics of Hugo Chavez and Jacob Zuma. These “fascists” may have just found themselves a new political home. We wish them well.

NOTE: Gauleiter was the second highest Nazi Party paramilitary rank, subordinate only to the higher rank Reichsleiter and to the position of Führer.