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South Africa

Conference of the Democratic Left: Unite to make another South Africa and world possible!

The following call was issued by the Conference of the Democratic Left, a left unity project in South Africa. It first appeared at the Conference of the Democratic Left web site.

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A call to a national people’s conference against capitalism and for democratic left politics

A Call for united anti-capitalist action …

This is a call to come together in unity in a Conference Against Capitalism and for Democratic Left Politics.

1.   The world is in crisis

Global capitalism threatens our world with disaster. If it is left to plunder the natural resources of our planet and pollute the atmosphere, the oceans and the soil, life itself will be under grave threat.

Fatima Meer, 1928-2010: `Regardless of how many years we have spent in this life, we must get up and shout'

In January 2000 Fatima Meer enraged ANC leaders by opposing the eviction of destitute families from council flats in Chatsworth, Durban. The ANC’s objective was to sell off the council housing. Meer helped to establish the Concerned Citizens’ Group to organise protests against the ANC’s anti-poor policies like privatisation and cost-recovery, which had led to violent evictions and water cutoffs. The ANC deputy mayor of Durban Trevor Bonhomme called Meer a counter-revolutionary. Watch the video above to hear her response.

South Africa: Momentum against climate-destroying World Bank loan grows

By Patrick Bond, Durban

March 16, 2010 -- In an indication that the climate justice movement is broadening, deepening and going local, there is now intense opposition to a climate-destroying energy loan for South Africa. The campaign is led by community activists in black townships allied with environmentalists, trade unionists and international climate activists.

The World Bank is trying to lend nearly US$4 billion to the Johannesburg-based state-owned electricity utility Eskom, the world’s fourth-largest power company and Africa’s largest carbon emitter (with 40% of South Africa's total emissions). The loan is mainly for constructing the world-s fourth most CO2-intensive coal-fired power plant, Medupi, in the ecologically sensitive Waterberg area north of the capital of Pretoria.

The World Bank also aims to finance privatised power generation, notwithstanding the abject failure of public-private partnerships in South African infrastructure, including in electricity and water. More than 200 organisations have signed up in protest.

South Africa: "`Forgotten' Voices in the Present" book and documentary

A dream deferred from South African History Archive on Vimeo.

By the South African History Archive

"Forgotten" Voices in the Present: alternative, post-1994 oral histories from three poor communities in South Africa was authored by Dale McKinley and Ahmed Veriava and funded by Sephis and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. It is the fruition of two years worth of work and commitment to the goal of giving agency to those usually caught on the margins of South African society.

April 9-10, 2010: `Capitalism in Crisis -- Socialism or Barbarism', the 2010 ILRIG-Rosa Luxemburg Cape Partners Seminar

The Global Economic Crisis: Challenges and Possibilities for Trade Unions and Social Movements  

The 2010 ILRIG-Rosa Luxemburg Cape Partners Seminar

Mozambique: ‘The war ended 17 years ago, but we are still poor’

Children in Maputo who make a living salvaging at the dump.
 Photo by GroundWorkSouth Africa.

By Joseph Hanlon and Milton Keynes

March 5, 2010 -- Pambazuka News -- A return to war in Mozambique is highly unlikely, but the widening chasm between rich and poor and growing social exclusion are creating a ‘serious risk’ of conflict. This was the warning issued by the Peer Review Mechanism Forum in Mozambique’s self-evaluation report to the African Union Peer Review in February 2009.[1] Similarly, Mozambique’s Institute for the Promotion of Peace—an association of former fighters from both sides in the 1981–92 war— remarked in March 2009 that Mozambique seems at peace, but growing economic disparities and socioeconomic injustice are weakening the peaceful transition.[2] Mozambique’s peace has been remarkable—without any truth commission or international courts, the 1992 peace accord has held without retributions and with former foes serving together in parliament and the army.

Swaziland Democracy Campaign launched: `Justice denied anywhere is justice denied everywhere'

Swaziland's absolute monarch and tyrant, King Mswati III.

By the Swaziland Democracy Campaign

Campaigning for democracy in Swaziland NOW!

February 25, 2010 -- Johannesburg, South Africa --  On February 21, 2010, the world witnessed the launch of a global initiative to support pro-democracy forces in Swaziland: the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC). This is a product of many years of working together between South African and Swaziland organisations, which includes political parties, trade unions, churches, youth and students organisations.

The SDC is an expression of the just and legitimate struggles waged by the Swazi people in their quest for human dignity, justice, democracy and human rights. It endorses the principle of justice denied anywhere is justice denied everywhere. Further, that the freedom of all the peoples of the world remains incomplete without the freedom of the people of Swaziland.

Our program

In this regard we wish to state that immediate campaigning priorities will be:

South Africa: 20 years after Mandela's release, class apartheid continues

Jacob Zuma.

By Patrick Bond

February 16, 2010 -- Recall that South Africa's President Jacob Zuma came to power last year as a result, mainly, of trade union and South African Communist Party mobilisations in 2006-08, culminating in the rude but welcome dismissal of president Thabo Mbeki.

And now, because he is unable to galvanise momentum for any sort of political project aside from survival [following another round of scandals surrounding his private life and dubious attitude towards women], Zuma appears to be drifting rightwards, towards the Afican National Congress' solid financial-support base of white capital and aspiring black entrepreneurs.

Cuba and the South African anti-apartheid struggle

Twenty years ago, Nelson Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison in Paarl, South Africa, on February 11, 1990. That historic victory was the product of the long and courageous struggle of the oppressed people of South Africa. It was also a victory for the international movement against apartheid. Revolutionary Cuba played a vital role in the international movement against white minority rule in South Africa, as the following article describes. (See also "Cuito Cuanavale: How Cuba fought for Africa’s freedom".)

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By Nicole Sarmiento

January 21, 2010 -- Pambazuka News -- Cuba's relations with African liberation movements began as early as the 1960s, and shortly after the triumph of the struggle against the Batista dictatorship in Cuba. Members of the Cuban leadership travelled to Algiers to build formal relations with the Algerian National Liberation Front (Gleijeses, 1996a). Che Guevara's trip around the African continent in 1963 was a significant turning point in strengthening Cuba's relationship with liberation movements around the continent.

2010: Welcome to the upside-down world of South Africa

By Dale T. McKinley

January 11, 2010 -- SACIS -- Even if the meanings we give to measurements of time are most often overblown, there is something about the mark of a new decade. In the case of South Africa, 1990 marked the beginning of the end of the apartheid system, ushering in a period pregnant with new hopes, possibilities and dreams. When 2000 rolled around it heralded not only a once in a lifetime turn of a century but carried with it the delayed weight of the majority expectation of an age of progress and plenty. So what are our "inheritances" as we begin the new decade? Where do things stand? What is the mark of 2010?

Troubadour politics: How Dennis Brutus maintained ‘stubborn hope’

By Patrick Bond

I will be the world’s troubadour
if not my country’s
Knight-erranting
jousting up and down
with justice for my theme
weapons as I find them
and a world-wide scatter of foes

Being what I am
a compound of speech and thoughts and song
and girded by indignation
and accoutred with some undeniable scars
surely I may be
this cavalier?

-- Dennis Brutus, 1978  

January 1, 2010 -- World-renowned political organiser and one of Africa’s most celebrated poets, Dennis Vincent Brutus, died early on December 26 in Cape Town, in his sleep, aged 85. Poetry and Protest: A Dennis Brutus Reader is the title of the autobiographical sketches and verse published in 2006 by Haymarket Books of Chicago and the University of KwaZulu-Natal Press. What links these aspects of your life, I once asked the itinerant Dennis Brutus, and he replied, “The role of the troubadour.”

Travelling from court to court during the Middle Ages, the troubadour was southern Europe’s sage, a wit whose satirical songs offered some of the most creative expressions of love for life and people.

Hamba kahle Comrade Dennis Brutus (1924-2009)

 

There will come a time
There will come a time we believe
When the shape of the planet
and the divisions of the land
Will be less important;
We will be caught in a glow of friendship
a red star of hope
will illuminate our lives
A star of hope
A star of joy
A star of freedom

-- Dennis Brutus, Caracas, October 18, 2008

By Patrick Bond

December 26, 2009 -- World-renowned political organiser and one of Africa’s most celebrated poets, Dennis Vincent Brutus, died early on December 26, 2009, in Cape Town, in his sleep, aged 85.

Even in his last days, Brutus was fully engaged, advocating social protest against those responsible for climate change, and promoting reparations to black South Africans from corporations that benefited from apartheid. He was a leading plaintiff in the Alien Tort Claims Act case against major firms that is now making progress in the US court system.

How to cure the post-Copenhagen hangover

Protesters in Newcastle,December 20, 2009. Photo by Rising Tide.

By Patrick Bond, Durban

December 23, 2009 -- In Copenhagen, the world’s richest leaders continued their fiery fossil fuel party last Friday night, December 18, ignoring requests of global village neighbours to please chill out. Instead of halting the hedonism, US President Barack Obama and the Euro elites cracked open the mansion door to add a few nouveau riche guests: South Africa’s Jacob Zuma, China’s Jiabao Wen (reportedly the most obnoxious of the lot), Brazil’s Lula Inacio da Silva and India’s Manmohan Singh. By Saturday morning, still drunk with their power over the planet, these wild and crazy party animals had stumbled back onto their jets and headed home.

The rest of us now have a killer hangover, because on behalf mainly of white capitalists (who are having the most fun of all), the world’s rulers stuck the poor and future generations with the vast clean-up charges – and worse: certain death for millions.

A lesson from Seattle for Copenhagen: Vigorous activism can defeat the denialists

Protest in Seattle, 1999.

By Patrick Bond

December 1, 2009 -- Preparations for the December 7-18 Copenhagen climate summit are going as expected, including a rare sighting of the African elites' stiffened spines. That's a great development (maybe decisive), more about that below.

While activists help raise the temperature on the streets outside the Bella Centre on December 12, 13 and 16, inside we will see global North elites defensively armed with pathetic non-binding carbon emissions cuts (US President Barack Obama's promise is a mere 4% below 1990 levels) and carbon trading, but without offering the money to repay the North's ecological debt to the global South.

The first and third of these are lamentable enough, the second is the most serious diversion from the crucial work of cutting greenhouse gas emissions. A nine-minute film launched on the internet on December 1, The Story of Cap and Trade, gives all the ammunition climate activists need to understand and critique emissions trading, and to seek genuine solutions.

Socialists, the environment and ecosocialism: a view from South Africa

Trevor Ngwane.

By Trevor Ngwane

November 19, 2009 -- There is an ecological crisis in the world and this crisis can be traced to capitalism. There is deforestation due to the trade in timber. There is climate change due to unsafe production methods.
The working class is the class that suffers the most from the ecological crisis. Working-class people are in the majority and their life conditions make them more vulnerable. Workers live in flimsy houses and shacks that are easily washed or swept away by strong rains and winds. When workers are sick or injured there is always not enough medical help for them.

Over the years not enough attention has been paid to this problem by socialists. What is worse is that some people who call themselves socialists have added to the ecological crisis, for example, the Soviet Union was responsible for one of the biggest nuclear accidents in human history in Chernobyl. The Chinese Communist Party continues to supervise the destruction of nature through its single-minded and ruthless adoption of capitalist production methods.

What is 'left' about 'the left' in South Africa?

There was uproar over SACP general secretary and government minister Blade Nzimande's 1.2 million rand luxury BMW. Cartoon by Zapiro. For more Zapiro cartoons, please visit http://www.zapiro.com.

By Dale T. McKinley

November 5, 2009 -- For several years now, but particularly since the ascendancy of Jacob Zuma and his South African Communist Party (SACP) and Congress of South African Trade Union (COSATU) allies within both the African National Congress (ANC) and the state, ``the left'' in South Africa has come to be almost completely associated with (and presented as) the SACP, COSATU and, to a lesser extent, the ANC itself. Even though this state of affairs ignores a wide range of organisations and people that can stake a serious claim to being part of ``the left'', the fact is that contemporary politics in South Africa are dominated, in one way or another, by these three alliance partners. As such, it is a good time to pose a critically important question: What is ``left'' about ``the left'' in South Africa?

South Africa: Time for a new democratic left party?

Mazibuko Jara.

By Mazibuko K. Jara

October 30, 2009 -- Our country is in crisis. There is deepening inequality, many people live in permanent poverty and millions are unemployed for most of their adult lives. Women continue to suffer from social oppression, violence and poverty. The very ecological and biophysical conditions for our human existence are under threat.

Retrogressive ideologies in our society are gaining ground: we are going back to ethnic identity, we have retrogressive notions of womanhood, we have seen the rise in the power of undemocratic rule of unelected chiefs. The state is dysfunctional, corrupt and fraudulent. The state seems unwilling to confront the economic system that produces all these crises. Together, none of these socioeconomic problems can be addressed by a South Africa that reproduces capitalism. These problems require solutions that go beyond capitalist accumulation.

Is it correct to regard the Jacob Zuma-led African National Congress (ANC) as left? Whilst the Zuma-led ANC is much friendlier to the left than Thabo Mbeki's, neoliberal capitalism survives in South Africa.

South Africa: ‘The African Communist': 50 years of mobilisation, analysis

The African Communist, 1991.

By Blade Nzimande

October 26, 2009 -- A browse through the very first edition of the African Communist in 1959 not only gives an insight into the time and context during which it was launched but also the courageous and defiant character of those who breathed life into our historic journal.

This magazine, the African Communist, has been started by a group of Marxist-Leninists in Africa, to defend and spread the inspiring and liberating ideas of Communism in our great Continent, and to apply the brilliant scientific method of Marxism to the solution of its problems.

It is being produced in conditions of great difficulty and danger. Nevertheless we mean to go on publishing it, because we know that Africa needs Communist thought, as dry and thirsty soil needs rain.

When the climate change centre cannot hold

By Patrick Bond

October 26, 2009 -- After the October 24-25 weekend in which 350.org and thousands of allies around the world valiantly tried to raise global consciousness about impending catastrophe (see slideshow below, photos from 350.org), we can ask some tough questions about what to do after people have departed and the props packed up. No matter the laudable big-tent activism, let's face it: global climate governance is gridlocked and it seems clear that no meaningful deal can be sealed in Copenhagen on December 18.

South Africa: Democracy’s everyday death -- the ANC's coup in Kennedy Road; Shack dwellers: `Our movement is under attack!'

Protest in iRhini against attacks on Kennedy Road shack dwellers.

By Nigel Gibson and Raj Patel

October 8, 2009 -- Pambazuka News -- You don’t need presidential palaces, or generals riding in tanks, or even the CIA to make a coup happen. Democracy can be overthrown with far less pomp, fewer props and smaller bursts of state violence. But these quieter coups are no less deadly for democracy.

At the end of September 2009, just such a coup took place in South Africa. It wasn’t the kind involving parliament or the inept and corrupt head of the African National Congress (ANC) Jacob Zuma. Quite the opposite. It involved a genuinely democratic and respected social movement, the freely elected governing committee of the shack settlement at Kennedy Road in Durban. And this peaceful democracy was overthrown by the South African government.

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