Episode IV – A New Hope

Episode IV because we don’t really count Kgalema Motlanthe. Sorry, Kgalema.
Don’t @ me. 

And so, pushed right to the very edge, refusing to jump, and defiantly telling us that the fall wouldn’t hurt him anyway, JZ finally stepped off into the abyss.

It certainly appears that Zuma is/was rotten to the core. And what becomes of that down the line is yet to be seen. In the meantime, South Africa is celebrating, and with good reason.

But then, perhaps we should remember the positivity with which the new dawn of a Zuma Presidency was viewed back in 2009.

And look how that worked out…

So, while I’m all about hope and optimism, and there’s always that background feeling of “well, he can’t be as bad as what we’ve just been through” (notwithstanding that Thabo topped an estimated 330,000 people through his wonky HIV policies), we do need to go into this with our eyes slightly wider open this time, as we were warned from an Ecuadorian broom cupboard in London almost immediately.

Of course, It’s worth noting that Wikileaks is full of BS and Julian is far from squeaky clean as well. No. I’m not linking. Do your own hard work.

I think the message I’m trying to purvey here is “Keep Smiling, But Trust No-One“.

And not just in politics.

Things Mmusi (actually) said

Much mirth and merriment yesterday as DA leader Mmusi Maimane told us all how “he voted for Mandela” back in the 90s. Trouble is, Mmusi was only 13 in the only presidential election in which Nelson stood (in 1994). Mmusi was old enough to vote in the following election (1999), but Mandela had already decided to move over by then – the ANC candidate that year was Thabo Mbeki.

A politician, lying? Colour me utterly flabbergasted. And wow, just a bit of a faux pas right before an important election. The ANC jumped straight in on it and it spawned the (actually rather amusing) #ThingsMmusiDid hashtag on twitter (I may have even joined in a bit).
But whatta mistake-a to make-a!

That’s why Phillip de Wet had to listen again:

Joke or no, #ThingsMmusiDid had me doubting my recollection. So I went back to the tape.

And it said?


Yep. You read it right. He never said that he voted for Mandela. He said he voted for the party of Mandela.

But let’s not let the truth stand in the way of a good story. And that’s why I’m just putting this out there. Not because I’m a DA fanboy: merely because of the Trevor Mallach effect. And that quote, ironically by the Mmusi-supported Thabo Mbeki:

It seems to me that the unacceptable practice of propagation of deliberate falsehoods to attain various objectives is becoming entrenched in our society. I also call on all of us as leaders and citizens critically to reflect on this practice in order to avoid the entrenchment of a culture which may eventually corrupt our society.

Vote how you want, and why you want. But don’t believe everything you read or hear.

2009 Thabo Mbeki nails 2016 Social Media

Love him or hate him (or have no opinion of him because you’re dead as a direct result of his AIDS denialism), you have to admit that this quote from wor Thabs still works rather nicely more than 7 years after he quoth it:

“It seems to me that the unacceptable practice of propagation of deliberate falsehoods to attain various objectives is becoming entrenched in our country.”

Read it. Then read it again, and suddenly, you look at the UK’s EU referendum, the US election, the Orlando (or any other) mass shooting or terrorist incident, LCHF, SA politics, the #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall movements (and by this, I mean both sides of those arguments), and virtually any other divisive subject in the world today, in a slightly different light.

It’s like we’ve lost the ability to argue reasonably and logically. Everything is immediately charged with emotion and ad hominem attacks, clouding (often conveniently) the real issues and rendering any sensible discussion virtually impossible.

But why? I have some thoughts. You lucky people, you…

Firstly, with “advances” in social media, it’s easier than ever to propagate stuff, and deliberate falsehoods propagate especially well. The individuals behind these deliberate falsehoods aren’t (always) stupid. In many instances, they’re well aware that the deliberate falsehood that they want propagating will be propagated. That’s the whole idea.
But why does that happen?

It’s happens because: secondly, people – even supposedly intelligent people – have a “share first, think later” mentality when it comes to something that fits their agenda. We’re lazy, in the most part. We can’t be arsed to check whether that attractively-presented stat on immigration is genuine or not – we’re outraged that so many/so few foreign people are being allowed into our country. Or whatever. And people must know this so that they can understand why we’re outraged and why they too must also be outraged.

And then, thirdly, the fact that these days, it’s seemingly unacceptable not to have an opinion on something. Things need to be polarised. You must feel this way or that. You need to agree or disagree, and if you don’t, then I’ll tell you why you should. For example, have you seen this attractively-presented stat on immigration?
Yeah. I know. Exactly. I was outraged.

These three add up to a slippery slope that I fear we are probably sliding down at an already unstoppable rate.

But it doesn’t even end there. Sometimes it’s not just bald-faced lies. Sometimes the unacceptable practice of propagation of deliberate falsehoods is more subtle and cynical. Omission of facts that don’t quite match with what I want you to believe. Selective reporting of the myriad reasons behind a particular incident, nudging you to consider and concentrate on one aspect far more than another.

The thing is though, if you are having to resort to the propagation of deliberate falsehoods in order to attain your various objectives, then surely you need to look again at whether those various objectives are worth attaining. How strong is your various objective really if you have to deceive people to convince them of its merit?

There is some light at the end of the tunnel. Light like fact-checking website AfricaCheck. But sadly, as the name suggests, they don’t stretch beyond this particular continent. Add to that the fact that the unacceptable practice of propagation of deliberate falsehoods to attain various objectives has already become entrenched in our digital culture and you’ll understand that they really can’t be omnipresent, let alone omnipotent.

So it’s up to us – you and I – to make the difference. To take just a moment to consider whether that thing we just heard is actually likely to be true. To critically evaluate the source, the fact, and the potential agenda before we take it as gospel. You can delve into it as deeply as you like, but if you’re not sure that it’s actually not a deliberate falsehood, maybe consider not propagating it.

It’s really nothing more than common sense.

I don’t expect to change the world with this post. It sometimes just seems that the voices of sanity are being lost, one by one, drowning in the ocean of crap that’s constantly being peddled and recycled by people desperate for us to agree with them, and who will hate us if we don’t.

I thought I’d just shout for help before I go under.

Mourning Manto

Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang passed away yesterday. While foreign readers might not know who she is (or was), she will be well known to anyone with a connection to South Africa. They will know her as the AIDS-denialist Health Minister who associated with quacks and never lived up to her promise upon taking office that she would roll out ARV treatment to those in need in SA.
Perhaps better still, they will know her for her (in)famous comments that HIV and AIDS should be treated with a diet of garlic, lemons, beetroot and African potato.
Oh, and then there was the legendary interview with John “not always right, but never going to admit it” Robbie on Talk 702 where they spent most of the time discussing how she should be addressed: “I’m not Manto to you!”. 
And how could we forget the liver transplant saga? Did she need it because she was an alcoholic? Did she jump the queue? How did the Sunday Times gain access to her medical records? And should they have published them?

But those who choose to celebrate her death are missing some important points. Perhaps most importantly of all, the fact that she is no longer Health Minister and hasn’t been for well over a year now. So her death doesn’t make any difference to the state of the Health system or the supply of ARV drugs in the country. She had no control over that yesterday, nor does she have any today. Their delight won’t bring those who have died of AIDS on her watch, back.
And indeed, I am still left wondering how much of the rhetoric and denialism came from her, and how much came from Thabo Mbeki. Not that that excuses her complicity, but I believe that during her tenure in the Department of Health, she acted as a shield for what were, at that point, ANC and Government policies.

And there was more to Tshabalala-Msimang than just her last few infamous years. She made sacrifices – and as so many South Africans did – went into exile during Apartheid. She had been a member of the ANC for nearly 50 years and, prior to 1994, worked hard in the struggle, using her medical skills to support Umkhonto weSizwe.

“Comrade Manto dedicated her life to the struggle for justice and democracy in South Africa and she left the country to fight outside the borders of our country for the liberation of her people,” said ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu.
“She has given many young ANC cadres guidance over the years and her death has robbed the ANC of a truly committed cadre and stalwart to the transformation agenda of the ANC.”

I am not defending Tshabalala-Msimang’s stance on HIV and AIDS. She could have, should have done more. Someone with her knowledge should have recognised the stupidity of Mbeki’s policies and had the integrity to challenge them or to step down. That there were many complex personal and political reasons why she didn’t is no excuse.
What I am saying is that there was more to this woman than will be remembered:

Tshabalala-Msimang’s contribution to our democracy is huge. We should remember her for that. We should remember that she gave up almost her entire life, put herself in danger, and left her family for the cold Russian winter, in the hopes of making things better for her people. She achieved that, and lived to see a better life for all. For that, we should be grateful. But her legacy is also the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Aids sufferers who could have been saved had her beliefs been different.

I wonder how many people know ALL the facts before they begin their celebrations at her passing.

There’s talk of emigration in the air

Remember when we used to hear that at all the dinner parties, the braais, on the television and in the papers?
The ZumaRumas™. The dangers of another ANC government. Chasing the whites out of the country. Murdered in our beds. How South Africa was going to become “another Zimbabwe”.
I never did get a firm date for any of those unfounded scare-mongering stories.
When I asked, I usually just got a hard stare over my wors and some mumbled excuse about needing another Castle Lite.

Sure, South Africa does have its problems. Many of them, in fact. Which is surely all the more reason for not adding more silly ones that you made up on the way to the party.
But why the exceptionalism? Because nowhere is perfect and everywhere you go, you’re going to face challenges. The grass is not necessarily greener on the other side of the fence. And if it is, it’s probably because of all the s**t that’s around over there.

So – back to the talk of emigration in the air:

There’s talk of emigration in the air. It’s everywhere I go. Parties. Work. In the supermarket.

That’s Jeremy Clarkson in this week’s Sunday Times. He’s fed up with the UK – particularly the way it’s being run – and he wants out:

It’s a lovely idea, to get out of this stupid, Fairtrade, Brown-stained, Mandelson-skewed, equal-opportunities, multicultural, carbon-neutral, trendily left, regionally assembled, big-government, trilingual, mosque-drenched, all-the-pigs-are-equal, property-is-theft hellhole and set up shop somewhere else.

The rest of the piece is a wonderful rant about the amount of control and red tape that is exerted over those in the developed world. And a highly amusing list of the problems with each individual country that he considers emigrating to. And – while it is, of course, written with tongue firmly in cheek – at least Clarkson acknowledges that it doesn’t matter where you go, things won’t ever be perfect. Because that’s really not how life works.

I often think that immigrants to a country are better at seeing the good in it. I certainly think that I have a much more positive opinion of South Africa than many of those who have lived here all their lives. And that goes for a lot of the other ex-pats I’ve met here, too.
I’ve done my best to educate myself on the substance behind the stories, taking opinion from all sides – like The Political Analyst and The Guru amongst others – and I’m finding it easier and easier to recognise nonsense emails and stories earlier and earlier, because – like all lies – they really don’t stand up to any degree of scrutiny. I now regularly have friends emailing me with stories of crime and politics and the ANC, with online petitions and the like, asking me if they are true.
And they never are.

And while I’m happy to set records straight, I find it sad that people still willingly believe all that they read in their inboxes and in the newspapers. And sadder still that there are individuals who will prey on this gullibility to push their agenda across. Thabo Mbeki did some things right and he did some things wrong (and this really isn’t a post about that), but he hit the nail on the head with this line:

It seems to me that the unacceptable practice of propagation of deliberate falsehoods to attain various objectives is becoming entrenched in our country.

Ironically, it now seems that he was behind some of the propagation of those deliberate falsehoods, no matter how unacceptable he found the practice. But it’s still a great quote.

What I’m saying here is that you can’t allow yourself to be dragged down by only seeing the negative side of things and you have to make the best of what you’ve got.
Because you’re never going to have it all.
A lot of people in South Africa fall into that negativity trap and their lives, their outlook and the mood of whole country in general are detrimentally affected because of it.
Positivity costs nothing and it makes you feel a whole lot better.

As for Clarkson – his column has now been removed from the Sunday Times website – probably something to do with his plan to strap Peter Mandelson “to the front of a van and drive round the country until he isn’t alive any more”.
Fortunately, I got there first and have a nice small (35kb) PDF of it for you to read. Enjoy!