To intelligence and beyond!
23 April 2014 09:16 (South Africa)
The Daily Maverick's First Thing: the latest edition

First Thing is an e-mail compiled by The Daily Maverick in the wee hours of the morning five days a week, the better to prepare you for your day. If you'd like to see it you can visit this page every morning. Or you could just ask and we'll deliver it straight to your mailbox. Subscribe here.

First Thing with Carla Lever

"I have the feeling that writers in Latin America can’t use the word ‘solitude’ any more, because they worry that people will think it’s a reference to Gabo."

Carlos Fuentes on the late Gabriel Garcia Marquez' extraordinary literary legacy in Latin America. The literati amongst you can delve into Salman Rushdie's more analytical tribute here.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

While you were sleeping

Armed pirates have attacked a Japanese oil tanker off the coast of Malaysia.The six pirates approached the tanker in a speedboat. Once aboard, they pumped out more than 2.5 million litres of the vessel's stored diesel, which they transferred into two waiting vessels. They then abducted three Indonesian crew members before making their escape. The attack occurred in the Malacca Strait - a route for roughly a quarter of the world's seaborne oil trade.
Guardian, Reuters

Poor visibility conditions following last week's tragic Korean ferry sinking have forced search and rescue divers to feel for bodies in the wreckage.Visibility is down to a few inches and divers are constantly hampered by trailing oxygen tank pipes which snag on corners of the sunken ferry. As Choi Jin-ho, a diver who joined the search on Monday, explained "Close your eyes. That's what I saw." Only 174 of the 476 passengers have been rescued, with all others missing presumed drowned. Diver Hwang Dae-sik told reporters "We are trained for hostile environments, but it's hard to be brave when we meet bodies in dark water...This is the most gruelling and heartbreaking job of my career."

The results of a 2014 poll charting Americans' attitudes toward a spectrum of broadly-accepted scientific facts has revealed exactly what we suspected it might: the further removed from one's own body the idea, the less people tend to believe its truth. Just 4% doubt that smoking causes cancer and 8% don't believe in the existence of DNA . These numbers rise to 15%, however, when it comes to the safety of childhood vaccines and a staggering 40% who disbelieve global warming. When it comes to even more abstracted concepts like the Big Bang theory, a majority, albeit slim, of Americans express disbelief - 51% of them, to be exact. The results have reportedly depressed some of America's top scientists, including several Nobel Prize winners, who called the issues in question settled scientific facts.

Remember those classy days of the neknomination challenge? For those still blissfully (and admirably) ignorant, this is an online binge drinking dare. Even though its time has long past, there's always someone, somewhere who still thinks it's a good idea. In this case, it's 22 year-old Gavin Hope, a British who's now got a serious case of babalaas. Hope downed the traditional pint of lager with a big twist: he chased it with his pet goldfish. Yep, after sprinkling on a little fish food he downed the fish out of its bag of water. Karma got its hook into Hope in the end, though: the RSPCA was alerted to his posted Facebook video and he has been fined £300 (R5317).

The first leg of the Champion's League semi-final was hardly worth the wait: Chelsea played stranglehold defensive football to force a tactical 0-0 draw with a frustrated Atletico Madrid. We're hoping for better things when Real Madrid play reigning title holders Bayern Munich tonight.  

Financial indicators:
Oil=$109.5  Gold=$1284.37  Platinum=$1400
R/$=10.54  R/€=14.54  R/£=17.73  €/$=1.38
JSE All Share=48 643.31 (+0.58%)  DOW=16 514.37 (+0.4%)  FTSE=6 681.76 (+0.85%)
Sources: Bloomberg

Joburgers can catch DA Premier candidate Mmusi Maimane leading a march for jobs at 11:30 from the Westgate Transport Hub, a talk on road safety from police officials at 10:30 at the Orange Farm Taxi Rank and hints of gossip around the ongoing pay talks between platinum producers and trade union Amcu.

Pretoria hosts a ministerial media brief double-header with defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula on at 9:30am discussing the state of the armed forces, followed by Transport Minister Dipuo Peters who is reporting on the Easter road safety campaign.

Capetonians get Helen Zille launching the Western Cape's capital infrastructure delivery website (will she flip a ceremonial switch?) and ArchbishopDesmond Tutu discussing 20 years of freedom at 5pm in St George's Cathedral.

Internationally, it's the opening night of London Globe Theatre's latest production of Hamlet. What's so special about that? Well, the run has already booked out until April 2016...and the production is set to break records by touring to every single country in the world. That's quite a performance!

Fact of the day: We all have a top list of things to watch out for when swimming at sea, generally starting with the sharp-finned and ending with the long-tentacled. There is one tiny creature that may have swum under your radar, though. Introducing the gloriously quirky blue dragon...otherwise known as a sea slug. At just 2.5cm, this crazy looking critter punches well above its weight. Its favourite food is the poison of Portuguese Man-o-wars: massive jellyfish with tentacles up to 9 metres long. As if that wasn't badass enough for a diet, it sucks the toxin out while the bigger creature floats by in a real life moveable feast! Since the slug concentrates all the toxins it's consumed in a tiny surface area, it has a far more powerful sting than the bigger brutes. Talk about dynamite coming in small packages!


Bloemfontein: min: 4°, max: 21°, thunderstorms
Cape Town: min: 10°, max: 21°, sunny
Durban: min: 17°, max: 22°, thundershowers

East London: min: 13°, max: 17°, showers

Johannesburg: min: 7°, max: 20°, thundershower
Kimberley: min: 7°, max: 23°, thundershower
Nelspruit: min: 13°, max: 30°, sunny
Pietermaritzburg: min: 11°, max: 20°, heavy rain
Polokwane: min: 12°, max: 26°, sunny
Port Elizabeth: min: 11°, max: 15°, showers
Pretoria: min: 9°, max: 23°, thundershower
Source: AccuWeather


Did Oscar Pistorius lie on the stand?
Early on in his testimony, murder-accused Oscar Pistorius was questioned by his advocate Barry Roux about a Vaal River boating accident in which Pistorius was involved in 2009. The Daily Maverick has subsequently learned from eyewitnesses to the direct aftermath of the accident that at least one aspect of his testimony to the court may have been false. By REBECCA DAVIS.

The little Nkandla ad hoc committee that could – but most certainly won’t
As the election day approaches, it is not the last-minute rush of activity by political parties which will take centre stage, but rather what the 12-person Parliamentary ad hoc committee does when they consider President Jacob Zuma’s response to the Public Protector’s report on the upgrade to his Nkandla residence. The problem, of course, is: what exactly is the president’s response to the report? The opposition wants Zuma to be subpoenaed before the committee; the ANC probably knows this will be political suicide days before the polls. While there will be fierce resistance to any further damage to the ANC, Nkandla will continue to haunt the party as Zuma’s first term peters out. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.

Lies and damn lies: What would it take for the ANC to lose Gauteng in 2014?
Check the question again. It’s not asking whether the party should lose the province, or how likely it is that it will fail to reach the 50%-of-the-vote threshold. It just wants to know what series of events would be needed for this to happen. Whether you think this is an imminent or fantastical outcome, whether the prospect fills you with hope or dread or dismissive contempt, none of these things are important for the analysis. By PAUL BERKOWITZ.

Platinum strikes: Discussions to determine platinum belt, AMCU’s future
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) strike in the platinum belt has now been going for three months. The union was locked in discussions with Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin late on Tuesday night. These discussions will determine whether employees go back to work or the longest strike in the democratic era rolls on. Either way, it’s going to be costly. By GREG NICOLSON.

GroundUp: Justice for poor people? A trial that tells it all
While Oscar Pistorius’s trial is one of the most watched in history, the trial of Angy Peter and Isaac Mbadu has been running at the same time. It tells us far more about crime, policing and justice in South Africa than the Pistorius one. By Joel Bregman for GROUNDUP.

Rome: Explaining the city of saints
Hotels in the Eternal City are booked out this week and city officials expect up to one million people to gather as Pope Francis canonises Popes John XXIII and John Paul II on Sunday 27 April. The mass which will be celebrated for the canonisations is scheduled to take place in St. Peter’s Square outside the Basilica, where the mortal remains of the two men rest. Thousands are expected to watch the proceedings on big screens which will be erected in Rome while millions more will follow on television around the world. Why are these two men being canonised and does it really have any meaning today? By RUSSELL POLLITT.

Analysis: The Bentiu massacre is South Sudan in microcosm
There are 200 bodies rotting in the streets of Bentiu, a horrible little frontier town in South Sudan, put there by rebels who claim to be saving the place. At stake is oil, and power, and the egos of Big Men who sacrifice others in pursuit of their own petty ambitions. In many ways, the town is a gruesome metaphor all that is wrong with the world’s newest nation. By SIMON ALLISON.

Letter to the Editor: Pieter-Dirk Uys
Where were these voices of dissent against the ANC when they were really needed, when they could still make a big difference a few years ago? A letter to the editor from PIETER-DIRK UYS.

Football: The unbearable lightness of firing David Moyes
David Moyes’ tenure at Manchester United is over after a string of poor results. It isn’t really a surprise, despite Alex Ferguson being the “stick with your manager” type. Far too many unpalatable results has led to his undoing. But to remember him only as the guy who fluffed it when he took over from Fergie would be grossly unfair. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

ONKGOPOTSE JJ TABANE: Dear Comrade Ronnie Kasrils, let's talk frankly
Comrade Kasrils, you have rattled the cage, all right. There is a need to shake the complacency in our movement, I admit. You have a good idea, but it is badly executed.

KALIM RAJAB: South Africa's 15 defining milestones
A few weeks ago, my fellow columnist Sisonke Msimang delivered a stunning address at the Daily Maverick Gathering. Talking about the key events in her adult life, which had led to her now changing her political allegiance, she also painted a sobering portrait of “the dangers of exceptionalism”. Rather than unattainable expectations of exceptionalism, she argued, South Africans would do well to accept a more realistic truth - that as a nation, we are not exceptional. We are neither favoured, nor are we scorned. We simply are.

GUSHWELL BROOKS: Good news for a change - especially for informal traders
Operation Clean Sweep left many informal traders in Johannesburg destitute for weeks. But, in a break with the bad news, these traders have secured a victory in court – and can once again follow the route to productive entrepreneurship.

HANNIBAL ELECTOR: Exit Stage Right—the final days of Trevor Manuel
Trevor Manuel, best known as the world’s longest ever serving Minister of Finance, and as the luminary who shaped South African economic policy post-1994, recently announced his retirement from politics. Slowly, subtly, he has started to knock the ANC, his political home for more than two decades. But is this the country that Trevor Manuel made, or the country he helped break? RICHARD POPLAK wants to know how the ANC’s very own unicorn—a clean politician—is shaping the election conversation.

South Africa's Zuma obsession vs. the reality
As a nation, it would seem hard to deny that we have become quite obsessed with President Jacob Zuma. He dominates all the non-Oscar headlines we have. Nkandla is now a word with special power in our politics; sometimes it seems he’s portrayed as the devil-incarnate, the person single-handedly responsible for the decline of our country, and of the ANC. But the other night, I was asked: “How different would these elections be if Zuma weren’t head of the ANC?” It’s a question that makes you think about the image of the ANC, President Jacob Zuma, and the difference between temporary electioneering antics and the longer term issues. It also makes you wonder if perhaps we are too obsessed with Number One. By STEPHEN GROOTES.

Analysis: The South African election 2014 – sound and fury signifying... nothing?
With just two weeks left to run, J. BROOKS SPECTOR looks at the national electoral campaign and senses a gap in the way the election has failed to serve as an teachable moment – but how it might still rise to fill that need.

Algerians take stability over change (and who can blame them?)
Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika personifies much of what is wrong with African governance: the corruption, the patronage, the sheer longevity of his time in office have all stunted his country’s development, keeping Algeria and Algerians from reaching their full potential. But they could do so much worse, as a quick glance in the direction of Egypt and Libya reveals. Over the objections of a spirited opposition, Algerians have overwhelmingly preferred stability to change, and given the ailing Bouteflika another five years in office – providing he lasts the course. By SIMON ALLISON.

Health policy: The election’s crucial – and underrated – issue
South Africans can attest to the grim consequences of regressive stances on issues of public health: The disastrous HIV/AIDS policies of Thabo Mbeki are said to have cost the lives of at least 400,000 South Africans. The real effect, however, may never be known. And while the policies of the Zuma administration have been more progressive, with the overhaul of the health department being one of Zuma’s most apparent achievements during his term in office, the everyday experience of public health care in South Africa remains a struggle. By KHADIJA PATEL for SOUTH AFRICA VOTES 2014.

Lies and damn lies: Which trend is your friend?
It’s merely two weeks to election day and the air is soupy with polls and predictions and prognosticators. There are numbers everywhere, more than enough to cater for everyone’s bias and wish-list. How should you remain objective when analysts keep springing up like mushrooms after the summer rain? By PAUL BERKOWITZ.

The sweet sound of saving rhinos – with song
In the scramble to save our rhinos, what generally comes to mind is a mix of camouflage-clad soldiers, high-powered rifles, tracker dogs and deadly force against ruthless poachers with bullets, machetes and no pity. That’s been the response so far and it's not working. Each year the death toll rises and last year it exceeded 1,000 hacked-off horns and rotting carcases. By the end of 2014 it could be worse. If rhinos are to survive, a new plan is urgently required – and one might just be forming. By DON PINNOCK.

VIDEO: Andrew Miller at The Gathering

Theatre review: It’s monkey business, but you’ll love it
There is something quite exquisite in the way Matthew Ribnick serves up Monkey Nuts. It’s another of those one-man shows where the actor plays a variety of characters, but Ribnick does it so well that he should be collecting several salaries. By LESLEY STONES.

The hills are still alive, decades later
The Von Trapps are singing their hearts out at Montecasino, and you’d better believe it’s every bit as wholesome and sing-along fabulous as it was when Julie Andrews dished it out on a Christmas special near you. By LESLEY STONES.

Trott’s burnout: A reminder of sportsmen’s sacrifice
Jonathan Trott has suffered a relapse of the illness that ruled him out of the Ashes last year. It could very well be the end of his career as a professional cricketer. The most important thing to take from it all is a reminder of all the sacrifices made by professional sportsmen and all the pressures they face. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

IVO VEGTER: Voting: there’s still time to change your mind
I was going to vote for the Democratic Alliance. Really, I was. Despite Julius Malema’s uncanny ability to be so usefully wrong about almost everything, I had a superb reason to do so: “Title Deeds For All”. But then, a few more of the DA’s senior members reminded me that the party is infested with elitists and fascists. What is the use of a mind if you can’t change it?

TRUDI MAKHAYA: Political consensus on constraining economic power, within constraints
The problem of economic power: its concentration, its abuse and its regulation features strongly in the economic visions of the main political parties contesting the 2014 election. For the parties clustered around the centre of economic policy – the ANC, DA and Agang – there is agreement that many key sectors in the economy are dominated by too few players, and that many of these players are engaged in anti-competitive behaviour.

JAY NAIDOO: Twenty years of SA democracy: A new fight must begin
Twenty years: a milestone; a journey from the darkness of authoritarianism to the light of democratic governance. We should be celebrating. We should be dancing in the streets. We should be thanking our lucky stars. And yet, across South Africa, no one seems much in the mood for a party.

IAN OLLIS: Can anyone really fly?
In the past week we have seen the finalisation of the approvals and licensing of @flysaffair, allowing the new low-cost airline to finally take to the skies and (hopefully) provide the public with discounted ticket prices on key routes. Many will remember how the ticket price on some of these routes increased by up to 30% after the demise of 1Time and Velvet Sky airlines, leaving the public with limited choices. With this new entrant, we may see prices on certain airlines discounted again and passenger numbers increase as a result. But the skies over SA and Africa as a whole are unfriendly to new entrants and low cost airlines alike.