Wednesday, December 17, 2008

From our companion blog , Socialism Or Your Money Back

South Africa has a new political party called Congress of the People. But given that " is expected to adopt many of the policies pursued by the ANC government under Mbeki", COPE, as it is otherwise known, is perhaps best not described as 'new' but rather an ANC re-tread.

Whether therefore voters in the next election choose one congress or the other is moot. One can hope that the garlic & vinegar days of HIV/AIDS treatment are over and the new government will not be tempted to follow Zuma's example of HIV prevention (taking a shower after unprotected sex with an infected woman) as an excuse for abandoning effective but costly treatment with antiretrovirals. A recent study by Harvard researchers estimated that the ANC are responsible for the premature deaths of 365,000 people earlier this decade.

But is there any reason to think that that there will be no more billion $ arms deals ('dodgy' or otherwise), a reduction in the hundreds of thousands of homeless people, less xenophobia, better sanitation, etc? No. The horrors of apartheid have passed, but 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.

Little wonder then anti-aparthied activist Rassool Snyman felt compelled to state:

"They never freed us. They only took the chain from around our neck and put it on our ankles."

Zuma said recently that the ANC would be in power until Christ's second coming. In reality, this is probably a desire for a electoral system such as that in Turkmenistan where the turnout reached 93.87% in the election for 288 candidates, all of whom support the policies of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. Whatever, if Mosiuoa Lekota of COPE is to be believed "Public servants now talk in whispers when they discuss COPE. They report that they risk their jobs if they are seen to befriend us. Tales of spying on each other, as under apartheid, on who attends COPE meetings, abound" and "Songs threatening or encouraging the hatred of and the killing of COPE leaders have been composed and are sung at meetings,".

True liberation for the workers of South Africa and across the world will not take place before they act consciously and democratically (i.e. without leaders) to shed the chains of wage slavery.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Ninety years after the Bolshevik revolution the influence of that event on Marxist political doctrine has virtually waned. The two words socialism and communism have a chequered history. The word communism can be traced to Karl Marx and Engels who used it broadly in their Communist Manifesto, because of the discredit that utopian fantasy had impinged upon the term socialism. Lenin revived the term communism after the collapse of the Second International. He inconsistently amplified the theoretical dictums of Marx's Critique of the Gotha Programme in order to create his celebrated dogma of two stages of post-revolutionary society—with full communism as the second or final phase.

The WSM disassociates itself from many things which the Labour movement have called socialism. The WSM has always been familiar with the distinctions made and the lines of division drawn by the Communist Parties. So we must look to see what sort of disagreement that marked the pre-War Socialist movement and then contrast them with the great delusion that followed the dawn of the Bolshevik revolution. The divisions within socialism that were to make impact and dated back to a central ambiguity of Marx's own political thought. Marx had favoured recourse to political action by socialists as against the anarchists, mutualists, co-operatives and utopian strains in socialism.
But what is apparent is the fact that from Marxism may be deduced contradictory and incompatible policies, that one may find in it almost as one selects a minimum or maximum programme. That explained the great success of Marxism as the ideological dogma from which are derived all revolutionary trappings from Marx's death onwards. When Bernstein revealed the two contrasting elements in Marxism, the one utopian and the other conspiratorial, Kautsky replied that Marx had reconciled these two contraries in a higher unity. Disagreement about socialist policies—revolution or parliamentarian—raged for a quarter of a century before 1919 with the general drift in Europe towards parliamentarianism.

Briefly Lenin answered that the socialist revolution was to be advanced neither by a party wedded to parliamentary or conspiratorial force, but by a new party controlled by dedicated revolutionaries. This new party was expected to practise discipline of a sort the socialist parties had never seen nor for that matter military forces, since the iron chain of command was to extend beyond national borders to a central international command. The "Dictatorship of the Proletariat" seems to be a purely Russian product, different from Blanquist and Jacobin traditions. The professional revolutionary has proved to be a striking literary success in the West—but this his material political influence there is short lived. But it is when he becomes a terrorist when his impact is felt.

Better few but better!
The Leninist conception of political purity as it was put into practice both within the Russian Communist Party and abroad was original. It put loyalty to a changing party line above the traditional socialist loyalty to a class. The notion of ideological purity was nothing new to socialists at the time.. Marx and Engels conceived political purity as a duty to keep a political point of view alive at a time of reflux —when there was no revolutionary opportunity.

Perhaps the Hungarian professor George Lukacs is a better guide to Lenin’s opinions when he says: "The enrichment that Marxism owes to Lenin consists simply in the more meaningful linking up of isolated actions with the general destiny. The revolutionary destiny of the working class."
He adds that the linking up means "Treating each particular day problem in concrete connection with the historico-social totality. Considering it as a component in the emancipation of the proletariat".

The cumbersome language of the Hungarian philosopher conceals indeed the kernel of Lenin’s supposed science. Each even is part of a process that is not yet complete but of which Lenin knows the end.
Communism’s failure to develop new thinking on social and economic matters to replace the specifically socialist ideas it sacrificed to securing state power was part of the general euthanasia of socialist theory after the death of Lenin and Trotsky, the imprisonment of Gramsci and the first recantation of Lukacs.

Basic to any understanding of "Communism" is an acquaintance with Marxism, the basic ideology from which Communist theory as it exists today has developed. Anyone with even an elementary understanding of Marxism must wince at the misunderstanding and misrepresentation of that doctrine so prevalent in our national life, in the speeches and writings of politicians, academicians, journalists and others who should know better—but too often they don’t, The vast volume of polemical anti-Marxist writings in the Western world is implicit evidence of the importance of Marxist ideas and of the urgency with which many seek to refute them.

Marxism as the doctrine espoused by the Soviet Union has been looked upon with fear and loathing. In Africa, Asia and Latin America Marxist ideas still play a major role in shaping the views of the intellectual elites from which are drawn the leaders and policy makers of today and tomorrow. If Marx and Engels had been merely conventional academic philosophers and theoreticians their ideas must have been of interest to the historians of ideas. Their achievement was rather to formulate a philosophical system that provided justification and ammunition for all who were dissatisfied with bourgeois society. Their doctrines have the power to move men to action and the Bolshevik revolution is a good testament to the great force of ideas.

Marxism is a philosophy: it is not merely a theory of economics or sociology or history. The key to this philosophy is the concept of dialectical materialism. Marxist economy theory is essentially the application of dialectical materialism to different areas of human experience and activity. And it was this philosophical claim to the discovery of the laws of history that caused Marx and Engels to label their economic doctrine "Scientific Socialism" as against the "Utopian Socialism" of other nineteenth-century thinkers. History has already shown that no amount of refutation on purely logical or factual bases is capable of destroying Marxism’s influence. The reason is that Marxism has now become an effective weapon against Western political and economic domination in Africa and Latin America.

The dilemma of economic growth and greenhouse emissions is at the centre of attention of modern orthodox economics. It must be granted that Marx and Engels early realised this problem. As usually the future is hidden from us by an impenetrable veil—but it is obvious that the workers and peasants may achieve a lot if only they can organise themselves into a formidable political party that is democratically organised.

The Socialist Party is an organisation of equals. There is no leader and there are no followers,. We advocate socialism on an international basis—without regard to race or tribe (nationality).

A letter from Zimbabwe

An e-mail received that describes the problems and difficulties many face in Zimbabwe

Dear Comrade,
I write you after our so-called rerun presidential election. My friend, politics happens to be a dirty game in Zimbabwe. After the harmonised election of 29th March everybody, even the outside world, had a full hope that Zimbabwe is now free. Alas, the Mugabe regime turned the normal situation upside down.

Truly speaking, three-quarters of Zimbabweans voted for the MDC party led by Morgan Tsvangirai against Mugabe of ZANU PF. But this was like pouring petrol on a fire. The regime government delayed the counting of votes and started beating up the mass. They call it operation "wquhotera papi", whom did you vote for? Whoever voted for MDC is now an enemy of ZANU PF. Presiding officers were arrested. Some DCs arrested too, said they contributed to the losing of ZANU PF. MDC polling agencies were arrested, killed and beaten up. MDC is being said is the party backed by our former British colonialists.

Comrade, houses were burnt and pulled down. My friend, Zimbabwe is not a free state or never will be free if ZANU PF while is still existing. There is no other political party other than ZANU PF and there is no other president other than Robert Mugabe. No freedom of association in this country. No democracy, no freedom. Mugabe is a diehard. Conquering Mugabe is like trapping an elephant with a spider’s web. Thabo Mbeki is just playing tricks. SADCC is nothing. OAU is nothing. What I discovered is that most African leaders are dictators. Once they are in power they are in power for ever. They don’t want to say it publicly that they need a one party state, but that’s the very situation in Zimbabwe and some African states.

Whoever obtained his independence through the bullet shall be removed from power by the bullet too. In Zimbabwe talks, talks, talks are nothing. Now they are saying let’s go round the table. Outside where ZANU PF militia, war vets, youths will be busy killing and beating others. That’s why the MDC pulled out from the election, again, he didn’t turn up for the negotiations between ZANU PF, MDC-T and MDC-M, which was called recently by Thabo Mbeki. British and Americans they are stupid. Rather sanctions doesn’t work in Zimbabwe. They are increasing our suffering. What I discovered Britain and America have got some interests in Zimbabwe but on account of the political situation in this country, they are enjoying nothing. Sanctioning Zimbabwe is not the way of calming down the political atmosphere in this country. Britain should not remove the present government by the bullet. We are hearing all this nonsense who is Britain in Zimbabwe they want to worsen the situation. The crisis in Zimbabwe needs the attention of SADCC and OAU and Zimbabwe, they must talk gently with this man Mugabe. If he refused they should have to leave him behind. Because forcing him will lead to an outbreak of war. Mugabe is not a mere President, he is the commander-in-chief of the Zimbabwean defence forces , mind you.

MDC cannot mobilise the army, but Mugabe can do so. What I have seen is first and foremost the constitution of this country must be revised. If Mbeki wants to be a good mediator he must help us to have a new fresh constitution then after that talks, talks. When people went to vote they were no MDC agencies in some centres. Most people were assisted to vote. This whole nonsense is caused by the Constitution. Constitution first they go to polls here and things will be alright. We don’t need war in this country. Thank you comrade for your attention.

Comrade G, Nembudzia, Zimbabwe. 12 July.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

he who pays the piper calls the tune

The new ANC government in South Africa agreed to spend a controversial £1.6bn buying fleets of Hawk and Gripen warplanes. Critics said the country, beset by unemployment and HIV/Aids, could not afford it. The Hawks, rejected by the military, cost twice as much as Italian equivalents. But the then South African defence minister Joe Modise and a key official, Chippy Shaik, insisted on the purchase.

Leaked evidence from South African police and the British Serious Fraud Office quotes a BAE agent recommending "financially incentivising" politicians.

A lengthy affidavit from the SFO in London accuses BAE of "covert" behaviour and of withholding information. SFO principal investigator Gary Murphy says in the affidavit, sworn on October 9: "I believe that BAE have sought to conceal from the SFO the involvement of [Joe Modise aide] Fana Hlongwane." BAE is also alleged to have drawn up an untruthful "line" about Hlongwane for its press office in 2003. A seized document says that if asked if BAE had ever had any relationship with Hlongwane, it was to say: "No, never - we knew him only as a member of the minister's entourage." It is alleged that in fact, the company was paying him millions of pounds, through a variety of secret routes.

In all , More than £100m was secretly paid by the arms company BAE to sell warplanes to South Africa according to the Guardian

colonialist canada

Canada is now a superpower in the African mining sector. According to the Ministry of Natural Resources Canada , only the Republic of South Africa, with over 35% of assets and investments, is just ahead of Canada in the African mining industry. But with South Africa’s assets concentrated on its own territory, Canada dominates the rest of the continent. In 2001, Canadian companies have operations in 35 countries . 91% of Canadian investments were concentrated in eight countries, with the order of countries’ importance being the following: South Africa (25.6%), DR Congo (17.8%), Madagascar (13.8%), Zambia (9.9%), Tanzania (9.5%), Ghana (6.5%), Burkina Faso (4.7%) and Mauritania (3%).
Africa represented 11% of Canada’s US$25.8 billion in cumulative mining assets in 2001, a proportion which had risen to 17% of the total $85.9 billion in the same assets by 2007.

Canadian diplomacy is very much at the service of business interests . In this regard, the country at times pursues objectives seemingly at odds with its development agenda, some examples of which include:

-In 1996, the Canadian High Commissioner in Tanzania intervened on several occasions to influence revisions to mining legislation as a means of promoting Canadian business interests. And, specifically, in order to counter the legal claims of local miners questioning the legitimacy of the mining company Sutton and designs on Bulyanhulu deposits
- In June 2008, the staff of the very same High Commission energetically intervened in Tanzanian parliamentary affairs to ensure that the country’s politicians rejected the conclusions of the Presidential Mining Sector Review Committee on revisions of the mining sector. The Committee had recommended a greater proportion of profits generated by higher prices be kept for the country itself
- In 2004, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations had criticised a part of a report produced by the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources in the DR Congo, in which nine Canadian companies were accused of violating OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) guidelines during the country’s protracted war.

Canada’s image as a moderate country and disinterested development partner in Africa is now thoroughly outdated.

Friday, December 05, 2008

“School has no value any more.”

“Most families can no longer afford to worry about whether their child does well in school,” a woman in the north-central town of Séguéla told IRIN. “Most now send their children to the fields or to sell in the market just to make a bit of money for food - especially the girls.” She added that since state teachers fled in the 2002 rebellion and schools fell apart, the education infrastructure has not recovered.

Slightly under half of Côte d’Ivoire’s 20 million people are now below the poverty threshold, living on less than about US$1.25 per day - up from 38.4 percent in 2000 and the highest in 20 years, according to results released by the national statistics institute .

70 percent of Ivoirians have difficulty eating adequately and 68 percent cannot afford proper treatment when ill.

“The state is creating thieves, prostitutes and liars,” said a would-be university student in Séguéla “When a person has absolutely nothing to eat and no money, what do you want them to do?”

A continent of cheap labour and little regulation

This article reports that a "uranium rush" seems to be under way, based on the assumption that nuclear power might fill the world's current energy gaps in Namibia . Namibia's uranium oxide is exported in its raw form and enriched in countries with uranium converters such as France, the US, Canada and China.For almost 30 years, Roessing was the only uranium company in the country.A second uranium mine, Langer Heinrich, became operational in 2007 and 40 exclusive prospecting licenses and 12 mining licenses had already been issued by September 2008.

Exposure to even relatively low levels of radiation over a long period can be extremely harmful to the health of workers and communities living around uranium mines.Several workers who spent long years working at uranium mines developed serious health problems.Cancerous strains are commonplace as workers are exposed to dust and radon gas daily and thus develop diseases such as TB and lung cancer.Although mining companies usually deny any responsibility and refuse to compensate workers, there is increasing evidence of a link between uranium mining and workers' health problems.

Uranium mining uses an enormous amount of water.
In a recent article in The Namibian, the writer pointed out that the proposed uranium mine by the Canadian company Forsys Metal, would use 1 million litres of water each day.Situated on the Valencia farm in the Erongo region, the mine would consume in only three months the amount of water that the current users in the area would consume in 36 years.Given that all existing and envisaged uranium mines are in the Namib desert, one needs to ask if it is wise to spend Namibia's most scarce resource - water - on mining operations that may only bring short-term benefits.

Besides using huge amounts of water, uranium mining also leaves large craters as it relies on open-pit operations.Once mining activities cease, the huge holes remain.Furthermore, radioactive dust particles may be blown over many kilometres.

It is telling that Canadian and Australian mining companies seem to spearhead the new rush for Africa's uranium. Despite high quality uranium deposits in their own countries, they are focusing on Africa's uranium resources, with Niger, Malawi, Tanzania and Namibia the main targets. There seems to be only one explanation for this paradox: labour costs are higher, and environmental restrictions are more stringent in Australia and Canada.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Zambia's Presidential Election

Zambia—(30 October)
After a gruelling and breathtaking fight the MMD presidential candidate Rupiah Banda won presidential elections by 35,000 votes again the Patriotic Front leader Michael Sata. Indeed, many people expected Sata was going to win given the massive votes he received in urban areas. Sata has cried foul and blamed foreign observers and the MMD government for rigging the elections. The PF is now the strongest opposition political party in Zambia.
There is no need for a conspiracy theory when assessing the results of the 30 October election otherwise than through examining the existing fundamental ethnic and tribal loyalties. Tribalism remains to determine the popularity of political parties in Zambia in the sense that every political leader is strongly supported in his tribal homeland. This became very evident even during their presidential election especially when we look at the care [????] the UPND leader Hakainde Ichilema. The UPND accumulated 100% votes in Southern Province where from its leader Ichilema originates.
Ethnic and tribal loyalties in Zambia are elastic in the sense that political parties may easily manipulate the peasants in rural enclaves through bribery in order to win their votes. The ruling MMD has been doing this ever since it came into power in 1991. Indeed, most people in rural areas are illiterate and politically ignorant in terms of non-existence of news media and absence of well-informed middle-class elites. The only information people in rural areas receive is from the volatile government infrastructure. It has now come to pass that the MMD has lost the previous political following among the majority and politically vocal Bemba-speaking tribal homeland. More or less the MMD is now a political Cinderella in the sense that it does not have a distinctive ethnic and tribal following—the voting patterns that emerged from the 30 October election emphasise this fact.
Thus we may infer that the supposed votes received by the MMD President Rupiah Banda were mostly determined by the economic politicise of the late President Levy Mwanawasa (economic development took place in rural areas).
The October Presidential election was characterised by insults and political defections. Both the previous presidents Kenneth Kaunda and Fredrick Chiluba rallied behind the MMD vice-President Banda. The need to preserve the existing capitalist economic framework was uppermost in most people’s minds—a change in political leadership was going to reverse economic development.
But the workers and university students in urban areas strongly voted for the PF leader Michael Sata. It is the case that economic growth achieved through massive foreign investment and a stable financial balance of exchange has failed to translate itself in terms of free education and employment. Indeed, social poverty and poor salaries and working conditions are on the increase in urban areas. PF leader Sata is now a political force to be reckoned with today and tomorrow.
The ordinary Zambian voter stands to gain nothing from the results of the October election in the sense that income and wealth patterns will remain where they have always remained. The increase in mealie meal prices and the decline in copper prices help to dispel any hopes for a bright future for ordinary Zambians. Indeed, socialism is a political franchise invested in every working-class person to dislodge capitalism from the face of the earth. We in the WSM deeply respect and cherish our political franchise to vote—we cannot misuse it through voting for a political idiot. We can only use it to vote for a classless, moneyless and stateless society—SOCIALISM.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Real Pirates

Further developments from the previous post has been reported in the press .

South Korea's Daewoo Logistics this week announced it had negotiated a 99-year lease on some 3.2 million acres of farmland on Madagascar ,about half the size of Belgium , That's nearly half of Madagascar's arable land, according to the U.N.'s Food and Agricultural Organization, and Daewoo plans to put about three quarters of it under corn. The remainder will be used to produce palm oil — a key commodity for the global biofuels market.

In Madagascar, where about 70% of the country's 20 million people live below the poverty line.

The island's residents also rely on WFP emergency food relief programs because of the frequency with which they're struck by cyclones and droughts. Given those hardships, the prospect of a corporate giant growing hundreds of tons of food to be consumed by people and animals in Korea raises "ethical concerns," says David Hallam, head of the FAO'S Trade Policy Service in Rome. "If we have another world food crisis, and you have a poor country where food is produced by foreign investors, and then repatriated, that is ethically and political tricky," Hallam warns.

Al-Qudra Holding, an investment company based in Abu Dhabi, said in August it planned to buy 400,000 hectares of arable land in countries in Africa and Asia by the end of the first quarter of 2009.

It's a modern day version of the 19th-century scramble for Africa, an unsustainable land grab. Along with agribusiness, corporations and food traders, investment banks and private equity funds have been jumping on board, seeing land as a safe haven from the financial storm.

It is difficult to see how such investments can deliver long-term food security. The investors will want a quick return. They will practise an industrial model of agriculture that in many parts of the world has already produced poverty and environmental destruction, as well as farm-chemical pollution. Furthermore, many local communities will be evicted to make way for the foreign takeover. The governments and investors will argue that jobs will be created and some of the food produced will be made available for local communities, but this does not disguise what is essentially a process of dispossession. Lands will be taken away from smallholders or forest dwellers and converted into large industrial estates connected to distant markets.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Africa will feed the world

Gordon Brown , the British prime minister recently made a speech and referred to Africa .

"...we cannot solve climate change without Africa; nor can we solve the food crisis without Africa. We need a fully financed ‘energy for the poor’ initiative; where commercial sources of capital dry up support from the international institutions; and we need to support agricultural development. In Africa in the past, “feed the world” meant that we helped to feed Africa. In future, if we do things right, we will do best by enabling Africa to feed the world..."

I think that is fair warning that we can expect a new type of exploitation , as rich capitalist countries re-new the plunder of the African continent for its resources and raw materials to stave off economic problems in the developed world .

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Trade in Children

Under capitalism everything - and everybody - is a commodity to buy and sell .

In recent years, inter-country adoption has been governed by stringent international guidelines like the Hague Convention - designed to prevent trafficking and ensure adoption is in the best interest of the child. Liberia has not signed up to the Convention. Liberia's adoption laws were written in the 1950s and deal only with domestic cases. They make no mention of inter-country adoptions.

That loophole opens the door for anyone to set themselves up as a private adoption business and to operate with near impunity. Orphanage owners receive a state subsidy for each child they take. And some of those children can then be adopted internationally for fees as high as $15,000. The BBC reports .

"...Posing as a couple seeking to adopt to Canada, we went undercover to meet self-styled Bishop Ed Kofi - who runs one of the largest private children's homes in Monrovia from which around 100 children have been adopted in recent years. Mr Kofi bragged that the adoption business is in "full swing", and promised that for $5,000 he could arrange an adoption. Having met us just twice, he also offered to deliver a child to us - something which flouts all international guidelines on child protection. He shrugged off concerns about child welfare as "rumours"..."

Most of the children in orphanages like the one Mr Kofi runs are not actually orphans. Most have at least one living parent, many were placed there by desperately poor parents. Unscrupulous agents go into shanty towns and slum villages, convincing parents to give up their children on the promise of free room and board and a good education - something few families can afford. Most of the orphanages where the children are housed fall well below minimum standards. A UN report published in 2007 documented rampant abuse and neglect and "inhuman and degrading treatment of children".

Vabah Gayflor, government minister, and one of the most influential women in cabinet, said : "Many of these institutions have been established by people who are exploiting. People are getting scores of money out of this and they want to make sure that they stay in business. If you have Liberian children being marketed like this it's a shame. It is a shame."

It's a shame but it's Capitalism . Everything and everybody has a price

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

No copper-bottomed capitalist market

the phrase copper-bottomed began to be used figuratively to refer to anything that was reliable and trustworthy . Well ,that certainly doesn't apply to the capitalist economics of the copper industry in Zambia .

Copper accounts for 80 percent of Zambia's foreign earnings but now the fall in international copper prices is causing unease in Zambia.

"...the pricing is not as profitable as we would like it to be..." general manager of the Zambia Chamber of Mines, told IRIN

"We are foreseeing a situation where our mining companies may begin to cut down on further investment programmes because of [making] less money and, ultimately, this may not just affect their profits but even their employment base," Bob Sichinga, an economist and former MP who served on Zambia's parliamentary mining committee.

"Because of the reduced resource base, government will face problems in social investments for such critical sectors as education and health," Saasa , a consultant economics professor at the University of Zambia ,said.

The prices of key commodities have rocketed over the last three years in Zambia: a 25kg bag of maize-meal now sells for $18.00, up from $11.00 in 2006; a litre of petrol (gasoline) has risen US 75 cents over the same period.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Starving and Penniless

Socialist Banner has previously reported on the effect of the capitalist market will have on Africans when bio-fuel production begins to dominate agriculture . Yet another article highlights the problem .

For the last 10 years , Ashenafi Chote's plot in southern Ethiopia had kept his family of four alive by supplying enough food to eat and even surplus to sell, in a region often ravaged by drought and food shortages.But since swapping from a subsistence to a biofuel crop several months ago, his once treasured source of income has dried up and, worse still, he and his family are now dependent on relief from aid agencies.

His eyes full of regret: "I made a mistake.I used to get four quintals (100 kilograms, 220 pounds) of maize from my land from every harvest and earn more than 2,400 birr (240 dollars). But now, I have lost my precious source .I shouldn't have accepted their offer"

In the sprawling farmlands surrounding Wolaytta district, 350 kilometres (215 miles) south of the capital Addis Ababa, the thorny foliage of castor bean stalks is slowly replacing the swaying maize fields most locals depended on. As impoverished and landlocked Ethiopia was choked by high oil prices, the government allocated more than 400,000 hectares (988,000 acres) for biofuel crops development as part of a national strategy enacted last year.Its development was, and still is, highly encouraged, with foreign companies given incentives and a relatively easy process to start up production ventures.
But in Wolaytta, where nearly half of the two-million population do not have enough to eat, several thousand farmers like Ashenafi are complaining that they have been duped into growing biofuel crops on fertile land at the expense of maize, cassava and sweet potato, the region's staples.Global Energy Ethiopia, an American-Israeli subsidiary which initially acquired 2,700 hectares to grow castor beans -- a toxic plant whose seed provides castor oil, lured them with false claims of continuous harvests and financial incentives. Over 9,500 farmers are now growing the crop in Wolaytta, of which a significant amount are using very arable plots.

"Experts who told us we could have up to three harvests a year and they would pay 500 birr (50 dollars) in labour costs," Borja Abusha, said."But it has now been six months without a harvest and they haven't respected their promise to cover costs. We are left with nothing."

the cost of anti-science

A recent Harvard School of Public Health study said 330,000 deaths were caused by former South Africa's former President Thabo Mbeki South Africa's his 1999 decision to declare available drugs toxic and dangerous. Also as a result of Mr Mbeki's policies, nearly 35,000 babies were also born HIV-positive between 2000 and 2005. The study, led by Dr Pride Chigwedere, accused the South African government of "acting as a major obstacle in the provision of medication to patients with Aids".
The authors said that under the leadership of Mr Mbeki, the government had restricted use of donated anti-retroviral drugs and blocked funds for more than a year from the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Cost of Freedom !!! ???

Refugees who haven't eaten for days cheered when the first humanitarian convoy in a week arrived Monday at their camp, but the jubilation turned into anger when U.N. workers dumped soap instead of food
U.N. officials admit hunger at the Kibati camp, where tens of thousands of refugees have sought safety, is dire but say their first priority is resupplying clinics looted by retreating government troops. Medical supplies and tablets to purify water were the priority in this shipment . The soap and plastic jerry cans for water distributed in Kibati on Monday were meant to help with sanitation amid fears of a cholera epidemic.

Food, however, was the critical issue for most people. A World Food Program official in Rutshuru, asked about the lack of food, said the group had supplies that would be delivered as soon as possible but reminded reporters that two truckloads of their food aid was destroyed by soldiers before the town fell on Tuesday last week.

"Everybody is hungry, everybody" said Jean Bizy, a 25-year-old teacher

Onesphore Sematumba, of local think tank Pole Institute, watched with horror as thousands of children lined up in the sun for hours at the Kibati camp to get tokens that will allow them to queue for high-energy biscuits. The children thought they were waiting for the biscuits.
"We really need to re-think humanitarian aid," Sematumba said. "If you can't help people, don't create false hopes."
U.N. officials said the token system was necessary because of the unrest that broke out when aid workers tried to distribute biscuits directly.

Both government and rebel forces are accused of gross human rights abuses .

When asked about the suffering his offensive has brought to a quarter million people, Nkunda replied: "That's the cost of freedom."

It's a cost that the poor and the vulnerable will pay , and in the end , all for very little freedom

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The war in the Congo

The Socialist Party has always explained war as having its root cause within the capitalist system . It is our contention that war has always been fundamentally economic .

The blood-bath that has been taking place in the Democratic Republic of Congo is no exception . Our case is supported by this article .

"The conflict in eastern Congo is being fueled and funded by a tussle for mineral resources that end up in cell phones, laptops and other electronics... Rebel militias and Congolese army troops are fighting each other for control of mineral-rich land.

"In some ways (mineral exploitation) has become the means and the ends of the conflict," said Jennifer Cooke, the director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in New York."There's virtually no government control over the eastern Congo and much of the conflict there is a scramble at the local level and at the regional level for access to land and the minerals underneath them."

Colin Thomas-Jensen of Enough Project, a Washington-based human rights organization stated "Basically, the rebels control the mines. They are selling them to middlemen who sell them to the next buyer and it goes up the chain. There have been instances where minerals are simply backpacked ... taken to a small airstrip and taken out of the country by a small plane and presumably sold to a small dealer across the border."

The international value of Congo's raw materials is demonstrated by a $9 billion deal between Congo's state-owned mining company and a consortium of Chinese companies to extract 10.6 million tons of copper and 626,000 tons of cobalt in return for improving infrastructure. During the 1998-2002 war, current President Joseph Kabila and his father Laurent, who was then president, sold off copper and diamond mining rights to Zimbabwe and Angola in exchange for their support.

Global Witness undertook research in the eastern area of Congo — in north and south Kivu which includes Goma — in July and August.The group said it uncovered substantial evidence of armed militias opposed to Nkunda working side by side with units and commanders of the Congolese national army, know by its acronym FARDC, in the exploitation and trade of minerals there. Global Witness found they were involved in trade as well as exploring and mining the ore.
"They have really consolidated their economic business .They have systems entrenched for doing business."

Workers to-day has nothing to fight for ( except the class war and for socialism ).

The interests of his masters are not his interests.They has no reason for fighting in his master’s interests against those with whom he has no personal quarrel. When we are robbed and the robbers fight over the booty, that fight is none of our business.

It is time the working class struggled for its own interests.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A former Anglican archbishop , Njongonkulu Ndungane , of Cape Town has described poverty in South Africa as being worse than ever.

"Never before in the history of South Africa have such large gatherings of people consistently said 'we have no food,'"
said the archbishop. "In a country where huge amounts can be spent on the 2010 soccer world cup or increasing salaries, it is unthinkable that so many can go without food."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Nigerian royalty

The Emir of Kano strolls regally along the red carpet with a silver-tipped staff and a jeweled turban that looks like a disco ball, as commoners bow and scrape in his wake. Kano's streets are strewn with trash, and schools and clinics are run down. In northern Nigeria, the emirs have no control over mechanisms of the state such as the police, taxation or criminal justice. But they receive five percent of all funds given to local government.
At the same time, the emirs wield considerable power as the top Islamic figures in their regions.The emirs also oversee the Shariah court system, which rules based on Islamic civil law. In northern Nigeria, governors have imposed the Shariah system in a bid to harness their political fortunes to religious sensibilities.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ugandan evictions

17,000 people were evicted from their farms in Kayunga District, about 200km (124 miles) north-west of the capital, Kampala.

The peasant farmers were forced to leave their homes after their former landlord sold the land to a Kampala businessman, and they did not receive any compensation.

Uganda has witnessed a rise in the number of evictions in recent years.In some cases those evicted lack documentation to prove that they are bonafide occupants of the "kibanja" - a piece of land occupied by a tenant.

70% of the Ugandan population, depend on the land as their primary means of livelihood.

Livingstone Sewanyana, the executive director of The Foundation for Human Rights Initiative blames the government for illegal evictions, citing Kayunga and Kaweri.

"It is the state organs, the state agencies, the government which is actually displacing the people through arbitrary displacements, through investor programmes and through the army,"

Minister of State for Land Kasirivu-Atwooki Kyamanywa says the land problem in Uganda can be traced back to the 1900 Buganda agreement in which land in Uganda was divided between the colonial power, Britain, the Buganda kingdom and local chiefs.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Homeless in Egypt

Every night during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan a popular television programme has been giving away a new flat to a couple who cannot marry simply because they cannot afford a home. Marriage in Egypt is the gateway to adulthood yet it is estimated that almost half of all Egyptian men remain unmarried at the age of 30. The main reason is the cost which typically involves buying and furnishing a home.

A drive on a main road out of Cairo reveals no housing shortage. In fact there are thousands of acres of new developments. Many are gated compounds with their own swimming pools and gyms. Some have their own private schools and clinics. Here, those who can afford it live in relative luxury.
In the areas inhabited by the masses of Egyptians on lower incomes and the contrast is stark.
There has been little investment in homes for the less well-off at a time of increased urbanisation. Millions of people live in old, overcrowded tenements and unplanned, fast-expanding slums.

China's Slave Empire

Socialist Banner in the past has frerquently drawn attention to the economic invasion of Africa by China and so we can only concur with Peter Hitchins , the controversial writer/journalist , when he states :
"that China's cynical new version of imperialism in Africa is a wicked enterprise.
China offers both rulers and the ruled in Africa the simple, squalid advantages of shameless exploitation.
For the governments, there are gargantuan loans, promises of new roads, railways, hospitals and schools - in return for giving Peking a free and tax-free run at Africa's rich resources of oil, minerals and metals.
For the people, there are these wretched leavings, which, miserable as they are, must be better than the near-starvation they otherwise face."

Peking regards Zambia as a great prize, alongside its other favoured nations of Sudan (oil), Angola (oil) and Congo (metals). It has cancelled Zambia's debts, eased Zambian exports to China, established a 'special economic zone' in the Copper Belt, offered to build a sports stadium, schools, a hospital and an anti-malaria centre as well as providing scholarships and dispatching experts to help with agriculture. Zambia-China trade is growing rapidly, mainly in the form of copper.

Mr Sata, a populist politician and the leader of the Patriotic Front says:
"The Chinese are not here as investors, they are here as invaders...Wherever our Chinese "brothers" are they don't care about the local workers," . He complains, that Chinese companies have lax safety procedures and treat their African workers like dirt. and he claims: "They employ people in slave conditions."

A government minister, Alice Simago, was shown weeping on TV after she saw at first hand the working conditions at a Chinese-owned coal mine in the Southern Province.

Denis Lukwesa, deputy general secretary of the Zambian Mineworkers' Union, said:
"They just don't understand about safety. They are more interested in profit."

China's Congo deal - worth almost £5billion in loans, roads, railways, hospitals and schools - was offered after Western experts demanded tougher anti-corruption measures in return for more aid.
In the 'Democratic Republic of the Congo', currently listed as the most corrupt nation on Earth.
A North-American businessman who runs a copper smelting business in Katanga Province told me how his firm tried to obey safety laws.
They are constantly targeted by official safety inspectors because they refuse to bribe them. Meanwhile, Chinese enterprises nearby get away with huge breaches of the law - because they paid bribes.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Letter from Zambia

Zambia is showered in condolences. President Levy Mwanawasa passed away in Percy Military hospital in Paris on 19 August.

Indeed, many ordinary Zambians are troubled by the untimely death of the president in the sense that every individual is unique. The people of Zambia are pious mourners and have turned up in large numbers wherever the coffin of Mwanawasa was being paraded for last farewells. The MMD has declared 21 days of national mourning. But some political think tanks are critical of the government’s motive and have seriously castigated them for parading the coffin around the country. They consider it to be a mere political gimmick aimed at winning the political confidence of the Zambian voters.

There is a succession crisis within the MMD. The current constitution allows for the holding of a party convention when adopting a presidential contender. But the MMD has unilaterally decided to select a candidate through the National Executive Committee. This move is untransparent and undemocratic. There are calls within the MMD hierarchy for the adoption of the current Vice-President Rupiah Banda (UNIP). The following have submitted their names for adoption as presidential aspirants from the MMD:
Willa Muyamba, Enoch Kavindele, Brian Chituwo and Ludwig Sondashi…

All the above-mentioned individuals are well-to-do MMD stalwarts. The wife of the late president Doreen Mwanawasa is proving a hard nut to crack in the sense that she is indirectly campaigning for the MMD through accompanying her husband’s coffin to every part of Zambia. Indeed, she even went to the extent of publicly humiliating the Patriotic Front president Michael Sata during a body-viewing ceremony at Chipata airport (Eastern Province). She railed at Sata in an unbecoming manner for a bereaved widow. It is said that she told Sata to stop attending the funeral. She told him that she had not reconciled with him. Sata had a political reconciliation with the late president in June. When Mwanawasa died in France Sata was among the prominent leaders who received the coffin at Lusaka International airport on 23 June.

Politics in Zambia are strongly influenced by ethnic and tribal loyalties. The MMD is a tribal party in the sense that the late president appointed people on the basis of their ethnic and tribal backgrounds. The current crop of ministers comprise of nephews and cousins of Mwanawasa. The entire MMD leadership is peopled by Lenje- and Lamba-speaking political appointees.

The ruling MMD currently enjoys massive support in rural areas. It is utterly impossible for the MMD to lose a presidential election given the positive economic policies of the late president Mwanawasa. Zambia’s favourable economic development is dependent upon the copper mining industry that is currently enjoying favourable prices on the stock exchange in London. Zambia remains a class-divided society with poverty and unemployment remains unappeased.
K. MULENGA, Zambia

Monday, September 22, 2008

failed solutions on offer once aagain

Daniel Howden is The Independent's Africa correspondent writes
Up to 14 million people in the Horn of Africa are at risk of starvation and the root of the problem in almost every case is political, not scientific. For agriculture in Africa, the real problems stem from a global trade system that favours richer countries and large corporations, chronic under-investment by corrupt governments, and the gross distortion of food prices caused in large part by the explosion of biofuels. Trade inequality has seen rich countries dumping subsidised food on to African markets, while erecting barriers themselves. Now prime African farmland is being switched from food to fuel – on the most food-insecure continent on the planet.

Making matters worse is the prospect of African governments selling off prime farmland to wealthy countries such as Saudi Arabia, creating the horrifying prospect of fortified farms exporting food from starving countries. The agribusiness giants who have developed and patented genetically modified crops have long argued that their mission is to feed the world, rarely missing an opportunity to mention starving Africans.
Their mission is, in fact, to make a profit.

Unfortunately , he mars this insightful article by repeating those well worn platitudes of fair trade and fair markets and ethical investment . Capitalism exists to make a profit and it is capitalism that requires to be abolished . Smoothing the rough corners of such a system in the hope for eventual benefit to the poor is the utopian dream of reformers .

The Government's former chief scientific adviser Sir David King counters that it is science and not politics that will become Africa's salvation . He argues that advanced approaches to agriculture, such as GM crops, are the only way Africa will be able to feed itself.
"The position taken by non-governmental organisations and international organisations is to support traditional agricultural technologies. These technologies will not deliver the food for the burgeoning population of Africa," he said. "Suffering within that continent is largely driven by attitudes in the West which are anti-science and anti-technology. We have the technology to feed the population of the planet..." Sir David said. "It is astonishing that we are better able to land a spacecraft on Mars than deal with millions of deaths each year from HIV-Aids and malaria, and poor nutrition; or develop renewable CO2-free energy sources,"

Indeed , science and technology has furnished the means and methods to satisfy the needs and wants of the people of the world , but that has been the situation for many decades now . However , it is the essence of the capitalism to obtain a profit that has meant all these technical scientific applications have not been employed to end poverty and starvation . A political and economic revolution is required , possessing the tools to do it is not suffice .

Friday, September 19, 2008

Politics of Poverty

It has come to pass that many countries in Africa that have adopted the 50 percent plus one presidential vote (Constitutions) are being engulfed in political instabilities whenever the political opposition fails to win an outright majority. We saw this happening in Kenya and Zimbabwe. Presidential elections in Africa are conducted under corrupt means—vast amounts of tax payers’ money are wasted in order to dupe the voters. Political hooligans and thugs are employed to woo the voters. Ethnic and tribal loyalties are manipulated during general elections.

The judiciary and electoral commissions cannot be trusted enough (transparent) by the political opposition and the Western election observers. The infighting, tensions anddivisions inside the ANC may only help to highlight the gullibility of politicaltransparency in South Africa. The judiciary feels that Jacob Zumu must face seriouscriminal offences, whereas the ANC supporters and COSATU believe the judiciary is playing games.

The recent outbreaks of xenophobia attacks against foreigners is not a surprise to theWSM—indigenous blacks in South Africa are living under difficult times.Unemployment and urban poverty are on the increase in South Africa.

It is a fact that South Africa is a relatively developed country, but it is surprising tonote that indigenous blacks are experiencing the vicissitudes of urban poverty and squalor.

Economic development brings with it unforeseen social and economic problems.Economic and social reforms are everywhere failing to bridge the gap between the rich and poor. Social uprisings, student riots and ethnic protests have come to epitomise the character of political consciousness in less developed countries.

It is quite evident that the dilemma of land distribution (indiginisation) is so rife in Africa where globalisation has entailed the massive exploitation of idle natural resources (oil and mineral reserves). The recent increase in oil and food prices combined with the so-called “credit crunch” has led many African countries to experiment with the production of biofuels. The production of wheat and sugar cane to make biofuels will be a death sentence in Africa in the sense that it will mean sacrificing the lives of innocent poor workers and peasants who are already experiencing hunger and poverty. Nobody can deny the fact that global warming is taking place in Africa, but what is difficult to accept is whether African political statesmen have the ability and ingenuity to weight the scientific arguments being propounded to arrest the effect of global warming on economic development as such.

The dilemma of income inequality is generally greater in Africa compared with western Europe. Extreme poverty engenders widespread hunger, malnutrition, lack of clean water, death from preventable diseases, inadequate shelter, illiteracy and other less obvious inequalities. The poor have no bargaining power—they have no importance among foreign governments and corporations. A world of free access for all and common ownership is the only way to eliminate poverty.

K. MULENGA, Zambia

Winners and Losers

It is the case that Zambia is enjoying unprecedented high levels of economic development due to favourable (high) copper prices on the world market. There are massive investments in the copper mining industry, mostly from China. Thus we may infer without doubt that the death of president Levy Mwanawasa has caught overseas investors off guard in the sense that they know that a change in leadership will entail the change in economic priorities and political stability—more or less most people in Zambia have come to accumulate wealth through political alignments and ethnic loyalties (nepotism).

The entire MMD government is a superficial political arrangement…cabinet ministers and civil servants are mostly hand-picked close friends and relatives of Mwanawasa. It will be superfluous to analyse the political crisis without due regard to the intrinsic ethnic and tribal prejudices that have always determined political loyalties in Zambia. The New Deal MMD government under Mwanawasa was strongly dominated by Lenje- and Lamba-speaking tribal politicians. There is a predisposition to sideline Bemba-speaking politicians from the high echelons of the MMD party.

The voting patterns that emerged after the 2006 general elections revealed a marked change in tribal and ethnic loyalties in the sense that the Bemba-speaking tribes mostly voted for the Patriotic Front (PF) of Michael Sata (a Bemba-speaking politician). The MMD emerged as a Bemba-dominated political party under the leadership of Fredrick Chiluba. We have seen political factions emerge within the ruling echelons of the MMD in consequence of the death of president Mwanawasa.

It is a fact that the appointment of Rupia Banda as the vice-president was made in order to compensate the people of Eastern Province for having heavily voted for the MMD in 2006 . Let it be understood that Banda was a staunch UNIP politician and was never a member of the MMD.

It is outright impossible for a ruling political party to lose a general election in Africa, especially when the so-called 50 percent plus vote is not part of the constitution.

The workers and peasants of Zambia have opposed the simple majority formula because it gives room to corruption and manipulation. Article 95 (1) of the Munyomba Draft Constitution prescribes that a presidential candidate should win the elections by 50 percent plus one vote. The National Constitution (NCC) appointed by Levy Mwanawasa is currently debating and reviewing submissions of the Munyomba Draft Constitution that may pave the way for the creation of a new constitution. But there are those who have opposed the 50 percent plus one vote like health minister Ronald Njapau, who said it was not good for a country's safety. He said the majoritarian system will bring about a political crisis in Zambia as was the case in Kenya and Zimbabwe. And the former republican vice-president General Christon Tembo said the NCC should not be excited with the clause but be mindful of the political repercussions.

But home affairs minister Lwipa Puma believes that the 50 percent plus one vote will be a costly exercise and that it is inappropriate for a poor country like Zambia to spend money on unnecessary re-runs instead of spending it on building schools and hospitals.

As socialists we have something more to say to our fellow workers in Zambia and who are currently mourning for President Levy Mwanawasa. What we ask you to do in your own interest is to consider the case for socialism. If you do you will discover facts that may surprise you—socialism involves the abolition of the wages system once and for all. Socialism should be your concern as well as ours.

K. MULENGA, Zambia

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Nations vy for Nigerian gas

The EU is proposing to help the Nigerian government develop a trans-Saharan pipeline which would take gas from Nigeria through Niger and Algeria, direct to Europe.

But Russia also has realised Nigeria's importance too .A week before the EU offer, the Russian gas giant Gazprom signed a deal with the Nigerian government for gas exploration and transportation, and has clearly stated its interest in the proposed pipeline. Gazprom can offer huge investment in infrastructure as an inducement to do deals.

Europe is increasingly worried about its dependence on Russian gas, especially after Russia's action in Georgia increased its influence over European energy supply routes through the Caucasus.

Watch this space as Nigerian resources once more becomes the focal point for world capitalism competition .

Nigeria has the world's seventh largest gas reserves.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bush Meat

The report - Conservation and Use of Wildlife-Based Resources: The Bushmeat Crisis - says that many attempts to crack down on the hunting of bush meat are misguided and a blanket ban on sales of bush meat simply would not work.

The report argues it is important to distinguish between the rural poor, who hunt to survive, and those who engage in the activity purely as a commercial venture.

The authors argue that only by giving rights to local hunters to decide on what they want to hunt will they be encouraged to adopt sustainable practices - such as hunting for fast reproducing species like rodents instead of larger mammals.Consumption of bush meat in Europe and elsewhere is often blamed for driving up demand but this report points out that the most of it is consumed in local village areas.

Researchers estimate that more than a million tonnes of bush meat is killed every year. In some areas it provides 80% of the protein and fat consumed.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Child Mortality Rates

Promised reforms by Capitalism have a history of failing and it appears the progress in cutting the number of deaths among children under five is still "grossly insufficient" in some parts of the world, Unicef has warned.

The UN children's agency warns many poorer countries will not meet the 2015 Millennium Development Goal of cutting that figure by two thirds. The situation is worst in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia, it said .

Last year, 9.2 million children aged under five died across the world. It warns that malnutrition is now a contributing cause in around a third of deaths

Central and eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean and East Asia and the Pacific countries have cut deaths among under-fives by over 50% since 1990. But over the same period, deaths in western and central Africa have fallen by just 18%; in sub-Saharan Africa the figure was 21%, while in eastern and southern Africa it was 26%.

In Sierra Leone, the country with the worst under-five mortality rate in the world, 262 out of every 1,000 children die before their fifth birthday.The rate for industrialised nations is just six deaths per 1,000 live births.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Chad - Oil Curse strikes again

The curse of oil continues . In a supposedly ground-breaking agreement with the World Bank Chad was expected to use its oil revenues to benefit its peoples .

Alas the World Bank has cancelled an oil pipeline deal with Chad after a dispute with the government over failed pledges to use profits to tackle poverty. The bank said Chad had also failed to use revenues on health and education.

Instead the government had tapped more of the oil profits for military spending. Also President Idriss Deby over the past year has signed several decrees handing him personal control over the landlocked oil producer's finances and circumventing World Bank attempts to ensure a large share of oil profits go to social spending.

The bank had been warned by local and international development groups that the pipeline project had little chance of reducing poverty, said Ian Gary, senior policy advisor for extractive industries at Oxfam America.

Socialist Banner is not surprised .

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Global warming threat to Africa

Failure to take urgent action to curb climate change is effectively violating the human rights of people in the poorest nations a report by Oxfam International says

Emissions, primarily from developed countries, are exacerbating flooding, droughts and extreme weather events. As a result, harvests are failing and people are losing their homes and access to water.

75-250 million people across Africa could face water shortages by 2020 . Agriculture fed by rainfall could drop by 50% in some African countries by 2020

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Swazi King's Birthday

The media are having a field day exposing the hypocrisy of millions ,officially put at $2.5 million though widely believed to be five times higher , being spent on celebrating King Mswati III's birthday .

He will be 40 .

unemployment, 40 percent
HIV rates: nearly 40 percent among adults. Life expectancy has nearly halved since 1998 because of the AIDS epidemic and is now less than 31 years, according to the most recent U.N. figures.

70 percent live below the poverty line, and 20% depend on international food aid.

A new constitution took effect in 2006 maintains the ban on political opposition parties. The king appoints the prime minister and the cabinet. A previous king ,Sobhuza , declared a state of emergency in 1973 which Mswati has never formally lifted.

About 5,000 trade union members took to the streets Wednesday to protest against the expenditure

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tribes or Nations ??

From The London Times

" Siphiwe Hlophe, founder of Swaziland for Positive Living (Swapol) led a 1,000-strong demonstration in the capital Mbabane to protest that eight of his 13 wives, plus their children and an entourage of bodyguards, maids and hangers-on, had chartered a plane to Dubai for a shopping spree. English public-school-educated King Mswati III, whose personal take of the national budget is half the health budget, is estimated to have spent £2.2m on the trip and is planning a huge 40th birthday party.

Swaziland has the worst HIV infection rate in the world; 31% for women.
It is also pathetically poor, with nearly 70% of its people living on less than 50 US cents (about 27p) a day.

In Swaziland the king and the ruling elite refer to the Swazi nation but pretend that Swazis are a traditional tribe, utterly obedient to the king and his chiefs. The king misuses tradition to appropriate the country’s meagre resources, prevent development and keep the people subservient.

What is the difference between a tribe and a nation anyway? Tribalism describes a frame of mind all human beings suffer from: a pig-headed “my group, right or wrong” attitude. In Africa people are always referred to as members of tribes, but how can 25 million Yoruba or 33 million Hausa people be called tribes? If they are, then surely the English, Welsh and Scots must be British tribes. Does the media refer to former Yugoslavia as tribal or the Israel-Palestine conflict as a land dispute between two semitic tribes. That’s how it would be described if they lived in Africa.

Africa’s problem is not tribalism as such, but the utterly incoherent nation states cohabited by different ethnic groups bequeathed to Africans half a century ago. Africans had no part in the creation of their nation states. At the end of the 19th century, Europeans drew lines on maps of places they had never been to. Fifty years ago the filled-in spaces became Ghana, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, countries that had never existed before. Suddenly pitched into independence, they had no sense of common nationhood. By contrast the ruling Europeans had always emphasised ethnic differences and suppressed any sense of nationalism.

Beneath the surface of Africa’s weak nation states lie old cultures, old communities, very different societies with their own laws and languages. Nigeria contains some 400 different ethnic groups. Uganda has more than 40. They lack what we take for granted: a common conception of nationhood and national citizenship. The unification of Africa remains a distant dream, and separatism is frowned on because it could lead to bloody disintegration..."

We also read that a meeting of more than 200 African kings and traditional rulers has bestowed the title "king of kings" on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The rulers, wearing gold crowns, sequined capes and colourful robes met in the Libyan town of Benghazi. Sheikh Abdilmajid from Tanzania told the BBC that the traditional rulers could play an important role. "The people believe in the chiefs and kings more than they believe in their governments,"
While Col Gaddafi told the assembled dignitaries "We want an African military to defend Africa, we want a single African currency, we want one African passport to travel within Africa,"

Socialist Banner declares that only through democratic de-centralised world socialism can the African peoples become united but also Africa will be unified with the rest of the world and enjoy common ownership of the worlds treasury.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Political whores

In Kenya there is a proposal to pay hefty salaries to the wives of the prime minister and vice-president. A leaked document says the head of civil service Francis Muthaura has directed that they each be paid $6,000 (£3,000) every month.

A government memo leaked to the local media directs that Ida Odinga and Pauline Musyoka, wives of the prime minister and vice-president respectively, will be rewarded for their roles as hostesses.
The pay is also supposed to recognise their role for upholding national family values.

Socialist Banner believes it is more the rich and powerful feathering their own nests at the expense of the poor and vulnerable . We can only agree with Transparency International's Gladwell Otieno who said the move is a confirmation that Kenyan politicians are just a greedy caste, looking after themselves at the expense of poor Kenyans recovering from the effects of post-election violence.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Rich White Justice

A white farmer who threw the body of his fired black worker into a lions' pen has been freed on parole after less than three years in prison. Mark Scott-Crossley was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2005 for assaulting Nelson Chisale, a former employee, and throwing his body to lions at his game farm who devoured him. The Supreme Court of Appeal reduced the sentence to five years, saying there was no proof Chisale had been alive when he was fed to the animals.

Chisale had been fired from Scott-Crossley's construction business at the game farm and returned two months later to collect his belongings. When he did, he was attacked with machetes and tied to a stake, where he was left bleeding for six or seven hours before being thrown into a lion enclosure. Only Chisale's skull and some gnawed bones and bloody clothing were found.
Another farm worker was sentenced to 15 years for carrying out the assault, but the trial judge said Scott-Crossley was the mastermind.

The Confederation of South African Trade Unions slammed his release. "It is clear that those who are rich and white will continue to be treated differently to those who are poor," it said.

Rich White Justice

A white farmer who threw the body of his fired black worker into a lions' pen has been freed on parole after less than three years in prison. Mark Scott-Crossley was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2005 for assaulting Nelson Chisale, a former employee, and throwing his body to lions at his game farm who devoured him. The Supreme Court of Appeal reduced the sentence to five years, saying there was no proof Chisale had been alive when he was fed to the animals.

Chisale had been fired from Scott-Crossley's construction business at the game farm and returned two months later to collect his belongings. When he did, he was attacked with machetes and tied to a stake, where he was left bleeding for six or seven hours before being thrown into a lion enclosure. Only Chisale's skull and some gnawed bones and bloody clothing were found.
Another farm worker was sentenced to 15 years for carrying out the assault, but the trial judge said Scott-Crossley was the mastermind.

The Confederation of South African Trade Unions slammed his release. "It is clear that those who are rich and white will continue to be treated differently to those who are poor," it said.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Poisoning Africa

In August 2006 a local company hastily fly-tipped truckload after truckload of chemical waste at around 15 locations around the city.

Trafigura had chartered the ship carrying the waste, which unloaded the waste in Ivory Coast, after a failure to agree deals to get it treated in the Netherlands and Nigeria.It said it had contracted a local firm, Tommy, to handle the waste in good faith.

In an out-of-court settlement, Trafigura agreed to pay the Ivorian government around $200m (£100m) in one of the largest ever payments of its kind.

Thousands of victims say they have yet to receive compensation - or say that what they have been given - around $500 (£250) in the main injury category - falls short of the amount they have lost in medical bills and earnings.

Trafigura also disputes whether the chemical slops were the cause of the large number of medical cases.

The United Nations says the dumping of the 500m tonnes of waste led to at least 16 deaths and more than 100,000 other victims needing medical treatment.

Two years on it is still here.

The UN special rapporteur on the dumping of toxic waste, Professor Okechukwu Ibeanu, recently spent four days in the country speaking to officials and victims.

"After almost two years, these sites have still not been decontaminated and continue to threaten the lives and health of tens of thousands of residents, across different social spectrums in Abidjan.The government has informed me that it does not have the technical capacity to clean up and decontaminate the dumpsites in a timelier manner," he said in a statement."This should be an absolute priority."

Congo horror

A new report based on polling data carried out in eastern Congo by an international human rights group and the research centers of two prominent American universities entitled "Living With Fear," makes interesting reading .

Though rich in diamonds, copper, gold and other minerals, most of Congo's people remain poor and desperate.

80 percent of respondents said they had been displaced at least three times in the last 15 years. 75 75 percent said their cattle or livestock had been stolen.
66 percent said their home had been destroyed or confiscated.
61 percent of those polled in the east said they witnessed the violent death of a family member or friend
60 percent said one more of their household members had disappeared
34 percent said they themselves had been abducted for more than a week.
53 percent reported being forced to work or being enslaved by armed groups,
31 percent said they had been wounded in fighting,
35 percent said they had been tortured.
46 percent had been threatened with death,
23 percent had witnessed sexual violence,
16 percent had been sexually violated —
12 percent raped multiple times.

"Peace, social reconstruction, justice and reconciliation remain distant dreams in Congo."

Sunday, August 17, 2008

islam and judaism

It hurts too much to lie on his back, so the 7-year-old has spent the past month stretched out on his stomach. His two grandmothers sit on the hospital bed beside him, fanning the pink flesh left exposed by his teacher's whip.

The Quranic teacher who did this to him is behind bars.

But what is most significant is that the boy's father — a poor farmer who sold part of his harvest to pay for the bus fare to the hospital — filed the charges against the teacher himself. In doing so, this man with cracked lips and bloodshot eyes braved the wrath of his entire village, including his own father, who considers all teachers in Senegal's Islamic schools to be holy .Even hospitals have become wary of treating beaten talibe, or Quranic students, for fear of retaliation from the religious community.

In hundreds of these schools in the mostly Muslim West African country, children are made to beg in the streets and are beaten if they don't bring back enough money. One 10-year-old was beaten to death with his hands tied behind his back and his mouth stuffed with rocks. Despite laws passed to protect children, the courts have convicted only a handful of Quranic teachers and quickly cave in the face of powerful clerics. The respect for Islamic schools comes from a centuries-old tradition of families sending their sons to study the Quran and till fields in exchange for food. In the 1970s, as drought devastated West Africa, schools moved to the cities and Islamic teachers sent children out to beg in the streets. These days, boys as young as 3 are beaten not for failing to master the Quran, but for failing to bring back enough money — a change families often are unaware of.

The boy also had to beg for food. Some days all he got was a discarded fish head, or a spoonful of rice.By the second week, he was hungry all the time. On July 2, he begged until dark and got the 50 cents, but spent part of it on biscuits. When the marabout found out, the boy says, he got whipped until the skin on his back fell off. Hospital officials believe the whip was laced with metal.With around 30 children in his care, the marabout was netting $430 a month, three times the salary of an average citizen and as much as a government official.

"Ask yourself, what is this money used for? The kids are not fed, so it's not for food. They wear rags, so it's not for clothes. They don't have mattresses, so it's not for their beds," says Paul Ndiaye, of the Swiss aid group Sentinelles, who has spent the last 10 years trying to get courts to take action against abusive marabouts. "This is a sham on a grand scale under the cover of religion."

In Senegal that the word for "to educate" — "yaar" is the same as the word for the stick to discipline students.

Meanwhile , Israel's Law of Return guarantees citizenship for any Jew in need, and these days the country is especially concerned about boosting its Jewish population to compete with the Arabs. But the Ethiopians have proved the hardest immigrant group to absorb, and the Falash Mura, some critics feel, is pushing the limits. As a whole they are poor, plagued by crime, violence and substance abuse, feeling shut out of a world very different from rural Africa. But despite all the preparations, most Ethiopian immigrants over age 35 go straight onto welfare after reaching Israel, according to the Jewish Agency.

That's no reason for shutting out the Falash Mura, says Mazor Bahyna, an Ethiopian in the 120-member Knesset, or parliament.

"I think Israel has an obligation to prove that it is not a racist state," he says. "If everyone was blond-haired and had blue eyes, they would bring them."

"There is no end to reunification," said the Jewish Agency's Konforti.

Israel has struggled for years to figure out which Ethiopians should be allowed in. Each time it has attempted to end the immigration by emptying the Gondar camps and airlifting their inhabitants to Israel, thousands more have flooded into the camps, scrambling to prove their Jewishness.The argument now seems to have come down to numbers: Israel says the last of the Falasha Mura who qualify for immigration arrived in Israel earlier this month, while the American groups say some 8,700 have been left behind.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has upheld the Israeli list, effectively marking the end

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Salving ones conscience

Paleontologists hunting fossils of early man in the Rift Valley of southern Ethiopia call the area the cradle of mankind. This year it's bursting with life, especially in the fields where local farmers grow barley, potatoes and teff, a cereal used to make the flat, spongy bread injera. As a warm July rain falls on a patchwork of smallholdings half a day's walk from the nearest road, the women harvest yams, the men plow behind sturdy oxen and fat chickens, goats and cows roam outside mud huts. And yet for all the apparent abundance, this area is so short of food that many are dying from starvation.
It is reported that in the six weeks to mid-July, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) treated 11,800 Ethiopian children for severe acute malnutrition. At a tented hospital in the town of Kuyera, 50 out of 1,000 died, double the rate MSF expects for a full-fledged famine.
"It's very bizarre," says Jean de Cambry, a Belgian MSF veteran of crises from Sudan to Afghanistan. "It's so green. But you have all these people dying of hunger."

Over time, sustained food aid creates dependence on handouts and shifts focus away from improving agricultural practices to increase local food supplies. Ethiopia exemplifies the consequences of giving a starving man a fish instead of teaching him to catch his own. This year the U.S. will give more than $800 million to Ethiopia: $460 million for food, $350 million for HIV/AIDS treatment — and just $7 million for agricultural development. Why bother with development when shortfalls are met by aid?
Ethiopian farmers can't compete with free food, so they stop trying. Over time, there's a loss of key skills, and a country that doesn't have to feed itself soon becomes a country that can't.