All Hail Our Glorious Leader

Leadership in South Africa. It’s looking a little dismal these days.

That Jacob Zuma guy, who’s ostensibly running the country at the moment, seems really nice.  He’s very affable. People like him. He’s charming and makes you want to be his friend. He cracks jokes. He has a jolly laugh.

But the President of the country isn’t supposed to be a stand-up comedian. Not saying that comedians can’t become presidents of countries, but they should probably take a sabbatical from comedy until after their term of office…

Read the rest of this Valuable Rubbish at the Moral Fibre Blog.

Yes, that’s right. I’ve spewed out yet another blog. This time for more serious, lengthier commentary. Waffle Group used to serve this function, but I’m not sure what Waffle Group does any more. It seems to display photos at the moment. Perhaps next week it will do something else.

Breaking things that work

Can someone explain why governmental bureaucrats like to shut down or cripple successful projects, just because they didn’t think of the idea?

This innovative prisoner rehabilitation project, for example.

Please can we work together on these social issues. If someone else gets something right, rather build on it and make it better, than be jealous and break it down. It really doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. Everyone can benefit.

Perhaps there is a valid reason for discontinuing the project that has been poorly communicated. Perhaps it’s just biased reporting. But if the responsible officials don’t respond to the reporter’s requests for comment, it is rather difficult for the reporter to present the government’s viewpoint.

I trust I can rely on your vote?

Ballot BoxThe South African National Elections are swiftly approaching, and election posters are littering the streets.

There are plentiful examples of everyone’s favourite ANC leader, Jacob Zuma, and his cheesy it-wasn’t-me grin. Or is it more of a Alfred E. Newman “What, Me Worry?” kind of look?

Regardless of the visage of JayZee, there are also a number of posters that try to instill in us, the electorate, a passion to vote for a particular party. I’ve already made fun of the ANC’s poster, but on hindsight I’ve decided I’ve been a little discriminatory. We wouldn’t want that in the 15-year-old New South Africa.

Everyone has an election slogan, and generally these can all be improved by adding the phrase “in your pants” to the end of whatever our political overlords have told us.

If you like, you could choose your political party based on which one sounded the least (or most) ridiculous with in your pants tagged on to the end of the slogan.

Going in alphabetical order, we have:

That’s just a few. Adding in your pants to the rest of the political parties’ slogans is left as an exercise for the reader.

I will stop in your pants
I will stop at nothing in your pants
Say the right things in your pants
When electioneering in your pants
I trust I can rely on your vote in your pants

Apologies to Radiohead: Electioneering

US Motor Industry wants a hand out too

The US Motor industry want a piece of that financial aid the US government seems to be handing out to irresponsible bankers at the moment. The motor industry have already been given $25 billion to develop gas-not-guzzlers, but a cleaner environment isn’t really their focus at the moment. They’d rather use it to prevent bankruptcy.

But Congress, or the Senate, or whoever it is who makes the decisions in that loopy superpower country, isn’t really buying in to the story.

The day’s hearings, before the House Financial Services Committee, got off to a rousing start when panel chairperson Barney Frank asked how the government could justify a bailout for banks and insurers, but not the automakers.

“Frankly, there seems to me to be an inherent cultural bias,” Frank said. “Aid to blue-collar employees is being judged by a standard different than white-collar employees.”

But is the aid the motor industry asking for really going to help the blue-collar workers on the shop floor?

Gary Ackerman, Democrat from New York, noted the irony of the CEOs flying on private jets and “getting off with tin cups in their hands”.

“Couldn’t you have downgraded to first class or something, or jet-pooled … to get here?” he asked. “It’s almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in a high hat and tuxedo.”

The executives on Wednesday’s panel — GM CEO Rick Wagoner, Ford CEO Alan Mulally and Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli — all flew to the hearings on private jets.

The Onion couldn’t make this stuff up!

All excerpts from the Mail & Guardian

Hey Thabo!

Read this from AFP:

But experts in South Africa said the run-off election with Mugabe the sole candidate may already be in violation of the country’s laws.

“If we follow the Zimbabwe Electoral Act, legally, Morgan Tsvangirai is the winner, the regime having failed to organise a rerun within 21 days after the election result was released,” said Ross Herbert of the South African Institute of International Affairs.

“This Friday’s rerun is clearly outside the law and so, its outcome will be illegitimate,” the researcher at the Johannesburg-based institute told AFP.

Of course, Bob breaking his own country’s laws is probably not a problem for you, since you’ve just renewed Jackie Selebi’s contract as Commissioner of Police.

Both characters must be innocent until proven guilty.

Zuma implies he is some, as yet to be determined, fraction guilty

Jacob Zuma has declared that he’s not even half guilty of corruption charges levelled against him. Interesting that he doesn’t just say he’s innocent.

So how guilty are you JZ? A quarter? An eighth? Perhaps a third?

When the court finds one three sixteenths guilty, does one serve a pro rata sentence?

The gun is mightier than the pen

It appears that Mugabe has given up all pretenses of running a fair election, saying “We are not going to give up our country because of a mere X. How can a ballpoint pen fight with a gun?

I suppose he has a point. Perhaps it depends on the ballpoint pen to gun ratio?

After this announcement, I’ll be completely mortified if any dumbass South African politician asserts that the elections can still be free and fair (as if the intimidation and violence so far wasn’t enough).

Xenophobic Ads by Google

Sometimes ads by Google are unintentionally funny. This example is at the end of an article by Ndomiso Ngcobo, discussing the response to the recent xenophobic attacks in Johannesburg.

It seems Google Ads is suggesting that the refugees should have rather gone to the States, which is amusing on a number of levels considering the problems the States have with illegal immigration across their southern border.

Tale of Three Cities — Part 2

At the end of our trip to Budapest we travelled a little out of the city to visit Memento Park (also called Szorborpark or Statue Park. Not called South Park, but they sold T-Shirts reading Marx Park and I bought one).

The Hungarians were clearly not all that impressed with the communist iconography and promptly stripped their city of all traces of it.
They weren’t angry though because, unlike effigies of Saddam Hussein during the er… “liberation” of Iraq, they didn’t get broken down and destroyed. Instead, they were simply taken down and deposited in a park outside the city.

The first few days in Budapest had magnificent weather. The day we visited Szorborpark was suitably glum and overcast. We couldn’t have timed it better if we religiously checked the forecasts at hourly intervals.

Apartheid Museum

Embarrassingly, it takes an American to get me to visit places in South Africa that I would immediately seek out were I not living in South Africa.

Amanda is in South Africa gathering data for her masters dissertation which, to the best of my understanding, involves interviewing people who have undergone traumatic experiences. I don’t envy her, but I do admire the work she does in studying human trafficking. She is only here for eight weeks, and then back to the States with her information and notes to write up the thesis.

Given this context, it is understandable that Amanda didn’t want to waste time visiting the Silly Buggers Museum (which is unfortunate because I hear that it is very nice). She wanted to visit the memorial to that political system that no-one in South Africa ever agreed with. Funny how a system like that could come into being with absolutely no support. I suppose everyone who thought it was a good idea must have died or emigrated (or both).

If you haven’t been to the Apartheid Museum, and you live in South Africa, I hope your excuse is that you live in Hotazel and have never been to Johannesburg (and only have a vague understanding of the concept of city).
I suppose that’s a little hypocritical of me, considering I visited it for the first time on Sunday and live in Johannesburg. I’ll revise the statement slightly.
After reading this post, I hope you will be making your way to the Apartheid Museum within the next month, provided you live in South Africa and are not holed up in some god-forsaken dorpie in a desert somewhere.

The Apartheid Museum is a beautiful place. Using simple, minimalist architecture it conveys a sense of serenity and peace. Yet there is also an undercurrent of something heavy waiting within. Something these plain concrete walls and tranquil water-features conceal furtively.
As I bought my ticket and entered the museum, a cold foreboding passed over me.

If the architecture of the place doesn’t have an impact on you, then the entrance can’t possibly fail to.
Each person who pays for entrance is given a ticket labelled “White” or “Non-white.” The tickets are handed to you arbitrarily, regardless of your actual genetic heritage. There are two entrances to the museum, and you don’t get to choose which one to enter via. The ticket you have chooses for you. Random. Arbitrary. Ridiculous.
The statement is very powerful, as the first part of the museum keep the “whites” and “non-whites” separated. I wondered whether the museum would be entirely separated like this, and whether I’d be reunited with my wife before leaving.
This initial impact is a lasting one, and the intensity of the place persists throughout.

I found the museum to be brutally honest about South Africa’s turbulent history and, more remarkable, brutally honest about the current state of the nation. Although apartheid has been dismantled, not everyone has been emancipated.
The display on the part women played during the struggle movingly illustrates to what extent women went in fighting against the social ills of the time. I was impressed that the display ended by highlighting the inequities that many women in South Africa still suffer, despite the change in government. The crimes against women that are rife in this country were listed. These things are realities in our country, and the curators of the museum were not afraid of pointing them out. The apartheid museum is not propaganda vehicle of the New South Africa, shouting out “Rah! Rah! Apartheid is vanquished! Look how perfect everything is now.”
This wasn’t the only place where the museum gave a balanced representation of the political events which had occurred. For this I am grateful, and inordinately impressed. It kicked any cynicism I might have felt about South Africa squarely in the buttocks.

We were at the museum for roughly three hours, and I didn’t even look at everything. I was, however, quite emotionally drained by the time I left. Of particular poignancy to me was the short twenty minute film on the 80’s, shown in the auditorium
The film depicted the civil unrest of the time, and the events leading up to and during the declared state of emergency. It depicted a very violent, sadistic time. People rioting, and fighting. Police cracking down on them, generally using gratuitous force. It was distinctly unpleasant to watch, yet completely compelling. I couldn’t get up and walk away, despite the senseless acts.
It was poignant to me because I a child living in South Africa during this time, and knew nothing of these events.
I had a vague idea of this “state of emergency” thing. I vaguely understood that black people were treated differently to me, and other people with fair skin. At the time I had no idea that white people were doing those things to black people. Obviously, the state controlled media was doing a good job in those days.
I was appalled by and ashamed of my ignorance. Certainly as a child, I could have done nothing to alter these events but I still felt mortified about my past as I watched the film.

The Apartheid Museum was an emotional rollercoaster. It brought me to the verge of tears but, annoyingly, my male socialised conditioning blockaded the tear-ducts. It made me laugh out loud at the absurd pontifications of the apartheid government officials and politicians (those natives must carry passbooks, which provide a handy folder to store all of their documents, which they are liable to otherwise lose — being a careless bunch of barbarians and all). It made me feel very sombre. It made me feel very positive about South Africa.

We’ve come a long way. We’ve got a long way to go. At least we’re being honest about it.

Later, Angie and I discussed our feelings about the museum and we reckon that every politician currently in office should spend three hours at the Apartheid Museum. It’ll help them remember why they are in office in the first place, and what they should be trying to achieve there.