Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Low wage South Africa

In South Africa people earning from R12,500 monthly ($860 or £700) are being classified in the group of the country’s wealthiest for government policy purposes It certainly isn’t enough for a life of luxury. You’d be hard-pressed to do much saving and investing on that income or even afford a comfortable home with a home loan.

More than 16m South Africans are desperately poor, while 6.5m with monthly salaries from R12,500 and up are among the country’s richest, according to the research presented to the government. Imraan Valodia and David Francis of the University of the Witwatersrand were part of a team that suggested the country’s minimum wage should be a monthly R3 500 ($250; £200) on the basis of these figures.

6.2 million or 47% of working people in South Africa earn less than R3,500, while 4.6 million (35%) earn less than R2,000 per month.  1.1 million domestic workers – 887 000 of them women – earning less than R3,500 per month. In community services, 1.2 million workers earn less than R3,500 per month. Approximately 800,000 of them are women. The median wage for employed women in 2015 was only 77.1% of the wage for employed men. This means that a woman in the middle of the wage distribution earns only 77 cents for every R1 her male counterpart earns.

What is clear from this research is that the yawning gap between rich and poor is a problem that won’t be solved by playing around with the minimum wage level.

Austerity in Sudan

A dramatic increase in the price of medication, fuel and electricity in Sudan has spurred discontent across the country. Over the past two weeks, protests and strikes have been calling for the government to reinstate subsidies, which were removed earlier this month. The cuts are reportedly part of wider austerity measures that have been implemented to address the country's foreign currency crisis and fiscal deficit. The Central Bank of Sudan (CBOS) stopped providing foreign currency for the import of medicine. Medication prices increased between 150 and 300 percent

"The new decision, which caused the increase, is a huge disaster," local pharmacist Hatim Aldaak told Al Jazeera. "This will affect many citizens, especially the poor, because, as you know, the percentage of the poor in Sudan is very large. You cannot imagine the reaction and emotional effect it has on us, when someone comes into the pharmacy to buy medicine and asks for the price and tells us they can't afford it and they then leave with the medicine still on the shelves," said Aldaak.

The end of subsidies was also implemented on fuel and electricity.

Amna Sayed, a 42-year-old mother and tea lady says she is struggling in every way. "It is not just the medications; I can barely send my two children to school. Transport alone is too expensive now and so is food. I sell tea, and even before these increases I hardly managed to get by."

Shop owners, such as Mohammed al-Amin, are similarly struggling. "A 50kg of sugar went up from 510 Sudanese pounds [$78] to 580 [$89], and a 10kg packet of flour went up from 65 Sudanese pounds [$10] to 85 [$13]. Most notably, 100kg of beans went up from 1700 Sudanese pounds [$262] to 2100 [$324], beans – which is the most consumed meal,"

Sudanese citizens responded to a call for three-days of civil disobedience. Some neighbourhoods in the capital saw limited movement of vehicles and pedestrians. Universities and schools were largely effected by the strike, as the majority of students stayed home, forcing some schools to cancel the school day.

Since 2011, following the split of South Sudan, Sudan has been struggling to recover from the loss of three-quarters of the country's oil exports. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recommended that the Sudanese government gradually introduce such measures to address its crippling economy.  Prior to the split, Sudan experienced substantial economic growth driven by oil exports and foreign direct investment, with nominal gross domestic product (GDP) per capita more than quadrupling between 1999 and 2010. But Sudan's growth was too heavily reliant on oil. When oil export revenues dropped and austerity measures introduced, the country entered a depression, losing more than 15 percent of its GDP in 18 months.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Black is Beautiful

A multibillion-dollar industry of skin-whitening products dominates the West African beauty market. Some estimates putting the number of women in West Africa using lightening cream at 70 percent in some places.

Women are now being told that it is wrong, and even illegal, to bleach their skin. Officials say they are worried there could be a sharp uptick in skin cancer because these products attack the skin’s natural protective melanin. When you bleach, it takes off the outer layers of your skin and this part of the world, the sun is always on. So there’s more skin cancer.

At the same time, they are flooded with messages — and not even subliminal ones — that tell them that white is beautiful.

Ghana’s Food and Drug Authority began a ban on certain skin-whitening products that include hydroquinone, a topical ingredient that disrupts the synthesis and production of the melanin that can protect skin in the intense West African sunshine. But the ban in Ghana hasn’t extended to removing the countless billboard advertisements on how to get “perfect white” skin. Nor have the creams and lotions disappeared from stores. In Accra’s Makola Market, endless shops and stalls had walls filled with potions dedicated to the lightening of skin. The Ghanaian government’s chief officer in charge of putting the ban in place, during an interview at his office, expressed relief that his 3-year-old daughter’s skin is not as dark as his own. “Luckily,” said Emmanuel Nkrumah, “she’s lighter than me.” They are banning the products that give women lighter skin (although no one believes the ban will work) without banning the social messaging that tells women they should have lighter skin.

The “why” goes back centuries, and says much about the searing effects of colonization that lingers today. When the Europeans colonized Africa, they brought with them centuries of belief that they were racially superior, and established a class structure that exists today, 50 years after African countries regained their independence. In many West African countries, at the top of that class structure, sit white expats, whether they are European diplomats in affluent neighborhoods, the United States Embassy staff members in their walled compounds or Lebanese merchants in electronic shops. Next in the hierarchy are the mixed-race people. The European colonists who came to Africa mated with Africans and produced mixed-race offspring, who were then deemed to be of a superior class to the full-blooded Africans. South Africa’s apartheid system went so far as to legally enshrine mixed-race people, called “coloureds.”

In many African countries, the word “mulatto” does not have the negative connotation that it has in the United States. The view that the lighter your skin, the “better” you are did not leave the continent with the Europeans, and eventually, science caught up, as skin-lightening products became available throughout the continent. “Anyone in this country could see that the mulattos were given precedence everywhere,” explained Dr. Edmund Nminyem Delle, a dermatologist who for three decades has campaigned against skin bleaching.

“It breaks my heart,” said Ama K. Abebrese, an actress. “There’s not a day I don’t drive into town and see a billboard that tells me I need perfect white skin. We are here in an African country, and it’s like someone just hit you in your gut.”

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Madagascar Famine Looming

Food and Agriculture Organisation says 330,000 people in Madagascar are on verge of ‘a food security catastrophe’ following sustained drought that has decimated crops with agencies warning last month that nearly 850,000 people are experiencing “alarming” hunger levels. More than 50% of children suffering from stunted growth, a condition caused by malnutrition over the first 1,000 days of life.

Dominique Burgeon, director of emergencies and rehabilitation at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said, “People go from one lean season to the next, resorting to negative coping strategies. People are eating anything to fill their stomachs, selling most of their belongings, cattle and land. It shows the severity of the situation and the need for us to act.”

Farmers talk of the earth changing; of failed rains and crops, and barren land.

“People are living under extreme conditions. We are dealing with a development crisis that has lasted for decades now, worsened by El Niño. For many, it is day-to-day survival,” said Elke Wisch, country representative for Unicef Madagascar. “Worst case is another crop failure,” said Wisch. “Then you are looking at – and we’re starting to see this now – people eating seeds instead of planting them. That is a desperate situation.”

Solar Power

 70 percent of the Kenyan population relies on costly and environmentally damaging energy sources.
70 percent of Africa's 600 million people are not connected to the electricity grid.

"Rural populations depend largely on firewood, charcoal and kerosene for lamps or lanterns to light their homes," says Francis Njoka, a renewable energy expert at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Nairobi.

In East Africa, more than 350,000 people already use solar panels to light their homes.

Solar panels now provide from 12 to 14 hours of lighting. It’s cheaper and more efficient than kerosene

Fact of the Day (Kenya)

 In Kenya, half the population lives below the poverty line, earning less than $2 per day, with no access to basic amenities. Every year, over 1 million Kenyan youths enter a job market with no employment opportunities

Thursday, November 24, 2016

SACP - South Africa's Child Poverty

Almost two-thirds of children live below the poverty line of R965 per month. Not only are the country's children facing gross inequality, but unemployment and poverty means many households cannot financially support their young.

Inequalities in access to quality services and opportunities still run along racial with 41 percent of all black African children and 33 percent of this group across all ages living in the poorest 20 percent of households in the country.

Despite many children being eligible for a monthly child support grant of R360 researchers pointed out around 1.8 million are still not accessing the grant, many of whom are among the neediest young children. At R12 a day, the grant was in effect a very small amount and was not enough to cover a child’s most basic daily food needs.

Southern Africa's land reform

Twenty-two years after the end of apartheid, South Africa is still grappling with land reform. Progress is slow under the current approach to shift land from white back to black people and many are becoming impatient. Land ownership is a contentious issue in South Africa. With the end of apartheid in 1994, the African National Congress (ANC) party promised to right the wrongs of the past by shifting land from white farmers back to the black population who lost most of South Africa's fertile land under colonial rule. But the government is still far from reaching its initial target of redistributing one third of the land by 1999. 90 percent of the farmland that has been redistributed is not productive anymore, meaning that land reform has not been commercially viable.

"We haven't given it enough time," said Professor Nick Vink, chairman of the Agricultural Economics Department at Stellenbosch University. "It's something that's going to be with the country for the next two or three generations."

Left-winger,Julius Malema, renewed his call for blacks to occupy white-owned land. The Economic Freedom Fighters party has won public support with by campaigning against inequality in South Africa and calling for non-violent occupation to redistribute the land.
"They have been living peacefully. They have been swimming in a pool of privilege, they have been enjoying themselves because they always owned or land,” said Malema about South Africa's white, land-owning minority.

Robert Mugabe wanted to use his land reform program to eliminate the traces of colonialism by giving farms to black Zimbabweans. 15 years later the country can no longer feed itself. Some 4,500 white farmers were dispossessed, sometimes forcibly, and a million black Zimbabweans were settled on their land. A number of new medium-sized farms were created but by and large the land was redistributed to small-scale farmers – and to people who had good connections to the Mugabe regime. As a result of the land reform, some 300,000 black farm workers lost their jobs. Like the dispossessed white farm owners, they received no compensation for their losses. With the implementation of the land reform, the government failed to seize the opportunity to abandon traditional hierarchies and give women more of a say in the running of the expropriated farms. Less than 40 percent of land is currently being used productively, he told DW. One reason for this is that no real work is being done on many of the new large farms now in the hands of members of the political elite. Small farmers lack the necessary know-how and do not have enough capital to purchase the equipment they need, seeds, fertilizer or fuel.

Land reform seems to have become a symbol of how deep racial divisions still run in the country.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Africa Opposes Gay Rights

The 54-national African Group endeavoured to delay the appointment of an UN expert on LGBTI rights, gay rights investigator Vitit Muntarbhorn of Thailand. South Africa broke ranks with the rest of the continent.

Muntarbhorn, who is an international law professor, was appointed in September. He was given a three-year mandate to investigate abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. His appointment happened despite a stormy debate that also saw several African states vote against the decision.

In Africa 33 countries have anti-gay laws including Uganda, Nigeria, Sudan and Mauritania.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Nigeria's Slump

Two years ago, in 2014, Nigeria overtook South Africa to become the continent's largest economy, measured by GDP. Yet the country faces severe infrastructure challenges, and it still suffers from chronic power shortages.

Nigeria has seen its crisis deepen in the third quarter. Renewed attacks on pipelines and a slump in oil prices sent the West African nation into its third quarterly contraction in a row, with no fix in sight.

Oil production accounts for around 70 percent of government revenue, and the bulk of the nation's export earnings. Oil production averaged 1.63 million barrels per day. That marked a 22-percent drop from the same period a year earlier, when Nigeria produced 2.17 million barrels per day.

The government's efforts to prop up the naira has drained foreign currency reserves, necessitating the abandonment of the naira-dollar currency peg in June of this year. Despite that measure, a dollar shortage still persists, with black market rates hovering around 440 naira to the greenback this month, compared with the official bank rate of 320 naira to the dollar.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Church Repents

The Catholic Church in Rwanda apologised for the church’s role in the 1994 genocide, saying it regretted the actions of those who participated in the massacres. 

“We apologize for all the wrongs the church committed. We apologize on behalf of all Christians for all forms of wrongs we committed. We regret that church members violated their oath of allegiance to God’s commandments,” said the statement by the Conference of Catholic Bishops, which was read out in parishes across the country. “Forgive us for the crime of hate in the country to the extent of also hating our colleagues because of their ethnicity. We didn’t show that we are one family but instead killed each other,” the statement said.

The statement acknowledged that church members planned, aided and carried out the genocide, in which more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by Hutu extremists. Many of the victims died at the hands of priests, clergymen and nuns, according to some accounts by survivors, and the Rwandan government said many died in the churches where they sought refuge.

Black South Africans Address Black Police

Dear Black Police Officer

How are you today? Well, we hope. You may be wondering who we are, why we have decided to write to you and perhaps why we are addressing you as a ‘Black Police Officer’ - as opposed to just saying ‘Police Officer’.

Who are we? We are the Black Power Front or BPF. We are a non-party political pro-Black platform which seeks to serve as an instrument to organise and collaborate with like-minded Black individuals and organisations, under a common programme that provides practical responses to what is commonly understood as the Black Condition today.

Why have we decided to write to you? First, given the nature of your work, it is not always easy to sit down with you and just talk about issues that affect our country and, in particular, the Black community.

Second, like other members of the Black community, we in the BPF are deeply disturbed by the continued brutality of the police against Black workers and students - particularly those who engage in legitimate protest action. And third, the BPF holds the view that, given where Black people find themselves economically, socially and otherwise today in relation to other racial groups - it is extremely urgent that like-minded Black groups and individuals (everywhere in the world) come together in exclusive spaces, and engage in constructive dialogue, with the view to find ways of getting Black people out of the quagmire they currently find themselves in.

The anti-Black role of the police before 1994

As members of the Black community, you would know that, in the Azanian (South Afrikan) context, from the 1400s onwards, various forms of colonial police structures were key instruments in enabling the European invaders to advance and bolster their evil agenda of slavery, colonisation and land theft. It was these colonial police structures that were used to systematically counter Black resistance, through amongst others the capture, torture and in many cases beheading of our warrior ancestors such as uKumkani uHintsa, Kgosi Toto, Kgosi Galeshewe, uKumkani uStuurman and many other heroes and heroines of Black resistance.

In the 20th century, it was through these European colonial police structures that successive white supremacist regimes in Azania ( South Afrika) were able to murder and torture our freedom fighters and ordinary Black people. They were directly responsible for the murder of our people in Sharpeville and Langa in 1960. The execution by hanging of martyrs like Vuyisile Mini and Solomon Mahlangu, in 1964 and 1979, respectively.

It was the colonial European police who assassinated visionaries such as Onkgopotse Tiro and Steve Biko, in 1974 and 1977, respectively. It was them who murdered the young Zolile Petersen and Christopher Truter, during the student uprising of 1976. And it was them who ensured that many of our revered freedom fighters such as  Kgalabi Masemola, Mangaliso Sobukwe, Lekoane Mothopeng, Pandelani Nefolovhodwe, Nkosi Molala, Muntu Myeza and many others, were banished to Robben Island.

Even though it is often argued that the White Police Officers who were involved in these atrocities against Black people were acting under the orders of their superiors, the truth of the matter is that, at an individual and basic level, they knew that what they were doing to Black people was wrong, inhumane and unjustified.

The anti-Black role of the police after 1994

Given this painful history of centuries of systematic and state violence against Black people, the declaration of ‘freedom’ on April 27, 1994, created a legitimate expectation on the part of many Black people that the type of wanton violence and naked brutality that the successive colonial white supremacist regimes  unleashed on Black people would be a thing of the past. But to our horror, even after the declaration of ‘freedom’ in 1994 and the installation of a government that is led by Black people we began to see an increase and worrying pattern of anti-Black police violence.

This type of anti-Black police [U1] brutality was palpable in the killing of Andries Tatane, young Nqobile Nzuza, Mike Tshele, Lerato Seema, Osiah Rahube, Jan Rivombo and of course the brutal and targeted assassinations of Mgcineni ‘Mambush’ Noki and other Black workers in Marikana, in August 2012.

All of these anti-Black atrocities beg the question: how it is possible that a government that is led by people who, as part of the Black community, have first-hand experience of the brutality of state violence through the police, do not just unleash the same type of state violence against their own people, but also seek to justify the use of such anti-Black violence? 

Our attitude towards Black police officers

By highlighting the involvement of Black Police Officers (after 1994) in the killing of ordinary Black people who are simply fighting for their right to be human the BPF does not seek to create the mind-set that Black Police Officers are the enemy of the Black community or that Black Police Officers are inherently bad people. Of course, there are many examples of Black Police Officers who don’t just do their job with integrity and dedication, but also do a lot of good work in the Black community.

This notwithstanding, the main focus of this letter however is not so much the individual conduct of Black Police Officers but rather the continued use of Black Police Officers(  as a state function) in the brutal suppression of the right of ordinary and mainly poor Black people to freely articulate their social, economic and political concerns and aspirations.

Our appeal to Black police officers 

As the BPF, we regard Black Police Officers as members of the Black community first and therefore an integral part of Black life in Azania. We also hold the view that the on-going demands by Black workers for decent wages and better working conditions or those of Black students for free-decolonised-Afrocentric education - are not just demands that will benefit individual Black Police Officers ( majority of them Black young people), but also their children who might be at university or will be going there in future. Therefore, as a Black Police Officer, you must understand that the struggles of Black workers and students are actually your struggles too.

As the BPF we fully understand that, just like all ordinary Black people, Black Police Officers are under severe financial stress and like most Black people, they are struggling to make ends meet. For these reasons, the BPF’s clarion call to all Black Police Officers is follows:

Understand that the economic struggles and frustrations of ordinary Black people are your struggles and frustrations too. And that Black workers and students continue to be oppressed by the same system that is responsible for your personal financial stress;
As part of the Black community, you must (through your labour unions), engage the management of the SAPS to stop the state’s campaign of apartheid-style violence that is currently being unleashed on Black people in general;
You are our Black Brothers and Sisters and must never allow yourselves to be used by self-serving politicians as part of an elitist anti-Black-pro-capitalist plot that uses the pretext of ‘law and order’ to justify the murder of poor Black people and wanting that Black people timidly accept their status as economic slaves - in the land of their ancestors; and

Lastly, Black students and workers are not fighting against you (as Black police officers) but against the anti-Black-pro-capitalist system that is using some of you against your own Black Sisters and Brothers.

Black Power Front

The World Socialist Movement simply wishes to remind fellow-workers that the State is the executive committee of the ruling class and the police will always serve the interests of the ruling class.

The Great Green Wall

Desertification, land degradation, drought, climate change, food insecurity, poverty, loss of biodiversity, forced migration, and conflicts, are some of the key challenges facing Africa. The drylands of North Africa, Sahel and Horn of Africa extend over 1.6 billion hectares home to about 500 million people, i.e. slightly less than half of the entire population of the continent. Such rapidly deteriorating situation, exacerbated by climate change, has mobilised more than 20 African countries, NGOs, research institutes and grassroots organisations, to build together The Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI). What is this Wall?

It is not a line or a wall of trees across the desert. The “Wall” is a metaphor to express a mosaic of sustainable land management and restoration interventions. It is a call for the sustainable management of natural resources, including soils, water, forests, rangelands; promotion of sustainable rural production systems in agriculture, pastoralism, and forestry, as well as sustainable production, processing and marketing of agricultural products and forest goods and services. The plan promotes:
• Long-term solutions to the pressing challenges of desertification, land degradation, drought and climate change,
• Integrated interventions tackling the multiple challenges affecting the lives of millions of people in the Sahel and Sahara, including restoration of production systems, development of rural production and sustainable development hubs,
• And an urgent call to development actors and policy makers to invest more on long-term solutions for the sustainable development of drylands in the Sahel and Sahara.

On November 16, FAO presented to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Marrakech, Morocco a groundbreaking map of restoration opportunities along Africa’s Great Green Wall. at the UN climate change conference. Announcing that there are 10 million hectares a year in need of restoration along the Great Green Wall, it informs that restoration needs along Africa’s drylands have been mapped and quantified for the first time.

Climate Change - A little hope for Africa

COP22 was billed to be an African COP,” said Kwami Kpondzo of Friends of the Earth Africa. “The good news is that the African Renewable Energy Initiative took off here in Marrakech; an initiative by Africans for Africans, to leapfrog the dirty fossil fuel development and bring clean community-based energy instead.  Friends of the Earth groups have fought long and hard to make this initiative a reality and it’s a testimony to the work done by African civil society in the fight against energy poverty.

“However, in this COP we saw very little movement on the crucial issue of finance needed for the people of Africa, Kpondzo continued. “Dodgy accounting and fishy finance reporting by rich countries means that the millions already experiencing floods and droughts in every corner of Africa will be left to help themselves. Broken promises will not help us survive a crisis we did not create,” he continued.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Yet another forgotten tragedy

Unlike the refugees from Syria and elsewhere, whose perilous journeys to Europe have rarely been out of the headlines, the people of north-east Nigeria have remained almost entirely below the media radar. The UN’s humanitarian co-ordinator in Nigeria, Peter Lundberg, says the crisis here is worsening rapidly.

As many as 14 million people could soon be in need of help; an international funding conference is to be held in Geneva next month. The UN and other agencies are urgently appealing for additional funding to help the forgotten victims of Boko Haram. The children’s agency Unicef has raised barely a quarter of the $115m it says it needs.

They are more than three million people in north-east Nigeria who were displaced in what has become one of the world’s worst – and least reported – humanitarian disasters. The UN has warned that up to 75,000 children could die within the next 12 months unless more help arrives urgently. In Borno state,  the medical relief agency Médecins sans Frontières says thousands of children have already died of starvation and disease. According to the agency, a survey conducted in two camps for displaced people in Maiduguri indicated that mortality rates among children under the age of five were more than double the threshold for the declaration of an emergency.

Pauline Bannaman of Oxfam, which provides water, sanitation and hygiene assistance in the area, as well as small cash handouts to enable villagers to buy food in local markets, says: “We think the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better, because large areas are now opening up after the military campaign against Boko Haram, which means that more people will be returning to their homes and finding nothing there.”

Saturday, November 19, 2016


What a match-fixing scandal!

Zimbabwe’s 2017 Orange Africa Cup of Nations soccer qualifies in Gabon was once again marred by another clandestine match-fixing scandal. That was unearthed prior to the Group L encounter where Zimbabwean players were to rub shoulders with Swaziland. The former Zimbabwe international, Edzai Kasinauyo was implicated in the match-fixing scandal. For this reason, Kasinauyo was instantly suspended on pending investigations. The Zimbabwe Football Association headed by the business magnate, Phillip Chiyangwa boastfully indicated that it had evidence that Kasinauyo was working with popular Asian match fixers to rig the outcome of the match pitting Zimbabwe and Swaziland that was slated for 25th of March this year. As Kasinauyo was named in the match-fixing scandal, thorough investigations were conducted. Zimbabwe Republic Police had to summon the national team’s coach (The Warriors) to testify in the case that had claimed Edzai Kasinauyo who had been on the Zifa board as well as Pasuwa’s Assistant, Nation Dube. Despite investigations reached an advanced stage, Kasinauyo and company who were shell-shocked stuck to allegation denial insisting that they had made no contact with anyone in Asia. The former Zifa Chief Executive Officer, Henrietta Rushwaya was also dragged into the matter. Unfortunately, that brought no fruition but only capitalism proved that it sucks from all angles of the status quo.

Going back memory lane, Zimbabwean soccer was once again hard-hit by another similar multimillion-dollar betting scandal in Asia named. Around 80 players were implicated in a major match-fixing scandal that rocked local football in 2012. The coaches and players were accused of receiving payments from an Asian betting syndicate - involving the now convicted and imprisoned guru Wilson Raj Parumal - to lose friendly matches on trips to Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Oman, Jordan, Bulgaria, China, Yemen and Thailand between 2006 and 2011. 15 players and officials received life bans and more were suspended.

 It was insane for these players and their leaders fooled everybody in Zimbabwe pretending that they had the country at heart yet there were after clandestine activities with global match fixers. Even President Robert Mugabe used to treat them to state banquets before sending them out on national duty.  The episode is the sending of the fake Warriors team to Malaysia and what transpired at the Merdeka Cup that is Malaysian tournament of independence celebration. The then famous world match fixer Wilson Raj Perumal, is said to have been in charge of the team and their welfare including paying the players to throw away matches. Team officials were offered 5-Star Treatment including chauffeur rides, drinks, and sex. Fingered as the engine room to this madness, the then former Zifa CEO, Rushwaya was arrested by police and hauled to court to answer charges on match fixing involving 11 counts of concealing transactions from a principal, two counts of fraud and 15 counts of bribery involving $1,000,000. She was remanded on $500 bail. 13 players were banned for life and nearly 70 received their suspension for their part in the then Asiagate scandal.

 However, this was put to a halt and everybody was spared from the noose following the intervention of the world body, FIFA, led by the then Seth Blatter. Fifa cited irregularities on how the investigations were carried out thereby refusing to sanction the penalties. What a mad system that siphoned a scandal that brought a devastating impact on the now declined Zimbabwe’s football standards. The Zimbabwean government and its Zifa should be aware that soccer is a big business project being cogged by the head of imperialism that doesn’t value concrete investigation findings. Not that in this unfair world, even if the players are well paid by their governments, offers by those involved in soccer betting are exorbitant and ever attracts the watchful eyes of wealth gathering soccer players. To express this, read about 1915 British football betting scandal

Bigboy Musemwa

Friday, November 18, 2016

Phosphorus Sea-Mining

A persistent fear of diminishing phosphorus reserves has pushed mining companies to search far and wide for new sources. From April 2007 to August 2008, the price of phosphate, a necessary ingredient in fertilizer, increased nearly 950 percent, in part due to the idea that phosphate production had peaked and would begin diminishing. Before prices came back down, prospectors had already begun looking for deep sea phosphate reserves around the world.

Companies identified phosphate deposits on the ocean floor and are fighting for mining rights around the world. While several operations are proposed in the Pacific islands, New Zealand and Mexico rejected attempts at offshore phosphate mining in their territory.

This means southern African reserves – created in part by currents carrying phosphate-rich water from Antarctica – are the new center of debate. Namibia owns identified seabed phosphate deposits, and the country has recently flip-flopped about whether to allow mining. A moratorium was in place since 2013, but in September the environmental minister made the controversial decision to grant the necessary licenses. Since then, public outcry forced him to set those aside. 

The former general project manager of Namibian Marine Phosphate (Pty) Ltd, a company that applied to mine in Namibia, told IPS that environmental groups and fisheries proved to be a loud and organised opposition. He predicted the debate in South Africa would be just as difficult for mining companies to win with no precedent for such mining.

Adnan Awad, director of the non-profit International Ocean Institute’s African region, said, “There is generally this anticipation that South African processes for mining and for the policy around some of these activities are setting a bit of a precedent and a bit of a model for how it can be pursued in other areas.”

Three companies, Green Flash Trading 251 (Pty) Ltd, Green Flash 257 (Pty) Ltd and Diamond Fields International Ltd., hold prospecting rights covering about 150,000 square kilometers, roughly 10 percent, of the country’s marine exclusive economic zone.

The law firm Steyn Kinnear Inc. represents both Green Flash 251 and Green Flash 257. “Currently it does not seem as if there is going to be any progress, and there is definitely not going to be any mining right application,” Wynand Venter, an attorney at the firm, said, calling the project “uneconomical.” Venter said the Green Flash companies received drill samples, which showed current prices could not sustain seabed phosphate mining.

This leaves Diamond Fields as the only remaining player in South African waters. The company announced in a January 2014 press release that it received a 47,468 square kilometer prospecting right to search for phosphate. The act of offshore mining requires a vessel called a trailing suction hopper dredger, which takes up seafloor sediment and sends waste back into the water column.

Environmentalists argue that not only would phosphate mining destroy marine ecosystems, but it would also lead to continued overuse of fertilizers and associated pollution. They call for increased research into phosphate recapture technology instead of mining.

“We could actually be solving the problem of too much phosphates in our water and recapturing it. Instead we’re going to destroy our ocean ecosystems,” John Duncan of WWF-SA said. “It amounts to a kind of bulldozer that operates on the seabed and excavates sediment down to a depth of two or three meters. Where it operates, it’s like opencast mining on land. It removes the entire substrate. That substrate become unavailable to fisheries for many years, if not forever,” Johann Augustyn, secretary of the South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association, said.

In addition to direct habitat destruction, environmentalists argue the plume of sediment released into the ocean could spread out to smother additional areas and harm wildlife.

Mining opponents also worry offshore mining would negatively impact food production and economic growth. Several thousand subsistence farmers live along South Africa’s coast, and the country’s large-scale fishing industry produces around 600,000 metric tonnes of catch per year.
 “[Mining] may lead to large areas becoming deserts for the fish populations that were there. If they don’t die off, they won’t find food there, and they’ll probably migrate out of those areas,” Augustyn said.

While the fishing and coastal tourism industries account for slightly more than 1.4 billion dollars of GDP, the potential economic benefits from marine mining remain unclear. There are no published estimates for job creation, but Namibian Marine Phosphate’s proposal said it would lead to 176 new jobs, not all of them local.

“The benefits are not coming back to the greater South African community,” Awad said. “African countries generally have been quite poor at negotiating the benefits through multinational companies’ exploitation of coastal resources.”

South Africa is one of only three African nations – along with Namibia and Seychelles – implementing marine spatial planning. This growing movement toward organised marine economies balances competing uses such as oil exploration, marine protected areas and fisheries. Earlier this year, the Department of Environmental Affairs, DEA, published a draft Marine Spatial Planning Bill, the first step toward creating marine-specific legislation.

According to government predictions, a properly managed marine economy could add more than 12.5 billion dollars to South Africa’s GDP by 2033. What part mining will play in that remains to be seen.

“Internationally the off-shore exploration for hard minerals is on the increase and it is to be expected that the exploitation of South Africa’s non-living marine resources will also increase,” the DEA’s draft framework said.

Africa's oil

Africa is home to some of the world's fastest-growing economies, with many of them relying on oil for foreign exchange.

It is estimated that 57 percent of Africa's export earnings come from hydrocarbons. Proven oil reserves have grown by almost 150 percent, increasing from 53.4 billion barrels since 1980, to 130.3 billion barrels by the end of 2012.

The region is home to five of the top 30 oil-producing countries in the world, and nearly $2 trillion of investments are expected by 2036.

Due to these conditions, the interest of Europeans, Americans and Chinese remains high in the continent.

American oil company ExxonMobil is one of the largest foreign investors in Africa. Over the last years, it has committed more than $24bn to energy exploration and development.

Italy remains close. ENI, an Italian multinational oil and gas company, plans to invest around $25bn mainly in oil and gas, representing 60 percent of the company's investment.

China is the world's second-largest consumer of oil, and it's projected to become the world's largest consumer by 2030. It is estimated that the country will import over 66 percent of its total oil by 2020, and 72 percent by 2040. Its second-largest source of crude imports is Africa.

The interest of major US energy companies in Africa has not decreased, and the needs of Asia and Europe will not stop growing.

"We all know oil resources are becoming increasingly rare. The last major reserves of oil in Africa will become increasingly important. Pre-positioning oneself with a view to exploiting these resources is vital," says Jean Batou, professor of history at Lausanne University, in the documentary titled, Shadow War in the Sahara.

Fact of the Day

Nigeria's former First Lady Patience Jonathan is suing the country's anti-corruption agency for $200m (£160m) for freezing some of her bank accounts. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) claimed the decision was made as part of an investigation on alleged money-laundering charges pressed against her.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Africa and its energy

Over 1.2 billion people worldwide live without access to electricity. That’s one in five people globally in the dark - mostly the poor and those in rural areas.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Africa, the host continent of this year’s climate talks. Africa is the most ‘electricity poor’ region in the world, and over 620 million people - half of the global total - live without access to electricity.

Further, average global temperature rises will translate to much sharper increases in Africa. Here temperature rises may be twice the global average - so a rise of 2°C (as agreed in Paris) translates to up to 4°C for Africa by the end of the century.”

African people are bearing the brunt of climate injustice and energy poverty, yet many African governments are lining up to push for more investment in oil, coal and gas extraction, more dirty power stations, and more centralised and wasteful grid systems.

African governments were not the ones that invented these dirty energy options. Developed countries put the whole world on this harmful development pathway. Yet, by investing in the infrastructure now, many African countries are becoming ‘locked in’ to dirty development plans, instead of ‘leap-frogging’ to sustainable, renewable, decentralised models.

On the ground, the ruthless advance of dirty energy has seen whole swathes of forest, land and sea designated as ‘sacrifice zones’, where the environment has been devastated, and lives and livelihoods have been destroyed.

The Maghreb region, host to this year’s climate talks, is a hotbed for dirty energy infrastructure. Algeria and South Africa have large shale resources, and accessing gas from shale rock by ‘fracking’ has numerous potential environmental impacts on local communities.

Megadams are well known for their disastrous environmental, social and economic consequences, yet hundreds of megadams are being planned on Africa’s rivers. The Zambezi, for example, is already choked by the Kariba dam and the Cahora Bassa dam. Now the Mozambican government wants to construct Mphanda Nkuwa, another destructive megadam, on the same river.

Coal is the world’s dirtiest energy and its extraction, processing and burning all generate intense levels of pollution and destructive impacts for communities, workers and the environment. South Africa obtains almost 90% of its electricity and 77% of its primary energy needs from coal, and coal remains firmly embedded in the country’s current industrial strategy, with plans to build further dirty energy infrastructure.

Africa is the second major net exporter of oil in the world, after the Middle East, accounting for over 11% of global oil production over the last decade. Oil production in Nigeria has seen communities devastated by oil pollution on their farmland, fisheries, forests and water. The Nigerian government is now planning to extract further oil from ‘bitumen’, better known as tar sands.

Tar sands
The consequences of tar sands mining in Canada are so drastic that they are visible from space. Impacts for Nigeria will include contamination from oil spills, air and water pollution, loss of water availability, and loss and fragmentation of vegetation and habitats. In addition, social dislocation is expected, given the history of human rights abuses associated with conventional oil extraction in Nigeria. The damage that such a project would impose on Nigeria’s environment and society is unimaginable.

In South Africa, FoE South Africa /groundWork is working with communities to build resistance to proposed fracking projects, and the Maghreb has seen huge protests against fracking in recent years. For over 16 years FoE Mozambique/ JA! has been fighting construction of Mphanda Nkuwa dam. New oil is facing huge resistance from local communities and campaigns by FoE Togo and Uganda. FoE Nigeria / Environmental Rights Action continues to campaign for justice against big oil in the Niger Delta, and is fighting tar sands alongside local communities.

Frontline communities fight tirelessly at the sites of dirty energy devastation, despite hostility and violence from police or security agencies working on behalf of big corporations. There is no doubt that the dirty energy system will fall. Yet two questions remain: When? What shall take its place? The answers to these questions must be defined by the people, and not by the corporate and global elite who are guided by their own short-term interests, and utterly unmoved by the urgency of the crisis at hand.

For the people of Africa, and the rest of the world, the reclamation of our energy system simply cannot wait.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

It's Your Home - Get Out!

Throughout history the rich have displayed the annoying habit of kicking the poor off land that the latter's ancestors have lived on for centuries when the rich discovered a way of making money from that land. Sometimes, it was done through conquest of one lord over another. Sometimes, it was blatant genocide as, for example, when the aboriginals were in the way of resource hungry invaders.

In Medieval times, in fact, through to the sixteenth century, there was a growing demand for woolen products. This triggered the need for more land for sheep rearing. The Enclosure Act was enacted in England, which often turned the local population into vagrants, and, with the usual sense of fair play, punished them for being vagrants.

During the Industrial Revolution, improvements in agricultural technology meant that landowners did not need as many manual workers. The surplus workers, with no livelihood, had no recourse but to look for jobs in the city to slave twelve, fourteen, or sixteen hours a day for pennies in the burgeoning factory system. Not that all farm workers did that. Some had to stay home while their children did the slaving because they could be paid less.

In 1868, after having vast territories taken from them, the Sioux Indians were given a reservation in the Black Hills of Dakota until gold was discovered there which meant the death knell of the Sioux. Nor does this special feature of capitalism apply just to those wide-open spaces. Just prior to the Beijing Olympics, thousands of people were ordered out of their homes near the Olympic stadium so the Chinese government could extend facilities needed for the games. History is replete with many more examples of land theft.
The latest example is the effort of the Botswana government to force the Kalahari Bushmen out of their desert home. For countless centuries they have lived there in harmony with each other and with nature. They have managed to develop a remarkable culture that enables them to survive a desert climate that includes going without rain for nine months of the year. They know where to dig for roots and tubers and which berries are good to eat. They spread out leaves at night that collect the morning dew to provide their water needs. They hold all things in common so there is no concept of ownership. They have no crime, police, or laws and no word in their language for possession. In fact, the very concept of bad or evil does not exist. One can almost hear the sophisticated city slicker saying, "What a crazy, primitive bunch. Let's straighten them out and help them into the twenty-first century." This would seem to be the attitude of the Botswana government, though with a little more compassion. It says, " We want to help you poor suffering people, but we can't if you are stuck out in the desert. You had better come into town where we can help." Of course, the fact that diamonds have been discovered there and the government wants to make Botswana a modern wealthy country has nothing to do with it!

According to the New York Times, November 14/2010, "the government is stinging from the reproach of interloping foreigners, especially Survival International, an advocacy group based in Britain, which claims the Bushmen were rousted to make way for diamond prospecting and tourism." Diamond exploration has begun in the desert, which is really brush and scrubland. Though there is no mine in operation, the government wants the Bushmen out of the way when one is ready. One tactic is sealing up water holes, forcing the Bushmen to walk to town to get water. Many have moved to resettlement areas on the outskirts of towns where their lives have become a matter of waiting. They wait for water, wait around for something to do, and wait for pubs to open.
In South Africa, there are about one hundred thousand Bushmen, about half of whom live in Botswana. Today, only a few hundred live in the desert. Some have attempted to return but are prevented. According to one man in Kaudwane, "We have been dumped here and when we try to get back, they stop us at the gate. There are no jobs. We will all end up in prison for stealing goats."

In keeping with most people who experience hardship, they do not analyze their situation in relation to prevailing economic relations. The attitude of their countrymen who treat them as inferior, rather then the economics of resources is cited, " You can say it's something like racism", said one 26 year-old graduate. It was almost inevitable that this conclusion would be drawn. Capitalism is a system that divides people when they should be uniting to replace this competitive system. The plain facts of the case speak for themselves. For many centuries, perhaps thousands of years, the Bushmen have lived in the Kalahari without outside assistance. Diamonds were discovered there and the Bushmen are being forced off their land without any recourse.
This is a natural development of the operation of capitalism. It can only work in the interests of making profit, and diamonds make big profit. Well-meaning politicians have tried for centuries to mitigate the worst effects but, in the end, have been changed by the system itself. If an opportunity to make money presents itself, capitalists, and politicians who attempt to administer capitalism, will be in 'like Flynn' and good luck to anyone who is in their way. Nor does it make any difference whether a government has been elected or is a dictatorship. The slaughter of American Indians was carried out by an elected government. The solution is not to get rid of the people who want to move people out of the way, but to get rid of the economic system that forces anyone to get rid of someone else for economic gain or any other reason. Once capitalism has been put in its rightful place, the garbage can of history, then we can put an end to the authority of some over others.

Socialist Party of Canada, 

Nelson Mandela

The past two weeks the media has been filled with the death of Mandela and the tributes to his life. One radio station even discussed the possibility of sainthood for him but likely would have been hard-pressed to find the two requisite miracles. Leaders from around the world rushed to get in on the photo opportunities and profit from the political clout that came from association with Mandela. Not bad for someone who, until quite recently, was considered a terrorist by the world's powers and would certainly be highlighted as such by today's security agencies.

Mandela was born into the Thembu royal family and attended Fort Hare and Witwatersrand Universities, studying law. He was, then, not typical of the average black inhabiting South Africa. He became involved in fighting against colonialism throughout Africa and particularly the apartheid laws of the ruling, white-dominated South African National Party. He secretly joined the South African Communist Party that was committed to overthrowing their white masters and was not averse to using sabotage methods. Mandela eventually ran afoul of the law and was tried and convicted of conspiracy against the state and jailed where he spent twenty-seven years.

Mandela deserves our respect for his life-long struggle against the injustices perpetrated against the Africans by the colonial powers; for his tenacity in enduring almost three decades in a prison system that would not have been sympathetic; for sticking to his fight and for helping to break the apartheid government and establish a democratic system. He became the first black president of South Africa and the first to be to be there through a democratic election. Socialists see this as a step towards socialism as, theoretically, the possibility of electing a socialist government now exists. The working class of South Africa now has a choice, assuming that socialism gets on the ballot.

Unfortunately, as we look at the state of the poor black in South Africa today, all of the above has not translated into security and wealth for the general population. Indeed, poverty has risen, unemployment is still at least as high, and recently government troops fired on striking miners killing dozens. Socialists contend that governments in a capitalist system must uphold the rights of the capitalist class over those of the working class and this is exactly what the black dominated government of the country did. At Mandela's memorial, current president, Jacob Zuma was roundly booed showing the depth of displeasure at current affairs. Apart from the poverty and unemployment among the masses, Zuma stands accused of failing to address the AIDS problem and of corruption and spending $21 million in renovations to his home. Recently, the largest South African union, The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, withdrew its support of President Zuma's ANC Party.

So what went wrong? Unfortunately, socialism as understood by the World Socialist Movement - a society based on the common ownership of the means of producing and distributing wealth, organized democratically in the interests of all mankind - was not on anyone's agenda. The fight was a narrow one to end the excesses of apartheid and domination by the white ruling class. Of course it would be nice to free the workers from economic poverty, establish proper health, housing standards, and give economic opportunity to all. This is not on the agenda of the capitalist system. Ever vaster sums of wealth must be funneled, through the giant corporations, to the large investors. It is a competitive system that pits corporation against corporation in a never-ending scramble for investment by paying higher returns on investment. Everything else must be sacrificed - quality, health and safety of the workers, the environment - or pay the consequences of going out of business or being taken over by bigger fish. This was not clearly understood by Mandela and his party and once in power they were forced to operate much as any other government does or see economic collapse in their country.

Capital dominates, absolutely. Many other so-called socialist governments have met the same fate after the initial euphoria - Chavez in Venezuela and the Brazilian Workers' Party come to mind. The road to good intentions is paved with the dead bodies of Left Wing governments. In capitalism, they cannot compete with their business- oriented opposition who simply want to do what is best for business and therefore receive all the benefits that money can furnish. Mandela and his successors, then, are doomed to failure because they never had a truly class/socialist consciousness. Rather than fighting the effects of colonialism and apartheid, he and his compatriots should have been fighting for a system change from capitalism to socialism that would have ended not just the two main objects of their efforts, but the domination of capital altogether.

The World Socialist Movement is the only non-capitalist alternative that will, once power is gained, disband the nation state and its central government and devolve power to locally elected councils and, indeed, disband itself as political parties are expressions of class and once common ownership is established, there will not be any classes.

Socialist Party of Canada


We have been warned

Some 75,000 children in north-eastern Nigeria risk dying of hunger in "the few months ahead", the UN says.

UN humanitarian co-ordinator Peter Lundberg said that overall 14 million people needed humanitarian assistance in a region that was the former stronghold of Boko Haram militants. He warned that the UN did not have enough funds to avert the crisis. More than two million people have been displaced since 2009 in the Borno state and other areas.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Africa’s debt

Free market capitalism - a specious solution

Protests across the world demand aid to African governments burdened with financial debt. African statesmen beg relief from the crushing debt their countries owe to western powers. Their developing and competing states have seen poverty, continual wars, miserable health conditions—much of it the result of three centuries of western capitalist powers carving out their spheres of influence through colonization and unabated economic exploitation. The legacy is a cycle of developing and small capitalist states’ economic dependence on the more rapacious and developed capitalist states.

Celebrities have joined the chorus of those advocating billions of dollars of financial aid. Others, like U2’s rock star Bono, demand that western governments, banks, and capitalists forgive the debt of the African states. Both reason that this will free up needed monies for pressing social problems: poverty, rampant health problems, and building needed economic infrastructure.
Their hearts are in the right place, but what they propose as the solutions, or at least the beginnings of solutions—to provide Africa with needed breathing space to “catch up” to western capitalist states—falls short of their goal despite Africa’s problems being real enough.

One recent report suggests nearly 600 million people will be living in extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa by the year 2016. Such forecasts mirror poverty worldwide. Presently under global capitalism half the world’s population live on less than $2 a day, a fifth surviving on half of that. Some 30 000 children die each day because of poverty.

Sweatshops and the misery of child labour, such as in India’s silk manufacturing industry where children as young as ten years old work seven days a week for a pittance, are the conditions of work for many. Meanwhile, multinational corporations reap the profits from their labour so altering the relationship between labour and capital is one thing they’d prefer not to do.

Yet, while this sanctioned misery for Africa’s labouring poor carries on, hired ideologists and apologists beating the drum of free enterprise suggest that what Africa really needs is not more aid but a good dose of free market capitalism. These economic spin doctors weave fractured fairy tales of capitalism’s glories where commodities, demand and supply, and money reign supreme. To them Africa’s economic woes can only be overcome by the free reign of “the market,” and if that means the further tightening of belts amongst the working class then so be it.
They tell us that there is no other alternative. In their view, capitalism is the best of all possible
systems—which is not surprising, because it’s ‘their system’ and they draw their parasitical existence from it.

The so-called “radical” solutions of forgiving state debt or massive foreign aid do nothing to solve the root of the problem—capitalism itself—a system based upon exploitation, where commodities must be sold with a view to profit. Simply, it is the way the system functions. It is not, and never can be, a system that deals with people as human beings, to provide them with the things they need. Those who try to put a human face on it ultimately deceive themselves because reforms do not remove the system that engenders poverty—it postpones it.

The continent of Africa is rich in resources and in the human ability and intelligence to meet their own needs. Contrary to kow-towing to the capitalist game, the solution can only be a fundamentally different kind of society where production is solely for use, without profits or wages, where all people of the world democratically determine their future for themselves. This is the basis of what we in the World Socialist Movement stand for—Real Socialism—Real Democracy.

Those who have been dubbed as part of the “anti-globalist” movementmay argue that change is needed now. Socialists agree. What we advocate is a real change now, not a tinkering with the capitalist system. The movement toward a better, sane world fit for human beings would be a much more strategic use of our energies if devoted for that very fundamental change— Socialism, Now.

Len Wallace, Socialist Party of Canada, 2002

African Power

Africa is responsible for just 3.5 percent of fossil fuel emissions – despite being home to around 16 percent of the global population. Africa’s energy infrastructure is far less developed than in the carbon-heavy economies of America, Europe and China, for example. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), around 600 million people in Africa do not have access to electricity.

Zambia, and Democratic Republic of Congo have close to 100 percent renewable electricity production from hydropower facilities. Ethiopia, too relies heavily on hydropower but also wind power, which now accounts for about 4 percent of its power generation. Morocco and South Africa are among the African countries investing most in modern wind and solar power facilities. But South Africa still generates less that 3 percent of its electricity from renewables.

Africa is still heavily dependant on burning wood and charcoal for cooking and heating. According to the IEA, approximately 730 million people in Africa rely on traditional biomass. And that has its own environmental impacts, in terms of deforestation and air quality.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Gambian Gamble

Gambia is a former British colony. In 2013 Gambia withdrew from the Commonwealth, describing it as a neocolonial institution. Few in the west have ever paid much attention to the west African state of only two million inhabitants with little strategic importance and no major resources. Few of the 160,000 tourists drawn to the Gambia’s beaches last year were interested in local politics either . President Yahya Jammeh has ruled the Gambia with an iron fist since taking power, aged 29, in a military coup in 1994. After languishing in geopolitical obscurity for decades, a wave of refugees from the Gambia has focused more attention on the country. The combination of repression and poverty has driven tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands of young people out of the country in recent years, many heading across the Sahara to the Mediterranean coast in a desperate bid to start new lives in Europe. The route, known locally as “the back way”, is extremely dangerous, with many perishing in the Sahara or during the hazardous sea crossing.

Elections are held every five years in the Gambia. Jammeh’s Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) has won every one since 1996. 2016’s election day is on 1 December and a newly formed coalition of opposition parties are seeking to unseat President Yahya Jammeh who has has unleashed a wave of repression. Jammeh relies on brutal security agencies to stifle growing dissent. Earlier this year a series of protests led to the detention of more than 90 opposition activists and supporters. One prominent opposition politician, a father of nine, was beaten to death in custody. His body has not been returned to his family. Thirty, including the head of the biggest opposition party, were given three-year jail sentences. Many remain in jails where abuse is systematic. The detentions continue. Last week the head of the Gambian state TV and radio services was arrested after images showing substantial crowds of opposition supporters were broadcast.

The president, who has described the opposition as “vermin” who will be “buried nine feet under the ground”, has brushed aside criticism from the European Union, the United Nations, the UK and other African states. “People die in custody or during interrogations, it’s really common … No one can tell me what to do in my country,” he told one interviewer earlier this year. Jammeh mixes pan-Africanist rhetoric and resurgent Islamic identity. Relations with neighbouring Senegal are poor, and the country is increasingly isolated. “There is no ideological or diplomatic basis, no rationale. Policy is driven by his own idiosyncrasies,” said Sidi Sanneh, a former foreign minister and dissident who lives in the United States.

Aid from the EU has been cut over concerns for human rights. A key trade agreement with the US has been abrogated, and Jammeh has also withdrawn the Gambia from the international criminal court, arguing that the institution is biased against Africans. Last December the president declared the country an Islamic republic – making it Africa’s second, after Mauritania. Analysts say the move had two aims: to bolster domestic support in a country which is 90% Muslim, and to attract new backers among wealthy states in the Middle East.

Alex Vines, head of the Africa programme at Chatham House, the London-based geo-political think-tank, said, “There is no chance of an upset. Jammeh will be re-elected and be west Africa’s longest-serving leader.”

Monday, November 07, 2016

Land-grab Resistance

On October 12, the government of Mozambique quietly announced that it would close its Agriculture Promotion Centre (CEPAGRI), the agency created in 2006 to promote large-scale foreign investment in the country’s agricultural sector. Mozambique analyst Joseph Hanlon reported in his Mozambique News Report that CEPAGRI was finished because those large-scale projects it was supposed to broker: “none of them have succeeded.” The Mozambican government may have closed its agricultural promotion center, but it remains committed to giving away good land to foreigners. Large-scale projects have been more successful in forestry and tourism, with nearly two million hectares in concluded deals. And mining concessions continue to displace or threaten thousands of Mozambicans as the mineral boom continues.

Mozambique’s visions of foreign capital modernizing its agricultural sector have indeed proven grandiose. Nowhere is this clearer than in the rich Nacala Corridor in northern Mozambique, where the ProSavana project promoted by Brazil, Japan, and Mozambique was going to transform 35 million hectares—nearly 100 million acres—into soybean plantations modeled on Brazil’s cerrado region. Brazilian agribusinessmen walked away, seeing land that was hardly “unoccupied,” resistance from the communities occupying that land.

But is land-grabbing over, in Mozambique and across Africa and the rest of the developing world? Now that crop and food prices have returned to lower levels, is the pressure off from foreign buyers looking to acquire large tracts of agricultural lands?

Not according to new data from the Land Matrix Initiative, which has been tracking such deals since the land rush took off in 2007. A large number of formerly announced deals have failed to materialize but many that remain are now under contract and coming into production.
More than 1,000 large-scale foreign land deals are now under contract for agriculture covering more than 26 million hectares of land, according to the new report, "Land Matrix Analytical Report II: International Land Deals for Agriculture.” That area represents a remarkable two percent of arable land in the world. Nearly three-quarters of the projects have now begun production on some of the land.

Africa remains the largest target for land grabs, accounting for 42 percent of global deals with 10 million hectares under contract. Mozambique now ranks 18th among all target countries in area under contract, with 500,000 hectares in 60 concluded deals. That puts the country, which in the 2012 report was a top target in Africa, well behind Ethiopia, Ghana, and South Sudan, which have the most on the continent. The United States and United Kingdom remain among the leading investors in the amount of land under contract for agriculture. China ranks ninth overall, with about one million hectares under contract, barely one-third the land acquired by U.S. investors. China remains a minor agricultural player in Africa.

The new report also dispels the myth that the land grabs are mainly by “resource poor” governments to secure food access for their domestic populations. At least 70 percent of the concluded deals are by private investors, with only 6 percent directly by governments. And food crops account for a minority of the land under cultivation. Cereal crops account for only an estimated 20 percent of the area under cultivation, while 44 percent is estimated to be in oilseeds such as palm oil and another 10 percent is in sugar. The latter two are considered prime “flex-crops” because they can be used to produce biofuels, raw materials for processed foods, or edible oils and sugar.

The new data also shows that the acquired land was not “unused,” despite investor claims to the contrary. Fully 58 percent was reported to be cropland in recent use. Only 10 percent of acquired land was considered “marginal,” and Land Matrix points out that this by no means indicates that it was not in use. “Land considered to be ‘marginal’ often serves as a grazing area and is important to rural communities and indigenous peoples,” notes the report. Land Matrix also confirmed that successful projects failed to generate many jobs, as capital-intensive farming displaced labor-intensive small-scale production. One researcher estimated a net loss in livelihoods between 28 percent (Tanzania) and 75 percent (Kenya) from large-scale foreign projects.

A 200,000-hectare project along the Lurio River in northern Mozambique is still very much in the pipeline, even if it doesn’t appear yet in the Land Matrix database. (GRAIN, the other international organization collecting land grab data, shows it as an announced project that could displace 100,000 people.) But the failures are stunning, and a testament to communities’ resistance to the foreign invaders, as well as their insistence that the government respect the country’s progressive Land Law. In the Land Matrix’s first report in 2012, Mozambique was the second most important target in the world, with nearly 8 million hectares in reported agricultural deals. Now, the Land Matrix lists only 500,000 hectares in 65 concluded agricultural deals. Of the current projects, nine, on nearly 100,000 hectares, are listed as “abandoned,” mostly biofuel projects. Data is scarcer on the area actually under production, but Land Matrix could confirm only 21,000 hectares in production. No doubt, the area is larger than that. Interestingly, the largest operational project, a Chinese rice investment in Xai Xai, has been significantly scaled back from its listed 8,800-hectare plantation because of community resistance.

But the initial alarming ProSAVANA promise was 35 million hectares. ProSAVANA appears in the Land Matrix database now as a 700,000-hectare project “intended (under negotiation),” but with no land under contract or production seven years after the plan was announced. The project is now limping through yet another consultation process with little pretense of attracting investors. Brazil does not appear as the home source of investment for a single Mozambican farming project, though there certainly are a few. Interestingly, Brazil ranks fifth in the world as a land-grab target, with two million hectares under contract to foreigners.

Land Matrix’S 2012 report showed 83 million hectares in “intended” agricultural deals, with some 56 million in Africa. According to the new report, only 26 million hectares in deals have been concluded globally—less than one-third the threatened amount—with about 10 million in Africa, less than one-fifth the area reported in 2012. Resistance is a big part of the reason, and it will continue to determine where investors can impose their will. The difference between a land grab and a large-scale project is consultation and consent. An international campaign for Land Rights Now is focusing particular attention on women, indigenous communities, and others who do not have secure title to the land and are particularly vulnerable. Fundamentally, the responsibility lies with national governments to recognize communal and individual land rights and stop giving away land to foreign investors.