Thursday, November 28, 2013

(STICKY) (NEWZIMBABWE) UK wanted Mugabe out by military force:Mbeki
27/11/2013 00:00:00
by Agencies

COMMENT - Also see:

(YOUTUBE, AL JAZEERA) Talk to Al Jazeera - Thabo Mbeki: 'Justice cannot trump peace' (10:52 to 16:20)

President Mbeki: "There is a retired chief of the British armed forces, who said that he had to withstand pressure from the then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair. Tony Blair, who was saying to the Chief of the British armed forces,"You must work out a military plan so that we can physically remove Robert Mugabe." We knew that, because we had come under the same pressure, that we need to cooperate in some scheme, it was a regime change scheme, even to the point of using military force. And we are saying no."

Also read: (HERALD ZW) UK invasion plot exposed - MrK

FORMER South African president Thabo Mbeki has made startling revelations about how the British government was determined to depose Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe using military force.

Speaking during an interview with Al Jazeera, Mbeki said South Africa was under pressure from the UK to participate in a regime change scheme to depose Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party, a move which Pretoria refuted.

Mbeki helped broker a now defunct power sharing agreement between the Movement for Democratic Change and Zanu-PF following a disputed election in 2008 which left at least 200 people dead.

"There is a retired chief of the British armed forces [Lord Charles Guthrie]... he had to withstand pressure from the then prime minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair... Tony Blair who was saying to the chief of the British armed forces you must work out a military plan so that we can physically remove Robert Mugabe," said Mbeki.

"We knew that because we had come under the same pressure that we need to co-operate in some scheme. It was a regime change scheme, even to the point of using military force and we were saying no." Mbeki criticised the manner in which Britain wanted to take the responsibility of choosing a leader for the people of Zimbabwe.

".... You are coming from London you say you don’t like Robert Mugabe for whatever reason, people in London don’t like him... we are going to remove him then you are going to put someone else in his place. Why does it become a British responsibility to decide who leads Zimbabwe?" he said.

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

(TELEGRAPH UK) This man is now the people's billionaire
By Anne Applebaum
12:01AM BST 13 Jun 2004

He isn't your typical political prisoner: Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who goes on trial next week with his business partner, Platon Lebedev, is by some accounts worth $8 billion. He hasn't been charged with political crimes either, but rather with fraud and tax evasion: recently, the Russian authorities claimed that he owes $700 million in back taxes. Yet despite charges that sound more as if they belong in a Martha Stewart case or an Enron trial, despite a defendant who is, to put it mildly, far better heeled than the average dissident, Russian human rights groups are calling this the first "show trial" of the Putin era. Why?

The explanation lies in the peculiar character of Khodorkovksy, as well as in the strange nature of the regime that is now about to try him. He did, it is true, make his money through questionable means, just like everybody else who got rich in Russia in the 1990s. Originally the leader of the Komsomol, the Communist youth movement, he parlayed his connections first into a computer import business, then into the purchase of Yukos, a state-owned oil company. And "connections" is the key word: somehow, Khodorkovsky's company managed to pay only $300 million for a business that is now thought to be worth more than $17 billion. The $8 billion is his personal stake.

In his early days as Yukos chief executive, Khodorkovsky spent his time suing journalists, denying accusations of financial skulduggery and even murder. Slowly, though, he changed his tactics. About two years ago, I got a telephone call from the office of Prince Michael of Kent asking if I wanted to join a party of journalists (I didn't) on an all-expenses-paid trip around Russia. All travel, by corporate jet, from St Petersburg to Siberia was to be paid for by an unnamed tycoon who turned out to be Khodorkovsky.

Good businessman that he is, Khodorkovsky soon found smarter ways to spend his money. Rather than waste time with freeloading journalists, he decided to change the company's reputation by changing the company. He brought Western standards of corporate governance and financial transparency to Yukos. He also began funding schools, hospitals and libraries in the decrepit northern cities where Yukos does its drilling. Above all, though, he started the Open Russia Foundation, whose board members included Henry Kissinger and Lord (Jacob) Rothschild, and whose launch took place at the American Library of Congress. But the Open Russia Foundation was not just well-connected: it also funded genuinely good causes in Russia, including human rights groups, as well as schools, institutes and other organisations dedicated to the promotion of democracy and Western values.

Whether or not he did so in the beginning, it seems that Khodorkovsky did actually start to believe in the causes his foundation was promoting. He began to chafe at the unwritten rules that require Russian tycoons to pay up when the government demands it, to remain silent when required, and to avoid acquiring any political power whatsoever. According to some, he crossed the line when he started talking of major deals with an American oil company. According to others, his direct dealings with the Chinese government did the trick. Still others suspect that his funding of opposition political parties upset the Kremlin. Whatever the specific cause, the authorities finally decided he had got too big for his fur-lined boots, and threw him in prison.

It is probably true that Khodorkovsky broke tax laws, and probably plenty of other laws - Yukos once had a distinctly dirty, even murderous reputation - but if the Kremlin were arresting businessmen for corruption and tax evasion, there would be plenty of candidates. The only reason to single out Khodorkovsky was to set an example for others who might also have thought of defying the Kremlin.

Perhaps if Khodorkovsky's arrest had taken place in a vacuum, it wouldn't have caused much distress. But in the four years that Vladimir Putin has been president of Russia, he has also dramatically weakened the country's independent media, destroyed opposition parties, and made the secret police a force in public life again. During his "state of the nation" speech last month, Putin even hinted at a new target: the "nongovernmental organisations" - human rights groups, charities and unions - that constitute the last remnants of the civil society that developed in Russia in the 1990s. Some thought he was referring directly to the organisations that have been supported by Khodorkovsky's Open Russian Foundation.

For all of those reasons, the remnants of Russia's fragmented human rights movements have rallied to Khodorkovsky's defence, even though the cause of a multi-billionaire will hardly be a popular one in Russia. Last week, I asked Arseny Roginsky, a historian and human rights activist, how far he thought the re-Sovietisation of Russia could go. "Far," he replied, and then: "Much farther." The distress he and others will feel watching Khodorkovsky's trial is not so much sorrow for the fate of a single billionaire, but fear that it might be the first of many.

* Anne Applebaum is on the editorial board of The Washington Post
Kevin Myers returns next week

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

(STICKY) (DAILY MAVERICK SA) (Mis)understanding land reform: an issue ripe for political plucking
Greg Nicolson

COMMENT - This article mentions Ben Cousins book "In The Shadow Of Policy", a collection of essays on land reform in South Africa, published by the University of Witwatersrand. The ANC is feeling the heat from the successful land redistribution in Zimbabwe, and Julius Malema's EFF, which has put land reform at the top of it's program. Also see here. - MrK

Two books were launched on land reform on Wednesday night. The land issue is poorly understood but crucial to the country’s politics. As the ANC propose new policies to win votes, the authors of the books hope to add critical insight before the political football is kicked into the elections. By GREG NICOLSON.

The Umhlaba exhibition at the Wits Art Museum chronicles the land issue. One hundred years after the passing of the Land Act, the photography, carefully chosen, imbues a sense of the tragic dispossession and landlessness that runs through so many South African veins and still determines lives today. With a slow walk through the extensive exhibition, including work from around 30 photographers, the photos give a sense of the issue, an understanding that one can relate to, whether you’re an academic or just dropping by, intrigued.

Discussion around land reform struggles to convey such an understanding of the intricacies. Speaking at the launch of a new book on land reform on Wednesday at the museum, Professor Ben Cousins says it is hard for academics to talk to the nation about the issue, so emotional yet so poorly understood. People in urban areas have difficulties getting issues of the land, he said, at the launch of In the Shadow of Policy - which Cousins and Paul Hebinck edited. It’s time for novelists and filmmakers to stand up.

Failed percentages of redistribution and restitution, issues of communal land, agrarian productivity, subsistence farmers, rural class divides, farming mentorships, and business models - the issues of land reform are complex. Check the proposed legislation and you’ll find multiple Bills ready to address problems with what has been a largely continuously failing attempt at land reform since 1994. But to understand what’s on the table you’ll need to look at the goals and results, which are contested, sift through the current legislation and policy documents, and read studies on what’s worked, what hasn’t and why.

In all that, there’s the emotional issue. With 20 years of failed attempts at land reform, the issue is ripe for populist politicians, says Cousins. “There’s little doubt the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill is a vote catching exercise,” he says of proposed legislation. Cousins says an official high up in the Presidency told him as much. The populist rhetoric around land reform dominates discourse and the ANC’s policies are positioned to build black bourgeoisies, says Cousins.

The Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill, which the public can submit comments on until Friday, will allow new claims until 2018, after criticism that the 1998 cut-off date meant many people had missed out. But even that has problems. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform issued a warning on Tuesday against people trying to swindle land claimants. “It has come to the attention of the department that there are people who are collecting money from unsuspecting community members saying that they will help them with their land claims,” said Mtobeli Mxotwa, spokesperson for Minister Gugile Nkwinti. Applications and the lodging material are free of charge.

“It has very little to do with poverty reduction,” said Michael Aliber on the current policy. He was also launching the book Trajectories of Change in Northern Limpopo Province, South Africa. The ANC in 2009 named land reform as one of their priorities but the recent medium-term budget shows a decline in funding, he added.

The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform estimates that 397,000 valid claims will be lodged once the restrictive timeframe on claims is extended, to cost between R129 billion and R179 billion if the claims are settled within 15 years. Before announcing the medium-term budget, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan reportedly told journalists the department would need to pay the costs from its own budget. Figures from the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies suggests the midterm budget cut funds for land restitution by 12% and reform 19% compared to the February allotment.

In the Shadow of Policy discusses the separation between state policy and actual experiences of land reform. “There’s a severe if not disastrous disconnect between the aims of policy and the reality on the ground,” says Cousins. Policy often constrains new farmers, ignores improvisation and innovation. Cousins says there’s a blueprint being used pushing large-scale commercial farming and ignoring small-scale needs, which is influenced by our “naïve 21st century version of modernisation”.

The problems are largely political. There’s an election on the way and voters know land reform is far from successful. Meanwhile, Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) are campaigning on a platform of radical policies to address poverty and inequality, one of the key issues being land reform. “To get rid of the curse you must give back the land. You are in possession of stolen property,” Malema said to white South Africans at the party’s Marikana launch. The first of the party’s seven policy pillars is: “Expropriation of South Africa’s land without compensation for equal redistribution in use.”

The ANC understands the political issue and has a raft of new policies on the table. There’s the extension of land claims, proposals to scrap the “willing buyer willing seller” model and the green paper on land reform.

Critics say the changes are just electioneering. For all Malema’s bluster, EFF’s proposals haven’t the meat to be convincing either.

But it’s hard to get to the bottom of the problem and find strategies that would actually help. As some of the top land reform academics discussed the problem on Wednesday night, the discourse was academic, suspended in the lofty heights of those who spend their lives trying to understand the issue. Unlike the photos, which draw the viewer in, frame after frame, shot across generations, the land reform discussion is stuck in the paralysis of electioneering and academia.

The authors of In the Shadow of Policy and Trajectories of Change in Northern Limpopo Province, South Africa hope they can change that and, crucially, offer critical insight as the political football is kicked into the elections. DM

Photo: Flowers near the small town of Darling in a farming area on the west coast region of the Western Cape approximately 75 km from Cape Town, Wednesday, 10 October 2012. Picture: Nardus Engelbrecht/SAPA

Read next

Greg Nicolson

Nicolson left his hometown of Melbourne to move to Johannesburg, beset by fears Australia was going to the dogs. With a camera and a Mac in his bag, he ventures out to cover power and politics, the lives of those included and those excluded. He can be found at the tavern, searching for a good story or drowning a bad one.

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