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21st February 2024

May 2023

Dear Readers, June 16, 1976 will forever be remembered as the year of resistance to apartheid. Thousands were killed, maimed and forced into exile but from these setbacks was born a revolution, anew. And it was led by youth. Today the creative energy and sense of purpose is lacking in our society and, once again, we hope our youth will help to reinvigorate our falterning hopes and aspirations. 

Our beloved continent, often reported as a source of bad news, wars and tragedies is more than that! We will come to that, but first some of the worst sides of ourselves is ill-treatment of fellow Africans. This afrophobia is rampant and it is not uncommon to read that a fellow African from somewhere on the continent has been killed. A number of groupings including workers, the poor and the landless have made a stand to defend fellow Africans. They are clear that “scapegoating migrants is not the solution to the multiple crises of capitalism we’re facing”. Many groups have marched, and used other legal defences. Groups like SERI, Kopanang Africa Against Xenophobia (KAAX), Abahlali baseMjondolo, the Inner City Federation, the South African Informal Traders Forum and other allies, are helping to show us that Africans can be better. And young people in Kenya and all around are taking the initiative.

The problems imposed on us by the former colonial powers do not seem to have gone away, as you will read in the Critical Raw Materials – Rush. 

As we celebrate Africa Day, our creative cultures show who we are. Africa has a right to celebrate its resilience and brilliance. We are a people of culture and our continent is richly immersed in it. We must stop putting ourselves down because of today’s crooks. We have had great civilisations and continue to have them. Reminds us of a joke cracked by Mahatma Gandhi, which goes something like this: after a reporter asked him what he thought of Western civilisation, he said “I think it would be a good idea.” So we have ours and we must build on it.

Returning to the theme of youth, the young Nigerian artist Seun Kuti, son of the legend Fela Kuti, has sung about our problems and the solutions. Listen to this song that talks of neocolonialism and debt (not to talk of corruption and mal-governance that we are witnessing over and over again as in Hammanskraal) that is keeping us down.

We sing and learn. Happy Africa Day.

[Health Warning: Language of the songwriter and singer is angry and uses some words that may upset a few folk.]

· DEBATE ·

CRITICAL RAW MATERIALS – THE SECOND RUSH ON AFRICA?

Whilst you were asleep, the European Union hopes to pass a law that essentially legalizes the colonial and apartheid paths of development. Nothing is spared, from the sand to food stuff. It will be dug out and sent to Europe, and the US (not to mention or excuse China). This law has a name: the Critical Raw Materials Act,  and it was released for public discussion on 16 March 2023, “in a bid to secure the resources needed for technologies such as renewable energy and battery power. The act aims to make the EU more self-reliant in mining, processing and recycling a list of 34 critical metals and minerals, to shield the region from the impact of increasing international competition for these resources”.

In our last intervention in February 2023, we opened with a piece on raw materials thus: “This sounds like an old call but today more than ever we make the call for Africans and African Civil Society in particular to wake up. Sad to say not much has changed in our continent on this issue.”

A few points are worth noting:

  • Firstly, the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen before in her  State of the Union address (September 2022) identified lithium and rare earths as increasingly “replacing gas and oil at the heart of our economy”. This idea was no doubt sharpened by the current European war (Russia-Ukraine-NATO) where the demand for oil and gas heightened something she believed, such as demand for oil and gas, should in the long run be decreased. (European Commission, 2022).
  • Secondly, this is a position that follows onto a long held geo-political and strategic challenge that appears to be China and its related sinophobia. The USA is also in a rush for raw materials but, whilst some believe the USA is a competitor to the EC, I really doubt it as the EU has no stomach for competing with the US.
  • Thirdly, at its root, the aim is to unite EU nations around a common strategy and stop them competing on a narrow basis for raw materials amongst themselves if they want to see the birth of their Green New Deal.

No one begrudges any country or union of countries to plan for the well being of its citizens  but must this be at the expense or the detriment of other countries? Why must it be at the expense of Africa or the Global South? It begs the question: what about our own dreams and ideals?

The EC identified the following Raw Materials as strategic:

copper, tungsten, cobalt, nickel – battery grade, magnesium metal, platinum group metals, manganese – battery grade, natural graphite – battery grade, germanium, boron – metallurgy grade, rare earth elements for magnets, titanium metal, bismuth, gallium, lithium – battery grade, silicon metal. Platinum group metals include iridium, palladium, platinum, rhodium and ruthenium. Rare earth elements for magnets include neodymium, praseodymium, terbium, dysprosium, gadolinium, samarium and cerium. Sources: European Commission (2023a; 2023b)

Where would these raw materials come from?
The Commission has been working overtime, whilst Africa and South Africans are side-tracked by smaller issues and debates. They have set down clear targets and priorities and action plans.

The Regulation sets clear benchmarks for domestic capacities along the strategic raw material supply chain and to diversify EU supply by 2030: 

  • At least 10% of the EU’s annual consumption for extraction,
  • At least 40% of the EU’s annual consumption for processing,
  • At least 15% of the EU’s annual consumption for recycling, 
  • Not more than 65% of the Union’s annual consumption of each strategic raw material at any relevant stage of processing from a single third country.

The EU wants to ensure that it does not depend on a single country for these raw materials and thereby increasing its bargaining power.

What is to be done
European CSOs complain that there is no participation for them in these programmes. We can add, the countries and their people from whence these raw materials will be extracted are not consulted, only the elites are spoken to.

New Mines in Europe?
But they have also re-started mining in many EU countries. For those organising with and supporting mine-affected communities we must reach out to them. Mining has always been disastrous and it is a sickness-making machine that often results in deaths. The Congo is a prime example of a huge country, a corpse eaten by the vultures of capital from all over the world.

European governments and corporations have been seeking out new mining in Europe. These developments are happening in Sweden, Finland, Portugal and some say even Germany, Estonia and so on. In Sweden, they have apparently discovered huge rare earth deposits and government owned Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara Aktiebolag (LKAB) is onto it. Finland has access to nickel and cobalt mining whilst Portugal has vast amounts of lithium reserves. 

The rights of communities to organise and resist these impacts provides great opportunities for the movements of and for social justice to turn conversations to the concerns from below. Already some commentators have complained that the activism will slow down if not stop the rush for these minerals.

They are getting stronger by organising an EU club that may include the USA but, at present, these “Critical Raw Materials Clubs” have sought the buy-in of Canada and Australia, which now seem to be on track. The expertise of the Canadians on processing of rare earth materials and Australia’s reserves of lithium and rare earths make them good targets for membership to the club.

What about our clubs?
So whilst they are united and working smarter, what is happening to us? Quite frankly nothing. Many civil society organisations are not even talking about it. The media? They are talking about load shedding and other important local level issues, in particular corruption; but I fear that most media give little attention to the global contexts. Their failure to stimulate wide and deep public discussion on this issue is likely to keep us in the dark much longer than ever.

What is worrying is that when the Indonesian government tried to designate nickel as a strategic mineral and banned it from export in 2020, it received flack and a negative ruling from the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The Indonesian president Jokowi has vowed to appeal the decision. He explained the objectives as developmental, providing jobs and building industries. Banning exports was part of a strategic plan aimed at attracting investors to help the country develop nickel smelters and downstream industries offshore. China is a big investor in this initiative, it was reported.

Many in the USA, Europe fear the growing power and influence of China over these countries, and with talk of a Brics currency this cannot be easy. It is feared in Europe that Indonesia has been contemplating a ban on bauxite exports as well. “We want to be a developed country, we want to create jobs. If we are scared of being sued, and we step back, we will not be a developed country,” Jokowi was quoted as saying.

The European Union turned to the WTO in November 2019, arguing that Indonesian export restrictions on raw materials were unfairly harming its stainless steel industry. The WTO’s adjudicating panel subsequently ruled in favour of the EU, that Indonesia’s actions of prohibiting nickel exports and their requirement that they process and refine nickel domestically broke their free trade rules.

This resorting to the WTO effectively means that the EU would do what it wants by all means to ensure that their supply of raw materials goes unchallenged. Little consideration is given to what is needed for the people of this country with a huge population, mostly poor… What the powers that be see only is that Indonesia was the world’s biggest exporter of nickel before this dispute. When the EU documents talk of solidarity, win-win… we must take that with a pinch of salt, whilst we still have it as our raw material.

We are not and cannot be mere spectators in our own exploitation and oppression. We must dust off our old programmes and reflect if they are sufficient to meet the challenges of today: to withhold our natural resources and use it to benefit our own continent? 

When I talk of going back to our old documents and refreshing them, I am thinking of the Lagos Plan of Action and the recently passed Africa Free Trade Agreement.

AfCFTA
In 2019 African states signed up to the AU’s Africa Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) which it says brings together 55 countries and is the “worlds largest free trade area”, “bringing together the 55 countries of the African Union (AU) and eight (8) Regional Economic Communities (RECs). The overall mandate of the AfCFTA is to create a single continental market with a population of about 1.3 billion people and a combined GDP of approximately US$ 3.4 trillion. The AfCFTA is one of the flagship projects of Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want, the African Union’s long-term development strategy for transforming the continent into a global powerhouse.”

A key element of its mandate is to eliminate trade barriers and boost intra-Africa trade. In particular, “it is to advance trade in value-added production across all service sectors of the African Economy. The AfCFTA will contribute to establishing regional value chains in Africa, enabling investment and job creation. The practical implementation of the AfCFTA has the potential to foster industrialisation, job creation, and investment, thus enhancing the competitiveness of Africa in the medium to long term.”

Does it sound a bit like Jokowi? Indonesia? If so, why do they not support the country or do more? I know there are some CSO groups working on this issue and we must do more to ensure that we have the peoples centred development at the heart of the new project. But critique alone is only one part of the struggle. 

The AU’s predecessor, the OAU, whom we have just wished a happy birthday to, had its Lagos Plan of Action for the economic development of Africa 1980-2000, which aimed for increased self-sufficiency of the African continent.

It spelt out clearly that:

(i) Africa’s huge resources must be applied principally to meet the needs and purposes of its people; 
(ii) Africa’s almost total reliance on the export of raw materials must change. Rather, Africa’s development and growth must be based on a combination of Africa’s considerable natural resources, her entrepreneurial, managerial and technical resources and her markets (restructured and expanded), to serve her people. Africa, therefore, must map out its own strategy for development and must vigorously pursue its implementation;
(iii) Africa must. cultivate the virtue of self-reliance. This is not to say that the continent should totally cut itself off from outside contributions. However, these outside contributions should only supplement our own effort: they should not be the mainstay of our development; 
(iv) as a consequence of the need for increased self-reliance, Africa must mobilise her entire human and material resources for her development;
(v) each of our States must pursue all-embracing economic, social and cultural activities which will mobilise the strength of the country as a whole and ensure that both the efforts put into and the benefits derived from development are equitably shared; 
(vi) efforts towards African economic integration must be pursued with renewed determination in order to create a continent-wide framework for the much needed economic co-operation for development based on collective self-reliance.

To conclude, the EU will not have it easy to try to diversify the sources of their critical raw materials (away from a single source), if these other initiatives from the Global South really take off. The people of the Global South are putting pressure on their leaders to ensure that the raw materials extracted at heavy costs are done with the participation of the workers and the poor, as well as more humanely. In addition, they are demanding that these mineral resources be beneficiated and used for their own industrial development, in the auto, electronic and other sectors. There are also global, strategic alliances and re-alignments as Indonesia may also be considering the de-dollarisation of their economy. It looks clearly uncertain but there is hope that our leaders begin to refocus on “we the people”. This space to re-engage and talk about genuine, bottom-up development of the downtrodden once again may be on the agenda. Not only for us here in South Africa, or Africa, but for Europe, the US, Latin America, Asia – because poverty and inequality, worsened by the climate catastrophe have worsened the lives of all the people of the world. We must have these conversations now as we change the conditions that nurture it.

ARTICLES

Image Source: Daily Maverick

Hammanskraal: the story of our times

As I write, at least 24 people have died from cholera in the urban areas: Hammanskraal. The area will forever be remembered for cholera and deaths which were avoidable, because all of us, in particular government, were doing something else. And it is happening in the capital of our government and in the backyard of the Gauteng government but no one was listening.

Wall to wall news coverage revealed the following: over a hundred of our people have been hospitalised. In the Free state province and neighbouring Zimbabwe (as at May 24) 9 people are died. In addition, the first known cholera death in February, was said to have been from a person who arrived in the country from Malawi. And Cholera is a disease that can be beaten.

Some in the future may remember the dramatic Economic Freedom Fighters protests when the number of people who had died was about 17 with many more hospitalised. Their leader explained why the red berets had chosen to disrupt a special council sitting in the City of Tshwane scheduled to hear the budget speech for 2023/2024 financial year. The EFF councillors entered the Tshwane House council chamber, and demanded that the mayor Cilliers Brink must drink dirty water “from Hammanskraal”. They brought in a 2 litre bottle. EFF Tshwane chairperson, Obakeng Ramabodu, said that the municipality was liable for all the deaths in Hammanskraal. I recall hearing on the radio, that if he dies, we all die or words to that effect. 

I do not have an issue with the creativity, but with the failure of these comrades and others to have acted in line with the powers proactively. These political leaders must not act as NGOs or as if they are part of the commentariat, issuing media releases and press conferences. They have power to act, and save lives. Good organising involves research and doing the boring meetings and if these fail, direct action is called for BEFORE PEOPLE DIE or because PEOPLE WILL DIE.

The health authorities and the NICD have not been able to confirm the exact source of the cholera outbreak, but it is widely agreed that poor wastewater management and local government instability in South Africa’s capital city have been blamed for the situation. The City of Tshwane Municipality, which takes in Pretoria and surrounding areas, has had at least five different mayors since the ruling African National Congress party lost control in local government elections in 2016.

A water plant in Pretoria which is responsible for waste water management for large parts of Hammanskraal is in need of urgent upgrades estimated to cost about $130 million and hasn’t been functioning properly for years, the city’s mayor said. But this is symptomatic of our times where regulatory bodies are out of their depth, under-resourced and have been playing second fiddle to the rule of the politicians. Regulatory bodies must be empowered, well resourced and independent.

Hear the PEOPLE

The people of Hammanskraal have complained for close to 13 years. Ironically, this was the same time that the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution recognising the human right to water and sanitation and clean drinking water are essential to the realisation of human rights. 

Over the years, stop-start interventions were the norm. Then the Department of Water Affairs declared the Apies River a disaster area, after it was reported that raw sewerage was pouring into the river. The river is located near the sewage treatment plant, Rooiwal, that is supposed to service the community.

From then on, corruption, mismanagement and poor governance were the watch-words for this issue. What did all the councillors do then?

President Zuma quoted, in a popular touch in his State of the Nation Address (SONA), highlighted the plea from a resident Ms Mmatsheko Pine from Hammanskraal. According to his office, they said the message was “an impassioned email sent to the Presidential Hotline by a resident of Ngobi Village in Hammanskraal, North West Province”.

President Zuma read the following at SONA: 
“There is the area called Ngobi near Hammanskraal, under Moretele Local Municipality, the people residing in the area are now old, aged and mostly sick. The area has been without water for the past two years. People rely on rain to harvest water. There are water pipes and machines installed but the problem is said to be pressure to pump water. Could your office kindly assist with the powers that be?”
 
To make good on his promise on June 2, he visited the area with a number of his ministers and visited the Ngobi Water Project in the Village. It involves the construction of a 2,5MI water reservoir and the equipping of 10 boreholes, electrification of boreholes and construction of pump stations. The presidency then invited a number of ministers: Minister Collins Chabane (late) (Performance Monitoring and Evaluation), Minister Ebrahim Patel (Economic Development), Minister Richard Baloyi (Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs), Minister Edna Molewa (Water and Environmental Affairs) and Minister Dipuo Peters (Energy). We can say that the JZ presidency was nine wasted years and ignore that it was the office of the presidency that went there, not an individual.

Finally, the SAHRC announced publicly (23 May 2023) that the water in Hammanskraal was not fit for human consumption. But they said the same before. A year ago, they visited the area and the Temba Water Purification Plant and Rooiwal Waste Water Treatment Works. It was reported that they were accompanied by the City of Tshwane mayor, Randall Williams, MMC for Utility Services, Phillip Nel, officials from the Department of Water and Sanitation and members of the Hammanskraal Residents Forum (HRF).

In 2019, the SAHRC declared that the water was unfit for human consumption after the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR) independent sample analysis. The SAHRC issued a statement already quoted above which once again called out the violations of basic and fundamental human rights. In their media release they reminded the public that “Following inspections, the Commission instituted a formal investigation and released a report of the Gauteng Provincial Inquiry into the Sewage Pollution of the City of Tshwane’s Rivers and the Roodeplaat Dam which found that the primary reason for the unacceptable levels of pollution is the failure to manage and maintain existing WWTWs in the City of Tshwane over a prolonged period of time.

Despite the findings and key recommendations of the investigative report, the community of Hammanskraal continues to lack access to drinkable water. Now with the emergence of the cholera outbreak, the community is faced with a double threat as they are not able to practise hygiene at their convenience”.

To end, the people of Hammanskraal have tried everything. Petitions, prayers, phone talk shows, media blitzes, invite Chapter 9 bodies, protests and whatnot – but they haven’t given up. The reports and the advocacy of the SAHRC and others have had the best and most intentions. But noble intentions are not enough. Without real, concrete action to change the lives of people there, these intentions, thoughts will remain mere philosophy or empty words. No one is accountable. No one acts proactively… to avoid harm. They wait for death, it seems to move an agenda.

We have all the ideas, the theories, and the philosophies. The task now is to change the reality for the folks of Hammanskraal and towns, townships where cholera is already present. We must bow our heads in shame and commit to never letting this happen again.

By Hassen Lorgat

Save the children Report Launch

 

Bench Marks Foundation and Save the Children South Africa invite readers to join us in a launch of a new report that we hope will advance our understanding of mining and children. It will be a hybrid event that will take place at the South African Human Rights Commission on International Children’s Day on Thursday 1st of June at 9.30am. To join online, follow this link.

This joint study unpacks the impact of mining on the health and welfare of children residing near-mine-affected communities. The study was both qualitative and quantitative in nature and involved one reference community as a control group and three mine-impacted communities, namely Matjhabeng in the Free State, Phomolong Township in Hennenman (reference community), Western Holdings on the western side of Matjhabeng, and Bronville and Hani Park on the eastern side of the town.

Twenty-five households per community were included in the study. The surveys were preceded by a desktop study, a visit to the archives and a literature review. In terms of qualitative information, gathered group discussions and a one-on-one interview were conducted with teachers from schools and with children.

The report has a number of conclusions and recommendations, including these:

  • The household health survey found that respiratory problems are a major health issue among parents and children in the communities surveyed; this is also reflected in the statistics of the provincial health department in the Free State for the Matjhabeng district. Respiratory diseases, coughing, wheezes, TB and silicosis, in the case of the Western Holdings community, are common and as a cumulative problem, always among the top three causes of death among children across all age cohorts (MDB, 2018). 5)
  • Complicating the matter of respiratory diseases is the prevalence of asbestos roofing in two of the communities surveyed, Western Holdings and Phomolong. This is a very topical matter and, as this report is being finalised, the former premier of the Free State province and several senior government officials are charged with corruption involving millions of rands allocated for the removal of asbestos roofing in the Free State province and Gauteng. Children growing up under asbestos roofs are at greater risk of developing severe respiratory health problems. Their health, safety and security is further compromised by the possibility that their parents or caregivers pass away as a consequence of asbestosis or a host of other respiratory health problems associated with this material.

These conclusions were followed up by detailed recommendations to corporations and various arms of the government. A specific recommendation to the Department of Health, the Local Government Association and the South African Human Rights Commission reads as follows:

“The health department and those responsible for the clinics, must in line with the National Health Act (Act No 61 of 2003) Section 13 commits “Subject to National Archives of South Africa Act, 1996 (Act No. 43 of 1996), and the Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000 (Act No. 2 of 2000), those persons responsible or in charge of a health establishment must ensure that health records containing such information as may be prescribed is created and maintained at that health establishment for every user of health services”

For better recording keeping to be achieved frontline workers in the community health clinics must be trained. This will allow us to glean critical insights for research, public debate and take redress measures to improve the quality of life for children living in mining communities:

FROM THE GROUND

Photo Courtesy of the Daily Vox

Youth are Organising: Lessons from Kenya
Olebogeng Motene

I travelled to Kenya to participate in an Eastern and Southern Youth Exchange Forum hosted by Norwegian Church Aid-KenyaAct Alliance and the Church of Sweden that took place mid May. This was my second time in Kenya and the experience was amazing. Nairobi is a vibrant city and one can imagine the cultural shock I experienced when I arrived around 9pm and found the inner city still buzzing with street vendors all over the streets, stores open and, of course, electricity.

The youth forum was a five day-long event with 13 countries represented. The sessions were packed with lots of information, and experience sharing and networking taking place.

I was to present on opportunities available for youth and illicit financial flows in extractives industry and the impacts on the economy and communities. Now let me tell you that I knew nothing on how tax or IFF is linked to the impacts of those living in the mine hosting community until the invitation came and I prepared, because they had invited me to be on the panel.

I learnt from many people in the different sessions. There were a variety of advocacy issues that were tackled in the week: gender justice, climate justice, climate/green jobs, education-entertainment entrepreneurship, fair and just tax systems. This led to a full-day long session, including team building sessions that ended around 8 or 9pm. I think it was the long hours and the four hour difference with South Africa that tired me most.

It is through this forum that I was motivated to read and learn more on taxation, in part as Francis Kairua from Tax Justice Network Africa confirmed that countries that collect more taxes enjoy more democracy, and that fair and just tax systems are important to youth as we are the most important drivers of change.

I was particularly impressed and inspired by a community based organisation called Komb Green Solutions.They are located in K.A village in the great Expense of Korogocho Slum, which began in early June 2017. It was formed by youths who were involved in all sorts of crime with a mission of rehabilitation of Nairobi River.

Ten young people came up with an idea of transforming a neglected riparian space into a recreational safe space where they started engaging the Authorities and the whole community. They have several active projects: transforming waste plastic collected into pavement and other products, urban farming/hydroponics, kids/youth mentorship-exchange programmes and so many more.

When Fredrick Okinda presented their work, I was mind blown away. I cannot wait to pilot some of the ideas/projects with some of the activists we work with in South Africa through the Community Monitoring programme. And like I said in my presentation, no act towards change is small or unimportant.

Image source: Wonderkop community after consultation with the Bench Marks Foundation & Earthworks

The Charade of Sibanye Stillwater 
Eric Mokoua

Mining companies in South Africa have always been criticised for poor community mine engagement according to the many mining impacted communities which we work with.

The environmental and social impacts of mining on communities are adverse, as they constantly threaten the livelihood and lead to conflicts. However, the corporate orientation to profiteer in any circumstance is not helpful. The mining industry is more obsessed with portraying a good image of themselves as a critical value-addition to investors. In the course of image preservation rather than honest engagement, there is theatre and propaganda to archive an image acceptable to the market.

To illustrate this, we can take a look at Glencore’s bribery scandal which led to their penalty of £ 280 million. Glencore pulled an elaborate bribery scheme across five west African countries. This was done to give Glencore a business advantage of oil business ultimately serving the cardinal principle of profit making. The bribery scandal dealt a blow to Glencore’s image and its share fortunes.

The second example is here in South Africa, Lonmin did not survive the barrage of bad image after the Marikana massacre in 2012. Lonmin has since sold to Sibanye Stiwaters, which is battling the bad image. In trying to clean up the image, Sibanye Stillwater is involved in many initiatives, among others is Marikana renewal and NGO dialogue. These are weapons in the Sibanye Stillwater strategic arsenal to upturn the current dismal narrative in the public domain.

Recently Sibanye organised an NGO dialogue online which was in essence a monologue – more of a charade than an honest exchange of view. In this meeting, Sibanye Stillwater controlled the agenda, organised cheerleaders as well as its own critics! The rest of the participants were made redundant – a mere audience of a theatre which desperately sought legitimacy.

This full drama that we were treated to, ignored the threatening issues of Wonderkop community. The wonderkop community have complained since 2020 of the sewer flow from mine hostel. The church of Christ Assembly located at the outskirts of Wonderkop have even sent a petition to no avail.The stinking affluent from the hostel, floods the church yard from time to time, it gets worse during rainy days.

The more disturbing risk is the tailing facility not far from Wonderkop. Given the high risk associated with tailings, one would have expected this issue to feature high in what was called a dialogue. The Wonderkop community have asked for an engagement regarding this tailing facility which poses a serious danger should it fail, to no avail.

NO Just Transition without US
WoMin’s Report: Women Building Power Towards Climate, Energy And Justice

In this paper we call for energy justice and a total transformation of the energy system. We highlight that the current energy system is unequal, unjust, leads to energy poverty and has to change.

Climate justice activists refer to some of the shifts we are calling for as the ‘just transition’. WoMin brings an explicit feminist orientation to the needed development transition, calling for a gender just transition.

WoMin’s call for a gender just transition is being further clarified and advanced through a women’s rights, women-led and grassroots-driven regional campaign. The campaign aims to support women’s movement-building and organising towards a future in which African women enjoy climate, energy, food, gender, and development justice. It seeks to bridge the gap between theory and practice, and to work on a range of levels.

The campaign includes clarifying our ideas through the Women Building Power series of booklets and papers. This paper, which focuses on understanding the current energy system and possible alternatives, forms part of the Women Building Power series.

The campaign also includes participatory action research which will enable women to carry out social investigation into their own issues and articulate the problems from their own perspective. Women’s organising and movement building, supported by participatory action research, assists in engaging grassroots women in critical analysis and organising for action to improve their situation.

As we have noted in this paper women, the working class, and peasant families and communities suffer the worst impacts of both climate change and energy poverty. We highlighted that climate change affects hardest those least responsible for creating this crisis. That while the industrialised nations in the Global North are responsible for climate change, historically emitting up to 80% of the GHGs globally, it is people in the Global South who face its worst impacts.

The drivers of climate change are not just the emission of GHGs. Climate change is also driven by social forces like patriarchy and racism that marginalise women, and black working-class and peasant women in particular, and undermine their solutions and voices in decision-making on energy, climate and general development.

Climate change discussions are dominated by governments, global corporations and the elites in the Global North and largely bypass poor women in Africa who struggle with energy poverty. These elites ignore the crisis of energy poverty which affects the lives of millions of people, especially women, in African countries.

Most mainstream northern-oriented climate movements have been loud and insistent in their calls to stop the use of fossil fuels and develop renewable energy solutions, in order to address climate change. However, these calls fail to address the wider and inter-linked question of energy justice for the world’s people. Climate justice is an empty call without gender, energy and development justice for poor women. It would be true to say that the mainstream discourse, even amongst NGOs, is not focused on systemic solutions, but in a ‘business as usual’ scenario, albeit with renewable energy.

While we support replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy solutions, the issue is not just about this. It is also about the use of the energy that is produced. Even if we achieve the production of 100% clean and renewable energy, if we use this energy for increased industrial production of wasteful goods that end up in landfill sites shortly after production we will never address the problems associated with climate change.

What is needed is a transition to a different system of energy production, ownership and use. We need to change how decisions are made about what energy is required, where that energy is needed, the shape and form of that energy, and the need to make great efforts to provide cheap or free energy for people.

We need a total transformation in the way we think about development, and the underlying motive shaping development processes. Under a capitalist system, the driving motive is profit for a few. This logic shapes our laws, policies, plans and investments, including those in energy. Under what we call neoliberal capitalism the market has become dominant. This means we must buy or pay for what we need. This assumes a level playing field where everyone can afford to pay. This is not true. Most people cannot pay for what they need.

Under neoliberal capitalism the state has been weakened, and has been forced to retreat from people-centred development. It is left to corporations to provide the services that were in the past provided by governments. Services once considered part of the public good and essential to people’s well-being, are now sold by corporations who profit from these services. Energy, alongside healthcare, food, education and water, are now sold for profit. (read on)

Image Source: EyeWitness News

GOLD MAFIA: the South African government responds

In a question posed to him in parliament, President Ramaphosa replied as follows:

Honourable Members,

The Government takes the allegations made in the Al Jazeera documentary titled ‘Gold Mafia’ very seriously. We are committed to the preservation of the integrity of the financial system in the interest of the broader economy and ordinary citizens.

Investigative and regulatory authorities will act in accordance with their mandate, including in coordination with other jurisdictions where necessary to take action against those found guilty of wrongdoing.


With respect to actions currently being taken to investigate individuals who are alleged in the documentary to be criminally implicated, an enquiry has been registered by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation to investigate these syndicates and individuals.

This investigation is at an enquiry stage and no arrests have been made as yet. Details of the steps that are being taken cannot be divulged at this stage without compromising the investigation. At the same time, the Government is working with the Financial Action Task Force to implement an action plan to strengthen the country’s efforts to counter money laundering and financing of terrorism.

The SAPS Detective Service is currently investigating several serious criminal cases that include money laundering as an offence. The investigation of proceeds generated by serious crimes like fraud, corruption, tax-evasion, customs and excise and narcotics-related offices are also investigated across the South African Police Service.

Government will continue to combat corruption and money laundering in South Africa. It will do so both through strengthening its capability to investigate, prosecute and prevent illicit financial activities and thoroughly investigating specific allegations, such as those contained in the Al Jazeera documentary.”

Slapp Suits Launch – CASA Southern Africa

The historic consultative conference on Slapps Southern African was convened over two days (16 – 17 May 2023) at a hotel in Rosebank, South Africa. The excitement and enthusiasm boiled over during and after the launch of the Southern African chapter of the Coalition Against Slapps in Africa (CASA). The organisers, the Bench Marks Foundation and the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW), shared the joy but were already looking forward to the hard work that follows.

SLAPPs are Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. These damaging suits chill free speech and healthy debate by targeting those who communicate with their government or speak out on issues of public interest.

SLAPPs are used to silence and harass critics by forcing them to spend money to defend these baseless suits.  SLAPP filers don’t go to court to seek justice. Rather, SLAPPS are intended to intimidate those who disagree with them or their activities by draining the target’s financial resources.

SLAPPs are effective because even a meritless lawsuit can take years and many thousands of dollars to defend.  To end or prevent a SLAPP, those who speak out on issues of public interest frequently agree to muzzle themselves, apologise, or “correct” statements.

SLAPPs are anti-democratic and this conference we believe gave us great insights of how we roll out of and for a continental level coalition may look like. The insights and enthusiasm revealed that there is a real need for Coalition Against SLAPPs in Africa (CASA).

The in-person attendance, and the online participation, was overwhelming and many speakers contributed towards deepening our understanding of the repression in society, particularly with those who sought to present their actions as being within the law, and therefore lawful. Participants included survivors of Slapps and others who were subject to judicial abuse.

Whilst there were not too many cases on the continent, where they exist, most were in the extractivist (mining in particular) sector. Thus law making would be a critical part of this initiative.

International and African activists deliberated how to build this movement. The event also presented opportunities to share tools and educational resources such as the video on Slapps by Aljazeera’s The Listening Post.

EU Anti Slapp directive

A few speakers referred to the EU anti Slapp directive, which may present opportunities for an African wide convention… The Coalition against Slapps in Europe have been advocating for a continental wide legislation. They were proud that the European parliament is keen to assist.

“The Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe (CASE) welcomed the Commission proposal, which follows a previous policy brief CASE published in 2022. In this vein, the organisation praised the Commission proposal for its broad personal scope that would cover anyone exercising their freedom of speech in relation to issues of public relevance, and for the key safeguards and remedies included in the initiative, which partially matched some of the safeguards included in the model anti-SLAPP Directive proposed by the organisation, together with 65others. It also welcomed the Commission’s approach in defining SLAPPs with cross-border implications, and praised the recommendation to Member States to ensure that safeguards required for cross-border cases would also be applied to purely domestic SLAPPs”. 

The recent EU directive (February 2023) has been generally welcomed by some in CSO. Take the Policy Fellow at the Center for Data Innovation, focusing on AI policy in Europe who said:

“While the Commission’s directive recommends member states adopt national anti-SLAPP laws, this recommendation is non-binding because requiring such a law would be outside the EU’s authority. Since most SLAPP cases do not have cross-border implications, EU member states still need to create national anti-SLAPP laws.

Overall, it is good that the EU is finally taking steps to introduce EU-wide anti-SLAPP law to protect journalists and deter powerful actors from abusing defamation law. The regulation will likely reduce forum shopping, where claimants choose the most favourable legislation for their case. However, an EU directive is only the first step, and member states still need to create national anti-SLAPP laws to protect free expression”.

The EU CSOs used the strategy of a model Slapp law

At the end of the meeting, the following was concluded:

  1. That in Africa legal harassment, the use of those connected to the criminal justice system – in particular the police – , if it served to take people out of participating in civic life, will constitute part of our work;
  2. That two working groups be elected to take the work forward. One working group related to governance of the process will ensure that the organisers work transparently, inclusively and remain accountable to the participants who mandated them. And a technical group (elected at the meeting) will develop ideas towards a model of anti Slapp Law on the continent. Once done, CASA will have to engage SADC, the AU, and the UN to ensure that citizen activists cooperating with international and national human rights bodies including SADC, the African Union and the UN are protected against reprisals of any kind including harassment, intimidation and malicious prosecution or suits.
  3. For the Governance team, the following people were put forward and agreed to serve: Natural justice, Botswana Watch, Groundworks, TI Madagascar, Zela, Devine Cloete (activist and victim of Slapps), and CSPR / activista.
  4. The “technical” working group is composed of a few persons, including some of us supporting the programme with an interest and expertise in lawmaking and democratisation. Its members included representatives from Wits Law Department, Centre for Applied Legal Studies, South Africa Litigation Centre, Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association and Business and Human Rights.
  5. International solidarity partners were critical in the defence of citizens rights. Thus, it was agreed to pursue the solidarity that Amnesty International provides, Business for Human Rights Resource Centre, MiningWatch Canada, OECD Watch and Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO).
  6. Sources for a Defence and Aid fund were considered. The Dutch NGO SOMO, like a number of groups, has resources to assist those resisting corporations. Other resources such as Mind the Gap to advance our work This we believe could assist international CSOs, particularly those under-resourced, to obtain resources – including research – readily because businesses around the world operate with impunity, as they often employ strategies to evade responsibility for human rights violations and environmental pollution.
  7. As the organisation rolls out the strategy throughout the continent, delegates called for a report back meeting before the launch of the continental organisation. For this to work, having a public presence would be important.
  8. The website and campaign Asina Loyiko, started by the Centre for Environmental Rights and partners, will be revamped to become the CASA website.

CULTURE

“Argentina, 1985”- lessons for democracy making in South Africa?

The movie “Argentina, 1985″ is an interesting contribution towards the struggle for democracy in the world. We are in a global world, internationalists and we must learn from the struggles wherever the unjust exercise of power over the poor and working people was resisted.

It must be borne in mind that Argentina was part of the Cold War and seen as part of a big US backyard. The legendary strategist for US power Kissinger had his hands in this country as with others. Argentina lost young people, murdered or “disappeared” said to be tens of thousands.

The film is based on the real life events of the people vs the military junta and portrayed the legal work of Julio Strassera and Luis Moreno Ocampo, who prosecuted the Argentine military leaders who committed horrendous trials in a US backed right-wing military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983. (Note the period coincides with our – South African – period of great repression, although ours went a bit longer). Ocampo later became the first prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. 

In an interview, Amy Goodman asked the real life prosecutor about why they used young people in this case. Ocampo explained that the lead prosecutor had approached him to assist and that he could not use the police and the official support because they were all in some way involved.

They had by now already sifted through the best cases for prosecution and recognised that the narrative of a civil strife was false. Ocampo put it this way:

“So, what we did, we used the victims to produce the evidence. So, the Truth Commission identified the victims. We first selected the best cases. Then we called the victims, the survivors, asking for more details. Who saw — who watched you when you were abducted? There was habeas corpus or criminal proceedings. So, we collect all of these documents and prove well… the abduction. Then the victims told us about their own torture and how they watched other people being tortured. And then we show the killings showing people who were abducted before and then appear dead, and the Army recognized they killed them, but they invented that it was they killed them in a fight, in a battle. And we show it was a fake battle, so these people were abducted before.

In this way, in four months, with this group of young kids, who were just meeting the victims, meeting the people, receiving them in the office, we produced the evidence. We produced 2,000 witnesses in four months. And that transformed the case, because the witness testimonies transformed the perception of what happened during the dictatorship”.

How and why did they get young people involved?

“Well, my job was to investigate the crimes. And we — the Truth Commission in my country – had to identify the victims. So, I don’t need lawyers doing legal arguments. I need people with empathy for the victims. That’s why I was thinking young people would be better. And Julio accepted it. Strassera agreed with me. And then we built a team of very young people, from 20 years old — the youngest was 20, and the oldest was 27. So, that was amazing. In four months, we were able to produce the evidence needed to convict the generals”.

I know by now many South African readers will be asking: why did we not take this route and prosecute political power, military power in particular? This is up for discussion, but it could be said that the negotiated settlement recognised that the “peoples camp” believed or argued that we were not powerful enough to impose our will on the oppressors. This article after all is a film review and that debate must be picked up elsewhere.

Mothers of the Disappeared 
The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo are featured in bits and pieces in the movie, but that was significant to reveal some of their more creative strategies. They were the moms of the young people who were either killed or “disappeared”. Following complaints from the military men, the judges asked the prosecutors to go and speak to the mothers to take off their scarves, which had emblazoned on them their message of freedom demanding to know where their loved ones are.

Ocampo’s note on it is a lawyer’s reply, but here it is: “Well, that is real. That historically happened. Both of us were asking the mothers to remove the scarf. But it’s about fair trials. The judges were trying to be sure no one could complain they were biassed. And that is very, very important, because it’s not just the trial was effective, it was fair. It was fair. The defendants have their rights. They present evidence. And the judge was trying to show that impartiality. And I think that is part of the legacy that the movie is showing. The movie is showing not just the horrors; the movie is also showing a fair trial”.

If there was going to be balance, why did they not ask the military men not to come in military power uniforms? They could simply have worn something else, maybe orange overalls? But this aside, it is a brilliant movie, wich shows that dramatised versions of real struggles can be made dramatically evocative as well as educational.

The significance is that it marks the first and only case where a civilian government tried a previous military regime. In many interviews, its director Maitre explains that the court case took place only a year after the end of dictatorship whilst the South American neighbourhood was still ruled by military dictators

Secondly – and this is a simple but a lesson worth repeating -, tyrants and dictators do not last forever and have been defeated before and will fall wherever they are. But there were certain factors which contributed to this success. Jimmy Carter – a special type of US democrat – attempted to show even handedness and criticised even Argentina and not only the USSRs baddies, so the dictators and the right were feeling that the US did not really – or perhaps did not fully – have their backs. Finally, it is important to note that the Argentine military had lost to the war mongering Ms Thatcher in the Malvinas war and the people were not happy with the Generals; the movements for justice were seeing a gap and their mobilisations were seen and supported internationally.

These shortcomings notwithstanding, this episode in life is a great feat as this feature tells us.

Before I go, it is beautiful that the movie was shot in the actual court case where the trial took place and, I must say, I loved the closing address. Lead prosecutor Strassera’s well crafted speed is quoted in the movie, but I searched a little deeper:

“For all these reasons, finally, this trial and conviction are important and necessary for the victims who claim and the survivors who deserve this reparation. It is not, of course, a question of reviving old slogans, such as the one that “spilled blood will not be negotiated,” which served to justify so many atrocities. It is not a question now of negotiating anything, because nothing is being negotiated. It is simply that from respect for life and the suffering of any human being, we restore among us the cult of life. We Argentines have tried to obtain peace by founding it in oblivion, and we have failed. We have already talked about past and frustrated amnesties.

We have tried to seek peace through violence and the extermination of the adversary, and we have failed; I refer to the period just described. Based on this trial and the conviction I advocate; we have the responsibility to build a peace based not on forgetfulness but on memory; not on violence but on justice. This is our chance, and it may be our last.
For these considerations, I accuse the defendants herein of the crimes that have been the object of qualification, and I request that, in the final judgement, they be sentenced to the following penalties:

– Jorge Rafael Videla: Life sentence plus the accessory of Article 52 of the Penal Code.
– Emilio Eduardo Massera: Life sentence plus the accessory of Article 52 of the Penal Code.
– Orlando Ramon Agosti: Life sentence plus the accessory of Article 52 of the Penal Code.
– Roberto Eduardo Viola: Life sentence.
– Armando Lambruschini: Life sentence.
– Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri: 15 years imprisonment
– Omar Rubens Graffigna: 15 years imprisonment
– Jorge Isaac Anaya: 12 years imprisonment
– Basilio Lami Dozo: 10 years imprisonment

For all, with legal accessories and costs.

Your Honors, I wish to waive any claim to originality in closing this motion. I wish to use a phrase that is not my own because it already belongs to all the Argentine people.

Your Honors: “Never again.”

Let me not sour the good flavours by saying that successive governments watered down these sentences but we can truly say that the people – the good people – did win in this movie.

The movie, directed by Santiago Maitre, won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture in a Non-English Language, amongst many other accolades. It is streaming on on Prime Video.

By Hassen Lorgat

RESOURCES

🗐  Model law on human rights defenders
THE MODEL LAW A Model Law to provide for the rights and responsibilities of human rights defenders in Southern Africa, to prescribe the obligations of Governments in protecting and promoting the work of human rights defenders, and to provide for the greater protection, promotion, fulfilment and respect of human rights in Southern Africa. 

PREAMBLE Recognising that the Treaty of the Southern African Development Community (SADC Treaty), recognises “the need to involve the people of the Region centrally in the process of development and integration, particularly through the guarantee of democratic rights, observance of human rights and the rule of law”, and that one of the five principles that SADC and its Member States are enjoined to act in accordance with, is “human rights, democracy and the rule of law”

Moses Cloete serves as the editor at large of this edition. Unless otherwise indicated the writing and presentation of the Bulletin is by Hassen Lorgat. Marta Garrich helped with additional editing and layout of the newsletter. Simo Gumede is responsible for the members and partners database management. Photo credit in the header: Carlos Latuff.