#1 ON ANC ANNIVERSARY DAY, A RESURGENCE OF HATE SPEECH IS NOTED
President Jacob Zuma delivered the annual January 8 address marking the birth of the African National Congress movement launched in 1912.
Speaking at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, he opened with some ANC history. “We are celebrating that which brings us together as South Africans – the ANC and its undying commitment to this country and its people.. The ANC has worked hard to earn its special place in the hearts of South Africans.
“Since 1912, it has worked consistently to rid South Africa of colonialism, oppression, apartheid, racism, tribalism and sexism.”
But the clock seemed to have stopped on racism, judging by the proliferation of recent comments and behaviors characterized as racist. During the week, several prominent South Africans were punished for perceived racist outbursts, with celebrity DJ Gareth Cliff being booted off the Idols South Africa judging panel and Standard Bank economist Chris Hart being suspended. President Zuma took the opportunity to rebuke all outspoken racists, saying that they had no place in the country and were “living in the past”.
Deputy Minister of Justice John Jeffery said the government was already working to add hate speech and racist behavior to the current bill on hate crimes, which will now be redrafted and released for public comment.
“The original intention was not to criminalize hate speech, which can already be dealt with as a civil matter in the Equality Courts … but in light of the current developments we felt, as justice, we need to look at that.
“Obviously with a crime there are various forms of punishments … fines, restorative justice … [that] may be more appropriate, but those things will have to be looked at . . . but not excluding jail,” said Jeffery.
This week, the ANC in parliament said it was considering the German example of criminalizing the promotion of Nazism and Holocaust denial.
“We have travelled a long way to finding each other as South Africans,” Zuma said in his address. “The ANC calls on all people of this country to work together and defeat the demons of racialism and tribalism.
“It is clear that there is a tiny minority that still harbors a desire for separate amenities and who idolize apartheid-era leaders who made our country the skunk of the world. These people do not represent the true character of the new South Africa. They are living in the past.”
The reference to those idolizing apartheid-era leaders was a veiled swipe at the opposition Democratic Alliance party following MP Dianne Kohler Barnard’s sharing of a Facebook post praising apartheid leader PW Botha.
Other remarks that were widely derided were a reference to black people as “monkeys” by former KwaZulu-Natal estate agent Penny Sparrow, a tweet by white economist Chris Hart, who wrote that “25 years after Apartheid ended, victims are increasing, along with a sense of entitlement and hatred towards minorities”. Hart’s statement resulted in his suspension by his employer, Standard Bank.
Idols judge Cliff was fired from the show after his tweet on the Sparrow saga upset many. Cliff retweeted a poll that asked if racist social media utterances should be criminalized, adding: “People really don’t understand free speech at all.”
Elsewhere, the Gauteng sport, arts, culture and recreation department suspended an employee, Velaphi Khumalo, for his Facebook post calling for black South Africans to do to white people what “Hitler did to the Jews”.
And eNCA news anchor Andrew Barnes was castigated for mocking Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s English pronunciation.
Even though Zuma did not refer to these incidents directly in his speech, he made it clear that such behavior would not be tolerated.
Currently, racist and offensive speech falls under crimen injuria, which is less punitive.
Meanwhile, ANC caucus spokesman Moloto Mothapo said jailing racists would be an effective tool in dealing with the issue. He pointed to “the prevalence of racism and apartheid denial 22 years after democratization” and said: “Yet no one has been criminally charged or has served jail time.”
This, he said, showed “that current legislation is not sufficient”.
#2 ‘OVERPOPULATION’ THEORY CHALLENGED BY AFRICAN WRITER
Togolese editor Mawuna Remarque Koutonin would like to make a few corrections in the widely held belief that Africa has a problem with overpopulation.
First of all, he says, if seeing is believing, then you must agree that Europe is wildly overpopulated, especially the western part.
“A small country like France has about the same population as the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is five times larger,” he begins. “The UK is smaller than Gabon, but has a population of more than 60 million inhabitants, compared to Gabon’s population of just over 1.5 million.
“The worst example is a micro country like Belgium (167 times smaller than the Congo) which has a population of 11 million. That’s 365 people per km square, compared to the DRC’s rate of 30.”
Koutonin, the editor of SiliconAfrica.com, then wonders: “So how do they manage to feed themselves in a resource-poor continent like Europe? Why do they have so many kids when Europe is already the only continent to send more than half a billion economic and political refugees to other richer places of the world during the last five centuries?” Cold weather and the resulting indoor activities might be to blame, he suggests.
Considering that Europe’s an already overpopulated continent, it’s surprising that many European countries give incentives to families to make more babies,” he quips. And in underpopulated Africa, the continent is crowded with western overpopulation experts giving money to NGOs and governments to stop population growth.
Turning serious, he says: “It is only in Africa that we talk about having population reduction funded by western NGOs and governments. Is it because Africa does not have resources to feed 2 billion people? No. It’s because some other nations want those resources for their own people instead.”
Koutonin’s tongue-in-cheek commentary appeared this week in The Guardian online news outlet.
In a biographical statement, which he could have written himself, Koutonin is described as “a world peace activist who relentlessly works to empower people to express their full potential and pursue their dreams, regardless of their background.
“Koutonin’s ultimate dream is to open a world-class human potential development school in Africa in 2017. If you are interested in learning more about this venture or Koutonin’s other projects, he can be found @SiliconAfrica on Twitter.” w/pix of M.R. Koutonin
#3 ‘MR. CLEAN’ AND FORMER MATH PROF HEADED FOR ELECTION RUN-OFF
The top two vote-getters in the Central African Republic’s just-tallied presidential ballot were a corruption fighter nicknamed ‘Mr Clean’ by the media and a former math teacher. Both men previously held the post of prime ministers in prior administrations.
Voters had turned out in large numbers to select a candidate from among 30 hopefuls.
Anicet-Georges Dologuélé won 23.78% of the vote in the first ballot on Dec. 30. Faustin-Archange Touadéra picked up 19.42%. The results must be confirmed by the Constitutional Court.
Dologuélé, a 58-year-old former central banker, came to be known as Mr Clean after his attempts to lean up murky public finances during his spell as prime minister from 1999 to 2001.
Touadéra, also 58, was a former math teacher who served as prime minister under disgraced ousted leader François Bozizé.
The National Election Authority said turnout at the presidential and parliamentary elections reached a high 79% of the five million people eligible to vote.
Despite security concerns, the elections went off without major incident after initial delays caused by logistical glitches.
The Central African Republic was the scene of horrific violence after the unpopular Bozizé was ousted by a mainly Muslim rebel alliance. Thousands of people were killed and around one in 10 fled their homes after attacks by rogue rebels on remote villages and brutal reprisals by Christian vigilante groups against Muslim communities.
Despite calls by several presidential candidates to recount the first round votes, the head of the UN’s peacekeeping mission in the country, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, urged the two remaining candidates to continue campaigning in “a calm and civil manner” to “preserve the spirit of peace and restraint that has prevailed until now”.
But Martin Ziguele, candidate and former prime minister, says he plans an appeal to the Constitutional Court to demand a manual recount because of alleged irregularities.
According to Ziguele, who came in 4th, the jumbled release of results made it “impossible for each candidate to verify that all votes in their favor, constituency by constituency, polling station by polling station, have been fully taken into account.”
His party also questioned “a sharp and unjustified fall in the number of voters” between partial results issued on January 6 and the full provisional figure released the next day. Around 230,000 votes went “uncounted and thus were not attributed to candidates,” the statement said.
“Manipulation and the confiscation of the people’s expression of sovereignty have in the past always been the main factors in instability and regression,” said a spokesman for the Movement for the Liberation of the Central African People, which won general elections in 1993, three years after the introduction of a multi-party system.
If the court appeal is unsuccessful, a second round of voting will take place January 30 between the top two vote-getters. w/pix of top vote getter, Anicet-Georges Dologuélé
#4 DENMARK BOOTS STAR AFRICAN STUDENT FOR MINOR INFRACTION, SPARKING OUTRAGE
Officials at the prestigious Aarhus University in Denmark expressed shock and dismay at the deportation of a top student from Cameroon who was found to have occasionally exceeded the 15 hours he was allowed by law to work per week.
“Marius Youbi is one of the most talented students we have,” Brian Bech Nielsen, dean at the university, said in a letter rebuking the Danish immigration service. “The country’s laws should of course be respected, but the ‘punishment’ does not meet the ‘crime’ in this case.”
“We disagree with this decision,” said university spokesman Anders Cornell. “Youbi has paid back the money he earned for those extra hours and paid the fine as well,” he added, questioning why this harsh measure now.
While studying for a bachelor’s degree in engineering, Youbi had taken a part-time job as a cleaner.
Because he put in 16 and a half hours a week, an hour and half over the limit permitted international students, immigration informed him he had violated the terms of his visa and would be deported.
Aarhus University agreed to move the student’s exams forward and Youbi sat for three tests in one day, with 48 hours to prepare. All three exams resulted in a ’12’ grade, the Danish equivalent of an A.
“It feels great. I hope it can be used as evidence that I can and want to do this [engineering degree],” Youbi told state broadcaster DR in fluent Danish after exiting the last of the three exams.
“I hope the authorities will take this on board and let me finish my studies,” he continued.
Per lysgaard of the university’s Herning campus said: “It is usually not up to us to reschedule exams, but both the university and I felt that this situation is entirely unfair, a completely disproportionate punishment for working too hard. That’s why we wanted to make an exception.
He’s the best student we have.”
“He has paid to study here, so I think he should be allowed to take his exams.”
A petition to stop his deportation has over 18,000 signatures. “He’s a talented guy, well-liked by everyone… who needs just two semesters to finish with his education,” the petition said.
Youbi is said to have been working to meet his tuition fees of $6,700, in addition to living expenses.