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Pambazuka News 745: Celebrating the joys and costs of resistance

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Celebrating a decade of struggle

Abahlali baseMjondolo


cc HB
South Africa’s shack dwellers movement was founded ten years ago by citizens frustrated by the ruling ANC’s failure to deliver the promises of democracy in the “new” nation. It has been a worthwhile struggle against a neo-liberal state that pays scant attention to needs of the majority poor Black people.

On 19 March 2005 residents of Kennedy Road settlement in Clare Estate in Durban organised a road blockade. There were 14 arrests. This event began a process of discussion with residents of nearby communities and on the 6 of October 2005 our movement was formed. During the last ten years we have survived serious repression, including assassinations, and won many victories. (On 3 October we will celebrate a decade of struggle at an event at Curries Fountain, Durban, from 10:00 a.m. to 16:00 a.m.)

Abahlali baseMjondolo emerged out of disappointment and unkept promises. Residents of Kennedy Road were promised housing on a piece of land close to the settlement. On the 19 March 2005 a bulldozer started working on the land. The residents assumed that the promised development was starting. However the workers on the site told them that they were there to build a brick factory. People gathered, the construction was stopped and the councillor was called. Instead of coming he called in the police. When he arrived he called the people gathered at the site ‘criminals’ and instructed the police to arrest them. A demand for negotiation was met with arrests, dogs, teargas, stun grenades, rubber bullets and arrests. All charges against the 14 people arrested were later dropped.

Neighbouring settlements joined the process of discussion and action that followed the road blockade and the arrests on the instruction of the councillor. The name ‘Abahlali baseMjondolo’ emerged out of these discussions as a name that could accommodate all shack dwellers. No NGOs or donors participated in the process that led to the formation of our movement.

Our movement was formed in response to a failed government. In 1994 we voted for the ANC. We had the hope that a black government would be biased towards the poor. People had respect for the ANC. Although it was through the struggles of the people that Mandela and others could return from prison, and Tambo and others could return from exile, it was the ANC that brought up democracy as a state system.

But ten years after this democracy was launched it was clear that a new movement, similar to that of the United Democratic Front, was required to give people the power to question the government. It was clear that a new movement was required to question whether in fact the kind of rule that we were experiencing was the democracy that we were anticipating or something that was, in important ways, similar to apartheid. We had to ask this question because we found that after ten years of democracy we were still people that did not count to the society. We were still living like pigs in the mud. We were still seen and treated as criminals when we wanted to be included in decision-making about our own future.

We were wondering if the horse had changed and the saddle had changed but the jockey was still the same. The movement was formed to question this democracy. Most members were in the ANC but there was a perception that you couldn’t question the ANC inside the ANC. We created our own homemade political space, from the ground up, outside of party politics.

From the beginning it was clear that the ANC, the NGOs, most academics and various other forces were all agreed that we are people that can’t think. All our meetings were open to all. Anyone who wanted to could observe our discussions and how we came to decisions. However we were always accused by the ANC and other regressive forces of being a front for other interests. We have been called a front for the Third Force. In KwaZulu-Natal we have been called a front for Congress of the People (COPE), the Pan African Congress (PAC), Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the Democratic Alliance (DA). In Cape Town we have been called a front for the IFP.

From the beginning we drew a clear distinction between party politics and living politics, or state politics and people’s politics. In 2006, after careful thinking together, we launched a ‘No Land! No House! No Vote!’ campaign. Before each election after 2006, local and national, we repeated the same process of taking a collective position on how to respond to the election. Until 2014 the decision was always to continue with the boycott.

A genuinely democratic government would welcome the self-organisation of the poor. However the ANC turned against its own people. It showed itself to be dishonest and without conscience. It is clear to us that the ANC will always try to crush what it cannot control. In this respect we do not see much difference between the ANC and the regressive left, few as they are and powerless as they are among the oppressed. It is not surprising to us that their dishonesty takes such similar forms.

During the last ten years we have been subject to regular arrest, assault and harassment as well as torture, the destruction of our homes, exclusion from jobs, all kinds of lies and murder. The number of arrests quickly reached a hundred and we have not kept count since then. One person, who later accepted a leadership position in the ANC, and is now in the SACP, pleaded guilty to a charge of making a self-organised electricity connection and paid a small fine. Without exception every single other arrest has either resulted in the charges being dropped before the case has gone to trial or the case failing in court.

We have constantly been arrested on fabricated charges as part of a long attempt to attack our spirits. We have constantly been criminalised by the state and other regressive forces despite the fact that although there have been hundreds of arrests, and despite the fact that we are under constant surveillance from intelligence, there has never been a single successful prosecution of one of our members on any charge.

Repression reached its most serious levels in September 2009 when we were attacked by the ANC in Kennedy Road and many of our members were driven from their homes (there was also an armed police attack on the Pemary Ridge settlement later that year), when three comrades were murdered in Cato Crest in 2013 and in September 2014 when Thuli Ndlovu was assassinated in KwaNdengezi. It has been noticeable that serious repression has often followed major court victories and that all the assassinations have followed access to information that shows serious corruption in local ANC structures.

Our movement has always been membership based and democratic. We currently have 28 branches in good standing – 27 in KwaZulu-Natal and one in the Western Cape. The process to join our movement is slow and the minimum size for a branch is 50 members. There are clear rules that all branches must adhere to in order to remain in good standing. When deemed necessary by the members leaders, including senior leaders, can be, and have been, recalled.

In 2014, after a long and open democratic process, it was decided that we could not continue to boycott elections when the ANC was killing us with impunity. A decision was taken that, in the interests of our own safety and our survival as a movement, we needed to go beyond the withholding of our votes and to punish the ANC. The majority of our members concluded that it was necessary to hit the ANC where it hurts. A decision was taken to make a tactical vote for the opposition party in KwaZulu-Natal. We made it clear that we did not identify with the policies of the opposition but that the majority of our members had decided that we had to raise the costs of repression for the ANC. This decision came out of serious opposition to the ANC among our members and not from support for the opposition party. We continued to draw a clear distinction between living politics and party politics and did not give up any of our autonomy to the opposition party, or include them in our organising and decision-making.

When two ANC councillors were arrested after the assassination of Thuli Ndlovu some comrades concluded that we had made the right decision as this was the first time that the ANC was not able to repress us with impunity. Other comrades take the view that we should continue to boycott all elections or that we should make it clear that, while always keeping our autonomy, we would be willing to support a genuinely democratic and radical electoral alternative even if it has no popular support in KwaZulu-Natal (where most of our members live and where we have faced serious repression). When the next election comes we will, as we have always done, take a collective decision on how to respond. This decision will be entirely in the hands of our members.

Over the last ten years some of our members have left the movement to work for parties and NGOs but we are very much proud of the fact that our movement has retained its autonomy from all NGOs and parties for ten years. We have collectively refused all kinds of offers of money and many of our members have refused all kinds of individual offers of money and jobs. We remain committed to a bottom-up system in which leaders must facilitate democratic decision-making and in which neither a leader, nor the movement as a whole can, at any level, act without a mandate from the members.

We have won many victories over the last ten years. However whenever we think, speak and act for ourselves we are criminalised. When we do win important developmental concessions they are always channelled through party structures and are never made available to our members. There continues to be massive corruption in the state’s public housing programme and it continues to fail to build enough houses for the people, to build decent houses and to undertake development in a participatory and democratic manner. People continue to live in inhuman conditions in shack settlements.

No one has been arrested for the attack on our movement in Kennedy Road in 2009 or the two assassinations and one police murder in Cato Crest in 2013. The ANC, especially at the local level, is increasingly trying to divide people according to the countries or provinces in which they were born. The ANC is also trying to make the question of land and housing a security question instead of a matter of justice. It is trying to roll back the gains relating to protection from eviction that were won after apartheid. It wants to rule us with the gun rather than to engage in negotiation.

The two periods of intense repression, in 2009 and in 2013 and 2014, both put our movement under huge pressure. This pressure created various kinds of difficulties for us but we have healed and moved forward. Today we have more branches in good standing, and more members, than we have ever had at any point in our history.

Today we find ourselves the enemies of the ANC, especially in KwaZulu-Natal. In Gauteng the government has asked us to engage with it on the land and housing issue. That will never happen in KwaZulu-Natal. In this province the politic of blood continues to dominate. The ANC claims to be in support of the Freedom Charter which clearly commits it to sharing the land and to housing the people. However it is trying to move towards a criminalisation of poverty and a repressive urban agenda. We continue to carry the mandate of the struggle against apartheid and colonialism. We continue to struggle for land, for equality and the right to participate in all decision-making relating to our lives and communities. The ANC has sold out. We are continuing the struggle.

After ten years of struggle we remain committed to the principle that there should be nothing for us, without us. We don’t want people to talk for us, or to decide for us, in our absence. Our concern in this regard is not only with the government and the developmental NGOs that work with the government. We are also clear that we want people who wish to be in solidarity with us to think with us, not for us. Support for NGOs that claim a right to speak for the struggles of poor while having no mandate to do so from any credible organisation that has emerged from within the struggles of the poor is not the same thing as solidarity with the struggles of the poor.

After ten years of struggle we remain committed to a living politics. A living politics is a politics which everyone can understand, that is close to people’s daily lives and begins from the situation in which they find themselves. It is also a politics where people represent themselves, leaders are expected to obey members and a bottom up approach is encouraged in the struggle and as an aim of the struggle.

After ten years of struggle we remain committed to a politics that has the dignity of the poor as its main objective. We are all human beings before we are anything else. Oppression constantly vandalizes our humanity. Resistance restores our humanity. Dignity requires land, decent houses, gardens, crèches and schools. But it also requires that government plans development with and not for the people. Dignity cannot be delivered. We insist that each person is a person and must count as a person. We insist that we must recognised as people that can think the same as all other people.

In this system we are only taken as important by the parties on the days when we are asked to vote. We are only taken as important by the NGOs when they want to use us to be able to bus in large numbers of people to make their events look good. We want to be taken as important every day.

We will always retain our political autonomy. The state needs to come under control of society. At the moment it is the other way around. We want a different kind of democracy. A radical democracy. Moving towards this goal requires us to build the power of those who have been made powerless in this system and to reduce the power of those who have been made too powerful in this system.

After ten years of struggle our organisation remains a learning organisation. We continue to educate ourselves in discussion.

There have been difficult times over the last ten years, especially after the repression of 2009 and 2013. However our movement has survived and our struggle continues. Inkani, which is a kind of forceful determination, is the foundation on which the strength of our struggle is built. The land that we are occupying now has been won as a result of inkani. Inkani accumulates through the experience of oppression and repression when this experience is faced in togetherness.

Our struggle for land, housing and dignity continues. Our struggle to ensure that land, wealth, cities and power are shared fairly continues.

We thank all those who have stood with us.

TJ Ngongoma
Zandile Nsibande
Ndabo Mzimela



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10th anniversary of Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement

Keynote address delivered at Curries Fountain Sports Ground, Durban

S’bu Zikode


cc Wiki
A lot has been achieved through the principled stand of the members of the shack-dwellers movement, with some of them paying the ultimate price for justice and freedom. Several other individuals and partner organisations have been an important part of the journey. The struggle continues.

I want to start with people that matter the most: Respected members of Abahlali baseMjondolo. Leadership of Abahlali, supporters and friends of our movement. Comrades from the Congolese Solidarity Campaign, comrades from Rural Network, comrades from the United Residents’ Front, comrades from the United Front, comrades from South Durban Community Alliance, Unemployed People’s Movement, comrades from the R2K, comrades from Church Land Programme, comrades from the Norwegian People’s Aid, comrades from the Socio-Economic Right Institute of South Africa, church leadership that has accompanied us and continues to journey with us. Comrade Richard Pithouse, comrade Marie Huchzermeyer and comrades who have travelled from other parts of South Africa to be with us today. There are comrades from Cape Town and Johannesburg who are amongst us here. There are comrades who have travelled from abroad that I want to acknowledge - comrade Nigel Gibson from Boston, USA.

Comrades, we have the pleasure to welcome Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape in Sweet Home Farm, Comrades from QQ-Khayelitsha led by our Chairperson comrade Siyamboleka James. We have the pleasure to welcome comrades from Johannesburg in Germiston, Protea South, Orange Grove and comrades from Voslorous lead by Aphiwe Miya. We have the pleasure to welcome comrades from Free State, the United Residents Front.

Today marks the Tenth Anniversary of our movement. For us it is a very important moment; it is a special day. Comrades it is a day to celebrate the victories won on the journey we have travelled together. It is also a day to mourn as it reminds us of pain as well as joy as we reflect backwards. This journey, comrades, has not been easy. But in the middle of many difficulties and suffering, we have managed to remain a people’s movement, with strong commitments and ideas, with much creativity. Comrades, we have succeeded to win many allies to our side. Today, comrades, as we share this day with you, and with all the oppressed people of South Africa, and the world, we must find lessons and fasten our belts as we prepare for the next ten years ahead of us. We have made a promise to ourselves and made an oath to our God and to our country and our world. An oath that we will struggle for justice, equality and dignity for those of us who are oppressed and excluded, for those who do not count in this society and this world. A promise that we will struggle for the social value of land to come before its commercial value. A promise that all the land and all wealth of the country must be shared equally. A promise that we must all enjoy the same the right to the cities. A promise that the poor and oppressed must be treated with respect and dignity. A promise that we will be able to participate in all decision-making relating to ourselves and our communities.

Comrades, we would not have been successful in this journey on our own. Many comrades have stood firm in solidarity with us. In this world, speaking and acting for the poor is a very good career move. Thinking, speaking and struggling with the poor is taken as a scandal by the regressive forces in the state, civil society and, yes, in the authoritarian and racist parts of the left. In standing firm in solidarity with us some comrades have lost their jobs. In standing with us some comrades have risked their academic credentials. Some families have been torn apart. Some comrades, including high ranking bishops, have risked their religious credentials for us.

Some comrades and their families have paid a heavy price for our struggle. We have been tortured, arrested, beaten and shot at. Some of us lost our homes. We have been violently and illegally evicted from our homes and even killed. Comrades, in this journey I am reminded of the Kennedy Six and the trial of the Kennedy 12. In this difficult journey, comrades, I cannot forget how Nkululeko Gwala, Thembinkosi Qumbela and Nqobile Nzuza and, yes, Thulile Ndlovu, were assassinated. These four comrades were committed to justice and equality, to the struggle for land, for the right of the people to participate in all decisions about themselves and their communities. They risked their lives to oppose corruption. Comrades, today, even in this time of celebration, we remain in solidarity with miners who were slain in Marikana and their families. We remain in solidarity with all the activists who have been assassinated and all the activists who have been murdered by the police during protests.

Comrades, these are not only the comrades who passed on during the course of our journey. There are also some comrades with whom we founded this movement who have also passed on. Comrade baba Duma, mama Madida, mama Magagul, Sipho Gwala, Chazumuzi Ngcobo, Cosmos Nkwanyana, Mdududzi Ngqulunga, Fikile Nkosi, Bongo Dlamini, Sli Motha and others. These comrades made their contribution and sacrifice to our struggle for a better humanity, justice, equality and opposition to corruption.

Comrades, we have achieved a lot in our journey for land, decent housing and dignity. When we began our movement there was a policy prohibiting the installation of electricity to all shack dwellers in Durban. Today there is an agreement that electricity should be provided and although it is slow the roll out has started. When we began our movement most settlements had no working toilets or showers, we used to use bushes to relieve ourselves. Today ablution blocks with showers are being rolled out. When we began our movement government, NGOs and academics would all talk for us. Today we are able to speak for ourselves. We have not just occupied land – we have occupied space in the media and in all kinds of political and other discussions. When we began our movement there was no independent political instrument for shack dwellers and other poor people. Today we have a powerful movement that can contest the state, the ruling party, private landowners and other forces in communities, in the streets, in the courts and in the media. Since the Slums Act was first passed in 2007 the state has continually been trying to roll back the limited gains won for people occupying land outside of the law in the new Constitution and the PIE Act. We have continually defeated these attempts. We have fought a long and hard struggle against transit camps. The Municipality called them 'housing opportunities'. We called them 'human dumping grounds' designed to break our political autonomy and our hold on occupied land. As a result of committed resistance the Municipality has now promised to stop building these organised attacks on our dignity as humanity beings. However many of our members, and many others, remain in the transit camps.

Since 2008 we have consistently and seriously opposed xenophobia. There has never been any xenophobic attack in any area where we have a branch. We continue to work closely with migrant organisations integrating them into our activities. Our solidarity with the Congolese Solidarity Campaign is an example of our strong commitment to Africa without political borders imposed on human life. After ten years we remain committed to the principle that there should be nothing for us, without us. We do not want people to define us, talk for us, or to decide for us, in our absence. After ten years we remain committed to the politic that has dignity of the poor as its main objective. We are all human beings just before we are anything else. Oppression vandalizes our humanity. Resistance restores our humanity.

Comrades we must build from all our achievements and the spirit of resistance in order to make our way into the next ten year as we move forward. Comrades we will have to invest all our energy and resources that we have to build our families and our communities. Where we do not have land, let us occupy land. Where we have shacks and where we can afford it, even if bit by bit, let us build our own decent homes. Where we have no water and sanitation let us not waste time and connect ourselves to clean water and sanitation. Where we have no electricity, let us help Eskom and the state and connect our own homes to electricity to save our lives and the lives of our children. If the state still refuses to release serviced sites at least in order for us to build our houses then let us assist them.

Comrades we must intensify our struggle for the establishment of a democratic and transparent housing list. Let us fight for the creation of housing allocation policy and creation of housing allocation committee that is democratic and made with democratic peoples’ organisations and not only the ruling party. Let us insist on the collective and not the individual ownership of the land that we have won in struggle. Let us struggle to build decent homes and free ourselves from all kinds of oppressions in our families, neighbourhood and the state and its party. Let us stand strong in our opposition to xenophobia, which is aimed to divide the oppressed. Let us stand strong in our commitment to women’s power in the struggle and in society.

Comrades, we all know that KwaZulu-Natal is made to be a violent and bloody province as many of its politicians rule with terror. They have created and sustained a politic of blood and fear. Let us rise as we have risen above this kind of politic and expose all perpetrators as we have done with Mzi, Nqola and Lutsheku. Comrades we can only achieve this when we work in the spirit of ubuhlali and our living politic.

Today, comrades let us take this opportunity to extend our warm gratitude to our solidarity partners who have carried us through thick and thin in this difficult journey. The Church Land Programme, we would not have made it without your support. The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa, you have stood firm with us throughout the long journey through the courts. War on Want, you have understood that poverty is political and pledged with us to fight global poverty and injustices. The South Africa Development Fund, your support has been amazing. Amnesty International, you have always been there to work with us to secure our safety when our lives are under threat. We thank you. Entraide & Fraternite, you have walked the journey with us and reminded us that you will be with us in spirit and that “in the middle of many difficulties, pain and suffering you remained a peoples’ movement”.

Misereor, we appreciate the thought and care, and the deep understanding of people’s struggles in Latin America that you have bought to your support for us, especially in dark times. XminusY, you have supported direct radical action and your solidarity has helped us to create the force and the power we are witnessing today. We cannot forget intellectual comrades that have walked side by side with us. Even when the journey has been very tough you remained principled. To all our friends and comrades abroad we cannot forget your support and solidarity. Your protests against repression have been vital in keeping the space open for us to organise and resist.

Today, on behalf of all Abahlali baseMjondolo, our friends, partners and comrades and in the interest of love for our country and our world I wish you all a Happy Tenth Year Birthday.

The struggles continues!



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It’s all about power and money: The present state of the ANC

Dale T. McKinley


cc BSA
The ANC has morphed from its earlier transition days as a ‘modern’ bourgeois political party designed to consolidate a class-based system of power overlaid with narrow racial interests to an inveterately factionalised, patronage-centred, corrupt, rent seeking and increasingly undemocratic ex-liberation movement.

One of the favourite sayings of ANC leaders over the years, and most often directed at those of its members who have departed the organisation for various reasons, is that “it is cold outside the ANC”. It doesn’t take a political analyst or life-long movement activist to figure out the metaphorical meaning.

Simply put, the ‘warmth’ inside the party is defined by being part of the ANC’s unequalled access to and use of institutional power - whether as applied to the ANC or the state it largely controls - and the accompanying material benefits (read: money) derived. Twenty years into ANC rule it is that ‘warmth’ that has, in turn, come to define the party itself.

None other than the ANC number one himself confirmed this, even if for very different reasons, not long after he had ascended to the Presidential thrones of party and country. Speaking to the ANC Veterans League back in 2009 Zuma declared without a whiff of contradiction or irony that “money and positions have undermined the ANC [and changed its] character and values …”

He was quickly followed by ANC General-Secretary Gwede Mantashe who proclaimed that: “When selflessness, one of the principled characters of our movement, is being replaced by a newfound expression of selfishness, wherein personal accumulation becomes the main cause for divisions we must know that the movement is in decline.”

No doubt, both Zuma and Mantashe were attempting to present themselves as the ‘new’ champions of some kind of moral regeneration campaign within the party. After all they had succeeded in ousting Mbeki and his neoliberal technocrats, with COSATU and the SACP leading the way, by claiming that theirs was a politics of returning the ANC “to the people” through a principled, accountable and exemplary leadership.

As has most often been the case with the ANC since 1994 however, the reality is a far cry from the rhetoric. Even if present before at the individual level, under Zuma’s leadership the pursuit of money and power (position in the ANC and the state) has become the sine qua non of membership and more specifically, advancement. Closely tied to this organisationally bound accumulation path is an effective ‘requirement’ of an obsequious loyalty to Zuma himself, a willingness to defend and cover up for number one whatever the cost.

Over the last several years the cumulative result at the macro-organisational level has been quite dramatic. The ANC has morphed from its earlier transition days as a ‘modern’ bourgeois political party designed to consolidate a class-based system of power overlaid with narrow racial interests to an inveterately factionalised, patronage-centred, corrupt, rent seeking and increasingly undemocratic ex-liberation movement.

In turn, this has framed more particular examples of the ANC’s inexorable political and organisational descent:

• the retreat into the political shadows of ever increasing numbers of the ‘older’ generation of members and leaders who have become disillusioned with the party’s trajectory and its present leadership;
• the marginalisation, expulsion and, on occasion, murder of those in the ranks who have opposed, questioned and/or exposed the conduct of leaders at various levels of the party and the state who are, in one way or another, part of the Zuma battalion;
• the ascendance of a new breed of militarised, dumbed-down, ‘yes baas’ storm-troopers and securocrats whose core purpose is to police the masses and guard the party/state gates against unwanted questioners and intruders;
• the embracing and catalysing of a politicised ethnic identity alongside xenophobic, homophobic and misogynist attitudes and behaviour that potentially foreshadows an inward turn towards a pseudo-‘traditionalist’, social proto fascism;
• the widespread disintegration of the ANC’s grassroots structures into mostly corrupt, localised factional vanguards ‘servicing’ various party dons;
• the sustained socio-political rebellion of its ‘natural’ constituencies amongst the poor and working class, the general response to which is a dismissive arrogance combined with heavy doses of repression;
• the spectacle of professed ‘communists’ and ‘radical’ unionists enthusiastically espousing a politically and socially reactionary politics, defending and covering up corruption as well as engaging in the gradual balkanisation (and in some cases, liquidation) of organised working class forces.

Such ANC characteristics have not, however, as might be expected, led to a parallel decline in the number of ANC members. Indeed, if ideological and organisational coherence, actual job performance and delivery of mandates (whether as party or state leader and/or official), respect for rights enshrined in the constitution or adherence to the general letter of the law were the main criteria for prospective members, then the ANC would surely be an unpopular choice.

Instead, over the last decade or so there has been a considerable increase in membership growth. What this clearly shows is that more and more people are being drawn to join the ANC not out of political/ideological belief or because they think the party is the best vehicle for sustaining democracy, advancing political cohesion or contributing to effective public service.

Rather, and as several recent research contributions to a special issue on the ANC at sub-national level of the journal Transformation reveal, the key draw card of ANC membership is the pursuit of power and material advantage (most often in the form of money). This is directly tied to patronage and clientism, which have become the dominant forms of political and organisational direction and leadership under Zuma.

Flowing from the top downwards, these forms have ensured that each successive level of leadership and structure (within the party and the state) is umbilically linked to a particular faction competing for political control and position in order to access resources. In the process, internal democracy and lines of accountability become little more than irritants, pushed to the margins of rhetorical spin.

Not surprisingly, the cumulative result is that the line between party and state, at whatever level, has become more and more blurred. ANC structures, from top to bottom, graft on to the parallel state structures like parasites feeding off the bounty. The two ‘bodies’ become progressively intertwined, the trajectory of one dependent on the other. Where there is mutual benefit to be had, the various ‘bodies’ will cooperate but it is just as likely that they will enter into (factional) conflict where there is competition.

Add in the conditions of a generalised social and economic crisis and membership in the ANC has turned into the promise of a means of material survival for those on the bottom of the pile. For those already ensconced and/or higher up in the party food chain, membership is the best ticket around to continued positional advancement and material largesse.

Besides the sorry organisational and political state of the various ANC ‘Leagues’, the ANC’s own core structures are in trouble. By all accounts, a majority of ANC branches are either largely dysfunctional or wracked with factional battles. The party itself has acknowledged that the majority of its provincial executives and parallel provincial structures are ‘unstable’. The ‘best practice’ example of this is to be found in none other than number one’s backyard, with the conference of the ANC’s largest region - eThekwini - having to be postponed indefinitely due to infighting and allegations of cash for votes.

With crass accumulation as well as open and often violent factional conflict combined with regular exposures of massive fraud and manipulation of meeting and election procedures, the general state of things in the ANC looks more like a mass drunken fight in a casino than a 100 year-old party governing a country.

*Dale T. McKinley is an independent writer, researcher, lecturer and political activist.



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Can world’s worst case of inequality be fixed with Pikettian posturing?

Patrick Bond


cc LC
Despite happy noises made by the World Bank, status quo economists and other commentators, South Africa remains one of the most unequal countries in the world. A policy of growth-through-redistribution is certainly needed.

Among the hot ideological wars South Africans wage, now that a viable left is rising in the trade unions and parliament, perhaps none is as violent to the truth as the rejigging of the Gini Coefficient measuring income inequality. (This number is zero if everyone shares income perfectly equally, and one if only a sole person gets it all.) If you measure income prior to state redistribution, South Africa’s Gini – as measured last November by the World Bank – is a shocking 0.77, the highest of any major country.

Entering South Africa this week, stage left, is the celebrated economist Thomas Piketty, whose ideas are already much used and abused. Indeed at the initial University of Cape Town event on September 30, his talk (broadcast on a malfunctioning video feed anyhow) was disrupted by #RhodesMustFall activists with powerful class and race analysis of the host institution.

Piketty’s visit also reminds us of the need to reconsider South African inequality-fibbery, for the World Bank’s Pretoria staff claim the Gini is reduced from 0.77 to 0.59 once all manner of state social spending (social grants, education and health) is included in the calculation. For example, there are more than 15 million recipients of a child support grant, although at $0.75/day, it’s puny; World Bank president Jim Kim last week revised his institution’s poverty line from $1.25 to $1.88/day. But in this research, the vast state-funded benefits enjoyed by corporations and the rich (crony capitalism) magically evaporate, a point I discuss in the current issue of the International Journal of Health Services.

No matter how biased the rejigged Gini, like the proverbial dog whistle, the Bank’s optimism triggered a landslide of echo-box commentators, economists and politicians heralding how well redistribution was going. The logic of the cacophony culminated on Budget Day 2015 with economist Iraj Abedian’s prominent call for social grants to be cut “way below inflation.” This may have been in Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene’s ear when he reduced the survival funds given to South Africa’s poorest by 3 percent. He simultaneously deregulated exchange controls, allowing rich South Africans to increase their annual offshore expatriation from $285,000 to $710,000.

Piketty, a genuine social democrat, would be aghast at this interim outcome of our recent inequality debate. Yet there are those whose political philosophy we can term ‘neoliberal,’ trying to co-opt his message. The most extreme purveyor of Piketty for the sake of status quo policy must be Raymond Parsons, who for more than forty years has been South Africa’s highest-profile white business spokesperson, and who now teaches at Potchefstroom Business School.

In 1986, a New York Times correspondent was grateful that Parsons divulged “correspondence dating to 1960 between [the SA Chamber of Business, which he ran] and Hendrik F. Verwoerd, at that time the Prime Minister.” Parsons communicated to the Times reporter how “business in South Africa responds more to crisis in its quest for reform than to the years of economic growth and of black quiescence.” Furthermore, hinted Parsons, “By embracing the ANC, the idea seems to be, its radicalism might be diluted.”

Within eight years, the ‘Faustian Pact’ dilution of the ANC’s commitment to its radical 1955 Freedom Charter was conclusively accomplished. But when Jacob Zuma took power thanks partly to manoeuvers by the SA Communist Party and trade unions in 2009, Parsons again turned to co-optation, this time in his edited collection Zumanomics, which pronounced “the unavoidable reality that narrowed options will have been dictated by world-wide economic events.” After budget deficits of 2008-09, the government “will need to return to its normal fiscal flight path.”

Fast forward to a Business Day column this week in which Parsons revealed a similar agenda. But instead of Mandela or Zuma, today’s fear is renewed talk of redistribution. Parsons’ tactic, once again, is to embrace and enthusiastically co-opt the French economist: “The extent to which several of Piketty’s points for reducing inequality resonate with the overall thrust of the National Development Plan (NDP) is striking.”

In reality, the state’s 2012-2030 NDP is severely wanting for ambition when it comes to inequality, projecting that its strategies will reduce the Gini only from 0.69 (in 2012 measured slightly differently from the Bank) to 0.60, i.e., that the income share earned by the poorest 40 percent will rise from 6 to just 10 percent. As Cosatu official Neil Coleman argued in the strongest NDP critique to date, “0.6 would still make our levels of inequality higher than any other major country in the world! This long-term target (which Brazil has surpassed by far in less than 10 years) is an embarrassment for a country claiming to be serious about combating inequality.”

Parsons’ desired full-on neoliberal onslaught has faced resistance from a working class that the World Economic Forum considers to be the most militant on earth since 2012. So, he says, an “important reason for decision makers to tackle the inequality gap is to get it out of the way. For as long as income distribution in SA is seen as too far from what is ‘socially desirable’, necessary policies for allocative efficiency are constantly suspect, such as the appropriate role of user charges, the need for fiscal discipline or making SA more globally competitive.”

The latter three goals represent Parsons’ genuine agenda. To make the case for fiscal discipline (budget cuts), he predictably intones, “A 2014 World Bank report outlined the progress SA has made in reducing poverty and inequality through fiscal policy, but concluded that there was now minimum scope for further redistribution through the budget.” In reality, there is enormous scope for domestic borrowing to pay for higher levels of immediate social spending: South Africa ranks a pathetic fifth from the bottom of 40 major countries in this category (as a share of GDP), and the last public debt and deficit analysis I’ve seen from Barclays Capital considers South Africa substantially under-borrowed (in local terms not foreign debt) compared to peers.

A classical Keynesian policy of growth-through-redistribution is certainly desirable in this terribly unequal society, and that’s why I’m very sympathetic to my Wits colleagues Imraan Valodia and Vishnu Padayachee who believe Piketty’s influence can revive this tradition. Valodia concludes, “the question the country needs to answer is: what political forces are needed to generate more equality in the opportunities available to South Africans?”

We apparently require many more revolutionary political impulses in society if even the Keynesian project is to advance. Setting aside Parsons’ co-optation threat, at an intellectual level I’m worried about a different danger of Pikettian posturing: delegitimization of perhaps the strongest tradition(s) within South African political economy, namely, Marxism.

According to Piketty’s ‘Capital in the 21st Century’, “Modern economic growth and the diffusion of knowledge have made it possible to avoid the Marxist apocalypse… Marx totally neglected the possibility of durable technological progress and steadily increasing productivity.” This flippancy is what you expect from someone who brags openly about his ignorance about the Marxian intellectual framework: “I never managed really to read it... Das Kapital, I think, is very difficult to read and for me it was not very influential.”

For those interested, there are various well-read Marxist rebuttals to Piketty, e.g. by David Harvey, Esteban Maito, Adam David Morton and Michael Roberts. Some reflect on his unfamiliarity with the idea of the ‘rising organic composition of capital’ – higher capital intensity in production, causing falling profitability over time – which is the core process behind overproduction crises in Marx’s schema.

And without analysing long waves of accumulation crisis culminating in speculative financial bubbling, he doesn’t give sufficient weight to Quantitative Easing (printing money) and similar bail-outs of private debt through monetary and public debt mechanisms. Marxists like Harvey have long predicted these would displace (not resolve) the contradictions.

Piketty’s central thesis is that “When the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of growth of output and income, as it did in the nineteenth century and seems quite likely to do again in the twenty-first, capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based.” Aside from the terribly stilted measure of growth (GDP – expertly demolished by the University of Pretoria’s Lorenzo Fioramonti), the central problem with this, as has been pointed out by his rightwing critics, too, is its mishandling of residential capital.

As Roberts remarks, “if we take out housing and real estate wealth from the measure of capital, Piketty’s forecast of a stable return on ‘capital’, which is higher than the long-term trend growth rate does not stand… it is Marx’s law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall over time that is confirmed by the evidence, not Piketty’s stable return on capital.”

The Piketty inequality critique is vital, yet in sum, assuming that on this visit he can withstand the Parsons embrace, and assuming local Keynesians can amplify his arguments against the Treasury and Reserve Bank neoliberals, nevertheless there are obvious intellectual reasons to be suspicious of Piketty. But all this matters little; it is instead the challenge of shifting the political balance of forces that far transcends our ideological bantering, isn’t it?

* Patrick Bond is professor of political economy at the Wits School of Governance and also directs the UKZN Centre for Civil Society. A version of this article originally appeared at The Conversation.



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The new MBA and the South African Business School sector

The more things change, the more they remain the same

Dhiru Soni


cc HR
The ‘gurus’ of South Africa’s business education sector need to learn to be increasingly adaptable – making sense of uncertainty and managing complexity. The qualities of openness, empathy, integrity and self-awareness should replace harmful elitist posturing.

‘I Write What I Like – Steve Biko’

In recent weeks there has been a flurry of debates in the written press regarding the South African Business School sector, particularly relating to critical questions of transformation. In this respect, a coterie of administrators from the so-called prestigious business schools sector is of the conviction that issues of transformation are not within the purview of their elitist spaces. More specifically, though, the emphasis in these deliberations has been on the issues of massification in higher education, marginalisation of black students, elitism, racism, access, equity and affordability.

In an epiphany, nay, multiple epiphanies, especially in terms of reflecting on the pedantic responses of these administrators to the critical debates, it dawned upon the author that the crux of these deliberations had more to do with issue of ‘leadership’, or the lack thereof. Some 20 years into democracy it would seem that some of us have to be constantly reminded about the cardinal principles of the country’s transformation agenda, that despite the fact that the public higher education institutions whence these administrators hail have ‘sworn’ to abide by the ‘solemn’ promise to change and disrobe themselves of sectionalist tendencies. Even, the transformation committees of these higher education institutions will ‘swear to it’, although in most instances, they simply pay lip service to this commitment. The recent uprisings at some former white universities are witness to this sad state of affairs.

One would have expected that given the problems and challenges that South Africa is currently experiencing, the business schools’ sector would have risen to the occasion and provided the necessary transformatory leadership. Instead, these ‘senior’ administrators, in an unwavering posture have dug their heads in the sand and like the proverbial ostrich believe that all is well in their protected elitist spaces. They either do not appreciate the realities of an emerging South Africa, or are arrogant enough to believe that issues of transformation are beyond the frontiers of their dominion – reminiscent of the apartheid ‘insider-outsider’ mentality.

Whilst these multiple epiphanies were like ‘eureka’ moments, they equally brought with them hurt. Perhaps more so, because these protagonists were supposed to be academics of renown and were supposed to educate our future leaders on how to be pragmatic and ‘lead’ in challenging times. South Africa, as we all know, is experiencing serious problems and challenges in dealing with many of the lingering legacies of a grossly regulated unequal society – lack of access to higher education, poverty, black youth unemployment and major skills deficits

Rather than rising to the challenge, some of our ‘esteemed’ administrators branded my colleague and I, ‘communists’ and all sorts of monikers, to boot. We have no problem with the ‘name calling’, especially if it brings about social justice and transformation for the betterment of our society. Their ranting, shouting, swearing or cursing do not bother me. As Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they attack you. Then you win.’ I shall not be intimidated by this childish name-calling and I shall always be the change I wish to see in the world. It is my pedigree. Call me what you may. I will persist with my quest to transform the higher business education sector, especially in the interest of a legitimate and democratic dispensation. I am familiar with my constitutional rights and the salient objectives of the Freedom Charter.

It is within this context that I believe that we need to remind these business school administrators and gatekeepers about transformational leadership and how it can assist in addressing many of the problems and challenges of critical skills shortages that confront our country. Is it not ironical that the very people who are supposed to be our business education ‘gurus’, have themselves to be intrinsically re-educated; or is it that they are beyond redemption and will continue being apartheid ideologues? Being the eternal optimist, especially having faith in the ‘good of man’, I am of the conviction that these administrators are not beyond reproach. From my side, they will constantly be reminded about the need to change their provincial and hidebound mind-sets for the greater good of humanity. They deserve no better.

I am skeptical about whether these bigoted administrators could be trained or re-educated to become transformational leaders. I am, however, convinced that if they have the courage to remove their self-donned prejudicial ‘blindfolds’, then they could be exposed to the realities of human frailty, redeem themselves and become ‘born-again’ academics, in search of the truth. They need to be reminded of Jodi Picoult’s wise saying, "Sometimes we find ourselves walking through life blindfolded, and we try to deny that we're the ones who securely tied the knot." These administrators need to untie the knot and free themselves and the future of our nation, for prejudice is the crutch of the mentally handicapped.

If re-education is the potential redeemer of this bigotry, then what is leadership? A perfunctory investigation will alert one to the fact that the question of leadership has been of interest for many centuries. Moreover, seldom has the need for effective leadership been voiced more strongly than in current times. It is argued that in this changing global environment, leadership holds the answer not only to the success of individuals and organisations, but also to nations. Consequently, leadership is one of the quintessential problematiques in terms of legitimate governance, whether in business or in other organisations. Leadership, though, is a complex phenomenon that touches on many important organisational, social and personal issues. It eludes simple definition or theoretical representation and yet is becoming increasingly significant in all aspects of our lives.

A detailed literature survey of the concept of ‘leadership’ reveals that there are as many theories and definitions of the term as there are authors. Indeed, it has become a contested issue. Considering that the critical issue dealt with in this submission is about the imperative for change in harmful elitist posturing amongst these administrators, the author is of the opinion that the concept of ‘transformational leadership’ is both appropriate and opportune for the purposes of enlightenment.

In respect of ‘transformational leadership’, I rely on the conceptual elucidation of co-authors, Bass and Avolio. According to them, “The goal of transformational leadership is to ‘transform’ people and organisations in a literal sense – to change them in mind and heart; enlarge vision, insight, and understanding; clarify purposes; make behaviour congruent with beliefs, principles, or values; and bring about changes that are permanent, self-perpetuating, and momentum building”. In essence, this concept of leadership is a relationship of mutual stimulation and elevation that converts followers into leaders and may convert leaders into moral agents.

Another expert, James Burns, suggests that transformational leadership occurs when one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality. At the heart of this approach is an emphasis on the leaders’ ability to motivate and empower their followers and also the moral dimension of leadership.

The administrators referred to in this text practice leadership that is not only prejudicial, but far removed from transformational leadership. In this context, leaders work for selfish or deluded aims and encourage followers to work towards goals that are ultimately not in the interest of society. Within this context, leadership functions as a social defense whose central aim is to repress inconvenient truths, especially when they are challenged on their indefensible positions or biased postures.

Transformational leadership requires a deep sense of self and community – valuing diversity, ethics, the individual and the larger collective. In effect, at its heart is a shared emotional intelligence or, as another author on leadership, Alan Wheelis, expresses it: “Freedom is the awareness of alternatives and the ability to choose.” Stubborn refusal to consider alternative and competing approaches, can lead to narcissism - common amongst some of our administrators because it is one of the forces driving them to seek power - that is the power to make their vision come true. In effect, these administrators have become blind, and only seek out information that supports their self-righteous positions and ignoring that which conflicts.

Finally, it would be in the interest of these administrators to take heed of the changing nature of our society in South Africa and the world at large. Our nation is undergoing an unprecedented period of change and this trend appears to be accelerating. There is an improved awareness of the social and political impacts of our actions; a decreasing allegiance to traditional power structures; an increasing complexity with regards to stakeholders and decision-making; increasing demands from our restless youth; an acute awareness of human rights; and a climate of change and uncertainty.
The moral of this story is simple – transformational leadership is key to addressing the challenges of a changing society. Our administrators need to learn that it is an imperative that they become increasingly adaptable – making sense of uncertainty and managing complexity. The qualities of openness, empathy, integrity and self-awareness are coming to the fore and demand a more participative leadership style, whereby the leader not only involves all stakeholders, but listens, and is responsive to feedback. The transformational leader will increasingly need to win the right to lead, lead from the front, lead by example and be accountable to the collective. No more can these gatekeepers dig their heads in the sand. The realities of South Africa prevent them from doing so. If they persist in their obstinacy time will overwhelm them – recent history of student protests in South Africa bears testimony to this.

As administrators of public educational institutions that constantly claim to be prestigious, you need to appraise the intrinsic value of the word ‘prestigious’. Metaphorically, you can be assured that it is not about enhancing the value of a polished diamond by embedding it in a piece of fine jewellery, but by crafting an uncut diamond into a beautiful gem – giving it shape and form. You can then claim the right for your institution to be called ‘prestigious’, because it positively contributes to the transformation of a student from a disadvantaged background into an intellectual or someone who can positively relate and contribute to the development of an emergent South Africa.

These business schools’ administrators or gatekeepers need to remember that the transformational leadership journey is a never ending one and that change is constant. Where the journey and the constant come together true leaders will flourish. I beseech you to become the agents of change which you unashamedly preach about in your master classes, seminars, lectures and marketing campaigns.

I implore you to remove the self-donned prejudicial blindfolds and free yourselves!

* Dhiru Soni is an academic and researcher and writes here in his personal capacity.



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40 years a refugee, for the love of freedom

Peter Kenworthy


cc PK
This November marks 40 years since Morocco invaded and colonized Western Sahara, today Africa’s last colony. Abba Malainin was only a child when he had to flee the war on foot through the desert to Algeria, to refugee camps where his family and thousands of other refugees still live today.


Tens of thousands of Western Sahara’s indigenous population, the Saharawis, fled the advancing Moroccan army and bomber planes across the border into neighbouring Algeria.

Here they set about building what they thought were temporary refugee camps in one of the most inhospitable parts of the world, the so-called “Devil’s Garden”, where sand-storms are frequent and where temperatures can exceed 50 degrees.

165,000 Saharawis remain in the camps in the Tindouf Province. Others remain in occupied Western Sahara, one of the world’s most repressive and torturing regimes. And others still live in exile in Spain or in Denmark, as does Abba.


Abba Malainin was seven years old in 1975 when the Moroccan army invaded his home town of El Aaiun, the largest city of Western Sahara, with aerial bombardments with napalm and white phosphorus. A genocide forgotten by the international media, he insists.

“My family and I were living a normal life in El Aaiun with its mild desert climate when our lives were turned upside down by the military invasion by Morocco. Suddenly our lives became a nightmare”, he recalls.

Abba and his family initially settled in the El Aaiun refugee camp (named after the city in Western Sahara) and ended up in the Auserd camp. “There was nothing there at all when we arrived”, he says.


Today Abba is the Saharawi liberation movement Polisario’s representative in Denmark. If Denmark had recognized Western Sahara’s republic in exile, SADR, as over 80 other countries have done over the years, he would be an ambassador.

Instead, Abba lives in a small flat not far from Copenhagen Airport, which is rather practical when he has to travel to and from the refugee camps where his mother and much of his family still lives in tents and mud-brick houses with corrugated iron roofs.

Abba goes there either to visit his family or on official Polisario business, making sure that Danish politicians, NGOs and journalists don’t forget the Saharawis and get to see what it is like to live in refugee camps that have stood for 40 years.


In many ways the Saharawi refugee camps are unlike other refugee camps. The Saharawis managed to build a proto-state, the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), in the desert camps. SADR is a member of the African Union and has a government, an elected parliament, a constitution, schools, hospitals, social services and a press service.

According to Abba Malainin, the camps are well organized and the Saharawis are considered the most educated refugees in the world. About 90 percent of the population is literate, which is a dramatic rise from the 10 percent literacy rate when the Saharawis arrived in the camps in 1975. This is also well above the regional average.

But the camps are nevertheless refugee camps where there is a constant shortage of water, food and other necessities, resulting in amongst other things acute child malnourishment. And the situation is worsening all the time as the international aid that the Saharawis in the camps rely on has been more or less halved since the economic crisis.


So how will Abba’s family and the thousands of other Saharawis who live in the camps be able to leave the misery of what has been their home for 40 years and return to a liberated and democratic Western Sahara?

Abba Malainin believes that the only way he and his fellow Saharawis can return to their homeland is through the referendum on the status of Western Sahara, that Morocco had initially agreed to and which the UN has promised the Saharawis for decades.

Achieving such a referendum, that will almost certainly lead to independence for Western Sahara, must come through the collective efforts of the international community and its influential actors, he insists. But decades of inaction from the international community has made a return to war seem an acceptable prospect for many Saharawis, especially the youth.


“The international community, including the UN and the EU, should exert more pressure on Morocco to avoid a conflict that will benefit no one. And foreign governments and companies must stop making economical agreements and purchase stolen goods from an occupied country, as this only helps legitimize Morocco’s illegal occupation and keep it financially viable”, Abba Malainin concludes.

The Saharawis are struggling and suffering for their freedom and independence every day in both the refugee camps and in the occupied territories in Western Sahara, he says.

But they need the help of the international community and solidarity movements to put pressure on Morocco and those who aid them, to ensure that the Saharawis will not have to wait another 40 years to escape the refugee camps and Moroccan occupation.

* Peter Kenworthy is a journalist working with the Danish organisation Afrika Contakt.

Environmental impact assessment: Why it fails in Kenya

John O. Kakonge


cc CN
Kenya is building huge infrastructural projects such as the Thika Highway and the Lamu Port. These have been accompanied by malpractice in construction, land grabs, displacements, environmental degradation with no or insufficient information to the public. The environmental impact assessments that should prevent such malpractices are ineffective.

Environmental impact assessments (EIAs) have served as recognized project planning tools for more than forty years. Kenya and many other African nations have passed legislation making such assessments mandatory, especially for large and what may be termed “environmentally sensitive” projects. The results are of mixed value and often fail to meet expectations. In this paper we shall consider the factors that have made EIAs ineffective in Kenya, drawing information from two projects – the Nairobi Thika Highways Improvement Project (NTHIP) and the Lamu Port and Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET). The factors to be examined here include planning licences, subjectivity, corruption, lack of capacity, lack of political will, public participation, and the quality of EIAs.


In Kenya, an EIA is needed to get a planning licence. In some cases, proponents of projects employ licensed experts from the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to conduct the EIA studies on their behalf (Barczewski, 2013). Thus, the experts are effectively employed by the proponents and, not unsurprisingly, more often than not prepare positive EIAs that enable the proponents to get their planning licences. According to Barczewski, some of these supposed “leading experts” even use templates prepared in advance and carry out their assessments without any field work. The available literature shows that few projects, especially the larger ones, are rejected or asked to provide additional information.

LAPSSET is an extremely large project that will affect Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia. It will create many complex issues, including questions of land rights involving a world heritage site, the rights of marginalized communities, compensation for displacement, the laying of an oil pipeline, and construction of a refinery. Unfortunately, the project was launched without the conduct of a comprehensive transboundary EIA by all the countries involved: that gap notwithstanding, political leaders played a major role in the approval process. Today, questioning the LAPSSET EIA after the project has been launched by the leaders of the participating countries could be interpreted, at best, as dissent, at worst, as subversion.

In the case of NTHIP, a project funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Chinese Government, NEMA required the project to be subject to an EIA, and the AfDB required an ESIA (Environmental and Social Impact Assessment). Under pressure from politicians, the project gained approval despite serious shortcomings in both the EIA and the ESIA.

Securing a planning licence is not the end of the EIA process, for the process also includes a management plan to be annexed to the EIA report that covers problems to be mitigated through monitoring and auditing. Sadly, this requirement is clearly paid much less heed than the need to acquire a planning licence. How else to explain six-story apartment blocks on half-acre plots in Nairobi's Lavington and Kileleshwa suburbs? Or roads built so that they flood and become dangerous in heavy rain? From the look of things it seems that there is almost no enforcement of the rules once a planning licence is granted.


Another problem, as Haie (2006) argues, is subjectivity, which appears to be an inescapable and integral part of the EIA process. As Mostert (1996) states, “subjectiveness occurs whenever the results of an EIA are influenced by the subjective norms, values, and interests of one or more of the parties involved”. This could explain why, in preparing the EIA for the Nairobi-Thika Highway Improvement Project (NTHIP), some of the project’s impacts were seriously downplayed, especially those concerning water quality, water flow rates and volume, soil degradation and soil contamination (Barczewski, 2013). Moreover, mitigation plans for the noise and vibrations caused by construction were entirely absent; and Barczewski shows that the NTHIP EIA suffered from a lack of credible information, particularly on social and community issues. It appears that the Ministry of Works and the Kenya National Highway Authority were reluctant to engage with NGOs and community organizations because they feared that such consultations would slow down the project.

Similarly in the LAPSSET project, the EIA process is full of uncertainties regarding such issues as land rights, compensation and disruption of livehoods, status and protection of world heritage site, etc. Critical information on the project has not been shared with the stakeholders since it was launched in 2012. Ideally, to minimize the extent to which subjectivity is able to influence large-scale projects, such as NTHIP and LAPSET, EIAs should make space for more democratic participation and be less technical in their presentation and content, to enable all stakeholders to get involved in the process.


Corruption is a further challenge hindering the EIA process in Kenya. Many project proponents give NEMA staff something under the table and, in turn, these officials turn a blind eye when necessary (Barcweski, 2013). Barczewski adds that, even though the lead agencies are involved, NEMA can simply ignore their comments. This was the case with Silver Crest Limited for a project in the Marine Park in Mombasa and Cobra Corner in a Mara Triangle project. Issuance of the EIA licences for these two projects was in all likelihood facilitated by political pressure or corruption (Barcweski, 2013). Furthermore, there is little need for a developer to spend money obtaining an EIA if he knows that NEMA will not review it.

LAPSSET furnishes another example of the workings of corruption: the feasibility study carried out before the EIA was very expensive but entirely untransparent, because a number of people had vested interests. According to Richard Trillo (2011) in his article “The Lamu Port Corridor: Fantasy or Fraud”, LAPSSET is a “massive white elephant consultancy project with the biggest possible offer to benefit every party involved without, in the end, delivering a feasible programme for actually carrying out the work.” Moreover, Noor (2014) adds that the developers and their government cronies paid scant regard to an EIA: those who lost their land are still waiting for compensation a year later. In short, Noor (2014) regretfully concludes that the entire process is nothing more or less than a scam which is riddled with corruption. The process of acquiring a port has become a massive fraud: it has been exploited by corrupt civil servants and land dealers to make a fortune for bogus claimants who have no land but still expect compensation (Noor, 2014). Clearly, corruption plays a very important part in the EIA process in Kenya.


An additional problem faced by EIAs is the lack of capacity in Kenya to carry out such assessments to the necessary standard. While there are a number of companies which, in theory at least, have the expertise needed to produce an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the reality is that those which are available are far from being acceptable examples of the genre: most are nothing more than consultants’ reports commissioned to enable a developer to get a planning licence.

According to Barczewrski (2013) and Vasquez (2013), NEMA has neither the necessary expertise to review EIS reports nor enough money to hire external experts to do the work. Corruption has killed any incentive that the available professionals may once have had to perfect their work in the field of EIA. If NEMA does not have the funds to recruit environmental officers and to send them out into the counties, county governments must fund the recruitment and training of their own staff with environmental and related backgrounds if they are to guard against the problems that Barcweski quotes from Barasa, namely, that NEMA does not visit upcountry projects. For their part, Barnes and Boyle (2015) recommend that staff of organizations such as NEMA engaged in the preparation of EIAs should have a good understanding of the entire EIA process – including both technical and administrative aspects – instead of merely being involved in processing paper work.


The 1999 Environmental Management and Coordination Act (EMCA) is entirely clear on the need for EIAs. Unfortunately, its importance is not universally appreciated. According to Barszewski (2013), what developers endeavour to do is to recruit a NEMA staff member to prepare their EIA so that they are assured of getting a planning licence and their projects can proceed. The example of LAPSSET shows another way of circumventing the EIA requirement: as a flagship project under the Kenya Government’s Vision 2030, it was launched in March 2012 by Presidents Kibaki and Salva Kiir of Kenya and South Sudan without an EIA. Not only is this the wrong order in which these processes should be implemented, it also runs directly counter to section 58 of the EMCA and contravenes sections 42 and 69 of the Kenyan Constitution, which call for the government to protect the environment, natural resources and biological diversity.

Once developers have the licence in their hands, they care nothing about the eventual consequences of their project. According to Barszewski (2013), mitigation measures are neither enforced nor followed up. This is certainly the case with housing in Nairobi where, as noted above, three or four buildings can be built on a half-acre plot, leaving no room for children to play or for adult recreation. Contributing to this state of affairs is the failure by Parliament to take environmental issues seriously and the meagre budgetary allocations that it makes to NEMA. When Presidents Kibaki and Kiir launched the LAPSSET project it sent a signal that environmental issues were not important. Without strong political will and commitment, institutionalization of the EIA process in Kenya will not succeed and the environment will continue to be violated in the name of development.


According to Barszewski (2013) and other EIA experts, a further bottleneck in the instutionalization of the Kenyan EIA process is caused by the inadequate participation of the public. Again, this is partly because developers want to avoid delays and additional costs. Moreover, most members of the public have little capacity or inclination to review EIA reports. The University of Nairobi organized six public meetings on the NTHIP: these were attended by a total of 197 people, 112 of whom said that they had no idea about the project period or cost.

This low level of public understanding could be due to the fact that the EIA documents are so difficult to understand – or to the government’s reluctance to share the reports for fear of attracting criticism. Nonetheless, article 35 of the 2010 Kenya Constitution stipulates that the government is obliged to increase public awareness and foster healthy debate of any proposed infrastructure project. Such action would help allay public concerns and prevent the need for them to rely on rumours and speculation. As noted above, the LAPSSET project was approved in July 2011 before an EIA was done, in contravention of both the EMCA and the Constitution. People were not given time to comment on the project and its components. As noted by Noor (2014), land was seized and held for over two years, and contracts were awarded despite people voicing their opposition, suspicion, disquiet, and discontent from the time the project was made public. Noor acknowledges further that civil rights groups and legal and environmental experts joined the affected people in a campaign to suspend the project and seek a review to resolve contentious issues.

The above two projects are important to the government and any delays or criticisms may be interpreted by politicians as attempts either to obstruct progress or to hinder efforts to create jobs and to reduce the country’s high unemployment levels.


EIAs prepared to date do not meet what is normally required by international standards. Some omit useful information and, as shown by the University of Nairobi’s 2013 study of the NTHIP, some important impacts are simply taken for granted. For example, there was no inbuilt monitoring system for the noise and vibration from the heavy machinery or the use of explosives (University of Nairobi, 2013). Similarly, Barszewski (2013), citing the same study, identified noise emission as a serious shortcoming of the NTHIP project. Barszewski also points out that the NTHIP designers did not consult the community on the placement of the footbridges. As reported by the Daily Nation of 29 April 2012, the bridges were thus not sited where most pedestrian traffic needed to cross the river, with the result that people risked their lives with consequent accidents and deaths.

LAPSSET has seven components and its EIAs were only prepared after the project was launched. Information on the EIAs only became available when pressure was placed on the government to release it. Unfortunately, the report released on 31 January 2012 omitted any information on the exact position of the LAPSSET corridor, or its scope, or the infrastructure of the port, its associated city, airport, and tourism resorts, or its likely impact on the outstanding universal value (OUV), or the precise boundaries of the property and buffer zones, or the management plan.

That said, however, EIAs of this low quality are not unique to Kenya: in a 2014 report prepared by the Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment (NCEA), the authors concede that the problem is widespread. According to the NCEA, only 50 of 114 NCEA prepared reports were of sufficiently high quality and the rest, especially those on land use and intensive livestock farming, were vitiated by a lack of information.

Clearly, as long as EIA reports are seen as sales documents for developers or merely box-ticking exercises for the obtention of planning licences in Kenya, their quality will continue to be poor. Good EIAs and EISs are those that can be easily monitored and evaluated.


The above discussion clearly shows that, despite the existing legal framework in Kenya, the EIA process faces problems that must be solved if EIAs are to serve any function in promoting sustainable development. The two examples of large-scale projects cited in this study demonstrate the lack of political will at the highest level to accord any importance to environmental issues and the manner in which they affect the lives of ordinary Kenyans. LAPSSET is a transboundary project with seven components, most of them with serious implications for society, the economy and the environment. This project should have been subjected to a transboundary EIA with participation by the governments of South Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya and by the affected communities. The EIA conducted by the Kenya Government, which clearly demonstrate the negative impact which LAPSSET will have on a fragile ecosystem, did not in any way hinder approval of the project: it was, in fact, already in progress (Noor, 2014). As observed by Professor Goldsmith of Pwani University, Mombasa, and quoted by Noor: “The LAPSSET project is a gravy train being pushed to benefit politicians, wealthy individuals, land grabbers and a cartel of foreign investors”. As to whether Professor Goldsmith is right or not in his damning appraisal, time will tell.

For its part, lessons learned from NTHIP include the need for a clearer determination of the project’s critical impacts during the scoping stage of the EIA process; the role of public participation in the EIA process; and the need to suppress corruption.

To conclude, the issues investigated by EIAs are critical and must be taken seriously by government authorities and all other stakeholders. EIAs should form part and parcel of the planning process, especially for large scale or environmentally sensitive projects. Overall, a well-managed EIA process promotes ownership, inclusiveness, transparency, practical environmental options and partnership.

* Ambassador Dr John O. Kakonge is a freelance Principal Consultant Adviser.


Barczewski, B. (2013): “How well do environmental regulations work in Kenya? The case of the Thika Highway Improvement Project”. Unpublished paper supported by the Centre for Sustainable Urban Development and the University of Nairobi.

Barnes, J.L., and Boyle, J. (2015): “The weak link in EIA effectiveness: challenges in process administration”, Proceedings of the 15th IAIA Conference, 20–23 April 2015, Florence, Italy.

Haie, N. (2006): “Subjective sustainability criteria applied to a renewable energy installation”, Engenharia Civil, vol. 27, pp. 41–49.

Mostert, E. (1996): “Subjective environmental impact assessment: causes, problems and solutions”, Impact Assessment, 14:2, pp. 191–213

Netherlands Commission for Environment Assessment (NCEA) (2014): “Quality remains of the highest importance”, NCEA Newsletter: 2014 and Beyond, July 2014,

Noor, A. (2014): “Development or fraud? Another coastal paradise to die for big oil”. Pambazuka News, issue No.666.

Trillo, R. (2011): “The Lamu Port Corridor: fantasy or fraud?” Rough Guide to Kenya.

University of Nairobi (2013): A scoping study report on the Environmental Impact Assessment Report for the Thika Highway Improvement Project.

Vasquez, P. I Kenya at a Crossroads: Hopes and Fears Concerning the Development of Oil and Gas Reserves.

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Empowering teachers: Thoughts on World Teachers Day 2015

Steve Sharra


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The theme for this year’s World Teachers Day is “Empowering teachers, building sustainable societies.” It is such a gratifying, highly motivating theme, demonstrating the seriousness with which the teaching profession needs to be taken. Without urgent attention to the state of this key profession in Africa – and globally – the AU’s Agenda 2063 and the just launched Sustainable Development Goals will not be achieved.

When he officially opened Malawi’s newest teacher training college, Chiradzulu TTC, on 16 September, Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika said something that, if he does not follow up on it with action, might shadow his legacy in Malawian education. It is something I have decided not to cynically dismiss as one of those things presidents say and never mean it.

Today is 5th October, the day the world commemorates and celebrates teachers every year. I want to use the occasion to reflect on the state of the teaching profession in Malawi, and in parts of the world where teachers’ issues have been in the news lately. I want to discuss the implications of the promises President Mutharika made to Malawian teachers in September, and to draw attention to issues that now impinge on the teaching profession globally. Continental momentum, in the form of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, and a global imperative in the form of the newly launched Sustainable Development Goals give teachers new ideals to aspire to and to inspire their students with.

Now back to President Mutharika. The Official Malawi Government Online facebook page quoted the president as saying: “We must provide teachers with necessary resources and respect them because teaching is the mother of all professions.” Nyasatimes quoted him thus: “My government wants to make sure that teachers also live a good life like engineers, lawyers and doctors as a way of motivating them to mould our children’s future with dedication.” He added: “Let us be people who raise the flag of our standards very high. We deserve the best and must aspire to be at our best. Education is where we begin the making of a nation.”

Mr President, these are solemn, loaded, heavy, pregnant words. If you will not do anything to make sure that what you have promised actually happens, these words will ring hollow in the minds of Malawian teachers. And they will be a yardstick against which to judge your legacy in Malawi’s education.

There is enough precedence to view the president’s words as another of those speeches presidents give, powered with highfalutin, profound-sounding words without meaning to do anything about the promise. We have heard these things before too many times it would be folly to imagine that this time the president is serious. It was probably a scripted speech, written by someone within the Ministry of Education, if not the minister himself. But I am choosing to take the president up on his word for one simple reason.

Amongst Malawi’s numerous priorities, in ranking order of more pressing priorities within the highest priorities, changing the status of the teaching profession ranks, for me, as of the utmost importance when thinking of long term national development plans. It is so important that it does not matter to me that the president may have made yet another empty promise using this very language.

There are four or so countries in the world that have actually made this happen: raise the profile of the teaching profession into a highly prized, prestigious one. The best known country for this is Finland. South Korea, China and Singapore are also spoken of in similar terms, but Finland is the best-known example (I initially included Japan on this list, but a Japanese academic, who is also a friend and former classmate, said that was no longer the case). In Africa, Zimbabwe gets the trophy.

Although the countries I am mentioning here are far advanced and far wealthier than Malawi, perhaps with the exception of Zimbabwe, debatably, it is their investment not just in education, but in the teaching profession, that has been central to their advancement. They did not all start out wealthy and developed. They worked toward it. Although ours is a different context, with different resources and circumstances, I do not see why we cannot study these countries to see what they did, what we can learn from them, and what we can ignore.

As Finland’s most prominent educationist, Professor Pasi Sahlberg, has explained, Finland learned a lot from other countries, particularly the American education system. But their learning was on the terms of the Finnish people, such that they were able to develop a Finnish education system that today surpasses the American education system.

One of the most important things Finland did to turn around a mediocre education system into a world class one was to change the way they educate and reward their teachers. To qualify as a primary school teacher in Finland (and in a few other wealthy countries), the minimum requirement is a masters’ degree in education. And they do not accept into their teacher education programmes just anyone. Candidates are subjected to a rigorous process that culminates into an interview, where prospective teachers must articulate their life philosophy and express a deeper perspective about why they would like to become a teacher. Many, very bright and promising, fail.

So selective is the process, according to Professor Sahlberg, that teaching is the most sought after programme in the Finnish education system. Contrast that with many other countries, including Malawi and the United States, where the most prestigious university programmes are medicine, law, finance and engineering. Education ranks at the bottom.

The result of such highly specialised teacher education is that Finland puts a lot professional and intellectual responsibility into the teacher’s hands rather than into the hands of the authorities. In Professor Sahlberg’s words, the Finnish system believes in teacher responsibility rather than teacher accountability. He says accountability is what remains when responsibility has been removed.

Finnish students enter school and go all the way to the penultimate year of secondary school without sitting a national examination. The only examination they sit is at the end of secondary school. This is deliberately designed so as to remove the pressure of teaching to the test and give teachers the space to be creative and give each child the attention and support they deserve.

Recently, Professor Sahlberg has expressed worry that the success of the Finnish education system may be in jeopardy. The Finnish government has adopted austerity measures and is planning to implement cuts in the national budget, including education. Finnish teachers recently joined other public workers in a nation-wide strike to protest against the cuts.

A recent upsurge in teacher accountability has changed the teaching profession around the world. Students are now being subjected to too many tests whose results are purported to reflect a teacher’s performance. As a result teachers are now being dictated to by examinations, teaching to the test and taking away the creativity that classrooms need for an education system to excel.

This is happening in many countries around the world. In South Africa, Professor Jonathan Jansen, Vice Chancellor of the University of the Free State and a leading educational thinker on the continent says teachers are now “preparing young people for examinations rather than for deep and meaningful learning in the subject.” He argues that the country’s Annual National Assessments, which have recently become a bone of contention between the government and teachers’ unions, “distort the purposes of education at the bottom end of the system.”

This trend is happening including in the developed world. When Nancy Atwell, an American teacher of reading and writing, was announced as the winner of the $1 million 2015 Global Teacher Prize, the first time the award has been given, she lamented what has befallen the teaching profession in her country. In remarks that stirred a debate amongst Americans, Ms Atwell said she would not encourage young Americans to join the teaching profession in the state it is in today. Perhaps in the private schools, yes, but definitely not in the public education system. “If you’re a creative, smart young person, I don’t think this is the time to go into teaching.”

The Global Teacher Prize is considered to be the Nobel Prize for Teaching, so Ms Atwell’s words were greeted with shock and amazement by some. In August this year a teacher in the state of Michigan announced she was quitting teaching in the public education system to teach at a private school. She titled her essay, published on the Huffington Post, “Why I can no longer teach in public education.”

In the same month of August, Motoko Rich of the New York Times reported that between 2010 and 2014 enrolment into teacher preparation programmes dropped by 30 percent across the United States. Worse still, 40 percent of new teachers leave the profession within five years. Stories like these are becoming common around the world.

Last Saturday, 3 October the British newspaper The Independent reported on a survey done for the National Union of Teachers (NUT) that revealed that 53 percent of teachers in Britain are contemplating quitting the profession in the next two years. The top three reasons are “excessive workloads, poor pay and low morale.”

It would be interesting to know what the numbers look like for the teaching profession in Malawi or on the African continent. The only exception might be in countries where unemployment is so bad that quitting a job in hand is not an option. This happens to be the case in countries where unemployment is indeed very high and teachers remain in the teaching profession only because they have nowhere else to go. High unemployment is now becoming a global problem, affecting even the wealthiest of countries.

Such teachers only teach because they have no choice. Otherwise, they hate the job and everything to do with it. Such a scenario is very unfortunate because it is innocent children who get the brunt of these teachers’ anger and frustrations. Elephants fighting and the grass getting pulverized. Often things get to this point when teachers feel that they have nowhere to go to air their grievances; nobody is listening. Right now, that is how the majority of teachers feel, in Malawi and in much of the world.

The theme for the 2015 World Teachers Day is “Empowering teachers, building sustainable societies.” Another very powerful-sounding phrase, only if it can be put into action. It is such a gratifying, highly motivating theme, one that demonstrates the seriousness with which the teaching profession needs to be taken. We know societies where this is taken seriously, as earlier discussed. With the newly launched Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), sustainability has become such a powerful word, as Chiku Malunga has observed.

In Malawi, as in many countries, we have been lagging behind in terms of recognising the importance of teacher empowerment. While much of southern Africa has improved the minimum qualifications of teachers, involving universities in the education of teachers, in Malawi primary school teachers are trained in a way that can only be described as haphazard.

A two-year certificate, one year spent in college and one year in a classroom. There is very little academic rigour involved. The effort has been there to enhance primary teacher education and involve the universities, but it has been slow, halting, and uncoordinated. Things have picked up in recent years, and we are on the verge of a significant change.

It might be that President Mutharika’s words have been uttered at a propitious moment when the Ministry of Education has been thinking along the same lines, but it is a moment that must not be missed. At the continental level, the discourse is about the renewal of Africa; a rebirth of the continent; an African Renaissance. The African Union has launched an ambitious 50-year plan, to run from 2013 to 2063, known as Agenda 2063. Africans are slowly getting to learn about this agenda.

Although Agenda 2063 has very little in terms of strategy (it's not meant to be), it is a dream that perfectly captures “the Africa we want”, as is expressed in the document’s subtitle. I have argued elsewhere, and want to reiterate the assertion here, that Agenda 2063 and the African Renaissance will not be realised without the involvement of teachers. And this is where the importance of teachers who are highly educated, genuinely motivated and meaningfully empowered becomes poignant.

Agenda 2063 needs to be adopted into not just national development plans, but into educational policy and school curricula as well. That way, teachers will teach and students will learn inspired by a long-term Pan-African vision and spurred on by the dream of a better Africa whose planning and enactment start today. Only empowered teachers can understand and implement such a policy.

Empowerment, as one of my mentors taught me years ago, is not something someone hands to you. It is something one takes upon oneself. Teachers should not sit and wait for someone to come and empower them. They should empower themselves by organising themselves, speaking out on things that matter, and showing their students how to make learning problem-based and community-building.

As I have also argued elsewhere, Agenda 2063 needs to be translated into local African languages so as to enable ordinary Africans, the majority of whom do not speak English, to own it and make it part of their aspirations. As Cheikh Anta Diop pointed out in 1948, and as Ngugi wa Thiong’o has more recently stated, there cannot be a renaissance without the involvement of African languages. And as Kwesi Prah said in 2013, “No country can make progress on the basis of a borrowed language.”

This is not to say we must abandon Western languages, no. We need them. We have invested so much in them already, and continue, as I am doing this very moment. But we must equally invest in African languages so as to allow the majority of Africans, ninety percent of whom do not speak a Western language, to participate in the renewal. It cannot be the case that there is no indigenous genius in African villages unless one speaks a Western language. There can be no African Renaissance without the talents, creativity and brilliance of ordinary Africans being unleashed and expressed in their own languages.

The role of teachers in this endeavour will be pivotal. The best educated teachers serve as thought leaders and community enablers. They inspire young people by their knowledge of subject matter content as well as their intellectual curiosity about the world and its future. They impart to their students ethical standards (uMunthu/uBuntu) and a problem-solving ethos.

In other words, they embody the message in the words President Mutharika used when he was opening Chiradzulu Teachers College: “Teaching is the mother of all professions … Education is where we begin the making of a nation.” They may be empty, high-falutin, meaningless words spoken by every president, but they come at a time when teacher empowerment is becoming an ideal that can claim a central place in the rebirth of the Pan-African world.

As the SDGs kick into action, replacing the unachieved MDGs, President Mutharika has been appointed to serve as a co-convener on the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, chaired by former British Prime Minister and UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown.

Other co-conveners are the Norwegian Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, and UNESCO Director General, Irina Bokovo. The International Commission itself is made up of more than twenty world leaders, who include five former presidents and prime ministers and three Nobel laureates.

As the world celebrates teachers today, the words of President Peter Mutharika that "teaching is the mother of all professions" send an echo to all world leaders. The teachers of the world are not sitting and watching, waiting to be "empowered." They are empowering themselves. Happy World Teachers Day!

Dr Steve Sharra is a Malawian educationist and blogs at afrika aphukira.



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China’s economic downturn and its implications for the world

Daouda Cissé


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As China’s growth begins to slow following decades of fast development, what are the impacts on the resource-rich countries whose economies recorded impressive growth thanks to high levels of export to China?

The year 2012 marked the beginning of China’s new economic reforms, coinciding with a new leadership era. Prior to 2012, China had seen unprecedented economic growth, particularly from the exports of manufactured goods. Until recently, the comparative advantage that the country had in manufacturing - at times based on cheap labour and production costs - had a large part in creating a production surplus in order to supply overseas markets with ‘Made in China’ products. China’s economy has constantly gone through institutional reforms and structural changes, first to fit domestic needs, and second, to better integrate with the world economy.

China’s current economic situation (due to economic reforms, which are more centred on internal consumption rather than exports) has consequences beyond its borders, as the country’s economy is more and more integrated with the world economy in terms of both trade and investments. While China’s import of resources during a decade or two contributed to a global commodity price boom, its current slackening economy and declining mineral imports - not to forget the devaluations of the renminbi - have consequences for resource-rich countries which heavily export to China. These consequences can be seen in terms of economic slowdown, unemployment, decline of currency value and other issues. However these shifts in policy and economic overture have had implications at home, as well asforcing new choices abroad largely through their impact on the global commodity market. This piece analyses China’s current economic situation, its implications for the world commodity prices drop, and effect on the economies of Brazil, South Africa, Australia and Canada.


While the current economic reforms were intended to focus more on internal consumption rather than on exports of manufactured goods, this result has not been promising so far. At most, the shift has been incremental.

First of all, while the reforms implied less resource import, China has continued to show a growing interest in importing coal, copper, steel and other mineral products which are crucial to the country’s urbanisation. This continues to be a main priority for China; while its coastal cities have developed, the country’s officials aim at bridging the gap between urban and rural areas through massive inland infrastructure development projects. Such projects require a huge quantity of mineral and metal products. The modernisation of the railway system in China alone requires considerable amounts of steel. In order to secure strategic mineral products central to green technologies in the long run, China has imported significant quantities of rare-earths from abroad; which in conjunction with its domestic supplies makes the country one of the world’s largest reserves of rare mineral products.

Secondly, China has recently devalued its currency in order to boost its exports, which have been the backbone of its economy. Such devaluation of the renminbi is strategic, as it contributes to reactivate China’s exports and economic growth. While China’s economic growth has stood at over 10% p.a. for the past three decades, today it is between 7% and 6%. This raises concerns among Chinese officials and, as we have seen, among capital and commodity markets abroad.

But such a 360° turn in China’s economy shows the limitations of the economic reforms. Of course such a change has implications for both China’s domestic economy, and the world economy. If Chinese citizens dreamed of these reforms being politically necessary, and making a huge contribution to the life of the average Chinese citizen and the local economy, their dreams are currently on hold. While other countries were hoping to face less competition from Chinese exports - thereby enabling their manufacturing industries to re-emerge, the situation is not likely to change. The impacts of China’s current economic situation can be felt beyond Chinese shores.


For the past three decades, while China’s economic growth relied heavily on exports of manufactured goods, modernisation and industrialisation in the countryfocused mainly on imports of mineral resources from abroad, even though the country is resource-rich. China’s imports of coal, copper and steel among other mineral resources have made the country the largest importer of resources crucial to its economy. Countries like Brazil, South Africa, Australia, Canada, Zambia, Angola and Sudan - among others - have attracted Chinese mining and oil companies, which contribute to securing energy resources through the official Chinese policy of resource-security. In southeast Asia, the same companies have ventured to secure coal and copper deposits too.

The same countries in recent years have benefited from China’s interest in their resource sectors, through huge Chinese investments as well as infrastructure development via the building of refineries, pipelines and so forth. Such investments boosted the GDP of a number of countries, which for the past years have been among the world’s most stable or fastest economies. But China’s economic reforms, undertaken a few years ago, and which focus less on imports of resource commodities and concentrate more on the development of its service sector and service imports, constitute a changing trend for the resources market. China increasingly imports less resources, leading to a decline in world commodity prices, particularly in the mining industry. Such price drops have already been felt in Brazil, South Africa, Australia and Canada.


Brazil enjoyed a boom in the resources trade in the past decade. The country’s economic growth has mainly relied on resource exports. In 2012, resource exports represented 14% of Brazil’s GDP. While the country’s economy has grown significantly, thanks to the rise of world commodity prices and growing interest from China to import mineral products from overseas, Brazil has not managed to diversify and focus on other key sectors of its economy. Therefore the current decline of the world commodity market, and China’s economic slowdown, alongside Brazilian officials’ lack of long-term prospective goals to focus on other sectors of the economy (e.g. agriculture, manufacturing, and services) also very important; and contributed to Brazil’s current economic crisis.

Reliance on the Chinese market for resource exports has long-term consequences for Brazil’s economy. When the Chinese economy slows down due to economic reforms - which are aimed at boosting internal consumption, importing less resources and devaluing of the yuan, among other things - it is likely that the economies of resource-rich countries like Brazil will be vulnerable. China’s downturn demand for resources has contributed to a drop in world commodity prices, which undoubtedly affects Brazil’s mineral exports and currency value, and very likely the viability of some of its resource development projects.


South Africa’s economy strongly relies on the mining sector. But recently the sector has experienced strikes, leading to tensions between mining unions, companies and the state. China is one of the major importers of mineral products from South Africa. Chinese companies, including state-owned, private and small-and-medium-sized enterprises, are invested in the South African mining industry. However, China’s cheap imports of mineral products from South Africa have recently caused resentment in South African unions who asked the government to impose higher duties on these imports. China’s reforms to have less resource imports and the drop of global commodity prices have had an impact on South Africa’s mining industry.

Several mining contracts have been cancelled, leading to the suppression of jobs for thousands of miners across the country. For instance, Lonmin platinum mining has already announced it will cut 6,000 jobs following the suppression of mining contracts and mine exploitation. The long crisis in the South African mining sector between 2011 and 2014 did not make things easy for mining companies, which produced less, had to pay higher salaries and face increasing electricity costs. This all compounded the decrease in South Africa’s mining industry. While mining unions are organising themselves to counter the decisions of mining companies to cut jobs, the companies state that restructuring is necessary in order to keep their businesses running. Yet, in the current deteriorating situation of the South African economy, it seems that more re-adjustments will be necessary to save the mining industry and the overall economy.


Richly-endowed with mineral resources, Australia is a major resource exporter to China. Mining accounts for 10% of Australia’s GDP. The country’s mineral resource production satisfied China’s needs for a decade. For instance, iron ore exports to China between 2013 and 2014 accounted for 17% of Australia’s earnings. Since 2004, China has been Australia’s major export market for iron ore. Exports to China helped Australia suffer less during the 2008 economic crisis, compared to the degree at which it hit most developed countries. But China’s decreasing resource imports have seen Australia’s share of resource exports to China decline. The country’s terms of trade have also declined, due to the coal and iron ore price drops.

Australia has strategies to diversify its economy, and until recently, its trade with China was heavily dependent on mineral resources. To achieve diversification, the country relies on its agriculture and service sectors. Besides, Australia has a sovereign-wealth fund which could mitigate its current crisis situation.


Canada is the world’s 5th largest oil producer. While the country enjoyed the oil price boom for a long period, the current oil price drop is not without consequences for the overall economy. The United States has been the major importer, taking 24% of Canada’s oil imports. But with domestic U.S. production rising, Canadian interests are eyeing the Asian market, China in particular, which currently only receives 2% of Canada’s oil production and may increase this.

The diversification of oil export-markets for Canada is crucial if the country does not want to be stranded with the U.S. market alone. Surprisingly, U.S. demand for Canada’s oil is currently low due to its over production. Besides, Canada’s lack of infrastructure to export its oil to other regions of the world and the current oil price drop do not favour Canada’s oil sector. While the oil industry used to hire many people, today jobs are being cut. In 2015 alone, Alberta’s oil and gas sector lost 35,000 positions due to a low barrel price - from US$100 last year to US$44 currently. Besides cutting jobs, oil companies are also suspending dividends and cutting board compensation. Those measures contribute to lower expenditure and reduced capital budgets for the coming years.

During the oil boom, many companies invested in the oil sector, benefiting from the price increase. As Canada does not have control of global oil prices, and as interest in buying oil from Africa and the Middle East (where oil rich countries sell at a low price compared to global market price) are growing, Canada’s oil industry is no longer an el dorado even if the oil price crisis ends. Before the oil price drop, oil companies in Canada aimed at developing technologies to exploit the oil sands in the Alberta region and to expand their activities to oil refinery. But achieving such technological advances requires a lot of investment, and in the current crisis period is not a priority as the price of oil extracted from tar sands is not competitive. Its exploitation also already faces opposition because of environmental damage.

Canada exports other mineral products besides oil, particularly iron ore and nickel which are crucial for steel production. China is the world’s largest importer of iron ore and is an important export market for Canada’s mineral exports. In 2009, China imported 22.4% of pellets and 28.3% of concentrates from Canada. The Canadian iron ore sector offers competitive prices compared to the U.S. but at times, depending on the import country, the distance reduces the competitiveness of Canadian iron ore. China’s growing demand for resource imports benefited Canada’s mining and oil industries. Such huge demand for commodities from China contributed to shoring up other countries’ economies, including Canada’s, through the rise price of resources. But with China’s declining resource imports, Canada’s resource sector faces difficulties in selling to markets other than the U.S. Such difficulties are also complicated by the current crisis in the global resource market, with lower prices somewhat determined by emerging producers in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle-East.

In the current resources crisis, Canada needs to rethink its resource policies in order to resurge as a stable economy. But it is likely that Canada cannot do much, as the boom or decline of the country’s resource sector is linked to its export markets like the U.S. and China, alongside the production capacity and competitive prices of emerging resource-rich countries in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle-East, which contribute to shifting fundamentals in global resource markets.


China’s hunger for resources contributed to the economic growth of the world’s resource-rich countries. The current downturn of China’s economy impacts the global commodity price and the future of resource-rich economies. China’s urbanisation and modernisation during the last three decades helped resource-rich countries export coal, copper, steel and other mineral products (including rare-earths which are crucial for future green economies) necessary to the country’s economic transformation and industrialisation. Between 2004 and 2011, China’s dire needs for resources tripled the price of mineral products in the global market. While for a decade or so, the production capacity of countries rich in steel, copper, coal and oil increased, the current decline in demand and production excess have been the main reasons for the current situation in the resource sector, leading to the economic slowdown of many economies, unemployment, the depreciation of currency, and many other aspects.

* Daouda Cissé is Research Fellow at the China Institute, University of Edmonton, Alberta.



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An open letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron

Courtenay Barnett


cc SR
When viewed in the overall historical context of the 300 years of free labour building Britain during the slavery and colonial period, the 400 million pounds UK is offering the Caribbean as presumably an alternative payment for reparations is simply laughable. There remains a case for reparatory justice.

Dear Prime Minister Cameron,

I noted your recent generous offer of 25m pounds as a partial contribution for the repartition of Jamaicans imprisoned in Britain. The problem, as I understand it, is that since Britain is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) so then the appallingly bad prison conditions in Jamaica, if the UK convicts were transferred to a Jamaican prison, would breach the ECHR provisions and amount to cruel and inhumane treatment. Your offer then, being faced with a call for payment of reparations for slavery, is to substitute an offer of increased aid for the Caribbean and avoid reparations payments – is this not your strategy?

Seems less than clever at best and at worst a racist insult. Forget the examples of the Canadian apology to the First Nation natives and reparations paid by the Canadian government; or, the substantial payment to the Jews for a significantly shorter historical time of suffering a crime against humanity; or the apology by the Government of New Zealand and payment of reparations to the Maoris – simply ignore these – right? One really can’t deny that these quite recent precedents do exist – can one? So what makes the Caribbean claim that different?

The figure of 400m pounds to the Caribbean in aid, is a paltry sum when viewed in the overall context of the UK’s overseas aid budget, being more than £11 billion annually, with not much at all coming to the Caribbean as bilateral aid. More importantly, when viewed in the overall historical context of the 300 years of free labour building Britain during the slavery and colonial period, the figure offered as presumably an alternative payment for reparations is simply laughable.

Britain has no problem with the funding; it does, however, have a huge problem with its global credibility if this issue of reparations is viewed with honesty and sensibly with sensitivity and open eyes. It is a drop in the bucket for Britain to address this claim – but it seems as if some have no shame!

Consider your family’s own benefit by inserting the name Cameron to ascertain how much was paid as reparations to the Cameron slave owner family -

Might I also contrast your approach to payment with a reflection on British responsibility in a modern sense, for the care and protection of persons who suffer from mental illness in the Turks and Caicos Islands ( TCI)? The Islands do not have a mental hospital, but instead a section in the Lunatics Ordinance in the TCI requires transfer of the mentally ill to be hospitalised in Jamaica. Indeed the Turks and Caicos finds itself under ECHR jurisdiction. Yet, to save money the British Governor declared the prison a hospital for the care of the mentally ill. See below, the treatment of a Jamaican schizophrenic inmate, if you doubt me ( he died in his cell):-<>

Might I therefore suggest that for the UK to meet its ECHR responsibility in the Turks and Caicos Islands, the 25m pounds be diverted and applied now as a matter of necessity and urgency to its own British colony for a state of the art mental health hospital? Thus, then the UK meets its ECHR obligations in its own colony of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Prime Minister Cameron, I go further. It is absolutely appalling the approach that you have taken to this quite serious and important issue of reparations in the Caribbean. I shall substantiate and validate my last comment. It was you who recently referred to the “swarms” of refugees/ migrants into Europe. Do you not understand that it was British policy to support the US in its invasion of Iraq and then, as the whole world sees, made Iraq a ‘failed state’? Then even with that recent miscalculation the UK again was fully committed to the bombing and destruction of Libya. Tell me – where do the majority of these terrorists and refugees come from? Whose policies bred them; who funded and trained them; and – who now with astounding consistency wants to have the Caribbean abandon its claim for reparations? Who? There is nothing that you say and/or do that can be wrong – is it not so?

The real legacy and issue in the Caribbean is the lack of inter-generational capital at the end of the slavery and colonial period which can be discerned by considering the following data. This represents GDP per capita as sourced from the International Monetary Fund. Draw your own conclusions based on reliable sources.

In both a historical and contemporary sense there remains a case for reparatory justice. The way forward will have to be, by your choosing after having addressed the Jamaican Parliament, a case before the international Court of Justice and an assessment of the claim’s total value.

Again, the approach via aid is wholly inadequate. As you well know this is a device to get British companies overseas work; monies not even leaving Britain in certain instances; high-end professional jobs and consultancies on construction and other projects for British professionals; and at a disproportionate advantage to the donor country. “Aid” in this sense is false symbolism and not exactly reparations – is it not – and if your approach were to be accepted, you would in actuality be pacifying the Caribbean’s claim for reparations at knock down basement bargain price.

Let’s analyse for a moment. In the 1830s there was a politically motivated prolonging of the emancipation declaration. In fact, there were women groups and persons of conscience in Europe who well before Wilberforce and Pitt had wanted immediate emancipation. But, what actually happened? The politicians prolonged the process to ensure that they could pay to the enslavers ( and themselves) the spoils of the enslavement and then left the enslaved with not one jot for their centuries of extracted free labour. Is this not simply disgraceful? Do you not have a human conscience?

Look at what the Canadian and the New Zealand governments did – do you not have an iota of equivalent grace and dignity? When we move forward to the proposed 25m pounds prison ‘contribution’ to Jamaica are you for a moment in any way aware of what you are saying and doing? You are going back at least two centuries in your approach to this issue of reparations. First, the idea of paying not the group descended from the people who worked and laboured but the ones who by force, violence and torture had labour extracted for free over centuries is nothing short of disgraceful. Indeed that was then, and you, no doubt will say that this is now. But the British response as then is being replicated now. Why so? Well – you are offering to pay just about nothing and you are ensuring that yet again Britain takes all the lucre, but pretend that the UK is doing some great good for the Caribbean. Not so?

Your motive and approach is fully understood. However, weighing the horrors and contemporary consequences of slavery, is it you as Prime Minister or is it Britain as a country that is so shameless and blameless? Just consider the recent case of the Kenyan claims for compensation for being tortured in concentration camps during the Mau Mau period. The UK went as far as hiding some of the official records and files from the claimants’ lawyers, until discovered and released under court order.

Thus, here we go again. But, isn’t it not now time that we address this reparations claim in a mutually respectful, honest, dignified and just manner? No less should be sought; no less is deserved to the Caribbean.

Prime Minister Cameron, truth be told, I am a “nobody human rights lawyer”. You are perfectly free to ignore my correspondence – or – you might from your high office begin to consider the quite substantial issues I have raised. Myself, a humble person, not in the least with any state’s resources at my disposal. But – again - truth be told – I have my mind, my heart, my conscience and I would like to believe, the capacity of any other human being who believes that the cause that I have here defended and supported is a worthy and perfectly justifiable cause, and can now say ( to yourself Prime Minister Cameron) – why not so?


* Courtenay Barnett is a lawyer and reparations activist who has a law practice in the Caribbean where he resides.



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Jorge Risquet: Cuban revolutionary dies 40 years after Angola

His life exemplifies links between African revolution and Cuban internationalism

Abayomi Azikiwe


cc PAN
A committed revolutionary from his youth, Risquet led the Cuban delegation in the talks that resulted in the withdrawal of the apartheid army from southern Angola and the liberation of neighboring Namibia under settler-colonial occupation for a century. His last visit to Africa was in 2012 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Kwame Nkrumah’s death.

A leading figure in the formation of the Communist Party of Cuba and numerous heroic efforts on the African continent, Jorge Risquet Valdes-Saldana, passed away last week on September 28 at the age of 85.

Risquet was born on May 6, 1930, and later joined the revolutionary youth movement in 1943. He was Cuba's Representative and Head for Latin America in the World Federation of Democratic Youth and carried out an internationalist mission in Guatemala in 1954.

During the United States-supported Fulgencio Batista dictatorship he was kidnapped, tortured and incarcerated. He joined the Revolutionary Army in 1958 in the 2nd Frank País Eastern Front.

After the triumph of the Revolution, Risquet held the positions of Head of the Political Department and Head of Operations of the Army in the former Oriente Province. He served as Organization Secretary of the Provincial Committee of the United Party of the Socialist Revolution of Cuba in that province; head of the "Patricio Lumumba" Internationalist Battalion in Congo Brazzaville; Minister of Labor; and Head of the Cuban Civil Internationalist Mission in the People's Republic of Angola between 1975 and 1979.

From the earliest days of the Cuban Revolution the country expressed concrete solidarity with the African Liberation Movement. Racism was outlawed in Cuba and its internationalist outlook permeated the foreign policy of the state.

In October 1960, when the-then Cuban Premier Fidel Castro Ruz visited the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the revolutionary leader set up his residence at the Theresa Hotel in Harlem. Castro met with Malcolm X, a leading figure in the Nation of Islam, along with participating in a banquet with African American workers at the famous hotel.

After the imperialists undermined the national independence struggle in the former Belgian Congo, Che Guevara in an eloquent speech before the UN denounced the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the founder of the Congolese National Movement and placed the guilt for this crime squarely on imperialism. Guevara would lead a delegation of Cuban internationalists in 1965 to Congo in an attempt to reverse the course of the counter-revolution.


Even though the Congo campaign was not successful in defeating the counter-revolution in that mineral-rich country in 1965, a decade later the Cuban government would respond to a request by Agostino Neto, the leader of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), to assist the independence movement in defeating an invasion by the South African Defense Forces (SADF) and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) aimed at installing a puppet western-backed regime in Luanda. Between November 1975 and early 1976, some 55,000 Cuban internationalist troops were deployed which assisted the MPLA’s military wing FAPLA in defeating the SADF intervention and consolidating the national independence of Angola.

Cuban military units remained in Angola for 16 years fighting alongside the FAPLA forces as well as the South West Africa People’s Organization’s (SWAPO) military cadres of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) and the African National Congress (ANC) armed wing, Um Khonto We Sizwe (MK).

The U.S. and its allies in Pretoria, armed, funded and provided diplomatic cover for both Jonas Savimbi of UNITA and Holden Roberto of the FNLA based in the-then Zaire, which was renamed after the triumph of the counter-revolution in Congo-Kinshasha. UNITA proved to be the most formidable foe since it was given direct assistance by the CIA and the SADF then operating in South West Africa (Namibia) prior to its independence in 1990.

This struggle reached its climax in 1987-1988 with battles centered at Cuito Cuanavale where the SADF was routed and defeated in Angola. These battles would convince the racist regime in Pretoria and its backers within the Reagan and Bush administrations that a military defeat against the Southern African liberation movements was not possible.

A ceasefire was declared in late 1988 and firm negotiations were undertaken between the MPLA government in Angola and the apartheid regime. The U.S. and racist South Africa did not want the Cuban government involved in the talks aimed at the withdrawal of SADF forces from southern Angola and the independence process in Namibia.

Nonetheless, due to the overwhelming support of the-then Organization of African Unity (OAU), later renamed the African Union (AU), and progressive forces internationally, the Cubans were not only allowed into the talks but played a prominent role. The central role of Jorge Risquet in the talks enhanced his international prominence illustrating the significance of Cuba in the African revolutionary process.

Risquet led the Cuban delegation in the talks that resulted in the withdrawal of the apartheid army from southern Angola and the liberation of neighboring Namibia under settler-colonial occupation for a century. Internationally supervised elections were held in Namibia in late 1989 leading to the declaration of independence from apartheid on March 21, 1990 under the leadership of President Sam Nujoma of SWAPO, which won overwhelmingly in the elections.

The independence of Namibia and the ongoing mass and armed struggles in South Africa led by the ANC, forced the removal of P.W. Botha, the-then president of the apartheid regime, and the ascendancy of F.W. DeKlerk. The new regime began to indicate that it was willing to negotiate an end to the political crisis in South Africa.

On February 2, 1990, the ANC, the South African Communist Party (SACP) and other previously banned organizations were allowed to function openly. Nine days later, on February 11, Nelson Mandela was released after over 27 years of imprisonment in the dungeons of the racist apartheid system.

Four years later the ANC would win a solid majority and take power in South Africa sweeping out the dreaded system of apartheid. In a matter of less than two decades between 1975 and 1994, the system of white minority rule in Southern Africa was soundly defeated with the profound assistance of revolutionary Cuba.

In a keynote address in September 2012 in Ghana honoring the 40th anniversary of the death of Kwame Nkrumah, Risquet outlined Cuba's role in the African Revolution from the 1960s to the present period.

He stressed in his address the ancestral ties between the people of Cuba and the African continent that resulted from the Atlantic Slave Trade. He also paid tribute to the role Kwame Nkrumah, the leader of the independence movement in Ghana and its first prime minister and president for his role in the creation of the Organization in Solidarity with the Peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America (OSPAAL) formed in 1966 at the Tri-continental Congress in Havana.

Risquet said in Ghana: “This was the understanding with which Cuban fighters came to ancestral Africa to fight side by side with the people against colonialism and the oppressive apartheid regime. For 26 years, 381 thousand Cuban soldiers and officers fought alongside African populations; between April 24, 1965, when Ernest Che Guevara and his men crossed Lake Tanganyika, and May 25, 1991 when the remaining 500 Cuban fighters returned home triumphant.”

He went on to point out as well that: “Among these internationalists were three of the Five Anti-terrorist Heroes currently held (now released) in the Imperialist’s prison. 2, 400 Cuban internationalist fighters lost their lives on African soil. Today we no more send soldiers. Now, we send doctors, teachers, builders, specialists in various fields.”

Tributes to Risquet were delivered by the ANC of South Africa, the MPLA of Angola and other revolutionary parties and organizations throughout the world.

* Abayomi Azikiwe is Editor, Pan-African News Wire.



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Alprentice “Bunchy" Carter would have rode with Nat Turner

Norman (Otis) Richmond, aka Jalali


cc IAT
Carter was an iconic black revolutionary from Los Angeles who made a notable contribution to Africa, Africans and oppressed humanity. We should remember him every October 12.

“If Bunchy had been on the same plantation as Nat Turner you can believe he would have rode with Nat Turner. That’s the type of person Bunchy was.” -Kumasi

NBC television has resurrected Al Prentice “Bunchy" “Carter” with a new series called ‘Aquarius’. The imperialist media has brought back both Carter and Charles Manson. Carter was an iconic black revolutionary from Los Angeles. Manson was a cold-blooded serial killer who led the Manson Family that murdered many in California. Somehow Hollyweird has united these two polar opposites for television. It is not that weird when we understand that these forces are part of the state whose job it is to keep Africa, Africans and all oppressed people confused.

Gerald Horne whose upcoming volume is "Confronting Black Jacobins: The
U.S. the Haitian Revolution, and the Origins of the Dominican Republic" taught Carter's daughter Danon at the University of California, Santa Barbara and has written extensively on Hollywood. Horne says Hollywood has done a number on Africans in America from "Birth of a Nation” to “Gone With The Wind” depicting black women as mammies, servants and sex objects. . Linden Beckford, Jr. a graduate of Grambling University is currently writing a biography of Carter.

Unlike Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver and George Jackson, Carter has almost been forgotten from the history of Africans in America except for diehards. Yes, the Fugees (Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, and Pras Michel) mention Carter on the 1996 soundtrack film “When We Were Kings” about the famous "Rumble in the Jungle" heavyweight championship match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman which took place in 1974. And, yes, M-1 and Stickman (dead prez) did “B.I.G. respect”, a song on their Mix tape “Turn off the Radio” that mentions Carter. Elaine Brown, who was the first woman to head the Black Panther Party when Huey P. Newton was in exile in Cuba recorded the song “Assassination” about Carter and John Huggins.

Who were Carter and John Huggins and why are they important for the 21st Century? Carter was born on October 12, 1942 in Shreveport,Louisiana. He was assassinated on January 17, 1967 along with John Huggins (February 11, 1945 – January 17, 1969) at Campbell Hall at UCLA in Los Angeles. Huggins was born in New Haven, Connecticut. He was briefly enlisted in the United States Navy before attending Lincoln University, where he met his wife Ericka Huggins. They moved together to Los Angeles and both became deeply involved in the Black Panther Party. Huggins had a Caribbean connection. His father was born in Nevis and his mother was born in the United States. Unlike Carter, Huggins was from a relatively well-off middle class background. Carter’s background was working class.

It is a tragic coincidence in history that eight years before Carter and Huggins joined the ancestors the first democratically elected president of the Congo, Patrice Emery Lumumba, Joseph Okito, vice-president of the Senate and Maurice Mpolo, sports and youth minister, were killed by an unholy alliance of the CIA, Belgian imperialism, and other agents of imperialism headed by Mobuto Sese Seko Ngbendu Wa Za Banga aka Colonel Joseph Mobuto on January 17,1961.

Carter and Huggins were gunned down by members of the cultural nationalist, US Organization. An FBI memo dated November 29, 1968 described a letter that the Los Angeles FBI office intended to mail to the Black Panther Party office. This letter, which was made to appear as if it had come from the US Organization, described fictitious plans by US to ambush BPP members. The FBI memo stated that "It is hoped this counterintelligence measure will result in an 'US' and BPP vendetta.”

Many feel that the leader of US, Ron Karenga was working for the other side. An article in the Wall Street Journal described Karenga as a thriving businessman - specializing in gas stations – who maintained close ties to eastern Rockefeller family, and L.A's Mayor Sam Yorty pointed out Michael Newton in the volume, “Bitter Grain: Huey P. Newton and the Black Panther Party”. The Wall Street Journal article said, “A few weeks after the assassination of Martin Luther King ...Mr. Karenga slipped into Sacramento for a private chat with Governor Reagan, at the governor’s request. The black nationalist also met clandestinely with Los Angeles police chief Thomas Reddin after Mr. King was killed.”

At that moment in history many cultural nationalists maintained that the cultural revolution must take place before a political one could proceed. Huey P. Newton, the co-founder of the Black Panther Party, countered with the view that, “We believe that culture itself will not liberate us. We’re going to need some stronger stuff.”

The Black Panther Party led by Newton and Bobby Seale was like the African National Congress of South Africa (ANC). It was an anti-imperialist alliance; many like Carter embraced revolutionary nationalism while others like Newton, George Jackson and Fred Hampton took a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist (MLM) position. Hampton openly said he was fighting for socialism leading to communism.

Carter was a firm supporter of the Native American struggle. It was Carter who changed Elmer Pratt into Geronimo ji-Jaga Pratt (September 13, 1947- June 2, 2011) after the great Native American warrior. Geronimo "the one who yawns" (June 1829 – February 17, 1909) was a prominent Apache leader who fought against Mexico and Arizona for their expansion into Apache tribal lands for several decades during the Apache Wars. Geronimo replaced Carter as the Deputy Minister of Defense of the Southern California Chapter of the BPP after Carter was taken out. Carter left a memo saying his wish was for Geronimo to replace him.

While not an anti-communist, before joining the Party Carter was recruited by Raymond “Maasi” Hewitt to a Maoist study group called the Red Guard. I was a part of the same group; however, Carter came in after I left Los Angeles. Carter was influenced by Jean-Jacques Dessalines of Haiti and Dedan Kimathi of the Land and Freedom Army (so-called Mau Mau). The Los Angeles Chapter under Bunchy leadership required that members take the Mau Mau Oath.

Here is the Mau Mau Oath:

“I speak the truth and vow before God

And before this movement.

The movement of Unity,

The Unity which is put to the test

The Unity that is mocked with the name of "Mau Mau.

That I shall go forward to fight for the land,

The lands of Kirinyaga that we cultivated.

The lands which were taken by the Europeans

And if I fail to do this

May this oath kill me

May this seven kill me,

May this meat kill me”

Carter and a small segment of people who lived in my area of Los Angeles had an international world-view. He was a legendary figure in my neighborhood. After he was released from prison he attended Los Angeles City College. Carter was my senior and I didn’t meet him until he was released from jail. He and others like Sigidi Abdullah, (S.O.S Band), “Take Your Time (Do It Right)”, Rhongea Southern (now Daar Malik El-Bey) who worked closely with Abdullah, Earl Randall, who went on to work with Willie Mitchell at Hi Records and wrote Al Green’s “God Bless Our Love”, Fred Goree who became Masai Karega Kenyatta and a DJ on WCHB 1440AM in Detroit went to L.A.C.C. at the same time.

Sigidi told me that Carter asked him to organize a talent show at L.A.C.C. I remember singing the Spinners, "I'll Always Love You" at this event. El-Bey was my guitarist.

Carter's political consciousness was raised before he joined the Black Panther Party. According to Kumasi, who Huey P. Newton asked to replace Carter as the leader of the Southern California Chapter of the BPP talked to me about the L.A. legend. Says Kumasi, “When Malcolm X first came to Los Angeles he built the first outpost right there in our neighborhood. The Mosque (Temple 27) itself was close to us and all of us had visited the Mosque. As a matter of fact, Bunchy, and many of the Renegade Slausons (Bunchy had his own set of Slausons inside the Slausons) were the first youth Fruit of Islam (FOI) in L.A. Carter was only 15 years old at that moment of history.

Carter was a 20th Century Renaissance man. He was great at many things: a poet and a singer. Elaine Brown has written that many
Panthers sang together. "John (Huggins) sang bass, to my contralto and Bunchy’s falsetto"; he was also a great dancer. David Hilliard maintains that if it were not for racism Carter may have become an Olympic swimmer. Brown says while all this is true Carter was first and foremost a revolutionary. This is extraordinary if you consider that Carter suffered a childhood bout of polio, and moved to Southern Central L.A., where his mother Nola Carter enrolled him in a “therapeutic” dance class.

Carter’s Louisiana-born mother is still in the land of the living at the time of this writing. She is almost a century old and has lost two sons. Arthur Morris, Carter’s older step-brother who acted as Carter’sbodyguard. Morris was the first member of the BPP to lose his life. He was killed in March of 1968. Little Bobby Hutton (who was influenced by Carter was killed on April 6, 1968]. Her youngest son Kenneth Fati Carter is currently locked down in Pelican Bay Prison in California.

Raymond Nat Turner’s (Black Agenda Report’s poet-in-residence] mother, Caffee Greene, hired Carter to work at the Teen Post in Los Angeles. Greene first hired Raymond “Maasi” Hewitt who was replaced by Carter. It was at the Teen Post that I first heard Eldridge Cleaver speak. Cleaver and Carter were both Nation of Islam Ministers in prison. Turner saw the cultural side of Carter. Says Turner, “Yeah, I heard Bunchy sing Stevie's "I'm Wondering" and "I Was Made to Love her" and I used to hear Tommy (Lewis) play piano at the Teen Post my mom directed.' He continued. “It was also fun to watch Bunchy
dance—Philly Dog, Jerk & Twine...a lil’ 'Bitter Dog' with the Philly Dog ever once in a while... "Bebop Santa from the Cool North Pole". "Black Mother" were also great to hear.” Tommy Lewis, Robert Lawrence and Steve Bartholomew were murdered by the Los Angeles police at a service station on August 25, 1968.

Kumasi opines that Carter and George Jackson were like Henri Christophe and Jean-Jacques Dessalines. While they were well-versed in history, revolutionary theory and current events both were soldiers ready to take to the battlefield. Carter made a contribution to Africa, Africans and oppressed humanity. We should remember him every October 12.

*Norman (Otis) Richmond, aka Jalali, was born in Arcadia, Louisiana, and grew up in Los Angeles. He left Los Angles after refusing to fight in Viet Nam because he felt that, like the Vietnamese, Africans in the United States were colonial subjects. Jalali is producer/host for the Diasporic Music show on every Sunday at 2pm ET. His column Diasporic Music appears monthly in The Burning Spear newspaper. He can be contacted [email protected]



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IRRI Rights in Exile Newsletter: October 2015 issue


The October 2015 issue of the International Refugee Rights Initiative’s Refugee Legal Aid Newsletter (formerly the Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Newsletter) is out. Find the full newsletter here.

Comment & analysis

Ethiopia’s new parliament: Inauguration of electoral authoritarianism

Eyob Balcha Gebremariam


In May the ruling party claimed to have won an incredible 100 per cent of the seats in a country that has nearly 80 political parties that contested the elections. And the regime’s allies around the world keep churning out reports of rapid economic development – while turning a blind eye to the widespread repression by the dictatorship.

The new Ethiopian parliament was officially opened on Monday, 5 October, 2015. The best depiction that can capture the essence of this new parliament is its paramount role in the consolidation of electoral authoritarianism in Ethiopia. The parliament got its mandate from a regular election that was held on 24 May 2015. The election happened in a context where the ruling party massively manipulated state resources and institutions and established structures of political control down to each household level especially in the rural areas. There were also substantiated cases of harassment, intimidation, imprisonment and extra-judicial killings of opposition party members including candidates both in the pre- and post-election period. As a result, the ruling party and its affiliates claimed to have won 100 per cent of the parliament seats. Hence the entire processes of the election were nothing but practices of putting a democratic mask to an authoritarian face.

In this new parliament, 20 years after its inception, Ethiopians witnessed a new prime minister taking the oath. During the last four parliaments, what remained constant was the person who was taking the premiership. The late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi presided over all the previous parliaments. He is best described as ‘a leader who tried to make dictatorship acceptable’. After his unexpected death in August 2012, his successor Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn too the oath. Ethiopia now has only the fourth leader (excluding short-term transitional leaders) in the last seven decades of its political history.

Compared to the previous parliament the ruling party adds only two seats which were previously won by an opposition party and an independent. Numerically it might not be significant to move from 99.6 per cent to 100 per cent. However, this has a huge symbolic meaning to millions of Ethiopian citizens. Two decades after adopting a constitution that installed multi-party democracy, the last two elections proved the opposite. The ruling party has become very effective in rendering all constitutionally guaranteed institutions and practices of democracy void to establish a de facto one party state.


On the international scene, two different but not unrelated narratives dominate Ethiopia’s image. On the one hand reports coming out from organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Committee to Protect Journalists focus on the severe violations of civil and political rights by the Ethiopian regime. There are well-substantiated cases in this regard. These include: the killing and mass arrest of Oromo student protesters, the case of Zone Nine bloggers in prison for more than 500 days with a bogus charge, the imprisonment of political party leaders charged with terrorism, and the increasing harassment and persecution of journalists. The most horrendous aspect of such cases is that they are presented at court to give a fake image of due process of law. However, the truth is court has now become the epic centre of serious violation of rights. It is where justice is denied and political priorities prevail.

On the other hand, there are also reports coming out from UNDP, World Bank and most recently from Overseas Development Institute (ODI). The central focus of these reports is praising the success of the Ethiopian regime for reducing poverty rate, for increasing agricultural production and enhancing access to education, health and roads. The high and sustained economic growth of nearly 11% for more than a decade, the successful social protection programs and the cautious and effective development of planning constitute the core of this success story. Most of these reports recognize the significant and measurable improvements on the overall wellbeing of the majority of Ethiopian citizens.

Most of the times, both kinds of reports fail to speak to each other in a systematic manner. Hence the bigger picture of politics of development remains elusive. Especially reports that focus on the economic growth success of the regime usually emphasise that their focus is not on governance or politics. Usually such kind of a statement is followed by wanting political analysis that is hardly integrated to inform the central position of the reports. The reports remain very technocratic by over-emphasizing technical capacity of planning, policy synergy and effective execution. For instance, the latest report by ODI recognizes the remarkable determination of the government to put farmers’ training centres in every village. However there is a limited effort of exploring the political significance of these training centres in ensuring the unparalleled dominance of the ruling party. There is limited effort to explicate the political relevance of such developmental institutions or structures and developmental purposes of political structures. Such limitations only tell the story of a half-full glass without reasonably reflecting on the half-empty.

However in the everyday life of Ethiopians, both the rosy images of remarkable economic growth and pro-poor government investment coexist with an increasingly repressive political context. And the incumbent regime that aspires to build a democratic developmental state seems in control of this situation. Since the government seeks to derive its legitimacy from what it delivers, it uses reports that commend its success to justify its authoritarian rule. On the other hand, the critical reports are always regarded as attacks from fanatic neoliberal actors that seek to destabilize the country.

For the coming five years, the new parliament will preside over the modernist mission of the government to bring the country to the levels of a middle-income by 2025. There is very little hope for change with regard to the political situation. But the economic growth will continue steadily since its political relevance is unquestionable for the regime.

To conclude, the inherently intertwined nature of political repression and economic growth is well captured by one joke that revolves around the recently inaugurated light rail transport system in Addis Ababa. This 34 km railway that crosses the city north-south and east-west cost $475 million. People are sarcastically saying that it will make their frequent travel to visit hundreds of political prisoners in Kality and Kilinto, on the southern outskirts of the city, easier.

* Eyob Balcha Gebremariam is PhD Researcher at Brooks World Poverty Institute, University of Manchester, UK). Personal blog:



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The plight of African refugees in Israel

Alessandra Di Cataldo


Israel has implemented a two-step plan to reduce the number “infiltrators” from Africa. The first step has been to stop the flow of asylum seekers into the country by constructing an expansive fence on the Egyptian border. Second, an old law has been updated to keep asylum seekers in detention without trial for a year. Additionally, refugees are being repatriated to third countries without consent.

Since the announcement of its new policy on 31 March 2015, Israel has begun to force Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers within its borders to choose between so-called “voluntary departure” and indefinite detention. While in the past the Israeli government has offered asylum seekers $3,500 to leave the country, as long as they signed a written consent form, the new policy provides that asylum seekers have 30 days to leave Israel with or without the consent of the individuals in question. The only alternative to leaving is now indefinite detention in Saharonim Prison in the Negev, which is a violation of international law. As Amnesty International has reported, Israel’s new amendments do not abide by its international legal obligations under several international conventions, including the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. The International Refugee Rights Initiative has recently published a report on the “voluntary departure” of African asylum seekers from Israel to Rwanda and Uganda, pointing out that those who choose to do this are under a great deal of pressure, and laying out the steps that should be taken to combat Israel’s actions in the future.

Israel’s siege mentality has led to the labelling of asylum seekers as “infiltrators” and the refusal to grant Eritreans and Sudanese in Israel refugee status. Globally, these two nationalities are among those with the highest recognition rates for asylum claims; Eritreans receive recognition in 84.5 percent and Sudanese in 74.4 percent of cases. Israel, however, has not granted refugee status to a single Sudanese asylum seeker, and to only four Eritreans.

While many asylum seekers believed that Israel, with its reputation as a safe haven for Jews around the world, would be welcoming to those in need, the government has demonstrated a sense of hospitality only to Jewish African asylum seekers. While this group has been welcomed with open arms, Israel has implemented a two-step plan to reduce the number the non-Jewish “infiltrators” from Africa. The first step has been to stop the flow of asylum seekers into the country, by constructing an expansive fence on Israel’s border with Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Since the border fence was constructed, new arrivals have decreased more than 99 percent between 2012 and 2013. Secondly, Israel has amended the pre-existing Anti-Infiltration Law so as to be able to keep new arrivals in detention for one year without trial, followed by “additional indefinite detention in a specially constructed internment camp operated by the Israeli Prison Service,” as well as forcing asylum seekers already living in Israel to report for detention.

On top of this, Israel has begun the practice of deporting asylum seekers to third countries— Rwanda and Uganda. The problem with these deportation deals is that while both Israel and the recipient countries benefit—Israel gets rid of its “infiltration” problem and Rwanda and Uganda receive economic benefits and reportedly arms and agricultural technology—the asylum seekers themselves do not benefit and may be exposed to harm.

According to the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants based in Tel Aviv, asylum seekers are dropped into these countries unable “to rent an apartment, work, or file an asylum claim.” Many of the asylum seekers deported to third countries end up fleeing for a second time, often towards the Mediterranean in the hopes of getting to Europe. While Israel refers to the deportations as “voluntary departure,” there is nothing voluntary about the choice between indefinite detention and deportation to a third country where the asylum seeker will have few rights.

Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers are mistreated at every step of the way: oppression in their home countries, indefinite detention in Israel or “voluntary” deportation from the country, where xenophobic protests have increased.

Israel must be held accountable for its actions towards asylum seekers and its very low rate of recognition of refugees. While no mechanism to do so currently exists, Israel could be held accountable in other ways. For example, drawing international media attention to the plight of African asylum seekers there or external monitoring of its asylum system might pressure the government to alter its policies. Deporting Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers to Rwanda and Uganda is simply shifting the burden, not eliminating the problem itself. For a country that prides itself on being a haven for those looking for refuge, Israel is far from living up to its own standards concerning the treatment of asylum seekers.

* This article is carried in the present issue of Rights in Exile newsletter.



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Buhari is not alone, join or resign now!

Rex Essenowo


All well-meaning Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora must now rise up and join to return looted wealth that is stashed away abroad, and to fight grand corruption at home. It is time bring back decency in government and restore human dignity to the people.

As we celebrate our 55th Independence Day Anniversary of our dear country, Nigeria, on this day, 1 October 2015, I congratulate you all fellow Nigerians, brothers, sisters and friends of our dear country!

Let me use this opportunity to join my voice to the call made by President Buhari to world leaders at the 70th United Nations General Assembly, for the leaders to help return Nigeria’s stolen treasures hidden in their territories.

We must intensify our commitments to this task on a daily basis, in every meeting, every visit, every occasion for the next four years, or eight years and thereafter, both in and outside Nigeria. All independent minds must unite to this resolution to forge out the way to true freedom and justice.

We Nigerians in particular and Africans in general can no longer afford wasting our precious time and resources with thieves and dishonest individuals who continue to abuse public trust. We employ public officers, and pay them heavily, for them to build up our economies and secure our commonwealth.

I will advise that all Nigerian public officers, already appointed by President Buhari, or elected to this present administration, who are not ready to pursue the setup goals as demanded by the President and the Nigerian people must resign now before it is too late. The same goes to future Ministers to be appointed.

They must not accept their cabinet portfolios if they are not ready to join this fight and pronounce it publicly throughout their tenure in office .There will be no time limit because majority of Nigerians both at home and in the Diaspora are behind the President and we want our treasures back. We are not just watching but we shall intensify the fight from now on with all possible means.

We have gone a long way as an independent nation together but much is still left to be desired; so we can no longer afford to be at the losing end with devastated states of infrastructure, poverty, a worsening healthcare system and rising unemployment in the country.

We need good roads, railways, aviation, industries, adequate food production, uninterrupted power supply and many other things to develop our country to the 21st century level and keep our people out of poverty. That is our immediate task to achieve, so as to attain our Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

I call on all well meaning Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora to rise up and join this fight, because this is the time to bring back our looted treasures, bring back decency in government and restore human dignity to our people. We must utilize this rare opportunity so as to put things in order and clarify ourselves before generations to come.

We, the Nigerian people, did not hire anyone to loot our treasure, so any public officer who did that abused his office and violated the terms of the contract.

We join our voices to call on all nations, great and small, from East to West, Middle East and Asia, from America to Europe, South America to Australia, From Atlantic to Pacific Coasts, Islands, organizations and companies, to help the Nigerian people discover the loot in their territories; help sanitize our world, discourage corruption and expose all individuals, who by their actions subject the African people to abject poverty, hunger and suffering.

With your support, the Nigerian and African people will ever remain grateful and history will never forget your kind gesture.

Happy Independence Day once again to all!

Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

* Rex Essenowo is a Moscow-based consultant, a management economist and currently the chairman of the Nigerians in the Diaspora Organisation (NIDO Russia)



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Advocacy & campaigns

It’s official: 19 European countries say ‘No’ to GMOs

Lorraine Chow


Although GMOs are widely grown in many parts of the world, the topic is fraught with contention in Europe. Many of EU countries have strict laws against GMOs out of public health and environmental concerns.

The final tally of the massive European anti-GMO wave has been reached now that the Oct. 3 deadline to notify the European Commission has passed. A total of 19 EU countries have “opted out” of growing genetically modified (GMOs) crops within all or part of their territories.

These governments have taken the “opt-out” clause of a European Commission rule passed in March that allows its 28-member bloc to abstain from growing GMO crops, even if they are already authorized to be grown within the union.

According to Reuters, the member states specifically targeted the cultivation of Monsanto’s MON 810 maize, the only GMO crop grown in Europe (just in Spain and Portugal), and is currently under review at the European level.

A European Commission spokesman Enrico Brivio confirmed to Reuters that the 19 countries opting out are: Austria, Belgium for the Wallonia region, Britain for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia.

As RT noted, Belgium and the UK are applying the opt-out rule for only part of their territories, while Germany requested a partial opt-out in order to pursue more GMO research.

Companies have been notified of the members’ requests and have one month to react to the decisions.

Although GMOs are widely grown in many parts of the world, the topic is fraught with contention in Europe. Many of EU countries have strict laws against GMOs out of public health and environmental concerns, and all 28 nations require GMO labeling.

With this latest news, it looks like many European countries want to deal with this contentious issue within their own borders. “As the number of requests from member states shows, national governments are now using this legislation to have a greater say on cultivation on their respective territories,” the EU’s executive arm in Brussels said in a statement on Sunday.

Many environmental groups have applauded the national GMO crop bans. “A clear majority of the EU’s governments are rejecting the Commission’s drive for GMO crop approvals,” Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg said in a statement last week.

“They don’t trust EU safety assessments and are rightly taking action to protect their agriculture and food,” Achterberg continued. “The only way to restore trust in the EU system now is for the Commission to hit the pause button on GMO crop approvals and to urgently reform safety testing and the approval system.”

Monsanto has yet to release a statement about the European GMO opt-out trend, but said earlier this month it would respect the decisions of Latvia and Greece after the two nations decided to stamp out GMOs.

The multinational agribusiness giant told Reuters that since the growth of GMO-crops in Europe is so small, the opt-outs will not affect their business.

However, the company said that the two countries were ignoring science and refusing GMOs out of “arbitrary political grounds,” adding that the decision “contradicts and undermines the scientific consensus on the safety of MON810.”

* This article was previously published by EcoWatch.

Lack of political and judicial will undermining Mauritania’s anti-slavery law, sudy saya


The report, drawing on a number of case studies, faults the criminal justice process at all stages: from lack of initial police follow up, inadequate investigation by prosecutors, to judges not enforcing proper procedure or sentencing in compliance with the law.

The government of Mauritania should fully implement a recently adopted anti-slavery law to demonstrate it is serious about ending slavery, says Minority Rights Group International (MRG) in a new report.

The report, ‘Enforcing Mauritania’s Anti-Slavery Legislation: The continued failure of the justice system to prevent, protect and punish’, investigates why an earlier 2007 law was unsuccessful in eradicating slavery.

The 2007 anti-slavery law remains largely unenforced, as all those involved in the criminal justice system, including the police and judiciary, are not adequately addressing instances of slavery brought to their attention, says the report.

‘Since the creation of the law, there has been only one conviction of a slave owner, despite the continued widespread practice of slavery in Mauritania. Even then, the sentence handed down was less than the minimum set down in the law, and the convicted slave master was promptly released on bail pending his appeal,’ says Carla Clarke, MRG’s Senior Legal Officer.

‘It takes great courage for those held in slavery to come forward, but when they do they are constantly let down by the criminal justice system, with police not investigating their claims or pressure from prosecutors for them to drop those claims. If the 2015 law is to stand any better chance of success, the failings in the implementation of the previous law need both to be acknowledged and addressed,’ Clarke adds.

Mauritania was the last country to abolish slavery in 1981, but the practice persists today, predominantly perpetrated by the Moor ethnic group and affecting mainly the Haratine ethnic group. Those Haratine who remain in slavery are treated as the property of their masters, living under their direct control and receiving no payment for their work. The new law, on paper at least, strengthens earlier 2007 legislation, with higher sentences and opportunities for human rights organisations to represent victims.

The report, drawing on a number of case studies, faults the criminal justice process at all stages: from lack of initial police follow up, inadequate investigation by prosecutors, to judges not enforcing proper procedure or sentencing in compliance with the law.

‘The common thread from all examined cases is not only a widespread lack of will to punish the crime of slavery, but also the collusion of various authorities to prevent enforcement of the anti-slavery law,’ says Sarah Mathewson, Africa Programme Co-ordinator at Anti-Slavery International , who co-authored the report.

Despite ratifying international and regional human rights conventions supporting abolition of slavery, there is still [url= practice and acceptance of slavery in Mauritania[/url], a reality which continues to obstruct victims from accessing justice.


• The report, Enforcing Mauritania’s Anti-Slavery Legislation: The continued failure of the justice system to prevent, protect and punish, can be downloaded from MRG’s website on 5 October 2015
• Watch an MRG film about Haratine women in Mauritania and read a previous report on slavery.

• For more information and to arrange interviews please contact:

MRG’s Africa Press Office
Mohamed Matovu
M: +256 782 748 189
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @MinorityRights

Anti-Slavery International
Press Officer Jakub Sobik
M: +447789 936 383
Email: [email protected]

Johanna Green, Program Manager, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO)
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +32 48 371 3993

For German speakers
Ulrich Delius, Society for Threatened Peoples
E mail: [email protected]
Tel.: +49 551 499 06 27


Executive Assistant - Dakar

Permanent €29,474 per annum Closing Date: 14th October 2015


Amnesty International


cc A I
Amnesty International is moving closer to the ground! Our West Africa Regional Office, located in Dakar, works to ensure respect for human rights, and for equal and just societies throughout the region. You’ll provide substantial support to help our management team to succeed. The West Africa Regional Director is a central figure and is seeking a driven and team-oriented person to provide substantial administrative support and assist with her busy agenda.


As the Executive Assistant to the West Africa Regional Director at Amnesty International, you will play an essential role in enabling the Americas leadership to meet ambitious human rights objectives. You will be responsible for providing a range of high-level administrative and other support services to ensure the efficient running of the Director Office. The Regional Director’s work should be effectively supported with the appropriate service, systems and processes to maintain high standards and facilitate monitoring and reporting on work undertaken. Alongside this, the Executive Assistant will also provide full administrative and project management support to the office Team, whilst also contributing to the support of the West Africa management Team.


As the first point of contact for the Regional Director you will be a strong communicator, providing a high-level service to a range of stakeholders. You will be based in Dakar but in constant communication with relevant internal and external contacts in the West Africa region, and other world locations, be detail-oriented, be able to work at pace and to juggle independently the broad requirements of a role at this level of seniority. You must demonstrate the political judgement and discretion to manage sensitive information in addition to the initiative and discipline necessary to working with conflicting priorities and complex activities within a short time frame on a daily basis. You will also have excellent administrative and financial skills with the ability to monitor budgets for individual programmes and the Regional Director office as a whole. You also need to have strong inter-personal skills to secure access to high-level contacts with government officials, and other senior leaders in the public, private and NGO sectors. You are bilingual in French and English.


Amnesty International is a global movement of more than 7 million people who campaign for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all. We reach almost every country in the world and have:
• more than 2 million members and supporters who drive forward our fight for rights
• more than 5 million activists who strengthen our calls for justice
Our aim is simple: an end to human rights abuses. Independent, international and influential, we campaign for justice, fairness, freedom and truth wherever they're denied. And whether we're applying pressure through powerful research or direct lobbying, mass demonstrations or online campaigning, we're all inspired by hope for a better world. One where human rights are respected and protected by everyone, everywhere. We can only do this because of the generous donations from millions of people around the world.

For more information and to apply, please click on the apply link:
View Job Description

Finance and Office Assistant - Nairobi

Closing Date: 8th October 2015 Fixed Term Contract - 6 months $28,287 USD


Amnesty International


cc A I
For over 50 years, we’ve been campaigning for human rights wherever justice, freedom and truth are denied. We’ve reshaped policies, challenged governments and taken corporations to task. In doing so, we’ve changed thousands of lives for the better. Join Amnesty at our new regional office in Kenya and you will too.


The role is a six month maternity cover, working with the Finance and Office Manager to take control of all things finance for our East Africa regional office, and you’ll play a key part in shaping the International Secretariat’s presence in the region. Supporting and participating in implementing our global policies and putting in place local processes and systems will be instrumental to our initial and ongoing operational success. As you would expect, you will support in monitoring budgets, regularly reporting to local and international management and ensuring we meet all the relevant statutory and regulatory requirements. As well as supporting in managing payroll and cash flow, you’ll have responsibility for facilities management, legal compliance, IT and a range of HR activities. This will include securing visas for international staff, assisting in training and ensuring HR best practices. You will be technologically-savvy able to provide assistance on matters IT related with the back-up of our global hub in London.


A qualified accountant with hands on skills in administration, you will be able to easily build working relationships not only with relevant government departments but also with suppliers. You will already be excellent when it comes to monitoring budgets and advising staff on matters related to budgets. You will be more than being methodical, organized and flexible, but also confident in communicating with staff at all levels. The scope of your experience will already be proven in areas related to accounting, administrative, HR, IT and legal systems. You’ll be experienced in HR matters, customer focused and fluent in both English and Kiswahili.
About us:
Our aim is simple: to bring the world closer to a place where human rights are enjoyed by all. Independent, international and influential, we campaign for justice, freedom and truth wherever they’re denied. Already our network of over three million members and supporters is making a difference in 150 countries. And whether we’re applying pressure through powerful research or direct lobbying, mass demonstrations, human rights education, or online campaigning, we’re all inspired by hope for a better world. One where human rights are respected and protected by everyone, everywhere.

For more information and to apply, please click on the apply link.
View Job Description


Deadline for bursary applications: 15 October 2015


cc APR
The South African Research Chair initiative (SARChI) in Applied Poverty Reduction Assessment is pleased to announce two new 2015 TrustAfrica / UKZN Post Doctoral Fellowships.

TrustAfrica, under the administration of the School of Built Environment and Development Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa is pleased to announce 2 Post-Doctoral Fellowships for 2015. The fellowship awards are for R200,000 per annum and there is the possibility for a maximum of 2 years. The selected fellowships will be attached to the DST/NRF Research Chair (SARChI) in Applied Poverty Reduction Assessment, held by Professor Sarah Bracking. Funding for two fellowships has been made possible by TrustAfrica.

The post-doctoral fellows who receive these fellowships will work on a topic aligned with the focus areas of the Chair and they will be supervised by Professor Bracking.

Research Topics:

The purpose of the Chair is to promote and undertake research on government, private sector and civil society interventions that have been designed to reduce poverty. The two TrustAfrica fellowships will follow research topics around the political economy of illicit financial flows.

Fellowship Award Criteria:

The following eligibility criteria apply:
• Applicants must have completed the doctoral degrees within the last five years;
• Fellowships are open to South African citizens and permanent residents;
• Outstanding international candidates from outside South Africa, who wish to undertake postdoctoral research in South Africa are eligible for support;
• Fellowships are awarded on a competitive basis, taking into account applicants’ academic achievements, outputs and research potential.
• Applicants who are applying for a third cycle of postdoctoral research support are not eligible.
• Full-time employees of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are not eligible to apply.
• All fellowship awards should be held as primary funding towards the research study.
• Fellowships must not be held simultaneously with a fellowship from any other source.
• Fellows must not hold full-time salaried employment during the tenure of the fellowship.
• All fellows will be allowed to undertake a maximum of 12 hours of teaching, tutorials, assistance or demonstration duties per week on average, and may be remunerated for these duties, provided that they are reimbursed at a rate not exceeding the normal institutional tariff for services rendered.

In addition to this fellowship application, selected applicants are required to be accepted and registered in the discipline of Development Studies.

Post-Doc Fellowship Award applications should consist of:
1. A letter of motivation;
2. A summary research proposal of 2 pages;
3. A C.V. ;
4. A full academic record; and
5. The contact details of two academic referees.

In addition to the fellowship, successful applicants will also receive support for field work and conference attendance.

Preference will be given to South African applicants.The deadline for bursary applications is 15 October 2015.

Applications should be submitted to: Mrs Kathleen Diga ([email protected]) and Prof Bracking ([email protected]), using the header: TrustAfrica UKZN post-doc application 2015.

For further information please see:

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