Thursday, June 30, 2016

The climate change threat

James Close, the director of climate change at the World Bank said not addressing climate change could plunge 100 million more people into poverty by 2030 of which 43 million would be in Africa. This could happen due to lower crop yields, higher food prices and negative health impacts from climate change if no coping mechanisms are put in place.

He said millions of Africans could be hurt by further warming that will cause disastrous consequences for the region in the form of heat extremes, increased risk of severe drought, crop failures every two years.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The New Colonialists?

Are China and India the new colonial powers in Africa? Africa has seen increasing trade with China and India since the 1990s; however, the pattern of trade has not changed much despite more diversification in trading partners. Historical trade data recently released by French research institute CEPII shows that the share of Europe in Africa’s total trade has steadily declined from around 68% in 1990 to 41% currently. Asia has surpassed Europe as Africa’s biggest trading partner today, accounting for around 45% of the continent’s total trade. In particular, it is China and India which have seen a dramatic rise in their trade with Africa since 1990s. The continent’s trade with India and China closely resembles that in colonial times: Africa exports raw materials to the emerging Asian giants, and imports manufactured goods from them.

The prospects of increasing oil and gas exports too does not offer much hope as they need not necessarily translate into greater prosperity given the fundamental differences between the sparsely populated oil-exporting states of the Middle East and the African oil exporters with larger populations. one-third of Africa’s exports to China and India consist of crude oil, natural gas and other hydrocarbons. However, there appears to be no one-to-one relation between oil exports and prosperity or lack of poverty. For instance, Nigeria, a member of OPEC and dependent on oil and gas for 90% of its exports, reported a relatively high poverty rate of 53% in 2009 using the global poverty line of $1.9 per day, according to the World Bank . In contrast, Namibia reported a much lower poverty of 23% in 2009, despite hardly exporting any oil. The real reason behind the difference in prosperity between African oil producers and Middle Eastern nations like Qatar is the difference in the per capita oil production. The theory, as explained by a Chatham House report , says that since the petroleum sector creates few jobs directly, therefore countries with relatively large populations, like Nigeria, need a big non-oil sector to absorb the large population.

As a result, the continued concentration of commodities and natural resources in Africa’s export basket raises questions over whether increased trade will boost the continent’s economic prosperity. One particular strand of thought has always blamed the colonial pattern of trade for Africa’s impoverishment and delayed journey towards economic development. Thus, the fact that Africa has reduced its dependence on its former colonial powers should theoretically brighten its economic growth prospects?

Of all the exports from Africa to China and India, 90% are commodities and natural resource-based products. In case of Africa’s exports to the rest of the world, excluding the two Asian giants, the share of such commodities and natural resources in total exports is much lower, at an estimated 63%. Thus, the fact that Africa today exports mostly raw materials and natural resources, as a much higher proportion of total exports than other comparable countries of Asia, many of whom attained independence around the same time, should worry those who wish to see the continent making quick leaps towards prosperity.

In India, colonial trade is associated with the “de-industrialization” of the sub-continent when the British exported manufactured cotton-piece goods to India, thereby destroying the local textiles industry, while often sourcing raw cotton from India itself. Around a century later, China is being accused by some observers of bringing similar ruin to the domestic textile industry of Nigeria through its exports which have been often termed as dumping, that is, selling below cost. Chinese companies in Africa are also sometimes charged with mostly hiring Chinese labour, leading to eventual repatriation of most of the salaries back to the “mother nation”. Thus, there remain apprehensions in some quarters over the increasing role of China in Africa. India, perhaps, escapes such scrutiny due to the much larger size of China’s presence.

Africa's Natural Wealth

Helium is used in MRI scanners, nuclear research facilities, and for specific industrial tasks such as leak detection. Vast amounts are needed to keep superconducting magnets cool at the Large Hadron Collider at Cern near Geneva. The discovery of a vast reserve of helium in east Africa has allayed fears of a global shortage of this precious gas.

According to independent analysts, the natural store of helium found in the Rift valley in Tanzania contains an estimated 54bn cubic feet of the noble gas, enough to inflate a similar number of party balloons, or to fill 1,200,000 hospital MRI scanners, researchers said. A team from the UK and Norway uncovered the huge resource after applying expertise gleaned from oil and gas exploration to understand how helium is produced in rocks under the ground and where it accumulates.

“This is a significant find,” said Jon Gluyas, professor of geo-energy at Durham University and a member of the discovery team. “There are reserves of helium gas, but they have been depleting quite quickly. The price has gone up 500% in 15 years.” The steep rise has occurred despite the discovery of a huge natural gas field in Qatar that contains a small percentage of helium gas. “We have to keep finding more, it’s not renewable or replaceable,” he added.

The steady decline in global helium reserves concerned some doctors so much that they had called for a ban on its use in party balloons. At a British Medical Association meeting last year anaesthetist Tom Dolphin told delegates: “This invaluable, irreplaceable gas is being literally handed to children in balloons so they can be entertained for a few minutes until they get bored and let go.” One Nobel laureate, the late Robert Richardson, said in 2012 that helium balloons should cost £75 each to reflect the true cost of the gas.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Trading in Death

In April this year, a Tel Aviv court rejected a petition from an Israeli lawyer to release documentation of arms exports to the Hutu government in Rwanda in the 1990s.

Over 100 days in 1994, members of the Hutu majority acting with the Rwandan government killed hundreds of thousands of the Tutsi minority. The killing was carried out with machetes and light weapons. Israeli-made 5.56mm bullets, grenades and rifles were involved, according to human rights groups and Israeli arms dealers.

In 2014, lawyer Eitay Mack filed a freedom of information request with the Israeli defence ministry for details of exports to Rwanda. The request eventually found its way to the Israeli high court, which has just rejected the petition citing risks to national security and Tel Aviv’s foreign relations.

According to the newspaper Haaretz, the motive of Israeli arms dealers in Rwanda was “pure greed" and some arms dealers have even argued that supplying light weapons to Hutu murderers was a good deed because it meant that the victims would die more quickly from a bullet wound than from being hacked apart with a machete.

Given the deep connection between the Israeli defence ministry and the defence industry, it would be nearly impossible that senior members of the Israeli government weren’t aware of the arms deals with Rwanda.

Israel’s relationship with Africa, whereby the country profits from the continent’s conflicts and refuses to accept asylum seekers, demonstrates that there is no morality in statecraft.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Good and Bad News

Andy Challinor, professor of climate impacts at the University of Leeds in the UK, has already warned that climate change could have a dramatic impact on African farmland.

In Africa, gradually rising temperatures and more droughts and heatwaves caused by climate change will have an impact on maize,” he warns. “We looked in particular at the effect of temperature on crop durations, which is the length of time between planting and harvesting. Higher temperatures mean shorter durations, and hence less time to accumulate biomass and yield.” In some cases, the researchers found that crop duration could become significantly shorter as early as 2018, and by 2031 in most of the maize-growing regions of Africa.

African farmers understood the principles of soil management long before the scientific revolution in agriculture, according to new research in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

James Fairhead, professor of social anthropology at the University of Sussex, UK, and colleagues report that they analysed a range of sites in West Africa – 150 in northwest Liberia and 27 in Ghana.

They found that leached and nutrient-starved tropical forest soils had been transformed, in some cases almost seven centuries ago, into enduringly fertile loams by the addition of black carbon and kitchen scrap. These cultivated patches contained two to three times as much organic carbon as other soils and were better suited to intensive farming.

Other researchers have identified similar techniques in Amazon soils that date from long before the European discovery of America.

“Mimicking this ancient method has the potential to transform the lives of thousands of people living in some of the most poverty-stricken and hunger-stricken regions of Africa,” Professor Fairhead says. “More work needs to be done, but this simple, effective farming practice could be an answer to major global challenges, such as developing ‘climate-smart’ agricultural systems that can feed growing populations and adapt to climate change.”

Friday, June 24, 2016

Ogaden: Ethiopia’s Hidden Shame.(video)

Ethiopia is regularly cited as an African success story; the economy is growing they cry, more children are attending school and health care is improving. Yet the development there depends on “state force and the denial of human and civil rights”, the Oakland Institute relate. The ruling party, the EPRDF, uses violence and fear to suppress the people and governs in a highly centralised manner. Human rights are ignored and a methodology of murder, false imprisonment, torture and rape is followed. The country remains 173rd out of 187 countries in the UN Human Development Index and around 40% of the population live below the extremely low poverty line of $1.25 a day, – the World Bank worldwide poverty line is $2 a day.

The ethnic Somali population of the Ogaden, in the southeast part of the country, has been the victim of extreme government brutality since 1992.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Blue Nile

In the southeastern corner of Sudan a little-known struggle has succeeded in depopulating an entire region. Blue Nile sits on the southern frontier of Sudan, where war has raged for more than 60 years. The fight is a continuation of the struggle that birthed the world's newest nation, an independent South Sudan, in 2011. Blue Nile holds great promise. It sits on a literal gold mine and the land is the most fertile in the country. But a lifetime of war has bought nothing but suffering. There is not yet a path to peace – all attempts have fizzled.

 It’s also a humanitarian crisis that has been compounded by the evacuation of all international aid organisations. A spluttering peace process, is denying people desperately needed food aid; and explains how the economic lifeline of locally mined gold and gum arabic is smuggled north, to profit a government trying to crush the rebellion.

The notorious Janjaweed militia are being redeployed to Blue Nile as a paramilitary wing of the regular army.

The unseen and unheard refugee crisis

MSF says "a catastrophic humanitarian emergency" is unfolding at a camp in Bama, where 24,000 people have taken refuge. Nearly 200 refugees, who fled Boko Haram attacks, have died of starvation and dehydration. The refugees "speak of children dying of hunger and digging new graves every day," according to a statement from the global medical charity group. One in five of the 15,000 children are suffering severe acute malnutrition, the group found.

Ongoing clashes between the rebels and government troops make travel unsafe and farmers have not planted crops for 18 months, Dr Christopher Mampula of MSF explained. Boko Haram fighters routinely burn down homes and destroy wells, leaving few water sources in an area where temperatures often soar above 40 degrees.

The refugees in Bama are among 1.8 million Nigerians forced from their homes and living inside the country, with another 155,000 in neighbouring countries, according to the UN.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

South Africa's Migrant Crisis

Fleeing war, drought and poverty , an increasing number of people from the Horn of Africa are heading south en route to South Africa. After arrival, many face xenophobia, arrest and deportation. Attempting to escape a dictatorial regime, many Ethiopians are fleeing the country in search of a better life. The country is suffering from severe drought and famine and has a border conflict with Eritrea. Eritreans are also seeking refuge away from a country that many experts rank as the least democratic in the world. Many head north toward Europe while others travel the southern route towards South Africa. Somalian refugees are also joining the trek south, fleeing atrocities and violence at the hands of al-Shabab militants in their country. Migration flows, which include refugees, asylum seekers, displaced persons and economic migrants, put a strain on governments in the region as they struggle to cope with the large number of migrants crossing their borders and moving through their countries. Many live as illegal aliens.

For most, the goal is South Africa, the only country in the region where refugees and asylum seekers enjoy freedom of movement and the right to work rather than being confined to camps. But as the number of migrants from the Horn of Africa seeking asylum in South Africa reached unprecedented levels, authorities began debating a shift away from the 1951 Refugee Convention that defined the term "refugee," outlined the rights of the displaced and set the legal obligations of states to protect them. In South Africa, three percent of the population are migrants. Due to high unemployment rates and poor economic growth, South Africans are frustrated and anti-foreigner sentiments are expressed more often and, as in Europe, have become more mainstream.

"South Africa for many years has had a very progressive law regarding migrants, particularly among refugees, and the country was in fact the number one recipient for asylum seekers in the world," said Loren Landau, a senior researcher at the African Center for Migration and Society at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. According to Landau, many refugees are not able to exercise their rights and increasingly the South African government has hinted that there is a need to control migration. "They are taking the cue from Australia, Europe and North America, saying that we can't have any more," he said, adding that while they are still formally committed to protecting refugees and migrants, in practice protections are being eroded.

The United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, says South Africa has 120,000 recognized refugees and one million asylum seekers with pending cases. Tina Ghelli is the UNHCR's regional spokesperson for Southern Africa. "The biggest challenge in South Africa is the implementation of refugee's rights," she told DW. "Sometimes they face discrimination when they access social services and often become targets of xenophobia. Many of them make strong contributions to the community and economy - but that is not recognized."

There are currently amendments being discussed by the South African parliament to take away the rights to work for those people. Also the government is pushing neighboring countries like Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania to keep the migrants so they do not travel further to South Africa. But also more and more people from Burundi, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Congo and Zimbabwe are fleeing their homes and arrive in South Africa, which many regard as an attractive economic giant.

The men, women and children making up these migrant flows towards southern Africa frequently resort to unsafe modes of transportation and smuggling networks. They expose themselves to injury, violence, detention, exploitation and abuse. Human trafficking has become a huge problem in the southern region. Desperate people are being trafficked from the Great Lakes region through many countries to South Africa. Recently, in Zambia police discovered a truck carrying more than 100 Ethiopians. 19 were dead. They were most likely victims of human trafficking.

Monday, June 20, 2016

South African miners have new hope

A South African judge said human rights lawyers could launch an unprecedented “class action” that, if successful, would force more than 30 mine companies to pay compensation to everyone they have employed since 1965 who has had silicosis. In a major breakthrough for campaigners, it would also mean payouts to relatives of former miners affected by the disease who have already died. The total sum could be billions. Former miners with silicosis and other diseases have long been entitled to limited compensation from a government-administered fund, to which some mining companies make a contribution. However, the sums are limited, there is a huge backlog of claims and relatives of miners who have already died receive nothing.

Lawyers acting for the miners say the dangers from silica-laden dust were raised a century ago as the great South African mining boom got under way. A solution – blowing vast quantities of chilled air through the mines and masks – was also known, but only began to be implemented recently.

Georgina Jephson of Richard Spoor Inc, one of the law firms behind the class action, said: “The apartheid government effectively facilitated the whole system through the provision of cheap and expendable black labour. There have always been very good and strict laws about health and safety underground, but these were not enforced, certainly not under apartheid and only haphazardly since. Mining is a very powerful industry and [it has been] in the government’s interest to allow it to prosper. Johannesburg would not be here if not for mining and our country was built on mining, but at massive expense in human life.”

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Democratic Capitalism or Colonialism (1960)

From the March 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

A great obstacle to capitalism in Africa is Dr. Verwoerd and his Nationalist Party of South Africa. Others are Sir Roy Welensky and the white Rhodesian settlers.

The conflict in the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland mirrors that in South Africa. In both the white land-owners have the power in their hands: they regard the Africans as a subordinate race, to be denied land-ownership except in the most barren areas, to be kept voteless and illiterate, and to be barred as far as possible from the towns—all these so that they may continue to provide a reservoir of cheap farm-labour for the landowners. But the capitalists in the Federation (as in the Union) have very different views. They want an educated mass proletariat, living in the towns, to work their factories: and only the natives can provide it. The Ford Motor Company, which is to build a £2 million motor assembly plant in Salisbury, and the British Motor Corporation, whose £1 million factory at Umtali starts production in September cannot risk wasting their capital because their workers cannot understand modern machinery. And the mineowners of the Northern Rhodesian copper belt cannot put in new machinery to increase their profits if the mineworkers are unable to read the books of instructions. Here is the root of the struggle in the Federation, between the landowners on the one side and the factory—and mine-owners on the other.

Just as South Africa lays claim to Bechuanaland, Swaziland and Basutoland, so the Southern Rhodesian settlers wanted to extend their reservoir of farm-labourers. This they did by federating with Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, against the wishes of the vast majority of the inhabitants of those countries, where there are very few white settlers. Of course, the settlers do not support Federation unconditionally: they only want it if they are to be the governing aristocracy. So this leads to the contradiction—against the claims of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland to secede, they say secession is impossible; and against the plans of the capitalist class to set up a capitalist democracy within the Federation, they threaten they will secede themselves. Within two days recently, Sir Roy Welensky, one settlers’ leader, said, “there could be no question of the (Monckton) commission recommending that any part of the Federation be allowed to secede” (The Guardian, 28/1/60); and Sir Edgar Whitehead, another settlers’ leader, said that “if the Governments of both Northern territories were operated on a nationalist basis by African nationalists,” then Southern Rhodesia itself would withdraw from the Federation (The Times, 30/1/60).

This is not to say that the capitalists do not want Federation: they do, for it has great economic advantages. But they are very dubious about a Federation run by Welensky and his settlers, who are indifferent or hostile to the development of capitalism. If they wish to establish a capitalist government, they will have to do it with the help of the votes of their black workers; for although in Southern Rhodesia “75 per cent. of the whites now live in towns, these towns have really grown out of the countryside and the new cities are only just acquiring a spirit of their own. It has been the white Southern Rhodesian farmer who has dictated the character of his country—and of the country’s politics”; the “white Rhodesians who live in the towns . . . still take their attitude from the farmer” (The Listener, 17/9/59). So the establishment of a democracy is essential if the capitalists are to take political power, to match their growing economic power. Hence what The Guardian (16/12/59) calls the “liberalism” of the large Rhodesian companies. The article goes on to say:
It is almost impossible to exaggerate the importance to Central Africa of the Big Four companies—Rhodesian Selection Trust, Rhodesian Anglo-American, Imperial Tobacco Company, and the British South Africa Company. They control the copper, coal, lead and zinc mining and tobacco processing industries; they own forests, ranches, citrus estates, merchant banks, and newspapers; they have made generous gifts to the new university college; they have provided large loans for the renovation of the railways, the building of Kariba hydro-electric dam, for large-scale agricultural research, and rural development.
Political development
“Of these four companies,” says the article, “Imperial Tobacco and the British South Africa Company are the less influential, and follow the lead of the other two." Of these other two, Rhodesian Anglo-American has as its chairman Harry Oppenheimer, who is one of the industrialists behind the new Progressive Party in South Africa; and the Rhodesian Selection Trust’s chairman is Sir Ronald Prain, who has just issued his annual statement, including his comments on the Federation:
I do not believe that the solution of Nyasaland’s problems,will depend entirely on economic aid . . . It is essential in the current environment of Africa that political development in all three territories should not lag too much behind economic development.
In other words—we capitalists have the economic power, so now we want the political power as well. This the capitalists can best get by giving the vote to the African workers, who (they trust) will vote for capitalism, just as workers do in democracies elsewhere. Sir Ronald significantly continues:
The Legislature is entirely European, a situation which appears inconsistent with Southern Rhodesia’s position as the leading territory of what is a multi-racial Federation. Some of the laws, too, such as the Land Apportionment Act. would appear to require urgent and drastic alteration.
This last sentence is a direct attack on the settlers. The Land Apportionment Act, which gives half the farmland to the Europeans, was called “the cornerstone of our society” by Dominion Party settler-M.P.s earlier last year. A blow aimed at this settlers' Magna Carta gives an unmistakable warning that the capitalists are not going to tolerate a settlers’ government for very much longer. This, indeed, has been increasingly obvious recently. In July the Rhodesian Selection Trust and Rhodesian Anglo-American “jointly announced that they would discontinue their annual contributions to Sir Roy Welensky’s Federal party funds”; last year, together with the British South Africa company, they contributed £5.000. And in November the Rhodesian Selection Trust decided to stop subsidising The Central African Examiner, a political fortnightly which started in 1957 “with the aim of giving ‘thoughtful support to liberal causes’ but which turned to comparing Sir Edgar Whitehead (another settlers' leader) with Abraham Lincoln at a time when Sir Edgar was promoting a harsh Preventive Detention Bill.”

Sir Ronald Prain went on to say:
The Europeans deceive themselves if they close their eyes to what is happening in the rest of Africa . . . (While) some African leaders are still held in custody, no country can feel it can he said to have yet solved the problems of a multiracial community.
Democratic Capitalism
As could be expected, the Rhodesian capitalists have plenty of friends in capitalist Britain. Like the great Rhodesian companies, the Labour Party (that old capitalists’ friend) wants the "political development” of the Federation, advocates the release of the African leaders, and attacks the settlers’ government. The Conservative Bow Group wants Dr. Banda (the African Nationalist leader) released, and the vote given to many more Africans (The Times, 4/1/60). An "Africa 1960” Committee has been formed, including two Conservative M.P.s, to support “a rapid and orderly advance towards self-government” in African territories (The Guardian, 12/1/60). The Conservative Mr. Justice Devlin and his Commission rejected the settler’s arguments on the necessity of jailing the Africans’ leaders in their report of July last year. The Nuffield Foundation has come down on the side of the big companies racial theories, and against the racial discrimination of the settlers, by offering £250,000 to the University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland towards setting up a medical school at Salisbury providing there is no colour bar (The Observer, 31/1/60). Mr. Macleod (the Colonial Secretary) and Mr. Macmillan have both made it clear that the peoples of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland would not be handed over finally to the Southern Rhodesian settlers until they themselves decided that they wanted to remain within the Federation (The Guardian, 8/1/60).

These examples could be multiplied indefinitely. But enough has been said to show that the great industrialists of the Rhodesias can look forward with confidence to the establishment of a capitalist democracy in Central Africa, in line with parallel developments in nearly every other African country. Then the way will be open for the workers, both of this country and of Central Africa, to devote themselves to the only struggle which concerns them, the struggle for Socialism.


Mozambique's Resource Curse

The “resource curse” that has ruined many resource-rich African countries is steadily creeping onto Mozambique, a country which only a couple of years ago was on the threshold of economic powerhouse, but is now teetering on the brink of a major debt crisis that is having serious repercussions on the economy. Before its current problems, Mozambique was earmarked for an economic boom following the discoveries of natural gas. The commodity is anticipated to add $39 billion to the economy over the next 20 years. The country’s natural gas endowment, coupled with its massive coal deposits, were set to transform the previously impoverished nation, and the region. Alas, Mozambique now seems headed on the path taken by fellow African countries that despite endowment with vast natural resources wallow in poverty. Among these are Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria and Sudan. According to the 2015 African Report, instead of creating prosperity, resources have too often fostered corruption, undermined inclusive economic growth, armed conflict and indebtedness.

Barely two years after the discovery of vast natural gas explorations and a decade after international creditors wrote off over US$6 billion of loans to the country as part of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, the resources-endowed Southern African country is showing alarming signs of plunging back into unserviceable debt.

A disclosure by the government of President Filipe Nyusi previously hidden, government-guaranteed loans exceeding $1 billion (R14,8 billion) to state defence and security companies has precipitated the spectacular fall from economic prominence to a debt crisis. It is believed this is only a tip of the iceberg amid indications the debt could rise to around $2,35 billion with further revelations. It has emerged loans to state or parastatal companies were secretly guaranteed in 2013 and 2014 by the previous government of Armando Guebuza, who presided over the country for a decade until Nyusi assumed the reins in 2015. The country’s public debt has reached frightening levels of $11,64 billion, of which $9,89 billion dollars is foreign debt. Mozambique’s gross domestic product is put at $17 billion.

Among the beneficiaries were Mozambique Tuna Company, which secured $850 million, apparently from Credit Suisse for the purchase of patrol boats. It is said the prices of the vessels were inflated. Proindicus, which provides maritime security in the Rovuma basin, borrowed $622 million, also from Credit Suisse and the Russian bank VTB.Mozambique Asset Management (MAM), provide maritime repair and maintenance, borrowed $535 million also from VTB.

Servicing the debt is already proving insurmountable to the current administration. Nyusi’s government is contemplating defaulting on the loans completely on the basis they were arranged, in violation of legal debt limits, by an erstwhile administration. The International Monetary Fund is also wary of the economic prospects of Mozambique. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has been working with Mozambique to help it repay a previously disclosed debt of US$850 million, has suspended the second installment of a US$282 million loan to the country. Some 14 donors and financial agencies aside the IMF, who used to give direct support to the Mozambican state budget have also interrupted disbursements “until further notice.”

A decrease in foreign aid has worsened a large drop in the world market price of some of Mozambique’s key exports and of foreign direct investment. The result has been a severe shortage of foreign currency, which has seen the Meticals currency, lose double its worth to the South African Rand to 4M/R. According to Peter Fabricius, Institute for Security Studies (ISS) consultant, since most food is imported from South Africa, this will increase food inflation, while the security situation is not rosy either.

“The resource curse, which has ruined so many other African countries, is visiting Mozambique with a vengeance,” said Fabricus.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Africa 1960 - Our view

The Boycott (1960)

From the March 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

IN April of last year, the African National Congress of South Africa launched a new campaign, calling for an economic boycott of all South African Nationalist (Government-supporting) firms. The aim of the movement is to hurt the South African Government economically, by hitting the farmers who in the main are Nationalist supporters, and thereby embarrassing the Government into altering their policy of Apartheid. With trade unions frowned upon and strikes by Africans, a criminal offence, non-white South Africans face real problems in putting pressure on Government, and the boycott was decided upon because it was a peaceful way of protesting against the Government’s policies.

From this relatively small beginning, the movement has spread to other countries. In Britain, the campaign to boycott South African goods has been taken up by the Liberal and Labour Parties, the T.U.C. and the Political Committee of the London Co-operative Society. Cooperative shops, however, have been advised by the Co-operative Union not to support the ban. The President of one Co-op. Society seemed to hit the nail on the head when he said that . . ." if the Society did boycott South African goods, their customers would only go to other shops for them.” (The Guardian. 27/1/60.),

Sir de Villiers Graaff, leader of the United (opposition) Party, in answer to the proposed boycott has called it “inadvisable, ineffective, and (it) would have dangerous consequences.” (Times. 4/1/60.) He went on to enumerate the reasons, starting by saying that such action would be regarded as interference with the internal policies of South Africa, leading to great resentment on the part of members of the South African public as a whole. “The question would then be asked,” he continued, “why South Africa should be selected for such treatment when the social systems and policies of many other countries must be equally, if not more, repugnant to British ideas. '

The British Press shows considerable sympathy towards the United Party, which they consider to be fairly liberal in its outlook, but the remarks of its leader are no different to those made in an interview by the late Mr. Strijdom. former Prime Minister in the Nationalist Government, on the general subject of Apartheid, in Ed Murrow’s documentary lilm African Conflict. They were typical remarks of a representative of capitalism or growing capitalism.

Although the boycott movement has gathered a large number of supporters, the movement’s leaders are not under any illusions about the results it might bring. Three of the boycott's chief supporters in South Africa have admitted that it might hit at South African non-whites first but, they say, the alternative is "a bleak prospect of unending discrimination.” (Guardian 8/1/60.) Neither do they think that the Government will change its policies overnight.

It is estimated that some £100m. worth of South African goods are exported to Britain every year. Of this, about £35m. is accounted for by metal imports and diamonds, which are not easily boycotted by individual workers. The remainder, £65m. consists of fresh and tinned fruit (totalling £40m.) and wine, tobacco, sugar, wool and leather making up the balance. (Tribune 29/11/59.) Various estimates have been given of the value of goods which will be lost by the boycott—between £2m. and £6m.

Although the boycott shows the extent of indignation against the South African Government’s policies of brutal suppression of the Africans, it cannot hope to have more than a passing effect on South position to African workers, as they enjoy a much higher standard of living, are apathetic to the lot of the Negro. They have never had it so good, generally speaking, and they are prepared to allow their consciences to rest while their black fellow-workers had never had it so bad.

The Africans form a vast, and mainly untapped, source of labour for the growing capitalism of South Africa. They are one of the most immature proletariats in the world, and their political disadvantages are immense, but they must eventually go through the stages of maturing into class-conscious workers. When they have reached this stage, it won't be necessary to boycott South African goods in order for them to live dignified, wholesome lives.
Phyllis Hart

Apartheid (1960)

From the March 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

In South Africa since 1948 the tide of. political events has been with the Nationalists. During the 12 years since that time, under three leaders—Malan, Strijdom, and now, Verwoerd—they have consolidated and strengthened their hold on the reins of Government. Since that time, against the hostility of the world's press and against the indignation of even the least liberally minded person, they have exerted political power with arrogant confidence and militancy.

A single word has dominated all political discussion related to South Africa since 1948—Apartheid. Nationalists didn’t invent the word, but in a political context they gave it a new meaning. In theory at least, the Nationalists are the architects and dedicated builders of Apartheid.

Yet even Nationalists have seen their , “cause” in various ways; to Strijdom, it had been a heaven-inspired dedication, the only political means through which the whites of South Africa could “survive.” Mr. Verwoerd, the present Prime Minister, has attempted to hide the crude body of Apartheid under a cloak of sophistication. With the best will in the world, he maintains, policies of integration could never work in South Africa. White and black are in every respect quite antithetical. In terms of race and social custom, morality and values, they each stand as the other’s opposite, and only policies which take these “facts” into consideration are likely to succeed in South Africa. One respects the separate properties of oil and water, he says, but only folly pours them into the same bucket and expects them to mix readily. Mr. Verwoerd appreciates like no other that oil must float on top of water.

The shrewder political observer knows that so-called Apartheid is a vicious and hate-filled lie. It is the rallying call which even in 1960 can muster the whole history and traditions of Afrikaners solidly behind the Nationalists. In Apartheid, Verwoerd and his colleagues have an emotionally-charged word upon which they successfully conduct their political campaigns. Certainly Apartheid was never an honest and practical policy. Nevertheless, pressed by intellectuals of the Nationalist Party, and the weight of their own propaganda, the Government appointed the Tomlinson Commission to recommend a practical way of putting Apartheid into effect. It was to work out a plan for removing eight million Negroes living in white areas into the already over-populated Negro reserves. In 1956 the Commission reported, and as an early start, envisaged that the Government should begin industries in the reserves with an assistance fund of £25 million. In the longer term, they recommended a 10 year plan costing £104 million. Yet even though many Nationalists were critical of the Commission’s report for not going far enough, the Government squashed all its key recommendations as being too costly, drastic and ambitious.              '

Yet all this does not mean that the Nationalists have not been busy. Even from a liberal reformist standpoint, the Nationalists have shown themselves as one of the world's most reactionary Governments, struggling hard to hold the clock still, if not to move it back.

The turmoil of South African politics reflects not ’’race conflicts’’ but economic conflicts. Some Nationalist politicians may well feel heroically cast as the guardians of "white survival,” but to translate this into less romantic terms, and to judge them from the real social and economic effects of their policies, they are revealed as the political power of landed interests whose role is to maintain a cheap and abundant supply of labour in farming areas. This has necessarily brought them into conflict with urban industrial capitalists who complain that Nationalist policies are a fetter upon further expansion.

The most important legislation brought in by the Nationalists in recent years has brought about the removal of the Coloured voters from the Electoral Roll and the oppressive Pass laws. Also it included the Group Areas Act and the Bantu Education Act. With the removal of the Coloured voters from the Electoral Roll, the last vestige of democratic participation was taken from all who were not white. With the Bantu Education Act, the Nationalists stopped what formal education was being bestowed upon the Negro population, mainly through Church Schools. They clearly saw this teaching of the “three R’s” as being in the long term adjusted to the needs of a proletariat being slowly integrated into the labour force of a technical community. For decades, but particularly since 1945, the Negroes in South Africa, pushed by their hard conditions as agricultural labourers, have been emigrating to the towns. Seeing in these movements a possible threat to the farmers’ labour supply, the Nationalists, with the Group Areas Act and the Pass laws, have arrested the free mobility that African Negroes once enjoyed. It is now a criminal offence for a Negro to move into an urban area and stay there for longer than 72 hours.

Currently, the Government has brought in legislation to provide for eight "Bantustans.” These will be areas wholly given over to Negro population and, under the administration of the Negroes themselves, claim the Government, adding, of course, that all aspects of policy and the appointment of officials would be subject to government control. The proposals have been variously received. Nationalists claim them as the beginning of the real fulfilment of Apartheid—"a homeland in which the native people can live their own political, economic and cultural lives.” (Johannesburg Star, 16/2/59). The Institute of Race Relations charges the plan with being a means of dividing up the Negroes on reserves and holding them more widely scattered, in smaller units.

Of all the things that they might eventually be, the Bantustans will never add up to Apartheid in practice. The measures do not disturb the millions of Negroes who live outside the reserves and upon whose labour the South African economy has come to depend.

The complaints from capitalists have been many and almost daily a dark shadow of early economic ruin is drawn behind Nationalist policies. To the urban industrialists, so-called Apartheid means high wages to white semi-skilled workers, where Negroes would do the job more enthusiastically for a third the wage. It means enormous additions to industrial overheads especially for the provision of extra buildings and workshops, exits and entrances, toilets, canteens and washing facilities, all politically necessary but economically superfluous. It means only the weakest trickle of capital from abroad, whilst foreign investors, especially Americans, await a complete re-orientation of Government policy. Apartheid places the South African economy in a straight-jacket, whilst industrialists look on in bewildered frustration at seeing a vast reservoir of Negro labour being greedily retained as mere farm labourers.

In the modern world, all this stands as a unique situation born of a unique history. Today the Nationalists may wallow in the nostalgia of Boer tradition, couched as it is in bitter enmity for the Negro and the British, for the Boers suffered greatly from both the once proud Bantu and the more crafty British imperialists. It was the British who first seized from the Boers the Cape for use as a trade route and later, after winning the Boer War, seized the Transvaal and Orange Free State for control over the gold, diamonds and other rich mineral resources. Their anti-British attitudes are still obvious in recent legislation. God Save the Queen is no longer the official South African National Anthem, and many Nationalist leaders are ambitious for a republic.

The Afrikaners themselves are changing. Calvinist to the core, from their lofty tower of Dutch peasant morality, they always viewed money-making as sinful, especially the hungry and avaricious scramble after South African gold and diamonds. But today their agriculture is integrated into a world marketing system and the farmers themselves submit annual returns in which they necessarily calculate their financial return over and above their investment. Moreover, they have sunk money into canning plants and arc participating to an ever greater degree in the South African economy outside agriculture.

As their interests become more outrightly bourgeois, their morality and theology will inevitably adjust itself. At that time, the Nationalists will either have to go or will be forced to change fundamentally their political form. Recently reported splits among the leadership of the Nationalist Party indicate wide divergencies in ideology and the possible beginning of a change in outlook. In the long term, one can only think that the class line-up in South Africa will resolve itself into an uncomplicated division between capitalists and workers. When that time arrives, the hate and fanatic prejudices of the Nationalists which rub against the humanist sensitivities of reasonable minded people like salt in an open wound, wilt be swept aside by braver cries of one world, one people, one mutual interest.
Pieter Lawrence

Africa 1960 (1960)

From the March 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

At the height of colonialism there were only two independent states in the whole of Africa. Of these one was the Union of South Africa, which represented a kind of indigenous colonialism, with the white minority ruling the black majority. That left Liberia, with its one million inhabitants, as the only native-ruled state. The rest of Africa's 230 millions were divided up into colonies which belonged to half a dozen Western European countries— Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Italy (Germany's colonies having been taken from her after the First World War, and distributed among the victors).

But now the position is revolutionised. By the end of this year two-thirds of the Africans will be under independent African rule (The Observer, 3.1.60); and other territories are more than halfway to independence. Of the Arab countries, Egypt, the Sudan, Libya, Tunisia and Morocco have thrown off foreign domination. The extensive countries of what used to be French Equatorial and French West Africa are now independent, either inside or outside the French “Community.” In British West Africa, Sierra Leone has an elected African majority. Ghana is independent, Nigeria will be independent this year. Also becoming independent in the next few months are the Belgian Congo, and Somalia, on the Horn of Africa. Tanganyika will have self-government next year, and there are proposals for an elected African majority in Uganda.

How has this come about? The answer is, largely because of the development of commerce and industry in the colonies, which leads to the emergence of a native capitalist class. As The Observer (3.1.60) puts it: “New people are rising all the time. Among the Africans there are forceful, intelligent and sometimes brash young nationalists; traders, contractors and careerist politicians cashing-in on independence; serious, highly-principled young intellectuals and Civil Servants.” This native capitalist class, with its supporting politicians and intellectuals, is usually able (as in Britain) to get the mass of the people on its side against “the foreigner.” When this embryo ruling class reaches a certain stage of development, it becomes aware of the vast opportunities for profit there would be for itself if it could end colonialism and spread industry throughout the whole of its territory.

When this stage is reached, what is the attitude of the imperial power? Unfortunately for the imperialists, empires no longer pay, as John Strachey shows in his recent book. The End of Empire. At first they paid, and paid handsomely: but with changing economic conditions, and the increasing expense of the police forces and armies necessary to maintain imperial rule, they have not been profitable to the ruling class as a whole for some years. They still have strategic value, which causes all the trouble in, for example, Cyprus and Malta. But when these considerations can be satisfied, the crippling annual bills for the colonel-based armed forces must make any ruling class less enthusiastic about colonies. Secondly, capitalists and the supporters of capitalism always believe that their system is the best possible; to them, progress is synonymous with the establishment of capitalism. The setting up of another capitalist state seems to them a great step forward. Of course, no imperialist country will hand over power to a ruling class which would ally itself to a rival bloc; hence the British fight against the Malayan guerillas who would have taken Malaya into the Soviet camp, as contrasted with the subsequent handing over of power, after the defeat of the guerillas, to the present Malayan ruling class.

The rest of the capitalist world watches and applauds, partly because it sees its own capitalist ideals put into practice, partly to gain the friendship of the emerging states. Russia is always ready with its help to ex-colonial countries, as can be seen in its financing of Egypt’s Aswan Dam project. As for America, the Presidential candidates Nixon (on the Republican side) and Humphrey and Kennedy (on the Democratic) sent strong messages of support to the recent All-Africa People's Conference in Tunis (The Guardian. 28.1.60).

The greater part of Africa is now independent or well on its way to independence. The only colonies where no concessions have yet been made arc Angola and Mozambique, both belonging to Portugal; these are both less densely populated (having a combined population of only nine million) and less industrialised than most of Africa. Rut as trade and industry develops, these too will follow the same path.

Settler States
Apart from that, the exceptions to the otherwise universal rule are to be found in the states which have a considerable white settler population—Kenya. Algeria and Rhodesian Federation. and South Africa. In all these states, the government is in the hands of the white landed interests, who regard the development of capitalism with distrust, and who want to keep the Africans as illiterate farm-workers. But the first three of these countries are still colonies, under the suzerainty of European powers. Britain and France are old capitalist states, and have no desire to maintain permanent expensive armies in their colonies in order to uphold the rule of a small minority of white farmers. As in their former “all-black” colonies, they want to set up these territories as independent capitalist democracies.

In the case of Kenya, the Colonial Secretary Mr. Macleod reiterated the aim of the British government as being “ to build a nation based on parliamentary institutions and enjoying responsible self-government” (The Times, 21.1.60). and refused to grant the settlers’ demands that they should continue to have the exclusive right to run the government. Group-Captain Briggs, the principal settlers' leader at the recent Kenya constitutional conference in London, described Mr. Macleod’s proposals as “shocking," and went back to Kenya before the conference ended.

As for Algeria, not even open rebellion by the settlers could shake President de Gaulle’s decision that the colony must be granted self-determination, based on the wishes of all its peoples. In the Rhodesian Federation, the Southern Rhodesian settlers fear a similar outcome; both the settlers’ parties, the United Federal Party and the Dominion Party, have recently threatened to secede from the Federation—obviously hoping that if they surrender Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland to those who wish to establish capitalist democracy, they will be allowed to keep “their” Southern Rhodesian black farmworkers. Even in South Africa, where the whites are twenty per cent, of the population (twice as high as anywhere else in Africa) there are increasing fears for the future. Mr. Macmillan, in his speech to members of both houses of the South African Parliament, told them bluntly he could not support their racial policies, and is reported to have warned Dr. Verwoerd. the Premier, that Britain can no longer support in the United Nations South Africa’s contention that the apartheid question is her own domestic concern.

End of an era
So the curtain is falling on colonialism in the last continent where it still had a firm hold. Now there are few countries left in the world which are not driving ahead with industrialisation, under a capitalist ruling class. And as the debris of one historical epoch is cleared away, the stage is set ever more unmistakably for the next act. Capitalism, and the working class which it exploits, are set still more squarely face to face. Socialism, even more than ever before, has become the one genuine political issue confronting the working class.

Africa (1960)

Editorial from the March 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

In writing on Africa, more than one historian has drawn attention to an important factor dominating the history of the continent up to the second half of the 19th century—its isolation. For instance, Alexander Campbell, writing in his book Empire in Africa, likens it to a gigantic saucer rimmed with mountains and sealed for thousands of years from nearly all human contact with the outside world. Most of the rivers there are not easily navigable for more than a short distance from their mouths, owing to rapids and falls. The outstanding exception is the Nile, but even this has cataracts in its middle and upper reaches which prohibit navigation. This discouraged settlers from trying to penetrate the interior and acted also as an obstacle to any native attempts to “break out.”

Conditions of existence must have been grim indeed. In the equatorial regions there was swamp and thick forest to face, whilst elsewhere natives scratched a bare, living out of large areas of desert and bush. The African was subjected to a wide range of climates, most of them hostile; and in general, the soil was harsh and unrewarding. Harassed further by pests and diseases of all kinds, and the ravages of the tse-tse fly, it is little wonder that he remained “backward" for so long. Doctor Livingstone found people who were unaware of the name of a hill or tribe less than twenty miles distant. Hardship, isolation and fear were the lot of the native, and tribal life was hedged round with restrictions and taboos.

Today, we see a very different picture. Africa has been through a period of intensive development over the past sixty years. The older capitalist powers carried out extensive colonisation during the “scramble” of the latter 1800’s, but now, rising nationalist movements are beginning to challenge the power of such as Britain. France and Belgium, and in some areas have actually won independence.

The latest of these is the Belgian Congo, which we are told will become independent in June.

This does not mean, however, that foreign capitalists are losing interest in the areas where political control has been relinquished. Heavy investment has been taking place, and indeed has often been welcomed by the new African governments. In Ghana, for example, the greater part of the £342 millions expenditure during the five year plan is to be met by obtaining capital from overseas. As recently as September 1959, a report issued by H.M. Stationery Office gave news of the favourable investment prospects in Ghana. Further north in Egypt, the Russians have financed the Aswan Dam construction, whilst in Algeria hundreds of millions of pounds have been sunk in oil and industry since General De Gaulle became President of France. Here, the battle for control goes on with increased fury, as will have been seen from recent newspaper reports.

With the rise of nationalist feeling, and the breakdown of the old tribal loyalties, a new oppressed section is appearing—the African wage worker, having largely the same problems as his brothers and sisters elsewhere. He has exchanged his white oppressors for those with darker skins, who are ruthlessly determined to develop the new states as rapidly as possible along modem capitalist lines. Like most workers, he has yet to lose his racial prejudices. He has still to realise that “black” capitalism has about as little to offer him as “white” capitalism.

The message of Socialism is world wide however. It reaches across the artificial national boundaries erected by man. and is as much for the ears of the African workers as for others. This month, therefore, we are devoting most of the space in our journal to articles dealing with Africa and its problems, in an attempt to keep clear the real issue facing workers in that continent —as in all other continents—Capitalism, or Socialism.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Meeting on South Africa (1971)

On 20 January was a discussion on apartheid opened by Scrape Ntshona, a representative of the Unity Movement of South Africa. The Unity Movement was established in 1943. It adopted a ten-point programme that was mainly designed to win support for the establishment of a non-racial democratic republic in South Africa, and included demands such as universal franchise, freedom of speech and freedom to organise politically and industrially (which are demands a socialist group in South Africa might have to advocate whilst maintaining its separate identity and its opposition to all other parties). Ntshona went on to claim that the “leadership” of the Unity Movement had longer-term objectives including "public ownership of industry”, “redistribution of land” and “democratic control in industry”. It is clear that a small group within the Unity Movement recognise that some change in economic and social relations is necessary, as well as a change in the mode of government, before the problems of workers can begin to be solved. The change they seek, however, turns out to be little different from the failed national state capitalism of Russia and its successors in China and Cuba. In view of the many similarities in the foreign policies of both America and Russia with regard to Africa which the Unity Movement itself draws attention to, it is surprising that they have not recognised the basic similarity in the economic structure of the two countries. Ntshona's views on the vote were rather confused since, while he considered that it was something to be fought for by “non-european” workers in South Africa, he did not (unlike ourselves) see it as a potentially useful weapon in the struggle for the establishment of Socialism. Despite these criticisms it is true that the Unity Movement has made some contribution towards an understanding of the nature of apartheid and perhaps also to the development of some kind of independent working class activity amongst "non-european” workers in South Africa who after all make up the majority of the working class there.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

UK Neo-colonialism

Vicki Hird, Campaigns and Policy Director at War on Want, said: 

"DFID’s mission is to eradicate poverty, yet taxpayers' money is being used to promote the interests of multinational companies in Africa, rather than fighting poverty and inequality. For too long, we have seen the UK’s aid budget slip into the coffers of multinationals, helping to secure the corporate take-over of land and water resources in Africa at the expense of people and the planet. It’s time DFID used the aid budget to support small-scale farming, rather than boosting the profits of big business. One of the biggest barriers to tackling poverty and inequality is corporate tax dodging, which robs developing countries of billions of dollars each year. Rather than waste millions of pounds from the UK's aid budget on encouraging privatisation in the developing world, the government should get serious about tackling tax evasion and avoidance by UK based companies.  It’s time the government abolished the UK’s own global network of tax havens, which fuel secrecy and corruption, and pushed for public country by country reporting to tackle the lack of transparency in the global financial system."

A G8 initiative to boost agriculture and relieve poverty has been damned as a new form of colonialism after African governments agreed to change seed, land and tax laws to favour private investors over small farmers. Ten countries made more than 200 policy commitments, including changes to laws and regulations after giant agribusinesses were granted unprecedented access to decision-makers over the past two years. The pledges will make it easier for companies to do business in Africa through the easing of export controls and tax laws, and through governments ringfencing huge chunks of land for investment. The Ethiopian government has said it will "refine" its land law to encourage long-term land leases and strengthen the enforcement of commercial farm contracts. In Malawi, the government has promised to set aside 200,000 hectares of prime land for commercial investors by 2015, and in Ghana, 10,000 hectares will be made available for investment by the end of next year. In Nigeria, promises include the privatisation of power companies.

An analysis of companies' plans under the initiative suggests dozens of investments are for non-food crops, including cotton, biofuels and rubber, or for projects explicitly targeting export markets. But small farmers, who are supposed to be the main beneficiaries of the programme, have been shut out of the negotiations. Companies have refused to make their full investment plans under the New Alliance available for public scrutiny, and freedom of information requests to the UK government were rejected on the basis of commercial confidentiality. Olivier de Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, said governments had been making promises to investors "completely behind the screen", with "no long-term view about the future of smallholder farmers" and without their participation. He described Africa as the last frontier for large-scale commercial farming. "There's a struggle for land, for investment, for seed systems, and first and foremost there's a struggle for political influence," he said.

Zitto Kabwe, the chairman of the Tanzanian parliament's public accounts committee, said he was "completely against" the commitments his government has made to bolster private investment in seeds.

"By introducing this market, farmers will have to depend on imported seeds. This will definitely affect small farmers. It will also kill innovation at the local level. We have seen this with manufacturing," he said. "It will be like colonialism. Farmers will not be able to farm until they import, linking farmers to [the] vulnerability of international prices. Big companies will benefit. We should not allow that." Tanzania's tax commitments would also benefit companies rather than small farmers, he said, adding that the changes proposed would have to go through parliament. "The executive cannot just commit to these changes. These are sensitive issues. There has to be enough debate," he said.

Million Belay, the head of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), said the initiative could spell disaster for small farmers in Africa. "It clearly puts seed production and distribution in the hands of companies," he said. "The trend is for companies to say they cannot invest in Africa without new laws … Yes, agriculture needs investment, but that shouldn't be used as an excuse to bring greater control over farmers' lives. More than any other time in history, the African food production system is being challenged. More than any other time in history outside forces are deciding the future of our farming systems."

Colin Poulton, a research fellow at the centre for development, environment and policy at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, told the Guardian: "Without a clear theory of change indicating how increased investment in large-scale agriculture will lead to poverty reduction, improved food security or nutrition, and without clear plans to ensure that large numbers of outgrowers will be engaged in the new value chains, the New Alliance is so far primarily an initiative to commercialise agriculture in Africa."

The UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) is to invest an extra £735m over the next three years into the CDC Group, the British development finance institution that specialises in private sector funding. The investment, which marks Britain’s first capital injection into CDC for two decades, will be taken out of DfID’s existing budget, which is £10.04bn in this financial year. The department will transfer £450m this year and £285m in the 2016/17 financial year. CDC has been criticised for pouring funding into gated communities, shopping centres and luxury property in poor countries. “CDC have a track record of ploughing money into dubious ‘aid’ projects like the Garden City luxury housing and shopping complex in Kenya and a luxury hotel in Lagos, Nigeria, which costs $400 a night to stay in,” said Alex Scrivener, a policy officer at advocacy group Global Justice Now. “These projects are an insult to the millions of people who live in these places without decent housing.”

UK development finance arm accused of bankrolling 'agro-colonialism' in the Congo. Report claims workers of palm oil company part-owned by DFI earn a pittance, live in harsh conditions and have had their land taken illegally. Community leaders in the vast concession area part-owned by agribusiness company Feronia say living conditions on their estates are abysmal and claim that their ancestral land along the River Congo has been taken from them illegally. Feronia, which was owned for nearly 100 years by food giant Unilever, is now 27% owned by the CDC Group, the UK government’s development finance institution (DFI), and about 30% owned by a group of other European government DFIs that have invested in the African Agriculture Fund (AAF). But local and international human rights groups argue in a new report that the British government’s use of more than £14m of public funds to back what campaigners say is a failing company that paid workers as little as $1 a day to work and live in harsh tropical conditions was inappropriate. “Workers are living in crumbling homes, in severe disrepair. There is malnutrition in the communities near the plantations,” said Jean-François Mombia Atuku, a campaigner with RIAO-RDC, a Congolese NGO.

When Feronia bought Unilever’s 120,000 hectares [296,000 acres] of land concessions in 2009, it claimed to have inherited lease agreements for all of the lands where the company had plantations. In the report, however, community leaders at the company’s Lokutu plantations say the only document they were shown as evidence of the company’s supposed rights to the 63,000 hectares concession is an old registration certificate that is riddled with errors and does not confer any legal title.

“All they have is a falsified certificate of registration, signed by an incompetent surveyor,” says the provincial deputy, Gaspard Bosenge-Akoko. “Can you imagine a company grabbing over 40,000 hectares of land from these communities, depriving them of their agricultural activities, on the basis of this kind of flimsy document?” According to the report, land was stolen from communities all along the length of the Congo River under Belgian colonial occupation (1908-1960), to establish oil palm plantations. In recent years, they say, the communities have been excluded from any decisions regarding the expansion of the concession.

“We have only suffered from the negative impacts of the plantations, such as the disappearance of caterpillars, mushrooms, wild animals, freshwater fish, and, overall, the near complete loss of the flora and fauna. This has resulted in severe malnutrition among our children and even our elders; the mortality rate for infants and mothers during childbirth is amongst the highest in the province,” says the report.

“Community leaders from the areas where Feronia has its plantations have had enough of this company,” says Mombia Atuku of RIAO-RDC. “They want Feronia to give them back the lands, so that they can once again benefit from the use of their forests and farms.”

Monday, June 13, 2016

Lake Chad and the pending catastrophe

The Lake Chad Basin in Africa is home to about nine million, while thirty million people depend on the lake for the bare necessities of life, and is probably where our next humanitarian disaster is about to happen Boko Haram has been on the rampage, slaughtering people and burning people out of their homes. And Boko Haram is only one of the existential problems that exist in that piece of the planet. The United Nations would like the world to notice if the world isn't too busy. Lake Chad has been disappearing for several years. The food supplies are withering from drought. The cows are dying of thirst.

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O'Brien, said efforts must be made to stem the tide of an humanitarian crisis in the Lake. "Environmental degradation, poverty, under-development and violent extremism are converging to create a complex and multi-faceted crisis, and only with comprehensive coordination from humanitarian, development and security actors will we be able to deliver for people who are suffering so terribly in Lake Chad."

According to FAO Director of Land and Water Parviz Koohafkan, the Lake Chad basin is one of the most important agricultural heritage sites in the world, providing a lifeline to nearly 30 million people in four countries—Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Lake Chad is located in the far west of Chad and the northeast of Nigeria. Parts of the lake also extend to Niger and Cameroon. It is fed mainly by the Chari River through the Lagone tributary, which used to provide 90 percent of its water. It was once Africa's largest water reservoir in the Sahel region, covering an area of about 26,000 square kilometres, about the size of the US state of Maryland and bigger than Israel or Kuwait. By 2001 the lake covered less than one-fifth of that area. "It may even be worse now," says Abbas Mohammed, a climatologist at the University of Maiduguri, Nigeria.

And naturally, the people are coming into conflict over the things they need to live. The impact of the drying lake is causing tensions among communities around Lake Chad. There are repeated conflicts among nationals of different countries over control of the remaining water. Cameroonians and Nigerians in Darak village, for example, constantly fight over the water. Nigerians claim to be the first settlers in the village, while Cameroonians invoke nationalistic sentiments since the village is within Cameroonian territory. Fishermen also want farmers and herdsmen to cease diverting lake water to their farmlands and livestock.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Canadian Colonialism

With a mere 0.5 percent of the world’s population, Canada is home to half of all internationally listed mining companies operating in Africa. Many companies based have even taken African names. African Queen Mines, Tanzanian Royalty Exploration, Lake Victoria Mining Company, African Aura Resources, Katanga Mining, Société d’Exploitation Minière d’Afrique de l’Ouest (SEMAFO), Uganda Gold Mining, East Africa Metals, Timbuktu Gold, Sahelian Goldfields, African Gold Group and International African Mining Gold (IAMGOLD) are all Canadian. Active in 43 different African countries, Canadian mining firms have been responsible for dispossessing farmers, displacing communities, employing forced labour, devastating ecosystems and spurring human rights violations.

Canadian companies loot (legally and illegally) African resources. Canadian mining companies have been accused of bribing officials and evading taxes. Last year TSX-listed MagIndustries was accused of paying $100,000 to tax officials in a bid to avoid paying taxes on its $1.5-billion potash mine and processing facility in Congo (Brazzaville). In April, a Tanzanian tribunal ruled that Barrick Gold organized a “sophisticated scheme of tax evasion” in the East African country. As its Tanzanian operations delivered over US$400-million profit to shareholders between 2010 and 2013, the Toronto company failed to pay any corporate taxes, bilking the country out of $41.25 million.

Canada’s paternalism towards Africans is deeply rooted in its  political culture.  Gripped by a desire to rid “darkest Africa” of “nakedness” and “heathenism”, Canadian missionaries helped the European colonial powers penetrate African society. In 1893 a couple of Torontonians founded what later became the largest interdenominational Protestant mission on the continent and by the end of the colonial period as many as 2,500 Canadians were proselytizing across Africa. Today, all the media-anointed Africa “experts” promote a similarly paternalistic version of ‘aid’ and largely ignore Canadian companies’ role in pillaging the continent’s wealth.

Recently, the Aga Khan Foundation Canada organized the World Partnership Walk in 10 cities across the country. In an article titled “How the World Partnership Walk” lets Canadians bring hope to African communities the organization’s International Development Champion, Attiya Hirj, writes about visiting Aga Khan Foundation and Global Affairs Canada sponsored projects in Tanzania and Mozambique. Hirj says her “trip really opened my eyes to what rural communities truly need, which is a sense of hope.” She suggests the situation can be remedied if enough Canadians come “together to fundraise and generate awareness through activities such as the World Partnership Walk.” There is no mention of the need for African resources to be controlled by and for Africans. Canadians concerned about African impoverishment should point their fingers at the Canadian firms controlling the continent’s resources and offer solidarity to those sisters and brothers fighting for African resources to be controlled by and for Africans.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Chad and Dictators

One of the functions of the media is to marginalise or silence Western aggression. The coverage of Hissène Habré, the former dictator of Chad, for crimes against humanity could well have presented the opportunity for the media to examine in detail the complicity of the US, UK, France and their major allies in North Africa in the appalling genocide Habré inflicted on Chad during his rule – from 1982 to 1990. After all, Habré had seized power via a CIA-backed coup.

 As William Blum commented in Rogue State:
“With US support, Habré went on to rule for eight years during which his secret police reportedly killed tens of thousands, tortured as many of 200,000 and disappeared an undetermined number.”
Largely missing from the corporate media was the massive, secret war waged over these eight years by the United States, France and Britain from bases in Chad against Libyan leader Colonel Mu’ammar Gaddafi.

By 1990, with the crisis in the Persian Gulf developing, the French government had tired of Habré’s genocidal policies while George Bush senior’s administration decided not to frustrate France in exchange for co-operation in its attack on Iraq. And so Habré was secretly toppled and in his place Idriss Déby was installed as the new President of Chad.

Reporting of the Habré sentencing has been predictably consistent across all the leading newspapers in the UK and US. Thus the focus has been on the jubilant reactions of a few of the victims of Habré’s torture and rape, on the comments from some of the human rights organisations involved for many years in the campaign to bring the Chad dictator to justice – and on the fact that it was the first time an African country had prosecuted the former head of another African country for massive human rights abuses. Only a tiny part of the reporting has mentioned the West’s role in the genocide. None of the reporting has placed the Chad events in the broader context of US/Western imperial aggression.

The story in the Guardian, by Ruth Maclean, was typical. Some 21 paragraphs were devoted to the report. But only in the last one (appearing almost as an after-thought) was there any mention of US complicity:
“The US State department and the CIA propped up Habré, sending him weapons and money in return for fighting their enemy, Muammar Gaddafi.”
In a follow-up editorial, the Guardian again left mentioning the West’s role until the last paragraph:
“Many questions still remain unanswered, including several concerning the responsibility or complicity of Western countries, such as France and the US, which actively supported Habré during the cold war years, turning a blind eye to his methods.”

The Telegraph adopted a similar approach. Aislinn Laing, based in Johannesburg, reported briefly:

“Mr Habré, 73, is a former rebel leader who took power by force in Chad in 1982 and was then supported by the US and France to remain at the helm as a bulwark to Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.”

Adam Lusher, in the Independent, devoted just eight words to contextualising the trial:
“Hissène Habré was once backed by America’s Cold War-era CIA.”

In the New York Times, buried in paragraph 24 of a 27-paragraph report by Dionne Searcey are these words:
“Mr. Habré took power during a coup that was covertly aided by the United States, and he received weapons and assistance from France, Israel and the United States to keep Libya, to the north of Chad, and Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, then the Libyan leader, at bay.”

Similarly, in Paul Schemm’s 23-paragraph report in the Washington Post, his paragraph 15 reads:
“Supported by the United States and France in his wars against Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, Habré was accused of killing up to 40,000 people and torturing hundreds of thousands.”

Neither the Los Angeles Times nor the Belfast Telegraph could find any space to mention the West’s complicity.

The US today is still supporting human rights offenders across the globe – including the current dictator of Chad, Idriss Déby. Moreover, the Western powers, the US and France in particular, are using Chad as a major base for their covert military operations in Africa. A number of newspapers have commented on how the case set an important precedent for holding high-profile human rights abusers to account in Africa. Yet there has been little mention of the extraordinary background. For in June 2003, the US actually warned Belgium that it could lose its status as host to Nato’s headquarters if the Habré case went ahead on the basis of a 1993 law, which allowed victims to file complaints in Belgium for atrocities committed abroad.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Myth of overpopulation (1990)

From the November 1990 issue of the Socialist Standard

According to T. A. Pahl. in a letter in the Johannesburg Star (27 February) under the heading ‘Villain is high birthrate', “irresponsible black birthrate" is the cause of poverty, hunger disease, housing problems. unemployment, etc. This racist version of discredited Malthusianism is just as false as it was originally, in 1798.

Of course, no proof is offered, nor is possible. for this miserable doctrine. On the other hand, according to Dr Org Marais. Deputy Minister of Finance: “About 1.7 percent of the total tax-paying public pays 73 percent of the country's tax” (Star, 16 February). The Receiver of Revenue has also shown that about one-third of workers in this country do not earn enough to be liable for any Income Tax.

Housing? “Blacks earn too little to qualify for home loans”, reported Norman Chandler ". . . 91 percent of blacks could not afford the R800 a month minimum requirements of the Urban Foundation. Banks and Building Societies, while 83 percent were unable to meet the Housing Trust's £600 a month minimum requirement" (Star 22 November 1989). Most whites face similar problems.

The bottom line is that capitalism is responsible for all the miseries of, and linked with, poverty, while apartheid has concentrated them on blacks, in this country. Not overpopulation, but the chronic and often planned underproduction of food for the market, with access limited to what people can afford, is the cause of those social sores. Only with the establishment of real socialism/communism, with production and distribution solely for direct consumption, can humanity start to end the menace of starvation for millions.

As long as the means of production and distribution are owned and controlled by the capitalist class, privately or through the state, the workers will continue to make wealth for the rich to enjoy and the producers will remain in servile poverty. In fact, poverty in underdeveloped regions promotes population growth, while in Europe a negative birthrate is worrying governments and employers.

In any case, the main point is: can this world sustain present and future populations, expanding or contracting? Again, let the Star reply: “Every demographer knows that world resources are easily capable of supporting a population many times its present size" ('The Other Ethics of Birth-Control'. 22 July 1976).

What a cruel joke: blaming the productive majority, the poor, for their poverty. In any case, proliferation of the poor can hardly threaten available resources: their buying powers do not expand in proportion to their numbers. The facts are readily available in such works as The Legacy of Malthus by Allan Chase (University of Illinois Press, 1980) and The Economic History of World Population by Carlo M. Cipolla (Penguin Books, 1970).

Alec Hart