Tagged: South Africa

Letter to Editors

Dear Ed,

As a hostage to the conflict being waged by conservatives on either side, I wish to once again place on record my objections to the war in the Middle East. In particular the internecine, sectarian conflict involving members of various faith groups, who refuse to recognise the rights of secularists such as myself.

The conflict is clearly a long-standing, religious-based conflict involving the deployment of displacement theology by either side, in the battle over identity and the status of Jerusalem, a city regarded as holy by many religions.

I also wish to reiterate my objections to the separation barrier and my rejection of the so-called ‘right of return’ on the basis of my Jewish ancestry, placed on record shortly after the wall was built in 2000, and published prominently in the Israeli media.

As a secular humanistic Jew and subscriber to the principles of the Society for Secular Humanistic Judaism, Jewish identity is best preserved in a free, pluralistic environment. The freedom and dignity of the Jewish people must go hand in hand with the freedom and dignity of every human being.

As a struggle veteran and war resister, I also wish to remind my fellow South Africans of my objections to the rationalisations of members of the IDF, in a combined ECC-IDF platform on UCT campus during 1987, and also the continued dispute involving my Jewish identity recorded in the decision of a South African court, and involving offensive race testing.

Apartheid, and its sequel in the new South Africa, should never be used as the justification for domination by one group over another, nor should its motivations be forgotten. Dialogue and compromise by all sides, is the only way forward. As objectors on both sides have shown, another reality is possible.

Let peace prevail on earth.

[Letter remains unpublished due to vendetta by SANEF]

Coloured stereotyping uproar

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A “Gam” is a form of speech, not a person.

EXACTLY dow do the authors intend to update their badly thought out and obscene journey into apartheid-era paternalism? The object may as well be renamed ‘Getting the Rainbow Nation All Wrong: A Recidivist’s Guide to racialising South African culture

That the book in question clearly has no insight into its purported subject matter and appears to immediately launch into an illogical binary, an ‘Us vs Them’ proposition along with its absurd claim to normativity, and thus directing an editorial voice at an audience who are clearly ‘not coloured’ is highly problematic.

The otherisation of people is what hurts and what needs to be tackled here. The problem is not incidental and I have found the exact same condescending, patronising tone expressed within the transcripts of a 2010 court proceeding, only accessed this year and involving apartheid publisher Media24 and its own insane claim to demographic normativity.

In 2008 the same company won the right to use the term “bushmen/boesman” in reference to “coloured” persons. The latest offering from Logogog fairs no better in fictionalising and failing its subject matter.

Exactly who are “they” and what is “them”? Why the race stereotyping, profiling and patriarchy, and why is there something wrong with tackling racism by identifying with the oppressed?

Equally unacceptable is the continued use of apartheid race criteria to label people. The term ‘coloured’ itself is an anachronism, same way that the ‘National Association for the Advancement of Coloured Persons’ is anachronistic and harking back to a previous period before the ascendency of civil rights.

As a person who was disenrolled from the ‘white race” back in the 80s, sectioned under apartheid laws and assimilated into the self-same ‘coloured culture’ portrayed inaccurately and with contempt by the publishers, due to the Group Areas Act and other legislation, I find such chocolate box portraiture (in essence race stigma) highly problematic — as too my ongoing legal problems (mostly contrary to received science) surrounding my presumed race identity and thus the publisher’s supreme right to act accordingly.

Apartheid never worked, and its many sequels in the new South Africa of today are equally doomed to failure. This is not what the authors of the freedom struggle intended.

For starters, at South Press, (a struggle newspaper) we all decided we were black. Under a black government, the ‘coloured” label saw renewed contestation. The term is not so much an identity as an imposition.

Under apartheid persons could be classified ‘coloured’ or “other coloured” merely for looking coloured, or by associating with persons of mixed race. Such was the problem inherent to ‘coloured identity’ and the criteria enumerated by C Vogel and A Abdurahman. Yet, a 2010 decision, applauded by the press, and handed down by one H Cheadle, labeled me an “absurdity” for being just who I am.

The problem appears endemic, at a recent peacebuilders conference, a young spokesperson for the Fallist movement, who happens to be ‘black and transexed’, when questioned as to what a ‘transracial or postracial identity might entail’, claimed that “white people cannot experience racism … since they don’t have the same baggage…” to which I replied, aside from the fact that you choose to label me, do you mean to tell me a straight person cannot experience homophobia, similarly a non-Jew, anti-Semitism, and ergo, a non-Muslim, Islamophobia?

Lest we forget, I had a school mate named Marcus who attended my prep school and migrated to the village primary institution along with the rest of the class. Then one day an investigator from the Cape Provincial Administration (CPA) pitched up, yanked Marcus by the scruff of the neck and removed the dear from the school because his hair wasn’t straight.

The tragic case of Happy Sindane, the boy who thought he was ‘white’, despite having ‘black parents’, also springs to mind. Pseudo-scientific racial criteria and the ersatz and equally obscene ‘cultural wash’, now laid on thick by the publishers, and even the press, should not be a defining factor of life in South Africa. To reiterate, the Rainbow Nation is not about the colour of one’s skin, but rather, the colour of one’s rights. Equally, the Rainbow Nation is not about maintenance of racial privileges but rather the restitution of the innate rights we all hold from birth.

— David Robert Lewis

Health Ombud Esidimeni Report findings

Key Findings

Upon the investigation, the Ombud has established that:

  1. A total of ninety-four (94+) and not thirty-six (36) mentally ill patients (as initially and commonly reported publicly in the media) died between 23 March 2016 and 19 December 2016 in Gauteng Province. This total number of 94 should be seen as a working and provisional number.
  2. All the 27 NGOs to which patients were transferred operated under invalid licences; therefore, all patients who died in these NGOs died in unlawful circumstances
  3. The NGOs where the majority of patients died had neither the basic competence and experience, the leadership/managerial capacity nor ‘fitness for purpose’ and were often poorly resourced. The existent unsuitable conditions and competence in some of these NGOs precipitated and are closely linked to the observed ‘higher or excess’ deaths of the mentally ill patients.
  4. 75 (79.78%) patients died from 5 NGO/hospital complexes (Precious Angels 20, Cullinan Care and Rehabilitation Centre (CCRC)/ Siyabadinga/Anchor 25, Mosego/Takalani 15, Tshepong 10 and Hephzibah 5);
  5. There were 11 NGOs with no deaths, 8 NGOs with average deaths and 8 NGOs with ‘higher or excess’ death;
  6. Only 4 Mental Health Care Users (MCHUs) died in hospitals compared to 77 MCHUs deaths at NGOs; in absolute numbers for every 1 death at the hospitals there were 19 deaths at the NGOs but correcting for the total base population the ratio is 1:7. This ratio is very high.
  7. When the MEC of Health made announcement on 13 September 2016, 77 patients had already lost their lives.
  8. At the time of writing the Report, 94 patients had died in 16 out of 27 NGOs and 3 hospitals.
  9. 95.1% deaths occurred in the NGOs from those directly transferred from LE Health Care Centre.
  10. Available evidence by the Expert Panel and the Ombud showed that a ‘high-level decision’ to terminate the LE Health Care Centrecontract precipitously was taken, followed by a ‘programme of action’ with disastrous outcomes/consequences including the deaths of Assisted MCHUs. The Ombud identified three key players in the project: MEC QedaniDorothy Mahlangu, Head of Department (HoD),Dr. Tiego Ephraim Selebano and Director Dr. Makgabo Manamela at times referred to as ‘dramatis personae’ in the text. Their fingerprints are ‘peppered’ throughout the project. The decision was reckless, unwise and flawed, with inadequate planning and a chaotic and ‘rushed or hurried’ implementation process.
  11. Several factors in the ‘programme of action’ were identified by the (Expert Panel, OHSC Inspectors, Ombud and Ministerial Advisory Committee) that contributed and precipitated to the accelerated deaths of mentally ill patients at the NGOs. The transfer process particularly, was often described as ‘chaotic or a total shamble’;
  12. The Gauteng Mental Health Marathon Project, as it became known was: done in a ‘hurry/rush’; with ‘chaotic’ execution; in an environment with no developed, no tradition, no culture of primary mental health care community-based service framework and infrastructure;

Human Rights Violations.

There is prima facie evidence, that certain officials and certain NGOs and some activities within the Gauteng Marathon Project violated the Constitution and contravened, the National Health Act and the Mental Health Care Act (2002). Some executions and implementation of the project have shown a total disregard of the rights of the patients and their families, including but not limited to the Right to Human dignity; Right to life; Right to freedom and security of person; Right to privacy, Right to protection from an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being, Right to access to quality health care services, sufficient food and water and Right to an administrative action that is lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair.

Negligent/Reckless Decisions/Actions

The Ombud established that the following decisions/actions were negligent or reckless by the Department of Health:

  1. Overcrowded NGOs which are more restrictive, is contrary to the deinstitutionalization policy of the MHCA and MH Strategy and Policy.
  2. Transfer of patients to far-away places from their communities, is contrary to the policy of deinstitutionalization.
  3. Transfer of patients to NGOs that were ‘not ready’, that were ‘not prepared properly for the task’.
  4. Transfer of patients without the provision of structured community mental health care services is contrary to the Mental Health policy.
  5. NGOs without qualified staff and skills to care for the special requirements of the patients.
  6. NGOs without appropriate infrastructure and not adequately financially resourced.
  7. NGOs without safety and security.
  8. NGOs without proper heating during winter, some were described as ‘cold’.
  9. NGOs without food and water, where patients became emaciated and some died of ‘dehydration’.
  10. Grant and sign licences without legal or delegated authority.

2000 apartheid laws reviewed, possibly repealed

KHULUMANI reports that our Parliament is on track to ‘review and possibly repeal more than 1,800 apartheid-era laws.’

‘In 2016, the programming committee of the National Assembly mandated Parliament’s legal services with identifying all apartheid-era laws or sections in legislation, that could be inconsistent with the Constitution.’

‘Parliament’s legal advisers submitted their report to the committee on Thursday. It identifies 1,850 pieces of legislation passed between 1910 and 1993.”

“Parliament’s legal services will now begin identifying the departments under which each of the laws falls for input and processing.”

READ the full report here

 

Kenny Motsamai finally free

ONE year after convicted freedom fighter Kenny Motsamai was released on day parole, the state has lifted restrictions, allowing Motsamai to walk to freedom.

Member of the Azanian People’s Liberation Army (Apla), Kenny Motsamai, was released on day parole from Boksburg Prison in January last year. This meant that he was still in prison after dark.

Some 100 Apla members are still incarcerated under apartheid-era laws. Motsamai spent over 27 years in jail for offenses which occurred during the liberation struggle. The main charge against him was for killing a police officer during a botched bank robbery, one of the tactics used to fund Apla.

“The acts that Motsamai undertook where similar in “criminality” (under normal circumstances) to the activities of Dirk Coetzee, Eugene de Kock and Louis van Schoor. The only difference was that one set of activities were in defence of apartheid, and the other set against it,”writes Ayabonga Cawe.

Worknet, Sangonet & the struggle for digital freedom

FROM two floppy disks smuggled into South Africa in the late 1980s, to an NGO which continues to play a major role in responding to the Information Technology (IT) requirements of the NGO sector in South Africa, this is the unique story of SANGONeT.

In the late 1980s, not long after Bill Gates had moved from his garage into a boardroom, a quiet IT revolution was taking place in Africa. Organisations and individuals, working on the front lines of human rights and development efforts, were beginning to make use of computers, modems and telephone lines to exchange information.

Arriving back in South Africa from Sussex, Alan Finlay says with “two floppy disks, 64kb of memory and an external modem” was, “a leap in the dark”. “No-one knew how it would turn out. It was the future responding to the surrounding environment. 1

WorkNet brought together what Taffy Adler describes as a “motley crew of union, civic and church activists” and some “progressive computer boffins What this motley crew shared was an interest in harnessing the potential of the new communications technologies for change.

Hooking up anti-apartheid organisations and NGOs to basic email services and newsgroups gave these organisations an edge against the authorities who had yet to embrace information technology.

Simone Shall, WorkNet’s first manager, describes his experience getting unions connected.“We were training the unions on PCs, and wrote a small package for them to manage their memberships,” Shall recalls.

WorkNet attracted the attention of techie activists working elsewhere in Africa, and overseas, as a global network emerged, linking non-profit organisations around issues such as environment, women’s rights, and development. GreenNet, a non-profit Internet Service Provider (ISP) become an important ally for WorkNet. With support from a sister NGO called Poptel (Popular Telematics), an international gateway was set up to WorkNet that would connect it to NGOs across the globe.

The initial set-up at WorkNet was rudimentary; nothing one would associate with today’s modern service providers. The WorkNet international link was automated for example, using a simple DOS-based ‘store-and-forward’ email system called Fidonet. The server would dial-up to the GreenNet/Poptel server in the United Kingdom twice a day to download any text mails which were forwarded back and forth from node to node, in a system which predated the World Wide Web.

‘WorkNet originally used some home-brewed scripts to act as a standalone bulletin board system (BBS). Then it migrated to a commercial BBS product called MajorBBS, an early open source programme, Subsequently WorkNet then upgraded to a Sun Sparc station running SunOS, before moving to outsource its network to a commercial provider in the US.’

Although the Worknet service was eventually forced to close as a result of the introduction of commercial competition from services providers such as MWEB and iAfrica, both of whom were able to provider better connectivity, at cheaper rates, SANGOnet continues to support NGOs and is in the forefront of introducing Information Communication Technology (ICT) initiatives in response to civil society requirements and national development priorities.

Lessons which may be learnt from SANGOnet and in particular Worknet, is the way technology may provide activists with an edge, often in periods of conflict, however this edge is only available for a short time, since new technology constantly replaces the old thus levelling the playing field. Often the experience is one of cat and mouse, with each new technological development implemented by activists being countered by big business and capitalism, think of the way pirates use peer-to-peer (P2P) software to download illegal files, in turn service providers invent new technology to counter these threats.

1Adapted from Alan Finley, The SangoNet Story, 20 years of linking civil society through ICTs 2007 ISBN 978-0-620-39102-3

First published online as a chapter in The Media Activist Handbook