Tag Archives: South Africa

Rattling the bag – Language Knowledge and the transformation of the university in South Africa and India: Dilip Menon

[Note: Recent events in South Africa – from raging student movements across university campuses to xenophobic violence in the streets of Durban – seem to echo so many struggles both inside and outside the university “here.” This is the second post from South Africa that seeks to listen and travel across. The first, by Richard Pithouse, is here.]

Guest post by DILIP MENON 

Susa lo-mtunzi gawena. Hayikona shukumisa lo saka
Move your shadow. Don’t rattle the bag

JD Bold, Fanagalo Phrase Book, Grammar and Dictionary, the Lingua Franca of Southern Africa, 10th Edition, 1977

In the bad old days in South Africa, whites spoke English or Afrikaans, the languages of command. When they did engage with those that did not speak English, there was Fanagalo, a pidgin based on Zulu peppered with English and some Afrikaans. Fanagalo was developed in the mines and allowed directives, if not conversation. The struggle against apartheid produced its freedoms, its heroes and heroines and new dreams of equality. As Richard Pithouse in his article shows, twenty years down the line the sheen has worn. Unemployment, xenophobia, violence, crime and a seemingly entrenched inequality dog our dreams. We live with the constant premonition of becoming an ordinary country, a nation like any other. Continue reading Rattling the bag – Language Knowledge and the transformation of the university in South Africa and India: Dilip Menon

The Runaway Union: Notes on Marikana and the National Union of Mineworkers

I have been interested in forms of organisation in general, and unions in particular, for some time now. On a recent trip to South Africa I ended up profiling the National Union of Mineworkers for The Hindu, and was intrigued to learn that most unions in South Africa have their own investment companies run, with varying degrees of success, by professional money managers. The following piece attempts to map how one of South Africa’s most powerful unions was transformed by its encounter with high-finance. I would be interested to hear what Kafila readers think of this.

Emperors Palace casino — edifice of dreams, self-proclaimed Vegas of Africa with its 1,724 slot machines, 68 gaming tables, and giant fibreglass statues of Egyptian pharaohs — is a five-minute drive from Johannesburg airport.

In a country of desperate inequality, the casino offers one way past the seemingly impermeable barriers of race and class. Yet, Emperors Palace is a bet in itself, a wager, placed by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on behalf of its many thousand members that money pulled from gamblers’ pockets in Johannesburg will find its way past the city’s smart suburbs into the streaked overalls of men crouched at a faraway mine face thousands of feet underground.

The casino is part of a diverse portfolio, with a net asset value of just over R3 billion (Rs.1,786 crore), managed by the Mineworkers Investment Company (MIC), an investment company set up by NUM, one of South Africa’s largest and wealthiest unions.

Till recently, NUM had 320,000 members, a cash surplus of R134.4 million, and was pivotal to South Africa’s resource driven economy: mining employs half a million workers and accounts for 10 per cent of Gross Domestic Product and 38 per cent of all exports. MIC is one of the most successful investment companies in the country and disburses R45 million every year as dividends to a union-controlled trust to finance education bursaries for the children of mineworkers. NUM is also part of the national government through the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) federation. COSATU, the African National Congress (ANC), and the South African Communist Party form South Africa’s ruling alliance.

Read the rest of the article here

Grootboom, Mayawati and Supreme Courts

Mrs Irene Grootboom lived with her and sister’s family in a shack, about 20 meters square in Wallacedene, an informal settlement without water, electricity, sewage or rubbish collection services in the western Cape Town, South Africa. Most of the residents had been on the waiting list for subsidised housing for years. Mrs Grootboom and a few hundred others decided to take matters into their hands in 1998 and occupied a vacant farm that was privately owned and had been earmarked for low-cost housing. They were evicted through a court order, their new-built homes were bulldozed and their possessions burned. When a High Court judgement granted them government shelter, the government appealed to the Constitutional Court. The Court had to interpret article 26 of the new South African Constitution, Republic of South Africa, which provides that a) ‘everyone has the right to have access to adequate housing’; b) ‘the state must take reasonable legislative and other measures (such as policy and programs) to achieve the progressive realisation of this right’; and c) ‘within its available resources. The court decided to test whether the Cape Metropolitan Council’s housing program was ‘reasonable’.
Continue reading Grootboom, Mayawati and Supreme Courts

Corporate Complicity and Gujarat

The 4th ‘Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors’ Summit, organized by the Gujarat government on 12-13 January 2009 in Ahmedabad, and the statements by some prominent Indian corporate leaders, have spawned protests, analysis, debates and questions about corporate accountability, complicity, responsibility and rights in Indian democracy. At this biennial event, ‘Jai Jai Garvi Gujarat’ has been showcased as an ‘ideal investment destination, both for Indian and foreign investors’, where prospective investors have ‘only Red Carpet and no Red Tape and it is where investors can sow a rupee and reap a dollar as returns’ (see Official portal of Gujarat Government).

Bringing together business leaders, investors, corporations and policy makers by a democratically-elected government, exploring business opportunities and signing memorandum of understandings are legitimate economic activities. However, the projection of the Chief Minister of the State, Narendra Modi, as the next Prime Minister of India by corporate cheerleaders is much more than mere economic activity. It is turning a blind eye to gross abuses of rule of law, and knowingly assisting a political leader and his government to continue committing them. It is becoming party to a specific political vision in a manner that incurs responsibility and blame. Such corporate leaders thus become complicit with a government and its leader in serious human rights abuses. It is negative and unacceptable.

Continue reading Corporate Complicity and Gujarat