Letters to the editor: September 2 to 8 2016

Citizens’ voices must be heard

The political direction the South of Africa has taken is slowly leading us to a state where citizens’ voices no longer matter. Politicians more and more hear only their own voices. The chaos that erupted in Tshwane when the governing party announced Thoko Didiza as its preferred mayoral candidate has exposed many of us who cherish peace, prosperity and justice to inherent weaknesses in our body politic.

There are some lessons to be learned from that self-created chaos, mainly instigated by internal factional battles in the governing party. Political parties, including the Azanian People’s Organisation (Azapo), must do everything in their power to avoid such chaos.

It highlights the urgent need to review our electoral system, so that ordinary citizens have the power to appoint and recall elected public representatives in municipal councils, provincial legislatures and the National Assembly. Citizens must be allowed to elect their own public representatives, including mayors, premiers and the president, directly.

Many of our citizens remain powerless, yet they are expected to vote every five years and endorse the very flawed electoral system that renders them powerless.

The other important issue is the current demarcation process, which also disempowers citizens. People in affected areas should be allowed to exercise their choice in a referendum.

It is sad that 55-million of us had no say when the National Assembly debated the impeachment motion after the damning Constitutional Court judgment against President Jacob Zuma in the Nkandla case.

All of us were at the mercy of the 233 MPs who voted against the impeachment and the 143 MPs who voted in support of the motion.

We, as citizens, had no say in the matter.

All 55-million of us are dictated to by the governing party’s top six and its 100-member national executive committee. And are they aware that they wield more power than all of us combined? What type of democracy is this that favours the minority?

The so-called public hearings have lost meaning; they are merely being used for compliance purposes. Many of our people are no longer interested in them because they are often used to rubber-stamp the decisions of the governing party.

It is therefore important for us to seriously consider and demand the introduction of a referendum in all matters we collectively agree are of national importance.

This would help us to avoid any future violent and destructive episodes such as we saw in Malamulele and Vuwani.

As for the thugs and criminals who are hijacking our citizens’ genuine demands, they must all be exposed, charged, arrested and sentenced to long-term imprisonment, with no bail or parole option. – Lesego Sechaba Mogotsi (Azapo member)

One-sided amaB Zambia election coverage

International election observers, including the European Union Observer Mission and the African Union Observer Mission, affirmed Zambia’s August 11 polls as being free and fair and having met international standards of a successful democratic process.

The observer missions relied on local election monitors – 20 000 countrywide. Parallel vote tabulation reporting was widely used by the Electoral Commission of Zambia and helped predict that Edgar Lungu was the likely winner of the poll and also helped affirm the credibility of the results when they were announced by Zambia’s electoral commission.

In the foreign media, however, the election was a “sham”, replete with violence and characterised by “widespread electoral malpractice”. They quote reports by amaBhungane, in particular Blood on the floor in Zambia poll.

The report focused on what was deemed extensive pre-election violence and “police harassment”.

It speculates that the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) presidential candidate, Lungu, had lost support in Lusaka and the Copperbelt provinces to opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND). It claimed that the PF was collapsing and speculated it would lose, hence Lungu had allegedly heightened violence against his opponents.

By contrast, observer missions, world leaders and international organisations congratulated Zambia on a successful election.

Observer reports recognised some flaws, as in any election. One common flaw was the media: the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation and Muvi Television were cited as examples of polarised media. Some also made note of the interparty violence, especially before the poll.

Both the UPND and the PF have a history of violence. The UPND waged a campaign of violence against PF supporters, destroying government property. Violence escalated after some PF leaders defected to the UPND. PF supporters have suffered beatings, with three deaths at the hands of UPND cadres recorded. Police are investigating.

Yet amaBhungane chose to ignore such reports and only picked cases of violence with UPND victims.

Lungu and the PF’s late leader, Michael Chilufya Sata, had repeatedly condemned the violence. Lungu recently ensured that PF cadres involved in the murder of a UPND cadre were prosecuted.

Before the elections, Lungu said: “I am not worth dying for” and “I will not retain power or State House at the expense of peace”.

Even when political parties defied orders, the police acted with restraint, to the point where the public accused them of docility. Lungu urged the police to act swiftly to curb rising interparty clashes.

On July 8, after police cancelled a UPND rally in Lusaka, there were clashes leading to the death of a female UPND supporter, Mapenzi Chibulo, who, her party alleged, was shot by the police using live ammunition. The police deny this, stating they used rubber bullets and teargas only. The case is now under police investigation.

Lungu won with 50.35% of the vote, beating Hichilema’s 47%. Lungu won in seven provinces and Hichilema in three. The PF got 85 seats in Parliament, the UPND 58.

The opposition has contested the result in court, alleging electoral malpractice. The Constitutional Court will, within 14 days, hear the validity of the UPND’s claims.

Maybe then we can look at the credibility of the overly negative report from amaBhungane. – Emmanuel Mwamba, Zambian high commissioner to South Africa. For the full letter, please go to mg.co.za/zambiareply

Letter to the editor: M&G article on Naspers conflates two unrelated matters

Dear Editor

As a regular reader of the M&G I often admire your excellent work in investigating and exposing malfeasance. However, the article “How the Dutch rapped Naspers over the knuckles for tax, while its BEE scheme flopped” (online, 1 September 2016) and “Unveiled: Naspers’s Dutch courage and BEE belly-flop” (print, 2 September 2016) lacks basic research and fact checking.

The article vilifies Naspers for being commercially savvy and managing its tax affairs like any multinational corporate entity in the world. It further tries to conflate two entirely unrelated matters and uses that as the basis for innuendo.

The separate matters are as follows:

One: Naspers is in a tax dispute in the Netherlands where it supposedly has a token presence. In various countries Naspers sometimes gets tax rebates; sometimes it pays in more. Naspers is constantly discussing elements of tax with several tax authorities and some aspects will go to arbitration in courts. Unlike some internet companies, Naspers has a high effective tax rate – the consolidated rate has consistently been between 30 and 35% of profits in the past years. In addition Naspers recognises that the tax it pays is an important element of its broader economic and social contribution to the countries it operates in. In the past financial year the group paid over R12 billion in taxes in the key countries in which it operates.

The innuendo of a token presence in the Netherlands is rather humorous: the group employs 128 people in Hoofddorp, including the CEO, Bob van Dijk.

Two: An investment in the Media24 Welkom Yizani BEE share scheme was less profitable than an investment in Naspers shares on the JSE would have been. This is obviously true and amounts to comparing apples and oranges.

In South Africa Naspers has two group subsidiaries: MultiChoice and Media24. Both companies launched BEE share schemes in 2006. MultiChoice’s Phuthuma Nathi scheme is in fact very successful. As an illustration, a person who invested R2 000 when the scheme was launched now has shares valued at close to R30 000, having yielded a total dividend of R10 400 to date.

Since pay television has performed better than print media (which is in decline globally), the MultiChoice scheme has obviously outperformed the Media24 scheme.

When Welkom Yizani launched it was oversubscribed five-fold. In 2008 we were hit by the global financial crises, slowing economic growth and the disruption of print media by the internet. In light of the headwinds Media24 is facing and the effect this has had on Welkom Yizani shareholders Naspers has forgiven a total of R762-million debt in the scheme. This means the scheme is now debt free.

While the media industry globally will remain challenging in the years ahead, Media24 is widely respected for its innovation and diversification to ensure growth for its shareholders.

I am disappointed that the M&G has conflated two entirely separate issues in an attempt to fabricate a narrative which simply cannot be substantiated.

Esmaré Weideman

CEO, Media24. – mg.co.za/media24reply

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