Friday, February 29, 2008

Still in Chains

From the March 2008 issue of the Socialist Standard

"They never freed us. They only took the chain from around our neck and put it on our ankles." Anti-aparthied activist Rassool Snyman to Naomi Klein.

The fight against the system of racial segregation and white supremacy called apartheid ("apartness" in Afrikaans) was one of the great liberal and left-wing causes of my generation. It was a fight not only for political democracy in South Africa but also for socio-economic reform.The Freedom Charter, adopted by the African National Congress in 1955 (, called for "restoring national wealth to the people" (understood as nationalization of the mines, banks and "monopoly industry"), "re-dividing the land among those who work it to banish famine and land hunger," improved pay and working conditions, free healthcare, universal literacy, and decent housing for all.

Apartheid as a political and legal system was dismantled in the early 1990s. South Africa's capitalists did not on the whole object. Apartheid had brought them immense profits from the exploitation of a cheap captive labour force. But it had its drawbacks. By denying training and advancement to a large majority of the workforce, it created a growing shortage of skilled labour. Capitalists are often willing to accept a measure of social change, provided that they can set its limits.

Little change
Although apartheid is gone, economically South Africa is still one of the most unequal countries in the world. Almost all the land, mines and industry remain in the same (mostly white) hands. Almost half the population lives below subsistence level. Unemployment is widespread; children scavenge on dumps and landfill sites from sunrise to sunset seven days a week. Life expectancy is falling (a drop of 13 years since 1990) as AIDS, drug-resistant TB and other diseases spread.

Even segregation still exists in practice. The wealthy take shelter in "gated communities" from the violence pervading the shantytowns. As the wealthy are no longer exclusively but only predominantly white, the proper name for this is class rather than race segregation.

True, efforts have been made to improve living conditions. Close to two million new homes have been built. (Whether they count as "decent housing" is another matter.) Water, telephone and electricity networks have been expanded. But while millions were rehoused, millions were also evicted for rent arrears.

Nine million people were connected to the water supply, but during the same period ten million were disconnected as the price rose out of their reach.

Caught in a web
How did the main reform goals of the Freedom Charter come to be abandoned? Political journalist William Mervin Gumede tells the story in his book Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC (Cape Town: Zebra Press 2005).

While political negotiations, conducted in the glare of publicity, moved the ANC toward government office, parallel and almost unpublicized economic negotiations, led on the ANC side by Thabo Mbeki (now president), ensured that when the ANC did take office it would be unable to act against white business interests. A new clause of the constitution made all private property sacrosanct. Power over economic policy was ceded to an "autonomous" central bank and international financial institutions.

"The ANC found itself caught in a web made of arcane rules and regulations… As the web descended on the country only a few people even noticed it was there, but when the new government … tried to give its voters the tangible benefits they expected the strands of the web tightened and [it] discovered that its powers were tightly bound" (Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine pp. 202-3).

Relentless pressure
The ANC hierarchy came under "relentless pressure" from local and international business, the (business controlled) media, foreign politicians, the World Bank and IMF, etc. It was "an onslaught for which the ANC was wholly unprepared" (Gumede, p. 72). This does not mean that crude demands and threats played a crucial role. It was a process more of seduction than intimidation, aimed at integrating a set of new partners into the institutional structure and social milieu of the global capitalist class.

This meant providing opportunities for ANC officials to go into business or train at American business schools and investment banks. Leading figures were lavished with hospitality:

"Harry Oppenheimer [former chairman of Anglo American Corporation and De Beers Consolidated Mines] was eager to entertain Mandela at his private estate, while Anglovaal's Clive Menell hosted him for Christmas (1990) at his mansion . . . While separated from his wife, Mandela's home for several months was the palatial estate of insurance tycoon Douw Steyn . . . His daughter Zinzi had a honeymoon partly financed by resort and casino king Sol Kerzner, and Mandela spent Christmas 1993 in the Bahamas as a guest of Heinz and Independent Newspapers chairman Sir Anthony O'Reilly." (Gumede, p. 72).

It seems churlish to begrudge Mandela a little luxury after 27 years in prison. But what were his benefactors' motives?

The markets: stern taskmasters
Nevertheless, the most effective form of capitalist influence was the impersonal pressure of "the markets." As Mandela told the ANC's 1997 national conference:

"The mobility of capital and the globalization of the capital and other markets make it impossible for countries to decide national economic policy without regard to the likely response of these markets" (Klein, p. 207).

And the markets punished the slightest sign of deviation from the "Washington consensus" with capital flight and speculation against the Rand.

Mbeki was the first to grasp what was needed to win the markets' confidence. Precisely in order to live down its "revolutionary" and "Marxist" past, the ANC leaders had to prove themselves more Catholic than the pope. "Just call me a Thatcherite" – quipped Mbeki as he unveiled his new "shock therapy" programme in 1996.

South Africa could not afford the protectionist measures with which Malaysia, for instance, warded off the Asian financial crisis of 1997. Orthodoxy, however, was never rewarded with the hoped-for flood of foreign investment. The markets are stern taskmasters: they demand everything and promise nothing.

A sell-out?
It is not altogether fair to say that Mandela or Mbeki "sold out." They simply saw no escape from the "web" spun by global capital. Indeed, at the national level there is no escape. Reformers in other countries, such as the Solidarity movement in Poland and Lula's Workers' Party in Brazil, have gone through much the same experience on reaching office. Socialists have long said that socialism cannot be established in a single country. Now we also know that under conditions of globalization even a meaningful programme of reform cannot be implemented in a single country.

Capital is global. That is its trump card against any attempt to defy its dictates that is confined within national boundaries. The resistance to capital must also be organized on a global scale if it is to have any chance of success.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Capitalism booms but little change

International investors are toasting Zambia's fast-growing economy. The economy has recorded an annual growth of five percent for the past five years, inflation is in single digits and the kwacha has appreciated against foreign currencies. Zambia's growth has been fuelled by record copper prices on the world market. Copper accounts for over 80 percent of the country's total foreign earnings.
Last month, the Global Economics Weekly, an international business research publication, ranked Zambia as number one among the 10 most improved countries in the world, ahead of Argentina, Ghana and Russia, among others. President Levy Mwanawasa's administration has been widely praised by western donors for its pro-market policies, which offer foreign investors generous conditions. This is particularly true of the mining sector, where royalty tax is an exceptionally low 0.6 percent, firms are exempt from customs duty, and there is no ceiling on the amount of dividends or profits that can be repatriated. But the benefits seem hard to find in the working-class districts of the capital , Lusaka .

Economists and social rights activists point out that it is all yet to make a serious dent in poverty.
"...they tell us the economy is growing but to us life is still the same, prices of everything on the market are still the same, we are still poor, and we are still looking for jobs," Lusaka resident Agness Banda told IRIN.
The social indicators that reflect whether Zambians are really having a better life have remained stubbornly negative. The poverty rate, as measured by the government's Central Statistical Office, has been stuck at 68 percent for years; despite all the foreign investment, only 400,000 formal-sector jobs exist for a population of 11.7 million.
"There is no emphasis on equitable distribution of wealth from this growing economy," said Ivy Mutwale, acting executive director of the Civil Society for Poverty Reduction, an umbrella advocacy group.
Oliver Saasa, a consultant economics professor at the University of Zambia, said the impact of copper earnings had been negligible because of the lack of social investment.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Africa's Fishing Future Bleak

Socialist Banner has reported about the problems of Africa's fishing communities here and yet another report has come to our notice .

Climate change is emerging as the latest threat to the world's fast declining fish stocks, which could affect millions of people who depend on the oceans for food and income. The report, In Dead Water, says climate change may slow down the global flow of ocean currents, which flush and clean the continental shelves and are critical to maintaining water quality, nutrient cycling and the life-cycle patterns of fish and other marine life in more than 75 percent of the world's fishing grounds. Fifty million people could be at risk by 2080 because of climate change and increasing coastal population densities, according to a Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) policy brief on the impact of climate change on fisheries .

Christian Nellemann, editor-in-chief of the UNEP report, pointed out that the "impoverished will take the greatest toll both in terms of reduced food supply, but also breakdown in their economy and their primary opportunity to move out of poverty. This is an emerging catastrophe of an unprecedented scale, and the efforts in the next two decades will determine the lives of hundreds of millions for centuries ahead."

He said West Africa, where several million people live along the coast and the fisheries provide the primary income and food resource, could be among the worst affected by climate change and industrial overfishing - including bottom trawling - combined with coastal pollution. "Here, an increasingly larger portion, often exceeding 80 percent to 90 percent of the fishery harvest, is caught by non-local vessels, such as from the European Union."

The report also found that up to 80 percent of the world's primary fish-catch species are exploited beyond or close to their harvesting capacity: advances in technology, combined with subsidies, mean the world's fishing capacity is 2.5 times bigger than can harvest fisheries sustainably.

African countries were most vulnerable to the likely impacts of climate change on fisheries. Climate change will change the distribution, conservation and use of the water of the earth and its atmosphere. African fisheries are particularly at risk because semi-arid countries with significant coastal or inland fisheries have high exposure to future increases in temperature, and the linked changes in rainfall and coastal current systems.
The high catches that currently allow exports may become a thing of the past, and a high dependence on fish for protein could threaten the health of many thousands as catches shrink. Low capacity to adapt to change due to their comparatively small or weak economies and low human development indices could set back development in countries like Angola, Congo, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Sierra Leone.
In African countries like Ghana, Namibia, Senegal and Uganda, the fisheries sector contributes over six percent of gross domestic product. Rift Valley countries such as Malawi, Mozambique and Uganda, river-dependent fishery nations, are also vulnerable.

Researchers found that lake fisheries have already begun to feel the impact of climatic variability, affecting fish production. .
In Lake Chilwa, Malawi, a 'closed-basin' lake, dry periods have become more frequent and fish yields are declining.
In Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania, fish yields have dropped because of declining wind speeds and rising water temperatures, which have reduced the mixing of nutrient-rich deep waters with the surface waters that support fish production. This, along with overfishing, may be responsible for the declining fish yields from the lake. .
Lake Chad's area fluctuates extensively, but follows a declining trend. In 2005 it occupied only 10 percent of the area it was in 1963, with further decreases predicted in the coming century. Fish catches have not fallen to the same extent, but the overall productive potential of the lake is declining.

Africa's Peoples 'The Most Threatened in the World'

From OneWorld Net

Over half of the top twenty countries in the world where people are most under threat of genocide or mass killing are in Africa, says Minority Rights Group International . The spread of cross-border conflicts has emerged as a major destabilising factor in Africa and sees states such as Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Chad and the Central African Republic dominate the top twenty list of MRG's 2008 global ranking of Peoples under Threat.
Chad has risen fourteen places up the rankings table since 2007. Widening inter-communal violence in the eastern part of the country has seen civilian communities targeted in the fighting between 'black' toroboro militias and Arab fighters - a cruel replica of the ethnic conflict now familiar across the border in the Darfur region of neighbouring Sudan.

Ethiopia also figures prominently in the major risers - sporadic conflict in the Ogaden region bordering Somalia has led to widespread criticism of the Ethiopian military's treatment of ethnic Somalis. UN reports have also highlighted human rights abuses against the Anuak minority group in Gambella state.

States widely considered to be stable, such as Kenya, have been catapulted up the table - disputed elections in December 2007 exposed the tribal fault-lines in Kenyan society where competing political interests over-lapped with ethnic differences.
"Lesser known indigenous groups in Kenya such as the Ogiek have suffered as militias, profiting from the general insecurity, have attempted land grabs" says MRG's Executive Director.

Africa: Kosovo Revives Hopes for Secession

The recognition of Kosovo by some of the West’s major powers is boosting the hopes of secessionist movements across Africa , according to this news item . In an article titled “Kosovo—the precedent that will enflame Africa,” a columnist for the Ivoirian newspaper Notre Voie predicts a revival of secessionist groups across the continent and doubts that the international community will be able to resolve the resulting crises.

“The world is about to witness… another political and diplomatic revolution which may give birth to some new nations," reads an opinion piece published on, a website that caters to the autonomous region of the same name that seeks to secede from Somalia.

“Kidal will follow the example of Kosovo to become independent,” reads a forum entry on, a website named after a city in the northeastern part of Mali that is home to a Touareg rebellion that has clashed sporadically with governmental forces.

“This hard-won freedom by Kosovar citizens will serve as an example for the future autonomy of Kabylia,” wrote a contributor to, a website committed to the affirmation of Algeria’s Kabyle Berbers, who resent the arabization of the country at the expense of the Amazigh culture.

At, one of Senegal’s major news sites, one commentator wonders if the Senegal's government’s recognition of Kosovo will not reignite the separatist tendencies of MFDC, a rebel group that wants independence for the southern Casamance region.

Africa’s strongest case will likely come from Western Sahara, which has been recognized as an independent country by the African Union but whose sovereignty is not effective because of Morocco’s insistence that it is a province of its kingdom. A Saharawi blogger at, noted what he regards as the inconsistency of Western powers: “In Kosovo they imposed an independence that was not based on international legality, but in Western Sahara they’re opposed to self-determination that has been recommended multiple times by that same legality.”
Another wrote “Kosovo is an example of how we can effectively make our case,”

Article 20 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights affirms "the unquestionable and inalienable right to self-determination," but this has to be balanced against the inviolability of territorial boundaries that resulted from colonization (the so-called uti possidetis principle under Article 4 of the African Union’s Constitutive Act).

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Rationing the Rations

The director of the UN's World Food Programme has said it is considering plans to ration food aid because of rising prices and a shortage of funds. The WFP needed increased contributions from donors to make sure it could meet the needs of those who already rely on it.

Food prices rose 40% last year because of rising demand and other factors.
Earlier this month, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said the rising price of cereals such as wheat and maize had become a "major global concern".

The FAO estimated poor countries would see their cereal import bill rise by more than a third this year. Africa as a whole is expected to see a 49% increase.

"If food is twice as expensive, we can bring half as much in for the same price and the same contribution," the director of the UN's World Food Programme said "...In some of these developing countries, prices have gone up 80% for staple food," she added. "When you see those kinds of increases, they are simply priced out of the food markets."

Nigeria - Higher Education ?

From the BBC

Nigerian universities used to rate among the best in Africa.
In the 1960s students would regularly go on exchange programmes to top British universities. A degree from a Nigerian university was highly regarded.
“All this has changed,” said one professor at the University of Abuja. “The students are bright, but the system lets them down,”

The problems start with crumbling infrastructure.
Around 10 students sleep in a hostel room. When it’s hot they take the mattresses and sleep outside. Despite the poor conditions pupils queue up at the beginning of term to be allocated a room. The kitchens and toilets in the men's hostel are disgusting.

“It’s difficult for some girls to get an education because of pressure from society not to educate women,” . Sexual harassment of female students, lecturers demanding sex for passing grades, is common.

If every student took out three books from the library, the shelves would be empty. Science labs are particularly bad. Their classroom does not have any microscopes or proper laboratory equipment.

Monday, February 25, 2008


Socialist Banner reflects the ideas and opinions of the World Socialist Movement which differentiates us from what is generally understood as the Anarchist Movement but we are happy to promote socialist understanding and encourage comradely debate with those who like ourseves are advocating a world society based upon "From each according to ability , to each according to need".

A new issue of "Zabalaza - A Journal of Southern African Revolutionary Anarchism" has just been produced . It features :

* Asgisa: A Working Class Critique

* S.A. Public Sector Strikes

* The 2010 World Cup* Protests Against University Privatisation

* Introduction to the Anarchist Black Cross

* Vigilante Farmers Want Refugee Camps

* Swaziland: The Assassination of Our Dear Comrade

* Europe, Africa and the Neo-Liberal Strategy of Co- Optation

* Fallacies of the Darfur War

* The Congo's Dilemma

* A New Guantanamo in Africa?

* Misrepresentation of Self-Management in the Caribbean

* Some Thoughts on Theoretical Unity & Collective Responsibility

* Clarity on What Anarcho-Syndicalism Is

* Towards an Anarcho-Syndicalist Strategy for Africa

"Until all are free, no one is"

A PDF copy can be downloaded here , while text version can be read here

Saturday, February 23, 2008

BURKINA FASO: Food riots

Riots over the cost of living hit three major towns in Burkina Faso this week.

Laurent Ouédraogo, secretary general of the Confédération Nationale des Travailleurs du Burkina (CNTB) told IRIN that the riots happened after anger welled up because of constantly rising prices for basics like food, cloth and petrol .

“Misery does not wait and you see people witnessing everyday rising prices and they do not know what to do. The situation is like having matches near cotton that can catch fire at any moment,” Ouédraogo said.

More details here

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Made of polystyrene, the 31cm long, 2.9cm diametre, 150g tube, which looks like a flute and can be hung around the neck, uses filters to kill or remove 99.9 percent of waterborne bacteria and 98.7 percent of waterborne viruses, and requires no electricity or spare parts during its year-long lifetime, powered by sucking alone. It costs about US$4 and has a purification volume of 700l. The product contains a special halogenated resin that kills bacteria and viruses on contact. LifeStraw Family is designed to filter 10,000l of water in the home, enough for 18 months . Based on the same principle as LifeStraw Personal, it works by pouring water into a bucket, from which it flows through a small hose into the LifeStraw filter device, which is fitted with a small tap.

“It is something that may well have very useful applications in an emergency scenario. But it’s not a development tool, it doesn’t really solve the problem of getting water to people. This is a good interim stop-gap in an emergency where there’s plenty of water but it’s contaminated, but it’s not a long-term solution,” - spokesman for the charity WaterAid UK

Programme development officer of WaterAid America - "It is not a sustainable option for poor communities in developing countries to attempt to treat and purify water,”

IMA World Health project chief cautioned “The individual LifeStraws have only a limited role in solving Africa’s drinking water problem. It takes a fair amount of sucking power to use the straws so it is not appropriate for small children,” He also pointed out that LifeStraw was unable to filter out amoebas and giardia, a debilitating intestinal parasite, saying that this limited its usefulness and appeal.

Monday, February 18, 2008

cocoa cop-out

Socialist Banner have previously reported here on the child exploitaion in the cocoa producing regions and another news item reveal little has changed .

Despite the international outcry in 2000 over child exploitation on West African cocoa farms, and efforts by governments since then to regulate the industry, very little has changed for an estimated 284,000 child labourers, according to campaign groups. Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire produce about three-quarters of the world's cocoa and according to the US State Department, they employ 200,000 children. Up to 12,000 of these children have been illegally trafficked across African borders to work on Ivorian cocoa farms, according to the NGO Stop the Traffik. Many of these children are forced to work in dangerous conditions, on slave-labour wages or for nothing in order to put chocolate into the mouths of consumers .

In 2001 nine West African governments came to a voluntary agreement with the US government known as the Harkin-Engel protocol (named after the two US senators who passed it), which aimed to decrease the number of children working on farms, improve working conditions, and certify that half of the cocoa produced in West Africa would be free of exploitative child labour by 2005. But according a spokesperson for industry association International Cocoa Initiative , delays - due to conflict in the case of Côte d'Ivoire, and other burdens on resources elsewhere - meant the deadline was postponed to 2008.

"Now the industry needs to put its money where its mouth is, to get West African children off farms and back into school where they belong," said Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International, another NGO.

But Eileen Maybin, spokesperson for the Fairtrade Foundation :

"Cocoa certification is a 'band-aid' policy - it is attempting to address the problem of child labour without addressing the underlying cause, which is low cocoa prices...Unless chocolate manufacturers are willing to pay more for their cocoa, these poor conditions on farms will persist."

The Harkin-Engel initiative is funded by governments and cocoa manufacturers, but critics say it has not provided enough money to address the root causes of the problem: that poverty drives farmers to exploit children.

It is the capitalist market that decides how humanitarian the degree of exploitation will be .

Angolan Shame

Economic growth does not necessarily translate into improvements in child mortality, major new research suggests.
Ten million children still die every year before their fifth birthday, 99% of them in the developing world, according to Save the Children. A study comparing economic performance with child mortality reveals that some countries have not translated wealth into improvements across society.

Angola comes at the bottom of a new "Wealth and Survival" league table drawn up by the UN Development Programme . There are few countries in the world where there are such stark wealth contrasts as there are between the wealth of oil-rich coastal strip around the Angolan capital Luanda, and the war-ravaged interior.

UNDP statisticians calculate that more than half of the babies who die in Angola could be saved were the country to spread its wealth more fairly.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Who are the criminals ?

From the BBC

A fully-equipped hospital that lay unused for two years has burned to the ground in northern Nigeria. The General Hospital in Maiduguri was built in 2006 but the state government refused to open it until the president came to cut the ribbon.
The governor had refused to open the hospital, which was ready for patients in June 2006, until former President Olusegun Obasanjo came to the state. His visit was postponed several times, the last being just two months before the election in 2007. His successor Umaru Yar'adua was due to visit later next month.

Borno was recently hit by a measles outbreak that killed hundreds of children across three states. Existing hospitals in Borno are poorly equipped and overcrowded.

Angry residents of Bulunkutu, where the hospital was situated, gathered around the burned hospital and shouted abuse at the alleged arsonists, local papers reported.
The governor addressed the arsonists through the media.
"There is not one hospital in the country owned by a state government that has the type of world class equipment we had in there. It is their people that would have benefitted," he told reporters at the scene.

Socialist Banner acknowledges the counter-productive result of burning down a hospital but , surely , this Nigerian state governor must stand condemned for placing party politics before peoples welfare - leaving a modern fully equipped sophistacated hospital empty for two years while people around it died from lack of medical attention . He and his suppoerters are no better than the actual arsonists .

Friday, February 15, 2008

Aid or Bribe

I read that Liberia's pop queen is practicing her newest single — a song called "Thank you" to be released for President Bush's visit here next week.
Her head tilted back, Juli Endee pulls the microphone close and belts out, "Thank you, George Bush."
"Thank you for democracy,"
she croons over the electric guitar, shaking her hips wrapped in yellow cloth.
"Thank you for the rule of law," she sings.
"Thank you for debt relief."

"If you were to take a survey, you would find that there is not one Liberian that doesn't love George Bush," effuses pop star Endee.

The Bush administration has made Africa the centerpiece of its aid strategy. Twelve of the 15 countries receiving funding from the five-year, $15 billion President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief are in Africa. Nine African countries are among the 16 drawing grants from Bush's Millennium Challenge Corporation, which provides support to nations that have reached benchmarks from stemming corruption to investing in immunizations. Since Bush took office, U.S. development aid to Africa has tripled, funding for HIV programs have vaulted from under $1 billion to over $6 billion per year and garment exports from Africa to America, fueled by special trade deals, increased sevenfold, according to U.S. statistics.

Bush's focus on the continent, analysts said, stems from the realization that it's no longer just a case of Africa needing America, but of America needing Africa.

Today, a fifth of U.S. oil imports come from a single African nation — Nigeria. By the end of the decade, one in five new barrels of oil entering the global market are projected to come from Africa, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
Benin, where Bush's trip will begin Saturday, received a $307 million grant from the Millennium Challenge Corporation two years ago for its commitment to democracy.
Ghana, one of the most stable democracies in West Africa, was the recipient of $547 million 2006 — "the largest grant ever to Ghana," according to Kwabena Anaman, director of research at Ghana's Institute of Economic Affairs.
Rwanda, which is recovering from a 1994 genocide, has just qualified to receive funding under the Millennium Challenge program.

Although the scale of funding under the Millennium Challenge is unprecedented, the program has been slow to take off, with only a fraction of the intended funds reaching the target countries six years after its launch.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Food shortages forecasted

The rising price of cereals such as wheat and maize is a "major global concern", the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says. Africa as a whole is expected to see an estimated 49% increase this year.

It is estimated poor countries will pay a record $33.1 billion (£17 billion) for cereal imports in the year to July 2008. This is despite a fall in the total amount they will import.

The FAO warned 36 countries around the world were facing a food crisis. 21 of them are in Africa.

Lesotho, Somalia and Swaziland are said to be facing an "exceptional shortfall" in food supply after years of adverse weather. The FAO this week launched an appeal for $87 million of emergency assistance to help flood-affected populations in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi.

Proof that the capitalist market system cannot provide for all .

Monday, February 11, 2008

Football Trafficking

The African Nations Cup tournament is over and Egypt are the winner , defeating Cameroon . Whoooooopeeeee !!

Socialist Banner reported previously on the new exploitation of the football scout and the poor yet talented youngsters of Africa and and now another BBC report describes the people trade industry in the world of soccer :-

Football is more than a sport; it is a weaver of dreams.
It can fulfil the hopes of a young boy and his family trying to escape poverty like Michael Essien - now worth millions and playing for Chelsea - or Didier Drogba from neighbouring Ivory Coast, one of the best strikers in the world.
A well as hope there is greed, as unscrupulous adults traffic increasing numbers of African youngsters to Europe, exploiting their dreams, then abandoning them.

Fahd Abu Bakari is a 16-year-old Ghanaian who lives in Accra.
He told us he wanted to be the new Michael Essien and that agents were always turning up to his club's games.
"Finding the money for the visa and passport to go to Europe is not easy," he said. "Some boys ask their families to help them and then when they're successful they will pay them back."
Fahd's mother Christiana Kissiwah says she would love her son to go to Europe. She makes a modest living cooking and selling food from a stall outside her home. Success in Europe will of course not only realise her son's dreams but also those of his family - to live a better life.

But Fahd and his parents are easy prey for the growing number of unlicensed so-called football academies and agents in Ghana. They claim - for a fat fee - that they can introduce a youngster to a top European club. Sometimes that fee is raised by desperate parents selling their home, handing over the deeds or selling family heirlooms like jewellery.

The European Union says it is concerned about the trafficking of African children for football . The charity Save the Children is working hard to inform African families of the dangers of dealing with unlicensed agents and middlemen.

Karim Haggui, a 24-year-old Tunisian who plays for Bayer Leverkusen in Germany but competed this month in the African Cup in Ghana in response to the Quatari largest talent search in soccer history, a screening of 400,000 boys his age across seven African countries., said :-
''There are a lot of youngsters a lot of talent who are here and who finish their careers in Africa without anyone ever seeing them,'' Haggui said. But if Africans end up playing for another country's national team, he added, ''it becomes commerce.''

But for the poor, football will always be an attractive way to escape poverty-stricken lives - so stamping out exploitation won't be easy.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Puppets

International Rescue was the name of the organisation in the Thunderbirds childrens puppet show on TV . The real International Rescue may indeed be described as puppets too - puppets of international capitalism .

The website Dissident Voice carries a revealing article that can be read here . It describes the manipulation of the media by vested interests on the reporting of the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in particular the recent report by the International Rescue Committee on the situation in the DRC .

"...It is a story that has been censored, manipulated, and covered up even while it is ostensibly being told. Plenty of information has been published about the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and plenty of this is flak, designed to whiteout the truth, and help keep the real story buried..."

The article describes the International Rescue Committee as :-

"... not a neutral or purely “humanitarian” organization. The IRC has a deep history of nefarious activities going far beyond relief operations. The IRC is also a huge financial operation providing scads of executives and business people with scads of income in ways that do not help to alleviate the war or suffering but rather exacerbate it. While the IRC claims 90% of its funds 'are spent on refugee programs and services,' much of this money never hits the ground in Africa, what does often barely touches the life of a refugee..."

The article asks :-

"Why doesn’t the IRC focus on feeding the living instead of counting the dead?"

One of the conclusions of this article reads :-

"...Starvation happens not because this is Africa, or the Congo, it is because we are witnessing the most devastating example of predatory capitalism and heartless, absolute greed, combined with a spiritual crises—in the “first” world—of unprecedented proportions. The long term control of Congo’s resources is best served by eliminating as many black natives as possible. The capacity to control Congo’s resources is enhanced by spreading terror, uprooting people, destroying families, sowing distrust and hatred. It is called divide and conquer and it is the oldest trick in the book of European conquest. The word that best describes the portfolio of psychological, emotional, physical, social, cultural and political effects of such campaigns of destabilization and terror is DERACINATION.

And all the while the humanitarian “misery” industry is raking in billions of dollars on programs to “help” the Congolese people, and universities create new programs and departments to train the privileged “development” work force, all to create and institutionalize dependency. This is structural violence, and it is part of a cycle of perpetuated wealth and privilege. It is managed inequality..."

Read the full article at the link

Adding support to the above claim but in a more restrained measured tone that Africa is suffering rapacious exploitation is this other article by the think tank Foreign Policy In Focus which concludes :-

"...As U.S. policy towards Africa becomes increasingly militarized, the U.S. economic agenda and energy concerns follow close behind. During the Cold War, U.S. competition with the Soviet Union led to disastrous policy decisions for the African people; it stunted the development of democracy and undermined economies. U.S.-Africa policy is at risk of repeating this historical mistake as the U.S. and China compete for African resources.

The U.S. will continue to prioritize trade liberalization and development strategies that favor U.S. investments and corporations. U.S.-backed economic restructuring programs coming out of the international financial institutions persist in depleting African economic sovereignty as leaders are forced to comply with budget ceilings and privatization prescriptions in order to be eligible for new loans or the hope of debt cancellation..."

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Cooking With Poison

Cut-price cooking oil used in most Malian households has been found to contain gossypol, a toxic substance that is known to cause sterility, cancer and inhibit growth.The majority of Malians buy the oil for cooking since, at an average of US$1.25 a litre, it is about half the price of imported oils.
Only two out of 57 oil producers studied around the country had the necessary equipment to produce safely-refined cooking oil , the rest were producing oil containing gossypol, a harmful poison.

Adama Haidara doctor at the Hope Clinic, a medical centre in Sikoro near Bamako, backed this up, stressing it is also linked to cardiac arrests and cancer. “The risks to the consumer after a long period of absorption of non-refined oil are enormous.”

The government has ordered producers to update their equipment, but not all can afford to and some have been forced to shut down production for good.

"The government had no controls in place, no follow-up, nothing…the quality of the oil produced, and the health of consumers mattered little to it,” said Seydou Samaké, a Bamako resident who used to frequently cook with the oil.
“The doctor has arrived after the death. It’s always like that. It took us being poisoned for the government to intervene,” complained Oumar Traoré, a member of the Mali Coalition for the Protection of Consumers (REDECOMA).

Commercial Overfishing Threatens Coastal Livilihoods

Socialist Banner previously drew attention to the exploitation of Africa's fishing stocks here and one again a new report of the problem has reached the mediaa.

According to 'The Crisis of Marine Plunder in Africa', a report published in November 2007 by the Institute of Security Studies (ISS), a South Africa-based think-tank, poaching and over-fishing off southern and eastern Africa has become so extreme that permanent damage to the marine environment appears imminent.
West Africa's fish stocks were exploited by European, Russian and Asian fishing fleets in the second half of the 20th century, but in recent years the industry set its sights on the shoals in the continent's southern and eastern waters.
The ISS report conservatively estimated that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in Africa had become a US$1 billion a year industry. "In Mozambique, illegal fishing in the tuna and shrimp industry was set at approximately $38 million."

The UN Food and Agriculture Programme (FAO) has estimated that Mozambique's small-scale fishermen, who caught 84,065 tonnes of fish for the domestic market in 2000, will need to catch 171,040 tonnes to help meet local demand by 2025.
The pressure is mounting: Mozambique's shallow coastal waters have been over-fished, its population - 40 percent of whom live on less than one US dollar a day - is growing at 2.4 percent annually, and traditional fishing techniques can no longer compete in a globalised fishing world.
A lack of modern equipment and skills has left an estimated 90,000 small-scale fishermen, who provide directly for 50,000 families, unable to access deep-water species or make the best of diminishing coastal stocks. Only three percent of the 24,000 boats they used had engines that would allow them to fish in deeper waters.

Fishing provides a critical source of food and income to thousands of Mozambicans, but the ever-increasing local and international demand for fish, combined with rapidly depleting stocks, is putting increasing strain on this way of life.

"...I can't explain why they are gone, but each year we catch less and less. I do not know what we would do if the fish disappeared - it is how we feed our families. We are proud of our tradition, but we need help..." - Lucas Antonio Matibe, a shrimp catcher in the southern province of Inhambane, who has trawled the Mozambican coast for over 40 years.

Monday, February 04, 2008


From a comrade in Zambia :-

Karl Marx was certain that the economic and political reforms taking place in his time were paving they way to a working class inspired political revolution (socialism). But what Marx did not foresee was that the ruling class was going to intensify its accumulation of political and economic privileges that has remained to the present day.

It is in this sense that we in the WSM do not support political and economic reforms. We do not believe that there is a government that can put in place a working class inspired political constitution that shall undermine the political and economic privileges of the ruling elite. This we may infer that political constitutions are mere political statements—political and economic privileges remain where they have always remained: with the capitalist class. We in the WSM firmly believe that the MMD government under President Levy Mwanawasa cannot adopt the recommendations of the Mung’omba Constitutional Review Commission because to do otherwise will entail the unilateral limitation of its political and economic privileges.

The National Constitutional Conference (NCC) is a political fraud created by President Levy Mwanawasa to sideline the formation of a constitutional assembly that was recommended by the Mung’omba Constitutional Review. That is why the Catholic church and some opposition parties have boycotted the NCC. More or less the vast amounts of money given to delegates contradicts the main reasons President Levy Mwanawasa had given against the setting up of a constitutional assembly.

The NCC is a slap on the face of poor and disgruntled Zambians—it only shows the empty blind alleys where capitalism can lead the workers. Zambia is historically handicapped by ethnic and tribal allegiances, and it is a matter of political conjecture to infer that the workers and peasants in Zambia are in support of a constitutional assembly. This is so because the political statements being uttered by diverse political parties in Zambia does not in reality reflect the actual voting patterns that emerged during the 2006 general elections. People voted for the political parties to which they have close ethnic and tribal affinities.

Constitution reviews liberate no-one. The market system creates nothing beyond profit and misery—the ideological claims that capitalism is an efficient system just don’t stand up to any genuine examination.

This is proved in Africa where the prevalence of abundant minerals and oil reserves are failing to lead to economic development.


Politics of Poverty

A commentary on the recent events in Kenya by a comrade in Zambia

It is tragic that poor Africans end up killing themselves each other whenever a political leader they support loses an election.

This was the case in Kenya where hundreds died after President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of the presidential election. The defeated opposition politician Raila Odinga cried foul and his tribal supporters went on the rampage, burning 300 innocent children who had taken refuge in a church. It is the case that in Kenya and Zambia, politics are strongly influenced by ethnic and tribal loyalties. In Kenya the Kikuyu and Luo ended up killing each other because of unexplained ethnic and tribal paroxysms. Odinga believes that the elections were rigged. It is the case that the so-called Western observers help to fuel political instability in Africa through their seemingly innocuous pronouncements—they are always unsatisfied with the electoral procedures that take place in Africa.

What took place in Kenya is more like what took place in Zambia during the 2006 general election. President Levy Mwangwasa won the elections on a slim margin and most members of the opposition PF felt that the elections were rigged. In any event, the defeated Orange Democratic Movement does not have a credible political vision for the poor workers and peasants of Kenya—that is to say, the economic status quo would not have changed even if Odinga had become the President.

Tribalism speaks hard against political transparency in Africa—it defeats the concept of political multi-partyism that exists on paper.

It is mostly political hooligans and thugs who benefit from ethnic and tribal conflicts.

Disparities in income and wealth distribution exist across the broad ethnic and tribal divide.

To infer that the ruling political elites in Africa cannot accept a political defeat (constitutional transparency) is beyond our theoretical jurisdiction. The WSM does not support any political movement that aims to reform capitalism. We believe that racial, religious economic, political and ecological disasters that confront Mankind cannot be resolved from within the political and economic arrangement that prevails under capitalism. We are hereby appealing to the workers in Kenya and elsewhere to become class conscious and rally behind the banner of WORLD SOCIALISM.


Kenya - class war not tribal war ?

Another news report from Kenya draws attention to the other aspects of the unrest that cannot be described as simply tribalism .

...Many factors contributed to the violence — frustration over poverty and corruption, ethnic rivalries exploited by politicians, criminal gangs and competition over land — but most of all the feeling of Kenya's poor that Kibaki's much-touted economic boom is passing them by.

"We are the weak," complains 25-year-old Owino in the gloom of his tiny shack where Odinga stares down from a poster on the wall. Owino has dog-eared dictionaries and books on philosophy to read by the light of a gas lantern. He dreams of going to college but knows he can never afford the fees. "We work harder than a donkey but we can never be rich," he says..."We are not fighting Kikuyus, we are fighting the government," he insists, as rain turns the mud and sewage to sludge outside his door. "They were not for change, they were for the status quo." ...Owino occasionally makes $6 a day as a construction worker, and lives in a slum so violent it's nicknamed Baghdad. "Kibaki gave us promises but they ended up in dust," Owino said. "Now they want calm. What about justice?"

...When Steve Maina finishes a round of golf at Kenya's exclusive Windsor club, a waistcoated waiter hurries over with a tall iced drink while armed guards watch discreetly from the shrubbery, a few minutes' drive from one of Nairobi's oldest slums..."The election campaigns implied it would be like a light switch: You move out of the slums overnight, you'll be driving a car," says Maina, 38, his gold wedding ring flashing as his golf ball sails through the air. By the sculpted lake at the Windsor, which costs nearly $5,000 to join, Maina's friends swap tales of previously friendly neighbors who forced Kikuyus out of homes and tried to take over businesses. In the west of the country, which has seen the worst violence, his golfing partner's hairdresser had her salon taken over by neighbor from another tribe and another friend forced from her home because she was Kikuyu. "People were expecting to take over property," said Maina, who employs five people to look after his own home. "Instead of saying why don't we create more of that wealth, they want to grab it and distribute it. I was worried this could turn into a class war."
...Maina, an executive with a private medical firm, insists that he has never been helped by his tribe or government connections. No one is stopping anyone else from making money, Maina points out. He says he takes his own children into the slums to help on a church project supporting a school. "We work our butts off. Many hours, over the weekend, at night you are on that laptop," he says to nods of agreement from friends. "The violence will subside, but the injustice will remain, and if those injustices are not addressed, we will be back here again," he says sadly. "The election gave them (the poor) a sense of hope and it was taken away."

Friday, February 01, 2008

Climate Change and Crops

Climate change could cause severe crop losses in South Asia and southern Africa over the next twenty years, a study in the journal Science says.

The findings suggest southern Africa could lose more than 30% of its main crop, maize, by 2030. In South Asia losses of many regional staples, such as rice, millet and maize could top 10%.

"For poor farmers on the margin of survival, these losses could really be crushing," said co-author Marshall Burke, also of Stanford University.

The study used computer models to assess the impact of climate change on farming in 12 world regions where the bulk of the world's malnourished people live. This included much of Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and Central and South America. All the models agree that there will be adverse effects on maize in southern Africa and rice in South-East Asia, but the picture is less certain in other areas such as parts of West Africa where it is unclear how global warming will impact the local climate.