Sunday, December 26, 2010

from one hell to another hell

More than 2 million Somalis have sought haven in U.N.-supported refugee camps in neighboring countries and in settlements in nearly every region of Somalia.

They had walked for 10 days. Djiboutian border authorities had stopped them on a recent day in order to speak with a visiting U.N. delegation. Djiboutians consider such people illegal migrants, but they only occasionally enforce the law, especially if the migrants are passing through to another country.

"Are you fully aware of the dangers?" asked Antonio Guterres, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees.

"We know the risks," replied Abdullahi Ibrahim, 28. "But we are escaping hunger. If we had enough to eat, do you think we would leave our mothers, brothers and sisters?"

"We are running away from poverty," said Mohammed Said, 17. "We want to go to Yemen to send money back to our families. They are counting on us."

"They travel from one hell to another hell," said Ahmed Abdullahi, a U.N. refugee protection officer

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

BAE tanzanian deal corrupt

Mr Justice Bean told Southwark crown court that it appeared that BAE had paid "whatever was necessary to whomever it was necessary" to get the Tanzanian contract. He added that it appeared that the payments were disguised so that BAE "would have no fingerprints on the money". "They just wanted the job done – hear no evil, see no evil," . He said: "I have to establish what has happened. If there is no money to be used for corrupt practices, why is 97% of it paid through a BVI company controlled by BAE to another [offshore] company controlled by Vithlani?"

In February, BAE struck the plea deal with the SFO and American prosecutors to end years of corruption investigations into its business methods. The arms giant agreed to pay £3 m in corporate penalties in return for admitting accounting irregularities over a radar contract with Tanzania. Vithlani had been recorded in its books as performing "technical services", but he had no knowledge of any technical matters. Anti-corruption campaigners have argued that the deal is too lenient and cosy.

Richard Evans, BAE's chairman, had "personally approved" the use of a businessman, Sailesh Vithlani, as its "covert" agent to secure the Tanzanian radar contract. Approval was also given by Mike Turner, then a board member who later became BAE's chief executive. Temple said BAE paid $12.4m (£7.7m) to Vithlani between 2000 and 2005 – around a third of the radar contract's value. BAE had paid much of this money through its front company based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), known as Red Diamond, to a Panama-based company controlled by Vithlani.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Uganda's inequality

The Uganda Bureau of Statistics is quoted to have found out that the inequality gap among Ugandans has continued to widen.Uganda has the highest inequality levels in East Africa. And that the rich are becoming richer and the poor poorer.

One of the first civilisations to have risen and disastrously fallen due to institutionalised inequality is the ancient Egyptian civilisation. The Ancient Greek civilisation rose and fell also on account of institutionalised inequality. The well documented rise and fall of the Jewish nation of Israel in the Biblical times as documented by the prophets was also due to inequality. As it was in Egypt and Israel, so it was in the well known Indian, Chinese and Japanese ancient civilisations. In India, inequality was rationalised and institutionalised under the caste system where some people were born into poverty and were condemned to die in poverty. The great Roman Civilisation fell on account institutionalised inequality characterised by slavery, serfdom and feudalism. The Church in the middle ages fell into decay on account of inequality. It started forbidding priests from marrying so as to prevent the emergence of a hereditary priestly line that monopolised both material and spiritual power. The Arab countries of the Middle East are a typical examples of the rich-poor. The South American countries that became independent more than 200 years ago are still poor because they have for long tolerated inequality. The former Soviet Union which guised its inequality under the veil of "socialism" collapsed under its own inequality weight. Inequality breeds conflicts. Inequality is the mother of crime.

There is no reason to believe all this same demise may not happen to Uganda.

Extracted from here

The rewards of academia

It might come as a surprise to academics in South Africa but the purchasing power of their salaries, on average, is now higher than that of their counterparts in Canada, the UK and New Zealand, according to a survey of 46 Commonwealth universities.

At the same time, South Africa has the highest salary scales relative to national gross domestic product per capita and the overall average academic salary is seven times the GDP per capita. This is perhaps not surprising for a developing country where joblessness is high and average per capita income is low, and where there are deep inequalities between rich and poor.

South Africa ranks second overall with an average of PPP US$78,653 while Canada and the UK are in third and fourth place respectively. This is in contrast to the survey in 2006-07 when South Africa was at the bottom of the ranking. South Africa has the highest salary scales relative to national GDP per capita (the overall average academic salary is seven times the GDP per capita) and also saw the highest level of growth in academic salary scales since the last survey (51%). In South Africa, the large diversity in salary levels is due to the relatively high level of institutional autonomy.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Another corrupt president

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been accused of siphoning off up to $9bn (£5.6bn; 7bn euros) of his country's funds by the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court .Luis Moreno Ocampo told the BBC that had hidden the money in personal accounts outside Sudan.

If Mr Bashir does indeed hold a fortune of $9bn in secret bank accounts, that would be equivalent to one tenth of the country's annual GDP.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

swaziland outlook bleak

The Swazi government recently conceded that unemployment was running at 40 percent, despite doggedly maintaining for many years that it was 26 percent, but economists expect this to rise, pushing up already high poverty levels - about two-thirds of Swazis live in chronic poverty.

Government has announced a reduction of 7,000 public service jobs in 2011 but the impact will have a ripple effect throughout the economy. According to the government's Central Statistics Office, one employed person supports, on average, 10 others.

Swaziland has the world's highest HIV prevalence rate - 26.1 percent – so one in four Swazis between the ages of 15 and 49 is living with the virus, and about half of those infected, or 110 000, are on antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, which can prolong a person’s life. The budget for HIV/AIDS would be cut by 10 percent in 2011.

Subsistence farmers on communal Swazi Nation Land, where about 80 percent of the country's one million population reside, use government tractors for ploughing, but government fuel depots have run dry and the machines are standing idle."This is planting season. It is December now, and for six weeks we have not been able to get seeds in the ground," farmer in the central Manzini region, told IRIN.

However, government spending on non-essential programmes has not been cut. A recent request by the finance minister for an additional $50 million towards the building of an international airport was approved by parliament and the airport's final cost is expected to be in the region of $1 billion. Cabinet officials have also awarded themselves substantial pay rises, and have extended retirement benefits to former government officials.

" more business shut and public sector workers are laid off, it is inevitable that more people will join the ranks of the poor." Amos Ndwandwe, an economist at a bank in the capital, Mbabane, explained

Friday, December 17, 2010


Statistics released reveal that previously disadvantaged Namibians only own 90 of the 1 361 registered tourism establishments in the country The bulk, at 927 are owned by white Namibians while the rest, 344, are foreign owned. No previously disadvantaged Namibian owns an air charter operator's licence or one to operate a tented lodge, while only one owns a trophy hunting licence or a guest-farm. Most black Namibians in the tourism and hospitality sector are tour and safari operators, at 26, while 21 are tour facilitators, and 24 bed and breakfast operators. Establishments such as tented lodges, air charter operations and guest farms are very expensive to operate but generate the most revenue in the tourism industry, thus mostly owned by the previously advantaged white community and foreigners. Some foreigners are also involved in low-end tourism initiatives that are not very capital intensive, thus directly competing with indigenous Namibian operators.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Breaking the cycle

A 2009 study conducted by the Medical Research Council (MCR) sent shockwaves across the country when it revealed that one in four men in the coastal provinces of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal admitted to committing rape. But the findings of a new report, the Gauteng Gender Violence Indicators Pilot Project, released to coincide with 16 days of international activism against gender violence, suggest the situation may be even worse than initially thought.

The study found that 78.3 per cent of men admitted to perpetrating some form of violence - whether emotional, physical or sexual - against women. Twenty-five per cent of the women interviewed said they had experienced some form of sexual violence - but only 3.9 per cent of these reported the crime to the police. One in 13 of the women surveyed said they had been raped by a non-partner, but just one in 25 rapes had been reported to the police. Of the men interviewed, 37.4 per cent admitted to committing an act of sexual violence at least once.

A recent study conducted by the TLAC revealed that just four per cent of approximately 2,000 cases of rape they tracked since 2003 resulted in a conviction. "You are asking people to come out and report the cases, but if there are few consequences, then you are effectively undermining all of that," Vetten says. "The system is just not working."

According to official South African police statistics there were 68,332 reported sexual offences between March 2009 and March 2010. From March 2009 to March 2010, there were 16,834 reported cases of murder, 17,410 reported cases of attempted murder and 113,755 reported cases of aggravated robbery.

Mbuyiselo Botha, an activist at the Sonke Gender Justice Network, argues that getting to the root of violence in South Africa requires one to emerge from the collective amnesia about South Africa's past.
Botha, who works to rehabilitate abusive men, insists that this focus on the past is not an excuse. "We must remember that gender violence in South Africa is another type of violence, along with road rage, the massive rate of murders," he says. "We are a nation who abuse each other, because it seems to be the only language we understand. "It is tempting to have amnesia for what happened in the past ... it is useful to remember that we are emerging from an abnormal system that invariably created abnormal individuals who created a society that is also abnormal."

Some activists suggest that the social and cultural baggage of apartheid may not only be impacting poor, black men.

"We focus on the victims, and this is not a bad thing, but we tend to forget that fixing this problem means we have to unpack the origins of a type of masculinity that is required for social domination," Anthony Collins, a social researcher at the University of KwaZulu-Natal's department of psychology, says, adding that studies have shown that during apartheid there was a correlation between returning soldiers and increased violence. "Think about British colonisation, with its harsh public school system of canes and cold showers; a sort of brutal psychological conditioning that created essentially aggressors that forwarded the aims of the empire."We know that well over 90 per cent of South Africans endorse corporal punishment ... and ultimately, the roots of violence come from violence during childhood. On one hand you have the new Domestic Violence Act, a set of gender provisions that are terribly progressive, the introduction of child protection courts, but on the other hand, you have a society that opposes restrictions to corporal punishment towards children and you have a violent masculinity emanating from our leadership."

China versus Miners

Zambian miners at the Collum Coal Mine are furious with their Chinese bosses. At least 11 miners were allegedly shot by two Chinese managers during a protest about poor conditions in October.

The southern rural district of Sinazongwe is covered in black coal dust, but otherwise there is not a hint that the 21st Century has reached the area. And this is what has angered the miners. They feel that while the Chinese benefit from the mine and live comfortably, they remain in poverty often renting mud-walled huts lacking basic facilities. There is also perception that the Chinese management has little concern for their workers' safety. They lack face masks, safety shoes and in many instances wear their own clothes in the course of duty.

"The salaries are a problem - we get 500,000 kwacha ($100; £63) a month but our rentals cost about 100,000 kwacha ($20; £13),"
says miner Ngula Simukuka, who has a wife and four children to support in nearby Sinazeze township.

The nearby Sikalima stream is another cause of friction between the Chinese-run mine and the cattle-herding community in the area, who rely on it as a source of drinking water. The stream now carries black sediment of waste coal which eventually flows into Lake Kariba.

Elijah Muchima, minister for the area, recently visited the mine and had heated words with the Collum Coal Mine Director Xu Jian Rui.
"You are using labour and you should pay for it adequately," Mr Muchima said."Your investment is important but our labour is more important. If you find that business is not profitable, close it down. Other people will come. If it's not profitable, go away. If it's not profitable, you would not have been here for nine years."

The mine director attributed his company's poor pay to problems it faces in marketing its coal.
"Our clients are mainly Zambian copper mines but sometimes they import coal from Zimbabwe," Mr Xu answered, speaking through an interpreter.

Last year China invested more than $400m (£250m) in Zambia's mining industry, which is one of the major employers in the private sector. So for th government a balance needs to be struck between attracting investment and protecting the interests of the locals.Collum currently produces an average of 150,000 metric tonnes of coal, which earns the mine up to $6m (£4m) a year.

A temporary wage deal was struck until negotiations between the mine and the workers' union conclude. Miners will now get a minimum of $90 (£57) a month, but will also be entitled to monthly housing and transport allowances totalling $57 (£36).

China has massively expanded its economic ties to countries across Africa in recent years. Wikileaks recently released details of US diplomatic cables that accused China of being "...a very aggressive and pernicious economic competitor with no morals...China is not in Africa for altruistic reasons...China is in Africa primarily for China."

Thursday, December 09, 2010

shell's nigeria

Wikileaks have been divulging some interesting details from American intlligence sources in the US.

The oil giant Shell claimed it had inserted staff into all the main ministries of the Nigerian government, giving it access to politicians' every move in the oil-rich Niger Delta, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable. Ann Pickard, then Shell's vice-president for sub-Saharan Africa, the company's top executive in Nigeria, told US diplomats that Shell had seconded employees to every relevant department and so knew "everything that was being done in those ministries". She boasted that the Nigerian government had "forgotten" about the extent of Shell's infiltration and was unaware of how much the company knew about its deliberations.
"Shell and the government of Nigeria are two sides of the same coin," said Celestine AkpoBari, of Social Action Nigeria. "Shell is everywhere. They have an eye and an ear in every ministry of Nigeria. They have people on the payroll in every community, which is why they get away with everything. They are more powerful than the Nigerian government."

The criticism was echoed by Ben Amunwa of the London-based oil watchdog Platform. "Shell claims to have nothing to do with Nigerian politics," he said. "In reality, Shell works deep inside the system, and has long exploited political channels in Nigeria to its own advantage."

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

billionaires double

"Cosatu has for many years been highlighting the gross levels of inequality in South Africa;...if the report is true, Cosatu, far from exaggerating the gulf between rich and poor, has been seriously under-estimating it!" said Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven was responding to a Sunday Times article that reported on a survey 'Who Owns Who' on the super-wealthy in South Africa.

The survey revealed that the number of super-wealthy South Africans had doubled in a year. The number of billionaires nearly doubled from 16 in 2009 to 31.

"The wealth that these people own and receive is created by the workers' labour in the mines and factories, on the farms and in the shops.Their bosses' salaries and perks are now higher than those in developed countries, while workers' wages are nowhere remotely near those of their American or European counterparts."

The top earner in the survey was reported as Pine Pienaar, CEO of Mvelaphanda Resources, who earned R63 million in 2009. He was followed by Norbert Platt, CEO of Richement, who got R58 million and then Marius Kloppers, CEO of BHP Billiton who took home R54 million.The highest paid state-owned enterprise executive was Khaya Ngqula, former head of SAA ‘earned' R13.7-million in 2009, including his controversial R9.35-million "termination benefit".

Monday, December 06, 2010

Changes in Africa

During the 1970s a small socialist group in Jamaica produced a journal called the Socialist Review, this article seems worthy of re-publishing on the web.

Capitalism have its own way of dealing with the various reformist movement its conflicting nature make inevitable. It make them obsolete in the most shameful fashion. The Black Power movement have taken quite a battering with recent development in Africa. The most damaging being the visit of Doctor Banda of Malawi to South Africa. Doctor Banda is not the only one showing this new interest in South Africa. Most of the other African countries are expressing their willingness to deal with "white" Africa. President Bokassa of the Central African Republic, have said he is willing to go to South Africa and meet Prime Minister Voster. President Houphouet-Boigny of the Ivory Coast have called on other African leaders to join in a new diplomatic approach to South Africa.

Why this change you might ask, is not South Africa still practising Apartheid? The answer to that is what socialists have been saying all along, there are neither stable alliances nor lasting enmities among capitalist nations. Observe the getting together of China and America, and the way of world capitalism is partly revealed.

South Africa is the most developed country in Africa. The other countries are all moving along the same line of capitalist development. They could not ignore for long her purchasing power, and her money for investment. South Africa have agreed to buy the whole of Malawi's rice, and other farm product. She have also invested over J$28 million in the important railway linking Mozambique with the new Capital at Lilongwe. This is what modern capitalism is, it goes on despite the speeches of politicals, or the protest of the mob.

Humans can only be united by their belief in a set of principles. The colour of a man's skin can never be the basis of unity. The Black Power movement although it take different form in each country is set on the premise of the unity of the Black man against White. Black Power followers often express the false assumption, that all White people are united against Black. The truth is that any Black and White capitalist, have more in common between them than all the White workers with the White capitalist, or the Black workers with the Black capitalist. Race have now become a very damaging factor towards workingclass unity. IT IS THE SOCIAL SYSTEM THAT WE LIVE UNDER AND NOT OUR RACE THAT MAKE POSSIBLE THE PROBLEMS WE FACE. Racism only serve to obscure the real enemy, World Capitalism, and in fact help to keep it going that much longer. A man's economic interest determine his action. The capitalist as an individual is not our target, it is the system that we hate and want to change.

The countries in Africa are no different from any other developing capitalist society, anywhere else. They are caught in the web of capitalism, and there is no escape. The civil war in Nigeria illustrate well the meaning of brotherhood in our capitalist world. The choice facing us today, is not Black, against White. but weather we want to continue with this strife ridden system capitalism, or replace it with a system of Common ownership Socialism.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The need to struggle in new ways

Socialist Banner can sympathise with the writer and director of the Third World Forum, Samir Amin, when he says " has now come to a point where continuing the accumulation of capital is deepening and continuing the destruction of the natural basis for the reproduction of civilisation. And therefore that we ought to move and start moving beyond capitalism."

He explains further that:
"The forms of organisation and action have to be and are always invented by the people in struggle and not preconceived by some intellectuals and then put into practice by people. They are the result of invention. If we look at the previous long crisis of capitalism in the 20th century, during that century, people have invented efficient ways of organising and of acting – efficient vis-à-vis the challenge of their time. I mean, forms of organisation like the trade unions, like the political parties, whether communist parties or really social democrat working-class parties or the war of liberation associated with social change – those forms of organisation and of action have been really efficient and have produced gigantic progressive change in the history of humankind in the 20th century. But they have come all of them out of stream because the system has itself changed and moved into a new phase. And the first wave has come to an end. And now, as Gramsci said, the first wave has come to an end, the second wave of more that protest, of action to change the system, is just starting...there is no reason why through their struggle, which are growing and will continue to grow in the coming years and decades, the people in struggle will not invent new forms of movements exist and have always existed and social struggles are already there, including in Africa, but they are in Africa as elsewhere, fragmented and on the defensive. Now to move from that position into some kind of unity and building convergence with respect of diversity with strategic targets is on the agenda in Africa, as elsewhere today, which means that re-politicisation of the social movements. Social movements have chosen to be depoliticised because the old politics – the politics of the first wave of progressive social forces which have been the basis for the first wave of reconquer of national independence – have come to the end of the road, have moved into a blind alley, have lead to growing contradictions, have lost their legitimacy. So the parties which built the conquest of independence of Africa, such as the Tanzanian National Union, African Union, such as the union in Mali, national liberation movements have come to the end of the road and they have lost their credibility. Now the social movements have to re-create adequate forms of politicisation."

Samir Amin then elaborates:
"We are moving into a second wave of emancipation of African popular classes along with liberation of their nations. We are at that point in history where the first wave has come to an end and the second is just starting. Now today for imperialism, Africa is very important because of the enormous natural resources of the continent, not only oil and gas, but also rare minerals, a lot of minerals common like copper and less common but no less important like cobalt and other rare minerals, but also more and more, land, which is becoming a scare resource at the global level and Africa has plenty of it. But for imperialism, Africa is important for its resources, not African people. They are rather an obstacle to the exploitation of natural resources. This is why the US and their European allies in NATO are developing a planned strategy of military control of important areas in Africa to be plundered for their natural resources. And they are assuming that the African people will remain passive and will not move into active agents which will stop their plunder of the continent. I think they are wrong. Just as the colonialists thought that the colonial system was there forever and that the peoples of Africa would have to adjust to it and they were for a number of decades adjusting to it, but that could not continue forever. Exactly in the same way, the idea that the African resources can be plundered without the African peoples responding to the challenge and taking over the control of those natural resources is a big error of judgment of imperialism"

Socialist Banner
, however cannot endorse his statist advocacy of some sort of alliance with the ruling class and the state-powers for the "rebuilding of a solidarity of African and Asian nations and peoples against the plunder of imperialism."

land grab

"Everyone agrees that you can't have a wild-west scenario where countries and companies are going into countries and getting land for next to nothing," Michael Taylor, programme manager with the International Land Coalition , a global alliance of land rights organizations, told IRIN.

And it is happening on an unprecedented scale.Countries rich in capital but with land and water constraints, such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and China, are world leaders in this kind of investment. In 2009, following the 2007-2008 food crises, more than 45 million hectares (the size of Sweden) worth of large-scale farmland deals were announced.

Between 2006 and 2009, Saudi investors reportedly paid the Ethiopian government US$100 million per year to lease land for wheat, barley and rice to export back home, tax-free. Meanwhile, the World Food Programme spent over US $300 million in 2009 alone, delivering 460,000 metric tons of food relief to 5.7 million Ethiopians in need of assistance.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Africa can feed itself

"Africa can feed itself. And it can make the transition from hungry importer to self-sufficiency in a single generation." explain researchers led by Harvard University professor Calestous Juma, author of The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa.

Juma said that Africa was the only continent with arable land readily available to expand agriculture, and that southern Sudan alone could feed all Africans if it was properly developed.

One in three Africans is chronically hungry, according to the UN, despite $3bn (£1.9bn) spent on food aid for the continent annually and $33bn in food imports. About 70% of Africans are involved in agriculture, but almost 250 million people, or a quarter of the population, are undernourished. The number has risen by 100 million since 1990. Some African leaders have been criticised for enriching themselves or their militaries.

The researchers found that, while food production has grown globally by 145% over the past 40 years, African food production has fallen by 10% since 1960. Only 4% of the continent's crop land is irrigated. Fertilisers, pesticides and high-quality seeds are prohibitively expensive and in short supply.

"An African agricultural revolution is within reach, provided the continent can focus on supporting small-scale farmers to help meet national and regional demand for food," Juma said. His proposal includes the modernisation of farms, with new machinery and storage and processing facilities, and the selective use of genetically modified crops. He calls for new roads, energy sources and irrigation projects.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

There are no hungry countries

Out of the 40 countries in the world facing severe food shortages to the extent of requiring emergence food intervention, 26 of them are in Africa, while the rest are in Asia and Central America.

In my view, and if I can say it aloud, there are in fact no “hungry countries” in the world; there are simply countries with greater or less number of people living in them who cannot grow enough, or buy enough food to feed themselves and their families. In this respect, there is no essential difference between a Third World nation and the United States, where the Bureau of Census reported some few years ago that, “eight to ten million Americans are sick or starving because they do not have enough to spend on food”.

Westerners tend to ascribe this situation, to galloping population, climatic acts of God such as drought, or to laziness and lack of initiative on the part of the poor themselves. Such explanations are not only insulting, they are mythical; population pressures can aggravate hunger, but they do not “cause” it.

Many development “experts” tend to see the elimination of hunger as a question of technology. “Give them enough fertilizers, pesticides and tractors”, they say, “and the problem will be solved”. They seldom recognize that any technological innovation has an impact on the social structure, and that, if specific steps are not taken to prevent it, technology will benefit only cash crop production and the wealthiest farmers. Such questions as, “who can pay for fertilizer, machinery" are not asked. Innovations useful to village communities may even be suppressed. There is no hope for eradicating hunger via technology because it is not a technical problem. It is a question of economic and social justice at every level. Somewhere in the world, 10,000 people die every day because these truths have not been recognized.

Tanzania in particular and Africa in general, is also one of the outstanding victims of another system guaranteed to create and perpetuate hunger: the cash crop. That so many young nations like ours, have not yet rid themselves of colonial agricultural patterns inherited from a world they never made, is one of the great tragedies of our time. The argument for cash crop is, of course, is one of “We need the foreign exchange”. Cash crop producers do not control the prices of their primary products. The point therefore is for dependent countries to attain self-reliance in food before worrying about cash crops. There is no country in the world that could not adequately feed its own people – and then some – if this were a priority policy objective. All the rich nations (the G.8) have made a concerted, long-term effort to induce local planners to “choose” models of development which are geared first and foremost, to the advantage of the rich countries themselves. All the aid to their former Sub-Sahara colonies has consistently favoured finance for cash-crop schemes over food production for local consumption.

The United States, mainly through its Agency for International Aid (USAID), has made the longest, best financed and consequently most successful effort towards bringing Third World citizens around to “thinking American”. As a USAID official himself once testified to the US Congress some four years ago, “Our basic, broadest goal is a long range political one. It is not development for the sake of sheer development……An important objective is to ensure that foreign private investment, particularly from the United States, is welcomed and well treated. The problem is to evaluate the manner in which the [USAID] programme can make the greatest contribution to the totality of US interests”.

It was the World Bank’s economists who laid stress on the production of the so-called “cash crops” at the expense of food crops; who made it easier to secure credits for the production of tea or cocoa rather than rice or maize.

Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere, warned in 1963, “In a country such as this (Tanganyika), where generally speaking, the Africans are poor and the foreigners are rich, it is quite possible that within eighty or a hundred years, if poor Africans were allowed to sell their land, all land in Tanganyika would belong to wealthy immigrants, and the local people would be tenants”. The government, having bowed down to foreign pressure on the issue is now all out to legitimize a policy of Individualization, Titling and registration (ITR) of land which will create open land market, to allow alienation of land to the investors without community intervention.

Extracted from an article by Joseph Mihangwa

World Cup -White Elephants

South Africa spent a whopping 38 billion rand (£3.7 billion) on stadiums and infrastructure to realise the vision of Africa's first World Cup.

Neal Collins, a South African-born author and journalist explains Fifa left behind them a shameful legacy of empty stadiums.
"The white elephants - 10 magnificent football stadiums lying empty and unused - serve as a constant reminder of the expensive legacy of the Fifa World Cup,"

Collins says: "In Polokwane, the new Peter Mokabe stadium, capacity 45,000, sits unused next to the old Peter Mokabe stadium, capacity 20,000, which was quite suitable for South Africa’s northernmost city. In rural Nelspruit, the Mbombela Stadium has no suitors. Neither city has a side in the local Premier League."

In Durban the Moses Mabhida stadium was recently snubbed by neighbouring rugby team the Sharks as its operators searched for a new tenant, whilst cricket bosses are unhappy that the playing areas of all the new stadiums are too small for their sport.

Soccer City in Johannesburg served as the flagship stadium of the World Cup and largest sports venue in Africa. The 95,000 seater venue underwent a £300 million renovation before the World Cup and costs around £250,000 a month to maintain.It is regarded as the de facto national stadium for the South African football team but other than the occasional derbies between local rivals Kaizer Chiefs and the Orlando Pirates, the stadium has struggled to generate post World Cup revenue.

Cape Town's Green Point stadium, which hosted England's second group match against Algeria, hosts the odd Ajax Cape Town football match, luring an average of 7,000 supporters to the venue which has a capacity of 55,000 (reduced from 64,000) after the World Cup.

Monday, November 29, 2010


COSATU president Sdumo Dlamini yesterday said the country's income inequality has deepened within racial groups.

"We cannot rest when we are confronted with the reality that 16 years into democracy redistribution of income has not occurred. Besides the decline in the real incomes of African households between 1995 and 2005, income inequality has increased across the board," he said.
"The top 10 percent of the rich accounted for 33 times the income earned by the bottom 10 percent in 2000. This gap is likely to have worsened, given the fall in the share of employees in national income and the global economic crisis of 2008.
"About 20 percent of South Africans earned less than R800 a month in 2002, with the situation worse for Africans. By 2007 about 71 percent of African female-headed households earned less than R800 a month and 59 percent of these had no income; 58 percent of African male-headed households earn less than R800 a month and 48 percent had no income."

In 2008 the top 20 directors of JSE-listed companies, the overwhelming majority of whom are still white males, earned an average of R59million a year each, while in 2009 the average earnings of an employee in the South African economy was R34000.
Each of the top 20 paid directors in JSE-listed companies earned 1728 times the average income of a South African worker. On average, between 2007 and 2008, these directors experienced 124 percent increase in their earnings, compared to below 10 percent settlements for ordinary workers. In state-owned enterprises where the top 20 directors experienced a 59 percent increase in their earnings, collectively raking in R132223 million. This amounts to R6,6million a director.

zambia-perpetual poverty

In an interview yesterday, Civil Society for Poverty Reduction executive director Patrick Mucheleka said:
“The poor are being confined to perpetual poverty while the gap between the poor and rich keeps on widening. People will come out to say enough is enough. When people are determined to free themselves from the yoke of poverty they can do it without any problems. Ultimately supreme power lies with the people so you are better off listening now than later. We might have a situation like the one in Niger Delta Nigeria. We don’t want to get to that situation.”

Thursday, November 25, 2010

health and IQ

In Mozambique, one in 11 children dies within the first year of life. One in seven dies within five years. The numbers are even higher in rural areas.Children here battle deadly diseases, like malaria, HIV, and conditions like diarrhea, and often lose the fight.

A new study suggests the babies who do survive face an additional lifelong challenge: lower intelligence. The study concludes that babies who use their body's energy to fight disease will not have enough energy left to fully develop their brains.

Christopher Eppig, a graduate student at the University of New Mexico, authored the study, explained:
"I like to think of this in terms of sort of economics. So, the body has a finite amount of physical energy that it can spend in a limited number of areas. As a child at a younger age than 5, one estimate shows the brain occupying more than half of the body's entire energy budget. And at newborn -- as a newborn, that number may be as high as 87 percent. And another expensive thing that the body does is fights off infectious disease. And so, like any kind of budget, if you have a limited amount of funds, if you take money out of one area, it has to come from somewhere.The structure and the size of our brain is what gives us our intelligence. And, so, exposure to disease early in childhood can affect the way the brain is built, the way it's structured. And throughout your adult life, you can be left with a brain that wasn't built quite correctly."

Eppig found that countries with the highest levels of infectious disease also had the lowest average I.Q.s. Researchers matched I.Q. estimates of 192 countries against 28 infectious diseases listed by the World Health Organization. The study controlled for other potential factors in a nation's average I.Q. factors like quality and access to education, annual income levels, and even climate. And while those factors play a role, researchers found infectious disease to be the most powerful predictor of I.Q. Mozambique, which ranks at the bottom of I.Q. scores, also tops the charts in disease burden.

The study basically says that, if you fight infectious disease, that you will raise I.Q. of a nation. If this proposition is true, by fighting infectious diseases, you bring up the I.Q. of a nation,

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

100 million made poor by medical bills

In 2000, African heads of state committed to spend 15% of government funds on health. So far three countries (Liberia, Rwanda and the United Republic of Tanzania) have achieved this. An average of US$ 44 per capita is required to ensure access to even a small set of quality health services in low income countries. Many struggle to do this. Today, 31 countries spend less than US$ 35 per person on health.

Health bills push 100 million people into poverty each year. "No one in need of health care should have to risk financial ruin as a result," said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO.

casualisation in Kenya

Millions of Kenyan youths joined the ranks of the working poor in the past five years as employers turned to temporary or contractual jobs to cut costs – stalling the social progress that usually comes with employment. Since the country embarked on economic liberalisation in the early 1990s data shows that deregulation deepened in the past five years resulting in a steep rise in the number of part-time, contract, and out-sourced workers.

Temporary employment, which comes without key benefits such as pension, health insurance or access to loan facilities, has left the majority of young people either underemployed or underpaid locking them up in the bottom quarter of the social pyramid, according to the Institute of Economic Affairs, a Nairobi-based think tank.

The proportion of casual workers in the formal sector of the economy increase gradually from 17.9 per cent in 2000 to 32.2 per cent last year. underemployed or poorly paid employees often become incapable of starting families, providing their children with good healthcare or educating their off-spring.

“The danger is that unemployment or underemployment is extending the burden of dependency on parents, diminishing self-esteem fuelling frustrations and making crime an attractive option,” said Mr Githongo.

Violent South Africa (2)

The richest 10 percent of households in South Africa earned nearly 40 times more than the poorest 50 percent.

Apartheid is one the key contributors to the high level of violent crime in South Africa. The brutality of apartheid; the inequalities the policy gave rise to and the demoralising effect of racism are some of the contributing factors responsible for the violent crimes experienced by South Africans, says the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR).While an exceptionally high rate of violence in not unique to South Africa one of the factors that distinguishes South Africa is the legacy of apartheid and colonialism, the report says.

The previous state's policies exposed millions of boys and young men to humiliating police harassment and a violent prison system during the apartheid years. The rule of law was also undermined by the state sponsorship of township violence during that time.These uniquely South African issues nurtured a culture of violence that has reproduced itself ever since.

There was the undermining influence apartheid had on families, often leaving children to grow up in single parent families because of the migrant labour system. The result being many children, particularly those in poorer sections of South African society, have grown up with an absent father or primary care-giver and plagued by problems such as alcoholism and violence. Children who become persistent offenders are those who tend to grow up with more negative family and school experiences, the report points out.

Under apartheid, the criminal justice system focused on protecting white South Africans from crime, while enforcing apartheid laws on black South Africans.
"A major focus of policing was also suppressing resistance to the apartheid government. Investment in addressing crime in township areas was minimal, contributing to the reliance in township areas on informal mechanisms of justice...The result was that criminal groups and a criminal culture entrenched itself in some township areas."
The core problem of crime in South Africa was a subculture of violence and criminality. This subculture is characterised by young men "invested in a criminal identity and engaged in criminal careers" that involves active criminal lifestyles. "The ability to operate and achieve credibility within this subculture is strongly related to one's readiness to resort to extreme violence using a weapon," the report adds. The importance of weapons in this subculture was identified as a key driver behind the problem of armed violence in the country.

The institutionalisation of racial domination and explicitly racist ideology are also to blame.
"It is reasonable to assume that one of the pervasive consequences institutionalised racism in South Africa is internalised feelings of inferiority which might also be identified as feelings of low self-worth," the report says. Studies into violence carried out by other countries show a link between feelings of low self worth and a propensity to violence.
"The psychological legacy of institutionalised racism in the form of internalised feelings of low self-worth is likely therefore to be a contributing factor to the problem of violent crime in South Africa," it adds.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

demand pensions before you die

Hundreds of workers have marched in the Malawi capital, Lilongwe, against a bill which seeks to set the retirement age at 55 for women and 60 for men.

Average life expectancy is about 50.

Friday, November 19, 2010

violent south africa

The murder of a British honeymooner in a Gugulethu township near Cape Town made the headlines but what about those who live there ?

While the murder of tourists is rare, and generates international headlines, the murder of residents is not. More than 700 people have been killed in Gugulethu in the last five years, according to the South African Institute of Race Relations. On average that is one homicide every two-and-a-half days in a population of roughly 300,000.
A country of 49 milion people, South Africa every year reports around 18,000 murders and 50,000 rapes. In England and Wales, with 53 million people, there are around 600 murders and 12,000 rapes a year.
The police reported 68,332 sexual offences last year – an average of one every eight minutes – and one in four men surveyed by the Medical Research Council admitted committing rape. Many of these crimes go unreported, with many victims remaining invisible, ignored not only by the media but by communities, police and courts. A 2002 survey found that only one in nine South African rape survivors report the attack to the police.

Dumisani Rebombo, a gender activist and senior manager at the community organisation the Olive Leaf Foundation. says "We live in a society that has known so much violence for so much time that it becomes normalised."

Bafana Khumalo, international programmes manager of the Sonke Gender Justice Network, rejects the notion that patriarchal African subcultures make sexual violence inevitable. "I find that sometimes people seek an easy escape into tribal 'tradition'. When you interrogate it further you find a certain practice was never done anywhere but it's being used to justify something now." and explains further,"Apartheid was predicated on violence – the army, the security establishment, the state apparatus used it to dominate for decades. That became a culture in our society. Violence was seen as a normal part of life."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

White Gold

Mali is a country so impoverished it is ranked 160th out of 169th in the United Nations Human Development Index. Life expectancy here is just 49.
Mali depends on cotton for its survival. Half of its export revenues come from cotton – it is the second-largest producer in Africa after Egypt – and it is estimated that more than 3.2 million Malians, 40% of the country's rural population, depend on the crop for their livelihoods.

Despite the fact that cotton prices are running at a 15-year high after crops in China and Pakistan were hit by floods earlier this year they are victims of an iniquitous global trading system. In the United States, the scale of government support to 25,000 cotton farmers has thrown the international trading system out of kilter. The political lobby for cotton is one of the strongest in US agriculture. in 2008/2009, cotton producers were awarded $3.1bn (£1.9bn) in subsidies, which, astonishingly, exceeded the market price by around 30%. The EU and China award its farmers similar grants, albeit on a lesser scale.The result has been overproduction, the rise of fast, disposable fashion and the artificial lowering of world cotton prices. The consequences are felt most deleteriously by the poorest farmers at the end of the supply chain. The price of west African cotton has fallen every year since 2003 and despite the recent spike in prices, there has been a long-term decline in real terms since the 1950s.

The American economy does not rely on cotton to anything like the same extent. In Mali, cotton is such a valuable commodity it is known as "white gold". According to Vince Cable, the UK business secretary, the elimination of global subsidies would raise cotton farmers' incomes in sub-Saharan Africa by 30%.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

the San

Socialist Banner has posted on a number of occasions about the plight of the San , the Kalahari Bushmen and makes no apologies for doing so again.

These weary Bushmen — four men, three women and an infant — were nearing the end of a two-day journey, walking their way toward water. Taoxaga was thirsty, and it angered and baffled him that he had to walk so far. Closer by was a borehole, the wellspring to underground water. But the government had sealed it up, and he supposed this was just another way to drive the Bushmen from the sandy home they had occupied for millenniums.

“The government says we are bad for the animals, but I was born here and the animals were born here, and we have lived together very well,” he said.

But most of the Bushmen have moved to dreary resettlement areas on the outskirts, where they wait in line for water, wait on benches at the clinic, wait around for something to do, wait for the taverns to open so they can douse their troubles with sorghum beer. Once among the most self-sufficient people on earth, many of them now live on the dole, waiting for handouts.

“If there was only some magic to free me into the past, that’s where I would go,” said Pihelo Phetlhadipuo, an elderly Bushman living in a resettlement area called Kaudwane. “I once was a free man, and now I am not.”
France's highest appeals court has authorised judges to proceed with an investigation into assets held in the country by three African leaders. They are Denis Sassou-Nguesso of the Republic of the Congo and Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, as well as the late Gabonese leader, Omar Bongo.

The anti-corruption group Transparency International has accused the three of using African public funds to buy luxury homes and cars in France and estimates the total value of the three leaders' estates in France at 160m euros (£140m, $223m). President Obiang owned vehicles worth more than 4m euros, the late Bongo and his relations had 39 homes, and Mr Sassou Nguesso and his relations held 112 bank accounts. Investigations found that Bongo's wife Edith had bought a Daimler Chrysler car with a cheque drawn on a Gabonese government account in France. French police investigation found the leaders and their relatives owned homes in upmarket areas of Paris and on the Riviera, along with luxury cars including Bugattis, Ferraris and Maseratis.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Oil out - Guns in

Chinese and African Perspectives on China in Africa. Eds Axel Harneit-Sievers, Stephen Marks and Sanusha Naidu, Pambazuka Press £16.95. (Also available as an e-book from

There may be a prevalent view of Africa as a continent immersed in poverty, but in fact it is rich in many things, minerals and energy for instance. Efforts by the wealthiest and most powerful countries to exploit these resources have carried on since the end of classical colonialism and the coming of ‘independence’, and these have helped ensure the continuation of poverty for the vast majority of Africans. As China joins the club of developed capitalist states, it also sees Africa as a source of raw materials and a market for exports. This volume gives a wide-ranging overview of China’s activities in Africa, with chapters by activists and academics from both China and Africa. Almost without exception, the most interesting essays are those by African authors, with those by Chinese contributors being largely bland and uncritical.

Bilateral trade between China and Africa has increased over the last decade to more than $US100 billion. As Chinese capitalism expands, it needs to import raw materials of various kinds, and nearly 80 percent of China’s imports from Africa are oil and petroleum products. For instance, 500,000 barrels of oil are exported to China from Angola each day, and it is only Chinese companies, with mainly Chinese employees, who carry out this work, so Chinese industry benefits from both the oil and the extraction work. Furthermore, China is a major producer of wood and paper products, but has relatively little by way of forestry resources, hence Chinese companies undertake logging in Mozambique and Tanzania. Minerals such as iron ore, copper and uranium are imported to China from Liberia, Zambia and Niger.

At the same time, China exports finished goods to Africa. In Nigeria, for example, cheap Chinese textiles have undercut domestically-produced goods, increasing local unemployment. Chinese companies export cheap, and sometimes dangerous, goods aimed specifically at the African market, where consumers have little money to spend. Arms sales from China to Africa are also an important source of profits, with Sudan, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe among the purchasers.

The book contains a few pointless policy ideas, such as the African Union playing a larger role in supervising Sino-African relations. Its usefulness lies elsewhere, in showing the extent to which China is acting in essentially the same way as the other capitalist powers, and how the workers and peasants of Africa remain subject to the exploitation and oppression of both ‘home-grown’ and global rulers.

Book Review from November issue of the Socialist Standard

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A blind eye

Jimmy Mubenga died as three security guards restrained him with what is believed to be excessive force while being deported to Angola. Last month, a senior journalist at a radio station, accused by the ruling party of trying to incite rebellion, was shot dead in Luanda. In 2004, Mfulumpinga Nlandu Victor, an outspoken politician, was also shot dead in the capital. In 2007, the leader of the main opposition party, Isaías Samakuva, survived an assassination attempt unharmed. There are many lesser known cases of systematic abuse, detentions, torture, deaths, but none of these appear on the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office's (FCO) country profile. Unlike nearby Zimbabwe, Angola does not even feature in the UK's list of countries whose human rights record are of concern.

British business interests, particularly oil interests, are undoubtedly the underlying reason. Angola produces about 1.9m barrels of oil a day. One of the UK's largest companies, BP, has substantial interests there and describes Angola as one of its "six new profit centres". BP's involvement in the country began four decades ago: to date it has invested $8bn. Other British businesses operating in Angola include De La Rue, Lonrho plc, Crown Agents, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Standard Chartered and KPMG. According to Oxfam, British arms brokers were actively selling arms to Angola during the war.

The irony is that many British people take it for granted that our respect for human rights and justice is second to none. Often, when talking about dictatorships in other parts of the world, we assume we have a moral authority that other nations can only envy. The death of Mubenga while in the care of the British justice system suggests otherwise.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Letter from Zambia

Africa is a vast continent comprised of nations which because of their colonial past have different histories, just as they have variegated geographical landmarks that distinguish them. Thus African nations do not share many things in common except the forcible grouping together of tribes regardless of the interaction that existed before colonialisation.

In the attempt to create nations, different ethnic groups have been split between boundaries and the expression of nationalism has therefore not been through the medium of cultural or ethnic identity, but defined within the context of the country in which the language of the colonial master became the lingua franca.

It is imperative to note, therefore, that such a situation in which countries find themselves has made nation building and African unity a difficult task.
The political developments taking place in Zambia today are African in nature and therefore similar and comparable to political events taking place elsewhere. In Africa, parliamentary democracy defined through multi-party politics still remains a test case today. Political leaders in Africa are finding it hard to relinquish power through the medium of the ballot box. The current political scenario in Zambia may easily degenerate into political violence if left unabated. The Catholic church and some western NGOs have kept on to criticise the ruling MMD government both through the press and privately-owned radio stations. Radio ICENGELO – owned by the Catholic church has become the mouthpiece of the voiceless people on the Copperbelt.

The widening gap between the rich and poor is something the ruling MMD government of President Rupiah Banda does not seem to be concerned about. Indeed, privatisation of the Zambian economic sector can only succeed by strengthening the private- and profit-making social sector, otherwise than defending and safeguarding the economic upkeep of the peasants and workers.

Massive and periodic job losses in the formal and informal sector have come to characterise the economic policy of Zambia’s economic liberation ever since the MMD came to power in 1991 to date. During the leadership of Dr. Kenneth Kaunda education was subsidised by the state and every child had a right to free education from primary school to university level. Every year the UNIP government carried out massive recruitments of teachers, doctors, nurses, policemen and soldiers.

The change from one-party participating democracy to multi-party democracy saw the implementation of economic liberalism (defined as privatisation) under the MMD government of President Fredrick Chiluba. This entailed the liquidation of state-owned mining, industrial and financial companies. The privatisation of state-owned companies led to massive job losses – in most cases the retrenched workers have not yet received their retirement salaries.

But we cannot mop up the fact that the UNIP government had experienced economic decline from 1980 to 1991 – the MMD inherited a bankrupt economy as the case may be. But it must be emphasised that the manner in which privatisation was carried out by the MMD was less than transparent.
It was in an attempt to monopolise power that Kaunda introduced a one-party state in 1973 on the excuse that Zambia was facing tribalism under multi-party politics. He introduced the philosophy of humanism in order to weld the different ethnic groups together under “One Zambia One Nation”. He declared a state of emergency – political detentions without trial (political criticism was banned). It is a fact that both the ruling MMD and political opposition have shown no restraint in manipulating the masses through feeding them with prejudices against other tribes in order to win their support. Thus tribalistic sentiments in Zambia originate from politicians or political parties. The voting patterns that emerged from the previous three general elections depict tribal and regional allegiances in the sense that people voted on the basis of ethnic patronage.

Every economic gain achieved under the late President Levy Mwanawasa has been dissipated by the global economic downturn of 2009, making it possible for the PF leader Michael Sata to increase votes in the coming 2011 elections. General elections in urban areas of Zambia are determined by economic factors, especially for food prices, the cost of education and availability of employment. The ruling MMD has concentrated on building roads, hospitals, schools and subsiding peasant farmers. In rural areas where the party received massive votes, working class political consciousness is visibly absent in rural village communities. The failure of African leaders to relinquish power through the medium of the ballot box means that elections in Africa are conducted in a win-or-die situation. The experience of many African nations with regard to their armed forces have been sad in that they have stifled democracy with their intervention, purportedly in their attempt to correct the mistakes of their political bosses also had failed to adhere to the principle of democracy through perceived violations of the constitution. When military leaders come into power, they not only breach the constitution, they become traitors to the oath of allegiance they swore to the nation.

The reluctance of the ruling MMD to accept the PF and UPND as viable future political options is a bad omen for multi-party politics in Zambia.

Socialism is the only practical political alternative to capitalism and our message to the workers of Zambia remains the same – the creation of a classless moneyless and stateless society.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

water rights

At present, there are 2.6 billion people living without safe sanitation, which means countless communities where people are exposed to their own and others’ faeces. Excreta is then transmitted between people by flies or fingers and also finds its way into water sources, resulting in a public health crisis.

In Africa, diarrhoea kills almost one in five children before their fifth birthday.

According to the 2009 census, an estimated one in five Kenyans uses the bush as a toilet - access to piped water covers only 38.4 percent of the urban population and 13.4 percent of rural residents. With Kenya’s population projected to grow by up to one million people per year, existing water and sanitation facilities will be stretched further. Rapid urbanization has meant more informal structures with little or no water and sanitation services are springing up. Slum conditions may make the settlements a breeding ground for tomorrow’s pathogens. Already, health problems such as malnutrition, diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid fever are common, especially when water is mixed with industrial and sewage effluent.

Friday, October 01, 2010

profit before people

The UK daily newspaper , the Independent , exposes the cant and hypocrisy of the British foreign policy. The UK Government is courting the regime of the indicted war criminal Omar al-Bashir by declaring that relations with Sudan have entered a "new epoch". Britain welcomed a trade delegation from the country which has near pariah status, for the first time since warrants for President Bashir's arrest were issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, over atrocities in Darfur. Khartoum's high-level delegation met British government officials and business leaders to encourage investment in a country still targeted by US sanctions. The change has already seen complaints that UK diplomatic missions have been reduced to commercial agencies to drum up business.It comes after a visit by Henry Bellingham, the new minister for Africa, to Khartoum in July to boost trade and business ties. He told reporters there that Britain would be a "candid friend" to the regime in Sudan.

The "Opportunities in Sudan" networking event brought a delegation including senior members of Mr Bashir's NCP party together with British counterparts including the UK ambassador to Sudan, Nicholas Kay. Representatives of major British oil, engineering, agriculture and banking companies who attended this event were told that Sudan was full of "untapped natural resources" and that there was "a lot of money to be made". A brochure for the meeting and "networking reception" said Sudan is "endowed with rich natural resources, including oil, and has been emerging as a major oil producer". Those listed as attending on a document handed out at the event included mining companies, investment banks and security firms.

While in opposition the Tory party called Darfur the "world's worst humanitarian crisis" and senior officials including Mr Hague, the current Foreign Secretary, and Andrew Mitchell, now the International Development Secretary, backed the campaign to get UK companies to disinvest from Sudan. In a foreign policy advisory in 2007 Mr Mitchell wrote of the need to "change national and international business behaviour in the face of manifest gross violations of human rights".But now a Foreign Office spokesman insisted that British companies were "free to pursue legitimate commercial opportunities in Sudan" The British Government's new commercial priorities have outraged human rights groups. The ongoing crisis in Darfur which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions more as well as the North-South arms race ahead of a vote on secession are summed up in the investment booklet as small "exceptions" in "peripheral regions". Evidently we are happy to work with Sudan's Islamist regime as long as it restricts itself to killing its own people. Many Sudanese are risking their lives to create a pluralist society, but the international community is sanctioning the actions of Bashir's genocidal government.

African Narodnik

From a book review in this month's Socialist Standard

Africa’s Liberation. The Legacy of Nyerere. Edited by Chambi Chachage and Annar Cassam. Pambazuka Press. 2010.

If Julius Nyerere, President of Tanzania from independence in 1961 till 1985, had been a late 19th century Russian he would have been labelled a “Narodnik”, i.e. someone who thought that a basically agricultural country could move straight to socialism, on the basis of local communal villages, without having to pass through capitalism. The Russian Marxists denied this, but the Narodniks never got a chance to implement their ideas.

Nyerere did, with the Arusha declaration which adopted “Ujamma” (“socialism and self-reliance”) as the official state policy of Tanzania. As predicted by Marxists it failed. In fact one of the contributors to this tribute to Nyerere on the 10th anniversary of his death in 2009, Issa Shivji, once described the result as the development of a “bureaucratic bourgeoisie” in Tanzania. Today the present Tanzanian government openly embraces (is forced to) capitalist development.

This said, Nyerere comes across as sincere and principled, as genuinely wanting a society of social equality, democracy and without exploitation, and unlike nearly all the other historic African independence leaders power did not go to his head. However, the fact that he was sincere and incorruptible shows that the problem in Africa (and elsewhere) is not bad leaders but capitalism. Not even a saint can made capitalism - which African countries are currently obliged to accept – work in the interest of all.

It only remains to add that Tanzania in 1967 could have passed directly to socialism but only with the rest of the world following a world socialist revolution. Given that this did not happen, capitalism developed in Tanzania, as in Russia.


Thursday, September 30, 2010


Shocking evidence of conditions akin to slavery on trawlers that provide fish for European dinner tables has been found in an investigation off the coast of west Africa. Forced labour and human rights abuses involving African crews have been uncovered on trawlers fishing illegally for the European market by investigators for an environmental campaign group. The Environmental Justice Foundation found conditions on board including incarceration, violence, withholding of pay, confiscation of documents, confinement on board for months or even years, and lack of clean water.

The ships are crewed by untrained, illiterate workers housed in dismally unsafe and unhygienic living conditions. Crews were working and sleeping show quarters with ceilings less than a metre high where the men cannot stand up. Temperatures in the fish holds on some vessels where men were being required to sort, process and pack fish for lucrative European and Asian markets were 40 to 45 degrees, with no ventilation, On some vessels the crews of up to 200 had little access to clean drinking water.

The trawlers have mostly been identified engaging in pirate fishing off west Africa. According to a recent estimate illegal fishing accounts for between 13% and 31% of total catches worldwide each year.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

new nation , old problem

We read that Juba is a city poised to become the capital of the newly independent nation of South Sudan after a referendum in January. It is a city of at least a million people although it may be closer to two million. No one knows. But it will be a national capital like no other. One without a power grid, sewage system, garbage collection, water, gas or phone lines. There are only 17 kilometres of paved road in Juba. Most of the city's residents live in shacks made of sticks, mud and thatch on potholed streets that have no name. Much of the food is imported from Kenya and Uganda. It is not so much a city as a giant refugee camp.

Much of the tension between north and south Sudan hinges on the oil fields, mainly located in the south. But there is little evidence of oil money in Juba. Behind high walls there are a few mansions built for the governor and senior ministers. There are hundreds of UN officials in the city but they also live in relative isolation in gated compounds.

toxic waste dumping

The Scottish newspaper, The Herald, exposes the scandal of "re-cycling" , a cover for tens of thousands of tonnes of toxic waste from Scotland are being illegally dumped in Africa.

Mountains of broken televisions, defunct microwaves, worn tyres, contaminated paper and other waste exported from Scottish homes and businesses end up threatening the environment and endangering the health of people in Nigeria, Zanzibar, Ghana and elsewhere. Much of the wastes contained hazardous chemicals and metals which needed to be properly disposed of. But in developing countries, they were just dumped or burned, causing dangerous contamination. The exports are “dressed” as legitimate recycling operations, with waste electrical goods hidden behind a few rows of properly packaged and working TVs in shipping containers.Recent changes like the switch from analogue to digital displays and flat screens had created a “tsunami" of old TVs and computer monitors flooding ports in Ghana and Nigeria, . There they are often recycled in primitive and environmentally damaging conditions or simply dumped or burned if there is no market for it.

More than 100,000 tonnes of old TVs, computers, microwaves, fridges and other electrical goods are reckoned to be thrown away every year in Scotland. European Commission estimates suggest maybe half of that is unaccounted for. The huge trade in illegal waste has been condemned by environmental groups.
Duncan McLaren, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “We are adding insult to injury by dumping our contaminated and toxic waste back in the very countries, like Nigeria, that have already been scarred so deeply by our thirst for cheap oil and resources.”

Friday, September 24, 2010

GM or starvation ?

South Africa produces too much maize. Its neighbours not enough. But rather than feeding those without , South Africa's surplus maize may feed Chinese chickens. South African farmers grew 13 million tonnes of maize in the harvest that ended around May. That included a surplus of four million tonnes, an excess that has pushed down prizes and threatens to bankrupt 10,000 farmers. Most of South Africa's neighbours had bumper harvests as well, driving down demand.
"The industry was not prepared for what happened. The surplus was causing panic. Over-production is not a sustainable way of producing," said Mariam Mayet of the African Centre for Biosafety.

Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi, which suffer chronic food shortages, refuse to accept South African maize because of worries about importing genetically modified organisms. South Africa began planting genetically modified crops in the 1990s, and now they account for 57 percent of all maize planted in the country. Often the harvests are mixed together at mills, so that importers consider all maize as genetically modified. In April, Kenyan environmentalists blocked a shipment of 40,000 tonnes of South African maize at port in Mombasa.

eduction, education , education

Almost 70 million children across the world are prevented from going to school each day, a study reveals. Those living in north-eastern Africa are the least likely to receive a good education – or any education at all, an umbrella body of charities and teaching unions known as the Global Campaign for Education has found.

Kenya, which is rated in the 50 worst countries for education, delayed plans to provide a free primary school education to 8.3 million children in September.

Girls are far less likely to attend school than boys in many of the world's poorest countries. In Malawi, of those that enrol, 22.3% of boys complete primary compared to 13.8% of girls. In rural Burkina Faso, 61% of girls are married by the age of 18 and over 85% never get to see the inside of a secondary school.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Hershey, one of the largest chocolate manufacturers in the U.S., is lagging behind other companies in taking steps to ensure decent working conditions in its supply chain. In the United States, Hershey conjures up innocent childhood pleasures and enjoyable snacks. However, halfway across the globe, there is a dark side to Hershey. In West Africa, where Hershey sources much of its cocoa, the scene is one of child labor, trafficking, and forced labor. Hershey, which claims 42.5 percent of the U.S. chocolate market, has been slow to initiate adequate measures against abuses. The Hershey report notes that "modern slavery exists in diverse areas, including manufacturing, harvesting of raw materials, marketing commercial sexual activity (often aimed at the business traveler) and violent acts against workers."

Hershey's continued refusal to identify cocoa suppliers and "lack of transparency" makes it impossible for outside observers to verify the conditions on the farms. Hershey is also accused of "greenwashing" the problem, as opposed to instituting real reforms. Various charitable donations by the company display social responsibility, but there are no policies in place to combat the systemic issue of human rights within its own supply. Hershey does not have any third-party verification. Unlike its competitors, Hershey has not embraced the strongest system of certification, the Fair Trade label. Only one Hershey chocolate bar has the certification, leaving all the other popular products unaccountable.

"When you look at the amount of money in the cocoa industry and the enormous profits of companies like Hershey, the money dedicated to this issue is clearly inadequate," said Adrienne Fitch-Frankel, fair trade campaign director for Global Exchange.

what type of access?

Once more, from their own lips, capitalism is condemned as a social system that does not deliver.

Ten years after setting the goal of halving the proportion of people suffering from poverty and hunger by 2015, only mixed success can be found for the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and the degree of success is dependent not only on what country is examined but which evaluation is used.

"Most hunger is really a function of access rather than availability and with prices too high, access became much more difficult." said Alan Jury, director of U.S. relations at the World Food Programme.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

the contradiction

We read in this newspaper "An estimated 265 million people are said to be chronically hungry when Africa is known to hold 60 per cent of the world’s remaining uncultivated farmland. With one quarter of the world’s arable land on our continent why can’t we adequately feed ourselves? Uganda is an agricultural country; but why are close to 18 million of her people food insecure? The answer must lie in the way we practice agriculture, the tools we use, the techniques we apply, the investment we put into farming, and the determination of our policy makers to turn things round."

The writer correctly pin-points the contradiction yet fails to identify the cause. The problem is capitalist economics - it is the drive for profits and only when there can be a commercial return will farm-land be turned into productive fields. Peoples need for food don't figure in the equation.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Biofuel Blues

A new World Bank report (8 September 2010) explicitly identifies biofuels as one of the driving forces of land grabs in Africa and acknowledges its detrimental impact on local livelihoods.

Friends of the Earth's food campaigner Kirtana Chandrasekaran said:
"This World Bank report confirms that high Western demand for biofuels and grain for animal feed is causing land grabbing in Africa - at the expense of local people, who are left hungry and unable to afford inflated food prices..."

Five million hectares of land - an area the size of Denmark - stretching across 11 African countries, is currently being acquired for biofuels. More land will be required for biofuels if the European Union is to reach its target of obtaining 10 per cent of transport fuels from renewable sources by 2020.
The Blair Commission for Africa report “celebrated” a quadrupling of foreign investment in Africa from 2003 to 2008. But it also made an important point: the vote of confidence in Africa that foreign investment represents should not be mistaken for a sign that the lives of most ordinary Africans are getting better.
"...the lives of most Africans remain unaffected by Africa’s growing economic power. Many Africans’ incomes have not improved. Poverty remains widespread, the region’s share of international trade remains tiny, and climate change and the global economic crisis are threatening to undermine progress made."

Bono , U2's front man and self appointed spokes-man for Africa , founded fashion brand Edun with the mission of revitalizing clothing manufacturing in sub-Saharan Africa. African produced-products now account for only 15% of the company's sales. The vast majority of the fashion collection, accounting for about 70% of overall production, is now made in Asia, with the remainder coming from Peru. The new fashion collection will be feature shirts starting at around $60 and jackets topping out at about $800.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Swazi PM threatens torture of union activists

Swaziland prime minister, Barnabas Dlamini, suggests that dissidents should be beaten on their feet with spikes. He also said foreigners who meddled in the affairs of sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch should be subject to the traditional punishment, known as "sipakatane". The punishment involves using a pedal with metal or wooden spikes to beat someone's bare feet repeatedly, causing paralysis.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

oil curse

Sao Tomé and Principe is the smallest countries in Africa, with a population of only 175 000 on its two volcanic islands. With a per capita GDP of $1 700 in 2009 it is not one of the poorest nations in Africa, but the wealth is unevenly distributed: 54% of the population lives below the poverty line and 15% in extreme poverty.

Now the Sao Tome government is getting ready to award the first contracts to exploit seven oil blocks in the waters off the island's shores with estimated reserves of about ten billion barrels. Interested companies include Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Petrobras and Tullow Oil. The oil deals give no cause for optimism. There were irregularities in procedures, political manipulation, insider trading and nepotism. Concerns about irregularities in Sao Tomé have already led to the country's de-listing from the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative. The Human Rights Watch report warns that if the new government does not use the oil wealth for social ends, it risks suffering the unenviable fate of its neighbour to the south, Equatorial Guinea, where abundant oil wealth goes to a happy few, and most people still live in poverty.

tanzania child poverty

Following on from the previous post two hundred thousand Tanzanian children have died in the last 10 years simply because they were poor. More than half of the country's population are children and 54 per cent of them are malnourished. Babies account for 30 per cent of child deaths.

Save The Children accused the east African nation's government of ignoring deprived countryside kids and focusing limited efforts to cut child deaths on easy-to-reach youngsters in the better-off towns and cities.

Monday, September 06, 2010

save the children

Millions of children die before their fifth birthday because developing countries skew public health spending to the rich rather than the poor, a leading charity says today.

Save the Children says that 4 million child deaths could be averted over a 10-year period if the 42 developing countries which account for 90% of all under-five mortality took an "egalitarian approach". Although UN nations agreed to reduce child mortality by two-thirds from its 1990 level by 2015, progress has been steady and slow – and exacerbated by the rising inequalities within poor nations. In Kenya, where there was an increase of nearly 150,000 under-fives' deaths between 1993 and 2003, an "egalitarian approach", says the charity, would have actually prevented 214,000 deaths.

Save the Children says that in developing nations it is the children of the wealthiest fifth of the population who have disproportionately benefited from the focus on infant mortality to the extent that in some cases the poorest fifth of the population are no better or even worse off. In Burkina Faso, where a reduction in child mortality rates masks an actual increase in child mortality among the poorest 20% of the population.

Sub-Saharan Africa, where close to one child in seven still dies before their fifth birthday, faces the greatest challenge. Although the mortality rate in the region has fallen, high fertility levels mean the absolute number of child deaths has increased since 1990, from 4.2 to 4.6 million.

Friday, September 03, 2010

xenophobia in South Africa

"Xenophobia is part of life. We do not live easy here. We only survive," says Somali shopkeeper, Abdinasir Shaikh Aden. Aden was threatened with his life during the run-up to the Cup. He was chased away from his small grocery shop and told that foreigners would have no future in South Africa once the tourists and fans had gone home.

A dangerous combination of cramped living conditions and competition for jobs remains. The recession and deepening unemployment in South Africa is exacerbating the pressure on poor communities.Overcrowded and poverty-stricken areas are most at risk of a flare-up of tensions.

Liliane Mukangwa, who settled in South Africa with her husband and five children, moving back to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is not an option."It is hard for us as we have nowhere to go. We do not want to go home. It is too dangerous there." Mukangwa has been living in South Africa for eight years.She travels to her house every day during daylight hours accompanied by family and friends from the DRC. She is scared of travelling alone on public transport: "There is often tension on the trains."

South Africa is to start expelling Zimbabweans again, from 31 December, the government has announced. An estimated two million Zimbabweans are thought to be in South Africa. Human rights groups have condemned the South African government's decision. Zimbabwe exile groups fear that anyone forced to return could still face persecution.

Mozambique news

Protesters staged a second day of strikes and demonstrations Thursday over food price increases in Mozambique, one of the poorest countries in the world. The violence has so far left seven people dead and 288 wounded, the government says. Clashes between police and protesters broke out Wednesday and Thursday, as crowds in impoverished neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Maputo took to the streets.

They were protesting a 17-percent increase in the price of bread, as well as fuel, water and electricity rises. Mozambique has a per capita income of just 794 dollars (620 euros) a year. Prices in the import-dependent country have risen on the back of a South African rand whose value has appreciated 43 percent against the Mozambican metical since this time last year. In January there were 4 meticais to the South African Rand and 29.3 to the US dollar. Today the official rate is 4.9 and 36.3, a 25% devaluation in just eight months.

Domestic worker Mercela Manuel says she still has to go to work so she can feed her three children. "The cost of life is expensive. Very expensive. It’s difficult to live," she says. Her wage of 54 dollars (42 euros) already makes it difficult to afford the 12 dollars (9 euros) she pays for the family’s bread each month.

About half of Mozambique's 20 million people live below the poverty line, despite an average economic growth rate of 8 percent for the past 15 years, but in 2009 this slowed to five percent. Official unemployment is around 21 percent, but in Maputo, a city of about 1.5 million, the poverty level is estimated as high as 60 percent.

The prices of staple foods, such as maize and rice, have come under increasing pressure, despite "satisfactory" cereal production of maize, sorghum, millet and paddy rice - projected at 2.49 million tons, five percent lower than the record 2008/09 harvest

The Editorial Director of O Pais, Jeremias Langa, talks of the “enormous disenchantment with the widening gap between those who have an those who do not have”. It is said that Mozambique is a world example of economic growth but this is not reflected in the quality of live of most citizens. It is said the Mozambique has the most agricultural potential in SADC but agriculture has been left to subsistence production. “Instead of offering solutions of the citizens, we offer magician’s tricks to distract the citizens,” he concludes. Thus, “there is a class that manifestly feels itself excluded from the distribution of income, that feels that the state has broken the social contract, that does not see that state as a source of solutions but of problems – because its promotes accumulation by a few to the detriment of the majority.”

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

ANC - Anti Working Class

"Black economic empowerment has been a disaster because it created this massive economic inequality; it created this class of idle rich who have tons of money but do nothing." Moeletsi Mbeki explained.

South Africa's large working class was under the misguided impression that the ANC was "the party of the people".

"The unions in this country do not understand the political economy of South Africa. They think that the ANC is the party of the people. The ANC is the party of the black middle class. The fact that the masses vote for it does not mean they control it. The policies of the ANC favour the black middle class and the established businesses. They do not favour the working class. You just have to look at the types of houses that the ANC government builds for ordinary South Africans," he said. "If you had a party that was a pro-working-class party, it would not have built these so-called RDP houses that are being built by the ANC government. The unions have all along been under the illusion that the ANC is the government of the working class, and [Zwelinzima] Vavi and them are now beginning to realise that this is not the case." Mbeki said the striking public-sector workers faced a special dilemma. "They think the ANC is their ally but at the same time they feel they are not getting any benefits out of this alliance. Therefore you are beginning to get a very acrimonious environment emerging between the public-sector unions and the government."

His comments came on the same day Vavi delivered his strongest condemnation yet of Zuma's government at a press conference in Johannesburg. The general secretary of Cosatu said that the alliance was "dysfunctional" as the strikes continued, slamming the corruption of the state.

Socialist Banner finds it a shame that Mbeki fails to understand that there is no such thing as a benevolent capitalism to replace the crony capitalism he criticises.

Siyaya eSwaziland, 7th September!

The Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC), formed by trade unions, political parties, civil society groups and churches, has called for a global day of action on September 7, 2010. It will include a mass protest and show of “defiance” in Swaziland. Delegates from the international labour movement will join the action in Swaziland.

1.3 million inhabitants of the land-locked southern African kingdom live under the thumb of one of the world’s last absolute monarchies, repressive regime whose plunder of the country is systematic and comprehensive. King Mswati III controls the parliament, appoints cabinet ministers, judges and senior civil servants, and makes and breaks the law at will. Political parties are banned, along with most demonstrations and meetings. Strikes are illegal. Gatherings of any kind are often broken up by police assaults. The media is subject to constant harassment and intimidation. During the latest wave of repression, in May 2010, democracy activist Sipho Jele, who had been arrested and interrogated, was allegedly “found” by police hanging from the rafters in a prison toilet.

Swaziland’s autocracy is based on the “Tinkhundla” system through which royally sponsored traditional leaders dispense patronage and exercise control at local level. But Swazis themselves reap no benefits from it. Swaziland now suffers the world’s highest rate of HIV/AIDS infection – perhaps as much as 40% of the adult population and 42% of all expectant mothers. Swaziland has the highest annual rate of death from AIDS, about 10,000 a year - 1% of the population. Life expectancy has plummeted and is probably now as low as anywhere in the world. Fifteen per cent of households are headed by orphaned children.

While 70% of the population live on less than a dollar a day and 25% rely on food aid, the royal family make do on some $67,000 a day. According to US-based business magazine Forbes, Mswati’s personal net worth is an estimated $200 million.Mswati is also head of a multi-million pound conglomerate, set up in 1968 by royal charter, which owns a significant slice of nearly every major Swazi business and industry – sugar, mobile phones, mines, media, tourism. Theoretically, Mswati holds the conglomerate’s assets in trust for the nation, but the fund, like all royal assets, is shielded from public scrutiny. Six in ten Swazis are engaged in subsistence farming, mostly on communal land owned in trust by the king, whose family also directly own a major share of the remaining “privately owned” land. Forced labour is commonplace. Under Swazi Administration Order No. 6 of 1998, it is a duty of Swazis to obey orders from local chiefs to participate in compulsory works (which may include construction and agricultural labour or even weeding the gardens in Mswati’s palaces). There are severe penalties for those who refuse. The Swazi monarchy has maintained its grip by collaborating with the prevalent regional powers, first with the Boer republics, then the British Empire and in the 1980s with apartheid South Africa. Besides assisting in the arrest and killing of African National Congress members who had fled to Swaziland, the king denounced sanctions against South Africa, the only Commonwealth leader besides British PM Margaret Thatcher to do so. Coca-Cola, whose concentrate plant, exporting to much of Africa, is located in Swaziland because of favourable tax arrangements and access to cheap raw sugar. Coke accounts for up to 40 per cent of Swaziland’s GDP, and an unknown but sizeable chunk of this goes directly into the king’s pocket.

The days of the absolute monarchy are definitely numbered.