Monday, December 20

On Vacation

Speaking of going away, Way South will be shutting down for the foreseeable future. I’m losing my Internet connection (along with my job), and won’t be posting anytime soon. My plans for the next few years are made however and I have every hope that they are going to be very busy years. You should still be able to contact me though, although you might have to wait a week or two for a response.

Thank you to Rethabile and the other bloggers from southern africa. If this is your first time in the Southern African part of the blogosphere, give the blogring below a whirl.


Steven Den Beste

We'll, it does seem like we've seen the last from Steven den Beste at USS Clueless. Its a shame, because his site used to be one of the two I'd check first every time I logged on. Even though he was a bit high on america, I could understand that because I was high on South Africa . I can understand his wanting to quit though, and only wonder at how he was able to go on for so long in the first place. Thanks, from a reader who never sent you a letter! (I think).

His new site on his anime hobby, Chizumatic, will probably also be a hit. Im having to physically restrain myself to not send an email however since he's not seen Gost in the Shell yet! Nevermind the episodes! Ghost in the Shell 2 is out already?!! Im mean, there are just two classifications in anime. Gost in the shell, and the rest.

Then again, the lucky bastard hasnt seen Ghost in the Shell yet.

Monday, December 13

Racist Blood Suckers

John Qwelane on the recent race row over blood being incinerated because it came from black people (and the president, Mr Mbeki).

Suffice to say I have decided, on a matter of principle, that I do not want any white blood in my body no matter what the circumstances.

I would rather die than have the blood of a certain "high risk" race of people. This is in retaliation for the national insult they have heaped upon us.

As it is I am busy writing a will of sorts right now, in which I forbid anyone, including my mother, to instruct hospitals and clinics to give me a white person's blood in the event I am involved in an accident and am unconscious or in a position where I cannot represent myself.

The only blood I will accept, I state in this will, must be that donated strictly by black people or by my family members.

Coconuts will now be tearing out their hair in anguish over my "racism" and lamenting that I choose to die and reject (with utter contempt) their brothers' and sisters' blood.

But that has always been the name of the game in South Africa, and no amount of pretending will erase it.

Thats what I love about my fellow South Africans. We take lifes little insults so placidly. Almost Norwegian in our approach, I'd say.

The South African National Blood Service decided at an urgent meeting with the health department on Friday to scrap its policy of using race to determine the level of risk of HIV infection in donated blood.

This followed a public outcry after a case before the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) revealed the racist policy.

Mbeki, together with other politicians such as former Health MEC Zweli Mkhize, has donated blood in the past to help promote the SANBS's drive for more blood donations as the demand for blood nationally is high and supply often falls short.

Then again, this is so outrageous little less then the wholesale resignation (if not hara-kiri) of the board of directors of the SANBS coupled with a multi-million rand add campaign to try and say sorry is going to lift these guys out of the coals. Its is going to get as hot as Satan’s crotch for these guys, as my brother likes to say.

I'll give Mr Qwelane the last say:

I do not care whether the SA Blood Transfusion Service has "scrapped" its stinking policy of racial profiling of donors or not, but I am not going to bother giving blood to racists who pretend they are happy to receive my blood, but quietly incinerate it afterwards.

Update: The SANBS's website seems to have been mysteriously removed for the most part. Thankfully google still has a cache. Yup, a large number of resignations and an influx of people from some different 'sections' of the community would definitely be a good thing.

Friday, December 10

Elections in Ghana

Elections in Ghana seems to have gone smoothly. This is their second election, with the same candidate winning by a slightly larger margin than before. The Head Heab has more info.

Jo'burgs Finances

Interesting analysis of the state of Jo'burgs finances from Wayne over at Commentary.

As Wayne points out, things are not as good as they appear. On the other hand, things arent bad either. I think the main focus should be on the fact that the system is working better, and if the system works, the market is going to reward it.

He emphasised the City had observed prudent financial management, resulting in its credit rating being upgraded to A-. This he attributed to a "high level of disclosure and transparency" in the City. [source]

Thursday, December 9

Table Mountain

Table Mountain with the University of Cape Town at its feet.

President Mbeki

With what appears to be another successful African peace mission under his belt, Mr Mbeki is increasing his diplomatic clout at a steady pace (not that the west would know it, of course).

South African news services had the 6 monthly "Does Mbeki spend too much time abroad" debate, which usually points to the fact that no one in South Africa really cares what happens in the Ivory Coast, would in all likelihood not even be able to find it one a map, and you can be sure making it front page news isn’t going to sell more papers or increase ratings. Saying not enough is being done about Jobs/Crime/AIDS/Zimbabwe gets the juices flowing a lot more than peace in "Where the hell is that? West Africa. That’s north of here isn’t it?".

A halfway interesting debate on SAFM (talk radio if you don’t know the station) brought the pan-africanists and Zimbabwe-is-more-important crowds together. The panel members, and the presenters, were mostly all pan-africanists and the phone-in crowd was a bit of both. It ended beautifully with the pan-africanist basically saying the opinions of some "sections" of the community don’t matter (code word for white if you’re living on a some other planet than planet South Africa), and the more farms you have the less you’re opinions matter. Doubt whether most people in the debate would be able to find Ivory Coast on a map either.

Still, I believe this is a relatively big moment for Mbeki as he has basically stepped in to pull the French out of a tricky situation (Not that the French is ever going to admit this). He has also shown Francophone Africa that there is someone they can go to if they get into trouble with their old colonial masters trading partners.

AIDS in South Africa IV

Micheal Wines (in the New York Times interactive section "A Hollowed African City") looks at people infected with the AIDS virus on a border town in South Africa. He does some good work, talking to the people infected and the causes and extent of the disease in that community.

Thursday, December 2

World Aids Day

I didnt blog yesterday, but if you didnt know yesterady was World AIDS Day. Kenya Hudsun has a good roundup of stories on the the impact of HIV/AIDS on our communities.

Tuesday, November 30

Houtbaai revisited.

Later during the day at the Houtbaai Hotel. The view might not be as impressive as from the top of the mountain, but the amenities make up for it I think.

AIDS in South Africa III

AIDS in South Africa on the front page of the Washington Post website.

One of 280 patients receiving medicines from a hospital in this busy river town, Malembe is proof that antiretrovirals, which have largely tamed AIDS in wealthy nations, can offer similar hope in Africa. The disease has already killed more than 15 million people across sub-Saharan Africa, and an estimated 5.3 million South Africans are currently infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Yet more than a year after the South African government decided to offer low-cost antiretroviral treatment to everyone with AIDS, only about one out of every 50 AIDS patients who are medically ready for antiretrovirals receive them from the public health system, said researchers who track the disease.

Let the Good Times Roll

The news that we've been suspecting has finally arrived. South Africa's economy is growing at 5.6%, the fastest growth rate in 8 years.

Greater East Africa

Is Uganda, Kenya and and Tanzania about to join together and become a single country by 2013? Jonathan reports on activities at the East African Summit, and speculates that this might have implication for the different regional trading groups (The SADC, of which Tanzania is a part, and COMESA, of which Uganda and Tanzania froms part) .

Mugizi Rwebangira commments:

This news appears to have caught most East Africans by surprise(myself included). The customs union has been in the works for a while, but most people didn't realize how far the planning has gone for closer integration.

As Mugizi states, the target date of 2013 for the election of a single president is completely unrealistic. The union could be benificial, but would take a while to complete succesfully. The biggest stumbling bloc in my opinion would be the political systems of these countries and their ability to cede so much power to new regional structures.

The loss of Tanzania from the SADC would have few implications and I doubt whether the loss would be a threat to the SADC. The possible addition of Kenya and Uganda would however be a tremendous boon to the Union, solidifying the power of the Union well into central Africa and would create pressure on other african countries to join the SADC.

The SADC is not only an economic union however. It has political aspirations as well, with open borders, a common currency and regional political structures as its ultimate goal. The creation of an East African superstate would create a third african superpower, along with South Africa and Nigeria. How keen they would be to throw their lot in with South Africa if they have the option of creating their own regional power structure is an open question. The extent to which they can expand is limited though. Jonathan comments:

Rwanda and Burundi seem certain to join, which would result in a respectable federation of 105-110 million. Malawi and Mozambique are possible, but both tend to look south and would probably pick the SADC over the EAC. Somalia seems unlikely for many reasons. Indian Ocean expansion might be possible, including the Seychelles and the Comoros (which have a good deal more in common with Zanzibar and the Tanzanian coast than with the SADC countries). Wild cards include southern Sudan if it chooses independence at the end of the Machakos period, or even some of the eastern provinces of the DRC.

Monday, November 29

Republic of Houtbaai

The view of Houtbaai from Suikerbossie Nature Reserve, Cape Town.

AIDS in South Africa II

What do we know about AIDS in South Africa? About 5.3 million people of an adult population of around 33 million in South Africa has HIV according to the UN. Adult Mortality in SA in 2003 was around 450 thousand a year, of which somewhere between half to two thirds has been attributed to AIDS. (source)

Lets make an assumption that the vast majority of infected people are going to die in the next 5 years. This is likely given that (a) anti-retrovirals are being rolled out very slowly, (b) there should be serious doubts as to the effectiveness of wide spread anti-retroviral treatment, especially if compared to the treatment of other difficult to treat diseases such as TB, (c) untreated and undernourished people living in unsanitary conditions such as squatter camps can expect to live less than 2 years with HIV/AIDS and (d) even with the correct anti-retroviral treatment life expectancy for most people living with the disease is going to be much lower than compared with first world countries.

Assuming deaths attributed to AIDS in 2003 was 250 thousand, some simple calculations should show that if mortality rates increase in a linear fashion, we can expect an increase of up to 50% to our mortality rate each year due t0 AIDS for the next 5 years, culminating in the death of 2 million people in 2008, two years before the 2010 Soccer world cup. For South Africa this is an almost existential crisis.

On the other hand, Adult mortality rates have been recorded since 1998. Taking them at face value, as the UN report does, the increases in mortality was only 16% in 1999 and has been increasing consistently at only 10% for the last 5 years despite the fact that half of all deaths have been attributed to AIDS since 2000.

If this trend were to continue, that would mean that only 400 thousand people are going to die of AIDS in 2008, and that only 1.7 million people are going to die of AIDS over the next 5 years.
If our assumption that most people with HIV is going to die in the next 5 years is correct however then the infection rate in SA is much lower than believed. (Only 5%,rather than the 16.5% that the UN believes).

I have assumed the increase in mortality is linear. That might be incorrect but is backed up by the behaviour or Adult mortality rates for the last 5 years. I have also assumed that the majority of people living with HIV today will be dead in 5 years. If this number is lower, that is people die sooner, then that means that the actual infection rate is even lower than 5%. If people live longer, how much longer?

Taking our current mortality rate increase of 10%, and the belief by the UN that there are 5.3 million people with AIDS in South Africa, how long will it take these people to die? Answer? 11 years.

These numbers are very suspicious. They are suspicious because that is about the minimum number of years that people can be expected to live with modern anti-retroviral drug therapies in western countries.

If a UN researcher went and did a quick back of the envelope calculation where people with HIV have a maximum life expectancy of 11 years (which is about the minimim in Zurich, plus a year) along with the mortality rate increase of South Africa (which is one of the few almost reliable statistics available to anyone), then the answer he would come up with is 5 million people in South Africa are infected with HIV. If people with HIV die sooner however, then the number of people infected decreases dramatically.

Are UN statistics on the number of people infected with HIV in South Africa being inflated? And for what purpose? If the current trend in the Adult mortality rate for South Africa continues, then one of two things could be possible. One, the UN statistics could be criminally wrong or two, most people with HIV in africa with no access to modern medicine living for the most part in squatter camps can live up to 11 years.

If you think the answer is the latter, then you have to meet one of my friends called Occum.

(Full disclaimer: I’m neither a statistician (I’ve a passing knowledge) , a doctor (I’ve done a first aid course), an AIDS activist (I’ve given to AIDS charities) or a prophet (I predict death and taxes). All predictions, assumptions or facts come with no warranty included.)

AIDS in South Africa

Emotive article in the NY Times on AIDS in South Africa. Kenya Hudson at Ambiguous Adventure has been looking at the AIDS epidemic in southern africa the last few days. Just scroll down.

Tutu step up to the plate

Tutu: Thank you Mr President for telling me what you think of me, that I am - a liar with scant regard for the truth, and a charlatan posing with his concern for the poor, the hungry, the oppressed and the voiceless. I will continue to pray for you and your government by name daily as I have done and as I did even for the apartheid government. God bless you. (source)

Ouch. I'm thinking Thabos swinging above his weight class here. Who wants to bet a fiver that were going to see Nelson brought in to smooth over some feelings? Given that Mandela has made almosts the same comments in the past, this might get interesting if Mandela decides to come down on Tutu's side. No wonder Thabo's been so busy making peace in Africa. He needs his own Nobel to start playing with the big boys.

Friday, November 26

So it goes

Tutu: We should not too quickly want to pull rank and to demand an uncritical, sycophantic, obsequious conformity.

Mbeki:One of the fundamental requirements for the rational discussion suggested by the archbishop is familiarity with the facts relevant to any matter under discussion, as well as respect for the truth. (source)

That should put him back in his place! Is it just me or is it strange to have a president say everything he wants to say to the country in a weekly newsletter to his party faithfull? Someone should show Mbeki blogspot.

What we need here is a high level consultant! Ethan?

The Law

Absolutely fascinating, that’s what it is. I haven’t been able to put my books down since I’ve started studying business law, which is a good thing as its slower going than the road to Colesburg. Since my wife has forbade me from the bedroom if I start talking about it, I'll post a few comments. If you have no interest in South African law or your knowledge is more advanced than someone whose been stuck in one or another lab for the last ten years, skip this post.

South African Law is based on Roman-Dutch Law, also referred to as Common Law. This is the law system that was developed in the Roman marketplace from around 1500 BC to 500 AD, and was applicable in the Netherlands until around 1806.

To confuse matters, many English law traditions have been incorporated during the period when South Africa was a British colony. South Africa has both a bar as well as a sidebar. Advocates (England’s barristers) who represent people indirectly before the higher courts, and Attorneys (England’s solicitors) who represent people directly before the lower courts and can hire an advocate for actions before the higher courts.

Judges can also consider English law persuasive to any arguments that have no precedent in South African courts, as well as the writing of the legal scholars of the Netherlands from around 1600 to 1800. (Technically Roman law can also be used).

South Africa uses a system of Judges, although jury systems have been used in the past. I’m too clueless as to comment on whether this is a good or a bad thing, but the consensus seems to be that sometimes its better, sometimes its worse.

Four Sources of Law govern Southern Africa. The highest source is the constitution, which is defended and interpreted by the constitutional court in Johannesburg. Legislation passed by parliament or the national council of provinces is the next level of law. Much of the work of the last ten years has been passing or amending the laws passed by the apartheid parliament, or that are not allowed by our new constitution. Any higher court can declare a law unconstitutional however, but that declaration needs to be ratified by the constitutional court.

The next level is precedent, without which the court couldn’t properly function. Precedent says that a court is bound by a previous decision of a lower or equal court, even if they believe the decision to be wrong. A lower court cannot set precedent, and must follow any higher courts decision. The Higher courts are free to decide issues for themselves however even if a higher court in another province has already decided an issue. This leads to the law being in conflict in various provinces and has lead to some serious problems. Quite why high courts are allowed to disagree with other high courts I haven’t been able to figure out.

The Supreme courts of appeals (in Bloemfontein) is the highest court in the land, although they are bound by the constitutional court in matters related to the constitution. As Ive already said, Roman-Dutch law forms the basis or our law and the fourth source.

Technically there are two more sources. These are custom and customary law. Custom is relatively unused principle that has only been employed once. Customary law is another matter, and the complete dissonance between the constitution and customary law make its application in actions where both parties do not agree to its implementation almost impossible. Headmen or village councils can hear cases, but the plaintiffs or accused have an automatic right of appeal to the local Magistrate. Much of the wrangling in the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu-Natal has been about traditional leaders wanting to see customary law, and consequently their influence, be given more power in our system of law.

Dont Worry

If youve been wondering why all the economic news in South Africa has been good? Dont worry.

The gold price will fall. $450 an ounce isnt really that much. The Rand will come down. R7.80 to the Euro isnt that strong after all. The Oil price will rise again! Whats a 25 cent drop between friend?

We've still got AIDS, crime and BEE to worry about.

Which reminds me, to the blighter who went of his rocker this morning 2 o'clock in the street outside my house. Boy, you can run fast. The three security companies that responded as everyone called everyone made my little corner of Cape Town look like an armed forces convention or something.

I wrote my first Law exam this morning. It went well, but I think the lecturer managed to confuse me with a few questions (and boy does he try) so its not going to be perfect. Its been about 5 years since I last wrote a serious test, so I think my concentration levels werent what it was suppose to be either. (That or my penchant for papsak has finally done some damage.)