- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- D.R. Congo
- Equatorial Guinea
- Guinea Bissau
- Ivory Coast
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- South Sudan
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Gates and the Mandela Legacy
Patrick Bond of the Wits University School of Governance in Johannesburg and the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society in Durban has written an article critical of the philanthro-capitalism of Bill Gates (who is worth $80 billion, up $24 billion from 2011) which he describes as ‘market-orieted, technology-centric’ specializing ‘ in top-down technicist quick-fixes – ‘silver bullets’ – which often backfire on the economic shooting range of extreme corporate influence and neoliberal policies.’ Microsoft’s offshore tax-avoidance policies today earn the company more money than Gates gives annually in donations (less than $4 billion/year).
Global Justice Now’s Polly Jones complained in a report, Gates’ “influence is so pervasive that many actors in international development, which would otherwise critique the policy and practice of the foundation, are unable to speak out independently as a result of its funding and patronage.”
* Gates’ power threatens African food in part due to his advocacy of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), which benefit agro-corporates such as Monsanto but wipe out local seeds. In Kenya, Gates’ people and US AID appear to have succeeded in reversing a GMO-seed ban (only four African states allow GMOs). The Gates-supported Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa “advised and lobbied the governments of Ghana, Tanzania, and Malawi, among others, to adopt pro-business seed and land policy reforms,” according to a critique by a progressive food-sovereignty NGO, Oakland Institute.
* To address species-threatening climate change, a rather confused Gates favours ‘Terrapower’ nuclear, a dangerous distraction from the urgent need to both expand renewable energy and radically reduce fossil-fuel abuse. As Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson bragged about Gates at his recent AGM, “there’s no space between he and I.”
* Privatised health and education are Gates’ speciality but in India, a Gates-funded trial on the genital cancer-causing disease Human papillomavirus was cancelled by the government because thousands of girls aged 10-14 were victims of ethics violations such as forged consent forms and lack of health insurance; seven died. The case is now in the country’s Supreme Court.
In Durban the Gates-backed ‘Urine Diversion’ toilets imposed by the municipality on nearly 100 000 poor black households are considered a new version of the hated ‘bucket system.’ Higher-income residents of Durban – including in the nearby, traditionally-white western suburbs – don’t suffer this discriminatory indignity. Not only does Durban’s retired water director now offer sanitation consulting to Gates, so too is the top Gates Foundation policy official, Geoffrey Lamb, a South African.
Once a hard-core ‘Marxist’ (and son-in-law of ‘colonialism of a special type’ inventor Michael Harmel), Lamb’s work once included path-breaking class analysis of the Tanzanian peasantry, and he was a PhD advisor when SA trade and industry minister Rob Davies wrote his ‘Marxist’ thesis at Sussex University. After an ideological U-turn, Lamb was central to developing a ‘homegrown’ structural adjustment strategy working at the highest levels of the World Bank during the 1980s, and especially in its application inside the African National Congress during the early 1990s.
The most damage done within South Africa was Gates’ promotion of intellectual property (IP) rights. Gates got rich from IP illegitimately acquired thanks to blatantly anti-competitive practices, such as bundling Windows with the slow, security flaw-ridden Internet Explorer web-browser, according to US prosecutors. The emails that Gates and his colleagues sent each other unveiled their cutthroat, illegal approach to IT, notwithstanding the internet’s massive government subsidies. Long-term monopoly patents were granted not only to Gates for his Microsoft software, but for life-saving medicines. IP became a fatal barrier to millions of HIV+ people who, thanks to Big Pharma’s profiteering, were denied AIDS medicines which cost R150 000/year fifteen years ago. The Gates Foundation was part of the problem by insisting on Merck-branded drugs in its Botswana AIDS clinics, complained Zackie Achmat of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in 2001. With TAC instead demanding and finally – in the wake of at least 330 000 avoidable AIDS deaths – winning access to generic medicines made locally, the cost to African governments became negligible and today nearly four million people in South Africa alone get the drugs, which has raised life expectancy from 52 in 2004 to 62 today.
The 1990s witnessed a series of debilitating concessions to multinational corporations by Mandela’s African National Congress. Mandela Foundation director Verne Harris acknowledges, “Under Madiba’s leadership the ANC embraced a neoliberal agenda with unseemly haste and we’re paying a terrible price for that now.” Added Harris, “We’re only beginning to understand the nature of this phenomenon. From the late 1980s, a huge seduction was underway, of the liberation movement by capital and it’s playing out in all kinds of destructive ways now, from arms deals to corruption.”