Thursday, 29 September 2016

The Salsa Revolution

An early part of my political inspiration was drawn from the Zapatista Revolt in Chiapas, Mexico, starting in 1994, when a group of ex-Maoist turned libertarian communist guerrillas, the Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional (EZLN), named after anarchist-influenced 1910s revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata (below), launched the first post-Soviet anti-capitalist uprising. 

The EZLN, like the Makhnovist RPAU before it in Ukraine in 1918-1921, placed its armed forces under the control of plenaries of insurgent communities, and this fact drew the support of many anarchists, much as the PKK struggle in Rojava does today. Inspired by the Zapatistas, in 1996, I embarked on a mission to Chiapas as a delegate for the Durban Anarchist Federation to look at the San Andres Peace Accords between the EZLN and the government. Below is an an idealised image of EZLN spokesperson Sub-Commander Marcos (who is usually incorrectly called "the leader" by the Western press).

In 2001, the EZLN staged a march through Mexico City itself, and I wrote this retrospective piece for Sunday Times, probably the only piece on the Zapatistas to appear in the mainstream South African press:

Then in 2009, I was back in Mexico, this time training journalists and international affairs students in covering conflict in transitional societies. In Guadalajara, I launched Lucien and my book Black Flame at a public talk on the topic of the journalist as activist that drew lessons from the Mexican revolutionary-era anarchist press of the PLM and used the Zapatista mural below as its opening image.

Today I googled news on the Zapatistas and only came across a few articles marking the 20th anniversary of the Revolt back in 2014, including a rather anaemic BBC piece Struggling on: Zapatistas 20 years after the uprising, and a better-rounded Al Jazeera article Are Mexico's Zapatista rebels still relevant? - plus a sympathetic yet critical Marxist piece in Jacobin from earlier this year An Unvanquished Movement. One thing is true: the Zapatistas restored dignity to endogenous communities in Chiapas and inspired a new generation of libertarian communist revolutionaries around the world - including myself.


Monday, 1 August 2016

Remembering the Abolition of Slavery in the Cape

In 1838, some 39,000 slaves in the Cape Colony were freed by British Empire decree - though it took several years for the law to be fully implemented. Between 1653 and 1856, approximately 72,000 slaves had arrived in the Cape, either imported as unfree labour or prisoners of war from the colonial battles fought across South and South East Asia. Around 62% of the slaves were from Africa and Madagascar and around 90% or more of POWs were also from Africa. Just over 17,300 slaves brought to the Cape were from South Asia and a further 13,500 were from the Indonesian archipelago. In addition, there were were many slaves who originated in the territories of Bengal, Burma, Siam, Laos, Molucca, Cambodia, Cochinchina, Annam and Tonkin; it is forgotten today that some slaves even originated in Japan. Because a major plantation economy was never established at the Cape beyond the small wine-farms (that came later in Natal between 1860 and 1911, with the importation of indentured South Asian labour to work the sugar plantations), the long legacy of slavery in the Cape is often forgotten. What follows is an extract from A Taste of Bitter Almonds that details my own families convoluted ties to slavery at the Cape:

... the black-and-white image of a strikingly poised young woman. She was wearing the finest silk brocade corsetry of her age, the Photostat reproduction of the original 17th Century oil painting barely dulling the gleam of her bodice. The delicate lace ribboned at her elbows and throat seemed unusually relaxed for the era. Her throat had a string of what are probably pearls and she held a peach in one hand and a folded fan in the other. Her hair was tightly coiled and coiffed into two formations like ear-muffs at the sides of her head: delicately-built with high cheekbones and a calm, intelligently appraising gaze, she looked like an ancient Princess Leia. The caption gives her as “Anna de Koning, wife of Oloff Bergh”. 
The text drew me into the tale of the remarkable South Asian slave Angela of Bengal (1633?-1720), Anna's mother, who was sold to Riebeeck in 1659, seven years after he'd made landfall and established the VOC fort – in the year in which he fought the 1st Dutch-Khoekhoen War against the Strandlopers and ordered the bitter almond hedge planted. Angela of Bengal's career is dramatic : sold by a departing van Riebeeck to his second-in-command in 1662, she and her three illegitimate Eurasian children were liberated when the man was transferred to the VOC's East Indies headquarters of Batavia; she established a market garden on the slopes of Table Mountain on her own 3,35-hectare plot of land, Den Leem Bries, bounded by what is now Castle Street and titled to her in 1702, and made good selling fresh fruit to scurvy-vulnerable passing ships. She secured her future in 1669, marrying VOC soldier and sometime free burgher Arnoldus Willemz “Jaght” Basson of Wesel in what was then part of the United Dutch Republic; the couple became, the text states, “the progenitors of all the Bassons in South Africa.”
Of interest to me is Angela of Bengal's eldest daughter, Anna de Koning (or de Coningh, or de Coninck in the notoriously unstandardised spelling of the era), the woman in the picture and likewise a former slave, born out of wedlock in 1661 to the VOC soldier and mason François de Coninck of Ghent in what was then the Spanish Netherlands, now Belgium. 
Anna and her two half-brothers were freed along with their mother in 1666, and Anna later married-up in dramatic fashion, to a Swede, Oloff Bergh of Göteborg, close friends with Simon van der Stel, the Eurasian VOC Governor of the Cape, who later became the settlement's military commander in the 2nd Dutch-Khoekhoen War. Her eldest surviving daughter, Christina Bergh, married the stamvader, patriarch, of the De Wet family, Jacobus de Wet, and two of their daughters married into my stamvader’s family: Johanna Hillegonde de Wet married Jacobus Johannes le Sueur (1734-1807), the magistrate of the district of Stellenbosch and Drakenstein and fourth child of François le Sueur (?-1758), my stamvader, who had arrived at the Cape in 1729 on board the Midloo as the last Huguenot settler, to preside as dominee over die Groote Kerk in Cape Town between until 1746, and who married the Governer’s sister Johanna Catharina Swellengrebel in 1730; while her sister Catharina Jacoba de Wet married Jacobus’ brother Petrus Lodewikus le Sueur. 
Stamvader François le Sueur hailed from Ooyen in Gelderland, near the border with the Spanish Netherlands, to which his father, Jacques le Sueur, married to Johanna Smit, had fled from Catholic persecution in France in about 1695. Among the preacher’s children, his fourth in particular prospered: Jacobus Johannes le Sueur became the Stellenbosch Magistrate and married a German daughter of the founding elite, the Blankenburgs of the famous wine-farm Meerlust, who bore him 18 children. After retiring from the Lord’s work in 1846, Dominee François, or Franciscus as he’d been nicknamed by the Dutch, purchased the Ekelenburg estate in Rondebosch, in the shadow of Table Mountain. The original Eckelenburg homestead burned down in the 1850s, but was rebuilt and decades later, in 1917, a portion of the land was sold to the Marist Brothers who built the St Joseph’s school there.
Back in the early settlement, a cultural watershed moment occurred in 1707 when a white teenager named Hendrik Biebouw stood up to Stellenbosch magistrate Johannes Sterrenberg, a predecessor of my ancestor magistrate le Sueur, who had attempted to pacify a mob in the town, retorting: “Ik ben een Afrikaander – al slaat de landdrost mij dood, of al zetten hij mij in de tronk, ik zal, nog wil niet zwijgen!": "I am an African – even if the magistrate were to beat me to death, or put me in jail, I shall not be, nor will I stay, silent!” For his remarkable stance in essentially denying the jurisdiction of the the Dutch colonist overlords because he was a white African, an “Afrikaander” – the first time the word occurs in the colonial record – Biebouw was deported to Jakarta. This incident, celebrated by later generations of Boers (literally Farmers) as part of their foundational mythology is notable because Biebouw was not speaking Afrikaans, that “kitchen Dutch” tongue of the underclasses that only came into its own in the late 19th Century, but Dutch, so the intent of his words are clear. Not least, Biebouw is believed to have half-caste siblings .
So in the inimitable fashion of Old Cape families, I share with the Bassons and the de Wets a common ancestor in the freed South Asian slave Angela of Bengal, a formidable matriarch who became the first land-holding “free black” in the Cape and who in turn became a slave owner, whose Eurasian half-breed daughter Anna de Koning rose to become the wife of the man who commanded military expeditions against the aborigines, and who was for 11 years mistress of the Manor House at the grand estate at Groot Constantia after Governor Simon van der Stel’s death – and yet whose multicultural environment was inexorably shifting away from identification with Europe to identification with Africa. 
Back at home I have a scan of the front page of the Cape Town Gazette and African Advertiser, dated Saturday 2 May 1801. The newspaper records the offerings of an auction of another of my ancestors’ homes, at No.29 Heerengracht, Cape Town, then as now, one of the most prestigious addresses in the Mother City: 
“On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the 5th, 6th, and 7th Instant, 1801, Will be Sold Publicly, A House and premises, No.29 Heere Gragt, the property of the late Mr. Le Sueur. Also a quantity of household furniture, bedsteads, bedding &c. gold, silver, copper, pewter, iron, China, and glass ware, men and women slaves, some very able masons, carpenters &c. merchandize, and several other articles, all to be viewed on Monday the 4th”.  
I was also aware that le Sueurs had owned an estate at Fresnaye overlooking the Atlantic Ocean (today, suburban Le Sueur Avenue is all that remains of its long driveway) – but until I discovered the Cape Town Gazette article, had no proof of the obvious: that we’d once owned slaves of colour, all lumped together with the other “merchandize.”

André van Rensburg writes on the Stamouers blog at that the following female slaves (including Angela of Bengal and her daughter, my direct ancestor Anna de Coningh, and her granddaughter Christina Bergh) were the stammoeders of prominent Afrikaner families:

Dorothea van Bengale stammoeder of AHLERS

Maria Magdalena Combrink stammoeder of  ALBERTS

Johannes Christoffel van Balie ANTHONISSEN

Rachel Johanna Catharina van de Kaap stammoeder of BAM

Angela van Bengale stammoeder of BASSON

Anna de Coningh stammoeder of BERGH

Anna Bok stammoeder of BESTER

Catharina van de Kaap stamoeder of BEYERS

Diana van Madagscar stammoeder of BIEBOUW

Anna Groothenning van Bengale stammoeder of BOK

Arriaanje van Cathryn stammoeder of BOSHOUWER

Ansela van de Kaap stammoeder of CAMPHER

Catharina van Malabar stammoeder of CORNELISSEN

Maria Everts stammoeder of COLYN

Magadalena Ley, stammoeder of COMBRINCK

Christina Bergh stammoeder of DE WET

Cornelia van Saxen stamoeder of DEYSSEL

Sara Heyns stammoeder of EKSTEEN

Maria Heufke van de Kaap stammoeder of FLECK

Anna Willemse stammoeder of FRANKEN

Susanna van Bombassa also called van Madagascar, stammoeder of GERRITS

Elizabeth Plagmann stammoeder of GEYER

Apollonia Cornelia Mocke stammoeder of HANCKE

Marie Beyers stammoeder of HARMSE

Susanna Visser stammoeder of HATTINGH

Cecilia van Angola stammoeder of HERBST

Lasya Rachel Struwig stammoeder of HEYNE

Maria Schalk van der Merwe stammoeder of HEYNS

Maria LOZEE stamoeder of HEYNS

Elizabeth VION van de Kaap stammoeder of HUMAN

Catharina Hoffman & Johanna Jonker stammoeders of LANDMAN

Barendina van Graan stammoeder of LANGEVELD

Helena Rebekka Schott van de Kaap Stammoeder of LANGEVELD

Catharina Valentynse stammoeder of LEEUWNER

Susanna Fleck stammoeder of LEHMANN

Spacie van de Kaap stammoeder of LESCH

Sara Pieters stammoeder of LESER

Petronella Johanna Hartog stammoeder of LINGENFELDER

Sophia Rebekka Plagmann stammoeder of MOCKE

Jette Claesz stammoeder of MOLLER

Cornelia van de Kaap stammoeder of NEUHOFF

Agnitie Colyn Stammoeder of OBERHOLSTER

Susanna Biebouw stammoeder of ODENDAAL

Sara van de Kaap stammoeder of OELOFSE

Martha Catharina Jacobse & Johanna Jonker stammoeders of OLCKERS

Apollonia Jansz stammoeder of PLAGMANN

Cornelia Cornelisse stammoeder of PYL

Dorothea van de Kaap stammoeder of PYPER

Christina Voges stammoeder of SCHUTTE

Johanna Christina Langeveld stammoeder of SPAMER

Stamvader Christoffel SNYMAN

Maria Lozee stammoeder of STEYN

Beatrix de Vyf stammoeder of SUBKLEF

Magdalena Aletta Hartog stammoeder of VAN COPPENHAGEN

Agnietie Campher stammoeder of VAN DER SWAAN

Rebekka van de Kaap stammoeder of VAN GRAAN

David Simon stamvader of VAN HOON

Jannetje Bort stammoeder of VAN KONINGSHOVEN

Catharina van Colombo stammoeder of VERMAAK

Catharina van Bengale stammoeder of VERMEULEN

Maria van Bengale & Maria van Negapatnam stammoeders of VISSER

Sara van Graan stammoeder of VOLSCHENK

Johanna Bok stammoeder of VOS

Anna Willemse & Regina van de Kaap stammoeders of WEPENER

Magteld Cornelisse van Bengale stammoeder of WILLEMSE

Other families with slave 'stamouers'




Anna Willemse Stammoeder of BRAND

Geertruy Boshouwer Stammoeder of BRONKHORST








Adriaentje van Cathryn Stammoeder of HELM HENDRIKSEN

Alida Cornelis Stammoeder of HEYDER





Maria Steyn Stammoeder of KRIEL

Gerbrecht Boshouwer Stammoeder of van LOCHERENBERG


Maria Cornelisse Stammoeder of NIEWOUDT



Adriaentje Claasen Stammoeder of SPELDENBERG


Alida Cornelis Stammoeder of VAN DEN BERG

Cornelia Cornelisz Stammoeder of VAN TONDEREN




Thursday, 28 July 2016

Political assassinations in the run-up to the Elections

As the 2016 Local Government Election looms next week, Daily Maverick journalist Marianne Merten has pointed out that political assassinations have become so common that they are often dismissed by the police (and the media) as a normal part of the democratic process in South Africa: Marianne Merten on political killingsHer words reminded me that Prof Jane Duncan had warned two years ago about the rise of a culture of political killings - and the impunity that goes with much of the slaughter. And it also reminded me of a section of Drinking With Ghosts in which I recalled investigating the murder of an ANC councillor almost a decade ago: 

Refongkgotso, Vaal Dam, 5 July 2007

The gruesome mob murder of Free State ANC Town Councillor Ntai Mokoena at his home in the Refongkgotso township on the outskirts of Deneysville yesterday has given local government the jitters for it is clear that the South African resistance-era practice of political assassinations die not die with the coming of democracy. Shop-stewards are still gunned down for building unions; mayors are still slain for backing the wrong political faction; rival taxi bosses are shot in turf wars over taxi ranks and routes; even the police are both the hunters and the hunted.
Photojournalist Paballo Thekiso and I head out on Thursday afternoon after Deneysville United Democratic Movement (UDM) Chairman Isaac Mokhatla and 16 other suspects appear in court in the industrial town of Sasolburg facing charges of murder and public violence – an hour and a bit’s drive south of Joburg, to the town of Deneysville nestled on the western edge of the Vaal Dam, with its 1970s boom-time facebrick homes with ageing speedboats in many yards, and out to the formal township of Refongkgotso, with its neatly fenced plots, modest brick homes and corrugated iron roofs. The media have smelled the blood of a political feud in the water, for there drives the Sowetan news-crew, and here we pass an SABC camera team. The trick of grafting for a weekly, when covering what every other news outfit is also working on, is to find an inside track that will remain fresh and unsurpassed by the dailies, online and wire services and the broadcasters by the weekend. “Damn! What do we do?,” I ask Thekiso. “We’d better at least do the house,” he replies, so I ask a bunch of youngsters where to find Mokoena’s house, and they direct us just around the corner, and to the right, on a road that loops off the township’s main street.
The house is sunny in pale yellow paint, with its typical red-polished cement front stoep gleaming, but other than being a little larger, does not stand out from its neighbours – except for its shattered windows and the crowds of mourners coming to pay their condolences. We park, remove our peaked caps and, assuming the correct respectful attitude, ask relatives if we may enter and if there is anyone we may talk to. We know we will not be able to speak to Mokoena’s widow, for she has now entered her sacred mourning period, and indeed we find widdow Nofisi Radebe sitting still and isolate on the floor before a single lit candle in a corner of the lounge, a dark blanket covering her head. We make a few discrete inquiries, but get nothing that explains the murder, so bow out.
Where to next? We drive to the Deneysville Police Station and interview Captain Stephen Thakeng who at least gives us a little backround, claiming that yesterday’s rioting that lead to the murder had its roots in a meeting convened by the UDM’s Mokhatla at the Deneysville Council offices to discuss an apparent Council plan to remove residents of the squatter camp next to Refongkgotso, named Holomisa after UDM leader, retired Transkei General Bantu Holomisa who took the mostly-Xhosa movement out of the ANC in 1997. The relocation to a settlement called Amelia near the Highveld fuel-from-oil industrial town of Sasolburg was opposed by the UDM and Holomisa residents because, we are told, they will have to pay rent they cannot afford and will be further away from friends and relatives. 
Captain Thakeng tells us that several hundred people, mostly women, attended the meeting, at which they were told they would be addressed by the ANC’s Councillor Mokoena. But instead, a riot erupted and spread out from the offices, so the police called in reinforcements from Welkom, Bloemfontein and the Vaal who dispersed the rioters. It was thereafter that a mob had stormed Mokoena’s home and killed him. Things are still way too unclear for Thekiso’s and my liking, so we drive to the Council offices and taken note of the bent gate and broken windows, but are still at a loss to explain as to how the meeting resulted in murder.
So we drive back through Refongkgotso, and enter Holomisa, a really depressing settlement clinging by the skin of its teeth to the promise of the proper houses, tarred roads, electric lights, piped water and decent jobs that they stare at daily across an uneven stretch of veld where fresh green shoots pierce the ashes of an old veld-fire. Here there aren’t even graded dirt roads, just tracks weaving through the wasteland. An icy winter wind cuts straight across the desolate, litter-fouled fields, tugging at loose flaps of rusted corrugated iron and clapboard. Refongkgotso mans “give us peace,” but the very civil peace achieved by its relative prosperity was a thorn in the side of hardscrabble Holomisa.
By this stage it seems the other news crews have left the scene already, having got the shots and quotes they needed, but we need to understand how and whyit all unravelled, so we hang about in Holomisa. It’s just plain uncomfortable in the cold wind and getting moreso as the big smog-smeared red sun heads towards the horizon, but we just bide our time. A gap-toothed 67-year-old man complains about the removal plan: They want this place for a graveyard; the dead are better off than the living.”
Then Thekiso strikes up a casual conversation in Tswana with a group of three open-faced young women hanging laundry in the ill wind, a 24-year-old mother of one in a checked shirt, a 27-year-old in a grey tracksuit, and a 32-year-old wrapped in a blue blanket, carrying her baby on her back. Cigarettes and chit-shat are swapped, and finally, it just comes out that the women were at the Council meeting – and were involved in what happened afterwards.
“For six years, they [the Council] have been saying ‘we’ll come and install taps and electricity,’ but it’s all empty promises,” the 24-year-old tells us, saying they had still attended the meeting to see what was on the cards, “But no-one was there. Then Councillor Mokoena arrived in his car. He saw us and just laughed and drove off, so we closed off the street with stones so that no-one could see what we were doing and we broke the gate and vandalised the place. The police came, but didn’t stop us,” she said, though the police at least dispersed the mob – but it recoalesced around Ntai Mokoena’s house.
“We went to Ntai’s house and started stoning it,” the 27-year-old admitted to us. “We opened his gate forcefully. Ntai arrived, driving like a maniac; he drove into his yard and into the legs of one of Mokhatla’s right-hand men, and collided with his wall. He climbed out and beat up this mentally-disturbed boy who was on the march, then went inside – we think to go and get his gun. When he came out, he fired three shots in the air and got on top of his car.” 
Except for the beating of the boy, the young woman’s version is confirmed to us by a neighbour of Mokoena’s who fiddled nervously with a tin of Zam-Buk ointment while saying Mokoena had spotted across two men hiding behind his neighbour’s wall; Mokoena had stacked bricks for the extension of his home in this neighbour’s yard, and the men had apparently been throwing bricks through his windows. The neighbour said the councillor had fired a shot at the feet of the men, but that unafraid, they had advanced on him. With tears streaming down her face, the neighbour said: “I have known Ntai for seven years. He was a nice guy...”
The 27-year-old rioter claimed rather that Mokoena had fired a shot directly at the two brick-throwers “but missed – and as he was cocking his gun, one of the men pushed him and he fell and lost the gun. Then the crowd came and stoned him and sang ‘Let this dog die!’ The men beat him, but the women were ululating. When I saw blood I ran away.”
A 15-year-old scar-faced boy doing tricks with a football with some friends near the murdered man’s house picked up the tale: “People were staring at him and not helping. He was breathing badly.” Mokoena died in the arms of his wife shortly after he arrived at hospital. “Some people are happy he’s dead,” the youth said, “they say he was a bad man because he tarred his own street only” – and indeed the loop of road on which the house sits is tarred unlike the other dirt roads which run off the main street. “We were promised houses with bathrooms inside, but it hasn’t happened – but his house is being extended and he bought his son a quad-bike,” the youth claimed. Already, UDM leader Mokhatla’s home, perched on the very border between Refongkgotso and Holomisa, has been petrol-bombed in reprisal.
The 27-year-old mother says: “I’m sorry that he had to die. It was not our intention.” The woman with the baby on her back grimly nods agreement: “We had no right to kill him, even if he didn’t help us. With the murder, I don’t think we’ll ever get houses. And with Mr Mokhatla in prison – he knew all the right tactics – who will defend us now?” The three women sensibly decline to give their names because tonight is the vigil for Mokoena and rumours of revenge are rife. One of them says: “The ANC is saying someone [among us] will have to follow him into the afterlife.”


Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Lesotho Authorities Must Protect the Right to Freedom of Expression

The statement below, co-signed by ProJourn, was issued on 15 July. More on the story from the inside was published this week by Daily Maverick: Keiso Mohloboli's story

Joint Civil Society Statement: Lesotho Authorities Must Protect the Right to Freedom of Expression

The undersigned organisations condemn the increasing acts of harassment and intimidation against journalists in Lesotho, exemplified by the recent attack against the editor of the Lesotho Times newspaper and the institution of criminal defamation charges against its publishers. We call on the Lesotho authorities to take effective measures to protect the right to freedom of expression and the physical safety of all journalists in the country. In addition, the authorities must expeditiously and impartially investigate the attack and bring those responsible to justice.

On 9 July 2016, Mr Lloyd Mutungamiri was attacked and shot at his house in Maseru, Lesotho. He was taken to Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital where he remains in a serious condition. This attack comes shortly after the publication of a story in the 23 June 2016 edition of the Lesotho Times which referred to an “exit strategy” for current commander of the Lesotho Defence Force, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli. On the day this article was published, Mr Mutungamiri and the journalist who wrote the story, Miss Keiso Mohloboli, were summoned to the police station, interrogated by police and forced to reveal their sources. 

In addition, the publisher of the Lesotho Times, Mr Basildon Peta, has been charged with criminal defamation and crimen injuria in connection with a satirical article about Lt Gen Kamoli which was also published in the 23 June edition of the paper.

The ability of journalists to work safely and without fear of reprisal is paramount to the right to freedom of expression, protected under article 9 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Lesotho is party.  Media freedom is essential to the exercise of this right. The role the media plays in any society is vital in ensuring the free flow of information, including the legitimate criticism of all public figures. 

It is deeply concerning that Mr Mutungamiri and Miss Mohloboli were forced to reveal sources for one of their stories. International human rights law recognises the need to protect the confidentiality of journalistic sources because of its importance to the right to freedom of expression. We call on the Lesotho authorities, including law enforcement officials, to desist from using intimidation tactics to force journalists to reveal their sources. 

We also note with concern the criminal charges brought against Mr Peta, and condemn the persistent use of criminal defamation laws to stifle dissent and intimidate journalists in Lesotho. The African Commission and the Human Rights Committee have recognised the disproportionate effect the offence of criminal defamation has on the practice of journalism and have called on states to decriminalise defamation.  The Human Rights Committee has stressed that under no circumstances should a person be subject to imprisonment for defamation. The Lesotho authorities should drop the criminal defamation charges, and if other legitimate charges for an internationally recognised criminal offence are to be brought, must ensure that all fair trial guarantees are respected at all stages of the criminal prosecution. 

The authorities have not yet clarified who is responsible for the attack on Mr Mutungamiri. The Lesotho authorities must ensure that a prompt, thorough and independent investigation is carried out and that effective measures are taken to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice. 

These incidents – and particularly the attack on Mr Mutungamiri – constitute serious infringements of the right to freedom of expression in Lesotho. No journalist should operate in fear during the course of their work. We urge the Lesotho authorities to implement effective measures to both protect the safety of journalists and to ensure that there is no impunity for attacks against them. The authorities must send a clear message that such acts are not tolerated.


amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism 

Amnesty International

Freedom of Expression Institute 

International Commission of Jurists

Institute for Democracy

Lawyers for Human Rights 

Lawyers for Human Rights (Swaziland)

Media Institute for Southern Africa – Zimbabwe Chapter

Media Monitoring Africa

Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa

PEN Afrikaans

PEN South Africa

Professional Journalists’ Association of South Africa

Right 2 Know Campaign 

SOS Coalition 

Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network

Southern Africa Litigation Centre

Transformation Resource Centre 

Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Progress on getting Johannesburg on board ICORN

Last week the Southern African Cities of Refuge Project was invited to present on its initiative at a two-day conference run by the Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN), founded in 2013 as a result of an increasing trend in the region for governments to erode human rights by first attacking those who defend them. The scene-setting country presentations given on the first day, 4 July, by representatives from Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe showed clearly that human rights abuses, while differing from country to country, remained a serious problem in the region.

I will write up a detailed report for the Project, but suffice to say that the conference, run in Johannesburg by OSISA, was an extremely valuable event. With simultaneous translation booths on hand, delegates were able to fluidly exchange views and best practice. Speaking for the Project to get Southern African cities, starting with Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Johannesburg, and Windhoek, aboard the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN), I introduced the Project. The Project was initiated by the Professional Journalists' Association of South Africa (ProJourn) and PEN South Africa in 2012, and I spoke of our confidence that the City of Cape Town would become the first ICORN City of Refuge for persecuted writers, journalists, musicians and artists. 

I then used as a practical example of the pitfalls of such work, the emergency relocation to a country of refuge that ProJourn had just accomplished of a Zimbabwean human rights defender at serious risk of assassination by Zimbabwean Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) agents (two of his colleagues were murdered in Pretoria so far this year and a third was forced to drink poison but narrowly survived, having been found in a coma by his landlord). The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) provided the funds for the emergency relocation. The challenges were many, serious, and nerve-wracking but the human rights defender is now safe in his new country of exile. 

On the second day, I availed my typing skills to take the minutes of the breakaway group examining the very difficult task of fund-raising around protecting human rights defenders; I am confident that our group - all women except for myself - came up with some very creative thinking and several concrete, doable proposals around the issue. We closed the second day with a Twitter campaign in solidarity with our Kenyan comrades after the extrajudicial killing (apparently by police) of a human rights lawyer, his client, as shown in the photograph below. 

Apart from making great human rights advocacy contacts in Southern Africa, particularly in Namibia and Angola where I am doing work, it became apparent that the Project's plans to turn Johannesburg into an ICORN City of Refuge perfectly dovetails with a parallel plan by the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network - the continental umbrella body that embraces SAHRDN - and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) to turn Johannesburg, Abidjan, Tunis, and Kampala into "safety hubs" for refugees, so we have already initiated a discussion around merging the two projects regarding Johannesburg.

Veracité versus Verité: Seeking Justice & Truth after Genocide

Below are my notes for a talk at the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre for the closing of the commemoration of the 22nd Anniversary of the "100 Nights" Rwandan Genocide following the first South African screening of Beate Arnestad's documentary Telling Truths in Arusha. The film follows the genocide trial at the International Court of Justice on Rwanda at Arusha, Tanzania, of Catholic priest Father Hormisdas.

Michael Schmidt
The Ulu Club for Southern African Conflict Journalists
11 July 2016

1. Thanks: Holocaust and Genocide Survivors, Centre Director Tali Nates and her staff for the use of this appropriately sombre yet light-filled venue, Beate Arnestad for the use of her film, and guests for attending on a cold night.

2. Introduction: I’ll speak briefly on behalf of The Ulu Club for Southern African Conflict Journalists, a project of the Professional Journalists’ Association (ProJourn), which hosts events like this during which the public are able to interrogate journalistic ethics when we work in communities in conflict. The Association also runs the Southern African Cities of Refuge Project (find us on Facebook) which aims at getting cities in the region like Johannesburg to become safe havens for persecuted individuals (look up, which coincides with a project of Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network to turn Johannesburg, Abidjan, Kampala, and Tunis into safety hubs for refugees – we will be merging our projects where Johannesburg is concerned.

3. Themes: A Roman Catholic priest was reported in Time magazine on 16 April 1994, ten days after the Genocide began, as saying: “There are no devils left in Hell. They are all in Rwanda.” 

As we meet here tonight, it is with bitterness that I have to report that forensic and eyewitness evidence is being painstakingly compiled of year-old mass graves in Angola where MPLA forces massacred perhaps 3,000 people at Mt Sumi in April 2015, and of fresh mass graves in Mozambique as a result of the return to civil war between Renamo and Frelimo there. It is a tragedy that the political resort to mass murder – often justified on ethnicised grounds – continues unabated in Africa.

Rwandan Genocide eyewitness, US journalist Scott Peterson in his book Me Against My Brother (2000) trawled through the looted ruins of President Juvénal Habyarimana’s mansion and, sparked by items he found there – a framed photograph of Tutsi homes burning during the so-called “Apocalypse Revolution” in 1959, a book dedicated to Habyarimana by President François Mitterand, and a private Catholic chapel – speculated on three pillars of the Genocide:

● Firstly, the deliberate cultivation of Hutu supremacist ideology, driven by Agathe Habyarimana’s Akazu inner circle and its extremist Zero Network, dating especially from the 1990 publication of the genocidal Hutu 10 Commandments by the extremist newspaper Kangura! (Wake Up!), then the formation by Habyarimana of the ruling MRND party’s Interahamwe militia, and the Coalition por la Défense de la République (CDR) and its Impuzamugambe militia, and then – and this is often forgotten – the “trial runs” of massacre that had already left around 2,000 people dead in the two years before the Genocide began. 

Accused but at liberty: Agathe Habyarimana

● Secondly, the unblanching support by France for the MRND regime, regardless of its growing extremism – including the uninterrupted supply of weapons shipments even during the height of the Genocide when the extent of the killings was obvious. The French flew Agathe Habyarimana and select Akazu members to safety in Paris just after the Genocide began, and Mitterand officially welcomed at the Quay d’Orsay at the end of April 1994 – during the Genocide – Hutu extremist Foreign Minister Jérôme Bicamumpaka (acquitted by the Arusha Tribunal in 2011) and CDR commander and RTLMC hate radio head Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza (later convicted of genocide, and died in 2010).

Dead: convicted genocidaire Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza

● Lastly (and this touches on the theme of the film), the acquiescence of the Catholic Church as the preparations for genocide became irreversible, especially because since Belgian missionaries had supported the 1959 Genocide that left 100,000 dead, following independence in 1962, the Church had become so integrated into the Hutu regime that the Archbishops of Kigali, including the incumbent during the Genocide, Vincent Nsengiyumva (who was killed by the RPF), were invariably high MRND leaders as well, and in some cases such as at the Ste Famille Cathedral in Kigali, during the Genocide, priests such as Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka openly wearing pistols, expressing Hutu supremacist views and allowing the death-squads to select from among those seeking sanctuary there for killing (he was later convicted of genocide at Arusha but continues to live freely in France).

At liberty: convicted genocidaire Fr Wenceslas Munyeshyaka

4. Introducing Hamilton Wende: Tony Wende is a South African journalist who worked as the sound-man on a BBC crew that went to Rwanda during the Genocide with the almost impossible mission objective of trying to explain why the Genocide was happening. In his book True North (1995), as with Peterson, Wende also speaks of the impact of Belgian ethnic classification in the 1950s – despite the fact that other than the so-called Tutsi royal clan, Rwanda consisted of 18 clans that were of mixed ethnicity – and Belgian support for the 1959 Genocide, but unlike Peterson’s work which has the benefit of hindsight, Tony’s work digs into the moral twilight zone of the Genocide as it was unfolding.

He uses some resonant phrases such as “spiral of madness” to describe what he was seeing – but the one that may assist us here is “Republic of Dementia” and he describes his journey into what he calls an “incoherence of darkness,” “half-drowning in a spiritual Interzone, grasping at the flimsy edges of our own rationality,” as both a physical and metaphysical journey. 

Already, back in 1994 we see Tony interview the mayor of the nearest town in the Nyarubuye Parish where some 4,000 people were slaughtered by the genocidaires: the interview takes place in the UN’s Bonacco refugee camp full of tens of thousands of perpetrators of the Genocide, and as Hutu extremist radio pushes out a revisionist line over the airwaves of the refugee camp, claiming it is the so-called “invading cockroaches” who are committing genocide, the mayor, who is accused of organising the Nyarubuye massacre, turns nasty and evokes anti-Tutsi sentiments, convincing Tony of his guilt.

It is here that the French language is of assistance in that we need to distinguish between veracité (fact) and verité (truth) – and what we have seen from the film is that fact and truth are not necessarily the same thing, neither for the survivor, nor the journalist, nor the perpetrator, nor the judicial officer presiding at Arusha. And the search for a fact-based and fundamentally true justice is perhaps hardest of all. I’ll turn over to Tony at this point.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

After Mandela: The Implosion of ANC Alliance Politics?

After Mandela: The Implosion of ANC Alliance Politics?

Michael Schmidt, Johannesburg, South Africa. Talk at the Museum of Wellington City and Sea, Wellington, New Zealand, 13 March 2014 [with additional comments made in 2016 in square brackets].

[There is a liberal-left thesis that South Africa only got into trouble after Mandela's presidency, that it represented the high-water of a stainless ANC Alliance politics which has since been hijacked by crooks more interested in what Joburg band The Slashdogs call "progress through plunder". But what if the Mandela era was in fact a continuity not only of some pretty conservative, even at times right-wing, black nationalist politics, but in the final analysis, the ultimate fulfilment of the white nationalist National Party's strategic plans for the continuity of rapacious capital?]

South Africa’s tragedy was turned into a global triumph. So how did the great hope of the first democratic elections in 1994 turn into state-sanctioned mass murder with the Marikana Massacre in 2012?

1912: South African Native National Congress (SANNC, later ANC) formed. The SANNC is formed by mission-educated black professionals who believe in politics by petition. Until the rise of the more radical ANC Youth League in its ranks in 1944, it remains conservative black nationalist and only opens membership to all races 74 years after its formation. [In contrast, the Industrial Workers of the World, established in South Africa in 1910, was the first political formation (for it was more than merely a union) in the new country to throw open its doors to all races, seeding a libertarian socialist working class revolutionary line that had far-reaching impact in Southern Africa].

1921: Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) formed. In 1920, a libertarian socialist CPSA is formed by the industrial syndicalists who built the first SA trade unions for people of colour [over 1917-1919: the Indian Workers’ Industrial Union, the Industrial Workers of Africa, the Clothing Workers’ Industrial Union, and others]; but it is eclipsed by the “official” Bolshevik CPSA formed the following year. In 1924, the official Party, which until the collapse of the USSR remains among the world’s most orthodox Stalinist, adopts the “Native Republic thesis” which sees it seek unity with the ANC, a parasitic relationship finally cemented in 1947. 

1941: Atlantic Charter signed. Although in essence a statement of Allied war aims intended to undermine Nazi hegemony in the conquered territories, the Atlantic Charter promises freedom for all nations and appeals to the ANC, a tiny petit-bourgeois party compared to the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA, later SACP) which has a mass base as a result of its penetration of the Council of Non-European Trade Unions (CNETU).

1955: Freedom Charter signed. In Kliptown, Soweto, the Freedom Charter is signed between the black ANC, the white Congress of Democrats (front of the outlawed SACP), Indian and coloured organisations. The liberation movement remains racially compartmentalised [even though allied]. But the Defiance Campaign of the 1950s against the pass laws at last makes the ANC a (black) mass movement.

1959: The ANC splits to the left; formation of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC). The Africanists in the ANC, wary of increasing Communist influence, split away to form the PAC under S’mangaliso Robert Sobukwe. The PAC establishes its own armed wing Poqo (later the Azanian People’s Liberation Army, APLA).

1962: ANC fund-raising tour for uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK). In Algeria in 1962, MK Commander & SACP Politburo member Nelson Mandela visits the Algerian FLN whose guerrillas he thought would be good role models for MK. The trip was partly a dud: Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere suggested he suspend the armed struggle until the PAC’s Robert Sobukwe was released from jail to lead the revolution; and Ghana’s Kwame Nkhrumah refused to meet with him. The Xhosa ethnic and SACP dominance in the ANC is what concerns them.

1976-1977: First Insurrection; rise of the Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO). A Soweto working class revolt against the raising of rates and service charges by the Western Services Council broadens out into a national uprising. Though no political parties organised resistance, the Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO) and its exile Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), formed in 1979, are the greatest beneficiaries.  The ANC is tiny, isolated and in exile, having split to the right in 1975 with the formation of Inkatha (later IFP).

1985-1989: Second Insurrection; destruction of the PAC and AZAPO. Flush with Soviet funding and using the notorious necklace method of torture-murder, the ANC fights primarily against [right-wing] IFP, [and left-wing] PAC and AZAPO communities, slaughtering tens of thousands. From the ANC’s 1990 unbanning to the first democratic elections in 1994, at least another 25,000 people would die.

So, how did a party that was nowhere in 1977 come to dominate in 1994?
1985: Congress of SA Trade Unions (COSATU) formed and dominates organised labour (SACP moles in COSATU defeat [politically autonomous] “workerists” to tie the formation to the ANC and give it an ersatz mass membership);
1985-1994: Mass-murder campaign against PAC, AZAPO, the IFP, ANC dissidents and unaligned blacks;
1990: Tripartite Alliance: ANC/SACP/COSATU; heavily foreign-funded, this centrist bloc leads transition negotiations with the white National Party (NP) government (the ANC absorbs the remnant NP in 2005); proof surfaces of SACP “Plan B” to assassinate Mandela to provoke a Third Insurrection [should negotiations fail].
1990: Illegitimate and unilateral disbandment of 119-organisation anti-apartheid United Democratic Front (UDF) by the ANC which sees it as a challenge to grassroots control.

Who pays the piper calls the tune. Mandela was at first an anti-communist black nationalist who became a communist who became a neoliberal supporter of the murderous Indonesian neo-Fascist, Saudi Salafist and Nigerian military dictatorships – all depending on where the ANC’s blood-money came from.

Mandela’s shady friends: Fidel Castro, Muammar Gaddafi, King Fahd… etc. It goes without saying that these were/are some of the world’s most notorious dictators. Castro was a fan of Mussolini in his youth and friend of pro-Nazi Juan Perón of Argentina when in power; Gaddaffi was a delusional president-for-life so popular that he was killed in the Arab Spring uprising in Libya; while Fahd sponsors ultra-right patriarchal Islam the world over.

General Sani Abacha, dictator of Nigeria gave the ANC £2,6-million + $50-million. Abacha stole $3-6-billion from the Nigerian coffers in his five years in office, had famous writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni activists executed by kangaroo court, and was friends with US race-hate leader Louis Farrakhan.

General Muhamed Suharto of Indonesia gave the ANC $60-million. In Cape Town in 1997, Nelson Mandela gave SA’s highest award to Muhamed Suharto of Indonesia, whose New State has the blood of perhaps 1-million on its hands – for funding the ANC. Suharto embezzled $15-35-billion in his reign of terror from 1967-1998.

Mandela in office: 1994-1999
Heads a party that was racially-exclusivist for 74 years – from 1912 until it finally opened all ranks to all races as late as 1986;
He’s a multimillionaire living in SA's most obscene parasitic enclave of Houghton who barely had to earn a cent after his release;
He’s a neoliberal who dismantles the nominally socialist apartheid state and sells off national assets to private interests, and who implements the neoliberal GEAR [Growth, Employment And Redistribution] austerity programme; 
The war on the poor continues with forced evictions, the dismantling of the shacks of the poor, water and electricity cut-offs;
The ANC regime enforces a new form of race classification – one that entirely "disappears" the indigenous Bushmen;
The SANDF illegitimately invades Lesotho in 1998 to crush a pro-democratic mutiny while the government does nothing to support the beleaguered pro-democracy movement in Swaziland;
The ANC regime settles white right-wing farmers in Mozambique in 1998 [under the Mosagrius Accord] by dispossessing the indigenous peasantry; and
The ANC regime does nothing to break up the banking cartels, and corporate monopolies and does little to break up massive private landholdings in South Africa – instead, it merely integrates a tiny black cadre of some 300 families into the elite.

Reconstruction of the Securocrat State
More than 10 apartheid-era laws that restrict the free flow of information are still on the statutes, including the National Key Points Act under which scrutiny of the R200-million in public expenditure on President Jacob Zuma’s private ranch at Nkandla has been obscured;
New legislation including:
      - The Terrorism Act (overly broad definitions potentially criminalises social movements and all in opposition to the government)
      - The Secrecy Act (up to 25 years in prison for journalists and whistle-blowers who reveal state information arbitrarily declared to be related to “national security”; no public interest defence)
      - The General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill (would beef up internal spying powers on the citizenry including communications interception);
      - The Independent Communications Authority of SA Amendment Bill (would corporatise the vibrant community radio sector by forcing stations to have government appointees sit on their boards, and force them to broadcast from municipal premises)
      - Abuse of existing legislation such as The Gatherings Act, under which the remilitarised police and municipalities have assumed magisterial powers they do not possess to outlaw gatherings and protests.

What is the nett result of this continuity from Apartheid?
South Africa is the world’s most unequal society according to the GINI Coefficient;
South Africa falls behind the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the UNDP’s Development Index;
Unemployment ran at 40% (70% in many rural areas) before we lost 2-million jobs in the 2008 Recession, so diseases of extreme poverty are common;
The SA Police, remilitarised after being demilitarised in the early years of democracy, are engaging in planned assaults like the Marikana Massacre so conflict is escalating in poor areas; 
Rampant corruption has not only resulted in the loss of 20% of GDP, but has seen COSATU’s largest union, the mineworkers’ NUM, lose 80,000 members last year [2013], while metalworkers’ union NUMSA with 338,000 members split away from COSATU; and so
We have all the elements for nascent black fascism: right-wing populist parties (EFF, etc) and separatist movements; corrupt yellow trade unions linked to the government and the oligarchs (COSATU); a heavily-armed private security sector (Mapogo a Mathamaga etc); a culture of political assassinations of shop stewards, white farmers etc; murderous xenophobic organisations (Malumalela Social Movement for the Unemployed etc); the spread of ultra-conservative religious cults; and a new Stasi-trained securocrat state reliant on dumbed-down public education and a militarised police force, which has launched an assault on press freedoms, independence of the judiciary, and Section 9 institutions which defend the Constitution.

[New points to be made in 2016:
“State capture” by the capitalist elite has its roots in the 1910 incorporation of South Africa (Pty) Ltd as a shotgun wedding between the defeated Boer Republics and the British Colonies, under racist British imperialism, and as such, the entity has been under the control of crime syndicates, secret racist cabals, and monopoly cartels since then. The revelation of the “state capture” by the Gupta family cartel of the national Cabinet is merely the latest incarnation of this – yet it grows more Kafkaesque by the week;
The ANC has steadily assaulted democratic organs, including the judiciary (with “cadre deployment” to the Judicial Services Commission and the Constitutional Court), the prosecutorial authorities (the destruction of the Scorpions and the erosion of its replacement, the Hawks, and with meddling in the National Prosecuting Authority), the media (calls for a statutory Media Appeals Tribunal, the establishment of loyalist outfits The New Age and ANN7, the capture and purging of Independent Newspapers, and the reversion of the SABC from a public broadcaster to its “His Master’s Voice” role of the apartheid era), the Constitutional Chapter 9 Institutions supporting democracy (underfunding of the SA Human Rights Commission, Gender Commission etc), the 1996 Constitution itself (calls for an overhaul of the document to strengthen the state and weaken civil society), and even well-functioning elements of the state (undermining the SA Revenue Service, and Parliament with the expulsion of the Parliamentary Press Corps and the use of cellphone jamming and strong-arm “white shirt” tactics in the House).
The ANC has staunchly retained race classification and a scientifically unsupportable and politically dubious race-essentialist stance on public race debates, its leaders have often been outspokenly racist and have openly voiced the need for racial social engineering along apartheid lines (suggesting breaking up the “overly numerous” hostile coloured voting bloc in the Western Cape by forced relocations, with similar sentiments expressed for the Indian voting bloc in KwaZulu-Natal).]

Conclusion: the ANC/SACP “National Democratic Revolution” continues the neoliberal war on the poor started by the National Party in 1973. [It is now a de facto counter-revolution in its deliberate erosion of even its own democratic gains from 1994. Franz Kafka once wrote that “Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy.” How prescient he was: decades later, in 1979 during the height of liberation movement hubris, First Insurrection student leader turned libertarian socialist Selby Semela slagged off the ANC and SACP as “the old spinster-huckster parties.” By 2003 and well into the democratic era, my late friend the former SACP stalwart Alan Lipman who had bailed out of the Party in disgust at the indefensible 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary, turning leftwards and becoming an anarchist, told a crowded community hall in the giant Orange Farm squatter settlement: “I spent 35 years of my life supporting the liberation struggle, but the ANC has now become an anti-liberation movement. Now we need a real ‘People’s National Congress’ – under people’s control – to take real liberation forward.”]