Fueling the Fire

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_688

Wave after wave of community protests have been taking place in South Africa. People are angry that after twenty years of so-called freedom they are still confined to living in shacks, having to defecate in communal toilets, and having essential services terminated when they can’t afford to pay.

by Shawn Hattingh (ZACF)

Wave after wave of community protests have been taking place in South Africa. People are angry that after twenty years of so-called freedom they are still confined to living in shacks, having to defecate in communal toilets, and having essential services terminated when they can’t afford to pay.

What fuels this anger further is that on the other side of the cities and towns, in the old white-only suburbs, the elite and middle classes flaunt their wealth.

Yet the ruling class – white and now black capitalists, top state officials, and politicians – have waged non-stop war against the working class to deepen this inequality. The reason they have done this is to increase their wealth – this class war lies at the root of the protests we have seen.

Many of the people that have been involved in the recent protests – or their parents – had hoped for a better life with the fall of apartheid. Under that horrific system, the black working class (workers and the unemployed) were subjected to racial oppression and exploitation. It was cheap labour, in the form of the black working class, which generated huge profits for corporations. To ensure the lowest costs of the reproduction of this exploited class, the apartheid state forced people to live in homelands and townships in which the most threadbare services were provided. The consequences were that the black working class were deliberately kept in poverty and when they rose up they faced the apartheid state’s gun barrels.

Fast forward to today. One can scarcely believe the reality in which the black working class finds itself, which materially is often as bad as under apartheid.

Since 1994, the portion of Gross Domestic Product which goes towards wages has declined. The implications of this are that in real terms the wages of the black working class have been in decline since the fall of apartheid. Unemployment too has exploded as capitalists have reduced their labour force, mechanised, and implemented flexible labour to boost profit rates.

The post-apartheid state has been central to the war on the working class. It has redirected wealth upwards towards the ruling class. It has done this through various means, which have included spending on infrastructure for corporations and tax breaks for corporations.

Since 1994 the tax rate for corporations has been driven down from 49% to 28%. This is money that could have been used to improve the lives of the poor through providing, amongst other things, decent services and housing. At the same time, however, Value Added Tax, a tax that targets the working class, has contributed a larger and larger part of the state’s revenue. Far from being an under resourced state, the South African state has been shifting wealth from the working class to the ruling class.

At the same time, the state has been active in attacking the poor. In real terms (inflation adjusted) spending on services for the working class has remained largely stagnant since 1994. On average the state under the ANC has allocated less than 2% of the budget to housing for the working class. As such, services like water, electricity, housing, sanitation, healthcare and education for black working class areas are a shambles.

The national state under the stewardship of the ANC has also dramatically reduced the amount of money that it transfers to local governments to deliver services such as sanitation and refuse removal. This has been done to please international capitalists in the form of speculators. Speculators tend to target buying the bonds of states with low debt levels. To keep debt levels low at a national level, the South African state slashed transfers to local governments.

This means local municipalities have less for service delivery. To try and generate income, local governments have adopted cost recovery for services to the working class, such as electricity, water, sanitation and refuse removal. The consequences are, if you can’t afford to pay you don’t get the services. Making matters worse is that at the level of local government, municipalities have outsourced basic services. For a connected local elite, usually linked to the African National Congress or in some areas the Democratic Alliance, this has been a godsend. This has seen contracts for housing and service delivery being handed out to those who have connections to politicians. The consequences of these neoliberal policies is that service delivery is abysmal.

The reality is that the state does this, at a local and national level, because it is an instrument of the ruling class. States exist to enforce the rule of a minority elite over a majority. Even in a parliamentary democracy, it is the elite that indirectly and directly control the state and they use it to increase their wealth.

Of course states do provide some services to the poor. These are and were concessions that have been forced on the ruling class by the working class through the history of struggle. Indeed, the black working class only receives some support from the state – although meagre – because of the history of struggle. Under neoliberalism though, these concessions are being rolled back, and it is this that is once again fuelling protests.

The role that the state plays in protecting the ruling class can be seen in how the police have reacted to the protests. Most people involved in protests try to follow the state’s prescribed procedures to air their grievances, for example engaging in Integrated Development Plans – and only embark on protest once these proved to be dead-ends. But once people protest, the police react violently.

The working class, however, has proved that it won’t lie down under the fire from the ruling class. This is where hope lies. What is needed now is for these struggles that we have been seeing across the country to link, based on self-organisation and direct democracy. There are many challenges to this, including toxic party politics, but if society is too change it will have to be done. The fire of resistance needs to burn; and to do so struggles need to link and become a force capable of blunting the attacks of the ruling class in South Africa.

Edited for mb3-org.com

Hundreds protest to free Morocco’s northern activists

Demonstrators hold banners in Arabic reading "freedom" and "Death over humiliation" during a protest in Casablanca, Morocco, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017. Hundreds of people from around Morocco protested Sunday in the nation's economic capital, Casablanca, to demand freedom for jailed activists. Photo: Mosa'ab Elshamy, AP / Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

By : Reda Zaireg

CASABLANCA, Morocco (AP) — Hundreds of people from around Morocco protested on Sunday in the nation’s economic capital, Casablanca, to demand freedom for activists jailed for their roles in a protest movement that took off a year ago in a neglected northern city.

The demonstration was the latest of numerous protests demanding the liberation of activists from the city of Al Hoceima, in the northern Rif region where hundreds of protesters have been arrested.

Leading figures in the opposition movement known as Hirak will go on trial Oct. 17 in Casablanca. No trial date has been set for the movement’s leader, Nasser Zefzafi — arrested in June after a dramatic manhunt. An appeals court will decide this month whether a charge of attacking state security, which carries a risk of capital punishment, is maintained. The death sentence hasn’t been carried out in Morocco in decades.

Up to 1,000 protesters, led by organizers perched on a pickup truck with megaphones, gathered at a main Casablanca intersection Sunday, chanting “freedom, dignity, social justice.”

“We are here to say, ‘Enough,'” said Nabila Mounib, the president of the Federation of the Democratic Left. His federation of left-wing parties has rallied to the cause. “Release the detainees and open a debate on their demands, and above all fight the corruption that gangrenes the Rif region,” Mounib said.

The protest movement has become the biggest challenge to the North African kingdom, a U.S. ally known for its stability, since the Arab Spring in 2011 overthrew longstanding regimes in the larger region. Yet, its roots are local. Protests started a year ago when a fish monger in Al Hoceina was crushed to death by a garbage compactor while trying to save fish that officials had confiscated.

The government has promised development projects for the region, which has a long history of rebellion against Morocco’s leaders. King Hassan II, the father of monarch Mohammed VI, never visited the Rif region, something his son changed. At the end of July, the king, celebrating the 18th anniversary of his accession to the throne, included an undisclosed number of those arrested in the Al Hoceima region among the 1,178 inmates benefiting from annual pardons.

Source: http://www.ctpost.com/news/world/article/Hundreds-protest-to-free-Morocco-s-northern-12261761.php

Edited for mb3-org.com

Fuel Price Hikes Hammer South Africa’s Working Class

by Philip Nyalungu

A sharp increase in fuel prices on Wednesday 6 September will hit the working class and poor hardest. Petrol, diesel and paraffin now cost 67c, 44c and 65c more, respectively. This is the fifth fuel increase this year. Economists have warned more will be disastrous.

The official reasons for the price hike are rising crude oil costs and the weak Rand. Government tax is also rising. Energy Minister Mamoloko Kubayi claims 4.6 cents a litre will go towards salary increases for petrol station workers.

The reality is rising prices get passed directly onto ordinary people by, for example, increases in taxi fares and food prices. LP gas, which with paraffin is the main fuels used in poor households, is up 86 cents a kilogram. Rising prices affect jobs, and many workers are vulnerable.

Informal economic activities, like street vending of food, are harmed, also affecting low-paid consumers like taxi drivers and petrol pump attendants. It is not clear how 4.6 cents a litre of petrol tax will supposedly get into the pockets of petrol station workers. If it does, it will just vanish due to rising prices. South African capitalism, enabled by the state machinery, rests upon cheap black labour, and the working class and poor majority continue to suffer. Real freedom remains far off.

Rising prices are part of the ongoing inflation problem in capitalism that keeps reducing real wages. Owners of the means of production, including oil refineries and fuel chains, the banks and the state, have the power to increase prices and devalue currency, and so, increase profits by increasing poverty.

But the victims, workers and their families, lack both economic power and political influence. So long as the economy remains under the control of the bosses and politicians, rather than the broad working class, problems like endless price rises will continue. Only class struggle from below through counter-power, aiming at a better society, based on self-management, collective property and participatory planning, can move us from this track. This requires working class autonomy from the parties and the state.

Source: https://zabalaza.net/2017/09/21/fuel-price-hikes-hammer-south-africas-working-class/#more-5413

Edited for mb3-org.com

Rwanda’s brave women leaders expose Kagame’s inhuman character

Protests Rage On in Kenya After President Is Re-Elected

By 

KISUMU, Kenya — The sun had barely risen, but protesters were already bracing for another wave of confrontations with the police in the city of Kisumu on Saturday after an election disputed by supporters of Kenya’s opposition party.

As the smell of tear gas and smoke from burning debris clung to the morning mist, residents began assessing the damage from the previous night’s protests after the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta, a vote that many in this part of western Kenya believe was stolen, even though international observers concluded that it was fair and transparent.

In Nairobi, the capital, the opposition National Super Alliance Party claimed that the police were provoking violence and accused them of killing dozens of people nationwide, although party officials provided no evidence for their claims. Reports from news agencies put the death toll from violence overnight at 11.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, an independent organization, said Saturday that 24 people had been killed in election-related violence since Tuesday’s vote, including 17 in Nairobi. A provincial commissioner in Kisumu, Wilson Njega, said that at least one person had been killed in the city.

Hundreds of residents of Kisumu, an opposition stronghold, clashed overnight with the police, who, they said, cut off electricity to create confusion, sprayed live bullets into crowds, fired tear gas and blasted them with water cannons. The police, witnesses said, conducted house-to-house raids in parts of the city, and residents accused some officers of beating them with clubs and stealing money from them. The police in Kisumu declined to comment on the allegations.

Continue reading the main story

“If the police are coming to beat us, we are ready for war,” Calvin Otieng, a Kisumu resident, shouted, waving a plastic bottle filled with flammable liquid, his eyes bloodshot. He had not eaten for days, he said. Large groups of men talked loudly on a major road that was blocked with rocks, burning tires and overturned market stalls. Some shops had been set on fire, their corrugated walls, still smoking, collapsed in a metallic heap.

“We are angry and we want to demonstrate,” said another resident, Ken Wamungu, 30. “But the police are not protecting our right to protest.”

Around midnight on Friday, Mr. Kenyatta was declared the winner against Raila Odinga, the 72-year-old opposition leader. The announcement was made after a long and bitter contest that was roiled by allegations of vote rigging, fears of violence and the unresolved murder of a top election official just days before the vote.

Photo

Riot police prepared to advance toward protesters amid burning barricades during clashes in Nairobi on Saturday. CreditBen Curtis/Associated Press

Throughout his campaign, Mr. Odinga roused supporters by warning that the election results would be manipulated. As ballots were being counted, he claimed that the electoral commission’s servers had been hacked — which he linked to the poll official’s death — to award Mr. Kenyatta a significant lead. Then, the opposition leader asserted that he had obtained secret information from the electoral body showing him to be the real winner.

So far, Mr. Odinga has not provided evidence supporting those allegations.

But tensions were ratcheted up when he refused to concede defeat, saying that the electoral commission had not properly addressed the opposition’s grievances before officially announcing the winner. He has urged his followers to remain calm, but he also said he did not “control the people.”

At the same time, top opposition officials have indicated that they are unwilling to resolve their concerns about election fraud in court, as they tried, unsuccessfully, to do after the 2013 election. Election observers warned that such comments could be interpreted by the opposition’s supporters as a call to protest. Many did.

Shortly after the announcement of Mr. Kenyatta’s victory was televised, riots erupted in major cities across Kenya. They were mostly in poor areas that are generally neglected by the central government, and where residents suffer from high unemployment and rising living costs. Many cannot afford to buy ugali, a staple food, or pay school fees for their children. “We are hungry and angry,” said a Kisumu resident, Steve Odundo, 22.

Continue reading the main story

Photo

Supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga ran from the police during clashes in the Kibera slum in Nairobi on Saturday. CreditGoran Tomasevic/Reuters

So far, the death toll is lower than feared, given Kenya’s history of electoral violence.

In 2007, elections that were viewed as widely flawed touched off bloodshed that left at least 1,300 people dead and 600,000 displaced. After elections in 2013, when voting systems were afflicted by widespread malfunctionsand there were again accusations of vote rigging, more than 300 people were killed. Mr. Odinga claimed that he was robbed of victory in both elections.

Many supporters of Mr. Odinga said they were angry that international observers, including former Secretary of State John Kerry, did not appear to take the opposition’s claims seriously.

The protests have also put attention on response by the police. Human Rights Watch called on the Kenyan authorities to exercise restraint.

They “should not use tear gas or live ammunition simply because they consider a gathering unlawful,” said Otsieno Namwaya, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Photo

Emergency workers tended to about 15 people who were said to have beaten by police officers during clashes in Nairobi on Saturday. CreditMarco Longari/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

At the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Hospital, named after Mr. Odinga’s father, an independence hero, six people were being treated for gunshot wounds and other injuries.

David Okoth, 32, was shot in the neck. His brother, Martin, said the pair had been eating at home when they heard a commotion. When they stepped outside, he said, “we saw a police car coming close by, spraying bullets at us.” One of the bullets hit Mr. Okoth, he said.

Moses Oduor, 28, had traveled to Kisumu from Nairobi to vote in his ancestral home. When young men started rioting, police officials began raiding houses in parts of Kisumu, yanking people outside and beating them, he said.

Mr. Oduor said he sustained broken ribs and a broken leg during a confrontation with police officers. The police also took his wallet, money and phone, he said. “But they threw my ID card back at me,” he said.

Photo

An injured man in the Kibera slum of Nairobi on Saturday. CreditPatrick Meinhardt/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Jebel Ngere, a police official overseeing operations in Nyandala, a neighborhood in Kisumu, declined to comment on witnesses’ claims, but he said that many of the protesters were using the election as a pretext to loot. One local supermarket was vandalized, he said.

Protesters, armed with rocks, slingshots and machetes, were being pushed away from major roads and central parts of the city, which the police and soldiers were trying to secure, Mr. Ngere said.

But the protesters kept returning in waves, he said, taunting the police with rocks and other projectiles, before being forced to retreat again.

About 600 uniformed members of the security forces and plainclothes officers have been deployed in Kisumu, a number far greater than after previous elections, according to officials.

On one road in Nyandala, only soldiers and police officers were visible. Some were taking a break, reading newspapers. Others drank fizzy drinks at a shop, the only one open.

Suddenly, a rock was thrown at them from inside a maze of houses. Then another. Two police officials quickly took cover near some stalls and moved along the walls.

“It’s a cat-and-mouse game,” Mr. Ngere said. “But this time around, we have made proper arrangements.”

“Everything is prepared,” he said, in a somewhat ominous tone.

Edited for mb3-org.com

Little Known Black History Fact: Liberia’s Independence

The African nation of Liberia celebrates its 170th year of independence on this day, and the country has a complicated history. Initially established as a colony by slaveholders and politicians to shuttle free-born Blacks from America’s shores, it has since developed into a nation with a respectable democratic process. In 1816, the American Colonization Society…

via Little Known Black History Fact: Liberia’s Independence — Black America Web

Child With HIV Has Been in Remission For Nearly 9 Years Without Drugs

HIV researchers announced on Monday that a nine-year-old child from South Africa has been living with HIV in remission for almost nine years—without continuing the use of HIV drugs. Researchers say this is the third case of prolonged HIV remission after early treatment. The study adds to new but growing evidence that early treatment of…

via Child With HIV Has Been in Remission For Nearly 9 Years Without Drugs — TIME