28 February 2012

Twenty years of Model C

It is now twenty years since"Model C" was forced on formerly "white" schools in South Africa, and we still haven't heard the end of it.

Two years later apartheid officially ended, democratic elections were held, and one would have thought that Model C schools, a last-ditch attempt to retain a vestige of apartheid in the former white schools, would have been swept into the dustbin of history, never to be heard of again.

But instead we hear of them quite frequently, and people speak of "Model Cs" and Model C accents", so that instead of being seen as the last twitches of a dying monster, Model C continues, undead, like a vampire, to plague the new South Africa -- as its inventors intended, though perhaps not quite in the way that they intended.

For those who weren't around when Model C schools were introduced, perhaps a brief recap of history may be in order.

The Union of South Africa was formed, in 1910, from two British colonies and two former Boer republics, which became provinces of the Union, and education was regarded as a provincial matter. So the provinces had differing education policies, but within any province all schools followed the same syllabus, and wrote public exams (such as Junior or Senior Certificate) to the same standard. There was disparity between black and white schools, with more money spent on white schools, and white teachers being paid more, but they had the same syllabus and wrote the same exams.

Some provinces insisted on single-medium education for white pupils (either English or Afrikaans) while some allowed dual or parallel medium schools. Provinces could decide whether or not to subsidise church schools and by how much. Most church schools were subsidised.

When the National Party came to power in 1948 it took control of black schools away from the provincial governments and centralised them under the Department of Bantu Education, with a different syllabus tailored to National Party ideology. The government then established "homelands", and when these "homelands" became "independent", control of education was given to them, but only for black pupils. White pupils living in the "homelands" (or white enclaves within the "homelands") had white schools still controlled by the provinces that the homelands had formerly belonged to.

The central government later took control of Coloured and Indian education, and, with the 1983 introduction of a tricameral parliament, took white education away from the provinces as well, placing it under the House of Assembly, the white section of parliament (the others were the House of Representatives, for Coloureds, and the House of Delegates for Indians, but even together they could not outnumber the House of Assembly, so whites remained firmly in control).

So white education became a white "own affair" under the House of Assembly, and all was well in the apartheid heaven that the Nats had created, except that the few remaining church schools (that had not been nationalised at the time of Bantu Education) were no longer anybody's "own affair" and began to admit children of all races.

And then in 1990 the De Klerk government released jailed opposition leaders and unbanned opposition parties. The writing was on the wall. Democracy was coming, and soon all these white "own affairs" schools would come under the control of a non-racial parliament. How to preserve the little bit of "own affairs" apartheid heaven from what was still seen by many in the NP government as the "total onslaught"?

So they came up with a crafty plan. Democracy was beginning to become politically correct, so let's give the parents a say in the schools. So they decided to hold referendums of parents at each school, and presented them with four Models -- A, B, C, and D. If a majority of 90% of the parents in a school decided in an 80% poll to adopt one of the models, then they could have it.

Model A was basically the status quo. An all white school run (and largely paid for) by the House of Assembly own affairs. Model B was similar, except that the school could decide its own admission policy. That meant that if the governing body of the school decided to admit pupils of all races, it could do so.

Model C was essentially privatisation. The school would become a private school, controlling its own admission policy, and would become responsible for upkeep of all the buildings and property as well. There would be a subsidy for teachers, but not to cover all maintenance. Model D was basically one for special needs schools.

In some posh white suburbs the richer parents were attracted to Model C, which seemed to them to be a way of getting a private school on the cheap. Among the less rich, it looked as though in Model C the government was saying, in effect, "if you want black kids in your school, you must pay for it".

The school our children went to, Clapham High School, voted overwhelmingly for Model B. Twice. Over 90% of the parents voted for it. The first time, in February 1991, it just fell short of the necessary 80% poll. So they voted again in September 1991, and made an effort to get all the parents to vote, and well over 90% again voted for Model B.

And a month or two later the school was informed by the government that it would become Model C, which the parents had rejected by an overwhelming majority of votes -- twice.

It was a case of "You will be privatised, whether you want to or not".

Perhaps that was a punishment for wanting to admit pupils of all races, and rejecting the apartheid dream.

And two years later the apartheid dream (which was a nightmare for most people) ended anyway.

Quite a number of parents from different schools held meetings to discuss ways in which Model C could be resisted, but in the end nothing came of them.

But Clapham High School became a Model B school in 1992, and on the 8th of January of that year the first black pupils came to the school. In 1993 it was forced to become Model C, like all the other "House of Assembly" schools. Some relations of ours were thinking of emigrating to New Zealand, and told us that it was because they had had to take out an extra mortgage on their house to pay the Model C fees.

One of the more cringeworthy moments was at a school annual general meeting, where the principal referred to "the successful integration of the formerly Model B and now Model C pupils". To refer to non-white pupils as "Model C pupils" seemed patronising in the extreme. We hoped that after the democratic elections of 1994 we would hear no more of that sort of thing.

Model C schools were introduced about 18 months before the end of apartheid, in a desperate attempt to keep apartheid alive. The song has ended, yet the malady lingers on, and on, and on, and on...

23 February 2012

Toll roads "compromise" - the worst of all possible worlds

Faced with calls from various groups, including Cosatu, representing trade unions, and Naamsa (the association of automobile manufacturers, which employs members of trade unions) and the Automobile Association to scrap toll roads in favour of a fuel levy to finance roads, the government has decided to adopt the worst features of both systems -- to continue tolls, but to subidise them by means of an increased fuel levy.

That is the kind of compromise that gives "compromise" a bad name.

It also represents very muddled thinking on the part of the government, as the following shows: Lobby groups call for fuel levy as alternative to road tolling:
The government is seeking a balance between funding road infrastructure from a combination of direct payments from the National Treasury and funds generated from methods that rely on the user-pays method such as tolling, Department of Transport director-general George Mahlalela says.

How to get the best blend of these two opposing principles would be central to the outcomes of the road funding summit that is due to take place within the next two months, Mahlalela said in an interview this week.

The "opposed principles" are not like that at all. A fuel levy is the best, fairest and most easily implemented version of the "user pays" principle. "Toll roads" are an unfair, cumbersome and difficult way of implementing the principle.

If the Department of Transport cannot understand this, then it is really being run by incompetent people and needs to be overhauled.

Don't let anyone fool you by saying that the e-tolling system is an implementatio0n of the principle of user pays. That's just a propaganda smokescreen.

  • User Pays = Fuel Levy
  • Some Users Pay = Toll Roads
Until the 1970s South Africa's road construction and maintenance was financed by a fuel levy. Then the National Party government of the time decided to appropriate the road fund to finance its military adventures in countries like Angola, and its surrogate operations by groups like Renamo in Mocambiue -- and for that readon toll roads were introduced, to cover the deficit in the road fund.

Do we will need to destabilise Angola and Mocambique?

If not, there is no excuse for toll roads at all, and let's go back to a road fund paid for by fuel levies.

And here are some of the people who have been calling for this:

Use fuel levy for tolls - AA
The Gauteng toll fees should be absorbed by the increase in the fuel levy, the Automobile Association said on Wednesday.

"We are convinced that despite the latest offering from government the cost to the consumer, as far as the Gauteng tolls are concerned, is going to hit home hard when commodity prices increase as well as transport costs," said spokesperson Gary Ronald in a statement.

And from the trade unions E-tolling is 'commodification of public services' | ITWeb:
The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) will march against the contentious e-tolling system on 7 March.

The union body adds that, during the State of the Nation address, it hopes to hear president Jacob Zuma announce that government is going to completely scrap the Gauteng e-tolling system and quash rumours that it is going to do no more than reduce the price of the tolls.
People like Julius Malema have calld for nationaluisation of wasting assets like the mines, but what they should be calling for is nationalisation of growing assets, like the transport infrastructure.

As Cosatu goes on to say E-tolling is 'commodification of public services' | ITWeb:
Cosatu says it will go ahead with its march. “We are utterly opposed to the commodification of more and more public services and believe that our roads are a public asset, not a commodity to create massive profits for private companies.
Click here

“E-tolling is a system of capitalism and will benefit only those that are financially healthy and not the poor.”

22 February 2012

Book sales

I went to the Exclusive Books summer sale yesterday, and came home with seven books for R231.00
  • Bartlett, Rosamund Benn, Anna. 2007. Literary Russia: a guide. New York: Overlook Duckworth.
  • Callow, Philip. 1998. Chekhov: the hidden ground. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee.
  • Conradi, Peter J. 2010. Iris Murdoch, a writer at war: Letters & diaries 1938-46. London: Short.
  • Conrad, Joseph. 2010. Heart of darkness. London: Collins Classics.
  • Crystal, David. 2007. By hook or by crook: a journey in search of English. London: HarperPress.
  • Maher, Paul. 2007. Jack Kerouac's American journey. New York: Thunder's Mouth.
  • Sandison, David Vickers, Graham. 2006. Neal Cassady: the fast life of a Beat hero. London: Omnibus.

About halfway through the sale they reduce the sale prices by 50%, and so books one could not usually afford suddenly become affordable. The interesting thing here is that most of the books are ones that one never sees on the shelves. They are not being sold to make space on the shelves by reducing unsold stock. I suppose if one knew about them, one could order them specially, but in that case one could only afford to buy one or two of them, not seven.

So I'm not complaining about the sales, far from it. I'm just wondering where they were offered for sale in the first place. I suspect that they were remaindered overseas, and specially imported for the sales.

Most of the ones I picked up are literary biographies, which I enjoy reading. Sometimes I think I'm weird. I often enjoy reading biographies and diaries of authors more than I enjoy reading their works. Perhaps that's because real people's lives are often more interesting than the stuff they write about in their fiction.

18 February 2012

The South Africa blogosphere, unravelled

Amatomu's slogan used to be "The South African blogosphere, sorted."

Well, now it has become unsorted, because Amatomu no longer seems to work. To "unravel" means to pull a knitted garment apart so that all you have is separate strands of wool, and you can no longer see the pattern or shape of the garment, or even the garment itself. It has gone.

And one by one the tools that I used to use to find interesting blogs have gone, or become unusable.

The first to go was Technorati. It's still there, I think, but it's no longer useful. It used to have tags that found blog posts with particular topic tags, but that no longer works. It's become a thinly disguised advertising gimmick.

The next to go was Blog Catalog. That's still there, but some whiz kid who had never heard of the old adage "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" decided to "improve" it. Now it no longer works.

Then it was the turn of MyBlogLog. Yahoo! bought it as a successful running concern from the original developers, and then pulled the plug on it. Yahoo! does that a lot. They did it with Geocities, they did it with Webrings, and they did it with MyBlogLog.

MyBlogLog and BlogCatalog were social blogrolling sites. They allowed each person to sort the blogosphere according to their own preference, but in such a way that others could see them and join in, the theory being that if you liked someone's blog, you might like the blogs they liked, and the people who liked their blog might like yours. Since those two disappeared from the scene, I've lost contact with a whole bunch of blogs that I used to read, and I missed them. I found some again and put them in my blogroll, but that doesn't tell me how often the writers of those blogs visit my blog, as MyBlogLog and BlogCatalog used to do.

But there was still Amatomu for South African blogs. You could see who had posted what recently, and which recent articles were most popular and so on. But now even that's gone.

There's still Afrigator, but I've never understood its user inferface, and no matter how much time I spend on it I never seem to find anything I'm looking for.

Occasionally someone comments on my blog, and I think, hey, I used to read your blog, but I haven't seen it for a long time, and now I no longer know how to find it.

It's all rather sad.

And when I say it's sad people say, you must move on... move on to Facebook and imbibe popular culture and immerse yourself in banal and trivial stuff like "What my friends think I do, what my mom thinks I do, what my boss thinks I do" and so on.

Blogging's better, but it's getting harder to find the good blogs.

14 February 2012

Unisa refuses to communicate by e-mail

The University of South Africa (Unisa) used to be the biggest distance-education university in the southern hemisphere, but don't expect to be able to communicate with them by e-mail.

Unisa refuses to accept e-mail from Telkom SA, South Africa's biggest telecommunications serivce, and the one that most other ISPs ride piggy-back on.

Back when Unisa first started offering tuition, in 1961 or thereabouts, there was no e-mail, and so it was a correspondence university and everything went by snail mail. It now seems that those days are back again. And I wouldn't put it past them to censor the snail mail as well.

It still seems to be possible to send e-mail to Unisa from Gmail, but for how much longer? Who knows? And how many other ISPs have they decided to blacklist, or might blacklist in future?

A distance education university that stops its staff from communicating with other academics, and its students from communicating with the university by e-mail is no longer a distance education university in the 21st century, and hardly even a university at all.

After battling for weeks to communicate with Unisa academics and Unisa Press (who published a book of which I was a co-author), I asked Telkom Internet to find out what was wrong, and this was their reply:

Thank you for emailing Telkom Internet Support.
Unfortunately telkom email server has been blacklisted by unisa.

Kind Regards,

Telkom Internet Support
E-mail: support@telkomsa.net
Tel: 10210 option 2
International: +27 123523661
Webpage: http://www.telkomsa.net

So if you were planning to study by distance education, then it would be advisable to avoid Unisa, and find a university that has made it into the 21st century and lets you communicate with it by e-mail.

And it's time that the Unisa management grew up: they are receiving government subsidies (ie from the taxpayers), and should stop playing petty childish games with communications with students and academics. Will they consider refunding the fees of students who find it difficult to communicate with the university and miss deadlines etc?

08 February 2012


A new breed of South Africans is emerging, a new subculture, perhaps. It is composed of those who do not merely want to be rich, but who want be filthy, stinking rich; obscenely rich.

One of the things that one often hears is that crime is caused by poverty. But that is not strictly true. Criminologists who have researched the matter report that in societies where people are very poor, there is often relatively little crime. What causes the crime rate to rise is the income gap between the rich and the poor.

My blogging friend Dion Forster notes another effect of the income gap between rich and poor -- it can lead to genocide -- Wishes of youth and the winds of war - I was a soldier once - BLOG - Dion Forster - An uncommon path:
In Fiennes' book he notes, among other things, that the conditions that are necessary for genocide to occur include:

  • An impoverished population
  • A large gap between those who 'have' and those who 'do not have'
  • A clearly identifiable minority grouping that has access to wealth and power
  • The development of a racial or ethnic ideology that places groups of persons in opposition to one another
  • Corrupt, power hungry and irresponsible politicians
I wondered how many of these elements could be ticked off a list of criteria in South African society? We have much work to do in order to bring equality, overcome animosity, and combat false and harmful racial and ethnic ideologies.

A few days ago I noted in another blog post Black and white perceptions of South Africa’s problems | Khanya:
People sometimes like to talk about poverty as the cause of crime. But it is much less common for people to talk about it the other way round — of crime as the cause of poverty. Yet much of the poverty in places like Mamelodi is caused by crime — white crime.

Two of the ways in which people achieve their ambition to become filthy stinking rich are politics and crime. Criminologists who have noted that the crime rate increases where the gap between rich and poor increases have also noticed that criminals do not generally rob and steal to feed their starving families. They steal because they want to be filthy stinking rich. Their ill-gotten gains are used for conspicuous consumption.

As for politics, we all know about tenderpreneurs. Thabo Mbeki, the former president of the ANC and South Africa, spoke on this phenomenon at the very conference where the ANC voted him out as leader -- that unscrupulous businessmen tried to take over ANC branches, and get themselves or their favoured candidates elected at the branches in areas that controlled municipalitries, and used their position to get lucrative contracts and tenders.

This is not unique to South Africa, it is found all over the world.

There are those who still say that the ANC has not made the mental transition from liberation movement to a political party. But the problerm is the other way round. Those who remember what it was to be a liberation movement are a diminishing minority, and are being swamped by those who see politics as a means of becoming filthy stinking rich.

In writing this, I'm not being an investigative journalist. I'm not trying to dig up the dirt on corrupt politicians and businessmen. I haven't named names nor cited instances of these things in footnotes. I've written about perceptions, about gossip, about impressions. And the purpose is not to find and condemn the guilty.

Our struggle, as St Paul says, is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the authorities, against spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenlies (Eph 6:10-12).

The problem is not individual sinners, but sin itself.

And the problem is not merely individual sins, but rather the inversion of values.

As Isaiah says:

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (Isa 5:20)
Those who desire to be filthy stinking rich do so because of greed.

Christians in the past have seen greed and lust as passions that we should seek to control. But there are new ideologies abroad in the world that seek to invert this, and say that passions like greed and lust are good.

And so we find people, even people who claim to be Christians, saying that it's OK to help the poor, but not by taking money from the rich "at gunpoint". The "at gunpoint" is a peculiar code word among such people for "taxes". What they mean is that money from taxes paid by the rich should not be used to help the poor. That, they say, is "theft".

And so they invert Christian values; they call evil good and good evil.

St John Chrysostom says precisely the opposite:

"See the man," He says, "and his works: indeed, this also is theft, not to share one's possessions." Perhaps this statement seems surprising to you, but do not be surprised. I shall bring you testimony from the divine Scriptures, saying that not only the theft of others' goods but the failure to share one's own goods with others is theft and swindle and defraudation. What is this testimony? Accusing the Jews by the prophet, God says, "The earth has brought forth her increase, and you have not brought forth your tithes; but the theft of the poor is in your houses." Since you have not given the accustomed offerings, he says, you have stolen the goods of the poor. He says this to show the rich that they hold the goods of the poor even if they have inherited them from their fathers or no matter how they have gathered their wealth. And elsewhere the Scripture says, "Deprive not the poor of his living." To deprive is to take what belongs to another, for it is called deprivation when we take and keep what belongs to others.

Thus if the government uses the taxes paid by the rich to provide basic necessities for the poor, such as housing or health services, it is not theft, but rather the recovery of stolen property. To call taxes used in such a way "theft" is to invert Christian values, and to call good evil and evil good.

Adulterers may repent. Thieves may repent. Murderers may repent. And when we experience lust or greed or other passions we may repent and struggle against them.

But those who call greed and lust good cannot repent.

This ideological inversion was propounded by Ayn Rand in the 1940s and 1950s, and spread to the institutions of state and society in the West, especially in the 1980s, until it has now permeated much of society and people's values as the insidious propaganda for it continues and increases.

We may never be able to remove inequalities of wealth; we may never be able to eliminate the gap between the rich and the poor. But we can and ought to resist the ideology that says that it is a good thing, and that the passions that maintain it are to be encouraged.


This post is part of the February 2012 Synchroblog – Extreme Economic Inequality | synchroblog in which different bloggers write blog posts on the same theme, and provide a list of the other posts so that people can follow the theme by surfing from one post to another.

Other posts in this month's Synchroblog are:

03 February 2012

Bonking zombie is back

A few years ago I discovered that vampires were more than undead monsters that populated horror novels. There actually is a vampire sub-culture, with live human beings who enjoy drinking human blood.

But I thought zombies were safely(?) in the realm of the undead, until I read this article BONKING ZOMBIE IS BACK! Residents live in fear after gogo is found dead in house of sex . . . | DailySun blog:
Last year, sex in the house of the Veeplaas zombie led to a mother, gogo and little boy being taken to places of care.


Stories about self-confessed zombie Mthandazo Klaasen (39) having sex with his 69-year-old mother spread like wildfire in Port Elizabeth’s Veeplaas kasi three weeks ago.
Does the Daily Sun know something that the rest of us don't? Even the Zombie Research Society says that:
1)The modern zombie is a relentlessly aggressive, reanimated human corpse driven by a biological infection*; 2)The zombie pandemic is coming. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when; 3)Enthusiastic debate about zombies is essential to the survival of the human race. (*A subset is the living zombie, defined as a relentlessly aggressive human driven by a biological infection.)

Though that footnote about the subset could possibly fit the case that the Daily Sun reports on.

Until recently most reports I've seen about zombies in the press have undoubtedly been of the undead variety, and there has been no question of "biological infection".

The reports have usually concerned people who have been accused of being witches because their neighbours allege that they have seen zombies working in their gardens. The witches, it is said, resuscitate corpses to do chores for them.

But a self-confessed zombie?

That's a new one on me? They even have a picture of him, looking, well, quite un-undead.

I wonder if any reporters of the Daily Sun have seen his death certificate. Have they been to his grave to see if his body has been exhumed? Actually I don't expect journalists from papers like the Daily Sun to research or verify their facts since their main purpose is to make money out of spreading idle gossip in print. But it would really be interesting to know something about the new zombies. And precisely what a "self-confessed" zombie is confessing.


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