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Africa

Trade unionists call for solidarity with Western Sahara

UGTSARIO congress delegates

By Margarita Windisch

The 6th Congress of the Western Sahara General Union of Saguia El Hamra and Rio de Oro Workers (UGTSARIO) took place from October 19-21, 2008, in El Aaiun, one of four Saharawi refugee camps in the Hamada desert in south-west Algeria.

The brutally harsh Hamada desert, justifiably termed the most inhospitable place on Earth, has become the home away from home for more than 160,000 Saharawi refugees since Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara in 1975.

Three Australian trade unionists (two from the Australian Workers Union --AWU -- and one from the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance -- MEAA) travelled thousands of kilometres to attend the congress and participate in the 4th International Trade Union Conference in Solidarity with the Western Saharan Workers, which was convened as part of the 6th UGTSARIO congress. All three were also members of the Australian Western Sahara Association.

UGTSARIO congress

South Africa’s ANC: things fall apart

BY Dale T. McKinley, Johannesburg

November 15, 2008 -- At some point in the not-too-distant future, we might just look back at 2008 as the year in which things really started to fall apart for the African National Congress (ANC).

Africa’s oldest liberation movement, which has enjoyed overwhelming political hegemony and electoral success since South Africa’s democratic breakthrough in 1994, is in deep trouble.

Crucially, this is not mainly as a result of the more recent domestic manifestations of the ever-widening crisis of capitalism nor of any kind of immediate threat to its 18-year hold on political power.

It is rather more simple — the “big happy family” whose members range from crypto-communists to die-hard capitalists, from ethno-nationalist chauvinists to cosmopolitan liberals — is beginning to break apart because there remains little to hold the heterogeneous clan together anymore.

Close the US military base on Diego Garcia! Complete the decolonisation of Mauritius!

US-occupied Diego Garcia

By Lindsey Collen, Lalit (Mauritius)

October 26, 2008 -- Five separate judgments were handed down in the House of Lords’ October 22 judgment on the appeal of the British government against the Chagossians’ right of abode on Diego Garcia. Lords Hoffman, Rodger of Earlsferry and Carswell found against the Chagossians’ right of abode, while Lords Bingham of Cornhill and Mance found in favour. In this article, we’ll summarise the arguments the judges relied upon and also briefly comment on the numerous mentions of Lalit in the judgment, before moving on to the question of Diego Garcia in more political terms; the illegal military occupation of Diego Garcia and the Chagos islands by the British and US, which is the reason for the horrendous banishment of the Chagossians from their home islands is an eminently political problem.

Poster: Makeba presente

By Ricardo Levins Morales

Miriam Makeba passed away on November 10 at a concert in Italy. The link below is to a poster I made in tribute to Makeba as soon as I heard the news.

When I was a child, my father would occasionally travel to the United States. When he returned to Puerto Rico he would sometimes bring back a music record. Sometimes it would be Makeba. I only understood the words to a few of the songs she was singing (Makeba sang in many languages), but I understood the sprit and the rhythms. The sounds of drumming has always made sense to me. I also new that she was in some way connected to the struggle for a better world.

Miriam Makeba was banned from her homeland by the apartheid regime after addressing the United Nations committee on apartheid and spent the next thirty years in exile. As with all of those who pass out of this world she will continue to be with us as long as we carry her. This poster tribute is one more vessel in which to bring her along with us. The road toward justice is a long one. I know that as long as I walk it Miriam Makeba's songs will be with me.

Can Africa survive Obama's advisers?

Kenyans celebrate Obama's victory.

By Patrick Bond

November 12, 2008 -- One of Barack Obama's leading advisers has done more damage to Africa, its economies and its people than anyone I can think of in world history, including even Cecil John Rhodes. That charge may surprise readers, but hear me out.

His name is Paul Volcker, and although he is relatively unknown around the world, the 82-year-old banker was recommended as ``a legend!'' to Obama by Austan Goolsbee, the president-elect's chief economic adviser (and a professor at the University of Chicago). Volcker was recently profiled by the Wall Street Journal: "The cigar-chomping central banker from 1979 to 1987, he received blame for driving up interest rates and tipping the US into the deepest recession since the Great Depression."

We'll consider the impact of Volcker's rule on Africa in a moment. But why dredge up crimes nearly 30 years old?

This kind of reckoning is important, as three current examples suggest:

Hamba kahle Mama Africa (Miriam Makeba)

Mama Afrika (Miriam Makeba) passes, November 10, 2008

Miriam Makeba addresses the UN, 1964

Congo: Western intervention behind bloodbath


Tony Iltis interviewed on Iranian television

By Tony Iltis

November 7, 2008 -- Despite Western media and politicians having largely ignored a decade of genocidal warfare that has cost 6 million lives, the recent upsurge in fighting in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has drawn not only media attention, but visits to the region by the British and French foreign ministers and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

The current round of fighting in North Kivu province, which began on October 26 with an offensive by the Rwandan-backed rebel forces of General Laurent Nkunda, is indeed a humanitarian catastrophe — 200,000 people have been displaced, many not for the first time.

‘Transformation’ from above: the upside-down state of the `beautiful game' in South Africa

Bafana Bafana (and Kaizer Chiefs) supporter

By Dr Dale T. McKinley

For the better part of the past century, the most popular sport in South Africa (both in relation to public entertainment and active participation) has been soccer. From its initial introduction into South Africa as a sport played almost solely by the propertied (white) gentry, soccer quickly became, by the turn of the twentieth century, the sport of choice amongst the non-white population and white lower classes.

African revolutionary Thomas Sankara's example lives on

Scenes from Thomas Sankara: An Upright Man

By Demba Moussa Dembélé

Thomas Sankara was killed in the belief that it could extinguish the example he set for African youth and progressive forces across the continent. They could not have been more wrong. One week before his assassination on October 15, 1987, in a speech marking the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Ernesto ``Che'' Guevara, Thomas Sankara declared: ``Ideas cannot be killed, ideas never die.’' Indeed, the history of humanity is replete with martyrs and heroes whose ideas and actions have survived the passage time to inspire future generations.

 


Their ideas, courage and sacrifice for the freedom and dignity of their people have made these martyrs larger than life. Thomas Isidore Sankara is one in a long lineage of African sons and daughters whose ideas and actions have left an indelible mark on the history of their continent. That is why 21 years after his death, Sankara continues to guide those who are struggling to end the domination of their continent and the enslavement of its peoples.

Meanwhile, in Africa ... a tale of two `bailouts'

Rwandan President Paul Kagame distributes mosquito nets. Studies show that malaria, which kills more than a million Africans every year, could be contained in just a few years at the cost of $3 billion a year.

By Jean-Paul Piérot

Original October 11, 2008, l'Humanité article in French: ``Et pendant ce temps, l’Afrique …''. Translated by Gene Zbikowski

While Africa needs US$72 billion a year in aid, hundreds of billions are being freed up to pay Western banks for the consequences of speculation.

New African resistance from below to global finance

By Patrick Bond

October 25, 2008 -- A far-reaching strategic debate is underway about how to respond to the global financial crisis, and indeed how the North's problems can be tied into a broader critique of capitalism.

The 2008 world financial meltdown has its roots in the neoliberal export-model (dominant in Africa since the 1981 World Bank Berg Report and onset of structural adjustment during the early 1980s) and even more deeply, in 35 years of world capitalist stagnation/volatility. Africa has always suffered a disproportionate share of pressure from the world economy, especially in the sphere of debt and financial outflows. But for those African countries which made themselves excessively vulnerable to global financial flows during the neoliberal era, the meltdown had a severe, adverse impact.

South African Communist Party on capitalist economic crisis, right-wing split in the ANC

NUMSA members

Speech to the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) 8th national congress by Blade Nzimande, South African Communist Party (SACP) general secretary

October 14, 2008 -- The SACP wishes to express its appreciation for the invitation to come and address this august body, the 8th national congress of this giant affiliate of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). Your congress is taking place at very crucial domestic and international conjunctures which though may seem distinct but are deeply interrelated developments: the global crisis of finance capital and the splinter group from the African National Congress (ANC). I say these are related because we are part of a global capitalist system, whose impact on our shores go beyond just the economic realm, but has had disproportionate influence on our politics as well.

John Pilger: The downfall of Mbeki -- The hidden truth

By John Pilger

October 7, 2008 -- The political rupture in South Africa is being presented in the outside world as the personal tragedy and humiliation of one man, Thabo Mbeki. It is reminiscent of the beatification of Nelson Mandela at the death of apartheid.

This is not to diminish the power of personalities, but their importance is often as a distraction from the historical forces they serve and manage. Frantz Fanon had this in mind when, in The Wretched of the Earth, he described the "historic mission" of much of Africa's post-colonial ruling class as "that of intermediary [whose] mission has nothing to do with transforming the nation: it consists, prosaically, of being the transmission line between the nation and a capitalism, rampant though camouflaged".

Mbeki's fall and the collapse of Wall Street are concurrent and related events, as they were predictable. Glimpse back to 1985 when the Johannesburg stock market crashed and the apartheid regime defaulted on its mounting debt and the chieftains of South African capital took fright.

Exclusive book excerpt: A manifesto for principled Darfur activism -- and beyond

Below Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal publishes -- with the authors' permission -- an exclusive excerpt from Kevin Funk and Steven Fake's just published book, Scramble for Africa: Darfur Intervention and the USA (Black Rose Books).

In Scramble for Africa Kevin Funk and Steven Fake provide a forensic and astute examination of the Bush administration's politically cynical and opportunist exploitation of the people of Darfur's terrible plight, using them as pawns to regain access to Sudan's oil riches and to promote the self-serving imperialist concept of ``humanitarian intervention''. Funk and Fake reveal the hypocrisy of Washington, which can in the same breathe declare the Sudan regime's slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Darfuris ``genocide'' while -- out of the general public's earshot -- praise and collaborate with the very same butchers as allies in its ``war on terror''. The mainstream ``Save Darfur'' movement's leadership also comes in for a similar investigation for its willingness to allow the interests of the people of Darfur to play second fiddle to Washington's foreign policy double standards.

Zimbabwe: Elite deal does not resolve underlying crisis -- Aluta continua!

By Munyaradzi Gwisai, International Socialist Organisation of Zimbabwe

September 23, 2008 -- In our last update, in the July issue of Socialist Worker, we reaffirmed our long-held position of the likelihood“ of an elite political settlement between the ruling party and opposition around a Western-supported full neoliberal economic program”, given the domination of all the political parties by bourgeois elites who are fearful of political implosions from the collapsing economy and the rank opportunism of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leadership. The deal signed by the leaderships of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and the MDC in September substantially confirmed our fears. We look at the deal and what it means for working people.

 


South Africa: Dennis Brutus on Thabo Mbeki's fall and Jacob Zuma

From Democracy Now!

September 23, 2008 -- In South Africa, the deputy leader of the African National Congress has been chosen to serve as interim president following the resignation of South African President Thabo Mbeki. Mbeki resigned on Sunday over allegations of interference in a corruption case against political rival and current ANC party president Jacob Zuma. We speak to South African poet and activist Dennis Brutus.

 

South African and Zimbabwe politicos join global financiers in self-destruction

By Patrick Bond

September 21, 2008 -- The past week has been a wild roller-coaster ride in and out of Southern African ruling-party politics, down the troughs of world capitalism, and up the peaks of radical social activism. Glancing around the region and the world from those peaks, we can see quite a way further than usual.

Looking first to South Africa, September 20's dumping of state president Thabo Mbeki by Jacob Zuma -- president of the African National Congress (ANC) -- and his temporary replacement (until next April 2009's election) by ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, was an excellent reflection of ruling elite fragility in neoliberal regimes. Some of Mbeki's main supporters, including Mbhazima Shilowa, the former trade union leader and now premier of Gauteng province, in the economic heartland of Johannesburg -- are apparently considering the launch of a competing party.

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions: Power-sharing deal `a far cry' from expectations

By Wellington Chibebe

September 20, 2008 -- The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions' General Council today met in Harare to deliberate on the recent signing of the power-sharing deal between the Zimbabwe African Nation Union-Patroitic Front (ZANU-PF) and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which was held on September 15, 2008.

After deliberating on the issue and taking a closer look at the deal, the General Council noted that the deal is a far cry from the ZCTU's expectations and that it is an outcome of a flawed process.

Instead, the General Council noted, the deal is all about power-sharing between ZANU-PF and MDC, leaving out primary causes of the dispute which has created the current political and economic impasse currently prevailing in the country.

It also noted that the process used in coming up with the deal was not all-inclusive as the civic society was not given an opportunity to participate.

The exclusion of such critical sectors as labour, the General Council noted, and the secretive manner in which issues were discussed, do not give credence to the outcome of the deal.

South Africa: The state, xenophobia and nationalism

By Dale T. McKinley

Johannesburg, September 2008 -- While the violent intensity and geographical spread of the recent attacks on immigrants across South Africa certainly surprised most of us, we should not have been surprised that such attacks happened — or at the state’s response.

We shouldn’t be surprised given the political and socio-economic context within which the post-1994 South African state was formed and has functioned. It is only by analysing this context, with particular reference to the “marriage” of nationalist politics and “nation-building” alongside economic neoliberalism, that we can understand and critically appraise the reaction of the South African state to the recent xenophobic pogroms.

When the dominant force in South Africa’s liberation movement, the African National Congress (ANC), came to power in the 1994 elections, it took political control of an existent state that had been built to secure the interests of a national capitalist class.

Patrice Lumumba `will live forever’ -- exclusive book excerpt

Leo Zeilig, author of Lumumba, a new political biography of Congo independence leader Patrice Lumumba, has kindly given permission for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal to offer its readers an exclusive excerpt to download.

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