Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category

Left, Cyril Ramaphosa; Right, Marikana Massacre

by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

The election of Cyril Ramaphosa as president of South Africa has produced a plethora of articles hailing a new dawn for the nation.  The Irish Times published an article written by the South African psychologist and current John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill chair in peace based at the International Conflict Research Institute, Ulster University, Professor Brandon Hamber.  The title of the article was the unimaginative A new dawn for South Africa, but a false start for Northern Ireland.(1)

But here I want to focus on South Africa.  He is after all from there and Ramaphosa was hailed in Ireland as a champion of peace and an important figure in the decommissioning process.  If his election as president of South Africa is a new dawn, then it will not be long before he is once again held up as an example to us all, which is what Hamber does, in effect.

He acknowledges problems in South Africa, but states that with Ramaphosa’s election, “A wave of new-found optimism has swept the country. In his state-of-the nation address on Friday, Ramaphosa spoke of a new dawn, turning the tide against corruption and tackling inequalities, while maintaining economic stability.”  He further states that “South Africans have a new belief in democracy and people power, and have learned first-hand the value of a free media and an independent judiciary. There is new hope in the constitution, the rule of law and the institutions developed to protect democracy.”  Were that true it would be a remarkable accomplishment in a matter of days.  The hypebole of people power is overwhelming and nauseating.

To be clear, the new president of South Africa is a mining magnate, a multimillionaire whose fortune is calculated, depending on the source as being between USD 450 and 700 million.  Yes he was once a lawyer and a leader of the National Union of Mineworkers.  But that is in the past.  How he became rich says more about the South Africa he will build than all the fine words that we expect at inaugurations or the sycophantic faith of academics who should (more…)


Marikana massacre of workers carried out by ANC government, August 16, 2012; the single most number killed by any Slouth African government in a single action since the 1960 apartheid regime massacre of black civil rights protesters at Sharpeville

Billionaire Cyril Ramaphosa has been made president of the ANC, although Jacob Zuma will continue as president of the country.

Ramaphosa says the ANC will spend 2018 reconnecting with the people and making up for its mistakes.

The idea of this super-rich capitalist reconnecting with the masses is a hoot.  Ramaphosa, who supported the massacring of mine workers just a couple of years ago, leveraged his time as a militant trade union leader to get into business and epitomises everything that went wrong with the ANC in the first place. 

by Peter Manson

Readers will know that president Jacob Zuma was replaced by Cyril Ramaphosa as leader of the African National Congress at the ANC’s elective conference in December.

Zuma will remain South African head of state, however, until a new president is elected by the national assembly following the 2019 general election – unless, of course, action is taken by the ANC and parliament to remove him earlier, which is a distinct possibility.

Just before the elective conference, commentator Peter Bruce pleaded to ANC delegates:

The fact is that policy uncertainty is crippling foreign investment … And try not to think of foreign investors as fat, white capitalists smoking cigars in a club somewhere and deciding which ideological friends to finance … They’re investing the savings and pensions of people like you … They need a return on those people’s money, just like you need a return on yours.1


Such commentators wanted Zuma out – and were equally opposed to his replacement as ANC president by his former wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who was seen as a mere continuation of the current corrupt regime. Zuma not only stands accused of using state funds to upgrade his private residence, and of allowing the Gupta family to exert huge influence over government appointments – so-called ‘state capture’ – but he still has no fewer than 783 charges of corruption, fraud and money-laundering hanging over him. These are connected to the multi-billion-dollar arms deal finalised in 1999 just after Zuma became deputy president. His financial advisor at the time, Schabir Shaik, was jailed in 2005 for facilitating those bribes and, while Zuma faced charges too, they were conveniently dropped just after he became president in 2009.

During the pre-conference campaign Ramaphosa repeatedly insisted that all those implicated in ‘state capture’ and corruption must be (more…)

unnamed (1)by Michael Roberts

The business media is full of the meltdown of the Chinese stock market, the credit bubble and impending crash in the Chinese economy.  But less well announced is the dangerous economic slowdown and already unfolding debt crisis in ‘emerging economies’ in general.

So for the first time since the emerging market crisis of 1998, all the large so-called BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are in trouble.  And so are the next range of ‘developing’ economies like Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey, Argentina, Venezuela etc.

Previously rising commodity prices in oil, base metals and food led to fast growth in many of these economies.  This in turn led to a flood of capital from advanced capitalist economies by banks and companies looking for higher profits than available in their economies.

unnamed (2)

But the commodity boom has collapsed.  Global commodity prices continue to plunge. Bloomberg’s commodity price index, tracking gold, crude oil and other raw materials, is (more…)


Cyril Ramaphosa, living it up on the backs of the black masses

by Phil Duncan

The latest Oxfam report on global inequality (October 2014) shows that, 20 years after ‘liberation’, South Africa is the most unequal society on earth. So unequal, in fact, that the two richest people are as wealthy as the poorest 50% of the population! Today in South Africa, reports Oxfam, a platinum miner would have to work for 93 years just to earn the average CEO’s annual bonus.

Among the super-rich is Cyril Ramaphosa, once-upon-a-time the leader of the militant black miners union. Ramaphosa was able to leverage his union experience into a profitable career as a business adviser and then expand his own businesses thanks to his long involvement in the ANC (African National Congress) and the connections that provided him with when the ANC took power in townships-11994.

The black working class, economically worse off than ever, are supposed to forget about their own interests and poverty, let alone fight for something better.  Instead they’re supposed to (more…)


by Peter Manson

Cape Town has just played host to the “largest global gathering of trade unions ever to take place in Africa”, in the shape of the December 7-10 world congress of the Swiss-based UNI Global Union. Originally called Union Network International, UNI groups together 900 service-sector unions worldwide – including the Communication Workers Union and Connect in Britain – with a total membership of 20 million.

Hosting this gathering of 2,000 delegates was seen as a bit of a coup for both the African National Congress government and the main trade union federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions. However, two embarrassing factors have removed a good deal of the gloss. The first is the rolling power cuts – “load shedding”, as they are called – whereby every day the state-owned electricity supplier, Eskom, desperately tries to get round its disastrous lack of capacity and failure to maintain the grid by pulling out the plugs for a couple of hours. These rotating cuts, currently taking place at the height of the South African summer, are due to go on until 2016 at the very earliest. Inevitably, it will be the working class and poor, with no access to private generators, who will be worse affected.

The second embarrassment takes the form of the split in Cosatu driven by the South African Communist Party. In the early hours of November 8, a special meeting of Cosatu’s central executive committee (CEC) voted by 33 votes to 24 to expel its largest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa). Led by Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini and National Union of Mineworkers general secretary Frans Baleni, the SACP loyalists insisted that the 350,000-strong Numsa must be booted out because of its desertion of the ANC and rejection of the ANC-SACP-Cosatu triple alliance.

The leaders of every Cosatu union are (or were) SACP members – and that applies to Numsa and its general secretary, Irvin Jim. But, after two decades of cuts, privatisation and attacks on the working class, a good number of them, with the Numsa leadership in the fore, have finally realised (more…)

Reviewed by Daphna Whitmore

The slim contours of this paperback are deceptive. Although at just a hundred pages it is more of an essay than a book, every sentence is laden with content. Arundhati Roy has produced a weighty work.

Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy

Since winning the Booker prize for her novel the The God of Small Things in 1997, Roy has lent her voice to the cause of the poor, the dispossessed and the environment. In Capitalism a Ghost Story she focuses her poetic prose on the grotesqueness of corporate India. ” “In the drive to beautify Delhi for the Commonwealth Games, laws were passed that made the poor vanish, like laundry stains.” The numbers are staggering: India’s new middle class, who have reached 300 million, are still dwarfed by the country’s 800 million impoverished. Then there are the ghosts of 250,000 debt-ridden farmers who have killed themselves.

In this work she returns again to the government’s war, Operation Greenhunt,  being waged against the people living in the forests of central India which she introduced the world to in Walking with the Comrades, in 2011.

She has a challenge for the feminists: “Why is it that the dispossession and eviction of millions of women from land that they owned and worked is not seen as a feminist problem?” (more…)

On the 47th anniversary of the murder of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, we’re running a review of his book about his involvement in the revolutionary struggle in the Congo following the overthrow of the radical Patrice Lumumba.  The African Dream: the diaries of the revolutionary war in the Congo was published by Harvill Press in 2000, and this review first appeared in issue 19 of revolution magazine in October 2002.

0by Philip Ferguson

In March 1965, after a two-month trip abroad, Che Guevara was greeted at Havana Airport by Fidel Castro.  He was not seen in public again until his corpse was exhibited in Bolivia in October 1967.

Guevara’s exploits in Bolivia hit the headlines at the time and have been relatively well-recorded, in his own published diaries and various biographies and other works.  His April-November 1965 involvement in the Congo, however, has remained obscure.  The African Dream, based on his Congo diaries and papers written by him immediately after leaving the country, therefore fills an important gap.  This is especially the case as, unlike the Bolivian diaries, with their unflagging optimism, or the heroic depiction of the guerrilla war in Cuba in the late 1950s, this is a warts and all account of a disaster, one which affected Guevara deeply and which had an important impact on his future and on future Cuban state policy.


The Congo involvement was important for a number of reasons.  The early 1960s were still very much the Cold War era – indeed this was shortly after the ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’.  Rather than retreat in the face of  US belligerence, the Cubans continued to go on the offensive.

Secondly, unlike Bolivia, which was very much Guevara’s own project, the Congo intervention involved the Cuban state.  High-level Cubans taking part on the ground in the Congo included not only Guevara, but construction minister Osmany Cienfuegos and others.

Thirdly, while it could be argued that there was never any chance of success in Bolivia, the Cubans’ allies in the Congo – essentially the Lumumbist left – had strong bases of support and, on paper anyway, a good chance of defeating the conservative regime backed by Belgium, the United States and apartheid South Africa.  (One of the major figures of the Lumumbist left, a mid-20s Laurent Kabila, did finally succeed in becoming leader of the Congo in 1997, before being overthrown and killed a few years later.)

Fourthly, it was the beginning of Cuba’s long-term involvement in Africa, culminating in Cuban troops playing a key role in driving the South African army out of Angola and helping hasten their retreat from Namibia.  In turn, this hastened the end of apartheid.  After the Congo fiasco, Cuba opted for supporting what it saw as radical regimes in Africa, such as the MPLA in Angola, rather than divided, unreliable and rather feckless ‘liberation’ movements on the continent.

What went wrong?

If the Congolese revolutionaries had a good chance of success, what went wrong?  Essentially, (more…)