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A philanthropic spirit encompassed with an entrepreneurial mind, I am passionate about technology and the things technology can help people to achieve.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Burden of Freebies: Why Fees Must Not Fall

I have been following keenly the #FeesMustFall debate and later saw how the #TakeBackWits tried to rise but was threatened with physical harm and could not gain traction. I remember the Fees Must Fall gang canvassed for our pity when police descended heavily on them citing their right to freedom of expression. While we do not condone the police action, we must juxtapose it with their own reaction to the Take Back Wits campaign. I believe in “we must do to others as we would want done unto us” adage. This intolerance is worthy of another piece altogether but today I see to explore the Fees Must Fall to zero movement. I had a discussion with a Zimbabwean brother Mdu via Twitter, his question was “but how did Zimbabwe achieve free tertiary education for all?” I was at pains to prove that Zimbabwe at no time achieved the utopian of free tertiary education. But telling someone that this was never achieved in 140 characters will take the whole day. I was reminded of the inadequacy of Twitter to engage in meaningful debates, that thing of naming tweets 1 of 20 defeats the purpose I was not willing to expend energy on that so I wrote this blog post.

TANSTAAFL Teaches a Lot

To answer my friend Mdu I would have resort to TANSTAAFL and it looks right for Twitter as it’s only an acronym but it takes a lot of jaw jaw to explain it fully. This acronym simply means “There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch” and put simply if you someone gives you a freebie then you can be sure it was not produced magically, though it lands in your hands for free, someone somewhere had to part with something to make it possible. From this we can see that university facilities will not be provided magically, someone has to pay for it. So immediately students of the #FeesMustFall movement should think of how to name their campaign properly to reflect what they intend to achieve, something like #WhoMustPayFees” would be more respectful. One might say, “what’s in a name?” but it can help calibrate the minds of everyone to think right about this situation. It will force the students to find a target for their campaign. If indeed these people are university students then we should not be content watching them throw 3 year old tantrums, no, they are mature and should be capable of writing research papers. So there is no need to treat them with kid gloves, they should not be allowed to wave placards but each one must go and write a research paper for 2016 academic year. The research becomes part of their coursework for the year and determine if they will return to university in 2017 or qualify for free education. The research paper must address the following succinctly:

1. Who Must Pay for University?
2. How much will it cost for all University?
3. What will happen to students who get it free and drop out, fail (nothing is not acceptable)?
4. How will those who fail to attend lectures religiously be treated?
5. How are other countries achieving the same result you seek?
6. How did these countries reach this utopia?

So with the above the 2016 academic year will close on happy note. My former manager Larissa spoke one sentence that has stuck with me and made me a better person. She said “it’s not enough to point out a problem in our organization to me, you must bring along a solution”. So the university students have brought a problem, they must bring the solutions that are good enough.

The Equation Cannot Resolve to “Government”

In the “who must pay” question I see many lining the argument that government must pay. I have listened to one PhD candidate quip, “if government can afford R240 million for Zuma’s house they have enough money to provide free tertiary education. Now I have had debates with people with PhD, recently an older man whom I asked for evidence to support his case, he retorted “do you know who I am? Do you know I have a PhD!” There was no evidence for his lame statement. That day I asked myself the meaning of PhD, I reasoned maybe it means “PlaceHoDer” that is a place holder for where sense of reason used to reside. I felt powerless to debate with this lady how Zuma’s R240 million once off cannot be compared to billions of Rand recurring expenditure with an inflation adjustment. With recollection I reminded myself it might end like “do you know I hold a Master’s degree? Do you know I am a PhD candidate?” But the question of who must pay cannot have a result that points to government. This is the illusion most of the proponents of Fees Must Fall suffer from. There is an ignorant belief that government has money. No, government has R0 to its name, all it has are debts, money borrowed from the tax payers on their pay cheques and profits. When you are a school you understand that a child does not afford school fees but yet sell the child an education anyway knowing the consumer is the child and the customer is the parent. So in the case government is the child and workers are the parents.

Fees Falling Means Taxes Rising

What the students and those who support them are advocating for is a rise in taxes or at the least a shifting of how taxes are spent. So the placard waving students must go back to their parents and say mum and dad, we want to increase your taxes so we can have free university education. This presents a problem for the parents i.e. the burden of being overtaxed. South African workers are in the top 40 list of highest personal tax, on the other hand the dependency ratio is among the highest in the world, unsustainable for a developing nation. It will take small contractions in the economy to choke expenditure on vital projects like Infrastructure development channelling it to welfare payments of which the R0 fees will become a part. South Africans do not have to look far for a case study, Zimbabwe’s receipts are being gobbled by civil service pay at more than 90%. Social grants and free education are static and not easy to cut with falling revenue so it the capital forming initiatives that will suffer yet these are the activities that create employment for the same students.

I have seen those for Take Back Wits being attacked for being privileged whites but this is just an emotional allegation. These are people who appreciate the economic costs of fees falling, children who have grown up seeing how their parents being taxed heavily. They appreciate how economics work at a personal level. Chances are those who are baying for freebies are children of those who are not taxed heavily so they do not appreciate where the burden of tax falls. They are likely immature children who will one day fall behind the former in life as they will take long to appreciate the working of money. To give you an example I take the bus with one white boy studying at Wits, he is always dressed modestly and probably falls into the Take Back Wits crowd. I have never seen him wearing Nike, Adidas SuperStar, Lacoste, All Stars or Levi’s just this past Friday he was wearing those Tommy takkies which are mostly worn by women. It was then that it hit me, the students pictured baying for freebies were wearing All Stars, Adidas, Nike and other expensive brands. I am a working parent and I have never afforded All Start or Nike so I look at these students and wonder who bought them these expensive kicks. Adding the cost of their wardrobe could come to a total of R30,000 and that amount is 75% of module costs for degree with Unisa.

Conclusion

So this whole fees issue needs cool heads, people who are willing to scratch beyond the surface and address the real issues. Leaning on Jacob Zuma’s government errors cannot be enough reason to sink the country into recurring expenditure running into billions. There are many children in basic education who have not enough resources for them to make it to Matric who just need something to make gainfully employment. For these university is a pie in the sky, a luxury still far from their dreams. The South African government might also need to review the entry requirements into university because if you are getting the calibre of people who burn university facilities then you might have set the bar too low to allow the riff-raffs in. 

As an aspiring entrepreneur it makes me quiver to imagine these same students might one day rock up at my company and want a job, God forbid if I delay their pay by one day they might burn the company down in protest. As I watched these protests I thought to myself I would be dumb to easily employ students from these institutions. Recruitment then will have to become thorough scanning people’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to see where their allegiance was during these days of mayhem and tell them “you were part of those who destroyed property, sorry no job for you”. 

South Africa as a nation has not developed to the point of providing free university education, one needs to look at the majority who cannot afford healthcare or basic education. The university students are better off becoming resourceful like those at Stanford or Harvard, who earn themselves and institutions money through innovation. How much technology gaps are found in Africa? How much expertise is required to study the effects of things like HIV/Aids or Ebola? How many primary or secondary students are in need of help with maths or science? All these are avenues university students can solve problems while taking care of their own need for education. What was that verse in the bible again, “give and it shall be given back to you good measure…..” There is a lot of work to be done by everyone to raise South Africa to the level of Germany generating enough money to have enough for things like paying universities to provide free education. Without this sweat and grit South Africa will be dragged to the hell bottom that many African countries find themselves. In future universities might need to use understanding of economics, business management and accounting as pre-requisites to any university entry.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Looking into the #DataMustFall Campaign: Will Consumers Win?

In the early morning I opened my Facebook to see if there is anything fresh going and my sleepy eyes were attracted to a headline on 702 page screaming “are you for or against #datamustfall campaign?” I zoomed into the comments section and all I could see were disgruntled consumers. It was clear that many were in a vicious circle moving between networks like a dog chasing its own tail. The disgruntlement has been targeted at the mobile network companies but as I began to digest the whole situation I realized there was a lot of ignorance at play. In this blog post I am going to highlight some of the things consumers are not aware of showing that it’s not only the networks who are responsible but also the consumers have acted against their self-interests too.

It’s a Catch22 Situation for Consumers


Consumers want cheap data and cite that it is too expensive. But unbeknown to consumers data can be cheap and remain expensive. I know that sounds like a messed up oxymoron but let me explain. The mobile service providers can charge in monetary terms or in usage terms. If they are put under immense pressure, they will likely cut the price and raise the usage. Here is an example:

Sipho pays R500 for 2GB of data from Vodacom translating to R250 per GB. For this data Sipho is able to use internet (facebook, Google, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat etc) for the whole month. With enough complaints via #datamustfall Vodacom agrees to reduce the price of data by 50% to R250 for the 2GB. As expected, Sipho is very ecstatic about this price reduction and looks forward to saving R250. But halfway through the month he realizes that his 2GB is finished. Sipho now has to spend the saved R250 to finish the month. What happened is that Vodacom reduced the price (what Sipho pays) and at the same time increased the data taken for connecting. For example where Sipho previously used 1MB to open Twitter, Vodacom sets that usage 2MB, so the data rate has effectively double. The difference is the same, Sipho is not bettered because the mobile service provider holds all the aces. This is a catch22 situation which consumers can find themselves in.

Image Illustration by Runyamhere

The Consumer is Blameworthy


This might shock many consumers but it’s true, the consumers have put themselves in harm’s way by the choices they make. Of course many will say they were ignorant of the obtaining situation but as they say “ignorance is no defence at law”. The majority of consumers now use Android phones to connect. This was a choice they made without coercion by any network operator. Android is software found on Samsung, Sony, HTC, Huawei, some BlackBerry models and many other models. Android is owned by Google and an open source software which anyone can use. Google is in the business of selling information and that through targeted adverts, they provide mapping information, traffic data et al. To achieve this feat of getting real-time data, they look at all the phones using Android and ask the phones for information, so Android phones are constantly being tracked or sending information to Google servers on their location.

Google probably knows where you work, where you stay, how long you stayed there, how you get to work, what time you get to work, where you do shopping during month end, which websites you visit, which music you enjoy listening to, the people you call the most, the kind of things you are searching, possibly your state of health too. For your phone to communicate this information it takes data usage especially location tracking. It is likely that when you are using the internet that is when information will also be relayed at higher frequency to Google servers. But we also know that if you leave an Android phone idle you will find data depleted even though no one was using it. So the Android situation is where consumers traded saving for fancy operating system, they made decision that harm their self-interest. Many Android users switch off data when phone is idle to prevent this data loss. Of course we are at a point where the alternative to Android is iOS of Apple. It comes with its own evils which doesn’t make it any better. The mobile OS market was healthy when it was Nokia, Bada, BlackBerry, Microsoft and others. Now it is a two horse race, consumers are like United States voters now, having to choose the lesser of the two evil (Trump vs Clinton). Who will consumers blame for their wrong choices?


Conclusion


I do not see a way out for consumers, as applications like WhatsApp chew into the mobile networks’ voice revenue, they will look to recover from somewhere and data is increasingly the choice. MTN did try to have government look at the WhatsApp calling situation and consumers pushed back in anger. WhatsApp used to be cheap on data charges, 20MB was enough to send plain texts without downloads or uploads of media files. It is no longer the same. So as I read the fury towards mobile networks, I wonder what other choices humans are going to make against their own self-interests. Facebook is coming with its carrot of free basics, its founder was recently in Africa and showed keen interest in mobile money, are we about to say goodbye to the banking sector as we know it? One thing is certain, out of ignorance the consumers will find themselves in a corner being enslaved by big corporations. For now I will hold onto my BlackBerries, at least I know if I go to sleep it also goes to sleep and it will protect my data against fishing data hungry corporates. The consumers participating in #datamustfall must also take time to engage in #ignorancemustfall so they do not harm themselves in other choices they will make like being gluttonous has led to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) that is a topic for another day.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Civilians Tips To Counter ZANUPF Rogue Police



Over the past few weeks I have Zimbabweans hold protests, something which was the preserve of a few hard core citizens. For a while ZANUPF regime was happy to respect the citizens’ right to demonstrate. We have seen police stand and watch as people went about their demonstrations until paranoia hit those thieving bastards who have molested our nation without Vaseline. Crime can make people into real devils, the idea of a free Zimbabwe quickly pushed the regime to regroup and think of a different strategy. They threw the constitution and the legal framework out of the window, they are prepared to die for their sins than face justice. But the likes of Robert Mugabe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, Jonathan Moyo, Augustine Chihuri, Constantine Chiwenga never realize they have children and grandchildren who one day soon will have to choose to be Zimbabweans or run away. They will have to live with the fact of losing all assets gained through underhand means. Sain Abacha’s sins are still being revisited long after he has gone. But the devil hardens whom he wants to destroy, they are men and women possessed with the worst kind of demons. So what is really happening?


THE POLICE ARE STILL PATRIOTIC, REGIME HAS PARALLEL FORCES

I was analyzing recent pictures of the anti-riot police who beat up citizens at the Bond Notes demonstration. Almost all had brand new uniform and gear and this was interesting. Someone said they were all new recruits but I believe they have been long in the system. What we are witnessing is Mugabe regime building its own niches of police and army as they see real police get weary of the suffering. Those people in police uniform are likely soldiers who were given police uniform. But they are also not just ordinary soldiers but are most likely drawn from Mugabe’s privately trained 5th Brigade. Yes the same people who went on a reign of terror in Matabeleland, they are easy to use for such shenanigans because they stand to lose a lot if Gukurahundi is revisited. Mugabe’s reluctance to open Gukurahundi and let the case rest is because he kept these soldiers for a time like now. Had they been put before a commission and absolved or tried, Mugabe & his coterie would have no one to defend them right now. Yes this is why Mugabe refused to have his people caught in corruption stand trial, think of all the commission he is sitting on.

All the people implicated are available to be used when the time and conditions are right. Robert Mugabe is a great thinker but his mind is fashioned after the devil, its brilliance cannot advance humanity but is regressive. So giving flowers to 5th Brigade is not going to make them see reason, they have murder to defend. If one is to analyse the situations one can easily see that there is different sets of police reacting to protests. Jenny Williams of WOZA mentioned how police urged them to move so they will not harm them. Is this the same police who pounced on bond notes protesters, one would be foolish to think this is so. The Zimbabwe government is one skewed organisation, among all level of civil servants there are elites and the ordinary, even in CIO there are some who are paid ridiculous salaries while others barely survive.

SO WHAT IS UNARMED CIVILIANS TO DO?


Giving flowers or any gift is not going to sway these bloodhounds from their allegiance to Mugabe. We need a different tactic of engagement. Zimbabweans are educated but have also very individualistic, a trait fed by Mugabe. To win we must use the power of cooperation, just because people are crowded together does not mean they are cooperating. Running in ten directions when attacked is not strength but weakness. If you ever watched how sardine protect themselves against sharks, dolphins and garnets you will know they form a tight knit ball as a defence mechanism. I propose the following mechanisms for citizens to protect themselves, of course these measures are 100% civilian strategy.

1. GO PRO WITH TECHNOLOGY


One of ZANUPF regime’s weakness is adoption of technology. All they know is brute force as a response to protests. I saw Tendai Biti asking for evidence of the police who took part in the beating up of civilians to begin prosecution. I doubt there will be any coming forth because nobody has high resolution pictures. There is a lot of technology to take high resolution pictures even from a longer distance. We need to incorporate such technology into our everyday lives and be always on guard. When you see a police convoy leaving their base for an attack, document it, picture it, film it even discreetly. Alert other citizens who are protesting. An overhead picture by Tsvangirai Mukwazhi was good now imagine there are 20 from 360 degree angles, you have a record that can be analysed once uploaded to the internet, even microphones are important to record voices. There are many patriotic members of the police force and they easily pick out their fellows or members of the public. We can create a database of police who partook in brutality because in Shona we say “mhosva hairovi (a crime does not expire before justice)”. This database will also act as a deterrent to those who would partake in brutality. If we can identify soldiers in police uniform it will be even better. We must make it harder for police and solders to wantonly beat up civilians.

https://d.ibtimes.co.uk/en/full/1542793/zimbabwe-police-brutality.png?w=368
"If we cannot force the Politicians to change then we must inspire the Citizens to be bold" - Evan Mawarire  


2. FORM A "BAIT BALL"



Sardine is a small fish but is famous for the bait ball that they form in a school as a last line of defence. As people we should be able to employ a similar tactic. When attacked by the rogue police instead of running in a thousand directions people should run in 4 or 5 distinct directions. This will give the police a choice to split up and go in different directions weakening the unit. If it was 50 police officers they now have to split into small units of 12 which is smaller number to threaten many civilians. This is what sardines do then regroup into one unit again. Police come organised in how they will attack civilians, if they are vulnerable they will not attack.

3. ORGANISE, ORGANISE, ORGANISE 


I have written it three times to emphasize the importance of organisation. Put simply people must approach protests with organisation. We are wiser than termites but why then fail to implement the measures we see in these small creatures? When its summer the termites fly out, on their mound you find the big horned soldiers in front with the small soldiers behind and in the middle will be the builder termites. The big horned soldiers know how to stifle and attack and defend the vulnerable, the small soldiers know how to support the big horned ones primarily by their numbers. Among protesters there are those who know how to stifle the charge of the rogue police. These can circle the crowd in strategic positions followed by the small soldiers forming a unit that will not easily crumble of be pushed backwards. The vulnerable and the weak can be at the back or inside the bait ball. We must also remember why David refused to fight Goliath wearing armoured gear. David knew that the armour would slow him down and as Goliath took a step forward, David ran towards him. Goliath could not run because of the armour. Rogue police in armoured gear are like Goliath, heavily dressed but very immobile and limited in use of arms, one is holding a shield and the other a button stick. If protesters charge towards any group they will most likely flee because they are outnumbered.

4. FACEBOOK LIVE


This is a power tool that was released by Facebook and within a short time of being released a United States lady used it to capture police brutality as her boyfriend was shot by police. Facebook Live plus an idevice are a good combination to stream events in real time to Facebook. Many Zimbabweans use iPhones and take with to protests but it’s amazing that almost all protests happen without live facebooking the event. When there is a protest I go to the Facebook Live Map and wait for Zimbabwe to pop up alas nothing happens. Technology is for liberating the civilians but if we do not embrace it then we weaken our own defences. A Facebook live video is evidence in cases where there needs to be proved circumstances. Police will always say civilians did this or that hence their heavy handedness but we can present realtime evidence to their detriment.

5. UNITY OF PURPOSE


People must unite ever more for the sake of safety. We all came together at the court appearance of Evan Mawarire and the outcome shows what can happen if we have unity of purpose. Citizens of Zimbabwe must continue to unite in the acts of gathering information, analysing information, passing information, protection, being the eyes and ears of one another. We must create conditions where every rogue police will fear having his face smeared on the internet and identified with his phone number, home address and place of work. If Mugabe wants he can take all the rogues and give them space at his mansion because the community has become too aware and they cannot sleep for fear of their sins.

CONCLUSION


As a people there are many tools at our disposal but we are not using them. If there is one thing we must do from now going forward, it is telling our story out to the world. Today UNICEF in Zimbabwe is running scared because they tried to be partisan. Zimbabweans reacted by tweeting about it and demanding answers and the citizens are prepared to take the matter all the way to the United Nations headquarters. If it means heads will roll so be it, someone in UNICEF clearly wanted to do their friends in ZANUPF a favour by coming down hard on the Dzamara family but now they are smarting from their error of judgment, the citizens have pushed back. We must make Robert Mugabe have sleepless nights knowing that Zimbabweans want their freedom. If he was working 30 minutes we must reduce it to zero. No more will he sleep in gold plated sheets while citizens make do with sleeping awake to make a living. He must get the message loud and clear, #Hatichada #Hatichatya #Tajamuka we want #ThisFlag in its rightful place.

Monday, July 18, 2016

WHY EVAN MAWARIRE'S #ThisFlag IS GENUINE

This blog post seeks to answer some of the questions that have been raised against Evan Mawarire. Since his release on Wednesday propaganda against him has risen tremendously, it began with Lance Guma's Nehanda Radio saying he has sought asylum in USA. Then came the myriad of Facebook posts giving some convincing arguments that Evan Mawarire is a CIO or a tool being used by ZANUPF. Now if you are a follower of Strive Masiyiwa's page, you will know that he works by principles, one such principle I've adopted with good results is "FACT CHECKING". Zimbabweans badly need that principle in their lives especially with regards to politics. As I write this blog I'm listening to Kenneth E. Hagin's "Doubt, Fear and Unbelief". In this sermon he says Doubt and Unbelief robbed a whole city of Nazareth of miracles. Now can Doubt and Unbelief rob a whole country Zimbabwe of the miracle of freedom?

Non-violent Engagement

When Evan began this flag campaign he has advocated for no violence a point he emphasizes in almost every video he has posted. We all know that ZRP is trigger happy and if they wanted to deter any citizen movement they would put an element violence or physical confrontation. This principle made people comfortable enough to go to Rotten Row despite heavy police presence. He has inculcated this principle so much that if you see people purporting to be behind #ThisFlag and advocating for