THREE decades of online communication, and an ongoing electronic struggle and yet our country South Africa, is desperately lagging behind the West when it comes to the dissemination of knowledge and information technology.
Compounding this problem is neo-colonialism, hegemony, the ‘loudhailer on steroids’ issuing forth from Northern Countries, dominating the wires and fibre optic cables and literally flooding our computer screens with trivia about an emerging global culture, one which to paraphrase Brian Eno, “is incomplete without Africa”.
Billed as the “first ever conference about centering marginalized knowledge online”, Whose Knowledge decolonizing the Internet“ is a pre-conference in the runup to this years Wikimania, which is being held in Cape Town later this week.
“51% of the world is online today,” say the organisers “but the Internet doesn’t represent our diversity.”
“The knowledge of marginalized communities is the knowledge of the majority of the world. Yet most online public knowledge still skews towards white, male, and global North knowledge. It is a hidden crisis of our times.”
The organisers plan to “convene marginalized community organizers, technologists, scholars, artists, and Wikimedians in the first conference of its kind.”
“The change we hope to create: With these newly created alliances and networks, we will work together towards more diversity and inclusion in the experience of internet design, architecture, content, and governance. We intend to dramatically change the way the internet represents the majority of the world.”
SEVERAL pieces on the right-wing political site Politicsweb, a local news platform run by James Myburgh, demonstrates the narrow racialism of its multifarious contributors. The site purports to carry opinions from across the political spectrum, but has a seemingly limitless abundance of polemic and commentary from the likes of RW Johnson and the Freedom Front’s Pieter Groenewald,
First off there’s a familiar conservative spokesperson opining on the subject of the Ashwin Willemse incident ‘On racism, real and imagined: “Can a disagreement between sports broadcasters really qualify as news?” asks RW Johnson who then proceeds to denigrate the standing of the Equality Court, (in the process casting aspersions against its status in terms of the Equality Act): “Him and his lawyers are now proceeding to the Equality Court (the name has an Orwellian ring),” writes Johnson.
While our justice system if far from perfect, the Equality Court is a shining light in this regard. Rather it is conservatives who must be taken to task for dangerous double-speak, bigoted opinion that essentially denies that Willemse has access to any rights in terms of his own opinion on the matter. As the liberal mantra often restated by conservatives goes, ‘we believe in the audi rule so long as only one side to the dispute is heard.’
Andrew Donaldson, forever a lapdog of the effete rich and trendy wealthy, finds the time to wade in with a pathetic Cry racism piece that although erudite, willfully proceeds to miss the point entirely by cynically misstating the Equality case: “shoehorning the controversy within a racial context will restore moral order and present the readily outraged with a familiar, comforting paradigm’ that of Cry Wolf? No Mr Donaldson, this isn’t about racism per se, but rather apartheid denial, the rotting carcass of quotas and the sell-by-date of former apartheid-era darlings, a corporation with anything but a sterling history of opposing racism.
With all the tact of a charging hippopotamus, the grandson of Verwoerd and Oranie spokesperson, Wynand Boshoff’s ‘Ashwin, actually we know what you mean’ delivers a thinly disguised hatchet job, attempting to deflect attention away from Naas Botha and thus Afrikanerdom in general. Deploying the tired and anachronistic ‘blame it on the British’ schtick that is so often used by former members of the Nationalist party to ingratitude themselves with the ruling ANC whilst also affecting a crushing blow to us English-speakers.
It is not terribly surprising then to find South Africa’s own Walter Mitty, one Andrew Kenny delivering an equally destructive blow to the English language. Having affected a mid-life career change from failed nuclear pundit to “contracted columnist to the Institute of Race Relations” Kenny’s vivid imagination proceeds to shower us with bizarre details verging on the fantastical, “I know nothing about rugby” he says before embarking upon a sorry attempt at the nitpicking obfuscation for which he is perhaps renowned. The result is a failed piece of political bumph posing-as-commentary which merely demonstrates that Kenny has zero credentials and course-work when it comes to the social and political sciences.
‘Hurt, pain & Ashwin Willemse‘ deploys a scurrilous and appalling comparison between the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima, (perhaps to assert a vivid fantasy life in which Kenny recently acquired a moral position on non-proliferation?), to the aforementioned Supersport incident, before proceeding to freely mix metaphors and borrowing heavily from a Nixon-era public administration pundit:
“The politics of the university are so intense because the stakes are so low” is a saying attributed to one Wallace Sayre. It is thus rephrased as Sayre’s Law, which was all really just another patronising putdown to the students of the University of Berkeley and the victims of the Kent State massacre, and grist to the mill, for a decade of revolt which gave the world free love, women’s rights and equality. Enough to ruffle the feathers of today’s youth and our modern generation of die-hard de-colonialists?
To cap it all, there is also a strange statement released by the Freedom Front’s Pieter Groenewald “Minister of Sport and DA leader must apologise” absurdly blaming the Minister of Sport and the leader of the DA, for the incident. Apartheid collaborators are racists, full-stop. Instead Groenewald wants a fantasy-world where “people must refrain from attributing incidents where people of different races are involved to racism,” begging the question, what happens when racism isn’t about race per se but rather structural racism? The two apartheid darlings Mallet and Botha turned into on-air monuments, the post-apartheid wing, Willemse, forever in the studio shadows.
The Freedom Front shows its metal, providing uncritical support for the discredited Naspers-Multichoice and its pathetic inhouse finding on the matter, arguably, all the result of extra-judicial privileges founded upon race, and despite the matter being sub judice. The outcome of the labour proceeding in which Willemse was not represented, has been rejected by the former Springbok, as too should any similar proceedings not meeting standards of due process. There has yet to be an official inquiry into the role of sports administrators during apartheid in terms of the TRC Act, which allows the Minister of Justice to appoint special inquiries subsequent to the winding up of the first commission.
IT WAS bound to happen. The bizarre situation in which two apartheid-era springboks were taken to task by a post-democracy Springbok, over racism, quotas and paternalism. Followed by the media spin driven by Multichoice Supersport whose holding company Naspers refuses to come clean over its role in promoting separate development, race classification and segregation during the apartheid-era.
Naspers the company which owns Multichoice, ducked the subpoena handed out by the TRC to its former-director PW Botha, refused to participate in the media hearings at the commission, rebuked a group of journalists attending in their private capacity, and instead has stuck to a version of history that is anything but an accurate and fair depiction of the times.
After effectively being found guilty of gross violations of human rights by the commission, and thus a report which records “a total lack of concern for the company’s support of the racist system” (Volume 4 of the Final TRC report), the company proceeded to deny the reality.
“I worked hard to earn my own respect in this game… so, I’m not going to be patronised by two individuals who played in apartheid – a segregated era – and come and want to undermine… people” said Ashwin Willemse after a match last month between the Lions and the Brumbies.`
The Supersport public relations machine immediately went into overdrive. Holding their own internal inquiry, the company casually announced yesterday that it had found that “there was no racism involved in Ashwin Willemse walking out from an on-air broadcast” in the process exonerating Nick Mallett and Naas Botha, two darlings of the apartheid regime.
Apparently SuperSport CEO Gideon Khobane maintains the group was cleared by Advocate Vincent Maleka, and thus presumably a member of the Bar. The result is anything but an open inquiry before an independent tribunal, and echoes similar statements by manager Ishmet Davidson, who claimed on air the entire group had been cleared by the TRC back in the early 90s.
Davidson’s 2015 comments followed a case-limited apology issued by Media24 CEO Esmarie Weideman citing only one instance in which a ‘coloured employee’ had experienced difficulties with separate facilities.
Talk about undermining the Truth. Willemse did not participate in the internal review for obvious reasons. The attempt to legitimize apartheid-denial by acting as sole arbiter of apartheid history, must be rejected for what it is, a total sham.
Willemse’s lawyer Nqobizitha Mlilo told SAFM radio host Tsepiso Makwetla on Wednesday morning that Willemse “did not see any value in participating with the process” because the rugby analyst had already expressed his views …”
“We expressed a view to Adv Maleka SC that he (Adv Maleka SC) was being used to sanitise and chlorinate failures by SuperSport to deal with a number of reported incidents of racism by the gentlemen in question‚”
DISCLOSURE: The writer is currently suing Naspers via the Equality Court and is awaiting the outcome of a case brought against Legal Aid South Africa in this regard.
THERE is an emerging far-left junta in South Africa. A disparate red anschluss surrounding the egos of Malema, Shivambu, Ndlozi and Vavi, who equally view Mandela’s legacy with antipathy and Constitutional democracy, as a means to an end. Our Constitution, accordingly, is nothing more than a highly flawed liberal document ‘protecting the interests of the few’, and equally defended “by liberal jurists who want to protect this liberal constitution at all costs.”(1)
United in their common loathing of minorities, ‘Indians, Jews, Whites, Capitalists’, and consequently the rule of law, these strongmen, seek to move the country away from its democratic foundation and market-socialist centre under the ANC, towards a radical re-alignment with an Anti-West and Anti-Zionist ticket, that could see the removal of the Constitutional dispensation and its replacement by a Marxist dictatorship, with a few strongmen at the helm of a command economy.
The current demand by the would-be all-male junta, whose war council speaks to the militarism associated with the EFF party (see here), is for the state to nationalise and take control of all private property. Thus the state in their mind, would be the custodian of all the land, including bonded real-estate. Instead of drawing rates and taxes off the sale and resale of property, the state would be in effect, the sole title-holder as citizens are reduced to mere tenants under a totalitarian system.
More worrying than the move away from individual freedom and a mixed economic model where property rights are protected, is the racial rhetoric and faux radicalism emanating for the war council’s Floyd Shivambu, whose statements about struggle veteran Ismail Momoniat in Parliament resulted in a storm of criticism. This was followed by party founder Julius Malema’s equally galling statements outside of parliament, claiming that ‘the majority of Indians are racist.’
Daleep Lutchman, chairperson of the South African Minority Rights Equality Movement (Samrem) was moved to say his organisation would meet to decide what charges to press against Malema for “going back to the apartheid system of classifying people by race”.
Malema recently conducted an interview with Turkish Radio and International Broadcasting Association, and promised a revolution if his demands were not met at the ballot box.
Not one to shy away from controversy, Malema has often stated that if he were President, people like FW de Klerk would be in jail. The party also appears to want to jail its opposition, including former President Jacob Zuma and any Zionist Africans expressing support for Israel.
Unionist Zwelinzima Vavi has proposed a final solution for Zionists on national television. Under the EFF any supporter of Israel, whether black or white, would thus find themselves imprisoned. The statement was backed up by a marvel of conflation and innuendo. A tweet stating ‘any supporter of apartheid here and abroad including support for apartheid Israel must not be fired but must face prison term (sic) for supporting a system declared a crime against humanity.”
While apartheid was declared a crime against humanity, to date nobody has ever been jailed for the crime of apartheid.
The TRC process and negotiated settlement was contingent upon amnesty being granted in exchange for participation and acknowledgment of wrong-doing. The EFF thus appears want to discard the entire constitutional dispensation, including provisions protecting divergences in political beliefs and religious outlook.
Musa Novela, a spokesperson for the party’s Joburg region, thus released a bizarre statement last week condemning the DA’s Mpho Palatse, after DA Mayor Herman Mashaba had suspended the MMC of Health for her unauthorised participation at a ‘Stand with Israel’ event.
Embarrassingly, Novela’s statement claims that a 1974 (sic) UN resolution ‘declared Zionism to be a crime against humanity’. However resolution 3379 of 1975 ‘equating Zionism with racism’, was overturned in 1991 by the UN general assembly resolution 46/86 and thus adopted overwhelmingly by the majority of nations, 111 to 25. Although the ANCs Tony Ehrenreich has been known to call for revenge against supporters of Israel, this is the first time that a political party has proposed jail sentences for Zionists, and thus the limitation of their constitutional right to political and religious expression.
(1) Floyd Shivambu on the Justice Factor
WHEN the Independent Group was taken over by a consortium lead by Dr Iqbal Surve, there were some like me, who hoped for a fresh start. The group quickly ran into criticism, the least of which is the highly publicized debacle surrounding the firing of Cape Times editor Alide Dasnois.
After a settlement was extricated at Labour Court, the group once again ran into trouble with Dasnois accusing the group of being in breach of the settlement and so Independent was sanctioned by the Press Council, which ordered the group to apologise for a number of misleading headlines.
No sooner had the ruling by the Press Council been issued, when Independent announced it was withdrawing from the council, and a structure which had arrived out of decades of frenetic negotiation around a government-sanctioned self-regulatory mechanism. The reasons for the withdrawal were attacked for ‘not making logical sense‘.
“In ditching the Press Council, Independent Media listed as its main complaint the Press Council’s reluctance to reintroduce the highly contentious waiver as its reason for ditching the Press Council” wrote Julie Reid.
Previously, complainants waved legal action in order to bring their complaints under the auspices of the council, however the very reason the council had been set up was threefold. Firstly to avoid government regulation and intervention in the press. Secondly, to provide the public with a cost effective and impartial forum for making complaints and thirdly, to provide a Press Code that was not simply written by one organisation.
In its stead, Independent reverted to an internal Ombudsman system which had been in place during the years of the former Argus Group, and a state of affairs for which the Argus had already apologised during the TRC media hearings. In the process Independent dumped the Press Code, and formulated its own narrow view of the press, which appears to by nothing less than gabbering sycophancy so far as government is concerned.
In this sense, not only was the industry seemingly ‘regulating itself’, but the company was now distancing its titles from the legal system as well as the press council framework, in effect picking its own favourite regulator, a friendly Muslim, whilst playing a dual role of both editorial and inhouse complaints resolution. Thus setting in motion a situation where Dr Iqbal Surve, and his male-dominated and sectarian newsrooms, possessed an administrative override on any complaints made to his news organisation. While women still figure in writing and reporting, they are remarkably absent when it comes to editorship within the group and where they do affect editorial, they invariably occupy a symbolic role.
Of concern, is that there is currently no means of enforcing the Press Code when it comes to the Independent Group, and with our legal system being rather expensive and out of reach of the ordinary public, the result has been positively stifling.
Gone was any effort to balance news stories affecting a range of controversial subjects around the world, in particular the USA and Middle East.
Gone was divergence of opinion on the opinion pages.
Gone was the plethora of letters debating, disagreeing, and calling editors and writers to task.
In their place were editorial love letters, and weekly ravings by self-styled news correspondents such as “foreign editor” Shannon Ebrahim and “analyst” Ebrahim Harvey, two obviously Muslim persons, followed by lengthy and often turgid materialist and industrialist views of South Africa and the World. A world viewed via the narrow Islamic prism of the likes of Aneez Salie and Aziz Hartley.
A former shipping columnist Brian Ingpen for instance, is now a regular opinion piece in the Cape Times op-ed pages, providing the dull rigmerol of shipping information flowing into the gutters, alongside dense and impenetrable press releases, like that issued by DIRCO yesterday presumably testifying to the joys of a BRICS summit to be held in Joburg and thus available to buyers of the now 10 page rag, in 10 point type.
Independent titles in recent months have come to resemble government tearsheets, with short thrift given to concerns about whose opinion in the broader community should receive priority over the daily thrust of a hopelessly compromised news agency ANA, and equally boring headlines, with the one exception, that it appears INM have now launched a sports magazine, if only to allay fears that the group is going under.
Suppression of views with which one disagrees are the hallmark of authoritarian regimes. As a well-known commentator puts it, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” Having a daily press the size of Independent producing government propaganda and fan-mail for the Surve Group, whilst censoring opinion, can only have the opposite effect to liberal democracy. There is a reason why Pravda is now a fashion label and a single newspaper in Russia, and is no longer the state news agency for the Soviet Union.
LAST NIGHTS massive fuel hike, represents a record increase in the price of petrol products. The immediate result say economists of Rand weakness, and taxation by central government. Hidden from public view and the narrative of biannual price hikes as the new normal, is the backstory involving the sale of South Africa’s strategic oil reserves, their supposed “rotation” and the ensuing fraud associated with the former Zuma administration.
The result has been a strange parallel story of massive profits being made by oil dealers and involving oil traders, whilst motorists get stumped at the pump, and without a coherent electric vehicle policy articulated by central government moving forward, one which might mitigate the future effects of oil price increases.
According to Bloomberg there is still money to be made in South Africa out of fuel, “there’s no place quite like Saldanha Bay. When prices slumped in 2014,” says Paul Burkhard “the trading houses generated outsize profits by storing millions of barrels of crude in the deep-water harbor north of Cape Town.”
The same article goes on to tout the commercial potential of the storage area which once housed South Africa strategic oil supply.
The Strategic Fuel Fund (SFF), first created by the apartheid government during sanctions, was meant to cushion the consumer against oil price spikes and dollar fluctuations. Instead, it has proved to be nothing more than a cash cow for close associates of Jacob Zuma and his family, in a corruption case known as Oilgate.
In May of 2016, there were revelations that former minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson “had sold off the Strategic Fuel Fund (SFF) reserves without the go-ahead of former finance minister Pravin Gordhan.”
The latest taxes may represent a claw-back strategy by treasury, but need to be seen in the contest of another corruption investigation involving the apparent allocation of oil-fields in the DRC and Nigeria, and open speculation surrounding the misappropriation of government funds, to the tune of R100bn and involving Khulubuse Zuma
All pointing to government involvement in a scam to move away from a strategic investment benefiting the economy and broader public, towards continued private manipulation of the fuel supply.
The result is an unavoidable increase of input costs across all sectors of the economy which can only harm growth. Weaning South Africans off the petrol habit, and moving towards tax incentives for the introduction of energy efficient electric vehicles, is a policy which is perhaps long overdue.
In this respect, the country is far behind the West.
RESISTANCE to war has a long and noble history. From pacifists during the Anglo-Boer War, objectors to WW1 and WW2, conscripts against the Vietnam War and South Africa’s own Border War, the names and faces of those who have chosen the difficult path of combating militarism and state-sponsored aggression, number in their thousands.
When dissent is quashed by political expediency the nuances and cadence of individual struggle against war is lost. The evolution of the ‘just-war thesis’ and ‘holy war’ by either side to the conflict in the Middle East provides a case in point, as does resistance to the promotion of war as a solution.
During 1987, ANC stalwart, then SRC president Cameron Dugmore, stood on a podium alongside 23 white conscripts from UCT opposed to military conscription during apartheid. The initial group of conscientious objectors, included Christian pacifists as well as then president of the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS), Jonathan Handler. Signicantly Handler opposed the Border War on the basis of a defense of Israel.
The result was that I relinquished my membership of SAUJS. At the time, Israel was involved in a war with Lebanon, which in many respects was reminiscent of our own border war. It is a position which I have since regretted, (see below). Instead of joining Handler in his “just war thesis”, which was little more than a promotion of Zionism, and thus a moral justification for his later joining the Israeli Defense Force, and with Dugmore rubber-stamping Handler’s participation, I took the difficult path of involvement in South Africa’s armed struggle, crossing the colour line and embracing the culture of resistance and rebellion.
The creation of the environmental justice movement in the aftermath of the banning of the ECC, and my work for Grassroots, South Press, Sached/New Nation form a body of work and deserve a chapter on their own. However the lesson drawn from this experience is that the Middle East problem is not as easily reducible to a binary struggle between black and white, right and wrong. Providing a rubber stamp to either of the parties to the conflict, in my case, my open support for the Palestinians, has resulted in the dilemma of today.
Faced with a difficult and unenviable predicament, I chose a very different approach, that of civil disobedience. Lodging a public objection to Handler’s participation on the platform and Dugmore’s acquiescence, (and without access to all the facts) would have merely playing into the hands of the Botha government and its securocrats. It also risked an embarrassing side-show, in a vulnerable moment. Nevertheless we exchanged words during the media briefing session. For Michael Rautenbach, this was sign that I was ‘simply not ready for the big time’.
Not only was the SAUJS involvement untenable, but as a 19-year-old enrolled in law-school, the problem did not lead itself to any immediate legal answers, save for hoping that it would all somehow pan out and that history would be the better judge. An outright objection against the “just war thesis” and the use of ‘holy war’ instead of simple resistance, would also have required a Phd essay written with all the gusto necessary to balance the complexity of the struggle itself, solidarity amongst comrades, campus spies, security police paranoia, my call-up papers and the lack of engagement by ECC leadership.
With no support for my nascent position from either SAUJS nor ECC’s Dugmore and the merry bunch of Christian fanatics who were assured of a place in heaven with emotional guidance from the Church, and with Atheists then in the minority within the ECC itself, I took my struggle against the system and my membership card elsewhere. Burning my call-up papers, I declined to participate, and instead sent the state ‘a postcard from exile’. My arrival at an outright rejection of war was much later than anticipated, and only after an encounter with the international peace movement following the democratic elections.
It is a period which has come to haunt me in recent years, the difficulties following the banning of the ECC and SWAPO solidarity committee, not because I have been cross-examined by a racist bigot acting for a racist company, in an unfair legal proceeding without the aid of an attorney, on my involvement in some of the details — This whilst also being subjected to a religious inquisition of my secular identity. But because the paranoia surrounding BDS in its current form, and its supporters from the far-right in Fatah and Hamas, combined with Zionist intransigence and lack of public debate, have all moved to close down what little dissent and individual freedom remains.
There are many robust claims made by either parties to the conflict in the Middle East. The result though is invariably the same — the silencing of individual right to dissent, the removal of civil liberties, the abolition of the right to freedom from religion, the right to not be constrained by the religious views of others, the very essence of freedom of religion. Theist, Non-Theist, Atheist. For my part, the conflict is one of injustice vs injustice, a terrible ‘battle between monsters and maniacs’, whether blood on the streets of Tel Aviv, Ramallah, or Gaza, and neighbouring Syria, while the public all too readily reach out for religious texts, as easily as weapons of war.
South Africa for all intents and purposes is a secular country. We pride ourselves in our Constitution which ostensibly guarantees religious and cultural rights, and we like to think we are an exception and there is somehow continuity with our secular struggle and the struggle for human rights in the Middle East. This remains to be seen.
To date there has been no proof that we are special, except propaganda and lies. The short-circuiting of debate. The sheer religiosity of those involved. The astonishing willingness to resort to bloodshed. It is time to face up to facts and to stop the rubber-stamping and handing out of blank cheques to activists on either side, preaching the exact opposite of truth. There is another path, another way out of the conflict, besides advocacy of hatred, bloodshed and eternal war.
The very essence of secularism, according to George Holyoake, the man who coined the term, is not the absence of religion, but rather the absence of religious rules. “A Secularist guides himself by maxims of Positivism, seeking to discern what is in Nature—what ought to be in morals—selecting the affirmative in exposition, concerning himself with the real, the right, and the constructive. Positive principles are principles which are provable.”
Secularism is firmly based upon enlightenment values, the right not to be subjected to religious persecution by the state nor any religious authority or otherwise. Secular values are the ‘We, the People’ values enshrined by our Constitution which are remarkable absent when it comes to the Middle East. To date there is no Freedom Charter for Palestinians and Israelis.
If South Africans are to contribute to justice and a peaceful solution, it must be because we are also willing to defend our constitution, our own history of secularism and opposition to war in all its forms, our nation’s own war resisters over the ages, and thus our nation’s core values in the non-aligned movement.
Unlike many politico’s, we must urge seekers of peace, to do this with the courage to avoid rubber-stamping the “just war thesis” and ‘religious war’ come what may, and whatever the consequences. To avoid providing wholesale support for any of the belligerent parties to the conflict over the final status of Jerusalem, whatever the ends and means, and no matter the outcome, and without at very least, measuring the results against our own conscience, free-will and opinion.
[Note: John Stremlau believes South Africa has a vital role to play. It certainly doesn’t if its media is closing down debate and opinion within our own borders]