Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Britain’s New African Empire

Companies listed on the London Stock Exchange control over $1trillion worth of Africa’s resources in just five commodities – oil, gold, diamonds, coal and platinum. My research for the NGO, War on Want, which has just been published, reveals that 101 companies, most of them British, control $305 billion worth of platinum, $276 billion worth of oil and $216 billion worth of coal at current market prices. The ‘Scramble for Africa’ is proceeding apace, with the result that African governments have largely handed over their treasure.
Tanzania’s gold, Zambia’s copper, South Africa’s platinum and coal and Botswana’s diamonds are all dominated by London-listed companies. They have mines or mineral licences in 37 African countries and control vast swathes of Africa’s land: their concessions cover a staggering 1.03 million square kilometres on the continent. This is over four times the size of the UK and nearly one twentieth of sub-Saharan Africa’s total land area. China’s resources grabs have been widely vilified but the major foreign takeover of Africa’s natural riches springs from a lot closer to home.
Many African governments depend on mineral resources for revenues, yet the extent of foreign ownership means that most wealth is being extracted along with the minerals. In only a minority of mining operations do African governments have a shareholding. Company tax payments are minimal due to low tax rates while governments often provide companies with generous incentives such as corporation tax holidays.
Companies are also able to avoid paying taxes by their use of tax havens. Of the 101 London-listed companies, 25 are actually incorporated in tax havens, principally the British Virgin Islands. It is estimated that Africa loses around $35 billion a year in illicit financial flows out of the continent and a further $46 billion a year in multinational company profits taken from operations in Africa.
UK companies’ increasingly dominant role in Africa, which is akin to a new colonialism, is being facilitated by British governments, Conservative and Labour alike. Four policies stand out. First, Whitehall has long been a fierce advocate of liberalized trade and investment regimes in Africa that provide access to markets for foreign companies. It is largely opposed to African countries putting up regulatory or protectionist barriers to such investment, the sorts of policies where have often been used by successful developers in East Asia. Second, Britain has been a world leader in advocating low corporate taxes in Africa, including in the extractives sector.
Third, British policy has done nothing to challenge multinational companies using tax havens; indeed the global infrastructure of tax havens is largely a British creation. Fourth, British governments have constantly espoused only voluntary mechanisms for companies to monitor their human rights impacts; they are opposed to enhancing international legally binding mechanisms to curb abuses.
The result is that Africa, the world’s poorest continent, is being further impoverished. Recent research calculated, for the first time, all the financial inflows and outflows to and from sub-Saharan Africa to gauge whether Africa is being helped or exploited by the rest of the world. It found that $134 billion flows into the continent each year, mainly in the form of loans, foreign investment and aid. However, $192 billion is taken out, mainly in profits made by foreign companies and tax dodging. The result is that Africa suffers a net loss of $58billion a year. British mining companies and their government backers are contributing to this drainage of wealth.
We need to radically rethink the notion that Britain is helping Africa to develop. The UK’s large aid programme is, among other things, being used to promote African policies from which British corporations will further profit. British policy in Africa, and indeed that of African elites, needs to be challenged and substantially changed if we are serious about promoting long term economic development on the continent.

More refugees

The United Nations says over 37,000 people fleeing the conflict in South Sudan have entered Uganda over the last three weeks.
"In the past three weeks there have been more refugee arrivals in Uganda than in the entire first six months of 2016," which was 33,838 people, said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in a statement released on Tuesday.
The UNHCR added that over 90 percent of the refugees were woman and children as adult males were being forced to join armed groups.
It noted that most of the refugees had fled from South Sudan's Eastern Equatoria region and the capital Juba.
The UN body also stressed that refugee camps in Uganda were being overwhelmed by the surge of people.
Thousands of people have been killed and more than three million forced to flee their homes in the war that started in December 2013, when President Kiir sacked Machar only two years after the country seceded from Sudan.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

South Africa's White Poor

A fraction of South Africa's white population lives in poverty similar to that of many of the country's black township residents. They are grappling with the same problems.

Barefoot children play with whatever they can find in front of the shanties in which they live. Idle adults sit on stools in front of their shacks; it just gets too hot inside. This was a common scenario for black families during South Africa's decades of apartheid. For many, living conditions haven't improved since the country declared statutory equality in 1994. Leigh Du Preez, the founder of the South African Family Relief Project (SAFRP), says that policies designed to redress decades of enforced inequality have not had the intended effect. But she is not talking about black families: Du Preez says more and more white people have been left unemployed and hungry, having to fend for themselves amid growing racial tensions. "People think that this can't be true, but this is how my people live," Du Preez says.

It is hardly surprising there is little awareness about the issue of growing white poverty. Less than 10 percent of South Africa's population is white, according to the 2014 census, and less than 10 percent of whites live in this kind of poverty. Du Preez explains there are almost 500 informal settlements of white people across South Africa, asserting that "no one will help them."

Munsieville is an hour northwest of Johannesburg, a former landfill, with more than 300 families living in close quarters. "There was nothing at all here before. There was no sanitation, no water, no electricity. Now there's one portable toilet for every three families. It stinks everywhere," she says, adding that the unsanitary conditions have led to outbreaks of bronchitis, pneumonia, and chicken pox.

It's not that the lives of the white camp residents in Munsieville are worse than those of the black community. On the contrary, the vast majority of black township residents are also struggling to survive.
"They are all trying to make this place as livable as possible, with whatever little they have," says Marius Du Preez, Leigh's husband.

A foreign reporter once suggested poor white people might deserve to be in dire straits after benefitting from decades of apartheid rule. Du Preez has heard that argument before: "I can understand when foreign people say those things about us. But they don't understand that apartheid wasn't about [creating] poverty. It was about power and control, and yes, it was bad.
"But we have more black squatter camps under the current government than we ever did under apartheid," Du Preez says. "Plus, we have all these white squatter camps as well. How is that better?"


Thursday, July 21, 2016

African farmers say they can feed the world


With 60-65% of the world’s uncultivated arable land and 10% of renewable freshwater resources, Africa’s immense agricultural potential has long been a keen point of discussion among agronomists and global decision-makers. After a 160% increase in African agricultural output over the past 30 years, many elements of the continent’s food production process look to be on an upward trajectory.

By upgrading and expanding facilities, while also boosting low electricity output, Africa could fast become food self-sufficient. Many farmers are unable to buy some of the tools or chemicals that might enable them to boost their yields. In a continent where wheat yields can be as low as 1-1.5 tons per hectare (in comparison to 3 or 4 tons elsewhere), these limitations are intensely problematic.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Fact of the Day

The Democratic Republic of Congo may be one of the richest countries in the world in terms of mineral wealth but eight out of 10 Congolese people live in extreme poverty.

The innocent victims

Just under a quarter of a million children in Nigeria’s northeastern state of Borno, where an insurgency waged by jihadists Boko Haram has disrupted trade and healthcare, suffer from life-threatening malnourishment, UNICEF said on Tuesday. The UN children’s agency said the extent of the nutrition problems faced by children in Borno had become clearer as a result of more areas in the northeast becoming accessible to humanitarian assistance. UNICEF said that out of the 244,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in Borno this year, around one in five will die if they do not receive treatment.

“Some 134 children on average will die every day from causes linked to acute malnutrition if the response is not scaled up quickly,” Manuel Fontaine, Unicef’s regional director for Western and Central African warned. “There are two million people we are still not able to reach in Borno state, which means that the true scope of this crisis has yet to be revealed to the world.” 


The Islamist group Boko Haram’s seven-year rebellion has left 20,000 people dead and more than two million displaced.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Gates and the Mandela Legacy

Patrick Bond of the Wits University School of Governance in Johannesburg and the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society in Durban has written an article critical of the philanthro-capitalism of Bill Gates (who is worth $80 billion, up $24 billion from 2011) which he describes as ‘market-orieted, technology-centric’ specializing ‘ in top-down technicist quick-fixes – ‘silver bullets’ – which often backfire on the economic shooting range of extreme corporate influence and neoliberal policies.’ Microsoft’s offshore tax-avoidance policies today earn the company more money than Gates gives annually in donations (less than $4 billion/year).

 Global Justice Now’s Polly Jones complained in a report, Gates’ “influence is so pervasive that many actors in international development, which would otherwise critique the policy and practice of the foundation, are unable to speak out independently as a result of its funding and patronage.”

* Gates’ power threatens African food in part due to his advocacy of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), which benefit agro-corporates such as Monsanto but wipe out local seeds. In Kenya, Gates’ people and US AID appear to have succeeded in reversing a GMO-seed ban (only four African states allow GMOs). The Gates-supported Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa “advised and lobbied the governments of Ghana, Tanzania, and Malawi, among others, to adopt pro-business seed and land policy reforms,” according to a critique by a progressive food-sovereignty NGO, Oakland Institute.

* To address species-threatening climate change, a rather confused Gates favours ‘Terrapower’ nuclear, a dangerous distraction from the urgent need to both expand renewable energy and radically reduce fossil-fuel abuse. As Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson bragged about Gates at his recent AGM, “there’s no space between he and I.”

* Privatised health and education are Gates’ speciality but in India, a Gates-funded trial on the genital cancer-causing disease Human papillomavirus was cancelled by the government because thousands of girls aged 10-14 were victims of ethics violations such as forged consent forms and lack of health insurance; seven died. The case is now in the country’s Supreme Court.

In Durban the Gates-backed ‘Urine Diversion’ toilets imposed by the municipality on nearly 100 000 poor black households are considered a new version of the hated ‘bucket system.’ Higher-income residents of Durban – including in the nearby, traditionally-white western suburbs – don’t suffer this discriminatory indignity. Not only does Durban’s retired water director now offer sanitation consulting to Gates, so too is the top Gates Foundation policy official, Geoffrey Lamb, a South African.

 Once a hard-core ‘Marxist’ (and son-in-law of ‘colonialism of a special type’ inventor Michael Harmel), Lamb’s work once included path-breaking class analysis of the Tanzanian peasantry, and he was a PhD advisor when SA trade and industry minister Rob Davies wrote his ‘Marxist’ thesis at Sussex University. After an ideological U-turn, Lamb was central to developing a ‘homegrown’ structural adjustment strategy working at the highest levels of the World Bank during the 1980s, and especially in its application inside the African National Congress during the early 1990s.

The most damage done within South Africa was Gates’ promotion of intellectual property (IP) rights. Gates got rich from IP illegitimately acquired thanks to blatantly anti-competitive practices, such as bundling Windows with the slow, security flaw-ridden Internet Explorer web-browser, according to US prosecutors. The emails that Gates and his colleagues sent each other unveiled their cutthroat, illegal approach to IT, notwithstanding the internet’s massive government subsidies. Long-term monopoly patents were granted not only to Gates for his Microsoft software, but for life-saving medicines. IP became a fatal barrier to millions of HIV+ people who, thanks to Big Pharma’s profiteering, were denied AIDS medicines which cost R150 000/year fifteen years ago. The Gates Foundation was part of the problem by insisting on Merck-branded drugs in its Botswana AIDS clinics, complained Zackie Achmat of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in 2001. With TAC instead demanding and finally – in the wake of at least 330 000 avoidable AIDS deaths – winning access to generic medicines made locally, the cost to African governments became negligible and today nearly four million people in South Africa alone get the drugs, which has raised life expectancy from 52 in 2004 to 62 today.

The 1990s witnessed a series of debilitating concessions to multinational corporations by Mandela’s African National Congress. Mandela Foundation director Verne Harris acknowledges, “Under Madiba’s leadership the ANC embraced a neoliberal agenda with unseemly haste and we’re paying a terrible price for that now.” Added Harris, “We’re only beginning to understand the nature of this phenomenon. From the late 1980s, a huge seduction was underway, of the liberation movement by capital and it’s playing out in all kinds of destructive ways now, from arms deals to corruption.”

Facts of the Day

South Africa’s Gini Coefficient which measures inequality is the world’s highest (at 0.77 on a scale of 0 to 1, in terms of income inequality from employment).

Since 2000, social protests have numbered an average of 11 per day. 

From 2012-16 the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report category measuring worker militancy ranked South Africa’s proletariat as the angriest on earth.

PricewaterhouseCoopers Economic Crime surveys awarded the gold medal for world corruption to the Johannesburg bourgeoisie in 2014 and 2016.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Albinism (video)

South Africa's rich CEOs

South Africa’s PwC’s latest executive director’s remuneration report shows that the pay spectrum across the JSE, the median salary for executives has increased by 12% between 2014 and 2015 to R3.7 million, where CEOs saw the median salary jump by 10.7%, to R4.6 million, with the upper quartile seeing an 8% increase to R7.7 million.

In global markets, it is becoming increasingly more common for companies to cap bonus pay to 100% of an exec’s guaranteed salary – this is not in effect in South Africa.


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Zambia – missed opportunities

Zambia – missed opportunities

In a dramatic court judgment that most people had not anticipated, former MMD president Rupiah Banda was acquitted of the Nigerian oil deal case on the grounds that the state failed to prove a case against him.

When delivering judgment the Ndola magistrate stated that the state lack enough evidence against Banda, who was alleged to had facilitated a contract t o import oil from Nigeria in 2009, in which the Zambian government was swindled of £2.6m.

The political legacy of the late president Sata has been dealt a severe blow in the sense that it was Sata who had instructed the anti-corruption to investigate Banda in 2012. This followed the removal of his presidential or political immunity by the public prosecutor Mutembo Nchito.

The dismissal of Nchito by President Edgar Lungu has now paid its dividends in the sense that Banda supported and campaigned for Lungu during the January 30th presidential by-elections.

The extent to which Lungu has gone in incorporating corrupt elements in the ruling party is alarming if not self vindictive.

It is quite evident that when Sata died in London he had not groomed a political leader to succeed him. The vacuum of political leadership in the PF came to reveal itself after the death of the president in 2014. the political crisis was instigated by the Attorney-General Musa Mwenye when he appointed Vice-President Guy Scott to serve as acting president when he left Zambia for medical treatment abroad in September 2014.

President Lungu’s rise to political eminence was rapid within the PF – he was appointed as minister of defence when the former PF Kasama central member of parliament resigned in 2013. In 2014 Lungu was appointed as acting minister of justice and PF secretary-general, when Sata had dismissed Wynter Kabimba. He was appointed as acting president when Sata left for his medical treatment abroad.

The appointment of vice-president Guy Scott to serve as acting president was made under constitutional law, which stipulates that the Attorney General reserves the right to appoint a serving vice-president to serve as acting president when the head of state cannot physically discharge his presidential duties due to ill health or death.

The power vested in the republican president to appoint someone to act as vice-president whenever he leaves the country is a political prerogative made in good faith – it demonstrates how inadequate is the Bill of Human Rights and wide the powers given to the head of state.

The Zambian constitution needs to be reformed in order to curb the powers of the president. In 2004 the second republican president amended the Zambian constitution when is inserted a clause that disenfranchised any person whose first parents [?] were not indigenous Zambians by birth. The racialist clause was made in order to disenfranchise Dr Kenneth Kaunda from contesting the 2006 presidential elections.
The first republican president Dr Kenneth Kaunda was born in Zambia in 1924, but his father and mother originated from Malawi.

There developed political faction s with the Pf after president Sata died between those who supported the appointment of Vice-President Guy Scott and those who rallied themselves behind Edgar Lungu. The political faction supporting Lungu was in a majority within the ruling party.

Ninety days after the demise of President Sata the PF held a political conference at which he was to elect a party president to succeed Sata.

On 30th December 2014 Edgar Lungu was unanimously elected as president during an election that was boycotted by eight other PF presidential candidates, among them Dr Christine Kaseba, Chilufya Sata, Miles Sampa and Chishimba Kambwili.

The Patriotic Front was formed by President Sata and his wife Dr Kaseba. In 20.. [?] it was later joined by Guy Scott, Given Lubinda and Wynter Kabimba.

The fact is that it was too early for Sata to groom a political successor in ???? the fact that the PF was in power for only three years. It is also true that Sata did not anticipate his death when he appointed Lungu as acting president in September 2014.

Thus, Lungu like Banda became acting presidents by chance outside factors (the deaths of presidents Michael Sata and levy Mwanawasa respectively).

Because Edgar Lungu was a member of parliament for Chawama constituency ??? holds a degree in law is not enough excuse to warrant him becoming republican president. The man is a seasoned alcoholic and he collapsed when addressing a public rally.

Indeed, President Lungu is not averse to tribalism and is very reluctant to caution his minsters from uttering tribalism verbiage directed against certain tribes.

The Zambian domestic economy has been facing many problems which Lungu has failed to resolve, given the fact that previous presidents were known to personally intervene whenever there was a dire economic crisis.

Rising fuel prices, the depreciating Zambian currency (the kwacha) and electricity blackouts are some of the major economic problems that Lungu has shown no imitative to rectify.

The arrest of Post newspaper managing editor Fred Meembe is the latest clamping down of press freedom taking place under the PF government.

The political slogan ONE ZAMBIA ONE NATION is now flagrantly used by Lungu to camouflage corruption, tribalism, nepotism and favouritism taking place in the PF.

Indeed, the late president Sata will be remembered for his readiness to dismiss corrupt elements from the PF – he always championed the aspirations of workers, peasants and students.

The current Zambian political constitution is flawed and needs to be reformed or amended in the sense that it safeguards the political and economic privileges of the ruling political elites at the expense of opposition political parties. For instance, the Public Order Act can be applied to arrest journalists for publishing classified information and restrict political demonstrations.

CEPHAS MULENGA, 
Kitwe Zambia

Zambia 2016 Elections

ZAMBIA: CAN HICHILEMA DEFEAT PRESIDENT LUNGU IN THE 2016 ELECTIONS?

The people of Zambia will go to vote in a general election on 11August to elect a president and national assembly. This election will no doubt be a bitter political contest between Patriotic Front (PF) President Edgar I.ungu and United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilcma in the sense that both leaders enter the election bearing deep scars from the time of January 2015 presidential election.

LUNGU'S POLITICAL PERFORMANCE

A professic›nal lawyer and PF Chawama Member of Parliament the rise of Edgar I.ungu to high echelons of power in the PF was dramatic. He was appointed to serve as acting Minister of Defence and Justice when Godfrey Mwamba and Wynta Kabimba resigned in 2014. He was later appointed as acting president during the same year when the late President Sata went to seek for medical treatment abroad.

During the presidential by-election held in January 2015 ― President Lungu managed to defeat UPND leader Hichilema by 48.3% of the total votes cast whereas Hichilema polled 46.7%, the remaining votes going to minor candidates.
                                                                                   
Hichilema received most votes from the traditional UPND political stronghold of Southern Province, Western and North-Western provinces. President Lungu maintained his political grip on the Copperbelt, I.usaka, Eastern, Luapula and Northern Provinces.

It is certain that the people who voted for President I.ungu did so out of political loyalty to the political and economic legacies of the late President Sata.


Indeed a political novice without any profoun‹l political conviction, President Lungu failed a majority vote (beyond 50%). Voter apathy was very high and the national voter turnout at 32% was the lowest ever recorded in a presidential election.

The results of the 2010 election must be reckoned from the voting patterns that emerged after the election in the sense that they tended to elicit ethnic and tribal political loyalties.

After having been in power for only a year, President Lungu presided over a deteriorating economy beset by dwindling copper prices, electricity blackouts, rising unemployment and a depreciating Kwacha relative to the US Dollar.

It is alleged by President I.ungu that poor rainfall experienced during the 2014-15 rain season led to low water levels in the Kariba dam that affected the generating capacity of the facility. But recent investigation at the Zambezi river authority has revealed that enough water was allocated to Kariba dam water reservoir to mitigate any low rainfall for a period of two years.


In what seemed to be a dire attempt to shift public attention from the ever deepening economic and social problems President Lungu went on to seek for divine intervention and declared a day of national prayers.

The somber occasion that took place on 10 October 2015 was attended by Christian denominations from across the country but the UPND leader Ichilema boycotted the ceremonial.

In assessing the political stamina between president Lungu and Ichilema the following factors are likely to affect the 11 August general election.


 The year 2015 saw the collapse of copper price and the critical shortage of electricity supply to the copper mining sector. This led to hundreds of job losses on the Copperbelt as mining companies sought to remain af1oat. Some 200 discharged miners rioted in Chingola in protest against the layoffs and a few days later some retrenched miners in Kitwe and Mululira (Mopani Copper Mine) staged peaceful demonstrations.

Feelings of political disenchantment are everywhere visible on the Copperbelt
mining towns and in the capital city Lusaka. It is more than certain that the UPND stand a better chance of receiving more votes from the Copperbelt province given the poor performance of President Lungu since he came to power in 2010.

HICHILEMA AND TRIBALISM

A successful business tycoon and veteran opposition politician, UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema is again positioning himself as the most likely person to win the 11 August election.

Tribalism remains Hichilema's political brand and this fact easily explains the absence of Bemba-speaking members of parliament in the UPND. The UPND has all the makings of being a tribal party and is strongly supported in Southern Province among the Tonga-speaking tribe.

By portraying himself as a political spokesman of the Tonga-speaking tribe, Hichilema has robbed the UPND of the political sympathy of the heavily populated area of Lusaka, the Copperbelt, Luapula, Eastern and Northern Provinces.

In Zambia, like every capitalist country around the world, politics is perceived as the preserve of the rich and wealthy classes in the sense that it is only those who enjoy political and social privilege who can afford to merchandise their political egotism.

It has come to pass that many people feel that politicians cannot be trusted as they have some selfish and opportunistic ambition to achieve wealth and power. This reduced view of politics is supported by the very presence and domination of the political scene by very few and by some politicians criss-crossing party lines. Corruption in Zambia has become endemic in the public service for the mere fact that the abuse of public funds and property is deemed an injury to none.

The political fortunes of the UPND took a dramatic turn when some senior members of the ruling PF and of MMD joined Hichilema's campaign team. These recent political defections to UPND could foreshadow a future in which the UPND will at last shed off its tribal complexion as those from the PF hail from Luapala and Northern Province. It remains to be seen whether that will be an advantage to Hichilema.

If Hichilema manages to receive votes beyond 50% + 1 this time around his success will be attributed to the political influence and efforts of the PF and MMD defectors. The fact is that nothing will change in the composition of the individuals running the political affairs of Zambia – the same high profile PF and MMD ministers will find themselves serving under the UPND flag.

What cannot be predicted is how deep is the vice of tribalism within the UPND and what effect it will have on the political integrity of Hichilema.

Cephas Mulenga, 
Kitwe, Zambia