Category Archives: Position

Covid-19’s not the main problem; it’s our response

Triumph of the germophobes. What more could go wrong?

Mark, my neighbour, and I shared beers the day before all this started. I deliver goat’s milk daily and collect his empty bottles. Must this end? Today I chatted with family for next to an hour on Zoom. Is this ‘the shape of things to come’?

I fear it might be, which is why I believe we must take careful stock and self-correct before it is too late. To this end, these are the facts as I see them, as of now:

  • the chances that Covid-19 will take you out are probably in the same ballpark as that of flu, TB, heart, cancer (related, please see the note right at the end)
  • the lockdown has served its purpose
  • our choices today will determine our future

Coved-19 is going to run its course, like it or not

Because the current version of the Sars-CoV-2 virus, tagged as Covid-19, is novel (i.e. new) experts are struggling to understand how it works.

What is however becoming abundantly clear is that original predictions of millions dying from the virus were way-overinflated. Apropos, watch Dr Ioannidis’s early cautionary (embedded link below), and that of Dr Sucharit Bhakdi.

Instead it seems that young people will mostly shake off the virus while the elderly and those with secondary health issues (obesity, diabetes, heart, etc.) must take particular care.

South Africa – with its young population (60% of South Africans are less than 35 years old), higher immunity levels given our ‘third world’, developmental status where the majority roughs it, and a sizeable population group receiving the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccine to fight TB, which reportedly seems to be playing an inhibitory role when it comes to the virus – has less to fear than, for instance, countries such as Italy with its aging population (including their doctors) and the US with high obesity, diabetic and hypertension levels and a largely germophobic population which, according to the germ hypothesis, leaves individuals immunologically compromised.

The lockdown has served its purpose

Lockdown was a holding operation to win time while authorities prepare for what is to come. Now, however, it seems that the original intent has morphed into the taken-for-granted assumption that it’s the cure. It isn’t. That’s a year or more down the line with a vaccine, by which time the virus will most likely have mutated into Covid-21 or 22. In the meantime there’s the real world where the problems are piling up.

For instance, the millions who ‘have seen their livelihoods shattered by lockdowns, by collapse of tourism’ and, in the developing world ‘by an end to remittances coming from relatives abroad’ | Kristof, N. (2020). This Pandemic Is Bringing Another With It. New York Times, [online]. Available here.

Dori (a neighbour with a spousal visa) and countless others, locked out of their countries far from loved ones, essentially stateless.

In Groote Schuur outpatients in Cape Town, John Smith (not his real name), who works in admission, reports that they now turn away everyone who doesn’t answer to a Covid-19 infection except stabbings and gunshot wounds.

Those who need care are staying clear of hospitals for fear of the virus. Apropos, see the eNCA interview below with one of 19 South African doctors who signed an open letter to Ramaphosa pleading for the hard lockdown to be ended and a return to normality.

Watch the 06:20-minute interview below. You’ll weep.

‘While we’re preparing (for the corona virus) we’re taking heavy losses on the other fronts and we have to get in the game’ | Dr Ebrahim Kader

The future we choose

Ioannidis (referenced above) articulates what are for me some of the most worrying consequences of our response to Covid-19 (my emphasis):

I think we have no clue how a society would work if you need to build it around a construct where everything is done from a distance … but thinking of a society that is entirely imprisoned and telecommunicating is a very different beast. I’m not even sure it is tenable. It creates a very different environment for our ethics, for our ability to socialize, for democracy, for what it means to be human and our perception of risk and how to deal with risk.

Perspectives on the Pandemic | Dr John Ioannidis of Stanford University | Episode 1, . Watch, below
‘I think we have no clue how a society would work if you need to build it around a construct where everything is done from a distance …’ | Prof. John Ioannidis

Already we see his concerns start playing out:

  • ethics: as in individual, as opposed to public good
  • ability to socialize: as in how to exercise our humanity within a context of curfews, shutdowns, social distancing, surveillance
  • democracy: as in ‘where does the constitutional state stop and the dictatorship start’ (Daily Maverick) and
  • how to deal with risk: as in whether to hide from one another or embrace risk, and in so doing developing herd immunity

And then there are the politicians, corporates, vested interests and ordinary people who, in a Naomi Kleinian Shock Doctrine kind of way, attempt to capitalise on crises, which then set us all on a course which, before we know it, becomes the new normal. To avoid shock-doctrine outcomes we must therefore remain hyper-alert for any potential inflection point, for instance, any which might result in the triumph of the:

  • Zumarites: now that Moody’s has cut us adrift, there must surely be some temptation, given our predicament, for Treasury to start printing money as an anodyne or antidote to the escalating unemployment crisis exacerbated by the extended lockdown which, if it comes to pass will, in a sense, mean the Zumarites have triumphed, which if so might mean we can all kiss our futures goodbye
  • surveillance state: China’s vast surveillance powers must be the envy of every closet dictator, and we seem to have one or two in Government and in the South African Police Service right now. Therefore we should be vigilant that location tracking isn’t also rolled out to ‘protect us’
  • germophobes: germophobes will now add masks and hand sanitizers to their arsenal which already contains insect killer sprays, antifungal-this and antibacterial-that which then becomes further license to turn every household or restaurant into a dead zone
  • AgriChem industry and factory farming: natural, organic and unpasteurized might soon ‘fall’ as the call for ‘food safety’ results in general acceptance of, if not demand for GM, meat raised in sterile environments where animals and chickens never feel the earth or see the sky, nuked vegies, meat shot through with antibiotics and ultra-pasteurised milk as the new norm
  • junk food industry: strategies to combat the virus are paying no attention to the fact that our best line of defence is a healthy immune system which can only come about through whole foods, exercise and exposure to the virus. Consequently obesity, diabetes, heart and related lifestyle conditions are increasingly taken as givens instead of recognised for what they are: unwitting enablers of the corona, flu, and other viruses
  • Borg: if our response to the virus further estranges us from nature and, instead, we find ourselves living sequestered, germ-free lives hermetically-sealed in our respective cocoons, all huddled behind our webcams, our every keystroke registered by the panoptic other (or Other) which controls every aspect of our lives, then consciousness, as we know it, will no longer be nourished by soul (by ‘soul’, I mean deep, or Deep nature), and, instead, be shaped by and merge with the machine (or Machine) thereby finally severing the God-loop (as an example of the ‘God-loop’ I think back to the reverence Bushmen experienced for animals – particularly those they hunted), which will then signify that the commodification of the planet, including Homo sapiens, is final.

Underpinning most of the above is fear – as in fear of the virus, fear of one another, and now fear of the police – and its talisman: denial, self-deception or obedience.

And so we remain locked down day after day, conscientiously following the latest set of regulations having faith that it’s keeping us all safe and that sometime in the future the economy patiently awaits our return, without maybe fully comprehending that we are that economy and that without us it isn’t going to happen; while running parallel with our obedience there is maybe only a vague awareness of and concern about patchy, inept or downright dangerous leadership which could quite suddenly (we’re locked down – remember) become rule by diktat, by which time God help us.

It obviously won’t come to the following although it does illustrate our natural propensity to cooperate when under duress:

… one of the most astonishing human traits that came to light (during the extermination of the Ukrainian and Belarusian Jews) at that time was obedience. There were cases of huge queues being formed by people awaiting execution – and it was the victims themselves who regulated the movement of these queues. There were hot summer days when people had to wait from early morning until late at night; some mothers prudently provided themselves with bread and bottles of water for their children …

Grossman, V. (2011:198). ‘Life and Fate’. London, Vintage.

Freddie Sayers concluded in an analysis of two separate interviews he conducted with epidemiologists on how to respond to covid-19 (first, Swedish professor Johan Gieseck, the realist, who argued that because life entails risk we should not forfeit normal, and, second, UK Professor Neil Ferguson, the idealist, who expressed excitement at the prospect of finding a cure for the virus, which he believes lockdown provides) that:

Whether you’re more Giesecke or Ferguson, it’s time to stop pretending that our response to this threat is simply a scientific question, or even an easy moral choice between right and wrong. It’s a question of what sort of world we want to live in, and at what cost.

Sayers, F. (2020). Which epidemiologist do you believe? ‘Unherd’, [online]. Available here

My choice of world would be the one posited by Giesecke in which I embrace hazard. These would be the costs as I see them:

I would need to shake myself out of my lockdown torpor or faith, and, instead, take control particularly of my health in the knowledge that if I do not exercise and eat properly I jeopardise my immune system thus increasing the risk of becoming victim to the virus. It would mean risking infection but in the knowledge that were I to become infected, given my health, which I’ve conscientiously nurtured, I’ll not only survive but also build immunity for whatever the virus has in store for me next time round.

If, however, I did have an underlying medical condition then I would quarantine myself during which time I would adopt a radical natural health regime.

I would also make it my business to question and maybe even badger authority, respectfully.

Finally, I would make a stand against what I experience as dystopian tendencies we all seem to have to varying degrees that would sacrifice a human future on the altar of technology.

When submitted for possible publication the editor felt uncomfortable with the numbers as far as they pertained to the influenza virus and felt, instead, that it would be better to compare to TB, HIV/AIDS, Malaria etc.. He might be correct as my prognosis was gleaned from the two Ioannidis interviews referenced in the text. A further useful gauge are the following statistics:

The average mortality in South Africa due to Covid-19 is currently three per day, a total of 206 since 5 March [at the time of writing this on 12 May]. If we compared that to some other causes of death, we see that 194 of the 7.7 million people living with HIV-AIDS in our country die daily, 80 daily as a result of TB, 69 as a result of diabetes, and 26 as a result of influenza | De Villiers, W. (et al). (2020). President Ramaphosa’s latest announcement on the lockdown is too little, too late Daily Maverick [online]. Available here

De Villiers, W. (et al). (2020). President Ramaphosa’s latest announcement on the lockdown is too little, too late ‘Daily Maverick’ [online]. Available here.

When it comes to the property clause in our Constitution, watch the ANC like milk on fire

Section 25 of the South African Constitution sets out your and my rights with respect to property. If South Africans are not ultra-vigilant, the ANC will gut those rights.

The State’s right to expropriation without compensation (EWC) is implicit in Section 25 of the South African Constitution, nothing needs changing.

Not so, argues the ANC and their EFF allies. EWC must be made explicit and to that end the ANC initiated and managed a multi-party parliamentary process culminating in a draft proposal (see below) to amend Section 25, which was Gazetted just before Christmas with a deadline for comments on the 31 January 2020.

Now, mere days before the deadline, we learn that the draft proposal for comment is in fact a dummy or, more exactly, a decoy.

This is the proposed draft amendment (changes to the Constitution indicated in bold)

(1) No one may be deprived of property except in terms of law of general application, and no law may permit arbitrary deprivation of property.

(2) Property may be expropriated only in terms of law of general application —
(a) for a public purpose or in the public interest; and
(b) subject to compensation, the amount of which and the time and manner of payment of which have either been agreed to by those affected or decided or approved by a court, provided that in accordance with subsection (3A) a court may, where land and any improvements thereon are expropriated for the purposes of land reform, determine that the amount of compensation is nil;

(3) The amount of the compensation as contemplated in subsection (2)(b), and the time and manner of any payment, must be just and equitable, reflecting an equitable balance between the public interest and the interests of those affected, having regard to all relevant circumstances, including —
(a) the current use of the property;
(b) the history of the acquisition and use of the property;
(c) the market value of the property;
(d) the extent of direct state investment and subsidy in the acquisition and beneficial capital improvement of the property; and
(e) the purpose of the expropriation.

(3A) National legislation must, subject to subsections (2) and (3), set out specific circumstances where a court may determine that the amount of compensation is nil.

What it means

Were the proposed amendment adopted, EWC would be explicitly mentioned in the Constitution (‘a court may … determine that the amount of compensation is nil’), however, the Constitution as such would provide no guidelines on how to identify instances where nil compensation should be paid, which would instead be left to Parliament (in other words the ANC and any coalition or ruling party that one day replaces the ANC) thereby creating a situation in which the Executive (i.e. Cabinet) would dictate to the Judiciary (i.e. Courts of law), and your protection, under the Bill of Rights, would end.

ANC volte-face

Now if that isn’t enough, days before the deadline Ramaphosa, reporting back on the ANC Lekgotla, announced that the ANC’s position differed from the Gazetted formulation we have all been asked to comment on. Instead, he informed us, the ANC’s position was that ‘the power to determine the quantum of compensation for land expropriation should reside in the Executive (i.e. him and his fellow cabinet ministers), and that the amendment should articulate such’.

President Ramaphosa, reporting back on the ANC Lekgotla, 19 – 20 January 2020

The Chairman of Parliament’s ad-hoc committee on the Constitutional Amendment, Mathole Motshekga, further clarified the ANC’s position (transcription follows):

Dr Mathole Motshekga, chair of Parliament’s ad-hoc committee on the Constitutional Amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution

Transcription of the above interview follows:

Mathole Motshekga: No, we are a multi-party democracy, we had to agree on a formulation that would be acceptable to the political parties so that we don’t derail the process, but that formulation is subject to engagement by political parties and the people of South Africa as a whole, and, as I said, the African National Congress has given the lead to say ‘no’ to that formulation: (and) that that power should be given to the Executive and that’s why we are calling on all other political parties and to all South Africans to make their input so that when we sit as Parliament now we must be guided by the will, aspirations of the people of South Africa as a whole … The earlier formulation was to ensure that we reach consensus otherwise we would have created controversy and we would not have been able to Gazette the bill and that would have derailed the process, and we didn’t want to derail the process.

eNCA Interviewer (not named): The Gazetted formulation of the bill is different from what you now want as the ANC in (that) the Gazetted formulation, as I was showing in the slides, now the power to decide instances where … compensation will be zero, (currently) rests in the hands of the Courts, you, as the ANC, want it to rest in the hands of the Executive.

MM: That’s what the ANC is saying and we are saying that this is not the ANC process. Other political parties must make their inputs and the people of South Africa as a whole must make their inputs so that Parliament must be guided by the will of the people of South Africa as a whole not by one or the other political party.

eNCA: Isn’t it sneaky though, Dr Motshekga, isn’t it sneaky that you give us one bill that is the basis for people making written submissions and then, you know, as as I would say in South African parlance, jiggy-jiggy, you are suddenly talking about it’s it’s not gonna rest in the hands of the Courts it will rest in the hands of the Executive?

MM: You know where we have the experience that the court processes are arduous, they take time, they require resources but the Executive is a democratic government elected by the people of South Africa, they represent the people of South Africa and they must govern but we are not excluding the role of the Courts but we are not giving the Courts the first opportunity to decide, because that will last another 25 years and the people of South Africa cannot wait for another 25 years to get a resolution to this matter.

eNCA: It’s difficult for me to wrap my head around who would keep the Executive in check, in terms of, you know, making sure that, you know, because you’re now putting it in the hands of, you know, the political powers of the day to decide instances where there would be no compensation for land expropriated. Who would keep (the Executive) power in check?

MM: They are a democratically elected government but the powers of the courts to hear aggrieved parties is an entrenched power in the Constitution so any aggrieved person reserves the right to go to the court and say I have been prejudiced by the decision of the Executive, then the courts will intervene, so there is a balance there, so no one needs to fear if eventually Parliament agrees with the recommendation that the power to expropriate should vest in the Executive.

eNCA: All right, Dr Mathole Motshekga, thank you so much. Quite an interesting conversation and I must say I must admit that unless I completely missed it I wasn’t aware of this new proposed formulation where that power to decide instances where the compensation for land expropriated for restitution would be zero moves from the Courts as in the published draft bill to amend the constitution, and moves to the Executive and that’s what Dr Mathole Motshekga tells us is what the ANC is now proposing.

Milk on fire

You can see where this is going:

  • elite capture: running parallel with this process, is the draft National policy for beneficiary selection and land allocation, which lists categories of persons who can start queuing for zero-rated, expropriated land and property, including, subject to provisos: spouses of public servants (para. 7.1.5), politicians holding public office (7.4.4) and state employees (7.4.7)
  • electioneering: Municipal elections are around the corner (2021) so how convenient isn’t it to be able to take an EWC roadshow to the people, financed by the taxpayer
  • creation of false expectations
  • sleight of hand
  • an enemy: note who’s now being blamed: the courts (‘we are not giving the courts the first opportunity to decide, because that will last another 25 years’ | Mathole Motshekga)
  • ducking responsibility: let it be acknowledged that historical injustices have led to skewed land ownerships patterns. However our present impasse has little to do with Section 25 of the Constitution and everything to do with ANC mismanagement of the land reform process over the past 25 years (see here, here, here, here and here)
  • costly redress : ‘any aggrieved person reserves the right to go to the court and say I have been prejudiced by the decision of the Executive then the courts will intervene so there is a balance there’ (Mathole Motshekga)
  • assault on the Constitution: what Ramaphosa, Motshekga and the ANC are now advocating is a direct assault on the Constitution, in that there is no honouring the doctrine of the Separation of Powers (Executive, Legislature and Judiciary), and dismissal of the Bill of Rights enshrined in the Constitution, meant to protect all South Africans.

So what’s to do

Articulate, and mail your response to the draft proposal before this coming Friday: For attention: Mr V Ramaano |, alternatively take the shortcut by registering your response here or, here.

For information, my response will roughly be along the following lines:

The draft amendment must be rejected on the grounds that it:

  • fails to honour the doctrine of the separation of powers underpinning the constitution
  • is dismissive of the bill of rights, enshrined in the constitution

Because expropriation without compensation is already implicit in the wording, Section 25 must stand as is.

Acknowledgment: ‘like milk on fire’ used in the title is borrowed from Rumer Godden’s ‘you must watch children like milk on fire’ (publication, unknown).

Quid pro quo. I’m voting Cope

This time round I’ll be voting Cope for national, and DA for the Western Province. Here are my reasons.

Why I won’t be voting ANC

What brought my world crashing was our President (no less) Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa announcing to the nation that the Constitution must be changed in order to reflect the prevailing racist trope that white people constitute ‘the original sin’ (see below), and are therefore to blame for a quarter of a century of failed land reform – and not the ANC.

His was my Piet Retief moment; treachery.

(For readers who don’t know the history: after ratifying transfer of land to the boer Voortrekkers led by Piet Retief, the Zulu King Dingane kaSenzangakhona requested the boers leave their weapons outside the chief’s kraal (enclosure) in order to participate in a feast. Unarmed, the boers were set upon by Zulu Impi and slaughtered | Grobler, J. (2011). The Retief Massacre of 6 February 1838 revisited. Scielo, Historia 46(2) [online] Available at [accessed 6 April 2019]. )

Image of a plaque in the Voortrekker Monument of the signing of the treaty between Dingane kaSenzangakhona and Boer leader Piet Retief
Zulu Chief Dingane kaSenzangakhona (left) and Boer Voortrekker leader Piet Retief ratifying their Treaty | Greyling, L. [image] available at [Accessed 23 December 2018]

The Retief-Dingane analogy, I believe, holds as Ramaphosa (that’s him with his red tie, below) was co-architect of the original treaty that gave birth to the South African Constitution signed between incoming President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (seated) and outgoing Prime Minister Frederik Willem de Klerk:

Signing the SA Constitution: Cyril Ramaphosa and Nelson Mandela
Cyril Ramaphosa (red tie) co-architect of the South African Constitution standing at the right hand of President Nelson Mandela during its ratification | ENCA. Twenty years since the signing of the Constitution. [image] Available at [Accessed 23 December 2018].

Silver-tongued Cyril’s endorsement of the Gupta, Bell Pottinger, BLF, EFF, Jacob Zuma anti-white narrative tells me I cannot trust this man.

Why I won’t be voting for the DA, nationally

At about the same time the leader of the opposition, Mmusi Aloysias Maimane, was also into betrayal, first of Helen Zille for her colonialism tweet and then all white people, including members of his own party, who, according to him, must own up to and, by implication, atone for their ‘privilege’ .

Mmusi doing a Malema? You decide.

Why I shall be voting Cope, nationally

In contrast it was Mosiuoa Gerard Patrick (Terror) Lekota, leader of Cope, who, on principle, fearlessly stood his ground – despite the taunting and jeering – with his question that still hasn’t been answered by Ramaphosa (or the DA): “Who is ‘our people’; who is not ‘our people’?”.

When a friend shafts you it is difficult ever to trust that person again. On the other hand if someone stands up for you and you don’t even say thank you; that sucks. Why should it be any different for a politician?

So, Mr Lekota you’ve demonstrated that you’ve got my and all South Africans’ back: black, brown, olive and white. It’s payback time to stand up and be counted. Quid pro quo. I’m voting for your party, the Congress of the People, come Wednesday May 8, 2019.

Why I shall again vote DA provincially

I’m voting DA provincially because the Western Cape Government under the premiership of Helen Zille works for all its people and not for just a small elite of the super-connected. Witness: Health, Education, very few potholes and overwhelmingly clean audits. So my ‘thank you’ will be to vote for the DA in the Western Province.

Facebook and me

I posted the following to my Facebook timeline:

Hi, if you arrived here and don’t find much, this post tries to explain why I’m using Facebook as a placeholder rather than a space to share my life:

I find Facebook creepy

Whenever I’m on Facebook (Fb) I feel I’m being observed and analysed by computer code (AI/artificial intelligence) or the faceless programmers behind that code. It’s like being on the wrong side of a one-way mirror in a psychiatric ward. Continue reading Facebook and me

No! to the proposed SA nuclear build programme

My written submission objecting to the proposed plan to put into effect the first stages of a plan to build approximately eight nuclear power stations for South Africa

I thank you for the opportunity to comment on the above.
History has shown that:

Continue reading No! to the proposed SA nuclear build programme

Why I shall continue eating meat

My intention is to clarifying for myself why I eat meat.

The question was shaped by a discussion I had via Twitter with Jo Lister,  BentoGrassConsumerAction,  Free Ranger and @EGalgut (account closed and apparently subsumed into Bento), and via  The Daily Pitchfork with James McWilliams, Janet Schultz and Charlie Talbert.

Continue reading Why I shall continue eating meat

My goal is to take one or two iconic photographs of the Karoo and Overberg

I started a photographic club at almost every school at which I taught. At the end of my career, as a member of the Communication Directorate I became, by default, the unofficial official photographer for the Western Cape Education Department. Now retired, my goal is to spend a year in the Karoo learning how to take one or two iconic photographs of the Karoo as almost none of these representational Karoo shots speak to me. This blog is part of that aim.

Continue reading My goal is to take one or two iconic photographs of the Karoo and Overberg