newritings

May 9, 2008

What Shahrukh Khan needs is a few lessons on black consciousness

Filed under: opinion article — newritings @ 1:52 pm

Shahrukh Khan can never rid himself of his skin colour, ask Michael Jackson. It has been reported that many are up in arms over his new TV advert but millions are happy of this new cream, Fair and Handsome. Khan has endorsed a product that promises the world: Emami, in collaboration with Activor Corp, USA, herbalists and dermatologists from India has created a unique fairness cream for Men with a breakthrough Five Power Fairness System to make skin fair and handsome in 4 weeks. (see ad) These and other falsehoods are being sold with the name of the famous star of the Bollywood screen. But what Khan really needs is not a cream for the outside but something for the inside.

Khan needs a little of consciousness of his blackness, as a first step towards recovering his true humanity. Who better to teach him than Steve Biko?

As far back as 1971 Biko, then a young student, wrote for a leadership training course of the South African Students Organisation (SASO) that being black was not to be a source of disempowerment but a rallying call for unity of those “whom by law or tradition politically, economically and socially discriminated against as a group.” He further pointed out that firstly, being black is not a matter of pigmentation – being black is a reflection of a mental attitude. Secondly, he wrote that one has to accept one’s “blackness” then ”you have started on a road towards emancipation, you have committed yourself to fight against all forces that seek to use your blackness as a stamp that marks you out as a subservient being.”

Unfortunately for Shahrukh Khan, by endorsing such products sells not only the product but himself as an actor. More importantly, he sells the myth of racial superiority, and that fair is lovely. The mass media and here TV remains a prime culprit with its blatant and manifest alliance with the advertising industry that has not informed us of the dangers both medically and socially of these products. What a shame, the BBC report by Naresh Puri, which I sourced through the company website, did not do better.

Under the guise of giving both sides of the story, it had interviews with some detractors, but replayed the company and interviewed the distributors in the UK, without even investigating the contents of the Fair and Handsome Cream. Little wonder it had the company endorsement! The report did point out that skin lighteners are now a 90 milion pound industry in India alone. But did not explore any of the claims of getting skin to be lighter, and giving protection for UV rays, etc.

One wonders if this type of balance would have been acceptable to the BBC if it dealt with Alzeimer or breast cancer?

We must organise opposition and protests against the actors and the manufacturers who, in seeking new markets, add pain to the commercial exploitation by reproducing myths of racial superiority. Equally culpable is the global advertising industry (this is a gigantic subject and must be for a separate interrogation), working closely with the mass media, for spending millions of dollars promoting values of global capitalism, where there is only room for a tiny, miniscule elite, who profit on the suffering of the majority. In the meantime, I sincerely want to dispatch a copy of Steve Biko’s book I write what I like to the now white Khan.

May 8, 2008

is it a boy?

Filed under: re-creating — newritings @ 2:07 pm

May 2, 2008

MWALIMU (Vol 1.1. – First Quarter 2008)

Filed under: Mwalimu (Vol 1.1. - First Quarter 2008) — newritings @ 2:52 pm

MWALIMU
BUILD PEOPLE’S POWER IN THE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION, LACK OF TRANSPARENCY AND UNACCOUNTABILITY

(The views expressed in the newsletter do not necessarily reflect the views of the organisation)

EDITORIAL

This first newsletter of Transparency South Africa takes its name from Africa’s most respected figure, Julius Nyerere (1922 – 1999). The former president of Tanzania was known widely by the name of his former profession, Mwalimu (which means teacher in Swahili). Influenced by his Catholic, socialist and humanist ideas, Nyerere was an incorruptible African leader who lived a life of integrity and sincerity. We know that Julius Nyerere was not without his faults and critics but we have praise for his dedicated pursuit for social justice, self-reliance, knowledge, activism, human dignity and equality for all, and believe that he puts many of today’s leaders to shame. We, however, will not be a mouthpiece of his ideas, but provide a space for those members and allies committed to the vision of a society, where exploitation and oppression, hunger, and abuse of power, where corruption and the lack of accountability is no more. We are in particular concerned at the nexus between corruption (lack of transparency, lack of accountability, mal-governance, etc.) and sustainable development solutions. It means that we will have to grapple with corruption and the myriad inequalities that it engenders and feeds off.

Hassen Lorgat (coordinator and contributor)

Go to Contents of Mwalimu (Vol 1.1. – First Quarter 2008)

Contents

Filed under: Mwalimu (Vol 1.1. - First Quarter 2008) — newritings @ 2:50 pm

· Learning from each other – The interview: Hansjörg Elshorst
· The South African Update
· The UN turns 60: UBUNTU’s Statement
· The South African National Self–Assessment Process (APRM): some reflections
· Heinrich Kieber: Whistleblower of a special type?
· Current Debate – Should NGOs and TI and the movement do consultancy work?
· Resources
· Next actions

Learning from each other – The interview: Hansjörg Elshorst

Filed under: interview,Mwalimu (Vol 1.1. - First Quarter 2008) — newritings @ 1:52 pm

Hassen Lorgat posed these questions to Hansjörg Elshorst during March 2008

In this first interview we talk to one of the founding members of Transparency International (TI), who was member of its Advisory Council until 1997. From 1998 to 2002 he served as Managing Director of TI, and from September 2002 until Oktober 2005 as Chairman of TI Germany. Presently he is Chairman of the Advisory Council of TI Germany and Senior Advisor on Poverty, Development and Corruption in the International Secretariat of TI. Since October 2003, Elshorst teaches at the Potsdam University in the area of International Politics – since 2006 as Honorary Professor.

Prof. Dr. Hansjörg Elshorst was born in 1938 in the Ruhrvalley and raised in Dortmund. He studied German Literature, History and Philosophy and received a PhD in German Literature. Interested in journalism, Elshorst wrote articles during his studies and was afterwards trained as an editor in a regional paper for one year. He then studied and received a MA in Sociology and Economics at Louisiana State University.

From 1967 to 1969 Elshorst taught Sociology at the Catholic University in Santiago del Estero, Argentina. During this time he was strongly involved in the work of community based organisations and NGOs.

After returning to Germany in 1969, Elshorst worked as an Assistant to a SPD-deputy in the Bundestag. In 1974 he was involved in the foundation of the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), which he headed until 1995. 1996-1997 Elshorst joined the World Bank in Washington as Senior Advisor, focusing on the promotion of partnerships with local organisations and other development agencies.

THE INTERVIEW

Learning about our movement. Urgent priorities: Continue the fight against Northern Dominance of NGOs and work with the poor, says Elshorst, one of the founding members of TI

Hassen Lorgat: Tell us a bit more about you and your history in the formation of TI

Hansjörg Elshorst: About myself… I grew old spending most of my energy on public interest orientated international cooperation. Not satisfied with the results I continue a bit on this, offering my experience to the generation in charge. Regarding the formation of TI, I was among the first people promising Peter Eigen concrete contributions to the new initiative: secure political backing in Germany, out of funds from GTZ-consultancy profits, co-finance TI’s preparatory phase and early years. In my own assessment, already in those years my contribution to shaping TI’s structure and institutional strategy was most relevant. This continued during my turn as MD: I contributed to translating the trial and error culture of TI’s early years into a flexible but accountable organisation.

Hassen Lorgat: Given that you are currently retired, what do you think the priorities are for the TI movement now?

Hansjörg Elshorst: Continue to avoid the Northern dominance syndrome so prevalent in many global NGOs. As part of that, don’t imitate the planning and control fancy of large public and private bodies, retain the flexibility to respond to opportunities, among them voluntary engagement. While struggling for funds give highest priority to independence and public interest orientation. Expand working against corruption on political level, using our comparative advantage in this area. Widen our early focus on the giving hand from abroad and also expose private-sector interests in multilateral institutions. As a new priority: discover the poor and their organisations as partners in fighting the corruption that hurts them most.

Hassen Lorgat: As a broad movement – a broad church if you like – what must be the minimum principles we must keep in mind when tackling poverty and inequality?

Hansjörg Elshorst: Corruption increases poverty and inequality. However, fighting corruption does not automatically and always reduce them as a side effect; privatisation may reduce public sector corruption but may increase poverty and inequality. Aid has been challenged to at least do no harm; that could be a minimum but by no means self-understood principle when fighting corruption. In addition, TI should respond with priority to requests from people and institutions mandated and determined to fight poverty and inequality. And TI activists should respond positively to initiatives from within and outside the movement to make poverty and inequality a specific target of TI-tools and innovative work.

Hassen Lorgat: How do we deal with the structural inequalities endemic within capitalism (its way of doing business, over emphasis on competition in sports, life, etc.) ?

Hansjörg Elshorst: Capitalism has also seen phases where its dynamics were turned by countervailing powers to mitigate risks and reduce inequalities. Normally, the state played a crucial role as such a power, often challenged by what was civil society in those times. Relying on self-interest alone turns society into a predatory exercise. If only for self-interest as corruption fighters we should not allow the preachers of such a world in politics, media, universities to go unchallenged. In a world aching under poverty and threatened by conflict and environmental destruction it is unacceptable that huge resources serve nothing but self-interests, as quite frequent for instance in financial markets. TI is expert in where it leads when private gain overtakes responsibility. TI could thus play a role in the growing chorus challenging predatory capitalism.

Hassen Lorgat: What about collaboration with other mass organisations. is it possible and desirable for TI to do, and how do we do it?

Hansjörg Elshorst: It is remarkable that in most parts of the world Unions play such a small role in the fight against corruption. At least in Germany’s widespread corporatist society many other mass associations react the same way. But there are also examples of sections of society being shaken up by scandals. TI should not invest too many of its scarce resources in lobbying the mass organisations. However, it should stand prepared if they show interest or when joint interests can be identified. An example: there are many large civil society organisations fighting poverty in development. Many run into corruption but don’t consider it their role to fight it. That is particularly true when the political level is involved. In a division of labour TI may contribute its experience in fighting corruption and mass organisations may strengthen TI’s clout.

Accounting South Africa briefly

Filed under: Mwalimu (Vol 1.1. - First Quarter 2008) — newritings @ 12:52 pm

The arms deal continues to bedevil political life in South Africa, post Polokwane Conference of the ANC in December 2007. In the ensuing political dynamics, the politics of corruption is widely played out in the courts, impacting heavily within the ruling party.

The president of the ANC Jacob Zuma’s court case/s continue, whilst German newspapers are allegedly looking at the role of President Mbeki, when he was deputy president. The recent National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC agreed to get to the bottom of this all. What this means is difficult to know, but a friend suggested that this may be a matter of whether some persons took kickbacks for themselves (personal enrichment) or whether the ruling party benefitted.

In an interview with the BBCs Fergal Keane, Zuma stated that he was no crook and was fit to lead the country.

This is a snippet of how it went:

KEANE: Ethically and morally are you fit to lead this country?

ZUMA: Absolutely fit. Absolutely fit. I have been fit to fight for the freedom of this country. I have been fit to be in the ANC leadership as that thing happened when I’m already in the ANC leadership and I’m still fit, and I’ve got a better lesson to tell people, don’t commit the same mistake.

KEANE: But this is still a country where the powerful can be held to account. In 2005 Zuma’s financial advisor went to jail for his role in a corrupt arms deal with a foreign company. Now Zuma has been charged with corruption.

A lot of people think you’re a crook.

ZUMA: Is that so? (laugh) Ah huh, I want to see those people and government tell me why they think I’m a crook.

KEANE: Well there’s a whole army of prosecutors clearly think it.

ZUMA: Ah huh, is that so? Oh! Serious.

KEANE: Are you a crook?

ZUMA: Me?! What? I don’t know, unless I must go to the dictionary and learn what a crook is. I’ve never been a crook.

KEANE: Somebody who takes money from other people for corrupt purposes.

ZUMA: Have I ever done so?

KEANE: I’m asking you.

ZUMA: No. I think that’s a mistake you guys make, and I’ve said I currently have two trials, a trial by the media and then trial by court. I’m saying I’m not a crook, I have never been a crook. I will never be a crook.

Meanwhile, Commissioner of Police Jacob Selebi, reportedly a Mbeki supporter, has been charged by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and released from his duties as INTERPOL president. In a statement on 12 January 2008, noted that while “it would be inappropriate for INTERPOL to comment on the ongoing investigation in South Africa, it should be stated that President Selebi has significantly helped the organization and its member countries to enhance security and police co-operation worldwide.”

In the ensuing court appearance, Selebi was read the provisional charges: corruption, accepting bribes worth 1.2m rand ($160,000, £80,000) and defeating the course of justice. Various media agencies, in particular the Mail and Guardian, have written much about the chief of police and his friendship with convicted drug smuggler, Glen Agliotti. Agliotti is also facing a charge fort the murder of a prominent mining magnate.

And comrade Pîkoli, former head of the Prosecuting Authority who was suspended by Mbeki before Selebi was charged, has his matter being adjusticated by Frene Ginwala, respected ANC veteran and former speaker of Parliament. This is also a work in progress with one blogger asking when will it end?

UN turns 60 and we keep pushing for more fundamental reform

Filed under: Mwalimu (Vol 1.1. - First Quarter 2008) — newritings @ 11:51 am

TI-SA signed up to the 60th anniversary UN statement facilitated by the UBUNTU Forum as part of our ongoing work (remember the 2007 signature campaign?).

OPEN LETTER TO THE NEW UN SECRETARY GENERAL: MR. BAN KI-MOON calls for more effective democratic change that will address poverty, and inequality integrally. The Open Letter stresses interalia calls for “move towards a fair world trade system oriented towards sustainable human development, unlike the system that would be brought in by the Doha Round of the WTO, which, following the failure of its last meeting in Hong Kong, is still insisting on a neo-liberal model of world trade that would continue to benefit the rich and powerful of the world only.”

and

* “a worldwide commitment to tackle global warming, in keeping with the principles of the Rio and Johannesburg summits, that would see countries responsible for their own emissions — first and foremost the USA, which must, as a minimum, sign and comply with the Kyoto Protocol — and beginning with rich countries, would develop and implement alternatives to the existing unsustainable trends in production, consumption and energy model.”

To achieve this in part calls for

* “consequently, as the manifesto of the World Campaign for In-depth Reform of the System of International Institutions asserts, there is a need for “a stronger, more democratic UN, placed at the centre of a consistent, democratic, responsible, effective system of international institutions. More specifically, we need to democratise the composition and decision-making procedures of UN bodies and agencies to ensure that they are effective and democratic. And we need to refound and integrate within the UN all other global multilateral organisations (IMF, WB, WTO, etc.).”

For more read

The South African National Self–Assessment Process (APRM): some reflections

Filed under: Mwalimu (Vol 1.1. - First Quarter 2008) — newritings @ 10:51 am

First prepared for Partnership Africa Canada

With its various thematic areas and with all major social forces inside government and outside government playing a role, the APRM provides an opportunity for addressing the internal and external factors that lie behind Africa’s problems. It’s a time for a fundamental rethink after the failed policies of aid, trade, the raping of raw materials and capital migrations, and anti-people mal governance – coups, military rule, multi party and single party misrule, rampant corruption. When civil society organisations seek to get involved in the African Peer Review process as we in South Africa have done, they must be politically aware that Africa has been consciously mal developed over the years through imperialism and, now, globalisation.

I want to propose here some guidelines for effective civil society participation in the APRM. These experiences and reflections are by no means exhaustive but raise some considerations for progressive, mass-based civil society to engage in national processes that have both a national and international impact – real and effective participation that impacts positively on people’s lives.

This opinion piece is a call for critical and principled participation of civil society organisations in a terrain not of our own making. To do this effectively, NGOs in South Africa had to work with other organisations and in our case – SANGOCO – we sought to work closely with the trade union movement, and also with the faith based communities, in particular the South African Council of Churches. We believed that the right to participation is fundamental and avoided the politics of boycott, or that which regards all struggles as preordained failures rather than a process which requires conscious struggle as part of the broader struggle for democracy, justice, against poverty and inequality, and for peace on the continent and in the world. So when our participation in the process was sought, we were armed with the necessity for effective participation.

The APRM process represents an opportunity for collaborative search for solutions hopefully based on a broad consensual understanding of the problems and challenges facing the country. It must be a struggle for a developmental paradigm that puts Africa as both the subject and the object of development. African scholar-activists like Mwalimu Nyerere, Walter Rodney, Babu and others have tried to assist a pan African vision that was not controlled by others but by Africans only. This view of African participation was confirmed in the 1990 African Charter for Popular Participation in Development and Transformation, which stated:

“It is manifestly unacceptable that development and transformation in Africa can proceed without the full participation of its people. It is manifestly unacceptable that the people and their organizations be excluded from the decision-making process. It is manifestly unacceptable that popular participation be seen as anything less than the centrepiece in the struggle to achieve economic and social justice for all. In promoting popular participation, it is necessary to recognize that a new partnership and compact must be forged among all the actors in the process of social, political and economic change. Without this collective commitment, popular participation is neither possible nor capable of producing results. We, therefore, pledge to work together in this new partnership to promote full and effective participation by the masses together with Governments in the recovery and development process in Africa.”

So, the simple advice I can proffer at this stage of the APRM’s development is:

* Participation or non-participation is not just an issue of principle but equally a matter of strategy. To engage in the politics of fundamental change, civil society participation must be informed relying on knowledge and resources, and having a broad vision and open eyes.

* It goes without saying that civil society is broad and diverse and this is both a strength and a weakness. The greatest weakness is the failure to organise this diverse mass into clout that can be leveraged alongside the masses of people seeking fundamental change. Hence our NGO alliances with trade unions, faith based organisations, research–technical expertise NGOs and institutions.

* These groupings got involved and met around a platform/set of principles dealing with understanding of the process, the parties involved and what can and must be won, the so-called non negotiable demands.

* As SANGOCO, we prepared our own submission, which we put on our web, and gave to our members to use when engaging in the four thematic areas (democracy and political governance, economic governance, corporate governance, and socio-economic development) and the subsequent meetings of the National Governing Council, and meetings at the provincial and local levels.

* Despite our best intentions there were weaknesses in the process, some structural to the APRM founding documents and some due to a failure of civil society to consistently participate in meetings tasked with drawing up the National Programme of Action. One point we raised in our strategic document was the control of the process going forward, which we felt must be located in a structure that is relatively autonomous of government and the private sector, and tackle issues of fundamental importance to the country, the sub-region and the continent. Clear budgeting and monitoring measures must be set up to ensure compliance.

* It is important to note that in the Country Self-Assessment Report (CSAR) much of what was asked for did not feature in the report – but that is subject to the continuous struggle that we must engage in. It is clear proof that this struggle is not a sprint (a short run in and around the board room with documents etc.) but a marathon that is long and arduous. Warts and all, the CSAR presents a decent publication from which we can struggle to ensure greater accountability and progress in meeting our challenges.

* Finally, we must be pro-active and seek to get civil society prepared before the APRM show hits town. But to ensure it is not a show, we must get organised. I know that such expertise is difficult to assemble, but it can be acquired and nurtured at home. Government and other parties must provide resources without strings attached for effective participation. These are tall orders, but an urgent necessity if civil society in other African countries is to effectively participate in the process.

* Hassen Lorgat represented SANGOCO (the South African National NGO Coalition) in the South African APRM process

Current Debate: Should NGOs and TI and the movement do consultancy work?

Filed under: Mwalimu (Vol 1.1. - First Quarter 2008) — newritings @ 9:50 am

Should NGOs be consultancies or pitch for consultancy jobs?

This is a hot debate inside the TI movement or maybe more at leadership level. I find the debate of a high standard, and must admit that from its inception the very concept Consultant was seen by many including me as those vultures who were eating off the public sector (circa 1980s). True, whilst large sections of the public sector were in need of serious reform, the attacks were ideological and now the debate has to deal with an evolved, we have to admit that there are some consultants whose values and practices are building of public goods and services, and values… But should a movement like TI itself (or its country chapters) avail bid for this type of work? What is the motivation for such considerations in the first place? (it’s a reality for some and for others it’s to fulfill the mandate…).

I have tried to assert the view that IF, as I assert, the aim of the current debate within the movement on the above must be to LIMIT a creeping privatisation of a social – not for profit movement, then a different set of programmes, processes and institutions must follow.

Others if we must ask, as Sion Assidon (TI Morocco and Board member of the global movement) has asked, the fundamental question: What kind of NGO are we? What is the balance we should have in each country and in TI in general between advocacy and consultancy ?

Sion further argues that we must be commited to building the grassroots and citizens movement rather than spending time on becoming a consultancy: “otherwise, the risk for any chapter (and more for a weak beginning chapter) to become quickly and exclusively a paid consultancy firm is very big.” Practically, he argues, there are tax implications and also: what of the collective intellectual property rights that we build up as a movement voluntarily that will not be used for profit? There are many viewpoints but what do you think?

Resources

Filed under: Mwalimu (Vol 1.1. - First Quarter 2008) — newritings @ 8:50 am

We will use this space to refer you to people and organisations thinking creatively and progressively about fundamental change.

· In its latest edition, Corporatewatch Newsletter 40 features NeoCon City, DEMOCRACY VERSUS THE PEOPLE, about an upcoming which will focus on Iraq’s social and political reconstruction. It argues that the “occupying forces invaded Iraq with high ambitions. Their ‘reconstruction’ of Iraq attempted to build in Iraq, almost from scratch, a version of the liberal capitalism we know in the ‘West’. This ‘reconstruction’ is another example of capitalism’s insatiable need to expand and capture untapped markets and resources. Labelled the creation of ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’, ‘justice’ and ‘peace’ it is, in fact, antithetical to the true meanings of these words.
Read more

· TI Calls on Leading Oil and Gas Companies to Increase Revenue Transparency – A new report from Transparency International, based on data made publicly available by companies, states only a third of those evaluated should be considered high performers in reveue transparency. Shell makes it on top, but ExxonMobil, alongside the China National Petroleum Corporation, are considered low performers.

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