My saga of moving my Telkom landline continued from part 1.
DAY 28 A bearded Telkom technician arrives with his assistant. They are unable to install the line because my apartment requires a cable to be installed via a conduit which can only happen with the landlords permission. I am inundated by SMS from Telkom requesting me to rate their service online. I get a call from my landlord’s company offering me a 10mps wireless connection. No Telkom. Apparently this would entail gaining the password to his router. I attempt to decline the offer.
DAY 35 Still no home Internet. I am forced to use Internet cafes to file my SARS tax return. Problem is, I can’t find a cafe that is compliant with SARS efiling demand that I use adobe flash player 11. Apparently everyone in the real world is operating with flash 23. I head over to SARS office in town. There is no public access terminal available to do the task. Speak to an inane SARS employee who keeps telling me to file the return online. I seem to be in a boot loop, explaining that even my bank has a self-service terminal and doesn’t rely upon its clients to have private Net access. Fail.
DAY 36. I get a phone call from my landlord inquiring about my letter explaining why I believe a ‘fibre and cable’ option, and separate ‘voice and data’ services would be far better for my needs than low power radio access to his router. He has sent an Internet access form for his &*(^ provider, detailing its wonderful contention ratios, its commercial quality bandwith, (but no voiceline) and patiently tries to solve my voice and data issues by explaining that Skype offer a Skype-out service where one can call local numbers, I don’t even try to explain why paying for local calls in Dollars or Euros to isn’t going to be worth my while (Surely a gap in the market?), and in my case a choice between having connectivity or health insurance. He appears to relent when I explain that in order to access his marvellous router for which I would be handing over precious cash, some R150 more than my current service via MWEB, and without a guarantee on latency, I would need to invest in a WIFI receiver. I feel like a hillbilly holding out for Grandma, because she has a landline.
DAY 38 I am in a strange new world, in which the Tantalising Internet is both absent and present. (see The Curse of King Tantalus) For the vast majority, the Internet is whatever can be gleaned via occasional free wifi hot spots in cafes, (just buy a coffee). Or the traditional Internet Cafe (a dying breed) where you can hire a computer for a few rands per half-hour. Metro-rail still do not have wifi on their trains. It is like being the last person on earth after the flood. The problem of too many Android apps, competing for precious storage space, the insanity of every company pushing out its own app, at the same time as palming off services into the digital realm, the real beneficiaries are the mobile technology providers. For a brief time I marvel at how everyone must be doing, walking around with terabytes of ram on their phones and tablets, but sadly, like most people, I only have 4 gb on my phone, Android Lollypop takes up most of the space of the Vodacom unit and this version prevalent in the third world, doesn’t like SD cards, and won’t let me expand. I am forced to call a hotline to access my health insurance which relies on its app to service customers, miraculously, they provide the line as a free service and I don’t need to load airtime.
DAY 42 I receive an SMS alerting me to a bill in the amount of R456.11, not only is the inhuman Telkom system billing me for a non-existent service, but they also have the wrong call plan. Prior monthly average has been R310, and the last bill was a credit for R10.93. I call a helpline, log a dispute and am told “the extra fees are for ADSL”, it appears Telkom have taken over the ADSL portion of my service without my consent. Seems as if the beast is unable to accommodate real people with real-life problems, and is instead introducing new problems of its own. I also get the sneaking suspicion that Telkom bills are all just a thumbsuck with no real bearing on usage. Am forced to leech internet (keep those passwords!). Pickup a telephone directory from the Post Office (remember those?), just so I can call my data service provider MWEB, alas, they are not listed in the phone book. Then remember that I have an Mweb helpline listed as a memo in a notepad on my desktop. Call them on a “sharecall” to explain the situation. I must first log a fault, then seek a refund for the two months I am without service etc etc. I swear many service providers make money out of ‘sharecall’ services.
At first I speak to the accounts dept, then the technical dept, and finally the “moving dept”.
Apparently I should have called MWEB to begin with. Why didn’t Telkom bother to tell me what was required? The confusion is all the result of an ANC SOE policy whereby Telkom is the monopoly cable operator, (these days in name only) but where third parties offer data services, a complete fibre-to-the-home solution lurks on the horizon, great if you end up getting bundled voice and data. Why has the beast unilaterally taken over my ADSL “line” (read “account”)? To make matters worse, there has been no communication from MWEB alerting me to any of this, (they are also billing) nor from Telkom for that matter. The latest glitch of epic proportions has all occurred because of the mysterious power wielded by faceless operators sitting behind anonymous switchboards and cold cathode computer screens. In all likelihood there is no connection between my past service and the new, as yet unconnected one. R50 later and I am still not at the bottom of it all.
The woman behind the helpful MWEB “move desk” is cut off, another victim of Vodacom extortion. (Mobile rates priced as if Euros, Dollars and Sterling were all benchmarked by an accountant whose life depends upon getting lattes on executive flights to Mauritius). Again, those sharecalls seem like wishful thinking when it comes to using mobile phones, an excuse to ramp up consumer spend. I miss the Pacific Bell sales pitch from my days in California, Friends and Family Are Free. Before Telkom had even considered broadband, there was a big bang in the USA. It revolved around breaking up Ma Bell, the one-size fits-all national telco into baby bells, all competing with each other. The result was the Dot-Com explosion. In South Africa, we had quite the opposite, a National Telco Monopoly that went from Ma Telkom to GrandMa Telkom. A dinosaur currently in its death throws. RIP Public Telephones. Yes Telkom exists as a mobile phone company, but its life as a cable company is numbered, like the sales pitch at RSA web suggest, fibre is coming at lightening speed, and its not Telkom who are making the offering to connect, despite similar offerings from mobile operators. Despite the seeming progress, there are still plans afoot to calf a “National Internet Service provider” out of two separate units, broadband infraco and sentech ), a case of fiddling while Rome burns and quite the opposite of what happened in the US.
Thus in Pretoria the bureaucrats in the Zuma administration still dream of building a Kremlin large enough to get lost in, and thereby eliminate the need to work, while another dept, plots its journey to the Sun, no worries, we will travel at night! I contemplate how a system designed upon a talking drum backbone and witchcraft would work? Am ready to start sending Morse Code, or Ham Radio. Do I begin constructing my very own “Net”, this time, starting with node to CTWUG? All cost money, we so dependent upon the Net that we have become strangled by it.
DAY 49 I receive the Telkom bill printed on chlorinated white bond. It affirms that Telkom have placed me on the wrong call plan and are double-billing for ADSL services already “supplied” by MWEB. I call MWEB, the technical dept agree with me, but a lady at the accounts dept wants to argue. I request to speak to a manager, instead she puts me on hold for so long, I eventually put down the phone and decide to write the manager a letter. Meanwhile USB stick is overwritten by a virus at a City Internet Cafe. Appears some Trojan posing as a Windows “driver” updater is merrily making copies of itself. After deleting all the .ink and cmd.exe files that propagated (and then reformatting), I inform the owner, who gratiously declines to accept payment. I relocate to the City Library, where there is at least a room filled with computers, and virus-free Linux. Better work conditions as a Micro-serf, means I get to attend an ISOC party.
DAY 52 Having penned three letters in the matter, and as many complaints, I finally receive a missed call from my landlord, I pay for the call to his golden mobile phone, to finally receive lordly permission for the wiring of the conduit to go ahead. Telkom technicians will be under supervision. I thank him profusely and also thank my lucky stars that at least I’m not a Telkom employee, — can’t live with them, can’t do without them. A light is at the end of the tunnel. People are singing the praises of the Digital Jehovah, the Internet Christ will Return.
DAY 58 An electrician from a frontline state arrives. Fairly decent fellow. According to him, it will take two days to pull the wire into the building. He appears to think the cable is simply two wires. I attempt to explain that the cable needs to be Telkom compliant and that my ethernet cable has six cores. I receive an email from MWEB technical dept complaining about my not informing their MOVE dept. (Oh, the fiction) I respond that Telkom are the ones providing the infrastructure and that I have simply relocated my MWEB router.
DAY 65 5 October I receive nasty email from MWEB claiming they are ‘merely a subscription company’ and thus not liable for any loss of service due to Telkom and them managing a non-existent line. Letter goes on to explain that they can’t refund me any money, even the “subscription” for the entire month of October (Read: We don’t care a damn about our customers as long as we getting their money!)
9 October SMS Dear Mr Lewis, a dispute has been created on your account ref: 28437870 we apologise for the inconvenience and will endeavour to resolve your dispute as soon as possible, Telkom.
SMS Telkom Technican: U can take it up with them cause the job from a technical point is done. Let them know that the line is on the premises but not in ur flat due to renovation. (So much for the guaranteed installation of a fixed point inside my home)
12 October SMS Good Morning Mr D Lewis, dear value customer, you have your Internet/DATA with another service provider however your ADSL Speed Facility is with Telkom SA. Please contact your service provider to contact Telkom SA so that they can port ADSL over to them. So in mere fact you pay DATA with them and ADSL with Telkom SA. Current account of R456.11 outstanding.
DAY 79 19 October still no connectivity. However a paralegal is attending to mediation with my landlord, and an attorney via legal insurance is apparently dealing with Telkom. There is no sign of the electrician from a frontline state. I meet one of my neighbours who is paying some R150 extra to Skype, just so that he can have an 021 number. I ask him if he gets free unlimited nation wide calls to RSA telephones, he appears to grimace, but I get invited for a braai.
DAY 81 I receive a bill from Telkom, this time I owed them R843.85 for a non-existent line where the telephone number has not yet been issued.
TWO rationalist pieces, thoughtfully debunking the legs of Helen Zille’s argument in favour of ‘colonialism not being all that bad’, need to be seen alongside an incredible piece of sensationalist and irrationalist nonsense, authored by self-proclaimed saviour of the ‘black race’ one Andile Mngxitama. The embarrassing piece (compared below) merely demonstrates that when it comes to black opinion, and criticism of colonialism, there are better tools, than a racist free-for-all.
Reported on News24 , without any scientific evidence, Mngxitama claims that the recent Cape storms are all the ‘fault of white monopoly capital’. It is a crackpot thesis devoid of any merit — touting an unproven conspiracy theory whose achilles heel is the fact that China is the world’s second biggest emitter of CO2 — far from being an ‘all-white affair’, climate change is rather the result of a rampant consumer society, one occupied by black and white alike, for which anyone of any colour, utilising its benefits, needs to take responsibility.
One has merely to remark that it is the ‘black majority’ South African government, which commissioned two of the largest mega-coal projects on the continent this decade, and so far as Nature is concerned, the impacts will be felt by all, regardless of skin colour or pigmentation. What was once true of apartheid South Africa, and its skewed electrification policies, no longer holds. My own research published by the Panos Institute in 1991, alongside that of Mamphela Ramphele, reported the racial bias impacting upon a then output of 246 million tonnes of CO2 pa.
South Africa is currently the 13th largest emitting country based on 2008 fossil-fuel CO2 emissions and the largest emitting country in Africa. Saying: “the ecological disaster awaiting planet earth is a direct creation of white people,” is not just shoddy science, it is assuredly evidence of a racist political agenda. There is no data, to my knowledge, showing that skin colour has any impact on the behaviour of litter-bugs nor that of conspicuous consumption.
The only reason Mgnxitama gets published in the mainstream press is because of his vocal position as leader of the ‘Black First’ front. An organisation with much in common with Donald Trump’s America First movement, and thus deserving of similar criticism to that levelled against France’s Marine le Pen. Though he differs from these two politicos in at least recognising the existence of climate change, is no recommendation.
That Mngxitima’s writing is increasingly on the fringes of rationality and scientific argument, can be seen by the emergence of writers whose opinions are eminently more sensible and suited to the important issues of the day. Thus we turn to Tembeka Ngcukaitobi writing in the Conmag, for our guidance on Helen Zille, who correctly observes, that “neither England nor Holland can claim the same robust system of judicial supremacy that we do” and “the notion of an independent, fair and just legal system ‘which is not influenced by politics whatsoever’ first emerged in the writings, not of a lawyer, but a journalist: John Tengo Jabavu, the editor of the Xhosa newspaper, Imvo Zabantsundu, in the late 1890s.”
“Jabavu’s writings in a marginal Xhosa newspaper were unsurprisingly ignored by the colonial government of the day. But they found fertile ground in the organisation which he did not found, but whose foundations he clearly influenced – the South African Native National Congress.” Ngcukaitobi’s writing on legal history thus traces the emergence of the ruling party and our own constitution, before tackling the second of Zille’s claims “which draws a link between colonialism and the development of our transport infrastructure [which] is equally distortive of history.”
“It was an official policy of the colonial government,” he says, “to use prison labour for infrastructure. Large numbers of Xhosas imprisoned after the last frontier war in 1878 were taken to Cape Town and, on arrival, turned into unpaid labourers, in the development of the rail infrastructure.” This transportation and technology theme is given better treatment if not short thrift in a parallel piece published by a blogger known simply as VaPunungwe, who asks: “what model car was Cecil John Rhodes driving?”
The same question may well be asked of Jan van Riebeeck — what cellphone brand was he using? Technology is thus to be seen within its own context, not as some imported novelty, but rather as an historical construct, within a milieu as it were. It would thus behove persons such as Mngxitama to rather stick to writing on what one knows for certain, instead of punting racist theories and speculative rhetoric as easily debunked as that of Helen Zille’s.
Nuclear is ‘safe and economic’, Andrew Kenny, IOL 2 May 2017 refers
Your correspondent, Andrew Kenny, a self-proclaimed expert and ‘nuclear power consultant’ has been delivering paid sermons and editorials on nuclear energy for the past decade. When he is not attending conferences sponsored by the nuclear industry, an industry in which he claims to be qualified, both as an ‘engineer’ and apparently also a ‘physicist’, Kenny deems fit to declaim on human morality and ethics. Both disciplines in which he is eminently unqualified and unfit to deliver an opinion.
One has merely to examine his 2015 epistle on the white supremacist enclave of Orania to see where his political affiliations and moral standards are housed. The piece was considered unfit for publication by the editor of the Citizen, Steven Motale, who in a letter to Kenny, published by Biznews.com, rejected the piece since it “might be interpreted by many as a tacit glorification of segregation and may be highly offensive to victims of apartheid. I have therefore decided not to publish it.”
That the Independent Group continue to publish Kenny’s utterances, the latest purporting to present the “moral arguments’ in favour of nuclear power, is risible and beneath contempt — given the extensive scientific and medical opinion on the subject matter.
John W. Gofman, Ph.D., M.D., one of America’s ‘most prominent critics of nuclear power’, performed extensive research on the hazards of radiation, and has written several books on the ‘relationship between nuclear energy and public health’. After working on the Manhattan Project he became concerned about the affects of low-level ionising radiation, in particular after the death of two of his colleagues working with various radioactive isotopes, which then sparked his investigation
It is thus Gofman who alerted South Africans to the problem back in the 1980s, in particular the covert nuclear enrichment programme then being conducted by the apartheid state. In an interview published by Mother Earth News, he stated “our data showed the cancer hazard resulting from radiation to be 20 times worse than we, or anybody, had thought: We calculated that, if everyone in the country received the official “permissible” dose of radiation — which at the time was 170 millirems per year — there would be between 16,000 and 32,000 additional cancer deaths a year in our nation.”
In order to accommodate emissions of radioactive isotopes such as strontium-90 (Sr90) and caesium-137 (Cs137) from Koeberg, which currently exceed European safety guidelines, allowable limits had to be raised by the Atomic Energy Board to accommodate the plant. Not to be outdone, the National Nuclear Regulator (formed after the former Council for Nuclear Safety and previous Atomic Energy Corporations of the apartheid state disbanded), proceeded to exempt a range of radioactive nuclides, not normally found in our environment (1) — exempted actions include the release of sr90 and various isotopes of caesium (range Cs131 through Cs138), supposedly resulting in ‘exposure of less than 10 petasieverts (pSv) per annum or less’.
Exactly how this government sanctioned exposure is measured when it comes to the human body and our health is highly problematic and open to discussion. The regulator appears to operate under the strange assumption that human life-span is only one year, and thus we reboot ourselves on an annual basis, setting the clock back to zero every year. There is thus no measure of the cumulative effect of low-level ionising radiation. Urgent research and baseline data in South Africa is required, and I thus appeal to the public and your readers for support in this regard.
Sr90, a by-product of nuclear fission with a half-life of 28.8 years, substitutes for calcium in bone, preventing expulsion from the body, and represents a serious health problem. So far as Cs137 is concerned, it is a long-lived high-energy beta emitter with a half-life of 30.17 years (2), one of two principal medium-lived fission products, along with Sr90, which are responsible for most of the radioactivity arriving in our diet from Koeberg.
The contamination has been measured by groups such as Koeberg Alert, appearing in wheat, dairy and shellfish — in an independent 2002 study conducted by Gerry Kuhn “samples of fall-out dust captured continuously over a 16-week period” were measured and the research is in my possession. Follow-up research is urgently required.
Dr Helen Caldicott, an Australian physician and author of books on the dangers of nuclear energy, ‘Nuclear Power is not the Answer’, ‘Nuclear Madness’, ‘The New Nuclear Danger’ and ‘Crisis without End’, examines the current ongoing crisis at Fukushima, the result of a meltdown and subsequent reaction sequence of nuclear materials called breeding. Physicists are unable to provide a proper and adequate explanation for what is occurring as we speak.
In a recent article Caldicott explains robot photos taken of Fukushima’s Daiichi nuclear reactors “radiation levels have not peaked, but have continued to spill toxic waste into the Pacific Ocean — but it’s only now the damage has been photographed.”
“Every day since the accident began, 300 to 400 tons of water has poured into the Pacific where numerous isotopes – including cesium 137, 134, strontium 90, tritium, plutonium, americium and up to 100 more – enter the ocean and bio-concentrate by orders of magnitude at each step of the food chain.”
Yet it is Kenny who appears oblivious to the impact of the Fukushima disaster, an ongoing environmental and human tragedy of enormous magnitude, brashly stating immediately after the accident, that ‘not one life had been lost’ in the incident. The man now has the audacity to state to the public, that: “unfortunately many technological choices are caught up in politics, ideology and morality” and that “nuclear power has the strongest moral case of all energy sources.”
This is exactly the same justification used for the ‘moral murder’ and slaughter of innocent citizens that was made by the former apartheid state, anything but a moral agent. One must therefore thank organisations such as Earthlife Africa and SAFCEI for carrying forward the torch of our common humanity, enshrined alongside environmental rights and our earth rights in the constitution. We must continue to oppose the untenable nuclear deals being tabled, and in particular by opposing the nuclear colonialism sponsored by various states such as Russia, South Korea, France and USA.
Far from supporting a nuclear industry carte blanche, plants such as Koeberg need to be decommissioned and closed down.
Forward to a non-racist, non-sexist, nuclear-free continent.
David Robert Lewis
Committee for the Rights of Mother Nature
(1) See Annexure 1, NATIONAL NUCLEAR REGULATOR ACT, 1999 (ACT NO. 47 OF 1999
(2) Cs137 beta-decays to barium-137m (a short-lived nuclear isomer) then to nonradioactive barium-137, and is also a strong emitter of gamma radiation. Cs-137 has a very low rate of neutron capture and cannot be feasibly disposed of, but must be allowed to decay.
WHEN the electric icebox was invented, thousands of ice haulers went out of business. At the turn of the 20th century, nearly every family, grocer, and barkeeper in South Africa had an icebox. But ironically, South Africa’s dependence on ice created the very technology that would lead to the decline of the ice empire — electric freezers and refrigerators.
During the early 1900s, these appliances became more reliable, and by 1940, millions of units had been sold. With freezers allowing people to make ice at home, there was little need to haul massive quantities across the country.
We can’t stop progress and if we do, we risk losing far more than jobs, our Earth and our human habitat is at risk. Because of altered circumstances, Eskom has decided to shut down five coal power stations — Hendrina‚ Kriel‚ Komati‚ Grootvlei and Camden. The termination of coal truckers contracts has lead to a furore, with Cosatu labelling it a “hostile act”.
We can’t turn back the clock. This is not simply about Independent Power Producers (IPPs), as 250 medical professionals and medical organisations stated in the Durban Declaration, climate change is a medical emergency. According to the Lancet, climate change is the greatest global health threat of the 21stcentury.
Each year has seen an increase in global ambient temperatures caused by the release of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) associated with carbon and fossil fuel such as coal, with the resulting melting of permafrost and the polar icecaps, retreat of glaciers, thermal expansion of the ocean and most indicators are off the charts. Africa will suffer most from increasing temperatures. Workers will be most affected by associated loss in productivity.
We can’t afford to live under domes with an altered climate, neither can we afford to miss out on the renewables revolution. Far from being a scourge of privatisation, it is one of our country’s few success stories, continuing to attract investment, continuing to produce jobs and the roll-out of renewable energy is very impressive. It represents a paradigm shift, we dare not ignore.
A way must therefore be found to accommodate the major shift in energy priorities and the sudden dislocation of an entire industry. Truckers can truck goods in other markets, we must assist them, but we cannot step back from the icebox analogy and the melting point — we really no longer need a coal trucking route, nor a coal industry and its cost in terms of human life.
One can only suggest Eskom needs to be more strategic in its approach and truckers need to given the resources to regain control over their lives. Government must assist in skills retraining and investing in adult education that will help families deal with the crisis. It must not be mislead by the unscientific opinions and haranguing of union bosses.
Extract Published in Cape Argus, Letters 9 March 2017
THE Anti-Politics of Andile Mngxitama, Zanele Lwana, Dumisani Hlophe, and Gillian Schutte have graced a number of publications over the past weeks. From City Press to Independent Online, this group of self-appointed political pundits, have become a stock source of criticism of any opposition trend which does not have the commandeerist seal of approval.
Whether it be advocacy of Mandela’s non-racial legacy, a march in support of economic development, or a campaign against corruption within the ruling party, such opposition concerns are written off as nothing more than “right-wing conservativism”, “pro-JSE market fascism” and “white privilege”.
In Whites Marched to Uphold their privilege Schutte expresses her belief that the #ZumaMustFall march “indicated the wish to shift political power back into “competent white hands”.
In see through the white nostalgia for apartheid, Mngxitama and Lwana, assert that the #ZumaMustFall campaign is “just an excuse to flaunt racism and fascism”.
In Madiba legacy a liberal construct Hlophe maintains Economic Freedom Front leader, Julius Malema is right when he says “Mandela has gone in our minds from militant to saintly reconciler”. It is not the ANC who have reconstructed Mandela from “a militant liberation hero to a reconciler, nation-builder and saintly Mother Teresa character” but rather “unreformed apartheid benefactors.”
All three pieces demonstrate a class project that is avowedly against the non-racial policies of the ruling African National Congress party and leading opposition party, the Democratic Alliance. In order to gain relevance within the ultra-leftist circle surrounding the South African Communist Party, various trade unions and the EFF, (Malema is by all accounts, a Maoist), these pundits blanket-label opposition (and government) in terms that are extraordinarily broad, and often qualified by hate speech and racial profiling.
A progressive meeting aimed at reclaiming economic policies that will avoid South Africa going bankrupt, is thus something more sinister, a conservative “reactionary movement”. An amalgam of youth, students and ageing lefties is thus either a new threat, or an old foe, the”white right-wing” organising only “under the pretext of fighting corruption”. Mandela’s legacy is therefore, a cynical “liberal construct”, a new target in the battle against neo-liberalism by the ultra-left.
It was not so long ago, when communists were on the receiving end of this kind of McCarthyiest witch-hunt, to expose persons and movements with wrong-views, divergent opinions and unlicensed ideology. What is clear, is that there is growing opposition to untrammelled government largesse, an unequal state where 40% of the budget goes towards public service salaries. A country dangerously teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. An economy being strangled by monopolies and parastatals. Since Mr Zuma came to power in 2009, says the Economist, South Africa’s finances have grown ever more precarious. The budget deficit is 3.8% of GDP. Public debt has ballooned from 26% to almost 50%. (see Try again, the Beloved Country)
Unfortunately, the drift towards fascism in South Africa, isn’t coming from conservatives within the African National Congress, and the democratic opposition, it is coming from ultra-Marxists on the ground, (and within parliament) who see themselves as a vanguard of a revolution still to come.
Whether it is in terms of the Arab Spring, which failed notably in Syria, where the result is 380 000 dead, or in terms of South and Central American failures such as Chavez, Castro and Kirchner, these pundits, notoriously thin on human rights and individual freedom, believe that ideology alone is sufficient to move the country forward.
SOUTH AFRICA’S YOUTH are experiencing an economic disconnect. A generation faced with a world without jobs, a massive debt burden, and an economy that has failed miserably to gear itself up for the third-wave technologies that Asia and the West have embraced decades previously.
While you were out striking, marching or simply shopping, the world evolved, from a bipolar economy, dependent upon China and the USA, to a multipolar universe — an economy without a centre. The rise of the Information Economy — based as it is on information freedom, has been coupled with successive innovations. The Third Industrial Revolution has produced a ‘post-scarcity economy’, where having a ‘China on ones Desktop’, a 3D printer capable of printing anything, is considered de rigeur.
Successive waves of innovation have seen — the virtualisation of the economy, the dematerialisation of assets and the Internet’s proverbial death-of-distance. Pop-up factories, makerspaces, friction-free digital copies and the ‘Internet of Things’ are all buzzwords and terms which the youth are invariably going to meet on their free education journey. In the future, your neighbour will hand you a copy of an open source motorcycle, just so the two of you can go for drive. When you return, you will recycle the vehicle into any number of other open source devices.
We are rapidly approaching an era in which robots self-assemble and produce the goods, which we buy with our wages, which are in turn given to us, via a more efficient means of production and redistribution of wealth. This is an alluring proposition. Holland for instance had moved to end labour in mining. Machines are replacing humans wherever they are found, and the full automation of society is only a matter of time.
Now, Let’s talk about the welfare disconnect
Although the country is one of the few nations on the continent to have implemented a social security programme, this programme is geared towards the elderly, disabled and child-care grants. Thus the youth of today, are born into social security — their parents are recipients of state welfare not because they are citizens, but because they have children.
Once a child is over the age of 18, this grant falls away. The double-whammy of unemployment and poverty kicks in. Some 25.5 percent of the population is unemployed and this figure is worse when the youth and first-time job-seekers are concerned, rising to 63%.
Today’s student unrest is a direct result of the situation where a pupil, having generated income for his or her family, simply by being a child, turns into a liability on becoming a young adult and tertiary student. In most cases, such a person is forced to fend for him or herself.
This is an enormous shock to both the youth and the family.
So far as social security in South Africa is concerned, we are a nation which has the cart before the horse. Instead of paying families to have children, we should be paying people to stop working.
South Africa’s youth can work and play, just about anywhere there is an Internet connection or icafe, but getting connected to the Net is not sufficient to enable jobs and free education. There are other necessities, common to first world economies which we lack as a nation, and without them, being merely connected, is simply not good enough. In fact, a job, as an end in itself, may not necessarily be all that desirable, the same way that owning anything in an economy based upon abundance, is not the alpha and omega.
Fixing the disconnect
Exactly how is the country to going pay for free education, and range of services? How are we all going to live in a world without jobs? These are the questions foremost on people’s minds, as the country sobers up to the events of the past weeks, which saw the unprecedented storming of parliament and storming of the Union Buildings.
South Africa as luck would have it, already has a ‘sovereign wealth fund’ with a massive R1.5 trillion rand invested, and certainly the youth need to be tackling finance minister Nhlanhla Nene and education minister, Blade Nzimande on why they are suffering in the face of so much wealth.
Instead of a Public Investment Corporation (PIC), benefiting one privileged generation who just happened to be in power during the 90s, let’s make the public investment more inclusive of all citizens, and all generations, and recommit the fund to its Public goals, since the ruling party appears to have lost the distinction between what is public and what is private, funding Nkandla, and government pensions for party insiders.
PIC should rather be redirected to funding a social wage for all citizens, one which includes free education, health insurance and a basic income grant. Instead of a party wage, we could have a social wage reducing the worst affects of poverty and mitigating the coercion inherent to the job market, even one that is Internet-enabled, while providing free education.
Moving South Africa from a coercive labour market to a voluntary labour market, could easily be achieved by removing the compulsion, violence and necessity to seek employment.
A job should not be a requirement in order to survive or be a South African citizen.
Labour should never be compulsory, or forced under the barrel of a gun. As Marikana has proven, people are willing to die for their freedom, and this message is now being taken up by students, who rightfully are demanding free education. The same generation will soon be demanding social security, a social wage for life.
Only the most productive labour and most capable persons would enter the wage economy. One has merely to look at social democracies in Europe to see what a social wage economy looks like:
The State disburses funds, seeing an immediate benefit to the fiscus, via the value added taxation system, which recoups the money spent, in a virtuous cycle.
Citizens with a social wage, are able to purchase the necessities of life and thus avoid the worst pitfalls of extreme poverty.
There are compelling reasons for embracing wealth redistribution in this way.
Alaska for example, pays its citizens to purchase services that would normally be gained from the state, from the private sector. In this way, the state avoids creating enormous bureaucracies which are costly and unsustainable by their very nature, and avoids the cost escalations that come from tenderpreneurs, and mega projects, whose only aim, is to keep people employed, in a world in which labour not leisure is the goal.
Societies with some form of social wage, whether social security or social welfare, produce more scientists, artists, musicians and thinkers. They are better equipped to innovate and create. They experience stability and longevity, both in terms of health extension and the extension of the period in which these societies exist, and remember.
THE boom in property prices in South Africa has meant that for many families, owning property is out of the question. Renting results in vulnerability and a number of factors below need to be considered. The move by listed property groups into residential property has further pushed up rental prices. Rents have increased on average by 10% pa, with yields at 6% compared to the inflation rate 3.90%
Rent stabilisation offers an alternative to social housing projects. In the London borough of Camden, demands for rent stabilization are producing results, and it perhaps time that similar policies were considered in South Africa.
Like Cape Town, at least a third of Camden residents live in privately rented homes, with more and more families being forced to move into a sector once considered mainly for young professionals and students.
This means that tenants have no long-term security which affects issues such as preventing children settling in their local schools and families becoming part of their community.
The average house price in Camden is £700,000 (R125 million) and is way out of reach of all but the wealthiest families. The average rent for a two bedroom property is £440 (R7883) per week and these rents and house prices are simply unaffordable for the majority of local people in a borough where average income is around £33,000 (R591 246)”
According to a report produced by the Camden City Council, “The main economic reason for introducing regulation is that the market in question is operating badly – i.e., there is market failure arising from market power; lack of information and asymmetry in that information; external costs or benefits from the provision of the good; dynamic problems in ensuring adequate investment; and/or issues around risk and uncertainty. The housing market is susceptible to many of these problems, particularly because of the contractual relationship between landlord and tenant and because it is difficult to adjust supply rapidly in the face of changing demand.”
“Regulation may also be introduced for reasons of equity and distribution. In particular because housing is both costly and a necessity of life, regulation may be introduced to make housing more secure and affordable. In these circumstances there will often be a tension between helping tenants and protecting returns to landlords, and an emphasis on the former can result in lower investment and increasing pressure on rents. In this environment it is often necessary to introduce other subsidies or forms of provision such as social housing where market returns are not required.”