IT WAS during the dying days of apartheid, that I wrote a series of articles promoting ‘ecological sustainable development’ and deep ecology. The pieces published by Grassroots and South Press were extraordinary, the least of which is that they were published by a working class imprint shortly after the state of emergency.
They dovetailed my criticism of race-based conservation efforts by elements within the regime, for example the Rupert Family, and addressed perceptions that the emergent environmental justice movement in the country was, to put it crudely, an all-white affair.
The result was the ‘First National Conference on Environment and Development’, in which academics and activists from all quarters joined hands on a broad eco-justice platform which included both the ANC and PAC, and which resulted in the placing of Earth Rights at the centre of our Constitution, in the form of article 24.
Today’s political pundits Carilee Osborne and Bruce Baigrie , conveniently ignore the history of environmentalism in South Africa, preferring to situate their respective struggles within the contemporary milieu of the Climate Strike — the recent Cape Town March which saw some 2500 people from various organisations and civic structures take to the streets in what they view “as one of the largest environmental protest actions in South Africa’s history.”
This is no mean feet and without wishing to downplay the successes of these epic events during the course of the past year, one should always remember that the environmental justice movement arose as a foundation stone of our Constitution during a period of mass democratic action, the likes of which have yet to be repeated. And thus a struggle which was situated not upon my own writings, nor the writings of any one particular individual, but rather the Freedom Charter, which (within the colour of the time) called upon people black and white, to “save the soil”, whilst sharing the land, and assisting the tillers of the land.
A similar mistake in historical proportion and misreading of history occurs within the various articles penned by one Farieda Khan. She writes in “Environmentalism in South Africa: A Sociopolitical Perspective”, (an otherwise excellent paper written over the turn of the millennium): “The first extra-parliamentary political organization to commit to a formal environmental policy was the Call of Islam, an affiliate of the United Democratic Front (the South African front organization for the then-banned African National Congress).” She goes on to state: “The Call of Islam had a formal environmental policy since its inception in 1984, due in large measure to the efforts of its founder, Moulana Faried Esack.”
If only history were so convenient as to claim environmentalism on behalf of any one religion or individual, whether Islam, or the Church, as many within SAFCEI and SACC would have it, or on behalf of one or more important groups or class formations formulated by those on the left, as those within AIDC would have us believe.
Rather, I think it more accurate and best to take a broader arc of history — one that includes the Freedom Charter and reaches forward to the essential humanism espoused by the deep ecology movement of the 1970s, whose distinguishing and original characteristics are its recognition of the inherent value of all living beings: “Those who work for social changes based on this recognition are motivated by love of nature as well as for humans.” And by extension, as much of my writing and published work from the 1980s suggested, an African environmentalism which realises that Ubuntu is not simply being human because we are all human, but rather, a common humanity contingent upon the necessary existence of our habitat, without which we could not exist as a species.
Instead of situating the environmental movement within so-called ‘working class’ struggles, or working class factions as Osborne and Baigrie attempt in “Towards a working-class environmentalism for South Africa”, and thus the binary of a grand populism vs narrow neoliberalism which simply perpetuates the idea of man’s dominion over nature and thus a struggle which of necessity is juxtaposed alongside the authoritarian grip of party politics, another path must be found.
It is all too easy to issue anti-capitalist prescriptions, leftist directives and cadre-based imperatives calling for the end of free markets whilst, forgetting that it is Eskom’s captive market, Eskom’s socialist ambitions, and Eskom’s coal barons which have pushed South Africa ahead of the UK in terms of GHG emissions, a country with 10-15 million more people. Although only the 33rd largest economy, South Africa is the 14th largest GHG in the world. Our national energy provider, Eskom has yet to adopt GHG emissions targets.
All the result of the boardroom compromises of the statist, authoritarian left, whose policies have seen our country embrace ‘peak, plateau and decline’ alongside a COP-out strategy excluding South Africa from the Paris Agreement, and thus a national environmental policy which is not based upon empirical science and evidence-based research but rather class driven kragdadigheid and Big Coal.
If those on the far left expect us all to reject secular humanist values alongside Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess who introduced the phrase “deep ecology” and thus an environmentalism which emerged as a popular grassroots political movement in the 1960s with the publication of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, simply because these persons are lily-white, or tainted by the liberal economics of the West, then they are sorely mistaken.
Instead, I believe, that it is far better to formulate an African-centred response, and rather a Pan-African struggle which is broad-based and inclusive of our collective humanity and common habitat. Such a broad-based struggle out of necessity includes an African-Centered Ecophilosophy and Political Ecology.The draft Climate Justice Charter is one such vehicle and deserves our full support.
The struggle for survival during the collapse of the Holocene, includes those already involved in conservation and preservation efforts and those who now join because of concerns about the detrimental impact of modern industrial technology. When one talks about climate justice we thus need to include the voices of those who have not been given an opportunity to speak, and remember that without mass mobilisation, nothing would have changed during apartheid.
DEAR older generation. You were wrong about apartheid, you were wrong about same-sex marriage, and you were wrong about dagga. When the Western Cape High Court affirmed the rights of all citizens to the use and cultivation of dagga in the privacy of our own homes, thus suspending the drug laws for two years and allowing Parliament to amend the legislation, it corrected an historical wrong committed by the past regime.
Then when the apex court of our country, the Constitutional Court, affirmed the High Court ruling and extended these protections, it read parts of the decision into law, granted dagga users the right to carry the herb without fear of arrest and opened the door for the ‘dagga economy’ surrounding the herb.
Thus cannabis (or dagga as it is known in South Africa) was moved from the realms of the narcotics act into the ambit of the liquour licensing regime. Our Parliament is still debating exactly how to go about regulating certains aspects to do with the medicinal and commercial use of the herb, and the sale and commercial exploitation of the plant remains a grey area so far as the law is concerned.
It was thus that a groundbreaking High Court decision this month resulted in serious charges brought some time ago, against a dagga activist and DIY hydroponics expert, being squashed.
While the concourt decision was proscriptive rather than retroactive, the High Court clearly saw the social mores of the time as being more persuasive than the previous period of prohibition. More importantly the decision pronounced upon the role of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA) in harrassing growers, and thus the proportionality of the ‘dagga crimes’ in a case which had not yet been proven by the state, and where the state attorney had in effect jumped the gun in seeking forfeiture of the residence of one Richard Kraak.
Several articles appearing in the mainstream online media have appeared to punt the commercial benefits of dagga. One article went so far as suggesting mechanisms for investors keen to get in on the action, and the benefit to the broader economy, while others extolled the virtues of the inaugral Cannabis Expo, an event currently being held in Jozi and set for Cape Town later next year.
How the mighty moral police and their religion-inspired vice squad have fallen upon tough times, one can only remark here that a similar sequence of events followed the legalisation of porn after the end of apartheid — the death throws of the regime in which women’s breasts and nipples were only to be seen behind the shiny stars covering them in men’s magazines.
Similar festivals around South Africa appeared to have gone by without a hitch, but expect more information on this topic. Police continue to terrorise the communities of Sedgefield and Knysna. Despite setbacks, Dagga synonymous with the counter-culture surrounding the anti-apartheid movement has certainly returned for good, as has the feel-good vibe which immediately followed our nation’s liberation.
Those old enough to remember the likes of James Phillips aka Benoldus Niemand, may recall that the apartheid state pilloried activists as mere ‘drug-users’ — cannabis hooked social deviants wanting to create mayhem to overthrow the state.
Law and order was thus contingent upon the banning of people’s consciousness — our innate rights to freedom of thought alongside the right to privacy. See Thembisa Waetjen’s excellent historical appraisal here.
Alongside the Botha government’s Bureau of State Security (BOSS), the narc squad and thought police, armed with an ideology supplied by the NGK, decreed race segregation to be divinely inspired by God, Cannabis to be the work of the Devil himself, and the Afrikaner grip over the African hinterland the result of a “Covenant at Blood River”.
How times are a changin.
When the ruling ANC finally came into power, there was every indication that dagga-smoking revolutionaries were going to legalise the herb whilst recognising the contribution to the struggle by Bob Marley and the Jamaican Defense Force.
Instead, activists like Trevor Manual exchanged their berets, dashikis and the proverbial stash, for bespoke suits, and the joys of fine champagne and cognac. The transformation of the liberation movement into a political bureaucracy built upon corporate largesse meant that adopting the white man’s laws alongside certain UN conventions supporting prohibition was paramount.
All of this toenadering came tumbling down this week, as yes, one Jacob Zuma appeared in the dock.
THE dramatic events this week which saw the removal of finance minister Nene and his replacement by former reserve bank governor Tito Mboweni arrived not a moment too soon.
With the ruling ANC on the ropes after state capture revelations at the Zondo Commission. Nene’s departure signals the demise of Zumanomics and hopefully the re-introduction of the pragmatic, consensus-based policies which gave rise to the boom period under Mandela and Mbeki.
Anyone appreciating the opportunities in the bond market as many analyst did, may find it painful to digest other facts surrounding the South African economy, currently in its longest slump since 1945 .
Economic stimulus plans announced by President Ramaphosa will come to naught unless there are serious policy reforms.
Reforms which can only happen if the entire economic paradigm and political economy of the country is shifted, from big government for the sake of big government, to household responsibility and individual freedom.
The country recorded a surplus last quarter, a factor of the currency, which also has an effect on consumer prices.
Getting South Africans to work, requires entrepreneurs and individuals ready to create jobs, thus the politics of the Zondo commission is revealing in what it shows of the opposite trajectory under Zuma. Ergo the clandestine leftism of the former President’s associates, all squaring state capture and the Gupta’s with a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ and other Marxist mantras, best understood by dashiki-wearing economics students sipping chai lattes while quoting Fanon and Frere.
The business environment in the country is said to be hostile, a result of ‘ideology getting the better of pragmatism’. A series of blunders involving populist rhetoric on land reform and property rights, and inability to deal with parastatals, in other words, State-owned Bureaucracy, has hobbled Ramaphosa’s government.
Under the last administration, cabinet posts almost doubled, as bureaucracy took its toll on productivity and individual freedom.
Ramaphosa has yet to pronounce on any constructive changes to policy in this regard.
South Africa’s unions must take some of the blame in driving a one-sided narrative, a wedge between the state and business, that has shifted the party from workers rights to political intrigues that saw the Guptas rise to power amidst BRICS neo-colonial ambitions.
IT is easy to dismiss Donald Trump’s tweeting on ‘white genocide’ and ‘land expropriation’ as simply the result of alt-right post-truth exaggeration. A deflection of the global attention from more pressing US domestic issues. Less apparent is the impact the twitter-lead spat will have on cooling relations between the two countries, and amidst rising tensions between the BRICS bloc, and the USA over China, and also relations with EU and Turkey.
Trump has for some months now, threatened to pull out of AGOA, a trade pact formulated under Mandela involving South Africa, the AU and the US.
In a statement President Ramaphosa responded: “This is no land grab; nor is it an assault on the private ownership of property. The ANC has been clear that its land reform programme should not undermine future investment in the economy or damage agricultural production and food security. The proposals will not erode property rights, but will instead ensure that the rights of all South Africans, and not just those who currently own land, are strengthened. SA has learnt from the experiences of other countries, both from what has worked and what has not, and will not make the same mistakes that others have made.”
Both Congress and the Senate have recently shown cause to question what the US is getting in return for Africa’s unfettered access to US markets. The last round of trade wars, however saw cheap poultry being dumped on local markets to the detriment of the South African industry, with the country coming off second best.
It is therefore important to remember( in the same week that saw the demise of UN secretary-general Kofi Anan), that South African politics, often loud and boisterous, has tendered towards moderation and pragmatism at the end of the day, and that the ANC has a legacy of support for multilateral international organizations. South Africa a former British colony, still has strong ties to the Commonwealth.
In this respect, the country, one of the G20, has one foot in the first-world and another foot in the developing world, an unenviable consequence of defeating apartheid and not simply the result of a troubled colonial past. Pragmatic consensus-building and alliance-making based upon political realties may be the only path forward.
It would be a shame if the democratic order were to be upset by ideologues on either side of the Atlantic.
Significant departures from the political “truth” associated with the Jerusalem conflict
1. East Jerusalem is the Capital of Palestine
Under International Law, and the Corpus Separatum, the City of Jerusalem was to be an independent enclave. It was Jordan which occupied East Jerusalem 1946-1967, and subsequently Israel occupied Jerusalem 1967-current.
2. There is a map showing how Israel has displaced Palestinians
The map ignores the 1920 San Remo Conference which partitioned a former empire, and the later division of British Mandate Palestine and French Mandate Syria, which created TransJordan aka Hashemite Palestine and Syria (arguably, Syrian Palestine) in 1946-1948. It must be remembered that the Ottomans, supported Hitler and the Kaiser, and thus Germany in both world wars. The map cynically ignores the 1949 Armistice line and the displacement of Arab Jews from Arab countries and their loss of land, some 100 000 square km of deeded property confiscated by Arab states. The map thus ignores the reality that part of British Mandate occupied by Jordan and Egypt was ethnically cleansed with no Jewish population left. Jewish inhabitants of communities like Gush Etzion, Hebron and Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem were absorbed by the new State of Israel. The map also fails in its lack of comparison to Greece and Turkey and India/Pakistan, two examples where populations have been separated according to religion and ethnicity and involving population swaps. Sudan was recently partitioned between the north Arab half and the south African half. Ireland remains separated between the Protestant north and Catholic south.
3. Palestinians and Jews, each form a distinct race and the conflict is thus like apartheid.
Nations are not races. While ethnicity plays a part, there is no science to back up either claim. The infamous 1975 UN resolution 3379 ‘equating zionism with racism‘ was overturned by an overwhelming majority of nations in 1991. The same assertion was voted out of the final text of the controversial 2001 Durban Conference on Racism and the text reaffirmed at Durban II. A highly flawed 2017 UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) report examining the policies of Israel within the context of a UN definition of apartheid, admits the error of race, proceeds to supply ”reasons for the error of comparison” and states, there is ‘no single, authoritative, global definition of any race’ at the same time that it attributes race characteristics to Jews for the purposes of analysis. The same category error appears in an equally flawed 2009 local HSRC report written around the time of Durban II. While the policies of Israel are reprehensible and morally indefensible, their root cause is not race, (a loaded term) but rather the confluence of religion and nationality and in particular, religious schism which results in nationality on the basis of religion, a fact common to many Middle Eastern countries.
4. Arab Israelis do not possess the vote.
They are allowed to vote in the Knesset, however Arabs living in the area controlled by the Palestinian Authority do not. This is a major and significant human rights issue. No physical wall was ever built by the apartheid state. Bantustan leaders were puppets of Pretoria at best. None of the bantustans ever waged war against the central government. If the PA is not an apartheid bantustan except in metaphor, what is it? Like South Africa’s North West province, it must be seen as a de facto internal province caught up in armed insurrection against the central government, the Israeli state. A position of statelessness, pacification and occupation. The same goes for Gaza, arguably, a subsidiary or satellite of both Egypt, Israel and Iran. How can this be solved? A plurinational, overlapping state solution, and involving neighbours Egypt and Jordan, would do a lot to resolve friction while ensuring independence and the maintenance of human rights. Reasonable accommodation of differences in faith and religious outlook is a prerequisite. Keep an open mind.
5. The conflict has nothing to do with religion.
The conflict surrounding the final status of Jerusalem has been ongoing for centuries, involves different versions of monotheism dating back to the crusades, and predates the creation of the modern state of Israel. The worst part of it. We must not allow it to become a binary conflict and permanent war around race, ethnicity and religion.
6. The majority Arab Palestinians were displaced in 1948 by a white minority, and the result is the Nakba or catastrophe.
Focusing on the 700 000 displaced persons, removed from the Jewish side of Palestine under UN mandate, adding them to some 250 000 Arabs who had chosen to move to the Arab Palestine half, and forgetting that some 850,000 Arab Jews were displaced and dispossessed from Arab countries such as Iraq and Yemen at the same time, results in Nakba inflation. An inflation which also ignores the return of hundreds of thousands of black Ethiopian Jews. Forcible transfer of populations was a factor of the Ottoman and Persian Empires. See Farhud Day, a commemoration of the dispossession of Baghdad Jews.
7. Israel is the result of the Balfour Declaration, a colonial enterprise at best.
The country unilaterally declared its independence during the war of 1948, and the situation under Benjamin Netanyahu is similar to UDI in Rhodesia. Aside from the internal friction between black Mizrahi and white Ashkenazi and Separdhi Jews, this is the one similarity with the white regime of Ian Smith, that one must accept. The Belfour view also ignores the earlier Sykes–Picot Agreement and the later Weizmann Faisal Agreement, and is used to argue the disaster of colonialism, while ignoring the tragedy of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
8. Hamas and Fatah are the equivalent of the ANC and PAC during the struggle.
While all three parties are for the most part, nationalistic, the ANC is the only secular party which has until now, consistently supported civil rights for all persons in the region. The other parties raising the Pan Arab flag waved around at Pro-Palestine rallies, are mostly theocratic, and only nationalistic insomuch as Arab autonomy in the region is concerned. Fatah is nominally secular insofar as divergence within Islam is concerned and thus tolerates other groups, (see Dhimmitude). Embarrassingly, Hamas was forced in 2017 to amend its charter advocating death for all Jews, to death for only Zionist Jews, to bring its objectives more in line with the Fatah Movement which supports the borders of 1967. More importantly, the ANC had an end-game strategy involving compromises, no such strategy is evident amongst the Palestinians. It was the National Party which opposed LGBTIQ++ rights, and supported the death penalty, not the ANC. No Gay Pride for Gaza, ditto Palestinian feminist group Aswat, based only in Haifa. There is thus a qualitative difference between these two struggles, one backed by the Freedom Charter, the other by religious texts and history books associated with previous Empires. The result is Injustice v Injustice.
9. Israel supported the apartheid regime until the bitter end.
While Israel was slow to act on sanctions against South Africa, and collaborated with the regime on nuclear weapons, it severed such ties in 1987. “There is no room for discrimination, whether it’s called apartheid or any other name”, then foreign minister Shimon Peres said in the New York Times. “We repeat that we express our denunciation of the system of apartheid. The Jewish outlook is that every man was born in the image of God and created equal.” The assertopm ignores the role played by Western countries such as Thatcher’s Britain in supporting apartheid, or the fact that Zionists stood trial in South Africa for opposing apartheid, it also avoids the actual commonality, pariah status, in many ways similar to the position of Taiwan today. In many respects the Palestinian cause shares common ground, not with the South African struggle but rather with the Anglo Boer War, “one of the great liberal and left-wing causes of the late 19th century.” Ignoring obvious chauvinism, Afrikaners were seen “as stout peasant farmers, standing up to the might of British imperialism. Across the world, funds were raised for the Boer cause.”
10. We must choose sides, since standing on the fence is tantamount to support for apartheid
During the anti-apartheid struggle where the issues were black and white, standing on the fence was inappropriate. The opposite is true in the Middle East. Declining to support religious conflict, withdrawing from waging war in the name of religion, supporting freedom for all people, defending secularism and seeking to uphold civil rights in our own country, alongside the victories of the non-aligned movement when it comes to the current East-West brinkmanship and Super-power hegemony, is the only peaceful path forward. Nelson Mandela was perhaps the best spokesperson for this position.
We are all hostages to this ongoing conflict. The time to stand up for secular rights and freedoms, non-alignment and world peace, is now.
THERE is a narrative that goes something like this, “in the beginning the whites stole the land.” Since all land acquired during periods of colonial conquest must be the result of criminality, it follows those possessing land today, are criminals. The accusations of theft by leftists against farmers are biblical in nature. An original sin, that has turned into a commonly used slur and epithet against all persons deemed in South Africa to be white.
Thus whether or not you happen to be one of some 400 000 white persons living in poverty, often in squatter camps, the same logic applies. The same goes for working class Afrikaners and English-speakers renting homes, also excluded in one sense, from a non-stop discourse streaming over television screens and talk-shows, which literally views the dominant ethnic groups in the country as the rightful heirs to all land in the sub-continent, and anyone not part of this majority group, as a less-deserving, other tribe.
In this fashion, first nations such as the Khoisan (a collective term for sub-groups such as the Griqua) are excluded from an intellectual debate cast over the new media, often flying on twitter, whose goal is the overthrow of the constitutional dispensation and its replacement by a custodianship system similar to the apartheid-era Bantustans in which petty chiefs ruled over a tenant population. The confluence of leftist ideology within racial rhetoric and ethnic overtones is almost never remarked upon by non-racialists in the ruling party.
Africans, meaning those with a preponderance of African ancestry, whose origin is central Africa and not the sub-continent, nor Europe for that matter, are excused by such news pundits, from the same moral and ethical framework used to criticize former advocates of white supremacy. In this way, a black person is never a racist as such and may be excused from deploying racism — sometimes awkwardly referred to at best, as ‘anti-racist racism’.
If whites stole the land, then they should all be grateful at being willing parties to future land confiscation policies, the details of which are currently being articulated by the ruling party and other allied groups. In such a way of thinking, not only is “land expropriation without compensation” a done deal, but righting an historical wrong, a tragic injustice, is more important than food security, financial stability and a reliable system of land tenure based upon the preservation of ownership and title-deeds.
How does one ‘unscramble the omelette’ of decades in which a property market based upon private ownership, and the buying and selling of land has existed, and has been the status quo endorsed by national government? How do we correct for almost three decades of democratic rule and also three centuries of colonialism, the tragic 1913 Land Act, while re-engaging stalled land reform projects from the previous administration?
The controversial parliamentary resolution on land reform has been referred by President Ramaphosa to a special committee for consideration and the government is planning a land reform roadshow which intends to canvass public opinion in all the nation’s provinces. A similar international roadshow already underway, is having a tough time winning over investors. A 75% parliamentary majority is required to amend the property clause in the Constitution.
National Treasury has adopted the DA position on private property in effort to stem the massive shift in allegiances over the land question. “From April, the Treasury and the department of human settlements, will spend an estimated 1.6 billion rand over three years to reduce the backlog of residents without formal ownership of their homes by among other things, paying the legal conveyancing required to get the deeds registered to the proper owners.”