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The Ramaphosa factor

NEVER before in ANC history have the stakes been so high. Two factions vying for control of the 105-year-old party. In the one corner, black businessman Cyril Ramaphosa. In the other corner, traditionalist Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. The sophisticated son of Soweto beat the former wife of the past ANC president, Jacob Zuma by a margin that many critics will put down to a mere 200 vote handicap.

The drama of recounts and missing votes have dogged the line-up of the final six top posts in the party. As have the various policy inputs that make for a grab-bag of socialist rhetoric and market intervention strategies.

Given the enormous differences in approach to policy, the problem of Radical Economic Moonshine, the NASREC conference risked ending up in a major split and the result, a sign of things to come in the 2019 general elections.

What is clear though, is that unity has prevailed and while ordinary members have rejected the cronyism of the Zuma era, the Ramaphosa victory has left a lot of women angry with the implications of patriarchy  and big business. Sunday Independent had NDZ for next president, while many who bet on the Ramaphosa ticket will have been rewarded — sportsbetting sites gave the odds Ramaphosa 3/4 and Dlamini-Zuma 11/5.

The SABC had called the race as early as 4pm yesterday before recanting due to a recount. The result was a dual narrative online as twitter users went in different directions, and nerves played out. “It’s a boy”, yelled many on social media when victory was final, and televised pictures of exuberant Ramaphosa supporters brought a sense of the gravitas of the moment into the streets.

That David Mabuza is now the deputy president will mean that the ANC is effectively a succession of male leadership and the developmental state, a focus on capital instead of land, with women’s representation in party structures at an all-time low, and radicals unhappy with redistribution moonshine*. Lindiwe Sisulu failed in her bid for Deputy and one can only hope this is not the last of her.

The Ramaphosa factor and its influence on the Rand brought a festive rally and the stability it will bring to currency markets going forward, means that South Africa will get a reprieve from a series of downgrades and inflationary measures affected by the previous administration whose grip on the treasury, a litany of corruption scandals, and failure to act over SOEs has resulted in a crisis of economic confidence.

Can Cyril fix the ship of state before it goes down with its crew? Will there be prosecutions following the various inquiries into state capture?

Only time can tell.

Congratulations to our new President.

[Note: Moonshine is a metaphor for homebrewed alcohol, and many will probably rather turn to a bottle of Johnny Walker and tried and tested economic policies while celebrating, than the home still kit]


Demi-Leigh: Look how far we’ve come South Africa

IN 1978 Margaret Gardener won the Miss Universe beauty pageant. The event held in Acapulco was not without controversy. John Vorster was president of a white minority regime. Apartheid was in full sway. Nelson Mandela was in jail. The Miss South Africa competition was an all-white affair. I was in kindergarten. I still remember the fuss about Gardener’s black swimsuit, my first “sexual awakening”, and the many Scope covers and feature stories which followed, all written next to articles promoting the SADF, Rhodesia, and South Africa’s control of South West Africa.

On 26 November 2017 to our surprise, Demi-Leigh Nel Peters, a bubbly girl from Sedgefield, a small coastal town on South Africa’s east coast, won the Miss Universe for the second time in nearly four decades. Democracy is in full sway. Jacob Zuma is president. The crooks, not the democrats are all in jail. At least some of them are. If only our collective future looked as bright as Demi-Leigh.

If you thought this was going to be just another pageant, then, I’m afraid you got it all wrong. Not only is Demi-Leigh a youth ambassador for the nation, but she totally axed it, and flawed her hosts on several New York talk shows with her confidence and personality, and a reign which looks set to be all about surprises.

Yes, to her critics, she does not represent the majority perception of beauty in Africa nor is she black like Miss Haiti, nor a superpower like Melania Trump. What she has, is the kind of sass that you find in every small town Afrikaner girl in South Africa, a nation still coming to grips with its past, at the same time that we are marking the fourth anniversary of the death of Mandela, with the neck and neck race for president of the ANC, and a democratic process which has seen the rise of a brand new political party under Makhosi Khosa.

Our self-perception, could do with a bit of confidence and what Demi Leigh represents is the kind of bubbling eruption of opportunity which marked South Africa’s return to the free world in 1994. The Marie Claire fuss about her tan (take it from me, the colour of her skin is real), has no place in a non-racial society. It has even less place in the wider world. The Miss Universe pageant is anything but an all-white affair as suggested by activist critics.

Janelle “Penny” Commissiong was the first black woman to hold the Miss Universe title. She won the title in 1977 at the Miss Universe pageant held in the Dominican Republic.

A list of “black” titleholders compiled by Afropedia include:

Leila Lopes (2011), Angola
Mpule Kwelagobe (1999), Botswana
Wendy Fitzwilliam (1998), Trinidad and Tobago
Chelsi Smith (1995), USA
Janelle Commissiong(1977), Trinidad and Tobago

Time to put aside racial stigma and celebrate.

South Africa gave the world, Steven Bantu Biko, Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Robert Sobukwe, Caster Semenya, Wayde van Niekerk, Elon Musk and Trevor Noah. Now is the right moment for Demi-Leigh Nel Peters.

No Mr President, your narrative isn’t true.

Dear Ed,

President Zuma’ recent comments on the “nuclear programme” refers.

The narrative provided by President Zuma isn’t true. In a recent address the president suggests it was pressure from the West which lead “the apartheid government to dismantle its nuclear weapons and programmes before the Communist Bloc-backed ANC could take over power at the end of the Cold War.”

Not only does he forget that the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and thus the movement which rose to power in 1994  had no backing from the ‘Communist Block’ as such, but he is being a little disingenuous when he attributes our nation’s constitutional imperatives to tinkering by the West.

The campaign against nuclear energy was part and parcel of the campus revolts and anti-apartheid movement during the 1980s. Environmental groups such as Koeberg Alert and Earthlife Africa, campaigned alongside anti-apartheid activists, linking apartheid and the environment, during successive periods and under the banner “forward to a non-racist, non-sexist, nuclear-free continent”.

Although South Africa’s nuclear weapons programme was ostensibly abandoned in 1989. It was the Treaty of Pelindaba, requiring that parties “will not engage in the research, development, manufacture, stockpiling acquisition, testing, possession, control or stationing of nuclear explosive devices in the territory of parties to the treaty and the dumping of radioactive wastes in the African zone by treaty parties”, which came into effect on 15 July 2009, ratified by 28 countries, which achieved the end-result. The African Commission on Nuclear Energy, was thus set up in order to verify compliance with the treaty,

None of this would have been possible, if the first conference on Environment and Development, held at UWC and attended by representatives from recently unbanned political parties had not accepted environmental justice and sustainable development as policies for our country. It was thus pressure from the broad campaign for environmental justice on the African continent which resulted in the eventual capitulation by the apartheid government and in turn the dismantling of the nuclear programme, alongside subsequent initiatives.

It is no surprise then that South Africa is the first country in the world to enshrine ‘ecological sustainable development’ in its constitution and to willingly give up its nuclear weapons programme. As such our Constitution adopted the peace principles and environmental priorities that defined us as a nation, and this without any intervention required by the Western Powers.

Sincerely yours

David Robert Lewis
Cape Times 8 Nov 2017 Letter DR Lewis

Hellkom like no SOE ever scorned (part 3)

Saga of my three months without a landline, continued from part 2

DAY 85 October 24 The paralegal mediator calls me back, apparently the landlord wants me to pay for the infrastructure upgrade at his own building. I must spend money. I explain my compromise solution, it entails getting Telkom to wire a cable from their pole along the same route as the ubiquitous DSTV system, whose cabling is all over the place, giving the lie to the purported desire to maintain the building’s aesthetics.

In my humble opinion, the Telco should have at least done its job in the move Dept, by alerting all parties concerned and sending  at very least a pro forma letter explaining its position on providing services to its clients. The property owner’s attempt to restrict choice in service provider and thus also to troll the installation of same into my own account are unlawful to say the least. Our country has a Bill of Rights guaranteeing free and unhindered communication. There is an End User Services Charter, a communications regulator ICASA and dare one say an urgent need to draft consumer protections and building codes for private communications, that aren’t merely a rehash of how big business view their clients as cash cows, and thus a road to servitude and vasselship?

The much vaunted Cell C “Free Whatsapp” deal turns out to be phony. I go back to the store to get a copy of the advertising material, yes there are terms and conditions, in minuscule 5 point type on the flyer, it appears the ‘free deal’ was initially for only 600mb, but in the infinite magnanimity of the corporation, the bundle expires every month and must thus be renewed monthly. It appears my whatsapp messages have also been frozen for nearly a month. I recharge once again and notice that some digital signage flashes on my smartphone (read dumb trick) screen for about half a minute, supposedly explaining this phenomena. The promotion is nothing more than an advertising stunt to get customers to switch to a Cell C SIM and is pretty much in the same league as the Yemeni immigrant charging R5.50 for a R5 Vodacom voucher.

DAY 88 October 27 The government announces it is selling its stake in Telkom. Does this mean the end of the copper-cable monopoly? Miraculously I find that a Virgin Mobile Sim provides free wifi and free Virgin to Virgin calls if you simply recharge once month every five days. A far better bonus deal in theory, than the rigmarole of Cell C. Meanwhile I tune in my cellphone radio to catch some of the news. The SOE deal will Rob Peter to Pay Paul. ESKOM debt is big enough to swallow large portions of the nation’s future wealth, in return, a highly inefficient energy behemoth will guarantee that we ramp up CO2 emissions. That nuclear seems to be off the table for now is small consolation. I am still without access to popular sites: Hackaday, Youtube, Amazon, Daily Maverick.

Telkom user panel shows four disputes lodged on same issue, three rejected fourth accepted.

DAY 92 November 2, 2017 surprise surprise, Almost 100 Days after I requested to move my landline from Woodstock to Muizenburg, the telephone line is now operational. I have been given a new telephone number. The bearded Telkom technician has finally installed the copper line via the conduit as he was supposed to, without the help of religious texts and sans the elaborate detour created by the intervention of the electrician from Zim who no longer works for the landlord. All it took was a manly meeting between the landlord and the technician to arrive at an acceptable brief. Then a bit of prodding by myself after the technician proposed several unacceptable “gippo options” before finally plumbing the conduit, hauling the line and actually doing his job without taking a break for daily religious victuals.

A bit of a mountain really created out of a molehill and no need to invest further money building infrastructure to drive spend, than what is absolutely necessary. A big lesson here is that gaining legal consent and navigating cultural differences in the new South Africa is a total pain in the %^&* , and too much delegation can ruin management if all that happens is that unnecessary work and extra spend is being generated. On the down side, I am still without Internet access following the billing debacle and both corporates need to still be tackled in order to reverse the damage of a three month drama. Significantly, Telkom have simply taken over my DSL Telkom have not bothered to provide any details such as logon information for their compulsory ADSL services. I am expected to ferret out the password to access my data on the plan I never ordered. I am expected to provide my own modem and my own telephone in what can only be described as an obscene plan to extract rental from my bank account. If this is socialism, don’t kill yourself searching for the last communist in the country.

DAY 94 November 4. I am finally online, courtesy of Web Africa, whose free 1Gb + 1Gb account is saving my weekend. I am strangely emotional and overwhelmed by having access to the World Wide Web and sans the Internet Cafe Taxi. I try to get back to just surfing without bothering with the basics of email and social media. It is Youtube which has been most absent in these past months.

DAY 99 November 7 A lady with an eerie creaky voice calls from Telkom to tell me that the charges for previous two months have been reversed. I could swear the other irate Tannie is her sister. She probably gargles with Klippies in the morning. I have yet to recoup the money lost to MWEEB, although a part credit for line rental for October has now been generated. A silky smooth voice in MWEEB accounts dept, confirms the problem. I pen yet another email explaining that since the line reverted to Telkom in September, the credit note should be for two months, in addition, since I have had no means of accessing data without a line for three months, the payments for three months should be reversed in total. I duly begin to fill out a complaint form provided by ICASA. There is a glimmer of hope and it is the abundance of fibre options coming our way, see here. If only the operators could figure out how to provide ‘voice and data’ plans to once and for all end the insanity of two communications bills, the fiction of DSL line rental.


“Http Error 500” Telkom’s idea of community outreach

DAY 106 November 16 I relog a dispute for the fifth time, after Telkom short-changes me. The credit is less than one month billing. The company appears to have cut my voice services after a request for my DSL to be ported to another service provider. I also fill out a complaint form for the Consumer Complaints Commission in regard to MWEEB.

DAY 110 November 20 I finally have full refund and my Telkom account shows a positive balance. Still no voice service. I log a fault. The entity has also sent me the ‘cancellation of services’ form which should have been emailed to begin with. Somebody needs to explain to the mandarins in charge they need a better “move” protocol.

DAY 117 November 27 And Several fault logs later, I finally have Internet and Voice service. The “bureau” (SOB) let’s not call it an enterprise (SOE), dispensed a technician from hell. Yes, Black Homer Simpson arrived, gave a good impression of a busy signal and then proceeded to disconnect my Internet Circuit (at the mini-exchange) and knock off work. After several complaints later, his young protégé, is back, for the third time. It literally took him the entire week to “trace” the fault, an organic process of touchy feely, elimination by error and error, and startling in its lack of certification and testing. Case example of having all the gear including the jacket, but you  don’t know exactly what is positive and negative. All the time the telco bureau sending chummy SMS from invisible operators in Tswane, asking me to rate their service. Ticket was opened and closed several times, and the outsourced buffoon even had the nerve to try to persuade me that I had service over the weekend. Science Rating: Zero. And no, I won’t be recommending Telkom to my friends and family.



Our 14 point action plan

1) Fire No 1 and pay back the money

2) Cut back on five hour lunch sessions, R1bn wagyu steaks for No 2

3) Dump the Gupta Raj and the British East India Company kickbacks.

4) Reduce size of cabinet to pre-Zuma levels

5) Break up SOEs into smaller units, sell SAA.

6) Dump Eskom and introduce an Energy Commons

7) Introduce a Social Wage for all (including Basic Income Grant)

8) Household responsibility to provide home economics

9) Income equalisation for periodic work

10) Rent Stabilisation for those renting

11) Compulsory Civics classes for young scholars and new immigrants

12) Adopt David Robert Lewis’ Electronic Freedom Charter

13) Celebrate the Earth Rights we got into the Constitution

14) Hire competent staff at finance ministry

Competing visions for a new South Africa

TWO parties, each with contradictory and competing visions for South Africa’s future, hold centre stage. In the one corner, the African National Congress with its legacy of struggle against apartheid and nation building, that has increasingly come under the spotlight with revelations of corruption and state capture, and the failing economic policies and antics of its president Jacob Zuma

In the other corner, the Democratic Alliance, an opposition political formation with market friendly policies, but hampered by a troubling legacy, fraught because of its historic support from white capital versus the emergence of black capital under the ruling party, and yet presenting a different vision of reconciliation, inclusion, and equal opportunity.

So far as DA leader Mmusi Maimane is concerned, the struggle is about keeping the reconciliation project alive while creating an open and inclusive society in line with a constitutional vision that is the antithesis of the creeping totalitarianism and authoritarianism of the current administration.

Over the past months, the ANC has diverted itself from the proud nation-building of past administrations, towards an increasingly tribal vision of a society not unlike the Bantustans of the apartheid-era. A country defined by race, where domination of one group by another is the order of the day, and where expropriation of land without compensation is matched by the growth of state and tribal authorities.

And yet within the ANC itself, there exist competing visions to what has been broadly condemned by the investment community as “Zumanomics”, an unworkable recipe for economic disaster.  Thus a lively debate on so-called ‘radical economic transformation’ has ensued at the party’s organising conference.

So far as ANC NEC member and Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa is concerned, “South Africans should focus less on the colour of monopoly capital and rather focus on contesting monopoly capital in all its forms”

“We shouldn’t be aspiring to change white monopoly capital to black monopoly capital. The uncompetitive nature of monopoly capital makes us raise an issue of contestation, whether it will be black or white,” Mthethwa told reporters during a media briefing this week.

It was party spokesperson Zizi Kodwa who thus also articulated a view that is in direct contrast to the DA faction under Helen Zille and seemingly the ANC under Zuma. According to Kodwa, “the new South Africa creates a clean break from our ugly past giving birth to a new nation with new prescripts. South Africa is not an improved version of the past or a case of taking our better past forward, South Africa is a new nation.”

Can the DA match its own rhetoric and the propaganda of the ruling party, with a victory at the polls? The alliance has seen major victories during the past general election in several of South Africa’s metro’s including Johannesburg, and Nelson Mandela Bay. As the ANC moves to reduce its opposition to the left, it invariably risks losing the middle ground, where the most votes in the next election are bound to reside.

Thus as the party erodes the opposition EFF base, whose red shirts are now ironically being deployed in support of the DA — the ANC policy conference and its adoption of far-left language, risks reducing the party’s central mandate as articulated by the NDP and will come as a blow to those arguing for moderation.

All good news so far as the DA is concerned.