E-mail to the treasury – Covid 19 Supply Side Economic Response

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Treasury.

As previously stated, I head up a political party: Direct Democracy Forum Reg Number 936.

I previously submitted on 24/03/20, a proposal based on adopting some of DDF cornerstone policies but note that they were intended to uplift and support the demand side of the economy and only have an indirect effect on the supply side. Their effectiveness depends on the existence of a functioning supply side economy with which the demand side can interact and indirectly stimulate.

The Lock-Down from 27th March to 16th April effectively closes down much of the supply side and therefore the proposed interventions will not work as envisioned.

We are therefore proposing additional measures directed at the supply side in order to maintain a functioning supply side so that the economy does not implode during and can resume after the lock-down. The point being, that after the lock-down, which currently is intended for 21 days but may be longer, an economy supported by interventions of this nature should be able to pick-up where it was before the lock-down. In effect, business will be able to resume pretty much as usual.

In the absence of such intervention, we anticipate that the economy and many of it’s component businesses and industries could become dysfunctional, insolvent or even bankrupt, and may well be unable to resume business as usual, in some cases, if at all. The impact of this on our already dysfunctional economy could be catastrophic. The recent downgrade to junk status does not help.

Our suggestions are that:

1) All historic debt which cannot be paid for by effected businesses should be paid for by funds provided by the state, on a loan basis, to be repaid after the lock-down but without the burden of interest.

2) Funds should be provided by the state to pay for on-going operational expenses, as a grant, for all those business with fixed operational expenses (including salaries and wages) and without existing operational income, for the duration of the lock-down.

3) These interventions can be funded by the creation by the state of the necessary funds. The state could borrow but the funds would then first be created and then advanced by the lenders at interest. Better for the state to create the money themselves without the burden of interest. Perhaps there should be a disaster recovery insurance to give effect to future interventions.

The rationale behind these interventions and behind the state needing to step up and support the economy in this manner, is that the circumstances surrounding the lock-down are not a consequence of economic malfeasance on the part of the businesses making up our economy, but rather of the extraordinary circumstances and responses of the economy and government to the Covid19 pandemic, irrespective of how rational those responses may or may not be, so it makes no sense to burden the players in the economy and jeopardise the businesses and the economy itself any further than they already are. These extraordinary circumstances need an extraordinary response.

While I do not know what the costs of these interventions would be, I believe that the economy should be supported at whatever cost is necessary, while avoiding the unnecessary burden of interest bearing debt, so as to survive until, and regenerate itself after, the threat of Covid19 subsides.

Further details are available at our web site, http://ddforum.co.za. If you wish to discuss any of this you may contact me on +27 76 060 1973 and or at

Thank you for your attention.

John Barrington.
Leader, DDF.
30/03/2020

E-mail to the treasury – Covid 19 Demand Side Economic Response

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Treasury.

I head up a political party: Direct Democracy Forum Reg Number 936.

We have as cornerstone policies:

1) A Senate, drawn from the streets, 2) Tax Reform (Total Economic Activity Levy, Replaces all other taxes) (TEAL), 3) A Universal Basic Income (Including National Health Insurance Funding) (UBI), 4) An Advancement Grant (for tertiary education and other advancement activities) (AG), 5) A Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), 6) Banking and Monetary Reform

We suggest the last five items should be adopted to relieve the effects of the Covid 19 pandemic and any subsequent economic fall-out.

Assuming an adult population of 35 Million adult South Africans, a UBI of R5000 per month would deliver R175 Billion into the demand side of the economy, each month. Apart from the obvious economic stimulus this would bring to the economy it would also have the effect of empowering and uplifting every recipient in the economy, and to ‘challenge’ the supply side to claim their share of that stimulus through trade and industry. A UBI is intended to replace all other grants.

A UBI can be paid for by a 2%TEAL on all the money flowing through the banking system. You would not be printing money so much as re-purposing existing money. If you created or borrowed the money you might wish to recycle it using TEAL. A ½% TEAL could also fund the Fiscus.

You can ‘create’ the required money, if you wish (see below*). This is what the banks would do if you borrowed R175 Billion from them, at interest. They would create the money from nothing, as is their wont, then lend it to you at interest. If treasury themselves created the money from nothing instead of going to the banks, treasury would get the money and save the country and the taxpayers the interest.

The ANC are talking of a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF). If you stimulate the demand side of an economy without ensuring that the supply side keeps pace, you have a classic inflation/hyper-inflation situation. The SWF can be used to intervene in the supply side of the economy to help it maintain the required balance between demand and supply. This it does by investing in the supply side economy. This, however, would not be the SWF’s sole function. The SWF can be rapidly funded using TEAL and other mechanisms to become effective in this manner, inside of months, or even days (see below**).

Part of the supply side intervention would be for the SWF to own and run commercial, industrial and community banks alongside privately owned and run banks, thus influencing the financial services sector. We believe that the S A Reserve Bank (SARB) should be wholly owned by the SWF and operated for the benefit of the economy, regulating the money supply and interest rates to that end. Any money creation (see above *) would be under the auspices of such a SARB.

The rational for this is that a UBI is an intervention designed to fill the void left by the already existing 4th Industrial Revolution’s lack of formal sector employment opportunities. The Covid 19 pandemic seems just to have accelerated the onset of this dilemma. There is more to this (see below **).

** Further details are available at our web site, http://ddforum.co.za. If you wish to discuss any of this you may contact me on +27 76 060 1973 and or at

Thank you for your attention.

John Barrington.
Leader, DDF.
24/03/2020

Brexit and Democracy

In the post “The Power of Direct Democracy” at http://ddforum.co.za/uncategorized/2018/05/27/the-power-of-direct-democracy, I discussed the power of the voter, when given free reign. Yesterday, the British voter exercised that power once more.

Brexit: The British parliament has been frustrating the will of the British people for the last three years, making Brexit impossible. In a nutshell, if you don’t know it, Brexit is the name given to the effort to remove the UK from the clutches of the European Union, for Britain to Exit the EU and regain its parliamentary sovereignty. Boris Johnson, the last British prime minister, when his efforts were defeated in parliament, declared a snap election. The election happened yesterday (12/12/2019). The result is an overwhelming majority for Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party, flying the Brexit flag.

I cannot adequately express the relief I felt at that result. It was as if the weight of the world was lifted from my shoulders. There was a sense of euphoria much as if Britain had, for the second time in the past 100 years, won a major world war, a war for democracy. The war that my generation’s parents died for, all over the world.

Is that too soppy? I don’t think so. Of course parliamentary rebels can still snooker Brexit, time will tell, but after viewing the ‘Thrive’ video (see the video on You Tube) and the focus it added to the development of the New World Order, an order imposed by the establishment, and particularly by the financial and industrial establishment, where we all become little puppets of their machinations, filling their coffers with untold wealth, at our expense, this seems a major victory for the little man.

It is not the end of the war for democracy but it is without doubt the winning of a major battle in the war for liberalism, for individual rights and for democracy.

Grace and Nobility

Let’s just dwell on rugby for a moment. On Saturday, 2nd November 2019, the Springbok rugby team won the Rugby World Cup, for the third time. I think SA had a more easy path to the finals than England did, so the ‘Boks were fresher and had not yet played their hearts out by the finals, which England probably did when they faced down the Kiwis. But setting that aside, the best team won on the day, and won convincingly, 32 to 12, to much joy in South Africa.

There is German word, ‘schadenfreud’, which means it is not enough to see your oponent defeated but you must also see him suffer. The French equivalent, ‘joie maligne’ basically means to take malicious pleasure from another’s misfortune. Schadenfreud and Joie maligne were evident in the response of some of SA’s Rugby Fandom to England’s trouncing by the Boks. England were being humiliated off the field as well as being defeated on the field. That is uncalled for.

When I was at school, we were taught to be gracious and noble in defeat and in victory. What happened to grace and nobility in the passing of the 60 years or so since I was at school. Perhaps these principles of grace and nobility also have passed us by in South Africa, along with time. If so, that is a very sad thing for South Africa.

They say we should learn from our betters. In this instance, we encountered our betters in the form of the Springbok rugby players and particularly the Springbok captain Siya Kolisi, who demonstrated the grace and nobility which should be part of every victory and defeat encountered in our lives. And guess who also stepped up and gave us the same lesson from the other side of the fence, but Prince Harry of the British Royal Family, when he came down to the South African dressing room after the match, to congratulate the Boks on their win.

This schadenfreud and joie maligne is also evident in the way we treat one another. We need to do better and be better than that.

Democracy at Risk

In 2018/19 I read three books; The End of Work, by Jeremy Rifkin, The Web of Debt, by Ellen Hodgson Brown and The Retreat of Western Liberalism by Edward Luce. The three works have made a profound impression on my understanding of how the world works and how we all ended up where we are in life. I then wrote a paper called Democracy at Risk, drawing on these three books.

I opened the paper referring to Machiavelli and pointing out how his assertions that rulers should please the many, uphold the law (not pardon criminals) and should be judged by the common good from a government that serves the lives, families, liberty and property of its citizens should be observed. Noting how relevant these simple injunctions are to good governance even 500 years after they were made and how they should be used to guide us in a storm.

Brown, in the Web of Debt quotes Thorold Rogers, a nineteenth century historian, who asserted that in the middle ages an English labourer could work for 14 weeks to provide for his family for the rest of the year and how the common people had leisure, education, art and security in those times. I then inserted that in Robert H Frank’s Toil Index which showed that the cost of a median rent in a median US city had escalated from an estimated 11.5 hours per month in 1500, to 45 hours in 1955, to 56 hours in 1975 to 101 hours per month in 2017. It may be said that the middle ages was a time of plenty, of leisure, of education, art and economic security, and today’s age is an age of toil, scarcity and insecurity. I ask the question, how did we get from there to where we are today?

In his book, The End of Work, Jeremy Rifkin points out that we have increased corporate productivity and an increasing population, with less and less work for more and more workers. Writing in 1995 he notes that global unemployment had reached the highest level since the great depression of the 1930s and that more than 800 million human beings were either unemployed or underemployed, while credit and personal bankruptcies were growing with 780 000 in 1994 and 1 281 000 in 1995 (in the USA) and that these were common trends in all western economies.

He warns that if gains and profits from these ‘technological advances’ went only to corporate profits, the growing wealth gap will lead to social and political upheaval and that conventional economic theories and practices were not working, with negative effects on society and growing economic irrelevance for the vast majority of the developed world’s population.

Rifkin suggests that a third sector, or a non-market and non-profit or social economy can serve their growing needs in the face of the impersonal global market and the weak and incompetent central governments, and notes that ‘redefining the role of the individual in a society absent of mass employment is perhaps the seminal issue of the coming age’.

Ellen Hodgson Brown in her book The Web of Debt, seeks to explain the business cycle and how it acts as a wealth pump, sucking up lower and middle class wealth and transferring it to the wealthy. The poor invest when they think it is profitable, overextend themselves and then loose their wealth when the markets turn. Conversely, the wealthy make it seem easy for the poor to invest when times are good and collect the collateral when the times are bad. She points to the great depression of the 1930’s and the housing bubble of 2008 as examples of the pump in action.

She also discusses the role of money creation and interest manipulation amongst a host of other mechanisms the wealthy use to make money, often mechanisms that at best are gambles and at worst fraud. She points out that there is more money to be made gambling in the markets than there is to be had from investing in businesses and the economy and discusses the hows and the whys of many of these mechanisms.

Particularly she points to banks creating money by the stroke of a pen, then lending governments the newly created money, at interest, which must be paid for by the governments and their tax-payers, and the absurdity of this practice when governments could as easily create the same money without the burden of interest.

She also looks at a host of other market mechanisms which are used as market manipulators, including but not limited to the short sale and the naked short sale, hedge funds and derivatives.

Brown also highlights that when money is created as a debt at interest, the interest portion is not created with the debt portion. So the system is in a constant state of monetary scarcity and central banks work to maintain this scarcity. From that scarcity comes profit for the banks and inflation for the people.

She also looks at institutions deemed too big to fail which are bailed out, with taxpayers funds, and suggests they should become the property of the tax payers who bail them out and be run to serve the people rather than be bailed out. Interesting views.

Edward Luce’s book the Retreat of Western Liberalism discusses much the same things as Rifkin but more from a Macro rather than from a Micro perspective.

He notes how the spread of automation, artificial intelligence and remote intelligence, which some call the fourth industrial revolution, is still in its early stages, as is the rise of China and India as economic powerhouses, and says the downward pressure on the incomes of the West’s middle class in the coming years will be relentless. He adds that all at Davos dread the wrath of an alienated Western middle class. He reinforces Rifikin’s opinion that wealth and income disparity will create large scale social and political unrest.

He points out that our economic metrics are wrong, based on misleading averages. And that while the US economy expanded by 2% pa since 2009, the median income only regained 2002 levels in 2015 and the 2007 median income was below 2002’s and that the George W Bush expansion was the first on record where middle class incomes were lower at the end of it than at the start. GDP numbers insist the US is doing well when half the country is suffering from personal recessions.

Luce introduces us to the Elephant Chart, a chart devised by Branko Milanovic, a former World Bank staffer, showing the income distribution of more than two decades between different percentiles of the global economy and highlights the contrast between growth in the emerging markets and the decline in the developed markets, but for the richest of the rich in the latter markets, who enjoyed huge growth over the period. Luce writes “if you want an economic chart that stops you from sleeping you should start with the elephant”.

He points out that between the 1940s and the 1970s that the developed world enjoyed an income growth, enough to double the standard of living every generation or better. Since then, the brakes were put on growth and the most crushing effect is stagnation. Many of the tools of modern life are increasingly beyond most people’s reach.

He also notes that Inflation is another outdated number. It no longer captures what people most value. Without health and education your life chances are badly handicapped. The runaway costs of social capital are why so many are pessimistic about their children’s life prospects. When people lose faith in the future they don’t invest in the present. In ageing societies activities stagnate. Start-ups decline, corporates don’t invest and millennials do not have high expectations for their futures that their parents had. These material and psychological costs are the prices we pay for stagnation.

Then there is rising income inequality. While previous ages gave rise to spectacular new wealth and bore out the theory of declining inequality, over the last 30 years to 2017, the gap between the pay of the average CEO and their employees has risen to 400 times the 1970s gap. Europe and America are seeing the same sorts of inequality. Today, the children of the rich are overwhelmingly likely to stay rich and of the poor are likely to stay poor, and the middle class is eroding.

He also points to how democracy has been curbed and even been rolled back since the fall of the Berlin Wall and how the trust of the wealthy in democracy has been replaced by the fear of the masses and scepticism of democracy, a usual phenomena in times of extreme wealth disparity. Louis XVl lost his head over that issue.

Luce points to the way democracy has been curbed by the fear of the undiluted voice of the people. After all, Adolf Hitler attracted 40% of the vote in the free election of 1932. But the voice of the people are now calling for democracy because of a lack of trust in politicians to deliver for the people. There is ongoing tension between the people and the experts. This is not new. Plato believed democracy was the rule of the mob, Aristotle suggested combining the rule of what we would call the experts with the consent of the many, constant rotation and lottery selection of those who play public roles, things the DDF use in their Senate model.

Mostly Luce is worried that we have not learned from history, that the broad circumstances of pre 1914 Europe resemble our circumstances of today. Be warned that war is a possibility and civilisation is a very thin veneer which can easily crack apart. The similarity between Germany and England of then and China and the US of today is glaring.

He points out that the sense that autocracies are more efficient than democracies is a false sense and that England and the US were by far the most efficient protagonists of the 2nd World War. But there are many powers endeavouring to sow seeds of discontent and chaos in democracies where nothing is true and everything is deniable, and democracy is under serious threat.

He expresses concern that the retreat of the state coincides with the reduction of available work and that more jobs are becoming piece jobs, temporary and low paid and that there is a lack of respect and trust in and out of the work place. He warns that when people lose trust that society is treating them fairly, they view what the elites tell them with toxic suspicion. He warns that democracy cannot survive for long in a swamp of mutual dislike. Luce dismisses the idea of a universal Basic Income (UBI) as destroying the link between effort and reward, even as he admits that the idea is gaining ground.

He believes that protecting society’s weakest from arbitrary misfortune is the ultimate test of our civilisational worth. He calls for universal health care, humane immigration laws, links between public benefits and citizenship, scrapping micro-regulation in favour of broad guidelines, universal free speech, simplified taxes, retraining of the middle classes, a re-imagined representative democracy and divorcing money from the legislative process, if only for self-preservation, and finally he notes that we need a hero to rescue liberal democracy. “Come out, come out, wherever you are”, he implores.

I then turn to the policies of the Direct Democracy Forum and note how they largely correspond to the expressed needs or wants of Machiavelli, Rifkin, Brown and Luce.

You will find the paper Democracy at Risk at http://ddforum.co.za/publications

Finland’s Basic Income experiment fails

Finland’s Basic Income failure is something that every advocate for a Basic Income Grant (BIG) or Universal Basic Income (UBI) needs to contextualise.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/04/25/finland-basic-income-685-fails/549087002/?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=usatodaycomworld-topstories

There are elements of the Finnish exercise that indicate that Finland’s experiment was more about the dole or unemployment benefits than about a BIG or UBI. In fact, Finland did not give everyone a basic income of $685, they randomly selected 2000 unemployed (and probably unemployable) Fins, and paid them $685 per month and then concluded that a basic income was unaffordable and did not achieve any social goals. Being paid because you are not working is a dole. A BIG or UBI system is where a population is universally and unconditionally paid whether working or not. The Finnish experiment was apparently motivated by the expectation that the 2000 unemployed would then go out and find low paid employment thus filling a gap in the labour market, an expectation that was never fulfilled. None the less, even if that had worked, even if the benefit was extended to all unemployed Fins or to the Finnish population as a whole, it could probably be argued that their tax system could not to bear it.

These conclusions are not unexpected for that sort of exercise:

First, when a BIG / UBI is applied universally to an entire community, there are long term benefits to the community members and the community as a whole, which can justify the high cost of a BIG / UBI. These benefits will never be apparent from a randomly selected and widely dispersed small population assessed in the short term, as with the Finnish experiment. The selected Finnish population was not representative of any universal and unconditionally selected population receiving a BIG or UBI.

Second, a BIG/UBI is costly and beyond the scope of any conventional tax system to fund. The exercises done by the Direct Democracy Forum (DDF) (see Teal, The Big Picture), presumed a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of R2.8Trillion. The DDF hypothesized a BIG of R2.1 Trillion for a BIG of R5000 per month for 35 million adult South Africans. In that exercise the BIG was almost the size of the GDP.

Most economies target tax levels at about 30% of the GDP. The BIG in that context is 2.5 times the tax burden for that size of economy. The tax (R0.84T) + BIG (R2.1T) would total R2.94T, a sum bigger than the entire GDP of R2.8T. You clearly cannot extract more tax from a GDP than the GDP permits.

If Finland’s situation is anything like South Africa’s, the Fins are correct. Using a conventional tax system (taxing the GDP) cannot pay for a Basic Income of $685 per month. Nor can South Africa afford a R5000 per month BIG if reliant on a conventional tax system. What is missing here is a tax system that can accommodate the needs of a BIG. Here TEAL (Total Economic Activity Levy) comes into its own.

Instead of taxing income and profit, Teal levies the economic activity represented by the flow of money through the banking system. This is typically, in SA, about thirty times the GDP, so a R3T GDP represents a cash flow of 30 times and more through the banking system.  The arithmetic is GDP x 30 x 2 x 1.37 where every Rand is both deposited and withdrawn (the x 2) and an additional 37% is drawn on and paid into the same bank and therefore is not included in interbank settlements (the 1.37) which amounts to R246.6T on a GDP of R3T.  

What this levy amounts to is paying a rent for the privilege of playing in the country’s economy. If you are a large player the rent is large, if a small player, the rent is small, but everyone pays the rent, irrespective of who you are or what your game is or how much your profits or losses are. This broadens the tax base. In an example set in South Africa, instead of a tax base of a R2.8T GDP, the tax base is R230T of the broader economy. So the rate of tax or levy can be slashed from about 30% of the GDP to ½% of the broader economy, and achieve the same result.

Applying the same principle (levying the entire broader economy instead of taxing the GDP) one is able to collect the R2.1T needed for a BIG with a 1.25% levy on the broader economy (see Teal, The Big Picture). Suddenly a BIG or UBI becomes attainable.

Then there is the political context of the Finish experiment. The NY Time’s analysis (see the link below) suggests that when the Fins started the experiment the government was somewhat liberal. Then Finland was hit by recession, and a more conservative government came to power whose main platform was cutting expenditure. Bye bye Basic Income experiment!

According to the NY Times, the reasons why the Finnish Basic Income experiment failed are are set out here (see https://nyti.ms/2tiI1bA)

Fortunately the Finnish experiment, however inadequate it is for a BIG / UBI, is not the only BIG / UBI experiment and discussion under way in the world, and far from being definitive, it will merely be a footnote to the art of misdirection on the topic.

Our conclusion from this is that to take the failure of the so-called Finnish Basic Income experiment as an indication of the impossibility of a BIG or UBI, is to be misled by an experiment which was not about a BIG or UBI at all, but about a dole, The two (a dole or a BIG / UBI) are not comparable and the Finnish failure, far from discouraging the DDF from its BIG / UBI objective, merely strengthens the DDF resolve to see the introduction of TEAL and an affordable Basic Income Grant or Universal Basic Income in South Africa. Further, the collective benefits arising from investing R1.75 Billion in the demand side of the South African economy every month, will more than justify collecting that money with a 1.25% levy (TEAL) on the broader economy.

Fake News

The American presidential election stirred a lot of mud in the USA and internationally. There are theories that Russia interfered in that election by hacking democratic party e-mail accounts and leaking the results through wiki leaks and other compliant avenues in an attempt to discredit the democratic campaign and in order to install a pro-Russia candidate in the White House. Sometimes theories can be concocted to match outcomes but in this case, my guess is that there is some credibility to the theory that Russia did its best to discredit Clinton and the Democrats and install a much more malleable candidate, namely, President Donald Trump of the USA.

Since then, there have been lots of reports of fake news, one for instance dubbed pizzagate, where the Democrats were alleged to be running a paedophile ring out of a Washington DC pizza parlour See here. Crazy? Yup! But apparently some idiot took it very seriously and went in there with a gun to check out the story. See here.

Some fake news is just motivated by greed. The more ludicrous the claims the more they are shared the more advertising revenue they generate for the web site reporting the absurd. To these sites and their owners it is just a money game. Many of the sites reporting fake news are allegedly run by East Europeans. See the transcript of this discussion between Craig Silverman of Buzz Feed and David Davies of NPR (US National Public Radio) Fake News Analysis Transcript. Wherever the site is based, the criteria is how many hits and revenue can a story generate and the truth of the matter is that the truth of the matter is of no concern.

So if a fake news story generates conflict between two nations who live on the brink of mutually assured destruction (only a slight exaggeration) as was reported on here between Pakistan and Israel, so much the better for the story. What is the big deal if some idiot shoots some of the staff at a pizza parlour (it didn’t but could’ve happened) or a nuclear conflict is precipitated (it didn’t but could’ve happened)? So what, they will argue, as the till clangs ‘k-ching’?

And in case you imagine for one moment that we in South Africa are immune to these machinations, may I draw your attention to the likes of Dr Eschel Rhoodie and the Information Scandal of the Apartheid era (he had a real PhD) and the current scandal surrounding Hlaudi Motsoeneng (who has a fake or no Matriculation Certificate at all), who, while in charge of the SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation, South Africa’s public broadcaster), decreed that there had to be 70% positive news stories broadcast about South Africa by the SABC, and that there would be no coverage of unrest (of which there is a fair amount), and who decreed that SABC should broadcast 90% local content and who ruled the media department at the SABC in what has been described as a reign of terror, all of which demonstrates the relevance to South Africa of the curse of fake news and manipulation of the news and the media by the powers that be, past, present and future. It gets even more complicated when big business takes over government and the media serves their interests

Take the story of Iqbal Surve. Born in Cape Town in 12th February 1963 in poor circumstances he apparently pulled himself up by his own shoelaces and became a medical doctor (the facts are unclear – Cape Town U, or did someone mention Cambridge U, or does he even have a MBChB degree?) and confidant and medical advisor to Nelson Mandela (apparently while still a junior medical student) and a recipient of multiple awards from organisations who have never heard of him. His life appears to be a fabrication (see much posturing, political favour currying, more incredulity). In fact, he seems a bit of a charlatan who has got into bed with the ANC and who managed to con the Public Investment Corporation (or maybe they were complicit) into parting with R900 000 000 (Nine Hundred Million) of public pension funds apparently to buy the Independent Newspapers, which sum is alleged to be non-repayable, whatever that means. One’s head spins. And this person heads up the not so Independent Newspaper Group. The largest group of English language newspapers in South Africa is headed up by this apology for a media mogul and ANC stooge. And that is the relevance of Iqbal Surve to the topic of fake news.

Surve is not the only worm in the can.  If you only concern is how government departments spend your hard earned money, look no further than the new Nielsen report which highlights the Gupta owned New Age rag (I hesitate to imply it has a better status) having hooks into major government departments and parastatals, sucking them dry of their advertising budgets.  Read all about it here and be as appalled as I am..

As if that were not enough to make the average South African nauseous, the ANC has, apparently for years, run a black ops department, specialising in tailoring news and information for public consumption. One of the Black Ops contractors is now suing the ANC for unpaid fees for fake news activities. The ANC of course are claiming this is fake news, which is sort of the point of this entire blog. Who and what to believe.  See Lies will always out.

So when Putin says with a wink and a nod that no Russian regulars are engaged in military activities in the Ukraine, the media, in an effort to be non biased, print the assertion even though the evidence suggests otherwise.

The point of all this is, who in the world do we trust to keep us informed and not to misinform us. On what do we base our decisions on who to elect as future leaders and what if anything can we do to discredit and maybe punish purveyors of fake news? Is it not, after all, a question of fraud? But if you go after the news fraudsters you are bound to damage genuine media outlets as well, who could in self defence engage in self censorship. Dare we publish this or that story? Kind of self-defeating.

Of course, fake news is nothing new.  Britain used it on China to encourage China to Join against Germany in the first world war, Germany used it  in the second world war against the Jews and other non Aryans and against the Allies, Goering was Nazi Germany’s propaganda wizard. Fake news has always been with us.  What has changed is the method of delivery with media like twitter and Face-book and the news media trying to keep abreast of itself.  Fake news that took months or even years to plan and disseminate before now happens in moments on the Internet and has an avid global audience.

But some of the things we can do to protect against fake news are discussed here, here and here, and a good dose of skepticism will go a long way. You can also read up more here and here.  Sadly this is actually never ending. So let me at least end this now.

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Withdrawal of South Africa from the ICC

South Africa’s and others’ withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) has seriously undermined the ability of the world to bring needed change to the ICC.

In an article “Going Beyond the ICC Hysteria” – SIYABULELA GEBE argues here that while there are legitimate reasons for and against the participation of South Africa in the ICC a compelling argument for involvement is that without the ICC, there is no institution, neither the stillborn African Court of Justice nor the ICC, that can hold African leaders to account for their plundering of Africa’s people and resources.

In another article “Sticking with the ICC is Africa’s best shot at reform” – Allan Ngari for ISS TODAY argues here that while there are imperfections in the ICC’s agenda, based mainly on the ability of the UN Security Council to indicte ICC member states’ heads of government for committing atrocities, an ability seen as unjust because most of the permanent members of the UNSC are not signatories to the Rome convention of the ICC and thence are beyond the reach themselves of the ICC, there are avenues through which the Rome Statute can be amended, and that in fact, the Southern States have sufficient votes to give effect to desired amendments. Given that that is the case, it makes no sense for African states and, in particular, for South Africa, to withdraw from the ICC. Rather they should engage with the ICC and seek a more just means of bringing indictments through arguments for amendments of the Rome Statute.

Yet another article “African states must not waste a golden opportunity” by Solomon Sacco, Senior Legal Adviser and Netsanet Belay, Africa Director of Research and Advocacy at Amnesty International, argue here that the two greatest challenges of the ICC are to also focus its attention on atrocities in other continents than Africa and that the ICC is very much hostage to global politics. Both these failings need to be addressed by an all inclusive ICC and that Amnesty International needs African nations to support their efforts in seeing that these failings are addressed, and that abandoning the ICC in a fit of pique merely weakens the possibilities for meaningful change to the Rome Statute.

The Direct Democracy Forum (DDF) believe that the ANC led government is posturing for the approval of the pan African lobby, saying, “see what great Africans we are”, instead of remaining in the ring and punching above its weight as South Africa has so often done on international stages in the past.

Nothing is gained and everything is lost by this form of grandstanding and is just another example of ANC ineptness.

The DDF are very much in favour of engagement and bringing about change through rational argument amongst equals in the world’s forums.  Abandoning forums like the ICC will never bring about change, instead it will reduce South Africa to the role of an external and helpless observer with no influence on and in world affairs.  The DDF believe that engaging with South Africans and the world at large in a principled manner, will encourage the adoption of principles amongst all in South Africa and in the world, and that conversely, disengaging from the world will encourage the abandonment of principles both nationally and internationally. 

A DDF administration would ensure that South Africa takes its rightful place in international forums and in particular, rejoins the ICC.

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