Daryl Ilbury

Posts Tagged ‘politics’

20:20 vision…and it’s not good

In Eish!, Politics, Scoundrels on April 27, 2014 at 4:43 am
ANC moving forward

ANC election poster promises signposting actual delivery

On the much-lauded 20th anniversary of the first truly democratic elections in South Africa, there’s a lot of retrospective navel-gazing in the media mixed with modern promises and political fighting-talk ahead of the next elections on 7th May. For me this is all captured in the image on the left.

Some context: I took the picture during my daily walk to work along one of the major streets in the centre of Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative capital. It’s a snapshot of conditions of a portion of the city that’s a stone’s throw from the city hall – an ANC stronghold – and a couple of minutes drive away from the seat of national Government – The Union Buildings – also full to the rafters with senior ANC decision-makers.

At first glance you notice the rubbish strewn on the pavement. But look closer at the poster half way up the pole (you may need to double click on the image). It’s an ANC election poster showing President Jacob Zuma with the words underneath ‘Together we move South Africa forward’. The juxtaposition between promise and delivery is jarring.

What you can’t see is the litany of broken paving, missing manhole covers and indefinitely suspended road works that are repeated throughout this part of the capital, and through which the municipal, provincial and national ANC decision-makers travel regularly.

This is not an isolated case. The ANC’s election claim it has a ‘good story to tell’ of governance over the last 20 years has been found by respected fact-checking journalism organisation Africa Check to be almost entirely false. The media are also full of stories of corruption, mismanagement and abandonment of responsibility. Another, more worrying, snapshot of this is in the deterioration of the once highly-respected Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital.

What makes all this so truly unbelievable is that it most probably won’t make a shred of difference to the people of Pretoria who are expected to return the ANC to govern the city, the province of Gauteng and the nation as a whole come 7th May.

So why is this? In brief: the typical South African doesn’t have sufficient maturity of understanding of their entire role and responsibility in the democratic process. They don’t understand that it is they who ultimately hold the Government to account, and that this responsibility requires rigorous implementation at election time.

This is very much a reflection of the lack of critical thinking by South Africans – a result of a decades of state control during apartheid; embedded traditional cultures that demand unquestioning reverence towards leaders; and a pervasive identification with religions that provide promises of delivery – without accountability – by mythical beings.

Personally, I believe that if the people of Pretoria walk past this kind of scene every day and still vote the ANC to power on 7th May, they deserve to get screwed. Again.

Fracking – it’s not just about the economy, stupid

In Eish!, Politics, Science on September 28, 2012 at 8:19 am

Billy-Bob suspected his borehole had tapped into some methane reserves

Every so often an issue takes root in the South African national psyche that demands intense debate, at the very least some earnest navel-gazing. Invariably such an issue is political in nature, which is not surprising given the fractious intensity of our political heritage. But then occasionally, perhaps a little too infrequently, such an issue emerges from my neck of the woods – science – and sometimes, just sometimes, it opens up a wealth of opportunities for diverse research and analysis.

South Africa’s successful bid to co-host the SKA project is, unfortunately, not such an issue; the reason being is that its main focus is on astronomy; and whereas gazing back in time through the stars in the hope of discovering the origins of the universe may give astrophysicists a wonderful tingling sensation in their loins, it’s way out of the conceptual reach of most people.

But there is something else scientific that is inviting all manner of attention, a lot of it very emotional: hydraulic fracturing, or to use its more common name – fracking. For most people aware of fracking, it has two seemingly incongruent perspectives – one economical, the other environmental.

According to a Shell-sponsored Econometrix assessment, fracking in South Africa has the capacity to secure access to 485 trillion cubic feet of shale gas; create 704 000 jobs; inject billions of Rands into the national economy and completely change this country’s energy profile. Volumes of estimated data has been submitted as proof.

According to environmentalists, wide-scale fracking in the Karoo (under which most of the South African shale gas reserves are situated) will both release tonnes of toxic hydrocarbons into the air and contaminate groundwater. They have as their proof their own data, as well as some video clips of tap water bursting into flames.

However, to summarise the fracking debate as essentially an economics versus environmental divide is to miss the opportunity for a broader discourse around the myriad avenues for examination it throws up. Read the rest of this entry »