Rational Standard https://rationalstandard.com Free Political Commentary for the dissenting South African Mon, 21 Aug 2017 22:01:07 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.1 https://i2.wp.com/rationalstandard.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/cropped-RS-Logo.png?fit=32%2C32&ssl=1 Rational Standard https://rationalstandard.com 32 32 94510741 Online game to simulate South African elections https://rationalstandard.com/online-game-simulate-sa-elections/ https://rationalstandard.com/online-game-simulate-sa-elections/#respond Mon, 21 Aug 2017 22:01:07 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=6034 At the end of September 2017, the eCivix South African Election Simulator will be released as a free-to-play online game. The game will be totally free, with no sign up […]

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At the end of September 2017, the eCivix South African Election Simulator will be released as a free-to-play online game. The game will be totally free, with no sign up fees or pay-to-win features.

eCivix is a non-profit organisation founded by a group of young South Africans with a passion for issue-based politics. The group comprises former law, actuary, economics and engineering students. The idea to create this game came from a combination of the group’s interest for politics as well as gaming.

The game will be a turn-based simulation game that focuses on policy issues within the contemporary South African political environment. The game simulates a national South African election, roughly based on the upcoming 2019 national elections. The creators hope that the game gets South Africans to think about policy positions and the subsequent effects of these policies.

At the start of each new game, users get to create and name their party of choice. The user then gets to take a position on ten particular issues. These issues range from abortion rights through to the funding of primary education and one of five positions on each issue. The game makes use of the libertarian-authoritarian scale to determine what the position on each issue is. As an example, on the issue of firearms the five positions would be:

After creating your party and selecting your political campaign’s core issues, the player starts the game. Each turn, players get to spend their gathered funds and manpower on actions, ranging from political rallies, advertisements and fundraising. These actions can garner the support of certain sections of the South African population while angering others. But in the game, South Africans are able to be convinced through campaigns, regardless of historical political party loyalty and supposed ideological identity.

At the end of the game, the results for both the national legislator, as well as the various provincial legislators are presented to the player. The game will also have an online leaderboard, allowing players to compete with one another.

Although this game is obviously limited in its representation of political ideology (due to the necessity of broadly grouping ideologies together) it remains one of a kind within South Africa. With time and support, the game could, naturally, become more and more nuanced and fine tuned.

This game is a clear and evident example of how private charity does address certain social issues. Social action and civic engagement can only truly be effective when it is not government sponsored.

The game will be available on ecivix.org.za.

Author: Simon Oberholster is the project manager at eCivix and a first year industrial engineering student at the University of Pretoria. Simon has a passion for politics and is a lover of literature.

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Review by peers is essential for high-quality research https://rationalstandard.com/review-peers-essential-high-quality-research/ https://rationalstandard.com/review-peers-essential-high-quality-research/#respond Sun, 20 Aug 2017 18:00:48 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=5982 This is a commentary on: “How to fix the academic peer review system” by Alex Welte and Eduard Grebe published in GroundUP on 3 August 2017. The authors immediately make […]

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This is a commentary on: “How to fix the academic peer review system” by Alex Welte and Eduard Grebe published in GroundUP on 3 August 2017.

The authors immediately make their views on the use of peer review crystal clear by using terms such as “holy cow”, “demand”, “feet in fire” to characterize it.

They don’t like it.


Because peer reviewers can be “jealous old boys” hiding behind anonymity; and the process is “frustrating”, “contradictory”, “misses the point” and “result-diluting” and no longer ensures that published work is “of reasonable quality”.

They then conclude (without citing evidence) that:

  1. “Peer-reviewed journals are no longer meaningful filters.” and
  2. “Most academics don’t seriously “read” journals to keep abreast of developments in their field.”

Yes, peers can be nasty. But my, and most of my biologist colleagues, welcome comments, debates and reviews by peers wherever we can get it. This is because they can, and generally do, help us to sharpen our thinking. When journal reviewers misbehave, there are editors who can deal with (even ignore/replace) them. If reviewers and editors don’t do their jobs properly, journals lose their scholarly reputation; become repositories for the results of second-rate, even incompetent, researchers; and simply don’t get read.

In fact, when I or one of my students have a paper ready for review, we choose the most eminent, ‘toughest’ journal as its publication vehicle. Publishing in nature/science is the ‘golden ring’, with top discipline-related journals being ‘silver’ and local ones ‘bronze’. That’s how one develops a competitive CV, gets cited/challenged by peers and rises in the research hierarchy.

Also, I take the advantage of my institute’s and university’s world-class libraries and the internet to regularly read about 20 discipline-oriented journals as they appear – in addition to Nature, Science, et al. Without this, researchers become mired in the potentially mundane academic past and interact only with one or another bunch of ‘frustration-contradiction-free’ ‘old boys’ with whom they concur.

What’s the authors’ alternative?  One is to “self-publish” with a bunch of academically complementary (complimentary?) co-authors “capable of critical self-appraisal” and deposit manuscripts in “research repositories”. This allows “serious engagement” (with peers?) to discover flaws etc.

In this internet era, isn’t it wiser for researchers to first circulate their findings to respected ‘real’ peers to sort such things out before trying to publish? That’s what a paper’s acknowledgements section is for. The authors’ alternative simply side-steps editors and valid challenges from reviewers who they ‘fear’. Also, it creates the need to search a massive proliferation of ‘repositories’ potentially packed with ill-conceived manuscripts full of “fake news and dubious scientific findings” and needing more work.

How does one evaluate the work of peers? The authors’ answer (without guidelines) is that “you have to be savvy”… and “eventually the cream will rise to the top”.

Then, “funders and academic employers, groaning under the weight of the modern knowledge edifice” will implement (unspecified) “more nuanced evaluations” (by peers?) of your research. The will lead to the “collapse” of second-rate peer-reviewed journals.

The authors’ strategy is likely to produce a morass of mediocre ‘research’ that still requires review by peers – the already overloaded readers.

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Torch-light rally in Charlottesville casts spotlight on Trump’s bigotry https://rationalstandard.com/torch-light-rally-in-charlottesville-casts-spotlight-on-trumps-bigotry/ https://rationalstandard.com/torch-light-rally-in-charlottesville-casts-spotlight-on-trumps-bigotry/#comments Wed, 16 Aug 2017 20:44:41 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=6012 America President Donald Trump’s rather meek and non-specific response to the death of three people – most prominently an anti-neo-Nazi demonstrator – has, seemingly, half of America up in arms. […]

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America President Donald Trump’s rather meek and non-specific response to the death of three people – most prominently an anti-neo-Nazi demonstrator – has, seemingly, half of America up in arms. In his short tenure, Trump is no stranger to either controversy or opposition, however, in this instance, it is very much a case of what he didn’t say that has incensed so many.

In rendering his observations he chose to inject the phrase, “ … violence on… many sides, many sides…” into his delivery and it is that inference that has outraged.

The parties consisted, on the one hand, of ‘ ethno-conservatives’ – a polite name for white supremacists – neo-Nazis and elements of the Ku Klux Klan. These vehemently white supremacist and white nationalist (‘alt-right’) groups were opposed by many protesting their gathering. The anti-alt-right demonstrators included Heather Heyer, the young woman killed. The alt-rightists had assembled to display their deep chagrin at the removal of a statue commemorating the Confederate general, Robert E. Lee. The two state troopers died when their helicopter crashed as they responded to a flare-up between the two parties early on Saturday, 12th August.

President Trump felt beholden to pass comment on the violence that had gripped Charlottesville, but displaying his de rigueur tone-deafness, his statement appeared to pass totally uncritically over the menace posed by the alt-rightists, and infer that the anti-white-rightist demonstrators were somehow aggressively complicit.

These are exceptionally trying times for the United States.

It is currently engaged in a bombastic nuclear stand-off with North Korea, America’s European allies are growing ever more suspicious of Trump’s isolationist rhetoric and Trump just won’t utter a derogatory word about Vladimir Putin, the Russian Federation’s president, even though there exists overwhelming evidence that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 US elections. This rather perfunctory summation denotes merely a few of the nettlesome issues that ail Trump’s America. Now, added to a rather lengthy list, is Trump’s tacit endorsement of, and support for, white-fuelled hatred and bigotry.

It only takes two synapses to fire to recall the candidate’s rather searing, naked attack on Mexicans; you remember, the one wherein he referred to them as ‘rapists, killers and drug-dealers.’ Trump’s fondly-held base comprises, no doubt, an indeterminate number of those Caucasian Americans who perceive themselves to be down-trodden, forgotten and non-privileged. Trust Trump to have verbally manipulated these folk into believing that they may be down-trodden, forgotten and non-privileged, but, nudge-nudge, at least, they’re not Mexican.

Understandably, it is on more national matters that Trump faces the brunt of disapproval.

Just 6 short months into his tenure, his promised plan to ‘repeal and replace’ former president Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act has died a number of deaths, and at the hands of his own party. His much-trumpeted wall is now, rather, a sturdy yet still to be funded fence, and his pledge to label the Chinese as ‘currency manipulators’ seems to have been forgotten as quickly as one might say ‘a plate of amazing chocolate cake.’ And now, added to the list of perceived shortcomings is his unspoken emotional affiliation to alt-right racial ideology. Yes, his affiliation remains, to date, silent but, as they say, actions speak far louder than words. One only has to note the appointment of Steven Bannon as presidential advisor to see that the alt-right have eyes for more than the 1600 liqueur cabinet.

Millions of Americans will look on this added accusation of the President harboring bigotry as yet just another noisome issue plaguing the nation. Yet Trump, like a man hopping and skipping onto ever-thinner ice, appears to relish these polemics. Trump uses these widely broadcast hullaballoos as deflective stepping-stones. Like a “Find The Lady Card” street hustler you can almost imagine him directing the national attention, “Look over there, North Korea! No, over here, job numbers; no, back here, just look at the Dow!”

Trump, his administration already under 3 investigations for alleged collusion with Russia in the 2016 election campaign, really doesn’t need white supremacist and white nationalist supporters. So, too, should he find totally unnecessary overtly racist events like last Friday’s hate and vitriol-fuelled torch-lit march; or so one would hope that one of his more levelheaded advisors might tell him. In an America of 2017 – hell, anywhere! – there is simply no place for phrases such as “Blood and soil,” “You will not replace us,” and “One people, one nation, end immigration.”

Tragically, this weekend, which in microcosm revealed just how divided the USA has quickly become, ended with the death, by car-ramming, of an American citizen, slain by a Nazi, 72 years after the last US soldier died in administering the bloody, last rites to Nazism and all it’s accompanying evils.

Well, so one thought. Heyer’s sad death and the tragic developments in Charlottesville exhibit that the Nazis’ extreme views regarding race and identity have somehow eluded the grave to live on. And Trump’s obtuse comments reveal the perils of having as president a man who willfully chooses to ignore history. Or to undergo an intense crash course.

So it’s perfectly understandable that Trump, the one man who readily has it within his stature and power to begin the healing, only made it worse, much worse, by what he didn’t say. For Trump, that must surely be a first.

Author: Steven Gray is a former art director, a news watcher and writer of political and social observations from South Africa.

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Why humans persist in believing in universal morality: The need to believe (Part 1) https://rationalstandard.com/humans-universal-morality-1/ https://rationalstandard.com/humans-universal-morality-1/#comments Mon, 14 Aug 2017 22:01:32 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=5759 All human belief systems (secular ideologies as well as religions) are based upon the conviction that all human behaviour is governed by one unique moral code which is fixed, objective […]

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All human belief systems (secular ideologies as well as religions) are based upon the conviction that all human behaviour is governed by one unique moral code which is fixed, objective and universal, in the sense that it transcends humanity and applies equally to everybody for all time.

Regarding the origin of this universal morality, for the Western religious ideologies this is held to be God himself. For secular ideologies, such as communism, socialism, social democracy, fascism, and liberalism, the origin of their particular moral codes is never specifically identified, or even mentioned, but universal and transcendent moralities are nevertheless implicit in the ideologies, and so are held to exist by implication.

All ideologies, it should be noted, secular no less than religious, are based upon some sort of belief in the supernatural. The religious belief in morality’s divine origin is obviously supernatural, but the secular ideological conception of an implicit universal and transcendental morality, being as it is beyond the laws of nature or the understanding of science, is no less supernatural, as we shall see shortly, and despite any and all ideological claims to secularity.

All ideologies, religious and secular, deny that morality is simply a product of the human mind. The reason that they do this is that if morality were perceived to be simply a collective product of the human mind, as science informs us that it indeed is, it would be nothing more than fallible and changeable human opinion. And moral opinion may indeed change over time, despite the transcendental claim that it is fixed forever, as the changed Western moral beliefs regarding slavery, sorcery, blasphemy, judicial torture, capital and corporal punishment, theism, minority rule, racism, nudity, animal cruelty, homosexuality, and smoking in public places illustrate.

As morality that was perceived to be solely a product of the human mind would also not be transcendental (i.e. reaching beyond humankind – presumably to some elevated and mystical form of being or existence), any ideology based upon it would be denied the enormous moral authority that derives from being the one organisation on Earth that supposedly represents that transcendent, universal morality. It is this unique moral authority that a universal and transcendental morality supposedly confers that makes the concept so attractive to all ideologies (and that also explains the Western triumph of monotheism over polytheism).

All ideologies, religious and secular, are created for the same purpose: to attract adherents to their cause in order to help attain the objectives of their founders. This is done by providing a more inspiring and elevated worldview than is common in their communities. Significantly, to this end all ideologies, regardless of whether they are religious or secular, exploit morality as the medium through which to attain their objectives, and accordingly each makes the same two fundamental moral claims. First, that they uniquely represent the one, universal moral truth, and, secondly, that they have the attainment of the highest moral good as their principal objective.

Thus, for example, the principal Western religions each claim (contradictorily) to represent God’s word, and to be dedicated to attaining His objectives on Earth. Communists and socialists on the other hand, claim (implicitly) to be representing the universal moral truth in their attempts to attain ‘social justice’; something that they assert to be the highest moral good humankind is capable of attaining here on earth.

While all ideologies aggressively support the claim that there is only one universal morality, as noted, they each mean by this only their own particular morality. They all, in fact, deny that any morality other than their own could possibly be the universal morality. The widespread and popular belief that there is a unique, universal morality in existence is therefore not supported by the evidence. All that we have on Earth in reality are thousands of ideologies, religious and secular, the believers in which each contradictorily claim that their ideology uniquely represents the one and only universal morality.

For the concept of there being one, universal morality to be feasible, every individual and every community would have first to accept the identical moral system as being the only legitimate one, and very clearly, they do not. While most individuals, including those who consider themselves to be secular, still generally believe in some form of transcendental moral universalism, either explicitly or implicitly, in aggregate they and their communities tend to believe, not in one, but in very many different versions of it.

The supernatural belief in the existence of one universal, objective, and transcendental moral code is perhaps humankind’s greatest and most persistent delusion. It has survived even the Western cultural transition from a religious to a secular worldview, and so long has philosophy lain entwined in bed with religion that philosophy departments throughout the world still harbour moral objectivists who claim mystically to be able to reconcile the supernatural existence of a universal morality with their otherwise strictly secular beliefs.

The question as to just why the belief in a universal, transcendental morality has been so enduring in human thought over the ages calls for an explanation. Interestingly, the concept of transcendental morality is always expressed in the form of an ideology, either religious or secular. To judge by the remarkably similar type of promises and moral claims that ideologies always make, it would seem that they are formulated specifically in order to gratify one inherent and profound human psychological need; namely, the need to believe that there is greater significance and meaning to human existence than appears empirically to us to be the case. The gratification of this need is the principal thing that both religious and secular ideologies offer us.

As we know, the religious concept of a universal morality openly asserts, in the form of a divinity, the existence in the universe of a higher form of spiritual being or existence than humankind. This blatantly supernatural concept is, however, intellectually unacceptable today for all those who regard themselves as secular. Nevertheless, as human beings, secularists by and large remain susceptible to the same psychological needs as everybody else. They therefore square the circle intellectually in their minds, and smuggle the supernatural in through the back door by continuing to accept the highly ambiguous and mystical concept of a transcendental universal morality, while rejecting the blatantly supernatural concept of a divinity.

Obviously, no universal and transcendental morality could exist were there not some form of prior and superior being, or existence, behind it, responsible for its creation, and from which logically it must emanate. Believing implicitly in the existence of such a morality thus allows the emotionally needy secularist to believe in something superior and spiritual that transcends their empirical existence, while sparing them the intellectual discomfort of acknowledging the presence of the supernatural in their worldview.

What our Passions demand, our Reason, it seems, will always justify.

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Toward a new electoral system for South Africa https://rationalstandard.com/toward-new-electoral-system-south-africa/ https://rationalstandard.com/toward-new-electoral-system-south-africa/#comments Sun, 13 Aug 2017 22:01:51 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=5986 In May 2017 the Rational Standard carried a piece by Nicholas Babaya calling for a number of democratic reforms in South Africa. The first was the introduction of a two-round […]

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In May 2017 the Rational Standard carried a piece by Nicholas Babaya calling for a number of democratic reforms in South Africa. The first was the introduction of a two-round presidential election and the revision of our electoral system into a first-past-the-post (FPTP) regime as opposed to our proportional representation (PR) system. The way we pick our President can be debated, but this article will examine the call for a new electoral system.

The FPTP system, while ensuring a link between a public representative and their constituents, can lead to skewed outcomes (especially if gerrymandering is an issue), lead to votes being ‘wasted’, and result in parliamentary representation which does not reflect the will of the voters.

One of the most disastrous election results in South African history – the victory of the National Party (NP in 1948 – occurred because of gerrymandering and the need for rural parliamentary seats (which were more likely to return a NP candidate) to have fewer voters. Of the 153 seats on offer, the NP won 70, with 37.7% of the vote. By contrast, the United Party, led by Jan Smuts, won just shy of 50% of the vote (49.2%) for 65 seats. Thanks to support from the Afrikaner Party (with nine seats and just under four percent of the vote) the NP secured a coalition to govern the country, leading to apartheid and four decades of harsh oppression of the black people of this country.

Of course, racial oppression and discrimination had been a fact under Jan Smuts and previous governments, but it is likely a Smuts victory would have seen at least some move to reform. We could have seen a true democracy emerge in South Africa far earlier than 1994 if the NP had not won in 1948. However, this is speculation and not the focus of the argument.

There are numerous other examples where the FPTP system results in skewed outcomes.

The recent British election is an example of that. Theresa May’s Conservative (or Tory) Party saw its popular vote share increase by 5.5 percentage points to 42.3%, yet lost 13 seats, seeing her lose her majority in the House of Commons. By contrast, the Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, saw its vote share go to 40%, an increase of nearly ten percentage points, but he was rewarded with 30 more seats.

The PR system that we have ensures that the proportion of the vote a party receives is reflected by their support in Parliament. This has its drawbacks, as pointed out by Babaya in his article. However, there is a system which takes the best of both the PR and FPTP system, and which could without too much difficulty be implemented here. This is the mixed-member proportional (MMP) system.

In this system members of Parliament are elected by constituencies, but the number of MPs are topped up by party lists to ensure proportionality. This, thus, ensures a link between a particular geographical area and a public representative, while also ensuring that a party’s proportion of the vote is reflected in the number of seats it is awarded in the legislature. It is the system used in Germany, New Zealand, and Lesotho, and at the local government level here in South Africa.

Last year’s municipal election result in Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) provides an illuminating example of the advantages of the system.

In that municipality, sixty seats are ward seats (where a councillor represents a particular geographical area) and sixty are made up of PR seats, used to ensure proportionality. In August last year, the African National Congress (ANC) emerged as the biggest party in 36 of NMB’s 60 wards, winning just over 40% of the vote. The Democratic Alliance (DA), by contrast, was the biggest party in 23 wards, yet had won 47% of the vote. The Economic Freedom Fighters had won the other available ward seat. If the Council’s make-up was decided purely on ward seats, the ANC would have been the largest party by some margin, but thanks to the PR top-up seats, the DA was granted an additional 34 seats, and the ANC 14. This meant the DA was the single biggest party in the Council and allowed it to form the coalition which now governs NMB.

This system could easily be replicated at national and provincial level, and indeed, much of the thinking around such a system has already been done.

In the early part of this century, the late Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert led a commission to look at overhauling our electoral system. The commission recommended retaining the 400 members of Parliament, but 300 would be elected from 69 multi-member constituencies. Each constituency would return between three and seven MPs, depending on the particular constituency’s population size. To ensure proportionality, 100 MPs would be returned from a closed party list. A similar system would be put in place at provincial level. Such a system, or a replica of the one we use at municipal level (where geographical constituencies return one representative, topped up with a parallel party list) could be implemented in South Africa.

However, one must not assume that a new electoral system will be a panacea.

Even in countries where MPs are elected through geographical constituencies, party discipline is still enforced. We cannot assume that in South Africa, we would have seen an even greater rebellion within the ANC if we had had some (or even all) MPs elected through geographical constituencies. Nevertheless, the implementation of an mixed-member proportional system – whether it is that recommended by the Van Zyl Slabbert Commission or one more akin to that used at municipal level in South Africa or at federal level in Germany – will be preferable to our current closed PR list system. We will still have proportionality (which is the only requirement for our electoral system, as per the Constitution) but we will also have a link between public representatives and their constituents. This will only strengthen democracy and ensure a more sustainable South Africa in the future.

Author: Marius Roodt is a researcher with an interest in South African politics and liberalism. He holds degrees from the former Rand Afrikaans University and the University of the Witwatersrand.

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Can the Oceans of Sub-Saharan Africa be its Gateway to Economic Prosperity? https://rationalstandard.com/can-oceans-sub-saharan-africa-gateway-economic-prosperity/ https://rationalstandard.com/can-oceans-sub-saharan-africa-gateway-economic-prosperity/#comments Fri, 11 Aug 2017 20:00:07 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=5984 CNN recently published an article presenting the decay across the oceans of Sub-Saharan Africa. It identified years of neglect and insecurity as two reasons the “blue economy” is contributing less […]

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CNN recently published an article presenting the decay across the oceans of Sub-Saharan Africa. It identified years of neglect and insecurity as two reasons the “blue economy” is contributing less to the overall economic development of the region. Unfortunately, CNN is right: Sub-Saharan Africa is neglecting a sector with an economic capacity of over $1 trillion. And as a matter of urgency, countries in the region must explore their oceans to resuscitate the fishing industry and create a solution to power supply. But before this, insecurity must be critically addressed.

A recent report by Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) revealed that insecurity across the Sub-Saharan coastline costs the region over $2 billion annually. This is a consequence of criminal activities like armed robbery, human smuggling and sea piracy. In 2016 alone, there were 95 attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, which cover key areas of the West African coastline. And this is just scratching the surface compared to the more deadly East African waters dominated by Somali pirates. The OBP also revealed piracy cost West Africa $794 million in 2016, and that East Africa lost a staggering $1.7 billion the same year.

If Sub-Saharan Africa must explore the benefits of an ocean economy, sea piracy and other crimes must be eliminated. This is because unsafe oceans can deter potential investors, which of course would not help the sector grow. Just as the fight against insurgency is getting the required attention on land, piracy must get similar consideration on water. Besides, security is important for a successful diversification to the ocean economy as proven in other parts of the world.

However, most African countries remain glued to their old means of revenue that are performing poorly lately. With the free-fall of crude oil and the rampaging effects of harsh weather on agricultural productivity, it is most reasonable for Sub-Saharan Africa look towards its oceans. Besides, a thorough exploration might eventually present an avenue to solve the region’s energy crisis.

The greatest impediment to business in Sub-Saharan Africa after anti-market policies is insufficient energy supply. Businesses in the informal sector spend heavily on alternative means of energy generation while the bigger corporations often impose extra charges on commodities to make up for power cost.  Meanwhile, Africa’s oceans can generate electricity through means like tidal power, wave power, and thermal energy conversion. Wave energy, for instance, fits in the green policies of many countries in the region and has the highest concentration of renewable energy. This is because sea waves come from natural sources like wind, tides, sun, ocean currents, and earth rotation. Unlike wind and solar, power production from sea waves never stops.

Equally, the small dams and barrages in tidal energy production can protect ports and coastal areas from the dangerous tides during storms and bad weather conditions. This would protect any potential business structures on the sea or around the coast. Also, large scale production of tidal energy can help the region reduce fuel importation used to power dams and instead enhance energy security. And coal thermal power plants provide the cheapest electricity worldwide, which are mostly simple to maintain. These are all efficient alternatives that can support existing hydroelectric plants to power up Sub-Saharan Africa.

Countries in the region must similarly check the menace of illegal fishing on their waters. It is estimated that West Africa alone loses over $2 billion annually to illegal fishing. This is a mere fraction compared to the more porous and larger coasts of East Africa. If there are moderate laws guiding an open fishing industry, businesses will thrive to eventually improve individual income and bolster economic capacity.

Even poorer coastal countries like Somalia, Liberia, and Sierra Leone could possibly build an economy through a competitive fishing industry if the policies were favourable. This would work because small-scale fisheries support many Africans involved in fish processing and trade, especially in these poorer countries. Presently, there are over 12 million people employed in fisheries either on a full-time, part-time or seasonal basis.

Countries like the Seychelles, Mauritius, Madagascar, and Mozambique are implementing plans to improve the productivity of their oceans. Other Sub-Saharan Africa countries should learn from their strategy. Evidently, the region is in a precarious economic situation that might see majority of its population slide into poverty by 2030. If revenue generation does not significantly improve within few years, the feared possibility might become the chaotic reality.

It is nonetheless necessary Sub-Saharan Africa urgently diversify towards its oceans. This is not primarily because its promises, but because it is the real and most durable option it can afford at this time.

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Towards a more rational understanding or racialism https://rationalstandard.com/towards-rational-understanding-racialism/ https://rationalstandard.com/towards-rational-understanding-racialism/#comments Thu, 10 Aug 2017 22:01:00 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=5735 Racialism is a major social problem in the West today, and as such is necessarily condemned morally by society at large.  As a social phenomenon, however, there are two fundamental […]

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Racialism is a major social problem in the West today, and as such is necessarily condemned morally by society at large.  As a social phenomenon, however, there are two fundamental aspects of racialism that have escaped the attention of social scientists. This has lead them to explain its actual cause moralistically, as a moral crime or aberration, rather than in scientific terms.

These two aspects are, first, the fact that everybody on earth is racialist to at last some degree or other. To be entirely without any racial prejudice, an individual would have to regard people of social groups other than their own in exactly the same way that they regard people of their own social group. Looking into yourself, you know that this is not ever going to be likely.

The second aspect, is the fact that throughout the course of human history and in every society on earth, everybody was expected to be racialistic, right up to the middle of the 20th century. Racialism has until very recently always been the norm in all human societies, and it is current Western non-racialism that is the social anomaly calling for an explanation, rather than racialism itself.

If every person and every human society has been inherently racialistic right up to the present, as certainly appears to be the case, then there is clearly much more to racialism than being simply a moral aberration. Exclusively moralising the problem by declaring it to be a moral crime calling for punishment and public recantation, as social scientists are wont to do, is grossly simplistic and precludes the understanding that is required if racialism is ever to be fully understood or eliminated. There is a reason why anti-racialism has come to replace racialism, and the reason is not simply that we today are more morally enlightened than our ancestors.

Before offering a possible explanation for the historical prevalence of racialism, it should be noted that ‘racialism’ is, in fact, not simply a prejudice against the physical or phenotypical aspect of other people, but a far broader prejudice against what is significantly different about them in respect of their culture, religion, language, beliefs, and behaviour, among other things. What we call ‘racialism’ is better described as ‘cultural prejudice’. The term ‘racialism’ focuses excessively on the physical, which is not the essence of the problem, even while it is the most visual marker of potential difference.

The reason that racialism has historically been the social norm is in all probability because, right up to the 20th century, and unlike today, it actually served a positive rather than a negative social function. To explain: we all like and prefer what is familiar to us, but are generally averse to things or circumstances that are significantly different to what we are accustomed to. This predisposition of ours is possibly an ancient, protective behavioural adaptation, like the fight-or-flight reflex, acquired for a reason over the millions of years of hominid development when our ancestors lived as hunter-gatherers, in small family and clan units.  This enormously long period was undoubtedly the most formative in the development of our human nature. What (for our hominid ancestors living in a hazardous environment) was significantly different to the familiar and tested – in terms of food, other animals, the environment, circumstances, and strangers – was always potentially lethal, and so therefore to be treated with suspicion or aversion. Under those particular circumstances, it paid well to be inherently averse to what was different.

This inherent and negative dislike of the different, which lies at the heart of racialism, is paradoxically reinforced by what could be regarded as its opposite behavioural adaptation: the positive process of human socialisation and individual self-identification that binds each individual to their community. Every human early identifies closely with their own family, clan, tribe, and nation, feeling that these possess a particular virtue not necessarily shared by the rest of humankind. This is an important and vitally necessary process for human social cohesion. It is, however, a behavioural adaptation that unavoidably promotes what we now call racialism, because when we come to believe that the members of our particular community are superior in certain important ways to the members of all other communities, then, by implication, if ‘we’ are superior, ‘they’ must be not just different, but inferior.

An appreciation of this fact leads to the understanding that if racialism is ever to be eliminated, either the causal connection between the positive and negative aspects of individual socialisation must be severed cognitively, or else people must no longer be permitted to believe that their particular communities are in any way superior to all others.

To return to the earlier observation that throughout human history and until the mid-20th century all societies were naturally racialist: what happened, then, in the 1950s to so radically change the West’s attitude towards racialism?

The likely answer is that the change of racial attitude was the consequence of numerous geo-political and technological developments over the previous two centuries, which resulted in and facilitated relatively large-scale external population movements to the Western democracies in the early 20th century, so upsetting the homogeneity of their populations. The process had started with the 18th century slave transportation from Africa, but culminated in a reverse-colonisation, with the early 20th-century migration of non-white people to European and North American cities from the ex-European colonies in North Africa, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, and Asia. Ever-increasing Western urbanisation and democratisation further promoted the process of change via the ballot box. This migration continues today.

The racial mixing that was now unavoidably taking place in the Western democratic societies led to increasing internal political conflict. Accordingly, under the pressure of rapidly changing social circumstances, racialism, or cultural prejudice, was transformed from being the positive social factor that it had been historically in respect of homogenous communities, into a strongly negative factor in regard to the increasingly racially heterogenous Western communities.

In order to maintain domestic social cohesion and order (and also to bolster their attempt to win Third-World support in their strategic competition with the Soviets), the Western political leaders were compelled to reconsider and alter their racial attitudes and policies regarding the new, urbanised racial minorities. The social conflict that racialism or cultural prejudice gave rise to could no longer be ignored or tolerated. The process of amending Western legislation started in the 1950s to accommodate the new political reality, and cultural prejudice was duly anathematised under the ambiguous and strongly emotive term ‘racialism’. Very suddenly, what had been for so long morally acceptable became morally unacceptable.

If ‘racialism’ is an inherent human behavioural adaptation, as suggested, rather than simply a moral defect on the part of individuals, then it follows that we are all, in varying degree, ‘racialist’. Because racialism has been popularly categorised as a moral crime or aberration, however, anyone who acknowledges feeling any degree of racial prejudice automatically labels themselves as evil or morally defective. This obviously discourages honesty and frankness. It also strongly discourages a rational understanding of racialism.

While it cannot be proven that everybody is ‘racially’ prejudiced to at least some degree or other, it is obvious that at least a large percentage of the world’s population clearly is. Either a large percentage of the human population is therefore morally defective, or alternatively, it is possible that everybody is in fact inherently predisposed to prejudice, with the prejudice becoming evident only in testing circumstances. The online, Harvard Implicit Association Bias Detection Test results suggest strongly that the latter is the case.

But you can judge the issue for yourself. If you frankly and honestly assess your own feelings regarding those significantly different to you culturally (and ‘racially’), do you regard them in exactly the same way that you regard those of your own cultural group, or not? To be able to claim rationally that you are completely unprejudiced, you must be able to answer ‘yes’ to this question. If you cannot in all honesty do this, then, considering yourself to be a normal person, you may reasonably choose to conclude that you are not morally defective, but rather, that it is more probable that everybody else is also likely to be culturally prejudiced, but for obvious reasons is unwilling to acknowledge the fact.

Racialism is unequivocally morally wrong today, for the reason we have seen, and it is necessary that it be categorised publicly as such. Exclusively moralising the problem, however, is counterproductive. By “moralising the problem,” is meant accusatorily claiming that anyone who is racially prejudiced is morally aberrant, and should be punished and forced to recant, on the implicit grounds that ‘racialism’ is solely a function of moral aberration. The aim of moralising is not to explain or understand something, but rather to gain political or moral advantage by declaring somebody guilty of a moral crime, as defined by the moraliser.

If, on the other hand, racialism is analysed rationally, and it is understood that it is inherent in humans for certain biological reasons, which are no longer beneficial, there is a fair chance that a solution to it can duly be found by addressing its underlying causes.

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Gun rights and our dying institutions https://rationalstandard.com/gun-rights-dying-institutions/ https://rationalstandard.com/gun-rights-dying-institutions/#comments Wed, 09 Aug 2017 22:01:39 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=5854 Fourth of July holds a special place in the hearts of Americans, not least because it is their celebration of their obtainment of freedom and the establishment of their country; […]

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Fourth of July holds a special place in the hearts of Americans, not least because it is their celebration of their obtainment of freedom and the establishment of their country; it is also known as Independence Day for this reason. On 4 July 2017, a certain section of civil society in South Africa had reason to celebrate their own Fourth of July: the High Court handed down a verdict on the constitutionality of sections 24 and 28 of the Firearms Control Act (2000), also known as the FCA, ordered parliament to amend these sections within 18 months, referred the ruling to the Constitutional Court to confirm the ruling of the High Court, and ordered in what appears to be an interim ruling making all expired firearm licenses valid until the completion of the this process. If firearms weren’t so synonymous with American culture and ideas of freedom, the date of this ruling being made wouldn’t be uncanny.

In South Africa, the inanimate object (usually comprised of metal and plastic), is a magnet for opportunistic politicians in need of a bogeyman for political point scoring, while organisations such as Gun Free SA push their gun control narrative, fraught with fallacies, flaws, lies, and dance moves on the graves of victims of crime to appeal to the emotions of the public. This is par for the course. What does become an area of grave concern, is when the enforcers of the law (the South African Police Service), also seek out political point-scoring for their own advantage – in this case using the previously extremely vulnerable gun owning element of civil society as a target.

Law enforcement in all its manifestations (traffic, metro, SAPS, City Law Enforcement) has only one job: to enforce the law. The constitution does not afford interpretation of vague or confusing legislation, or writing of laws, to these agencies. However, this is exactly what the SAPS has been doing for some time, using poorly crafted directives to push their will with regard to firearm ownership and regulation. The High Court ruling mentioned above illustrates this perfectly. On the court order, the only respondent of the state is “the Minister of Safety and Security”. The SAPS have, however, proceeded to appeal the judgement, despite the SAPS being an institution, not the Minister. Secondly, a Brigadier has issued a directive that no firearms surrendered or forfeited to the state because of expired licenses be returned to their owners when claimed back, despite the court ruling. This is contempt of court, as the ruling specifically declared all expired licenses valid. The SAPS management argue that:

“The learned judge ought to have found that a forfeiture of a firearm as a result of a failure to comply with the act is not a deprivation; and that any deprivation that does arise is in accordance with a law of general application, and is a legitimate exercise of power because it’s purpose is to protect health, welfare, safety and security for everyone’s benefit.”

Anything that you legally purchase based on willing buyer/willing seller principle becomes your legal property, by which the confiscation without your consent becomes theft. Despite the ruling, the SAPS have opted to literally write their own law, despite the constitution’s placing of authority in the judicial system. Also note the reference to the collective of “everyone’s benefit”. Ordinarily, a ruling is suspended during the appeal process, unless the ruling contains an interim judgement.

This argument by the SAPS is therefore highly arbitrary and unlawful. It is also completely misguided in reason and logic, because their view is that despite the owner having already jumped through numerous onerous and bureaucratic processes to obtain their original firearm license, at a certain second on a certain minute at a certain hour of a set date, the owner ceases to fit from then on, thereby becoming a danger to society.

The entire concept of the Firearms Control Act is arbitrary as its entire purpose is for eventual total disarmament of the civilian population. This arbitrary piece of work has found friends willing to deliberately break multiple laws to enforce it. Previously, the SAPS allowed expired firearms to be ‘sold’ to a gun dealership and then ‘bought’ back while the owner could make a new application from scratch, thereby keeping their property, even within the arbitrary and bureaucratic mechanisms. This was because the Central Firearms Registry is incapable of renewing an expired firearm licenses without moving the serial numbers around the various databases. For some reason, virtually overnight, the SAPS then stopped this practice, adopting the current stance that resulted in this court case. What is more incredulous, is that a proposed amendment was thrown out of parliament because of how unworkable it was. This proposal, however, contained a clause dealing with expired license holders in the form of a small administrative fine. No attempt was made to keep that clause and push it through by the Ministry, thereby creating the entire fiasco currently consuming enormous amounts of resources of both the state and private entities. Had the Ministry exhibited competence over a year ago, SAPS would have had little wriggle room to ‘interpret’ anything.

A question that legitimately exists, even if few people have acknowledged it or tried to answer it, is: “How and why is this all happening?”

The reason for this lies partly in the awful document that is the FCA that has afforded the SAPS these opportunities of making up things as they go along, however, the root cause is the current state of government. The atrocious leadership of our President, the incompetence of his cabinet, and the corruption of the state from the bottom up has rendered the enforcers of the law completely and utterly incapable. The SAPS acting as lackeys for the president is one thing, but the intentional targeting of one of the single most law-abiding sectors of society just by virtue of their choice of property is completely another; they have become their own masters.

This is because the SAPS have not had leadership since George Fivaz (appointed by Mandela). All commissioners since have been implicated in corruption (Selebi, Phahlani), maladministration or irregular administrative behavior (Cele), or been overall incompetent (Phiyega). The crime intelligence division has also been obliterated by the likes of Mduli’s tenure, and elements that remain within it. The Hawks is politically compromised, and the NPA is a Jacob Zuma and Gupta puppet show. Much of the top brass within these institutions is also present by virtue of their connections or allegiances; hence competence is not a requirement. Coming back to the topic of gun rights, it becomes easy to see how this horseless carriage has run away to the extent it has.

The gun lobby is vehemently fighting for gun rights, and a non-gun owner will probably ask “what does this have to do with me? I don’t even like guns. It is for them to sort out between themselves.” Ordinarily this may be true. However, what the non-gun owner may not realise is that if the right to property is only selective (in this case firearms), then it is only a matter of time before something of theirs is targeted. One could say that, “First they came for the gun owners, but I did not speak up, for I was not a gun owner.” This horseless carriage could very quickly gain new passengers depending on the political climate and the actors involved at any point in time.

What makes the concept of encroaching on gun rights so important for attention, is that I personally believe that apart from total freedom of speech, there is no greater warning sign on infringing individual freedoms and liberties than firearm restriction. Furthermore, without free gun ownership, the state has a total monopoly on violence to be used against its citizens, thereby almost completely removing the possibility of a civil response to a tyrannical government. Tyrannical governments do not happen overnight – they are a process, gradually eroding certain rights and freedoms, using slow changes. Gun control is one of them, as is control and censorship of speech.

The court ruling also made mention that the FCA was comprised of poor language in general, and in need of revision, while the overall mechanisms such as the Central Firearms Registry managed by the SAPS, is chaotic and dysfunctional, with administrative challenges created by the Act that are “insurmountable”.

One would think that the door on this chapter would have closed already, since this has been the state of the overall system since pre-2009 when it was less than six years old. However, the SAPS continue to insist on the current trajectory. And if this case is lost at the constitutional court, how much hope is there for a truly free South Africa, considering that oratory utterances can already land you in front of the South African Human Rights Commission?

South Africa is running out of time, because situations such as these can only be solved by the executive’s cabinet and parliament. Even with a new government in 2019, the Constitutional Court could rule against gun owners not because of lack of merit, but because the SAPS have access to millions of rands to spend on court cases, and associations and groups such as gun owners can only manage what their members can muster. Institutional degradation is a long and slippery slope with lasting damage.

Jonathan Wright holds a degree in BA International Studies from the University of Stellenbosch majoring in Political Science and History. He is also active on the South Africa gun rights scene, and a dedicated firearms advocate, as well as that of federal and libertarian government despite his personally conservative values, with a particular interest in safety and security matters of society.


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The Emperor is Naked & Other Lessons from the No Confidence Secret Vote https://rationalstandard.com/emperor-naked-lessons-no-confidence-secret-vote/ https://rationalstandard.com/emperor-naked-lessons-no-confidence-secret-vote/#comments Wed, 09 Aug 2017 14:39:36 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=5988 The Emperor is indeed naked but as South Africans learned on the 8th of August 2017 amid the outcome of the secret ballot vote of no confidence in Jacob Zuma, […]

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The Emperor is indeed naked but as South Africans learned on the 8th of August 2017 amid the outcome of the secret ballot vote of no confidence in Jacob Zuma, it is quite clear that the emperor is not the only one naked.

As the highly anticipated Motion of No Confidence in President Jacob Zuma was fast approaching, the opposition was buoyed by the announcement that the vote would be concluded by way of a secret ballot. By then, notable leaders of the opposition which included Mmusi Maimane (DA), Julius Malema (EFF) and Bantu Holomisa (UDM) had already publicly stated that several Members of Parliament from the ANC caucus were ready to break ranks and vote for the motion to remove the President. The cracks were quite clear and the writing was on the wall for the ANC.

In the run-up to the vote, the ANC caucus leader & Chief Whip, Jackson Mthembu had outlined and reiterated the position of the ANC by denouncing the motion as an attempt by the opposition to remove the ANC from power. The Citizen quoted him asserting that:

“It is them [opposition] who will start their campaign this afternoon [if the vote to remove Zuma] carries.”

From this position it became evident to South Africans that the motion wouldn’t succeed as several other ANC MPs sustained the sentiments of their Chief Whip.

As widely anticipated, the motion was concluded by way of a secret ballot and it had indeed failed with 177 votes for and 198 against the motion. However, what became increasingly clear is that the ANC remains a deeply fractured party. For the first time since the democratic dispensation, several MP’s from the governing party voted with the opposition in the motion to remove their own President. More so than that, it highlighted what most South Africans already know about Jacob Zuma – that he is indeed corrupt and driving South Africa’s economy into ruins whilst severely compromising the livelihoods of millions of South Africans. It became apparent to some of the ANC MPs that the country is accelerating into a downward trajectory with Jacob Zuma at the controls. So the brave MPs such as Makhosi Khoza and former Finance Minister Pravin Gordon took a stand along with some 30 or so of their colleagues to support the DA’s motion to remove President Jacob Zuma.

The lessons to take away from this motion are clear and particularly striking to those who appreciate the vibrant and beauty of our democracy.

At first, we all know that President Jacob Zuma is a naked emperor and as The Citizen Reports, “The general consensus is that he brought it all on himself”. President Jacob Zuma allowed himself to be consumed by the devious and corrupt dealings of the infamous Gupta family. He has on countless occasions proven that his grip on power and constitutional mandate to lead the country has been diluted by personal interests to enrich himself, his family and crony network. From the days of the Gupta-gate scandal to the Nkandla-gate scandal and report after report from institutions of State pronouncing Zuma as complicit to multiple illicit and corrupt activities, he has, by cover of he’s party, continued to undermine the constitution, failed to live up to the duties of his esteemed office and failed on delivering on the promises he made in 2009 when he was elected to become South Africa’s President.

So then, with consideration of all the wrong that Zuma has done which to the eyes of many South Africa’s warrants his removal, why hasn’t the ANC or its MPs done the right thing and voted the President out?

The answer is simple. By protecting Jacob Zuma, the ANC have themselves become complicit to corruption and state capture prevalent in South Africa. They have allowed a dishonest constitutional delinquent to continue to hold office whilst they use every organ of state within their capture to exonerate him from any wrong doing. As such, the ANC has proven to all South Africans that Jacob Zuma isn’t the only enemy to the development and progress of South Africa but it is indeed clear that the entire ANC is. Furthermore, it reinforces the societal sentiment that the ANC is out of touch with the people of South Africa. It is furthermore clear that the emperor (Zuma) remains naked. He is not the only one, and 198 ANC MP’s find themselves in a similar situation as the emperor.

On a more positive side, it provided South Africans a bit of solace to learn that at least there are still honest leaders within the ANC as about 30 of them voted to oust President Jacob Zuma. The opposition DA, EFF, UDM and others are the biggest victors of the August 8th motion. Although the motion had failed, it represented a symbolic and psychological victory for the opposition in the run-up to the 2019 general election. More and more South Africans are beginning to see the ANC and Jacob Zuma for what and who they truly are and as such, many have vowed to vote for the opposition come 2019.

In the end, the biggest lesson to all South Africans is that participating in the 2019 elections will be the most important thing they have done since the election of the ANC in 1994. The harsh contrast in 2019 as opposed to 1994 is that South Africans speak of removing the ANC. This contrast illustrates how after 23 years of service the ANC is tired, out of ideas and dying a slow death. It is incumbent on all South Africans to protect the future of South Africa by making a wise decision in 2019. By understanding that it is their vote which gave the ANC power and now is it is their vote that will remove the ANC.

Author: Neo Mkwane is a liberal thinker, youth activist and democrat. He holds a BA in Politics & Public Management from the North-West University and is pursuing post-graduate studies in Politics at the University of Cape Town. He’s a former commentator on the blog Think Like a Liberal and has an obsession with political current affairs.

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Women’s Day – Reviewing Books on the Liberty of Women https://rationalstandard.com/reviewing-womens-month-books/ https://rationalstandard.com/reviewing-womens-month-books/#comments Tue, 08 Aug 2017 22:01:32 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=5926 South Africa has witnessed unprecedented infringements of liberty, particularly that of women and young girls. Women’s Month comes after a wave of increasing cases of femicide, FeesMustFall naked protests, and […]

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South Africa has witnessed unprecedented infringements of liberty, particularly that of women and young girls. Women’s Month comes after a wave of increasing cases of femicide, FeesMustFall naked protests, and the EndRapeCulture movement in many universities.

A great deal of feminist literature has been written to challenge the status quo, allow for contestation and powerful lessons, to realise the importance of self-sufficiency, and to pose a question to practices which may threaten individual freedom and fulfillment. I have selected some of this literature to review in this article.

Dissatisfied with the way women are portrayed by male authors, these selected writers have exposed various forms of authoritarianism and subordination as well as mapped ways to overcome them. These books encapsulate human efforts for the imperatives of survival and women’s citizenship. Suffice to concede that these texts set a feminist agenda par excellence through the development of a feminist voice and female emancipation, as is evidenced by the characters in the books. These creative arts do not merely seek to entertain the audience; they are intended to trigger, to educate and appraise the institutions and practices that may hinder the both individual men and women’s prosperity.

Changes: A Love Story, novel by Ama Ata Aidoo (1991)

Ama Ata Aidoo‘s Changes dissects the theme of marital rape, which compounds the issue of male sexual dominance, as it actualises and expresses the distinctive power of men over women.

The concept of marital rape is quite new in the African lexicon. Asare-Kumi reminds us that it “names a probable situation women face in their various marriages but are unable to name or afraid to speak about since sexual intercourse is the prerogative of [a] man”. In her writing, one of the characters, Esi, is in deep thought on how to deal with this, as it is evident that such an idea does not exist in any of the indigenous languages. One cannot understand what one cannot name; that which has no name does not exist. Hence there is no synonym for marital rape in traditional African contexts. Through this appraisal, the writer questions men‘s sexual dominance attempts over women‘s sexual independence. The point that Aidoo intends to drive home is that a woman has a right to do as she pleases with her body, and does not require permission from anyone else.

Aidoo‘s novel does not conceal the dilemma of women’s professional advancement in relation to their personal lives. This is better articulated when Fusena abandons her studies and career ambitions in pursuit of becoming a full-time wife and mother, which in essence allows her husband more room to focus on his burgeoning career.

At the end of the book Aidoo expresses an obvious concern – that society is not ready for an assertive, strong-willed and educated woman. Even though Esi’s economic independence and courage to take charge of her life is commendable, she is on the receiving end of strong criticism from both her family and her husband’s for eschewing her role as a mother since African society does not favour the neglect of constructivist roles as a woman.

Purple Hibiscus, novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2006)

More recently, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote Purple Hibiscus. In it, she draws on the theme of domestic violence and silence.

On many occasions, Eugene beats his wife and children when his wife Beatrice fails to obey his orders. Eugene resorts to violence as a punitive measure, and Beatrice miscarriages as a result. When his children share a room with a heathen, they boiling water is poured on their feet.

The legitimate form of power Eugene wields (as head of the family and as a provider) heralds his will over his family. According to Foucault (1983) “… the mechanisms of power enables certain persons to exercise power over others.” It is with this in mind that one learns that Beatrice has become accustomed to her husband‘s violent behaviour, therefore, she remains stoic. Whenever a fight ensues between Eugene and his daughter Kambili, Beatrice pleads with her husband to stop. This is indicative of the glaring power structures in an institution such as marriage.

Through the relationship between Eugene, his wife, and children, Adichie examines the complicity between power and oppression. The employment of violence is a mechanism designed to help keep women ‘in place‘ and discourage them from challenging patriarchy. Eugene Achike‘s violent endeavours is a reflection of how some men as heads of families resort to violence in an attempt to enforce obedience from their families. Adichie puts forward an important theme of female education to raise women‘s consciousness and independence, a theme aptly expressed by many writers such Aidoo in Changes where Esi‘s economic self-sufficiency because of her education always allowed her to move away from her matrimonial home, when marriage became inimical to her human progress.

The Joys of Motherhood, novel by Buchi Emecheta (1979)

Emecheta provides an incisive yet alluring excavation on the theme of men and masculinity.

As she articulates, manhood in a traditional Ibo society is a privileged position. As a man you are entitled to polygamy and the man benefits through his wives’ labour. Consequentially, it becomes the man‘s responsibility to bear male heirs who will carry the family‘s bloodline. If a man is infertile, albeit concealed to protect him from public ridicule, his manhood is in question.

The more children a man has, the greater he has achieved and is extolled.

There are other privileges that are associated with this achievement, such as drinking palm wine and being installed at the peak of the social food chain. But according to Emecheta‘s writing, traditional culture evolves as a result of colonialism. Ultimately the main character, Nnaife, finds solitude in his progenies and feels like his wives have mistreated him. Emecheta’s book is an oblique to recognition of choice as an instrument to freedom.

Should you buy these books? Most certainly; not because they are insightful, but call for changing perceptions and seeing women as a powerful and human social group. These books, most importantly, birth a project of writing and righting women’s narratives.

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