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

Posted by cmfry in DA, Politics.
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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.

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

Posted by cmfry in Politics.
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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

Posted by cmfry in Cape Town, DA, Politics.
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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?

Malema’s Plan : Be afraid June 20, 2011

Posted by cmfry in Politics.
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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

Posted by cmfry in DA, Politics, Uncategorized.
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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”

Is it really about the Marmite? May 27, 2011

Posted by cmfry in Denmark, Politics.
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This week there was quite a furore kicked up by Denmark. This time, they did not blaspheme against any religion, or cause any bilateral dispute, they did something far more sinister (in the eyes of all those affected by the British Empire, that is!). They banned the sale of Marmite, sighting the added vitamins as a threat to public health, and therefore illegal under their 2004 legislation restricting these types of foods. (more on the topic can be found here.)

Now, normally, this would not be such an issue, as various brands get the same treatment in other areas of the world. But again, Denmark gets the international spotlight, and subsequent outcry by those of us who are Marmite fans. But, having lived in that country for a while, I can understand the reasoning behind the decision.

Demark, for one, is a highly structured, Social Democratic, Constitutional Monarchy State. And it works VERY well. The streets are clean, the social services are slick (Free, world class education, highly advanced, accessible healthcare and excellent care for the elderly) and the government works for the people. They are highly patriotic, and have a high regard for their monarchy, where Queen Margrethe II, now 71, is highly respected amongst the Danish people. And it is in this structure that many immigrants choose to travel (mostly from areas on the Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East, and parts of Africa. However, unlike most nations, to become a naturalized citizen takes a lot of hard work, including acquiring an acceptable command of the Danish language. This process can take up to 5 years. And as for being structured, try organizing a braai in Copenhagen with all your friends for next weekend. It’s impossible! And try disciplining your kid in the mall. You most likely will get a free ticket to court.

It does, however, create a very safe, free environment to live in. Most expats living there would agree that it would be very difficult to compare the living conditions in Copenhagen to those of their homeland (especially those from developing countries). Although the cost of living is astronomically high, it just feels so very safe and easy (24 hours, 7 days a week as well!) to live and prosper in Denmark.

Secondly, because they have such a deep sense of patriotism and national identity, Danes generally view anything un-Danish with skepticism. There are many things in Danish culture that cannot be assimilated easily into others (salted licorice, herring, shops being closed on Sundays), while they don’t readily allow foreign aspects into theirs (the scarcity of Western franchises present in the capital being a prime example). The exception, of course being American television, where most Danes get their English accents from. Hence, many of their laws are aimed at preserving the Danish culture and way of life. If you ever have the opportunity of living there for an extended period of time, you will notice this fairly early on in your stay.

So, while the ban on Marmite is certainly lamentable, once you live in Denmark, it would make sense as to why this has happened. Luckily, I left, so I can enjoy Sandwich with that spread in relative peace….and freedom.