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