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Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

Julian Rademeyer: Rhino poaching down in SA, but ‘up significantly in Zimbabwe and Namibia’

Killing for ProfitJulian Rademeyer has responded to today’s government report that Rhino poaching levels in South Africa fell in 2015.

Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa and Justice Minister Michael Masutha held a press conference today on the Integrated Strategic Management Approach they have undertaken to tackle rhino poaching. The strategy involves compulsory interventions, managing rhino populations, long-term sustainability and national and international cooperation.

“The onslaught against our rhino has continued unabated, which has necessitated we step up our efforts,” Molewa said.

The number of rhinos killed in South Africa rose every year from 13 in 2007 to 1 215 in 2014, but stablised slightly in 2015, with 1 175 killed.

However, Rademeyer, an investigative journalist and the author of the award-winning Killing for Profit: Exposing the Illegal Rhino Horn Trade, tweeted that the stabilisation in numbers should not be taken purely as a positive sign.

Rademeyer links to an article he wrote in 2013 for Africa Check, which states: “South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority routinely boasts remarkably high conviction rates. It uses them to reject criticism of its performance. But as it only prosecutes cases it is likely to win, they are unreliable measures of success in tackling crime.”

He also points out that while there may be a drop in South African numbers, bordering countries’ statistics indicate a “significant” rise in poaching:

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Emma Sadleir warns of the dangers of “digital vigilantism” and defaming people on social media

Don't Film Yourself Having SexSocial media expert and lawyer Emma Sadleir chatted to Talk Radio 702’s Azania Mosaka about “the double-edged sword of social media”.

Sadleir is the co-author of the invaluable book Don’t Film Yourself Having Sex: and Other Legal Advice For the Age of Social Media.

Mosaka and Sadleir discuss a number of recent social media issues, including the case of Amber Amour, a 27-year-old American activist who, while visiting South Africa to promote her “Stop Rape, Educate” campaign, posted a picture of herself crying, claiming to have been raped minutes before.

The post went viral around the world, but was soon removed by Instagram because it “violated community guidelines”. Instagram has since apologised to Amour and reinstated the caption.

“I do see its place in society for victims to raise awareness, to tell their stories,” Sadleir says of these kinds of posts, but she adds that she is concerned about “digital vigilantism”, saying that a case must also be opened with the police.

“The best thing about social media is that it gives everyone a voice; the worst thing about social media is that it gives everyone a voice,” Sadleir says. “It must be done responsibly.

“It concerns me that people can go onto these platforms and state allegations as if they have been proved.”

Sadleir says it is “very easy” to be sued for defamation in South Africa: “You only need to prove three things,” she says. These three things are:

  • 1. Publication to one other person – even on a Whatsapp group
  • 2. It must refer to you
  • 3. It must be defamatory, it must lower your reputation

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16 Days of Activism and South African Contemporary Fiction

Glowfly DanceWhat About MeeraMy Children Have FacesBirdseyeSister Moon

By Jennifer Crocker

Every year from 25 November, for 16 days, South Africa highlights activism against gender violence, and every year comments are made in the media about how this campaign does not make any real difference to those who have the very fabric of their lives torn apart by domestic violence, because we are told that we have more to fear from those we know than from strangers – a sober thought indeed.

In addition to using just 16 days to highlight this scourge, there are other ways in which people are creating awareness of the fragility of many people’s lives as a result of domestic violence. One is through literature, music, theatre and the arts. From time immemorial authors, philosophers and commentators have written about the issues around them, often weaving entertainment with harsh realities into what become cautionary tales. For many of us, the messages that resonate most are those conveyed through stories.

The South African publishing industry appears to be on the cusp of taking the publishing world by storm, with publishers pushing the boundaries and bravely bringing books to the reading market that stir the conscience.

A number of novels have been published that tackle the issue of domestic violence and abuse – bearing in mind that abuse is not always only physical, it also does not only affect women (although women are most often its victims), and almost universally it causes a sense of shame.

When novelists bring these stories out into the scrutiny of the light, and allow themselves the freedom of created characters to portray the horrors that are perpetuated on a daily basis, not just for 16 days of a year, we are drawn into stories that are as captivating as they are instructive. Discussions that follow from the reading of these books often allow those who have suffered – or continue to suffer – from abuse to share their experiences in a safe place for the first time.

Glowfly DanceGlowfly Dance by Jade Gibson (Umuzi, 2015) is one such book. Gibson begins the novel by setting up a perfect storm, and introducing the destruction of the life of a young girl, Mai, the voice through which the story is told. Mai lives with her mother and sister Amy. She is a happy little girl. She doesn’t know who her father is, but she has her mother and her quirky grandfather. The family is not rich in monetary terms, but they have flowers and games and love. When her mother meets Rashid, this all changes; Rashid, with his red car, is an abuser of children and women. Through the beauty of the writing Gibson shows us how a happy – if unusual – family is decimated by one man’s cruelty. How cunning and coercion can make you flee your happy place and put you on the bottom rung of society. It’s a brilliant and brave book, and carries across the message that violence in a family does only one thing: it destroys hope. And hope, once broken, is lost. Rashid is one of those men we will remember long after we have put down Gibson’s book; he’ll remain in our memories as the man who stole innocence in a whirlwind of cruelty and pain.

What About MeeraWhat About Meera (Umuzi, 2015) tells the story of a young woman who is happy in her life in rural KwaZulu-Natal, until she is forced to marry a man of status, a doctor. Her loveless marriage becomes a thing of entrapment and horror. Meera flees her life with him, but is judged and becomes a shame to her family. Events spiral out of control when she travels to Dublin and does a stupid and dangerous thing from a place of desperation. The book is essentially about the loss of innocence through neglect and cruelty. In a case of life imitating art, author ZP Dala was attacked after a literary festival in Durban, apparently by a group of men who took offence to her support of Salman Rushdie, and hit her in the face with a brick. One is tempted to think that the real world may intersect with the imagined world, for violence was done to a novelist by those wielding power. And abuse is about violence and exerting power over others. What About Meera also addresses the fact that the survivors of domestic abuse are often also victims of abuse within the wider family unit, either wittingly, to keep up appearances, or unwittingly, because they refuse to see what is happening.

My Children Have FacesIn Carol Campbell’s book My Children Have Faces (Umuzi , 2013), we are taken to the edges of suffering in the Karoo, where a family has fled to escape the brutality of Miskiet, a murderer and a rapist who lives in the small town they have left. When Muis’s husband takes his ragged family back to the town, Miskiet is waiting for them. He sees Muis as a “dried out whore” but he has not forgotten her. While he still has the power to strike fear into her, he does not have enough power to stop her from doing the one thing she wants to do: get identity documents for her children so that they have a chance in life. It’s a wonderfully crafted tale spun from a composite group of people the author came to know in a little Karoo town. Muis has power, but it comes at great cost. It is price she is prepared to pay, but one that no person should be asked to pay.

BirdseyeSister MoonMáire Fisher broke our hearts in her novel Birdseye (Umuzi, 2014), where violence perpetuated against little boys shows the ugly face of almost random violence, while in Kirsten Miller’s Sister Moon (Umuzi, 2104) the reader is confronted by familial complicity where the sexual abuse of a young girl is ignored because of financial dependency on the perpetrator. The shockwaves of the abuse reverberate through the family for decades.
Albert Camus said, “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.” It has a ring of truth to it, because heaven knows we need as many ways as possible to address the horrible truth that lies behind violence and abuse. And not just for 16 days, but every day. There is a reason that text in books is always referred to in the present tense: it exists as a reality when a book is both closed and open. By opening up the reality of abuse and exposing it through literature, another arrow is added to the quiver exposing it in all its horror. Thank goodness we have authors who do that for us.

The 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign runs from 25 November to 10 December 2106.

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“The Country and Its People Must Come First” – Mathews Phosa Responds to Jacob Zuma’s “ANC Comes First” Remark

Chants of FreedomPresident Jacob Zuma caused a national uproar earlier this month when he made the controversial statement that the “ANC comes before South Africa”.

Last week, poet, struggle stalwart and businessman Mathews Phosa reacted to Zuma’s remark, saying that “the country and its people must come first”. Speaking at the 13th Annual Business Awards in Kempton Park, Phosa explained that no person or political party should come before the wellbeing of the people of South Africa.

Phosa’s collection of poetry, Chants of Freedom: Poems Written in Exile, was published by Penguin this year and provides raw, powerful and unprecedented insight into the consciousness of a freedom fighter.

Read the article:

Phosa’s comments come as Zuma was at pains to explain and justify his comments at the ANC KwaZulu-Natal provincial conference earlier this month. His utterances also took centre stage when Zuma appeared in parliament for this year’s last presidential question and answer session.

Phosa said leaders should not compromise ethics and democracy. He said South Africa’s path to success was through the Bill of Rights.

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16 Days of Activism – Glowfly Dance by Jade Gibson

Jade GibsonGlowfly DanceGlowfly Dance by Jade Gibson

Given the recent interest in trials such as those of Pistorius and Dewani, and the issues they have raised, the themes of Glowfly Dance are highly topical. The novel, which focuses on the resilience, perspective and survival of children, examines the inability and failure of the law to shield women from violence, while protecting the perpetrators.

In a story peopled with intriguing characters, exotic landscapes and lush description, Glowfly Dance depicts the complexity of domestic violence and its devastating impact on the entire family. The novel was shortlisted for two international literary prizes in its unpublished form, and reviewers have described the book as both harrowing and beautiful.

Based on a true story, Glowfly Dance is a tale of struggle, survival, loss, humanity, resilience and hope, and includes the stories of women from across the globe. Told from the perspective of Mai, a young girl of mixed heritage, the story spans three continents and deals with issues of migration, identity, women’s refuges, abuse of women and children, law courts and violence. It exposes flaws in the ability of the authorities – legal, social, psychological and police – to protect, and thereby raises questions on policy and social responsibility. In depicting the failure of the law and society to protect women and children in danger, the novel aims to stimulate debate and ultimately bring about awareness and positive change.

Published in October 2015, Glowfly Dance has been featured as the “hero book” of Nancy Richards’ SAfm literature show and the Classic FM book show. The book is currently available in good bookshops in southern Africa, and as an ebook.

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Max du Preez Forced to Remove Social Media Posts Linking to SAA Documents

A Rumour of SpringThe ongoing controversy surrounding South African Airways – which saw an interdict being brought against Business Day for publishing internal documents – has developed even further with threat of a court order against political commentator and award-winning author Max du Preez for sharing the documents in question on his social media.

“My different posts and tweets with the link to the document were shared well over 2 000 times – and then shared again and again. It is today truly a public document,” the author of A Rumour of Spring: South Africa after 20 years of Democracy writes in a post on Facebook, explaining why he complied and deleted the posts in question.

Du Preez goes on to say, “This legal action only applies to me,” noting that it will not affect anyone who might have shared or liked his links on either Facebook or Twitter.

Read Du Preez’s explanation of the situation, published on his public Facebook page:


SAA is a state owned enterprise – owned by the people of South Africa. It has been seriously mismanaged, to the point that it is bankrupt and unable to meet its financial commitments. Many billions of state (our) funds have been spent to prop it up, but the rapid decline continues. It is not a private company; it should not have secrets from us, the owners.

So when I learnt that SAA management had obtained a court order to prohibit some media outlets from reporting on a memo to management by SAA’s legal people – painting a very dark picture – I posted a link to that document on Twitter and Facebook. I believed that it was our right as citizens to know what kind of crisis SAA was in. I did not believe the court order applied to me.

I have more than 14 000 Twitter “followers” and about 24 000 people follow my Facebook posts.

My different posts and tweets with the link to the document were shared well over 2 000 times – and then shared again and again. It is today truly a public document.

Last night the SAA’s lawyers phoned me and demanded that I take the tweets and posts down immediately or they would get a court order to force me to do so. I eventually got them to agree to give me time until this morning to try and put up a legal defence. The lawyers said they would launch a court application in Johannesburg at 10:30 this morning (Thursday) if the tweets and posts were not removed.

I had no intention to show contempt to the court in question, even though I believe it should never have made the decision it did. I regard our judicial system as a key pillar of our democracy and freedom.

I told the SAA lawyers that the decision to force me to remove the internet link to the document was silly, ridiculous and absurd because many thousands of South Africans have now read the document. It made no impression on them.

The little legal advice I could get in such a short time indicated that I could run a risk of incurring vast legal costs if I opposed the SAA’s court application and that there was a chance that I could lose.

I think the point has been made. The truth is out. I have achieved what I wanted to achieve.

I have just removed the FB posts and the tweets with links to the SAA memo.

This does not mean FB and Twitter users that had shared my posts and tweets are vulnerable or under any obligation to remove their tweets and posts. This legal action only applies to me.

Antoinette Slabbert reported on the dispute between SAA and Moneyweb, Business Day and Media24 – the three news outlets being taken to court for the way they have covered the story:

This follows SAA indicating on Wednesday that it is not prepared to abandon the interdict it got against the three news outlets on Tuesday. The interdict was to prevent the publication of a leaked internal report by its General Manager: Legal, Risk and Compliance, Ursula Fikelepi.

SAA got the interdict in the early hours of Tuesday morning after an unopposed application in the South Gauteng High Court. The airline contends that the report contains a legal opinion and is as such privileged and not for public consumption.


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Mathews Phosa: Let’s Welcome Back the Afrikaners and Whites Who Abandoned SA

Chants of FreedomSouth Africa should make it easy for skilled Afrikaner whites and other whites who abandoned the country to return and stay‚ says ANC stalwart Mathews Phosa.

Phosa, whose book of poetry Chants of Freedom: Poems Written in Exile was recently released, was addressing a roundtable on “Whiteness – Whites‚ Afrikaans‚ Afrikaners” hosted by the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA).

Phosa said the economy was ambling along at a substandard level as a result of the country’s inability to gather and direct the skills and expertise that was available as well as from the interference by government in employment policies and practices.

“This economy can only grow at expected levels once we acknowledge that everybody has an equal role and responsibility in making it successful‚” he said.

Successful nations‚ Phosa added‚ were built on education‚ skills development and harnessing experience. They also allocated substantial resources to research and development and entrepreneurial support.

“Let’s open the doors and welcome those skilled and experienced Afrikaners and other whites that abandoned their beloved country in search of security‚ stability and acknowledge their skills in our economy. Let’s make it easy for them to return and to stay‚” he said.

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As for social stability‚ he said‚ the momentum of the student challenge of the past weeks appeared to be unstoppable and should provide a guide for what might come in the future.

“We have seen dissent in the past. Protest action‚ occupation of public spaces‚ militant rhetoric and destruction of critical infrastructure. We have indeed seen it happening time and again.

“Following this‚ as always‚ is a nervous middle class joined by business and institutions‚ scrambling to protect assets and making plans to abandon projects and growth plans.”

Often‚ government was nowhere to be found‚ only arriving on the scene when the smoke was thick and the security forces tested to their limits‚ he said.

“Then we get the promises‚ the political jostling for position and the masses dispersing. They often regroup in another form‚ with another agenda. But they certainly regroup.

“Will the next crisis stem from the grannies occupying Parliament in search of higher pension and other social welfare benefits putting a further strain on the economy?” Phosa asked.

He added that a conflict free South Africa‚ reinforced by sustainable economic growth and full employment‚ would support the long-term economic and political stability of the continent and the world.

“Whereas human rights and human development feature equally high with regards to economic stability and development‚ conflict resolution‚ the establishment of stable democracies and long term capital investment and economic growth are preconditions to fairness and regional stability.

“A successful and cohesive nation engages in practices where everybody is treated equally‚ without favour. They apply the law in all aspects of social life consistently and without prejudice. Their leaders leads from the front‚ engaging in constructive debate taking responsibility for nation building and condemn corrupt activities‚” Phosa stated.

He added that with powerful functioning business and community structures such as the Afrikaanse Handels Instituut (AHAI)‚ the Afrikaanse Taal en Kultuur Vereniging (ATKV) and local Sakekamers‚ the Afrikaners had an important role to play in the development of South Africa.

“Our antagonism towards a language or those peaking it as a first language at home is often based on our perceptions or lack of information‚” Phosa said.

He added that an analysis of the results of the 2011 census indicated that more black‚ coloured‚ and Indian South Africans spoke Afrikaans at home than white South Africans.

According to a study by the SA Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR)‚ only 40 percent of those who spoke Afrikaans at home were whites. This meant that out of 6.9 million people who spoke the language at home‚ 2.7 million were white‚ while the rest were from other racial groups.

“In short‚ the results from the 2011 census indicated that Afrikaans is spoken at home by 13‚5 percent of the population‚ second only to the 22‚7 percent of the population that speak isiZulu at home.

“I call on all white Afrikaners to engage in forming an inclusive and cohesive cultural bond between all Afrikaans speaking South Africans as the foundation for inclusiveness and nation building without elitism and exclusion of other cultural and population groups.

“We are all South Africans‚ be it by birth‚ descent‚ naturalisation or another Home Affairs action.

“Let us not overemphasise Whiteness‚ Afrikaners‚ Afrikaans or any other popular term‚” Phosa concluded.

RDM News Wire

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Darrel Bristow-Bovey: The Heartbreaking Irony of the ANC's Response and the Beautiful Unity of #FeesMustFall

One Midlife Crisis and a SpeedoDarrel Bristow-Bovey, author of One Midlife Crisis and a Speedo, recently wrote two columns about the #FeesMustFall protests in Cape Town.

In the first column, Bristow-Bovey comments on the “heartbreaking irony of watching the ANC forget the lessons that the National Party learnt from them about the radicalising effect of using violence against a peaceful, disciplined citizenry”.

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There has for such a long time been such a disjuncture between official government responses and the felt reality of the people they govern that Jacob Zuma’s ANC simply isn’t used to looking at the world and recognising what it sees. They’re too weighed down by arrogance, whiskey and red wine, so smothered by party lines, patronage and self-interest that they can no longer see or speak the truth, possibly not even to themselves. The result is the machinery of state turning into an irony machine.

The ironies flew around like water bottles. There were the visuals on eNCA of minister Nhlanhla Nene sedately telling his good story, allocating fresh millions to the nuclear deal and urging more direct foreign investment while simultaneously on the screen and outside the children of the people inside were singing the songs their parents wrote, being choked and manhandled for demanding equal access to the future.

In a follow-up article, Bristow-Bovey explains how unlikable and silly he ordinarily finds national anthems, and how surprisingly beautiful he found the student protesters’ rendition of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika outside of parliament last month:

But then, last week, in the days following the march to parliament, I saw a clip that had been recorded on a cellphone. The gathered students start singing the national anthem. A little way into the first stanza the first stun grenades go off. There‘s some running and alarm and the camera swings round like it‘s Cloverfield or The Blair Witch Project, but the kids keep singing. Then the first stanza ends and the next wave of grenades go off, but the kids keep going, they sing the next stanza, Die Stem, and I became quietly emotional.

This is an unfashionable thing to say in today‘s revolutionary moment when the word “white” can only be used as a pejorative adjective — “white supremacy”, “white capital”, “white privilege” — but I watched the crowd of black kids and white kids standing together, singing Nkosi Sikelel‘ iAfrika and Die Stem while stun grenades went off around them, and I know it was just an illusion but it was very beautiful.

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"Last Week Made Me Realise How Much Like a Blunted Blade I Have Become" – Maire Fisher on #FeesMustFall

BirdseyeA week of student protests aimed at lower fees for tertiary education, and eventually free education, initially left Máire Fisher seething and frustrated.

“My son is a third-year student at UCT who has worked his butt off this year. So when the #FeesMustFall campaign started, I was really pissed off,” the Birdseye author writes in a recent column for The Times. However, as the week unfolded and voices on the ground grew louder than often sensationalist media reports, she came to understand the protests.

Read Fisher’s article to see why she says “last week made me realise how much like a blunted blade I have become” and what lessons she will be taking away from the #FeesMustFall protests:

I didn’t take #FeesMustFall seriously. I’ve grown so used to daily, if not hourly, news of corruption that I couldn’t see what good any further protest would do, besides disrupting study week and having a detrimental effect on exams.

Last week made me realise how much like a blunted blade I have become. I expect things not to work; I expect protests not to work; I’m apathetic and negative. I follow the news, and inject most of it with large doses of cynicism (the same cynicism I experienced at the beginning of the week, thinking the protesting students were probably hoping for exams to be postponed or cancelled because they were failing).

Follow these links for more about Fisher’s debut novel and her thoughts on creative writing:


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Read Thabo Mbeki's Prescient Speech on the Relationship between the State and Universities – from July

Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANCA speech made by former president Thabo Mbeki at the University of Johannesburg in July has taken on new significance in the context of the student protests taking place around the country.

Mbeki was the keynote speaker at the Times Higher Education (THE) Africa Universities Summit at UJ. The theme at the event was “Moving Africa’s universities forward: building a shared global legacy”.

In his talk, Mbeki emphasised the importance of convincing Africa’s “so-called political class” and – vitally – universities that they are at the centre of the development agenda.

Read the Mail & Guardian’s report:

He said when African countries gained their independence from colonialism, universities “were indeed situated at the centre of the African development agenda”.

But then the “healthy relationship between the state and the university was weakened and destroyed” by, in part, “the perception among the African ruling elite that universities were serving as centres of political opposition to this elite”.

“This led to the impoverishment and weakening as well as the marginalisation of the African University from both the State and the development agenda.”

This resulted in many African countries coming to consider expenditure on universities “as a burdensome but unavoidable cost rather than an absolutely necessary and beneficial investment”.

He said African countries needed a clear message from their political leadership.

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