Category Archives: Stuff that Happens in the News

Will we celebrate or mourn SA’s democracy tomorrow?

Copyright Miriam Mannak (All Rights reserved)

Tomorrow could mark a turning point in the history of the New South Africa: on Tuesday November 22 2011, parliament is to vote on the controversial Protection of Information Bill (POIB) despite the protests.

An “all thumbs up verdict” in my humble opinion would mean a first step towards the dismantling of the precious democracy so many people fought and died for.

I am not over-dramatizing the situation. Stifling the media and putting laws in place to control the press is often the first sign that a country going tits up. From the moment a government starts tampering with one of the four pillars of democracy, of which the media happens to be one, it shows that it does not care so much for democracy. Take Zimbabwe.

“But the Protection of Information Bill is not about hiding information, it is about protecting it,” a spokes person said this morning in Cape Talk radio, adding that the media in this regard has not treated the so-called secrecy bill in a fair manner.

Give me a break. In the land of politics “hiding” and “protecting” can be considered one and the same thing. Take Mac Maharaj. Just before the weekend kicked in, the ANC’s spokesperson sought to protect his own interests by making sure last weekend’s Mail & Guardian page 2 appeared with massive black boxes, apartheid style, hiding his dirty laundry.

With a growing culture of splurging, overspending, misspending, fraud, and corruption – combined with a dual-epidemic of Sticky Finger Syndrome (SFD) and Tenderitis – a free media apparatus in South Africa is crucial to keep the government on its toes.

Why you ask? Take corruption and wasteful expenditures. The millions that are disappearing each year are taz payers money. If you are a tax payer in South Africa, than it is YOUR hard earned cash we are talking about. Don’t you want to know what happens to it, and how is spent? If so, that is where we journalists come in.

I am sure that you, one of the 6 million South African tax payers, are paying your dues to make this country a better place in one way or another. I am equally sure that you are NOT giving away 25% to 40% of your paycheck – and 14% of everything you purchase – to pay for the small fortunes some ministers are spending on hotel rooms, second homes and spa visits. Well, newsflash: you are!  (among other things)

In the first eight months of 2010, the government allegedly squandered more than R1-billion of taxpayers’ money on luxury vehicles, expensive hotels, banquets, and advertising. This year was even worse.

Your money, including the cash that has gone awol, should go to the disadvantaged members of our society, people who depend on government support in the form of education, health care and grants for their day-to-day survival.

If the media are no longer allowed to freely investigate and write about these and other issues, including dodgy business deals, tenders, and political connections (from what I can gather the government at any given time can decide which information was supposed to remain ‘secret’), YOU (the member of society) will simply never know what has happened with the money YOU have earned – or deserve.

In other words: the fight against the Protection of Information Bill is not a fight of us media practitioners. It is NOT about OUR right to write. It is in the first place about YOUR right to know.

Please make your voice heard tomorrow, which has been dubbed as Black Tuesday. Please wear black.

For more information: Right2KNow Campaign


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The crisis from a freelancer’s point of view

I spy, I spy with my little eye that I haven’t blogged in quite a while. I blame this silly slip-up on the ginormous list of deadlines that is staring me in the eye while I type this. Well, at least I have got work, for now that is. With the 2008/2009 economic crisis in the back of my mind, I must admit that the current situation in Europe / Greece is making me nervous. I’m not sure whether I can handle another “2009” to tell you the truth.

Normally, we media freelancers – as opposed to big banks and politicians suffering from Tenderitis – never make the headlines when the going gets tough. And that is fine. Most of us rather want to report on stuff, than being reported on.

Fact of the matter is that not too many people realize that many of their news providers were hit by the economic crisis of 2008/2009.

1) As the global economy twitched and shivered, and South Africa entered its first recession in 17 years, newspapers and magazines and other publications around the world (well, those in the countries affected) saw their advertising revenue streams shrink like a silk scarf washed at 150 degrees. This impacted freelance budgets. As a result, freelance rates remained unchanged and often dropped (BTW: after the crisis, these rates were often NOT increased to pre-2008 levels). Or equally bad: there was less room (or no room at all) for freelance contributions.

2) To cut costs as a result of falling revenue, scores of fulltime media people were faced with retrenchment. Others did not have their contracts renewed. Forced by a persistent lack of vacancies, many of them joined the mighty army of freelance media professionals – who were already fighting over a shrinking pool of work. You get the idea.

All of the above was applicable to me. Well, everything apart from being retrenched.

As my editors kept their hands tightly on their purse, I was forced to take on what ever I could get, at what ever rate. And so I filled my days with brainless and severely underpaid online copy writing work for printer dealers, an online second-hand car portal, insurance companies and even an arms manufacturer. Yes, we are talking guns and war equipment, not prosthetic limbs. Yes. Me, the Pacifist. Look, I am not proud of that particular work, but I had to do something to prevent the boat from going under like a Big Ass Titanic. There were bills to pay, including the one for the extension of my Temporary Residency Permit (R12.000).

All in all, 2009 was my personal iceberg, but I managed to sail around it. In the process, I had to give up my office space as I could not cope with the monthly cost of R2000 + internet + phone calls. Having to look thrice at every rand before spending it, turned into one big frustration. But in the end I was lucky. I know of a couple of freelancers who had to revert to drastic decisions, including selling their cars / house and canceling on their life insurance and medical aid, simply because work had dried up.

As the year 2009 (aka as The Bitch) progressed, the news journalist in me got more and more frustrated: there was plenty of news in South Africa, but my editors did not have /did not want to spend money to take my contributions. I think I might have written about ten news stories in the whole of 2009.

The only positive thing about 2009 was that at some stage the rand stood 14 to the euro (some of my work is paid out in euros).

Then 2010 came, bringing the 2010 FIFA World Cup. That event in many aspects was my saving grace. In the first weeks of 2010, the first pre World Cup Assignments sailed into my mailbox: the whole world seemed to be interested in what was happening in South Africa. I also started a world cup blog, which drew people to my website and lead to more work.

I am not sure what my point is of this blog post, apart from the fact that I am feeling uneasy about 2012. While South Africa’s financial system remained intact in 208/2009, we too were a victim of the global financial crisis. Anyone who thinks otherwise is an ignorant dumb ass: the crisis which affected all sorts of industries, including tourism and the manufacturing industry, cost 1.17 million jobs. That was mainly as a result of declining export. Yes, from Europe and the US, our two main destinations for our export products.

According to my calculations this means that South Africa will be hit at some point if Europe goes tits up. So let’s send that part of the world some good vibes (or send it prayers, if that is your cup of tea).


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100% Dutch Shame

Yesterday the Christian Democrats (CDA), the majority party in the Netherlands, have voted Angolan asylum seeker Mauro Manuel off their precious little island.

This means the 18-year old, who came to Holland as a ten-year old kid, will not be granted a residence permit and faces deportation back “home”.

The fact this young man barely speaks Portuguese, that he’s managed to integrate himself fully into a flipping difficult society, the fact he speaks Dutch fluently (probably better than the average politician), and considers his foster family his parents does not seem to matter. The authorities do not seem too concerned with the fact that sending Mauro back to Angola means he will lose everything he has: a  loving family, a home, stability, an education and a genuine chance in life.

Mauro is black, he is Angolan, and Angola is no longer at war – so off he must go.

Angola might no longer be at war, the country is not one for sissies (by this I do not mean Mauro is a sissy, btw!). Just Google ‘Travel Advice Angola‘ or ‘Safety Angola‘ and you’ll see what I mean. No need to explain further. You do the math and ask yourself: would an average 18-year old European be able to survive there on his own? So why would Mauro be able to do so? Again, he has left that country almost ten years ago!

Oh, and please note that the Dutch government, the same one that considers Angola safe for asylum seekers to return to, discourages its own nationals from traveling  to this part of the world for safety reasons.

In other words: It is okay for black Angolans to get stabbed/robbed/mugged, but not for pale Kaaskoppe. Eish.

The worst thing is that the CDA’s decision to kill Mauro’s permit application could very well have been fueled by the right-wing Party van de Vrijheid (PVV). Rumour has it this party made threats to collapse the cabinet in case of a pro Mauro decision. I am not suggesting this was indeed the case, but I would be surprised.

The CDA however said it showed its ‘humane’ face by probably allowing Mauro to stay in The Netherlands to await the outcome for his study permit application. According to the rules, one has to apply for such visa in one’s country of birth. Bunch of hypocrites. If you can make an exception regarding a study permit, why not making an exception regarding the residency permit?

Anyway – I have as from this morning emotionally distanced myself from my citizenship and I will continue to do so until the political landscape changes. I do not want to be associated with a regime that allows itself to be ruled by a bunch of racists led by – how my Grand Mother calls him – Führer Geert Wilders (she survived the second world war, so she is allowed to say this) and one that choses to stab humanity in the back.

Rules are rules, sure, but sometimes there are exceptions. Mauro should have been one of them. Over 70% of the Dutch population shares this view, by the way.

Next time someone asks me where I am from, I will tell them I am from Sweden or something.


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Dutch Passport to Sell or Swap, as Good as New

Just when you think things can’t get any worse, someone or something always manages to make a point and test your patience. Successfully, of course. Today is such day. I am referring to The Netherlands in general and some right-wing racist Dip-Shit De Luxe in particular. His name is Martin Bosma, and he is a member of the right-wing PVV party (Freedom Party).

Martin Bosma about Apartheid. SMH

“It is a pity that The Dutch Left once helped the ANC to gain control over South Africa,” he was quoted by Het Parool (a newspaper which, thank Who Ever, is not right-wing).

First of all, I have to stress that The Netherlands did not do a great deal to free South Africa from the shackles of Apartheid. Yes, there were some demonstrations, boycotts and sanctions but that is about it, really. A guy with at least two university degrees and someone who is considered the party’s intellectual, should know that. Anyway.

What pisses me off beyond belief is Bosma’s warm and fuzzy feeling for “South Africa’s good old days” and the fact that people like him are tolerated within the ranks of government. Bosma, a former journalist (who has worked at CNN and other channels apparently), sits in the Dutch House of Representatives – so he is quite “Up There”. Did I mention he once called Hitler a socialist? Hm?

Bosma’s ridiculous statements are the cherry on top of what is going on in The Netherlands with regards to Mauro Manuel, an 18-year old Angolan boy who arrived in The Netherlands nearly 9 years ago. Now some dip-shits that call themselves politicians – including those on the PVV side – want to send this young man back “home”.

But what is home to this young man? After all, he left Angola when he was just ten years old. Angola, back then was a completely different country from now. When Mauro was put on a plane by his mother (he still does not know why she did that) the Civil war had just come to an end. Angola was in ruins after 26 years of warfare and far from pleasant for a young child (Read more about Mauro in my previous blog post. And while you do so, please sign this “Mauro has got to stay petition“. Over 50.000 people have signed so far! ).

Needless to say that I am rather pissed off with the situation in my country of birth at the moment. Oh yes, in my anger I have shed a few angry tears over the past few days! I am fire-spitting mad! This is not the country my late grand father and so many others fought for so goddamn hard! My beloved granddad would be twisting and turning in his grave if were aware of what is going in The Netherlands! (and with him, thousands of others).

In the meantime, I am contemplating auctioning off my passport on eBay if things are not improving.

“It is a pity that The Left once assisted the ANC gaining control over South Africa.”



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Dutch Government, Why Don’t You Grow a F*cking Heart!

I am flabbergasted. Baffled. Most of all I am fire-spitting ANGRY and very much ASHAMED. Ashamed of the government in The Netherlands, yes the one that allegedly represents me. These cold-hearted, merciless, soulless pricks-in-suits-and-ties in The Hague have decided that Mauro Manuel, an 18-year-old Angolan boy who has lived in The Netherlands for eight years, has to back “home”.

But what is home to this young man? After all, he left Angola when he was just ten years old. Angola, back then was a completely different country from now. When Mauro was put on a plane by his mother (he still does not know why she did that) eight years ago, the Civil war had just come to an end. Angola was in ruins after 26 years of warfare and far from pleasant for a young child.

Mauro is now fully integrated in Dutch society, he lives with a Dutch host family whom he regard as more or less his parents, he speaks the language fluently (probably better than I do – just watch the video), and has pretty much no ties with Angola anymore.

This boy is Dutch as Dutch can be yet. But he has to go back to Angola.

This decision comes from a government that heads one of the wealthiest countries in the world, a nation the world thinks of as tolerant. A developed nation. A civilized one. Allegedly.

I am so angry.

To speak in Desmond Tutu’s words: “Dear Prime Minister Rutte, you and your government don’t represent me!”

And in my own words: “Mr Rutte, Mr Gerd Leers, and everyone else responsible for this human catastrophe: you are nothing but a bunch of heartless criminals. By sending Mauro back to Angola you rob him of a future, a life, a family, a proper chance in life, and of everything else that he has ever had and would have had. I hope you can live with yourself, and that you will be able to sleep at night.”

Oh, you may consider growing a f*cking* heart while looking up the word “Humanity” in the dictionary. It seems you forgot what that is all about.


*I usually do not swear in my blog, but f*ck it: there is an exception to every rule.

PS: Please sign this “Mauro has got to stay petition“. Over 50.000 people have signed so far! It does not matter where you are from! We are all human being inhabiting the same planet!


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World Design Capital 2014 goes to Cape Town!

Since very very early this morning, Cape Town – my adopted home town – has been calling itself the World Design Capital 2014! Awesome! Well, I think it is – he he. I am not really a design fundi to tell you the truth. I however think this new victory could be good news for South Africa’s Mother City.

This World Design Capital 201 thing will apparently “result in a year-long programme of design-focused events that will see design used for social, economic and cultural transformation.” It seems Cape Town’s bid for the title was based on creating an inclusive city by using design in its urban development plans. So yes: If this title is set to improve Cape Town’s layout, city feel, and urban design while making the city more inclusive and the city centre more lively at night: Great! Well done Cape Town!

Now let’s hope our beloved Table Mountain will be voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World! Haven’t you voted yet in this international competition? Then do so NOW! From today onwards, you have just 16 days and a few hours to cast your vote for Table Mountain!


Posted by on October 26, 2011 in Stuff that Happens in the News


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Gadaffi’s Death a Reason to Celebrate? Really?

So okay – Gadaffi / Kadafi / Khadaffi / Qaddafi / Kadhafi*  is dead. Libya’s President (referred to as “Our Dear Friend” by Hargreaves Magama, Chairperson of South Africa’s Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation, at yesterday’s Institute for Security Studies debate) is no more.

It is understandable that Libyans celebrate the recent events. These people have been oppressed for decades, robbed from their human rights, dignity, and various other freedoms we tend to take for granted on a daily basis. So yeah, I think it is pretty normal the Libyan population, as a first response, is celebrating his death. 

But should the rest of the world sing and dance with them, and rejoice over Gadaffi’s end? Really? In what society do we live where it is okay to celebrate someone’s death? Shouldn’t we rather celebrate the prospect of freedom in Libya (then again, let’s see about that. Libya is not out of the woods just yet. As UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said: It is only the end of the beginning)?

Besides, I do not see the point of us, the outside world, celebrating the fact that a character like Gadaffi is escaping the justice he so much deserves. Now that he is pushing daisies, Libya’s former President will never physically and consciously pay for the wrongs he has done.

“Yes, but he is dead. There is no harsher sentence than death”, you would say. I do not agree. Death in Gadaffi’s case is a very easy way out. Besides, now there is always a chance for him to become a martyr among some groups – which could be rather dangerous. I hear a time bomb ticking somewhere.

Last but not least – what is there really to celebrate at this point? Gadaffi’s death came at a huge cost. Over the past months, the International Community has managed to bomb the country back to the Stone Ages, and thousands and thousands of people were killed / maimed and traumatized in the process. Of course they did not initiate this war. It was a response to Gadaffi & his cronies. Regardless of who did what: the price of the war – to be paid by ordinary people – was huge.  An overview:

  • There are no exact figures with regards to civil casualties (are there ever?) but it is estimated at least 30,000 people lost their lives and 50,000 wounded during the first six months of war initiated by NATO.
  • 26,000 air missions were conducted, of which 10,000 involved missile strikes. It should give you an  idea of the damage to infrastructure, homes, buildings, schools and hospitals.
  • UNICEF reported in March this year how 1 million children in western Libya “were in serious danger due to clamp down on protesters and vie for control of key towns and cities. As many as 700,000 children in that month were believed to be trapped in Tripoli”
  • Over 1 million refugees have fled Libya since March.
  • According to the Institute For Security Studies it is the most armed country in the world.

So yes, Gadaffi is dead and again: I fully understand why Libyans are celebrating this event. It is an initial reaction to the hardship they were subjected to. But to the US, Europe and anyone else involved: Back off! We all know that one of your objectives to start a war was to be able to eventually dunk a big fat finger in Libya’s oil pie. If you are so anti-Tyrant, why are you not involved in Syria? Or Bahrain? Or closer to (my) home: why not trying to kick Robert Mugabe’s ass? Should be fairly easy. Ah – unfortunately there is nothing up for grabs in Zimbabwe.

But that is my humble opinion – which you do not have to share of course.

* There are actually 112 ways to spell his name. And I thought my name – Miriam, Mirjam, Miryam, Meriam, Mirriam, Manak, mannack, Manack, Munnak – was a tough nut to crack! 


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