Monday, February 28, 2011

corruption and protest

The son of Equatorial Guinea's dictator of 30 years commissioned plans to build a superyacht costing $380 million, nearly three times what the country spends on health and education each year, Global Witness, a corruption watchdog said.

German company Kusch Yachts has been asked to build the yacht, housing a cinema, restaurant, bar and swimming pool, though construction has not yet started.

Teodorin Obiang, whose extravagant lifestyle currently includes a $35 million-dollar mansion in Malibu, California, a $33 million jet and a fleet of luxury cars, while earning a salary of $6,799 a month as agriculture minister.

The tiny West African nation may be oil rich, but U.N. statistics show that 20 percent of children in Equatorial Guinea die before reaching the age of 5, and the average citizen is unlikely to live beyond 50. The State Department report on human rights also has condemned killings by security forces and the torture of prisoners.

Writer Juan Tomas Avila Laurel is in the 17th day of a hunger strike demanding justice for the people of Equatorial Guinea, inspired by the popular revolutions that have ousted longtime leaders of Egypt and Tunisia and now threaten Libya's Moammar Gadhafi. Avila Laurel left Malabo for Spain, amid fears for his safety the day he began his hunger strike Feb. 11. He joins one-third of the population living in voluntary or enforced exile, according to the U.S. State Department.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

black class war

Kenny Kunene, a former gangster turned businessman, gave what he called “the mother of all parties” for his 40th birthday. he treated the important — including Zizi Kodwa, President Jacob Zuma’s spokesman, and Julius Malema, the leader of the governing party’s youth wing — to $1,300 bottles of Dom Pérignon. Kunene himself swigged a bottle of Armand de Brignac Champagne that goes for more than $1,500.

Kunene said that his was “honest money spent on honest fun.” He describes his success as proof of the nation’s democracy, and he told Mr. Vavi, who is also black: “You remind me of what it felt like to live under apartheid. You are telling me, a black man, what I can and cannot do with my life.”

Zwelinzima Vavi, leader of Cosatu, the powerful trade union federation allied with the governing African National Congress, had accused Mr. Kunene of “spitting on the face of the poor” and declared that parties where people who have gotten rich in dubious ways flaunt their wealth “turn my stomach.”

Friday, February 11, 2011

After Apartheid - What?

From the World Socialist Movement blog Socialism Or Your Money Back.:-

Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years on the 11th February in 1990. This event, along with others at the time, helped catalyse "a wave of mass protests and collapse of authoritarian rule in a great number of sub-Saharan African states" according to Larry Diamond of Stanford University and these changes , he claims, provide a better parallel to what is happening in the Middle East today than the dissolution of the Iron Curtain regimes. Judge for yourself. Here is what we had to say at the time.

So. after the nomenklatura in Eastern Europe, it is now the white minority in South Africa that has been forced to agree to negotiate on giving up its "leading role" and "guaranteed monopoly" of political power. For this is what the release of Mandela means.

It means that those in charge of the South African state have at last publicly admitted what they have long realised in private: that they cannot maintain the law and order necessary for the proper functioning of the capitalist system they preside over without including the majority of the population in the system of political representation. Their hope is that Nelson Mandela will be able to command sufficient support among the black population to be the person with whom they can negotiate an orderly transition from apartheid to the new "non-racial democracy" that capitalism demands, indeed has been demanding for decades.

The failure of apartheid, as an attempt to impose on a capitalist economy a caste system based on skin colour, is underlined by the fact that the party in charge of the South African state - the Afrikaner nationalist National Partei - is the same party that, under such hateful figures as Malan, Verwoerd and Vorster, introduced apartheid after 1948 as a rigid codification, and intensification, of the existing discriminatory practices against "non-whites".

Already in 1948 apartheid was an anachronism, even from a capitalist point of view but. with the franchise restricted to "whites" most of whom were Boers in all senses of the word, the succession of parties directly representing the capitalist interest - the United Party, the Progressive Federal Party and, today, the Democratic Party - were unable to win a majority in the white parliament. Political power was exercised - and has been without a break since 1948 - by the representatives of Afrikaner nationalism whose original policy was to try to reconstruct the master and servant relationship between whites and blacks their forefathers - the people who organised the Great Trek from the Cape Province in 1836 to avoid the abolition of slavery in the British Empire - had known in the pioneer days of white colonisation.

What the Afrikaner nationalist government sought to keep "apart" capitalism brought together. More and more Africans were drawn into capitalist industry, and not just as labourers in the mines but as workers of all kinds - clerks, accountants, bank employees as well as foremen and skilled and semi-skilled production workers - until today they form the majority of the urban working class of South Africa.

From the 1970s onwards the development of capitalism forced the government to abandon apartheid bit by bit. First to go was the industrial colour bar under which certain skilled manual jobs were reserved for whites. Then Africans were allowed to form trade unions. Then the Pass Laws were abolished and Africans allowed to own property in the townships. Then the so-called "petty apartheid" of separate park benches, beaches and the like was relaxed. Then "coloureds" and Asians were granted some political rights. Then the Mixed Marriage Act - which criminalised sexual relations between the different "races" - was abolished. Then mixed residential areas emerged in some cities.

All that remains - and of course it's a big all - are the laws which classify every South African into one or other "racial" group and which reserve areas for the exclusive habitation of these groups, but the De Klerk government has declared, as it had no choice but to, that these too are negotiable.

Like all decent-minded people, socialists are pleased at the coming demise of the obscene system of institutionalised race discrimination of apartheid. Although the coming of a non-racial regime in South Africa will allow the "non-whites" there a dignity and respect as equal human beings which they have been denied up to now, the ending of apartheid will not amount to "liberation" for the working class in South Africa. Capitalism without apartheid - which is all even the ANC wants, despite its talk of "socialism" (in reality, nationalisation, or state capitalism) - will remain capitalism and so exploitation for profit, bad housing, inadequate health care, cheap schooling, unemployment, poor transport, police brutality, pollution and all the other problems workers have to endure under capitalism will continue as well.*

The end of apartheid will not mean the end of working class problems. At most it will result in the creation of the best conditions under which the working class can struggle to protect its interests within capitalism and, more importantly, can struggle alongside the workers of the rest of the world for the non-class as well as non-racial society that socialism will be.

Socialist Standard, March 1990

*This could well be why Jacob Zuma recently resorted to the old 'You'll get pie in the sky when you die' lie by promising ANC voters a place in heaven.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Zambia: the riots in Barotseland

The events that took place in Western Province on 14 January strongly and correctly underpin that Zambia’s politics are tribalist – that tribalism in Zambia exists and is partly instigated by self-seeking politicians through inciting disgruntled ethnic groups in order to advance their political objectives.

What is called nationalism comes to emphasise political allegiance to the state. Political states in Africa were mapped out by European imperialist nations under the guise of economic interests and military influence. Thus African kingdoms and empires were brutally decimated and different ethnic groups were forcibly integrated into colonial states and protectorates.

British imperialism (colonialism) was politically, religiously and poetically lampooned as bringing civilisation. What is known today as Zambia consists of 72 ethnic groups and the Lunda-Luba speaking tribes comprise 90 percent of Zambia’s population. Politically and linguistically the Bemba remains one of the dominant tribes. The Lozi and Tonga remain linguistically and culturally differentiated from the Lunda-Luba complex tribe. It is undeniable that rigid ethnic and tribal patterns exist in Zambia today as a major factor determining the strength of political parties.

The Barotseland Agreement was enacted on 7 May 1974 in London between the then Prime Minister of Northern Rhodesia Kenneth Kaunda, the Litunga of Barotseland and the British colonial government. The document in itself signified the end of British protectorate of Barotseland and entailed the incorporation of Barotseland (Lozi) into a self-governing independent state of Zambia under the leadership of Dr. Kenneth Kaunda. There is nothing sinister about the Barotseland Agreement that needs to be revised today as a way of protecting and safeguarding the political and economic aspirations of the Lozi-speaking peoples of Western Province,. Thus recent calls for political and ethnic separation of the Lozi-speaking people from Zambia is mainly propagated by a bunch of political hooligans without any viable backing from the political fraternity.

It may be juxtaposed that calls for revising the Barotseland Agreement and the consequent bouts of mob violence that took place in Western Province in January were partly the outcome of economic backwardness that still prevails in Western Province. The mob went berserk, stoning vehicles and damaging public property. The police replied with live ammunition and two lives were lost.

What we are now saying is that economic underdevelopment that prevails in Western Province was the main motivating factor behind the violence that took place otherwise than political dissatisfaction with the Barotseland Agreement as such.

Political rebels within the ruling MMD have blamed President Rupiah Banda for having seemingly deviated from the political legacy of the late Levy Mwanawasa – economic development through tackling corruption and money laundering. More or less President Banda has sidelined Lamba and Lenje politicians and appointed Njanja-speaking politicians in order to consolidate and strengthen his position. Indeed, the abrupt dismissal of Finance Minister Njandu Magade (Lenje) and local government minister Siluya Masebo (Lenje) on unexplained grounds has not augured well for Banda. Even the resignation of Defence Minister George Mpombo (Lamba) seems to portend the insipid break of Lamba and Lenje political patronage from the MMD. Magade and Masebo were the most outspoken and trusted political lieutenants of the late President Mwanawasa’s political entourage (cabinet). Banda by himself does not command any ethnic group nor parliamentary constituency. He was only hand-picked from UNIP political retirement by Mwanawasa to the position of vice-President in 2007.

Favoured by political fortune Banda automatically became acting President when Mwanawasa died in 2008. In the presidential elections held in 2008, Banda managed to win with a mere majority of 350,000 votes against Patriotic Front president Michael Sata and became the fourth president of the republic of Zambia.

Apart from the Bemba, the Lozi and Tonga have played a prominent rôle in Zambia’s domestic politics such that any beleaguered political pronouncements on events taking place in Western Province tends to elicit feelings of Lozi tribal parochialism against the ruling MMD. Because the violent mobs in Western Province were attacking non-Lozi we may infer that there is any ethnic rebellion there.

It is sad to note, come 2011 general elections, the majority of workers and students in urban areas of Lusaka and the Copperbelt will massively vote for Michael Sata of the PF, whereas the peasants in rural village communities will vote for the MMD. The people who live in towns believe that PF leader Sata will achieve economic miracles in the belief working conditions in Chinese-owned mines will improve and new jobs will be created. Those who live in rural village communities are content with fertiliser subsidies, new schools and paved roads and will vote for the MMD.

But wealth and power under capitalism can only be realised through legalised exploitation of some people by others. This is a complete contradiction of socialism that envisages a future society in which economic and political privileges will not exist because goods will be produced for consumption and not or sale – while racial and ethnic taboos will not prevail because there wouldn’t be political leaders nor class interests to defend.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Land is Holy

"In some areas, people go without their main food staple, rice, for four to six months," says Patrice Charpentier, project manager for food security in Madagascar, at Land O'Lakes , an aid group. "Production is erratic. People don't want to overproduce if they're not sure they can sell it on the market. So they produce just enough to survive."

By all rights, Africa could be a breadbasket for the world. Its fertile land, lengthy rivers, and farm labor tempt investors from around the globe. But the continent continues to import the bulk of its staple food items, including corn, wheat, and rice from richer countries. The attraction of Africa's last great resource – its fertile land – is drawing dozens of foreign corporations and even national governments to the African mainland

The recent price spike was a temptation for large agricultural companies to divert corn intended for food staples like cornmeal into more profitable biofuels like ethanol instead nand it sparked a land rush to buy up farmland across Africa.

A sample of countries targeted by foreign agricultural investors documented in the past five years by the International Food Policy Research Institute includes:

Democratic Republic of Congo: 7 million acres secured by the Chinese firm ZTE to grow oil palm for bio­fuels; and 24.7 million acres offered to the South African farmers' union, AgriSA.

Mozambique: Nearly 250,000 acres secured by the Swedish firm Skebab to produce biofuels.

Tanzania: Nearly 1.25 million acres requested by the Saudi Arabian government for food production; more than 110,000 acres purchased by the British firm CAMS Group for biofuels made from sweet sorghum.

Sudan: 1.7 million acres secured by the South Korean government to grow wheat; nearly 1 million acres secured by US-based Jarch Capital; nearly 75,000 acres secured by the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development to grow corn and alfalfa.

Ethiopia: More than 32,000 acres secured by the German firm Flora EcoPower to produce biofuels.

Many land deals are decidedly one-sided, with all food produced sent away for export. Legal systems little changed since colonial times don't offer individual farmers much protection in terms of land rights.
"As much as 90 percent of Africa is under customary tenure, which means it's held by the state on behalf of the community, who are then given the customary right to the land," says Ruth Meinzen-Dick, a land-rights ­specialist at the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research, the one responsible for India's green revolution in the 1960s. Many African small-holder farmers know they can be moved off their land at any time, and the growing number of farming deals confirms their worst fears. As a result, many African farmers are reluctant to invest in their land or to improve their techniques, knowing the benefit may be taken away in the future.
"The question is, do people have an expectation that they will have their land in 10 years?" says Ms. Meinzen-Dick. "If they don't, they're not going to plant a tree that will give fruit later.... They're not going to make long-term decisions that increase their productivity."

Local people still viewed that land as belonging to their ancestors. The farmers have an unusual emotional attitude. It's not their land: It's their ancestors' land.
"Land is holy," Rajaonary, a farmer, says, leaning on his hoe in the late-afternoon sun. "Land that I inherited from my ancestors – I couldn't sell it, because even now, after they died, it still belongs to them. They are watching what I am doing with the land. So I will do what they have done for me. I will pass my land along to my family, too."
Rajaonary says his political leaders simply don't understand how important land is to an ordinary Madagascan. It is one's cradle, table, home, workplace, and grave, he says.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Eating cattle-feed and dirt

In Madagascar 70 percent of Malagasy live below the poverty line. In the affected areas 300,000 children younger than five were at risk of severe acute malnutrition if action was not taken, said Bruno Maes, UNICEF's country representative. Around 90 percent of Madagascar's children did not have access to clean drinking water at home, and "Just over 50 percent of children are stunted as a result of chronic malnutrition," he said. "This rate is among the highest in the world - the situation is only worse in Afghanistan and Yemen."

About 720,000 people are facing food insecurity after a third successive year of adverse weather and an increasing "decapitalization" - selling off livestock and possessions as a survival measure - of the rural economy in the south.

"...we know people have already started adopting negative coping strategies such as eating their own seeds, and foodstuffs which are damaging to their health, and selling their goods... men are migrating from these areas, leaving women and children even more vulnerable," Krystyna Bednarska, WFP's country representative, told IRIN.

John Uniack Davis, country director at CARE International, which works to reduce poverty, said anecdotal evidence from the affected regions was that cattle normally selling for US$250 in the post-harvest period were priced at $62.50 in the lean season, or were being bartered for 250kg of cassava, rather than the usual price of 450kg. He told IRIN that decapitalization was being used as a coping strategy and "households are being stretched to the limit."

In parts of Madagascar's drought-prone south people have resorted to eating cattle-feed with many eating red cactus that is usually given to cattle, or tamarind mixed with water and earth.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Jomo Kenyatta

Sir Patrick Renson, the Governor of Kenya, recently refused to release Jomo Kenyatta and gave two reasons for his decision. They were:

“The political campaign for Kenyatta's release, ‘which has roused many emotions and which has not allowed divisions and personal fears a natural atmosphere in which to diminish.’
Kenyatta's refusal to ‘make any statement or reveal his thinking about the great issues which Kenya is facing,’ in spite of the fact that six Ministers, including three Africans, had visited him in August’.”

These reasons (given in The Times, 2-3-61) are remarkable. Leaving out the long words, the first one means simply that the Governor of Kenya isn't going to release Kenyatta because the Kenya Africans have made it plain that they want him to be released. The Governor can hardly expect anyone to believe that he would have released Kenyatta if there hadn't been a campaign demanding it.

The second reason is even more extraordinary. Dictators have often put people in jail, or kept them in exile, because they have "made statements" or "revealed their thinking" about public issues; this must be the first time a political leader has been kept in exile because he refused to take up a political stand

The Socialist position is straightforward. We are opposed to any attack on democratic freedoms, whether it is jailing for political reasons, restrictions on the right to vote, or any other weapon in the colonialists' armoury. But we are not blind to the real nature of the struggle in Kenya, it is the old struggle between land and capital. It is the old struggle between capitalists, whether they are those who hope to establish full-scale industrial capitalism in Kenya, or those who have already established it in Great Britain. We welcome any extension of democracy in Kenya which this struggle between two rival propertied classes has produced will produce. But we know that democracy is never safe in a capitalist society. That has been seen in Germany, in Italy, in Spain, in Czechoslovakia and the rest. Only in a Socialist society will democracy be safe from overthrow.

Socialist Standard, April 1961

being poor in Africa

"Here's what its like for someone in Africa living on one or two dollars a day.

You live either in a mud brick house with a dirt floor or a straw hut with dirt or sand floor. There is no heat for cold nights and certainly no air-conditioning for hot days. You have no running water and no indoor plumbing. Water for drinking, cooking or cleaning has to be fetched from a neighborhood well or from a stream. More often than not, the water is not fit to drink, but you have no choice, which means that you and your children suffer frequently from gastrointestinal diseases. Your toilet is a hole dug in your compound. If you live on outskirts of town, you relieve yourself in the unoccupied bush. Breakfast is warmed up leftovers from the evening meal. During lean means when the food that you grew begins to run out, you may have skip lunch. Dinner consists of mush made of grain--millet, sorghum, or, if you're lucky rice. Getting to eat one chunk of meat is a luxury. Your children are frequently hungry. You have little if any medical care and so you and your children have to live with or die from intestinal parasites, skin infections, or upper and lower respiratory infections. If that's not enough, you probably have suffered from malaria and someone in your family is probably infected with HIV/AIDS. You are illiterate and while some of your children attend primary school and learn to read and write, dire economic necessity forces you to take them out of school and put them to work in the household or in the fields. This self-repeating cycle creates a system, a structure of poverty-- in which people die unnecessarily simply because they are poor."

Paul Stoller from here

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Conflict mining

Both government and rebel troops in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have continued to mine the region's rich minerals, extracting gold and ores worth 1.3 billion dollars annually, a report said . Mineral ores that produce tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold all came from eastern Congo and are all vital commodities for the production of electronic devices. Those profits have fueled the conflict and perpetuated impunity in the region.

Feeding on the mineral exploitation are units of the Congolese army FARDC, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and Mai Mai Cheka militia operating in the eastern provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Maniema. Kinshasa's ban on mining in the region has been ineffective. The mineral trade is run by a mafia-like network of military, political, rebel and business interests. Quoting a UN study, it said that the trade is overseen mostly by Congolese Army officers, most of them former members of a Rwandan-backed rebel group known as CNDP.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Ghana - Can oil make a difference

Who fill benefit from the discovery of offshore oil in Ghana?

The fanfare and euphoria that greeted the discovery of oil in Ghana is not only based on the assumption that it will help boost the not-so-healthy economy of this poor nation but more fundamental though unvoiced factors also account for the uproar. The dismal reality of the actions of the global oil magnates in African countries is one such factor. They act in brazen defiance of the norms of civility and dignity of the local populations. The humiliating treatment meted out to Liberia’s Charles Taylor due, in part, to his refusal to do business with Dick Cheney’s Halliburton is a prime illustration of such corporate arrogance. But more importantly, the expectation of Western oil companies to make their super-profits is also a cause of the excitement.

The debates
When the actual pumping started in mid-December, the world media was replete with all sorts of stories about Ghana hitting the jackpot. As discussions on the issue livened up attracting comments and analyses from Ghana and especially the BBC and RFI, the Squealers of the Ghanaian government got down to work. Amidst all this confounding hullabaloo, the spokespersons rebuffed the claims of the ‘prophets of doom’ that Ghana will go the way of Nigeria, Angola, etc, where the oil wealth has become a curse rather than a blessing. They claimed that stringent measures have been put in place to forestall the intolerable prospect of corruption, mayhem, kidnappings and killings that Nigerians have to contend with all these years on account of the petro-dollars.

However, it soon came to light that as of the time the Squealers were frantically trying to convince the doubting Thomases to drop the deep-seated cynicism that makes them attribute negative theories to the project, the legislature had not even deliberated on the matter in parliament yet. Not that parliamentary approval is of any relevance here since, generally, laws passed under this money-dominated economic system are either in favour of the rich and powerful or against the poor. But the fact that it had not yet been done suggests that, contrary to government claims, no precautionary had been taken against the possibility of Ghana going the way of Nigeria, Angola and co. Or, even more seriously, that the Western companies rushed the Ghanaian authorities into having the drilling started without ensuring that adequate protective legal instruments are duly concluded. This creates the impression that, contrary to what the Ghanaian authorities claim, the investors are, and this is obvious, the senior partners of the whole enterprise.

Then, later, some concerned Ghanaian observers intimated that even before the drilling got started, Ghanaian policy-makers were already using the anticipated oil proceeds as collateral to contract loans from abroad. An ominous beginning if the insinuation is well-founded.

Production relations
The development of modern industry, brought about by the profit-oriented economic system, makes it necessary for the production of wealth to be socialised. This means that the point of production is not the individual factory, goldmine, oilfield, etc but it is society. It follows therefore that those who control society are the ones who effectively control the use of the wealth produced. It is neither those who do the hard labour nor those who manage the workplace, i.e. the factory, goldmine or oilfield.
As the state is the recognised controlling body of any society, it is an undeniable fact that whoever controls the state, whether directly or indirectly, is the de facto controller of society and, by extension, the wealth produced.

It is also common knowledge that the political leadership in Africa, and indeed in all former colonies, have, to a large extent, the same tastes and lifestyles as the ruling elite of the former colonialists. The two groups share the same consciousness. Both work towards the preservation of the status quo – the exploitative relations of production – as it is the guarantor of their luxurious, albeit parasitic, lifestyle.

The so-called New World Order being vigorously pursued by these leaders in the West and their “experts” and advisers is nothing but an attempt at intensifying the exploitation of the world’s resources in the interests of the Western big business community whose interests Western governments serve. This insignificant minority of multi-billionaires control the wealth and political leadership of the West by virtue of their ownership of the means of production and distribution of wealth – land, factories, railways, the media, communication networks etc.

The states and governments of the former colonies are under the complete control of the Western powers and if any of these poor countries shows the slightest sign of attempting to resist Western domination, such a country is brutally forced to ‘cooperate’. That is in conformity with the near-invariable practice of the powers that be. There are too many examples of this state of affairs to need any mention here. Thus the whole of society and its resources are effectively controlled by the rich minority and they alone determine what to produce and how to use the wealth thereof.

Consequently, governments of the peripheral countries, who also represent their local business community, will, in accord with inherited convention, leave no stone unturned in enticing Western multinational corporations to come and invest in their countries. They do so with the hope that the local money-owners may get the chance to pick some crumbs falling from the sanguinary table of the foreign investors.
To facilitate foreign investment, the governments are ordered to create an ‘enabling environment’, an expression which is a euphemism for holding down the ordinary citizenry for the investors to mercilessly exploit them by way of cheap labour.

The Ghanaian reality
In Ghana, those at the helm of affairs, in routine fashion, fail to realise that not all are fools. Gold, bauxite, manganese, diamonds, cocoa, timber, just to name a few, have been produced since time immemorial. If ever any ordinary citizen benefited from the proceeds of these resources by way of, maybe public conveniences, untarred roads, ill-equipped health centres, few schools or some such tokens of basic necessities, then it was an unintended necessity.

That an overwhelming majority of Ghanaians have been wallowing in abject poverty whist a few cabal of the old boy network live in stinking affluence tells a lot. Though information on how the national cake is distributed is deliberately made unavailable or at best scanty, yet it is not entirely unknown. The several coups d’états, firing squads, commissions of enquiry etc are open pointers as to how the cake is shared.

Today, oil is being pumped and, in this world of money-based economy, exploitation cannot be avoided since production is carried out for the sake of making profits. It would be a contradiction to have a money-based system without profit. If investors will not make a profit, they will keep their money, but if they will realise a profit, they are going to do so at the expense of the worker and the host country. Then their collaborators in the form of local politicians and business people will be given the task of using sophistry to cover up the truth. Since the Ghanaian masses are effectively excluded from the decision-making process, except for the periodic elections during which time they are hoodwinked into voting for which bunch of looters to come and rob them, they are left helpless.

Corporate journalism
Those who could have saved the situation are the journalists who, at least, are able to glean into the corridors of power and have an idea of what is going on in there. Now, it is received opinion that Ghana is one of the few countries in Africa where press freedom has developed to a stage that is almost ineradicable. It is therefore expected, and observers of the Ghanaian oil scenario have concurred with this, that the vibrant press will serve as an uncompromising watchdog over the operations of those involved in the business. It is thus claimed that the eagle-eyed vigilance of the ubiquitous journalists will put fear into officials who may try to get involved in any financial misconduct. But the snag is the kind of journalism that is practised in Ghana and, indeed elsewhere in this profit-oriented world.

Corporate journalism is stunted journalism. The media houses operate to make a profit, just like the oil companies pumping the oil. And since the process of making profits necessarily entails shady deals, graft and unconventional methods, the media personnel cannot but play the game according to the rules. And that, exactly, is their stock in trade.

However, it is not to be discounted that there are individual journalists who may profess genuine intent in their work. But corporate media as an institution is an indispensable cog in the profit-making machine and hence works in accordance with the odious practices of the system. And that is precisely why they refer to themselves as the fourth estate of the exploitative ruling class.

Not surprisingly, the media coverage is appallingly terrible. It would not be an overstatement to say that over ninety percent of media activities is devoted to three trivial issues.:

1 Entertainment – to divert attention from real issues of official theft, but not to genuinely satisfy people’s spiritual needs.
2 Advertisements – to promote the consumption of worthless or fancy goods.
3 Misinformation – to keep the masses ignorant.

An instructive case of such disinformation was seen on New Year’s Day when BBC’s Network Africa was summing up the important events of the past year – 2010. It was written by Elizabeth Ohene, a former BBC journalist and also a former minister in the previous government in Ghana. She wrote that she was surprised to learn that Ghana had just been promoted from a least developed country to a ‘middle income’ one. Who did it and why?

All said and done, Ghana may not go through the kind of physical violence and killings that is the lot of Nigeria today. However, it will surely experience the other aspect of what is happening in oil-rich Nigeria. The oil corporations will siphon off more than the lion’s share of the proceeds from Ghana. Then the political and business leadership will stash away as much as they can. And finally, the ordinary citizens, like their counterparts in Nigeria, will continue to live below the needless but inescapable poverty line.

Socialist Standard