August 20, 2004

Manto again

SABC News yesterday covered the release of the new bill on the Certificate of Need for South African doctors. Doctors will have to apply for a certificate of need before opening a new clinic or surgery anywhere in the country. The certificate will expire after 20 years. Those who do not comply will be fined or imprisoned.

Now that’s a great idea, Manto. Just lock up all the doctors ‘cos they’re the real baddies. That’ll really solve the health crisis in South Africa.

Technical note

After Farrel finally gave way to adding permalinks and RSS feeds to his blog, attention has now focussed on my prehistoric blog. I will be returning to Oxford in a month, and will then have the time (and the free broadband!) to do a complete overhaul – permalinks, images, new template, the works. Please be patient – I’m a techno-weenie.

Positive messages

It’s taken me a while to write about this, but it was good to read the article that Richard linked to a while ago by John Blundell on his impressions of South Africa. All very positive stuff and I was impressed by how accurately he portrayed the real-life experiences of South Africans. Of course he unashamedly adds his rosy free-market spin on the situation (“What’s really needed are the sort of popular Thatcherite measures that will bypass the tiny in-crowd and truly empower the tens of millions of poor people” – hmmm, well, we know what I think about that…), but I’m willing to overlook that because of the positive vibes it send out to the rest of the world.

August 16, 2004


Roland Schoeman, Lyndon Ferns, Darian Townsend and Ryk Neethling have just become national heroes; they deserve every bit of the glory. Watching them burn the Aussies and the Yanks in their wake yesterday was a fantastic spectacle. They made me proud to be a South African. Never mind that three of them train in the States – the fact that they paraded around after the race with the South African flag means they are proud to call South Africa home. Well done, guys.

The Olympics truly is an amazing event. While I was watching the opening ceremony on Friday night (Greece really outdid themselves), it struck me that it is the only occasion on which representatives from almost every single nation in the world gather in one place for a single purpose. The Olympic ethos has always been to promote peace and friendship between nations. That it has sought to extend this to spheres of life other than sport is admirable, and they may be succeeding. Seeing Iraq, Palestine, Israel and Afghanistan parading out was courageous and moving, but the real winner came when North and South Korea paraded out holding hands under one banner as a unified team. If anyone thinks that sport is a meaningless waste of time, that single display of unification should have proved otherwise.

What’s the BIG deal?

There has been much debate in the media about the Basic Income Grant (BIG) which hit the political arena when it formed the backbone of the DA’s social development strategy. Writing in the Mail & Guardian last week, Charles Meth argues that the BIG is the quickest way to alleviate poverty in the country. To me, the choice between a welfare state of social grants, growing the economy to create jobs, or a combination of these (as the ANC government is trying to do) is almost exclusively ideological. One can draw on as much evidence from other countries as one wants, but the multitude of country-and economy-specific factors mean that you can never tell, before the fact, whether any one system of social welfare/development is going to work better than another. This is a fundamental problem. It also means that if one system fails, it is not to say that another system may have worked any better – the exogenous factors (such as corruption, market fluctuations or government capacity) are too varied to pinpoint the reason for failure. When failures happen, more often than not it is an ideological reason that is given. The moral of the story is that whatever system is adopted, it has to be flawlessly executed and backed up with all the political will the government can muster.

I personally support the idea of a BIG in principle. However, there are a few problems. Meth claims that the BIG would be relatively easy to put in place – I disagree. The government struggles to release pensions and other social grants on time and without significant skimming through corruption (just go to the Eastern Cape to see what I mean), so who’s to say the distribution of a BIG would be any better? I say, wait until the pension and child grant processes are running effectively and then one can think about piggy-backing a BIG onto these. A problem, however, is that the government has recently announced they will be centralising the management of the social grants which can only result in a bureaucratic nightmare of inefficiency.

It is quite surprising that the ANC has not jumped at the idea of the BIG and it was the DA who tacked it (rather incongruously) onto their otherwise liberal economic strategy. To me, it seems the easiest way to gain mass support, but they obviously decided that the promise of jobs was a greater election draw-card than the promise of handouts. It definitely indicates a more ambitious outlook towards alleviating poverty than simply providing a static lifeline. What I suspect is going to happen is that once the temporary jobs created during the Extended Public Works Programme cease to exist, the ANC will adopt a more comprehensive social welfare system. This will be just in time for the 2009 elections, when the promise of a regular monthly income won’t go unnoticed by the (still) unemployed masses.

August 03, 2004

Religion in South Africa

A question related to the Christmas issue: I am often asked by foreign acquaintances what the dominant religion of South Africa is. I have always assumed that it is Christianity, and within the Christian faith the Zionist Christian Church (ZCC) probably has the largest following - but I don’t actually have a clue. Does anyone know the answer and what the percentages are?

Play TV, South Africa’s brainless youth and Christmas chaos

Just to let you know how stressful my days are, I came home this afternoon at 3 and turned on Play TV on SABC 3. I hope that all the people reading this are intelligent enough to stay well away from that sort of thing, but if you’re as sad as me, then you will know that it has to be the biggest load of inane drivel ever to (dis)grace our TV screens.

Why I bring it up is that Laurence and Zablogger have both commented on the Sunday Times “story” about Christmas being cancelled. They had obviously just mentioned the same story on the show because there was a strong reaction to it from the viewers. For those of you who haven’t had the privilege of watching Play TV, viewers can sms messages to a number and they will be broadcast across the bottom of the screen. It is obviously not very closely censored because I was absolutely amazed at some of the stuff that came up there and felt that I had to share some of the pearlers.

There were a variety of responses to the Christmas issue, all of which were particularly uninformed. Now I know that kids’ TV is not meant to be about academic discussion, but this was just ridiculously brainless. From the very put out Christian kiddies who could never forgo the birth of Our Saviour, to others who made the astute observation that all the other religious holidays aren’t celebrated and thus Christmas should go too. Here are some of the best:

“The guverment is chommy if they think they can take away Xmas”
“Rather take workers day cos of affirmative actiom”
“It is obviously Saturn at work to take away the birth of OUR SAVIOUR”
“They should do more about he Aids academic instead of having meetings to take away xmas”

and my favourite…

“KEEP XMAS. Anders is Kersvader en sy elwe ook werkloos” (Otherwise Father Christmas and his elves will also be unemployed!)

The other surprising thing was that these messages were interspersed by quite typical and fairly direct teenage flirt messages and desperate calls for relationships (“Good looking guy seeking Indian or white chicks in Pretoria. 16-20. call me”). The mast shocking thing was that there was then a message looking for a 30-40 year-old single male! Do people this age watch the show?! More shockingly, do they actually get successful with these pickups advertised on kids’ TV?!! It all looks a bit dodge to me.

August 02, 2004

More info

Following my last post, Richard asked me a number of very interesting questions about informal settlements and Townships in Cape Town. I have tried to answer them as best I can here.