Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Monday, December 19, 2005

Blogger on leave
I will be going on leave this week and this will probably be my last post of 2005. I wish all my readers a great festive season and a well-earned holiday. I'll see you on the other side of 2005...

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

I'm not so sure...
"A South African spy arrested a year ago for running an espionage ring in Zimbabwe was to be released on Tuesday in a move described as pay-off for President Thabo Mbeki's quiet diplomacy."

If that's the only thing we, and the people of Zimbabwe, get out of quiet diplomacy, it really has been a waste of time..

Slow blogging
This is a tough week at work as we head into our close, so blogging will be light for a few days. Normal service will resume thereafter. Don't foget to vote!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Weblog Awards Finalist: Vote for The Fishbowl
I've only just seen that I've been nominated for the Weblog Awards in the best blog Middle East and Africa. I'm a little behind the other nominees in promoting it, and there's only a week left to vote, so if you enjoy the blog, head on over here and vote. You can vote once a day, so keep 'em coming!

The Price of Progress
This week's latest mine accident in China once again illuminates the price of progress in China, and the changes that must come to into the Chinese pricing model. A gas explosion has killed at least 74 miners, bringing the total this year to over 2 700 killed in mining accidents. If you think that's bad, last year more than 6 000 deaths were reported in Chinese mine accidents. China's government has purportedly made many statements regarding the improved safety on their mines, and one could argue that a 50% drop in the annual death toll is a good start, but clearly, there's still a way to go.

A discussion on CapeTalk this morning used this as a starting point for the realigning of the Chinese comparative advantage of labour and production costs. The theory goes that as the Chinese economy grows, so household income will rise, and Chinese labourers will choose not to work in conditions such as those on the mines. As demand for those jobs drops, wages rise and safety costs rise, thus increasing production costs and eroding the comparative advantage. I agree with the theory that this will happen, but the timing of such is the critical factor. As a largely dominant socialist economy, worker freedom to make those decisions runs against the grain of Chinese social values, and this change may take a decade. By this time, China's economy could be in a dominant and diversified global position which relies less on low production prices and more on comparative advantages in other spheres.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Well said young man
Roland Schoeman's letter written to Swimming South Africa in declining Qatar's R20m offer is testament to the hope that we all feel for the future of our country:

"After serious and thorough consideration I have decided to stand by my initial decision not to swim for Qatar. I have, therefore, given instruction that the negotiations after the second approach from Qatar to swim for them should not be pursued.

You will understand that this was not a simple and straightforward decision. While I fully understand the immediate financial implications of this decision, I believe and trust that solutions to this problem will be found within South Africa.

I am acutely aware that South Africa is where it is today because of the sacrifice and commitment of large numbers of people over many years. As well, that the stability and democracy we have attained thus far has not been founded on pursuing short-term gains.

It has been based on a willingness to seek long-term solutions
In making this choice I have reconfirmed for myself that it is of tremendous importance to me that I am part of the vibrant, challenging, frustrating, beautiful and above all hopeful country I call home.

Each one of my achievements has been accompanied by a tremendously strong sense of being an integral part of something enormously meaningful.

That I am an African - and more specifically a South African. Each gold medal award ceremony has been enriched beyond measure by hearing our national anthem and experiencing the unifying surge of joy and elation of the people of South Africa.

There is much that remains to be done to ensure that South Africa will be a haven to all its people. I believe that sport serves to aid nation building, that it has the ability to unite people and can be used to work towards the greater good of all.

It provides a vehicle that allows every person in South Africa to dream and to "believe in the impossible". I have a place to fulfil in this process.

I wish to thank the many role-players who have supported me over the past number of weeks. It has meant a tremendous amount to my family and to me. It has also reconfirmed for me that South Africa is where I belong.

While I am significantly poorer today than I could have been, I feel tremendously blessed that it is Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika that will be played if I win a gold medal."

Monday, December 05, 2005

Oh the irony...
There was a storm of protest at this weekend's Cosatu rally when it was discovered that the official Cosatu T-shirts were made in China. That's a serious miscalculation in procurement....

Afrikaners in the New South Africa
A recent survey has found that Afrikaners have shown the "most radical change in political outlook" of all groups since the 1994 elections. This is probably understandable, given that by fair assumption that Afrikaners had the furthest to move politically after the fall of apartheid. In saying that though, I am in no way meaning to diminish the positive nature of that development. Afrikaners could very easily not have embraced the new rainbow nation, and we would be sitting in a far worse position as a country than where we are right now. Mbeki has always made no bones of the fact that he sees Afrikaners as more committed to Africa (and by extension - more "African") than their English counterparts, and expects them to be more committed to change. This survey reinforces this assumption.

I would like to see the full report of political outlooks amongst all the population groups; this would give us far greater scope in evaluating how far we've come. Methinks that Afrikaners will soon overtake the English population in terms of enthusiasm for the New South Africa.

Friday, December 02, 2005

One of my favourite stories of the year
You know things are getting bad at home affairs when someone has to take an employee hostage to get his ID book! Kabelo Thibidi took an employee hostage at the department of home affairs in Johannesburg after waiting since 2001 for an identity document, which he claims meant he could not get a drivers license or a job. Priceless! Get the whole story here and here.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

World Aids Day
Every year I try to get excited about World Aids Day, optimistically clinging to the view that it may really make a difference this year. I have been repeatedly let down, and will undoubtedly be let down again.

Aids awareness is one of the most central requirements for the future growth and prosperity of our land, and many others in the world, but it almost seems like we've missed the boat in educating our population, as most people are so desensitised about the prevalence of Aids advertising that they don't take any notice of it.

In fact, a recent study conducted by Markinor shows that far from reducing in number, the number of South Africans displaying high-risk sexual behaviour and that are in denial with regard to HIV/Aids is actually increasing.

It's depressing stuff...