Saturday, January 21, 2017

Meet the new boss

 It is fervently hoped that bloodshed will have been avoided in the Gambia with the departure of the rogue who has been facilitating the exploitation of its citizens for the past 20 years.
 The Gambia’s new president has declared that the “rule of fear” is over in the country, as it appeared that a deal had been reached for his predecessor, Yahya Jammeh, to relinquish power and go into exile.

 After 12 hours of talks, Mauritania’s president, Mohamed Abdel Aziz, confirmed to the Guardian that an agreement had been reached. “There is a deal,” he said. Asked if Jammeh would be leaving the country, he said: “The outgoing president will travel very soon.”
“The outgoing president is going to leave as soon as the conditions are met – very soon, certainly.” Abdel Aziz did not say what these conditions were.
Later, Jammeh appeared on Gambian state TV. “I believe in the importance of dialogue … I have decided today in good conscience to relinquish the mantle of this great nation,” he waffled.
“All the issues we currently face can be resolved peacefully. I believe in the capacity of Africans to decide for themselves all the issues on the way to democracy, social and economic development.
“My prayer and desire [is] that peace and security continue to reign in The Gambia.” The country “must jealously guard and defend” peace, he said.

 Addressing members of the Gambian diaspora in the capital of Senegal on Friday night, the new president Barrow said: “The rule of fear has been vanished from the Gambia for good.”

Time will tell if even a modicum of that aspiration will apply.

 It is clear that much needs to be done just to ensure normal bargaining activity can take place in a country where Sheriff Diba, of the Gambian National Transport Control Association (GNTCA), died at the notorious Mile 2 Prison in Banjul on 21 February 2016, after he and other GNTCA leaders were detained by authorities. The leaders had been calling for a reduction in the price of fuel after a fall in wholesale prices, and were protesting a breakdown in negotiations with the government.

But while the climate may improve a bit workers in The Gambia, as well as workers elsewhere in the world, require a much more fundamental change in ownership and control of resources and the means of producing and distributing wealth than that afforded by capitalist mechanisms.

 This will require an understanding which allows them to perceive the real possibility of dissolving all governments over themselves and electing themselves to administer a production for use, free access, post-capitalist society of social equals. This is not on the cards presently and any freedom will be seriously constrained by the compulsion of waged slavery for the majority to produce riches for the minority.

Friday, January 20, 2017


 ‘I Feel I am a Slave’

There are now 53 million domestic workers worldwide, 1.5 million domestic workers in Saudi Arabia alone, where recruitment agencies fly in 40,000 women a month to keep up with demand.

In the Gulf, the International Trade Union Confederation says that 2.4 million domestic workers are facing conditions of slavery. Rothna Begum of Human Rights Watch says that ‘in many houses these women have absolutely no status – they have been bought’. The International Domestic Workers Federation estimates that families save $8bn (£5.1bn) a year by withholding wages from their domestic workers. ‘With kafala and other legal systems around the world that give no labour rights to migrant women, you are giving almost total impunity to employers to treat these women however they like,’ Begum says. 'It’s startling what cruelty can emerge when one person has complete control over another'. ALJO  Read more >

God and the Price of Copper

A socialist in Zambia explains how politicians and governments in countries like Zambia that export one basic commodity are at the mercy of world market conditions. Zambia is not alone in this respect.

Zambia is currently gripped by an economic crisis, characterised by falling copper prices, the depreciating kwacha, and electricity blackouts. Prices of essential commodities have shot up due to the depreciation of the kwacha. Sensing danger, President Edgar Lungu of the ruling PF despatched his deputy secretary-general Mrs Mumbi Phiri to the ZNBC, where she gave an assessment of the significance of the economic problems facing the country
..... Kephas Mulenga Read more>

Zambia: The Copper Elephant

Zambia has been mining copper for almost a century. In 1889 the British South African Company was granted a Royal Charter to exploit minerals in Southern Rhodesia. Cecil Rhodes, founder of the De Beers Mining Company, had a vision to build a Cape-to-Cairo railway line, allowing minerals to be transported from Cape Town in South Africa to Cairo in Egypt – en route to Europe. Massive copper ore deposits were only discovered in the Copperbelt in 1920. During the 1940s there was a tide of nationalism in the mining towns of the Copperbelt Province characterised by strikes that were organised by the Mine Workers’ Union, led by Lawrence Katilungu.

This prompted the British colonial government of the day to pass a Public Order Act to stem the tide of African political consciousness on the Copperbelt mining towns. The Public Order Act still remains in force today and the PF government is widely criticised for enforcing the act to prohibit political demonstrations of any kind...... Kephas Mulenga   Read more >

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Flawed diamond regulations are fuelling child labour in Congo mines

".... capital comes dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt." Marx

 Many of the children said they worked in the mines to pay for food or to cover unofficial school fees in a country where education is nominally free.

 The failure of European jewellery firms to scrutinise their supply chains and a flawed diamond certification scheme are fuelling child labour and sexual abuse in artisanal mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a campaign group said.

 Thousands of children work illegally in diamond mines in Congo's diamond-rich Kasai region - mainly to pay for food and school fees and girls who live around the mines are prey to rape, forced marriage and prostitution, according to Swedwatch. Yet few jewellery firms have policies to assess the risk of child labour and abuses in their diamond supply chains, and many do not provide public information about efforts to operate responsibly, Swedwatch said in a report.

 Swedwatch also said the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), an initiative seeking to end trade in "blood diamonds" used to finance conflict, was obscuring rights abuses. The KPCS classifies less than 0.1% of the world's diamonds as untradeable for ethical reasons. Yet this figure only includes diamonds used by rebel groups to finance conflict, and does not account for diamond extraction involving rights violations across Africa, Swedwatch said.

"The KPCS is outdated and does not cover most human rights abuses linked to diamond extraction on Wednesday," Therese Sjöström, a researcher at Swedwatch, said from Stockholm. Andrey Polyakov, head of the World Diamond Council (WDC), said the success of the KPCS was based on its focus on conflict.

"However, as WDC, we are against any form of human rights violations," he said. "As the industry voice, we take it as our responsibility to continue the ongoing discussions within the KPCS to press to reform and further strengthen the process."

 Many of the children who spoke to Swedwatch said they worked in the mines to pay for food or to cover unofficial school fees in a country where education is nominally free. Others were orphans, or abandoned by their parents, and worked to survive.

 Sexual abuse and rape of girls and women around the mines is widespread, yet there is no access to professional support for victims, according to Swedwatch, which monitors the impact of Swedish companies on the environment and human rights.

 Swedwatch called on the Congolese government to protect children in artisanal mines from illegal child labour, and said jewellery companies should improve the regulation of their supply chains, and work together to demand reform of the KPCS. The KPCS is chaired by participating countries on rotation. Australia takes over from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2017, and will be followed by the European Union (EU) in 2018.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The causes of xenophobia

  Africans living in other countries which are not their countries of origin are grimly accustomed to invectives like "fucking foreigner"; "parasite"; "alien"; "refugee", etc. But it appears matters have been getting out of hand in recent years. Xenophobia is on the rise, making nonsense of the catchy phrase "Africa for the Africans".

  In sub-Saharan Africa this phenomenon raised its ugly head with the overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana's first president who was quite continental, nay internationalist in outlook. In 1969/70 the government of K.A. Busia (which replaced the Nkrumah regime after a short period of military rule) came up with the infamous and disgraceful Aliens Compliance Order which saw the brutal and compulsory expulsion of "aliens" mostly from Nigeria and Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso).

 In the early 1980s, Nigeria followed suit (and more brutally) by burning alive hundreds of Ghanaians in Nigeria in an attempt to flush them out as "aliens". Today it is the same story in the Republic of South Africa. And quite recently, Malians were given a similar treatment in the wake of the struggle for political leadership between Laurent Gbagbo and Alasan Watara in the Côte d'Ivoire. This prompted President Abdoulie Wade of Senegal to make the rather myopic remark that racism in the Côte d'Ivoire dwarfed that found in Europe.

  He obviously intentionally forgot to mention the deep hatred and inhuman treatment meted out by his stone-cold immigration officers to anglophone West Africans entering or passing through Senegal. A few months ago people in Gadhafi's Libya took up arms against African immigrants, exiling quite a large number to the "next world", all in the name of this issue of "fucking foreigners". And yet Gadhafi, after having accused his brothers in the Arab League of being sell-outs to America, is busy trying to organise a Union of African States to replace the toothless bulldog, that the Organisation of African Unity has become! Interesting, isn't it?

The unfounded truth
The reasons for these internecine expulsions and violence are almost always the same in each country. "Patriotic" citizens are quick to assert, nationalistically, that the "aliens" have come to take over their country, their resources, their jobs, their culture, and what have you.

In Ghana the raison d'être of the Aliens Compliance Order of the Progress Party was to have Ghanaians control business which the authorities claimed had been dominated by "aliens" (most of whom actually were farm labourers in the cocoa plantations). In the Côte d'Ivoire, though the xenophobic pogrom was purely political, Ivoriens attacked and looted the shops of "foreigners". In the Libyan case, and in Gambia where a few months ago bars and public houses belonging to "aliens" were vandalised, the reason was that the "aliens" were encouraging immoral and un-Islamic practices in their countries.

However the reality is that all over Africa the business, hotel and tourist industries which are the breeding grounds for alcoholism and prostitution (male and female) are mostly controlled by non-Africans. Big business is the exclusive domain of American, European and African businessmen who reap all the profits and repatriate them leaving Africa worse off. Yet they are never touched, nay, never seen.

Therefore, though the grievances of the masses may be related to economic factors, it is unreasonable to blame it on their fellow poor. This is especially so considering the fact that most "aliens" are engaged in lowly jobs which "citizens" may consider below their standard. Most non-citizens are engaged in such menial jobs as carpentry, masonry, shoe-repairing, cleaning drains and sweeping streets and markets. Those in what may be considered as decent jobs are the teachers, and no one has illusions as to the economic clout of a group who are consoled by the words that their reward is in heaven.
The real situation
  As already hinted above, xenophobia cannot be divorced from the economic life of the masses. But how the one influences the other is what most people fail to understand. This can be explained from a two-dimensional plane: official policy and mass reaction.

  In the first place it is important to understand that society today is divided into the rich and the poor. The rich, who are few, own the means of production and distribution of wealth whilst the poor, who are the majority, own nothing except their ability to work. Again, every political party is owned and controlled by the rich who contribute money to it which is used to canvass the support of the poor masses.

 Thus a party in power is in reality the executive committee of the rich people behind it. Such a party therefore rules in the interests of the owners. All its policies are consequently aimed at the welfare of the rich. Now, since there will arise a conflict of interest between the rich owners and their poor followers, the ruling party or government will have to spend huge chunks of the country's money on arms, maintenance of the army, the police, prisons, etc to hold down the masses so that the rich can make their profits without hindrance. In the process basic necessities such as food, shelter, healthcare, education are underfunded. The little that is provided can only be afforded by the rich. The result, undoubtedly, is discontent, alienation and disobedience among the masses.

  In order to ward off unrest various tactics are employed by governments. One of them is creating divisions among the suffering masses by, for instance, blaming foreigners and whipping up nationalistic feelings. This diverts attention from misrule and mismanagement. Secondly, and in response to the official lies, the masses who are hungry, sick and illiterate are taken in by the government's ploy.

 Now, since a hungry man is an angry man and since anger is emotional and overpowers reason, the least provocation can result in violence-often misdirected. Such violence can be vented against fellow citizens usually manifested in riots and civil wars. The violence is also invariably be turned loose on the "aliens". This is the real cause of xenophobia-the rich pitting the poor against the poor. In fact wealthy "aliens" are not usually affected.

What is to be done?
  In the past when Africa did not have artificial boundaries such as there are today, wars and hatred were not as rife. Therefore it appears that dismantling the boundaries, drawn up by non-Africans, would minimise violence. But will that abolish xenophobia? No. As has been noted above, it is the problem of "the haves and have-nots" which is central to war, violence and hatred. Thus the real solution will be to eliminate the present situation of a minority owning the means of production and distribution of wealth whilst the majority owning nothing, have to work for the few. In other words money, buying and selling, commodities and the like must be done away with. Humanity must commonly own the means of production and must have free and equal access to the produce. Under such circumstances there will be no want and consequently no war and hatred.

  But this type of system can only be possible when people make efforts to understand it. When they understand and want it, they can organise to usher it in.

(This leaflet on the phenomenon of xenophobia while dated in some named instances, is still a precise and topically current analysis of the causes of xenophobia.)

Unions in Burkina Faso and Senegal fight back against precarious work

 The lives of hundreds of precarious workers have been dramatically improved by unions after they were regularized and organized in a campaign against precarious work.

From a report in industriALL Here >

 IndustriALL Global Union affiliates from Burkina Faso and Senegal gathered on 30 November and 1 December in Ouagadougou to take stock of the progress achieved through their fight against precarious work. In both Senegal and Burkina Faso, affiliates have actively fought the abusive use of daily and fixed term contracts for years.

 Last September, after several months of labour conflict at the mining site of Bissa Gold, owned by Nord Gold in Burkina Faso, 750 temporary, fixed term contract, workers won permanent contracts. Two hundred temporary agency workers are expected to be directly employed as permanent workers by Bissa Gold.

 This was the result of an active campaign and media exposure led by IndustriALL affiliate the general union Fédération des Industries Diverses (FID) and their confederation the CNTB, with the support of IndustriALL.

 Nord Gold has announced that it will pay workers all unpaid overtime and holidays owed by its sub-contractor, Exterhum, as demanded by the workers.

 The case of 116 workers illegally retrenched in October 2015 is still at the labour court for a final decision.

 In Burkina Faso in 2015, FID and the textile, garment and leather union the Fédération Nationale des Travailleurs du Textile, de l'Habillement et du Cuir (FNTTHC) recruited 548 new members from the precarious workforce.  Affiliates will take joint action on 7 December to denounce and demand the revision of a labour law adopted in 2008 that allows for the unlimited renewal of fixed term contract. Since the adoption of this law, the number of fixed term contract workers has exploded.

 In 2016 in Senegal, the general union Syndicat Unique des Travailleurs des Industries Diverses du Sénégal (SUTIDS) successfully negotiated the regularization of 218 fixed term contract and daily workers out of 996 precarious workers working in 15 companies in the chemical sector.

 The chemical union Syndicat National des Travailleurs des Industries Chimiques et Activités Rattachées du Sénégal (SYNTICS) successfully recruited 316 precarious workers. The lives of the workers who have been regularized have changed completely. Not only have their salaries increased, and sometimes doubled, they now have access with their families to medical care and they benefit from proper protective equipment.

 In 2015, the unions launched a campaign to limit the use of day workers in their countries. As a result, in 2016, the unions are negotiating an amendment to the legislation on the use daily work at the national tripartite body.

 The amendment aims to ban the use of daily work in core activities and to provide day workers with medical coverage and social protection. Affiliates plan another day of action in December to put pressure on both employers and government. IndustriALL affiliates succeeded in mobilizing several confederations and unions from services and agriculture for this campaign.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Trade Union Movement Under Siege

 Botswana has moved some few steps forward in cultivating and nurturing for the existence of Trade Unions and the bargaining process,  and how she  has since moved, and is continuing to move many more steps backward, in the process reversing the gains.

This is not helped by  the power struggles between the unions themselves.

An African maxim counsels that, "when two elephants fight it is the grass that suffers".

Botswana workers may be headed for a rude awakening that their trade unions are not protecting their welfare but instead engaged in power struggles that border on a clash of egos. That is if Monday’s interim ruling by Industrial Court President Judge Tebogo Maruping in the case between BOPEU and BOFEPUSU over admission of the latter into the Bargaining Council is anything to go by.

 More here >

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Black death

The civil war in Nigeria officially ended on this day in 1970 following two and a half years of conflict and the death of  millions.     Socialists did not support either side, holding that the workers and peasant farmers had no interest at stake in the capitalist rivalries within Nigeria or in the sordid intervention of Russia, France, Britain and other capitalist powers.   Recent reports, such as that from Amnesty International in November last year stating that government forces had killed at least 150 pro-Biafran activists,  indicate that these rivalries remain and divert workers from expressing their class solidarity.  

Further reading: Nigeria,Biafra and oil.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Heart of Darkness

Józef  Korzeniowski, better known as Joseph Conrad, returned to London 123 years ago today after many years working at sea and embarked on a writing career.  His first novel,  Almayer’s Folly, was published in 1895.   But it was Conrad's time as captain of a steamboat on the Congo River that would inspire his novella Heart of Darkness (1902).   This work is reviewed from a socialist perspective here as part of A Novel Approach to History series.