Three Things We Must Learn From The Battle of CAR

Mar 27, 13 Three Things We Must Learn From The Battle of CAR

Posted by in Featured, International

By now a lot of the dust has settled around the battle which waged for roughly 13 hours a few kilometres outside Bangui at checkpoint PK12. There is a lot of finger-pointing and many expectant questions of just why the hell we were there in the first place. Before larger allegations of uranium and oil deals emerge between South Africa, CAR, France, and god knows who else, we should take stock of three important points that can be learned regardless of how the forthcoming weeks proceed.   Our Soldiers Fought Well There has been a long-running misconception that our soldiers cannot fight. That they’re all HIV positive layabouts incapable of doing any actual soldiering. Naturally this might be true for certain portions of the military, as it would be for virtually any defence force around the world, but Saturday’s firefight proved, above everything else, that our soldiers are not only capable of defending themselves, they are able to fight back with a tempo that rivals most international forces of the same calibre. 200 paratroopers and Special Forces troops faced off against 3000 rebels advancing, according to the Chief of the SANDF, General Shoke, on a 1km wide front is no laughing matter. That our soldiers were able to hold their ground against a numerically-superior force armed with large-calibre machine guns, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and all other manner of weapons, is an impressive feat. That we were able to inflict an estimated 500 casualties on the enemy is an excellent outcome. The loss of 13 SANDF servicemen is tragic, but those lives were not given easily. No matter what criticism is leveled at higher command, the South African Government, the media, or any other outlet, the South Africans fighting for their lives this past weekend fought bravely and fought well, and that should put to rest any questions on the ability of our elite soldiers. Allegations and rumours of a hurried and panicked retreat in the face of the rebels is by all official and credible accounts false. Our...

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Somalia’s PMCs: What’s the big deal?

Jul 31, 12 Somalia’s PMCs: What’s the big deal?

Posted by in Featured, International

Khadija Patel recently wrote a piece on the presence of private military contractors, PMCs,  for the dailymaverick. In it she borrows heavily on the expertise of Sabelo Gumedze, an analyst at the Institute of Security Studies, and a “security analyst” who apparently remained nameless to protect themselves, or to sound more mysterious, either of which serves to add to the shadiness of private security. The article rides on the back of a UN Report detailing PMC activities in Somalia and most significantly fingering the South African Government as being incredibly naughty for not helping the UN on gathering information. But underneath all this is the theme of implied ‘evil’ on PMC actitivities, when really this tar and feathers approach utterly misses the point. PMCs, God help us all, can actually be useful. Media outlets have made a meal out of PMCs in the past few years. They’re a soft target, like Julius Malema and painting penises on caricatures of famous people. After all, many of the organisations running around Africa (and the Middle East) in their designer Oakleys and cargo pants, bristling with ridiculously-customised assault rifles and pickup trucks use South Africans. That’s because we happen to have an entire generation or two of black and white combat veterans who, upon being cast out of their military society in South Africa, are welcomed back into the private fold for quadruple the price and, this time, the Angolans are your battle buddies, not targets. Moreover, the bigger PMCs regularly get utterly roasted for their blunders (which do often result in innocent lives lost), and thus are ever the sinister ghoul hanging over many major conflicts around the world. But what Patel and most media on PMCs miss is the inalienable reality that private military work sees individuals fulfilling contractual obligations in bloody dangerous areas. Areas where people will die regardless of who’s there or not. Where civilian casualties, regrettable as they are, will happen. In Somalia there appears to be a rough consensus that the country and piracy off...

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The Commisar’s Art Critique: Zuma’s Spear

May 18, 12 The Commisar’s Art Critique: Zuma’s Spear

Posted by in Culture, Featured, Politics

By now anyone in South Africa without their head in the ground will have read about the controversial Brett Murray painting hanging limply (yes, I made that joke) in the Goodman Gallery in Joburg: We can all understand why the ANC would be angry about the piece. I mean, the proportions are clearly WAY out, and I’m sure painting the Presidential member is always going to be a stiff issue amongst the ruling party.. Regardless, we’re all missing the fundamental problem with Murray’s work here. Place on the berets now… … The majority of the painting is a crude copy of Lenin’s infamous poster during the 1917 Revolution (the first image) Now. If we ignore the main thrust of Murray’s painting and focus on the other bits of the painting, there is a comparison, whether intentional or nay, to Lenin. I don’t think anyone with a smidgen of political science rattling around in their heads would liken Zuma to Lenin. One was the grandfather of Soviet Communist ideology as we know it, united a people and a party, and was an architect for society numbering in the hundreds of millions, if not billions if we include China, and the other had a rape trial, married lots of women, divided his party and split the people along political battle lines. The comparison implied by Murray is quite simply horrid. Although I suppose there is an argument to be made that both were responsible for removing otherwise-indifferent heads of state by forceful politicking, but somehow I suspect during all the cock-and-balls painting Murray was not paying attention to that. Forget taking it down because its audacity offends the ANC. Take it down because its ignorance offends...

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State of Indifference

Feb 10, 12 State of Indifference

Posted by in Featured, Politics

As I type this President Zuma is delivering his state of the nation address (SONA), and many South Africans enter into the hours-long pageantry of a time-honoured tradition held within Parliament. TV stations will follow the parade of fully-plumed dignitaries waddling up the steps to their respective seats, where they can spend the next few hours maintaining a ghastly picture of barely-cognisant interest at the President’s droning. It is a tradition that has been followed for years in South Africa, and sees our prominent public intellectuals creeping out of their holes for the requisite 15 minutes of talk time with one show or another’s host, like jackals slinking about a wounded antelope. All fun and games. Except the SONA is utterly irrelevant beyond this week, and this entire farce is nothing more than a shining example of everything wrong with this country. When was the last time anything said by the President during the SONA was carried on in any honest sense of accountability? Simply put, the address serves nothing more than for a public act where all must play their roles, and the curtains close a few days later after the opposition parties have had their roasting in their retaliatory speeches of rivaling pointlessness, and the public forget this ever happened. For now, we tweet with #SONA hashtags about the President’s points and examples highlighted, we titter and giggle at the MP’s who fall asleep in their lavish robes (gained in part from their multi-million rand salaries) and we laugh at the simple-yet-ridiculous mannerisms of the President while he gives his two cents on the nation. It’s pointless because it’s utterly temporary. The President’s address does no more to alter the perceptions or understanding of this country’s affairs than the dull-eyed simpletons who comment on it on SABC or E-TV. It is all a ridiculous pantomime conducted for the purely-indulgent post-match armchair analysis fit for Bryce Lawrence’s rugby matches and ammunition for small talk in the days to come. But who can honestly remember what happened in last year’s SONA,...

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Right 2 Know: Hijacking a Conference Near You

Dec 05, 11 Right 2 Know: Hijacking a Conference Near You

Posted by in Featured, News & Media, Politics

Since there’s been a Protection of Information Bill there’s been a Right 2 Know Campaign. They have steadfastly refused to accept the POI bill in any way, shape or form whatsoever, which is probably good. The Bill needs to be redone from the ground up, and no matter how many concessions are hypothetically made (though unlikely now that it is actually legislation), the bill has been tainted and poisoned, and should be scrapped if only for the purposes of washing everyones’ hands clean of it. So kudos to R2K for fighting the good fight. As I noted a while back, their noises of ‘resistance’ are admirable, but ultimately pointless, since this is something that will be decided by our Constitutional Court and not a civil society. But that was so last-month. Now that it’s been passed, local media outlets have focused their short attention spans to Jackie Selebi’s shenanigans and climate change in the form of COP17. But what’s this! We see R2K tramping about outside the ICC in Durban talking about the POI Bill again!? I thought that organisation had nothing to do with climate change? Well, according to R2K the government is keeping what the lobbyist organisation call “climate secrets”, in the sense that they do not disclose otherwise-confidential financial agreements between private companies and Eskom. This somehow negatively impacts on our well-being as citizens (the R2K doesn’t really provide an explanation of just why we should know how much of a discount mining companies are getting, just that we should know.) Despite the fact that we already are aware of the price-alterations between big power-using companies in South Africa and Eskom, it’s frankly beside the point of COP17. COP17 is at its core a summit of world leaders and policymakers to figure out how to improve our national and regional approaches to combating climate change. With the Kyoto Protocol fast reaching expiry this has become even more important. But the R2K has effectively siphoned off a large chunk of publicity covering this important...

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