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