Saturday, July 14, 2018

South Africa' Inequality

South Africa remains the most unequal country in the world, according to a new report by the South African Human Rights Commission.

10% of South Africa’s population owns 90% of the country’s wealth, while the wealthiest 10% earns seven times more than the bottom 40%.

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has released its 2017/2018 report in which it indicates that South Africa remains the most unequal country with 64% of black South Africans, 41% of coloured people, 6% of Indian people and only 1% of white people living in poverty.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

A world cup jaunt

Kenyans have reacted furiously to news that 20 MPs have travelled to watch the World Cup at the taxpayers' expense. They are watching four games, including the final, in a two-week trip to Russia estimated to be costing hundreds of thousands of US dollars.
 Members of parliament usually travel first class. When travelling on official business, Kenyan MPs are entitled to daily allowances for expenses of around $1,000. Kenyan MPs are believed to be among the best paid in the world but last year they got a 15% pay cut to $6,100 a month.
Many Kenyans thought the trip was a waste of money in a country where the average person lives on $150 (£113) a month.

sugar before food

Hunger has hit parts of Masindi District in Uganda as farmers use land previously used to cultivate food crops for sugarcane growing.

The Masindi chief administrative officer, Mr Cristopher Okumu, says people have heavily invested in growing sugarcanes due to the desire to quick get money which is the cause of hunger.
“The problem is that even the poor who would ensure food crop farming hire out their land to sugarcane farmers,” he says.

Joseph Mugisa, a resident of Kinyara says they hire out their land to sugarcane farmers in search of money to take their children to school.
“We would plant food crops but those who hire our land give us a lot of money,” Mr Mugisa says.

Pictures of Racism (1982)

Book Review from the May 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard
Women under Apartheid, IDAF, 1981.

This book is published by the International Defence and Aid Fund for Southern Africa—an organisation opposed to racial oppression—in co-operation with the United Nations Centre Against Apartheid. It consists of some 100 photographs from an exhibition commissioned by the UN. accompanied by a sketchy analysis of apartheid and its manifold consequences chiefly from the perspective of black women, and an account of their bitter and protracted struggle against the system from 1913 onwards.

At the heart of apartheid is the migrant labour system, a consequence of the government’s policy of “separate development”; the territorial division of South Africa into a developed “white” area comprising 87 per cent of the land, and the various tribal homelands or bantustans to which the African 70 per cent of the population belong. Roughly two-thirds of the 9½ million Africans in white South Africa are migrant labourers on annual contracts; the remaining one-third qualify for the right to reside in black townships or “locations” under the stringent conditions laid down in section 10 of the Urban Areas Act.

Influx control is the means whereby the system is maintained, ensuring an adequate supply of cheap labour. Those “economically superfluous” to the requirements of the white area are denied entry or are “re-located” to a homeland called their “country” to which they may never have been before. Indeed, since 1948 over 3 million Africans have been forcibly removed in this fashion and dumped in the homelands, compounding the desperate poverty there.

This basic pattern of black existence applies with particular force to women. More women (6.1m) than men (5.2m) live in the homelands since male migrants cannot take their families with them. As a result, broken marriages and desertion are common and it is chiefly the women who bear the cost.

Sexually discriminatory laws deny women any right to land, though government appointed chiefs may allocate them areas for use. With overcrowding and poverty intensifying, increasing numbers of women are being forced off the land and into the migrant labour system. Like the men they are accommodated either in single quarters belonging to their employers or single-sex, barrack-like hostels into which they cannot bring husbands, boy-friends or children.

As a group, black women earn considerably less than even the low wages paid to black men. For the most part they work as domestic servants for white women. According to the author Hilda Bernstein, after childbirth “the primary role of a white woman becomes that of consumer and living display, through leisure and adornment, of her husband’s wealth”, and the possession of a domestic or two enables them to fulfil this role.

Black women are discriminated against by residential laws in many ways. For example, the stipulation in the Urban Areas Act that the right to reside in an urban area is dependent on whether one has worked for a single employer in the area continuously for at least ten years, or lived in the area continuously for at least 15 years, works against women who stay with their parents in rural areas for the birth of their babies. Neither can women be registered as tenants in townships or stay in urban areas if widowed or divorced.

Some of the photographs are particularly poignant. An old woman in socks sitting against a wall mending her skirt with gnarled hands; another prostrate on the ground beside her scanty belongings, waiting for a train to some settlement camp. On the other hand, the picture of a crowd of black demonstrators bearing posters “WE STAND BY OUR LEADERS” certainly won't arouse sympathy in any socialist; indeed, one of the failings of movements such as the ANC is its elitist outlook. Apart from anything else, the existence of a hierarchical structure enables the authorities swiftly to immobilise protest by arresting its leaders. A rigorously democratic organisation would be much the stronger for not having to rely on “leaders”.

Finally, the book fails to discuss the sort of society which the struggle against apartheid seeks to bring about. It also tends towards generalisation and exaggeration and serves to obscure understanding of the structure of present society. An example is the statement that “through the apartheid system the wealth and resources are controlled by the ruling white minority”. This is not true. There are black capitalists and impoverished white workers, as well as white capitalists and black workers. Anyone who imagines that changing the colour of the ruling class will make a significant difference to the lot of black workers need look no further than the various despotic regimes of the homelands, such as Matanzima’s Transkei or Sebe’s Ciskei, which flaunt their corrupt opulence in the face of black starvation.

Robin Cox

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

War for resources

Uganda and Congo forces clash in Lake Edward dispute. Tensions over an energy-rich border lake have ratcheted up with the death of 12 fishermen. The DRC has said Ugandan troops are firing on "anything that moves." Over the past week, Ugandan and Congolese forces have exchanged fire in a dispute that has left 30 people dead or missing at the disputed border lake. Lake Edward is the smallest of the Great Lakes of eastern Africa and runs along the border between southwestern Uganda and northeastern DRC.  Since the start of 2018, Lake Edward has seen a rise in tensions between the two neighboring countries, as they have quarreled for the lake's energy resources. 

Sunday, July 08, 2018

History in the Making. (1915)

From the January 1915 issue of the Socialist Standard

Some of our opponents delight in telling us that "You can’t do without capital! ” To them, the relationship between capitalist and wage-earner is an "eternal verity”—part of an imaginary, fixed order of things! Others, while admitting that the relationship has a historical origin, claim that it is the inevitable result of intelligence, thrift, and law-abiding 'virtue on the part of the capitalist class, and corresponding stupidity, extravagance, and vice on the part of their slaves. Perhaps they may both be interested in the state of affairs here in East Africa, a region the population of which has only recently been brought within the sphere of capitalist influences.

The writer seeks to show that here, at any rate, the employing class are by no means regarded by the workers as indispensable to their happiness; nor are the means by which the would-be ruling class endeavours to establish and extend its dominion so idyllic as they are imagined to have been in the past.

Previous to the invasion of their territory by a handful, relatively, of Asiatics and Europeans, the millions of dusky natives appear to have reached a stage of development similar to that of the Britons of Caesar’s day. They still support themselves as separate tribes by independent pastoral and agricultural pursuits, and this fact is as gall to the ambitious settlers. The suppression of inter-tribal warfare by the Imperial Government has robbed the male native of one of his chief occupations, with the result that he lives in comparative luxury and ease, while his wives follow their former calling as tillers of the soil. What? Well! yes, to be sure he does have to look after flocks and herds but then that-or-that is—the Christian heart of the settler revolts at the monstrous injustice! Here is he badly in need of labour for his plantation and yonder are—"communities of useless parasites," as a prominent pioneer of Empire in the country calls them.

These chivalrous planters of cotton, sisal, and coffee know full well that if female labour were employed in the spinning, rope-making and other factories in the home-country—well, there would be an awful row! So they puzzle their heads to find some way of compelling the male native to work! And here they fall foul of the Missions and the Government; there are other people interested in these new colonies besides the settlers on the spot, and the interests of these others do not necessarily coincide with theirs.

For the present, it suits the manufacturers of "exports” in England to be the "friends” of the natives. The raw savage who sports a greased skin and knobkerries his fellow is of no interest to the Lancashire cotton magnate. Let a missionary come along and teach him the advantages of a nightgown over the aforesaid skin and let him impress upon him the strong objections of God and the Government to such artificial restrictions on population as I have just mentioned; let him further teach him how to grow cotton on his plantation as well as mealies and hey presto! the cotton magnate has, simultaneously, a new market and a source of cheap raw material!

It is hardly a coincidence that Uganda with its vast number of Christianised, white-clad natives, should be one of Lancashire's most hopeful customers; and East Africa is the highway to Uganda! These protectorates have recently been voted three million pounds by the Imperial Government, and a cartoonist in a local rag wittily hit off the situation by depicting the Government of East Africa as a Highland piper with instructions (from Lancashire via the Premier) to play the Uganda cotton reel!

But this raising of the standard of living of the native and his development into a producer for export by no means suits the settler. Hence the missions stink in his nostrils, and he is "against the Government" which supports them. As often as not he comes from "South" where the blacks are already "down and under,” and he chafes at the independence of the native up here. Secure in possession of their cattle, goats, and plantations, these impudent sons of Ham do not appreciate the blessings of employment under the white men’s auspices. If they do leave with the chief's instructions to earn some money they command a wage which in a short time enables them to buy wives and retire, much to the chagrin of the settler, who wants a "regular" labour supply. These natives seem to do very easily "without capital." The odour of a Kikuyu village is not exactly savoury, but its inhabitants are the possessors of a shameless plumpness of face and body which contrasts strongly with the characteristic features of civilised workers. Mr. F. G. Aflalo, who recently travelled through the country, sums up the matter in an article in the "Morning Post" as follows: ‘"The Labour Question, acute just now all the world over, is nowhere perhaps more seriously felt than in British East Africa and Uganda. . . .  It is not, as with us in Europe, any question of Jack thinking himself better than his master, or of strikes for better wages or shorter hours. It is the far more baffling problem of Jack not wanting wages or work at all!"

So serious is the matter considered that a Native Labour Commission was appointed some time ago, and the reply of the Colonial Office to its recommendations formed the basis of a discussion at the Convention of Associations, the "Settlers’ Parliament," held June 29th—July 1st, 1914. Lord Delamere, probably the largest and most influential landholder in the country, and one time member of the Legislative Council, gave evidence before the Commission, and expressed the opinion that if every native was to own sufficient land on which to keep himself, then the question of obtaining a satisfactory labour supply would never be settled. Another witness. Mr. Hilton, advocated an increase in the poll tax on natives, which, he averred, would provide a sufficient supply of labour; presumably by making it necessary for a native to obtain the money required. In its report, the Commission suggested that no increase be made of existing native reserves and that taxation should be considered as a means of increasing the labour supply!

The Colonial Secretary in his reply, “hesitated to accept" these views, but the following extracted comment on par. 112 of the report is significant:
  "The Secretary of State deems it of the utmost importance that the Government Officers should take no action which may suggest to the native that it is desired to effect recruitment by compulsory measures, but definite instructions have already been issued by Hie Excellency to Provincial and District Officers to the effect that they are to lose no opportunity of explaining to the natives the advantages of going out to work, and are to refrain from making any observations which may lead the people under the impression that the Government is not desirous that they should do so. The Governor has himself taken every opportunity of expressing to the Chiefs of the various tribes . . . his desire that they should give their personal support to labour emigration . . .!"
This, however, is hardly good enough for the stalwarts of the Landholders’ Pastoralists’ and Agricultural Associations!

The Chairman of the Convention, after making the oracular announcement that every industry in the country relies directly or indirectly on labour, went on to say: "The labour is there, but we cannot get it, and we shall not get it until we show clearly that we mean to get it," Coupled with their proposals re-labour the Convention also carries on an agitation for a Constitution, and has adopted as a propagandist object, a compulsory military service scheme in view of possible native "trouble.” Thus the settlers show a decided appreciation of the fact that their hope lies in politics and armed force! As one of their number candidly put it: "Apart from fear the natives have no special reason for remaining loyal to us"!

And one does not have to be a Solomon to realise that when the poll-tax is increased and the restriction of the reserves begins, the natives would have every reason for being decidedly disloyal.

It is not for the writer to predict how long it will be before the settlers gain their ends; but neither the productive capacity of the natives nor the market they afford for articles of European manufacture is inexhaustible, and it would seem that the exploitation of the resources of the country on a larger scale will soon be necessary in the interest of capitalists at home. The acceptance of this view by the Imperial Government will spell the doom of the native’s liberty and property and the chance of the settlers to realise the object that has brought them here, i.e., more profit. Probably they will even forgive the missionaries for inculcating in the native mind the notion of “brotherhood” (!) and submission. Need it be added that the natives will hardly be spared any of the horrors of wage-slavery?

What shall we say then? Are the settlers of British East Africa an exceptionally ferocious and callous set of “investors”? By no means! Go into your public libraries and hunt up Thorold Rogers’ “Six Centuries of Work and Wages” or De Gibbins’ ‘‘Industrial History of England,” and study the record of the 15th and 16th centuries in your own land! There you will find that the progenitors of the wage-earning class were as sturdy and independent, if not more so than the inhabitants of Africa, and that before the capitalist class rose to the position they occupy to-day, they had to use against our forefathers, men of their own colour, almost exactly the same measures as are proposed here!

Without a labour market from which to draw exploitable material, capital cannot accumulate to the extent of providing its owner with a life of idleness and ease such as the respectable owners of the land and the means of converting its products into things of use, enjoy to-day! And turn to any country you will, the actual historic fact is that the labour market is created by the forcible divorce of the workers from their means of life! East Africa, then, is no exception; but it provides a modern and vivid object lesson! Here the Convention admits in the shape of a resolution to His Excellency the Governor, that the Government’s delay in adopting their proposals resulted in “great inconvenience and financial loss’' to them. Let the workers the world over take to heart the lesson, and further realise that, just as the possession of their means of life by the capitalist class is the cause of their subjection, so the ownership and control of such means for and by the workers themselves is the necessary and possible foundation of a free society! Let them further note the method, i.e., the political method, by which the ruling class has achieved and propose to extend their dominion! Not by passive strikes or individual acts of violence can the workers hope to achieve their emancipation. Only by meeting political action by counter political action will victory be won!

In conclusion, may I offer a suggestion or two to your correspondent, “Engineer,” re the question he raises in the April issue of the "S.S.” To the extent that the coloured races are dragged into the capitalist maelstrom, they also show a tendency to adopt the standard of life and thought evolved by capitalism in Europe and America to a very large extent. There appears to be no reason why the "nigger’s” consciousness should prove an exception to the general rule that the development of ideas reflects environmental changes! Further, the very rapidity of the change from barbarism and feudalism in Africa and the East should prevent any illusory notions concerning the duration of capitalism or the methods of its establishment, gaining ground there amongst the workers. To the present writer the age long superstitions which encrust the minds of European wage-slaves who cannot remember the origin of capitalism are far greater obstacles to universal working-class emancipation than the present undeveloped condition of the intellect of “coolie labour.” Here in East Africa, white wage-earners are only too ready to manifest those notions of race superiority which aid the capitalist class at the expense of working-class unity! Let the Socialist Party convince the "superior” white worker of his class position and they will not find his coloured competitor either unwilling or unable to learn.

Eric Boden

Saturday, July 07, 2018

China in Africa

For the past two weeks, high-ranking military officials from 50 African states have been in Beijing attending the first China-Africa Defense and Security ForumThe forum (organized by China’s Ministry of National Defense) is a sign of China’s growing military ties with Africa, as is the inauguration of the country’s first overseas military base in Djibouti in 2017 and its contribution to U.N. peacekeeping missions.

China’s bilateral relations with many African states already include sending military attaches and holding joint drills and live-fire military exercises

In 2015, President Xi Jinping pledged to provide “$100 million of free military assistance to the African Union in the next five years to support the establishment of the African Standby Force and the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crisis.” Part of the Chinese government’s second Africa policy paper is a strong focus on the professionalization of training programs in which tens of thousands of African military officials are invited to China for workshops. 

China’s involvement in U.N. peacekeeping operations (PKOs) is another sign of this commitment. China ranks second (after the United States) in financial support of PKOs and first among the U.N. Security Council’s permanent members in contributing peacekeepers. Since Xi’s pledge before the United Nations to further support U.N. PKOs with funds and an 8,000 troop standby force, China has been working on training peacekeepers — both national and foreign units.

China has taken a comprehensive approach, blending trade and investment deals and cultural exchanges with arms sales, medical assistance, troops training, anti-piracy drills and other programs. Here’s another example: The Chinese military base in Djibouti included huge investment deals and developmental projects that were signed into the base package deal. For nearly two decades, the Forum on China Africa Cooperation(FOCAC) has pursued steady economic and cultural diplomacy. FOCAC meetings have taken place every three years since the year 2000, with the location alternating between China and an African country. The continuity and consistency of the forum helped institutionalize China’s multilateral cooperation with African states.

FOCAC also provided Chinese foreign policymakers the experience to apply this forum diplomacy to regions outside Africa (such as the China Arab States Cooperation Forum, initiated in 2004). The security and defense forum will probably be a recurrent element of China-Africa relations — and also a potential launchpad for China’s defense relations to regions beyond Africa.

Blackfacing, now poorfacing

"You’ve heard of tone-deaf crackers dressing up in blackface. Now get ready for tone-deaf millionaires dressing up in poorface. It’s time to brace yourself for South Africa’s annual masturbatory orgy of poverty porn: the wholly hideous CEO SleepOut…The organisers of this year’s event, however, don’t call it poorfacing. They call it a “movement”, like, I suppose, a bowel movement.…it takes a very special kind of shit to imagine that it is a good idea to bid millions of rand to spend a night in Nelson Mandela’s cell on Robben Island...Indeed, the Onanistic Rapture of Poorfacing, sorry, I mean CEO SleepOut Movement, has given a total of R38.5-million to what it calls “primary beneficiaries” over the past three years…R38.5-million over three years works out to R12.8-million a year. It sounds like a lot. But here’s the thing. Right now, corporate South Africa is sitting on a pile of around R1.4-trillion. This is the unofficial investment boycott we hear about from time to time: the suits refusing to spend a cent until the state shows signs of being able to make South Africa a viable concern…If you give R12.8-million a year in the name of Corporate South Africa, an entity that has R1.4-trillion in the bank, you’re effectively giving away 0.0009% of your savings every year. For someone with R1-million in the bank, that works out to giving away R9.14 a year. Or, for someone with R50,000 in the bank, 45 cents per year.

Friday, July 06, 2018

West Africa's Fish Famine

The fish market in Mbour, on Senegal's Atlantic coast, is one of West Africa's busiest. The catch of the day can be bought straight off the colorful wooden canoes all year round. Jen, the Wolof word for fish, is a dietary staple and a prized resource in Senegal. It is the main ingredient in thieboudienne, a very popular dish made of fish, rice and vegetables. An estimated 20 percent of the country's workforce — some 600,000 people — are employed in the fisheries sector.  
"When the ships go out to sea together, there are not enough fish and they return without any catch. People are thinking there are no more fish left," said Gaoussou Gueye, a veteran fishmonger. "If we still had enough fish in Senegal, we would not to have to look for licenses in other countries to fish."
The region's fish stocks have been depleted over many years by the industrial trawlers combing its oceans for species such as tuna, destined for European and Asian markets. Lately, industrial-scale aquaculture in Asia especially is also fueling demand for West Africa's fish stocks and making a bad situation worse. Fish farming requires powdered fish meal. In recent years, a dozen fish meal factories have been built along the Senegalese coast. In neighboring Mauritania, 30 such factories opened their doors in the past 15 years. Many are Chinese-owned. Sardinella, a traditional staple caught off West Africa, are turned into fish meal and animal feed at these factories. 
"The problem with fishmeal is that for one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of fishmeal you are using at least five to 10 kilograms of fish. So you are also destroying the value of fresh fish for the population," Francisco Mari, an expert on fishing at the relief and development agency Bread for the World, told DW. "The production of fishmeal is irresponsible from a nutrition standpoint," Mari said.
The foreign production of the fish feed is driving up the price of sardinella on the local market. About 20 percent of Senegalese fishers catch only sardinella. For them, the fishmeal plants are more attractive as customers than locals: they buy in bulk and pay in cash. Workers in the fisheries sector say they fear losing their jobs as they face increasing competition over the region's staple diet.
Linnea Engstrom, the deputy chair of the European Parliament's Committee on Fisheries, visited the region recently. She explains that the women who prepare, smoke and then sell the fish are especially affected by the rising prices.
"These women are in a very vulnerable situation; they have to compete with large international companies to buy fish from the fishermen," Engstrom told DW.  "The prices of the fish have gone up immensely and they can no longer afford the resource they need to sustain their business and to feed the population."
In Mauritania, the strain on the environment from fishmeal production has been immense. Toxic waste from the factories is dumped into the sea and thick smoke pollutes the air.
Moctar Ame is an ear, nose and throat specialist in Nouadhibou, a coastal city where more than 20 of Mauritania's fishmeal factories are located. Ame said he has seen public health in the region deteriorate since the factories were opened. He estimates that 20 percent of his patients suffer from diseases directly related to the pollution.
"There are many diseases that are directly related to the pollution of these factories. They release toxic air particles. When these particles enter the body, they cause allergies, chronic bronchitis and skin rashes. We cough a lot and have infected throats because of these particles," Ame explained.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Secret Wars

U.S. special operations teams are directing and engaging in combat raids with African troops in countries including Cameroon, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Somalia, and Tunisia. These small-scale, secret wars are largely concealed by Pentagon obfuscation. Joint U.S.-African commando teams go on raids together at American direction.

Functioning under a legal authority called Section 127e, such operations in Africa are "less, 'We're helping you,' and more, 'You're doing our bidding'" targeting suspected terrorists, an unnamed active-duty Green Beret officer told Politico. Section 127e "funds classified programs under which African governments essentially loan out units of their militaries for American commando teams to use as surrogates to hunt militants identified as potential threats to American citizens or embassies," Politico explains. 

Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie claimed that U.S. troops in Africa are "not directly involved in combat operations" or "direct-action missions with partner forces." Per Politico's sources, that's simply not correct — at best, a case of "lying by omission."