The Tragedies of the Eugene Terre’Blanche Murder

, , , , , , ,

The first

As with nearly all murders, the cold facts reported in newspapers and on websites, and the clever comments deliberated on in opinion pieces and blogs, do not reveal the gut-wrenching pain of loss, especially when it is a violent and unexpected loss.

And, while most of us vehemently disagree with his opinions and lifestyle, before all else, Eugene Terre’Blanche was a man, a human being, with family and friends. And it is their loss that is the tragedy.

The second

So far most observers have ignored is another tragedy. A fifteen year old boy was part of the attack, and according to his mother responsible for some of the injuries that lead to Eugene Terre’Blanche’s death. Fifteen years old!

What is it about our society that allows, enables, leads to, a fifteen year old boy getting himself into a position where he is part of a murder? And, more telling, what does it say about our society that commentators and media are so preoccupied with the race issue that the idea of a fifteen year old committing murder barely raises an eyebrow? Barely a sentence written about it anywhere. Fifteen years old!

The third

And therein lies the third tragedy. We allow race and race relations to over-shadow all other issues (a strange concept since race cannot have a relationship; people have relationships).

We have allowed ourselves, and our media, to temper all our thoughts and actions with the colour of our skin. And although the colour of our skins, to a large extent, defined our history, it is absurd that we continue to define our future in the same terms. There has to come a time and place when we look at people and see them for their humanity before we see them being black, white, straight, gay, Zulu, Croatian, Christian, Muslim, left, right, or whatever other tribe we care to define.

Because if we don’t, we slip very easily into Eugene Terre’Blanche mode: there is only black and white; there are no people, only black people and white people; there are no good ideas, only my ideas which are superior to your ideas; there is no common good, only my good at the expense of yours.

And we don’t want that, do we?

#SpeakZA : Youngsters Speak Out

, , , , ,

Julius Malema and his ANCYL comrades have been making waves in the press world again. This time it was a series of attacks on the press and journalists. But, instead of the usual sniggers and/or anger, they provoked a thoughtful response from internet savvy young adults. Sipho Hlongwane, a young law student initiated a campaign amongst his online peers to use the power of blogs protest this abuse.

Here is the text of the article, and a list of the known bloggers who are taking part in the protest. Little more needs to be said:

Bloggers for a free press

Last week, shocking revelations concerning the activities of ANC Youth League Spokesperson Nyiko Floyd Shivambu came to the fore. According to a letter published in various news outlets, a complaint was laid by 19 political journalists with the secretary-general of the ANC, against Shivambu. This complaint letter detailed attempts by Shivambu to leak a dossier to certain journalists, purporting to expose the money-laundering practices of Dumisani Lubisi, a journalist at City Press. The letter also detailed the intimidation that followed when these journalists refused to publish these revelations.

We condemn in the strongest possible terms the reprisals against journalists by Shivambu. His actions constitute a blatant attack on media freedom and a grave infringement on constitutional rights. It is a disturbing step towards dictatorial rule in South Africa.

We call on the ANC and the ANC Youth League to distance themselves from the actions of Shivambu. The media have, time and again, been a vital democratic safeguard by exposing the actions of individuals who have abused their positions of power for personal and political gain.

The press have played a vital role in the liberation struggle, operating under difficult and often dangerous conditions to document some of the most crucial moments in the struggle against apartheid. It is therefore distressing to note that certain people within the ruling party are willing to maliciously target journalists by invading their privacy and threatening their colleagues in a bid to silence them in their legitimate work.

We also note the breathtaking hubris displayed by Shivambu and ANC Youth League President Julius Malema in their response to the letter of complaint. Shivambu and Malema clearly have no respect for the media and the rights afforded to the media by the Constitution of South Africa. Such a response serves only to reinforce the position that the motive for leaking the so-called dossier was not a legitimate concern, but an insolent effort to intimidate and bully a journalist who had exposed embarrassing information about the youth league president.

We urge the ANC as a whole to reaffirm its commitment to media freedom and other constitutional rights we enjoy as a country.

Blog Roll

Catholic Confession For Sale?

, , ,
Forgiveness: worth a penny or two (Nat Arnett)
Forgiveness: worth a penny or two (Nat Arnett)

For years and years the Roman Catholics have been doing the confession thing right way.

To feel better about ourselves we need to unburden our souls. We need to tell someone else about our sins, problems and foibles. Then, through the magic of asking for, and receiving, forgiveness we soothe our souls and know that all is right in our world.

And for years and years the Roman Catholics have been giving away this service for free — or for the odd chapel, cash donation, cathedral or work of art during less enlightened times. Generations of overworked and underpaid priests have heard the words: … forgive me Father for I have sinned … recited at them over and over again by their congregants.

But things are not as rosy as they have been in the past, and the number of people attending confessions is declining says Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, an official for the Vatican office on clergy.

… has told Vatican Radio the sacrament of penance has been experiencing a “deep crisis” for decades …

… says fewer people distinguish between good and evil, and as a result don’t go to confession …

It seems that priests now have some unequal competition from psychologists and psychiatrists:

… archbishop said in the interview on Tuesday that if faithful don’t have a sense of sin, they might “confuse” confession with “the couch of a psychologist or a psychiatrist” …

And what is this unequal competition? The psychologists or psychiatrists are paid by their clients. And doesn’t it follow — in our modern, material world — that if we pay for something it is worth more than if it was received free. So, the level of good-feelings generated by a psychologist or a psychiatrist is higher than what could generated by the freely giving and long suffering priests.

Maybe it is time for the Catholic Church to become more mercenary and charge for the occasional confession and the sense of peace that comes with it. After all, the psychologists and psychiatrists have had a pretty easy, non-competitive run for most of the last hundred years. And the Catholic Church has never been averse to making a bit of money.

Old SA Flag at Loftus

, , , , ,
800px-Flag_of_South_Africa_1928-1994 copy_thumb
Old South African flag — ban it?
Old South African flag — ban it or tolerate it?

So the old South African flag gets itself more headlines.

Our Deputy Minister of Sport, Gert Oosthuizen:

… it is absolutely tragic that there are still people who would do such a thing.
It’s absolutely unacceptable, and something which the government wants to get rid of once and for all.
It is such a pity when something like this happens …

So we get rid of it and drive it and its waving supporters underground where we have no idea of the nefarious acts of it waving that may be taking place. And once we have legislated to get rid of it, do we now employ a Security Branch to ensure that no-one has it stashed away in their back-garden? Or is surreptitiously waving it at the TV when the Bulls next win something?

Stop writing the headlines. Ignore it and it will go away. Even the most delusional know when it is time to call it a day. Fifteen years ago there would have been thousands. Ten years ago hundreds. Five years ago only a few. And today … only one … right at the end of the game. When the next South African team wins the Super Whatever … probably zero. Change takes time.

Alternatively, engage it’s supporters in civilised conversation and put across the pain that it causes.

Khaya Dlanga writes in Old South African flag must be banned:

That flag will incite violence in the right place and at the right time. It also advocates hatred based on race and ethnicity.

A picture of the Pope will incite violence if shown at the right place at the right time. Closer to home, I am sure we could incite violence in parts of Kwazulu-Natal by showing Jacob Zuma’s or Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s face to the wrong people at the wrong time — or is that the right people at the right time.

Time to ban the Pope’s face? Or Jacob Zuma’s? Or Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s? I don’t think so.

The Effect of AIDS in South Africa, Graphically

Featured, Local
, , , , , , ,

Declining life expectancies in South Africa are attributed to the rise and rise of HIV/AIDS infections. It follows, therefore, that an increasing life expectancy may mean that the scourge is under control, or at least that it is being contained and the ill are receiving better medical care and therefore living longer.

Life Expectency: South Africa 1900 to 2007
Graph 1: Life Expectency: South Africa 1910 to 2007

This in turn implies that resources are being correctly spent on the balance of prevention, comfort of the ill, sustaining the infected and the search for a cure or vaccine. For the correct actions to be taken, the correct policies need to be in place and fully implemented. And this is where South Africa has failed. The Mbeki administration’s denial policy and the failure of this policy are clearly visible in the first graph1. Compared to fifteen years ago, the average South African can expect to live about twelve years less than his/her counterpart from the early 1990s. This is compounded by the fact that during the preceding ten years the average wealth of South Africans reduced as a result of sanctions, boycotts, etc.

A graph1 provides a representation of the declining life expectancy in South Africa in a clear and unambiguous way, free from emotion and politicisation. Life expectancy peaked in the early nineties at around 60 years. Since then there has been a downward spiral that shows no sign of an upturn. This is despite the fact that GDP per capita growth has been strong over the last couple of years. In normal times this strong growth would be expected to be accompanied by a rise in life expectancy.

Life Expectency: South Africa vs. Uganda vs. Botswana
Graph 2: Life Expectency: South Africa vs. Uganda vs. Botswana

The hope is that the curve has bottomed out and this may be supported by the fact that StatsSA 2008 reported estimated life expectancy is slightly higher than the 2007 figure used in the graphs.

Botswana and Uganda have both put in place effective policies and are seeing the positive effects of those policies. Uganda has been known as a leader in the prevention of HIV/AIDS and has put in place effective policies that have reversed the declining life expectancy, to the extent that they are adding an extra year to their expected life expectancy every year. Botswana, through a number of medium term policy plans, has made similar strides, although it occurred later than Uganda. These reversals are very clearly seen in the second graph.

South Africa has a lot of catching-up to do. And if that catching up is not done, South Africa’s status in the world will decline along with its competitiveness.

Life Expectency: South Africa vs Peers (BRICSAM excluding ASEAN countries)
Graph 3: Life Expectency: South Africa vs Peers (BRICSAM excluding ASEAN countries)

In contrast, South Africa’s peer group of countries (BRICSAM: Brazil, Russia, India, China and Mexico, and the ASEAN countries) have life expectancy rates that keep increasing and, with the exception of India, relatively small HIV/AIDS per capita infection rates and/or total HIV/AIDS infections. The economic implications are well documented and do not make comfortable reading from a South African perspective. It will be where South Africa’s international competitiveness will be severely compromised. South Africa and the BRICSAM countries will all be competing for the same business.

The real question is how the Zuma administration is going to respond to this issue. The first move he made by moving Barbara Hogan out of the Health Ministry was not very comforting. Jacob Zuma’s own history does not help to raise hopes that there will be an effective policy. If, and it’s only an impression, Jacob Zuma is the type of leader who allows his Ministers to get on with policy implementation, then we must hope that Aaron Motsoaledi turns out to be an extraordinary Health Minister. He has a mistake, and a huge historical deficit, to rectify with effective policy and implementation.

1All graphs and data provided by Gapminder World and their data providers. Gapminder provides a way to see time-series data in a completely new way.

World No Tobacco Day

, , , ,

World No Tobacco Day is on Sunday 31 May 2009. It is a World Health Organisation project that is part of the much larger Tobacco Free Initiative.

“The Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI) was established in July 1998 to focus international attention, resources and action on the global tobacco epidemic.”

Each year World No Tobacco Day has a theme. 2009 is no different:

“The theme of World No Tobacco Day 2009 is “Tobacco Health Warnings”, with an emphasis on the picture warnings that have been shown to be particularly effective at making people aware of the health risks of tobacco use and convincing them to quit. More and more countries are fighting back against the epidemic of tobacco by requiring that packages of tobacco show the dangers of the product’s use, as called for in guidelines to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.”

About ten percent of the world’s population live in jurisdictions where picture warnings have been implemented. To date, the only African country is Egypt. This World No Tobacco Day may be the opportunity to mobilise for the changes to legislation needed in South Africa.

Some of the images used on the packaging of cigarettes in countries which have implemented the graphic picture recommendation would not normally be shown to children because of their graphic nature. Images of lips cut away because of cancerous growths and of lungs blackened by tar. This raises the question as to when the end justifies the means?

Cigarette Butts (©Adam Ciesielski)
Cigarette Butts (©Adam Ciesielski)

A lot of smokers probably don’t realise how easy it is to stop smoking. They have heard so many stories about how people suffered when they stopped smoking that they have psyched themselves into believing that they cannot do it. Like all voluntary changes in our lives, it requires a commitment and want to stop. It is easier to take no action, not smoking, than to actually find and light a cigarette. Maybe laziness can result in some good.

Should we punish the smokers more? Is it time to let up on them? Is there such a thing as a caring smoker? What about people who work in the tobacco industry? If their jobs on the line, should governments support those who leave the industry?

Jacob Zuma’s Ndebele Headache

, , ,

And no, it’s not a Zimbabwean1 headache. Although Jacob Zuma is sure to be getting a few of those over the next five years. It is much closer to home. Sb’u Ndebele, the new Minister of Transport, and his brand new Mercedes Benz (and a couple of other things like a plasma television and two head of cattle) is the issue this time.

“… and how Jacob Zuma handles the situation will set the tone around graft, corruption and gifts of gratitude for the rest of his term of office …”

Sb’u Ndebele, by all accounts, did a wonderful job of fostering the creation of small businesses in KwaZulu Natal. It was all part of Vukuzakhe, the Emerging Contractors Development Programme. And the contractors wanted to thank him for turning some of them into millionaires.

Obviously, Sb’u Ndebele, would like to keep such a wonderful expression of gratitude. But even though he says there is no conflict of interest, he is not sure about the protocols involved and has shuffled the decision to his boss. Why he couldn’t make the decision himself says a lot about where government ministers minds are on the issue of corruption. If this was seen by him as corrupt the answer was easy. A simple yes or no was all that was required, and then live with the consequences (including the car and cattle) if he chose wrong,

He has now made his issue Jacob Zuma’s issue, and how Jacob Zuma handles the situation will set the tone around graft, corruption and gifts of gratitude for the rest of his term of office.

If Jacob Zuma allows Sb’u Ndebele to keep the car he is implicitly supporting corruption and graft. Firstly, he is seemingly flying in the face of a Cabinet code of ethics rule. Secondly, he is re-enforcing the perception (no conviction is a perception, Mrs Zille) that he is corrupt and that he tolerates corruption from his comrades. Thirdly, every election promise would have to be seen in the light of reneging on one of the biggest promises made, so soon after taking office; in other words, Jacob Zuma is not to be trusted.

Left or Right? High road or low road? (Mateusz Atroszko)
Left or Right? High road or low road? (Mateusz Atroszko)

If, on the other hand, Jacob Zuma refuses Sb’u Ndebele permission to keep the car (or advises against keeping it if there is no permission issue) he is putting himself and his cabinet on the moral high road. The message is then very clear: this administration will not tolerate corruption of any sort, by anyone, even that which is seemingly borderline. It also helps to put Zuma’s own corruption tainted history behind him and blow away a few of the clouds hanging over his head. And the opposition, which in this case includes his allies at COSATU, will have to concede that the right thing has been done.

A lot hinges on this decision for Jacob Zuma. Let’s hope, for his sake and the country’s, that he makes the correct one. Unfortunately for Sb’u Ndebele, the future vision should not include he or his wife driving around in a new Mercedes.

1 For our foreign readers, the Ndebele are a people of Northern South Africa and Southern Zimbabwe. Links compliments of Wikipedia.

Manchester United won the League. So What?

, , , , , ,
Money is making football predictable (Steve Woods)
Money is making football predictable (Steve Woods)

Manchester United won the English Premier League. So what?

It was not as though it was not going to be one of the big four clubs (Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea FC and Arsenal) that was destined to win the league. It was not as though the procession of the big four clubs winning the league was going to end this year. It was not as though a club with money was not going to win the league, again.

The big get bigger and richer. And the rest just make up the numbers and slowly slide down the competitiveness table. And the media and and the FA Premier League twitter on about how wonderful and competitive the league is.

Based on attendance figures for this season, up until this current weekend, a little over nine million (9,020,673) fans attended the homes games of the teams outside of the big four, compared with around four million (4,045,760) who have attended the home games of the big big four. It is quite obvious that the majority of directly involved fans do not support the large teams. What does this prove? Probably nothing. But the column inches filled about the big four by the media do not represent this ratio.

Sports teams, and football clubs in particular, are not typical businesses and the normal practise of the survival of the fittest does not necessarily apply (from a business perspective – on the pitch it is a different matter). They have long term, emotionally attached customers. They operate in rigidly controlled and mandated competitive structures (the leagues) which do not appear in any other business format. It follows then that football, and other sporting codes, need a different set of business rules. Those may include some kind of cap on different parts of the business, including salary, actual transfer spend, etc.

I wonder how the English fan feels about the state of English football. Proud that the FA Premier League is, arguably, the best football league in the world. Happy that he is able to watch some of the best players in the world on a regular basis. Angry because young English players are being pushed out of the top division. Exploited because he is funding the worldwide growth of the brand. Frustrated because the culture of football that made English football famous is slowly being eroded. Sad because the smaller clubs are slowly being pushed aside, and eventually out of existence. Frightened because they will only have four clubs to support in the future.

With all that emotion, who would want to be a English football fan? Or even a surrogate fan in another country.

What is YOUR take on all of this. Add a comment.

The Vodacom Listing Saga

, , , ,
Vodacom Desktop Wallpaper
Vodacom Desktop Wallpaper

After a court ruling went against it, COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) has not been successful in stopping the listing of telecommunications company Vodacom on the JSE (Johannesburg Securities Exchange) tomorrow. Consequently they are now threatening action that is a little more militant than court cases and urgent interdicts. This time it is a consumer boycott.

This is one boycott that may not be successful, even if it is targeted against only one of a number of operators. South Africans are too attached to their cellphones to put their chat-time, socialising and contracts at risk. And nevermind the considerable hassle of dealing with a mobile company’s call-centre. Presumably then, Mr Vavi and his fellow unionists are not on one of the other networks and will be going through the same pain of changing network providers as all of the consumers they are calling on to boycott Vodacom.

That all said, in some ways it is easy to sympathise with the COSATU point of view:

“… COSATU … has long opposed the deal on the grounds that it threatens jobs and cedes control of a major South African company to a foreign firm. …”

The last fifteen years have seen nearly every major South African company renouncing its roots either by listing on a foreign stock exchange, or by being taken over by a larger foreign competitor. This means that profits are repatriated to the foreign owners. But worse is that this has been accompanied by a brain drain of some of the best business people from South Africa; especially that caused by the listed companies who move their Head Office operations offshore.

“South Africans are too attached to their cellphones to put their chat-time, socialising and contracts at risk”

Economists will say that it is good for the country and that it is an investment. These inflows are, as far as I know, listed in the FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) number of the national accounts. But where are the factories? Where are the extra jobs? Where are the greenfield projects? And where is the added capacity that investment is meant to create? Buying a successful organisation does not say investment, unless the recipient of the cash decides to invest the windfall.

Vodacom, freed from Telkom, should be able to continue growing and innovating. Hopefully, the reality of a Head Office at Vodafone Headquarters, will not put a damper on the South African entrepreneurship that created company with an estimated worth of R100 bn once listed.

And COSATU’s boycott. Probably won’t happen. If it does, it is unlikely to be heavily supported. They have threatened a lot recently. They need to get back to their customers and improve the conditions of the worker on the factory floor. Leave the worrying about Vodacom and the Western Cape to the ANC. COSATU also need to see how they can help with directing investment into greenfield projects and sustainable job creation.

Zille angers ANC and Partners

, , , , , , , ,
Helen Zille and the ANC Alliance Locking Horns (Benjamin Earwicker)
Helen Zille and teh ANC Alliance Locking Horns (Benjamin Earwicker)

Helen Zille locks horns with the ANC, SA Communist Party, COSATU, ANC Youth League and, judging by comments on internet forums, even some of her own supporters. Her letter to the Cape Argus as published by the Sowetan has raised a furore that won’t be dying down for a while. It has even been picked up by the foreign press.

Lets’s look at the important bits of the letter that seemed to have raise the ire of the ANC and alliance:

“… And, more significantly, the ANC’s leader, Jacob Zuma, is a self-confessed womanizer with deeply sexist views, who put all his wives at risk by having unprotected sex with an HIV-positive woman. Even after this the ANC women’s league strongly endorsed his Presidential campaign. Their professions of support for women’s rights ring hollow indeed against this background. …”

Calling the country’s President a self-confessed womanizer with deeply sexist views is probably going over the top and should not be part of a media release. The observation about putting ‘all his wives at risk’ is reasonable and a simple statement of fact; but more in keeping with a conversation than a media release. The rest of the letter is an attempt to justify the composition of the Western Cape Provincial Cabinet and is along the lines of what the DA normally say.

Did the content of the letter justify the fury unleashed by the ANC and cohorts? Probably not. But, the continued hounding of Jacob Zuma (we talked about this previously) has exacerbated the situation and escalated the name calling to this point (excerpts from the ANC Youth League statement):

“… the racist girl Helen Zille …”

“… her stupid and sexist decision …”

“… all male cabinet of useless people, majority of whom are her boyfriends and concubines so that she can continue to sleep around with them …”

“… fake racist girl who was dropped on a head as child …”

This comes across as just plain childish. If children reacted in this way they would be sent to their rooms to think about things. That said, though, it has become very personal and I would not be surprised if Helen Zille did not make a(nother) call to the DA’s lawyers. Statements of this type are what we have come to expect from the ANC Youth League. It paints a woeful picture of the potential future leaders of the country.

Interestingly, we have not heard much from Jacob Zuma about the subject. He has let others do the dirty for him while he (in his inauguration speech) talked about working alongside the opposition. Is this a dignified silence or a calculated ploy to paint Helen Zille as a monster.

So, Helen Zille, it is time to back down for a bit and be more of a Premier and less of the leader of the National opposition. Let other members of your party do the politicking and dirty work. You are now the Premier of ALL the people in the Western Cape and not just those who voted for you. Help them realize their dreams they had on voting day. In the same way, Jacob Zuma is president of all the people of South Africa. He needs some time to get going.

What is YOUR take on all of this. Add a comment.