Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Nigeria's Poverty

 By February 2018 Nigeria will overtake India as the country with the most people in extreme poverty. Nigeria’s mean household income per capita is $1168, as compared to India’s $1759. However, this wouldn’t be an accurate measure of the welfare of the average Nigerian. What would be accurate to measure the economic growth as compared to its growing population will be the wealth distribution. More wealth is concentrated with the elites, despite the country’s oil wealth, than among the people. Those who have access to this oil wealth through politics have been the major recipients of the wealth. The high rate of unemployment, endemic corruption, the lack of basic social amenities for millions of people, the difficulty in doing business and the millions living in poverty are all consequences of the huge inequality in Nigeria.

It is estimated that Nigeria currently has 82 million of its 180 million people living in extreme poverty, representing 42.4 percent of the country’s population.

Living in extreme poverty as defined by the World Bank is living under $1.90 per day. People living in extreme poverty are unable to meet their minimal needs for survival. The first goal of the Sustainable Development Goals, set by the UN in 2015 is to “eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere by 2030”. To achieve that globally, by putting it into numbers, 90 people need to leave poverty every minute to eradicate poverty totally by 2030. However, there is a shortage of about 9.5 million people globally per year. Presently, The World Poverty Clock, which monitors live estimates of global extreme poverty predicts that for the 2030 SDG target to be met in Africa, 57 people have to leave extreme poverty every minute. However, that is not the case, as on the average, 9 people rather than leaving, enter extreme poverty every minute. Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo are both responsible for the 9. Nigeria needs 11.9 people per minute to escape extreme poverty, but presently has a deficit of 6.8 people every minute, i.e. 6.8 people enter into poverty every minute.

Nigeria’s population is growing faster than its economy. Between 1990 and 2013, Nigeria’s population increased by 81 percent. By 2050, going by the speed of its present population growth rate, Nigeria will be the third most populous country in the world. By passing the 400 million mark, it will be taking over from the U.S.A. and be only behind China and India.

The State of World Population (SWOP) Report, 2017, launched by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), has placed Nigeria among countries with high rate of unintended pregnancies, with about 4million cases annually. The report has blamed the situation on limited access to family planning which, it says, does not only harm women’s health, but also restrict their ability to move towards financial independence. In Nigeria, the employment rate of men and women in urban area are of the ratio 42:37 per cent while the employment ratio of men to women in the rural area is 63:58 percent.

Land Grab

Across Africa, more than 117 large-scale land deals totalling about 22 million hectares, an area the size of the U.S. state of Utah, have been recorded in the last 12 years, according to data from the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). Agribusinesses, investment funds and government agencies piled into developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, when oil prices peaked in 2007-08, leading to a surge in prices of food. Cheap land to grow food crops and bio-fuels to enhance food and energy security has become essential as populations expand. There is plenty of land in Africa, with only 5 percent of an estimated 550 million hectares of arable land in central Africa being cultivated, according to the FAO. Prices were lower than in other developing countries, the terms were favourable, including no import duties on machinery, and full repatriation of products and profits. Critics say millions of indigenous people and small farmers being forcefully removed from their ancestral land with little consultation or compensation. The FAO confirmed in a recent reportng that "there is little or no monitoring of the land use in terms of sustainability and social responsibility of the investors".

Ethiopia has earmarked some 11.5 million hectares of land for overseas firms to invest in agriculture. Millions of small farmers and herders in Ethiopia have been moved from the land offered to investors and relocated under "villagisation" programmes, often with threats and assaults, according to rights groups, including GRAIN and the Oakland Institute. The new villages where they are resettled often lack basic resources including adequate food, agricultural support, and health and education facilities, according to activists.

"There is lots of vacant land available that is not taken by any farmers. We believe in encouraging private investors with the capacity to develop large amounts of land," Fitsum Arega, director of the Ethiopian Investment Commission said.

In Ethiopia, where all land is state-owned, traditional tenure systems exist alongside modern systems. Several regions, including Gambella, where Karuturi had leased land, have no formal tenure and boundaries are agreed by local customs. In regions where villagisation took place, none of the inhabitants had legal titles, said a Human Rights Watch report. The relocations may have "life-threatening consequences", with shifting cultivators - who move from one location to another - made to plant crops in a single location, and pastoralists abandoning their cattle-based livelihoods, it said

"These large-scale plantations and farms are displacing people who have lived there for generations, without creating jobs for the locals or enhancing food security," said Anuradha Mittal, executive director of California-based advocacy group Oakland Institute, which has studied these deals. "It is a horrific abuse of rights."

Most deals were cloaked in secrecy, and jobs for locals were often only low-paying manual work, activists say. Most deals also encompass fertile lands which are inhabited, rather than marginal or infertile land as promised by officials. Most of these deals have also failed to achieve the objectives of enhancing food and energy supply and stimulating development in the local communities,

"This is the land where indigenous communities have farmed and grazed their animals, and depended on for their livelihoods. This is the land where their ancestors lie," Mittal said. There is "irrefutable evidence that the locals have been forcibly evicted from their homes and lands. They have been intimidated, beaten, and even arrested for demanding their right to their land," she said. Mittal said African nations must scrap these deals entirely to protect the rights of local communities. 

It is "wishful thinking ... that large-scale land deals can be beneficial to local communities if done properly," she said. "We have looked at hundreds of land deals all across Africa - and have yet to see the benefits accrue for the local populations impacted, or even for national economies. This is a failed development paradigm," she said.

 Tanzania has imposed caps on the size of land given to investors, and last year began a programme to seize land left undeveloped by investors and return it to poor farmers, in a bid to quell conflicts.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A time for retribution

Amnesty International is calling for a criminal investigation into the oil giant Shell regarding allegations it was complicit in human rights abuses carried out by the Nigerian military. Amnesty is urging the UK, Nigeria and the Netherlands to consider a criminal case against Shell in light of evidence it claims amounts to “complicity in murder, rape and torture”. The organisation alleges Shell gave the military “logistical support” including transport and, on at least one occasion, paid a military commander notorious for human rights violations. An individual or company can be held criminally responsible for a crime if they encourage, enable, exacerbate or facilitate it.  Amnesty’s new report, A Criminal Enterprise?, alleges that Shell was involved in crimes committed in Ogoniland in this way.

A review of thousands of internal company documents and witness statements published on Tuesday points to the Anglo-Dutch organisation’s involvement in the brutal campaign to silence protesters in the oil-producing Ogoniland region in the 1990s.

Witness statements allege Shell managed a unit of undercover police officers, trained by the Nigerian state security service, to carry out surveillance in Ogoniland after the oil company had publicly announced its withdrawal from the region. Shell stopped operations in Ogoniland in early 1993 citing security concerns but “subsequently sought ways to re-enter the region and end the protests by the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, Mosop”, claims Amnesty.
On 30 April 1993 troops guarding Shell’s contractors opened fire on protesters injuring 11 people, and a man was fatally shot at Nonwa village in a separate incident several days later. In the brutal backlash that followed by Nigeria’s military police, about 1,000 people were killed and 30,000 made homeless after villages were destroyed.
Audrey Gaughran, director of global issues at Amnesty, said: “The evidence shows Shell repeatedly encouraged the Nigerian military to deal with community protests, even when it knew the horrors this would lead to – unlawful killings, rape, torture and the burning of villages. It is indisputable that Shell played a key role in the devastating events in Ogoniland in the 1990s but we now believe there are grounds for a criminal investigation.” She added: “Bringing all the evidence together was the first step. We will now be preparing a criminal file to submit to the relevant authorities with a view to prosecution.”
Mark Dummett, a researcher for Amnesty, said: “The fact Shell was running a shady undercover unit and then passing on information to the Nigerian security agency is incredibly disturbing. This was a time when Nigeria was cracking down on peaceful protesters, and there must have been a risk that information gathered by Shell’s secret spy unit contributed to grave human rights violations." He added: “The revelations show how close and insidious the relationship was between the oil company and the Nigerian state, and Shell has serious questions to answer.”
The Nigerian government’s campaign against the Ogoni people culminated in the execution 22 years ago of nine Ogoni men, including Ken Saro-Wiwa, who had led the protests. Their deaths sparked a global outcry with claims their trial had been unfair. In his final words to the tribunal that convicted him, Ken Saro-Wiwa warned that Shell would face its own day in court.

Chad's Migrant Cash

France's President Emmanuel Macron has been planning to set up asylum centers in ChadA center is also planned for neighboring Niger. The aim is for future asylum applications to be processed in Africa. France is planning to take in up to 3,000 people from both countries. President Deby said he had received funding commitments of up to 15.2 billion euros ($18 billion). By way of comparison, Chad's gross domestic product is less than ten billion euros per year.

Chad expert Helga Dickow, a research fellow at the Arnold Bergstraesser Institute in Freiburg, sees things differently. "Chad does not yet play a major role as a transit country. The migratory routes pass by the country." It is also considered unlikely that more Chadians will leave their home country in the future. "Most people are simply too poor and cannot afford the cost of a trip to Europe," says Dickow. According to the United Nations Development Index, the central African state is the third poorest country in the world and is facing a severe economic crisis due to the drop in oil prices.
Chadian politician Beral Mbaikoubou explained, "People are much more concerned with the daily struggle for survival and the difficult social climate."  
Marie Larlem runs the Association for the Promotion of Fundamental Liberties in Chad (APLFT) and, together with her 118 employees, deals with numerous socio-political issues such as education and poverty reduction. "The population of Chad does not have a tradition of going abroad.”

Music creates solidarity

There are 2.1 million migrants in South Africa, according to the 2011 census — about 4 percent of the population.

The largest percentage of migrants in South Africa is said to be Zimbabweans, many of whom are fleeing economic crisis and political repression. Bayethe Music is just one of the many migrant-owned companies whose activities have brought together Zimbabwean and South African musicians in collaborative work. As a result, more than 20 collaboration songs and a number of festivals have been held by musicians from the two countries.

“We have seen it as imperative for locals and migrants to come together in celebratory events, which will build familiarity among different nationals and bring them closer to one another,” said Mcasiseli Gwaza-Gwaza of Bayethe Music, a fledgling music promotions company. “Usually, xenophobia flares because of problems that affect ordinary South Africans, who then vent their anger on foreigners because they somehow believe migrants are the principal cause of their suffering. During our shows, attended by both locals and migrants, we preach messages of tolerance. The idea is to build one Africa based on love and unity. We, therefore, believe it is our duty as promoters to use music to achieve that goal.” He adds, “Our main aim is to foster grassroots co-operation as a way to achieve social cohesion,” adds Gwaza-Gwaza. “Our events, which pull huge crowds comprising both locals and migrants. We also invite community leaders, politicians and traditional leaders from all over Africa to come and give messages themed around the spirit of Ubuntu (humanity).”
“This kind of co-operation has helped us bridge the divide between South Africans and migrants and most music fans are now as united as we wished when we first started this journey,” said Zinjaziyamluma’s manager, Mlungisi Tshabalala. “Both sets of musicians have been able to preach peace to their fans across nationalities.”

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Who is caring about CAR

Central African Republic is the poorest country in the world, according to annual ranking by Global Finance Magazine. Roaming militias and bandits burn down villages and kill, rob and rape civilians with impunity. An estimated 600,000 are internally displaced and nearly as many have fled to neighboring countries for refuge. The United Nations says half of the population needs humanitarian assistance to survive.

 The country has many diamond and gold mines and these attract bandits and armed groups who want to enrich themselves.  These conflicts are why the population has no hope.

Friday, November 24, 2017

In CAR, who will provide the health-care?

The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has evacuated its staff and suspended its programmes after its base in Bangassou was violently robbed on Monday night. Four patients have died and thousands are stranded without healthcare in an embattled Central African Republic town, after the attack forced the last charity working there to pull out. 50 urgently needed surgery or were in intensive care when doctors and nurses left them in the hospital.  The southeastern diamond-mining town, which borders the Democratic Republic of Congo, has witnessed some of the deadliest clashes this year between rival militias, as violence has escalated throughout the country.

"This was a really tough decision for us, but we cannot put the lives of our staff on the line," MSF's head of mission Frederic Lai Manantsoa told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "Leaving the population utterly abandoned is a painful admission."

MSF was the last aid organisation working in Bangassou as violence has pushed others out in recent months. Half a million people in the region depended on MSF for health services. The area is controlled by armed groups fighting over land and resources who frequently target civilians.

Quote of the Day

"Right now, we are moving into the lean season, and by July of 2018, many thousands of people across South Sudan – not just isolated pockets of the country – will be dying from hunger," said Jerry Farrell, representative in South Sudan for Catholic Relief Services. "What is most tragic is there absolutely shouldn't be hunger in South Sudan," adding that people of different tribes inter-marry and work together but that the conflict is instigated and fanned by politicians.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Ghana's 60 years of independence

Ghana's president President Nana Akufo-Addo said aid to his nation from donor countries was unsustainable and harmful to both sides.
"We do not want to remain the beggars of the world, we do not want to be dependent on charity," he said in a speech in London, setting out a vision for Africa's future. "We can and we should be able to build a Ghana with use of her own resources and their proper management as a way to engineer social and economic growth in our country," he said. "We do not want to be pitied," he said. "We do not want to be pawns or victims."
Resource-rich Ghana is an exporter of gold and oil and the world's second largest cocoa producer. Akufo-Addo has vowed to clean up corruption in the West African nation's cocoa sector and restore output to 1 million tonnes by 2020.
Ghana was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to win independence from colonial rule 60 years ago. "We are painfully aware we are nowhere near where we should be," he said in the speech to the Royal African Society. "After 60 years it is obvious that the aid bus will not take Africa where it has to be."
"We have to stop the aid, it messes up our economy, it messes up our markets," added Herman Chinery-Hesse, a Ghanaian software entrepreneur.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Power struggle in Zimbabwe (1983)

A bit of history to offer some perspective on today's events in Zimbabwe

From the May 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard

The recent massacres in Zimbabwe have shown more clearly than ever that the real choice facing black workers in Africa is not between “white” and “black" rule. The issue runs deeper, and is a question of power itself. Zimbabwe, like Russia, is a capitalist state masquerading under the name of socialism. The rich resources of gold, chromium, tobacco, asbestos, copper and diamonds are controlled by a minority, including private shareholders and state bureaucrats both within and outside its artificial national boundary. The majority of the people are wage-workers, earning under £25 a month in many cases, so that their “national” bosses can accumulate capital.

At the end of March, the government stepped up a campaign of terror aimed at “dissidents” supposedly associated with Joshua Nkomo’s opposition ZAPU party. The Fifth Brigade, a government force of specially trained ex-guerrillas, were reported to have slaughtered whole villages in Matabeleland, in a series of horrific atrocities. Thousands were detained without trial, opponents were tortured and trade unions suppressed. Government denials of these barbaric examples of a capitalist state in action rang very hollow. For example, in the Assembly on February 3, Nkomo accused the Fifth Brigade of having raped "masses of teachers” near Tsholotsho. The Deputy Minister for Education hotly denied this, pointing out that it was six teachers who had been raped, not “a mass”. Brigadier Garver, in charge of National Army operations, was sent to instruct the Fifth to be less brutal in future. Food aid and drought relief to Matabeleland was cut off by the government as part of its "anti-dissident" campaign. Thousands are on the verge of starvation and relief was resumed in some parts only after some ministers said they had seen local people eating grass.

There is a long-standing animosity between the Shona and Ndebele tribes, with the Shona forming the great majority, except in Matabeleland. There, former members of Nkomo’s Z1PRA guerrillas had imposed a brutal reign of terror "on behalf’ of the Ndebele agricultural workers, whose white farmer employers are protected by the government. This was the reason given for sending in the Fifth Brigade, known to many as the “Shona hitmen". But the real issue is one of class, not tribe. The tribal divisions are to some extent being bridged. The new head of ZAPU, since Nkomo’s departure is himself a member of the Shona tribe. At least one government minister (Mark Dube) is of the Ndebele tribe. Clearly, neither the self-appointed "dissident" guerrillas of Matabeleland nor the government shock troops can serve the interests of the majority who are excluded from all power and property. The new black and white élite  drink in the exclusive Harare Club (known as the Salisbury Club under the previous regime) and dine extravagantly at La Fontaine. They know that their wealth is secure as long as their wage-slaves kill and maim one another over past divisions and diversions, instead of rejecting political violence and demagoguery and uniting for socialism.

News reporters from various foreign newspapers have been expelled or banned from working in Zimbabwe for revealing the details of the government campaign. The slogans of peace and freedom on which Mugabe won support have been rapidly abandoned. It is just one of many ironies of the situation that one of the banned journalists was Nick Worrall of the Guardian, whose father was banned by the Ian Smith regime in 1969 when working for the same paper. There are many other examples of continuity between the former “colonial” and white-racist regime of Smith and the "black nationalist” rule of Mugabe. The Central Intelligence Organisation is run directly by Mugabe, as it was by Smith, and the Ministers for Security and Defence are now answerable directly to him, rather than to the Cabinet. The notorious Emergency Powers Act, under which some members of the present cabinet were once indefinitely detained, has been renewed every six months since independence three years ago. The traditional tortures of electric shock and suffocation by water have been kept in use for opponents of the state, and some claim to have been tortured by the same white officers as during the war for independence. The Law and Order Maintenance Act has never been repealed, and there has been a renewed use of Smith’s Indemnity and Compensation Act, which prevents any prosecutions from being brought against state forces. Ministers have even complained publicly that the judges are not as keen to enforce these oppressive laws as they were under the previous regime. Political rallies can now only be held with government permission, and Mugabe has been pressing for the abolition of the Senate and the further consolidation of state power for his party.

For many workers in Zimbabwe, 1980 was a year of great hope. After years of poverty. violence and institutionalised racism, there was at last a chance to vote for a black leader of the newly-established independent state. The election was hardly democratic, with widespread intimidation. Mugabe (ZANU) called himself a "Marxist" and promised wide-scale nationalisation and social reform in contrast to the “free market” capitalism of Bishop Muzorewa. He also depended to a large extent on Shona tribal loyalty. The government now claims that it has had to resort to all the oppressive actions of its predecessors because it has come under pressure from multinationals, white farmers, armed dissidents, militant socialists, drought and world recession. But this is merely a rather belated admission of what Mugabe could not afford to admit during his election campaign. Without democratic revolutionary action by a majority of workers, the system of production for profit remains, with all its violent contradictions. Mugabe is not a Marxist, but a Leninist. Although he opposes the Leninist state dictatorship in Russia, nevertheless he stands not for workers freeing ourselves by taking over the world’s wealth democratically, but for the control of society by a bureaucratic elite who “charitably” grant crumbs of reform “if conditions allow".

In this he represents a continuity with the history of oppression in Africa, rather than radical change. Like the rest of the continent, Zimbabwe has passed under the control of one band of parasites after another over the last hundred years, while the impoverished majority of black workers have worked to produce wealth which they do not own. In 1890, the British South African Company used armed force to invade Matabeleland (Southern Rhodesia) and take from King Lobengula its rich mineral and agricultural resources. The natives were herded into “reserves” and the fertile land was handed over to white European settlers. Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland were taken at the same time, and these states were linked by Britain in 1953 into the Central African Federation. This was an attempt to form an enlarged and lucrative market area under the control of the “settler” government. The Federation was broken up under African pressure in 1963 and Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland became independent as Zambia and Malawi.

Rhodesian state racism
The white settlers in (Southern) Rhodesia had ruled from their own parliament in Salisbury (now Harare) since 1923, but the British government refused to grant them full independence until the Africans who formed 19 out of 20 of the population were given more of a share in the government. This the colonial government refused to do and in 1965 Ian Smith made a Unilateral Declaration of Independence. The resulting United Nations sanctions were widely broken, but it took fourteen years of negotiations, culminating in the Lancaster House talks, before independence was granted to the new state of Zimbabwe. From 1973 a violent guerrilla war had been waged by the Patriotic Front, representing the forces of native rather than settler nationalism. Through all these struggles since 1890, there is one common factor. Developments in the productive forces of the region have produced a succession of propertied interests competing for state power. It may appear strange to trace a line of descent from Mugabe, through Ian Smith to Cecil Rhodes himself, but each of these has stood for a particular sectional interest, always dressed up as something with more popular appeal. Mugabe represents a trend which is already prevalent in Africa, in which the traditional capitalist exploitation of wage-labour for the accumulation of capital is organised to a large extent by the state, rather than by private individuals. This nationalisation, often referred to as “public" ownership, is popular with would-be rulers of states which are not highly industrialised. since it allows the rates of profit and the pace of capital accumulation to be rapidly increased by organising industry in larger units.

Since 1890, most workers in Zimbabwe had suffered not only the poverty and insecurity of all those who depend on selling their daily ability to work in order to live but were seen by the colonial government as barely human, because of the colour of their skin. Almost inevitably, the constant fear and terrible indignity of this second-class existence was assumed by many to be simply the result of white rule and foreign domination. By the 1970s many black workers had gained the political confidence and strength to challenge that rule, and the arguments for “self-determination" and "democratic national independence" gained many committed supporters for the Patriotic Front. But the vote for Mugabe in 1980 was a vote for state capitalism. The informal apartheid of Rhodesia was to become a thing of the past, but the pervasive contradictions of world capitalism were to be allowed to flourish, under the enthusiastic leadership of Robert Mugabe. We do not just make these observations with hindsight. Before the election, the Socialist Party of Great Britain stated:
Whoever gains power, we may be sure he will be hell-bent on building up the capitalist economy and on training his citizens to become hard-working, obedient wages slaves, regardless of whether his advice, investment and technical assistance comes from the Soviet Union. Great Britain, South Africa or wherever. The hollow phrase “Victory to the Patriotic Front", beloved by the left-wing, means for African workers the victory of a different style of exploitation. (Socialist StandardMarch 1980.)
Many lives were lost in the war for "self-determination" and "majority rule”. It is now clear that even with a black figurehead in Zimbabwe to represent international capital, the problems of class division and violence persist. Events in Zimbabwe have shown that capitalism, as a system of production, is truly world-wide. Seventy per cent of industrial and commercial assets there are owned by multinationals. I.onhro controls over a million acres of ranchland, and the South African-based Anglo-American corporation dominates the sugar, mining and banking sectors. Any notions of national self-sufficiency are unrealistic and backward-looking in a world of rapidly growing interdependence. The capitalist class ignore national boundaries when they are seeking profitable investments. The nationalist response to the oppression of imperialism is its mirror image and leads to further oppression on a local scale.

The pressure of global uniformity is so great today that it has not been possible to implement even Mugabe's cynical programme of state capitalism. As early as 1980, his party policy-makers encouraged "the continuity of private enterprise in Rhodesia" and accepted “the need for a close commercial and logistic relationship with South Africa". (Guardian, 28 January 1980.) Now Bernard Chidlero. Minister for Economic Planning and Finance, has produced a National Development Plan which stresses the importance of foreign companies:
Government recognises the need to stimulate private sector investment by creating a favourable investment climate and taking necessary fiscal, monetary and other financial measures. (Guardian, 24 March 1983.)
Nationalisation has been held back for fear of losing the particular capital and technology tied up with European interests and the Western trade which is linked with them. There is also the fear of military interference from South Africa, which has occurred in Angola and Mozambique. Land reform has been held back for fear of alienating the 4,600 English commercial farmers who own 38 per cent of the land and receive 47 per cent of foreign currency earnings. A clause in the Lancaster House agreement threatens that if any land is seized, British land resettlement funds would be withheld; 700,000 African families are still struggling to survive on the poor soil of the old Tribal Trust Lands, which have simply been renamed the Communal Lands. The overwhelming point which arises from this is that a small minority, of whatever colour, monopolise the resources of Zimbabwe, as in the rest of the world. The shareholders of the Anglo-American Corporation are of a great variety of nationalities and colours.

In a speech in the Zimbabwe Assembly in July 1982, Robert Mugabe said of dissenters:
Some of the measures we shall take are measures which will be extra-legal . . .  an eye for an eye and an ear for an ear may not be adequate in our circumstances. We might very well demand two ears for one ear and two eyes for one eye. (Guardian, 23 March 1983.)
The time is long overdue for us to turn with disgust from this vicious talk of murdering workers for opposing one of the national state governments of capitalism. This is where the "practical politics" of administering the profit system lead. The suffering of black Africans at the hands of white colonisers was often beyond description, so that a great deal of emotional energy has gone into the forming of the newly independent states. Similarly, the Jews who formed the state of Israel after their experience of Nazi Germany were committed to the idea of the Jewish national state. But all these nationalist movements whether Irish. Polish or Pan-African. are tragically caught within the net of capitalist social relations. As such, they have no future except as administrative units for the profit system.

Socialists are engaged in the enormous task of persuasion and organisation to build a powerful world-wide movement for democratic revolution. There can be no socialism without a majority of socialists. One of the most popular strip cartoons in Africa in the 1970s was Seraphina in Jeune Afrique, in which the heroine fights against Octagone. headquarters of the “Soviet-American Republic”. Many Africans are aware of how the Warsaw Pact countries merely mirror the West in their capitalist policies of profitable investment, military expansion, state oppression of dissent and, above all, the persistence of the exploitation of wage-labour for the accumulation of capital. At the moment, Africa is still itself reflecting the same domination of the world by the interests of private and state property. The political leaders are looking for sheep to follow them to the semi-realisation of their empty, divisive dreams. But the power of class consciousness has been accumulating for centuries, and the African workers know what has happened to them. They have only to take the next step towards human liberation, and the arrogant élitism of Mugabe and the others who offer to act “on our behalf" will be broken forever. There are not three worlds — just one, and it is ours for the taking.
Clifford Slapper

The palace putsch

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets celebrating the military coup which ended the rule Robert Mugabe at the age of 93, having been more than 37 years in power.

Mugabe is being replaced by his long-standing Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) comrade, Emmerson Mnangagwa (aged 75). On Sunday at Zanu-PF’s emergency central committee meeting, Mnangagwa was made president. 

The only armed resistance apparently came from a few Mugabe loyalists in the police force and Central Intelligence Organisation, and from Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo’s bodyguards, one of whom was murdered by army troops during Chombo’s arrest. Moyo and another G40 leader once considered potential presidential material, Saviour Kasukuwere, were apparently picked up early on November 15 and taken to the army barracks. According to an insider interviewed by journalist Sipho Masondo, “People are romanticising the coup and saying it was not bloody. It was damn bloody. People are being beaten badly.”

What provoked the November 15 coup was Mugabe’s attempt to elevate his shopaholic wife “Gucci Grace” (aged 52) to the vice-presidency with the obvious intention of succession. Anti-Mugabe protesters carried signs saying, “Leadership is not sexually transmitted.” Grace Mugabe’s faction of Zanu-PF is known as “Generation 40” (G40), implying the readiness of a younger replacement team within the ruling party. Mugabe himself was most closely aligned to this group. 

Mnangagwa had fought Rhodesian colonialism in the 1970s, and soon became one of Mugabe’s leading henchmen, rising to the vice presidency in 2014. But Mugabe fired him on November 6, signaling Grace’s ruthless ascent. Mnangagwa leads the older “Team Lacoste” faction, whose logo-based signifier is his revealing nickname, “The Crocodile.” Mnangagwa is widely mistrusted due to his responsibility for (and refusal to acknowledge) 1982-85 “Gukhurahundi” massacres of more than 20,000 people in the country’s western provinces (mostly members of the minority Ndebele ethnic group, whose handful of armed dissidents he termed “cockroaches” needing a dose of military “DDT”); his subversion of the 2008 presidential election which Mugabe initially lost; his subsequent heading of the Joint Operations Committee secretly running the country, sabotaging democratic initiatives; as well as for his close proximity – as then Defence Minister – to widespread diamond looting from 2008-16. Mugabe himself last year complained of revenue shortfalls from diamond mining in eastern Zimbabwe’s Marange fields: “I don’t think we’ve exceeded US$2 billion or so, and yet we think that well over US$15 billion or more has been earned in that area.”

Not only was this vast scale of theft confirmed by local anti-corruption campaigner Farai Maguwu. In order for Mnangagwa to establish the main Marange joint venture – Sino Zimbabwe – with the notorious (and now apparently jailed) Chinese investor, Sam Pa, the army under Mnangagwa’s rule forcibly occupied the Marange fields. In November 2008, troops murdered several hundred small-scale artisanal miners there. (At a massacre solidarity visit to Marange on November 10, two dozen progressive activists – including Maguwu and 21 foreigners from a People’s Dialogue network that includes Brazil’s Movement of Landless Workers – were arrested for trespassing.

 According to Wang Hongwi of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, “Mnangagwa, a reformist, will abolish Mugabe’s faulty investment policy. In a country with a bankrupt economy, whoever takes office needs to launch economic reforms and open up to foreign investment… Chinese investment in Zimbabwe has also fallen victim to Mugabe’s policy and some projects were forced to close down or move to other countries in recent years, bringing huge losses.” Hongwi did not mention whether Sam Pa represents the ethos of such Chinese investors. Mnangagwa could be a Zimbabwean version of market-liberaliser Deng Xiaoping.

Mnangagwa is not only being toasted in Beijing, but also by Tory geopolitical opportunists in London. The UK ambassador to Zimbabwe Catriona Laing has for three years attempted to “rebuild bridges and ensure that re-engagement succeeds to facilitate Mnangagwa’s rise to power” with a reported “$2 billion economic bail-out.”

Harare activist Tom Gumede wrote  just before the masses hit the streets: “This is the time for workers, students and the poor of Zimbabwe to build a formidable unity for the future beyond Mugabe. A fractured population will lose the battles of the future… Another Zimbabwe is Possible. Through mass action the resistant Mugabe will finally be dislodged. His current cover under the Constitution will be blown up when people have spoken beyond the military takeover… Viva People Power and No to Elitist Transitions.”

Full article here

Monday, November 20, 2017

The South African Rich

The number of super-rich South Africans has increased this year, while the average local person has got poorer, according to the latest Global Wealth Report, released this week by the Credit Suisse Research Institute.

The report’s findings show that 84 000 South Africans are among the top 1% of global wealth holders, up on last year’s figure of 66 000.

South Africa has 58 000 US dollar millionaires, which represents a significant increase on last year’s figure of 45 000.
This increase in the extremely wealthy starkly contrasts with GDP per capita, which dropped from 2016 levels of $15 158 per adult to $8 753 per adult.
In a small positive for the local ­population, 2017 indicated an upturn in mean wealth for the South African ­population from $20 589 per adult to $21 849.
Credit Suisse estimates that about 1.5 million South Africans, out of a total population of 56 million, fall into the top 10% of the globe’s most wealthy.
The report found that, in South Africa, personal wealth was largely comprised of financial assets, which contributed 64% to the household portfolio.
Looking worldwide, the report stated that, ten years on from the onset of the global financial crisis, global wealth has grown by 30%.
Total global wealth grew at a rate of 6.4% in the year to mid-2017, the fastest pace since 2012, and reached $280 trillion, a gain of $16.7 trillion.
The number of millionaires globally has increased by 170%, although the ­composition of the millionaire segment is changing fast.
In 2000, as many as 98% of millionaires were heavily concentrated in high income economies.
Since then, 23.9 million “new millionaires” have been added to the total, of whom 2.7 million – 12% of the total ­additions – originated from emerging economies.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Soil in Africa

Breadbaskets are regions that produce a large and stable surplus of one or more major food crops that not only meet local demand, but substantially contribute to the food supply in other regions. By this definition, there are only a few major breadbaskets in the world. The only rain-fed corn and soybean breadbaskets are the U.S. Corn Belt, Brazilian Cerrados and Argentinean Pampas.

Current yields in sub-Saharan Africa are well below what could be achieved given the region's farmable land and annual rainfall. The area receives more rainfall per year than other breadbaskets around the world. Given these factors, there is a persistent narrative that sub-Saharan Africa has the potential to become a grain breadbasket if production is intensified.

A lack of data on soil depths that will support root growth has limited rigorous evaluations of how well sub-Saharan soils can support high, stable yields. This is a critical parameter because deeper soils can buffer against rain-free periods. 

Soils in the U.S. Corn Belt are deep and young, laid down during the past 20,000 years, whereas sub-Saharan soils are weathered and much older, dating back at least 540 million years. In the U.S. Corn Belt, the soils are deeper than 1.5 meters.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Mugabe's Corruption

Standing in front of the 30 or so luxury villas that she has had built 
“We are blessed because we have Baba Mugabe,” she said. “He is the poorest president the world over." Grace Mugabe once declared.
Robert Mugabe has about £1bn-worth of assets, much of it invested outside Zimbabwe. 
There were rumours that his assets “include everything from secret accounts in Switzerland, the Channel Islands and the Bahamas to castles in Scotland”. Grace Mugabe is said to have bought a number of properties in the affluent Sandton suburb of Johannesburg and there are reported to have been property purchases in Malaysia, Singapore and possibly Dubai.
The first lady is reported to have the sort of designer shoe collection that might be expected of a dictator’s wife and, notoriously, is said to have spent $75,000 (£56,000) on luxury goods on a single shopping spree in Paris.
 Earlier this year the couple’s youngest son, Bellarmine Chatunga, posted on Instagram a photograph of his watch with the caption: “$60,000 on the wrist when your daddy run the whole country ya know!!!” Shortly afterwards, a video emerged showing the 21-year-old dousing his watch with champagne from a bottle of Armand de Brignac gold champagne, which retails at around $400 a bottle.
A small glimpse of Robert and Grace Mugabe’s wealth came to light in 2015, during a dispute over ownership of a $7.6m home in Hong Kong. There was a second glimpse earlier this year when the government-owned Herald newspaper reported that Grace had ordered a $1.35m diamond ring to mark her wedding anniversary.
 In Zimbabwe itself, the couple have been more brazen. As well as the compound at Mazowe and the palatial home in the capital’s wealthy Borrowdale district, they have a number of land holdings. The best known is the Omega Dairy farm, one of the largest dairy farms in southern Africa. Opposition politicians have claimed that the Mugabes actually own 14 farms in the country, which would be in contravention of the constitution, which limits land holdings.

224 million Africans are hungry

 The number of hungry people in sub-Saharan Africa rose by 10 percent to 224 million in 2016, largely due to conflict and climate change, the United Nations said on Thursday.
Swathes of Africa have been hit by prolonged droughts and floods over the last year, worsened by lower commodity prices and a sluggish global economy, the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization said. Africa is highly vulnerable to climate change due to its poverty and reliance on rain-fed agriculture, experts say.
Hunger is about twice as prevalent in countries with long-running conflicts than in peaceful nations, it said.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Cars and Congo's Cobalt

Many believe that electric that only a matter of time before electric cars as clean green vehicles become the norm and the guilt of transport emissions becomes a thing of the past. But ethical question marks loom large above the mining conditions of cobalt - a mineral used in the lithium-ion batteries that power cars, ( as well as smartphones and laptops.)

More than half of global supplies hail from one of the world's poorest nations, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where corruption abounds and children toil. The World Bank estimates two thirds of Congolese people live on less than 0.86 euros ($1.90) a day and Amnesty says hunger and unemployment often drive people to hunt for valuable minerals.

"Working conditions are appalling, there is no safety equipment and people risk getting buried alive in hand-made mines,” Matt Dummlett, a researcher at Amnesty International, told DW. "I've seen children as young as seven working on the surface, collecting stones and facing brutality and intimidation during long days in the heat."

 Carmakers, including VW and Daimler, where electric vehicles are expected to make up a quarter of sales by 2025, accelerate towards a cleaner future, and as engineers fine-tune new designs to compete with the likes of Tesla, they boost competition for raw materials. Volkswagen recently launched a tender to secure cobalt supplies for at least the next five years - following similar efforts by BMW and Tesla Motors - and overall demand for the mineral is forecast to jump eleven-fold by 2025.

Research by non-profit Global Witness reveals that between 2013 and 2015 more than 647 million euros in mining revenues paid by companies to Congolese state bodies was lost to the treasury. Many Congolese mining licences are sold by Gecamines, the state mining company, which Global Witness researcher Peter Jones calls a "black hole”. "Gecamines is headed by one of [President Joseph] Kabila's inner circle. It has repeatedly sold off stakes in its mining projects, it doesn't publish its accounts and there is no way of knowing where exactly money paid into it could end up,” Jones said.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

"Working Like a Robot"

Tanzanian domestic workers in the Gulf are beaten, sexually assaulted and deprived of pay, rights campaigners said.

Thousands of Tanzanian women work in the Middle East, lured by promises of salaries 10 times higher than they could earn at home. But visa-sponsorship rules in Oman and the United Arab Emirates, known as the kafala system, mean they cannot change jobs without their employer's consent and can be charged with "absconding" if they flee, Human Rights Watch said. Recruiters are increasingly turning to East Africa where protections are weaker. Employers often got away with paying East Africans far less than Asians.
Most of the  women interviewed were made to work 15 to 21 hours a day and had their passports confiscated, HRW said. More than half were underpaid and some said they were not paid at all. Around two in five reported physical abuse and the same proportion said they were sexually harassed or assaulted.
One Tanzanian woman employed in Oman told researchers how her employers attacked her when she returned from hospital after fainting. She said she was raped by her employer after being stripped and beaten by two women in the family. "They took the money I earned ... I was scared, traumatised, and didn't know who to speak to," she was quoted as saying.
Another woman, who worked 17-hour days, said she fled after being sexually assaulted. But when she tried to file a complaint with the police they told her she faced charges for running away and said she must pay a fine of more than $500 or spend time in jail.
Anti-Slavery International said abuse was very common and called on Tanzanian embassies to do much more to help exploited workers. "It is outrageous that they are being sent back to abusive situations when they ask for help," said spokesman Jakub Sobik.

Lagos Land Grab

Amnesty International has called on the Nigerian government to stop the violent evictions of people from waterfront communities in Lagos that have left 11 dead.
The human rights organisation says 30,000 people have been evicted and 11 have died in midnight evictions in which police have set houses on fire, shot live ammunition and teargas at residents and then sent bulldozers in to destroy their homes. The evictions have been carried out in defiance of court orders. Residents have told of children being killed by bulldozers.
These fishing communities live on land that has become very desirable for property developers in a city where the rich mostly inhabit islands linked to mainland Lagos by long causeways.
“The children were still sleeping inside when the demolishers started tearing their house apart,” Pastor Ashegbon, a resident of Otodo Gbame, told the Guardian in May, while Pastor Mallon Agbejoye said: “We sleep in these piles of ruins. When it gets dark we make tents of mosquito nets and sleep inside them with our children. We are stranded with our family with no money and no shelter. Accommodation inside the city is expensive and we cannot afford it.”
Celestine Ahinsu, from the evicted Otodo Gbame community, told Amnesty: “After a couple of days, we started seeing the bodies floating. I saw three – a man with a backpack and a pregnant woman with a baby on her back. The community youths brought the bodies from the water. The relatives of the pregnant woman and child came to take their bodies.” Despite repeated evictions, hundreds of thousands of people still live in Makoko, wryly nicknamed the “Venice of Africa”, but Otodo Gbame is now just acres of white sand.
“For the residents of these deprived communities, many of whom rely on their daily fish catch to make a living, the waterfront represents home, work and survival,” Amnesty’s Osai Ojigho said. “Forced evictions mean they lose everything – their livelihoods, their possessions and in some cases their lives. These ruthless forced evictions are just the most recent examples of a practice that has been going on in Nigeria for over a decade, in complete defiance of international law." He said “The Lagos state authorities must halt these attacks on poor communities who are being punished for the state’s urban planning failures. The instability and uncertainty created by forced evictions is making their lives a misery as they are left completely destitute.”

Monday, November 13, 2017

Kenya's Tax Cheats

Wealthy Kenyans are learning from their peers around the world by constantly seeking elaborate schemes to protect their money and keep it away from the tax man at all costs. Private tax consultants are paid top dollar to devise means of routing investments the world over through layers of ownership structures deliberately designed to fool tax regimes.
Philip Muema, the managing partner at Nexus Business Advisory, said most high net-worth individuals prefer to spread risk by investing in various jurisdictions. “It is in everybody’s interest to pay the lowest possible taxes as long as it is not illegal,” Muema, who has previously been a partner at global consultancy firm KPMG in Kenya said. Many Kenyan businesses are owned by shell companies domiciled in countries where the tax rates are near zero.
Such parent companies, some owned by Kenyans, extend loans to local subsidiaries ensuring that most of the earnings made are shipped out to settle the debts in the jurisdictions where the income is hardly taxed. In that way, the owners of the business have effectively been cushioned from the harsher taxation schedule at home.
Before the tax havens, Kenya too was once a preferred destination for off the books big money investment. At the height of the piracy menace along the Indian Ocean coastline, Kenya was the go to destination from the heists.
Investment experts partly attribute the Nairobi real estate boom to this period, when the market was awash with unbankable money that was used to buy off properties in Kilimani, Kileleshwa, Eastleigh Nairobi West and South C as well as finding their way into the hospitality industry with hotels being bought off in Nairobi and Mombasa as a laundering scheme. All this from ransom money, paid to cartels operating off the shores of Kismayu with connections in Nairobi and European capitals. Proceeds from this period of lax financial laws in the country also made it to the transport sector, where many put their money in matatus as a form of legitimising income from dubious sources.

Inequality in Gauteng

The bottom half of Gauteng’s richest residents earn at least 32 times more than households that fall into the median income bracket, a Gauteng City Region Observatory survey shows.
Residents who are at the lower end of the elite 1% make upwards of R76,800 a month, while those who fall into the median income bracket earn R2,400 a month, figures contained in the region observatory’s 2015-16 quality of life survey show. The survey is done every two years.
The 1% is described as a group of elite earners whose income outstrips that of most of the population.
The 1% earns about 31% of the income in the province, while 69% goes to the rest of Gauteng’s residents, the survey results show.
Fewer than half of people in the province owned a house.
Residents who fell into the 1% category were also more likely to have obtained higher education qualifications, than their poorer peers in the province.
A downside of being part of the 1% group of elite earners was a high debt burden.
A total 80% of households in the 1% group had a personal computer, laptop or tablet.
The 1% group were less affected by crime, presumably because they could afford better security,