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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tariffs and Treachery

Editorial on SA Energy News: Tariffs and Treachery

The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) will hold a public hearing on Friday (23/05/08) on the proposed Eskom tariff increases. The SECCP will be there, as will 200 community members from Soweto and Soshanguve, demonstrating against Eskom’s unwise, ill-timed and anti-poor price increases.

This Special Edition of SENSE carries our submission to NERSA instead of the usual press reports.

The case against Eksom’s proposed tariff increases has a few key components: First, the tariff increases do not adequately protect poor consumers and will bring new hardships to communities already struggling for mere survival. This could be avoided through the implementation of a step-block tariff and an increase of the Free Basic Allocation to 100kWh per person per month.

The second main reason to reject Eskom’s tariff increases is the unwise financial planning that structures the increases. By committing itself to a new build programme of coal and uranium power sources, Eskom is effectively locking the entire country into a fossil fuel economy for the next fifty years. Within ten to fifteen years, the costs of solar and wind generation per kWh produced will be below that of coal and uranium, mostly due to the long-term rise of coal, uranium, gas and petroleum stocks. As previous editions of SENSE have pointed out, these fossil fuel commodities are finite, dwindling, and increasingly in demand. An economic genius one needs not be to understand the long-term price implications.

The third reason is that Eskom has failed to show any meaningful commitment to cost-cutting measures; the ten million rands in bonuses to top management (who have managed to get coal stockpiles horribly mixed up, invested money in financial instruments instead of maintenance, and have cost the country billions through some bizarrely-timed blackouts) would be a great place to start.

The final reason is that the Developmental Electricity Pricing Programme (DEPP) and the related Alcan contract remain on the books. It is economically unsound, socially evil, and environmentally ill-conceived to provide power subsidies to a foreign corporation with minimal job creation while raising prices on the rest of South African society. In effect, why should South African citizens and small businesses have major price increases while foreign corporations are guaranteed profits through artificially low prices?

Speaking of the DEPP, SENSE must make mention of a recent agreement between Rio Tinto Alcan and the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), the Zwartkops Trust, the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) and the Wilderness Foundation. Apparently, these so-called environmental organisations have agreed to welcome in and work with a corporation that was forced out of India by activists, and has laid economic ruin upon the Canadian town of Kitimat. In the name of environmental and social justice, these organisations are willing to essentially build a new coal-fired power plant to service Alcan’s proposed smelter. In the name of combating global warming—a hotter and drier Africa will negatively affect the critters these organisations are committed to saving—they are willing to increase South Africa’s CO2 emissions. Oh thank you, you fine environmental organisations. Thank you for listening to local environmental activists like the Nelson Mandela Bay Local Environmentalists (NiMBLE), who have been campaigning against Alcan for over a year.

Further, EWT, the Zwartkops Trust, WESSA, and the Wilderness Foundation have accepted Alcan and the Government’s penchant for secrecy surrounding aluminium smelting. Article 10 of the MOU signed between these organisations and Rio Tinto Alcan states, “…members are expected to refrain from public comment regarding internal debate and deliberations of the NMBCAEA [Nelson Mandela Bay Coega Aluminium Environmental Alliance]…”

That’s it for now. I have to attend to my sore and bleeding back….

Tristen Taylor

Read the rest (pdf) here.

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March against xenophobia and hate

Social Movements Indaba
March against xenophobia and hate
21 May 2008

The SMI is mobilising social movements, immigrant communities, NGOs, unions, concerned residents from poor areas around the province for a march this Saturday, 24th of May. The march will gather at Marks Park (Empire and Hospital Road) from 9a.m., proceed through Hillbrow and stop at the Departments of Home Affairs and Housing before ending at the Library Gardens. The message marchers will be conveying is that our struggle is common and knows no borders. Everyone who wants to make their voices heard should join us – our struggle knows no borders.

The Social Movements Indaba (SMI) – a co-ordinating national body of social movements, civil society and activist organisations – is organising with its affiliated organisations and immigrant communities to roll back the groundswell of xenophobia. In the years since its formation in 2002, the SMI has linked organisations of the poor in struggle for basic services, international solidarity and against police repression. At its last national meeting in December in Cape Town, the SMI identified xenophobia as a pervasive problem in communities and undertook to campaign against hatred of foreigners. Now that the crisis of hate crime is no longer foreboding and is terrifyingly HERE, there is no time to stall and wish we were better prepared. We are without hesitation committed to the struggles for social justice, internationalism and solidarity with all repressed people.

While the police have been deployed to try keep a lid on the pressure that has boiled over, this is no solution to the safety and security of all. As a xenophobic force in Johannesburg pre-existing the outbreak of violence, the police cannot be trusted to be more than the brute barrier between perpetrators and their targeted victims. The South African Police Services and Johannesburg Metro Police harass immigrants to solicit bribes as a matter of practice. Calling on the police to 'do their work' as president Thabo Mbeki and his government have done does not, therefore, address the issues of safety and security amongst immigrant communities. The refugee communities do not trust the police as impartial arbiters of the conflict. The police conducted a brutal raid on the Central Methodist Church on the 31st of January 2008 under the pretext of crime prevention. Criminalisation of immigrants is a smokescreen for deportation and bribery that the police has not cleared.

Long-lasting safety and security for all does not include deportation of foreign nationals, whether voluntary or not. Xenophobia's origins lie within the conditions of poverty in which the majority of South Africans live. Immigrants have been targeted for their ethnic difference and for their very similarity with their persecutors. Seen as competitors for scarce jobs and housing, south Africans have misdirected their anger at conditions of poverty that are unchanging. Their fellow brothers and sisters who are enduring the same cannot be responsible for what the economic and political system has created.

While we struggle for a change to the neo-liberal capitalist system that has created this reality, rearguard struggles for safety and security of immigrants in the country must continue. The SMI gives thanks for those humanitarian organisations, emergency services and churches that are trying to stem the tide of bloodletting and forced removals. We will organize against the creation of refugee camps and work towards the reintegration of immigrants in our communities. In working to recover our common humanity and restore calm, delegations from the SMI are meeting with community-based organisations in Alex and the inner city, and as the programme of action to roll-back the hate unfolds, the SMI will be going further afield to speak to affected communities.

— No one is illegal —

The SMI will be convening a press conference about the wave of xenophobic violence tearing through Gauteng and what civil society organisations and social movements are doing to combat it. The press conference will be taking place tomorrow, Wednesday 21 May 2008 - APF offices - 7th floor of Vogas House, 123 Pritchard Street (cnr Mooi) Johannesburg at 11a.m.

For directions or other enquiries, please contact the Anti Privatisation Forum on 011 333 8334.

For comment, please contact: Silumko Radebe (APF) 0721737268; Mhlobo Gunguluzi (Khanya College) 0843773013; Brian Burayai (Refugee Fellowship) 0732865667


The Social Movements Indaba includes amongst other organisations: the Anti Privatisation Forum, Jubilee South Africa, Imbawula Trust, Sounds of Edutainment, Umzabalazo we Jubilee, Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, Inner City Resource Centre, Kliptown Concerned Residents, Khanya College, Earthlife Africa (Johannesburg), Palestinian Solidarity Committee, Golden Triangle Crisis Committee, Samancor Retrenched Workers Crisis Committee, African Renaissance Civic Movement, Group of Refugees Without Voice


Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Some interesting posts online from Jonathon and the crew at Zabalaza (the self-declared home of Southern African Anarchism).

For everyone outside of the South African left, try this.

For those in the SA left, there's been a tit for tat exchange between Zabalaza and Trevor Ngwane.


Monday, May 05, 2008

End of Prepaid Water Meters: VICTORY!


Wednesday 30th April 2008

  • Johannesburg High Court declares prepaid water meters unlawful & unconstitutional

  • Court finds enforced choice between pre-paid meter and standpipe to be unlawful and unconstitutional and orders City of Johannesburg to provide full range of water delivery service options

  • Limitation of free basic water allocation of 6kl per household, per month is set aside & City of Johannesburg ordered to provide 50 litres per person, per day.

JOHANNESBURG, 30 April 2008 — In a historic and ground-breaking judgement, the Johannesburg High Court today declared that the City of Johannesburg’s forcible installation of prepaid water meters in Phiri (Soweto) is both unlawful and unconstitutional. Judge Tsoka further ordered that the limitation of free basic water to the present 6 kilolitres per household per month, be set aside and that the City of Johannesburg and Johannesburg Water must supply Phiri residents with 50 litres per person per day. Furthermore, the court declared that the choice given to residents of either a prepaid meter or a standpipe for water provision in Phiri is also unlawful and directed the City to provide residents of Phiri the option of an ordinary credit metered water supply. Judge M.P. Tsoka also determined that the City should bear all the legal costs of the applicants since 2006.

As jubilation at the judgement ripples across Phiri and the rest of Soweto, the City will be sitting shell-shocked. Johannesburg Water's Operation Gcin'amanzi cannot continue in its present form and an entirely new system for water provision has to now replace it. The pitiless pre-paid meters have finally been consigned to the dustbin they deserve. If the City had followed the writ of the law in implementing their water services, consulting with the community and listening to the voices of protest, they would not be sitting with egg on their faces and a R320-million loan for pre-paid meters they now can't install. The City chose rather to deploy the Red Ants, private security companies and police in Phiri at the onset of Operation Gcina'manzi in August 2003 to protect their misshapen project. The fact that Phiri residents were gagged in their own homes as work proceeded against their wishes, enduring arrest and detention, has redounded to the City's loss. What needless waste! This crisis is one of their own making.

The Coalition Against Water Privatisation would like to extend its heartfelt thanks and congratulation to our advocate in the case, Wim Trengove, and to all the attorneys and paralegals at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) at Wits University who pulled together the legal arguments that proved so persuasive. When government implements by managerialist command and disregards the interests of the people it is meant to serve, the Bill of Rights can mean little more than the paper it is written on. Thank you to the Coalition's legal team for helping to make the Constitution real again.

As CALS stated in an earlier press release, this is the first time, ‘in which the constitutional right to water has explicitly been raised’ and the judgement itself provided meaningful and clear reasons for the orders issued. Judge MP Toska ‘criticised the municipality for its discriminatory approach to the provision of water’, finding that: “the underlying basis for the introduction of prepayment meters seems to me to be credit control. If this is true, I am unable to understand why this credit control measure is only suitable in the historically poor black areas and not the historically rich white areas. Bad payers cannot be described in terms of colour or geographical area”. The Judge went on to say that, “25 litres per person day is insufficient for the residents of Phiri …to expect the applicants to restrict their water usage, to compromise their health, by limiting the number of toilet flushes in order to save water is to deny them the rights to health and to lead a dignified lifestyle.” The Judge further found that the consultation leading up to the adoption of pre-paid meters was inadequate, stating that the process was “more of a publicity stunt than consultation”. He also criticised the City’s “big brother approach” to the residents of Phiri.

The greatest credit for this extraordinary legal victory must go to the residents of Phiri that resisted the installation of the pre-paid meters, and to all the other residents of poor communities, both in Johannesburg and across the country, who have been fighting for accessible, affordable and sufficient water provision/delivery . The Coalition Against Water Privatisation formed around the water crisis in Phiri and the struggle was given life by Phiri's strength.

While the Coalition knows that this judgement will most probably be appealed by the City of Johannesburg and Johannesburg Water all the way to the Constitutional Court, this does not detract from the political and social significance of this victory. We are confident that this judgement will be upheld and that water provision will now no longer be delivered in a discriminatory, patronising and inhumane manner. The fact is that water service delivery, not only in Johannesburg but across the entirety of South Africa, can never be the same.



Thursday, April 24, 2008

Press Release: Resistance Against Unfair Tariff Hikes Grows

I'll post some pictures soon (I hope).

Press Release: Resistance Against Unfair Tariff Hikes Grows
Earthlife Africa Jhb, Anti-Privitisation Forum
21st of April 2008

On the 23rd of April 2008, approximately 2,000 members of the Anti-Privitisation Forum (APF), Earthlife Africa Jhb (ELA Jhb), the Landless People's Movement and The Greenhouse will be hitting the streets in Johannesburg to protest against Eskom’s proposed and unjust tariff hikes.

The march will begin at Library Gardens at 10am, moving to City Power (Jorrisen Street) and then to Eskom (Smit Street). In addition to this protest in Johannesburg, protests will take place in Pretoria (to DME and NERSA), Durban and Cape Town on the same day.

These events will be preceded by pickets on Tuesday (22nd of April) in Pretoria (DME & NERSA), in Johannesburg (Eskom & DME) and the Vaal (Eskom). All of these pickets will commence at 10:00am, please contact APF Organiser, Silmuko Radebe (see below) for more information.

The proposed tariff hikes of 60% in real terms will negatively affect the living standards of poor households and will be at odds with efforts towards poverty reduction. Eskom will be placing a burden on consumers who cannot already afford electricity. Despite the Government and Eskom’s repeated boasts about electrification, 30% of South Africans are still without electricity. Of the 70% who do have electricity, many poor users suffer from disconnection. Furthermore, users of prepaid meters disconnect themselves (due to lack of funds to feed the meter), thus transferring the onus of disconnection from the state to the citizenry. The Free Basic Allocation of 50kWh a month per household is widely regarded to be inadequate; 50kWh doesn’t stretch that far between six to eight people.

APF Organiser, Silumko Radebe, states that, “The restructuring and preparation for the privatisation of ESKOM has led to the present crisis. Following the dictates of GEAR and ASGISA and the Washington consensus that gave birth to the neoliberal policies, the energy sector was opened to foreign investments through privatisation and deregulation. The motivation for restructuring Eskom was that there is a need to introduce competition into electricity provision. Eskom was, therefore, broken up into its generation, transmission and distribution divisions and corporatised. The current crisis is borne of these efforts to create a power market where scarcity of energy resources ensures a ‘competitive environment’ and profitability for the generators and distributors of electricity. The restructuring of the distribution division set up regional electricity distributors (REDs) that would be financially and organisationally independent of one another and the state. In other words, electricity is treated as a commodity rather than a public service.”

A social ill will only be increased by the proposed tariff structure. In response to rising electricity prices, many poor consumers will turn towards alternative energy sources such as paraffin, coal, and biomass. This will have enormous financial and social consequences: For example, in 2000, there were 46,000 paraffin fires, 50,000 paraffin burns, and at least 4,000 children died from drinking paraffin. The total cost to the economy of paraffin related incidents is R100 billion a year. Our children are being physically scarred for life or are dying because Eskom refuses to supply adequate electricity to its poorest and most marginalized citizens.

This move of Eskom’s is surprising and foolhardy. There exists a set of reforms, which if implemented, can alleviate the power crisis and the lack of access crisis that besets this country. They are:

1) A step-block tariff with a free basic allocation of 100kWh per person per month.
2) The opening up of Eskom’s secret contracts with large-scale users and tariff increases on the 25 companies that consumer 40% of our electricity generated.
3) The scrapping of subsidised electricity for foreign corporations under the Developmental Electricity Pricing Programme, and, in particular, the Alcan contract.
4) The abolishment of pre-paid metres.
5) The reorganisation of Eskom within the state so that it operates as an agent of social construction and not a profit-making business.
6) Investment in renewable energy instead of the costly fossil fuels of coal and uranium.
7) No member of Eskom management shall be paid a bonus.

Tristen Taylor, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg’s Energy Policy Officer, states, “As much as electricity tariffs needs increase to address infrastructure maintenance needs, the proposal from Eskom is either vague or at odds with endeavors for poverty eradication. It is of utmost importance that Eskom addresses the issue of indigent users access and affordability of electricity supply and unless Eskom adequately addresses its electricity-generation strategy that is at the heart of its long-term financial ill health, Eskom’s proposals should be rejected by NERSA.”

For more information, please contact:

Tristen Taylor
Energy Policy Officer
Earthlife Africa-Johannesburg Branch

Silumko Radebe
Anti-Privatisation Forum

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Press Release: SA Lesbian and Gay Community on Zimbabwe

16 April 2008

The South African Lesbian and Gay Equality Project (LGEP), formerly known as the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality (NCGLE), is concerned about the deepening political, economic and social crises in Zimbabwe. We express our full solidarity with the lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, women, workers and all the people of Zimbabwe. We add our voice in condemning the unjustified delay in the release of the 29 March elections. As Zimbabwean Independence Day approaches on 18 April 2008, Zimbabweans have nothing to celebrate in honour of their heroic liberation struggle and historic achievement of freedom and democracy.

The actions of the government of Zimbabwe, the police, the army, the judiciary and the Zimbabwean Elections Commission are against universally accepted democratic principles and practice. The Zimbabwean government is responsible for the social and economic crises facing that country. The crises are rooted in actual social stratification processes and ZANU-PF policy choices that support them. These originate from the early 1990s adoption of neo-liberal Structural Adjustment Programmes by Mugabe's government. They have been reinforced by the failure of that government to transform that country's economy into one at the hands and service of the needs of the overwhelming majority of the people. It is under such conditions that principles of democracy, equality and non-discrimination get sacrificed and political leaders look for easy scapegoats to hide their failures. No wonder then that Mugabe's first targets were lesbian and gay people in Zimbabwe.

The homophobia promoted by ZANU-PF is not divorced from the oppression of women, the exploitation of workers and the gross violation of human rights that the same government has been responsible for. Beyond majority numbers, democracy is also about progressive values of equality, freedom, human rights and non-discrimination.

We call on the lesbian and gay community in Zimbabwe to emerge and add their principled voice in the struggle for democracy, freedom and equality in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwean political protagonists will have to map out their own process and ordinary Zimbabweans must settle their scores with their oppressors. But South and Southern Africans have an important role to play:

1. First, the South African government must take a principled position on Zimbabwe, an approach that is radically different from its current approach. Whilst continuing to foster dialogue and negotiations between various Zimbabwean forces, the South African government must make it clear that democratic principles are not for sale and must not show any equivocation in publicly condemning the undemocratic actions of the Zimbabwean government. It is for these reasons that the LGEP welcomes the 14 April 2008 statement of the ANC National Working Committee.

2. Secondly, a wide range of progressive forces and voices in South Africa must do more to build and express solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe. This must start with political pressure on the South African government and the diplomatic representatives of Zimbabwe in South Africa.

3. Finally, as progressive South Africans we must engage our Zimbabwean and Southern African comrades in struggle around the affirmation of democracy, people’s power, social justice, equality, non-discrimination, and the removal of all forms of oppression in the much-needed new constitutional framework that Zimbabwe needs.

We therefore call on the entire lesbian and gay community in South Africa to add their voice in support of democracy, freedom and equality in Zimbabwe.

Phumzile S. Mtetwa
Email: //

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Press Release: Zimbabweans Demonstrate and March To Call for Urgent Intervention

15 April 2008

Zimbabweans Demonstrate and March To Call for Urgent Intervention


Tuesday 15 April - underway as of today until Friday

# March from Bela-Bela (outside Pretoria) to Musina. Marchers are due to arrive in Musina on Friday 18 April (Zimbabwean Independence Day). Co-ordinated by The Peace and Democracy Movement of Zimbabwe. Includes members of the Zimbabwe Exiles' Forum, the Zimbabwe Action Movement and the Southern African Women's Institute for Migration Affairs (SAWIMA).

Contact: Diyani Ncube - Acting Project Co-ordinator
Cell: 074 434 6008 or: 079 665 8870 - Gilbert Moyo's phone

Wednesday 16 April from 10h00

# Demonstration outside Zimbabwean Embassy, Pretoria. Time: 10h00
# Demonstration outside the Union Buildings, Pretoria (time to be confirmed)
# Demonstration outside the UN offices, Pretoria (time to be confirmed)

Participants include Zimbabwe Exiles' Forum, Global Diaspora Forum, SAWIMA.
Contact: Gabriel Shumba - Zimbabwe Exiles' Forum / Human rights lawyer. Mr Shumba was personally tortured by the regime.
Cell: 072 6393 795

Contact: Grace Kwinjeh - Chairman of The Global Diaspora Forum. Ms Kwinjeh was seriously beaten en route to the Save Zimbabwe prayer meeting on 11 March 2007.
Cell: 079 434 4508

Contact: Mrs Joyce Dube - Director, Southern African Women's Institute for Migration Affairs (has recently been in Zimbabwe and is fully up to date).
Cell: 079 873 9021

Thursday 17 April from 11h00

# Demonstration outside the Pan African Parliament in Pretoria. From 11h00. Revolutionary Youth Movement of Zimbabwe.

Contact: Simon Dread Mudekwa - President of the RYMZ
Cell: 079 619 2955

The message of the marches and demonstrations:

# The situation in Zimbabwe is no longer serious, it is desperate
# United Nations intervention is needed immediately
# Thousands of lives, livelihoods and homes are at stake
# The healthcare system has collapsed and the hospitals cannot cope with the mounting injuries
# The crisis poses a serious threat to the region.
# If the violence perpetrated by the Zimbabwean regime is not halted, the refugee crisis will escalate dramatically

Note: Demonstrations are also taking place at the Zimbabwean Embassy in London.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mugabe and Zanu PF now constitute a coup

By permission of Briggs Bomba...

Mugabe and Zanu PF now constitute a coup
Briggs Bomba
April 07, 2008

The unfortunate, yet predictable drama unfolding in the wake of Zimbabwe’s March 29 elections resurrects Josef Stalin’s ghosts reminding us of his uncanny words that ‘Its not who votes that counts, its who counts the votes’. Mugabe’s crafty actions since the elections evidently show that he is determined to win the count after losing the elections.

Seven days after peacefully casting votes in the most anticipated election since 1980, Zimbabweans still await the official announcement of the results. The profound sense of hope that characterized the voting day is now turning into downright bewilderment as it becomes clear that President Mugabe and his Zanu PF are doggedly bent on disregarding the people’s sovereign will as expressed on March 29.

The revelation from State media that Zanu PF ordered the Zimbabwe Elections Commission (ZEC) not to announce the presidential election results is baffling to anyone with a sense of how the Zimbabwean elections process must work. ZEC is a constitutionally mandated body tasked to independently administer elections. For such a body to take orders from Zanu PF whose legal status in this case is a mere contestant demonstrates what is wrong not only with elections but with everything in Zimbabwe. It is this rotten state of democratic institutions and the subordination of state bodies to the ruling party that is at the heart of the country’s decay.

The important point that must be made now is that President Mugabe’s continued hold on power, after an election he visibly lost, now constitutes a coup. Zimbabweans, supported by the international community must immediately act to thwart this violation of the people’s democratic will. The unprecedented and unconstitutional move by Zanu PF’s to bar the ZEC from announcing the presidential election results is clear evidence of mischief and unwillingness by hardliners in Mugabe’s regime to respect the sovereign will of the people of Zimbabwe. By heeding this illegal request, ZEC has failed the crucial test of independence, thus confirming the longstanding fears by Zimbabwe’s civic society that the elections body will sacrifice Zimbabwe’s democracy at the alter of partisan interests.

Zanu PF’s calls for a recount and already ongoing preparations for a presidential election rerun, before the results are known, is not only bizarre but also evidence of utter contemptuous disrespect to not only Zimbabweans but also the whole world. With the current machinations, the Mugabe regime has reached the height of illegality because they have in actual fact staged what is essentially a ‘veto coup’. By definition this is when ‘people’s mass participation and social mobilization to govern themselves’ is vetoed.

By refusing to bow to popular will Mugabe is daring the people of Zimbabwe who have demonstrated legendary restrain and patience under the most unbearable living conditions. The March 29 elections presented a singular opportunity for many to peacefully speak out and entrust the future of the country in a leadership of their choice. The consequences of frustrating and thereby rendering irrelevant such a democratic arena of struggle are dangerous not only to Zimbabwe but, potentially to the whole of Southern Africa. Mugabe’s reckless actions risks destabilizing the whole region by provoking people to extra democratic means in Zimbabwe with certain adverse spill over effects in the region. As such the responsibility to defend the March 29 vote goes beyond Zimbabweans. SADC, the AU and the United Nations, as bodies with longstanding commitment against illegal usurpation of power must play a key role in breaking the impasse in Zimbabwe. If these bodies are to remain relevant it is they speak out now to pressure Mugabe to release and accept the election results, otherwise they will be faced with a serious crisis of legitimacy.

At this very late hour, statements by South African President Thabo Mbeki that ‘the situation in Zimbabwe is manageable’ and that ‘it is time to wait’ are not only unhelpful but a slap in the face for long suffering Zimbabweans, who at considerable risk and sacrifice went out to vote on March 29. There cannot be any plausible reason why results are not known seven days after voting! No, Mr President, this is not ‘a time to wait’; neither is it a ‘manageable situation’. This is more like a time bomb that can only be defused if the people’s vote is respected.

President Mbeki’s unfortunate statements and the deafening silence from other African leaders in SADC and the AU raises serious problems of accountability with the current crop of African leaders. Where is the moral outrage in this clear case of daylight robbery? Diplomacy seems to have been redefined to ‘see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil’ within the old boys club. Africa is not helped by this blind, uncritical support amongst its leaders.

The opposition in Zimbabwe must now show decisive leadership. While it is commendable that we have not seen ‘Kenyan style’ violence in the post election period, Zimbabwe’s opposition must learn from Kenyan opposition that the business of appealing to an incumbent’s courts does not work. There are pending cases in courts from the 2000 elections. In fact, with a compromised judiciary, such as Zimbabwe’s, court appeals only serve the purpose of disarming people’s vigilance by creating a distracting sideshow and reinforcing illusions of mitigation. Already a dilly dance has started in the courts with all sorts of delaying tactics meant to buy Mugabe time until its too late, rendering the court challenge academic. The opposition is best advised to resort to peaceful mass mobilization of people power to defend the vote. The opposition must lead unions, students and the full range of civic society in defending the people’s vote. Mugabe will only pay attention if he is convinced that he can no longer govern in the old way, therefore the strategy must be to paralyze the state through effective, peacefully direct action. I personally hope that Professor Masunungure will be proved wrong on his recent assertion that Mugabe will get away with mischief and fraud because Zanu PF is ‘risk taking’ whereas the opposition is ‘risk averse’.

The despicable levels of suffering by many Zimbabwean make resolving the current impasse in Zimbabwe an urgent matter. Having been on the ground myself for two weeks around election time, I can attest that the humanitarian disaster I witnessed is heartbreaking. An old man I talked to in one of the rural areas told me that “now we wait to see which bush the goats are feeding on, and we eat that because we know it will not be poisonous”. Their village had always voted Zanu PF, this time they voted out one of Mugabe’s ministers despite all their fears of what could happen. They voted to restore their dignity.

It is time to defend the vote.

* Briggs Bomba is a Zimbabwean born Economist working for Africa Action in Washington DC, and writes here in his personal capacity. He can be contacted at

*Originally posted at:


Friday, April 11, 2008

Tibetan Feudalism

Go here for a very good left analysis of historical Tibetan feudalism. Here's an snippet:

One common complaint among Buddhist followers in the West is that Tibet’s religious culture is being undermined by the Chinese occupation. To some extent this seems to be the case. Many of the monasteries are closed, and much of the theocracy seems to have passed into history. Whether Chinese rule has brought betterment or disaster is not the central issue here. The question is what kind of country was old Tibet. What I am disputing is the supposedly pristine spiritual nature of that pre-invasion culture. We can advocate religious freedom and independence for a new Tibet without having to embrace the mythology about old Tibet. Tibetan feudalism was cloaked in Buddhism, but the two are not to be equated. In reality, old Tibet was not a Paradise Lost. It was a retrograde repressive theocracy of extreme privilege and poverty, a long way from Shangri-La.

Finally, let it be said that if Tibet’s future is to be positioned somewhere within China’s emerging free-market paradise, then this does not bode well for the Tibetans. China boasts a dazzling 8 percent economic growth rate and is emerging as one of the world’s greatest industrial powers. But with economic growth has come an ever deepening gulf between rich and poor. Most Chinese live close to the poverty level or well under it, while a small group of newly brooded capitalists profit hugely in collusion with shady officials. Regional bureaucrats milk the country dry, extorting graft from the populace and looting local treasuries. Land grabbing in cities and countryside by avaricious developers and corrupt officials at the expense of the populace are almost everyday occurrences. Tens of thousands of grassroot protests and disturbances have erupted across the country, usually to be met with unforgiving police force. Corruption is so prevalent, reaching into so many places, that even the normally complacent national leadership was forced to take notice and began moving against it in late 2006.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Comparing Israel and Tibet- Absurd!

Comparing Israel and Tibet- Absurd!
By Tristen Taylor, Tibetan Solidarity Activist

The recent South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) advert in the Vuvuzela (University of the Witwatersrand, 04 April 2008) showing the Dalai Lama praying at the Wailing Wall and comparing the plight of repressed and brutalised Tibetans to that of Israeli Jews is propaganda at its most vile.

As the latest protests in Tibet have shown, Tibetans have a genuine desire to self-government, religious independence, and freedom from the yoke of repression. The people of Tibet have flooded onto the streets, armed only with their religion and the knowledge of a just cause, and have stood up against the superior military might, arbitrary detention, and extrajudicial killings of the Chinese military. Tibet is a country invaded, economically and environmentally exploited, and whose culture is being swamped by hundreds of thousands of Han Chinese migrants. Tibetans are prisoners within their own country.

Are Tibetans really like Israelis? Is the condition of Tibetan protesters that of Israeli soldiers enforcing collective punishment on an entire people- the Palestinians? No, and to compare the two is not only misleading but also an outright lie.

If SAUJS were prepared to admit the truth, it would see that the conditions of Tibetans and Palestinians were very comparable. Both groups of people are ruled over by an external military force which illegally invaded their country. Both Tibetans and Palestinians are marginalised economically, are subjected to religious and racial persecution, and live in Apartheid-like societies. The arguments for Palestinian and Tibetan liberation are fundamentally the same.

If one were genuinely willing to look at the facts, one would have to admit that the Israeli occupation of Palestine is nothing but a series of crimes against humanity; similar to Chinese crimes against Tibetans.

A more appropriate ad—an ad seeking to expose the suffering of innocents— would be of Ehud Olmert and Wen Jiabao standing respectively over a Palestinian and Tibetan child, and betting who could crush that child’s skull the quickest with their jackboots.

Oh, and by the way, SAUJS’s interest in the plight of Tibetans was witnessed by its conspicuous absence from a recent Free Tibet activity on campus last month.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Press Release: Electricity is a right and the poor must have access to clean, alternative energy. South Africa needs democratic control of energy for

Press Release: Electricity is a right and the poor must have access to clean, alternative energy. South Africa needs democratic control of energy for all!
Anti Privitisation Forum
20th of March 2008

The issue of electricity in South Africa, in particular with ESKOM, is about the generation and distribution of electricity in Africa. As indicated in our country’s Constitution (in the bill of rights) electricity is a right. ESKOM has an attitude that electricity is a privilege not a right hence the ridiculous tariff increment of wanting to charge more than 53%. The Anti Privatisation Forum is condemning this increase and it is mobilising its constituencies against this proposed increase. This comes after ESKOM last year proposed an 18% tariff increase and the National Electricity Regulator of South Africa granted a 14% increase. The recent electricity black-outs in the country has promoted a public debate around the issue of the consumption of energy but have ignored the main source of the problem. The Anti Privatisation Forum (APF) has been struggling for the past eight years to ensure that poor communities have access to basic free electricity and that the poor are aware of their constitutional and human rights in attaining this service.

Many of our people in the country are unemployed and live below the poverty line. It is a fact that at least 50% of the population has become worse off since 1994, with most struggling to survive on a daily basis. Many of our constituencies have been living in squalid conditions where they have no roof over their head, use coal & paraffin for fire, candles for studying at night and little or no access to water & sanitation. Despite recent reports from the government on achieving their targets, many communities (Kliptown, Boiketlong, Kwa-Masiza, Tembalihle, Protea South, Khayelitsha QQ residents, Joe Slovo, Ikageng, Delft, Kennedy Road & Crossmoor) and many more informal settlements are at a disadvantage and have lost hope. Around 30% of South Africa’s population has absolutely no access to electricity, while many more than do have access will not be able to afford the proposed tariff increases.

The recent noise about load-shedding in the country is because big-business has been affected (where some have been forced to run their operations at 90-95% capacity). This has been viewed as a problem because it will affect production and decrease profitability resulting in a decline in the country’s economic growth. Even louder noises have been made that this will result in job losses and investors will be scared to risk their investments in the country.


It comes as no surprise that ESKOM CEO, Jacob Maroga, who recently met with 131 business executives from the ESKOM’s top 38 industrial and business customers in Midrand to discuss solutions to the power crisis, consciously excluded community and social movement organizations. Agriculture and the business sector combined get 83% of all electricity while the citizenry must scavenge for the remaining 17%. Then we wonder why the community is told to sleep early, switch of the geyser, use light saving bulbs, report illegal connections (“izinyoka”) and utilise less electricity during peak hours when they only use 17% of electricity. But also the message is directed to the poor who use minimal amounts of electricity as compared to the rich who have Jacuzzi’s, warm swimming pools, air conditioners, under floor heaters and many other electricity-eating gadgets. But this is not the point, we can’t compare this consumption to that of big business who clearly are being given first preference by ESKOM in terms of pricing policy. While big business is being provided electricity at less than 15 cents per kilowatt/hour, poor rural residents have long been charged 48 cents per kilowatt/hour. During recent power cuts, we have seen President Mbeki saying that it is a national crisis and all must play a role in taking equal responsibility for the crisis – we agree, there is a crisis, but it is not poor people who should bear equal burden for that crisis. The APF backs the call of the Congress of South Africa Trade Unions (COSATU) for ‘civil society’ to be part of the Electricity Forum – the voices of the poor must be heard.

The main sources of energy consumption/use in our modern lives are petroleum, natural gas and coal - all fossil fuels which are diminishing and with few/no alternatives energy sources in mind. In addition, ownership and control of present energy sources is monopolized by a few corporates and ultra-wealthy individuals. In South Africa, the government is responsible for producing 90% of the country’s electricity output, mostly all through coal-fired power stations. The additional 5% comes from nuclear-generated power (Koeberg) and hydro resources. This means that our government, through ESKOM, has the sole discretion as to how to distribute electricity output – and we can all see what decisions that have taken (agriculture gets 3%, commerce gets 10%, transport gets 2% and industry, a whopping 68%). The government’s macro-economic policy -GEAR – provides the overall framework for such choices of electricity distribution.

A classic example of this is the recent ALCAN-Coega deal with ESKOM that was signed on the 24th November 2006 (but which has since been delayed). The proposed Alcan-Coega aluminum smelter requires 1300MW of coal-generated power, enough to supply a small city, with Alcan only paying 0.02 to 0.06 cents per kilowatt/hour. What this clearly reveals is that there is no democratic process in decisions regarding electricity generation, distribution and pricing.


The only long term solution is to address both the environmental and human justice concerns, as part of addressing the political economy of energy/power. One of the factors that most all are agreed on, is that there are major socio-economic inequalities in South Africa. For example, poor people have been, and to a lesser extent continue to be, deprived of quality education and thus of the possibilities of being able to learn about the political economy of energy. Issues of energy have to be taken down to the community level. In the APF local government electricity platform we have clearly outlined our demands and alternative sources of energy. Addressing the immediate nature of the present crisis and its anti-poor ‘solutions’, requires a change in the distribution policy of ESKOM and government, reduction of electricity cut-offs, lower residential tariffs (especially for the poor) and an increase in the life-line allowances.

We need to be clear that there is no shortage of energy. There are existing alternative energy sources/ technologies (solar, wind, biogas etc.) and there are also methods of using energy with much greater efficiency, which have the potential to change the political economy of power. Moving forward on this front is going to require public sector/state support and subsidisation - especially for further research and development. We need to decentralise the generation of electricity to the local level of municipalities, town villages and households. Wind and solar energy provide two of the potentially best alternative sources, because they are free to all and they can’t be controlled by a few. Individual citizens and communities must have the ability not only to set their own electricity requirements but also to meet their own needs. People must have direct control of the electricity sector.

As the APF we say:

Forward to democratic control of renewable energy for all!

For more information please call Silumko Radebe (APF Organiser) @ 011 333 8334; Patra Sindane (Coalition Against Water Privatisation) @ 011 333 8334 Also contact Tristen Taylor (Earthlife Africa) @ 011 339 3662

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Earthlife Africa Welcomes Delay of Alcan Smelter

Press Release: Earthlife Africa Welcomes Delay of Alcan Smelter
Earthlife Africa Jhb
17th of March 2008

In this time of electricity supply crisis, the reported (SABC, 17/03/08) construction delay of the Alcan smelter at Coega is to be welcomed as a first step towards a rationalised electricity supply and distribution system.

For over two years, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg has been campaigning against the sale of bulk electricity to Alcan at low tariff rates. In late 2006, the Government & Eskom signed a host of deals with Alcan under the Developmental Electricity Pricing Programme (DEPP). These deals ensured Alcan 1350MW of power (enough to run a small city) at low rates. The estimated special tariff for Alcan is 12c/kWh.

While the details of these deals remain secret—due to dubious confidentiality clauses within the DEPP policy—delaying construction of the proposed smelter gives the Government the time to scrap the DEPP. This will enable the Government to replace the DEPP with an open, transparent policy on industrial electricity supply that will ensure industrial customers meaningfully contribute towards paying for the expansion of Eskom’s generating capacity.

In particular, the time has come to ensure that Eskom increases the generation of electricity from renewable resources, in particular Concentrated Solar Thermal, and that the tariff system is brought into line with the new realities.

Earthlife Africa Jhb believes that as commodity prices rise over the next five years (oil, coal, natural gas, and uranium) and as South Africa comes under increasing pressure to cut CO2 emissions, South Africa will have to transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable forms of energy.

Government policies like the DEPP prevent this. The underlying assumption behind the DEPP and the subsequent Alcan deal is that the Apartheid system of providing heavy industry with dirty, cheap electricity from coal-fired power stations is applicable in the 21st Century. This is not the case. South Africa cannot afford the Apartheid-style of electricity system under current global energy trends.

However, the converse is also true. South Africa can afford to invest heavily in an industrial plan to design and manufacture renewable energy technology. Only last week, the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies in the Western Cape announced the possibility of generating 10,000MW of electricity from wave power alone.

Our national resources should be invested in promoting this kind of research and development. Showering tax credits and cheap, polluting energy on foreign users in return for very few jobs is an economic model best left in the 1980s.

For more information, please contact:

Tristen Taylor
Energy Policy Officer
Earthlife Africa-Johannesburg Branch

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