On October 31 2015, a passenger jet operated by Russia’s Metrojet airline took off from Sharm el Sheikh International Airport. It was heading for St Petersburg with a cargo of seven crew and 217 passengers, mostly families returning home from their sunny holiday along Egypt’s Red Sea Coast.
No one on that plane would complete their journey.
After 23 minutes in the air, a bomb exploded in the hold, causing sudden, uncontrolled decompression.
The aircraft disintegrated in mid-air. The Sinai Branch of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed responsibility for the attack.
Three months later, I visited Sharm el Sheikh, landing at that same airport, which is supposed to be Egypt’s third-busiest, with a capacity to handle 5-million passengers per year. The glossy international terminal was eerily quiet. Just a single conveyor belt was operating, and my fellow passengers were, like me, there for business rather than pleasure.
Sharm el Sheikh itself felt like the setting for a post-apocalyptic movie, its restaurants empty and its markets entirely free from the bustle that usually gives them such character. On the beach, rows and rows of empty sun loungers waited for holidaymakers that would never come, while some of the mammoth resorts which line the coast had shut down entirely.
Sharm el Sheikh’s experience has mirrored that of Egypt as a whole. The country used to be one of the world’s favourite tourist destinations — and why wouldn’t it be, with its abundance of extraordinarily preserved ancient artefacts, its wealth of iconic architecture and religious monuments, its pristine beaches and its world-class diving. In 2010, more than 14-million people visited the country, bringing in revenues of $12-billion.
But the Arab Spring that ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak dissuaded holidaymakers, as did the political instability which followed. In 2013, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi staged a military coup and installed himself in the presidency, but his strongarm tactics and inability to contain militant activity in the Sinai region did not do much to restore confidence in the country’s struggling hospitality sector. By 2015, the year the Russian plane was bombed, tourist numbers were down to just 5.6-million.
In recent years, things have been looking up, however. Slowly, that confidence has been returning, helped by a massive security presence at airports and key tourist sites — and a brutal crackdown against militant groups in the Sinai. Visitor numbers crept above the 9 million mark last year, suggesting that the government is beginning to bring the political situation under control.
But two recent incidents near Egypt’s most famous attraction, the Pyramids of Giza, once again bring into question the country’s safety for foreigners. In December 2018, a bomb explosion targeting a tourist bus killed four people — an Egyptian tour guide and three tourists from Vietnam. A similar attack on Sunday targeted a bus carrying a South African tour group, wounding 17 people.
It’s not just tourists at risk, of course, despite the headlines in international media that seem to suggest that the lives of some nationalities are more newsworthy than others. Egyptians too have been targeted in violence: both by militants, in horrific attacks on churches and mosques; or by their own government, in crackdowns against protestors and in suspected extrajudicial killings in the Sinai.
Some countries have issued advisories against travel to parts of Egypt, such as the United Kingdom, which said: “Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Egypt. You should be vigilant at all times and follow the advice of the Egyptian authorities and your travel company, if you have one.”
The South African government, however, has adopted a more bullish approach – even encouraging citizens to book tickets for the upcoming African Cup of Nations football tournament which begins next month. “We call on South Africans to go in numbers and support their team at the Africa Cup of Nations and believe the Egyptian authorities have the capacity to successfully guard the games‚” said international relations department spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya, speaking toTimesLIVE. “We feel there is no need to panic‚ we have faith in the Egyptian law enforcement agencies to handle the situation and we understand that these types of things do happen.”
Sure, these types of things do happen; but they seem to happen in Egypt with a greater frequency than any other top tourist destination. Until the Egyptian government finds a way to deal more effectively with its political problems, it may prove difficult to fill up those beach loungers.
The bomb which brought down the Metrojet plane is the highest profile – and most deadly – attack on Egypt’s tourist industry, but this is far from an isolated incident.
Egypt’s tourist industry, battered by years of instability, was only just beginning to recover when it suffered yet another disastrous setback on Sunday. The good news is that no one was killed in the latest attack, in which a tourist bus was targeted by an explosion near the Pyramids of Giza (although 17 people were injured — including a number of South Africans).
The bad news is that Egypt can ill-afford to lose even more tourist dollars, and the government seems powerless to protect its foreign visitors.
Sunday’s incident is the latest in a long and deadly series of attacks on tourists and tourist attractions.
Secrets and lies were our friends in the…
First we need the truth, and only then can we reconcile. In the absence of truth, we will forever have the likes of Jacob Zuma threatening the very fabric of our society.
For those of us who were actively involved in the anti-apartheid Struggle, who bled for the Struggle, who were arrested and tortured for the Struggle, who committed acts of terror for the Struggle, who killed for the Struggle, and yes, who died for the Struggle – if there is one thing that is like a warm cashmere blanket in the icy winter, it is secrecy.
For without it, the revolution would have been constantly compromised. The names of our fellow comrades, the safe houses harbouring state fugitives, the next rendezvous point for our crucial treasonous meetings, who said what in which meeting, and where the arms caches were hidden. This was the nature of the anti-apartheid game. Secrecy was everything. Because contrary to most, we were engaged in a war. It was a war of attrition between those fighting for liberation and those opposed to it.
I once attended a mass rally in my home town at one of the high schools in Mitchells Plain in 1986. I was one of the young student leaders of the 14 high schools in the area. One of the speakers at the rally, unfortunately, implied that another of us was collaborating with the security police and pointed him out in the crowd. Before we knew what was happening, the student had been accosted by an angry mob and in no time was attacked. The kicking was relentless and simply too much. He later died of internal bleeding, succumbing to his injuries.
I tell this horrific story because in my time, at the height of our struggle for freedom, it was callous to say this one or that one is, or was, a spy. Necklacing was almost a certainty at the time, and so comrades knew that you’d better have, and present, irrefutable evidence to make such a claim because a life was on the line. The only people who used it in such a callous manner during our time were either agents provocateurs themselves and/or the very spies they so foolhardily called out.
This is what I remembered when I heard Jacob Zuma making such irresponsible and callous claims about certain comrades.
An agent provocateur (French for “inciting agent”) is a person who commits or who acts to entice another person to commit an illegal or rash act or falsely implicate them in partaking in an illegal act, so as to ruin the reputation or entice legal action against the target or a group to which they belong.
This is Jacob Zuma! To save your own skin, to dabble in the art of misdirection and to destroy comrades and their families is what an agent provocateur such as yourself does.
How else does one explain what transpired in South Africa over the past 10 years under Zuma’s watch? Who if not an agent of apartheid, appoints known collaborators of apartheid, spies and askaris into high government positions? Gives them contracts to the tune of millions, whether it be in the police, intelligence services or state-owned enterprises or from the former apartheid security structures?
Zuma did this, no one else. He allowed the state to be hollowed out, virtually bankrupted us and actively facilitated State Capture with his friends the Guptas. Zuma is the last to talk of apartheid spies. These vile threats will not deter us from our mission to clean up your mess and in the process arrest, suspend, expel and humiliate those that actively participated in eroding our state and the ruling party.
Having said this, however, I do also want us to investigate the causes of this phenomenon. This, in my opinion, is symptomatic of us all lying to our people, it is haunting us all because of how we have opted to lie to ourselves and the people of Mzansi.
The exiled comrades who now find it more convenient to be held up as heroes who selflessly fought for our liberation in foreign lands. Never must there be any mention of the illegality that took place with the full knowledge of the then leadership. It had to be done because we needed the money to keep the organisation and its huge infrastructure going. But besides this, there were the criminal elements among us who personally benefited from such illegality. The rapes that took place in our camps, not to forget the firing squads for those who dared to instigate mutiny in the ranks. Or those accused of spying in the camps.
The lying about qualifications to this day, because you think you can get away with it, stems from those days.
The internal United Democratic Front (UDF) comrades who did not want to readily admit the level of infiltration in our midst, in every organisation, be it student, youth, civic or labour movements. Rumours abound to this day about this one and that one having been a spy.
I recall meeting one of the security branch people in Muizenberg a few years ago with a friend while he was doing research work for a book he was thinking of writing. The security police officer was one of the so-called coloured ones that collaborated with the white security police during that time. It struck me then that when my friend asked him whether he would be prepared to mention the names of all those at the time that spied for the security police, his answer floored me: he said, no, I cannot and will not do that. We took a decision together as the security police after 1994 that our contribution to the Struggle will be to not mention any names because that would simply distract all of you from what really needs to be done, which is to transform our society for a better life for all, instead of fighting and killing each other, because this one was a spy, an impimpi or an askari. I could not believe this guy. In short, he was saying, we are doing it as our contribution to the Struggle. What kind of perverse logic is that?
But then it got me thinking – maybe there’s some truth in that logic. And as I had previously written, we could find it in our hearts to forgive the white enemy, who killed and maimed us; treated us like imbeciles and young boys even though we at times were older than them; humiliated us for centuries just for fun at times; and exploited us in the most inhuman way in the workplace and ensured the triple exploitation of women on the basis of race, class and gender. We listened to Mandela and we forgave them for all of the above and so much more, and yet we cannot do this for the numerous collaborators, spies and askaris. Why is that?
And then I realised why we are not capable of such a reconciliatory act: because first we need the truth, and only then can we reconcile. So, in the absence of truth, we will forever have the likes of Jacob Zuma threatening the very fabric of our society.
Allow the legends, untruths and lies to fall, so our people may have confidence in us once more. So that the moral fibre can be visible again. And just before all the non-ANC types shake their heads in agreement, let me also appeal to you to divulge your truths. White South Africans must acknowledge their role in apartheid, whether in the form of an apology or indeed a developmental tax. The Inkatha Freedom Party must own up in terms of their role with regards to black-on-black violence in the early 1990s. And the so-called coloureds that collaborated with the National Party in their ill-conceived Tricameral Parliament must speak up.
Many of our hands are anything but clean, we owe it to our people. We will not be able to build a nation-state when the very foundation is built on lies.
We must all become agents of truth because truth is the daughter of time. DM
In other news…
July 18 marks Nelson Mandela day. All over the country, South African citizens devote 67 minutes to charitable causes in memory of Madiba. It’s a great initiative and one of those few occasions in South Africa where we come together as a nation in pursuit of a common cause. An annual 67 minutes isn’t going to cut it though.
In the words of Madiba:
“A critical, independent and investigative free press is the lifeblood of any democracy.”
Every day Daily Maverick investigates and exposes the deep rot of state capture and corruption but we need your help. Without our readers’ support we simply won’t survive. We created Maverick Insider as a membership platform where our readers can become part of our community while ensuring that we can keep doing the investigations that we do and, crucially, that our articles remain free to everyone that reads them. Sign up to Maverick Insider this Mandela Month and make that meaningful contribution last longer than 67 minutes.For whatever amount you choose, you can support Daily Maverick and it only takes a minute.
Ursula von der Leyen confirmed as next European Commission president
Diver Swims Alongside A Jellyfish That’s As Big As A Human : NPR
A diver looking for interesting undersea video footage recently got more than she bargained for off the coast of Cornwall, England, when she happened upon a giant barrel jellyfish that was bigger than she is.
“I’ve never seen a barrel fish — or any jellyfish — that big,” diver and biologist Lizzie Daly said. Clearly elated, she added, “It was the size of my body, and it was the best thing I’ve ever done.”
In video of the encounter, the jellyfish looms large, pulsing along, its large frilly tentacles trailing behind it.
Sharing a swim with the gargantuan jellyfish was “absolutely incredible,” Daly said.
The giant barrel is the largest jellyfish found in U.K. waters. The Wildlife Trusts says this species of jelly, Rhizostoma pulmo, has a bell up to 3 feet wide and can weigh nearly 80 pounds. The leviathan Daly saw was clearly larger.
While she swam near it, the animal trundled along, pulsing through the water. Daly tells The Guardian that she wasn’t worried about its tentacles: “It has got a very mild sting and poses no threat to humans – some people don’t even feel it.”
Surely, though, they would see it.
The jellyfish made such an impression on Daly, a conservation advocate and wildlife host who works with the BBC and other outlets, that on Tuesday she wrote a thank-you note to her new rhizostomatid friend.
“Dear Giant Jellyfish,” Day wrote. “Do you know how many people you have inspired in the last few days? People asking..what is it? Is it really that big? That cannot be in UK waters?!!”
Daly’s swim with the jellyfish was captured on video by underwater camera operator Dan Abbott — who captioned his photo of Daly being dwarfed by the jellyfish, ” I can’t believe that just happened!”
Daly and Abbott were working on a special called Wild Ocean Week, highlighting the splendor that can be explored underwater, and to encourage people and organizations to do more to preserve the oceans’ beauty.
Saying her goal was to inspire a wider audience, Daly wrote, “Giant jellyfish you have done just that. So THANK YOU!! I feel humbled to have shared the same space as you.”
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