INDEPENDENT MEDIA has sought to reframe its fraudulent ‘decuplet scoop’, within a narrative of human trafficking. Not only is the health department pursuing charges, but the latest attempt to insert authority into the storyline by gaining a nomination for its own ‘miniseries’ on the subject, which is nothing more than a sad repackaging of events, appears to have fallen flat, after the organisers were alerted by SANEF.
“After the Inma awards competition shortlist was made public on March 8, certain concerns were brought to our attention regarding a social media campaign promoting a baby trade story in South Africa.
“Inma understands how important trust is to news media. The shortlist process can be, and in this instance has been, used to provide additional information which the judges had no access to at the time of judging.
“Given the opportunity to review information from all parties related to the concerns raised, our international judges have reconsidered the entry, and it is no longer a finalist. We respect the jury’s decision.
That they now seek to legitimise the baldfaced lies and outright falsehood by creating promotional works which are clearly in the realm of propaganda, and should hardly be considered publicity and public relations, must raise questions as to the role of the company in claiming to generate news. As the saying goes, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, not a sorry attempt to provide plausibility with what looks like a first-year video project produced by a journalism cadet.
Over the past weeks, Medialternatives has noticed the appearance of a plethora of paid propaganda pieces relating to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, stemming from questionable sources, such as Russian, Chinese and Iranian state media. It is clear that Independent believe they are able to promote the ravings of an autocrat and dictator in Moscow, whilst pushing for South African support of an emerging Anti-Democratic nexus surrounding the Eurasian despot.
We urge readers to be wary of where they gain their sources of information.
The DA is becoming the poster child of the Right, (Mail & Guardian 18 October 2021) refers
Steven Friedman claims to be a ‘political scientist’. Though his career and professorship may appear to chart a course within South Africa’s academic establishment, he merely demonstrates the parochialism which reigns at these institutions.
A case in point is the manner in which Friedman has taken it upon himself to be the ‘pre-eminent analyst within the country of the British Labour Party (BLP)’
That Friedman cannot distinguish between the polices of either the Tories nor Labour for that matter, and thus conflate both parties with the Democratic Alliance (DA), is par for the course. More alarming, is his general thesis on ”current campaigns against ‘antisemitism’ in Western Europe and the United States” — campaigns which he alleges are not aimed at racial and religious bigotry, but are rather ‘quite the opposite of their stated intentions’.
In his latest piece he states: “Power holders who not so long ago were keeping Jews out of clubs and limiting their number at universities claim to be so angered at anti-Jewish prejudice that they have passed laws to prevent it. But this is not a newfound non-racialism. The campaign is really about protecting the Israeli state, which has become a favourite among the bigoted – including some who really are antisemites – because it discriminates against Palestinians. Conveniently, branding supporters of Palestinian rights as racists can also be used to hound left-wingers out of the British Labour Party. To oppose racist treatment of Palestinians is to be branded a racist.”
When the Equality and Human Rights Commission report into anti-Semitism in Corbyn’s Labour party was released, it was damning, writes Jay Elwes in The Article. “Facing allegations of anti-Jewish racism, the report said Corbyn’s Labour was “responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination” in an attempt to counter and dismiss those claims.”
This is a far cry from Friedman’s fanciful version of events.
According the Friedman, not only was there no evidence of anti-Semitism inside the British Labour Party, but ‘the closest (the report) comes to finding that anti-Jewish racism is a problem in Labour is the claim that some in the party use “antisemitic tropes” and say that “complaints of antisemitism [are] fake or smears”.
Corbyn was thus an innocent ‘victim of a trick’, he claims, one which ‘has been used for years in the United States and here to portray racial redress as racist. Less well known is that it is now used to paint opponents of racism as antisemites, people who despise Jews.”
That Friedman was ignoring serious complaints made on the left regarding harassment of members of the Jewish Labour Movement (an anti-racist group) which had resulted in 7 MPs including Chuka Umunna, a black MP leaving the party last year is clear.
He thus continues to trot out a well-known criticism of the right, (‘mere tropes’) in an attempt to smear ‘black Labour’, as hopelessly tied to Israel, while promoting Corbyn’s reinstatement as leader of the party.
The only trick here is Friedman’s own chicanery and mendacity in attributing race to Jews and thus reducing all adherents to Judaism, to the status of simulacra. People who ‘look like they could be Jews’.
It is a common tactic of race-obsessed critics to focus attention on ‘Jews of European origin’, whilst forgetting there is a mosaic of difference within the Jewish diaspora, which includes inter alia Jews of Ethiopian, Nigerian and South African origin. Nations are not races, and rather the issue here is one of ethnicity.
In 2018 I wrote an open letter to Friedman questioning his apparent expertise on the subject of Jewish identity, his neglect of issues relating to secularism, and the problem of ‘who gets to decide who is Jewish or not?’ He failed to respond and continues to issue forth with blatantly false allegations, allegations which have not been tested in any court.
As Thomas Jefferson once stated: ‘I never will, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others.’
South Africa is a secular state with a “We, the People’ constitution. The phrase “In humble submission to almighty, God” was removed from earlier drafts of the constitution, and is a well-established narrative recorded by Judge Albie Sachs.
THE WRITINGS of Ronnie Kasrils, SACP central committee member 1986-2007, propagandist and former Minister of Intelligence under Mbeki, require the same stringency of analysis as that of Israel Finkelstein, a critic of the Bible. Finkelstein has long been accused of being a biblical minimalist, “someone who believes that only a bare minimum of the Bible is historically trustworthy”, and maintains the book was ‘essentially the work of`a creative copywriter‘ to advance an ideological agenda.
For starters, Kasrils recent opinion piece published by the Daily Maverick may be seen as an amateurish attempt to rehash the work of Shlomo Sand, who seeks to replace Zionism with Canaanism. In other words, the belief that the land of Canaan, referred to in the Bible existed, and further, was the central narrative, before the Romans arrived on the scene, only to quash the Bar Kokhba revolt, a revolt not of Hebrews but rather Canaanites.
Stampfer found no reliable source for the claim that the Khazars – a multiethnic kingdom that included Iranians, Turks, Slavs and Circassians – converted to Judaism. “There never was a conversion by the Khazar king or the Khazar elite,” he said. “The conversion of the Khazars is a myth with no factual basis.”
Daniel Lazare writing on Sand, in the ‘London Review of Books’ disagrees and says: “The Invention of the Jewish People eagerly trumpets the discovery of the archaeologist Israel Finkelstein, the foremost proponent of the new archaeology, that the conquest of Canaan never occurred and that the dual monarchy of David and Solomon, supposedly the wonder of the ancient world, was a myth. “
“But Sand also endorses the hyper-sceptical ‘biblical minimalism’ of Philip Davies, Thomas Thompson and Niels Peter Lemche, which regards such findings as irrelevant since, as they see it, the early history of Israel is actually a fiction that returnees from the Babylonian exile made up after the sixth century BCE.”
Lazare goes on to say: “Sand seems unaware of the conflict between the two views or of the fact that Finkelstein and the journalist Neil Asher Silberman issued a stinging rebuttal of the minimalist stance in 2006”
It may also be been shown that Sand’s ideas are borrowed from other sources, for example, a work published 5 years earlier by Hassan Bash, which claims to have ‘scientifically proven that the Jews of today do not descend from ancient Israel stock’ in the process repeating many racialised ideas about the Jewish people, also evident in Nazi literature.
In the same way Arthur Koestler deserves credit for his 1976 book ‘The Thirteenth Tribe‘, a hypothetical work, whose stated intent was ‘to make antisemitism disappear by disproving its racial basis.’
Despite the controversy, and the rush to displace history, Kasrils like many of today’s armchair historians, fail to note the state of Syria-Palaestina was created by the Roman Empire in its effort to quash the Bar Kokhba Revolt following “a rebellion of the Jews of the Roman province of Judea” in 135 AD. The last of three major Jewish–Roman wars, recorded by Roman historians.
Whether you believe as Finkelstein does, that the neighbouring state of Israel was larger and more significant than Judea or not, does not make this well-recorded fact of history disappear.
In order to promote the kind of replacement theory and displacement praxis that is evident on our nation’s campuses, Kasrils goes even further than Finkelstein, in his minimalist assertions and then by entertaining all and sundry with the notion that the modern State of Israel emerged as a ‘colonial project fomented by Zionists, Agnostics and Atheists.’
As a communist, Kasrils should know better than to attack Jews for being communists, in the process denying Agnostics the right to live in a secular state.
As a person affected by a racist, anti-Enlightenment decision handed down by a corrupt ANC official, a morally reprehensible tract which seeks to define and restrict Jewish identity, I must object. (This at the same time that it replaces my own case with the case of the other party, his own client — all whilst upholding apartheid justifications for separate development.) I find both replacement theology and displacement praxis and its descendent in contemporary replacement ethnography as galling as either claim by either party to the conflict.
The Kasrils text however, is one of many dubious replacement theories circulating on social media, one immediately open to refutation, not since the Bible is a Fairy Tale, whose status is similar to any book by the Brothers Grimm, but rather since modern history is replete with examples of internecine violence and failure to abide by equality in treatment under law.
In this respect Israel and Palestine are not alone, and one has merely to examine the case of Cyprus — or India and Pakistan.
A recent Time magazine article addressing the question of whether or not then Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin Husseini was the source of the Final Solution is but one example of the general problem of focusing exclusively on the Nakba whilst denying the Holocaust.
To put this matter to rest, although Husseini attended the infamous Wansee Conference where Hitler’s Final Solution was formerly adopted, the decision to ‘exterminate all the Jews, and not simply the Zionist ones’ had already been taken, and thus, the ‘invitations had already been sent out’ when the Mufti arrived to argue his case against Jewish immigration to the Holy Land.
For the record, Husseini’s position in history is much the same as the father of apartheid, DF Malan who introduced the racist Aliens Act in January 1937, restricting Jewish immigration to South Africa before the war.
Both men are responsible for condemning hundreds of thousands of Jews to euthanasia camps in Poland.
Two wrongs do not make a right. An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. Banning points of view, with which one disagrees, and as Kasrils would have it, is never a solution. Rather it is my considered opinion that the conflict in the Middle East represents a tragic case of injustice vs injustice, or as the writer Amos Oz has put it, a case of competing juridical systems.
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.
READERS may be aware of false claims made by Naspers media group, News24 stating incorrectly that philanthropist Bill Gates would be testing a vaccine against Covid-19 on Africans. The story turned out to be fake news gleaned from twitter and has resulted in a series of embarrassing retractions and apologies by the media group.
“We messed up and for that we apologised to you, our readers, and to the Gates Foundation” says Basson.
Claasen’s narrative on the other hand, is exceedingly bizarre considering his own admission: “When I was a young cub reporter, ethical accountability by the media was a rare phenomenon. Press codes mostly did not exist and a watchdog such as the Organisation of Newsombudsmen and Standards Editors (ONO), the international body today guarding over journalism standards, did not exist and was only established in the 1980s”.
One should note here that any comparison with the activities of other media houses during the struggle period referred to by Claasen would quickly assess that neither Grassroots nor South Press for that matter, had similar lapses of judgement. Whether the same can be said of the Weekly Mail and its treatment of Winnie Mandela is another story.
Although other media players acted recklessly under various media restrictions and were perhaps, victims of embedded journalism, the old Argus Group showed more backbone than Naspers did in allowing open criticism of the regime. Criticism notably missing from papers such as Die Burger during the same period.
Both Basson and Claasen should therefore be reminded that they speak on behalf of a discredited news organisation that continues to lie about its role during apartheid, was found guilty of gross violations of human rights by the commission of inquiry into apartheid, and today stands accused of waging a campaign against the TRC and also of going so far as to corruptly influence a 2010 decision by our labour legal system, in order to avoid culpability.
The public retractions by News24 editors, welcome are they may be in some quarters, are thus one of the rare moments when the Naspers corporation has found pause to consider the deleterious effects of its lack of journalistic integrity.
Surely time to demand why no retraction of the many previous ‘errors of fact’ introduced by the apartheid lie factory?
Why no public acknowledgements of complicity in the dirty tricks operation waged against anti-apartheid newsrooms and following similar revelations made by Paul Erasmus during the Timol and Aggett inquests?
Could it be that in all these cases, none of the victims turned out to be billionaires?
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.
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.
THE PAST weeks have seen a tit-for-tat ‘media war’ between local publishers INM and Tiso-Blackstar. Online periodicals and journos are all weighing in. What started out as a sequel to the recent Sunday Times debacle — an opinion piece published by Independent Media, written by one Iqbal Survé — has snowballed into quite a large ball of, well muck.
It all started when The Sunday Times, a weekend paper owned by Tiso Blackstar, was cast ‘under the spotlight’ after its editor, Bongani Siqoko, ‘apologised for a violation of the press code and alleged manipulation of several news stories’ including the so-called SARS ‘rogue unit’.
All good and fine, but then press baron Survé resorted to a hatchet job which really ruffled feathers. Instead of tackling the Sunday Times, Survé chose to smear by extension a reputable sister daily, Business Day. Apparently the Budlender report leads credence to the assertions.
Survé claims, “Sekunjalo are victims of Business Day and its shenanigans and defamatory campaign. There are desperate attempts to characterise the Sekunjalo Group in a negative way using the same Goebbels strategy.”
Which is a bit rich, considering the Cape Times’ own Goebbels strategy. The resulting verbiage escalating into a veritable diatribe against the Tiso Blackstar group in general.
All a case of sour grapes?
Survé’s “The hypocrisy and lies of Business Day” was perhaps aimed at settling scores from an ealier bout of criticism. One which began with the Independent Group’s self-inflicted Desnois controversy, (a media story about the media), shortly after Survé himself, bought the entire group, with a bit of help from the PIC, (a government pension fund).
This elicited a strange denial from PIC, which was also moved to reveal its shareholding in South Africa’s press, providing information which parliamentarians in the opposition have been trying to get hold of for decades. Surprise, surprise, it turns out that PIC lists:
1. Independent News and Media South Africa – 25%
2. Tiso Blackstar – 10.999%
3. Naspers 16.585%
4. Caxton – 0.955%
5. Primedia – The PIC is exposed to Primedia through an Private Equity Fund
That is a hell of a lot of press share equity for one pension fund, in effect the government own some serious media clout.
The response contains a a real clanger since the writer obviously hasn’t read Chapter 4 of the TRC Report special commission on the media, and is unaware of our own litigation subsequent to the publication of the report.
So this statement is just plain wrong and idiotic. “It is regrettable that the media did not have a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This would certainly have surfaced the shenanigans of anti-transformation forces in the media and the network of journalists of a particular generation.”
Roper’s ad hominem attack against Survé though badly conceived (surely 24.com is making democracy sick?), was certainly camp, “think of Iqbal Survé, that apparent love-child of a strutting peacock and a cheap piñata. ..Dr Iqbal Survé has already done massive damage to the status of a free press in South Africa. Nobody takes his (and I use the word “his” advisedly) newspapers seriously,” opined Roper.
NM veteran Dougie Oakes’ was however more balsy and to the point.
Time to go, Iqbal paints a picture of an ailing news organisation. “I’ve never come across a newspaper where a persona non grata list of letter writers forms part of its editorial policy,” writes Oakes. Chilling but not hard to imagine, given the machinations of the former Argus Group.
WHEN the Independent Group was taken over by a consortium lead by Dr Iqbal Survé, there were some like me, who hoped for a fresh start. The group quickly ran into criticism, the least of which is the highly publicized debacle surrounding the firing of Cape Times editor Alide Dasnois.
No sooner had the ruling by the Press Council been issued, when Independent announced it was withdrawing from the council, and a structure which had arrived out of decades of frenetic negotiation around a government-sanctioned self-regulatory mechanism. The reasons for the withdrawal were attacked for ‘not making logical sense‘.
“In ditching the Press Council, Independent Media listed as its main complaint the Press Council’s reluctance to reintroduce the highly contentious waiver as its reason for ditching the Press Council” wrote Julie Reid.
Previously, complainants waved legal action in order to bring their complaints under the auspices of the council, however the very reason the council had been set up was threefold. Firstly to avoid government regulation and intervention in the press. Secondly, to provide the public with a cost effective and impartial forum for making complaints and thirdly, to provide a Press Code that was not simply written by one organisation.
In its stead, Independent reverted to an internal Ombudsman system which had been in place during the years of the former Argus Group, and a state of affairs for which the Argus had already apologised during the TRC media hearings. In the process Independent dumped the Press Code, and formulated its own narrow view of the press, which appears to by nothing less than gabbering sycophancy so far as government is concerned.
In this sense, not only was the industry seemingly ‘regulating itself’, but the company was now distancing its titles from the legal system as well as the press council framework, in effect picking its own favorite regulator, a friendly Muslim, whilst playing a dual role of both editorial and inhouse complaints resolution. Thus setting in motion a situation where Dr Iqbal Survé, and his male-dominated and sectarian newsrooms, possessed an administrative override on any complaints made to his news organisation. While women still figure in writing and reporting, they are remarkably absent when it comes to editorship within the group and where they do affect editorial, they invariably occupy a symbolic role.
Of concern, is that there is currently no means of enforcing the Press Code when it comes to the Independent Group, and with our legal system being rather expensive and out of reach of the ordinary public, the result has been positively stifling.
Gone was any effort to balance news stories affecting a range of controversial subjects around the world, in particular the USA and Middle East.
Gone was divergence of opinion on the opinion pages.
Gone was the plethora of letters debating, disagreeing, and calling editors and writers to task.
In their place were editorial love letters, and weekly ravings by self-styled news correspondents such as “foreign editor” Shannon Ebrahim and “analyst” Ebrahim Harvey, two obviously Muslim persons, followed by lengthy and often turgid materialist and industrialist views of South Africa and the World. A world viewed via the narrow Islamic prism of the likes of Aneez Salie and Aziz Hartley.
A former shipping columnist Brian Ingpen for instance, is now a regular opinion piece in the Cape Times op-ed pages, providing the dull rigmerol of shipping information flowing into the gutters, alongside dense and impenetrable press releases, like that issued by DIRCO yesterday presumably testifying to the joys of a BRICS summit to be held in Joburg and thus available to buyers of the now 10 page rag, in 10 point type.
Independent titles in recent months have come to resemble government tearsheets, with short thrift given to concerns about whose opinion in the broader community should receive priority over the daily thrust of a hopelessly compromised news agency ANA, and equally boring headlines, with the one exception, that it appears INM have now launched a sports magazine, if only to allay fears that the group is going under.
Suppression of views with which one disagrees are the hallmark of authoritarian regimes. As a well-known commentator puts it, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” Having a daily press the size of Independent producing government propaganda and fan-mail for the Survé Group, whilst censoring opinion, can only have the opposite effect to liberal democracy. There is a reason why Pravda is now a fashion label and a single newspaper in Russia, and is no longer the state news agency for the Soviet Union.
NOTE: This writer is currently under an unspoken ‘editorial fatwa’ issued by INM with respect to his letters to the press see here and here and here, thus content carried by Medialternatives.
RESISTANCE to war has a long and noble history. From pacifists during the Anglo-Boer War, objectors to WW1 and WW2, conscripts against the Vietnam War and South Africa’s own Border War, the names and faces of those who have chosen the difficult path of combating militarism and state-sponsored aggression, number in their thousands.
When dissent is quashed by political expediency the nuances and cadence of individual struggle against war is lost. The evolution of the ‘just-war thesis’ and ‘holy war’ by either side to the conflict in the Middle East provides a case in point, as does resistance to the promotion of war as a solution.
The result was that I relinquished my membership of SAUJS. At the time, Israel was involved in a war with Lebanon, which in many respects was reminiscent of our own border war. It is a position which I have since lived to regret, (see secularism below). Instead of joining Handler in his “just war thesis”, which was little more than a promotion of Zionism, and thus a moral justification for his later joining the Israeli Defense Force, and with Dugmore rubber-stamping Handler’s participation, I took the difficult path of involvement in South Africa’s armed struggle, crossing the colour line and embracing the culture of resistance and rebellion.
The creation of the environmental justice movement in the aftermath of the banning of the ECC, and my work for Grassroots, South Press, Sached/New Nation form a body of work and deserve a chapter on their own. However the lesson drawn from this experience is that the Middle East problem is not as easily reducible to a binary struggle between black and white, right and wrong. Providing a rubber stamp to either of the parties to the conflict, in my case, my open support for the Palestinians, has resulted in the dilemma of today.
Faced with a difficult and unenviable predicament, I chose a very different approach, that of civil disobedience. Lodging a public objection to Handler’s participation on the platform and Dugmore’s acquiescence, (and without access to all the facts) would have merely playing into the hands of the Botha government and its securocrats. It also risked an embarrassing side-show, in a vulnerable moment. Nevertheless we exchanged words during the media briefing session. For Michael Rautenbach, this was sign that I was ‘simply not ready for the big time’.
Not only was the SAUJS involvement untenable, but as a 19-year-old enrolled in law-school, the problem did not lead itself to any immediate legal answers, save for hoping that it would all somehow pan out and that history would be the better judge. An outright objection against the “just war thesis” and the use of ‘holy war’ instead of simple resistance, would also have required a Phd essay written with all the gusto necessary to balance the complexity of the struggle itself, solidarity amongst comrades, campus spies, security police paranoia, my call-up papers and the lack of engagement by ECC leadership.
With no support for my nascent position from either SAUJS nor ECC’s Dugmore and the merry bunch of Christian fanatics who were assured of a place in heaven with emotional guidance from the Church, and with Atheists then in the minority within the ECC itself, I took my struggle against the system and my membership card elsewhere. Burning my call-up papers, I declined to participate, and instead sent the state ‘a postcard from exile’. My arrival at an outright rejection of war was much later than anticipated, and only after an encounter with the international peace movement following the democratic elections.
A secular challenge
It is a period which has come to haunt me in recent years, the difficulties following the banning of the ECC and SWAPO solidarity committee, not because I have been cross-examined by a racist bigot acting for a racist company, in an unfair legal proceeding without the aid of an attorney, on my involvement in some of the details — This whilst also being subjected to a religious inquisition of my secular identity. But because the paranoia surrounding BDS in its current form, and its supporters from the far-right in Fatah and Hamas, combined with Zionist intransigence and lack of public debate, have all moved to close down what little dissent and individual freedom remains.
There are many robust claims made by either parties to the conflict in the Middle East. The result though is invariably the same — the silencing of individual right to dissent, the removal of civil liberties, the abolition of the right to freedom from religion, the right to not be constrained by the religious views of others, the very essence of freedom of religion. Theist, Non-Theist, Atheist. For my part, the conflict is one of injustice vs injustice, a terrible ‘battle between monsters and maniacs’, whether blood on the streets of Tel Aviv, Ramallah, or Gaza, and neighbouring Syria, while the public all too readily reach out for religious texts, as easily as weapons of war.
South Africa for all intents and purposes is a secular country. We pride ourselves in our Constitution which ostensibly guarantees religious and cultural rights, and we like to think we are an exception and there is somehow continuity with our secular struggle and the struggle for human rights in the Middle East. This remains to be seen.
To date there has been no proof that we are special, except propaganda and lies. The short-circuiting of debate. The sheer religiosity of those involved. The astonishing willingness to resort to bloodshed. It is time to face up to facts and to stop the rubber-stamping and handing out of blank cheques to activists on either side, preaching the exact opposite of truth. There is another path, another way out of the conflict, besides advocacy of hatred, bloodshed and eternal war.
The very essence of secularism, according to George Holyoake, the man who coined the term, is not the absence of religion, but rather the absence of religious rules. “A Secularist guides himself by maxims of Positivism, seeking to discern what is in Nature—what ought to be in morals—selecting the affirmative in exposition, concerning himself with the real, the right, and the constructive. Positive principles are principles which are provable.”
Secularism is firmly based upon enlightenment values, the right not to be subjected to religious persecution by the state nor any religious authority or otherwise. Secular values are the ‘We, the People’ values enshrined by our Constitution which are remarkable absent when it comes to the Middle East. To date there is no Freedom Charter for Palestinians and Israelis.
If South Africans are to contribute to justice and a peaceful solution, it must be because we are also willing to defend our constitution, our own history of secularism and opposition to war in all its forms, our nation’s own war resisters over the ages, and thus our nation’s core values in the non-aligned movement.
Unlike many politico’s, we must urge seekers of peace, to do this with the courage to avoid rubber-stamping the “just war thesis” and ‘religious war’ come what may, and whatever the consequences. To avoid providing wholesale support for any of the belligerent parties to the conflict over the final status of Jerusalem, whatever the ends and means, and no matter the outcome, and without at very least, measuring the results against our own conscience, free-will and opinion.
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?
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 onlyfor 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.