The two types of other people

Andrew Donaldson writes on the UK's efforts to apply the "Australian" model to their immigrant problem


THERE are two types of other people — those who are welcome, and those who aren’t. The problem with the latter, governments are finding these days, is how to deal with them. 

Some advocate the use of walls to keep them out. But others are now studying what is known as the “Australian model” with a view to finding a solution to an increasingly vexatious situation. That is, find an island, dump the other people there, and then forget about them. 

The island solution, however, is sometimes not all that practical, as the United Kingdom is now discovering. There’s currently a bit of a witch hunt down at Whitehall to find the whistleblower who has leaked details of the Home Office’s “thinking” when it comes to other people seeking asylum in Britain. 

One suggestion was to fit border control vessels patrolling the English Channel with powerful water cannons to create huge waves to push little boats containing other people back into French waters. This was rejected when it was pointed out that authorities would face murder charges should any of the other people drown. However, a specially commissioned “vessel arrest boom”, aimed at “tangling” the propellers of small boats, has been tested in the Channel, but has not yet been put to use.

Another proposal was to moor decommissioned ferries off the UK coast for use as centres to process other people seeking asylum. According to The Times, this is Downing Street’s preferred option. This is perhaps the most “Australian” suggestion, as it evokes the convict transport hulks.

Home Office officials also discussed processing other people on disused oil rigs in the North Sea. This was dismissed as being unpractical and possibly unsafe. A “floating wall” was also mooted, but this was described as “unethical and perhaps not legal”.

Officials also discussed building another people processing centre on one of the more remote Scottish islands was mooted, but there were concerns that residents there would object. Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has already done so. “Any proposal to treat human beings like cattle in a holding pen will be met with the strongest possible opposition from me,” she has promised.

Other remote territories were considered, including St Helena and Ascension Island, in the middle of the South Atlantic, and, on the other side of the world, near Australia, Papua New Guinea. “The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office advised against the idea on various grounds, including those of cost, logistics and legality,” The Times reported.

There are other problems. The home secretary, Priti Patel, has announced that she is drawing up plans to streamline the processing of other people and prevent “leftie lawyers” from meddling in same on behalf of other people. These “leftie lawyers” can be quite a bitch. One deportation flight recently took off from the UK with just a single other people as a passenger after “leftie lawyers” reportedly intervened on behalf of 29 other people and halted their deportation.

Patel’s allies have accused her critics of leaking these “bizarre and unworkable” plans to discredit her. Which is a bit like Goodwill Zwelethini’s supporters accusing the media of painting the monarch as a xenophobic delusional merely by reporting the content of his speeches.

Speaking of which, the Gauteng government has come up with some neat out-of-the-box thinking regarding their own other people situation. All other people in the province will soon be barred by law from operating certain businesses in townships. This, apparently, is part of an ambitious blueprint to revitalise the economy in the province’s most densely populated areas.

The draft Gauteng Township Economic Development Bill, which was released this week, does not identify the businesses that other people may not operate. But, according to one report, it will “only assist township-based enterprises in agriculture, construction, manufacturing, transport, communications, tourism and services if they are owned by South African citizens or holders of permanent residency status”.

Not wanting to be alarmist here, but this effectively condemns as outlaws all other people who run, let’s say, spaza shops or are lucky to have found work as bricklayers. 

Such thinking is not new. Last year, Ronald Lamola, the ironically-named justice and correctional services minister, announced that government was developing tough legislation to prevent the involvement of other people in the economy. 

Local conditions presented unique problems, however. There’s a dire shortage of suitably Australian islands and, as public works minister Patricia de Lille has so ably demonstrated, we’re crap at building border walls. It’s taken them a year to come round to the idea of simply labelling other people criminals, which should do the trick.

Fun fact! Not fake news!

Now that Donald Trump has tested positive for the coronavirus, a shot of schadenfreude may be in order. After analysing almost 40 million reports about Covid-19 in English-language media, researchers at New York’s Cornell University found that the US president is the “single largest driver” of fake virus news, and that references to Trump comprised close on 38 per cent of the “misinformation conversation” on the pandemic. Which is tremendously bigly.

According to reports, the Cornell study focused on 11 kinds of misinformation, ranging from conspiracy theories that the virus had been manufactured by the Democratic Party to coincide with his impeachment trial earlier this year to the peddling of “miracle” bleach cures. 

Trump’s C-19 test result is a breaking story, as we say in the fish wrap game. “Developments to follow.” However, I must admit that, right now, I’m laughing — and not in an especially compassionate way. Still, on a positive note, this may be an ideal moment for a stiff hydroxychloroquinine belter and some down time with an ultraviolet lava lamp inserted in a fundamental orifice. 

Trump vs Trump

It may be academic, but I suppose we should talk about the debate. One positive reaction to the fiasco was a tweet from the Republic of Kazakhstan congratulating Trump on beating Joe Biden on Tuesday evening. 

Posted 45 minutes before the debate, the tweet contained a video with footage of Trump with Jeffrey Epstein while hailing the president as a “protector of women”. It further claimed that Trump was not a racist: “Black guys love him so much they kneel before him.” Hailing the White House’s response to Covid-19, it added that “because of Trump, 350 million Americans [are] still alive”. The short clip also stated that Trump has never suffered a stroke over footage of the president struggling to drink water. 

The tweet is, of course, a parody by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen to promote his new film, Borat: Gift of Pornographic Monkey to Vice Premiere Mikhael Pence to Make Benefit Recently Diminished Nation of Kazakhstan. The film will be streamed by Amazon before the US elections. Until then, we face the unedifying prospect of two further Trump-Biden encounters. 

On Wednesday, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced that it would be changing the format of these events, a clear sign of its displeasure with Tuesday’s mess. At the same time, the commission praised the moderator, Fox TV anchor Chris Wallace, for the “professionalism and skill” with which he had attempted to reign in Trump.

Speaking to the New York Times, Wallace admitted he had been slow to grasp that Trump had planned to bully his way through the encounter from the outset and flout the debate’s rules. “I guess I didn’t realise — and there was no way you could, hindsight being 20/20 — that this was going to be the president’s strategy, not just for the beginning of the debate, but for the entire debate.”

The commission had yet to reveal its plans at the time of writing, but Trump’s supporters were already claiming that any changes will be left-wing conspiracies to stifle the president’s allegedly robust oratory. Wallace, himself, downplayed a suggestion that moderators mute candidates’ microphones when they go rogue. “As a practical matter,” he said, “even if the president’s microphone had been shut, he still could have continued to interrupt, and it might well have been picked up on Biden’s microphone, and it still could have disrupted proceedings in the hall.”

The feeling here at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”) is that the commission could emulate popular Japanese television game shows. Place candidates in perspex booths, for example, and tip a bucket of angry spiders and scorpions over their heads if they don’t behave. Trump, a former reality TV star, would no doubt approve. True, many of these hapless creatures may not survive the ordeal, such is the toxicity of the orange entity. Think, though, of the ratings. Besides, as numerous commentators have pointed out, these debates do little or nothing to influence voters’ decisions. Killer bugs really do make all the difference.

Another binge watch

Speaking of television, there’s definitely a hit Netflix drama series based on the life and times of Richard Mdluli, former crime intelligence boss and now, for the foreseeable, a reluctant guest of the correctional services. Consider — and what follows, pitch-wise, is definitely © Andrew Donaldson & Associates (so don’t get any funny ideas):

We open on Tshidi Buthelezi, Mdluli’s runaway wife, and her lover Tefo “Oupa” Ramogibe having intense sex. Mdluli, then the crooked station commander at Vosloorus police station, is also watching, but on a smart phone handed to him by one of his stooges. He is insane with jealousy, and hatches a plot to kidnap Ramogibe and teach him a lesson he won’t forget. 

Ere long, as we say, Ramogibe is assassinated. The investigation into his death is stymied as corrupt cops destroy evidence. Mdluli’s career, meanwhile, takes off like a rocket. In a deftly underhanded stroke, he even manages to get his bent boss, national police commissioner Jackie Selebi, jailed for 15 years and thus clear his path to the top. 

Unhappily for him, though, Freedom Under Law, a pasty-faced but honest bunch, are on Mdluli’s case. They’re very dogged, and despite several dramatic setbacks, they finally manage to get their man. Our first season ends with Mdluli and fellow dirty cop Mthembeni Mthunzi, his accomplice in the Ramogibe assault and kidnapping saga, sent down for five years. 

Has justice been served? Why wasn’t Mdluli charged with murder? What of his forthcoming court appearances in November to answer charges of fraud, corruption, theft and defeating the ends of justice for allegedly looting an account linked to the crime intelligence unit?

What’s with this supposedly tough guy now mewling that he’s too old for chokey and that his family will be beggared should he be sent down? Is he planning to rat out all those in the ruling criminal enterprise whose skeletons are not too smallanyana? All will be revealed in the second season.