THE FUTURE SA: where are we going?

The most overworked word in South Africa is “democracy”. We do not have a full democracy. We never have had. It was born a cripple in 1994, half strangled by the umbilical cord “proportional representation”.

For democracy to work it requires a fairly sophisticated, preferably homogeneous community aware of the alternatives such as dictatorship, sovereignity and oligarchy and who accept that democracy, while not perfect, is the best governing system available. And it demands a commitment by the great majority of that community to the basic tenets of democracy: government “of, by and for” all the people, without ethnic or class distinctions and with tolerance of minority views (according to the OED).

We have some trappings of democracy like baubles on a Christmas tree that might fool the casual observer into assuming it’s real. But the architects of our constitution did manage to instal, thank God, a few elements of democracy that have saved us so far from the rapid slide into dictatorship and chaos that has characterised almost all of Africa’s previous conversions from colonialism to independence.

One is a right which singularly distinguishes South Africa from all but two other countries in Africa: freedom of speech. Though how long that may last is open to question; more about it later. For now it is this freedom above all which has kept us out of the clutches of dictatorship or oligarchy and just above the level of Zimbabwe.

Another, of course, is the system of local government elections which we have just seen in action – the only level at which a voter may vote directly for an individual as his choice of ward councillor, and even so each ward has to have a proportional councillor as well. National and provincial elections both give proportional representation, enabling the winning party to appoint whoever the hell it wants to any constituency it pleases. Voters may never have seen or heard of their rep, and often never do again.

The Public Protector is a post our ANC constitutional designers must deeply regret creating – just as they must regret appointing Thuli Madonsela to the job because it is her personal integrity, energy and intelligence that have made it so powerful a force. Seldom have so many owed so much to one person. It is chiefly the combination of her work and freedom of speech that have saved our bacon up to now.

The judiciary must be as great a disappointment to them. The justice bureacracy is crumbling at almost every level from the police and prisons and the lowliest prosecutors up to magistrates courts, many of which are ill-equipped for their work, all bogged in backlogs.

The high courts, however, have applied the law with honesty and few aberrations. And contrary to ANC expectations the highest, the Constitutional Court, has set its independence and its impartiality firmly in concrete. Judges go by the book, not politics.

These three things, more than any other, have saved South Africa from “Africanisation”.

Without full freedom of speech Thuli Madonsela’s findings on Nkhandla might never have seen the light of day. In just about every other African state her report would have been suppressed – referred to endless committees, heavily edited, or simply shelved. The Mail and Guardian may never have been able to publish the exposure of Nkhandla which led to the Public Protector’s investigation.

The Opposition in Parliament would have been futile, emasculated, unreported, just part of the rubber stamp. The government could have to violently stamped out public protest, and killed any reports. Elections would have been a joke.

The mass of corruption and mismanagement that free speech has revealed here is overwhelming, hundreds of cases from rapacious mayors of villages to the gigantic US$4.8 billion arms deal and the current row over Eskom’s alleged purchase of inferior coal from the Guptas.

So pervasive has it become that it is the biggest growth industry in South Africa and getting bigger as the hyaenas target the Treasury and the State-owned enterprises. We have become so accustomed to it we take it for granted. It is simply too much for the average individual to absorb.

In every respect the country is decaying`. Violent crime is so commonplace most of it goes unreported by the media. Murder, rape, cash-in-transit robbery, hijacking, gang warfare, drug trading – everything has increased frighteningly since our “independence”. People have to look after themselves. Our police force is a joke; at least the apartheid police were efficient albeit for all the wrong reasons.

Our once extensive and well-run infrastructure of First World standards is falling apart: Eskom, the SAA, the Land Bank, Transnet, every day some new disaster in the media – usually accompanied by a flood of government lies, excuses and pure arrogance.

But all that is well known.

The most alarming feature of our national life now does not get the attention it deserves. It is the incredible impunity with which the perpetrators, including Cabinet ministers and top officials, simply flout the law. They blandly ignore judgements or bog them down in endless court actions (at taxpayers’ expense), divert legal process with “investigations” and commissions, tangle it in specious charges, find scapegoats or swing political axes.

This is the great weakness of our “democracy”: it has no bite. It has teeth but getting the authorities to use them is like asking the sheep to bite the jackal. Examples: the dropping of 783 criminal charges against Zuma, the clumsy attempts by the Hawks to politically discredit Gordhan, the reinstatement of Dudu Myeni as SAA board chair, the re-appointment of the disgraced Hlaudi Motsoeneng as COO of the SABC.

A benign dictatorship or an oligarchy are arguably better forms of government than a democracy powerless to enforce its own rules. Our continent, however, is crammed with examples of how one-man or clique-rule does not work.

In more than forty years of reporting from the time of the first “dompas” burnings in Pretoria in 1950 I have watched black African countries emerge from colonialism like crocodiles from a swamp, starting with Ghana on March 6, 1957, and culminating with South Africa in 1994.

Britain, France, Belgium and Spain (which held a tiny mainland territory plus an island now known jointly as Equatorial Guinea) dished out independence as hurriedly as they could, like school certificates.

Only two original democracies have survived, those of Botswana and Namibia although, ironically, in Ghana it is showing signs of revival almost fifty years after the depredations of the tyrannical Kwame Nkrumah.

Africa’s new leaders twisted democracy into dictatorship by bending the rules of trust and consensus that make it what it is. Or they simply seized power with panga and gun. All still claim to be democracies. In the two Congos this is a sick joke – neither is a country but an unrealistic, random aggregation of disparate ethnic groups barely advanced from their condition of five centuries ago, beset by war, starvation and disease.

Some can make claim to benign dictatorship, like Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni who gained power through rebellion and has survived three dubious elections to hold it for thirty years. His country remains plagued by internal strife, spills of warfare from neighbours and dismal development.

A better example is Senegal’s Leopold Senghor, who became president with independence in 1960 (the same year as the Belgian Congo, which immediately sank into anarchy). He ruled firmly and fairly and its 13 million citizens have enjoyed free elections though without much improvement in their quality of life.

At a third extreme are those leaders who rule with an iron fist while they bleed their countries dry. Topping the list is Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who seized power then won a dubious election this year by an impossible margin. His mini-country is one of Africa’s largest oil producers.

This gives it the biggest per capita income in Africa yet its three quarters of a million people live in appalling poverty. An estimated one in five of the children die before the age of five. The country is strongly suspected of involvement in human trafficking.The president has been accused of cannibalism for ritual purposes.

He pockets virtually all the oil income. His son periodically comes to Cape Town to splurge on new cars and other luxuries.

Another dictator is Angola’s João dos Santos who diverted its huge oil revenues into his daughter’s foreign bank accounts. The quality of life of Angolans has not improved since the civil war ended there. Now with oil prices down he pleads for international aid.

The world knows all this but shrugs it off … “That’s Africa”. Almost no news emerges from Angola or Equatorial Guinea because media cannot survive there. There is no free speech.

At another extreme are Botswana, much lauded as Africa’s most democratic state, and Namibia.

Botswana is wealthy thanks to diamonds, large scale cattle ranching, tourism and minerals. Gaborone, the capital, buzzes with business. Outside the cities and towns there are still pockets of poverty and there is controversy over treatment of ethnic minorities but the overall quality of life is reasonably good.

Wealth is in the hands of an elite, some in government. A few cattle barons dominate ranching. The diamond industry is controlled by companies like Debswana owned half-and-half by De Beers and the government. Tourism is largely controlled by a clique of operators.

Democracy works, thanks to the firm foundations laid by first president Sir Seretse Khama and his successor Quett Masire, and is internationally rated as the most vigorous in Africa. Seretse’s son Ian now rules.

Even there the media, most State-owned, must tread warily. They are vigorous and sometimes outspoken but the government heavily favours its own publications. Privately-owned media have to be circumspect or suffer withdrawal of official advertising, loss of access to information, harrassment and pressure.

Namibia is  similar though not as wealthy and there, too, media must be circumspect. At 19 on the international rankings list of press freedom it ranks higher than Botswana –– which in turn ranks higher than South Africa.

Why all this background, you may ask at this point? We all know South Africa is rotting and the rest of Africa is a mess.

The reason is to confront you with a question most South Africans seem reluctant to think of: where are we heading?

One thing is absolutely certain: we are never going back to the heady days when whites were pampered and non-whites were oppressed but the country worked, trains ran on time, potholes were filled, SAA made money, our road network was one of the best in the world and the economy ran smooth and strong.

So where will we be in the African spectrum by the end of next year? I set that date because I don’t agree with the perennial optimists and professional soothsayers who say everything will be okay, will come right, it will just take a few years for the new rulers to settle down, stop the rot and learn to run the country.

I give us one year, give or take a few months, because of the rate at which pressure is building between multiple economic and political forces.

I doubt it will be later than the end of 2017 before South Africa’s future direction becomes clearer. I don’t think we will ever go the extreme of Equatorial Guinea but Zuma’s money-grabbing patronomy is so rapidly dragging us into the pit of darkness that we could be committed to the Zimbabwe or Angola route by then.

And there is the possibility, faint but too ghastly not to contemplate, of national civil strife: mob violence swelling into anarchy, police and armed forces ill-equipped (and too unreliable) to cope, a mass flight of capital and maybe people.

The scenario for the very near future seems fairly clear though nothing is ever certain in politics. It is a major internal split in the African National Congress with the slowly expanding body of pragmatists – those who recognise the sterility of the party’s moribund socialism –  forming a power group of their own in opposition to the anachronistic old guard. The split may be internal, which is the most likely with the ANC congress coming up next year and a general election in 2019, or it could be messily external.

A clear, irreversible internal division would spell major ideological and economic change of direction for the ANC should the pragmatists take the lead. It would enable the ANC to stand ostensibly united to win the 2019 general election even if the pragmatists manage to oust Zuma as summarily as his supporters ousted Thabo Mbeki in mid-presidential stream.

Such change would carry the ANC and country in safety through my 2017 deadline and point us towards what I regard as the middle range of Africa’s present governments, something akin to those of Kenya, Tanzania, Senegal, Ghana, Malawi and Morocco. All are oligarchies which go through the motions of democracy yet deviously cling to power – except Morocco, which is ruled by a powerful monarch with an elected parliament.

What they have in common is relatively benign rule although they are autocratic and tend to come down harshly on outspoken individuals and media. The ANC is already trying to go this way: note its Internal Censorship Bill aka “Film and Publications Amendment Bill”, and the comments of Lumko Mtimde, chief executive officer of the Universal Service and Access Agency of SA, at a conference on print media held, ironically, at the Voortrekker monument:

Of the self-regulation system that exists now, he said the time for talking about media transformation was over.

“We cannot continue talking. The current system, led by respected former judges, cannot be fair as the judges are funded and housed by the media industry. It still does not have teeth,” he said, adding that the worst sanction for newspapers under the current “pseudo-coregulation” was an apology.

Muzzling free speech will be Priority Number One for an internally revised ANC. It is only free speech, specifically the media, which has exposed the depth and breadth of corruption in the government despite their desperate ducking and diving and even extra-legal attempts to avoid it.

This is not to detract one whit from the principles and bravery of those many individuals who knew what was happening and spoke up, even if they did so anonymously because there are elements in the ANC who unhesitatingly resort to violence to shut up their opponents.

None of those would have been heard for long, or been heard at all, had it not been for a dwindling handful of professional journalists (I use that title advisedly these days) and media like the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Business Day, Noseweek, BizNews, Politicsweb, the Daily Maverick, GroundUp, News24 and some others who published what they said. And who also dug at some risk into the polluted landfill that government has become to see what has been buried.

In this respect South Africa has proved itself to have freedom of speech more solidly than even vaunted Namibia and Botswana.

Do not delude yourself (should there be a shake-up inside the ANC) that everything will come right overnignt, or within a month, or even a year. The ramifications of a new, pragmatic ANC will be extensive.

It will take months for the pragmatists to identify the huge army of Zuma’s beneficiaries from the Cabinet down to the lowliest in the civil service. Then more months to expunge the useless and replace them with loyal and above all competent people.

That approach, already being strongly hinted at, involves an almost 180-degree turn towards capitalism and away from the dead end of old Marxist-style socialism. ANC realists both inside government and outside have accepted that socialism brings no investment and that it is far easier to make lots of money from capitalism, even honestly, without stripping the Treasury. That’s how the world works and there are no better examples than Russia and China.

It won’t be easy. How do you continue to pay welfare to some 16 million people every month and save money? Take it away and you will lose votes. But if they win the 2019 election the new boys will have five years in which to start compensating for big welfare cuts, including the creation of jobs through foreign investment. Paying single mothers R150 a month per child is possibly a bigger cause of pregnancies than (as our sage Minister of Health says) unprotected sex.

Undoubtedly there will be deafening protest from many quarters like the ANC Women’s League, its Youth League, the free educationists, the communists (though they are a spent force), most trade unions, the incomprehensible Dr Lwazi Siyabonga Lushaba of UCT and other leftist academics, and a flock of people and organisations that have flourished on the government’s largesse.

I think that in a short time they will be outshouted by the difficult to measure but patently very large body of South Africans who are thoroughly fed up with what is happening now. As the benefits of pragmatism begin to show protest will diminish but never vanish. Even communists like money.

The protest will very likely involve violence by people such as those trying to destroy the universities they need. This will be a crucial crunch point for the new boys in power. How do they stop or control protest? How much can they rely on the police?

It will be difficult. Violent protest is so commonplace many people believe it is acceptable. It isn’t, of course; our constitution does not permit to people to assert their rights by disrupting the rights of other people. They can’t afford another Marikana.

Assuming a reformed and still unified ANC can retain control during the rocky transition from today’s near-anarchy to rational rule, the role of the media will become more important than ever. Unlike the rest of crippled Africa, they have the backing of an entrenched and enforceable constitution.

Pragmatists they might be but the new leaders cannot change their morals like they change shirts and the scourge of corruption will continue. So will the competition between the greedy and the media.

If division in the ANC goes external, we will see a new party on the political battlefield, the New African National Congress or Azanians or something like that. It would open up a whole new kaleidoscope of possibilities: coalitions, election alliances, floor crossings galore, much anguish within a DA trying to adapt, the death of some of the fringe parties like Cope, and (unless they can adapt) the disappearance into limbo at last of some stubborn old guards like Mantashe and Nzimande. Both are already anti-Zuma but they may not be able to stomach so drastic a change in ANC policy.

It could be a healthy evolution, opening the way for some rational administration to dismantle such prime obstacles to foreign investment as BEE, threats of nationalisation and State ownership of enterprises. If it achieves a measure of stability with able, respected people in charge, we can expect a flood of foreign investment.

On the other hand it could trigger serious conflicts between the diehards of the traditional ANC, the new progressives, the rampant youth with no respect for law, loyalist elements within the police and defence force, our giant criminal element … and tribes.

Civil war? No. I do not foresee the kind of massive tribal and ideological conflict that tore apart countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo (the old Belgian Congo), the Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Nigeria and Biafra, Somalia and Rwanda and Burundi among others.

By a lucky twist of colonial history we have a fairly balanced mix of peoples and policies with no single group dominating the rest or in a geographical or political position to do so. Ten million Zulus, the biggest and most militant group, are mostly in one region (and seem to be increasingly disenchanted with their Zulu president).

The politically vigorous Xhosas are in no position physically or otherwise to dominate. Sotho/Tswana people are not aggressive. None of the others – Shangaan, Pedi, Khoi, San, Coloured, European, Indian, Venda, Swazi, Ndebele, etc – have either the ability or the inclination to try for power.

But some violence will be inevitable in the event of external division. The question is how much, how widespread and how containable. There will likely be uprisings for a variety of reasons, many generated or aggravated by the present regime trying desperately to hang on.    The accumulation of explosive grievances is very large.

Among them are the terrible frustrations of the huge number of jobless, one of the highest in the world, which forces many to turn to crime; the lack of services as more and more cram into urban areas; the soaring cost of basic foodstuffs; the chaotic education and health systems, spilling more youth on the streets; the crumbling public transport; the expanding gulf between haves and have-nots.

The general frustration over the long list of unfulfilled promises, rising costs and crumbling services affects everybody. Protests over all sorts of complaints are spreading daily, beginning to seriously disrupt the lives of folk trying to go about their normal lives and could be the genesis of nationwide upheaval. They expose a remarkable reluctance or inability of the athorities to curb what is becoming near-anarchy, maybe a fear caused by what happened at Marikana.

The turmoil a major split of the ANC into two or more factions coule trigger is not possible to gauge. The only certainty is that it could do serious damage to the entire nation and therefore should be avoided. This is not to suggest the ANC should be supported, more practically that the pressure of public persuasion, which seems to be having some effect already, should be increased, the screws turned harder.

My view of the likeliest scenario is that the ANC leadership will metamorphose within the next year or so from a guerilla movement into a political party. Thereafter we will begin moving roughly in the direction of Kenya or Ghana and possibly (if we can retain our constitution with a few modifications, like ditching proportional representation and curbing presidential powers) we could surpass Namibia and Botswana.

It won’t be anything like the Nationalists’ “good old South Africa” but it will be prosperous, peaceful and perfectly liveable. Then perhaps one day we will be able to travel without fear of potholes or hijackers, see fewer desperate people begging for jobs and handouts at stoplights, go to sleep knowing the police will react fast if called, and see in action a Parliament which does not make South Africans cringe with embarrassment.

That is provided the media maintain and raise their pressure against corruption, for competence and above all for constant accountability. The politicians’ determination to conceal their actions won’t just go away – it will probably increase.

That’s one hell of a load to place on the shoulders of a media family struggling to survive financially and to find real journalists, not activists and semi-literates. They cannot avoid it, however. Free speech is the foundation of democracy.

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CITY ARROGANCE

July 21, 2016

Since it took over Cape Town the DA has been doing a pretty good job coping with its people’s needs and the challenges of explosive growth.
But now one wonders whether its successes have gone to Mayor Patricia de Lille’s head and generated an unwanted and atypical conceit. There is a crack in their façade of goodwill to all.
It is nothing to do with politics (a1though such philosophically barren individuals as Ehrenreich and Landsman will do their best to make it so) and everything to do with greed and arrogance.
This week the City had inserted into local newspapers expensively glossy brochures extolling “The progress we’ve made possible together through our integrated development plan”.
It covers just about every aspect of what has been and is being done – too long to list here, and states that “Residents of Cape Town need to know that their government works for them, is accountable to them,and answers to them at all times”.
Wrong. They don’t. There is one vital part of its job which it omits from its list blessings and is handling very badly: commercial housing development projects. Its attitude to this is so crassly dictatorial one wonders whether it is simply desperate to increase its rates base or if gratuities have passed hands somewhere.
The area which is hardest hit by this is the so-called “Far South”, the large region over the mountain range south of Muizenberg and Hout Bay, reachable only by the Ou Kaapse Weg, the greatly overcrowded Main Road and Boyes Drive, the costly Chapman’s Peak drive and the dangerous and unreliable Metro railway.
The region is already so full of housing plus the still mushrooming squatter township of Masiphumelele that travel from there to the rest of the city has become an intolerable ordeal. Some people have moved north because they cannot cope with the daily grind of an hour or more across the mountains in addition to the massive traffic jams to the north.
Yet the City is going ahead approving plans for still more housing and other developments in the Far South. A huge new mall has grown almost next door to the existing Longbeach Mall in Sun Valley which is already more than enough to meet local needs.
Now a giant new and apparently expensive housing development is being built at the southern end of the Ou Kaapse Weg which will add drastically to the traffic flow. And the City has approved the first of 107 of 400 houses to be built in little Kommetjie. Other projects are in line or under way.
There are simply not enough transport, water, electricity and sewage services to cope with all this. They are over-extended to destruction already.
One does not object to whatever the City does to better the living circumstances of those unfortunate enough to have to live in Masiphumelele. But that does not give it the right to ignore the needs and demands of the rest of the community, as it is doing.
It has effectively dropped its “integrated” development plan for the Far South. It is supposed to consult residents. It does not.
The Far South Peninsula Community Forum (an alliance of those of the various regions like Fish Hoek and Simon’s Town) have been trying for nearly two months to meet Mayor de Lille to hand over a petition (appropriately under the heading “Gatvol”) detailing and objecting to the rampant approval of unsustainable development. Excluding phone calls they have tried ten times and been brushed off every time with a contempt which was a hallmark of our former disastrous ANC mayor Nomainda Mfeketo, now a senior figure in the party’s archive of political rogues.
De Lille and her party should bear in mind that just because they control Cape Town does not mean they cannot lose votes in the coming elections, and the way they are going they will.
They should put an immediate stop to all this development whose only beneficiaries, ultimately, are thedevelopers whom conned them into giving approval, and will take their money and run as soon as they are completed.
Until then we have no reason to believe that the City’s pompous newspapeer inserts are no more than gilded words worth less than the paper they are printed on … at ratepayers’ expence.

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Iconoclasts

Iconoclasts. From BizNews.

I’ll say it again: I am not an Afrikaner. I am not a European. I am not an Englishman. Nor am I a Zulu, Koi, Venda, Xhosa, Tswana or any other insular racial group. Yet all of those are part of me and I am part of them because I too am African.
I am a South African, white because of genes, history and geography. I am exceedingly proud of all those things that comprise the ephemeral though very real South African character: its entrancing peoples, its superb environment, its tangled history. Together they make a unique nation rich with diversity, creativity, cultures and achievements.
But with dwindling hope. Our national body is being ravaged by a lethal resurgence of the cancer we hoped we had killed or at least sent into remission with the 1994 general election. It is racism, ironically now being deliberately resuscitated by some of the very people who were its target during the 42 wasted years of apartheid – those whose skins are not white, among them some of today’s most influential and powerful leaders.
I have been watching with growing dismay for months as these fellow countrymen I depend upon, instead of celebrating and promoting all of our society, are systematically trying to destroy vital elements of it purely for political power and the financial gains they get with it.
They attack anything to do with our past and present that is not specifically black. Shaka murdered many thousands but he is great. Helen Suzman murdered nobody and fought for the lives of millions but she is scorned, both as white and Jewish. Nor are brown and coloured people spared from this racist tirade.
In short if it’s black it’s good; if it’s not, it’s bad. It is a crude, blind, self-destructive election ploy devised by our so-called “national” leaders suddenly panicked by the prospect of losing votes in the coming local government elections.
The first real manifestation of this insanity was in March last year when a 30-year-old township fanatic named Chimani Maxwele threw excrement over the statue of Cecil Rhodes at the University of Cape Town, asserting that a monument to the sometimes ruthless coloniser was an insult to blacks. Maxwele was not a total nonentity: five years earlier he gave the finger to a Zuma blue-light motorcade, was arrested then exonerated when he exercised his right to free speech.
Granted, Rhodes was a greedy, ruthlessly ambitious, unconscionable capitalist but he is ineradicably a part of our history, no less than the equally ambitious and ruthless Dingiswayo and Shaka.
Granted also that the statue of him at the University of Cape Town was perchance sited where it could offend black students. But to express disapproval by drenching it in human faeces is an exercise in disgust which should rightly earn its practitioners expulsion from the civilised community.
That was only a beginning. It spread rapidly to other universities: Wits, Stellenbosch, Pretoria, Potchefstroom, Western Cape, University of the North, Rhodes. It grew excrementa1ly, at some the ordure orgy was repeated.
The trend raises the question whether such people are psychologically equipped to fit into ordinary society. It is not merely pointless but profoundly stupid, the actions of youths whose immaturity makes them unfit for university and to become politicians who would be disastrous in the seats of power.
It expanded into the ridiculous demands for all Rhodes links to be eradicated at Oriel college, Oxford, then Cambridge and then, weirdly, the universities of Edinburgh and California – all sensibly rejected. This was followed by some lunatic and rightly ignored extremes such as removing Jan van Riebeeck’s statue.
Next will come a campaign for the destruction of the Rhodes Memorial and a name changes for Rhodes University and Rhodes scholarships (although the source of the funds will not be questioned).
Nobody – not even university heads like Max Price – appears to have made the point that without our historical giants there would be no South Africa. And without Rhodes scholars the world would be a worse place.
Like it or not, it was largely Rhodes’ manipulations which led via the Boer War to the birth of South Africa. Taking his excision from our past to an illogical conclusion would see the fanatics destroying the Voortrekker Monument and statues of Jan Smuts, Louis Botha and other notables right back to those of Jan van Riebeeck. Plus what the fanatics make full use of today, from the Union Buildings, Durban docks and the wheatlands to the railroads and highways linking everything.
Britain is full of statues of past figures who would have been jailed today for what they did, among them such notables as Henry VIII, Cromwell and Richard 111. Nobody wants to knock them down or hide them, they are part of life. The same goes for many other countries.
The entire wreck-and-ruin campaign may have been engineered in the hidden chambers of ANC power. But it seems more likely to have been the brainwave of a handful of student activists seeking infamy and fortune and then seized upon by politicians like Tony Ehrenreich and Marius Fransman who were fast losing influence in the DA-dominated Western Cape.
Most distressing is the ferocious attack on all things Afrikaans, most conspicuously the University of Stellenbosch. Now the ANC Youth League – not a body noted for its rationality or objectivity – is trying to make the university ungovernable to shake up what it says is embedded Afrikaner culture.
It accuses the university of “anti-transformation” practices and incidents of racism. If so there are more positive ways of correction than deliberately wrecking the stability of a renowned high-class pillar of education.
And why should Afrikaner culture not be embedded there? It is, after all, an Afrikaner institution initially created to raise the calibre of Afrikaner society up to international levels and preserve Afrikaner culture, and now it serves everybody. A model perhaps for others to follow.
Every modern democracy has institutions specifically serving the interests of specific cultural, ethnic, religious and other groups and they respect each others’ right to exist.
The university’s right to be a fundamentally Afrikaans institution is no different to that many Cabinet ministers claim while demanding protection and advancement for their own home languages and cultures. If our our youthful bigots dislike the environment there, they have a broad choice of other universities.
This ISIS-like form of iconoclasm is breeding precisely what icons like Mandela and Tutu set out to crush in our newly free nation: racism. It is diametrically contrary to the spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is an extremist tactic by a menacingly growing group driven by the ANC to gain political popularity and power regardless of the damage they do in the process, supported by self-seeking non-entities like Ehrenreich and Fransman
They cannot wipe out history but in trying they can cause gulfs of estrangement and enmity that will bedevil our society for generations.
In their obsessive drive to impose their control the destroyers of the past forget that during the 42 years of apartheid Afrikaners were among its strongest opponents. Most of our leading minds were Afrikaners: Louis Botha, Jan Smuts, Jannie Hofmeyr, Beyers Naude, Frederick van Zyl Slabbert, Sol Plaatjies … the list is very long.
Our rebellious students need mental disciplining, to be taught that the way to earn a respected place in society and history is by treating their fellow countrymen with respect, not by hurling ordure.
In our so-called democracy (it has not yet earned that status and risks losing it altogether) the government is supposed to be protecting the majority against minorities. To win its democratic spurs it should put a stop to this nonsense and reverse the trend before its momentum becomes too strong to stop.

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Watershed

Just forty years ago, on April 24, 1974, an event occurred which swiftly and dramatically changed the face of Southern Africa. It was the coup d’etat which brought the dictatorship in Portugal crashing down and with it the Portuguese empire, including its giant colonies of Angola and Mozambique. That in turn breached the last great dyke between African black nationalism and the resolute white rulers of Rhodesia, South West Africa and South Africa, and simultaneously triggered nearly two decades of civil war in the former colonies.
Now, for the first time, a unique photographic record of what happened in Angola and Mozambique is available. It is a book titled “Watershed” with text by me, Wilf Nussey, and hundreds of photos taken by the many lensmen and reporters who worked with me to cover this dramatic period in African history. The large format of the book has given great scope for stunning display and design by the publishers, 30 Degrees South in Southern Africa and Helion in Britain.
This is a rare and striking account of an often overlooked yet signally important development that, perhaps more than any other pressure, forced the surrender of the white rulers to black rulers, an indispensable addition to any Africana collection.

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Kill poaching

RHINO POACHING

It beggars belief that a government which has wasted billions on pointless weaponry, a grossly inflated bureaucracy, an obscene volume of graft, and excessive perks for its politicians, is unable to stop a handful of poachers from wiping out its small population of rhinos.
Yes, it has beefed up the National Parks Board with more rangers, a couple of helicopters and drone spotter aircraft commanded by an experienced ex-army general. But this is spitting into the wind.
It has a large, inexperienced, not very well trained and mostly idle army sitting on its backside except for a few shunted north allegedly to help bring peace in a couple of African states nobody cares about because they will go on tearing themselves to pieces regardless. Even them it cannot equip properly, although the army does thoughtfully provide camouflaged condoms.
The government can take several actions immediately which will not instantly stop but will dramatically reduce the level of poaching.
One is to redeploy its armed forces along the borders the poachers cross, from Mozambique into the Kruger Park and Northern Natal. They should be instructed to treat poachers as they would terrorists and use lethal force against them, including hot pursuit across the border if necessary.
Anti-poaching forces in the Kruger Park should operate freely on the Mozambique side – to hell with territorial protocols. This IS, after all, a single “transfrontier” park and in principle its wildlife belongs to both nations, therefore its rangers must have the right to function freely on both sides.
The Mozambique authorities do nothing. There is not a single live rhino on their side. Their Frelimo troops sit on their butts. The poachers live in high style in villages around the park fringes, their new 4X4s parked outside their huts. They are tough men, excellent in the bush, and they know the risks in poaching.
They should be chased out of their villages, their vehicles and guns impounded, and arrested if found in possession of wildlife products.
Conservationists say the kill rate of over two each day is fast approaching the point where it will overtake the birth rate. We have little more than 20000 white and just over 5000 black rhino left in South Africa, which has about 85 per cent of Africa’s rhinos.
Tests have been made by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife with injecting poisonous, easily seen dyes into live rhinos’ horns which would make anyone using the end product – powdered horn sniffed up like snuff or tasted or taken in food – “extremely sick”.
Why not make the poison lethal? Vietnam and China and those other countries which use rhino horn in some ridiculous, meaningless “tradition” have huge populations and can afford to spare a few to make the point. No matter how many treaties South Africa and Vietnam make against the use of rhino horn, they will have no effect. Suicide by rhino, however, is unlikely to become a popular new tradition.
I bet that if poachers started taking some of the highly valued nguni cattle from the million-rand kraal at Nkandla the entire South African Defence Force would be there within a week, blasting away.

****

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THE MACHIAVELLIAN AFFAIR – synopsis

mach_coverBy Wilf Nussey
 
 When the Soviet Union crumbles in the late 1980s, control of its huge arsenal disintegrates. Member states go their own ways taking with them sophisticated weaponry. A group of old guard communists, seeing their power evaporating, exploits the situation to try to turn the clock back.
With stolen nuclear missiles they set out to create international crises in several parts of the world to discredit Moscow’s new liberalism, create openings for Russian military power and restore the credibility of communism.
One place they pick is Southern Africa, where black nationalism meets the barrier of apartheid. Missiles will be used to cause a major disaster for which South Africa will be blamed, triggering open war. Russian forces under the Red banner will rush to black Africa’s aid.
British and American intelligence get wind of this but are unwilling to take direct action. Britain’s MI6 opts to use the services of a billionaire and political intriguer with worldwide business interests whose son, a charter pilot in Kenya and covert MI6 agent, has disappeared on a flight to Mauritius. He hires Victor Kennedy to find his son.
Kennedy is an out-of-work Briton who fought for Rhodesia in the guerilla war there. The search leads him via murky exile groups in South Africa to Mozambique, where he enlists the help of the rebel underground and the sinister security police discover his presence.
The CIA learn of the Russian plot from their own sources. They inform the national security advisor and he decides to turn the tables by seizing guidance control of the hijacked  nuclear missiles and blaming the apartheid government in South Africa.
Kennedy finds the missing son and discovers the full ramifications of the plot but is captured. Meanwhile South Africa’s intelligence chiefs have been tipped off and ironically discover their objective is the same that of Mozambique’s Frelimo rulers, who have also learned of the plot: destroy it. They go to Kennedy’s assistance.
The story moves between the political machinations in London, Washington and Southern African as the competing groups move to abort the rebel Russians’ scheme or take it over for their own objectives.
It rises to taut and violent action as Kennedy and a Mozambican colleague move to destroy the missiles, and reaches spectacular climax in the depths of Madagascar.
The scenes, cities, wilderness, technology and most of the names are authentic. The vivid characters are fictitious but modelled from life.
This book is a re-issue of “Darts of Deceit” with a title and cover picture more appropriate to the complexity of the story.
 
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“THE HIDDEN THIRD”

Hidden Third coverBy Wilf Nussey

Four volatile years after Nelson Mandela was freed, South Africans of all races voted in the first democratic general election since their country was created 94 years earlier. There had been much violence in those years and the world watched in lip-smacking anticipation of a flood of blood when the majority black population took revenge for the oppression and brutality of 48 years of apartheid.

It did not happen, to the astonishment of all. Mandela waved a magic wand of peace and reconciliation. Black and white worked together to shape the future, beginning with the writing of a constitution widely regarded as a model of democracy. Blacks took over government, white business thrived, life carried on much as before and the country began its long slide into its present state of decay.

But beneath the placid national surface, concealed by the sweetness and light, powerful forces lay hidden bitterly opposed to the supposedly non-racial though effectively black rule, determined to overthrow it or escape it.

For centuries before the election the Afrikaner people, a tough and capable community born of mainly Dutch but also French and some other racial stock with infusions of Malay, Khoi, Malagasy and even African blood, had been struggling for their total independence as an ethnic group. They wanted their own country, language, religion and custom without the participation of any other people, white, black or brown.

They came close to it with the two large Boer republics in the Orange Free State and the Transvaal until Britain conquered them. They tried again, very hard, in the newly-born South Africa with apartheid.

Statistics defeated them. Black population growth swamped their numbers and their plans. Apartheid was doomed. Most Afrikaners accepted this. They are pragmatic, sensible people with more experience of living with blacks than any other ethnic community on earth.

But some didn’t, and still do not. One or two coup or breakaway moves have been uncovered since 1994, all small and stupid and hopeless. But the motivation is still there, strong, nurtured by powerful people who are not fools.

This e-book, published by Rebel e Publishers, is of a secession attempt soon after the election. It is fiction but it might well have happened. It could still happen. The places are real. The characters are based on real people. The mental attitudes persist. The thirst for an Afrikaner homeland is as strong as ever.

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Fracking facts

November, 2012
Debate in the media about the issue of fracking for natural gas in the Karoo has waned considerably since the Cabinet lifted the moratorium on September 7, giving the impression that its opponents may have lost steam. This would be a great pity because the environmental threat is larger than most people realise. The Mineral Resources Minister, Susan Shabangu, has said that if fracking harms water sources it will be stopped, and if it endangers the Square Kilometre Array project, it might be stopped, but given the government’s record of intransigence once the ANC sets its mind on a profitable venture, she leaves small reason for hope.

Trying to learn more about fracking and its effects, I met a professional based in Britain who has a lifetime of experience in energy exploration and described in greater detail than I have seen before the severity of the damage it does to the environment, especially one as delicate as the Karoo’s. Because of his sensitive position in the energy industry I cannot give his name but I can vouch for him and the detail he describes is sufficient confirmation of his authority. The most chilling fact to emerge is that the exploration for gas will do more damage than its actual extraction.This is an old driller’s perspective of shale gas drilling operations there:

“At the time of writing there are no active land rigs exploring for oil and gas in South Africa, but this is about to change, attendees were informed at the late October 2012 IADC (International Association of Drilling Contractors) Drilling Africa Conference, held in Lisbon, Portugal.

“They were also told that shale exploration in the Karoo and surrounding regions is anticipated to drive a demand for up to sixty land drilling rigs in South Africa by 2016, making South Africa one of the epicentres of land drilling activity on the African continent. Neither PetroSA nor Sasol owns land rigs capable of drilling to the required depths. So this represents a great opportunity for US and European rig contractors, manufacturers and oil service companies. It has also attracted a growing interest from the Chinese who want to have a presence and participate in the Karoo shale gas bonanza.

“Pre-drilling – Rig site construction:
Before the drilling of a single well can start a ‘rig site pad’ has to be constructed. The pad consists of an area of approximately 100 meters x 150 meters which is cleared, levelled and compacted to take the load and mass of the rig’s sub structure, derrick, mud pump, mud tanks, engines, generator hoses, fuel tanks, water tanks, drill pipe, well casing and the chemicals used to mix the drilling mud. When the rig is operating, despite the rig crew’s best intentions, spills of fuel and chemicals will occur and these could leach into the ground and can reach the water table.

“Workers’ accommodation:
Portable camps will be required to house each rig’s 30-40 workers. The construction of each of these camps involves the levelling of an area of land approximately 100 meter x 100 meter area to house the portable accommodation units. The camp also requires a water source for cooking, shower and and toilet facilities, and a refuse disposal site, which is typically a pit dug away from the camp, where refuse can be burned and buried.

“Water requirements:
Unlocking the hydrocarbons in just one shale gas well requires three million to five million gallons of water to drill from spud to fracture. (equivalent to the contents of 4.5 to 7.5 Olympic size swimming pools). It is anticipated the prohibitive cost and logistics involved in transporting such large volumes of water to the Karoo will result in the Shale Exploration Licence Operator (Shell and other companies), requiring their rig contractors to drill water wells into Karoo aquifer close to their rig sites.

“Following the initial exploration drilling phase, should the commerciality of shale gas concept be proven, as many as 1,000 wells could be drilled to exploit the gas . The drilling and completion of this amount of wells will require 3 billion to 4.5 billion gallons of water (equal to 4,500 to 7,500 Olympic size swimming pools).

“There are different types of hydraulic fracturing treatments, each involving different chemicals and acids and all will have to be treated.  Likewise all of the water used in the drilling and fracking operations can (at a cost) be treated for re-use.  Therefore when it comes to water treatment, it makes perfect environmental sense to use the three R’s (reclaim, recycle and reuse). Water treatment is primarily the removal of suspended solids and saline treatment. Saline, a product of old sea water embedded in the shale, can no longer be said to be untreatable, as there are now existing methods to treat saline flow back water and saline tolerant additives are available.

“Sadly, history shows that oil companies and their drilling contractors do not always prioritise protecting the environment ahead of economics, so it is important that water treatment is addressed in the exploration and development licensing.

“Drilled formation cuttings:
Approximately 350 cubic meters (350 tonnes) of drilled formation cuttings are generated during the drilling phases of a single (3000 meter deep) shale gas well.

“The responsible disposal of drilled cuttings has been an ongoing drilling industry challenge since its inception in the late 1800’s. In countries with poor environmental governance, drilled cuttings are routinely left dumped in open ‘mud and cuttings pits’ where they blight the local landscape.
More responsible Governments require an environmentally responsible approach to the disposal of cuttings.

“Two such methods are:
1. The slurryfication and re-injection of cuttings into dedicated cuttings injection disposal wells. However this is not considered to be a suitable option for the Karoo region as it requires a permeable, usually shallow formation.
2. Land farming the cuttings. This process first involves heat treating the cuttings to sanitise them. The cuttings are then spread to create thick ‘fields of cuttings’. These fields are routinely turned over and treated with chemicals, until over a period of years they degrade to produce ‘soil’ capable of being planted.

“Imagine, if you will, the 350,000 cubic meters of cuttings generated from the drilling of 1,000 commercial gas wells and the mammoth task involved in their safe and environmentally friendly disposal, to avoid creating a very negative impact on the Karoo landscape.

“Exploration drilling risks to the Karoo aquifer:
This is considered by the writer to be more serious than poor fracking practises or leaking casing cement jobs.

“During the drilling of each well’s open hole section and prior to setting the steel casing that will eventually line the well, drilling mud is in constant contact with the formation. And because it is necessary for the safety of the well to maintain a hydrostatic mud column overbalance pressure greater than the formation pressure by using a weighted drilling mud, seepage losses occur into open porous formations (such as the Karoo aquifer) as each is penetrated. These seepage losses (containing chemicals in the mud) continue and only stop only after the open hole section is successfully cased off.

“Equally, but perhaps more dangerous than chemicals seeping into the formation and Karoo aquifer, is the potential transfer into the Karoo aquifer of bacteria colonies known to flourish in every type of drilling mud. This is something that will only become evident years after drilling has stopped.

“For example: the unintentional introduction of bacteria into wells in the Red Sea in Egypt, resulted in later years in wells producing high concentrations of H2S (hydrogen sulphide) where none had existed in the early drilling phase. Hydrogen sulphide is a very corrosive compound potentially fatal to livestock and humans in concentrations above 25 ppm in air.

“Post drilling:
After a well has been completed and the rig is removed from the site, it would be logical to believe the rig site will be returned to it’s original pre-drill state. However, many rig site pads will remain un-rehabilitated, primarily because the Operator presents a convincing argument that the existing rig site may be required for future well work-overs. A work- over is a process involving the re-establishment of a rig over an old, no longer productive or a problem well to recover and replace defective down hole equipment such as leaking packers, gravel packs and corroded tubing strings, and possibly re-fracking the well if this is considered necessary to return it to a producing state.”

This depressing prospect by the British professional is aggravated by other factors in addition to the primary threat of damage to underground water resources.

One is the extent of the problem. The full licences and ancillary licences, if granted, will cover most of the Karoo, a huge area extending from the Southern Cape almost to the Botswana border.

Off the main arterial routes it is sparsely served by secondary tarred roads, most of the network being
gravel roads. These are not designed to cope with the many thousands of journeys heavy, 24-wheel trucks will have to make to carry equipment and materials into the remoter parts of the Karoo and continuously serve the operations. The licensed exploration and exploitation companies will not foot the huge cost of building or maintaining roads, which will fall on our small and already over-burdened body of taxpayers.

Picture the daily flow of traffic for just one exploration well and multiply that by one thousand then imagine the impact this will have on roads, villages, farmers and livelihoods.  The Daily Telegraph reports that in DeWitt County in the US, currently hosting 21 of the rigs in operation at Eagle Ford, the county judge says he is facing a $432m (R3.5 billion) bill for road repairs and upkeep. DeWitt is home to just 20,000 people.

The entire fracking project is motivated by one thing: profit. Not national need, not service to the public, not security … just profit, which the government has already demonstrated it places above all else. If the money that goes into this could be used to develop other energy sources like the sun and the sea, gas would become irrelevant and the Karoo left intact. And we could possibly do without more coal and nuclear power stations.

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Author Ian Barker’s review – The Machiavellian Affair

Rhodesian ex-soldier Victor Kennedy accepts the job of finding the missing son of a prominent businessman. He soon finds himself involved in a dangerous scheme involving stolen nuclear missiles and a plan to destabilise both southern African and Russian politics.

The lines between good guys and bad guys blur as the story moves between locations to reach its thunderous climax.

It’s a little slow to get started but worth persevering through the early stages as Darts of Deceit builds into a gripping thriller with an audacious plot.

*****

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By RomeReviewer

Penned by one of Southern Africa’s foremost journalists — and it shows — The Machiavellian Affair is a fast-paced thriller dripping with intrigue, memorable characters and plot-twists that just don’t quit. Historical and political detail as well as local colour are obviously the work of a writer who knows the territory from first-hand experience.
By the time you reach the end, you’ll be bleary-eyed from staying up too late, and wondering how much of it is based on real characters and events that to this day lay hidden in the murky netherworld of international political intrigue.

*****

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