Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Now I know why the NKANDLA chicken crossed the road

Just when I thought I have heard the most outrageous political spin. Just when I thought I have seen some of the most stupid actions by some of the dimwits out there, in comes the South African government troika called…..wait for it….”the Security Cluster” (insert music from Lee van Cleef’s The good, the bad and the ugly, here).

Stuff dreams are made off
I have been following the troika’s briefing online and on social media, oh the joy of instant news much better than some of the instant foodstuff the missus buys at the grocery shop. Well back to the briefing I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. You know for some reason I thought I was dreaming, I mean the drivel spewed out by the security cluster clowns is stuff dreams are made off. Just like my dream earlier this week when I dreamt a giant Easter bunny was chasing me at gun point wanting to mug me. You don’t believe my dream? Well you most probably haven’t heard some of the stuff coming from the briefing on the Nkandla Resort scandal. That stuff makes my dream seem real.

The tumble dry of lies, for we can no longer call such spin, included reasons like the police commissioner saying “the chicken run can be a security impediment” hence is was “moved”. The same was said of the cattle (poor beasts), in fact they posed a great risk in that they got to have a R1, 5 million culvert complete with an entertainment area, a pool of their own and all bells and whistles.  I know, I know when I heard all the reasons for the security upgrade I was asking myself as well if the press conference was held in some kindergarten (no disrespect to the little munchkins). In fact I wouldn’t even get this report past my 2 and 6 year old boys and their kindergarten friends. Pictures this: “why daddy?....but why daddy?....but why daddy?

So forget the other excuses about the so called security upgrades, off I went searching for synonyms for ‘chicken’ and guess what came up: cowardly; frightened; scared; fearful; jumpy; afraid. Oh man poor fowls, they are all of the latter and yet they pose a risk to the number one citizen. But then again I understand that since they are cowardly; frightened; scared; fearful; jumpy; afraid they are at risk – okay I think I am confusing myself now, I wonder how the ministers keep up with all these stories. Spinning – or tumble drying – needs some serious attention lest you confuse yourself and be caught out.

Chicken in a Jacuzzi 
It is most probably much better for these jumpy-afraid fowls in the Nkandla resort, especially with all the people walking in to buy mielie meal and chappies at the spaza shop, I thought. Why with a new chicken run probably with a jaccuzi and all.

So now I know why the proverbial chicken crossed the road – the road being that newly tarred P5 from Kranskop to Nkandla. Well it wanted to get to the newly refurbished presidential resort across the road. Why stay on the other side of the road while there’s a nice chicken run at the resort with security cameras, a security wall, a security water pool, a security spaza shop, a security waiting room; a security clinic; a security entertainment room, a security Astroturf soccer pitch, a security village for the relatives (no silly, I am not referring to the cows) and other security luxuries. I would also cross that road if I was the chicken. In fact I would cross the road with the whole flock, brood, clutch and peep.

Eat your heart out farmer Brown; gone are the days of if it’s fresh, it’s Farmer Brown. The Nkandla fowls are the new s’khothanes*.

*S’khothane – a flashy dresser who takes pride in showing off his expensive taste in clothes; jewelry and even food (funny though is that he normally can’t afford this on his own and relies on parents – pun intended).

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Terror attack - how ready is South Africa?

When America suffered the wrath of Al Qaeda on that fateful day of September 2003, CNN and other American news channels ran with AMERICA UNDER ATTACK or AMERICA AT WAR. The ensuing reciprocation by the Americans came under the WAR ON TERROR banner. So in it all, America isolated itself and became the victim and later the good guy chasing bad guys.

International war and American spying
I am reminded of this by the recent terror attacks in Kenya. Uhuru Kenyatta, the Kenyan president when addressing the people of Kenya, the African neighbours as well as the international community said something striking, "this is not Kenya's war. This is an international war" he said. Kenyatta did well by pointing out that terror attacks are not always targeted at one country and it is not a prerogative of one country and its allies to respond to such attacks. 

I am not going to go into the politics of terrorism but if we are to heed Kenyatta and if the recent terror attacks in Kenya are anything to go by then I can safely say that if we were to bring it home then no African country that is out of harm’s way and no citizen in any of the African states can claim to be safe. The biggest question however that I am asking myself in the wake of the Kenya attacks is just how vigilant are African intelligence forces and how ready are African countries at dealing with terrorist attacks?

Much criticism has been leveled at the American spying exercise since the Manning and Snowden affairs but I am sitting here thinking to myself can we really blame the Yanks? In this day and age where there are militias wanting to advance this or that course can we really blame the Yanks for their paranoia? Although no country can claim to be 100% safe from terror attacks but the investment the Americans are making into the intelligence allows them to have at least a 270° view of the situations playing out in the world.

Al Qaeda and Al-Shabaab in South Africa
Is South Africa making the necessary investments in intelligence seeing the role it is forever playing in the world, from peacekeeping interventions in Africa to its position in the United Nations Security Council. The Al Shabaab terrorist group reportedly attacked Kenya due to the dispatching of 4,000-odd Kenyan troops to the border into Somalia as part of the AU-led mission. 

If this is anything to go by then South Africa must also start looking over its shoulder and so must the rest of the countries who dispatched troops to peacekeeping missions in other African states. South African has been reported to be inflicting damage to the M23 Seleka rebels in the Central African Republic so what would stop the rebels in CAR from copying and pasting the strategy of the Al Shabaab, after all we also have a Wesgate Mall to the west of Johannesburg?

Is South Africa deploying enough personnel and resources in counter terrorism campaigns? Early this year, the Daily Maverick ran a report that the SAPS have ignored known Al Qaeda Training Camps in the South Africa town of Erasmia. In a follow up story published by the Sowetan Newspaper it was revealed that "British and US intelligence agencies reportedly pressured the South African government into acting against any possible Muslim terrorist threats emanating from within the country, and warned South Africa to stop "pussyfooting" on the issue.
"The fact that no bombs have gone off to date in the country doesn't mean that the threat doesn't exist within South Africa's borders," they reportedly warned. Despite this story breaking, no commitment came from South African authorities in dealing with any terrorist elements in the country. Now reports are surfacing that then American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned our forever giggling Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoane Mashabane about El Shabaab activities in South Africa.

News24 has quoted Clinton in 2009 saying: "the minister (Mashabane) and I are well aware that al-Shabaab is recruiting young Somalis from South Africa, Australia and the US to become suicide bombers, to participate in their efforts to turn Somalia into a safe haven for terrorism". One cannot even begin to talk about the abuse of the South African travel documents which have endeared themselves with terrorist groups.

Infighting and incompetency in the NIA
Also of concern are the reports that crime intelligence as well as the National Intelligence Agency and the State Security are plagued by infighting and incompetency (remember the report saying agents can’t even write a report) and these entities have been reduced to being pawns in the party political scene rather than serving government for the safety of the citizens. Also reports of some of the equipment I our artillery either lying gathering dust without being used or is already broken talks to our state of not being on top of our game are disturbing. 

The recent landing of a plane full of private party guests at the country’s top airbase showed our hand when it comes to protecting ourselves and worse our airspace. Must I also quote the incident of the estranged wife of the minister of intelligence dealing in drugs without the husband’s knowledge?
Yes I might be writing from an “uninformed perspective” as government spin-doctors would say but I am writing as a concerned citizen and expressing concerns of other citizens like me. Terrorism is on the rise the world over and I am afraid that our state of readiness to deal with any terrorist threat or attack has me worried. 

Are we ready to counteract any form of attack? Do we have a surveillance programme, is it working, how good it is? Do we know of any terrorist cells in our shores or any South African organisations or groups with terrorist links?

Is there a counter terrorism plan?
The assault in Kenya did not happen overnight and the footage of Kenyan police scrambling at the scene and the time it’s taking to bring the situation under control does not paint a very good picture on the Kenyan state security and intelligence, if any. I am afraid that if African countries, and South Africa in particular, do not put in counter terrorism plans in place they will find themselves being a playing ground for these terror groups. 

We cannot rest on our laurels and say we are immune from terrorism, our wake-up call will be a very deadly one. I’m afraid, very much afraid.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Please Sir, can we have some more news

I have accepted the fact that having three local 24 hour news channels does not give manna of news from South Africa and the rest of the African continent.
Much has been written about the growth in numbers of the 24 hour news channels in South Africa. Many pundits are saying the growth will bring about diverse news content and other programming. I disagree with those who see 'growth', 'diversification of news', and all the bells and whistles touted. Instead I see all three news channels reporting on the same thing and using the same method in gathering their stories and recycling content all day long.

When the SABC News and more recently ANN7, bar the launch glitches, launched and joined the existing eNCA it was seen as a step in the right direction, however strategically the channels have failed to capitalise on the most important aspect of a 24 hour news channel, that of capturing impactful events as they happen. Simply put, a 24 hour news channel should give viewers relevant and current news content. Let me take you back to two recent incidents I have observed and how our news channels failed. These are the heroic salvaging of the Costa Concordia as well as the tragic Kenya Westgate Mall shooting.

A South African led the salvage operation

The salvage of the Costa Concordia, which was wrecked off the coast of Isola del Giglio in Italy last year, was an international news spectacle. Although this being an incident in one of the European countries it was even more interesting and relevant for Africans, in particular South Africans because a South African was leading the salvage operation. None of the three channels dedicated a segment to this operation. Where we were lucky we would have one channel running bits of the story on every half-hour bulletin. No one capitalised on the angle of a South African leading this operation. Even in this age of technology, a simple thing such as a time-lapse video couldn't be shown. Lack of coverage by South African news channels led to people who were interested in the story streaming live from international news channels.

The current terrorist attack and ensuing standoff at the Westgate Mall in Kenya has most people worried, praying, in a state of panic and hoping for some resolution... The Kenyan president said, "this is not a Kenya's war, it is an international war" so the international community is sitting and waiting for up-to-date news on the play of events in Kenya, Every report out of Kenya is lapped up. However it seems that even when we are under attack as Africa we still can't lead from an African source. African news channels are conspicuous by their absence. 

They do it differently overseas... Well!

Closer to home we have Sky News providing a feed as well as commentary for one of the channels and a four-hour-old banner scrolling what it calls BREAKING NEWS. This banner is repeated in every news bulletin throughout the day. If we are lucky we will get an "East Africa Bureau Chief" giving a report over the phone. The other two channels would give a report that seems like it's been copied from a BBC website. Of the three 24-hour news channels we have, not even one has been able to put a crew on the ground in Kenya with an OB van for a minute-by-minute run down. It seems we have forgotten that South African is in Africa and that our news channels need to give us current news from the rest of Africa.

Our news channels have a long way to go to catch up to their international counterparts. A classic case in point, when Nelson Mandela was in hospital and everyone was talking about his demise, I received an email from journalist in Sweden telling me their bags are packed and they are on standby to come down with 24 hours. See how international players do it? There is always a plan and turnaround time to getting a firsthand report to viewers and readers. If Nelson Mandela were to just blurt out one cough, throngs of international journalists flood our shores and OB vans line up. Our response to that? Cry foul and accuse the international media of being insensitive. We say this because we have taken the backseat in leading with news that talk about us and we have outsourced that part to SKY; CNN and Al Jazeera. 

Meanwhile the news consumer is left standing hands out looking to the international channels asking "please sir, can we have some more news?"
NOTE: This article first appeared on BIZCommunity.com an online marketing communications news portal: http://www.bizcommunity.com/Article/196/66/100599.html 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Dear brother - you are hurting me, man as I am

On days like this it sucks being a male living in South Africa. Why you ask me?

Before I respond allow me to tell you that in fact this opening line is a reworked comment I saw on social media. A female DJ wrote on Twitter "not the greatest of times to be a woman in South Africa". Before that a young woman had posted "I've never been this scared of being a woman in SA right now! God help us, save us". These comments, and most probably many others who went unnoticed, were written out of genuine fear in light of the recent spate of abuse against women. For the past few weeks, newspaper headlines were hogged by stories of every form of sick and gruesome violence against women. This has resulted on the spotlight being shifted to South Africa by the international community and more especially to the male citizenry of this country - the so-called perpetrator.

So with sadness, anger, disgust and pain I write to all men who have raised the hand against women, men who have raped, killed or committed any form of abuse against women, to say to you that your actions are making my life as a male in South Africa a living hell. You are painting a picture of me as an animal of sort, a monster who does not deserve to live amongst humans.

You see growing up sayings such as "khula ube yindoda" and "kulukhuni ukuba yindoda" were clichéd. I eventually understood that it was not just a cliché but statements that sought to remind me on how as a young man I need to be focused and help make this world a better place for others, especially women and children around me. When such statements were uttered I think their deeper meaning was not only directed at only me but at all males, you included. Now when women find themselves victims of your actions to a degree where the male species is seen as ruthless you make it a challenge for those of us who are trying to make our households, communities, workplaces, this country and the world a better place.

When some of my female friends have constantly declared to me that "men are dogs" and "men are psychopaths", I have boldly tried to have them understand that it's not fair to generalize. The same way I have called to order men who label women as bitches and whores because I am born of a woman and a woman has bore me two wonderful children. So my dear brother I want to have you know today that your actions are hurting me, being the man I am (and believe you me I'm no sissy).

It is tough being a man that I will tell you right now but the world does not need you to be a pugilist, a rapist, a Rambo or some sort of sadist. Please don't make it unbearable for others.

To all the males out there still trying by all means to better the world whilst swimming against this tidal wave, I thank you. I beg you to continue with your good intentions of making sure that the South African male does not become the pariah of the world. Let’s continue to stand up against any form of violence against women and children and boldly say “not in our name as men”.