Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Thursday, May 27, 2004


While the world's media remains fixed on terrorism and Iraq the death toll in Haiti and the Dominican Republic continues to rise.

More than 800 people were believe dead Thursday as a result of floods devastating the southern border shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The death toll on the Haitian side appears to have surpassed those of its Dominican neighbor, with 571 reportedly killed by the floods. In the southern Dominican town of Jimani, near a river that burst its banks earlier this week, 300 are confirmed dead, though hundreds more remain missing. (More)

Reuters puts the death toll at closer to 2000.

Blogroll Update

I have added a new blog to my SA blogroll. I would like to welcome Joe Moore's Newswire. He has a cheeky "The Onion" style post concerning celebrations that "allegedly" took place following the soccer bid announcement titled "MADIBA TRASHES ZURICH HOTEL ROOM!"

DA Wins Krugersdorp By-Election

Sapa reports: The Democratic Alliance has beaten its rivals in Wednesday's municipal by-election in Krugersdorp, on the East Rand. The DA garnered 847 votes (67.3 percent) followed by the African National Congress with 215 votes (17.1 percent). The Freedom Front Plus was third with 121 votes (9.6 percent) and the Independent Democrats fourth with 76 votes (6.0 percent). The percentage poll was 27.7 percent.

Scientists to perform first full-face transplant

United States scientists are preparing to perform the world's first full-face transplant. The 24-hour operation involves lifting an entire face from a dead donor -- including nose cartilage, nerves and muscles -- and transferring them to someone hideously disfigured by burns or other injuries. A team at the University of Louisville in Kentucky has submitted a 30-page request to the university's ethics committee, New Scientist reports today (More)

Wednesday, May 26, 2004


I can't believe I missed this story. I somehow have this mental image of Bush on a mountain bike a few sizes too small - perhaps belonging to one of his feisty twin daughters - with his knees up around his ears.

President George W. Bush suffered minor abrasions after falling off a mountain bike on Saturday. The White House says the accident occurred on Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, during the afternoon. It says he toppled over while riding downhill on soil that had been loosened by rain. Bush suffered minor abrasions and scratches on his chin, upper lip, his nose, right hand and both knees. (More from CBC)

And from the BBC online - I kid you not:

It is not the president's first accident.
In January 2002, he grazed his cheek after choking on a pretzel and fainting.
And in June 2003, he fell off his hi-tech Segway scooter.

This might be a genetic thing. According to the CBC report Bush and his father the former U.S. president have a history of mishaps causing minor injuries. Bush junior's father once briefly fainted on camera while eating what was reportedly sushi at a state dinner in Japan. He ended up slumped below the table and had to be helped up.

Greenpeace Update

Good news regarding the Greenpeace trial I wrote about last week

In a rebuke to the US Justice Department, a federal judge in Miami has thrown out a criminal case against environmental group Greenpeace , a prosecution that was watched closely by other progressive organizations that say they are under threat from the Bush administration. US District Judge Adalberto Jordan acquitted the group at the end of the prosecution's case on Wednesday, the third day of the jury trial, for protesting against a ship that carried 70 tons of illegally cut mahogany. He said the prosecution, which based the action on an obscure 1872 law, had failed to provide enough evidence for the case to go to the jury. (More)

Manuel calls for reforms at IMF, World Bank

The Mail and Guardian reports: South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel on Tuesday called for the reform of the "attitudes" of multilateral institutions to allow for the participation of developing countries.

Addressing delegates at the African Development Bank (ADB) meeting in Kampala, Uganda, Manuel said the lack of progress in "participation and voting power of developing countries in the IMF and the World Bank is disappointing and is holding back the creation of productive global partnerships".

He said for the partnerships to be realised, significant and rapid changes in the access of markets for products from developing countries were needed.

Manuel also said reforms in African state institutions "to balance the distribution of economic burdens and opportunities" were weakened by conditions attached to the financial assistance that poor countries were receiving.

"Poverty in Africa is of such scale that efforts to address it require far more than reform in individual countries -- it requires concerted activism, reform to our multilateral institutions, their instruments and their attitudes," he said.

Calling for a better and untied development assistance Manual said: "While substantial progress has been made in strengthening the national ownership of poverty reduction strategies, this needs to be matched by similar efforts at the global level."

He said it was the responsibility of African governments to strengthen the shift in decision-making about Africa from North to South.

The two-day annual meeting was attended by finance ministers, central bank governors and business leaders from 77 member countries of the ADB.

On Matters Celestial

Transit of Venus
On Tuesday June 8, from sunrise until 1:30 pm, the planet Venus will be
seen as a small dark spot moving across the disk of the Sun. This
"Transit of Venus" is a rare event; no living person has seen one, as
the last occurred in 1882. Since the disk of the Sun is uncomfortably
bright to look at - and sustained staring may result in damage to the
retina - metallic foil, like that commonly used to pack tea bags, should
be held in front of the eye.

While the event will be visible to such suitably protected, but
otherwise naked, eyes, it will be better seen in images of the Sun
projected from telescopes. Weather permitting, a telescope will be set
up in front of the SA Museum, with planetarium staff in attendance.

In history, such transits of Venus, when observed from different
locations on Earth, were important scientific events used for
determining the scale of the Solar System (though nowadays this can be
found far more accurately by spacecraft). Many western nations
despatched expeditions to measure the timings of the transit of Venus,
the most famous being the first voyage of Captain James Cook to the
Pacific to observe the transit of 1761.

Transits of Venus occur in pairs. There will be another in 2012, but the
following pair only in 2117 and 2125. (From Iziko Museums Cape Town)

On Australia and East Timor

Another example of the "benefits" of globalisation and empire.

Sapa-AFP reports: East Timor is at risk of becoming a failed state, hampered by Australia's determination to maintain maritime boundaries giving it the lion's share of revenues from Timor Sea oil reserves, Oxfam warned Wednesday.

A new report by the aid group acknowledges Australia has been a generous donor to East Timor, but said Canberra has reaped 10 times more from East Timor than it has given the impoverished country since 1999.

The report, released to coincide with the second anniversary of East Timor's independence, highlighted the continuing plight of its people, with four in 10 below the poverty line, more than half illiterate and a high infant mortality rate.

But Australia, it said, was earning over 1.0 million dollars (700,000 US) a day from oil and gas in a disputed area of the Timor Sea much closer to East Timor than to Australia. "Australia has received nearly 10 times as much revenue from Timor Sea oil and gas than it has provided in aid to East Timor since 1999," Oxfam said.

Under a temporary treaty signed with East Timor, Australia has access to two-thirds of oil and gas deposits in the Timor Sea, even though a maritime boundary set according to international law could deliver most, if not all, these resources to East Timor.

The boundary has been the centre of a protracted dispute between East Timor and its giant neighbour, with energy deposits worth an estimated 30 billion dollars (21 billion US) in royalties at stake.

Australia insists the border should be its continental shelf which in some places is just 150 kilometres (94 miles) from East Timor's coast, but Dili says the border should be in the middle of the 600 kilometres (375 miles) of sea between the countries, which would give it 90 percent of oil reserves.

"The vast oil and gas reserves of the Timor Sea provide East Timor with a window of opportunity for providing for its people and future generations," said Oxfam Community Aid Abroad's director of public policy James Ensor. But Australia was not displaying good faith in its negotiations with its neighbour, he said.

Australia had withdrawn its adherence to the International Court of Justice and International Treaty of the Law of the Sea, denying East Timor's right to independent, third-party arbitration of maritime disputes.

The report said Australia received enormous international recognition for its role in leading the UN-backed force that ended a bloody rampage by Jakarta-backed militia in 1999 and through being a major donor.

"However, the unfolding tensions over the Timor Sea that stand to push East Timor to the brink of becoming a failed state through no fault of its own ... tarnish the current Australian government's strongest foreign policy achievement supporting the fledgling country over the past five years," it added.

While Australia was required to show restraint in exploiting oil and gas reserves in areas of overlapping claims, it continues to issue unilateral exploration licenses and receive revenues from some oil fields within the areas.

Facing a budget deficit of 30 million US dollars for the next four years, East Timor is heavily reliant on foreign aid, which Oxfam said is set to rapidly decline over coming years.

"It is in Australia's national interest to do all it can to reduce the absolute poverty and to promote social, economic and political stability in East Timor," said Ensor.
"East Timor wants access to the resources it believes it is entitled to under international law so that it can develop without a dependence on foreign aid".

According to the CIA Factbook : "The country faces great challenges in continuing the rebuilding of infrastructure and the strengthening of the infant civil administration. One promising long-term project is the planned development of oil resources in nearby waters." So much for all that oil revenue.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Congratulations Michael Moore

Michael Moore's controversial documentary about the Bush family and the war in Iraq, "Fahrenheit 9/11" was awarded the Palme d'Or Saturday at the 57th Festival de Cannes. Jury president Quentin Tarantino said the jury "was proud to announce" Moore's victory, which prompted a standing ovation from the closing night gala audience.

Anant Singh has bought the rights to screen the film in South Africa, so hopefully we'll be able to judge it for ourselves before too long.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Architecture for Humanity

There’s a lot of information on the internet, as well as blogs like purse lip square jaw that deal with the built urban environment, urban space, architecture, technology and urban life in general from a fairly academic point of view. Of course most of this information pertains to cities in the context of western, developed models of urbanization. So it was great to come accross an initiative today like Architecture for Humanity.

Architecture for Humanity is an international NGO founded to promote architectural and design solutions to global, social and humanitarian crises. South Africa is set to benefit from the NGO - their 2004 Summer Design Competion involves calls for a design for a soccer facility in Somkhele in KZN. In many African countries sporting activities, particularly soccer are being incorporated into programs geared towards helping young people to address a broad range of issues facing their lives. The Somkhele facility will be run by professionals from the Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies. It will serve as a gathering place for youth between the ages of 9 and 14 including the first ever girl’s soccer league in the area. The pitch will also act as a tool to disseminate HIV/AIDS information and will eventually provide a service point for a mobile health clinic.

Slave Ships

Iziko Museums in Cape Town have started off a project to find different slave ships that were wrecked along the South African coastline. One of them is the Dutch slave ship “Meermin” which ran aground off the southern Cape coast 236 years ago after an onboard rebellion nearly succeeded. The first phase in the project started off on Tuesday this week with a four day expedition conducting a series of preliminary tests using a land and marine magnetometer, a device measuring the earth’s magnetic field. The magnetometer also registers anomalies such as canons and other metal objects to help map the exact location of the shipwreck. (More)

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Greenpeace on trial

Greenpeace went on trial in the US yesterday, they're being prosecuted under the so called sailor mongering law which was last used in 1890 to prevent prostitutes from boarding ships. This for displaying a banner on a freighter carrying illegally harvested Amazon mahogany. It's the first U.S. criminal prosecution for civil disobedience against an advocacy group rather than against its individual members.

Sailor mongering was rife in the 19th century when brothels sent prostitutes laden with booze to lure sailors off their ships as they made their way to harbor. The sailors would then be held in bondage and sold to pay off their lodging and food. The sailor mongering law was passed in 1872, making it a crime to board a ship without authorization. It has only been used twice, the last time in 1890

The action took place 15 months ago and according to Greenpeace and other civil liberties activists the delay in indicting the group and the obscure nature of the crime is politically motivated due to Greenpeace's ongoing criticism of President Bush's environmental policies. The US Attorney prosecuting the case has thus far declined a respose to these comments.

According to Voice of America:

The two Greenpeace activists who boarded the ship two years ago are not involved in the case. They and four others involved pleaded no contest and spent several days in jail. Federal prosecutors charged Greenpeace USA under the sailor mongering statute 15 months after the incident.

If convicted Greenpeace USA could face a $10,000 fine, be put on probation and face the loss of its tax-exempt status as a non-profit organization.

Critics of the prosecution say if Greenpeace USA is found guilty, the case could have an effect on the the right of free speech enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. In their legal papers, federal prosecutors have acknowledged the case could have an impact on Constitutional rights, but they say they are bound by law to proceed with their prosecution.

Berg beheading

Sapa/AFP reports that four people have been arrested over the beheading of US businessman Nicholas Berg, whose decapitated body was found in Baghdad. This according to senior Iraqi sources today. Not much more released on the story so far.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Michael Moore

The BBC Takes a critical look at Michael Moore's new anti-Bush movie which was screened today at the Cannes Film Festival.

The film's conclusions are reached through a mixture of firm evidence, interesting information, moving scenes and tenuous theories. Starting with the presidential election in 2000, it firmly plants the idea that Bush's election - thanks to just 537 votes in Florida - was not exactly free and fair. Moore makes tough accusations against Bush.The first conspiratorial link comes when he identifies the Fox News Channel employee who took the decision to report that Bush had won Florida on election night - when all other channels were reporting an Al Gore win - as Bush's first cousin. If true, it is an interesting piece of trivia - but hardly proof of a family plot to steal the presidency. (More)

Friday, May 14, 2004

Urban Atmospheres/Urban Probes

Mobile communications and computing devices are changing the ways we behave in cities too rapidly for traditional research and development methodologies to keep pace. Eric Paulos, a research scientist at Intel’s Research Laboratory in Berkeley, California, launched the Urban Atmospheres and Urban Probes projects not just to explore social uses of emerging technologies, but also to test new ways of pursuing socio-technological research.

Paulos notes that the most powerful portable devices and wireless services have only begun to emerge -- who would know that better than an Intel researcher? -- and that 2007 will mark the first year in human history when city-dwellers constitute a majority of the population. For these reasons, Paulos believes the time is right for research that not only seeks to understand, but to intervene, not only to measure, but to provoke. During this interregnum, while the social forms, technology applications, cultural practices, industries and research disciplines have not yet solidified into recognizable concrete forms, research has the potential to influence these aspects of technology as well as the chance to study them. (More)
(via No Sense of Place)

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Bloggers doubt Berg execution video

Bearing in mind that this on the Aljazeera side of the political fence, this story exposes doubts by the blogging and internet fraternity on the authenticity of the notorious beheading video.

Revolting millions around the world, the video footage of an American citizen's execution has also raised numerous questions concerning its authenticity.Even at first glance, internet bloggers were asking on Thursday why Nick Berg was wearing an orange jumpsuit – just like US prisoners wear. Other net-surfers point to the unlikely timing of the executioner's dubbed announcement that Berg was to die for "Iraqi prisoner abuse". Berg was last seen alive on 10 April, when his father Michael Berg believes he was killed - two weeks before the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal broke in the world's media. Some discussions focus on the timing of the video's release - guaranteed to divert attention from the outrage regarding US torture of Iraqis.

Blog to Movie

Anyone hosting with Blogger will have seen that the Baghdad Blog, "Dear Raed" is to be turned into a movie. I think this is definitely a first in the annals of blogging history. I've heard of blogs being turned into books before, but this is the first blog to movie to the best of my knowledge. has the link to the BBC story.
I remember when people first started noticing the blog just before the war and there were lots of artcles debating as to whether it was authentic or not and checking up on if the domains it passed through could have come from Iraq. The next thing the story was picked up by the mainstream media, first the BBC and then CNN, and "Dear Read" was travelling off to London and doing the rounds of interviews.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004


On Lesotho has a great post about childhood experiences. Before I read his post I had been on the internet reading information about Enid Blyton, my favourite childhood author. Reading the Famous Five books was one of my great childhood pleasures, I was an avid bookworm. My grade 2 teacher started reading Five Run Away Together to us in class and by the end of the year she hadn't finished the book, so I went out and bought my own copy to find out what happened. That was my first ever book buying experience. That was in the late 70's and from then on I used to buy Famous Fives at our local CNA and the cost was R1.75c. And I have to admit, that even to this day, every now and again, I go back and reread my Enid Blyton's. Well on my internet search I came accross a wonderful radio documentary on Enid Blyton, and to my pleasant surprise found out that a lot of adults who read her books as children do the same thing - especially in times of stress, perhaps because the books are total escapism and create a world of adventure and security.

I also discovered that it took her five days to write a Famous Five and in one particular year she published 69 books - which turns out to be a book every five days, quite a remarkable feat.

This quote kind of sums it up for me,

"God bless you Enid Blyton - I read your stories sitting on a cushion in a back alleyway in Liverpool. You helped me escape from a drab world. Hidden tunnels, lost passageways, the whole lichen-coated paraphernalia of forbidden places poured into my head and washed what seemed mundane reality aside. Your writing was repetitive and clumsy and bigoted, your villains were stereotyped, your characters all wooden, but so what? You transported a million children beyond the reach of the grown-up-thou-shalt-not-world."
Brian Patten, Poet


World War II propaganda posters

Not the best quality image, but goes to show how how notions of being politically correct have changed.

More World War propaganda posters can be found here here and here.


Err...hmmm, no comment.

TV images of muscular, bare-chested men lifting weights and endorsing cologne leave men feeling depressed and unhappy with their muscularity, which may lead to steroid abuse and unhealthy, extreme exercising, University of Central Florida researchers have concluded.

While many studies have shown how images of thin, beautiful models affect women’s self-esteem, UCF psychology professor Stacey Tantleff-Dunn and graduate student Daniel Agliata are among the first to examine how “a culture of muscularity” affects the well-being of men.

Boys are exposed to the culture at an early age, when they play with muscular action figures, Tantleff-Dunn said. Male heroes in movies and video games often are “supersized,” as are actors in many commercials for deodorant and exercising equipment.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Child Trafficking in SA

A disturbing crime story caught my attention today.

South Africa is a major destination and source for international child trafficking, a conference on human trafficking heard in Pretoria today. Susan Kreston of the Council of the National Centre for Justice and the Rule of Law in the USA told the conference, arranged by the Institute for Security Studies, that between 28 000 and 38 000 children were currently being prostituted in South Africa.

"Up to 25% of prostitutes in South Africa are children, and up to 25%t of street children are prostitutes," she told the conference. In a 2003 study on migration, South Africa was described as the main destination for trafficked children in Southern Africa. "Many are sent from Angola, Botswana, (the Democratic Republic of) Congo and Lesotho as well as from Thailand and Russia," the report detailed.

It also said that many South African children were sent to Europe and Asia to work as sex slaves, labour slaves or both. Kreston explained that human trafficking was the fastest growing source of profit for organised criminal enterprises worldwide. "It is currently second only to guns and drugs. But the advantage of human cargo is they can be reused unlike drugs," she said.

She said it was currently a US7 billion dollar (about R49 billion) global industry with up to US30 000 (R210 000) paid for a child.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004


I am on leave and so will be taking a break from blogging until May 10th

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Dr. Seuss Went To War

I hadn't realised that as well as being a famous author of children's books, Dr. Seuss was also a political cartoonist.

Because of the fame of his children's books (and because we often misunderstand these books) and because his political cartoons have remained largely unknown, we do not think of Dr. Seuss as a political cartoonist. But for two years, 1941-1943, he was the chief editorial cartoonist for the New York newspaper PM (1940-1948), and for that journal he drew over 400 editorial cartoons.

The Dr. Seuss Collection in the Mandeville Special Collections Library at the University of California, San Diego, contains the original drawings and/or newspaper clippings of all of these cartoons. This website makes these cartoons available to all internet users. The cartoons have been scanned from the original newspaper clippings in the UCSD collection.

The Mandeville Special Collections Library at the University of California, San Diego is now hosting an online exhibit called Dr. Seuss Went To War: A Catalog of Political Cartoons by Dr. Seuss
(via Beautiful Stuff)