Volume 6 Issue 2
The Cape Town
Globalist U C Tâ€™s st udent int er nat ional af fairs mag a z i n e
DRUGS Need a light? 1
The Cape Town Globalist
18% do not have proper
20% do not have proper
95% do not have stocked
92% do not have
access to electricity
access to water
90% do not have stocked computer centres
17% do not have
Editor-in-Chief Louis Pienaar Deputy Editor Anneke Rautenbach Content Editors Amy Thornton Tonbara Ekiyor Omogolo Taunyane
Republic of Whoonga
The fatal effects of a Flowering Economy
Tidbits you may have missed
Layout Editor Nic Botha
Photo Editor Sarah Thomas
Marketing Jawad Haider Finance Heike Victor Contributors Robert Attwell Francois Bekker Jacob Claassens Arjun Dürr Lori van Laren Stuart MacDonald Tom McLennan Sisanda Mcimeli Sofia Monteiro Carla Petersen Helen Sullivan Ehrard Vermaak Mweya Waetjen Hannah Walker
News bites Global coversations Q&A with Paul O’Sullivan
Armchair Globalist What the frack is going on?
A Power for the People
New threat to society or media hype?
The crux of the war in Afghanistan
The Hazy Controversy
A sober look at a popular debate - should we legalise it?
First, do no harm...
Private pharmaceutical companies and the ARV market
Abahlali baseMjondolo, the “shack dwellers”, are galvanising protests in South Africa
Trouble in Paradise
The worsening damage to our most vital resource - water
South Africa’s new membership in the clique of economic giants
Japan rattles the global nuclear debate
A preventable crisis? Vitamin Aid: The impact of biofortification The controversy over micronutrients
Sience and Philosophy Contributions The Cape Town Globalist is published four times a year by students at the University of Cape Town. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the Cape Town Globalist, the publication sponsors, the University of Cape Town, or Global21.
Interview with Paul Weinberg Contributions from the Yale Globalist and Sydney Globalist
Bearing gifts of wisdom
The massive potential of minute particles Gold, frankincense and myrrh
Curtain Call 30
“I have a Requiem for a Dream”
The oldest addiction in the world
If you are interested in getting involved with the CTG in any capacity, please email firstname.lastname@example.org The Cape Town Globalist
The Cape Town Globalist is a member of
1 NETWORK LINKING FUTURE WORLD LEADERS
Network of International Affairs Magazines 5 LANGUAGES www.global21online.org 5 CONTINENTS
11 UNIVERSITIES 245 000 STUDENTS
Yale University • University of Toronto • University of Sydney • Hebrew University • Institut de Sciences Politiques • London School of Economics • Peking University • University of Cape Town • University of South Australia • Oxford University • Ibmec University 4
nd a snowball forms.
We’ve actually done it. For the first time in its history, the Cape Town Globalist has managed to have two editions printed by the half-year. I am so thankful for having a team behind me that work harder than I could’ve hoped for. Thank you team. Without you, and particularly you, this would not have been possible. One of the main difficulties, of course, was money. For us at the Globalist, this is frustrating. I feel like the world needs to pay for those who dedicate their time towards making something for the sake of it, and thereby work at improving their product not as a means to another end, but as a fulfilling end in itself. But, as “they” say, there’s no such thing as a free, well, anything. So we will do what we can to improve the Globalist’s market presence. Here I implore you, reader, to spread the word. We know you’re there, but we need show that we know that you now that we know you’re out there, for both our sakes. If you like what we do, tell others. Take them magazines. Come to our writing workshops and speaker events. Tell us what you think. Take these magazines on your dates and drinks with friends. I promise you, a Globalist between you and aforementioned will ensure that there won’t be any awkward moments. That should be our new slogan: “Chew the Fat, comfortably, with the Cape Town Globalist”.
Image by Sarah Thomas
No really! I mean, who could resist picking up this edition? And clearly you won’t be left without Something to Talk About. Drugs, right? Need a light? By “light”, of course, we are referring to nothing but “illumination”. For a while drugs have attained an aura of popular mythology about them; the truth is that drugs remain the spike in the arms of society, souring its bloodstream. Crimes, theft, trafficking, addiction, wars -- these are the repercussions of a global drug trade. Not so irie. But, far from yelling polemic from the hilltops, we’d rather choose the informative approach. We look at Whoonga, the new drug that is purportedly ravishing KwaZulu-Natal. The war in Afghanistan, a matter that is usually focused on as a matter of West-vs.-Terror geopolitics, is sometimes neglected as being a war that is fuelled not by oil, but by heroin. And of course, the umbrella-term “Drugs” covers more than just the illicit kind. The role pharmaceutical companies play in the distribution of ARV’s in South Africa is as pertinent an issue when it comes to the drugs we need to improve our state (pun intended). Outside the theme, we have tried to stick to our goal of providing news that you won’t easily find everywhere. Increasingly louder protests are making the rest of us aware of the realities of life in informal settlements. Some have died in this effort (R.I.P. Andries Tatane). The disasters in Japan have led to a reappraisal of the viability of nuclear energy. Be sure to look at our Q&A, an exclusive interview with Paul o’ Sullivan, the scourge of white-collar criminals in South Africa. And then, our science and philosophy section is blooming into something quite exciting. It’s been hard work, but here we are. On track. The snowball is growing in speed and quality, and we do hope you agree.
Louis Pienaar Editor-in-Chief
The Cape Town Globalist
News bites The Arab Spring
Floods in Namibia Following heavy rainfall since January this year, Namibia has experienced the flooding of the Zambezi and Okavango Rivers, culminating in a state of emergency declared by President Pohamba on the 30th March. 62 people have died in the floods and more than 10 000 are left displaced. These floods have been described by the president as ‘possibly the worst ever’, despite the fact that the country was somewhat prepared, following heavy floods in previous years.
The social upheaval in the Middle East continues unabated. President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen is the most recent long-term leader to have resigned. In Syria, pro-democracy forces are being gunned down by the incumbent President Bashar al-Assad. As the Globalist goes to print, the U.S. is considering sanctions against government officials. In Libya, fighting between forces of the tenacious Gaddafi and opposition forces continue, the opposition aided by NATO forces. Almost 10000 have died in the Arab world since the beginning of the “Jasmine Revolution”. 8000 of these have been in Libya alone.
Burqa ban official, first accused
On April 11th France burqa ban came into effect. Two women were arrested outside Notre Dame for carrying out an unauthorized veiledprotest hours after the ban came into effect. The burqa law makes it illegal for anyone to cover their faces in public. The law is seen by many to be a move by President Sarkozy to appease the right-of-centre constituency of the vote, as the Front National – one of the many far right political parties gaining influence in Europe – increases in strength. 6
25 million ecstasy users
250 million drug users* in the world
19 million 52 million cocaine users
$439 billion size of global illicit drug trade
Nigeria elects Goodluck
From Gugulethu, to Khayelitsha to Golgotha
Goodluck Jonathan, leader of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has retained the presidency of Nigeria after elections in April that were generally held to be free and fair. However, only the PDP has signed the results. The country has subsequently seen violent clashes between supporters of Jonathan (mostly from the South) and the main opposition leader Muhammadu Buhari of the Congress for Progressive Change. Almost 1000 civilians are thought to have been killed as a result of the post-election violence.
On April 24th, Cape Town pastor Xola Skosana marched the 14km’s from Gugulethu to Khayelitsha carrying a huge wooden cross, with the message that “South African townships are hell”. Skosana’s march was flanked by about 300 supporters, carrying Skosana’s customary “Welcome to Hell: South African townships” banner. His supporters included members from Blackwash, Abahlali baseMjondolo and members from the DA. At one point, clashes erupted between DA members and Blackwash supporters, with a DA-shirt set alight. Apparently this inflammatory act was to show that the march was not to be “hijacked” by any political party.
Death of Hindu guru
drug addicts in the world
heroin (opiates) users
is more than the GDP of 88% of countries
Ivory Coast: Gbagbo surrenders
Hindu guru Sri Sathya Sai Baba died on the 24th of April, at the age of 84, after nearly a month of hospital treatment. Sai Baba was a spiritual guru revered by millions world-wide, including politicians, film stars and world-class athletes. According to a statement by Indian Prime Minister, Sri Satya Sai Baba ”was a spiritual leader who inspired millions to lead a moral and meaningful life, even as they followed the religion of their choice.” Apart from this, Sai Baba was also reported to be able to perform miracles such as conjuring jewellery from his frizzy mane.
South African Police Members murder Ficksburg protestor Six members of the South African Police Services have appeared in court in connection with the murder and grievous bodily harm of Andries Tatane, a 33-year-old Ficksburg protestor. The incident occurred during demonstrations against poor service delivery in the Eastern Free State town on the 13th April. Tatane was, according a friend (Molefi Nonyane) trying to save a group of elderly protestors from a water cannon being fired at them. According to Nonyane, he took off his shirt and shouted at the police to fire it at him instead. Sufficiently provoked, six policemen started beating him and firing rubber bullets at his chest. He died before the ambulance arrived. Tatane was described as a ‘community activist’ who had also established an academy to help school children with their education. The incident has sparked international outrage and has been widely denounced.
The former president of the Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, has surrendered after an assault on his home in Abidjan, where he was hiding in a bunker. The assault was carried out by the troops of his rival, Alassane Ouattara, backed by French troops and those of the United Nations. He has since been detained in the UN-secured Golf Hotel with his wife and son, and will now be facing legal proceedings. Gbagbo refused to step down following the disputed results of Ivory Coast’s presidential elections in November last year, causing chaos and violence across the country between supporters of the different candidates. Ouattara has since claimed presidency after the election results were UN certified, and has called for an end to the violence.
The Cape Town Globalist
A fatally obese man from Bellair, Ohio in the United States has died after not leaving his armchair for two years. After finding him unconscious, his girlfriend contacted emergency services, who had to rescue him by cutting a hole in a wall of his home. Officials say his skin had fused with the fabric of the chair and that he was covered in urine, faeces and maggots. He had to be cut out of the chair and hospitalised. He died on the 31st March, at age 43. His girlfriend has admitted to feeding him since he could no longer stand up.
Louis Pienaar, Anneke Rautenbach Photographs courtesy of wikimedia Statistics courtesy of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, World Drug Report 2006 and 2010. Numbers based on ages 15- 64, upper estimates shown. *“Drug users” use illicit drugs once per year
Paul O’Sullivan is best known as the man who blew the lid on the corrupt activities of South Africa’s former Police Chief and Interpol Head, Jackie Selebi. He has made it his mission to bring down powerful people who masquerade as policemen and upright politicians by day and wine and dine gangsters and drug dealers by night. He muses with Sisanda Mcimeli about South Africa’s Underworld. When South Africans think of gangsterism and crime, they typically link it to the townships, where poverty is said to be a driving force. You are out to expose a different kind of gangster. What kind of people have you taken on? They are best described as trans-national organised crime syndicates. When asked why he chose South Africa, [Rodavan] Krecjir said ‘It has a good constitution’. What he really meant was ‘My friend Vito Palatzolo has told me that this country is good because if you pay the right people, you stay out of jail and they don’t deport you.’ In other words, the conditions were right for trans-national organised crime to breed and settle here. I use the word ‘were’ - I think the government has now adopted a zero tolerance attitude towards foreigners that come here with bags of cash and tie our courts up with application after application, simply to stay in the country and avoid the justice systems elsewhere. This case is in my belief the turning point for South Africa and I think we are all very excited about it. Krijcir, who is wanted by Interpol for his links to major foreign criminal syndicates, was granted R500 000 bail in the Johannesburg Magistrates court on the 8th of April this year. Speaking to journalists in his Eastern European accent, he said he was not surprised that he had been granted bail. He has been living openly in Johannesburg. Selebi has been found guilty, and will hopefully be serving his full sentence. Who else 8
do you hope will be brought to book when it comes to corrupt relationships between the police and gangsters? Well, we have [Richard] Mdluli, I’d like to see General [Joey] Mabasa being dragged off to jail and a few more that have to remain unnamed right now. I’d also like to see some of the rats that jumped the sinking ship, being brought before court. Here I am talking about people like General Naidoo, Mphego etc. Richard Mdluli is currently the Head of Police Crime Intelligence in South Africa. He has been charged and arrested for the murder of Oupa Ramogibe allegedly committed in 1999. Mdluli is alleged to have threatened Ramogibe after Ramogibe married Mdluli’s ex-lover. Gauteng police intelligence chief, General Joey Mabasa, was the first person to be phoned by Lolly Jackson’s alleged killer, George Smith. An article published on iol.co.za last year reported that O’Sullivan believes that Mabasa deliberately ruined his investigation into Jackson’s actions. He also alleges that Mabasa and Krejcir’s wives are doing business, which he believes is really a front for payments to Mabasa. What do you make of the recent arrest of Richard Mdluli? Is it merely a purging of all the former police commissioner’s allies or is it a genuine fight against crime by the police? It’s very good news, as it sends out a clear signal that crime will catch up with you. It’s got nothing to do with purging, although Mdluli was the main participant in the criminal attempts at stopping Selebi’s prosecuting.
For example, he was tapping my phones, intercepting my e-mails and I constantly had his police officers following me around. His biggest crime was to physically arrest some of the potential State witnesses against Selebi and used scare-tactics to turn them into unwilling witnesses. He also led the unlawful investigations into Selebi’s Prosecutor and Chief Investigator. General Bheki Cele recently proclaimed that just as there was a betrayer among Jesus and his twelve disciples, there are bound to be a few “Judases” who will betray the police force by being corrupt. This is a worrying sentiment indeed. If the system is really as rotten as it seems, is there any hope for ordinary citizens, who loathe the current crime levels in the country? Community Police Forums aren’t likely to dent such an empire... There’s a lot they can do. Here are few examples: • Report crime. • Stop buying stolen goods from fleamarkets. • Stop buying counterfeit DVD’s at the traffic lights. • Stop buying counterfeit cigarettes from corner shops. • Pay your taxes in full, so that the government can meet its obligation in terms of service delivery and job creation. • Flatly refuse to pay small bribes to traffic cops. This creates a breeding ground for worse crime. O’Sullivan’s near decade-long battle to see to it that Jackie Selebi was prosecuted and sentenced should demonstrate to citizens that, despite what seems to be a gloomy picture, the wheels of justice in South Africa do turn… albeit at a snail’s pace.
is a third year student majoring in Radio and Media Production
What the frack is going on? The Armchair Globalist digs down deep.
ecently, mankind’s relationship with subterranean hydrocarbon reserves has had a propensity to create conflict. This tension has shown itself in all parts of the world, and more recently in the Great Karoo. Since the majority of modern industries and means of transport still rely on the fossil fuels trapped in these oil or gas wells, there is inevitably debate between the so-called Green Movement and the international nexus of energy corporations, Big Oil. An astonishing and highly consequential series of events occurs on our planet, indelible to modern life. The scene: a calm water source; rich muddy banks, lots of mud particles, algae and plankton floating about. As these little single-cell chaps die and sink to the bottom, their nutrient-rich bodies mix with the clay embankment; in perfect conditions they accumulate in a way that effectively preserves the biomass from oxidation. Over several years, layers of sediment cover this scrumptious bio-mix, until eventually it is deep enough that one day the compacting pressure and temperature sets off chemical reactions. Depending on depth, oil and/or gas are produced, arguably as by-product. Wherever humans discover such a stockpile in porous parts of the Earth’s crust, we invariably try to extract it and refer to this reserve as “shale”. For many years people have been harvesting shale and it has become big business. Three of the four wealthiest corporations in the world are energy companies having built their empires through adventures in oil and gas. The Rockefellers coined what the Bushes are perfecting…. Currently, Royal Dutch Shell is the biggest such corporation – the second biggest company by revenue in the world (worth more than South Africa’s annual GDP). All this capital affords for many advances in the means of fuel extraction. Since oil or gas is often a few kilometres below the earth’s surface, vertical drilling was traditionally used to seek for deposits. More recently, technology has allowed horizontal drilling, so that one point of entry on the surface can extend in several sideward directions beneath. This not only allows these explorers to access more possible fuel reserves, but also to localise the offensive aesthetic of a drilling site. Moreover, an idea was conceived that would allow miners to harvest the earth without having to go down there with explosives and canaries, but to let the dormant fuels “come to you”. For over 50 years, Big Oil has used a method called fracking, which involves the pumping of fracking fluid into drilled tunnels at extremely high pressure. The gargantuan pumps build up so much force that
The Cape Town Globalist
the fracking fluid rips open cracks in the rocks surrounding the deep mine shafts. Fracking fluid reportedly consists 99% of water and sand, the sand useful in holding open cracks. With the additional fuel pockets now exposed extraction can be commence as both oil and gas floats on water… It is thought that South Africa’s Great Karoo may have large gas stores as the subterranean landscape is made up of salubrious rock-types. This has led to an inquiry by Shell to hydraulically fracture this 90 000 square kilometre area. Such a venture can create many jobs and uncover precious energy sources, necessary in maintaining the world’s industries. In addition, Shell has committed to using seawater, instead of the local farmers’ cherished supply.
Water supplies have been left toxic with carcinogens and biocides in the aftermath of nearby fracking activity in a number of places Yet some seem to think little of all this enterprising spirit. Although contested in popular media, there have been numerous documented cases of the negative side effects from fracking. Water supplies have been left toxic with carcinogens and biocides in the aftermath of nearby fracking activity in a number of places. Erin Brockovich springs to mind. (If you’re still reading, research the “Halliburton Loop”) In South Africa, the anti-fracking fold (perhaps antifossil fuel?), Treasure the Karoo Action Group, has deplored Shell, demanding immediate ceasing of any activity that may lead to fracking being practised. Further opposition came from Astronomy enthusiasts as Sutherland and Carnarvon fall in this area, Carnarvon being a possible site for the building of the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope. The South African National Research Foundation has shown that mining is in fact not permitted in these two astronomy reserve areas. The US’s Environmental Protection Agency has led a formal inquiry into the practise; initial reports are expected before 2013. Fortunately, South African Cabinet has ratified a moratorium on shale exploration, as proposed by the Department of Minerals. Nevertheless – from where we sit in this armchair, it seems that if Shell wants to frack around in our old Karoo, we should let them. Judging by the news (Libya, Iraq, etc.), it is not in one’s interest to upset the boys from Big Oil. CTG
Francois Bekker is majoring in Social Anthropology and Psychology.
A Power for the People Abahlali baseMjondolo, the “Shack Dwellers”, are shaping the demands of the disempowered into action. Helen Sullivan explains.
million South Africans – roughly the population of Cape Town – live in informal settlements, a statistic doubled in the last decade. About a quarter of these have been recognised so that they can be given basic services by municipalities. In Khayelitsha, which was established 25 years ago, and where four hundred thousand people now live, one in three people has to walk more than 200 meters to get to a public water point, and seventy percent of people live in shacks. Abahlali baseMjondolo is a movement started in 2005, now some 30 000 members strong, which aims to fight for the rights of such citizens – the name literally means “Shack Dwellers” - who have been neglected in the provision of basic social goods. Professor Peter Vale, in a 2010 Daily Dispatch article described it as “the most effective grouping in South African civil society”, along with the Treatment Action Campaign.
Abahlali is free from political association. Their cause is with people, not ideology
Image courtesy of Kayelitshastruggles.com
is doing a BA(Hons) in English.
Zbu Zikode, president of Abahlali, describes the movement as being “born out of anger, hunger and frustration, not a clever few men and women.” He describes their cause as being “to fight for, protect, promote and advance the interests of shack dwellers and the poor in South Africa”. Abahlali approaches its cause through rallies, road blocks and awareness campaigns, such as the current ‘No Land, No House, No Service, No Vote’, and ‘Unfreedom day’ on the 27th of April. The movement also runs an education centre, the University of Abahlali baseMjondolo, which offers computer skills, and safety training among other things. Zikode explained that Abahlali is free from political association. Their cause is with people, not ideology. Yet, Abahlali does not shun the role of government - what they want is to work with the government in putting into place an effective system of service delivery. What is admirable about this is that it is not a passive call for service delivery: Abahlali takes action against the lack of it, and wants to work with legislators to design effective systems and put them into place. The question remains whether being from an informal settlement qualifies you to advise the government on how practically to address problems of service delivery to the poor. Zikode quipped that without services like water and garbage collection, “Sandton would be Umlazi. Zikode proposed that RDP housing fails because the infrastructure around the houses is severely lacking. He explained that the government needs to consult shack dwellers and those who have chosen to represent them in order to find out what is needed, that they need to make sure that government housing is built where the com-
munity is economically sustainable: where there are or can be jobs, and where there is sufficient socioeconomic activity nearby. In 2009 Abahlali took the “KwaZulu-Natal Elimination & Prevention of Re-emergence of Slums Act” to the Durban high court, where Abahlali lost. The purpose of the act was to lay down a time during which municipalities would have to evict people from slums if the owners of the land failed to do so. It did not propose plans for new housing for those evicted. After they lost in Durban, Abahlali took the act to the constitutional court which upheld Abahlali’s appeal, and the act was ruled unconstitutional. Zikode described this ruling as humiliating for the ANC. He explained that as Abahlali grew “political muscle” they became a threat to the government’s credibility. This was the reason, he proposes, for the Kennedy road attack. In September 2009, 40 people stormed an Abahlali youth meeting armed, identifying themselves as affiliated with the ANC. The conflict lasted for 20 hours, during which, as Business Day reported at the time, several people were killed, about 27 shacks destroyed and thousands of people were displaced. A trial is still under way. Organisations like Abahlali aim to provide an avenue for effecting change. Whether they achieve this through rallies and membership is difficult to tell. Stands such as that taken against the Slums Act, and the welfare created through such endeavors as the Abahlali University are certainly valuable, and Abahlali presents possibility for the disempowered. Their website furthermore provides a basis for finding out what protest is happening in townships and what is causing it, which is otherwise difficult. The patience of those living in townships is running thin. Protests have flared up recently in Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and Eastern Cape townships over the perceived lack of service delivery. The growing number, and increasing violence of township protests demonstrates a disquieting need for attention to be paid to the reality of informal settlements, and what government is doing, or not doing, about it. CTG
Trouble in Paradise Blind governments, blind hippos – Tom McClennan on the failure to address the contamination of water in South Africa
ater is always a sensitive issue in South Africa. While in the Cape most of our focus is on its scarcity and preservation, a crisis brews in the north. Potential contamination of the environment and drinking water by rising levels of acid water in abandoned mines is an issue we must face in the North West, Free State, Northern Cape and, most severely, in Gauteng. The gold rush was a major factor in developing South Africa. It led to our being a world leader in gold production and established Johannesburg as the economic capital of the country. However, as the original mines, which were started about 120 years ago, have begun running out of gold and shutting down, a problem has developed. Rising ground water, which would have previously been pumped off to treatment plants to allow the miners access to the ore, has been left to accumulate in the mine shafts. While in and of itself this water is not dangerous, once it comes into contact with the metal sulfides in the rocks it becomes highly acidic. This acid water is also potentially radioactive due to other materials in the mines, many of which are used for uranium mining. This was not such an issue before, due to the sheer depths of the mines and the amount of water that would have to accumulate to create a threat. However, with estimates that it is rising at close to 15 meters a month, the underground space could easily fill up in less than three years from now. Some claim the results of this will be on the scale of a disaster movie with sink holes and collapsing buildings. Others prefer to politely, though perhaps imprudently, ignore them. Experts believe that as soon as next year the mine shaft used as a tourist exhibit in Gold Reef City could start to fill up. The general consensus is that it would be environmentally disastrous if we let this happen and it seems to be happening fast. Already there have been fifteen areas in total which have been identified as contaminated, some with up to 200 times the legal amount of radiation registered. Three of these in particular are very worrying. In Krugersdorp two
The Cape Town Globalist
unfortunate hippos seemed to have either been rendered sightless or had their eyesight severely impaired after the lake they inhabit was contaminated by a pollution drainage site uphill from it. Near the ‘Cradle of Humankind’, a world heritage site, there have been cases of fish dying in polluted water sources. Another less highlighted case is a canal which is used by informal settlers for washing, which has also been contaminated. There are worrying implications for South Africa’s potable water sources if our underground lakes are polluted.
Another less highlighted case is a canal which is used by informal settlers for washing, which has also been contaminated Unfortunately, the government’s response has been slow. While the actual technical difficulty of solving the problem is not that much of an issue, it is extremely expensive. The main problem is that these mines were owned by many different companies, or companies that are now out of business. This means there is no way for the government to hold any party responsible for continuing to drain them. Therefore, government has to foot the bill itself. This is something it has been very slow to do. Estimates are in the region of 1,5 billion rand for a full ten year rehabilitation program and the government budget is just not in this league. This has led to South Africa becoming an example to all other nations with numbers of derelict mines of what could be the potential predicament if the issue is ignored. The government is now trying to implement two pump and treatment plants so as to keep the water below 300m underneath Johannesburg. It remains to be seen if this is enough to avert the crisis, or if it is too little too late and acid water will be something that could potentially plague us for decades to come. One can only hope for the sake of nearby residents and hippos alike that we’ve acted in time. CTG
tom mcclennan is doing a BBusSci in Economics and Law
The building-BRIC(SA) of a new economic order South Africa has now formally been accepted into the club of super-developing countries, with India, Brazil, China and Russia. Carla Petersen considers what will come of it.
n 12 April 2011, South Africa joined the informal political organisation BRIC (now BRICSA) – Brazil, Russia, India and China. The political leaders of BRICSA are aiming to move away from the world’s economic leaders, and develop their own economic force. Their goal is to exclusively stimulate the economies of the members’ countries. Economists predict that by 2050 BRICSA will shadow the current market leaders, creating a shift in global economic perception and power. The inclusion of South Africa has led to some political debate. Although South Africa has a promising portfolio with potential economic growth, the statistics reflect that South Africa is at a different level of development.
The political leaders of BRICSA are aiming to move away from the world’s economic leaders, and develop their own economic force
is a third year student majoring in English and Art History
When compared to the members of BRICSA in global terms, South Africa often ranks last: in the technological industry, China is ranked as the country with the highest number of internet users in the world, with India, Brazil and Russia ranking above seventh. South Africa places at 44th. South Africa’s population is in the region of fortynine million, where China and India have crossed the billionth mark. And in relation to the world’s population statistics (according to size), while the members’ countries are ranked above 9th, South Africa is ranked at 25th. In economics, South Africa has wealth in the region
of $350 billion – making it the wealthiest on the African continent. However, when compared to Russia, this figure is nearly five times multiplied. Economist, Jim O’Neill, founder of the term BRIC, questions the inclusion of South Africa. He holds the view that while a BRIC membership is an incredible opportunity for South Africa to raise itself on the international and economic platform; he struggles to understand how South Africa could be compared with the other BRIC countries. South Africa sought involvement with BRIC in late 2009, but was unsuccessful. Nearly two years later, on the invitation of China, South Africa has had its official induction. Questions surrounding South Africa’s membership have been raised: why would a nation, when compared to the other BRIC countries, which has substandard global economic influence, be included with nations who are in a different league? What would be the purpose of China extending the official invitation? Based on statistics, China could be called the muscle of BRICSA; its influence and power reflect themselves as leaders in their economic development and overall wealth, the country offers more promise in BRICSA’s global relationships. South Africa is also a member of IBSA - India, Brazil and South Africa, an organisation with shared goals to promote sustainability, democracy and a people-centered approach to their governance. China had often made it clear of their interest in becoming a part of this group. However, to date, their involvement has not been initiated. Some political theorists tentatively predict that with China’s influence on South Africa’s addition to BRICSA, China’s collaboration with IBSA may occur sooner than later. The weekend after the inclusion of South Africa, countries of BRICS are wary about the implementation of IMF (International Monetary Fund) rules on capital. The IMF met in Washington to discuss the rules for the controls on short-term foreign capital inflows. While South Africa has stuck to the policy of increasing foreign currency reserves to protect the rand, they have not passed comment on the change of rules discussed by the IMF. The development of the rules of international money will affect the movements of the BRICSA countries. South Africa has the opportunity to stimulate its own economy while building a relationship with similar developing countries. Economists only hope that South Africa uses this opportunity to develop its unique position as a bridge between developing and developed countries. CTG
A preventable crisis?
Japan and Ehrard Vermaak shed radiation on the globe’s nuclear future
he recent earthquake and the tsunami that followed in Japan have unhinged the locks of the debate surrounding the safety of nuclear energy. Experts have raised the severity of the nuclear crisis at the coastal Fukushima nuclear power plant from 5 to 7 points. The only other crisis that warranted a ‘7 point’ classification in history was the notorious accident at Chernobyl, Ukraine in 1986, where an explosion released large quantities of radioactive contamination into the atmosphere. With nuclear power being hailed as a cost-effective replacement for fossil fuel energy, the crisis in Japan raises the question of whether the world should proceed cautiously when dealing with this complex source of energy. Following the earthquake on the 3rd of March 2011, that measured a shocking 8.9 on the Richter scale and the resultant ten metre tsunami, Japanese citizens in the affected areas were scrambling in the wake of its destruction, facing not only a humanitarian crisis but freezing temperatures and little hope of returning normalcy. With the death toll swiftly climbing, the situation worsened when television channels started circulating images of smoke rising from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The images sent a shiver down the world’s spine as the implications of nuclear spillage reminiscent of Chernobyl came to mind. John Timmer, from Ars Technica, helps us understand the mechanics of the disaster. “Nuclear reactors are powered by the fission of a radioactive element, typically uranium” Timmer explains. The main product of this fission is heat, and much like traditional steam engines the heat boils water that submerges the reaction so that it keeps it at a manageable temperature at the same time before it in turn circulates to drive a generator. Although the earthquake shut down the power plants, there were generators in place to keep the plant running. It was the tsunami’s arrival that swamped these and parts of the plants electrical system. “As a result”, Timmer concludes, “the plants have been operating without a cooling system since shortly after the earthquake”. TEPCO’s mismanaged attempts at cooling the damaged and overheating reactors are causing fear of radiation leakage. These factors shed light on what Matthew Bunn, a professor at Harvard University, has called “a preventable accident”. The chaos created by the tsunami overwhelmed the company. After the initial string of fires and explosions that caused the fuel rods to melt and subsequently release large doses of radiation, TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) made costly and avoidable mistakes. “It doesn’t seem the tests and exercises of emergency plans were there that should have been there” Bunn says. The question is: can the metaphors of “meltdown” and “destruction” be extended to the viability of nuclear energy?
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In a useful summary of the nuclear debate, Dr Dennis Toens explains the pros and cons of nuclear energy. Defendants claim it is sustainable with low carbon emissions and comparatively little waste and that it is easily maintained by using the latest technology. Opponents say in turn that there are many threats to people and the environment from radiation. The plants are complex machines where many things can and do go wrong. They do not agree that it is a low carbon electricity source. The underlying issue, however, has to do with how energy will be produced now and in years to come.
The question is: can the metaphors of “meltdown” and “destruction” be extended to the viability of nuclear energy? According to Dr Toens, 16% of global energy is nuclear, with countries like France and Japan depending on it for up to 77% of their energy. “There is no doubt about it, the world is going nuclear!” He argues that, like wood, coal and oil, nuclear energy is just the latest means to an end. Wind and solar power simply cannot produce the amount of electricity modern consumers demand. Although nuclear energy uses (and wastes) much less to create much more energy, its risks cannot be ignored. As a result, there seems to be no satisfactory conclusion to this debate. Although experts attribute the current nuclear disaster in Japan to poor design and mismanagement, replacing coal with uranium - no matter how economical - still does not solve the energy dilemma. Some have blamed Japan’s misfortune on the savage practise of hunting whales a small percentage of the population carries out. It is much more likely that instead of saving the whales, a ‘higher power’ was perhaps trying to warn us to avoid a nuclear future. A warning that China, Germany, Switzerland and others seem to have heeded in halting their plans for nuclear growth. CTG
Ehrard Vermaak is doing a BA(Hons) in Media Theory and Practice
Vitamin Aid: The implication of biofortification
Lori van laren investigates the current food controversy.
Image courtesy of wikimedia commons
here is a new threat to those afflicted by poverty. It is not famine, lack of resources or war. It is something much smaller, microscopic in fact. Despite their unthreatening appearance, diseases of poor nutrition are silently keeping the poor poorer. The World Health Organisation has highlighted iodine deficiency, vitamin A deficiency and anaemia as the three major health concerns that the poor currently face. These health concerns are due to a lack of basic micronutrients such as iron, zinc, iodine and vitamin A in the bodies of the poor. These nutrients are gained from fruit, vegetables and meat - but a budget of less than two dollars a day does not allow for such luxuries. The poor only have the capability to produce, or financial means to access, staple crops such as maize, wheat and rice. And while these foods are teeming with calories they lack micronutrients that fend off diseases of poor nutrition. Nutritional deficiencies have devastating consequences for both the health and the social well-being of those affected. According to The Economist, over 50% of Indian women are anaemic due to insufficient levels of iron and half a million children are rendered blind every year by a lack of vitamin A. Furthermore, these diseases lower the educational standards of children and cause adults to earn less and die younger. It does not help that the food policies
of many countries favour the provision of rice, wheat and other cheap grain as it is these foods that yield the highest calorie to dollar ratio. It is believed that because of grainâ€™s high calorie and low cost characteristics, many governments tend to support cereal farmers in impoverished countries. This perpetuates the bad diet of the poverty-stricken as crops containing micronutrients are pushed aside. As Joachim von Braun of the University of Bonn argues, â€œProviding the quantity of calories is manageable. The big issue is nutritionâ€?. But there is a potential solution: biofortified foods. Biofortification is a method of breeding crops that focuses on adding nutrients to growing plants. It stands in contrast to supplementation which increases the nutritional value of a plant after it is harvested. The introduction of these micronutrients into staple crops can ward off micronutrient deficiencies. And whereas supplementation is difficult to sustain, biofortification is potentially available in your garden. Biofortified foods are not merely a theoretically plausible alternative, they actually work. The Journal of Agrobiotechnology Management and Economics reported that vitamin A deficiency in Mozambiquen children decreased by 24% after sweet potato with beta-carotene was introduced into their diets.
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Moreover, organisations involved in the creation of biofortified foods such as HarvestPlus insist that biofortification is sustainable, targeted and relatively cost-effective. It uses familiar food to improve the diet of the poor and extends into the most rural of areas that are usually inaccessible to fruit and vegetables let alone commercially modified food. It is also a one-time investment that allows governments to plant the seeds and then sit back and watch as the fruits of their labour are harvested. According to HarvestPlus, while $75 million can only pay for a yearâ€™s worth of vitamin A supplements for 37.5million children biofortification can provide over ten times that amount. But biofortification is not without problems. Although biofortification is less expensive for the countries distributing it as aid, these cheaper costs are not always translated on the street. For those on the breadline vital nutrients are only available at a higher cost. In Uganda, for example, The Economist reported that biofortified sweet potatoes were 10% more expensive than regular sweet potatoes. An interesting challenge that has also arisen for biofortified foods is their lack of acceptance by rural communities because they deviate from their natural counterparts. The Journal of Nutrition found that maize enhanced with
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vitamin A, which is yellow in colour, is considered animal feed - not human food - in Africa. HarvestPlus admitted that nutrition education programmes will have to be put in place in order to convince the poor to switch to biofortified alternatives.
The Journal of Nutrition found that maize enhanced with vitamin A, which is yellow in colour, is considered animal feed - not human food - in Africa It seems, however, that when it comes to biofortification the proof is in the sweet potato. Dickson Mobogo is a Ugandan labourer turned farmer who was previously only able to grow a small amount of cassava, banana and white sweet potato to feed his family of ten. But after becoming involved in a HarvestPlus project to plant and multiply orange sweet potato with high contents of vitamin A he increased his income by 50%, paid his childrenâ€™s school fees on time and helped his wife open a small pancake shop that sells sweet potato pancakes. And in addition, the Mobogos have enough sweet potatoes to eat every day. CTG
Lori van Laren
is a first year student majoring in Film and Media
Shifting Focus: Stories that make a difference Paul Weinberg will teach ‘the art of storytelling’ as part of a new postgraduate course offered by UCT’s Centre for Film and Media Studies. Anneke Rautenbach finds out.
s the train rolls up to the historic Muizenberg station, with its all-seeing clock keeping time over the village , one is at once thrust back to the early 20th Century, when ladies under parasols would step out onto the sand to calm their nerves and gentlemen would stop at Fogey’s Railway House for a brandy. The images flash in black and white. One is just as instantly thrust into the present moment - the surfers, drenched in salt water, with their wetsuits rolled halfway down, running into the nearest café for a hot cup of coffee, the children running around the multi-coloured changing huts, the peripheral beggar, the
Students will be required to produce both a photo essay and a 10 minute short film, focussing on a particular social issue in South Africa
Image by Anneke Rautenbach
students musing in the winter sun as they roll their cigarettes, someone strumming a guitar and bumming a light, the chipped antique furniture on display on the pavement. The images move, they merge, the light blinds, the colour pops, the gestures blur. Each has a story. It seems no less than perfect for someone wishing to tell that story with a camera. It is not surprising, then, that Paul Weinberg, prestigious South African photographer, documentarian and
part-time surfer, has chosen to settle here. The Cape Town Globalist took a trip down to the south side to chat to Weinberg about the exciting new postgraduate course, ‘The Engaged Camera’, offered by the Centre for Film and Media Studies. Weinberg has recently taken a post at the University of Cape Town’s upper campus, as the curator of visual archives in the University library, as well as guest lecturer at the Centre for Film and Media Studies. ‘The Engaged Camera’, designed by Weinberg, offers technical training in both photography and documentary, with a special emphasis on story-telling in South Africa: stories which aim to make a difference. ‘I’ve been a photographer and a documentarian for over thirty years now. I wanted to merge my interest and passion for the camera as a medium with a need to tell stories. The Centre for Film and Media Studies wanted to offer a course with a special emphasis on storytelling, so I was appointed as a guest lecturer,’ explains Weinberg. Students will be required to produce both a photo essay and a 10 minute short film, focusing on a particular social issue in South Africa. The course, he adds, will appeal to people who already have an interest in documentary film and photography, people who may already be working in the field and who want to improve their skills. It will also appeal to students with an interest in documentary, journalism or the visual arts, who can choose this course as part of a continuation of their studies at honours or masters level. In a country such as ours, it would seem documentary
film and photography is particularly important, appropriate and necessary. ‘We live in interesting times,’ Weinberg reflects. ‘During Apartheid, the camera was tremendously important as a vehicle to expose injustice, tell stories that need to be told, such as forgotten histories.’ Weinberg has shown in his work an interest in indigenous communities throughout Africa, including the San and the fishing communities of Kosi Bay. ‘The camera is a way to humanise, to break barriers, to seek commonness in identity. We lived in a society that accentuated differences – our challenge now is to find and celebrate our similarities.’ Of course, he agrees, the New South Africa has its own set of contradictions and inherent difficulties. ‘We try to expose the challenges – some are global, such as the environment, and some are particular – someone living without a house.’ Weinberg explains that in the documentary process, a creative element is necessary. ‘Unfortunately the world suffers from compassion fatigue, and one has to find interesting angles (literally and figuratively) with which to draw in the viewer, from which to tell stories.’ He indicates that there seems to be a tension between documentary and art. ‘Like art, documentary sets out to tell stories through images. Interestingly, the photographers in South Africa who have made it in the international art world happen to be documentary photographers, such as David Goldblatt and Guy Tillim.’ Unlike most art, he adds, photography is cheap and democratic – anyone can do it.
Even students, it seems, can be winners of esteemed awards for photography. The University library, in collaboration with Iziko, has recently launched the Ernest Cole Award, named after the legendary documentary photographer who strove to expose the evils of Apartheid. The award aims both to venerate his legacy and to encourage young photographers to document with a focus on human rights and social change. The award includes R150 000 to use on any photographic project of this nature, as well as a book publishing deal.
“The camera is a way to humanise, to break barriers, to seek commonness in identity. “ Weinberg does not hesitate to say, however, that photography and film are not only about exposing injustices, but also about celebrating life. ‘It seems this is the direction I am leaning towards at this stage of my career,’ he shares, referring to his recent exhibition of images of spirituality, The Moving Spirit, as well as his current and future projects about his family history and his vibrant adopted home, Muizenberg. ‘I have been trying to make a difference with a camera all my life,’ says Weinberg. ‘The camera can be a way to shift consciousness and reflect on contradictions – but it can also be a way to celebrate the world around us.’ CTG
‘The Engaged Camera’ (a Level 5F course) will start at the University of Cape Town Centre for Film and Media Studies in 2012, under the co-ordination of Paul Weinberg.
The Ernest Cole Award submission deadline is the 17th June 2011. For further information about submissions, visit: http://ernestcoleaward.org/submission-guidelines/
The Centre for Film and Media Studies www.cfms.uct.ac.za
is majoring in English and Art History.
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United States: The Need for Clean Energy Investment
Image courtesy of sandia.gov
is a writer for the yale Globalist.
ith gasoline prices over $4.00 across most of the United States, Americans are paying more than ever to fill up. The growing trend of increased energy prices creates more incentives than ever to invest in clean and renewable energy in order to wean America’s dependence on foreign oil and create jobs at home. However, while Republicans propose spending cuts in Congress, the prospect of Obama’s green energy plan looks grim. Congressman Henry Waxman of California expressed his concern about Congress being so focused on fiscal policy that long-term energy issues are going to be sidelined. The ranking figure in the House Energy and Commerce Committee argues that reducing America’s dependence on oil and its carbon emissions are important long-term goals that will only happen if there is a market signal for investment. “The business community wants to know where investment is going to pay off in the future,” Waxman said at Bertelsmann Foundation’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. While a set of rules and incentives are necessary to spur investment, the positive impacts achieved from
market opportunity could be astounding. By and large a national security matter, cleaner energy and renewable resources would lower America’s dependence on foreign oil. “Drilling, developing our resources, and moving towards other alternatives” will reduce America’s import of Middle Eastern oil, stated Waxman. Investing in domestic energy also creates employment opportunities at home through innovation and “green jobs”. According to a 2009 report prepared for the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, for every $1 million invested in energy efficiency in homes and office buildings, seven local jobs are created. While positive impacts of reducing the United States carbon footprint would be seen domestically as well as globally, passing clean energy legislation isn’t easy for Congress. “Republicans in the House deny there is such thing as climate change. They are science deniers,” Waxman claimed. “If America doesn’t take action now, investments are going to go elsewhere,” he warned. “China is moving forward and the US will be left behind. That’d be a very sad result.” G21
You’ll need Bucks made of Stars
Image courtesy of wikimedia commons
BRENDAN WATTS is a writer for the sydney Globalist.
uring the course of 2011 you may find that your daily caffeine hit is costing you more than it used to. You might wonder why, but the answer isn’t so simple. On a very basic level, coffee prices are a simple case of supply and demand. Over the past year, U.S. coffee futures have increased by more than 80 per cent. Inclement weather is likely to cut production in Vietnam, Columbia, Guatemala and Costa Rica. And whilst the 2010/2011 harvest in the world’s largest coffee-producing country, Brazil, is expected to be the best since 2002/2003, a surge in domestic consumption may see Brazil retain a large portion of its stock. Put that together with increasing demand for coffee in countries such as China and India and the reason for increasing coffee prices appears to be selfexplanatory. Considering the role of inclement weather, many have pointed to climate change as an emerging influence on the price of coffee. The Arabica coffee bean, which accounts for around 70 per cent of all those produced for commercial sale, flourishes at 18-23 degrees. Crops have been damaged by changes in average temperatures in the tropical and sub-tropical regions where the bean grows, such as in the Ugandan region of
Mtabe, where rising temperatures have also encouraged the spread of pests. But to blame the reduced global supply for an increase in coffee prices might be too simplistic. Coffee is a commodity like any other. After oil, coffee is the second largest import in the world. As such, it’s hardly surprising that there is significant speculation in coffee futures. The end result is that, when the price of coffee goes up, it might have more to do with the ‘mood’ of the market than with decreasing production or increasing consumption. Whatever the reason for the increase in wholesale coffee prices, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the changing global climate or speculators in the marketplace will be to blame for the increased cost of your café latte. In an average cup of coffee, costing anywhere from $3.30 to $3.50, only 20 cents of the cost will be attributable to the price of the coffee beans. At the end of the day, the rising price of coffee on the world market may just give coffee retailers the cover they need to accommodate wider economic pressures such as rent hikes, wage costs and increases in the price of fuel. Along with groceries and petrol, coffee may turn out to be just another cost of living pressure. G21
Republic of Whoonga by jacob claasens
The fatal effects of a Flowering Economy by Arjun D端rr and Hannah Walker
The Hazy Controversy by Mweya Waetjen
First, do no harm by Sofia Monteiro
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Republic of Whoonga Jacob Claassens introduces the new, toxic addiction South Africans have found by which to damage their selves and society. Step aside tik, Whoonga’s here.
here are cheeky drugs: lazy pot, peppy party pills and psychedelic hallucinogenics. There are the darker ones, like heroin and tik. Then there are the ones that are completely black - looming, powerful and threatening, their heavy breathing making their oppressive and terrifying presence felt. They are the devil you don’t know.
Each dealer is a potential chemist with bucketfuls of jeyes fluid and an eye on the profit margin
Image courtesy of cbc.ca
Once on a trip to Brazil, I heard a fellow casually mention a recreational drug called “Tape Tea.” The reader wonders: Tapeworms? Masking tape? Tapestries? In hot water? But the terrible recipe cannot be disclosed. There are desperate people in this country, I heard. A growing bunch of dissolute no-hopers and cut-throats ready to sniff, smoke and ingest anything short of their own blood. How much more can this country handle? Would the introduction
of “Tape Tea” be the tipping point, or is there something else, some new distraction worming its way through the periphery? Much like Tape Tea, the enigmatic drug WHOONGA has made its appearance on the South African stage. The audience appears restless with curiosity. “Whoonga,” someone yells from the back. “What are you?” Whoonga coughs and shuffles a bit before answering. “Ahem, this subject is contentious. President Zuma says that some scientists from the University of KZN have analysed me as being made up of heroin mixed with rat poison and other chemicals...” Woonga’s words trail off as he looks blankly ahead. There is a discontented murmuring from the audience. Someone pipes up indignantly: “But I heard you were an anti-retroviral drug that was being crushed and smoked with dagga!” Whoonga shrugs before rolling himself into a piece of Die Son. “Whatever” Whoonga retorts apathetically. “Anybody have a light?” President Zuma’s denial that Whoonga contains ARVs was part of his keynote address made at the second Biennial Summit on substance abuse held in Durban. He went on to comment “perpetuating such inaccuracies is
dangerous as it may make drug addicts steal ARVs, which would put the lives of people on treatment for HIV at risk.” A logical statement. There have been reports of HIV positive people being robbed of their ARVs. And he is not completely wrong. The samples analysed by UKZN “experts” may not have contained Stocrin - the ARV reported to have psychoactive properties. Does the analysis of a handful of samples warrant a generalisation? Each dealer is a potential chemist with bucketfuls of jeyes fluid and an eye on the profit margin. Whatever makes the heroin go further (rat poison, sugar, caffeine and good ol’ chalk) and that may also have the added benefit of making your brain do backflips is being liberally sprinkled and mashed into the nondiscerning consumer’s heroin. Whoonga sounds like a playful word. Mention it and someone ignorant of what it actually is immediately lets their guard down. They may even emit a wistful sigh. It could also be used to describe a charmingly forgetful friend “You silly whoonga.” A foreign scriptwriter sets a naïve portrait of some smiling despot in the fictional “Republic of Whoonga”. There is even something a little George Lucas about it. Chewbacca’s brother maybe? However, mention the word ‘Stocrin’ and people will probably start grinding their teeth and shoot wild and darting looks out of the corners of their eyes. Stocrin (known also known as efavirenz and sustiva) helps to treat HIV by preventing the virus from being able to reproduce properly. It is never used alone and always in combination with other drugs, most recently dagga of course, but generally other anti-retroviral agents. Some of the possible side-effects of ingesting Stocrin are: nausea, stomach pain, breast enlargement in men, tremors and ringing in the ears. It doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. Stomach pain? Nausea? Yes please sir, here is my R30. However, a scroll further down the list reveals more possible sideeffects: ‘abnormal dreaming’ as well as ‘hallucinations.’ There is also a warning that the side effects may ‘worsen’ (probably not the term a smoker would use) if Stocrin is taken with ‘recreational drugs.’ There may indeed be a selling point here, especially as Stocrin is being used with recreational drugs. But with Stocrin’s side effects varying from
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person to person, heroin would seem a safer candidate for a good time. Vumani Gwala, head of the organisation “Whoonga Free” limits the definition of whoonga to just heroin. On his website he explains in curdled green lettering “hardcore Whoonga addicts smoke ARV to get rid of the withdrawal symptoms” and then in caps “YES THEY ONLY SMOKE THEM TO GET RID OF THE WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS NOT FOR THE HIGH.” He comes to these conclusions after having claimed to have worked with addicts for months, combating addictions in the townships.
There are people out there smoking ARVs. Not as many as those who smoke heroin, but all those who hunger for fresh distractions have found a new one On the other hand, the government and the TAC believe that the media is exaggerating reports that the drug is being abused in combination with dagga and heroin. TAC spokesperson Caroline Nenguke stated in an interview that “ARVs cannot cause a high in anybody.” She also said that “journalists were part of the problem” in perpetuating the myth that ARVs can get you high. Police believe that Whoonga is just a rebranding of ‘sugars’, the term usually used to describe heroin. According to this narrative, the rebranding would lead the fiend to believe that they are getting a better high and would be willing to pay more because (media-lauded) ARVs have now supposedly been thrown into the mix. Conclusions to be drawn from this? There are people out there smoking ARVs. Not as many as those who smoke heroin, but all those who hunger for fresh distractions have found a new one, often at the cost of those who are in dire need of the drug to save their lives. It is doubtable that it will ever become huge, as the side effects seem more bizarre than directly enjoyable. Large-scale madness seems to be averted for now. Just keep the Tape Tea on the other side of the Atlantic. CTG
Jacob Claassens is majoring in Film Studies and History
The fatal effects of a
‘flowering’ economy In a special feature on heroin production in Afghanistan, Arjun Dürr and Hannah Walker explain how the creeping jungle of war is grown from the roots of the poppy plant.
rom the opium pipes in the dens of Tehran to the syringes in the arms of your favourite musicians, there is a common source; as much as 90% of all opium comes from the battle worn fields of Afghanistan. While wheat prices have fallen dramatically, the value an Afghani farmer can derive from a kilogram of opium has more than tripled in the last several years making it a lucrative, if not legal, means by which to make a living. The UN estimated in 2007 that Afghan farmers brought in at least $16 billion from the sale of their deadly produce. Farmers are not, however, the sole beneficiaries of the illicit trade that takes opium out of Afghanistan and sells it as heroin to the millions of users around the world. The supply chain provides a source of profits to corrupt officials, warlords and insurgents throughout the country who are perhaps the most resistant to international efforts to curtail production of the drug.
The supply chain provides a source of profits to corrupt officials, warlords and insurgents throughout the country
Image courtesy of wikimedia commons
The opium industry in Afghanistan has been shaped by the way in which international interests, and particularly American ones, have been implemented in the country from the late 1970s onwards. Prior to this Afghanistan was by no means the largest producer of heroin and other opiates, lagging far behind the South East Asian nations of the ‘Golden Triangle’. However, with the Soviet invasion in 1979 opium cultivation exploded in the nation as the Mujahideen sought to find ways of funding their need for weapons and other armaments to repel the invading forces.
The Americans, giving covert support to the Mujahideen’s war on the Soviets, accepted the growth of heroin production in Afghanistan as necessary fallout of the conflict. By the mid-1980s, as traders and fighters reinvested the profits from war and the arms trade into opium production, there was an arms pipeline taking weaponry into Afghanistan and a drugs pipeline taking massive quantities of opium, destined for market places all over the world, out. The CIA enabled the pipeline through their high level connections with the Pakistani government and Pakistani government officials colluded with the Mujahideen to create an enormous drugs operation that produced billions of dollars of profit, much of which was laundered into legitimate businesses throughout Pakistan. This link between the opium producers of Afghanistan and the government and military of Pakistan made belated attempts by Western drug enforcement agencies to squash the opium trade almost impossible. The trade was almost completely eradicated in the year 2000, in a shock move by the Taliban (former Mujahideen who had made enormous profits and funded much of their brutal regime through the opium trade) when Mullah Omar banned the cultivation of opium poppies as un-Islamic. The UN estimated that production dropped by 91% in a single year. While in many ways this drop in production was a success it also sent many rural livelihoods tumbling back into extreme poverty as lenders monetised loans given to farmers that had been made against future opium crops. The huge drop in production meant that the value of the crop went up by as much as 15,000% and the newly monetised loans left many farmers destitute with crippling debt repayment.
In the first weeks of military intervention in Afghanistan in September 2001, as the Taliban regime crumbled, farmers rushed to replant their poppies and the new interim government, as well as the Western forces, were far too under-resourced to prevent opium production springing back into life. By 2004, opium exports accounted for 60% of Afghanistan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Opium now funds the combat economy of most insurgent groups in Afghanistan as well as the more straightforward illicit economy of a nation in the grips of an ongoing crisis where regulation and corruption are poorly managed. For poor farmers growing opium is mainly a coping strategy in an increasingly uncertain economy. The disturbing reality of poppy production in Afghanistan is that, although some of the profits stay with smallholder farmers, the vast majority falls into the coffers of corrupt officials and insurgent groups, namely the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The heroin trade has serious consequences around the world; many more deaths are attributed to heroin use than any other drug. For Afghanistan, though, the end-game may yet be more dire. The International Monetary Fund, in 2003, issued this stark warning; “A dangerous potential exists for Afghanistan to progressively slide into a ‘narcostate’ where all legitimate institutions become penetrated by the power and wealth of drug traffickers.” Western agencies have mostly been confounded as to how to prevent the rise and rise of opium production in Afghanistan; destroying crops will only send farmers and landlords into the arms of the Taliban and attempts to persuade other, less profitable crops, such as wheat or saffron fail because they do not address the underlying issues of pernicious poverty and a staggering lack of formal employment in the country. What is clear, however, is that without decisive action to improve the dire economic and social situation in the country and provide lasting alternatives to poppy production, Afghanistan will remain not only the dominant source of heroin and other opiates, it will also find its very institutions and stability threatened by those who are already making their fortunes from the trade. Hannah Walker
ith a history of corrupt governments and oppressive regimes, opium production appears to be the only way out of poverty for the majority of the Afghan population. Afghanistan has been on an economic rollercoaster since Soviet occupation in 1979. With the increasing link between opium production and terrorist organizations, drug cartels and the escalating drug consumption amongst youth worldwide, the attempts to halt the production of opium by both government and non-government organizations have become increasingly urgent and desperate. Opium has had a revolutionizing effect on the society of its ‘host nation’. Due to decades of opium addiction, the social dynamics in Afghan towns and villages are rapidly changing. The profits of this booming business have given rise to a class of young, wealthy drug dealers. The respected mullahs and family elders are now no longer in a position of authority The greed of these young warlords has taken over as they discover faster ways to make a profit
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from selling their produce overseas. This greed has harboured mistrust and even violence towards one another, contributing to the impending state of anarchy Afghanistan has faced ever since Soviet occupation. After the overthrow of the Taliban, Afghanistan reclaimed its spot as the number one producer of opium in the world. Hamid Karzai’s newly formed, very weak and tentative Afghanistan was able to provide a more effective crackdown on opium production than before Taliban intervention. With the slight decline in opium production levels, Afghanistan now finds itself in a dilemma to find a replacement while keeping the economy at its basic, barely functioning state. Previously, popular national crops like wheat, melon and pomegranate required irrigation facilities in a country where 8 of the 63 million hectares of land are arable. These crops would also rely on heavy government funding in their attempt to wean farmers off of their opium dependence instead of plunging them into immediate poverty. In the annual Corruption Perceptions Index, published by ‘Transparency National’, Afghanistan is ranked at 176 out of 178 countries. The fact that government officials tend to turn a blind eye in order to receive extra money presents itself as one of the biggest challenges to an economically rebuilt Afghanistan. One crop has seen the decline and subsequent halt of poppy cultivation in several provinces. Marijuana, although not nearly as profitable as opium, provides the next highest profit earning alternative to farmers whose crops have been halted by the government. As a result, Afghanistan has climbed the ranks to the world’s number one cannabis producer.
The profits of this booming business have given rise to a class of young, wealthy drug dealers The production of illegal drugs - substances at the epicentre of cartels and terrorist organizations alike - seem to be something Afghanistan has found itself embedded in. A government plagued with corruption and lack of motivation has resulted in minimal progress in the spread of legal crops. It is evident that enforcement is not effective in the Afghan context. Enforcement by the government lacks willpower and capability, enforcement from the outside is illegitimate and unwanted. A country whose people have fought every form of oppression in the past two centuries and won, is not going to suddenly allow a recently established, Western backed government have its way. Rather than focusing attention on restrictive laws, energy should rather be spent on educating a population that has been deprived of its benefit for decades. By investing in education, Afghanistan can begin offering alternative job opportunities in a country where the majority of the population is dependent on agriculture as a source of income. More importantly, crucial notions ranging from family values to what constitutes a successful, functioning society, will no longer be limited to the few cities in Afghanistan, but will be able to traverse the highest of mountain valleys, into the areas that if convinced, can make all the difference. Arjun Dürr CTG
is a third year student majoring in Spanish, Social Anthroplogy and Politics
Hannah Walker is doing a MA in Public Policy and Administration
mongst the plethora of political exchanges that are held around the world – Israel versus Palestine, China’s growing economy, the earth’s energy crisis – it is perhaps a relief that one should happen upon a somewhat mellower conversation in the news today. That is, the question of whether or not one ought to legalise marijuana. Upon examining the arguments surrounding this debate, however, one is struck by the feeling that in many cases, the entire discussion is muddled at best and framed more than a little fuzzily – a fact not due to its conversers’ sobriety, or rather lack thereof. No, the confusion is generated by the approach to the question itself. And here is why.
Today, marijuana accounts for what is estimated at a whopping $10 to $100 billion profit in the United States One of the main tactical approaches employed by those for the legalisation of marijuana is the use of case studies. The Netherlands is the most notable example, in which marijuana usage has not increased since decriminalisation. In fact, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, only about 20% of the Dutch have ever tried cannabis – half the figure pertaining to the United States, where m a r i j u a n a is illegal. This is indeed compelling evidence. There is, however, one issue that needs to be addressed before jumping to conclusions, and that is the cultural context.
This is an important point. Simply because a question has been answered in one context does not mean that the same answer can be applied to another equally well. In the United States, which, according to the World Health Organisation, accounts for more than half of the world’s pharmaceutical consumption and therefore already seems to have an extraordinary dependence on substances of all sorts, one questions whether the effects of legalization would be the same as it would be for, say, Germany which, in pharmaceutical terms, is a veritable teetotaller. Furthermore, developing countries such as South Africa (though accounting for very little pharmaceutical consumption) may be presented with a worsened drug abuse situation due to desperation born from poverty. Indications of this can be seen in the Western Cape, where substance abuse rates are the highest in the country. Regardless of whether one is referring to medical marijuana or marijuana in general, the relationship a country has with substances in general is vital in deciding whether or not legalisation should occur. The culture of the nation in question is a crucial factor in the decisionmaking process. However, even if one completely disregards this fact, a problem remains. The question of whether or not one ought to legalise marijuana suggests the ethical aspects of election hoopla were and are something more than Bread and Circus – that the decision will actually be made on ethical grounds and in
The Hazy Controversy Mweya Waetjen investiages marijuana.
something resembling an open political process. Both assumptions seem questionable at best. One can sit and ponder whether the health benefits of marijuana outweigh the health hazards, or whether or not marijuana is natural, or if the social claims about the drug, including addiction, the gateway theory and drug-induced delinquency, are true or false. Ultimately, however, the fact is that marijuana is big business, and big business seems to have a very strong voice when it comes to politics. Consider the Prohibition in the United States. After banning alcohol completely in 1919 due to social and religious concerns, the American government realised that it could not control the consumption of alcohol without major costs to the state, or without fuelling a black market. It was the cost and not the cries of the people that legalised alcohol nearly fifteen years later. Today, marijuana accounts for what is estimated at a whopping $10 to $100 billion profit in the United States – all of which is untaxed. It is also rumoured to be the largest cash crop in several states, presiding above corn, soybeans and hay. The value of the cash crops in California alone rests at $14 billion – a sum able to finance the annual state educational costs nearly 370 times over. Now consider that the state of New York alone spends $75 million on marijuana arrests each year. Marijuana arrests account for 6% of the total arrests made annually in the United States. This criminal offense is not cheap. Of course, Portugal seems to have found a solution – to decriminalise illicit drug use and offer rehabilitative
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treatment instead of criminal prosecution. This new policy is proving to be a success. Users can gain access to the treatment they need without fear of criminal punishment, uprooting the underground drug movement and reducing criminal processing costs. Furthermore, police are able to focus on organised crime – targeting violent drug lords rather than petty criminals. However, the problem of cultural context is once again pointed out by several public policy analysts.
Portugal seems to have found a solution – to decriminalise illicit drug use and offer rehabilitative treatment Mark Kleiman of the University of Los Angeles in California and Peter Reuter of the University of Maryland do not believe that Portugal can be accurately used to determine whether larger, culturally differing countries such as the United States should change their legalisation policies. However, “It’s fair to say that decriminalisation in Portugal has met its central goal,” Reuter said in an interview with TIME magazine. Only through meticulous self-examination can a state make an informed decision regarding legalisation. In the meantime, citizens wait while corporate fat cats determine whether or not and how a profit will be made. The answer remains hazy. The debate continues. CTG
Image courtesy of potspace.org
is a first year student majoring in English, Philosophy and Politics
First, do no harm.... Sofia Monteiro considers how private pharmaceutical companies have killed competition in the ARV market.
he Department of Health recently awarded the much-debated tender of R4.2-billion for antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. Local manufacturers represent 72 percent of the prized contract’s value, and significantly, the reported price paid has been cut nearly by half. This has important implications for patients, as more patients can now be treated at the same cost. This vast decrease in cost also raises questions (and eyebrows) about business ethics surrounding ARVs and the long-standing, contentious debate regarding the alleged exploitation of impoverished HIV sufferers by private pharmaceutical companies.
Perhaps it was our mistake in government, perhaps we were sleeping The present government is in the precarious position of attempting to be seen to nurture business, and especially local business, but also be an advocate for vulnerable members of society who are at the mercy of large pharmaceutical companies’ drive for profit. 26
While many may applaud the R4.7 billion in savings compared with what tendered pharmaceutical companies received previously in 2008, it is significant that these price cuts have been attained through the same suppliers as the previous tender. This remarkable saving essentially highlights the inadequacies of governmental decisions regarding ARVs and serving the public. Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi attributed the lower tender price to augmented competition in the industry and an improved tender process. His response as to why the same suppliers were now able to provide the drugs at a dramatically reduced cost was: “Perhaps it was our mistake in government, perhaps we were sleeping.” Clearly there is much room for more effective acquisition and delivery of ARVs. So let us examine what happened when the government was “sleeping”. The South African government decided to buy the drugs from private local pharmaceutical companies which became a de facto cartel, keeping prices above international levels. The previous major recipient of the 2005 ARV tender, Aspen, orchestrated its market share by signing
licenses with international companies to produce generic versions of their drugs. This also served as a convoluted public relations dance, and conveniently kept prices high through the mechanism of decreased competition in the generic industry. South Africa’s peers, such as Brazil, India and Thailand, have much wisdom to share by virtue of their respective ‘socio-economic experiments’ with producing and providing generic ARVs to patients and the patent wars, which subsequently arose from indignant big pharma. Legally, a government cannot brazenly disregard pharmaceutical patents, no matter how well intentioned. The patents themselves play a significant role in providing the reinvestment necessary for R&D programmes held by pharmaceutical companies. Developing a new drug is an extremely costly endeavour, which may explain the degree of indignation of companies towards governments who have legally sought to reach around the costly obstacle of patent royalties. Countries are allowed to evade patent enforcement by issuing a compulsory license to pharmaceutical companies. Essentially this allows another producer other than the patent holder to copy patented drugs under immunity from prosecution. Conditions established at the 2001 WTO Doha agreement allow a government to issue a compulsory license for a drug that treats a disease causing a severe health emergency in the country, without observing the usual royalties to pharmaceutical companies. Governments can also issue licenses if the pharmaceutical company abuses the patent by, for example, offering their product at a price that far exceeds the capacity of potential buyers to afford. Considering South Africa’s history with private pharmaceuticals, this condition is certainly relevant, and highlights the seeming lack of urgency of current government actions to deliver ARVs to those who need them at the lowest possible cost. Despite the theoretical capacity of governments to side-step patent protection, in practice there are a couple of considerable challenges to exploiting this legal solution. Firstly, generic manufacturers’ production is limited to pre-agreed quantities as defined in each compulsory licence. This poses problems to the large-scale production levels needed to provide drugs inexpensively. Secondly, perhaps the biggest cause for governments’ hesitation, is particular pharmaceutical companies have shown that countries which issue compulsory licences may face significant repercussions. Thailand experienced the wrath of ‘disempowered’ big pharma, on issuing a number of compulsory licenses. The affected companies, including Merck & Co. and Abbott, retaliated by announcing that they would decline to apply for licenses to sell several of their latest drugs in Thailand. One of the drugs in question, Kaletra, was a new once-daily heat resistant pill, invaluable in the humid Thai climate.
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This withholding of life-saving medicine alerts one to the ethics of business versus humanitarian ethics, whose representatives too often have conflicting interests. Presently, Thailand is flagged on the US Trade Representative ‘priority watch list’ of countries viewed to be committing intellectual property abuse. This has had damaging consequences for Thailand, but has also hastened the reduction of the price of Kaletra in many developing nations.
...local pharmaceutical companies which became a de facto cartel, keeping prices above international levels Thailand’s fierce involvement with big pharma provides a particularly dramatic case study and a brilliant example of why other governments, such as our own, have been unenthusiastic to follow with this revolutionary legal solution. However, confronted with the HIV/AIDS epidemic and coupled with an enormous low income demographic, Brazil was one of the next countries to brave the possible repercussions and retribution of the pharmaceutical industry. In 2007, Brazil issued a compulsory license enabling the production of a lower-cost, generic ARV, reverse engineered from Merck’s ARV Efavirenz. Recognizing the potential repercussions that his country might face, the then President Lula da Silva said, “Between our trade and our health, we have chosen to look after our health.” Faced with the same Hobson’s choice, is the South African government doing enough to combat the HIV epidemic? CTG
Images by Nathan Golon for the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs (ICAP) at Columbia University. Images taken at Comprehensive Chronic HIV Care & Training Center and Laboratory at a hospital in Ethiopia.
is a second year student majoring in Psychology and Economics
Thinking Small F
or those of us unacquainted with the complexities of nanotechnology, that is to say, almost everyone, it sounds like a potential weapon used by arch-villains in old James Bond movies. No doubt the plot would involve some sort of device which was capable of unleashing millions of little machines. These microscopic mechanical monsters would be able to destroy entire cities by ripping them apart molecule by molecule. Inevitably, the movie will climax with the messy death of said arch-villain, who will be consumed by the nanothings, perhaps after falling into a vat of full of them, and turned into a puddle of lumpy greyish goo. The secret-underground lab in which these devices are produced will self-destruct in a fantastic explosion and our hero, James Bond, or maybe Austin Powers, will escape with seconds to spare, the flames singeing the tailcoats of his tuxedo. The reality of nanotechnology isn’t quite like this. The late Professor Norio Taniguchi, formerly of the Tokyo University of Science, coined the term “nanotechnology” in 1974. He described it as the “processing of separation, consolidation and deformation of materials by one atom or molecule.” Simply put, small things changing the nature of bigger things. A sort of David versus Goliath situation at a molecular level. The term nanotechnology was adopted and popularised by Kim Eric Drexler who presented his ideas in a paper on molecular engineering in 1981. Since then, he has been awarded a doctorate degree in nanotechnology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the first of its kind.
Imagine tiny policemen tracking down and taking out tiny water-borne criminals
Robert Attwell is a third year student majoring in Economic History and English
Nanotechnology is defined as any technology under one hundred nanometres wide. To get a sense of just how tiny this is, in the metric system a nanometre is one billionth of a metre. That’s pretty small. So small are these devices that all of them would be invisible without incredibly powerful microscopes. Nanotechnology is often referred to as a generalpurpose technology. This means that as the technology advances, its effects on industry and society will become more widespread. This idea led US senator Ron Wyden from Oregon to say, “My own judgment is that the nanotechnology revolution has the potential to change America on a scale equal to, if not greater than, the computer revolution.” Of course, the societal and industrial implications of nanotechnology are not limited to the USA. The South African Nanotechnology Initiative was set up in 2002. The Department of Science and Technology is actively involved in this project and has endorsed a ten year plan for the development of nanotechnology usage in South African industries. Two important applications of nanotechnology in South Africa are water treatment and healthcare. In South Africa, approximately 5.7 million people do
Robert Attwell breaks down nanotechnology, molecule by molecule.
not have access to basic water services. In addition, 17-18 million people are in want of basic sanitation services. This is hardly a healthy environment. Increasingly, nanotechnology is being utilised in water treatment. Firstly, nanotechnology allows for more effective filtration by making the pores in filtration membranes smaller and more uniform. This means that less pollutants and more nutrients are let through in the filtration process. Secondly, and, if I may so, more awesomely: nanocatalysts and magnetic nanoparticles are being used to chemically break down pollutants inside water sources. Imagine tiny policemen tracking down and taking out tiny waterborne criminals. This image should give you the general and simple gist of this process. Thirdly, miniature sensing devices are used to detect chemical and biological contaminants in low concentrations. This allows scientists to identify potential pollutants before they become a major problem. Additionally, nanotechnology benefits water treatment in that it reduces the number of materials, the energy required and therefore the expense of water purification. On 28 March 2011, Department of Science and Technology Minister, Naledi Pandor congratulated scientists using nanotechnology in medical research, specifically, the use of nanotechnology in the treatment of tuberculosis. Drug-resistant forms of TB have become increasingly prevalent in South Africa. This is because many sufferers are not completing the prescription. Recent developments in nanotechnology include the development of a process which will inject the drugs needed to treat TB into nanoparticles. These nanoparticles will then be injected into the patient’s bloodstream. The nanoparticles will gradually release the drugs into the patient’s bloodstream. This means that, rather than daily pill taking; TB sufferers need only take one dose per week. A similar process can be used to treat cancer. Nanoparticles are injected into the body, where they break down cancerous cells. While the benefits of nanotechnology in water treatment and healthcare in a developing country like South Africa are great, no study of the long-term effects of nanoparticles on human tissues has been made. We need to be wary of the fact that the technology that could benefit us now might later turn us into lumpy greyish goo. CTG
Bearing Gifts of Wisdom
Gold, frankincense and myrrh: Stuart MacDonald investigates the historical association between drugs and religion.
n his Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Marx made his now immortalised association between drugs and religion: “Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”
Equally immortalised in Christian teachings and songs is the biblical passage Matthew 2:11: “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” Both frankincense and myrrh are tree resin extracts, derived from various trees of the genus Boswellia and Commiphora, respectively. Scientific studies over the past few years have shown that there may be more to the relationship between religion and opiates. In 2008, a joint study by Johns Hopkins University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem established that frankincense contains a compound called incensole acetate that activates a poorly understood ion channel involved in warmth perception of the skin. Through various experiments, frankincense smoke was seen to help combat depression and anxiety in lab mice. Although similar effects have not yet been established in humans, a 2008 article in Chemical & Engineering News quoted Arieh Mossaieff, a postdoctoral fellow at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, as saying: “it is possible that incensole acetate augments the euphoric feeling produced during religious functions.” Of course, it is a vast leap to go from biblical gifts having possible psychoactive properties to visions of major religious figures spending much of their time coming together with other like-minded individuals to get high, but let us pursue this avenue a bit further. It is well-known that indigenous peoples in the Americas and Australia established themselves and their polytheistic understanding of the world in these places long before anyone had any inclination of modern religions. Many, if not most, of these traditions involved calumets and the smoking of various substances as part of ceremonies related to both religion and politics. Moreover, alcohol (most often in the form of wine) has had a place in many Western religious traditions, while cannabis has played its obvious role in Rastafarianism, as well as in Hinduism because of its association to Shiva. In India, it is most often inhaled or ingested in the form of ‘bhang’,
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(which, during my own travels in India, I often found to be readily available in the form of very potent elixirs). Of course, notable exceptions to associations with drugs arise in, for example, the Islamic and Bahá’í faiths, where the ingestion of alcohol and any drugs not prescribed for strictly medicinal purposes are strictly prohibited. Yet from a certain vantage point, the relationship between drugs and religion is a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem. Did people begin to conceive of deities after they saw reality being distorted by the ingestion of certain plant substances? Or had they already conceived of religion, and conceived of and/or utilised the substances within a theological context?
Did people begin to conceive of deities after they saw reality being distorted by the ingestion of certain plant substances? The story of Adam and Eve eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge could be interpreted as an allegory of the effects of drugs, especially given the amount of ‘inspiration’ that many very enlightened and creative individuals have gained from taking said substances throughout history. However, it is only now that science can step in and attempt to understand the chemical and biological reasons for these ‘moments of clarity’; Moussaieff points out, “the early scientists did not have the chemical and analytical tools that we have today,” even though humans have been investigating frankincense and myrrh for centuries. A systematic review of potential claims regarding the medical efficacy of frankincense was published in 2008 in the British Medical Journal. The main claim is that “the included trials related to asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, osteoarthritis, and collagenous colitis. Results of all trials indicated that B serrata extracts (frankincense) were clinically effective”. With regard to myrrh, the most heavily publicised result is one published in Nature in 1996, where scientific tests done in Florence suggested that it was responsible for pain-relieving effects in mice. And what about gold? Well we all know the drug-like euphoria, giddiness, hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia that come with having large amounts of gold around. Multi-billionaire philanthropist Warren Buffett is quoted as once saying “[Gold] gets dug out of the ground in Africa, or someplace. Then we melt it down, dig another hole, bury it again and pay people to stand around guarding it. It has no utility. Anyone watching from Mars would be scratching their head.” And so it is that through a combination of history and modern-day scientific investigation, a strong case can be made for the idea that drugs are, indeed, a gift from some very wise men. CTG
is doing a MSc in Mathematics
“I have a Requiem for a Dream”
fter millennia of being unable to understand the reason why despots and dictators cling to their positions in office, the matter appears to be resolved. A shipment carrying containers of an unknown substance up the Danube has been intercepted by drug enforcement agencies. Research into the substance has led scientists, political pundits and the rest of the world into believing that this substance gives the metaphorical “addiction” to power a very literal meaning. The substance, dubbed “Machiavalium”, was tested on prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. The subjects were given an injection of the black, oily substance, and the results were profound. Subjects immediately gained a confidence and capacity for rhetoric that gained them the support of every member of the prison community. Footage of the tests show the subjects standing on podiums of charisma and prison benches, making inspiring speeches about the injustices of the prison system and the right of prisoners to freedom and self-determination.
the explanation of politicians as bona fide drug addicts explains the phenomenon with much greater clarity
is editor of the cape town Globalist.
After a period of two weeks the subjects were exposed as having stashes of cigarettes and pornographic magazines (the stock-in-trade in prison) under their beds, and as being guilty of bribing prison wardens to ensure their support remains behind bars. Despite the obvious truth of their moral corruption, and the blood-lust of their former followers, the subjects remained convinced of their legitimacy and right to remain the ruler of “their people”. Other symptoms of Machiavalium include dilated pupils, sweaty palms, and a propensity towards talking loudly while nobody is listening. A developed addiction showed denial, neurotic paranoia, historical schizophrenia and a will to satisfy the fix through any means necessary. The logical jump is apparent. A recent interview with Muammar Gaddafi confirmed the belief that various world rulers are in fact addicted to Machiavalium. In the interview, Gaddafi is shown shifting in his seat uncomfortably, gnashing his teeth and constantly looking over his shoulder (at a brick wall), whilst proclaiming that the accusations against him are all lies of neo-colonial imperialism, and that his people still love him. Finally, it makes sense why leaders, despots and officials aspire to, and cling to their positions, despite having the worst job imaginable, and more often than not being hated by the people they represent. “It seems so obvious”
comments Mia Veritas, head of the Centre of Political Conundrum Studies. “Whereas we previously believed that politicians could only be either stupid, naïve or corrupt, the explanation of politicians as bona fide drug addicts explains the phenomenon with much greater clarity.” Subsequently, various raids have been done in the offices and homes of dictators and despots the world over. In the previous home of Saddam Hussein, bottles of Machiavalium were found stockpiled in a hidden cellar. This would seem to explain Hussein’s words in his final letters. In Cote d’Ivoire, leaders have been able to instigate civil war in order to satisfy their cravings resulting from Machiavalium. Enlarged photographs of Robert Mugabe seem to suggest that he runs on an intravenous supply of the stuff. The will and ability to murder one’s own people, as seen throughout history, becomes much more understandable with the discovery of Machiavalium. Leaders either have to maintain the effects of the drug, or sincerely believe that they are, in fact, not doing anything wrong, and that everything is just fine (a classic example of what psychoanalysts call “denial”). Anyone who has encountered the belligerent, almost-flammable intoxicated shouting “I’m not drunk, YOU’RE drunk!” will understand the difficulty in managing an addict of Machiavalium. Yet the powers induced by this drug are so profound, its detrimental effect on society will continue unabated for a while still. Fortunately, the trouble for addicts now is that their game is up. Presidents and prime ministers around the world have been scrambling to assure their present and future voters of their innocence, criticising their fellow leaders of abusing this “unholy drug”. Others have denied that the drug exists at all, calling it a media construction, actually nothing more than a concoction of rat poison and heroin. Whatever the truth may be, the political world has been shaken. Something needs to be done. Plans have been made to create a gigantic rehabilitation centre in Brussels, Belgium. This site has two advantages. Firstly, it is a one minute Thalys-ride from the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Secondly, it is believed that placing Machiavalium addicts in Belgium will aid recovery, as the possibility of reaching a powerful position is hampered by Belgium’s lack of a government. In the meanwhile, drug enforcement agencies are doing what they can to monitor the possible shipment of Machiavalium. The shipment on the Danube was reported to be on its way to St Moritz, Switzerland, where the top secret conference of the highest tier of global political and business leaders – known as the Bilderberg Group – will be held. The crates were marked: “Fragile contents - Aid for the impoverished - This way up”. CTG
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Published on May 31, 2011