Sunday, January 29, 2012

Wades road to power

One year after President Wade of Senegal took power in 2000, he amended the country's constitution to impose a two-term limit for the presidency. He also reduced the presidential term to five years from seven, following the completion of his first term in 2007. After his re-election in 2007, President Wade promised to abide with the constitution and stick to the two-term limit, meaning he would not stand for election in the 2012 poll. He has though now announced plans to stand for a third term, saying the two-term limit did not apply to him because he was first elected in 2000, before the constitution officially took effect. Wade's candidacy for a third term has now been approved by the country's constitutional court. The credibility of the court has been questioned, as each of its judges were appointed by the president. Many people believe that the court is under Wade's influence, and that has prompted it to rule in his favour.

Wade also attempted to amend the constitution again, this time for his own good, by lowering the votes required to win the presidential election from 50 to 25 per cent. He however had to later backed down from the amendment, after thousands of people took to the streets in protest.

Wade's presidency has been marred by allegations of corruption and nepotism. Recently, he is said to have dished out millions of francs, and plots of land, to hundreds of his key party leaders. He has widely been criticised for excessive spending on what have been described as "prestige projects". This includes commissioning a 50m bronze statue (the African Renaissance Monument), for which Wade claims 35 per cent of all tourist revenues - because of his "intellectual property" in conceiving the idea!

Demonstrations have helped trigger a movement known as Y'En A Marre - French for "Fed Up!" They protest that since Wade took office, the prices of basic goods started (and have continued) to skyrocket, while the earning power remains stagnant or depreciating.

The polls are on February 26

Friday, January 27, 2012

The real piracy

The precious marine resources of some of the world's poorest people are being targeted by industrial-scale pirate fishing operations, to feed the seafood hungry markets of Europe and Asia. The problem is particularly acute in West African waters where fish is a vital - and often the only - protein source for millions of people.

Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world - currently ranked 180th out of 187 countries on the Human Development Index. Its waters contain some of the richest fish stocks in the world and could, if sustainably developed and managed, one day provide the country with much-needed income. Fishing currently represents 10 per cent of Sierra Leone’s GDP and is a crucial component in its food security (contributing 64 per cent of the total animal protein eaten in the country).

Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing is the term given to any fishing activity that contravenes national or international laws - a simpler description would be to call it fishing piracy. The pirate fishing activities of foreign trawlers are stripping these fishing grounds so quickly that unless the practice is stopped there will soon be nothing left to develop. And most important of all, local people will be deprived of a crucial food source - just to satisfy the appetites of seafood lovers in Europe and Asia. Pirate fishermen would not be able to operate without a market for their catch.

Over 80 per cent of fish stocks are over-exploited, fully-exploited or depleted according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) most recent assessments. Scientists have estimated that, at current levels of exploitation, most commercial fish stocks could have collapsed by the year 2048.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A booming time for some

As rich countries face a slowdown, sub-Saharan African economies are expected to post nearly 6 percent average growth in 2012, according to the IMF. A study by the International Finance Corporation, part of the World Bank, has pointed to the potential of the continent's more than 1 billion people, millions of whom have moved out of subsistence agriculture and into urban jobs over the past decade. Such promise has helped fuel foreign investment. Kenya alone has had a capital influx of billions of dollars in recent years: the latest official figures show around $800 million came in in 2008. Western investors have become accustomed to Africa as a boom story in recent years. As demand from places such as China and Brazil pushed up commodity prices, investment poured in. Since the financial crisis, investors have ventured into Africa in search of higher returns. Analysts fret about whether Kenya's exporting capacity can keep pace with its imports. "In most frontier markets ... we haven't seen sufficient evidence of this. Exports go up, but not nearly by enough, and imports - especially of consumer goods - go up even more." Razia Khan, head of Africa research at Standard Chartered in London, says the problem is an Africa-wide one. "More rapid growth was accompanied almost everywhere by a surge in imports, especially capital goods imports related to infrastructure development."

The consumption boom has been fueled by fast-growing credit. In Kenya, firms have been hiring and property prices have risen exponentially, creating a feel-good factor for home owners, especially in towns and cities. That, in turn, has fed the appetite for consumer goods. In Kenya and elsewhere that has sucked in imports - cars, shoes, clothes, wines and whiskies - and swelled the current account deficit. Inflation in Kenya is now nearing 20 percent. As always, high inflation hurts the poorest most.

"Minimum wage-earners in urban centers in East Africa are encountering a simply unprecedented squeeze," said Aly Khan Satchu, a Nairobi-based independent trader and analyst. "It creates a sort of reverse Robin Hood effect where the poor carry the main burden."

Food prices - especially meat - have risen sharply. In a rain-soaked field outside the Kenyan capital, it's easy to see why. Farmer Joseph Kiarie puts the fertilizer on his crop of cabbages by hand from a plastic bucket, and says rising costs have cut his earnings by two thirds in the past year. "This has been a terrible year," he said.

Nairobi's biggest slum, Kibera is a vast shanty town that lacks even basic services such as sanitation. Many Kibera residents - there are hundreds of thousands of them - are angry that while prices of food have risen, wages have not. Many say their families now have to forego meals.
A year ago, 300 shillings ($3.48) bought breakfast, lunch and supper, "but now that is nothing," said Jane Mwalugha, a married mother of five children aged between three and 15, in her one-roomed house. "We have had to cut out lunch this year so we just take supper. Bread is now a luxury so we have cut it out...The government should construct supermarkets for the rich and let us have our own because they have decided in life that there are two tribes, the poor and the rich. They should let us have poor people's shops," Mwalugha said.

Toxic Colonialism

Reduce, re-use, re-cycle! This familiar environmentalist slogan represents the goal of minimising the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, incinerators, and waterways.

Trade in toxic waste refers to the migration of dirty industries to less developed countries. Unfortunately, Africa is the first choice of location for the dumping of European waste. Industrialised countries export their waste to emerging nations and capitalise on less expensive disposal cost. When the treatment of hazardous waste is considered too polluting or least profitable, Western countries send the waste Africa and Asia, in the name of recycling. All the way down the West African coast, American and European ships offload containers filled with old computers, slops, and used medical equipment. Scrap merchants, corrupt politicians and underpaid civil servants take charge of this rubbish and, for a few dollars; they dump it off coastlines and on landfill sites.

Africa is vulnerable to the uneven economics of waste trade because it includes most of the world's severely impoverished countries, most of whom are in dire need of foreign exchange. Africa has long existed as a sphere from which the West could extrapolate wealth and resources. When those resources have fulfilled their purpose, Africa absorbs the garbage produced with their resources, but not by them. A major factor that spurs on the trans-boundary shipment of waste is the disparity in disposal cost between developed and developing nations. The rising cost of waste disposal and the introduction of more stringent environmental control standards in the developed world render developing countries (particularly in Africa) an attractive destination for waste disposal. Disposal of hazardous waste may cost as much as US$ 2,000 per tonne in a developed nation, versus US$ 40 per tonne in Africa. The high cost of waste disposal in many developed countries is due in part to compliance costs with strict regulations and in part to effective local opposition to sitting landfills (often called NIMBY- Not in My Backyard).

Although they lack adequate installations of toxic waste treatment, numerous African countries, including Benin, Congo-Brazzaville, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Nigeria, Togo, Somalia and others imported whole cargoes of toxic waste (industrial muds, cyanides, solvents, pesticides, pharmaceutical waste) and even nuclear waste ( from Somalia) at very low cost to the ‘sellers’: between US$ 3 and US$ 40 per ton, compared to the US$ 75 – 300 that elimination would cost industrial nations. Sometimes the waste was packaged in barrels marked ‘fertiliser’ or even ‘humanitarian aid’.

Toxic waste colonialism can take various forms. Often masked as the exportation of valuable goods, large amounts of discarded computers, mobiles phones and other electronic junk, as well as old cars and refrigerators are sent to Africa. The objects are all filled with hazardous substances, some of which are highly toxic, including oil, fire retardants, dioxins and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). Due to ongoing technological advancement, many electronic products become obsolete within a very short period of time, creating a large surplus of unwanted electronic products, or ‘e-waste,’ defined as all secondary computers, entertainment device electronics, mobile phones, and other items such as television sets and refrigerators (whether sold, donated, or discarded by their original owners). This definition includes used electronics which are destined for reuse, resale, salvage, recycling, or disposal. Under the cloak of cooperation and development aid, this kind of pollution continues. 500 shipping containers loaded with second hand electronic equipments arrives in Nigeria monthly. This amount of containers equals about 100,000 computers or 44,000 TV sets.Three-quarters of the supposedly reusable electronics shipped to Africa's largest port are broken. The useless e-waste ends up in unofficial dumpsites, where it is picked apart by unprotected workers (many of them children) in search of saleable metals. After all the metal has been removed, the remaining plastic, cables and casings are usually burnt. These processes are extremely hazardous to health: most of the e-waste contains toxins such as lead, mercury and chlorinated dioxins, not to mention the noxious fumes and chemicals released by the burning waste. The waste and toxic gases disposed on opened ground around the densely populated city of Abidjan caused significant health problems to the majority of Ivorian people living at the periphery. According to official estimates, 20 people died, 69 were hospitalized and there were more than 108,000 medical consultations resulting from the incident. The sludge was particularly harmful to children who made up the majority of the official deaths. It is suspected that many deaths were not counted in the official toll.

Sometimes it is arranged in the form of contracts, signed between the Governments of underdeveloped and developed states. For instance, in one case the Government of Benin signed an agreement with France and received an advance cash payment of US$ 1.6 million and 30 years of development aid in return for accepting hazardous waste, including radioactive waste. Waste shipments contain poisonous metals, hospital waste, expired chemicals and pesticides and toxic sludge, all destined to be buried, incinerated or recycled.

The issue of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) is also part of the growing trend in toxic waste trade in Africa. There are huge stockpiles of pesticides in African countries, estimated at hundreds of thousands of tonnes. These pesticide stockpiles are unwanted and obsolete and some are already banned in many countries of the world due to their hazardous threat to the environment, human health, animals and plants. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) compiled an inventory of obsolete stockpiles for 45 countries in Africa. The stockpiles estimated to exist in Africa was totalled at 20,000 tonnes, but more stockpiles have since been declared. This includes heavily contaminated soil and empty and contaminated pesticide containers, so the current total stands at nearly 50,000 tonnes and is likely to increase much above this total. These substances are produced and exported by the 11 most powerful multinational chemical companies who dominate 90% of the world market, namely American Cyanamid, BASF, Bayer, Ciba-Geigy, DowElanco, DuPont, Monsanto, Rhône-Poulenc, Sandoz, Zeneca, and AgrEVO.

Taken from here

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Haiti - “The Republic of NGOs,”

Africans can learn from the experience of Haiti when it comes to foreign aid promises. Haiti is a formerly French colonial island nation occupying a little less than half of the Caribbean island originally called Hispanola (the other half of the island, the Dominican Republic, is a former Spanish colony). The island soon became a critical stop in the slave trade in the Americas, with its capital, Port-au-Prince, being one of the most popular hubs. The colonial overseers grew rich, exporting sugar and coffee to the world. By 1804, due to several slave uprisings, the poor natives overthrew French rule and became the first free nation in Latin America. Like other new democratic successes of the Atlantic World, the Haitians discovered self-determination. They also discovered debt, saddled with a French demand for 150 million francs (more than $20 billion in today’s terms) to compensate the colonial power for its lost territory.

The world pledged some $12 billion after the 2010 earthquake to Haiti . Two years later, little has been used to actually rebuild the country. According to reports by Oxfam, the UN, the U.S. Government Accountability Office and international aid experts interviewed by GlobalPost, billions of dollars of aid were pledged to Haiti’s reconstruction, but promises of funding have not translated into money on the ground. Of the original $1.4 billion allocated by the US Congress, according to a most recent GAO report, $655 million in funds was reimbursed to the Department of Defense. Another $220 million went to repay the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. $350 million went to disaster assistance (an umbrella term that includes everything from medical care to sanitation); $150 million to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (for emergency food and forward-thinking agricultural programs in Haiti); and $15 million to the Department of Homeland Security for Immigration fees and aircraft fares for the lucky few Haitian refugees brought to the United States.

“In the end,” says Robert Fatton Jr., professor of government and foreign affairs at the University of Virginia “...if you read the reports — the UN Report and so on — you’ll see that actual Haitians got less than 1 percent of all the American money pledged.” In other words, Fatton explained, “99 percent of [the U.S. money spent] went back to the U.S. military, the State Department, NGOs and contractors. The money was clearly intended for Haiti, but it ended up returning to the same place it came from.”

Expanding the picture doesn’t change it. The UN Special Envoy for Haiti reported that of the overall $2.4 billion pledged by the UN for humanitarian efforts in Haiti, 34 percent (or $864 million) of those funds were given back to donor civil and military organizations, 28 percent (or $672 million) was laid out to UN and non-governmental humanitarian projects such as housing and health-care, 26 percent (or $624 million) was given to contractors for things like road-building and infrastructure, and 5 percent ($120 million) was given to various international Red Cross/Red Crescent societies.

As recently as the early 1980s, Haiti was producing just about all of its own rice. Now more than 60 percent is imported from the U.S., making it the fourth largest recipient of American rice exports in the world. That was before the quake and now with donated rice coming in as well, Haiti is even more awash in rice while American agribusiness makes billions of dollars every year through generous government subsidies.

“You might say it is a perfect metaphor for what is wrong with aid to Haiti,” says Marc Cohen, a senior researcher for Oxfam. “Instead of bringing subsidized rice in on ships from Miami, we could be helping Haiti grow rice in its own fields,” explains Cohen, who worked for many years in Haiti with the International Food Policy Research Institute and studied the broad economic impact of U.S. rice subsidies, or “Miami rice,” as it is known here.

If you really want to see the face of humanitarian spending post-earthquake in Haiti — the financial clout of the NGOs — there’s only one place to go: the Toyota dealership in Port-au-Prince. The white Toyota Land Cruiser is perhaps the ultimate symbol of international interventional power. And in and around Port-au-Prince, the vehicles are omnipresent.

How much does one cost?“Each one, with taxes, is $61,100,” she says. “If you have tax-free status, you can get them for less, but then you have to take them with you or give them away here. If you pay the taxes, you can just sell the car.”

And how many do you sell a year?

“This year, we sold 250 of this model. But, you know, right after the earthquake, for several months, we were probably selling that many Land Cruisers every month. Maybe twice that many.”

250 Land Cruisers at $61,000 each is upward of $15 million dollars. So even if they sold only a few more Land Cruisers in 2010 after the first few months (and you have to assume they did) plus the 2011 sales numbers so far , conservatively speaking that’s a gross cash influx in the neighborhood of $100 million in the last two years (though of course, some will have to go to taxes). Add to that the repair and maintenance fees, and you’re looking at maybe $110 million. Maybe $150 million. And that’s a conservative estimate.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Nigeria's bombings - How the UK created, fostered and empowered Nigeria's terrorists

In Nigeria the news headlines are of the Islamic organisation Boko Haram's bombing campaign. A MediaLens contributer reminds us the historic role of British divide and rule in Nigeria's past.

Nigeria was the creation of British imperialism and marked the limits of its aims, arms and ambition around Africa's third longest river - the mighty Niger, which gave the country its name. Originally the invaders were only interested in the southern parts of the territory now called Nigeria, especialy its rich forests and their plentiful produce of raw materials in heavy demnd in the west, particularly its palm oil, then required to grease the humming wheels of English industry. The natural deep harbours of Calabar and Lagos with its protective lagoon, were also coveted by the British crown.

However to protect the source of the Niger from the encroachments of its French rivals then enfiltrating southwards from their North African holdings, Britain's colonial army, fresh from subduing the southern tribes east and west of the Niger, marched north and bursting through the forest found the northern Savannah domianted by one of Africa's oldest, most educated and cultivated ruling classes - the Hausa Fulani islamic aristocracy whose relatively spohisticated state structure, monotheism and powerful calavary gave them unchallenged writ across the vast northern grass lands. After subduing their initial resistance, the sultans and emirs were integrated into the coloinal structure as its willing tools, keeping their thrones and faith in exchange for fidelity and subservience to the new conquerors. Kneeling to the west for their power, if still facing the east in prayer.

Unlike the lawless and rebellious tribes to the south, with their weak states and fractious people the universal and unquestioned authority of the northern princes was attarctive to the colnial rulers as it fitted in with British colonial poilcy of occupation lite, ruling in the main through local puppets, an approach they had mastered in india. Hence the new masters favoured the aristocracy in recruitment to the new civil service army and police. Development, as would be expected from a low base proceeded rapildy in the south, while to maintain the power of its islamic allies in the North, education, industrialisation and liberal social policies were restricted in northern nigeria by the British colonial administration.

The quicker urbanisation in the south created an increasingly radicalised working class and restive intelligentsia there who from the 1920's began organising against the colonial regime. By the end of the second world war, strikes, demonstrations and increasingly assertive agitation against coloinal rule was taking place across the sotuhern regions, with its nationalist leaders demanding ever more forcefully and confidently full independence from a severely weakened post war Britain.

To counterbalance the agitation centred in the big southern cities like Lagos, the British bolstered the power of the islamic aristocracy in the North, expanding its regional base and powers and placing the scions of its ruling houses in key positions in the army and emerging civil service. The country's census was also rigged giving the north a fraudulent edge over the far more populous southern regions, at a stroke re-writing the rules of geography by increasing the population of a land the closer it got to the desert.

"... islamic terror in Nigeria first burst on the scene in the same city, Kano, it has returned to with such venom. This was in 1956, when the British colonial Government and its allies amongst the conservative islamic aristocracy in the north reacted to a motion of independence by radical nationalists, by instigating a murderous rampage of islamic mobs in the ancient city of Kano, slaugtering agitators for independence and southern Nigerians, where demands for independence were most vociferous..."

"...another far bloodier episode of apocalyptic Islamic terror in Northern Nigeria, far bloodier in scale and serious in consequence than the 1956 riots which were used to intimidate the country into handing over power at independence in 1960 to the west's prefered faction - the subservient emirs and sultans in the North , the most retrograde and reactionary social layer on the continent, who as in Pakistan, now also disintegrating at the onslaught of right wing islamic terror, the departing British imposed on the country to ensure this potential regional giant remained forever prostrate and subservient to the west.

This second major incident of right wing islamic terror in Nigeria occurred in 1966 when in response to a radical coup by a group of young leftist officers in the Nigerian army, MI6 station oficers and British diplomats in the north brazenly broke cover and together with its conservative allies helped mobilise and unleash crazed islamic mobs across the north against southern Nigerians and suspected supporters of the coup. Men women and children across the north were dragged out of their homes and hacked to death in the streets by frenzied fundamentalist mobs with pregnant women having their foetus ripped out from their wombs before the mothers themselves were butchered.

While this was going on British and American diplomats sipped tea and brandy with right wing military officers, sons and scions of the northern ruling houses, in Lagos's main cantonment, plotting a military domination of the country that would last another 3 decades and bring the country to the brink of ruin.

Almost 30,000 mostly ibo southerners were killed in the massacres of 1966 which led to the Biafran war where a milion more died. The dead were so many in Kano, yes the same Kano, that excavators had to be hired from Julius Berger and other construction firms to pile the heaps of corpses into mass graves hastily dug outside the ancient city's walls.

Boko Haram the Nigerian fundamentalist group behind the Kano Bombings is not the Nigerian wing of Al-Quaeda as the western media suggest, sharing its global apocalyptic vision, although there are undoubtedly links. However like the Pakistani Taliban the groups agenda is largely local.
In reality It is the armed wing of the country's powerful conservative Northern establishment who were edged out of power after 40 years of totally dominating it by the pro-democracy uprisings and struggles of the mid to late 1990's. The current wave of bombings and indiscriminate attacks are the arrow head of a counter offensive by the Northern elite and its conservative alies across the country to regain what they beleieve to be their birth right - the right to rule the cuntry without challenge or even the most rudimentary democratic accountability. The right the British gave them at independence in 1960....
As in Pakistan there are clear links between the terrorists and senior memebrs of the countries security establishment, many of whom have now gone rogue."

"...At independence with the power of the British state behind them, power unsurprisingly went to the northern leaders who now in full control of state apparatus, reeaced out to allies across the country creating a pan regional conservative alliance cutting across tribes and regional lines and based upon the direct access to and theft of public resources at the centre and repression of the masses across the country. The discovery of oil and the concentration of its revenues in federal hands increased the powers of patronage of the Northern emirs and further cemented the pan regional alliance of the newly enriched national elite, who fearing the potential power of the millions of dispossessed but increasingly organised and educated masses in the heaving southern cities particularly the teeming megapolis of Lagos were happy to keep real power in the far islamic north from whence it could crush any uprising in the perpetually seething southern cities as it had crushed the Biafran rebellion.

The military dominated by the northern ruling houses was the prefered tool of power and its most powerful arms, the armoured brigades and bomber squadrons were all based in the north. After its crushing victory over the Biafran rebellion in the oil rich south east, it would rule almost unchallenged for 3 decades - from 1970 to 1998.

The north far poorer than the south was frozen in time with a stupendously rich and powerful elite enjoying the most modern amenities and luxuries money could buy while ruling with the help of imams and islamic scholars over a populace whose standard of living had seen almsot no change from the conditions their forefathers had endured over 6 centuries before. In Northern Nigeria the rich live in splendour, the poor in their millions beg in the street, a lumpenised class whose dehumanisation is without equal anywhere on the continent and from wherein the fanatics recruit their foot soldires.

The northern Oligarchy and the ruling class it dominates have devastated Nigeria in 4 ruinous decades of staggering corruption, mismanagement misrule while surbodinating the country in the most servile manner to the most rapacious exploitation of western imperialism - a period in whch the country has earned the equivalent of a quarter of a trillion pounds in oil revene without one of its towns or city's boasting a working electricity, transport, sewage or water supply system.

The combination of miliatry dictatorship and the use of auxillary islamic mobs served to maintain the power of the elite backed at the hieght of the cold war for decades by western imperialism whose policies were then to support the most vile and reactionary right wing regimes in the thrid world regardless of their brutality in an attempt to prevent the rise of popular movements in these countries.

However this changed in the early 1990's due to two reasons; the rise of pro-democracy movements on the African continent, partly inspired by the succes of the struggle in South Africa and secondly the collapse of the Soviet Union and rise of islamic fundamentalism which replaced communism as the West's main bogey man.

In 1993, the Nigerian military backed by the oligarchs cancelled an electrion, the country's freest ever, won by a popular centre left Business man Moshood Abiola, sparking a civilian uprising without precedent in the country's history and plunging Nigeria into its biggest political crisis since the Biafran war. However this time around their western patrons, already distancing themselves from their most brutal cold war allies across the third world, and fearful of creating more hot beds of rising islamic militancy, the chancelries of the west were far cooler and more ambivalent to their old allies in the north.

Isolated internationally and weakened domestically by civil unrest and regional tensions, the millitary dictatorship collapsed in 1998.

The resultant civilian regime was a compromise one which to pacify the people edged out the northern oligarchs and their most corrupt and hated alies from direct control of the state. In 2011, to pacify the oil producing Niger Delta and its long brutalised people who had risen in arms against their oppressioin, under intense western pressure, desperate to calm the Niger Delta, an indigene of the area, Goodluck Johnatahn, was sponsored for and won the presidency.

While slavishly folowing the neo liberal agenda of all his predecessors, his victory has been a step too far for the conservative oilgarchy whose powers are directly linked to the control of the state, its oil and the immense powers of patronage it provides.

In the past the Oligarchy and conservatives would have regained power through a coup detat using the army which they've always controlled. But things have changed - military rule is no longer fashionable internationally and the growth of civil society and labour and environmental militancy particualry in the south and oil producing parts of the country makes this a fraught option - a recent general strike over fuel prices brought millions on to the streets

Any coup now would in all likelihood lead to a break up of the country and possibly a war which the Northern elite facing a changed and less favourable international climate than during the Biafran war, cannot be sure of wining. Hence the use of an armed islamic auxillary force, Boko Haram, backed by shadowy figures within the state to intimidate a civil society they now see slipping away from their autocratic control, forcing the west to re-think and hand them back their 'right to rule' or face the country being made ungovernable..."

"If Nigeria the biggest and most powerful country on Africa's west coast falls the entire region could be set ablaze with the Northern region developing into a badland of fundamentalism and violence so uncontrollable that it would make Somalia look like a sleepy saturday resort park."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Down with all royalty, nobility and leaders!

The environment/situation in which people live has influence/effects to their perception/perspective: The year is 1959. This is Southern Rhodesia; we are doing standard 2 at a catholic school, it is the second day of the second term, a classmate had failed to submit homework (assigned to the whole class on the closing day of the first term – wanted on opening day of the second term). Enter the classmate, accompanied by an irate grandfather (93 years old but still energetic): “…you and your silly arifmetiki (arithmetic), I will straighten you…(advancing towards the teacher), you want to punish this child for failing to write how many mombe (cows) he would bring home after missing eight out of fifteen in the grazing area…We never own any mombe,. Anyway, if we did and he misses 8, he must never come near my homestead. As for you (teacher) I am going to inform the chief’s policeman to whip you very hard…the govamend (govt) says nobody must own more than 5, and you talk of 15!…worst of all I am told this boy is now Roman (baptised Catholic). I am Zezuru. Did my daughter-in-law commit adultery?…"

Humans created religion to work alongside politics and ideology. Initially, the father was head of the family, eventually clan, tribe, region and nation. There was no ‘central government’ in Africa, it came as late as 1900. The man dictated the mode of living and belief. The above grandpa was a full-grown young man when the pioneer column hoisted the union jack at Fort Salisbury on 12 September 1890. He was very bitter about the ‘new’ system, the vanity of bothering children learning to count cattle which were no longer there, the last having been sold to buy school uniform, books and a rosary for the new young Roman, thus (according to grandpa) angering the ancestors, hence the misfortune befalling the little boy (being whipped/punished for failing to do home work). How did anyone expect a man, let alone a little boy, to be able to count cows which were not there and the monstrosity of a priest (then all European) managing to Romanise a boy born Zezuru? Earlier, he had argued with his son (the boy’s father) that it was better to teach the boy to make bows and arrows, spears, axes for hunting wild animals and making fishing nets instead of wasting cattle paying to learn the useless alien things.

All would be well if aliens had gone to foreign lands on friendly terms. It was a bid to wipe out all ‘not our kind’. However, if the UNO were not manipulated to be a mere embassy/secretariat of the USA things would work out better. It is now time to call on all conscientious rationalists to expose that the current world system, socio-economic-religious, is designed to protect the splendour of the ruling elites and prescribe poverty for/to the majority. Royalty, nobility, holy (holiness) are all primitive, selfish myths manufactured by hallucinated ancients, initially innocent due to the abundance of ignorance. So, it is staggering that erudite Westerners continue to propagate the selfish ideals. It is tragic that due to mysticism, youths remain gullible; they are fooled that they will find eternal comfort and glory in a star-spangled banner/union jack draped coffin, the little inconvenience of losing a limb can never outweigh the glory of decorated soldiers (in some cases even armless). The leaders occasionally enter Kabul, Baghdad, stealthily, to pretend ‘bravery’, but the announcement that they are around is made when the plane is almost landing in London or Washington. See! They are prepared to die with their golden boys! We an sympathise with our Middle Eastern brethren: what with ‘prescribed’ literature only, no questioning of set rules. Yes, it was so everywhere but in the age of the internet! (Although I do not have the facility personally.) add the splendour and a dozen virgins in the ‘after life’. Surely modern communication systems should help to expose the vanity of mysticism/myths, educate and inform all. All current world leaders have one thing in common, greedy and selfish! Unmoved by suffering billions, many starving or killed at the direct commands of the very leaders. Note: they are touched to the quick at the death of just one of theirs who has been doing, commanding just that to thousands, unheeding the pleas of millions!

There is an urgent need for redress, not that we must kill our leaders but that the message must be loud and clear that pleading for redress and justice is not subversion or sabotage.

Is it not amazing that our leaders on all sides of the religious divide with so much trust in god and heaven can sacrifice the whole nation, including their wives and children to prevent their own going to god? Ay! When staring the door to god (death) in the face even offer bribes to god’s agent, the murderer?

Disgusting, horrible, shocking as such butcherings are! It must register in the conscience (if they have any) of all the Blairs, Bushes, Camerons, Obamas and all commanders-in-chief that the millions they starve, command to be tortured/killed feel horror, pain and grief as when a king, queen, prime minister, president, commander-in-chief is hurt! Do our today leaders have any compassion? Look at Zimbabwe now: people (millions) suffering, no social security for workers, peasants (supposed) pensioners, but cabinet, MPs and senior civil servants in splendour despite crocodile tears by leadership that suffering is caused by sanctions. What currency is Zimbabwe using by the way? Note: the constitution-making process is rushed. It has no regard for the socio-economic security for the mass. Leadership is concentrating on the electoral process, powers and terms of leaders only. Well, people who make good constitutions never rush for full powers which all sides of Zimbabwe leaders are over lusty for because their constitution transfers all splendour to legislature and prescribe poverty to the masses. If international organs such as UN and SADC/AU were effective they would enforce constitutions which have common people’s socio-economic security before elections (and just 5-year terms) are held. After all democracy ends on election day. The next 5 years it is the cabinet and prime ministers/presidents, dictating. The mass is just there to endorse the 5-year mandate and be fooled again. Alas! World leader have compassion only for fellow leaders elsewhere.

It is the silly adopted/inherited primitive belief in holy, noble, royal people which perpetuates that idiocy. Before nature we are all equal. We should co-operate and have global liaison/co-ordination as equals. The best way to convince our dogmatic brethren, especially in Africa and the Middle East, is not to bomb or torture them but to expose the idiocy/myths such as the talking donkey (Numbers 22:28-30) and “…nation shall not lift sword against nation…, nor shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4).

Only last November 8-20, 2011 the USA bought a £30,000.000 bomb which can penetrate 200 metres underground! So much for the holy book/god’s word!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Seventeen years after the end of apartheid South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in the world. Cape Town is a city full of contrasts and social polarisation. Khayelitsha, which lies approximately 35 kilometres away from Cape Town, developed as a part of apartheid-architecture, is one of the biggest townships in South Africa with more than a million inhabitants. Unemployment reaches 60 to 70 percent in the townships and many children go to school hungry. Cape Town alone lacks approximately 400,000 houses and about half-a-million people have no access to sanitary facilities. Distribution of housing and infrastructure to the poor are prevented frequently by corruption and self-enrichment of the political and economic elite. Privatisation of electricity and water lead to heightening of prices - prices that, above all, people in the townships cannot afford. The commercialisation of land and the excessive wealth in South Africa must be questioned, as do the political priorities, which are predominantly oriented towards the interests of the rich and the economy.

Full article at

Now there are important struggles of the community-based movements for a better life. They concern the supply of common goods, like water, electricity and living space, as well as resistance against forced evictions. These grassroots-movements share the principle of self-organisation and the notion that the carriers and intellectuals of their struggles is no one but the poor themselves. The movements support the inhabitants of the townships to take the daily and political struggles into their hands, including 'illegal' reconnections of electricity and water, or organising social facilities, like kindergartens. Politicians brand the autonomous movements as 'radicals', just to avoid having to deal with the concerns of the poor. This is a strategy in dealing with oppositional positions and social protests which is aiming at de-legitimising social conflicts.

Abahlali baseMjondolo Western Cape supports the occupation of land: 'For the City of Cape Town to condemn people who occupy land is for the City of Cape Town to condemn the poor. Now that the City of Cape Town has admitted that they cannot house the people of Cape Town they have no right to stop us from occupying land, housing ourselves.'

Mzonke Poni points out, poverty is a political matter: 'There's no way that we can depoliticise poverty, otherwise we stand a risk of making privileges seem natural and normal. Poverty is political and need to be politicised.'

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

a capitalist failure

Thousands of needless deaths occurred from famine in East Africa last year because the international community failed to heed early warnings. Oxfam and Save the Children say it took more than six months for aid agencies to act on warnings of imminent famine.

"Many donors wanted proof of a humanitarian catastrophe before acting to prevent one,"
the report says. "Sophisticated early warning systems first forecast a likely emergency as early as August 2010, but the full-scale response was not launched until July 2011." By that time it says, "malnutrition rates in parts of East Africa had gone far beyond the emergency threshold and there was high profile media coverage of the crisis"

Between 50,000 and 100,000 people died in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. At one stage during the famine the United Nations estimated that 10 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance.

Oxfam's Chief Executive, Barbara Stocking said "It is shocking that the poorest people are still bearing the brunt of a failure to respond swiftly and decisively."

Save the Children's Chief Executive, Justin Forsyth, said clear warnings had been ignored. "We can no longer allow this grotesque situation to continue; where the world knows an emergency is coming but ignores it until confronted with TV pictures of desperately malnourished children"

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

the real drug problem

Malaria kills nearly a million people each year, mainly young children and pregnant women. Hopes of controlling malaria in Africa could be wrecked by criminals who are circulating counterfeit and substandard drugs, threatening millions of lives, scientists are warning. Large parts of Africa are threatened by the distribution of fake and poor quality anti-malarials made illicitly in China.

Some of the fake drugs contain artemisinin, but not enough to kill all the parasites in a child's body. Not only will the child struggle to recover, but the parasites that survive may become resistant to the drug and spread a form of the disease that ACTs (artemisinin combination therapy) will no longer cure. Analysis also showed some counterfeits contained a mixture of wrong active pharmaceutical ingredients, some of which may initially alleviate malaria symptoms but would not cure malaria. Worse still, these unexpected ingredients could cause potentially serious side effects, particularly if they were to interact with other medication that the patient was taking, such as anti-retroviral therapies for HIV.

It will be very hard for the affected African countries to tackle the problem, however. WHO has said that 30% of drug regulatory authorities don't function. They don't list which they are but logically they are likely to be in economically poor, malarious countries.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

ANC elite

In his Communist Manifesto Karl Marx wrote that, 'Each step in the development of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by a corresponding political advance of that class...The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the affairs of the bourgeoisie'. Here Marx is referring to the ability of the bourgeois to translate economic power into state power, thus reducing our governments to mere managers acting in the interests of capital and not the people. This has happened to governments around the world. But here our politicians are not mere managers. They are, like in Russia or India, a predatory elite with their own class interests and they support capital and repress the people as long as they can get their own share...

...The commanding heights of the economy continue to reside in the hands of a tiny elite, most of which is white. Unemployment is skyrocketing. Most young people have never worked. Anyone can see that there is an excessive amount of poverty in South Africa. There are shacks everywhere. In fact, poverty reigns supreme in our country. Every year Jacob Zuma promises to create new jobs and every year unemployment grows....

...Poverty and inequality are getting worse. The government is increasingly criminalising poverty instead of treating it as a political problem. When people try to organise they are always presented as a third force being used to undermine democracy and bring back racism. But it is the ANC that has failed to develop any plans to democratise the economy. It is the ANC that has failed to develop any plans to democratise the media. It is the ANC that disciplines the people for the bourgeoisie - a role that they are very comfortable to play! It is the ANC that follows the line of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. It is our local leaders who are taking the leap from their old bosses, stealing from us, treating us with contempt, acting like the former colonial government and oppressing us. During the struggle our leaders embodied the aspirations of the people. But once they took state power they didn't need us any more. We were sent home. We are only called out to vote or attend rallies. But all the time our people are evicted from farms, paving way for animals as farms are turned into game reserves under the pretext of tourism. Our people are evicted from cities. Our people are denied decent education. The party has become a mixture of what Marx would call an instrument of power in the hands of the bourgeoisie and what Fanon would call a means of private advancement.

Biko wrote that 'This is one country where it would be possible to create a capitalist black society, if whites were intelligent, if the nationalists were intelligent. And that capitalist black society, black middle class, would be very effective ... South Africa could succeed in putting across to the world a pretty convincing, integrated picture, with still 70 percent of the population being underdogs.'...

The only way to truly honour the struggles of the past is to stand up for what is right, now. The struggle continues and will continue until we are all free.

Ayanda Kota chairperson of Unemployed People's Movement in South Africa.

Full article at

Micro-debt slavery

Lending by microfinance organisations is pushing the poor deeper into the poverty, a new study says.

Hailed as the saviour to the poor, the microfinance model works in simple way – it gathers many low-income earners, gets them to form a group, and then loans them small amounts of money payable over flexible periods. It supposedly works for the poor in that it does away with the need for the collateral needed to secure normal commercial loans. The small loans are meant to help them set up income-generating projects to enable them to earn and pull themselves out of poverty. Acceptance by a group is said to deter entry to those deep in poverty. The oft-cited loan repayment rates of about 90 to 100 per cent – much higher than repayment rates at commercial banks – hide the blood, sweat and tears of microfinance borrowers. And the fact that they are unregulated means the microfinance institutions operate under their own rules, and some border on being shylocks.

The study by the University of Nairobi economics lecturer Joy Kiiru in collaboration with similar research done in Uganda by Flavian Zeija dismisses the notion that lending small amounts normally co-secured by a group is “a positive poverty eradication tool and potentially powerful engine of growth for the economy.” Instead, they say, the practice may be condemning millions to abject poverty.

The problem, the studies say, is lack of understanding by borrowers on what the loan contract entails and exploitation by microfinance of this ignorance.

“In fact, many clients only ask where to sign because they urgently need the money. Even those who can read and write do not bother to read the documents. They never question anything,” a Uganda microfinance credit officer is quoted saying in the report. Multiple borrowing pushing the repayment beyond the borrower’s ability to repay has also been cited as major problem. Multiple borrowing kicks in when a borrower has difficulty repaying a loan and borrows to avoid default. The loan then balloons, and by the time the credit bubble bursts, the borrower will have nothing left when the group decides to sell the property for default. In some instances, borrowers are forced to sell their household goods to repay loans, and as it recently happened in Makueni, others are forced to surrender their children to the group as a form of blackmail to bring in relatives to help repay the loan.

“Peers in a group will not allow very poor people to join them because the poor are likely to use their loans for consumption and therefore risk default,” said Ms Kiiru. This is so because unlike the normal commercial loan given to an individual, a microfinance loan given to a group is jointly guaranteed by all members, and default by one member has consequences for the entire group. “This finding implies that microfinance may be useful for the better-off poor, but it is simply not an option to the poorest,” she said.

The other problem cited is that the funds really poor people borrow are usually diverted to purposes other than what they were meant for. The money is used to meet domestic needs like food, clothing, rent, and school fees with very little left over to invest in their small businesses. Then there is the question of insufficient loans, either because the borrower underestimated the money needed or simply that the lender declined to lend the amount requested. The intended project ends up failing, and the borrower has to turn to the little she had to repay for failed business.

Only 17 per cent were able to repay their loans from their business returns. The majority, 62 per cent of borrowers, repaid their loans under duress – repayment due to excessive peer pressure. Another 17 per cent had to sell their pre-existing assets, while four per cent had their property confiscated by their peers.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

petrol protests

Protests all over Nigeria are against poverty. The new price of petrol gives a platform for the protest. Millions of Nigerians are managing to survive, in a situation easily blamed on the global economic crisis, but conveniently ignores the fact that poverty thrived in Nigeria when the global economy boomed.

With a minimum wage of N18, 000 (about $109) monthly, a Nigerian who spends all his salary on petrol will purchase about 124 litres of petrol. If he lives where it sells at N200 per litre, he can buy only 90 litres. Yet N18, 000 (N600 daily) is not enough for the Nigerian to generate his electricity needs, assuming that is all his monthly salary does. Maybe electricity is a luxury the poor should shun hence government refuses to provide it. Things are worse since millions of Nigerians are unemployed and there is no social security system. Those earning the minimum wage represent less than one per cent of the population.

Nigerians are too poor to bear additional burdens.

Sunday, January 01, 2012


Right now Margaret “aka TINA’ Thatcher is well and still kicking - the then British Prime Minister the time Zimbabwe was granted independence from colonial regime in 1980. What if a Chilcot inquiry sort is staged between her and the Zimbabwe’s Zanu Pf regime headed by President Robert Mugabe on what precisely lies behind the facilitation of the 1979 Lancaster House peace accord grossly focusing on the “Land Question Boob’ that was shelved? Shelved, while the resolution agreed upon was to maintain a willing buyer, willing seller approach on land redistribution for the first 10 post-independence years! We demand this as we are tired of capitalism’s buying time hoax pen and paper agreements at the expense of the starving masses. Infact, it is quite important for politicians to stop fooling the world while taking their side of the coin be it Zanu PF or the MDC factions while grinning at Zimbabwe’s sob story being orchestrated by alarming poverty. Why was this not implemented as agreed after the specified duration? People of Zimbabwe are currently quite tired of suffering from bygones of the past events that benefited the minority who now has the economy at their hands.

For the past decade and so, we have seen a sea of Zimbabwean citizenry suffering and perishing from the imposed Anglo-Saxon sanctions while the political bickering remains a complete quest for self-aggrandisation at the expense of the workers and the majority populace. Despite this calamity, the global gods composing the US and Britain continues raising eyebrows by declaring that sanctions imposed do not affect ordinary Zimbabweans but few targeted individuals and companies. To our amazement, how can a targeted click with the economy at their hands feel the impact of the so called sanctions? Can capitalism succeed in restricting them to live indulgently? This total absurdity is simply a grave crime against humanity as the pinch of these inhuman sanctions is heavily impacted by only the poor peasantry and the workers! The period 2007 – 2008 really left indelible marks to surviving souls’ memories while the likes of the former BSAP employee now a business magnate Bla Fidza Chiyangwa roamed the CBD roads on posh cars proud to be possessing vast residential and industrial stands in the country’s capital city – preaching being an undisputable local fat cat. On the other hand, a wazzock female n’anga caught the watchful eye of the Western media propaganda by tempting the Mugabe regime’s hierarchical crew to believe that diesel was oozing from a rock in Chinhoyi which is part of the Mashonaland West Province. The event did not spare the carnage of fatty bulls to mark the orgy celebration of what was marked the manna from the ancestral spirit! In Shona language, a n’anga is a spirit medium. Diesel oozing from a rock, OPEC is this realistic! And momentarily, on another occurrence, the local popular musician, Alick Macheso has opted to splash huge sums of cash in a marriage spree and the nation wonders how all those women trust his health status. Three wives fit for the Chikopokopo genre who claims to be part of the local fat cats! However, thanks to the rival leaders who were forced by the status quo to reach a consensus to form a Government of National Unity from February 2009 up to now. That was a panacea to the economic crisis; the shortage of basic commodities… despite capitalism is ticking well in Zimbabwe.

As the time frame for the Government of National Unity has lapsed, it appears elections may take place anytime. As part of its campaign trait, the Mugabe regime has embarked on what it calls the last Chimurenga of the indigenisation of the country’s economy under the leadership of President Mugabe in which the sons of the soil are destined to own a 51% stake for them to take full control of the means of production in Zimbabwe’s economy as said. In Shona, Chimurenga means war and I wonder why they mark this sort of state control of the economy the last Chimurenga. In capitalism wars over the control of resources and economy quakes the planet willy-willy in the system’s quest for profit. For this reason, it boggles anybody’s mind on why this sort of economic reform is called the last chimurenga. To champion this the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board (NIEEB) has been established through the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act (Chapter 14:33) of 2007 and commenced operation in 2010. The NIEEB’s sole mission is said to be focusing solely on implementing indigenisation and economic empowerment programmes through support of all economical sectors to ensure stability and security of the economic environment which according to the current Zimbabwe’s situation marred by the Anglo-Saxon imposed sanctions is difficult to induce. The appointed Board of Directors in Decembers 2009 includes 15 members including the Chief Executive Officer who would concurrently work with the Minister Kasukuwere on the government’s indigenization and economic empowerment strategies and to advise the ministry on appropriate measures for the implementation of the objectives of the Act. The indigenisation and economic empowerment programmes are said to have been designed to empower black Zimbabweans who were disadvantaged by unfair discrimination - on the grounds of his or her race or any descendant of such a person - prior to the country’s independence in April 1980. In praise of the so called Chimurenga, here is what the political scientist Professor Jonathan Moyo MP for Tsholothso who later re-joined Zanu Pf after going independent in 2008 March harmonized elections said:
“…As such, indigenization under the Last Chimurenga is not about empowering government structures under the State but about empowering the people of Zimbabwe the majority of whom are born-frees who shall be enabled to own majority equity across the national economy. This is for real and will be done technically, procedurally and legally to benefit the country’s youth whose time to be counted in revolutionary ways has come...” Sunday Mail, Mar 13-19, 2011

However, foreign owned companies murmur liquidation if this is implemented effectively and the Harare City Council has defied all the odds by awarding a tender to a South African Easihold company disregarding the so called national indigenization policy. Motorists are destined to fork out US$1/hour to park their vehicles in the bays of the city centre. USD1/hr while each day, 30 000 children dies as a result of extreme poverty; everyday while 50 000 people dies of hunger and preventable illnesses; yet 2, 8 billion people lives on less than US$1, 20 a day (2, 8 billion nearly half the world’s population); yet one in five survives in less than US65p per day…

Organisations like the Affirmative Action Group (AAG) and a youth empowerment group, Upfumi Kuvanhu are in immense opposition to the deal pointing out that it was done against the indigenisation law restricting local business people who have the rights to cherish the fruits gained from their hard fought independence. Here is what the Upfumi Kuvadiki spokesperson said:
“…The deal is not clearly explained. Why did they not look for a local company to manage the parking? We cannot sell our country because we lack the machines, it is not possible for us to sell our sovereignty to foreigners…”
But the Harare City Council Town Clerk, Dr Mahachi lashed out at this that the council has vowed the parking management deal is irreversible and was the best they could get in which the city gobbles 60% of the shares.
“..What we required when we signed the deal were the gadgets and the expertise and over a period of time all the shares and properties will belong to the city,” he said.

To resemble that capitalism doesn’t look back in sucking profits, Dr Mahachi simply said, “over a period of time.” And pathetically, the Easipark issued receipts bears a statement stating that all vehicles are parked at the parker’s risk and that the City of Harare, Easipark, their employees, agents & contractors are not liable for any loss or damage whether caused by their negligence or otherwise. What does this mean then? It’s downright ridiculous for motorists risking their pockets at $1/hr as well as their vehicles at the same time!

In a nut shell, all this ongoings in Zimbabwe and the world over is blatant state capitalism. Just as to the trafficking maverick Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s Nationalization cum Socialist Revolution of the 21st Century is the State Capitalism of the 20th Century all over again where government owns industry and workers remains being bossed in profit mongering. Truly services are not provided and commodities are not produced today to meet people’s needs. They are produced to make a profit and that is the cause of the problem we face. Under the profit system profits comes first, before providing basic services like health care, and transport, before improving conditions at work, and before protecting the environment. At the same time it encourages a get-rich-quick climate where competition to make money takes over from cooperation and community values. Everything is reduced to its cash value and people are judged, not for what they are but how much money they have. Having said this and taking note of how global imperialism championed by the Western jihad, continues dividing the people of Zimbabwe and the world over, the people of Zimbabwe should reconsider vying for a nonprofit production entity as an alternative to the current woes.

By B. Musemwa
A socialist residing in Zimbabwe and can be contacted via: