Sunday, July 31, 2016

Political ideas in Africa (2006)

From the September 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard. A brief look at the history of leftwing ideas in Africa.

In the years following independence from colonial rule, left-wing political thinking and activities were not uncommon, especially, in anglophone Africa. There were lots of vanguardist, anarchist and other pseudo-socialist organisations in many countries.
Some of such movements included the Kwame Nkrumah Revolutionary Guards, Pan-African Youth Movement, United Revolutionary Front, New Democratic Movement, (Ghana); Movement for Justice in Africa (Sierra Leone, Gambia and Liberia); African National Congress, South African Communist Party, Pan Africanist Congress, etc (South Africa).

These were all narrow-minded national pressure groups but whose left-wing leanings nevertheless provided forums where people learned of the existence of an alternative ideology - socialism. In fact, that is how some of us later came to learn about and joined the World Socialist Movement.
However, around the mid-eighties, the capitalists shot into a higher propaganda gear such as the newly independent countries never thought of. The free market and private sector idea came down so heavily that the leftist groupings were virtually swept off the political scene.
Today only the South African ANC, SACP, PAC, etc are still around but they have all capitulated and metamorphosed into outright right-wing political parties. Even trade union activities have almost become non-existent now except of course on May Day when pro-government sections of the working class come out to express their loyalty to the system.

This is the situation that accounts for the absence of even such anti-capitalists demonstrations as are staged in the West and other parts of the world each time representatives of big business hold their summits.

As for socialism (à la WSM), it is yet to be grasped by even the few who still see themselves as socialists here. Almost all of them understand socialism to mean the state capitalism of the soviet era.

Working class thinking
 It is not surprising then that one can hardly talk of any positive working class thinking here in Africa. With the intensification of exploitation through a massive invasion of all sectors of the economy by capital, the economic situation of both urban and rural folk has drastically worsened. Under the dire circumstances, peasants drift to the towns with the hope of escaping from the hunger and lack of opportunities whilst the urban factory and office workers are preoccupied devising ways and means of pilfering at their workplaces in order to make ends meet.

 Consequently, many of these frustrated people find it difficult to engage in political activities thus reducing the chances of potential cadres deepening their socialist consciousness. Indeed many, in their attempts to stay alive, finally abandon the political struggle altogether. On the other hand, the very few who are fortunate enough to find well-paid jobs tend to live ostentatious lifestyles obviously influenced by the type of negative western media output that is predominant here in Africa. A good lot of these people, with an imposed insatiable ambition to "make it", prove more injurious to left-wing politics than their poorer counterparts in the working class who cannot afford the luxury of discussing politics.

The media
 As the dominant ideas of the day are but a reflection of the views of the ruling class so is the media replete with information that is as poisonous as it is deceptive. On the one hand the television feeds viewers with adverts and news items which have the infectious intention of making ignorant people (and that means almost all Africa) think and harbour illusions of "making it".

 On the other hand, the print media and the radio stations are mostly devoted to such topics as religion or race-based discussions. Thus, even when serious issues like poverty, hunger, war, etc are touched, they always treat them in the light of "god will work miracles" or "all African hands on deck". Such ill-fated notions as "Africa for Africans", "African lingua franca", "NEPAD is a winner" etc are all what is found in the media. Naturally, the ordinary people pick them up and continue the misguided debate. That is the part the media play in formulating opinions.

 However, in spite of the poverty, hunger and ignorance, the working class could still have had elements within it who would interest themselves with real political issues like it happened between the sixties and the mid-eighties. Yet such a potential situation is hampered by other factors. Foremost among them is religion.

 Pushed to the wall by want, many ignorantly flock to religion as the last resort. Western big business, seeing the opportunity, quickly seizes it to its advantage. They worsen the already bad state of affairs by pumping money into the formation of more religious groups; the production of religious material; and the use of food, second-hand clothing, etc as incentives to the religious leaders and bait for the working class. Once captured it becomes an uphill task to salvage them or even let them see reason.
Another problem is the effectiveness of the capitalist propaganda machine. Their ideologues are always at hand to demonise socialism (citing the famous fall of the Berlin wall and the "collapse of communism") and eulogise the virtues of the free market economy.

 In fact, today seminars, workshops, clinics, and other so-called sensitisation programmes are organised on a daily basis to entrap the poor and hungry people. The issues on the platform of which such meetings are held include HIV/AIDS, the emancipation of women, child abuse, etc. Participants are lavishly fed and at the end of the day paid a generous honorarium. Such programmes are mostly channelled through NGOs. This problem also has the dangerous side effect of getting people used to shunning meetings or groups where immediate financial gains are not available.

 In conclusion, though the picture painted looks so gloomy, that does mean there is no hope. There are several oases dotted around this desert of hopelessness. And especially now that some basic democratic rights seem to be getting the nod from the dictatorships here (for example the criminal libel law has been repealed in Ghana), we only need to keep up the struggle and to give courage to the already liberated.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Sudan's Hungry

For more than five years, the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) and government forces have fought each other to a standstill in the border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Neither side has attained a significant military advantage. The fighting in South Kordofan generally takes place from November to June, before the region’s rainy season muddies all access points to the rebel strongholds in the Nuba Mountains, making many roads impassable. Normally, government troops retreat before the rainy season begins in earnest, fearing their supply lines and exit points will be cut off. But this year, their forces appear set to remain in key positions, displacing the residents indefinitely and preventing planting.

Destruction to farmlands and damage to markets has brought dire consequences for civilians. Attacks by al-Bashir’s forces and his warplanes have routinely killed civilians for years. What has changed now is that they are accused of waging a systematic war of attrition designed to squeeze civilians out of rebel-held areas by destroying farmland and markets, and blocking planting by civilians during the rainy season.
“This year, the Sudan government has used a new tactic of war – explicitly targeting food supplies,” said Osman Tola, executive director of the rebel agriculture ministry. “President Omar al-Bashir has tried through land offensives that have so far failed, so he is now trying to get people to move to government areas of control.”

According to the head of one aid organization, one of only a handful operating in the Nuba Mountains, Sudanese forces spent an entire week in late March-early April destroying all the farmland and water points in an area called Karkaria, which acts as a fertile greenbelt and water-flow area for the region.

“It’s done purposely,” said Ali Abdelrahman, director of the Nuba Mountains Relief, Rehabilitation and Development Organisation (NRRDO), a community-based support group. “To set fire to people’s homes, to drive away livestock – purposely to get them hungry. Once you get into that situation, you either die or join government-controlled territories whereby youth are recruited against their own people.”

On 18 June, al-Bashir declared a four-month unilateral ceasefire between the government and rebels in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states; a largely moot gesture since the ceasefire aligns with the rainy season, when fighting naturally subsides. The declaration came too late in the planting season for staple crops, leaving a devastating food gap for next year. Meanwhile, restricted access due to conflict areas and reduced supplies of commodities and currency is driving up market prices, further aggravating civilians’ hunger.

“Prices are going higher and higher every day,” trader Gasim Kuku told IRIN. Civilians in South Kordofan can’t rely on the South Sudanese pound, since it fluctuates wildly, and few have access to Khartoum’s more stable Sudanese pound. “Since you can’t get Khartoum money [Sudanese pounds], you buy goods via dollars, meaning you have to exchange the money, adding cost,” Kuku explained. Traders in the rebel-controlled capital Kauda say the rebel government attempted to control prices but this only led to them stopping sales since they couldn’t make a profit. The price of staples such as sorghum has doubled and may even triple in the months ahead. Traders are even beginning to stockpile the crop for fearing of running out of supplies altogether.   

The net result of all these factors is severe hunger during the ‘lean season’ through August this year, and potential famine in 2017. For some areas, the conflict has already brought a deadly food crisis. In February, the UN said 242 people, including 24 children, had died of hunger-related illness in eight villages over a six-month period in isolated Kau-Nyaro and Werni counties. “I’m so worried,” Benjamin Kuku, executive director of the New Sudan Council of Churches, a faith-based humanitarian organisation, told IRIN. “When 242 people die in eight villages alone, then it makes me worried. I don’t know where people are going to get food in the months ahead.”

Catastrophic Malnutrition in Borno State


A major humanitarian operation is needed to save lives in northeastern Nigeria’s Borno state, where more than 500,000 people are living in catastrophic conditions in villages and towns affected by the conflict between the military and Boko Haram, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warned today, after finding extremely high levels of malnutrition in another town where MSF teams recently gained access.

About 15,000 displaced people are sheltering around Banki, a town near the Cameroonian border that is accessible only by military escort. MSF medical teams found that as many as one in 12 people there died in the past six months. Nearly a third of the children are malnourished, and 15 percent of children under five are suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

“In Banki, as in a number of other areas, people have almost no access to humanitarian aid,” said Hugues Robert, MSF emergency program manager. “People are gathered, isolated and cut off in a half-destroyed town and are totally dependent on external assistance, which is cruelly lacking. If we don’t manage quickly to provide them with food, water and urgent medical supplies, malnutrition and disease will continue to wreak havoc.”

To respond to this humanitarian emergency, MSF teams provided therapeutic feeding and measles vaccinations to more than 4,900 children from July 20 to 22. A total of 3,600 families received emergency food aid, and six people in critical condition were transferred to a hospital in Mora, Cameroon. MSF will also continue to provide clean water and improve sanitation.

The situation in Banki is similar to that found by the Nigerian authorities and other MSF teams and aid organizations in different parts of Borno state. In the town of Bama, for example, MSF teams estimate that 15 percent of children are also suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

"We’re gradually discovering the extent of this crisis and we are particularly concerned for people in the remote areas that we have not been able to access,” Robert said. “As the rainy season approaches, we are also aware of the growing threat of malaria.”

MSF calls on international organizations to mobilize to provide emergency food and medical aid to the people of Borno state.

"We are committing to a long-term operation in collaboration with the Nigerian authorities, and want to do our utmost to assist these vulnerable people,” Robert said. “However, there is a high level of insecurity in the region, with ongoing conflict and roads that are sometimes mined. Logistics are further complicated by the onset of the rainy season, which makes roads muddy and impassable. In conditions as precarious and dangerous as these, it is essential that people are allowed to seek refuge in safer areas, either in Nigeria or in neighboring countries, and that those who are seriously ill are referred to hospitals in the region.”

The region is reaching breaking point due to attacks by Boko Haram and a strong military response which has been launched to curb the violence. With more than 2.7 million people uprooted from their homes, the Lake Chad basin is currently home to one of the African continent’s biggest humanitarian crises. In response to the continued displacement and humanitarian needs, MSF has significantly scaled up its medical activities and assistance to people in the Lake Chad region in Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria. In 2015, MSF medical teams provided more than 340,000 medical consultations, treated 13,000 children for malnutrition and vaccinated more than 58,500 people against cholera.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971. MSF's work is based on the humanitarian principles of medical ethics and impartiality. The organization is committed to bringing quality medical care to people caught in crisis regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation. MSF operates independently of any political, military, or religious agendas.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Britain’s New African Empire

Companies listed on the London Stock Exchange control over $1trillion worth of Africa’s resources in just five commodities – oil, gold, diamonds, coal and platinum. My research for the NGO, War on Want, which has just been published, reveals that 101 companies, most of them British, control $305 billion worth of platinum, $276 billion worth of oil and $216 billion worth of coal at current market prices. The ‘Scramble for Africa’ is proceeding apace, with the result that African governments have largely handed over their treasure.
Tanzania’s gold, Zambia’s copper, South Africa’s platinum and coal and Botswana’s diamonds are all dominated by London-listed companies. They have mines or mineral licences in 37 African countries and control vast swathes of Africa’s land: their concessions cover a staggering 1.03 million square kilometres on the continent. This is over four times the size of the UK and nearly one twentieth of sub-Saharan Africa’s total land area. China’s resources grabs have been widely vilified but the major foreign takeover of Africa’s natural riches springs from a lot closer to home.
Many African governments depend on mineral resources for revenues, yet the extent of foreign ownership means that most wealth is being extracted along with the minerals. In only a minority of mining operations do African governments have a shareholding. Company tax payments are minimal due to low tax rates while governments often provide companies with generous incentives such as corporation tax holidays.
Companies are also able to avoid paying taxes by their use of tax havens. Of the 101 London-listed companies, 25 are actually incorporated in tax havens, principally the British Virgin Islands. It is estimated that Africa loses around $35 billion a year in illicit financial flows out of the continent and a further $46 billion a year in multinational company profits taken from operations in Africa.
UK companies’ increasingly dominant role in Africa, which is akin to a new colonialism, is being facilitated by British governments, Conservative and Labour alike. Four policies stand out. First, Whitehall has long been a fierce advocate of liberalized trade and investment regimes in Africa that provide access to markets for foreign companies. It is largely opposed to African countries putting up regulatory or protectionist barriers to such investment, the sorts of policies where have often been used by successful developers in East Asia. Second, Britain has been a world leader in advocating low corporate taxes in Africa, including in the extractives sector.
Third, British policy has done nothing to challenge multinational companies using tax havens; indeed the global infrastructure of tax havens is largely a British creation. Fourth, British governments have constantly espoused only voluntary mechanisms for companies to monitor their human rights impacts; they are opposed to enhancing international legally binding mechanisms to curb abuses.
The result is that Africa, the world’s poorest continent, is being further impoverished. Recent research calculated, for the first time, all the financial inflows and outflows to and from sub-Saharan Africa to gauge whether Africa is being helped or exploited by the rest of the world. It found that $134 billion flows into the continent each year, mainly in the form of loans, foreign investment and aid. However, $192 billion is taken out, mainly in profits made by foreign companies and tax dodging. The result is that Africa suffers a net loss of $58billion a year. British mining companies and their government backers are contributing to this drainage of wealth.
We need to radically rethink the notion that Britain is helping Africa to develop. The UK’s large aid programme is, among other things, being used to promote African policies from which British corporations will further profit. British policy in Africa, and indeed that of African elites, needs to be challenged and substantially changed if we are serious about promoting long term economic development on the continent.

More refugees

The United Nations says over 37,000 people fleeing the conflict in South Sudan have entered Uganda over the last three weeks.
"In the past three weeks there have been more refugee arrivals in Uganda than in the entire first six months of 2016," which was 33,838 people, said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in a statement released on Tuesday.
The UNHCR added that over 90 percent of the refugees were woman and children as adult males were being forced to join armed groups.
It noted that most of the refugees had fled from South Sudan's Eastern Equatoria region and the capital Juba.
The UN body also stressed that refugee camps in Uganda were being overwhelmed by the surge of people.
Thousands of people have been killed and more than three million forced to flee their homes in the war that started in December 2013, when President Kiir sacked Machar only two years after the country seceded from Sudan.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

South Africa's White Poor

A fraction of South Africa's white population lives in poverty similar to that of many of the country's black township residents. They are grappling with the same problems.

Barefoot children play with whatever they can find in front of the shanties in which they live. Idle adults sit on stools in front of their shacks; it just gets too hot inside. This was a common scenario for black families during South Africa's decades of apartheid. For many, living conditions haven't improved since the country declared statutory equality in 1994. Leigh Du Preez, the founder of the South African Family Relief Project (SAFRP), says that policies designed to redress decades of enforced inequality have not had the intended effect. But she is not talking about black families: Du Preez says more and more white people have been left unemployed and hungry, having to fend for themselves amid growing racial tensions. "People think that this can't be true, but this is how my people live," Du Preez says.

It is hardly surprising there is little awareness about the issue of growing white poverty. Less than 10 percent of South Africa's population is white, according to the 2014 census, and less than 10 percent of whites live in this kind of poverty. Du Preez explains there are almost 500 informal settlements of white people across South Africa, asserting that "no one will help them."

Munsieville is an hour northwest of Johannesburg, a former landfill, with more than 300 families living in close quarters. "There was nothing at all here before. There was no sanitation, no water, no electricity. Now there's one portable toilet for every three families. It stinks everywhere," she says, adding that the unsanitary conditions have led to outbreaks of bronchitis, pneumonia, and chicken pox.

It's not that the lives of the white camp residents in Munsieville are worse than those of the black community. On the contrary, the vast majority of black township residents are also struggling to survive.
"They are all trying to make this place as livable as possible, with whatever little they have," says Marius Du Preez, Leigh's husband.

A foreign reporter once suggested poor white people might deserve to be in dire straits after benefitting from decades of apartheid rule. Du Preez has heard that argument before: "I can understand when foreign people say those things about us. But they don't understand that apartheid wasn't about [creating] poverty. It was about power and control, and yes, it was bad.
"But we have more black squatter camps under the current government than we ever did under apartheid," Du Preez says. "Plus, we have all these white squatter camps as well. How is that better?"

Thursday, July 21, 2016

African farmers say they can feed the world

With 60-65% of the world’s uncultivated arable land and 10% of renewable freshwater resources, Africa’s immense agricultural potential has long been a keen point of discussion among agronomists and global decision-makers. After a 160% increase in African agricultural output over the past 30 years, many elements of the continent’s food production process look to be on an upward trajectory.

By upgrading and expanding facilities, while also boosting low electricity output, Africa could fast become food self-sufficient. Many farmers are unable to buy some of the tools or chemicals that might enable them to boost their yields. In a continent where wheat yields can be as low as 1-1.5 tons per hectare (in comparison to 3 or 4 tons elsewhere), these limitations are intensely problematic.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Fact of the Day

The Democratic Republic of Congo may be one of the richest countries in the world in terms of mineral wealth but eight out of 10 Congolese people live in extreme poverty.

The innocent victims

Just under a quarter of a million children in Nigeria’s northeastern state of Borno, where an insurgency waged by jihadists Boko Haram has disrupted trade and healthcare, suffer from life-threatening malnourishment, UNICEF said on Tuesday. The UN children’s agency said the extent of the nutrition problems faced by children in Borno had become clearer as a result of more areas in the northeast becoming accessible to humanitarian assistance. UNICEF said that out of the 244,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in Borno this year, around one in five will die if they do not receive treatment.

“Some 134 children on average will die every day from causes linked to acute malnutrition if the response is not scaled up quickly,” Manuel Fontaine, Unicef’s regional director for Western and Central African warned. “There are two million people we are still not able to reach in Borno state, which means that the true scope of this crisis has yet to be revealed to the world.” 

The Islamist group Boko Haram’s seven-year rebellion has left 20,000 people dead and more than two million displaced.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Gates and the Mandela Legacy

Patrick Bond of the Wits University School of Governance in Johannesburg and the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society in Durban has written an article critical of the philanthro-capitalism of Bill Gates (who is worth $80 billion, up $24 billion from 2011) which he describes as ‘market-orieted, technology-centric’ specializing ‘ in top-down technicist quick-fixes – ‘silver bullets’ – which often backfire on the economic shooting range of extreme corporate influence and neoliberal policies.’ Microsoft’s offshore tax-avoidance policies today earn the company more money than Gates gives annually in donations (less than $4 billion/year).

 Global Justice Now’s Polly Jones complained in a report, Gates’ “influence is so pervasive that many actors in international development, which would otherwise critique the policy and practice of the foundation, are unable to speak out independently as a result of its funding and patronage.”

* Gates’ power threatens African food in part due to his advocacy of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), which benefit agro-corporates such as Monsanto but wipe out local seeds. In Kenya, Gates’ people and US AID appear to have succeeded in reversing a GMO-seed ban (only four African states allow GMOs). The Gates-supported Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa “advised and lobbied the governments of Ghana, Tanzania, and Malawi, among others, to adopt pro-business seed and land policy reforms,” according to a critique by a progressive food-sovereignty NGO, Oakland Institute.

* To address species-threatening climate change, a rather confused Gates favours ‘Terrapower’ nuclear, a dangerous distraction from the urgent need to both expand renewable energy and radically reduce fossil-fuel abuse. As Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson bragged about Gates at his recent AGM, “there’s no space between he and I.”

* Privatised health and education are Gates’ speciality but in India, a Gates-funded trial on the genital cancer-causing disease Human papillomavirus was cancelled by the government because thousands of girls aged 10-14 were victims of ethics violations such as forged consent forms and lack of health insurance; seven died. The case is now in the country’s Supreme Court.

In Durban the Gates-backed ‘Urine Diversion’ toilets imposed by the municipality on nearly 100 000 poor black households are considered a new version of the hated ‘bucket system.’ Higher-income residents of Durban – including in the nearby, traditionally-white western suburbs – don’t suffer this discriminatory indignity. Not only does Durban’s retired water director now offer sanitation consulting to Gates, so too is the top Gates Foundation policy official, Geoffrey Lamb, a South African.

 Once a hard-core ‘Marxist’ (and son-in-law of ‘colonialism of a special type’ inventor Michael Harmel), Lamb’s work once included path-breaking class analysis of the Tanzanian peasantry, and he was a PhD advisor when SA trade and industry minister Rob Davies wrote his ‘Marxist’ thesis at Sussex University. After an ideological U-turn, Lamb was central to developing a ‘homegrown’ structural adjustment strategy working at the highest levels of the World Bank during the 1980s, and especially in its application inside the African National Congress during the early 1990s.

The most damage done within South Africa was Gates’ promotion of intellectual property (IP) rights. Gates got rich from IP illegitimately acquired thanks to blatantly anti-competitive practices, such as bundling Windows with the slow, security flaw-ridden Internet Explorer web-browser, according to US prosecutors. The emails that Gates and his colleagues sent each other unveiled their cutthroat, illegal approach to IT, notwithstanding the internet’s massive government subsidies. Long-term monopoly patents were granted not only to Gates for his Microsoft software, but for life-saving medicines. IP became a fatal barrier to millions of HIV+ people who, thanks to Big Pharma’s profiteering, were denied AIDS medicines which cost R150 000/year fifteen years ago. The Gates Foundation was part of the problem by insisting on Merck-branded drugs in its Botswana AIDS clinics, complained Zackie Achmat of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in 2001. With TAC instead demanding and finally – in the wake of at least 330 000 avoidable AIDS deaths – winning access to generic medicines made locally, the cost to African governments became negligible and today nearly four million people in South Africa alone get the drugs, which has raised life expectancy from 52 in 2004 to 62 today.

The 1990s witnessed a series of debilitating concessions to multinational corporations by Mandela’s African National Congress. Mandela Foundation director Verne Harris acknowledges, “Under Madiba’s leadership the ANC embraced a neoliberal agenda with unseemly haste and we’re paying a terrible price for that now.” Added Harris, “We’re only beginning to understand the nature of this phenomenon. From the late 1980s, a huge seduction was underway, of the liberation movement by capital and it’s playing out in all kinds of destructive ways now, from arms deals to corruption.”

Facts of the Day

South Africa’s Gini Coefficient which measures inequality is the world’s highest (at 0.77 on a scale of 0 to 1, in terms of income inequality from employment).

Since 2000, social protests have numbered an average of 11 per day. 

From 2012-16 the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report category measuring worker militancy ranked South Africa’s proletariat as the angriest on earth.

PricewaterhouseCoopers Economic Crime surveys awarded the gold medal for world corruption to the Johannesburg bourgeoisie in 2014 and 2016.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Albinism (video)

South Africa's rich CEOs

South Africa’s PwC’s latest executive director’s remuneration report shows that the pay spectrum across the JSE, the median salary for executives has increased by 12% between 2014 and 2015 to R3.7 million, where CEOs saw the median salary jump by 10.7%, to R4.6 million, with the upper quartile seeing an 8% increase to R7.7 million.

In global markets, it is becoming increasingly more common for companies to cap bonus pay to 100% of an exec’s guaranteed salary – this is not in effect in South Africa.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Zambia – missed opportunities

Zambia – missed opportunities

In a dramatic court judgment that most people had not anticipated, former MMD president Rupiah Banda was acquitted of the Nigerian oil deal case on the grounds that the state failed to prove a case against him.

When delivering judgment the Ndola magistrate stated that the state lack enough evidence against Banda, who was alleged to had facilitated a contract t o import oil from Nigeria in 2009, in which the Zambian government was swindled of £2.6m.

The political legacy of the late president Sata has been dealt a severe blow in the sense that it was Sata who had instructed the anti-corruption to investigate Banda in 2012. This followed the removal of his presidential or political immunity by the public prosecutor Mutembo Nchito.

The dismissal of Nchito by President Edgar Lungu has now paid its dividends in the sense that Banda supported and campaigned for Lungu during the January 30th presidential by-elections.

The extent to which Lungu has gone in incorporating corrupt elements in the ruling party is alarming if not self vindictive.

It is quite evident that when Sata died in London he had not groomed a political leader to succeed him. The vacuum of political leadership in the PF came to reveal itself after the death of the president in 2014. the political crisis was instigated by the Attorney-General Musa Mwenye when he appointed Vice-President Guy Scott to serve as acting president when he left Zambia for medical treatment abroad in September 2014.

President Lungu’s rise to political eminence was rapid within the PF – he was appointed as minister of defence when the former PF Kasama central member of parliament resigned in 2013. In 2014 Lungu was appointed as acting minister of justice and PF secretary-general, when Sata had dismissed Wynter Kabimba. He was appointed as acting president when Sata left for his medical treatment abroad.

The appointment of vice-president Guy Scott to serve as acting president was made under constitutional law, which stipulates that the Attorney General reserves the right to appoint a serving vice-president to serve as acting president when the head of state cannot physically discharge his presidential duties due to ill health or death.

The power vested in the republican president to appoint someone to act as vice-president whenever he leaves the country is a political prerogative made in good faith – it demonstrates how inadequate is the Bill of Human Rights and wide the powers given to the head of state.

The Zambian constitution needs to be reformed in order to curb the powers of the president. In 2004 the second republican president amended the Zambian constitution when is inserted a clause that disenfranchised any person whose first parents [?] were not indigenous Zambians by birth. The racialist clause was made in order to disenfranchise Dr Kenneth Kaunda from contesting the 2006 presidential elections.
The first republican president Dr Kenneth Kaunda was born in Zambia in 1924, but his father and mother originated from Malawi.

There developed political faction s with the Pf after president Sata died between those who supported the appointment of Vice-President Guy Scott and those who rallied themselves behind Edgar Lungu. The political faction supporting Lungu was in a majority within the ruling party.

Ninety days after the demise of President Sata the PF held a political conference at which he was to elect a party president to succeed Sata.

On 30th December 2014 Edgar Lungu was unanimously elected as president during an election that was boycotted by eight other PF presidential candidates, among them Dr Christine Kaseba, Chilufya Sata, Miles Sampa and Chishimba Kambwili.

The Patriotic Front was formed by President Sata and his wife Dr Kaseba. In 20.. [?] it was later joined by Guy Scott, Given Lubinda and Wynter Kabimba.

The fact is that it was too early for Sata to groom a political successor in ???? the fact that the PF was in power for only three years. It is also true that Sata did not anticipate his death when he appointed Lungu as acting president in September 2014.

Thus, Lungu like Banda became acting presidents by chance outside factors (the deaths of presidents Michael Sata and levy Mwanawasa respectively).

Because Edgar Lungu was a member of parliament for Chawama constituency ??? holds a degree in law is not enough excuse to warrant him becoming republican president. The man is a seasoned alcoholic and he collapsed when addressing a public rally.

Indeed, President Lungu is not averse to tribalism and is very reluctant to caution his minsters from uttering tribalism verbiage directed against certain tribes.

The Zambian domestic economy has been facing many problems which Lungu has failed to resolve, given the fact that previous presidents were known to personally intervene whenever there was a dire economic crisis.

Rising fuel prices, the depreciating Zambian currency (the kwacha) and electricity blackouts are some of the major economic problems that Lungu has shown no imitative to rectify.

The arrest of Post newspaper managing editor Fred Meembe is the latest clamping down of press freedom taking place under the PF government.

The political slogan ONE ZAMBIA ONE NATION is now flagrantly used by Lungu to camouflage corruption, tribalism, nepotism and favouritism taking place in the PF.

Indeed, the late president Sata will be remembered for his readiness to dismiss corrupt elements from the PF – he always championed the aspirations of workers, peasants and students.

The current Zambian political constitution is flawed and needs to be reformed or amended in the sense that it safeguards the political and economic privileges of the ruling political elites at the expense of opposition political parties. For instance, the Public Order Act can be applied to arrest journalists for publishing classified information and restrict political demonstrations.

Kitwe Zambia

Zambia 2016 Elections


The people of Zambia will go to vote in a general election on 11August to elect a president and national assembly. This election will no doubt be a bitter political contest between Patriotic Front (PF) President Edgar I.ungu and United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilcma in the sense that both leaders enter the election bearing deep scars from the time of January 2015 presidential election.


A professic›nal lawyer and PF Chawama Member of Parliament the rise of Edgar I.ungu to high echelons of power in the PF was dramatic. He was appointed to serve as acting Minister of Defence and Justice when Godfrey Mwamba and Wynta Kabimba resigned in 2014. He was later appointed as acting president during the same year when the late President Sata went to seek for medical treatment abroad.

During the presidential by-election held in January 2015 ― President Lungu managed to defeat UPND leader Hichilema by 48.3% of the total votes cast whereas Hichilema polled 46.7%, the remaining votes going to minor candidates.
Hichilema received most votes from the traditional UPND political stronghold of Southern Province, Western and North-Western provinces. President Lungu maintained his political grip on the Copperbelt, I.usaka, Eastern, Luapula and Northern Provinces.

It is certain that the people who voted for President I.ungu did so out of political loyalty to the political and economic legacies of the late President Sata.

Indeed a political novice without any profoun‹l political conviction, President Lungu failed a majority vote (beyond 50%). Voter apathy was very high and the national voter turnout at 32% was the lowest ever recorded in a presidential election.

The results of the 2010 election must be reckoned from the voting patterns that emerged after the election in the sense that they tended to elicit ethnic and tribal political loyalties.

After having been in power for only a year, President Lungu presided over a deteriorating economy beset by dwindling copper prices, electricity blackouts, rising unemployment and a depreciating Kwacha relative to the US Dollar.

It is alleged by President I.ungu that poor rainfall experienced during the 2014-15 rain season led to low water levels in the Kariba dam that affected the generating capacity of the facility. But recent investigation at the Zambezi river authority has revealed that enough water was allocated to Kariba dam water reservoir to mitigate any low rainfall for a period of two years.

In what seemed to be a dire attempt to shift public attention from the ever deepening economic and social problems President Lungu went on to seek for divine intervention and declared a day of national prayers.

The somber occasion that took place on 10 October 2015 was attended by Christian denominations from across the country but the UPND leader Ichilema boycotted the ceremonial.

In assessing the political stamina between president Lungu and Ichilema the following factors are likely to affect the 11 August general election.

 The year 2015 saw the collapse of copper price and the critical shortage of electricity supply to the copper mining sector. This led to hundreds of job losses on the Copperbelt as mining companies sought to remain af1oat. Some 200 discharged miners rioted in Chingola in protest against the layoffs and a few days later some retrenched miners in Kitwe and Mululira (Mopani Copper Mine) staged peaceful demonstrations.

Feelings of political disenchantment are everywhere visible on the Copperbelt
mining towns and in the capital city Lusaka. It is more than certain that the UPND stand a better chance of receiving more votes from the Copperbelt province given the poor performance of President Lungu since he came to power in 2010.


A successful business tycoon and veteran opposition politician, UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema is again positioning himself as the most likely person to win the 11 August election.

Tribalism remains Hichilema's political brand and this fact easily explains the absence of Bemba-speaking members of parliament in the UPND. The UPND has all the makings of being a tribal party and is strongly supported in Southern Province among the Tonga-speaking tribe.

By portraying himself as a political spokesman of the Tonga-speaking tribe, Hichilema has robbed the UPND of the political sympathy of the heavily populated area of Lusaka, the Copperbelt, Luapula, Eastern and Northern Provinces.

In Zambia, like every capitalist country around the world, politics is perceived as the preserve of the rich and wealthy classes in the sense that it is only those who enjoy political and social privilege who can afford to merchandise their political egotism.

It has come to pass that many people feel that politicians cannot be trusted as they have some selfish and opportunistic ambition to achieve wealth and power. This reduced view of politics is supported by the very presence and domination of the political scene by very few and by some politicians criss-crossing party lines. Corruption in Zambia has become endemic in the public service for the mere fact that the abuse of public funds and property is deemed an injury to none.

The political fortunes of the UPND took a dramatic turn when some senior members of the ruling PF and of MMD joined Hichilema's campaign team. These recent political defections to UPND could foreshadow a future in which the UPND will at last shed off its tribal complexion as those from the PF hail from Luapala and Northern Province. It remains to be seen whether that will be an advantage to Hichilema.

If Hichilema manages to receive votes beyond 50% + 1 this time around his success will be attributed to the political influence and efforts of the PF and MMD defectors. The fact is that nothing will change in the composition of the individuals running the political affairs of Zambia – the same high profile PF and MMD ministers will find themselves serving under the UPND flag.

What cannot be predicted is how deep is the vice of tribalism within the UPND and what effect it will have on the political integrity of Hichilema.

Cephas Mulenga, 
Kitwe, Zambia

Thursday, July 14, 2016

British colonialism

War On Want have published a new report, ‘The New Colonialism: Britain’s scramble for Africa’s energy and mineral resources’ that highlights the role of the British government in aiding and abetting the process. 

Written and researched by Mark Curtis, the report reveals the degree to which British companies now control Africa’s key mineral resources, notably gold, platinum, diamonds, copper, oil, gas and coal. It documents how 101 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) – most of them British – have mining operations in 37 sub-Saharan African countries and collectively control over $1 trillion worth of Africa’s most valuable resources. Under the guise of the UK helping Africa in its economic development (a continuation of the colonial paternal narrative), $134 billion has flowed into the continent each year in the form of loans, foreign investment and aid, while British government has enabled the extraction of $192 billion from Africa mainly in profits by foreign companies, tax dodging and the cost of adapting to climate change. Mark Curtis argues that an African country could benefit from mining operations by insisting that companies employ a large percentage of their staff from the country and buy a large proportion of the goods and services they procure from the country. However, World Trade Organisation rules prevent African countries from putting such policies in place. Countries could also benefit from corporate taxation, but tax rates and payments in Africa are minimal and companies are easily able to avoid paying taxes, either by their use of tax havens or because they have been given large tax incentives by governments — or often both. And when companies export minerals, governments usually do not benefit at all. Governments only benefit from exports when there is an export tax. There are almost none in Africa.

Saranel Benjamin, International Programmes Director at War on Want, says:
“The African continent is today facing a new colonial invasion, no less devastating in scale and impact than the one it suffered during the nineteenth century. It’s a scandal that Africa’s wealth in natural resources is being seized by foreign, private interests, whose operations are leaving a devastating trail of social, environmental and human rights abuses in their wake. For too long, British companies have been at the forefront of the plunder, yet rather than rein in these companies, successive UK governments are actively championing them through trade, investment and tax policies. It is time British companies and the UK government were held to account.”

The UK government has used its power and influence to ensure that British mining companies have access to Africa’s raw materials. The report exposes the long-term involvement of the British government (Labour and Conservative) to influence and control British companies’ access to raw materials. Access has been secured through a revolving door between the political establishment and British mining companies, with at least five British government officials taking up seats on the boards of mining companies operating in Africa.

Augmented by WTO rules, Britain’s leverage over Africa’s political and economic systems has resulted in a company like Glencore being able to show revenues 10 times that of the gross domestic product (GDP) of Zambia.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

India wants Africa

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is touring Mozambique, South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania. He is in search of raw materials and diplomatic allies in its quest for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. South Africa has already expressed support for a revamp of the Security Council. India and the African continent account for one-third of the global population yet they do not have a permanent Security Council seat.

Concerns about democracy and human rights are not even on the periphery of such trade deals. India's state-run ONGC owns oil fields in Sudan and evidently regards Africa as a market with growth potential. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but at last year's India-Africa summit he was given a cordial welcome.

Since he came to power in 2014, Modi has been overhauling Indian foreign policy and expanding trade ties. In October 2015, African nations attended an India-Africa summit he staged in New Delhi. Now, he is travelling to Africa himself, visiting the four major countries on the continent's eastern coastline.

India is forced to import more than two-thirds of the oil and gas it consumes and more than a quarter of that energy comes from Africa. After Australia and Qatar, Mozambique is India's third largest gas supplier.

Whereas India has invested just 7 billion euros in Africa since 2008, China poured 23 billion euros into Africa, in direct investment, in one single year (2013). The volume of trade Africa conducted with India last year amounted to just a third of its trade with China. That could change. Chinese economic growth is losing steam and the slow-down will have an impact on trade, perhaps opening up new opportunities for India. The Indian economy is also expected to grow more robustly than the Chinese economy in the medium and long term. The country is already South Africa's sixth most important trading partner. India has already made a name for itself in the IT sector in Africa. Many Africans use the Indian telecoms provider Airtel and the company has a firm foothold in the market in more than a dozen African countries. India would like to expand still further in this sector. Major Indian companies are also active in other areas of the economy. The Tata group has been in Africa since 1977 and is now represented in 11 countries with its automobiles, hotels and telecommunications companies.

The presence of minority Indian populations, in southern and East Africa in particular, is also seen as another advantage for India when deepening ties to Africa. Modi's tour includes meetings with the Indian Diaspora in all four countries. South Africa is home to 1.3 million people of Indian origin.