14th Oct2013

e-toll in South Africa: are they necessary?

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Joan Madiba looks at the issue of e-tolls in South Africa.

jm1Following unrest of the proposed e-toll, the Presidency on Wednesday has confirmed that Jacob Zuma has indeed signed this into law.  While some people suspected that e-tolls would not be an issue until after next years elections so as to not impact the ruling party’s campaign, Zuma signed the e-toll into law despite warning from other member of the ANC. “The Act will provide for the electronic tolling of the country’s roads. Government and ANC sources said that, though the Bill was unpopular among the ANC’s own Gauteng membership and its alliance partner COSATU, in the long run, not signing the Bill would have been more costly.” Mac Maharaj, the spokesperson of the ANC, has also emphasized that the signed e-toll allows the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) to implement tolling in Gauteng.

Despite this there has also been a recent court battle in the Supreme Court of  Appeal in South Africa where the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) attempted to stop tolling on Gauteng roads.. The court was told that legislation allowed SANRAL to explore options other than tolling to fund Gauteng’s freeways. It also heard that SANRAL should, therefore, have kept an open mind about the matter, despite the Cabinet’s approval of electronic tolling. OUTA eventually lost the case as the Judge rejected their appeal to a previous case to fight e-tolls. Despite this loss, OUTA vow to not give up the fight against tolling with members meeting to establish what their next step would be.

Nonetheless, as expected e-tolls is incredibly unpopular amongst many including oppositional parties and unions like COSATU.  The Democratic alliance took the opportunity to further their election campaign by erecting billboards along the roads that will be tolled. These boards read “E- tolls. Proudly brought to you by the ANC” much to the disdain of the ANC.

The public has also raised their concerns of the e-tolls, questioning the necessity of tolling major roads. Their concerns link directly to how the toll fees will impact their pocket.

As e-tolls slowly emerges as a reality, we the South African public, we will have to wait and see how it unfolds.

 

23rd Sep2013

“POSIB still needs changes”

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Joan Madiba looks at the latest developments around the Protection of State Information Bill in South Africa.

jm1The Protection of State Information Bill, commonly known as the “secrecy Bill” is a “proposed legislation, which aims to regulate the classification, protection and dissemination of state information, weighing state interests up against transparency and freedom of expression.” Since its introduction in 2010 the secrecy Bill has been a serious point of discussion for many South Africans. The Bill was passed in April this year, and all that was required before the Bill to be signed into law was the president’s signature. However, many critics against the Bill, including the Right2Know campaign have argued that once passed, this Bill will be detrimental to our new and fragile democracy. Having said that, on the 12th of September, President Jacob Zuma surprised many when he sent the Bill back to parliament saying “he could not sign it into law because it is incoherently drafted and unconstitutional.”

The Sowetan newspaper reported on their website that President Zuma pointed out two specific section of the Bill which he described as “problematic.”  Minister of State Security, Siyabonga Cwele, asserted that the president’s action to take the Bill back to parliament will “strengthen the legislation.”  This is an important point to consider as many have noted that this move by the president is just to ensure that the Bill is thorough (and constitutional) should the Bill be fought in court.

Thus while many have celebrated this development, it seems as though the celebration is premature. This links to the desperation for good news on this controversial topic. People are hoping for change, as many are aware of impending realities should the Bill come into law. Critics of the Bill have long argued that the Bill will take the country back to its dark days of apartheid where the media was censored by the government.  This is a problem because the media’s existence in a society, like South Africa is crucial. So as the country waits for the new developments of the Bill, the media will continue keeping the watchful eye over the government.

09th Sep2013

Luthuli House fire: Political sabotage?

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Joan Madiba looks at the recent fire at ANC headquarters Luthuli House.

jm1A fire broke out at The African National Congress’ headquarters Luthuli House in Johannesburg on Tuesday evening last week. The political party believes that this was an arson attack. Jackson Mthembu, the party’s spokesperson said that this was arson and therefore, political in an attempt to create problems in the party in a build up to next year’s election in the country.  SAPA reports that there “was a bottle containing an unknown chemical exploded in the reception area of Luthuli House at about 18:00 on Tuesday.” Security guards were however able to extinguish the fire, which is said to have damaged a couch, the floor and the ceiling of the affected area. The building was evacuated.

With the 2014 elections fast approaching one wonders if this was just a freak incident or a planned attack. In noting trends from other countries one can’t help but wonder if there is something to worry about. The election period in many countries often sees spikes in intimidation and/or violence.  A prime example would be our neighbouring country Zimbabwe where it is alleged that opposition party leader Morgan Tshangarai, was threatened, forcing him to seek asylum in South Africa. With these occurrences come questions about the legitimacy of the elections. While the elections in most cases are monitored and often described as free and fair once over, one wonders if this is really the case.

South Africa is definitely not in as bad a space, but let’s look at the history of attacks like the alleged arson attack seen last week. The Star newspaper reports that Luthuli House was previously troubled when a fire that broke out in 2005. In 2008 a man also tried to set a security scanner on fire. They also experienced a bomb threat that same year.

Is this a trend? Until the results of the investigation on the current incident releases, we will have to wait and see. We nonetheless can hope that we do not go down a path of intimidation and so on in a democracy.

09th Sep2013

ANN7: Media pluralism or problem?

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Joan Madiba looks at the recently launched South African news channel ANN7.

jm3ANN7 or Africa News Network Channel 7 was launched two weeks ago.  The wealthy Gupta family, who also own the newspaper The New Age, owns the new 24-hour news channel. One of the shareholders is also the President’s son Duduzane Zuma. On its website, the channel emphasised how they are going to focus on “constructive, nation-building stories in the interests of building a culture of unity and pride”. However, since its launch, the channel has not had the best start. The presenters and anchors seemed unprepared, they were stumbling over their lines, and they also had technical difficulties, which really made the whole thing seem as if it was some sort of hoax.

The 24-hour news channel climate seems to be growing steadily in South Africa with ANN7 joining veteran channel ENCA as well as the recently launched SABC news channel. All three channels air on satellite service DSTV. The launch of this channel can be seen as a step in the right direction towards media diversity and plurality. However, the channel has been the centre of many jokes, particularly on social networks.

jm2Many felt that the channel was nothing but a ‘joke.’ As part of the joke, videos of the on-air mistakes made on the channel also circulated. In one of the viral videos, one saw two anchors trying to present a sport show. They were nervous and not prepared to be on live camera. They constantly fumbled, and over and above them one could hear behind the camera activities like members of the crew speaking to them all while they were on air. The videos have since been taken down from the internet apparently due to copyright issues.

However, more recently the channel has been in the news because of the resignation of their consulting editor Rajesh Sundaram. He resigned from the TV channel after its unsuccessful start and said that the staff had been forced to take a “pro-Jacob Zuma editorial line.” Rajesh Sundaram, who came to South Africa from Delhi, India, three months ago to help launch the channel, says he is not willing to risk his reputation any longer. Sundram claimed that the “editorial policy of this news channel dictated the editors and journalists”. It was reported that they had several meetings at the president’s house discussing the channels editorial policy. He also claimed to have feared for his life post his resignation, providing the media with various of intimidation and so forth.

With problems linking to the editorial policy and owner interference, the future of this news channel thus seems rather dark. South Africa in its democratic environment needs the media to play a crucial role in society. With new channels coming up such as the ANN7 one can only wonder if this will even happen.

26th Aug2013

Case may be reopened: was Princess Diana murdered?

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Joan Madiba looks at new details that emerged around the death of Princess Diana.

jm4What the world thought it knew about the death of Princess Diana could be turned upside down. The mother to princes Harry and William, who died in a “car accident” 16 years ago, has become the topic of many news discussion of recent. It was on 31st August 1997, when the car carrying both Diana and her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed , crashed. According to Sky News; the accident was previously investigated by Lord Justice Scott Baker in 2007, but it was concluded the following year that it was an “unlawful killing, [due to] grossly negligent driving of the following vehicles and of the Mercedes.”

However, new information that has emerged about the Princess’s death alleges that the Princess was murdered by some member of the British military. Rumour has it that the murder of this member of the royal family was plotted for years and the police aim to investigate this further through reopening of the case.

jm5In 2008, it was proven by members of a jury that she was killed by the reckless speed of her driver. With the reopening of the case, the police seem to still be investigating what actually occurred on the day of the accident that resulted in the death of Princess Diana.

Since her death, there have been several conspiracy theories concerning Princess Diana’s death.  But now that the case may be reopened, many are hoping that the necessary clarity emerges.The local authorities are reviewing the information and considering its credibility.

Whether the police reopen the case or not, the new information about the Princess’s death will likely not die down until the real “truth” is uncovered.

26th Aug2013

Zapiro: The “funny” Watchdog

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Joan Madiba looks at the importance of cartoonists like Zapiro in a democracry.

jm1“Laughter might be the best medicine, but when it’s at the expense of the powerful, it becomes a political tool”. This quote links to something well known South African politicians like Julius Malema, Jacob Zuma and others might be familiar with.

Jonathan Shapiro also known as “Zapiro”, is the most critically acclaimed cartoonist in the country, most probably because of his works in several publications. Zapiro’s work, which entails cartoons, is used to address current affairs and social issues at specific point in time gloablly. However his main focus is South Africa. He uses political satire, caricature and other forms of expression to represent his interpretations of current affairs in his works. However, he has been in trouble with the law with most politicians wanting to sue him because of his work. President Jacob Zuma made special effort to sue Zapiro and The Sunday Times over his cartoonLady Jusitce” where politicians (supposed friends of the president) are holding Lady Justice down as Zuma appears to be to unzipping his trousers.

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Zapiro as a political cartoonist plays around with humour, satire, and so forth to understand those who are in power and what they do on a daily bases. In gaining this understanding cartoonists also gain power to criticise those in power in this manner. Looking at Zapiros, although most of his work seems to be confrontational, critical and somewhat suggestive, he seems to have the support of the public and most publications regardless. With one of his most recent cartoons, Zapiro depicts Zwelenzima Vavi’s extra martial activities that sent shocking waves to the country. He published this depiction in quite a few publications, including the Mail&Guardian.

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For a democratic state, such as South Africa, it is important for cartoonist to use the right to express themselves in such a manner. They act as the voice, using laughter as the force behind it, to ridicule and make fun, most of the times to those in power. One can say political cartoonist act as the second voice in the media by creating a space where serious issues are turned into laughing matters.

29th Jul2013

New political parties in the country: How relevant are they?

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Joan Madiba looks at some the latest developments in South African politics.

JM1The year 2013 has seen much controversy in political climate causing a much hype in the country. One only assumes that the emergance of two new high profile political parties has forced the current ruling party (The African National Congress, ANC) to sit up and take notice. The ANC has been the ruling party since the first democratic elections in the country in 1994. Looking at the two new parties on the political scene, recently, controversial politician Julius Malema founded a party (Economic Freedom Fighters, EFF) which aims to drive the mandate of nationalism and land redistribution. This comes after Malema’s departure from the ANC where he was once youth leader. Malema has also been charged with corruption and fraud in recent times. His new party, EFF, has also seen various high profile members join including media Socialite Kenny Kunene. Now this has raised eye brows, particularly with the media arguing that this political party is a joke. Moreover, it is significant to note EFF has received quite a bit of criticism as many have argued that Malema is trying to spite his previous fellows in the ANC camp.

jm2Another party that has recently emerged is with the leadership of businesswoman Dr. Mamphela Ramphele. The political party called Agang which means “to bulid”, like that of Malema aims to provide better governance for the South African public and so forth.  Agang aims to address the issues of poverty, job creation and also engage with the public on all levels as much as possible.

These newly formed parties were formed at a point in the country’s politics were the ANC doesn’t have strong oppositional challenges, except the Democratic Alliance. Agang and EFF were also formed at a crucial point were the country will be conducting elections next year. What is important to note is the fact that these parties are new and so they still have a long way to go to gain the public’s trust and confidence. However, these two parties may stand a chance if they stick to their words that with the formation of their parties, they aim to serve for the people of this country which they feel that the ruling party is not fulfilling.

 

20th May2013

The intensity of New Media

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Joan Madiba looks at the intensity of New Media.

jm1Over the past years, the concept of media has been evolving by new technologies. Having said that then, the concept of new media may not necessarily mean that “it’s new” but rather new technologies are being fused with the so-called traditional media. New media then refers to the demand of content, anywhere anytime on digital devices which then allows participation and interactive feedback. For example, the Internet can influence users to be active participants and at the same time be interactive with other users despite geographical location. With the introduction of smart phones, people are now able to do a lot of things without leaving their homes. This includes online shopping and banking amongst other things. The new media technologies have allowed a certain range of things to be done by users without leaving their comfortable spaces.

jm2Following the news of BlackBerry introducing its own application BlackBerry Messaging to other platforms like Android and iOS, this has proved how intense the development of new media has been and continues to be.With this development of the application being on different cell phone brands, BlackBerry will make an even greater profit and obviously attract many users. BBM the key operating application of the smart phone has raised a lot of eyebrows, with many critics arguing how this will improve the falling brand of BlackBerry. However, the CEO Thorsten Heins has noted on Tuesday after the announcement that this move will be crucial to the development of the brand. This is as an obvious attempt to remain relevant in the mobile phone game by attracting larger numbers of users both within and outside the Blackberry user group. The smart phone with its BlackBerry Internet Service has allowed users to constantly use this operating system without the need to spend a lot of money. Then again this move does not mean that it will work because judging from the way people have been complaining about the brand, a lot of people will most likely to shift and still utilize the BBM application on other phones and so forth.

New media and all its advances has allowed such a move to be possible. We have and continue to see how new media allows different media forms to come together to either create a greater amount of users or to innovate. Media consumption has, with the influence of new media proved to be growing every day.  However, there are limitations of new media in that some people are unable to access these technologies based on numerous constraints. But then again, as significant these new technologies are, they also have negative constraints.  All in all to the lucky individuals that have access to the luxuries that are new media technologies, seek balance and enjoy.

13th May2013

ANC’s visit to Mandela: a Publicity stunt?

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Joan Madiba looks at recent scandals regarding the use of political icons for publicity.

jm1Former president Nelson Mandela was in the news in the past weeks because of his ailing health. Shortly after he returned home after his most recent stay in hospital the South African audience was invited into his home by the SABC. The broadcaster followed a political delegation headed by President Jacob Zuma who paid the former president a visit. The message that the delegation and broadcaster alike tried to sell was that former president Mandela was “alive and well.” Shying away from public life, the video feature offered a rare glimpse of the former president. However, as an overall reaction to the incident, the South African public were outraged by the whole incident. Social media users, especially Twitter, argued that the man looked frail and it was therefore not necessary for him to appear on camera. Many thus felt that the ANC were forcing him to appear on camera for their own gain.  Personally, I do think that this was some sort of a publicity stunt by the ANC, using the man’s presence to perhaps win the public over? It is always the case with the ANC and political parties in general, to use something or someone for publicity.

The visit, monitored by Mandela’s medical team, saw those around him laughing and chatting while Mandela was sitting quietly on the chair covered by a blanket. Some even took pictures, where the bright flash of the camera disturbed his eyes forcing him to quickly close them for a moment. This seemed completely unacceptable. The man should be left alone to rest, as his healthy is unstable.

The South African public seemed sceptical after the reports, video and pictures were released. However, chaos around fromer president Mandela is not new. Earlier it emerged that various media institutions in the country had planned various details about the former presidents’ funeral and how they would cover it.

Similarly, the Democratic Alliance, an oppositional party in the country was also accused of using a former icon for publicity. The oppositional party was criticised for using Helen Suzman and Nelson Mandela for the so called publicity when they unveiled a poster in which they appeared together. It seems clear that the now political leaders are using former political leaders to their advantages.

In the case of Nelson mandela it appears that various people are disturbing his peace. For now, they should let the man rest. After such sacrifices he has done politically for the country, it is only fair. Some reports emphasise how some people were happy that the man they honour is doing well even after several visits to the hospital. The ANC should just let the man out of the political “playground” because he has done his part for the country.

29th Apr2013

POSIB: Media freedom under threat?

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Joan Madiba looks at the Protection of State Information Bill in South Africa.

jm1It is said that the media we have today, cannot be separated from our history or past. However, that can be argued otherwise. The media in South Africa is notably developing in a rather controversial manner. Questions such as “is the media free?” tend to regularly come to mind. Moreover, in the country the ruling party introduced the “Protection of State Information Bill.” The latter, commonly known as the “secrecy bill” is a “proposed legislation which aims to regulate the classification, protection and dissemination of state information, weighing state interests up against transparency and freedom of expression.” In addition, anyone who has information classified as “state information” will adhere to severe penalties included in the bill for leaking documents of a certain nature. Consequences include jail time for up to 25 years. This then gives rise to questions regarding the role and freedom of the media in such circumstances. Will the media be free? Critics of the secrecy bill such as the Right2Know campaign, human rights activist and oppositional parties have argued otherwise, saying that the bill will undermine the right to access of information in the public sphere.

jm2With such legislation in our country, the media will definitely be affected. The whole notion of the media being free is undermined. This has caused a lot of uncertainty concerning the media most notably with regards to press freedom. Moreover, the bill has met critics such as the media itself, which fear that it will prosecute whistle blowers who assist in regularly, uncovering wasteful spending by government authorities and so forth.  In recent years journalists have used documents to level up with the accusation of the members of the ANC. This included President Jacob Zuma, amongst others.

However, since its inception in 2008, the bill has seen its amendments and was to be passed as a law in early 2013. The parliamentary leader of the oppositional party DA, Lindiwe Mazibuko has critiqued the bill saying that it is “unconstitutional and a threat to democracy’s foundational values of freedom and openness.” On the other hand, State Security minister Siyabonga Cwele argued that it will “strengthen democracy while balancing transparency and protecting our national security and national interests.

This then proves how members of parliament from different political parties are conflicted by this bill. Even with contradictory sentiments towards it, the latter was adopted as the law with 189 votes in favour and 74 votes against. Two days before the public holiday of freedom day, what does this say about our government? The minister further argued that the bill, after much “alteration” since 2008 has been adopted which will “address the concerns of our people”.

With the passing of this bill many are left with the question “will the media survive this?” Critics of the bill argued that this bill is likely to take our country back to the times of the apartheid regime in the country in relation to media freedom. In these times the government censored almost everything in the media. If that’s the case then that is both scary and sad. As South Africans we will just have to wait and see what happens next.

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