For the people, by the people?

28 05 2008

By Fatz

In school, the first definition of democracy we learn is “a system of government for the people, by the people”. Even your average 13 year old could argue that ‘the people’ should be a part of their own democracy. I argue that the actions of the Makana Municipality in one specific issue, what I like to refer to as “the car wash controversy”, has not only excluded ‘the people’, but also  blatantly disregards the needs of these people and the municipalities responsibilities towards them.

Grahamstown is not the city of gold. Hell, it’s not even the city of tin. If you’re looking for job opportunities, this is certainly not the town to venture into. There are no major industries, no big businesses or factories (that I know of at least) and as an unskilled worker your best hopes are Pick and Pay or a petrol station.

You would imagine that in a town where unemployment is rife and many people have to look for jobs in neighboring towns and cities (public transport costs are not as friendly as they used to be), the local municipality would establish job creation initiatives and skills development programes?

And so they did. In the form of the municipality car wash on Beaufort street. Costing more than R1million, this ‘majestic’ car washing facility stands tall and proud- right next to an informal business, Liyakhanya Car Wash, which has been operating in the neighboring taxi rank for 4 years. 

A summary of the situation: The municipality made an agreement with the workers at Liyakhanya that on completion of the new car wash premises they would be moved in and taught the necessary business skills to operate and maintain a successful operation. All was good, and everyone was happy. Until the building was completed and other individuals were named beneficiaries instead. It is at this point that the story becomes a bit hazy. No one has really identified a solid reason for the change of heart, but this hasn’t stopped people from speculating. Corruption. The first thought on everyone’s mind.

But wait folks, the plot thickens. Now Liyakhanya has been served with an eviction notice for not having a lease agreement with the municipality (the taxi rank it operates from is municipal land). But for 4 year no one has raised an eyebrow over their lack of a lease. Afraid of a little friendly competition perhaps?

For many of the workers at Liyakhanya, it is their only source of income. They now face unemployment. A real tragedy, considering they are the lucky ones in a town where more than half of the population is unemployed, who have actually managed to secure a job.

Entrepreneurs choked by the hands of bureaucracy? The very hand that (in theory) feeds them? Lets admit, there is nothing sinister about the new municipality premises. A wonderful job creation initiative with the aim of benefiting those in the Grahamstown community who need it the most. Fine, so they’ve moved other people in for whatever reason,  then why add insult to injury to those who were promised the new premises, and now evict them from theirs? The municipality argues it has great plans for the land which is now a taxi rank. The long term goal is to develop a small business hub, where individuals can set up stalls and shops, and pay only a small fee for rental. Again, a wonderful idea- which will not materialize for a good couple of years. So why the immediate eviction? I’ve stewed over this for long enough, and yet still, a simple justified answer alludes me.

In an interview with a municipal official who works closely with the car wash project, an open minded, diplomatic and reasonable man, he expressed his personal feelings that all hope is not lost for the workers of Liyakhanya. He believed that through negotiations an amicable solution could be found. Finally! Some sense amongst all the insanity of the situation. If only the parties were sitting at a negotiating table instead of meeting before a judge in court (the eviction notice is currently being challenged by Liyakhanya).  

Dear Makana Municipality                     

As a local municipality, an arm of the South African government, your every action should serve the interests of your constituents. Suffocating those who attempt to create employment for themselves when you cannot provide it, is not an action for the good of the local community. To suffer at the hands of bureaucratic bull***t, political agendas and downright selfish aims of making a little cash on the side, is not what the citizens of a democracy should face. Why not sit down at the proverbial round table (hell, a couple of empty beer crates would suffice) and engage in dialogue. Discuss the future of the premises, allow the people to air their fears and grievances, see how they can fit in to your plans and make them a part of seeing them through to fruition. Making plans for the people and then excluding those very people from your decision making not only casts a shadow over your good intentions, but defeats the purpose of a democracy in which an electorate is engaged and actively apart of.

Democracy?car wash


Déjà vu? How history repeats itself.

10 04 2008

By Fatz

I can still quite clearly remember my history lessons in school (that’s probably because it wasn’t that long ago) where we studied The Great Depression in the U.S and its effects on the rest of the world. I even remember a cartoon representation in a textbook showing a German man using money to make himself a fire because it was completely worthless to him.

Being a history student at heart (perhaps even more so than I am a journalism student) I know we often see history as being about ‘them’, and never us. We see it as the study of the people of the past, their suffering, their wars, their actions- and not often do we think about our suffering, our wars, our actions.

I was doing my daily news check up on the net the other day and came across an article about… wait for it… impending doom! (If you’re a regular reader of my blog posts you would have by now discovered my love for melodramatics).

By impending doom, I’m referring to the expected ‘mild recession’ of the American economy with America’s mortgage crisis spiralling into “the largest financial shock since the Great Depression”. There is mounting pessimism about the ability of the rest of the world to escape unscathed. The IMF expects world economic growth to slow to 3.7% over the next two years- and this is their optimistic estimate. Apparently (forgive me, I’m not much of a numbers girl) if this figure drops to below 3% there’s a 1 in 4 chance of a global economic recession (just to give you better perspective on this, you also have a 1 in 4 chance of being a victim of online virus and other internet threats.)

How this will affect our rate of growth of exports is quite obvious- The rate of growth of imports into wealthy nations is expected to drop sharply, leading to a cut in the rate of growth of exports by developing countries (ie. us).

What are the implications of this financial mumbo jumbo? Who will suffer? Certainly not Eskom’s directors (I’m still reeling from the shock of their bonuses). The working class, your average Joe, his wife and his three kids. Those are the people who will have to deal with inflated food costs and with the Credit Act (despite its perhaps honourable intentions) making it increasingly difficult for people to get home loans, Joe’s also gotta worry about putting a roof over their heads.

Here’s what happened in my brain when I was reading the article: I imagined us burning our paper money to make fires, then I thought about the Zimbabwean dollar which could already be used for this purpose, then I thought about cheese (I was hungry), realised that the price of dairy products have sky rocketed, and then I remembered the bread cost saga and a whole chain of neurons (or whatever they are) went firing off in my brain! Is it just déjà vu or have we seen this all before? In a different era, under different circumstances, in a history textbook I used in school?? Ok, so maybe we’re not facing an economic recession comparable to that of The Great Depression, but what is repeated is that it’s the same class of individuals who will bear the brunt of it. Economic inequalities have haunted our past and still are a reality today.

But what do we do? How do we protect Joe and his family? Not an easily answered question. I’m siding with the director of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) who says that what we need is to “find a better balance between the democratic voice of society, the productive dynamic of the market and the regulatory function of the state”. Whatever that means.

So it’s confirmed then, history does indeed repeat itself. You would assume that the logical conclusion is to learn from our fellow homo sapiens mistakes. HA! If only we were logical. This week was the 5 year anniversary of the day the late Saddam Hussein’s statue was toppled by U.S forces in Baghdad. An event which will feature in the history books my children will one day study from. And maybe they (if they get their mothers brain) will consider the same things I am: about the past, about our actions and about cheese (sorry, I’m still hungry).

the great depressionburning moneysaddam statuecheese

The ‘piss off’ conspiracies… a window into my tiny tiny brain.

3 04 2008

by Fathima Simjee

So I have something to confess…

I’m a closet conspiracy theorist
(Ok, so it’s not really a secret, but I decided to go with that approach for the dramatic effect) 

Tupac’s not dead- it was just survival tactics! He faked his death so he could kill Biggie who had pissed him off.

The American moon landing never happened- they just faked it to piss off the Russians.

The Kennedy’s killed Marilyn Monroe- she knew too much after sleeping with half the family, which pissed them off.

‘The third force’ was the cause of the intensified political violence of the 1990’s in South Africa-government security forces and the IFP banded together to piss off the ANC.

The U.S government arranged for planes to fly into the twin towers- to piss off Osama.

There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq (ok this doesn’t really count as a conspiracy)- to piss off Sadam.

That dude who owned Julians Celltech (perhaps his name was Julian?) also faked his death- to piss off the tax and life insurance people.

Pluto being stripped of planet status was just a hoax- to piss off astrologers and screw up their charts.

tupac alive?moonflagmarilyn monroe

 Perhaps it’s just me and my summarized reasons for these rather mysterious events, but does anyone else see a pattern here?Just in case you haven’t, and I’m not sure that’s even possible, maybe my latest conspiracy theory will clear things up for you a little bit.

Load shedding. (Yup, it’s cloaked in conspiracy if you ask me.)

Here it goes: Eskom has made a blood pact (this is optional- once again just added for dramatic effect) with generator companies. They (Eskom) aren’t really having energy/power supply problems, but instead have agreed to cut our power so that generator sales will skyrocket. It’s a win-win situation you see. We’re going to end up paying more for electricity because of their supposed ‘problems’ and generator companies make a fortune.

Why: (and here’s where my pattern comes in to play)

To piss off the (mostly) good people of South Africa.

Oh right, and to make loads of cash which has already been distributed in the form of bonuses to their big wigs in their plush corporate offices with their leather swivel chairs and panoramic city views.

And indeed the good people of South Africa are royally pissed off. Well I am at least. 

Just to get back to my generator theory for a little bit, when researching generator sales in my spare time (haha) I found this interesting statement from Ramon Chetty of Generators KZN.

“Our sales have rocketed, especially with large retail stores and restaurants. Many other sellers have experienced a similar increase.

“We are expecting much more business as installing generators is the only viable option with the load-shedding crisis.”

Ha! And my worst fears were confirmed! You can imagine my hysteria when all the little pieces of the puzzle fell into place in my tiny tiny brain.

But on a more serious note, generators for big business can fetch up to 2 million Rands. Each. That’s a whole lot of zeros, more than my previously mentioned tiny tiny brain can handle.

Once again there was no real point to this blog other than to kill time (but really, is there ever a good reason to be sitting at a computer telling complete strangers what you’re thinking? No.) but I thought id at least share with you my groundbreaking discovery.

What should we do with this information? Its simple really. We should all revert to a former way of life that doesn’t require electricity. Go back to good old steam powered fo’shizzle and what nots and show Eskom the proverbial finger. Why? Ah, but why even ask when the answer is so obvious.

To piss them off.

eskom homerabsolut conspiracy

Money Making Meerkat: an epic rant.

4 03 2008

By Fathima Simjee

While many of you might not think that my personal issues with the Vodacom Meerkat count as “current affairs” I think the matter is of great national importance (and so is the prevention of mass nausea).

Just in case you are lucky enough to not be familiar with the advertising tool cleverly used by Vodacom to lure users to OTHER service providers, see below for a picture of the animated creature which makes me want to stab myself in both eyes with a piece of glass from the smashed television screen I just threw a shoe at.


I need you all to know that simply typing this blog is a great personal sacrifice. Not of my time- no no,I will gladly give you all my time (because procrastination is what I do best), but of my sanity. Why? Because ranting about the Vodacom meerkat and the unbearable fact that it now has a girlfriend makes me imagine them procreating, which in turn is detrimental to my emotional and physical health and well being (as my biography states, I’m a hypochondriac, so my personal health is always on my mind- just the other day I diagnosed myself with ‘cartilaginous cancer’ which I’m not sure even exists).

(HA! I just Googled  “cartilaginous cancer” and it does exist! You gotta love the internet…)

Firstly, let’s discuss the little animated creature which gyrates to bad music on our television screens.  His name is Mo. Why is that interesting? Well Muhammad/Mohammed is one of the most common names in the world. In 2006, 4 255 Muhammad’s were born in the U.K, with only the name Jack exceeding this number.

Again you might ask, what does this have to do with the vomit inducing meerkat? Very little except for the fact that the commonly recognised nickname for Muhammad is in fact “Mo”. Even my own brother’s name is Muhammad! And no points for guessing what his nickname is.  Personally this spout of bad advertising is breaking up my family unit- I can barely call my brother by his own name fearing that it will bring up images of… (aaaahh! Must get it out of my head!!!).

It’s not like bad advertising is a new  phenomenon- I don’t use Body on Tap because the adverts are horrendous (I mean who really takes a mobile sink to shopping malls and parking lots and washes peoples hair? One word- lice. ). But this appalling use of CGI takes bad advertising to a new level.  Why can’t we go back to the good ol’ ad, that starred real people and had great catch phrases like “it’s not inside, it’s on top”.

Secondly, do you think Vodacom realises that their advertising campaign is actually repulsing more than interesting prospective clients? I am a Vodacom user, but every time an advert comes on with that thing in it, I’m seriously tempted to change to another service provider. Why do I not? Its simple, I’m too lazy.

Back to my initial question, does Vodacom know?? How could they not! Just searching the words “Vodacom meerkat” on the internet brings up hundreds of hits of bloggers who express their fears/hatred/repulsion etc of the animal (similar to what I’m doing right now), there’s a Facebook group (argued to be the most successful South African special interest group on Facebook) which allows for it’s 17 000 members to discuss just how much they hate it and even a video has been made showing the death of the meerkat! (No animals were hurt in the making of said video). So it’s not exactly a national secret.

So why? Here’s my theory. We love to hate it. It gives me something to rant about and it gives you something to read about. So they are lapping up all the hype which we, the victims of this gross human rights violation (I’m sure there’s something in the Geneva Convention about really really bad advertising?) are creating. As the old saying goes, any publicity is good publicity and this horrific creature has certainly caused a stir and gotten people talking.  To simplify this for those of you who prefer mathematical equations to essays:


So why is this long, incomprehensible rant important? Because at this very moment I am guilty of aiding and abetting the capitalist cause, I am generating capital with every key stroke, I am a puppet of the Big Green Money Making Machine!!! (I admit that was a tad bit melodramatic but it sounded quite cool anyways). So the point I’m ironically making is that while many of us, particularly humanities students,  speak out against the Big Bad Capitalist System, we conveniently forget how every day we contribute to it, be it as consumers or as ranting crazed bloggers (like myself).

Or perhaps there was no real point to this and I just wanted to kill some time…. You decide.

hitler, bush, the meerkat

meerkat osama the meerkat what many would like to do