22nd Sep2014

African solutions for African problems: Putting rhetoric into practice, the need for an African coalition against Boko Haram

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dmDaniel Mpala looks at issues of terrorism in Africa.

With the U.S leading a coalition of 40 nations against ISIS is it not about time that the A.U. or anyone willing led a coalition against both Boko Haram and al Shabab? The terrorist threats facing Nigeria and Kenya are showing signs of developing into serious regional threats. Both Boko Haram and al Shabab are still relatively small in stature necessitating the need to nip them in the bud. It is better to tackle them now when they are still in their “infancy” before they develop into full-fledged terrorist behemoths like what has become of ISIS.

September saw the U.S. bring together a coalition of willing nations to fight ISIS, following the beheadings of a Briton and two Americans by the terrorist organisation. Although one would argue this is a late response relative to the threat that this organisation has been exhibiting for the past two years, it is still a much-warranted response nonetheless. What is admirable about this anti – ISIS coalition is the swiftness with which willing partners of this coalition have shown an inclination to bring together resources to fight ISIS. Terrorism, as shown by the incredible and amazing pace at which ISIS has wrought a campaign of terror and mass murder across Iraq and Syria, is a transnational issue.

Boko Haram seems to be the most menacing terrorist organisation in Africa given how it is increasingly imitating the dangerous strategy and tactics of ISIS. Right on the heels of ISIS declaring a caliphate stretching from parts of Iraq into parts of Syria, Boko Haram did the same. It appears that Boko Haram is trying to establish its own caliphate stretching across West Africa. It has shown that it is now capable of seizing and holding on to territory, instead of simply executing attacks. Boko Haram, like ISIS uses the same indiscriminate killing and cruelty like its Middle Eastern counterpart. It is estimated to have killed more than 1, 200 people between May and mid-December 2013 and 20 000 since 2011.

Boko Haram also seems to be growing ever bolder. In 2011 it attacked the UN headquarters in Abuja. Earlier on this year it attacked a village in Chibok and abducted at least 200 girls. In August this year, four teenage girls carried out suicide bombings in Kano, Nigeria, fuelling speculation that it had managed to turn some of the abducted girls into suicide bombers.

Boko Haram is no longer a threat to only Nigeria. Indeed, it has extended its reach to Niger and Cameroon. Additionally, Chad and Benin face credible threats from Boko Haram. There is even evidence of Boko Haram operating training camps in Mali. The threat posed by Boko Haram is further compounded by the possible existence of transnational alliances with other terrorist organisations in Africa, namely Al Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al-Shabaab in Somalia. These transnational alliances require a transnational coalition to tackle them.

Steps taken so far:

The most credible steps in combating Boko Haram taken so far have been anything but home grown. These have included the provision of military aid by the U.K and military training by the U.S.Additionally France convened a summit in Paris, much to the disdain of some Africans who felt that the meeting should have been held in Africa.

We are often subjected to the mantra of African solutions for African problems. So far the only African solutions Africa seems to have had towards the terrorist challenge raised by Boko Haram involve:

–        The A.U’s Peace and Security Council during its 455th meeting on the 2nd of September 2014 called upon African countries to take necessary steps to fight Boko Haram.

–        Regional structures have also been set up like the Lake Chad Basin Commission Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) and the Regional Intelligence Fusion (RIFU).

–        A meeting of Heads of Intelligence and Security Services of the Sahel- Saharan region states held in Burkina Faso in May 2014, culminating in the Ougadougou Operational Conclusions, which laid out steps to fight Boko Haram.

It is important to acknowledge that the A.U. is at least thinking of taking on the terrorist threat posed by Boko Haram and that there are steps that have been taken in this regard. However, they are simply not tangible or speedy enough. The five countries faced with the immediate threat posed by Boko Haram do not possess the financial resources, military training or intelligence gathering abilities required to carry out a counter – insurgency campaign against the terrorist organisation. Additionally, despite steps and structures being taken in the plan to fight terrorism, A.U. member states appear to have not taken steps to implement many of the plans.

Suggestions:

Kwame Nkrumah once envisioned a militarily united Africa. Decades after the formation of the A.U this still remains a pipeline dream. The growth of terrorism in Africa has re-emphasised the need of a standing A.U. army, specifically one with task forces trained in counter – insurgency.

South Africa is said to be in the running for a permanent place on the U.N Security Council. Well renowned for its human rights diplomacy, it has shown little nerve when it comes to matters of security. Leading an African coalition against Boko Haram would lend credence to its aspiration for a seat on the council. After all, its main African contender for that seat, Nigeria is clearly struggling to contain Boko Haram.

Boko Haram and al-Shabab have not grown beyond being contained by African states. Boko Haram is after all an African problem and as such it warrants an African solution. If anything the growth of ISIS has shown that ambitious terrorist organisations like Boko Haram require speedy and forceful responses. In essence, nothing short of regional / global coalitions can stem the growth of these.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

07th Oct2013

“Smart Drugs”

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Daniel Mpala looks at “Smart Drugs.”

smart-drugs-001I recently read an article online about how some students in British universities are now using a ‘smart drug’, Modafinil , in order to stay awake and concentrate and boost  mental performance  through exams. A professor of clinical neuropsychology, Professsor Barbara Sahakian expressed concern at this and posed some serious thought provoking questions in the article to society.  She asked ;

“What will society be like in the future? Will we all be just popping pills to stay awake, and alert and keep working? Will we accelerate into a 24/7 society? ”

As we get close to exams most people start complaining about how there just are not enough hours in the day anymore.  Not everyone is used to or in deed able to kip those extra-long hours, some end up resorting to pharmaceutical drugs to deal with this. Use of these stimulants and cognitive enhancers is a somewhat ethically grey area.  Surely on reading this some students will ask themselves whether use of this class of drugs is immoral or problematic at all. Indeed some will argue that these drugs unlike the illegal class of drugs like cocaine and heroin do not have any adverse effects both socially and physically. I am not certain on whether or not they are addictive. Those who confessed to using the drug in the article related how it made them focused some reported how the drug made them concentrate well.

While these drugs are legal it is important to note that these drugs different to those that individuals who take vital necessary medicine are prescribed, that is, they are not really necessary. I’m not sure if Modafinil is available in Africa but on the local pharmaceutical market there are some performance enhancers. But should people keep on using them? This issue is not only confined to students, even professionals in high-pressure environments are known to use some of these drugs. Is it ethically right for people to keep on using them?  By now the movie Limitless will probably come to mind.In the movie, there is a drug NZT which is a cognitive and memory enhancer which a few people are taking. It enables the main protagonist in the movie to become extremely intelligent and this leads him to making millions because of it.

stupillstupillThis got me thinking about what our society is really going to be like in the future. Especially given how we are currently living in a society where there is just about a drug for everything from the caffeine in coffee to alcohol and even Viagra. Should we as society then make a concious effort to ignore tablets like Modafinil? Are we turning into a society that cannot manage to work without the help of synthetic drugs? Could it be laziness to blame? After all previous generations used to rely on sheer hardwork, planning and conscious effort to succeed- not synthetically produced drug. If they did, why can we not do the same?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

16th Sep2013

Is Apple losing it’s innovative edge?

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Daniel Mpala looks at the newly announced iPhone 5s and 5c.

images (1)-1Last week saw Apple launch it’s much anticipated follow up to the iPhone 5, the iPhone 5S as well as a cheaper variant the iPhone 5C.  This came shortly after Samsung, Apple’s chief rival, unveiled its Galaxy Gear Smartwatch. Judging from the reception of both the iPhone 5S and 5C on Twitter, it seems that very few people were impressed by Apple’s new offerings with some suggesting that Apple simply lacks the innovation to compete with Samsung anymore. Why are brands like Samsung, Sony and HTC now always a step ahead of Apple especially since Apple has been synonymous with cutting edge design and innovation?

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Hartmut Esslinger who helped Steve Jobs design the Mac says Apple is no longer an innovative company. Esslinger said, “ Steve Jobs was a man who did not care for any rational argument why something should not be tried. He said a lot of no, but he also said a lot of yes to things and he stubbornly insisted on trying new things.” In addition he suggested that, Jobs had been replaced by, “leaders who aren’t thinking beyond refinement and increasing profit.” I also believe that Apple has indeed lost its innovative edge. I personally think that when Steven Jobs died he died with it, especially given the fact that he was behind the iPhone 5 ,Siri and the 3rd generation iPad. Most Apple users will remember the 2012 release of iOS6 mostly because of the embarrassingly faulty Maps App. This was the first iOS release after Steve Job’s death. The only other product that the leading brand has released post Jobs’ death that has received critical acclaim has been the iPad mini.

images-3An Apple press release cites a new camera, iOS, processor and motion coprocessor and Touch ID as the latest features on its new flagship phone, a far cry from what iPhones have been known to be; revolutionary. The latest iPhones almost look identical to the initial iPhone 5, save for the new colour schemes and one or two other technical upgrades. The new iPhone 5C which will be a cheaper variant of the iPhone 5S and will come in a range of different colours. According to the same Apple press release, the 5C will retain most of the features of the 5S.

iphone-5s_o_2062343-jpgIn a market where new features can make or break it for new releases, Apple seems to be struggling to keep up. Smartphone aficionados will note how Apple iPhone 5S seems to be the only latest smartphone not to feature NFC (near field communication) technology an even bigger screen and higher resolution camera. One would also expect Apple to have included features like Sony’s waterproof and dustproof technology or to have released a smartwatch along with the iPhone 5S. An Apple smartwatch is certainly highly anticipated. Apple phones used to be cool and to some extent still are (I would certainly love to have the new one) although the difference is now their coolness can be attributed to brand prestige rather than to innovation. With the recent acquisition of Nokia by Microsoft, Sony’s indication that it will now focus on smartphone cameras and Samsung’s unrelenting production of high end feature laden phones, Apple seems like its set for a rough fight.

09th Sep2013

World War C – Cyber warfare

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Daniel Mpala looks at cyber warfare.

cyber-warfareWe are in the midst of a war.  By now you, your friends or family will probably have been affected by it in one way or another. This war is being staged on a global scale, yet most people are not even aware that it is going on.  This war is not being waged through conventional means, fortunately, there aren’t any bullets flying about or bombs being dropped. Instead, the ammunition being used in this war are codes, algorithms and viruses. This war is not being fought by your typical soldier or rebel either. If anything, it has seen the advent of a new breed of soldier – hackers / programmers who by just a few key strokes on their computers can bring down websites, incapacitate social networks and effectively disable entire systems.

cyberwarfare 2The notion of cyber-war (and indeed cyber warfare) might come across to many as alarmist. However, it is actually a very serious issue. At the moment the U.S, U.K, France, South Korea, Germany, China, Israel, Iran and India are some of the many countries which have set up units / agencies dedicated to cyber warfare. Given the way in which the modern world relies so heavily on ICTs, a great deal of harm can be achieved through cyber warfare. Communications networks, banks and national electricity grids are among the platforms that are the most susceptible to any attack, while sensitive trade and security information could be prone to espionage and sabotage. It then comes as no surprise that some countries are embroiled in covert cyber warfare.

In 2010 , Israel and the U.S were accused of having attacked  Iranian nuclear facilities with the Stuxnet virus, which effectively set back their nuclear programme. China has also been accused of attacking American systems, while Russia and Iran have also been implicated in attacks on America. In retaliation Obama has ordered a list of targets to be attacked.

cyber warfareSocial networks are also often bearing the brunt of these attacks; only 2 weeks ago the most recent attacks perpetrated by the Syrian Electronic Army affected an image hosting service on Twitter. In recent times Twitter has been the subject of many denial of service attacks (DDoS) which in essence render a website or network unusable. Media outlets have not been spared either with the New York Times and Sky News also falling victim to the same Syrian Electronic Army. The Syrian Electronic Army has announced that it has, “more surprises planned” for media companies.

It is unknown whether South Africa has a cyber-warfare tactical team, also, given the technological divide, is Africa prepared for cyber- warfare?

To understand more on cyber – warfare read this.

12th Aug2013

Apps – Holy Grail of music marketing and promotion strategies?

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Daniel Mpala looks at new marketing strategies in music.

download (1)The music industry is one that is dynamic and always on the cutting edge of technological developments. As times change so does the way in which music is sold and marketed.  In an age where an artist’s quantity of first week sales has become more than just a measure of success, musicians have been coming up with very innovative and unique strategies to market their music. Gone are the days when artists simply showed up to a gig performed and then attempted to sell a few copies of their mixtapes from the boots of their cars. In an industry where everyday a new player comes in with new ideas and concepts, music videos also do not just cut it anymore. Artists now need aggressive marketing and promotional strategies if they are serious about making money off their art.

images (10)By far the most complex and innovative music marketing strategy was Jay-Z’s release of his 12th studio album via the Magna Carta Holy Grail app as a free download to Samsung customers 72 hours before the physical album was due to be released. This literally defied convention in an industry where the norm is to have a marketing plan that entails some press and publicity, radio promotions, video promotions, e-blast implementation, shows/tours, online promotions, press releases amongst other strategies. However despite the app sparking some privacy concerns ,the app (and album) went on to be certified platinum on the same day it was physically released. The album itself achieved 528 000 sales in its first week of sales and broke the record on Spotify with 14 million streams. This is an unprecedented fit in the music industry. The $5 million marketing move saw Jay-Z  get $5 from Samsung in return for each of the one million copies of the album downloaded via the app. Some may argue that marketing stunts of this nature have been done and carried out before, but the scale at which Jay-Z did this still remains awe inspiring.

What lessons can be learnt from this though? Seeing as this marketing strategy is really not applicable to every artist out there, more so to upcoming artists, since one would already have to be really famous to make use of this?

–        Most people are always on their phone and releasing music via apps like this is a very innovative and practical way to listen to music that have not been fully utilized.

–        Artists can make use of the digital experience:  there is just so much people can try while using apps to release albums, the possibilities are endless from interactive material to lyric sheets.

–        Ease of distribution and access by using such platforms given that a lot of people use them.

images (7)The biggest lesson out of this is artists have to keep up with technology. This does not necessarily mean releasing an “album app”, but exploring other such avenues. All artists can and should come up with apps that give their fans information about their release dates, enable them to watch videos, interviews, tour dates and pretty much anything that could help promote them. It remains to be seen whether this strategy will become a game changer. But if the public reaction to this is anything to go by, this could be the next biggest trend in music marketing and promotion.

 

29th Jul2013

The South African Orwellian nightmare: Is South Africa becoming a Big Brother State?

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Daniel Mpala looks at government surveillance.

downloadThis week in the midst of the on going Edward Snowden and PRISM controversy, the U.S House of Representatives voted to continue collection of data on US phone calls. Seemingly not to be outdone and right on the heels of that, South African president Jacob Zuma signed the General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill which will in essence give the South African intelligence community sweeping powers to spy on citizens, stopping short of turning South Africa into a “ Big Brother state”.

images (5)Files leaked by the now famous/infamous  (based on your opinion of whether what he did was right or not ) Edward Snowden to The Guardian newspaper in June revealed that the American government, through its National Security Agency (N.S.A) was running a programme called PRISM through which it was gathering intelligence on foreign targets outside the United States. This program basically allowed the NSA to gain access to servers belonging to Apple, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft , Facebook, Skype, Youtube, AOL and PalTalk  enabling them to access everything from e-mails, pictures, documents, videos and other private metadata that would allow them to track contacts and movement. Under the American constitution this was said to be legal and the program was run under authorization of the courts and federal judges, however despite this, the existence of the program and its actions were clandestine up until Snowden leaked details of its existence. This programme along with the continuing collection of metadata on US phone calls have been said to be key instruments in America’s fight against terrorism.  These programs have been very contentious and have been the cause of heated debates on privacy and security and just how far the state should go.  The collection of metadata on phone calls for example, includes an array of data from the numbers of the originating and receiving phones to the calls duration, time, date and location. Proponents of the programmes claim the surveillance helped stop 50 terror plots in 20 countries, including 12 directed at the United States.

images (3)Even before the signing of the General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill , South Africa is said to have been running  a similar programme in which it spied not only on visiting foreign officials but (unconstitutionally and illegally) also in its own citizens. An article by Philip de Wet in the Mail and Guardian talks about this.  In it he alleges that the National Communications Centre (NCC) in Pretoria was engaged in “ill –defined environmental scanning” and routine analysis of communications with the intent to establish the personal networks of individuals. He goes on to suggest that the NCC has the capability to monitor every single phone call made within South Africa and to flag those in which pre-selected keywords occur.  Furthermore South Africa has considerable expertise at this sort of surveillance and a network analysis expert interviewed in the same story alluded to being able to deduce whether someone was having an affair or looking for a job just from this gathered metadata. What is shocking is all this was being done outside the confines of the law. It is very disturbing to think about what more will be able to be done now that the General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill has been signed into law.

Under the new bill ( available here )

  • It will be legal for the state to intercept the communications of South Africans even when they are overseas.
  • The state will have the power to investigate whichever party will be in South Africa ( provided the other party in the communication is outside South Africa)
  • Domestic communication between two parties will be regarded as “foreign” as long as it passes through a foreign server. (disturbingly most email accounts and social networks are hosted on foreign servers)

Is this maybe too much power for a state to have? Is this not proof that South Africa is edging closer to being a “Big Brother State” if it has not already gotten there. The bill has come under heavy criticism from civil society. Murray Hunter spokesperson of the coalition group Right to Know Campaign expressed concern at the excessive power that State security agencies now hold. In response to the signing of the bill, he said, “The signing of the Law is not the problem. The problem is that the Bill seems to give too much power and much more mandate for state security institutions where it goes much beyond what is needed.” A critique of the bill raised by Laurie Nathan in 2012 amongst other issues highlighted that not only did it infringe privacy but was also very ambiguous on a lot of terms, thereby giving the state security institutions too much power.

images-2In my opinion, it is understandable why the American government embarked on the PRISM programme and other such surveillance programs, the constant terror threat under which the U.S lives warrants it. It maybe privacy infringing and very inconvenient but I feel in the American context such a trade off is very necessary. As Barack Obama said, “ You can’t have 100% security, and also then 100% privacy and zero inconvenience.”. However in South Africa one struggles to grasp the reason why on Earth the state needs such a law. After all South Africa is not under the same risk of terrorism as the US, so as to warrant such privacy violating dragnet surveillance on its citizens. I guess the most disturbing thing about this is very few people are even aware that this is going on. George Orwell’s fictitious “Big Brother state” just became a reality. South Africa, “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU”

20th May2013

Crunch time: Healthy exam lifestyles

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Daniel Mpala looks at studying for exams.

images (2)With exams just around the corner (for some of us only mere days away), this is when the frantic last minute exam preparations begin. With exam time comes that unfortunate period of time that I am quite sure our bodies dread – the endless sleepless nights spent poring over endless slide after slide of lectures and page after page of text.  It’s a time that most of us often let go of our bodies and overall health in pursuit of that good grade by pumping ourselves full of energy drinks and copious amounts of coffee, unaware of the grievous harm we will be doing to ourselves.  Often letting our nerves get the best of us, our bodies end up at the receiving end of the stick, doing ourselves a disservice.  A healthy body makes for a healthy mind; I hope you will find this ad hoc exam lifestyle guide helpful.

I’m awfully wary of energy drinks (though that doesn’t stop me from using them every now and then). Nothing reminds me of the danger of energy drinks like one episode from my favourite T.V show, The Inbetweeners, where one of the characters, Will, goes mental on energy drinks while studying and ends up soiling himself in an exam (Disclaimer: energy drinks obviously will not result in one having a bathroom disaster in an exam). But they have been proven to be quite unhealthy. The average energy drink contains close to 2 or 3 amounts of caffeine as compared to a cup of coffee.  Like coffee, they can dehydrate you if you take too much of them.  The same goes for coffee. Drinking too much of it will also dehydrate you.  Although both coffee and energy drinks are somewhat effective when it comes to keeping one awake and allowing frantic students to push through those late nights, they can create an undesirable cycle of having too much energy to fall asleep which, is followed by very late nights, tired mornings and a habit to repeat the cycle with more caffeine.

487564_653393964677392_1925545177_nNot to worry, there are however some brilliant “healthier” methods of going about studying. There is obviously getting enough sleep, drinking loads of water (very important), eating balanced meals and snacks. The first would be giving oneself constant breaks every thirty minutes or so and using them to exercise (pretty much knock yourself out, jumping jacks, harlem shake, squats, anything that takes your fancy), physical activity will keep you awake.  I find using yoga breathing techniques in conjunction with physical activity helps a great deal. Food is a bit tricky. Stuffing yourself full on carbohydrates before a study session will soon enough slow you down and probably send you to sleep.  The same goes for drinks with high sugar content. Instead opt for fruits and a lot of protein.

images (1)-1Studying while listening to music works for some and does not for others; I personally find that it helps me concentrate longer. I find jazz, house and anything without any words particularly helpful. Songs with words will often result you in trying to decode the meaning and that is not very helpful while studying. It is important that you set up some form of routine and make studying second nature. Some of us work better at night right into the wee hours of the morning, for some it’s during the day. Find out what works for you. I cannot over emphasise the importance of resting when studying though. Short naps after every few hours of studying will keep you on top of your game. However it is also important to manage time while studying, if you can, make a schedule for your study sessions and hopefully stick to it. Make sure to allocate more time to those units that you find challenging. Be organised and have everything you need for your revisions with you beforehand. That way you will not waste time looking for that book you lent to your mate. I have heard of even more bizarre tips on keeping alert when studying from rubbing the back of your hands between your thumb and index finger; pulling down on the earlobes and massaging the back of your knees; face wash to even rubbing Vicks under the nose.

images-1Contrary to popular belief, studying does not have to be a boring affair. One way to make It fun and effective is to study in groups with friends. This is not only fun but could help you gain a new perspective on some topics that you might have been struggling with. These discussion groups do not have to be in person. Skype , Whatsapp and BBM are particularly helpful in this regard.  Over the years I have also found mind maps to be very effective while studying. Create a study technique that suits you. Some work well with just slides and texts with little or no note taking, others rely on notes. If you use notes, especially on your computer make sure to back them up or store them online. This makes for easy sharing if you are discussing in groups. I would recommend a particular software called Xmind for those of you who are keen on mind maps. Above all, make sure to constantly test yourself on the stuff you are reading. Remember the key is not just to read but to learn.

The most important thing left is keeping a positive and focused mindset.

Are there any study tips, techniques or tricks you would want to share? Please comment below if you do, cheers and all the best in the exams.

13th May2013

Powerless viewers and soapie revolutions

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Daniel Mpala looks at whether the South African television audience is taken seriously by television producers.

tv-test-pattern1A couple weeks ago my colleague, Nadia, wrote a piece on how morose and lacklustre Generations has become. The response to her article got me thinking; it seemed to be the general consensus among most viewers that this soapie is for all intents and purposes no longer entertaining and has been on a downward spiral for some time now. This is hardly arguable – one only has to look at how trends on Twitter daily (for all the wrong reasons). Given that a significant number of people now take to Twitter to whinge about it, the question is why is it STILL on air? Is this maybe a reflection of how powerless the South African audience is? Or does the SABC simply not care about its viewers’ 2 cents worth on one of its “flagship” programmes is  (- are they just that- 2 cents?)

whyDon’t Trust The B**** in Apartment 21, Charlie’s Angels, Desperate Housewives and The Secret Circle are just a few shows that have met their demise because of poor ratings ( due to a myriad of reasons but mostly poor scripting, acting , boring story lines etc).The ratings system in South Africa is probably different to the one that controls the television industry in the West, but the tweets about Generations surely are an indication of how poor the show has become. Are the directors and producers of Generations unaware of the views their audiences express about their show on an almost daily basis? Do they for some reason live under some rock where there is no twitter – or do they simply not care? I feel the buck should not stop with the creative and productive team of Generations but should instead be extend to the SABC. They are after all the ones broadcasting it to the viewers. Why do they continue to allow the mediocre production in spite of the negative manner in which audiences are responding to it?

 

generationsI personally believe that both parties (SABC and the Generations team) are aware of all this and that they pretty much do not care. They are probably comfortable as long as advertisers continue to advertise. In other words, what the viewers think about the plot and the acting and the show in general simply does not matter. The South African audience in this regard is completely powerless.

jericho-enquirerLet me put it this way, (assuming that they all pay their T.V license) viewers are customers right? And since it follows that the customer is king, then shouldn’t the viewers’ wishes at least be respected by the SABC? Shouldn’t it be paying attention to what the audiences are saying about the soapie and maybe leaning in on the producers to make some improvements? The viewers should have that sort of power, and in some countries they do.  In 2007 fans of the show Jericho, successfully protested and got their show back on television after it had been taken off air. Of course this is an entirely different story with Generations, but the gist of the story is that viewers should have the power to bring back or in our case bring about some changes (or even stop and replace Generations?), if not then they should take the power into their hands. The Jericho viewers resorted to a public campaign, advertising in magazines and on popular websites, with some fans of the show even literally going nuts by actively protesting at the broadcaster’s premises by sending tonnes of nuts.

genSo Generation viewers, unite. If you cannot take more of the sloppy acting and shoddy script writing that show has become known for, unite and do something about it. It’s about time a “soapie revolution” went on in South Africa. Till then, at around 8pm, take to twitter and scoff at what people are saying about the latest episode of Generations…now that’s real entertainment!

29th Apr2013

Formula One shame – Greedy Bernie and the Bloody Grand Prix of Bahrain

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Daniel Mpala looks at recent issues that emerged when Formula 1 races took place in Bahrain recently.

bahrainI am a proud Formula One (F1) fan. My love for Formula One tops all other motorsports. Besides the obvious speed and driving skills that appeal to that inner adrenalin junkie and keen petrolhead within me, It’s a sport that keeps me on the edge of the couch, eyes glued on the television for about two hours every fortnight watching and listening as limits are pushed in screaming eight cylinder 800 b.h.p engines at over 18 000 r.p.m. It’s all about tact, speed and outright dare devilry. Oddly enough, despite cars hurtling along fast tracks in exotic locations around the world at literally break neck speeds (averaging 300km/h), one thing is certain, there is always going to be room for some drama. Whether it is the internecine feuds and battles between team mates that go on behind the scenes; drivers being asked by their respective teams to hold off and at times surrender their hard won lead to their fellow team mates or the common inter-team battles not only by drivers for points but also by manufacturers who accuse competitors of spying and other such trickery are common occurrence among the numerous teams in the sport. Formula 1 makes for a season long soap opera that goes beyond entertainment.  Last week, the drama took on a different twist in Bahrain. It was probably the most embarrassing and controversial instalment in the soap opera and this time around the prima donna was none other than the Formula One boss, Bernie Ecclestone (a man I once respected very much). Events from last week’s “episode” left me feeling ashamed of being an F1 enthusiast and eroded all the respect and admiration I had for Bernie Ecclestone.

Bahrain Grand PrixThe Gulf kingdom of Bahrain has not been spared by the Arab spring. Since 2011 there has been widespread dissent against the monarchy, culminating in pro-democracy protests, which in spite of rather heavy-handed response from the monarchy, still are on going. There have been numerous reports of human rights abuses in Bahrain and these have been widely condemned by human rights groups.

The first Formula One grand prix to be hosted in the Middle East was held in Bahrain was held in 2004. Since then Bahrain has hosted the race 10 times. However in 2011, owing to pressure emanating from pro-democracy protestors, the race was cancelled and rescheduled in the wake of the deaths of 40 protestors. In 2011 4 Force India team members were victims of a petrol-bomb attack and had to return home early. Drivers, their respective teams and Formula One were thus instrumental in the cancellation of the race. Damon Hill the 1996 Formula One world champion pleaded for the race to not go ahead at the time as he felt that if the race went ahead Formula One as a sport would have associated itself with repressive methods as a means of achieving order. In an interview with the BBC, Ecclestone alluded to the fact that the race could have been rescheduled but that this was dependent on the participants (teams and drivers) agreeing to it.  In 2012 in brazen disregard of the participant’s safety, the race was held despite opposition from the teams who cited safety concerns brought on by the on going protests in the country. Ecclestone in 2012 played down and dodged questions on whether the 2012 grand prix would be held in Bahrain and instead said that it was not Formula Ones place to get involved in other people’s politics.

eccles_2542102bLast week’s race was held amidst a backdrop of protests and even resulted in some teams getting caught up in the protests. What I found disturbing was Bernie Ecclestone’s apparent indifference to the issue. I equally found his tongue in cheek comments rather distasteful and to be honest quite disgusting. In an interview, the billionaire said, “ I keep asking people, what human rights – I don’t know what they are”.  He further said it was not his job to take a moral decision on the matter. He instead shifted the blame to the Bahrain monarchy saying they were stupid in allowing the race to go on as it gave protestors a platform to demonstrate.

Formula One wields a lot of cultural and economic power and influence and is backed by several sponsors and is broadcasted all over the world. It is arguably one of the most popular sports of the 21st century with millions watching the races live. I therefore do not agree with Mr Ecclestone when he says it is not his job to take a moral decision on the matter. I feel that it IS his job and that of Formula One (teams and drivers included).  I understand that it is a multi-million dollar industry, but surely people and human rights matter more than the US$40million or so he makes in every grand prix in Bahrain. I feel it is the moral and ethical obligation of Formula One, sponsors, teams, drivers and of course Bernie Ecclestone to cancel any racing in countries like Bahrain that are involved in human rights abuses, failure of which would be akin to, or is actually complying with and partaking in the human rights abuses. There is talk that Bernie is in talks with race organisers from Bahrain to extend the Bahrain Grand Prix until 2021. This should not be allowed to happen.

Protesters are seen on a street after setting fire to garbage containers during clashes with riot police in Budaiya, west of ManamaI am by no means arguing for the use of sport as a political tool, that is not the case. My point is that a statement should be made that shows the authorities in Bahrain, who allegedly pay a fortune to be able to host this race, that they cannot continue to abuse human rights and expect to host such a prestigious event at the same time. Boycotting or cancelling the Grand Prix in Bahrain will most likely force the monarchy into a compromise, mainly because Bahrain needs Formula One and to be candid Formula One does not need Bahrain.

15th Apr2013

Legacy of the Iron Lady

by admin

Daniel Mpala looks at the legacy of Margaret Thatcher.

legacyMargaret Thatcher died on the 08th of March 2013 at the age of 87 and she will be laid to rest this Wednesday. Even in the wake of her death, she’s still generating as much controversy as she did during her prime.  There have been all sorts of mixed reactions to her death, with her death being cause for elation; riots, demonstrations and impromptu celebratory street parties (Bristol, Glasgow, Belfast, London), tributes, reflection and even a chart topping song (Ding Dong The Witch is Dead). It is rather peculiar for someone’s death to incite such a spectrum of emotions as hers did. This got me curious and led me to do a great deal of reading on her life, her political career and personality.  Most people my age, (I was born in 1991 a few months shorty after she left office) are keen to know about the legacy she left, particularly from a Southern African perspective.

The daughter of a grocer, Maggie as she is affectionately known in England, ascended through the political and social strata to become the first and only female Prime Minister in 1979, an office that she held for 11 years. She is remarked for her wit and intelligence (she was a chemist and lawyer by profession), assertiveness, stubborn nature and for being outspoken. She is credited to have been a hard worker, rumoured to have slept for only 4hrs a day during the time she was Prime Minister. In her tenure as Prime Minister she implemented crucial educational reforms; she introduced poll tax (single flat rate per capita tax on adults- this was later on abolished; embarked on a Rent to buy scheme which sought to get council tenants to buy homes by having them sold at a discount; a champion of free markets and trade, she also embarked on extensive privatisation and battled and reined in the powerful labour unions ; she was also instrumental in helping to bring about the end of the Cold War.  In 1982 during her term in office, the UK fought the 74 day Falklands War with Argentina which is arguably one of the best defining moments of her leadership. Her time in office was however fraught with riots and protests due to the animosity she garnered amongst many.

And what of her legacy in Southern Africa, in South Africa and Zimbabwe?  What legacy does she leave behind here? Should her death be marked by the same vitriol as seen online and on the streets of Belfast, London, Bristol and Glasgow?  Or should her life be celebrated? In South Africa, her interaction with the ANC pre -1994 was fairly awkward at first, with her describing the ANC as a “typical terrorist organisation” Even up to this day elements within the current British parliament acknowledge that her stance on apartheid was wrong and misguided.  Thatcher defied international pressure to impose economic sanctions on South Africa as other international countries were doing at the time and in-line with the American policy of disinvestment. This might have pro-longed apartheid. Speculation is rife that her husband’s business interests might have been a motive for this. Vehement in her refusal to impose these sanctions, she is said to have argued that economic sanctions would help little but harden attitudes, that apartheid was more a sin against economic liberalism than humanity.  Instead she believed sanctions would adversely affect black people more, hurt British business interests as well as the other African countries.  Although her relationship with apartheid presidents Botha and De Klerk raised a few questions, she seemed to help black South African political activists, a case of note being Mandela, where her influence was instrumental in his release from jail. Thatcher also provided security for ANC activists in the U.K during apartheid. However her tolerance for the apartheid government and her placing precedence on “British jobs over African lives and pennies over principles” might have been behind the ANC’s initial decisions not to allow Mandela to meet with her as it was still angry about Thatcher’s handling apartheid.  These two later met. In response to her death, the ANC said in a carefully worded statement that, “The ANC was on the receiving end of her policy in terms of refusing to recognize the ANC as the representatives of South Africans and her failure to isolate apartheid after it had been described as a crime against humanity, however we acknowledge that she was one of the strong leaders in Britain and Europe to an extent that some of her policies dominate discourse in the public service structures of the world. Long after her passing on, her impact will still be felt and her views a subject of discussion.” The relationship between the ANC and Thatcher was clearly uneasy and difficult. One might be forgiven to think that they never really saw eye to eye, but, nonetheless, the ANC seems to sympathise for her loss. Conversely, not everyone within the ANC seems to bear the same sentiments. Pallo Jordan, an ANC stalwart who was at one time part of an envoy to the U.K, was a bit less sympathetic of her passing. On talk Radio 702, he said of Thatcher’s death, “ Many lives were lost (as a result of the apartheid regime.) I don’t think it’s a great loss to the world. I say good riddance”.

Up north, in Zimbabwe, prominent politician and Zapu leader Dumiso  Dabengwa is said to have hinted that Thatcher’s government knew of the Gukurahundi massacres of 20 000 civilians that took place there after independence  between 1982 and 1987 and never did anything about it. She however was key in negotiating a ceasefire that led to Zimbabwe’s independence after she managed to advise the belligerents to sign a peace settlement, ending years of civil war. What is unusual is the odd, intimate relationship that has recently come to light with the de-classification of a number of letters between Thatcher and Mugabe. These letters suggest that Thatcher was compassionate and supportive of Mugabe . Thatcher’s government also had pledged to give Mugabe’s government £75million in addition to the £30million it had already handed over to coup Zimbabwe land redistribution on condition that there would not be any farm invasions.   Then again, Margaret Thatcher and Robert Mugabe had not always been top mates. As with Mandela, Thatcher at one time called Mugabe and his party terrorists. In  response to  Baron Carrington who had suggested she meet leaders of the Patriotic Front , she wrote that,  “No – please do not meet leaders of the ‘Patriotic Front’. I have never done business with terrorists until they become Prime Ministers! MT”.  Relations between the two later warmed up after Mugabe became Prime Minister. Mugabe even visited her at 10 Downing Street numerous times, in meetings where they supposedly spoke “ informally and like old friends”.  In response to her death, ZANU PF national chairman Simon Khaya Moyo said she was a mature leader and a better negotiating partner.

It is thus clear that Margaret Thatcher left quite a legacy, She is a role model for most women as she proved that women do indeed have what it takes to lead a country. However the question remains, how does one remember or view the legacy of someone who seemingly tolerated apartheid and ignored massacres? Someone who placed emphasis on economic interests over human rights? Should we be reminiscing in grief at her passing or instead take to the streets and celebrate?  It really is confusing isn’t it? On the one hand there’s so much she did for South Africa and Zimbabwe yet again on the other there are a lot more evils she turned a blind eye to.  How are you going to remember Margaret Thatcher?

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