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Vol. 8 No. 3: 21 - 27 September 2012

Ronald Lamola

Death of South Africans in Kabul part of a bigger picture!

"Former President Nelson Mandela duly condemned the Iraqi unilateral invasion, and called Bush a man who could not think properly, implying he was a mad man plunging the whole world into the dangers of war. It was for similar reason that the Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu similarly made his statement by refusing to speak on the same platform with former US President George Bush's partner in crime, former British Premier Tony Blair."

The eight died as a result of what has been reported as suicide bombing. For the South Africans, it could have been a matter of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, because as it is widely reported, the target was US interests and nationals.

The Tuesday blast by a lone female suicide bomber was as a consequence of the release on "You Tube" of the film trailer "Innocence of Muslims" by some radical Christians in the US. In the eyes of many Muslims, the film insulted the Prophet Mohammed. The South Africans who became victims were working for a US aviation firm with a local subsidiary. It is reported that another South African helicopter pilot resigned only after a week, having realised that, as stated in his own words, they were used as "sitting ducks". He contended that this was because while the had to fly at the ground altitude of about 500 feet from ground level, the US air force flew at the safe ground altitude of over 5000 feet.

We must remember why the South Africans. The South Africans have been lured into this death trap for a R7000 per day salary and this according to the said South African pilot, is peanuts for their American and European counterparts. The questions that lingers is why target the South Africans?

The answer lies in the broad scheme of the US unilateral invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. By declaring that they would smoke Saddam out of his hole, the Bush Administration meant that they were prepared to do whatever it costs to ensure that they effect regime change in Iraq and Afghanistan. The price of over 3000 Americans killed through the barbaric September plane crashes at the World Trade Centre twin towers in New York was to be revenged through an even greater barbarism, which was the loss of the lives of countless Iraqis and Afghanis.

Former President Nelson Mandela duly condemned the Iraqi unilateral invasion, and called Bush a man who could not think properly, implying he was a mad man plunging the whole world into the dangers of war. It was for similar reason that the Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu similarly made his statement by refusing to speak on the same platform with former US President George Bush's partner in crime, former British Premier Tony Blair.

Many progressive organisations across the world have lambasted the US led unilateral invasions and the consequences of that are still felt even today. On a daily basis, news of innocent Iraqis die from suicide bombings and that is counted as statistics. We have pointed out to the danger of looking as massive deaths in statistical format. These are names of human beings with human rights. News reports indicate that the recent deaths of South Africans in Kabul have left behind at least fiancée who has lost a spouse and young children without parents.

From the notion of self-interest, we must be duly concerned that South Africans died abroad without having any motive on their part to commit any crime or violence. Surely we must be disgusted that the cowardly act of a suicide bomber has resulted in the deaths of innocent lives, in this instance at least eight South Africans counted amongst the casualties.

But the policy of self-interest as most popularised by the former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has fatal weaknesses. It is the same philosophy guiding the capitalist system in the economy, hoping that self-interest of the individual would maximise the common interest be it at the level of the Nation State or at the global or international levels. This swings into motion the greedy scramble for personal advancement at all costs.

If we can achieve our goals in Iraq and Afghanistan, who cares about the constant reminder of the illegality of the invasion by the continued death of innocent people, mainly Iraqis and Afghan nationals? It is a pity that we only hear of the human face of the crisis in Iraq and Afghanistan with regards to suicide bombing when foreign nationals are amongst the dead. When foreign nationals die, including our very own, the issue is no longer that of collateral damage to achieve regime change at all cost, but one of a human rights crisis.

For as long as we think that human life matters only when our own is endangered, then we are not contributing to the emergence of a better world. There is no doubt that while we sympathise with the families of those who lost their loved ones in this admittedly a barbaric and cowardly attack, we must nonetheless note that these deaths could not be isolated from the bigger scheme of things in Iraq and Afghanistan as a consequence of the unilateral invasion to effect a regime change.

As for insulting Prophet Mohammed, we hope that will never be repeated ever again. Prophet Mohammed is central to the Islamic religion, and for anyone to insult millions of Muslims simply because they think their Christian faith is better is very wrong and must be condemned. It is the kind of aloofness that tacitly gave rise to the unilateral invasion, because the "other" is seen as inferior, the same mentality that justified slavery and colonialism.

It is what has been characterised as the "clash of civilisations", between the Islamic east and the Christian west. The fact that religious sentiments are not shared across the globe is not a reason for going into a world war.

As we speak, this injustice of unilateralism and the aloofness of the US and its friends has resulted in the inconsistent application of international law. The International Criminal Court, ICC, remains an institute not for the advancement of justice but for the prosecution of the small fries in the global arena. The likes of Charles Tailor will be thoroughly dealt with in those chambers, while the likes of George Bush and Tony Blair will go scotch free.

It is a pity that when we as South Africa had an opportunity to demonstrate our impartiality in international politics, we let loose Mark Thatcher and helped arrest those whom he had financed to stage a coup in Equatorial Guinea.

As a country, we have been accused for siding with Western powers in the Libyan debacle that resulted in the murder of Muammar Gaddafi. Some have insisted that we must have known that every State has the right to use its military to defend its sovereignty, even if the threats comes from amongst its own citizens, as we did when we deployed soldiers in Marikana and elsewhere.

We must be consistent both on internal and international affairs if we are to gain the confidence of all people, not just the powerful but also the weak. Justice is not about pandering to the whims of the powerful, be they in the media, in business or some international powers. It is about pursuing justice at all times.

We must therefore hope that as we lay to rest our compatriots who needlessly died in the suicide blast, that we rethink our role as a State in international affairs. In as much as engaging in foreign military combat is a crime, similarly providing logistical support to military invasions must be reveiwed. The R7000 per day salary is premium to lure our fellow citizens into a bloody entanglement that is not of our making. The grand plan is to effect regime change and re-arrange the middle-east power balance in favour of Israel and US interests.

This is why now and again whenever the nuclear talks on Iran deadlocks, the safety of Israel pops up with the latter threatening aerial bombardment of Iran unilaterally, having learnt this ugly practice from their US protectors. The bigger scheme is ugly, and so must be the smaller act of engaging in logistical support to US aviation when in fact their own who are actually armed to the teeth fly at the safety of over 5000 feet! This is so while our own risk their lives at the dangerous altitude of a mere 500 feet ion contrast! We must protest as a nation this anomaly. We must discourage our own to risk their lives to support US and Israel national interests.

The clash of civilisations is not our battle. Christians and Muslims live side by side peacefully in South Africa. During major events, be they of the ANC or government, prayers are solicited from all the major religious formations including Islam, Christian and African indigenous belief systems. We have cultivated a culture of religious tolerance, and yes we may have our own challenges of diversity but we are winning the battle.

The Kabul blast is reminder of what intolerance may breed. Ultimately, the bigger picture must be that of creating a nation at peace with itself premised on justice and prosperity for all, and exporting these as values guiding our foreign policy towards a better world.

Ronald Lamola
Deputy President: ANCYL

 
VIEWPOINT: *Kenetswe Mosenogi

Kenetswe Mosenogi

I differ with you, but will defend your right to say it to the death!

"What it says to the African, is that if he sees a farmer being killed, he must look away. It says to the Indian man, when he sees an African woman being abused, he better look away. It also says if a Democratic Alliance member is killed for merely being a DA member, the ANC member must look away and the vice versa must also apply as true. From the point of view of intra party politics, it says that injustice can be meted out to a political opponent as the prize of political office supersedes the life of the said political opponent.."

The recently the issue of the freedom of speech has come up sharply, with debates on who is allowed to address the Marikana mine workers. Many of us must indeed be disturbed by the apparent opportunistic convergence by different sections of South African societies on the meaning of our constitutional rights merely on the basis of political expediency.

The point here is not to contest any political or otherwise hostility that anyone may have against anyone exercising their right to speak. Any person has the right to criticise any other person in South Africa as those are the hallmarks of a democracy, the exercise of the freedom of expression.

It is this same freedom that has invoked concern over how an individual exercising their right to speak can then be bungled out of Marikana, as that then gives the impression that one's right of association as entailed in the Constitution was being compromised by the Police, that being the institution that must help uphold the law and defend the Constitution as most supreme law of the land.

It was the great French philosopher Voltaire who coined those famous words "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." The ancient Greeks had previously invented democracy as a system of governance which they hailed as "government of the people by the people for the people". The profundity of these ancient words became indelibly engraved in the hearts and minds of all those fighting against autocratic and dictatorships over the years.

Voltaire no doubt further deepened the meaning of democracy from the point of view of the masses to the point of view of the individual. In other words, Voltaire recognised that for the masses to have their collective rights expressed, that must be the sum total of the expressed freedoms of the individuals constituting those massed of people.

Therefore while the collective has right to assert themselves, equally the individual has the right to assert themselves, even if the collective disagree with the individual.

Therefore on the Marikana scenario, anyone had as much right as the organised workers to gather and voice their views. The singling out of any person is not only opportunistic but also undermines the constitutional principles of freedom of association and freedom of expression on the basis of political expediency. We could variously take a dislike of what anyone says, but it is our duty to defend each and every South African's right as enshrined in our constitution.

It remains our considered view that in defending the rights of those with whom we differ, we are actually extending our own freedom of expression into the horizons or terrains where our own views may not be otherwise acceptable. It is a guarantee that we too will not be silenced when we have to express our own views no matter how unpopular those views may be.

It is very wrong to adjudge the acceptability of a viewpoint on the basis of whether or not the economic interests of a specific group or corporations are enhanced or not by such actions. Democracy attaches high premium on the expressed freedoms of human beings and not juristic beings such as corporations or any form of a collective. The Bill of Rights is first and foremost about people not juristic personas such as corporations, not that the latter do not have rights of their own.

Therefore to undermine freedom of expression and association on the basis of profits runs against the grain of our democracy, which is supposed to be people centred.

We should all shudder that in a period post 1994, the rights to profit may supersede the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights of our Constitution.

One tendency that we must all oppose as South Africans, is the habit of looking away at the act of injustice simply because those who are victims are politically opposed to us.

This is the same mentality that occasioned the genocide between the Hutus and the Tutsis in the Great Lakes region in around 1994 when over 800 000 people were murdered. Those who did this were inspired by the notion that those being killed were different, characterised as "cockroaches". To suggest that someone is dangerous when the danger is in fact against the balance of support swinging away from you is in fact the actual danger to our democracy.

At best such a habit is unprincipled and it is recipe for the mushrooming of a culture of the commission of crime with impunity. Granted, we are a diverse society, hence our Constitution premise that as context within which we must forge our national unity. But such diversity can never be premise for unity when in fact it becomes the default line for the parameters of justice as perceived by the various groups consistent with our diversity.

What it says to the African, is that if he sees a farmer being killed, he must look away. It says to the Indian man, when he sees an African woman being abused, he better look away. It also says if a Democratic Alliance member is killed for merely being a DA member, the ANC member must look away and the vice versa must also apply as true. From the point of view of intra party politics, it says that injustice can be meted out to a political opponent as the prize of political office supersedes the life of the said political opponent.

We have witnessed the murder of one comrade by another in KwaZuluNatal within the ANC fold, apparently for the prize of a Councilor position probably because the murdered victim was "dangerous" to the political interests of the murderer. Similar crimes have allegedly been committed within the National Freedom Party and in other parties. With such trends, surely investigations can most probably further reveal more ghastly acts that undermines every grain of our constitutional values.

We say this is what happens when the values of democracy as premised on the sacrosanct value of human life and the values of people are undermined with impunity because somehow some have deemed profits as more important than the exercise of democratic rights.

As the ANC, we must exercise principled approach on such matters. Not long ago, the ANC Youth League in the Western Cape marched and declared that the Provincial Government and the City of Cape Town would be rendered ungovernable. The ANC did not act against that because for all intention and purposes that was within the democratic space of the ANCYL to say that. The ANC did not call for the Police to be sent to stop the ANCYL march. Now, what we do to our own, that being the ANCYL in the Western Cape, must be afforded those with whom we differ.

Such inconsistency does not only reveal propensity to act unjustly, but also sow the seeds for anarchy as the instruments with which we inconsistently act will not be respected in the least and at worst may be put to danger.

This therefore does not seek to argue any case in favour of anyone, but to argue a case in favour of the principles of our Constitutional democracy. No one must be prejudiced on the basis of their social and political appeal. To characterise anyone as dangerous is antithetical to the course of our democratic dispensation. Even more, it give rise to the view that one is socially persona non grata in any political space which is against the principles of our democracy.

The argument advanced by some in that populism is the enemy and that populists are "using" the poor is problematic. The ANC must speak the language of the ANC and stop accusing those who are able to appeal to the masses in ways that undermines the sacred value of freedom of expression.

We must be careful of that line of argument because some have actually used it against the ANC and as we know it is political ploy to explain why some are unable to talk to ordinary folks while some are able to do so with ease. Chris Hani appealed to the masses and so did many public orators. What we must do as the ANC, is that we must cultivate the skills to talk to the masses of our people, particularly beyond those who are card carrying ANC members.

If we dare fail to communicate with the masses, the vacuum space will be taken by others, whom we may characterise as populist or otherwise while in fact we envy their ability to occupy the space that we should be occupying.

One of the foremost principles of every revolutionary is to engage in honest analysis of the facts before us hence the clarion call, tell no lie and claim no easy victories! Part of such honest analysis would reveal the simple fact that the rise of AMCU is revealing on the vacuum created by our own Allies in NUM. By the time Marikana debacle unfolded NUM was declared persona non grata. Others exercised their democratic right to fill in a space that none of the ANC Alliance partners could fill at the time.

The constitution enjoins us to defend those rights, and in doing so we are not selective as inconsistency would ultimately undermine the hegemony of those constitutional values in society. Where these constitutional rights are concerned, we must exercise non-partisan solidarity otherwise there will be no guarantee that when same injustice is meted out in the future against us or anyone else society will find ground to be in unison condemn such violations.

We must derive inspiration from Voltaire's injunction and defend the rights of those with whom we vehemently differ, and make such defence as though our it were our own rights that were being violated, because indeed as time would tell those are indeed our own rights only that the victims could be in the meanwhile our political opponents.

It does not help that the current victim is what we have opportunistically declared a common enemy, as by definition the characterization of common enemy often results into false unity and an unprincipled victimisation.

True unity must be premised on shared values and not on sharing an enemy as the reasons to the various enmity may be motivated by different reasons many of them unprincipled. It is for this reason that we say the public castigation of any person and the denial of their exercise of their democratic rights is shear opportunism. The forceful stoppage of any person from speaking with impunity does nothing to further the values of our democracy, instead does the opposite and we should be ashamed of ourselves as a nation. It is no different from the violation of a young women's rights and dignity simply because some backward men at the Johannesburg taxi rank disagreed with her attire.

If we differ with anyone, we must make our case even stronger through dialogue and not through the use of force or State resources because that is the hallmark of a democratic order.

It is for the same reason that we lamented the pilling of charges against then ANC Deputy President Zuma because we had reasons to believe that such coincidences smelt of a rat.

We must condemn corruption by anyone, but we must also not allow a situation where corruption is used to deal with political opponents and our stance must be the same today as it were when we declared so during the many charges that the current ANC President once faced.

We must collectively build a strong ANC, one that which when it speaks we can all be confident it is in the interest of the National Democratic Revolution and not factional interests.

Similarly we must build a State which must act impartially without favour but to uphold the ends of the law in a consistent and just manner.

We must not act in a manner that give reason for some to believe that State power is being abused for narrow ends.

We must never be afraid of dialogue or debate or the power and appeal of those with whom we differ. If anything, it means we are weaklings if we fail to stand up to our political opponents across parties and within respective political parties, hence the killings we have witnessed in KwaZuluNatal in both the NFP and the ANC.

Amandla!!!

*Kenetswe Mosenogi is the Deputy Secretary General of the ANCYL a member of its National Executive Committee

VIEWPOINT: *Andile Lungisa

Andile Lungisa

The Marikana massacre undermines the NDR!

"Equally, NUM had an opportunity to examine whether it's leadership's proximity to state power, has rendered this once militant union, what Lenin called 'industrial police' on behalf of mine companies. Leadership positions in the union have become a mechanism in securing management posts and facilitating business opportunities for leaders, elected to represent the interests of the toiling masses."

"Two hundred thousand subterranean heroes who, by day and by night, for a mere pittance lay down their lives to the familiar `fall of rock` and who, at deep levels, ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 feet in the bowels of the earth, sacrifice their lungs to the rock dust which develops miners` phthisis and pneumonia."

- Sol Plaatjie, first Secretary of the African National Congress, describing the lives of black miners in 1914.

"We urge our investors to take comfort in the solid foundations set by our constitution, government, legal and civil institutions… The president and the people of South Africa are determined to isolate bad elements in our society that are seemingly determined to undermine the democratic gains of the country to date".

- Minister, Susan Shabangu, addressing mine investors, in Perth, Australia, in the aftermath of the Marikana massacre.

A climate of foreboding, paralysis and reciprocal recrimination hovers over our body politic. Ghosts of our past are in a mortal struggle for the soul of our young republic. We in the proverbial wolf and dog moment, as it were. The nation took a collective flight of fancy in supposing that the chimera of the 1994 transition represented the death of racial capital dictatorship, and a linear convergence of the constitutional (colonial) imaginary and historical (liberation) imaginary codified in the National Democratic Revolution. The constitutional imaginary rooted in the colonial infrastructure and parochial logic of callous contempt for the weak and self-righteousness of the powerful, domination and elitism has been in a necessary cold war with the historical imaginary born of resistance, human solidarity and myriad of possibilities.

The murderous state violence of the Marikana miners has strained and dislocated the assumptions upon which the National Democratic Revolution is premised.

The decision by the National Prosecuting Authority to lay charges against 270 striking Marikana miners, which it has since provisionally withdrawn, after the police massacred 34 of their fellow strikers and, in some instances relatives, is not only absurd, but eerily reminiscent of tactics employed by the neo-colonial regime. The reasoning behind the bogus charges appears to not only be the intimidation of the miners, but the construction of a narrative that assuages the mining bosses and absolves the state for the massacre. None of the policemen who slaughtered 34 migrant breadwinners, nor has any high-level officials or political principles, under whose instructions they were acting, have been arrested.

In the past few days the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) and the National Mineworkers Union (NUM) assembled under one roof as constituent members of COSATU. Were there an honest discussion on the militarization of the police service and its attendant consequences on the psyche of POPCRU members which lead to the scenes of Marikana?

Did the attending POPCRU delegates insist on a clear distinction between the ethos of police and military forces? Soldiers go to war to destroy and kill the enemy. The police are supposed to maintain social peace.

However, as exampled by Marikana, the police readily adopt military-style tactics and equipment. The more the police fail to defuse confrontations but instead inflame them- be it with their equipment, tactics or aggressive demeanor, the more ties with poor and working class communities are burned. The net effect is an erosion of trust and civility.

Equally, NUM had an opportunity to examine whether it's leadership's proximity to state power, has rendered this once militant union, what Lenin called 'industrial police' on behalf of mine companies.

Leadership positions in the union have become a mechanism in securing management posts and facilitating business opportunities for leaders, elected to represent the interests of the toiling masses.

The phenomenon of investment vehicles owned by labour unions has been a poisoned chalice for the labour movement. It has deepened a culture of willing-and-dealing, careerism and anti-democratic practices.

It has been surreal listening to NUM leaders in their response to the Marikana massacre- not a word about police brutality; no condemnation for the commissioner or minister of police; not a word about the appalling conditions that the workers live under; not a word on the conditions of indentured servitude that workers labour under as consequence of Lonmin's greed and agreements with labour brokerage companies; and no word of comfort or support for the widows, mothers and children of the dead miners.

This would embarrass the 'old man'!

Instead all the venom has been reserved for AMCU, a rival union which is equally bankrupt, but seems to have struck a chord with the disenchanted miners. In fact, the insinuation seems to be that the murdered miners, sometimes called criminals by NUM leaders, deserved their fate for the temerity of struggling against the wishes of NUM. The settlement reached between the miners and Lonmin signifies the beginning of the end for NUM, who not only attempted to criminalize the strike, but cynically ridiculed the possibility of the workers victory. The current NUM leadership has sacrificed workers unity and progression for factional consideration in the ANC.

"This was no massacre, this is a battle. The police used their weapons in exactly the way they were supposed to. That's why they have them for. The people they shot didn't look like workers to me. We should be happy. The police were admirable". This has been the despicable response of the South African Community Party to the massacre.

The principal role of the 'Party' has become the fomentation of factionalism within the mass democratic movement; advocating the purging of those critical of the 'friendly' president; lobbying for senior government position; character assassination; and more dangerously, transmitting factionalist battles from the ANC to the labour movement. Can we imagine the righteous indignation we would be witnessing from the charlatan leaders of the SACP had the Marikana massacre taken place under President Mbeki's leadership?

The recent threatening, harassment and attempted silencing of Cde Julius Malema by police, which was met with glee, by the bleeding-heart liberals, those defenders of our constitutions, is an important moment in our history. Today is the Malema 'who is called troublemaker by servants of imperialism' tomorrow it might be you! The invocation of the 'Regulation of Gatherings Act', another apartheid relic, betrays an administration devoid of vision and ideas, materially distant from the population it governs and consequently paranoid and threatened.

The Marikana story is that a government of a liberation organization mercilessly mowed down poor working miners on behalf of international capital. The victory of 22% increase at Lonmin mine by the workers under challenging conditions needs to celebrated as a start of economic freedom in our lifetime.

The Marikana massacre requires the mass democratic movement to critically and honestly exam the assumptions and constituent elements that underpin the NDR lest we loose sight of our historical mission of emancipating our people from the bondages of poverty, hunger, underdevelopment and exploitation.

* Andile Lungisa is a member of the National Executive Committee of the ANC Youth League

EDITORIAL

Economic Freedom Fighters, Unite!

Hlomelang is published every Friday. Comrades can send opinion articles to the editorial team by Tuesday every week for publication the same week on Friday. Articles published do not represent the official viewpoint of the ANCYL but are important as part of the conversation that must thrive amongst ourselves in order to share the various perspectives that abound within our movement and further give meaning to our democratic character.

Views expressed must be within the confines of the ANC and ANCYL policy and constitutional parameters. However, that does not mean perspectives expressed cannot argue for changes of such constitutional and policy parameters as part of public conversation on all social, economic and political matters affecting the ANC, the ANCYL, our country, the SADC region, the continent and the entire world.

Emails must be addressed to the ANCYL Head of Communications at ksangoni@anc.org.za