The Song of The Golden Dragon – Estas Tonne

I have a large collection of music that would probably take me many months to listen to from start to finish, but I find myself listening to it less and less, and discovering so much amazing new music.

Today’s find, now on repeat, is the beautifully named Song of the Golden Dragon, by Estas Tonne.



A comparison of WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Telegram permissions on Android

Recently I’ve seen quite a few postings of the article The Insidiousness of Facebook Messenger’s Mobile App Terms of Service , claiming you should remove your Facebook Messenger because of the control the app has over your Android device. Many have suggested Telegram instead, which I’ve been using a while. “Using”, I should add, in the same sense I would use a carrier pigeon. It’s nice to have, but there aren’t many others to share the fun with.

So how bad is the Facebook app compared to others? Here’s a comparison between the permissions demanded by Facebook Messenger, Telegram and Whatsapp on Android:

Permission Facebook Messenger Telegram WhatsApp
Retrieve running apps No No Yes
Find accounts on the device Yes Yes Yes
Find accounts on the device No Yes Yes
Read your own contact card Yes Yes Yes
Read your own contact card Yes Yes Yes
Read contacts Yes Yes Yes
Modify your contacts No Yes Yes
Approximate location (network-based) Yes Yes Yes
Precise location (GPS and network-based) Yes Yes Yes
Edit your text messages Yes No No
Receive text messages (SMS) Yes Yes Yes
Read your text messages Yes No No
Send SMS messages Yes No Yes
Receive text messages (MMS) Yes No No
Directly call phone numbers Yes No Yes
Read call log Yes No No
Test access to protected storage Yes Yes Yes
Modify or delete contents of your USB storage Yes Yes Yes
Take pictures and videos Yes Yes Yes
Record audio Yes Yes Yes
View wifi connections Yes Yes Yes
Read phone status and identity Yes Yes Yes
Read sync statistics No No Yes
Receive data from internet Yes Yes Yes
Download files without notification Yes No No
Run at startup Yes Yes Yes
Prevent device from sleeping Yes Yes Yes
View network connections Yes Yes Yes
Install shortcuts Yes No Yes
Change your audio settings Yes No Yes
Read Google service configuration Yes Yes Yes
Draw over other apps Yes Yes No
Full network access Yes Yes Yes
Read sync settings Yes Yes Yes
Read sync statistics No No Yes
Control vibration Yes Yes Yes
Change network connectivity Yes No No
Toggle sync on and off No No Yes
Use accounts on the device No No Yes
Modify system settings No No Yes
Uninstall shortcuts No No Yes

The permissions that have got most people worried, with visions of their phone starting to video them and record their conversations, “Take pictures and videos” and “Record audio”, are shared by all the apps. In Android’s permission system, they’re required to function. So if you want to use the chat functionality, you have to give the app these permissions. If the software is proprietary (Facebook and Whatsapp), you’ll need trust the company behind the app (Facebook owns Whatsapp as well). Telegram is open source, and therefore anyone can (and does) check the code. If you’re worried about security, you should be as concerned about what happens to your messages and data in transit, and here the best option I know of right now is Telegram, which is designed with a focus on privacy.

Now if only more people would use it…



“As I went out one morning”, better known as “OOH AH”

Many years ago, it wouldn’t have been uncommon to find me screeching in my bedroom. If you could stand the racket, you may have made out some of the words. “Ayee yeaaah ah, OOH AH”.

It’s not really surprising that, given what I remembered, even in the age of Google, I couldn’t track down the band responsible for all those primal grunts.

Until recently that is. Thanks to Brian Currin’s Top 40 Rock Legends, I rediscovered Tribe after Tribe. Shockingly, they didn’t even have an English Wikipedia article. Happily this is now rectified (a German version of the article did already exist). The song is actually a cover of a Bob Dylan song, but for me, Tribe after Tribe’s will always be the original.

Enough words, here’s the music:



June 2014 African Wikipedia and Wiktionary update


This weekend sees the first Wiki Indaba, a gathering of African Wikimedians. Since my last look at the state of African language Wikimedia projects was in May 2013, and my last look at Wiktionary (the dictionary project, not as widely-known as its more popular sister, Wikipedia) was way back in 2011, it’s time for an update.

African Language Wiktionaries

Language 3/8/2009 30/5/2010 15/5/2011 17/6/2014
Malagasy 142 4,253 - 3,191,393
Afrikaans 14,128 14,669 14,731 15,792
Swahili 12,956 13,000 13,027 13,885
Wolof 2,675 2,689 2,693 2,310
Sotho 1,387 1,389 1,398 1,343
Zulu 127 131 510 586
Rwandi 306 306 306 366
Swati 31 371 377 290
Oromo 186 218 264 269
Amharic 311 319 377 204
Tsonga 358 359 363 92

The startling progress of Malagasy is most notable, and here it seems bot activity is primarily responsible. Malagasy is one of the more interesting languages linguistically, so it’s not surprising it’s attracting interest. Afrikaans and Swahili also showed some activity in the last year, while other languages are static, with many showing a reduction in the number of articles due to cleanups.

What about the Wikipedias?

African Language Wikipedias

Language 11/2/2011 13/4/2012 9/5/2013 17/6/2014
Malagasy 3,806 36,767 45,361 47,144
Afrikaans 17,002 22,115 26,752 31,756
Yoruba 12,174 29,894 30,585 30,910
Swahili 21,244 23,481 25,265 26,349
Amharic 6,738 11,572 12,360 15,968
Egyptian Arabic   8,433 10,379 12,440
Somali 1,639 2,354 2,757 3,646
Lingala 1,394 1,816 2,025 2,077
Shona     1,421 2,077
Kabyle     1,503 1,876
Kinyarwanda   1,501 1,817 1,832
Wolof 1,116 1,814 1,161 1,201

Afrikaans continues to show the most consistent growth and the healthiest community. Yoruba overtook Afrikaans thanks mostly to a burst of bot activity, but Afrikaans has now once again overtaken it. Malagasy, again thanks to bot activity, is well ahead, but the consistent growth in Afrikaans means it is closing the gap, and has higher quality articles.

Of the other African languages, Amharic, Egyptian Amharic, Somali and Shona are all showing reasonable activity, so the signs are good.

Focusing on South Africa specifically:

South African Language Wikipedias

Language 19/11/2011 13/4/2012 9/5/2013 17/6/2014
Afrikaans 20,042 22,115 26,754 31,756
Northern Sotho 557 566 685 691
Zulu 256 483 579 630
Tswana 240 490 495 510
Swati 359 361 364 400
Xhosa 125 136 148 333
Tsonga 192 193 240 303
Venda 193 190 204 209
Sotho 132 145 188 197

I’ve discussed the success of the Afrikaans Wikipedia above, and the other language showing good progress has been Xhosa, which survived the proposal to close it in 2013. Wikimedia ZA announced in their April newsletter that they were diverting resources away from Xhosa, after numerous failed attempts to activate the language.

However, in March, the Xhosa Wikipedia started to show signs of life. For a small Wikipedia, all it takes is one or two active editors, and Xhosa has found one, so the article count, as well as the article quality, has jumped noticeably. Xhosa has leapt from last place (excluding Ndebele, which is the only South Africa official language not to have its own Wikipedia) to sixth, above Tsonga, Venda and Sotho.

The other Wikipedias are still only showing flickering signs of interest, and have only a small number of new articles.

Related articles



In memory of my father

It was my father’s memorial yesterday afternoon, and, like my mother’s memorial nine months ago, it was a good day, meeting and seeing again some of his old friends.

Here’s a written adaptation based on what I said.

The memorial was held at my cousin John and Lindsay’s house. My early family Christmases were at my grandparents house in Meerlust, and then for a long time at my parent’s house in Rust en Vrede. But, for the last few years they’ve been held at John and Lindsay’s house. My dad used to enjoy coming and meeting family there – it was important to him, and so it was a fitting place for his memorial.

It also wasn’t far to get him home if he’d had one too many novelty whiskies, absinthe, or whatever else was being introduced at the time.

He was an extremely thorough and organised person. Everything was in its place, and he didn’t like things not going according to plan. But in life things rarely went his way. When he used to make a speech at birthdays or Christmases, for instance, when someone interrupted (looking at Jenni here), or laughed at the wrong time, or didn’t laugh at the right time, he used to get quite thrown,

In his organised way as he prepared for his death, he’d written out his final wishes, and the details of his will all well in advance. So, it’s a bit of a cosmic joke that all of these documents were stolen from a family members house last week.

Although most of his wishes were known, there is probably something missing, and if he’s grown any more hair in his current form, he’s probably tearing it in frustration at us getting it wrong right now.

But I’m sure he’ll forgive us, eventually.

As a child, I was never close to my dad. I used to avoid him, even from quite a young age. Our encounters often ended with me in tears, and I remember many a morning waiting for him to finish breakfast and leave so that I wouldn’t have to sit with him. The Gilfillans are almost as stubborn as the Dawe’s (my mom’s maiden name), and there were times when we both wanted the same thing, but he’d refuse to offer, or I’d refuse to ask, and so we both stubbornly didn’t get what we wanted.

Jenni's 21st

But as an adult, our relationship was much better, and I learnt to understand and accept him. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to heal the relationship, and get to understand him more deeply.

He had a difficult home life, growing up in the depression with very little, and was educated in boarding school, which in those days could be extremely rough, and far from his family.

But there was a lot I didn’t know about him. He was a very private person, not tending to discuss problems with others. One of the last times I saw him walking was when I visited him in the cottage at Helen Keller. He’d just had a fall, but when I came to the door, he came to open it on his walking stick, and I saw he was walking gingerly. But only when he lay down as I left did I realise how much pain he was in, which he’d tried to shield from me.

His mom and my mom didn’t get on at all, and it must have been very difficult for him with the two most important women in his life having such an unhealthy relationship. But I never saw him dump that onto others – he tried to carry it all himself. Everything that he held would sometimes come out in grumpiness, or complaints about other things, but the main things were always held inside.

He was greatly affected by the death of his sister, who by all accounts committed suicide. She was 34, two years younger than him, and again, he never talked about her, and even later when I asked some questions, he was very cagey. But, when I looked through some of the boxes he kept with him, right to the end, much of it was devoted to her, many many pictures, fragments of her diary.

My mother sometimes used to say that I should try understand him and realise that he never had a real family life, never knew what it was like. So I think the death of his sister in that context must have been quite devastating.

His profession was an artisan, fixing machines, and he worked for many years for Moirs and Kohler Packaging. Even at home he was continually building things. He was still driving at age 86, and after one too many dings with his car in the garage, he built a device that would register when the car got too close to the wall, and a big red stop would light up to warn him.

If you visited him at his Pinelands house you probably remember the alarm chimes that would sound when the gate opened. And he tinkered with all sorts of devices – his very first computer was a ZX-81 which didn’t have sound or a proper keyboard, and he built a proper touch-typing keyboard and added sound to the ZX-81, which I’d never heard of being done before. Even the computers he had at the end came with a mix of switches and devices that he’d built himself.

Anytime anyone had a mechanical problem they’d bring the device to my dad for fixing, and I remember him regretting before one of his moves, near the end, that he hadn’t been able to fix something of Eddie’s in time.

He left Dorje with a huge chest of tools and things that I hope Dorje learns to use better than I ever did.

He used to love the lotto, and particular trying to work out a system. He recorded every result, and calculated statistics in an attempt to see which numbers would be more likely to come up in future. He never aimed for the first prize though – his goal was always to win back just a little more than he spent, rather than the millions at the top. Before that it was horseracing. I remember him telling me he had worked out a system, and tested it for a long period by placing fake bets, and seeing what his winnings would be based on the results. Apparently the system was a success. So he tried it in practice, with real bets, and came back with some winnings the first week.

He lost the second week, and never won again. His systems always seemed to work better in theory than in practise.

His great love though was music. He met my mom in a band – Max Adler’s accordion band – and right until the end he was still playing. At Helen Keller he got involved in a music group, with him supplying music from his encyclopaedic collection, and playing his keyboard. I’m grateful that it was only a very short time that he wasn’t able to play any more. Dorje now has the keyboard, so I’m hoping that’s another skill that, even though it’s skipped me, will be passed on to the next generation.

When my mom became bedridden, he really surprised me by the way he looked after her, showing a side of him I hadn’t seen before. He washed her and cared for her in an unexpectedly intimate way.

He missed my mom terribly when she died. It did give him the chance to try some new things though, such as buying presents. All my life, every present I’ve received labelled “Love Mom and Dad” was from my mom, and my dad usually didn’t have a clue what it was.

So getting a present for Dorje that reflected who he was, was a novelty and an enjoyable experience for him.

The time alone at their old house wasn’t easy for him. His whole life he’d felt responsible for others, and when my mom became ill, there were lots of visitors and lots to do. After she died, there was the organisation of the funeral and other arrangements to keep him busy, but after that, the visits became less frequent and he was alone in the house he’d shared with my mom for so long. He really appreciated the support he got in that time. There were lots of supportive people, but he was particularly grateful for the support he got from Tony and from Saskia from St Lukes, who both helped in their different ways.

When the time came to move out of his house, his first thought, falling back upon his depression upbringing with a focus on saving money, was to move to a nice place out in the Karoo somewhere. But I managed to convince him that I would never come and visit him there, and nor would anybody else, so we finally settled on his real first choice, Helen Keller.

He was only there for two months, but for that brief time he was able to relax and enjoy himself without all of the worries he’d carried for so long.

Later today I’ve arranged a tea at Helen Keller with some of the residents who knew him. When Helen Keller let me know how many people would be coming, I expected 4 or 5 but there’s apparently 60 people coming, so it seems like he got around and enjoyed his time there even more than I realised.

It took me a long time to call him dad, but, one more time, farewell dad. Thanks for being who you were, and for all the gifts you shared. Rest in Peace.



Projection on projection

I’m doing a five-year insight meditation course, and the most recent topic for our meditation was projection.

Projection is, essentially, the act of attributing the traits that we deny in ourselves onto others. These can be negative, such as thinking someone else is aggressive, unfriendly, disorganised, or positive, such as thinking that someone else is confident, kind, loving, etc.

Projection is extremely common. We all do it all the time. Whenever there is blame, there is invariably projection occurring. Observing this as it happens takes away its power, and is one of the most liberating insights for people to experience. It’s hard to remain angry with someone else for being aggressive, for example, when you see the aggression coming from yourself!

For a while now, I’ve been doing a shadow exercise which fits nicely with projection and I’ve found very useful.

Do this exercise regularly, picking the person you’re most unhappy with, or do it whenever you find yourself really upset with someone else.

  • First, imagine yourself telling a friend about what the person has done. Experience the feelings as fully as you can, describing them all in as much detail as you can.
  • Next, imagine yourself talking to the person. They’re sitting in the chair while you describe what they are doing to you and how it has made you feel. Let them respond, so that the conversation flows both ways.
  • Finally, describe the situation from the perspective of the other person. Become the person. How do you feel about what has happened, why are you acting and responding in the way you are? End it by affirming that you are this person.

In my own experience over time, I’ve found that the first part of the exercise becomes shorter and shorter, and that I go quickly to the second and third parts of the exercise. In everyday life, it becomes more difficult to talk or think badly about anyone else.

At the moment I’m finding that the situation I react most to is when I see others projecting onto a third person. So their projection allows me the space to project all sorts of unhelpful things onto the situation – my superiority at seeing what’s happening, and so on.

Projection can also happen at a larger scale. Groups, nations and beyond can also be blind to their own attributes. A quick glance at any of the news websites and the comments sections will tell you we have lots of shadow work to do!

Hearing others talk of their own experiences of projection has been really interesting. Many of them dealt with relationships, a wonderful mirror to see these things. An interesting one shared by a number of males revolved around a female partner having had greater sexual experience, having done wilder things, how this bothered them, indicating projection, and the feeling at the root of this, for example shame.

This kind of practise is easily misunderstood to mean passivity, doing nothing but blaming oneself. It’s not at all the same.

If a boulder is hurtling towards you, don’t stand there wondering how you caused the problem. Get out of the way! If someone in your life attacks you with a knife, get out of the way!

But there’s a different quality when projection onto a person is involved.

Next time you’re unhappy with someone, try the exercise above – you may be surprised what you find.



Cushions, crutches and an office chair

I was on my way back from voting, excited about the massive contribution I had made while keeping an eye out for stompies to pick up. There were cars parked in the road, so I hopped onto the low wall at the side of the road, perhaps half a metre high. At the end of the wall, I hopped off.

Landing in a crack on the road and twisting my ankle.

I managed to limp home, although it was extremely painful. The next time I tried to get up I realised I wouldn’t be walking for a while.

The first day involved an unplanned fast, as moving anywhere, much less all 10 metres to the kitchen, involved putting cushions on the floor, resting my ankle gingerly on the cushions as I lay on my back, and then sliding slowly around the house. Regularly readjusting the cushions while trying not to move my ankle. All while wishing I had nicked some of my dad’s morphine. Or some of Mr Morrison’s vegetable pills. Mr Morrion's vegetable pillsCarrying anything meant putting it arms length in front of me, sliding forwards until it was arms length behind me, and then putting it arms length in front of me again. Unsurprisingly the green tea wasn’t flowing quite as freely. I don’t really want to remember what going to the toilet was like…

By the next day the pain had subsided enough for me to move by hopping. There were once again regular tea breaks, followed by me hopping madly with a teapot full of boiling water in one hand, teacup in the other, leaving a trail of spilt water as I went.

Soon, my good ankle and legs was sore from all the hopping, and I was back to crawling again. At least this time I could move on my hands and knees, far speedier than before.

Finally, I realised a wheelchair would come in handy, so the office chair got hauled into action. I could whizz about the house at high speed, one knee resting on the chair, green tea resting on the seat, good leg pushing away. The office chair only got soaked once or twice.

I’ve never been immobile in this way before. It didn’t take long to find a system that worked, with my office chair wheelchair, but mostly it was a lesson in frustration and patience, and it made me think about people who can’t ever move about freely.

I couldn’t walk outside or drive, and simple things I’d taken for granted needed careful planning.

I got some crutches, and my first trip outside since the day it happened involved walking to the doctor on the crutches. It wasn’t a particularly long walk, but after navigating the journey, including subway, the novelty of the crutches had worn off, replaced by sore hands.

Finally, I progressed to an air cast, which I get to wear for six weeks, and which made an immediate difference to my hobbling ability.

It’s a strange thing to have my body give out so suddenly and so dramatically. All sorts of questions went through my mind.

What if this happened while I was alone on the mountains?

What if I didn’t have money for crutches, casts and office chairs?

What if I can never walk again? Not a serious, logical question, but a feeling response that was interesting to observe.

Luckily, I’m well on the way to walking again, but a little humbled, and with a much greater understanding of the reality many people live.



Election soothsayer

ivotela

In the interests of being utterly wrong publicly, I will look deep into my green tea leaves to make a prediction for tomorrow’s election. If you’re still not sure who to vote for, my unhelpful voting guide is sure to further confuse.

The prediction:

Party % Seats
African National Congress 60% 240
Democratic Alliance 23% 90
Economic Freedom Fighters 7% 27
National Freedom Party 3% 13
United Democratic Movement 2% 8
Inkatha Freedom Party 2% 7
Congress of the People 1% 5
Freedom Front Plus <1% 4
Agang <1% 2
African Christian Democratic Party <1% 2
United Christian Democratic Party <1% 1
Azanian People’s Organisation <1% 1
Total 100 400

The only drastic outlier here from the polls is that I predict the National Freedom Party, almost completely ignored by the media but with a strong grassroots campaign, will do better than expected, beating the IFP to the opposition in KZN. Meanwhile the PAC, Minority Front and African People’s Convention will all be swept from parliament, with 17 of the 29 parties contesting not winning a single seat.

Related posts:



ivotela i-?

ivotela

It’s three days until the elections (well, it was when I started, now it’s one day…), and there’s still no Green Party to vote for, so, to help out, here’s my detailed analysis of every party to help make your decision.

Voting ranks slightly below picking up a cigarette stompie (cigarette butts for those from further afield) in terms of the benefit provided. Removing a single stompie makes a difference. Perhaps that earthworm that was about to surface there has now avoided nicotine poisoning (at best). A single vote? Has a single vote in this sort of election made a difference, ever? No, but collectively at least, the impact is usually slightly larger.

Besides, elections are far more fun than talking about cigarette stompies. There are 29 parties standing in the national elections, and a further five standing only in the Western Cape. Here’s the full list available to me on the day:

  1. African National Congress
  2. Democratic Alliance
  3. Congress of the People
  4. Inkatha Freedom Party
  5. United Democratic Movement
  6. Freedom Front Plus
  7. African Christian Democratic Party
  8. United Christian Democratic Party
  9. Pan Africanist Congress
  10. Minority Front
  11. Azanian People’s Organisation
  12. African People’s Convention
  13. African Independent Congress
  14. Agang SA
  15. Al Jama-ah
  16. Bushbuckridge Residents Association
  17. Economic Freedom Fighters
  18. First Nation Liberation Alliance
  19. Front Nasionaal
  20. Independent Civic Organisation of South Africa
  21. Keep It Straight and Simple
  22. Kingdom Governance Movement
  23. National Freedom Party
  24. Pan Africanist Movement
  25. Patriotic Alliance
  26. Peoples Alliance
  27. Ubuntu Party
  28. United Congress
  29. Workers and Socialist Party
  30. African National Party
  31. Indigenous Peoples Organisation
  32. National Party South Africa
  33. Sibanye Civic Association
  34. South African Progressive Civic Organisation

How many of the 34 are even worth considering?

First, let’s knock off some low-hanging fruit, and top of the instant rejection list are the religious and ethnic parties. So, without further ado, there go the Inkatha Freedom Party, Freedom Front Plus, African Christian Democratic Party, United Christian Democratic Party, Minority Front (all currently in parliament) as well as Al Jama-ah, the First Nation Liberation Alliance, Front Nasionaal, Patriotic Alliance, Peoples Alliance, Indigenous People’s Organisation, and the Kingdom Governance Movement. You can argue about just how ethnic or religious these various parties are, but it would just be a pointless debate about how instant their rejection would be, so let’s move on.

  1. African National Congress
  2. Democratic Alliance
  3. Congress of the People
  4. Inkatha Freedom Party
  5. United Democratic Movement
  6. Freedom Front Plus
  7. African Christian Democratic Party
  8. United Christian Democratic Party
  9. Pan Africanist Congress
  10. Minority Front
  11. Azanian People’s Organisation
  12. African People’s Convention
  13. African Independent Congress
  14. Agang SA
  15. Al Jama-ah
  16. Bushbuckridge Residents Association
  17. Economic Freedom Fighters
  18. First Nation Liberation Alliance
  19. Front Nasionaal
  20. Independent Civic Organisation of South Africa
  21. Keep It Straight and Simple
  22. Kingdom Governance Movement
  23. National Freedom Party
  24. Pan Africanist Movement
  25. Patriotic Alliance
  26. Peoples Alliance
  27. Ubuntu Party
  28. United Congress
  29. Workers and Socialist Party
  30. African National Party
  31. Indigenous Peoples Organisation
  32. National Party South Africa
  33. Sibanye Civic Association
  34. South African Progressive Civic Organisation

Next off the list go parties I know nothing about. First, the African National Party. If they can’t even get around to putting up a website (although perhaps R100 million for a quick blog has put them off), I’m not sure they’d be that good at getting around to things like reading bills and contributing to policy, or anything else to do with actual governing. With a name like ANP, a slightly too-clever fusion of ANC and NP, you can’t be too surprised that Googling turns up an endless links to the National Party and the African National Congress, and nothing about them. So even if they do actually have a website somewhere out there that they’ve neglected to give to the IEC, I can’t find it.

Honourable mentions in the misleading names department go the AMC (African Moderates Congress) with the Madiba-lookalike in 1994 (but they’re no longer around), and the Republican-Democrats, who sadly, in spite of predictions about storming to victory, didn’t quite make it to the ballot, and, standing this time, the National Party South Africa, no relation to the National Party.

Other parties I exclude as I either can’t find information about them, or they’re limited to extremely local issues and I can’t quite understand their presence on the national or provincial ballot, are the African Independent Congress (founded solely to contest Matatielie’s inclusion in the Eastern Cape rather than Kwazulu-Natal), Indigenous People’s Organisation, Sibanye Civic Association, Bushbuckridge Residents Association, Independent Civic Organisation of South Africa and the South African Progressive Civic Organisation

  1. African National Congress
  2. Democratic Alliance
  3. Congress of the People
  4. Inkatha Freedom Party
  5. United Democratic Movement
  6. Freedom Front Plus
  7. African Christian Democratic Party
  8. United Christian Democratic Party
  9. Pan Africanist Congress
  10. Minority Front
  11. Azanian People’s Organisation
  12. African People’s Convention
  13. African Independent Congress
  14. Agang SA
  15. Al Jama-ah
  16. Bushbuckridge Residents Association
  17. Economic Freedom Fighters
  18. First Nation Liberation Alliance
  19. Front Nasionaal
  20. Independent Civic Organisation of South Africa
  21. Keep It Straight and Simple
  22. Kingdom Governance Movement
  23. National Freedom Party
  24. Pan Africanist Movement
  25. Patriotic Alliance
  26. Peoples Alliance
  27. Ubuntu Party
  28. United Congress
  29. Workers and Socialist Party
  30. African National Party
  31. Indigenous Peoples Organisation
  32. National Party South Africa
  33. Sibanye Civic Association
  34. South African Progressive Civic Organisation

19 down, 15 to go.

Enough bullying of the smaller parties. Next off the list are the ANC. The once-proud liberation movement, instrumental in ridding us of apartheid, forgers of the Freedom Charter and the constitution, are sadly now better known for Marikana, Nkandla, the Arms Deal, and the feeding frenzy is only picking up pace.

Off the list too go Cope, whose leaders brought us one of the most remarkable meltdowns imaginable. Conspiracy theorists would say that either Shilowa or Lekota were an ANC plant to poison the new party, and, even if they weren’t, they couldn’t have done a better job of destroying the party with their bitter fight to be the big fish in a rapidly shrinking pond. With them too go the United Congress, the offshoot of the offshoot.

Matching Cope in the infighting stakes are the PAC. From the massive liberation movement in the 1960′s, once larger than the ANC, to the shambles of today.

Azapo, by contrast, hasn’t suffered from the same degree of infighting, and has coherent and well thought-out policies, some of them very good. Science and technology feature prominently in their thinking. However, while solar and wind get a mention, it is business as usual in the energy field. Perhaps most importantly, they are rooted in black consciousness, an understandable response to apartheid, but one that doesn’t match my non-racial dream of what liberation should be.

So, off the list with them, as well as similar or splinter parties such as the African People’s Convention and the Pan Africanist Movement.

Neither do I think government  should just get out of the way, and end to social grants etc, and so off the list go the libertarian KISS.

  1. African National Congress
  2. Democratic Alliance
  3. Congress of the People
  4. Inkatha Freedom Party
  5. United Democratic Movement
  6. Freedom Front Plus
  7. African Christian Democratic Party
  8. United Christian Democratic Party
  9. Pan Africanist Congress
  10. Minority Front
  11. Azanian People’s Organisation
  12. African People’s Convention
  13. African Independent Congress
  14. Agang SA
  15. Al Jama-ah
  16. Bushbuckridge Residents Association
  17. Economic Freedom Fighters
  18. First Nation Liberation Alliance
  19. Front Nasionaal
  20. Independent Civic Organisation of South Africa
  21. Keep It Straight and Simple
  22. Kingdom Governance Movement
  23. National Freedom Party
  24. Pan Africanist Movement
  25. Patriotic Alliance
  26. Peoples Alliance
  27. Ubuntu Party
  28. United Congress
  29. Workers and Socialist Party
  30. African National Party
  31. Indigenous Peoples Organisation
  32. National Party South Africa
  33. Sibanye Civic Association
  34. South African Progressive Civic Organisation

27 down, 7 left.

So, this is where I come out and endorse the EFF? Not quite. It’s great to have a party that is explicitly pro-poor. Whether their policies would actually help, and whether their leaders can be trusted to implement them, I’m not so sure.

So the Ubuntu Party then? If the election was based on outright support on my Facebook stream, they’d win a landslide. And no-one else is doing anything like as radical as questioning the private ownership of the Reserve Bank, looking to Iceland as a model to stand up to the banks, proposing massive social investment and employment creation through interest-free loans and focusing on organic food agriculture. I like much of their thinking. But, then it all falls to pieces as they propose free electricity for all based on free energy devices they’re convinced are being suppressed by the global energy elite and that they’ve ‘seen’ in action, but which somehow are not even running anyone’s pool pump yet, have controversial ex reserve bank director and Holocaust-denier Stephen Goodson as number two on their list, and base much of their policy on the sacred number three. Reliable evidence is not high on their agenda, but if you want to protest the system, you could do worse.

Ah, the system. So this is where I come out as a DA supporter. Efficient Cape Town and all that. Yes, in Cape Town you do get a more accurate electricity bill, and when I report an ancient pothole in the township of Philippi it gets fixed the next day. But you also get more efficient applications by shopping mall developers to demolish wetlands, more efficient extolling of the benefits of fracking, more efficient removals of homeless people. I don’t see South Africa’s massive levels of poverty and inequality being tackled by a slightly more efficient corporate-friendly system.

Right, Workers and Socialist Party then? Nationalise everything without compensation, no more private schools (sorry Dorje, it’s off to a class of 50 for you where you’ll learn to appreciate Pink Floyd’s The Wall), all production put to work towards the democratic socialist plan. And with the massive surpluses generated an R8000 basic income for the unemployed. My cross is poised, except that, while their analysis of the problems are reasonably accurate, their dated and failed solutions don’t leave me with much confidence.

Agang then? No to fracking, political party transparency, a focus on education and measures to combat corruption? At least while they bide their time before joining the DA? Her political leadership doesn’t inspire me, but many of the policies are broadly positive.

Bantu Holomisa and the UDM? Still going strong after being expelled from the ANC in 1996 for daring to testify at the TRC, and now gaining prominence by supporting the striking miners in the face of heavy government intimidation. Their manifesto (when I finally tracked it down on their website – the 2004 manifesto was far more prominent) is great at slamming government, and remarkably light on detail. And the UDM has shrunk into a party with a tiny footprint in a small part of the Eastern Cape after it’s birth as a merger between prominent ANC and NP (Roelf Meyer) members and its potential as a significant non-racial party, which doesn’t inspire much confidence.

So, finally, the last one left standing. The National Freedom Party! A breakway from the IFP by their chairperson Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi, the party has seen significant growth, unlike the other IFP offshoots which have faded to nothing. Almost trumping the IFP in the 2011 local government elections, the party has been performing well in by-elections since, and seems to have a well-organised team on the ground. Their manifesto is pleasantly free of ideology and surprisingly clear, pro-poor and with a focus on practical solutions, which I like. It’s very easy to be right, not so easy to be helpful. Besides, I’ve always had a soft spot for orange. So, finally, after 33 rejections, my pen is poised!

Not so fast. They can’t quite shake off their tribal roots, with a section on empowering traditional leaders that raises a few questions, and a populist call for the death penalty.

  1. African National Congress
  2. Democratic Alliance
  3. Congress of the People
  4. Inkatha Freedom Party
  5. United Democratic Movement
  6. Freedom Front Plus
  7. African Christian Democratic Party
  8. United Christian Democratic Party
  9. Pan Africanist Congress
  10. Minority Front
  11. Azanian People’s Organisation
  12. African People’s Convention
  13. African Independent Congress
  14. Agang SA
  15. Al Jama-ah
  16. Bushbuckridge Residents Association
  17. Economic Freedom Fighters
  18. First Nation Liberation Alliance
  19. Front Nasionaal
  20. Independent Civic Organisation of South Africa
  21. Keep It Straight and Simple
  22. Kingdom Governance Movement
  23. National Freedom Party
  24. Pan Africanist Movement
  25. Patriotic Alliance
  26. Peoples Alliance
  27. Ubuntu Party
  28. United Congress
  29. Workers and Socialist Party
  30. African National Party
  31. Indigenous Peoples Organisation
  32. National Party South Africa
  33. Sibanye Civic Association
  34. South African Progressive Civic Organisation

So, none of the above? That simplifies things. Spoilt vote or abstain then? Sadly, as a tactic both just support the status quo, and at least some of the above parties could actually be better than that.

Congratulations if you’ve made it this far, and I’m glad I could help clear things up. My final advice? Do something that makes you feel good about your civic contribution and pick up some stompies on your way to the polls (or the beach) on Wednesday.

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The Bloody Miracle

I’ve just come back from watching the premiere of “The Bloody Miracle”, a documentary on the leadup to the 1994 elections. Directed by Meg Rickards and Bert Haitsma, and produced by Paul Egan, it looks at the pivotal year from Chris Hani’s assasination in April 1993 to the elections in April 1994. It’s a very human look at some of the people and events from that momentous year.

The name could equally describe the miracle of the documentary’s very existence, as the path everyone involved had to journey for the last three years to see its birth was by no means easy.

All I can say is that the documentary is superb, so watch it if you can. It’s appearing on eNCA (DStv 403) on the 16th of April at 19h30, and on e.tv on 27 April (the first of two episodes of the 90 minute film).