Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Wimpy Boycott

I have decided to boycott Wimpy. Not that I ever eat there anyway....but now not even total desperation will ever get me through those Wimpy door posts. No, this is not a result of any McDonalds type anti-globalisation sentiment towards exploitative corporations - I just happen to think their new ad campaign sucks big time. It's sexist and insulting to women. I didn't like their street pole ads proclaiming the wonders of their new Burgers for Men - I just thought, I'm not a man so I won't eat their stupid Men Only burgers.

Their TV ad campaign is further insult to injury. In the ad a family is eating out at a Wimpy diner when the proud father announces to the entire room that his little boy has left his first towel on the floor. This peice of idiocy is greeted with stupendous joy by all the men in the restaurant who rise up to give the boy a standing ovation while the mom and a little girl look on in horror. The little boy then gets rewarded for leaving his towel on the floor with Wimpy's dumb ass enormous Man Only burger.

This kind of gender stereotyping is insulting. I'm sure that I'm not the only women in the world who's more likely to leave a towel lying around than her male counterpart, and secondly, I couldn't give a continental if my husband left his towel on the floor. In fact, men are more than welcome to drop their towels on the floor, they can also leave their underpants and stinky socks on the floor to gather mould for as long as they like. As long as I don't have to pick them up, I'm happy.

Sunday, June 26, 2005


A dharwa is an alcoholic beverage said to originate from Kenya. In South Africa a dharwa is usually served in a tin mug together with a thick wooden stick. The drink consists of vodka, fresh lemon juice, a lemon wedge, a dollop of honey, and loads of crushed ice up to the brim of the mug.

You use the stick to crush the ice and stir in the honey which gets a little hard from the ice. If you've made it too sweet, you pound your lemon wedge, if its become too sour now, you stir in some more honey. Mmmm....delicious.

You can get dharwa's The Carnivore restaurant, if you're up to a big meal out, or more conveniently at Xai Xai in Melville.

Warning: Don't drink too many or you'll be feeling really sorry for yourself the next day.

Friday, June 24, 2005


If you say, why don't you go back

Please don't ask me why don't I go back. Do you think I like staying? For discrimination and xenophobia? Suffering from malaria, cholera and typhoid in a foreign land. Do you think I like staying?

Seeking second hand clothes, If I could help myself, If I could rebuild my homeland. Do you think I like staying? Without my mother, father, sisters, and brother. Please don't ask me why don't I go back?

Understand that it is not simple or easy. I would if I could – world humanitarian community. Avoiding past memories, I can not remove my mind, My traditional culture is my nostalgic torture. The folktales of childhood, never old Never dead, stamped on my mind. I have normal feelings – I suffer for dignity.

Please don't kill my broken heart, by asking me Why don't you go back? I will if I can. I wouldn't stay a moment When the new dawn of peace comes.

Hassan Ali Said, 6 December 2001.
Hassan is an Ethiopian refugee in Uganda


Thursday, June 23, 2005


The Mail & Guardian has begun to unpack the DA statements concerning Mbeki's alleged "secret" meeting with Thompsons, the French arms company. According to the newspaper, the DA claim to have evidence suggesting that President Thabo Mbeki held a secret meeting with Thomson-CSF in 1998.

Apparently, the party has in its possession an encrypted fax which suggests that President Mbeki promised Thomsons, as early as 1997, that they would be awarded the combat system contract. A separate fax "indicates that the president held a secret meeting with executives from Thomsons in December 1998, in complete violation of tender procedures".

DA public accounts spokesperson Eddie Trent said that unless Mbeki broke his silence, the public would be justified in thinking arms deal corruption extended "far beyond Jacob Zuma".

Payback time? Isn't it funny that "Oilgate" broke about two weeks before the end of the Shaik trial by which time Zuma had already been badly implicated. And suddenly, now the DA claims to have evidence that Mbeki himself is implicated in the arms deal? The DA (and the ID) have been calling for further investigation into the arms deal for years, surely if the DA had these encrypted faxes in their possession before now they would have said something. Did someone in the Zuma camp leak the information to the DA? Why did the DA release this information in Parliament on the very same day that the new Deputy President was announced?

What I don't understand, is why did Mbeki go so far with Zuma? Surely he must have known that the Zuma camp would reveal? There is some big political game going on, and who knows at this stage what truths are going to come out, and what deals are going to be made behind the scenes to keep things quiet.

I think it's going to get dirty, very dirty.

It just keeps coming back

The arms deal just refuses go away. Yesterday Democratic Alliance MP Eddie Trent, was kicked out of the National Assembly for asking questions that frankly, could have potentially devastating consequences, the likes of which we have not yet seen, and probably don’t want to see.

According to a DA media statement from Trent:

“In a follow up to the member's statement that I made in the National Assembly yesterday (copied below) I have submitted parliamentary questions to President Mbeki. These questions directly relate to an apparent secret meeting that President Mbeki held with Thomsons executives in Paris in 1998, as well as to the apparent assurance that he conveyed via the then Chief of Acquisitions Chippy Shaik, that Thomsons would be guaranteed the combat system contract for the Navy.

This is a matter of profound importance as President Mbeki was the Chair of the Ministerial Committee (MINCOM) responsible for the arms deal and he must therefore take ultimate responsibility for any irregularities or corruption associated with the arms deal. Furthermore, if the President did indeed convey an assurance to Thomsons before the final decision was made to award the contracts, then this casts a dark cloud over the integrity of the entire arms procurement process. If in fact the President met Thomson's executives in secret, then this would constitute a gross deviation from all accepted tender procedures. Instead of the Chair of MINCOM conducting such a meeting it should rather have been ARMSCOR representatives meeting with bidders in an open and transparent fashion and with minutes officially recorded.”

Trent goes on to say that he has posed the following questions for Mbeki to answer:

“1) Whether he had met with representatives of Thomsons in Paris or anywhere else on or about the 17th of December 1998; if so, (a) where, (b) on what date and (c) what was discussed;
(2) Whether he had given any assurance to Thomsons that it would be awarded the contract for the combat suite and sensors to be fitted to the Corvettes as part of the arms acquisition; if not, what is the position in this regard; if so, on what basis did he do so;
(3) Whether he had met with certain members of the SA Nay to discuss the management of the acquisition process of the Corvettes; if so, what, (a) views did he express at such meeting or meetings and (b) action was agreed to as a result;
(4) Whether these members of the SA Navy gave any undertaking to ensure the contract was awarded to the Thomson's; if not, what undertaking did they give; if so, on what basis was this undertaking given?”

I certainly hope that the DA’s allegations or inferences are completely and utterly unfounded. The possibility that Mbeki himself may have unduly influenced the outcome of the arms deal in any way that may have deviated from the prescribed protocol is too horrible to contemplate. I would
love to know where the DA is getting this information from. I would also like to state that I am in NO way alleging that Mbeki was involved in any untoward behaviour, so far the only information I have seen is the statement by the DA.

The new deputy president

As Minister of Minerals & Energy Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka established a reputation for efficiency and hard work. She also gained praise for her understanding of industry, the economy and excellent negotiating skills. However, despite being considered a strong candidate for her new post, Mlambo-Ngcuka has been appointed against a backdrop of political controversy and tension within the ruling ANC party. Her appointment as Deputy President comes as the result of the axing of her predecessor, Jacob Zuma, who had become embroiled in allegations of corruption. Zuma was subsequently charged on two accounts of corruption by the National Prosecuting Authority in June 2005.

As Deputy President, Jacob Zuma had built up a strong following and support base within the ANC, particularly among the left wing members of the ruling alliance including Cosatu and the SACP. He was also, significantly, the ANC Youth League's chosen candidate to one day succeed President Thabo Mbeki. Zuma's dismissal, and the build up to the event has been responsible for much tension within the ANC and their alliance partners despite their public show of unity. It was Mlambo-Ngcuka's husband, Bulelani Ngcuka, former head of the National Prosecuting Authority, who said in 2003 that there was a prima facie case of corruption against Jacob Zuma, an investigation that was ultimately to lead to Zuma's downfall. Mlambo-Ngcula enters the Deputy Presidency without particularly strong following or constituency within the ANC and will have to contend with potentially difficult political fallout from Zuma's supporters.

Analysts have also pointed out that Mlambo-Ngcuka comes into office with the unresolved baggage of "Oilgate" hanging over her head, this is a potentially wide-ranging corruption scandal involving political party funding and influence-peddling. Allegations have been made in Parliament that her brother, Bonga Mlambo, was the recipient of a payment of R50 000 made by Sandi Majali, CEO of Imvume, the company who allegedly channeled funds from the state funded oil company PetroSA into the ANC’s election coffers last year. Mlambo-Ngcuka, as Minerals and Energy minister, exercised oversight over PetroSA.

Nevertheless, her appointment has been generally welcomed by the business sector and by opposition parties, and has been seen a positive move in the direction of gender equality. She has proven herself as a competent member of Cabinet who manages to deal successfully with challenges, and has implemented the complicated negotiations regarding the Mining Charter. One of the areas President Mbeki emphasises at present is the capacity to deliver – and she deserves a good rating on that score.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

And the winner is.....

And the winner is.....Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. So Mbeki is coming out strong, no concilliatory moves towards the Zuma supporters. He has chosen someone who does not have a strong power or support base in the ANC, so she probably won't end up being another rival in the Zuma mode. I don't think her appointment necessarily indicates that Mbeki wants her to succeed him. Anyway, since I have been so off the mark in my political speculations today I will put the matter to rest for today.

More speculation

Business Day speculates that the two major front runners for deputy president are Trevor Manuel and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. They quote a high level official saying that Mlambo-Ngcuka yesterday tentatively accepted the offer of the position from Mbeki, this after apparently having turned it down twice previously. The paper then goes on to say, however, that:

“Commentators said Mlambo-Ngcuka would be politically risky for Mbeki. “With (the Oilgate scandal) unresolved, her appointment would send conflicting messages on corruption at a time when Mbeki needs to be consistent on the issue,” said analyst Aubrey Matshiqi. Mlambo-Ngcuka is still under a cloud following revelations that her brother received R50000 from controversial businessman Sandi Majali, who has business interests in the energy sector. The issue is being investigated by public protector Lawrence Mushwana. It is the second time Mlambo-Ngcuka has been investigated by the office. In 2002 she was cleared by the public protector after she received a massive discount on a piece of expensive jewellery. Her appointment could also underscore suspicion that Zuma was removed for political reasons.”

Who's it going to be?

Sometime today, President Mbeki is expected to announce the new deputy president as well as changes to his Cabinet, after a meeting with all the Cabinet ministers.

I may as well stick my head on the line and make a prediction on the deputy president, although my crystal ball is looking very cloudy and difficult to read. However, my top 4 in no particular order:

Charles Nqakula, currently Minister of safety and Safety and Security. Although his name has not been punted by the analysts, he is high up in the SACP, and someone not likely to be a threat to Mbeki in terms of power and huge popularity. He would be an expedient choice in terms of his support with the left of the alliance, and might help to bridge the divide in the ruling party.

Mosiuoa Lekota, currently Minister of Defense, he’s the number one name being bandied around by the analysts as current national chairman of the ANC. He is also popular on the left, but he’s a strong character and is said to command a fair amount of power and we all know how Mbeki feels about potential powerful rivals, they all somehow end up being relegated to the political wilderness.

Nkosana Dlamini-Zuma, currently Minister of Foreign Affiars. We all know the reasons she has been punted – as a woman she’d further Mbeki’s gender agenda, she’s a close confidant of the President and shares his Nepad driven African Rennaissance vision. If she ever became President, Mbeki could continue to influence from behind the scenes after he has stepped down. My gut feel is that it won’t be her.

I also think that Finance Minister Trevor Manuel is probably unlikely, but he remains on my list as a definite possibility – how’s that for hedging my bets? I think he’s too valuable where he is, and he is said to want a future with the World Bank. However power is a funny thing, so if he’s asked he may not turn the deputy presidency down. He is unpopular with the left of the alliance, so for this reason he may not be a diplomatic choice in terms of ANC politicking. Then again, the mere fact of Zuma’s dismissal shows that Mbeki is prepared to go up against the left.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Corruption by any other name

"When a study revealed that mercury in childhood vaccines may have caused autism in thousands of kids, the [American] government rushed to conceal the data, and to prevent parents from suing drug companies for their role in the epidemic."

Can this really be true? Can this really be happening in that bastion of zero defect democracy? The home of the brave and the land of the free...or is that the land of the free and the home of the brave?

According to an article in a study by a CDC (Centre for Disease Control) scientist has shown that a mercury-based preservative, used in vaccines against childhood diseases, has been responsible for a dramatic increase in autism and other neurological disorders among children. The researcher, Tom Verstraeten cited numerous earlier studies indicating a link between the preservative, thimerosal, and speech delays, attention-deficit disorder, peractivity and autism. Since 1991, when the CDC and the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) had recommended that three additional vaccines containing thimerosal be given to infants, the estimated number of cases of autism increased from one in every 2,500 children to one in 166 children.

Instead of taking immediate steps to alert the public and rid the vaccine supply of thimerosal, officials and pharmaceutical executives spent two days following a conference on the study, discussing how to cover up the data. A major concern was the possibility of damaging lawsuits. According to transcripts obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, many at the meeting were concerned about how the damaging revelations would affect the vaccine industry's bottom line.

The Salon article goes on to describe in detail how the CDC commissioned another study from a different research organisation to whitewash the evidence. It also attempted to get round the Freedom of Information Act by handing its database of vaccine records to a private company and declaring it off-limits to researchers.

The drug companies were further aided by Washington. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who has received $873,000 in contributions from the pharmaceutical industry. He helped shield vaccine makers from liability in 4,200 lawsuits that had been filed by the parents of injured children. On five separate occasions, Frist tried to seal all of the government's vaccine-related documents , and protect Eli Lilly, the developer of thimerosal, from subpoenas. In 2002, the day after Frist added a provision known as the "Eli Lilly Protection Act" into a homeland security bill, the company contributed $10,000 to his campaign and bought 5,000 copies of his book on bioterrorism. Congress repealed the measure in 2003, but earlier this year, Frist slipped another provision into an anti-terrorism bill that would deny compensation to children suffering from vaccine-related brain disorders.

In some African countries, the above might be construed as corruption - the use of money to buy political influence, the Shaik trial, Zumagate, oilgate. But I guess in America this sort of thing is legal, the only difference being that campaign contributions are on public record, something that is not required in South Africa. Idasa recently went to court in an attempt to force disclosure of campaign contributions but they lost the case. The ANC did however give Idasa an undertaking to disclose and be transparent on this in future, but as we have seen with oilgate, this has not been so. Incidently, the DA, big US style democracy supporters, also opposed the court application.

Measuring global poverty

The rhetoric of global poverty statistics

Ingrid Robeyns
2 May 2004

Last week, the World Bank sent out a press release announcing that global poverty has halved since 1981. According to the press release, the number of absolute poor in the developing countries, defined as those living on less than $1 a day, dropped from 1.5 billion in 1981 to 1.1. billion in 2001. In percentages, this amounts to a reduction of extreme poverty from 40 to 21 percent of the total population in the developing countries. Surely, one would think, there is good reason for optimism.

The World Bank’s poverty statistics are widely cited and presented as clear and objective facts. However, it wouldn’t hurt to dig a little deeper and look at possible rhetorical and political dimensions of these statistics. This is important because the global poverty statistics have become the focus of a severe political and ideological dispute between radical proponents of global capitalism, and the alterglobalists. The latter argue that global capitalism is making life worse for many poor people in the world. Defenders of global capitalism, on the contrary, hold that nothing is more efficient in lifting people out of poverty and enhancing development in the global south than unrestrained free market capitalism. If the statistics show that global poverty goes down, defenders of global capitalism interpret this as the ultimate proof that they are right. The poverty statistics also have another important political function, as they will determine whether the countries of the United Nations will succeed in reducing global poverty with 50% by 2015, as stipulated in the Millennium Development Goals.

However, there are two serious problems with the World Bank’s press statement and its global poverty statistics. The problem with its press release is that it tells us that the extremely poor people are those people who have to live on less than a dollar a day. I guess that to many readers of newspapers in Europe and North-America, this sounds plausible. Surely, you might think, the World Bank knows what it is doing. And we believe that one dollar in Malawi or Bangladesh must buy you a lot because we believe that everything is so cheap there. But this is not what these poverty statistics really measure. The familiar "$1 a day" poverty definition is the shorthand for "$1.08 purchasing power parity for the USA in 1993". In other words, according to this definition, you are poor if you have to get by with fewer commodities than what $1.08 could buy you in the USA in 1993. But what could an American have bought with $1.08 in 1993, which is roughly equivalent to $ 1.40 or Euro 1.17 today ?

Moreover, the problems with the World Bank global poverty statistics are much more serious than only this "slight misrepresentation" in the official press release. The more fundamental problem is that the World Bank’s poverty statistics lack any foundations. The "1 dollar a day" poverty line has never been justified in terms of what poor people could buy with this amount, and many scholars and policy makers argue that it is unlikely that anyone can survive in the long run with the local equivalent of one dollar.

The economist Sanjay Reddy and the philosopher Thomas Pogge (both at Columbia University in New York) have argued that the $1 a day poverty measure is arbitrary and lacks any relevant content. This is probably not the right place to go into details of Reddy’s and Pogge’s critique, which includes a number of technical criticisms, but let me briefly indicate the gist of their analysis. As indicated above, the global poverty statistics lack any conceptual

The global poverty count is not based on how we think of poverty, like being undernourished, and being without shelter and other basic necessities. Second, to compare poverty in countries with different currencies and price levels, the World Bank uses so-called purchasing power parity factors. But these factors take into account the price levels of all goods and services in proportion to their share in international consumption expenditure. In this calculation, the prices of basic necessities play a minor role, whereas they play a huge role in the consumption of the poor. Western tourists often think of developing countries as cheap, but this only holds for services (like restaurant meals, taxi’s etc), but relatively speaking not so much for the basic necessities which make up the consumption of poor people.

Thirdly, the World Bank method is internally inconsistent. In 2000 the World Bank ‘updated’ its definition from "1 dollar purchasing power parity for 1985" to "1.08 dollar purchasing power parity for 1993". Pogge and Reddy show that changing the base year can have enormous effects on the poverty estimates; for example, the poverty estimate for Latin-America for 1993 dropped from 23.5 to 15.5 %, simply by "updating" the base year of the poverty definition. These can hardly be considered minor estimation errors. Finally, the data on which the global
poverty statistics are based, are often of poor quality and therefore unreliable.

These mistakes taken together most likely lead to an underestimation of the extent of extreme poverty in the world. We simply don’t know how many people live in absolute
poverty, and whether their number is increasing or decreasing. In any case it is possible
that extreme poverty has increased in the last decade, in contrast to what the World Bank
would like us to believe.

Sanjay Reddy and Thomas Pogge do not limit themselves to criticizing the World Bank
statistics. Their alternative is that our global poverty measures should start from a clear
conceptualization of what it means to be extremely poor, like not having sufficient food, not being sheltered, not having the absolute basic goods such as clothing. They suggest that we should decide on such a poverty definition through an international dialogue. Once we roughly agree on what the absolute minimum requirements are to escape extreme poverty, we can translate this into a financial amount at the local level. Only with such a method will we be able to count the poor in a meaningful way.

As long as the World Bank keeps measuring poverty with its current methods, we have to be critical of what it presents as neutral facts. And researchers, whether working at the World Bank or at universities, should stop pretending that there is no political and rhetorical dimension to economic theories and policies, and the statistics that support them. (Source)

Monday, June 20, 2005

Zuma get's his day in court

So, it’s official. Zuma has been charged by the National Prosecuting Authority on two accounts of corruption. Excellent! Not in the sense that I want to see Zuma to go down - although I believe that Mbeki did the right thing to fire him, I also definitely think the man deserves his day in court. My reasons for this are purely pragmatic – I think a proper court trial will have a stabilizing effect on the political scene. The Zuma rebellion had the potential to lead to grassroots conflict from his supporters, now Zuma’s supporters will get the court case that they have been baying for. It will be interesting to see what this means in terms of the internal power struggle within the ruling party and the alliance. It will also be interesting to see if the person that Mbeki chooses to be the new deputy president will be someone that the left can rally around. If it is, the alliance and other Zuma support groups like the young lions, will have to do some hard thinking about their continued support for the former deputy president. I wonder if this will mean that Zuma will have to step down from his position as deputy president of the ANC until the trial is concluded?

I just hope that this time they appoint a black judge, or a judge that can't be accused of racist behaviour. Oh well, whatever happens I guess we can expect a colourful display of toyi-toying when the trial finally begins in earnest.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Arms Deal?

An aspect of Thabo Mbeki's speech in parliament about the axing of Zuma, that I found interesting, was the President's emphasis on the arms deal. Before addressing the issue of Zuma, Mbeki spent some time talking about the the report made by the Joint Investigation Team of the Auditor-General, the Public Protector and the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions into the defence procurement process.

Mbeki emphasised the report's conclusions that "No evidence was found of any improper or unlawful conduct by the Government. The irregularities and improprieties … point to the conduct of certain officials of the government departments involved and cannot … be ascribed to the President or the Ministers involved in their capacity as members of the Ministers’ Committee or Cabinet. There are therefore no grounds to suggest that the Government’s contracting position is flawed."

I think it's significant that he chose to bring this up in this particular speech in a special joint sitting of Parliament, the same speech that dealt with the axing of Zuma. In effect Mbeki was letting the public know on this solemn and somewhat momentous occasion, that the Joint Investigation Team's report was the conclusive last word on the issue, and he seemed to be making it clear that he would not tolerate any further re-opening of investigation's into the arms deal.

As Tony Leon of the DA, and the leaders of the FF+ and the HNP praised Mbeki's courageous decision to release Zuma, they also took the opportunity to call for a renewed investigation into the arms deal. According to Leon, "This day will be remembered as a landmark in our nation’s history. But the fight against corruption is far from over. It is only beginning. We know the arms deal has already claimed many political casualties ... The truth haunts South Africa like an angry and vengeful ghost. It will not be put to rest until we finally conduct a full independent judicial investigation into the arms deal and the corruption at the heart of it. There are those who believe that the Honourable Jacob Zuma is the victim of a conspiracy. Only a complete examination of the facts can quell their fears."

It is true that over the past few years our political landscape has suffered many casualties as a result of the arms deal and the corruption that has tainted it. Tony Yengeni, ANC Chief Whip and MP was brought down, no great loss in my opinion. Of greater concern was the loss of Bulelani Ngcuka, under who's leadership we saw a strong and independent NPA. There was the ugliness and suspicion engendered by the Hefer Commission which ultimately proved nothing.

Then was the Shaik trial and the axing of Zuma, positive developments on one level, in the sense that this saw Mbeki smelling of roses as he came out as a strong leader taking a stance against corruption. It also proved the independence of the judiciary and a commitment to abide by our constitution. However, ultimately the country loses as politics get bogged down in a sea of suspicion and tension, our image is tarnished in top stories on CNN and the BBC, and no matter what - it looks bad to have to axe your deputy president.

Tony Leon and other opposition politicians say that without a new investigation, the arms deal will continue to haunt us. So I guess my question is - do we really need, or want a new investigation into the arms deal? Is this the end of it, was Zuma as far as it goes, or will the issue keep coming back to bite us on the bum with devastating political consequences? Why is Mbeki so dead set against a new investigation, is he trying to hide something? If Mbeki is trying to cover up - who else is implicated and does it go up to the top office in the land? If it does go all the way to the top, do we really want to know about it - wouldn't the political fallout ultimately be worse for the country than a few million rands under the table? I mean it's not as if this kind of thing doesn't happen in the great western democracies - or is it all about moral principles?

And my final point, I don't care if I sound like a two year old stamping my foot, but I think it's damn unfair that the overseas arms companies get away unscathed without being penalised too.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Youth Leaguers

Heheheh!!!! The ANC Youth League have just released their press statement responding to their hero's demise. OK, I know I'm being completely nasty about this, but the young lions, or the armani socialists, as calls them, seem to have undergone a bit of an about turn, or a change of heart. I guess they know which side their bread is buttered on after all.

They have gone from this, issued last week - "We remain fast on our view that Justice Squires committed a grave error of judgement in pronouncing an opinion on Deputy President Zuma’s integrity while he was never on trial. The diatribe against the Deputy President was not only shocking but a shameless violation of every principle of justice.”

To this, issued today "The ANCYL joins the ANC Deputy President, Jacob Zuma and the ANC in accepting and supporting the decision by President Thabo Mbeki, to release the Deputy President, Jacob Zuma of his duties. The President in his address yesterday, emphasised a need to observe basic pillars of our jurisprudence, namely equality before the law and the right to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise."

Of course they are still backing their man, but that support is starting to sound just a little watered down compared to the fiery rhetoric of the previous week, and their hijacking of a youth unemployment protest march to publicise the cause of their icon. I can't help wondering if someone from the Mbeki camp gave the little lions a bit of a rapping over the knuckles.

The journey to political success and self-enrichment is suddenly starting to look a lot more blurry for our intrepid politicians in the making.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


"President Thabo Mbeki's decision to sack his deputy, Jacob Zuma, infringed Zuma's constitutional rights, the Young Communist League said on Tuesday."
Source: Sapa

Sheesh!!! The idiocy is astounding. Could somebody please tell the young communists to go and read the Constitution!!!


Well, well, well, a fascinating day in the world of South African politics. So Zuma has been sacked. He does however retain his position as deputy president of the ANC, so if the NPA does not chose to prosecute him, he could still end up being this country’s next President in 2009 when Mbeki steps down. A lot obviously will also hinge on whether Shaik is given leave to appeal.

Here are my speculations:

The alliance finally splits - Zuma (providing the NPA leaves him alone) heads up a new political party consisting of Cosatu, SACP and left leaning members of the former tripartite alliance.

Zuma, also providing the NPA leaves him alone, goes into business, becomes the chairman of a new BEE consortium and goes on to make Tokyo and Cyril look like paupers.

Zuma gets deployed as head of CEO of the SABC replacing Peter Matlare who’s post has not yet been filled.

On a more serious note, Zuma has recently addressed the media and indicated that he will continue in his work as deputy president of the ANC. Considering his refusal to step down, and his fighting stance over the past couple of days, his response to being fired was surprisingly humble and gracious, and let’s just say more cynically speaking, highly diplomatic. I almost felt sorry for him. I guess it doesn’t take a genius to observe that there will be lots of behind the scenes maneuverings going on in the ANC right now as people decide which side of the political line they want to stand on. I also think that when it comes to climbing the political career ladder people tend to be pragmatists and so a lot of Zuma supporters might now be carefully re-considering their positions. Will overall unity hold out? The days and weeks ahead are going to be very, very interesting indeed.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Harmful emissions

Steve Bell

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


Rape is a sad reality for far too many women in South Africa. Although the actual statistics are disputed, it is clear that we have one of the highest levels of rape in a country at peace. Now someone has come up with a bizarre answer to the problem. As Independent Online reports:

"A rape victim once wished for teeth "where it mattered". Now a device has been designed to "bite" a rapist's penis. The patented device looks and is worn like a tampon, but it is hollow and attaches itself with tiny hooks to a man's penis during penetration."We have to do something to protect ourselves. While this will not prevent rape it will assist in identifying attackers and securing convictions," claims Sonette Ehlers, inventor of the device."

This is indeed a bizarre and impracticle response towards rape prevention. If anything it further victimises women and makes their lifestyles subject to the whims of violent men. As gender expert Lisa Vetten puts it:

"It is like we are going back to the days where women were forced to wear chastity belts. It is a terrifying thought that women are being made to adapt to rape by wearing these devices."

The rest of the article is here.

Monday, June 06, 2005


The Shaik case has also brought some interesting corruption statistics to light. These came to the fore during testimony by anti-corruption researcher Hennie Van Vuuren from the Institute for Security Studies:

Public sector corruption costs South Africa between R50 billion and R150 billion per year.

A report on breaches of the Public Finance Management Act tabled in parliament shows that at least 434 government officials have been charged with financial misconduct.

More than half of the reported cases related to claims, embezzlement, misappropriation of funds, and false statements, and only R177,000 was recovered from an estimated R4.2 million lost to government in the year ending March 2002.

Social grants scams cost the state R2 billion a year and as much as R10 billion may have been lost to corrupt practises in the first 10 years of democracy.

The sectors most open to corruption are public servants and the construction industry, followed by the arms and defence industry.

A poem

Let poets close their eyes

For the ghost of the third force
To wake us not from the comfort zones
Or for the atrocities of the koevoet
The crucifixion of dissent at quadro
And the miscarriage of people's power
Not to linger in the minds of the people
Let the past burry itself
And take memories of inkathagate and the codesa farce
With itself to the grave

For the armsgate to be
An issue no longer at your gate
Pour water on petrol and
Hunt apartheid spies to burn them on public stake
Yet exonerate corporate capital
From facing the music
For sucking workers' blood
In cahoots with apartheid-capital

For the travel gate
Not to open floodgates
Of inquiries into the transformation
Of former guerillas into gorillas
Feeding on struggle credentials
To feed on public funds
Instead of feeding the population

For the oil gate not be an eye opener
That corporate capital is the lock and key
Of the gates into political office
And for the people not to know
That the piper in parliament
Only plays the tune decided by the corporate masters
Let poets shut their mouths
And allow money and not conscience to do the talking

For the story of land plunder and the rape of cultures
To be purged from the pages of history books
Bring and end to history and let cultures clash
And civilizations crash and dissipate
On the ashes of the twin towers

For the Watergate to be bridge over troubled waters
Pour water on petrol and shift the focus overseas to
Export peace and prosperity with rockets
Simultaneously dropping down bombs and food parcels
For America to be oiled
Blood gulf oil and allow no scribe to ink pages of tabloids
With tears of village babies
Whose deaths have become statistics
To be tip-axed by the stroke of the pencil
And erased without the blink of an eye

poem by Mphutlane Bofelo

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Back 2 blogging

Yipeeeee!!!!! I'm finally back - all problems solved. In the end I had to buy a new computer. I opted for a desktop instead of a laptop. I will take the damn laptop to get the screen fixed and then attempt to sell it on a "voetstoets" basis. And so now.....back to regular blogging.... at last!!!!

I could not resist posting this quote:

"Those who feel they don't want to go or have no place to go, then please stay."
Correctional Services Minister Ngconde Balfour saying prisoners eligible for release under the South African government's amnesty for petty criminals could ask to stay in prison if they felt they were not ready to be freed.

Yeah right, like anybody's going to want to stay in prison. During a press conference held by former Stander gang member Alan Heyl a couple of weeks ago, he was asked by one of the reporters if there was anything he would miss about being in prison, like the people for example. Although he said that he might miss one or two people, Heyl was quite emphatic that there was nothing he would miss about being in prison and that there was absolutely nothing nice about being in prison. Hmmm... I can't imagine why?

If anyone is interested in reading about the horrific reality of life behind bars in South Africa, I can highly recommend "The Number" by Johnny Steinberg. The book is about the number prison gangs in the Western Cape told through the life story of gangster Magadien Wentzel who rose to prominence as a magistrate in the 28's. The book is a real page turner, meticulously researched, gripping and easy to read. Steinberg also puts Wentzel's life in context by recounting the social and political history of the coloured community in the Cape which was really interesting. I found the book to be incredibly thought provoking and it stayed strongly in my mind for days after I had finished reading it.

One of the aspects of the book that was highly intriguing, and that I was quite amazed to find out about, is the incredible complexity of the structure of the gangs - the 28's, the 27's and the 26's. The gangs consist of a disciplined and intricate hierarchy with constitutional like laws and rules that are set in stone. With each rank comes a particular imagined uniform and weapons. Not only that, but the laws and structures are descended from an almost biblical type narrative based on the true story of a black criminal gang that existed in Johannesburg in the early 1900's.

"The 26s, 27s and 28s all originate from bands of outlaws that plagued late 19th and early 20th-century Johannesburg. The largest and most memorable of these gangs was called The Ninevites; its rank and file were young black men who had left their ancestral land in the countryside but had refused to take up wage employment for white bosses in the early mining town.

The Ninevites were led by a charismatic young Zulu migrant, "Nongoloza" Mathebula. Imbued with a crisp and feisty imagination, which had been instilled by the injustices that lay in his own past, Nongoloza shaped his crew of outlaws into a paramilitary hierarchy. It borrowed its rank structure and its imaginary uniforms from the Natal colony's judiciary and the Transvaal republic's military.

The Ninevites lasted nearly two decades. At their height, in the early 1900s, they boasted a membership of nearly 1 000. They launched their sorties into robbery and plunder from a series of caves and warrens that stretched across the south-western perimeter of Johannesburg; they also gained effective control of the inmate populations of several of the mining compounds and prisons of early Johannesburg. It was said that he and his bandits established an underground world in a disused mineshaft, replete with shops, beautiful white women and a Scottish bookkeeper.

The Ninevites were crushed in the mid-1910s. Nongoloza himself, extraordinarily enough, renounced his gang and agreed to work for the prison authorities. But by then, most of the gang's leaders had spent time in jail and had begun to recruit there. Thousands of young black men, criminalised by white South Africa's racial laws, drifted in and out of the prisons of early 20th-century South Africa. By the early 1930s, gang derivatives of the Ninevites had a presence in almost every prison across the country. They have been there ever since, the memory of Nongoloza and the legends of his life passed down from one generation of prisoners to the next, throughout the 20th century.

It is quite extraordinary how much of Nongoloza's imagination has been preserved in the prison gangs of today—the 26s, 27s and 28s. The imaginary uniforms copied from the early Boer republic are still there. So are the imaginary .303 rifles and bayonets that the Boer commandos took into battle with the British in 1899. Nongoloza's original rank structure, dividing members between soldiers and judicial officers, and dividing the judicial officers themselves between an upper and a lower court, is still extant.

Most interesting of all, the Number gangs have held onto the mainstay of Nongoloza's original ideology. All three are organised around a largely mythical narrative of the great bandit's career. Indeed, they place the origin of their own division into three rival gangs in Nongoloza's times."

You can read the full online essay "Nongoloza's Children" by Jonny Steinberg here.