Tuesday, 24 January 2017

The Right to Discriminate

Today I want to speak about 2 events that have made headlines in the past couple of days. Though the stories are hardly news-worthy, the media have really made a meal out of them. I would have just left them alone, but they allow me to open up a discussion on a principle that most people really haven't applied their minds to: the right to discriminate.

The first story is that of a b-list celebrity, Somizi Mhlongo, who was highly offended by the supposed homophobic preaching of Bishop Dag Heward-Mills. This is the less-significant event - just another left-wing celebrity being offended too easily and throwing a tantrum. To be fair, this a far less common occurrence here than in places like the US, where any right-wing opinion is deemed to be offensive. Somizi has nothing to complain about though. How could he be so shocked that the Grace BIBLE Church, would preach what is IN THE BIBLE! Whether you believe homosexuality is acceptable or not, the church, and Bishop Heward-Mills have the right to preach according to their beliefs. And the Bishop didn't preach hate against gays. He didn't incite violence. All he said was that homosexuality is unnatural, which is true, according to most religions and science. What is most concerning is that there is a large segment of society that wishes to silence any opinion it disagrees with. They don't use rational argument, but try to bully people into submitting to a particular opinion. I call this Control Freak Syndrome.

Now this Control Freak Syndrome is far more prevalent in the second story, which is far more controversial and more likely to divide opinion. You probably won't hear much more of the Somizi saga, but you will certainly hear about Lake Restaurant in Brakpan, where gay couples are refused access to date night. LGBTI groups have been all over this and the South African Human Rights Commission has even started an investigation, but the only only rights that are being infringed on are the rights of the owners of the restaurant. Yes, some of you are shocked, but that's the truth. If you own a restaurant, or a store, or a babershop, or any enterprise, you have the right to self-determine who you will or won't offer service to. It is YOUR store, and YOU have the right to decide who you trade with. You have the right to deny service to anyone for any reason. To argue otherwise is to put a gun to the head business owners and say 'you must trade with who we say you must trade with!' It is not right. If you disagree with the policy, don't eat at the restaurant! But don't try to force them to conform to your misguided opinion.

All these sorts of stories are accompanied by calls for lawmakers to bring new anti-discrimination laws and for investigations and prosecutions and just all-round government intervention. You see what I mean by Control Freak Syndrome? But this is both wrong and unnecessary. I'll give you a case to prove it. Not too long ago Andre Slade was exposed for blatant and unabashed racism with regards to his guesthouse. But he has the right to withhold his services from black people and we have the right to boycott him for such actions. He is now financially ruined as no one will give him business any more. No government action needed. You see, as society we have great power to do good and bad. We can hold people like this to account. We don't need the government for things like this.

So back to the homosexual issue. If you believe that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality, that is your right to believe that, and to voice that opinion and try to convince others of it. But don't be a control freak! Don't force your opinion on others.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Mcebo Dlamini: Hero or Villain?

A note before I get into it: I will be turning out blog posts once a week, but I will comment on issues as they happen on twitter @MatthewPienaar7.

Over  the weekend a series of stories were released by Eye Witness News about student activist Mcebo Dlamini being released on bail, on the grounds that the judge who denied bail flaunted the constitution by not allowing Dlamini and his lawyers access to some of the evidence presented against him.There are so many absurdities to this story it is ridiculous.

First thing to point out is the grounds on which bail was granted. The previous judges didn't give Dlamini and his lawyers access to video footage and statements by police fingerprint experts. According to the judge this is an abuse of Dlamini's constitutional rights and thus he should be granted bail. I'm not an expert on the constitution, so I can't comment on that. But how on earth is this sufficient reason to grant bail? He was denied bail because he is a danger to society and whether or not his rights were violated in such a minute way doesn't change this fact. He is still dangerous. Effectively, he was released on a technicality. What should have happened is that Dlamini should have been given access to the evidence he was previously denied access too and another bail hearing should the have taken place.

Judge Mokgatlheng admonished Dlamini to curb the violence in the protests, but Dlamini's response did not give us much hope of that.Which brings me to my third point, which is what Dlamini said afterwards. Dlamini tries to convince us that there will be no protests around registration time and that the protests have yielded positive results, especially with reference to the missing middle students. But then why were our universities shut for 4 weeks AFTER the government addressed this issue! The 'success' he is referring too now was, in August, the excuse that instigated the protests! Nothing has changed since then, except for Dlamini's argument. Worse yet, he criticises the judges admonition to stop the vandalism and looting by comparing broken windows to students injured in the protests:

"The situation on the ground has been very brutal and violent to a black child. Why should we be concerned about a broken window, when at Wits there is a girl who is disfigured permanently, who was burnt by a stun grenade thrown in her face?... A window is more important than the black body, that's the problem. We are not advocating for the damage of property, but we are also speaking strongly against police brutality on unarmed students."

First, this comparison does not work. On the basis of what he said, I can rob a bank and say I'm innocent because we have bigger things to worry about, like the fact that Hitler killed 6 million Jews, or that Al Quada bombed the Twin Towers. One tragedy does not excuse a host of illegal and barbaric activities. It is still wrong! I wish no one would have to be hurt in these protests, but the police's actions have been forced by the nature of the protests. The police wouldn't be there if the protesters hadn't been engaging in illegal and violent activities. According Dlamini, the students respond to police violence. This is simply not the case. I am a first hand witness to the fact that the protesters instigate the violence, deliberately to get a response from the police. They force the police into reacting with stun grenades and rubber bullets, just so that they can play the victim card and garner sympathy via our pro-left biased media.

In conclusion, it is obvious that the media are trying to turn a villain into a hero. The police are not well trained to handle what has been happening, but ultimately responsibility for millions of rands worth of damage to property, the disruption of university activities, injury and, in at least one case, the death of someone affected by the protests, rests on the shoulders of the protest leaders, especially Mcebo Dlamini. He should not have been let out.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

A statement that doesn't say much

I've just finished reading the ANC's January 8th statement, and while it's not filled with anything new or exciting I thought there were a few interesting things in there that are worth pointing out. One in particular that I find quite disturbing.

A time for humility
It is immediately obvious that this is not Jacob Zuma's statement, even if he was the one to read it. And perhaps it showed that Zuma is losing some influence, as evidenced by the apologetic tone in certain parts. This is one of the big positives for me. The ANC acknowledged that they have been making mistakes. They acknowledged their failures with regards to the recent elections and in a bout of good sportsmanship even admitted that it was good for democracy in South Africa, that it was good the democratic process that people showed their dissatisfaction at the voting booth. This is an absolute truth! Competition at election time is is great for democracy because it forces politicians to be on top of their game. The local government elections were a wake-up call for the ANC, and one they seem to be heeding, albeit slowly.

There was also a half-hearted concession to the perception that the ANC is rampant with corruption. In fact the very words they used were "perception of corruption." They stopped short of the mark by saying they want to get rid of the perception of of corruption, rather than corruption itself, but it's a start. Let's hope these words are sincere.

Not saying much
A lot of the transcript is made up of repetitions of ANC policies and rhetoric, of what in the past have been empty promises and threats about land redistribution and radical economic transformation. Land redistribution certainly needs happen, but it needs to be done wisely so that we don't end up in the same boat as Zimbabwe. Radical economic change is the scary part. The majority of our population were disenfranchised for many years and the injustices they suffered need to be rectified, but the ANC has no idea how to do this. Programs like BEE and BBBEE, government investment into black startups and social development programs have done little to solve the problems and in fact have just been making them worse. Black people cannot become wealthy simply by taking away the wealth of white people. There are 4 million whites and 40 million blacks in South Africa. Mathematically it is just not going to work. Furthermore, the general black populous does not have the necessary skill or experience to grow or even maintain that wealth. The fastest and only sustainable way to spread wealth across our society is to achieve massive economic growth through a free market, a top quality education system and significant cultural changes. By that I mean developing a cultural across South Africa of that places high value on integrity, learning and hard work. And this must be done at nursery school level, where our investment should be going, not at university level.

A fair chunk of material is devoted to preaching unity. Ironically, it did not take long for the youth and women's leagues to illustrate how hard that is going to be to achieve. Already there are two different endorsements for Jacob Zuma's successor as president of the ANC. Long before the election process is to start, Cosatu have put themselves firmly behind Cyril Ramaphosa and even in the wake of the call for unity, the women's league have put themselves equally firmly behind Nkosazane Dlamini-Zuma. But perhaps the most controversial endorsement is the one that hasn't happened yet, with Collen Maine claiming that the youth league will send "shockwaves through the ANC' when they reveal their candidate. Indeed they have been preaching that it is a time for younger leadership. The only people I can imagine they are referring to is Collen Maine himself, who will certainly lose if he runs, and  Julius Malema, if that is even allowed. But I'm excited to find out exactly what they mean.

Long live Leninism!
The most shocking part of the speech came near the end where out of nowhere there was a sudden praising of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. In case you were wondering, this revolution was the beginning of the Soviet Union, one of the most oppressive and evil regimes of modern history. We should all be horrified that a supposedly democratic institution such as the ANC should sing the praises of an authoritarian regime that stole the freedom of their people (killing 20 million of them process!), censored the media and was just all-round oppressive. In fact the Soviet government was far worse than our much loathed apartheid government. It is extremely worrying that there is evidence that such strong communist ideas still exist with some powerful people in the ANC. I'm not saying we are going to turn in to Cuba in the next 20 years, but any praise towards repressive communist systems must be strongly condemned!

But in the end actions speak louder than words, and the ANC being a broad church often don't match their actions to their words, so we are yet to see what this all means in reality, if anything at all.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Bull in a China shop

Quite refreshing has been the relative quiet from the political scene over the festive season. Even some typically poorly thought out comments about the role of churches in our democracy by President Zuma went by without too much fuss and bother. It seems our politicians have been peacefully enjoying their holidays.

But the peace was unnecessarily broken by an uproar over Tshwane mayor, Solly Msimanga's visit to Taiwan. For those who have chosen to stay out of the loop over the Christmas season (I really don't blame you for taking such a reprieve!) Mayor Msimaga took a trip to to Tapei, Taiwan to meet Mayor Ko Wen-Je and discuss economic ties and investment into Tshwane. The ANC subsequently exploded with criticism, with big guns accusing Msimanga of breaching the country's One China policy and lightweights throwing out the usual over-the-top recommendations like, "Take away his passport!" and so on.

For those unfamiliar with the history I'll give a quick review. Once, China was united as the Republic of China, but after WW2 a civil war started and the communists drove the existing state off the mainland and onto the island of Taiwan. They then renamed China the People's Republic of China. So now the People's Republic of China controls the mainland and the Republic of China controls Taiwan, but both claim exclusive sovereignty over the whole of China. Commonly these are now referred to as China and Taiwan respectively, so I will use these names. Although Taiwan is effectively a totally independent state, China does not take kindly to those who recognise it's sovereignty. Today most countries recognise the People's Republic of China, but still maintain unofficial diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

It is this stance that gave the ANC excuse to throw their toys out the cot over Mayor Msimanga's visit to Taiwan, which apparently damages our reputation internationally, and after all our President has done, we really can't afford much more damage. But for all the ruckus made by the ANC, China has said nothing, in fact, even if they know of his visit, it seems they couldn't care less. And that makes sense. This was a visit by a mayor of one city to another city to seek investment. It has little to do with international politics and it really then doesn't make a difference whether Taipei falls under the jurisdiction of Taiwan or China because they both agree on one China, even if they disagree over who runs it.

It really is making a mountain out of a mole-hill, but it is what this reaction tells us about the ANC that I find interesting. First it shows how desperate the constantly, and justly, under-fire ruling party is to find passable criticism to throw at the almost irreproachable opposition. Second, it reveals the true underlying values that exist in the ANC. For a party that boasts of its democratic ideals, it is very quick to recognise an oppressive and authoritarian regime over one that is a pinnacle of freedom and democracy. In fact, when we look at the closest economic allies we have made since 1994, most share our problems, but stand in stark contrast to the ideals of the ANC and the rest of the country. I speak of the BRICS countries. Russia and China are not beacons of democracy, and along with India and Brazil are grossly corrupt. In spite of the perceptions we have a of our own country, we may be the cleanest of the five.

This is something that is worrying, but that we aren't paying attention to. We make friends with those facing the same problems as us, rather than those who have overcome the problems we face, like Taiwan. Ask yourself, who is more likely able to help us overcome those problems, those who have overcome them themselves, or those who are still battling with them?