27 March 2008

B, wannabe V- overlooking Old Bailey

A few weeks ago my firm hosted a charity abseil and we raised over £73,800 for the Safer London Foundation- www.saferlondonfoundation.org

Those of us that volunteered to do the abseil were allowed to dress up as any super hero that we wanted. Guess what I choose!

VoilĂ ! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant and vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a bygone vexation stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition! The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it's my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V.

I stood atop the building, dressed as an anarchist, in the V costume- there in the distance was the Old Bailey. I could almost here Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture as I stood there, making such a strong but hardly understood statement:)

"Remember, remember, the Fifth of November."

The truth is that there is
something terribly wrong with this
country, isn't there? If you look
about, you witness cruelty,
injustice and despotism. But what
do you do about it? What can you
do?

You are but a single individual.
How can you possible make any
difference? Individuals have no
power in this modern world.
That is what you've been taught
because that is what they need you
to believe. But it is not true.





This is why they are afraid and the
reason that I am here; to remind
you that it is individuals who
always hold the power. The real
power. Individuals like me. And
individuals like you.





19 March 2008

To all South African Pessimists

Below you will find a speech from the headmaster of St Stithians, Dave Knowles which he recently delivered to his boys.

Happy reading!

"I wanted to spend some time with you today reflecting on the last two or three months we have experienced as a nation. Some commentators have called this the "post-Polokwane Syndrome", after the events at the ANC National Conference in December, the outcome of which many have seen as negative.

Added to this negative feeling, has been the electricity crisis, now seen as a result of poor planning by the state and acknowledged as such by President Mbeki in his State of the Nation address in Parliament, where he apologised to the nation.

Also knocking us have been higher world oil prices; higher interest rates in SA and the start of a world wide recession, particularly in the UK and the US with their major housing crisis. Added to these have been the on-going crime situation and negative press articles.

So, it is quite easy to fall into the trap of feeling and thinking negatively about our country.

I have never regretted that decision.

Why not? Not just because South Africa is such a beautiful country – it was because I believed in the people of this country and I believed that God had a plan for us. This was proved right for me when the miracle of 1994 happened. And it was a miracle.

All of you sitting here, matrics and younger, were born either in the year Madiba was released, in 1990, or afterwards. And most of our Grade 8s are "born-frees" – born in 1994 or afterwards and what a privilege that is!

As a passionate South African, here's what gets me mad:

· The levels of violence and crime that have touched many of us – and many of you sitting here.
· As an adult, on behalf of all adults, I believe that we need to apologise to our youth for not doing more to protect you.
· I get mad when I visit black schools and see how little they have and how poor some of the teaching is.
· I get mad that there is still massive poverty in our country and an Aids pandemic.
· I get mad that there are some instances of incompetence when it comes to areas of social and service delivery.

But being mad about these issues doesn't make me any less passionate about South Africa.

I especially get mad that some of our leaders lack moral standing – whether they be a judge, the top policeman or the top politicians.

In 1998, interest rates hit 25%.

Are we better off now? – in a lot of ways we are.

· 1980s – 1% growth
· Early 1990s – SA was technically bankrupt – defined as when national debt is more than 3% of GDP – in 1994, it was 9%.
· During the Mandela years, we had 2% economic growth
· For the last seven years – 5%!
· Next year – 4% - despite world wide recession, oil prices, electricity crisis.
· JSE – 2001 – 8000 points and everyone was pleased; 2007 – 30 000 points (although it has lost some growth now)
· Platinum – up R5000/ounce since January
· Here's a thought – with cuts of electricity, less platinum comes out of ground but what's left is not going anywhere and while it stays in the ground, the price goes up!

What else is up?

· Business confidence (until January)
· Employment is up
· Number of houses built – up
· Tourists visiting – up
· Car sales:

20 000 per month in 2001 – everyone was pleased!
30 000 per month in 2007

Look at our budget, announced by Trevor Manuel on Wednesday. Tax income has gone from R188bn in 2000, to R660bn in 2007!

At the same time, he has cut personal tax and has not borrowed any money. The Americans are so envious of us.

Individual tax cuts - i.e. money given back to tax payers
2006 R12bn given back to individuals
2007 R8.4bn given back to individuals
2008 R7.2bn – in a supposed-to-be recession
This is a major achievement, particularly as in 2000, there was a R25bn deficit on the budget and for the last three years we have not had a deficit on the budget.

Money for housing for the poor has gone up
2000 R9bn
2007 R51bn
And we have built 2.6 million houses since 1996.

Yes, we have challenges:

Eskom is one of them and there is now a 2c levy on every kilowatt hour. But think about this

· Electricity was cheap, now we are paying more
· We had electricity cuts before. In 1981, there was no power in the whole country for 18 hours
· We are not the only country to have power cuts – New York; China – over Chinese New Year this year – 12 million people were left stranded.

There are other challenges

· The world oil price has gone from $60 per barrel in 2007 to $90 now and it is not coming down.
· We may be heading for a situation like the UK where they pay R15 per litre.
· HIV/Aids is another major concern, as we see fit to spend R17bn on the World Cup but less on handling this pandemic.

So what am I saying?

Yes there are concerns and challenges BUT there are also many positives.
There are no easy answers or solutions and 2008 will be tough.
However, we have had it tough before and we handled it and boom years will come again – such as in 2010.

Finally, here is my resolve and my truth:-

· To be positive
· To stop whingeing
· To stop blaming
· To ignore the doomsday jokes sent out by people who want you to feel as bad as they do.
· To read the Good News website regularly
· To join the "stop crime, say hello" campaign
· To find goodness in people
· To commit, regularly, to this beautiful country of ours
· To believe in God's plan for us

I know this – that if I do not work to create the life I want, I will have to endure the life I get.

One final thought:

Matthew Lester writes a column in the Sunday Times Business Times Money. He is Professor of Tax Education at Rhodes University and an advisor to Trevor Manuel.

Yesterday he had this to say:

"South Africa is my life, it always has been and it always will be."

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Some interesting thoughts. Have any opinions on this? Share them

10 March 2008

Facebook Charity Groups: Join Now!

If you haven't heard of Facebook yet, any young person (and even some of our elders!) will be able to show you how to navigate your way through its simple, easy-to-use interface. Facebook is not only having an entertaining role, but it also has a charity and developmental one.

Charity Role
Facebook was launched in 2004 as a university project. Membership was initially restricted to university students only, but slowly the doors were opened to high-school students. University students started inviting those that they liked and thus inevitably made Facebook "the cool university thing"!

With its very public profiles and the famous Facebook wall that seems to host the most private conversations publicly, what is most significant is the obvious influence of Facebook upon Muslim youth? Prophet Muhammad is reported to have stressed the importance of modesty for a believer, and this is probably the most obvious hurdle when navigating a social-networking tool, which has the innate ability to allow one to show off!

But can this tool that may obviously be used for bad be used for good as well? Mohammed Ziyaad Hassen, a young man from South Africa, an active member of the community and has been working in development, charity, and youth work for many years, said that Facebook allows various youth to create awareness around pertinent issues that face their societies.

He has been contacted by many people regarding projects and initiatives they wanted to get involved in or needed more information about. "Many times, even though people are not directly getting involved, they are still notified and informed of community activities or projects that take place," added Hassen.

Islamic Relief Groups
Islamic Relief Worldwide is an international relief and development organization. A search on Facebook yields many Facebook groups for the different Islamic Relief offices all over the world.

The Islamic Relief US group reminds us of their mission: To alleviate suffering, hunger, illiteracy, and diseases worldwide regardless of color, race, religion, or creed, and to provide aid in a compassionate and dignified manner. In fact, Islamic Relief groups with growing youth memberships, whether in South Africa, all over the UK, the US, and other places .

The Islamic Relief South Africa group, set up by country director Cassiem Khan, is geared toward creating dialogue and advocacy around the issues that face not only Muslim youth in South Africa, but also broader issues such as the role of communities in the development perspective.

Hassen, who works with Islamic Relief - South Africa, recently returned from a relief mission to Mozambique, following recent floods in the area. They distributed emergency relief kits to a community on a remote island in northern Mozambique. The community living on the island are isolated from the rest of society and any viable economy.

Hassen has loaded pictures of his trip and documented an account of his experiences on the
Islamic Relief - South Africa Facebook group. says that after posting the pictureson Facebook, the response that he received was fascinating.

He added, "Many friends whom I thought had no interest in relief or development now expressed interest. Many others sent messages asking about the trip. It shows that the younger generations just need to be more exposed to the issues that contribute to poverty and the lack of development."

Benefits
As a social-networking utility, Facebook allows communication and interaction to take place on a virtual platform. An increasing amount of young professionals and youth are able to network and share ideas, thoughts, and opportunities.Many non-profit organizations, like Islamic Relief, are active with groups and causes, which is great as it allows one to receive information and updates about activities and projects undertaken.

Facebook can and has proven to be an effective tool for reaching out to future generations. A difference can be made as it transcends space and creates a platform that did not previously exist.
The challenge for the youth is to use Facebook in a way that benefits rather than allowing it to consume precious time. It is a superb opportunity for Muslim youth around the world to discuss ideas and projects in order to develop society.

So go on, next time Hassen or someone else sends you an invite to join some community project or attend an event, at least forward the invites to all your Facebook friends, even those you don't even know!

This first appeared on IslamOnLine.net