South Africa: ANC Lacks Internal Democracy & Other Political Developments! Latest on farmworkers´strike!
Democratic participation by the rank and file of the ANC in the December national leadership conference is a charade. A genuinely open system in which members are able to choose quality candidates must be introduced.
The way in which the ANC elects its president is deeply flawed, is skewed towards churning out poor quality leaders and turns members and supporters into frustrated and impotent bystanders.
Firstly, the 4500 voting delegates that will vote for the ANC president at the party’s upcoming December 2012 national conference are not representative of ordinary ANC members and supporters, let alone the country.
Currently every branch has one vote (this rise to two or three if it is a large city branch) at the ANC’s national conference. Each branch sends one voting delegate (or 2 or 3 if it is a large branch) to the ANC’s national conference, to vote on behalf of the branch.
The voting delegate usually sent by the branch is often one of the most senior branch leaders: either the secretary or the chairperson of the branch. Furthermore, the branch secretary or chairperson is usually either an elected representative such as a mayor or local councilor or a senior civil servant, or a prominent businessperson doing business with the government.
This means the voting delegates coming from the branches would normally be the ANC’s establishment. The voting delegates therefore are most certainly unlikely to be your ordinary ANC supporter: working class, unemployed, or those in economic distress. Neither are they the type that will be using the lethargic public hospitals, send their children to ineffective state schools, or one of the majority who daily risk their lives using minibus taxis to go from one point to the other.
PRIVILGED ANC ELITE VS RANK & FILE
In fact, there is a deepening social gap between the ANC’s leaders who in most cases live in luxury far remove from the daily grind of ordinary ANC supporters and members. This is for example, why the Marikana explosion could happen in Rustenburg, with the ANC’s local (Rustenburg) branch leaders there caught totally caught off guard (off course the ANC national and provincial leaders were also flatfooted).
Many of the voting delegates coming from the branches will be conflicted as they will instinctively vote for the current president or national leaders, on whom they depend on for retaining their and government jobs and government tenders. Many would naturally fear that voting for a new president may mean the end of their party and government jobs as councilors or their supply of government tenders.
Voting at branch level for who should be the branch’s candidate for the presidency is mostly by a show of hands, not secret ballot. It is not hard to imagine that an ordinary member at branch level who votes “against” the presidential candidate preference of the local leadership will be isolated: meaning unlikely to get a job, RDP house or government contract.
In the current ANC system branch membership records are kept by branch secretaries. This means branch secretaries can conveniently make the membership of members, who disagree with their choices of candidates or policies, disappear – and so make them illegible to vote – at branch annual general meetings. For another, since the branch secretaries keep membership records they could easily stack meetings with allies whose membership cannot be independently verified.
Audits of ANC branch membership are done by the office of the ANC general secretary – not by an independent outside institution. If the general secretary is running for re-election, he or she is obviously conflicted. The real danger then is that the sitting general secretary wanting re-election may penalize branches suspected of opposing his or her re-election, by finding reasons to make the dissident branches ineligible to vote. The sitting general secretary running for re-election could also prop up non-functioning branches that favour him or her for re-election.
THE POWER OF “PRE-SELECTION” & DEPLOYMENT COMMITTEES
In the ANC’s internal election process nominees for the ANC presidency is usually pre-selected by a small, shadowy, and elite group. The ANC’s national deployment committee often plays a key behind the scenes role in the pre-selection of ANC presidential candidates, nominees or selection deals.
These pre-selected presidential nominees are then “presented” to the ANC provinces and branches to “select” their preferred candidates from.
The idea of deployment committees which not only exist at national level, but also at provincial and municipal levels, undermines the ANC’s internal democracy.
Exactly who the elite group that pre-select ANC presidential nominees and how they come up with their decisions is covered in a veil of secrecy. Not only is the group that pre-selects who should stand as ANC presidential candidates too narrow, the choices of presidential candidate nominees “presented” to provinces and branches are obviously far too limited.
ANC deployment committees often pre-select favoured candidates not only for leadership within the ANC, but also for positions at all levels of government and sometimes even tenders.
These deployment committees are often dominated by the faction in national control of the ANC – since the 2007 ANC Polokwane national conference – Zuma. In the last local elections, deployment committees pre-selected candidates that would be ANC local councilor candidates and mayors.
VOICES OF ANC MEMBERS DO NOT COUNT
Zuma’s inner ANC coalition that brought him to power at the ANC’s 2007 Polokwane national conference has now disintegrated. There is now a fierce battle between the now divided Polokwane Zuma coalition for control of these deployment committees.
Presidential candidates who pre-selected nominees will not make any inroads. This was the case with Tokyo Sexwale ahead of the 2007 ANC Polokwane national conference, where he stood as presidential candidate, but was not “approved” as a nominee. Branches and voting delegates were encouraged not to endorse a Sexwale presidential nomination.
The fact that the branch delegates send to the ANC’s national conference are mostly senior local ANC leaders linked to government or government business means that the voice of ordinary members and supporters in reality do not count for much.
We see public protests at local level against poor public services, indifferent public representatives and official corruption almost daily now. Most of these protests are by ANC members.
One of the reasons for them venting their anger in the streets – often violently, is because they have, as ordinary ANC members, little power in their branches to hold their local ANC leaders, who in most cases are the local councilors, accountable through branch meetings.
Some members even vent their frustration in their inability to influence the policies and leadership elections of their local ANC branches by violently attacking local ANC councilors.
The reality is that for Kgalema Motlanthe and the “Anyone but Zuma (ABZ) campaign to change the branch delegates from voting for the incumbent president will need them to be individually reassured that they will be re-appointed as councilors or their new government contracts will be renewed, even if they are ineffective as public representatives, corrupt or do not deliver on government contracts.
NEED TO MODERNISE & DEMOCRATICISE PROCESSES
Clearly, the whole flawed internal ANC electoral process encourages corruption.
The decisions on who should be pre-selected to be nominated for the ANC presidency and who vote on them is a closed system, inaccessible to ordinary ANC members and supporters.
The ANC urgently needs to modernize, democratize and renew its internal workings or face becoming wholly ossified.
The elements of such a modernization program must include opening the ANC leadership elections, so that every individual member or supporter, affiliate organization or tripartite alliance partner can nominate a presidential candidate. Any ANC member should be able to avail him or herself for the presidency.
Nominated presidential candidates compete at a provincial level through competitive elections, in the same way US party candidates compete against each other. A system could be introduced whereby nominated candidates must be able to have a minimum number of verified nominations, let’s take an arbitrary figure of say, 1000 individual ANC members.
The winners of the provincial voting contests must then compete in a national contest. The presidential candidates must publicly debate their policy positions, and then all ANC members must vote in their individual capacity, not through branches. Such new system would be like the US primary system, or the method introduced by the French Socialist Party last year, which gave all members and supporters and chance to vote for the party’s presidential candidate.
In such a new system, every ANC member must be able to vote in their individual capacity, not through a branch, or through sending a proxy to a national conference.
President Jacob Zuma’s acumen has been that he knows how to use the current opaque internal electoral system of the ANC to his own advantage. Furthermore, being the sitting president, Zuma has the added advantage of being able to use state power, institutions and patronage to reinforce his own power in the ANC. Zuma can use his control of state patronage to sideline would-be critics, opponents and rivals, by either barring them from state jobs or contracts or rewarding them.
SYSTEM ENTRENCHES PATRONAGE
In the current internal electoral system of the ANC, even if ordinary ANC members and supporters want to replace Zuma as leader, they will find it an uphill battle.
In general elections, most ANC members vote for the ANC as a movement, not for the individual ANC leader. Therefore, even if an ANC president is unpopular among broader society, he or she only has to be able to manage or control the internal electoral college of the ANC – and that person will be elected the country president because ANC members mostly vote for the movement, the so-called “collective”, not the individual leader.
The very obvious short-coming of the ANC’s current electoral college is that it does not measure leaders on their ability to manage the country, government or ANC well; but on whether they will be able to reward the ANC electoral college, the party establishment and whether they will be able to ensure influential factions are provided with patronage or at least left alone to accumulate wealth.
This means that unless the ANC modernize, renew and democratize its internal election process, it will produce leaders that will keep the ANC’s establishment happy, but who will be ineffective in governing a complex country, with complex problems, operating in an increasing complex world.
Clearly, the ANC internal “democracy” when it comes to leadership election is dangerously flawed, and unless the ANC introduces genuine democracy into its internal election process, it will continue to produce flawed leaders.
The big question is at what point becomes the social distance between the ANC’s leaders, whether at branch, provincial or national level, and its members and supporters so deep, that the supporters don’t identify with the leaders anymore and as a consequence don’t identify with the party itself anymore, and won’t vote for the ANC anymore? For now, the disconnect between the ANC’s leaders and its ordinary members and supporters have not been translated into the ANC losing elections.
MARIKANA REFLECTS ESTRANGEMENT FROM THE MASSES
However, the Lonmin Marikana mine explosion may be the tipping point, which has showed that the social distance between the ANC leaders and ordinary supporters may be now so deep that it may translate into the ANC losing votes dramatically in the next general elections.
The Marikana crisis was a manifestation of the social gap between the leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and ordinary becoming so great that the ordinary miners could not identify with their leaders and trade union anymore and therefore sought leaders and established a new organization, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union.
Clearly, the social gap between the ANC leadership and ordinary members has now become such a gulf that many ANC members may not be able to identify themselves with both the leaders and party anymore. A case in point is Zuma’s building of a R200m compound with taxpayers at his Nkandla homestead, while villagers living in the area live in dire poverty. Yet, astonishingly, the president and ‘communist’ leaders such as higher education minister Blade Nzimande cannot see anything wrong with this.
Unless there is change in the ANC’s leaders, including replacing Zuma as president, the ANC may fragment, just as happened with the NUM at the Marikana mine: we may see more frustrated ANC members standing as independents at local level, breakaway ANC provincial parties forming at provincial level, and more Congress of the People (COPE)-like breakaways at national level.
Prof William Gumede is author of the recently released bestselling Restless Nation: Making Sense of Troubled Times, Tafelberg
Widespread corruption by those in positions of authority and the cavalier and disdainful manner in which it seems to be committed is obviously depressing. But even more distressing is the fact that the public doesn’t seem to care that much anymore.
” One has to ask how the Nkandla lucre escaped the clutches of national treasury. Were they fast asleep or did they look the other way?”
Widespread corruption by those in positions of authority and the cavalier and disdainful manner in which it seems to be committed is obviously depressing. But even more distressing is the fact that the public doesn’t seem to care that much anymore.
We shrug our shoulders and carry on with our lives. It’s normal. We’ve got used to the plunder of the country’s resources by people entrusted with our wellbeing. Our trust is being betrayed. Our faith in our system of government is being tested to the limit. We lived under the illusion, indeed were sustained by the belief, that once apartheid had ended we could begin with the gratifying project of putting in place all those plans we had nursed and carried in our hearts. What we’re witnessing is not the nurturing fulfilment of our dreams, but a betrayal – a looting spree on a scale that even apartheid would have been hard-pressed to equal. The disillusionment is palpable, universal and overwhelming. That the culprits are the purported torchbearers of that dream makes it doubly painful.
The audacious heist pulled off by Jacob Zuma in abusing millions of taxpayers’ money to feather his own nest in Nkandla, amid the widespread poverty in the land, is as spectacular as it is daring. It simply boggles the mind. Breathtaking. But we should have known. We walked into this with our eyes wide open. As Barney Pityana so eloquently put it recently, we’ve got nobody but ourselves to blame. After all we put the fox in charge of the hen house.
The whole debauchery points to a lack of principles or values. We’d naively thought that the “struggle” or the “movement” would have taken care of that; that it would be the anvil to forge and chisel upright men and women, dedicated to no other mission than serving the greater good of their people.
Zuma, who only a few years ago was so pleased beyond words to receive a few hundred rand in a brown envelope from Schabir Shaik, now fritters away R230m of state resources without a care in the world. He either doesn’t understand the value of money, especially that which is entrusted to him, or he thinks it grows on trees. Even more upsetting is that he doesn’t see the need to explain himself.
He’s left that job to the windbaggish Thulas Nxesi, whose response has been to loudly tell taxpayers to pay up and shut up. Public works is a cesspool of corruption. It has claimed a few notable scalps – former ministers Stella Sigcau and Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, and ex-police commissioner Bheki Cele. They were all ensnared in its honey.
Nxesi was supposed to clean it up. He obviously sees his role as sweeping everything under the carpet.
One has to ask, though, how the Nkandla lucre was able to escape the tight clutches of national treasury. Were they fast asleep or did they simply look the other way? Corruption is dishonesty, but it’s also about a breach of trust. Trust in this government to do the right thing is waning. Like when treasury says it doesn’t have the money for e-tolls but can funnel billions to SAA without batting an eyelid. Priorities, priorities.
But a fish, they say, rots from the head down. Zuma has neither the inclination nor the temperament to fight corruption. He’s the symbol and purveyor of the scourge. Those around him are merely the shovel brigade, cleaning and covering up the mess.
The killing of the Scorpions, Zuma’s nemesis, was the turning point. It heralded an open season for corruption. On taking office, Zuma moved quickly to remove any threat to his position. Every decision or appointment he makes is calculated to cover his back.
Solving any problem essentially requires the tackling or the removal of its source. It is, however, a solution to which the electors of Mangaung currently seem oblivious.
ANC must note Zuma comes as a package of problems
The little white cloud of ‘suspicion and scandal’ around President Jacob Zuma has now billowed into a dark cumulonimbus, writes Allister Sparks
WHEN Judge Chris Nicholson threw out the corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma on procedural grounds four years ago — only to have a full bench of the Supreme Court of Appeal scathingly overturn him soon afterwards — he warned prophetically that unless the arms deal was fully investigated and ventilated, “a cloud of suspicion and scandal” would continue to hang over the government.
That little white cloud has now billowed into a dark and thunderous cumulonimbus. On Saturday night, journalists and lawyers were back in court as the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) made a desperate last-minute bid to stop the presses rolling out the Sunday Times’s latest expose of leaked documents, which threw further light on former acting National Prosecuting Authority boss Mokotedi Mpshe’s controversial decision to drop the case against Zuma.
And so the arms deal scandal lives on, 13 years after the deal itself was signed in November 1999 and seven years after Zuma first appeared in court after the conviction of Schabir Shaik, his financial manager at the time.
It is also nine years since I wrote the first of many columns warning that if the full details of the scandal were not cleared up swiftly, it would become a continuing saga that “threatens to tear the government, the country and some of our most important institutions apart”, which indeed it has and will continue to do.
Citing the Watergate scandal that brought down US president Richard Nixon, I noted, too, that in such cases it was the cover-up that turned out to be more damaging than the scandal itself.
Now we appear to have entered a second generation, as it were, of this kind of political folly, with the weekend court action amounting to an attempt to cover up the original cover-up of secretly taped conversations, the so-called “spy tapes” that supposedly provided the grounds for withdrawing the charges. The court action failed, so now we know that in withdrawing the charges against Zuma, Mpshe acted against the overwhelming advice of the top prosecutors involved in the case.
The question is, why? And is that decision now challengeable?
Meanwhile, Zuma’s lawyers are in default of a court order to hand over the actual tapes that led to that decision, which compounds the issue and darkens the cloud of suspicion even further.
What is it that they are so anxious to hide? Who did the secret taping? Was it legally done? And was it legal to hand the tapes over to Zuma’s lawyers for them to use to get him off the hook?
I also wrote, when Zuma became president in 2009, that he would go naked into the world as the leader of our country — naked in the sense that he would have trouble ever defending himself against accusations of malfeasance. Because to sue anyone for libel or slander would require him to enter a witness box and face cross-examination under oath by skilled lawyers who would question him relentlessly about his role in the arms deal to establish how much of a character he had to defame.
It is something to which I suggested he would probably not want to subject himself.
I thought of that column again the other day when, at the last moment, Zuma dropped his libel action against Zapiro, the cartoonist — offering some unsuspected sensitivity to possibly harming free speech as his reason.
Now Zuma is grappling with the even more daunting issue of accounting for the public money spent on upgrading his private home, or compound, at Nkandla.
The two cases are in fact connected: the original charge sheet included the cost of building Nkandla among the many perks Zuma received during his 10-year relationship with Shaik.
That charge sheet accused Zuma of receiving 783 payments totalling R4,072,499.85 from Shaik between 1995 and 2005 — a piffling sum compared with the about R250m of public money being spent on upgrading the security features at Nkandla.
All of which, of course, makes the funding of Nkandla even more intriguing.
If the original building costs came out of the stream of money that allegedly reached Zuma from his crooked financial manager, why then did he still need a bond, which he says he is paying off but which City Press’s investigative reporters say doesn’t exist?
So what kind of bond is this? A loan from another friend or benefactor perhaps?
Zuma has also been reported as saying his family paid for the building of Nkandla and that the R158m of public money being spent on the property is only for security upgrades, including bulletproof glass, a bunker with an elevator and houses for security guards outside the complex.
So how much was paid by Shaik, if anything, how much by the family, and how big is the bond, or loan, or whatever it is?
Why is there such a staggering difference between building costs and the cost of security upgrades? And why such extravagant security? Not even the loathed Ou Krokodil, PW Botha, had a bunker.
Zuma says he can’t account for these puzzling figures because he is not a bookkeeper, and presenting Parliament with a breakdown of the costs is not his job.
But accounting for the expenditure of public money on private property is somebody’s job — somebody in the government, of which Zuma is the head.
I think it was US president Harry Truman who said, pointing to his desk, that when it came to government accountability, “the buck stops here”.
So I’m afraid, President Zuma, that in this whole horribly entangled mess of your lavish public and private expenditures, the buck does stop right there, on your desk.
You may not be a bookkeeper but you are accountable for explaining the mess to the taxpaying public, a lot of whose hard-earned money is involved.
Even if that requires hiring a bookkeeper to disentangle it for you.
Meanwhile, that dark cloud is growing darker and heavier.
My own suspicion is that our president has become so confused by the multitude of scandals and explanations and cover-ups of cover-ups that he genuinely doesn’t know what is going on.
I think it was probably exasperation at this damn buck that just won’t go away that brought him close to tears in Parliament the other day, rather that outrage at people suggesting he is corrupt.
To be fair, there is still the fact that Zuma has agreed to the appointment of a commission of inquiry into the arms deal.
It was patently obvious, though, that he did so to ward off moves by the tenacious Terry Crawford-Browne to have the Constitutional Court order such an investigation into the arms deal.
However, the pace at which the commission is moving at the moment makes it questionable whether it will complete its work in Zuma’s lifetime.
Packaging all this stuff together gives one cause to ponder the fact that Zuma, with all his problems and cover-ups, is going to be with us for another seven years.
And what the African National Congress needs to realise is that, by sticking to Zuma so tenaciously, it is making all those issues its own. Zuma comes as a long-term package of many problems.
• Sparks is a veteran journalist and political analyst.
THE “RIGHT OPPOSITION” TO THE WRONG POLICIES!
Opposition parties hail ‘new era’ for SA politics …
Opposition parties hail ‘new era’ for SA politics
- DA to challenge no-confidence ruling
- Red faces for ANC as DA secures mayor’s seat in Tlokwe
- Zille not depressed by doom and gloom
- OPPOSITION parties hailed three victories on Thursday as heralding a new era in South African politics, where their united action can force concessions from the African National Congress (ANC) — hastening the day when the ruling party’s majority will no longer be guaranteed.
The opposition united to land two serious blows on the ANC. They confirmed through a court judgment that their no-confidence motion in President Jacob Zuma must be debated “within a reasonable time” and forced the ANC to withdraw a contentious bill on e-tolling in Gauteng.
In a third, deeply embarrassing incident for the ANC, the Democratic Alliance (DA) also seized control of the Tlokwe (Potchefstroom) municipality and appointed a mayor.
DA spokesman Mmusi Maimane said Thursday’s developments were an indication of the growing possibilities for the “realignment of politics”.
“These events show that people no longer accept that the ANC will be a dominant player forever and that is how things will be. It says we can go into the future with a different view,” he said.
The Congress of the People’s Juli Killian said: “Better co-operation and joint decision-making between a wide range of opposition parties have changed the face of politics in SA forever. It has become a thorn in the flesh of the ruling party and already resulted in significant concessions.”
There were eight opposition parties involved in the application to the Western Cape High Court that sought to compel National Assembly speaker Max Sisulu to schedule their motion of a no-confidence debate before Parliament rose yesterday.
While Judge Dennis Davis dismissed the application on the grounds that the court did not have the authority to interfere in Parliament’s programme, he said the motion had to be debated “in the public interest” and within “reasonable” time frames. He also emphasised the constitutional right of MPs to table motions and debates in Parliament.
In a joint statement afterwards, the parties said the court had “vindicated our constitutional rights to table a motion of no confidence in the president, and further held that it is unconstitutional for the majority party to block this debate from happening within a reasonable time”.
While the ANC had insisted last week that the motion was “frivolous” and would not be debated, it backtracked this week, saying that it understood it to be “serious in nature” and would schedule it when Parliament reconvenes in February.
Following this revised position, both ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga and Mr Sisulu welcomed Judge Davis’s ruling. Mr Motshekga said it confirmed the “principle of the separation of powers”, but warned against the “growing tendency by some parties to abuse the judiciary, in which courts are called upon to resolve disagreements that should be resolved within Parliament”.
Mr Sisulu’s office said Judge Davis had endorsed the view that he had put to the court, which was that it “did not have the authority to dictate the scheduling of matters for debate”.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said on Thursday that he saw no victory for the DA in the judgment as the ANC had stated that the no-confidence motion could be debated. “The only issue was the urgency and the DA did not win that,” he said.
Mr Mantashe also warned against the use of the courts to fight political battles.
“They are sending a message to say that every time they lose something they will go to court. If that is what they are going to do, it means, instead of discussion and persuasion in Parliament, we are going to use our numbers.”
Yesterday, six opposition parties claimed responsibility for derailing an urgent debate on the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill, which will put in place measures to enforce the tolling of Gauteng’s highways.
The bill will now be delayed for debate until next year and e-tolling cannot commence next month, as the government had hoped.
DA MP Ian Ollis said the ANC had withdrawn the bill because of a threat by opposition parties — which were only told this week that the bill would be debated in this session — to walk out during the debate. “We brought strong pressure to bear and the ANC buckled,” he said.
The nub of the opposition parties’ argument against debate on the bill was that there was no consensus in Parliament’s programming committee last week about its scheduling.
When the DA wanted its motion of no confidence in Mr Zuma scheduled for this week, Mr Sisulu had declared that, since there was no consensus at a scheduling meeting, the motion could not be debated. The opposition parties said the same principle had to be applied to the transport bill, which Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe had hoped would be signed into law this year.
The ANC’s factional in-fighting caused the loss of the Tlokwe municipal council, despite it holding a 58% majority.
DA caucus leader in the council Chris Landsberg said Wednesday night’s council meeting took an unexpected turn when an ANC faction tabled a no-confidence vote in mayor Maphetle Maphetle. Mr Maphetle lost the vote and vacated the mayoral chair.
Both the ANC and the DA then nominated candidates for mayor. However, the defeated faction of the ANC had left the meeting in protest ahead of the vote, allowing the combined opposition’s candidate to win by one vote.
The DA’s victory will only be temporary as the ANC has already tabled a vote of no confidence in the new mayor. The vote will likely come onto the council agenda in February.
Although the victory was not substantive, Mr Maimane said “he loved the beauty of the whole thing”.
Mr Mantashe said what had occurred at Tlokwe was a major disappointment. “The ANC has a majority … they were short-sighted and stupid,” he said.
Campaign for change in ANC leadership on track — Mashatile
THE campaign for change in African National Congress leadership is on track, despite questions over whether deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe would stand against the incumbent Jacob Zuma if nominated, ANC Gauteng chairman Paul Mashatile said on Friday.
Mr Mashatile said it was assumed that whoever is nominated, would stand, an indication that the “forces of change” believe Mr Motlanthe would stand.
“We work on the basis that all candidates are available,” he said, speaking at the Daily Maverick Gathering on Friday.
“We are going ahead until the conference.”
He was asked whether the campaign for change had lost steam due to Mr Motlanthe’s apparent silence on whether he would stand.
Mr Mashatile said the ANC in Gauteng had emphasised “unity, continuity and change” in its approach to the elective conference in December.
He said there would be more policy certainty beyond Mangaung, and that there was a push for the ANC to “renew itself” and for its collective leadership to build the country.
“Yes, the campaign for change is going on… It is not limited to looking at issues of leadership but also a complete overhaul of the organisation (the ANC) itself,” he said.
Speaking on the Limpopo textbook saga, Mr Mashatile said those responsible should have been fired –this, he said, was the responsibility of those with the power to fire.
Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said this should have happened “long ago”.
Calls for the removal of Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga have long fallen on deaf ears. Mr Zuma appointed a task team to uncover the cause of the crisis, which laid the blame at the door of the provincial government.
Mr Vavi earlier told the gathering that the ANC now stood for “Absolutely No Consequences” rather than the African National Congress.
The heads of state of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa BRICS network are coming to Durban in four months, meeting on 26-27 March at the International Convention Centre (ICC), Africa’s largest venue. Given their recent performance, it is reasonable to expect another ‘1%’ summit, wreaking socio-economic and ecological havoc. And that means it is time for the first BRICS counter-summit, to critique top-down ‘sub-imperialist’ bloc formation, and to offer bottom-up alternatives.
After all, we have had some bad experiences at the Durban ICC:
* in 2001, in spite of demands by 10,000 protesters, the United Nations World Conference Against Racism refused to grapple with reparations for slavery and colonialism or with apartheid-Israel’s racism against Palestinians (hence Tel Aviv’s current ethnic cleansing of Gaza goes unpunished);
* the African Union got off to a bad start here, with its 2002 launch, due to reliance on the neoliberal New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) promoted by Pretoria;
* the 2003 World Economic Forum’s African regional meeting hastened governments’ supplication to multinational corporate interests in spite of protests;
* in 2011, Durban’s UN COP17 climate summit – better known as the ‘Conference of Polluters’ – featured Washington’s sabotage, with no new emissions cuts and an attempted revival of the non-solution called ‘carbon trading’, also called ‘the privatization of the air.’
Eco-disasters made in Durban
“The Durban Platform was promising because of what it did not say,” bragged US State Department official Trevor Houser to the New York Times. “There is no mention of historic responsibility or per capita emissions. There is no mention of economic development as the priority for developing countries. There is no mention of a difference between developed and developing country action.”
The Durban deal squashed poor countries’ ability to defend against climate disaster. With South African foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane in the chair, the COP17 confirmed this century’s climate-related deaths of what will be more than 180 million Africans, according to Christian Aid. Already 400 000 people die each year from climate-related chaos due to catastrophes in agriculture, public health and ‘frankenstorms’ like last month’s Sandy.
Degeneration of global governance is logical when Washington unites with the BRICS countries, as was first demonstrated three years ago with the Copenhagen Accord. At that COP, Jacob Zuma, Brazil’s Lula da Silva, China’s Wen Jiabao and India’s Manmohan Singh joined Barack Obama to foil the Kyoto Protocol’s mandatory emissions cuts, thus confirming that at least 4 degrees global warming will occur by 2100. “They broke the UN,” concluded Bill McKibben from the climate advocacy movement 350.org.
The negotiators were explicitly acting on behalf of their fossil fuel and extractive industries. Similar cozy ties between Pretoria politicians, London-based mining houses, Johannesburg ‘Black Economic Empowerment’ tycoons and sweetheart trade unions have since been exposed at Marikana, with another blast against climate anticipate as fracking begins in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal’s Drakensburg Mountains, driven by multinational corporate oil firms led by Shell.
The 2012 Yale and Columbia University Environmental Performance Index showed that aside from Brazil, the other BRICS states are decimating their – and the earth’s – ecology at the most rapid rate of any group of countries, with Russia and South Africa near the bottom of world stewardship rankings.
Like Berlin in 1884-85, the BRICS Durban summit is expected to carve up Africa more efficiently, unburdened – now as then – by what will be derided as ‘Western’ concerns about democracy and human rights. Reading between the lines, its resolutions will:
* support favoured corporations’ extraction and land-grab strategies;
* worsen Africa’s retail-driven deindustrialization (SA’s Shoprite and Makro – soon to be run by Walmart – are already notorious in many capital cities for importing even simple products that could be supplied locally);
* revive failed projects such as Nepad; and
* confirm the financing of both land-grabbing and the extension of neo-colonial infrastructure through a new ‘BRICS Development Bank’ likely to be based just north of Johannesburg, where the Development Bank of Southern Africa already does so much damage following Washington’s script.
The question is whether in exchange for the Durban summit amplifying such destructive tendencies, which appears certain, those of Africa’s elites who may be invited can leverage any greater power in world economic management via BRICS. With SA finance minister Pravin Gordhan’s regular critiques of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), there is certainly potential for BRICS to ‘talk left’ about the global-governance democracy deficit.
But watch the ‘walk right’ carefully. In the vote for Bank president earlier this year, for example, Pretoria’s choice was hard-core Washington ideologue Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Nigerian finance minister who with IMF managing director Christine Lagarde catalyzed the Occupy movement’s near revolution in January, with a removal of petrol subsidies. Brasilia chose the moderate economist Jose Antonio Ocampo and Moscow backed Washington’s choice: Jim Yong Kim.
This was a repeat of the prior year’s fiasco over the race for IMF Managing Director, won by Lagarde – in spite of ongoing corruption investigations against her by French courts – because the Third World was divided-and-conquered. BRICS appeared in both cases as incompetent, unable to even agree on a sole candidate, much less win their case in Washington.
Yet in July, BRICS treasuries sent $100 billion in new capital to the IMF, which was seeking new systems of bail-out for banks exposed in Europe. South Africa’s contribution was only $2 billion (R17.5 billion), a huge sum for Gordhan to muster against local trade union opposition. Explaining the SA contribution – initially he said it would be only one tenth as large – Gordhan told Moneyweb last year that it was on condition that the IMF became more ‘nasty’ (sic) to desperate European borrowers, as if the Greek, Spanish, Portuguese and Irish poor and working people were not suffering enough.
And the result of this BRICS intervention is that China gains IMF voting power, but Africa actually loses a substantial fraction of its share. Even Gordhan admitted at last month’s Tokyo meeting of the IMF and Bank that it is likely “the vast majority of emerging and developing countries will lose quota shares – an outcome that will perpetuate the democratic deficit.” And given “the crisis of legitimacy, credibility and effectiveness of the IMF,” it “is simply untenable” that Africa only has two seats for its 45 member countries.
But likewise, South Africa’s role in Africa has been nasty, as confirmed when Nepad was deemed ‘philosophically spot on’ by lead US State Department Africa official Walter Kansteiner in 2003, and foisted privatisation of even basic services on the continent. In a telling incident this year, the Johannesburg parastatal firm Rand Water was forced to leave Ghana after failing – with a Dutch for-profit partner (Aqua Vitens) – to improve Accra’s water supply, as also happened in Maputo (Saur from Paris) and Dar es Salaam (Biwater from London).
As a matter of principle, BRICS appears hellbent on promoting the further commodification of life, at a time the greatest victory won by ordinary Africans in the last decade is under attack: the Treatment Action Campaign demand for affordable access to AIDS medicines, aided by India’s cheap generic versions of drugs. A decade ago, they cost $10,000 per person per year and a tiny fraction of desperate people received the medicines. But now, more than 1.5 million South Africans – and millions more in the rest of Africa – get treatment, thus raising the SA collective life expectancy from 52 in 2004 to 60 today, according to reliable statistics released this month.
However, in recent months, Obama has put an intense squeeze on India to cut back on generic medicine R&D and production, as well as making deep cuts in his own government’s aid commitment to funding African healthcare. In Durban, the city that is home to the most HIV+ people in the world, Obama’s move resulted in this year’s closure of AIDS public treatment centres at three crucial sites. One was the city’s McCord Hospital, which ironically was a long-standing ally of the NGO Partners in Health, whose cofounder was Obama’s pick for World Bank president, Jim Kim.
So we must ask, are the BRICS ‘anti-imperialist’ – or instead, ‘sub-imperialist’, doing deputy-sheriff duty for global corporations, while controlling their own angry populaces as well as their hinterlands? The eco-destructive, consumerist-centric, over-financialised, climate-frying maldevelopment model throughout the BRICS works very well for corporate profits, but the model is generating crises for 99% of the people and for the planet.
Hence the label sub-imperialist is tempting. As originally formulated during the 1970s, Ruy Mauro Marini argued that his native Brazil is “the best current manifestation of sub-imperialism,” for these reasons:
* “Doesn’t the Brazilian expansionist policy in Latin America and Africa correspond, beyond the quest for new markets, to an attempt to gain control over sources of raw materials – such as ores and gas in Bolivia, oil in Ecuador and in the former Portuguese colonies of Africa, the hydroelectric potential in Paraguay – and, more cogently still, to prevent potential competitors such as Argentina from having access to such resources?
* “Doesn’t the export of Brazilian capital, mainly via the State as exemplified by Petrobras, stand out as a particular case of capital export in the context of what a dependent country like Brazil is able to do? Brazil also exports capital through the constant increase of foreign public loans and through capital associated to finance groups which operate in Paraguay, Bolivia and the former Portuguese colonies in Africa, to mention just a few instances.
* “It would be good to keep in mind the accelerated process of monopolization (via concentration and centralization of capital) that has occurred in Brazil over these past years, as well as the extraordinary development of financial capital, mainly from 1968 onward.”
Matters subsequently degenerated on all fronts. In addition to these three criteria – regional economic extraction, ‘export of capital’ (always associated with subsequent imperialist politics) and internal corporate monopolization and financialisation – there are two additional roles of BRICS if they are genuinely sub-imperialist. One is to ensure regional geopolitical ‘stability’: for example, Brasilia’s hated army in Haiti and Pretoria’s deal-making in African hotspots like South Sudan and the Great Lakes, for which a $5 billion arms deal serves as military back-up.
The second is to advance the broader agenda of neoliberalism, so as to legitimate continuing market access – typical of South Africa’s Nepad, China, Brazil and India’s attempt to revive the WTO, and Brazil’s sabotage of the left project within the ‘Bank of the South’ initiative. As Belgian political economist Eric Toussaint remarked at a World Social Forum panel in Porto Alegre in 2009, “The definition of Brazil as a peripheral imperialist power is not dependent on which political party is in power. The word imperialism may seem excessive because it is associated with an aggressive military policy. But this is a narrow perception of imperialism.”
A richer framing for contemporary imperialism is, according to agrarian scholars Paris Yeros and Sam Moyo, a system “based on the super-exploitation of domestic labour. It was natural, therefore, that, as it grew, it would require external markets for the resolution of its profit realisation crisis.” This notion, derived from Rosa Luxemburg’s thinking a century ago, focuses on how capitalism’s extra-economic coercive capacities loot mutual aid systems and commons facilities, families (women especially), the land, all forms of nature, and the shrinking state – and has also been named ‘accumulation by dispossession’ by David Harvey, and in special cases evoking militarist intervention, Naomi Klein’s ‘Shock Doctrine’.
Along with renewed looting are various symptoms of internal crisis and socio-economic oppressions one can find in many BRICS, including severe inequality, poverty, unemployment, disease, violence (again, especially against women), inadequate education, prohibitions on labour organising and other suffering.
The rising inequality within BRICS – except for Brazil whose minimum wage increase lowered the extreme Gini coefficient to at least a bit below South Africa’s – is accompanied by worsening social tensions, which in turn is responded to with worsening political and civil rights violations, such as increased securitisation of societies, militarisation and arms trading, prohibitions on protest, rising media repression and official secrecy, debilitating patriarchy and homophobia, activist jailings and torture, and even massacres (including in Durban where a notorious police hit squad killed more than 50 people in recent years, and even after unveiling by local media and attempted prosecutions, continues unpunished today).
The forms of sub-imperialism within BRICS are diverse, for as Yeros and Moyo remark, “Some are driven by private blocs of capital with strong state support (Brazil, India); others, like China, include the direct participation of state-owned enterprises; while in the case of South Africa, it is increasingly difficult to speak of an autonomous domestic bourgeoisie, given the extreme degree of de-nationalisation of its economy in the post-apartheid period. The degree of participation in the Western military project is also different from one case to the next although, one might say, there is a ‘schizophrenia’ to all this, typical of ‘sub-imperialism’.”
As a result, all these tendencies warrant opposition from everyone concerned. The results are going to be ever easier to observe, the more that BRICS leaders prop up the IMF’s pro-austerity financing and catalyse a renewed round of World Trade Organisation attacks; the more a new BRICS Development Bank exacerbates World Bank human, ecological and economic messes; the more Africa becomes a battleground for internecine conflicts between sub-imperialists intent on rapid minerals and oil extraction (as is common in central Africa); and the more specific companies targeted by victims require unified campaigning and boycotts to generate solidaristic counter-pressure, whether Brazil’s Vale and Petrobras, or South Africa’s Anglo or BHP Billiton (albeit with London and Melbourne hqs), or India’s Tata or Arcelor-Mittal, or Chinese state-owned firms and Russian energy corporations.
One opportunity to link issues and connect-the-dots between campaigns so as to find a unifying anti-subimperialism that aligns with our critique of global capitalism, is within a Durban uncivil-society counter-summit next March 23-27. Like the rest of South Africa, Durban has witnessed an upsurge of socio-economic conflict in recent months, and it is incumbent upon visitors to understand where tensions are emerging so that similar processes in the other BRICS are not left isolated.
An overall objective is to ‘rebuild BRICS from below’, so the usual ‘globalisation-from-the-middle’ talk-shops – featuring speeches by petit-bourgeois NGO strategists and radical intellectuals (like myself) – must be balanced through community-based teach-ins where Reality Tours and sharing between oppressed peoples take precedence.
One of the most critical sites is South Durban, where a $30 billion project to destroy two black neighbourhoods (Clairwood and Merebank) through 10-fold expansion of shipping, freight and petro-chemical activity is being vigorously contested. The narratives of the communities resisting go well beyond ‘Not in My Back Yard’ reasoning, and instead much more widely question the extractivist, export-oriented model of maldevelopment that has seduced the current South African government, as well as other BRICS.
Patrick Bond directs the UKZN Centre for Civil Society – host institution for last year’s COP17 counter-summit – and authored Politics of Climate Justice, UKZN Press.
Will Next Year’s BRICS Summit Leave Another Disgrace In Durban?
Patrick Bond directs the UKZN Centre for Civil Society – host institution for last year’s COP17 counter-summit – and authored Politics of Climate Justice, UKZN Press.
South African farm workers’ strike spreads
By Joshua Lumet and Iqra Qalam
21 November 2012
The three-week-long farm workers’ strike in the fertile farmlands of the Boland area in South Africa’s Western Cape Province has now spread to 24 different areas and has led to further violent clashes with police. The strike has hit grape and other fruit-producing areas of De Doorns, Ceres and Robertson. At least two more workers have been killed in confrontations with the South African Police Services (SAPS).
The continued action in the Boland area is further evidence that the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is losing its grip on South African workers.
Union membership in the agricultural sector has dropped. Human Rights Watch estimated recently that less than three percent of all farm workers were union members. Farm workers, like their mineworker counterparts, are fed up at seeing the unions working against them and have begun to form rank-and-file committees. The decision to form such committees was taken at a meeting in Villiersdorp on Saturday.
The South African Civil Society Information Service’s (SACSIS’s) Anna Majavu recently explained that because of the monopoly of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), “whose leaders and officials have long preferred compromise and co-determination over worker control, it has been difficult for mineworkers to strike—until the Marikana massacre.”
Speaking about the farm workers, she continued, “it has possibly been even harder for farm workers to strike,” as striking farm workers often face losing their homes on farms.
In an attempt to head off the spread of farm worker action, government and unions last week appealed to the workers to suspend their strike for two weeks, until 4 December. Prospects for an end to the farm workers’ strike faded at the weekend as workers’ representatives vowed to press ahead with their demand for an increase in their daily wage to R150 ($US 17). Workers, braving threats of eviction and police violence, are determined to fight for a better wage.
Voicing his desperation, Mlungiseleli Ndongeni, the provincial secretary of the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu), told the media, “There is no hope that the strike will end soon. Our fear is that the illegal strike will spread to other areas of the country if a solution is not found immediately.”
“A major hurdle to finding a solution to the strike was that employers wanted to negotiate on an individual basis, while the farm workers were calling for a centralised negotiation as they were in solidarity with each other,” said Ndongeni.
The farm workers have brought the agricultural industry in the Western Cape to a standstill. The Du Toit Group company, employing about 9,000 farm workers, is one of the leading fresh vegetable and fruit producers based in Ceres. In a statement last Friday, Pieter Du Toit, the managing director for the group’s marketing division, said that the company was considering mechanising operations after losing R30 million ($US 3.4 million) during the first days of the strikes. The company expects to incur losses of up to R10 million a day if production does not resume soon.
On November 19, a meeting between the newly-formed strike committees, religious leaders and the Black Association of the Agricultural Sector (Bawsi), was held in the town of Worcester, at the church. As was their modus operandi during the mineworkers strike, the African National Congress (ANC) government is hoping that the religious leaders and organisations like Bawsi will aid them in getting farm workers back onto the farms.
Nosey Pieterse, executive president of Bawsi, was put forward to play a leading role in the meeting along with the church leaders. Pieterse said his organisation’s main role this week would be to ensure that workers who did return to work were not victimized by farmers. He would also work towards securing the release of workers who had been detained by the police.
“Our hope is that workers can trust government, that they are serious about changing the minimum wage structure [of R70 per day],” Pieterse said.
In an attempt to bolster COSATU’s credibility, Pieterse added that while most workers were not aligned with the unions, organizations such as COSATU still played an “instrumental” role in trying to get negotiations between farmers and their employees off the ground. He did, however, admit that there was not as yet any offer on the table from government, or from any of the farmers in the areas where clashes had taken place.
Despite the machinations of the ANC and Democratic Alliance (DA)—the governing party in the Western Cape province and the ANC’s official opposition—and their co-opting of religious leaders and other agents of compromise, the farm workers are resolved to continue their struggle for a living wage. A coalition of farm worker representatives said yesterday they had given the ANC and DA government until December 4 to institute the minimum daily wage of R150 or face intensified protest action.
“Farm workers are not going to calm down and reconcile to the same old slavery conditions. There will be change,” the coalition of farm worker representatives said.
Arms deal detail unveiled
November 22 2012 at 08:00am
By Terry Bell.
Another crack has opened up in the façade of secrecy surrounding the controversial multibillion-dollar arms deal. It came last night on Sweden’s TV4 channel in the first of two special reports by the Kalla Fakta (Cold Facts) investigative team.
The report is likely to have serious political repercussions in Sweden and will reopen lines of inquiry in South Africa. In it, former National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) treasurer Philimon Shiburi and union central committee member Petrus Ngcobo admit that a R10 million handout to build a training school was offered to Numsa on condition that the union support the purchase of Swedish-built Gripen fighter jets.
No official of the union seems to have been party to this agreement between Numsa, plane maker Saab and Swedish metal union Svenska Metall (SM). However, shortly before the arms deal was signed, the ANC issued a statement that Numsa supported the purchase of Gripen fighter jets.
Shiburi and Ngcobo admitted to TV4 that they had sight of the agreement in Sweden as part of a Numsa corruption investigation in 2000, but both Saab and SM deny that this clause existed. However, Shiburi is adamant: “One of the conditions of [the agreement] was that we’ll do our level best in supporting them to acquire the arms procurement [contract],” he told the television team.
After viewing the interviews with Shiburi and Ngcobo, arms deal campaigner and former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein told TV4: “It’s extremely damning that two senior officials of the union who have actually seen the agreement say that there was a direct relationship between the money for the school and the support for the school on the condition that Saab win this particular contract. That just smells to me like corruption.”
According to Feinstein, support from Numsa was crucial at that time for Saab. “If they were going to win this contract they needed to put together a political coalition that would make it easier for the South African government… to choose the Gripen.” Kalla Fakta points out that in 1999, the SA Air Force had already rejected the Gripen and there was talk within the ANC of scrapping the arms deal.
Against this background, the ANC released a statement: “The National Union of Metalworkers of SA have pledged their support for the Gripen proposal to supply fighter aircraft to South Africa.”
It added that the “foreign companies” together with SM would “support Numsa in establishing an industrial school in South Africa”.
But, according to Numsa, no union official was involved in this. Former Numsa training officer Melanie Samson told TV4: “It’s fascinating that there’d been a lot of work done on the Numsa school without the participation of Numsa.”
However, in 1999 the Cosatu affiliate was in a state of flux, without a general secretary. The union’s former general secretary, Silumko Nondwangu, admits that there was “no leadership” at the time. As a result “all sorts of characters” had the opportunity to use the union “to pursue their own selfish personal, economic interests”.
It was Nondwangu who appointed a three-member Numsa team in 2000 to travel to Sweden to try to clear up the allegations of corruption that had surfaced. These included not just the R10m for a training school, but also R40m in “commissions” from Saab and its British partner BAE Systems, possibly channelled through the Swedish and South African unions. Such “commissions”, which BAE has already admitted to paying, are widely seen as sweeteners given to politicians and others who could influence the purchase of aircraft that were both over-priced and unwanted. However, in buying them, jobs were probably saved in the Saab factory.
Numsa was desperate to establish the truth of the matter, but the investigation in Sweden by Samson, Shiburi and Ncgobo drew a blank. The team felt they were fobbed off by both SM and Saab officials, treated to lavish meals, but given no information. They cut short their visit and returned.
Significantly, their host at the time was then SM official Stefan Lofven, who is today the leader of Sweden’s Social Democratic Party, who is punted as the next Swedish prime minister. As the SM international secretary in the 1980s, Lofven dealt directly with the emerging South African unions and, Samson admits, was “very close” to Numsa’s first general secretary, Moses Mayekiso.
This name, TV4 says, was included as a signatory on the agreement relating to the school project, although Mayekiso was then no longer involved with Numsa.
Nondwangu’s reaction was that he felt “betrayed” by what had happened. A proper investigation into the allegations of corruption required special skills and “financial muscle”. In 2000 Numsa “lacked this”.
Current Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim, who has consistently opposed the arms deal, said yesterday: “I was interviewed by the Swedish television and told them Numsa has nothing to hide. We took a decision to investigate and we rejected the school proposal. We will also co-operate fully with the (Siriti) commission of inquiry into the arms deal.”