Archive | July 31st, 2017

The disinformation campaign on Venezuela

The disturbances created by the wealthy are part of the imperialists’ intervention plan in Venezuela. The disinformation campaign carried out by the mainstream media is a key component of that effort. So, no one should be surprised by the profusion of Orwellian statements and the incessant vilification of President Maduro in mainstream coverage of Venezuela.
Venezuela, it seems, is a riddle to the audiences of the mainstream media. Yet the riddle conceals a fact. A conflict between opposing interests is roaring in the country, and attempts to stoke that conflict are being intensified by the imperialist-interventionist quarter as the day for a vote on the proposed Constituent Assembly—July 30— nears.
Every day the mainstream media showers its viewers with news reports that are partial and biased. Here are some examples from the past several weeks:
  1. A Venezuelan diplomat to the UN has decided to break with the government and resigned. The diplomat called on President Nicolas Maduro to resign immediately.
  2. Recent protests have led to the deaths of more than 100 persons.
  3. Venezuela’s chief prosecutor has confirmed a second death in Thursday’s protests. The chief prosecutor said she was investigating the death.
  4. Maduro has decried the general strike called by the opposition a crude attempt to sabotage the country’s economy.
  5. Maduro has also denounced an opposition attack outside the offices of VTV, Venezuelan state TV.
  6. Opposition protesters and pro-government forces threw rocks at one another while the Venezuelan National Guard launched teargas and rubber bullets.
  7. Streets in opposition-friendly neighborhoods in eastern Caracas were almost entirely devoid of activity during the strike. Some businesses remained open in parts of the capital traditionally loyal to the ruling party but foot and vehicle traffic was significantly reduced.
  8. More than 7 million Venezuelans cast ballots in an opposition-led “consultation” on July 16. Nearly 700,000 of those votes came from Venezuelans abroad.
Other news
Yet there is a significant number of other news stories on Venezuela that the mainstream media chose not to report:
  1. Citing the Proletarian Agency of Information, a grassroots media group, on 20 July 2017 Venezuela Analysisreported: In the industrial city of Barquisimeto, many workers have made efforts to maintain production despite several cases of sabotage by business owners, administrators and protestors. In the case of DISICA, a private company that supplies state oil firm Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA) with iron construction material, the workers “continue working and have not stopped operations.”
  2. The same news report said: State-owned Lacteos Los Andes, a diary company, has alleged that since early hours of the afternoon, they have been under attack by opposition groups armed with home-made mortars and Molotov cocktails. The groups “tried to set […] fire to an industrial gas tank.”
  3. Workers complained of delays caused by opposition barricades.
  4. Opposition mayors supported the strike.
  5. Working class neighborhoods have largely been unaffected by the strike.
  6. Maduro told VTV: “The 700 largest companies in the country are working at 100 percent of their capacity.”
  7. The government said: Almost all 2.8 million public employees including employees of PdVSA turned up to work. The PdVSA management said it was not affected by the strike. (Ryan Mallett-Outtrim and Katrina Kozarek, “Venezuela Divided Over Opposition’s General Strike,” Venezuela Analysis, July 20, 2017.)
  8. Any change to the constitution by the proposed constituent assembly, once elected, will need to be put to a referendum.
  9. The death of Hector Anuel, a citizen, assaulted by opposition protesters in Anzoategui state. Anuel’s death sparked a social media outrage, after footage went viral that seemed to show his charred corpse being beaten by opposition protesters. According to news outlet La Tabla, Anuel was killed after being hit by a home-made mortar used by opposition protesters. The shot itself was allegedly caught on camera. Anuel was burned, before being pummelled with stones and other debris. In the footage alleged to show his death, Anuel appeared unarmed. (Ryan Mallett-Outtrim, “Venezuela Shocked by Graphic Footage of Alleged Mortar Killing,” Venezuela Analysis, July 19, 2017.)
  10. The Bolivarian government made no attempt to stop the opposition-organized “vote taking” even though it had no legal standing (and, therefore, was no more than a circus). Initially, the show was described as a “referendum” and a “plebiscite”. It had the logistical support of the National Assembly, the regional governors and opposition mayors. The propertied classes and imperialist camp also extended full support to the so-called referendum, which should be seen as part of attempts to organize a parallel government. Five rightist former presidents from Latin American countries were allowed to observe the proceedings. They made fiery speeches demanding Maduro’s exit. All these leaders are entangled in corruption cases, and they have not hesitated to use repressive power against workers and peasants in their respective countries. (Jorge Martin, “Venezuela: July 16 opposition ‘consultation’ countered by a Chavista show of strength,” In Defense of Marxism, July 20, 2017)
  11. The opposition-organized show mobilized a large number of people. However, long queues at “polling stations” in some areas of the capital city were due to a small number of “polling stations.” For example, in Catia, there was one polling station for 90,000 people. Moreover, the opposition leaders have admitted: people could vote more than once. There is already a video showing a person voting three times in one hour in the right-wing stronghold of Chacao. Furthermore, at the end of the day, they burnt the ballots and the registers, which demolishes all scopes to check the opposition announced result. This is the political force, “which has been accusing the Bolivarian revolution of election fraud for the last 15 years!” (ibid.)
  12. There was an official dry run of the proposed Constituent Assembly (CA) elections—a presence of Chavismo’s strength—on the same day the so-called referendum was organized by the opposition. The dry run of the Constituent Assembly vote had a very high turnout, as evidenced by long queues in front of official National Electoral Council polling stations throughout the country. Even in big cities, where opposition support is greatest, long queues were common. Local councils of a number of these cities are controlled by the opposition. In many neighborhoods the queues were so long that the polling stations had to keep open until 8pm (four hours later than the scheduled time). There was even significant voter presence in Petare parish, which supported the opposition in recent elections. In Merida, many people waited in queues for hours and finally had to return home without participating in the dry run. (ibid.)
  13. In a poll by Hinterlaces of over 1,500 Venezuelans the majority said they support a socialist economy, with the caveat that state-run enterprises need to improve their efficiency. The poll asked participants if “the best thing for Venezuela is a socialist economic model of production, where various forms of private property exist.” Three out of four Venezuelans agreed with this statement and only 1 percent was unsure. The results were released in a speech by Oscar Schemel (a pollster with Hinterlaces) to local business leaders in Caracas. Schemel said data shows Venezuelans want a socialist state with private investment and a “mixed economy.”: “61 percent of the population affirms that the economy must be led by the state, 86 percent think that the government should promote private investment, 78 percent consider that the government’s dialogue with businesspeople is more important than with the opposition, and 63 percent distrust the opposition.” While the majority of Venezuelans said they support socialism, 63 percent of the respondents said the government needs to become “more productive and efficient”, 32 percent said the current model should “change”, 74 percent said they would oppose any proposal to privatize PdVSA. When asked whether the electricity grid should be privatized, 67 percent opposed the suggestion while 69 percent opposed suggestion for privatizing state telecommunications giant CANTV. (Ryan Mallett-Outtrim, “POLL: 75% of Venezuelans support socialism, 63% distrust opposition,” MR Online, July 23, 2017)
The mainstream media has failed to cover nearly all of these stories; when they have, the message has been distorted to fit the viewpoint of the US ruling class.
Since the mainstream media incessantly flaunts its “objectivity” we can reasonably ask: how objective has their reporting been on deaths and killings over the last four months? Is there any mention of opposition-induced violence? Any reasonable assessment would conclude that opposition has played little, if any role, other than to protest; whereas most, if not all, have been murdered by Maduro and his security machine.
So far, the opposition organized unrest has left 105 persons dead (date last updated: July 18). There is confusion over the causes of and parties responsible for these deaths. An in-depth account by Venezuela Analysis (“In detail: The deaths so far”, July 11, 2017) showed the following:
Deaths caused by authorities: 13
Direct victims of opposition political violence: 20
Deaths indirectly linked to opposition barricades: 8
Deaths still unaccounted for/disputed: 44
Accidental deaths: 3
Persons dead during lootings: 14
Deaths attributed to pro-government civilians: 2
The mainstream media not only avoid giving any such breakdown, they completely ignore who murdered whom. They also ignore other pertinent details about the opposition protests:
  1. Any details on the tactics most commonly used in opposition demonstrations.
  2. How opposition protestors target day-to-day civilian activities and attempt to create a sense of terror.
  3. Any investigation into the class affiliation of participants in opposition demonstrations.
  4. The extent to which vandalism, arson, bombings are used; or the routine targeting of public institutions (such as clinics).
  5. The assassination of Chavista supporters.
Any honest coverage would compel one to ask: are these opposition “crusaders” genuinely interested in “democracy,” or do they simply want the right to plunder and terrorize until they get their way by force? We simply cannot rely on the mainstream media to provide any insight into such pertinent questions.
Voting mathematics
The voting tabulations given by the mainstream media more often than not conform to the viewpoint of the Venezuelan opposition leaders and their supporters. A look into their very own figures on voting in the much touted “consultation” (or “referendum”) is a sterling example. Following are a few key points:
  1. The opposition has stated that they had 2,000 polling stations and a total of 14,000 polling booths, which remained open for 9 hours, from 7am until 4pm. A few of stations remained opened later, but most closed much earlier. They report a total of 7,186,170 votes. When we divide that figure by 14,000 booths over 9 hours we get rough estimate of 57 votes per hour per booth. In other words, just over 1 vote every minute in each and every one of the polling booths: 9 hours straight! In one minute and five seconds every voter had to go to the table, show identification documents, have their details written down in the electoral register, receive a paper ballot, go into the booth and fill out the ballot, fold it and put it into the ballot box. Surely a “believable” estimate, commented Jorge Martin: “massive achievement for the opposition, one which breaks all election records and a few laws of physics”! (“Venezuela: July 16 opposition ‘consultation’ countered by a Chavista show of strength”, In Defence of Marxism, July 20, 2017)
  2. In Spain, there are 63,000 Venezuelans, according to the census taken on January 2017. Of these 9,000 are below the voting age, leaving 54,000. The opposition claims that 91,981 participated in the consultation. Now, there may be some discrepancies between the census and the real figures, but is it reasonable to accept that there are 38,000 more people than are actually registered officially? Are we not justified to doubt these figures?
  3. The opposition officially declared that 7,186,170 people had participated. Let’s assume that the figure is true. That would fall short of the 14 million they themselves had announced would take part, just days before July 16, and also short of the more conservative figure announced by Capriles as a litmus test for the day. The opposition also announced that “with this result Maduro would have lost a recall referendum.” This refers to the Constitution, which states that for a recall referendum to be binding on the sitting president, more people would have to vote for his recall than he actually won in the election. Unfortunately for the opposition, Maduro was elected with 7,587,579 votes in 2013, and thus would not have been recalled. More confusing yet, the figure they apparently plucked out of thin air are less even than the opposition candidate won in that presidential election, which was 7,363,980. (ibid.)
As one might expect, the mainstream media have totally misrepresented the news of the official dry run process of the Constituent Assembly, most claiming poor voter turnout. The Spanish El País informed its readers that in Caracas there was “little influx to some polling stations […]” where a few “looked empty.” Yet the four photographs published by El Pais were of very long Chavista queues, with a false caption saying the cues were of Chavistas going “to participate in the opposition consultation”! (ibid.)
Interventionist propaganda
The upper classes of Venezuela are trying to regain their lost fiefdom. The program of violence they are implementing, which has rocked Venezuela since April 4, 2017, is part of that effort.
Venezuelan bonds have crashed as result of the sustained unrest, with five-year debt yielding 36 per cent. Economic problems and corruption are wearing down the Bolivarian revolution’s social base; as leaders are forced into a policy of class conciliation, revolutionary mobilization are weakened; and, thus, creating conditions favorable to the upper classes. The disturbances the wealthy elite are creating is part of the imperialists’ intervention plan in Venezuela. The disinformation campaign carried out by the mainstream media is a key component of that effort. So, we should not be surprised by the profusion of Orwellian statements and the incessant vilification of Maduro, in mainstream coverage of Venezuela:
  • “The proposed Constituent Assembly would disenfranchise millions of Venezuelans.”
  • “If the Maduro regime imposes its Constituent Assembly on July 30, the US will take strong and swift economic actions.”
  • Mercosur has asked Maduro to suspend his plan to rewrite the country’s constitution.
  • A group of US lawmakers has warned of a new Cuba as Venezuela is trying to transform the country to serve its own people. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said of Venezuela: “This is a dysfunctional narco-state.” Rubio also said: “How truly tragic would it be for […] one of the most democratic societies in the hemisphere to become Cuba.” Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey said: “We are talking about a nearly failed state in our own hemisphere.” Venezuela is a “nearly-failed”, “narco-state,” and yet is “one of the most democratic societies”?! Which statement to believe?
  • Maduro is just another Fidel. [Yes, they say this.] Cuban-American Republicans and Democrats agree: Maduro must be stopped.
  • Rubio brought the wife of Mr. Leopoldo López, one of Venezuela’s opposition leaders, to the White House in February.
The US would obviously prefer to restore its allies to the throne in Venezuela so that they can go on plundering the country; so that surplus labor of the toiling people of Venezuela can be appropriated.
It might be argued that while most of the facts presented above are objective, some are biased. But that would miss the point, which is the wildly divergent narrative presented by the mainstream media. The interests of capitalists and imperialists are stated and restated incessantly; while those of millions of people of Venezuela are downplayed, distorted or ignored.
We cannot remain silent. We must recognize that many other countries may face (or are already facing) the same situation. Would an imperialist state allow some other state to decide/define:
  1. The imperialist state’s constitution?
  2. Who runs the imperialist state or who should be the president?
  3. Its domestic politics?
  4. Type of constitution, form of democracy and form of government?
Shouldn’t people of a country be allowed to decide the issues? These questions must be answered by those who support or downplay imperialist intervention in Venezuela and elsewhere.
No intervention should go unchallenged, whether in Venezuela or elsewhere. Piercing the edifice of mainstream media manipulation is a key part of exposing imperialist intervention, not least because it contributes to the political education of those fighting similar battles, leading to more effective organization and resistance.

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Uganda: Why state should not amend Article 26 of the Constitution

News 24 Africa

The proposed amendment of the Constitution is not only unjust; it raises questions of the democratic principle of separation of powers among the arms of government. Government (Executive) is arbitrarily seeking to overturn the decision of the Supreme Court (Judiciary) using its parliamentary majority (Legislature).

In order to understand why human rights and constitutional lawyers have joined the masses to oppose the Ministry of Lands proposal to amendment of Article 26 of the Constitution, one ought to go back to the foundation of constitutional law and statutory legislations. A constitution is supposed to be a state’s fundamental law that contains the essential elements of government organization, the basic principles of governmental powers and the enumeration of citizen rights. A constitution is meant to have permanence and brevity. Statutory law (Acts of Parliament), on the other hand, provides the details of government operation and is subject to frequent change by the Legislature. Typically, constitutional amendments are proposed to authorize new programs, ensure that reforms are not easily undone by future legislation or seek protections for special interests.

The dichotomy between the Constitution and Acts of parliament is meant to safeguard the constitutional tenets of permanence and brevity. Unfortunately, when more detail is placed in the Constitution, as the case is with the “Amongi Amendment”, this waters down the relevancy of Acts of parliament and, consequently, constitutional amendments inevitably become more frequent to suit the ever changing conditions or social economic environment. It is, therefore, my humble submission that should government want to effect the proposed change, the law to amend or even repeal, is the Land Acquisition Act, and not the 1995 Constitution. However, such an amendment of the Act must be consistent with the Constitution.

Notwithstanding the legal discourse above, the intension of the framers of the constitution in drafting Article 26 can be inferred from the Article’s heading which reads “Protection from deprivation of property”.  In a nutshell, the article provides for prior payment of compensation for the deprivation of property by the government. This provision was informed by the historical land question that has haunted Uganda for over a century, whose mischief the Constituent Assembly sought to cure once and for all. In fact 20 years after the passing of the Constitution, this position was reaffirmed by the highest court in the land, in the vase of UNRA vs. Asumani Irumaba and another. The Supreme Court in this case declared unconstitutional the sections of the 1965 Land Acquisition Act. The nullified provisions allowed government to take over private land prior to compensating the land owner. One can rightfully say the proposed amendment literally seeks to defeat this 2015 decision of the Supreme Court.

The United Nations Guidelines on Free, Prior and Informed Consent to land acquisition provide that an individual and/or community has a right to give or withhold consent to a project that may affect the land they own, occupy or otherwise use. This is premised on the risk an individual stands to suffer in the event they are deprived of land before agreeing on the terms of compensation. The power disparity between government and individuals puts the affected person at a grave disadvantage if one has to negotiate after losing their land or property. To this effect, the government proposal to deposit an amount of money with the court as the aggrieved person mounts a legal battle is a fallacy. Given the time courts take to dispose of land matters, I would never advise anyone to settle for such an arrangement.

Hon. Betty Amongi’s justification of the amendment saying that government projects are being delayed by “errant” property owners along the project routes was addressed by the Supreme Court in the Asuman Irumba case. Government argued before court that public interest allows the infringement of the rights of a single individual for the sake of the greater community good. In the words of Justice Christine Kutumba of the Supreme Court, “That notwithstanding, it (the Constitution) does not give powers to government to compulsorily acquire people’s property, without prompt, fair and adequate compensation prior to the taking of possession of the property.”

Insofar as this court judgment is concerned, the proposed amendment of the Constitution raises questions of the democratic principle of separation of powers among the arms of government. Government (The Executive) is arbitrarily seeking to overturn the decision of the Supreme Court (The Judiciary), using its parliamentary majority (The Legislature).

What government ought to do in the circumstances is not to amend article 26, but amend the Land Acquisition Act and provide for mandatory expeditious disposal of matters concerning land acquisitions and compensations by the courts. This course of events will not only enable negotiation and compensation prior to the taking of property, but also allow government projects to remain on schedule. Anything less than this is a recipe for calamity in this already polarized society.

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African peasants highlight their struggles at Via Campesina global conference

Via Campesina
(Derio, Basque Country, 20 July, 2017) – “It is amazing to see how linked our struggles are”. With a countenance showing enthusiasm and eagerness, Nicolette Cupido could not conceal her emotions. There are two main reasons for her excitement. It was the first time she attended a global conference of peasants’ movements starting July 16 in Derio, in the outskirts of Bilbao, Basque Country. Her movement, the Agrarian Reform for Food Sovereignty Campaign (FSC), South Africa, was among the new organizations accepted into membership of Via Campesina.
A community organizer and a member of the FSC, Nicolette engages in food production at home and community gardens in Moorreesburg, a village in Western Cape, 120Km away from Cape Town.
She grows a variety of vegetables, that is the way she contributes in building food sovereignty. “I plant tomato, unions, beetroot, cabbage and carrots. The struggle for food sovereignty has to be practical, too”, she said.
Like Nicolette, about 20 other African peasants representing movements from Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Niger, Mali, Senegal and Ghana attended the conference.
This conference happens at a time when Africa is undergoing a harsh moment, as indicated by Ibrahima Coulibaly from the National Coordination of Peasant Organizations (CNOP) in Mali. Almost everywhere in Africa the elite and corporations are undertaking efforts to capture and control people’s basic means of production, such as land, mineral resources, seeds and water. These resources are increasingly being privatized due to the myriad of investment agreements and policies driven by new institutional approaches, imposed on the continent by western powers and Bretton Woods institutions.
“Democracy is under attack. Repression of protests and murder of political leaders is escalating, but we have to continue to build alternatives”, said Coulibaly.
Elizabeth Mpofu, from the Zimbabwe Smallholder Farmers Forum, is a small-scale farmer who had access to land after she took part in the radical land occupation that resulted in the fasttrack land reform in the early 2000s. According to her, building alternatives is to take direct action.
“I was a landless woman. Through our courage and determination we stood up and took action. Now I have land and I do agroecology farming”, she said.
Relations between the state, corporate power and the peasantry have always been exploitative. This characterizes the agrarian question in Africa. As some academics have argued, these relations have been coercive.
The perception that Africa is  a vast  “underutilized” area and, therefore, available  for large-scale agricultural investment, continues even today particularly among some western governments and foreign investors.
The African peasantry has, however, always resisted capital penetration in the countryside. “Africa has taught us many centuries of struggle and resistance”, remarked Eberto Diaz, a peasant leader from Colombia during the opening session of the 7th Conference of La Via Campesina. Elizabeth Mpofu shares the belief: “I think that our historical and present struggle experiences in Africa could inspire comrades from other countries”.
Domingos Buramo, from the Mozambique Peasants Union (UNAC), brought to the conference the experience of the Mozambican peasants and other civil society organizations against land grabbing and large-scale investment projects in Mozambique. He mentioned that the resistance to ProSavana, a large-scale agricultural project proposed for Mozambique, is an example of how transformative articulated struggles could be. “Now the government is changing its vision as a result of our work. We can change our societies”, he said.
In South Africa, landless black people are engaging in various forms of protest to access to land, water and development resources. “We do various social actions such as protest marches, pickets, sit-ins and even land occupations”, said Tieho Mofokeng, from the Landless Peoples Movement in Free State, South Africa.
Africa – including the Maghreb region – was the last continent to be part of Via Campesina. Since 2004 the number of African peasant movements joining La Via Campesina has been increasing. African movements consider their membership to the peasant movement as a strategic process of amplifying their struggles and reinforcing internationalism.

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Trump’s Africa policy should end US aid to dictators, rights abusers


It is ironic that those who are criticizing Trump on Africa today seemed to have taken a vow of silence when Barack Obama befriended and wined and dined the most ruthless African dictators. Obama overlooked their deplorable human rights and corruption records in the name of counter-terrorism cooperation.

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump was criticized for letting his “unelected” daughter Ivanka sit in for him during the high-level “Partnership with Africa, Migration and Health” session at the G-20. Ms. Trump was criticizedfor not making “any major contributions” to the session “during her father’s absence.”

Trump has been accused of ignoring and neglecting Africa. He has been criticized for “having Africa last in his first budget;” and the prophets of doom and gloom predict his “slash-and-burn cuts to the State Department and USAID would deepen the worst humanitarian crises since World War II.” Some have even suggested that aid cutbacks by the Trump administration could drive Africa’s unemployed youth into the hands of terrorists.

Trump has expressed “overall skepticism about the value of foreign aid, and even about American security interests, on the world’s second-largest continent.” And there is in fact substantial evidence that aid “from the rich countries has trapped many African nations in a cycle of corruption, slower economic growth and poverty.”

Additional “evidence” of Trump’s neglect and indifference towards Africa include his “ignorance” of the continent, his selective communication with only a couple of African leaders, his demands for accountability in U.S. Africa policy, the aborted appointment of  Rudolph Atallah “best known for his work on East Africa and counterterrorism issues” as National Security Council Africa director, his nonchalance in filling vacancies for assistant secretary and principal deputy assistant secretary for African affairs at the State Department and his general failure to promote human rights in Africa and elsewhere.

The inference to be drawn from all of the criticism is that the Trump administration simply fails “to realize the importance of Africa to U.S. national security interests, and America’s indispensable role in continuing to shape the democratic evolution of the continent,” and is callously turning its back on “more than 20 million people facing  starvation and famine” in Africa. The solution, apparently, is for Trump to appoint “moderate and experienced Africa experts” and old hands who perambulate through the revolving door of government, think tanks and consultancies.

Ultimately, the criticisms of Trump on his (lack of) Africa policy are dubious, deceptive and self-serving.

It is ironic that those who are criticizing Trump on Africa today seemed to have taken a vow of silence when Barack Obama befriended and wined and dined the most ruthless African dictators and overlooked their deplorable human rights and corruption records in the name of counter-terrorism cooperation. Few Trump critics today spoke out when Obama shamelessly called the regime in Ethiopia, which claimed to have won 100 percent of the seats in parliament in 2015,  “democratically elected.” That regime today rules by a draconian state of emergency decree.

Trump has made his foreign policy position crystal clear. It is “America First.” In April he declared,  “It’s time to shake the rust off America’s foreign policy” and “invite new voices and new visions into the fold.” He said he will follow a “foreign policy (that) will always put the interests of the American people and American security above all else.”

In his official “remarks” to State Department employees in May, Secretary Tillerson said, “our overarching strategic approach” will be to determine our allies and partners on a country-by-country and region-by-region basis. He also declared that U.S. foreign policy will be propelled by “our fundamental values: our values around freedom, human dignity, and the way people are treated.”

In Africa, removing the “rust” from U.S. policy means disentanglement from partnership with African dictators because continuing with business as usual with them will not enhance American security; it only creates an untenable moral hazard.

The concept of “moral hazard” signifies a situation in which a government is insulated and immunized from the consequences of its negligent, reckless and incompetent behavior. African regimes heavily dependent on the safety net of American development and humanitarian aid, sustained infusion of multilateral loans will behave differently if they were left to their own devices to deal with the consequences of their mismanagement of their economies, tolerance of crippling corruption, chronic budget and food deficits, mushrooming poverty and unemployment and bad governance and face the wrath and fury of their citizens.

The moral hazard in U.S. policy in Africa comes also from the rewards of increasing amounts of aid and loans to buffer African dictatorships from a tsunami of democratic popular uprisings.

Many African regimes today avoid the demands of good governance, ignore the rule of law and commit gross violations of human rights in the belief that American taxpayer handouts will be there to bail them out. Since the 1960s, American taxpayers have provided over one trillion dollars which have served to sustain failed or failing African regimes.

There is substantial evidence showing that most African leaders are only interested in clinging to power cushioned by the financial support of American and other Western taxpayers. They are not interested in engaging America on what matters most to Americans — democracy, freedom, human rights, the rule of law, accountability, transparency and the like. More democracy and greater respect for human rights necessarily means less famine and starvationand accelerated  development because a government that is not able, willing and ready to feed its people or effectively address poverty will be swept out of office by a hungry and angry electorate.

Trump needs to take a fresh start by first taking out the moral hazard in U.S. policy in Africa and by “inviting new voices and visions” on how to wean Africa from aid addiction.

Trump should adopt a policy that facilitates partnership with the African people, not their dictators in the name of counter-terrorism.

Ultimately, American handouts and loans will not save Africa. Only Africans can save themselves.

The best way Trump can help Africa is by ending the insidious culture of competitive panhandling on the continent and ensuring that American national security and tax dollars are not entangled with the toils of African dictatorships.

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Trump dissing Africa


Trump’s myopic motto, ‘America First’, is complemented by an unspoken one, ‘Africa Never.’ His refusal to take notice of Africa will be deleterious to US-Africa relations. Luckily, one of the unintended benefits of Trump’s dissing of Africa is the realization of people of African origin worldwide that they need to pursue a common agenda.

As of March 2017, Africa had barely registered in President Donald Trump’s book. In January and February, he had managed to speak to a couple of African leaders, namely Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari as well as South African Jacob Zuma. Trump’s chilly mien towards them and stepchild treatment of Africa are evidenced by, inter alia, his call for the complete elimination of the African Development Foundation (ADF) which provides much needed grants in the form of seeds and technical assistance to businesses. The US government designed the program to empower women and youth. According to an article in the Daily Comment, titled, ‘Donald Trump Lost in Africa’ by Alexis Okeowo( March 29, 2017), in 2016, the US invested just over $50 million. Although modest in terms of world standards, for Africa, this was a tremendous blessing.

The current xenophobic approach to the continent is unmistakable. Among the Moslem-majority nations fingered by Trump’s callous executive order proscribing people from the US, are three from Africa: Somalia, Sudan and Libya. Efforts by academic institutions to put Africa on a sound footage have been greeted with frustration. The University of Southern California, for example, annually invites over representatives of business and government entities in Africa and the US. Sadly, this year no Africans showed up due to non-granting of visas to the 60 prospective delegates. The head of the African Union expressed the irony of it all as follows, “The very country to which many of our people were taken as slaves during the transatlantic slave trade has now decided to ban refugees from some of our countries”.

The Trump Administration’s disdain for Africa is a pernicious admixture of ignorance and exploitation. Economic progress for the continent is now on America’s back burner. It is evident that America’s chair in Africa is empty ready to be occupied by her rivals such as China. Its lingering interest is of a military nature associated with the defeat of ISIS, Al Qaeda and, tangentially, Boko Haram.

Thus, it was hardly surprising that, on Saturday, 8 July 2017, the 45th President of the United States dumped the high-level G20 pow-wow in Germany in favor of a bilateral meeting. In so doing, he passed the baton to a former businesswoman and fashion model who took his seat during a session on ‘Partnership with Africa, Migration and Health.’ All because Ivanka is his daughter. Brian Fallon of CNN, sarcastically observed in a tweet, “I am sure Republicans would have taken it in a stride if Chelsea Clinton was deputized to perform head of state duties.” Brian Klaas of the London School of Economics displayed the photo of the First Daughter and commented, “Ivanka Trump, unelected, unqualified daughter-in-chief, is representing the US at the G20 summit next to May, Xi, Merkel.”

This whole episode was a demonstration of Trump’s insensitivity to the needs of more than 1 billion people. Why was Ivanka in on this session? It is no secret that her knowledge of Africa is scanty, at best. Her interests are limited to the Safari adventures that she and her family have taken and business prospects. Her exclusive line of shoes made for working women are currently made in China (one wonders why). Due to dirt cheap labor, the factories may move to Africa (one still wonders why) in the age of Made In America.

A related question: Why did Trump excuse himself from participation in the deliberations that included the ‘Compact for Africa’ whose aim is to support a financial structure to increase investment prospects and create jobs in the continent? Incidentally, the Germans have taken partial ownership of the project now dubbed the ‘German Marshall Plan for Africa.’ Ominously, President Trump got up and walked out of the session just as World Bank President Jim Jong Kim was laying out a consensus agreement. One cannot help but draw the conclusion that No 45 has all but written the continent off the map of the world. The following observations apply:

*After his election as President, a tremendous sense of apprehension gripped Africa. In a piece titled, ‘It might not be the end of the world if Africa drops off Donald Trump’s map’, Yinka Adegoke (Quartz-Africa, November 13, 2016) wrote, “In a break from diplomatic niceties, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the President of Liberia, described Hillary Clinton’s loss as ‘extremely’ sad. Africa’s first Nobel Prize laureate for Literature, Wole Soyinka, said he will make good on his promise to rip up his US green card.”

*It is no accident that the heartiest congratulations for Trump’s ascendancy to power were offered by some of the leading populist dictators in Africa.

*Earlier this month, Riva Levinson, opinion contributor of The Hill, reported that, “During the May G-7 summit in Italy, when the President of Mali reached the podium to give the African perspective, President Trump removed his headphones, opting out of the French-to-English translation. Many interpreted the gesture as a disregard for the African agenda.” Indeed, it was.

*To date, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt is the only African leader who has been invited to the Trump White House. He has managed only to speak to President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria and President Jacob Zuma of South Africa.

*As of April 2017, the African Affairs office is led by a career foreign service officer. There is contemplation of yet naming an acting Secretary of State for African Affairs. This, despite the fact that the post has been regarded as a substantive appointment in all US administrations. In fact, it had been reported that in March, Rudy Atallah, a highly thought of specialist on Africa had been considered for the post of National Security Council’s Senior Director for Africa. However, the job was rescinded.  This is emblematic of negative orientation towards things African by the Trump billionaire crowd.

*Based on a document authored by Trump’s transition unit in November 2016, the in-coming administration was contemplating the possibility of limiting or even eliminating US involvement in African programs that previous administrations deemed essential to American foreign policy. They include: efforts to rid the continent of militant groups such as Somalia’s Al-Shabab; the tracking down of Joseph Kony, Uganda’s utterly contemptible warlord whose Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has wreaked havoc in the area; and President George W. Bush’s initiative to reduce the scourge of HIV/AIDS that goes by the name of PEPFAR. According to a New York Times report, the more than $70 billion pledged by PEPFAR will be forfeited if current plans prevail; down-sizing the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which President Obama had re-authorized to the end of 2025. Through it, nations have access to tariff-free goods in the US.

*According to research by John J. Stemlau ( African Independence- Business, July 7, 2017), a recent Pew global survey on views about the US under Trump revealed unflattering results. It pointed out that countries that included six in Africa, namely, Senegal, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania and Ghana showed a 15 per cent drop in positivity. The drop was from 64 per cent during Obama to 49 per cent.

Trump’s myopic motto, ‘America First’, is complemented by an unspoken one, ‘Africa Never.’ His military interests are driven by the US’s ability to make money selling ammunition and the burning desire to destroy Isis and Al Qaeda in relevant areas. His refusal to take notice of Africa is bound to be deleterious to US-Africa relations. It will, for example, sink the Obama initiatives in the form of Trade Africa, Doing Business in Africa and Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). One of the nadirs of Trump Africa policy is that it is tone deaf to the advantages of promoting the virtues of democracy, human rights and good governance which are crying for attention.

Granted, Trump’s administration has cultivated a love affair with Egypt which, though an African country, it is a large part of Arab interaction. So far, there is no sign of interest in black Africa given its size, political, social, economic and cultural significance to America. After all, close to 20 per cent of US citizens are of African descent. Trump’s predecessor is of Kenyan parentage. There is a disturbing trend among the new foreign affairs operatives who casually view African issues as problems. For example, they regard disturbances in Sudan and Ethiopia as purely domestic matters. President Obama took steps to reduce the danger posed by extremists in South Sudan but Trump wont. He has chosen the vainglory of beefing up the military to fight ISIS over the humanitarian needs of the continent. The Secretary of State and the President have yet to make plans about visiting Africa.

Luckily, one of the unintended benefits of Trump’s dissing of Africa is the realization of people of African origin worldwide that they need to heed the call for an Africacentric global view towards a common agenda. Now, President Donald Trump had his ignorance and animus on full display when he said, “Africans are very lazy. The best they can do is gallivanting around the streets, lamenting how they were colonized. These are the people America doesn’t need. They are the enemies of progress. Look at African countries like Zimbabwe for instance, those people are stealing from their own government and go to invest in foreign countries.” (MzanskiLive- South African Website, December 12, 2016).

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Entre-preneurship for radical economic transformation in South Africa

Entrepreneurship is more than just an economic term — it is a way of thinking. Creating jobs, empowering people and giving individuals access to better lives is certainly a development goal which all countries aspire to. But while South Africa has embraced the rhetoric, it has yet to create the economic ecosystem necessary for entrepreneurship to thrive.

Addressing widespread poverty is the single most important policy challenge facing South Africa. Not only is poverty high when benchmarked against other emerging economies of the world, but also the rate of poverty reduction has been slow. Whilst the South African economy has grown since 1994, albeit at a snail’s pace, poverty incidence remains relatively high. On a parallel plane, another critical development parameter indicates that South Africa has the highest income inequality in the world. According a recent Oxfam report, South Africa’s Gini coefficient consistently ranges from about 0.660 to 0.696. The Gini coefficient is the measure of income inequality, ranging from 0 to 1, 0 is a perfectly equal society and a value of 1 represents a perfectly unequal society. This makes South Africa one of the most consistently unequal countries in the world.

Inclusive development has been seriously lacking in South Africa. The critical challenge is to spread the payback of economic growth among the people, especially the poorest of the poor. As much as this sad state of affairs has been politically dressed up in all sorts of radical narratives and memes, the crux of the ANC’s policy conference held a few weeks ago was the urgency for transformation to a society which has a more equitable distribution of wealth.

Indeed poverty and rising income inequalities are critical challenges for South Africa. They adversely impact inclusive economic development and socio-political stability and simultaneously impede progress in health and education. With rising unemployment rates, South Africa will continue to have the highest income inequality in the world in 2020 measured by the Gini coefficient. There is an imperative to transform or face the wrath of the down trodden masses.

This unequal development, though, is not unique to South Africa. Governments in both developed and emerging economies have been under pressure to cut fiscal expenditures and reduce unemployment. Equally, there has been increased focus on the need for governments to pursue inclusive growth, rather than merely focus on macro-economic indicators like gross domestic product. This new development consensus has emerged at a time when many countries are grappling with the root causes of political uprisings. Governments have been increasingly concerned with the need to provide decent and productive work, especially for their burgeoning youth populations, which are likely to be unemployed or underemployed at higher rates. Conversely, many emerging economies, including South Africa, continue using the public sector to achieve employment goals, resulting in relatively bloated public service sectors that do not contribute in any meaningful way to the prosperity of a country.

Deriving from this negative experience, many developing economies have begun to explore entrepreneurial initiatives as a means to facilitate job creation and inclusive growth. Even the cornerstone of South Africa’s National Development Plan espouses entrepreneurship as a means of dealing with a flagging economy and the perennial question of unemployment. However, while South Africa has embraced rhetoric extolling the benefits of entrepreneurship, entrenched political, economic, and socio-cultural interests limit these efforts. The country has yet to create the economic ecosystem necessary for entrepreneurship to thrive—that is, an integrated policy environment that encourages start-ups and enables entrepreneurial ventures to take hold and succeed. Instead, many challenges continue to impede South African entrepreneurs from reaching their full potential.

Entrepreneurship is more than just an economic term — it is a way of thinking. Creating jobs, empowering people, and giving individuals access to better lives for themselves and their children is certainly a development goal which all countries aspire to. It is no wonder, therefore, that entrepreneurship has become a dynamic, emergent part of global economies promoting inclusive growth. It can provide the solution by creating wealth, jobs, and social empowerment, especially if South Africa is to address the issue of poverty with some degree of success. History and empirical evidence inform us that we have no choice but to actively encourage entrepreneurial ventures.

Unquestionably, entrepreneurship offers the opportunity to South Africa’s poor to earn a sustainable livelihood. It represents a sizeable engine of decent employment generation and can provide an important contribution to sustainable development by creating jobs and driving economic growth and innovation, fostering ‘radical economic transformation’, reducing poverty, improving the quality of life and promoting the equitable distribution of wealth.

Notwithstanding the fact that entrepreneurship can contribute significantly in achieving inclusive growth, South Africa has existing political, economic and socio-cultural challenges, especially in areas such as regulation, finance and education. The public sector, likewise, remains a major challenge. This sector is the largest employer in South Africa and has historically absorbed excess labour, accounting for more than 60 per cent of total formal employment. It is a major problem increasingly burdening public finances, especially through the wage bill.

At another level, while South Africa invests vast amounts of monies in small business development, the outcomes are dismal. As a result the sector is not able to generate jobs to assist in offsetting unemployment. The youth labour markets are also in a state of disarray in South Africa. According to STANLIB, the labour market participation rate for young people is down at a mere 26 per cent, compared to 46 per cent in the rest of the world. Troublingly, these unemployment and labour force participation figures are combined with high rates of underemployment, as many youth are only employed because they have accepted jobs below their qualifications in order to earn money. Recent statistical information indicates that the country’s unemployment rate has now increased to 27.3 per cent in 2017.

Given the above mentioned poor record of small business development, the recent down-grading of the country’s economy and the fact that South Africa is in technical recession, it behoves all sectors of our society to promote an ecosystem that nurtures entrepreneurship. The challenges that hinder entrepreneurship, such as competition from larger firms, regulatory and socio-cultural constraints, and limited access to capital have to be addressed expeditiously by the public and private sectors with the assistance of civil society. The campaign for a new entrepreneurship ecosystem has to be a collective one.

In order to facilitate entrepreneurship, both the public and private sectors should liberalise the regulatory environment and relax rules for new business entrants. Low costs for registering and licensing new businesses and shorter wait times can go a long way to encourage entrepreneurship. In addition, governments can develop one-stop shops for retrieving information and government services in order to make regulatory environments more conducive to entrepreneurship.

Where there is national will and an acknowledgement of the need for economic change to realise people’s potential, a country can harness the power of its people for economic development. South Africa urgently needs a vision for prosperity based on inclusive growth and sustainable development. One of the defining features of this new agenda is the need for structural transformation of South Africa’s economy towards achieving shared growth, decent jobs and economic opportunities for all.

In essence, vibrant entrepreneurship is indispensable not only for economic development but also for radical transformation in South Africa.

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Lesotho government’s new-found political will is welcome, but it will not solve endemic corruption

Lesotho Times
One of the reasons a national budget speech is such an important occasion is that it reflects the goals and priorities of the government of the day. A budget speech transforms political rhetoric and campaign promises into concrete policies that address practical problems. In Lesotho, and other developing countries, this speech provides a benchmark against which ‘development partners’ can gauge how far politicians are prepared to go to literally put money where their mouths are.
This week, Lesotho’s newly appointed Minister of Finance, Dr. Moeketsi Majoro, a former employee of the IMF, made his maiden budget speech. He emphasised, once again, his government’s commitment to the fight against corruption and wasteful spending. The four political parties in the new coalition government — the second in three years — campaigned on a strong anti-corruption ticket.
Depoliticising bureaucracy and strengthening the procurement regulations are some of the measures that the new administration is apparently lining up to tackle endemic graft. Perhaps the clearest sign of commitment to anti-corruption is the 40 per cent increase in the budget of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO).
These efforts are commendable.
Old wine, new skin?
But, it is not the first time Lesotho’s finance minister acknowledges extensive venality in the public service and commits the government to rooting it out. In the budget speech of 2005, for instance, the Finance Minister and former employee of the World Bank, Dr. Timothy Thahane, announced that the government was “committed towards identifying and removing public service delivery bottlenecks and rooting out corruption” (see here). The following year, the minister made a further commitment “to reduce the scope for systemic corruption at all levels of government”.
As many waited for Thahane to show the way out of corruption, charges were filed against him, his Principal Secretary (i.e the chief accounting officer in the ministry of finance) and a local businessman for defrauding the government of 19 million Maloti (approximately $1.5 million).
Further, Lesotho under Thahane’s watch was confronted with one of its biggest corruption scandals as it emerged that a $30 million deal with an Israeli company to supply electronic national documents was not above board. An Israeli court later found this company guilty of bribing a foreign official, and fined it NIS 4.5 million ($1.15 million).
Tim Thahane and others before him failed to rein in on corruption under the favourable conditions of a dominant party system. During this time, government stability did not depend much on the use of ‘patronage’ as it is likely to be the case under the coalition government that Majoro finds himself in.
Political imperatives over good intentions
Dr. Majoro and his colleagues may be eager to eschew the mistakes of the past administration, but political realities will weigh heavily on their generally good intentions and the drive to tackle corruption.
First, this coalition government has too many people queuing up for the disbursement of ‘patronage’ of one form or other. There is a frightening legion of young people with college qualifications looking to the government for decent jobs. Some have been hoping and waiting for close to a decade to find meaningful employment in the civil service — Lesotho’s biggest employer. They are hungry and their patience has run out.
Yet, as qualified as they are, their large numbers relative to job opportunities make it all more difficult to rely on merit alone for recruitment into the public service. Employment into the public service will most likely continue to proceed on some particularistic criteria (e.g. family, political or some other connections) as has always been the case in Lesotho.
This will inevitably complicate government’s efforts to fight the scourge of nepotism and favouritism that defined the previous government of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili (see here for the shocking details on nepotism in Lesotho. Further examples, here and here).
The unemployment crisis is forcing many graduates into the business sector. Yet, economic stagnation and the fading business opportunities mean that many of those trying their luck in the private sector increasingly rely on doing business with the government through the tendering process. Many will not qualify for tenders if procurement regulations are tightened or those in place are strictly enforced as envisaged.
When coupled with the rapidly increasing cost of living, the stagnant salaries in the public service provide strong incentives for public officials to continue tendering for government contracts — a practice that the new Finance Minister condemned in the budget speech. It will difficult to get most civil servants, including chief accounting officers, to support whatever measures are put in place to address these tender irregularities and other practices that compromise the integrity of Lesotho’s procurement system.
All coalition partners — particularly the newly formed Alliance of Democrats (AD) whose leader and the new Deputy Prime Minister has a prime ministerial ambition — are eager to strengthen their base and compete effectively in the next general election. Where the link between a political party and society is weak, as is currently the case with the AD, political patronage and corruption become vital elements of party building strategy.
Members of parliament are likely to continue being under pressure to fulfil social expectations to cater for the personal needs of their constituents. One only needs to spend a few minutes in rural communities and, recently, on popular social media platforms, to understand the expansive role that Basotho assign their representatives. There is a perception among the Basotho that an MP must intervene personally, and using his/her own funds, in the personal problems of the constituents. This creates, in the context of high levels of poverty and increasingly competitive elections, a strong incentive for MPs to get involved in all manner of illicit dealings.
Unfortunately, ‘political will’ is not enough to tackle corruption where it is endemic, performs the basic function of maintaining political stability and is key to winning an election. The new government’s efforts to tackle systemic corruption will be severely hamstrung by current economic and political conditions. In the coming years and months, we should brace ourselves for two things: first, more rhetoric but less action about government’s commitment to anti-corruption, and, second: allegations of nepotism, fraud and kickbacks.

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How Haitian earthquake relief efforts pulled off a huge con job, with the help of mainstream media


The following is an excerpt from the new book, The Great Haiti Humanitarian Aid Swindle, by Timothy T. Schwartz (CreateSpace, March 2017), available from Amazon and IndieBound.

The greatest financial outpouring of sympathy in history

The 2010 Haiti earthquake was followed by one of the great­est financial outpourings of sympathy in human history. The money given was nothing short of spectacular. All totaled, corporations and individ­uals would donate $3.1 billion to help Haiti earthquake victims. Foreign gov­ernments pledged another $10 billion in aid. To put it into global perspec­tive, all global disaster aid from private sources and from developed world governments amounted to $19 billion in 2010. That’s all the aid given for international disasters by every country on earth, from China to the U.S. to Sweden; and $13.1 billion of it went to Haiti. And it was donated in the midst of the worst reces­sion since the Great Depression.

Had it been handed over to the Haitian government it would have paid for thirteen years of the country’s national budget ($965 million in 2009). But it was not handed over to the Haitian government. Or rather, in that first year after the earthquake, the Haitian government got one percent of it. The other 99 percent of the money went to NGOs, among them Save the Children, the Red Cross, CARE International, Catholic Relief Services, Concern World­wide, Mercy Corps, Food for the Poor, and Feed the Hungry; it went to UN agencies such as UNICEF and the World Food Program; and it went to private humanitarian aid contractors, such as United States’ Chemonics and Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI).

The expectation was that these organizations were the entities best equipped to deal with the crisis in Haiti. They had vast experience in dealing with poverty throughout the world. Most were founded in the 1950s or earlier. And many of them had been in Haiti for half a century or more. They had unrivaled worldwide administrations, professionals, volunteers and consultants. The expectation was that not only were they the most able to put Haiti back together, but with the avalanche of donations they could create a new Haiti. They could set the country on the path to prosperity that had so miserably eluded her for the two centuries since Haiti gloriously became the second country in the Western hemisphere to win its independence.  As Bill Clinton said, “This is the best chance, even in spite of this horrible earthquake, the best chance Haiti ever had to escape the darker chapters of the past and build a brighter future.” He then sent up the rallying cry, “Build Back Better.”

The waste

The squandering and waste began almost immediately. The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) rented two luxury cruise ships, complete with maids and waiters. It was, at a cost $16.6 million for 90 days, a fee that Fox News investigators later discovered to be three times greater than its market value. Disaster clean up companies from the U.S. partnered with the Haitian-born Israeli Consulate and the Haitian president’s wife to win hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts to clean up rubble. They charged $68 per square meter, three times the scandalous $23 per cubic meter of debris they charged the U.S. government for clean-up after Hurricane Katarina and five times the $14 per cubic meter that Sean Penn’s team was, at that very moment, charging for cleaning up rubble in Haiti.

The U.S. government would get billed an average cost of $5,265 per temporary shelter built for earthquake victims, a figure more expensive than any other humanitarian shelter in the world. Much more expensive. It was almost twice the cost of its nearest competitor, the developed country of Georgia  where the UN paid $3,000 in 2009 for winterized cottages; it was five times the $910 cost that humanitarian organizations charged to provide a winterized temporary shelter to Afghanistan war refugees; and it was 18 times the $300 local cost in Haiti for materials to build a 12×10 foot shack with a concrete floor, plywood walls and corrugated metal roof.

Meanwhile, the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, which had raised $47 million for victims of the Haiti earthquake, would take $2 million of that money and give it in the form of a low interest loan to one of Haiti’s richest families—the Madsens—so they could complete the construction of a luxury hotel. And the Clinton Foundation, which had collected $34 million, would provide over 1,000 children with classroom-trailers that had levels of formaldehyde wood preservative so high they caused the children and teachers who occupied them to fall ill. The manufacturer of the trailer-classrooms turned out to be Clayton Homes, a U.S. company that had also sold formaldehyde-drenched mobile homes to FEMA in 2004 and that, at the very moment the Clinton Foundation had purchased the classrooms for Haiti, was being sued by Hurricane Katrina survivors.

The stories go on and on. The NGO Food for the Poor was building permanent houses in Haiti before the earthquake for $2,000 per home. After the earthquake, the U.S. govern­ment partnered with Food for the Poor to build 750 of what were essentially the same houses, but at a cost of $38,000 per house, 19 times the pre-earthquake costs. Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern said that $100 million of the $500 million given to the Red Cross would go to “provide tens of thousands of people with permanent homes.” Five years later NPR would report that the charity had built six permanent homes.

Don’t misunderstand me. Not all the aid was squandered. Cost-effective short-term relief efforts did exist. Surgical teams from Doctors Without Borders, Partners in Health and hundreds of other medical relief organizations from all over the world came to Haiti and without them post-earthquake Haiti would have been a much greater hell. Sean Penn turned out to be an exception as well. Penn showed up nine days after the earthquake. He brought with him his charisma and a seemingly indefatigable disposition to say anything he pleased and curse out anyone who crossed him. Yet, he also turned out to have a talent for crisis management that embarrassed most NGO directors. In the first year, Penn spent $14 million of mostly celebrity-donated money. It was a tiny fraction of the $1.4 billion that was spent that year. Yet, his group cleaned up 20 percent of all the rubble in Port-au-Prince while attending to 5 percent of the camp refugees.

The cover-ups

Unfortunately, Sean Penn, Doctors Without Borders, and Partners in Health were exceptions that proved the rule. It is much easier to find examples of waste and absurd claims. And just as disturbing were the cover-ups and refusal to account for the money.

Disaster Accountability Project (DAP) examined the 196 organizations that got donations for earthquake relief and found that:

1. Only six had publicly available, regularly updated, factual situation reports detailing their activities.

2. Only one provided what DAP considered “complete and factual information.”

3. The majority—128—did not have factual situation reports available on their websites, relying instead upon anecdotal descriptions of activities or emotional appeals.

4. Many claimed to provide details of their activities on their blogs, but the blogs were almost entirely “appeals to emotion, pictures of children, and purely anecdotal accounts about touching moments during a particular delivery of relief.”

When DAP wrote to the NGOs and asked them to complete a short survey, 90 percent did not respond. DAP followed up with four more e-mail requests explaining the value and moral obligation donors had to be transparent and account for donations. That changed nothing. DAP director Ben Smilowitz concluded that, “most of them don’t care about coordination. They do their own thing on their own. They don’t share what they do. We don’t know what they do. And probably they don’t want us to know what they do.”

The greed

So, humanitarian agencies collected a mountain of donations in the name of Haiti earthquake victims, they largely squandered it, and they then refused to account for it. But… what this… is really about is how they got us to give the money. It’s about the exaggerations, truth-twisting and outright lies that humanitarian agencies used to get donors to give. And it’s about the international press’s role in spreading those lies and giving them credibility. For despite all the widely known waste and ineffi­ciency that we saw after the Haiti earthquake, despite the humanitarian agencies’ appalling lack of capacity and competence to get the money to the people for whom it was intended, and despite the astonishing surfeit of money that had already poured in, the aid agencies kept asking for more. And the overseas public kept giving it.

The International Federation of the Red Cross made an initial “emergency flash appeal” for $10 million to provide emergency assistance to 100,000 people. By January 30, three weeks after the quake, they were asking for $103 million to “assist up to 600,000 beneficiaries for a total of 3 years.” They would receive a total of $1.2 billion. That’s ten times what they had originally asked for. Save the Children originally called for $9.8 million in donations. When they reached that figure in a matter of weeks they raised their need to $20 million. By the end of the year they had collected $87 million, almost ten times their original request. World Vision asked for $3.8 million. But they then kept asking for more, and more, and more, until they had collected a total of $191 million. UNICEF originally called for $120 million. When they brought in $229 million in six months—almost double what they requested—they decided they needed another $127 million. Those are just a couple of examples. The NGOs and UN agencies were as a rule insatiable. In all post-earthquake Haiti, only Doctors Without Borders told donors they had enough money, and that was after bringing in a whopping $138 million. And it wasn’t just the big NGOs. Six months after the earthquake, musicians and performers were still coming out of retirement to do benefit concerts and school children were still setting up lemonade stands to help Haiti earthquake survivors.

The giving

It was this giving, this seemingly endless inclination of the overseas public to be charitable, that is the greatest marvel of the Haiti earthquake. “The real question,” stammered Blake Elis of CNN Money nine days after the quake, “is whether this surge of giving will continue.” Philanthropic fund­raising consultant Lucy Bernholz worried too, “The outpouring of support is great, but people lose interest [in disasters] really quickly.” The editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Stacy Palmer, also worried: “Something has to happen to keep it on top of people’s minds, or they turn back to their own world.”

Something did indeed happen. What happened was a plethora of lies, exaggerations and truth-twisting, all targeted to elicit shock and sympathy from overseas donors and artfully disseminated by international media outlets that thrive on sensationalism and are, at least in the case of Haiti, incapable—if not totally disinterested—in sorting fact from fiction. And the reason I’ve written the book is not only to reveal the extremes the humanitarian aid agencies go to lie, pat themselves on the back, and ask for more money after squandering what we’ve already given them, and how the press unabashedly repeats those lies, but also because something has to be done to bring them to account. Forcing the humanitarian aid organizations to accurately and honestly identify the problems that afflict the poor and that they claim to be resolving is the first and necessary step to stopping the waste and outright embezzlement of money meant for the neediest people on earth. And the only way that’s going to happen is if people first learn just how bad it is.


Changing the narrative

When it was all said and done, in the anarchic hell that was ‘reportedly’ post-earthquake Port-au-Prince, with 2.3 million people homeless (so we were told), 316,000 dead (another exaggeration I’ll get to shortly), 4,000 of the country’s “most dangerous prisoners” escaped (most had never been tried and many were not criminals but political prisoners), 80 percent of buildings destroyed (wrong again), and unbridled hunger, hopelessness, and looting, the violence for the week following the earthquake was spectacularly low. The official tally:

  • Two Dominicans wounded—clearly intentional (what we don’t know is if they were trying to sell aid, as some Dominican truck drivers were doing).
  • One girl killed—apparently by a policeman’s bullet but ruled unintentional.
  • Two men that the police allegedly bound and executed (foreign journalists reported them as ‘looters’ but since in most cases the police were not only permitting looting but partaking in it, we can assume there is more to the story, such as the government order to shoot to kill escaped prison­ers).
  • A looter shot by a security guard—intentional (but we don’t know what happened prior to the shooting, if the man had threatened the guard, if he had returned several times, if there had been some kind of fight, if he was one of the higher profile escaped prisoners).
  • One cop shot by his partner—another accident, or so we think (the press reported that his partner mistook him for a looter).
  • At least two people beaten to death by vigilantes (in Haiti, vigilante justice is common, arguably one reason that crime isn’t as high as other countries, meaning—as a Haitian might say—that there are no police to protect the criminals from the population).

We are talking about a metropolitan area of 3 million people and in the wake of one of the worst disasters in the history of the Western hemisphere. It was considerably less violent than the Dominican Republic next door, where an average 55 people were being killed every week. No newspaper or television journalists reported that.

It’s not at all clear who went first, the press or the military, but on the 19th of January both abruptly changed the tone of their reports. Indeed, it was an about-face. General Keen, who only two days before had been getting ready to send the troops into the streets of Port-au-Prince, was suddenly acting like he had never been worried. “The level of violence that we see right now,” Keen declared, “is below the pre-earthquake levels.” U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates repeated the point. “There has been a lot less violence in Port-au-Prince,” he told reporters, “than there was before the earth­quake.”

On the 17th of January, the U.S. military commander was planning to send several battalions of the most elite armed forces on the planet into the streets of Port-au-Prince and put an end to the violence and mayhem that had engulfed the city. On the 18th the situation had worsened, all hell was breaking loose, martial law was imminent. But the very next day, the 19th, the marauding Haitian masses melted from the pages of newspapers and televisions screens and from the cross-hairs of the U.S. Southern Command’s automatic rifles and it was as if insecurity in post-earthquake Port-au-Prince had never been an issue at all.

UN peacekeepers, who spent much of the week sealed off inside fortified compounds, only venturing into the streets in tanks or armed details and insisting that no one else go out without an armed security escort, suddenly changed their tune as well. Acting as if they too had never been worried about anything, UN spokesman John Holmes told the press, “It’s very easy to convey the impression by focusing on a particular incident that there’s a major security law and order problem arising. But in our view, that is not the case.”

The press and military would change their rhetoric but the fear and restrictions would linger. The 20,000 troops and the thousands of aid workers who had come to provide emergency relief were now effectively scared shitless and under security restrictions. The UN had carved the city into color-coded zones. In red zones aid workers could not enter at all. In orange zones they had to have their windows rolled up and they could not get out of the vehicle. In yellow zones they could enter but only at certain times of the day. The least secure zones were, of course, the poorest. The aid that would subsequently go out to the impoverished areas that most needed it would be delivered in tightly controlled sites, drawing crowds that sometimes reached into the tens of thousands. There was massive frustration and resentment and in these areas a real security threat emerged, one surrounding the aid distribution itself. Then there were the green zones.

The green zones were safe. They were the wealthy areas where little to no aid was needed at all. Yet, they would soon be the sites of massive aid distribution. And not least of all, with their upscale bars and restaurants they would become economically thriving reprieves with skyrocketing inflation, where the cost of beer and nutritionally varied meals and comfortable hotel rooms soon rivaled or exceeded prices in Miami, Paris and Geneva. The green zones were aptly named: they were places where the people the poor call the boujwa (bourgeoisie) made new fortunes, or added to old ones.

In trying to understand what happened, I’m not sure if we can blame the military. Officers and soldiers are trained for war. That’s why we pay them. More at fault are the politicians and bureaucrats who sent them. The U.S. sent combat troops. After the fact, the U.S. government tried to rewrite history and tell us it was all for humanitarian work, something so transparently bogus it would be laughable if it were not for the tragic consequences. The fact is that U.S. government really did fear a break down in society. Almost everyone did. The real culprits, in my way of thinking, were the ones responsible for creating the fear. It was the members of the press who we rely on for the truth.

The mainstream media did what it always does to Haiti: in the name of selling newspapers and increasing television viewership it re-affirmed the image of Haiti that it created, an image of the macabre, the mad, and the malevolent; indeed, the ‘island of the damned’ where in the best of times ‘murder, rape and voodoo’ prevailed. In what has to be considered one of their most dishonorable moments, what should have been their opportunity to help, to quell the fear and smooth the way for rescuers and medical workers and the deliverers of aid, a moment when newspaper editors could have stepped in and made sure that responsible reporting ruled, much of the press corps failed. Indeed, they did worse. Television networks and newspapers unleashed a massive deployment of news professionals. But rather than telling us what was happening and responsibly reporting on the needs of the survi­vors, the press tried, in the name of readers and viewership, to entertain and scare the hell out of us. In the process, they set the ground work for a second disaster: the medical disaster and failed delivery of emergency….

But to finish here, on January 19, the U.S. State Department, U.S. military and the mainstream press suddenly backed off. And they didn’t really have a choice. The overwhelming evidence from the streets was that the mainstream press, the U.S. military and the State Department had it all wrong: Haiti was not an Armageddon of murder and mayhem. Independent journalists, such as Ansel Herz and overseas news outlets such as Canada’s CBC, were starting a media frenzy of their own criticizing the exaggerations and sensationalism. A chorus of criticism was also coming from medical NGOs such as the French Doctors Without Borders that had five planes carrying medical supplies which were diverted by the U.S. military. In the meantime, Hillary Clinton had flown into Port-au-Prince on January 16. The U.S. military shut the airport for three hours.

The entire U.S.-led relief effort was on the verge of becoming a massive embarrassment. It was becoming Obama’s Hurricane Katrina. Worse because Haiti was not on U.S. soil and yet the U.S. had taken upon itself the role of controlling the relief effort. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would put an interesting twist on the entire affair when she accompanied the U.S. about-face with a cable sent to U.S. Embassies around the world saying,

“I am deeply concerned by instances of inaccurate and unfavorable international media coverage of America’s role and intentions in Haiti. It is imperative to get the narrative right over the long term.”

Yes, get the narrative right. Clinton was talking, not to the mainstream U.S. press, which had been bolstering the case for military intervention and even blaming the U.S. for not taking firmer control of the streets of Port-au-Prince, but to the foreign press who were now blaming the U.S. for the loss of thousands of lives.

But whoever’s fault it was, the game was over. Suddenly Port-au-Prince was “safer than it had been before the earthquake.” And despite forthcoming sensationalism about rapes and sexually deviant child slave hunters, it would stay that way. The fear of violence suddenly gone, the news industry had lost a hot-selling story, and had to find a new one. They didn’t have to look far. By the middle of the first week after the quake rescue crews began to make a series of dramatic rescues. The rescues served on prime-time news shows as happy endings in the midst of so much trauma and despair. They sent television viewership skyrocketing. They made the U.S. government who funded most of it seem like heroes. And just like almost everything else to do with the press, the international aid industry, and politicians, there was a thick vein of bullshit running through the middle of it all….

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Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe: 90 years of struggle, suffering and sacrifice

Thando Sipuye/University of Sobukwe

Mama Sobukwe epitomises the collective experiences of many Black women throughout the Afrikan continent and diaspora whose roles and contributions in the liberation struggle remain unacknowledged, written out of popular historical narratives, biographical memory and national consciousness.

Today, 27 July 2017, marks the 90th birthday of Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe, the forgotten, ignored and erased ‘Mother of Azania’ who has endured unspeakable suffering, struggle and pain.

She will celebrate her 90th birthday, as usual, in private, at her humble home, with family and close friends. There will be no glamour, no journalists, and no live broadcast. And, quite frankly, the saddest part is that most people aren’t even aware that she’s still alive.

Born Zondeni Veronica Mathe on 27 July 1927 in Hlobane in Natal, she got married to Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe on the 6 June 1954 and, in line with African tradition and matrimonial rites of passage, she received the customary nuptial name of Nosango. She bore four children: Miliswa, Dinilesizwe, Dalindyebo and Dedanizizwe.

In her intriguing novel, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Adiche Ngozi speaks about the “danger of a single story”, questioning ideas such as the potential of a single narrative to create stereotypes and perpetuate certain erasures.

Although women are the bedrock of society, and in fact, the primary nurturers of socio-economic and political revolutions, when history is told, their stories, contributions and experiences tend to be downplayed or erased.

If, and when, the stories of women are told, only those of the popular, already well-known and overly researched women get retold slightly differently. Only those whose activism was masked by overt theatrics attract public interest and the imagination of scholars and artists.

The erasure, silencing and neglect of Mama Sobukwe must be read and understood through this lens, exposing the broader systematic project of erasing, neglecting and silencing ordinary Black women and their experiences.

Mama Sobukwe epitomises the collective experiences of many other Black women throughout the Afrikan continent and diaspora, whose roles and contributions in the liberation struggle remain unacknowledged, written out of popular historical narratives, biographical memory and national consciousness.

Forgotten by the ignoramus oligarchs, politicians and authorities of the countries for which they and their beloved sacrificed their lives during the liberation struggle, a majority of them today rely on government pensions and grants to make ends meet.

Mama Sobukwe is a glaring example of this unforgivable shame.

She embodies the rejection of both the racist white-settler regime whom she challenged through her numerous letters to racist apartheid authorities like the then Minister of Justice, Jimmy Kruger and then Prime Minister B.J. Voster, demanding the release of her husband; as well as the current ANC government that undermines the contributions of the Sobukwes in the liberation struggle.

In fact today, and perhaps out of disdain for the course of history, the ANC makes concerted efforts to completely erase the name Sobukwe from public memory. Mama Sobukwe’s isolation is, therefore, no accident.

The life story of this indomitable woman is one of constant neglect, pain and erasure. She embodies the totality of the ‘serve, suffer & sacrifice’ dictum coined by her husband, Mangaliso Sobukwe, and his colleagues in the Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC).

The 90-year-old resilient and strong ‘Mother of Azania’ who, although aged and frail, still spends time daily in her garden, is cast as an insignificant shadow of a feared man whose memory remains buried in secrecy and obscurity. She is rendered completely non-existent in her own right; she seems to have no humanity of her own, forgotten, erased and muted.

A simple Google search of Mama Sobukwe’s name tells the story of her enduring invisibility and erasure. Googling ‘Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe’ you only get three significant web-links that speak about her.

The most prominent of these is her 1997 testimony at the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) regarding the complicity of the racist white-settler regime in poisoning Sobukwe, feeding him food with glass while incarcerated, denying him medical help when he got sick until his untimely death.

This report is followed by a 2014 Daily Dispatch newspaper article titled “Sobukwe’s Grave Cleaned, Declared Heritage Site”, which appeared after the government renovated Sobukwe’s vandalized gravesite in Graaf-Reinet; a 2001 East Cape News article speaking about stupid vandals who hurled a raw egg stuffed into a condom at her home; and a recent Citizen newspaper article titled, “Sobukwe’s Widow Has Been Neglected”, which revealed that Mama Sobukwe relies on old-age pension grants to make ends meet.

What is common in all these web-links is that, while they mention Mama Sobukwe’s name and are related to her in some way, the actual focus of the articles is her husband, Mangaliso. She appears in all these sites merely as the ‘wife’, ‘widow’ or ‘mother’, speaking about her husband and son.

While there is nothing necessarily wrong with Mama Sobukwe speaking about her husband or son in these articles, what is more questionable, and telling at the same time, is why her own life story remains untold.

Unlike other prominent struggle stalwarts, Mama Sobukwe receives no special attention; she gets no honour, no benefits, and no assistance at all from the ANC government. Not a single official gesture of honour and recognition has ever been granted to Mama Sobukwe; no street named after her, no government orders awarded to her, no honorary university degrees conferred upon her, and no institution, except for a local old age home in Graaf-Reinet, is named in her honour.

There is not a single website entry of Mama Sobukwe’s name containing her life story, not even a Wikipedia entry with any detail of who she is. No biography of her exists in any public platform. She just does not exist. Thus, the humble and resilient ‘Mother of Azania’ is consistently rendered insignificant.

No artist has ever rendered any known piece of artwork in tribute to Mama Sobukwe; no publicly known song exists, no paintings, no graffiti, and no book. It was only the sage Eskia Mphahlele who penned a poem titled “Tribute to Zodwa Veronica, A Great Woman”. All others have seen and felt no need to honour this noble woman whose life sacrifice deserves praise.

But rest assured, when the inevitable happens and Mama Sobukwe joins her late husband and Ancestors, all the voracious hypocrites will, in the grand opportunistic posture, want to celebrate her. They will all jump, race and compete to have a say on her and praise her. Tributes will pour from all sides; but this, of course, only when she dies.

I hope the Sobukwe family rejects all of them, their shady gestures and offers, with the contempt they deserve when that time comes.

While it is understandable that the ANC government would ignore and sideline Mama Sobukwe as they do her husband, what is deeply saddening is why PAC leaders and members (without ignoring the troubles ravaging the organization), as well as Black intellectuals in general, have also taken no interest in telling and recording her life story for posterity.

Mama Sobukwe fiercely challenged the then Minister of Justice, Balthazar Johannes Voster, about the conditions surrounding the incarceration of her husband on Robben Island, requesting several meetings which were never honoured. Instead, Voster referred Mama Sobukwe to the then Minister of Justice, Petrus Cornelius Pelser, who in turn maintained the status quo, rejecting all her appeals.

As a health practitioner and an activist in her own right, she single-handedly advocated for the release of Robert Sobukwe from Robben Island, bringing his deteriorating health to the fore. She wrote several letters to the white supremacist government demanding his release. And when all her efforts failed, she appealed to Voster to allow Sobukwe to leave South Africa permanently on an exit permit together with his family. Voster refused, and Mama Sobukwe asked that she be allowed to stay on Robben Island with Sobukwe, to oversee his health herself. Of course, the racist Voster refused.

And what of Sobukwe’s children, they who’ve suffered in silence along with their now 90-year-old mother from birth till now: Miliswa (she who is rooted), Dinilesizwe (sacrifice of the nation), Dalindyebo (creator of wealth) and Dedanizizwe (move, you nations)?

Their memory too is forgotten. Their pain, their suffering and their struggles of growing up without a father are also rendered insignificant, bearing no potency, no currency and no attraction to a single historian, journalist or biographer. The death of one of Mama Sobukwe’s twin sons, Dalindyebo, is not registered on any public platform; his, too, was an insignificant death.

The dreadful pain and suffering the Sobukwe family continues to endure goes unrecorded. But more so, the suffering of Mama Sobukwe, whose once lecturer husband’s estate, properties and legacy she has benefitted little-to-nothing from.

In an effort to give voice to Mama Sobukwe, the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Trust, in partnership with the Blackhouse Kollective, will host a tribute lecture in her honour during Women’s Month at the Mofolo Arts Centre on Saturday, 12 August 2017.

We wish Mama Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe divine blessings as she celebrates 90 years of struggle, suffering and sacrifice.

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Reclaim the humanism of Socialism

The 2017 Strini Moodley Memorial Lecture
kaga blog

The crisis facing South Africa and the world today has its roots in: (1) the barbarism and injustices of market supremacism, racial supremacism and patriarchy; (2) the inadequacy of liberal democracy; (3) the excesses of commandist communism and vanguardist Marxism and (4) the failure of the dominant discourse to locate racism and patriarchy as much central to the problems we face as capitalism. The crisis can only be appropriately dealt with by appealing to the radical humanism of Socialism.

NOTE: This Strini Moodley Memorial Lecture was delivered on 19 July 2017 at Howard College Theatre, Howard Campus, Mazisi Kunene Avenue, University Of Kwazulu-Natal (UKZN).

Respected leaders and members of the UKZN community, Umtapo Centre, the Steve Biko Transformative Educational Project and broader KZN civil society, I greet you in the name of the oneness, unity and fellowship of humanity:  SanibonaniShalom, Namaste, Assalaam Alaykum, Kgotso ebe le lona.  As frightened as I am by the word ‘memorial lecture’ and equally surprised when I saw the official invite to this event falsely accusing me of being a “lecturer”, I am greatly honored to be part of the speakers at this memorial lecture of Comrade Strinivasa Raju Moodley – the man fondly known as Connection. The Connection nickname symbolized Comrade Strini’s inclination to interact with and bring people together beyond social, political, cultural and geographic borders.  A memorial is, indeed, a fitting tribute to a man whose political and cultural work was by and large against de-historicizing the many social, political and economic problems facing humanity.  The symbolic and political significance of the concept of memorial in this context is also due to the fact that Comrade Strini subscribed to the Black Consciousness philosophy, a philosophy that has articulated the relationship between memory and being very well. Indeed Black Consciousness – like other philosophical branches Africana Philosophy[1] such as Pan Africanism[2], Black Existentialism[3], Black Existential Feminism[4] and Critical Race Theory[5] – stresses  the importance of remembering , particularly critical interrogation of the past and its link to the present and the future as a political act, that has either liberating or oppressive consequences depending on the meaning that one attaches to their place in history and their role in the making of history.

Black Consciousness has properly identified the impact of the colonialist project of denigration, disfiguring and mutilation of the histories and traditions of an oppressed people; as denying people a sense of being and belonging and, therefore, denying them their humanity.  The Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) – of which Strini was a co-founder in Azania[6] – identifies the re-humanization of the oppressed people and their mental and physical liberation as the central aim of national and class struggles the world over and as the central focus of our struggle in Azania.  The BCM articulates Black Self-realization, as the key mover of the agency of Black people as the most downtrodden of the exploited under-classes of Azania.  It proposes Black Solidarity and Black Power as the most potent instruments to confront and challenge the structures of racial-capitalism that deny Black people their humanity, and advocates egalitarian Socialist values and practices as the medium through which the humanity of all people – irrespective of the colour of their skin, their gender, their sexuality etc – can be reclaimed.

This takes us to today’s theme. I must admit that the first challenge I had in deciding how to approach my talk was deciding on which of the two proposed topics to speak on:

1. How can the flames engulfing the country be extinguished?

2. Socialism and humanism: Are they two sides of the same coin?

My struggle with the topics was precisely because I found them to be so intertwined that it would be difficult to talk about one without speaking to the other.  I found the implied framing of Socialism and humanism as discrete and separate ideals and goals problematic. I also struggled with the notion of extinguishing the flames.

What flames are we referring to?  Are we referring to the flames of spontaneous, organic and organised resistance engulfing the country as exemplified by Rhodes Must Fall, Fees Must Fall, popular land repossession actions and nationwide protests against the squeeze of the continuities of apartheid-capitalism and neoliberal policies on poor and working-class people’s lives?  Or which flames are referring to? There are so many flames engulfing the country. The country is engulfed by the fires and flames of industrial pollution that endanger the lives of thousands of people particularly poor working-class communities such as the people of Durban South basin. For decades these people have endured the assault of air pollution, oil pollution, water, noise pollution and land degradation on their lives and wellbeing caused by the activities of SAPREF[7], Engen Refinery[8] and several polluting industries ranging from waste water treatment works, numerous toxic waste landfill sites, a paper manufacturing plant and a multitude of chemical process industries. The people of Zamdela in Sasolburg for 50 years have been subjected to poor air quality as a result of high concentration of sulphur dioxide emissions and fine particulate matter courtesy of the Sasol Chemical Industry.[9] And several communities in the country for more than two decades after democracy are still literally breathing raw sewerage.

Azania is engulfed by socioeconomic violence unleashed on poor communities by neoliberal capitalist policies that churn out unemployment, poverty and inequality.  It is engulfed by rampant maladministration and corruption in the private and public sectors. Azania is engulfed by the continuities of apartheid-capitalism and racial, class and gender disparities.  Azania is engulfed by what, for a lack of better words, I refer to as internecine wars  between various fractions, appendages and outlets of capital in the scramble over who must turn the state into its private property and cash-cow the most.

The various kinds of flames engulfing Azania are related to the flames engulfing other countries and other people all over the world.  What I know, however, is that the Strinivasa Moodley we know, would have been more interested in igniting and kindling to high voltage the flames of popular resistance and revolutionary war against social, political, economic, gender and environmental injustice.  And to my understanding, Strini perceived Socialism as a scientific expression of humanist ideals.

This understanding influences me to use my poetic license and abuse the position of being the speaker to reformulate the my topic today as: Reclaim the humanism of Socialism to extinguish the flames engulfing the country.

Herbert Marcus poignantly expresses the point we make that Socialism is humanism, when he states:

“In the Marxian conception, Socialism is humanism in as much as it organizes the social division of labor, the “realm of necessity”, so as to enable human beings to satisfy their social and individual needs without exploitation and with a minimum of toil and sacrifice. Social production, controlled by the “immediate producers,” would be deliberately directed toward this goal. With this rational organization of the realm of necessity, human beings would be free to develop themselves as  “all-round individuals” beyond the realm of necessity, which would remain a world of want, of labor. But the qualitatively new organization of the realm of necessity, upon which the emergence of truly human relationships depends, in turn depends on the existence of a class for which the revolution of human relationships is a vital need. Socialism is humanism in the extent to which this need and goal pre-exist, i.e., Socialism as humanism has its historical a priori within capitalist society. Those who constitute the human base of this society have no share in its exploitative interests and satisfactions; their vital needs transcend the inhuman existence of the whole toward, the universal human needs which are still to be fulfilled. Because their very existence is the denial of freedom and humanity, they are free for their own liberation and for that of humanity. In this dialectic, the humanist content of Socialism emerges, not as value but as need, not as moral goal and justification but as economic and political practice—as part of the basis itself of the material culture.”

I would like to agree with Marcus that Socialism and humanism in its radical sense are inseparable.

My view is that the political, social and economic crisis facing the world today has its roots in (1) the barbarism and injustices of market supremacism, racial supremacism and patriarchy, (2) the inadequacy of representative liberal democracy and social democracy, (3) the excesses of commandist communism and vanguardist Marxism, and (4) the failure of the dominant discourse to locate racism and patriarchy as much central to problems we face as capitalism. Therefore this crisis cannot be appropriately dealt with without appealing to the radical humanism of socialism. It equally cannot be adequately addressed without locating Socialist and radical humanist thought in the quest for forms, expressions and organs of power beyond the state, the market and formal political parties.  Most importantly,  the rediscovery and resurgence of the humanist goal of Socialism, or what Biko and the BCM refer to as the vision of an egalitarian socialist society that bestows a human face to the world, will be just a matter of chasing shadows if Socialist and leftist thought in general is not located to the specificities and peculiarities of the conditions and problems faced by Black people, women, the gay-lesbian-transgender-intersex and queer communities, refugees and immigrants, disabled people and other disempowered , powerless , silenced and marginalised people.

It is clear that to rediscover and articulate the mission of the quest for humanity, Socialism has to disabuse and redeem itself  from the myth that Socialist ideals and practices begin with Karl Marx and Frederick Engels and end with Vladmir Lenin (with  Leon Trotsky[10] and Rosa Luxemburg[11] said in hushed tones,  Mao[12] somehow tolerated, Antonio  Gramsci[13] somewhere in the background – Frantz Omar Fanon[14] and CRL James[15] as the bastard kids; IB Tabata[16], Archie Mafeje[17] and Neville Alexandre[18] too Black to be in the canons and Black socialist women completely left out.)  Most importantly, Socialism has to rid itself of the twin devils of statism and economism to explore participatory democratic politics and collaborative, cooperative, communal, social and sustainable modes of production and distribution of wealth and knowledge.

This means that we have do discard and bid goodbye to a predictive and commandist kind of Socialism that not only claims to have all the answers but also claims that only a particular party and a particular inner-circle within this party possess the spiritual powers to see the future and, therefore, the rest of society must depend on the brains and eyes, guts and whims of this group of intellectual sangomas for its destiny and future. It is ludicrous to subscribe to the notion that one party can be the leader of society instead of it taking its cue from public demands, societal issues and the dynamics of time and place. It is absurd to portray one party as the vanguard of the working-class instead of the under-classes as the vanguard and a Socialist party drawing from the daily experiences and struggles of the wretched of the earth.  It is ridiculous for one political organization to impose itself as the sole authentic representative or torchbearer of a particular philosophy and to deny the plurality of voices and diversity of perspectives and slants within one philosophy, ideology or movement. As a matter of fact, the very notion of which social force is the vehicle should be interrogated in a critical manner that avoids being essentialist about the questions of class, race and gender and also avoids being  prescriptive and dogmatic on the agents and forms of struggle. As Herbert Marcus correctly asserts:

“Socialist theory, no matter how true, can neither prescribe nor predict the future agents of a historical transformation which is more than ever before the specter that haunts the established societies. But Socialist theory can show that this specter is the image of a vital need; it can develop and protect the consciousness of this need and thus lay the groundwork for the dissolution of the false unity in defense of the status quo.”

Indeed Strini perceived Socialism, Radical Humanism and Black Consciousness as the way out of the mayhem in which we find ourselves where children and women are unsafe in the streets, at home, in schools and at every space; and wherein everyday there is one or other form of protest in demand of very basic necessities that should be a given in a normal society.

Strini understood that in the context of Azania any project aimed at re-humanizing the people who are at the intersection of the ravages of racial, class and gender oppression that does not have the insight of Black Consciousness, Black Feminism and Ecological perspectives and does not take into cognizance of all forms of social exclusion, marginalization and powerlessness is bound to fail. This comes out very clear in Strini’s input on the beginning of Umtapo where he clearly articulates a Radical Humanist and Socialist perspective on the notion of peace activism in our context.  Strini mentions that Umtapo was established in response to internecine violence in the community, particularly internecine violence among political parties and that it was aimed towards intervention programs that would make people to be in solidarity with one  another, to work together to address the root of the problem instead of fighting one another. (The Beginnings of Umtapo. Explaining that in the context of all the wars and violence in Africa and the world peace has acquired a new meaning (ibid), Strini states that:

“ …the whole notion of a peace activist is not different from the old days. In the old days we were freedom fighters. I think today every freedom fighter has to be peace activists. What is a peace activist? A peace activist is not a person who is only interested in the absence of war but is more concerned about the quality of life of every human being.  A peace activist will be fighting for development of the quality of life of every human being in the world. Not just in your own community, not just in your own family, not just in your own neighborhood, but the world over. That is what Umtapo sets out to do… to multiply themselves in the community.  The way we want to go about with this is to establish a leadership institute that will train young people to be leaders who are committed, accountable, incorruptible, who are  able to have a keen awareness of their own self and their own history and are able to mould and design a new country that will have leaders who are gonna make it their role to eliminate violence, corruption and unemployment and all the things that have riddled the country, primarily the problem of poverty.” (The Beginnings of Umtapo. 

Here Strini clearly articulates the idea that genuine struggle and achievement of peace lies in the struggle for and realisation of social, political, economic, gender and environmental justice and in the creation of an egalitarian society wherein all human beings have at their disposal the human, social, political, economic, cultural and environmental conditions required for their overall wellbeing or for meaningful human existence. He stresses:

  • the importance of solidarity, self-realization and focusing on the roots rather than the symptoms;
  •  the role of activists as facilitators of individual and collective agency  to mobilize collective action for social change;
  •   the need for committed, accountable and incorruptible leadership
  •   the vision of a development agenda that radically deals with the intersection of problems that is injurious to the welfare and wellbeing of people and the environment.

Strini’s emphasis of the importance of focusing on the roots rather than the symptoms of a problem is evocative of Jose Marti’s assertion that to be radical means to go to the roots. It is no wonder that within the BCM Strini was known as the irrepressible prophet of the revolution.  At the personal level my most unforgettable memory of Strinivasa Moodley was of him workshopping us on Freirian pedagogy.  I remember specifically his statement that has lived with me for all my life and that has shaped my social, cultural and political activism: “The role of a facilitator is to kill himself\herself.”

What I understood Strini to be saying was that the role of facilitators is not that of a gate-keepers of knowledge, power and resources; nor is the task of facilitators to build an empire for themselves or to consolidate the establishment but rather to create a world in which their services is no longer required, a world in which knowledge production and education and active participation in social, economic, political and cultural life is not the preserve of the propertied and the elite.

That as activists, in any terrain – be it in academia, organised civil society, organised labor and in social and political movements, etc – we should assume the role of facilitators rather than that of lecturers, teachers and leaders who know all the problems. What Strini is telling us is that we should see ours as the struggle against establishments, hierarchies, orthodoxies, dogmas and canons and rather than the enterprise propping up the system that is based on various forms of social stratification, social disenfranchisement and social exclusion.

That our task is to smash the gated pedagogy that entrenches inequalities and commoditizes education and other social services in the name of standards and the bottom-line.  There is, therefore, no doubt that if Comrade Strini was here he would be among those calling for expropriation of the expropriators, for socialisation of land  and the major means of production, for equal redistribution of wealth, for the public control and social ownership of the commanding heights of the economy, for free and de-colonial education, for free, decent and habitable housing, free and quality public healthcare and quality and safe public transport, shouting at the top of his voice:

Rhodes Must Fall!

Fees Must Fall!

Outsourcing Must Fall!

Capital Must Fall!

Racism must Fall!

Patriarchy must fall!

South Africa must fall for Azania to rise!


The point we would like to make here is that Socialism and humanism, to be specific, radical humanism, are two cups of the same liter or rather Socialism minus humanism is Socialism minus its core.  By humanism here we are not referring to many variants of utopian and liberal humanism.  By now it should be common knowledge that Western humanism or liberal humanism has been exposed and rendered false in its promise of human freedom without altering the capitalist relations of production that foster unequal, inequitable and unjust power relations. Western liberal humanism has also been rendered a falsity by its failure to confront the structures of racism and patriarchy and has its indecisiveness in the face of the ecological disaster associated with unbridled accumulation.

The humanism of Marxism has been undermined by a rigidly statist and economistic paradigm characterised by vanguardism and bureaucratic centralism. The falseness of the democratic and humanist postures  of former Stalinist, one-party and  bureaucratic centralist communist regimes lies in the fact that they seek to become more humanistic by making arrangements with Western imperialism  or by using the Socialist lexicon  to implement the neoliberal capitalist agenda.  We can see this playing itself in Azania with the tendency by those in power to pay lip service to the concept of people’s power while propping up the power of capital and entrenching systemic, structural and institutional arrangements that create a form of democracy that is effectively an empire of the social, political and corporate elites.

But for genuine socialists and communists there is no denying of the fact that any liberatory project worth its salt has to be based on the humanist notion that enslaved human beings must accomplish their own liberation  and, therefore, of a frontal attack  on all structures that serve  as barriers  to human agency for liberation.  Such an understanding implies that the task of Socialists is to engage in a simultaneous process of cultivation of individual and collective agency and exposure and confrontation of the systemic, structural and institutional arrangements that constrict, suffocate and throttle human agency.

Herein lies the humanism of Socialism: The idea that human beings are makers of their own history and should be at the centre of all social, political, economic and cultural activities and processes that have an impact on their life and shape their destiny; and that all structures, systems and institutions that deny human beings this should be fought and smashed by any means necessary. As Herbert Marcus observes, “the human reality is an “open” system: no theory, whether Marxist or other, can impose the solution…”

I find myself in agreement with Marcus that the task of all who are activists and intellectuals, all those who are still free and able to think (and bold to act), is to develop the conscience and consciousness of enslaved human beings who must accomplish their own liberation…. to make them aware of what is going on, to prepare the precarious ground for the future alternatives.

This Socialist humanist ideal fits hand-in-glove in the Black Consciousness idea that the oppressed people should be the agents, subjects and objects of their own liberation; it resonates with the motto of the disability movement in Azania, ‘Nothing about us without us’, and with the maxim that has since been hijacked and commercialized as clothing label: for us by us.  Indeed a true liberatory project is one that is by the people for themselves and the role and work of a revolutionary activist in this regard is summed up in the advice of Lao Tzu[19]:

“Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say ‘We have done this ourselves.”

Some of the practical things we could do to deal with the flames engulfing the country and the globe are:

  1. Revitalizing anti-sectarian radical popular-education, civic education, worker-education, worker-culture and theater for social transformation, centering these on the organic struggles and campaigns of the labor, student, youth, women and community organizations and using them to strengthen initiatives such as Fees Must Fall, Outsourcing Must Fall, Anti-eviction campaigns and popular protest for housing and land.
  2. Exploration and experimentation with or consolidation of existing grassroots-based community development programmes and solidarity economy initiatives that tap into the principles and practices of eco-socialism and sustainable living approaches.
  3.   Identifying spaces within and outside of existing formal and informal education platforms and broader labor, civic and social movement platforms  to explore and experiment with the ideals  of a  cooperative higher education[20] and the building of a broader movement for transformation of public higher education from  what Henry Giroux[21] refers to as a “bordered” or “limited” enterprise to a “borderless,” socially and politically conscious sphere directed towards the project of democratization and borderless pedagogy that moves across different sites – from schools to the alternative media – as part of a broader attempt to construct a critical formative culture that enables people to reclaim their voices, speak out, exhibit moral outrage and create the social movements, tactics and public spheres that will reverse the growing tide of authoritarianism.
  4. Explore the idea of bringing radical socialist and broader left groupings that are not beholden to the current neo-liberal state and capital around a National Socialist Forum that explores a common platform of action around issues of common agreement and common interests that could include, among others:
  1. A series of workshops, seminars and campaigns to advocate for human, political, social and economic development policies and programs   that  serve to radically democratize the society, the state  and the economy  and to move South Africa towards the  nationalisation  and socialization of the primary means of wealth, the commanding heights of the economy  and essential social services.
  2. A national summit on land redistribution, agrarian reform, sustainable industrial development and social and economic transformation aimed at consolidating and linking current struggles and campaigns on these issues and developing a cogent policy and political program on them.
  3. An ongoing campaign and advocacy against gender-based violence that will include a series of gender and sexuality workshops and seminars at schools, universities, communities and workplaces as an educational initiative aimed at tackling the attitudes, practices and systemic and structural factors that account for the explosion of various forms of violence and oppression against women and children and against the GBTQI community.
  4. Campaign for a popular constituent assembly that will do away with the sellout constitution that came out of the fraudulent Codesa process.

The radical humanist Socialist approach we propose to tackling the issues must attack and completely breakaway with the dominant narratives promoted by racism, capital and patriarchy that seek to portray Black people, workers, women, the GLBTQI community, refugees and immigrants, homeless and landless people as a problem instead of as people faced with particular economic, social and psychological challenges and problems caused by racism, capitalism and patriarchy.

As Biko correctly responded to the racist notion of the black problem, ‘there is no such thing as the ‘Black problem’ but that the problem is quite simply white anti-Black racism.’ We should offer the same answer to those who turn Black students and Black youth into a problem rather than as people faced by the problem. When Black youths in particular are assailed with social rhetoric that asks them not to make any reference to the apartheid past or its impact on their social realities and are encouraged to restrict their focus on seizing the abundant opportunities and spaces for self-development opened up by post-apartheid legal and constitutional framework.  When Black youths are told that an enabling environment has been created for them through the bold heroes and sheroes of the struggle, and theirs is the new struggle of pulling themselves up by their own bootstrings to occupy the spaces and seize the opportunities.

When Black youth are bombarded with the rhetoric that overemphasizes individual effort and individual agency above collective agency aimed at structural change and social transformation such as “phanda, pusha, play”[22](Hustle, push and play), “vukuzenzele” (wake up and do it for yourself), #uzoyitholakanjani uhlel’ekhoneni?” (How will you find it when you are sitting at the corner?” Socialist Humanism and BC will enable the poor black rural and township child bombarded with “uzoyitholakanjani uhlel’ekhoneni?”Occupy your space” to respond:

i am not at the corner

out of my own volition

it’s the only space

left for me to occupy

the hospital has no space

for a bed for my TB

my numeracy is too wanting

for me to know the safe number

for me to raise at a specific

time and place to a particular

person in the prison space

my mind is an occupied space

campus culture declared me a dropout

the arts architecture history lectures landed me in Venice

literature left me in London of bygone days

the curriculum spoke to me in a strange language

the fees kicked me out of the space

at home i wrestled with the rats in bed

fought with roaches for a place at the table

till the red ants evicted

my family from our shack-house

because we spoiled the value

of the house of mister mayor

i am not at the corner

out of my own volition

i put a table on the street corner

to sell potatoes and cigarettes

metro police came with guns and the law

to kick me out of the very corner

me and my buddies gathered

around the corner to wash

cars for some money for bread

the rich man came with fancy machines

  produced papers the local government

& took away the corner and the clients

i relocated to another corner

only for municipality to ask

me to produce business license

i am not under the bridge

out of my own choice

i identified a good space

where i can stand guard

on people’s cars  for  R30 for the shelter

big business came up with elegant uniform

donkiepiel & superficial smiles

Indeed Socialist Humanism will arm the youths and students, the poor and the unemployed with the political consciousness to boldly declare that as long as the systemic , structural and institutional arrangements  not only push them to the corner but also allow for the rich and propertied to even colonize the very corner  they are quarantined  to : sizohlala sizinyova ne government ..Until there is truly a government of the people by the people for the people!!!

Without any apology: Izwelethu I Afrika. I Afrika Izwelethu! One Azania: One People! One Nation: One Azania!

*MPHUTLANE WA BOFELO is an anti-establishment underground poet\essayist and popular-education and worker-education facilitator currently based in Durban in the Kwa-Zulu Natal province of South Africa.


[1] “Africana philosophy” is the name for an emergent and still developing field of ideas and idea-spaces, intellectual endeavors, discourses, and discursive networks within and beyond academic philosophy that was recognized as such by national and international organizations of professional philosophers, including the American Philosophical Association, starting in the 1980s. Thus, the name does not refer to a particular philosophy, philosophical system, method, or tradition. Rather, Africana philosophy is a third-order, metaphilosophical, umbrella-concept used to bring organizing oversight to various efforts of philosophizing—that is, activities of reflective, critical thinking and articulation and aesthetic expression—engaged in by persons and peoples African and of African descent who were and are indigenous residents of continental Africa and residents of the many African Diasporas worldwide. In all cases the point of much of the philosophizings has been to confer meaningful orderings on individual and shared living and on natural and social worlds while resolving recurrent, emergent, and radically disruptive challenges to existence so as to survive, endure, and flourish across successive generations.

[2] Pan-Africanism is a worldwide intellectual movement that aims to encourage and strengthen bonds of solidarity between all people of African descent. Based upon a common fate going back to the Atlantic slave trade, the movement extends beyond continental Africans, with a substantial support base among the African diaspora in the Caribbean, Latin America and the United States. It is based on the belief that unity is vital to economic, social, and political progress and aims to “unify and uplift” people of African descent. The ideology asserts that the fate of all African peoples and countries are intertwined. At its core Pan-Africanism is “a belief that African peoples, both on the continent and in the diaspora, share not merely a common history, but a common destiny

[3] Black existentialism or Africana critical theory is a school of thought that “critiques domination and affirms the empowerment of Black people in the world.  It is existential philosophy produced by black philosophers that addresses the intersection of problems of existence in black contexts.

[4] Black feminism is a school of thought stating that sexism, class oppression, gender identity and racism are inextricably bound together. Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. Existentialism is a philosophical and cultural movement which holds that the starting point of philosophical thinking must be the individual and the experiences of the individual, that moral thinking and scientific thinking together are not sufficient for understanding all of human existence, and, therefore, that a further set of categories, governed by the norm of authenticity, is necessary to understand human existence. Existentialist feminists emphasize concepts such as freedom, interpersonal relationships, and the experience of living as a human body. They value the capacity for radical change, but recognize that factors such as self-deception and the anxiety caused by the possibility of change can limit it

[5] Critical race theory (CRT)[1] is a theoretical framework in the social sciences focused upon the application of critical theory, a critical examination of society and culture, to the intersection of race, law, and power

[6] For the use of the name Azania read Azania – by George Wauchope available at Citing Runoko Rashidi and Ivan van Sertima (editors), African Presence in Early Asia, Tenth Anniversary Edition, Transaction Press: New Brunswick: 1995,  Black Consciousness stalwart and Maoist theorist,  advocate  Imrann Moosa asserts that the etymology of Azania to the Zanj Rebellion( 869 – 883 A.D.). The Zanj rebellion constituted of a series of small revolts that eventually culminated into a large rebellion that saw the 500 000 slaves sacking Basrah and setting up their own state, advancing to within seventy (70) miles of Baghdad itself. The Zanj built a city in the marshes known as al-Moktara (the Elect City) that was almost impregnable due to its watery location, and they also built a fortified town, al-Mani’a. They even minted their own currency. The Zanj thus took over the Caliphate and maintained a marooned state for some fifteen (15) years.  You can also go to for the different ways in which the name Azania has been used in history, politics, geology and literature.

[7] SAPREF is a joint venture between Shell SA Refining and BP Southern Africa

[8] Engen Refinery in South Durban is a business unit of the Engen Petroleum Limited, a wholly subsidiary of Engen Limited, South Africa. Engen Limited is a subsidiary of a Malaysian National Oil Company, Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas

[9] Sasol Limited is an integrated energy and chemical company based in Johannesburg, South Africa. The company was formed in 1950 in Sasolburg, South Africa, and is the world’s first oil-from-coal company.[2] It develops and commercializes technologies, including synthetic fuels technologies, and produces different liquid fuels, chemicals and electricity

[10] Leon Trotsky was a Marxist revolutionary, theorist, and Soviet politician. Initially supporting the Menshevik Internationalists faction within the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, he joined the Bolsheviks (“majority”) just before the 1917 October Revolution, immediately becoming a leader within the Communist Party. He would go on to become one of the seven members of the first Politburo, founded in 1917 to manage the Bolshevik Revolution. Trotsky’s ideas formed the basis of Trotskyism, a major school of Marxist thought that opposes the theories of Stalinism. He was written out of the history books under Stalin, and was one of the few Soviet political figures who were not rehabilitated by the government under Nikita Khrushchev in the 1950s. It was not until the late 1980s that his books were released for publication in the Soviet Union, which dissolved a short time later.

[11] Rosa Luxemburg (5 March 1871[1] – 15 January 1919) was a Marxist theorist, philosopher, economist, anti-war activist, and revolutionary socialist of Polish-Jewish descent who became a naturalized German citizen. She was, successively, a member of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL), the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD), and the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). Due to her pointed criticism of both the Leninist and the more moderate social democratic schools of socialism, Luxemburg has had a somewhat ambivalent reception among scholars and theorists of the political left. Nonetheless, some have regarded Luxemburg and Liebknecht as martyrs of the socialist cause.

[12] Mao Zedong or Mao Tse-tung (December 26, 1893 – September 9, 1976), also known as Chairman Mao, was a Chinese communist revolutionary, poet, political theorist and founding father of the People’s Republic of China, which he governed as the Chairman of the Communist Party of China from its establishment in 1949, until his death in 1976. His Marxist–Leninist theories, military strategies, and political policies are collectively known as Maoism or Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.

[13] Antonio Francesco Gramsci (22 January 1891 – 27 April 1937) was an Italian Marxist theorist and politician. He wrote on political theory, sociology and linguistics. He attempted to break from the economic determinism of traditional Marxist thought and so is considered a key neo-Marxist. He was a founding member and one-time leader of the Communist Party of Italy and was imprisoned by Benito Mussolini’s Fascist regime. He wrote more than 30 notebooks and 3,000 pages of history and analysis during his imprisonment. His Prison Notebooks are considered a highly original contribution to 20th century political theory. Gramsci drew insights from varying sources – not only other Marxists but also thinkers such as Niccolò Machiavelli, Vilfredo Pareto, Georges Sorel and Benedetto Croce. The notebooks cover a wide range of topics, including Italian history and nationalism, the French Revolution, Fascism, Fordism, civil society, folklore, religion and high and popular culture. Gramsci is best known for his theory of cultural hegemony, which describes how the state and ruling capitalist class – the bourgeoisie – uses cultural institutions to maintain power in capitalist societies. The bourgeoisie in Gramsci’s view develops a hegemonic culture using ideology rather than violence, economic force, or coercion. Hegemonic culture propagates its own values and norms so that they become the “common sense” values of all and thus maintain the status quo. Hegemonic power is therefore used to maintain consent to the capitalist order, rather than coercive power using force to maintain order. This cultural hegemony is produced and reproduced by the dominant class through the institutions that form the superstructure

[14] Frantz Omar Fanon (20 July 1925 – 6 December 1961) was a Martinique-born Afro-Caribbean psychiatrist, philosopher, revolutionary, and writer whose works are influential in the fields of post-colonial studies, critical theory, and Marxism. As an intellectual, Fanon was a political radical, Pan-Africanist, and Marxist humanist concerned with the psychopathology of colonization,[2] and the human, social, and cultural consequences of decolonization. In the course of his work as a physician and psychiatrist, Fanon supported the Algerian War of Independence from France, and was a member of the Algerian National Liberation Front. For more than five decades, the life and works of Frantz Fanon have inspired national liberation movements and other radical political organizations in Palestine, Sri Lanka, South Africa, and the United States. In What Fanon Said: A Philosophical Introduction to His Life and Thought, leading Africana scholar and contemporary philosopher Lewis R. Gordon remarked that “Fanon’s contributions to the history of ideas are manifold. He is influential not only because of the originality of his thought but also because of the astuteness of his criticisms…He developed a profound social existential analysis of anti-black racism, which led him to identify conditions of skewed rationality and reason in contemporary discourses on the human being.” He wrote numerous books, including, most notably, The Wretched of the Earth. This influential title focuses on the necessary role that Fanon thinks violence must play in decolonization struggles

[15] Cyril Lionel Robert James (4 January 1901 – 31 May 1989) who sometimes wrote under the pen-name J. R. Johnson, was an Afro-Trinidadian historian, journalist and socialist. His works are influential in various theoretical, social, and historiographical contexts. His work is a staple of subaltern studies, and he figures as a pioneering and influential voice in postcolonial literature. A tireless political activist, James’s writing on the Communist International stirred debate in Trotskyist circles, and his history of the Haitian Revolution, The Black Jacobins, is a seminal text in the literature of the African Diaspora. Characterised by one literary critic as an “anti-Stalinist dialectician”,[4] James was known for his autodidactic, for his occasional playwriting and fiction — his 1936 book Minty Alley was the first novel by a black West Indian to be published in Britain[5] — and as an avid sportsman. He is also famed as a writer on cricket, and his 1963 book, Beyond a Boundary, which he himself described as “neither cricket reminiscences nor autobiography”,[6] is often named as the best single book on any sport, ever written.[7]

[16] Isaac Bangani Tabata (known as I.B. Tabata) was a South African radical Marxist who was one of the founders of the Anti-Coloured Affairs Department group (Anti-C.A.D.) and was active in the Non-European Unity Movement (NEUM) from its inception in 1943. He later founded the African People’s Democratic Union of Southern Africa, which was intended to be an individual-membership body affiliated to the AAC and the NEUM, and became its president. His writings include,” The Rehabilitation Scheme- A Fraud” ,”Boycott as a Weapon of Struggle”, and “Education for Barbarism”. For more on IB Tabata  go to

[17] Known as an intellectual pathfinder, Archibald ‘Archie’ Mafeje is a South African scholar, intellectual and political activist who joined politics through the Non-European Unity Movement (NEUM) and later belonged to the Society of Young African (SOYA) which was an organisation associated with the All African Convention (AAC).  Read

[18] Neville Edward Alexander (22 October 1936 – 27 August 2012) was a proponent of a multilingual South Africa and a revolutionary activist.  He gained political consciousness and was introduced to the readings of Marx and Lenin through the Teachers’ League of South Africa (TLSA) and the Non-European Unity Movement (NEUM).  He later established the Yu Chi Chan Club (YCCC) to promote guerrilla warfare, and subsequently founded the National Liberation Front (NLF) to bring together people who were committed to the ‘overthrow of the state, irrespective of their political ideology, and was and detained with other members of the YCCC and charged and convicted of conspiracy to commit sabotage. In April 1990, Alexander headed the Workers’ Organisation for Socialist Action (Wosa) which was created to promote working-class interests. WOSA registered the Workers List Party in alliance with the International Socialist Movement to participate the first national democratic elections in 1994.  Workers List Party only garnered   4,169 votes, and was soon abandoned.

[19] Laozi (Lao Tzu- literally “Old Master”) was an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer. He is known as the reputed author of the Tao Te Ching, the founder of philosophical Taoism, and a deity in religious Taoism and traditional Chinese religions.

[20] The idea of cooperative higher education is grounded in a theory of critical pedagogy (Student as Producer1), the history of radical workers’ education, functional governance and management model, a legal constitution and financial plan, as well as the framework for a transnational network of co-operative higher education.  In their briefing paper , Beyond public and private: A model for co-operative higher education, Joss Winn – Jwinn Mike Neary proposes that the organising principle for the co-operative university can reconstituted as collaboration, sharing and commoning, already core academic values, against the exploitative values which characterise the capitalist business. They argue that cooperative higher education is an imperative that a democratic alternative to the market-based model for social and political development is created for the benefit of humanity and the natural world.

[21] See

[22] Phanda , pusha, play is the motto  used in the adverts used to encourage people to bet in the  National Lottery Powerball game

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