Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Thursday, April 29, 2004

55 nations vow anti-Semitism fight

Fifty-five nations at an international conference have pledged to suppress rising anti-Semitism and agreed that the Middle East conflict cannot justify attacks on Jews.

Members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe from North America, Europe and Central Asia concluded their two-day meeting with the "Berlin Declaration" condemning all manifestations of and attacks motivated by anti-Semitism.

"(The states) declare unambiguously that international developments or political issues, including those in Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East, never justify anti-Semitism," the text of the final agreement said.

Europe has seen a rise in attacks on Jews coinciding with an escalation in Middle East violence since 2000

New Global Trade Ruling Favours the Poor

There has been an interesting new development in the unfair global system of "Free Trade".

The World Trade Organization on Tuesday ruled in favor of Brazil after the country filed a complaint last year that U.S. cotton subsidies are distorting world prices, violating global trade rules and affecting millions of farmers in developing countries.

The ruling is being considered a landmark because it challenges for the first time the domestic farm policies of developed countries. Reuters reports that the decision could open the door for many developing nations to file complaints against U.S., European and Japanese farm subsidies. It could also give more power to poor nations in the Doha round of global free trade talks, which collapsed in September, in part over farm subsidies.

The subsidies the United States has given to its cotton producers have lowered the price of cotton worldwide, making it almost impossible for producers in developing countries to compete with the Americans. The United States' estimated 25,000 cotton farmers control more than 40 percent of global cotton exports.

The US claims to be committed to a global system of free trade, and yet hypocritically puts in place a distorted system of trade subsidies which protect their own markets, while allowing them to flood developing countries with cheap goods that destroy local agriculture and markets. This system is a major factor thats keeps the status quo of global inequality in place. The unfair global trading subsidy system contributes greatly towards poverty in the developing world. The US can then provide or withhold aid at will as a way of keeping global dominance. This is usually done under the guise of promoting democracy, but doesn't stop the US from doing business with mineral or oil rich dictatorial African countries that have appalling human rights records like Equatorial Guinea.

As Daniel Griswold, associate director of Cato's Center for Trade Policy Studies, writes:

"The U.S. government subsidizes "the production of 25,000 U.S. cotton farmers with an average net worth of $800,000. Those subsidies depress the world price of cotton, driving thousands of already impoverished farmers off the land in Mali and other poor nations. According to the World Bank, U.S. cotton subsidies cost Mali and its desperately poor neighbors $250 million a year. This can only add to the frustration, despair, and anger that are rife in Muslim nations today. And we wonder why the United States has such a difficult time winning friends and influencing people in that part of the world."

While the WTO ruling may open the way for different commodity producers in developing nations to follow suite and challenge US and European Union trade subsidies, it is too soon to get excited as the US plans to appeal the ruling. Likewise it is too soon to tell if this ruling will give more legs to poor countries in the Doha trade negotiations when and if they resume.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

State of the World's Youth

The United Nations has released a report looking at the state of the world's youth. There are 1.1 billion youths, people between the ages of 15 and 24 years in the world today. The 408-page report is the first comprehensive U.N. attempt to examine the global situation of young people since 1995. The report finds that:

Young men and women are better educated than previous generations and have access to more information via computers and other media, but 133 million remain illiterate and 130 million children are not in school. Youth make up about 18 percent of the world's population but accounted for 40 percent of the unemployed.

According to the report this is now the youngest planet ever. It's better to be young if you live in an industrialized nation, but in developing countries hiv/aids, conflict and poverty are taking a heavy toll on the lives of young people. 85 percent of youths live in developing countries and 22.5 percent of them survived on less than US$1 a day in 2000.

An average of between 6,000 and 7,000 young people become infected with HIV every day, with a total of 11.8 million living with HIV/AIDS, most in sub-Saharan Africa . The prevalence of HIV, is "relatively low" in Central Asia and Eastern Europe, but those regions are experiencing the fastest-growing rate of infection worldwide. Meanwhile, only a few industrialized countries had infection rates of 0.5 percent or higher. The report singled out 111 armed conflicts reported between 1989 and 2000 as stunting the development of youth in wartorn countries, especially in Africa. Two million children have died, 6 million disabled, mainly through mutilation and land mine explosions, and 12 million left homeless because of the fighting.

Interestingly, the report also finds that American youths appeared to be smoking less than their European counterparts and tobacco use in North America continued to decline significantly since the mid-1990s . This is not surprising since tobacco advertising bans and stricter tobacco regulations exist in the US. Tobacco companies have been turning their marketing tactics to developing countries, and despite fairly strict tobacco regulations in South Africa, smoking among black youths is on the rise, partculary among black women.

Another interesting finding was that the usage of Ecstasy by young people increased more than any other drug worldwide. I would imagine that this is more significant a factor in the lives of young people in developed countries and developed parts of developing countries. I think young people today in developed regions, who's lives may be materially better, are still living under significant pressure and stress as a result of post-modern, consumer driven society.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Inauguration Day

Fodder reports on inauguration day saying "It is awesome to be South African."

I couldn't agree more. Today was an incredible day, a day I think I will always remember. I went to the inauguration ceremony, ok it was work related, but at least that got me there. Right now my mind is pretty much boggled since I left for work at 2.30am yesterday and have still not been to bed yet and it's 8.00pm Tuesday. Right now my mind is a combobbled mix of noise, freedom songs, colour, music, 21 gun salutes and most of all, most spectacularly of all, a day of military flypasts. As unintellectual as that may sound, as patriotic as that may sound, as caught up in the pomp and splendour of it all, as that may sound, the military flypasts will stick in my mind the most. I wish that I was a better writer so that I could give you a sense of the sheer magicality, absolute power, and feeling of pride of seeing firstly the oryx helicopters with South African flags strung out below, the 10 Astra aircraft in formation, the three huge jumbos and best of all the cheetahs. Painted in the colours of the South African flag, thunderous sonic boom, streak of energy across the sky, and the awed crowds down below. It was a day to be proud to be South African.

Monday, April 26, 2004

The Rising Corporate Military Monster

Contractors are complicating traditional norms of military command and control, and challenging the basic norms of accountability that are supposed to govern the government's use of violence. Human rights abuses go unpunished. Reliance on poorly monitored contractors is bleeding the public treasury. The contractors are simultaneously creating opportunities for the government to evade public accountability, and, in Iraq at least, are on the verge of evolving into an independent force at least somewhat beyond the control of the U.S. military. And, as the contractors grow in numbers and political influence, their power to entrench themselves and block reform is growing. (More)

Sunday, April 25, 2004


I liked this small, simple comment on the human condition.


‘There are other things than love
going on in the world!’
That’s what my friends
and even my son tell me.

‘Yes, there are,’ I answer.
‘There are wars and crimes,
and floods and fires.
There are healthy businesses,
and hunger that kills.
There are millionaire traders,
and jobless by the million.
Then there are the disappointed,
the sceptical and the militants.
Those who are suspected
and those who are detained.’

‘So watch the news and look out,’
they reiterate impatiently.

‘No, who’s gonna talk about love
if we’re all watching the news?
I answer.


Friday, April 23, 2004

SA Judge Goldstone appointed to probe UN Oil for Food scandal

Today’s Mail & Guardian reports that Judge Richard Goldstone has been appointed to an independent panel to probe the Iraqi Oil for Food scandal. He has been selected by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to serve alongside former US Federal Reserve Chairperson Paul Volcker.

“ The inquiry is an attempt by Annan to restore faith in the UN after persistent allegations that under it’s administration the Iraq Oil for Food programme has become an influence racket that corruptly benefited Saddam Hussein’s regime, political cronies worldwide – and individual UN officials.”

It also appears there may be a South African connection among the 50 countries with nationals said to be implicated in the scandal.

“In February the M&G reported on the nexus between Sandi Majali, a relatively unknown South African who got significant oil allocations from Iraq, and the African National Congress. ANC secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe and treasurer general Mendi Msimang both travelled to Baghdad with Majali around the time he got allocations. Other well connected South Africans, most notably Tokyo Sexwale, also got allocations.”

Thursday, April 22, 2004

African Blogroll Update

I have added two sites to my African blogroll. Intelligent and interesting commentary coming from Foreign Dispatches and African Oil Politics.


It appears that South Africa is giving recognition to the role Lesotho played in our liberation.
Sapa reports that the Maseru Bridge port of entry will be temporarily closed on 27 April between 10am and 5pm. According to the Department of Home Affairs travellers on the day are advised to either use other ports of entry or make alternative travelling arrangements. "The closure is due to the marking by the governments of South Africa and Lesotho of the tenth anniversary of South Africa's democracy," the department said. The celebrations will be held simultaneously on both sides of the Maseru Bridge port of entry. "This celebration attests to the role Lesotho played during the liberation struggle to make South Africa the democratic country it is today," the department said.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

United Nations Oil-for-Food scandal

There is mounting evidence that the United Nations Oil-for-Food program, originally conceived as a means of providing humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people, was subverted by Saddam Hussein's regime and manipulated to help prop up the Iraqi dictator. Saddam's dictatorship was able to siphon off an estimated $10 billion from the Oil-for-Food program through oil smuggling and systematic thievery, by demanding illegal payments from companies buying Iraqi oil, and through kickbacks from those selling goods to Iraq--all under the noses of U.N. bureaucrats. The members of the U.N. staff administering the program have been accused of gross incompetence, mismanagement, and possible complicity with the Iraqi regime in perpetrating the biggest scandal in U.N. history. (More)

Apart from embezzling millions for himself, the UN under secretary-general is said to have allowed Saddam Hussein to do business with French, Russian and Chinese contractors, funneling the kickbacks offered in return, to Hussein's personal accounts, totaling more than $10 billion.
Charged with nepotism and cronyism, Annan, 64, has been emasculated into announcing an independent commission to investigate the theft that has invited vicious catcalls against him for "an open bazaar of payoffs, favoritism and kickbacks." He has now named the former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker to head the probe. (More)

High-level U.N. bureaucrats and even Secretary General Kofi Annan’s son have been implicated. Iraqi investigators have compiled a damning international list of suspects, with Russian and French names all too prominent. Russia and France, through their intelligence services -- and, for that matter, the secretary general’s office -- had to know Al Wasel & Babel was not merely purchasing food and medicine. (More)

Can humanity ever escape its age-old legacy of battle?

A glance at a history book is all it takes to know that war has been humanity's persistent companion for many millenniums. The 20th century, with its grisly conflicts over ideology, religion, and colonialism, may be behind us, but as events in Iraq show all too clearly, war is with us still. In 2002, according to Worldwatch Institute, a total of 45 wars and violent conflicts were raging around the globe, with a cumulative cost of more than 7 million lives.

Yet ever since Margaret Mead, most anthropologists have considered warfare to be a fairly recent innovation of a previously peaceful species. Isolated groups--the Copper Eskimo in Arctic Canada, the !Kung Bushmen in southern Africa--appeared to live without war, and archaeological digs suggested to most that war was "invented" only when hunter-gatherers settled into towns and developed complex political structures. It's a comforting thought--cultural inventions can be discarded or replaced, as Mead suggested in her 1940 essay Warfare Is Only an Invention--Not a Biological Necessity. But controversial reassessments of ancient archaeological sites, of the warless cultures, and of our closest animal relatives are leading some scientists to propose a view of humanity that is decidedly more grim. Could it be that fighting wars is an inherent part of what it means to be human, rooted in biology and as central to our collective identity as language and culture? (More)

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

New Appointment

As we wait for the announcement of premiers and cabinet posts, Thabo Mbeki has already started making high powered government appointments. It's a common complaint in this country that public servants and government officials get paid far too highly with money that could rather be spent on poverty alleviation and other socio-economic problems. Well, according to This Day newspaper, constitutional Judge Dikgang Moseneke has taken over from Judge Richard Goldstone, and is now chairperson of the independent commission for the remuneration of political office bearers. The commission has the mandate to make recommendations to Mbeki on the remuneration of political office bearers at all levels of government, members of the houses of traditional leaders, judges and magistrates. Moseneke has a BA, majoring in English and political science, from Unisa and the following law degrees; B Juris, Unisa, LLB, Unisa, and LLD, Unisa. From 1995 to 2001 he left the Bar to pursue a full time corporate career. This included chairmanship at various times of Telkom, African Merchant Bank, Metropolitan Life African Bank Investments and Chief Executive at New Africa Investments. He was appointed a judge of the Constitutional Court in 2002, and prior to this was a judge of the High Court in Pretoria.
He was also Deputy president of the Pan Africanist Congress from 1990 to 1992. I have heard rumours, which I haven't yet been able to verify, but from a reliable sourse that Moseneke is one of a number of high powered people who support Patricia De Lille in the background. He is said to be one of her campaign advisors and had apparently planned with her years ago that she would eventually leave the PAC to form her own party.

On Lesotho

I've just seen that Rethabile at On Lesotho has also mentioned fodder today - we must be on the same wavelength! Indeed it is great to be part of a growing blogging community.


I have added a new site to my blogroll. I just discovered fodder today although it has been around since January this year. Fodder has an interesting round-up of how political parties have updated (or not) their websites since the end of the elections. Co-incidently, I was thinking about this earlier today. As the elections must have attracted a lot more readers to party sites, I was wondering if they would continue to use and build on increased internet interest as a way of communicating with the public after the elections. Or are they just going to forget about us until they need our votes again? Well, now I have my answer.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Oldest-Known Shell Beads Found In South Africa Show Modern Human Behaviour

Researchers have found perforated shells that appear to be beads dating back 76,000 years ago, causing the development of language and symbolic communication to be older than previously thought by 30,000 years. The 41 tick shells, punctured with holes of roughly one centimetre across in the same place, were found at Blombos Cave site, 300 km east of Cape Town. Until now, the oldest beads found in Africa were about 45,000-years-old. It was at this time modern human behaviour—a key aspect being symbolic communication—was believed to have arisen, according to the then-dominant theory. However, the new shell find supports modern human behaviour developing earlier, more gradually throughout the Middle Stone Age. (More)

Cabinet Speculations

Firstly what are the criteria Mbeki is likely to be taking into account when considering his new cabinet? Continuity is going to be important, he will be looking to appease and maintain his support base within the ANC and reward those loyal to him, he will have to accommodate prominent personalities. He has shown that gender issues are important to him so we might see more women moving into ministerial positions possibly in the Tourism and Arts and Culture portfolio’s which we know need to be filled. Valli Moosa has already indicated that he is stepping down and Ben Ngobane has already stepped down from Arts and Culture.

Most important is the issue of the deputy presidency. Right now Mbeki and the ANC are concerned with who will succeed Mbeki and be our next president. The deputy presidency is seen to be the position indicating who the next president will be. There is a good chance that Jacob Zuma will remain as deputy president. Mbeki has indicated that he will not be pushed by Zuma’s alleged involvement in the arms deal, he is on record as saying Zuma is innocent until proven guilty. It’s important for Mbeki to keep internal ANC support and Zuma is extremely popular and powerful within the party. Other speculations have been that Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma will become deputy president, it is widely believed that Nkosazana is Mbeki’s favourite to succeed him. Mbeki will carry on playing a leading role in African affairs and relations on the continent after he steps down and Zuma who is totally loyal to him, with her foreign affairs background, will prove to be a strong ally to Mbeki’s African Rennaissance aims post-presidency.

Another important factor in deciding the cabinet is appeasing the local and international business communities. It is widely rumoured that Trevor Manuel will be leaving shortly to join the World Bank and that Alec Irwin will replace him. Phumzile Mlambo-Nqcuka has been mentioned as new Trade and Industry minister. Another speculation is that Sydney Mufumadi will move to Foreign Affairs. Buthelezi will also have to be accommodated somehow at national level.

IFP cries foul

Today's Mail and Guardian online is carrying this story:

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) is to make an urgent application to the Electoral Court after last Wednesday's elections were declared free and fair.

IFP spokesperson Musa Zondi told the Mail & Guardian Online on Monday morning that the Independent Electoral Commission had ignored all its complaints and objections about the poll and had then gone ahead and announced the final results.

He said the IEC seemed "totally oblivious" of what had gone on in KwaZulu-Natal and that there had been a number of irregularities that had been ignored.

Zondi said they had information that about 347 000 people had voted without being on the voters roll.

The party took the decision to approach the Electoral Court at a 10-hour emergency meeting of its National and Provincial Councils in Durban on Sunday. Speculation is that the IFP may agree to another coalition in the province with the ANC, but the party says it will not participate in the national or provincial government while the court case is in progress.

Zondi said the IFP leadership had appointed a task-team, headed by him, that would explore all options and then advise the leadership as soon as possible.

It will be interesting to see what transpires, but in all likelihood this is political posturing on behalf of the IFP to try and get a better deal in KZN. I think there is a good chance the IFP will end up with the premiership for the sake of stability in the province. But this will depend also on how the ANC resolves what to do with Buthelezi.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Liberation Politics

“Limits to Liberation in Southern Africa” is a new book released by the HSRC that examines what happens when liberation movements become governing political parties. The book looks at why countries like Botswana and Lesotho who came to independence via negotiation bear all the features of multi-party democracies, whereas countries like Namibia and Zimbabwe who had liberation movements which spearheaded mass popular struggles for liberation, developed authoritarian and more corrupt ruling regimes. South Africa seems to fall somewhere between the two. The book basically questions why the South West African Peoples Organisation (SWAPO) and Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) deviated from their democratic aims and abandoned their goals of socio-economic transformation and redistribution of wealth. Another interesting aspect is the role of myth, memory and the selective rewriting of history in post-liberation politics. From the book’s introduction:

“In examining these issues, the contributors probed beyond the myths and
legends which have long surrounded southern Africa’s liberation movements
to take on board the fact that while these organisations were waging war on
systems of institutionalised injustice, they did not themselves always display a
sensitivity to human rights issues and democratic values. Nor did it prevent
them from falling prey to authoritarian patterns of rule and undemocratic (as
well as sometimes violent) practices towards real or imagined dissidents within
their ranks. What this means is that a new political elite has ascended the
commanding heights and, employing selective narratives and memories relating to
their liberation wars, has constructed or invented a new set of traditions to establish
an exclusive post-colonial legitimacy under the sole authority of one particular
agency of social forces. Mystification of the liberators has played an essential role
in this fabrication."

It also looks at how ruling elites have developed militant notions of inclusion or exclusion to shape their post-colonial national identities, and the blurring of the distinction between ruling party and government.

“Early post-independence notions of national reconciliation and slogans like “unity
in diversity” have given way to a politically-correct identity form defined by those
in power along narrow “we-they” or “with-us-against-us” lines. Simultaneously,
the boundaries between party and government have been blurred and replaced
by a growing equation of party and government. Opposition or dissent has
come increasingly to be considered as hostile and the dissenter sometimes
branded an “enemy of the people”. Coinciding with this tendency towards autocratic
rule and the subordination of the state to the party, a reward system of social and
material favours in return for loyalty has emerged. Self-enrichment by way of a system
of rent-or sinecure-capitalism has become the order of the day. The term “national
interest” has been appropriated and now means solely what the post-colonial
ruling elite decides it means. It is used “to justify all kinds of authoritarian
practice” while the term “anti-national” or “unpatriotic” is applied to any
group that resists the power of the ruling elite of the day.”

However we are seeing the emergence of critical voices calling for an end to the cultivation of so called “heroic narratives.”

“The much-celebrated attainment of formal independence is no longer unreservedly
equated with liberation, and neither with the creation of lasting democracy. Now,
closer scrutiny is paid to both the inherited and self-developed structural legacies
which have imposed limits to the realising of real social and economic alternatives
in the post-colonial era. One of these involves a growing recognition that armed
liberation struggles operating along military lines in conditions of clandestinity were
not suitable breeding grounds for establishing democratic systems of governance
post-independence and that the forms of resistance employed in the struggle
were themselves organised on hierarchical and authoritarian lines.”

The book’s introductory chapter asks about South Africa in particular “Are the seeds of democratic decay set to germinate or is the democratic tradition of South Africa’s civil society sufficiently resilient to overcome the authoritarian tendencies in the liberation paradigm of commandism favoured by some in the leadership of the ANC?”

My response to this question is that on the one hand Sangoco (the umbrella body supposed to be a united voice for the various NGO’s and civil society organizations) has so far proven to be pretty much ineffectual, and has been riddled by allegations of corruption and mismanagement. On the other hand TAC (Treatment Action Campaign) has been a strong and effective movement that was able to get the government to start providing anti-retrovirals. Other groups like the Landless People’s Movement and the Anti Privatisation Forum would probably be more effective if they took a lesson from TAC on how to fight an intelligent battle instead of coming on with belligerent over the top leftist rhetoric.

Also important I think, and a point made in the final chapter of the book concerning South Africa, is that “despite its radical ideological posturing and its rhetoric of popular democracy and people-driven transformation, the actions of the ANC leadership and the forms of representation and participation within in the party make it little different from elitist, liberal political parties elsewhere.”

Opposition Parties has been speculating about how much of the vote the DA and the ID are likely to get.

"The ID is claiming that they will get 10% of the vote and replace the DA as the official opposition. Well, let's wait six days and see what happens, but for now this strikes me as being highly over-optimistic. I'm guessing the ID will get about 4% at the most, and even that may be a bit much. I guess we'll find out soon enough."

I agree that the ID is being more than a little optimistic in saying that they will replace the DA as the official opposition, delusional is probably a more appropriate description. According to most analysts, media reports and opinion polls, the DA is set to be the official opposition in most provinces. The exceptions are the Western Cape where the DA is expected to poll second to the ANC, but will fail to find partners to form a coalition government and lose out to an ANC/NNP led coalition. In KZN the DA will probably bring the necessary majority to the IFP and rule as part of the DA/IFP "Coalition of Hope". The DA may however run into trouble in the Eastern Cape where the UDM is popular enough to provide a serious challenge and become the official opposition in that province. In a lot of voting districts the DA will be getting the NNP vote as well as to a much smaller extent votes from dissaffected ANC supporters.The DA have been confidently boasting of winning 30%, but last week released a statement saying they expected 17%.

As far as the ID goes, they might be more of a thorn in the DA's side in the Western Cape and Gauteng, but I would be surprised if they actually do better than the DA in those two provinces. They may get some support, but very low, definitely under 5% in some of the other provinces, especially in the Northern Cape where they've had the resourses to campaign more visibly. I think all in all the DA will be lucky to get 4% of the national vote.

As for the NNP, it seems that other than in the Western Cape, they are breathing their last, even in the Free State they are losing out to the DA in the urban areas and to the FF+ in the rural areas. I think for the most part it's really only their alliance with the ANC that's keeping them afloat.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Media xenophobia reaches new heights

We are supposedly living in an age of enlightenment, but it seems the world is becoming a place of increasing intolerance. According to The Independent (UK) media xenophobia is reaching a high in Britain:

"London, April 4 – Take one British newspaper and one day - the Daily Express on Thursday. "The evil in our midst" was the page one headline about the arrests of the British Muslims (sic) for questioning in connection with possible terrorist offences. In common with other papers, the Express carried a long interview with the father of one of those arrested, and this was carried across pages four and five. It told of extremist Muslim factions and attempts to influence young Muslims in Britain.

Over the page was another spread on the atrocities in Iraq, the murder and display of American contractors. "Descent into barbarism" read the headline. Two pages on, we have "The great asylum con trick", coverage of the immigration row, and the Blair exchanges with Michael Howard in the Commons. At the bottom of the same page, under the headline " 'Peril' of the foreign truckers", we read that British lorry drivers were very concerned about the arrival in this country of drivers from the EU accession states. Unnamed British truckers believed this would "open the floodgates to dangerously unskilled workers". It would be "only a matter of time before an eastern European HGV driver causes a fatal crash in Britain". Turning on again - same paper, same day - and we had the horrendous story of the "Migrant on the run who killed our innocent angel aged 12". This was the serial sex attacker from Poland who had got into Britain, where he had attacked and murdered Katerina Koneva. The report of the conviction and life sentence for Andrezej Kunowski also mentioned the fact that he had had a heart by-pass operation on the NHS." (More)

A Poem

by Allen Ginsberg

If I were doing my Laundry I'd wash my dirty Iran
I'd throw in my United States, and pour on the Ivory Soap,
scrub up Africa, put all the birds and elephants back in
the jungle,
I'd wash the Amazon river and clean the oily Carib & Gulf of Mexico,
Rub that smog off the North Pole, wipe up all the pipelines in Alaska,
Rub a dub dub for Rocky Flats and Los Alamos, Flush that sparkly
Cesium out of Love Canal
Rinse down the Acid Rain over the Parthenon & Sphinx, Drain the Sludge
out of the Mediterranean basin & make it azure again,
Put some blueing back into the sky over the Rhine, bleach the little
Clouds so snow return white as snow,
Cleanse the Hudson Thames & Neckar, Drain the Suds out of Lake Erie
Then I'd throw big Asia in one giant Load & wash out the blood &
Agent Orange,
Dump the whole mess of Russia and China in the wringer, squeeze out
the tattletail Gray of U.S. Central American police state,
& put the planet in the drier & let it sit 20 minutes or an
Aeon till it came out clean

(Boulder, April 26, 1980)

Monday, April 05, 2004

A great loss to the SA music industry

One of Southern Africa's most famous musicians has been shot dead in Johannesburg city centre, in an apparent robbery. Gito Baloi, a bass guitarist originally from Mozambique, lived and performed in South Africa for many years. His murder comes one week before a general election, in which South Africa's high crime rate is an important issue. About 20,000 people are murdered in South Africa each year.

It is the end of a chapter in the lives of many South Africans. We have lost a hero.
This was just one of many moving things said about Gito Baloi, 39, an icon in the South African music industry, during a vigil at his Kensington home on Sunday.
Baloi was shot and killed in central Johannesburg early on Sunday as he returned home from a gig in Pretoria.

Surrounded by the traditional music of his extended family - Nyanja as well as Shangaan - Baloi spent his earliest years exploring sounds with the aid of discarded paraffin tins, reeds and anything he could lay his hands on. His first public performances, playing a borrowed bass guitar at 14 years of age, helped to support his family in a war-torn Mozambique. Gito was inspired by Mozambican musicians like Hortensia Langa, Fani Mfumo and Orchestra Marabenta, and he traveled with a band called “ Afro 78” from Maputo to Nampula, Ilha de Mozambique, Beira and Angoche all before he’d reached the age of 15 years.

Why Does Genocide 'Happen'?

The genocide in Rwanda in April 1994 must not distract from the fact that genocide is a global phenomenon that knows no racial or geographical boundaries. In its modern form, genocide was perfected by the fascist Nazi regime led by Adolph Hitler in Germany from 1933 to 1945. The Khmer Rouge also demonstrated in the killing fields of Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 that genocide could be carried out as efficiently in a different social and political context.

In more recent times the world watched live on satellite television in the 1990’s while genocide was perpetuated in the heart of Europe as Serbia, Croatia and Kosovo became household names for the grimmest reasons known to history. Going back even further, the transatlantic slave trade has been described as genocidal, though the mass murder of millions of Africans over 400 years was more a by product of plunder, exploitation and repression rather than the specific goal of slave dealers and the states that backed the slave trade.

But why does genocide happen? Why do human beings, the so-called most civilised and intelligent of the species that inhabit the planet, turn to mass murder?

This article first appeared in Pambazuka News, an electronic newsletter for social justice in Africa.