Archive for the ‘Socio-Political’ Category

I am thinking of voting ANC tomorrow for the first time since ’94.

April 21, 2009

Any comments?


I guess not!

September 26, 2008

Thabo is gone. Who knows where?

Pity Trevor and Manto stayed. What was all the consternation about? The people shall govern!

There were two newspaper snippets that I found good. One was a letter in Wednesday’s Argus about how this is an opportunity for ‘the people’ to show the politicians where the power should reside.

The other was an article in this morning’s Cape Times by Milton Shain saying that the party power lies with Mathews Phosa, Cyril Ramaphosa and Tokyo Sexwale, the very people who Thabo outed as coup conspirators! So was the paranoid power monger right after all:)?

A week is a long time in politics

September 15, 2008

I wonder if Thabo Mbeki will survive this week?

Ah well, we’ve had to put up with him for the past near-decade, so wot’s another little while?

He’s changed from a lame duck to a dead snake, according to Jacob Zuma. Alchemy? Political metamorphosis?

I’m sure these politicians are all nice guys up close, but from a distance, they sure raise a stink. The Human Condition, I suppose.

Good Cop, Bad Cop: Democrats, Republicans

September 3, 2008

I saw Cedric this morning, walking Christmas around the streets of Observatory, where I went for a Cafe Latté at Mimi’s. We spoke of many things, me looking like an international playboy, as he put it, and him, well, you know Cedders…

Anyways, I mentioned how I managed to confuse the US Democratic Party 2008 presidential candidate with a certain golfer whose name starts with T. That was probably due to my inherent racism:) But more likely due to the fact that there are only two high profile black names in the news over there. Can you think of any others off the top of your head?

Cedric went on to say that the farce of the US political system is that there is all this posturing every few years, by characters who resemble the Good Cop, Bad Cop couple from all those movies and TV series. They have the same goal in mind: getting the suspect to submit to their interrogation, be it via soft sell or hard. And I guess behind the one-way mirror sits the Captain. In this case, the Captains of Industry, who control the whole political show.

Incomes and Outcomes

June 7, 2007

Ok, so this blog is not my original work, but at least the catchy title is. It should reflect the clash/interface between current strike and the Outcomes based education system. 


Margaret Legum Vol. 7, No. 14, 4 June 2007

What decides who gets paid what? If people’s income is decided without an integrated plan, then incomes policy becomes a matter of personal or collective power, wrangling and argument. There is nothing so practical as a good theory, if only because it helps conversation around who gets what.

Is it supply and demand – market forces – that decide pay-packets? Is it about government’s income? Or is it something ethical: about ‘fairness’ or compassion? Or a vision for society? Is there an underlying idea of entitlement to a living income, or is it about obligations to deliver? How are these criteria linked?

The ANC’s Economic policy documents suggest a mixture of these, probably because it seems to reconcile different tendencies in the movement. That is characteristic of all democratic movements; the trouble is that it leads to repeated unresolved conflict like strikes. So it is worth noticing where each criterion is being used.

Market forces are usually given as the reason to raise top civil servants’ incomes. That makes practical sense. The corporate sector’s BEE-fuelled search for Black strategists, managers and scarce technicians with an existing track record – in a skills legacy of the evil Bantu Education Act – becomes a magnet for government-experienced Black people.

To keep them, we need to match corporate salaries. It is not about fairness but about market necessity. But top political positions are surely different. Is there a shortage of people wanting Cabinet positions? Wanting to be President? Even of those wanting to be MPs or Chairpeople of Portfolio Committees? Surely not, because those jobs carry status, capacity and influence that motivate people interested in politics in a democracy. Indeed anyone asking to be highly paid to do those jobs is suspect. I certainly do not want them representing me. So MPs who make market referenced cases for improving their salaries are simply abusing their power to set their own salaries.

Pay for others on the civil service payroll is justified not by supply and demand but by government budgets. But we know that teachers and nurses and technical experts are deserting their posts as soon as others offer them better conditions. They leave posts in which their daily grind includes the work of unfilled posts, and their pay is a fraction of that offered elsewhere. This applies to practically every profession in the civil service – whether teaching, nursing, police, judicial it The result is to hollow out the very instrument the government needs to carry out the vital systems for its rationale – the developmental state with a bias to poor people. The immediate victims are poor people – those who most need state service and support – not only because of the paucity of the service, but because the people giving it suffer the humiliation of taking home poverty wages and the contrast with top incomes.

But in the long run it is the government itself and its legacy that must suffer. Of course government budgets must come into it – as they do when we decide to fund 2010, conciliation processes in Africa, a new embassy, free education. We are often told government has plenty of money: capacity to spend is the problem. Undermining that capacity seems irrational.

Latterly, encouraging professional competence has been offered as the basis of new pay scales of striking civil servants. But such criteria are not linked to the improved pay of policy-makers: perhaps there are reasons around defining their output. So how do you judge the output of teachers and nurses working in understaffed institutions in poor areas, where their clients are desperate, sometimes violent, often unsupported children. In a school I know every staff member has informally adopted at least one child in the school – out of sheer pity. They are paid R7,000 a month.

I want to suggest there is actually an implied theory that in fact underlies incomes policy. It links the discredited theory that wealth filters down, to the new distinction between first and second economies. It is sometimes preceded by a semi-mystical claim – ‘speaking from a place of abundance’. And goes on to suggest that ‘it’s OK to be rich; we should attack poverty, not wealth.’ Being rich means having access not to high bank balances but to the large quantities of the resources that money entitles you to consume – food, accommodation, energy, transport, communication technology, health care, manifold education, beautiful living space, service, chunks of wilderness for holidays, sports facilities and whatever else the luxury business can dream up. If you believe that ‘ a place of abundance’ means there is no limit to the availability of those resources – that the planet can produce enough of them to enable wealth for all – then you are right to set a good example by being rich. But if you think there is a limit to those resources, then your large consumption must imply others’ much small access.

If there is a limit to resources, then your wealth is a function of others’ poverty; and you cannot diminish poverty while supporting unlimited wealth. The success of the ‘first’ economy – partial as it is for all but the top 20% – is linked to the fact that we ‘cannot afford’ to give everyone a living wage, despite our wealth. I suggest government’s confusion over rationale arises from the culture at the top – whether in or out of government circles – that wealth at the top is top priority, and that it will help eliminate poverty. It is a global belief. It helps rich people feel good. It is disconnected from the evidence.

This makes me proud to be an African!

January 30, 2007

From the Mail&Guardian

Sudan lost the leadership of the African Union for a second time after the pan-African group on Monday awarded the rotating chair to Ghana because of widespread outrage over continuing bloodshed in Darfur.

Alpha Oumar Konare, the AU’s top diplomat, told reporters Ghanaian President John Kufuor would become chairperson. “By consensus it is President Kufuor.”

He said Sudan had supported the decision, which avoided a damaging dispute eclipsing issues on the summit agenda, including raising peacekeeping troops for Somalia.

Before the summit, some analysts had predicted the dispute over Sudan would dominate the summit and only be resolved at the last moment.

Delegates at the summit said a deal was worked out through the mediation of South African President Thabo Mbeki and a group of seven respected presidents or “wise men”.

The 2007 chair was promised to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir a year ago when he was passed over for the post because of the violence in Darfur, which experts estimate has killed 200 000 people and driven 2,5-million from their homes.

Critics say that far from abating, the violence has worsened in the last year and government-backed Arab militias have killed thousands. Bashir has repeatedly blocked deployment of United Nations peacekeepers to bolster an overstretched AU military mission of 7 000 soldiers and monitors.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told reporters: “Sudan attended this meeting and the presidency went to Ghana. Sudan withdrew.”

Under fire
Sudan had seemed adamant on the eve of the summit that it should get the chair, despite a chorus of demands from rights organisations and Western governments that it be snubbed because of abuses in Darfur.

But as the summit began in the Ethiopian capital, pressure rose to prevent Sudan from running the organisation whose peacekeepers are charged with stemming the violence in its vast west.

In his opening speech, Konare accused Khartoum of attacking civilians in Darfur, where the United States says genocide has occurred.

“We appeal to the government of Sudan to stop attacking and bombarding Darfur and instead restore peace,” he said.

Rights group Amnesty International said in a statement on the eve of the two-day summit that the AU would undermine its credibility if it gave the chair to Bashir.

Chad, whose relations with Sudan are severely strained after the Darfur conflict spilled over its border, had vowed to withdraw from the AU if Bashir got the chair.

Diplomats said Western governments lobbied vigorously in Addis Ababa against Sudan and had earlier suggested Tanzania might be a compromise candidate.

Delegates said there had been trenchant opposition to Sudan from some of the governments and a compromise over Ghana, which is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its independence in 2007, offered a way out of the dilemma supported by consensus — the traditional African way of resolving disputes.

“How can you ask someone who is dealing with their own internal conflict to deal with all the other issues going on the continent?,” one African delegate said.

A Strategy for Jacob Zuma

January 16, 2007

1. Plead Guilty to the Scorpions charge, or a lesser one (based on avoiding the costs of courtroom appearance).

2. Accept a prison period of up to 24 months.

3. Follow the Yengeni ‘quick step’ to freedom, within one sixth of the jail term.

4. Get released in mid – 2007.

5. Get ready for presidential nomination.

6. Presidentially retro-pardon yourself.

They came, I swore, they concurred

December 14, 2006

Well, thanks for tuning in folks, to the latest installment of the unfolding drama of South Africa’s crime epidemic, following on the previous episode  as recounted in:

There, you will remember, two people scaled our spiked gates to get at who-knows-what. Yesterday, at about eight thirtyish, our gate bell rang. I looked out the window to see a hooded figure holding a dog leash, to which was attached a Boomer-type fluffy hound. The figure reminded me of something out of The Ring, that truly Scary Movie. Be that as it may, the figure identifed herslef as Linda, the lady who lives behind us. For all I know, this could have been a fabrication, seeing as how people in Pinelands are not prone to such indiscretions as neighbourliness. Perhaps her intention was more sinister, to draw me out into the open.

She proceeded to tell me that she had seen two young men, and she emphasised this as if it meant something else, ‘two young men…’ (I was trying to figure out the code even as she finished her sentence) ‘…jumping over your fence’. Hello! here we go again, over the spikes as if it were an Olympic wanna-be paraplegic event. I wanted to congratulate them. However, the resident fear of bullets and various viruses doing the rounds, forbade such an interaction. I must admit I called the wrong alarm company. Luckily someone else called the right people.

I went upstairs to get my night stick, just in case, you know…While there, I called out sweetly to them: “…Get the F%^#@ off my property, before I f%^** your f%$#*&! &^**&…”, amongst a string of other injunctions and invective. They obliged, hence the title of this blog.

The alarm company got there pretty smartly, and I bravely went round with them. The paraplegic wanna-bees had rifled through the contents of my large German sedan that had its windows open, fortunately I suppose. They neglected the other German courtesy car parked behind, which contained my laptop and important documents.

They left behind a trail of those sticky-things-you-put-your-motor-vehicle-licence on, leading up to the gate, where they had leapt again, this time out onto the road. When the police arrived some twenty minutes later, they scratched around, shining their torches, saying they would keep an eye out and if they found anyone lurking suspicious they would try to match them to fingerprints staining my car.

I told the police officers to please introduce me to anyone they might come across. The one officer then started laughing, saying he remembered what happened the last time. He said the Man in the Van was in fact, innocent.

Well, at least Noah supported me: this morning, after being told how his fierce father had scared off the ‘smugglers’, he looked all big-eyed at me when I said goodbye to go to work, and said: “I love you more than the whole world.”

UN: World’s richest 2% own half global wealth

December 6, 2006

The world’s richest 2% of adults own more than half of global household wealth, while half the world’s population own only 1%, a United Nations report published on Tuesday showed.

“The study finds wealth to be more unequally distributed than income across countries,” Anthony Shorrocks, director of the Helsinki-based World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University that published the report, said at a press conference.

The report, entitled The World Distribution of Household Wealth, found that assets of $2 200 or more placed a household in the top half of world wealth distribution in 2000.

To be among the most affluent 10% of adults required $61 000 dollars in assets, while more than $500 000 dollars was needed to belong to the richest 1%. This group of the most well off was made up of 37-million people.

The study said it was the first of its kind to include major components of household wealth, including financial assets and debts, land, buildings and other tangible property, and to cover all the world’s countries.

The report did not measure income, in the form of salaries, pensions and benefit payments.

A quarter of the world’s wealthiest 10% of adults lived in the United States while a fifth resided in Japan, the study showed.

Eight percent of the world’s wealthiest 10% of adults lived in Germany, 7% in Italy, 6% in Britain and 4% each in France and Spain.

In 2000, the year data for the survey was collected, there were 499 dollar-billionaires and 13-million millionaires throughout the world. These numbers were set to “rise fast in the next decade”, the report said

Unregulated Markets

November 14, 2006

I don’t understand why people are so enamoured of the free market system. Not that we have anything resembling one in any national economy. There are pockets, of course. Which is the topic of The Blog today.

Down here in ye olde Cape Town last month, there was a protest by taxi drivers. They were protesting against ‘intereference’ from law enforcement officials. One among them  expressed the following sentiment: “Officers must stop hiding behind bridges and bushes”. Another added: “City police must stop assaulting and harassing taxi drives [sic] should this continue taxi drivers will be force to defend themselves.”

It gets better: ‘They also asked for “separate cells” at police stations.’ Who do they think they are? Tony Yengeni?

Besides the humour in the situation afforded by the distance – physical, emotional and otherwise – between ‘them’ and ‘us’ web-enabled, car-driving, city slickers, I see in this some of the dangers of unfettered economic markets.

Sure, you may say that taxi drivers are a special breed. But economics, as dismal a science as it is, makes no distinction between economic agents. What is true in the taxi industry applies with just as much force amongst more sophisticated, cultured, educated, what-have-you types. Like you and me. Or that guy over there. Yes, you!  Get back to work…