Thursday, August 30, 2007


Britain honored Nelson Mandela by unveiling a 9 feet (2.7 meter) bronze statue showing the anti-apartheid leader gesturing during a speech .

Fellow socialist bloggers on Socialism Or Your Money Back had posted an earlier story about their attitude to this politician .

The same blog also posted an article on another part of South African history which should be remembered , yet , no statue has been raised in London to those now anonymous and nameless workers who died under a hail of police bullets to oppose apartheid .

On both issues , for us socialists , the question is how long will it be before the great oppressed in South Africa (but everywhere really) come to realise that swapping one ruling class for another, regardless of their skin colour, does not end exploitation ? The poor in South Africa are as poor as they were under apartheid , the wealthy just as rich . The poor have exchanged one master for another and they both conform to the stereotypes of capitalism. We own; you do not. We control; you do not. We live in luxury; you live in poverty. Nothing changes; everything stays the same. Mandela notwithstanding.

We refer you to a related previous posts on this blog -Rand-Lords , Comrade Capitalist , ANC - Repressive Force
If Socialist Banner doesn't suffice to persuade then this story may :-
"...It is now 13 years since South Africa turned its back on the oppressive era of apartheid and, in a remarkably peaceful transition, embraced democracy...many of the fruits of freedom have gone to the former black revolutionaries who now hold cabinet posts, sit in Parliament, and hold other government positions with substantial salaries and perks...Shantytowns have not been replaced with affordable housing. Water and electricity and other basic requirements of the infrastructure to support democracy are still lacking for many. Official agencies are sometimes bastions of bureaucratic incompetence and corruption...Though opportunities have arisen for some upper-class blacks to prosper in business, many others still live in squalor. For many, the jobs that they thought would come overnight with democracy have never materialized. Unemployment is running around 25 percent.Thus the big cities such as Johannesburg have become seedbeds for robbery and violent hijacking, making crime South Africa's biggest problem...Crime is apparently not racially motivated. It is black upon affluent black as well as black upon affluent white. It is the war of the have-nots against the haves..."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Chinese Imperialism in Africa

An update on the previous blog

"Africa is turning into a contested area for its natural resources as states such as China, Russia and Brazil seek more intimate relations with the continent..." said Executive Director of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation , Dr Henning Melber, adding that small local elites, "who exploit their political control over national wealth for their own gains" are collaborating "with those operating from outside offering them the most convenient - and unashamed - access to the small slice of the cake they are able to keep for themselves in such sell-out deals".

He said developed nations are desirous to explore and exploit Africa's oil, uranium oxide, diamonds, gold and other precious and strategic minerals and metals - often needed in high-tech and nanotechnology manufacturing processes in the industrialized world - as well as timber and rich fishing stocks along the coastline of the continent.

"At least some of the recent critical accounts of the aggressive expansion of Chinese interests into African countries and societies and their collaboration with local autocratic elites and despots have a hypocritical taste or at least bear traces of amnesia," said Melber.
He said the Chinese penetration smacks of "predatory capitalism" and is "appallingly imperialist", which has been abused for the dependency of the majority of the continent.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The New Colonialists

“Their interest is exploiting us, just like everyone who came before...They have simply come to take the place of the West as the new colonizers of Africa.” - a Zambian politician

Chinese officials and their African allies like to call their growing relationship a win-win proposition, a rising tide that lifts all boats in China’s ever-widening sea of influence .

From South Africa’s manganese mines to Niger’s uranium pits, from Sudan’s oil fields to Congo’s cobalt mines, China’s hunger for resources has been a shot in the arm, increasing revenues and helping push some of the world’s poorest countries further up the ladder of development.

But China is also exporting huge volumes of finished, manufactured goods — T-shirts, flashlights, radios and socks, just to name a few — to those same countries, hampering Africa’s ability to make its own products and develop healthy, diverse economies. Textile mills and other factories in Zambia have suffered and even closed as cheap Chinese goods flood the world market, eliminating jobs in a country that sorely needs them. The Chinese investment in copper mining has left a trail of heartbreak and recrimination after one of the worst industrial accidents in Zambian history, a blast at a Chinese-owned explosives factory in Chambishi in 2005 that killed 46 people, most of them in their 20s.
“They were careless. Safety was not their priority. Everything was about productivity no matter what.”

But China’s growing presence in global trade is wiping out thousands of jobs in countries with fledgling manufacturing sectors like Zambia and South Africa. Despite relatively low wages in many countries, African manufacturers find it very hard to compete, arguing that China’s currency policies undervalue the yuan and give Chinese exporters a huge advantage. Many industries in China also benefited at various points from subsidies and free or low-cost government financing, making their costs lower. Beyond that, there are major infrastructure problems in Africa, where industry struggles with inadequate roads and railways, and unreliable electricity and water supplies.

Africa found itself once again on the losing end of globalization.
For decades, African countries exported large quantities of clothes and textiles to developed countries under a trade agreement intended to protect European and American markets from competition from China and others, while encouraging exports from the world’s poorest nations. But the trade provision, the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing, expired in January 2005, putting these countries in direct export competition with China.
Ms. Zimba, 40, a quality-control worker , earned a little less than $100 a month, as well as free health care and a pension, and a little three-room house in the workers’ compound. But since she lost her job, her family’s standard of living has plummeted. The water was turned off .

As for the Chinese, she bitterly refers to them as “briefcase investors.”

“They just fill their briefcases with our wealth and leave,” she said.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Poverty in the midst of Natural Wealth

Liberia - one of the largest rubber plantations in the world , the largest remaining portion of the once-great Upper Guinea Forest , virgin forest full of tropical hardwoods , gold and diamonds , a vast iron-ore mountain range in the north of the country that is currently being rehabilitated with a $1bn investment - resource-rich, dirt-poor Liberia .

Authors of the new report - called Land Grabbing and Land Reform argue that the raw materials sector has been organised almost exclusively to benefit a wealthy elite. Ordinary people saw the resources vanish - the trees being chopped down, for example - but did not see schools and hospitals coming back in return.

Liberia's modern-day economy was developed and exploited by expatriates and the small elite of "Americo-Liberian" freed slaves who colonised the country in the 19th Century and ended up dominating the indigenous Africans.
"The elites and the government structures they erected," the report says, "came to be seen as illegitimate, engendering first resentment, and in time hatred."

The war was not the cause of the poverty of Liberia but a consequence of it, and the reliance on the export of raw materials was a factor in creating that poverty.

On diamonds - the proceeds from which fuelled the wars in Liberia and neighbouring Sierra Leone - the report says there has been little effort by the government to make the gems benefit local communities or the artisanal miners themselves.
It says the ministry of lands, mines and energy "has resisted engaging with civil society".
On rubber, the report says the big plantations in Liberia have been extracting raw rubber for more than 70 years but have "so far not manufactured so much as a single rubber band in the country".

"The fighting... ceased only in 2003 with the departure of Charles Taylor and the arrival of UN forces," the report says, adding: "The peace however remains fragile, threatened... most importantly, by the unresolved issue of who will exploit and who will benefit from Liberia's natural resources." the report says, that many of the elite "see the return of peace as simply a chance to return to business as usual, an opportunity to recreate the Liberia they and their forebears knew, and exploited, for more than a century".

The report also describes what it calls the "resource curse" , which this blog earlier explained here in relation to the so-called oil bonanza in certain African countries . Endowment of natural resources in poor countries is one of the "traps" that prevents them from growing as rich as developed nations. The resource exports cause the country's currency to rise in value against other currencies. This makes the country's other export activities uncompetitive. Yet these other activities - manufacturing for export, for example - might have been the best vehicles for sustained economic growth. The volatility of prices of other raw material exports from poorer countries - especially but not exclusively in Africa - is also not conducive to long term investment and growth.

British economist Paul Collier argues that resource wealth can also be a curse because it induces autocracy by allowing elites to buy their way into power. Countries end up in a "resource trap" which does not generate the sustained income growth and security that can promote democratic accountability.

Once again Socialist Banner can only counsel for the working class to assume democratic control of raw materials and direct these resources for benefit of the working class as a whole and not in the interest of the small minority who presently own this natural wealth .

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Water of Life

"Despite impressive revenues from oil and diamonds, there has been virtually no investment in basic services since the 1970s, and only a privileged minority of the people living in Luanda have access to running water," said a briefing paper by the international medical charity, Médecins Sans Frontières .

More than half the people living in informal settlements, called musseques, depend on private tankers for their daily water in the oil-rich country. More than 300 privately-owned trucks bring water into the city every day . Raw water is pumped from the River Bengo into the waiting tankers, which then go to a chlorination point, where the drivers buy a container of chlorine and pour into the water before leaving the pumping station. MSF found that many trucks were leaving the station without chlorinating the water, to avoid queuing and make as many round trips as possible. But the 2006 cholera outbreak in Angola in which 67,257 cases were recorded and 2,722 people died - the world's highest fatality rate - shook the authorities.

Development Workshop , an anti-poverty non-governmental organisation found that people living in the musseques were paying private sellers up to 10,000 times more for water than those who were better off and living in the part of city with piped water were paying the provincial water company for treated water.

A family of four in the musseques, earning less than $50 a month, could spend as much as $60 on their monthly water needs. According to Cain, "this often does not include the basic minimum required per person per day - you might find families managing with a 20-litre jerry-can per day".

MSF noted in its paper that the cost of water was determined by market forces. "Water prices are ... subject to speculation and can vary, even on a daily basis, depending on access (distance from the water collection point to the distribution point, and the condition of the road that leads to the final distribution point) and demand (availability of water in nearby areas)".

"It is a business worth several million dollars a year," said Dauda Wurie, the Water and Sanitation Project Officer of the UN Children's Agency (UNICEF) in Angola.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Need a life , Will travel

Migration has been an essential mechanism for survival in the harsh climate and erratic agricultural conditions of the Sahara and Sahel regions for as long as people have lived there.

Tens of thousands from Niger work in Libya. Between 65,000 and 120,000 sub-Saharan Africans enter the Maghreb (Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya) yearly, according to estimates collated by Hein de Haas, a researcher at the International Migration Institute at Oxford University. The money they send back to Niger forms a major part of Niger's economy. Official remittances in 2005 totalled some US$60 million, according to the World Bank, with undocumented remittances to Niger believed to be even higher. This report describes the futility of discouraging migration

"Living in Tripoli means accepting all kinds of inhuman and degrading treatment: Libya is a land of all kinds of discrimination between people; it is not a welcoming place, and that's why I have taken the chance to come back to Niger"

International Organisation for Migration spokeswoman for West Africa Jo-Lind Roberts added that only once people have arrived in their destinations do they find out there are very few opportunities for them. "And that's also something that only someone who has tried to cross either by sea or desert has experienced. People here [in West Africa] have no idea about the lack of opportunity when they travel."

"Providing information to people is fine, especially so they are aware of the very present dangers," said Hein de Haas, a researcher at the International Migration Institute at Oxford University. But he noted: "These campaigns portray migrants as victims and as vulnerable people who don't know what they are doing. Based on my own experience interviewing migrants I don't have that impression,"

In his view migration is an economic imperative for many Africans. "The fact remains that the income gaps between sub-Saharan Africa, north Africa and Europe are huge, so the main rational for economic migration is still there."

Tens of thousands of people make dangerous boat journeys across the Atlantic to Europe each year, driven by poverty and a search for the relative wealth they see other successful migrants have achieved.
Pape Demba Fall, a senior researcher focused on migration at Cheikh Ante Diop University in the capital Dakar said . "It should not be forgotten that people who choose to leave are already well aware of the risks," he said. "They know it very well, they have seen it themselves, but that doesn't change their minds, and that is shown by the fact that more not less people are migrating every year from Senegal."

The IOM estimates that 31,000 people attempted the journey to Europe by sea from Senegal in 2006, of whom some 6,000 died or went missing at sea.

To feed oneself , to provide for ones family , men and women will always seek other lands , and while the grass is still literally greener on the other side then men and women will endeavour to reach it . Only when it is possible to maintain an adequate living standard at home , will men and women stay at home . That is something Capitalism will never be able to offer many people throughout Africa

Monday, August 20, 2007

Slavery and wage-slavery

In Mauritania, slavery was banned years ago in 1981 - but it persisted and now there has been passed a new law meaning anyone that keeps slaves can be thrown into jail for up to 10 years.The law foresees fines as well as jail terms for slave masters and reparations for the victims. Mauritania's change in mindset seems to have found its momentum after an army coup in 2005. The military junta leader, Ely Ould Mohamed Vall, declared slavery a problem last year, a marked shift from the denials of the man he ousted.

"It's a historic moment. One of the reasons slavery has flourished is because of impunity, but now it's been criminalised in clear and comprehensive terms," Boubacar Ould Messaoud, the head of SOS Slavery in Mauritania, said

Mauritania's history of slavery goes back more than 800 years when Arab raiders surged across the Sahara to subjugate black Africans. Mauritanian slaves are born into an established slave class, and this binds them to their master's household. They can be given as gifts, and bought or sold. They must marry who their masters say and are usually told they can only go to heaven on their master's word.

As one small boy put it when talking to the campaign group Anti-Slavery International: "I grew up in the master's family, there was one son, we were almost the same age... He went to Koranic school and I was a shepherd, herding animals. I also had to fetch water. I did the work of domestics 24 hours a day. As a slave, we are the first to wake up, we are the last to go to bed."

Little will change though for that boy . From chattel slavery to wage-slavery is not really such a big change, though . He will labour in the interests of others and toil for the benefit of the master class .

"Slaves are often thought of as people in chains. But here they are born into submission. They are chained in their heads..." Messaoud of SOS Slavery went on to say .
Indeed , that is a condition that many live under - perhaps not literally actual slaves but still , nevertheless , in bondage to the yoke of capitalism and the necessity of working for a wage or a salary for mere simple survival and yet not realising their enslaved position in class divided capitalist society.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Direct Action in Nigeria

The average Nigerian still survives on less than $2 a day, despite the country's $20 billion rise in oil exports to the United States over the past five years. This report reveals how the ordinary Nigerian endeavours to resist

The oil-pipeline fire burned strong for 45 days and 45 nights . It wasn't that no one could put the fire out. It was that no one would — not the oil company that owned the pipeline, not the government and not the villagers . Kegbara Dere villagers saw the fire less as an environmental crisis than as a negotiating tool — risking their health, land and even lives to grab their bit of the spoils from the multinational oil companies that rule the region. In the case of Kegbara Dere, it was village youths who confessed to sabotaging the line, and it was village leaders who refused to let the fire be extinguished without a payout. It takes planning and serious tools to sabotage an oil pipeline. Shell's Trans-Niger line is six feet below ground, with walls more than a quarter-inch thick.
The story of the latest fire in Kegbara Dere goes back to early May, when Komene and 39 other young men closed off pipe valves for six days to extract money from Shell. The closure cut output by about 170,000 barrels a day. The pressure from the stopped-up pipes was so intense that the ground shook. The rest of the village banded together to reopen the valves. Shell, in its turn, invited the youth involved to a training session on environmental cleanup in a fancy hotel. They expected lucrative cleanup contracts to follow. None did. So the young men, calling themselves "Militant/Commando 2000," sent a letter to Shell in early June warning "the situation would be bad" if the company failed to give them contracts. When no contracts came, the fire started.

"They promise that they are going to give us some contracts. They have not paid anything,"

Shell paid the village youth 100,000 naira ($800) to let the cleaners in. The men came with five big trucks to wrestle down the fire and suffocate the life out of it with spray. Finally the fire was snuffed out as the people watched.

Such fires are common — Royal Dutch Shell said it was hit by more than 16 fires in Nigeria between August 2006 and June 2007. At least six of those fires were on the Trans-Niger pipeline, which runs underneath Kegbara Dere.

African Anarchism

This online book , Archive for African Anarchism: The History of A Movement by Sam Mbah and I.E. Igariwey , makes interesting reading for those who wish to go beyond the state-capitalist and reformist alternatives being offered to the African people . The history of African precursers to anarcho-communism society in chapter 3 is particularly pertinent .

"..the most important features of African communalism are the absence of classes, that is, social stratification; the absence of exploitative or antagonistic social relations; the existence of equal access to land and other elements of production; equality at the level of distribution of social produce; and the fact that strong family and kinship ties formed the basis of social life in African communal societies. Within this framework, each household was able to meet its own basic needs. Under communalism, by virtue of being a member of a family or community, every African was assured of sufficient land to meet his or her own needs."

"Political organization under communalism was horizontal in structure, characterized by a high level of diffusion of functions and power. Political leadership, not authority, prevailed, and leadership was not founded on imposition, coercion, or centralization; it arose out of a common consensus or a mutually felt need.
Leadership developed on the basis of family and kinship ties woven around the elders; it was conferred only by age, a factor which, as we shall see, runs deep in communalism."

Then there were the stateless societies that existed in Africa's past .

"...peoples who had no machinery of government coercion and no concept of a political unit wider than the family or the village. After all, if there is no class stratification in a society, it follows that there is no state because the state arose as an instrument to be used by a particular class to control the rest of society in its own interests . . . One can consider the stateless societies as among the older forms of sociopolitical organization in Africa...Among the stateless societies that existed on the continent were the Igbo, the Birom, Angas, Idoma, Ekoi, Nbembe, the Niger Delta peoples, the Tiv (Nigeria), the Shona (Zimbabwe), Lodogea, the Lowihi, the Bobo, the Dogon, the Konkomba, the Birifor (Burkina Faso, Niger), the Bate, the Kissi, the Dan, the Logoli, the Gagu and Kru peoples, the Mano, Bassa Grebo and Kwanko (Ivory Coast, Guinea, Togo), the Tallensi, Mamprusi, Kusaasi (Ghana), the Nuer (Southern Sudan), etc.-numbering today nearly two hundred million individuals in all."

The book goes on to describe Africa’s incorporation into the world capitalist economy

"The ultimate result of Africa’s incorporation into the world capitalist economy was the destruction of the traditional pre-colonial com-munal mode of production. As the capitalist mode developed, it confronted the noncapitalist mode, violently transforming various communities, turning their lands, resources, and products into commodities. Countless thousands of able-bodied young men were uprooted from their homes to work in capitalist enterprises, and the remaining population was compelled to grow only those crops that possessed exchange value-cash crops."

And then the post-colonialism developments

"The quest to create indigenous industry by African capitalists gives them a nationalist image, but they stop short at the demand for expropriation of foreign capital, upon which they remain dependent. The nationalism of this indigenous capitalist class is the outcome of its desire to appropriate resources (at least for itself) back from the foreign expropriator; and at the same time its commitment to freedom for foreign capital is necessitated, indeed dictated, by its dependence on neo-colonial economic structures. In any event, the conflicts of interest between indigenous capitalists and foreign capitalists often resolve themselves in accommodations that border on delineation of spheres of influence."

The book describes how the proponents of African nationalist liberation movements were using the idea of socialism as mere sloganising but :-

"... had neither a firm grasp of the socialist world view, nor the foggiest mental construct of what a socialist society would look like in the aftermath of the abolition or overthrow of capitalism. This shallow, confused concept of socialism-and the circumstances under which socialist ideas first came to Africa-would later have a decidedly negative impact on the growth and development of the socialist movement in Africa...Despite socialist rhetoric, capitalist relations of production remained dominant for the most part in “African socialist” societies. Corruption and primitive accumulation through use of state powers and resources characterized the dominant political class. Labor repression was pronounced; in fact, the earlier lot of the worker under colonial and post-colonial capitalism often was better than under the very underdeveloped state socialist structures spawned by self-serving “socialists” and, sometimes, gun-toting soldiers and military officers as well..."

Chapter 4 has much to recommend it in its review of the development of workers organisations and struggles in Nigeria , South Africa , Guinea .

A book from an anarchist perspective that is a well -worth read on the whole .

Saturday, August 18, 2007

to aid or not to aid

The previous post reported how one charity declined American aid . It drew my attention to this interview with Kenyan economist James Shikwati . Of course he is no Marxist , and his solutions to the poverty of many Africans is a reformed capitalism , unfettered by government controls , his views on foreign aid is of interest .

Some extracts :-

SPIEGEL: ... The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty.

Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor...

... Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa's problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn't even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit...

... this corn ends up in the harbor of Mombasa. A portion of the corn often goes directly into the hands of unsrupulous politicians who then pass it on to their own tribe to boost their next election campaign. Another portion of the shipment ends up on the black market where the corn is dumped at extremely low prices. Local farmers may as well put down their hoes right away; no one can compete with the UN's World Food Program. And because the farmers go under in the face of this pressure, Kenya would have no reserves to draw on if there actually were a famine next year. It's a simple but fatal cycle...

... Hunger should not be a problem in most of the countries south of the Sahara. In addition, there are vast natural resources: oil, gold, diamonds. Africa is always only portrayed as a continent of suffering, but most figures are vastly exaggerated. In the industrial nations, there's a sense that Africa would go under without development aid. But believe me, Africa existed before you Europeans came along...

SPIEGEL: In the West, there are many compassionate citizens wanting to help Africa. Each year, they donate money and pack their old clothes into collection bags ...

... Shikwati: ...Why do we get these mountains of clothes? No one is freezing here. Instead, our tailors lose their livlihoods. They're in the same position as our farmers. No one in the low-wage world of Africa can be cost-efficient enough to keep pace with donated products. In 1997, 137,000 workers were employed in Nigeria's textile industry. By 2003, the figure had dropped to 57,000. The results are the same in all other areas where overwhelming helpfulness and fragile African markets collide.

Charity deserves to remain at home

The international aid group, Care, has rejected a donation of $45m (£22.7m) from the United States government.

Care criticised the way US food aid is distributed, saying it harms local farmers, especially in Africa. It said wheat donated by the US government and distributed by charities introduced low prices that local farmers are unable to compete with. Critics of the policy say it also undermines African farmers' ability to produce food, making the most vulnerable countries of the world even more dependent on aid to avert famine.

"We came to the realisation that if we wanted to do what was in the best interest of poor people and efficiency in aid, that this wasn't it," said Care President Helene Gayle

Under the system Washington buys tens of millions of dollars of surplus corn and other products from agribusiness - a system that promotes overproduction of commodities.. The food, which can only be exported on US flagged ships, is then sold by charities to raise money to pay for emergencies. US agribusiness and shipping interests, benefited to the tune of some $180m a year from the practice. US farmers love the present system, but it is slow and unresponsive when there are food emergencies.
Much of the aid is lost in the overheads of shipping it to Africa.
Not only does subsidised US food hurt African farmers, but food purchased in the US regularly takes four months to reach the destination where there is an emergency. In contrast food bought locally takes only days to arrive.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Chevron Oil faces the court for massacres

Chevron Nigeria Ltd is to stand trial later this year in the United States for the alleged murder of villagers in the Niger Delta region in two separate incidents in 1998 and 1999. The United States (US) District Court Judge in San Francisco, Susan Illston, ruled that Chevron was directly involved in the alleged attacks by acting in consonance with Nigerian government security forces, paving the way for a trial which the company had made attempts to avoid for eight years. The plaintiffs assert claims ranging from torture to wrongful death.

Judge Illston "found evidence that CNL [Chevron Nigeria Limited] personnel were directly involved in the attacks; CNL transported the GSF [Nigerian government security forces], CNL paid the GSF; and CNL knew that GSF were prone to use excessive force."

The report alleged that the crime occurred when the Nigerian Military and Police were paid by Chevron to shoot and torture protesters opposed to the company's activities in the troubled region. Chevron helicopters and boats were used by the security forces, resulting in torture and wrongful death, it further alleged. The said evidence, the Judge said, will allow a jury to find that Chevron knew the attacks would happen and supported the military's plan.

The plaintiffs' counsel Theresa Traber, partner at Traber & Voorhees, said :-

"Chevron conspired with and paid the notorious Nigerian military to attack our clients and their loved ones, murdering at least seven people, torturing others and burning two villages to the ground. The court correctly refused to let narrow legalistic excuses allow Chevron to escape responsibility for these brutal attacks."

The Legal Director of EarthsRights International stated :-

"Chevron has very expensive legal counsel, there's no doubt about that. But they've been trying for eight years now to dismiss this case and they failed. So their expensive lawyers so far have not been able to get them off, to avoid accountability for their action and at this point it's going to be a jury that decides Chevron's faith. And all of Chevron's money and power won't necessarily have much impact on a jury."

O'Connell planned for Malawi

THE long bungalow that will become Jack McConnell's , the Labour Party's ex-First Minister of the Scottish Parliament , new home sits behind high walls and armed guards in the best part of Lilongwe. He will also have staff to cook his food and clean the house, which has two wide rooms at the front, perfect for the sort of cocktail parties he will get used to . The house is the property of the British government and is the official residence of the High Commissioner of Malawi. The former First Minister will no doubt enjoy being driven again by chauffeurs, though this time he will use Foreign Office Range Rovers .

Mr McConnell will take on that post in 2009, earning a six-figure salary in sterling - the equivalent of 278 million Malawian kwacha every year when the average salary there is 91,462 kwacha or £329.

High Commissioners are the British equivalent of ambassadors to Commonwealth countries.
Mr McConnell will be the Queen's senior representative in Malawi. He will liaise with the Malawian government and pursue Britain's interests in the southern African country. We in Scotland know just only how well he serves the interests of Britain .

Paul Boateng, the former Labour minister, is the High Commissioner to South Africa and Helen Liddell, the former Labour Scottish Secretary, is the Governor General of Australia.

Rejected or discarded British Labour politicians appear to have a guaranteed job in the Diplomatic Service

ANC - Force of Repression

Spotted on World in Common .

Statement of Support & Call for Solidarity with Sebokeng Community Struggle

On Tuesday morning, 14th of August, over 1000 community members from Sebokeng's "informal settlement" attempted to blockade the Golden Highway between Sebokeng and Johannesburg in protest at the ANC government's inadequate service delivery since its election in 1994.

The police arrived in numbers and fired randomly at the communitymembers, allegedly with live ammunition, seriously injuring 6 people and injuring others, including small children.

Thirty-five people were then arrested and taken to the Sebokeng police station, and are being charged with public violence and illegal gathering. When leaders of the Anti-Privatisation Forum and Coalition Against Water Privatisation, under whose banner the protest was held,arrived at the police station to enquire about the situation and try and have their comrades released nine of them were also arrested, for addressing a community gathering.

The fact that the SAPS police, under the ANC, can shoot with impunity at poor people who are merely attempting to have their most basic human rights met reminds one of the Apartheid era police. And it only goes to prove that all governments, even those democratically elected,soon turn on those they are supposed to represent, in order to defend their newly acquired wealth, power and privilege. We know very well by now that the ANC is not concerned with providing for the majority of the population in South Africa and delivering on the promises that got the ANC into power, but that it is only concerned with making a profit out of the people, and further enriching the already disgustingly rich new back elite. Even if it means charging the poorest of the poor for the most basic necessities and essential human rights such as electricity and water, which are laid down in the UniversalDeclaration of Human Rights, of which South Africa is one of the signatory states, as well as in the ANC People's Charter.We take the following stand:

1. We are absolutely disgusted by the ANC leaders, who flagrantly flaunt their wealth in the face of so many poor and hungry people. Weare equally disgusted by the police responsible for this atrocity, who have once again shown us that their role is not that of serving and protecting the people, but serving and protecting the interests of big business and capital.

2. We are encouraged and inspired by this bold action by the people of Sebokeng which, by sabotaging the circulation of goods and obstructing the flow of money, struck at that which the government – through the police – most wishes to protect, big business and capital. It is important to note that these protests come only after years of the community having exhausted all legal means - including ANC Alliance channels - to have their voices heard.

3. We wholeheartedly support the poor communities of the Vaal, and all those across South Africa, who are struggling for their basic rights.We are not convinced, however, that the ANC government, or any other for that matter, will ever adequately deliver to the people. But we support these struggles nevertheless as necessary for building the confidence and power for a larger struggle. The struggle for total liberation, that is, the struggle for the people to own and control all the industries and the land, for them to be in control of the communities the live in, and to have power to decide over all thatwhich affects them.

4. The ZACF - which has done numerous workshops in Sebokeng, and has good relations with community activists - calls on all our comrades around the world, and everyone who supports the struggle of the poor and working poor for a dignified existence, to please organise actions in solidarity with the struggling people of Sebokeng.

5. We call on everyone who can to picket South African embassies, as well as to send protest letters and make phone-calls to the Sedibeng District Council Mayor, Mr. Mlungisi Hlongwane, Media Liaison toMinister of Safety and Security Mr Trevor Bloem or to carry out any other actions you deem fitting to protest this atrocious act, and warn the ANC government against the course of action they have take. Which is to declare war on the poor, and decree a new form of Apartheid, social Apartheid, which excludes the poor from their rights to a dignified life.

In Solidarity with the struggling people of Sebokeng,

Jonathan Payn - Federation Secretary

Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation


A proposed protest march to Sebokeng police station has been postponed until a proper decision has been reached, involving the appropriate structures. This is because it is too late to notify the police, andthe march will thus constitute an illegal gathering (sound familiar?),which would probably result in the arrest of many more comrades.

The arrested comrades are still being held, and the hearing has been postponed until Thursday. Bail is not yet set.

Protest E-Mail Addresses:-

Ministry of Safety and Security

Mayor Mlungisi Hlongwane

War Threat Warms Up

Further to an earlier post , we can report that this conflict is heating up .

The Ugandan army has confirmed that it is deploying heavily along the common border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and that it has asked for permission to cross the border to stem insecurity after a series of attacks on its territory by the Congolese army and suspected militias. An unidentified armed group attacked Butogota town in Kanungu district in western Uganda on Wednesday morning, killed three people, injured several others and looted shops in the area in a siege that lasted several hours.

The latest attacks came a day after Kampala wrote to Kinshasa inviting the DRC officials for talks over a disputed border island in Lake Albert, in an area where exploration teams have recently found commercially-viable deposits of oil and natural gas.
The invitation was seen as directly arising out of the incidents in which Congolese soldiers abducted four Ugandan soldiers on July 29 and opened fire on an oil-prospecting barge on the lake a few days later, killing the British oil explorer. A senior Ugandan government official told The EastAfrican that Kinshasa "suspects that we are encroaching on their oil wells" and had ordered the attacks "to send a message."

Friday, August 10, 2007

Report from Africa

Participants at a regional seminar on poverty held in Swaziland are absorbing the cruel facts and figures that show the devastated face of the African continent in its state of underdevelopment.

Everyday 840 million people go hungry and more than two billion suffer from dietary deficiencies, a Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN) official has said.

Jack Zulu , SARPN programme manager for economic dimensions, said that 12 million children die every year from preventable diseases, when immunisation could save three million of them.

He added that everyday 8,200 people all over the world die because of HIV/AIDS and 6,000 of these deaths occur in Africa.

He said pharmaceutical cartels declared profits of US$517 billion in 2003 .

He said expenditure on the military worldwide was more than US$1.5 billion per day in 2001.

He said that if US$1 billion per day in agricultural subsidies in developed countries was re-allocated, world poverty would go down by 75 percent.

He said that a cow in Japan receives US$4 per day in subsidies while the majority of Africans live on less than US$1 per day.

He said rich countries claim that free trade, without local subsidies or protection is the key to escaping poverty, but that when poor countries open up their markets to free trade, foreign firms enjoy huge advantages. This, he said, means local companies cannot compete favourably. Zulu said developing countries have a natural comparative advantage in producing agricultural goods but that the current trade system seems designed to undermine that advantage.

"There is a system of trade rules and regulations that allow rich countries and their companies to make lots of profits but prevent poor countries from developing their own economies," Zulu said.

Indeed , capitalism does favour the more powerful and good will is short in measure when it comes to offering undeveloped economies a hand up . Nor will the growth of a home capitalist class reduce exploitation .

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Mineral Wealth and Poverty and Suffering Abounds

The chaos of the Democratic Republic of Congo is not about ideology , or religion , or race but another of Capitalism's internecine struggles for raw materials and natural reources - a war for profit . The DRC possesses 30 percent of world cobalt reserves and 10 percent of all copper, as well as gold, uranium, oil, and between 40 and 50 percent of Africa's water reserves, including the Congo River which crosses its territory and is comparable to the Amazon in South America in terms of its importance to the continent. With a land area as vast as that of Texas, California, Montana, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado combined, the DRC has only 300 miles of paved roads.

Without cassiterite rock ( tin oxide, is the most important source of the metallic element tin, and the DRC is home to fully one-third of the world's reserves) and the other ores mined in the Congo we would be unable to manufacture the linchpins of our global "weightless economy" -- computers and telephones.
Coltan, an ore that is the source of the precious metal tantalum, used in cell phones and other electronic devices. Capacitors made with tantalum have an unmatched ability to hold high voltages at very high temperatures. Because of that, tantalum capacitors have been essential to the miniaturization of cell phones and other handheld wireless devices , video game systems, pacemakers, surgical instruments, pagers, automotive electronics, camera lenses, digital cameras, camera lenses, global positioning systems (GPS), electronic capacitors, lithium ion batteries, prosthetics, surgical implants, and fiber optics. It can also be alloyed with other metals to create heat-resistant compounds widely used in jet engines, nuclear reactors, and various missile parts. . In fact it was the attempt to control coltan mines that was the principal, if not the only, motivation behind the U.S.-backed 1998 occupation of part of DRC territory by Rwanda and Uganda. During the 18 months that the occupation lasted, Rwanda made a profit of 250 million dollars from sales of the mineral
There's not much tin, and only a tiny amount of tantalum, in an individual cell phone; however, explosive growth in the wireless market has piled those metals up, milligram by milligram, into countless tons. Cell phones, laptop computers and other portable electronics rely for their power on lithium ion batteries, which aren't just made of lithium. They contain copper and cobalt (often found together in a single ore called heterogenite) . The DRC has 10 percent of the world's copper reserves and 30 to 40 percent of its cobalt . Also produced Pyrochlore a radioactive compound comprised of a niobium compound bound to a form of tantalum called a microlite. The niobium (also known as columbium) is currently more desirable than its sister component. It is primarily used to create heat-resistant steel and glass alloys used in various construction materials. The steel alloys are widely used to construct oil pipelines and the glass alloys are used in the corrective lenses of eyeglasses. Niobium is also used in nuclear reactors, air frames, jewelry, chemical processing equipment, magnetic resonance imagery (MRI) machines and superconducting magnets. When niobium is combined with iron, the super-alloy ferroniobium is formed, which is used in jet engines, rocket assembly, furnace parts, automobile and truck bodies, railroad tracks, ship hulls, and turbines depending on the percentage of niobium composition.

"As you crawl through the tiny hole, using your arms and fingers to scratch, there's not enough space to dig properly and you get badly grazed all over. And then, when you do finally come back out with the cassiterite, the soldiers are waiting to grab it at gunpoint. Which means you have nothing to buy food with. So we're always hungry." - Muhanga Kawaya, a miner in the remote northeastern province of North Kivu

The level of exploitation continues to be affected much more by prices on the London Metal Exchange than by international efforts to protect workers or curb illicit trafficking of resources. A group of United Nations experts reported in 2006 that seven to 10 airplanes a day fly illegally from eastern DRC across the border into Rwanda, each loaded with two tons of cassiterite, from which tin is extracted.

Yet we find the situation in The Congo 75 percent of its 60 million people live on an average of one dollar a day, 10 million people have no access to drinking water, and a similar number have no electricity.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Wages of Unbridled Capitalism - comments

There is much in this article that Socialist Banner and its regular readers can agree with .

"...The fact that poverty is a problem cannot be denied. But to condemn it without interrogating related problems and issues is, by all measures, escapist and self-defeatist. A comparative appraisal of poverty and unbridled capitalism the world over attest to the foregoing assertion. Hindsight reveals that the insatiable quest and rush for riches and raw money or the primitive pursuit of and accumulation of riches ordinarily associated with unbridled capitalism lies at the root of the myriad problems facing the world today...

... When capital is solely based on primitive accumulation, especially within an exclusive club at the exclusion of the majority, then it begins to attract prejudices and nuances of varying perspectives. In particular, it begets impunity. The feeling that everything is possible with money begins to assume centrality in public discourse. Money becomes an end in itself. This is particularly so in the so-called Third World countries, where education is anchored in money, and selfish and personal pursuit of happiness, to the detriment or total disregard of the collective good of society...

...Different classes begin to emerge at various levels with attendant considerations as to what a person owns and comes from, and which party they support. As a result, both intra-class and inter-class tensions begin to emerge depending on the prevailing prejudices, belief and nuances; usually with tragic consequences. This is where the curse of primitive capital lies...

...Instead of capital for human development, it becomes capital for human destruction. In the process, fear creeps in and usually it is fear of the unknown. People begin to seek refuge in primitive cocoons and related factors and prejudices emerge, usually tribal, ethnic, class, religion, culture and privileges. Conspiracies begin to emerge ranging from sabotage, elimination of the un-wanted, corruption, discrimination and marginalisation...Consequently capital begins to oil the wheels of injustice...

... Because people must protect themselves, private armies begin to emerge. Capital must therefore be used to procure weapons and related assortment; eventually people must be paid to do dirty work even if it means eliminating others. At times others must either be marginalised or frustrated because of the fear of their abilities or the so-called fear of the unknown. As a result poverty is created where it should not have been, and ironically, it is poverty created by capital. How many understand how capital is creating poverty in Africa?..

...Do we not we see democracy become dictatorship by capital? Whoever pays gets the vote, even if nothing other than making money through corruption and related vices is understood...

...Moreover why do we fail to give our people clean water but are quick to build dispensaries to sell drugs to those suffering and dying from water-borne diseases. What kind of research are our public health officers engaged in? Do we need to re-educate the elite sons and daughters of Africa?Quest for capital or raw money becomes the rule rather than the exception...

... As a result we produce professors and graduates who are no more than salesmen of western products, including raw capital...Imagine having doctors who cannot decipher malaria from headache, or stomach ache from heart-burn! Engineers and quantity surveyors who are concerned about how much money they can make from a given contract as opposed to quality of structures being erected...

... Social imperatives come before capital and not the other way round. Provide clean and drinkable water to all, as opposed to placing it at the behest of private commerce. The trend continues. First it was privatisation of land, apparently not for maximisation of production but increasingly as collateral for destructive capital. Remember vast land is hoarded land and is not under productive utilisation.
Now it is water.
What will be next? Imagine a situation where air is poisoned by vagaries of capital, and therefore human beings are forced to buy so-called treated air...

Where we do find ourselves in disagreement is the authors faith that somehow we can have the good bits of capitalism without the bad bits . The author describes this as "the socialisation of capital" , as if the present system of exploitation can be beneficial if placed in the right pair of caring hands and adapted to tackle the social ills of the world .

"The palliatives over which many worthy people are busying themselves now are useless because they are but unorganised partial revolts against a vast, wide-spreading, grasping organisation which will, with the unconscious instinct of a plant, meet every attempt at bettering the conditions of the people with an attack on a fresh side." - William Morris

Indeed, we see little wrong with people campaigning for reforms that bring essential improvements and enhance the quality of their lives, and some reforms do indeed make a difference to the lives of millions and can be viewed as 'successful'. There are examples of this in such fields as education, housing, child employment, work conditions and social security. However, in this regard we also recognise that such 'successes' have in reality done little more than to keep workers and their families in efficient working order and, while it has taken the edge of the problem, it has rarely managed to remove the problem completely.
What we are opposed to is the whole culture of reformism, the idea that capitalism can be made palatable with the right reforms .
In other words, although individual reforms may be worthy of support, the political strategy of reformism—promising to win reforms on the behalf of others—is a roundabout that leads nowhere. Those wanting to improve society should seriously question whether capitalism offers enough scope for achieving lasting solutions to the vast range of social problems to which it gives rise. Of course, some improvements are made and some problems are alleviated. Yet new kinds of problem also arise in a society which is changing ever more rapidly, seeking new ways to make a profit.

Another Oil War in the Offing ?

Sabre rattling is rising between Ugandan and Congolese government troops . The tensions began after the Congolese military captured the four Ugandan soldiers on July 29. There was also a pre-dawn attack on a barge on Lake Albert by what Uganda says were Congolese government troops. The attack that left a British contractor dead . The Ugandan soldiers were captured as they patrolled the Albert waters . The barge was attacked by Three armed patrol boats from the DR Congo . The Congolese commander on the ground said his forces came under fire from a Ugandan army naval patrol boat and only responded in self-defence.

The lake, which lies on the floor of the western arm of the Great African Rift Valley, straddles part of the Uganda-Congo border in an area where two companies, Heritage of Canada and Tullow of the UK, are prospecting for oil. Heritage owns two concessions in a 50-50 partnership with UK-based Tullow Oil on the lake's eastern shores. Tullow also wholly owns one block.

A senior government official said yesterday that Kinshasa "suspects that we are encroaching on their oil wells" hence they attacked hoping to send a message.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Fela Kuti - Voice for all Times

from the BBC we have the lyrics from the songs of Fela Anikulapo Kuti which are well worth copying here .


... Many foreign companies dey Africa carry all our money go
Say am, say am [after each line]
Many foreign companies dey Africa carry all our money go
Dem go write big English for newspaper, dabaru [deceive] we Africans
Dem go write big English for newspaper, dabaru we Africans
I read about one of them inside book like that -
Them call him name na I.T.T
I read about one of them inside book like that -
Them call him name na ITT

Them go dey cause confusion
Cause corruption
Cause oppression
Cause inflation
Oppression, Oppression, Inflation, Corruption, Oppression, Inflation

Dem get one style wey dem dey use
Dem go pick one African manA man with low mentality
Them go give am million naira [Nigerian currency] breads
To become of high position here
Him go bribe some thousand naira bread
To become one useless chief
Like rat dey do Dem go dey do from
Corner corner pass-ee, pass-ee
Under, under pass-ee, pass-eeInside-ee,
Inside-ee pass-ee, pass-eeIn-ee, in-ee, pass-ee, pass-ee
Out-ee, out-ee, pass-ee, pass-ee
Peep-peep, peep-peep, pass-ee pass-ee...

Then and now: In International Thief Thief Fela uses the abbreviation of International Telephone & Telegraph (IT&T) to take on big multinational corporations he accuses of draining Africa's resources by deviously setting Africans against one another. He criticises their African collaborators for selling out. The violence in Nigeria's Niger Delta is often attributed to the activities of Western multinational oil companies operating in the area. Although the bulk of Nigeria's oil wealth comes from the Niger Delta, the region remains heavily impoverished. The people of the area blame the oil companies and their government officials for the poverty in the region and have taken up arms to demand 'justice'.

Title: COFFIN FOR HEAD OF STATE Written: 1981

... Anywhere the Muslims dem dey reign
Na senior Al-haji na 'im be director
Anywhere the Christians dem dey reign
Na the best friend to Bishop na 'im be director
Look Obasanjo,
Before anything you know at all,
He go dey shout Oh Lord, Oh Lord, Oh Lord, Oh mighty Lord, Oh Lord, Oh God
And den dey do bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad things
Through Jesus Christ our Lord
I say look Yar'Adua
I say look Yar'Adua
Before anything you know at all
He go dey shout Haba Allah, haba Allah, haba Allah, haba Allah, haba Allah
And den dey do bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad-bad things
Through Mohammed our Lord

Then and now: Coffin for Head of State criticises hypocritical leaders who hide behind their religions to commit atrocities against the people they lead. Fela recalls the 1979 attack on his compound by soldiers acting on the orders of former President Olusegun Obasanjo who was military head of state at the time. Shehu Yar'Adua, elder brother of the current Nigerian president, Umaru Yar'Adua, was Mr Obasanjo's deputy. Fela's mother, a government worker, died in the attack and the singer and his Movement of the People group carried her mock coffin to Dodan Barracks, Lagos - seat of the military government - and left it at the gates. Although Fela did this song almost 30 years ago, some of the same people who were in government then are still in charge of affairs in Nigeria today. But military rule ended with Mr Obasanjo's election in 1999 as Nigeria's first democratically elected president after about 15 years of unbroken military rule. Mr Yar'Adua succeeded him in May.

Title: ORIGINAL SUFFERHEAD Written: 1981

... Plenty, plenty water for Africa
Na so-so water in Africa
Water underground, water in the air
Na so-so water in Africa
Water for man to drink nko O [so what]

E-no dey e dey?

Plenty, plenty light for Africa
Na so-so energy for Africa
Na the big-big men dey get electric
If them no get electric dem go
If they no get electricity
Get plant O
Ordinary light for man nko O

E-no dey e dey?

Plenty, plenty food for Africa
Food under-ground,
Food on the ground
Na so-so plenty food for Africa
Ordinary food for man for chop [eat] nko O

E-no dey e dey?

House matter na different matter
Those wey dey for London dem
Those wey dey New York dem
They leave dey like kings
We wey dey for Africa
We dey live like servants
United Nations dem come
Get name for us
Dem go call us underdeveloped nation
We must be underdeveloped
To dey stay ten-ten in one room O
First and second dey
Dem go call us Third World
We must dey craze for head
To dey sleep inside dustbin
Dem go call us none-aligned nations
We must dey craze for head
To dey sleep under bridge O

Then and now: When Fela composed Original Sufferhead in the 1980s, infrastructure and social services were in a very poor state in Nigeria. Today, the situation is much worse despite increased earnings from oil. Corruption and mismanagement remain serious challenges despite ongoing efforts to tackle them. But many Nigerians believe that the country's return to democracy in 1999 has brought with it increased hope that things would ultimately change for the better.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Nigerian Status and Class

The BBC reports on the class divisions and stratifications in Nigeria . To be addressed as a Mr, Mrs or Ms in Nigerian social circles means you are a nobody. To be a mover or shaker you need to be a chief . To be a traditional chief is like being a small god - it is seen as the peak of one's achievement in life. A chief should be someone who is well-to-do financially and intellectually and has contributed substantially to the development of the community.

But no longer.

Honorary titles can often be bought by giving a donation of about $10,000 to one's home area.
The moment somebody is financially buoyant the next thing is to be chief because he has more money.
Many people use their titles for political gain. In Nigerian politicians don't sell party programmes, they sell people . It is the face , not the case .

"Chieftaincy titles have practically been bastardised these days," said Financial manager Reginald Ibe, a chief of the Igbo people in the south-east "Now you even have armed robbers, corrupt politicians and all sorts of people being chiefs,"

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was made chief shortly after he first stepped down from power when he was the military head of state in 1979. President Umaru Yar'Adua holds the title Matawalin Katsina - "custodian of wealth of Katsina" - given to him by the Emir of Katsina when he was governor.

"Most of the people who seem to be crazy about titles are making up for some deficiencies or some inadequacies," claims Alhaji Abbu Mohammed from northern Borno State, the Yerima Kida of Biu Emirate, which literally means he is prince of the Kida area.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Zimbabwe inflation

The BBC reports that Zimbabwe have issued a 200,000 Zimbabwe dollar note - The new note is worth US$13 at the official exchange rate or $1 on the black market and can buy 1kg (2.2lb) of sugar. The article goes on to explain that food and fuel shortages have become common as the government relies more heavily on imports, pushing prices to new heights.
This is of course wrong , and it s the over -issue of money that is causing the hyper-inflation - The official annual rate of inflation in Zimbabwe is nearing 5,000% but some experts believe it is even twice that .

The Washington Post carries the story which reveals the real cause of the inflation . President Mugabe has promised to print more money to fund municipal projects, a government newspaper reported Saturday.

"Where money for projects has not been found, we will print it," Mugabe was quoted as saying.

The Marxian theory of inflation can be found here

Zimbabwe is in the grips of its worst crisis since independence . Power, water, health and communications systems are collapsing, and there are acute shortages of staple foods and gasoline. Unemployment is around 80 percent.

The biggest government hospital group acknowledged Friday that 10 of its 18 kidney dialysis machines were awaiting repair and imported spare parts that require scarce hard currency. A senior government official said kidney patients were dying for lack of dialysis machines.