Banksy: I was in the room when his painting shredded – and enhanced his brand

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Art with a wow factor.
Banksy/Instagram

Stephanie Dieckvoss, Kingston University

Serious collectors of contemporary art had already started to leave the room at the Sotheby’s New Bond Street auction house in London last Friday night as a successful evening sale drew to a close. Most people seemed more interested in getting to their post-auction dinners than in the final two lots: paintings by KAWS and Banksy, who are generally perceived to be interesting for new or young buyers but not serious collectors. KAWS, the American graffiti artist also known as Brian Donnelly, is seen as too comic; Banksy as too “street”.

That doesn’t mean they are not in high demand. KAWS’ large yellow comic face, Again and Again, sold for just over £1m, making him – in the words of auctioneer Oliver Barker – the Damien Hirst of the 21st century. And the last lot of the sale was Banksy’s 2006 Girl with Balloon, which was last year named in one survey as the UK’s favourite artwork.

Unsurprisingly, bidding was intense and the hammer came down at £860,000, making a final sales price (including buyer’s fees) of £1,042,000 – quadrupling the previous estimate of the work. But the moment after the hammer came down a faint alarm went off in the room and, shortly after, in front of a roomful of gawping faces, the canvas slipped out of the frame, being shredded in the process by some concealed machine, before being hurriedly carried away by attendants.

Under near chaotic circumstances, the sale ended. At the delayed press conference, all Sotheby’s experts would say was: “We got Banksy-ed”. And all they did was to reiterate that they had no prior knowledge of the prank, failing to shift attention away from it.

Performance art

In our media-crazy society, everyone likes a prank – especially when it hits the top end of the art market which excludes all but the very rich. So to nobody’s surprise this story has gone viral, cheered on by Banksy’s “official” Instagram feed, where he not only claimed ownership of the prank, but also “documented” its genesis.

Since then, speculation around the value of the shredded piece and Banksy’s role in the art world has led to a lot of hype. But what needs to be considered here is not only value generation in the art market but ultimately the role and agency of the artist within the market’s resale structure, where artists usually benefit only marginally from the resale of any of their works. That the stunt happened during the Frieze Art Fairs, one of the most important art fairs for contemporary art worldwide, has also given it added currency.

As a case study, the prank has been so successful that it will occupy the art world – as well as academics and students of the art market – for a long time to come. It might even become art history’s most famous stunt. Who are the involved parties, for example? Despite a great deal of speculative comment, I don’t think Sotheby’s was in on the game. The story really doesn’t benefit them; it detracted from all the other good news the evening was supposed to spread.

At this point, Sotheby’s is still claiming – and it does sound plausible – not to have touched the work or its frame, following the instructions of Banksy’s studio that the frame is an integral part of the work. Again, not unusual. Neither does the inclusion of the piece in the auction come as a surprise. As a quick search on Artnet’s price database shows, no less than 26 works by Banksy have been offered this year alone at auction – most of them with very good results above estimates. Banksy is hot.

So the fact that the work sold for more than £1m is not surprising, considering both the previous auction prices of the artists and the buoyant atmosphere of the sale that evening.

More interesting, of course, is what the work is worth now. Despite excitement by the press, claiming that it would now be worth far more (and what appears to be a copycat attempt by a collector to shred his own print copy of the painting), the case has not been decided contractually yet. In a comment to the author, the auction house states it is unclear whether the sale will go through and that negotiations are still ongoing. There is a debate to be had that the buyer obviously bid on a work in pristine condition – and we won’t know if the work is worth double its sale price until it has been sold again in this state.

It’s a tempting thought – and a terrific story – but an artist’s stunt and a weekend buzz are not a guarantor for ongoing investment value. It will, however, surely alert any auction house to ensure proper due diligence and conservation examinations when taking on more of his works.

Banksy’s brand

But where does Banksy stand, as someone who so happily seems to claim to stand outside the market? Given he is so against the resale of his work, has he attempted to sabotage more of his works? As mentioned above, his paintings as well as prints often come up at auction and have been an integral part of his output for years. For street artists who have become famous for often radical actions, the question of how to interact with a collector market has always been a challenge.

Banksy Swinger in New Orleans.
Infrogmation of New Orleans, CC BY-SA

But one thing is for sure: if this was instigated by Banksy as a marketing stunt it was a big success. Even if the future of this particular Girl with Balloon is as yet unclear, Banksy’s name will be in everybody’s mind and his brand value has definitely risen.

So let’s wait and see what he will produce and sell next. In the meantime, the people cashing in on this story are also the so-called art experts who keep media outlets busy with comments – most of them, let’s not forget, unproven and highly speculative. And as such this story is a perfect image of the contemporary art market today – about money, but at least as much about the buzz.The Conversation

Stephanie Dieckvoss, Senior Lecturer, Kingston University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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What latest assessment on global warming means for southern Africa

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The Okavango Delta in Botswana.
Shutterstock

Mark New, University of Cape Town

The release this week of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) special report on global warming of 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levels marks a critical point in climate negotiations. Billed in the media as “life changing,” the report illustrates how crossing the ever-nearer threshold of 1.5℃ warming will affect the planet, and how difficult it will be to avoid overshooting this target.

The special report takes a worldwide look at the growing impacts of climate change. For climate change “hotspots” – hot, dry and water-stressed countries like Botswana and Namibia in southern Africa – local warming and drying will be greater than the global average.

The report underscores the urgent need for countries like Botswana and Namibia to prepare and adapt – and do so quickly. The Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to well below 2°C, ideally 1.5°C, by the turn of the century will be extremely challenging. To date, mitigation pledges by nations fall far short of what is needed, with global temperatures on track for a warming of 3.2°C by 2100. Under an increasing emissions trajectory, the 1.5°C threshold could be breached as early as the next decade, and the 2°C mark the decade after.

Our analysis of the effect in Botswana and Namibia of 1.5°C, 2.0°C and higher levels of global warming shows that they’re likely to get hotter, drier and more water-stressed. The sooner southern African countries prepare and implement adaptation strategies the better.

Impact

Botswana and Namibia already know the challenges of droughts and floods. A few years ago, Botswana’s capital city Gaborone was on the brink of running out of water as the country battled its worst drought in 30 years. Neighbouring Namibia has battled with recurrent and devastating droughts and floods in recent years, especially in its northern regions, where most of the population live.

Global warming of 1.5°C would lead to an average temperature rise above the pre-industrial baseline in Botswana of 2.2°C and Namibia 2.0°C. At 2.0°C global warming, Botswana would experience warming of 2.8°C. Namibia would warm by 2.7°C.

Changes in rainfall are also projected to shift. At 1.5°C of global warming, Botswana would receive 5% less annual rainfall, and Namibia 4% less. At 2.0°C global warming, annual rainfall in Botswana would drop by 9%, with annual rainfall in Namibia dropping by 7%.

Both countries would also see an increase in dry days. At global warming of 1.5°C, projections show Botswana having 10 more dry days per year. That number rises to 17 extra dry days at 2.0°C global warming. For Namibia, dry days increase by 12 at global warming of 1.5°C, and by 17 at 2.0°C.

The impact of global warming on extreme events is also evident. Both countries can expect roughly 50 more days of heatwaves at 1.5°C global warming, and about 75 more heatwave days at 2.0°C global warming.

Tables show the projected impact of hotter temperatures.

What global warming of 1.5°C.
and higher means for Botswana.

What global warming of 1.5°C.
and higher means for Namibia.

Vulnerable sectors

The effects of higher global and local temperatures will be felt in various sectors key to the prosperity of people and economies in both countries.

Understanding what this will mean for sectors like agriculture, health and water, is crucial for adaptation planning and thinking about what must be done, and by when.

In a hotter, drier future there will be less domestic water available. Runoff in Botswana’s Limpopo catchment is projected to decline by 26% at 1.5℃ global warming, and by 36% at 2.0℃. In Namibia, evapotranspiration rates increase by 10% at 1.5℃ global warming and by 13% at 2.0℃, leading to reduced river flows and drier soils.

Agriculture is particularly vulnerable, with potential drops in crop yields and increased livestock losses. In Botswana, at 1.5℃ global warming maize yields could drop by over 20%. At 2.0℃ warming, yields could slump by 35%. Rain-fed agriculture is already marginal across much of the country, and anticipated climate change may well make current agricultural practices unviable at 1.5℃ and above. In Namibia, productivity of cereal crops is expected to drop by 5% at 1.5℃ and by 10% at 2.0℃

The impacts of global warming on human health are also essential to consider. Heat stress is projected to become an increasingly greater threat. At 1.5℃ of global warming, Namibia and Botswana can expect roughly 20 more days of heat stress exposure in a year. At 2.0℃, in Namibia this doubles to around 40 more days of heat stress exposure.

All of these factors become even more severe should the 2.0℃ threshold be overshot.

Urgent action is needed

The progressively serious climate impacts at 1.5 and 2.0℃ in these countries demands concerted action, both locally and internationally. Leaders from countries such as Botswana and Namibia cannot let-up on the global stage in pushing for nation states to make good on, and further improve, their pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement. As the IPCC report shows, early and decisive action will not only reduce the risks of overshooting the Paris temperature targets, but also slow down the rates of change, making local adaptation easier to roll out.

At the same time, highly exposed countries such as Namibia and Botswana need to anticipate and plan for quite rapid changes in local weather and climate. They need an acceleration in developing adaptation strategies in a way that works for all people and across the economies of these countries. The time for pilot adaptation projects and experiments is over, and the moment to start mainstreaming climate resilience into public, private and community sectors has arrived.

In parallel, governments, scientists and development practitioners need to think longer term, to consider what overshooting the 1.5°C and 2°C targets really means for adaptation. At some stage, adaptation of these systems may not be enough, and complete transformations to new livelihoods that are suitable in a 2°C+ world may be needed.

Brendon Bosworth, a communications officer with ASSAR, based at the ACDI, University of Cape Town contributed to writing this article. Tiro Nkemelang, a PhD student at ACDI and Roy Bouwer, a research assistant at ACDI, contributed to the underlying analysis.The Conversation

Mark New, Director, African Climate and Development Initiative, University of Cape Town

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Moral courage and decency irrelevant as South Africa’s finance minister resigns

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Nhlanhla Nene’s departure means that South Africa has had six finance ministers in four years.
GCIS

David Everatt, University of the Witwatersrand

South Africa’s once-lauded, lately beleaguered Finance Minister, Nhlanhla Nene, has had his resignation accepted by President Cyril Ramaphosa. His successor, Tito Mboweni, becomes the country’s sixth finance minister in four years.

The President is desperately trying to dig South Africa out of an unholy mess created by his predecessor Jacob Zuma and his multiple cronies in and out of the governing African National Congress (ANC). The particularly odious Gupta family have loomed large in what a succession of research projects, commissions of inquiry, books and investigative journalism projects, have labelled state capture.

Nene was formerly regarded as “clean”, having been fired by former President Zuma for refusing to fund his more ludicrous rent-seeking projects. He was replaced by Des van Rooyen for a weekend, and then left in the cold while Pravin Gordhan became Finance Minister (before in turn being fired by Zuma). Nene was rehabilitated by Ramaphosa – who defeated the entire Zuma strategy by winning the ANC (and then national) presidency. Nene’s reinstatement as Minister of Finance was widely regarded as both politically astute and market-friendly.

But then Nene dropped two bombshells: one, that he had met the Gupta brothers at their homes and offices between 2010 and 2014, but had not shared this with Ramaphosa; two, that he had refused to sign off a nuclear deal with Russia that would have simply broken the country financially for decades to come.

And now he is gone.

Did anyone pause to reflect on the fact that after a decade of impunity, this was an act of decency and moral courage? Ignore the party colours, and look at the human being. That is clearly a test all South African politicians failed abysmally. If they have a conscience they clearly forgot to dust it off and use it.

Widespread guilt

Almost by definition, anyone who is found to have past dealings with the Guptas – themselves now safely ensconced in mansions abroad – is unclean. And by definition that includes huge swathes of the political and business classes, whom the Guptas seem to have variously seduced, corrupted, cajoled, threatened or by-passed, depending on the strength of character at stake.

The brilliance of their state capture project – laid out recently by the investigative journalists as well as various academics – is a roll-call of virtually every senior political figure in South Africa, alongside many business elites.

Some stood up – but a great many folded, seduced by cash or a crass Sun City family wedding invitation or rotten contracts.

Many are in parliament, some are in civil society, others in the private sector – including the consultancy firm KPMG, and UK-based now defunct PR company Bell Pottinger – and elsewhere. Not all are sitting on ANC benches. Perhaps that is why the President had no option but to remove Nene. Politically, the liability was too great as an election approaches – national elections are due next year – and none are so shrill as those with something to hide.

Nene went to the Zondo Commission into state capture and ‘fessed up. Yes, he had met the Guptas. No, he had not taken bribes (well, he would say that, right?). Yes, he had been put under immense pressure to sign off on the nuclear deal which would have opened South Africa’s coffers to looters. Yes, he refused to sign, and was fired.

Remarkably, he had not told Ramaphosa about the earlier meetings with the Guptas. But, he took responsibility – unlike the lies and bluster of others caught in the act. Nene said to South Africa:

In return for the trust and faith that you have placed on me, I owe you conduct as a public office bearer that is beyond reproach. But I am human too, I do make mistakes, including those of poor judgement.

This was followed by his offer to resign. This is accountability and decency.

Lacking empathy

In any version of the world, this was a man seeking an honourable redemption. He acknowledged his own mistakes, sought forgiveness, and asked to be relieved of the trappings of office for which so many continue to drool and slobber.

Were there questions to be asked? Absolutely.

But what did he get in return? The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), whose leadership has repeatedly been accused of corruption, leapt to the offence, claiming Nene was “corrupt as hell” and promising to release more compromising details – which are yet to appear. The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), desperately seeking the front foot it has lost since Ramaphosa’s ascendancy, demanded Nene’s axing and wanted other possible conflicts of interest investigated.

Empathy is the ability to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference. In simple terms, to put yourself in their shoes. It is singularly lacking in politics – from Trump mocking abuse survivors to South Africa today. Shout down the other side, win by volume and crassness, see honesty as weakness, but above all win – nothing else seems to matter.

Not one politician had the decency to say ‘that was a decent thing to do.’ The lack of empathy was deafening. A lack of empathy is part of narcissistic personality disorder – an inability or refusal to identify with the feelings of others. This is a rather neat description of politicians, confirmed repeatedly.

If politicians see only personal advantage, especially from the ‘weakness’ of others – weakness defined here as honesty, seeking forgiveness, repentance – then the future is bleak.

But to all those self-serving, smug TV chasing politicians and others, whose own meetings with the Guptas, or other corrupt activities, have yet to come to light, remember one aphorism: people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.The Conversation

David Everatt, Head of Wits School of Governance, University of the Witwatersrand

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Gentrification, vegans, and the death of historic London pie shops

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M Rose/Shutterstock.com

Ronald Ranta, Kingston University

I am a guilt-stricken carnivore. Even though I love eating meat, I have become increasingly uncomfortable with the ethics of killing animals for consumption, and with the environmental impact of the meat industry. I also have mixed feelings about gentrification. I clearly see the benefits it can bring, but I am also aware it can adversely affect local communities and businesses. One thing I have not done until now is think of these two issues in conjunction.

A few days ago, a colleague sent me an article in the British free newspaper Metro about the recent closure of one of London’s oldest pie and mash shops, AJ Goddard in Deptford. According to the article, the owner blamed gentrification (a claim that has been previously made about the closure of pie and mash shops more generally). The influx of newcomers who were vegan, vegetarian, or “into fad diets” were apparently what caused the shop’s closure after 128 years of operation.

My initial reaction was to question this claim. The owner told the Metro that he’d had a few people coming in and asking if they did vegan pies: “It’s like some kind of bad joke – we’re a traditional pie and mash shop, of course we don’t sell vegan pies.” If this was the case, I thought, why not seek to reflect the desires of local customers and start selling a vegan option? If people were coming in to ask for them, then the demand was certainly there.

The owner’s apparent refusal to sell vegan pies was because the shop was a “traditional” one (in other words, one that sells meat pies). But this claim is problematic: the contents of London pies have changed over the years in response to changes in supply and demand. Pies in the East End were originally associated with eels. The move towards meat (mostly beef) came with the overfishing of eels in the 19th century, though the tradition of eating eels is still present (most shops sell jellied eels and a few also do hot stewed eels). And, the second element of the dish, mash, was only added on a few decades later.

A cockney delicacy: jellied eels.
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com

Meanwhile, the media charge that vegetarians and vegans are to blame fits in well with a meat industry that perceives itself as being under siege.

Across the world, there have been campaigns to prohibit vegetarian and vegan products from using meat-based labels such as sausage, steak and burger, and in France the industry has even asked for government protection from vegans.

Food identities

But the closure of this south London shop raises a wider question regarding the relationship between food and identity. People’s food culture tends to reflect their class, gender, national and political identifications and as such are often slow to change. The French gastronome Brillat Savarin famously said, “tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are”.

Britain has been described as a “nation of pie-lovers” and pie and mash served with liquor (parsley sauce), aka the Londoners’ meal, has been closely associated with East End “cockney” culture for more than a century. And so one could read the closure of AJ Goddard, and many other pie and mash shops, as an indication of the decline of cockney culture and identity.

But we could go even further and lament, with Brexit in mind, the decline of traditional English culture and identity; in terms of food culture this has included the closure of “traditional” pubs, cafes and fish and chip shops. Gentrification and veganism are thus associated with foreigners or out of touch liberal elites who not only do not understand, share or respect local culture and traditions, but actively seek to change them, and authorities who do nothing to protect them. A pie shop’s decision not to reflect the tastes of local customers could in this view be political as well as pragmatic; tied to “traditional” views of food culture.

Good old British grub.
Lelpix/Shutterstock.com

Dynamic food

Food culture is dynamic and not immutable. The rise and fall of pie and mash, just like other national food icons, reflects the changing nature of social and economic life in Britain over the past century.

The first pie and mash shop opened in 1844 to cater for the demands of a growing working class in East London, fuelled by the growth of the docks, and based on the flow of people (migrants) and goods (most of the eels originally served came from Dutch fishing vessels). Pie and mash were thus products of change and were probably, at the time, seen as a food fad. They were also, to an extent, products of migration from other parts of the country and from abroad. Of the three families that started the pie and mash trade in London, the Kellys, the Cookes, and the Manzes, the latter two were Irish and Italian.

The pie and mash shops that have survived have increasingly moved away from a narrow interpretation of authenticity and tradition. Most now include vegetarian options, which according to one owner are “really popular”, and some have even gone as far as providing non “authentic” sides such as gravy and chips. A few of the more modern shops have gone further and have included less traditional options such as Thai green curry and chicken tikka masala (and the latter can be arguably seen as a British national dish). One of the most successful London pie shops offers 21 different pies, including three vegetarian and five vegan ones.

All this is true. But the desire, particularly after Brexit, to lament the decline of English culture and to read events through the lens of identity politics has become pervasive. And in fact, according to the Huffington Post, the closure of this pie and mash shop had more to do with local politics and austerity than simply the influx of vegans. Apparently the owner later claimed that the real reason his shop was relocating to Kent was because of the rise in rent and business rates and the condition of the building, which is owned by Lewisham Council.

Whatever the reason, in today’s era of healthy eating, whether you are a vegan, meat eater or flexitarian, serving carbs with carbs is always going to be a hard sell.The Conversation

Ronald Ranta, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, Kingston University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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South Africa’s stimulus package shows power is finely balanced in the ANC

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Cyril Ramaphosa’s economic stimulus package shows that he and his political allies are in charge of economic policy.
GCIS

Steven Friedman, University of Johannesburg

The economic stimulus package announced by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa shows that he and his political allies are, contrary to much analysis in recent months, in charge of economic policy.

Ramaphosa insists that it is a ‘bold’ attempt to initiate economic change which will particularly benefit youth, women and small businesses . It rests partly, he adds, on ‘significant regulatory reform’.

But the package is more interesting for what it says about the politics of economic decision-making in South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) than for its likely impact on the economy.

Certainly, it does not signal readiness by Ramaphosa and his allies to use their power to introduce much-needed reforms. In an article in the financial press explaining the thinking behind the package, Ramaphosa acknowledged that it rested not on new ideas but on trying to get the government to do what it has already said it will do. He wrote that it was “tempting to unleash novel policy directions” but it was far more important “to build a track record of successful implementation.”

Much of the package depends, therefore, on trying to ensure that government lives up to commitments it has already made – on, for example, funding infrastructure and allocating broadband spectrum licenses – rather than striking out in a new direction.

It is hardly surprising, then, that critics to the President’s left complain that there is no change in the government’s market-friendly approach. Indeed, a business chamber noted that it repeated much that the government had been promising to do over the past five years. The package does not depart from the policy framework which has guided government thinking on the economy for more than two decades.

This might make it seem like a non-event. In reality, the background to the package means that it is politically important.

Timing

The package’s details were announced in late September two months after Ramaphosa first announced it was on the way. At the time, he also revealed that the ANC had changed its mind and would seek a constitutional amendment to allow it to expropriate land without compensation, having previously insisted that it did not need to change the constitution to do so. Both announcements followed a meeting of the ANC’s national executive committee which makes decisions between conferences. This strongly suggested that the national executive committee had insisted on both the land and the stimulus decisions.

This seemed to send an important message on the balance of power within the national executive committee on economic issues – that Ramaphosa and his allies had been caught off guard by supporters of former president Jacob Zuma.

Ramaphosa narrowly won the ANC presidency, whose leadership, including the national executive committee, is divided almost evenly between his supporters and those who backed Zuma. His backers, who are inclined towards a market economy approach, are opposed to the patronage politics of Zuma’s faction, which has come to be associated with corruption and ‘state capture’ (using government for personal enrichment).

Ramaphosa’s chief mandate was to tackle corruption and ‘state capture’ and it was assumed that the Zuma group would try to stop him. But his opponents seem to have shifted their strategy. Instead of, as expected, complaining that anti-corruption measures were doing the bidding of white-owned corporations, they demanded change on policy issues such as land. This seemed to have wrong-footed Ramaphosa and his supporters, forcing them to react rather than to steer the ANC’s agenda.

The stimulus package seemed to stem from the same source as the land announcement – a push by the Zuma group to shape economic policy. All of this suggested that the Zuma faction was successfully pushing ANC policy in a less market-friendly direction.

But the fact that the package is firmly within the current framework signals clearly that Ramaphosa and his supporters are, after all, in charge of economic policy. It shows that they decide the government’s response to economic challenges despite the Zuma faction’s strong presence.

This does not mean that they are directing the ANC and government economic agenda. They still seem to be reacting to pressures for policy change from their rivals.

This is not surprising. Poverty and inequality are still strong realities in South Africa and many black professionals and business people still believe that they do not enjoy equal opportunities. If Ramaphosa and those who agree with him simply dismiss the calls for change, they will appear to be defending the indefensible. This allows its opponents to insist on government action – but they do not control the details when the decision to take action is turned into a concrete policy or programme.

That they were able to decide the details of the stimulus package is important if we bear in mind that the economy is in recession, which should increase pressure for more government spending – a pressure which they resisted. And, if they are able to shape the details of the stimulus package, it seems likely that they are equally able to shape policy changes on land and other issues, such as national health insurance, which are likely to be sources of pressure for change in the near future.

What is not clear is whether they are able to decide what will change – rather than just react to what their opponents want. To do this, they need to move beyond their current framework and to seek to take the economy in a new direction, which would tackle the exclusion of millions from its benefits while preserving, and strengthening, its ability to produce.

Need for a new path

It is now widely agreed that a new path is needed. Ramaphosa’s group will, therefore, remain on the defensive as long as the voices insisting that change is needed are those of their opponents. There is no contradiction between taking seriously the need for growth and investment and steering the economy in a direction which will open opportunities for many more people. On the contrary, the one depends on the other.

Given this, the voices calling for change – as well as those deciding what form it should take – should be those of the faction which insists it wants to get the economy working for all. It should not wait for the group which sees calls for radical change as a means of siphoning off the public’s resources to a small group of connected people to place the need for change on the government’s agenda.The Conversation

Steven Friedman, Professor of Political Studies, University of Johannesburg

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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We really can do without a Cyril Stamp

It is not often that we see an intelligent bloke associate himself with a bunch of idiots, but our President has done just that.

I am not referring to his Cabinet Colleagues, however tempting that may be, but to Ramaphosa’s participation in a ceremony to unveil the new Cyril Stamp.

Does he deserve a postage stamp displaying his image?

I don’t really care a lot, but I suppose so. At least it is one thing you can give to a billionaire, who can afford pretty much anything else.

But….. And it is a big but. I just cannot bear to see him sharing a ceremony with the Post Office.

It is not an institution which has the respect of many of us. Delayed home deliveries. Parcels going missing. And when you enter a Post Office branch, it has a Medieval feel. Judging from their disposition and manner, you wonder whether the staff have been employed…or enslaved?

And what can one say of a stamp? Pretty things. I once collected them.

But when did I last buy a stamp? Dunno. May have been a year ago; maybe longer.

The Post Office does efficiently hand out vehicle licence documents. And it has been given a vital role in the distribution of Social Grants. Which makes me very, very nervous indeed.

Possibly the one big benefit of the new Cyril stamp is that it will have so few using it to pay for postage that it may soon become a collectable rarity.

But to mingle the Ramaphosa Brand with the Post Office Brand?

Really, Mr President. What were you thinking?

I am afraid your latest association with the Post Office does not get the ZA Confidential stamp of approval.

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Five popular hangover cures, reviewed by experts

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Ouch! Never again…
Shutterstock.

Sally Adams, University of Bath and Craig Gunn, University of Bath

It’s a common misconception that hangovers are mainly the result of dehydration. An evening of heavy drinking can lead to inflammation of the stomach and intestines, poor-quality sleep and the production of toxic substances that lead to vomiting, sweating and an increased heart rate. Research also suggests that hangovers can hamper the ability to concentrate and remember information.

What research has not given us, though, is credible evidence for a “hangover cure”. The revels of freshers’ week will have many bleary eyed students reaching for a remedy, so here’s the evidence behind what works – and what doesn’t.

1: Water

What have I done?
Shutterstock.

Dehydration is one of the most frequently reported symptoms of hangover. Alcohol is a diuretic – in other words, it makes us urinate more often. Having around four drinks can eliminate between 600 and 1,000mL of water from your body.

Heavy alcohol consumption can also cause sweating, vomiting and diarrhoea, which also cause the body to lose fluids. As a result, dehydration leads to symptoms including thirst, weakness, dry mouth and light-headedness.

Drinking water may relive some of these symptoms, but dehydration is also typically accompanied with electrolyte imbalance. A combination of water and an electrolyte supplement can therefore tackle some of the symptoms of your hangover – but by no means all of them.

2: The old-fashioned fry-up

Get in my belly.
The-E/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Perhaps one of the most traditional remedies for a hangover is a plate of greasy bacon and eggs. But is the fry-up the holy grail of cures it promises to be? Foods such as bacon, eggs and even broccoli contain an amino acid called “cysteine”, which scientists claim can decrease the amount of the toxic chemical “acetaldehyde”, which is produced as your body metabolises alcohol.

Acetaldehyde contributes to hangover symptoms such as increased heart rate, nausea and vomiting, but there is very limited research supporting the benefits of certain foods as hangover cures. That said, eating a meal with protein, fat and carbohydrate before alcohol consumption has been shown to slow the absorption of alcohol, so as the old saying goes it may good to “line your stomach”.

3: Caffeine

When coffee doesn’t come through for you.
Shutterstock.

One of the reasons we feel so awful after drinking is down to the effects that alcohol has on our sleep. Alcohol-induced sleep can be shorter and poorer quality, but the tiredness you feel can be reversed by the nation’s favourite stimulant – caffeine.

Evidence suggests that people who regularly drink caffeine develop a physical dependency to the drug, which explains why some people need their morning fix. But for these people, a cup of tea or coffee during a hangover may not be enough to address the deficits in thought processes and reaction times.

There’s also evidence to suggest that people who don’t usually have caffeine do not have the same effects of improved performance and alertness seen in regular users.

4: Hair of the dog

Are you sure that’s a good idea?
Elsie esq./Flickr, CC BY

During a hangover, many people will say “I’m never drinking again” – but others swear by the “hair of the dog” to relieve their symptoms. The fact is, drinking during a hangover can be downright dangerous. Vital organs such as the liver need time to repair the damage caused by a session of heavy drinking. Government guidelines recommend that you should avoid alcohol for 48 hours after a heavy drinking session.

What’s more, using alcohol to “cure” a hangover could be indicative of an alcohol use disorder. Evidence suggests that getting more frequent hangovers is associated with an increased likelihood of developing problems with alcohol. It’s not clear whether the hangover itself is what causes the problem drinking, or repeated heavy alcohol use. Regardless, as far as hangover cures go, this one is not recommended.

5: Medicine

Yeah, no.
Shutterstock.

Recently it seems more and more pharmaceutical products are being marketed to drinkers which claim to relieve hangover symptoms. These products often claim to work by increasing the speed at which one’s body gets rid of the toxic chemical acetaldehyde. These cures also claim to reduce inflammation and address the chemical changes in our brain causes by alcohol that can impact our thought processes.

It should hardly come as a surprise that there is currently no evidence that any conventional or complimentary medicine can cure a hangover. It is unclear whether this is because these cures do not work or because their effectiveness has not been fully tested.

So, although these popular remedies may offer some relief from the symptoms of hangover, there’s no evidence-based treatment or “cure”. A hangover is a complex combination of physical and psychological symptoms, which are caused by several different processes in the body and brain.

What’s more, few hangover treatments address impairments in concentration, memory and reaction times, or the low mood and increased anxiety frequently reported by sufferers. The only surefire way to avoid “the morning after the night before” is to drink alcohol in moderation – or not drink it at all.The Conversation

Sally Adams, Lecturer in Health Psychology, University of Bath and Craig Gunn, PhD Candidate, University of Bath

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Social media is making it harder to protect the identities of suspects

File 20181005 72133 i0j15o.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
A man accused of raping a seven-year old child at a restaurant in South Africa makes his first court appearance.
Eyewitness News/Christa Eybers

Jameelah Omar, University of Cape Town

A controversy is raging in South Africa over the naming of a man accused of raping a seven-year old child at a restaurant in Pretoria before he had appeared in court. His name and photograph were widely circulated on social media. At least two major Sunday newspapers identified him. The Conversation Africa asked Jameelah Omar, a criminal procedure expert, to explain what is and isn’t allowed.

What does the law say?

The country’s Criminal Procedure Act of 1977 prohibits the publication of the identity of the accused before they appear in court and plead. This is to prevent undue prejudice to a person before the prosecuting authority decides to prosecute.

Some information can be reported before the accused appears in court and pleads. But this is limited to information about an alleged crime, such as where it allegedly took place.

The act also stipulates that the identity of the complainant in a sexual matter must always be confidential.

Generally, criminal trials are public. In some cases, however, a court can direct that a criminal matter be heard behind closed doors (in camera), and that any person whose presence is not necessary will be barred from attending the trial. This is common practice in sexual offence cases given the sensitivity of the subject and the vulnerability of the complainant.

Even if a case is heard in camera, the name and personal particulars of the accused, the charge against him, the plea, the verdict and the sentence (unless the court directs otherwise) can all be reported.

Another law that sets down conditions for what can and can’t be reported is the South African Police Service Act. This prohibits the publishing of pictures (photos or sketches) of someone who is in custody on suspicion of having committed an offence before a decision to prosecute has been made or criminal proceedings have started. But, in particular circumstances, permission can be sought from the national or provincial commissioner of police to authorise publication.

In the latest furore, both sets of laws were broken because people on social media circulated the name of the alleged rapist, as well as his photo before he pleaded in court. At least two major newspapers also broke the law by doing this.

Why is identifying suspects before they have pleaded a problem?

The rationale behind about banning the publication of details, particularly when it comes to sexual offences, is threefold.

Firstly, to (always) protect the complainant, secondly, to protect minors, and finally, to protect the accused (or any witnesses) if there is a likelihood that they may be harmed.

The prohibition of the accused’s identity before they plead has a slightly different rationale.

The logic here is that the prosecuting authority must be able to apply its mind as to whether there is, at face value, enough evidence. If there is sufficient evidence a prosecution should proceed. But this should happen without the pressure of a public outcry.

Should the prosecuting authority opt not to prosecute, the matter doesn’t go to trial? If the alleged perpetrator had already been named they would suffer reputational harm.

It’s of course frustrating if someone who people believe has committed a crime doesn’t get charged. But, the thing to bear in mind is that the law has to apply consistently for everyone. None of us would want our name to be spread through the media before we’ve appeared in court.

What about public figures and public interest?

The prohibition against identifying alleged perpetrators before they have actually appeared in court, and pleaded, doesn’t depend on who the person is. As soon as the accused has pleaded, their identity can be disclosed, regardless of the person’s public profile.

The prohibition applies to any person publishing details of a criminal allegation, not only the media. But media houses are more likely to be cautious about sticking to the law compared with ordinary people.

The rise of social media has brought about a whole new set of challenges. For example, it would be ridiculous to envisage charging every person who has shared the identity of an alleged perpetrator on Twitter or Facebook. Individuals are not bound by the same restrictions of ethical reporting guidelines as media companies are. Individuals could also possibly claim ignorance of the law as a defence, something media companies can’t do.

Having said that, I always make a point of warning my students to be cautious when they share information on social media, as we should all abide by an ethic of care when we communicate publicly.

What is the penalty for breaching the law or rules?

Contravening the Criminal Procedure Act by identifying alleged perpetrators before they have pleaded is a criminal offence. Those found guilty can be either fined, or jailed for up to three years. If the person who has been wrongfully identified is under 18-years-old, the imprisonment could be five years.

Violations of the South African Police Act involving the publication of a picture of someone in custody before criminal proceedings start carries a possible sentence of either a fine or a year in jail.

These laws have been applied in South Africa. But making them stick in the era of social platforms like Twitter and Facebook presents a whole new set of challenges.

Jameelah Omar, Lecturer in Criminal Justice, Department of Public Law, University of Cape Town

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Jobs Summit Discussion: Mike Schussler and Jeff Osborne

Top economist Mike Schussler and Gumtree Auto CEO Jeff Osborne have joined John Fraser for a timely and important chat on some worrying economic challenges.

In this podcast, they explored topics which included the unemployment crisis, fuel price hikes and the potential for the auto sector in Africa.

Click here to listen:

SAIRR slams Cyril over farm killing denial

President Cyril Ramaphosa

He must be tired, poor chap, delivering several speeches a day to drum up investment and support for SA.

But why, oh why, did he say there are no farm killings?   He cannot have meant it, but the damage is done.  Social media is frantic over the matter.   Our President has screwed up.

This is what the SAIRR had to say:

A video clip <https://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2018-09-26/-no-land-grab-in-s-africa-ramaphosa-video> has emerged of President Cyril Ramaphosa lying to a journalist in the United States about the murder of farmers in South Africa and violent land invasions in the country.

In the 1:23 minute-long clip, Mr Ramaphosa tells the journalist that ‘there are no killings of farmers or white farmers in South Africa’ and ‘there are no land grabs in South Africa’.

Both of Mr Ramaphosa’s statements are untrue.

Data produced by the South African Police Service shows that 62 farmers and farm workers were murdered in the country in the 2017/18 financial year. The same police data shows that 353 such murders occurred since 2012/13.

An analysis published by Dr James Myburgh, editor of Politicsweb.co.za, showed that the murder rate for commercial farmers and their families in South Africa was far higher than the national average. According to that analysis South Africa’s average murder rate was 34 per 100 000 in 2016/17, while that of commercial farming households was 52.8 per 100 000, and 108 for farmers.

IRR analysts have also demonstrated that a simple media scan will offer up examples of violent land and farm invasions across a number of South Africa’s provinces, including the Free State, Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal.

Mr Ramaphosa’s denial of farm killings and land invasions comes as his government is under growing pressure to abandon threats to seize private property without compensation. Those threats have done much damage both to foreign and domestic investor sentiment and contributed to tipping the South African economy into recession.

The IRR has long advocated for property rights to be extended to all South Africans and has lobbied the South African government to support emerging black commercial producers by providing them with title, cheap financing, and proper extension services.

IRR CEO Dr Frans Cronje said: “Mr Ramaphosa’s comments are offensive to the victims of farm murders – black and white – and to the millions of South Africans who live with insecure title to the properties they occupy.

“Retreating into the realm of fiction will not help to break the political and economic impasse that has been triggered by the government’s attempts to dilute property rights.

“What is necessary is to face the hard facts that the policy of expropriation without compensation has been a political and economic disaster, and to abandon that policy and replace it with new and effective models of land reform that secure and expand the property rights of all South Africans in order to stabilise the economy while at the same time ensuring that proper restitution takes place”.

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