30 April 2010

Ning’s Bubble Bursts: No More Free Networks, Cuts 40% Of Staff

Ning’s Bubble Bursts: No More Free Networks, Cuts 40% Of Staff:
One month after long-time Ning CEO Gina Bianchini was replaced by COO Jason Rosenthal, the company is making some major changes: It has just announced that it is killing off its free product, forcing existing free networks to either make the change to premium accounts or migrate their networks elsewhere. Rosenthal has also just announced that the company has cut nearly 70 people — over 40% of its staff.

I haven't heard anthing official about this. I have two social networks on Ning, one a neighbourhood one, and the other for Orthodox missiologists, and when I visited them I saw no demands to pay up or move out, and there were still invitations to create new networks. I belong to a couple of others, AngliMergent and New Monasticism, and posted something on my blog at the latter just yesterday, and again there were no signs that either was closing.

According to Adam Gonnerman at Igneous Quill there is something called grou.ps which might work as a substitute. I tried to link to Igneous Quill but Blogger says "We're sorry, but we were unable to complete your request.
The following errors were found:
u: Must be at most 256 characters"
So maybe another time.

29 April 2010


Cherie took a photo of the moon, and put it on her blog here Cherie's Place | Moonlight. As I was lookin g at it, I looked out of the window and saw the moon in a similar position, rising behind clouds, so I went outside and took a picture of it. Like Cherie, I didn't have a tripod, so I tried to steady the camera by holding it against a gutter downpipe, and here is the result.

Linux hates me

I've been trying on and off for almost 11 years to install Linux on my computer, but still haven't succeeded.

The first version I tried, in October 1999, was Mandrake v 6.0.

It installed OK, and I could run it, load the shell, and play with shell scripts and the like. But it would not recognise my graphics card or monitor, and so would not run a GUI.

Now I have new hard disks, and a new graphics card and a new monitor.

I installed Fedora 12. It doesn't boot to the shell, but loads a GUI, but still doesn't recognise my monitor, and won't display at any higher resolution than 800x600.

I tried booting from a "live" CD of Ubuntu 9.10. Same thing.

Mandriva. Same thing.

Even though the hardware is completely changed, Linux still doesn't recognise my monitor, and still won't tun a GUI properly. And I can't even boot to the shell -- it loads the GUI (badly) and I have to go to a terminal to play with shells scripts etc.

My monitor is an LG Flatron W1542S

The graphics card (output of "lspel|grep VGA") shows: 02:00.0 VGA compatible controller nVidia Corporation NVCrvxnII [GeForce 2 MX Integrated Graphics] (rev b1).

Am I the only one who has this problem?

Why does Linux hate me?

26 April 2010

Going Green: installing a solar-powered geyser

This morning workmen came to install a solar-powered geyser in our house. It's a cold and rainy day and winter is approaching, so I'm not sure if we'll see the benefit immediately, but it will be interesting to see if the electricity bills are reduced after a few months.

Val saved her annual bonus, and Eskom, the national electricity supplier, offers subsidies to encourage people to install them. As most of our electricity comes from coal-fired power stations, it should make a difference to carbon-dioxide emissions if lots of people take advantage of their offer. We'll have to see how well it works after a few months.

Another advantage is that it puts the geyser outside. Our all-electric one is under the roof and just over a cupboard, and every three or four years it leaks, and everything in the cupboard is wrecked. So for the last couple of years the cupboard has been empty, and everything that was in it has been piled on the floor.

The new one has a supplementary electric element, which is switched on by a timer in the early morning, when people need hot water for washing. But during the day and early evening the sun should do the job. It also has an electric override switch, in case it rains for a week or two.

We got quotations from three different firms for the installation, and opted for African Emissions Trading, which was the cheapest when the Eskom subsidy is taken into account. It was also the closest to where we live, in case we need to call on them for repairs and maintenance. If the system is working well after six months or so, we'll recommend them! I'd also be interested to hear from others who have installed solar-powered geysers, on how well they work etc.

Why don't the English teach their journalists how to write?

Serbia moves to diffuse war crimes dispute with Bosnia - Telegraph:
Serbia moves to diffuse war crimes dispute with Bosnia
Serbia has moved to defuse a bitter dispute with Bosnia over the extradition of their neighbour's Muslim former president on war crimes charges

That's better. Now about that headline...

25 April 2010

Conspiracy theories abound after Polish plane crash

One of my first thoughts on hearing the news of the plane crash involving the Polish president and several other government officials was that the last time such a thing happened, when the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi were killed in a plane crash in 1994, the result was genocide in which more than a million people were killed. I hoped that this plane crash was not going to lead to anything similar, and for a couple of weeks it seemed quiet, but now the conspiracy theories are starting to fly around the Internet.

According to conspiracy theorists:
  • The plane was shot down
  • The Russians created artificial fog
  • The Russians moved the runway lights
Devilishly clever, these Russians -- creating artificial fog so that the people in the plane can't see them shooting at it, and yet being able to see in the fog to be able to shoot it down. And then there is this: THE BIG WOBBLE: The guy who filmed the shots fired at the POLISH PLANE CRASH WAS ASSASSINATED:
Author of the video seen by everyone by now has been stabbed near Kijow on 4.15 and transported in critical condition to the hospital in Kijow. On 4.16 three unidentified individuals unplugged him from life support system and stabbed him 3 more times. Andrij was pronounced dead that afternoon. Russian government claims it was a coincidence.
and this

The Vatic Project: ALERT: Cameraman filming the crash of Polish President is Assassinated:
Wow, this just keeps getting more and more bizarre. There are now two videos, the one you first saw on vatic project when this all broke, and below it is done again only this time its being shown below with english subtitles of the voices both in the background and the camera man. The camera man was killed on the 15th and immediately afterward, the original video was replaced and if it wasn't downloaded then its gone. A new movie was put up to replace it which basically eliminates all that was seen in the first movie.

I just hope that it won't follow the precedent set in Rwanda and Burundi, and that it doesn't lead to a second Katyn massacre.

Assassination of Juvénal Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
The airplane carrying Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundian president Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down as it prepared to land in Kigali, Rwanda. The assassination set in motion some of the bloodiest events of the late 20th century. Responsibility for the attack is disputed, with most theories proposing as suspects either the rebellious Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) or government-aligned Hutu extremists opposed to negotiation with the RPF.

24 April 2010

Christian witness: God is love, and He hates you

What do you when street preachers appear proclaiming a message of hate?

Jackrabbit's response was to distribute "Love" signs among the audience.

Jackrabbit Goes Down the Rabbit Hole: Fear, Loathing, and "The Laramie Project": Jackrabbit vs. the Street Preacher:
By the time I got back, the hate preachers were in full force, and I suddenly went from wet-my-pants terrified to extremely determined, which was totally a God thing. I started by working the crowd with my big yellow signs, handing them out to anybody who wanted one, and then stood on the top of the amphitheater in the middle of the quad with a huge LOVE poster.

Isn't repentance important? Indeed it is, but I'm not sure that this is the best witness to the need for repentance:

... when a girl in a very short plaid skirt bent over to talk to her friends, he pulled out a camera and basically up-skirted her. He did all this while wearing a "no porn" button on his shirt. I found this very interesting for a man who claimed that he had stopped sinning the moment he accepted Jesus.

I think I prefer the examples of repentance of wicked politicians like John Profumo and Adriaan Vlok.

23 April 2010

British politics gets interesting too

The British political scene has suddenly become more interesting after a televised debate between the leaders of the three main parties last week led to a surge in popularity for the Liberal Democrats, who have been out of power since the First World War. It was apparently the first time such a debate had been held, which gave British voters a chance to hear more than the occasional soundbite from the Lib-Dem leader, and most seemed to think he was the clear winner of the first round.

We watched last night's second round of the debate to see what all the fuss was about.

Cameron Failure to Top Clegg in Debate Signals Hung Parliament - BusinessWeek:
April 23 (Bloomberg) -- Conservative David Cameron failed to derail Nick Clegg in the U.K. campaign’s second debate, four instant polls showed, pointing to a hung parliament with Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Labour Party as the largest bloc.

In a 90-minute televised debate, Brown, 59, compared his 43-year-old opponents to children “squabbling at bathtime.” Cameron, who led polls until Clegg’s surge after last week’s debate, said a government without a majority would prevent “decisive action” to narrow a record budget deficit. Clegg dismissed such warnings as “ludicrous scare stories.”

Of four surveys released immediately after the event, two showed Clegg won and a pair favored Cameron. That suggests the debate will produce little change in polls on the overall race in coming days. Most since last week show Labour winning a plurality of seats in the May 6 election.

From this distance the thing that was of most interest is foreign policy, and whether a new British government will continue or abandon the war-mongering of the belligerent Mr Blair, who has led Britain into three wars of aggression in the last 13 years.

Nick Clegg was the only one who mentioned the illegal Iraq War, while the other two steered clear of it. David Cameron's contribution seemed to be mostly vague platitudes and aspirations without saying how these would be achieved. Gordon Brown got specific about things like jobs and recovering from the recession, but was also vague about protecting Britain from terrorism, which the others didn't challenge him on, though it could be argued that Labour's support for America's wars of aggression in the Middle East actually made Britain more vulnerable to terrorism. Brown accused Clegg of being anti-American and Cameron of being anti-European, and implied that his "quiet diplomacy" would have more influence of American policy than Clegg's promise of a more independent line -- which is the kind of thing we used to hear from Thabo Mbeki about his approach to human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

It will be interesting to see how things develop.

22 April 2010

The mystery of the runaway train

Several times a week Rovos Rail trains pass our house, and my wife noticed one passing yesterday morning that was unusual in that it was hauled by a diesel or electric locomotive rather than a steam locomotive. A few hours later we heard that one had been derailed at Pretoria atation, and that some people had been killed and many others injured.

Runaway train: Warning screams futile: News24: South Africa: News:
The traumatised owner of the Rovos Rail train which derailed just outside Pretoria said on Wednesday he screamed at others to jump - but his warnings came too late.

'I screamed at the others (the passengers and crew) to tell them to jump off,' Ruhan Vos said of the train which sped out of control for about 10km from the Centurion station in the direction of Pretoria.

'I jumped off while it was moving.'

Vos said the train stopped in Centurion where tourists were allowed to look at the steam locomotive which would take them to the Capital Park station.

The Rovos Rail trains use vintage rolling stock that has been gutted to transform the coaches into luxury accommodation, and they are very expensive to travel on. We've often said that if we inherited or won a lot of money we'd like to travel on one of them to Dar-es-Salaam (the news story reference to Cape-to-Cairo trips is nonsense -- there is no continuous rail link, and if you want to travel by train north of Dar-es-Salaam there is a break of gauge. Cape Town to Dar-es-Salaam is 1067 mm while north of that it is 1000 mm).

The mystery is why the coaches should run away.

In 1955 I travelled by train on a school trip to Cape Town. We travelled from Johannesburg to Cape Town on the Trans-Karroo in the spring, and woke up in the Karroo to see flowers stretching to the horizon. At Touws Ricver the engine was changed from steam to electric, and we descended into the Hex River Valley, and some of the mountain peaks had snow on them -- the first time in my life I had ever seen snow.

On the return journey ten days later I stood gazing out of the window as we passed through the Hex River valley, gazing at the amazingly beautiful mountains lit by the afternoon sun. Then the scenery became less interesting as the train began the steep climb out of the valley, so I went back to my compartment. We had climbed about halfway out of the valley when the train stopped with an almighty jerk, and we were almost thrown out of our seats. When it hadn't moved for a few minutes we looked out to see what was happening, and there was a small crowd around the electric engines -- two of them in tandem to pull the train out of the valley.

We got out and went forward to have a look. The coupling on the front coach, a heavy cast-iron affair, had broken.

The coach was equipped with an emergency coupling -- a piece of chain -- which the crew hooked on to the engine. But before the train could go again, the vacuum brake pipe had to be repaired. When the coupling broke, the brake pipe stretched and broke too, and the jerk we had felt was caused when the air rushed into the broken pipe to fill the vacuum, and the brakes were suddenly applied.

The train crew cut the broken pipe with a penkife, and mended the break with insulation tape. When it was done, we all got back into the train, and it started forward again, but hadn't gone more than a few feet when it rolled back, and stopped with another jerk. We got out and went to see what had happened. The chain had broken. Not surprising, since it had to carry the whole weight of the train. Since it had broken while the train was just pulling away, it rolled back a few feet before the vacuum pipe broke, and was brought to a sudden halt as the brakes were applied.

The crew got to work again. There were enough links left in the chain to reach the rear engine -- just. There was enough vacuum pipe left to join it up again, but stretched out, and no longer in a loop. If it broke again we would be stranded on the mountainside, and since it was a single line at that point, the main line between Johannesburg and Cape Town would be blocked. We got back in the train, and the crew pulled away very carefully, and this time the link did not break, and we made it to Touws River, where the heavy coupling on the front coach was replaced, and the vacuum brake pipes replaced as well. The steam engine was put on -- a massive one with a condensing tender to conserve water in the run across the dry Karroo. It was night by then, and the train was late.

The point of the story is that most of the coaches on the train in 1955 in regular service were the same vintage as those in the Rovos Rail trains. The front one, where the coupling broke, was the oldest, built in the 1920s. The others had probably been built in the 1930s and 1940s. They are the same as the ones that have been converted into luxury accommodation for Rovos Rail. The coach we travelled in was second class, with six compartments with six sleeping bunks in each, and two coupés with three bunks in each. Rovos Rail just stripped out the compartments and made them into bigger and posher bedrooms. But surely they left the vacuum braking system intact. The track out of the Hex River valley is steeper than that between Centurion and Pretoria, and when the coupling broke the train did not run away to the bottom. The second time it did roll back a few feet, but the moment the vacuum pipe broke it stopped with a vicious jerk.

So how could similarly equipped coaches on the Rovos Rail train run away down a hill that is not as steep? As soon as the vacuum pipe was uncoupled from the engine the brakes should have been applied throughout the train.

So therein lies a mystery.

21 April 2010

Who is Glenn Beck?

I'd never heard of Glenn Beck until I began reading about him in blog posts by other people who had never heard of him until they read about him in e-mails or blog posts from other people who may have heard of him. But from what I've heard, he had been preaching a new gospel about some kind of false Christ.

Jim Forest, in the Netherlands, writes On Pilgrimage: Thank you, Glenn Beck:
I live a sheltered life, that is to say I watch very little TV. Until yesterday I had never heard of Glenn Beck. But when a friend in Kentucky sent me an e-mail asking if I was aware that Dorothy Day had been mentioned on Glenn Beck’s weekly TV show, I got curious. Via YouTube, I quickly discovered that Glenn Beck is more than willing to accuse anyone he doesn’t agree with of being a socialist, a communist, a marxist or a nazi, or even all four.

And Matt Stone, from Australia, writes Glenn Beck and Social Justice - Glocal Christianity:
Glenn Beck, an American radio and television host that I'd never heard of till this week, has set off a firestorm of web commentary after denouncing social justice as a 'perversion of the gospel'. Well, what do I say to that? I'm lost for words.

It seems that Glenn Beck has mentioned Dorothy Day as a Marxist and someone Marxists knew, but whom he had never heard of. I suspect, however, that more Christians have heard of Dorothy Day than have ever heard of Glenn Beck. Glenn Beck also mentioned a book about Dorothy Day, which happens to have been written by Jim Forest, and that was why someone tipped Jim Forest off about the existence of Glenn Beck, hence his blog post. So it seems a suitable opportunity to mention the book and put it on my "to read" list: Love Is the Measure: A Biography of Dorothy Day Love Is the Measure: A Biography of Dorothy Day by Jim Forest

Jim Forest is an Orthodox Christian, and bosser-up of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship. Dorothy Day was an American Roman Catholic who cared for the poor and homeless, and along with Peter Maurin and Amon Hennessy founded the Catholic Worker movement and developed the philosophy of Communitarianism, which is similar to that expounded in the UK by G.K. Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc. So I'm sure Jim Forest's biography of her is well worth reading.

19 April 2010

Surveillance society

Big Brother's tentacles are stretching deeper into people's homes as webcams in school pupils' laptop computers send bedroom pictures back to the school authorities.

Lawyer: Laptops took thousands of images | Philadelphia Inquirer | 04/15/2010:
The system that Lower Merion school officials used to track lost and stolen laptops wound up secretly capturing thousands of images, including photographs of students in their homes, Web sites they visited, and excerpts of their online chats, says a new motion filed in a suit against the district.

The complaint is about a picture of a pupil sleeping, but what else might they be watching? Voyeurs could watch pupils dressing and undressing, and more.

This photo, allegedly taken surreptitiously by the Lower Merion School District through a laptop web camera, shows Blake Robbins sleeping at home at 5 p.m. on Oct 26. (Photo provided by the Robbins family)
More than once, the motion asserts, the camera on Robbins' school-issued laptop took photos of Robbins as he slept in his bed. Each time, it fired the images off to network servers at the school district.

Back at district offices, the Robbins motion says, employees with access to the images marveled at the tracking software. It was like a window into "a little LMSD soap opera," a staffer is quoted as saying in an e-mail to Carol Cafiero, the administrator running the program.

"I know, I love it," she is quoted as having replied.

16 April 2010

Volcano eruption likely to disrupt 2012 Olympic Games

If you think the disruption to transport caused by Icelandic volcanic ash in the northern British Isles this week was bad, that is nothing compared to the volcanic eruptions that are predicted to disrupt the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

A likely scenario?

About as likely is this:

Daily Star: Simply The Best 7 Days A Week :: News :: World Cup South Africa 2010: Quake Fears:
WAYNE Rooney could be shaking in his boots at the World Cup – because of fears of an earthquake.

An expert has predicted the country is almost certain to be hit by a major natural disaster.

And it could strike during this summer’s footie tournament.

Dr Chris Hartnady has singled out Durban and Cape Town as the areas most likely to be hit by a quake.

As one commentator put it, the Brit media just jumped the shark.

13 April 2010

Two gardens

We're interested in family history and last week we went to the Mormon Family History Centre in Johannesburg to do some research in their library (details of what we found are on our family history blog).

One of the things I always enjoy when visiting there is the walk from the car park to the reading room, through a garden filled with ponts and shady trees. The ponds have goldfish in them, and it is a pleasant peaceful place, and it's cool shade is especially good in summer.

And then on alternate Sundays we go to church in Mamelodi, where we have services in a classroom at the Zakhele Primary Schooll. Outside is a vegetable garden, where the kids learn about botany and agriculture, and last Sunday it seemed in particularly good condition. It seemed to say something about the quality of the teachers and the diligence of the learners, and gives one hope for the future of education. This picture was taken from the window of the classroom where we had just held our service.

So there are two gardens, one ornamental, and the other practical and educational.

Fascist digital technology in "The Priest" movie

It seems there has been quite a spectacular anachronism in the film The Priest

Fascist digital technologies in The Priest movie

Scene from The Priest film about the WWII.
Look at German soldier's camera.
In the evening, he will go to his barrack with an Internet access terminal, post it on his page in the German Classmates and write to Fuhrer in Twitter…

11 April 2010

Politics is getting interesting again, thanks to two fascist clowns

Easter week of 2010 will be remembered as the week when politics in South Africa became interesting again, thanks to two political clowns and the media.

On the left, Eugene Terre'blanche (known as ET), former leader of the AWB (Afrikanner Resistance Movement), and on the right, Julius Malema, leader of the ANC Youth League.

ET made headlines by the manner of his death, and the rumours that circulated around it, and his political buffoonery lay in the past, though his funeral was a circus, if media accounts are to be believed, and some of his supporters appear to believe that Julius Malema's racist rhetoric at least contributed to his death, if it was not directly responsible for it.

But, as the front page of City Press shows, they were actually birds of a feather, both dedicated to overblown fascist and racist rhetoric. But a nation divided? I doubt it. Both these demagogues appealed to small but vocal minorities, and they have been boosted by much media attention.

For ten years or more, politics has been excessively boring. Endless stories of graft and corruption, and fat cats jockeying for position. In the apartheid days we were largely protected from such stories because the press was kept on a tight leash by the National Party regime. The best one could say about the corruption stories was that they showed we now have a free press.

But the antics of ET and Malema and their supporters provide entertainment, and the media are determined to give it to us. Not all of the jounalism is responsible, though. One can expect sensationalism from tabloids like The Sun, but even "responsible" papers like the Sunday Independent could not resist a sensation-mongerring headline like

Was ET gay and bonking darkies?

based on the rumour that a used condom had been found in the room where ET was murdered. The police had categorically denied that a condom had been found, but the Sunday Independent was not about to let the facts get in the way of a good story. They did include the police denial -- in small print, right at the bottom. So the antics of the media are almost as entertaining as those of the protagonists.

But it also reaches the point where it goes beyond a joke.

The last straw was when Julius Malema kicked a BBC journalist, Jason Fisher, out of a press conference, claiming he had been insulted.

Malema apparently castigated the Movement for Democratic Change, the Zimbabwean opposition group, for speaking from their air-conditioned offices in Sandton. And Fisher pointed out that Malema himself lived in Sandton, and Malema blew his top.

Any politician in a democratic society with a sense of proportion would probably have grinned, said "Touché!" or something similar, and moved on.

The fact that Malema perceived that as an insult and lost his cool over it and kicked the journalist out speaks volumes. It doesn't matter what Malema said. The words he used are not important. It his actions that show that he is a fascist, with no sense of democracy, and no sense of proportion.

As another journalist in City Press, Xolela Mangcu, put it, "Il Duce step aside: a fascist fire rages in Malema."

If Malema had any political nous at all he would see that as an insult, and an insult far worse than saying that he lived in Sandton.

As Mangcu says of this incident

Perhaps a little world history could be helpful in opening our eyes to what Malema's reaction could mean for our young democracy and people.

The historical figure I have in mind is Italy's fascist leader, Benito Mussolini. On the eve of Mussolini's reign as prime minister a critic asked him about his party's political programme. Mussolini mocked the critic thus: "The democrats of Il Mondo want to know our programme? It is to break the bones of the democrats of Il Mondo, and the sooner the better."

Mussolini concluded his tirade thus: "The fist is the synthesis of our theory."

And that statement is a pretty good summary of the political programme and philosophy of ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe, which Malema has just visited, and spoken admiringly of ZANU-PF.

This, is of course, an embarrassment to the leadership of the ANC, which is trying to portray itself as a neutral honest broker between ZANU-PF and the MDC, an image which Malema's blatant partisanship has shattered. His outburst to the BBC journalist has shown his true colours. It bodes ill for our democracy if his political career goes any further. Xolela Mangcu is hopeful that it won't

Could Malema be the face of the replacement of politics with violence? I doubt it. Malema will ultimately trip on his own words. Besides, South Africa is too complex and differentiated to fall under the rule of one Il Duce.

I hope he's right.

But if anyone is getting cold feet about coming to South Africa for the World Cup for fear of a bloodbath, don't worry about it. Julius Malema is unlikely to become president this year, or next year, or any time for the next nine years. And a lot can happen in nine years. South Africa has plenty of precedents of politicians who appeared to have a meteoric rise, and had a sputtering fall. Tielman Roos, for example. Anyone remember him? With any luck, Julius Malema will go the same way.

10 April 2010

Zimbabwe's Bishop Abel Muzorewa dies

BBC News - Zimbabwe's Bishop Abel Muzorewa dies:
One of the most prominent political figures in the turbulent years before the independence of Zimbabwe, Bishop Abel Muzorewa, has died, aged 85.

He was seen by many as a moderate black leader at a time of extreme political change. But black militants saw him as a puppet of white politicians.

Bishop Muzorewa entered politics in the 1970s when nationalist politicians were either imprisoned or in exile.

After Zimbabwe's independence, Bishop Abel Muzorewa was virtually forgotten by the outside world, yet in the 1970s he played a similar role in Ian Smith's Rhodesia to that of Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Allan Boesak in South Africa in the 1980s.

In the 1970s most opposition leaders in Rhodesia were in jail or in exile, and Muzorewa's African National Council revived the internal opposition to the Smith regime in much the same way as the United Democratic Front (UDF) did in South Africa.

The difference was that towards the end of the 1970s Muzorewa allowed himself to be co-opted by the Smith regime, entering a coalition government. But today history is repeating itself as opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, of the Movement for Democratic Change, has similarly allowed himself to be coopted by the Mugabe regime.

07 April 2010

Mugabe, Malema and the future of South Africa

The death of Eugene Terre'blanche stole the news over the weekend and drew public attention away from something far more ominous for the future of South Africa -- Julius Malema's visit to Zimbabwe.

Mugabe, Malema on Terreblanche:
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe and ANC Youth League president Julius Malema have discussed the murder of South African white supremacist leader Eugene Terreblanche during talks in Harare.

Mugabe met Malema -- who was concluding a four-day visit to the country as a guest of Zanu PF -- at State House for over two hours on Monday.

With reporters present, Mugabe spoke to Malema at length about Zimbabwe’s land reform programme and what he said was Britain’s failure to honour its obligations to white farmers whose properties were seized for resettlement.

Mugabe also praised South Africa as an unstinting ally against what he said was a global crusade by “imperialists” to remove his government through economic sabotage and propaganda.

Former President Thabo Mbeki was frequently criticised for taking a low profile on Zimbabwe, and refraining from public criticism of the fascist Mugabe regime.

Julius Malema has shown no such restraint, and has shown his true colours by praising the Mugabe regime. And this is a clear indication of one scenario for South Africa's future: Julius Malema becomes president (possibly succeeding Jacob Zuma), and then it's goodbye to our hard-won democracy. Perhaps in another 15 years time there will be South African refugees sleeping in the Methodist Church in Harare.

Look at what has happened.

Malema is welcomed in Zimbabwe, and praises the leadership of the Zanu-PF and Robert Mugabe. In South Africa he has attacked the trade unions and Cosatu, and just a few years ago, far from meeting Mugabe, a Cosatu delegation was turned away at the Zimbabwe border.

The white, Western and capitalist press has concentrated its criticism of the Mugabe regime on its "land reform" policies, which has entailed the seizure of land from white farmers, and its redistribution among relatives and supporters of high-ups in Zanu-PF.

But long before that, Mugabe attacked the trade unions, which was of less interest to the white, Western and capitalist press.

To understand this one must go back to the 1990s, when Mugabe sent Zimbabwean troops to intervene in civil wars in the Congo. In these foreign military adventures he resembles Tony Blair and George Bush, whom he professes to dislike. In reality, they are birds of a feather.

Foreign military adventures are expensive, and depleted Zimbabwe's foreign currency reserves. This in turn led to fuel shortages, which in turn led to an economic recession, particularly in the towns. Businesses were closed, workers were laid off, and the Zimbabwean trade unions were up in arms. Opposition to Mugabe's policies grew, and in a referendum some constitutional amendments that would, among other things, have made Mugabe president for life, were rejected by the electorate.

This was a wake-up call for Mugabe. If he could lose a referendum, he could also lose an election.

But instead of reversing the unpopular economic policies that had caused the problem, he exacerbated it by instituting his land redistribution scheme as an electoral ploy to buy the rural vote. If Mugabe were sincere about land reform, he had had 20 years to do something about it, and had done nothing. It was only the threat of losing an election that made him bring it in hastily, for the purpose of buying votes. And in the way it was implemented exacerbated the economic problems as Zimbabwe's agricultural productivity plummeted. The foreign exchange problems worsened as tobacco, the main export crop, virtually disappeared. In a couple of years Zimbabwe went from being the bread basket of central Africa to basket case, as hyperinflation took hold.

The opposition grew stronger and reorganised, and coalesced around the trade unions, to form the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). And they have a natural affinity for Cosatu in South Africa, which is why the Cosatu delegation was turned away at the Zimbabwe border.

But who is Malema talking to?

News - Politics: Malema upsets MDC:
ANC Youth League president Julius Malema has upset the Zimbabwean political party, the Movement for Democratic Change, by meeting only Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF on a visit to Harare.

'Is Mr Malema saying that the ANC does not respect democracy and is willing to ignore the millions of Zimbabweans who sent Zanu-PF packing in the corridors of power?' asked Austin Moyo, chairman of the MDC in South Africa, at a media briefing in Johannesburg on Thursday.

'Does Malema understand that there are millions of liberation heroes in the MDC?'

Moyo said Malema made it clear that he would be visiting the Zanu-PF because it was 'a revolutionary party'.

At the moment Cosatu is still allied to the ANC in the tripartite alliance, but if Malema should ever become president Cosatu will have the choice -- become a lapdog, or follow the Zimbabwe trade unions into the political wilderness, and form an equivalent of the MDC.

allAfrica.com: South Africa: Vavi to Tackle ANC Over Malema's 'Disdain':
CONGRESS of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi yesterday said the bilateral meeting with the African National Congress (ANC) next week would be an opportunity to deal with how the ANC's actions had threatened Cosatu's functionality within the tripartite alliance.

ANC Youth League (ANCYL) president Julius Malema's public mudslinging against Cosatu, the ANC's unilateral decision banning municipal workers from taking up leadership positions in political parties, and a 'general lack of commitment by the ANC to make the federation one of its political centres', had left the alliance in a crisis, Vavi said at the National Union of Metalworkers' National Bargaining Conference yesterday.

'The oppression and super- exploitation of workers remains widespread - despite government and union efforts.

What South Africa lacks, and probably needs, is a strong and coherent left opposition, preferably before a fascist takeover. Is Zwelinzima Vavi up to it? The tragedy of the assassination of Chris Hani continues to haunt us.

And perhaps Thabo Mbeki kept quiet because he saw how easily what was happening in Zimbabwe could happen in South Africa, and lead to the break-up of the tripartite alliance. He preferred the Ronald Reagan approach of "constructive engagement".

05 April 2010

Flowers in church

One of the problems of Western Easter and Orthodox Pascha coinciding, as they do this year and next year (it's quite rare for them to coincide two years running) is that flowers are virtually unobtainable.

It's also interesting how Western customs differ from Orthodox ones. Western Christians give up flowers for Lent, and go mad with them for Easter, as Cherie shows on her blog Cherie's Place: The Easter Cross:
As part of the Easter celebrations the local parish church always erects a wooden cross and adorns it with flowers. This is done by the congregation just before the Easter morning service. I think it is a lovely idea and the little children get involved with it too.

The Human Flower Project notes, however, that:
In contrast with Roman Catholic and most Protestant churches, the Eastern Orthodox sects do not shun flowers on Good Friday: lemon flowers in Crete, floral biers in New Jersey, daffodils in Bulgaria, and more.

And they even nicked a picture from my other blog, Khanya, showing the Epitaphios decorated with flowers.

The Epitaphios is the burial shroud of Christ, which is placed on a table in the middle of the church, decorated with flowers. St Nicholas parish in Johannesburg is perhaps somewhat unusual, in that we combine both Greek and Russian customs, so that there is more action in the services. On Holy Thursday morning the Last Supper is commemorated, and after the service members of the congregation decorate the Epitaphios table with flowers. Usually we use chrysanthemums, white and purple, which are cheap and plentiful, but this year, because of Western Easter, there were none to be had.

At the Thursday service there is Matins of Good Friday, sung the evening before by anticipation, interspersed with 12 gospel readings of the Passion. It is the longest of the Holy Week services, lasting nearly 4 hours. After the fifth gospel reading the cross is brought out from the altar. Then on Good Friday morning, we have Vespers, which is the taking down from the cross. The body is taken off the cross, and the Epitaphios is brought out and placed on the table. And at the evening service it is carried in procession around the church, and young girls act the part of the myrrh-bearing women and scatter flowers petals on it.

So for the Orthodox Good Friday is the most flowery day of the year.

04 April 2010

The death of ET and immaturity of our democracy

In today's Sunday Independent there is an interesting article by Mcebisi Ndletyana, which which he offers a defence of the song "Kill the Boer", which a high court judge recently declared was "hate speech".

Unfortunately I (or Google) could not find a version of Ndletyana's article on the web that I could link to, which is a pity, because it it worth reading for the historical background.

Ndletyana points out that the song is not racist in the sense of being anti-white, because the late Joe Slovo, who was white, used to sing it with great gusto. The song was not in my political repertoire, but I used to sing one that had similar references:

Mayibuye, mayibuye,
mayibuy' iAfrika
eyathathwa ngamaBhunu

(Let Afrika return, which was taken by the Boers when we were still in darkness)

And, lest I be suspected of "Boerehaat", there was another verse that referred to "amaNgisi" (the English), in the same context.

But I nevertheless agree with the judge, and disagree with Mcebisi Ndletyana, in that I think that singing such songs now is an anachronism, and a sign of political immaturity. But maturity never was the strong point of the likes of Julius Malema.

Back in the bad old days of apartheid "amaBhunu" referred, pretty clearly, to the National Party government, alias the Apartheid Regime. And such songs were directed at encouraging people in the struggle against a hated and oppressive regime.

There are some paranoid people who believe that there is a deliberate campaign of genocide against white farmers in South Africa. Singing such songs at political rallies now tends to fuel such paranoia, and some appear to believe that the recent murder of the notorious white supremacist Eugene Terreblance (ET) is further proof of the exiatence of such a conspiracy.

Malema's political idiocy also extends to attempting to hijack the Sharpeville massacre for the ANC, and to downplay the role of the PAC. His public utterances continually remind us that we no longer have people of the political stature of Robert Sobukwe with us.

The fact is that after 16 years of democracy, struggle songs like "Shoot the Boer" no longer mean what they once did.

But there are other, more serious indications of political immaturity.

That can be seen in the tendency to destroy buildings and damage property in protests over lack of "service delivery". Pretoria station was burnt down by angry commuters because trains were late. In another instance, Soshanguve commuters burnt trains because the trains were late, and then complained that there was no train service, when they themselves had destroyed the trains.

Back in the 1980s the apartheid regime erected the showpiece township of Ekangala, north of Bronkhorstspruit. Half of it was run by the KwaNdebele government, and half by the East Rand Administration Board, and which half one lived in made a big difference to one's right to live and work in urban areas. Residents burnt down the administration offices, which destroyed the records of who lived where. It was a direct attack on the system, and made political sense at the time, because the people concerned had no vote.

But now people do have a vote, and so it makes no sense to burn trains and public libraries and other public or private property. Local government elections are coming up, and if people are dissatisfied with service delivery, or with the performance of their municipal councillors, they now have a democratic remedy -- to organise people to vote them out. That is the way democracy works -- not by burning down libraries and stations.

Burning buildings and singing provocative songs made sense when there was a government did not have to listen because most of those it was oppressing had no vote. In fact part of the struggle was to ensure that everyone had the vote, and the political freedom to organise to toss self-serving politicians out. We've had that freedom for 16 years now, and it's time we began to use it.


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