April 30, 2009

Happy May Day

Filed under: testimonies — newritings @ 11:25 am

David Webster shortly before his death

COSATU has many rallies planned nationally with its top leaders speaking. Be there. visit for details.
IN addition, academic and anti-apartheid activist David Webster is to be remembered by the City in the renaming of a park, to take place on the 20th anniversary of his death. According to the city’s website:

On 1 May 1989, Webster was gunned down outside his home in Troyeville by one of apartheid’s killing agents, Ferdi Barnard. A decade later, in 1999, Barnard was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder.

On Friday, 1 May this week, Bloemenhof Park in Troyeville, several blocks from where Webster lived and died, will be renamed David Webster Park. A mosaic plaque by artist Jacob Ramaboya from the suburb’s Spaza Art Gallery, will be placed on a wall in the park.

The plaque reads: “David Webster 1945-1989 Assassinated in Troyeville for his fight against apartheid – lived for justice, peace and friendship”. A head and shoulders mosaic portrait of Webster will also be unveiled.


Remembering Paul Robeson on this May day (May1)

Filed under: interview,testimonies — newritings @ 11:03 am
leading workers in song...1942

leading workers in song...1942

“You Are the Un-Americans, and You Ought to be Ashamed of Yourselves”: Paul Robeson Appears Before HUAC

Many African-American witnesses subpoenaed to testify at the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) hearings in the 1950s were asked to denounce Paul Robeson (1888–1976) in order to obtain future employment. Robeson, an All-American football player and recipient of a Phi Beta Kappa key at Rutgers, received a law degree at Columbia. He became an internationally acclaimed concert performer and actor as well as a persuasive political speaker. In 1949, Robeson was the subject of controversy after newspapers reports of public statements that African Americans would not fight in “an imperialist war.” In 1950, his passport was revoked. Several years later, Robeson refused to sign an affidavit stating that he was not a Communist and initiated an unsuccessful lawsuit. In the following testimony to a HUAC hearing, ostensibly convened to gain information regarding his passport suit, Robeson refused to answer questions concerning his political activities and lectured bigoted Committee members Gordon H. Scherer and Chairman Francis E.Walter about African-American history and civil rights. In 1958, the Supreme Court ruled that a citizen’s right to travel could not be taken away without due process and Robeson’ passport was returned.

Testimony of Paul Robeson before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, June 12, 1956

THE CHAIRMAN: The Committee will be in order. This morning the Committee resumes its series of hearings on the vital issue of the use of American passports as travel documents in furtherance of the objectives of the Communist conspiracy. . . .

Mr. ARENS: Now, during the course of the process in which you were applying for this passport, in July of 1954, were you requested to submit a non-Communist affidavit?

Mr. ROBESON: We had a long discussion—with my counsel, who is in the room, Mr. [Leonard B.] Boudin—with the State Department, about just such an affidavit and I was very precise not only in the application but with the State Department, headed by Mr. Henderson and Mr. McLeod, that under no conditions would I think of signing any such affidavit, that it is a complete contradiction of the rights of American citizens.

Mr. ARENS: Did you comply with the requests?

Mr. ROBESON: I certainly did not and I will not.

Mr. ARENS: Are you now a member of the Communist Party?

Mr. ROBESON: Oh please, please, please.

Mr. SCHERER: Please answer, will you, Mr. Robeson?

Mr. ROBESON: What is the Communist Party? What do you mean by that?

Mr. SCHERER: I ask that you direct the witness to answer the question.

Mr. ROBESON: What do you mean by the Communist Party? As far as I know it is a legal party like the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. Do you mean a party of people who have sacrificed for my people, and for all Americans and workers, that they can live in dignity? Do you mean that party?

Mr. ARENS: Are you now a member of the Communist Party?

Mr. ROBESON: Would you like to come to the ballot box when I vote and take out the ballot and see?

Mr. ARENS: Mr. Chairman, I respectfully suggest that the witness be ordered and directed to answer that question.

THE CHAIRMAN: You are directed to answer the question.

(The witness consulted with his counsel.)

The interview continues in page 2

April 28, 2009

Dem pirates still robbing i

Filed under: opinion article — newritings @ 3:17 pm

Since our last posting on pirates, I must say some of the talk generally seem to talk about the problem more holistically. However, much more is to be done, as Johann Hari writes in The Indendent “Somalia: You Are Being Lied to About Pirates” April 15, 2009. In this piece he outlines that during the years of no state existence in Somalia, the fish of the people has been pillaged, and more, some crooks (my words) have been dumping nuclear waste on its shores. And what is more, no one is paying for it.

I will give you a peep into this article but you will have to read it all. Where? Unfortunately, I thought the only fair thing to do was to refer you to the newspaper that ran the story first, but I, like many others, have found it difficult and I am thus not surprised many bloggers have as reference the website. I would recommend that readers take a more serious look at how media ownership filters the news and that is something that our sister blog has been covering much lately.

In 1991, the government of Somalia – in the Horn of Africa – collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and many of the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country’s food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.

Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: “Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury – you name it.” Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to “dispose” of cheaply. When I asked Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: “Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention.” (empasis added)”

To conclude I repeat: who are the pirates? For an answer look, at the cartoon in an earlier posting.

April 26, 2009

The Revolution will not be televised

Filed under: poetry,some of my favorite things — newritings @ 10:13 am

I write this post whilst listening to BBC radio 4, on stream, about an interview Pieces of a Man, of the great poet Gil Scott-Heron. Threateningly, it says, 4 days left to listen, whereafter one would have to buy or request the podcast.

I read that the poet Lemn Sissay from the UK, ‘travels to New York to meet influential poet, activist, musician, writer and ‘godfather of rap’ Gil Scott-Heron’. The BBC radio 4 sinopsis of the programme reads that ‘Lemn speaks to Gil about his childhood, spent with his feisty grandmother in Tennessee, and his teenage years in New York at the height of the Civil Rights movement. Gil’s adolescence was bookended by the assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.’

Still listening, I now hear Lemm talk about “a little known fact is that Gil’s father was the first Black footballer Glassgow Celtic’s”… and there is a lovely quote from Benjamin Zephania, complimenting him for not only criticising governments but also himself, his own struggles with the drugs and the bottle.

To crown it all I must add my stipent worth to this introduction of “some of my favourite poems” and here I know I am cheating because what Scot does cannot be simply categorised into jazz, blues, poem, prose, philosophy, activismo, etc. but that is for others to contemplate and write on suffice to say that Gil was brought out to South Africa (at different times) by South African Arts Exchange’s Roshnie Moonsammy and I saw them, live…and they were great!

Thus, it will not surprise the reader that the poems I chose for my poetic mood however are: Johannesburg (a song with lyrics by Gil Scott-heron And Brian Jackson), and the Revolution will not be televised. These gems are amongst many, including the title of Lemm’s programme which are cool, hip and you name it, because this man is the pioneer of many genres of the spoken work, which dances with the music that comes from both the head and the heart, and makes the body move.

Gil has recorded (music) and published widely and his own radio programme.

The man

The Revolution will not be televised

You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat
hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.
The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie
Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds
thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, Brother.
There will be no pictures of you and Willie May
pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,
or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance.
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
or report from 29 districts.
The revolution will not be televised.
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being
run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process.
There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy
Wilkens strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and
Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the proper occasion.
Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville
Junction will no longer be so damned relevant, and
women will not care if Dick finally gets down with
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day.
The revolution will not be televised.
There will be no highlights on the eleven o’clock
news and no pictures of hairy armed women
liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose.
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb,
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
Jones, Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth.
The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be right back after a message
about a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat.
The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.

Gil Heron, Black Arrow, dad of Scott-Heron


What’s the word?
Tell me brother, have you heard
from Johannesburg?
What’s the word?
Sister/woman have you heard
from Johannesburg?
They tell me that our brothers over there
are defyin’ the Man
We don’t know for sure because the news we
get is unreliable, man
Well I hate it when the blood starts flowin’
but I’m glad to see resistance growin’
Somebody tell me what’s the word?
Tell me brother, have you heard
from Johannesburg?
They tell me that our brothers over there
refuse to work in the mines,
They may not get the news but they need to know
we’re on their side.
Now sometimes distance brings
but deep in my heart I’m demanding;
Somebody tell me what’s the word?
Sister/woman have you heard
’bout Johannesburg?
I know that their strugglin’ over there
ain’t gonna free me,
but we all need to be strugglin’
if we’re gonna be free
Don’t you wanna be free?

Pieces Of A Man (lyrics)

Here I am, after so many years

Hounded by hatred and trapped by fear
I’m in a box, I’ve got no place to go
If I follow my mind, I know I’ll slaughter my own.

Help me I’m the prisoner, won’t you hear my plea
I need somebody, yeah, to listen to me
I beg you, brothers and sisters, I’m counting on you (yeah).

Black babies in the womb are shackled and bound
Chained by the caveman who keeps beauty down
Smacked on the ass when they’re squalling and wet
Heir to a spineless man who never forgets

Never forgets that he’s a prisoner, can’t you hear my plea
Cause I need somebody, Lord knows, to listen to me
I’m a stranger to my son who wonders why his daddy runs.

On my way to work in the morning when I don’t give a damn
Can’t nobody [x4] see just who in hell I am
Hemmed in by a suit, yes all choked up in a tie
Ain’t no wonder some times near morning I hear my woman cry
She knows her man is a prisoner, won’t you hear my plea
Yeah, cause I need somebody, wooo, to listen to me
My woman she don’t say but she hates to see her man chained this way
Yeah, help me, I’m the prisoner
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m the prisoner

April 23, 2009

Pssst… did you hear that the Pope wore a Palestinian scarf?

Filed under: manifesto,testimonies — newritings @ 9:15 am
pre visit orientation

Pre visit orientation

Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday, the day South Africans voted in their national general elections, 22 April, met in the Vatican with a group of Palestinian Catholics. Nothing unusual about that, you might say, but then they presented him with a gift, the symbol of Palestinian nationalism and solidarity. No, not a gun, but a scarf designed delicately in black and white (See also: In fashion but without a homeland), and many racist blogs are going crazy about it.

These two dozen odd believers from the holy city of Bethlehem were in St. Peter’s Square Rome (amongst thousands others) but by this small gesture, they keep the hopes alive for a homeland for all Palestinians, for those under occupation and those millions in exile.

The Pope will visit Bethlehem amongst other places in May 2009.

PS. The Pope has also come under fire for supporting the anti-racism conference being held in Geneva (Durban 2) this week. The same UN conference against racism and xenophobia where nations supporting Israel walked out of, after Ahmadinejad made comments about Israel and racism.

April 16, 2009

Evo Morales brings Gandhi to life in Bolivia

Filed under: manifesto,opinion article — newritings @ 9:43 pm
president of the people, for the people
president of the people, for the people

Just as the architects of the so called clash of civilisations, departs from high office in and around the White House, non -violence gets some new life in the hood. I am talking of the Bolivian leader Evo Morales who the took the unprecedented step of going on a hunger strike against his own country’s right wing faction of legislators that wanted to deny him and the people (indigenous) their right to a greater say in the political life of the country. Morales’s political party MAS (Movimiento al Socialismo) supported a referendum to give the indigenous people more rights – for the first time – in the former Spanish colony in the US imperialist backyard.

The Morales hunger strike began on 9 April. And only ended on 14 April when the Bolivia’s Congress voted into law the will of the people. It was widely reported that president Morales had earlier condemned the opposition for being “racist, fascist, selfish” because they had refused to ratify the law.

The law permits Morales to stand again for election on December 6, and reserves 14 congressional seats for indigenous candidates and also permits expatriates to vote.

MAS, the Movement for Socialism, the party and movement that Morales leads is most likely to win, the December elections.

The success of the non – violent way I guess works when the full moral weight of the society leans on the side of those who are on the side of justice, whilst an active international world is observes. For all the constitutional and transformation challenges Morales faces which often has been accompanied by violence, this is a radical break to be followed as it has worked before in many other countries and in different contexts. In India, under the leadership for Nehru-Gandhi and the Congress Party, many will argue it played its role in expelling British colonialists.

Mahatma Gandhi has inspired millions in this way of struggle and when I was at school (South Africa) was “fortunate” to be present with my late school friend Vigen Chetty, the funeral of communist, South African Mervy Thandray, influenced by both the radical thinkers like Marx-Engels, Mao, and Gandhi. He was an austere academic, respected, loved and lived the talk, of which words were apparently few but meaningful.

Recently, various people in the subregion, including Bishop Tutu went on a fast and hunger strike in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe. Nevertheless, it is true to say that there are many, mainly on the left, who think that this soft power is for sissies and at best is ineffective against the power of men like Mugabe, or the Israeli military etc. So why does this situation persist? This, I cannot truly answer, but would suggest that the experiences of Morales and Gandhi before him shows that under certain circumstances this power can work.

It is not surprising that the ideas of non violence permeated the radical movement as Gandhi as early as 1906, initiated a campaign of non violence called Satyagraha, to protest against the British government discriminating against Indians using the occasion of the government s recent action against Indian families when it invalidated the Indian Marriage.

It was much later in India where Gandhi, when he returned to India after returning after 21 years, to which a comrade from India joked: ¨we gave you a lawyer, and you sent us a Mahatma.¨

The Gandhi album records this period thus: in 1914 Mohandas Gandhi returns to India at age 45 after 21 years of practicing law in South Africa where he organized a campaign of “passive resistance” to protest his mistreatment by whites for his defense of Asian immigrants. He attracts wide attention in India by conducting a fast –the first of 14 that he will stage as political demonstrations and that will inaugurate the idea of the political fasting

The celebrated salt march against British power in 1930, saw Gandhi walk village by village for 165miles to the Arabian sea in Gujerat, to produce salt from sea water in defiance of a British monopoly on salt production.

In 1932 Gandhi begins a “fast unto death” protesting discrimination against the so called India’s lowest caste “untouchables” (dalits). Some other tactics used include boycotts of British goods, and after six days of fasting wins an agreement on improving the rights and status of Dalits,

So when Morales finally ended his hunger strike, after 5 days, Mahatma Gandhi long dead, killed by a Hindu extremist 6 decades ago, smiled on his and the people of Bolivia, marking a new beginning from the testosterone politics of the region.

April 10, 2009

MWALIMU (Vol 2.1. – First Quarter 2009)

Filed under: Mwalimu (Vol 2.1. - First Quarter 2009) — newritings @ 10:05 pm


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


Elections and morality

This edition sees much happening: elections and a new leader of the AU, Muamar Gaddafi. Very little is known about him and we recommend we read some of his ideas in the Green Book. I found some of his views – writing on Blacks – a bit awkward but have a look.

South African elections are here, and some of the debates are way off suggesting that we are a banana republic. We have problems but that is an insult to a struggling democracy. The unions as a social actor have done some sterling work fighting mismanagement and corruption (SAA), and in solidarity with the peoples of Palestine and Zimbabwe, but there is a few that, as some of the actions against the UNISA chancellor demonstrate, are simply using their power to undermine a person who is or may be aligned to an opposition political party and, in this case, the ANC rival Congress of the People (COPE). If this is the case, it is regrettable as a movement that fights on principled values will be the only one that can be the first line of public interest – national interest defense in a one or maybe two-party dominated democracy.

Zuma letter

For those who are cynical about voting I must say that these rights have been hard fought over at home and wherever poor and working people are, and the corporations and others in league with them have often tried to use public office as an ATM towards easy wealth. It is for this reason that we are focusing on what the parties said about corruption, crime, morality (briefly – you have to read them on their websites). An important document but not fully discussed is Jacob Zuma’s letter on morality (which we reproduce here). I would however make a few pointers to encourage debate thus;

1. This letter from ANC president Jacob Zuma takes a very interesting line. Essentially, Zuma-ANC argues that the root of morality lies in the struggle to improve the lives of people. And, he says, the ANC’s leaders are just human beings with failings who should not be judged by subjective moral standards.

2. The letter is written I believe defensively anticipating opposition on the moral flank where president elect Zuma appears very weak. Not surprising COPE has as his opposition a Methodist priest for president.

3. While the collective goals are novel, there is also the issue of individual morality and our movements have always attracted people of high caliber morally and with great discipline. At the risk of being accused of being old fashioned or hardlined, it is on record that after the Arusha Declaration Nyerere and Tanu demanded a leadership of the party and the government have no ties to capitalism or feudalism, held no shares in any company, nor directorships in any privately owned enterprise. Did not receive two or more salaries, did not own houses which he rents to others, etc.

4. How can we take the letter seriously when all around us, ANC members are resigning (Niehaus) or charged for corruption? Or even when Malema tells us that when you join the ANC the good life begins, you have wine, woman and song. I know he was on a roll but it plays into the phenomenon that now is the time for others to CHOW (eat).

5. Importantly, I think the letter ignores the vitally important task of cutting the link between business and politics. I am surprised that many of the comrades I have worked with in the left and in the unions have let this slip. This challenge is what Theodore Rooseveld, 26th president of the USA who died in 1919, said is the first task of statesmanship. I will let him speak: “To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.”

Have a joyous day of voting because tomorrow the real work begins. Join an organization of like minded people and let us work together for a truly, democratic and accountable democracy.

Hassen Lorgat (coordinator and contributor)


Filed under: Mwalimu (Vol 2.1. - First Quarter 2009) — newritings @ 9:06 pm

· Editorial

· Freedom House: struggling for whose freedom? and with whom?

· Learning from Mwalimu

· The South African Update

· Meet the new T-SA employee

· 2009: Electing the incorruptibles?

· Letter from the President: The moral vision of the ANC

· General Assembly agrees on terms for UN conference on the financial and economic crisis in June

· Resources

Freedom House: struggling for whose freedom? and with whom?

Filed under: Mwalimu (Vol 2.1. - First Quarter 2009) — newritings @ 8:37 pm

In this short essay, I argue that Freedom House (FH) is a partisan organization and not a genuine NGO, and thus their work, at best, must not be used as a first resort, since there are many shortcomings of their vision and resultant scholarship. In addition, progressive organisations advocating for human rights and good governance, amongst them Transparency International, must henceforth stop using these reports. I detail the reasons to support these assertions hereunder.

Hassen Lorgat

For the full essay, go to page 2.

Learning from Mwalimu

Filed under: Mwalimu (Vol 2.1. - First Quarter 2009) — newritings @ 8:15 pm



DAY 1: Monday 13 April 2009

Poem Performance by Prof. Kofi Anyidoho

Nyerere Annual Lecture Part 1 on ‘New Imperialisms’ by Prof. Wole Soyinka

DAY 2: Tuesday 14 April 2009

Nyerere Annual Lecture Part 2 on ‘New Imperialisms’ by Prof. Wole Soyinka

Mwalimu Nyerere Documentary by M-Net

Special Song by Karola Kinasha

Premium Show of Mwalimu: The Legacy of Julius Kambarage Nyerere by ZIFF

DAY 3: Wednesday 15 April 2009

Nkrumah Centenary Lecture: ‘ Beyond His Place, Beyond His Time: Nkrumah’s Heritage in the New Millenium’ by Prof. Kofi Anyidoho

Kwame Nkrumah’s Pan-Africanism – An Interactive Dialogue led by Prof. Joseph Oloka-Onyango

Thinking with Mwalimu – An Interactive Dialogue led by Prof. Issa Shivji

DAY 4: Thursday 16 April 2009

Introducing the Book ‘The African Union and New Strategies for Development in Africa’ edited by Said Adejumobi and Adebayo Olukoshi

Vice Chancellor’s Palaver on ‘Pan-Africanism and Development’ led by Prof. Rwekaza Mukandala

Valedictory by Prof. Adebayo Olukoshi

DAY 5: Friday 17 April 2009

A Day of Academic Reflections: Symposium on the Teaching of History at the University of Dar-es-Salaam (UDSM)



Dear Wanazuoni:

I am very happy to inform you that the plans for the JULIUS NYERERE INTELLECTUAL FESTIVAL WEEK April 13th to 17th, 2009 have now been finalised. I am attaching the programme. We are expecting some 35 guests from outside, including, hopefully, Frantz Fanon’s son, Olivier, and Kwame Nkrumah’s son, Gamal. Professor Wole Soyinka will deliver the inaugural Nyerere Annual Lectures, 2009. A strong delegation from our pan-African research organisation CODESRIA is expected. We are also expecting colleagues from Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa. There will be a series of inter-active dialogues on Mwalimu, Nkrumah and on issues pertaining to continental unity and development. The kaulimbiu of the Week is: binadamu wote ni sawa, Afrika ni Moja. Afrika Must Unite.

All the events are open to the public to attend and participate. I would personally like wanazuoni to be in the forefront to reflect on and discuss our continent. This is a great opportunity for us to begin to look for alternatives, to say bye-bye to the silly TINA [there is no alternative] syndrome of Margaret Thatcher. Please come in great numbers, participate fully and feel the force of the collective. Preceding the Week, we invite you to generate a big debate on pan-Africanism – in newspapers, in Radio and TV talk shows, in workshops and at busstops!. If you have anything written which you would like to place in newspapers or if you want to be part of a talk show, please liaise with BASHIRU ALLY, the convenor of the publicity sub-committee who would help to place your piece in newspapers or find you a slot in a talk show.

Issa G. Shivji
Mwalimu Nyerere Professor of Pan-African Studies
University of Dar es Salaam
P. O. Box 35091
Dar es Salaam – Tanzania
Tel: 255-(0)22 – 2410 763
Cell: 255 (0) 754 475 372
Res. 255-(0)22-2118 620

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