Corruption is morally, legally and politically indefensible
By The Post
Sat 24 Mar. 2012, 13:00 CAT
MORE is expected of Michael Sata and his government in the fight against corruption. And as World Bank managing director Sri Mulyani Indrawati has observed, the people of Zambia will have every right to demand more from Michael and his government because they were elected by the people on the platform of cleaning up the country and improve the performance by addressing the issue of corruption.
[They were also elected to turn away from the neoliberal economics the World Bank has been forcing on Zambia and the world, and is destroying the global economy as we speak. - MrK]
The performance of Michael and his government will be evaluated against the record of what they have or have not achieved in the fight against corruption. Did they fulfil their promise in the fight against corruption? But to deliver on this promise, Michael and his government will require to put in place good legislation, good law enforcement officers, and a good judicial system.
And right now, capacity is seriously lacking in our law enforcement agencies. There is need for more resources to be channelled to the operations and training of those involved in investigating and prosecuting corruption.
On the legislative front, Michael and his government seem to be moving in the right direction and taking the right initiatives. Their decision to reinstate the abuse of office offence in our Anti Corruption Commission Act is a commendable initiative that will go a long way in increasing public confidence in their seriousness to fight corruption even among their own ranks.
It is easy for them to fight the corruption of the former regime. But it will not be that easy to fight corruption among themselves, among their own colleagues. And this is where the greatest test in their commitment to fighting corruption lies.
The importance to the fight against corruption of coming up with good legislation doesn't need much disquisition. As we have stated before, we cannot call others to virtues, to principles, to standards which we ourselves do not make an effort to adhere to or practice.
Coupled with good law enforcement and a good Judiciary, the abuse of office offence can go a long way in deterring corruption among public officers. But there is need also to pay special attention to those outside government or state offices who induce public officers to abuse their offices.
Corruption has to be fought not only in public institutions but also among private institutions because these are the ones who in the final analysis make it possible for public funds to be stolen, to be abused. There is need to strengthen the law and make it easier for law enforcement officers to be able to demand accountability from every citizen.
We all need to account for our wealth, for the money we have and accordingly pay taxes on it. There is nothing wrong in law enforcement officers demanding to know how one has acquired the wealth one has. We say this because unearned income, unexplained wealth is a prima-facie case of corruption.
And where there is suspicion of corruption, of a crime having been committed, law enforcement officers need to investigate and establish the truth. And the onus to prove otherwise should be on the individual who is being pursued or accused. This will not be strange to us as a nation because it is a practice that is followed throughout the civilised world.
And this is how most of these countries have managed to curb corruption. This is not a violation of any one's rights, it is not an unjustified intrusion. But of course with poor law enforcement agencies, such laws can be abused by those in power to harass, victimise and humiliate political opponents.
We therefore need law enforcement agencies that are not open to political manipulation and direction. We also need an efficient and incorruptible Judiciary. Our Judiciary, in its current form, has shown serious deficiencies, defects, weaknesses.
It is a Judiciary that has been much more open to abuse by the political authorities in collusion with those who manage it. We have seen how our Judiciary was abused and corrupted to let Frederick Chiluba go scot-free by Rupiah Banda and his agents in the Judiciary.
The Zambian people, as a result of corruption in our Judiciary, failed to recover what Chiluba and his tandem of thieves had stolen from them because the Judiciary was influenced to reject the registration of the London High Court judgment.
This was a judgment in a case that had been commenced in London by the Zambian government of Levy Mwanawasa to help them recover what Chiluba and friends had stolen from the Zambian people. The Zambian people won the case in London but for them to recover what Chiluba had stolen, that judgment needed to be registered in the High Court of Zambia.
But Levy's successor, Rupiah, was not for that idea and ensured that Chiluba kept his loot by not having the judgment registered. This is what happens to the fight against corruption if the judicial process is corrupted.
It is clear that a lot of work is needed if the fight against corruption is to register some successes. Our rotten Judiciary has to be corrected. Our law enforcement agencies have to be strengthened in all ways, including in terms of the integrity of their officers.
This calls for better organisation and remuneration of officers. A generalised system of accountability where the wealth of every citizen is open to scrutiny may act as a good deterrent against corruption among our judicial officers, unlike today's case where some of our judges have accumulated so much wealth which does not tie up with their earned income.
Where did this wealth come from? This also applies to our politicians. Corruption should be made a difficult and costly undertaking. It should also be made easy for law enforcement officers to investigate and trace proceeds of corruption.
Clearly, fighting corruption cannot be reduced to political rhetoric or promises. Action is needed on all fronts. There is need for increased public awareness on this issue because corruption is a very dangerous obstacle to the realisation of our development goals.
And why should we tolerate something that is so morally, legally, politically and economically wrong, unacceptable and indefensible? There is no one in the world who has ever said corruption is good.
Even the most corrupt elements have spoken against corruption. This means there must be something seriously bad about corruption and as such it should not be tolerated in any way and in any form. It is probably for this reason that Michael and the PF picked it as an election campaign issue which helped them win last September's elections.
But matters should not end there. Future support for Michael and the PF must be tied to their performance on this greatest promise of theirs. If they fail to deliver on this score, public support for them should be immediately withdrawn.
Labels: CORRUPTION, SRI MULYANI INDRAWATI, World Bank
Zambians expect PF to deliver on corruption promise - Indrawati
By Chiwoyu Sinyangwe
Sat 24 Mar. 2012, 12:58 CAT
ZAMBIANS will demand that the PF government fulfils its campaign promise of cleaning up the country of corruption, says World Bank managing director Sri Mulyani Indrawati. And Indrawati says successful fight against corruption requires a cocktail of good legislation, a good law enforcer with high integrity and a good judicial system.
Indrawati, who last Thursday concluded her two-day official visit to Zambia, said the current regime had been elected by the people based on the platform of cleaning up the country and to improve the performance by addressing the issue of corruption.
"It is not for me to judge whether this is the intention or not, the government already promised the people. In this case, the people of Zambia are going to demand that and that they knew it and that is the time for the government to deliver the promise," Indrawati said in an interview.
"This is an area where the government knows exactly well that the people will ask them to deliver that promise."
Indrawati said the World Bank recognised that corruption could become a very dangerous obstacle to development goals.
"That is why our stance on corruption is very clear," she said. "We are not tolerating any corruption. We are definitely going to watch any resources that we disburse here in order to make sure that they are not going to be corrupted but we are also in this case in order to support the government for them to strengthen the capacity."
Early this month, the World Bank debarred Alstom Hydro France and Alstom Network Schweiz from receiving World Bank-funded contracts for up to three years after Alstom admitted misconduct in a Zambian hydro project.
In 2002, Alstom made an improper payment of €110,000 to an entity controlled by a former senior government official for consultancy services in relation to the World Bank-financed Zambia Power Rehabilitation Project.
And Indrawati said addressing the issue of corruption did not only need good rhetoric or promise.
"Addressing corruption, you need a good legislation and in this case, you really need to know whether the legislation is reflecting and strengthening this anti-corruption movement as well as the ability to prosecute and enforce the anti-corruption law," Indrawati said.
"But if you have good legislation, you really need to have good law enforcers and that is why the capacity, the appointment of the law enforcer especially in key position, with good and strong people with high integrity is very important. You also need a good judicial system because the corruption cases to be prosecuted will be put in judicial process according to the law and that is where you need good judges."
Indrawati said the PF government would need to have an open, transparent and accountable government to clean up the country.
"That means you need to build capacity. The government is already promising this to the people, a lot of work needs to be done," said Indrawati.
"The World Bank will support and strongly support the area that willstrengthen the governance."
Labels: CORRUPTION, PF
Nevers vows to take Sata on
By Allan Mulenga
Sat 24 Mar. 2012, 12:59 CAT
PASTOR Nevers Mumba has vowed to take on President Michael Sata once elected president of the MMD. Addressing MMD party officials in Chongwe on Wednesday, Pastor Mumba said the MMD had a challenge of seeking a leadership that would take the party to the next elections.
"I think as soon as we solve the problem of leadership in our party, you are going to see a lot of things change because now we are not going to let this government just keep saying like what the President said two weeks ago that MMD and UPND are led by thieves. My promise once elected president of the party will be that I will be looking eyebrow to eyebrow with the President; punch for punch, because that is the only way to quieten what is not true. Zambia is a Christian nation and what we need is truth and especially truth from the highest position," he said.
"To call the leaders of the two parties thieves, I think it is unpresidential and we hope that the President said it jokingly because that was very sad that the President can say that."
Pastor Mumba accused the government of embracing dictatorial tendencies in its governance system.
"Zambians are no longer ready for a dictator. A dictator will never last in Zambia because Zambians are not interested. This government must learn to consult. This government must learn that democracy means you respect the people who put you into office. They must respect Zambians as the ones who put them into office," said Pastor Mumba.
And speaking on Radio Phoenix's Let the People Talk programme yesterday, Pastor Mumba accused members of President Sata's Cabinet for the mistakes of the PF government.
He said the PF government had brought a lot of problems in the governance system of the country.
"For instance, we have just understood that the President sneaked out of the country yesterday on Thursday morning to go to India. I want to appeal to this government that let them understand that President Michael Sata is the Republican President of Zambia. He is not a party president; you can't sneak him out of the country without informing the Zambian people," he said.
Pastor Mumba urged the government to tell the public the truth about President Sata's private visit to India, saying that the President was using taxpayers' money.
"These are the things that cause speculation and create insecurity in the nation. The position of the President is a public position. There is nothing secretive about sickness if it is about the matter of sickness, for instance, if the President has gone to see a doctor, Zambians are used to that. We have had presidents have gone to hospitals. What Zambians don't like is to be played with like children," he said.
"Zambians must be told, protocol demands that at least two days before the President leaves the country, the Zambian people are informed so that they are aware of where their President has gone to and one of the reasons for that is that he uses taxpayers' money to wherever he is going, otherwise there is nothing private about any visit the President makes."
Pastor Mumba said members of the Cabinet were not advising President Sata correctly on many policy issues.
He urged the government to learn to do things the right way.
"We demand that this government learns to do things in the right way. There are people in his Cabinet that can advise the President but none of them is doing that. Some of the things that the President is doing are very concerning," said Pastor Mumba.
On Thursday, President Sata left on an unannounced trip to India. Kenneth Kaunda International Airport sources told The Post that President Sata left for India around 08:30 aboard the Presidential Challenger jet.
Pastor Mumba also said the government's fight against corruption was cosmetic and a witchhunt meant to quieten those opposing government.
And Pastor Mumba said the only positive thing the PF government had brought was President Sata flying in a helicopter to the airport thereby not disrupting traffic.
Labels: MICHAEL SATA, MMD, NEVERS MUMBA
Sata's visit to India raises speculations
By Roy Habaalu and Moses Kuwema
Sat 24 Mar. 2012, 13:00 CAT
UPND members have been jubilating over President Michael Sata's health condition and his trip to India. But PF secretary general Wynter Kabimba wondered how long it would take for the UPND to realise that banking on President Sata's death for them to ascend to power was a wish in futility.
And Vice-President Dr Guy Scott yesterday told Parliament that President Sata's visit to India was a planned private one and described speculation about his ill health as ‘nonsense'.
Well-placed sources said there was excitement in the UPND following President Sata's trip to India because they believe the President was unwell.
"We warned the people of Zambia that President Sata was not fit, and unwell and will not complete his term of office. He's a sick man whose return we doubt because the operation he's undergoing is serious and chances of survival are fifty-fifty. Most of our members are happy because this gives us an opportunity to lead the country," one UPND senior member said.
Some of the members said President Sata should not have contested the September 20 elections because he knew his health was failing.
And UPND Southern Province vice-chairman John Chidyaka said President Sata's trip to India left room for speculation.
He said it was wrong for the President to leave the country without telling the nation what he had gone to do and how long he would be away.
"We need to know so that we know whether he's gone to bring investors or what. Going secretly will make people think otherwise and some will start preparing for elections because we are told he's unwell and anything can happen. When one travels, people can pray for you, otherwise people may start preparations. Why go in secrecy?" he asked.
Chidyaka said people of Zambia needed to know what the President had gone to do in India.
But Vice-President Dr Scott said he personally knew about the trip about a week ago.
Labels: GUY SCOTT, MICHAEL SATA, WYNTER KABIMBA
Church should avoid double standards - Rev Mwitwa
By Ernest Chanda
Sat 24 Mar. 2012, 12:59 CAT
A MANSA clergyman says the Church should avoid playing double standards and give hope to the hopeless.
Reverend Kelvin Mwitwa from the Methodist Church said there were clergymen who could not stand with the Catholic Church when the MMD government attacked it but had now resurfaced to be champions.
"The church as a mirror of society should stand for the truth and avoid playing double stands. In the run up to the September 20th tripartite elections, the MMD government had declared war of insults against the Roman Catholic bishops and priests. Conspicuously, the other church motherbodies remained mute over the matter. To them it was business as usual," Rev Mwitwa said in an interview.
"The Roman Catholic or Zambia Episcopal Conference must be commended for their resoluteness; they absorbed the heat of insults with such tremendous humility, ready to forgive all those who persecuted them. They didn't abandon the poor in the fight against injustice. Today, we are talking about the change which did not come through those who were comfortable and unconcerned but through those who shared in the suffering of the Zambian people. Undoubtedly there has been a crack in the body of Christ which must be mended so that once more the three church mother bodies should continue working together in harmony."
Rev Mwitwa said the church was the biggest constituency in the country and the government could not afford to do away with it.
He said the government could only do away with church leaders who are greedy, corrupt and practice trickery.
"And when such leaders are sidelined, they should not drag the Church into confrontation with the government. I can only pray and appeal to the government not to judge the Church by the performance of some of its leaders but accord the Church its special place in the governance of the nation, provide open communication channels to facilitate dialogue with all those who are ready and willing to contribute to the development of our country," he said.
"Admittedly, corruption can be in any sector of our society, but the corruption that we saw in the MMD government was unprecedented such that any serious government fighting corruption should start from there and that should not be seen as persecution."
And Rev Mwitwa said the Church should continue to pray for peace in the manner it prayed prior to last year's general election.
"The Church should pray even in times of peace, praying for prosperity in the nation and wisdom for the leadership. And when the Church prays or gives to the poor, there is no need to blow its trumpet. As the Bible says, 'do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing'," said Rev Mwitwa.
Labels: CATHOLIC CHURCH, CORRUPTION
Government dissolves Natsave board
By Gift Chanda and Mwala Kalaluka
Sat 24 Mar. 2012, 13:00 CAT
THE government has dissolved the Frank Ng'ambi-led Natsave board over a K10.8 billion computer software deal hatched with a Nigerian company during former president Rupiah Banda's tenure of office.
The National Savings and Credit Bank (NATSAVE) in 2009 irregularly awarded six contracts worth K10.8 billion to various local firms, including a Nigeria-based company, Neptune Software Plc, for the supply, delivery and installation of the Rubikon University Banking Solution software and other related software at the local bank's head office and 27 branches at a cost of K3,870, 900,000 (US $759,000).
"The board was dissolved on Thursday," sources said yesterday.
"Basically, the reasons have more to do with the K10 billion software deal and the lack of quality in the decisions they have been making."
Recently, Natsave managing director Cephas Chabu was sacked from his position by the dissolved board over the same Neptune deal but has since been reinstated because, according to Natsave insiders, he was not there when the deal was being awarded.
The contract was awarded under a project codenamed "the Sitex (IT)" without approval from the Attorney General.
Labels: CORRUPTION, FRANK NG'AMBI, NATSAVE, RUPIAH BANDA
COMMENT - It is striking that the only thing the MDC can do, is attack the person of President Mugabe. They cannot sell their policies, either in Zimbabwe, or the UK. They cannot sing the praises of privatisation, or deregulation, or free markets for transnational corporations, or say how austerity is going to build the economy. The world is tired of neoliberal policies, and the MDC is a neoliberal party.
Mugabe will never retire: Biti
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe "will never step down", Finance Minister has suggested, creating an image of a lonely man with few interests outside politics, and a determination to cling to power to the bitter end.
Biti told the UK-based Independent newspaper that he felt "pity" for the 88-year-old President, who is criticised for alleged human rights abuses and the slow pace of democratic reform. "After 32 years in power, he knows nothing else," Biti said.
"I know the joy of walking into a supermarket, watching the Black Rhinos or going to church without anyone raising a furore. He does not know there is a beautiful life outside politics. He would never want to retire. I think he will never step down."
Biti also launched a spirited defence of his MDC-T party's record in government.
He rejected suggestions that his party had lost credibility by cosying up to Zanu PF, which entered the fragile coalition with the MDC-T after disputed, violence-plagued elections in 2008. But the power sharing has proved bitter and fractious.
"We have not stolen money. Zanu PF has tried to trap us. There are many temptations in politics. They have thrown everything at us except incest," Biti said in an interview in Harare.
"The people of Zimbabwe know that we are the party that has given them time-out [economically].
“The past 39 months have shown that we are nobody's puppets and we are ready to govern on the basis of a simple decision-making matrix: what is best for our people and the country."
International donors refuse to pay aid directly to the Zimbabwean treasury. As a result, Biti presides over a peppercorn budget of US$4billion, 70 per cent of which he spends on civil servants' salaries.
He said the country's new diamond field, Marange, had brought in only $19m to the treasury since the beginning of the year, whereas he had expected $77m.
Human rights groups have expressed concern that Mugabe's party plans to use the proceeds from diamond mines to fund violence and intimidation in upcoming elections – accusations denied by Zanu PF.
Biti said the country urgently needed to put in place structures – such as a state diamond exploration company – to ensure that "those diamonds sweat for us and not for thieves and middlemen".
Under the deal that followed the disputed elections in 2008, Zimbabwe is expected to move towards fair elections.
But the process of writing a new constitution has become mired in infighting. President Mugabe has suggested he will call elections with or without a new constitution.
This month, Biti said elections probably could not be held this year because the state coffers were too low. Mugabe had reportedly insisted "money has to be found".
Biti also repeated the MDC-T's call for international sanctions to be lifted, and criticised the Obama administration.
He suggested the US should apply the same "constructive engagement" policies – sweeteners rather than sanctions – that were used by the Reagan administration in its dealings with apartheid South Africa.
"When you have a difficult situation you must engage," he said. "Some countries are refusing to engage. Their approach is primitive and amateurish."
RG_M 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
Instead of coming up with clear policy statements Morgay travels 1000s of kilometres to the UK to tells Cameron that 'An 88 year old can not create a vision for the nation' and now we have this fat ugly idiotic mBiti telling a British 'tabloid' that 'President Mugabe will not retire'..... now you cry babies when are you ever going to grow some balls and tell us that you are ready to take on Mugabe head on and fight your own battles instead of running to report to your handlers everytime a microphone and a white person is put in front of you.....Why are you so preoccupied with this 88 year old?
I would have thought mBiti and Morgay will rubbing their hands with glee that they going head-to-head with an 88 year old, definitely a walkover(not)....but from every statement from these puppetic MDC excuses of human beings, they are running scared and they know they are headed for the picket lines come elections this year.
mBiti and Morgay's preoccupation with The Great CDE RG Mugabe is understandable, these two are just fronts for Western Imperialism and their preoccupation is just a mirror image of the Western preoccupation with this true son of Zimbabwe, the Western Fear factor manifesting itself in Ignoramous
The West knows what is really going on....Can you all look at the current reporting from Western media recently.....they are actually not really assaulting Mugabe or Zimbabwe and it is by design
The people who are demonising Zimbabwe are the MDC leadership....mBiti and Morgay in the UK and the economic forum in SA recently.....All out assault on Zimbabwe by these two idiots.
The Independent has actually published a 'positive article' on how Mugabe has won the nation again......and the West has loosened sanctions on Chinamasa and Mumbengegwi ready for dialogue......and MDC are not happy with such developments which means they have become irrelevant in their masters' eyes. MDC have as such gone into overdrive in attacking Zimbabwe and everything Zimbabwean. USA and EU have hurt MDC feelings and MDC will not let their abusers stop abusing and handholding them.....The Stockholm Syndrome
Labels: MDC, ROBERT MUGABE, TENDAI BITI
Chinese diamond miner ups wages to end strike
ANJIN, the biggest miner operating in Zimbabwe's controversial Marange diamond fields, said on Saturday a two-day strike by workers had ended after management agreed to a 25-percent wage hike.
In previous strikes by local employees, Chinese-run Anjin was accused of unfair treatment including beatings by management. Wages were the focus of the latest walkout, Munyaradzi Machacha, a director at Anjin, told Reuters.
"We had a strike where workers wanted their pay to be increased," Machacha said.
"The workers have since gone back to work after they were awarded a 25 percent increase in both wages and salaries."
Keeping diamond mining on track is vital for the government, which owns half of Anjin and relies on the industry for revenue.
Anjin employs 1,500 Zimbabweans and more than 200 Chinese.
The Marange area where it operates, 400 km (240 miles) east of Harare, has generated controversy since 20,000 small-scale miners invaded the area in 2008 and were forcibly removed by soldiers and police.
Rights groups say up to 200 people were killed during the process, charges denied by the Zimbabwean government.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said last August that police and private security employed by some mine owners were shooting, beating and using attack dogs against unlicensed miners.
Anjin has denied any wrongdoing.
The Marange area had been the focus of diamond export controls by the Kimberly Process for suspected human rights violations in mining of the precious stones.
But last year miners including Anjin received export approval after the United States, Canada and the European Union dropped objections, ending two years of dispute.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti warned this month that Zimbabwe's government risked having to shut down because projected revenue from the diamond industry had failed to come through.
Biti is a member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change which is in an uneasy coalition government with 88-year-old President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.
Anjin is a joint venture between the government's Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation and China's state-owned Anhui Foreign and Economic Construction Company.
It plans to mine up to 10 million carats this year
Labels: DIAMONDS, LABOUR, SALARIES
Malema says sorry to those he offended
JOHANNESBURG - Mar 24 2012 09:22
South Africa belongs to all who live in it, suspended ANC Youth League president Julius Malema said after receiving the Newsmaker of the Year 2011 award in Pretoria on Friday evening. "You must never buy the story that we are anti-white and we want whites to be driven into the sea. This is your home, your country and it belongs to all of us," he said.
"I would die in defence of the white minority -- they must enjoy the same rights as Africans. But when we say we must share, it doesn't mean we are fighting -- we are actually protecting you," he said.
Malema praised the role played by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela in upholding democracy, saying she was like the "Charlotte Maxeke and Winnie Mandelas of this country".
"It doesn't matter if she investigates some of us. In the secret meetings when her integrity is attacked we are the first ones to defend her," said Malema.
Importance of the award
"Public Protector, very soon I will be bringing a complaint to your office. The abuse of the state power. It looks like we are back to those years before Polokwane where those in power abused state institutions to further factional politics," said Malema.
He referred to Madonsela as "our mother and a fearless woman our democracy has produced".
Despite having turned down an earlier invitation to receive the award, Malema said he had not understood the importance of receiving the award.
"You cannot be awarded for being a revolutionary. There are no awards in a revolution, it doesn't matter who says what," said Malema.
He said the decision to honour the invite was taken after being advised about the possible death of the youth league.
"I will never change my ideas"
Malema took a swipe at the New Age newspaper for taking sides in "the factional politics of the ANC".
"For sure you know that there are some recently launched newspapers after Polokwane conference, that have taken sides and they are not ashamed. And the New Age that is what it is ...belongs to a faction and promotes individuals and their factional agendas," Malema said.
"The ANC Youth League is not anti-media, we would fight for the protection and independence of the media without fear or favour," he said, sparking a chorus of applause and laughter from delegates.
He insisted that he would never change his stance regarding the "expropriation of land without compensation", saying the ANC should adopt the principle.
"I will never change my ideas, it doesn't matter who says what. This land was robbed, stolen. A black genocide was committed against those who owned the land ... I will never agree with the rewarding of those who stole our land."
The embattled youth leader then shifted into an apologetic mode, saying sorry to those he offended whilst he carried out his "revolutionary mandate".
"I know that there were heated moments between ourselves and journalists. Everything we have said about you, it was nothing personal ...we were all doing our jobs," he said.
"I want to say sorry to all South African that I have offended. I did not do so intentionally. I have apologised to the BBC journalist [John Fisher], and I want to apologise here again".
Labels: ANC, ANC YOUTH LEAGUE, JULIUS MALEMA
Reopening a closed Mbeki chapter
NIKIWE BIKITSHA: HIGH HEELS - Mar 23 2012 14:22
Reverend Frank Chikane raises some important and valid points in his new book detailing the ousting of former president Thabo Mbeki. As readers and thinkers, it is obvious that we will differ about which are the most salient. The mob-frenzy mentality that pervaded the 2008 ANC national executive committee meeting at Esselen Park is clearly a dangerous one, against which the ANC needs to guard. The boorish behaviour of those who called for Mbeki to step down or "ngoku" (be removed immediately), as Chikane writes, is bewildering and troubling.
Secondly, and quite worryingly, is the use and manipulation of the state intelligence agencies for factional battles in the ruling party. State bodies were thought to have been used to pursue cases against those who were considered political enemies, and prominent individuals were spied on.
Espionage is the order of the day in most countries and democracies, as we saw with the WikiLeaks saga, but the extent to which it was used here in the ANC's internecine strife is of concern. Also, who can we trust when our conversations are intercepted for no reason other than to establish who said what to whom, and how that can be used against him or her and not for the furtherance of any greater good?
From the use of the so-called spy tapes that were used to drop charges against President Jacob Zuma, it is clear what a slippery slope this factionalist espionage can become.
Book flies off the shelves
The way in which Chikane's book has flown off the shelves also demonstrates what a lightning rod Mbeki continues to be in public discourse in South Africa. It is clear that he is a ghost that will always haunt us, and those in the ruling party who thought they had buried him in political oblivion must be unnerved by the interest the book has generated.
Chikane does not tackle the controversies around Mbeki's Aids denialism and his perceived mollycoddling of Zimbabwe's obstreperous rulers.
[Give me a break. President Mbeki has been proven right in both cases. The HIV/AIDS rate in South Africa has already been revised downward, and like everywhere in Africa, there is no AIDS epidemic. Unlike what was predicted, there is no decline in the South African population, in fact the population of South Africa is over 50 million, when it was predicted to stagnate at 43.9 million by for instance the US Census Bureau. Even to this day, UNAIDS claims that half of the people who die in South Africa die of AIDS, even though these deaths do not show up in population growth numbers or the Death Notification Forms surveys. DNF surveys routinely attribute between 2.0% and 2.6% of all death to HIV/AIDS diseases.
Then, there is the Zimbabwe issue. President Mugabe is a great man, and will be seen as such by future generations. The landreform program is a huge success and cannot be reversed, and indigenisation is an example to the world. Many are already there. He has taken the lead in dismantling the colonial and neo-colonial economy. - MrK]
I do not know why people are shocked at this or even raise it as a criticism when analysing the book, because Chikane states quite clearly in the preface that he will tackle these two elements in a later book. I suspect those opining have not read Eight Days in September: The Removal of Thabo Mbeki.
What is quite revealing, though, and worth noting, is the sycophantic way in which Chikane views and treats Mbeki in this book. I know they were close comrades and worked together for several years, but in a critique or appraisal of someone's leadership there surely has to be balance -- or, at least, an attempt to weigh critically the pros and cons of an individual. But there is none of that here. Chikane portrays Mbeki as a saint and servant whom we were lucky to have had.
In one instance Chikane likens Mbeki to Jesus Christ, even though he denies doing so. He compares his own feelings to Mbeki's exit to how the disciples must have felt after the crucifixion. He uses a quote from the Bible: "He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people; they crucified him but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem us."
Chikane doesn't allude much to the Bible
From a man of the cloth like Chikane, it is to be expected that he would quote from the good book and make these allegories.
[Matthew 6, verse 5-6: And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.- MrK]
But it is a disturbing reflection and reminder of the cultlike following Mbeki had among his closest associates. The loyalty and commitment of public servants to their president is admirable, but when it is so blind that it venerates an individual as all-seeing and all-knowing, it can be dangerous.
I am grateful to Chikane for his attempt to shed light on those dramatic days, even though he seemed cross and defensive when I attempted to engage him in conversation about his book in an interview this week. No matter. By remembering, he has also allowed us to lift the blinds on a chapter we had closed and that, perhaps, because of its rancourous nature, we had chosen not to dwell on.
Here is my recollection of that fateful day in our history. It rained that weekend in September. The roads leading to the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape are rocky and bumpy, even when it is dry. When it is wet, the ochre-red soil meshes with the small stones and makes the road muddy and near-impassable. About 100 people had to navigate that road on the Friday evening because Saturday was a seminal birthday celebration of someone they loved. The party was being held at a Wild Coast resort and the mood among the partygoers was a giddy and silly one - not even the stressful drive would dampen their effusiveness.
On Saturday, however, the storm clouds had gathered and a dark and foul black cloud had formed, so dark you could not see the ocean a few metres away. It rained relentlessly. The mood among the revellers was even darker. Phones were ringing endlessly and they were swapping glances of incredulity as it emerged that one of the guests who was scheduled to grace the event with his presence would no longer be attending. His party had told him the party was over. They wanted him to step down. Ngoku.
Labels: ANC, FRANK CHIKANE, THABO MBEKI
COMMENT - I guess compliance with the Kimberly Certification Process was just an excuse to starve Zimbabwe from funds from it's own diamond reserves. Because Zimbabwe has now been declared compliant - as if they were ever non-compliant - with this 'industry driven' process. Not only is Zimbabwe under sanctions, but anyone who would not comply with the international credit freeze of Zimbabwe is retaliated against. Like Malawi, when it had it's budget support suspended after extending a loan to the Zimbabwean government, and here, for all to see, India is retaliated against for the very legal act of buying Zimbabwean diamonds. This is the vindictiveness of the US government, Hillary Clinton and her State Department at work for all to see. Behind all this is erstwhile diamond monopolist Anglo-American De Beers, which started this Kimberly Process to begin with.
US puts pressure on India over Marange gems
by Gilbert Nyambabvu
THE US chair of the Kimberly Process (KP) has told Indian diamond dealers to stay away from Zimbabwe’s Marange diamonds claiming the gems are still under sanctions for undermining democracy in the country."I consider Zimbabwe diamonds as products under sanction," Gillian Milovanovic said
during two-day visit to India’s Surat region where 92 percent of the world's diamonds are cut and polished.
Milovanovic took over as KP chair in January, replacing Mathieu Yamba of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), who successfully pushed for the resumption of Marange rough diamond sales despite opposition from the West.
The KP decision was welcomed by India’s US$43 billion diamond industry where Zimbabwe’s gems are in high demand because they are low-priced compared to stones from other producer-countries.
The US backed the KP decision but then unilaterally slapped two of the companies operating in Marange with sanctions, punishing them for going into joint ventures with the state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC).
Indian media reports said local dealers were shocked by the US decision adding most companies were now wary of exposing their links with Marange diamonds.
Industry experts say the sanctions make it virtually impossible to conduct U.S. dollar transfers to Zimbabwe, to legally pay for purchased diamonds, or to secure insurance coverage on diamond shipments, or even to get the courier services to pick up goods that were legally bought with duly signed KP certificates.
Mbada Diamonds, one of the companies added to the US sanctions list, this week warned that the move would likely imperil the livelihoods of some 100,000 people benefiting directly and indirectly from its operations.
"Mbada Diamonds cannot ignore the fact the US, the biggest global consumer of cut and polished diamonds, has selectively sanctioned the biggest mining revenue generating entity in Zimbabwe..." the company said.
Officials said the sanctions were not justified adding the US had imposed the measures "without giving due process, armed only with rumuors and bad intelligence”.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti – who expects diamond revenues to contribute US$600 million to his budget this year – has also said Zimbabwe should be allowed to freely trade its diamonds.
"Zimbabwe is a poor fragile economy and must therefore be allowed to sell and benefit from its resources,” Biti said.
He said although there had been concerns over transparency and accountability regarding the Marange operations these have since been addressed adding the country no longer operated “outside the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme.”
Labels: INDIA, KIMBERLEY PROCESS, MARANGE DIAMOND FIELDS, SANCTIONS
SA caves in to US pressure over Iran oil imports
by Jon Herskovitz I Reuters
SOUTH Africa has suspended almost all oil imports from Iran, its biggest crude supplier, in response to U.S. diplomatic pressure, a senior diplomat said on Thursday, adding Pretoria was unhappy about being strong-armed by Washington.
Iran accounts for about 29 percent of oil imports to Africa's biggest economy, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, making it tough to switch suppliers.
"(To my knowledge), no Iranian oil is flowing into our country," deputy foreign minister Ebrahim Ebrahim told a news conference. "If there is any, it is very little."
The comments raised some eyebrows in the industry after energy minister Dipuo Peters said only last week the country would take until the end of May to formulate a plan for replacing Iranian crude.
Her department was not immediately available for comment.
Avhapfani Tshifularo, executive director at the South African Petroleum Industry Association (SAPIA), said it was hard to believe how Ebrahim's comments could be correct given what the minister and her department said last week.
Earlier on Thursday, cabinet spokesman Jimmy Manyi said Pretoria had not decided what to do about the U.S. request.
"There's no decision made one way or the other, but cabinet is deliberating on Iran," he told a news conference.
South Africa is on a State Department list of 12 countries that buy Iranian oil and could have been subject to U.S. sanctions had it not significantly cut purchases.
Ebrahim said he did not agree with the U.S. move to impose sanctions on countries that purchase Iranian oil. But Pretoria was forced to abide by it due to the economic hit South Africa would take if it did not comply.
"We don't have any choice in the matter," he said. As a sovereign country, South Africa should be able to buy oil from wherever it wants, Ebrahim added.
The biggest buyer of Iranian crude in South Africa is Engen, majority owned by Malaysia's national oil company Petronas . The company could not be reached for comment.
Other refiners in South Africa include petrochemicals group Sasol, BP, Shell, Total and Chevron. BP and Chevron said in February they were not sourcing any Iranian crude.
Sasol confirmed on Thursday it had found alternatives to the Iranian product. The company said in January its oil unit was procuring 12,000 barrels per day, or 20 percent of the crude required by its Natref refinery, from Iran.
Sasol did not identify the new sources.
Some South African refineries are designed to treat Iranian-type crude only, and refiners would have been hard-pressed to replace those supplies with other products.
Any disruption in crude imports could further hit fuel supplies in South Africa, already volatile because of strikes and refinery problems.
Sasol is also in talks to divest its 50 percent stake in Arya Sasol Polymer company, a joint venture with Pars Petrochemical Company of Iran. The venture produces ethylene and polyethylene, which are used in the production of plastics.
Labels: IRAN, OIL, SANCTIONS, SOUTH AFRICA
Zim minister in coup crossfire
Saturday, 24 March 2012 00:00
Sydney Kawadza Assistant News Editor
FOREIGN Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and his two-man delegation have been caught in the political upheaval in Bamako, Mali, following a military coup in the West African country.
The minister and his delegation cannot fly out because the mutineers have closed the airport and sealed borders. Minister Mumbengegwi was attending an African Union Peace and Security meeting on the Sahel region.
The region has been experiencing political and security disturbances, he-nce the meeting.
Zimbabwe is a member of the AU Peace and Security committee.
Countries in that region include Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Secretary for Media, Information and Publicity Mr George Charamba yesterday confirmed the Zimbabwean delegation was stranded, but safe.
“The minister touched base and indicated that they are safe. The delegation cannot travel out of Mali as authorities have sealed the borders and closed the airport.”
Mr Charamba said Minister Mumbengegwi and his delegation, who were expected back home yesterday, will be back next week.
“The situation is expected to become normal in the coming days and we ex-pect Minister Mumbengegwi to arrive back home early next week,” he said.
A Malian junta announced on Thur-sday the closure of the country’s borders, claiming to have seized power from President Amadou Toumani Toure. The coup came just a month before President Toure was due to step down ahead of April elections after serving two presidential terms.
He was not a candidate.
Under his leadership, Mali — which has battled successive Tuareg rebellions since independence and more recently Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb activities — has since been hailed as a growing democracy in the region.
African countries have condemned the coup.
The African Union Commission chief Jean Ping urged “the mutineers immediately to put an end” to the country’s first coup in 21 years.
Labels: SIMBARASHE MUMBENGEGWI
Chinese delegation leader hails President
Saturday, 24 March 2012 00:00
Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter
HEAD of a visiting Chinese delegation and Chinese Communist Party Politburo member Cde Lui Qui yesterday commended President Mugabe for his influential role in the establishment of cordial relations between China and Zimbabwe and the rest of Africa.
Cde Lui said this when he paid a courtesy call on the President at State House and pledged China’s continued support to Zimbabwe in all facets of life. “You (President Mugabe) are a friend of the Chinese people and one of the initiators of the liberation for Africa.
“You laid the foundation of friendship for China and Africa and China and Zimbabwe,” he said.
Cde Lui said his delegation’s visit was to further strengthen relations between the two countries and between Zanu-PF and the CPC.
“The Chinese government will be a supporter for Zimbabwe under any circumstances.
“Our parties are important players in both our countries’ political environment,” he said.
President Mugabe lauded the Chinese for supporting Zimbabwe during the liberation struggle.
He thanked the Chinese for providing Zimbabwe material and moral support before and after independence.
“As you are aware we are friends of China, we have been friends for a long time and this dates back to the days of the liberation struggle. We managed to get support from the Chinese during the struggle and we viewed China as a partner in fighting colonialism,” he said.
President Mugabe said Zimbabwe regards China as a great friend.
Zanu-PF national chairman Cde Simon Khaya Moyo said the visit by the Chinese delegation was important for relations between Zanu-PF and CPC.
“This visit is very significant indeed in terms of our two parties. The CPC and Zanu-PF are fraternal friends and we are looking to consolidating it through various ways,” he said.
Cde Khaya Moyo said this included visits by Zanu-PF officials, especially youth leaders, to China for training in leadership.
“What is important is that we must have a party with vision and leaders who know the destiny of the revolution,” he said.
China has supported Zimbabwe, especially in face of illegal sanctions by Western countries and has engaged in various developmental projects.
These include construction of schools, hospitals and the National Defence College that is under construction. The Chinese government has also provided food aid to needy communities.
Labels: CHINA, ROBERT MUGABE, ZIMBABWE
COMMENT - Other than the very uncool accompanying photograph, SC637 is one of Seed Co's high yield varieties
"In the 600 series, the new SC637 is a high yielder and can be grown in natural region II B, with a potential output of 12t/ha plus good tip cover producing a very white meal and good disease resistance. "
I am not in favour of these potentially genetically modified super yielding seeds. The best way to increase productivity, is to increase the land that is under permanent irrigation. Which doesn't only allow for only bigger yields, but multiple harvests from the same land, and secures a yield in times of drought. Drought is the biggest obstacle to food security in Zimbabwe, whether it was the 2000s or the 1990s.
Work on increasing yields, farmers told
Friday, 23 March 2012 00:00
Farmers should concentrate on increasing yields per unit area if Zimbabwe is to attain food security and retain its breadbasket status, Masho-naland West Governor and Resident Minister Faber Chidarikire said yesterday.
Officiating at a Seed Co field day at Kadoma Research Station, Governor Chidarikire said he was concerned that productivity on farms was dwindling. He said local seed houses were coming up with high yield varieties but productivity continued on a downward trend.
“For instance we have heard that the SC637, which is grown in some parts of this province and elsewhere has yielded 17,5 tonnes per hectare at ART Farm.
However, despite the potential yield inherent in these varieties, the majority of our farmers continue to produce less than a tonne per hectare.
“It is mandatory that we push our average yields to over two tonnes per hectare so that we deliver 3,4 million tonnes of maize into our granaries,” he said.
Governor Chidarikire urged farmers to continue learning new skills and boost productivity.
“I challenge farmers to put the seed technology being produced here to good use by ensuring that we produce to the maximum potential to make farming much more exciting and ensure food security, sustainability and improved cash income.”
Seed Co managing director, Mr Denias Zaranyika, said field days were important to both Seed Co and farmers because they offered a platform to share experiences.
He said this kind of interaction improved farming operations as well as giving pointers to Seed Co researchers and breeders.
Mr Zaranyika said Seed Co’s team of researchers was in the process of breeding an ultra-early maize hybrid than the currently available early maturing hybrids.
The field day was attended by farmers from Masvingo, Mashonaland West, students from agricultural colleges and Agritex officers.
Labels: AGRICULTURE, GMOS, SEEDCO
Nigeria’s finance minister eyes top WB post
Saturday, 24 March 2012 00:00
PRETORIA — Nigeria’s finance minister will run for the World Bank top job
, her South African counterpart announced yesterday, the deadline for nominations to succeed Robert Zoellick. The announcement highlights a landmark push from emerging countries for high-profile roles in those international institutions which have remained the preserve of advanced nations.
“We are proud to confirm that the Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will be a candidate,” Pravin Gordhan told reporters at a press conference, standing alongside her.
Okonjo-Iweala had been rumoured as a possible candidate with emerging economies pushing for a representative at the bank.
The World Bank has 187 member nations and focuses its activities on development loans.
The top job has been held by an American since it was founded nearly 70 years ago.
Days after her spokesman denied she was pursuing the job, Okonjo-Iweala said she was “absolutely” confident of her bid.
“I have long experience in the World Bank, in government and in diplomacy and I look forward to giving you my vision at the appropriate time,” she said.
Okonjo-Iweala is a respected former World Bank managing director who joined Nigeria’s government as finance minister in August.
“I share the World Bank vision of fighting poverty with passion. The issue is in what direction one must take this to make this the most beneficial,” she said.
Nominations were due yesterday with Zoellick stepping down at the end of his term in June, with the United States yet to announce a candidate of its own.
Under a tacit agreement since the World Bank and its sister institution the International Monetary Fund were founded nearly 70 years ago, the United States always selects an American as World Bank president and Europe puts a European at the IMF helm.
That traditional arrangement governing the two 187-nation institutions has triggered outrage from developing and emerging economies seeking greater representation to reflect their rising contributions to the global economy.
The race to lead the World Bank was set in motion after Zoellick announced on February 15 he was stepping down at the end of his term.
The US Treasury that same day declared “the United States continues its leadership role in the World Bank,” as the largest shareholder, and would announce its candidate “in the coming weeks.”
Since then, the Treasury has declined to comment on the nomination process.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shot to the top of the rumour mill, after a former Colombian finance minister and central bank chief, Jose Antonio Ocampo, announced his candidacy on Wednesday.
Clinton has long been among the most circulated names rumoured to be under consideration by President Barack Obama, along with UN ambassador Susan Rice, Democratic Senator John Kerry and former Treasury secretary Larry Summers.
Clinton has insisted that she is not interested in the job.
Another American, economist Jeffrey Sachs, has garnered support for his self-declared candidacy in small developing countries.
Sachs, the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, has a decades-long career in development and poverty eradication and headed the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals project.
A candidate must be presented by the Bank’s 25 executive directors, or by governors through the director representing them on the executive board.
The World Bank said that if there are more than three candidates, it will release a short list of three candidates but did not indicate the timing of the publication.
Labels: NEOLIBERALISM, NIGERIA, ROBERT ZOELLICK, World Bank
Beyond “Kony 2012”. What is Happening in Uganda? America's "Invisible" Military Agenda
by Daniele Scalea
Global Research, March 21, 2012
Kony 2012 is the title of a campaign launched by the organization Invisible Children Inc., focused for now on the half hour video of the same name, which has had a viral diffusion on the internet reaching in a few days almost one hundred million views (it was published only on the 5th March). The campaign aims at supporting the arrest of Joseph Kony, an Ugandan guerrilla leader accused of “crimes against humanity” by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
The campaign’s stated purpose is to encourage international efforts to arrest Kony, by making his case as widely known as possible. Nothing original here, but it’s interesting that Invisible Children Inc. is trying to rally volunteers on the one hand to lobby dozens of famous people (politicians and show business personalities) to convince them to be spokespeople for the campaign, and on the other hand to buy a kit complete with posters, bracelets and other propaganda material.
In that sense something leaps immediately out. Kony’s story is told hastily and in a trenchant way as that of a brutal man without ideals and supporters, who kidnaps children to make them fight at his service.
The reason why many people (who presumably would not have even been able to find Uganda on the map before having watched the video) should rally around the campaign occupies only a relatively short part of the video.
A large part of it, on the contrary, is dedicated to extolling the potential of the internet and grassroots mobilization and to showing young photogenic activists spreading the cause and its gadgets, decorated with logos and symbols graphically very well crafted.
The messages and images recall the happenings of the “Arabic Spring” and its interpretation – in my opinion strained as I’ve argued elsewhere – as the revolt of “Facebook and Twitter users”. And that of the so called “coloured revolts” orchestrated in different countries (Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine) during the last years by the widespread and professional network of US “NGOs”.
Another noteworthy element is that in Kony 2012 the sending of US troops by Obama to Uganda is supported. Indeed the continuation of military support to the Ugandan armed forces is the main goal of the whole campaign: a decision by Congress to disengage from the African country must be prevented. President Obama’s choice is portrayed as the result of grassroots pressure exerted by Invisible Children Inc. during the past years, and as a military mission decided upon “simply because it is the right thing to do”. This interpretation is simplistic just like the superficial and Manichean description of Ugandan situation. Before giving reason for these opinions, a digression on the inventors of Kony 2012 campaign must be made.
Invisible Children Inc. was founded in 2004 with the specific purpose of opposing Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army activity. Its founders, Jason Russel, Bobby Bailey and Laren Poole, university students at that time, had been affected by what they had seen in Uganda during a journey in 2003. Today Invisible Children Inc. collects almost 14 million dollars a year, with a net profit of almost 5 millions. In 2011, 16.24% of expenditure went on “Management & General”. On the 30th June 2011 the organization declared assets amounting to a little less than 7 million dollars. Jason Russel, director and narrative voice of Kony 2012, receive a salary of 1% of all organization spending, that is 89,669 dollars a year. Similar wages are received also by the co-founder Laren Poole and the executive director Ben Kessey. But these numbers are meant to be outclassed this year. According to what Jason Russel has just declared, Invisible Children Inc. should have already sold 500,000 kits, each one costing $30, in only a week for a total income of 15 million dollars.
The organization, as it also boasts in the video, was one of the supporters of the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act
[Sponsored by Russ Feingold, who also co-sponsored ZDERA and sponsored ZTDERA - MrK]
signed by president Barack Obama in May 2010, with which one hundred US military advisers were sent to the African country to support the national army against LRA rebels. Nevertheless, the White House decision, as it’s easy to imagine and in contrast to what seems to be suggested in Kony 2012, was not solely or even principally dictated by humanitarian reasons. But to understand this a digression on the Ugandan situation must be made.
Like many African countries, whose borders were arbitrarily drawn by colonial European states, Uganda is strewn with ethnic conflicts. The most important is that between the Baganda (or Ganda), the inhabitants of the south and east of the country, and the Acholi who live in the north and also beyond the Ugandan border into southern Sudan. Uganda’s history after independence (1962) has been marked by coups d’état and civil wars often fought along ethnic fault lines. The first president of independent Uganda, Edward Mutesa, was also Mutesa II the Buganda’s king, even though the main powers were held by government chief Milton Obote (belonging to Lango ethnic group, similar to Acholi). In 1966 Obote became president with a coup d’état in response to the parliament’s attempt to incriminate him, but in 1979 he, in turn, was overthrown and replaced by his ex-ally, the army commander Idi Amin. In 1978 a war broke out with Tanzania and in 1979, supported with foreign arms, the exiles (mainly Lango and Acholi) succeeded in bringing Obote back to office. Obote’s comeback was legitimized by a popular vote, considered lacking in transparency by his opponents however. Yoweri Museveni from the southern Bantu region founded the National Resistance Army (NRA). In fact the conflict was between the NRA, supported by the Buganda, and the government’s National Liberation Army (UNLA) of Lango and Acholi. In 1985 Obote was overthrown by a new military coup d’état organized by the Acholi, but in January 1986, despite the intervention of Mubutu’s Zaire, the NRA won the war and Museveni became president. He still holds power in a regime where all political parties are banned, and so he has given a certain stability to the troubled country.
Nevertheless, Museveni’s long presidency was not all a bed of roses. His neoliberal agenda has inflicted heavy social costs in exchange for economic growth, which in addition has been concentrated mainly in the Bantu regions where its support is rooted, while the Nilotic north has been neglected.
Museveni has shown a certain aggressiveness towards neighbouring countries,
[Translation: he invades neighboring states in compliances with the wishes of the United States and the United Kingdom. He is their proxy. That is why there are Ugandan mercenaries fighting in Iraq, why there are Ugandans in the Eastern DRC, etc. - MrK]
culminating in Ugandan intervention in the Somali civil war; an intervention strongly wanted by the United States and that could make one think that the military aid ordered by Obama is granted more to help a military ally which in Somalia has already lost hundreds of soldiers, rather than for humanitarian reasons.
Since its installation, Musenevi’s government has faced a series of ethnic insurrections and resistance movements. In fact the northern region of the country has been subjected to military occupation by the NRA, noted (also by Amnesty International) for its commission of war crimes. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) of Joseph Kony, an Acholi Christian soldier, emerged in this atmosphere. The fight between LRA and NRA has been a no holds barred contest: government soldiers have been accused more or less of the same vileness blamed on the LRA, including the exploitation of children, the Kony 2012 Leitmotif. But in 2005 the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants only for LRA leaders. It is worthwhile remembering that the ICC was established in 2002 and at the moment is recognized by 120 countries. Among those states which do not recognize its authority on themselves are the United States, China, India and Russia.
Uganda’s domestic struggle soon captured the non-disinterested attention of other countries. The LRA has been supported by Sudan, which wanted revenge for Musaveni’s support to the nationalists of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). Thanks to the SPLA South Sudan has recently gained its independence but great tension with Khartoum remains. In the meantime the LRA has been strongly cut down, and moreover it moved towards South Sudan. The Ugandan government, on the contrary, as already said, has the support of the United States (while Sudan has been and still is close to China). Even before the already mentioned order from Obama, the United States had sent soldiers and weapons to support Musenevi in AFRICOM operations, NATO’s Africa command instituted a few years ago as a reaction to the political and trading penetration of China in Africa. In 2008-2009 the United States supported the so called Garamba Offensive in Congo, made by Ugandan and Congolese government armies and the Sudanese SPLA against Kony’s LRA. The LRA seems, in fact, to have almost disappeared from Uganda. In recent years it showed signs of activity only in neighbouring countries.
Kony 2012 has also been criticised. Ugandan journalist Rosebell Kagumire has noticed the great simplification of events made in the video. This is what a source of undoubted prestige like Foreign Affairs, journal of the Council of Foreign Relations, unanimously considered the most influential think tank in the United States, has written about organizations like Invisible Children Inc. which supported the US participation in the Ugandan conflict: “In their campaigns these organizations have manipulated facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the extent of kidnappings and murders made by the LRA, emphasizing the use of innocent children as soldiers and portraying Kony – without any doubt a brutal man – as the unique personification of evil forces, a sort of Kurtz [main character of Heart of Darkness by Conrad].
They have rarely made reference to the atrocities perpetrated by the Ugandan government or the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (including attacks against civilians and plundering of homes and businesses) or the complex regional politics behind the conflict”. Michael Deibert, a famous journalist who studied in depth the Ugandan situation writing a book about it, has commented critically on the Kony 2012 campaign. Far from defending the LRA leader, Deibert has nevertheless noticed that “the Ugandan government now in office got to power using also kadogos (soldier children) and by fighting together with armies which use soldier children in the Democratic Republic of Congo; all these things seem to be deliberately ignored by Invisible Children”. The argument of a lack of impartiality from the organization seems to be confirmed also by a photo showing the three founders posing with weapons in a hostile stance, together with South Sudan rebels. Glenna Gordon, who took the photo, has declared that she thinks the three are “colonialists” and are proud of it.
Doubt about the good faith of promoters, activists and Invisible Children’s supporters is not to be raised. But reality is far more complex than how it is described in the half hour video Kony 2012.
Kony, who in the video (and on propaganda posters) is expressly portrayed as a new Hitler and a new Bin Laden, is without any doubt a censurable figure but he is the product of the struggle of a people, the Acholi, who feel oppressed by president Musenevi, who surely has not distinguished himself by his liberalism, respect for popular sovereignty or human rights.
The good faith presumption does not save Kony 2012 from criticism when it expressly supports US military intervention in Uganda. An intervention that only out of a certain ignorance of events in Africa and with great naivety could be considered motivated only by the desire “to do the right thing”, as is stated in the documentary.
The United States has intervened in Uganda within the framework of increased militarization in its relationship with the continent, made necessary by the political and trading penetration of China in Africa. The sending of military advisers to Museveni, possibly a prelude to military escalation (maybe what the Kony 2012 viral campaign wants to achieve?), is to be taken in conjunction with drone bombardments in Somalia, intervention in Libya to overthrow Gaddafi, French intervention in Ivory Coast to depose Gbagbo. Julien Teil’s documentary The Humanitarian War has shown the role, not too clear, of NGOs in preparing the ground for NATO intervention in Libya.
Invisible Children emphasizes the need to send US troops to Uganda at a time when the LRA seems weakened and, according to many people, Kony hasn’t been in the country for years. At this point it does not seem rash to include also Kony 2012 in the arsenal of US soft power that should support the spread – not necessarily in a peaceful way – of Washington’s influence in Africa.
Daniele Scalea is co-editor-in-chief of the Italian Geopolitica review and scientific secretary of the Institute of Advanced Studies in Geopolitics and Auxiliary Sciences (IsAG) in Rome. He is author of two books: La sfida totale. Equilibri e strategie nel grande gioco delle potenze mondiali [“The Total Challenge: Balances and Strategies in the Great Game among World Powers”] (2010) and Capire le rivolte arabe. Alle origini del fenomeno rivoluzionario [“Understanding Arab Revolts. Origins of Revolutionary Phenomenon”] (2011). He is currently finishing a book on the life, works and thought of Halford John Mackinder
Global Research Articles by Daniele Scalea
Labels: AFRICOM, COLOUR REVOLUTIONS, ICC, NEOLIBERALISM, UGANDA, YOWERI MUSEVENI
Australian Mining Magnate Accuses CIA of Funding Environment Groups
by Patrick O’Connor
Global Research, March 23, 2012
Australia’s fifth wealthiest individual, mining magnate Clive Palmer, called a press conference Tuesday to rail against an alleged CIA plot to sabotage the national economy by financing anti-coal protest groups and the Greens. The rather strange episode served to highlight an important political development—the emergence of an outspoken wing of the corporate elite, hostile to the Labor government’s support for Washington’s provocative moves against Beijing in the Asia-Pacific region.
Palmer owns Waratah Coal and Queensland Nickel and has an estimated personal wealth of more than $5 billion. He has long been actively involved in right-wing politics, and is among the largest financial donors to the Liberal National Party in Queensland and the federal Liberal Party. On Tuesday he presented a leaked internal document produced by Greenpeace and other organisations, “Stopping the Australian Coal Export Boom,” which outlined various strategies to disrupt coal mining projects. Part of the document explained that the proposals were “based on extensive research into the Australian coal industry, made possible by the generous support of the Rockefeller Family Fund.”
“This is funded by the CIA,” Palmer declared. “You only have to go back and read the Church Report in the 1970s and to read the reports to US Congress that set up the Rockefeller Foundation as a conduit of CIA funding. You only have to look at the secret budget which was passed by Congress last year, bigger than our whole national economy.”
He alleged that the Greens were “a tool of the US government and Rockefeller.” Palmer continued: “We don’t want domination by a foreign power. I’m first an Australian, I’m not an American... We care about this country. It’s under attack by foreign interests. I think they want to promote their commodities at the expense of ours.”
Palmer’s accusations appear to draw on the “new world order” nationalist conspiracy theories promoted by the extreme right. The political and media establishment were quick, however, to pour scorn on any suggestion that American intelligence operatives play an active role in Australian politics. US political involvement, however, is in fact extensively documented, from the CIA’s funding for the right-wing Quadrant journal and promotion of the anti-communist Labor Party “groupers” in the 1950s and’60s, to the removal of the Whitlam Labor government in 1975, and the US embassy’s role in the removal of Kevin Rudd as prime minister through its “protected sources” in the Labor Party and trade union bureaucracy.
This question nevertheless remains a taboo topic in official politics. For all the coverage about the allegations against the Greens, no section of the media followed up Palmer’s remarks on the 1975 coup. “You go back to the Whitlam dismissal,” Palmer declared. “That’s been documented, you go back and have a look at that. That was certainly [behind] the dismissal. I can tell you that because I was aware of it at the time.”
Behind Palmer’s anti-American rhetoric lie definite concerns about the impact of rising US tensions with China on his business enterprises.
The Australian ruling elite confronts the irresolvable problem of how to align itself between its most important trading partner, China, and its long-standing military and diplomatic patron, the US. The dominant sections of the bourgeoisie are adamant that the alliance with Washington must be upheld, even as the Obama administration ramps up its aggressive operations in Asia aimed at countering China’s growing influence. Rudd attempted to position Australia as a “middle power” mediator between the rival powers, but was opposed by Washington. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has since wholly aligned Australia with Obama’s foreign policy orientation.
Gillard’s stance, however, cuts directly across the business interests of Palmer, whose entire empire depends on and has developed in close collaboration with China. He first visited China as a young boy with his businessman father in 1962, and, by his own account, then made more than 50 visits in the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s and afterward.
Among Palmer’s major projects is the China First Coal Project in Queensland, expected to be Australia’s largest coal mine when production begins in 2014–2015. More than a billion dollars in capital investment derives from the Chinese state-owned Eximbank. The state-owned Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) is responsible for the project’s engineering, procurement and construction. Much of the exported coal will be purchased over the next 20 years by China Power International Holding, which operates several coal-fired power plants in China.
Palmer has repeatedly castigated the Rudd and Gillard governments for antagonising the Chinese government. In 2009 and 2010 he accused the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) of racism. “If you’re an American and you’ve killed your wife, gone to the Ku Klux Klan every week, been arrested for drugs and just got out of prison you can come over here and invest $953 million without any approval at all,” he told the Australian Financial Review. “But if you’re a poor Chinese farmer from Guangzhou, you’ve got to go through all the rubbish of the FIRB and they’ll probably knock you back.”
In November last year, the mining magnate denounced Gillard’s announcement that thousands of US Marines would be stationed in northern Australia. The Australian Financial Review reported that Palmer and other mining executives had “snubbed” an official dinner with President Obama. “Why do you think the likes of the head of BHP and myself didn’t go to the dinner?” Palmer explained. “It’s because we aren’t that stupid. We have real interests [in China] and know how the Chinese act.”
Hugh White, a prominent foreign policy analyst and critic of Gillard’s orientation with the US against China, had previously urged Palmer and his mining industry colleagues to politically intervene. In an article published last October, he explained: “On current trends, escalating strategic competition between the US and China is the most likely trajectory for Asia’s future... Some people will be shocked at the suggestion that our corporate leaders should start talking about how Australia navigates the geopolitical shoals ahead, but in this case corporate interests and public interests coincide. We have a vital stake in our government managing Australia’s future in Asia more seriously, to help stop the escalating strategic rivalry already taking hold between the US and China. Perhaps if the big miners say it, our politicians will start to listen.”
Remarkably, in all the media coverage of Palmer’s latest remarks, none of these issues was mentioned, such is their acute sensitivity. Nevertheless, it is clear that enormous financial interests underlie the deep divisions within the Australian ruling elite on the US-China conflict. The Obama administration’s aggressive diplomatic/military stance against the Asian power will only further exacerbate the political crisis in Canberra in the next period.
Global Research Articles by Patrick O’Connor
Labels: CIA, MINING
US WAR ON IRAN: "THE WORST MISTAKE IN AMERICAN HISTORY":
The Road to Disaster
by Fidel Castro Ruz
Global Research, March 23, 2012
Cuba Debate - 2012-03-21
Fidel Castro ‘s latest reflections hints to the danger of a looming US Iran war. Fidel Castro warns that a war with Iran war would be the worst mistake in US history.
This Reflection could be written today, tomorrow or any other day without the risk of being mistaken. Our species faces new problems. When 20 years ago I stated at the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro that a species was in danger of extinction, I had fewer reasons than today for warning about a danger that I was seeing perhaps 100 years away. At that time, a handful of leaders of the most powerful countries were in charge of the world. They applauded my words as a matter of mere courtesy and placidly continued to dig for the burial of our species.
It seemed that on our planet, common sense and order reigned. For a while, economic development, backed by technology and science appeared to be the Alpha and Omega of human society.
Today, everything is much clearer. Profound truths have been surfacing. Almost 200 States, supposedly independent, constitute the political organization which in theory has the job of governing the destiny of the world. 25, 000 nuclear weapons needed to defend the changing order?
Approximately 25,000 nuclear weapons in the hands of allied or enemy forces ready to defend the changing World order, by interest or necessity, virtually reduce to zero the rights of billions of people.
I shall not commit the naïveté of assigning the blame to Russia or China for the development of that kind of weaponry, after the monstrous massacre at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ordered by Truman in August 1945 after Roosevelt’s death [April 1945].
Nor shall I fall prey to the error of denying the Holocaust that signified the deaths of millions of children and adults, men or women, mainly Jews, gypsies, Russians or other nationalities, who were victims of Nazism. For that reason the odious policy of those who deny the Palestinian people their right to exist is repugnant.
Does anyone by chance think that the United States will be capable of acting with the independence that will keep it from the inevitable disaster awaiting it?
In a few weeks, the 40 million dollars President Obama promised to collect for his electoral campaign will only serve to show that the currency of his country has lost its value, and that the US, with its unusual growing public debt drawing close to 20 quadrillion, is living on the money it prints up and not on the money it produces. The rest of the world pays for what they waste.
Nor does anyone believe that the Democratic candidate would be any better or worse than his Republican foes: whether they are called Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum. Light years separate these three characters from Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King.
It is really unheard-of to observe such a technologically powerful nation and a government so bereft of both ideas and moral values.
Iran has no nuclear weapons. It is being accused of producing enriched uranium that serves as fuel energy or components for medical uses. Whatever one can say, its possession or production is not equivalent to the production of nuclear weapons. Dozens of countries use enriched uranium as an energy source, but this cannot be used in the manufacture of a nuclear weapon without a prior complicated purification process.
However, Israel, with the aid and cooperation of the United States, has manufactured nuclear weaponry without informing or accounting for their actions to anybody. Not admitting their possession of these weapons, they have hundreds of them. To prevent the development of research in neighbouring Arab countries, they attacked and destroyed reactors in Iraq and Syria. They have also declared their objective of attacking and destroying the production centres for nuclear fuel in Iran.
International politics have been revolving around that crucial topic in that complex and dangerous part of the world, where most of the fuel that moves the world economy is produced and supplied.
The selective elimination of Iran’s most eminent scientists by Israel and their NATO allies has become a practice that motivates hatred and feelings of revenge.
The Israeli government has openly stated its objective to attack the plant manufacturing Iran’s enriched uranium, and the government of the United States has invested billions of dollars to manufacture a bomb for that purpose.
On March 16, 2012, Michel Chossudovsky and Finian Cunningham published an article revealing that “A top US Air Force General has described the largest conventional bomb – the re-invented bunkers of 13.6 tons – as ‘fantastic’ for a military attack on Iran.
“Such an eloquent comment on the massive killer-artefact took place in the same week that President Barack Obama appeared to warn against ‘easy words’ on the Persian Gulf War.”
“…Herbert Carlisle, deputy chief of staff for US Air Force operations […] added that probably the bomb would be used in any attack on Iran ordered by Washington.
“The MOP, also referred to as ‘The Mother of All Bombs’, is designed to drill through 60 metres of concrete before it detonates its massive bomb. It is believed to be the largest conventional weapon, non-nuclear, in the US arsenal.”
“The Pentagon is planning a process of wide destruction of Iran’s infrastructure and massive civilian victims through the combined use of tactical nuclear bombs and monstrous conventional bombs with mushroom-shaped clouds, including the MOABs and the larger GBU-57A/B or Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) that exceeds the MOAB in destructive capacity.
“The MOP is described as ‘a powerful new bomb that aims straight at subterranean Iranian and North Korean nuclear facilities. The giant bomb –longer than 11 persons shoulder to shoulder, or more than 6 metres from end to end’.”
The Mother of all Bombs (MOAB)
I ask the reader to excuse me for this complicated military jargon.
As one can see, such calculations arise from the hypothesis that the Iranian combatants, numbering millions of men and women well-known for their religious zeal and their fighting traditions, surrender without firing a shot.
In recent days, the Iranians have seen how US soldiers occupying Afghanistan, in just three weeks, urinated on the corpses of killed Afghans, burned copies of the Koran and murdered more than 15 defenceless citizens.
Let us imagine US forces launching monstrous bombs on industrial institutions, capable of penetrating through 60 metres of concrete. Never has such an undertaking ever been conceived [and carried out].
Not one word more is needed to understand the gravity of such a policy. In that way, our species will be inexorably led towards disaster.
If we do not learn how to understand, we shall never learn how to survive.
As for me, I harbour not the slightest doubt that the United States is about to commit and lead the world towards the greatest mistake in its history.
Fidel Castro Ruz
March 21, 2012
Labels: FIDEL CASTRO, IRAN, NEOCONSERVATISM, WAR CRIMES
Capitalism: A Ghost Story
by Arundhati Roy
Global Research, March 22, 2012
Outlook India - 2012-03-21 Rockefeller to Mandela, Vedanta to Anna Hazare.... How long can the cardinals of corporate gospel buy up our protests?
The corporate or Foundation-endowed NGOs are global finance’s way of buying into resistance movements, literally like shareholders buy shares in companies, and then try to control them from within. They sit like nodes on the central nervous system, the pathways along which global finance flows.
Is it a house or a home? A temple to the new India, or a warehouse for its ghosts? Ever since Antilla arrived on Altamont Road in Mumbai, exuding mystery and quiet menace, things have not been the same. “Here we are,” the friend who took me there said, “Pay your respects to our new Ruler.”
Antilla belongs to India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani. I had read about this most expensive dwelling ever built, the twenty-seven floors, three helipads, nine lifts, hanging gardens, ballrooms, weather rooms, gymnasiums, six floors of parking, and the six hundred servants. Nothing had prepared me for the vertical lawn—a soaring, 27-storey-high wall of grass attached to a vast metal grid. The grass was dry in patches; bits had fallen off in neat rectangles. Clearly, Trickledown hadn’t worked.
But Gush-Up certainly has. That’s why in a nation of 1.2 billion, India’s 100 richest people own assets equivalent to one-fourth of the GDP.
The word on the street (and in the New York Times) is, or at least was, that after all that effort and gardening, the Ambanis don’t live in Antilla. No one knows for sure. People still whisper about ghosts and bad luck, Vaastu and Feng Shui. Maybe it’s all Karl Marx’s fault. (All that cussing.) Capitalism, he said, “has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, that it is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells”.
In India, the 300 million of us who belong to the new, post-IMF “reforms” middle class—the market—live side by side with spirits of the nether world, the poltergeists of dead rivers, dry wells, bald mountains and denuded forests; the ghosts of 250,000 debt-ridden farmers who have killed themselves, and of the 800 million who have been impoverished and dispossessed to make way for us. And who survive on less than twenty rupees a day.
Mukesh Ambani is personally worth $20 billion. He holds a majority controlling share in Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), a company with a market capitalisation of $47 billion and global business interests that include petrochemicals, oil, natural gas, polyester fibre, Special Economic Zones, fresh food retail, high schools, life sciences research and stem cell storage services. RIL recently bought 95 per cent shares in Infotel, a TV consortium that controls 27 TV news and entertainment channels, including CNN-IBN, IBN Live, CNBC, IBN Lokmat, and ETV in almost every regional language. Infotel owns the only nationwide licence for 4G Broadband, a high-speed “information pipeline” which, if the technology works, could be the future of information exchange. Mr Ambani also owns a cricket team.
RIL is one of a handful of corporations that run India. Some of the others are the Tatas, Jindals, Vedanta, Mittals, Infosys, Essar and the other Reliance (ADAG), owned by Mukesh’s brother Anil. Their race for growth has spilled across Europe, Central Asia, Africa and Latin America. Their nets are cast wide; they are visible and invisible, over-ground as well as underground. The Tatas, for example, run more than 100 companies in 80 countries. They are one of India’s oldest and largest private sector power companies. They own mines, gas fields, steel plants, telephone, cable TV and broadband networks, and run whole townships. They manufacture cars and trucks, own the Taj Hotel chain, Jaguar, Land Rover, Daewoo, Tetley Tea, a publishing company, a chain of bookstores, a major brand of iodised salt and the cosmetics giant Lakme. Their advertising tagline could easily be: You Can’t Live Without Us.
According to the rules of the Gush-Up Gospel, the more you have, the more you can have.
The era of the Privatisation of Everything has made the Indian economy one of the fastest growing in the world. However, like any good old-fashioned colony, one of its main exports is its minerals. India’s new mega-corporations—Tatas, Jindals, Essar, Reliance, Sterlite—are those who have managed to muscle their way to the head of the spigot that is spewing money extracted from deep inside the earth. It’s a dream come true for businessmen—to be able to sell what they don’t have to buy.
The other major source of corporate wealth comes from their land-banks. All over the world, weak, corrupt local governments have helped Wall Street brokers, agro-business corporations and Chinese billionaires to amass huge tracts of land. (Of course, this entails commandeering water too.)
In India, the land of millions of people is being acquired and made over to private corporations for “public interest”—for Special Economic Zones, infrastructure projects, dams, highways, car manufacture, chemical hubs and Formula One racing. (The sanctity of private property never applies to the poor.) As always, local people are promised that their displacement from their land and the expropriation of everything they ever had is actually part of employment generation. But by now we know that the connection between GDP growth and jobs is a myth. After 20 years of “growth”, 60 per cent of India’s workforce is self-employed, 90 per cent of India’s labour force works in the unorganised sector.
Post-Independence, right up to the ’80s, people’s movements, ranging from the Naxalites to Jayaprakash Narayan’s Sampoorna Kranti, were fighting for land reforms, for the redistribution of land from feudal landlords to landless peasants. Today any talk of redistribution of land or wealth would be considered not just undemocratic, but lunatic. Even the most militant movements have been reduced to a fight to hold on to what little land people still have. The millions of landless people, the majority of them Dalits and adivasis, driven from their villages, living in slums and shanty colonies in small towns and mega cities, do not figure even in the radical discourse.
As Gush-Up concentrates wealth on to the tip of a shining pin on which our billionaires pirouette, tidal waves of money crash through the institutions of democracy—the courts, Parliament as well as the media, seriously compromising their ability to function in the ways they are meant to. The noisier the carnival around elections, the less sure we are that democracy really exists.
Each new corruption scandal that surfaces in India makes the last one look tame. In the summer of 2011, the 2G spectrum scandal broke. We learnt that corporations had siphoned away $40 billion of public money by installing a friendly soul as the Union minister of telecommunication who grossly underpriced the licences for 2G telecom spectrum and illegally parcelled it out to his buddies. The taped telephone conversations leaked to the press showed how a network of industrialists and their front companies, ministers, senior journalists and a TV anchor were involved in facilitating this daylight robbery. The tapes were just an MRI that confirmed a diagnosis that people had made long ago.
The privatisation and illegal sale of telecom spectrum does not involve war, displacement and ecological devastation. The privatisation of India’s mountains, rivers and forests does. Perhaps because it does not have the uncomplicated clarity of a straightforward, out-and-out accounting scandal, or perhaps because it is all being done in the name of India’s “progress”, it does not have the same resonance with the middle classes.
In 2005, the state governments of Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand signed hundreds of Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with a number of private corporations turning over trillions of dollars of bauxite, iron ore and other minerals for a pittance, defying even the warped logic of the free market. (Royalties to the government ranged between 0.5 per cent and 7 per cent.)
Only days after the Chhattisgarh government signed an MoU for the construction of an integrated steel plant in Bastar with Tata Steel, the Salwa Judum, a vigilante militia, was inaugurated. The government said it was a spontaneous uprising of local people who were fed up of the “repression” by Maoist guerrillas in the forest. It turned out to be a ground-clearing operation, funded and armed by the government and subsidised by mining corporations. In the other states, similar militias were created, with other names. The prime minister announced the Maoists were the “single-largest security challenge in India”. It was a declaration of war.
On January 2, 2006, in Kalinganagar, in the neighbouring state of Orissa, perhaps to signal the seriousness of the government’s intention, ten platoons of police arrived at the site of another Tata Steel plant and opened fire on villagers who had gathered there to protest what they felt was inadequate compensation for their land. Thirteen people, including one policeman, were killed, and 37 injured. Six years have gone by and though the villages remain under siege by armed policemen, the protest has not died.
Meanwhile in Chhattisgarh, the Salwa Judum burned, raped and murdered its way through hundreds of forest villages, evacuating 600 villages, forcing 50,000 people to come out into police camps and 3,50,000 people to flee. The chief minister announced that those who did not come out of the forests would be considered to be ‘Maoist terrorists’. In this way, in parts of modern India, ploughing fields and sowing seed came to be defined as terrorist activity. Eventually, the Salwa Judum’s atrocities only succeeded in strengthening the resistance and swelling the ranks of the Maoist guerrilla army. In 2009, the government announced what it called Operation Green Hunt. Two lakh paramilitary troops were deployed across Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
After three years of “low-intensity conflict” that has not managed to “flush” the rebels out of the forest, the central government has declared that it will deploy the Indian army and air force. In India, we don’t call this war. We call it “creating a good investment climate”. Thousands of soldiers have already moved in. A brigade headquarters and air bases are being readied. One of the biggest armies in the world is now preparing its Terms of Engagement to “defend” itself against the poorest, hungriest, most malnourished people in the world. We only await the declaration of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which will give the army legal immunity and the right to kill “on suspicion”. Going by the tens of thousands of unmarked graves and anonymous cremation pyres in Kashmir, Manipur and Nagaland, it has shown itself to be a very suspicious army indeed.
While the preparations for deployment are being made, the jungles of Central India continue to remain under siege, with villagers frightened to come out, or go to the market for food or medicine. Hundreds of people have been jailed, charged for being Maoists under draconian, undemocratic laws. Prisons are crowded with adivasi people, many of whom have no idea what their crime is. Recently, Soni Sori, an adivasi school-teacher from Bastar, was arrested and tortured in police custody. Stones were pushed up her vagina to get her to “confess” that she was a Maoist courier. The stones were removed from her body at a hospital in Calcutta, where, after a public outcry, she was sent for a medical check-up. At a recent Supreme Court hearing, activists presented the judges with the stones in a plastic bag. The only outcome of their efforts has been that Soni Sori remains in jail while Ankit Garg, the Superintendent of Police who conducted the interrogation, was conferred with the President’s Police Medal for Gallantry on Republic Day.
We hear about the ecological and social re-engineering of Central India only because of the mass insurrection and the war. The government gives out no information. The Memorandums of Understanding are all secret. Some sections of the media have done what they could to bring public attention to what is happening in Central India. However, most of the Indian mass media is made vulnerable by the fact that the major share of its revenues come from corporate advertisements. If that is not bad enough, now the line between the media and big business has begun to blur dangerously. As we have seen, RIL virtually owns 27 TV channels. But the reverse is also true. Some media houses now have direct business and corporate interests. For example, one of the major daily newspapers in the region—Dainik Bhaskar (and it is only one example)—has 17.5 million readers in four languages, including English and Hindi, across 13 states. It also owns 69 companies with interests in mining, power generation, real estate and textiles. A recent writ petition filed in the Chhattisgarh High Court accuses DB Power Ltd (one of the group’s companies) of using “deliberate, illegal and manipulative measures” through company-owned newspapers to influence the outcome of a public hearing over an open cast coal mine. Whether or not it has attempted to influence the outcome is not germane. The point is that media houses are in a position to do so. They have the power to do so. The laws of the land allow them to be in a position that lends itself to a serious conflict of interest.
There are other parts of the country from which no news comes. In the sparsely populated but militarised northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, 168 big dams are being constructed, most of them privately owned. High dams that will submerge whole districts are being constructed in Manipur and Kashmir, both highly militarised states where people can be killed merely for protesting power cuts. (That happened a few weeks ago in Kashmir.) How can they stop a dam?
The most delusional dam of all is Kalpasar in Gujarat. It is being planned as a 34-km-long dam across the Gulf of Khambhat with a 10-lane highway and a railway line running on top of it. By keeping the sea water out, the idea is to create a sweet water reservoir of Gujarat’s rivers. (Never mind that these rivers have already been dammed to a trickle and poisoned with chemical effluent.) The Kalpasar dam, which would raise the sea level and alter the ecology of hundreds of kilometres of coastline, had been dismissed as a bad idea 10 years ago. It has made a sudden comeback in order to supply water to the Dholera Special Investment Region (SIR) in one of the most water-stressed zones not just in India, but in the world. SIR is another name for an SEZ, a self-governed corporate dystopia of “industrial parks, townships and mega-cities”. The Dholera SIR is going to be connected to Gujarat’s other cities by a network of 10-lane highways. Where will the money for all this come from?
In January 2011, in the Mahatma (Gandhi) Mandir, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi presided over a meeting of 10,000 international businessmen from 100 countries. According to media reports, they pledged to invest $450 billion in Gujarat. The meeting was scheduled to take place at the onset of the 10th anniversary year of the massacre of 2,000 Muslims in February-March 2002. Modi stands accused of not just condoning, but actively abetting, the killing. People who watched their loved ones being raped, eviscerated and burned alive, the tens of thousands who were driven from their homes, still wait for a gesture towards justice. But Modi has traded in his saffron scarf and vermilion forehead for a sharp business suit, and hopes that a 450-billion-dollar investment will work as blood money, and square the books. Perhaps it will. Big Business is backing him enthusiastically. The algebra of infinite justice works in mysterious ways.
The Dholera SIR is only one of the smaller Matryoshka dolls, one of the inner ones in the dystopia that is being planned. It will be connected to the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), a 1,500-km-long and 300-km-wide industrial corridor, with nine mega-industrial zones, a high-speed freight line, three seaports and six airports, a six-lane intersection-free expressway and a 4,000 MW power plant. The DMIC is a collaborative venture between the governments of India and Japan, and their respective corporate partners, and has been proposed by the McKinsey Global Institute.
The DMIC website says that approximately 180 million people will be “affected” by the project. Exactly how, it doesn’t say. It envisages the building of several new cities and estimates that the population in the region will grow from the current 231 million to 314 million by 2019. That’s in seven years’ time. When was the last time a state, despot or dictator carried out a population transfer of millions of people? Can it possibly be a peaceful process?
The Indian army might need to go on a recruitment drive so that it’s not taken unawares when it’s ordered to deploy all over India. In preparation for its role in Central India, it publicly released its updated doctrine on Military Psychological Operations, which outlines “a planned process of conveying a message to a select target audience, to promote particular themes that result in desired attitudes and behaviour, which affect the achievement of political and military objectives of the country”. This process of “perception management”, it said, would be conducted by “using media available to the services”.
The army is experienced enough to know that coercive force alone cannot carry out or manage social engineering on the scale that is envisaged by India’s planners. War against the poor is one thing. But for the rest of us—the middle class, white-collar workers, intellectuals, “opinion-makers”—it has to be “perception management”. And for this we must turn our attention to the exquisite art of Corporate Philanthropy.
Of late, the main mining conglomerates have embraced the Arts—film, art installations and the rush of literary festivals that have replaced the ’90s obsession with beauty contests. Vedanta, currently mining the heart out of the homelands of the ancient Dongria Kondh tribe for bauxite, is sponsoring a ‘Creating Happiness’ film competition for young film students whom they have commissioned to make films on sustainable development. Vedanta’s tagline is ‘Mining Happiness’. The Jindal Group brings out a contemporary art magazine and supports some of India’s major artists (who naturally work with stainless steel).
Essar was the principal sponsor of the Tehelka Newsweek Think Fest that promised “high-octane debates” by the foremost thinkers from around the world, which included major writers, activists and even the architect Frank Gehry. (All this in Goa, where activists and journalists were uncovering massive illegal mining scandals, and Essar’s part in the war unfolding in Bastar was emerging.) Tata Steel and Rio Tinto (which has a sordid track record of its own) were among the chief sponsors of the Jaipur Literary Festival (Latin name: Darshan Singh Construction Jaipur Literary Festival) that is advertised by the cognoscenti as ‘The Greatest Literary Show on Earth’. Counselage, the Tatas’ “strategic brand manager”, sponsored the festival’s press tent. Many of the world’s best and brightest writers gathered in Jaipur to discuss love, literature, politics and Sufi poetry. Some tried to defend Salman Rushdie’s right to free speech by reading from his proscribed book, The Satanic Verses. In every TV frame and newspaper photograph, the logo of Tata Steel (and its tagline—Values Stronger than Steel) loomed behind them, a benign, benevolent host. The enemies of Free Speech were the supposedly murderous Muslim mobs, who, the festival organisers told us, could have even harmed the school-children gathered there. (We are witness to how helpless the Indian government and the police can be when it comes to Muslims.)
Yes, the hardline Darul-Uloom Deobandi Islamic seminary did protest Rushdie being invited to the festival. Yes, some Islamists did gather at the festival venue to protest and yes, outrageously, the state government did nothing to protect the venue. That’s because the whole episode had as much to do with democracy, votebanks and the Uttar Pradesh elections as it did with Islamist fundamentalism. But the battle for Free Speech against Islamist Fundamentalism made it to the world’s newspapers. It is important that it did. But there were hardly any reports about the festival sponsors’ role in the war in the forests, the bodies piling up, the prisons filling up. Or about the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, which make even thinking an anti-government thought a cognisable offence.
Or about the mandatory public hearing for the Tata Steel plant in Lohandiguda which local people complained actually took place hundreds of miles away in Jagdalpur, in the collector’s office compound, with a hired audience of fifty people, under armed guard. Where was Free Speech then? No one mentioned Kalinganagar. No one mentioned that journalists, academics and filmmakers working on subjects unpopular with the Indian government—like the surreptitious part it played in the genocide of Tamils in the war in Sri Lanka or the recently discovered unmarked graves in Kashmir—were being denied visas or deported straight from the airport.
But which of us sinners was going to cast the first stone? Not me, who lives off royalties from corporate publishing houses. We all watch Tata Sky, we surf the net with Tata Photon, we ride in Tata taxis, we stay in Tata Hotels, we sip our Tata tea in Tata bone china and stir it with teaspoons made of Tata Steel. We buy Tata books in Tata bookshops. Hum Tata ka namak khate hain. We’re under siege.
If the sledgehammer of moral purity is to be the criterion for stone-throwing, then the only people who qualify are those who have been silenced already. Those who live outside the system; the outlaws in the forests or those whose protests are never covered by the press, or the well-behaved dispossessed, who go from tribunal to tribunal, bearing witness, giving testimony.
But the Litfest gave us our Aha! Moment. Oprah came. She said she loved India, that she would come again and again. It made us proud.
This is only the burlesque end of the Exquisite Art.
Though the Tatas have been involved with corporate philanthropy for almost a hundred years now, endowing scholarships and running some excellent educational institutes and hospitals, Indian corporations have only recently been invited into the Star Chamber, the Camera stellata, the brightly lit world of global corporate government, deadly for its adversaries, but otherwise so artful that you barely know it’s there.
What follows in this essay might appear to some to be a somewhat harsh critique. On the other hand, in the tradition of honouring one’s adversaries, it could be read as an acknowledgement of the vision, flexibility, the sophistication and unwavering determination of those who have dedicated their lives to keep the world safe for capitalism.
Their enthralling history, which has faded from contemporary memory, began in the US in the early 20th century when, kitted out legally in the form of endowed foundations, corporate philanthropy began to replace missionary activity as Capitalism’s (and Imperialism’s) road opening and systems maintenance patrol. Among the first foundations to be set up in the United States were the Carnegie Corporation, endowed in 1911 by profits from the Carnegie Steel Company; and the Rockefeller Foundation, endowed in 1914 by J.D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil Company. The Tatas and Ambanis of their time.
Some of the institutions financed, given seed money or supported by the Rockefeller Foundation are the UN, the CIA, the Council on Foreign Relations, New York’s most fabulous Museum of Modern Art, and, of course, the Rockefeller Center in New York (where Diego Riviera’s mural had to be blasted off the wall because it mischievously depicted reprobate capitalists and a valiant Lenin. Free Speech had taken the day off.)
J.D. Rockefeller was America’s first billionaire and the world’s richest man. He was an abolitionist, a supporter of Abraham Lincoln and a teetotaller. He believed his money was given to him by God, which must have been nice for him.
Here’s an excerpt from one of Pablo Neruda’s early poems called Standard Oil Company:
Their obese emperors from New York
are suave smiling assassins
who buy silk, nylon, cigars
petty tyrants and dictators.
They buy countries, people, seas, police, county councils,
distant regions where the poor hoard their corn
like misers their gold:
Standard Oil awakens them,
clothes them in uniforms, designates
which brother is the enemy.
the Paraguayan fights its war,
and the Bolivian wastes away
in the jungle with its machine gun.
A President assassinated for a drop of petroleum,
a million-acre mortgage,
a swift execution on a morning mortal with light, petrified,
a new prison camp for subversives,
in Patagonia, a betrayal, scattered shots
beneath a petroliferous moon,
a subtle change of ministers
in the capital, a whisper
like an oil tide,
and zap, you’ll see
how Standard Oil’s letters shine above the clouds,
above the seas, in your home,
illuminating their dominions.
When corporate-endowed foundations first made their appearance in the US, there was a fierce debate about their provenance, legality and lack of accountability. People suggested that if companies had so much surplus money, they should raise the wages of their workers. (People made these outrageous suggestions in those days, even in America.) The idea of these foundations, so ordinary now, was in fact a leap of the business imagination. Non-tax-paying legal entities with massive resources and an almost unlimited brief—wholly unaccountable, wholly non-transparent—what better way to parlay economic wealth into political, social and cultural capital, to turn money into power? What better way for usurers to use a minuscule percentage of their profits to run the world? How else would Bill Gates, who admittedly knows a thing or two about computers, find himself designing education, health and agriculture policies, not just for the US government, but for governments all over the world?
Over the years, as people witnessed some of the genuinely good the foundations did (running public libraries, eradicating diseases)—the direct connection between corporations and the foundations they endowed began to blur. Eventually, it faded altogether. Now even those who consider themselves left-wing are not shy to accept their largesse.
By the 1920s, US capitalism had begun to look outwards, for raw materials and overseas markets. Foundations began to formulate the idea of global corporate governance. In 1924, the Rockefeller and Carnegie foundations jointly created what is today the most powerful foreign policy pressure group in the world—the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), which later came to be funded by the Ford Foundation as well. By 1947, the newly created CIA was supported by and working closely with the CFR. Over the years, the CFR’s membership has included 22 US secretaries of state. There were five CFR members in the 1943 steering committee that planned the UN, and an $8.5 million grant from J.D. Rockefeller bought the land on which the UN’s New York headquarters stands.
All eleven of the World Bank’s presidents since 1946—men who have presented themselves as missionaries of the poor—have been members of the CFR. (The exception was George Woods. And he was a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation and vice-president of Chase-Manhattan Bank.)
At Bretton Woods, the World Bank and IMF decided that the US dollar should be the reserve currency of the world, and that in order to enhance the penetration of global capital, it would be necessary to universalise and standardise business practices in an open marketplace. It is towards that end that they spend a large amount of money promoting Good Governance (as long as they control the strings), the concept of the Rule of Law (provided they have a say in making the laws) and hundreds of anti-corruption programmes (to streamline the system they have put in place.) Two of the most opaque, unaccountable organisations in the world go about demanding transparency and accountability from the governments of poorer countries.
Given that the World Bank has more or less directed the economic policies of the Third World, coercing and cracking open the markets of country after country for global finance, you could say that corporate philanthropy has turned out to be the most visionary business of all time.
Corporate-endowed foundations administer, trade and channelise their power and place their chessmen on the chessboard, through a system of elite clubs and think-tanks, whose members overlap and move in and out through the revolving doors. Contrary to the various conspiracy theories in circulation, particularly among left-wing groups, there is nothing secret, satanic, or Freemason-like about this arrangement. It is not very different from the way corporations use shell companies and offshore accounts to transfer and administer their money—except that the currency is power, not money.
The transnational equivalent of the CFR is the Trilateral Commission, set up in 1973 by David Rockefeller, the former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski (founder-member of the Afghan Mujahideen, forefathers of the Taliban), the Chase-Manhattan Bank and some other private eminences. Its purpose was to create an enduring bond of friendship and cooperation between the elites of North America, Europe and Japan. It has now become a penta-lateral commission, because it includes members from China and India. (Tarun Das of the CII; N.R. Narayanamurthy, ex-CEO, Infosys; Jamsheyd N. Godrej, managing director, Godrej; Jamshed J. Irani, director, Tata Sons; and Gautam Thapar, CEO, Avantha Group).
The Aspen Institute is an international club of local elites, businessmen, bureaucrats, politicians, with franchises in several countries. Tarun Das is the president of the Aspen Institute, India. Gautam Thapar is chairman. Several senior officers of the McKinsey Global Institute (proposer of the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor) are members of the CFR, the Trilateral Commission and the Aspen Institute.
The Ford Foundation (liberal foil to the more conservative Rockefeller Foundation, though the two work together constantly) was set up in 1936. Though it is often underplayed, the Ford Foundation has a very clear, well-defined ideology and works extremely closely with the US state department. Its project of deepening democracy and “good governance” are very much part of the Bretton Woods scheme of standardising business practice and promoting efficiency in the free market. After the Second World War, when Communists replaced Fascists as the US government’s enemy number one, new kinds of institutions were needed to deal with the Cold War. Ford funded RAND (Research and Development Corporation), a military think-tank that began with weapons research for the US defense services. In 1952, to thwart “the persistent Communist effort to penetrate and disrupt free nations”, it established the Fund for the Republic, which then morphed into the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions whose brief was to wage the cold war intelligently without McCarthyite excesses. It is through this lens that we need to view the work Ford Foundation is doing, with the millions of dollars it has invested in India—its funding of artists, filmmakers and activists, its generous endowment of university courses and scholarships.
The Ford Foundation’s declared “goals for the future of mankind” include interventions in grassroots political movements locally and internationally. In the US, it provided millions in grants and loans to support the Credit Union Movement that was pioneered by the department store owner, Edward Filene, in 1919. Filene believed in creating a mass consumption society of consumer goods by giving workers affordable access to credit—a radical idea at the time. Actually, only half of a radical idea, because the other half of what Filene believed in was the more equitable distribution of national income. Capitalists seized on the first half of Filene’s suggestion, and by disbursing “affordable” loans of tens of millions of dollars to working people, turned the US working class into people who are permanently in debt, running to catch up with their lifestyles.
Many years later, this idea has trickled down to the impoverished countryside of Bangladesh when Mohammed Yunus and the Grameen Bank brought microcredit to starving peasants with disastrous consequences. Microfinance companies in India are responsible for hundreds of suicides—200 people in Andhra Pradesh in 2010 alone. A national daily recently published a suicide note by an 18-year-old girl who was forced to hand over her last Rs 150, her school fees, to bullying employees of the microfinance company. The note said, “Work hard and earn money. Do not take loans.”
There’s a lot of money in poverty, and a few Nobel Prizes too.
By the 1950s, the Rockefeller and Ford foundations, funding several NGOs and international educational institutions, began to work as quasi-extensions of the US government that was at the time toppling democratically elected governments in Latin America, Iran and Indonesia. (That was also around the time they made their entry into India, then non-aligned, but clearly tilting towards the Soviet Union.) The Ford Foundation established a US-style economics course at the Indonesian University. Elite Indonesian students, trained in counter-insurgency by US army officers, played a crucial part in the 1965 CIA-backed coup in Indonesia that brought General Suharto to power. Gen Suharto repaid his mentors by slaughtering hundreds of thousands of Communist rebels.
Eight years later, young Chilean students, who came to be known as the Chicago Boys, were taken to the US to be trained in neo-liberal economics by Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago (endowed by J.D. Rockefeller), in preparation for the 1973 CIA-backed coup that killed Salvador Allende, and brought in General Pinochet and a reign of death squads, disappearances and terror that lasted for seventeen years. (Allende’s crime was being a democratically elected socialist and nationalising Chile’s mines.)
In 1957, the Rockefeller Foundation established the Ramon Magsaysay Prize for community leaders in Asia. It was named after Ramon Magsaysay, president of the Philippines, a crucial ally in the US campaign against Communism in Southeast Asia. In 2000, the Ford Foundation established the Ramon Magsaysay Emergent Leadership Award. The Magsaysay Award is considered a prestigious award among artists, activists and community workers in India. M.S. Subbulakshmi and Satyajit Ray won it, so did Jayaprakash Narayan and one of India’s finest journalists, P. Sainath. But they did more for the Magsaysay award than it did for them. In general, it has become a gentle arbiter of what kind of activism is “acceptable” and what is not.
Interestingly, Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement last summer was spearheaded by three Magsaysay Award winners—Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi. One of Arvind Kejriwal’s many NGOs is generously funded by Ford Foundation. Kiran Bedi’s NGO is funded by Coca Cola and Lehman Brothers.
Though Anna Hazare calls himself a Gandhian, the law he called for—the Jan Lokpal Bill—was un-Gandhian, elitist and dangerous. A round-the-clock corporate media campaign proclaimed him to be the voice of “the people”. Unlike the Occupy Wall Street movement in the US, the Hazare movement did not breathe a word against privatisation, corporate power or economic “reforms”. On the contrary, its principal media backers successfully turned the spotlight away from massive corporate corruption scandals (which had exposed high-profile journalists too) and used the public mauling of politicians to call for the further withdrawal of discretionary powers from government, for more reforms, more privatisation. (In 2008, Anna Hazare received a World Bank award for outstanding public service). The World Bank issued a statement from Washington saying the movement “dovetailed” into its policy.
Like all good Imperialists, the Philanthropoids set themselves the task of creating and training an international cadre that believed that Capitalism, and by extension the hegemony of the United States, was in their own self-interest. And who would therefore help to administer the Global Corporate Government in the ways native elites had always served colonialism. So began the foundations’ foray into education and the arts, which would become their third sphere of influence, after foreign and domestic economic policy. They spent (and continue to spend) millions of dollars on academic institutions and pedagogy.
Joan Roelofs in her wonderful book Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask of Pluralism describes how foundations remodelled the old ideas of how to teach political science, and fashioned the disciplines of “international” and “area” studies. This provided the US intelligence and security services a pool of expertise in foreign languages and culture to recruit from. The CIA and US state department continue to work with students and professors in US universities, raising serious questions about the ethics of scholarship.
The gathering of information to control people they rule is fundamental to any ruling power. As resistance to land acquisition and the new economic policies spreads across India, in the shadow of outright war in Central India, as a containment technique, the government has embarked on a massive biometrics programme, perhaps one of the most ambitious and expensive information-gathering projects in the world— the Unique Identification Number (UID).
People don’t have clean drinking water, or toilets, or food, or money, but they will have election cards and UID numbers. Is it a coincidence that the UID project run by Nandan Nilekani, former CEO of Infosys, ostensibly meant to “deliver services to the poor”, will inject massive amounts of money into a slightly beleaguered IT industry? (A conservative estimate of the UID budget exceeds the Indian government’s annual public spending on education.) To “digitise” a country with such a large population of the largely illegitimate and “illegible”—people who are for the most part slum-dwellers, hawkers, adivasis without land records—will criminalise them, turning them from illegitimate to illegal. The idea is to pull off a digital version of the Enclosure of the Commons and put huge powers into the hands of an increasingly hardening police state. Nilekani’s technocratic obsession with gathering data is consistent with Bill Gates’s obsession with digital databases, “numerical targets”, “scorecards of progress”. As though it is a lack of information that is the cause of world hunger, and not colonialism, debt and skewed profit-oriented, corporate policy.
Corporate-endowed foundations are the biggest funders of the social sciences and the arts, endowing courses and student scholarships in “development studies”, “community studies”, “cultural studies”, “behavioural sciences” and “human rights”. As US universities opened their doors to international students, hundreds of thousands of students, children of the Third World elite, poured in. Those who could not afford the fees were given scholarships. Today in countries like India and Pakistan there is scarcely a family among the upper middle classes that does not have a child that has studied in the US. From their ranks have come good scholars and academics, but also the prime ministers, finance ministers, economists, corporate lawyers, bankers and bureaucrats who helped to open up the economies of their countries to global corporations.
Scholars of the Foundation-friendly version of economics and political science were rewarded with fellowships, research funds, grants, endowments and jobs. Those with Foundation-unfriendly views found themselves unfunded, marginalised and ghettoised, their courses discontinued. Gradually, one particular imagination—a brittle, superficial pretence of tolerance and multiculturalism (that morphs into racism, rabid nationalism, ethnic chauvinism or war-mongering Islamophobia at a moment’s notice) under the roof of a single, overarching, very unplural economic ideology—began to dominate the discourse. It did so to such an extent that it ceased to be perceived as an ideology at all. It became the default position, the natural way to be. It infiltrated normality, colonised ordinariness, and challenging it began to seem as absurd or as esoteric as challenging reality itself. From here it was a quick easy step to ‘There is No Alternative’.
It is only now, thanks to the Occupy Movement, that another language has appeared on US streets and campuses. To see students with banners that say ‘Class War’ or ‘We don’t mind you being rich, but we mind you buying our government’ is, given the odds, almost a revolution in itself.
One century after it began, corporate philanthropy is as much part of our lives as Coca Cola. There are now millions of non-profit organisations, many of them connected through a byzantine financial maze to the larger foundations. Between them, this “independent” sector has assets worth nearly 450 billion dollars. The largest of them is the Bill Gates Foundation with ($21 billion), followed by the Lilly Endowment ($16 billion) and the Ford Foundation ($15 billion).
As the IMF enforced Structural Adjustment, and arm-twisted governments into cutting back on public spending on health, education, childcare, development, the NGOs moved in. The Privatisation of Everything has also meant the NGO-isation of Everything. As jobs and livelihoods disappeared, NGOs have become an important source of employment, even for those who see them for what they are. And they are certainly not all bad.
Of the millions of NGOs, some do remarkable, radical work and it would be a travesty to tar all NGOs with the same brush. However, the corporate or Foundation-endowed NGOs are global finance’s way of buying into resistance movements, literally like shareholders buy shares in companies, and then try to control them from within. They sit like nodes on the central nervous system, the pathways along which global finance flows. They work like transmitters, receivers, shock absorbers, alert to every impulse, careful never to annoy the governments of their host countries. (The Ford Foundation requires the organisations it funds to sign a pledge to this effect.) Inadvertently (and sometimes advertently), they serve as listening posts, their reports and workshops and other missionary activity feeding data into an increasingly aggressive system of surveillance of increasingly hardening States. The more troubled an area, the greater the numbers of NGOs in it.
Mischievously, when the government or sections of the Corporate Press want to run a smear campaign against a genuine people’s movement, like the Narmada Bachao Andolan, or the protest against the Koodankulam nuclear reactor, they accuse these movements of being NGOs receiving “foreign funding”. They know very well that the mandate of most NGOs, in particular the well-funded ones, is to further the project of corporate globalisation, not thwart it.
Armed with their billions, these NGOs have waded into the world, turning potential revolutionaries into salaried activists, funding artists, intellectuals and filmmakers, gently luring them away from radical confrontation, ushering them in the direction of multi-culturalism, gender, community development—the discourse couched in the language of identity politics and human rights.
The transformation of the idea of justice into the industry of human rights has been a conceptual coup in which NGOs and foundations have played a crucial part. The narrow focus of human rights enables an atrocity-based analysis in which the larger picture can be blocked out and both parties in a conflict—say, for example, the Maoists and the Indian government, or the Israeli Army and Hamas—can both be admonished as Human Rights Violators. The land-grab by mining corporations or the history of the annexation of Palestinian land by the State of Israel then become footnotes with very little bearing on the discourse. This is not to suggest that human rights don’t matter. They do, but they are not a good enough prism through which to view or remotely understand the great injustices in the world we live in.
Another conceptual coup has to do with foundations’ involvement with the feminist movement. Why do most “official” feminists and women’s organisations in India keep a safe distance between themselves and organisations like say the 90,000-member Krantikari Adivasi Mahila Sangathan (Revolutionary Adivasi Women’s Association) fighting patriarchy in their own communities and displacement by mining corporations in the Dandakaranya forest? Why is it that the dispossession and eviction of millions of women from land which they owned and worked is not seen as a feminist problem?
The hiving off of the liberal feminist movement from grassroots anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist people’s movements did not begin with the evil designs of foundations. It began with those movements’ inability to adapt and accommodate the rapid radicalisation of women that took place in the ’60s and ’70s. The foundations showed genius in recognising and moving in to support and fund women’s growing impatience with the violence and patriarchy in their traditional societies as well as among even the supposedly progressive leaders of Left movements. In a country like India, the schism also ran along the rural-urban divide.
Most radical, anti-capitalist movements were located in the countryside where, for the most part, patriarchy continued to rule the lives of most women. Urban women activists who joined these movements (like the Naxalite movement) had been influenced and inspired by the western feminist movement and their own journeys towards liberation were often at odds with what their male leaders considered to be their duty: to fit in with ‘the masses’. Many women activists were not willing to wait any longer for the “revolution” in order to end the daily oppression and discrimination in their lives, including from their own comrades. They wanted gender equality to be an absolute, urgent and non-negotiable part of the revolutionary process and not just a post-revolution promise. Intelligent, angry and disillusioned women began to move away and look for other means of support and sustenance.
As a result, by the late ’80s, around the time Indian markets were opened up, the liberal feminist movement in a country like India has become inordinately NGO-ised. Many of these NGOs have done seminal work on queer rights, domestic violence, AIDS and the rights of sex workers. But significantly, the liberal feminist movements have not been at the forefront of challenging the new economic policies, even though women have been the greatest sufferers. By manipulating the disbursement of the funds, the foundations have largely succeeded in circumscribing the range of what “political” activity should be. The funding briefs of NGOs now prescribe what counts as women’s “issues” and what doesn’t.
The NGO-isation of the women’s movement has also made western liberal feminism (by virtue of its being the most funded brand) the standard-bearer of what constitutes feminism. The battles, as usual, have been played out on women’s bodies, extruding Botox at one end and burqas at the other. (And then there are those who suffer the double whammy, Botox and the Burqa.) When, as happened recently in France, an attempt is made to coerce women out of the burqa rather than creating a situation in which a woman can choose what she wishes to do, it’s not about liberating her, but about unclothing her. It becomes an act of humiliation and cultural imperialism. It’s not about the burqa. It’s about the coercion. Coercing a woman out of a burqa is as bad as coercing her into one. Viewing gender in this way, shorn of social, political and economic context, makes it an issue of identity, a battle of props and costumes. It is what allowed the US government to use western feminist groups as moral cover when it invaded Afghanistan in 2001. Afghan women were (and are) in terrible trouble under the Taliban. But dropping daisy-cutters on them was not going to solve their problems.
In the NGO universe, which has evolved a strange anodyne language of its own, everything has become a “subject”, a separate, professionalised, special-interest issue. Community development, leadership development, human rights, health, education, reproductive rights, AIDS, orphans with AIDS—have all been hermetically sealed into their own silos with their own elaborate and precise funding brief. Funding has fragmented solidarity in ways that repression never could. Poverty too, like feminism, is often framed as an identity problem. As though the poor have not been created by injustice but are a lost tribe who just happen to exist, and can be rescued in the short term by a system of grievance redressal (administered by NGOs on an individual, person to person basis), and whose long-term resurrection will come from Good Governance. Under the regime of Global Corporate Capitalism, it goes without saying.
Indian poverty, after a brief period in the wilderness while India “shone”, has made a comeback as an exotic identity in the Arts, led from the front by films like Slumdog Millionaire. These stories about the poor, their amazing spirit and resilience, have no villains—except the small ones who provide narrative tension and local colour. The authors of these works are the contemporary world’s equivalent of the early anthropologists, lauded and honoured for working on “the ground”, for their brave journeys into the unknown. You rarely see the rich being examined in these ways.
Having worked out how to manage governments, political parties, elections, courts, the media and liberal opinion, there was one more challenge for the neo-liberal establishment: how to deal with growing unrest, the threat of “people’s power”. How do you domesticate it? How do you turn protesters into pets? How do you vacuum up people’s fury and redirect it into blind alleys?
Here too, foundations and their allied organisations have a long and illustrious history. A revealing example is their role in defusing and deradicalising the Black Civil Rights movement in the US in the 1960s and the successful transformation of Black Power into Black Capitalism.
The Rockefeller Foundation, in keeping with J.D. Rockefeller’s ideals, had worked closely with Martin Luther King Sr (father of Martin Luther King Jr). But his influence waned with the rise of the more militant organisations—the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Black Panthers. The Ford and Rockefeller Foundations moved in. In 1970, they donated $15 million to “moderate” black organisations, giving people grants, fellowships, scholarships, job training programmes for dropouts and seed money for black-owned businesses. Repression, infighting and the honey trap of funding led to the gradual atrophying of the radical black organisations.
Martin Luther King Jr made the forbidden connections between Capitalism, Imperialism, Racism and the Vietnam War. As a result, after he was assassinated, even his memory became a toxic threat to public order. Foundations and Corporations worked hard to remodel his legacy to fit a market-friendly format. The Martin Luther King Junior Centre for Non-Violent Social Change, with an operational grant of $2 million, was set up by, among others, the Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Mobil, Western Electric, Procter & Gamble, US Steel and Monsanto. The Center maintains the King Library and Archives of the Civil Rights Movement. Among the many programmes the King Center runs have been projects that “work closely with the United States Department of Defense, the Armed Forces Chaplains Board and others”. It co-sponsored the Martin Luther King Jr Lecture Series called ‘The Free Enterprise System: An Agent for Non-violent Social Change’. Amen.
A similar coup was carried out in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. In 1978, the Rockefeller Foundation organised a Study Commission on US Policy toward Southern Africa. The report warned of the growing influence of the Soviet Union on the African National Congress (ANC) and said that US strategic and corporate interests (i.e., access to South Africa’s minerals) would be best served if there were genuine sharing of political power by all races.
The foundations began to support the ANC. The ANC soon turned on the more radical organisations like Steve Biko’s Black Consciousness movement and more or less eliminated them. When Nelson Mandela took over as South Africa’s first Black President, he was canonised as a living saint, not just because he was a freedom fighter who spent 27 years in prison, but also because he deferred completely to the Washington Consensus. Socialism disappeared from the ANC’s agenda. South Africa’s great “peaceful transition”, so praised and lauded, meant no land reforms, no demands for reparation, no nationalisation of South Africa’s mines. Instead, there was Privatisation and Structural Adjustment. Mandela gave South Africa’s highest civilian award—the Order of Good Hope—to his old supporter and friend General Suharto, the killer of Communists in Indonesia. Today, in South Africa, a clutch of Mercedes-driving former radicals and trade unionists rule the country. But that is more than enough to perpetuate the illusion of Black Liberation.
The rise of Black Power in the US was an inspirational moment for the rise of a radical, progressive Dalit movement in India, with organisations like the Dalit Panthers mirroring the militant politics of the Black Panthers. But Dalit Power too, in not exactly the same but similar ways, has been fractured and defused and, with plenty of help from right-wing Hindu organisations and the Ford Foundation, is well on its way to transforming into Dalit Capitalism.
‘Dalit Inc ready to show business can beat caste’, the Indian Express reported in December last year. It went on to quote a mentor of the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (DICCI). “Getting the prime minister for a Dalit gathering is not difficult in our society. But for Dalit entrepreneurs, taking a photograph with Tata and Godrej over lunch and tea is an aspiration—and proof that they have arrived,” he said. Given the situation in modern India, it would be casteist and reactionary to say that Dalit entrepreneurs oughtn’t to have a place at the high table. But if this is to be the aspiration, the ideological framework of Dalit politics, it would be a great pity. And unlikely to help the one million Dalits who still earn a living off manual scavenging—carrying human shit on their heads.
Young Dalit scholars who accept grants from the Ford Foundation cannot be too harshly judged. Who else is offering them an opportunity to climb out of the cesspit of the Indian caste system? The shame as well as a large part of the blame for this turn of events also goes to India’s Communist movement whose leaders continue to be predominantly upper caste. For years it has tried to force-fit the idea of caste into Marxist class analysis. It has failed miserably, in theory as well as practice. The rift between the Dalit community and the Left began with a falling out between the visionary Dalit leader Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar and S.A. Dange, trade unionist and founding member of the Communist Party of India. Dr Ambedkar’s disillusionment with the Communist Party began with the textile workers’ strike in Mumbai in 1928 when he realised that despite all the rhetoric about working class solidarity, the party did not find it objectionable that the “untouchables” were kept out of the weaving department (and only qualified for the lower paid spinning department) because the work involved the use of saliva on the threads, which other castes considered “polluting”.
Ambedkar realised that in a society where the Hindu scriptures institutionalise untouchability and inequality, the battle for “untouchables”, for social and civic rights, was too urgent to wait for the promised Communist revolution. The rift between the Ambedkarites and the Left has come at a great cost to both. It has meant that a great majority of the Dalit population, the backbone of the Indian working class, has pinned its hopes for deliverance and dignity to constitutionalism, to capitalism and to political parties like the BSP, which practise an important, but in the long run, stagnant brand of identity politics.
In the United States, as we have seen, corporate-endowed foundations spawned the culture of NGOs. In India, targeted corporate philanthropy began in earnest in the 1990s, the era of the New Economic Policies. Membership to the Star Chamber doesn’t come cheap. The Tata Group donated $50 million to that needy institution, the Harvard Business School, and another $50 million to Cornell University. Nandan Nilekani of Infosys and his wife Rohini donated $5 million as a start-up endowment for the India Initiative at Yale. The Harvard Humanities Centre is now the Mahindra Humanities Centre after it received its largest-ever donation of $10 million from Anand Mahindra of the Mahindra Group.
At home, the Jindal Group, with a major stake in mining, metals and power, runs the Jindal Global Law School and will soon open the Jindal School of Government and Public Policy. (The Ford Foundation runs a law school in the Congo.) The New India Foundation funded by Nandan Nilekani, financed by profits from Infosys, gives prizes and fellowships to social scientists. The Sitaram Jindal Foundation endowed by Jindal Aluminium has announced five cash prizes of Rs 1 crore each to be given to those working in rural development, poverty alleviation, environment education and moral upliftment. The Reliance Group’s Observer Research Foundation (ORF), currently endowed by Mukesh Ambani, is cast in the mould of the Rockefeller Foundation. It has retired intelligence agents, strategic analysts, politicians (who pretend to rail against each other in Parliament), journalists and policymakers as its research “fellows” and advisors.
ORF’s objectives seem straightforward enough: “To help develop a consensus in favour of economic reforms.” And to shape and influence public opinion, creating “viable, alternative policy options in areas as divergent as employment generation in backward districts and real-time strategies to counter nuclear, biological and chemical threats”.
I was initially puzzled by the preoccupation with “nuclear, biological and chemical war” in ORF’s stated objectives. But less so when, in the long list of its ‘institutional partners’, I found the names of Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, two of the world’s leading weapons manufacturers. In 2007, Raytheon announced it was turning its attention to India. Could it be that at least part of India’s $32 billion defence budget will be spent on weapons, guided missiles, aircraft, warships and surveillance equipment made by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin?
Do we need weapons to fight wars? Or do we need wars to create a market for weapons? After all, the economies of Europe, US and Israel depend hugely on their weapons industry. It’s the one thing they haven’t outsourced to China.
In the new Cold War between US and China, India is being groomed to play the role Pakistan played as a US ally in the cold war with Russia. (And look what happened to Pakistan.) Many of those columnists and “strategic analysts” who are playing up the hostilities between India and China, you’ll see, can be traced back directly or indirectly to the Indo-American think-tanks and foundations. Being a “strategic partner” of the US does not mean that the Heads of State make friendly phone calls to each other every now and then. It means collaboration (interference) at every level. It means hosting US Special Forces on Indian soil (a Pentagon Commander recently confirmed this to the BBC). It means sharing intelligence, altering agriculture and energy policies, opening up the health and education sectors to global investment. It means opening up retail. It means an unequal partnership in which India is being held close in a bear hug and waltzed around the floor by a partner who will incinerate her the moment she refuses to dance.
+In the list of ORF’s ‘institutional partners’, you will also find the RAND Corporation, Ford Foundation, the World Bank, the Brookings Institution (whose stated mission is to “provide innovative and practical recommendations that advance three broad goals: to strengthen American democracy; to foster the economic and social welfare, security and opportunity of all Americans; and to secure a more open, safe, prosperous and cooperative international system”.) You will also find the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation of Germany. (Poor Rosa, who died for the cause of Communism, to find her name on a list such as this one!)
Though capitalism is meant to be based on competition, those at the top of the food chain have also shown themselves to be capable of inclusiveness and solidarity. The great Western Capitalists have done business with fascists, socialists, despots and military dictators. They can adapt and constantly innovate. They are capable of quick thinking and immense tactical cunning.
But despite having successfully powered through economic reforms, despite having waged wars and militarily occupied countries in order to put in place free market “democracies”, Capitalism is going through a crisis whose gravity has not revealed itself completely yet. Marx said, “What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.”
The proletariat, as Marx saw it, has been under continuous assault. Factories have shut down, jobs have disappeared, trade unions have been disbanded. The proletariat has, over the years, been pitted against each other in every possible way. In India, it has been Hindu against Muslim, Hindu against Christian, Dalit against Adivasi, caste against caste, region against region. And yet, all over the world, it is fighting back. In China, there are countless strikes and uprisings. In India, the poorest people in the world have fought back to stop some of the richest corporations in their tracks.
Capitalism is in crisis. Trickledown failed. Now Gush-Up is in trouble too. The international financial meltdown is closing in. India’s growth rate has plummeted to 6.9 per cent. Foreign investment is pulling out. Major international corporations are sitting on huge piles of money, not sure where to invest it, not sure how the financial crisis will play out. This is a major, structural crack in the juggernaut of global capital.
Capitalism’s real “grave-diggers” may end up being its own delusional Cardinals, who have turned ideology into faith. Despite their strategic brilliance, they seem to have trouble grasping a simple fact: Capitalism is destroying the planet. The two old tricks that dug it out of past crises—War and Shopping—simply will not work.
I stood outside Antilla for a long time watching the sun go down. I imagined that the tower was as deep as it was high. That it had a twenty-seven-storey-long tap root, snaking around below the ground, hungrily sucking sustenance out of the earth, turning it into smoke and gold.
Why did the Ambanis’ choose to call their building Antilla? Antilla is the name of a set of mythical islands whose story dates back to an 8th-century Iberian legend. When the Muslims conquered Hispania, six Christian Visigothic bishops and their parishioners boarded ships and fled. After days, or maybe weeks at sea, they arrived at the isles of Antilla where they decided to settle and raise a new civilisation. They burnt their boats to permanently sever their links to their barbarian-dominated homeland.
By calling their tower Antilla, do the Ambanis hope to sever their links to the poverty and squalor of their homeland and raise a new civilisation? Is this the final act of the most successful secessionist movement in India? The secession of the middle and upper classes into outer space?
As night fell over Mumbai, guards in crisp linen shirts with crackling walkie-talkies appeared outside the forbidding gates of Antilla. The lights blazed on, to scare away the ghosts perhaps. The neighbours complain that Antilla’s bright lights have stolen the night.
Perhaps it’s time for us to take back the night.
Arundhati Roy is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Arundhati Roy
Labels: NEOLIBERALISM, PRIVATISATION