Dear Editor

Squandering Struggle gains

Periodically my stance on affirmative action draws critique accompanied by insult. I am neither anti-black nor pro-white, I promote an equal society in a free market system where everyone is treated in accordance with the Constitution. Bheki Mashile’s response (nose189), albeit narrow, is welcome, as it means that he is engaging with the important South African issue of blackness.

I applaud his farming and community newspaper endeavours – we need more citizens like him – but I despair at his narrow perspective of what it means to be a black man.

In the US, affirmative action was implemented to protect minority rights, whereas in South Africa it protects majority rights. The United States is rethinking affirmative action since it has not been as successful as hoped. Jason Riley’s book Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make it Harder for Blacks to Succeed and writers Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams extensively describe how affirmative action has harmed black advancement in the United States. 

As Riley says, “if a policy, however well-intentioned, interferes with that self-development... it does more harm than good”. According to Riley, “more than 80% of black kids in New York City public schools are performing below grade level. A big part of the reason for this low performance is the sub-culture of children who reject the attitudes and behaviours conducive to doing what has to be done to achieve academic success. Black kids read half as many books [as white kids] and watch twice as much television”.

This is reflected in our townships where children have adopted this sub-culture against performance, restyle their uniforms, openly smoke dagga  and engage in anti-establishment behaviour that rejects sound morality, self-respect, and concern for their fellow human beings.

Affirmative action in South Africa had noble intentions, but it has had unintended consequences. I would like to see affirmative action abolished and a situation whereby all South Africans have equal access to opportunities.

We cannot achieve a unified nation if access to opportunities is limited to certain groups. We need less divisiveness and more inclusivity. Affirmative action in South Africa is inherently racist and perpetuates a race-based society where the oppressed have become the oppressors.

Race-based legislation only benefits the connected few. Poor black South Africans are the biggest casualties. The economy suffers when the best skills aren’t used to drive it. There is enough evidence to back these failures. South Africa fought and defeated the racist apartheid system to normalise our society.

When dissenting voices are shut up instead of heard, we are on dangerous ground. It is every South African’s democratic right to voice our opinions.

Mashile ascribes the advancement of South African black people to affirmative action, suggesting that black people are incapable of advancement without assistance. Black people are capable, and it’s unfortunate that Mashile thinks that black people require assistance to achieve anything in life. For decades black people have been saying what Jason Riley says, that “liberal solutions to the black problems [are] as wrong-headed today as they have ever been” and “it’s not that they don’t work, it’s that they make matters much worse”.

If we look at cash crops introduced by the colonialists, they didn’t create employment, they trashed self-sufficiency. South Africa’s mining industry employs on its own terms, management hires and fires at will, and they tear breadwinners away from their families. We must push back against the “fake altruism” that Riley refers to, and ask ourselves “At what point does the helping start hurting”?

It is insulting that Mashile ascribes any thought that is different to mainstream black thought as trying to be white. It is criminal to ascribe whiteness to a black person who aims to be eloquent, who aims to uphold standards for themselves.

Good language skills and a life with integrity aren’t the preserve of white people. Who has attached these attributes to white people? The same black people who whine that whites behaved so badly during apartheid, that their opinions are not valid?

Jason Riley validly states that “Liberals and intellectuals do black people no favour when they make excuses for black cultural defects instead of denouncing them... Blacks ultimately must help themselves. They must… develop the habits,  characteristics, behaviour that other groups have developed”.

Contrary to Mashile’s assertion that this is aiming for whiteness, these attitudes don’t eradicate our blackness, they develop our blackness, enhance our contribution to society, and promote a stronger South Africa.

The liberation struggle achieved a democratic South Africa, but legislation promoting divisiveness squanders the Struggle movement’s gains. To aim for an equal society we need to reject any form of racism that interferes with that goal.

Herman Mashaba

In response to Bheki Mashile’s defence of BEE and other affirmative action (nose189): I agree that some correction was needed, but the way the policy has been implemented is disastrous. Putting people into positions way above their capabilities has resulted in 90% of affirmative action and BEE benefits going to 1% of the population and this 1% doesn’t seem to give a damn about the have-nots.

As a white South African male in his 50s (poster boy of the privileged minority) I have not been able to find employment in South Africa since the mid-1980s but found plenty of opportunity in our neighbouring countries. Therefore all the tax I have paid for the past 30 years has not been in South Africa, so this flagrant squandering of taxpayers’ money is no skin off my nose.

The worrying part is that a growing number who have been denied the benefit of affirmative action by those who greedily scooped it for themselves are turning to crime. This has me reassessing my decision to return to SA.

Barry Ellis
Bulwer, KwaZulu-Natal

I was disappointed to read Bheki Mashile’s take on affirmative action (nose189) and his interpretation and criticism of Mashaba’s success with Black Like Me. He should read Dr Chika Onyeani’s books for his enlightenment. Communism, socialism and even democracy work well in theory but the real test comes when they are put into practice and the chinks are exposed. These gaps apply to Bheki’s interpretation of affirmative action, which is confirmed when he says “We deserve to be more than ANC flag-waving, freedom-song-singing darkies”.

Yes, you do deserve something more, provided you adequately fulfil the prerequisites of whatever you deem to deserve. One has to earn respect, it cannot be demanded.

It is acknowledged worldwide that the institution of affirmative employment policies should specify a time frame within which the playing fields should have been exponentially levelled; after that, they will surely impact negatively on the economy.

Purely to comply with a quota system, irrespective of the competence of such “deserving” people, will result in increased overheads and compromised productivity.

The ripple effect of inefficiencies, of which there are many glaring examples, will negatively affect the economy – and has done so.

It takes – should take – more than affirmative action to achieve success.

C Alexander

VW named and shamed

I read with interest your article on Baz Bus and Volkswagen. It seems we have another CEO who needs to be dragged through the mud outside his office as he does not wish to step out of his ivory tower and deal with the real issues facing his organisation.

Perhaps your publication should start a column in which such nefarious individuals are named and shamed.

Jaron Tobias

I reckon we’re doing a pretty good job of it already!
– Ed.

SAA loyalty scheme fight or flight

Prior to March, a return Business Class ticket on SAA to Europe would be issued by redeeming 90,000 Voyager miles. Since then, 529,364 “miles” are required for the same ticket – an increase of almost 600%. This is supposed to be a loyalty programme to keep customers loyal to SAA.

I was promised that by accepting an SAA Voyager credit card, I would accumulate and redeem “miles”, but if I have to spend R6 for each “mile”, I must spend more than R3 million to get a Business Class ticket. This opens the door to competition from more efficient loyalty card operators such as Discovery, BA, KLM, Emirates etc and puts another nail in the coffin of SAA.

So much for Brendan Seery of Independent Newspapers and his story: “SAA’s miles of smiles ‘game changer’”.

Suretha Cruse, SAA Executive Customer Loyalty, please respond.

Vaughan Johnson
Cape Town

Noseweek already demonstrated SAA’s cynical approach to its Voyager scheme 12 years ago (see nose46). – Ed.

Canned hunting: why deny it?

The latest horror story of the killing of Cecil the lion, which has travelled as far as the UN, gives us the opportunity to create new laws and regulations to curb the destruction of wildlife before it is too late.

The primitive blood lust of some humans appears to be insatiable, more deplorable in the case of so-called “educated westerners”. How are we able to motivate the less fortunate, if individuals like the American dentist set such a bad example?

Minister of the Environment Edna Molewa, several weeks ago in the Sunday Times denied that “canned” lion hunting was taking place in South Africa; if it was, then only a few individuals might be guilty of such vile conduct, she claimed. That she made the announcement at all – and so publicly – begs the question: why?

Lion breeding farms abound in this country; these farmers openly tout their wares. How can Molewa deny such obvious facts? Why is she whitewashing these people? What is she gaining in the process to compensate her for this failure of her role as custodian of wildlife? Nothing is sacred in this era of corrupt governance in South Africa.

Pat Werdmuller-von Elgg
Solara Organic Wines
McGregor, Western Cape

Covered yet stark naked

Caiaphas Khumalo’s good article about insurance, “Read the small print – or else!” (nose180), gave a scary glimpse of the tiny tip of a very large iceberg. I was astonished to read the following in a NestLife policy document:

“This cover excludes loss of limbs, the sight of both eyes or the loss of the use of one limb and sight in one eye.” This is the last sentence in a NestLife policy document defining disability as a result of an accident.

This type of policy is marketed to those on low income as a personal risk protection deal, which includes cover for personal accident disability ...until one reads the small print, which is brutally clear: there is no accident cover.

Ian Pringle
Constantia, Cape Town

PS. My interest in this came about because my part-time gardener’s wife lost her forearm in a bus accident and NestLife declined to pay, citing the above clause.

Robbed of a good read

I have noted with concern that the quality of reporting in the Cape Times has dramatically decreased over
the past couple of months and my favourite journalists e.g. John Scott (nose184) have all been given the chop. It is not even worth opening the paper in the morning as it seems that Tony Ehrenreich has become  its chief reporter.

The quality of your magazine on the other hand has greatly improved of late (in the absence of lengthy seedy matrimonial items.) One of my favourites is “Letter from Umjindi” and I also enjoy very much the more up-date political and economic issues. In fact I have read the last few publications from beginning to end. How is that?

I wonder if you could not give John Scott, Judith February, Tony Weaver and all the other old Cape Times regulars some space in your magazine. I am sure its circulation will greatly improve.

Ingrid Hoffmann
Rondebosch, Cape Town

Ingredients offer food for thought

Do the multinational producers of our foods have a moral or ethical obligation to ensure that the processed food on our shelves contains little or no artificial or possibly toxic chemicals?

The listed ingredients hide behind chemical terms, and who but a pharmacist, knows what they are?

Just about all processed foods contain artificial vitamins, minerals, flavour enhancers, colourants and preservatives, which have no nutritional value whatsoever. In fact I believe they can be harmful when ingested on a daily basis.

Standard bread has a preservative allowing it to last for up to six weeks in a fridge, therefore it cannot be a healthy food for anyone, especially the poor, whose staple diet is refined white bread and refined mielie meal. Any added vitamins are destroyed in the cooking. Is it false advertising?

Those who work in the poorest communities know that these are the very people who have grown so accustomed to high sugar content, that six teaspoons of sugar in a cup of tea/coffee is not unusual.

Sodium (benzoate/chlorite), leading to high blood pressure, is another ingredient added to most processed food as a preservative. Few people other than pharmacists know that sodium extends shelf-life but shortens human life. Recommended sodium intake is less than 1,500mg per day. I have checked hundreds of canned and packaged foods and all of them list salt and sodium in pretty high levels.

Are we being hoodwinked into believing anything that the manufacturers and their marketing agents state on their products has any truth?

Supermarkets have the clout to force manufacturers to reduce sugar, salt, sodium and all other toxic additives in products which they promote and sell, even though it is not their obligation to do so. However, they do have a moral obligation to ensure that what they sell is not detrimental to health.

I believe that most of the illnesses presented at clinics and hospitals are due to poor knowledge of what is in the food carefully targeted at the poorest of poor.

Jo Maxwell
Pinelands, Cape Town

I couldn’t tell you

The silence now

that you’ve left the room

fills my lungs and

empties my mind

of all except

the thing I couldn’t tell you.

by: Ingrid Andersen

 (Piece Work, Modjaji Books)


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Submitted by : Ron Mcgregor of Cape Town on 2015-09-04 07:13:01
I would like to endorse the comments of Ingrid Hoffman. I no longer buy the Cape Times, and I too miss the writing talents (mixed with wisdom, insight or humour, as the case may be) of people like Weaver, Scott and February.


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