Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

EU report sees anti-Semitism on rise

Attacks on Jews have increased in several European Union states, especially in France, with the main perpetrators young, white males, an EU report said on Wednesday.

The report by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) contrasted with controversial findings of a

Berlin study last year which blamed young Arabs and Muslims predominantly for rising anti-Semitism.

"There has been an increase in anti-Semitic incidents in five EU countries," the EUMC said, citing Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Britain and Germany. "Although it is not easy to generalise, the largest group of perpetrators...appears to be young, disaffected white Europeans."

"A further source of anti-Semitism in some countries was young Muslims of North African or Asian extraction. Traditionally anti-Semitic groups on the extreme right played a part in stirring opinion," it said.

By far the biggest rise in anti-Semitic violence was in France, where incidents rose six-fold in 2002 over 2001.

Angolan Children Being Tortured As Witches

Families in rural Angola are accusing their children of witchcraft and then abusing, abandoning and sometimes killing them, the Chicago Tribune reported Sunday.

Human rights workers in the war-ravaged country say they are baffled by the upswing in both the number and viciousness of attacks against accused child sorcerers, calling it one of the most disturbing outbreaks of domestic violence in Africa in recent years.

"Many of the thousands of street children across Angola are probably victims of this trend," said Matondo Alexandre, a child-protection expert with UNICEF in Angola.

"This is something new to us," he added. "In African culture, it is usually the older people who are accused of practicing witchcraft. Now we're even seeing cases popping up involving babies."

According to rights advocates, children as young as 5 have been raped, stoned to death, hanged and drowned in rivers after accusations of sorcery are leveled against them.

There is no easy explanation for the surge in witchcraft fears, with some experts citing the recent proliferation of evangelical churches in Angola or the spread of black magic from neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the phenomenon of child sorcerers has also taken root.

Most experts agree, however, that Angola's 27-year conflict that ended barely two years ago has thrust the country into a post-trauma situation, destroying its social fabric and parental bonds.

"Witchcraft fears have broken out in many societies during times of distress," said Francisco de Mata Mourisca, the Roman Catholic bishop of Uige, where many of the witchcraft cases have been reported. "But you have to ask yourself, why our children? The answer in Angola is simple. Because war has brutalized our families in the same way it haunted and destroyed our homes and streets."

Although the government has rarely acted against child abusers, one woman, Carolina Jorge, was imprisoned for five days after abusing her grandchildren and imprisoning them in an animal pen. She lashed out at the children, aged 10 and 7, after their parents died of an undetermined illness, possibly AIDS, according to the Tribune.

"Those children weren't normal," said Jorge. "They had a suitcase that made a singing noise. And the boy messed his bed every night. He was possessed."

A few Angolans are even exploiting the sorcery fears for profit, the Tribune says. Papa Matumona, the most powerful faith healer in Uige, runs an evangelical treatment center for child witches.

"He forces them to jump and dance for hours during the hottest part of the day" in order to cleanse them, said Leopoldina Neto, a UNICEF child-protection officer in the town. "He beats them. He puts chili powder in their eyes and drips boiling palm oil in their ears."

U.N. aid workers are launching parent education campaigns designed to halt the abuses, but their efforts are already facing significant challenges. The Tribune reports that an internationally funded study of the problem was abandoned after its chief Angolan researcher concluded that the witchcraft was real, a belief held by most police responsible for protecting child's rights (Paul Salopek, Chicago Tribune, March 28).

Monday, March 29, 2004

The Roma - Kosovo's forgotten victims

The recent upsurge in ethnically-based violence in Kosovo has unhappily returned this part of South-East Europe to the world's headlines. However, attention has been exclusively focused on the Albanian and Serbian communities, ignoring the impact of the violence on all Kosovo's communities (including the Turks, Bosniaks, Gorani, Ashkaelia and Egyptians), and in particular the most disadvantaged group, the Roma (gypsies). Minority Rights Group International (MRG) has received reports of attacks on Roma during the recent violence. In Gnjilane, one of Kosovo's major towns, Roma allege that their houses were attacked and some burned by organized groups from 17-21 March. According to eye-witness accounts, none of the security forces charged with their protection (the Kosovan and UN police and KFOR, the international peacekeeping force), provided assistance until 20 March, although Roma report that they were helped by some of their Albanian neighbours. By this time at least 50 members of the Roma community had fled into Serbia proper, stating they had lost all hope of living in Kosovo. Similar attacks have been reported elsewhere in Kosovo, again with worrying reports that both Kosovan and international security forces did little to intervene to prevent attacks on minorities.

The Roma remain the most persecuted minority in Europe.Governments have attempted to forcibly settle and resettle Roma, often with little success and negative results. These same governments have also refused Roma the opportunity to settle down of their own accord. When a new Roma encampment begins, they are forcibly removed. Reasons include safety, hygiene, and reducing crime, but there is feeble effort by the authorities in power to improve these settlements. The Roma remain a people on the margins of society, prevented from self-determination and gaining official recognition as a minority entitled to basic humanitarian services and rights. The Romani people remain misunderstood and socially isolated in Europe for many reasons. Roma have mistrusted help or aid from outsiders, and with justification. For centuries they have maintained a social distance from gadje and remained separate as a matter of choice for protection and cultural strength. The days of voluntary isolationism are nearing their end in Europe. There remain very few places where Roma can have peace. Overcrowding, ethnic conflicts and strictly enforced borders within Europe force Roma closer and closer to gadje, and the situation will not change soon. The Patrin Web Journal is dedicated to Romani (Gypsy) culture and history and to extending awareness of the continuous Roma struggle to achieve and maintain dignity and freedom. Patrin is a learning resource and information centre about Romani culture, social issues, and current events

While specialists say it could take decades for life to improve for the Roma people, there may never be greater inducement than now. Improving life for Gypsies, has become a requirement for membership in the European Union. Most of Europe's 7 million to 9 million Gypsies live in countries set to join the expanding European Union. Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic become members May 1; Romania and Bulgaria hope to join in 2007. Slovakia has spent millions of dollars to bring roads, electricity and running water to Gypsy communities. Hungary set up educational and antidiscrimination projects, while the Czechs are training Gypsies to become police officers.

Photo's from a documentary project by photographer Julie Denesha of Roma in various ghetto's in Slovakia, Eastern Europe.

Rapid Growth of "Dead Zones" in Oceans Threatens Planet

The spread of oxygen-starved "dead zones" in the oceans, a graveyard for fish and plant life, is emerging as a threat to the health of the planet, experts say. For hundreds of millions of people who depend on seas and oceans for their livelihoods, and for many more who rely on a diet of fish and seafood to survive, the problem is acute. Some of the oxygen-deprived zones are relatively small, less than one square kilometer (0.4 square miles) in size. Others are vast, measuring more than 70,000 square kilometers. Pollution, particularly the overuse of nitrogen in fertilizers, is responsible for the spread of dead zones, environment ministers and experts from more than 100 countries were told. The number of known oxygen-starved areas has doubled since 1990 to nearly 150, according to the UN Environmental Program (UNEP), holding is annual conference in South Korea.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Britain's secret army in Iraq

The Independent (UK) reports that so many British security firms are cashing in on the violence in Iraq that armed private security men now outnumber most of the national army contingents in the country. Thousands of former soldiers and police officers from Britain, the US, Australia and South Africa are earning wages as high as £600 a day to protect Western officials, oil company executives and construction firm bosses in Iraq. The SAS is said to be suffering an unprecedented loss of personnel as its highly trained soldiers are lured by lucrative private security work. With business of around £1bn, British companies are estimated to have the biggest share of private security contracts in Iraq. According to experts, between 1,200 and 1,500 former British soldiers and police officers, including former SAS, Marines, paratroopers and RUC officers, are working in Iraq. Some privately estimate that the total number of foreigners working for private security companies now exceeds the 8,700 British troops there.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Frontline States

LUSAKA, March 25 Sapa-AFP
South Africa's neighbours who formed an anti-apartheid alliance and sheltered black liberation groups bear deep scars from a backlash by the former white racist regime in Pretoria whose stint in power ended a decade ago.Between 1975 and 1980 six nations -- Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe -- teamed up to form a body dubbed the Frontline States to aid the liberation movements in South Africa and Namibia.
The price they paid was dear -- ranging from acts of aggression and destabilisation like simultaneous military raids in the Zambian, Zimbabwean and Botswanan capitals on May 19, 1986 -- to covert support to rebel movements in Angola and Mozambique.
A casualty of apartheid outside the borders of South Africa who has lived to tell his experiences is Zimbabwe's former cabinet minister Kumbirai Kangai and a member of the ruling ZANU-PF party's supreme decision making body, the politburo. Taking the position which the Frontline States did, repeatedly condemning apartheid and warning the then South African government that it would not last long... was a dangerous game," said Kangai, whose house was bombed in 1980. "The SA government was very vicious," he said.
Sanctions South Africa imposed on landlocked neighbours meant diversion to longer and more costly routes to the sea. The regional countries also spent billions of dollars in defence costs.
As a result of South Africa's systematic destabilisation, it is estimated that some two million people died, especially in Angola and Mozambique while about seven million were displaced due to rebel activities.
The resulting economic losses came to more than 45 billion dollars in 10 years, almost three times their combined foreign debt at the time, according to a 1989 Commonwealth report.
Former president of Zambia and ex-chairman of the Frontline States Kenneth Kaunda in a foreword to the Commonwealth report on the devastation of the grouping by South Africa, described apartheid as "a horrendous physical reality."
He said apartheid was responsible for "untold social and economic destruction and shattering hopes for rapid development in the region."
Citing UN statistics that one child under the age of five years was dying in the region every three-and-a-half minutes as a result of apartheid, Kaunda said the impact was "the same as one Jumbo jet filled with Frontline children crashing without survivors every day".
Hundreds of thousands of adults were mutilated or maimed as a result of South African acts of aggression through rebel and banditry sponsorship.
Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique were bombed several times. But probably the most prominent casualty was the former leader of Mozambique Samora Machel, killed in a 1986 plane crash largely blamed on Pretoria.
Former Zambian home minister Aaron Milner recently said the country's economic malaise was partly due to its support for regional liberation movements. "We had to divert our resources to finance the different liberation movements including the ANC," (South Africa's now ruling African National Congress party which is the continent's oldest liberation movement), he said. But he said the "sacrifice was worth it.
"There was no way Zambia could have remained peaceful when other countries were still fighting white minority rule," he said.Lusaka became the heart of the Frontline, housing the ANC's headquarters-in-exile in 1977.The Zambian capital became a veritable centre stage in the fight against apartheid with a flurry of summits and informal meetings and the comings and goings of intellectuals, journalists and liberals seeking contact with ANC "terrorists," as they were termed by Pretoria. But the hospitality came at a cost. "The ANC members introduced the gun culture in Zambia, which brought about armed robberies," said veteran journalist Robby Makayi. (Sapa-AFP)

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

New perspectives on African maps

The Parliamentary Millennium Project brings together an astonishing collection of ancient maps and artefacts, contrasting Western representations with earlier Eastern ones, and with African forms of social and cultural mapping, to shed new light on the history of "the dark continent". Post-apartheid South Africa remains divided when it comes to the perspectives people have of society. Based on the premise that our polarised views emanate from our very different experiences of history, the Parliamentary Millennium Project explores different historical perspectives of Africa, with the aim of building a common understanding among South Africans.

A replica of the earliest and largest known map of Africa is currently on display in Parliament as part of the exhibition "Perspectives on and of Africa". The map, the Da Ming Hun Yi Tu, was created in 1389 and has never been exhibited before. An unexplored perspective on Africa is the Asian one. Contrary to popular belief, it was the Asians who first encountered Africa. The map provides evidence of contact between Africa and China well before the European voyages of discovery.

It's a dogs life

An English springer spaniel with a talent for sniffing out guns, ammunition and explosives in Iraq has survived a suspected contract killing, a British newspaper reported Wednesday. Blaze, who is serving with British forces in southern Iraq, escaped with only cuts and bruises after the would-be killer roared up in a car, "deliberately swerved" and hit him, The Sun said, quoting military sources. "There is no doubt that this was a deliberate assassination attempt," a senior army officer was quoted as saying. "We are convinced that there was a price on Blaze's head." The incident took place on a road in Al-Zubayr, southwest of Basra city, the headquarters for 8,800 British troops who occupy oil-rich southern Iraq, the newspaper said. Blaze is among several sniffer dogs brought to Iraq by the British army to help find weapons and explosives. Each costs 25,000 pounds (37,500 euros, 46,000 dollars) to train. His handler, Lance Corporal Steve Dineley, 24, said: "I was gutted when he got run over and so were all the guys. We were very angry but he has made a great recovery." (Sapa-AFP)

SA Silverscreen

In 1995, cinema in South Africa was exactly 100 years old. Early projection devices were frequented around the Johannesburg goldfields from 1895 on. The first cinema newsreels ever were filmed at the front during the Anglo-Boer War (1989-1902). The world's longest running weekly newsreel, African Mirror (1913-1984), was in the mid-1990s broadcast as history on national TV. The first narrative film was The Kimberley Diamond Robbery, made in 1910. Between 1916 and 1922, when IW Schlesinger produced 43 big budget high quality features, themes were rooted in the ideological outlook of the period, with Boer and Briton standing together under the flame of unity and civilization against barbaric hordes (eg. De Voortrekkers / Winning a Continent - 1916 and Symbol of Sacrifice - 1918). The magnitude of Symbol, with its 25 000 Zulu warrior extras, is an even more astonishing accomplishment.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Sound Portraits

The Sunshine Hotel is an audio portrait of one of the final vestiges of the Bowery, New York's notorious skid row. In the first half of the century, the mile-long Bowery's bars, missions and cheap hotels (or flophouses) were home to an estimated 35,000 down-and-out men each night. Today, only a handful of flophouses, virtually unchanged for half a century, are all that remain of this once teeming world. For several months in 1998, David Isay and Stacy Abramson had unprecedented 24-hour access to the Sunshine Hotel, one of the last of the no-frills establishments. "It was like stepping into King Tut's Tomb," Isay says. "The Sunshine is this fascinating, self-contained society full of unbelievable characters. While it's a profoundly sad place, it is, at the same time, home to men with powerful and poetic stories."

All the Way Broken is the audio diary of Iolene Catalano, a former heroin addict and prostitute. She was born on May 10, 1948, in a carnival trailer in Pennsylvania. Her mother was an exotic dancer and her father ran a crooked carnival concession. She spent her childhood in orphanages, reform schools, and mental institutions. By age twenty, she was living on the streets of New York City as a prostitute, thief, and some-time rock-and-roll singer. Iolene was diagnosed with HIV one month after she shot heroin for the last time. Together Catalano and producer David Isay recorded more than thirty hours of interviews. In April 1994, Iolene had a breakdown. She was admitted to Roosevelt Hospital in New York City, and the project was suspended. Throughout her illness, Catalano kept a tape recorder by her bed-side. At night, she’d have a nurse tape a microphone to her chest so that she could record her thoughts before she fell asleep. Iolene died at Roosevelt Hospital on June 3, 1994. She was clean for the last eight years of her life.

Sound Portraits offers an online selection of some of the finest audio documentaries I have ever heard. Creative radio at its best

Assessing the opposition

Last week linked to a list of reasons by 'Strawdog' why one shouldn't vote ID. I have been meaning to comment on this but am only getting around to it now. One of the reasons given was that Patricia de Lille was second only to Winnie Mandela in poor attendance at Parliament - actually this is far from the truth. Patricia is one of the politicians who's conscientious about attending, just think about it - how many times have you seen her on the tv news in Parliament voicing her opposition to something. The point about the ID's being me a political party that isn't?
Another point mentions that "A strong DA/IFP alliance is the best chance of rallying together an opposition that will control the Western Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal..." - KZN sure, it's the IFP's traditional stronghold after all. As far as the Western Cape goes, this is wishful thinking, the IFP has minimal support in the WC, in recent pre-election opinion polls carried out by Markinor and Idasa the IFP doesn't even register. As for the DA, they're competing with the NNP, the ID's and the ANC in that province and the outcome remains uncertain, and will depend largely on voter turnout which is anyone's guess at this stage.
'Strawdog' goes on to say that "Her policies are airy-fairy, populist, and impractical..." Well, that may or may not be so, but impractical is certainly a word one could use to describe some of the DA's policies .They are long on rhetoric and short on practicalities in many instances. Take for example something the DA has said on policing - local municipalities are expected to provide funding from citizens to pay for the increased number of policemen Tony promises to supply, all very well in Sandton, but this might be problematic in Alexandra where most of the population is unemployed. A lot of the DA policies tell you all about what they plan to do but don't actually explain how they plan to do all these wonderful things.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Mass extinction or media hype?

Fears that Earth is undergoing a mass species wipe-out similar to that which destroyed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago have gained new ground with the publication of two British studies. They found that the rate of loss of insect and plant species across Britain was running at several times what would be considered normal, and had been doing so for a long time. "The world is experiencing a new mass extinction," Andrew Sugden of Science International magazine told a news conference in London. "These studies are milestones in global change research." The studies, funded largely by Britain's Natural Environment Research Council, are published in the latest issue of the journal Science. Earth has undergone five mass extinctions in the last 600 million years, and scientists have speculated for some time that it is in the throes of a sixth.

Truth Commission for Education?

Education Minister Kader Asmal's intention to appoint a truth commission in May to deal with the damage of apartheid education would be a divisive step, Western Cape education minister Andre Gaum said on Monday. It would merely open up old wounds and not contribute to improving the education system, Gaum said in a statement. The money that Asmal wanted to spend on this could much rather be located to provinces such as the Western Cape to appoint more teachers and subsidise school fees. "While it is imperative to remember the past, particularly during our 10-year democracy celebrations, I have instructed my department to focus on the positive developments of the past 10 years and not only on the past," Gaum said. "We are after all celebrating our 10 years of democracy and not our apartheid past. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission dealt with all aspects of the past." There were many other priorities, rather than an education truth commission, which needed urgent attention, said Gaum.

Party Info

20,674,926 voters have registered out of a possible 27,416,363 according to people of voting age in the last census (2001).
There are 17 000 voting districts.
Altogether 37 political parties submitted candidates' lists.
Eleven parties will contest the elections nationally and provincially;
Three parties will contest the elections nationally;
Seven parties will contest the elections nationally and one or more provinces;
Fourteen parties will contest the elections in one or more provinces only;

They are as follows:
National and all 9 provinces (10):
African National Congress - ANC
Democratic Alliance/Demokratiese Alliansie - DA
Nuwe Nasionale Party/New National Party - NNP
African Christian Democratic Party - ACDP
United Democratic Movement - UDM
United Christian Democratic Party - UCDP
Vryheidsfront Plus - VF Plus
Pan Africanist Congress of Azania - PAC
Azanian People's Organisation - AZAPO
Independent Democrats - ID
National and 8 provinces (1):
Inkatha Freedom party - IFP (EC, FS, GP, NW, WC, MP, KZN, NC)
National and 6 provinces (1):
Nasionale Aksie/National Action - NA (EC, FS, GP, LP, NW, WC)
National and 4 provinces (1):
The Socialist Party of Azania - SOPA (EC, GP, KZN, MP)
National and 2 provinces (2):
Peace and Justice Congress - PJC (GP, WC)
Christian Democratic Party - CDP (GP, KZN)
National and 1 province (2):
Minority Front - MF (KZN)
New Labour Party - NLP (WC)
National only (4):
The Organisation Party - TOP
United Front - UF
Keep It Straight and Simple - KISS
The Employment Movement of South Africa - EMSA
Provinces only (16):
Peace and Development Party - PDP (KZN, WC)
The Cape People's Congress - CPC (NC, WC)
Economic Freedom Movement - EFM (GP)
Pro-Death Penalty Party - PDP (GP)
Independent African Movement - IAM (KZN)
Izwi Lethu Party - ILP (KZN)
Ximoko Party - XP (LP)
Black People's Convention - BPC (GP)
Africa Muslim Party - AMP (WC)
Moderate Independent Party - MIP (WC)
Alliance for Democracy and Prosperity - ADP (LP)
The Green Party of South Africa - GPGP (WC)
Universal Party - UP (WC)
Royal Loyal Progress - RLP (KZN)
Sindawonye Progressive Party - SPP (MP)
Dikwankwetla Party of South Africa - DPSA (FS)

Friday, March 19, 2004

Tell stories of apartheid education

Education Minister Kader Asmal has called on South Africans to tell their stories of how apartheid education had affected them, his spokesman said on Wednesday. Molatwane Likhethe said in a media statement the submissions would form a historical record of how the education system was before democracy in South Africa. "The record will be an important source of information, especially for the generations that were fortunate never to have gone through such an unjust system," he said. Likhethe said the South African society still showed inequalities in education, adding that many had lost the opportunity for formal schooling because of apartheid education, especially the 'Bantu education' policy.
"The few who were fortunate to obtain the education they could, had to do so under extremely trying circumstances, characterised by low morale and a poor culture of teaching and learning," he said.
Written submissions should be no more than 1000 words long and be sent before March 31 to:
The Secretary, Submissions on Apartheid Education, Private Bag X895, Pretoria 0001. They can also be faxed to 012-326-1909 or hand-delivered to Sol Plaatje House, Room 223, 123 Schoeman Street, in Pretoria.(Sapa)

China Targets Blogs

China is targeting blogs -- personal pages for Internet users -- in its latest attempt to censor the increasing popularity of the web.Two popular sites hosting blogs for thousands of people -- some of whom express their views about news -- have been shut down by the government, the Paris-based media rights group Reporters Without Borders said. One blog site alone, "," hosted more than 15,000 blogs that have now been made inaccessible, the group said in a statement. The site was shut down on March 11 for allowing a letter to be posted that was critical of the government. "Due to the fact that the content in some blog user's blog violated regulations, the web server has been temporarily shut," a message said on the website Thursday. "We will try resolve the problem as quickly as possible." The other blog hosting site, "," was shut down on March 14. It was also inaccessible Thursday. The crackdown on blogs coincides with the opening this week of the 60th session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva, at which China has a seat but without respecting its international commitments, the international press freedom organisation said. It also comes days after China's legislature approved an amendment to its constitution to say for the first time that the state respects and protects human rights. Reporters Without Borders Thursday expressed its anger at this latest escalation of Internet censorship. (Sapa/Afp)

Wednesday, March 17, 2004


From the heroin addict to the casual cocaine snorter, American drug users are among the world's top cash suppliers for international terrorist organizations, the head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said Tuesday. "The American drug consumer is the single largest funder of terrorism in the Western Hemisphere," DEA Administrator Karen Tandy said during the opening ceremony for a three-day international drug conference being held in Peru. "It is imperative that we end drugs as a funding source for terrorists and for those criminal organizations seeking to destabilize existing democratic governments," Tandy said. She said that Americans alone supply the international drugs trade with US$65 billion each year. "In the past, we have seized less than 1 percent of that drug money. Today the DEA has a new focus to follow drug money," she said. Tandy spoke at the 22nd annual International Drug Enforcement Conference, a mostly closed-door event drawing more than 200 law enforcement officials from more than 65 nations to trade ideas and discuss counter-drug tactics. (Sapa/AP)

DA vs ID's

Some interesting discussion going on at NjaloNjalo and Southern Cross about the DA and the ID's.
The ID has fired back against the DA attack. ID leadership in the Eastern Cape has lodged a complaint with the Independent Electoral Commission saying the DA's broadcast advertisements mislead the public into voting for the DA. Provincial spokesperson Eric Whitaker said the ID objected to the DA's advertisement in which a woman voter claims "a vote for a smaller party is a wasted vote". Personally, I think the DA has included the ID's in it's agenda of party's to attack because it sees the DA as a threat. The ID's are becoming an alternative option to many liberal whites. It could also provide competition for the highly contested coloured vote in the Western Cape.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Rewriting apartheid's history books

Ten years into democracy, South African teachers are still battling the legacy of apartheid, whose history primers painted black people as "primitive" and even "barbaric". Before white rule ended in 1994, pupils were taught history along colour lines: white children were told that apartheid represented the ruling Afrikaners' right to self-determination, while for black students, history lessons ended with 1948, the year the white nationalists came to power. Afrikaners during the 1800s were like Israel amongst the heathen nations and faced extinction if they did not maintain their identity," reads one history book, printed in 1970 and used by white final-year high school students.


NjaloNjalo is a new South African weblog with interesting political commentary. It's a pleasure to see another SA blog.

Monday, March 15, 2004

32 Battalion, Umkhonto We Sizwe and former soldiers

The majority of the alleged mercenaries being held in Harare have South African citizenship but were not born in SA. Most of them worked for the notorious 32 battalion and Koevoet, a special force which operated under the old South African Defence Force. In 1994, most of the men, originally from Namibia and Angola, were integrated into the South African National Defence Force and given South African citizenship.

The 32 Battalion, also referred to as the buffalo battalion was disbanded sometime during the 1990's. The battalion has a website which is interesting not only for the information it contains but for what it indirectly tells us about the men in the battalion, it is exceptionally nostalic and celebrates (in the eyes of it's former members) the heroism of a bygone era. I remember once meeting a guy who had been in the parabats and who had gone totally "bossies" - bush mad - after his war experiences, he ended up an alcoholic and a drug addict living on the fringes of society. I've read and heard about many other similar stories. When these soldiers finished their army time and left Angola or Namibia, wherever they served in the bush war, they were apparently made to sign documents stating that they could not reveal that they had fought outside South Africa - according to the apartheid government there was no such thing as the bush war, it was a secret war and kept from the public domain as much as was possible. The army didn't provide anything significant in the way of debriefing or psychological councilling, so often former soldiers who had been highly traumatised by their war experiences in the old army were never able to readjust to civilian life. Many became substance abusers and addicts, and suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome.

I have also read accounts of foot soldiers who fought for Umkhonto We Sizwe who basically went through the same thing. Due to the nature of the armed struggle, after they stopped fighting there was no councilling or help provided, and many former fighters feel bitter and abandoned by those whose cause they fought for. The Institute of Security Studies has written an indepth report on this - "South Africa’s demobilisation process, which was aimed solely at soldiers from the liberation armies, has not effectively provided for the reintegration of former combatants into society. In view of the relatively small numbers of people demobilised, it is unlikely that there will be any major social, or political ramifications, but if the problems with demobilisation are repeated in the rationalisation process, which may involve ten times the number of people, the consequences may be dire. Demobilisation has been poorly planned, badly executed and wholly inadequate in meeting the needs of ex- combatants."

The Hidden Health Trauma of Child Soldiers

A new Belgian study reveals that children abducted or recruited to fight in wars suffer horrific atrocities and many are beaten and sexually abused. Young soldiers are forced to kill other children or even members of their own family, and girls are given to senior staff to act as wives. "I think this is the first time someone has investigated their experiences," Ilse Derluyn, of Ghent University in Belgium. An estimated 300,000 children, some 12 or younger, are currently serving as soldiers or guerrilla fighters in conflicts around the globe. Derluyn and her colleagues interviewed 301 former child soldiers who had been abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel movement in northern Uganda. Their research is published in The Lancet medical journal.

UN Regional Information Africa (IRIN) has more on this story.

In the meantime, reports that Nepal's Maoist rebels have announced plans to raise a militia of 50,000 children by April, amid reports of mass abduction, even sexual abuse of kids, who they allegedly use as cannon fodder. On February 22, the leader of the Maoists student wing, Kamal Shahi, said the decision to raise child militia was taken by the rebel leadership on January 10-11. This marks a major departure from their previous commitments to avoid recruiting children below the age of 18. The radical decision has raised the hackles of rights activists and international organizations which have criticized the ideological indoctrination and military training of children in the conflict-torn kingdom.

The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers (CSC) is an NGO that does valuable human rights work around this issue. They have been at the forefront of efforts to ban the recruitment and use of child soldiers, while encouraging sustainable networks to promote demobilization and reintegration of former child soldiers. The site provides news, information, resourses and related links.

Springbok to stay?

Contrary to a report in a Sunday newspaper, the national rugby team will continue to use the Springbok as its official emblem and will still be known as the Springboks. The Sunday Times reported that, "Rugby's Springbok emblem is on its way out after almost 100 years", but yesterday a Sarfu spokesperson said that was not entirely accurate. "The Springbok will not disappear from South African rugby," said Sarfu communications manager Anthony Mackaiser, before adding: "Sarfu is in discussion with the SA Sports Commission regarding the logo and they along with the National Colours Board have given us permission to continue using the Bok emblem. "At those talks we will discuss how the king protea will be positioned alongside the leaping Springbok," added Mackaiser. "That is the only issue at the moment." Currently, the rugby emblem contains a Springbok leaping towards a protea that encompasses a rugby ball. The most likely change that could occur would see the ball being removed from inside the protea and the protea being repositioned around the Springbok. "The protea is the emblem of all sport in SA and we acknowledge that, but we will still award Bok colours and will continue to be known as the Springboks." Sarfu president Brian van Rooyen was unavailable for comment.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Alien crabs invade CT harbour

Alien European shore crabs that destroyed the American oyster industry have invaded Cape Town harbour while European mussels are becoming a real threat to oyster and mussel farms on the West Coast and as far east as Port Elizabeth.Marine scientists believe the foreign species of sealife were introduced via ships' ballast water. Now South Africa's battle to stop alien and invasive plants from taking over has been extended to sea-borne incursions. In an effort to combat foreign species landing in local waters and possibly playing havoc with local species, South Africa has signed an international convention to control the quality of ballast water discharged in its ports, said a department of transport spokesperson.

More on Ely Calil and Equatorial Guinea

More information is surfacing about Ely Calil's alleged involvement in the Equatorial Guinea plot. The Mail & Guardian reports the following: A tycoon who lives in a mansion in the London suburb of Chelsea has emerged at the centre of accusations over an alleged coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea. In a remarkable tale of bizarre twists, millionaire Ely Calil, who once advised controversial author Jeffrey Archer, has been accused of financing an operation to hire foreign mercenaries to overthrow the government of the oil-rich West African country. The Information Minister of Equatorial Guinea has alleged Calil arranged to pay Old Etonian and former SAS soldier, Simon Mann, $5-million to hire a group of mercenaries to oust the ailing President Obiang. In the 1980s Mann founded Executive Outcomes, one of the world's most successful mercenary outfits, which was involved in controversial operations in Sierra Leone and Angola. Calil has been accused of hiring Mann to help his friend Severo Moto, the exiled Equatorial Guinean politician now living in Spain who harbours ambitions to return as President. It is alleged that, had the coup been successful, its backers, including Calil, would be given oil concessions in the tiny state that is now producing more 250 000 barrels a day. Calil has hired Margaret Thatcher's favourite PR guru Lord Bell to rebut the alleged claims against him, which he says are an elaborate set-up. The allegations will be an unwelcome spotlight on Calil's commercial activities. The Lebanese-born millionaire, now a British citizen, made his fortune in oil trading with Nigeria.

Springbok emblem faces official extinction

Rugby's Springbok emblem is on its way out after almost 100 years. The SA Sports Commission has ratified a decision by the National Colours Board that rugby be brought into line with all other sports and adopt the King Protea as its official emblem. Rugby bosses, including union president Brian van Rooyen, have had meetings with the Colours Board, a committee of the commission, over the issue. Van Rooyen said he discussed the matter with former President Nelson Mandela on Monday.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Africa calls for voice in IMF policy making

Developing countries -- the main clients of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank -- should have more say in the policy of those institutions.This was an opinion widely expressed on Friday at a meeting in Johannesburg of governors of African central banks and other finance officials.
Addressing a media briefing during a break in the conference proceedings, Burkina Faso's Finance Minister Jean-Baptiste Campaore, said the unexpected resignation on March 4 of International Monetary Fund managing director Horst Koehler was an opportunity for developing countries in general, and Africa in particular, to "send a signal" about the importance of transparency and participation in choosing the leadership of the Bretton Woods institutions. Campaore said the new managing director should have advisers who understood Africa. Ivory Coast's Finance Minister Paul Bouabre said the world in 2004 was not the same as in 1944, when a conference was held at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, USA at which 45 countries agreed to set up the bank and the fund. He said there was a convention that the president of the World bank is an American, and the managing director of the IMF is a European, but this was not an actual rule. Whether the next managing director of the IMF was an African or not, he should take Africa's needs into consideration. Bouabre echoed Campaore's suggestion that the managing director have some African advisers, and suggested that a deputy managing director be from an African country. The Sudanese Finance Minister Zubair Ahmed Al-Hassan said the Johannesburg conference was not saying the next managing director must be an African. What they wanted was a more open and democratic selection process. South Africa's Deputy Finance Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa said "incremental progress" was being made towards reform of the world's financial system towards "a development agenda". He cited the UN Millennium Development Goals, the Monterrey conference on financing for development of 2002, and the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in 2003 as examples.Mpahlwa also said the bank and the fund should have the confidence of their major clients -- the developing countries of the world.(sapa)

Snap a road-hog

Joburg has decided to name and shame traffic violaters - well almost. You can take photo's of roadhogs and the Johannesburg city oficial website will post the pictures.

African Pirates and Slave Traders

North African pirates abducted and enslaved more than one million Europeans between 1530 and 1780 in a series of raids that depopulated coastal towns from Sicily to Cornwall, according to new research.
Thousands of white Christians were seized every year to work as galley slaves, labourers and concubines for Muslim overlords in what is today Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Libya, it is claimed. Scholars have long known of the slave raids on Europe. But American historian Robert Davis has calculated that the total number captured -- although small compared with the 12-million Africans shipped to the Americas in later years -- was far higher than previously recognised. His new book, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800, concluded that one million to 1,25-million ended up in bondage. Professor Davis's unorthodox methodology split historians over whether his estimates were plausible but they welcomed any attempt to fill a gap in the little-known story of Africans subjugating Europeans.

Female Genital Mutilation in Kenya

200 practitioners of female genital mutilation in Kenya's Rift Valley province have abandoned the practice and decided to fight the deeply rooted custom. The recent development was the fruit of years of struggle by Kenyan NGOs against entrenched traditional attitudes in communities. Although FGM is outlawed in Kenya the act is unclear on the punishment offenders are to receive, leaving it to the discretion of local magistrates, who issue only light sentences to those found guilty of carrying it out. Feminists have criticized FGM as a practice rooted in discrimination against women and one that violates the basic rights of children. FGM is also responsible for various reproductive health problems among women.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Shia clerics do it too

Mohammad Ali Abtahi is a Shia Muslim cleric, and is one of Iran's six vice presidents. He also has a personal website where he writes a daily blog and keeps a photo diary that provides a comic view into Iran's government.

The privatisation of war

Private corporations have penetrated western warfare so deeply that they are now the second biggest contributor to coalition forces in Iraq after the Pentagon, a Guardian investigation has established.
While the official coalition figures list the British as the second largest contingent with around 9 900 troops, they are narrowly outnumbered by the 10 000 private military contractors now on the ground.
The investigation has also discovered that the proportion of contracted security personnel in the firing line is 10 times greater than during the first Gulf war. In 1991, for every private contractor, there were about 100 servicemen and women; now there are 10. The private sector is so firmly embedded in combat, occupation and peacekeeping duties that the phenomenon may have reached the point of no return: the US military would struggle to wage war without it. While reliable figures are difficult to come by and governmental accounting and monitoring of the contracts are notoriously shoddy, the US army estimates that of the $87-billion earmarked this year for the broader Iraqi campaign, including central Asia and Afghanistan, one third of that, nearly $30-billion, will be spent on contracts to private companies.

Equatorial Guinea

President Thabo Mbeki said on Thursday Equatorial Guinea had asked him for help in the trial of suspected coup plotters during a midnight meeting in Pretoria.

Who is behind the coup, and who is bankrolling the operation?

Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has blamed Britain, the United States and Spain. President Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea claims the coup was funded by enemy powers and multinational corporations. More specifically he points a finger at Severo Moto Nsa. Mugabe is difficult to take seriously, he has made wild accusations of this sort before, and is always on the lookout for a chance to blame western powers for trying to recolonise Africa. There are constant referals by the Mugabe regime in the state-run media to "white, imperialist, British plots to destabilize Africa."
Teodoro Obiang's accusations however, may have more of a ring of the truth to them. Severo Moto Nsa, is a dissident politician, head of Equatorial Guinea's opposition Progress Party. He leads a self-styled "government in exile" in Spain. Moto, tried previously to mount a coup against Obiang in 1997 from Angola. Moto has a website, it's in Spanish, but there is an English translation, it's not the best, but is understandable. One of the suspected mercenaries arrested in Equatorial Guinea confessed to acting for Ely Calil, a Lebanese businessman close to Severo Moto. Calil is also alleged to have links to Logo Logistics, the private security company that chartered the plane that was impounded in Zimbabwe. Logo Logistics has also admitted now to having in their employ the 15 mercenaries in Equatorial Guinea. In 2002 a judicial inquiry in Paris heard that French oil multinational Elf Aquitaine channeled some US$190 million in 1995 to General Sani Abacha, who was then dictator of Nigeria. The money was paid to secure drilling rights. Philippe Jaffre, who was then chief executive officer of Elf Aquitaine, confirmed the payments during questioning by the prosecution. During questioning Jaffre also disclosed that "some intermediaries apparently received more money than foreseen". These were named by prosecutors as Gilbert Chagoury and Ely Calil, two Nigerian businessmen close to Abacha, and a Lebanese intermediary, Samir Traboulsi. The middlemen are said to have taken $70 million between them.
Patrick Smith, the editor of Africa Confidential magazine, says that military sources in South Africa claim that Severo Moto had a series of discussions with the Spanish Prime Minister Aznar, with a view to getting recognition, were he to succeed in overthrowing the Obiang government.

Perhaps Moto was behind the coup with the financial help of Ely Calil and other interested parties. Multinational oil companies have been implicated in the past in providing weapons in civil conflict in developing countries.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

African World Heritage Sites

Representatives of Cameroon, Eritrea, Guinea, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania met in Eritrea Sunday to propose possible sites in Africa to join a new "modern heritage" category of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites that will focus on the 19th and 20th centuries. "Colonial heritage is a major part of Africa's modern built landscape but it goes much further," said Ron Van Oers, UNESCO's program coordinator for modern heritage. "Not all the African modern heritage was colonial-made," he said, adding that it was worth looking at "how Africa reacted to and resisted the colonialism." Places such as Asmara, Eritrea's capital and the meeting's venue, and Inhambane, Mozambique, are vestiges of European presence during the colonial era and are top candidates for modern heritage sites. The townships of South Africa are also being considered because they are an important legacy of apartheid. There are 754 World Heritage Sites worldwide, but with only 60 of them in Africa, the continent is "underrepresented," Van Oers said.

South Africa awash with guns for hire

The arrest of suspected mercenaries in Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea has fingers pointing at South Africa, battling to shed its image as the biggest supplier of dogs of war. The toppling of apartheid white rule in 1994 ended South Africa's years of military confrontation with its black neighbours but left a large pool of trained soldiers available as hired guns from Sierra Leone to Iraq. These days private military companies, as the guns for hire groups prefer to be known, can be found around the world, recruiting former special forces soldiers and increasingly opening offices in Eastern Europe. Intelligence and security sources in Johannesburg say more than 1000 South African former military personnel are employed in all manner of security duties in Iraq, some working for the United Nations. High pay, which contrasts with South Africa's pay for police and security work, is part of the attraction.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Democracy 10

Is it possible to go through a single day in South Africa at the moment without hearing the phrase "ten years of democracy?" I don't think so. That phrase is everywhere, on television, in the papers, on the lips of politicians ahead of our general presidential elections in April. We are celebrating 10 years of democracy this year since 1994 when Nelson Mandela was elected our first post-apartheid president. It's fortuitous that our ten year celebration co-incides with the elections, making this a particularly meaningful, and even spectacular year for our country. While politicians throw insults and accusations at one another, and analysts analyse, the truth is, it's turning out to be a remarkable time of reflection, for looking back, for seeing how far we've come, for thinking about where we are going. We all seem to be looking at ourselves in the mirror and asking, collectively and individually, "Are we, am I, on the right track?" Are we doing enough, are we truly committed, are we following the right policies, are we making enough effort to overcome the prejudices of the past? I think we're doing a good job of asking these questions, our media is strong, independent and diverse, hard questions are being asked and answered. We don't understand why our president does some of the things that he does - his policy of quiet diplomacy towards Zimbabwe, his refusal to act on the hiv/aids issue - and just why he decided to send weapons to Haiti to assist Jean-Bertrand Aristide is anybody's guess? We have many serious problems including crime, corruption, unemployment, poverty and hiv/aids, yet we are obviously doing something right, we're staying afloat, we're one step ahead, we're making progress. There is a general feeling of national pride, we are part of the international community, and in the meantime the streets of South Africa are vibrating with a palpable sense of excitement as we move towards the planned ten-year celebrations and the elections.

Lord Oh Lord

Lord of the Dance returns to South Africa - yet again - surely we can't be this desperate for entertainment.
Back, sadly enough, due to popular demand, it promises to "have audiences on the edge of their seats." Maybe if they've been living in a state of complete islolation for the past seven years, yawn. Surely there are more interesting theatrical overseas productions that could be brought to South Africa

Monday, March 08, 2004


The most-read webloggers aren't necessarily the ones with the most original ideas, say researchers at Hewlett-Packard Labs. Using newly developed techniques for graphing the flow of information between blogs, the researchers have discovered that authors of popular blog sites regularly borrow topics from lesser-known bloggers -- and they often do so without attribution. (via chandrasutra)

Gated Communities

I had thought that living in gated communities behind high walls, and having suburbs cordoned off by booms was pretty much a South African thing due to the gruesome crime rate over here. Well it would appear that I was wrong. Apparently the emergence of gated communities is a growing urban phenomenon around the world. This practise is receiving attention from a range of professionals including legal practitioners, sociologists, anthropologists, and criminologists, as well as stake-holders - residents, local authorities, and the police. There have also been a growing number of international conferences focusing on gated communities.


In an interesting development combining culture and technology the CSIR have developed a software program designed to preserve South Africa's storytelling heritage. The Storymaker software is multilingual, and lets users create their own stories by choosing characters, selecting backgrounds to scenes and writing their own dialogue. Users can currently create stories in English, Afrikaans and Zulu, but the package has been developed in a way that allows other languages to be added in the future. The words appear in speech bubbles above the characters and subtitles below show a translation of the words. Once a user has created a story in one language, it can be played back in another. Storymaker is based on open-source rather than proprietary brandname software.

Weblog Radio

Radio Vox Populi is a realization of the people's voice, taking the content of the weblogs and broadcasting it back to the world. As weblog authors update their sites their writing is collected, synthesized into speech, and streamed to listeners as an Internet radio station. Live from the commons 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. (via Purse Lip Square Jaw)

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Dumpster Radio

Bantar Gebang, just outside the Indonesian capital Jakarta, is the biggest dumpsite of Indonesia (more than 100 hectares). Hundreds and hundreds of scavengers and their children live in the garbage and sift endlessly through the rubbish, hoping to find something that they can use or sell - earning a couple of dollars a day. Children of these scavengers have started their own community radio station with the help of professional radio producers and social workers. The station is owned and run by the children themselves. And the majority of the programs is produced by and for the children from Bantar Gebang. The stations studio is situated on the dumpsite close to the homes of the participating children. The station covers an area of 20 kilometer in diameter.

Reclaiming our History

One of the interesting developments in post-apartheid South Africa is that we are now reclaiming our rightful history. Under the old system we were taught that South Africa began in 1652 when Jan van Riebeeck landed at the Cape to build a refreshment station for the Dutch East India Company. Black history was more or less ignored and relegated to a history textbook chapter on the life of Shaka Zulu.

Recently the Mankele clan in Mpumalanga province were given back their ancestral lands, in the process the clan's history was brought to light. The Mankele are descendants of a legendary warrior, King Sudwala, and their land was stolen by British soldiers over 100 years ago. The clan initially came to the land 150 years ago having defeated armies from the Pedi empire's powerful King Sekhukhune, and came to carve themselves a small kingdom near Nelspruit. The clan absorbed Sotho and Pedi refugees from ongoing wars in the region, and peaked under the leadership of King Sudwala Mankele in the 1870's.The king eventually lost power after constant raiding by white colonialists and the eventual settlement of his Sudwala valley by retired British veterans of the Anglo Boer War. The new British farmers enslaved Mankele villagers and put them to work as labour tenants. Future decades saw the clan being systematically dispossessed of their land under apartheid laws until they became completely landless in the 1970's.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

We Love You Charlize

From Putfontein to the president's office - South African-born Oscar winning actress Charlize Theron will jet into a hero's welcome when she arrives in Johannesburg this weekend. President Mbeki sent a note saying: "We are all immensely proud of this, our South African daughter. We wish her well." Charlize won the Best Actress Oscar this week for her portrayal of a murderer in Monster. She is the first South African to win the award. Mbeki is hoping that she will be able to squeeze him into her busy schedule next week.
The Pretoria News

South Africans can't seem to get enough of Charlize. She's been regular headline fodder since the day she won her Golden Globe award, and she's the pride of our nation. South African girl makes good and we are loving every minute of her fame and acclamation. Of course, here in South Africa, we have a fierce tradition of claiming our own. Despite the most tenuous of links to the country - if you make it big on the international stage - you will be claimed and proclaimed a South African and held in the highest regard. Take JRR Tolkien for example, he was born in South Africa to British parents and returned to Britain at about age four - as far as we are concerned he is proudly South African. Or actress Embeth Davidtz and actor Richard E. Grant, they may have lived longer overseas than they ever did in South Africa, doesn't matter, to us they will always be South African. Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of US democrat frontrunner John Kerry, went to boarding school in South Africa and studied for a degree in romance languages at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, well, we can't exactly call her South African, but nevermind, we're claiming her anyway as one ours and will be more than happy to remind you of her South African connection at any given opportunity.

South Africans also have a way of getting around, and have a peculiar penchant for pitching up at global hotspots. Sholto Hedenskog, a South African soldier serving with the British Royal Marines was one of the first soldiers to be killed in the Iraq war in March last year. Or more recently, revolution in Haiti, South African playwrite Brett Bailey was there. He just happened to be working as a consultant on a theatrical production in the island nation at the time. A major hostage crisis in the Philippines four years ago - no problem, South African holiday makers Monique and Callie Strydom were among those taken captive by Abu Sayyaf rebels. In fact Monique happened to be particularly media savvy and has remained a minor celebrity in South Africa to this day, popping up every now and again on the gossip pages of the Sunday papers.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Trashy Toy Art


I have always been attracted to cheap plastic toys, fridge magnets, keychain objects, lucky packet charms and things of that ilk. I'm not sure why exactly, I think I love their cheerfulness, their brightness, their "kitchability" factor. The way they somehow seem to be proud of their gaudiness, without pretence, in their place right at the bottom of the toy feeding chain. They also somehow seem to be symbolic of our throwaway consumer society. Well, it seems I'm not the only one with a cheap, plastic toy fixation. Johannesburg based artist Joanne Bloch will soon be exhibiting a body of work titled "Thingerotomy" at the Johannesburg Art Gallery.

Writing on the exhibition, Joanne says, "I have been a collector all my life. In my early twenties, I became obsessed with the endless array of cheap, mass-produced artefacts that surrounds us -- tiny toys from lucky packets, Christmas crackers, key rings and egg machines. I began to collect them, and have never stopped.

At the heart of my work lies an enduring interest in this world of trashy ephemera. Thingerotomy evokes an imaginary surgical procedure that cuts open and lays bare this world, with the intention of both commenting on it as well as reconfiguring a new, personalised order.

Collecting and reconfiguring objects is a contradictory act. It's possible to treasure the collected objects for what they are, as well as to see them as emblematic of a wasteful and decadent world. Much of my work is concerned with the excesses inherent to global capitalist culture. I see this work as an ongoing and solution -- less interrogation into my own position in the face of this extravaganza of excess, that co-exists so easily with the other side of the global coin -- massive deprivation and want.


At the most basic level, my work expresses a collector's desire to classify everything in the world (or its miniature plastic version). The obvious impossibility of this task only adds to its fascination.

I also try to reconsider notions of what we commonly think of as beautiful, precious and worth treasuring. Cheap, mass-produced plastic trinkets and novelties are the only treasures available to the vast numbers of the world's population. My artwork often reflects my own ambivalences about the categories of 'trashy' and 'valuable'.

Finally, since I have lived all my adult life with significantly impaired vision -- I am blind in my right eye -- sight means everything to me. Contrary to the currently fashionable disavowal of the visual within the art world, in my work, I celebrate the daily pleasures of sight and seeing. "

A solo exhibition by Joanne Bloch
Johannesburg Art Gallery
Opens 16 March 2004 at 6pm
Closes 5 April 2004

Monday, March 01, 2004

Toffee Ripple

A South African software company called Full Cream Software has come up with a new software package that allows you to search using your preferred search engine but brings up the results as thumbnail pictures of the website. The package is called Toffee Ripple, and according to Mark Carroll, MD of Full Cream Software, the visual representation of the pages is meant to help make your surfing easier by allowing you to glance quickly over the offered page and identify if it is what you are looking for, before actually going into it. Carroll admits there are similar programs available but none that work in real time like Toffee Ripple. The programme can be downloaded from the internet, and there were 1000 downloads in it's first week of release. It's not Apple Mac compatible yet - an Apple Mac version is expected to be launched later this year, along with upgrades.