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South Africa

South Africa: First national Conference of the Democratic Left called

A call to the 1st national Conference of the Democratic Left

Unite to make Another South Africa and World possible!

A call for united anti-capitalist action and for democratic left politics

Issued by the Interim Steering Committee of the Conference of the Democratic Left 

December 7, 2010 -- This is a call to social movements, trade unions, other progressive mass organisations, progressive civil society organisations, left forces and supportive individuals committed to an anti-capitalist politics to come together in unity and action in the 1st national Conference of the Democratic Left (CDL), a conference against capitalism and for democratic left politics.

Through this conference, the momentum of the two-year old CDL process is reaching an important milestone. The conference will take place as follows:

Date: 13h00 on Thursday, January 20, 2011, ending 13h00 on Sunday, January 23, 2011.

Venue: Wits University, Johannesburg.

‘Climate capitalism’ won at Cancun – everyone else loses

Protest in Cancun.

[For more analysis of the Cancun climate talks, click HERE.]

By Patrick Bond, Cancun, Mexico

December 12, 2010 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal – The December 11 closure of the 16th Conference of the Parties – COP16 global climate summit – in balmy Cancun was portrayed by most participants and mainstream journalists as a victory, a “step forward”. Bragged US State Department lead negotiator Todd Stern, “Ideas that were first of all, skeletal last year, and not approved, are now approved and elaborated.”

`Leave the oil in the soil!' -- Oil curses, climate conferences and fake Norwegian ‘Good Samaritans’

A humpback whale at the Bluff Whaling Station, South Durban, in 1909. From "Facts About Durban".

By Patrick Bond

November 23, 2010 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The stench of rotting blubber would hang for days over The Bluff in South Durban, South Africa, thanks to Norwegian immigrants whose harpooning skills helped stock the town with cooking fat, margarine and soap, starting about a century ago. The fumes became unbearable, and a local uproar soon compelled the Norwegians to move the whale processing factory from within Africa’s largest port to a less-populated site a few kilometres southeast.

There, on The Bluff’s glorious Indian Ocean beachfront, the white working-class residents of Marine Drive (perhaps including those in the apartment where I now live) also complained bitterly about the odour from flensing, whereby blubber, meat and bone were separated at the world’s largest onshore whaling station.

South Africa: Workers' factory takeover to defend jobs enters second month

November 17 video made by Workers' World Media, Cape Town.

November 17, 2010 -- A militant factory occupation by South African metalworkers is about to enter its second month. On October 20, 2010, workers at the Mine Line/TAP Engineering factory in Krugersdorp, just outside Soweto, began the occupation to prevent the removal of machinery and other assets and to fight to save their jobs. The workers are demanding the state take over the factory, so that it can be reopened as a democratically run workers' cooperative.

The workers are organised by the Metal and Electrical Workers Union of South Africa (MEWUSA), in which the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM, the affiliate of the Committee for a Workers' International in South Africa) plays a leading role.

South Africa: ANC leaders attack COSATU

By John Haylett

November 5, 2010 -- Morning Star -- Relations between the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and sections of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) plumbed new depths this week following a union-initiated Civil Society conference.

The October 27 conference was organised by COSATU and human rights bodies Section 27 and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC). More than 50 independent organisations took part, debating how to encourage community-based activism to achieve social justice and improve poor people's lives. [Read the declaration of the civil society conference. Read Zwelimzima Vavi's speech to the conference.]

So far so uncontroversial, but the organisers had agreed to make the conference non-party political, which meant that neither the ANC nor the South African Communist Party (SACP) were invited to take part.

South Africa: What would Chris Hani say today?

Chris Hani.

"Being a staunch believer in the dictum that the masses are the makers of history, Chris Hani would urge all of us to push the workers' wagon forward. He would warn that without mass power, we must all forget about liberating ourselves from the shackles of capitalism and apartheid. I want to be like Chris Hani! Let all of us be inspired by his examples and deeds that need to be emulated."

Chris Hani Memorial Lecture by Zwelinzima Vavi, Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) general secretary, delivered in Queenstown, October 23, 2010

I am extremely honoured by your invitation to deliver the Chris Hani memorial lecture here in Queenstown today. It was over fifteen years ago, on April 10, 1993, when "Chris" Martin Thembisile Hani was cruelly taken from us by an assassin's bullet. We remember too all the other heroes and heroines of our liberation struggle whom we lost in the month of April, including Solomon Mahlangu and Oliver Tambo.

Chris Hani's story and my own interaction with him after his return from exile have inspired me and millions of others. He remains a shining example of what we mean when we talk about an authentic, genuine, true revolutionary leader. He is the best embodiment of the finest traditions and principles of our liberation movement.

Grameen Bank and `microcredit': The `wonderful story' that never happened

Mohammad Yunus accepts the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.

Far from being a panacea for fighting rural poverty, microcredit can impose additional burdens on the rural poor, without markedly improving their socio-economic condition, write Patrick Bond and Khorshed Alam.

October 21, 2010 -- Pambazuka News -- For years, the example of microcredit in Bangladesh has been touted as a model of how the rural poor can lift themselves out of poverty. This widely held perception was boosted in 2006 when Mohammad Yunus and Grameen Bank, the microfinance institution he set up, jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize. In South Asia in particular, and the world in general, microcredit has become a gospel of sorts, with Yunus as its prophet.

Consider this outlandish claim, made by Yunus as he got started in the late 1970s: "Poverty will be eradicated in a generation. Our children will have to go to a `poverty museum' to see what all the fuss was about."

Palestine: BDS movement recalls anti-apartheid tactics, responsibilities and controversies

Apartheid Wall, near Jerusalem. Photo by Patrick Bond.

By Patrick Bond, Ramallah

October 13, 2010 -- On a full-day drive through the Jordan Valley late last month, we skirted the Earth’s oldest city and lowest inhabited point, 400 metres below sea level. For 10,000 years, people have lived along the river that separates the present-day West Bank and Jordan.

Since 1967 the river has been augmented by Palestinian blood, sweat and tears, ending in the Dead Sea, from which no water flows; it only evaporates. Conditions degenerated during Israel’s land-grab, when from a peak of more than 300,000 people living on the west side of the river, displacements shoved Palestinian refugees across into Jordan and other parts of the West Bank. The valley has fewer than 60,000 Palestinians today.

In defence of South African academics' successful call for a boycott of Israel

Drawing comparisons to South African apartheid policies: Israel requires Palestinians to carry identification documents that restrict their movement. UN photo.

By the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)

Occupied Ramallah, September 30, 2010 -- PACBI welcomes the decision[1] on September 29, 2010, by the Senate of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) "not to continue a long-standing relationship with Ben Gurion University (BGU) in Israel in its present form" and to set conditions "for the relationship to continue". The fact that the UJ Senate set an ultimatum[2] of six months for BGU to end its complicity with the occupation army and to end policies of racial discrimination against Palestinians is a truly significant departure from the business-as-usual attitude that had governed agreements between the two institutions until recently. 

South African splinters: From `elite transition' to `small-a alliances'

"The [ANC-SACP-COSATU] Alliance has stuck together through thick and thin for two decades, and is likely to outlast this latest conflagration for at least a few more years."

[The following article first appeared in AfricaFile's At Issue Ezine, vol. 12 (May-October 2010), edited by John S. Saul, which examines the development of the southern African liberation movement-led countries. It has been posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission.]

By Patrick Bond

South Africa's development goals won't be met

While South Africa's pollies and "BEE" elite party, there is little for poor to celebrate.

By Patrick Bond

September 28, 2010 -- Last week’s meeting of global leaders at the United Nations was predictable: more posturing about unmet global needs in relation to the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set a decade ago. South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma was too busy to attend, staying in Durban to restore order at a major African National Congress (ANC) leadership conference.

Since coming to power after a palace coup against Thabo Mbeki exactly two years ago, the new government’s performance has been miserable. For example, roughly 1.5 million jobs have been lost, in spite of a major economic burst before and during the mid-2010 World Cup.

The country’s elites congratulated themselves on their management of the soccer games, but honest observers would concede a destructive political-economic logic, with a tendency to:

Third World health: Video -- Universal access by 20-when? Global leaders renege on promised aid

By the Treatment Action Campaign (South Africa)

September 28, 2010 -- The communities delegation on the Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the Asia Pacific Network of People Living with HIV (APN+) released a video (watch above) on September 28, 2010, as part of the global day of action activities, highlighting the potential effectiveness and achievements of the Global Fund, and pointing out how miniscule the needed US$20 billion dollars is when compared to the amounts of money that has been spent on war and Wall Street banking bail outs.

Namibia: A trust betrayed – again?

[The following article first appeared in AfricaFile's At Issue Ezine, vol. 12 (May-October 2010), edited by John S. Saul, which examines the development of the southern African liberation movement-led countries. It has been posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission.]

"As Namibian youth, and as Africans, you must therefore be on the full alert and remain vigilant against deceptive attempts by opportunists and unpatriotic elements that attempt to divide you. As the future leaders of our country, you should act with dedication and commitment; to always promote the interests of the SWAPO Party and the national interests before your own. It is only through that manner that the SWAPO Party will grow from strength to strength and continue to rule Namibia for the next ONE THOUSAND YEARS". -- Sam Nujoma, Founding Father1 of the Republic of Namibia, in a speech to the SWAPO Youth League in 2010

By Henning Melber

South Africa: Communist youth leader -- `Black economic empowerment becomes Zuma economic empowerment'

By David Masondo, Young Communist League chairperson

September 5, 2010 -- City Press -- There was cautious optimism among many leftists in the African National Congress (ANC) that the ousting of Thabo Mbeki in Polokwane [the ANC's 2007 national conference] might mark a shift towards a much more egalitarian economic policy, including "Black Economic Empowerment (BEE).

Instead, BEE is increasingly becoming too narrow, amounting to ZEE – that is, Zuma Economic Empowerment.

The recent ­multibillion-rand Arcelor-Mittal BEE deal involving Duduzane, President Jacob ­Zuma’s son, is another example of how BEE has become too narrow.

To crown it all, the president’s nephew, Khulubuse Zuma, seems to have suddenly become an African imperialist, amassing oil resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

South Africa: Strike ends, workers' anger remains

* * * STOP PRESS* * *

On September 6, the major trade unions representing South Africa's 1.3 million public servants and teachers announced that the 20-day strike for higher wages and allowances had been "suspended". See union statements below. Union leaders said the move would allow members to consider the latest government offer. Public servants went on strike demanding an 8.6% pay rise, while the government has offered 7.5%. According to the BBC, workers who came to hear union officials shouted in protest when they announced that the strike was being suspended. Meanwhile, workers in many other industries are taking or threatening industrial action.

* * *

By Terry Bell, Cape Town

South Africa: Public sector strike highlights post-apartheid’s contradictions

By Patrick Bond

August 22, 2010 -- The two major civil service unions on strike against the South African government have vowed to intensify pressure in coming days, in a struggle pitting more than a million members of the middle and lower ranks of society against a confident government leadership fresh from hosting the World Cup.

Along with many smaller public sector unions, educators from the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) and nurses from the National Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) continued picketing schools, clinics and hospitals, leading to widespread shutdowns starting on August 18. Skeleton teams of doctors and military personnel were compelled to send non-emergency cases home.

In several confrontations with police at town centres, clinics and schools late last week, workers were shot with rubber bullets and water cannon. On August 21, the courts enjoined workers to return to jobs considered “emergency services”. In dozens of hospitals and clinics, military health workers took over.

South Africa: COSATU's Zwelinzima Vavi's Ruth First Memorial Lecture

Ruth First with Joe Slovo (left).

Zwelinzima Vavi presents the 2010 Ruth First Memorial Lecture, Wits University, Johannesburg, August 17, 2010. Vavi is secretary general of the Congress of South African Trade Unions. Ruth First  (May 4, 1925–August 17, 1982) was a South African anti-apartheid activist and communist born in Johannesburg, South Africa. She was killed by the apartheid regime with a parcel bomb in Mozambique in 1982, where she worked in exile from South Africa.

* * *

I will always cherish this moment. It is such an honour to deliver the annual lecture in memory of Ruth First.

The theme is "How policy is affecting the marginalised and its impact on poverty".

As we recall the immense contribution of Ruth First to our struggle, let me begin with a quote from Karl Marx, which describes Ruth First's life. In a letter to his father in 1837, Karl Marx says: "If we have chosen the position in life in which we can most of all work for mankind, no burdens can bow us down, because they are sacrifices for the benefit of all; then we shall experience no petty, limited, selfish joy, but our happiness will belong to millions, our deeds will live on quietly but perpetually at work, and over our ashes will be shed the hot tears of noble people".

Is Africa still being looted? World Bank dodges its own research

Oil riches and poverty in the Niger Delta.

By Patrick Bond

August 15, 2010The continent’s own elites, together with the West and now China, are still making Africans progressively poorer, thanks to the extraction of raw materials. Reinvestment is negligible and the prices, royalties and taxes paid are inadequate to compensate the wasting away of Africa’s natural wealth. Anti-extraction campaigns by (un)civil society are the only hope for a reversal of these neocolonial relations.

Though it’s easy to prove, even using the World Bank’s main study of natural resource economics, the looting allegation is controversial. When I made it during a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) interview last week, the World Bank’s chief economist for Africa Shanta Devarajan, immediately contradicted me, claiming (twice) that I am not in command of the “facts”.

Why the left should support the boycott of Israel -- a reply to the US Socialist Workers Party

South African workers support boycotts and sanctions against Israel's apartheid state.

By Art Young

August 6, 2010 -- Socialist Voice -- When Israeli commandos attacked the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in international waters on May 31, 2010, murdered nine humanitarian aid workers and seized the cargo of badly needed supplies for Gaza, they touched off an international storm of outrage that continues to this day. The widespread anger has galvanised the international movement in solidarity with the Palestinian people, drawing in new forces and producing new initiatives.

Following the attack on the flotilla, Palestinian civil society issued an appeal to progressive forces around the world to redouble their solidarity efforts and to strengthen the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign (BDS) against Israel. On June 7 the major Palestinian trade union federations appealed to dock workers to refuse to handle Israeli cargo. They said:

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