News Briefs

by Mar 9, 2015Amandla Issue 37 & 38, Magazine

NUMSA Dirty Tricks Document ARE STATE SECURITY AGENCIES involved in the closing of democratic space? Evidence of people being approached to spy on social justice activists, phone taps, phony intelligence reports, and sinister thefts of electronic equipment indicate that after 20 years of democratic rule, democracy may be under attack. In late November, a document emerged alleging that NUMSA leaders are involved in a secret plot to destabilise South Africa and effect ‘regime change’. The document, entitled “Exposed: Secret Regime Change Plot to Distabilize [sic]
South Africa” names as masterminds behind the plot two NUMSA national officer bearers – General Secretary Irvin Jim and Deputy General Secretary Karl Cloete – as well as NUMSA officials Dinga Sikwebu and Azwell Banda, several professors at institutions of higher learning, and several other figures from the country’s political and intellectual circles, including former Minister of Intelligence Ronnie Kasrils, political analyst Moeletsi Mbeki, and Brian Ashley, who is Director of AIDC and Amandla! magazine’s co-founder and editor. Claiming to be authored by “concerned members within Numsa” the document describes what it claims is a plan to destabilise South Africa involving the instigation of violence, land grabs, the formation of a ‘political party’ called the “United Front”, and so on. In order to achieve its aims, the document alleges the ‘plotters’ use ‘socialism and socialist rhetoric’ as to confuse and manipulate South Africa’s poor, with support from ‘foreign’ allies. On Wednesday, 3 December, NUMSA issued a statement condemning the document and the wider ‘dirty tricks’ campaign of which it evidently forms a part. One of the so-called plotters mentioned in the ‘rogue’ document, Professor Patrick Bond, a frequent contributor to Amandla had his office trashed and a hard-drive stolen just days after the document appeared. NUMSA claims it has evidence that agents purporting to be from the State Security Agency (SSA) have been trying to recruit their shop stewards and activists in Ekurhuleni and Eastern Cape to spy on the union’s activities on the proposed United Front. NUMSA together with its allies will lead a campaign to reverse this drift back to authoritarianism and a country bossed by securocrats, which may include taking the issue to the Human Rights Commission and leading marches on the department of State Security. NUMSA is demanding answers from the Inspector-General of Intelligence, Advocate Faith Doreen Radebe, as to the level of surveillance that may be directed at its leaders and other activists in the popular movement. The NUMSA press statement also reaffirms the union’s resolve not to be intimidated by such tactics, and outlined additional steps it will undertake to resist the abuse of state security resources against lawful political activities, and bring to justice those responsible for this latest abuse. The full statement is available on the NUMSA website. Social Determinants of Health: Electricity ELECTRICITY IS A SIGNIFICANT determinant of health, and we must recognising it as such in order to understand health as both a medical and a social issue. Its social dimension makes health contingent on all the specificities of time and place at global, national and local levels. Politics and economics are accordingly deeply entrenched in health. Evaluating the provision of electricity is thus unavoidably subjective unless there is an accepted objective benchmark. The South African Constitution is such a standard. While access to electricity is not explicitly recognised as a human right, health is, and in a number of ways – most notably the right to life (S11) and to an environment that is not harmful to health (S24). The Constitution also guarantees the right to health services (S27 & 28). In the case of easily avoidable illnesses and accidents, it is much better – and cheaper – to avoid them in the first place. The Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) provides another benchmark. This is the platform on which the ANC fought the first democratic elections in 2004. It commits the new government to providing electricity for everyone (S2.7.7) and requires the creation of a national Electrification Fund to finance the universal provision (S2.7.8). Twenty years later, some 23 of households are still not electrified. The reality is even worse than this ‘official’ number. Poor households are fitted with only 20Amp connections, instead of the normal 60A connection. This severely limits the number of appliances – including lights – that can be used at one time. Affordability of electricity is a major constraint on its use, even in households with 60Amp connections. Even before the doubling and anticipated trebling of the price of electricity – that is to say, in the days when electricity was supposedly cheap – most South Africans found it unaffordable. By 2002, some 2 million households had had their supply disconnected because of unaffordability
rather than any ‘culture of nonpayment’. Ubiquitous pre-paid metres – with vendor cost premiums – now mean that households disconnect themselves. Free basic electricity is supposed to solve the affordability problem, but even for those few registered to get it, the amount needs to be increased 4-fold in order to meet basic needs. All this forces large numbers of people to use alternate energy sources, such as paraffin, candles, coal, and wood. These alternatives are all unhealthy; some of them kill by disease, others by fire. Outside individual households, coal causes disease and death, whether or not households have electricity, through its use in providing 95% of South Africa’s electricity. Despite contributing to ‘acid mine drainage’ and other pollution problems for the local communities, and despite government commitments to a low-carbon economy, coal remains ‘king’. And this is all still apart from questions of dignity and mental health. Electricity’s health failures reflect the politics of priorities rather than a shortage of money. Money is available in abundance, but is used for other elitist purposes by the South African government.
Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini with Swaziland’s government and absolute monarch King Mswati III, Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs Martin Lidegaard told the Danish Foreign Affairs Committee last Wednesday. “Denmark has continuously raised the question of political freedom with Swaziland, most recently on the 5th of June 2014, when the Danish ambassador held political talks in the capital Mbabane with, amongst others, king Mswati III and [then] Minister of Foreign Affairs Mgwagwa Gamedze”, said Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs Martin Lidegaard. During the meeting with the king, the Danish ambassador urged Swaziland to comply with the demands of the ongoing AGOA-negotiations, which should include the adaption of laws such as Swaziland’s Suppression of Terrorism Act, a bill that Amnesty International has called “inherently repressive”. Mario and Maxwell “SUCH ADAPTIONS WOULD particularly benefit the media, human rights defenders, and the political opposition in Swaziland, including Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini”, Martin Lidegaard said. “The trial of Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini was also brought up during the recently held political consultations between the EU and Swaziland on the 2nd and 3rd of October regarding the Cotonou Agreement, at the request of the Danish Ambassador”. The Minister of Foreign Affairs was replying to questions posed by Danish MP for the Red-Green Alliance, Christian Juhl regarding human rights violations in Swaziland, specifically in reference to the trial of Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini. Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini face terrorism charges under Swaziland’s Suppression of Terrorism Act and could serve 15 years in prison for criticizing Swaziland’s absolute monarchy and expressing support for pro-democracy party the People’s United Democratic Front (PUDEMO) on Mayday. Masuku is the PUDEMO President and Dlamini the Secretary General of PUDEMO’s youth league, SWAYOCO. They have been remanded in prison since their arrest on Mayday, having had several applications for bail turned down. Masuku has contracted pneumonia in prison which has been exacerbated by his diabetic condition and led to drastic weight loss and poor eye sight. Stronger pressure on Swaziland THE IMPRISONMENT AND TRIAL OF Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini has been heavily criticised, both in Denmark, where solidarity organization Africa Contact and the Red-Green Alliance have campaigned for their release, and abroad. Danish Chairman of the Parliament and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mogens Lykketoft, who met with Mario Masuku in his office in the Danish Parliament last year, has supported the calls for their release and called for “stronger pressure” on Swaziland “regarding freedom of speech and organization”. And in a letter to king Mswati, an array of other individuals and organisations such as Desmond Tutu, Freedom House, Freedom of Expression Institute in South Africa, Front Line Defenders, and Southern Africa Litigation Centre called for the release of political prisoners in Swaziland, including Mario Masuku and Maxwell Dlamini. “We call upon you to order the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience and political prisoners detained in Swaziland,” the letter stated, urging Swaziland’s government to “begin meaningful discussions with the growing number of citizens and independent organizations that are demanding their basic freedoms and calling for democratic reform in Swaziland.” – Peter Kenworthy, journalist Argentina Protests US AFTA IN A HARSH LETTER, PRESIDENT Cristina Fernández de Kirchner today urged US President Barack Obama to explain whether “Nancy Soderberg, the person you have appointed as Chair of the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB), which reports directly to the Government of the United States of America, is also the Co-Chair of the American Task Force Argentina (ATFA), an entity specifically created to attack and slander the Argentine Republic and its President.” The president added that if this was confirmed “it would have grave implications for relations between our two countries.” “May I inform you that Nancy Soderberg, the Co-Chair of ATFA, has conducted a defamatory and slanderous campaign of unprecedented proportions against the people and authorities of my country and specifically against myself, with a view to damaging the Argentine Republic for the benefit of a handful of vulture funds that seek to make exorbitant profits while curtailing the sovereign right of my country to restructure its external debt,” the letter went on. “Relations between our governments would also suffer if ATFA’s Nancy Soderberg were the same person advising you on national security affairs, as Elliott Management Corp., manages the vulture fund NML Capital, which is also domiciled in the Cayman Islands and has led an international judicial harassment campaign against my country,” the president warned.

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