Blog Archives

South Africa’s Economic and Social Crisis

“Regime Change”? South Africa Targeted by Western Destabilization Efforts?

South Africa’s Deprivations and Depravations Revealed in Jacob Zuma’s Meltdown

South Africans Rise In Support Of The Monsanto Tribunal: Crimes Against Humanity, Human Rights Violations And Ecocide

Global Implications of the Local Governmental Elections in South Africa

The Hybrid War In Practice: Towards the Destabilization of Southern Africa?

Color Revolutions? Is Southern Africa About To Be Shaken Up By Hybrid War?

CIA Tip-Off Led to Nelson Mandela’s Arrest, Former Agent Says

South Africa: Tensions Escalate ahead of Local Government Elections

South Africa’s Secret Plan to Sterilize Blacks through Vaccines

South African Student Protest: Decolonization, Race and Class Politics

South African Higher Education Students Win Moratorium on Tuition Hikes

South African Coal Miners Reach Settlement to End Strike

South African Communist Party and COSATU hold emergency national congresses

South Africa: Commission whitewashes ANC role in Marikana massacre

South African Lawyers Call for Arrest of Egypt’s President Sisi

ANC whips up racism amid xenophobic attacks in South Africa

South African police fire on protesting foreign nationals

Students occupy University of Cape Town building in anti-Cecil Rhodes campaign

South African finance minister raises income tax, fuel and electricity levies

South African MP warned against investigating Russia-South Africa spy satellite

South Africa: ANC provincial premier renounces electronic-tolling populism

South Africa: Mpumalanga premier roiled by African National Congress faction fight

South Africa: Apartheid-era assassin Eugene De Kock granted parole

South Africa’s politically connected elites profit amid power outages

Faction fight behind purge at South African tax-collection agency

South African banking in crisis as furniture unit threatened with closure

By Thabo Seseane Jr.

17 November 2014

Ellerines, the furniture retail unit of collapsed African Bank Investments Limited (ABIL), may close before the end of January, threatening 8,000 jobs. This follows the failure of a rescue process to sell all the Ellerines store brands and raise capital to pay creditors.

Of its six store brands, Ellerines has thus far sold Dial-A-Bed to competitor Coricraft for R200 million. On October 31, Lewis Group agreed to take over the Beares brand for R40 million with only unviable offers received for the other four.

All told, the retailers under the Ellerines umbrella represented 940 outlets and thousands of employees. The future of these workers and their dependents has now been thrown into uncertainty by the restructuring of ABIL and Ellerines.

ABIL, through its subsidiary, African Bank, South Africa’s largest provider of unsecured credit to low-income clients, bought Ellerines in 2008 for a hefty R9.2 billion (US$830 million). The purchase came at a time when elsewhere, stock valuations were being revised downward amid the unfolding global credit crisis. Sales suffered and at one point ABIL had to fund Ellerines at the rate of R70 million a month to stave off its collapse.

ABIL was not licensed by the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) to accept deposits. Its funding model relied on bonds issued to foreign and local creditors who financed its high-risk, high-margin lending to South Africa’s poorest consumers.

Ellerines embraced the buyout as an opportunity to expand sales by relying on credit purchases backed by ABIL. The bank and its chief executive, Leon Kirkinis, posed as enlightened capitalists. In the eyes of functionaries of the African National Congress (ANC) government, they were bringing credit to and enhancing the joys of home ownership for a segment of society traditionally ignored by the larger, deposit-taking institutions.

The operations of the Lewis Group are typical of the sector. Business Timesreported that the “practices … were truly scary. [A] forklift driver who earned R2,100 a month was sold goods for R3,109 (which worked out to R8,976 over 24 [payments] at R374 a month). The Lewis clerk who did the ‘affordability assessment’ reckoned the forklift driver needed only R99 a month in ‘minimum living expenses’ to survive.”

The prolonged recent strike by 70,000 platinum miners—a core market of the Lewis Group—had a negative impact on the group’s financial results. Amid stagnant wage increases and rising unemployment, interest rates and food prices, Lewis had to write off R570 million in bad debts in the year to March. This compares to bad debts of R418 million the year before.

Lewis is nevertheless in a far healthier state than ABIL, whose CEO Leon Kirkinis repeatedly offered to resign as a turnaround plan (including the sale of Ellerines) failed to gain traction. Kirkinis’s departure became final on August 6. In morning trade that day on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange (JSE), ABIL’s market capitalisation declined from R12 billion to R4.6 billion amid panic selling of the stock by investors.

In an update for the quarter to end-June, ABIL had announced an anticipated annual loss of R7.6 billion compared to a loss of R4.2 billion the previous full year. Business Day reported, “The group said it needed to raise more capital—at least R8.5 billion—to remain solvent after coming to the market for R5.5 billion at the end of last year.”

JSE trading of the stock was suspended. The SARB announced that ABIL would receive a R10 billion capital injection to help protect creditors, and put the bank under curatorship. It has been split into a “good” bank with performing loans, and a “bad” bank comprising nonperforming loans.

All four of South Africa’s big banks—ABSA, FirstRand, Nedbank and Standard Bank—underwrote the SARB infusion together with smaller lender Capitec and the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), which manages investments for the Government Employees Pension Fund.

African Bank had bad loans of R17 billion when it failed. The SARB bought the book for R7 billion. The PIC, a 12 percent shareholder in ABIL, has lost a potential R4 billion, but is set to invest a further R5 billion when the “good” bank floats on the JSE early in 2015. This brings total government exposure to ABIL to R16 billion.

Moody’s Investors Service downgraded not only African Bank but also competitor Capitec, prompting a 5 percent decline in the price of Capitec shares. The ratings agency cited the 10 percent “haircut” that the SARB was imposing on bondholders in ABIL’s rescue. Another reason, Moody’s said, was the likelihood that the central bank would lack the wherewithal to rescue Capitec, should the lender (which shares 40 percent of ABIL’s low-income market) face headwinds in future.

Rather impotently, the leaders of South African banks and their regulators closed ranks against Moody’s. “Capitec follows a very conservative approach to risk and prudent provisioning practices,” the SARB argued in a statement on its web site. It invited Moody’s to compare the 10 percent loss to be imposed on bondholders to the 40 percent discount that applied to ABIL debt at the height of the crisis.

Unmoved, Moody’s cut the local-currency deposit ratings of the big four South African banks and is keeping them on review. FirstRand CEO Sizwe Nxasana accused Moody’s of incorrectly using ABIL as a proxy for all other South African banks. “This seems to be behind the curve. It’s completely overplayed,” Nxasana complained. “[Unsecured lending] is the least of [FirstRand’s] issues.”

Yet the SARB itself warned that unsecured lending among six of the country’s largest banks increased 2.3 percent to R490 billion in the six months to June from the year-earlier period. The central bank stated in October, “A sudden and sharp correction in equity markets could expose vulnerabilities that could have certain significant … effects on the financial system.”

The effects of the last sudden and sharp correction in equity markets are still playing themselves out at Ellerines. Nearly half of Ellerines’ outstanding R1.3 billion debt is owed to major lenders like FirstRand, which has submitted a claim for some R200 million. Business Day notes, “The debt reflects the extent to which African Bank’s failure … has rippled across corporate South Africa.”

Whatever the final outcome of the business rescue process to which Ellerines has submitted, global financial capital will seek to make workers, not bondholders, carry the cost. For this, the imperialists in New York, Frankfurt and London have had to focus the minds of their junior partners in Johannesburg by collectively punishing them with higher interest rates on financial markets since the failure of ABIL. As a conscious agent of the global financial elite, Moody’s has warned that having downgraded African Bank’s global senior debt and deposit ratings from Caa2 to Ba1, it would have no trouble downgrading it further into “junk” territory if bondholders’ losses exceed the SARB’s promised amount of 10 percent.

Former South African police boss exploits footballer’s murder in comeback bid

By Thabo Seseane Jr.

13 November 2014

Disgraced former South African Police Commissioner Bheki Cele has mounted publicity stunts calculated to boost his popularity with a public grieving over the shooting death of national soccer team captain Senzo Meyiwa on October 26.

Meyiwa died shortly after being shot by robbers in the home of his girlfriend’s mother, in Vosloorus township in Ekurhuleni, east of Johannesburg.

Police have questioned 13 people. One, Zanokuhle Mbatha, was remanded in custody and was to appear in court on November 11 on murder and robbery charges despite his corroborated alibi. He was released for lack of evidence.

At Meyiwa’s memorial service, Cele entered Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium to loud cheers. “South Africa has lost a son and lost a captain,” he intoned. “I think South Africans as a whole, not only the state agencies, but everybody, must rise against this criminality and say ‘enough is enough’.”

On November 4, Cele was again met by cheering supporters on arrival at the Vosloorus Civic Centre for a meeting “to discuss crime”, according to City Press. In the company of Ekurhuleni Mayor Mondli Gungubele, African National Congress (ANC) Ekurhuleni Chairperson Mzwandile Masina and Gauteng ANC Youth League Chairperson Matome Chiloane, Cele said criminals should have no peace. “Criminals should fear communities,” he stressed. “We cannot have cats fearing mice. Criminals are mice and the communities are the cats.”

In President Jacob Zuma’s first administration, Cele served as police commissioner from 2009 to 2011. The appointment was his reward for having joined forces with the anti-Thabo Mbeki, bloc which saw Zuma capture the ANC presidency in 2007.

Under Cele, the ranks of the South African Police Service (SAPS) were again militarised, as they had been during the white supremacist Apartheid regime. Superintendents again became warrant officers, while the commissioner styled himself a general.

Cele called for greater use of force by police members at a time of escalating crime. He said that Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act should be changed, allowing police to “shoot to kill.”

The act already allowed police officers and citizens to use deadly force if there were reasonable grounds for it. However, Cele claimed that police members spent more time weighing up whether a situation called for deadly force or not, when they should rather “shoot first” and “aim for the head.”

He subsequently denied having said this, claiming to have advocated use of deadly force by police only under specific circumstances. Still, he had by then won the adulation of some of the most reactionary elements of society.

Cele originally disseminated his philosophy of policing while serving as KwaZulu-Natal provincial cabinet member for community safety. In the 2008-09 fiscal year, KwaZulu-Natal had 258 deaths in police custody. This was more than any other province and an increase of 83 over the previous 12-month period. “In response to these figures,” the Weekend Argus reported, “Cele … wanted to know whether this included suicides, natural deaths and people collected by police after being assaulted.”

Among the more harrowing tales is that of Mido Macia. Taxi driver Macia got into an altercation with members of the SAPS in Daveyton, Ekurhuleni for having stopped in a no-parking zone. Police handcuffed him to the back of their van, dragged him along the road to the police station and threw him into the holding cells where he died.

During an April 13, 2011 march on the Setsoto municipal offices in Ficksburg, Orange Free State, teacher and journalist Andries Tatane tried to block a police water cannon. A policeman grabbed him around the arm. Tatane pulled his arm away and then approached the officer, at which point the policeman assaulted him with a baton. Four or five other officers joined in the attack, kicking and beating Tatane with batons. He was shot twice in the chest and died on the scene 20 minutes later.

The Marikana massacre of August 16, 2012, came only months after Cele was fired for corruption from the leadership of the police. This was the most lethal use of force by police against civilians since the Sharpeville killings of 1960.

Many victims—striking miners from Lonmin’s Karee mine—were shot in the back. Of the 34 deaths in total, some fatalities occurred far from police lines. This indicates that the security forces had conducted a “search and destroy” operation after they fired on the main body of strikers. Police sought out and executed civilians who had fled the initial attack, concealed themselves and posed no threat whatsoever.

The Marikana Commission of Inquiry set up by Zuma is at the end of its evidence-gathering and must submit a report by March. George Bizos, SC, for the Legal Resources Centre, has warned that it must not be used to exonerate police, like so many other commissions of inquiry during Afrikaner minority rule. “It would be completely unacceptable to the people of South Africa … if the police are said [to be] not to blame for anything,” Bizos said.

Yet there are already signs the commission is a whitewash. The two commissioners besides retired judge Ian Farlam, Pingla Devi Hemraj, SC, and Bantubonke Tokota, SC, according to the Daily Maverick, have asked questions of witnesses that seek to deflect blame from the SAPS.

The growing militarisation of the police starkly exposes the class nature of the ANC government. If it once again looks like the police have become a legally-protected tool for the repression of citizens, this is because, though apartheid has ended, capitalist rule is alive and well, courtesy of the ANC government.

The ANC’s bourgeois and petty bourgeois leadership never had any intention of challenging the economic system underpinning apartheid, above all the concentration of enormous ill-gotten wealth in the hands of white capitalists. They merely wanted to share in the fruits of the exploitation of the working class. Such brutality as the police perpetrate today is a way of terrorising the poor, the usual victims of bourgeois state-sanctioned violence.

For the ANC and its partners, the masses must be coerced into accepting their exploitation. The economic immiseration of workers has in fact been worsened under the ANC government. Indeed, having left white wealth untouched, the ANC elite that joined the ranks of the previously all-white exploiters needed its own source of funds secured from the rest of the black majority.

Cele plays his own small role in all this historical drama of contending social forces. He is complicit in all the innocent blood shed by police since the ANC took power.

Cele is no friend of the ordinary South Africans squeezed by high crime rates on one hand and police brutality on the other. He is a self-promoter and a misanthrope. For him, the only significance of the tragic loss of Senzo Meyiwa is an opportunity to boost his career in the realignment of ANC factions now underway.

South Africa metalworkers union announces formation of new party

By Thabo Seseane Jr.

30 October 2014

The crisis in South Africa’s ruling tripartite alliance intensified on October 27, when National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) General Secretary Irvin Jim announced that the union would be forming its own political party, the United Front, to “explore the possibility of socialism in South Africa.” This claim is simply left-sounding doubletalk to cover the jockeying for position of rival factions that are all committed to the defence of capitalism in South Africa.

The ruling alliance is composed of the governing African National Congress (ANC), the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the Stalinist South African Communist Party. COSATU’s biggest affiliate, NUMSA, withdrew its support for the ANC in the May elections, declaring the party no longer represented workers’ interests. Jim was quick to point out that NUMSA is not abandoning COSATU. This is despite the fact that COSATU’s top executives are debating whether to expel NUMSA for signing up workers outside its industry in violation of federation policy. “[F]or the sake of unity,” a decision has been put off until November 7, when NUMSA will once again be expected to give reasons why it should not be expelled or suspended.

COSATU leaders also postponed making a call on the fate of the organization’s general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. A favourite of NUMSA, Vavi is accused of various improprieties, including directing COSATU business to companies in which his relatives have stakes. He was suspended from his post by a COSATU Central Executive Committee faction led by President S’dumo Dlamini. Vavi returned to work in April after eight months off, following a South Gauteng High Court verdict that overturned the suspension as in violation of procedure.

The ANC took fright at developments in COSATU in the run-up to the May elections. An ANC-led task team was established to try to prevent a split in the federation, which claims a membership of 2.2 million workers and forms an influential component of the ANC electoral support base.

Led by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, a millionaire businessman, the task team delivered its final report on COSATU factionalism on October 21. It called for any disciplinary action to be taken against Vavi to be “fair.” Business Day reported, “The report also concluded that defending the ANC should never be done at the expense of defending and protecting workers belonging to COSATU.”

Defending the ANC is invariably done at the expense of workers.

By fostering illusions in the person of Vavi, the NUMSA press statement announcing the United Front continues the fraud that any member of the tripartite alliance is capable of being a defender of working-class interests. “Vavi is seen as a threat to the ambitions of the right-wing capitalist forces within and outside the former liberation movement,” the statement reads, “which see a COSATU under his leadership as obstructing their capitalist ambitions.”

Vavi’s United Front is no threat to anyone’s capitalist ambitions. He is as much a beneficiary of the framework of capitalist property relations as are people like Ramaphosa.

The NUMSA statement continues, “NUMSA will not hand over COSATU to individuals and groups…who have no interest in defending the principles, values, resolutions, policies and constitution of COSATU.”

There is nothing in COSATU worth defending from the point of view of workers. At stake for the wealthy union bureaucrats, however, are their fat salaries, privileges and a degree of control over the revolutionary impulses of the working class, which they fear and loathe.

It is this attitude that informed the decision to found the United Front. This party will not, as NUMSA claims, “explore the possibility of socialism.” On the contrary, it will aim to pre-empt those workers who might be drawn to a genuinely independent political movement seeking to install a revolutionary socialist government.

The United Front decision comes at a time of heightened class tension. Already during apartheid, South Africa was one of the world’s most unequal societies. This inequality has only worsened since the ANC came to power. The response of the working class has dashed the hopes of the business and political elites. These circles had hoped that a majority-black government would smooth over the intensified exploitation of the working class following the end of white minority rule.

Instead, South African workers remain among the worlds most militant. From 2005 onwards, there was a surge in the number of working days lost to strikes. In addition, violent protests against municipal corruption and incompetence have spread across the country. This has earned South Africa the pejorative title (in the eyes of global capital) of “protest capital of the world.”

Those behind the United Front and other factions of the elite have not been able to ignore the sense of betrayal and outrage among workers.

The manoeuvres by NUMSU to found a new party began in the immediate aftermath of the August 2012 Marikana massacre in which 34 platinum miners were shot dead and 78 wounded by South African police. This led to the mass discrediting of the ANC, National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and COSATU, who were all responsible and who defended it. The massacre took place during a bitter strike of platinum workers who were demanding an increase in monthly wages to 12,500 South African Rand [US$1,200].

A section of the trade union bureaucracy concluded that it was no longer possible to remain in an alliance with ANC President Jacob Zuma and Vice President Ramaphosa, who were the architects of the massacre. At that point NUMSA placed itself at the head of sections of the bureaucracy who are seeking to create a suitable device to contain the growing anger of the working class.

This is also why the ANC in Gauteng has come out in opposition to the widely-hated electronic tolling (e-tolls) of the province’s highways, which the national government seeks to enforce. Under the aegis of ANC Gauteng Chairman Paul Mashatile and provincial premier David Makhura, a panel of experts was convened to assess the decision to institute e-tolls.

All along, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters had said that the panel’s findings would have no effect on the national government’s decision in favour of e-tolls. Peters was forced into a humiliating climbdown on October 20, by conceding that her department will now make its own submissions to the Gauteng e-toll review panel, after having snubbed it for months.

This may be an indication of a factional realignment in the ANC. If so, it means that the upper hand belongs to a group around Ramaphosa, as opposed to that in favour of Zuma, whom Ramaphosa is expected to succeed in 2019.

Mashatile and Makhura, known supporters of Ramaphosa, are thus serving notice that they too expect a place in the sun. They will, however, reap no rewards if the ANC suffers in the 2016 municipal elections as much as it did in the May elections, when its provincial vote slumped by 11 percentage points. In an attempt to stanch this loss of support, Mashatile and Makhura are siding with popular sentiment on the matter of e-tolls.

The announcement of the United Front should be viewed in the same light. A faction of trade union bureaucrats sympathetic to Irvin Jim and Zwelinzima Vavi seeks an advantage over the faction led by S’dumo Dlamini. For that purpose and that alone, they hope to corral a section of the working class into a sham called the United Front.

A quarter of South Africans regularly go hungry

By Thabo Seseane Jr.

27 October 2014

A report released by Oxfam South Africa on October 16, World Food Day, found that 25 percent of the country’s 53 million people regularly go hungry. An additional 28.3 percent are at risk of hunger. The study, “Hidden Hunger in South Africa”, was undertaken in the provinces of Limpopo, Western Cape and Eastern Cape.

Speaking at its release at an event at Constitution Hill, Johannesburg, Oxfam South Africa economic justice campaign manager Rashmi Mistry said, “South Africa is supposed to be a food-secure nation, producing enough food to adequately feed everyone.”

The supposed food security of South Africans is a point of pride for owners of the country’s estimated 35,000 commercial farms. These social layers protest against any mooted reorganisation of the agricultural sector, ominously pointing to the experience of Zimbabwe as what awaits South Africa should market forces in the rural belt be interfered with. Commercial farmers own the majority of 110 million hectares, worth some R155 billion (US$14.4 billion).

This cultivated and grazing land supplies export markets, as well as a domestic food industry dominated by large companies controlling pricing and distribution of products. One result is that women and children, who have less means of getting such products, suffer disproportionately from hunger.

“Women in the communities covered by this study are still largely responsible for feeding their families,” reads the report. “[They] are further burdened when family members are suffering from diseases such as HIV or AIDS, with time and money needed for food spent on caring for the sick.”

Unemployment is estimated at a minimum 25 percent nationally, excluding discouraged jobseekers. More than 15 million people, including some with HIV, receive some kind of social grant. The amount received by unemployed parents, guardians and caregivers amounts to R310 ($28) per child per month. The old-age grant totals a maximum R1,350 ($122) per senior citizen per month.

This pittance severely limits the foods accessible to the 28.25 million South Africans who suffer from food insecurity. Having a job does not improve prospects much either. “People in [permanent] employment or who have casual jobs indicated that they are food-secure in the first week after their wages are paid”, reads the report, “but are … food-insecure for the remaining three weeks in the month.”

Chronic hunger can have far-reaching psychological effects, especially among children. The report quotes Elzetta, from a youth-headed household in Bloemendal, Eastern Cape, saying, “We have to buy the cheapest of the cheapest. We are rated as the cheapest of the cheapest.”

Child- or youth-headed households in South Africa are home to 20 percent of all children, according to Statistics SA. In 2011, children younger than 14 accounted for 40 percent of the population. Assuming a roughly comparable proportion in 2014, this means some 4.24 million children live in homes unsupervised by adults, thanks largely to the numbers of couples who have succumbed to HIV or AIDS.

For child-headed households in Bloemendal, the upshot is a staple regimen of white bread and sugared water or cheap juice. Afrikaans-speaking locals call it the “poppie water diet”.

The Oxfam report expands on poor communities having “good access to bad food but bad access to good food”.

Malnutrition is especially severe among women and children, with the researchers saying that childhood stunting “has increased to 26.5 percent”. They add that obesity levels are amongst the highest in the world, at 42 percent for women.

South Africa’s ill-fed masses, the report notes, increasingly include those engaged in subsistence farming. This is due to factors like climate change, and lack of water, tools, manpower or knowledge.

Seafaring communities fare little better. As a possible reason, Oxfam cites tenuous or restricted fishing rights. Cases of corruption and maladministration have also curtailed the size of catches brought in by subsistence anglers.

The South African Commercial Linefish Association instituted court action against then-Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, last year. As a result, for the first time in South African history she had to scrap the entire fishing rights allocation process (FRAP) for 2013. Under the FRAP, hundreds of small commercial fishermen had inexplicably lost their rights to go to sea for a living.

Shaheen Moolla, legal adviser to the fishermen, said the minister had not supplied answering papers to the association’s court action. “She knew she could not go on oath and defend this process,” Moolla added.

In September, the member of the provincial cabinet for education in Gauteng, Panyaza Lesufi, announced that his department would cancel feeding schemes for quintile four and quintile five schools. South African schools are subdivided into five socioeconomic bands, with quintiles one and two containing the poorest 40 percent of schools.

Educators and observers objected to Lesufi’s announcement. They argue that even the most privileged student bodies have among them pupils from indigent homes. Many of these children eat only once a day—at school.

The Oxfam report holds out the hope of eliminating widespread hunger through legislation. “A National Food Act should be developed”, it states, “in a bottom-up process with communities who are facing hunger. It should be adequately resourced and should include mechanisms for accountability.”

Speaking as an Oxfam guest on Constitution Hill, SA Human Rights Commission Deputy Chair Pregs Govender maintained that the African National Congress (ANC) government is aware of the issue of endemic hunger. It was a question, she claimed, of those in government “being moved to use their power to change this reality”.

The ANC government is the problem, not the solution. It helps no one to propose new legislation or invoke the constitution as a means of inspiring those in power to act in the interests of the poor. The constitution that Govender held up as the noblest guide to government action is repeatedly lauded, as she knows, as the best in the world. But it is a bourgeois constitution, sanctifying capitalist property relations.

The right to adequate nutrition is meaningless so long as the means to produce food remains the property of agribusinesses working, not for human need, but for private profit. The constitution cannot oblige “the State to take reasonable and other legislative measures” to realise each citizen’s right to adequate nutrition.

That is because this same elitist document holds up as a higher good, the “right” of an employer to exploit his employees. The owners of production are thus legally obligated to take food out of the mouths of workers to pay interest to bankers and dividends to investors. The right to food for all can only be secured with the removal of the ANC from power, through the struggle for a workers’ government based on a socialist program.

South Africa: ANC and unions exploit popular anger over electronic toll collections

By Thabo Seseane Jr.

14 October 2014

In a show of unity on October 7, International Day for Decent Work, Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) president S’dumo Dlamini and his rival, General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, made a populist call for the scrapping of electronic tolling (e-tolling) on Gauteng province highways.

E-tolling has been an emotive public issue since before its launch under the aegis of the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) 10 months ago.

”[W]e say down with e-tolls,” Dlamini declared, admitting that in this as in other matters the COSATU executive were merely taking their cue from the African National Congress (ANC) provincial leadership in Gauteng.

“The [Gauteng] ANC rejects e-tolls,” he affirmed. “This evil system must not be implemented in this country.”

The ANC’s Gauteng leaders were in turn shocked into action after their majority in the provincial legislature declined from 64 percent to 53 percent at the last elections in May. Also informing its opposition to the national ANC leadership and the Department of Transport is the perception of Jacob Zuma as having been reduced to a lame duck president in his current, second term, which expires in 2019. By then, Zuma will have been replaced as ANC president, since his term in that office expires in 2017. Consequently, if he is still at the seat of government at the Union Buildings, he will be beholden to the sitting ANC president.

This has convinced factions such as those dominating the Gauteng ANC that, far from being among those to be pandered to, Zuma is a spent force. It is likely that such calculations were behind the utterances of ANC Gauteng chairman Paul Mashatile at the party’s recent elective conference in Pretoria: “It’s not that I don’t like SANRAL. But they must know their place. Government agencies don’t run the country, but the ANC [does]. I don’t like government agencies that take on politicians.”

Mashatile, a former premier of Gauteng, was returned unopposed as ANC provincial chairman earlier this month. He served as arts and culture minister until Zuma reshuffled his cabinet after the May elections. This ejection followed Mashatile’s support of Kgalema Motlanthe, the candidate Zuma defeated when he was returned for his second term as ANC president.

Bickering between the Mashatile and Zuma factions goes even further back. A key gripe among Mashatile supporters is that as ANC provincial chairman, he should never have been eased out of the premiership of Gauteng, as he was in 2009 in favour of a more reliable Zuma supporter, Nomvula Mokonyane.

Mokonyane notoriously said of residents of Bekkersdal in their presence, that “the ANC doesn’t need their dirty votes,” when party elders sent her to the town last October to defuse service delivery unrest ahead of elections.

David Makhura was elected deputy chairman unopposed at the ANC Gauteng elective conference. He assumed the premiership of the province in May, after provincial structures submitted to the national leadership a list of candidates for the post that pointedly left out Mokonyane.

Makhura announced in his inaugural State of the Province Address the formation of a panel to “assess” the decision to institute e-tolling. The remit of the panel is confined to the socio-economic and environmental impacts of the scheme. It thus leaves out of consideration the burning question of the rationality and lawfulness of the decision in favour of e-tolls.

The advisory panel is set to submit a final report to the Gauteng Provincial Legislature before the end of November. Meanwhile, according to the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance, only 38 percent of drivers are paying their tolls, with SANRAL complaining that the panel has undermined investor confidence in the roads agency.

The establishment of the panel heightened tensions between the Gauteng ANC and the party’s national leadership. National Transport Minister Dipuo Peters maintained that the government would not scrap the “user pays” system as the funding mechanism for urban roads, whose allocations from the national treasury have steadily declined. Makhura insists that the panel’s findings will be binding.

“Pressure is building for the issue to be put to a national referendum,”Business Day editorialised.

In its efforts to limit its losses in the municipal elections due in 2016, the Gauteng ANC is relying on the services of COSATU. The trade union federation has added its voice to calls for a civil disobedience campaign. COSATU in Gauteng has mooted a march to the offices of SANRAL on October 18, where members of the public are invited to burn the e-toll bills mailed them.

The role of COSATU among workers is to foster illusions in the ANC, or at least the existence of a faction that supposedly will balk at privatising infrastructure and passing on the costs thereof to the working poor. But in their stated opposition to e-tolls, Makhura, Mashatile, Dlamini, Vavi, et al. have simply latched onto an issue that in the public mind sets them apart from the scandal-prone Zuma administration. So long as the question of e-tolls had not threatened the jobs of any ANC leaders, as it now threatens them in Gauteng, they all would have gladly followed the party line.

The Sunday Times wrote in March 2013, “If e-tolling goes ahead, Gauteng motorists will pay R71 billion (US$6.46 billion) in toll fees over the next 24 years, with the collection costs estimated to be at least R18 billion. This means motorists will pay billions…that will not improve roads but only profit” the Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) joint venture, the operator subcontracted by SANRAL to operate Gauteng freeways.

ETC is 65 percent owned by Austrian and Swedish arms of Kapsch TrafficCom.

For years, journalists have sought without success to prove a link between the e-tolling of South African highways and the multibillion-dollar arms deal through which the country acquired military hardware it did not need. Investigators have noted that arms contractor Saab AB sold its traffic management unit, Combitech Systems AB, to Kapsch AG in January 2000. A few months later, Saab sold 26 Gripen fighter jets to South Africa, despite the air force having previously considered them too expensive and unsuited for its purposes.

In any event, a cabal with unique access to the country’s highest elected offices used its influence to ram through unpopular megadeals for its members and proxies. The conspirators intend to make the working class pay the astronomical costs. People like David Makhura and Zwelinzima Vavi are as much complicit in this culture as anyone else.

A significant section of the ruling tripartite alliance is now persuaded of the useful role played by “leftist” figures like Vavi in keeping working class voters tied to the ANC. This explains the populist turn of Makhura and Mashatile, with Dlamini tagging along behind. Vavi sounded a warning at the International Day for Decent Work gathering about the 50 percent of youth who are unemployed. “What do you expect people will do?” he asked.

South Africa’s education department maintains apartheid-era victimisation of blacks

By Thabo Seseane Jr.

7 October 2014

Last month, sheriffs of the High Court in Pretoria and King William’s Town seized property belonging to the Department of Basic Education for failing to pay R28 million (US$2.47 million) in salaries to part-time teachers in the Eastern Cape province. The court attached the assets after the department ignored a March 20 verdict ordering the payment.

Action against the department was brought by the human rights organisation, the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), on behalf of 32 public schools. An LRC statement confirmed on September 30, “All but R1.5 million has since been paid… [The action was] on behalf of … schools … seeking payment of those teachers hired … to fill vacancies that the Department left open and [asks] that … educators be appointed permanently to the vacant posts…”

This is in stark contrast to the self-satisfied remarks of Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. Addressing the national congress of the pro-government South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) on October 2, Motshekga claimed the apartheid system had been replaced with the focus now on “improving quality education.”

The reality is far from such a rosy picture. Statistics from South Africa’s 20-year youth employment review from 1994 onwards, showed that black youth lagged peers of other races in the acquisition of job-critical skills. Of the country’s skilled labour force, black youth account for 18 percent, a rise of just 3 percentage points since the end of Apartheid. While forming almost 80 percent of overall population at the last census in 2011, blacks made up only 8.3 percent of those with a tertiary qualification.

“Possibly of most concern is the unemployment rate for black Africans with tertiary education,” reads the StatsSA review. “[T]he education system, from basic education to universities, is far from optimal…”

Grade R, a once voluntary preschool reception grade prior to grade one, became compulsory across South Africa this year. The Department introduced it in an effort to “enhance educational outcomes through early intervention in childhood development.”

A study conducted by the University of Stellenbosch on behalf of the department shows that the programme, which began in some schools in 2001, yielded negligible gains for poor children like those in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo. “The most affluent benefited the most from the extra year… Thus, instead of reducing inequalities, grade R further extends the advantage of the most affluent schools,” the University of Stellenbosch researchers conclude.

_Civil rights group Basic Education for All won a judgement in May in the North Gauteng High Court against the Basic Education Department, after accusing it of failing to deliver textbooks to 39 Limpopo schools. The Department blamed school principals for submitting requests too late.

Unfortunately, the saga of Limpopo’s undelivered textbooks is just a footnote in a narrative of corruption. According to the Daily Maverick, its roots lie in Jacob Zuma’s election as African National Congress (ANC) president in 2007. The arrangement was that in return for support from then ANC Youth League President Julius Malema, Zuma give him carte blanche in Limpopo, Malema’s home province.

By the time then Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s department took over direct control of the province’s finances in 2012, unauthorised expenditure had swelled to R2.7 billion. Some suppliers were being paid, as Gordhan dolefully observed, at a rate equivalent to once every 2.5 working days.

Criminal cases were opened against 38 Limpopo government officials from four provincial departments. “The department of education in the province … was found to have breached supply chain management policies and had accumulated unauthorised expenditure of R2.2 billion,” according to a July 2012 City Press report.

An April 2011 Eastern Cape audit showed that 1,300 of 5,700 of the province’s public schools needed furniture, affecting 600,000 pupils. That is according to a February Business Day report of another judgement against the Basic Education Department, this time handed down by the Eastern Cape High Court. The court held that Minister Motshekga had failed pupils by not providing them with age-adequate and grade-appropriate school furniture.

Parliament’s Basic Education portfolio committee—dominated by the ruling ANC—went through the motions earlier this year of urging the Eastern Cape “to fix issues which require urgent attention.” This followed the committee’s oversight visit to schools in Qumbu and Sterkspruit. These districts are the worst performing in terms of student results, with Eastern Cape having the nation’s lowest pass rate (64.9 percent) for pupils sitting for matriculation or A-level exams.

According to the World Economic Forum, the quality of South Africa’s maths and science education puts it last out of 148 countries. Absolutely and in relative terms, South Africa spends more on education than Haiti, Lesotho, Chad, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Kenya, countries all appearing higher on the WEF rankings. R254 billion, or 20 percent of the 2014-15 budget, is set aside for education. Of this, the sum dedicated to the basic education of nearly 9 million children amounts to R164 billion.

Why such outlays have so little effect is partly answered by the allegations against Pankie Sizani, wife of ANC parliamentary chief whip Stone Sizani. Pankie appeared twice in August in the Port Elizabeth (Eastern Cape) Commercial Crimes Court on charges of defrauding the Department of Education of R1.2 million between 2009 and 2010. At the time, she worked as Port Elizabeth district education coordinator of the Early Childhood Development unit.

In the post, Sizani had to scrutinise the application forms of candidates for grade R teaching vacancies. Having applied for posts on candidates’ behalf, she would then falsify the signature of the principal empowered to ratify an appointment. When the applicants, who were apparently not informed of their “appointment” to a vacant post, received money in their accounts, Sizani would call demanding that they pay the money to her, as it had been paid to them “in error”.

Following a postponement due to ill heath after her arrest last year, the case against Sizani has now been postponed again until 2015. Her defence team need the time until then, they said, to study documents of which they were previously unaware. NGO Equal Education issued a statement denouncing the repeated deferments. “This type of corruption undermines opportunities to create sustainable employment … for black women,” it added.

It is ridiculous of Equal Education or anyone else to expect that an ANC government could possibly create sustainable employment for black people—outside the party. The ANC has, for a connected few, reversed the financially debilitating effects of apartheid, but for most blacks it has simply entrenched the conditions under which they lived before 1994. Essentially, the party is a club dispensing patronage to bourgeois blacks who have now assumed the exploitative role previously open only to whites.

This exploitation is limitless. Its extent is not only determined by the hundreds and thousands of Pankie Sizanis multiplying right across the government, as SADTU President Magope Maphila made clear. Addressing the same congress at which Minister Motshekga spoke, Maphila pleaded with some 400 delegates to put a stop to the “scourge” of teachers sleeping with schoolgirls in exchange for awarding better grades. “These kids are entrusted to your care [for you] to look after them and not to sleep with them,” he said. “You are like a shepherd to them and a shepherd doesn’t turn against one of the lambs he leads.”

Without irony, Maphila then accused opposition parties and the media of demonising SADTU. He was referring to the most recent allegations levelled against his union, which suggest that its officials peddle teaching posts for cash.

South African trade union federation promotes illusions in Castroism

Part Two

By Thabo Seseane Jr.
12 September 2014

This is the conclusion of a two-part article on the promotion of Castroism by South Africa’s trade unions. The first part, published here, reviewed Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi’s speech hailing Castroism. The article examined the historical origins of Castroism and its relationship to South Africa and the civil war in Angola in the 1980s.

With the election of Mikhail Gorbachev as Soviet premier in 1985, the Soviet Union expressed a stronger interest in a political solution in Angola. The elevation of Gorbachev was itself bound up with the desperation of a faction of the Stalinist elite for a way out of the dead-end of their autarkic economy, which the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan had helped bring to a pitch. Under the pretext of fighting corruption and reforming Soviet society, Gorbachev set in motion the process that was to restore capitalism in the USSR.

The implications of a stronger Soviet desire for detente with the West were not lost on the American ruling class. A tottering, less confrontational Soviet Union meant the removal of the brake that for decades had been placed on American imperialism. Jonas Savimbi of the US-backed National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), when he was fêted in Washington towards the end of the second Reagan administration, made a point of thanking his hosts, the conservative Heritage Institute, for their role in the repeal of the Clark Amendment, which had curtailed aid to UNITA.

During negotiations in 1988, US assistant secretary of state for African affairs Chester Crocker repeatedly asked Cuba for assurances that the Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola/Cuban force would not march into South-West Africa (now Namibia), cabling his senior, Secretary of State George Schultz: “The Cuban build-up in southwest Angola has created an unpredictable military dynamic.”

Cuban chief negotiator Jorge Risquet refused to give an undertaking that his country would not invade South-West Africa. The Cubans replaced him with the more conciliatory Carlos Aldana Escalante. In the event, Cuba did not overrun South-West Africa and agreed to withdraw from Angola within 30 months, following implementation of UN Resolution 435.

The “Geneva Protocol,” signed by the parties on August 5, stipulated a South African withdrawal from Angola from August 1 that was completed by September 1. On August 8 a cease-fire came into effect.

When, on December 22, 1988, Angola, Cuba and South Africa signed the final Three Powers Accord in New York, Cuba calculated that the MPLA was capable of defeating UNITA, once Resolution 435 was in force, since it would no longer have support from South Africa. Furthermore, while Pretoria tried to influence the outcome of the South-West African election, Cuban ally SWAPO garnered 57 percent of the vote. Namibia duly gained independence in March 1990.

In consequence, as Vavi’s comments show, Cuban prestige among the bourgeois “left” is undiminished right down to the present. No less a bourgeois figure than Nelson Mandela, in a speech delivered in Havana in 1991, enthused: “The defeat of the racist army at Cuito Cuanavale has made it possible for me to be here today! Cuito Cuanavale was a milestone in the history of the struggle for southern African liberation!”

Certainly, Mandela’s release from prison in 1990 may be cited with subsequent events as an outcome of the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale. With the final withdrawal of Cuba from Angola, the Afrikaner elite were relieved of a significant stumbling block to a negotiated internal settlement. They no longer had to worry about the possible humiliation of a foreign military intervention in South Africa.

This angst had led, during the 14-year spell of P. W. Botha as defence minister from 1966, to military expenditures sometimes consuming a fifth of the budget. Sanctions and disinvestment by certain foreign multinationals compounded the damage to an economy under siege.

There is another testament to the far-reaching subjective changes that found expression among leading Afrikaners in the late 1980s. F. W. De Klerk emerged as leader of the verligte (enlightened) wing of the National Party in 1989. De Klerk is nephew to the late wife of hard-line National Party prime minister J. G. Strijdom. He is a son of “Jan” De Klerk, a past secretary of the NP in the staunchly conservative former Transvaal province who served as interim State President in 1975.

The verligtes reflected the thinking of those sections of the local bourgeoisie then coming into ascendancy, who saw that apartheid could not be bankrolled forever, nor with a white supremacist army that had just been trounced by an enemy with an Afro-Hispanic heritage. De Klerk, with overwhelming bourgeois support, ushered the government into negotiations with anti-apartheid activists.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 fortified the bourgeois expectation that after the country’s first non-racial elections, a pro-capitalist government would take office. De Klerk hastened to remove the ban of the ANC and the Communist Party the following February.

Negotiations proceeded through a gory interregnum of orchestrated violence. The first non-racial elections followed on April 27, 1994, and were won as expected by the ANC. The party of African bourgeois nationalists had succeeded with the help of anti-working class organisations like COSATU and the SACP in channeling the hopes of the masses into its overwhelming electoral base.

Nelson Mandela was sworn in as the country’s first democratically elected president on May 10, 1994. Among the honoured guests that day were Fidel Castro and Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

This fact is only incongruous if it is not recognised that Fidel, Mandela and Philip, whatever their differences, are agreed on their hostility to a movement of the working class that aims at overturning the capitalist system.

Castro’s hostility to any independent political movement of the working class was apparent in his methods right from the beginning. He opposed a political moment based on the urban proletariat in favour of the rural peasantry. He attracted to himself a group of like-minded petty-bourgeois adventurers like Che Guevara.

Such a perspective has nothing Marxist about it. Revolutionary socialism requires not that workers stand aside as idle spectators to history, but that they build their own independent instruments of struggle to loose themselves from the chains of wage slavery.

What is the situation 26 years later in the various countries for which thousands of working class soldiers on both sides were killed and injured at Cuito?

In Angola, Forbes reported, Isabel Dos Santos, daughter of President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, is the country’s and the continent’s richest woman, with total assets of some US$3 billion. Jornal de Angola, the country’s sole daily, remarked, “This is good for Angola. It fills Angolans with pride.”

In Namibia, life expectancy at birth is estimated at 52.2 years—among the lowest in the world. HIV/AIDS affects about 13 percent of adults, a devastating health crisis that is one expression of the deep poverty that plagues the country.

In South Africa, one of the most important satraps of the imperialists, Cyril Ramaphosa, was elevated to the post of deputy president in 2014. Immediately prior to that, he did not hesitate to call on police to suppress the miners’ strike at Lonmin—a company in which he was a director—in August 2012. Paramilitary police killed 34 miners in cold blood. More than 70 were injured and 250 arrested.

In Cuba, the use of the US dollar was for a time legalised following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Without Soviet subsidies, the government began opening up parts of the economy to foreign exploitation. The lack of hard currency has led to a scramble for jobs contiguous with the tourist sector, “with trained doctors and other professionals abandoning their jobs in favour of driving taxis or cleaning hotel rooms,” as the WSWS has noted. The Castros are doing in Cuba what the elite is doing in every other country—they are transferring onto the backs of workers the costs of the breakdown of the global capitalist system that began in 2008. Layoffs from state-owned corporations are increasingly the norm. Together with redundancies go speed-ups, privatisation and the gutting of the island’s social welfare system. The Cuban “Communist” Party can no longer even pretend to socialism.

Thus far, the beneficiaries of “reforms” to the Cuban economy are the European, Latin American and Asian multinationals that are leading an influx of investments. US corporations cannot tap into the new market thanks to a vindictive US government embargo in force since 1960.

The Economist of April 5 encourages US politicians to come around to seeing the Castros as partners in profit-making. “[O]ther countries are pushing ahead,” the website warns. The US stands to lose under a new Cuban law that “will slash tax rates for new investments and allow foreigners into new sectors of the economy.”

Probably the Economist worries too much, as the memorial service for Nelson Mandela at Johannesburg’s FNB Stadium last December provided another opportunity for the who’s who of imperialism to catch up. Former US presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush rubbed shoulders with German president Joachim Gauck, French president François Hollande and British premier David Cameron.

After his address, US president Barack Obama stopped to acknowledge Cuban president Raul Castro, who was speaking next. The two exchanged greetings. Their handshake in front of the whole world was a signal that Obama would not let the foreign rivals of US corporations monopolise the advantages of Cuba’s re-integration into the world capitalist market. The lesson for workers is that the challenge to imperialism must be socialist and internationalist.

South African workers in particular should take care not to confuse Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema with some kind of working-class champion. He is nothing of the kind. He talks left (in the phrase that Thabo Mbeki used to describe his own cynical politics) and walks right.

Workers must break free of the fetters of bourgeois politicians and trade unionists. In Russia, America, Namibia, Angola, South Africa, Cuba and everywhere else, they must educate and organise themselves into a political force. Sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International must take power and form true workers’ governments.


The author also recommends:

Castroism and the Politics of Petty-Bourgeois Nationalism
[7 January 1998]

South African trade union federation promotes illusions in Castroism

Part one

By Thabo Seseane Jr.
11 September 2014

At an event on August 29 marking the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Cuban and South African governments, Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi promoted Castroism as a panacea for capitalism.

Vavi delivered his address, titled “Socialism has worked in Cuba!”, to an audience that included the Cuban ambassador to South Africa, Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe, South African Communist Party (SACP) Deputy General Secretary Solly Mapaila and various members of the COSATU Central Executive Committee.

“For more than half a century,” Vavi asserted, “Cuba has been a beacon of hope for workers around the world.”

This entirely false hope has been unstintingly fostered around the world by various groups on the left wing of bourgeois politics, including COSATU and the Stalinist SACP. These upper-middle-class supporters of Fidel and Raul Castro have based themselves on the brothers’ narrow hostility to American imperialism, above all in Latin America and Africa. On this foundation, and following Fidel’s lead, they have promoted a radical section of Cuban bourgeois nationalists as something the Castroites have never been—Marxist revolutionaries.

Fidel Castro was a bourgeois nationalist opponent of the government of US puppet Fulgencio Batista. He came to power at the head of a small nationalist guerrilla movement that succeeded in January 1959 in overthrowing Batista. He and his followers were able to win the support of the Cuban working class because even its limited social policies were more radical than those put forward by the Stalinists, who were widely viewed as accomplices of Batista.

Castro attempted to reach an accommodation with the US, visiting the United Nations just four months after coming to power and offering friendly relations and private investment opportunities in Cuba. But the US was not interested in any agreement and stopped buying Cuban sugar.

Their attitude hardened following Castro’s nationalisation of US-owned properties, and particularly after Fidel turned to the Soviet Union for an alternative export market and development assistance. In 1961, the US launched the botched Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. That same year, Fidel for the first time described himself as a “Marxist-Leninist,” having completed his turn towards the Stalinist Soviet bureaucracy.

Referring to the South African situation in his August 29 speech, Vavi continued, “Our own national democratic revolution could have been delayed for years were it not for the huge contribution of those Cuban combatants, whose victory over the mighty apartheid regime at…Cuito Cuanavale paved the way for the…overthrow of our racist oppressors.”

Cuito Cuanavale is a southeastern Angolan town whose outskirts saw heavy fighting in what were the dying years of both the Cold War and the South African white supremacist regime. The engagement marked the climax of about a dozen years of inconclusive clashes between the Cuban and South African armed forces. Cited by Wikipedia as Africa’s largest land battle up to that point (1987-1988), the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale is claimed as a victory by supporters of both sides.

With the overthrow of the totalitarian Estado Novo (New State) regime in the 1974 military coup in Portugal, which signalled the beginning of the “Carnation Revolution,” Lisbon withdrew from its African colonies and East Timor. Up to then, three groups were engaged in armed conflict against the Portuguese in Angola: the Soviet-sponsored Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the Mobutu Sese Seko-backed National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA), and Jonas Savimbi’s National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), backed by the US and South Africa.

These three contended with each other over the vacuum left by the Portuguese pullout. The Cubans stayed on after 1975, when they helped the MPLA gain power in Luanda and central Angola against a combined South African/CIA intervention. The FNLA of Holden Roberto until its elimination was relegated to the north, while UNITA dominated the south.

In 1987, the Angolan army, FAPLA, launched Operation Greeting October from Cuito with Soviet support and against the advice of the more experienced Cubans. The objective was to consolidate control over the entire country by expelling UNITA from the south, particularly from their strongholds farther southeast at Mavinga and Jamba.

This cut across the South African strategy of maintaining UNITA-controlled territory as a buffer between northern Angola and South-West Africa (Namibia), which South Africa administered. The apartheid regime used South-West Africa as a bulwark against black Africa in defiance of UN General Assembly Resolution 2145. The resolution lifted the original League of Nations mandate awarding South Africa—then British-ruled—the right to administer the territory. Up until the beginning of World War I, South-West Africa had been a German colony.

The South African refusal to cede self-rule to South West Africa was bound up with racist paranoia over African independence in toto and black majority rule in South Africa in particular. With the final demise in 1980 of Ian Smith’s Rhodesia, South Africa and South-West Africa were the only parts of the continent not in black hands.

In the early 1980s, under the impetus of the Reagan administration’s obsession to rid Angola of the Soviets and the Cubans, the US became directly involved in negotiations with the MPLA. The MPLA argued it would safely reduce the number of Cuban troops and Soviet advisors within its borders except for the continuing South African incursions and threats on its southern border. They held out South-West African self-rule as the most obvious solution. This would deprive white-ruled South Africa of a base of operations, from which it continued to destabilise the entire sub-region.

The South-West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO) first took up arms against their white overlords in 1966. In the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, Pretoria aimed to prevent Soviet-supported SWAPO from using southern Angola to launch attacks into South-West Africa, quite apart from South African horror at the prospect of Eastern Bloc influence being extended at UNITA’s expense from the centre of the country to Angola’s southernmost border. When FAPLA advanced from Cuito to attack UNITA at Mavinga, the South African Defence Force (SADF) moved to protect UNITA by stopping that advance.

FAPLA forces numbered some 10,000, in addition to an estimated 1,500 Cubans. The SADF fielded about 4,000 men, in comparison to UNITA’s 8,000. In the six months of fighting to March 1988, the FAPLA/Cuban forces suffered casualties of 4,785 compared to UNITA’s 3,000. Officially, Pretoria acknowledged the loss of just 31 men, an unconscionably low number.

By October 7, 1987, the SADF had stopped the offensive for a third time and prevented FAPLA from crossing the Lomba River. FAPLA suffered heavy losses and the embarrassed Soviets withdrew their advisors from the scene, leaving the Angolans without senior leadership.

On November 15, Luanda appealed to Cuba for aid. Castro responded by approving Operation Maniobra XXXI Aniversario de las FAR (31st Anniversary of the Revolutionary Armed Forces Manoeuvre) on the same day, taking the initiative from the Soviets. Cuba dispatched a trans-Atlantic airlift and sealift of 15,000 troops and materiel, including tanks, artillery, antiaircraft weapons and aircraft. The first Cuban reinforcements were deployed at Cuito Cuanavale in mid-January 1988.

On February 25 FAPLA and the Cubans faced the South Africans in their fourth clash. This time, the SADF was repulsed so vigorously that they had to retreat to positions east of the Tumpo River. The failure of this attack boosted FAPLA’s flagging morale and brought the South African advance to a standstill. On March 23, the South Africans launched their last attack to no visible effect.

The superiority of Cuba’s Soviet-built MiG-23s at Cuito proved decisive in convincing the SADF—much of whose equipment was dated thanks to an international arms embargo dating back to 1977—to withdraw. SADF setbacks on the ground naturally followed on from the Cuban aerial dominance.

Unsuspected by Pretoria, the Cubans were preparing to open a second front at Lubango, which for years had served as a base for unhampered SADF operations. On March 10 Cuban, FAPLA and SWAPO units advanced southwest. They clashed with the SADF at Calueque, leading to months of bloody encounters, but the Cubans pushed on towards the border with South-West Africa. To project their air power into South-West Africa, by June they had built forward bases at Cahama and Xangongo.

When they withdrew from the outskirts of Cuito, the SADF left a “holding force” of 1,500 men. This remnant continued to shell FAPLA positions from a range of some 35 kilometres. With the Cubans invincible in the air, the rump at Cuito faced certain annihilation. As tribute to Pretoria’s alarm, on June 8, 1988, the SADF called up 140,000 men of the reserve Citizen Force, though this was soon cancelled.

South African forces retreated across the border into South-West Africa on June 27. By then, Cuban MiGs were flying in and out of South-West African airspace. South African installations around the Calueque dam and pumping station were under aerial bombardment, as were the bridge and hydroelectric equipment supplying power to South-West Africa. The SADF scaled back all other operations in Angola, effectively withdrawing from combat and positioning one division on the South-West African side of the border.

In 1977, West Germany plus the US, Britain and France in their capacity as permanent members of the UN Security Council had formed the “Western Contact Group.” This diplomatic initiative strove to end South Africa’s illegal occupation of South-West Africa and transition the territory to independence. The Contact Group upheld UN Security Council Resolution 435, which anticipated a ceasefire and UN-supervised elections in South-West Africa.

The Contact Group was merely one visible aspect of much broader US Government manoeuvres for influence in Angola and across the region. Portugal’s conservative Salazar regime had traditionally enjoyed US backing. Around the time of the Carnation Revolution, however, the US increased its clandestine support for the FNLA, which was allied to the US puppet regime of Mobutu in neighbouring Zaire.

While publicly the US administration was sworn to an arms embargo against the Angolan anticolonial movements, it was secretly in the throes of launching a paramilitary programme against the MPLA. Towards this end, the US for the first time began funding UNITA, an initially Maoist splinter of the FNLA.

On July 18, 1975, President Gerald Ford approved a covert CIA operation named IA FEATURE. The aim was to provide the FNLA and UNITA with arms, instructors and up to US$30 million in funds.

Nathaniel Davis, assistant secretary of state for African Affairs (and later US ambassador to Chile during the CIA-deposed presidency of Salvador Allende), objected to his senior, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and went on to resign over Ford’s approval of IA FEATURE.

Davis thought the Soviets were bound to uncover the existence of IA FEATURE. The upshot, according to him, would be negative publicity for the US and stepped-up Soviet involvement in Angola.

Following its discovery of IA FEATURE, the US Congress passed the Clark Amendment to the Arms Export Control Act in 1976. Its ostensible effect was to delegitimise aid to private groups, notably UNITA, engaged in military operations in Angola until the amendment’s 1985 repeal. Up to that point, the US relied in part on Israel to funnel arms to its Angolan proxies through Zaire.

To be continued

Desmond Tutu: “My Plea to the People of Israel: Liberate Yourselves by Liberating Palestine”

Global Research, August 22, 2014
Haaretz 14 August 2014

sa-protest-palestine-400x231A child next to a picture of Nelson Mandela at a pro-Palestinian rally in Cape Town. August 9, 2014 / Photo by AP

The following text is the statement of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, published by Haaretz. 

“It calls for a global boycott of Israel and urges Israelis and Palestinians to look beyond their leaders for a sustainable solution to the crisis in the Holy Land.”

The past weeks have witnessed unprecedented action by members of civil society across the world against the injustice of Israel’s disproportionately brutal response to the firing of missiles from Palestine.

If you add together all the people who gathered over the past weekend to demand justice in Israel and Palestine – in Cape Town, Washington, D.C., New York, New Delhi, London, Dublin and Sydney, and all the other cities – this was arguably the largest active outcry by citizens around a single cause ever in the history of the world.

A quarter of a century ago, I participated in some well-attended demonstrations against apartheid. I never imagined we’d see demonstrations of that size again, but last Saturday’s turnout in Cape Town was as big if not bigger. Participants included young and old, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, blacks, whites, reds and greens … as one would expect from a vibrant, tolerant, multicultural nation.

I asked the crowd to chant with me: “We are opposed to the injustice of the illegal occupation of Palestine. We are opposed to the indiscriminate killing in Gaza. We are opposed to the indignity meted out to Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks. We are opposed to violence perpetrated by all parties. But we are not opposed to Jews.”

Earlier in the week, I called for the suspension of Israel from the International Union of Architects, which was meeting in South Africa.

I appealed to Israeli sisters and brothers present at the conference to actively disassociate themselves and their profession from the design and construction of infrastructure related to perpetuating injustice, including the separation barrier, the security terminals and checkpoints, and the settlements built on occupied Palestinian land.

“I implore you to take this message home: Please turn the tide against violence and hatred by joining the nonviolent movement for justice for all people of the region,” I said.

Over the past few weeks, more than 1.6 million people across the world have signed onto this movement by joining an Avaaz campaign calling on corporations profiting from the Israeli occupation and/or implicated in the abuse and repression of Palestinians to pull out. The campaign specifically targets Dutch pension fund ABP; Barclays Bank; security systems supplier G4S; French transport company Veolia; computer company Hewlett-Packard; and bulldozer supplier Caterpillar.

Last month, 17 EU governments urged their citizens to avoid doing business in or investing in illegal Israeli settlements.

We have also recently witnessed the withdrawal by Dutch pension fund PGGM of tens of millions of euros from Israeli banks; the divestment from G4S by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and the U.S. Presbyterian Church divested an estimated $21 million from HP, Motorola Solutions and Caterpillar.

It is a movement that is gathering pace.

Violence begets violence and hatred, that only begets more violence and hatred.

We South Africans know about violence and hatred. We understand the pain of being the polecat of the world; when it seems nobody understands or is even willing to listen to our perspective. It is where we come from.

We also know the benefits that dialogue between our leaders eventually brought us; when organizations labeled “terrorist” were unbanned and their leaders, including Nelson Mandela, were released from imprisonment, banishment and exile.

We know that when our leaders began to speak to each other, the rationale for the violence that had wracked our society dissipated and disappeared. Acts of terrorism perpetrated after the talks began – such as attacks on a church and a pub – were almost universally condemned, and the party held responsible snubbed at the ballot box.

The exhilaration that followed our voting together for the first time was not the preserve of black South Africans alone. The real triumph of our peaceful settlement was that all felt included. And later, when we unveiled a constitution so tolerant, compassionate and inclusive that it would make God proud, we all felt liberated.

Of course, it helped that we had a cadre of extraordinary leaders.

But what ultimately forced these leaders together around the negotiating table was the cocktail of persuasive, nonviolent tools that had been developed to isolate South Africa, economically, academically, culturally and psychologically.

At a certain point – the tipping point – the then-government realized that the cost of attempting to preserve apartheid outweighed the benefits.

The withdrawal of trade with South Africa by multinational corporations with a conscience in the 1980s was ultimately one of the key levers that brought the apartheid state – bloodlessly – to its knees. Those corporations understood that by contributing to South Africa’s economy, they were contributing to the retention of an unjust status quo.

Those who continue to do business with Israel, who contribute to a sense of “normalcy” in Israeli society, are doing the people of Israel and Palestine a disservice. They are contributing to the perpetuation of a profoundly unjust status quo.

Those who contribute to Israel’s temporary isolation are saying that Israelis and Palestinians are equally entitled to dignity and peace.

Ultimately, events in Gaza over the past month or so are going to test who believes in the worth of human beings.

It is becoming more and more clear that politicians and diplomats are failing to come up with answers, and that responsibility for brokering a sustainable solution to the crisis in the Holy Land rests with civil society and the people of Israel and Palestine themselves.

Besides the recent devastation of Gaza, decent human beings everywhere – including many in Israel – are profoundly disturbed by the daily violations of human dignity and freedom of movement Palestinians are subjected to at checkpoints and roadblocks. And Israel’s policies of illegal occupation and the construction of buffer-zone settlements on occupied land compound the difficulty of achieving an agreementsettlement in the future that is acceptable for all.

The State of Israel is behaving as if there is no tomorrow. Its people will not live the peaceful and secure lives they crave – and are entitled to – as long as their leaders perpetuate conditions that sustain the conflict.

I have condemned those in Palestine responsible for firing missiles and rockets at Israel. They are fanning the flames of hatred. I am opposed to all manifestations of violence.

But we must be very clear that the people of Palestine have every right to struggle for their dignity and freedom. It is a struggle that has the support of many around the world.

No human-made problems are intractable when humans put their heads together with the earnest desire to overcome them. No peace is impossible when people are determined to achieve it.

Peace requires the people of Israel and Palestine to recognize the human being in themselves and each other; to understand their interdependence.

Missiles, bombs and crude invective are not part of the solution. There is no military solution.

The solution is more likely to come from that nonviolent toolbox we developed in South Africa in the 1980s, to persuade the government of the necessity of altering its policies.

The reason these tools – boycott, sanctions and divestment – ultimately proved effective was because they had a critical mass of support, both inside and outside the country. The kind of support we have witnessed across the world in recent weeks, in respect of Palestine.

My plea to the people of Israel is to see beyond the moment, to see beyond the anger at feeling perpetually under siege, to see a world in which Israel and Palestine can coexist – a world in which mutual dignity and respect reign.

It requires a mind-set shift. A mind-set shift that recognizes that attempting to perpetuate the current status quo is to damn future generations to violence and insecurity. A mind-set shift that stops regarding legitimate criticism of a state’s policies as an attack on Judaism. A mind-set shift that begins at home and ripples out across communities and nations and regions – to the Diaspora scattered across the world we share. The only world we share.

People united in pursuit of a righteous cause are unstoppable. God does not interfere in the affairs of people, hoping we will grow and learn through resolving our difficulties and differences ourselves. But God is not asleep. The Jewish scriptures tell us that God is biased on the side of the weak, the dispossessed, the widow, the orphan, the alien who set slaves free on an exodus to a Promised Land. It was the prophet Amos who said we should let righteousness flow like a river.

Goodness prevails in the end. The pursuit of freedom for the people of Palestine from humiliation and persecution by the policies of Israel is a righteous cause. It is a cause that the people of Israel should support.

Nelson Mandela famously said that South Africans would not feel free until Palestinians were free.

He might have added that the liberation of Palestine will liberate Israel, too.

Desmond Tutu

South Africa’s Murder Trial Distraction

By Danny Schechter

April 13, 2014 “ICH” –  With Nelson Mandela’s death, news from South Africa seemed to have died along with the world’s most famous ex-political-prisoner-turned-president. It was as if the people there don’t deserve to be covered unless there is a larger-than-life celebrity or scandal to focus on.

Happily for the media industry there is a now an anti-Mandela in the public eye, an athletic celebrity who is now less famous for his achievements than infamous for killing his girlfriend in what was either a tragic accident or the act of an angry lover.

Oscar Pistorius’s trial is getting far more coverage than the one that Mandela and his co-defendants went through in 1962 leading to his life sentence for acts of sabotage against South Africa’s white-supremacist government.

That’s partly because of today’s celebrity culture. Pistorius was a medal-winning athlete dubbed the “blade runner” because he had been a double amputee since childhood and overcame adversity to win races while wearing prosthetic devices. His late live-in lover, Reeva Steenkamp, was a stunning blonde model well known to local media.

This story is being given the full tabloid treatment with cover stories in People Magazine and lots of hype by the networks. Unlike the days of apartheid, a black judge is hearing this case with race rarely alluded to, although it is part of the back story because of Pistorius’s claims that he thought he was shooting at an intruder.

Pistorius lived in a pricey gated community where fear of black burglars is legion, all an unstated reflection of the dramatic inequality that remains in the country. If Pistorius had killed an unknown black intruder, instead of his celebrity paramour, this trial wouldn’t be news (if there would even be a trial).

The coverage of him has been mostly negative although he has fought back with his own communications team with a Twitter feed, @OscarHardTruth, designed to give “factual updates” on the trial. Its profile reads, “Truth Shall Prevail. Innocent until Proven Guilty.” In just 24 hours, it had over 16,400 followers, but only follows 28 – mostly international media outlets.

South Africa’s media monitor, Media Tenor, said the local media is trying him as well as the court. According to researcher, Minnette Nieuwoudt, “my instinct tells me the media likes a damsel-in-distress type of story. The outright victim is something that resonates with a lot of people. The fact that she was very beautiful, it made her a bit of an icon. Pistorius, on the other hand, started getting increasingly negative coverage over the months after the shooting.

“There seemed to be a slight change in the tonality. Also, with regards to Oscar, he was initially compared to fallen sport heroes — then this changed to a more the general criminal comparison. First, he was an athlete who stumbled. Now, he’s a criminal, who used to be an athlete.”

But even as the world focuses on his courtroom tears and the aggressive and often bungled prosecution that aims to show the dark side of this Olympic hero, other issues of perhaps worst crimes in South Africa draw little interest from the global media machine.

The year 2014 is the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s “freedom” and the coming of democracy. It is an election year with national campaign underway pitting President Jacob Zuma, who was once part of the African National Congress’s armed struggle and is now a popular if controversial/detested politician seeking reelection, against a number of challengers.

Zuma is carrying lots of baggage because of a current theft-of-public-monies-for-private-use scandal involving lavish improvements on his home compound and an earlier rape case.

The ANC has a serious political challenge as well. On the center-right, there’s the DA, the Democratic Alliance, now transitioning from its roots in all-white politics into a multi-racial party that holds power in the Western Cape Province with Cape Town as its capital.

And, then there are two new outfits, among other players, contesting for seats in this parliamentary democracy. Businesswoman and educator Mamphela Ramphele, best known as the anti-apartheid icon Steve Biko’s girl friend, and her Agang Party is focusing on corruption and attracting women, while former ANC Youth League Leader Julius Malema has set up a militant radical sounding youth-oriented party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, and says the ANC died with Mandela.

South Africa’s powerful labor unions that have been in an alliance with the ANC for decades were expected to organize a worker’s party but they have been persuaded not to. None of these political divisions fall on strict left-right differences.

Many on all sides have strong disagreements with the ANC’s neo-liberal economic policies and complain about pervasive poverty and low growth. Outside the traditional political party structure, dissent is heard daily in noisy press stories exposing corruption and the “politics of concealment” by the ruling ANC party.

Long-time activists and ANC members are incensed by the lack of transparency and the arrogance of a political elite that seems more focused on enriching itself than serving the public.

Now, a former minister, Ronnie Kasrils, and supporters have launched a new Vote No campaign to put the issues of the ANC’s betrayal and corruption on the agenda. They have just issued this release:

“A one-time minister and a deputy minister in ANC governments are among a group of former anti-apartheid activists who are backing a campaign calling on voters to come out and vote by either spoiling their ballots or to voting tactically in protest against corruption and current government policies.

“Former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils and former deputy health minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge are among a number of prominent figures who have endorsed a statement headed: Sidikiwe! (We are fed up) Vukani! (Arise/Wake up), Vote ‘NO’ that will be released at the Press conference.”

It criticizes the economic policies of both the ANC and the main opposition, the DA, for supporting a system that has caused such alienation. Many participants are veterans of the struggle against apartheid and most of the signatories have supported the ANC throughout the years since the 1994 transition, but are appealing to the wider range of disillusioned voters. Their statement concludes:

“The ANC needs to know that it can no longer take for granted its traditional support and we would be failing South Africa and our democracy by not voting. After the elections efforts will be intensified to build an inclusive and transformative political program premised on social justice, redistribution, clean governance and democratic principles.”
All of this textured opposition politics does not meet the celebrity smell test that seems to motivate international media to pay attention. Corruption stories in Africa are widely covered although the focus is rarely ever on the corruptor, just the corruptee. It is virtually never on the disastrous impact of western corporations, banks and international financial institutions.

Years ago the anti-government song “Marching on Pretoria” was well-known. Today, with the media “marching on Pistorius,” the deeper, critical issues of a deepening economic and political crisis have been supplanted by another distraction – what looks to all the world like another OJ Simpson trial for audiences relishing more “newstainment.”

News Dissector Danny Schechter edits and blogs at

ANC and its competitors stir up racialism in advance of South African elections

By Thabo Seseane Jr

3 April 2014

Some 500 people joined an African National Congress (ANC) march in Cape Town, Western Cape province on March 26 to demand better sanitation, housing and land from the ruling Democratic Alliance (DA).

This is the only place where the ANC can call for such demands given that Western Cape is the only one of South Africa’s nine provinces not under its rule. Everywhere else the ANC has imposed the dictates of the global banks and corporaitons, which have been ruinous for working people.

The protest was an attempt by the ANC to posture as a champion of “black rights” in advance of the general elections scheduled for May 7, which will elect a new National Assembly as well as new provincial legislatures in each province.

The march was organised in response to DA leader Helen Zille’s comments on the draft of employment equity regulations published in the beginning of March. The Employment Equity Amendment Act, passed last October by the ANC national government, is supposed to provide a guide to employers on how to use demographic figures to set targets for the racial makeup of their workforces.

The ANC policy seeks to match the racial composition of all workplaces to national demographics. For instance, since blacks constitute about 80 percent of the overall population, black employees, according to the guidelines, should make up 80 percent of workers across all levels at places of employment everywhere in the country.

However, the ratio of blacks in the Western Cape is barely a third, while so-called coloured people—a heterogeneous ethnic group of around 4.5 million people who mostly reside in Cape Town and the Western Cape region—constitute 49 percent of the population. In this context the ANC march was a deliberate provocation designed to inflame racial tensions.

Zille, the premier of the Western Cape, denounced the regulations as having a “profound impact on employment” in the province, denying coloureds access to jobs and promotion, should they be implemented.

One of the organisers of the march, ANC Western Cape Provincial Secretary Songezo Mjongile, accused the DA of “playing on the fears” of the coloured community in a ruse to win their votes. The ANC described Zille’s comments as “mere electioneering and an attempt to divide black and coloured communities in the Western Cape.”

In reality, the ANC itself has nothing other than identity politics to offer workers of the Western Cape and South Africa as a whole. In its policies of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), Affirmative Action (employment equity) and procurement favouring “historically disadvantaged” suppliers, the ANC from 1994 onwards cultivated a wealthy black capitalist class, while reinforcing the divisions in the working class, which the bourgeoisie first enshrined in the canon of “Grand Apartheid”.

Apartheid as official policy emerged following the general election of 1948. With blacks then disenfranchised, victory went to the white supremacist National Party (NP) under D. F. Malan. NP legislation classified people into four racial groups—white, coloured, Indian and black, in order of preference—and residential areas were segregated accordingly. The ANC government requires to this day that citizens be classified in these categories for employment, census and other purposes.

Apartheid sought to cover over the class divisions in capitalist society with vicious racial segregation and discrimination. This included policies that reserved skilled and managerial posts for whites while restricting blacks to more menial work.

From the first democratic elections of 1994, ANC policy has sought to address economic underdevelopment through measures that are touted as favouring blacks. Actually, these policies have showered obscene wealth on only a thin layer of individuals connected to the ANC. Since the election of the ANC and the end of de jure apartheid, poverty, unemployment, income inequality, life expectancy, land ownership and educational attainment have all worsened for blacks despite the country’s rising GDP.

Nevertheless, the ANC doggedly perpetuates the lie that racial discrimination is the root of inequality in South Africa. They are joined in this mantra by all the other tools of the bourgeois establishment.

This explains the remarks of National Union of Me tal workers of South Africa (NUMSA) General S ecretary Irvin Jim during the one-day strike on March 19. Following a march in Johannesburg against proposed legislation , which offers more subsidies to employers of young workers , Jim claimed that “non-racialism” is not working for South Africa, as blacks still form the bulk of those in poverty.

The insinuation is clearly that the ANC’s “empowerment” policies, which are predicated on the defense of capitalist property relations and therefore the further impoverishment of the working class, must continue. At the same time, NUMSA encourages illusions in its pseudo-leftist credentials, having announced its “investigation” into the feasibility of a coalition of forces to form a “socialist” political party.

The fake left provides additional cover for racialist politics promoted by NUMSA. Writing in Business Day, Sam Ashman and Nicolas Pons-Vignon enthuse that NUMSA’s mooted political party is “the most promising development that progressives—those who support substantial economic and social change in favour of the disadvantaged—could have hoped for.” According to them, NUMSA “may well succeed in building… a credible socialist alternative.”

Ashman and Pons-Vignon are senior researchers in the Corporate Strategy and Industrial Development Research programme at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). According to his Wits profile, “Nicolas has edited two [International Labour Organisation]-published books which collect articles on trade union responses to the crisis and policy directions for post-crisis economic policy.”

Ashman, the Wits profile continues, “is involved in a project based at Rhodes University, funded by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and sponsored by NUMSA, which is examining the political economy of economic policy-making in South Africa since 1994 and developing alternative policy proposals.” (The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation is affiliated with the Left Party in Germany, a party which has supported austerity, the attack on democratic rights and the remilitarization of German imperialism.)

The exploitation of racial differences among workers found expression last year in the establishment of the Patriotic Alliance, one of the parties contesting the May 7 elections. Oriented to the Western Cape, which more than any other province suffers from the scourge of criminal gangs, the Patriotic Alliance is the brainchild of ex-convicts Gayton McKenzie and Kenny Kunene. It aims to curry support from South Africa’s 160,000 prison inmates—who have the right to vote in this year’s election—whom it claims are ignored by mainstream parties.

“Back then during apartheid, coloured people weren’t white enough,” McKenzie complained to City Press in December. “Now we’re not black enough.”

The bourgeoisie continues to rely on racial differences to divide workers. Zille caused an uproar in 2012 when she applied the term “refugees” to those citizens of the impoverished, predominantly black Eastern Cape who move to the Western Cape in search of jobs.

Playing the same game but addressing a black audience, the ANC’s Jimmy Manyi complained the year before of an “over-concentration of coloureds” in the Western Cape. Manyi, then head of government communications, crudely suggested that some of them be relocated so that the racial profile of the province could more closely match national demographics.

Such thinking is no different from that which led to the traumatic forced removals of people of the “wrong” colour from areas that the apartheid state deemed them unfit for.

Among the 29 parties contesting the elections, none offer a progressive programme to oppose the capitalist system, which is the cause of poverty, social inequality and all forms of discrimination.

National Elections in South Africa: ANC Political Campaigning Raises Tensions

Platinum workers continues strike while service delivery demonstrations hit townships

 By Abayomi Azikiwe

Global Research, February 17, 2014
Pan-African News Wire and Global Research

southafricamap22A date for national elections has been set in the Republic of South Africa for May 7. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) will mark two decades in power hoping to maintain control of the post-apartheid state.

Rallies for the ANC in various parts of the country have been met with enthusiasm from the people. An election manifesto is calling for a jobs-creation program for six million and the acceleration of land reform which has been stalled since 1994.

Nonetheless, there are attempts to build an electoral opposition to the national liberation movement turned political party. The Democratic Alliance (DA) headed by Helen Zille organized a demonstration to the national headquarters of the ANC at Luthuli House in Johannesburg.

The march almost resulted in serious violence between thousands of DA supporters and members of the ruling party who had come to Luthuli House to defend the headquarters from what they perceived as a hostile political attack. Some ANC Youth League members were reported to have carried bricks and police utilized crowd control tactics to restrain members from ruling party and the largest opposition bloc in parliament, the DA. (SABC, Feb. 12)

Zille is the former mayor of Cape Town and has sought to recruit Africans into the opposition party which is perceived as being a white-dominated alliance between former Nationalist Party members, liberals and opportunistic elements who are disgruntled with the ANC. The DA announced that former Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) activist, Dr. Mamphele Ramphele, a comrade of the martyred leader Steve Biko killed by the apartheid state in 1977, would run on the DA ticket after a merger with her own Agang party.

This short-lived political marriage of convenience ended before it started. Acrimony was expressed between Zille and Ramphele.

The Role of Workers and Youth in the Electoral Process

The ANC is seeking to appeal directly to the so-called “born frees” generation that came into existence after the first non-racial democratic elections of 1994. It is also essential that the party garners the majority of the working class vote throughout the country.

A strike in the main platinum-producing region in the world in the northwest is a major factor in the upcoming elections and the overall economic future of South Africa. 80,000 miners who are members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) have been on strike for nearly four weeks.

Platinum prices have declined in recent years although the impact in production during the strike may raise prices. Recently the owners of Anglo-American Platinum (Amplats) filed court papers against AMCU to end the strike.

A spokesperson for Amplats, which is the world’s largest producer of the strategic mineral, said that “There are increased costs to pay protection services staff overtime, damage to property, and losses occasioned by the loss of production because non-striking workers are being prevented from going to work,” Mpumi Sithole told Reuters. “There is evidence of illegal actions of violence and intimidation and breaching of the picketing rules,” she said. (Feb. 16)

An article published in the Financial Times illustrates that Amplats and other platinum owners are preparing for a protracted struggle with organized labor. These developments will test the ANC in its ability to resolve the current crisis in the industry where the bosses have threatened to lay-off up to 14,000 workers.

This Financial Times articles says that “The platinum price is still more than 35 per cent below its record high reached almost six years ago. The market has been weighed down by large above-ground stocks and failed attempts by miners such as Amplats, responsible for 40 per cent of world supply, to reduce output.” (Feb. 17)

With specific reference to the ruling party and its bid to remain politically dominant in South Africa, the same article notes

“Concerned by job losses set against a backdrop of an unemployment rate that is close to a quarter of the working population, the ruling African National Congress has kept pressure on companies to keep mines open. At the same time, Europe’s automotive industry has experienced the worst slump in sales for about two decades. However, the outlook has started to brighten, say analysts. “

AMCU is a staunch rival of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) which was previously the largest affiliate of the two million-member Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), an ally of the ruling ANC that was formed at the height of the liberation struggle in 1985. AMCU appears to be opposed to the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP) and their influence within the trade union movement.

Reuters observed of the situation that

“AMCU has emerged as the dominant union on South Africa’s platinum belt over the past two years after poaching tens of thousands of members from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which is allied to the ruling African National Congress. The vicious union turf war erupted into violence in the platinum sector last year and has killed dozens of people. In August 2012, police shot dead 34 striking AMCU miners at Lonmin’s Marikana mine, South Africa’s bloodiest security incident since the end of apartheid in 1994. The killings spooked investors and hit the country’s credit ratings.” (Feb. 16)

At the same time the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) secretary-general Irwin Jim said that his labor organization, which is currently the largest COSATU affiliate, would not support the ANC in the upcoming May 7 elections. It is not clear what impact the NUMSA electoral position will have on their members and supporters.

The NUMSA position on the ANC, SACP and COSATU alliance is that the interests of the working class is being subordinated to the maintenance of state power by the ruling party. NUMSA is demanding a special national congress of COSATU to address the suspension of former secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi, who has been accused of violating union rules and acting in a manner that is not above reproach.

NUMSA has nine affiliates which supports its view while other affiliates of COSATU have called for Vavi to be disciplined within the trade union federation structures. COSATU’s current leadership has severely criticized the posture of NUMSA and questioned whether it should be expelled.

These divisions within COSATU and the role of AMCU in the platinum sectors raised a number of questions in light of the upcoming elections and the future of working class politics. Will NUMSA eventually call for the formation of an independent labor party as an alternative to the ANC-SACP-COSATU alliance or is it prepared to stay within the coalition a fight for its views?

In addition, what impact will the AMCU-led strikes have on the mobilizations by the ANC for the May 7 vote? Will the working class in South Africa, which is 70 percent unorganized outside of any union, be influenced within the electoral arena by the political struggles taking place within the labor movement and the attacks on the ANC by the DA?

These debates and political struggles within the union movement are coupled with the continuing unrest in the townships over service delivery issues. The ANC is seeking to run on its record of home constructions, affirmative action within government and private industry, the building of a rapid transit train system, healthcare reforms and its influence in foreign policy areas such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC), its entry into the Brazil, India, China, Brazil and now South Africa Summit (BRICS), the hosting of the World Soccer Cup in 2010, among other developments.

Nonetheless, there are still millions which remain without adequate housing, public education, utility services, living wages, land and environmentally safe communities and municipalities. The DA is attempting to utilize these realities and channel them into an electoral campaign that will weaken the ANC’s two-thirds majority within the national parliament.

Reuters conveyed in a recent article that “Zuma, whose popularity has dipped in polls ahead of general elections on May 7, also touched on a recent wave of violent protests by residents of black townships unhappy with their living conditions. In the last three months, South Africa has seen around 30 ‘service delivery’ protests a day, but Zuma put a positive spin on the unrest, saying it was a sign of government success creating higher expectations among communities.” (Feb. 13)

This same report quotes President Zuma as pointing out that

“When 95 percent of households have access to water, the 5 percent who still need to be provided for feel they cannot wait a moment longer. Success is also the breeding ground of rising expectations.”

South Africa has the largest economy and working class on the continent of Africa. The outcome of the May 7 elections will portend much for the immediate future of the class struggle in Africa.

Nelson Mandela: Obama, Clinton, Cameron, Blair, Tributes of Shameful Hypocrisy. (Part Two.)

Nelson Mandela: Obama, Clinton, Cameron, Blair, Tributes of Shameful Hypocrisy. (Part Two.). 51790.jpeg

Nelson Mandela’s life, included violence and controversy but he “walked the walk” paying the price of twenty seven years in jail for the racial equality he fought for South Africa. For all the country’s complexities, imperfections and astonishing betrayals (i) the concept of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission surely averted a cycle of vengeance which would have dwarfed the country’s continuing turbulence.

Felicity Arbuthnot

In death, however, he has uniquely highlighted the monumental paucity of integrity, intelligence, introspection and vision of a swathe of Western politicians.

On Monday December 9th, four days after his death, eight hours of tributes were paid in a special sitting of London’s Houses of Parliament. Mandela’s statue stands just yards away, in Parliament Square.

Prime Minister David Cameron led the session reminding:

“We must never forget the evil of apartheid and its effect on every day life. Separate benches, separate buses, separate schools … Inter-racial relationships criminalised, pass laws and banning orders, a whole language of segregation (expressing) man’s inhumanity to man.”

He might ponder on his words when he, his Foreign Secretary or Party Members next jet off on a Conservative Friends of Israel junket to that apartheid State, which behaves as he described, additionally seizing lands, demolishing homes, that “temple of the family”, as described by David Halpin (ii) who nearly lost his own life at Israel’s State hands in his commitment to Palestine. Olive and apricot groves are razed, as orchards, farms, livelihoods. Even fishing is restricted and fishermen shot from Israeli gun boats – in Palestine’s territorial waters.

Having spouted sanctimonious insincerity, Cameron flew to attend the Memorial the following day, Tuesday 10th December – the twentieth anniversary of Mandela and South Africa’s last apartheid-era President, F.W. de Klerk, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize: “for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime …”

It has to be wondered whether the Prime Minister reflected on his 1989 “all expenses paid trip” to South Africa “funded by a firm that lobbied against the imposition of sanctions on the apartheid regime”- or the “Hang Nelson Mandela” badges that aspiring Conservative MPs wore at the time – some now actual MPs in his Party. (iii)

President Obama’s address was a masterpiece of oiled humbug:

” … while I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be better.  He speaks to what is best inside us . . . we can change . . . We can choose to live in a world defined not by our differences, but by our common hopes … a world defined not by conflict, but by peace and justice … “

He reminded that:

” … there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us”, and that: ” … we, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace.”

The previous day, missiles fired from a U.S. drone killed at least three people traveling in a car in eastern Yemen. Two days later, seventeen people in a convoy heading for a wedding party were killed, ten instantly, seven dying shortly afterwards and in differing reports, between five and twenty two remain seriously injured. The President, it is reported, personally signs off on these obscenities, weekly.

According to Tom Dispatch, this may be the eighth Yemeni wedding party to be decimated – families heading to a joyous celebration rendered unidentifiable charred remains.(iv)

Two days later, Saturday 14th, six people in a boat on Afghanistan’s Kabul river were reported killed by a Drone attack, two were injured. They were, of course “suspected militants.” In a sane world, suspects are subject to legalities, not assassinations of an obscene, for real computer game.

In contrast, Obama traveled in the security of Air Force One, arrived at the memorial stadium in “The Beast”, his great armoured, multi-reinforced vehicle, flanked by a protective motorcade, all flown in for the occasion, as when ever he travels. The ultimate protection for one who decides, from half a world away, who lives or dies by computer, whether they be wedding or funeral parties, in tents or pick up trucks, kids collecting firewood, or babes in arms.

So much for ” peace and justice’ and the “oneness to humanity.” Norman Pollack peerlessly summed up the address as: “Honeyed words on serpent’s wings.”

Senator John McCain, who as Republican Presidential contender, sang “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran”, to the tune of the Beach Boys classic “Barbara Ann”, at an appearance in South Carolina, in April 2007, said of Mandela’s enduring friendship with one of his guards when a prisoner on Robben Island, it was: “a mutual regard that ancient hatreds could not prevent. Love, you see, comes more naturally to the human heart than hatred.” Serpents rule. Fortunately he did not pitch up for the Memorial.

McCain is an enthusiast for an Iraqi type blood bath in Syria. In May he illegally entered Syria and met with terrorist factions whose propensity for beheading, cannibalism and dismemberment of others are proudly loaded on You Tube.

Currently he is in Ukraine, to “hasten regime change” there.(v) So much for “love” trumping “hatred” in the human heart.

One report claims that in his commitment to an  “Arab Spring” in Russia’s orbit, John McCain dined in Kiev, with the leaders of the pro-EU opposition parties. Allegedly,one an open neo-Nazi, the other a barely covert neo-Nazi, the third a right-wing Zionist. “While their democratic and revolutionary quality is fake, their fascism isn’t.”(vi)

Other notable no-shows at Mandela’s Memorial ceremony were Israel’s  Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres (born Szymon Perski in Wiszniew, Poland, former Haganah militia member, and instrumental in the planning, with Britain and France, of the 1956 Suez war.)

It was the expense, explained the Prime Minister. Frugality ruled the day, the cost an estimated $ two million, just for transport and security. In fact on the Monday morning Netanyahu had confirmed traveling, with his wife, Sara. By the afternoon he had been hit with the cost-cutting bug. Larry Derfner, writing in 972 Magazine called the decision “a jaw-dropper” their spending of public moneys making them: “Israel’s Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos.”

Netanyahu’s chosen stand in, President Peres pulled out suffering a lingering bout of a virulent ‘flu – appearing publicly later seemingly symptom free.

Derfner doesn’t buy the economy ruse, quoting Yediot Ahronot columnist Eiran Haber’s take:

“Israel in the ’70s and ’80s was a full, enthusiastic partner of the apartheid regime. Until this day, millions of South African citizens have not forgotten nor forgiven Israel’s role. …(the) announcement of the cancellation of Netanyahu’s flight … shouldn’t have surprised anyone. The leader has not yet been born who will knowingly step into a boiling pot of hatred and contempt.”

Prime Ministerial expenses, incidentally have included a $140,000 custom built bed for a flight to Europe, $one million for maintenance of his three private residences; a $75,000 electricity bill for his villa in Caesarea and bill for ice cream $3,000.(vii) Omitted is the filling of a swimming pool at $23,000, wine and flowers. Scented candles were quoted at $1,700. rose to Bibi’s sudden financial dilemma with an admirably tongue in cheek appeal: “Help send Netanyahu to the Mandela Memorial.” Their internet trawl discovered a Turkish Airlines flight (economy) for a mere $3,443. Chip in, “help him save face”, they pleaded.

In the event, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein led a small delegation to the Memorial. Edelstein, lives in a settlement, opposes a Palestinian State, and said of Mandela: “he was a man (who) knew that you do not correct an injustice with another injustice and violence with more violence.”

Further: “I hope our region will have (such) leaders, who will say no more violence, no more armed battle, it’s time for peace.” Indeed. One can imagine that the helpless Palestinian victims of Israel’s December-January 2008 Operation Cast Lead, or the November 2012 Operation Pillar of Cloud would endorse his sentiments whole heartedly.

A minutely detailed Report (viii) on Cast Lead states: “The ferocity of the attack was unprecedented in the more than six-decade-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians … ” The facts are eye- watering, shaming and crimes against humanity.

Also erased is the close co-operation between Israel and South Africa. The apartheid regime was implemented in South Africa the year of the establishment of Israel, 1948. In the 1960s a political and military alliance was formed. In 1975 the:  “Joint Secretariat for Political and Psychological Warfare” was created to facilitate the apartheid South Africa-Israel alliance, including “propaganda and psychological warfare … championed by Shimon Peres, then Defence Minister …”(ix)

Apartheid in South Africa and Israel were uncannily mirrored over the decades, until apartheid’s wall began to disintegrate, however imperfectly, in South Africa. In Israel it remains, also physically at eight metres high, three metres thick, approximately six hundred kilometers long and still a work in progress.

The two countries closely co-operated in the development of nuclear weapons.

When Mandela was finally released from prison invitations arrived: “from almost every country in the world, except Israel.” When they finally came, he finally accepted in 1999. Prime Minister Ehud Barak seemed close to peace agreement with the Palestinians – perhaps Mandela hoped his presence might aid the process.

It did not. He visited the Israeli Foreign Ministry and was quoted as saying: “Talk of peace will remain hollow if Israel continues to occupy Arab territories … if there is going to be peace, there must be complete withdrawal from all of these areas.” (BBC 6th December 2013.)

Mandela’s memorable bottom line, was, of course: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” That a settler, living on stolen land, represented Israel at his passing is a multi-dimensional irony

George W. Bush, responsible for Iraq’s unending carnage and illegal invasion, who with Hilary Clinton hitched a free ride on Air Force One, said of the death: “President Mandela was one of the great forces for freedom and equality of our time … our world is better off because of his example.”

Even with nil transport costs he had hardly come to grieve a man who said, with searing accuracy of him and his nation, shortly before the Iraq invasion:

“What I am condemning is that one power, with a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly, is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust. … If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don’t care.” (30th January 2003.)

For Tony Blair, the Memorial was, as ever, a business opportunity. Advisor to the Romanian government, he used the opportunity to introduce the country’s Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, to President Obama, in an exchange that seemingly lasted fifteen minutes.

In context: “In October, Mr Ponta indicated that Romania was also preparing to join Mr Blair’s Global Network of Delivery Leaders, which aims to help members improve the ‘delivery’ of services such as education, health and construction.”

Photographs show Blair seemingly crouching behind the seated Obama, prompting the President to turn around to greet him and shake Mr Ponta’s hand.

The: “encounter, however, could prove awkward. On the same day, the Romanian parliament approved controversial new changes to the country’s criminal law to help protect MPs against corruption charges.”(x)

Bill Clinton shares Blair’s shamelessness. On hearing of the death, he tweeted: “I will never forget my friend Madiba.”

An instant response was: “Then why was he on the US Terrorist Watch List during your Presidency?”

Mandela was, in fact, on the US Terrorist Watch List until 1st July 2008, nearly a year after his statue was unveiled in London’s Parliament Square (29th August 2007) and twelve years after he was hosted at a banquet given by the Queen.

The statue had been virulently opposed over years by many of the “great and the good.”

One such was John Bercow who had been Chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students when “Hang Nelson Mandela” and similar slogans had been all the rage amongst FCS Members.

He is now Speaker of Parliament, who presided over the eight hour special sitting, in tribute to Mandela, opening with: “This is a special day for special tributes to a special statesman …”

Hypocrisy über alles.











The Media’s Hypocritical Oath – Mandela And Economic Apartheid

By David Edwards 

December 13, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “Media Lens” –  What does it mean when a notoriously profit-driven, warmongering, climate-killing media system mourns, with one impassioned voice, the death of a principled freedom fighter like Nelson Mandela?

Does it mean that the corporate system has a heart, that it cares? Or does it mean that Mandela’s politics, and the mythology surrounding them, are somehow serviceable to power?

Consider, first, that this is what is supposed to be true of professional journalism:

‘Gavin Hewitt, John Simpson, Andrew Marr and the rest are employed to be studiously neutral, expressing little emotion and certainly no opinion; millions of people would say that news is the conveying of fact, and nothing more.’ (Andrew Marr, My Trade – A Short History of British Journalism, Macmillan, 2004, p.279)

Thus, Andrew Marr, then BBC political editor, offering professional journalism’s version of the medical maxim, ‘First, do no harm’. First, do no bias.

The reality is indicated by Peter Oborne’s comment in the Telegraph:

‘There are very few human beings who can be compared to Jesus Christ. Nelson Mandela is one… It is hard to envisage a wiser ruler.’

Responding to 850 viewers who had complained that the BBC ‘had devoted too much airtime’ to Mandela’s death, James Harding, the BBC’s director of news, also expressed little emotion and certainly no opinion when he declared Mandela ‘the most significant statesman of the last 100 years, a man who defined freedom, justice, reconciliation, forgiveness’.

In other words, the corporate media had once again abandoned its famed Hypocritical Oath in affirming a trans-spectrum consensus. As ever, a proposition is advanced as indisputably true, the evidence so overwhelming that journalists simply have to ditch ‘balance’ to declare the obvious.

The motive is always said to be some pressing moral cause: national solidarity and security at home, opposition to tyranny and genocide abroad. In these moments, the state-corporate system persuades the public of its fundamental humanity, rationality and compassion. But in fact this ‘compassion’ isalways driven by realpolitik and groupthink.

‘Emotionally Potent Over-Simplifications’

Because it is an integral part of a system whose actual goals and methods would not be acceptable to the public, the corporate media cannot make sense of the world; it must deal in what US foreign affairs advisor Reinhold Niebuhr called ’emotionally potent over-simplifications’.

Thus we find the endlessly recurring theme of the archetypal Bad Guy. When bin Laden is executed, Saddam Hussein lynched and Gaddafi bombed, beaten and shot, it is the same Enemy regenerating year after year, Doctor Who-like, to be ‘taken down’ by the same Good Guy archetype. This is the benevolent father figure who forever sets corporate hearts aflutter with hope and devotion.

In 1997, the Guardian declared the election of Tony Blair ‘one of the great turning-points of British political history… the moment when Britain at last gave itself the chance to construct a modern liberal socialist order’. (Leader, ‘A political earthquake,’ The Guardian, May 2, 1997)

The editors cited historian AJP Taylor’s stirring words: ‘Few now sang England Arise, but England had risen all the same.’

In October 2002, the Guardian’s editors were ravished by a speech by former president Bill Clinton:

‘If one were reviewing it, five stars would not be enough… What a speech. What a pro. And what a loss to the leadership of America and the world.’ (Leader, ‘What a pro – Clinton shows what a loss he is to the US,’ The Guardian, October 3, 2002)

Of Barack Obama’s first great triumph, the same editors gushed:

‘They did it. They really did it… Today is for celebration, for happiness and for reflected human glory. Savour those words: President Barack Obama, America’s hope and, in no small way, ours too.’

Impartiality? Nowhere in sight. Why? Because these are obviously good men, benign causes of great hope. The media are so passionate because they are good men. From this we know who to support and we know that these media are fundamentally virtuous.

In identical fashion, the media have covered themselves in reflected moral glory by hailing Nelson Mandela as a political saint. The Daily Mirror declared: ‘He was the greatest of all leaders,’ (Daily Mirror, December 7, 2013). He ‘showed a forgiveness and generosity of spirit that made him a guiding star for humanity’, an ‘icon’, ‘a colossus’.

Forgiveness was not a major theme in the title of the Mirror’s October 21, 2011 editorial, following the torture and murder of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi: ‘Mad Dog’s Not A Loss.’ The editors commented: ‘Libya is undoubtedly better off without Mad Dog on the loose.’

Krishnan Guru-Murthy of Channel 4 News agreed that Mandela was a ‘colussus [sic], hero and rare soul’. (Snowmail, December 6, 2013)

For the Telegraph, Mandela was ‘regal’. Indeed, ‘his life had a Churchillian aura of destiny’. He was ‘the kind of man who comes upon this earth but rarely.’

For the equally impartial Guardian, Mandela was, ‘A leader above all others… The secret of [his] leadership lay in the almost unique mixture of wisdom and innocence’.

The paper managed to hint at a darker truth to which we will return; as president, Mandela had ‘discarded his once radical views on the economy’.

For the Gandhians at The Times, Mandela was a near-mythological figure: ‘a man of unyielding courage and breathtaking magnanimity, who defied the armed enforcers of a white supremacist state, made friends of his jailers and could wear a mask of calm on a plane that seemed about to crash’. (Leading article, ‘True Valour,’ The Times, December 6, 2013)

Although: ‘Critics point to his consistent support for Fidel Castro and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi as proof that his judgment was not infallible.’

Indeed, it ought to be surprising that the media would so readily forgive a man who had supported armed violence, and who was close to some of the West’s foremost enemies. In March 1998, as South African president, with US president Bill Clinton at his side, Mandela said:

‘I have also invited Brother Leader Gaddafi to this country [South Africa]. And I do that because our moral authority dictates that we should not abandon those who helped us in the darkest hour in the history of this country. Not only did they [Libya] support us in return, they gave us the resources for us to conduct our struggle, and to win. And those South Africans who have berated me, for being loyal to our friends, literally they can go and throw themselves into a pool.’

The capitalist, Russian oligarch-owned Independent on Sunday helped explain media enthusiasm for Mandela when it hailed his views on big business:

‘For all his left-wing rhetoric, he recognised that capitalism is the most important anti-poverty policy.’

As for Africa’s environmental problems, ‘Ultimately, as with human poverty, economic growth is the solution.’

It is of course profoundly impressive that Mandela could emerge from 27 years of imprisonment with apparently no desire for revenge. And as Peter Oborne commented:

‘It took just two or three years to sweep away white rule and install a new kind of government. Most revolutions of this sort are unbelievably violent and horrible. They feature mass executions, torture, expropriation and massacres… let’s imagine that Nelson Mandela had been a different sort of man. Let’s imagine that he emerged from his 27 years of incarceration bent on revenge against the white fascists and thugs who had locked him up for so long.’

Oborne compared the results of Mandela’s strategy with those of the West’s Official Enemies: ‘Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Milosevic, Saddam Hussein. The list goes on and on.’ Although not so far as to include Western leaders, by doctrinal fiat.

Oborne noted that Mandela and Gandhi ’embraced humanity, rather than excluded it. They sought moral rather than physical power’.

Unlike Oborne’s own newspaper, which wrote of Nato’s devastating and illegal assault on Libya in 2011:

‘As the net tightens round Muammar Gaddafi and his family, Nato deserves congratulations on having provided the platform for rebel success.’

In March 2003, the same paper declared:

‘Any fair-minded person who listened to yesterday’s [parliamentary] debate, having been genuinely unable to make up his mind about military action against Saddam Hussein, must surely have concluded that Mr Blair was right, and his opponents were wrong.’

Economic Apartheid

As discussed, many journalists have rightly praised Mandela’s forgiveness. But the state-corporate system also has a generous capacity for excusing torturers, dictators, terrorists, and even former enemies like Mandela – anyone who serves the deep interests of power and profit in some way.

John Pilger noted of Mandela:

‘The sheer grace and charm of the man made you feel good. He chuckled about his elevation to sainthood. “That’s not the job I applied for,” he said dryly.’

But Mandela ‘was well used to deferential interviews and I was ticked off several times – “you completely forgot what I said” and “I have already explained that matter to you”. In brooking no criticism of the African National Congress (ANC), he revealed something of why millions of South Africans will mourn his passing but not his “legacy”.’

Once in power, Pilger explained, the ANC’s official policy to end the impoverishment of most South Africans was abandoned, with one of his ministers boasting that the ANC’s politics were Thatcherite:

‘Few ordinary South Africans were aware that this “process” had begun in high secrecy more than two years before Mandela’s release when the ANC in exile had, in effect, done a deal with prominent members of the Afrikaaner elite at meetings in a stately home, Mells Park House, near Bath. The prime movers were the corporations that had underpinned apartheid…

‘With democratic elections in 1994, racial apartheid was ended, and economic apartheid had a new face.’ (See Pilger’s 1998 film, Apartheid Did Not Die, for further analysis)

In 2001, George Soros told the Davos Economic Forum: ‘South Africa is in the hands of international capital.’

Patrick Bond, director of the centre for civil society and a professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, commented:

‘I happened to work in his office twice, ’94 and ’96, and saw these policies being pushed on Mandela by international finance and domestic business and a neoliberal conservative faction within his own party.’

Bond paraphrased the view of former minister of intelligence and minister of water Ronnie Kasrils, ‘probably the country’s greatest white revolutionary ever’, who described how ‘as a ruler Mandela gave in way too much to rich people. So he replaced racial apartheid with class apartheid’.

Bond argues that ‘big business basically said, we will get out of our relationship with the Afrikaner rulers if you let us keep, basically, our wealth intact and indeed to take the wealth abroad’.

In the Independent, Andrew Buncombe reported that ‘for many in Alexandra, and in countless similar places across the country, the situation in some respects is today little different’ from before Mandela began his liberation struggle:

‘Figures released last year following a census showed that while the incomes of black households had increased by an average of 169 per cent over the past ten years, they still represented a sixth of those of white households.’

Former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook also recognised Mandela’s ‘huge achievement in helping to bring down South African apartheid’. But:

‘Mandela was rehabilitated into an “elder statesman” in return for South Africa being rapidly transformed into an outpost of neoliberalism, prioritising the kind of economic apartheid most of us in the west are getting a strong dose of now.’

And Mandela was used:

‘After finally being allowed to join the western “club”, he could be regularly paraded as proof of the club’s democratic credentials and its ethical sensibility… He was forced to become a kind of Princess Diana, someone we could be allowed to love because he rarely said anything too threatening to the interests of the corporate elite who run the planet.’

This helps explain why Mandela is feted as a political saint, while late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who profoundly challenged economic apartheid in Latin America, was a ‘controversial’, ‘anti-American bogeymen’, a ‘people’s hero and villain’ who had ‘pissed away’ his country’s wealth, for theBBC. Chavez was a peddler of ‘strutting and narcissistic populism’ for the Guardian. Rory Carroll, the paper’s lead reporter on Venezuela between 2006-2012, commented:

‘To the millions who detested him as a thug and charlatan, it will be occasion to bid, vocally or discreetly, good riddance.’

For the Independent, Chavez was ‘egotistical, bombastic and polarising’, ‘no run-of-the-mill dictator’. He was ‘divisive’ for the Guardian, Independent and Telegraph, and ‘reckless’ for the Economist.

Chavez’s real crime was that he presented a serious threat to the state-corporate system of which these media are an integral part.

The point is a simple one. State-corporate expressions of moral outrage and approval are never – not ever – to be taken at face value. While of course there may be some truth in what is being said, the systemic motivation will always be found in the self-interested head rather than the altruistic heart.

David Edwards:  – Author of Free To Be Human – Intellectual Self-Defence in an Age of Illusions(Green Books, 1995) published in the United States as Burning All Illusions (South End Press, 1996:, and The Compassionate Revolution – Radical Politics and Buddhism (1998, Green Books).

Copyright © 2013 Media Lens.

Beyond The Propaganda The Secret History of How Cuba Helped End Apartheid in South Africa

Video and Transcript –  Democracy Now!

Why Castro was one of only five world leaders invited to speak at Nelson Mandela’s memorial. In the words of Mandela, the Cuban “destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor … [and] inspired the fighting masses of South Africa.” Historian Piero Gleijeses argues that it was Cuba’s victory in Angola in 1988 that forced Pretoria to set Namibia free and helped break the back of apartheid South Africa.

Posted December 11, 2013

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to the historic moment Tuesday when President Barack Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raúl Castro as both men participated in the memorial service for anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela in South Africa. The White House said the handshake was unscripted. It marked the first time a U.S. president has shaken hands with a Cuban leader since 2000. In Washington, Republicans expressed outrage over the exchange. During a hearing in the House, Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida sparred with Secretary of State John Kerry, who said it did not represent any change in U.S. policy toward Cuba.

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: Mr. Secretary, sometimes a handshake is just a handshake. But when the leader of the free world shakes the bloody hand of a ruthless dictator like Raúl Castro, it becomes a propaganda coup for the tyrant. Raúl Castro uses that hand to sign the orders to repress and jail democracy advocates. In fact, right now, as we speak, Cuban opposition leaders are being detained, and they’re being beaten while trying to commemorate today, which is International Human Rights Day. They will feel disheartened when they see these photos. Could you please tell the Cuban people living under that repressive regime that a handshake nonwithstanding, the U.S. policy toward the cruel and sadistic Cuban dictatorship has not weakened? Thank you.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: Ladies and gentlemen, today is about honoring Nelson Mandela. And the president is at an international funeral with leaders from all over the world. He didn’t choose who’s there. They’re there to honor Mandela. And we appreciate that people from all over the world and from all different beliefs and walks of life who appreciated Nelson Mandela and/or were friends of his came to honor him. And I think, as the president said—I urge you to go read his speech, or if you didn’t see it or haven’t read it, because the president said in his speech today honoring Nelson Mandela, he said, “We urge leaders to honor Mandela’s struggle for freedom by upholding the basic human rights of their people”—

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: And would you say Raúl Castro is upholding their basic human rights?


AMY GOODMAN: The uproar over President Obama’s handshake with President Raúl Castro has drawn attention to the close relationship between the South African anti-apartheid movement and Cuba. In 1991, Nelson Mandela visited Cuba with then-President Fidel Castro. This is a clip when they first met.

NELSON MANDELA: Before we say anything, you must tell me when you are coming to South Africa. You see—no, just a moment, just a moment, just a moment.

PRESIDENT FIDEL CASTRO: [translated] The sooner the better.

NELSON MANDELA: And we have had a visit from a wide variety of people. And our friend, Cuba, which had helped us in training our people, gave us resources to keep current with our struggle, trained our people as doctors, and SWAPO, you have not come to our country. When are you coming?

PRESIDENT FIDEL CASTRO: [translated] I haven’t visited my South African homeland yet. I want it, I love it as a homeland. I love it as a homeland as I love you and the South African people.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more on Cuba’s key role in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, we’re joined now in Washington, D.C., by Piero Gleijeses, professor of American foreign policy at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He uses archival sources from the United States, South Africa and Cuba to provide an unprecedented look at the history in his latest book, Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria, and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991_. You can read the book’s prologuepretoria on our website at

Professor Gleijeses, welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about this key relationship, why Cuba was so seminal to the anti-apartheid movement.

PIERO GLEIJESES: Cuba is the only country in the world that sent its soldiers to confront the army of apartheid and defeated the army of apartheid, the South African army, twice—in 1975, 1976, and in 1988. And in Havana, when he visited Havana in July 1991—I won’t to be able to repeat exactly the words of Nelson Mandela, but Nelson Mandela said, “The Cuban victory,” referring to the Cuban victory over the South Africans in Angola in 1988, “destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor and inspired the fighting masses of South Africa. Cuito Cuanavale,” which is a victory of the Cubans in Angola, “is the turning point in the liberation of our continent and of my people from the scourge of apartheid.” So, in—

AMY GOODMAN: For a country that knows very little, Professor Gleijeses, about the Cuban experience, its military intervention in Angola, can you step back for a moment and explain what President Castro—what Fidel Castro and these Cuban soldiers did?

PIERO GLEIJESES: Sure. In 1975, you have the decolonization of Angola, Portuguese colony slated to become independent on November 11, 1975. There is a civil war between three movements: one supported by the Cubans, the Cubans that supported over the years in its struggle against the Portuguese; the other two supported by South Africa and the United States. And the movement supported by the Cubans, the MPLA, which is in power in Angola today, having won free election, was on the verge of winning the civil war. And it was on the verge of winning the civil war—a paraphrase from what the CIA station chief in Angola at the time told me—because it was the most committed movement with the best leaders, the best program. And in order to prevent their victory, the victory of the MPLA, in October 1975, urged by Washington, South Africa invaded. And the South African troops advanced on Luanda, and they would have taken Luanda and crushed the MPLA if Fidel Castro had not decided to intervene. And between November 1975 and April 1976, 3,6000 Cuban soldiers poured into Angola and pushed the South Africans back into Namibia, which South Africa ruled at the time.

And this had an immense psychological impact—talking of South Africa—in South Africa, both among whites and among blacks. And the major black South African newspaper, The World, wrote in an editorial in February 1976, at a moment in which the South African troops were still in Angola, but the Cubans were pushing them back—they had evacuated central Angola. They were in southern Angola. The writing was on the wall. And this newspaper, The World, wrote, “Black Africa is riding the crest of a wave generated by the Cuban victory in Angola. Black Africa is tasting the heady wine of the possibility of achieving total liberation.” And Mandela wrote that he was in jail in 1975 when he learned about the arrival of the Cuban troops in Angola, and it was the first time then a country had come from another continent not to take something away, but to help Africans to achieve their freedom.

This was the first real contribution of Cuba to the liberation of South Africa. It was the first time in living memory that the White Giants, the army of apartheid, had been forced to retreat. And they had retreated because of a non-white army. And in a situation of internal colonialism, this is extremely important. And after that, the Cubans remained in Angola to protect Angola from the South African army. Even the CIA acknowledged that the Cubans were the guarantee for the independence of Angola. And in Angola, they trained the ANC, the African National Congress, of Mandela. And very close relations developed between the two. I don’t know if you want me to go on and talk about the next moment, or you want to interrupt me with some questions.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Yes, Professor Piero Gleijeses, if you could speak specifically about the role of Che Guevara in Africa?

PIERO GLEIJESES: Yeah, Che Guevara had nothing to do with South Africa. The role—

NERMEEN SHAIKH: In Africa, though, in the Congo and Angola.

PIERO GLEIJESES: Yes, I understand. The role of Che Guevara in 1964, 1965—in late 1964, Che Guevara was sent by Fidel Castro as Fidel Castro’s top representative to Sub-Saharan Africa—it was the first visit by a top Cuban leader to Sub-Saharan Africa—because the Cubans believed that there was a revolutionary situation in central Africa, and they wanted to help. And Che Guevara established relations with a number of revolutionary movements. One of them, the MPLA, the Movement for the Liberation of Angola, that was based in Congo-Brazzaville. And in 1965, the first Cubans fought in Angolan territory together with the MPLA. But the major role played by Che Guevara is that he led a group of Cubans into Congo, the former Belgian Congo, where there was a revolt by the followers of the late Lumumba against the central government enforced by the United States. And the United States had created an army of white mercenaries, the White Giants, mainly South African and Rhodesians and then Europeans, to crush this revolt. And the Cubans went at the request of the rebels, at the request of the government of Egypt, Algeria and Tanzania to help the rebels.



AMY GOODMAN: Professor, I wanted to go back to Angola—


AMY GOODMAN: —and this time bring in former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. This is Kissinger explaining why the U.S. was concerned about the Cuban troops that Fidel Castro had sent to fight in Angola. After Kissinger, you’ll hear Fidel Castro himself.

SECRETARY OF STATE HENRY KISSINGER: We thought, with respect to Angola, that if the Soviet Union could intervene at such distances, from areas that were far from the traditional Russian security concerns, and when Cuban forces could be introduced into distant trouble spots, and if the West could not find a counter to that, that then the whole international system could be destabilized.

PRESIDENT FIDEL CASTRO: [translated] It was a question of globalizing our struggle vis-à-vis the globalized pressures and harassment of the U.S. In this respect, it did not coincide with the Soviet viewpoint. We acted, but without their cooperation. Quite the opposite.

AMY GOODMAN: That was President Fidel Castro and, before that, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger from the film CIA & Angolan Revolution. Professor Gleijeses?

PIERO GLEIJESES: OK, two points. One, Kissinger didn’t mention that the Cubans intervened in response to the South African invasion and that the United States had connived with the South Africans and urged the South Africans to invade. So here, there is a rather important issue of chronology.

The second point is that in the last volume of his memoirs, Kissinger, who in general is a very arrogant person, acknowledges that he made a mistake. And the mistake he made was in saying that the Cubans had intervened as proxies of the Soviet Union. And he writes in his memoirs that actually it had been a Cuban decision and that the Cubans had intervened and confronted the Soviets with a fait accompli. And then he asks a question in his memoirs: Why did Castro take this decision? And Kissinger’s answer is that Fidel Castro was probably—I’m quoting—”was probably the most genuine revolutionary leader then in power.” So, there are two Kissingers, if you want, and there is the Kissinger of his memoirs, where he says a few things that actually are true.

AMY GOODMAN: Piero Gleijeses, what do you make of the furor right now? You just heard Congressmember Lehtinen from Florida attacking John Kerry, you know, the significance of the handshake between President Obama and President Raúl Castro right there at the Soweto stadium at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela.

PIERO GLEIJESES: I think it’s pathetic and reflects the ethics of the United States and the policy of the United States. Obama, President Obama, was received with applause in South Africa when he spoke, etc., because he is the first black president of the United States. But the role of the United States as a country, as a government, past governments, in the struggle for liberation of South Africa is a shameful role. In general, we were on the side of the apartheid government. And the role of Cuba is a splendid role in favor of the liberation. This handshake—going beyond this particular issue, the handshake was long overdue. The embargo is absurd, is immoral. And we have here a president who bowed to the king of South Africa—of Saudi Arabia, I’m sorry, which certainly is no democracy. I mean, even Obama should know it. So it’s an absurd situation. The problem with Obama is that his speeches are good, his gestures are good, but there is no follow-up. So, unfortunately, it is just a gesture, a long-overdue gesture that does not change a shameful U.S. policy.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Professor Piero Gleijeses, before we conclude, let’s turn to Fidel Castro speaking in South Africa on his visit in 1998.

PRESIDENT FIDEL CASTRO: [translated] Let South Africa be a model of a more just and more humane future. If you can do it, we will all be able to do it.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was Fidel Castro speaking in 1998 in South Africa, with former president, who just passed away, Nelson Mandela applauding him. Piero Gleijeses, we just have a minute. Could you talk about what most surprised you in your research in the Cuban archives about this history?

PIERO GLEIJESES: Well, there are a lot of things. One is the independence of Cuban policy vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. There are clashes between Fidel Castro and Gorbachev. There are clashes between the leaders of the Cuban military mission in Angola and the Soviet leaders, which I quote actually in my book and which make really fascinating reading. This is one thing.

But another thing that impressed me very much is the respect with which the Cubans treated the Angolan government. This is very important, because the Angolan government really depended on Cuba for its survival, the presence of the Cuban troops as a shield against South African invasion, which was a constant threat, and the very large and generous technical assistance that Cuba was providing to Angola. And the tendency would be to treat a government that’s so dependent with some kind of superiority. And this is something I’ve never found in international relations, this kind of respect with which Cuba treated what, by all objective counts, should have been a client government. And it’s particularly striking for someone who studies the United States and lives in the United States, because seriously the United States government does not treat government that depends on Washington with much respect.

AMY GOODMAN: Piero Gleijeses, thank you so much for being with us.


AMY GOODMAN: Professor of American foreign policy at SAIS, the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

%d bloggers like this: