Tuesday, June 28, 2011

From deficit to surplus

Kofi Annan cites Africa as answer to global food crisis. The number of hungry people in the world is set to top one billion again this year as rising food prices push millions more into poverty, the former secretary general of the United Nations warned. One in three Africans is chronically hungry, according to the UN, despite $3 billion being spent on food aid for the continent every year. About 70% of Africans are involved in agriculture, but almost 250 million people–a quarter of the population–are undernourished. That number has risen 100 million in the past 20 years as food production has fallen 10%, compared to an increase of 145% for the rest of the world.

“Africa is the continent which has perhaps the greatest opportunities to help find solutions to global food insecurity,” he said. “Even within existing cultivated land, a doubling of cereal yields would turn Africa into a major food surplus region.”

In the 1960s the continent was actually a net exporter of food. Fifty years later Africa imports around a quarter of its food at a cost of $30 billion a year.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Coca-Cola is one of the largest and wealthiest companies in the world, as well as being one of the world's best-known brands. The desperate situation of the poverty-stricken workers in the sugar cane fields in Swaziland, who harvest the sugar cane that is the most important ingredient of African Coke. Their plight is not deemed newsworthy. They live their lives in a brutal and repressive absolute monarchy where King Mswati III and a small elite live in luxury while the majority of Swazis live in abject poverty.

Over one billion cans or bottles of Coca-Cola are consumed every day and the Coca-Cola Company makes huge profits every year, over $15-billion in 2005.

Due to the lessening of growth potential in Western markets, where the American market had been dropping off since 1984, Coca-Cola has delved into the markets of developing countries, not least in Africa. Here growth potential is higher and competition less fierce. Coca-Cola can be bought all over Africa, where the Coca-Cola Company is one of the largest employers with over 160 plants and nearly 70,000 employees. Coca-Cola has therefore had a huge impact on the economies of both many African countries and their citizens in recent years. Not least in Swaziland, where Coca-Cola contributes over 40 per cent of the country's gross domestic product.

The Coca-Cola concentrate that is the most important ingredient in the Coca-Cola that is consumed in Africa and parts of Asia and Australia comes from a huge industrial plant in Mapatsa, Swaziland. The Coca-Cola Company chose Swaziland because of the favourable tax arrangement that the regime gives it, as well as the country's abundance of cheap labour and raw sugar. The real point, though, is that Coca-Cola is probably in Swaziland because it is a dictatorship that oppresses its unions and population. This allows wages to be kept low and unemployment high. Swaziland has been 'Coca-colonised', so to speak.
'Coca-Cola can blackmail Swaziland at any moment it likes. If it doesn't get its way it simply has to threaten to take its business elsewhere,' as Richard Rooney, a former associate professor at the University of Swaziland puts it.

Coca-Cola has been accused of dehydrating local communities in its pursuit of water resources to feed its own plants, drying up farmers' wells and destroying local agriculture...it takes almost three litres of water to make one litre of Coca-Cola," says English anti-poverty and human rights organisation, War on Want, in a report on Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola and its affiliates have also been accused of abusing 'countless fundamental human rights', according to a HRCI research report, such as anti-union violence, discriminatory practises and union busting. Coca-Cola is certainly happy with their relationship with the autocratic Swazi regime.

Cutting cane is backbreaking work, and accidents are common,' states a 2004 Human Rights Watch report on sugar cane workers. 'Of all forms of agricultural work, sugar cane is the most hazardous.' This certainly also applies to Swaziland, according to the sugar cane workers. In a small village in Vuvulane, most of the adults worked in the sugar fields as casual labourers for between 400 and 550 rand per month. 'This is not enough to pay for medicine, proper food or school fees for our children,' one villager said. 'Sometimes we do not eat for days. We used to have our own vegetable gardens but these were confiscated by the sugar company. We sometimes fish in the nearby dam in the evening, when it is dark. If we are caught we will be arrested as the dam is owned by the sugar cane company,' another villager said. Practically none of the children in the village, who were clad in dirty and ripped clothes and looked underfed, attended school and many of the villagers receive food aid. In addition to this, the water supply is controlled by a privately owned company that readily closes the water supply from the village if they are not paid on time.

Does Swaziland really benefit from having the Coca-Cola Company effectively propping up its royal dictatorship? Yes, the Coca-Cola Company might provide a large part of Swaziland's annual GDP, but what good is this to the impoverished sugar cane worker or the average Swazi who can barely make ends meet? What good is it when much of this GDP ends up in the pockets of a small elite?

Improved consciousness has enabled Swazi workers to link their poverty, poor working conditions and the low wages that the multinationals pay to regime and company neglect and neo-liberalism. And the workers of Swaziland have therefore been more open and clear in their demands in recent years. Examples of this are the massive strikes by over 16,000 underpaid, and frequently abused, (mostly) female textile workers, in 2008, and the recent historically large demonstrations for socio-economic justice and democracy in March and April 2011. Swazi workers might previously have seen their struggle against Coca-Cola and the Swazi regime as akin to David's struggle against Goliath. But recent events seem to prove that they are slowly waking up to the fact that David ended up winning that battle.

Taken from here http://allafrica.com/stories/201106260017.html

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

No Benefit from Growth for the Poor

The high economic growth enjoyed by many African states during the 2000s have not led to poverty elimination. This is because the growth did not happen in the sectors where poor people work, as in agriculture, or in the rural areas where poor people live, or simply did not involve labour provided by poor people.

Economist Jan Rielaender explained good economic performance due to investment in oil and other extractive industries has had little effect on poverty. Around 75 percent of foreign investment in Africa has been in oil-rich countries and in so-called extractive industries with few links with the rest of the domestic economy or with poor people.

From 2001 to 2009 only three of the 14 African countries, where the annual gross domestic product growth rates were higher than the regional average of 5.3 percent, registered substantial poverty reduction rates.

The African continent registered a growth rate of 4.7 percent in 2010, and is estimated to rise to 5.0 percent in 2011.
"This is good news for Africa, but not good enough for millions of people who are yet to feel the benefits of prosperity in their daily lives," a joint report released last month, the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Union Commission said

Monday, June 20, 2011

can't pay - can't eat

Oxfam's Pan Africa Director from Kenya, noted that Africa is capable of producing enough food to ensure all of its citizens have enough to eat. Yet in many African countries prices are already at an all time high and even staple foods are unaffordable to many people.

"Food is about power - those with power and money can eat, those without cannot. Africa is abundant with resources, yet governments fail to invest effectively in its biggest resources - its people and its land," Irungu Houghton said.

Oxfam's campaign laid out key areas for Africa's movement to achieve food independence and feed a growing population. These include stopping "land grabs" by rich nations, trans-national corporations and local elites which the aid agency noted are giving away the key resources that the people of Africa need for food production. Women and other small-scale producers it says must have stronger rights to land and resources. According to the report land rights are of particular concern in Africa with fertile farmland and grazing land often being given over to corporate interests and used for tourism, large-scale agriculture for exports rather than feeding local people.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ghana - bling versus blight

Ghana's Gini coefficient – a measure of income distribution in which zero indicates perfect equality and 1 corresponds with perfect inequality – is 0.41. Ghana is one of the world's most unequal countries and the inequality is worsening. Under Ghana's new status as a Middle Level Income Country is the fact that most of the benefits of the economic growth over the years have gone to a fairly small elites that live in places like East Legon and Airport Residential Area, with ritzy surroundings inside walled enclaves. It is easy to see the latest expensive cars roaming around and the floating of the famed African bling.

Inequality among Ghanaians is seen more at the country being at the 130th position of the 2010 UN Human Development Index ranked among 169 countries for their wellbeing. Though Ghana is at the medium human development, issues of life expectancy, literacy, education, child welfare, healthcare, energy, access to water, toilets/sanitation and general standards of living aren't equally distributed. The human wellbeing inadequacies do not affect the rich who can easily afford the basic necessities in life and can easily send members of their families abroad for better services. That makes Ghanaians unequal.

Polls from Gallop revealed that since 2008, 12.7 million Ghanaians, who represent 53 percent of the 24 million population, “cannot afford the cost of food …Those who admit to living comfortably have dropped from 20% in 2007 to 4% of the population in 2010. In 2007, 11 percent of Ghanaians said they were suffering under severe economic hardships.”

The Sub Metro Director of Okaikoi South, an Accra subburb, Nathaniel Adzotor, says “about one-third of residents in Accra live in slums and as a result do not enjoy adequate social services.”
Only 13 percent of Ghanaians have access to toilets. In Accra, the capital, 90 percent of its population have no access to toilets. As of 2009, life expectancy at birth is about 59 years for males and 60 years for females with infant mortality at 51 per 1000 live births. In a country of 24 million, there are only about 15 physicians and 93 nurses per 100,000 persons. Press reports say there are only four psychiatrists in a country of 24 million. In most rural areas, there are no medical doctors and medical facilities aren't there.

There are the new found oilfields, which may contain over 3 billion barrels of light oil. Hess Corp announced that it has hit oil and gas deposits off the coast of Ghana. Earlier, Texas-based Kosmos Energy had discovered more oil and gas at Cape Three Points. The expanding oil and gas finds are gradually positioning Ghana as major oil and gas producer. But how majority of Ghanaians will benefit from the oil and gas find depend on the degree of democratic growth.

Monday, June 13, 2011

surviving childhood

A third of youngsters in Sierra Leone are underweight and another third have stunted growth. Poverty plays a big part.

In 2008, a demographic health survey suggested one in seven (140 per 1,000) died before the age of five.

Pneumonia and diarrhoea account for 40% of child deaths in Sierra Leone, vaccine-preventable infections.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

There Is No Idle Land In Africa

Vandana Shiva puts it, “We are seeing dispossession on a massive scale. It means less food is available and local people will have less. There will be more conflict and political instability and cultures will be uprooted. The small farmers of Africa are the basis of food security. The food availability of the planet will decline.”

The new scramble for African land has visited a multitude of problems on ordinary Africans and set the stage for ecological crisis and widespread hunger. African governments have falsely claimed that land available for sale is unused. Some defend the investors' acquisition of land in their countries, saying it is “virgin” or “under-utilized” or “uncultivated” or “degraded” land.In many cases, farmers and pastoralists have worked the land for centuries. However, governments are claiming this land is idle in order to more easily sell or lease it to private investors. Experts in the field, however, affirm that there is no such thing as idle land in Africa. According to Michael Taylor, a policy specialist at the International Land Coalition, “If land in Africa hasn't been planted, it's probably for a reason. Maybe it's used to graze livestock or deliberately left fallow to prevent nutrient depletion and erosion. Anybody who has seen these areas identified as unused understands that there is no land…that has no owners and users.” The land has a real purpose: it may support corridors for pastoralists; provide fallow space for soil regeneration; provide access to limited water sources; be reserved for future generations; or enable local farmers to increase production. The fact that rich and emerging economies do not have or do not respect pastoralists or use land for age-old customs does not mean we have a right to label this land unused.

Large-scale land acquisition poses massive ecological threats to the African environment. The dangers are numerous: hazardous pesticides and fertilizers cause water contamination from their runoff, the introduction of genetically modified seeds and other problems. Land previously left to lie fallow is now threatened with overuse from intensified agricultural development, a trend further exacerbated by speculative investment and the drive for short-term profits. Yet deals transferring vast tracts of land are typically taking place far removed from local farmers and villagers with virtually no accountability.

Investors have been quoted as saying they will employ 10,000 people and use high-tech, high-production farming techniques. The two promises are completely incongruous - high-tech, high production devices are appealing precisely because they reduce labor. Investors will not hire significant numbers of people and simultaneously scale-up their production techniques. And if they choose the former, they are likely to create low-paying jobs and poor working conditions.

Nations with large amounts of land sold or leased to foreign owners are often food importers, and their inability to feed their own populations is exacerbated by the displacement of food producers who grow for local use. The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) reports that Africa has lost 20 percent of its capacity to feed itself over the past four decades. Ethiopia alone has 13 million people in immediate need of food assistance, yet its government has put over 7 million acres of land up for sale.
From here

Saturday, June 11, 2011

the health exodus

The global shortage of health workers is estimated at 4.2 million by the World Health Organization (WHO), but the migration of doctors, nurses, midwives and pharmacists from poor to rich countries means the shortfall is not evenly distributed - of the 57 nations identified as having reached a crisis point, 36 are in sub-Saharan Africa.

In some countries with fragile health systems and heavy disease burdens, over half of all highly trained health workers have left for job opportunities abroad. In some of the worst cases rural hospitals have been left with just one doctor and a handful of nurses to attend to thousands of patients. Skilled professionals whose salaries are so low that they have to struggle to make ends meet will obviously look for better paying opportunities elsewhere, either in the private or NGO sectors, or overseas. Some have pointed out that the Global Code of Practice, as well as other interventions designed to reduce health personnel migration, infringe on the right of health workers to leave their countries like any other workers in search of a better life. Martha Kwataine of the Malawi Health Equity Network described it as a potential abuse of human rights. “Why should we make agreements just for health workers?” she said. “As human beings, they have a right to seek employment where they want.”

More money is not usually enough to keep an overworked, under-supported nurse in a rural clinic where she lacks the essential drugs and equipment to do her job properly, there are no good schools to send her children, and no opportunities for further training or career advancement.

“One of the biggest de-motivators - if you’re trained to provide care and save lives - is to find yourself in a remote, under-resourced location and your hands are tied by a lack of equipment, personnel and drugs,” said Dr George Pariyo of the Global Health Workforce Alliance.

In South Africa there are about 67 doctors per 100,000 people, but only 22 of those work in the public sector and a mere 5 are in rural public health facilities, despite the introduction of special allowances for health professionals working in rural areas.


Thursday, June 09, 2011

south africa grabs the congo

Land concession agreements have proliferated across Africa and elsewhere, leading to concerns that the promised benefits for locals - especially jobs - are never realized, while potential environmental and political damages are undersold. A 2011 World Bank report studied the increasing number of land deals from the past two years and concluded that "the risks are often large. Case studies demonstrate that even some of the profitable projects do not generate satisfactory local benefits, while, of course, none of the unprofitable or non-cooperational ones do."

"Congo has been waiting for an investment initiative like this, the creation of thousands of jobs. More than anything else, the country is expecting abundant food since the South African farmers will produce crops and raise livestock,"
said Minister of Land Affairs and Public Domain Pierre Mabiala.

40 South African farmers are leasing government-owned land for 30 years, with the provision to extend it for two terms. The farmlands include 63,000ha in Niari and 17,000ha in Bouenza, in the southwest.

Arable land occupies just 11 per cent of the Earth’s surface at present. As James Heartfield has argued ‘Between 1982 and 2003, national parks grew from nine million square kilometres to 19million, 12.5 per cent of the earth’s surface – or more than the combined land of China and South-East Asia. In the US more than one billion acres of agricultural land is lying fallow.’ In Europe, farmers have received payments to not grow food - ‘set-aside’ (although the practice has effectively been suspended since 2008, after food prices rose sharply that year). Meanwhile, developing countries are starting to act to turn once-infertile land into farmland. In Brazil, a huge area of dry savannah called the cerrado has been converted into productive land. The amount of land we have available for food is flexible.

There are 10 to 12 million hectares of land with agricultural potential in Congo, according to government data, but only 2 percent is farmed.

Wynand du Toit, vice-president of the Association of South African farmers who signed the deal explained "Our priority is to help produce enough to feed the country - we are not looking at exports for at least two or three years and then only if we produce a surplus which we cannot sell to the domestic market. If we do end up producing more than we can sell here then we might consider selling to neighbouring Gabon and the Central African Republic." Du Toit said the farmers viewed the acquisition as a business venture, and a way of diversifying investments.

Critics say bringing in foreign farmers is not the way to address food insecurity in the country. "We don't actually need operators or farmers from elsewhere to nourish us. We have a clear problem: our authorities do not assist our own farmers as they should," complained Dieudonné Mingui, head of the NGO Initiatives for Development and Progress. "Farmers right here don't lack initiative, they lack the means to develop large projects,"

Joseph Moutanda Kassao, president of a cooperative of 320 growers based in Brazzaville said "If the South African farmers are really coming to produce and sell all the produce on the local market, it's a good thing. But if they're coming for their own interests, it will be a shame...Let's wait and see."

Lets wait and see...can the capitalist leopard change its spots?


Once again Socialist Banner reports on the Great Land Grab of Africa. "The same financial firms that drove us into a global recession by inflating the real estate bubble through risky financial manoeuvres are now doing the same with the world's food supply,"

Hedge funds are behind "land grabs" in Africa to boost their profits in the food and biofuel sectors, a US think-tank says.

The Oakland Institute said hedge funds and other foreign firms had acquired large swathes of African land, often without proper contracts. It said the acquisitions had displaced millions of small farmers. Foreign firms farm the land to consolidate their hold over global food markets, the report said. They also use land to "make room" for export commodities such as biofuels and cut flowers.

It said hedge funds and other speculators had, in 2009 alone, bought or leased nearly 60m hectares of land in Africa - an area the size of France. It added that some firms obtained land after deals with gullible traditional leaders or corrupt government officials. The contracts gave investors a range of incentives, from unlimited water rights to tax waivers.

"The research exposed investors who said it is easy to make a deal - that they could usually get what they wanted in exchange for giving a poor tribal chief a bottle of Johnnie Walker whisky" said Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute. "When these investors promise progress and jobs to local chiefs it sounds great, but they don't deliver.

"No-one should believe that these investors are there to feed starving Africans.These deals only lead to dollars in the pockets of corrupt leaders and foreign investors," said Obang Metho of Solidarity Movement for New Ethiopia, a non-governmental organisation in Addis Ababa.

In Tanzania, the memorandum of understanding between the local government and US-based farm development corporation AgriSol Energy, which is working with Iowa University, stipulates that the two main locations – Katumba and Mishamo – for their project are refugee settlements holding as many as 162,000 people that will have to be closed before the $700m project can start. The refugees have been farming this land for 40 years.

In Ethiopia, a process of "villagisation" by the government is moving tens of thousands of people from traditional lands into new centres while big land deals are being struck with international companies.

The largest land deal in South Sudan, where as much as 9% of the land is said by Norwegian analysts to have been bought in the last few years, was negotiated between a Texas-based firm, Nile Trading and Development and a local co-operative run by absent chiefs. The 49-year lease of 400,000 hectares of central Equatoria for around $25,000 (£15,000) allows the company to exploit all natural resources including oil and timber. The company says it intends to apply for UN-backed carbon credits that could provide it with millions of pounds a year in revenues.

In Mozambique, where up to 7m hectares of land is potentially available for investors, western hedge funds are said in the report to be working with South Africans businesses to buy vast tracts of forest and farmland for investors in Europe and the US. The contracts show the government will waive taxes for up to 25 years, but few jobs will be created.

"The scale of the land deals being struck is shocking" said Mittal. "The conversion of African small farms and forests into a natural-asset-based, high-return investment strategy can drive up food prices and increase the risks of climate change."

This is what Marx described in Capital in 1867 as "primitive accumulation" and as he it: "The expropriation of the agricultural producer, of the peasant, from the soil, is the basis of the whole process." Deprived of their land, their homes, their traditional surroundings and the protection of the law, the expropriated African farmers are left to sell the one thing they possessed - their ability to work.

As Honore de Balzac, the French novelist wrote back in the 19th century, “Behind every great fortune lies a great theft.” !!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Talking in comfort

Equatorial Guinea has built a multimillion-pound deluxe "city" to host African leaders while the majority of its people live in dire poverty.

Sipopo boasts 52 luxury presidential villas, a conference hall, artificial beach, luxury hotel and the county's first 18-hole golf course. It was built over two years to host an African Union (AU) summit that will last just a week. An official website says the complex also has a landing strip, heliport, hospital and buildings for banquets and events.

"It's definitely a misplaced priority by the Equatorial Guinea government," said Tutu Alicante, executive director of EG Justice, a group focused on human rights in the west African nation. "This is a country where 75% of people are living on less than $1 (60p) a day. This attempt to give an image of prosperity is totally misguided."


Monday, June 06, 2011

Walmart arrives

The South African government approved Wal-Mart's $2.4 billion deal to buy local chain Massmart, opening the door to expansion throughout the continent. Wal-Mart itself plans to expand deeper into the 53 other countries of the African continent. Critics say the move will cost thousands of jobs. South African unions announced plans to strike at Massmart stores. According to a government witness at the Com­petition Tribunal, shifting just 1 percent of Massmart's product line from local goods to imported goods would cost South Africa 4,000 jobs

The country’s largest union group, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) said “Wal-Mart is more likely to destroy jobs by using its competitive advantage to force its competitors out of business” by selling goods made in “sweatshops by nonunion workers.”

"We've looked at Wal-Mart's record, we know their story in the US, and we know what impact they have on the employment, and on the market," says Christy Hoffman of UNI Global Union, the worldwide union federation representing 20 million workers, in an interview. "A lot of the evidence we submitted to the Competition [Tribunal] shows what is the impact of Wal-Mart in the communities where they operate, and overall there is a decline in wages, there is a slight decline in employment, and the supply chains are put under substantial pressure. Small and medium-sized businesses cannot compete with Wal-Mart." According to Ms. Hoffman, Wal-Mart essentially pulled out of the German markets because German authorities discovered that Wal-Mart was selling milk at below cost, and this was affecting other businesses. "They were told by the German authorities they couldn't operate this way in Germany, using their business model, so they left."

Saturday, June 04, 2011

IMF Kills

In Kenya, the IMF insisted the government introduce fees to see the doctor – so the number of women seeking help or advice on STDs fell by 65 per cent, in one of the countries worst affected by AIDS in the world.

In Ghana, the IMF insisted the government introduce fees for going to school – and the number of rural families who could afford to send their kids crashed by two-thirds.

In Zambia, the IMF insisted they slash health spending – and the number of babies who died doubled.

The Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz worked closely with the IMF for over a decade “When the IMF arrives in a country, they are interested in only one thing. How do we make sure the banks and financial institutions are paid?... It is the IMF that keeps the financial speculators in business. They’re not interested in development, or what helps a country to get out of poverty.”

In the 1990s, the small country of Malawi in south-eastern Africa was facing severe economic problems after enduring one of the worst HIV-AIDS epidemics in the world and surviving a horrific dictatorship. They had to ask the IMF for help. They said they would only give assistance if Malawi agreed to the ‘structural adjustments’ the IMF demanded. They ordered Malawi to sell off almost everything the state owned to private companies and speculators, and to slash spending on the population. They demanded they stop subsidising fertilizer, even though it was the only thing that made it possible for farmers – most of the population – to grow anything in the country’s feeble and depleted soil. They told them to prioritise giving money to international bankers over giving money to the Malawian people. So when in 2001 the IMF found out the Malawian government had built up large stockpiles of grain in case there was a crop failure, they ordered them to sell it off to private companies at once. They told Malawi to get their priorities straight by using the proceeds to pay off a loan from a large bank the IMF had told them to take out in the first place, at a 56 per cent annual rate of interest. The Malawian president protested and said this was dangerous. But he had little choice. The grain was sold. The banks were paid.

The next year, the crops failed. The Malawian government had almost nothing to hand out. The starving population was reduced to eating the bark off the trees, and any rats they could capture. The BBC described it as Malawi’s “worst ever famine.” There had been a much worse crop failure in 1991-2, but there was no famine because then the government had grain stocks to distribute. So at least a thousand innocent people starved to death.

At the height of the starvation, the IMF suspended $47m in aid, because the government had ‘slowed’ in implementing the marketeering ‘reforms’ that had led to the disaster. ActionAid, the leading provider of help on the ground, conducted an autopsy into the famine. They concluded that the IMF “bears responsibility for the disaster.”

Then, in the starved wreckage, Malawi did something poor countries are not supposed to do. They told the IMF to get out. Suddenly free to answer to their own people rather than foreign bankers, Malawi disregarded all the IMF’s ‘advice’, and brought back subsidies for the fertiliser, along with a range of other services to ordinary people. Within two years, the country was transformed from being a beggar to being so abundant they were supplying food aid to Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Subordinating the interests of ordinary people to bankers and speculators causeds starvation .

Friday, June 03, 2011

Knowing your enemy

The political uprisings that have taken place in North Africa and Syria bring to mind the political uprisings of 1848 in Europe – they are calls for political, social and economic reforms. The nature of all these political revolutions emerges from an economic background in which wealth exists side by side with poverty. That is to say that workers and students in oil-producing nations have risen against their aristocratic rulers demanding political freedom and economic empowerment. We in the WSM have come to notice one important thing from the nature of these political uprisings in Libya, Bahrain and Syria. Mass demonstrations that are not well equipped are being met with brutal resistance from the armed forces. This is a political lesson to those who advocate revolution through unparliamentary methods.

It is feared in Zambia today that if the Patriotic Front fails to win the presidential election (2011), mass demonstrations will take place. But mass demonstrations in Zambia are characterised by mob violence – stoning vehicles and looting private property. The Zambia police will react and innocent lives will be lost. To contemplate of a political failure in Zambia will in itself be a bad omen for parliamentary democracy conceived under multi-partyism. Political change brings with it social and economic collapse.

This was the case when the MMD came into power in 1991. The privatisation of the mining giant ZCCM has led to massive job losses and economic dislocation on the Copperbelt mining towns. New mining companies rely on foreign sourced labour and contractors. The new private mining companies create few jobs and are thus capital intensive. This is very common in Chinese-owned mines – walking in the Zambian cities today it is common to find that many educated workers and general workers have a natural respect for the British and white South African investors than with the Chinese. The Chinese have a habit of punching and shooting at striking workers. The labour relations in Chinese-owned mines remain very poor. Because nearly all the copper mining companies are owned by foreign conglomerates, the recent rise in copper prices on the London stock exchange has meant these favourable balance of payments have not translated into increased incomes and social development.
Indeed, structural unemployment exists on the Copperbelt when one looks at the kind of jobs being on offer on the labour market.

The ruling MMD is haunted by the political largesse of the late President Mwanawasa in the sense that President Rupiah Banda is expected to accomplish the political and economic benchmarks left by Mwanawasa. The fight against corruption and the implementation of a new and lasting constitution are among the foremost tasks Banda must contend with. But the rejection of a new Constitution Bill in parliament has sent wrong signals to the survival of the MMD. When the majority demand for political change at any price – parliamentary democracy remains very perplexing in the sense that a wrong leader may come to power was the case in Germany¸ when the Nazi Party come to power.

Though I may seem so hard in lampooning the political misfortunes of the MMD, yet we in the WSM do not envisage a political alternative to capitalism in Zambia apart from formulating the long-standing political and economic demand for an end to wage slavery and the exploitation of man by man. Personally, I find Banda to be an honest fellow trapped in the dirty politics of capitalism – dogged like everyone else by the brutal forces of ethnic and tribal loyalties. Power and wealth in most African countries remains under the legacy of conventional politics – politics is a crust of social and economic privileges.

In Zambia the political opposition parties have quickly likened the political events taking place in North Africa to the situation prevailing in Zambia today. Indeed there is a reluctance by the MMD leadership to resolve the 51 percent clause demanded by the majority in the New Constitution. By this means it is believed a presidential election needs to be re-run whenever a contender fails to win a 51 percent margin. The ruling MMD has deleted the clause from the proposed and amended Constitution.

Because Zambia will face a tripartite general election in 2011, the church and political opposition parties are demanding the setting up of a parallel voting tabulation (PVT) so that voters may know in advance who has won or lost an election. Banda has warned those advocating PVT in that it was illegal and was not enshrined in the current Zambian Constitution. The demise of the PF-UNDP political pact has given strength to the MMD – this must be glimpsed behind the ethnic and tribal loyalties that tend to determine voting patterns. The PF is strongly supported in Luapola, Northern, Copperbelt and Lusaka provinces. The MMD is widely supported in Central, Eastern and Western provinces. The UPND under Hakainde Hichilema remains strongly based in Southern Province. Recent parliamentary elections have seen the PF gaining a foothold in North Western, Eastern and Western Provinces. The ruling MMD, though crippled by corruption has done well in building new roads and opening up mines in rural areas. The PF has become the second and largest political party in Zambia today – and given the flamboyant personality of its leader Michael Sata, it may seem that many people in Zambia are interested in regime change in the sense that the MMD has been in power since 1991.

But what they do not contemplate is the plain fact that political and economic reforms being advocated by PF president Sata will evaporate into thin air once the PF comes into office. The voters are only used as cannon fodder by the political parties. The WSM remains politically defensive when dealing with amorphous political revolutions taking place in North Africa and elsewhere. Political revolutions do not change the existing economic and political status quo – it is a mere change in political bosses.
K. MULENGA, Zambia

canadian mining company's culpability

African Barrick, a subsidiary of Toronto’s Barrick Gold Corp. recently attained the news by shooting 5 African workers who had trespassed to collect bits of gold dust, something they regularly did to eke out their meager living.

Reporters who went there to get a story were promptly arrested by government authorities. The Toronto Star reporter was charged with having photographs (of the victim’s relatives) that were dangerous to the security of the country, and engaging in journalism activities without permission, found guilty, fined, and deported. Others were not so lucky. A Tanzanian MP was arrested and beaten for guarding the victim’s bodies at the morgue. Barrick claimed innocence of any police wrongdoings, “African Barrick Gold does not have any control or influence over police in this respect.” No arrest of the murderers has been evident or reported thus far. Paul Klein, founder of a firm that specializes in the field of corporate social responsibility, commented, "The paradox is that the mining industry is improving itself in terms of trying to mitigate their environmental impacts and to improve their social impact. Yet there is the perception that they still aren’t doing the right thing.”
One must wonder where this perception arises then. You can always trust the government to do the right thing, for capital, that is.

A few years ago, the Sudan government, operating with mining industry handouts, bombed children at "school" under a tree. Among the mining companies investors was the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Fund.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


China’s attraction to Africa is clear. Africa has great promise. It is well known that Africa is rich in a wide variety of minerals from oil to copper. Africa’s vast amount of land could fit the entire land mass of not only China but also India, the United States, Mexico, France, Italy and a number of other countries. Besides land, and more importantly, Africa has huge resources of water essential for bountiful harvests. China’s burgeoning economy is demanding more and more natural mineral resources whether it is oil, copper, nickel or gold. The demands of China’s more sophisticated diets means that imports of food is increasing as well. Africa’s exports to China are about 80 per cent raw materials like oil but increasingly it is also manufactured and agricultural such as Egyptian oranges, South African wines, Ghana’s cocoa beans, Ugandan coffee, Tunisian olive oil and more.

China is now Africa’s largest trading partner. Visit any shopping centre in any country in Africa and it is clear that China is flooding Africa with consumer goods, machinery, automobiles and electronic items. China has bilateral trade agreements with 45 African countries. Investment from China into Africa between 2003 and 2009 grew from $490 million to $9,300 billion.