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South Africa’s sub-imperial seductions &'Shock and awe tactics' used on shack dwellers

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  • Cort Greene
    South Africa’s sub-imperial seductionsPatrick Bond2013-05-09, Issue 629
    Message 1 of 1 , May 11, 2013
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      South Africa�s sub-imperial seductionsPatrick Bond2013-05-09, Issue
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      *cc J G* <https://picasaweb.google.com/116344589077076297327>South Africa
      is this week hosting yet another major conference, the World Economic Forum
      for Africa, amidst increasing evidence that the nation is fast growing as a
      sub-imperialist power

      Thanks are due to the brutally-frank Zambian vice president Guy Scott who
      last week pronounced, �I dislike South Africa for the same reason that
      Latin Americans dislike the United States�, and to our own president Jacob
      Zuma for forcing a long-overdue debate, just as the World Economic Forum
      Africa summit opens in Cape Town: is Pretoria a destructive sub-imperialist

      Two positions immediately hardened on Monday at the spiky, must-read
      ezine Daily
      Maverick <http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/>, as
      the need for a �decisive intervention: an African Standby Force for rapid
      deployment in crisis areas.� One stance � that of veteran US State
      Department official and now DM columnist Brooks

      encourages the extension of Pretoria�s power footprint for the sake of
      economic self-interest; the other � by health and human rights activist Sisonke

      favours the revival of a Mandela-era rhetorical passion for continental
      human rights.

      First though, some context:

      � The call for a rush deployment force (Africon-style) comes the week after
      Ernst & Young�s Africa Attractiveness
      how thanks to predictable mining houses and MTN cellphone service, Standard
      Bank, Shoprite retail, and Sanlam insurance, SA�s foreign direct investment
      in the rest of Africa had risen 57 percent since 2007; indeed, �when one
      strips out investment from other countries into South Africa itself, [SA]
      was the single largest investor in FDI projects in the rest of Africa in
      2012� � and SA finance minister Pravin Gordhan�s recent budget statement
      promises to �relax cross-border financial regulations and tax requirements
      on companies, making it easier for banks and other financial institutions
      to invest and operate� up-continent, making the re-scramble for Africa that
      more frenetic.

      �The call comes shortly after 1500 more SA National Defense Force (SANDF)
      troops were deployed to the resource-rich eastern edge of the Democratic
      Republic of the Congo � where not only is petroleum being prospected by
      Zuma�s catastrophe-prone nephew Khulubuse<http://mg.co.za/tag/khulubuse-zuma>,
      but where coltan for our cellphones is mined, where Africa�s biggest
      conglomerate, Johannesburg-based Anglo, was caught working with murderous
      warlords a few years ago, and where more than five million Congolese have
      lost their lives over the last fifteen years.

      �It comes five and a half weeks after Pretoria declared itself the
      �gateway� to Africa for Brazilian, Russian, Indian and Chinese investors at
      Durban�s BRICS summit <http://ccs.ukzn.ac.za/default.asp?6,84>.

      �It comes six weeks after 13 SANDF troops returned home in coffins from the
      Central African Republic capital Bangui in the wake of their mission to
      protect South African �assets� which were initially said to be merely SANDF�s

      yet just as they fell, those soldiers were termed �mercenaries� by the
      Seleka rebel group now in control. As a SANDF survivor told Sunday Times
      reporters Graeme Hoskins and Isaac
      �Our men were deployed to various parts of the city, protecting belongings
      of South Africans. They were the first to be attacked� the guys outside the
      different buildings � the ones which belong to businesses in Joburg.�
      According to the
      businesses set up in Bangui in recent years include several owned by
      African National Congress bigwigs.

      Looking out from this fog of war, Brooks Spector argues that Pretoria�s
      �foreign policy efforts should also be geared to promoting the country�s
      economic and commercial prospects. These would include deliberate efforts
      aimed at opening foreign markets for South African product exports,
      encouraging foreign investment domestically, and supporting innovation and
      opportunities for international business ventures.�

      What of higher-order interests? Spector quotes local commentator Xolela
      Mangcu, writing for the Brookings Institute in Washington: Zuma�s
      predecessor �Thabo Mbeki also took it upon himself � through the foreign
      affairs department � to stand up for the continent both in fighting the
      superpowers but also in determining the terms of the world�s involvement
      with Africa. Mbeki�s pet projects, the New Partnership for Africa�s
      Development (Nepad), came under criticism in other parts of the continent
      precisely because of this �big brother� role.�

      Fighting the superpowers? The bulk of evidence suggests [_id]=266]Mbeki
      repeatedly bolstered their neoliberal
      though he tossed around phrases like �global
      apartheid�<http://zedbooks.co.uk/node/11210> to
      throw observers off the scent. More honestly, Nepad was termed by aBush
      Administration official<http://www.institutionalinvestor.com/Popups/PrintArticle.aspx?ArticleID=1026932>
      spot-on� with Bush giving Mbeki �point man�
      Zimbabwe, for example.

      In opening African markets for SA, as Spector desires, and in facilitating
      massive new African infrastructure investments along old colonial lines,
      even worse US penetration<http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/10/05/which-africans-will-obama-whack-next/>
      likely (not just the oft-remarked flood from China). Mbeki�s pro-West
      orientation was a central reason why the Council for the Development of
      Social Science Research in
      Africa<http://www.codesria.org/spip.php?article352> (the
      continent�s leading intellectual body) condemned Nepad, since �big brother�
      was actually more of a mini-me looking up to the imperialist powers: �Nepad
      will reinforce the hostile external environment and the internal weaknesses
      that constitute the major obstacles to Africa�s development. Indeed, in
      certain areas like debt, Nepad steps back from international goals that
      have been won through global mobilisation and struggle.�

      Nepad�s �most fundamental flaws,� according to the continent�s sharpest
      thinkers, include �the neo-liberal economic policy framework at the heart
      of the plan� Its main targets are foreign donors� The engagement that Nepad
      seeks with institutions and processes like the World Bank, the IMF, the
      WTO, the United States Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, the Cotonou
      Agreement, will further lock Africa�s economies disadvantageously into this

      Instead of encouraging Joburg capital�s venal economic greed, Pretoria
      should indeed intervene, but with a rather different agenda, insists
      Msimang: �Much to the chagrin of those of us who had hoped we would be more
      muscular in our approach, SA has elected to play a softly-softly role in
      matters of human rights, good governance and democracy on the continent.�
      (To be sure, the same softly-softly role was also witnessed in Marikana and
      so many thousands of other South African sites of corruption, neoliberal
      service non-delivery, malgovernance and police brutality.)

      What lies behind these grievances? For Spector, it is that Pretoria�s
      �foreign policy has been bedevilled by what could be termed a slow-growing,
      ad hoc amateurism; a too-easy reliance on the formalism of international
      organisations as a substitute for concrete results; and a growing confusion
      between supporting economic and commercial goals as a whole � as opposed to
      acting for the benefit of individual business profits.�

      The lamentable result? �South Africa, today, resembles more and more that
      �pitiful, helpless giant� of Richard Nixon�s late night fears about America
      caught in the midst of the Vietnam War than it does the view of a colossus
      that bestrides a continent existing in popular sentiment here.� (That
      sentiment includes Zuma�s National Development
      by the way, which concedes �the perception of the country as a regional
      bully� because �SA policy-makers tend to have a weak grasp of African

      To bestride Africa is a regrettably cheeky image, because as you know
      Brooks Spector, �The Rhodes
      an 1892 cartoon in Punch magazine celebrating the Cape-to-Cairo agenda of
      Britain�s sub-imperialist partner. Ten years ago, a similarly misguided
      speechwriter for Mandela had him utter these
      the ill-advised launch of the Mandela-Rhodes
      �I am sure that Cecil John Rhodes would have given his approval to this
      effort to make the South African economy of the early 21st century
      appropriate and fit for its time.�

      But today, suffering his perpetual crises, how might a Zuma-Colossus
      continue bossing disillusioned SANDF soldiers into coffins? (Nixon couldn�t
      do so after around 1973, Spector needs no reminding.)

      After all, the expectations are high, if we are to judge by a
      private-sector arbiter of sub-imperial cooperative capacity, the
      Thanks to Anonymous and WikiLeaks, we know that �SA�s history is driven by
      the interplay of competition and cohabitation between domestic and foreign
      interests exploiting the country's mineral resources. Despite being led by
      a democratically-elected government, the core imperatives of SA remain
      maintenance of a liberal regime that permits the free flow of labour and
      capital to and from the southern Africa region, and maintenance of a
      superior security capability able to project into south-central Africa.�

      That, at least, was conventional imperialist wisdom until the Bangui rebels
      forced a bloodied SANDF into rapid retreat on March 23. Here the danger of
      Msimang�s position becomes apparent: seducing Pretoria to once again talk
      left so as to invade right. �Post-Apartheid SA has elected to do the
      diplomatic soft-shoe shuffle in matters of human rights, good governance
      and democracy on the continent. On the continent, the
      lowest-common-denominator approach to diplomacy and foreign policy is
      perceived as weak. It is time South Africa spoke softly and carried a big
      stick,� says Msimang.

      Like Spector recalling Rhodes, the problem with Msimang�s latter quote is
      that the man who first uttered it, at the turn of the last century, was US
      president Theodore Roosevelt, one of Washington�s most aggressive
      interventionists. Notches on his belt ranged from consolidating power in
      neo-colonial Cuba and the Philippines , to rendering the Panama Canal �a
      major staging area for American military forces, making the US the dominant
      military power in Central America,� as one
      Moreover, Roosevelt�s corollary to the Monroe Doctrine was that �the United
      States would intervene in any Latin American country that manifested
      serious economic problems,� and serve as the Western Hemisphere�s main cop.

      Some say that by now taking a similar gap as chief cop in Southern and
      Central Africa, SA becomes
      a case that would be stronger were it not for the vast drain of mining and
      financial profits into those dozen overseas-listed corporations that were
      once SA�s largest, whose financial headquarters are now mainly in London.
      The current account deficit from profit and dividend outflows has ratcheted
      the foreign debt to $135 billion, a potential crisis catalyst in coming

      Such vulnerability to the whim of capital means that while zigzagging
      across Africa between service to the West and to new BRIC allies
      (especially China) one day, and to Joburg/family businesses the next, with
      a military unable to service such a long supply chain, what Spector terms a
      �muddle in the middle� is better alliterated as schizophrenic
      sub-imperialist SA.

      * Patrick Bond directs the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil
      Society <http://ccs.ukzn.ac.za/>, which co-hosted the brics-from-below
      counter-summit in March.



      M&G: 'Shock and awe tactics' used on shack dwellersSubmitted by Abahlali_3
      on Fri, 2013-05-10 09:16. anti-land invasion
      | evictions <http://abahlali.org/taxonomy/term/22> | Jared
      | Mail and Guardian <http://abahlali.org/taxonomy/term/45> | The Marikana
      Land Occupation <http://abahlali.org/taxonomy/term/3864>


      *'Shock and awe tactics' used on shack dwellers*

      by Jared Sacks

      On April 27, while political parties were spending fortunes to celebrate
      freedom, the shack dwellers' movement Abahlali baseMjondolo commemorated �
      or "mourned" � what it called UnFreedom Day in Sweet Home, the shack
      settlement in Philippi on the Cape Flats.

      On the same day, a group of shack dwellers from the Philippi East area
      increased their occupation of a piece of land just off Symphony Way,
      between Stock and Govan Mbeki roads. But a day later, the City of Cape Town
      decided to show them exactly how unfree they still are.

      This settlement, according to community leader Sandile Ngoxolo, was named
      the "Marikana land occupation" in honour of the workers who died last year
      in North West province in their struggle for a living wage � and because
      "we too are organising ourselves peacefully and are willing to die for our
      struggle". Homes were built and occupied, and families worked through the
      night of Freedom Day to put the finishing touches to them.

      On Sunday April 28 the Democratic Alliance, which runs Cape Town and which
      is trying to showcase an anti-apartheid past with the "Know Your DA"
      campaign, showed that its approach to land issues is not so different from
      that of the old apartheid National Party. At 1.15pm a large contingent of
      the city's anti-land invasion unit (ALI) and dozens of day labourers
      arrived. They were backed up by law enforcement units and police vehicles,
      including, for extra effect, a Casspir and a Nyala.

      These forces evicted residents from their homes, often beating them in the
      process. They pepper-sprayed Abahlali activist Cindy Ketani and then stole
      her phone, shot another woman twice with rubber bullets and arrested
      Abahlali baseMjondolo activist Tumi Ramahlele and community member Kemelo

      Ramahlele claims to have been severely beaten by law enforcement members
      inside the Casspir after being arrested and is preparing to lay a charge
      with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate after being examined
      by a doctor.

      For its part, the ALI then took apart the Marikana homes, often destroying
      people's property in the process.

      This was repeated on Tuesday April 30 and once again on Wednesday May 1,
      only with a much larger police contingent present, which took down yet more
      homes. Two more residents were arrested.

      The May Day eviction finished the job begun on Freedom Day, destroying
      every last home. Moreover, most of the zinc sheets residents had used to
      build their homes were confiscated by the ALI.

      On Friday May 3 I got a phone call from a newly homeless resident, Zanele:
      "Law enforcement is back again. They are not only taking our zinc sheets,
      but now they are even taking our sails [plastic tarpaulins]. We do not know
      what to do. It's raining and we have nowhere else to go."

      I later found out that not only was removing people's belongings illegal
      (especially if the city doesn't allow residents to claim it back) but also
      it is against the ALI's official guidelines. I also found out that not only
      were these evictions illegal but also that the city was citing a
      non�existent Act to justify them.

      City of Cape Town media manager Kylie Hatton claimed in a statement that
      the evictions were done in accordance with the "Protection of the
      Possession of Property Act" as an act of "counter-spoliation". But Sheldon
      Magardie, director of the Cape Town office of the Legal Resources Centre,
      said there is no such law. Advocate Stuart Wilson, director of the
      Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa, and constitutional law
      professor Pierre de Vos concurred.

      The overarching law that regulates evictions is section 26(3) of the
      Constitution, which states: "No one may be evicted from their home, or have
      their home demolished, without an order of court made after considering all
      the relevant circumstances. No legislation may permit arbitrary evictions."

      Unfinished and unoccupied
      The Prevention of Illegal Eviction From and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act
      of 1998 (the PIE Act) expands on that, as well as on "spoliation", and
      details the procedures a municipality must follow in order to conduct a
      legal eviction.

      According to Wilson, in common law "counter-spoliation � permits a person
      who is in the process of having property taken from them to immediately
      take that property back without a court order".

      But, as Wilson, Magardie and others explain, counter-spoliation does not
      apply to the eviction of people from their homes. Once they are deemed
      squatters, or even illegal land grabbers, as per the 2004 case of Rudolf vs
      City of Cape Town, the PIE Act must apply.

      To justify the eviction in terms of counter-spoliation, the city claims the
      structures were not homes but were unfinished and unoccupied. This is a
      blatant lie. I saw the homes, and there are photographs and videos showing
      clearly that the homes were fully occupied and were being lived and slept
      in from as early as April 25.

      On Friday May 3, for the fifth time that week, I set off for the "Marikana"
      occupation. When I arrived people were cold, wet, tired and depressed. "How
      could they take the only things we have that would keep us dry?" they

      What could be the city's justification for confiscating the tarpaulins? Did
      they want people to get wet and sick? Is it punishment for daring to build
      shacks in the first place?

      I can understand the city's perverted rationale for illegally evicting poor
      people from empty land. I can understand the economic logic behind the city
      leaving such land vacant until its value increases, and I can understand
      the city's perversion of the PIE Act to place the interests of the rich and
      well connected over the welfare of the poor.

      But, visiting Sweet Home on that cold day, I could not understand the
      reason why the ALI would be so malicious as to steal an item vital to the
      struggle to keep dry on such a miserable, rainy day.

      Well-thought-out strategy
      Then I remembered Naomi Klein's discussion of the role of torture in her
      book, The Shock Doctrine. Torture is a notoriously unreliable way to
      extract information but, as Klein points out, that is not its primary
      motive. Rather, it is to put the victims in a position of such disarray
      that they could not resist power.

      In the case of these occupiers, shocking them with aggressive displays of
      power, removing their belongings and making them as uncomfortable as
      possible in the rain was equivalent to the "shock and awe" tactics of the
      American invasion of Iraq. As Harlan K Ullman and James P Wade define it in
      their history of the war, Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance, the aim
      was "to seize control of the environment and paralyse or so overload an
      adversary's perceptions and understanding of events that the enemy would be
      incapable of resistance at the tactical and strategic levels".

      Is this why the ALI flouted its own guidelines? Was it mere meanness, or a
      well-thought-out strategy aimed at breaking the will of the community?

      Whatever the case, these actions show that the DA's liberal ideal of small,
      "efficient" government is a farce, because it requires an extensive,
      violent, often illicit system of authority to contain the basic demands of
      the poor � as well as their larger, emancipatory aspirations. The ANC, too,
      in a city such as Durban, talks about the "rule of law" while responding to
      the organised poor with astonishing violence.

      This violence is physical, social and spatial. Geographer David McDonald
      writes in World City Syndrome: Neoliberalism and Inequality in Cape Town
      (2008) that it is now "arguably the most uneven and spatially segregated
      city in the country".

      Abahlali baseMjondolo mourns on UnFreedom Day because, for the poor, the
      only thing liberalism has given them the right to vote for their oppressors.

      If we are to have any chance of resolving the escalating crisis in our
      society, we are going to have to think beyond liberalism. To start, we need
      to talk about redistribution and put the social value of urban land above
      its commercial value.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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