Mbeki gave us Zuma

At just before 11 PM on the 14th February, Jacob Zuma announced his resignation as President of South Africa, bringing to an end the most rotten and corrupt Presidency in South African History.
The move was typical Zuma. Just like he did in the Court Cases about the reinstatement of charges he faced and the Public Protector’s Report into upgrades at his home in Nkandla, Zuma fought and stalled as long as he could, only to submit before he would inevitably have lost. In this case, the ANC had decided to support a Motion of No Confidence put forward by the EFF. Knowing that this time he would be voted out, Zuma decided to forestall things at literally the eleventh hour.
I have no sympathy for the ANC. It shielded Zuma for years, as it has consistently done with delinquents in its own ranks. While it finally did the right thing, it took far too long to do it.
Thabo Mbeki is probably feeling a great deal of schadenfreude over Zuma’s resignation, given that he himself was made to step down from the Presidency by Zuma. Yet he shouldn’t gloat too much. Mbeki, through his actions, gave us Zuma and gave him the tools to rob the country.
Andrew Feinstein is a former ANC MP. According to him, when SCOPA (the Standing Committee on Public Accounts) was instructed to investigate the Arms Deal, Mbeki interfered with SCOPA’s investigation, rendering the committee unable to do its job. Zuma followed this precedent with the Seriti Commission, a laughable whitewash.
In the 1997 ANC Convention where Mbeki was chosen ANC President for the first time, Cadre Deployment was introduced. Cadre Deployment is the ANC policy of appointing ANC members to key posts in State Owned Enterprises and the Civil Service. It violates the separation between Government and State and Political Party and State, and has been declared illegal by the Courts. It also helped Zuma no end in his capture of the State. By appointing people he knew would do his bidding, he ensured that contracts would go to the Guptas, the family who were paying him off. He also wrecked the investigative capacity of the SAPS and SARS among other institutions.
When Vusi Pikoli, the then National Director of Public Prosecutions, laid charges against then National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi, Mbeki ordered him to drop them. Pikoli refused. Mbeki then demanded Pikoli resign, and when he refused, suspended him and appointed the pliant Moketedi Mpshe in an attempt to protect Selebi.
Zuma again followed the template laid out by Mbeki. When Mxolisisi Nxasana proved to be an independent and competent National Director of Public Prosecutions, Zuma used chicanery, forced him to accept a Golden Handshake, and replaced him with Shaun Abrahams, who so far has been an absolute joke in the position. A recent Court Case ruled that the removal of Nxasana and the appointment of Abrahams were illegal and set them aside.
Mbeki was, and is, a very intelligent man. Unfortunately, like very many intelligent people he was and still is a very arrogant man who assumed he knew better than everyone else, even the experts, and disregarded evidence that refuted his beliefs. Shortly before the 2007 Polokwane Conference, he decided he would run against Zuma. Because he had surrounded himself with sycophants who told him what he wanted to hear, nobody told him just how unpopular he was and just bad an idea that was. A wiser, humbler man would have realised just how ominous this would have seemed to everyone else, and stood down.
Not so long ago, I learnt that in 2007, shortly before the Polokwane Conference, people approached Mbeki to persuade him to step down and have a compromise candidate run against Zuma. Mbeki refused, believing that he was the only person who had a chance at challenging Zuma.
Mbeki’s arrogance on this can not be overstated. The claim does not stand up to even rudimentary scrutiny. The thought that he was the only person in all the ANC who could overcome Zuma, given the number of card holding ANC members at the time, is astounding. Even if Cyril Ramaphosa was unwilling to put his name forward, it is unthinkable that people like Tokyo Sexwale wouldn’t have.
It is typical to look back to the past with rose tinted spectacles, but frequently unwise. Zuma built a monument to corruption, but Mbeki laid its foundations.

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Dear Liquid Telecom – An open letter from an unhappy customer

You and your predecessor Neotel are the most unreliable, inconsistent internet service “provider” I’ve ever had the misfortune of using. Regularly, I get a “No Internet” message while connected to your “broadband” at my home. Even more frustrating, it consistently happens in the evening. But it has happened at other times of the day.
Another inconsistency is with your network speeds. All too often, I check the throughput rate in my Task Manager, only to find that it is not even 15 KB/s when a Page is loading.
My employer gives its employees permission to work from home two days a week. Your erratic performance has jeopardised this for me. Yesterday, I was hard at work when all of a sudden the dreaded yellow triangle signalling a loss of internet displayed. I disconnected and reconnected. The yellow triangle still showed. Frantically, I activated my backup device – a Mobile WiFi from a different provider – and was able to continue.
All the times I’ve used my mobile WiFi device, not once has it failed to provide the internet. Nor has it given ludicrously inadequate throughput. Ditto for my cellphone network (a different provider from the WiFi Device). I have relatives who use another ISP for their home internet. Whenever I connect to it, no dropped signal, and high data rates. In other words, out of four internet service providers I use, you come fourth.
You really need to jack up your act, Liquid Telecom. You are very much like the little girl with the little curl in the Nursery Rhyme. When you’re good, you’re very very good. But when you’re bad, you’re terrible.

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Two Rabies Cases, two different outcomes

There were two recent events involving children getting infected with rabies.
Brazilian Mateus dos Santos da Silva, 14, was one of three children from the same family who contracted the disease in November last year after vampire bats bit them. His siblings, Lucas and Miria, died. Mateus underwent the Milwaukee Protocol, and is now one of the few people to ever survive Rabies.
On the 14th of January in Orlando, Florida, six year old Ryker Roque died from rabies. His father Henry had found a sick bat and put it in a bucket outside the family home. Henry warned Ryker not to touch the animal but Ryker disobeyed him and was scratched. His parents wanted to take him to the doctor but chose not to when Ryker cried about possibly getting vaccinated.
Mateus was admitted to hospital the same day his sister died. He was already starting to have symptoms and treatment began immediately. That evening he had a seizure and the Milwaukee Protocol was started. He spent 40 days in a coma. Although he survived, he is currently being closely monitored.
A week after he was scratched, Ryker developed symptoms. At the hospital, when Henry mentioned the bat to the doctors they became alarmed. They explained to the family just how dangerous rabies was. As with Mateus, Ryker underwent the Milwaukee Protocol. Sadly, in his case it was unsuccessful.
While it was understandable that the Roques didn’t take Ryker to a doctor immediately, their decision almost certainly cost him his life.
Rabies has a highly variable incubation period. Symptoms can develop in a week or take up to three months. The standard treatment for rabies is a series of four vaccinations administered over two weeks. If the course begins before symptoms show, the odds of survival are excellent. If treatment hasn’t started by the time the first symptoms show, it is almost always too late.
The Milwaukee Protocol was invented by Rodney Willoughby, Professor of Peadiatrics and Infectious Diseases at the Medical College of Wisconsin. It involves placing the patient in a medically induced coma to slow the progression of the rabies and giving him/her large amounts of serum. It is a “Hail Mary” play, and fewer than half the people who have undergone it have survived. Several years ago I posted about Graeme Anderson, who also underwent the Milwaukee Protocol and died.
When it comes to rabies treatment, speed is of the essence. The delay in getting Ryker treatment likely cost him his life. Any and every case involving possible rabies infection must be investigated and treated as quickly as possible.

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On Climate Change and Science Denialism

Last week, three major climate-related events occurred.
South Africa’s interior suffered under a heatwave. Australia was struck by a heatwave so intense that flying foxes fell out of trees dead as the heat had literally cooked their brains. In addition, the Great Barrier Reef underwent such severe bleaching that biologists fear the damage may be irrecoverable. And California battled a wildfire so intense that it cost the State 40% of its entire annual budget for fighting wildfires.
You may be wondering why I’m choosing to write about Climate Change. The answer is, I see many of the same tactics used by the antivaccine lobby also used by those who deny or diminish Anthropogenic Global Warming.
Because of extreme variance, it is necessary to examine a time period of no less than 17 years to see if and how the climate is changing. Many denialists cherry pick. They take a shorter period than that, or start with anomalous years like 1998, which was an uncommonly warm year, or point to extreme cold weather events, ignoring that weather is not climate.
Another tactic the two have in common is the use of nonexperts or pseudo-experts. I have often seen articles in the newspaper from people presenting the other side. One such article was written by Christopher Monckton.
Monckton is not a scientist, let alone a climatologist. He claimed to be a member of the UK House of Lords, but without the right to sit or vote. On at least one occasion, the Secretary of the House of Lords has sent him a “Cease and Desist” letter telling him to stop making that claim as it is false. To summarise, Monckton is neither qualified to comment on the matter, nor an honest individual.
When the above two tactics fail, goalpost shifting comes into play. Instead of denying that changes are happening, the argument is used that climate has always changed so there is nothing to fear. This is a disingenuous argument for two reasons.
Firstly, humanity is changing the climate at a rate and speed that have never before occurred. And secondly, when the climate reached certain tipping points before, there were ecological collapses and mass extinctions. Already some scientists are warning that unless we act to reduce man made climate change, the future of our species will be placed at risk.
The last tactic I have seen is attacks on actions to mitigate Climate Change. Biofuels are derided as threatening food security. This not only ignores that expired food, used cooking oil, wood chips and grass clippings can be used to generate biofuels, it overlooks recent research. Switchgrass has been used to brew propanol and can be grown on marginal soil not rich enough to grow crops.
Similar claims are used against renewable electricity generation. I recently saw a comment that solar panels take more energy to make than they generate over their lifetime. This has been false for years, if it was ever even true. Decades of research and innovation have made solar panels so effective that they now return their investment in a few months, and recent discoveries in phytoplankton may lead to modifications that makes solar panels more efficient still. In South Africa, electricity generated by Independent Power Producers using solar panels is now far cheaper than electricity from coal fired power stations.
A final throw of the dice is that electricity from renewable resources is intermittent. This ignores that solutions to this issue are readily available. Even when all South Africa’s electricity came from coal fired power stations, there were often sudden drops in demand. To make sure power did not go to waste, the spare capacity was used to pump water from one dam to a dam higher up. If demand suddenly spiked, water was released from the higher dam to drive hydroelectric turbines. This is known as “pumped storage”. Last year, Tesla installed a giant battery in Australia. In testing, it came on line in 140 milliseconds.
We can no longer deny that human actions are warming the climate. We can no longer wish away the damage that it is inflicting. And we can no longer lie about the actions we can and must take to stop it.

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Why do we still need to say this?

This will be my last post for 2017. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you, my readers.
Have you ever read through an article or book thinking “Great! Excellent! Spot On!” and then got to a passage and thought “No, no, no, no, no”? Well, a lot of autistic people had that thought when reading “To Siri with Love”. Judith Newman, the author of “To Siri with Love” is the mother of twin boys. Gus is autistic and Henry is neurotypical.
In her book, Newman says she wants medical power of attorney when Gus, who is currently 16, turns 18 so she can get him a vasectomy. She has justifiably been slammed for this, but seems utterly blind to her ableism and her denial of Gus’s agency.
I’ve written about Aktion T4 before. It was the Nazi Eugenics program that saw thousands of disabled people murdered and sterilised. Nor was this the only time in history that the “feeble-minded” have been targeted in this fashion. Yet Newman seems unable to realise that she approves of something done by one of the most evil groups ever.
It is a few days until 2018 begins. We should not still be needing to have this conversation.

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A crisis in South Africa’s Education System

Earlier this week, the results of the 2017 PIRLS (Progress in Reading/Literacy Study) were released.
Out of 50 countries, South Africa was ranked 50th. The survey additionally found that 78% of South African Grade 4 pupils could not read for comprehension.
The words one could use to describe this state of affairs, words like disgraceful, shocking, unacceptable, abominable, all seem inadequate. In reality, even though South Africa spends more of its GDP on education than most other nations, this result was both utterly predictable and a long time coming. Even in 1994, the World’s economy was a modern one, where skills were essential to earn any sort of decent living. But since the end of apartheid, a string of bad decisions has exacerbated an already inadequate education system.
The first mistake occurred very early on in democracy. Many teacher training colleges were shut down. This is the exact opposite to what needed to happen. Non-white students received education vastly inferior to white students. What was needed was an increase in the number of qualified teachers. By shutting down training colleges, the opposite occurred.
The second blunder was the introduction of Outcomes Based Education (OBE) in the Curriculum 2005 strategy. Many experienced teachers objected very strongly to OBE, knowing full well that South Africa did not meet the prerequisites to successfully implement it. Sadly, they were ignored and overruled. Eventually OBE was abandoned, but by then a lot of damage had been done.
Corruption has also played its part. There have been plausible allegations that officials in the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) have been soliciting bribes for positions. Promises that these accusations would be investigated have come to nought. This may be because SADTU supports the ruling ANC.
Incompetence is rife in the Education system. In 2013 there was a furore when it emerged that more than four months into the school year, a large number of schools in Limpopo Province had not received textbooks for the year. Despite a massive outcry, no attempt was made to identify who (if anyone) was responsible for this failure, and no action was taken against anyone.
There can be no denying that South Africa’s Education system is in crisis. But instead of confronting the reality, successive Ministers of Education have chosen to disguise it by, among other things, lowering the requirements for passing. Until this stops and the issues damaging South Africa’s Education system are faced, things will just get worse.

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Updated: A new beginning for Zimbabwe?

So this past week in Zimbabwe, a “coup that isn’t a coup” took place. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace were placed under house arrest by the Zimbabwean Military, and Mugabe is being pressured to resign.

On Tuesday evening and early Wednesday morning, Zimbabwe Defence Force vehicles entered Harare and started taking control of Government Offices, including the Zimbabwean Broadcasting Corporation. They also took control of State House, the President’s Offices.

One of my colleagues was in Zimbabwe when the coup began. To our great relief, he was able to leave and arrived back in South Africa on Wednesday.

What is Robert Mugabe’s history?

Robert Gabriel Mugabe was born in 1924 in what was then Southern Rhodesia. He is a qualified Schoolteacher. He is also a hero of Zimbabwe’s fight to end white minority rule, and served 10 years in prison for sedition.

In the first democratic elections held in Zimbabwe in 1980, Mugabe’s ZANU party won and he became Prime Minister. He has ruled Zimbabwe since then, first as Prime Minister and then as President. In 1992, while his first wife was dying of Cancer, he began an affair with Grace, whom he married in 1996.

At 93 years old, Mugabe is becoming increasingly frail. He regularly travels overseas for medical treatments and rumours suggest that he keeps nodding off in Cabinet Meetings.

When and how did things go wrong?

Very early on in Mugabe’s reign.

Opposition to Mugabe in Matabeleland led to the Gukurahundi genocide, where thousands of Ndebele civilians were murdered by the North Korean trained Fifth Brigade. This was overlooked by other African countries and by the West. The former overlooked it as Mugabe was still a hero to them, and the latter probably because the victims were black.

During the 1980’s, Britain agreed to fund the Zimbabwean Government’s buy back of land from white farmers so that black Zimbabweans could purchase it. But after the first few payments, it emerged that the monies were being embezzled. Britain stopped payments and refused to pay any more until Zimbabwe could guarantee that any further sums would be used in the way intended. No such guarantees were forthcoming, and the payments never resumed.

In 2000, a new Zimbabwean Constitution was submitted for a vote. Included was a section that would have permitted appropriation of land without compensation. The Zimbabwean Electorate voted against it. Almost immediately, “War Veterans” began invading white owned farms. A short while later, Mugabe signed the section permitting appropriation without compensation into Zimbabwe’s Constitution anyway. The timing of all this was very suspicious.

The consequences for Zimbabwe’s economy were disastrous. Crops, including tobacco, were the main goods exported by Zimbabwe. With the commercial farmers driven out or murdered, Zimbabwe went from the Breadbasket of Africa to an importer of food. In addition, the foreign currency earned by crop exporting disappeared, as the people moved on to the farmland didn’t know how to work it. Thousands of Zimbabweans fled the country, and the currency went into a period of hyperinflation not seen since post World War One Germany.

In 2002, Mugabe faced a challenge to his rule by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), headed by Morgan Tsvangirai. Mugabe used violence, electoral fraud, and claims that the MDC were “Agents of the West” to maintain his rule. In this, he was shamefully helped by then South African President Thabo Mbeki, who refused to see that Mugabe, once a hero of the Liberation of Africa, was by that point a despotic tyrant desperate to hold on to power, and who, under the mask of “quiet diplomacy”, refused to act.

What was the tipping point?

Mugabe had started purging the Government of high ranking officials in a move (it is suspected) to clear the way for his wife Grace to succeed him as President. When he dismissed Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Military decided enough was enough and put in motion this coup.

Will Mugabe remain President?

No. The Military, and the Veterans of Zimbabwe’s War of Liberation, which for a very long time were his strongest means of support, have now turned against him. In addition, ZANU-PF, the Political Party he headed, has now begun the process to impeach him. If Mugabe refuses to step down, he will be removed. As I write this, ordinary Zimbabweans are protesting in front of State House and in Bulawayo, among other places, demanding that Mugabe go.

After Mugabe goes, what will happen?

The rumours are that there are discussions to form a Government of National Unity while elections are organised. Both ZANU-PF and Opposition Parties will be in it, and Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Vice President fired by Mugabe, will be the acting President until the elections can be held.

Will Mugabe leaving power solve anything?

Unfortunately, probably not. Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Vice President whose firing precipitated this and who has been suggested as the head of the transitional Government of National Unity, is one of the architects of the Gukurahundi Genocide. In addition, the Zimbabwean Generals have declared that they will not obey any leader who is not a hero of the Liberation Struggle.

I hope that things will now get better, but this looks like a case of a different Ringmaster in the same Circus.

Mugabe has resigned

Shortly before six o’clock on the 21st November 2017, Jacob Mudenda, the Speaker of the Zimbabwean Parliament, announced that Mugabe had resigned the presidency of Zimbabwe.

“I Robert Gabriel Mugabe in terms of section 96 of the constitution of Zimbabwe hereby formally tender my resignation… with immediate effect,” said speaker Mudenda, reading the letter from Mugabe.

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