Something rotten at the Cape Bar

THAT SOUTH AFRICA’S legal enterprise is essentially a predatory profession taking advantage of apartheid privilege at the same time that it denies access to legal aid for ordinary citizens on an equitable basis is abundantly clear.

Pro Bono criteria at the former Cape Law Society for instance, (now the Legal Practice Council) were set in the last century, that’s more than twenty years ago. Law clinics, at academic institutions profess to tackle refugees, ticking boxes for funders whilst passing over the needs and rights of ordinary citizens.

If you fail to meet race criteria, you are essentially cut adrift from the system unless you are able to afford legal fees that amount to dolloping up white goods to legal professionals, many of whom will think nothing of taking massive deposits without doing anything more than write a solitary letter.

The Cape Bar Council, a vestige of colonialism, is no stranger to controversy, the latest involving advocate Anton Katz, whose request for an exemption from rules governing the keeping of chambers during the Covid crisis, resulted in his resignation.

Needless to say the CBC were quick to spin the story as a tale of economic woe, claiming that their refusal to subsidise him, is the sole reason behind the complaint. Whilst Katz has expressed concern over unpaid bills at many High Court chambers, and especially its impact on young, black, legal professionals, this is certainly not his case.

More troubling though, are Katz’s complaints of entrenched racism at the Bar. Attitudes such as those contained in my complaint to the bar regarding a racist 2010 religious inquisition at the behest of an apartheid media company, in which one Colin Kahanovitz SC thought nothing of trashing the TRC report, and openly attacking me on the basis of apartheid race laws, this whilst suborning perjury from the sole witness, a woman who proceeded to give false evidence about her matric certificate.

Then there are the vultures like Labour Law Associates (see video below). A firm operating with the tacit support of the CBC. A 2017 complaint to the CBC brought nothing more than a nod of agreement from the institution, this after one of the firm’s executives proceeded to pass himself off as a member of the bar, without so much as a law degree.

Proposed SABC ‘Internet Tax’ is regressive, defeats purpose of content development

THE FIRST South Africa got wind of the draft license regulations mooted by the SABC was in the form of a broad content debate. One involving Netflix and to some degree Youtube. The country is no exception with Canada recently passing laws to compel streaming firms to pay for local content.

Then SABC Head of TV Licences Sylvia Tladi, stepped into the frey with a narrow call for stricter individual regulation to ‘improve compliance in terms of TV Licence fees” and apparently also plans to extend licensing to ‘include tablets and cellphones’. Effectively a plan to tax the Internet instead of asserting local content requirements for large Pay-per-View channels

The Kingdom of Lesotho proposed a similar scheme last month which could see individual users requiring licenses to use social media, at the same time that mobile operator Vodacom was being fingered over its own license conditions.

A similar scheme under the former Film & Publications Board would have resulted in a million censors tackling the proverbial ‘infinite supply’ of content ostensibly to earn billions of rubles in foreign exchange. A fools errand driving our Peso, sorry Rand economy, and one which would merely create a bureaucratic logjam –a national ‘PayWall’, aimed at the purse of anyone producing online content.

The problem with being seduced by this ‘Tax the Internet’, approach ( no millions of lives will not be saved during the Covid Crisis by rolling out new license schemes) aside from the fact it represents a blunt instrument –a regressive tax on a previously untaxed environment — is that it seeks to tax free content and paid content alike.

Free content provided for gratis, such as that available from the same publication you are reading right now, need I mention my Youtube Channel?

In effect, SABC would be charging its audience (read tablet and cellphone users) for access to Medialternatives copyrighted content, alongside the broader Internet, and without any forethought as to the legal consequences of such a scheme — little more than an unfair and irregular means to hijack free content and resell the result. The Mail & Guardian tried something similar back in 2007 before its news aggregation business was closed down.

Publishers such as Medialternatives and many other local and global free sites, (for example popular site MyBroadband), will not earn a cent or gain any revenue from the proposed SABC license scheme.

The old SABC TV license, like the previous Radio license, has traditionally been used to offset costs at the public broadcaster, but I fear, asking online providers of content to bail out the ageing broadcaster and erstwhile content provider, is taking things a step too far, especially when one considers the fruitless and wasteful expenditure under former head Hlaudi Motsoeneng

Robbing Peter to pay Paul , really calls into question the entire rationale behind the license amendment bill and its motivation, supposedly to rectify the adverse effect on local talent who often find themselves competing with foreign media houses. Spare a thought to those of us who find it extremely difficult to enforce copyright even at the SABC, and not least the terms of permissive licenses, within the current legal environment.

I therefore propose something similar to the highly successful Internet Black Out orchestrated by the late Aaron Schwartz, also known as the day the Internet Stood Still. In which online content providers blacked out their content to protest censorship. Until then, simply put up a banner alerting users to the proposed SABC Tax on Free Content.

UPDATE: A document entitled Suggested Approach to Drafting Digital Services Tax Legislation has emerged. Let’s hope we don’t end up with a ‘belt-and-braces’ approach to the issue.

Trevor Manual, spare us the BS

BEING HALF-RIGHT, often means being half-wrong. Former finance minister Trevor Manual, the man who seemingly quit politics to take-up a lucrative job at NM Rothchilds, a company in bed with the Rupert-Remgro-Kagiso-Naspers cabal, is no stranger to scandals. Often vocal in support of ‘Coloured identity’, he has now weighed in on the Snyman saga (see below).

SABC quotes Manual saying: ‘there’s no legislation in South Africa that requires people to provide their racial classification” and “Snyman is perfectly correct.” Then without any sense of contradiction, he proceeds to interpret the Employment Equity Act, by stating: “The Employment Equity Act stipulates that Black people means Coloureds, South African Coloureds, Indians collectively. That is perfectly acceptable language.”

Unfortunately, that’s not exactly what the EEA says. Under ‘definitions’ the act defines ‘black people” as a ‘generic term which means Africans, Coloureds and Indians’.(1) After this exercise in circular logic, it then lists ‘designated groups, meaning blacks, women and persons living with disabilities’. There is thus no definition of the term Non-African, nor any of the apartheid-era race categories per se, for example, Other Coloured.

The purpose of the Act Mr Manual, is not simply to provide for a ‘diverse and representative workforce’ in the form of affirmative action, but also to eliminate unfair discrimination in the workplace, a goal which includes ending discrimination on the basis of ‘religion and culture’. These are inclusive terms which cover the full spectrum of South African society, and however one wishes to define personhood, Africanness and class status.

And the reason I bring this up, is my decades-long battle under the Act, against a blatantly racist, religious inquisition brought at the behest of a TRC-bashing apartheid media corporation entangled in Mr Manuals’ many ventures. To paraphrase DJ Fresh, quit imposing your religious views, its just plain rude.

I therefore observe that Manual is being a little opportunistic and even racist, in seeking to spin his party’s painful neglect of the nonracial principles inherent to our constitutional dispensation. He is certainly dishonest in his failure to address David Masondo’s statements to the effect that non-racialism, as in our collective human rights, is ‘merely an aspirational target’.

Considering the manifest corruption at play with the Kagiso Group, an entity which lists NM Rothchilds as partners, and a shareholding and directorships at former labour brokerage and financial services firm subsidiary, Resolve Group — the ensuing capture of the Labour Court at the behest of Manual’s cronies is no surprise.

It was an ANC party apparatchik, and director at the time of Resolve Group, Halton Cheadle, (a man who acknowledges the respondent Media24 was his client) who proceeded to deliver a 2010 ‘decision’ devoid of fact, bashing our non-racial dispensation, upholding apartheid denial and favouring his business associates. A decision which deserves to be ridiculed for its imposition of a minority opinion within a major religion.

One can only marvel at Manual’s ability to spin the corruption dogging his party at the Zondo commission. I therefore refute Manual’s statements as nothing more than opportunistic, political bunk.

SEE: Dropping the Race Fraud Charges isn’t Good Enough

(1) Note: A 2013 High Court judgement instated more than a billion Chinese persons under the definition of black. The definition appears to exclude black persons who are not African, for example, a Maori, Inuit or Jamaican, would not qualify as African.

Senekal: Time for genuine Fair Trade Certification and income equalisation?

IT IS easy to become cynical following the events surrounding Senekal over the past two weeks. On the one hand, extremists who justify farm murders by driving an overtly racist Afro-chauvinist narrative (Africa exclusively for black Africans). A story which ignores the very real problem faced by rural murder rates, some 80% above the national average and related issues of food security and social stability.

On the other hand, lack of decent wages and career opportunities faced by thousands of seasonal share croppers, farm workers and rural labourers, is providing fertile ground to those driving a fascist post-Marikana narrative that feeds into an ongoing legacy of land dispossession, at the same time that it seeks to negate democratic transformation and the notable gains of the second Republic.

Undoubtedly solutions such as income equalisation and fair trade certification will be seen by the hard left as dissipating of revolt and reinforcing of the status quo. Maintaining the current state of affairs is not my intention. Rather, we should all be asking questions: Why is it that in order to drink tea from a label such as PG Tips which prides itself on delivering a product which is ‘farmed by workers earning a decent wage, with access to good quality housing, medical care and education for their children’, one has to look instead, towards an imported brand?

Where is the local equivalent of the Rainforest Alliance, whose certification process aims at “breaking the cycle of rural poverty—and tackling the ensuing impacts for people and nature ” a fact considered “critical for a more sustainable future for us all”?

Fairtrade, another international certification organisation “exists to empower farmers and workers around the world. Some 1700 producer organisations, representing over 1.7 million farmers and workers, are the foundation of the Fairtrade system.”

Given South Africa’s history of super-exploitation of labour, one would hope that consumers would be more actively involved in changing the cycle of wage exploitation, by demanding better work conditions on farms at the same time that we act to end farm murders, in effect creating an orderly process of empowerment of black farmer and farmworkers, without the need for political opportunism and grandstanding.

Clearly there is not enough land to give each and every citizen in South Africa a farm, and similarly we can’t all become farm managers over-night. Providing a different scenario to that faced by today’s share-croppers in the form of real shares and dividends would be a welcome start. So too would proposing an income equalisation fund, one that avoids seasonal fluctuations in wages whilst protecting the families of those affected.

Dear Mmusi Maimane

Dear Mmusi Maimane,

Your recent comments about race in particular your statement about ‘multiracialism’ refers.

It was PW Botha, the arch proponent of multiracialism, who advocated three separate houses of parliament for ‘whites’, ‘Indians’ and ‘coloureds’ at the same time as endorsing bantustans that disenfranchised the black majority.

It was multiracialism, which later became known as the multiregionalist theory of human evolution — a diabolical theory positing the unproven view that distinct races spontaneously emerged from different parts of the globe — which informed ideas of race superiority alongside the subjugation of those deemed to be of an inferior race.

The moribund idea stands in stark opposition to the progressive values of non-racialism which frame and underpin our own constitution in particular its preamble, and which compel all South Africans to recognise the injustices of the past, whilst avoiding the repetition of race-based thinking which was the root cause of the tragedy known as apartheid.

Whilst I share many of your concerns about the Democratic Alliance, and I am certainly not writing this letter to endorse a party platform, suffice to suggest that you are doing yourself and those surrounding you a grave disservice by engaging in a reactionary political discourse. A discourse that is not only embarrassing but also tantamount to treason, since it clearly runs contrary to the democratic and human rights foundations upon which this country is based.

To argue “any view that seeks to deny that race exists will ultimately deny the lived experience of many because of their race,” is a regressive step into a category error that merely reasserts scientific racism at the same time that it deflects attention away from the reality that those classified by the apartheid state, are still battling to escape its terrible legacy.

Terms such as ‘historically disadvantaged’ and ‘affirmative action’ have often been used to redress the reality, that to use author Ta-Nehisi Coates’ phrase, ‘race is the child of racism, not the father’. In contrast, it was Robert Sobukwe, founder of the PAC who once averred, ‘multiracialism is racism multiplied”.

It is clear that there are both economic and cultural components which we ignore at our peril, and just about nobody is suggesting that foregoing race-based typology is somehow a motion to abolish blackness in a cultural sense, nor a call to deny ongoing discrimination.

I agree “we don’t need to de-construct race. We need to de-construct the stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination that have been attached to race by our painful past. We also need to undo patterns of exclusion that are still based on race.”

The question really is how one goes about achieving a non-racial goal, without repeating the mistakes of the past? And to do so without turning the world into a checker-board predicated upon a notional idea of race, in which each other square is occupied by a person so defined, merely in order to create an illusion of equality?

Surely the issue is not race per se, but race-based discrimination? If one can imagine a country that is able to move beyond race, then so be it. Betraying Mandela’s dream by cancelling non-racialism is not the solution.

Attempting to stigmatise those who have succeeded in deconstructing and dismantling race-think and race-speak (as I have on many occasion), is not the path forward. Nor should we endorse similar racist views held by corrupt members of the Bar and even our judiciary, that turn persons such as myself into non-people.

I therefore challenge you to debate the many questions raised above.

Sincerely yours,

David Robert Lewis

Living in the Heart of Kakness

THE JOKE about apartheid was that ‘if you were white you could be reclassified coloured, and if you were coloured you could be reclassified black’, but ‘no blacks became white and no whites became black’. Apartheid race classification never worked, precisely because many people fell through the gaps of pseudo-scientific race categorisation.

I was thus classified ‘blanke‘ by the regime but disenrolled from the so-called ‘white race’ via a series of excisions, beginning on the day in 1984 when I was placed on a list for wanting to check out a banned copy of ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ by NR Mandela from the Jagger Library, and culminating with my de facto banning for being a member of several banned organisations.

My brief affair with a Cape Malay performer and activist resulted in an extraordinary situation created by the Group Areas Act.

Although the Immorality Act had been repealed and what we were doing was no longer considered immoral, the law did not provide any space for ‘coitus between mixed race adults’.

Nevertheless I suffered the brunt of the white supremacist rumour mill and vicious attacks by racists including an assault by an Afrikaner ‘tannie’ who threatened to report us for hosting a black artist, the late Billie Mandindi, in Tamboerskloof.

I literally started my journalism career as a ‘coloured person” working for a “coloured newspaper”.

At South Press I was taken aside by editor Moegsien Williams and told, ‘Here, we are all blacks in this newsroom”. I was not the only ‘mulungu’, alongside conscientious objector Justin Pierce and visual arts activist Andrew Putter.

After some blowback from the authorities due to my exposure of General Magnus Malan’s trophy hunting expeditions in Angola, I moved to the New Nation, a ‘black newspaper’, before joining the Cape Times as a stringer and Top of the Times writer, and upon my return from the exile which had followed the assassination of Chris Hani.

Williams’ position puzzled me, but I had discovered a similar situation existed in Jamaica where a group of ‘mixed bloods’ called the ‘Reds’ existed. Under a ‘white government’ they considered themselves ‘black’, but under a ‘black government’ they considered themselves’ red’.

I was thus alarmed to find de facto newsroom segregation still in force at Media24 community newspapers in Bellville during 2006. The observation from my first day working at WP Koerante as a sub, was that all my so-called white colleagues were sitting in ‘hokkies‘ working on titles for former white group areas.

Similarly, all my so-called coloured colleagues were sitting in separate ‘hokkies’ working on titles for former coloured group areas. My black African colleagues were in another section entirely, working on titles geared towards the townships.

A similar situation greeted me when I was moved to the Tokai premises of a recently acquired Media24 title called People’s Post. There an invisible wall separated the newsroom. On one side were my white colleagues working on two titles for former white group areas in False Bay. On the other side of the newsroom, my ‘coloured’ colleagues, working on four new titles geared towards Manenberg, Retreat, Athlone and Grassy Park.

Whilst at Bellville I had been requested to write articles for the Mitchell’s Plain Metroburger, since there was only subbing work for three days of the five day work week. The supply of my byline was outside the ambit of my subbing contract, but I negotiated with management that any articles under my byline would not be supplied under duress, and would thus constitute an indulgence awarded to the company, for which I did not receive any reimbursement.

I interviewed the poet Rustum Kozain, whom I happened to know from my days at COSAW, a banned writers organisation headed by Nobel Prize winner Nadine Gordimer.

In between the move from Bellville to Tokai, I was sent to Media24 headquarters on the Heerengracht in Cape Town. There at the offices of Die Burger I observed that portraits of apartheid statesman DF Malan still hung outside the editor’s office.

Back at Tokai events quickly got out of hand. People’s Post editor Annelien Dean, a Unisa graduate from Bloemfontein, had demanded that I present the ‘heart and soul’ of the community. This in addition to subbing news briefs, laying out the paper and training several cadets fresh out of college.

To my dismay my byline was now simply being seconded by management who proceeded to co-opt me as head of ‘kuns en vermaak’, or arts and entertainment. No extra pay. The possibility at gaining a better salary scale initially drove me, but I soon realised the cadets had been given better terms.

To make matters worse, the five day work week turned into a seven day week as deadlines set for the cadets were missed, and we struggled to get the launch edition out, resulting in excessive overtime ringing up.

It was at the same time that I realised that Dean had absolutely no clue about the communities she was servicing and even less experience running a newspaper. A press release about the nomination of Cape Jazz legend Robbie Jansen, was thus simply a snippet about some coloured guy, obviously a musician.

I resolved not to produce articles that would feed into the historical legacy left behind by apartheid and especially its egregious policy of separate development. It was then that the Jimmy Dludu story appeared. Dludlu had won the 2006 SAMA award. Not only was he a UCT Music School graduate, but Dludlu had a residence in Pinelands. Surely readers would want to know?

I interviewed the musician’s producer Chris Syren and gained access to an online music biography supplied by Steve Gordon of Making Music. Dean was not pleased at all with the biographical material supplied and rejected the article which in any event required subbing (was I expected to write content and sub my own articles?).

Nevertheless I continued to run with the story and gained access to the local jazz legend, Robbie Jansen himself. A man who had appeared on numerous Dollar Brand/Abdullah Ibrahim albums, including the eponymous ‘Mannenberg is Where it’s At’. Surely the people of Manenberg would want to read what he thought about the SAMA awards?

Jansen had a lot to say about the 2006 SAMA’s. They were the ‘se ma so’ awards. It was not ‘who you were but who you were wearing’ which was most important. ‘If it were a popularity contest’ he inferred, ‘he would have won’, but since it was about record sales, the award went to Jimmy Dludlu whom he considered a musical genius, just like George Benson. He ended the interview by handing me his secret recipe to jazz, defining jazz music in terms which were both poetic and deserving of print.

Instead of greeting the article, the last interview conducted before he passed, and which I consider to be sublime, as a worthy contribution to the newspaper, Dean proceeded to reject the article as ‘not fit for print in a family newspaper’. Besides, didn’t my story state that Mr Jansen had been told not to speak to the press by his producer? Her attitude was racist and patronising to say the least.

Then she demanded I hand over Robbie’s contact details. As a journalist I was under absolutely no compulsion to hand over this kind of information, in particular I did not have to provide access to my sources. Nevertheless I gave her the contact details of the Glen Robertson Jazz Trio.

Dean didn’t bother to call Jansen, the same way she refused to return the calls of one Rashid Lombard, a former colleague from South Press, who out of sympathy for the plight of writers such as myself offered to make his extensive archive of jazz photography available at a fee.

I picked up the phone and telephoned Media24 manager Sedrick Taljaard, complaining about Dean. His response was to schedule an evaluation meeting where my performance would be evaluated in terms of my contract.

There I sat in front of Taljaard, Dean and human resources manager Warren Charles. Taljaard explained that he was not happy with my work performance, in particular I had apparently sworn at Ms Dean, had been insubordinate, since I had not provided the telephone number of Mr Jansen.

Bear in mind that Mr Jansen had suffered cardiac arrest some months prior to our interview, was on oxygen and under doctor’s supervision.

Then he uttered words which made my stomach churn, ‘Ons het jou geld gegee, waar is ons pond vleis?’ (Which translates: We gave you money where is our pound of flesh?) This from a man who on a previous occasion had instructed me: ‘Don’t bring up the struggle’. And if I didn’t enjoy the work conditions at Media24, I could ‘vat my goed and terminus toe gaan.’

Before I could answer Warren Charles weighed in. ‘What was I doing at the West End (a Jazz music venue) on a Friday night? Wasn’t I contradicting myself as a Jew?’ I got up and walked out of the interview.

Taljaard proceeded to fire me in the passage, and I was told to get my things and frog-marched off the premises, sans the newsroom camera I had with various photographic images, in particular images of several young black buskers on Long St.

Thus began my ordeal with the South African legal authorities, resulting in an inquisition of my secular identity and struggle history, and an ongoing saga of gagging, judicial impropriety, outright corruption and state capture which remains unresolved to this day.

Revisiting Eskom Liberalisation and the Energy Commons

ALMOST a decade ago, I started openly talking about an Energy Commons yet plans mooted for splitting up Eskom remain stalled. One plan calls for splitting the parastatel into two units, another into three, but the price of electricity continues to outstrip inflation in leaps and bounds.

The basic idea behind all these proposals is to have Eskom become the main cable distributor of electricity, whilst various regional power utilities compete with each other to produce energy for clients, in an open market that allows competition.

One plan calls for Eskom to go the same way as Telkom, a listed JSE company that until recently maintained a monopoly over copper cable services, that have been supplanted by fibre-to-the-door.

An open energy system would certainly benefit the consumer and allow Independent Power Producers (IPP) to coexist whilst doing wonders for the price of electricity — introducing a range of services such as virtual metering and even leasing of home appliances, that currently do not exist.

But it is not just organised labour and union bureaucrats who are opposed to the opening up of an energy commons, with opposition from misguided ideologues who myopically fear that what they call ‘privatisation’ will mean less jobs. Municipalities and Metros currently earn revenue via the bulk sale of electricity from Eskom which is then routed to consumers, a pyramid scheme if ever there was one.

Not only is such a system uneconomical, but the costs are invariably borne by the poor, the real losers in a stalled economic environment. High electricity prices have been cited as one of the major factors effecting development.

Doctrinaire Socialist think-tanks such as Cape Town’s AIDC routinely produce media attacking energy liberalisation policies, a bugbear of the left, but without providing any evidence that opening up the energy economy will have adverse effects.

Take New Zealand for example, where 82% of energy supplied is renewable, one of the least CO2 producing nations on the planet — its electrical energy generation, previously state-owned as in most countries, ‘was corporatised, deregulated and partly sold off over the last two decades of the twentieth century, following a model typical in the Western world.’

However, much of the generation and retail sectors, as well as the entire transmission sector, remains under government ownership as state-owned enterprises.

An online article states: ‘The Fourth Labour Government corporatised the Electricity Division as a State Owned Enterprise in 1987, as the Electricity Corporation of New Zealand (ECNZ), which traded for a period as Electricorp. The Fourth National Government went further with the Energy Companies Act 1992, requiring ‘EPBs and MEDs’ to become commercial companies in charge of distribution and retailing.’

In 1994, ECNZ’s transmission business was split off as Transpower. In 1996, ECNZ was split again, with a new separate generation business, Contact Energy, being formed.

The Fourth National Government privatised Contact Energy in 1999. From 1 April 1999, the remainder of ECNZ was split again, with the major assets formed into three new state-owned enterprises (Mighty River Power (now Mercury Energy), Genesis Energy and Meridian Energy) and with the minor assets being sold off. At the same time, local power companies were required to separate distribution and retailing, with the retail side of the business sold off, mainly to generation companies.

The result is a plethora of choice where consumers are concerned, the same variety and quality of retail service we find in the world of Mobile Telephony and Internet Service Provision. A liberal energy policy is behind New Zealand’s economic success story.

There is no doubt that if Telkom had remained the sole provider of communication services in South Africa, we would have missed out on the startling technological developments experienced in this sector, instead the reverse has been true so far as energy policy is concerned.

Time to bring innovation and economics back to the energy game?

The rise of the alcohol prohibition and temperance consortium

A CAMPAIGN to eliminate or reduce the availability of alcohol under the guise of recent public health policy interventions appears to be under way. Bolstered by the ban on alcohol sales in terms of the National Disaster Act, the group made an appearance on eNCA last night, apparently to ‘debate the ban’ and a series of regulations gazetted in terms of legislation which is currently under judicial scrutiny.

Although Leslie London, of Public Health Medicine at the University of Cape Town agrees with Maurice Smithers of the African Alcohol Policy Alliance that the ban is not sustainable in the long-term, he appeared to offer contradictory information. On the one hand the initial ban also affecting transport had ‘reduced trauma cases in hospital wards’, on the other, the later ban without the transport component, ‘had not shown significant reductions’.

Mary Makgaba from POWA asserts there is ‘a strong correlation between gender based violence and alcohol abuse’, but agreed with the economic arguments that people’s livelihoods also mattered. Yet as often noted, correlation does not imply causation — the presence of alcohol is not sufficient reason to infer gender bias, in the same way drinkers are not all necessarily men.

While Makgaba was in support of restrictions, Both London and Smithers claimed that ‘alcohol is a drug’ requiring stronger regulation by government. They argue that South Africa should adopt the WHO guidelines on ‘reducing availability, increasing price of alcohol and curtailing or banning alcohol advertising’.

Prohibitionists have historically used religious arguments to ban alcohol, but today’s members of the temperance union rely upon the fact that alcohol is classified as a ‘central nervous system depressant’. Instead of arguing for harm reduction, they wish to closet alcohol use behind a veil of bourgeois values and assertions — reducing the size of beer bottles, making alcohol less affordable or simply unaffordible to the working class and poor.

Some of the suggestions made by Smithers appear eminently reasonable at first glance, for example, reducing the number of outlets or restricting the amount of alcohol available to purchase, yet each carries a price, the problem of enforcement and consequent danger of the criminalisation of alcohol users who do not comply.

After decades of filling the nation’s jails with drug users, the motion to lock up alcoholics is the antithesis of harm reduction and drug liberalisation strategies. Broader societal harm caused by alcohol needs to be weighed against the long-term harm caused by a reduction in individual freedoms and the rise of a police state — the true cost of policing and enforcement of policy, not simply upon people’s lives but also livelihoods.

The science provided was also incredibly thin, mere references to materials handed out by the WHO — there is yet to be a national review of the medical literature with any input from the social sciences and humanities.

Banning private transportation for instance, as London appears to suggest, would offer an immediate benefit to hospital wards, but just about nobody and not even the Professor of Public Health, is standing up complaining that the cost of vehicle transport on people’s lives is way too high, nor are today’s temperance union members averring that drunk-driving offences receive longer sentences.

South Africa remains a democratic republic where public health policy is set in terms of a constitutional dispensation not medical fiat. A dispensation that enshrines individual freedoms over the body, and a political reality that is not the result of the diktat of bureaucrats in Geneva, but rather a democratic revolution.

Is anyone in Pretoria listening?

Modernise SA economy to eliminate white elephants and graft to protect retail & household income.

IF YOU happen to follow the tech sector on Wall Street, you may have noticed two prominent stock splits announced over the past two weeks. The first by Apple, a 4 -for-1 split, and the second by Tesla, a 5-for-1 split. A stock split ‘creates more shares of a company without changing the underlying value of any single investor’s holdings.”

Stock splits were once considered common when a company’s share topped $100, but fell out of favour during the dot.com boom, since then, they have been making a reappearance and driving retail investors on Wall St.

If our reserve bank can lower interest rates, once considered unthinkable, then surely it is time for entrenched capital markets on the JSE to consider doing things differently?

The country’s tech sector is dominated by Naspers (NPN) and Prosus (PRX), which together make up more than 20% of the benchmark index. Both are affected by the US-China trade war and sanctions announced by Trump against WeChat.

It is a disgrace that this has been allowed to happen, not the sanctions, which I believe are well-deserved given the clamp-down on press freedom in Hong Kong and the arrest of Jimmy Lai, and failure by Naspers to support the TRC process and truth about apartheid, but rather the situation where the fate of two interlocked stocks, (Naspers NPN currently trading at some R3113 and Prosus PRX R1,690) are able to bounce the local bourse by 5-10 percentage points.

Notwithstanding the debacle over NPN share structure. The concentration of capital suggests that far from being a rosy picture of competition the South African tech sector is held captive by one or two big players. Unless the country modernises, either by making share ownership more accessible to retail investors, or by doing more to including local tech companies and startups, the country will be stuck with a failing Post-Reset resource and industrial sector , that could turn out to be unprofitable at any price.

Where the nation’s households are dependent upon income from retail investment, the nation’s finances appear to be beholden to vested interests and boardroom intrigues driven by the Public Investment Corporation. Instead of postponing a Basic Income Grant (BIG), or repositioning the PIC to take a more active role in a sovereign investment strategy, (does anyone remember that fund proposal announced shortly before lockdown?) our government could be unleashing fiscal stimulus where it matters most — creating an SMME revolution that tackles climate change, renewable energy, micro-grids and emerging technologies.

Instead of building more roads and bridges, and revisiting the siege economics of the 1970s, we could be rolling out mass transit solutions, high speed trains and technology smart connected cities to rehouse low-to-medium income families. See one award winning proposal here.

If households were empowered to produce basic necessities via food garden allotments, and electricity via community micro-grids and an energy commons, we would be in a lot better shape moving forward.

Instead of spending tax rands on white elephants such as Medupi and Kusile, we could be driving energy efficiency and large scale battery energy storage alongside an EV support programme that gets minibus taxis off the fossil fuel habit.

Instead we have created a predatory PPE kleptocracy and Eskom energy ransom system that has nothing to do with equal opportunity and everything to do with the politics of servitude and feudalism which is at the heart of the ANC ideological discourse.

Time to give Pretoria/Tshwane bureaucrats their marching orders.

Janice Gassam’s ‘How Communities Of Color Perpetuate Anti-Blackness’

Dear Ed,

Janice Gassam’s ‘How Communities Of Color Perpetuate Anti-Blackness’ Jul 19, 2020, refers.

I live in a country that for many has come to symbolise both institutional racism, and a remarkable transformation from the segregation of apartheid to the non-racialism of our democratic constitution. With many of the Mandela-era promises remaining unfulfilled, and in the light of the recent controversial address on global inequality by UN secretary general Guterres , I wish to remind your readers that our nation’s project of reconciliation and non-racialism remains a current work-in-progress.

Your correspondent Janice Gassam valiantly attempts to ‘deconstruct and dismantle anti-Blackness’ by proposing ‘there must be a normalization of Blackness’. Unfortunately, the context of race in today’s society is anything but normal. Aiming to normalise distinctions made according to race, a tired fiction at best, merely rehashes the logic of the black consciousness movement of the seventies, whose chief proponent, the late Steven Biko, sought to address slogans such as ‘black is beautiful’ at the same time that he maintained “Being black is not a matter of pigmentation – being black is a reflection of a mental attitude.”

Gassam says: “There is a commonly held belief that white people are the only perpetuators of racism and anti-Black bias and that as a person of color (POC), you do (sic) cannot hold racist views. Adopting this mindset will make deconstructing anti-Blackness much more challenging.”

She then asserts, “One phenomenon that is rarely discussed is the idea of white adjacency. While the term hasn’t been fully defined in a lot of detail, it can be thought of as the benefits received by a POC because of their proximity to whiteness.”

The link provided for the term ‘white adjacency’ is to a student news organisation, and the article is merely an opinion piece without any academic citations nor context. If context were provided, it would immediately become clear that this phrase is positioned within critical theory, and the field of subaltern studies, a field of research which examines colonialism, post-colonialism and the problem of elitism and elites.

Suggesting that all persons of colour who collaborate with their white colleagues, are simply compradors, or ‘agents of whiteness’ is a regressive political position that begs the question of who is white and who is black?

In this myopic worldview, a ‘white student’ standing in solidarity with ‘black students’ on an apartheid campus, cannot be hurt by gunfire. In the same way that it is claimed by some, that Neil Aggett was not tortured by the apartheid special branch, and Ahmed Timol, the subject of a recent inquest, wasn’t murdered.

Furthermore, identity politic of the type advocated by Gassam is bound up with a multiracial view of the world, one which instead of tackling elites by promoting equal opportunity and non-racialism, treats society rather as a binary battle between two competing groups, ‘the blacks’ and ‘the whites’. Both are racial terms which have been shot down by the broader scientific community and have absolutely no merit in academic discourse, save for reminding us that scientists once believed in distinct and separate race groups and thus a multiregionalist theory of evolution.

An identity war between the races may sound appealing, especially if it leads to more sales of Nike products, or a political counter to the Trump administration, I however fear that nothing good can come from such polarisation. Assuming that every act of collaboration with the other, is an act of assimilation, denies human rights and human agency. One may equally claim, that such acts are cultural appropriation and outright theft.

Even worse than denying universal and democratic values, positing blackness or whiteness as a new norm, risks removing any defense a person may have in law against racism. I have only to point out my own unhappy experience being classified by the apartheid state, to demonstrate why such categories are legally and philosophically problematic.


Sincerely yours,

David Robert Lewis

NOTE: Unpublished letter sent to Forbes