Tag Archives: South Africa

WWI: Joseph Chamberlain dies

Tariff Reform LeagueJoseph Chamberlain died on 2nd July 1914, aged 77.

Joseph Chamberlain was a founder MP of the Liberal Unionist party, and had been Secretary of State for the Colonies under Conservative Prime Minister Arthur Balfour, from 1895 to 1903, during the Second Boer War in South Africa. In 1903 he had founded the Tariff Reform League, which campaigned to turn the whole British Empire into a tariff-free union to promote trade between the nations of the Empire. The Tariff Reform League was disbanded on the outbreak of WWI. Joseph was married twice and had two sons, both of whom entered politics: his younger son Neville was Prime Minister from 1937 to 1940.
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WWI: The Smuts-Gandhi Agreement

On Tuesday 30th June 1914 the House of Commons had a routine sitting.

The Conservative MP for Knutsford, Alan Sykes, who had been commissioned a Deputy-Lieutenant to the Lord Lieutenant for Cheshire in 1910, rose to ask a question of the Under-Secretary of State for War about the Infantry Territorial battalions of Lancashire and Cheshire:

What percentage of the total enrolled number of officers and men of the Infantry Territorial battalions of Lancashire and Cheshire attended their annual camp this year in the Whitsuntide holidays, indicating what percentage attended for one week and what for the whole period, and giving comparative figures for the same battalions of their attendance at last year’s annual camp?

Harold Tennant, the Liberal Under-secretary of State for War, answered the Opposition question with specific percentages for 1914 and 1913, and said, when Sykes asked if the bounty of a pound had improved the attendance record:

It is impossible to give an answer yet as we have not had sufficient experience. I should not wonder if that had something to do with the result.

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Reeva Steenkamp’s death is not a bet

Just over a year ago – on 14th February 2013 – Oscar Pistorius fired shots through his bathroom door, which struck and killed Reeva Steenkamp.

Outside South Africa, most news stories focus on Oscar Pistorius: Reeva Steenkamp is generally referenced as “his girlfriend”.

Steenkamp was not famous outside of South Africa: the world’s media will be descending on the North Gauteng courthouse because of Pistorius’s fame. Continue reading

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Question Time Johannesburg

BBC Question TimeThis week, for the very first time in its 34-year history, BBC Question Time is going to be televised outside the UK, in Johannesburg. [Correction: not only not the first time it’s been televised outside the UK – it’s been to Moscow, Shanghai, Abu Dhabi, and others – BBCQT has been to Johannesburg before, in 2005. My bad.]

David Dimbleby is chairing as usual, though next year will be his 20th anniversary and it’s long past time he retired from the post. (I’ve said this before. I’ll say it again. Dimbleby is a very, very poor presenter.)

Besides Dimbleby, there will be six people on the panel:
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Nelson Mandela is dead

Born in 1918 in Mvezo, grew up in Qunu, small villages on the East Cape of South Africa. Named Rolihlahla Mandela, baptised Nelson by a Methodist teacher: went to Fort Hare University (from which he was expelled due to his political activities) and then to Wits University (from which he never quite graduated, again due to focus on political activities rather than study) and became a lawyer in 1953. In 1944 he was a founder member of the Youth League of the African National Congress and by 1950 he was a member of the National Executive of the ANC and elected national president of the ANC Youth League.

Between 1906 and 1914 another lawyer, Mohandas K. Gandhi, had worked to gain more civil rights for the Indian community in South Africa, but not the black Africans. A year after Rlihlahla Mandela was born, South West Africa – which had been the colonial property of the German Empire – was granted to the South Africa Union, then a territory of the British Empire, under British Mandate. (The BBC leaps smoothly over all of this from 1919 to 1948.) In effect South West Africa remained annexed to South Africa until 21st March 1990 when it became the independent democracy of Namibia: registration laws for black Africans and, after 1948, white apartheid, imposed on it by the South African government.
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Scotland’s for marriage

Elaine Smith MSPElaine Smith MSP, deputy presiding officer in the Scottish Parliament, argued for polygamy in her written evidence to the Equal Opportunities Committee last year, as the Scotland on Sunday anti-gay marriage story this morning quotes:

“Whilst the government has said that it has no intention of allowing polygamous marriages as part of this legislation which changes the essential nature of marriage, it has not explained in any detail and with research analysis its reasons for taking that position.

“Further, if the government is sincere about its support for ‘equal love’ then it appears to have a contradiction on its hands.”

There is “no logical reason” for discriminating against more than two people getting married if the redefinition of marriage is driven by love, Ms Smith adds.

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Reeva Steenkamp is dead

That was her last tweet: eight hours later she was dead, shot four times in the head and the arm.
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Our constitution, July 2012: Judicial review of constitutionality of laws

“Judicial review of constitutionality of laws”

I am not a lawyer, and not an American, but there are a couple of areas of US law that I have looked at with queer intensity over many years: and in particular, two areas of the US Constitution and the actions of its judicial regulator the Supreme Court.

Article Four, Section One of the US Constitution says

“Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.”

Marriage and divorce have always been defined as included among the “public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings”: if you are married in the state of New York, so the original Drafters considered, you should not be able to move to Virginia and thereby make yourself unmarried.

After the US Civil War, many states passed legislation banning marriages which they considered to be unethical and unsuitable: cousin marriage. Even today, 30 US States have laws that make it illegal to marry your first cousin, or allow it only with specific exceptions (if one or both of you is sterile). Predictably enough, people who grow up in states where cousin marriage is banned, tend to think of it as some kind of weird icky relationship, bad for the children. (Where have I heard that before?)

First cousins marrying is culturally approved in some countries, culturally disapproved in others: first cousins can’t get married according to Catholic canon law (which is based on Roman law). But the US is the only country which, in the 19th century, up and passed laws against first cousins marrying – which are still in force in 30 states.

So what happens if you are first cousins who marry in a state where that’s legal and move to a state where it’s not? Continue reading

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SPUC Off! Keep Abortion Free, Safe, and Legal

SPUC off [SPUC supporter in photo on right asked to be removed, saying he was 15, and I agreed: see comments.]

About quarter to 12, my oldest friend, who’d been staring at the SPUC Edinburgh protesters across the road, turned to me. “You know, I remember us demo’ing for this in the 1980s. And in the 1990s. Now it’s 2012. And we still have to do it?”


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