Whatsapp encryption doesn’t protect you from everything

This article was originally published on The Daily Vox

Even though the FBI finally managed to crack into the iPhone of the San Bernardino killer without help from Apple, the battle over protecting our personal information from third parties has only just begun. On April 5, Whatsapp fired a massive shot in that battle and rolled out end-to-end encryption for all its 1 billion users. But what does that actually mean for you? STUART LEWIS spoke to some experts to find out.

Ever since the dawn of the information age, people have been worried about their personal information being stolen by some balding white dude in wrap-around shades and a Matrix-style leather coat who lives in his mom’s basement (if popular culture representations are anything to go by).

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While that doesn’t even come close to describing how hacking actually works (though you should definitely check out the mostly accurate way it’s portrayed in Mr Robot, which is a TV show you should be watching anyway), the fear of a stranger getting to read our most private thoughts or having access to information we would rather stayed private is very real. What makes the fear even worse is how easy it actually is to get that kind of information. Even our credit cards (except those new chip cards) are comically unsecure.

Read the full article here.


The mining company behind the Xolobeni conflict has a history of dodgy dealings

This article was originally published on The Daily Vox.

The killing of Amadiba Crisis Committee chairperson, Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe has placed an Australian mining company and a longstanding mining conflict in the limelight. STUART LEWIS reports that the conflict has a long, violent history and a number of unsavoury players.

On the night of 22 March, Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe opened his front door for two men who claimed to be police officers. The men had arrived in a white VW Polo with a blue rotating light on its roof. They shot Rhadebe at least eight times in front of his wife and son, who are both now in hospital, before driving away.

The assassination of Rhadebe has garnered national media attention, especially since he was the chairperson of the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC). ACC has been embroiled in a longstanding battle with Mineral Commodities Ltd (MRC), an Australian mining company, over MRC’s ongoing attempts to mine sections of coastal dunes in the Xolobeni area along the Eastern Cape coast.

The battle has divided the local amaPondo community harshly. On one side stand those who want to see the mine built, led largely by a local man called Zamile Qunya who works for mining empowerment company Xolco and Chief Lunga Baleni of the Amadiba Tribal Authority. On the other are those who want the land to stay in local hands, like the ACC. It has also seen increasingly escalating incidents of violence and intimidation, generally directed towards mining opponents.

Read the full article here.

Eight Books to help you understand what’s up with Palestine and Israel

This article was originally published on The Daily Vox.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has quite generated an incredible amount of literature and if you’re new to the history, it can be difficult to figure out where on earth to start reading. STUART LEWIS has put together a list of eight books that can help you understand what exactly is going on in the Holy Land.

1. A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict – Mark Tessler (1994)
Mark Tessler’s extensive history is predicated on the idea that the contest over land between Palestinian Arabs and Zionist Jews has always been the source of the conflict. So thorough as to be rather dry in some places, this book is a relatively balanced and fair-minded account of many of the factors that brought us to the modern conflict and is a great starting point for uninformed readers.

2. The Question of Palestine – Edward Said (1992)
Edward Said is considered to be one of the founders of post-colonialism, and for good reason. Though now quite a bit out of date, his book tackles the emergence of the modern Palestinian state and how it came into conflict with Israel and Zionism. A simple and clear account, this book is often prescribed reading for university courses dealing with the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Read the full article here.

The price of sanitary pads is a tax on womanhood

This article was originally published on The Daily Vox.

If you happen to own a uterus or have ever been shopping for someone who does, then you’ve no doubt noticed how ridiculously expensive pads and tampons actually are. These are crucial products that many people depend on at least once a month but, thanks to what is known as the tampon tax, are priced through the roof.

In South Africa, it is estimated  that around 7 million girls miss school each month because of menstruation.

Writing  in 2011, Jen Thorpe calculated to cost of menstuation in South Africa like this: “In her lifetime, the average woman uses 11 000 tampons, or 22 sanitary products (pads or tampons per period). In South Africa with the average tampon costing about R1.50 each (yes, that means R33 a period, or R16 500 in her lifetime) and a pack of 10 sanitary pads costing R18 (which translates to about R36 a period, or R19 800 in her lifetime). This means that having a period is an expense that many cannot afford. Most South Africans still live below the poverty line, which means that they must use alternative means of stemming the flow. These include using towelling or material which is rewashed. However, in some cases this too is unaffordable.”

Read the full article here.

5 things apartheid South Africa’s leaders had to say about Israel

This article was originally published on The Daily Vox.

Anyone interested in Israel-Palestine will know that pro-Palestine activists have been comparing the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank to apartheid South Africa for many years now. What you may not know is just how cozy the governments of both states actually were, with Israel even nearly selling  nuclear bombs to South Africa. STUART LEWIS rounds up five things the minds behind apartheid South Africa said about Israel.

1) Prime Minister Jan Smuts addressing the Jewish community in South Africa (organised by the South African Zionist Federation and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies in Johannesburg):“I need not remind you that the white people of South Africa, and especially the older Dutch population, has been brought up almost entirely on Jewish tradition. The Old Testament, the most wonderful literature ever thought out by the brain of man, the Old Testament has been the very marrow of Dutch culture here in South Africa … This is the basis of our culture in South Africa, that is the basis of our white culture, and it is the basis of your Jewish culture; and therefore we are standing together on a common platform, the greatest spiritual platform the world has ever seen. On that platform I want us to build the future South Africa.” (Source: Davis, Uri “Apartheid Israel” [2003]).

Read the full article here.

Why Cell C is fighting for unregulated over-the-top services

This article was originally published on The Daily Vox.

Before last week’s parliamentary portfolio committee meetings on over-the-top (OTT) services regulation, Cell C released a statement by its CEO Jose dos Santos that said that “Vodacom and MTN have declared war on consumer interests” in a bid to maintain “their stranglehold on a vital artery feeding [South Africa]’s economic and social future”. But why is Cell C alone among the major networks on the side of unregulated OTTs? STUART LEWIS tries to figure it out.

Founded in 2001, seven years after its two biggest competitors, Cell C is still largely a new kid on the block. However, in its stand against the regulation of OTT services like Whatsapp, it has drawn a line in the sand, with Vodacom and MTN on one side and itself, OTTs and the South African consumer on the other. To understand why it makes perfect sense for Cell C to do this, you have to understand the industry that it is operating in.

The South African mobile market is divided into two kinds of operators: those that own infrastructure, and those that piggyback off of infrastructure built and owned by other companies. The four largest players in the country are, in order, Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Telkom – all of whom built and maintain their own real world network of cellphone towers and other connections.

Read the full article here.

South Africa isn’t alone in feeling the wrath of El Niño

This article was originally published on The Daily Vox.

South Africa is in the middle of its worst drought since 1982, millions of households are facing water shortages and the cost of basic food staples like maize meal has shot through the roof. Extreme weather phenomenon El Niño has returned with a vengeance and we aren’t the only country feeling its effects. STUART LEWIS rounds up five other places dealing with the effects of El Niño.

El Niño is an extreme weather phenomenon that occurs regularly every couple of years.

Some of the worst El Niños on record have also coincided with the with drought in South Africa in 1982 and the previous hottest year on record in 1998. But this year’s one is the worst on record and has crippled South Africa with the worst drought since 1982.

Read the full article here.