Saturday, April 8, 2017

How international news media portrayed South Africa's 60 000+ #ZumaMustFall March

A look at Google news fills the screen with South African accounts of the march, so I used a less known news research engine to figure out how the world portrayed the march. Anti-Zuma sentiment is widely noted, but I will let you read the articles yourself. What fascinated me most was the approach of the New York Times, who used almost the exact same headline as they did when Jacob Zuma fired former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene (replacing him with loyalist Des Van Rooyen), much as he now fired Pravin Gordhan, replacing him with loyalist Gigaba, who like Des Van Rooyen, doesn't know a thing about finance.

We already know why Fitch and Standard and Poor's downgraded South Africa: they believe South Africa is being reckless with its economy and finances. Particularly vexing to the ratings agencies are: radical socioeconomic transformation, promises of land grabs, reckless management of State Owned Enterprises (SOEs), and government's promise to bail them out, slow economic growth, strangling labour regulations, and a cabinet reshuffle seemingly aimed at pursuing a left wing approach should the heavens fall. Much of what the South African government is able to do is based on its ability to borrow money. The Sovereign Credit Ratings agencies are a bit like a bar keeper saying you've had too much, or the credit bureau the bank checks before giving you finance. The two members of the trinity of ratings agencies think South Africa is a bad investment and a bad bet and a bad debtor. By giving us above speculative, above junk credit ratings in the past, they had for many years endorsed our economy. That is no longer the case: only Moody's has yet to downgrade us, and they have suggested it is coming. So, government will be less able to build infrastructure, service social grants, and maintain administration of the country. Your rands will buy you less, but your employers won't be able to give you a raise. Much of Africa can't woo investors, and relies on the International Monetary Fund for their needs, which fund likes to demand austerity in exchange for funding. It has clutches South Africa doesn't want to fall into, if it wants to pursue a pro-poor agenda, but those are the clutches we are headed to.

I will firstly note the headlines from 2017, with links thereto, and then I will note those from 2015. The 2015 quagmire ended when Pravin Gordhan was appointed as finance minister, and investors and creditors calmed down. His own firing seems less likely to have as passing an effect, because Zuma has stayed steadfast on his 2015 path, and fired dissidents instead of listening to them.

2017 articles:

'Thousands march in South Africa to demand Zuma resign' / Al Jazeera

'South African opposition, rights groups march against Zuma' / CNBC

'Anti-Zuma protests take place across South Africa' / BBC

'In South Africa, thousands from all races march against President Jacob Zuma, but unity remains elusive' / Los Angeles Times

'Thousands of anti-Zuma protesters march across South Africa' / Canadian Globe and Mail

'Skirmishes in Johannesburg as South Africans protest against Zuma' / Reuters

'Thousands March in South Africa to Demand Jacob Zuma’s Resignation' / NY Times (using near exact same title as 2015)

2015 articles:

Déjà vu? 'Thousands March in South Africa to Call for Jacob Zuma’s Resignation' 16 Dec 2015 NY Times #ZumaMustFall.

Déjà vu? '#ZumaMustFall: South Africans march against Jacob Zuma' 16 Dec 2015 BBC

Monday, January 23, 2017

Ignoble Magic, the Origin of Law…

Ignoble Magic, the Origin of Law…

She’s a passionate figure, with dyed white dreadlocks. She is full of fire and gusto. In the video, published by UCT Scientist, of the encounter, she rallies against her enemy: science. If we are to understand the origins of science, in the ignoble past of taboo, charms, and so-called sympathetic magic, her views, while reprehensibly illogical, hold a lost logic in themselves.

Here is what she said:

'There is a place in KZN called Umhlab’uyalingana.'

'They believe that through the magic... you call it black magic,' she adds.

'they call it witchcraft...'

She asserts then that, 'you are able to send lightning to strike someone. Can you explain that scientifically because it’s something that happens?'

The Fallist, and leader of the Science Must Fall movement, as she became known across the country of South Africa, became famous overnight. She called for the scrapping, entirely, of Western science, in favour of magic.

Yet, magic has a lot in common with science. Sir James George Frazer, in The Golden Bough, claims that all magic is sympathetic magic, and that it can be divided into homeopathic magic – like affecting like- and contagious magic – the spread of elements of one thing into another. Sir James believed magic to be mere superstition, but also believed it utterly important in the development of our society.

An example of homeopathic magic is the voodoo doll, or effigy: what happens to the likeness is thought, with a complete faith, to happen to the victim. An example of contagious magic is the historical account that a Madagascan soldier would not eat a hedgehog, because hedgehogs are cowardly and curl up into a ball when attacked, and if he were to do so, he would most certainly become a coward. Likewise, a baseball player might believe that his sweat, on his dirty socks, from a past victory, will certainly allow him to win the next game, no matter how much his indignant teammates complain of his smell: the attribute of the socks, associated with past victory, is thought to be a charm by the sportsman.

Magic is thought to be the origin of many of the early religions. The Australian Aboriginals universally practiced magic upon arrival of the colonists, they did not however practice an advanced religion with a great priesthood. Societies at a more primal stage, universally, have taboos and charms, but many don’t have religion. Magic is absolute. If a person correctly does the ritual, there is no doubt in his mind that the magic will mechanically occur. Religion is a belief in intervention in the time-space continuum by beings which disrupt the mechanisms in the universe. To early man, the gods were merely invisible sorcerers. A magician may enslave these deities to his will, whether demons or gods, but a religious man seeks to approach them to please them, propitiation, in order to gain something of value from them. He also seeks to not displease them, lest a curse come upon him.

The 12 tables of the Roman Empire are the origin of law in Europe, and in places like South Africa. They would one day cause the Emperor Justinian’s Corpus Iuris Civilis to come about, the body of the civil law.

Yet, while setting out laws, the priesthood relied upon which day a suit was brought to determine whether plaintiff or defendant won. The Germanic tribes, who rediscovered some of Roman law would likewise use seemingly supernatural means to determine whether laws had been broken.

In Great Britain, from which South Africa gains its law of evidence, something called the ordeal was used, according to records, to determine the guilt of murderers. A loaf of dry, stale bread was given to the alleged killer, who was then to swallow it, after a prayer to the deity, asking to be protected or killed based on guilt. If the bread lodged in their throat and killed them, they were surely guilty. If the potential murderer survived, they were innocent.

Of course, the example of the ordeal actually is a rather sneaky one. It usually got it right.

A person who is nervous will not salivate as much, their mouth will become dry. Someone who believed they would be found guilty, and thus felt nervous, was sure to be killed by the ordeal. An innocent person, would trust the divine to hold them out as innocent.

Linda Rodrigues McRobbie, writing an article entitled 'The Strange and Mysterious History of the Ouija Board' for Smithsonian Magazine, on October 27, 2013, details the fascinating history of the 'talking board'.

While the bible might condemn necromancy, and one need only look at the tragic example of King Saul for this, when the Associated Press, in 1886, reported that boards similar to the Ouija board were becoming popular for communing with spirits, mainstream American Christians tended not to see anything wrong with talking to the other side.

In 1890, Charles Kennard, from Baltimore, Maryland, and his four investors, including an attorney named Elijah Bond and a surveyor called Col. Washinton Bowie, set up the Kennard Novelty Company. Elijah’s sister, Helen Peters, was quite into spiritualism (communing with the dead), and asked the board what it itself was to be called, it is reported to have replied: 'Ouija'. When asked what Ouija meant, it said 'Good Luck'. It was later 'proven' to work when Helen demonstrated its efficacy by revealing the name of a patent office official. It was thus given its patent and went on sale. Elijah, being a lawyer, likely knew the name of the patent official.

Helen admitted in a letter that when she asked the Ouija board what to call it, she was wearing a locket with a picture of a woman above her head. It was likely one of women's activist, Ouida, whom she is known to have admired. Modern studies of the talking board, find it is likely ‘effective’ due to a scientific principle, rather than due to magic. With the release of the Exorcist, the Ouija board became a gateway to Satan, and its audience changed from average Americans, to those wanting a taboo thrill. That is not to say that the talking board did not instruct the odd person here and there to murder people, which American archives show it did, and that they did.

The Ouija board works based on something called ideomotor action, subconscious movements of the human body which we would not notice if we were not told that they came from somewhere else, whether other participants in the bizarre game, or ‘the spirits’.

As the Smithsonian, in the late 2013 article, relays: ‘Two years ago, Dr. Ron Rensink, professor of psychology and computer science, psychology postdoctoral researcher Hélène Gauchou, and Dr. Sidney Fels, professor of electrical and computer engineering, began looking at exactly what happens when people sit down to use a Ouija board.’

'Their initial experiments involved a Ouija-playing robot: Participants were told that they were playing with a person in another room via teleconferencing; the robot, they were told, mimicked the movements of the other person. In actuality, the robot’s movements simply amplified the participants’ motions and the person in the other room was just a ruse, a way to get the participant to think they weren’t in control. Participants were asked a series of yes or no, fact-based questions (“Is Buenos Aires the capital of Brazil? Were the 2000 Olympic Games held in Sydney?”) and expected to use the Ouija board to answer.

'What the team found surprised them: When participants were asked, verbally, to guess the answers to the best of their ability, they were right only around 50 percent of the time, a typical result for guessing. But when they answered using the board, believing that the answers were coming from someplace else, they answered correctly upwards of 65 percent of the time. “It was so dramatic how much better they did on these questions than if they answered to the best of their ability that we were like, ‘This is just weird, how could they be that much better?’” recalled Fels. “It was so dramatic we couldn’t believe it.”

'The implication was, Fels explained, that one’s non-conscious was a lot smarter than anyone knew.

'The robot, unfortunately, proved too delicate for further experiments, but the researchers were sufficiently intrigued to pursue further Ouija research. They divined another experiment: This time, rather than a robot, the participant actually played with a real human. At some point, the participant was blindfolded—and the other player, really a confederate, quietly took their hands off the planchette. This meant that the participant believed he or she wasn’t alone, enabling the kind of automatic pilot state the researchers were looking for, but still ensuring that the answers could only come from the participant.

'It worked. Rensink says, “Some people were complaining about how the other person was moving the planchette around. That was a good sign that we really got this kind of condition that people were convinced that somebody else was there.” Their results replicated the findings of the experiment with the robot, that people knew more when they didn’t think they were controlling the answers (50 percent accuracy for vocal responses to 65 percent for Ouija responses). They reported their findings in February 2012 issue of Consciousness and Cognition.

'“You do much better with the Ouija on questions that you really don’t think you know, but actually something inside you does know and the Ouija can help you answer above chance,” says Fels.'

Hypnosis, likewise, is sometimes able to gain details in the subconscious that we are unaware of.

The Ouija board, like the Ordeal, is so popular, because, due to a hidden scientific principle, it is actually effective. Magicians and sorcerers of old had to be accurate in their predictions and their use of magic, or they would be exiled or killed. The kings of Mexico would promise to bring rain and to perform other supernatural duties. Others still, such as in Britain, were thought to be able to cure disease. A sorcerer who brought the rain gained power and wealth from his contemporaries, one who, for some unbeknownst reason, wasn’t able to, one year, was lucky if he or she survived.

It is believed that movement from superstitions such as those in sympathetic magic, which develop inevitably into charms for good fortune, or taboos which bring forth evil, towards science, came from the efficacy of some forms of magic. Dousing the arrowhead with poison inevitably brought game down quicker. Living in rain plains brought more assurance of rain. Understanding real signs in the sky and elsewhere of drought meant that a rain maker was more likely to be employed and not murdered.

Those who engaged in using lightning to kill enemies, like the Fallist’s heroes, might instead simply settle for any sort of death when the lightning proved ineffective, and might tell a customer to prick their enemy with poison or pour it in a drink.

The Temple of Apollo of the Oracles of Delphi, was located over natural gas, which is hallucinogenic. The priestess who went into a trance would utter nonsense, which her assistants would translate, sure it was divine. They themselves were subconsciously aware of many things in the world, as everyone brought their problems to the Delphi temple. While believing it was magic or rather religion giving them answers, they in fact had the same sort of subconscious knowledge that practitioners of the Ouija board do. Magic which works brings its magicians good luck, and magic which works tends to be magic based on science.

So, how does this relate to law? Even our scientific rules originate in us as children as taboo and as charm. Jump from too high and you will be hurt. Touch the stove and you will surely be burnt. After a while it becomes more specific: jump too high and land incorrectly and you will be hurt, touch a hot stove and you will suffer burns, but you may not suffer burns if you run your hand under cold water for ten minutes immediately afterwards.

In South Africa, the tribal chiefs gained their power due to witchcraft. They promised their tribes they would protect them from witches, and were given the power to allocate or remove land from their followers. In North Africa, the opposite happened. People even crucify cats believing they may be witches, yet the great leaders, since times immemorial, in much of Africa, have surrounded themselves with supposedly powerful sorcerers, or been so, themselves.

As I wrote on the Ebola epidemic in 2014:

Those who enjoy the works of JRR Tolkien, will be familiar with a scene where Gandalf the Grey is treated with deep suspicion, because he always comes where something is wrong. The people thought perhaps he was the cause of the wrongness. He was merely there to try and prevent it. One of the great written linguistic traditions of humanity comes from China, where the written work came from omens in bones. Signs of the supernatural can pervade human thinking. During the plague it was believed that spraying oneself with toilet water could spare one from the disease. Of course, toilet water, refers not to something present in a toilet but a certain form of low scented perfume, also known as eau du toilette. People believed that foul smell itself spread the horrid disease, rather than only being a symptom of it. Belief in vampires also came from that period, the plague dead often appeared to move in their state of decomposition.

Media have relayed how African villagers see a white person and go running away in fear, shouting ‘Ebola Ebola.’ With doctors unable to treat victims and ordinary nurses and others claiming to have a cure for Ebola, the virus has spread further and further.

If your witch doctor tells you not to go to the well by the banana tree, and you believe he is a true witch, then you will treat that well as anathema. A king or chief who promises his subjects his protection, must account for when bad things happen to them, whether due to his failure, or due to that of his witch doctors. Witch doctors, priests, seers and sorcerers are powerful, they may throw bones and determine that you raped or murdered someone, or that you need to be sacrificed to the gods, or even in one of the recorded cases, to a tree.

Research has found that ancient religion destroys the democracy of early people, where everyone is answerable to themselves, and in turn brings about hierarchy, the very basis of civilisation in any citified settings. This hierarchy is more pronounced, where human sacrifice is practiced, and research shows that it is mostly those from lesser status who are the victims of the sacrifice.

Just as the Roman Law which has become enshrined in the laws of continental Europe, and heavily influenced the laws of the rest of the world, originated in the charms and superstitions of certain days, and in the religion of the Romans, international law has its roots in the laws of Christendom, the laws governing actions between Christian nations. Law inevitably begins in either magic or religion, and gradually generally gains a more secular character.

Have you ever said to yourself: but I’m a good person? Or said to yourself, he is a bad person, he will get what is coming to him. What about those preachers who claim that natural disasters are punishment? Do you believe in karma? In comeuppance, in justice? There is a fine line between expecting something to happen, and making it happen, because it is expected; after all, when we refer to what should be, we refer inevitably to what is expected to be. It is rather embarrassing to not have your expectations met, isn’t it?

You see, being a good person is a charm, and being evil is a taboo. We instinctively believe that the universe is out to get bad people. If you murder, or rape or pillage: you will be hurt as a result. If it doesn’t happen, it is because we don’t see it happening, or it must inevitably happen in a next life or afterlife.

When we engage in the correct rituals, when we treat our fellow man fairly, and avoid doing that which is taboo and do that which is charm, we expect to live a good life. When, however, something bad happens to us as a good person, we either lose faith in our charms and taboos, or we become angry, sad, disappointed, etc. There is a reason we shame ourselves when we are victims, or shame others, and it is an ignoble one.

Rather than seek out the, it turns out after our bad luck to be false, witch doctor for a satisfactory killing in which he is to be the victim, we tend to get angry with the person who does not adhere to the same charms and taboos as we do. If being a good person means that good things must happen to us, because we did all the right charms, and avoided all the right taboos, then we must be compensated when evil happens to us, and what better source of that compensation that the offender who engaged in taboo, and thus will in any case have evil happen to him. Why shouldn’t that evil be put to use to help us, the victim?

This is the origin of restorative justice. John raped Mary, in the Brazilian Amazon, therefore John must give Mary a wild pig to eat with her family in order to restore her to a better life. Not that just by western standards, is it? Or Jacob Raped Mara, in ancient Israel, therefore Jacob must support Mara’s material needs as his wife for the rest of his life (never mind that being around him might be traumatic for Mara). Restorative justice is what, in South Africa, we call delict, and what, in the United States of America, they call tort.

A fascinating study looked into standards of fairness across cultures. ‘A’ was given an amount of money, let’s say 100 $US, and told to offer ‘B’ a portion of it. If ‘B’ accepted the portion, then they both got to keep their shares. If ‘B’ rejected the offer, both lost out. In the Western world, it tended to be offers closest to 50% which were accepted. In other parts of the world where gift giving for favours is common, the split most accepted was unjust by western standards. Imagine accepting something like just 10% as just, doesn’t it anger you, would you really offer ‘B’ something like 90%? And in other parts the opposite was true, and the receiver was happy to get scraps. Justice was not an absolute. Oddly, in the west, an offer of say 70% to the other, would still be rejected. ‘B’ felt that he or she was being bribed and rejected the 70% they could have had, and denied ‘A’ his or her 30% as a result. The same rule went with the standard amounts of other cultures. It was, essentially, taboo to take more or less than what was just.

Of course, if those who engage in taboo behaviour are going to be punished by the universe anyway, then why shouldn’t the victim or the medicine man, or the tribal elders be the ones who inflict that harm. After all, if the universe in any case is going to hurt those who engage in taboo, then what wrong is there in helping it along, surely you yourself won’t incur taboo by that? Is this not the origin of the vigil ante, and of the court of law? This is the origin of the criminal justice system.

Classical jurisprudence holds essentially that the sovereign’s word is law, and that the sovereign is the figure that society habitually obeys. Sovereigns in the past have claimed to be gods, such as the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, such as Cleopatra, and the Emperors and Caesars of Rome, who had their own emperor worship cults to glorify them. Others claim to be powerful high priests or to be heads of national churches, such as the current monarchy of Great Britain, which rules the Anglican Church. Others claim to be great sorcerers. If a monarch has a divine right to rule, then disobeying their word is taboo, is bad luck, and obeying them is charm, is good luck. Rising up against a monarch who has the backing of God is rising up against God himself or herself.

Of course, while priesthoods in many ancient lands, and even in modern ones, such as Iran, hold great power, and keep their rulers in charge by taboo and charm, or religious curse or blessing, like in ancient, Rome, and like with what happened with science, laws tend to secularise over time.

I may break a mirror, walk under a ladder, and cross a black cat and not have any bad luck, but someone who murders another might have to account to their relatives. The sorts of things which religions all tend to commonly condemn are remarkably similar. Murder, theft, and so forth. That which is taboo, is also sometimes that which is unwise. That which is taboo for a leader to allow, can also be unbeneficial to him or her to allow. That which is taboo and superstition, but adhered to out of habit on the word of the sovereign, thus also becomes that which is rational to adhere to.

Thomas Hobbs in Leviathan, portrays the state of man in nature as savage, short-lived, and full of cruelty and calamity. He seeks to make such a state taboo, in order to justify overreaching statist forces of his time. In truth, the state of man in nature is well known. People in nature often interact with other primitives in a manner which is respectful. It is when they start to appoint chiefs and chief sorcerers, that the violent nature of man begins to emerge.

Modern jurists tend to point to natural law: to that which can be reasoned to be wrong in a rational manner: murder, theft and so on. Yet, even at the stage of mere taboo, law remains law. The refinement to adhere to rationalism, and to ensure the longer existence of the taboo, as it is a rational taboo, is merely what happens to law over time.

Have you ever disobeyed a taboo, and felt a great joy when some evil did not immediately strike you down where you stood? Habitual criminals can become addicted to the high that comes with getting away with breaking the law. If you break a law and evil does not befall you when you expected it to, then you have defied a taboo. Perhaps this gives you a sense of your own worth, of your power.

Others break a law and expect to be caught and punished, they expect it as though it were inevitable.

Still others refuse to break any law, because they know they will surely be caught, whether due to extensive enforcement, ever vigilant enemies prowling about like lions after their prey, or due to taboo.

Those who obey the taboos and the charms of our society, often become furious with those who do not. After all, if such people get away with it, then perhaps being a good person is not such a charm, and being bad is not such a hassle. People who obey the law tend to feel the need to make sure crime does have a cost for the criminals, because otherwise the charms they follow and the taboos they avoid are all in vain.

Where disobedience is on purpose, the response tends to be anger, where it is unintentional, frustration.

Of course, bad things do happen to good people. Religion tends to differ from magic in that respect. The Buddha saw life as about suffering and thus created a plan to escape it to Nirvana. Jesus Christ, the Christian Messiah, confronted people who said those who were victims of a building collapse must surely be evil, in saying that all then alive (except him, being God), were equally deserving of any such thing, and is recorded as saying that God sends the rain on the good and on the bad, and that only God is good.

The truth, of course, is that many good people die terrible deaths. In Christianity, my own religion, these are called Martyrs. Jesus, himself, the founder of the Christian religion, died, tortured on a cross. Likewise, many evil people live long, enjoyable lives in the lap of luxury, much loved by friends and amidst happy fountains of descendants. The answer Christianity has to this is hell, where evil people are given their due, and perhaps purgatory, where almost good enough people are purified of their sins. Heaven, of course, is a just reward for a just life, and is where the martyrs go. If injustice is not punished, smitten even, and if moral living is not blessed, what good is there in living a good life?

To the religious, being evil is a curse upon yourself, while being good is a blessing. To the superstitious, being evil is a taboo, while being good is a charm. To the scientific, being good is wise, while being evil consists of doing unwise things. What is good after all, except that which leads to life, and what is evil, except that which causes death. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve are said to have eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, despite God warning them that they would surely die. Indeed, death is bad, and life is good: and it could be said that they gained that knowledge when they became mortal like the rest of us.

Many modern jurists fit themselves squarely into the third category. The law must be wise, or it is not law.

In truth, law based on taboo or curse is law, so long as it is enforced by an authority. Having knowledge of the law, much as magicians have knowledge of magic from their grimoires and books of shadows, allows one to use the law to one’s advantage, and to avoid being penalised by the authority, whatever it is, which enforces it.

The ancient Israelites boasted that their law, which included putting sorcerers, and fornicators to death, was much admired throughout the ancient world. Likewise, Western nations boast of their legal systems, and how rational and well thought out they believe them to be.

In truth, law is just law, it doesn’t have to be a just law to exist. Its origins are not in a contract to a commonwealth, or a rationalisation of nature’s truths. Law’s origins are in the way the human mind works, how we automatically believe that like breeds like, and that contact breeds contagion. Just as science has emerged from magic, rational law has emerged from taboo. This is not something to hide from or lament, for it is inevitably a good that from mere ignoble magic we have gained the great skeletal structure of human society, law.

Friday, January 20, 2017

A considered reply to a ‘Plight of a Black Law Graduate’ who spent unlucky years seeking after articles of clerkship.

A considered reply to a ‘Plight of a Black Law Graduate’ who spent unlucky years seeking after articles of clerkship.

Law is a difficult profession. It requires an excellent memory, near perfect comprehension skills, an ability to deal with clients and opponents, and a good knowledge of several languages, and at the very least, a passing knowledge of English and Afrikaans, the languages most cases are written in, and in which the courts conduct their business.

South Africa has 11 official languages, practically speaking, this means that anyone can go to court and have their testimony translated into English or Afrikaans from these languages. However, the languages of the courts in South Africa are only the two aforementioned tongues.

In Britain, court was conducted in Norman French for many years. It is where the term attorney (appointed) comes from, and it also largely limited the profession to the upper classes who could speak Norman. You might have heard the classic ‘ey’ sound with which the British pronounce French words. This comes from Norman French. While conducting trials in French, the British courts would use Latin as the language of record. Most legal concepts have thus been rendered in multiple languages: Peace and quiet; Breaking and Entering; and so forth.

In South Africa, Latin, Dutch, Afrikaans and English, are the essential languages of legal discourse. While I write, I have a trilingual legal dictionary sitting next to me. It is that important to be prepared.

A misplaced comma can and has cost millions of dollars in legal cases, and contract work. A misspelling in a will or legal letter can be catastrophic. Law is a profession which takes no prisoners, and which vastly favours suitors from the upper class, and with elite private school education and accents. I, like many in my profession, speak Cultivated South African English, or Received South African English, a dialect almost identical to the Received English spoken by the British nobility. It is a widely-understood accent, and research shows that speaking clearly and being easy to understand, makes people believe you are more likely to be telling the truth.

I spend tens of thousands of Rands a year on up to date legal literature, precedents and so forth, and I have a wardrobe including bespoke suits of the required type for court, and robes which are quite literally the funeral wear of the semi-wealthy of the Holy Roman Empire. If I make an error, I have sworn an oath, and thus can be sued for my negligence, as can my firm. Law takes no prisoners as a profession. It has to be so.

As LAWSA puts it:

'The Emperors Leo and Anthemius in their advice to Callicrates, praetorian prefect of Illyria, stated in the year 469 AD: “Advocates who explain ambiguous questions which arise in the course of litigation, and who, by the ability of their defence, frequently, in both private and public matters, restore the fortunes of those who have been ruined, are not less useful to the human race than if they had preserved their country and their relatives by taking part in battles and receiving wounds. For We, do not think that those who are equipped as soldiers with swords, shields and cuirasses should be considered the only ones who protect our Empire, but that the advocates, also, who have charge of cases contend as soldiers and, trusting in the glorious power of eloquence, protect the hopes, the lives, and the children of those who are distressed.”' (Law of South Africa, Volume 14(2) - Second Edition Volume, Legal Practitioners, Advocates, General, paragraph 112).

In South Africa, there are two education systems, one which some White South Africans, and many Black South Africans, have for years slaved to keep their children in, that of the IEB private schools, and the other provided by the government. Despite not speaking English or Afrikaans at home, if a student wants to pass matric, it must be in English or Afrikaans, no matter which government school they attend. There are arguments about whether the local languages are developed enough to accommodate advanced English and Afrikaans concepts, however, loan words would likely suffice in that area, the diktat is more policy than anything else.

Even if students were not learning in languages not their own, they still receive vastly inferior education in most government schools, where educators likewise are hired to fulfil quotas rather than on merit, and where teachers are vastly underpaid as is. Students are taught in English by teachers who themselves struggle to articulate in the language, and standards of learning are also affected by a void in resources, and underinvestment in the future of students, never mind a lack of nutrition, and the fact many students miss out on early learning prior to school, which is shown to bridge the recorded IQ gap between rich and poor (which can also be bridged by better nutrient intake and by reducing stress levels by either exercise prior to classes, or by enhanced policing to create a safe environment).

Universities are instructed by the government to essentially engage in practises akin to usury. They accept students by the droves into university, who they know cannot afford to pay fees, and won’t afford annual increases. These students often have to work part-time, affecting academic performance, and also have the struggle that comes with the added stress of not being able to afford their fees. Universities have introduced tutorials, and have continuously dumbed down the teaching of law as a result, but even then, the students able to access the law as it really is are often those able to afford textbooks, again those from the upper classes.

I often found that many of my lecturers at the University of the Witwatersrand Oliver Schreiner Law School themselves did not understand their subjects, and struggled with the English language. I would tend in those classes to take typed notes from other students, with different lecturers, with the money to buy laptops, and exchange my own typed notes in barter. Plagiarism and misunderstanding of English continued to be a mainstay for many students, right through to final year. Students were unable to do basic referencing, which IEB students were taught in school.

A famous law graduate and one who also gained a postgraduate degree in Oxford, is Ntokozo Qwabe, who worked as a checkout clerk at Checkers while making his way through law school. Besides the racist, anti-British, anti-French and anti-White rants which made him an international laughing stock at Oriel College and beyond, he struggles with basic spelling and grammar. He still cannot spell the word ‘Africa’, which he spells as ‘Afrika’. I tended to be someone other students let read their essays after we’d submitted them. I remember one Constitutional law lecturer giving me a something like a 0% for a well-researched essay, while one which was poorly reasoned and full of spelling, grammar and other mistakes but written by a student of the right colour, was given high marks. Because I got such high marks on multiple choice and in the final exam, I still passed the subject with high marks, but it shocked me that my fellow student also passed. Their level of argument would have gained them a failure even at high school level in the tougher syllabus of the IEB. Yet, that was enough for them to pass, in a profession based on argument and language.

As I have shown before, one of the reasons that Black advocates are often not briefed has nothing to do with their merit and ability, and everything to do with the universities’ policy of pushing through law graduates who cannot write or speak effectively in either of the languages of the courts, and the BEE program which prioritises race, not ability. White students who get into university, achieve this despite their skin colour, and those who graduate are sure to experience discrimination against them by lecturers, and to still succeed.

This also applies to pupillage, if you are not Black, then you had better prove why you deserve it or you are out. Having very lax standards for people of one race, and extremely high standards for those of another, can force those of the other to try harder.

The best chefs are often male, precisely because the system opposes them, as with many fashion designers. When Rome put unliveable demands on the Phoenicians, they upped their game and tried harder. While the Black lawyers and advocates I know are top notch, those who are there purely due to their skin colour have poisoned the well for everyone.

I have often had to defend fellow lawyers who happen to be Black, for instance, on Facebook, where their fellow Black South African friends say they would not hire them because Black lawyers are not as good. I tend to respond and say ‘so-and-so’ is just as good as any White lawyer.

Jacob Bongani Hlongwane, writing in airs a letter (namely 'Plight Of A Black Law Graduate' [Which should properly be titled: 'Plight of a Black Law Graduate'], 5 April 2016) which he received from a reader of that publication, a nameless Black law graduate who had been attempting to gain articles of clerkship for two years at the time of writing. I think it is important, as it expresses incorrect and career limiting views which are often silently held.

Nameless, as we shall name him, has had it rough. He has been out of law school for two years and he hasn’t been afforded articles of clerkship. He cannot speak any Afrikaans, does not own a car, and says he cannot live on a R 3 000.00 a month intern salary. He sees all of these as structural obstacles designed to keep Black graduates out of the system.

My Afrikaans is far from perfect, but many important cases have been in Afrikaans, and I have often dealt with matters where everything important was written and communicated in Afrikaans. Asking that prospective attorneys be able to speak the two main languages of the legal profession, is not much to ask, and is logical.

Nameless specifically writes: ‘I stand corrected, but legal practice [sic, though I will not note his mistakes from here-on-out as there are many] is mostly concluded in English and thus it begs answers as to why the requirement to be able to speak Afrikaans, if a law firm’s clientele comprises of Afrikaans speaking individuals, I doubt it follows that they cannot speak English, thus rendering the Afrikaans requirement suspect and exclusionary.'

Yes, most Afrikaans people can speak English, but if a significant portion of clientele of a firm is Afrikaans, it makes sense for the firm to want their candidate attorneys to communicate with clients, to be able to read case notes and emails from clients, and to be able to conduct business as such. Also, pleadings and case matters are allowed to be in Afrikaans, and that candidate attorney would thus likely receive both correspondence from opponents in the language, and pleadings in it.

He goes on to say, again showing a very poor understanding of English: ‘The meagre salaries offered to candidate attorneys can be deemed exploitative at best and downright tantamount to slavery at worst. With a candidate attorney earning as less as three thousand rands per month.’

Which tells me that he has either not gained many responses, or has not looked at jobs websites, or has not sent his CV to many firms. In some parts of the country, candidate attorneys are paid low amounts like that, and sometimes attorneys can only afford that, but generally speaking, candidate attorneys are paid between R 5 000.00 and R 30 000.00 for their services.

In Johannesburg, candidate attorney positions are hardly ever advertised, that’s more of a Pretoria thing. If you want a position as a candidate attorney, it is best to get a copy of Horters, or download the contact details for attorneys in your area on the website of the local law society, and start mass mailing or e-mailing out your CV and letter of introduction. Such should be in PDF format, entirely free from any spelling or grammar errors, and should flow and read easily. Any spelling or grammar error, and firms tend to toss your CV in the trash. In the current competitive environment a candidate attorney aspirant should probably send their CV to at least 300 firms, which should get a good candidate an interview for every few dozen firms sent to.

Nameless has been without articles for two years and is working elsewhere in a non-legal position. In fact, he says: ‘An LLB degree without admission is worthless, legally impotent.’ This not only shows his poor understanding of words such as ‘legally’, but also shows his deep misunderstanding of the legal profession.

His misconception is unsurprising, as Nameless, despite his poor grammar and incorrect interpretation of what a lawyer is, and of articles, says quite clearly: ‘'When one studies towards an LLB the aim is mostly to become a lawyer. Either through articles to get admitted as an attorney two years later or serve pupillage and get admitted as an advocate a year later.'’

A lawyer is not just an attorney or an advocate. There are many legal jobs, from that of a compliance officer, to that of a legal adviser in a big company, to that of paralegal or legal secretary, to that of any number of positions. Most of these positions are filled by Black candidates, given companies’ needs to comply with BEE legislation which mandates discrimination. However, many of my White colleagues have gone that route with success. An LLB is also a shoe in to many non-legal jobs given the prestige associated with it, and can stead one well in management and upper level positions.

Many students, myself included, way back when I was a student, got out of university, and instantly signed up for practical legal training at the School for Legal Practice, which took a year off of our articles and better prepared us for the profession, as compared to those who went straight to applying for articles of clerkship. From there, we applied for positions and quickly got offers.

Nameless, in his despair, adds: ‘Here is the deal breaker, most law firms, whom I apply to on a daily basis, require an LLB Graduate to have own transport. Now, this is a deal breaker with a potential employer but then how do you begin to expect someone, a Black child, straight out of University to own a car? One can barely make ends meet and you are expected to own a car to be even considered for a shortlist.’

Own transport does not necessarily need to be a car, it can be a motorcycle, etc. The fact is, many candidate attorneys are required to act as messengers, serve, file, arrive at courts timeously and predictably, and to even be involved in evictions, etc. Without reliable, efficient, transport you cannot do the job of the average candidate attorney. It is of course possible to be a candidate attorney and not own or rent a vehicle, I know many who are in just that predicament. They use public transport to get by, and take the bus or taxi to and from courts etc. It is possible, but it is a whole lot more difficult.

Nameless further notes: ‘Then there is an issue of serving pupillage, which mind you is far more difficult to secure than articles. The paralyzing prospect of doing pupillage for a year without any monetary compensation during the course of training is a deterrent for Black graduates to even apply, given our harsh economic conditions compared to our White counterparts, who can make do without a salary for that period owing to a secure financial background.’

Nameless seems unaware that he can apply for financial assistance during pupillage, and also seems unaware of the fact that pupillage is for people who have already been admitted as an advocate by the courts of law, and is really about joining the bar and then hopefully getting admission to a group of advocates. He also seems to be unaware that not all White people are wealthy. I know of enough impoverished Whites who worked their way through law school and are now admitted attorneys or advocates, or working in corporates. This sort of skewed logic does not bode well for someone attempting to enter a field based upon logical argument.

One of Nameless’s final remarks is: ‘The reality with Black and White graduates is that we are not the same and are treated equal in recruitment. Equal treatment of unequal people heightens inequality.’ I disagree with him, I believe many Black South Africans are as much a catch in the job market as many White South Africans. Many have faced his similar challenges and succeeded. No one owes him a handout, where they should be forced to take what he sees as an inferior candidate instead of someone capable of doing the job. Inequality is solved not by treating lesser candidates as greater simply because of their race. It is solved by making them equal through better education, and poverty ameliorating programs.

Then again nameless begins his letter by writing: ‘I bemoan the lack of transformation in the judiciary. We constantly read about the White and male dominated industry and skewed briefing patterns to the exclusion of Black Counsel. At the root cause of this is the inherent structural inequality that exists from day one of entering law School.’

Another use of an LLB besides becoming an attorney or advocate or assuming countless other roles, is to apply to become a judge or magistrate. Many of Nameless’s colleagues have, and they sit in various courts around the country. Granted, it used to be attorneys or advocates who became judges, and these had to be top professionals; this is no longer the case. If nameless wants to become a judge, there is very little standing in his way.

My experience when I stand or sit in court, is that most of the attorneys and advocates present aren’t White. Yes, the few White students who got top marks in school, allowing them into university despite their skin colour, and who either made a plan, or had family money to get them through varsity, despite every obstacle thrown in their way by government, often tend to get jobs. However, this is not due to unjust discrimination, though the skewing of the statistics tends to be. If White matriculants had an equal playing field, in getting into university, in being allowed to pass, in so much else, then you would likely see just as many drop out, etc. As it is, just getting to the level of graduate as a White South African, is a mountain to climb. Lesser White students, those in poverty, those who might not make it, are mostly weeded out long before first year of university, and if not, they struggle to make it through, given a system designed to exclude them and to make them fail.

My advice to Nameless is to look into what he is sending to law firms, into what his CV says, and then to send out his CV to hundreds of firms. He is sure to find something, the law itself demands discrimination against the White graduates he dislikes so much, and persistence will do him well. If his letter is anything to judge by, he might want to have someone proficient in English write his CV for him. His letter is full of inaccuracies and mistakes, and his misuse of idiom clearly marks him out as lacking proficiency.

Whether he is of a standard to ‘restore the fortunes of those who have been ruined, [as a member of a class of champions that] are not less useful to the human race than if they had preserved their country and their relatives by taking part in battles and receiving wounds’ or not, however, is a different story. Far harder than getting articles of clerkship, or into pupillage, is completing such, and passing the four board exams, and passing muster for a court to actually order that you be made an attorney etc. Even then, many attorneys struggle to find employment. They are after all in a profession where they have to compete against others in court and elsewhere, and which is not kind to the weak stomached, or incapable. Attorneys who make it in practice tend to be even matched warriors of a high calibre. He could gain that ability on the job or through further education, but if he cannot be his own champion, he will struggle to find it in himself to fight for others. Many candidate attorneys never become attorneys.

There are many highly able Black professionals who enter the attorney’s profession and flourish. However, those are not the ones who were pushed through school and university without being able to spell the word ‘Afrika’ correctly. They are the ones who really deserve their positions, and given that lawyers are the buffer which preserves our democracy, it is important that they be up to standard.

The profession of attorney, after all, has its origin in the profession of champion, of those who physically fought on behalf of others. Nameless needs to abandon his comfortable safe space, and get into the fray. The meek may inherit the earth, but they don’t become attorneys. And until he puts his best foot forward, Nameless will remain a nameless figure among the meek. And yes, it is acceptable English grammar to start a sentence with ‘and’, I blame South Africa’s education system if you weren’t aware of that, just as I blame it for the predicaments of Nameless, who genuinely seems to believe a law degree should be a ticket to success, rather than a weapon to be wielded to gain a much sort after prize.

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