Forget Toll Roads: We have the money! And we’ve had it all along…

There have been many heated debates and commentaries on the current state of affairs surrounding toll roads in South Africa, but for the sake of clarity, I think it can be summarised as follows:

1. SANRAL, by way of it’s logic challenged spokesman, Vusi Mona, and it’s clearly equally challenged minister,  Dipuo Peters, claims that it is not possible to fund road maintenance and new infrastructure from the fiscus and thus we need toll roads.  “Government has mandated them to do this.”
Update: They have finally indicated that an additional R3.65 added to the fuel levy would have to be implemented as an alternative to tolling, thus bringing the fuel levy to R5.77 per liter.

2. Various parties have mounted legal challenges to the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project.  OUTA and the DA have taken the matter to court, but to date have failed to make convincing enough claims to stop the projects.

I have often asked myself how much money the state collects via the fuel levy and haven’t heard much comment on that.  (update: Outa has done so since the first version of this post)  However, this comment on MyBroadband on the matter of conventional tolling of the Western Cape’s freeways, made me decide to analyse the situation to get some clarity.

Fuel Levy Stats

In more detail:

According to Shell & SAPIA in 2014 the following applied:

Fuel Levies CollectedNow, since SANRAL has to publish it’s Annual Financial Statements, we can see what they actually spend.  It seems much more has been collected that was used! (Remember there are toll fees in this income already from many toll roads across South Africa)

Sanral Financial Data

It’s also relevant to note how SANRAL views depreciation of the assets under it’s control:

Sanral DepreciationMinister Peters also recently said that the backlog to fix South Africa’s roads is R197 billion.  We don’t know what that is based on and that it’s probably wrong, based on the the other Peters track record.  But, for the sake of the argument, let’s assume a 50 year loan for that amount (@ 8.5% as per the world-bank rate for South Africa). That would cost  R1.415 billion per month, or R16.99 billion per year to pay back, leaving R30 billion for ongoing maintenance and new projects not included in the R197 backlog.

2014 Fuel Levies application

According to SANRAL, it receives R10 billion annually from the fiscus currently, which is of course too little to do their work (source: SANRAL Non Toll Budget 2013/2014).  It looks like a sinister movie plot, but it’s not:

    • The Ministry of Finance assigns less than 22% of the fuel levy to the purpose for which it was collected.
    • Toll roads are constructed, despite fierce opposition to the plans, since there’s “not enough money
    • Furthermore the government pension funds risks “investing” in SANRAL in lieu of the GPIF tolling project.
    • Only once, in 2003, was there a one month statutory appeal period to register objections to the Western Cape N1/N2 Toll Road project, the appeals which minister of transport summarily dismissed.

What is going on here?  Surely a legal challenge to the misappropriation of funds can be mounted and the effects thereof reversed?  After all, it was Barend du Plessis, under the “dreaded apartheid regime” that instated this fiscal travesty by dumping the fuel levy into the fiscus, ending the road fund (the South African NP government was facing serious financial problems at the time).  In effect he raided the road fund.  Exactly what the South African ANC government is now doing.South Africa, by way of it’s road users, has paid R324 billion to keep its roads in good shape, yet the Government has thought it totally in order to misappropriate R224 billion (that is R 224 000 000 000) of that money.  To add injury to insult, it now wants to collect more than R1 000 000 per month from the Gauteng freeway users alone, to “cover the debt incurred to upgrade the Gauteng Freeways”.

How will this be stopped and reversed?

Will OUTA, the DA, Cosatu, the EFF and others take on the Ministry of Finance and it’s sinister plot to double-tax us continuously?

Or will the people of South Africa take matters into their own hands as the people of Brittany in France have?

In 2010, it seems, the idea of a dedicated road maintenance fund was put forward by S’bu Ndebele, transport minister at the time, although it seems the DA had been promoting the idea for some time before.  So if this is being planned, why is SANRAL forging ahead with its tolling regime?

There are those that claim this is part of UN agenda 21. Watching and reading about it, does seem to make some sense, in a bizarre way, of what SANRAL and the ANC are doing, but please decide for yourself.  At least it seems there are people brave enough to come forward and spill the beans!

South Africa’s ruling party is making a grave mistake if they think that they can continue on this path of reckless unaccountability in the face of the South Africa’s people.

In the words of an old “struggle stalwart”: Enough is enough!

on basic “facts” vs “skills”

I had a few tweets with Samantha Laing, Helen Zille & JC re facts vs skills and thought I’d write down my thoughts in a more “agile” medium that twitter, so here goes!

Firstly, in education in general, we must approach things differently if we wish to have different results from what we’re currently having.

I made a point about basics.

That boils down to really basics.

I find many kids, a large number of black South Africans, but also, to a much a larger extent than previously, coloured and white kids (if I may generalise so brashly for this purpose), that do not have the basic ability to communicate, express their thoughts or write in any language. They cannot grow their skills by reading, unless they really really want to or have to, and then it is with great difficulty, simply because they cannot read. Of course, the under-stimulated mind is not interested in much, so this is a self-defeating cycle and few manage to break out of it. It’s a culture of entitlement, supported by the acts and talk of national government, not a culture of learning, self-improvement and development, that we currently have. Having said that, there are notable exceptions and sterling examples of quite the opposite, but sadly they are the exception, not the norm.

Kids Reading

Reading kids rule!

I personally endeavour to motivate people (of all races & incomes) to read to their young children daily and to let the children read to other young ones again. I encourage them to use our public libraries and improving their own reading in process, starting with simple books, advancing as they make progress. I find, however, that there is a resistance to this, that watching TV is less effort, and therefore progress is slow.  It doesn’t help, of course, that we have a culture of laziness among many teachers in public schools (that for example sit and drink tea till first break or involving themselves in political activism during school-time, while primary school kids entertain themselves) while others work their fingers to the bone in an effort to somehow equip kids to be able to learn more and “make a living”. The same goes for DoE officials who love spending money on futile pursuits and unproven educational experiments, or even worse, educational exploits that have been undeniably proven a failure. Instead of a pragmatic simple approach, they diddle-daddle with trivial and peripheral issues (attempting to bring high technology to kids for example), while kids come out of school being neither able to read nor write, let alone reason, spot logical fallacies or think creatively. The latter, is of course often due to the stifling of creativity in the schooling system.

My wife and I have home-schooled two kids and have two in public school, so we have seen how certain approaches just don’t work and how others have great results.  We know how much kids from the same parents and home differ in learning style, interest and ability in different areas, let alone kids from different parents, homes and environments.  I am therefore by no means closed to alternative views or approaches to education and skills development! I also taught at a high-school for a while and have seen the practical side from a teachers perspective and know the challenges faced in teaching children other that your own.

I furthermore firmly believe education is not primarily a function of Government, but one of the community.  Once solution could be this: The elderly are often excellent teachers and have a lifetime of wisdom and experience to draw on in transferring skills, developing young people into achieving their dreams and making a meaningful contribution to society at large and individuals in particular. As it is now, many are simple shoved aside and considered a burden. Instead of giving social grants to the unemployed, maybe grants should be given to all elderly people that develop young people. The control that National Government attempts to exercise more and more in a clear attempt to maintain is power-base, it in itself shameful and deplorable, but by now means unique to South Africa. I saw with my own eyes as a teacher the unbelievable lows that the DoE stooped to during the teachers strike in 2004 in an all out attempt to not pay teachers more than their measly salaries – straight lies, deceptive tactics and every dirty trick in the book, that I would not have believed, had I not seen it with my own eyes.  The correlation between education and controlling poorly educated masses may not seem clear to all readers, but as I have pointed out elsewhere, it is much easier to control hungry, needy masses, than educated, enlightened free-thinking people.

We can however break this stranglehold, starting in our communities by grow a culture of learning, breaking the culture of entitlement, developing the live-long ability and desire to grow, learn and go where we haven’t been before.  How is not easily answered, but one thing is certain: As soon a the DoE stops their monopolistic attitude towards education, especially since they’re failing dismally at it, and the national government actively supports educational efforts outside of their government box, we will make huge progress with this.  Some points to consider on this regard:

  1. Why are donations to schools and school fees not tax-deductible to start with?  How can anyone in government claim their are serious about education while strangling the development of schools in the community?
  2. Why are schools forced into languages which are foreign to them and their communities?  How many Afrikaans schools, with Afrikaans learners are forced to start teaching in English?  Has the ANC learned nothing from (or rather since) the struggle? The same applies to Xhosa speaking kids that are forced in English medium at a young age – many never catch up again.
  3. Why are people that choose to home-school (and generally speaking having excellent results!) persecuted by the DoE, when in fact both the Constitution and the Education Act specifically protect the right of parents to home-school?  Why does the DoE waste millions of Rands on these efforts, when they have so many schools that are ill equipped, even some with no classrooms?
  4. By what right does the DoE pay subsidies to public schools, yet when the same tax-paying citizens send their children to a Waldorf, Montessori or other private school, they do not receive their fair share of the tax collected for education?  Are most of these schools not superior in the level of education, skills and ability that they “produce”?  Should they not therefore be supported even more?
  5. Why are well-education, highly skilled teachers, that we’re “fired” because of BEE, not brought back to alleviate the desperate shortage of skilled teachers?  So what if they’re the “wrong” colour!?  When will the short sighted racism of the ANC stop and will they start serving South Africa, as their election mandate requires of them?  Actually, when will the people who put them in power, remove them if they don’t deliver?  This is not about politics, but when politics starts interfering with the development of the future of our country, it becomes all about politics.
I suppose there are more points that can be added here, but the principle is, simple.  Government but stop their nanny state, preventive approach and support and encourage communities to grow, learn and thrive.

I’d like to hear from people that have ideas and experience in this!

Youthday! Youthday. Youthday?

Celebration and rememberance.

Both are good and both are needed.

But what have the youth of today learned from the past and do people in general learn from history?

Unfortunately history is passed on mostly in the way the rulers of the day want it to be remembered. So to learn from history requires effort. Effort is rarely what youths want to exert.

One thing we know for sure is that lack of education and skills makes one poorer. An illiterate is easy to con into believing lies, a hungry person is easy to “buy” with the promise of food, a bamboozled person thinks he’s been given something, when in reality he’s been used.

In our recent past there were those leading the charge that said “liberation before education”!  What has that left us with?  Neither education nor liberation!  Yes, there is the illusion of liberty because we have laws that say we are free (to an extent), but is someone who doesn’t have a house, who doesn’t have a job, who can’t do much in terms of economic activity free? Is someone who can barely read and doesn’t understand what is being written or said free? Is someone who receives a measly grant from government in order to survive (and has his vote purchased by the ruling party in the process) free? Are the people who are forced to pay the taxes to support the uneducated and government’s numerous failed attempt to save their doomed plan free?

The lesson to take away from youth day this year is this: South Africa is not free. Not until all are reasonably educated, until higher standards are set for our government, not until people start realising their mistakes of the past and learn from it, not until education comes before any other ideal, we will have a reasonable chance to be free. It is difficult to lie to someone who is well informed, hardly possible to cheat someone that understands what is happening and to enslave a wise person with good understanding are not easily achieved.

So who is brave enough to acknowledge that some of the fervour of the leaders of the past was misled?  As a result of those choices we now have uneducated government leaders who make foolish choices and policies that enslave our children even more by keeping them in the dark (litererally and figuratively). “Liberation before education” was wrong and we’re paying the price for it and will be for many years.

The first step in rectifying that is to acknowledge that it was wrong.

The second would be to change our attitude from one of entitlement, to one of achievement. Personally I endevour to teach little ones that we can learn what we set out to learn, that we can read and write without government paying huge amounts of money to little effect, that watching tv is mind numbing, that reading books is better than drinking beer, that we can learn from other’s mistakes and if we don’t we will more painfully learn from our own, and that praying to God for wisdom, courage and strength is never in vain and is heard every time.

Finally, it’s good to know the past and to consider it, but reminiscing past glories is foolish if you aren’t ready and equipped yet to face the future.

AGW circus links

When I find something that I think is worthwhile I add the link here.  That’s all, take or leave it.

The inglorious end of the scientific method & peer review? Phil Jones

Some good weather data links: La Colline Observatory, Stellenbosch, South Africa

WWF Living Planet Report: Only global poverty can save the planet, insists WWF – and the ESA!

Ice levels increasing: Himalayan glaciers actually GAINING ice, space scans show

No hockey-stick type graph exists: There is no sharp hockey-stick shaped end to the graph , so there is no cause for alarm, we’re not artificially warming the planet.

Tree rings show cooling: Orbital forcing of tree-ring data

Earth Temperature analysis by Richard A. Muller, professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley:  http://berkeleyearth.org/

Kingdom or Family?

This morning at our local assembly in the Boland College Hall, we had a continuation of a series on Jesus not preaching salvation per se, but rather the Kingdom of God, and it got me thinking again about the nature of our relationship with God. It’s been a while since I first started thinking, reading and praying about this, so now may be an appropriate time to write it all down.

The first point was: God’s purposes will ultimately prevail, no matter how many twists and turns are taken and how many apparently “wrong directions” are made at times. Much like a large river (e.g. the Mississippi in the US) does in it’s many snaking turns on it’s way to the sea, ultimately, it flows from north to south and ends up in the sea.

Secondly, it was God’s intention to establish His kingdom in the physical world, without physically coming into it. This I have often wondered about, since it does not appear to be what he actually did. Why? Well Gen 1:26-27 tells us that mankind is designed to have authority over the animals, plants and all of creation, but it does not establish dominion over fellow humans. Jesus also made that really clear in Mat 23:8 that we are all brothers and we have one Father. So the notion of kingdom per se is not in the picture at this stage. But let’s continue for the moment to the next point.

Looking at the what the purposes or original plan of God was, they could be listed as being to

  1. establish a spiritual family, and
  2. a kingdom of kings, not of subjects. Also
  3. a commonwealth of citizens, not religious subjects, and
  4. have relationship with mankind, not establish a religion, and lastly
  5. extend his government on earth and influence earth from heaven through mankind

The first point and the second are somewhat contraditory though, as are the third and fourth. Let me explain what I mean by starting from some principles.

Alexander Campbell, a wise man by any standard, formulated seven rules of biblical interpretation. Alan Dale quotes the first of these principles in an excellent essay on “Women Speakers” as being that “we must consider the historical circumstances that existed at the time of writing of a book of the bible, as well as the reasons that caused the book to be written.”

If we apply this to the topic at hand, some interesting realisations will be made.

When God created Adam (and Eve), he walked with them in the garden. He was there in person, the “Father of All” himself. Surely, if he did that, it was his intention to be with his creation physically, not so, and not just for Adam and Eve to represent him? Of course he instructed Adam to rule over creation, but it does not seem to be his primary purpose. His relationship with them seems foremost. So, whatever came after that, was not his primary original intention and purpose, otherwise he would have deceived Adam into believing that Eden and daily fellowship with God was only a temporary diversion for the sake of some greater goal (or whatever else we may want to call it).

At the fall things changed for the worse. What did not change, however, was that Adam was a son of God and Eve his daughter. They where His creation and he intended to be their Father.

So where does the notion of kingdom come from?

The first reference to a kingdom is in relation to what Nimrod established. (Gen 10:8-9). Wesley has this to say about Nimrod: “Nimrod was a mighty hunter – This he began with, and for this became famous to a proverb. Some think he did good with his hunting, served his country by ridding it of wild beasts, and so insinuated himself into the affections of his neighbours, and got to be their prince. And perhaps, under pretence of hunting, he gathered men under his command, to make himself master of the country. Thus he became a mighty hunter, a violent invader of his neighbour’s rights and properties. And that, before the Lord – Carrying all before him, and endeavouring to make all his own by force and violence. He thought himself a mighty prince; but before the Lord, that is, in God’s account, he was but a mighty hunter. Note, Great conquerers are but great hunters. Alexander and Caesar would not make such a figure in scripture history as they do in common history. The former is represented in prophecy but as a he-goat pushing, Dan 8:5. Nimrod was a mighty hunter against the Lord, so the seventy; that is, he set up idolatry, as Jeroboam did, for the confirming of his usurped dominion; that he might set up a new government, he set up a new religion upon the ruin of the primitive constitution of both.” The Geneva Translation (footnote f) says: “His tyranny came into a proverb as hated both by God and man: for he did not cease to commit cruelty even in God’s presence. ” Strong comments on the word gibbôr (mighty) as being: “by implication warrior, tyrant”, so the implication of Nimrod’s kingdom is negative for certain.

Then in Gen 20 we read of Abimelech’s kingdom and his interaction with Abraham and Sarah, but not a word at all in the relationship between God and Abraham.

Then in Exodus 19:4-6, God says to Israel “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice, and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession from among all peoples; for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.” (WEB). So God starts to use the paradigm that the Israelites see around them, that of a kingdom, for the first time, to explain to them that as their Father, he is also their King and as his children, they are his kingdom. He uses it rather as showing that they are not like the kingdoms, a system of subjects and rules, but rather relatives (my own) being priests, separate (holy) for Him. He communicates to them what he’s wanted all along – an intimate family related to Him – all priests, all able to approach him, converse and commune with him.

But the “greener grass on the other side syndrome” hit them and the world systems soon appeared better to the Israelites, it seems, and they insisted on also having an earthly king too. 1 Sam 8:4 says “Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel to Ramah and they said to him, Behold, you are old, and your sons don’t walk in your ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. Samuel prayed to Yahweh. Yahweh said to Samuel, Listen to the voice of the people in all that they tell you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me, that I should not be king over them.” (WEB)
So, firstly God took their terminology (king / kingdom) and then he, on their insistence, gave them an earthly king as well. We must not be deceived, though, into thinking that this was God’s purpose or intention. I think it is very clear that it was the case, but that by their ungoldly ways, Isreal brought this state onto themselves.

Yet, despite all this, God still goes with that which they now relate to, in order to try to woo them back.

The kingdom of David is established, as is Solomon’s kingdom and eventually he aligns the birth of His Son with that of the line of David. He, Yeshua, becomes the first born of the children of God, those that are not under the dominion of Satan anymore, due to their acceptance of the salvation Yeshua brought. And although he speaks of His Kingdom, he makes it really clear that it is nothing like the earthly kingdoms around them.

Let’s put this train of thought on hold for a moment and look at the historical circumstances under which Yeshua spoke of his dominion – his kingdom. In a world where all authority was vested in the kings of the Romans and their delegates, the provincial governors, it would have been really difficult to explain Godly authority outside of this paradigm. How would the Isrealites understand now what they had missed for so long? In the same way that Yeshau used parables, he now explains his authority to them by embraces thier terminology. But he very clearly points out the difference:

  • Don’t give each other titles, you are all brothers (sigh – where does this leave the charismatics with their incessant titling of pastor to all that bear their system’s stamp of approval?)
  • Servants are the most important in His order (diaconos: servants, but we have made it sound all religious by translating it as ‘ministers’ and all chauvinistic by translating ‘submission’ when is applies to women)
  • Die to self to live (a message not popular at all in the wake of the skewed prosperity twist on the gospel, which became just as over the top as the roman catholic orders that avowed themselves to poverty)
  • Give freely and without expecting back (not the legislation of tithes – and the curse be upon all who dare to defy it – which has bound believers into a dogmatic dungeon where God can be manipulated into blessing them)
  • Smaller is better (He sends them 2 by 2, picks only 12 eventually and only three go with him to pray in Getsemane). Gatherings in the homes of “men of peace”: the wise, experienced elders of the city, leading the flock of believers and watching over their souls. Believers – disciples – that drive out demons, heal the sick, feed the poor, care for the orphans, dispense justice and deal righteously in civil matters and in that way bring the Kingdom wherever they are and operate (not the extremely proficient business moguls that run franchise-style, mega-church enterprises under the guise of church growth to somehow advance the Kingdom of God)
  • One God – Yahweh, the Father; One King – Yeshua, the Christ, the Savour, The oldest of the brothers and sisters; One Teacher – Parakletos, the Helper, Teacher and guide. The simple nature of it all boggles the minds of wise and learned to this day as they attempt to add all sorts of extras to improve on God’s simplicity. In doing so, they sideline millions of simple people who really love God and should have been encouranged, strengthened and loved.

In a sense Parenthood and Kingship are directly opposed to each other. Parents reproduce by nature, their children inherit and reproduce. Kings on the other hand have subjects that at most share in the king’s wealth, but they never inherit, nor do subjects produce kings.

So in relation to each other and our Father, we are family, yet in relation to the rest of creation we are kings.

Is it God’s Kingdom or God’s Family? I believe in relation to the outside we are a Kingdom, yet by nature and structure we are a family. Are we schizophrenic? No, never. Nothing in all eternity can take away that I am the son of my earthly father, Eberhard. In the same way, I am a son of God by re-birth into his family.

Today there are hardly any kings left. Most people have no idea what a real king was like, nor do the Hollywood portrayals of ancient rulers do justice to true royalty, that, like Solomon, lead their people to prosperity, peace and a good life, instead of war, destruction and conquest. So how can people relate to a God that is proclaimed as a King? Is he mean, ill-tempered and does he wipe those he dislikes from the face of the earth? The fact few have insight into the way God chose and used Israel as his dispenser of justice or the earth, makes the matter even worse. Then, persuant to that course, the church is now the replacement for Israel, right? However, Paul clearly states that the assembly of the believers (I strongly dislike the term church – it is devoid of the meaning it was originally used for) is the plan of God since before the foundation of the world. Eph 3:10-11 “… to the intent that now through the assembly the manifold wisdom of God might be made known to the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (WEB) So the model that Israel followed is not the pattern, but merely the way that God chose to deal with the nations and people of the world at that time in the way Isreal choose by rejecting God’s better way. It does, however, teach us a lot about the nature and character of God, and that we should apply diligently.

Would God then have chosen a modern leadership model to reveal himself, had he done it at this time? Would he have called himself the president? In a democratic society, the president may be ousted tomorrow by the popular vote. Even the public company in the business world is not fit either – public opinion can kill it within weeks.

It seems that that most appropriate way is the family model. After all, Christ and the assembly are modelled by the husband-wife relationship! The dilemma is, of course, that the enemy, Diabolos, has made great efforts to remove this bastion of society from the scene. Fatherhood is made as pathetic as a loser American sitcom Dad, motherhood is portrayed as superior, without need of a father, children as supreme beings that can raise themselves without parental correction or guidance, and so the battle rages for the minds of mankind. But deep in the heart of every person is the need to have a loving, caring father and mother, albeit numbed by the pain of rejection, absence and lack of care in many cases. That may be the greatest reason why we need Parakletos to possess us and heal us as humankind.

The family dynasty is still the way God originally chose to reveal and relate to his creation, his children. Even the kingdom paradigm must be understood that context.

Ultimately we are God’s family. All other models must be understood in that light.