De Vos over the Cliff: To cancel Icke, or not?

IT SEEMS there is an online storm brewing over cancel culture. In this weeks iteration, legal academic Pierre De Vos seeks to cancel Gareth Cliff for hosting a television show in which one of his guests was none other than the conspiracy theorist crackpot David Icke.

I interviewed Icke two decades ago, and was able to confirm, as De Vos does, that “David Icke is an anti-Semite and conspiracy theorist who claims to believe, among other things, that an inter-dimensional race of reptilian beings called the Archons have hijacked the earth and are stopping humanity from realising its true potential, and that the British royal family are shape-shifting lizards. “

Unlike De Vos, I do not believe such views warrant censorship and he is patently misguided to suggest, as he does in an opinion piece published by the Daily Maverick that the result is “a wrong-headed argument about freedom of expression, diverting attention from the ethical accountability of the host.”

Notably absent from an otherwise wordy essay on the subject, is the rationale behind the removal of the conspiracy kook from many social media platforms this year. Icke’s insistence that ‘there is no coronovirus” nor even a pandemic for that matter, resulted in his eccentric views and accounts being blocked by Facebook and other media platforms.

Instead of reviewing the science, Icke alleges a grand coverup by our reptile overlords, one that merely feeds into a fractured drama about shape-shifting aliens, best left to the terrain of Gonzo journalism once occupied by Hunter S Thompson and Robert Anton Wilson — two writers with a lot more brains and balls.

That Icke may share some of the views of the late Credo Mutwa is merely grist for the mill. He also shares similar views to early Christian Gnostics who believed in an ‘inferior god of creation’.

What is important to note, is that Cliff provided Icke with enough rope to hang himself on prime time television, and given that he has a committed cohort of listeners (and viewers), who will no doubt question such foolishness, I should add, that it is best to relegate Icke to the realm of fiction, than to advocate the self-same book-burning and destruction of individual liberties that accompanied the Hitler regime.

De Vos does his profession a grave disservice by seeking to throw Gareth over the Cliff at the same time claiming by the action of mundane letters, he is a ‘partisan politico’, driving a ‘universal imperative’ that is merely a ‘“sacred abstraction” of freedom of expression, one which “is used to shield individuals from the consequences of their own (ideologically driven) beliefs.”

In this vein, not only does the fossil seek to limit freedom of expression beyond what is already limited in our Constitution, but he also wishes to clamp down on press freedom — the self-same freedoms which he has come to enjoy, as a dissident writer whose views are often in conflict with the law as well as the ruling party.

Interviewing a subject does not translate into immediately sympathizing with the views of the interviewee, nor may one ascertain an agenda beyond what may be construed as controversy and attention-seeking. And as the old phrase goes, ‘please do not shoot the messenger’.

Advocates of cancel culture really need to be served with fair warning, doing so without a fair hearing, and whilst jettisoning the audi rule, risks cancelling media freedom and what little remains of justice (do we really need to remind ourselves of the pitfalls of the current system based upon apartheid double standards?).

In the melee that occurs when mob-justice is replaced by the dictates of faceless deletionists, and where super-efficient censorship technology is advanced as a political weapon, we end up resembling China whose ruling party censors and keeps tabs on its citizens via face recognition, and artificial intelligence.

And so sorry Pierre, Tutsis are clearly not aliens, and neither are the Hutus. The provided rote examples, common to many defamation cases, often used to demonstrate harm, surely do not apply to the realm of science fiction and fantasy, and unproven theories such as cold fusion?

One may as well take Darwin to task, since his proven theory of evolution inspired racists, as it no doubt inspires today’s informationists, those who regurgitate information found online without bothering to check facts and sources.

Does Icke deserve a platform? Not necessarily see here. Should Cliff be lending a bit of the spotlight to such blather? Probably not. But at the end of the day, it is really all just conspiracy theory, and it is Icke’s defence that he is merely relaying us information, whose sources are often obscure, irrelevant and unscientific, and as if that were a crime?

As an end-note, the test in this case, is really one of mental capacity or mens rea, since if you believe Icke, you will believe anything, and whether he possesses criminal capacity to do harm (or cause harm), has not been proven. One could even say that Karl Marx had a vendetta against bankers, and needed jail time, instead Britain gave the man sanctuary, and the world is richer or poorer for it.

SEE: J.k. Rowling and 150 other authors call for an end to the ‘cancel culture’

SEE: Nick Cave: ‘cancel culture is bad religion run amuck’

Study apartheid, revisit the TRC, reinstate the constitution

A PETITION circulated by Nyasha Mboti, asks: “Why are there no Apartheid Studies in South Africa, or in any other country across the globe? In 1994 Nelson Mandela said “Never, never and never again” to apartheid. But how do you say “Never again” to something that you do not study?

Mboti adds: “There has been no interest in provisioning for the formal study of apartheid. There is no degree programme, or even an apology of a course or module, even at 1st year level only, called Apartheid Studies. There is not a single Centre for Apartheid Studies, or Institute of Apartheid Studies, or Research Chair in Apartheid Studies, at any of the 25 South African universities – or anywhere around the globe. The universal absence and neglect of Apartheid Studies is a blot on the world’s conscience.”

The reluctance to tackle South Africa’s past has lead to denialism within our nation’s institutions and a general lapse of constitutional provisions within the justice system. Is the constitution even worth the paper it is written on?

The matter is compounded by the NPA’s failure to prosecute perpetrators, amidst a collapse of the amnesty provisions of the TRC Act. This has lead to crimes under apartheid being treated as if the were mere petty offences, or had simply occurred under the current dispensation, and thus lack the necessary characteristics that accompany the crime against humanity, known as apartheid.

Sipho Ngwema, NPA spokesperson for example, issued an irrational statement last month in regard to the Timol inquest, falsely claiming that the law of prescription applied: “As far as the assault charges at John Vorster Square are concerned, prescription has set in, as a period of 20 years has passed since the commission of the offences in 1982/83.”

This without any word about the actual murder of Timol, a capital crime for which no prescription period is applicable.

The NPA statements echo equally false statements, issued in writing by Legal Aid South Africa, and follow a racist decision handed down in March last year by AJ Martin of the High Court, impugning the TRC Act and essentially refuting the Preamble to our Constitution.

Despite the shoddy legal environment in which apartheid crimes are effectively lauded by the authorities, even if the delicts may be ongoing and the impact and effects, immediate, there remain public calls to charge perpetrators for their crimes against humanity.

Shannon Ebrahim writing in the Cape Times says: ” In the case of South Africa, the liberation movements showed great magnanimity by agreeing to allow the perpetrators of similar brutality under successive apartheid regimes to receive amnesty if they fully disclosed their crimes at the TRC.”

“While many did come forward and admit to their crimes, there were rarely full disclosures, and far too many ­senior members of the military and police failed to apply for amnesty, believing they would never be found or prosecuted.”

It is the gross failure to take action against those who did not receive amnesty, alongside a stark refusal to provide legal aid for the victims, which is particularly troubling. The result is denialism, denial that a crime occurred, then followed by denial of justice.

Hopefully the call for the institution of apartheid studies on our nations campuses alongside renewed interest in the body of evidence that begins with the TRC Report, will result in corrective action being taken to reinstate the constitutional framework. One which begins, by stating, “recognising the injustices of the past”.

Kasrils debunked, I no longer believe in the Middle East

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. 

Sand has been taken to task for presenting “dubious theories” regarding Jewish identity as historical facts. His controversial claim that Ashkenazi Jews are descended from Khazars, who purportedly converted in the early Middle Ages, has been debunked by Shaul Stampfer in the Journal of Jewish Social Studies.

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 and for 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.

To put this bluntly, like Peter Beinart in the New York Times, I no longer believe in the Middle East, but can imagine a Jewish home in an equal state.

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.

In particular Kasril’s failure to discuss the Farhud Massacre, ‘the violent dispossession” carried out against the Jewish population of Baghdad, Iraq, on June 1–2, 1941, and followed by the expulsion and dispossession of property of Arab Jews speaks reams of the bias and double-standards at play in his argument. Between 1920 and 1970, 900,000 Jews were expelled from Arab and other Muslim countries.

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.

Having said that, there is much to be said about objecting to the current dispensation, whether by opposing annexation and the separation barrier or by promoting equality, in a binational state, or a plurinational confederation.

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.

UPDATE: Read Johnathan Tobin response to Beinart

MOGOENG MOGOENG: STATEMENT BY TWO WAR RESISTERS

AS ANTI-APARTHEID activists, war resisters and peace-builders, with a long history of opposition to the unbridled use of force to achieve political goals, we understand the many predicaments faced by those wanting to build peace in the Middle East, and act in solidarity with those who refuse military service to the Israeli state.

The controversial statements by our nation’s Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng have thrown into stark contrast the divergences of opinion on the subject of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

It is not our objective here to issue dogma nor to take sides on whether or not sitting judges may issue forth with their private or personal views on the subject, nor even to take issue on whether or not Mogoeng Mogoeng was speaking in his capacity as the chief justice or as a private citizen.

Rather and more pertinently, we wish to state that the religious justifications for support of the Israeli state by some within the Christian faith, and a judge holding high office, raise crucial and important questions about the overall neutrality of our justice system, especially the right to dissent from religion when it comes to the issue of secularism.

According to George Holyoake, the man who coined the term, ‘secularism’, and who was imprisoned for his belief that all laws should be subject to rational debate, “Secularism is a series of principles intended for the guidance of those who find Theology indefinite, or inadequate, or deem it unreliable.” (1)

Holyoake went on to say:- “”A Secularist guides himself by maxims of Positivism, seeking to discern what is in Nature — what ought to be in morals … Positive principles are principles which are provable.”

Secularism is not the absence of religion, but rather the absence of religious rule.

For instance, Moses Mendelssohn, (one of the key figures of the Jewish Enlightenment ‘Haskalah’) outlined the central thesis of separation of secular and ecclesiastical authority, in his 1783 book ‘Jerusalem oder über religiöse Macht und Judentum‘, stating ‘the state declares laws, religion offers precepts.’

The principle of separation of state and religion is thus the basis for the Progressive movement within Judaism in South Africa, whose adherents are predominantly secular.

In a critical review of Tarek Fatah’s Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State (3) Professor Nader Hashemi writes, “given the European roots of secularism … the challenge for Muslim democrats is to develop coherent and indigenous arguments in favour of religion–state separation as part of a broader strategy for advancing democracy.”

It is important to note that our own democratic South African Constitution begins with the words:- ” We, the people of South Africa,” and not “In Humble Submission to Almighty God”.

We therefore wish to remind the Chief Justice of the controversy surrounding secularism during the adoption of the preamble and the elegant solution achieved by our country in creating a separation of powers and neutrality in religious outlook.

This was achieved by dropping: “In humble submission to Almighty God”, and appending Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika.

We further wish to commend Zane Dangor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for opening a necessary and crucial space for dissent on the subject of religion, by issuing a statement reiterating South Africa’s ethical leadership and moral stance on Palestine. One guided by International Law at the same time that it seeks to uphold the Chief Justice and his rights as a citizen, by stating “he has a right to differ with the foreign policy position of South Africa”

The conflict between Palestinians and Israelis has been waging and ongoing for over 70 years — the prospect of peace has continued to elude our generation. In seeking to find a solution, now is the time to open critical debate (4) by defending the rights of those with differing views within our own country, to speak. 

Talking out the many issues faced in the conflict, ‘Lusaka-style dialogue’, is the only way to solve problems without resorting to more violence and kragdadigheid.

SIGNED ON THIS DAY:

David Robert Lewis

Michael Graaf

IN Cape Town

NOTES

(1) Principles of Secularism, George Holyoake; Austin. & Co., 1871.

(2) Mendelssohn, Moses (1783), Jerusalem: oder über religiöse Macht und Judentum. Von Moses Mendelssohn. Mitallergnädigsten Freyheiten, Berlin: Friedrich Maurer

(3) Political Islam Versus Secularism — A review of Tarek Fatah’s Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State. Nader Hashemi, 2008

(4) Read Rabbi Warren Goldstein’s response to Judge Cameron here.

BRIEF BIO

David Robert Lewis has written and worked for several titles banned under the apartheid regime, including South Press, Grassroots, and New Nation. In 1987 Lewis refused to stand on a combined IDF-ECC platform alongside Cameron Dugmore and then SAUJS president Johnathan Handler. Handler had objected to SADF troops in the townships but asserted his unconditional support of the IDF. The ECC was later banned in 1988 along with its members, as was the Swapo Solidarity Committee, of which Lewis was a member.


Michael Graaf was sentenced to one year in jail, suspended on condition that he completes 2400 hours of unpaid community service at King Edward VII Hospital, at the rate of 72 hours per month. In October 1990 Graaf was found guilty at the Pietermaritzburg magistrate’s courts of refusing to serve in the SADF. Mike was objecting to a camp call-up for the 15 December 1989. The sentence was set aside in June 1991 and he was able to stop his long hours of portering at a Durban hospital.

Lord Musi, quit calling yourself a judge

IN THE PURSUIT of ‘open debate’ on the touchy subject of who is an African and who is not, commentators often fail miserably in their characterisation of continental identity as solely a ‘race issue’, in the process repeating many of the racist tropes and typology of the past.

If one follows Thekiso Musi on the subject, in ‘Don’t call me a black African’ published by Sunday Independent, and supposedly in the ‘interest of generating public debate’, one could be forgiven for adopting a mistake common to many, that of believing the word Africa, denotes ‘exclusive place of the people with the dark skin’.

The retired judge is not only wrong on this count, but his views require a quick history lesson, if not a full traversing of law.

Several well-established theories abound regarding the term Africa and its provenance, all pointing to weather and geography, not skin colour as the over-riding factor in attributing identity.

According to one theory, It is thought that the Romans called the region Afri-terra, meaning “the land of the Afri.” Later, this could have become contracted to form the single word “Africa.”

Another theory is the name was acquired during a series of three wars known as the Punic Wars between Rome and the ancient North African empire of Carthage (present day Tunisia) from 264 BC to 146 BC.

The word “Africa” is thus either derived from the Greek word “aphrike” meaning “without cold,” or from the Phoenician word “Afar” which means “dust” or from Latin “Aprica” which means sunny.

Another theory has it that the term is derived from two Phoenician words, “friqi” and “pharika.” Thought to translate as corn and fruit. Yet another theory suggests that the continent’s name came from even further afield, brought by traders from modern-day India. In Sanskrit and Hindi, the root word “Apara,” or Africa, literally translates as a place that “comes after.” In a geographical context, this can also be interpreted as a place to the west.

It is the modern emphasis on otherising Africa, as a place distinct from the West and in the face of a tragic history which has lead to terms that have less appeal to rationality and reason, than the return of a historical, albeit racialised claim to continental nation-building, one consistent with earlier racist attempts to build a white Volkstaat.

The distinction made today, between African and Non-African is as galling as the distinction made by the apartheid state, between European and Non-European, and so too Aryan and non-Aryan under Hitler’s Germany. Readers may recall the repugnant emphasis on pseudo-scientific race classification which was the hallmark of both regimes.

What exactly marks a person as African or Non-African? Is it ever possible to tell who is African and who is not by simply looking at a person? Are all black persons African? The former judge’s musings on the subject show evidence of a deep seated discomfort with identity that is not solved by our judiciary refusing to accept that such distinctions are, in and of themselves, racist. There is certainly no scientific basis for inferring a separation between the species.

For starters, Musi appears to assert the term ‘African’ refers exclusively to those who are ‘native to Africa’, and hence Africans can only be black and the term ‘black African’ is merely an unnecessary repetition. On the flip side, a ‘white person’, he seems to assert, can never be considered African since ‘Africans are not considered Europeans when they move to Europe’.

“By way of analogy,” says Musi, “an African who has permanently settled in Europe may acquire citizenship of whatever European country he/she has settled in, but he/she cannot be called a European. “

“If he/she has the citizenship of, say France, he/she is a French citizen and may be referred to as French, but that does not make him/her a European”.

These assertions are not backed by any evidence and contradict International and European statutes which assert both the equality of citizens and the right to individual identity. The term Afro European (or simply European) for instance, refers to ‘Europeans who trace at least part of their ancestry to Africa, mostly to former colonies’.

There are some 15 million people of African or Afro-Caribbean descent, living in the European Union comprising over 2.5% of the total population. Notable Afro-Europeans include the French writer, Alexander Dumas, tennis player Yannick Noah, and Rama Yade, a Senegalese-born French politician. They would all no doubt object to Musi’s characterisation of their status as ‘Non-Europeans’, as too would anyone confronted with the apartheid states own pencil test.

Bizarrely, Musi proceeds to conclude that since we as South Africans have a common citizenship ‘there are black South Africans and white South Africans’, just no black or white Africans.

“In South Africa, writes Musi, “we share a common citizenship with our white compatriots (and others) and we can, therefore, talk of white South Africans and black South Africans. But Africans should not get confused and call themselves “black” Africans.”

This is nothing less than racist twaddle, narrow-minded tinkering, chauvinistic bunkum and bigoted opinion by a member of our judiciary. Instead of asserting non-racialism, that we are all human beings, possessed of equal rights, Musi proceeds to claim race as a necessary defining factor in our lives. In this respect, we are all the poorer.

Far from encouraging open debate, the judge must be seen as a spokesperson for a moribund ideology, one that has succeeded in turning my own person, and others, into an absurdity in the eyes of the law.

The far left’s tenuous grip on Covid-19 science

DR MBUYISENI  Ndlozi, a man with a PhD in Political Science from Wits is no expert on epidemics and virology. As a spokesperson for far-left opposition party, EFF, he is a regular guest on national television and a staunch opponent of any relaxation of the hard lockdown.

Like many popular commentators on Covid-19, including myself, Ndlozi was quick to compare the pandemic to the Spanish Flu of 1918. Just how wrong this comparison has turned out, can be seen by the fact that several pandemics have occurred since the Spanish flu, each with their own lesson for humanity.

In February 1957, a new influenza A (H2N2) virus emerged in East Asia, triggering a pandemic (“Asian Flu”).

The Hong Kong flu (also known as 1968 flu pandemic) was a flu pandemic whose outbreak in 1968 and 1969 killed an estimated one million people all over the world. Woodstock occurred during the pandemic.

Nobody remembers these epidemics because there was no social media, no lock-downs and no cessation of economic activity. The world survived and only remembered the Spanish Flu epidemic from 1918.

“Should we be comparing Covid-19 to flu at all?” asks science journalist Laura Spinney. “The viruses that cause the flu and Covid-19 belong to two different families. Sars-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, belongs to the coronavirus family. And in that, there are greater similarities with SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome, that originated in China in 2002) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome, which began in Saudi Arabia in 2012).”

“Unlike flu, which spreads rapidly and relatively evenly through a population, coronavirus tends to infect in clusters,”

Spinney writes. “In theory, that makes coronavirus outbreaks easier to contain, and indeed both SARS and MERS outbreaks were brought under control before they went global.”

Most importantly, she says, the world has changed a lot between 1918 and now.

“In 1918, a large number of people chose to follow what religious leaders were saying rather than heed the advice of health experts. For instance, in the Spanish city of Zamora, the local bishop defied the health authorities by ordering evening prayers on nine consecutive days in honour of Saint Rocco, the patron saint of plagues. Churchgoers lined up to kiss the saint’s relics. Zamora recorded the highest death rate in Spain, and one of the highest in Europe.”

Ferris Jabr of Scientific American, writing in Wired agrees and says:”Coverage of the coronavirus pandemic teems with monstrous and sometimes contradictory statistics.

“Among the most vexing figures flitting across our screens, and spreading via text and tweet, is the case fatality rate (CFR)—the proportion of known infections that result in death. Early in the Covid-19 pandemic, World Health Organization officials announced an average CFR of 2 percent. Later on, they revised it up to 3.4 percent. In contrast, numerous epidemiologists have argued that the global case fatality rate is closer to 1 percent. These might seem like small differences, but when multiplied across large populations they translate to significant discrepancies in overall deaths.”

The novel coronavirus pandemic however remains “a major threat that demands a swift and robust response,” writes Jabr. “Even a fatality rate between 0.5 and 1 percent is extremely alarming in a world as populous and interconnected as ours. Another crucial consideration is the virus’s potential to induce severe illness that may not be fatal but lasts for weeks, straining hospital resources and potentially leaving some people with lifelong health issues.”

Ndlozi is therefore right to reiterate the initial concerns raised by persons such as myself, with regard to the virulence and infectiousness of the virus. Its rapid spread took everyone by surprise, and without sufficient controls many lives would have been lost. But he is just plain wrong to suggest without any evidence, that a blanket, hard lock-down applied to the entire country will provide any benefits moving forward.

South Africa has aggressively intervened to contain the epidemic. But it is far from clear which strategic outcome is being pursued. “Is it following the lead of countries such as New Zealand or South Korea and trying to stop virus transmission altogether until a suitable vaccine becomes available? Or is it attempting to manage the infection rates so that extreme peaks in morbidity are prevented? “asks Alex Van Den Heever et al.

The cost of embracing a zero-risk policy is more likely to lead to ‘untold economic misery’ for ordinary South Africans and will prove ultimately futile in areas where social distancing is unworkable, witness the long queues for food across several of our provinces.

Those living in lockdown in South Africa’s townships are bound to experience a double-burden of hardship, not only do they risk losing their jobs, but also family members to the disease. The control measures over the food supply have already backfired.

A recent panel discussion hosted by Francois Picard of France 24, The Debate, highlighted the different approach taken by Sweden which has balanced control measures while avoiding a hard lock-down thereby avoiding an economic situation that ‘nobody will be able to live with’.

So summarise some of the current epidemiological thinking on Covid-19, articulated by Nobel laureates, high achievers in the arena of science as opposed to political studies — in essence the pandemic ‘represents a few extra weeks of average deaths for our population’. A hard lock-down merely pushes these deaths ahead of us, without much benefit. In any event we will still experience waves of the disease moving forward.

Hard lock downs are not the solution. Other ways to control the virus must be found. They might include limiting access to certain districts, keeping entire Cities in one level while other parts of the country are allowed to open up. Fighting the virus wherever it flares up in hotspots but allowing life to continue where it has not.

Cape Peninsula transport plan: Here are some alternatives

CAPE TOWN has a transport framework plan, but does it work for the Cape Flats and Southern Peninsula, where daily traffic jams, and peak hour gridlock are compounded by a Metrorail service that is falling apart as we speak? Is getting across the City more difficult and expensive than getting to the CBD?

The City’s “comprehensive integrated transport plan” is anything but, offering little more than a gradual roll-out of the popular MyCiti BRT system, a system unsuitable for linking the City’s North and South corridors.

It will take years for the BRT to link the Southern Peninsula to the CBD and when it does, it is unlikely to offer “rapid transport” to downtown, but rather will act as a means of linking various transport hubs.

Current plans by the City to simply takeover Metrorail are unlikely to come to fruition, since the system is a national government competency under the aegis of PRASSA. In a sense, the system comprises several major arteries and can never be shut down, instead it limps along, as government dilly daddles on providing new rolling stock and much needed upgrades to the four major lines. Meanwhile Cape Town is booming, and is fast becoming a Mega-City with a growing population (4.3 million) and geographical footprint reaching from Atlantis to Sir Lowry’s Pass, an area the size of Los Angeles.

Radical interventions by public and private enterprise are therefore needed.

I list some of the visionary possibilities below, to bring Capetonians and transport closer. Together we can make these ideas more than just a dream.

North-South M5 Monorail

Lagos and Singapore has one, why not Cape Town? A monorail (pictured below) would transport passengers from Mitchell’s Plain and Muizenberg along Prince George Drive reaching Maitland, Milnerton and Montague Gardens, and acting as a conduit to Century City. Gliding along a centre rail, and able to go from one end of the City to the other in less than 8 minutes, the high-tech solution would use existing infrastructure, requiring modest upgrades along the route of the highway. As a premium service it would take pressure off the Metrorail, eventually allowing the railway to be shutdown for major repairs.

Waterfront Light Rail System

Like the UK’s Dockside Light Rail, the system could link Green and Sea Point to the Waterfront and beyond and carry routes to Signal Hill, Table Mountain and Robben Island. Obviously a Robben Island route would require an undersea tunnel, but with the latest boring technology underground tunnels are becoming increasingly more feasible and economical. Cape Town used to have a similar light rail system known as the Tramway, reaching as far as Camps Bay, and any project which reduces the traffic going over Kloof Neck would be more than welcome.

Newlands – Devils Peak – Vredehoek Commuter Tunnel

Simply cutting out a major obstacle for commuters entering the CBD, and as experienced by residents of the suburbs of Constantia, Wynberg and Newlands, each and every day, and vice versa, all those living in the City Bowl wanting to travel South, would bring the City and its citizens a lot closer, while removing pressure on Philip Kgosana Drive (formerly De Waal Drive), a sad place to be in rush hour traffic.

Noordhoek – Silvermine – Tokai Commuter Tunnel

Anyone who experiences the tragedy of morning traffic and gridlock from Kommetjie, and places further afield, will appreciate a shorter commute brought about by new technology. Boring a tunnel under Ou Kaapse Weg and, chopping some 50km off the route would be a godsend. Again, the decrease in the cost of boring technology would make such a tunnel more feasible, but is likely to upset conservationists.

Other Commuter Tunnels to consider

A Bo Kaap -Signal Hill – Sea Point Tunnel, and an Oranjezicht- Table Mountain – Bakoven Tunnel both cutting through their respective mountains, would all act to remove morning and afternoon gridlock in the City, while reducing the gated community effect which makes such places seem out of reach of ordinary people.

Table Bay Hydrofoil and Hovercraft

Novel ocean-going interventions across Table Bay such as a hydrofoil boat or a hovercraft could all act to bring the true Northern Suburbs (not those to the East of the City) closer to the CBD, whilst boosting tourism. Think of spending just 20 minutes on a boat instead of 45 minutes in traffic from Tableview and Blouberg and you have the picture. Besides faster oversea links, the undersea links (as already suggested, the initial tunnel from the Waterfront to Robben Island), might also create a branch off to Table View in the distant future, making it possible to simply ride a bicycle into town from Atlantis.

False Bay Inter-Links

Similar oversea tech and underwater tunnel solutions linking the City’s False Bay coastal suburbs, for example, Simon’s Town with Strand, Gordon’s Bay and Rooi Els and beyond all offer benefits. A further route to Hermanus would carry major economic value, as would short hop air solutions linking smaller towns such as Caledon and Paarl. Imagine flying ships like some of the new air dirigibles being built in the USA, cutting down travel time in the Cape and allowing for a better quality of life to those wanting to escape the slums.

Cape Flats Canalisation

Building canals is an ancient means of creating transport across land. With a low water table, there are plenty of opportunities to connect the Cape Flats without building more roads. One plan already mooted would simply join the two oceans, but saltwater is problematic for aquifers. With a little thought one can imagine a system of locks and canals providing “waterfront” to residents of Manenberg and Mitchell’s Plain. In fact there are already several Vleis where transport opportunities have not been given much attention and could be better utilised.

 

 

 

Energy commons a way out of Eskom’s debt trap?

OPPOSITION leaders, including Musi Maimane and Mosiuoa Lekota have called for an end to the anti-privatisation fiasco, but the solutions on the table need not entail the wholesale privatisation of state assets.

Moving South Africa forward to a better economic future could include the creation of an energy commons. In this scenario Eskom would become merely the operator of the national grid. Allowing the generation of electricity to form the basis for new enterprises, each of which could compete for access to the consumer, by providing a host of services, including the provisioning of technology.

Think of mobile phone companies and the convergence which has occurred on the Internet. New virtual electricity companies could provide consumers with choices including access to dishwashers, microwave ovens and other household technology — choices in renewable energy, women-friendly companies and other solutions that are just not available under the current system.

An energy commons that served as a repository of energy for the good of the nation, would allow greater competition at the same time as maintaining government control over the fiscus. Thus un-economical energy systems and bankrupt energy companies would be allowed to whither away and die. Only the most efficient energy providers would be allowed to survive, removing the need for annual bail-outs.

Essentially what South Africans (and especially small business) require the most, is cost-effective wattage hours. But doing this would require the removal of the inefficient, apartheid-era, extractive and exploitative sale of bulk electricity, the system which has been the backbone of municipalities since the days of race segregation. Under the current regime, Eskom sells electricity to local municipalities who in turn sell energy to the consumer, resulting in a profit pyramid scheme.

Creating a more  horizontal energy system that is localised and avoids wastage associated with highly centralised projects and transmission over distance, (some 6-15% of electricity is lost this way) presents a number of gains for the consumer. Instead of draining our economy, we would see new enterprises, greater employment and a bigger tax-base.

Allowing municipalities to invest in new energy start-ups, in the same way as the government owns shares in Vodacom, could provide a way out of this cash cow problem. Instead, Minister Nene is now selling these “non-core stakes” to cover his administration’s bail-out of moribund and inefficient state-enterprises.

Think of the national grid as the backbone, and the energy commons as a pool of energy into which energy providers contribute, thus providing access to basic services, and then where value-added services are bolted to this mix, is one way of looking at the solution.

A 1998 White Paper, recommended that Eskom  be split into separate generation and transmission companies to “assist the introduction of competition into electricity generation”. Reform of a bloated “vertically integrated” monopoly that controls electricity supply from start to finish has been stymied by labour demands that boil down to maintaining a dirigiste economy in the form of state capitalism.

South Africa inherited the apartheid state apparatus, which included Eskom and Telkom. These two monopolies are government-run corporate entities known as parastatels. Both are dependent on annual bail-outs from the treasury.

The cost of the latest Eskom bail-out has been included in the 2015 budget announced by Minister Nene at a whopping R23bn, and this comes upon rate hikes and increases in the cost of Eskom services to the consumer.

Nene’s rationale for maintaining the monopoly is exactly the same rationale as previous ANC administrations: “30% of South African’s do not enjoy access to electricity, Eskom is the only way we can provide them with services”. The policy of maintaining an energy monopoly which is responsible for most energy generation, while gradually opening up the market to a minority of new Independent Power Producers, has meant this figure has remained unchanged. In other words, like our unemployment figures, the percentage of South African’s without electricity remains the same, since enterprise development is not able to keep up with the countries increase in population.*

Another factor is the peculiar ideological focus of the ruling alliance. The ruling party is in reality a centre-left alliance of union and business factions. The ANC thus balances its business interests with the interests of unions and the SACP resulting in a beast not unlike Dr Dolittle’s pushmi-pullyu. The downgrading of Eskom’s debt and the inquiry into its operations (there is only one electrical engineer on Eskom’s board) all point to a crisis in South Africa’s energy sector.

At the end of the day it is the consumer who stands to benefit from greater choice in energy providers that would be provided by a more efficient energy commons.

* South Africa’s population grew by 15/5% since the ANC came to power in 1994. A one-child-per-family policy as implemented in China and the basis for the country’s current economic success, could prevent the increase of the population from 52 million to 100 million over the next two decades.

SEE:

Eskom Blackout Saturday

Looting of SA Energy Sector

Ismo could solve Eskom’s conflict of interest

Nelson Mandela, the Kemal Ataturk of South Africa

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WITH THE events of Taksim square fresh in my mind, it strikes me that Nelson Mandela is the Kemal Ataturk of South Africa. For starters, our country’s first president is a non-sectarian father of a Secular State. This in itself is no mean achievement. With the world lurching towards sectarian warfare in the name of religion we could do well to see Madiba in a better light than the one cast by the ruling party which pays lip-service to the values enshrined by our constitution and Bill of Rights.
944812_10151755622315934_572663590_nNelson Mandela the founder of democratic South Africa, was a non-sectarian and bipartisan. His life casts a massive shadow over events in both the 20th and 21st century. Long after he passed away in 2013, people will look back to see that he was many things. Not simply a revolutionary and freedom fighter, Mandela authored a Bill of Rights which contains secular rights and freedoms that present unique contributions to the democratic order. In the same way that people speak of Jefferson as a law-giver, Mandela was a Moses to his people.

Like Kemal Ataturk the founder of modern Turkey, Mandela brought South Africa, kicking and screaming, into the new age, enshrining freedom of speech, cognitive liberty, sustainable development and a host of rights which include freedom of sexual orientation, gay rights, women’s rights, children’s rights and so on. To his critics, Mandela compromised and negotiated away the struggle. But in return he offers us so much more than an economic debate.

That he was not an economist but rather a jurist is clear. Preferring to leave such problems up to future generations, Mandela stands tall in the history of civil liberty and human rights enacted via progressive laws, having awarded us a constitution and an estate that has been tasked with carrying forward the noble goal of peace and reconciliation, not just amongst the people of South Africa, but for the rest of the world.