July 1, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal – US President Barack Barack Obama’s weekend trip to South Africa may have the desired effect of slowing the geopolitical realignment of Pretoria to the Brazil-India-Russia-China-South Africa (BRICS) axis. That shift to BRICS has not, however, meant deviation from the hosts’ political philosophy, best understood as “talk left, walk right” since it mixes anti-imperialist rhetoric with pro-corporate policies.
Overshadowed by Nelson Mandela’s critically ill health, Obama’s implicit denial of a US imperial agenda could not disguise Washington’s economic paranoia. As expressed on June 25 by White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, “What we hear from our businesses is that they want to get in the game in Africa. There are other countries getting in the game in Africa – China, Brazil, Turkey. And if the US is not leading in Africa, we’re going to fall behind in a very important region of the world.”
Over a century earlier, another Rhodes – Cecil John – explained that very game: “We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labour that is available from the natives of the colonies. The colonies would also provide a dumping ground for the surplus goods produced in our factories.” Although there is no longer formal slave labour within formal colonies, this sentiment readily links the neoliberal agenda of both the BRICS and the US.
Perhaps embarrassed, Obama himself retracted Ben Rhodes’ confession of inter-imperial rivalry when asked by the White House press corps: “I want everybody playing in Africa. The more the merrier. A lot of people are pleased that China is involved in Africa.”
This must have raised cynical eyebrows, because he added, “China’s primary interest is being able to obtain access for natural resources in Africa to feed the manufacturers in export-driven policies of the Chinese economy.” Continue reading →
For the first time in 20 years New Zealanders will picket a South African
government institution in Auckland tomorrow in protest at yesterday’s killing
of striking mine-workers by South African police.
The appalling scenes where up to 18 workers were shot dead are reminiscent of
the darkest days of apartheid – the Sharpeville massacre of 1960 and the
murder of black school children in Soweto in June 1976 come immediately to
The precise details of the killings are unclear but irrespective of this the
blame lies squarely with the ANC government which has been in power for 18
years while conditions have become worse for most South Africans.
The mineworkers strike and the struggle for decent housing, health, incomes
and education are the same struggles the ANC once supported but have turned
their backs on since gaining power.
They have betrayed the core principles of the historic “Freedom Charter” and
instead followed free-market economic policies which has meant little change
in the lives of the poorest South Africans while a wealthy elite, which
includes a few black faces now, has become obscenely rich.
Race-based apartheid has been replaced with economic apartheid.
New Zealanders didn’t protest on the streets to pave the way for a small
number of black millionaires to be created at the expense of the majority.
Last year in a withering attack on the ANC Bishop Desmond Tutu said the ANC
government was in some ways worse than the old apartheid regime and told South
African President Jacob Zuma that the day would come when people would pray
for the defeat of the ANC.
For many that day can’t come soon enough.
The picket will be held outside the new South African consulate in Auckland at
1 Kimberley Road, Epsom, Auckland from 2pm tomorrow, Saturday 18th August.
Included on the picket line will be some veterans of the anti-apartheid
The social weight of organised, mobilised workers is beginning to consolidate in South Africa. The September public sector strike was a shining example, writes Trevor Ngwane.
South Africa is a country on a roller coaster to disaster. A recent paper written by the leadership of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) attests to this. While the paper argues that the country is at a crossroads, a close reading reveals a deep anxiety and even panic among union leaders who are very worried and suggest that the country is heading towards crisis. I would say South Africa is already in crisis and unless there is a drastic and sharp turn to the left, the wheels are going to come off the roller coaster.
What is exciting about a roller coaster ride is its hurtling speed and unpredictability, simultaneously evoking feelings of exhilaration and fear. That is how it feels like living in this country these days. In the last couple of months or so, for example, one moment people were giddy with excitement as South Africa hosted the World Cup in June 2010. The government pulled out all the stops to make a success of the event: Nothing was allowed to stand in the way of achieving a successful hosting with up to R70 billion (US$9.6 billion) of public money spent.
Hardly a month later, health, education and other essential government services ground to a halt as 1.3 million public sector workers went on strike demanding a living wage. The government pleaded poverty but this was not convincing and the strike went on for three weeks, with dire consequences for ordinary people: Babies dying for want of medical care, students worried sick as they lost valuable time preparing for high school exit exams, families at a loss as government morgues failed to release the bodies of deceased loved ones for burial, and so on. The common humanity and collective excitement that was shared during the World Cup was replaced by anger and fear as the strike turned violent. It was as if it was not the same country.
The strike by government employees was the culmination of a year of heightened protests and strikes that had gripped the country beginning immediately after the April 2009 national elections, which saw Jacob Zuma of the African National Congress (ANC) become president of the country. Many would find the analogy of a roller coaster appropriate to describe Zuma’s rise to power. Indeed, during his campaign to become ANC president, he was described by his supporters as an unstoppable tsunami. Continue reading →
A jobless protester holds a placard during a 2009 march in the Ramaphosa squatter settlement, east of Johannesburg
[Last year, TIME magazine reported, “South African President Jacob Zuma has a problem: the very underclass that swept him into office last April on his promise to deliver them a better life have run out of patience, and they’re venting their outrage on the streets.” The conditions have worsened, and the anger continues to grow, as shown in this call to action.-ed.]
1 October 2010
The Unemployed People’s Movement will March on Jacob Zuma in Durban on 14 October 2010
On the 8th of September 2010 the UPM in Durban sent a letter of demands to Jacob Zuma. His office acknowledge reciept of that letter (which is pasted in below this email) but he has never given us the courtesy of a response to our demands. Therefore we have no choice but to take our desperation and anger to the streets. We will be marching in Durban on 14 October 2010 in support of the demands in this letter. Continue reading →