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Lasting peace not achieved in Hangberg September 22, 2011

Posted by cmfry in Cape Town, Politics.
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Last night, I was privileged to be asked to provide musical accompaniment at the 1 year commemoration service of violence that erupted in Hangberg.

Hangberg is an underprivileged community in Hout Bay, a suburb of Cape Town. Some of the residents had built makeshift dwellings on a firebreak on the slope of the Sentinel, which belongs to the City and SA National Parks. When the city’s anti-land invasion unit moved in to remove the illegal structures, violence erupted. Some people were seriously injured in the ensuing fracas, and everyone was permanently scarred.

One year later, to the day, a peace accord was signed between the Peace and Mediation Forum (representing the community) and the City of Cape Town, led by the mayor, Patricia de Lille.
In the interfaith service, remembering the events that unfolded the previous year, you couldn’t help but feel that Hangberg is a community crying out to be heard. People still are in pain over the terrible events that transpired that fateful day. While the posters that were on display expressed the extremity of the community’s anger
 (And, it must be said, not everyone agreed with the wording of some of the posters), it was clear that, whatever was agreed in the peace accord, does not have this community’s full blessing. The Cape Argus has an article on the accord here.
Whatever the future will hold for this loving, yet broken community, it is clear that the peace accord has not yet provided a sustainable, lasting peace for them. At times during the service, that emotion was so prevalent, you couldn’t help but feel it yourself.
Let’s hope that all the role players in this matter realise the vast potential for a positive collaboration and transformation, and next year, when hopefully I will be asked to play again, the service will be one filled with unspeakable joy.

My New York, Before and After September 11, 2011

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World Trade Centre Twin Towers New York

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We came in for landing for what looked like a glorious late Summer’s day. After clearing through customs, and making my way out of the terminal at JFK, I had finally realised one of my dreams…

I was in New York!

With 12 hours to kill till my connecting flight, I decided to go tour as much of the city as best I could. I wanted to go walk in Times Square, to see the theatres on Broadway, to sit in Central Park where so many of my favorite artists had performed.

Standing at Jamaica Station, I had to decide whether to do all that, or go to the World Trade Centre and see the curvature of the Earth, which I’ve never seen before. As I knew I had another 12 hours connecting time on my return home, I decided I would cap my first U.S. visit with that glorious view.

And walking through all those world renowned landmarks, the city lived up to my expectation of the buzz being electric! It truly felt like a city that doesn’t sleep, and it wasn’t just the jetlag talking! Everybody was constantly on the move, yet they were kind enough to help me with directions, and someone even picked up my camera lens cover. Being a Capetonian, and having despised the odd tourist in my time, I got a sheepish insight into what it is to be a wide-eyed tourist in a foreign city! 

After taking in the Virgin Megastore and Times Square, I sat down in the awesome beauty that is Central Park. Eating my very first chilli dog, Iwatched 2 production crews from Broadway shows take each other on at a game of softball. Oh, I felt like I was in heaven!

So much so that I lost complete track of time! In the mad dash to the airport to catch my flight, I vowed to do the World Trade Centre as a parting shot to what started out as a dream holiday. As my flight (which I caught by the skin of my teeth, literally) took off, I got to see those towers in their splendour from my seat.

5 days later, it happened….

On my return, without having touched down, one could sense that something had irrevocably changed. My flight home was cancelled, and because I now no longer had a valid ticket, I was not even allowed near the terminal. Luckily, I had some friends in New Jersey, who happily directed me to their house where I arranged my new schedule home, and I crashed on their couch for the night.

The trip back into New York felt like I was part of a funeral procession. Suddenly, this city which had been so kind to me 3 weeks ago was scared to look me in the eye, just because I was a foreigner, and it was foreigners that had ripped its very soul from its body. As my bank had been implacated (wrongly, it turned out) in harbouring funds for terrorists, my account was frozen, and I had miscalculated the money I would have needed. So here was this foreigner, lugging a full bag, begging for money to get to the airport. Eventually, a kind soul offered me a lift to the airport. I can only imagine how courageous he must have been to open his car to someone he did not know, with a big bag, the contents of which could’ve been anything.

Inside the terminal, it just got worse. Because there was more than one change to my trip home, I was pulled aside and was interrogated thoroughly by customs officials who were as stoic as I had ever seen.

However, before they even started, I knew how this would end. One of them bluntly requested that a cavity search be done. I knew that to protest would surely mean I would not get home any time soon.

Eventually I got to my seat on my plane. As I sat down, as though my soul was ready to leave my body and never return, I wept. Openly, bitterly, unabatedly. The dear hostess must’ve known how much pain I was in, as she put a caring arm around me, and assured me that we were going home.

As we took off into the New York dusk, I vowed that one day I would return, and when I do, the New York that I arrived to would welcome me once again.

So, as Art Garfunkel put it:

New York, You’ve got money on your mind, and my words won’t make a dime’s worth a difference,

So here’s to you, New York.





Why Strikes would be less frequent in an Open Opportunity Society July 17, 2011

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Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin and Egyp...

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This past 2 weeks, South Africa has been subject to yet another striker season. In a previous post, I outlined how the use of violence has highlighted the need for greater synergy in the South African market place. This is all to clear, as this the National Employer’s Association of South Africa (NEASA) has now turned to the courts, and have gained and interdict against striking workers to prevent any further damage to property.

Now, as stated earlier, synergy exists in its purest form when effective collaboration happens. Dr. Tim Stagich, in his book , “Collaborative Leadership and Global Transformation”, has noted that the foundations for effective collaboration between any parties would be:

  • Reciprocal benefit (where all parties are advantaged from any decision made)
  • A Healthy respect for one another
  • An Appreciation of diverse contributions to be made 
  • A shared understanding of how these values work in a collaborative process

The absence of these values in the present situation, and to a large extent in many of our communities,  is painfully clear. I would venture to guess that one of  the main reasons that the workers would put forward for the strike would be that they feel that they have lost a significant amount of dignity, through a continuous erroding of resources (Money, power, etc) which has critically eroded their opportunity to maximise their own potential.

But what if we create the platform for them to do just that? What if we create a sustainable environment for people to interact with one another in a collaborative, synergistic way in a way that only South Africans can?

The Open Opportunity Society for All notes three concepts that are critical to creating a sustainable environment for the individual to maximise their potential. They are:

  • Individual Freedom under the rule of law
  • Opportunity with responsibility
  • Full equality for all

Once we have a society where these 3 factors are present, the right to human dignity will become entrenched, and from that space of human dignity, a healthy respect for one another, an apppreciation of divergent views and how these values can work in a collaborative way can be achieved. This, then would form the basis for the transformation of our society into one where the quest for reciprocal benefit would be sustainable. Furthermore, once a lasting sense of  human dignity is achieved, a deeper commitment to achieving a collaborative society is generated.   

A classic example of this technique, as quoted by Stagich in his book, is the peace agreement between Egypt (under Anwar Sadat) and Israel (with Menachem Begin as prime minister) with former US president Jimmy Carter as facilitator. The process moved toward a general understanding between the two parties once a mutual respect was built. This led to differences being transcended, and ultimately, a peace accord signed.

For more on the Open, Opportunity Society, please see a short policy platform here.

In closing, the quest for achieving this level of cooperation will not subvert or diminish the right to strike, neither should  it superceded any right of any individual. However, once we, as a South African society, can learn to resolve our differences without using the tactics of the past, we will truly be on the path to acheiving an even deeper level of greatness than we already have.

Strikes and Synergy July 12, 2011

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National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa

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South Africa is dealing with yet another strike season. This time around, it is the National Union of Metal Workers (NUMSA) who have led the cause, and are into the second week of the industrial action. They are asking for increases of 10-13%, while employers are offering an average of 7%.

The right to strike is one of the many rights that were part of the overall struggle against apartheid, and no one would deny any worker’s right to strike, provided it is within the confines of the law. However, as outlined by ANC chairwoman Baleka Mbete, when the strike trun violent, and in some cases, even deadly, then they lose not only the point of the action, but also the sentiment of the public in supporting their right to the action.

Now one could add that the violence associated with strike can be traced back to the armed struggle and the violent uprisings that marred the 80’s in this country.

The violence, however, highlights a greater divide within the South African workplace. It is alarmingly clear that there is virtually no synergy between employer bodies and trade unions in this country. Moreover, there is precious little desire on both sides to create synergy in this most vital of partnerships. And Synergy, is exactly what we need in the current market conditions. Without it, the South African workplace will not realise the potential that lies within.

So, just how do we create that Synergy? Your comments welcome…

Phone Hacking, RICA and why @nicdawes is on to something July 10, 2011

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This week, the dominating story on the world stage was the unceremonial closing of arguably the world’s largest newspaper. This follows a phone hacking scandal, where it’s alleged (and proven) that journalists of the News of the World newspaper hacked the phones of, among others, the victims of the 7 July 2005 bombings in London. This story has significant importance  on two fronts in South Africa.

The first is the act of phone hacking. For a large part of the past 2 years, South Africans were encouraged to have their mobile phones approved according to the RICA Act. The Act is meant to curb the use of cell phones in criminal activities, as well as allowing security agencies within government structures the freedom to tap into one’s phone, should there be reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is happening (this, of course, requires a warrant). The problem is that while the use of monitoring devices by government institutions is regulated by the Act, at present, the database is not completely secure, as was demonstarted last week, when pre-RICA’d sim cards were freely available on the black market. This shows that the application of the Act is far below what is required. Hence, one must wonder whether a similiar scandal is destined to happen in this country, even with the act in operation.

The second point was laid out by Nic Dawes, editor of the Mail And Guardian newspaper in South Africa. In one of his tweets of 8 July, he highlights how the Guardian newpaper’s pursuit of the News of the World‘s nefarious doings shows that press regulation has many forms. This, of course, comes hot on the heels of the launch of the Press Freedom Commission, which, among others, is comprised of Justics Pius Langa and Archbishop Thabo Makgoba. The primary goal of the commission is to “Ensure press freedom in support of enhancing our democracy which is founded on human dignity, equality and freedom”. This is in direct contrast to the ANC‘s wish to establish a media tribunal, which is meant to curb press freedom and ultimately make the printed media subject to the will of the executive and the ruling party.

Now, it is clear that in both instances, regulation is required. However, the price of the rlation must not be the curbing of freedom, either of the individual, or the press. Let’s hope that we learn from the News of the World’s demise and ensure that we all remain responsible citizens, as well as vital, fearless, required arms of our hard fought democracy.

Renaming streets : Why @RyanOConnorSA was partly right July 4, 2011

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This morning on KFM’s Breakfast show, Ryan O’Connor and his team began discussing street names, and the changing thereof. They outlined that this process requires a vast amount of money and time, and the implications of it extend across all sorts of boundaries, not just for industries, but for society in general. There was also lots of feedback, among others a tweet from @purringkittykat questioning whether people should rather be honored by buildings being named after them. The main point they were making was that this money and resources could clearly be used on more pressing social issues, like building houses, increasing service delivery and strengthening the public service.

Well, I believe they’re partly right. And by partly I mean about 60% right. In this country, there seems to be an unhealthy fascination with changing street names, and buying flashy cars using state (including municipal) funding, while the rest of the nation is hamstrung by a rapidly declining level of service delivery. And yes, this service delivery decline does not only pertain to the local government sphere. Our public schools are woefully understaffed, and many school buildings are a serious state of disrepair (some children are still being taught in mud huts and und trees!). Many of our hospitals are in urgent need of regular maintenance, and while our medical staff are doing the best they can with what they’ve got, they too are beset by problems associated with understaffing and skilled labour leaving the country. The backlog in the maintenance of our roads has now hit R149 BILLION! This has necessitated the transport ministry to introduce more toll roads on the nation’s more widely used roads, placing more financial burden on the citizens.

But there is another issue that affects human dignity which we would be loathe to understand and confront. The regime pre-1994 sought to entrench apartheid through various means, including covert and overt mechanisms. One of these strategies was the naming of streets and public areas after architects of the system; including Jan Smuts Drive, Hendrik Verwoed Avenue and D.F. Malan Airport among others (this also included the erection of statues of these people in prominent places around the nation). Furthermore, they also named streets after clearly derogatory terms in townships and locations where the only emotion they would stir is rabid hatred eg. Native Yard 1, Boesman Straat etc.

It is this injustice that, too, must be confronted, along with the injustice of not having adequate housing based on the colour of your skin, or not having access to education because you don’t have enough money, because you were previously unfairly disadvantaged. And I would venture to believe that Ryan and his team would agree with me that we are not going to eradicate all the injustices of the past overnight, but we have the power to start dealing with them on more than just one front.

Yes, spending R800 million on re-naming roads while your education system is crumbling is an insult to say the least, and those in charge should be held accountable, but let’s be congnisant of the fact that restoring human dignity also includes restoring one’s environment to reflect our pride.

Democracy as a way of life June 27, 2011

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This past Saturday, our family spent some time with my wife Natasha’s colleague and friend, Bongani Mnisi, his wife Lulama and their little daughter, Tisani.

Around the braai fire, Bongani and I had quite an interesting discussion around the City of Cape Town and the relationship between democracy and conservation in the city. The conversation was interesting in that he is a manager within the field, and I, of course, was talking from a DA viewpoint. He was making the point that politicians from both the ANC and DA have made democracy an ideal, instead of a way of life. He was saying that when he speaks conservation, he has to use  different terminology to people from Constantia, as opposed to people from Cafda, but not because they might have different education levels, or interest levels. It stems from the mere point that conservation means different things to people from different areas, yet we all share the bountiful splendor of the natural beauty that is Cape Town. For some of us, conservation is a means towards a better understanding of our city, but for others, conservation might be a barrier in daily survival.

And wrapped up in all of this, the discussion eventually came to the point where we debated whether democracy had just become an ideal, that is building better roads, infrastructure and housing,  or whether we should strive for it to become a way of life. Should we not be striving for our people to be exercising democracy in everything they do, including something as important (especially in the Cape Town context) as conservation? Yes, we should be building houses, bulding roads, improving social infrastructure, and creating economies of scale, but are we doing it to improve the lives of our citizens, or are we doing it to create the illusion of democracy?

Julius Malema finally debunked in the media June 22, 2011

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It was so good to hear Xolani Gwala take Julius Malema to task this morning over the content of his closing speech at the ANC Youth League National Congress this past Sunday in Sandton. Interviewing him on ‘The Forum at 8’ on SAFM this morning, Xolani pushed him in to a rather small proverbial corner, and eventually forced him to backtrack on most of his statements in that speech.

Although there is credence to what Julius says in terms of land restitution being too slow, he clearly has not thought of the consequences of retribution without compensation. Neither is his views on nationalization coherent enough to be taken seriously.

The letter that I sent to theCapeTimeswith respect to today’s happenings can be found below.


Well done to Xolani Gwala on an excellent piece of radio journalism this morning (22.06.2011) on ‘The Forum at 8’ with your interview with Julius Malema. You have shown him up as someone who is unable to back up his wild rhetoric with coherent logic. It is very clear that for most of the discussion, he backtracked on virtually all the comments he made during his closing speech at the ANCYL congress on Sunday afternoon.

His own comrades within the ANC Youth League were calling in to the program to voice their displeasure at the way he represented his organisation and the resolutions passed both at the National congress last week, as well as on the radio this morning.

Hopefully, he will now be further exposed on such platforms, and the nation will see that while he is a populist and part of what he says is true, the way in which he handles himself offers no value to the debate of nation building inSouth Africa.


Malema’s Plan : Be afraid June 20, 2011

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Julius Malema was re-elected as the President of the ANC Youth League at it’s National Conference held in Sandton over the past couple of days. The delegates were today going to adopt policy resolutions that would put them in direct defiance of the ANC leadership and current government policy. (The Sunday Times‘ article on the same can be found here.)

Now, to those of us who have a hint of common sense and are interested in what happens around us would have no trouble understanding the sheer madness of the resolutions that were passed. To put unskilled labour in charge of farms would place us in the exact samesituation as Zimbabwe, contrary to what Julius would have us believe. Ditto with regard to the nationalisation of mines. Furthermore, it had been proven time and again that more often than not, nationalisation means wage lowering. Let’s see how the ‘ Vanguard of the Working Class’ sells this to their constituents. And while I agree that our foreign policy has been pitiful to say the least, clearly the ANCYL has not learnt from they recent Arab Spring uprisings. People are sick of despots, and supporting African Leaders, most of whom have been in power for more than 2 generations, will prove more disastrous than pulling the contract to build more large military aircraft.

The strengthening of Julius’ hand in the ANC, by being elected unopposed, does not bode well for the ANC, as well as the nation.

It is high time the body politic, including the media, stop romanticising him, and be more vocal in opposition to him.

It’s time for him to know exactly what most of us think of him. Otherwise, bad things might happen, because good people kept quiet.

Racialism : The DA’s Rubicon June 16, 2011

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In South Africa, today is Youth Day. We celebrate the youth’s invaluable contribution to the struggle for liberation. It is especially poignant today as, on June 16, 1976, the Soweto uprising occurred where students took to the streets in protest of Afrikaans being the language of instruction for Bantu Education (as stipulated by the apartheid government). It is widely believed that uprising kick-started the liberation struggle in South Africa which resulted in democracy in 1994.

However, in the light of the recent local government elections, and subsequent commentaries by various ministers, the African National Congress seems hellbent on using racialism as a means to cling to power. In the recent election debates, through various media, virtually every ANC had no viable strategy for combating the corruption and cronyism that has cripled move than half of the municipalities in this nation. As a result, the Democratic Alliance‘s message of “Service Delivery for all” was embraced by more voters in different regions by various racial groups than ever before. Among black voters, although the gains were small, the percentage increase was significant enough for most political journalists to sit up and take notice of the DA’s rising influence in the local government halls of power.

However, as long as the ANC persists with the racial card, the DA will find it difficult to garner enough support to change the balance of power in parliament. The DA’s greatest challenge right now is that its leadership does not adequately represent all the racial groups within South Africa. The task of redressing this issue, in my humble opinion, is  certainly not insurmountable. The strategy increase support in the May 18 election clearly worked, and to keep the momentum going, I would say a 3-pronged strategy would be needed.

Firstly, we have to continue to grow leaders from within. The DA Young Leaders program and the LEAD project has unearthed some young, raw talent that already has been converted to competent public representation. In the YLP class of 2008, my year, 4 people are now local councillors, 3 run the DA Youth wing, 1 came within 800 votes of the Kwazulu-Natal legislature, and virtually all of us are involved in DA political activity in some shape or form. This is clearly a good breeding ground for talent, and would complement other efforts to raise the party’s profile among all race groups. There are other leaders like Lindiwe Mazibuko and Mmusi Maimane, who have not come through LEAD or the YLP. The process of growing these leaders from within will be slow, but the fruits of it are already being seen.

Secondly, the strategy of using the web as means of communication and awareness must continue. The DA used the platforms of Twitter and FaceBook extremely well in the election campaign. As complimentary to this, other forms of mobile communication can be used to convey the message of the Open, Opportunity Society for All. There have been 2 mobile communication conferences in Cape Town in the past 2 weeks, and both of them have explored the vast opportunities that have arisen out of the rise of the smartphone. While this technology might not be available to all at present, it will almost certainly define the future of communication. Exploiting the opportunities presented now will ensure that the DA remains the leader in mobile communication within the political sphere

Although the above points are important, they pale in comparison to the last one. DA leaders who have worked hard to gain a significant media presence, but be constantly seen in areas in which the DA would not normally be associated with. And those of us who have a rising profile must use the opportunity to be seen spreading the party message in all parts of our land. This strategy, used effectively until the 2014 General Election, will ensure that by then, we would have made significant inroads into the racial debate to which the ANC currently holds so dear. Using a mixture of young and established leaders in these areas will demonstrate the seriousness of the DA’s intention to be a party for all South Africans. Once this is achieved, the quest for governance in 2014 will be a significant factor in yet another change in South Africa’s political landscape.

To close, in 49 B.C. , Julius Caesar, after amassing a sizable military (and wealth), had to decide whether to follow the Roman protocol and surrender his army, or cross the Rubicon, declare war on the present, and change history forever. Before crossing the Rubicon, he famously declared, “Alea Jacta Est” (The die is now cast).

Forward to the day when Helen Zille stands at the gates of parliament and cries,

“Isinqumo sesithathiwe”