Yes, Mr Masondo, we are human after all.

Dear David Masondo,

Your recent article in the Daily Maverick refers.

YOUR heartening statements about African identity, an inclusive identity which defines all South Africans, remains an “aspirational definition” out of reach of many.

As you correctly state “who is an African cannot be reduced to race or ethnicity because it would be tantamount to the colonial racist classification that we seek to correct.”

To which you verily conclude: “The inclusive and non-racial definition of who is an African should be used to reimagine a non-racial South Africa … without ignoring the past. Economic growth and transformation are essential in building a truly non-racial South Africa in which both black and white Africans will be Africans, in real terms.”

This may serve as a welcome start to the painful process of healing which must coexist within a broadening focus on economic and cultural inclusion.

Yet it remains to be seen if anything will ever come of such lofty statements, since clearly this debate has arisen, not from within the politics of the 1994 election roundabout, but rather the context of a painful two-decade failure by your party to deliver on the non-racial context of our Constitution.

That we have a recidivist system, which treats the constitution as a ‘carrot-on-a -stick’, an optional extra, whilst maintaining apartheid race privileges is clear. This at the same time as it denies persons such as myself who fall between the gaps, human agency, deploying definitions of personhood that are anything but humanist and non-racial — in effect a denial that I am a person for the purposes of law in particular the Employment Equity Act.

To summarise your corrupt party associate, AJ Halton Cheat in his disgusting decision of 2010: not only have I made absurd statements regarding my purported race (a denial that I am white), but I am thus ‘an absurdity’ who has apparently passed himself off as a human being in order to gain employment, and therefore also according to the court, a non-Jew (or Jew in breach of his religion) who has attempted to cast himself as Jewish in order to seek an award for unfairness in terms of statutes making discrimination on the basis, whether via policy or practice, unlawful.

The jingoistic and irregularly-gained Labour Court decision (framed by the perjury suborned by the fraudulent counter-case against me) is anything but South African, and subject to ridicule, since it takes up a moral position consistent with a minority version of a major religion.

An anti-Enlightenment canon which proceeds to trivialise the TRC, insinuating that race segregation is somehow divinely sanctioned by the Catholic Church — in effect promoting anti-secularist 1994 denial — and worse, a categorical denial that there ever was a policy of separate development impacting upon the demographics of the Cape.

As South Africa continues to struggle with itself, examining and even criticising your motion, to move away from the politics of exclusion, in particular the petty apartheid race classification which characterised the past regime, one must restate the case.

It is rather under your government, and attorneys acting on behalf of the state, that both the TRC ‘transitional justice system’ and our nonracial constitutional framework, has been broken and broken, in some instances, even shot down by racists sitting on the bench.

I refer you to the recent decision handed down by AJ Bernard Martin of the Western Cape Division of the High Court in March of 2019, denying legal aid to similarly-situated persons such as myself in a matter affecting the status of both the TRC and its final report.

Blatantly trivialising and bashing the TRC report, and in the process squashing a case brought before the Equality Court in 2015, seeking to uphold the findings of the commission at the same time as we all struggle with extra-curial evidence of wrong-doing. Evidence following the astonishing campaign against the commission by one of the perpetrators of the apartheid system.

Furthermore, I point you to what appears to be more than opposition by state attorneys acting on behalf of former Justice Minister Michael Masutho, (who have, through their failure to defend, similarly bashed the findings of the commission), and likewise statements by Legal Aid South Africa’s John van Onselen, who in effect are assisting the perpetrators in their campaign, instead of helping the victims. A stark failure if any, to uphold the status of the report before the courts, and in conjunction with an ugly multiracial and multiregionalist version of reality consistent with the regime of PW Botha.

That we have to read your words under the rubric: “Are Indian, coloured and white people really African in post-apartheid South Africa?” is surely evidence that your own government has had cause on occasion to not regard us all as Africans and equals, but rather, to use the tired narrative of former racialists such as one Dr Piet Koornhof, that there exists, ‘a separate, and distinct species which spontaneously arose in Europe, not Africa.’

That the question of whether or not I am an African, is still the subject of legal debate and policy wrangling, speaks to the many failures of your government in addressing this question. Your article is thus a welcome addition to my case file in support of the motion to abolish and rescind the racist decision handed down by AJ Cheadle and Co.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dropping the race fraud charges isn’t good enough

YESTERDAY South Africans awoke to discover the press were having a field day with Glen Snyman, a teacher at Grootkraal Primary School in the Karoo region. Snyman apparently was charged with fraud after he allegedly identified himself as “African” on his CV for a position at another school in 2017, but had indicated “coloured” on other documents.

If destroying the man’s career in order to promote a new form of petty apartheid in the form of the Employment Equity Act wasn’t enough, the insinuation that Snyman, the founder of People Against Race Classification (PARC), was not merely breaking the law, but was now passing himself off as someone else, in effect, pretending to be black, was truly galling.

In dropping the charges without issuing a retraction of its race-inquiry, the Education Dept, appear to be saying: ‘We’ll overlook what Snyman did, but don’t do it again”. Instead of introducing a points-based system in order to tackle the problem of historical disadvantage within a neutral and objective framework, the law has unfortunately, tended to encourage and even retrace failed policies related to pseudo-scientific racism.

In 2008 Kobus Faasen sued Media24’s Die Burger for collectively describing persons of colour as ‘Bushmen’, only to discover that the law also regarded him as a Bushman, and he had been passing himself off as a “Coloured” for years.

In 2010, my own identity became the subject of a racist religious inquisition at the behest of a corporation instrumental in the creation of the apartheid state, a corporation which thought nothing of deploying one of its own representatives, Halton Cheadle, to act on the bench.

In March this year, global media carried the story of one Jessica Krug a “white professor of African-American Studies, who in her medium confessional claimed: “To an escalating degree over my adult life, I have eschewed my lived experience as a white Jewish child in suburban Kansas City under various assumed identities within a Blackness that I had no right to claim …”

She appears to conclude “I have built my life on a violent anti-Black lie, and I have lied in every breath I have taken”.

Unfortunately the same may be said of any person who has ever been inspired by the works of Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Steven Biko.

The two incidents, that of Snyman and Krug, are reminiscent of the 2015 Rachel Dolezol affair affecting the anachronistic National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) whose aims include ensuring ‘a society in which all individuals have equal rights without discrimination based on race”.

As Jelani Cobb put it, if Dolezol was lying, ‘she was lying about a lie, the lie of race’, or in words of author Ta-Nehisi Coates, ‘race is the child of racism, not the father’. Read: We are All Rachel Dolezol Now. And my unpublished letter: The context of race in today’s society is anything but normal.

Both Krug and the Dept of Education, erroneously assumes there to be distinct race categories separating black and white, and thus if one follows the resulting analysis, readers can be forgiven for assuming blackness to be the result of the ‘colour of ones skin’, or a ‘preponderance of African ancestry,’ both claims resoundingly disproven and shot down by science.

It was the late black consciousness leader Steve Biko who challenged the apartheid state by seeking to move blackness away from the realm of pseudo-scientific inquiry and into the realm of political and existential thought, in the process eschewing legalistic definitions deployed by the apartheid state, and related to ethnicity, hair and skin colour.

Recently Dr Lee Berger, well-known paleoanthropologist and discoverer of Homo Naledi, reiterated the evidence that there is ‘no separation between the species’, we are all one species, Homo Sapiens, with a common heritage in Africa.

That there is such a thing as a truly authentic identity, a coherent mental attitude constituting a standard of normality, is unbecoming of our Dept of Education, which should at least be familiar with the tragic attempt by the Nationalist government of South Africa to police race segregation.

In short, all human identity is fictional at best, since the moment one examines a human being in situ, the physical facts of our inter-relatedness emerge, as too our common African ancestry.

SEE: David Masondo’s Are Indian, coloured and white people really African in post-apartheid South Africa?

The real race fraudsters are those in political power …

SOUTH AFRICA has a constitution whose preamble asserts that we are a non-racial country. Unfortunately our government believes otherwise. The ANC conveniently terms itself a non-racial party, but then myopically discriminates against persons on the basis that Africans can only be from one exclusive group, the so-called ‘Bantu-people’.

In the racialised prism of our education department, an indigenous Khoi or San, is not considered a Human Being. The Glen Snyman story is no different from the Kobus Faasen story, read here.

Snyman, a teacher at Grootkraal Primary School in Oudtshoorn, the founder of ‘People Against Race Classification’ self-identifies as African, the result has been a reactionary backlash from a clearly racist education department.

Given the corruption endemic to our nation, the racist and petty apartheid views of the Department are likely to be upheld by an equally racist judiciary, one infiltrated by organised crime, according to police chief Bheki Cele.

Even though my family have lived in this country for generations, we are considered Non-African as in Non-European, a term taken from an apartheid text book, read Lord Musi, quit calling yourself a judge. The request to a citizen for ‘evidence of African-ness’ is beneath contempt. What next a determination that Snyman is not South African and ergo he should forfeit citizenship?

It was Adolf Hitler who introduced the distinction between Aryan and non-Aryan, and likewise Hendrik Verwoerd who pursued a world view separating people into European and Non-European categories

There is no piece of legislation to my knowledge categorising persons according to the defunct ideology of race — the apartheid Population Registration Act for instance was abolished in 1991 –yet petty apartheid remains. According to Denise Coetsee, an HR professional quoted in the Citizen “there are currently no fixed set of rules for race classification”, which is “largely based on the verbal confirmation of the person claiming to form part of a specific racial group”.

In 2010, a corrupt ANC official by the name of Halton Cheadle, presided over a legal matter involving his own client and business partner. A matter in which I was not represented and restrained from calling witnesses. You can read the proceedings of the case here.

The resulting crack-pot decision under the racist Western Cape division, proceeds to upbraid my identity for asserting that ‘I am a person of Colour’ a Bantu, and denying apartheid race classification. Coloured is not an identity per se, it is the term that was given me when I was banned and sectioned under the Group Areas Act.

Read my story “Living in the Heart of Kakness” or watch a video preview.

A 1999 Constitutional Court decision (President of the Republic of South Africa and Others v South African Rugby Football Union (Sarfu) and Others) regarding a recusal matter brought by one Louis Luyt, seemingly paved the way for judges to remain ANC party members whilst holding office. Notably the test for ‘reasonable apprehension of bias’ was moved away from that of the ordinary citizen or ‘reasonable person’ to that of the purview of what juristocrats or legal professionals might consider reasonable.

Therefore, when addressing these allegations, we must not only address the ‘multiracial’ fraud being perpetrated by the ANC and its officials in the Dept of Education, but also the abject failure of our courts and judiciary to uphold the very basis for the Republic’s legal dispensation, namely the Preamble to the Constitution.

Andile Lungisa may have a point …

THIS past week saw some of South Africa’s top judges demanding a retraction of remarks made by former ANC youth league leader Andile Lungisa that ‘his case was unfairly decided because of political pressure and affiliation”.

If everything was hunky dory in our Republic, the erstwhile ANC deployee, would have zero basis for making such statements, and given the deteriorating circumstances, still serve his time, but I fear things have gone from bad to worse.

The deplorable situation in which certain members of the judiciary, (and I include acting judges such as Halton Cheadle) appear to be actively involved in petty party politics, (beneficiaries of party-political largesse, if not on the payroll), is only magnified by the recent statements of the Chief Justice and the various cases brought against the nation’s many juristocrats.

If the Judge Hlophe saga doesn’t raise ones ire about the status quo in which there is a visible lack of opprobrium and absence of a functioning civilian mechanism of discipline within the broader profession itself, then the public surely needs to be reminded that it was Judge Hlophe himself who called for a commission of inquiry into his own behaviour?

Certainly a case of deferral, deflection and proverbial passing-of-the-buck, to quasi-governmental commissions which have shown themselves unable and unwilling to deliver on decades of inquiry and complaint? What next, news that Hlophe has appointed his wife as the chairperson in charge?

Will Zondo spend the next decade taking testimony which would best be considered by a grand jury comprising the National Provincial of Councils, if not the entire legislature?

That there remain institutional problems inherited from the past which have not disappeared under the new dispensation is abundantly clear. The Western Cape division is a veritable Vorster bantustan, its chambers replete with photographs of apartheid-era judges going back to colonial times.

A division which persists in promoting an anti-Secular, anti-Enlightenment, multiracialist and multiregionalist ‘nouveu-apartheid’, can only be condemned.

The untenable situation in which legal professionals are elevated to the status of nobility within a juristocracy out-of-kilter with our non-racial democracy may be demonstrated by the abject failure of the Judicial Services Commission to do anything about several complaints before it, including my own.

But let’s not run away with the Lungisa debacle, and belittle the irony of the situation, forgetting the real predicament of those within the very self-same political formations responsible for bending the judiciary to their egregious aims.

At the end of the day it is the ruling party which is to blame.

Dear Mmusi Maimane

Dear Mmusi Maimane,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely yours,

David Robert Lewis

Living in the Heart of Kakness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revisiting Eskom Liberalisation and the Energy Commons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The rise of the alcohol prohibition and temperance consortium

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is anyone in Pretoria listening?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time to give Pretoria/Tshwane bureaucrats their marching orders.