Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Friday, July 30, 2004

Darfur: Considering the solutions

Black Star Journal  has an entry on the steps that should be taken in Darfur.  Regarding military intervention he makes a good point:
 
Any intervention must be done by African Union and/or Arab League troops with technical assistance and funding from the European Union and the US. It is important that the intervention be done by an AU or Arab force. A western-led force will immediately lead to charges of imperialism and will necessarily stoke the fires of Arab nationalism and domestic Sudanese resistance, no matter how legitimate the cause or illegitimate the targeted. Simply put, a western-led intervention in Darfur can't be successful because of the pot it would stir up. An AU intervention would be much harder to tar with the 'neo-colonialist' brush.
 
But, so far the Arab League has not made a peep about Darfur, at least not in any major way, it doesn't seem like they are interested in getting involved and as for the AU do they have the military capacity to sort out the Sudanese if it came down to a full on confrontational level, or would they end up becoming embroiled in yet another ongoing conflict?

Thursday, July 29, 2004

The African Union approach to Darfur

The African Union has released the resolutions that were made at the Peace and Security Council meeting in Ethiopia earlier this month. I have summarised and highlighted some of the major resolutions, the words in bold are also bolded in the AU  communique:
 
1. Reiterates its deep concern over the grave situation that still prevails in the Darfur region of the Sudan, in particular the continued attacks by the Janjaweed militia against the civilian population, as well as other human rights abuses and the humanitarian crisis;

2. Council stresses the urgent need for the Government of the Sudan (GoS) to expeditiously implement its commitment to neutralize and disarm the Janjaweed militia and other armed groups and to bring to justice the perpetrators of human rights abuses.  Council also reiterates the need for the rebel forces to be cantoned at mutually agreed sites;

3. Stresses the need for the AU to continue to lead the efforts to resolve the crisis in Darfur and, in this respect, welcomes the support extended by the international community, including the UN Security Council. Council calls on the latter and all the AU partners to continue to support these efforts, including financial and logistical assistance to sustain the AU-led mission deployed in Darfur and to enhance its effectiveness;

 
They also "call upon" all conflicting parties to stick to the ceasefire agreement, and " urges the parties to agree, as soon as possible, on a general framework for the pursuit of the dialogue, including the agenda of the discussions and their venue;"
 
Another resolution "stresses the need for a speedy resumption of the dialogue and calls on the parties to be represented at the highest level at the next round of the political talks, with a clear mandate, and to negotiate in good faith with the view to achieving a lasting solution to the Darfur conflict;"
 
I find the language that they have used very interesting, we call upon, we stress, we reiterate, we urge. No we "demand," we "insist."
 
The closest mention of anything remotely to do with military force, is this resolution:
 
Takes note of the progress made in the deployment of the military observers and the steps taken towards the deployment of the Protection Force, provided for by the Agreement of 28 May 2004 on the Establishment of the CFC (Ceasefire Commission) and the Deployment of Military Observers, and whose mandate, as per the understanding reached during the 3rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly, includes the protection, within the capacity of the Force, of the civilian population. Council welcomes the decision by Nigeria and Rwanda to contribute troops for the Protection Force;
 
Clearly in point 3, the AU is insisting on handling the situation themselves, without military intervention from non-African countries - although one of the resolutions does state that humanitarian aid from the international community will be welcomed. According to "This Day" Thabo Mbeki who met yesterday with the French foreign minister,  turned down an offer to send French troops to Darfur. The Mail & Guardian online quotes an envoy of the AU chairperson, General Abdulsalami Abubaker saying that "The Darfur problem is a purely African one that has to be resolved by the AU." I think it's commendable in theory that the AU wants to handle the problem themselves, but do they have the capacity or even the political will to do the job? The somewhat watered down language of the resolutions is hardly threatening to Sudan, and doesn't indicate a strong political will to me. The AU also seems to be emphasising a solution based on talks and dialogue, rather than one based on military action. Talks and dialogue take a long time, and the people in Darfur don't have time. Opposing groups can take years to reach an agreement, and even once an agreement has been reached, there is still no guarantee of peace. We've seen this with Burundi and now in the eastern DRC, where a year later, the signed peace agreement is crumbling, with renewed fighting and civilian displacements. 
 
Does the AU have the necessary capacity in terms of peacekeeping troops? This may be a problem. The AU had planned to send about 300 troops to Darfur by the end of this month to protect its team of observers and monitors overseeing the  ceasefire agreement. Well so far the monitors have not been able to remotely enforce the ceasefire agreement, and as Sapa reports, the AU has delayed deployment of a protection force to Darfur from end July, to early August, due to logistical problems. This, because Nigeria and Rwanda, who were to supply the troops,  are still busy trying to sort out their forces. It does not seem like the AU solution is going to be of any immediate help to the people of Darfur.

Al Quaida/SA

Sapa reports today that the South African men arrested in Pakistan are indeed Al Quaida suspects. Well, not in so many words. The terminology being used is "links to Al Quaida" and "suspected terrorist activities."
 
"They are said to be Feroze Ganchi, a doctor from Fordsburg, Johannesburg, and 20-year-old student Zubair Ismael, from Laudium, Pretoria. According to South African newspaper reports the families of both men were outraged at the idea that they were terrorists, and denied it. Instead they speculated that their passports might have been stolen."
 
And:
 
"Asked whether these were the first South Africans to be arrested  for links to al-Qaida, Selby Bokaba, spokesman for the national police commissioner was not able to comment. He was also not able to speak about what happened to suspected terrorists reportedly arrested in South Africa before the elections  in April. "This information was not supposed to reach the media," he told Sapa."
 
The fact that the police aren't talking makes one wonder what they are trying to hide. This is information that the public has the right to know about.

Darfur

The Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has issued a "genocide emergency", to draw attention to Darfur. This is the first time the Museum has used this label, which specifies that "acts of genocide or related crimes against humanity are occurring or immediately threatened."


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Oil, money and American politics

According to a report by The Centre for Public Integrity oil companies have spent more than $440 million over the past six years on politicians, political parties and lobbyists in order to protect its interests in Washington.
 
Some key findings of the report:
 
The industry has spent more than $381 million on lobbying activities since 1998, pushing hard on everything from a new national energy policy to obscure changes in the tax code.

The industry has given more than $67 million in campaign contributions in federal elections since the 1998 election cycle, about a fifth of the amount it has spent on lobbying.

Oil and gas companies overwhelmingly favored Republicans over Democrats in their campaign giving, the study found. Just over 73 percent of the industry's campaign contributions have gone to Republican candidates and organizations.

The industry exerts its influence in other, less obvious ways, including membership on the National Petroleum Council, a commission formed to advise the energy secretary. Koch Industries, the largest privately-held oil company in the United States, has financed a network of conservative nonprofit organizations designed to influence policy debate in this country.

U.S.-based oil and gas companies have nearly 900 subsidiaries located in tax haven countries, such as the Cayman Islands and Bermuda
 
I don't see anything particularly sinister about oil companies funding non-profits to sway public opinion, this is a fact of modern life. Non-profits are founded to "educate" the public on a wide range of controversial issues from abortion to GM foods, and there are usually organisations fighting for both sides of any given debate. What I do find worrying though is the extent to which business is able to influence political decision making with money in a way that is not necessarily transparent. This information should be more accessible. Money paid for lobbying purposes, and the funding behind a particular lobby group, should be reported on more thoroughly in the mainstream media, and people should be able to more easily track the lobbying process and see how decisions are influenced. Oil companies in particular are notorious for polluting the environment, and a political system lacking in transparency means that the government can get away with decisions that are not always for the public good. I think the California energy crisis a few years back bears testimony to that.

Lobbying is the practice of talking with members of Congress to persuade them to support a particular position or piece of legislation. A lobbyist is generally an individual whose full-time work is representing a particular interest or set of interests in the legislative process. These suggested lobbying guidlines from an American university show how open the process is to possible abuse from unethical players:

The pursuit of lobbying must take into account the common good, not merely a particular client’s interests narrowly considered.

The lobbyist-client relationship must be based on candor and mutual respect.

A policymaker is entitled to expect candid disclosure from the lobbyist, including accurate and reliable information about the identity of the client and the nature and implications of the issues.

In dealing with other shapers of public opinion, the lobbyist may not conceal or misrepresent the identity of the client or other pertinent facts

The lobbyist must avoid conflicts of interest

Certain tactics are inappropriate in pursuing a lobbying engagement

The lobbyist has an obligation to promote the integrity of the lobbying profession and public understanding of the lobbying process


Cement

Fifteen minutes has the link to an unbelievable story about how the Palestinians made money by selling concrete to the Israeli's for their barrier. Arafat was aware of this despite having referred to the wall as a "crime against humanity".  Apparently the "cement originally came from Egyptian companies which supplied it at a huge discount of $22 (£12.50) a ton to help rebuild dilapidated Palestinian houses or buildings bulldozed by the Israelis."
 
Wow, I'm completely speechless. As fifteen minutes says, talk about the hypocracy! It will be interesting to see if this gets picked up by the mainstream media, especially the global tv broadcasters.
I don't agree with what fifteen minutes has to say about Islam though. In my opinion a statement like "Then I realise that this is Islam we're talking about, and hypocrisy is nothing new," is somewhat racist to say the least, and gets us nowhere. Does this mean that all Muslims are hypocritical?

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Going Bananas

According to this Sapa report Zambia is pissed off with South Africa:
 
Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa on Wednesday criticised South African supermarket chains in the country for shunning locally produced fruit which he said was abundant in the southern African country. "I can't understand why they have to import bananas from South Africa when those you grow here are in abundance and are of the same quality, if not better than those imported," Mwanawasa said while vising a local banana plantation. The president singled out a South African supermarket chain, Shoprite Checkers, for criticism but said other retail outlets should stop importing products, according to the report on Zambian radio ZNBC. Zambian farmers are complaining to the government that supermarkets are stocking imported vegetables, fruits, eggs and chicken from South Africa when they are produced locally. 

Would it really be so terrible if South Africa supported local industries in other African countries? The renowned African academic Professor Ali Mazrui has spoken about South Africa in relation to the rest of the African continent in terms of the three v's, first it was victim, then victor and now it is in danger of being villain. In South Africa, we tend to be isolated from the rest of the continent's opinions about us. Some analysis on the issue from Irin, one of the United Nations news agencies:

However, there are sensitivities around South Africa's economic dominance on the continent. By offering incentives to its companies to invest, Pretoria has been accused of undermining local industries.Mbeki was dismissive of those concerns. "Before MTN went into Nigeria, Nigerians could not speak to one another - now they can. South African businesses have had a positive influence on the rest of Africa," he claimed.However, South Africa's minister for public enterprises, Jeff Radebe, last month warned local companies against becoming the "new imperialists". The South African Press Agency quoted Radebe as expressing "concern that there are strong perceptions that many South African companies working elsewhere in Africa come across as arrogant, disrespectful, aloof and careless in their attitude towards local business communities, work seekers and even governments". He suggested a code of conduct for parastatals operating in Africa. (More)

Mbeki does sound rather arrogant in the above mentioned quote. I think South Africa needs to be more sensitive towards local attitudes in other countries, and shouldn't regard the rest of Africa merely in terms of national economic gain. We should operate in the spirit of what Nepad is meant to be about, and practice what we preach. So many South Africans are critical of the way America does business, yet we are doing the same thing ourselves on the African continent. Sure make money, but empower and provide opportunities to local populations as well. One of the problems in the capitalist system, people just get too damn greedy. 

Sudan

In what seems to be more of a gesture than anything else, the Sudanese  government has responded to international pressure by prosecuting a couple of alleged Janjaweed militia members. However Reuters reports that there are doubts that the men in government captivity are really Janjaweed members.
 
What really got me was the punishment being metered out, sounds like something out of your worst biblical nightmare.
 
"The court in the South Darfur state capital of Nyala sentenced the men, accused of membership in the so-called Janjaweed militia, to execution, crucifixion, cross-amputation, imprisonment or fines, a statement from presiding judge Mukhtar Ibrahim Adam said."
 
In case you were wondering:
 
"Cross-amputation means the amputation of a left hand and a right foot, or the other way round. It is the punishment prescribed in the Koran for "those who wage war against God and his Prophet and strive to make mischief in the land".

Beach Babes



Bathing suits of the 1900's (via Life In The Present)



Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Stander Gang

The Stander Gang was one one of South Africa's most notorious crime gangs:
 
The Stander Gang were South Africa’s most famous bank robbers, becoming the stuff of legend. Their exploits gripped the country’s attention and were written about in countless articles and books. They also captured the imagination of crime author Rob Marsh. Rob: “They took on the forces of law and order, they were successful; for a time they were the most wanted people in South Africa. They were in all the newspapers. I mean it was big news and they were doing things that, in one sense, some of us like to think that we’d like to do – in other words, get one over on authority.” The members of the gang were Andre Stander a former policeman turned bank robber, Patrick Lee McCall a car thief and fraudster, and Allan Heyl a car thief and bank robber. It all began in 1977. (More)
 
The only surviving gang member, 52 year old Allan Heyl will be in court to ask for parole on Friday. He has served 19 years out of his 33 year prison sentence. He has been denied parole but is taking his case to the Pretoria High Court.
 
Heyl reportedly wants an early release to enable him to claim royalties from a recent American-made film about the gang's exploits.
 
According to a News 24.com article that I can no longer access without registration:
 
He decided that bank robbery is not something he wants to pursue and has turned his back on it. He is committed to make a success of his life should he be released, according to an affidavit handed in to the Pretoria High Court. A report by forensic criminologist doctor Irma Labuschagne stated that Heyl underwent a "radical change" and grew emotionally while he was doing time in a British prison for robbery.

Cradle of Human Kind

Some facts from the Cradle of Human Kind, which has quite an interesting website in terms of content but is not particularly well designed aesthetically or navigation wise.
 
There are now 730 cultural and natural sites of "exceptional universal value" listed on the
World Heritage List from 118 countries worldwide.
 
Africa has more than 83 cultural and natural heritage sites in 29 countries. The fourth South African site, uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, was listed in 2000.Three South African sites were listed in December 1999 - the Cradle of Humankind Fossil Hominid Sites (of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and Environs), the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park and Robben Island.
 
More than 500 hominid fossils, thousands of animal fossils, over 300 fragments of fossil wood, and over 9 000 stone tools discovered in these caves and more are being found.
 
With current research methods scientists are able to determine whether the fossils walked upright, or on all fours. This is done by scanning skulls that have a middle & inner ear. This information gives details on balance and hearing. In addition, with the latest technology, samples of teeth can provide details of what was eaten.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Gossip

Someone out there keeps a daily blog of sorts about gossip overheard on the London tubes.

* It's not Baileys. It's a smooth Irish cream liqueur. But it isn't Baileys. 
* Mariella Frostrup is really thick. She thinks having a foreign name makes her clever.
* I have no fucking interest in how some fucking journalist conquered her alcoholism and made an article out of it. 
* Dr Who was not Welsh. He came from Gallifrey. 
* It's a kind of terracota colour. It's almost pink but not quite. It's like rust.
* The delays aren't because of the rain, but they use the rain as an excuse anyway. 
* I don't know what was in that curry but my stomach is all over the place today. 
* Imagine Primal Scream, but as a Japanese boyband... that's how they sound.

 
And my personal favourite
 
* My kids all know everything about Bowie and Bolan etc. I would die of shame if they couldn't sing along to the Pistols.
 
Via things magazine 

Saving in SA

I discovered today, something that may only be news to me, but we have an organisation called the South African Savings Institute (SASI).  According to SASI we are not a saving nation. From 1997-2003, South Africa's savings rate deteriorated while the savings ratio of other developing countries improved. The South African Savings Institute, obviously as the name suggests, was established to address this issue, mainly to enhance, promote and bring awareness about the importance of saving. There are some interesting facts about saving:
 
Gross saving in South Africa averaged about 21 per cent of GDP in the period from 1960 to 2003.  From the beginning of the 1990s a downward trend in the national saving ratio caused the average saving ratio to fall to 16 per cent in the period 1990 – 2003.
 
From 1960 to mid – 1980s South Africa’s saving rate compared favourably with that of a number of developed industrial countries.  However, during the second half of the 1980s and particularly from 1997 to 2003, South Africa’s saving rate deteriorated while the saving ratio of other developing countries improved.
 
The deterioration in South Africa’s saving behaviour can mainly be attributed to declines in the saving of households and the general government relative to the GDP, which move than offset a fairly stable saving performance by the corporate sector.  The longer-term downward trend in saving by the household sector since the middle of the 1980s became more pronounced in the second half of the 1990s and the beginning of the new decade.  As a ratio of disposable income, net saving by the household sector declined from 5.5 per cent in 1992 to an average of about 0.5 per cent between 2000 and 2003.

Monday, July 19, 2004

On Iraq

It was hoped that the Iraqi handover would lead to stability but this doesn't seem to be the case. Reuters reports on some of the major bombings that have taken place since Iraq became "sovereign":
 
May 17 - A suicide car bomb in Baghdad kills the head of Iraq's Governing Council Abdul Zahra Othman Mohammad, a Shi'ite Muslim also known as Izzedin Salim, dealing a major blow to the U.S. coalition.
 
June 1 - A suicide car bomber blows himself up at a U.S. military base near Baiji, north of Baghdad, killing at least 11 Iraqis and wounding 20 others and two American soldiers.
 
June 8 - A car bomb explodes in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The U.S. military said at least nine Iraqis were killed and 25 wounded.
 
June 13 - A suicide car bomber kills up to 12 Iraqis, including four policemen, near a U.S.-Iraqi base in Baghdad.
 
June 14 - Two British, a Frenchman, an American and one Filipino are among 13 killed in a suicide car bombing in Baghdad which targeted foreign contractors. Jama'at al-Tawhid and Jihad, a group headed by suspected al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility the next day.
 
June 17 - A suicide car bomb explodes at an Iraq army recruiting base near Baghdad's Muthanna airport. Iraqi officials say at least 25 are killed and 50 wounded.
 
-- A car bomb kills six paramilitary civil defence guards and wounds four near the town of Balad, north of Baghdad.
 
June 24 - Coordinated car bombs in Baquba, Falluja, Ramadi, Mosul and Baghdad kill around 100 people including three U.S. soldiers. Mosul was the worst hit, with suicide bombings killing 62 people and wounding 220.
 
June 26 - Twin car bomb blasts in Hilla, south of Baghdad, kill 23 people and wound 58.
 
July 14 - 11 Iraqis are killed and 30 wounded in a suicide car bomb attack at the entrance to the Green Zone in Baghdad which houses Iraq's interim government and the U.S. military's headquarters.
 
July 15 - A suspected car bomb attack kills 10 Iraqis and wounds 30 in the town of Haditha, 200 km (125 miles) northwest of Baghdad.
 
July 17 - A suicide car bomber strikes at a convoy in Baghdad killing five bodyguards of Justice Minister Malik al-Hassan. The minister was unhurt. The attack was claimed by Zarqawi's Tawhid and Jihad group.
 
July 19 - At least 10 people are killed and 40 wounded after a suicide truck bomb blew up outside a Baghdad police station. 

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Bush Babes



The naughty Bush twins, notorious for drinking and partying it up have decided to help dad with his re-election campaign.

USA Today reports: They made headlines even when they weren't trying. But now Jenna and Barbara Bush are finally talking.The 22-year-old twin daughters of President Bush have given their first interview to the August issue of Vogue. It's all part of a post-college coming out that includes working at their father's re-election headquarters in Arlington, Va. Blond Jenna made her first campaign appearance Friday with her dad in Pennsylvania, while brunet Barbara joined Bush on Tuesday for a two-day campaign trip to the Midwest.

South Africa-Equatorial Guinea

I usually try hard to give him the benefit of the doubt, but sometimes our president can be really difficult to understand. As if Mbeki's stance on AIDS and Zimbabwe aren't enough, now we have him working on building up relations with Equatorial Guinea. I can understand that he wants to have EG looking favourably on SA so that we can send observers to the country to monitor the trial of the alleged mercenaries, but wanting to grow business ties and help EG play a greater role in Nepad? EG is after all arguably one of the most tyrannic, anti-democratic countries in Africa. I suppose money wins out after all. Sapa reports that during a two day bilateral meeting with EG President Teodoro Obiang Nguema this week:

South Africa is planning to set up a binational commission with oil-rich Equatorial Guinea to strengthen relations and will soon open its first diplomatic mission in Malabo.These talks follow the signing of the general co-operation agreement in 2003 and reciprocal agreement on the promotion and protection of investments earlier this year.

Our Foreign Affairs Minister, Nkosozana Dlamini-Zuma was quoted as saying that co-operation in the areas of minerals and energy would also be looked at. Energy Minister Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka will visit Equatorial Guinea soon to take this further. Dlamini-Zuma also said that EG had requested more involvment with Nepad, and that SA would be sending officials to the country to help advise them on this.

In this case I agree with the DA's rather irritating Douglas Gibson who said "If the meeting is merely about strengthening diplomatic ties between South African and Equatorial Guinea, that would be deeply concerning. President Obiang Nguema's record is an affront to the principles of good governance as contained in Nepad and the African Union Constitutive Act,"

One can only hope that when it comes to Nepad, a little bargaining might take place such as, start working towards holding democratic elections and improving democracy in the country, and we'll think about it.

Incidently, the anti-democratic regime in EG hasn't stopped American, British and other western oil companies from doing business there either. Chevron, Vanco Energy, Total, Marathon Oil Company and ExxonMobil Corp all operate in the country. In fact as
Ken Silverstein of the LA Times reports, Marathon Oil and ExxonMobil are currently being investigated for corruption in their dealings in EG.

"American oil companies have developed close political and financial ties to the Obiang regime since oil was discovered in Equatorial Guinea in the mid-1990s. Led by ExxonMobil, Amerada Hess and Marathon, U.S. companies now have invested at least $5 billion there. Philippe Vasset of the Paris-based Africa Energy Intelligence said oil companies were Obiang's most important backers. "Equatorial Guinea has no other resources or industries," he said. The companies' business dealings have included using an employment agency owned by a former government minister who is also a relative of Obiang, according to a State Department report issued in 2000. The report said that the agency denied jobs to opposition sympathizers and "allegedly kept nearly two-thirds of employees' wages."


Crime

Commentary.co.za has a blog today about crime. Laurence writes "Let's talk about crime for a bit." I too would like to talk about crime for a bit. More specifically I would like to talk about the F@%*ERS that stole my car today. My dear, trusty little 1972 beetle, my beautiful immaculate reconditioned Beetle Budddies beetle is no more. The incident took place not two days after I got it back from the garage having paid R2000.00 for repairs and a bit of panelbeating. That's money down the drain. Well, hopefully the cops might find it, but I'm not holding my breathe. If anyone should spot a navy blue beetle HTN 843 GP please let me know.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Some Holiday Pics



Luxury houses being built on top of one of the Knysna heads. One can only but dream on....



View of the undeveloped Knysa head which is a nature reserve.



Victoria Bay, a really beautiful little holday resort about 15 km's outside of George.



The Chokka Block at Port St. Francis

Back

I am back from holiday, had a good rest, but was glad to get back to Joburg. Knysna was extremely busy, if I ever go there again, it will not be during oyster festival time. I did eat some oysters though, but at R6.50 a pop I did not eat too many. Knysna has really grown and I was amazed at the absolute explosion of luxury developments going up, and that goes for Plett, Jeffrey's Bay and Port St. Francis as well. In complete contrast, on the outskirts of all these "holiday" towns you have the burgeoning growth of townships and squatter camps. It was a stark reminder of the growing gap between rich and poor in this country. I hope the ANC decides to carry out all their election promises, because if they dont, I think, as we've seen recently with the Diepsloot incident, people are going to start getting angry.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Away

I'm going on holiday to Knysna and Jeffrey's Bay - no blogging until the 13th of July