Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Why Do People Leave the ACDP?

The danger of building up any hype around a party like the ACDP is that people's hopes can get dashed when their esteemed leaders don't turn out to be perfection personified as they expected. The ACDP have had prominent office bearers cross the floor to the very parties they fought against in the elections. When it comes time for the next election, it is understandable if some voters feel they've been betrayed once and can never trust again.

Before I present our position, let me say that voters should not have unfair expectations. If the Bible says we are all sinners, then that includes ACDP candidates. There are no perfect politicians, preachers or citizens. But some ARE better than others. Not all parties are the same, and some politicians ARE better than others.

Some people do leave the ACDP in a huff. Let me explain in my understanding why people leave...

Number one, politics is hard work. The ACDP has seen relatively little fruit for its efforts over the years. With each new election there is a lot of hard work involved, and there are pressures throughout the party to perform, and we seldom win a by-election we contest. In other words, you chase the carrot and seldom get it. Who can carry on like that for long, especially when you are supporting the party after-hours and have a family to take care of? Keep in mind that most don't get paid for their efforts either, so contesting an election can be financially draining.

Secondly, politics involves strong personalities. You will not survive in parliament if you don't have nerves of steel and can stand your ground. You also need an opinion - what good are you in standing against injustice if you just go with the flow all the time? Bring strong, opinionated people together and you inevitably get conflict. Actually, the ACDP handles this quite well in my opinion.

Third, some ACDP candidates fall short of the mark. All our office bearers and executive committee members are screened by a guardian committee of pastors, but it's very difficult to detect all the dirty laundry. When the problems finally start surfacing, there is the inevitable backlash, the blame game, the dirty tricks, the accusations. Like any business, it's never easy to fire somebody, and when they get onto the streets, the general public soaks up their recrimination with eager delight, while the party is keen to honour the Biblical code on gossip and not splash out the details.

Then there's the conflict of views. Some don't agree with the death penalty, others don't think the ACDP should be an overtly Christian party. Others feel we aren't Christian enough. And when we lose election, inevitably the guys who disagreed are fully convinced that they were right all along. And off they go and form a splinter party ... and win the national elections immediately. Or not. Somehow the differences in opinion get illuminated when you experience difficulty - this is as true in the ACDP as it is in marriage.

And then sometimes the party makes a bad decision. If I avoided that truth, all of the above would be another session of party propaganda. Yes, sometimes people get hard-done-by and they pack up and leave. Sometimes leaders make mistakes, sometimes policies are drawn up without enough understanding, sometimes candidates are given positions they can't handle. It happens. For me personally, I grin and bear it - I can serve the party and the country better by getting on with the job than by throwing my toys and walking out.

And lastly, don't forget that the public loves bad news. Newspaper reporters will always illuminate the negative and you're more likely to hear about the dissident than the aspirant. Take what you hear with caution and investigate if you need to.

The ACDP have lost a number of people over the years, but the party has stayed strong, continued fighting elections and making a noise in parliament. People come, people go, but some stick around and the challenge for us is always to build the party around the good people and not to get distracted by the flashy new members who will ditch us in a year - a tough challenge indeed.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Logic Failure of Gun Control

One topic that seems to be popping up regularly when we talk with the voting public is the topic of gun control. To be honest, with all the usual noise about abortion, the death penalty, gay marriage and other bedrock issues, I hadn't paid much attention to gun control.

My initial reaction to this issue was influenced by the media, and I suspect that many would feel similarly. There has been new emphasis on increased gun control with every spate of high school attacks in America and certainly that publicity starts to filter through your mindset.

Imagine saying the opposite. Imagine saying that gun control should be reduced and that every man and his dog be equipped with rifles. The image that crosses my mind, and maybe yours, is one of anarchy, of fierce factions empowered to blow each other away whenever their mood goes bad. Back comes policemen killing their girlfriends and all the other folklore attached to the trigger-happy.

Certainly there is a risk that you put guns in the hands of those who don't have the discipline to keep their bullets between the mattresses. The flip side is far worse.

The basic premise of gun control is that you can completely eliminate guns. It assumes that at some point in the near future, you can have total control over the population in your country and that no gun can pass hands without the police seeing it, finding it and eliminating it. It also assumes that the police themselves are perfectly trustworthy and as the only bearer of weapons, if at all, you are completely safe in their hands. If you're a South Africa citizen you'll know this is fantasy.

Here is the reality. Guns get into South Africa across borders, in undisclosed containers on ships, manufactured in backrooms in leafy suburbs and smoky townships. Locals and foreigners organise syndicates that pull off very lucrative robberies using these weapons. They are illegal, traded with little regard for the laws in place, and the good guys in the police and defense force do not have the resources to control them.

Here's the worst part. The government makes a law banning or limiting private firearm ownership, and the citizens most likely to obey the law are the ones least likely to abuse the firearms. The ones most likely to misuse weapons are the ones that are least likely to have their weapons confiscated. And when a murderer walks into a suburban home, ready to steal at any cost, who is the guilty person? Is it the father with a job, his wife of 23 years and his only teenage girl or is it the serial murderer who has killed four already in heists and armed robbery? Who dies now? De-armed by the state, the father is powerless in that moment, the private security companies will never be there in time and the persons who die that day are not the guilty, but the innocent.

What if the father had a gun? What if the criminal knew he might have a gun? If the criminal is shot dead by the father, how is that worse or even the same as the father shooting the criminal dead instead of losing his innocent teenage girl?

The incredible irony is that personal firearm ownership in South Africa will result in fewer deaths and a safer and more peaceful country. For every policeman that shoots his girlfriend over an argument and for every yearly school shooting in America, I'll remind you of the daily deaths in South Africa that no longer make the newspapers. A world without guns is utopia, a dream most of us would love, but reality indicates that the implementation of gun control in South Africa results in exactly the opposite of what we hoped for.

The ACDP supports private firearm ownership, not because we are right wing extremists, but because we want fewer deaths, safer neighbourhoods and families who can rest easy at night. Gun control achieves the opposite.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"Don't split the opposition"

I was pushing brochures in Howick over the weekend, ahead of the Ward 2 by-election on December 10. To be frank, I'm not fond of putting more "junk mail" in people's postboxes, but you cannot ignore this approach if you really want to get your party's voice heard. We have people saying "where have you been?", and we have to take the risk of using annoying marketing techniques if we're to answer that question.

Either way, I was ignoring the barking dogs at one box and heard a voice: "Why are you splitting the opposition?" It turned out to be an MP from the DA who was canvassing the same area. We had a "heated" discussion for 15 minutes about everything from the death penalty to the DA's so-called "free vote" on anything moral (a mask for their liberal immorality). What irked him the most was that we were splitting the vote in that ward, increasing the chance of a communist ANC councillor being voted in.

The DA love this slogan. Even worse, it seems to work. So I answer it here...

Firstly, which opposition? Why are the DA splitting the ACDP opposition? When it comes down to values, standards, a message that appeals across races, and demographic representation, the ACDP are a better party. The DA are simply not the kind of government I would want to live under as a Christian. The DA MP was suggesting we stand down in the by-election, but I would rather his party stood down.

Secondly, the ACDP are also splitting the ruling party. This was very true in Howick, where we were intensely canvassing the Zulu area with door-to-door visitation. We were in fact working an area the DA are not strong at, reducing the hold of the ruling party. We've also seen huge growth in Limpopo and Eastern Cape, which are strong ANC areas.

Thirdly, how long should the ACDP be standing down? Do we simply keep procrastinating and then stand with a guilty conscience before God when we consider whether we have fought for the unborn, for family values, for safety in our country. The message that the ACDP are not aggressive enough has been heard, and an increase in our marketing aggression includes rivalling opposition like the DA.

I do understand the risk of splitting the opposition, and I would choose a DA councillor over an ANC councillor on most days. The simple question is this: how much splitting are we doing? If the ACDP is content to steal a few votes here and there, then the threat of a split is valid. However, if we push the values we know are strong and purposefully take up the call, we can unseat the DA, replacing them and the ANC. That would split the opposition, but do it effectively. In other words, lukewarm is the worst possible position here. The ACDP needs to go big or go home. In Howick, we went big - the results will be interesting and I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

"My vote won't make a difference"

Entirely true and entirely false. The truth of this statement is purely down to statistics, and the failure of this statement is likewise also down to statistics.

Joe Smith makes the statement and decides not to vote. His vote is one in 15 million and quite obviously doesn't make a difference. His neighbour does the same - no sweat. The other neighbours also don't vote, and neither does the entire next street. In fact, the whole neighborhood doesn't vote, and neither does the rest of the city, or the province for that matter.

I hear you say: don't be ridiculous! Well, at the last elections, 40% of South Africa didn't vote, which I would guess is the population of two provinces combined. The ANC won about 66% of the vote, but would only have had 38% if the non-voters had voted against the ANC. What this indicates is that when you don't vote, you're actually voting FOR the ANC.

Ludicrous as it sounds, here is how this works. There are 10 votes available - 5 will vote ANC, 2 DA, 2 ACDP and 1 IFP. ANC would get 50% of the vote. One ACDP voter decides not to vote, so the ANC gets 5 of 9 now, which is 56% of the vote. By not voting because "his vote wouldn't make a difference", he has actually boosted the ANC from 50% to 56%, decisively acting in their favour.

Okay, so Joe Smith is one person. There happen to be several million Joe Smith's, and at this point we ask: how do we get that forty percent that Joe Smith makes up to now vote for a good party like the ACDP? I can think of no better answer than: one at a time, starting with Joe Smith ... and you?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

DA: No Place for Black(s)?

I personally don't want to be caught up in silly digs at others, but I must say I was a little humoured when seeing the new DA logo. I applaud the party for wanting to freshen up their image and I thought they had a reasonably good new website - at least it looks fresh and in-your-face.

Here's the deal: the new logo makes a deliberate point of including several colours and even looks like it resembles the SA flag in the streams. So I was looking at it and suddenly realised there was no black! This is an incredibly irony, since the DA's primary problem has been to shake off its image as the white party. I don't mean to disparage the non-whites who have joined the DA, but it's no secret that the DA are not demographically reflective of the South African population.

Personally I think the previous logo was miles better, more distinctive in its colouring and design, and easy to recognise. The current logo is incredibly generic. It seems there was a deliberate attempt to mimic the Obama logo, which is reasonable, but the Obama logo also stood out far more. If the Obama logo's red, white and blue was a match on the US flag, why is the DA logo not a match on the SA flag?

Talking about parties and demographics, can you name a party in South Africa that has a better race mix than the ACDP? While parties like the ANC, IFP, DA, MF and VF seem closely matched to some kind of ethnicity, the ACDP draws its principles from the Bible, a foundation recognised by all race groups. While my allegiance to a party like the IFP is more likely to rest on my esteem of the Zulu culture, my support for the ACDP is based on Christian principle, hence the ACDP's non-racial appeal, and why it is so well positioned to become South Africa's party of choice for all race groups ... well except for racists.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Laying Hansie To Rest

I'm one of those "big picture" types - when I watch a movie, I try to pull out the bigger threads, rather than getting worked up by small details. When I go to the cinema to watch a movie like "Hansie", my nature is to ask the big questions. Why did they make the movie? Was there going to be enough material in Hansie's life to write a script that worked? Should we be revisiting Hansie's life anyway?

While I felt there was an intention to weave good messages through the plot, my overall impression was that the film served more as an obituary for a character who was undoubtedly loved. I was hoping that the movie would also capture some of that passion we've all had for South African sport, and from a sporting point of view, I thought they captured the pain of that 99 semi-final loss reasonably well. The movie was technically reasonably well done, although I feel that the story was not crafted well enough to draw in an audience beyond those who did know Hansie's story already.

Back to the bigger picture. I feel there are two points relevant from the movie. The question was asked: should Hansie's name be removed from the Greys College honours boards? My thought was: leave it there to serve as a reminder that we can all fall. Many of us have done worse than take money from bookies, and yet our positions have not been exposed to the national media. All of us have fallen in some way at least, and while I am not suggesting we turn a blind eye to the failures of our leaders, I do suggest that each of us take a view of our own lives and ask whether our own books would balance if we were held up to the same public light.

The second thread of interest regards the challenge of being at the top. So much is made of being in the spotlight, being the captain, being the hero, being the president of a country. In truth, when you get to that level, you're exposed to a whole set of pressures, challenges and disappointments you hadn't anticipated. What keeps you grounded? What prevents you from falling prey to the temptations of riches, women and power? And just as importantly, what unswaying standard can you measure yourself against so you stay oriented?

It's interesting to note that Hansie was a Christian, and we have to ask: how could a Christian do such things? The answer is simple: God's Word has no value until you apply it. While a Christian still walks under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, God does not remove our freedom of choice and we can still choose to sin if we wish.

It is for this reason that the ACDP holds up the Bible as the answer for this country. As in Hansie's case, simply being a Christian does not necessarily imply that you will provide good governance or good direction for a country. It is only in the application of God's principles that we will see this country come right. For those of you who support Christians working in other parties like the DA or ANC, ask yourself whether their Christian influence will actually translate into the application of Christian principles rather than simple verbal adherence.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Is an ANC Split Good News?

Undoubtedly it's fascinating to watch the South African political soap opera right now. Certainly the shake up has been the fresh ingredient that we've needed for some years, even if it serves to give the public a fresh view on where we are as a country and where we need to be.

In my opinion, the ANC's troubles are simple: their 1994 promises were extravagant and misleading, suggesting a kind of growth that was never going to be possible, let alone using the flawed socialist tactics employed. The ANC now walks under that repercussion, and not only them but every other scapegoat available, whether foreigners or sporting emblems. That a party that seemed so strong in one moment could be so fiercely divided is a remarkable turn of events.

Without much thinking, it would seem that both South Africa and the ACDP would welcome a split. The reasons are numerous. First of all, it would break some of the ANC's momentum in building one-party government. Despite their "consultation" propaganda, the experience of ACDP councillors, MP's and MPL's is that the ANC steamrolls legislation through the various councils and blissfully ignores the comments and contributions of the other parties. Without their two-thirds majority, the ANC would have to engage in an unprecedented amount of dialogue, consultation and compromise with the other parties, leading to more balanced legislation that does indeed reflect the country's views more accurately (which it certainly doesn't now). Voters who had normally marked an ANC box without thought may now have to pay more attention to what their party stands for.

A split would have huge ramifications for the ANC's once stable financial base. My suspicion is that many of the "old school" BEE benefactors would stick with the "old school", namely Mbeki and his cohorts. This wouldn't solve the ACDP's constant quest for investment, but it might limit the ANC's ability to churn out large events with t-shirts for everyone.

That is only half the story. How will the ANC handle this kind of conflict? Will we see unprecedented hostility in parliament, such as that being seen in Zimbabwe? How far away could we be from seeing Malema's words put to work? In fact, if you think the ANC has a problem with slow delivery now, imagine if they have to turn their attention to actually compete for an election. As an example, the US elections steal huge amounts of time, investment and effort from actually getting the job done. In some senses the ACDP would rather that the ANC falls asleep at election time.

Of interest in the ANC's disquiet is a possible return to a sense of tribalism, something that they seemed to have steered clear of for so long. Perhaps the ACDP's multiracial support and leadership will stand out more clearly if the ANC walks down this road?

I must admit that a possible split does not cast fear into me. Our democracy is some 14 years old, and the fact the ANC has been willing to induct change is good news (think Mugabe). While attention-seekers like Malema can make disturbing comments, perhaps our structures are strong enough for now to withstand that kind of flexing. At this point I do hope the split goes ahead, but as ever, let's keep our eyes open and watch the signs.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Blue Movies: Your Voice Can Make a Difference

If you've got any sense of morality, your nose will be turned at the sight of stores like Adult World and Hustler, where adult material is flogged to the public. I was almost equally dissatisfied at the display of blue movies in the local video shop I frequent. They were originally displayed along the top shelf, but later stacked up on a shelf in the corner where they would be less obvious to the casual customer.

I developed a good friendship with the video shop owner, and one day got around to casually mentioning my displeasure at the availability of these DVD's. I had assumed shops like these kept them because they represented valuable income. I was wrong. It turns out some customers would walk in demanding hot movie action and the female staff did not have the physical presence or courage to resist that kind of intimidation.

A month later I was back at the shop and the owner proudly pointed out to me that the movies were gone - my mild objection had paid dividends. It's not the first time I've had success after complaining about unsuitable material, as my Mr Price experience points out, and it won't be the last. I guess some people get action by storming in and demanding an instant response, but I had just as much success by being respectful and coming across as a level-headed individual with family interests at heart, rather than a right-wing fundamentalist (which I probably am anyway).

Obviously there's been a lot of research done on the repercussions of watching adult material through videos and computer games, and I don't have much in the way of stats to offer from these findings. I can say though that it doesn't take much common sense to realise that watching blue movies does lend itself to taking another step. Visual material is a yard away from physical interaction, leading to affairs in marriage or pre-marital trouble for bachelors (attached with unexpected children). We talk glibly about family values in the Christian world and in the ACDP, but we do so because the Biblical pattern for relationships is full-stop better than what's out there at the moment. If you disagree, let's talk.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remember the Excitement of New Development

My pleasant 5-minute drive to work takes me past the botanical gardens every morning. This morning I spotted a new sign that confirms the changes that the gardens have been undergoing for a few months now. There's a signboard from the Dept of Environmental Affairs advertising an upgrade of the facilities at the gardens, which like most facilities of its type, could really use an injection of support.

At this point I find it way too easy to fall into the usual pattern of thinking, imagining misallocation of funds, discriminatory tender selection, bureaucracy, backhand bribes, etcetera. Then I remembered that sense of excitement I used to feel when I was young and saw new development on the go.

I'm sure I speak for most of the white population in South Africa when I say that we need to give our scepticism a break sometimes. I recall the recent statements from the ANC that the whites "want the 2010 World Cup to fail". I'm not sure it's a case of "want", but rather "expect". Even so, I'm as much in danger of allowing all that scepticism to replace the fact that our country will host one of the world's two biggest sporting events. After the corruption that saw Germany steal the hosting rights from us, we've finally got our chance. While I will probably always view the ANC with justified concern, if the present government can pull it off, then hats off to them.

When 2010 comes around, we will have a glistening set of new stadiums, staging a world event on one of the best international stages. We might not have a team to compete, but there will be plenty of competition, foreign accents, local enthusiasm and world attention. It would be a mistake to miss out on the festivity, and for once I intend to remember the enthusiasm that has been the sole domain of children for far too long.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Why We Reject Legalised Prostitution

Having just seen a billboard headline for the Natal Witness that suggests we should possibly legalise abortion, it's perhaps a good time simply to set out the main points of our considerable dislike for prostitution. This is of course a growing issue with the suggestion of red light zones for the World Cup, particularly in Durban.

First up, while the ACDP does base its policies in Biblical principle, we do believe that each of these policies is plausible in their own right. We believe in a God who has good plans for our lives and who sees at a level higher than we do. Where a policy of His seems to run against contemporary thinking (especially a set of thinking espoused by the athiests), we are confident that a little further analysis will show God's policy to be the best, without exception.

First of all, prostitution runs completely against good family values. We believe that healthy citizens are best raised in a stable home, with parents of the opposite sex who love each other and remain in loyal covenant. It doesn't take a scientist to realise that visiting a prostitute would create a serious wedge in a marriage that would harm the trust between a couple, with that tension feeding through to the children.

Prostitution fosters a culture of sleeping around that heads in the opposite direction of a healthy family structure. It undermines the notion of stable family and it potentially leads to unplanned pregnancy, where children grow up with the knowledge that they were an "accident". Furthermore, it places emphasis primarily on the physical and away from the value of the soul, emotions and personality of a person.

It can lead to significant health problems, notably the spread of AIDS and STD's.

Prostitution has a strong association with crime and with cultures where drug-use thrives. Among those who become prostitutes, many have done so owing to other societal failures, including drug use, living on the street and human trafficking. Legalisation of prostitution is a failure to deal with the source of the problem, and is in its own way an endorsement of the state of society, rather than attempt to remedy the situation.

Prostitution generally harms the identity of the prostitute. As we regard intercourse as a special bond between a loyal couple, the prostitute has customers partake of this intimacy with no intention of giving anything but money. There is very little reciprocal love and commitment involved, and research shows undeniably that the restoration of a sense of appreciation in a prostitute's life is a slow and difficult process.

Those arguing that prostitution be legalised in order to regulate it need only look at the state of the abortion industry, which is hugely out of control.

As a last thought, some would say we are showing no love for people by preventing them from persuing their natural desires. Given the very serious repercussions of prostitution, how can you possibly say you love a prostitute when you choose not to try lead them away from a life that will destroy them? Equally, those who believe that prostitution is a serious career path truly need to have their hope in the beauty of life restored.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Regulate Pharmaceutical Prices?

If you glance casually through the black books of the globalisation watchdogs, you'll never find global pharmaceuticals far away from the "worst of the worst" list. In every campaign, some get targeted more than others, and here it's the Pfizers, Johnson & Johnsons and company that bear the major brunt of the attack.

The concerns are fully understandable. We have volumes of sickness with a ready cure, and by virtue of a patent they earned through research and development, a pharmaceutical powerhouse has full control to set whatever price they like, regardless of what their customer can afford. That, at least, is how the matter is viewed by the antagonists.

While I am a strong proponent of the free market system, to deny that I feel a little queezy about the setup would be clear indication that my heart was replaced by a biomechanical pump at a young age, probably one with a pharmaceutical logo on it! Nevertheless, we have to look at the implications of taking action on this matter.

My interest in this matter was perked by speaking at length to a senior official in the KZN Dept of Health (DOH) yesterday. Working in the hospitals as a pharmacist for years, he now serves as a supervisor in the province and monitors the purchase, provision and use of the medicines that the department uses. There is an obvious bias to sourcing locally, one I support, but more rare drugs as well as uniquely patented ones are sourced from international firms.

As an aside, I should mention that in some cases, contracts are given to BEE firms who source from Indonesia and Malaysia rather than to white-owned firms in South Africa. How crazy is that? In fact, how corrupt is that?!

That aside, what has emerged is of grave consequence. The DOH has a special list of high priority drugs that are critical to operations. But there are no industries willing to produce them. Why? They can't make any money off them - the government sets the price too low and there's no interest from the private sector. This is a critical situation!

What happens is that these firms now switch to the private sector, scale down their operations (government is the major buyer in the market), and when the government has a shortage and needs supplies, the firms can only promise a tenth of what is needed. The government is now either stuck, or has to switch to paying high market prices to overseas suppliers.

Let me say right here that what is occurring here is indeed free market trade, and the government is not in contravention of that. DOH is simply a buyer and the manufacturers are the suppliers, and the free market system involves the constant play-off between the two, which usually results in some kind of equilibrium.

So who buckles at this point? There are sections of activists suggesting we force a price on the manufacturers. If the price is below production costs then this is clearly unfeasible. If the profits are huge, and the market is open (ie. government hasn't regulated it!), new entrants will come in because the opportunity is so good, undercut the others in order to get contracts and sales and force the price down.

There are three scenarios left. Firstly, the profits may be insufficient to entice new suppliers. There is no problem here really then. Secondly, the startup costs may be too steep in terms of technology, skills required and basic financial outlay. Frankly, in my view if the market is that good, then some big competitor will come in with the necessary funds - the open entry principle is important again. It's fascinating in this example that you could even have multi-national corporations coming in from the outside to compete with other multi-nationals and force the price down.

The last scenario is where a patent allows one company to have complete dominance and set unfair prices. I'm fascinated to know how often this occurs in practice. I'll be honest and say I'm not really sure on this one. What if there is only ever one cure for AIDS and some company finds it, patents it and has subsequent monopoly control? The first question is: can there ever be only one cure? Secondly, would they have developed the cure without the incentive? (That's meant to be an open question, not a rhetoric one)

My general take is that in practice, free market works better than regulation, so if in doubt, stick with free market. I personally don't feel that we're at the point of needing to intervene, but we do have a role to play in giving feedback to the companies. To show a headline like "Pfizer charging way too much for medicine" can cause people to stop buying other general Pfizer products, causing them to rethink their strategy. The simple act of protesting without regulating is fine, because it gives consumers the freedom to make an informed choice, and informed choice is what makes the free market tick.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Perfect Politician: Future Career Path

There are plenty of good politicians out there. They're running around as production managers in industry, manning hospitals, producing albums and living out ordinary lives. Frankly, who wants to be involved in politics? All the evidence seems to indicate that if you want to achieve anything useful in the political realm, you have to play the usual game of trickery, subtle lies, back-stabbing and support mongering. It seems that politics is caught in a self-destructive cycle: there are no good politicians, because the politics game is so dirty, because there are no good politicans.

It's time for a fresh image, for the dream, for the ideal. It's time for the ACDP to present the fresh image of the "Perfect Politician". It's time to get back to the good young people and present the community leader that all the good folk look to for protection, for a smooth running city and for integrity in a dark world. There are people who are ready to play that role, but they need to be put in the right support structure so they don't walk that path alone and find themselves "losing the faith" as so many good aspirants do when they enter the political realm.

Truth be told, much of politics is tedious. Winning the vote is hard work, especially when you know that you're unlikely to win it without extravagant promises and bold proclamations. And let's face it, you can work hard and not even get into the media, so people may never know about you. When you get into the role, the public spare nothing in criticising whenever something goes wrong, regardless of the good you've done. You're expected to do the right thing, it's taken for granted and goes unnoticed and unappreciated. And the dirty guys are waiting for your smallest slip-up to use in their next campaign.

There are rewards of course. The fame, prestige and attention comes aplenty. Salaries are decent - better than what most receive, but not as much as a skilled professional might get (you'll earn between R8000 and R14000 as a counsellor in KZN). Even better, you get to play a role where you do really impact on the lives of many people. You plan city layouts, you put protections mechanisms in place, you decide on rates, bylaws and regulations. Your work touches a lot of people.

I guess the sense of power is what draws a dangerous crowd to the arena, but rather than play modest and back off, which is the tendency sometimes among the good, there is a need for people who will step into the arena and not shy away from the bright lights. For this very reason, we need to begin proactively targeting young people with potential again, and not wait for them to come to us. I would rather have a bright spark working in government than ticking over somewhere in a highly paid position in some multi-national corporation.

The key to roping in the next generation is to start afresh and renew the image: what is a perfect politician? Let's get this train back on the rails of idealism. While reality sometimes requires a slight shift away from the ideals, we sure have veered a long way off and can go some distance to restoring the dream.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Separation of Church and State?

Before anyone can ever begin this tense debate, you have to define what you mean by "separation of church and state". We often bring contradicting images to this topic and tend to argue the same points without realising it.

There are probably two main understandings here. This separation to some means that the church structure should not be entrenched in government in the way it was in the middle ages. To others, religion should not be involved in government. If you have a third view I'd also love to hear it.

It would be difficult to argue for a specific church structure to become the defacto for a country. I've grown up in the church and have a fair grasp of church history, and I've seen enough to know that church leaders are fallible and that a church denomination can get way ahead of itself. The wonder of Christianity is not the church, although the church should be a reflection of what's good about God. When the angle of the mirror changes, it stops reflecting the good aspects of God and begins reflecting the depravity of man, with its power struggles, selfishness, dishonesty and all the other aspects I'm sure you can easily fill in. History has shown that the influence and effectiveness of different denominations can shift and some have fallen away as they drifted away from God, while others have strengthened as pioneers within them have steered them back to their Christian roots. This "free market" principle should not be overridden by the state.

Religious involvement is an entirely different matter. Let me put across my view in a series of questions. Are ethics involved in government? Do government decisions have relevance to society's ethical views? Undoubtedly. You only need to look at several of the hot issues like abortion, corporal punishment, the justice system, gay marriage and pornography, and realise that there is no way a government can avoid a ruling that upsets at least one party. There is no passive position that can avoid these issues altogether.

The second question is: is there a universal set of moral values? In other words, if a religion is pushing for a set of ethically-based legislation, are they infringing on some kind of universal moral code? Imagine that a religion is wrong for wanting to ban gay marriage - an approach that avoids religion might say that's imposing on individual freedom. But if you take that approach, then you can't say underage pornography or rape is wrong. If you're taking active legislation to ban these, then you're taking an ethical standpoint. Where did those ethics come from? Why can't business operate in a devious manner? And when you explore ethics, you'll find quickly that opinions are indeed divided on a wide range of topics.

Given that a government cannot decide on certain ethics-related legislation in a way that pleases everyone, who decides which side to take? Why are the non-religious lobbies automatically right and the church groups automatically wrong? Frankly, both should have a chance to have their input, and we use the democratic process to facilitate that.

At the ACDP we have full respect for the democratic process and we have no intention of making laws that require everyone to be a Christian (like they had in the middle ages). We do however have ethical beliefs, just like the non-religious groups do, and we believe our beliefs produce a better society for all. If those beliefs happen to be grounded in the Christian faith, that's no reason for them not to be considered. If we want unborn babies to have their lives protected, well that's worth legislating. If it takes religious involvement to stand up for the unborn, then it's about time the religious got involved.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A Prayer for the Zuma Case

The best time to pray is always now...

Father God, we pray for this pivotal case in South Africa's future, where Jacob Zuma goes on trial for alleged offences. We understand the tensions between different worldviews, the chance of dashed hopes either way, of hopes and aspirations hanging on either side of this verdict.

Above all, we pray for truth and justice, that even as each of us stand accountable before You, may each of us stand accountable before the law. May the outcome of this case be fair and just in the minds of all and may the case be presented in a such a way that the arguments for and against, along with the presentation of the facts, be clear so that all can understand. If there are hidden agendas or details that could unfairly sway the result, may they be brought to light.

May this be a time when the judges are inspired by a sense of purpose. We pray that they think beyond personal prejudice, either way, and see the picture in its fullness with clarity, conviction and resolution. May they hear the cries of the good people in South Africa and may they march forward on that expectation, leaning on it and fulfilling it. We also pray for their protection during and after the trial.

May Jacob Zuma know his position in this trial. If he is not guilty of the charges, may he have the presence of mind to present his case. If he is guilty, may he have the courage to lead this country in the right direction by being humble and acknowledging his error. Either way, may he be a better leader by the end of it, with a greater sense of where he stands in relation to You.

Finally, may the outcome and announcements be met without violence or undue remonstration. May the proceedings be conducted in respect and may we all walk away with a sense that no one is greater than the law, let alone Your law.

Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Can Christians Be Politicians?

We thrashed out a number of election strategies for the ACDP over the weekend, with a teamwork and strategy workshop for the KZN provincial executive councils (PEC's). It was a productive weekend where we highlighted a wide set of areas we can work on in the party, including more affirmation of those who are doing a good but unseen job, and more in-depth discussion on emotionally sensitive topics.

One very interesting view was the apparent clash of Christian values and political strategy. For instance, should we be blowing our own trumpet? The Bible seems fairly clear in suggesting that "the right hand should not know what the left is doing", but if you work hard behind the scenes, will people vote for you? When we were manning an ACDP stall at Pietermaritzburg's Royal Show, we had people coming and saying: where have you been all these years? What!? We've been working hard, running our administration, planning for the elections, etc, etc. But it hasn't been visible.

In the same way, we've had to admit that if you want to get into the media, you have to be controversial. You have to grab the headlines with outrageous statements and actions that grab people's attention. It seems like a nice, well-rounded media release that makes perfect sense is not good enough - you have to exaggerate, use strong words and be "larger than life".

This has led to the suggestion that we should be leaving our Christian principles in church and walk a different talk in the political realm. I beg to differ.

The political arena is notorious: it attracts powermongers and thieves and it quite rightly aggravates the public. Not only that, but the worldwide voting audience are instinctively critical, and no administration passes unscathed beneath the vengeful eyes of a public who will remember your one failure more than your ten successes. This forces political parties to take a short term view and to make promises that will win an election rather than preserve long-term good. Frankly, the word "politician" has quite rightly earned the personal application of a cattle branding iron across one's forehead.

I believe that Christian values are exactly what are needed to transform politics. Honesty means telling the public what they need to hear and not what pleases them. Personal responsibility means acknowledging failure instead of pouring out weak excuses that further discredit yourself among the discerners. Fear of God is what keeps you on the straight and narrow when nobody is watching. To suggest that we shed aspects of good Christianity along the way is what will rob us from being the very solution that our country needs.

Having said that, politics does give us the opportunity to re-evaluate church practices. For instance, to say that prayer is the answer for everything might be seen as a Christian principle, but the Bible imparts personal responsibility for action in addition to prayer (see the book of James). Perhaps if we look more closely at the Bible, we'll find that all the qualities needed to win an election are well prescribed. Perhaps we just need to work harder, improve our strategies, stop blaming our failures on our Christianity and do exactly what the Bible recommends: step out in faith ... and prayer helps too!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It's Time to Pray: Get the Prayer Newsletter

Because the ACDP is very much a Christian party, we do believe strongly in the importance of prayer and we believe that our prayers do make a difference with things that are seen and unseen. And like most churches, we know that we need to pray even more than what we do.

In my role as the prayer coordinator for KZN, we are setting up a number of prayer meetings around the province. It helps that the ACDP is something of a neutral agent that can help to bring churches together across the denominations, and we all share the same desire: to see our country come right and set on the right path.

If you're interested, I coordinate a monthly email prayer newsletter which highlights important prayer matters. Additionally, our involvement in the key decision making processes of the country gives us "inside info" into urgent prayer needs like bills that are about to be passed through.

If you would to receive this prayer letter, send a request to ericsavage@gmail.com. Also, if you would like to assist in organising regional prayer functions, even just for your area, please contact me as well. Thanks.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Eskom Report Confirms Failure of BEE

Independent Online published the findings of a new Eskom report investigating the reasons for Eskom's failures. Of course with any such report you have to ask yourself on what authority the reasoning is done. Just because a recommendation is made or blame is laid doesn't somehow stamp finality on it. We still need to examine the logic used and the evidence presented.

BEE is a hot issue, and my experiences with blogs that discuss these topics has shown that the discussion can get distinctly race-based. While an unfortunate side effect of apartheid is that we're still tolerating race-based legislation, for one group to want zero bias when they had benefited from previous bias leaves you sitting uncomfortably.

Frankly, we're all well aware that apartheid prejudiced the development of certain race groups and that there is a backlog to make up - what really sets the views apart is how we move forward from here.

The key issue I want to address here is skills development - the very crux of BEE, its engine room. And here is exactly where BEE has failed. While BEE has been used to enrich some black sections of the population, that really is the sideshow. The idea was that giving someone an important role, ahead of schedule, would give them the opportunity to grow into that role and learn a skill needed for that role. Now how do you learn that skill? Where do you get it from and who teaches it to you?

There are three main forms of skills acquisition in industry: study for a degree or diploma, do personal research through books or internet surfing, or learn skills in apprenticeship. When I say "apprenticeship", I refer to any role where you work under someone for a while and then take over when you are ready. If you have any business or industry experience, you'll know that this is probably the leading form of skills development. And yet, that system is bypassed by BEE.

There are two results of the BEE system. Firstly, the ones who need to learn the skills are in authority over the ones they need to learn the skills from. But who ever wants to learn from a junior? It rarely works in practice. Secondly, those who do have the skills and have now been shunted pack up their bags and leave, and take their skills with them - there is no transfer. Eskom will testify that this has happened, and several departments like Public Works are experiencing exactly the same.

The end result is huge. Very little skills development results in badly run business, failed projects and bankruptcy. BEE benefactors are placed in senior positions, companies struggle, and the very people that should have been enriched are now in failing operations and bearing the brunt of criticism.

Let's paint a different scenario. Those without skills go through the proper apprenticeship process and when they are ready they are promoted and get a good new salary. The business stays strong. The former BEE benefactors do get the promotion, in the longer term, and when they do, they carry out their function in a sustainable business.

Simply put, BEE is short term and apprenticeship is there for the long term. No surprise then that BEE has benefitted a few but leaves the majority short. For this reason, the ACDP believes it is time for the sunset clause on BEE, so that the very objectives of BEE can be attained: skills development, leading to long-term, sustainable wealth. The 10 year turnaround that the ANC envisaged was never realistic and it's time to recognise that the South African skills problem needs a longer term solution that promises less and achieves more.

The IOL report can be read at: http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=13&art_id=vn20080715120929767C145654

Friday, June 20, 2008

Time to Get Your Hopes Up

Hope is a fragile thing these days in South Africa. Can you dare to hope?

Scores have left these shores to craft their lives overseas because their hopes in the future of South Africa had diminished to the point where they could not see a decent lifestyle for themselves or their children in the future. Those that have remained try hard to hope, certainly I do, but every now and then on a rainy day our grasp on the dream seems to weaken.

It's difficult to bring yourself to the point of saying: that's it, this country is doomed and there's nothing we can do. We talk easily of being the next Zimbabwe, but I'd say most of us still cherish a little bit of hope that South Africa might still come out okay.

The problem comes here: do you take risks? Do you buy a house which will take 20 years to pay off? Do you start a multi-million rand business? Do you invest in a pension plan? Do you do anything that could be jeopardised if things went haywire in 15 years time?

The problem is ... the very decision to hedge your bets is what accelerates the downfall. When the good guys keep battling away, the country manages to keep ticking over. To stop trying because you believe there is no hope becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The simple truth is that an effective country and economy depends on the many individuals each playing their part. It doesn't depend ultimately on a government, although government can certainly have a huge influence. South Africa's long-term failure would be partly down to government failure, but it would also be down to those who decided to stop trying.

This is a memo to self: get your spirit up regardless of your circumstances, take managed risks, dare to dream, step out and do what needs to be done, hope eternally.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Why the Media Misrepresent the Real Picture

Perched on the edge of his leather chair, the chief editor of the local newspaper weighs heavy decisions. He's been presented with three articles: the city's favourite sports team won their third game in a row, pothole-ridden Oak Avenue got repaved, and a city policeman was seen getting drunk at a city party. There are only two slots available. Obviously sports always sells. Of the two remaining stories, which one is more likely to sell? It's easy.

Frankly, when it comes time to tell stories, an editor is always likely to choose something more dramatic and more sinister. Take a topical issue like global warming for example. Ten university professors submit their opinions on climate change. One says: "The coastal cities are going to be swamped within 15 years if we don't do something right now." I'll be honest and admit I'd find that more interesting than his colleague who wrote: "Climate change could result in reduced health over the next two hundred years."

So you pick up the newspaper the next morning and read the headline: "City Policeman Drunk at Local Party". You breath in sharply and sigh: "What is this world coming to?" What you didn't know is that the other 254 policemen have had an impeccable record. But when was the newspaper ever going to report that? How would they craft it into an interesting story? What would the headline be? Would the newspaper sell?

Quite simply, you can very easily get a wrong picture of the state of the world by watching a news bulletin or reading a newspaper. Of course we need to stay abreast with current affairs, but we need to keep perspective.

The problem for the ACDP is that we don't have dramatic, sinister stories to hide. People who put their heads down and work hard don't make the news. And this is an intense struggle for us. While we cringe like everyone else at the thought of "selling" ourselves, with the way the media works, it would seem that's the only way to communicate to the average Joe. Even really good deeds get reported less often than scandalous ones. In fact, in South Africa you could do a wonderful job with what you have and never get heard of.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Why Narnia Is Different

Having seen the new Prince Caspian movie just released as part of the Narnia series, we pondered just how clearly the Christian message was portrayed. Anybody "in the know" will realise that the movie remains faithful to C.S. Lewis' intention of illustrating the Christian message through stories. However, much of the general public will remain clueless to the real thread behind the Narnia series and its "rival", the Golden Compass, which was of course written by arch-athiest Phillip Pullman.

For a moment, I reluctantly admitted: without understanding, this movie could simply be regarded as another of those good versus evil stories, a vague grasp at this intangible current of good will that moves us all. Then the difference struck me...

At the moment of the movie's greatest crisis, a true-blue Hollywood blockbuster would have the heroes and heroins look inside themselves, discover their inner strength, decide to do what they owe to the world, and go and save it. In Prince Caspian, however, at the point of greatest crisis, the heroes realise that their own abilities and good intentions have failed. As the opposing troops march forward in ominous power, Aslan the lion comes to the rescue.

This is no coincidence. In fact, these two different resolutions present the fundamental difference between Christianity and humanism and between Christianity and most other religions. Christianity portrays man as fallen and in need of a saviour. Most other religions portray man as inherently good and capable of finding sufficient inner ability to resolve a problem. In fact, secular humanism, in its own way, holds man up as a god unto himself. The bill of human rights, drawn up by man himself, becomes the new commandment. Each to his own is the new absolute relative.

That Disney could have put their name behind such a courageous statement of support for Christianity is intriguing. And in retrospect, while Christians would have loved the two Narnia movies to be even more literal in their metaphors, I'll happily put my stamp of approval on Prince Caspian.

ps. For all the complaints of the movie being "dark" - I'm unconvinced. More violent and tense, yes, but in a "darkly sinister" way like the Harry Potter movies, no.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Let Prisoners Work for Food

We're often asked to name the policies of our party, especially beyond the "moral" issues like abortion and gay marriage. In fact, the party has some very interesting and innovative policies, and crime and prison reformation is certainly one area of attention. In fact, the ACDP is very interested in implementing the Taiwanese model of work for prisoners.

My home town, New Hanover, has a family prison with very limited security. Frankly, if a prisoner wanted to escape, he would have ample opportunity. I gave a lift to one of the prison wardens recently, who told me that the prisoners are quite happy there - they get big meals and watch DSTV.

Let's pause for a moment and take in the picture. Law abiding citizens are working eight hours a day to put food on the table, and the majority of South Africans would consider DSTV a luxury. In contrast, the prisoners have committed a crime and enjoy a better life (apart from freedom of movement of course) than the majority. It's simply not right.

At the very least, prisoners should have to earn their food in the way that normal citizens do. However, the Taiwanese model goes a step better than that, and here is where it becomes interesting. Income is obviously earned from this work - part of it goes to covering the expense of housing and feeding the prisoners, and the other part goes into an investment fund. The prisoners are learning a skill while they are working in the prison, and when they are released, those funds are used to help them start a new business of their own. As a result, Taiwan saw a massive reduction in prison returnees.

Unfortunately we still have an image of the ball-and-chain convicts in black and white doing slave-type work for the prisons. The reality is that all of us have to work to earn our keep and feed our families, and prisoners should not be exempt from that. The other concern is that this could be regarded as a lucrative scheme - a guaranteed job with real rewards. Even so, this scheme would still be a superior alternative to what we have now.

Either way, the work for prisoners scheme benefits both parties: the prisoners and the public. It helps in the prison's role of redirection and reformation, and it takes pressure of the taxpayers.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Mr Price: Appreciation for Family Values

For several decades we've ridden a wave of promiscuous advertising and media, and at times we've felt a little helpless. I was shopping in Mr Price recently and was disturbed by the lyrics of a song that, in my view, described the sex act. Certainly the wider acceptance of R n' B and Hip-hop into mainstream music has included this aspect of those genres. While I'm not on the "that's not music" bandwagon, we do need to take a firm stand where the lyrical content is not appropriate.

I wrote an email of complaint to Mr Price via the contact on their website, and received a response back within 2 hours that they had reviewed the song and removed it from their playlist. They also referred to the fact that their playlists were largely generated from existing lists generated internationally. I accept the explanation, although perhaps I'd suggest that the feedback they receive from audiences needs to be fed back up further through the system as well.

Hats, sorry, caps off to Mr Price for listening to their customers. And may I remind those who share these concerns, regardless of the vendor, to make their voices heard for the sake of the families and the children.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Digging up the Pothole Mystery

The "when-we's" who left Zimbabwe often talked about the first signs of Zimbabwe's decay: potholes in the road. I guess it has been a feature we've watched for with hawk eyes in the transition from the old to the new South Africa.

I'm pleased to report that our pothole situation is nothing like some expectations in 1994. I can confidently report from my own experiences that I am not aware of a pothole that was not at some stage repaired. At "some stage" could mean a year or two, admittedly, but at least that's a finite scale.

What does seem prominent though is that potholes keep re-appearing. I've always thought it was simply the aging of the road, which now needed a full resurfacing, something that is rarely done. Now it turns out that much of the problem is actually down to the contracting of pothole-fillers.

The KZN provincial department that repairs roads contracts the filling out to individuals. Usually there is little filling background required, but personally I don't see experience as a huge requirement in this field anyway. The real problem is that repairs are paid for per square metre. Subsequently it is in the filler's best interests to do a spit-and-polish job rather than a deep repair, because they'll get fresh work in a shorter space of time.

So the problem it turns out is simply a matter of quality control. The department is partly doing its job, but just needs to get out, inspect the repair jobs and put some pressure on the contractors... although an occasional resurfacing would be nice too!

ANC Chooses Enslavement Over Empowerment

That is of course a heavy title and I'll need to spend a few moments explaining where I'm coming from on this matter. In the ACDP's KZN administration we have a Shadow Cabinet in place where we discuss and form policies on the key issues facing the country. One of the challenges that keeps resurfacing is dealing with poverty in the province. This factors into the thinking of housing development, where to build transport infrastructure, pension support and the like.

Here's where the problem comes in. If I can use an analogy, a patient has an internal wound and is bleeding profusely. So the government comes in and continually mops up the blood without closing the wound. As usual, we keep dealing with the symptoms instead of the root cause.

The root cause of South Africa's poverty problem is the lack of an economy that provides jobs. If you have a steady income, you can buy your own food, pay your own rent and support your own children. Understandably there needs to be some support to get a community through a hard time while the employment rate climbs.

The problem is that employment has not increased, and at the ACDP we believe that much of this is down to the ANC's failed economic policies, like rigid labour legislation, lack of action on crime, heavy rates and taxes, centralised bureaucracy and silence on Zimbabwe. We believe in a free market economy with less government involvement.

We cannot maintain a medium-term welfare state - the taxpaying base will not tolerate it and it simply is not the best approach. The best approach is to empower the population rather than support them. You empower them not through handouts but by giving them the power to run their own lives with their own self-earned finances. The centralised welfare economy of the ANC creates a system where the population becomes dependent - becomes enslaved rather than empowered.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Wise Words from Lincoln

You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot lift the wage earner up by pulling the wage payer down.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away men's initiative and independence.
You cannot help men permanently by doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves.

--Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

ACDP Opposes Rates Policy

Sharing his views on the rates policy recently, Clr Wayne Thring, the KZN provincial leader for the ACDP, raised a set of important objections the party has to the rates policy currently being implemented, with particular reference to the Ethekwini Municipality (Durban).

I quote directly from his speech, with "voting" referring to the councillors' vote on the policy:

  • We were not given the rate randage figure at the time of voting
  • We did not know what thresholds would be used for pensioners
  • We were concerned about the effect of the policy on our farmers.
  • We still do not know what effect the incidence issue will have on our rates base.
  • There have been numerous anomalies in the valuation process
  • Religious groups will have to apply for an exemption each year, but only on producing a tax exemption certificate from SARS.
(End quote.) These objections raise specific concerns. If you take a step backwards and look at the trends determined by the ANC's worldview, the rates policy fits right in with its socialist dogma. The objective of a socialist government is to transfer economic functions into the hands of a central administration. That obviously requires funding from taxpayers and in turn increases their dependency on the state. You will see similar trends in socialist-oriented countries, like Sweden with its high tax rates.

The ACDP pins its colours to the free market post, and believes that a transfer of economic functions to free market operations will see a rise in efficiency, a reduction in costs and a growth of services that can't be matched by a lumbering central administration.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Why Did We Legalise Abortion?

I'm trying to rehearse all the arguments that have done the circles in defense of legalising abortion. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the main argument seemed to be that legalisation would protect women and girls from unsafe backstreet abortions. The idea was to get these operations out in the light and monitor them.

Well, they are now out in the light. As for monitoring them, there appears to be a problem. The ACDP recently raised a significant concern regarding the proliferation of abortion advertisements across the Durban metro. As the attached photo demonstrates, posters have been plastered across every inch of space in some areas of downtown Durban, and I'm sure other cities will testify to something similar.

The reality is that the abortion industry is out of control. That the city councils are facing a losing battle trying to control this scourge of posters is indicative of the kind of battle faced in monitoring the industry as a whole. There have been some arrests of illegal operators, but the scale of these operations is quite intense.

Now that the "safer" abortions argument appears to be flying out of the window, why did we legalise it then? Actually, the need for abortions was primarily a spin-off from the sexual revolution. Given that sex creates babies every now and then, and birth control has its hang-ups, the spread of the "need" for sex would quickly have overpopulated the planet. Some sacrifices had to be made on the altar of sex, and unborn babies would be the innocent victim.

How did our consciences become so scarred that our selfish lust drive could have us killing our own kids? Who did this to us? Or if we did it, why don't we reverse this monstrous evil, call it quits and start with a clean slate? We think it's time and hope that you'll join us, for the sake of the children.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

MTN/Vodacom Illustrate Free Market Principles

It was fascinating to read about the play-off between MTN and Vodacom with regards to their new per region/per time billing plans. Basically, MTN launched MTN Zone for prepaid customers, where your charge would depend on the location and time you were calling from. Essentially, if you called from a remote spot at 1am, your call could receive something close to a 95% discount.

In no time at all, 2 million subscribers switched allegiances to MTN. Vodacom were given a big fright and very quickly launched their own Yebo4Less plan. I'm not yet fully aware of what discounts are on offer and what the pros/cons of the plans are, but it seems that many customers are in for decent savings.

This of course is the classic interplay that makes the free market economy work so successfully. Of course we're well aware that the telecoms market is still overly regulated, but within this little zone of freedom we can see how multiple competitors drive the prices down through price wars. A similar study of the deregulated British telecoms market compared to the regulated French market makes for a fascinating advertisement for the free market. Where prices used to be similar, deregulation on the British side resulted in British customers paying considerably less for their calls.

The free market system is not without its drawbacks. It is used effectively by arms dealers and similarly alligned syndicates. It also doesn't deal very well with a natural monopoly situation like Microsoft or Eskom have found themselves in (a natural monopoly is where the market is not big enough for more than one player and the monopoly player is able to use their position unfairly). Nevertheless, on the whole the free market system works a great deal better than government regulation, and is responsible for huge economic growth right across the world, not only in the traditional strongholds like America, but also in growing markets like the Asian Tigers. Even China only began seeing its current growth when its markets began deregulating.

There is one more important ingredient worth mentioning. Flow of information is critical to the success of the system. As soon as a customer realises they can buy a good more cheaply elsewhere, they switch, and back again when information arrives that a supplier does not supply good customer service or is involved in unethical activity. Both traditional and new media play a huge role here, and thankfully South Africa has a fairly well established media structure.

The ACDP has always believed in the free market system. The party sees its role as a protector of the system, not a controller. As the ANC continually seeks to regulate and control, as a true socialist party would, we see labour structures stutter, investment slow, red tape increase, media constipate and apathy loom. South Africa is rearing to go and it's time for a new order.

Monday, May 5, 2008

How Opinions Shift

Here's a frank question: Who gave you your opinion?

What's particularly jarring is the thought that you didn't arrive at your opinion through insight, wisdom and a grand view of the world. And even when you had weighed up 13 pros in support of an opinion you had decided to take up, you may have completely missed the 25 cons, or even the one con that completely outweighed all the others.

With a bit of experience you'll find like me that the opinions you hold are up for renewal, decay with age and need frank reassessment fairly often. But more importantly, we often adopt an opinion by hearing it elsewhere and not giving it the proper test procedure.

What is interesting though is that a group-think can emerge which challenges traditional news sources and publications, but then commandeers opinion making in a way that they criticised the traditional outlets for. Global warming is a classic example. The traditional media outlet in this case would be something like the Bush administration. A movement arose which challenged the traditional view of industry with claims about the environment, including climate change through emissions and global warming.

Without doubt the questions they raised were valid. However, in our attempts to be independent thinkers, do we give equal consideration to the views of this new group-think as we did to the traditional media outlets. Did our natural aversion to authority lead us to evade one authority only to fall unwittingly under another?

This is not intended to be a discussion of global warming, but rather, when you examine policies of a party like the ACDP and find that you take an opposite position, pause briefly and consider where and when you were given your opinion, and whether it is indeed valid. It may be. But then it might not.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Pros & Cons of Floor Crossing

Believe it or not, the ACDP did benefit a little from floor crossing. We were of course very outspoken against floor crossing, both because we were substantially affected by it and because we believed it was intrinsically harmful to the process of democracy.

I won't dwell on why floor crossing is wrong, suffice to say that candidates should generally be true to the party and stance they conveyed to their voters who put them in their position at the time of election. Floor crossing in South Africa was driven into overdrive in South Africa by the prospect of better salaries, offerings of senior positions in rival parties, and undoubtedly by a prevailing drought of morality.

The ACDP lost several councillors and MP's to rival parties. A brief Google search will haul up the names and I have no intention of disparaging them here. I will say what needs to be said: the kind of people who stayed with the party were the servants, the stalwarts, the ones in for the long haul. There was a very simple reason why the good candidates could not cross floors: they couldn't preach ACDP values one moment and then in the next moment switch allegiance to a party that betrayed those values. It would have been sacrilege.

In effect, floor crossing was a process of pruning for the party, and what we were left with were a set of branches and buds that could be relied upon to bear good fruit.

Needless to say, we were amply pleased with the end of floor crossing. For two reasons. Firstly, we won't be losing seats (and their attached funding) that we worked so hard for. Secondly, we are in a better position to discipline candidates who have drifted out of line, where before we had to treat them with kid gloves in case they packed up and left.

What would a DA government look like?

It's a fascinating experience to talk shop with voters who vote DA because they believe the party shares their values. South Africans have a variety of reasons to vote DA of course. Some do generally share the DA's actual values. Others reason that they need to keep the opposition together, while others just prefer to have whites in power.

In the area where I grew up, a rural agricultural area that has been rife with farm murders and attacks, there is a fairly strong DA presence and the ACDP has not had much success. It fascinates us because the area is strongly Christian and would in theory share most of the ACDP's values. It's both amusing and disturbing then to ask why they continue to support the DA.

"Well, they will bring the death penalty back." Uh, no they won't. The DA don't support the death penalty because they are a left-wing liberal party, a stance that traditionally doesn't support it. They just know that they will lose massive chunks of vote if they take up that stance, so they hide behind their "free vote" position. Firstly, that kind of "policy" gives no assurance to voters. Secondly, being a left-wing party, the majority of DA politicians are likely to vote against the death penalty anyway.

This position was classicly illustrated in the issue of gay marriage. The ACDP raised a bill to have marriage formally declared as the union of a man and woman, similar to what has been done in several US states. The DA has previously professed some level of concern against gay marriage, but went on record to say the ACDP step was "too drastic". What on earth? You're either for or against it, make up your mind.

The truth is that to some extent the DA tries to be all things to all men. Traditionally there is battle to some extent in homogenous cultures between the conservatives and the liberals. The DA is trying to win the vote of both white conservatives and white liberals, hence the confusing messages. In truth, they are liberals and openly acknowledge it, and it's not hard to see where this country would head were the DA to get into power. Picture a liberal American or British government and you know ... pro-abortion, anti-death penalty, pro-gay, pro-prisoners rather than pro-victims, increased taxation, increased government control, anti-church, pro-state-controlled economy, anti-free market. Frankly, not much different to the ANC.

It begs the question - if you are supporting the DA, do you really know what they stand for?

Friday, April 11, 2008

More DA Propaganda...

I was fascinated when a DA newsletter was dropped off at our workplace yesterday, and while the other office workers passed it off as political propaganda, I was eager to check out what the opposition was doing.

Two things fascinated and amused me. Firstly, the back the pamphlet quotes South Africa as the 20th richest country in the world. That surprised me, and I wondered on what basis it was measured. So I checked out the rankings in terms of GDP. I was indeed surprised to find that we're ranked either 30th or 27th, depending on whose figures you use, but I'm not quite sure where the DA media engine gets its figures. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(nominal)).

The other thing that amused me is no real failure on their part, just a coincidence. On Saturday afternoon, I was walking to the supermarket and noticed some newly planted trees, except they were planted a metre away from a high security fence. I realised that once the trees were full grown they caused a security threat - just climb the tree and jump over the fence. Then I pick up this brochure yesterday, and a DA councillor is proudly showing off his work in planting the very trees I was concerned about!

Frankly, the work the DA are doing in helping the community is commendable, and mirrors some of what the ACDP is doing. My grievance with the DA does not come down to their ability to get down and do some work, but rather with the very ethical and moral framework that their party is built around. If the DA were to come into power, we would see a string of bills flying through parliament to erode the moral fabric of our society ... spreading the scourge of abortion, gambling, pornography and eroding the importance of the family, of parents, of churches and of moral absolutes. The DA are decidedly left-aligned, and when you come down to the nitty-gritty, are not that different from the ANC.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Could we run out of water?

For a long period, South Africans enjoyed some of the cheapest electricity rates in the world. Our grid was well managed and power shortages were a figment of the imagination. Within a fairly short space of time we were reduced to scheduled and spontaneous load shedding and an uncertain future.

The ACDP has now drawn attention for strong, but important, remarks to the effect that the present government needs to look ahead towards a potential water crisis and take necessary action now rather than later. In industry they call it "preventative maintenance", as opposed to "reactive maintenance", which was how our electricity crisis was handled.

The full press release is available here:

Water has always been a national concern, hence what seemed to be a huge overreaction to the political crisis in Lesotho several years ago, owing to our considerable investments in the Highlands Water Project. What is of particular concern now is that we have a growing economic base in this country, with new consumer power and expenditure. For the same reason that our electricity supply fell short, we face the very real prospect that our once adequate water supply may also fall short of the new demand.

Compared to some of the droughts we've experienced over the last few decades, these have been good years as far as rainfall is concerned. This lends itself to the possibility that we're living a lot closer to the border line than we anticipated. A few years of drought could be very bad news.

Of course the problem of water supplies in South Africa has been well explored and I won't explore possible resources now. All that needs to be said is: let's learn from our experiences and prepare well for the future.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Jo-Ann Downs Delivers the Goods With Scopa Role

If you follow current affairs closely, you'll be aware that reports indicate Jo-Ann Downs is to be removed as chair of the Scopa committee. It is understood that the ANC had concerns about her exposing material to the media, although the general consensus in the media is that her role posed a threat to corruption within the ANC.

Interestingly, it appears the post may be given to former ACDP leader, Rev Hawu Mbatha, who crossed the floor in the formation of Nadeco.

Jo-Ann Downs' approach to her role is a trademark of the role the ACDP has needed to play since its inception in 1994, namely to be a voice, to punch above its weight and to carry its cross despite the impending threats. If Downs were to have played the game of politics, she would have known well to keep her mouth shut and play along, assured of appropriate rewards, a pat on the back and the invitation to cross floors at a convenient time. Ultimately, when you know what is right and fail to do it, the after-taste of failure outweighs the avoidance of responsibility.

While the ACDP will never settle on being just an opposition party, like the DA, there is a time to be faithful with the small things, and see God entrust us with more when the time is right. May Jo-Ann's example inspire us to continue working hard towards future reward rather than present comfort.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Who's The Boss?

It might be fascinating to walk down the street interviewing people, asking them: "Who is the boss of your life?" You'll probably get fairly similar responses ... myself, my wife, my parents, God.

In fact, this question of who does the bossing is an incredibly important shaper of our decisions, our policies and our outlook on life. I had no idea how significant this was until I started to analyse political views in light of this issue. Let's take a look at a number of divisive issues in this light...

The "boss" issue is crucial to the issue of abortion. Pro-choice is distinctly about showing that the mother is the boss and has all the choices. In homosexuality and gay marriage, once again its about individual choice - that the individual is the boss and nobody can impose morality on them. Move along to pornography and clearly we're dealing with the same issue - personal preference rules over a general morality that is imposed on the individual.

Without much effort, we'll see that this emphasis on being your own boss is a key agenda in the liberal and humanist movement. Personal independence is closely related to the humanist concept of man as god and the intrinsic good nature that is everyone's makeup.

At that moment a party like the ACDP walks in and demands that God be recognised in the constitution as the head over all things. This is not just a bunch of wording in the constitution to appease the religious right, but rather a very distinct answer to the question of: who is the boss? When you begin to walk down that road, you'll see policies change.

On the question of abortion, the mother is not the boss anymore, but she is under a greater law and a greater duty, that of protecting what has been entrusted to her. In homosexuality, when God said marriage is between one man and one woman, that's the way it must be if He's the boss. Pornography falls away under a similar greater law.

It won't take long to study modern media and know that there is a distinct emphasis on choice, independence, questioning of authority and doubt in the wisdom preached by leadership. While there is a healthy position of awareness and pressure on unfair authority where one has the scope for such a position, where would you say the pendulum has swung to? Would you say it's fair to admit that we're repulsed by the thought of subjugating ourselves to a "greater power"?

The reality is that we're all sheep, led along by silly impulses, vain thoughts, short-term grievances, long-term cynicism. We have strains of beauty, moments of clarity and dashes of kindness, but when we stop and take a long, hard look at ourselves, we all know there's a selfishness that rules us to the point that our decisions our not always in other's interests, and even worse, not always in our own interests either. We hate to bend our knee to God, but at some point, by volition or without, we're all ready to admit we haven't got it all together.

The ACDP's position is not that we want a country under God in subjugation, control and manipulation. Rather, we believe that there is a better way for South Africa, a greater good, a bigger love, a gentler kindness, a superior wisdom. We know as everyone does, whether they admit it or not, that humankind is hell-bent and fails to walk the line they know is best, despite their best intentions. Our position is first humility and then gratitude. Humbled that we fall so far short; grateful that God keeps giving us a second chance and a hope and a future. Bow our knees? Happily.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Only Multi-Racial Party?

Every political party in South Africa sets out with the objective of being multi-racial - of having a healthy blend of black, white, coloured and Indian members. It's an enigma that's hard to chase down, because you have to pull different worldviews together and have everybody focusing in on the same objectives.

Let's for a moment look at the different political parties and be frank about their ethnic make-up. The ANC has always had strongly black roots, including a strong Xhosa influence, but pulling in considerable sections of Indian and coloured support too. The IFP has undoubtedly always been primarily a Zulu party. The UDM gets most of its support from blacks in Kwazulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. The Minority Front represents the Indian vote, and the Freedom Front has a conservative white representation. The PAC and SACP have nearly always been primarily black parties. The ID are perhaps more difficult to class. The DA are still primarily a white party, with decent support from Indians and coloureds and some disenchanted blacks.

That brings us to the ACDP. The ACDP was founded from a black president's vision, has always had good white involvement, and has been effective in both the Indian areas of KZN and the coloured areas of the western provinces. The current NEC (National Executive Committee) is a full mix of the four of the primary ethnicities. Black support has always been a strong part of the party and Limpopo is a huge growth area among the blacks.

This is remarkable - can any other party in South Africa claim the representivity that the ACDP enjoy? How can it be possible? Simply, it's the Christian message that pulls everyone together. Christianity has been a stunningly successful unifier across the globe with millions of converts across China, Brazil, India, Europe, Africa, North America, etc. The ACDP has a rigorous set of values that don't shift with the winds and the party has always stressed its values over its personalities, which is why its members have less trouble looking beyond skin colour and looking to the issues themselves.

The implications are huge... the ACDP's ethnic balance simply makes the party better placed than the DA to replace the ANC. The DA will either need to shake off its "white party" image, or pull the majority black population to the point where they are disenchanted with the blacks' ability to run a government. On the contrary, the ACDP already have the ethnic balance that the DA crave, and with their emphasis on federalism over centralism are better able to adapt to the cultures of specific areas.

Friday, February 8, 2008

For the Record: ACDP Stands Against Abortion

The recently passed Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill went through with 266 votes to 52, with 12 abstentions. The bill makes provision for maternity centres to perform abortions without the prior 24-hour approval, and also allows nurses to perform abortions in addition to midwives as before.

Once again, the ACDP has stood up loudly and raised its voice about the heinous crime of abortion. It needs to be pointed out that the Democratic Alliance again refrained from taking any action on matters that hurt the country - their grant of a free vote to members on this issue is proof yet again that the DA serve only to be an opposition party and refuse to stand up and be accountable as one for the issues that face our country.

We're grateful for the media attention granted to the ACDP on this matter and look forward to more as we continue to fight the good fight. And it is a good fight.

For further reference, see the Mail & Guardian: http://www.mg.co.za/articlepage.aspx?area=/breaking_news/breaking_news__national/&articleid=329930&referrer=RSS

Also see the views of Christians For Truth: http://www.cft.org.za/actions/2007/20070808_info_from_dfl_term_preg.htm

And finally, the bill itself: http://www.info.gov.za/gazette/bills/2003/b72-03.pdf

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Media Caught in a Tug of War

Jacob Zuma for once made his stance a little clearer by some rather provocative statements about the SA media recently. Among his writings come some interesting quotes:

"There are few, if any, mainstream media outlets that articulate a progressive left perspective."

"Those with power, particularly economic power, are keen that the media serves to reinforce their privileged position, while those who seek a more equitable distribution of resources campaign for a media that serves the cause of a more equitable society."

"At times, the media functions as if they are an opposition party"

Funnily enough, many members of the ACDP hold the opposite view much of the time: that the media is overly left-aligned and distinctly humanist (which is a bad word in ACDP circles). Perhaps in light of Zuma's comments we should be grateful that the media is not more left-aligned than it already is.

While the media does clearly dish out criticism of the present government, most of that criticism is deserved - for that kind of criticism to be withheld would be a violation of the integrity of the media. But then again, violation of integrity seems to have become far less of a taboo within the ANC than it should be. We watched with fascination in 1999 as the SABC covered the election build-up. The cameras covered each party's campaigns, throwing in little curse words over each one. When it came to the ACDP, the narrator said the event being shown was more like a sermon than a political campaign. But no bad words were said when the ANC event was shown. This was a blatant indication of ANC bias within the media. How can Zuma dare to suggest that the SABC is insufficiently aligned to his movement?

South Africa's media can undoubtedly improve. It can start leaning closer to integrity, good values, work ethics and basic human values, like the right to life of an unborn baby. If Zuma thinks the media leans too far to the right, he is wrong. It should lean even further.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Inside View: An ACDP Meeting

With a world of shenanigans, wild promises, concealed corruption and a bag of tricks up any given sleeve, you might wonder just what goes on inside a political party. Just what do they discuss at their meetings?

Well, here's an inside look at a typical ACDP meeting, a regional one I attended on Saturday in my role as a Provincial Executive Council member...

Not particularly well attended, numbers were typical of a "mid-season", the time between elections. Election time naturally draws a small crowd of hopefuls, and of course the energy levels rise when the competition heats up. Nevertheless, there are always the faithful few who keep the fires burning and spur the others on. Again we were the faithful few, the stalwarts.

Personalities? Looking around the room that day, I saw a steady-eddie type, very principled but mostly a gentle, understated motivator. Then there was a real rock - a solid, well-weighted person who gave a good answer to every question. A quiet person to the right. Then next to me a loyal servant of the party for many years, enthusiastic but more likely to follow than to lead - good people to work with. Another three who made small contributions with regards to council matters in the city. And then another with a very principled view and keen to emphasise any good points that came up. To my right, a more proactive type, quite involved in a poor community, helping poor families fill out grant forms - working at the grass roots, an eager beaver for community matters. And lastly, a strong person, not saying as much, but with a lot to say, if you get what I mean. Overall, a gentle, cohesive bunch made up of 3 different ethnicities.

The agenda was very well adhered to, with particular emphasis on protocol - a record of apologies, a register and a brief word of encouragement from each person in turn. There is a strong Christian emphasis in the party, with plenty of prayer, a Scripture here and there, and frequent mention of the Lord. My personal contribution was a reminder from the Bible that those who are faithful with little will be entrusted with much. It was met with thank you's, approving mm-hms and amens.

Formalities aside it was a really productive meeting. We tackled the inevitable issue of funding. I suggested selling ACDP marked merchandise, with would bring in funding, help with marketing and give the buyers an increased sense of belonging. There was mention of opening a bank account for one of the branches. Of course an account incurs bank charges, but the ACDP is the only party in South Africa that keeps its books completely open, so transparency of funds is important.

So maybe this is boring and you want juicy titbits? Well, it emerged that one of the members had been a key member of a local organisation taking care of orphans. The ANC mayor recognised the threat this councillor held with such a good role and promptly spent R500,000 (apparently) on a Christmas party for the orphans. A video was made of the work the ANC "is doing with orphans". Of course, we have no chance of competing with this, except to make a story of it, which our media person will now do with the local paper.

Other administrative matters aside, we discussed marketing, always a key point. Attention was pulled back to the ugliest but most important marketing method: door-to-door visitation. Simply, every representive in an area needs to knock as many doors as possible. It's pretty daunting! And of course you don't get paid for it, except that if you do well and get elected, then you get a councillor's salary (R9000 - R14000 per month). Personally, I'm thinking of just going down a local business street and walking to every counter and saying: Hi, just want to let you know that the ACDP are in the area. If they tell me to foetsak, I'll promise to be back in one month just to prove that we keep our promises!

I guess a meeting like this would bore most people, but running a political party is far more about administration and motivation than about planning where to plant secret microphones in rival offices! In the ACDP we have this small hope: that all of the hard work we've put in over the 14 years will be justly rewarded and not undone by an unjust political system. Here's hoping. And praying.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Immediate Solutions to the Power Crisis

The natural reaction to South Africa's power crisis has been the blame game. Who's fault is it? Why was nothing done? How long is it going to go on for?

What is really called for in times like this is a solution mentality. It's time for all of us to sit down and find a way ahead, to get ourselves out of that "blame" rut and change gears. Here, to kick off, is a set of solutions to consider for this crisis.

No doubt there needs to be some action at Eskom headquarters, and I won't say much here. We need to keep in mind that most of the power supply expansions will take several years to implement - this is not bureaucracy, but complex technical challenges. Nuclear power stations don't get built overnight. In my mind, wind turbines seem to be the "quickest route to market", but the Western Cape seacoast is possibly the only reasonable location and that area would need to be linked to the power grid. Wind farms have a limited contribution and are very expensive.

Leaving Eskom for the moment, there are several contingency plans. At a basic level, load shedding schedules HAVE to be communicated effectively and stuck to. To some degree we can all manage with some load scheduling when we know it will happen. Industry can reschedule shifts; ordinary citizens can plan social time instead of TV.

The simple truth is that nearly every household in South Africa can cut its power usage by 30% and nearly every industry by 5-10%. This is not the idyllic lifestyle, but you'd rather have continuous power than what we have now. In households, a key strategy revolves around geysers. Firstly, most geysers can be turned off for half the day. If you as a family bath/shower at night, you set the timer to go at 10pm and turn the geyser back on at 3pm in the afternoon. Secondly, geysers and hot water pipes can be wrapped in insulation.

There are numerous other household improvements available on a smaller scale. Lightbulbs can be replaced and lighting can be rearranged so that fewer bulbs light the same area. Where possible, motion sensor lights can replace permanent outdoor floodlights. Although kettles are a big power draw, I'm not sure about latest developments here. Anyone?

If I was in government now, I would institute a new door-to-door power improvement advisor service. I would have agents visit each house for a 10-minute discussion on ways to improve power usage. I prefer door-to-door because it communicates to a home owner that they are personally responsible, compared to some generic message flashed across a TV screen that is effectively a "everybody but me" message.

As a last step, South Africa can go the route of Giuliani's New York - begin fining abusers. This is not a healthy first-up solution and that's not the kind of country I would want to live in. Healthy lifestyles must come from the heart, not from the government's whip. However, there are times when strong measures are needed and if no other options are available, power caps can be set on individual houses and geysers can require efficiency licensing.

Our home has been very efficient for a long time - lights stay off when they're not needed, light bulbs have been replaced with the power-saving type, computers get turned off and a full kettle is only boiled when everyone is drinking. However, we have recognised that our geyser could use insulation and possibly be turned off during the day. If everyone adopts an attitude of personal responsibility, then we can say: what power crisis?

DISCLAIMER: This blog serves as a commentary and the views presented are not necessary the official views of the ACDP. For official statements and contact details, visit: www.acdp.org.za