Strike One

Of course, the intended effect of a strike or any other industrial action is to demonstrate the value of the service that industry provides, simply by withdrawing it. And there’s no question that the taxi industry in Cape Town (and South Africa) provides a very valuable service.

However, if you then have to resort to intimidation and violence to prevent people from circumnavigating your withdrawn service, then that does rather undermine the message that your service is irreplaceable.

And not allowing individuals to make their own decisions about how they choose to get around has implications far beyond the apparently spurious reasons for calling the strike in the first place.

But it’s all become a power game now, and the taxi bosses don’t care that hundreds of thousands of breadwinners aren’t able to get to work, get paid and put food on the family table. They’re happy to overlook the fact that kids can’t get to school with exams just a couple of months away. They have no qualms about healthcare facilities for the most vulnerable being closed. And they might pass lip service about “peaceful protest” in open letters, but the fact is that they are more than happy to sit on their thrones while their underlings fight each other and everyone else.

If it’s a battle for hearts and minds – which so many of these disputes seems to come down to in the end – you’d think that maybe they’ve lost this one. But with the alternatives too sparse and too risky to use, it’s not like it won’t just be business as usual anyway when the strike ends (allegedly) on Thursday.

What’s the plan here?

South Africa is once again demonstrating its neutrality over the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This comes just a few days after it was revealed that SA had been following a non-partisan approach by supplying arms and ammunition to Russia.

Now we’ve sent the head of the SANDF (the SA armed forces) to Russia to “visit educational institutions of the ground forces and enterprises of the military-industrial complex” there and “further increase cooperation between ground forces in various fields”.

Thank goodness we’re not taking sides here.

It’s not like we can afford to be doing this. The Rand is tanking already because of loadshedding and the arms shipments row. To add fuel to the fire right now seems both deliberately provocative and deliberately stupid.

South African bilateral trade with Russia amounts to around $1.3 billion. In comparison, bilateral trade with the UK is $10.1 billion, the US is around $17 billion and the EU over $30 billion. To risk all of that for Vlad’s pocket change means that there’s clearly something else happening behind the scenes. Is that something SA owes Russia? Or is it something the Ramaphosa owes Putin?
Because we can talk all day long about how much we abhor the colonial West and and all that they stand for, but that talk is cheap when we are still doing 50x more trade with them each year than we are with Mother Russia. And that’s a lot of money we simply can’t afford to lose.

Maybe the idea is to just run what’s left of the country into the ground before they get voted out at the next election. Or maybe this is actually an election strategy: a vote winner. The anti-imperialists will go for it, of course, but it remains to be seen how the incoming hyper-inflation will attract any normal person to vote for the ANC.

So… what is the plan here? Because I’m equally mystified and concerned.

Who are these people?

I recently saw a Finnish comedian asking the same question. As Finland was voted the happiest country in the world for the sixth year running, based on a poll which basically asks: “Are you happy?”, he and his friends were wondering exactly which Finnish people they had polled.
Of course, this was all for comedic value, but still, when the results of a poll are so surprising, it’s maybe a valid question to ask. And the results of this poll are surprising, so I am asking the same sort of thing:

Who are these people?

No, not these people:

I’m talking about the other people.

I’m talking about the 12% of whites, the 19% of Indians, the 23% of coloureds and the 35% of blacks, that – by extrapolation, at least – appear to think that the country is being steered in the right direction.


Look, at least we had a majority that fits with the correct (my) viewpoint. And I get that different people have different political views and beliefs, and of course that’s ok.


…with political corruption, governmental incompetence and an apparently blasé attitude from those “in power” so evident in everything that’s wrong with the country; with literally every single economic marker looking genuinely frightening; with 12 hours of rolling blackouts each and every day with no end in sight… well, you have to wonder how on earth they think things are getting better.

Is it just the ability to shut everything out?

To somehow bury their heads in the sand?

Is it drugs? In which case, to paraphrase a famous movie scene: “I’ll have whatever they’re having”.

To be able to live in such ignorant bliss would be absolutely amazing. Sadly, for most of us (see poll results above), that’s clearly just not possible.

So, it’s onward and upward (at least between 10:30am and 2pm when the next 4½ hour power cut kicks in).

Reuben Ireland

I mentioned a little while back [checks recent archives] here that I am heading back to Robben Island again this year to help out with the annual Year 6 Tour there.

But it was Facebook that reminded me of this absolute gem from the COPE political party.

President Lekota is Mosiuoa “Terror” Lekota, the COPE leader (his nickname coming from his imposing presence on the football field), “Uncle Kathy” is Ahmed Kathrada, a struggle veteran, and I have no idea who Reuben Ireland is.

I actually had to check if COPE are still around, and they are. Just:

0.27% of the votes still gets you two parliamentary seats, hey? Wow.

The COPE website greets you with plenty of colour, and an ill-fitting banner image. And then, there are their four pillars (which actually appear to be eight pillars):

Promoting reposposibility is important. Some people just want to pose twice, but as a modern political party, you need to be able to pose, pose again and then repose. That reposposibility is what the electorate is looking out for. That, and being dependeable. Hugely important.

And… below that is this mystifying non-question:

I clicked Yes & No, because I was confused and I thought that it was actually just a thing for the recruitment department at the party to answer. Both take you to the same screen where there’s a form to fill in to join COPE. Then you email it directly to Shalati Nkhwashu. I can’t imagine that her inbox is very busy. Still as the old saying goes: “Empty inbox, great middle name”:

I’m looking forward to my visit to see Reuben. A very interesting guy.

MoE statements

Love him or hate him (or just see him as yet another ANC cadre deployment that will increase the ministerial wage bill while providing absolutely no tangible difference to the issues he is supposed to be fixing), the new Minister of Electricity, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa is certainly making waves.

Yesterday came reports that he had allegedly suggested that the problems at Kusile Power Station were “nothing to do with so-called corruption”, which is ridiculous, but might also be a bit of a misquote. Because he might just have been referring to the issues with the chimneys rather than all the problems with Kusile (Supposed to cost R81bn, now at least R161.4bn; started in 2009, supposed to be fully operational in 6 years, now hopefully ready by 2026).

And then the chimneys broke.

“But, with the issues on the units that have gone out as a result of the structural integrity and design components, they have nothing to do with corruption. This is everything to do with technical designs. There are significant modifications that they are making and I am happy with what they are proposing.”

Yeah, the chimneys fell down because they were made of cardboard and the got wet and soggy. (This is a bit of a joke, but it’s scarily close to the actual truth.)

I say it “might be a bit of a misquote”, because any other reason for this statement would be completely laughable:

The latest quote by the minister shows that he’s right back on track though:

It’s actually amazing that no-one came up with this idea before. Stop loadshedding by having power all the time. This idea was so mind-blowing to me, that I actually tried to apply it elsewhere in my life:

Consistently having lots of money will stop you being poor.

And if you’re more into health than cash:

Consistently being healthy will stop you being ill.

Where has this man been all our lives?

And why can’t he just go back there?

Yes, yes. I know that this is bound to be another misquote, but can’t we enjoy just a bit of fun occasionally?