November 3 to November 9 2006

Basotho are gatvol

The current Lesotho Congress of Democrats government has riled me, a proud Mosotho.

In 2004 the government decided to increase the salaries and packages of MPs, ministers and permanent secretaries by a whopping 85%. Some are reported to have received more than a 90% increase.

In one of the world’s poorest countries, where only 10% of the labour force is employed in the formal sector and which has been following International Monetary Fund-prescribed austerity measures since 1988, this splurge was mind-boggling.

Ever-patient civil servants — who are not allowed to unionise, to the exasperation of the International Labour Organisation — got a paltry 5%.

This class of employee gets incredibly low salaries to begin with, and with the continuing privatisation of basic services has to contend with astronomical electricity, water and transport bills. They are taxed to death, while the lucky few in the top echelons of power appear to live lavishly.

Our old-age grant is R150 a month and is only received by people aged 70 and above. The disability grant is R100, and its administration leaves a lot to be desired. My cousin, who lives in a rural area, has to travel to Maseru to get it, and since June she has been turned back consistently.

To add insult to injury, the government entered an unfortunate, ill-timed and insensitive car loan/lease scheme with Imperial Fleet Services. Top of the line Mercedes-Benz Kompressors which were leased over three or four years were ”sold” to ministers for the token price of R4 000, while permanent secretaries took their Toyota Camrys home for R2 500.

Tom Thabane’s All Basotho Convention is being formed in this socio-political climate, and one hopes that his party takes the needs of the electorate seriously. It stands a fighting chance in the upcoming election.

The ordinary people in Lesotho are not amused by the government’s shenanigans. To put it mildly, ons is gatvol! — Mothepa Ndumo, National University of Lesotho, Maseru

Dyantyi has voters’ mandate

Last week’s march in Cape Town, organised by mayor Helen Zille — ”Godzille” — and her coalition partners was meant to convey that Western Cape Local Government Minister Richard Dyantyi is acting undemocratically by changing the mayoral committee system.

Dyantyi is not acting undemocratically, because we, the voters, gave him a mandate in a democratic provincial election in 2004. Dyantyi will apply his mind and decide on the best way forward.

After orchestrating an eight-month witch-hunt and badmouthing campaign against former mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo and former city manager Wallace Mgoqi with accusations of corruption, Godzille has not provided one shred of evidence that could stand up in court.

Meanwhile, Godzille’s own mayoral committee co-member and African Muslim Party councillor, Badih Chaaban, has been found guilty of violating the council’s code of conduct, and owes council more than 90 days’ rent. What has she done about this? Absolutely nothing!

Godzille has not built or repaired any roads or houses since taking office. The South African Geomatic Institute’s Gavin Lloyd has been reported as implying that the council’s planning department has ground to a halt and that Zille’s committee didn’t fully understand the ramifications of what it is doing.

Said Kevin Hodge, an independent land surveyor: ”When it comes to planning, the DA is a disaster.”

So Dyantyi should be applauded for taking action. — Kaizer Z Ntloko, Khayelitsha

”Buyisiwe”, a Tembisa woman, was gang-raped a year ago. Hiding in a People Opposing Women Abuse safe house, she is still waiting for justice.

Prodigal sons

I hear you craved a woman,

kicked in her township door,

eight young guys, feverish eyes,

the woman on the floor.

The neighbours heard her screaming

and shut their eyes in fright.

Don’t witnesses get stuck with knives

when gang-law rules the night?

Some say a docket vanished,

a cop friend killed the case.

I’d do the same if I had thrown

acid into your face.

I blame you on past violence,

on drugs and poverty,

but right and wrong is here and now

not hidden in history.

Your reggae might be kwaito,

your gospel macho rap,

but listen guys, manhood dies

when sex requires a slap.

I don’t care where you’re hiding,

I’ll write you back in view,

so those who love this land can say

shame, shame on you.

Chris Zithulele Mann, Grahamstown

Marriage does not mean domination

In his assessment of marriage, Graham C Reed (Letters, October 27) should not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The vote was also originally a patriarchal tool securing male hegemony, but the fact that it was once the servant of partisan control, power and domination does not mean that universal suffrage should be abandoned in favour of no voting rights at all.

We need not circumscribe marriage so narrowly and negatively that we are forced to abandon it altogether.

Christianity views the marriage of a man and woman as analogous with the relationship between God and humankind. That we long to love each other unconditionally and forever reflects a desire to transcend our human weaknesses and frailty to share the endless love of our creator with another human being in a relationship of spiritual, emotional, social and sexual wholeness.

There is a faith-derived mysticism to the Christian notion of marriage that is inconsistent with the idea of heterosexual marriage as a form of gendered domination.

The mystical yearning to express a love greater than our humanity is not confined to Christians. Neither should marriage be reserved for a select few, or derided as an oppressive or obsolete institution.

Regardless of religious conviction or sexual orientation, every couple should be entitled to make a marriage commitment that transcends practical and financial concerns — a vow of unconditional love that reflects a faith in something beyond our physical embodiment. — Tamlyn Monson, Johannesburg

Manto deserves respect

Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang may lack political astuteness and say the wrong things at the wrong time. But she did set a good example to our leaders by admitting herself to a public hospital when she had a lung infection.

The ANC has a policy of protecting its leaders from harsh criticism. But when it comes to Manto, it seems to be a different ball game — it hardly defends her from the insults meted out to her. The minister of health carries out the policies of the ANC; if anyone is to blame, it’s the ruling party.

The fact that she is not a good politician doesn’t mean we should react to her as if she’s subhuman. The Treatment Action Campaign, in particular, should stop treating her like trash. She has the right to dignity and respect. — Thabile Manga

Why use UK law?

Mark Curtis argues that ”subjecting private companies to democratic control is one of the big challenges of our era” (Investing in the Future, October 27). He bases his argument on allegations of environmental degradation at Obuasi in Ghana, the site of one of our gold mines.

We have no dispute with Curtis’s primary assertion. Indeed, we are seeking to deal with these issues, arguably in a more democratic way than by relying on proposed British legislation.

Curtis refers to allegations by villagers from communities around Obuasi, where AngloGold Ashanti runs a mine that has been in existence for more than 100 years, and under our control since 2004. These refer to contamination of water by cyanide and heavy metals and the deliberate flooding of villages and the pumping of effluent into streams.

AngloGold is aware of concerns raised by local residents and NGOs and, from our own monitoring of the environment, of higher levels of heavy metals in and around Obuasi. The cause of this contamination is not entirely understood and is the subject of a continuing company investigation.

We have indicated to Third World Network, a local NGO, our willingness to investigate these matters jointly and comprehensively and to submit specimens from the area to independent testing. We are awaiting its response.

Cases of the flooding of local property have been found to have a number of causes, the most common being excessive and unanticipated rainfall, and damage to pumping and piping equipment by informal miners seeking to divert gold-bearing material.

Where there are such incidents, the causes are investigated and action is taken to prevent recurrences, clean up spillages and compensate people whose property may have been damaged. We have never intentionally flooded a village or community facility.

Partnership is central to our approach, and the need to ensure communities are better off through our presence. In Ghana, we are trying to set up joint monitoring and investigation groups to examine issues Curtis refers to, and problems which may arise in future.

If taking joint accountability is what Curtis disparagingly refers to as ”self-regulation”, his definition of ”democratic control” is too limited. He may be wrong in preferring the use of British law to regulate Ghanaian (and other countries’) affairs.

Surely he would prefer concerns between business and communities to be dealt with directly between the parties concerned, rather than at the pleasure of a distant foreign state? — Bobby Godsell, CEO, AngloGold Ashanti

Porcupine rubbish

Your article about the killing of the porcupine is total bullshit (”Killing the quill trade”, October 20).

First of all, you can’t sell quills for as much as R30 to R40 — that’s a total lie.

Secondly, porcupines are not on the endangered species list. They are on the Cites 2 list, so there is not a huge threat to them.

Thirdly, I will kill as many as I want, because they are destroying our crops. Who are you to tell me that I can’t kill the animals on my own farm?

Please get your facts straight before writing rubbish. — Werner Sunkel

Rehire SA teachers

The recruitment of refugee Zimbabwean maths teachers to South African schools sounds like a good idea (”Lessons from Zim”, October 27), but these teachers are not trained in our outcomes-based education.

Will these teachers have to be retrained, and, if so, who will fund retraining?

And why are highly qualified teachers in South Africa not recruited back into the system with the same vigour — especially since the taxpayer has already paid towards their training? — Elma Ross, Thaba Tshwane

From the hip

Cosatu’s defence of the SABC’s John Perlman over the latter’s disciplinary hearing is shooting from the hip. A similar matter arose before the federation’s congress last month with allegations that general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi abused a credit card.

Vavi and others blamed the leaking of information by certain Cosatu leaders. This, they claimed, was a concerted effort to turn delegates against him.

Vavi informed the public that it was a breach of how Cosatu handles internal matters. If Cosatu has internal matters, so has the SABC. — Mlungisi Ndhlela, KwaMashu

In brief

Our Constitution gives accused persons much better rights than elsewhere, and the abolition of the death penalty has not helped matters. In a recent cash heist, the robbers burnt the guards alive — even though they’d taken the money. They will get 20 years’ jail, halved on parole, which is not a meaningful punishment for their cruelty. I’m not saying that we should trample on human rights, but let’s review the rights of accused persons. — WN Bhengu, East London

In the absence of an acceptable standard of living for all South Africans, it is immoral to spend R15-billion of our money on a sporting event while allocating only R3,1-billion in extra spending for hospitals and social welfare. — Kathleen Pithouse, Kloof

We look forward to reading the M&G, but your rugby coverage is weak. Andy Capastagno falls into the opinion and rhetoric category, makes extensive use of clichés, has weak technical knowledge and does not seem close to the players or team management. When his forecasts are proved wrong, he conveniently forgets about it the following week. — Dave Bunn, Clarens

The prevailing attitude and impression is that Aids is a black people’s disease. Yet World Health Organisation stats indicate that in the past two years, white youth across Europe and the US are now battling African women for the title of fastest growing infection rate! — Ted, Johannesburg

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