Monday, December 14, 2009

What Did The Palestinian Say To The Policeman?

By Liz Galinovic
13 December,. 2009
It's 10pm on a Wednesday in Beit Sahour, a small town in the West Bank not far from Bethlehem. Two Palestinians offer to show me a place where we can chat over a few beers. We turn left onto a dirt road and bump along into a darkness that reveals only faintly the shape of rubble formations along the side.
The place is Oush Grab, a stretch of land formerly occupied by an Israeli army base. Years of negotiations finally resulted in the Israeli government handing the land over to the Beit Sahour municipality. The municipality embarked on an ambitious project to transform much of the land into an attractive recreation area for young people and families.
''See up there ... see that fire? That's the Israelis.''
About 20 metres from the side of the road perched on the top of a small hill is a square concrete building in complete darkness. Complete darkness, that is, aside from the large fire burning ominously on the roof. Lashing viciously at the sky, a companion explains the fire is a warning. "To let us know, 'we are here and we are watching you'.''
This is the first clear indication that there's an Israeli military presence around Beit Sahour in the several days since I've arrived. This country, despite its pretty face, does not allow you to forget its problems for long. It's a reminder which has the desired effect on the mood of my local companions as we now bounce along the bumpy road in silence.
We are stopped at the entrance to a car park and a man leans down to speak to the driver. A barrage of jovial laughter follows. All three exchange rapid-fire sentences in Arabic that produce yet more laughter. I ask to be let in on the joke.
"We have to pay to get in," my friend says nonchalantly. What's so funny about a door charge?
"It's not really a door charge,'' he says. ''They are collecting money to build a proper road over the one we just drove down. The funny thing is they've been collecting money for two years for nothing because the Israelis won't let them build a road."
And they all start laughing again. But I can't help thinking, that's not funny.
This is my introduction to the Palestinian sense of humour, a formidable characteristic of this proud and hospitable people. In this land, everyone has a story to tell. Sad, terrifying, humiliating tales while away hours. But it is amazing how many stories end with a punch line and a volley of laughter.
"One night I was driving home from work and I passed a house where the Israeli soldiers were arresting a woman for terrorism or something." The narrator waves his hand over the reference to terrorism as though it's not an important part of the story. "The soldiers stop me and take me out of my car. A girl about 19, ties my arms behind my back, she ties my legs together, blindfolds me and makes me sit down. So I sit there waiting, wondering what they will do to me. After an hour, a Palestinian comes up to me and asks me what I am doing!" The listeners slap their thighs vigorously.
A man is dragged from his car by soldiers, tied up, blindfolded, left there in fear for no reason other than being Palestinian in the wrong place at the wrong time and they think it's hilarious.
These jokes extend across Palestinian life; their own government and law enforcement providing ample opportunity for light relief. "Shit! Everyone! It's the Palestinian Police,'' a friend exclaims one evening as we drive to the Dead Sea. The car's passengers turn rigid for a moment and I begin to feel a heat wave climbing up my throat. Ten seconds later everyone collapses into laughter. "Don't worry about the Palestinian Police," they laugh, "these people are idiots."
The approaching Israeli checkpoint does not get the same response. Four people in a brand new flashy car taking an evening drive immediately tense up as the approaching white and blue flag billows in the wind. It's interesting to watch slack spines straighten as if yanked by a magnetic force.
The car stops and lowers its windows so that the three young soldiers can see inside. In Hebrew, the two groups engage in what seems to be a playful conversation — with smarmy undertones. It seems friendly enough but the fact that the soldiers want to know whether we are Muslim or Christian reveals the ugly reality of the confused and threatening nature of this country's confused and threatened society. "Neither," a friend responds, "I'm a communist." The soldier smiles with mild confusion but the Palestinians burst out laughing.
There has been talk about introducing GPS tracking systems into the cars of Palestinian people, a concept many find hilarious. One man performed a GPS impersonation to his own delight and that of his friends. "What will it say? 'You want to go to Jerusalem. Do you have an Israeli or Palestinian ID card? You have a Palestinian ID card. Don't waste your time, turn around and go home now.'"
Palestine is a fabulous place to visit. The landscape is breathtaking and anyone who grew up on Bible stories will find it hard to suppress the flutter in their hearts as they look out over the mountainous panoramas. You can — almost — get around without noticing anything but the beauty of the land and its friendly inhabitants. However, just as you are beginning to wonder what all the media noise has been about, someone points an AK47 at you as you wander through a market place.
Defiantly, the Palestinian people manage to keep laughing. They are proud of who they are and will welcome you with generosity and hospitality. And with characteristic good humour they will continue to laugh at themselves. It is their medicine.
An old Palestinian joke goes like this:
When the End of Days comes, Allah, examining his domain for a place for the Palestinians, instructs his second in command to place them in heaven.
"But Allah, heaven is full."
Allah contemplates this for a moment before declaring, flippantly, to place them in hell.
"But Allah, hell is also full."
"Argh," grumbles Allah, "Then build them a refugee camp in between."
And the laughter breaks out again.

Liz Galinovic is a freelance writer with a degree in Middle Eastern Politics and Cultural Studies. She travelled solo through Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories to see with her own eyes what she had only read in books and seen on television. Her arts, entertainment and satire pieces are published regularly in the street press of Australia’s capital cities.

New phase in the struggle for Diego Garcia

By Lalit (Mauritius)

December 3, 2009 -- The Diego Garcia struggle is moving into what we call “phase 4”. Each past phase has had its victories, victories within which there were defeats. And each victory won has been won because the three elements making up the struggle held together, were embraced as one “whole”.
Before looking at phase 4, let's look first at three intertwined past crimes.
The first crime – and it is the cause of the problem – was the United States' diabolical plan to set up an imperialist military base in the Indian Ocean from which it could control the world’s raw materials and transport systems, and its spy systems. And from where, when necessary, it launches attacks on civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, if convenient, it illegally renders prisoners. So, if we want victory on any Diego Garcia issue, we should never, ever collude with the base, never remain silent about it in exchange for anything whatsoever. The base is the reason for all the suffering and, for victory, it must be constantly in our sights.
The second crime is that the place used for the Diego Garcia base was stolen by means of breaking up the country of Mauritius. This was an illegal condition for 1968 independence. It is not only against UN resolutions but against the UN Charter itself. The UK stole the Chagos Islands, including Diego Garcia, from Mauritius and transferred them to the USA, the receiver. The price paid was a reduction on the price of Polaris weapons for the UK’s submarines. So, if we want victory, we should never, ever accept this splitting of the country of Mauritius, continued colonisation by the fiction that only the UK  and the USA recognise: the shameful “British Indian Ocean Territories”.
The third crime was the banishment of the people of the Chagos Islands. The condition that the US insisted upon for its odious base was that the whole archipelago be “depopulated”. So the authorities of the UK and the USA proceeded to lie, saying there were no inhabitants there, even as they were tricking and then ultimately starving the 2000 inhabitants off the islands, after having gassed their dogs before their very eyes. Then they just dumped the people in shiploads, mainly on the wharfs of Port Louis, the Mauritian capital. They were homeless and homesick. Many died of sadness. Others were taken in as best they could be by the poor people of Port Louis. But they have never received proper reparations, and they must win the right to return – to return as citizens of Mauritius to Mauritian territory.
So, any dignified victory means never faltering on any of these three elements, never bartering any one against any other. The Mauritian government has always shamelessly bartered any one against the others. The government is up against far too powerful a force to risk this type of typical opportunism. So, the struggle demands that we consistently and with integrity spell out our aim explicitly as being to get the base closed down (and cleaned up), to get the country of Mauritius reunified and fully decolonised, and to win the right of return and reparations for all Chagossians. All three. Silence on any one issue is just not good enough.
Past three phases
Let’s look at the three past phases of the struggle with this in mind. Also bear in mind that they overlap.
Phase 1 was the struggle in the 1970s, culminating in the 1981 hunger strikes and women’s street demonstrations, with arrests and trials under the Public Order Act. In these street battles were all three points were expressed loud and clear. In this movement were Chagossian women, Komite Ilwa Organization Fraternel, Lalit de Klas and the Muvman Liberasyon Fam (MLF). This struggle brought both immediate dignity, and immense potential progress.
The movement gained increasingly strong support, in Mauritius and abroad, and after the confrontation between the riot police and some 300 women for three days running in 1981, followed by the defeat of the riot police at the hands of angry women, the Mauritian government suddenly began to act and it organised new negotiations with the British government. This led to compensation. In this victory, there was, however, a defeat. The compensation money was paid against the signing of a disclaimer by the Chagossians. Lalit de Klas and the MLF did not agree that it was correct or even necessary to sign. Everyone only had to hold out a little longer and the payment could have been won without the outrageous disclaimer. So, the victory was compensation; the defeat was giving up future other claims. The pitifully small compensation was not proper reparations. However, many Chagossians did acquire a home of their own. The compensation calmed the struggle down for some years, leaving all the issues relatively unchallenged.It should be said that during phase 1, the Mauritian state had consistently sought and won support, in its bid for sovereignty and complete decolonisation, in the UN General Assembly, the Non-Aligned Movement and Organisation for African Unity. This element, taken on its own, was never enough to win on, when the Mauritian government was reassuring the US that it would not oppose the base. But it was enough for the Mauritian bourgeoisie: huge EU quotas under the Lome Sugar Protocol, US sugar quotas, textile deals from both, and a few orders for fresh fruit and vegetables and eggs for the military base.
Phase 2 was in the mid-1990s when Olivier Bancoult’s group, the Chagos Refugee Group, had been reduced to a very small group. Lalit approached the Chagos Refugee Group, and together we set up a broad front of 12 or so organisations called Rann Nu Diego (Return Diego to us and us to Diego!). Rann Nu Diego had a very clear stand on all three elements: No to the base! Yes to full decolonisation! Yes to reparations and the right to return for all Chagossians! As the Rann Nu Diego common front gained in strength from its principled actions, so the Chagos Refugees Group also gained in strength until it became credible enough to enter a case in the British courts.
The case involved a difficult question: in order to get legal aid, the Chagossians had to use the contradiction that they were British (as well as Mauritian). They were British given that the British had continued to colonise the British Indian Ocean Territories. Some even had British Indian Ocean Territories identity documents. However, court cases that begin as a means to an end have a way of becoming an end in themselves. Soon, there was also an attempt to get a reparations case into the US courts as well. The first thing the Chagossians won, and the only thing they have won permanently so far through the courts, has been the right to a British passport. What this has meant is that the British state has now started a process of solving its problem by the assimilation of the Chagossians. Chagossian families are once again ripped apart: some living in Crawley, others still in Mauritius. In the early court victories, defeats thus set in. But, the major victory early on was that Chagossians won the right to return. It was then, before any appeals had begun, or any laws been changed that Lalit acted.
And so phase 3 began. In 2003, Lalit again approached the Chagos Refugee Group and we organised a joint delegation to the World Social Forum in 2004 in Mumbai where we gained massive support from the entire world anti-war movement and the worldwide No Bases movement (just being born). Our aim was a political action: to get a ship to go to the Chagos and Diego Garcia and to take the Chagossians home. Lalit had at one point previously got agreement from Greenpeace in Amsterdam to take a boat to Diego Garcia, but a practical problem on the Greenpeace side prevented this from coming true at the time, and by Mumbai, Greenpeace had become prisoner of its US donors. Soon, however, three or four other vessels had been offered by individuals and groups for the action. By then the planned action was called the “Peace Flotilla”, and it had captured the imagination of the entire anti-war movement, the environment movement and women’s movement. The flotilla unified all the issues. It was a victory even as it was still an idea.
Then the benificent British state, as if it were not the guilty party, offered itself to take the Chagossians to Diego Garcia. It would charter a ship. The Chagos Refugee Group accepted the offer. The visit instead of being a challenge to the US armed forces was turned by the British state into a trip to put flowers on long-neglected graves, on condition that the visiting Chagossians immediately left again.
In victories, there are defeats. And the court case logic of being British had by then taken hold. The lawyers in such cases put heavy pressure on their clients. The Chagossians were told to renounce any contestation of the base so that their US damages case could get into the courts. The renunciation was made, but the case failed to get into the courts anyway. A double defeat. For the UK case too, those behind the litigation made Chagossians feel that in order to win the right to return, they had to barter the right to oppose the base, and even the right to mention Mauritian sovereignty. They had to deny Lalit in court, St Peter-style, three times. So, Olivier Bancoult was by then “indifferent on sovereignty”, and no longer opposed to the military base. In fact, he called for Chagossians to get work on the base, even while Lalit was calling for a ban of Mauritians working there. A handful of Chagossians and a handful of Mauritians do work on the base. This is not a victory, but, of course, a defeat. Who wants to roll bombs around before they are loaded on B-52s to go kill civilians? Who wants to make the beds of those who torture illegal prisoners?
Phase 4
And now, Phase 4 is upon us. This is the situation for 2010:
1. The US empire is wobbling. It is in danger of overreach in Iraq and Afghanistan. Its economy ails. Its financial system is on life support. So, any struggle against the military base on Diego Garcia and against the continued colonisation of the Chaos Islands is up against an objectively relatively weaker imperialism today than in the past: weaker ideologically, politically, economically, financially and, as a result, militarily too.
2. There is known to be nuclear weaponry on Diego Garcia. But with the Pelindaba UN Treaty for an African Nuclear Weapons Free Zone coming into force in July 2009, the situation is unstable. Lalit has called for an inspection under the UN International Atomic Energy Agency.
3. In 2016 the 50-year treaty between robber and receiver of stolen goods (the UK and the USA) comes up for renewal. It is time for the Mauritian government to get a UN General Assembly resolution to request an opinion on sovereignty at the level of the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Lalit is acting politically on this, too. The Mauritian government is being led up the garden path into a supposedly bilateral “technical committee”, by Britain's Labour government, meanwhile wasting time until the 2014 deadline for cancelling the treaty and proposing supposed NGO schemes for making what is effectively a nuclear storage site into a “marine park”.
4. Early in 2010 the Chagossians' case against the British government for damages comes before the European Court of Human Rights.
5. While working as we always have with Chagossians who agree with base closure, reunification and reparations, and the right to return for all Chagossians, we need to mobilise the entire Mauritian working class in order to get democratic control over the Mauritian islands of Chagos, including Diego Garcia; we cannot rely on our government which repeatedly separates the issues of sovereignty, base closure and the right to return.
6. The UK has recently removed Mauritius from the list of countries that need visas. The US is making the same change soon, as they both try to lock Mauritius as a whole into a close relationship, as the US has already done with the US African Growth and Opportunity Act.
7. At a world level, there is now an organised No Bases movement. This movement has contributed towards the closing of the bases in Manta in Ecuador and the Manas base in Kyrgyzstan, and gives the anti-war movement an ongoing life and permanent nearby targets. It also exposes militarism, instead of waiting for a new war.
[Lalit is a revolutionary socialist party in the Indian Ocean country of Mauritius. Visit Lalit's website at]

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Declaration of the participants in the 5th International Colloquium

Declaration of the participants in the 5th International Colloquium
“For the Release of the Cuban Five heroes and against Terrorism”

To all women and men in the world, justice lovers,
To the people of the United States,
Five courageous Cubans: Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando and René have been unjustly imprisoned in US jails for more than eleven years; their only crime has been to fight against terrorism and to defend their people’s right to live in peace.
While fighting against terrorism, and defending the fairest causes of humane dignity and liberty, these Five Heroes harbor their entire people’s decorum, as well as that of the progressive mankind.
As a result of the delayed and politicized process, the most outrageous physical and mental tortures have been committed against them and their relatives. This is a flagrant violation of the most basic principles of international law, of the established procedures with regards to due process, and of the regulations on the treatment to detainees.
The United States government maintains a double standard in its policy to fight against terrorism; harbors, protects and supports US-based terrorist organizations that operate with impunity, causing victims not only among the Cuban people, but also in other countries.

Bearing in mind the above-mentioned statement:
The participants in the 5th International Colloquium “For the Release of the Cuban Five heroes and against Terrorism”, social fighters, trade unionists, parliament members, pacifists, party leaders, intellectuals and religious leaders, students, have agreed to issue the following Declaration:

1)    We demand the United States government:
§  To respect its own laws and act abiding to the rules of International Law.
§  To IMMEDIATELY cease the systematic and repeated violations of human rights against the Cuban Five and their relatives, particularly the violation of the right to be visited by the wives Olga Salanueva and Adriana Pérez; as well as to grant the reclaimed visas to both of them.
§  To put an end to the logistic and financial support provided to terrorist organizations based in that country, and to bring the notorious terrorist Luis Posada Carriles to justice for the blowing up of a Cuban airliner in which 73 civilians were killed.
2)    We demand President Barack Obama and the Government of the United States of America to free RIGHT AWAY the Cuban Five because they are innocent.
3)    We call upon all honest people in our planet, and especially the noble US people, to work intensely to disseminate the fair cause for which the Cuban Five are fighting and to demand their liberation as a way of paying tribute to decency and truth.
4)    We ratify to the Cuban Five and to everyone fighting for their freedom that we will not relent in our efforts denouncing this injustice, and that we will continue to fight until they return to their homeland.


Action Plan approved by delegates at the 5th International Colloquium
“For the Release of the Cuban Five and against Terrorism”
Holguin, November 21st, 2009

The 5th Colloquium held in Holguin is especially relevant after the rejection by the US Supreme Court to review the case of the Cuban Five in June, 2009; the resentencing process of Antonio on October 13th resulting in the unjust condemnation to 21 years and 10 months, the next resentencing of Fernando and Ramon scheduled for December 8th; and the unaltered sentences of Rene and Gerardo, the latter being the most difficult case, and the permanent rejection to grant visas to Adriana and Olga.

This has always been a political case, but now more than ever we are in the need of making feel the worldwide denunciation and solidarity before the Obama Administration which has the legal and constitutional power to bring to a completion this injustice.
All our efforts being made in the struggle for the release of the Five are intended to influence the United States, where the big media continues to snub the case of the Five. The work of more than 300 committees in over 100 countries has begun to bear some fruit. This is a fact acknowledged by the prosecution itself in Miami on the eve of the resentencing of Tony: "The case of the Cuban Five has caused quite a noise worldwide, and it is necessary to better up the image of the US system of justice."
On this matter, we need to clear up our aims and strengthen our endeavours so we can work harder.

Main proposals made by participants to attain the release of the Five

1)    Widen our working scopes
§  Continue spreading the case and demand solidarity among all social movements and broaden the political spectrum of sectors to which we convey our message, mainly governments, parliaments, religious organizations, celebrities, legal organizations, human rights organizations, labour unions.
§  Promoting the participation of activists for the freedom of the Cuban Five in the 2010 US Social Forum.
§  Continue to denounce firmly the double standards of the US government that keeps five innocent people in jail and shelters, protects and releases self-confessed terrorist like Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch.
2)    Working with Parliamentarians
§  Link the parliamentarians’ plea from every country to US Congressmen.
§  Bolster the visit of activists for the freedom of the Five to US Congressmen and Nancy Pelosi herself, Chairwoman of the US House of Representatives.
§  Bring about the visit of foreign parliamentarians to the Cuban Five in the penitentiaries where they remain imprisoned.
3)    Working with Labour Unions
§  Ensure that the activities being planned or associated with the labour unions have an impact on US trade union counterparts.
§  Target the upcoming May 1st as a day of action for the Five, specially by holding banners and portraits with the images of the Five, during the demonstrations to take place in each country.
4)    Expand the use of new ICT’s (Information and Communication Technologies)
§  Use Internet opportunities like YouTube to upload small videos of personalities who can make an impact in the US.
§  Improve our websites, newsletters and messages; take benefit from spaces such as Blogs, Facebook and Twitter.
§  Achieve a greater presence in the mass media, including the publication of a page on a US national newspaper.
§  Promote the use of and websites as reference centres on the case of the Five.
5)    Cultural Resources
§  Make people aware worldwide of the intellectual production and artistic sensibility of the Five.
§  Exploit every sort of cultural event, from concerts to exhibitions; involve renowned personalities in such events; and continue to strive for bigger media coverage of the Cuban Five case.
§  Call on new filmmakers and other audiovisual media producers to continue to depict and recreate materials on the case of the Five.
6)    Solidarity
§  Thousands of people in the world are involved in the campaign to halt the genocide blockade against Cuba. Not all of them are also part of the struggle to free the Cuban Five. We have to engage them all in this struggle, since working for the release of the Cuban Five is also working for the right of Cuba to sovereignty and live in peace.
7)    Nobel Peace Prize for the Cuban Five
8)    Insist that the US government should grant humanitarian visas to Adriana Pérez and Olga Salanueva
§  Take account of any support coming from the International Commission for the Right of Family Visits, whose members in 27 countries have world renown.
§  Carry out actions for the demand of visas in every country with members of this Commission; and persuade other personalities of the countries who are not integrated yet. Pleas should aim at Barack Obama and other US high-ranking government officials.
§  Use important dates for families and women: Christmas and New Year, February 14th, March 8th.
9)    Maintain support to the legal struggle on the Case
§  Report regularly on the case developments.
§  Publish fully in every means the content of Amicus addressed to the Court and other public legal documents.
§  Summon new persons of the legal sector to engage in the struggle for the release of the Five.
10) Working with governments
§  Engage heads of state and high-ranking government officials in giving a public statement on the Cuban Five case.
§  Engage heads of state in asking Obama to commute the sentences of the Cuban Five.
11) Working with the youth
§  Encourage teachers to promote the cause of the Five.
§  Use the literary work of the Cuban Five in the learning process at early ages and in the strengthening of ethical and human values.
§  Produce literature and other teaching-learning means with appropriate language for children as potential audiences.
§  Implement the subject of the Cuban Five as part of community projects.

Important dates to consider in the upcoming six months:
§  December 8th: Fernando and Ramon’s resentencing
§  December 10th: International Day for Human Rights
§  December 24th and 25th: Christmas Eve and Christmas
§  December 31st and Jan 1st: New Year and 51st Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution
§  February 14th: Saint Valentine’s Day (of Love and Friendship)
§  March 8th: International Women's Day
§  May 1st: International Workers’ Day
§  2nd Sunday in May: Mother's Day
§  June 17th: Anniversary of the Open Letter to the US people

Participants in the 5th International Colloquium
“For the Release of the Cuban Five and against Terrorism”
Holguín, November 21st, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009

'What Freedom Charter are they reading?' asks Irvin Jim

MATUMA LETSOALO - Nov 20 2009 10:03

New faces of militancy in Cosatu have emerged following the expulsion of Willie Madisha from Cosatu, the quiet retreat of its general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi from the forefront, and the changing nature of the relationship between trade union federation and Cosatu.

Irvin Jim is one of these faces. The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa's (Numsa) general secretary is a hardcore communist who took over as Numsa boss last year.

Jim has been a driving force in pushing for radical policy changes in the ANC, something that has earned him respect among his peers in the labour movement; while some ANC leaders see him as a thorn in the side of the alliance.

But, unlike his predecessor Silumko Nondwangu, who was more amenable to the ANC, Jim is proving a hard nut to crack.

Under Thabo Mbeki's leadership, many in the ANC and government saw Numsa as one of the more pliable trade unions within Cosatu.

Not long after he took over, Jim launched a scathing attack on Planning Commission Minister Trevor Manuel and former Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni for their conservative economic policies.

And earlier this month, Numsa stepped up its campaign for policy changes when it called for the nationalisation of the personal wealth of ANC BEE tycoons Tokyo Sexwale and Patrice Motsepe.

In a similar vein of defiance, when Cosatu as a federation supported former Eskom chairperson Bobby Godsell over former CEO Jacob Maroga, Numsa as an affiliate dissented and weighed in on Maroga side.

Speaking to the
Mail & Guardian recently, Jim lashed out at senior ANC leaders, including Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, ANC secretary general and treasurer general Gwede Mantashe and Mathews Phosa for saying nationalisation was not ANC policy.

"I don't know what Freedom Charter people are reading and which conference of the ANC has changed it," he said. "The Freedom Charter we know says the people shall share in the country's wealth. The national wealth, the heritage of our country shall be restored to our people. The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industries shall be transferred to the hands of the people. All other industries and trade shall be transferred to assist the wellbeing of our people.

"In a country where unemployment is so high, you must tamper with the current macroeconomic policies. The government must ensure that the Freedom Charter is executed," argues Jim.

He says unless the government puts nationalisation at the centre of its policy, service delivery will remain a pipe dream for the poor.

"We support service delivery, but we think we are setting the movement for failure with absolutely no vibrant programme, especially in conditions of inequality.

"Political power without economic power is a shell. There must be a sense of urgency and political will to begin to say something has to be done to change the structure of accumulation in South Africa, which benefit a tiny minority and maybe few black individuals who are part of that particular discourse."

This week, Jim slammed newly appointed Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus after her decision to keep interest rates unchanged.

"This conservative interest rates policy stance constitutes a wrong premise for [Marcus] particularly when in its own statement the [South African Reserve Bank's monetary policy committee] stated that economic growth is expected to remain below potential for some time."

Jim said Numsa would lobby the government to cut interest rates by 5% and to weaken the currency to boost struggling sectors and economic growth in the country.
"If you go to the United States, you will see interest rates are almost zero percent. We are a developing country, but we continue to have high interest rates."

Read Matuma Letsoalo's interview with ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe.
Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Graça Machel returns by L. Muthoni Wanyeki

Graça Machel arrives in Kenya this weekend. Not, this time, in her capacity as a member of the mediation team, but as a member of the Panel of Eminent Persons overseeing the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) responsible for that process in Kenya.

The APRM is the voluntary peer-review process associated with the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). It assesses member states’ progress in four areas, including democratic governance, economic governance, corporate governance and socio-economic development. Kenya submitted to the APRM and, after a lengthy and rigorous self-assessment, its first full report was discussed by African heads of state and government in 2006. Kenya was praised at that time for the candidness of the self-assessment. And questions posed to our then head of state President Mwai Kibaki focused on, among other things, issues of discrimination and inequality on the basis of ethnicity.

With the benefit of hindsight it is always easy, of course, to pinpoint what we could and should have done to avert what happened in 2007–08. We could and should have addressed the imperial presidency through comprehensive constitutional reforms. We could and should have addressed the electoral system – and the governance and management of the same. We could and should have addressed the pressing needs around land – both in terms of recognising and dealing with historical claims to land as well as with illegal allocations of public land. We could and should have addressed discrimination and inequality – on ethnic and other grounds.

We knew what we needed to do. Kenya’s APRM report – and the plan of action that came out of it – spelt out the imperatives clearly. And the APRM report and plan of action merely reiterated what many different pieces of analysis from many different quarters – internally – had said before, in as many words. I am thinking, for example, of the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Society for International Development’s scenarios for Kenya, which forecast ultimate doom and gloom unless we pursued the scenario involving both constitutional reform and economic recovery. We knew what we needed to do. But we did not do it.

And so, many of the issues flagged before found themselves reiterated, with new urgency, in the mediation agreements. There is nothing new in any of the four agenda items that make up the mediation agreements, just as there is unlikely to be anything new in the new APRM assessment that is about to begin – that is, to focus exclusively on democratic governance and to follow quite closely the priorities spelt out in the mediation agreements.

Which is not at all, however, to suggest that we should disengage ourselves from this APRM assessment. For it offers us an opportunity to flag, once again, to both our own executive and public service – as well as, ultimately, the AU – that Kenya is by no means out of the woods. The word for us in conflict-speak is ‘fragile’. Many Kenyans are worried, whether they know about that classification or not. Many Africans – particularly our closest neighbours – are worried. And the rest of the world is also worried – which is what lies behind the latest flurry of diplomatic pressure.

The question is whether or not our own political leadership is worried. My sense is that they are – but not necessarily about the same things. The latest series in the Daily Nation on land distribution in the immediate post-independence period is shocking in its confirmation of what we’ve always anecdotally known. The abuse of power and the public interest by those entrusted with leadership of the state for personal self-enrichment shows clearly just how far back the personal economic and political interests that have always impeded real transformation go.

We have become used to window-dressing those personal, economic and political interests with terms such as ‘lack of political will’. The truth is that there is plenty of political will, to protect those interests, to get a piece of the same, to ensure there will never be any accountability for the same, to concede a bone to the hungry public while the feast on public goods and resources remains unchecked.

What we need to do while Machel is here is make the point yet again. The bone that is new laws, new policies, new institutions – or new processes establishing the same (of which there certainly are aplenty) will ultimately mean nothing to the public unless they really truly do effect a drawing of a line in the sand. It stops here. The plunder of the state (which is plunder of us, the public) stops here. The casual contempt of the impoverished stops here. Impunity for that plunder stops here. Impunity for the daily abuses and assaults of the impoverished also stops here.

Our government spokesperson recently gave the executive and public service a high grade for implementation of the mediation agreements. Our police spokesperson, although quiet recently, has continually denied the abuses and assaults on the impoverished. We can be sure that the executive and the public service will trot out the same list of supposed achievements and denials for inspection by Machel’s team. It is for us to say to Machel’s team that motion is not movement. It is for us to say what human rights violations persist – despite the impressive sounding list of laws, policies, institutions and processes to which so many of us have earnestly contributed. It is for us to name the personal, political and economic interests that hide under the cover of a ‘lack of political will’ while continuing to threaten every necessary and possible fundamental step forward – beginning with our new constitution and land reform. We have to move forward and we cannot let 200 or so people stop us – all 40 million or so of us – from doing so.


* L. Muthoni Wanyeki is the executive director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC).
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