Category: Uncategorized

UCT unveils biobrick made from urine

THE world’s first bio-brick grown from human urine signals an innovative paradigm shift in waste recovery.

The brick is the brainchild of University of Cape Town (UCT) master’s student in civil engineering Suzanne Lambert.

Dr Dyllon Randall, Lambert’s supervisor and senior lecturer in water quality at UCT, comments: “The bio-bricks are created through a natural process called microbial carbonate precipitation. It’s not unlike the way seashells are formed.”

In this case, loose sand is colonised with bacteria that produce the enzyme urease, which breaks down the urea in urine while producing calcium carbonate through a complex chemical reaction. This cements the sand into any shape, whether it’s a solid column, or now, for the first time, a rectangular building brick.

READ MORE here

Advertisements

SA Week in Review

THIS week saw the politicians-for-sale graft scandal take a new turn with revelations that Brian Shivambu, the recipient of massive payouts from VBS bank, is not simply the brother of Floyd Shivambu but is also an EFF party organiser. A letter published by the Natal Mercury states: “Brian is not only a family member but an employee of the EFF. He is responsible for marketing EFF regalia and, according to Malema, he also does fund-raising for the party.”

According to Visvin Reddy, “Malema says that Brian deposits money into the EFF account from time to time for such things as hire of buses for rallies, etc. This, to me, is a cover up and an attempt to pre-empt the outcome of a further forensic investigation which will link funds deposited by Brian into the EFF account. It becomes more suspicious when the EFF is the only party that defends VBS. All this reinforces the perception that the EFF was a recipient of the money looted from VBS.”

Readers will note that VBS is the same bank which bailed out President Zuma when he apparently “paid back the money” and thus the question springs to mind, did the disgraced former president cut a deal with certain members of the opposition ranks, in particular the head of the former ANCYL, in effect ‘settling the matter’ to the mutual enrichment of all concerned? The scandal has massive implications for SA society, and far-reaching consequences for rural development, see Richard Poplak.

Meanwhile, opposition politicians from Venezuala, where the inflation rate has topped 1 million percent, arrived in the country to warn South Africans of the dangers of adopting far-left policies which follow the example of the Chavistas. Many are former leftists disgruntled with the manner in which statism has eroded individual freedom alongside property-rights.

“We have to draw some parallels with what’s happening in SA. The corruption, this state capture you call it here. In Venezuela, it’s the norm. It’s the only way they can preserve power. It’s a kleptocracy,” records the Daily Maverick.

“South Africa’s “extreme left-winger” policy of land reform suggested it was following Venezuela’s example. “They say let’s take back the land to the people, in this abstract manner. It was the same speech in Venezuela about the factories.” Yet not a single factory which the state took over was ever given to the workers.”

The debacle of politicians taking money while selling out the masses, appears to have its corollary in journalists allowing themselves to be mislead in order to adopt a party-political line.

Thus the revelations that the Sunday Times front page was for sale was a major blow for readers expecting quality journalism. The story is not a new one, having broken in 2016, when the paper issued an apology, stating it had got certain things wrong about the SARS rogue unit, but as it turned out, the latest round of skinner involved a story about a death squad.

See Sunday Times editor Bongani Siqoko admitted that there was no Cato Manor “death squad” and that Booysen, Dramat and Sibiya were wronged.

 

Dagga prohibition reaches a final conclusion in privacy ruling?

WHILE South Africans were contemplating the effects of land reform and a technical recession, the country’s apex court, the Constitutional Court reached a unanimous verdict. Upholding an earlier ruling by the Western Cape High Court, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo announced a major victory for dagga liberalisation.

“The right to privacy is not confined to a home or private dwelling. It will not be a criminal offence for an adult person to use or be in possession of cannabis in private space,” he said on Tuesday.

Parliament has been given time to produce new regulations regarding the details which could see many commercial opportunities surrounding the plant emerging from a 24 month consultation period.

The decision effectively moves dagga out of the realms of narcotics law and under the ambit of the liquor act.

Person falling foul of the law, (dealing in dagga is still a crime) could find themselves pleading a petty misdemeanor. With cannabis on par with alcohol it remains to be seen how the new system will work.  Currently bakers and distillers of gin and beer require permits. Township shabeens are often the subject of raids against unlicensed liquor. (see greenlight districts)

The president has the power to grant amnesty to citizens who have found themselves on the wrong side of an apartheid-era prohibition regime that remained in place long past its sell-by-date, and despite the new democratic order. South Africa has been slow to follow the lead taken by the West and has lost out on trade.

Why the ruling party failed to accept the reality in this regard is the cause of much debate on the ground, where ordinary people have long relied on dagga as a cheaper and healthier alternative to alcohol. The NPA is still signalling that it wants to prosecute users and no doubt police will need to be retrained to avoid unnecessary complaints against the Minister of Justice.

Where South Africa was quick to jettison the apartheid regime and its emphasis on morality alongside prohibitions on the possession of pornography, the ANC state dilly daddled on dagga, perhaps out of fear for the strong Christian lobby in the country’s rural heartland.

The decision is a significant blow to religious and narcotics police posing as moralists and bolsters the secular state and its separation of powers that uphold the rights of the individual.

Although dagga use was prevalent amongst members of the anti-apartheid movement, both inside and outside the country, representatives in parliament (bar the IFP)  have tendered to pass the buck while looking the other way.

Despite the, harm reduction ironically, remains the position of the African Union and our nation’s representative in the AU

DRL responds to Douglas Scott, Wikimania

Dear Douglas,

COMPLAINT WIKIMANIA CAPE TOWN

While I appreciate the trouble you have taken to respond to me, in particular your acknowledgement of my contributions to the community over the past years, your unsupported assertions are both unwarranted and unsubstantiated. I therefore respond to your email received on 10 August 2018, in point form.

1. The first I became aware of the aforementioned ‘Decolonising the Internet’ co-located Event (“”Event”) was when I viewed the conference programme several days before the main conference on 17 July 2018. It is clear from the main programme that the keynote delivered by Dr Jacbs was not merely co-located but also linked to the pre-conference topic.

2. While the attached WhoseKnowledge website page has a blue box at the bottom of the page, showing that the event was “an invite-only conference”, this was after some 1000 words, describing ‘the first ever conference about centering marginalized knowledge online” claiming “to build more awareness, allies, and joint action plans” while convening “marginalized community organizers, technologists, scholars, artists, and Wikimedians” and also apparently creating “newly created alliances and networks, [working] together towards more diversity and inclusion in the experience of internet design, architecture, content, and governance” and further proclaiming: “We intend to dramatically change the way the internet represents the majority of the world.”

3. It thus seems a bit odd that this statement should be followed by an exclusivity arrangement whereby the event was held in Cape Town, with absolutely no attempt by the organisers to engage with local Wikimedians. I therefore did not receive the barest forewarning that the event was to occur in the run-up to Wikimania CT. It is also not immediately apparent from the statement as to exactly how the ‘colocated conference’ aimed to be inclusive. Nevertheless I blogged about it on Medialternatives.com, emailed a request for admission to the organisers, which included tweeting this request to some of the speakers, (one of whom acknowledged my tweet) and then requested admission from the organiser in person.

4. As an anti-apartheid activist, and veteran of the struggle for freedom and democracy, I wholly concur with the principle of ‘nothing about us, without us” and reject any inferences which may be drawn in regard to SC support for the matter, of the closed door event. The organisers should know better than to host an event in South Africa, a country with a specific and painful history and where principles of openness and transparency are paramount, and then to embark upon a course of action leading into the main event (“Main Event”) that is at odds with the values suggested by the founding statement. This smacks of wanting to manipulate the opportunity, in other words, proclaiming ‘inclusivity of marginalised persons’ at an event held in South Africa, but when confronted with the reality, the tragic legacy of apartheid and separate development, looking the other way to exclusivity.

5. That I met with the organiser of the ‘Decolonising’ event without incident is now common cause, and notwithstanding the allegations contained in the earlier James Alexander email, which you have also acknowledged in writing, is a troubling case of mistaken identity. What is disputed is the manner and circumstances of the refusal of admission, (I have yet to receive a satisfactory reason aside from “it was closed” ) and thus reject the further reason given by another SC member, that it was because apparently ‘I was not indigenous’, as many non-indigenes attended. For the record, I am legally black and accepted as a Khoisan by the Khoisan National Assembly.

6. With regards to preparation of the main conference programme. My User Talk Page reflects three notices in this regard. A 9 May 2018 ‘Wikimania scholarship application for SA and SADC(for which I was grateful), the second a 20 May 2018 Wikipedia Capacity Building Workshop ‘hosting Asaf Bartov from the Wikimedia Foundation for 5 days where he will be conducting a series of Capacity Building Workshops in Johannesburg and Cape Town and a 20 June 2018 ‘Application for WikiIndaba Steering Committee Open.’

7. To say the one ‘capacity building’ event ‘Wiki Loves Monuments’ which I attended in 2012 was inadequate for the purpose, or that its sequel this year, barely two months before Wikimania CT, and six years later, was a case of ‘too little too late’, is putting it mildy. I would have thought that a National Wikimania, rather than one or two local events would have been a strict requirement before hosting a conference of this size, magnitude, scope and importance.

8. The result is more than simply a lost opportunity. It is a massive embarrassment for the local community, if not those who arrived on our shores. To expect me to have to remind the National Steering Committee that the tragedy of apartheid, an ongoing and prescient saga whose effects are far from over, is the single most important topic defining us as South Africans is beneath contempt and must be rejected as unreasonable, given the circumstances.

9. Nevertheless I appreciate the time, energy and effort spent on finally hosting Wikimania. Had it not been for my work-load, I might have made myself available for the single round of capacity building this year, and would have certainly volunteered for the SC. However giving us all 5 days forewarning for the capacity building workshop, and then two days notice of the SC election, is surely beneath the pale of reasonableness and scheduling?

10. Providing local Wikipedians very little in the way of support and an effective zero notice for topic submissions is however, what I do find to be risible. Claiming that ‘banner ads were placed’, and/or conveyed via the mailing list, is simply not good enough, and raises the question, what is the use of posting notices on our User Talk Page? And further, why no local marketing campaign via radio and print media? Why no outreach to schools etc?

11. With regard to the allegations that I have in any way abused the ‘safe space policy’ by photographing and/or videoing guests and attendees outside the venue AT A CO-LOCATED EVENT without their permission, or that it was necessary for me to register as a journalist and to gain permission in order to accomplish same, I once again refute the allegations and point you to our Bill of Rights, enshrining press freedom.

12. Further, in regard to the allegation of intimidation, I intend to provide you with my short video documentary, available in due course, (and pending final rendering) where you will find quite the opposite, and assert, that yes I too felt uncomfortable and intimidated, at being on the outside of the event, given the importance of the issues at hand, and no, I refuse to apologise for this making anyone else feel uncomfortable.

13. I hereby reserve all my rights to continue raising these and other important issues affecting both Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation in public and as needs be.

Sincerely yours

David Robert Lewis

021 788 3119
082 425 1454

davidrobertlewis@yahoo.co.uk

@ubuntupunk

Wikimedia ZA Douglas Scott, responds

Dear David,

I am writing in reply to the email (and attached letter) you sent the legal department at the Wikimedia Foundation on the 6 August 2018 (and copying me in on) in my capacity as the organising chairperson of Wikimania 2018.

It is with great regret that I learnt of your removal from Wikimania 2018 in Cape Town.  You have been an editor on Wikipedia for many years now and have attended Wikimedia ZA events in the past which is why Wikimedia ZA granted you a complementary ticket to attend Wikimania 2018.  The the best of my knowledge you are correct that you did not attend WikiIndaba in Tunisia; James was mistakenly referring to another individual based upon incorrect information given to him.

A few points on how Wikimania is run.  Hosting a Wikimania is a group effort between the local organising team (of which I am a member), the Wikimedia Foundation host team (who assist in many of the more practical aspects of hosting Wikimania), and the Wikimedia community broadly (who host the individual events, workshops and presentations that make up the conference).

Community derived events which makes up the vast majority of events at Wikimania were hosted by community members who applied to host them or present.  Their applications were passed by the program committee.  The program committee is made up of a group of volunteer Wikipedia community members whose responsibility it is to select presentations that will be hosted during the main conference.  Public announcements (advertised both through mailing lists and banner adds on Wikipedia) were made over the course of a month this year during which any community member could apply to give a presentation or host an event during the main conference.

The program committee sought to select events based on their fit to the theme of bridging knowledge gaps.  You refer to the absence of any event dealing ‘apartheid memory’.  If someone had made an application to host an event or presentation talking about that then the program committee would have seriously considered accepting such a presentation.   However to the best of my knowledge no one made any such applications.  Therefore there were no discussions on that subject.  In the future I would suggest applying to give such a presentation if you hope to see one happening.  Be bold (but not abrasive).

Some events were large full day or multiple day events.  Such events could only be hosted during the pre-conference due to logistical reasons.  The Decolonising the Internet event was one such event.

Continue reading

Trump’s narrative on South Africa

IT is easy to dismiss Donald Trump’s tweeting on ‘white genocide’ and ‘land expropriation’ as simply the result of alt-right post-truth exaggeration. A deflection of the global attention from more pressing US domestic issues. Less apparent is the impact the twitter-lead spat will have on cooling relations between the two countries, and amidst rising tensions between the BRICS bloc, and the USA over China, and also relations with EU and Turkey.

Trump has for some months now, threatened to pull out of AGOA, a trade pact formulated under Mandela involving South Africa, the AU and the US.

State Department spokesperson has reiterated risks and consequences if South Africa embarks upon wholesale land expropriation without compensation, but the country is “not Zimbabwe”.

In a statement President Ramaphosa responded: “This is no land grab; nor is it an assault on the private ownership of property. The ANC has been clear that its land reform programme should not undermine future investment in the economy or damage agricultural production and food security. The proposals will not erode property rights, but will instead ensure that the rights of all South Africans, and not just those who currently own land, are strengthened. SA has learnt from the experiences of other countries, both from what has worked and what has not, and will not make the same mistakes that others have made.”

Both Congress and the Senate have recently shown cause to question what the US is getting in return for Africa’s unfettered access to US markets. The last round of trade wars, however saw cheap poultry being dumped on local markets to the detriment of the South African industry, with the country coming off second best.

It is therefore important to remember( in the same week that saw the demise of UN secretary-general Kofi Anan), that South African politics, often loud and boisterous, has tendered towards moderation and pragmatism at the end of the day, and that the ANC has a legacy of support for multilateral international organizations. South Africa a former British colony, still has strong ties to the Commonwealth.

In this respect, the country, one of the G20,  has one foot in the first-world and another foot in the developing world, an unenviable consequence of defeating apartheid and not simply the result of a troubled colonial past.  Pragmatic consensus-building and alliance-making based upon political realties may be the only path forward.

It would be a shame if the democratic order were to be upset by ideologues on either side of the Atlantic.