Posts Tagged ‘Republik Südafrika’

Österreich: Let’s ban the bombs!

Donnerstag, Dezember 11th, 2014

“Austria pledges to work for a ban on nuclear weapons

Austria pledges to work for a ban on nuclear weapons
Humanitarian initiative on nuclear weapons must initiate treaty process in 2015

December 9, 2014

After 44 states called for a prohibition on nuclear weapons at a conference in Vienna on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons, Austria delivered the “Austrian pledge” in which it committed to work to “fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons” and pledged “to cooperate with all stakeholders to achieve this goal”.

“All states committed to nuclear disarmament must join the Austrian pledge to work towards a treaty to ban nuclear weapons”, said Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

“Next year is the 70 year anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and that will be a fitting time for negotiations to start on a treaty banning nuclear weapons”, Fihn added.

States that expressed support for a ban treaty at the Vienna Conference include: Austria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Burundi, Chad, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea Bissau, Holy See, Indonesia, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Philippines, Qatar, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Senegal, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand, Timor Leste, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Uruguay, Venezuela, Yemen, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

These announcements were given at a two-day international conference convened in Vienna to examine the consequences of nuclear weapon use, whether intentional or accidental.

Survivors of the nuclear bombings in Japan and of nuclear testing in Australia, Kazakhstan, the Marshall Islands, and the United States, gave powerful testimonies of the horrific effects of nuclear weapons. Their evidence complemented other presentations presenting data and research.

“The consequences of any nuclear weapon use would be devastating, long-lasting, and unacceptable. Governments simply cannot listen to this evidence and hear these human stories without acting”, said Akira Kawasaki, from Japanese NGO Peaceboat. “The only solution is to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons and we need to start now,” Kawasaki added.

For decades, discussions on nuclear weapons have been dominated by the few nuclear-armed states – states that continue to stockpile and maintain over 16,000 warheads. The humanitarian initiative on nuclear weapons has prompted a fundamental change in this conversation, with non-nuclear armed states leading the way in a discussion on the actual effects of the weapons.

Unlike the other weapons of mass destruction – chemical and biological – nuclear weapons are not yet prohibited by an international legal treaty. Discussions in Vienna illustrated that the international community is determined to address this. In a statement to the conference, Pope Francis called for nuclear weapons to be “banned once and for all”.

The host of the previous conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, Mexico, called for the commencement of a diplomatic process, and South Africa said it was considering its role in future meetings.

“Anyone in Vienna can tell that something new is happening on nuclear weapons. We have had three conferences examining their humanitarian impact, and now with the Austrian pledge we have everything we need for a diplomatic process to start”, said Thomas Nash of UK NGO Article 36.”


(Quelle: ICAN.)

Republik Südafrika: Leben und Sterben

Montag, September 23rd, 2013

“Healthcare in South Africa’s Eastern Cape collapses

A clinic in the Eastern Cape with no electricity or running water

Photo: Thys Dullart/Eastern Cape Health Crisis
A clinic in the Eastern Cape with no electricity or running water

JOHANNESBURG, 23 September 2013 (IRIN) – If you live in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province and cannot afford private healthcare, you have probably experienced what activists recently described as a “broken, inhumane and collapsed” health system, where “accountability is nonexistent”.

The Eastern Cape Health Crisis Action recently released “Death and Dying in the Eastern Cape“, a harrowing report that describes the disintegration of the provincial public health service on which over six million people depend.

Heartbreaking histories

The story of Lindeka Gxala, 33, who lost her baby when she was seven months pregnant, is among those in the report. Between February and May, Gxala visited her district clinic six times but only got to see the nurses twice. She eventually went to the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in neighbouring Mthatha for help, where she was told her baby was dead.

The nurses forced her to walk around the hospital, bleeding, with the dead foetus hanging from her body. “I tried to tell them that something was coming out of me. They told me to walk around more. I kept telling them about the pain. By then my dead child had come out feet first and the head was stuck inside me… I was still walking around when I collapsed from the pain. The nurses then removed another patient from her bed and put me in the bed.”

Eventually the foetus was surgically removed, but Gxala was given no anaesthetic or pain tablets.

In another account, Sister Ethel Mhlekwa, acting Operational Manager at Kotyana clinic, related how her facility was struggling to get basic services such as electricity. The clinic sometimes runs out of water, making it difficult for nurses to wash their hands, give patients water to drink, or keep the facility clean. “We speak about infection control, but speaking is all we can really do. We cannot possibly practice it properly,” she said in the report.

The Eastern Cape healthcare system is in such chaos that clinical staff are not appointed or paid on time, some tuberculosis hospitals are without X-ray machines, some clinics have only one blood pressure cuff, and neonatal mortality is the highest in the country.

Parts of the report were removed before publication, after Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi expressed discomfort about some of the testimonies from doctors and patients, saying that the extremely detailed medical information breached patient confidentiality.

Rescue plan

Within days of the report being published, Motsoaledi dispatched a task team to investigate conditions in the province. He addressed journalists on 19 September and announced measures to address the crisis. He said his department had been aware of the problems in Eastern Cape since an audit of 4,200 health facilities in 2011, and the work of rebuilding the health department in the province had been going on for some time.

Improving the infrastructure is at the top of his list. More than 1 billion rands [$100million] have been budgeted for the maintenance and refurbishment of hospitals in the 2013/14 financial year. The health department will be implementing 287 projects covering new additions, upgrades, renovation and maintenance works at 132 facilities, including 106 primary healthcare clinics and 8 nursing colleges. In addition, about 100 ambulances have been ordered for the province.

The task team was sent specifically to Holy Cross Hospital, near the town of Flagstaff, after the minister read the story of Dingeman Rijken, a doctor at the hospital who was suspended by the provincial health department for speaking out when Baby Ikho died because the hospital manager had failed to order sufficient oxygen supplies. The team found that the hospital’s maternity ward did not even have the basic equipment needed for patient care.

There were no blood pressure machines, so the midwives had contributed R17 ($2) each from their own pockets to buy one machine. The facility had no foetal heart monitors or a glucometer to monitor blood sugar; there were no baby warmers on the resuscitators, and babies were being resuscitated in cold rooms because there were no heaters.

Motsoaledi reinstated Rijken, and ordered that the CEO and the Nursing Manager be suspended with immediate effect, “pending a full investigation into [their] role in respect of serious dereliction of duty, mismanagement and harm to patient care”.

“It will not be fair for me only to take action in order for people to take accountability, without attempting to help the patients who use these facilities,” he said. Equipment has been sent to the hospital, including 20 blood pressure monitors, 5,000 disposable thermometers, suction machines, and 10 foetoscopes -stethoscopes to listen to foetal heart beats.

According to Motsoaledi, as of August 2013 the Eastern Cape had a backlog of 2,581 wheelchairs and other assistive devices like hearing aids, prostheses and cochlear implants. The health department will step in and purchase the equipment, estimated at R15.3 million. (US$1.5 million).

How did this happen?

Understanding why healthcare in the province is in such a mess requires a geography and history lesson. In 1994 the country’s four original provinces were split into nine. The Cape became the Northern, Eastern and Western Cape provinces. The eastern half of Eastern Cape had consisted of two former homelands – Transkei and Ciskei – while the western half had been part of the former Cape Provincial Administration of white apartheid South Africa.

When Dr Trudy Thomas was appointed as provincial health minister in 1994, healthcare expenditure was at R250 ($25) per person in the previously white part of Eastern Cape, R70 ($7) in the former Ciskei, and “a paltry R40″ ($4) in the Transkei. An investigation at the time found that health services in the (mostly white) western part of the province were good to excellent, but the Transkei health system was crumbling. Health facilities were in poor condition, they lacked adequate services and supplies, and faced critical staff shortages.

Almost 20 years later little seems to have changed. In 2012, the OR Tambo district of Eastern Cape (former Transkei) was ranked last of the country’s 52 districts when measured against a set of indicators contained in the Health System Trust District Barometer.

It has the worst rate of newborn deaths: 20.8 babies per 1,000 births, or double the 10.2 deaths per 1,000 births of the national average. Almost triple the number of children under five died in the district’s facilities, compared to the national average (11.4 percent), while it had the third-highest number of deaths among children less than a year old.

Motsoaledi said it was no surprise that “90 percent of this document titled ‘Death and Dying in the Eastern Cape’ is about the OR Tambo District. We have also arrived at the same conclusion.”

In 1997, Thomas tabulated the backlog of service and infrastructure needed by the health department in a report, and concluded that an extra R500 million [$50million] annually for five years – “under a separate, dedicated administration, used exclusively to close the service deficits in the Transkei – would lay the foundation for dignified functional health services across the province”.

But this proposal was at odds with the National Treasury’s decision, under advice from the World Bank, to avoid international borrowing to reduce the huge debt that SA had run up before 1994. “Instead of an extra half a billion rands for five years, the already inadequate health service budget was sliced further,” said Thomas.

By 2013 conditions in the province have reached a new low. Budget analyst Daygan Eager points out in the Eastern Cape Health Crisis Action Coalition report that decisions on the health budget are now based on “crude assessments of absorptive capacity and historical spending, and not on any measure of what is actually needed, to deliver services”.

The allocation and management of the budget may be a huge part of the problem, but even if it was increased, you would still have to contend with the provincial health department’s financial mismanagement and corruption. A Special Investigations Unit probe into corruption in the Eastern Cape Health Department found that between January 2009 and June 2010, officials and their associates pocketed more than R800 million (US$80 million).

In addition, the national Auditor General’s annual check of the financial statements showed that over the last decade “tens of millions of rands are lost each year through a mix of deliberate fraud, improper oversight and poorly managed supply chain systems”, the report said.

Thomas believes it is possible to reverse the collapse of the province’s health service, and suggests that a tiny team conduct a situational analysis of the infrastructure, supplies, equipment and staffing of all health facilities, calculate the cost of bringing those facilities up to minimum acceptable standards, and source the necessary funds.

The Minister of Health told journalists that the work of rebuilding the Eastern Cape’s health department has been going on for some time. But the true indicator of progress will be the number of patients in good health when they leave well-run, properly equipped and staffed facilities.

kn/he “


(Quelle: IRIN Africa.)

Republik Südafrika: Beredtes Schweigen

Donnerstag, November 1st, 2012

“Land Reform in South Africa: An Unfulfilled Obligation

By Glenn Ashton · 1 Nov 2012

The question of land and agricultural reform in South Africa remains largely unresolved as we head towards the end of our second decade of democracy. It is remarkable that a democratically elected government, enjoying such an overwhelming parliamentary majority and popular support, has failed so spectacularly, in such an important area of governance, for so long.

It is equally remarkable that the government is still, this late in the day, touting concepts as vague as the five-step programme on land reform recently outlined by President Zuma. Something certainly has to be said about this hot button issue. What with leadership under review, even vapid brainstorms may be interpreted as leadership!

The fact is that land reform, tenure and security has not yet been tackled sufficiently robustly by the democratic government. The early iterations of the land reform process bumbled along with good intentions but with little impact.

The new post 1994 political leadership appeared unable or unwilling to grasp obvious solutions like tapping into the vast collection of state owned land as a starting point. A major roadblock was that the dysfunctional Department of Public Works was unable to quantify state land ownership. This problem remains unresolved. A separate national audit of all private land ownership, meant to be completed in 2010 also awaits completion. No wonder land reform remains so fraught.

We are now in the anomalous position of decreasing numbers of white commercial farmers owning increasingly large farms. This has occurred through the government continuing to support an industrial farming model dependent on high input, energy intensive farming using genetically modified seed. This is the antithesis of farming practice required for land and agrarian reform. Land reform and agricultural practices are inextricably connected if transformation is to succeed.

A global consensus has emerged amongst ideologically disparate organisations like the World Bank, the UN Global Environment Facility and various other UN bodies that diversified, smallholder led, sustainable farming practices are required to feed a growing global population in the face of climatic and economic uncertainty.

The failure to achieve land and agricultural reform has negatively impacted food security. National levels of mal- and under nutrition remain a disgrace in a food exporting nation like South Africa. Land reform, food security, market reform and access to a balanced diet are each distinct aspects of the same problem, none of which have been adequately addressed, let alone resolved.

While the government has made the right noises about land reform during the previous 18 years, little more has been achieved than placating investors while alienating the political support base. The land reform programme started by the 1994 Restitution of Land Rights Act has largely failed key constituencies such as women and marginalised communities who voted the ANC into power.

A green paper on land reform took six years to compile. When it was released in 2011, it said nothing new and was arguably counter-productive. Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti has attempted to fix a broken system but clearly lacks an over-arching vision. There is little work being done on the Land Tenure Security Bill. The Communal Land Resources Act of 2004 was declared unconstitutional in 2010, in a judgement, which turned on technical details yet left the substantiative problems related to communal land ownership unaddressed.

The Extension of Security of Tenure Act, meant to protect vulnerable farm workers and dwellers, has not been adequately enforced. So land tenure and security, both within traditional structures and on conventional farms, remain unresolved.

Agricultural extension and support programmes such as the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP), Micro Agricultural Financial Institutions of South Africa (MAFISA) and the Land Care Foundation have been criticised by both parliamentary committees and by farmers. The present Minister of Agriculture is clearly out of her depth and would not be there except for her obsequious support for the President. Previous Ministers have fared little better.

Neither have supposedly neutral arbiters been much help. Recent proclamations by the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) assumed a particularly tactless stance by claiming “populist” calls for land reform, particularly for agricultural land, were misplaced. The IRR opined that these calls were unrealistic, suggesting that people rather aspired toward middle class, urban lifestyles than toward a return to unglamorous, agrarian roots. While increased urbanisation and the middle class dream may be relevant, this is only one facet of a complex land debate.

Despite a promise to transfer 30% of agricultural land by 2014, only 8% has been transferred to date. Even this is problematic as extension services to newly settled farmers are inadequate and failure rates of new land claimants are high. State extension services can cost more than R40 000 per visit. Smallholder farmers are seldom assisted and extension quality is rated below par.

On the other hand NGO’s and private entities are providing extension services at a fraction of this cost. In KwaZulu Natal a full time extension officer provides support at less than R40 000, to extended communities, per month. There are clearly ways to fix the problems of agrarian reform, more efficiently, flexibly and productively than is presently being done.

Land reform is an undeniably political process. Yet the piecemeal, fragmented and un-coordinated solutions of land and agricultural reform have signally failed to achieve the desired results. The recently released New Growth Plan recognises the importance of the agricultural economy, yet its proposals echo the ASGISA programme, which failed to achieve any significant progress. It is fine and well for the New Growth Plan to propose creation of a million farming jobs by 2030 but how realistic is this given prior delivery experience?

The string of examples cited highlight an overriding reality: That we have attempted to fix a broken system of land and agricultural reform without a suitable overarching vision or template. We have never achieved anything approaching a national consensus on how we should achieve what is clearly urgently required.

It seems obvious that a national summit on land reform should be held. Practical and academic studies and models must be presented, discussed, and a focussed, overarching policy hammered out. The CODESA template would provide a suitable way forward. It may be an expensive exercise but the alternative is to continue to waste billions of Rands, attempting to fix a broken system with broken tools. Some degree of constitutional and legal reform may be required to solve land and agrarian issues, but broad consensus must be gained and then acted upon.

The reality is that the world is rapidly changing. South African agricultural policy has failed to reflect this. Industrial agriculture remains the dominant voice, echoing the past but devoid of a suitable vision for the future. While the old agricultural extension model may have worked in the past, it is increasingly irrelevant.

Extension to large commercial farmers is provided by seed and chemical companies while small and emerging farmers are left in the cold by extension officers incapable of helping them because of poor foundations – agricultural colleges perpetuate outdated practices. Small and emerging farmers need constant, innovative and hands on assistance, not a visit every year or two by extension officers trained in irrelevant methodology.

There are numerous experts with excellent proposals to achieve the required changes. The Programme for Land and Agrarian Reform (PLAAS) at the University of the Western Cape has studied many of these and proposed numerous solutions to various aspects of these systemic problems. The Sustainability Institute at the University of Stellenbosch has implemented several courses examining food production systems at Masters and higher levels.

There are numerous small scale NGO-run schemes, which can be scaled up, just as there are indeed some successful programmes initiated by the government, which can be replicated. Equally, we can learn as much from our failures as from our successes. We should also take some lessons from land reform programmes in South America and elsewhere in Africa.

A broad body of relevant international experience exists, including agricultural programmes devised to withstand the impacts of climate change and water constraints. These are particularly suited to smallholder and emerging farmers. The UN FAO runs regular international dialogues on food security from which our policy makers are notably absent. Most of our systemic shortcomings can be addressed.

We also need to reduce staff turnover with every change of political administration, especially in portfolios like agriculture where institutional memory is so important.

The solutions for land reform are certainly more complex than those related to agricultural solutions, because of the political baggage. However land reform can never succeed if there is not an over-arching model to enable the productive use and resettlement of the land.

It is fruitless to hand over huge parcels of land to new, emerging farmers with inadequate capital resources and no means to leverage land for capital collateral. Most of the land presently being transferred to new owners is not even transferred, but leased, almost setting the system up for failure.

We urgently need to move away from the failed dialogue of the deaf between government and commercial farmers. We need wider expertise, broader buy-in and the involvement of grass roots farmers if this system is to succeed. All of the interests and experts in this field must co-operate to solve this problem for once and for all.

Or we can just muddle along, floating woolly concepts until the fuse for the powder keg is lit by circumstance or a Malema clone, placing expediency above the collective interest.

Ashton is a writer and researcher working in civil society. Some of his work can be viewed at

Read more articles by Glenn Ashton.

This SACSIS article is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You are welcome to republish this article as long as it is attributed to The South African Civil Society Information Service ( For more information about reprinting rights, please see our Copyright Policy.”


(Quelle: The South African Civil Society Information Service.)

Republik Südafrika: Mandela kam nicht bis Marikana

Dienstag, August 21st, 2012

“South Africa’s massacre: peeling the onion

By Roger Southall, 20 August 2012

The shooting dead of striking miners by armed police at Marikana exposes hard truths about post-apartheid South Africa that the country’s new elites have preferred to ignore, says Roger Southall.

South Africans are reeling in horror at a violent incident on 16 August 2012 which recalls the darkest days of the country’s apartheid past: the killing by armed police of around thirty-four miners (the precise number is not yet confirmed) at a platinum-mine owned by the giant Lonmin company, near Rustenberg in the country’s north. Government ministers and senior figures in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) are expressing simultaneous shock, outrage and perplexity at what has become known as the “Marikana massacre”. The recurrent refrain is that the task now is to understand what lies behind the tragedy, and that it’s too early to “point fingers” in blame. President Jacob Zuma, meanwhile, has promised the appointment of a commission of inquiry with a wide-ranging scope.

There is, in short, a mixture of surprise, puzzlement and remorse among the ruling elite. But why the surprise? The writing has been on the walls of the powerful for a long time now, even if it is indecipherable to those lacking the will to read it. In fact, the Marikana massacre has been a tragedy waiting to happen. When the commission of inquiry comes to write its report – though it is most unlikely to allocate any responsibility before the ANC’s leadership election at Mangaung (Bloemfontein) in December 2012 – it might well choose to peel the Marikana onion in four stages.

The unions

The first, outer skin of the onion can be said to comprise the rivalry between the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the largest affiliate of the ANC-aligned Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU). The AMCU originally split from the NUM in 1998, but has come to prominence only over the last two or three years – notably at the Implats and Lonmin mines in the emerging platinum-belt in Rustenburg, in North West Province, not far north of Johannesburg.

The AMCU has been growing at the NUM’s expense, even while the latter has been dismissing its rival as promoted by the bosses to undermine it. Lonmin says it informed the NUM in March 2012 that the union’s membership amongst the company’s employees had fallen to less than 51%. This meant that in terms of the recognition agreement between the company and NUM, the latter had six months to restore its membership level, failing which new negotiation arrangements would need to be concluded. The immediate outcome was an aggressive recruitment campaign by the NUM which was met with an equally aggressive response by the AMCU (which probably claimed a membership level of around 20%, notably amongst rock-drillers).

The ensuing competition became increasingly violent, with both the NUM and Lonmin claiming to be victims – the former of rogue forces seeking to divide the unity of the workers’ movement, the latter of an inter-union dispute which it claimed it was powerless to prevent. The commission of inquiry will do well to track the specifics, but when it comes to analyse the dynamics of the rivalry it will almost certainly point to a growing gulf between workers on the ground floor and their union officials.

The NUM itself is uncomfortably aware of this. Since 1994 it has commissioned five-yearly surveys of how its members see the union and how it addresses their needs. Just recently, it has been talking of making these surveys once every two years. Meanwhile, Cosatu general-secretary Zwelenzima Vavi has complained in his organisation’s own annual report that the federation is increasingly bedeviled by its preoccupation with ANC politics, as major forces within Cosatu (including Frans Baleni, general secretary of the NUM) line up alongside the South African Communist Party (SACP) in order to boost the chances of Jacob Zuma’s re-election to the ANC presidency in December 2012. Vavi’s report was rejected by Cosatu’s executive; this was no surprise, since the majority of the executive is said to be increasingly irritated by Vavi’s loud and increasingly insistent critique of the ANC as presiding over a cesspit of corruption, and doing nothing to clean it up.

The standard critique of Cosatu from the right is that it is becoming the vehicle of a privileged stratum of formally employed workers amongst a growing sea of the informally employed and unemployed. This is undoubtedly unfair, if only because average wage levels for even formally employed workers remain dismally low, and wages need to be spread around households steeped in gruelling poverty. Nonetheless, it can be argued that there is an increasing class dimension to Cosatu’s internal politics, from which the NUM is not immune – notably the use of union office for purposes of personal upward mobility rather than as a project for fighting the battles of the working class.

Indeed, an irony of the more labour-friendly industrial-relations dispensation which has been put in place in post-apartheid South Africa, may well be that it has removed workers’ struggles from the factory floor and the mines into the boardrooms, even as the unions themselves have established and grown investment companies which, whilst formally separate, offer prospects of opportunity, enrichment and profit. Unsurprisingly, the AMCU expresses the discontents, anger and frustration of some of those who feel they are being left behind and ignored by the powers-that-be – not only employers, the government and the ANC but the established trade-union movement as well. No wonder that the AMCU’s demands are for a wage rise from around R4,000 (L310) a month to R12,000-plus a month, and the right to a decent standard of living!

The police

Beneath the onion skin lies a second layer: worryingly apartheid-style policing. Television images of the Marikana massacre showed armed cops, some of them in camouflage uniforms, confronting the protesting AMCU workers. Yes, the workers were themselves bedecked with pangas, knives and anything else at hand. It is also not improbable, as police claim, that some of them were armed with guns and may even have started the gun-battle which had such disastrous consequences.

But it’s all so predictable. Post-apartheid policing was meant to get away from the bad old days when police patrolled the rioting townships and the black majority was the enemy. Even now there is much lip-service to such heartwarming notions as “community policing” and serving the public. And certainly, it’s tough out there, with the police themselves suffering many violent deaths, as well as demoralisingly low pay levels. Yet alongside some progress towards more acceptable modes of policing, there are worrying signs of regression.

The arrest of a police hit-squad in KwaZulu-Natal which had taken the law into its own hands is one example; the disturbingly high incidence of deaths in police detention (albeit fewer than under apartheid) is another. But Marikana is a forceful reminder of a shift towards the militarisation of policing, prefigured by events in 2010 (a call by the deputy police minister Fikile Mabalula for the transformation of the police into a paramilitary force, followed by the return to a system of military-style ranks). Even before then, controversy had erupted around statements by then top cop Bheki Cele which were widely interpreted as endorsing a “shoot-to-kill” policy by police. Cele strenuously refuted this reading of his remarks, but nonetheless they appear to have set the tone for a tougher, “no-nonsense” style of policing in which preparedness to resort to violence to confront crime has become increasingly acceptable.

At Marikana, police claim that the striking miners opened fire first. They may well be right, but numerous questions would still follow, notably their use of live ammunition in such apparent disproportion. Perhaps, as at Sharpeville in 1960, police panicked (there are stories of a wrong order being given). But whatever the case, the level of slaughter was unforgiveable. Some days before Marikana, it was reported that the number of protests in South Africa between 1 January and 31 July 2012 has already exceeded the highest number recorded for any single year since 2004. Increasingly, it would seem, South African police are being brought into confrontation with a growing revolt of the poor, with Marikana just another episode.

The politicians

A third layer, ever closer to the core of the onion, is the failure of the politicians to take responsibility. The dispute at British-owned Lonmin (formerly Lonhro) has been rumbling for months. About a week before the massacre, management had increased security and called in the police. Subsequently, two policemen were hacked to death, apparently by supporters of the AMCU. More police were then brought in. After the death-toll had risen to ten, senior cops moved in, but still the politicians stayed away. As the week moved on, senior AMCU officials were imported to address the striking workers, who were gathering on a nearby hill, while the workers themselves demanded to speak to senior management. When management failed to turn up, the workers became increasingly angry, and the scene was set by 16 August for the police to decide to disarm the swelling number of armed and militant workers. They boasted standard tools of “crowd management” and rubber-bullets, but were armed with live ammunition as well.

Meanwhile, government ministers who might reasonably have got involved to calm a dispute which was visibly getting out of hand chose to stand back and to view the crisis as simply a union matter. Perhaps it was simply too politically dangerous to venture into Cosatu territory, to adopt a neutral stance between the AMCU and the NUM. When, in the lead up to the tragedy, the Chamber of Mines had sought to bring the two unions together for talks, the NUM had refused to meet with AMCU. When belatedly the minister of mines, Susan Shabangu, sought to bring different parties together, her department reportedly omitted to invite the AMCU on the grounds that it did not recognise it as a legitimate union.

Belatedly, after the massacre and amidst much wringing of hands, ministers are eager to be seen to taking action – with the police minister, Nathi Mthethwa, now thrown into the thick of things. The crisis is also accentuating a crucial political gulf. The contrast in styles of the visits to Marikana by President Zuma and one-time-disciple-turned-enemy Julius Malema was symbolic. Zuma was at a conference in Harare when the massacre occurred. Perhaps he could not get to Marikana earlier, but when he did arrive it was under cover of darkness, met with management, and visited the injured in hospital. His main response has been the appointment of the commission of inquiry – a sensible but bureaucratic course of action, and unlikely to appease the striking workers.

In contrast, Malema – who was driven out of the ANC in March 2012 following extended party-disciplinary procedures which many believe were driven by his campaign to see Zuma unseated – drove from his home in Polokwane without any formal authority, refused police offers of protection, and walked unarmed and unescorted into a large open field where the striking miners were waiting for him. There he railed against Zuma (“he doesn’t care about the mineworkers, he came here last night and met with whites” [i.e. management]…He went to speak to the white people, not you. It was not the white British people who were killed, it was you.”

Malema railed against the police; he railed against Cyril Ramaphosa (one-time NUM general-secretary and now rich businessman, who doubled up as the chair of the disciplinary committee which expelled him from the ANC); and he railed against the NUM (“when the workers have problems, the NUM sells them out”).

Malema’s intervention is telling, and may yet prove to have been momentous. When he was expelled from the ANC (and, apparently, the taxman was sent after him to query his highly dubious financial affairs), it looked to many that he was down and out, and that Zuma had vanquished him. Now that is not so clear. Let’s forget that Malema’s populist politics threaten to lead South Africa down the road of Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe: there is probably no other politician in South Africa who could have walked onto that field unarmed and exited alive – certainly not the luminaries of the SACP who are in bed with Zuma and are working so hard to get him re-elected (see “South Africa’s political duel: Zuma vs Malema“, 22 November 2011).

Hitherto, deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe (another former general-secretary of the NUM) has been reticent about whether he will run against Zuma at Mangaung. But with Zuma fast losing his allure (and many would say his grip on government), and with Malema threatening by implication to undermine the ANC’s basis of support amongst the poor, it may well be that Motlanthe will increasingly be pressurised to stand for the party presidency by those who – with good reason – have begun to worry about the ANC’s longevity.

The employers

The fourth layer, lying at the core of the Marikana onion, lies the legacy and present performance of the mining industry. South Africa’s economy was, notoriously, built upon the super-exploitation of migrant labour imported from neighbouring territories and the bantustans. Gradually, from the 1970s, things changed. For both economic and political reasons, foreign labour was largely phased out (or in the case of Lesotho, encircled by South Africa, heavily reduced). This presaged a new mining landscape, which gathered momentum after 1994. Its main features have been a massive decline in gold-mining, the rise of platinum alongside other minerals, and the closing down of the compounds into which migrant labours were previously forcibly corralled.

Today, increasingly, the mines draw their workforces from local communities, amongst which those who still retain connections with the former bantustans reside in backyards and shanties. Meanwhile, as the mines become increasingly capital-intensive, the proportion of their labour force which is permanently employed declines, and numerous mineworkers are now casually employed, or supplied by contracting companies.

No one should lament the passing of the compounds. Yet this has allowed for the externalisation of many of the social costs of looking after workers – from feeding and housing them to attending to their sanitation. The burden falls upon already overburdened local communities, at the very time when local government in South Africa is collapsing.

It is often supposed that this is an era in which the attitudes and practices of mining companies are becoming more enlightened; indeed, all the large ones are signatories to a “mining charter” which promises wondrous things. But a report by the Bench Marks Foundation, coincidentally released just before the massacre, reports a massive gap between the the mining companies’ promises and their practice. It also highlights (inter alia) a lack of educational facilities and training, environmental pollution, and a total absence of concern for the social conditions in which their workers now live.

In the particular case of Lonmin, 9,000 workers were dismissed in 2011; and those losing their jobs who had also participated in the company’s housing scheme would simultaneously have been deprived of their homes. Lonmin, like other platinum companies now cutting back amid the global slowdown, pleads penury and responsibility to shareholders. Accordingly, its management cannot be immune from speculation that it has not been too worried to see the AMCU and the NUM at each other’s throats, rather than face a workforce united by a single union determined to better workers’ conditions.

The Marikana massacre has coincided with a time when many South Africans have come to feel increasingly uneasy, fearing that the promise of 1994 has faded and that the country has lost its way. Hopefully, it will serve as a jolt to the national conscience, and shame those who claim that the only way to attract foreign investment is by reducing the cost and conditions of labour into rethinking. But don’t count on it: for while, conceivably, the tragedy may undermine the Zuma presidency, more and greater shocks may yet be needed before government and employers combine for a serious assault upon poverty and inequality.”


(Quelle: openDemocracy.)

Siehe auch:

Cops ignore ‘don’t shoot’ directive
The guns of Marikana
Tödlicher Protest
Justice Now For The Marikana Workers and Communities!

Afrika: Na so was!

Samstag, Juli 14th, 2012

“A Man Who is Not a Man (By Thando Mgqolozana)

May 20, 2011 By Don Makatile

If titles sold books, this 2009 offering would be a bestseller. Thando Mgqolozana, a nursing graduate, writes about the scourge of circumcisions gone wrong with the authority of someone close to the action. The Eastern Cape, his birthplace, is notorious for this practice, year after bleeding year.

There is no doubt that circumcision – the scared rite of passage into manhood still holds allure in the eyes of many traditionalists who adamantly hold there’s no better way for a boy to be made into a man.

But as with all good intentions, there are always the unscrupulous elements that lie in ambush by the wayside, waiting for a chance to make a quick buck, and invariably bring the age-old ritual into disrepute.

Every year in the winter, young men lose their manhood to botched operations performed by the unsteady hand of untrained ingciibi – isiXhosa for traditional surgeons, like the narrator in this book, who considers himself more of a survivor than a victim. These are the lucky ones; the more unfortunate lose their lives.

Mgqolozana writes about another segment of these youth eager to be men – those whose circumcisions go awry and are forced to go into hospital to right the wrongs of tradition. They are looked down upon as sissies who bring shame to the proud institution of circumcision.

The narrator chooses a path many young men – too blinded by loyalty to a tradition that would rather disown them than forgive their flaws – have avoided at all cost, even to the detriment of their own health and well-being.

Such a man, who does not complete the rite at the mountain but seeks western medical help, is, in Xhosa tradition, not a man.

The story of Lumkile will resonate with many who themselves are ‘bogus’ men or have lost relatives to this myopia called tradition, that forces initiates to die with their “pride” still intact rather than seek medical help.

The World Health organization estimates by doing 150 000 adult male circumcisions in one year, it could avert 10 000 infections a year in KwaZulu/Natal, South Africa. The province has about two million uncircumcised males. (Source: Discovery Magazine, Summer 2011)

In a classic case of double standards, the would-be initiates, like Lumkile – Bravo in his previous life as a young thug in the city – are expected to undergo an HIV test, while the elders frown upon western medical intervention.

For the record though, the Department of Health has thrown its weight behind the annual ritual, lending expertise where needed.

There’s a lot of urban Cape Town colloquialism in the book – A Man Who Is Not a Man, which will cause readers not familiar with the language to read haltingly. But this is a necessary addition to the literature on circumcision, a practice that will still be with us for a long time to come.

© makatilemedia 04/2011″



Simbabwe: Vieles anders

Montag, Juli 2nd, 2012

“Alles Mythen?

Das Negativ-Bild der Agrarreform in Simbabwe bröckelt

Die Agrarreform in Simbabwe wurde in den vergangenen Jahren als das Negativbeispiel schlechthin gebrandmarkt. Das Land versinke im Chaos, die Landwirtschaft breche zusammen und die neuen LandbesitzerInnen seien Günstlinge des Regimes und hätten kein Interesse an Landwirtschaft – so oder so ähnlich der Tenor von EntwicklungsexpertInnen.

Progressivere Akteure vermieden das Thema, um nicht in eine ideologische Ecke gestellt zu werden. Nun zeigt sich, dass genauso viel Ideologie auf der anderen Seite im Spiel ist. In der Tat wurde die negative Berichterstattung nicht hinterfragt und die Mythen verfestigten sich. Eine Langzeitstudie fechtet diese Mythen durch umfassende Feld-Daten an. Sie zeigt erstmals, dass es auch viel Positives zu berichten gibt.

Viel Land verteilt – gerade an arme Bevölkerungsgruppen

Etwa 20 Prozent der gesamten Landesfläche wurden seit dem Jahr 2000 umverteilt. 4.500 Farmen wurden an über 160.000 neue Farmer-Familien verteilt, der Großteil für den Betrieb einer kleinbäuerlichen Produktion. Damit ist erst einmal rein quantitativ das erreicht, was man in den Nachbarländern Südafrika und Namibia der armen ländlichen Bevölkerung versprochen hatte. Dass man dort großzügige Hilfe der Gebergemeinschaft genießt, wirft Fragen auf.

Die neuen Daten zeigen zudem, dass nur sehr wenig Land an die Eliten des Regimes verteilt wurde. Dreiviertel der neuen LandbesitzerInnen sind arme ländliche Familien (50 Prozent), arme städtische Familien (18 Prozent) oder ehemalige LohnarbeiterInnen der Großfarmen (sieben Prozent). Nur etwa 3,7 Prozent sind Sicherheitskräfte, also jene, die durch die internationale Presse als die großen Profiteure dargestellt wurden.

Produktion brach zusammen – aber vor allem der Export

Umverteiltes Land ist ein wichtiger, aber kein ausreichender Indikator für die Frage, ob eine Agrarreform die Reduzierung von Armut und Hunger bewirkt. Daher wiegt das Argument schwer, dass “Felder brach liegen und kaum noch etwas produziert wird” (Wikipedia zu Simbabwe). Auch hier differenziert die Studie und betont, dass typisch für jeden Transformationsprozess – es Bereiche gibt, die verlieren und andere, die gewinnen. Obwohl der Exportsektor (Rindfleisch, Kaffee, Tee, Weizen) stark geschrumpft ist, boomt der Anbau traditioneller Grundnahrungsmittel. Die Hirseproduktion ist seit den 1990er Jahren um 163 Prozent angestiegen, der Bohnenanbau hat sich mit 283 Prozent fast verdreifacht. Die Maisproduktion auf den neuen Farmen ist seit 2002 stark angestiegen. Auf vielen Farmen werden Überschüsse für den Markt produziert.

Belebte ländliche Räume

Ein bemerkenswertes Resultat der Agrarreform: Riesige Gebiete, die fast unbewohnt waren nur von einem Landbesitzer und einer Handvoll LandarbeiterInnen bewirtschaftet – wurden durch die Landvergabe regelrecht besiedelt. Es scheint sich eine ländliche Sozial- und Wirtschaftsstruktur zu entwickeln, die komplex, lebhaft und für viel arme Menschen perspektivisch ist und künftig sein kann.

Insgesamt dürfen – und das wird auch in der Studie betont – die Probleme der aktuellen Hungersituation und der Agrarreform nicht verharmlost werden. Es ist jedoch erstaunlich, wie sich über viele Jahre hinweg ein Blick auf die Landreform in Simbabwe aufbauen konnte, der der Realität teilweise diametral gegenübersteht. Es scheint ganz so, als wollte man die vielschichtigen Ergebnisse der Agrarreform in Simbabwe nicht sehen.

Buchtipp zum Weiterlesen:
Ian Scoones et al. (2011), Zimbabwe’s Land Reform.
Myths and Realities,


(Quelle: FoodFirst.)


Die aktuelle Ausgabe der Zeitschrift “FoodFirst”, aus der dieser Aufsatz stammt, kann in unserer Bücherei entliehen werden.