Friday, October 31, 2014

Zanu (PF) Politburo Reveals Mujuru, Mnangagwa As Faction Leaders, Bans Slogans
ZANU-PF said officially today that the party is plagued by
factionalism.
The Zanu PF Politburo meeting held in the capital on Thursday ended late in the evening with the adoption of a resolution to set up a commission of inquiry into the plague of factionalism which has been rocking the party in the last few years.

Addressing journalists at the end of the Politburo meeting the Zanu PF Secretary for Information and Publicity,  Rugare Gumbo said the issue was raised in a report presented by outgoing Secretary of the Women’s League Cde Oppah Muchinguri.

Muchinguri was requested to compile a report on the ‘Meet the People Rallies’ held by the First Lady countrywide.

According to ZBC News Gumbo said there was candid and robust debate on the issue with members of the Politburo naming the leaders of the factions as  Joice Mujuru and Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The issue of the suspension of Mashonaland West provincial chairman Temba Mliswa was also discussed with the Politburo upholding the suspension.

The development whereby some that had voted in favour of the suspension were now withdrawing was said to be invalid with the Politburo upholding the suspension.

The Politburo also discussed the issue of the chanting of some slogans such as ‘Pasi Negamatox’ and ‘Pasi Ne Zvipfukuto’ which were ruled to be out of the party’s statutes.

These slogans have been banned forthwith.
EU Lifts Trade Sanctions on Zimbabwe
Republic of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe addresses
ZANU-PF rally in Harare before the Oct. 30, 2014 politburo
meeting.
October 31, 2014
Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
Zimbabwe Herald

The European Union yesterday announced the lifting of trade sanctions against Zimbabwe that will take effect tomorrow, but kept travel bans against President Mugabe and the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe which the Western bloc said would be reviewed in February next year.

Analysts dismissed the lifting of the trade embargo, saying as long as President Mugabe remained on the illegal sanctions, it defeated the spirit of engagement which the bloc was advocating.

Announcing the decision in Harare yesterday during a Press conference, newly accredited EU Head of Mission Mr Philippe Van Damme said the lifting of trade sanctions against Zimbabwe means that the 28-nation bloc would directly engage with Harare on bilateral economic ties.

Ironically the European bloc had all along claimed there were no economic sanctions on Zimbabwe but just travel bans and asset freezes on Zanu-PF leaders and their associates.

He said pending arrival of British and Danish trade delegation was a sign of commitment by the Brussels based organisation to normalise relations with Zimbabwe. Mr Van Damme said EU lifted Article 96 of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement which governed relations between the Western bloc and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, but maintained Article nine until February next year which related to travel bans imposed on First Families.

“I think we have reached an important stage of normalisation of relations with Zimbabwe,” said Mr Van Damme, who was making his first public appearance after he presented his credentials to President Mugabe early this month.

“The step we have taken is not the final step, but a very important one. What we need now is to rebuild trust.”

Some of the areas that EU would start dialogue on were on agriculture, support of realignment of laws, health, Zim-Asset and the Staff Monitoring Programme that is being monitored by the International Monetary Fund.

Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Chris Mutsvangwa said it was bad manners for EU to continue “stigmatising” President Mugabe whose election victory was endorsed by both Sadc and the African Union, among other regional groupings.

“It is a bad signal at a time when Brussels and even London are talking of re-engagement,” he said.

“President Mugabe represents the people of Zimbabwe and everyone recognised the July 31, 2013 election and there is no prospect of a new Government for the next four years or even beyond that is in the foreseeable future. It’s plain bad manners.”

African, Caribbean and Pacific EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly Zimbabwe representative Cde Makhosini Hlongwane said the EU was pinning its hopes on Zanu-PF’s December elective congress where it was anticipating that its puppets in the revolutionary party would take over the reins of power.

“They are prioritising hopes on outcomes of internal Zanu-PF processes, particularly congress with the vain hope that their puppets within Zanu-PF are going to remove President Mugabe and therefore develop a new Zimbabwe- EU architecture which is presumably sympathetic to the EU project,” he said.

“EU needs to come to terms, and very quickly so, with the fact that President Mugabe is not going anywhere.”

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Uganda Deploys Over 2,700 Troops in Somalia
Ugandan troops deployed in Somalia as early as 2007.
OCTOBER 29, 2014
BY NAN
 
Ugandan military on Wednesday said the first batch of the 2,700-strong troops assigned to replace their colleagues stationed in volatile Somalia, have arrived at Mogadishu International airport.

According to a statement by the Ugandan military, the troops have been deployed under Brig. Sam Kavuma, the new Ugandan contingent commander to the African Union Mission to Somalia.

It said, “The troops under Uganda Battle group XIV is the 17th battle group Uganda is fielding to Somalia since 2007.

“They are replacing Battle group XII which has been under AMISOM for a year and recently captured the last Al Shabaab stronghold of Barawe.”

A plane carrying the first batch of 100 soldiers safely landed at Mogadishu International airport on Tuesday and brought back an equal number to Entebbe Airport, Uganda.

Chief of Defense Forces, Gen. Katumba Wamala, has urged the soldiers to respect the Somali culture, adding that Uganda went to Somalia to help the Somali people just as the Tanzanians once helped Uganda in 1979.

He warned that in spite of the improved security situation in Somalia, terrorists were still unpredictable and could inflict damage.

“Always remember that this mission is still a doze and die mission, be vigilant and guard against terrorists,” he said.
Somalia Seizes Weapons Ship
Somalia capital of Mogadishu in the Horn of Africa.
2014-10-29 23:16

Mogadishu - Somali security forces intercepted a vessel carrying explosives that appeared to be intended for use by the radical Islamist group al-Shabaab, officials said on Wednesday.

The vessel, which was also carrying military uniforms, was seized in the port of Mogadishu late on Tuesday, a senior security official told dpa.

"Al-Shabaab wants to use some entrepreneurs here in Mogadishu" to get military materials from abroad, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The vessel's port of origin remained unclear, but police were questioning local entrepreneurs who were suspected of supporting al-Shabaab.

Security Minister Khalif Ahmed Eric said he was establishing a special team to investigate the case.

Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim arrived in Mogadishu for a visit aimed at supporting Somalia against the al-Shabaab insurgency and in carrying out political reforms with the goal of holding national elections in 2016.

"We are here to tell Somalis that they are not alone and that we will redouble our efforts to help them protect the gains made in recent years," Ban said before meeting Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud under heavy security in the country's capital.

He was accompanied by senior representatives of the World Bank, Islamic Development Bank, African Development Bank, African Union and European Union.

Somalia has battled al-Shabaab for nearly a decade. The group has gradually lost control of all major towns it once governed.

Somalia was plunged into chaos in 1991 when its government collapsed. The country has gradually been restoring stability after a permanent central government was created in 2012.

- SAPA
Stockton’s Pension-Protecting Bankruptcy Plan Approved
Stockton, Calif. bankruptcy exit plan approved by federal judge.
By Michael Bathon, Alison Vekshin and Steven Church
Bloomberg
Oct 30, 2014

Stockton, California, won court approval of its plan to exit bankruptcy by paying bond investors pennies on the dollar while shielding public pensions, in a case watched by other cities facing heavy retiree costs.

“This plan, I’m persuaded, is the best that could be done in terms of restructuring the city’s debts,” U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein said at a hearing today in Sacramento, the state capital.

Bankruptcy lawyers and pension advocates nationwide have been following the case to see whether pensions administered by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System would be protected from cuts.

Klein ruled earlier that Calpers doesn’t deserve special protection, the first time the biggest U.S. public pension fund was found vulnerable to cuts in a bankruptcy. Calpers and public-worker groups decried the decision. A bankruptcy judge in Detroit ruled has against pension funds in a similar situation.

Detroit will learn next week whether it can proceed with a $7 billion debt-cutting plan. The city filed the biggest U.S. municipal bankruptcy last year, listing $18 billion in liabilities. Its trip through court has been faster than Stockton’s, and settlements that would impose cuts on major creditor groups, including retirees and some bondholders, were reached through mediation.

Earlier Ruling

The earlier ruling by Klein gave Stockton the opportunity to end the Calpers contract, which it declined to do because, as the judge said, the workers “would be the real victims.”

Ending the contract with Calpers would have reduced pensions by 60 percent and caused many employees to leave, Marc Levinson, Stockton’s lead bankruptcy attorney, has said. It would have taken years to set up a new pension system, he said.

Meanwhile, workers agreed to “quite substantial” concessions in pay, which has an indirect effect on pensions, Klein said.

“The city has made a smart decision to protect pensions and find a reasonable path forward to a more fiscally sustainable future,” Calpers Chief Executive Officer Anne Stausboll said today in a statement. “We will continue to champion the integrity and soundness of public pensions.”

Hands Tied

Dan Pellissier, president of Sacramento-based California Pension Reform, said Stockton is going forward with “one hand tied behind its back” by choosing not to reduce its pension burden.

“Pension obligations have driven many government agencies toward financial insolvency, and Stockton is betting that they can manage their financial future without fixing its unsustainable pension obligations,” he said in a phone interview. “The purpose of bankruptcy is to get a fresh start on your finances.”

Stockton, a city of 298,000 about 80 miles (130 kilometers) east of San Francisco, filed for bankruptcy in 2012 after spending too much on downtown improvement projects and seeing its property-tax revenue plunge in the housing crisis. Creditors filed $1.18 billion in claims.

Major Holdout

The major holdout in the case was Franklin Resources Inc. (BEN) The San Mateo, California-based money manager said Calpers shouldn’t be given special treatment.

Under the city’s plan, Calpers will be fully repaid while two Franklin funds will get back only about 1 percent of the unsecured portion of the $36 million they’re owed. Franklin will get full payment on its $4 million secured claim.

“We are obviously disappointed by your ruling and we will evaluate our options,” James O. Johnston, a lawyer for Franklin, told the judge.

Klein concluded his ruling with a word of caution to other financially distressed cities considering filing for creditor protection under Chapter 9 of the Bankruptcy Code, which covers municipalities.

“This is a very expensive case,” he said. “It seems to me that it’s impossible to do Chapter 9 cases without an eight-digit figure.”

Chris Morgan, a director at Standard & Poor’s said, “There’s a direct cost of going into bankruptcy, and there’s the reputational cost that comes along with it,” by setting a city apart from other municipalities.

“It’s really reinforcing our view that bankruptcy is a difficult journey to go on,” he said.

The case is In re Stockton, 12-bk-32118, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of California (Sacramento).

To contact the reporters on this story: Michael Bathon in Wilmington, Delaware, at mbathon@bloomberg.net; Alison Vekshin in San Francisco at avekshin@bloomberg.net; Steven Church in Wilmington, Delaware, at schurch3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew Dunn at adunn8@bloomberg.net; Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net Michael Hytha
Burkina Army Imposes Interim Government After Crowd Burns Parliament
Military takes power in Burkina Faso.
5:41pm EDT
By Mathieu Bonkoungou and Joe Penney

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Burkina Faso's military dissolved parliament and announced a transitional government on Thursday after violent protests against President Blaise Compaore, but it was not immediately clear who was in charge.

Army chief General Honore Traore said the new government would be installed after consultation with all political parties and would lead the country to an election within 12 months. He also announced a curfew from 1900 to 0600 GMT (1500 to 0200 ET).

The move came after tens of thousands of angry protesters packed the streets of Ouagadougou on Thursday to demand Compaore's departure, storming parliament and setting it on fire and ransacking state television.

At least three protesters were shot dead and scores wounded when security forces opened fire on the crowd.

"Given the need preserve the country from chaos and preserve national unity ... the National Assembly is dissolved, the government is dissolved," Traore told a news conference.

However, he declined to say whether Compaore, whose attempt to extend his 27-year rule has sparked months of tension in the landlocked country, remained the head of state.

Regional West African bloc ECOWAS had said earlier on Thursday that it would not accept any party seizing power through non-constitutional means - suggesting diplomatic pressure to leave Compaore in place.

Before the military's announcement, the president had issued his own statement announcing a state of emergency to be enforced by the army and calling for talks with the opposition.

The protests were sparked by the government's attempt to push a constitutional change through parliament to allow the 63-year-old president to seek reelection next year. Large protests also erupted in Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina's second biggest town, and Ouahigouya, in the north.

"BLAISE LEAVE"

In the capital, the crowd faced off with security forces outside the presidential palace in a tense standoff that lasted several hours as opposition leaders held talks with senior military officials in an attempt to ease Compaore from power.

Both opposition leaders and protesters on the streets have made it plain they would not allow any role for Compaore. Hundreds of angry protesters gathered outside the headquarters of the armed forces following the president's statement, many of them shouting "Blaise Leave" and "No More Blaise".

"We want Blaise Compaore to leave. We want change," said George Sawadogo, a 23-year-old student.

The departure of Compaore, a close military ally of the United States and former colonial power France, would be closely watched by other governments across West and Central Africa, where a number of long-serving leaders are reaching the end of their constitutional terms.

Burkina Faso is one of the world's poorest nations but has positioned itself as a mediator in regional crises. It is also a key ally in Western operations against al Qaeda-linked groups in West Africa.

Amid uncertainty over how the army's announcement would be received abroad, Ghana's Foreign
Minister Hanna Tetteh said in a tweet the country's embassy in Burkina confirmed a military takeover of power. She declined to provide further details.

White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan had earlier said in a statement that the United States was deeply concerned by the deteriorating situation in Burkina Faso and called on all parties to end the violence and respect democratic norms.

France, which has a special forces base there that conducts operations across the Sahel, also appealed for restraint by all sides. Its embassy had held talks with opposition leaders on Thursday.

CONCERN ABOUT PROSECUTION

Compaore has ruled the nation with a firm grip but has faced increasing criticism in recent years, including defections by members of his party. He weathered a military and popular uprising in 2011 thanks to the support of his elite presidential guard.

Diplomatic pressure had mounted over the past year for Compaore to step down in 2015, amid calls from his own entourage for him to seek re-election, diplomats said.

A letter from French President Francois Hollande to Compaore earlier this month, seen by Reuters, offered France's support in finding him a job with an international organization.

Diplomats, however, say Compaore has been concerned at the possibility of losing his immunity from prosecution, particularly in the wake of the trial of former Liberian leader Charles Taylor in the Hague.

Burkina Faso's former president Thomas Sankara, a leftist leader dubbed Africa's Che Guevara, was killed in the coup that swept Compaore to power. Protesters in the streets of Ouagadougou waved photographs of Sankara and signs reading "Sankara look at your sons. We are fighting your fight."

At the headquarters of state television, which was forced off the air after the building was taken, jubilant protesters posed on the set of the evening news program.

Burkina Faso, the fourth largest gold producer in Africa, has attracted several goldminers including TrueGold TGV.M, IamGold (IMG.TO: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and Randgold Resources (RRS.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz).

(Additional reporting by Daniel Flynn, David Lewis and Bate Felix in Dakar, Joe Bavier and Ange Aboa in Abidjan, John Irish in Paris; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Tom Heneghan)
Ghana Labor Commission Directs Teachers to Call Off Strike
Ghana workers on the march.
The National Labour Commission (NLC) has  asked teachers to call off their strike and return to the negotiation table to resolve their grievances.

After a meeting with leaders of teacher unions and representatives of the government, led by the Minister of Finance, Mr Seth Terpker, in Accra Wednesday, the NLC ruled that a Working Group be established under the auspices of the Ministry of Finance to consider the issues in dispute and present a roadmap to the commission with clear timelines and assigned responsibilities.

According to a statement signed by Dr (Mrs) Bernice A. Welbeck, acting Executive Secretary of the commission, and issued in Accra yesterday, the Working Group should comprise representatives of teacher unions and the government.

The statement said the roadmap should be submitted to the commission not later than 12 noon on Wednesday, November 5, 2014 and that the parties should appear before the commission at 3 p.m. on the same day for the consideration and adoption of the roadmap.

In view of the commission’s intervention, the statement asked the teachers to call off their strike immediately, pursuant to Section 161 of the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651 and allow the Working Group to do its work and submit its report to the commission.

Teachers across the country withdrew their services from last Tuesday over unresolved grievances, including unpaid allowances.

The action was declared by the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) and the Coalition of Concerned Teachers (CCT) at a joint press conference held at the Teachers Hall in Accra last Monday.
12 Ghana Unions Agree to Talks in Spite of Court Action by Government
Ms. Perpetual Ofori-Ampofo is the General Secretary of the Ghana
Registered Nurses Association.
Representatives of the Forum of Public Sector Registered Pension Scheme Workers have agreed to return to the negotiation table, in spite of a suit filed against them by the government.

The decision, according to the forum, followed advice by its lawyers to continue with negotiations as it prepared its responses to the suit.

The forum, however, makes it clear that its members would not call off the indefinite strike.

Meeting with lawyers

A Spokesperson for the forum, Ms Perpetual Ofori-Ampofo, told journalists in Accra Wednesday that upon the advice of the lawyers, the forum would meet the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations today.

Ms Ofori-Ampofo, who is also the General Secretary of the Ghana Registered Nurses Association (GRNA), said although the matter was now in court and the forum was preparing to respond to the writ, its lawyers had given it the go-ahead to meet the government in negotiations.

She said the unions were more than capable in responding to the writ.

The acting General Secretary of the Health Services Workers Union (HSWU), Mr Reynolds O. Tenkorang, explained that the advice of the lawyers meant that workers were fighting their cause with all the weapons at their disposal.

The Forum is a coalition of 12 labour unions campaigning for the full disclosure of their pension funds by the government under the National Pensions Law 2008 (Act 766).

Membership of forum

They include the HSWU, the GRNA, the Ghana Medical Association (GMA), the Ghana Physician Assistants Association (GPAA), the Government Hospital Pharmacists Association (GHOPSA) and the Ghana Association of Certified Registered Anaesthetists (GRCRA).

Others are the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), the Teachers and Educational Workers Union (TEWU), the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) and the Coalition of Concerned Teachers (CCT).

The rest are the Judicial Service Staff Association of Ghana (JUSSAG) and the Civil and Local Government Staff Association of Ghana (CLOGSAG).

Background

On June 30, 2014, the forum gave the government up to July 14, 2014 to transfer its second-tier pension funds to their preferred fund managers.

The unions called a press conference on Tuesday, October 23, 2014, during which they announced a strike, saying several deliberations had not yielded any results.

The Attorney-General, on October 24, 2014, sued the workers on behalf of the government, asking the Accra High Court to declare the indefinite strike illegal.

A statement of claim accompanying the suit prayed the court for an order to compel the unions to call off the strike and resume work.
Burkina Faso State TV Goes Off Air After Building Stormed
Demonstrators filled the capital of Ouagadougou demanding the
removal of Blaise Compaore who came to power after assassinating
Capt. Thomas Sankara, a anti-imperialist and socialist, in 1987.
TVC NEWS [OUAGADOUGOU] - The Burkina Faso government made a televised statement on Thursday (October 30) announcing the revocation of a scheduled revision of the constitution and urged people to remain calm as protesters stormed the state TV building and ransacked it causing the service to go off air.

"This was a message signed by the government -- which informs the population of the cancellation of the examination of the proposed revision of the constitution. It also calls for calm and restraint from the population," the statement said.

A handful of soldiers who were guarding the building shot in the air to try to disperse the crowds but they continued advancing and the soldiers fled, a Reuters witness said.

Lawmakers had been due to vote on Thursday a plan proposed by the government to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore to stand for re-election next year. He is due to stand down due to a two-term limit.

Earlier on Thursday thousands of protesters stormed the parliament and set fire to the building, ahead of the vote.

The crowd then headed towards the prime ministers office as a government helicopter flew overhead, shooting tear gas canisters at protesters.

Most deputies had not yet arrived when protesters entered the building.
Burkina Faso Protesters Set Fire to Parliament
Smoke billowing in Burkina Faso capital and demonstrators stormed
parliament and set it alight. Blaise Compaore was reported to have fled.
Opposition to President Blaise Compaore's plans to extend his near-30 year rule turns violent as a blaze rips through the National Assembly building in Ouagadougou

12:49PM GMT 30 Oct 2014

Angry demonstrators in Burkina Faso went on the rampage on Thursday in protest at plans to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year rule, setting parliament on fire and wreaking havoc across the capital.

Crowds of people broke through a heavy security cordon and stormed the National Assembly building in Ouagadougou, ransacking offices and setting fire to cars, AFP has reported.

One man was believed to have been killed in the chaos that erupted in the west African nation shortly before lawmakers were due to vote on the controversial legislation.

Security forces protecting the area near Burkina Faso's presidential palace fired live rounds and tear gas as crowds approached, diplomatic and security sources told Reuters on Thursday.

Amid the surging violence, the government announced it was calling off the vote but it was not immediately clear if this was only a temporary move.

Black smoke billowed out of smashed windows at the parliament building, where several offices were ravaged by flames, including the speaker's office, although the main chamber so far appeared to be unscathed.

Several hundred protesters also broke into the headquarters of the national television station RTB, pillaging equipment and smashing cars, the correspondents said.

The country has been tense for days in the run-up to Thursday's vote over the constitutional changes, which the European Union has warned could jeopardise stability in the west African nation.

Police were out in force around the parliament after mass rallies called by the opposition earlier this week but failed to stop the onslaught despite using tear gas against the protesters.

The European Union has urged the government to scrap the legislation, warning that it could "jeopardise... stability, equitable development and democratic progress", and had called for all sides to refrain from violence.

Several thousand protesters had marched through the capital on Wednesday, the day after street battles erupted during a mass rally by hundreds of thousands of people against what they see as a constitutional coup by supporters of Compaore.

The legislature is due to examine a proposed amendment that would allow Compaore, now in the 27th year of his presidency, to run for re-election in November next year for another five years.

"October 30 is Burkina Faso's Black Spring, like the Arab Spring," said Emile Pargui Pare, an official from the Movement of People for Progress (MPP), a young and influential opposition party.

Government spokesman Alain Edouard Traore issued a statement Wednesday hailing the "vitality" of Burkina Faso's democracy despite what he termed anti-government "misbehaviour".

Compaore's bid to cling to power has angered the opposition and much of the public, including many young people in a country where 60 percent of the population of almost 17 million is under 25.

Many have spent their entire lives under the leadership of one man and - with the poor former French colony stagnating at 183rd out of 186 countries on the UN human development index - many have had enough.

The situation is being closely watched across Africa where at least four heads of state are preparing or considering similar changes to stay in power, from Burundi to Benin and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Compaore was only 36 when he seized power in a 1987 coup in which his former friend and one of Africa's most loved leaders, Thomas Sankara, was ousted and assassinated.

The 63-year-old has remained in power since then, re-elected president four times since 1991 - to two seven-year and two five-year terms.

In 2005, constitutional limits were introduced and Compaore is coming to the end of his second five-year term.

The opposition fears the new rules would enable Compaore to seek re-election not just once, but three more times, paving the way for up to 15 more years in power.

The third largest party in parliament said at the weekend it would back the amendment, setting the ruling party on course to obtain the two-thirds majority it needs to make the change without resorting to a referendum as first promised.

Protesters have erected barricades and burned tyres in the capital since the proposal was announced on October 21.

Known in colonial times as Upper Volta, the landlocked country became independent from France in 1960 and its name was changed to Burkina Faso ("the land of upright men") in 1984, a year after a military coup.
Detroit Capitalists Involved in Scheme to Use Federal Funds to Remove African American Population
Demonstration against bankruptcy on Oct. 23, 2013.
JC Reindl
Detroit Free Press 9:06 p.m. EDT October 29, 2014

Detroit developer Herb Strather made Wednesday's deadline for a down payment on his winning $3 million bid for thousands of blighted and foreclosed city properties, but his grand $2 billion vision for redevelopment may have hit a snag.

Strather and his partner in the blight-buying venture, Texas-based Eco Solutions, placed a $3,183,500 bid for over 6,000 of what he calls "Detroit's worst properties." The properties, spread throughout the city, were packaged together in the Wayne County Treasurer's tax-foreclosure auction to help speed their cleanup and reuse.

The bundle is believed to be the biggest collection of blighted properties assembled for sale in Detroit history.

An early Detroit casino investor whose development projects have a mixed record, Strather sees his redevelopment effort as a chance at redemption for both himself and Detroit's still-ailing neighborhoods, which have largely missed out on the revitalization occurring in and around downtown.

Strather made a 4:30 p.m. Wednesday deadline for initiating a 10% payment on his bid, said Wayne County Chief Deputy Treasurer David Szymanski. The $315,000 wire transfer is expected to clear by Thursday morning.

The 6,365 properties that Strather and his partner are buying consist of about 1,000 vacant lots, 1,000 houses in disrepair, and 4,000 abandoned and burnt-out structures whose owners stopped paying taxes, he said.

In an interview, Strather said his goal is to redevelop the properties in tandem with Detroit nonprofits and community groups — a costly undertaking.

"It would take about $2 billion to finish it all," Strather told the Free Press. "Two billion in five years. We'll do it."

His goal is to bring investment and momentum to Detroit's neighborhoods, similar to that now happening in the city's downtown and Midtown.

Strather's full payment for the blight package is due within 14 days. He is also required to either demolish all of the structures within six months, or submit a redevelopment plan for approval by Wayne County Treasurer Raymond Wojtowicz.

The Treasurer's office said it would begin talks with Strather regarding that plan once the down payment money was received.

"This is going to be a massive undertaking, so it's not as simple as saying 'this is what I want to do,'" Szymanski said.

Yet a key component of Strather's plan — millions in federal demolition funds via the Detroit Land Bank Authority — may have hit a roadblock.

Strather said he hoped to reach a separate redevelopment deal with the land bank authority, which could bring federal money for demolishing the thousands of blighted structures.

But a representative for the Land Bank said the law precludes the type of partnership Strather envisions.

At an estimated cost of about $10,000 per house, the total demolition bill for such a project could run in the tens of millions of dollars.

"Federal law only allows us to use demolition funds on properties for which the land bank owns titles, not for the benefit of a private developer," said land bank spokesman Craig Fahle. "So if Mr. Strather is expecting the land bank to pay to demolish properties that he is purchasing, then he has misunderstood the law."

Strather was not available for a response to the land bank's statement. But a representative said he plans to complete the blight package purchase and carry out his plan.

"Whenever Plan A doesn't work, there is always a Plan B," said Strather's spokeswoman Princess-Odilia. "Mr. Strather has a history of doing very very successful developments. Trust and believe, he has a Plan B."

Strather is chairman of the Detroit-based Strather & Associates real estate investment firm and runs Strather Academy, a real estate training school for adults.

His partner in the blight redevelopment, Eco Solutions, holds contracts for managing Housing and Urban Development properties throughout Michigan, he said, "So they were the natural person to link up with."

Strather was an early investor in MotorCity Casino and involved in the Woodbridge Estates development in Detroit, on the site of the former Jeffries Homes housing projects. Strather also led a group that lost the Hotel St. Regis in Detroit's New Center to receivership following a loan default.

During an interview Wednesday in his office at Tower Center mall at Grand River and Greenfield Avenue, Strather drew a connection between the economic situation Detroit has endured and his own finances in past years. Now, he and the city are ready for a comeback.

"We have taken such a hard hit," Strather said, "and no one has taken a harder hit than me. I went from $70 million to negative $20 million. (But) I'm not negative anymore."

The IRS and state of Michigan have filed liens totaling $227,530 against Strather since 2009, according to Wayne County Register of Deeds records. As well, Comerica Bank obtained a $77,229 judgement against him earlier this year, the records show.

"There were tax liens, foreclosures, just like anybody else," Strather said. "Herb Strather, he's taken a hit, but he's demonstrating to the community that he can come back."

Free Press Staff Writer Jennifer Dixon contributed to this report.

Contact JC Reindl: 313-222-6631 or jcreindl@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @JCReindl.

Wayne County Auction Nets $66 million in bids

This year's Wayne County Treasurer's tax-foreclosure auctions netted $66 million in bids from the sale of 17,196 properties. There were $43 million in bids in the October auction and $23 million in September, according to Treasurer Raymond Wojtowicz.

Not all bids result in payment.
Capitalist Foundations Spearhead New Push to Force More African Americans From Highland Park
Neighborhood destroyed by the banks in Highland Park, Michigan.
Louis Aguilar, The Detroit News 1
1:26 p.m. EDT October 29, 2014

Kathy Angerer, director of community and economic development for Hamtramck, says a count of blighted properties, such as one on Yemens, is key to change.

Detroit — – The war on blight has spread beyond Detroit into Hamtramck and Highland Park, and soon other Michigan cities.

The two cities surrounded by Detroit are undertaking their first comprehensive attempts to count the number of blighted properties within their boundaries. Both municipalities have lost tens of thousands of residents and are pocked with burned-out homes and abandoned buildings. Empty structures became havens for crime and squatters, and caused property values to plummet.

Now, officials say, there is new hope about finally eliminating them.

"Go down any street and you will get a sense of what we are dealing with," said Louis Starks, Highland Park's community and economic development director. Henry Ford built his first auto plant in the town once known as the "City of Trees" nearly 100 years ago. Part of that Model T plant is among the estimated 3,000 empty buildings in the city, which amounts to half the structures left.

"This is what Hamtramck blight is like," said Kathy Angerer, Hamtramck's director of community and economic development, as she stood in front of a shell of a house on Yemans Street. "It's not rows of empty houses, but one on a street full of houses still occupied. Imagine if this was green space," she said.

Getting accurate counts has been out of the reach for the cash-strapped cities. But thanks to funding from the Kresge and Skillman foundations, and a Detroit startup company that invented something called "blexting," such a goal is now obtainable. So is federal funding to fight blight.

Last week, Highland Park and Hamtramck teamed up with the Motor City Mapping project that allowed 20 workers to go out with camera phones and tablets and survey every parcel in each city. The money came from the foundations, with support from the nonprofit Data Driven Detroit and Detroit-based business Rock Ventures.

The Motor City Mapping project is the brainchild of Detroit startup Loveland Technologies. Loveland has been exploring ways to digitize Detroit's property information and make the data available to the public. And that's what going to happen with the information the surveyors gathered, called "blexting," which is a merging of the words blight and texting.

Using a "blexting" app that's available to the public, surveyors took photos of every parcel and answered a series of questions about each — about 6,700 in Hamtramck and 6,600 in Highland Park.

Results of the surveys are expected next week. It couldn't come at a better time because the two are among 12 Michigan cities vying for $75 million in federal funding reserved to dealing with eliminating blight.

The program, to be run by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, will work in Detroit, Ecorse, Hamtramck, Highland Park, Inkster and River Rouge in Wayne County as well as Adrian, Ironwood, Jackson, Lansing, Muskegon Heights and Port Huron.

"For too long, blight has driven down property values and stifled growth in some of our communities," Gov. Rick Snyder said earlier this month.

"Getting an accurate count is so important because now we will have a good handle of what we are dealing with," Hamtramck's Angerer said. "That will only strengthen our chances to get the federal funding and really help us direct our limited funding and energy to promote all our wonderful assets."

Hamtramck hums with immigrant energy — Eastern European, Asian and Middle Eastern — as well as a deeply rooted arts community. It's what attracted new resident Claire Montebello, 27, who moved recently from St. Louis, Missouri. "It's almost a clash of many cultures, which kind of fascinates me. In terms of the blight, it's not out of control and it seems like solutions can be there."

Highland Park says there are more assets and positives than many realize. Despite the huge loss of residents and properties for decades, things may have actually bottomed out, some contend.

Auto supplier Magna opened a plant there in 2010 that supplies seating to Detroit automakers and employs 600 people. Two years ago, it completed a $2.2 million expansion,

A call center operator last year invested about $3 million into a building, adding 200 jobs. The Model T Plaza shopping center opened in 1998, some of which is located where the Model T plant once stood. The shopping center has often been fully occupied.

"Woodward Avenue is the strength we can build on," Starks said. Woodward is vital to Highland Park and despite the decades of loss, the avenue still retains the ability to attract retail.

There is also the possibility that the M-1 streetcar rail could return to Highland Park's Woodward.

"If we found a way to get rid of the empty structures, the whole conversation could change," Starks said.

laguilar@detroitnews.com
40,000 Kenyans Accuse Britain of Abuse and Torture in Second Mau Mau Lawsuit
Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi of the Kenya
Land and Freedom Army (Mau Mau).
October 29, 2014 18:11
Rt.com

Over 41,000 Kenyans have waged an attempt to sue the British government for compensation, alleging maltreatment and physical abuse during a Mau Mau uprising in the 1950s against UK colonial rule.

The litigation suit, launched at the high court in central London, marks the second Mau Mau case against the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in recent years.

In 2010, UK legal firm Leigh Day successfully sued the British government on behalf of Kenyans who rebelled against UK colonial rule in the 1950s. The UK government paid £19.9m to 5,228 Kenyans in 2013 who were reportedly tortured by Britain’s colonial administration during the revolt.

The compensation was a watershed moment for the people of Kenya, signaling the British government’s first formal acknowledgement of serious mistreatment and abuse carried out during the UK colonial establishment’s tenuous withdrawal from the East African state.

Commenting on the landmark 2013 payout, former Foreign Secretary William Hague told MPs the monetary settlement was “full and final.” But the Guardian reports a group of UK law firms are currently dealing with a new tide of claimants – and in certain cases sending their legal staff to Kenya.

The latest case, firms suggest, is a collective litigation order involving in excess of 41,000 Kenyans.

The high court is set to hear 25 separate test hearings according to official court documentation filed in May, the newspaper reported on Wednesday.

As distinct from the first Mau Mau action against the FCO, the most recent claims relate to a broader array of human rights violations than physical torture alone.

Claimants are also seeking compensation for alleged imprisonment on false grounds, as well as allegations of coercive labor and breaches of the fundamental right to education.

The claimants’ lawyers told the Guardian that January 2016 has been earmarked as a preliminary date for the trial. A spokesperson for the FCO declined to comment on the litigation suit, emphasizing it is not the body’s policy to openly discuss “a case that is going through the courts.”

The latest claims relate to alleged offences committed in 1952, when UK colonial governor, Sir Evelyn Baring, attempted to topple a growing anti-colonial insurgency dubbed Mau Mau. As the insurgency battled for an independent Kenyan state over the following eight years, approximately 90,000 Kenyans perished.

‘Inhumane and degrading treatment and torture’

Over 1 million were forced to leave their homes and enter detention facilities, which Kenya's then-attorney general Eric Griffith-Jones described as disturbingly “reminiscent of conditions in Nazi Germany or communist Russia.”

While some of those detained were Mau Mau insurgents, many were innocent civilians trapped in an oppressive web of collective punishment.

Simon Myerson QC, who is representing the claimants, told the Guardian his clients were forced to endure a variety of severe abuses during the uprising such as castration. Claimants are seeking compensation on a person-by-person basis, which ranges from £1,000 to £150,000.

Other lawyers representing Kenyan claimants allege Britain’s colonial government devised a deplorable system of inhumane and degrading treatment and torture to which thousands of Kenyans were subject throughout the revolt.

As a result of this scheme, Britain may be liable for abuse enacted by an array of local Kenyan agents under tacit UK orders. In particular, abuse enforced at the highest levels of Kenyan office by UK colonial powers may render Britain responsible for atrocities committed by Kenyan police and other state officials, lawyers say.

Although the FCO has not yet filed its defense, the Guardian has seen a document detailing the government body’s informal position on the allegations, supposedly dated 6 September 2013. In it, the FCO reportedly rejects responsibility for the colonial administration’s actions.

Alluding to the first Mau Mau litigation suit, the FCO allegedly says the claims brought in this second case “are conspicuously weaker.”

In 1960, Kenya’s crisis waned and the controversial Mau Mau detention camps were shut down. In London, little emerged at the time on what had transpired during Kenya's Mau Mau insurgency.

“If we are going to sin,” Kenyan attorney general Griffiths-Jones wrote in a 1957 memorandum, “we must sin quietly.”
Zimbabwe Junior Doctors’ Strike Still On
Zimbabwe junior doctors' strike continues.
October 29, 2014

THE strike by the junior doctors at State hospitals entered its second day yesterday with no solution in sight after their salary negotiations with the Health Services Board (HSB) and the Ministry of Finance ended in a deadlock.

FELUNA NLEYA
STAFF REPORTER

About 400 junior doctors at all public hospitals countrywide downed tools on Monday demanding a salary review and a general review of their working conditions.

Health minister David Parirenyatwa, his deputy Paul Chimedza, Deputy Finance minister Samuel Undenge and representatives of the Medical Services Board met representatives of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association (ZHDA) in the capital yesterday to map the way forward, but the meeting ended in a deadlock.

ZHDA secretary-general Farai Makoni said: “Our response to their call to end the strike was that we have to update our members on what they have offered so far.”

Makoni added: “It is only in that meeting where we shall decide the course of the industrial action after engaging all our members, and we shall send a communiqué to the minister on the position we would have adopted.”

Addressing journalists after the meeting yesterday, Parirenyatwa urged both parties to continue with the negotiations to resolve the impasse.

“The HSB were the ones who were key at the meeting with the junior doctors of whom some have withdrawn their labour,” Parirenyatwa said.

“The whole idea was for negotiations to continue and we are hopeful that things will turn out for the good especially for our patients so that the hospitals can function again.”

The junior doctors are demanding that their salaries be reviewed from the current $282 a month to a minimum of $1 200 excluding allowances.

They also want their on-call allowances to be raised as they said they were getting only $0,50 per hour.

They are also demanding free accommodation in government-owned flats.
ANCWL Welcomes Multiple Life Sentences for Diepsloot Murderer
ANC Women's League demonstration in South Africa.
29 October 2014

The African National Congress Women`s League (ANCWL) joins all South Africans in welcoming the nine life sentences plus 15 years handed down to convicted murderer and rapist Ntokozo Hadebe.

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria found Hadebe guilty of abducting, raping and murdering three children in the Diepsloot informal settlement last year.

The killings of Anelisa Mkhonto, 5, Zandile Mali, 3 and her cousin Yonelisa Mali, 2 were the height of depravity by a callous criminal with scant regard for the lives of society`s most vulnerable.

"Today our courts have vindicated our position that there is no place in society for unrepentant criminals; what he has done has deprived three children of a bright future.. the youngest victim was still in nappies when she was killed," says ANCWL spokesperson Edna Molewa.

"As Judge Nico Coetzee noted, the interests of society dictate that those convicted of such crimes should be harshly punished," addedMolewa.

The ANCWL congratulates the SAPS, and in particular the Child Protection Unit and the Honeydew/Diepsloot police station -for their efforts in bringing the perpetrator to book.

"This once again shows that collaboration between communities and law-enforcement can help rid us of criminals, " says Molewa.

The ANCWL also congratulates the SAPS for the arrest of a suspect in the killing of four year-old Taegrin Morris, who died after being dragged behind his mother`s hijacked vehicle earlier this year.

The ANCWL remains outraged at the continued levels of violence against women and children across the country, and once again urges all South Africans to assist the SAPS with information that may lead to the arrest of those suspected of crimes.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Mkhonto and Mali families; we hope the conviction of the killer of their loved ones may bring a means of closure and healing. The Morris family remains in our thoughts as they continue to grieve the loss of their child.

Issued by:
Edna Molewa
Head of Communications
African National Congress Women`s League

Enquiries
Khusela Sangoni 0728545707


ANCWL welcomes NPA decision to appeal

27 October 2014

The African National Congress Women`s League welcomes the decision by the National Prosecuting Authority to appeal the conviction and the sentence in the Oscar Pistorius Murder Trial. As an organisation, we remain convinced that another court could have justifiably reached a conviction of murder rather than culpable homicide in this case and we thus support the NPA in their application. As previously indicated, the ANC Women`s League will be making an application to be admitted as a Friend of the Court in this matter.

Issued by
Edna Molewa
Head of Communications
African National Congress Women`s League

Enquiries
Khusela Sangoni 0728545707


ANCWL statement on Oscar Pistorius sentencing

21 October 2014

The African National Congress Women`s League (ANCWL) notes the five-year sentence for culpable homicide given to paralympian Oscar Pistorius by the North Gauteng High Court. According to the Section 276 of the Criminal Procedure Act the accused serves will serve one sixth of the sentence, effectively10 months, and thereafter an offender can apply for placement under correctional supervision which is processed by Correctional Services

The ANCWL has studied the judgment and has developed a position that we planned to make public following sentencing. Our position will be considered in conjunction with the sentence, as we study the case law in question.

It is the organization`s view that an appeal is in the interests of justice, as well as to send a strong message to the public that crimes against women should carry the maximum penalty.

To this end the ANCWL intends to make representations to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) , based on legal opinion received and our findings on the case law.

The NPA has 14 days in which to file intention to appeal.

"We understand that they (NPA) haven`t made a decision on whether to appeal, and we will be guided by that, " says ANCWL spokesperson Edna Molewa.

The League wishes to reiterate that it remains dissatisfied with the culpable homicide verdict delivered by Judge Thokozile Masipa.

In support of this view we hold that regardless of who Mr. Pistorius believed to be behind the bathroom door that fateful night, he shot to kill - and therefore a murder did occur.

The ANCWL has consistently campaigned for harsh sentences in all cases of violence against women and children. It has particularly focused on cases where women are killed by their intimate partners. The killing of Reeva Steenkamp at the hands of her lover has once more brought this matter sharply into focus.

"What is at issue here isn`t just the sentence, but the very law that resulted in Mr Pistorius being convicted of culpable homicide instead of murder.. we want it struck down," says Molewa.

She added that one of the most distressing aspects of the judgment and sentence was that it set a harmful precedent.

Statistics indicate that a woman is killed in every eight hours in South Africa. This situation is abnormal and should be unacceptable to every citizen. The ANCWL calls on all South Africans to remember the victim, Reeva Steenkamp, and her family and friends who continue to mourn her.

Issued by
Edna Molewa
Head of Communications
African National Congress Women`s League

Enquiries
Khusela Sangoni 072 854 5707


ANCWL calling for Justice for our women and girls

10 October 2014

The African National Congress Women`s League (ANCWL) is concerned about recent incidents where the Justice system appears to be failing our women and children in some cases.

A recent case where a 50 year old Mpumalanga man was convicted of raping a 13 year old girl has been handed down a 6 year suspended sentence. This essentially means if he does not commit any criminal act for the next five years he will see no jail time for his deplorable actions.

The old man pleaded guilty to having sex with the child during a drinking spree in September 2013.

"This is a travesty of justice; a 13 year old girl cannot give consent, even if she had been drinking with the man. This is a case where an older man manipulated a young girl, fed her alcohol illegally and took advantage of her. According to our law this is the rape of a child and the perverted old man should go to jail, it is disgusting and shocking that he can get away with this," said Angie Motshekga, ANCWL President.

The age of consent in South Africa is 16, as specified by sections 15 and 16 read with section 1 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007. Section 15 ("statutory rape") prohibits the commission of "*an act of sexual penetration with a child*", while section 16 ("statutory sexual assault") prohibits the commission of "*an act of sexual violation with a child*". Section 1 defines "child" as "*with reference to sections 15 and 16, a person 12 years or older but under the age of 16 years*".[46], so a sexual act with a child under that age constitutes statutory rape.

The ANCWL is calling on the National Prosecuting Authority to appeal the suspended sentence and ensure that justice is served, especially to safe guard of our children.

ISSUED BY ANCWL
Financial Sector in Need of Radical Overhaul to Improve the South African Economy

By Comrade Blade Nzimande, SACP General Secretary

THE SACP's 2014 Red October Campaign focuses attention on the financial sector. One of its main aims is to break the investment strike capital has embarked on.

South Africa's primary challenge is indisputably its massive unemployment rate. There is plenty of work to be done to develop the country and to meet its people's needs. But capital still tends to sit on huge piles of cash or uses it speculatively rather than investing in the productive economy.

There is a strong tendency in the media and parts of the business community to blame the post-apartheid government for the country's poor economic performance. There has recently been another spate of attacks, especially by financial sector economists, who blame government for low investment in the economy. They argue that the causes are policy uncertainty, poor planning, and a lack of capacity and skills in government. In addition, they blame labour legislation and labour action.

As far as policy uncertainty is concerned, we should point out that democratic South Africa's macroeconomic policy has always been friendly to capital, whether during the time of the Growth, Employment and Redistribution programme or the National Development Plan.

There have periodically been vigorous debates inside the ANC and the DA, with many critical analyses of the government's macroeconomic and other policies, including dissatisfaction by the ANC's allies. When such discussions take place, many media commentators cry policy uncertainty, even though robust debates about economic policy are common in most countries.

South Africa has medium-term planning and the government has been deliberate about creating an environment friendly for investors. South African labour markets are not inflexible but they do provide workers with certain rights. Trade unions do assert their power, as do employers, and relations between labour and business may become worryingly tense. However, the country has developed institutional mechanisms to manage these tensions.

As far as capacity in government is concerned, one cannot say the situation is ideal, but it is matched by inept business practices in areas such as managing labour relations and a failure to seek out export markets.

We must also take into account the serious economic conditions in South Africa and globally - largely created by the financial sector - that have negatively affected economic performance. It is high time that the financial sector owned up to the role that it has played in creating uncertainty and instability in the South African economy - and, indeed, in the world economy.

One suspects that their blame game is a tactic to divert attention from their own culpability. The behaviour of the large financial institutions in the period leading to the most recent global financial crisis caused huge suffering.

The role that big finance continues to play in the global and domestic economy has not changed fundamentally since the crisis. In fact, finance capital has become more predatory. We believe that the actions of financial institutions play a much larger role in holding back investment than do the government and labour.

It is worth examining the negative role that the financial sector plays in restricting the government's ability to support long-term productive investments and employment creation. South African banks and other financial institutions emulate the behaviour of those on Wall Street and in the City of London.

In the pre-2008 period, they worked to loosen financial regulations and take advantage of the deregulated financial environment. They worked to loosen credit standards, increase leverage and flood markets with liquidity. The outcome was asset bubbles in property and financial markets.

Possibly the main reason that South Africa avoided the worst of the financial crisis was that the government resisted many of the demands to deregulate finance and abolish exchange controls. Arguably, though, this only postponed the pain that we now face. In any case, the damage done by financial speculation to the real economies in developed countries has had a serious, negative impact on the country's trade.

In recent years, South African households have been encouraged to go into debt to buy houses, cars and other consumer goods and to max out their credit cards.

The Department of Trade and Industry also found out that in a small area like Marikana there were 12 mashonisas preying on mineworkers. One of the results of this is the current weak demand from deeply indebted consumers - and suffering for those who are over their heads in debt.

During the wild time leading up to the financial crisis, the financial sector put huge pressure on executives of non-financial companies to increase short-term profits. Pressure from financiers pushed firms to outsource and move production offshore.

All this pressure for short-term returns eroded the productive base of non-financial firms. The short-termism meant that firms spent less time on increasing innovation, productivity and job creation and instead drove up their profits through speculative activity. This is demonstrated by the fact that, by 2007, South African non-financial corporations' financial assets were 250 percent the size of their fixed assets. The credit extended to the South African private sector grew by 22 percent from 2000 to 2008 but private fixed investment grew by only 4 percent.

This diversion of credit towards non-productive speculative activities cannot be blamed on government. The financial sector's action that drove bubbles in financial asset prices and their pressure on non-financial corporations to keep producing short-term high returns were to blame.

The kind of economic growth South Africa experienced before the global financial crisis was not sustainable and the financial sector knew this. It knew that it was causing South Africans to become more indebted and it knew that the bursting of the financial asset and house price bubble would cause pain.

However, the mind-set in finance was as expressed by former Citigroup chief executive Chuck Prince, who famously stated in 2007: "As long as the music is playing, you've got to get up and dance". These are people who were prepared to take entire economies to ruin because they wanted higher returns that boosted their personal fortunes. And they were not only Americans, but also South African. Now they attempt to shift the blame onto the government and the working class.

The government should actively seek to regulate the financial sector to the benefit of the real economy - and especially to ensure that it stimulates rather than inhibits job creation.

Most importantly, the country needs a radical transformation and re-orientation of its financial sector if we are to realise the objectives of a second phase of our transition, especially to ensure that our savings are invested in a job-creating manner.

This articles was first published by the Business Report, 16 October 2014, 08:00am

- See more at: http://www.sacp.org.za/main.php?ID=4535#sthash.DRQCK5BX.dpuf
South African Communist Party Introductory Statement at the Public Launch of a Discussion Document on the Second Radical Phase of SA`s Democratic Transition
Leaders of the South African Communist Party.
29 October 2014

"Going to the Root: A Radical Second Phase of the NDR - its context, content and our strategic tasks"

Two decades beyond South Africa`s globally acclaimed democratic transition we are living in a deeply paradoxical reality. We have a progressive constitution that has abolished decades of white minority rule. From a society once immersed in a protracted, low-level civil war, we`ve emerged into a country in which open, multi-party democratic elections have become the norm.

But despite these and many other achievements, our country continues to be afflicted with crisis-levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality, and this triple crisis threatens to undermine the democratic constitutional advances we`ve made. Why the paradox? We are frequently told that the problem is anaemic growth - but from the mid-1990s through until five or six years ago there was relatively strong GDP-measured growth. But unemployment (in the narrow definition), and its resulting impact on poverty and inequality, remained at crisis levels, well over 20%. Clearly our socio-economic challenges are rooted in deep-seated systemic features of our society. They are not just of a cyclical nature.

At the ANC`s December 2012 Mangaung National Conference the imperative of a "second radical phase of the national democratic revolution" was endorsed. It is a perspective that the SACP strongly supports. But what is meant by a "second radical phase"? Why a "second" phase? Is the word "radical" just a cosmetic flourish? Does the idea of a "national democratic revolution" have any contemporary relevance?

Today we are releasing for public engagement an SACP discussion document, "Going to the Root. ;A Radical Second Phase of the NDR - its context, content and our strategic tasks" in which we seek to provide answers to these and other questions. We hope to open up a debate across our ANC-led alliance and among a much broader national public.

The discussion document acknowledges that, over the past 20 years, we have embarked on what might be described as a "first phase" of democratisation. This first phase has been radical in its own way. Politically and constitutionally it abolished a state form associated with white minority rule. Over the past two decades a major redistributive programme has also been underway:

--Social grants now reach more than 16 million South Africans (nearly one-third of our population); - up from 3 million in 1994;
--Over 7 million new household electricity connections have been made since 1996. (To put this achievement into context - in the preceding century, successive white minority regimes only electrified 5 million households!);
--Over 3.3 million free houses have been built, benefiting more than 16 million people;
--More than 1.4 million students have benefited from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme;
--Over 9 million learners in 20 000 schools receive daily meals.
--Over 400 000 solar water heaters have been installed free on the rooftops of poor households in the past 5 years - one of the largest such programmes in the world. And much more besides.

However, this first phase has had two major limitations:

The progressive socio-economic advances have been largely RE-DISTRIBUTIVE. This state-led redistribution has relied principally on fiscal resources derived from a largely untransformed PRODUCTIVE economy. But it is this productive economy, locked into a problematic path-dependency, that is, precisely, at the root of what is reproducing the triple crisis of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

This massive re-distributive programme has also been conceived essentially as a "top-down", "state-delivery" programme in which citizens are turned into "beneficiaries", "clients", "customers" - and not productive, responsible and active protagonists of transformation. The state is seen (and sees itself) as a "wheel-barrow" responsible for off-loading various "deliverables" into communities. This has had three further negative consequences:

As government`s massive redistributive effort is overwhelmed by the scale of problems, or falls behind rising and often legitimate expectations, or fails to "deliver" equally at the same time to everyone - so popular anger turns on government. The top-down redistributive "delivery" model based on always insufficient fiscal resources sets up government as a sitting duck target for anger and frustration - while monopoly capital disinvests and largely escapes blame.

The tendency to transform our popular mass base into individual or household "beneficiaries", "recipients", "clients" of government delivery also tends to undermine the potential cohesion of poor communities. Many "township delivery protests" are fuelled by factional rivalries within communities - backyard dwellers versus shack-dwellers for priority listing on the housing list; or competing taxi associations for operating licences on new routes; etc.

The effective de-mobilisation of popular forces by the top-down, state "delivery" model of redistribution has also deprived us of an important means of transforming the state itself. The Freedom Charter`s call not just for one-person one-vote representative democracy, but also for "DEMOCRATIC ORGANS OF SELF-GOVERNMENT" - i.e. for various forms of ACTIVE PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY has been largely lost. Since 1994 we have nominally introduced a wide range of statutory institutions and practices implying participatory democracy - community police forums, school governing bodies, ward committees, municipal participatory budgeting, etc.

However, in practice most of these are non-functional, or are captured either by political functionaries, or by middle-class interests and used to preserve existing privileges. Yet, organs of popular participatory democracy are potentially our best weapon for transforming the state, and overcoming inherently negative features - bureaucratic silos, officiousness and indifference on the part of state functionaries, technocratic aloofness, and, above all, corruption.

From this diagnostic, two key and related perspectives are advanced in our discussion paper:

--The problematic path-dependent nature of our PRODUCTIVE economy must be radically transformed;
--We need an active citizenry and a transformed relationship between the state and communities.
But what are the systemic problems within our productive economy?

SOUTH AFRICA`s capitalist industrial revolution in the late 19th and early 20th century had several critical features whose legacy continues to lock our economy into a problematic path-dependency:

--It was an externally-driven (rather than an organically emerging internal process) that established SOUTH AFRICA as a semi-peripheral mining economy within the global capitalist system;
--SOUTH AFRICA became (and still remains) a commodity exporting economy, with high levels of monopoly concentration across all sectors including mining and finance.
--Inserted into the global economy as a semi-periphery, SOUTH AFRICA had two key assets - its mineral deposits and "cheap" labour, the latter reproduced through various forms of colonial and racial dispossession, native reserves, dormitory townships and migrancy (whether annual or daily), bantu education, etc.
--Although colonial and/or white minority rule no longer exist formally, the legacy rooted in this semi-peripheral, "cheap" labour dispensation is still painfully etched into contemporary SOUTH AFRICA - in our urban and rural spatial inequalities and skewed settlement patterns; in the relative weakness of our manufacturing and small and medium-enterprise sectors; in skills shortage and racialised inequities in schooling; in a huge reserve army of labour; in the high levels of monopoly concentration; and much more.

Post-1994 a massive capital flight and an investment strike - the structural problems get worse

Since 1994 many of these deep-rooted systemic problems have been aggravated. In the latter decades of apartheid rule, a combination of tight exchange controls, prescribed asset regulations and international sanctions meant, paradoxically, that South African mining and finance monopolies were compelled to re-invest their surplus into SOUTH AFRICA. This resulted in the formation of large, multi-sectoral conglomerates and productive investment from mining and finance into agro-processing, manufacturing, logistics and retail. This helped to drive job creation and even increased skilling. It was also the objective basis on which a powerful trade union movement re-emerged in the late-1970s and through the 80s.

Post-1994 with the removal of sanctions and ill-considered liberalisation of macro-economic and sectoral policies there has been a massive process of capital exodus permitted by exchange control liberalisation, dual listings, mergers and acquisitions, transfer pricing, tax avoidance, illegal capital transfers, and a general process of financialisation (in which surplus is increasingly invested in the global casino economy, rather than in labour-absorbing, domestic productive activity).

In the discussion paper we provide a few examples, including Sasol, Afgri and Absa. Absa, for instance, is one of four banking monopolies that dominate South Africa`s financial sector - but who owns it? With its origins in the early mobilisation of Afrikaner capital, Absa itself was formed in 1991 out of a merger between United, Allied and Volkskas. In 1992 it acquired the Bankorp group including Trustbank. In 2005 Barclays UK purchased 56.4% of Absa. In 2013 Barclays increased its share-holding in Absa to 62.3% and the name was changed to Barclays Africa Group Ltd. As at June 2013 three-quarters of Absa/Barclay`s Africa shareholders were located outside of SOUTH AFRICA (with 57.6% in the UK alone).

This means that when the SOUTH AFRICA government engages with Absa (and with most other former major private South African corporations), we are now engaging them as foreign investors. Whatever her own personal patriotic inclinations, when Barclay`s Africa CEO Maria Ramos, for instance, calls for a "social covenant" with government and labour - where does she derive her mandate from?

In general this huge trans-nationalisation and financialisation of formerly South African monopoly capital (including SASOL, Investec, Old Mutual, De Beers, Anglo, Liberty, SAB Miller, Didata and Gencor, amongst others) has seen a massive loss of savings, taxes and investment. According to one academic study, in 2007 more than 20% of GDP was lost through capital flight.

This process of trans-nationalisation and financialisation has resulted in growing de-industrialisation and major job-losses, with an increasing loss of national economic sovereignty. It is in this context that our discussion paper argues that the "national" in the "national democratic revolution" has a deep and, indeed, non-racial, contemporary relevance.

The content of a second radical phase of the NDR

It follows that a critical pillar of a second radical phase of the NDR must be to regain a greater degree of national economic sovereignty. Amongst other things this must mean breaking out of SOUTH AFRICA`s semi-peripheral positioning within the global imperialist system. In practice this will require a "relative de-linking" from the dominant global economic powers - including through sub-Saharan regional development, and the development of alternative economic alliances, as in BRICS. Critical also is the challenge of re-industrialisation so that economically we move up the global value chain.

In practice, this means that we are not waiting for a second radical phase - many of its key pillars are already cornerstones of government policy and programmes - including the New Growth Path, the Industrial Policy Action Plan, and the National Infrastructure Programme, amongst others. However, there is still a long way to go. The effective driving of a second radical phase requires a much higher level of state strategic discipline, a more effective, long-range planning capacity and an active and mobilised popular base.;

Our deep-rooted productive economy distortions mean that any expectation that market-driven growth and ensuing labour market demand will resolve our unemployment crisis is gravely misplaced. High levels of un- and under-employment are likely to be a long-term reality, as the National Development Plan recognises. In this situation the fostering of sustainable (and productive) livelihoods, relatively de-linked from the vicissitudes of the labour-market are absolutely essential. ;

Our discussion paper proposes that we appreciate government`s expanded public works and other public employment programmes in this context - less as hopeful conveyor belts into a private sector labour market, and more as an expansion of our social security net, but with participants involved in productive work by way of providing services and assets to poor communities. Along with cooperatives, micro-enterprises and various forms of self-employment, the public employment programmes can develop into a solidarity economy relatively de-linked from the predations of the market.

The battle of ideas

In a concluding section, the discussion paper considers and briefly critiques a number of alternative narratives about the challenges confronting our society. While not necessarily rejecting issue-specific and sectoral accords between government, labour and business; - the paper is entirely sceptical about the notion of some all-in, long-term "social accord", or "economic CODESA".

The paper acknowledges that some anti-ANC-alliance left radicalism has produced valid critiques of South African monopoly capital. However, the anti-ANC and, above all, the blanket anti-state positioning of these tendencies means that any struggle for leverage over state power and resources is relinquished. Oppositionism becomes an end in itself to the detriment of advancing practical and effective programmes of transformation. The paper also takes issue with DA leader, Helen Zille`s agenda of seeking to divide the ANC, between so-called "constitutionalists" who believe in the "rule of law" and "radicals" who remain committed to a national democratic revolution.

At the heart of our discussion paper is, precisely, the conviction that our important constitutional and broader democratic gains can only be advanced, defended and consolidated with a radical second phase of the National Democratic Revolution that goes to the root of the systemic features of our productive economy that are reproducing crisis levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

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South African Communist Party Mpumalanga Province PEC Statement

23 October 2014

The 8th Congress Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) of the South African Communist Party (SACP) in Mpumalanga Province convened in its 12th Plenary Session, and focused on consolidating Party programs and campaigns in the province. The meeting considered the Political, Financial and Organisational Reports in preparation for a Provincial Council to be held on the 08 - 09 November 2014 at Graskop Town Hall in Thaba Chweu Sub-district.

The meeting convened following a successful two-day Economic Transformation Summit in Mbombela.

Second Phase of the National Democratic Revolution

The Second Radical phase of the NDR must be anti-neoliberal systematic features in form and content in order to address the challenges that are rooted within the structure of the economy. While we advance this second radical phase, we have a responsibility to build on and defend the first phase of the NDR. The PEC believes that in order to advance that qualitative change, the program should be clearly aligned with the Freedom Charter which is inherently radical in its nature and character whilst also addressing our National Democratic Revolution.

The PEC will advance the resolutions of the Economic Transformation Summit within the Mass Democratic Movement and in the Augmented CC meeting in November. We need a total overhaul of the economic structure to build a radicalized structure to serve majority of our people.

Transport Campaign

The PEC welcomes the government`s renewed zeal to implement the Moloto Rail Corridor. This project must respond to the economic challenges facing the two rural municipalities faced with the high level of poverty, unemployment and inequality. We commend the work done by the Young Communist League of South Africa in Ephraim Mogale District and other progressive structures that spearheaded the campaign for the implementation of Moloto Rail Corridor, alternative bus company and Moloto Road Upgrade.

Since October is Transport month, we believe the community of former KwaNdebele deserves a better, reliable and safe mode of transport than what is offered to them by the monopoly bus company (PUTCO).

SACP in the province will play an oversight role around this campaign led by the Transport Campaign Steering Committee.

As we advance the struggle of the second phase of the radical economic transformation, our government must fight against monopoly capital in all sectors. We call for an Integrated Transport System across the province and a Taxi Subsidy to the taxi industry for all our people to have a convenient mode of transport of their choice.

2014/15 Red October - Financial Sector Campaign:

The SACP in province held a successful 2014/15 Red October launch in Thulamahashe on the 12th October 2014. This year, the campaign intensifies our struggle to achieve an overhaul transformation of the financial sector to serve the people. The neoliberal economic regime opened floodgates of reckless and unsecured lending practices, reinforcement of financialisation and subordination of labour to capital.

Mobilize people`s power to transform the financial sector and build a People`s Economy!

Intensify the fight against Lumpen Tenderpreneurship Tendency (LTT) in the province

The attempts by LTT to liquidate the South African Communist Party have hit a solid rock. Our detractors tried by all means to weaken the Party. They use the apartheid style of divide and rule through the Carrot and Stick Approach, reward those who seem co-operative to Lumpenism and punish those who remain steadfast and upright.

We have noted with shock the reported shooting of Cde Jackson Mthembu a National Executive Committee Member of ANC who is based in Mpumalanga. We are also concerned by the response of the police even before commencing with investigation by declaring that this is a clear criminal attack. We are convinced based on our previous experiences of what is happening in Mpumalanga with politicians, as such we are reiterating our call to the National Commissioner of Police General Riah Phiyega to respond to the demands that we sent to her on the 05th June 2013 and 26th September 2014. We wish him a speedy recovery.

We believe that until the report commissioned by the former Police Commissioner General Bheki Cele is released to the public and also until such time the killers of comrades Jimmy Mohlala and Bomber Ntshangase are arrested and convicted, we will never believe anything that speaks of pure criminal attacks relating to politicians in this province.

We are convinced that there is a bunch of corrupt criminals hidden at a particular corner who have made it their business to eliminate principled politicians.

We owe it to our fore bearers to fight for a just and peaceful province. All these attacks and persecutions renew our strength to remain united and coherent in defense of the National Democratic Revolution.

On the Swaziland Struggle

The PEC condemns in the strongest possible term the decision by Swaziland regime to order the immediate closure of all workers` and employers federations. The affected federations include the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), the Federation of Swaziland Business Community and the Federation of Swaziland Employers and Chamber of Commerce. The employers` federation has angered the monarch by showing signs of supporting more democratic and accountable governance in the light of Swaziland`s declining economy whose poor performance is linked to governance issues.

We are calling for our government to grant permanent asylum to the Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) and other political exiles. The Department of Home Affairs was ordered by the Court Interdict to grant CPS leaders` temporary refugee status.

We expect our departments to reflect the values and principles that represent a democratic South Africa advocating for peace and stability in the continent.

Palestine:

We welcome the move by the South African government to pledge $1 million towards humanitarian assistance in Gaza, as part of its contribution to diplomatic efforts towards the resolution of the Palestinian-Israel conflict.

The PEC supports the BDS movement and its campaigns to boycott G4S Security and all products coming from the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

Issued by SACP Mpumalanga

Enquiries:

Bonakele Majuba - Provincial Secretary
Mobile: 082 968 4877

Lesetja Dikgale - Provincial Spokesperson
Mobile: 076 869 4360
Tinyiko Ntini - Provincial Media Liaison
Mobile: 084 979 5999

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