Archive | February 2016

Terrorism among Africa’s business threats

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Terrorism ranks high among Africa’s business challenges, along with everyday regulatory and infrastructure shortcomings, a Cape Town summit on the continent’s economy heard this week.

Donald Kaberuka, a Rwandan economist and former head of the African Development Bank, told a gathering of investors, business and government leaders from across the world that fighting continental terrorism needed global support though.

In reference to rebel groups and religious extremists, Kaberuka said “well-armed non-state actors (are) destabilising African economies”.

“Africa is at war with non-state actors who want to take the continent… It’s not Africa’s war. It’s a global problem. We need to work together,” he said.

At a business dinner on Tuesday night (February 23), Kaberuka shared his views with delegates of the one-day Bloomberg Africa Business and Economic Summit at the Westin Hotel in Cape Town.

The summit is to be held on Wednesday (February 24) and was organised to “foster meaningful discussion and debate about the opportunities and challenges for investment and growth in Africa, for both foreign investors and African companies”.

Discussion topics would include “financial transparency, the advantages of mobile technology, capital access, Africa’s energy needs and infrastructure challenges (and) the future of Africa’s relationship with China”.

Kaberuka, who now works with the African Union’s Peace Fund, treaded between optimism and realism.

He said 25 years ago businesses were concerned about nationalisation of the African economy, said Kaberuka, but now the business risks were multifold.

This included whether Africa’s independent regulators were “independent in law and fact” as well as trying to do business “where there’s no power (electricity) or infrastructure”.

Kaberuka turned east and said China’s economy slowdown meant African countries needed now think about how “we make our countries ready to attract investors from China”.

He said also that it was a “misleading” story that China was a new colonial power in Africa, which in some quarters seems to have become a standard narrative of China-Africa relations.

Minister in president Jacob Zuma’s office, Jeff Radebe, was also a guest speaker at the pre-summit dinner.

Radebe pointed out the summit was taking place on the same day when finance minister Pravin Gordhan was set to deliver his budget speech in Parliament.

“Your meeting is held at a busy time in our political calendar,” said Radebe.

He did not hold back: “We are in a very difficult space as a country.”

Radebe said South Africa was experiencing a “very strained fiscal and social economic environment”. He mentioned the country’s “food security risk” as drought continued to affect farmers.

Radebe remained upbeat towards the end of his speech though.

“We are open for business… We remain confident and optimistic that in the medium to long-term we shall prosper,” he said.

Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille meanwhile marketed her city to summit delegates. She promoted the one-stop business desk in her office “so that any investor knows the first port of call is the office of the mayor”.

“We will take you through all the needs, office space and what’s available in Cape Town. All the information you would pay a consultant for is available for free in the office of the mayor,” said De Lille.

The mayor promoted Cape Town as a home for international businesses – “like Google” – and talked about the 750km long broadband laid out across the city “for our own needs and renting it out to stimulate competition”.

“Cape Town has a fundamental role to play in the Africa Rising agenda,” said De Lille.

“We understand what business needs from government. I need to make sure this city is conducive to business.”

Bloomberg, a global business information provider, said this summit formed part of its ongoing US-Africa Business Forum gatherings.

It said the last meeting, held in Washington D.C. in 2014, “convened nearly 50 heads of state and government and more than 300 global CEOs, demonstrating the enormous interest in the growing African markets for U.S. investors and companies”.

Rugby tournament on hold over student protests

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Fears that student protesters could disrupt Varsity Cup rugby matches have led the annual tournament’s organisers to call off next week’s events at universities countrywide.

The matches would have been played on Monday at the University of Cape Town (UCT) as well as universities in Johannesburg, Bloemfontein and Potchefstroom.

Varsity Cup chief executive Duitser Bosman said they cancelled the matches after rugby fans beat up student protesters who took to the field at a match at the University of the Free State on Monday this week.

“We do not condone any form of violence, discrimination or disruptive behaviour. The safety of students, players and spectators is of immense priority to us,” said Bosman.

“The current challenges facing universities and students are a concern. We have compassion and respect for the situation and hope that amicable solutions can be reached with all parties.”

Students protests against university fee increases and outsourcing of campus labour launched late last year have continued when the new academic year started.

Postponing next week’s Varsity Cup matches was meant to “allow universities across the country the opportunity to address various challenges faced at their respective campuses”.

Bosman said the inter-varsity rugby tournament has been running for the past nine years and has “brought together students, spectators and aspiring rugby stars from all communities”.

UCT spokeswoman Pat Lucas said their rugby team would have played against the University of Pretoria on Monday.

“Both UCT and the Varsity Cup organisers took safety and security into consideration in light of what transpired at another Varsity Cup match earlier this week,” said Lucas.

“UCT also took the decision to allow space for students and staff to reflect on the current issues in the higher education sector.”

The University of Pretoria was yesterday meanwhile still closed following violent confrontations between black and white students as matters took on a racial overtone.

Former Afrikaans universities have been blamed for being unaccommodating to students of colour, leading to protests against Afrikaans-language instruction.

Stellenbosch University yesterday referred any queries to Varsity Cup organisers while the University of the Western Cape (UWC) condemned “racist statements and hate speech on campus”.

The university’s spokesman Luthando Tyhalibongo shared pictures with the media of hate speech against white South Africans spray-painted on campus walls.

“UWC is disgusted at the racist statements and hate speech that have been discovered all over campus this morning. We condemn these cowardly acts committed under the cover of darkness,” said Tyhalibongo.

“We are an intellectual home for students from diverse backgrounds, race and gender. Any attempt to threaten our unity, by inciting division of our students and staff along racial lines will not be tolerated.

“We are investigating this matter and once the culprits are identified appropriate action will be taken against them.”

UWC’s director of Sport, Mandla Gagayi, said they were cautious that “what happened in Bloemfontein can happen anywhere”.

He said UWC has already hosted a Varsity Cup match and has played two others elsewhere in the country since the tournament started a few weeks ago.

“This tournament is very important and sport has always played a role of bringing everyone together. We have done that successfully,” said Gagayi.

“Our matches have not been disrupted. This university won’t panic and fill the stadium with security guards. We may have concerns but we don’t want to make the stadium look like a military base.”

A joint statement from various vice-chancellors at universities countrywide condemned the “nature and form of disruptive protests and escalating violence at some of our institutions”.

“It appears that these violent acts are being planned and committed by groups and individuals with a singular intent, to deliberately disrupt and destabilise our universities through intimidation and violence,” read the statement.

“We cannot condone some of the methods used during several of these protest actions. We particularly condemn all acts of violence, criminal acts, damage to property and behaviour that impinges on the constitutional rights of others.”

The Nelson Mandela Foundation yesterday said it would step in to assist students and resolve the current crisis.

It said a “group of like-minded active citizens have joined forces to offer independent mediation, conflict resolution and facilitation services to the universities and student movements that request it”.

“This help will be provided under the name #AccessThuto, meaning “access education”,” it said.

“We are at a crisis point and have to act now.”

#AccessThuto would be led by former Constitutional Court Justice Yvonne Mokgoro and the foundation’s chief executive Sello Hatang. Neeshan Balton, chief executive of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, would also be among its leadership.

“#AccessThuto will seek to listen to students, academic staff and management at universities to help neutralise the conflict currently experienced at universities,” read the statement.

“It will use a network of organisations and individuals to provide professional, independent and non-partisan help to the university community as it grapples with difficult issues of transformation.”

Cape Town teenager almost trapped as sex slave

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Desperate for a job, a Cape Town teenager almost ended up trapped as a sex slave were it not for a local non-profit that yesterday prevented her from boarding a flight to Johannesburg.

The 19-year-old girl from Garden Village in Maitland suburb was convinced not to board a Kulula flight when the Activist Networking against the Exploitation of Children (Anex) talked to her at the airline’s check-in counter.

Anex director Claudia Smit said the girl’s mother phoned the organisation on Thursday night and she immediately spotted the tell-tale signs of human trafficking. The latter was only last year recognised as a crime in South Africa.

Weekend Argus yesterday interviewed the girl’s mother who remains worried for her daughter’s safety.

The mother did not want to be publicly named to protect her daughter’s identity.

“My daughter went onto some job website. She was then talking about going to Johannesburg. I thought she would go to visit our family there,” said the mother.

“But then she told me she was going to work there. But I thought how could that be possible as she has no work experience.

“I then got a call from my cousin in Johannesburg, saying that my daughter contacted them for a place to stay because she was going to work there. She didn’t give them the company’s name or anything.

“She only told my cousin’s daughter that she has been liasing with this man. I tried to ask her where she was going and where she was going to work.”

The teen’s mother said she found out from her daughter’s friend that the supposed job would entail modelling.

“Her friend told me they tried to convince her not to go. Her friend said it was going to be a modelling job. She would sell cellphones for two weeks and then start with modelling,” said the mother.

“I told my daughter it doesn’t sound right. She said she doesn’t have enough information but she would sign a contract in Johannesburg.

“I said to her you can’t sign a contact just like that. But she said this guy told her it’s really an opportunity for her. But I felt my child’s life was at risk.”

The mother then went to a local police station to get help. Police officers put her in contact with Anex.

“I went to the police station and spoke to them. They said this does not sound right and I shouldn’t leave it,” said the mother.

“I wanted to know who my child would be working for. Her safety is important to me. But I felt that I was walking into a wall and I could not see my child. I needed help.”

Smit said the teen was being trafficked, which means she was being “recruited, transported and exploited”.

“She was deceived. She made contact with the recruiter on social media, who then contacted her on WhatsApp. They asked her about her qualifications. She told them she is 19 and only has Grade nine.

“She dropped out of school four years ago as her mom, a single parent, was diagnosed with cancer. She told them she does not have work experience.

“She asked if she has to send a CV but they said she only needed to send three colour photos.”

Smit said the teen was in contact with a man who asked her if she could afford the flight to Johannesburg and she said no.

“She said in the WhatsApp message, ‘I am desperate for an income’. The man told her they would pay for her flight and a taxi to the airport (in Cape Town). He said someone would pick her up in Johannesburg,” said Smit.

Smit and the teen’s mother obtained a copy of the flight information the recruiter sent via WhatsApp, which Weekend Argus also has copy of.

Smit said: “When I got her this morning she was checking in at Kulula (airline). I asked her, ‘Can I have five minutes of your time?’ I told her that her mother phoned me in a state.

“I then got the number of the recruiter and phoned him. He said that she would be an online consultant. I said he needed to explain how he recruited someone from Cape Town with no job contract.

“I said this sounds like human trafficking. I said to him that she would come there and be indebted to them for the air ticket. I said, ‘What if she does not do what you want to do?’ He said they would put her on the next flight to Cape Town.”

Smit said the man eventually confirmed they recruited sex workers and that a reputable organisation that “would offer training” to their employees.

“He said they will get an organisation to train the girls for them. He said some of the girls come from the street and some don’t know what to do,” said Smit.

“This company hosts online webcam chats of an adult nature. They fully deceived this young woman. The naivety on her face was evident.

“The thing that got me immediately when I met the mother and daughter was that this is a family that needs money. This girl thought this was going to be a breakthrough for a better life.”

Smit said the matter had been reported to the Hawks for investigation.

Weekend Argus yesterday spoke to a Hawks official who referred the matter to a spokesperson who did not respond to queries.

The teen’s mother said her daughter was “still convinced this would have been a job for her”.

“She doesn’t believe me. She doesn’t want to listen to me,” said the mother.

“She has been looking for work because I’m a single mother and have another younger child to also take care of. I’m struggling financially.”

The mother said she was now scared the recruiter could come hunting for her daughter.

“This guy has paid for her flight and I fear for her life. I am afraid they might come for her or send people (after her). I want her to go for counselling,” said the mother.

Smit said there was currently 33 human trafficking cases in courts around the country. She said in January their toll-free hotline, the only one in the country, received five “definite calls of suspected trafficking cases”.

“Traffickers are using social media. Most of the people (recruited) are vulnerable and they are promised the moon and stars,” said Smit.

Patric Solomons, director of Cape Town-based child rights group Molo Songlolo, said most trafficking cases countrywide were for sexual exploitation. The organisation runs programmes to raise awareness about human trafficking.

“People still respond to too-good-to-be-true offers in adverts and social media. People are desperate and vulnerable because of poverty,” said Solomons.

“There are unscrupulous individuals who will play on that and exploit it.”

Cape Town filmmaker zooms in on Afrikaans market

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

When Cape Town-born film director Maynard Kraak set up his own production company a few years ago, he wanted to make financially successful films and that meant he needed to capitalise on the Afrikaans market.

“Afrikaans films are making money,” says Kraak, originally from Penlyn Estate near Rylands suburb.

The catch is that Kraak, who defines himself as coloured, is making films for a predominantly white Afrikaner market that he wasn’t too familiar with initially.

“It’s not the easiest challenge to be English-speaking and coloured and make films for white Afrikaners. I had to get out of my comfort zone,” says Kraak.

“I am not part of the establishment and I have to make something for that audience.”

And while his last two films have raked in millions at the box office, Kraak still has to also deal with uncomfortable questions while navigating his way through the Afrikaans market and funding meetings.

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Cape Town filmmaker Maynard Kraak wants to make commercially successful films. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

“People see my name and assume that I’m white. One guy that I had a meeting with asked me if I’m Portuguese. At another meeting I was asked, ‘How coloured are you?’” says Kraak.

“I deal with people on a high level. I speak English and I don’t mix my languages. I don’t fit the coloured stereotype. But some of the people that I meet with have a mental block.

“They think in stereotypes. It’s the whole system. This is what you have to deal with. And you have to eat that elephant one bit at a time.”

Kraak’s success speaks for itself in Rand value though. His company West Five Films has produced four feature films. He has directed two of these films, including Sonskyn Beperk, opening in cinemas nationwide on March 11.

Kraak says Sonskyn Beperk is a romantic comedy-drama set on a farm just outside Cape Town.

“It’s the story of an Afrikaans young woman who returns to South Africa to her widower dad’s farm at a time of recession. She works on Wall Street (the financial district in New York) and has been living the dream with her American boyfriend,” says Kraak.

“She then gets word from her dad’s best friend, who is also the farm manager, that the farm is struggling. She believes it’s her duty to come back, as the only child, to help save the farm.

“She is carrying around guilt as well because she was not there for her father when her mom passed away. Her father has slight resentment that she was not there.”
Kraak says a love triangle also ensues as her American boyfriend heads south to meet her.

Kraak is hoping for success with this film after his directorial feature debut in 2014, Vrou Soek Boer, earned R5,7-million at the box office.

The second film his company produced, Knysna, made just under R5-million.

Kraak’s preparation for the Afrikaans market came via a previous job at a production company that made Afrikaans films and TV soapies.

Before that, he had directed local TV soapies Generations and Scandal.

Now he wants to make films that won’t flop at the box office.

“We need to make films that will make money. If you look at cinemas around the country now they have local films and that needs to make money otherwise we won’t get distribution,” he emphasises.

Kraak doesn’t plan on making only Afrikaans-language films though.

His company’s fourth film, its first in English, is due for release in a few months.

Kraak says he plans to also make films that tell stories of coloured people – but without entrenched stereotypes.

“There is so little relevance given to coloured people on South African TV. And whenever we see colored people on screen, they are stock characters,” says Kraak.

“They are either gangsters, drug addicts, abusive and don’t have teeth. And they all speak Afrikaans. That’s how other people see coloureds. That’s the racial stereotypes that have been cemented over decades.”

He adds: “We are so economically, culturally and religiously diverse as coloureds. We all grow up together in each other’s homes and we learn to be so tolerant of everybody. We find humour in difficult circumstances.

“I am going to make a film about coloured people. But these won’t be films that are called coloured films. It will be films that everyone can watch.

“I don’t want to be known as a coloured filmmaker. All these white filmmakers make films for people who are not white and they aren’t categorised. As soon as we make films for coloureds or blacks then we are pigeon holed.”

Given his track record of interesting career shifts, it is clear Kraak won’t be squeezed into boxes. He joined the navy when he left school because he “didn’t know what to do with my life” and “loved the idea of adventure”.

“After that I was a police detective, living character in my own movie. It’s a really tough job with pathetic wages, and risking your life all the time,” says Kraak.

“I was in the trenches. And I said no, this wasn’t what I wanted to do with my whole life. I then went to study drama and ended up directing.

“When I finished my first year of drama, I decided that I wanted to go to film school. I went to the United States and came back home via the United Kingdom where I studied film.”