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Letters Newspapers   2015

ITS ROTHSCHILD – NOT RHODES!        posted 29 December 2015

Those behind the Rhodes Must Fall campaign are barking up the wrong tree. If they are so outraged by the scholarships which Rhodes bequeathed, then theyshould be going after Rhodes’s banker – Nathaniel de Rothschild.

 As historian Niall Ferguson points out, ‘it is usually assumed that Rhodes ownedDe Beers, but this was not the case. De Rothschild was a bigger shareholder thanRhodes himself. By 1899 the Rothschild stake was twice that of Rhodes,’ (Empire,p. 225).

 Rhodes was no more than the front man of British imperial interests. Just as theBritish East India Company provided the premise for British rule in India, soRhodes’s De Beers and Goldfields companies provided the business platformfor the extension of British imperial interests in Southern Africa.

CLEAN AUDIT FINDINGS QUERIED            posted 5 December 2015 

News that Durban Metro has received a ‘clean audit’ from the Auditor-General is surprising. On 29 January 2015, in the Council, the Auditor-General expressed concern at Durban’s mounting  debt, noting that it had increased from R1,99 billion in 2013 to R2,01 billion in 2014. He stated – quote – “the recoverability of these amounts is doubtful.”

He also was critical of under-spending on the Capital Budget by R505,36 million. He expressed concern that regulations requiring competitive bids for goods and services in excess of R200,000 were being flouted and noted – quote – “inadequate monitoring and oversight controls” had resulted in deviations from the tender process. 

Given those critical findings made just 10 months ago , it is difficult to accept that somehow, with the debt still in place and more incidents of corruption having been uncovered, suddenly Durban qualifies for a clean audit.

POPULATION REGISTRATION ACT IS BACK     - posted 3 December 2015

The Population Registration Act passed in 1950 was the cornerstone of the policy of apartheid. All citizens were classified by race. As such, the Act served as the premise of legislation concerning job reservation.  

But unlike the ANC, the Nat government did not quantify the allocation of jobs. While Clive Witherspoon (Mercury, November 27)is quite correct in stating that the ANC’s BEE and affirmative action policies are no different from apartheid, the reality is that they actually go much further than apartheid. 

Not only has the ANC reinstated the Population Registration Act in that racial reference is required in all official documentation, but through the Employment Equity Act, the ANC has placed each South African in a demographic quota box. 

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the employment targets of eThekwini Municipality which allocates jobs in terms of provincially prescribed demographic statistics: 82% of posts are reserved for Africans; 10% for Indians; 6% for whites and 2% for coloureds. The prescription also entails gender quotas.  

Currently there are 2,099 unfilled vacancies across Metro departments. It has also been officially conceded that the rigidity of recruitment policies is holding up the filling of posts. From that it is obvious why service delivery and governance is collapsing. Racial quotas clearly enjoy priority. Yet the stated aim of the Employment Equity policy, ironically, is the elimination of ‘unfair discrimination.’  

Whilst the ANC crows about the marvellous constitution it has given the country, its apartheid-era Population Registration Act policies make a mockery of the line in the Preamble of the constitution which promises ‘to free the potential of each person.’


2015 – THE YEAR SA BECAME A BANANA REPUBLIC        -posted 3 December 2015

 Future history books will mark 2015 as the year South Africa became a Banana Republic.  

The latest shameful occurrence of a political upstart unseating KZN premier Mchunu in total defiance and contravention of parliamentary protocol is typical of the kind of behaviour found in tin-pot dictatorships.  

But this is not really surprising given the antics that are now commonplace in theNational Assembly:

*EFF members defying dress code and getting away with it;

* hooligan behaviour by EFF members;

*a president whose façade of chuckles fails to mask his incompetence and unsuitability

for the post;

* a president who prioritises the shambles that the ANC has become ahead of the  interests of the country;

* a president who remains in denial of the expenditure of R246 million of taxpayers’money on his private abode and who now wants R4 billion spent on a private jet for himself. 

Banana republics are failed states where government has become a system of theft, corruption and dishonesty; where failure is blamed on transformation –meaning cadre deployment – not having been fast enough; where billions in taxpayers’ money is repeatedly ploughed into failed or failing state enterprises such as Eskom and SAA;  where the once efficient Post Office is no longer a reliable service provider; where the economy is in decline and where the Rand has lost 20% of its value to the US dollar in a single year.


TRANSFORMATION THE CAUSE OF SAA’S WOES        posted 25 November 2015 

Khaya Buthelezi’s claim that the untransformed state of SAA lies at the heart of chairpersonDudu Myeni’s woes (Business Report, November 18) is an outrageous red herring. 

By his paranoid obsession with coerced racial representivity, namely, transformation, Buthelezi completely ignores Myeni’s unilateral attempt to renegotiate the Airbus deal. By seeking to reverse the lease of ten A320 aircraft for five A330 aircraft, Myeni would incur an additional cost of R1,5 billion – on top of the billions SAA has already swallowed in taxpayer bailouts.

 Myeni’s unilateral insistence in pursuing that deal along with her vacuous rationale has alienated those who actually have expertise in airline management. It is her lack of proficiency that lies at the heart of the drama that is destabilising SAA’s management. And the reason for that is the policy of so-called transformation, which translated means cadre deployment. It’s also the reason for the mismanagement that troubles the Post Office, Eskom and other SOEs. Also of note is that by his crass reference to sections of the private sector as ‘dark forces,’Buthelezi leaves no doubt as to his socialist ideological mindset.

 There is no smear campaign against Myeni, as he contends. Just a call for adherence to proper corporate governance. By defying that Myeni has only herself to blame.


IS EE POLICY UNDERMINING GOVERNANCE?                        posted 24 November 2015

 A 48 page report on Employment Equity (EE)  tabled at the meeting of the eThekwini Economic Development and Planning committeeon November 19 raises questions about the efficacy of service delivery and governance.

According to provincially prescribed employment targets, 82% of posts in  eThekwini Metro are reserved for Africans, 10%for Indians, 6% for whites and 2% for coloureds.

The eThekwini EE report noted that there were 2,099 unfilled vacancies across Metro departments. At the same time itconceded that a skills shortage and the rigidity of recruitment policies posed challenges to the implementation of EE.This raises the following questions:

* Has governance and service delivery become a hostage to prescribed racial employment ratios?

* Are skills available which cannot be employed because they breach a specific  racial quota level?

* Are careers in local government being denied by those eminently qualified because of EE prescription?

* How is this situation compatible with the stated EE aim of ‘the elimination of unfair discrimination?’

* How does EE policy square with the Preamble of the constitution, which aims ‘to free the

   potential of each person’ within a society based on non-racialism?


FREEDOM CHARTER BELONGS IN A MUSEUM            posted November 20, 2015

Thabani Khumalo’s fawning defence of the 1955 Freedom Charter (Daily News, November 18) is hard to alignwith his claim to being a strategist in a think tank.

 By posing the question whether the Freedom Charter is still relevant today, Khumalo displays a woeful ignoranceof history. This is further reinforced by his assertion that the Charter needs to be ‘updated’ because we live in an ‘ever-changing world.’

 Whatever nostalgic attachments some may have for the Freedom Charter, there are certain realities about it whichneed to be contextualised. First, ideologically it is a socialist document drafted at the height of the Cold War by arch communistJoe Slovo. Second, its statist character and objectives have been discredited and rendered obsolete by the collapse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe 25 years ago.

 The meltdown of communist economies occurred precisely because the strictures of state control and the denial of freedom ofchoice and competition were no longer sustainable in a global economy that is increasingly wedded to free enterprise. Yet the tenets of the Freedom Charter place the state as the sole agent and purveyor of goods, services and remunerative employment. Such a system prohibits private enterprise because it threatens the ideal of coerced socio-economic uniformity and its corollary, mediocrity and stagnation. 

Cuba and Venezuela are two current examples of the retardation which Freedom Charter ideology produces.  Under the ANC South Africa is already experiencing a loss of foreign investment as a result of inflexible labour policies and racially prescriptive codes as regards the conduct of trade and industry. 

Khumalo cites the failure of the ANC to address the Freedom Charter objective of land belonging to the people as threatening the survival of the ANC. Like Zuma, he seems to prioritise the survival of the ANC ahead of the survival of South Africa. Here his thinking  needs to be subjected to a cold shower of reality: if private property rights are revoked as the Freedom Charter envisages, not only will food production crash as it has in Zimbabwe, but South Africa’s road to failed state status will be irreversible.  

The Freedom Charter belongs in a museum as an exhibit which has been eclipsed by history.

WHY RACISM PERSISTS   -posted 20 November 2015

As a Rhodes scholar and an academic, it is surprising that Eusebius McKaiser should ask why 20 years after the ending of apartheid there is still a need to discuss racism(Mercury, 13 November). After all, the evidence is overwhelming: the inherent differences in multi-cultural and multi-ethnic societies, particularly where minoritiesand majorities are in contention, give rise to tensions and  preferences which, depending on circumstances, are termed discriminatory.

Ideally, one would want to eliminate such social attitudes. As US Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in 2007, ‘the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.’ But, sadly, this will not happen in South Africa as long as quota systems, racial profiling and so-calledtransformation are practised.  Coercive racial representivity does not promote harmony. Instead, it promotes the law of unintended consequences – resentment, insecurity,resistance and, thus, racism.

From the published extract of McKaiser’s book it is clear that he is committed to restructuring society around racial representivity and sees the lack of such representivityas racism.  Significantly though, he does not get into a froth about the legitimacy of racially exclusive bodies such as black lawyers, accounts, etc.

 What seems to be eluding McKaiser is that transformation or egalitarian coercion is not going to put an end to racial feelings. As Woodrow Wilson once said, ‘you cannotfind your way to reform through the forces that made reform necessary in the first place.’ On the contrary, transformation is triggering new animosities – which McKaiser termsracism- in individuals within minority groups who previously never had racial feelings. But these now come to the fore because they now find their jobs are either threatened ortheir path to progress is halted on account of representivity of their  pigmentation. Or worse still, employment for them is a non-starter because quotas in terms or racialrepresentivity enjoy priority over merit.

 Equality can be legislated but not its outcomes




The debate about Gandhi and the speculation as to  the consequences of Desai and Vahed’s book,

The South African Gandhi – stretcher-bearer of Empire, (Mercury, November 4) seems to have contributed

confusion as to the purpose of history and historians.


Historians are not in the business of servicing or embellishing established profiles or legends. Nor should they

be in the business of ‘building a socially cohesive society, as Dasarath Chetty suggests. Accounts of the past which

are premised on agendas or ideological objectives are hagiographies, not histories.


The reason for the critical reception of Desai and Vahed’s  study is that all previous accounts of Gandhi were contextualised withinthe periods of decolonisation and post-colonialism. As such, they portrayed Gandhi, inter alia, as a freedom fighterand ignored or were selective about his earlier historical footprints. Thus, much of the published image of Gandhi unfortunately has been exploited and continues to be exploited  for a variety of purposes.


As a result, prescriptive images of Gandhi have come to be entrenched in the public mind. Inevitably, disturbing them and challengingthem invites controversy. Nonetheless, it is the duty of every generation to reconsider and to re-interpret the past. The origin of the word ‘history’ refers to the process of enquiry. As such, history, as EH Carr concluded, is ‘an unending dialogue between the past and the present.’


In tracking Gandhi’s time in South Africa (1893-1914), premised on his own Collected Works, his newspaper, Indian Opinion and unpublished archivalmaterial, Desai and Vahed’s research shows is that during that time Gandhi fervently endorsed the British Empire and embraced social

class distinctions. He discriminated between merchant class Indians and indentured labourer Indians and generally regarded Africans with disdain. That circumstances later caused Gandhi to modify his views is not in dispute nor are his later achievements.


Academically, Desai and Vahed’s work needs to be applauded because it scaled a frontier of understanding and knowledge. In so doing, the authorsserved the discipline of History loyally.



THE INCONVENIENT TRUTH                                posted 7 October 2015


Whilst DA MP Dianne Kohler-Barnard has touched off a firestorm within the parameters of political correctness

by her unwitting endorsement of certain aspects of life under PW Botha compared to the state of the country

under Jacob Zuma,  the unintended consequences of her political faux pas have focused attention on the inconvenient

truth about the elephant in the room.


Historically every generation needs to revise its view of the past. In South Africa’s case, circumstances and daily life

have made that process unavoidable and undeniable. The often violent, almost daily protests against the lack of service delivery testify to that. From the efficacy of governance,  quality of education, control of crime to the value of the Rand, only the ideologically impervious will attempt to insist that the boast of a ‘better life for all’ is being realised. 


The hysteria Kohler-Barnard has provoked is in itself indicative of the sensitivity that prevails over the direction South

Africa is headed under those who claim to have liberated it. Like the silence that has greeted the publication of

RW Johnson’s latest book How Long Can South Africa Survive, comparisons of ANC-ruled South Africa with what prevailed

before 1994, sadly, amount to political heresy.


In that history is life’s teacher, such an eyes wide-shut approach is both unhelpful and absurd. It is also symptomatic of immaturityas a society. All periods of history contain stains of tragedy and ill-considered decisions. For those very reasons they ought to becritically examined in the hope that the ills of the past may be avoided or at least tempered by awareness. At the same time, however,the successes of the past need to be recognised and sustained rather than ignored  and even neglected for reasons of political correctness.


REED DANCE IS NOT A LOCAL GOVT RESPONSIBILITY           posted 10 September 2015


The criticisms of KZN DA leader Cllr Zwakele Mncwango for objecting to the expenditure of

ratepayers’ money on councillors attending the maidens reed dance (Mercury, September 9),

highlights the faultline that runs through our political landscape.


Traditional matters such as the reed dance are neither the business nor the responsibility of local

government. The practice of customary law and customs by communities as specified in Chapter

12 of the constitution, is the responsibility of the House of Traditional Leaders as provided for

by national and provincial legislation.


Tapping eThekwini ratepayers for funding to attend such events is simply not permissible.

Moreover, applying Rule of Order 18 for such funding so as to railroad it through on the

grounds that it is urgent, adds insult to injury.


Yet it would appear that there are those in the Council executive who regard such funding as a right.

They would do well to remember that when one occupies high public office one needs to be

conscious at all times that one represents all the people equally and that neither sectional nor

ideological interests should not influence decision-making.


COMMONWEALTH GAMES: GAIN OR GAMBLE?                posted 9 August 2015


THE large-scale, ratepayer-funded advertisements placed by eThekwini municipality in our local press are nothing more than speculative spin-doctoring

on the outcomes of Durban hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games.


The sugar-coating on these advertising features includes: an estimated R20 billion injection into the national economy; ticket sales of some 1,3 million and the

recruitment of 10,000 volunteers over the 11 day Games period the experience of which will “increase their future employment prospects.” It all reads like

a shower of benefits coming Durban’s way which we should fervently embrace.


Research on the hosting of mega-sporting events, however, produces a very different picture. Whereas mayor James Nxumalo indulges in counting the chickens

before they have hatched, he would do well to focus on the costs involved, as the constitutional principles of accountability and transparency advise. Significantly,

nowhere in the mayor’s promotion of Durban’s Games bid does he broach the topic of costs. The reason is clear: it is not politically expedient to do so.


Whilst the “Legacy” sites on the internet are gushing about what they deem as the positive impacts of hosting mega-sporting events, they are silent about the

massive cost over-runs. The costs of the Commonwealth Games held in Manchester in 2002 were 120% over budget. The costs of the 2012 London Olympics rose

from an initial £ 2,4 billion to £ 11 billion. The cost of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games held in 2014 rose 50% from £373 million to £543 million. And of that sum,

according to The Scotsman of 7 August 2015,  £424,5 million was taxpayer-funded.


Much is made by Legacy 2014 in a 60 page analysis of the economics of the Glasgow Games, it would seem, so as to boost Scottish national sentiment ahead of the

September 2014 Scottish referendum on independence. In the executive summary it claimed that Scotland’s economy benefited to the tune of  £740 million.  But in later pages

that figure was revised downwards in terms of what are referred to as “displacement” and “deadweight” statistics. Displacement concerns local residents who would have spent

money locally anyway. Deadweight refers to visitors who would have come to Scotland irrespective of the hosting of the Games.


In net terms, then, the overall benefit  of the Games to Scotland’s economy was put at just £73 million with Glasgow itself netting  £37 million. When those statistics are

compared to the cost borne by the taxpayer of  £424,5 million, it is hardly a rosy return. As one analyst stated, it amounts to “public pain for private gain.”


So, what are the gains which Glasgow is said to have made from the Games? According to the official Games website there are six legacies:

Accessibility in terms of improved transportation; promotion of physical activity; encouraging support for local business; appreciating volunteerism; promotion of Glasgow’s

international profile; greening Glasgow.


Aside from whatever tangible benefits may result from improved transportation and greening, the other four “legacies” are merely aspirations without any certainty of

realisation. Nonetheless, Glaswegians were urged to “take home memories” and to be “inspired by a world class sporting event.” Such rhetoric begs the question as to how

that translates into economic benefit and upliftment. In real terms, of course, it is nothing more than fanciful jargon. Besides, as academic research of mega-sporting events shows,

they are “implausible” as catalysts for health and wealth improvement and that sports-driven urban regeneration is a fallacy.


“New facilities and pledges of a physically active Glasgow are largely targeted at the few at the expense of the many,” notes the Glasgow Games Monitor of 2014. Durban is already

experiencing that in the form of the Moses Mabida stadium. Magnificent though it is, it is grossly under-utilised and costs R6 million a month to maintain. By hoping to secure the vote of the

Commonwealth Games Federation on September 2 as the host for 2022, mayor Nxumalo is gambling with ratepayers’ money that has yet to be earned and,in all likelihood, saddling

Durban up with more debt




KZN DA leader Zwakele Mncwango bravely broaches a subject which has long been

avoided because of its historical, political and gender sensitivity (Mercury, 6 August).


In calling for a clarity on the roles and responsibilities of traditional leadership so as

to be in harmony with the principles of the constitution, Mncwango has adduced into

debate an aspect of life which has been controversial for over 160 years in Natal.


The perpetuation of African customary and traditional roles and practices in this

province was institutionalised by Theophilus Shepstone following the report of the

Locations Commission in March 1847. As a result the British government endorsed

the recommendation that Africans be subject '”to their own laws through their chiefs”

in tandem with colonial laws. In an attempt to provide space and opportunity for

traditional African life, Shepstone set aside  a patchwork of more than twenty

parcels of land or locations, as they were called. This was widely resented by white

colonists who regarded the locations as fragmenting Natal and diminishing the

availability of labour.


As the late Professor Jeff Guy stated in his exhaustive study of Shepstone, arising from

“the evolution of locations into reserves into tribal authorities into homelands into traditional

authorities, claims are being made  by traditional leaders in contemporary South Africa to

rights and recognition in the name of deep, disrupted, but now revived and reclaimed

historical connections” (p. 521).


Thus, as Professor Guy notes, through clause 211 of the SA constitution,“concepts from South Africa’s

imperial and colonial past live on in the post-apartheid present” (p. 8). What Councillor Mncwango

is challenging from the standpoint of fairness, accountability and gender equality as provided for

in the constitution, is laudable.


But history has a strange way of repeating itself.  Just as the government before 1994 found it

expedient to cultivate traditional authorities in the form of homelands, so the ANC is exploiting

the same turf for political reasons. Paying amakhosi R5,000 each to attend the monthly meeting of

the eThekwini council, amounts to nothing more than using ratepayers’ money to buy votes.




NKANDLA: DEFENDING THE INDEFENSIBLE            - posted 25 July 2015


The ‘finding’ by Cedric Frolick, chairman of the parliamentary committee on Nkandla, that

contractors inflated prices in the construction of Zuma’s private home, (Mercury, July 23),

rates as the latest threadbare attempt at defending the indefensible.


It is a universal reality that responsibility for approving construction costs of a private

dwelling is solely that of the owner. For Frolick and his ilk to attempt to blame contractors

for inflating prices on Zuma’s Nkandla abode is sheer nonsense and an insult to our collective



No amount of spin-doctoring by Frolick, Nhleko and the rest of the ANC can absolve Zuma from

the fact that he not only looted taxpayers’ money in constructing a private domain, but that as

the owner he was irresponsible in exercising how that money was spent.


History will ensure that Nkandla epitomises the poverty of Zuma’s presidency and, unfortunately,

along with it, the lowest point to date in South Africa’s existence.



 Subjugation and depredation have invariably characterised attempts at imposing ideological will. Certainly, as Ashwin Desai recounts (Mercury, June 30), British imperialism was not averse to using such means to achieve its ends.

Besides the sacking of Ondini during the Anglo-Zulu War, the massacre of Bhambatha and his 600 supporters in the Mome Gorge near Nkandhla  in June 1906 and the subsequent destruction of 7,000 Zulu homesteads which rendered 30,000 homeless, also ranks as a glaring example of the ferocity of British imperialism or ‘savagery,’ as Desai terms it. And what about the deaths of 26,000 Boers between 1900 and 1902  in British concentration camps?

However, for Desai to dismiss colonialism in its entirety on account of the sharp end of imperial practices renders him hostage to his own ideological moorings. By his endorsement of Walter Rodney and EP Thompson, who were both marxists, Desai shows that his intellectual perspective is not only subjective but that it is linked to a failed and thoroughly discredited ideology. Edward Said, presumably, also features on Desai’s list.

Just as it would be unreasonable to condemn all  of America  because its government in the 1970s resorted to the merciless use of chemicals in its attempt to carpet bomb North Vietnam into submission, the same reasoning applies in appraising British colonialism here in the 19th century. Moreover, the interpretation of history needs constant revision in the light of the evolution of events.

No system or era in history is without fault or blemish. While there can be no disputing of Desai’s narrative of the social and economic upheaval the Zulu experienced as a consequence of their political subjugation by the British, that experience needs to be contrasted with circumstances which prevailed before the onset of colonialism.


Was the hegemony of Shaka and Dingane preferable? Were prospects for change and development better? Would Zulus of the 21st century relish a return to pre-colonial conditions? Consideration of such questions needs to frame one’s thinking when seeking to cast a verdict on colonialism. As Niall Ferguson stated in 2008  in Empire: How Britain made the modern world: ‘There seems a plausible case that it enhanced global welfare.’




The double standards, selective morality and hypocrisy of the leadership of the ANC knows no bounds

as events concerning the Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir’s evasion of justice illustrate.


On orders from Zuma himself, Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against

humanity and genocide, was allowed to escape arrest. Yet at the same time, while failing to act against a notorious oppressor of human rights,  the ANC continues to milk propaganda mileage out of the crackdown by the Vorster government on riots and violence in Soweto in June 1976. Such nauseating double standards and selective morality.


Bashir is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. The number of victims of apartheid

during its 46 year rule is a mere fraction compared to Bashir’s bludgeoning regime. His tyranny is completely

at odds with the ANC’S Freedom Charter plea for “the rights of all the people of Africa to independence and self-government” and the ANC’s pledge to fight for freedoms for all.


By failing to deliver this tyrant into the hands of the ICC, the leadership of the ANC along with its continued

support for that other tyrant, Robert Mugabe,  has demonstrated that it prioritises hypocrisy above

credibility. If past tragedies such as Sharpville and Soweto are worthy of commemoration, then it behoves

the ANC to exercise moral consistency by condemning current oppressors and violaters of human rights.




At a time of increasing evidence that expenditure levels by the ANC-ruled eThekwini municipality are

not sustainable (see Daily News, June 10), it simply beggars belief that mayor Nxumalo wants to spend

R2,850,000 on a youth business summit as part of  a Youth Day commemoration.


This sum is on top of R2,460,000 for marquees, refreshments, promotional material, sound system, entertainment

etc.  In all, the mayor’s proposed youth benefit scheme  exceeds R7 million. Yet R2 million of that is purely to hire a venue

and to host a conference and a dinner. This is absolutely preposterous.


While not against measures to promote the wellbeing of this country’s youth, the first lesson they need to learn from

mayor Nxumalo is that profligate spending is the path to poverty and penury.


Predictably, opposition to this obscene extravagance at the June meeting of the Economic Development Committee

was  met with the retort the parents of African children were marginalised by apartheid and therefore denied such

vocational opportunities.


More than two decades after apartheid ended such rhetoric is unworthy of comment. Nonetheless, it accurately reflects

Margaret Thatcher’s definition  of socialism: a system that works only until it runs out of other people’s money.


eThekwini’s appointment with a cash-strapped destiny is assuredly being hastened by the profligate spending practices of mayor Nxumalo and his cohorts. Watch this space!


FINANCING CLLRS’ FUNERALS                                                        posted June 13, 2015


As a member of the Economic Planning and Development Committee, the late Cllr Judy Mulqueeny of the ANC

always demonstrated modesty and frugality when participating in committee debate. Her passion was to

work in the interests of the poor and the needy, a point of which I was made aware on two occasions when,

on an inter-ward basis, she phoned me concerning poverty alleviation matters.


Whilst there is nothing improper about honoring Cllr Mulqueeny with a civic funeral, budgeting some

R200,000 of ratepayers’ money for such an event  is outrageous and an insult to Mulqueeny’s sense

of frugality. It also appears to have become a policy of the ANC to spend lavish sums of public money

on funerals for fallen comrades – current and retired.


Given the vast financial backing the ANC has at its disposal, such funeral expenses should come from

their own coffers and not from the public purse.




In questioning whether black captains of industry can turn around the declining manufacturing sector, Tumelo Chipfupa

(Business Report, June 10) fails to enquire why this sector is in decline.  

Part of the answer lies overseas. Cheaper production in India and China has played havoc with a range of local manufacturing from ceramics, shoes, textiles to electronics. And that contagion is not confined to South Africa. Manufacturing industries are also in decline in Victoria and New South Wales in Australia. Trade union inflexibility and strikes account for industrial stagnation and decline both here and in Australia. 

But in South Africa there is an additional factor which is not only unique to this country but which attempts to ignore a primary historical experience: the elevation of individuals to the ranks of industry captains based purely on race. Historically, this is a no-brainer.  

While governments can preside over conditions that create equal opportunities, they cannot ordain equal outcomes. Initiative and enterprise cannot be legislated. They are individual traits which have resulted not only in great inventions but in sustained production and benefit to society.  

The foundations of England’s industrial revolution were laid 250 years before the era itself. The English gentry adopted

the habit of turning their younger sons out of the manor house to seek their fortunes as apprentices to merchants and craftsmen in the towns. That experience created the bedrock upon which manufacturing and industry came to  be revolutionised ( see George

Trevelyan, English Social History, p. 125).


The backbone of South Africa’s industry and manufacturing was established between the two world wars. Individuals with a passion for initiative and enterprise such as Ernest Oppenheimer, Jan van Eck and Hendrik van der Byl founded industries

without which this country would have remained something of a backwater with limited opportunity. They did so without any legal framework that entitled them or empowered them. And their success was based on perseverance and application.  

Obsession with skin pigmentation has increasingly hobbled progress and service delivery  since 1994. Cosmetic transformation does not work and can never work. History, as life’s teacher, has demonstrated that -  particularly in Africa.




ABDICATING TO ANARCHY?            posted May 29, 2015


The violence and vandalism perpetrated by elements of the taxi industry in Durban this past week bordered on anarchy.


The abject abdication of the city’s ruling political leadership to the demands of this unelected cabal is significant in several



One, by failing to apply the law to the perpetrators of violence and vandalism, it has rubbished the constitutional principle of one law, one nation. Two, it has legitimised minority rule. Three, it has sanctioned violence and intimidation as a means of obtaining demands and of ensuring freedom from prosecution. Four, it makes nonsense of the mayor’s claim that such conduct will not be tolerated. The latest outrage by taxi elements is the fifth in the past eleven months. The mayor’s credibility is in shreds.


How does this square with the boast that by 2030 Durban will be Africa’s most caring and livable city?


  HISTORY FAVOURS SOUTH COAST TOURISM                posted 25 April 2015


The revamp of Scottburgh’s Blue Marlin hotel heralds a revival of the tourist appeal of the South Coast which has historical roots going back more than a century. As Colleen Dardagan remarked in the Network supplement of April 15,the South Coast is indeed ‘an old trophy in need of a good polishing.’ 

Following Natal Mercury  editor John Robinson’s  tour of the South Coast on horseback during March and April 1861, he made the following prediction about Scottburgh: ‘Imaginatively one realises the day when marts, warehouses, shops and private dwellings shall make this spot a conspicuous feature on the coast and when wealthy sheep farmers of the uplands with enervated sugar planters on the coast shall fly to Scottburghin pursuit of pleasure and health’ (Mercury, 9 May 1861). Poor roads and the lack of bridges needed to span the 26 rivers which traverse the South Coast from the Mlazi to the Mzimkulu, however, deterred and delayed development of tourism and the hospitality industry until the last years of the nineteenth century.  

But in May 1894, when the Natal government was voting funds for the construction of a railway line down the South Coast, Thomas Keir Murray, in his capacity as minister of Lands and Works in John Robinson’s ministry, made what turned out to be a very accurate prediction: ‘The beautiful spots along the seaside in a few years’ time will develop into favourite seaside resorts.’  

The extension of the railway line down the South Coast from Isipingo, which had been the southern terminus since 1880, proved crucial in the opening up of the South Coast. February 22, 1897 saw the arrival of the first train at Umkomaas from Durban. September 22, 1897 saw the railway bridge across the Umkomaas opened to traffic. But a bridge spanning the Umkomaas for wagon and motorised vehicles was not opened until May 5, 1923 thus ending over sixty years of reliance on a punt to cross the river. Port Shepstone’s link with Durban was finally secured when the first train arrived at the station on the north bank of the Mzimkulu on July 26, 1901. 

The coming of the iron road, as railways were called, initiated a scramble in property development from Umkomaas to Port Shepstone. South of the Mzumbe river a number of residential sites were reported to have been acquired by wealthy folk from the Johannesburg area at prices up to 100% above market value.  

By 1900 the  predictions of the attractiveness of the South Coast as a tourist and holiday mecca became a reality with hotels in Umkomaas, Umzinto, Scottburgh and Port Shepstone competing keenly for visitors. Their quest was aided by the Natal Government Railways which, in 1899, published a 36 page souvenir booklet extolling the sites and scenery of the South Coast. No such booklet on the North Coast was published. Indeed, the North Coast was described in the 15 May 1893 issue of the Natal Farmers Magazine as ‘a wilderness of everything but sugar cane.’ Until the 1960s when competition from North Coast resorts began to assert itself, the South Coast was the destination of choice for holiday-makers.  

The advertising columns of the Mercury witnessed ongoing competition between the various locations on the South Coast in their respective bids to promote tourism using famous British holiday resorts as analogies. In 1904 Port Shepstone was described as ‘the Blackpool of South Africa – the most beautiful resort of Natal.’ Umkomaas was referred to as ‘the Scarborough of Natal – the queen of watering places.’ Park Rynie promoted itself as ‘the Hastings of the South Coast.’ The four hotels in Port Shepstone attempted to outdo each other in terms of amenities and proximity to the beach with the Port Shepstone Hotel appearing to have the advantage over the others because  not only did it tick all the boxes, but it was the only hotel with electric light!  

Scottburgh Hotel was advertised as a health resort in 1900 which was placed within one minute of the beach. From a gender point of view, Umkomaas was the most progressive. In 1905, three of the village’s four hotels were managed by women – Mmes. Salmon, Humphreys and Williams. And until her retirement in 1904, Georgina Nelson had managed the Drift Hotel in Umkomaas for nearly 40 years in addition to serving as postmistress.  

Despite laws controlling fauna and flora, the frontier nature of the lower South Coast in those times was apparent from an advertisement placed by the Imperial Hotel of Port Shepstone in 1906. In addition to offering various leisure activities such as boating, fishing and bathing, it boasted ‘good shooting in the immediate neighbourhood.’

In that history repeats itself, the Blue Marlin’s revamp may well herald the return of a virtuous cycle for tourism on the South Coast.

 [This article is derived from research conducted for my forthcoming book Sugar and Settlers: A history of the Natal South Coast 1850-1910]

STATUE REMOVAL: SYMPTOM OF AN IMMATURE SOCIETY                          posted 13 April 2015

 Higher Education minister Blade Nzimande’s  suggestion (Daily News, 8 April) that colonial monuments be placed in museums amounts to an attempt to marginalise history and, in effect, to airbrush it out of the daily conscience and view of society. Besides, it is not practical to relocate most of the monuments in museums without damaging them; nor do museums have space for such structures. 

By endorsing the removal of the statue of Cecil Rhodes (Daily News, 9 April), UCT vice –chancellor, Dr Max Price, wittingly or unwittingly, has lent credence  to the actions of a bunch of uneducated, vulgar  parvenus. Instead, he should have seen to it that the association of their  ilk with UCT was summarily terminated. Price’s obsequious response  and that of his fellow travellers to the so-called outcry against historical symbols illustrates the basic malady of South African society – a lack of discipline and resolution. 

Instead, the likes of Max Price see fit to endorse vulgar populism. As Tony Leon predicted more than a decade ago, standards will be lowered to you. Thanks to Max Price and his sort, that moment, it would seem, has arrived.  

What appears to have been ignored at this time is that the assault on historical symbols amounts to an assault on our national flag. Certain of the colours of our flag are derived from our colonial and republican past. The assault on our historical monuments, by implication, is an assault on the heritage reflected in our national flag. This shameful and evil vendetta against our heritage shows that South Africa is not only a very immature society but also that it appears to be dominated by cultural philistines.


SHAKA AND COLONIALISM IN PERSPECTIVE            posted 4 April 2015

When original, recorded sources are slender and emanate from only a small group of witnesses, there is bound to be controversy amongst later generations as to historical interpretation. So it is with the status and stature of Shaka which is attested to by the remarks of Mahlafuna Mkhize (The Mercury, April 1) in response to my letter of March 31.  

Nowhere did I refer to Shaka as a ‘monster,’ as he claims. I did not even call him a ‘tyrant.’ Instead I referred to his ‘violent hegemony.’ Such a claim is borne out by the facts. Shaka’s conflict with the Ndwandwe in 1818-1819 was hardly waged with kid-gloves. Historians John Wright and Carolyn Hamilton refer to Shaka as a man ‘skill, energy and ruthlessness’ (Duminy and Guest, 1989, p. 68). Brookes and Webb (1965, p. 13)  ascribed Shaka’s ‘essential greatness’ in part to his ‘ruthless vigour and pitiless determination.’ Dr Andrew Smith’s diary entry of 31 March 1832 recounts incidents of Shaka’s ‘cruelty’ which Smith gleaned from local, oral accounts during his visit to Dingane. The massacre  Shaka ordered after the death of Queen Nandi was  to rid himself of political opponents (Wright and Hamilton, in Duminy and Guest, 1989, p. 73). 

Reference to such characteristics are not meant to ‘demonise’ Shaka, as Mkhize asserts. But to ignore them would be historically disingenuous. An appraisal of Winston Churchill which omitted to mention his key role promoting the disastrous opening of a front in the Dardanelles  in 1915 and the subsequent slaughter of 46,000 Allied troops at Gallipoli, would also be historically misleading.  

Mkhize’s endorsement of Julian Cobbing’s view on the subject of the mfecane is also misplaced. Carolyn Hamilton, in a seminar paper presented at Wits University in 1991, demolished Cobbing’s hypothesis that the violent expansion of the Zulu kingdom was not the cause of destabilisation in southern Africa in the 1820s. She pointed out that Cobbing’s attempt to blame the expansion of European settlement, commerce and slave trading  for the mfecane was a distortion of the facts based on imprecise periodisation. Major interaction between whites and blacks in Natal did not take place until the years of the Great Trek, a decade and more after Shaka’s death. John Wright (1995) concurs with that argument. 

Finally, it is nothing less than hypocritical to attempt to rubbish colonialism in its entirety. No system or era in history is without fault or blemish. Heritage, by definition, is the transmission of the experience, good and bad, warts and all, of a

previous time. The preamble of our Constitution urges that we ‘respect those who have worked  to build and develop our country.’  Therefore, it is not a case of ‘glorifying’ the colonial period, as Mkhize claims, but rather of being objective about it. Otherwise, Mr Mkhize should not correspond with The Mercury founded in 1852 and, as such, a product of the colonial era. Nor should he use English which the colonials brought to southern Africa.

COLONIALISM IN PERSPECTIVE                    posted 30 March 2015

 Besides the utterly  reprehensible defacing and vandalism of historical statues and monuments, what is equally appalling is the studied ignorance of people who either should know better or who allow populist ideology to chart their thinking (Mercury, March 27). 

Carolyn Hamilton’s book, Terrific Majesty, is not a history of Shaka but rather a history of the histories of how different communities perceived him. As such, it explores the evolution of an icon of tribalism.The only recorded sources on Shaka are those written by Henry Francis Fynn, who visited him in 1825 and 1826,and Dr Andrew Smith who visited Dingane in 1832.Both their accounts contain graphic details of the brutality of Shaka and Dingane and provide extensive evidence of mass executions. Attempts to play down the violence of their  hegemony are therefore disingenuous. Projecting Shaka as a ‘nation builder’ does not obscure the fact that in his quest to consolidate the Zulu as a tribe, Shaka’s depredation of other African communities amounted to ethnic cleansing. 

That said, the notion that colonialism was an act of theft, as Jabulani Sithole claims, is rank nonsense. The truth is that both blacks and whites arrived in Southern Africa by invasion and conquest.  Attempts to escape and to avoid the net of the slave raiders and traders, resulted in the southward migration of Africans from the tropical regions over centuries. That process resulted in  ongoing territorial conquest and occupation. Would Sithole term the dispossession of the lands of one African tribe by another as ‘theft?’ 

The real victims of land theft in Southern Africa were the hunter-gatherer San people. As a result of the southward migration of Bantu and the northward trekking of European settlers, the San were territorially marginalised almost to the point of extinction. 

Invasion and conquest marks the history of every continent and has resulted in the infusion of cultures and, in most cases, the transcending of frontiers of knowledge and expertise.   

What would Africa be like if colonialism had not occurred? The declining state of infrastructure and institutions and the return of disease since the ending of colonialism in Africa some 50 years ago provides the answer.



 Whilst Mercury editor Moya does acknowledge that the Soviet Union was not known for ‘an unbridled commitment to human rights,’ (March 18), his  attempt, nonetheless, to credit the role of communists for the kind of freedom that exists in South Africa today is historically flawed. 

The five freedoms enjoyed today – speech, press, association, movement and religion - were suppressed as a matter of policy by communists in all states they controlled. It is, therefore, a perversion of the truth to associate communists with freedom of any sort. 

In attempting to argue that the likes of JB Marks and Moses Kotane fought for the five freedoms which are constitutionally upheld today is to ignore the communist agenda which they embraced. Worldwide communists have always aimed at the imposition of socialism within a single party structure.  

Products of the Stalinist era, it is naïve in the extreme to imagine that Marks, Kotane, Slovo and all the other Red comrades simply wanted to get rid of apartheid. Their real aim was to impose communism on South Africa as part of the Leninist aim of a worldwide communist empire. 

Communism caused the most bloodshed in the twentieth century: 35 million victims under Lenin and Stalin in Russia; over 60 million victims under Mao Tse Tung in China; 3,5 million under Pol Pot in Cambodia; countless victims in Vietnam, Ethiopia, Cuba, Eastern Europe, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Tibet and elsewhere.  

Attempts to sanitise communists and their ideology are not only nauseating but intellectually dishonest.


Although transformation and revisionist thinking  has become holy writ, ANC spokesmen routinely fail to lead by example particularly in their references to the past. A  recent eulogy  by the minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa concerning the role of communist Russia during the ANC’s so-called struggle years (Mercury, March 2) is a case in point. 

More than twenty years after the collapse of communism in the USSR and in the light of overwhelming evidence concerningthe oppression and tyranny which was forcibly imposed on the people of Russia for 73 years, praise for the roleof the USSR in promoting freedom in South Africa is not only misplaced but amounts to a perversion of history. 

In attempting to extol the USSR’s role in the ‘anti-colonial struggle,’ Mthethwa ignores the fact that the USSR itself was a major coloniser having imposed soviet colonisation on half of Europe after World War 2. In Africa soviet communist oppression once reigned over Angola, Ethiopia and Mozambique resulting in brutal human rights violations  

To see the 1917 communist seizure of power in Russia as providing ‘inspiration,’ for the struggle for freedom and justice as Mthethwa claims, simply beggars belief. As any informed student of history knows, the first thing  the communists did was to reject the outcome of the 1918 election in Russia, in which they scored only 25% of the vote, and to ban all other parties. Through the NKVD, later known as the KGB,  and the establishment of concentration camps known as gulags, they ruthlessly suppressed all political opposition. The freedom and justice of which Mthethwa glowingly writes, never existed in the USSR. On the contrary more than 35 million Russians perished as a result of the tyranny of Lenin and Stalin.  

As such, it  is totally false to claim that the Russian people supported the ANC’s cause. The Communist party of the USSR never had a democratic claim to speak on behalf of the people of Russia. Locally we saw this in the years after 1975 when thousands of Mozambicans fled to apartheid South Africa from the communist oppression of the Samora Machel regime. 

Mthethwa’s claim that the USSR produced many scholars and intellectuals is a half-truth. What it did produce were clones who unswervingly adhered to the failed and discredited ideology of marxism. 

What is particularly galling about Mthethwa’s mindset is any admission that the USSR and its ideology was a giant fraud and a failure. That he lacks the intellectual honesty and integrity to present his remarks in a revisionist context means that Mthethwa remains ideologically unrepentant and unreconstructed.In his capacity as minister of Arts and Culture that is both shameful and disquieting.


SA’S BLEAK POLITICAL LANDSCAPE        - posted 19 February 2015

Business Report editor Ellis Mnyandu’s heartfelt plea ( February 16) for responsible political leadership, following the February 12 chaos in  Parliament, is undoubtedly shared by many. But a cursory study of our political landscape suggests that it lacks the panacea Mnyandu seeks. 

The most salient feature of South Africa after 20 years of ANC rule is that we have a hopelessly bloated government that is unable and unwilling to control itself and which is impoverishing the country through plunder and incompetence. Expecting a political Moses to arise from the gravy train which the ANC operates, is naïve.  

However, our vexed situation runs deeper that the power-drunk ranks of the ANC. The late Frederick Van Zyl Slabbert in his book The Last White Parliament (1987, p. 73) warned that ‘unrestrained majoritarianism’ would produce ‘severely undemocratic’ outcomes Have we not arrived at that milestone? 

Slabbert’s dark thought needs to be premised on the observation David Horowitz makes (A Democratic South Africa? 1991, p.242). Democracy, he notes, is rare in ethnically and racially divided societies where majorities and minorities are rigidly predetermined. Is that not also applicable in our case? 

Added to that is the indelible historical thread which runs through African societies, namely, reverence for the ‘strong man’ and the tendency for strength to prevail over law. (Ilana Mercer, Into the Cannibal’s Pot, 2011, p.174)  

Beneath the blandishments that colour references to the new South Africa, lie severe ethnic, ideological and historical faultlines which, it would appear, were overlooked if not sidelined in the 1993/1994 rush to usher in the new South Africa. Had a federal constitutional structure been embraced, as the likes of Chief Buthelezi urged, South Africa’s political landscape would not be so bleak.


The latest shocking incidence of pollution in the Umlaas Canal and at Cuttings beach raises the question that unless the issue is properly addressed, the proposed beaches upgrade from Cuttings to Brighton will be futile. Fortunately, there is a solution, although it depends on a far bigger project that has yet to commence.etween April 1946 and October 1950, when the project was completed, the Mlazi river was diverted (by means of the canal at Cuttings) from its original course which saw it enter the sea in the vicinity of Reunion Rocks, Isipingo.

If, as part of the dig-out port design, the Mlazi river can be returned to its original course and flow into the bay which will result from the excavation of the old airport site, the ongoing menace of pollution at Cuttings beach and northwards along the Bluff peninsula beaches would be resolved. Then, whatever debris the Mlazi river carried could be dealt within the dig-out harbour before it reached the open sea.


Besides the political agenda it conceals, the ANC’s intentions of merging non-viable municipalities with those that are viable reflects an ignorance of Abraham Lincoln’s philosophy on the subject (Mercury,  January 29). 

For, as Lincoln postulated, ‘you don’t strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.’ Sadly, however, ANC dogma which harks back to Soviet-era socialism, has always been about centralised, convergent control. 

Foisting failed municipalities on the few that are not dysfunctional, fulfills the socialist objective of equality in poverty whilst simultaneously shoring up the cracks in the ANC’s monolithic political domination. 

The main reason for dysfunctionalism in the majority of municipalities is ANC cadre deployment. That is, jobs for political

apparachiks instead of postings that are based on merit and competence.  

In the old South Africa there were hundreds more local authorities than the current 283. Most of them worked because they adhered to the basic tenets of service delivery, namely, services rendered  compatible with rates levied. But under the ANC, political welfare is prioritised ahead of service delivery. Merging municipalities will not only increase costs but will further retard service delivery.