Saturday 26 July 2014

Why Julius Malema is quite wrong to pursue his Parliamentary helmet and onesie campaign.

Why Julius Malema is quite wrong to pursue his Parliamentary helmet and onesie campaign.

You will have noticed much violence in the Gauteng legislature of late. Parliamentarians being locked inside Parliament by use of chairs. Police using tear gas against EFF supporters wearing onesies, helmets and other attire. The rules of parliament in Gauteng demand formal attire from parliamentarians. The uniform of mine workers, and the clothing of domestic workers such as maids do not count as formal according to the provincial Parliament located in Gauteng.

It is not, however, as though EFF members cannot afford to wear a suit. It is very likely in fact that EFF women had to go out and buy maids' outfits and EFF men had to go out and buy overalls and safety-helmets. Julius Malema has often worn a suit. He has even had the audacity to bare the bottom half of his birthday suit on one occasion. This is certainly a man with more than one suit to wear, who does not need to wear overalls. In fact, the EFF wearing overalls or the uniform of maids: is a bit of a fancy dress occasion, resembling a uniform for the group. Of course, the ravages of gender theory do not seem to have affected the EFF whatsoever. The men all dress as miners, the women all dress as maids. The EFF in essence is making a statement, partially a cry of bloody murder against the ANC, partly an attempt to associate with the far left and unions. And more than anything, an attempt to ruffle feathers, an attempt to rouse rabbles brought to South Africa by the man who suggested we go to war with our neighbour Botswana because they like Americans.

Most commentaries on this issue have missed the point. They claim that the ANC is elitist, perhaps as stereotypical and false a statement as portraying all men as mine workers and all women as maids. They believe that demanding formal attire is the equivalent of persecuting the poor. They compare it to Nelson Mandela wearing formal tribal gear at his trial. They should perhaps also compare it to the colonial era demand that ‘natives’ wear trousers in town.

The thing about it is, that the EFF are well paid by Parliament. They can perfectly afford to wear suits, they do outside of parliament in fact. It is a bit like the Communist kid refusing to wear his school uniform and instead wearing a shirt with Che Guevara proudly emblazoned upon the front. It is perhaps also resembling protest by Ukrainian group Femen, in which they bare their intimate assets in violation of morality rules, to make a point.

Does this make mine workers and maids the victim of politicking by the EFF? Are they the butt of a bad joke? Or do the highly educated EFF parliamentarians desire to portray themselves as from a class they do not belong to. Mine workers and maids if they are lucky will take a taxi home perhaps to a shanty town. The EFF in their attempt at a Venetian ball at Parliament, in their fancy dress party uniform: can climb into a BMW or a limousine and cruise happily back to their large homes in Sandton. By dressing like mine workers the EFF can isolate these social stereotypes and the EFF can give mine workers a message, that they are not welcome in Parliament.

The question no one is asking is why Parliament has the rules it does. We don’t see Julius Malema objecting to demands from tribal chiefs that women not wear pants. We do not see Julius Malema objecting to school uniforms. Why does parliament demand that parliamentarians dress in a certain manner?

In the British Parliament, or rather the Royal Court at the time: a true endeavour emerged involving formal and informal dress. The most important women in the Royal Court would wear their pyjamas to the court chambers. The most important men likewise would dress very casually. The least important people present would dress the most formally. Formal dress was a sign of respect to others. Formal dress was a sign of respect to the Royal Court and the social class system of the time.

Jesus Christ, the Nazarene, gave a parable about heaven involving dress. He said that those who were figuratively not properly dressed to enter heaven would be destroyed. His parable was thus: a king invited people to his wedding. Certain people came to his wedding but not in formal wedding clothing. The King destroyed these people. Dressing inappropriately was a sign of grave disrespect to the King and the union he was to enter.

The supporters of Julius Malema bring up the case of Gandhi. They state how Gandhi went from dressing as a Westerner, to wearing nothing but a loincloth: the equivalent of underwear. They state how Gandhi met the Queen dressed as such. The problem with the argument is thus: Gandhi dressed in such a manner so as to disrespect the Queen and the British Empire, so as to show that he is a rebel who has no respect for Britain or its Queen. Gandhi demanded that Indians wear Indian attire and not adhere to the dictates of Western fashion. Gandhi was putting himself as an equal to the Queen, in fact as a superior to her.

Whatever culture you adhere to, would you dress casually to a funeral or to a wedding? Would you dress casually to dates with the person you respect deeply? Especially in the amalgamate of different cultures forming the common cultural phenomenon of the so-called black culture in South Africa, dressing formally to formal events is important. Imagine if you were getting married, and a person who can afford a very expensive suit, and has one: decided to wear fancy dress and come as a vampire. Would this be respect or disrespect? Would you celebrate them or consider them to be a disruptive force with no respect for you? Imagine if someone came to your wedding wearing a Che Guevara shirt, and a sign spouting Communist ideology? Are they not hijacking your wedding for their own cause? Are they not showing disrespect to you by not dressing appropriately for the occasion?

Imagine if Julius Malema and his followers were instead dressing as Catholic priests and nuns. Imagine if they were doing so specifically so they could disrupt Parliament. Would the Catholic Church be impressed with such actions, or consider Julius Malema to be mocking the Catholic Church and politicking at their expense?

Imagine if you went to the doctor, and your doctor, not being a mine worker, was for some sort of jest wearing the attire of a mine worker? Imagine if you went to the doctor and your doctor, not being a domestic worker, was in some sort of jest wearing the attire of a French maid? Imagine if you went to the doctor and the doctor was dressed as a vampire. Would you consider your doctor to be showing you respect or disrespect? Is it appropriate for your doctor to wear fancy dress, and dress as a profession they do not belong to? Would it be appropriate for mine workers to go underground wearing the attire of a doctor, or of a French maid? Doctors dress in a certain way because of their profession. Lawyers also, whether they have the money or not will wear a suit. Is it comfortable to always wear a suit? Is it comfortable to wear it in the heat of the day? Lawyers nonetheless wear a suit. Lawyers are instructed to bring honour to their profession in the way they dress and in the way they act at all times. A lawyer might dress as a miner or a maid to a fancy dress party or on Halloween. A lawyer might dress as such if they are going down a mine. However, would you consider your lawyer to be respectful towards you if they did not wear a suit?

The EFF had every chance to give their parliamentarian positions to maids and to miners. They chose instead to give these positions to highly educated elites. To add insult to injury to the sort of people who vote for the EFF: they then dressed like their perhaps incorrect stereotype of what their constituents dress like. Do mine workers only ever wear overalls? Do mine workers wear helmets to a date with a woman, to a wedding or to a funeral? People are not what they do, people are who they are. Julius Malema is suggesting that mine workers would disrespect Parliament by dressing in their everyday work clothing rather than as though they were going to a wedding or to a date.

Parliamentarians have worn formal African wear before. If you could wear it to an African wedding, you can wear it to Parliament. If you could wear it to an African funeral, you can wear it to Parliament.

The reason I cannot show up in Parliament wearing board shorts, or my pyjamas and slippers: is because Parliament is not like a shopping centre. Parliament is not like my home. Parliament is not like an average South African workplace. Parliament has a set uniform which is not a party uniform. While we adhere to party politics in South Africa, we do not have only one representative for each party, specifically because we believe in South Africa in the importance of each and every individual parliamentary representative being an individual. The EFF insisting on a uniform for the parliamentarians, takes away this individuality and the individual strength of their parliamentarians. The EFF is one man, his name is Julius Malema. Like China’s Mao, he demands that his supporters wear a uniform. Their minds likewise must adhere to his mind.

If anything, by refusing to adhere to the dress codes of Parliament, dressed in fancy dress in the guise of a mine worker or a maid, Julius Malema is suggesting that mine workers and maids are nothing but their jobs. He has made them the cruel butt of his joke: the person attending a wedding or funeral dressed in casual clothing. This is not a show of respect towards mine workers and maids, but a betrayal of them as nothing but what their jobs demand they dress as. This is in fact disrespect by Malema towards these people, whether they realise it or not.

If you ask anyone who supports the EFF attempt to force Parliament in Gauteng to allow the wearing of onesies: they will grin very widely. The reason for their grin is the disrespect Julius Malema intends to convey. They think it great that he is usurping the rules of Parliament, and thus the authority of the parliamentary body. They think it wonderful that his supporters desire to lock people into buildings and fight with police. Che Guevara is famous because he was a rebel. As a doctor he broke his oath and slaughtered countless civilians. Yet, he is a ‘hero’ because he stood up to the man. Julius Malema first came to light to the public when he bore his arse to his opponents. He is loved because he is a disruptor. He is not a force for peace or unity. Imagine then if he became president as his supporters would have be. Would he accept the type of disrespect he has paid the current authorities? Or would he object to it and punish them?

Friday 25 July 2014

The University of the Witwatersrand toughens its standards for law.

The University of the Witwatersrand toughens its standards for law.

The Wits Vuvuzela newspaper covers the confusion, outrage, and satisfaction of students at Oliver Schreiner School of Law. The supplementary exam regime is being struck off the roll. Only final year students will be allowed to write supplementary exams shortly, and even then it will be restricted to a single exam. When I attended the University, if you got a certain mark below passing you were allowed to write a supplementary exam, and thus did not have to redo the course for another year, provided you satisfied the minimum requirements the first time you wrote the exam. Practical legal training schools are also expected to adopt a similar practice, in future demanding 50% to pass a subject. The pass mark at the University of the Witwatersrand has been 50% for many years, but supplementary exams allowed students who got 49 or 47% to rewrite the exam.

The seeming move by the University of the Witwatersrand towards scrapping supplementary exams, follows a massive shakeup that has already been occurring at the law school. Students no longer study Roman law and customary law. The syllabus of many subjects has been made more practical and less theoretical. The LLB law degree which I took, which saw half its students drop out every year, has been scrapped in favour of BCOM LLB and BA LLB, with their wider variety of subjects of a nonlegal nature. When I did my LLB degree I took all but five of the law subjects at the University, and was able to pass all of these. Already the law school is restricting the amount of optional subjects the students can take, the wide legal education I got is being replaced by a wider general education for law students, with less background in the law and less opportunity to fail.

The ridding of the supplementary exam regime, no doubt exists to maintain the prestigious nature of the Wits law degree. Students will no doubt graduate University possessing the core skills they need in their profession. Unfortunately this means that the wide academia that Wits used to stand for must fall by the wayside. Certainly the calibre of students in the subjects which they understand will probably become much better now, after all they only take a small amount of subjects and must focus to make sure they don’t land up getting below 50% as there are no supplementary exams. The University will certainly win consistency from this, but I fear the consistency will be one with the loss of some of the excellency of those students who were able to handle the heavier workload and more abstract teaching of past years.

Taking land from wealthy white South Africans without negotiation or compensation would most hurt the poor.

Taking land from wealthy white South Africans without negotiation or compensation would most hurt poor, demographically often black, South Africans.

There is a strange irony when the actual implementation of government policy designed to aid the poor, in reality would hurt the poor deeply. When South Africa introduced its constitution, it enshrined amongst other things the right to land, including the rights of people to have the government restore the land which was taken from them or their community during Apartheid. Our neighbouring countries do not have such rights to land as we do in South Africa. In large parts of Africa, the government sells already occupied land to large corporations who promised investment. The investment often does not occur but yet the land is utilised for massive agricultural farms or factories. Whether the occupants of the land are merely people who for many years have rested upon it and gained their livelihood from it, or prior to that were true owners is often irrelevant. The government, with or without compensation removes the land from them, in sales in which they had no say, to foreign corporations of the type which have no care for them. This is what happens when there is no right to land.

Zimbabwe has an even stranger system of land tenure. White Zimbabweans were chased from their farming estates in a violent version of no negotiation and no compensation policies being put forward in South Africa. What happened next however is very different than one might have expected. The war veterans as they called themselves wanted land ownership. This is one thing they still lack in every way. Yes, they are permitted to farm on the land they took from the dead and fleeing. The government however does not permit them to own the land. Some were given certificates originally, and have now been given a different type of document: in both cases these land usurpers are not given ownership. Their property can be taken back at any time by the government should it find that they are not utilising it profitably. This might seem reasonable at first glance, a determination to ensure that agricultural land is profitable. Unfortunately, because the farmers do not own the land in the case that they are not profitable: the land is worthless as far as real security is concerned. Banks will not loan money to farmers without security. If things go wrong the bank have nothing to sell to regain their money. Perhaps the Zimbabwean government might decide to force banks to loan the money. Unfortunately that would create an even worse predicament. Would the loans be unlimited, would they be based upon creditworthiness? How would banks get their money back? Surely also interest rates would have to increase radically to do away with the high risk of default. Perhaps the Zimbabwean government could again prevent these high interest rates? In that case the banks would likely have to cut back on staff, leave the country, or shut down.

Let us however look at what is the likely implementation of a no negotiation or a no compensation policy involving South African land in white hands. Would this only involve land from which black South Africans had been removed? Could the land only be taken from white owners, or from anyone who bought the land from those who gained it from the government? Would such a policy take into account the massive population growth South Africa has encountered since land was taken? Would only those who were pushed off a certain plot of land gain land, and would this land actually be worth anything given how much the population has grown?

South Africa’s customary land system itself has been much criticised in the way it leaves ownership of the land either with the chief or with a corporation under his control. The problem again lies with real security of tenure. Land is so useful because it can be sold by a bank if the loan defaults. The American property bubble which caused the recent Great Depression was caused by unscrupulous lending without adequate real security. It was a dangerous economic move which damaged the world economy and South Africa deeply!

Currently, the slow but steady path has been for the government to negotiate for and buy the land in question from the current owners. There has been suggestion that negotiations should be removed and that mere court process be followed to retake such land. In the past I have argued that this would be unconstitutional, as a court rendered value is not the equivalent of free market value nor to the triple value often given out in expropriation, and endangers the financial system and property ownership in South Africa. What is even more dangerous is the punitive system suggested by certain factions of Parliament: the taking of land from the new owners without compensation. Any property which was taken from black South Africans under Apartheid would become worthless overnight. No one would want to buy property which can gain junk value the moment a government official so desires. People often have mortgages over their properties. If these people were to default on their loans, the banks would not be able to sell their properties. Banks would become reluctant to give mortgages over such properties. The question then would be which properties are targeted: those of any white South African? Those specific properties which were taken when the population was much smaller and property values were much less? Who would be given the property? What if the property is now agricultural land? It takes about eight years for a person to learn to farm properly if they ever do. The type of confusion which would emerge in the market would be dangerous in the least.

A white person who cannot take out a loan on their property is less likely to spend what money they do have on goods and services, on entrepreneurship, on hiring more staff. Banks would be less likely to loan out as much as they do, and employees would suffer. The real effect just on this superficial first stage level would be devastating to the economy of the country.

The second part of such a process however would be far worse. If the courts declare that it is acceptable to take the land of white South Africans for the sake of retribution for Apartheid, with or without compensation and based on the non-market value valuation of a court official if any value at all: it does not just disrupt the financial markets. It weakens the right to property that black South Africans benefit from as well. Righting the wrongs of Apartheid is certainly a part of the constitution, but if this part of the constitution is permitted to destroy altogether the right of land of one part of the population, it weakens the right of land altogether in an incremental snaking of bad legal jurisprudence. Black South Africans have been protected from large corporations, and their seemingly beneficial deals with the countries around us, which have hurt the average man. They have been protected by their tenure to land. The more this right is weakened for the sake of policy, the more policy will permit the weakening of the right! That which has been a great protector of South Africans against the might and deep influence of corporations could well disappear forever. Because of uncertainty involving E-Tolling, the government was permitted to make a massive deal with a foreign company against the will of those impacted if statistics are correct. This is a policy decision of the government. It resembles in many ways the policy decisions of South Africa’s neighbours, except that in South Africa we have a right to land. A right to mortgage our land is just as important as the right to possession or temporary possession. In the end the entire item of clothing that we call our constitution and legal system could unravel due to shortsighted opportunism, the same type of opportunism that saw the evil system of Apartheid begin.

Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice. Mention of the laws of South Africa is merely made for argument’s sake.

Thursday 24 July 2014

Are African Plane Crashes all of a sudden of importance?

Are African plane crashes suddenly a big deal?

One of the most iconic parts of the novel 1984 by George Orwell, involves the captor of the main character relaying a thought problem to him. It is possible for a man to fly, those around him need only agree to believe that he has flown, and the impossible as far as the world is concerned will have occurred.

Plane crashes in Africa are not uncommon. They happen all the time, with the lax safety standards and conflicts with which the continent is ridden. From: small aircraft crashing down upon the soil of arid earth like the dropping of heavy hail or the weeping of the rainstorm, a regular occurrence in Africa newspapers. To: airliners disappearing from the sky, stuck in the putrid inferno of the jungle, rainforest or African plains. African aircraft disappear all of the time. And these deaths and disappearances of human individuals, don’t tend to make the news in other countries. Granted, some countries such as France often report on these. An entire country can fall in Africa, and the fallen people will not be reported upon.

There are fascinating stories about battalions of tanks crossing borders, hidden by the tree lines like elephants, fighting wars no one ever bothers to read about or listen to the telling of. A genocide can occur, and no one hears about it. In South Africa, our newspapers often relay the terror and aghast events which occur in Africa. We are after all still a part of the continent, even if when we refer to it, we generally exclude ourselves.

The old cultural adage is that the prophet will not be accepted in their homeland. Perhaps a more truthful adage is that what happens on foreign soil and affects no one who is not alien to the listener, is seldom ever spoken of by the speaker. This is perhaps why Hollywood renditions of horrid events such as the genocide in Rwanda, tend to present the people of the country in question as though they were Americans. Historical retellings of the terrible and wonderful events of the human history, tend to portray heroines and heroes who are very Western and nothing like the people who lived and who walked the earth under the name and appearance of those who are supposedly represented in television, in books, in plays and whatever other fictional means that are utilised in the worship of Dionysus.

It seems, with the disasters befalling Europeans upon Asian jets, that all of a sudden the land once referred to as overseas, as the dark continent, as a circle of hell itself: is suddenly of interest to outsiders. When is the last time you saw an ant? Or a buzzing bee? Perhaps you cannot remember this event. We seem to block out so much. You might not hear the sound of your car as you drive. You might not hear the chattering in a restaurant. People tend to block out things that they do not understand or do not want to understand.

And so, with the disappearance and feared crash of an African airliner, suddenly there is news. Suddenly there is some fear to sow. Aeroplanes crash every day in Africa, massive aeroplanes and small ones alike go down or disappear, or are hijacked, or experience some other catastrophe or cataclysm with a regularity resembling the heartbeat of the Earth itself. Suddenly, newspapers want to report stories about aeroplanes crashing or disappearing. It perhaps resembles the events in the Bermuda Triangle. No more planes or ships crash or disappear in Bermuda than anywhere else. These events are merely almost always reported on. There is after all a fan market for horror when it comes to Bermuda and its Triangle.

When the shock and horror of the Malaysian airliner incidents dies down, when irresponsible journalists are finished with making it appear the world is about to collapse into chaos: no doubt: the loss of African lives, and the disappearance or crash of an African airliner: will no longer be newsworthy. Things will return to normal again. African lives are not that interesting. It does not matter if people are being forced off their land like old-time serfs on a Russian estate. It does not matter if they are dying in droves for some other horrendous disease has overtaken them. This is only interesting when it touches a Western nerve.

And so, for now: the disappearance or crash of an African airliner is almost as important as the disappearance or crash of an Asian one.

Make no mistake I mourn what has happened. I also mourned the kidnapping of those Nigerian girls. However, a deeper tragedy exists which is not being reported on. Just as one might begin to see ants and other small insects everywhere, just as one might begin to hear the traffic on the road outside and the birds tweeting, when one opens one’s mind to it and wants to look: for now the world and its journalists are interested in accidents involving planes. My fear is that this certainly won’t be an ad infinitum interest in the welfare of Africans. It is interim, it is temporary: it is the current fad overcoming journalism, to report on incidents on planes. Suddenly the mundane and every day horror they with the newspapers did not care to report on is in vogue for but a moment. The true horror of it however is hidden behind the veil of forgetfulness. The true danger of taking an aeroplane into the sky in Africa is hardly reported upon. African lives are not that interesting, our hardships and our injustices do not quite strike the right chord to resonate horror into a Western heart as far as many journalists are still concerned. We still are not newsworthy. What is newsworthy is a plane going down as many planes have, or in the very least it disappearing from the horizon. For now it fits the narrative, as a tourist press for a moment visit us: only no doubt to leave us shortly, they do not bear a long-term affiliation to the continent that would have them tell more than a much spun moment of our history. No doubt also there are responsible journalists covering the story. If only they would recover the press archives of Africa and realise how many stories they have not told.

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Why newspapers are dying and magazines aren’t: hint: it has nothing to do with glossy pages.

Why newspapers are dying and magazines aren’t: hint: it has nothing to do with glossy pages.

The old misconception between print and online: portrays it as a choice between yesterday’s news today, which you have to pay for, or today’s news as it happens. If that were why newspaper circulation has been dropping substantially: it would have happened with the introduction of 24-hour news television and radio. In fact, it would have happened with the introduction of the nightly news. The fact of the matter is that what people most like online is substantially different from the short articles which newspapers generally publish.

I sometimes like to comment on other people’s articles. What amazes me is that the most popular comments are generally not short or sweet comments. The popular type of comments: are those which we at SACNS call concise comments. If you have ever read an Oxford dictionary: you will notice that the concise Oxford dictionary is massive. Concise relates to fully encompassing a matter in as efficient a manner as possible. While newspapers have been dying out, their friend the magazine has been flourishing. I’m not talking about lads magazines, or the mass produced picture books that some think are entertaining. These are dying out. What I am talking about is the long form magazine. What I am talking about is concise reporting, the type of reporting you might read in the National Geographic magazine.

A look at which Internet blogs are the most popular will once again draw up a surprise. It is generally long form blogs and concise blogs which get the most viewership. These are services which make articles of at least 1000 words if not tens or hundreds of thousands of words their mainstay.

If I look at which of my articles are the most popular, factoring out the celebrity influence and niche markets: it is generally the long form or longer form article.

It might seem counterintuitive at first: that the most popular comments on any article tend to be long comments, and to take a while to read. The most popular online articles also tend to take a good amount of time to read.

The same strange trend goes for emails also. Emails which are short and sweet and use very simple language: are the least likely to be opened. Emails which are lengthy and utilise proper and good English: are surprisingly more likely to be opened. To a degree it does make sense. I am far more likely to share an article online that uses an advanced and interesting word that even I have to look up, than one which uses one step up on SMS language.

Which news websites, and news articles are the most popular? Surely websites such as Wired with their very long articles. Surely articles such as those that can be found in: the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, the British Guardian. The articles these services produce are lengthy, detailed and often require scrolling down through long reams of text. Newsletters have also once again become popular. The type of newsletter which is popular is not short and sweet. It is the type of newsletter that is worth the effort and the nuisance of having another email in your inbox each day. The newsletters I subscribe to tend to be long form newsletters. They tend to require scrolling and much reading. The type of newsletter I have unsubscribed from and banished from my inbox: is the type which is short and sweet and uses simple language. I take no interest in that sort of email. It is not worth my efforts in opening it.

Imagine if newspapers instead of having a headline and five pages on that headline, did what many newspapers are attempting to do with online: had five small headlines on the front page, each with an article of only 100 words. Imagine if that newspaper only had one headline, with a big image: and only 100 words on the headline topic. Would you still buy the newspaper for the headline? After all old wisdom says that newspaper headlines sell the newspaper. I certainly would not buy a newspaper for the headline if the newspaper only had 100 words on the headline topic. 100 words are not enough to be worth the price of 5 Rand or 10 Rand to me. Certainly, there are newspapers such as the Johannesburg Star: which while each article is quite short, have such a broad basis: that in a sense the entire newspaper is one article, possibly worth reading cover to cover.

The question arises as to why people still listen to news radio when news television has come out. Why for instance might I listen to a podcast of 60 minutes of radio news out of America, where I can watch television news for 60 minutes instead? News radio flourishes for the same reason that long form articles have continue to exist despite a decline in news media. If I listen to news radio, for instance RFI, I gain a lot more detail and perspective on an issue. For the same reason that someone might read an entire book on an important event, and pay 100 Rand for it, or even 1000 or more Rand for it: people like to listen to radio specifically because it gives you more detail than other mediums.

If Twitter were killing newspapers: then the advertisements newspapers put on the streets, with headlines even shorter than twitter tweets: would have killed newspapers long ago. Open your average newspaper, there might be 50 stories in it. Open your average newspaper, there is a wide variety of news. Open your average magazine, are there perhaps 20 articles folded between the covers?

Why is it that short form film: that music video television channels are dying out or changing to other formats? Is it because the same music videos can be found on YouTube? Why then do television channels which show series and movies not also die out as quickly? Is it not perhaps because music videos are short and sweet? You might not go to most movies, at the cinema, but you probably watched long movies such as Star Wars, the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and so forth. The short and sweet movies could not hold your interest enough to keep you there.

People often speak about the meat and bones of something. Information-wise it consists of a thorough telling of what in fact has occurred. Many newspapers have become lazy over the years. Their articles are short and sweet. They have ceased to point out spelling mistakes. They pay their journalists next to nothing and think that an uneducated, illiterate journalist is the equivalent of a master of the English language. They have based their news on a foolish and idiotic audience, aiming at the lowest common denominator rather than taking a stand and in fact investigating what has actually occurred in the world.

Some say that news media has taken a different role in the world of blogs and citizen journalism: that of verifying fact and disputing fiction. However, many blogs and citizen journalists have that very integrity that media often lacks. I’m not speaking of the social media idiots many people have come to know. I am speaking instead of human beings with integrity, the same integrity that many successful news organisations used to hold to.

Even though I mostly disagree with their viewpoint: I love to read the British Guardian online. They are more likely to tell me the sort of details that really matter.

As many newspapers are introducing pay walls, many are doing so to their own destruction. If all I am getting is a summary, I might as well find a summary for free. If all I am paying for is someone who will give me the exact same view as I hold: I am unlikely to pay for that. Certainly, these type of articles might get a lot of shares. They get these shares to prove a point, but if they add nothing new to my worldview than I might as well not pay for them. In the world of Twitter I can gain the view of a celebrity or world government that interests me simply by subscribing to them on social media. If media is to play any role at what our future is to be: it can no longer simply be repeating the words of others. Partisan media and media which is merely a mouthpiece for another, might as well cease to exist, as the source can easily be accessed independently. If I am to buy a newspaper or buy access to an article, it needs to have meat and bones. It needs to provide me with a sustaining meal that I cannot find elsewhere. This is why magazines continue to flourish. This is why short form newspapers continue to die.

There used to be a mantra that if a site took more than eight seconds to load it would be seen as unworthy of reading. It was a mantra that people have a short attention span. Unfortunately, the same people who are easily distracted by butterflies and bees, are only distracted for a moment or so, and can easily find distraction elsewhere. They are unlikely to even remember a small distraction, and go on with their lives having forgot that they even clicked on a link or loaded the website in question that took less than eight seconds to load and remained in their memory for even less time. The problem with things that only temporarily take up but a moment of a person’s time, is that often there is no sustenance in these. I will probably not go to a restaurant and sit down only to eat a very small, unappetising meal all alone. If you want your website to get a lot of viewers in the short term, or your newspaper likewise: go ahead, be sensationalist, and take up people’s time for just a moment. They will forget you existed tomorrow, and will not thank you for it! If however you are a media organisation that desires to respect your readers and to give them the full picture that they desire, consider instead gaining a long-term audience by writing longer and more concise articles. This article has already hit almost 2000 words, if you did not stop reading it upon discovering that then you’re not the sort of person who only reads short works. You’re the sort of person who probably still buys magazines every now and again. You are the audience who will still pay to read news, but not simply news summaries. If newspapers want to survive the next hundred years, whether behind pay walls or physically: they need to relearn the art of the concise article and of providing meat and bones to the audience. They also need to relearn the importance of being not a mouthpiece, or a mere bulletin board for the important. People will not pay to simply read one view on a matter when they can gain the full perspective from several sources for free. If newspapers want to survive they need to start adhering again to audi alteram partem: they need to give the full picture in a concise and effective manner, which informs and entertains their readers in a respectful exercise of telling of the truth and of informed and intelligent opinion. This is far more the sort of work which an individual is likely to pay to consume. Think of the most famous books and plays in history. Think of War and Peace. Think of the Lord of the Rings. Think of the Odyssey and Iliad. Think of just how difficult it is to read Shakespeare or Pride and Prejudice!

When you’re done thinking of these things, realise that the long form is here to stay. Concise news is a return to history, a history where news was worth paying for! A history, that can sustain newspapers which are dying not because of the Internet but because they are not worth paying for anymore or any longer. Unless their articles once again were to become longer, of course.

Sunday 20 July 2014

Israeli war a fundraising event for HAMAS? #PrayForIsrael #PrayForGaza #PrayForPalestine #PrayForPeace

Israeli war a fundraising event for HAMAS?

You could almost set your clock by it. HAMAS and Israel are at war again. The backdrop once again lies in world events which take focus off this conflict. Israel as usual accuses HAMAS of using human shields. HAMAS supporters however point out that due to Israeli alliances with neighbouring nations, the people in the Gaza Strip are pretty much stuck in the Gaza Strip. Whether or not HAMAS has stocked Israeli targets with women and children is also a point of contention. The Gaza Strip is densely populated with an impoverished and very captive population. Dense urban fighting inevitably gives rise to high civilian casualties when people are unable to flee an area. Whether Israel should ignore consistent rocket attacks over its border, which statistically do likely kill less people than dog bites and bee stings, or consistently almost yearly: invade and enforce control against the Gaza Strip, is also a matter of much contention. There is a vast difference between a dog bite and a bee sting and intentional murder. Did Israel pamphlet the Gaza Strip telling people to flee? Did HAMAS ask civilians to crowd around their soldiers? Is dropping pamphlets upon a densely populated area where people have next to no where to go, enough to do away with the obligation not to hit civilian targets? Is HAMAS breaking international law by operating in densely populated areas?

These are not questions which are easy to answer. The fighting often resembles a blood feud. When America invaded Iraq, shockingly, children from my South African Christian junior school at the time were flown into Iraq by their parents, to be human shields in Iraqi buildings. The practice is not unknown in modern war.

So what is important about covering this blood feud? It is vital not to take sides or to report propaganda as if it were truth. Most South Africans support the Gaza Strip, leading to calls for the Israeli ambassador to be ejected from the country. Instead of such an approach, a focus not on taking sides but on attempting to encourage warfare which is less dangerous to civilians might be a better placed effort. I deeply empathise with the civilians on both sides of this intractable deadly mudslinging exercise between parties who have been fighting for decades, in what: until Palestine is recognised as its own nation is best phrased as the Israeli civil war. After all, HAMAS is not a state government, it is merely an organisation which attempts to govern, administer, and control the Gaza Strip. If there is a Palestinian government it is the one situated in the West Bank, once just as much under the horror of violence and war as the Gaza Strip currently is.

What is important is the humanity of the situation: creating humanitarian corridors and means of escape for the population of the Gaza Strip are vital measures that ought to have been taken already and should be taken for the sake of the innate value of every member of the humankind. Creating humanitarian ceasefires for the caring of the injured, the endangered and the ill is important. The focus should not be the blood feud, revenge, and the annihilation of opposing parties. The focus should be upon keeping civilians safe. It does not matter whether these civilians, by their own stupidity are volunteering to be human shields, or whether they simply cannot flee their homes to escape disaster. What matters is protecting noncombatants in this horrendous war in which no one is entirely innocent except the civilians. Pray both for the civilians of Israel, who for years have lived in terror and deep fear of death and utter annihilation among nations that have often been deeply hostile to their mere existence, and for the nations around Israel who have feared it for many years, and especially for the civilians in the Gaza Strip who have only ever known consistent returns to war, mixed amongst the ardour of extreme poverty and little control over their own lives.

The question then is whether or not HAMAS is benefited or hurt by Israel's invasions? For me the answer is clear: just as Israeli politicians who invade Gaza gain the support of the populous, HAMAS is legitimised with every civilian that dies at the hands of an Israeli soldier. Every time Israel invades the Gaza Strip, HAMAS gains more legitimacy in the international scene, as their supporters point to the lopsided death count in every invasion. War is maintained by war. Peace is maintained by peace. Hamas have their legitimacy amongst the Palestinian people, as their protector against Israel. These people, until such time as a two state solution is gained: are Israeli people. The people who are killed in the Gaza Strip, including Hamas militants are Israelis. Let us not assume that simply because they have been herded like cattle, by fear and opposing sides over decades: that the people of the Gaza Strip have chosen either side in this conflict and are not simply attempting to survive as best they can. Just as American drone strikes have turned Al Qaeda into not a small Afghani organisation but an intercontinental fighting force, through the civilian deaths that had been wrought: Israel is not securing its border by giving the world a civilian death count, whether the deaths resemble human shields, prisoners of ideology, or hapless victims in the wrong place at the wrong time, simply attempting to survive another day in subhuman conditions wrought by consistent conflict and fear.

The arguments of both Israel and Hamas bear a lot of weight. Israel should not suffer under consistent terror of missile launches. The Gaza Strip should not be a prison of stateless people with little to no say over the path of their lives. Hamas is an acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement. Their purpose of existence and their legitimacy if they have any is in resisting. If they had nothing to resist, if Israel spent more money on the Iron Dome, preventing Israeli deaths and ending the fear that consistently causes Israel to act in revenge against HAMAS: instead of on consistent invasions, perhaps I would not be writing this article today. Hopefully peace will one day come to the Gaza Strip, as it impossibly has to the West Bank.

But whatever happens as you read the horrific stories which come out of the situation in the Gaza Strip, be certain to take this not as a new event but as a long-standing conflict. There is history on both sides. And there are strong emotions which have had generations to foster themselves into firestorms. Focus instead on the people on both sides of the conflict, who so desperately need relief from the warfare of a blood feud.

Saturday 19 July 2014

Malaysia Airlines flight MH 17 was negligently diverted into danger without cause?

Malaysia Airlines flight MH 17 was diverted without cause?

MH 17 flew 2000 feet below the altitude that it should have been flying at, and 300 miles off course, it has emerged. The shooting down of the aircraft is similar to an accidental shooting down of a passenger
airline by the American Navy, when it confused such craft with an F-14 fighter jet, making the choice of flight path possibly a dangerous one.

According to the United Kingdom's Daily Telegraph newspaper, Flight MH 17 was 300 miles off course for a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The Telegraph quote Robert Mark, an editor of Aviation International News Safety magazine, who used the FlightAware flight tracking system, from it, declaring that the previous two weeks worth of MH 17 flights occurred 300 miles south of where the crashed MH 17 flight tracked. The Daily Telegraph looked at flights on FlightAware and discovered that the evidence lead to a conclusion that Mark was correct. Even back then, a few days ago when the story broke: Malaysia Airlines denied that the flight was any different from the route other airlines used.

At a press conference held by the Malaysian Transport Minister today, the Minister stated that MH 17 had intended to fly at 35,000 feet as usual, but had been told by the air traffic control tower to fly at 33,000 feet. The Minister did not specify why the altitude needed to be altered, the plane simply obeyed the tower instructions of the Ukrainian government. This is according to Alexey Yaroshevsky, a Russian reporter who was at the press conference. He then quotes a Malaysia Airlines spokesperson who states that the change of altitude upon request of a traffic controller was not something unusual, and that the route was deemed safe and was not taken mistakenly. According to Singapore's Today Online news service, which also verifies the altitude change and belief that the route was safe: Malaysia Airlines also felt the need to do their own track analysis and found the route was safe, flying over eastern Ukrainian airspace was not an error or a mistake. Today Online however mentions, crediting the press conference, that the aircraft was told to fly at 33,000 feet, 'due to other traffic'. It is uncertain whether or not Today and the Russian journalist both are paraphrasing an instruction from air traffic control, or if one or other misheard or is mistaken.

Most media are drawing comparisons to 1987, when in the September of that year, Korean Air Flight 007 from Anchorage, Alaska to Seoul, South Korea: was shot down by a Soviet fighter jet. American President Ronald Reagan, according to the Global Post had just called the Soviet nation an 'evil Empire', and the American government had announced the development of the Star Wars missile defence system. American spy planes, specifically Boeing RC 135 aircraft, which are similar to civilian airliners, had been deployed to patrol the specific part of the world that the Korean Air Flight 007 had been in. Flight 007, the Global Post relays: was 200 miles off course into Soviet territory and the Soviets shot it down after firing tracers and receiving no response but not contacting the crew via radio. 269 people on board including a Georgia, USA American Congressman lost their lives in the incident.

The Global Post also relay the October 4, 2001 incident where Ukrainian forces shot down a Russian Siberian Airlines aircraft carrying 78 civilians at 35,000 feet. The craft, they relay, was downed into the Black Sea, killing all on board in an accident caused while Ukraine was conducting war games in the area.

The incident which is closest to the current incident however, shows just how much Ukraine authorities were playing God and risking the lives of the Malaysian Airlines passengers and crew. Iran Air Flight 655, on July 3, 1988, containing almost 300 people, including 66 children, was shot down by an American Navy ship, the USS Vincennes. The Americans believed that Flight 655 was an enemy F-14 fighter jet and fired a pair of surface-to-air missiles upon it in anger. 290 people were killed, in what the American government four years later, according to the Global Post: admitted was the Iranian waters.

Libyan Airlines Flight 114 from Tripoli to Cairo was shot down in 1973 when it veered into Israeli territory, resulting in at least 100 deaths. One of the copilots survived and flight path information on board suggested the pilots believed they were still in Egyptian airspace. Israeli fighter jets had signalled the aircraft to land, and shot it down when it did not.

These incidents all suggest a number of things: one of which is that it takes a trained operator to determine whether a radar blip is a spy plane, a fighter jet, or a passenger plane carrying innocents. A plane flying 300 miles off course, and at 33,000 feet rather than 35,000 feet for no apparent reason, certainly risked looking like one of the many Ukrainian military aircraft assigned to kill or assist in the killing of rebels in eastern Ukraine. These aircraft were being shot down over this exact region. Rebel forces had recently bragged that they had captured the exact missiles which are suspected to have shot down the plane, from the Ukrainian army which was positioned there to prevent Russian aircraft from entering the airspace.

Ukraine has proudly released a transcript of Ukrainian rebels believing they had shot down a Ukrainian military transport plane, and then discovering it was what their purported code word combination for a civilian aircraft is. Ukrainians also released an apparent transcript of Russian intelligence communicating with rebels about the incident. This suggests that the Ukrainian military has all access to the communications that rebels engage in. It also suggests that the Ukrainian military had evidence that the Russians were in control of events on the ground or influencing them, but has not come forward with this evidence before now. The evidence was in the form of a transcript in English not Russian, appearing in the English language Kiev Post. It also suggests that Russian intelligence is incredibly sloppy and utterly stupid to have allowed their important communications to be so easily intercepted if this is true.

Whether intentional, negligence, or a mere accident, the unusual behaviour of Flight MH 17 as instructed by Ukrainian air authorities and Malaysia Airlines: put it into clear and imminent danger. If the systems of Malaysia Airlines do not suggest that the flight was 200 miles off course as would be the truth if the press conference is to be believed, it might give a clue as to why another Malaysian aircraft of the same model disappeared just recently, likely killing all on board.

Shooting down an airliner which is not flying at the usual height, and is flying 200 miles off its usual course, is an easy mistake for an amateur or even some professionals to make if the stories about America shooting down an Iranian aircraft are to be believed. Placing that aircraft in that position when plane after plane was being shot down in the area is more than negligent, it borders on culpability. Ukraine has a responsibility to keep its airspace safe to travel in in accordance with international law. If it emerges that rebels stole Ukrainian missile technology, and fired upon the plane, it adds to the negligence of Ukraine in this scenario. The American army cannot be blamed for the Islamic State of Iraq using their weapons upon Iraqi civilians and Christians, weapons they donated to a war against the sovereign State of Syria. If Russia is supporting rebels in Ukraine, it does not make them responsible for the actions of every rebel group, although a case where America did something similar in South America might suggest Ukraine has a case in international law against Russia for damages monetarily if Russia is behind the rebellion against Kiev.

What is essential is that a proper investigation is done and that the results are not turned into ammunition for propaganda and war. Jumping the gun at this moment would land the world where MH 17 now lies.

C. F. The Global Post | 'The US once shot down a commercial airliner too' by Laura Colarusso at July 17, 2014 20:17.

C.F. The Daily Telegraph | 'Crashed MH17 flight 'was 300 miles off typical course'' by m Brooks-Pollock, and Edward Malnick at 10:25AM BST 18 Jul 2014.

Malaysian airlines spokesman: change of altitude upon requestof air traffic controlers is not something out of ordinary
— Alexey Yaroshevsky (@Yaro_RT) July 19, 2014

Friday 18 July 2014

Brinksmanship in the Ukrainian proto–war risks a globalised end–game destabilising many nations!

Brinksmanship in the Ukrainian proto–war risks a globalised end–game, destabilising what little world order exists today!

I pride myself on my ability to see through the fog of war. I also pride myself on not ultimately being a supporter of either side: but of peace and stability and a return to balance between the global powers. If Russia is pushed too far, the global order will certainly change and not for the better. A bit of perspective and the power of restraint is all that stands between the world we live in now and a new and dastardly highly escalated Cold War. Already the heightening of the tensions between Russia and America, has seen a massive increase in conflicts around the world, in marine expansionism by China, and a massive drop in business confidence in the future of the most populous nations of the world. An unstable world is a world where conflict and the rise of violent groups are almost assured.

Push the economy of a country to the brink, and war becomes almost inevitable. It was the sanctions against Germany which enabled Hitler to take power and keep it. Sanctions against South Africa's apartheid regime united South Africans behind the evil programme.

The Art of War, a favourite book of mine sets forth the deep importance of strategy in every action. Whether the author of the book was ever a general or ever executed the concubines of its patron: his works have guided China for over a millennium. It is utterly vital to know when to go to war and how to go about it. The American sanctions had been nothing but brinkmanship, and their escalation on issues where there was little hope of changing the mind of the Russians: has further polarised the world. If Russia has been supplying rebels with weapons, it is little different to America and her allies doing the same in Syria: except that Syria is not right next to America. The helicopters and planes which have, prior to the big event, been shot down by rebels: were transporting military personnel, or engaged in military activities against the population of Ukraine. The government of Ukraine only declared a ceasefire for just long enough to sign a European treaty, before ending the ceasefire and declaring there would not be another until rebels lay down arms or were defeated. It was a short time ago that a democratically elected Ukrainian president was ousted by armed rioting in the streets. Before this ousting however, Western media reported that Russia might invade Ukraine: when Russia had no reason as yet to do so. Western media have consistently gone with the narrative that separatists are pro-Russian and terrorists. As I have reported before: many of those fighting are not separatists and are not terrorists: they are certainly not pro-Russian either. What they are is opponents of the Ukrainian government. Whenever Russia has given them a public order to obey, they have directly disobeyed.

During the Cuban missile crisis John F. Kennedy was said to have informed the Russians that he did not control the American army: the Russians subsequently stood down and did not supply Cuba with nuclear weapons to protect it. While President Putin of Russia has become wildly popular through the annexation of what historically was Russian Crimea, and all the more so as sanctions have piled up: the truth is that Russia has next to no control of Ukrainian rebel forces. Russia could close the border, which has been flooded with refugees. Russia has consistently called for a political solution to the problem. Either Russia was being two-faced, and wants a major conflict right on its border: or it actually does not control what is happening in Ukraine. Russia's army, while one of the premier armies in the world: is not a uniform fighting force. There is much corruption in the Russian ranks. There is every chance that a Russian battalion fired a missile at the Malaysia Airlines flight MH 17. There is also every chance that certain elements of the Russian army have been galvanised into supplying weapons and assistance to the Ukrainian rebels. It is possible of course that Russia, with the support of Vladimir Putin is directly involved in events on the ground in Ukraine.

The problem with this is that Putin is not a king but a businessman. Russia is often connected with the concept of oligarchy. Putin has dedicated himself to improving Russia's business interests and thus his own business interests as well. Popularity is great but not essential for Putin to remain on Russia's throne. Russia could have cut off gas to Europe, it has not done so because it does not make business sense to. When JFK did not control the American army during the Cuban missile crisis: he did not publicise it but quietly informed the Russians of it. If Ukrainian rebels or Russian forces shot down the passenger jet: if anything it is evidence that Putin does not control them. The beautiful thing about countries such as Russia or China is that they are governed first and foremost by self-interest. Anything that harms Russia on the global scale is not something Russia is likely to pursue. If an airliner was accidentally shot down: as the Ukrainians in fact claim: then this is a sign that Russia does not control the rebels. Russia or Russian forces, notorious for corruption and the selling of arms: could well have supplied such weaponry, but an accidental shooting is very different from an intentional downing of an aircraft. The high likelihood, that rebel claims, that they had captured missile systems from the Ukrainian army, are factual, might suggest that a lack of Russian involvement in the conflict is to blame. If the plane was shot down by accident: it means those who were operating the missile system were not properly trained. It means that rebel attempts to get Russian forces to train them with the system, likely failed.

Just prior the downing of the aircraft, Washington had imposed essentially sectoral sanctions on the Russian economy. Massive sanctions on matters where sanctions are not effective, means that little more can be done on matters where sanctions are effective. Without already being under harsh sanctions, the business state of Russia would be unlikely to for instance invade Ukraine or for that matter Eastern Europe. If Russia is pushed into enough of a corner, it no longer has as much to lose! The more sanctions are ineffectually used, the less potential fallout Russia has should it take measures befitting the sanctions which have been enacted against it. Russia remains a powerful military and nuclear state. The actions of the Russian President Vladimir Putin have been widely popular among the population and the army of Russia. Putin essentially is a pragmatist. He loves his country but he also loves business. Putin has no interest in isolating Russia from the nations of the world. The Russian army on the other hand is driven largely by patriotism and the odd corruption here and there. Countries with weak economies are often countries which turn to violence. It is widely known that Al Qaeda has thrived in the nations which have weak economies. Fanaticism thrives among those with little to lose. Putin the pragmatist, has harnessed Russian nationalism to business ends. That same deep patriotism has seen his actions in Ukraine fully supported among Russians who might well even look favourably upon invasion not just of Ukraine but of all of the former USSR. For now Putin continues to pander to the West. Russia has not sent their powerful troops into Ukraine. Russia has not invaded its neighbouring nations and toppled the authorities there. Russia has found it beneficial to remain a part of the global community.

Sanctions against Russia now would add little to the sanctions already against Russia. Already Russia has responded by reigniting old Soviet alliances. It has punished its ally South Africa by insisting the BRICS bank be headquartered in Shanghai, China. South Africa is a non-aligned nation. South Africa has just signed a trade treaty with Europe. South Africa is the most Western nation among the BRICS, and in its home theatre of Africa itself. Russia has strengthened Cuba and reinforced alliances in South America. The old divide of the world was into three worlds: the first world which is allied with America, the second which allies itself to Russia, and the third being the non-aligned movement of which South Africa is currently a leading light. This divide is slowly reemerging over Ukraine and a few other issues.

Western politicians no doubt feel that punishing Russia for what has happened in Ukraine will bring them popularity at home. The problem is that Russia has become a business state, primarily concerned with the making of money. This is a problem which is beneficial to the world. What is problematic about it is that if you take away Russia's incentive to be a business state: you make it highly beneficial for Russia to resume its past as a Soviet state. There is a saying that when a leader survives an assassination attempt he is in power for life. Isolating Russia will only strengthen Putin among Russians. Russia, the nationstate, did not shoot down the plane, although someone somewhere did. Whoever did shoot down the plane did so in a war zone.

How should world leaders react to this scenario? Obama no doubt will fully support Ukraine as will his allies. Wiser nations such as Nigeria have called for a deescalation in Ukraine. This is the path the world needs to follow. Whether Russia is guilty or innocent of the downing of the airline: the consequences should they be punished are grave for the entire world. What needs to happen is a deescalation. It does not matter who wins or loses. Balance must be restored. The only alternative is this: a return to the conflict once called the Cold War. We as a world cannot afford to re-enter such a state. It does not matter who is guilty in the vile murder of about 300 people, or at least it does not matter as much as the consequences if their deaths lead to war and not to peace.

Russia has called for a ceasefire on both sides in the Ukrainian conflict. Perhaps if Ukraine were to offer to withdraw their forces in exchange for Russia closing the border: perhaps that would de-escalate a lot. As long as Russia are the only nation who are accountable for anything that occurs in their neighbouring nation Ukraine: it is unlikely the conflict will come to any resolution whatsoever. Putin at this stage cannot afford to lose face. He has always been a pragmatist interested in maintaining his own business interests. He does not control the rebels and he does not control Russian militia. When Germany faced massive sanctions, a government response of submission gave rise to the success of Hitler and his Nazi party. Russian nationalism is at an all time high. Foreigners are in danger on the streets of Moscow. Putin is not the enemy of the Western world but merely an opportunist. There are however plenty of enemies of the West sitting in prefabricated houses across Russia.

Brinkmanship, and standing in stadiums screaming out unlikely to be adhered to ultimatums and meeting out punishments: may well gain a lot of support among a population. What is needed now however is patience and a yearning for peace. It does not matter who shot down the plane in question, so much as it matters whether or not such a question is worth the destruction of the entire world should Russia no longer have anything to lose and should it subsequently only be able to gain its interests and the life of its people by means of war and unlawful activities.

Let us honour the dead by peace, by perhaps discovering who murdered them: but not by piling up the streets with yet more dead, through the brinkmanship of ill-advised self-serving politicians. The conflict in Ukraine must now come to an end for the sake of humanity itself and of the world we inhabit.

Sunday 6 July 2014

Has immigration reform in the Republic of South Africa been motivated by hatred of foreigners?

Has immigration reform in the Republic of South Africa been motivated by hatred of foreigners?

Are the new visa requirements being placed upon foreigners intent upon entry into South Africa: a government attempt to accommodate xenophobia, or a reasonable attempt to secure our borders?

A few years ago the hunting industry were up in arms, releasing a bugle call through their accomplice, the media, in a desperate attempt to stave off South Africa’s still standing new firearms regulations. The industry claimed that the economy would lose at least a billion from its important GDP (gross domestic product) figures. The regulations went ahead nonetheless. South Africa very seldom bases its policy upon the interests of the various business or society lobbies.

With major international movies and television series being shot significantly, or largely, or exclusively in the Republic of South Africa, the entertainment industry, especially in the Western Cape, has seen a major boon. Like Costa Rica or Canada: South Africa had set itself apart as a cheap and easy place to film a major production, especially those set elsewhere. International actors could be quickly flown in and paid in full for the scenes they shot. Unlike Canada, where a good portion of actors have to be local, international companies seem to prefer to avoid the South African distinctive accent. For these filmings to continue we are told: these international companies should be able to continue fully importing their labour force, and merely using South Africa as staging ground. Perhaps then South Africans could have hundreds of thousands of jobs, feeding and serving these foreign actors. After all, international productions still do need lowly paid extras in nonspeaking roles and uncredited stagehands to ensure everything goes smoothly.

Just as was the case when the hunting industry made a call to arms: it is highly unlikely that the government will listen to the concerns of the film industry. The government has their own researchers and their own economists. It is rare for the government to rely on outsiders to make their decisions. Granted, South Africa is a participatory democracy. The government certainly must take account of the views of industry and civil society, but it is generally the case that the government goes with its own research. It is unlikely that any amount of campaigning will cause the government to about turn, even if hundreds of thousands of lowly paid jobs are lost.

America and Britain, similarly, have very strict visa restrictions. South Africa, previously known for the weakness or liberal status of its immigration laws has been ideal for international film corporations, who like to ship actors in at the last minute in accordance with a tight and dynamic schedule.

South Africa faces very few external threats that its intelligence organisations have not been able to snuff out quietly and effectively. What it also faces is status as a nation sometimes called the America of Africa. Immigrants from across the theatres of war which have overcome large parts of the continent, in hope to find sanctuary and safe harbour in a nation once only known as a harbour for ships: have been swift to latch onto low-paying jobs. They have always been quick as well to apply for government benefits that many South Africans did not know existed. Among the results has perhaps been the deep xenophobia that a plurality of South Africans have been diagnosed with. Most black South Africans according to recent surveys: have a deeply negative view of non-South-African Africans. This is especially so among those who struggle to eke out an un-lavish existence in rural areas and shantytowns. These people directly compete with refugees, and migrants seeking the betterment of their lives, from a place South Africans call ‘Africa’ or ‘Up North’.

Most of the temporary immigrants who come to South Africa to film are not from Africa but from Europe and America. Some critics have pointed out that simply applying stricter visa regulations to immigrants from Africa: would prevent the movie industry experiencing massive losses.

There is very little xenophobia among South Africans for people from anywhere but Africa. The same regulations in their laxity which have allowed the film industry to blossom: have also been a godsend for destitute refugees fleeing to South Africa.

As I have stated many times: GDP is a false indicator. Lumping all parts of a population together, and counting the wins of a small part as though they were the wins of all the population: is an artificial measure. Likewise: jobs which are lost are sometimes somehow replaced with better jobs.

It is easier for us who do not compete with foreigners for low-paying entry-level jobs: to condemn the xenophobia of those who do, and it is those who are best off in the economy who have the least proportional demographic of xenophobic individuals. We might well compete with foreigners on an international level. However, competition relates to something where one person bests another. That is to say that the person who is better at a thing or can do it cheaper succeeds over another who is less of an asset to those who consume the services of these individuals, while the less efficient, less cost saving or less effective competitor fails. The South African government did not step in to save the textile industry, when it allowed cheap imports from China and similar massive job losses were incurred. The government did not step in to save the hunting industry and the sports weaponry industry when it introduced new gun regulations.

South Africa is struck by a unique dilemma: to compete with other destinations for the filming of international media productions: these productions must hire foreign staff who are brought in through easy visas. Competition will always exist for South Africa. South Africans cannot do the jobs of these foreigners to the satisfaction of the foreign film companies. These visa restrictions make it harder for these productions to hire foreigners. As a result of which the industry believes it will fail. The industry does not believe that South Africans could do the same job as these foreigners do. It is therefore begging the government to allow foreigners to take jobs in South Africa: because it does not believe that if South Africans had to be relied upon as the labour pool for these organisations: that the industry could compete with other international destinations.

The industry has a very free-market approach as opposed to the protectionism that a visa affords. Ultimately a visa is almost always a protectionist measure. A government does not desire its own citizens to have to compete with the best in the world. As a result such a country becomes less competitive on the global scale and less attractive to business.

It is highly likely that the government is seeking to combat things such as human trafficking, drug smuggling, and many other criminal enterprises. It is equally likely that the government desires at least some of the roles of productions filmed in South Africa to be removed from foreigners who are brought in and that the desire of those in power is for these jobs to be placed in South African laps.

The argument of industry is ultimately this: international productions would not want to film in South Africa if they were forced to use South African actors. The visa regulations are likely largely in response to the massive rise in xenophobic attacks across South Africa. When lives are at stake in the mind of the government, a couple of job losses usually take a secondary position of importance. Whether the easy influx of foreigners and deeply liberal immigration laws of South Africa are the reason for the xenophobic attacks, or whether an alleged culture of violence and a deficit in the devotion of resources to security forces and to those engaged in policing are to blame: the new visa requirements no doubt will be welcomed most gleefully among the poorer parts of South Africa who have seen jobs they once made a living out of being taken by desperate foreigners who would do their job for far less.

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