In 2021, the South African government was provided with funding of around €700 million (ZAR13 billion), from the German government to decommission its coal-based power stations in order to transition to green energy. True to their hypocritical nature, the Germans quickly reverted back to coal-fired plants when Russian president Vladimir Putin stopped supplying Russian gas to the rest of Europe. This dynamic is terribly familiar to countries of the global south. The Guinea-Bissauan revolutionary, Amilcar Cabral, already said in 1971: “Imperialism—as you know better than myself—is the result of the gigantic concentration of financial capital in capitalist countries through the creation of monopolies, and firstly of the monopolies of capitalist enterprises.”
17 years ago, the residents of 12 informal settlements in the city of Durban came together and formed Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM), or ‘shack dwellers’ in Zulu. The movement emerged at a time of widespread mobilizations against the ruling African National Congress’ failure to fulfill its promises to provide services and housing for the poor in post-apartheid South Africa. “What do we want?” AbM’s founding member and president, then 30 year-old S’bu Zikode had asked in 2005, “The basics. Water, electricity, sanitation, land, and housing.” Over the following years, AbM grew into a militant collective with more than 100,000 members, fighting for dignity and land for the urban poor in the face of deadly repression by state forces.
Many of the people that I spoke to in the shacklands of Johannesburg and Durban said something that resonated with what I hear from the poor in Indian villages. When I asked why they didn’t go to the public hospital next door and instead chose to go to a private clinic, they would say they don’t feel respected in the public hospital and do not get dignified attention. This is exactly what I hear from the poor in India, who would often take loans they can’t easily repay to be able to visit a private clinic when they could have received the same drugs from a doctor in a public hospital. The questions of respect and dignity are often overlooked but they are fundamental. Struggling for this crucial aspect of quality of healthcare in our public facilities is a key challenge for health rights activists.
On the morning of June 27, 2022, National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) shop steward David Fankomo joined his fellow members at the picket line outside Eskom’s Emalahleni office in the heart of South Africa’s coal belt. Workers at Eskom, the nation’s state-owned electricity utility, have been embattled in four rounds of wage negotiations with the executives since April 2022. South Africa is rich in energy but is in the midst of cascading energy shortages. Fankomo’s union is at the heart of this crisis: the workers bring the coal out of the ground but live with barely enough of its energy. On June 28, Eskom announced that it was going to implement “Stage 6 load shedding” due to “unlawful industrial action.” “Load shedding” is defined as a rationing measure to reduce the demand for electrical energy by imposing rotational power outages when the supply from power plants is severely constrained.
Last week the 14th BRICS Summit took place virtually, chaired by Chinese President Xi Jinping. The BRICS bloc (Brasil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) represents a key political, economic, and scientific force in the international arena. These nations represent half of the world’s population and their collective GDP is greater that $20 trillion. In today’s context, the significance of the BRICS summit is increased to the extent that the bloc represents an alternative to the unipolar world of the decaying West. What follows are some of the key points from the Summit’s in Beijing: Multilateral compromise in the defense of international law, which includes being more inclusive with less developed countries. Promote peace and international security without compromising the environment. Support for a an open, multilateral, transparent, inclusive, rules-based, non-discriminatory commercial system.
In the 2018 Mexican general election, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known as “AMLO”) swept to victory. His presidential victory coincided with the historic collapse of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI). Barring losses in 2000 and 2006, the PRI had ruled Mexico uninterrupted since 1929 (under three different titles). In 2012, PRI’s Enrique Peña Nieto won the presidency with 39.17%; but by 2018, the PRI received just 16.4% of the vote compared with the 54.71% (the largest margin since 1982) received by AMLO’s Movimiento Regeneración Nacional (MORENA). The issue of corruption was front and center in this election, and AMLO explicitly framed it as a systemic byproduct of neoliberalism.
In March 2022, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres warned of a ‘hurricane of hunger’ due to the war in Ukraine. Forty-five developing countries, most of them on the African continent, he said, ‘import at least a third of their wheat from Ukraine or Russia, with 18 of those import[ing] at least 50 percent’. Russia and Ukraine export 33% of global barley stocks, 29% of wheat, 17% of corn, and nearly 80% of the world’s supply of sunflower oil. Farmers outside of Russia and Ukraine, trying to make up for the lack of exports, are now struggling with higher fuel prices also caused by the war. Fuel prices impact both the cost of chemical fertilizers and farmers’ ability to grow their own crops.
On Monday, May 30, communities from South Africa’s Wild Coast gathered in front of a court in the city of Gqeberha. The day marked the beginning of a landmark 3-day legal challenge brought by these communities against gas and oil multinational Shell, Impact Africa, and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE). The case is the culmination of a long struggle to protect the Wild Coast against oil and gas exploration. In 2014, the DMRE granted Impact Africa an exploration right off the East Coast. Impact Africa then sought to develop an Environment Management Programme (EMPr) required under the Mineral and Petroleum Services Development Act (MPRDA). This was done just months before South Africa implemented the One Environment System, which streamlined mining regulations and environmental authorizations under the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA).
Most young people in South Africa do not have a job and are, under current circumstances, unlikely to ever have one. For years, deindustrialization and the collapse of mining laid waste to unionized jobs. Now state austerity is hacking away at the public sector. Many of the few new jobs that are being created are poorly paid, precarious and not well unionized. Some of this can be ascribed to powerful global forces that are difficult for any state to resist. And the deep structural features of our society were built by colonialism and are so entrenched that they cannot easily be changed. But there is no doubt that the ANC’s poor economic policy choices have also been a significant part of the failure to build a viable economy. This has been compounded by the appalling state of public education, the collapse of a significant part of the ANC into a violent kleptocracy, the decay of infrastructure and a series of damaging events such as the brutally enforced hard Covid lockdowns, the winter riots and the recent floods in KwaZulu-Natal.
The lights went out around Johannesburg on a Monday morning in November 2021, not to flicker back on until early that Friday in some areas. It marked the last rolling blackout of a year troubled by more outages than any in recent memory. The fate of Eskom, the beleaguered power utility behind the crisis, is now at the center of South Africa’s struggle for a just energy transition — a break from fossil fuels without leaving behind frontline communities or energy workers. As a public company, Eskom has a constitutional mandate to guarantee electricity as a basic right. But the utility struggles to meet that mandate with its aging equipment, staggering debt, corruption and rules that require it to break even, which drive exorbitant rate hikes.
On Tuesday, after a year and a half of negotiations over an intellectual property waiver for Covid-related products, the United States, European Union, India and South Africa reportedly reached agreement on a temporary waiver of patent rules for Covid vaccines. “The difficult and protracted process has resulted in a compromise outcome that offers the most promising path toward achieving a concrete and meaningful outcome,” said U.S. Trade Representative spokesperson Adam Hodge in a statement. Global health activists, however, are slamming the tentative deal as not only insufficient, but a potential setback, because it excludes tests and treatments, includes a carveout for China, and introduces new barriers for the production of generic treatments that could have implications far beyond the Covid crisis.
Activists have made a last-minute bid to stop Royal Dutch Shell from exploring for oil and gas in whale breeding grounds off the coast of South Africa. The fossil-fuel giant had planned to search for oil and gas reserves by setting off underwater explosions along a stretch of South Africa known as the Wild Coast, according to MSN. The explorations were slated to begin December 1. However, four environmental and human rights organizations filed a legal challenge Monday night to stop the blasting, Greenpeace Africa said. “Shell’s activities threaten to destroy the Wild Coast and the lives of the people living there,” Greenpeace Africa senior climate campaigner Happy Khambule said in a statement about the challenge.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s, it became a juxtaposition of highly educated workers for the most advanced productive forces on the planet, but developed within the unresolved, deeply violent, four hundred year-long colonial and racist architecture of the US. It was externally influenced by the period of the explosion of national liberation socialism that began with the Chinese revolution and was punctuated by the defeat of the US empire by the Korean and Chinese revolutions and at great costs to their peoples. The 1950s were capped off by the historic 1959 victory in Cuba, whose significance reverberates to this day in all of our lives. Many of the most significant and radical intellectual and revolutionary formations of the US were born between the years 1959 to 1967.