Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Malema has matured

Please forgive me if the title of this post sounds like the condescending musings of an old fart grumbling about “the youth of today”. I suppose that’s what I am, even if I don’t want it to sound that way. And perhaps I’m writing for other old farts who think that Julius Malema is a bumptious young whippersnapper who still has a lot to learn. But I’m not as old as Robert Mugabe, and Julius Malema has rumbled him. And he’s seen through Jake the Fake. Julius Malema has shown that he can, and does, learn from experience, which crusty old farts like Jake the Fake and Mad Bob Mugabe evidently don’t.

Compare, for example, these two articles — Zimbabwe Government Mocks ‘Falsely Radical’ Malema Over Talks:

The Zimbabwe government has lambasted EFF leader, Julius Malema for being a coward.

The Mugabe led-government simply described Malema as a “young and impressionable” leader; who has turned himself into a weapon that fights against liberation movements “on behalf of imperialism”.

How’s that for a bunch of old farts telling a young whippersnapper to grow up?

But compare and contrast that with what happened when Julius Malema visited Zimbabwe only six years ago. There’s a big difference.

And when you’ve read those two, try this — Zimbabwe, Malema & the Court Jesters | The Con:

Former ANC Youth League president and current Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Juluis Malema who is often problematised and perhaps even celebrated by the mainstream media as a South African court jester is perhaps one of the most volatile voices in the public sphere.

Politicians have always employed performative techniques, to rally and garner support from their constituencies. Clive Gaser suggests that there has always been a sense of militancy in the conduct of leaders of the Youth League — performativity is not only specific to Malema. It was apparent in Malema’s predecessors.

I still think that the EFF is better at identifying problems than coming up with solutions but give it time. At least the EFF is identifying bogus causes for problems. The ANC has been blaming apartheid for poor service delivery, but Malema: ANC should stop blaming apartheid for not delivering | IOL:

The African National Congress should stop using the apartheid legacy for not delivering services to the people, Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema said on Sunday.

Speaking at an EFF August 3 municipal elections rally at the Zamdela Stadium in Sasolburg in the Free State, Malema lambasted the ANC leadership, saying the party was still using the apartheid legacy to cover incompetency and did not “care about black people”.

Apartheid is to blame for many things, but poor service delivery in municipalities that the ANC has controlled for the last 15 years is not one of them.

Mugabe, Malema and the future of South AfricaFor example, in the City of Tshwane, where I live, rubbish collection has been outsourced and privatised in the approved Thatcherist fashion. That was done by the ANC.

Why is this a bad idea?

Some time ago the municipality introduced wheelie bins and specialised rubbish collection lorries to pick them up in an automated process. The lorries were designed to compact the rubbish so that they would have to make fewer wasteful trips to the dump.

Since the rubbish collection was privatised, it has gradually reverted to a much more primitive process. Some rubbish lorries are simply a cage made of diamond-mesh fencing, into which the bins are manually emptied. Even some of the purpose-built ones look old and badly maintained.

The reason is not far to seek. If you tender for a rubbish-collection contract for three years, and it is uncertain whether it will be renewed after that period, but it might be given to someone else, there is little point in investing in specialised equipment. If you don’t get the contract, who will you sell it to? If the contract isn’t renewed, that cuts your losses.

Julius Malema Launches EFFOf course if the contract isn’t renewed, the workers might also lose their jobs. By their very nature, contractors for such services are inclined to employ casual labour, so the workers are unlikely to have such benefits as pensions or medical aid or job security. This was done by the ANC; it was not done in the apartheid period. The Tshwane Municipality has done some good things too, and I think it is one of the better-run municipalities in the country, but failures in service delivery in 2016 are not the fault of apartheid.

So it seems to me that though in the past Julius Malema took a shotgun approach to identifying problems, just blasting away in the hope that something would hit the target, he is now adopting a more pinpoint approach, trying to identify the real cause. I don’t know if the EFF will control any municipalities after the local government elections on 3 August, but even if they don’t control any, they could be useful watchdogs, keeping the other councillors on their toes.

 

 

Old friends and early spring

This has been a week of re-establishing contact with old friends whom we havent seen for many years.

On Monday we went to Johannesburg to see Pat and Barry Schmidt, whom we knew in Melmoth more than 30 years ago. For the last 21 years they have been living in Queensland, Australia, and we have been in contact with them through Facebook, but they were visiting South Africa, and it was much more satisfactory to chat face-to-face. They were staying with Dareth and Anne Baker, whom we had also met when they visited Melmoth.

Pat & Barry Schmidt, Steve & Val Hayes

Pat & Barry Schmidt, Steve & Val Hayes

On the way home we left the highway at New Road in Midrand to avoid the tolled sections, and went to a relatively new shopping centre, called the Carlsbad Lifestyle Shopping Centre — lifestyles to suit every taste and pocket, presumably. We had lunch at Piatta’s restaurant, where they were offering a special for Mandela Day: 200g rump steak, and one veg, and a glass of wine for R67.00. Not bad for these days, and it was very good. But I looked in my diary and saw that 40 years ago, in July 1976, we had had dinner at the Caister Hotel in Durban with Val’s parents. They had a carvery — three-course meal, soup, main course and pudding. A choice of roast beef, pork and mutton, and a large variety of vegetables, as many or as few, and as much and as little as you choose. The price? R3.40.

Piatto Restaurand at the Carlsbad Lifestyle Shopping Centre in Midrand

Piatto Restaurand at the Carlsbad “Lifestyle Shopping Centre” in Midrand

We resumed our homeward journey, off the tollway, and passed St Sergius Church, whose domes were looking rather nice in the afternoon light.

St Sergius Orthodox Church, Noordwyk, Midrand

St Sergius Orthodox Church, Noordwyk, Midrand

When we got closer to home we saw a strange sight — spring blossoms in Magnolia Dell. This was 18th July, less than a month after the winter solstice, so still really midwinter. Global warming? We have had no frost at all this winter, so it feels that winter hasn’t properly begun yet, and suddenly there are signs of its ending.

Spring blossoms in mid-winter: Magnolia Dell, Pretoria, Tshwane, 18 July 2016

Spring blossoms in mid-winter: Magnolia Dell, Pretoria, Tshwane, 18 July 2016

And then today we had lunch with Allan Anderson, a former colleague in the Missiology Department of the University of South Africa, who has been at a theological research institute at the University of Birmingham in the UK, for research into Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity.

Allan Anderson & Steve Hayes, 21 July 2016

Allan Anderson & Steve Hayes, 21 July 2016

As we are wroking in similar fields, we had a lot of catching up to do.

 

 

A who’s who of writers and scurrilous gossip column

Palimpsest: A MemoirPalimpsest: A Memoir by Gore Vidal
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m not quite sure why I took this book out of the library. I sometimes find that I like literary biographies of authors more than the books they wrote, and I’ve never read any books by Gore Vidal.

After reading this one, I’m still not sure if I’ll read any others, but I found this one quite interesting, and in many places, especially the earlier part, witty and humorous. As the title suggests, he jumps backwards and forwards in time, sometimes writing over what he has already written, and sometimes the chronology is a little confusing, especially when discussing people he had known for a long time.

As a writer he met lots of other writers, and the book is a cross between a literary who’s who and a scurrilous gossip column. On the whole, however, he didn’t much like the company of other writers, even though he had met quite a lot of them, and he seems to have had fallings out with those he knew quite well, among whom were Tennessee Williams the playwright and Truman Capote the novelist. I was most interested in what he said about Beat Generation writers, as I have been particularly interested in them, and he knew Allen Ginsberg quite well, and had met some of the others, including Jack Kerouac, in whose book The Subterraneans he appeared as Arial Lavalina.

There is also quite a lot of political gossip, which throws an interesting light on American politics in the early 1960s. Vidal and Jackie Kennedy Onassis shared a common stepfather, whom both of their mothers had married for his money. Vidal himself even stood (or ran) for election at the time that Jack Kennedy was running for President, though he did not have a high opinion of most of the other members of the Kennedy administration, or of Kennedy himself, whom he regarded as a warmonger.

Concerning his own life, Vidal hated his mother, and had only one true love, Jimmy Trimble, whom he met at school, and they were lovers from the age of 12 until the age of 19, when Jimmy Trimble was killed in the Second World War. Thereafter Vidal had a preference for casual anonymous sex, a preference which, he says, he shared with Jack Kennedy, and thought sex was inimical to friendship. He did have a lifelong companion, but according to Vidal their relationship was premissed on “no sex”.

Vidal was also involved in film and television, and wrote several plays, some for television, some for the stage, and he also wrote the screenplay for several films. As a result quite a lot of his personal reminiscences involve actors, directors and producers in the film industry, and it is only his acerbic wit that keeps the parts of his book that deals with them from being a standard celeb gossip column.

An enjoyable read, and quite illuminating, but I’m still not sure if I’ll try to read any of his fiction.

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Authors familiar and unfamiliar

A friend asked on Twitter whether people read anything by authors that were unfamiliar to them, and I thought that if an answer to that was to be worthwhile, it needed to be longer than 140 characters, so here are some thoughts about it.

Yesterday I went to the Alkantrant branch of the Tshwane public library, and for the first time I went armed with a list of books and authors to look for. Usually I just browse the shelves and pick out anything that looks interesting, but this time I had a list of books that had been recommended by various people, a bucket list of books, as it were.

So here are the books I found:

Actually only one of them was on the recommended list of authors I hadn’t read, the John Banville one. I had read another book by Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf, which I read about 50 years ago. And the recommended book by Jessica Anderson was Tirra Lirra, by the river, but that wasn’t on the shelf at the library, though she does count as an unfamiliar author.

And then I went browsing for some non-fiction (not on my list), and found this:

Palimpsest: A MemoirPalimpsest: A Memoir by Gore Vidal

I’m not quite sure why I took this book out of the library. I sometimes find that I like literary biographies of authors more than the books they wrote, and I’ve never read any books by Gore Vidal. In my youth I was vaguely confused about Gore Vidal and Vidal Sassoon, who were both celebs at the time, though I wasn’t quite sure what the cause of their celebrity was.

Much later a relative in New Zealand sent a transcript he had made of my wife Val’s great great granduncle’s diary. He was Edward Lister Green (1827-1887). In it he describes travelling by ship from Bombay to Hong Kong, and striking up a friendship with David Sassoon, the “million heir” (I wondered whether that was the normal spelling of “millionaire” at the time, or just an elaborate private pun). That got me reading The Sassoon dynasty, about this remarkable family of Iraqi Jews whose business in Bombay (now spelt Mumbai) expanded over most of southern and eastern Asia. I also read Siegfried Sassoon the biography of the poet, who was a member of the same family, as was the Vidal Sassoon who provided a very tenuous link with Gore Vidal.

When I’ve finished reading those (or abandoned them, if I don’t like them) I still have these on my list:

Anderson, Jessica — Tirra lirra by the river
Bell, Sara Hanna — December Bride
Burgess, Anthony — Earthly powers
Byatt, A.S. — The children’s book
de Bernieres, Louis — Captain Corelli’s mandolin
DeLillo, Don — Underworld
Hosseini, Khaled — The kite runner
Kadare, Ismail — The successor
Tartt, Donna — The secret history

Not all those are unfamiliar authors either — I’ve read other books by A.S. Byatt and Ismail Kadare — the latter I had never heard of until we were sitting in a cafe in Tirana, Albania, and our friend told us that Kadare was sitting at the next table and was the most famous author in Albania. A little while earlier we had seen the most famous film star in Albania, riding his bicycle down the street, but I forget his name.

So this might be the appropriate point to mention the last book I got from the library, though it’s not on the list and I was browsing the shelves in the non-fiction section.

Albania: The Bradt Travel GuideAlbania: The Bradt Travel Guide by Gillian Gloyer

One normally reads travel guides before one visits a country. If you find it useful, you might take it with you on your visit, but I visited Albania 16 years ago and I’m unlikely ever to travel there again unless we win the Lotto, which is unlikely even if I do remember to buy a ticket. So I took this book out of the library to remind me of our previous visit. Apart from anything else, I don’t think this book was available when we visited Albania in 2000 — the first edition seems to have been published in 2005.

So it’s really for the memories, and perhaps to find out a bit more about the places and things we saw.

And I’m looking forward to tomorrow, when we have our Neo-Inklings Literary Coffee Klatsch, and Duncan Reyburn will be telling us something about G.K. Chesterton. Chesterton is not an unfamiliar author to me, though I’ve only read a few of his books. And if anyone is interested, and living in or near Tshwane, come and join us at Cafe 41 in Eastwood Road (opposite the US Embassy) at 10:30 am on Thursday 7 July 2016.

 

 

Expecting the unexpected: UK leaving the EU

For the past few weeks I’ve been reading stuff people have written about the pros and cons of the UK staying in the EU, but I get the impression that few people thought about the real meaning of leaving until it suddenly became a real possibility after the referendum.

I don’t have a dog in this fight, so if I were a Brit voter I would have been undecided, at least on the merits of the question.

On factors quite unrelated to the merits of the question, however, the poisonous rhetoric of the advocates of leaving might have inclined me to the “remain” side. The “leave” advocates seemed to appeal to the worst motives and impulses in human nature.

Not only that, but the “leave” campaign turned out to the thoroughly dishonest, and did their best to mislead the voters with lies, and making promises they had no intention of keeping — this, for example:

A campaign promise that was repudiated the following day as a"mistake"

A campaign promise that was repudiated the following day as a “mistake”

Now that it’s over, I see there might be a possibility for the reunification of Ireland, and for Scotland to apply to rejoin the EU on its own. Perhaps that would mean that the English would need passports to
cross the Tweed. I don’t think anyone expected those as possibilities, but they’ve suddenly appeared, like new islands after a volcanic eruption.

And it seems to me that they are quite positive possibilities.  I suppose that is the result of reading a book about 15 years ago that pointed out that it would make little difference whether Scotland or Wales became independent or remained members of the United Kingdom, because being members of the EU would give them just as many, if not more advantages than belonging to the UK. I can’t remember whether the author envisaged England as not belonging to the EU, but if you are interested, the book is The Isles: a history by Norman Davies.

But that is rather academic and detached; looking at this from 10 000 kilometres away is being hopelessly out of touch. Fifty years ago I went to the UK to study theology at St Chad’s College in Durham. I’m still in touch with some of my friends from there, and I asked some of them for their thoughts on the topic. This is what some of them had to say:

What dark place does Britain for the British take us to?

Catastrophe. Britain has broken apart. An uprising of resentment by the left-behind has torn us in two, a country wrecked by a yawning class divide stretched wider by recession and austerity. Anger against a London establishment was deftly diverted by the Tory right and Ukip towards foreigners – enemies in Brussels and aliens in our midst. Wherever we went, the Guardian reported that same fury among those without education and opportunity, a country served right for its gross inequality. Day after day the Sun, Mail, Express, Sunday Times and Telegraph injected poison into the nation’s bloodstream with tales of foreign criminals, jihadists and scroungers. How Murdoch and Dacre will revel in their power. What of the false hopes raised for poorly paid, insecure, badly housed Brexit voters? Expecting something better, they will get much worse. “Controlling our borders”, they will expect immigrants, new and old, to be gone. They were told more housing, GP appointments and school places would be freed up from migrants. But as treasury receipts fall, there will be less of everything. Will the next call be to expel foreigners already here? What dark place does Britain for the British take us to?

Farage’s victory speech about the decent ordinary people taking back control “without a bullet fired” was unthinkably crass with an MP shot and stabbed to death in the heat of the campaign. Cameron  will no doubt be replaced by worse as the country is taken over by Tory extremists and fantasists, wild free-marketeer romantics experimenting with other people’s lives, alongside Ukip’s pernicious racism.

Ahead lie years of fractious negotiation, turning the EU into Britain’s number one enemy. The more these populist leaders need to prove this wasn’t a fatal error, the more they will blame all home-grown woes on our close neighbours. Britain has turned its back on the world. ~ Polly Toynbee

That from my friend Bob Gallagher, now a retired Anglican priest in Liverpool.

Another college friend, Frank Cranmer, who has spent most of his life in the fields of law and politics, writes:

Whatever the defects of the EU – and they are many – to leave just strikes us as barmy. Apart from anything else, London is the biggest financial centre in Europe, we depend on exporting financial services to balance our visible trade deficit and, once we leave, it’ll be much, much harder for our financial institutions to trade in Europe.

We both think that the vote went the way it did for three reasons. The first is that people outside London (and Scotland, which has its own agenda) simply haven’t experienced much in the way of the perceived economic benefits of EU membership. The second is a desire to kick politicians generally – of whatever party – in the teeth: even dedicated, lifelong Conservative and Labour voters tend increasingly to regard politicians at Westminster of whatever party as a bunch of spoilt, self-interested brats. Thirdly, as was pointed out in a very good editorial in, of all places, the Jewish Chronicle, the EU commissariat is perceived as impossibly arrogant and remote, merely telling people to shut up and take what Brussels reckons is good for them – and we’re afraid that there’s more than a grain of truth in that perception. And it wasn’t helped by a disastrous campaign on both sides. Jeremy Corbyn was particularly useless; and the level of debate rarely rose above the level of a school playground spat.

So here we are, on the way out. The likelihood is that we’ll end up as members of the EEA, still bound by almost all of the existing and future EU Directives but without any influence on their content. Alternatively, we go it alone – doing precisely what, God knows. As to passports on the Tweed, who knows? A much more serious issue is border controls in Ireland, where the border passes through people’s farms in some places.

And for a third view, here’s one from someone born in England but living in another EU country. I’ve never met her face to face, but we’ve been online friends for more than 25 years, half her lifetime and a third of mine. And I strongly recommend that you read it to the end, especially if you’re not in the UK: This is Cyprus…: Cyprus, the EU and Brexit

Well, that’s what some of my English friends think of it. As for me, I’m old enough to remember when the British wanted to join the EU (or the Common Market, as it was in those days), and President Charles de Gaulle of France blackballed them with a resounding “Non!”. This inspired the composition of the song All Gall, which is perhaps particularly poignant right now.

Eyetie, Benelux Germany and me
That’s my market recipe.

As I said, I don’t have a dog in this fight; what the Brits do is their business. Perhaps we might even gain from it, if the British are looking for new markets once Europe is closed to them, they might reinstate the system of Commonwealth preferences, and that could benefit South Africa — our wines could be much more competitive than French or German or Portuguese or Bulgarian ones. We might even be able to sell our sparking wines as champagne and our dessert wines as sherry.

That is, of course, if England doesn’t decide to hold another referendum and leave the Commonwealth as well.

And I’m not sure that Britain has much to market anywhere else since Maggie Thatcher killed their manufacturing industry and turned them into a nation of hairdressers.

 

A gun for sale

A Gun for Sale: An EntertainmentA Gun for Sale: An Entertainment by Graham Greene
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Spy novels seemed to flourish in the Cold War, especially in the 1960s and 1970s. Perhaps they were revived by the James Bond romances of Ian Fleming and given more impetus by the more serious and realistic novels of John le Carre, but they had been around for quite a while before that, and this is one set in the period of tension leading up to the Second World War. It’s only about a third of the length of many of the Cold War spy thrillers, but that, if anything makes it more readable and more sharply focused. In looking for a postwar novel in the same genre I suppose the one that comes closest is The day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth.

It’s not just a spy story, it’s a crime novel as well, and perhaps even more so. In that respect the contrast with postwar crime novels is quite marked. I’d just finished reading Blood on the Tongue, which is set in much the same area of England, and what stands out is the difference in police procedures. In the prewar novel, the police circulate numbers of stolen banknotes to shops and railway booking offices in a town the size of London with remarkable efficiency for pre-Internet days. and everyone throughout the country is aware of the description of a wanted man. This makes it very easy to trace the suspect. In post war crime novels, the police have suspects, but can’t find them, and when they do find out that they are not the perpetrators. They discover the real perpetrators by chance as often as not.

I suspect that the recent ones are more accurate, and the pre-war ones give an exaggerated idea of police efficiency and resources. Back then they never seemed to discuss the budget available for their investigations, though Graham Greene does have some digs at differences in medical treatment for people of different classes.

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Tshwane burns: Mbeki’s unheeded warning

Back in 2007 we listened to President Thabo Mbeki’s speech at the national  conference of the ANC at Polokwane. We listened to it avidly all the way home all the way home from church on Sunday. It seemed much better than most political speeches, not full of platitudes. Now the Rand Daily Mail website has republished it, and I quote one of the bits that made a vivid impression on me at the time, so vivid that I can still remember where I was at the time, driving north on the N1 passing the mint and driving under the old Johannesburg/Pretoria Road bridge Mbeki’s chilling warning in 2007: A virus is eating up the ANC from the inside | Politics | RDM:

I would like to cite a vitally important observation our Secretary General made in his Organisational Report to our 51st National Conference, five years ago.

He said: “We have also reported to the NGC (held in 2000), on the challenges being in power has on the structures of the movement. We found that the issues dividing the leadership of some of our provinces are not of a political nature, but have mainly revolved around access to resources, positioning themselves or others to access resources, dispensing patronage and in the process using organisational structures to further these goals.

“This often lies at the heart of conflicts between (ANC) constitutional and governance structures, especially at local level and is reflected in contestations around lists, deployment and the internal elections process of the movement. These practices tarnish the image and effectiveness of the movement.

“The limited political consciousness (among some of our members) has impacted negatively on our capacity to root out corrupt and divisive elements among ourselves. For the movement to renew itself as a revolutionary movement, we have to develop specific political, organisational and administrative measures to deal with such destructive elements.”

Nelson Mandela also drew our attention to this challenge when he opened our 50th National Conference in 1997. Among other things he said: “One of these negative features is the emergence of careerism within our ranks. Many among our members see their membership of the ANC as a means to advance their personal ambitions to attain positions of power and access to resources for their own individual gratification.

“Accordingly, they work to manipulate the movement to create the conditions for their success.”

Far from heeding the warning, the ANC national conference rejected Thabo Mbeki, ended his presidential term early, and elected as its new president Jacob Zuma, who encouraged the very tendencies that Mbeki had warned against.

The problem Mbeki warned against has manifested itself in the 2016 municipal elections, where people protesting against the official ANC candidates have sometimes become violent, and the protests have been accompanied by the burning of buses and other vehicles, and the looting of shops, especially those owned by foreigners.

News24 reports burning and looting in Tshwane townships

News24 reports burning and looting in Tshwane townships

As one news report put it Looting, burning of buses continues in some Tshwane townships – As it happened | News24:

Protests that began on Monday evening over the announcement of Thoko Didiza as the ANC’s Tshwane mayoral candidate continued throughout Tuesday. The situation became so volatile that by the end of the working day, commuters were left stranded as buses and taxis lessened their services in fear of violence.

How all this happened in the case of the City of Tshwane is spelt out in this article TRAINSPOTTER: The murder of an Ordinary Member, the anointing of Thoko Didiza, and the battle for the soul of Tshwane | Daily Maverick:

The story goes like this: ordinary branch members had handed over a list of three names to the Regional Executive Committee, which, in order to fulfil its constitutional obligations, duly handed the list over to the PEC. The committee perused the list, and found that Sputla’s name was noticeably absent, while deputy mayor Mapiti Matsena’s name was written in day-glo orange. (Not the day-glo orange part.) As for the other two members, the ANC was keeping shtum. Regardless, none of the names was acceptable, because signing off on the list would have meant entrenching the factional divide, resulting in the upgrade of a long simmering conflict into a full-blown nuclear war.

Shitting themselves, the PEC axed the list.

Time to sniff around for a parachute candidate. The name floating around Tshwane on Sunday belonged to a member of parliament named Thoko Didiza, a former Mbeki protege turned Cabinet minister who submitted her resignation to the ANC’s new president in the fateful year of 2008. (See: battles, factional.) She nonetheless regained her parliamentarian job in 2014, was well liked, and had a general air of competence about her. According to the ANC, she even harboured vague ties to Tshwane, which is to say that she was born in Durban.

Presto: the perfect fly-in candidate.

The notion of Didiza shifting resources out of the hands of those who had semi-patiently waited for them greatly displeased ordinary members of the regional structures, many of whom were gathered outside the Tshwane Events Centre on Sunday night. Shots were fired. Bullets hit male human beings. Several were injured, one “passed away”, to use the ANC’s euphemistic term for internecine murder.

The whole article is worth a read. It describes exactly how we got into the position that Mbeki warned against. The big question is, how do we get out of the hole that Zuma’s ANC has dug for us?

Around the time of the previous municipal elections in 2011 there were “service delivery” protests in various parts of the country. We went on holiday at the time, and passed through several towns where such protests had taken place, and in some cases the reason for the protests was obvious. One of the towns was Balfour, where the roads were all in poor repair (and they still were last year, when we passed through it again).

Back in 2011 the remedy seemed obvious — revive the civic organisations that flourished in the 1980s, and put up candidates who would drive the under-performing councillors out. That would be far more effective than singing songs and burning tyres in the hope that someone else would notice and do something.

But this is something different. These are not popular protests of ordinary people dissatisfied with underperforming city councillors. If the Daily Maverick article is right, these are rival factions fighting for the right to underperform in order to be able to skim off the cream for themselves. This is rival factions within the ANC protecting their own vested interests.

And if that is the case, it won’t be easy to stop it.

Twenty-five years ago there were turf wars in KZN between the ANC and Inkatha in the run-up to the first democratic elections in 1994, and more than 700 people were killed. It stopped when Inkatha agreed at the last minute to take part in the elections, and its leader was given a role in the Government of National Unity. Back in those days the ANC was led by people who wanted to liberate the country, and part of that was the desire for ubuntu, to get the people working together and sharing power to build the nation. The aim was to exclude no one, and include as many people as possible.

But when the ultimate object is to gain power to control resources for one’s own benefit, then there can be no compromises for the sake of the greater good, because the main object is not the greater good, but the good of a small group or faction. The aim is not to be inclusive, as it was back in 1994, but rather to be exclusive, because the more there are participating, the less there is available for those who want to control it for their own benefit. And it was those who wanted it that way who had gradually infiltrated and wormed their way into ANC branch structures who got rid of Mbeki. I doubt if many of them played any part in the liberation struggle.

And people who encourage the destruction of municipal property are hardly suitable candidates to be elected to look after it — people who make comments like this, for example SUNDAY TIMES – ‘We will burn the whole of Pretoria if needs be’: an ANC regional executive committee source‚ who asked not to be named‚ appeared to contradict this‚ saying: “This new mayor is being imposed on us. We didn’t ask for her and we wont accept her. We will burn the whole of Pretoria if needs be.”

Can you imagine him presiding as mayor over a council meeting held under an awning in the gardens next to the burnt-out shell of the city hall? Is that really what he wants? Is that the sort of person anyone would want to vote for?

As for what one can do about it, I don’t know. The only thing I can think of is to rotate the municipal councillors and mayors by voting for a different party in each election, so that they don’t stay in office long enough to get their snouts in the trough. Vote for the EFF or the DA, and hope that together they will outnumber the ANC, but that neither has an absolute majority. That way they’ll be watching each other like hawks for the slightest misstep, and that would be to the benefit of ordinary citizens.

 

The Cosmic Cathedral is under weigh

Thanks to Bing translation, I’m hearing quite a bit about the Cosmic Cathedral currently getting going in Crete, thanks to reports from some of my Facebook friends who are there.

One reported this:

Албанский говорит, что консенсус завел в тупик. Его не было 20 веков. Предлагает следовать 6 правилу 1 Вселенского собора: решение принимается большинством

which Bing translated thus:

Albanian said that consensus was made at a standstill. He hasn’t been 20 centuries. Invites to follow the 6 RULE 1 of Cosmic Cathedral: the decision is taken by a majority

Let’s see if Google translate can do any better…

Albanian says that consensus has got into a dead end. He was not 20 centuries. Offers 6 follow Rule 1 Ecumenical Council: a decision adopted by a majority

Well, it’s lost the cosmic cathedral, but I can see that human translators are going to be needed fro a long time to come.

Here’s the Cosmic Cathedral (Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church) in seesion:

Council in Crete

Council in Crete

Blood on the Tongue — an above-average whodunit

Blood On The Tongue (Ben Cooper & Diane Fry, #3)Blood On The Tongue by Stephen Booth

An above-average whodunit.

Set in the Peak District of Derbyshire in England (which I have never been to), I kept thinking of the setting as similar to that of the detective novels of Peter Robinson with his detective Alan Banks, set just a bit further north in Yorkshire.

But unlike the Alan Manks series, and most other crimy mystery novels nowadays, the protagonis in this one is a junior officer, a mere Detective Constable, and not an inspector or chief inspector. He also is peculiar in not having lots of hangups and problems. He isn’t an alcoholic, nor is he going though a messy divorce. His biggest decision is whether to move to town to be closer to his work.

The novel also poses some interesting questions about life in general, I rather liked this one on “community”, in the mouth of one of the characters:

(Community) isn’t something real, though. Is it? It’s a word that we use in the titles of reports. Community liaison. Working with the community. Understanding the ethnic community. It’s a word, Ben. It’s not something you actually live in, not these days.

So if you enjoy crime fiction, this one is worth a look.

View all my reviews

Mass killings by lone gunmen

Everyone and their auntie seem to have been discussing the latest mass murder in Orlando in the USA, apparently the biggest yet, and speculating about the motives of the killer.

I wasn’t going to comment on it, as it seemed that everything that could be said had been said, except that three days later it seems that two obvious questions still weren’t being asked, or at least I hadn’t heard them being asked.

Most of the questions seem to have been on the lines of: Was he a member of a terrorist group? What radicalised him? Did he hate gay people? Was he gay?

Some have asked whether he had received terrorist training because he shot so many people in such a short time. But the fact that he had been a security guard should answer that. Most security guards are trained in the use of firearms, and anyone with an automatic or semi-automatic rifle in a crowded nightclub would have no difficulty in hitting someone.

He was reported as having visited the nightclub several times before, and that, to me, raises the first question that no one seemed to be asking: Had he quarrelled with anyone there? Had he quarrelled with the management? Did he bear a grudge against someone, perhaps because of something that had happened on a previous visit?

What radicalised him?

Could it have been reading something like this?

Afghanistan 2015 onwards

Most recent strike: June 8 2016

Total strikes: 324-329
Total killed: 1,546-2,044
Civilians killed: 75-103
Children killed: 4-18
Injured: 163-169

We are told that his parents came from Afghanistan, so an obvious question to ask would be whether any of his relatives had been killed or wounded since the American invasion in 2002, as a result of American military action. But if anyone has been asking it, I haven’t seen it in any of the media reports. Either it has not occurred to the media to ask it, or else they are keeping very quiet about it.

I know that it is very politically incorrect in America right now to say that “All lives matter”. American lives matter, yes. But Afghan lives? Not so much.

Yet people do get worked up about such things even when they are not directly involved, and I’ve seen 2nd generation children of Cypriot immigrants marching to the Turkish embassy chanting “Turkish troops out of Cyprus” even though the Turkish troops went into Cyprus before many of them were born.

I’ve sometimes marched with them myself, because I think the Turkish invasion of Cyprus was a bad idea, just as I think the US invasion of Afghanistan was a bad idea.

In most countries that’s as far as it goes, an annual protest march, like the French commemorating Bastille Day, or South Africans commemorating Youth Day.

But only in America can someone who is worked up about such things just walk into a shop and buy a military semi-automatic weapon with a high rate of fire and act out his fantasies of revenge.

sig_sauer_mcx

The answer to these questions may be no.

No, he didn’t have relatives killed in Afghanistan.

No, he hadn’t quarrelled with anyone at the nightclub.

But it’s strange that nobody seems to be asking them.

 

 

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