Mhambi has been redeployed.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Jews try to avoid the Apartheid black hole

It's understandable that Jews would like to dissociate what the Israeli government is doing from comparisons with the Apartheid state. The semantics of Apartheid in the Western mind is that of a moral black hole. And once you are tainted with it, once you fall with in its orbit, your done for.

Mhambi chanced when browsing Digg on Uri Avnery's article Israel and Apartheid. He claims the Jewish state's methods might at times approximate that of the Apartheid government's, but that the substance of the state of Israel is different. He sites the following as reasons:

(a) In SA there was a conflict between Blacks and Whites, but both agreed that the state of South Africa must remain intact - the question was only who would rule it. Almost nobody proposed to partition the country between the Blacks and the Whites.

Our conflict is between two different nations with different national identities, each of which places the highest value on a national state of its own.

(b) In SA, the idea of "separateness" was an instrument of the White minority for the oppression of the Black majority, and the Black population rejected it unanimously. Here, the huge majority of the Palestinians want to be separated from Israel in order to establish a state of their own. The huge majority of Israelis, too, want to be separated from the Palestinians. Separation is the aspiration of the majority on both sides, and the real question is where the border between them should run. On the Israeli side, only the settlers and their allies demand to keep the whole historical area of the country united and object to separation, in order to rob the Palestinians of their land and enlarge the settlements. On the Palestinian side, the Islamic fundamentalists also believe that the whole country is a "waqf" (religious trust) and belongs to Allah, and therefore must not be partitioned.

(c) In SA, a White minority (about 10 percent) ruled over a huge majority of Blacks (78 percent), people of mixed race (7 percent) and Asians (3 percent). Here, between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, there are now 5.5 million Jewish-Israelis and an equal number of Palestinian-Arabs (including the 1.4 million Palestinians who are citizens of Israel).

(d) The SA economy was based on Black labor and could not possibly have existed without it. Here, the Israeli government has succeeded in excluding the non-Israeli Palestinians almost completely from the Israeli labor market and replacing them with foreign workers.

Mhambi disagrees because with Uri because:

a) The conflict in South Africa was about much more than just race, it was about two and even more competing nationalisms, mainly the Afrikaner and African nationalist. There was then and is now a vigorous and growing debate on the merits of a separate Afrikaner volkstaat.

b) Apartheid did oppress the black majority and an increasing amount of black South Africans did reject it as time went by. By no means all did, especially early on. And if the government had not designated 80% white, this turning against apartheid might have been different. Towards the end a significant part of the largest ethnic black group - the Zulus - still wanted to have their own national territory. Black South Africans did not necessarily want to live with white ones, they wanted power first and foremost.

c) At the beginning of the previous century the numbers of whites was only slightly less than the the numbers of black South Africans. Black South Africans had however a much higher fertility rate, and black Africans have migrated from all over Southern Africa to work in South Africa for decades.

d) It's allot more complicated. The original South African communist party, which was very Afrikaner (and Jewish), tried to exclude black Africans - who were streaming to Johannesburg - from the labour market with their slogan "Workers of the world unite and fight for a white South Africa." They failed, because black Africans would do the work much cheaper, and because foreign capital controlled the economy.

Of course there are huge differences between South Africa and Israel. But the resemblances are striking. One of the obvious ones is that both the Afrikaners and Jews feel themselves in danger as a people. Instead of trying to argue that what is happening in Israel is not like what happened in South Africa, Jews would do better to look at what is happening in South Africa after apartheid ended and learn from it.

On the one hand, Afrikaners have reached escape velocity, they are no longer the paraihs of the world. But on the other hand, Afrikaners are leaving South Africa in droves.

Uri would do well to read up on South African history before he shoots himself in the foot. This excellent article on the special relationship between Jew and Afrikaner is a good place to start.

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Do you Digg Blik?

Mhambi discovered Blik today. Blik (Afrikaans: view, stare, look) is a web 2.0 Afrikaans link recommendation site ala Digg. Already there is an English language South African recommendation engine called Muti.

Digg, which started off as a tech news recommendation engine, is so popular that it soon overtook that other massive tech news site Slashdot. Slashdot used to be so huge that the phrase "you have been Slashdotted" became synonymous with the surge in traffic when Slashdot put a link to your website and cause your servers to keel over.

But where Slashot had editors recommending stories and deciding their prominence, Digg took this one step further, allowing its users to submit them and deciding how popular they should be.

Sites like Digg are bad news for traditional professional media and traditional marketeers. It allows the lone blogger, filmmaker, web producer to compete with mighty media behemoths like the BBC and Naspers. It allows an interesting web service to be found, without throwing marketing money at it.

If the Digg community thinks your point of view is better, or you know something before the Guardian does, your story can experience a traffic surge.

Did you know you can "Digg" Mhambi's stories by clicking on the link at the bottom of each story? And that increases the prominence of my story on Digg. See, six of you Digged my story on how many $100 laptops Oprah could buy South Africa.

Back to Blik. Is it a good thing to have an Afrikaans recommendation engine? Well it certainly does not suffer like Muti does in competing with Digg (who has long since moved out of being just about tech news). There are allot of South African stories on Digg.

But this brings to the fore a perennial problem Afrikaans faces. By using Afrikaans, Afrikaners can have a very unique, local, and intimate exchange of views and maintain their identity free from cultural imperialism. But its also self referential, self contained and incestuous. Often really interesting, sophisticated, open debates happen, like this Blik to a story on a farmer who's micro credit system has helped his labourers invest happen, but nobody outside the Afrikaans community would know about it. Which is a pity, because Afrikaners are a community wrongly maligned for being unsophisticated, narrow minded and boorish.

Which is one of the reasons why Mhambi decided to do this blog in English.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

No Afrikaans please, we don't discriminate

Now here's an interesting case reported by the SA Times, the South African london newspaper. Bear in mind that this report comes at a time when the press is up in arms that the British tax payers is paying millions in translating information for public services. But Mhambi hazards a guess that nothing is spent on translating anything into Afrikaans, (or Zulu and Sotho for that matter).

Two South African companies offering accommodation to “young South Africans” have been told to change their websites as they are discriminatory.

Many South Africans would like to believe that they have left the legacy of apartheid and racism behind them – so much so that when they are confronted with allegations of racism, it comes as a bit of a shock, and more so when it is in the realm of business.

Two such companies are Ultimate Housing and Homes Africa, both of which offer housing to South Africans.

While both claim that they do not discriminate on the grounds of race against anyone seeking their services, the Commission for Racial Equality has found their websites to be discriminatory and, following investigations, has requested that they make certain amendments to their sites.

Ultimate Housing’s website ( has been found to be discriminatory because, firstly, it offers it’s services to South Africans: “young independent South Africans”. Secondly, their website is in two languages, English and Afrikaans.

Quoting section 29 of the Race Relations Act (amended 2000), Agnes Namoh, who works within the legal services department of the Commission for Racial Equality, said “anything that you publish or cause to be published – that means that you are either an advertiser or a publisher – which indicates an intention to discriminate, is unlawful”. This she says indirect discrimination.

“You can’t advertise solely for a section of the population,” she said. “An advert should be for everyone. Racial discrimination includes race, but it also includes nationality and ethnic origin.”

Namoh explained the fact that a section of the website is in Afrikaans relates to the first complaint that the website is targeted at South Africans.

Quoting section 11A of the act, Namoh said: “English is the spoken language – when you advertise in another language it is indirect discrimination, because the majority of the people who can understand what you are saying have to be Afrikaans. There is no reason for it unless you have the intention to discriminate.”

Speaking from the perspective of a non-South African person, she said that should you go on to the website, the first thing you would read was that Ultimate Housing offers services to South Africans, giving the impression that it excludes all others. The fact that the website is translated into Afrikaans narrows the field even further.

Having parts of your business website in Afrikaans is not illegal as such, as long as you can justify your need for doing so.

“The law states that you might be allowed to advertise in another language if there is justification for it – it is proportionate and it is to achieve a legitimate aim,” she said. Namoh explains that in Ultimate Housing’s case, their Afrikaans section cannot be justified because it would reasonably be expected that any Afrikaans person who comes to the UK to study or work would be expected to have a good understanding of English. Danie Engelbrecht, co-owner of Ultimate Housing, is adamant that there was never an intention to discriminate. He said that, while most of the people he houses are South Africans, he has also provided accommoation to Australians, Poles, New Zealanders and Americans.

“We have quite a few different people so there really is no motivation for us to be racially unequal,” he said. “I don’t think that we exclude anybody anywhere – we’re just saying who our main target market is. There are loads of advertisers all over the UK that would advertise for a certain group of people. Think of women’s only car insurance; isn’t that discrimination against all men.”

Engelbrecht does not see that there is a problem in having a direct translation of his website into Afrikaans and does not feel that other nationalities would feel excluded through his advertising.

“Nowhere in any of our advertisements does it say ‘South Africans only’. “At the end of the day we can’t really get any expert advice as to what to do, so we may change a few things on the website. I’m not here to be difficult – I just think it’s unfair towards South Africans if they can’t say their main target market is South Africans.” For now, Engelbrecht is waiting to see what the CRE’s next step is.

The issue of language may not be as easy to resolve for other companies. Homes Africa, for example, have an entirely Afrikaans website and has also been investigated by the CRE. Owner of the company, Harry Gardener, has not taken the matter as seriously.

“Apparently we are discriminating against people who are not Afrikaans speaking, mainly because our website is in Afrikaans and our slogan is for young South Africans, which they recon is discriminatory as well.”

Homes Africa, like Ultimate Housing, received a letter from the CRE to change the website or face further action.

“Until such time as I hear from their attorneys, I’m not going to take any further action,” said Gardener. “If they want to make a legal matter out of it then it’s up to them ... I believe it’s absolutely stupid and horrendous and they are actually discriminating against South Africans being in London. I see it as totally bogus.”

Gardener does not believe he has done anything wrong.

“I’m not advertising in public – yes it’s a website, which I suppose is advertising, but it’s the world wide web. As far as I’m concerned I’m allowed to put up a website in Russian for all I care – are you going to put a ban on all websites in the UK that are in a foreign language?”

Gardener said that he has subsequently put a disclaimer on his website for anyone who has difficulty understanding the website to contact him in person. He said that Homes Africa do not exclude non-South Africans and that his services are offered to other nationalities.

Both Ultimate Housing and Homes Africa believe that they are justified in having Afrikaans websites because they are reacting to what their current tenants want. “It would be aimed at mostly South Africans because that’s what my people [tenants] demand, that’s what they ask for. The majority of the people living in my houses are mainly Afrikaans ... if a UK guy feels comfortable living with a lot of Afrikaans people who he cannot understand most of the time, then fine.”

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

How many $100 laptops could Oprah Winfrey buy South Africa?

Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos.

You may know Oprah Winfrey has opened a $40 million school for girls, south of Johannesburg. Apparently this is a greater sum than the US government spent on development in the whole of Africa last year.

Mhambi says many thanks Tannie Oprah. But Mhambi would wonders how many of Nicolas Negroponte's $100 laptops she could have bought with $40 million and if it would not have been money better spent?

A quick bit of maths brings me to believe that Oprah's money could have bought 400,000 laptops. Which is quite allot. Who would she give it to? I would suggest the poorest children in Gauteng.

The South African government has divided all school pupils into 5 categories according to how poor they are. In Gauteng, the smallest but most developed province there are 383,674 pupils in the poorest and largest category. This province would be ideal, relatively densely populated and with good roads, the wireless mesh technology built into the laptops could cast a wireless blanket.

Oprah could have given all of these poorest pupils $100 laptops, and probably could have covered of the next poorest category with what she will need to maintain the school and pay its staff. Just imagine 400,000 plus laptops creating their own wireless mesh all over the province and giving access to the poor to the Internet.

Mhambi is no pedagogue but he reckons that if you give children the opportunity they will learn to use these instruments themselves, without too much hassle, as if by magic. (Many South African teachers have no clue how to use a computer). Imagine the creativity it could unleash?

Now if only the South African government could deal with the predatory monopoly that is Telcom and bring down internet access costs.

And if Joe Modise's estate could repay the £500,000 and $10 million bribes for British Hawks and German subs, we would be looking at another 110,000 plus laptops, and if Shaik and Zuma...

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BAE and South African government corruption cuts deep

Britain's PM Tony Blair would like to be remembered as a leader of a country with a ethical foreign policy. Why then has he tried to block investigations by Britain's serious fraud office into corrupt BAE dealings in Saudi Arabia?

And would he dare do the same for yet another BAE deal reported in 2003?

Britain's biggest weapons manufacturer, BAE Systems, paid millions of pounds in secret commissions to obtain a huge UK taxpayer-backed contract to sell Hawk jets to South Africa.

Blair - hawkish self interest

Mr. Blair says investigations into BAE's dealings should be blocked so British relations with countries like Saudi Arabia should not be ruined, not forgetting to add that he has to protect British jobs.

But the press has refused to drop this issue. The Guardian has rejoined the fight agianst BAE with evidence of their corrupt dealings in South Africa and elsewhere claiming last week:

The SFO is also pursuing its investigations into allegations that BAE made corrupt payments to politicians and officials in Tanzania, Chile, the Czech Republic and Romania....

But its the South African deal which is attracting the most scrutiny:

South Africa's airforce chiefs had selected Italian aircraft as cheaper and more modern, but the amended specifications shifted the balance in favour of the ageing British Hawks - at nearly double the price.

The Hawks are part of a £1.5bn package BAE and Saab put together to supply 24 Hawk fighter trainers and 28 Gripen light fighter aircraft to South Africa. Sources in the country say the request to the police indicates that the SFO investigation extends beyond the sale of the Hawk aircraft to the payment of bribes in South Africa and other developing countries.

So how much money are we talking about?
In the race to win contracts, BAE built a tangled web of relationships with South African officials, particularly Mr Joe Modise, the ex minister of defence who it is thought received at least £500,000's directly.

BAE acknowledges that it paid tens of millions of pounds in secret commissions to win the £1.5bn contract. The arms company originally intended to pay 12% of the contract price in commissions but agreed to cut that back to 7% - more than £100m - following questions from the British authorities underwriting the deal.

Modise also received more than $10 million from a German company to supply south Africa with sub-marines.

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Racism bullied back into the closet

So Jade was voted out. The Guardian proclaimed the 80% plus vote for Jade to leave, a vote for tolerance. Yesterday the press rallied, The Sun on its front page called Goody 'the face of evil'. The London Paper said voting out Goody 'A vote for Britain'. The same paper compared Shetty and Goody, noting that Shetty spoke many languages and Shetty only one, "Estuary English".

The middle classes was offering Goody as the sacrificial lamb to save the countries reputation. Forgetting that at least two other housemates were as complicit and more deceitful, while many others did nothing when something was called for.

Big Brother had exposed racism and bullying in a society that excells in hiding racism and developed bullying into a fine art. Goody is going to pay dearly, and be bullied out of public life.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Gazelle's "Die Verlore Seun" does electro in Afrikaans

Who said Afrikaans can't do electro?

Dirty synths, robot rhythms and sexy male vocals crooning existentially:

"Sorry Papa, ek moes die plaas verlaat, want ek mis die disco ligte, te veel"
- Sorry dad, I had to leave the farm, because I miss the disco lights, too much.

Check YoGazelle on their (his) MySpace page and listen to "Die Verlore Seun" (The prodical son) and his other song "options".
Shout-out once again to the man in Cape Town with his finger on the musical pulse, Wedding DJ Donald!

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Big brother this Friday, a vote on Britain?

Tomorrow evening Britain will cast a vote for either Indian Bollywood star, Shilpa Shetty, or abrasive working class girl, Jade Goody. Goody and two other housemates have rounded on Shetty and it appeared to be racial.

The public will decide who will be kicked out of the Celebrity Big Brother house and Britain's reputation. What a start to the cultural year, a reality check on racism.

Celebrity Big Brother 2007 Shilpa Shetty - Massive Row

If Jade goes, the press will claim that the UK has shown itself, once again, to be a fair. Mhambi's bet is that Jade will go. But if Shilpa is voted out. Oh dear...

Racism and the Spanish civil war

Weird. I have been reading a monumental book by Anthony Beevor on the Spanish Civil War called The Battle for Spain. It is an incredible account and an incredible event. The moral courge of professor Unamuno or the destruction of Guernica are just two of the tales in this facinating account.

This war was a conflict that drew fighters, intellectuals and writers (Beautiful Neruda, clever Orwell and macho Hemmingway were just some) from around the globe. On the one side the Republic, supported by Anarchists, Socialists, Communists, Basques, Catalans and Republicans supported by the Soviet Union, and on the other the Nationalists, made up of Facists, Monarchits, Catholics supported by Nazi Germany and Facist Italy (and a bit of secret help via the British Navy). I spotted no South Africans in it however, untill today. Unfortunately it ain't flattering:

"Not all writers were pro-republican. The nationalists had the support of charles Maurras, Paul Claudel... as well as the South African Roy Campbell, who wrote a 5,000-verse epic poem, violently racist, which was entitled Flowering Rifle."

I wondered what the Afrikaners made of this war? Staunch republicans, but religious (if protestant) half of them Communists and the others Nationalists and even Facists building so-called volks-kapitalisme (people's capitalism). But they must have felt a sympathy for the Basque and Catalalonian independence drive, if they knew about it.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Can Californian capitalist hippies save the developing world

Originally uploaded by ozymiles.

There was a time when a UK academic, Dr. Richard Barbrook, accused the digirati of California of believing in a misleading ideology, the "Californian Ideology".

According to him Net heavy-weights like Kevin Kelly, Esther Dyson and Steve Jobs were beholden to this Californian ideology. A weird hybrid ideology that married ideas associated with the right, free market economics, and those that came from the left, counter-culture libertarianism.

Barbrook said:
"On the West Coast, skilled workers and entrepreneurs in the hypermedia industries form the 'virtual class'. Like the 'labour aristocracy' of the last century, core personnel in the media, computing and telecoms experience both the insecurities and rewards of the marketplace. The Californian Ideology reflects this ambiguity by simultaneously advocating the New Left utopia of the electronic agora and the New Right's vision of the electronic marketplace.

However both left- and right-wing anarchists ignore the key role of taxpayers' dollars in the creation of the PC and the Net. The exclusion of public institutions from the construction of cyberspace can only increase the fragmentation of American society into antagonistic, racially-determined classes."

But today one of the cyber gurus that Barbrook accuses, Nicolas Negroponte, made an announcement that both disproves and supports Barkrook's contention.

Negroponte, head of the Massachusets Institute of Technology's (MIT) Media Lab announced the wonderful news that the first batch of computers built for the One Laptop Per Child project could reach users by July this year.

The One Laptop Per Child Project aims to deliver the children's laptop — a potent learning tool created expressly for the world's poorest children living in its most remote environments.

The laptops will run a bespoke form of Unix operating system where they are encouraged to work on an electronic journal, a log of everything the user has done on the laptop. Because says Negroponte:
" of the saddest but most common conditions in elementary school computer labs (when they exist in the developing world), is the children are being trained to use Word, Excel and PowerPoint," Mr Negroponte said.

"I consider that criminal, because children should be making things, communicating, exploring, sharing, not running office automation tools."

The proposed $100 machine will also have a dual-mode display—both a full-color, transmissive DVD mode, and a second display option that is black and white reflective and sunlight-readable at 3× the resolution.

The laptop will have a 500MHz processor and 128MB of DRAM, with 500MB of Flash memory; it will not have a hard disk, but it will have four USB ports. The laptops will have wireless broadband that, among other things, allows them to work as a peer-to-peer mesh network; each laptop will be able to talk to its nearest neighbors, creating an ad hoc, local area network. The laptops will use innovative power (including wind-up) and will be able to do most everything except store huge amounts of data.

Why do children in developing nations need laptops? Why not a desktop computer, or—even better—a recycled desktop machine? Negroponte answers:
Desktops are cheaper, but mobility is important, especially with regard to taking the computer home at night. Kids in the developing world need the newest technology, especially really rugged hardware and innovative software. Recent work with schools in Maine has shown the huge value of using a laptop across all of one's studies, as well as for play. Bringing the laptop home engages the family. In one Cambodian village where we have been working, there is no electricity, thus the laptop is, among other things, the brightest light source in the home.

Why is it important for each child to have a computer? What's wrong with community-access centers?
One does not think of community pencils—kids have their own. They are tools to think with, sufficiently inexpensive to be used for work and play, drawing, writing, and mathematics. A computer can be the same, but far more powerful. Furthermore, there are many reasons it is important for a child to own something—like a football, doll, or book—not the least of which being that these belongings will be well-maintained through love and care.

What about connectivity? Aren't telecommunications services expensive in the developing world?
When these machines pop out of the box, they will make a mesh network of their own, peer-to-peer. This is something initially developed at MIT and the Media Lab. We are also exploring ways to connect them to the backbone of the Internet at very low cost....We are working with the local governments and the private sector regarding how to reduce the cost of Internet access.

This includes connectivity to the Internet from the mesh through gateways at the schools. And how will these be marketed?
The laptops will be sold to governments and issued to children by schools on a basis of one laptop per child. Initial discussions have been held with China, India, Brazil, Argentina, Egypt, Nigeria, and Thailand. An additional, modest allocation of machines will be used to seed developer communities in a number of other countries. A commercial version of the machine will be explored in parallel.

How will this initiative be structured?
The $100 laptop is being developed by One Laptop per Child (OLPC), a Delaware-based, non-profit organization created by faculty members from the MIT Media Lab to design, manufacture, and distribute laptops that are sufficiently inexpensive to provide every child in the world access to knowledge and modern forms of education. OLPC is based on constructionist theories of learning pioneered by Seymour Papert and later Alan Kay, as well as the principles expressed in Nicholas Negroponte's book Being Digital. The founding corporate members are Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Brightstar, Google, Marvell, News Corporation, Nortel, and Red Hat.
To keep the cost down we will market the laptops in very large numbers (millions), directly to ministries of education, which can distribute them like textbooks.

So there you have it. Barbrook was right. Negroponte can not deviler his digital utopia and save the world without the help of not-for-profits, academia and government. But he was wrong because Negroponte is well on his way to actually have an almost unimaginably positive impact on the lives of poor people in the poor parts of the world.

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