Check out this posting from a blog called Integral Transformation, showcasing 5 environmental organisations making a difference in Cape Town
Dear Friend, Colleague, Supporter and Associate.
As the publisher of Medialternatives, you will no doubt have been following my postings. You may also know me as an anti-apartheid activist and journalist — I happen to have worked for several banned publications during the freedom struggle, including South Press, Grassroots & New Nation.
South Africa’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) held special hearings into the role played by the media, 15 – 17 September 1997. Naspers Pty Ltd, a company instrumental in the creation of the apartheid state did not attend. Instead it sent the commission a copy of its corporate history “Oor Grense Heen”.
The company was found guilty.
Volume 4 of the TRC Final report (pg 180) observes: “The history concedes that Die Burger, for instance, promoted Verwoerd’s ideals of bantustans from an early stage and that, after Sharpville, the same newspaper advised that all positive aspects be speeded up. Occasionally, doubts about apartheid do surface but, in the main, the book reflects a total lack of concern for the company’s support of the racist system”
In 2006, Naspers attempted to gag me from speaking out about race segregation and race profiling at its community newspapers division. A lengthy labour case ensued with a decision handed down in 2010. The result was that the TRC Report was trashed, and I was found guilty of harbouring a vendetta against the company, and excoriated because of my exposé of the company’s failure to come clean at the commission. A number of spurious ecclesiastical charges, and other trumped up charges, were also brought against me in the counter-case lodged by the company attacking my Jewish identity and professional conduct.
To make matters worse, I was also thrown in jail for complaining to one of the company’s business partners, Kagiso who it turned out are part of a wider cartel active in the media alongside Naspers, and controlled by several Afrikaner businessmen. The labour judge turned out to also be in business with Kagiso, who are invested in his client Naspers.
After failing to raise sufficient funds to approach South Africa’s Constitutional Court, I lodged a case at the Equality Court of South Africa (EC19/2015), seeking to have the TRC Report upheld by a court of law, and also exposing the deception by Naspers director Ton Vosloo, who has sought to post fact amend the outcome of the report.
I am now appealing to the international community to please assist me in covering my legal expenses, including a cost order against me, in a collateral case at the Equality Court involving the appointment of Ashraf Mahomed, the President of the Cape Law Society, as representative for Naspers, whilst he is acting justice and also on the executive of a body controlling the legal profession of South Africa, — this while I myself do not possess an attorney in a matter affecting the life of the TRC Final Report.
Please assist me in gaining access to justice. Defend the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report!
If you wish to donate, or contribute to the campaign for justice, please follow this link to the FundRazr funding appeal.
IF THE idea of a sudden influx of cheap chicken wings from the USA wasn’t enough to disturb South Africans, who up until now hadn’t given much thought to how our local chickens fare, then I guess the threat of arsenic in imported US chicken marks a turning point in environmentalism. The FDA admitted this week that 70% of U.S. Chickens contain cancer-causing arsenic.
The privileged amongst us have always been weary of what we eat, but seeing social media taking up the mantra of free range, grain-fed, “organic Chicken” in the aftermath of the announcement, it occurred to me that many of those posting about this issue, are amongst South Africa’s emerging black empowered middle-class, eager to link colonialism and the politics of food.
It was thus with some bemusement that I also witnessed the reactionary attacks on social media this week by Adam Haupt and Gillian Schutte et al, who seem to be of the opinion that an “Animal Lives Matter” poster put up at UCT was nothing less than a hidden agenda for white supremacists. (see my earlier criticism of this agenda-setting here)
“Keep your animal rights out of black rights” screamed Schutte.
So far as Haupt, who appears to be a “Professor at the Centre for Film and Media Studies“, was concerned, the innocuous phrase “Animal Rights Matter” was assuredly a ‘racist intertextual reference’, one that “denigrates black lives and presents the human and animal rights as mutually exclusive.”
Haupt went on to retort “in short, the poster is divisive in this context and provides a binary response to black students and staff’s attempts to address bigotry.”
I have no doubt that he would also say the exact same thing of a “Queer rights Matter” poster, or a “Women’s Rights Matter” pamphlet.
Both readings would be an unnecessary distortion and removal of context, and historically incorrect. For all the academic blather, (surely a case of cookie-cutter theory and hammer-head ideology), the criticism is undoubtedly misplaced and unfounded.
Environmentalism like queerdom, has a long history of co-existance with the struggle against racism and apartheid in this country. In ‘Do You have to be White to be Green’, an article written by Albie Sachs and published by Kagenna Press back in the 90s, Sachs answered the same question with an emphatic No.
As one of the persons responsible for linking apartheid and the environment, and having unleashed considerable criticism, of what was then, a movement dominated by persons classified as white, I can only concur with Sachs, and suggest that the movement has now come full circle. The renaming of the Wildlife Society of South Africa is a case in point, as is the inclusion of environmental rights in our Constitution.
Humans are an integral part of the environment, and thus issues such as water, housing, sanitation, exist alongside the Save the Rhino campaign.
As an aside, it wasn’t simply these linkages between apartheid and the environment that were important, (so far as the struggle against apartheid was concerned), it was also the linkages between apartheid and the animals in the environment.
Wildlife battling the apartheid regime was a new front in the struggle, as my articles published in the anti-apartheid weekly, South, demonstrate, and thus exposing General Magnus Malan’s trophy hunting expeditions attest — directing readers to pictures and images of ‘Bokkie and the War’, painted in the public’s mind, images one could never forget.
The bloody, ripped, lifeless, gemsbok, antelope, kudu and Mother Nature herself, killed in the name of the Botha, Malan and Vlok war machine made for effective propaganda. If the racist bigots couldn’t make an emotional connection with similar images emanating from the townships on a daily basis — in which human beings had been reduced to the status of mere objects — then exposing the continuum of pain that included wildlife, and the basis for our existence on Planet Earth, was surely a resounding success.
This is the kind of thing that often gets one thrown out of shareholder meetings — the sight of bloodied fur and animal rights demonstrators –all part of the emergence of the first phase of green consciousness, so crucial to any debate on patriarchy and capitalism, and which lead to the inclusion of Post-Brundland values in our constitution, alongside “ecological sustainable development” and the “right to adequate housing”
DO YOU remember when the internet still spread hope? After its invention in the‘80s, we had access to a mass of information, sites such as Napster allowed us to share so-called “private property” easily and, most importantly, we could publish what we had to say ourselves – and people actually listened. It was participatory in nature, without much visible regulation from above. Nowadays, with net neutrality being at risk, mass surveillance and the threat of clamping down on copyright infringements as an excuse for censorship, the web often induces more fear than encouragement.
Narcolepsy sufferer Aaron Bale – mentored by “the internet’s own boy”, Aaron Swartz, and inspired by the success of the SOPA blackout in 2012, when 20 million people effectively stopped an anti-piracy bill – has come up with an idea to return some power to internet users: BitVote. He hopes his project will let us have some say again, without being completely overrun by the powers-that-be.
What is BitVote?
As a decentralised app operating on a BitCoin-like blockchain technology with a KeyValuePair store of data strings everyone can access, BitVote will add value to ideas without a human authority having to oversee the process. The coding will be completely transparent, so everyone can improve, build and analyse the tool as they wish. In the interest of, “I don’t agree with your opinion but I’ll fight for your right to speak it,” it’ll be completely neutral and compatible with all current systems as well as third-party add-ons.
How do I vote?
Votes will be measured in units we can all relate to: minutes, hours and days of our life. You’ll be able to choose a link (or create your own) to something you feel strongly about – say it’s the fight against Monsanto’s food monopoly. After pasting it into BitVote, you can dedicate an appropriate amount of token time to it. If you have 24 vote hours, you could use all 24 hours towards Stop Monsanto. But you could also, if you don’t care about the GMO giants as much, only use four hours (or one, two, five etc.) and save the rest for a different cause. Your vote will be recorded and your available hours will drop accordingly. The time-units are easy for everyone to grasp, yet they’ll provide multiple factors for analysis. What, for instance, is more important – many people spending small vote units on a cause or a few people spending large vote units on a cause?
Bale and BitVote coder Jasper den Ouden haven’t agreed whether all voters will accumulate vote hours from the day BitVote launches or from the day you were born, but the consensus is that the assigning of “vote currency” needs to be equal for all. Importantly, although vote hours will increase every 60 minutes of your life, they’ll gain value through scarcity. This means that those who don’t use the internet so often – the elderly, people living in rural areas or just generally less tech-savvy people – will actually have a stronger impact when things get heavy. Say something drastic happens and a president decides to go to war. The above-mentioned demographic might be motivated to vote and have more hours to spend than enthusiastic internet users who vote everyday.
You might be thinking, how is this different to slacktivism? It’s just a bunch of symbolic hours after all; spent in a virtual system, via a click from your armchair. Bale realises that the vote hours won’t do anything as such. But what they will do, is show what people care about. If you’re fighting for a cause, you might feel more confident addressing it in the real world if you know 80% of BitVoters feel the same way as you. Ultimately – although BitVote can be used for a vast variety of reasons, from market research to activism – the system’s strength is perhaps that it could offer evidence of betrayal. If the Film and Publications Board South Africa says pre-publication censorship on the internet is what the majority wants, citizens could take to BitVote to prove the opposite. Whether a bunch of votes will actually stop officials from executing their plans is hard to imagine, yet – if the system really is widely used by technophiles and technophobes alike – it might be more powerful than a Twitter storm or liking causes on Facebook.
What about mob-votes?
A concern is that a mob of people, who might be very uneducated on the subject they’re voting on, could get together to cast a potentially dangerous vote. Imagine this was, “kill all homosexuals”. Bale tries to explain this problem with what he calls “The Zombie Example”. “If there’s a zombie apocalypse on the rise and 99.9% want to legalise cannibalism, authorities have the option not to act on this, and the population will thank them later. You can use common sense.” Moreover, it’s an alarm bell. If a large number of voters plan to kill homosexuals, he would try to physically intervene. He believes it probably won’t come to tyranny-of-the-majority votes though because of the way people interact online. “Not in close physical proximity, and anonymously. There’s trolling, but there’s not a lot of abuse of authority. The internet doesn’t kill people.”
Also, he explains, if a tyrant boss in an oppressive regime gets a 1000 of his employees to vote at gunpoint, these workers can cast a counter-vote anonymously to get “the asshole fired”. He adds that there are a lot of scams around and BitVote isn’t immune to them – but often people have ways to figure them out. An instant “vote bomb”, in this case a 1000 people voting for a dodgy cause at once, might spur some scepticism.
Although users will be completely anonymous by default, a positive aspect is perhaps that you’ll have the option to disclose your geographical location. Imagine the City of Cape Town decides to evict a group of people from their shacks, again claiming to have the interest of the people at heart. The majority, who are not being evicted from their homes, might vote for the eviction of the shack-dwellers because they don’t understand their conditions – thus providing the City with a plausible back-up to their statement. The affected community could, however, start a location-aware vote to show that everyone who lives in the area does not approve of the eviction. In other words, the people at the river should have more authority to decide whether it’s polluted or not. Bale also points out that, because anyone can build an add-on tool, it’s easy to create filters. This might be useful if BitVote gets flooded with porn.
As well-intentioned as BitVote may sound, if it wants be legitimate and effective, there can only be one user per real-world identity, which is difficult to prove without compromising anonymity. The geek word for this is Sybil security – a tricky problem many organisations are currently trying to solve. While none of them are perfect, the BitVote team members have some ideas. Options could involve “ID pools”, i.e. having users play a game simultaneously, or reputation systems. A lot of methods have loop holes and would be extremely costly though. According to Bale, so-called Sybil attacks, also called “sock puppeting”, are often of a “social nature”, meaning they don’t necessarily involve a lot of technical know-how. Therefore, Bale welcomes everyone to help solve this problem. If you’re a social orientated professional, such as a sociologist, political student, social-engineer hacker, activist, doctor, or just someone with a good idea, please contact him at email@example.com.
At this stage it’s unclear when BitVote will launch officially – funding still needs to be secured and Sybil security solved – but the team is working on getting a small scale system up and running soon. This will function as an invitation-only experiment for people whose identity has been verified in the real world.
Until then, we might not be sure of the project’s practical implications. But one thing Bale said might be valuable to keep in mind: “With BitVote the concept of authority is constantly changing. The ideas themselves will gain authority, not people.”
What do you think? Are you sceptical? How would you use BitVote?
Please post your ideas, critiques and praise in the comment section – it’s a project everyone is encouraged to participate in.
Text: Christine Hogg
“The very presence of the club represented a threat to the Apartheid regime’s policies of segregation. Police raids were regular, always under the pretext of looking for illegal liquor sales or drugs; at the time mostly “dagga” (marijuana) usage.”