March 2, 2011

Air-brushing South African struggle history?

Filed under: opinion article — newritings @ 8:28 pm

The conscious forgetting of those who helped make the struggle for a more just and democratic South Africa, has been the proverbial elephant in the game park of our politics. The big five will include celebrating Madiba, and praying that he lives forever. Yet we choose to forget some of those close to him (women especially) and, worse, those in the struggle that had different approaches, values and inspirations to him and the ruling ANC. But last night some attempt was made to put an end to the silence. Professor Bonner, Wits Professor,and former free-lance educator with FOSATU (Federation of South African Trade Unions), lambasted those who were in effect “air-brushing our struggle history.”

Bonner was speaking on Thursday evening, 17 February 2011, at the Museum Africa at the launch of The Future is in the hands of the Workers, A History of Fosatu, by Michele Friedman, part of the Wits University’s Historical Papers Labour Archive Project. His sentiments, similar to the Forward written for the book, are simple: “in one sense,” he writes, “FOSATU itself is now history. In another sense, however, it is not, since it has been almost wholly forgotten by trade unionists, political activists and the wider South African public. This may partly be due to the fact that is many achievements were accomplished in the short span of six years, and have in a sense been absorbed into COSATU. Beyond that, however, has been the active down-playing of the role of this internal struggle in the ANC’s version of the road to freedom. With the exception of the exhibition from which this book emerged, the 30th anniversary of the forming of FOSATU was totally un-commemorated or remarked upon. Much of the same was true of the 25th anniversary of the UDF a few years before. The compilers of this book, hope that the story it tells will help to redress this pervasive neglect.”

The opinion held by many is that in the early years of our democracy, the exiles or the those who were involved in the underground struggle, have “squeezed out” – in many ways – the internal struggle people. This has not been just for government positions, but also displayed its culture of doing politics, in particular its commitment to mass participatory democracy, non racism, etc. as championed by the trade unions, the UDF, and other formations like the South African Council on Sport (SACOS), by replacing it with elitist politics, managerialism and the dominant re-racialising project of today. Bonner spoke of the so-called ‘black on black violence’ which weakened most civil society formations outside the unions, which grew resilient and in the midst of the Emergencies, led to the formation of COSATU.

The 1990’s ideological set back for the left by market way of doing and thinking, however, was not solely at the realm of ideas. The squeeze was financial as well. We can all recall the former GS of COSATU, deployed to the ANC in the first non racial government, calling on foreign governments to shift funding from CSOs to a non racial democratic government. This was understandable, as civil society organisations, especially the so-called service delivery NGOs, are not meant as competitor to an inclusive, democratic and accountable government. However, there is a tension in the roles of governments, especially those whose economies and budgets are not geared to genuine sustainable development, like the one the ANC inherited. Over the years, the economic crisis has added to the difficulties of a transformation which would meet basic needs of our people, overcoming the crass inequalities of wealth and power, and building caring communities where violence against women, hunger, and poverty is no more. These complex issues of necessity require consent, true, but at the same time allowing for serious debate and dissension. Killing of much needed resources for critical campaigning CSOs committed to human rights weakened our body politic. Those social movements (new or old) and others proposing alternative development paths and ways of doing politics (outside the dominant Congress Movement), were effected by this squeeze, which continues to this day. Today, some complain of repression by the state’s repressive agencies when they protest in the shack dwellers movements or against privatisation or evictions.

But how widespread are these concerns?

Before exploring this, let me point out that a separate piece has yet to be written on how women, of all political persuasions, have been written out of history at home and elsewhere. Suffice to say that I am pleased and baffled when I pass the various hospitals in Gauteng, only to see that they – the caring professions – commemorate women. From Helen Joseph (old JG Strijdom) down via Corrie, where Rahima Moosa (Old Coronation Hospital for women and children) is located. Some activists I know complain and ask what must other political parties/ tendencies/ movements do to be immortalized by the heritage and road agencies? I will take this up later with regards to Dr Abu Asvat.


Start with Mbeki. It looks like ¨this administration¨ (ANC) has difficulty remembering and truly recognizing the good, the bad and the ugly of the man and his legacy. On official gatherings, when patriotism is called for, some of our leaders hark to a period when Madiba was president, and jump right back into the present Zuma led administration. All the bad of the past decade is placed on the shoulders of only one man, with little discussion of the complicity of the party (ANC) and its Alliance partners under the rule of Mbeki. Did not  the ANC and the Alliance Partners agree in all those NEC meetings on the Mbeki programmes, which government implemented? Was our beloved Madiba bullied into saying that GEAR was non negotiable, to the chagrin of a Shilowa, then General Secretary of COSATU?


A friend from Barcelona who recently visited the Apartheid Museum, ironically after she received from us a copy of Mandela for Beginners by us, to assist her in her orientation, came back with a simple concern: “there is almost nothing or very little about Robert Sobukwe. Why?,” she asked.


The various currents of the Black Consciousness movement complain too, about being written out of history. Let me take the case of the Abu Asvat Institute, who have been campaigning to have the road that links Soweto and Lenasia (Link Road) renamed after the late doctor murdered by two gunmen on 27 January 1989. This Lenasia resident was killed while working at his surgery in Rockville, Soweto. The Institute believes that the link road if renamed Abu Asvat Boulevard will help literally build bridges, and recognize the contribution of a man who lived in both communities and is a true symbol of nation building. Their efforts have apparently been resisted by the local branch of the ANC.


Many, who played non racial sports, lament why the South African Council of Sport is rarely mentioned today in many of our discourses on sport. Hassan Howa and his other comrades worked under the organizing slogan: There can be No Normal Sport in an Abnormal Society, and working with SANROC and the Anti Apartheid Movement, internationally, effectively killed-off racist sport. That some of its key leaders were from the Unity Movement may have something to do with it, but why the silence and  absence from debates even in the media and talk shows?

In some cases we can suggest that poor or inapt record keeping (archiving) is to blame, but I do not think so. It has more to do with political will and selective memory syndrome where close friends and party comrades in the right faction or tendency are recognized. Let me go back to the discussion about the trade union movement whose record keeping like those of our sports movement is or was impeccable.

Two punches for the union movement

There appears to be a political carelessness, and a lack of attention to detail in as far as paying a debt and respect to those who built the movement. I have a feeling that some of the connected ex-leaders (maybe active still in some Alliance structure) will be remembered, because it is also convenient as it is easy…but who will remember Baba K, Petrus Pheko and others (including our unionist-returned astrophysicist Dr Bernie Fanaroff) who taught many of us, basic  organizing skills in the Metal and Allied Workers Union which became NUMSA? Asking some comrades at the book launch about these organizers, I was told that Baba K is back in Swaziland, some 90 odd years now. Is he on a pension? Did our former union, and COSATU at large, try to ensure that he and those like him get a struggle pension? Or is and other former unionists on union pensions ?

My second point is that we have inherited a culture of politics that believes the oft stated tradition of magnanimity towards politics opponents – adversaries outside and inside our parties. I will illustrate this by talking of the ANC and the unions and in particular, two of the unions I used to work for, NUMSA and COSATU.

In the case of unions, simply put, they do not know how to separate historical contributions of comrades with the later political choices that some of their leaders made. The cases are numerous – in the case of NUMSA, they removed the name of Moses Mayekiso whom they had named the building after, and in the case of SADTU, a researcher recently told me that the archives of the Educators Voice, that I worked on, under the leadership of Willy Madisha (and Solly Mabusela ex-Assistant General Secretary, and to a lesser extent ex- General Secretary Thulas Nxesi), are no longer available to the members, public and researchers. It begs the question:How does COSATU, and by implication the whole union movement, FEDUSA, NACTU etc  deal with the memory or legacy issues of those who have contributed but fell out with the current leadership? Many of us remember the strong leadership provided by Mbazima Shilowa, or Sam as he was called, during his stint as General Secretary, famously lambasting GEAR, when it was hastily introduced, but later defending it (as ANC premier in Gauteng). The same question must be asked about how the ANC views UDF stalwarts Lekota, Shilowa in the failed marriage. Quislings? Cockroaches, etc. I hear some saying; how history records them will be different, but the parties and unions cannot simply whitewash, airbrush or whatever, those who differed, and even paid the price for their presumed bad choices.

We have a long way to go towards burying Stalin and his legacy if we want a truer reflection of our history of struggle. For those who do not know that: airbrushing people out of history effectively, in both graphic and through other means, is not the domain of socialist – communist countries, but it was Stalin who appeared to have perfected the art. A cursory glance at various websites will attest how, for instance, one celebrated photo of Lenin giving his famous speech to Soviet fighters in Moscow (5 May, 1920), where both Leon Trotsky and Lev Kemenev were also photographed in the front, was later altered, excluding both former comrades from the picture.

In other pictures, a group of people were removed after they fell out of favour or killed, leaving only the supreme leader in the picture. This is not what we want if we are to learn from history. Only the truth will free us, lies and falsifications have a limited shelf-life.

POSTSCRIPT (added on March 18, 2011) – It reminds me so much of Brecht’s celebrated poem, a worker reading history which was so loved by activists – some amongst those who choose to forget where they came from. For those who do not know the poem, it opens with…

“Who built the seven gates of Thebes?
The books are filled with names of kings.
Was it the kings who hauled the craggy blocks of stone?”

and ends with…

“Frederick the Greek triumphed in the Seven Years War.
Who triumphed with him?


Each page a victory
At whose expense the victory ball?
Every ten years a great man,
Who paid the piper?

So many particulars.
So many questions.”


January 7, 2011

why Wikileaks must matter to all activists

Filed under: opinion article — newritings @ 7:12 pm

The other day, I looked out for what Transparency International was saying officially about Wikileaks, and was not surprised. I found nothing.
I did look wider on the net and found Transparency Russia begging for Wikileaks to reveal something about their country…but truly speaking I l have lamented the paucity of debate and any real interest in some parts of the world. Where there has been some discussion, it has been about what can be called nitpicking or the fall-outs about the exposures, the lies and half truths of so called US intelligence. I think what Wikileaks signifies is a far greater problem, we have less control over our own lives, and states and governments have amassed too much information about peoples, individuals and their organizations. Little wonder corporations like Mastercard and Amazon, can at wink and a nod, jump sky high to undermine a civil society organization like Wikileaks when the US government says so. How different is this from Google buckling to China to control the internet? Where are those groups now that protested Google’s actions? Why are we not launching any campaigns against Mastercard and Amazon?

bradley and julian

I also checked out South African newspapers and found them lacking in coverage on what WIkileaks has to offer. Why? Is it the tabloidization of our papers? Or is it the fear of US or other governmental retaliation?
For now I think we must talk about solidarity with WIkleaks, Julian Assange and many other activists. In this regards I want us to support on particular US soldier who really needs our support. He has mine. This young man must be protected by the Geneva conventions as he was a combatant in a war, real and with wider moral implications: a war of truth and justice against greed, and injustice. He is truly a prisoner of conscience. I really hope that civil society groups mobiise around people like young Bradley Manning, because we if do not fight to keep our space open, the ruling classes will close in on us, as they are doing already. justice in on our side, but we must organise to ensure that the people win back our freedoms that have been increasingly privatised…This is what one journal wrote about him:The 22 year-old U.S. Army Private accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks has never been convicted of that crime, and yet he has spent seven months in solitary confinement under horrific conditions.
Manning has spent the last five months detained at the U.S. Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia—before that he spent two months in a military jail in Kuwait, all the while facing conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and even torture. Manning was charged with the unauthorized use and disclosure of U.S. classified information.¨
Now, I want to end by listing some discussions that have taken place over the last few weeks on an alternative media list.

a) The first article was by Mark Weinberg of the Right to Know Campaign and moderator of the group.
Sent: 13 December 2010 07:21 AM
Subject: [Alternative Media] On Wikileaks and wars

Right2Know Statement: what Wikileaks teaches us about SA’s Secrecy Bill
Thursday, 09 December 2010 14:34
Make fewer secrets, less often…
The leaking of secret diplomatic correspondence by Wikileaks serves as a warning to all who wish to hide information from the public. As the South African Parliament considers passing the draconian Protection of Information Bill (POIB), they should stop and consider the lesson of Wikileaks: Technological developments with a democratic impulse have forever undermined the ability of states to keep secrets as they have in the past
The keeping of secrets is a precarious business requiring increasing human and financial resources. The POIB will have significant financial implications for all spheres of government that the current Bill does not cater for.
As the Right2Know Campaign fights the battle against the Secrecy Bill that would shroud our society in darkness, we take note of another Wikileaks lesson: Governments which mire themselves in secrecy can quickly become enemies to their own people. There can be no doubt that publishing much of the information on Wikileaks is in the public interest even if it is not in the interests of governments. It is for this reason that we continue to demand that the scope and definitions of South Africa ‘s Secrecy Bill must be narrow in their remit.
The US government and their allies have attempted to frame these leaks as a criminal act. The Right2Know Campaign firmly believes that an institution like Wikileaks is an inevitable response to a system that is overcome by dark and embarrassing secrets. If governments wish to condemn Wikileaks to oblivion, they can best do so by making fewer secrets, less often. In short, they can adopt the sort of open and transparent governance demanded by the South African constitution.
The Right2Know Campaign draws inspiration from the courage and dedication of the team that built and maintains the Wikileaks service. As long as there are people like them committed to exposing the wrongdoing of governments and businesses, no securocratic laws can stop the free flow of information.

Mark Weinberg

Mobile: +27 74 1036704
Tel: +27 21 447 5770
Fax: +27 21 447 5884

B) This was then followed by an email from me, calling for some action in support of wikileaks
Sent: Monday, December 13, 2010 6:52 PM
To: mark weinberg; Mashilo M. Boloka
Subject: Re: [Alternative Media] On Wikileaks and wars and the need for some protest

Hi all

I really think we must have a small demonstration to show our support for the struggles waged on our behalf globally as exemplified by the attacks on wikileaks.
i heard there were protests in many capitals but joburg was not mentioned. if not a demo, then a simple statement of solidarity

I hope I have not missed any emails where this was suggested.

In solidarity

Hassen Lorgat

C. Two emails later follow asking for the relevance of the wikileaks struggle to the freedom of expression struggles in South Africa. They are dated 15 December, and read thus:
From: [] On Behalf Of A Arko-Cobbah
Sent: miércoles, 15 de diciembre de 2010 07:05 a.m.
Subject: Fwd: RE: [Alternative Media] On Wikileaks and wars and the need for some protest

I tend to agree with you. Are we saying that if one violates the law by leaking and distributing, world-wide, classified documents, possibly, obtained through espionage to court, perhaps, cheap popularity, do we have to clap for him? I hope you see this to be entirely different from our fight against media restrictions being contemplated by our government.

>>> “Phelisa Nkomo” 12/14/2010 3:17 AM >>>
Dear Colleagues,
At the risk of sounding ignorant, why should we support this? I would rather appear ignorant than pretend to understand. How does this undermines media freedom? Please help

Ms Phelisa Nkomo
National Advocacy Programme Manager
Black Sash
Tel 021 686 6952
Mobile 072 613 3577
No 3 Caledonian Str,
Mowbray, Cape Town
Making Human Rights Real

D, Ann Eveleth is a wide ranging reply to Arko-Cobbah and Phelisa, touches on US hegemony and role of the media and civil society organizations:
. From: Ann Eveleth
To: A Arko-Cobbah ;
Sent: Wed, December 15, 2010 5:38:20 PM
Subject: RE: RE: [Alternative Media] On Wikileaks and wars and the need for some protest
Dear Phelisa, Albert and others in SA’s “alternative” media community,
Firstly, I thought you might find this link interesting, and maybe it will answer some of your questions about “why”, Phelisa.
Secondly, in answer to your question Albert: “Are we saying that if one violates the law by leaking and distributing, world-wide, classified documents, possibly, obtained through espionage to court, perhaps, cheap popularity, do we have to clap for him?”
1) Which laws have Wikileaks violated? Even the entire U$ InJustice Department is still scratching its head after 2 weeks trying to find a law they can use to charge Assange with violating (and I want to separate the question of Wikileaks from the other charges of sexual misconduct which have not even yet been brought against Assange in Sweden, of which I am personally very suspicious there is a strong link to U$ efforts to get hold of him, but which none of us can know until that matter plays out). There is a basic principle in law that if a reasonable person could not have known that such a law existed banning their actions, they could not be held accountable for breaking it. While ignorance of the law is not by itself a defence, there has to be a limitation on this to the extent that if even an entire department of government cannot find such a law, no ordinary person can be expected to know about said law.

2) It is the first and most important job of “journalists” to uncover and expose injustices that the powerful seek to hide from the rest of us. Real journalism has a long-forgotten history of seeking out such information as the powerful governments and corporations would like to remain hidden. Perhaps it is because we have been forced to lower our expectations of journalism so far, for so long, that most of us have forgotten that this real journalism once existed. To suggest that journalists are bound to obey the dictates of the powerful when they claim a particular piece of information is “classified”, and to respect such “classification” is to define the role of journalists in a highly constrained role as mere public relations puppets of the elite. That IS, in fact, what most journalist today DO, but this does not mean that it has anything to do with journalism.

3) What is “Espionage”, except the failure of a person so convicted to obey the dictates of narrow nationalist “patriotism”, or the mandate to see the protection of the interests of one nationally defined set of elites against other peoples in the world as the highest principle, overriding questions of justice and humanity. From everything I have seen, there is little chance the U$ government will succeed in convicting Assange, an Australian citizen, with failure to obey Amerikkkan patriotism. (Despite the calls for assassination, execution, etc such intellectual scions as Sarah Palin, who have castigated him as being “Un-American”, lol!) They may, however, succeed in convicting U$ Army Private Bradley Manning, who is alleged to have copied the material from military servers, with espionage. But there are 2 questions involved in even this possibility – the first, yes, as a member of the U$ security forces, he was legally responsible to the notion that he should be so patriotic as to not share the information. The second, however, is the question of justice – there are many, many, many members of the US armed forced who have been drawn into the illegal U$ occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan who have developed outrage over being used by their government for such actions – there are entire organisations of them now, like Veterans Against the Wars, etc. In rejecting these unjust actions, they have chosen to align themselves to a greater humanity beyond mere patriotism to the U$. If Manning’s actions prove to have been so inspired, should the response of those who seek justice in the world be to condemn him, or to celebrate his courage? Put another way, should those few white SAfricans who resisted conscription into the apartheid army be considered traitors, or heroes?

4) Is Wikileaks as an organisation, seeking mere “cheap popularity”? Is Assange? Who knows? I am personally so fundamentally opposed to individuals seeking their own “Coca Cola Pop Star” status by feeding off (and consuming) the energy of those battling the system that I could say it has come to redefine my beliefs about what change is/is not possible through our struggles in response to that prominent challenge, and I certainly watch Assange as an individual with scepticism simply for the fact that he has gained this sort of celebrity status. BUT, I also know that sometimes people do gain this kind of status not because they have sought it, but simply because what they are actually DOING has propelled them onto the historical stage at a particular moment, in the course of battle. I reckon it will be some time before we have enough evidence to truly judge Assange’s character in light of this question. But, this is NOT about Assange, nor any other single individual. It is about Wikileaks, and about journalism, and about imperialism, and about “official secrets”, and about Internet Freedom. What we do know is that
a) Wikileaks has provided the world with an unprecedented glimpse into the world of U$ diplomacy/spying operations around the world, following on earlier provisions of vast amounts of information about current, highly controversial, U$ military occupations;
b) by doing so through the internet, Wikileaks has opened new possibilities for the encouragement of Whistleblowers (these are the good guys who see injustice and want it to be known) to know that their information can get out, even if the mainstream corporate media outlets (ie, those who are NOT “alternative” media) refuse to publish,
c) Wikileaks has reinvigorated the very idea that real journalism – ie, digging for the truth and getting it out even if it will not help one’s career among the elites – can still, or possibly once again, exist; d) Wikileaks has demonstrated that the internet offers more and more of us who are not part of the elite power structures, the chance to engage in the wide dissemination of information;
e) Wikileaks has inadvertently cast a huge spotlight on the way this new medium of information sharing is indeed still controlled by these very corporate interests that the idea of “alternative media” seeks to circumvent;
f) the current “cyberwar” related to this last exposure has now put the question to all of us who are concerned with questions of freedom of expression (and not the narrow protection of elite journalism) as to how will we respond to this new form of corporate domination now, and into the future? Because if we do not respond NOW, it will likely be too late very soon, and we will have played our part in meekly accepting that access to information into the coming CENTURIES will be controlled by corporate entities that will never be subject to democratic accountability.

5) Albert: “I hope you see this to be entirely different from our fight against media restrictions being contemplated by our government.” ???? If you think having the SA Govt control your access to information is a bad thing, at least you can potentially vote them out of office (or find other ways to get them out). If you let these political questions of what can and cannot be published be settled by the likes of Amazon, Paypal, Microsoft, Apple, Halliburton.well, then I am not sure what you actually mean by “alternative” media? And let’s not forget that behind these corporate controllers of the so-called “information superhighway” right now stands the U$ government. So are you saying “let’s protect our turf from control by the SA Govt, but let the U$ government and its corporate sponsors make all the decisions for us about what we can and cannot publish? Not to mention how this has even been extended into a question of controlling what people can and cannot READ, with all those who work for the U$ government in its various departments, and even university students, being warned that they may lose and/or not get jobs if they are found to have read or discussed the wikileaks material in the privacy of their own homes. If you are not worried about that, I am worried about what it would take for you to be worried…
In struggle,
Ann Eveleth

F) on the 17 December I reply thus: >>> hassen lorgat 12/17/2010 10:46 AM >>>
I think the comrade Evelyn hit the nail on the head and I thank her for contributing. There are many reasons for supporting WIkiLeaks namely
a) Governments have far too many secrets which they keep away from us, the people who elected them. I am not surprised that many governments led by the only global super power are truly pissed off because they indiscreet comments made in the shadows have been exposed. And it must be exposed if our votes, and democracies are to hold any sway.
b) some governments – imperial powers like the world?s only superpower the USA has way too much power and information on other countries and their own citizens. how do you think they got it? throught rule of law or asking nicely? think again, bribery, corruption, force, torture all. National media must have an agenda that takes people (at the centre of development, and in our case Africa and South Africa)As a brief aside I argued in response to cde Cronin?(No left cover needed) that when we have repressive media laws and practices within our nation state (whatever is left of it) it merely empowers external media agencies. I said that ?One unintended consequence of the bill, if it goes through, will be that media agencies with global links will run exposés of our body politic and thus the likes of the BBC, will once again be seen as authoritative, as the onerous obligations placed on national journalists will not apply to someone far away receiving confidential information.? this brings me to my third point
c) That media and media is globally owned and controlled. The Wiki projects and philosophies are aimed at empowering activists and world citizens to fight back and have real voice.
d) we must then see Wikileaks as a whistleblower, leaking, or making transparent what the powerful are saying about others (friends and foe alike) to maintain their hold of power. Ann Eveleth is correct to say, that these Leaks must encourage other whistleblowers (who by the way in SA have had a torrid time, which will be made worse by restrictive media laws and actions by the powerful on cartoonists , writers, and ordinary folk who want to keep those in power on their toes. THis power, that is being exposed is the same POWER that maintains and sustains poverty and inequality. It is our task to use information, political organising and other organisational skills to fight for a more just society, here and internationally.

in solidarity

The cables are believed to include withering US assessments of Mr Brown’s personality and prospects of staying in power.
They may also show the low regard of the White House for Britain’s ‘special relationship’ with America. Nor does David Cameron escape from criticism.
Mr Mandela, who stepped down as President in 1999, condemned George Bush over the Iraq War, suggesting the US President had ignored the United Nations’ calls for restraint because the then Secretary-General Kofi Annan was black.
He also called Tony Blair the ‘foreign minister of the United States’ for supporting Mr Bush over Iraq.

Read more:

G) on the same day this reply is received from Arko-Cobbah:
From: A Arko-Cobbah
Sent: Fri, December 17, 2010 1:55:36 PM
Subject: Fwd: Re: RE: [Alternative Media] On Wikileaks and wars and the need for some protest
Eveleth, Hassen etc.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not against Wikileads per se. My concern is that there are certain leaks, which if not handled with care, especially, with regard to the timing of their leaks, can do more harm than good. A typical example is the comment made by our International Affairs minister about ” the crazy old man”. Whereas one can concede that to be an apt description of Comrade (is it Foe?) Mugabe, the entire world, led by South Africa, is literally pleading with the crazy old man to relinquish power because of the so many years of adversity that Zimbabwe has faced. He is the problem, arguably, one may say. It is also known that there is nothing the world can do to free Zimbabwe from his grips apart from diplomacy. Any other option will worsen the situation. Imagine South Africa going back to the crazy old man to plead for sanity to prevail after styling him crazy. Diplomacy, by definition, means skills and tact in dealing with people which, by implication, may even include manipulation and… The world was able to get Charles Taylor to relinquish power had he not been made to believe that he would be protected. The Prime Minister of Zim is on record of assuring the crazy old man of exit package, including being free from persecution for human rights abuses, if he would relinquish power. I wonder how South Africa will approach the crazy old man to plead with him again. Meanwhile the people of Zim keep on suffering, perhaps, until the world sing Mugabe’s Requiem and no one knows when. Much as we enjoy reading those leaks (and I enjoy them so much) as they ridicule America’s hegemonic ambitions, we should also be wary as to the harm they may cause in terms of human suffering and diplomacy. Every student of Rights to Access of Information legislation knows that not “every” information should be put in the public domain, at least, not at the inopportune time. That is my stance! Who ever said democracy is not complicated?

H) O n 21 December, a quiet activist time in SA, I reply to the group pointing out interalia how El Pais in Spain is dedicating pages to the Leaks whilst SA papers are scant in comparison:

—– Forwarded Message —-
From: hassen lorgat
To: A Arko-Cobbah ;
Sent: Tue, December 21, 2010 4:05:09 PM
Subject: [Alternative Media] On Wikileaks…our media are they interested?
I think Prof S Zunes (WikiLeaks Cables on Western Sahara Show Role of Ideology in State Department, makes some good points regarding Wikileaks in the above story. for one, these are not surprising, for scholars of struggle, and those participating in them, and they not necessarily correct. Importantly, he argues that ¨Over the years, as part of my academic research, I have spent many hours at the National Archives poring over diplomatic cables of the kind recently released by WikiLeaks. The only difference is that rather than being released after a 30+ year waiting period — when the principals involved are presumably dead or in retirement and the countries in question have very different governments in power — the WikiLeaks are a lot more recent, more relevant and, in some cases, more embarrassing as a result.¨

The question for me, is to see how we use the current information for our struggles, learning and organising but equally importantly making sure that governments do not have too much information on people, individuals and groups.

Secondly, I want to know why are media are not covering these exposures, fully. El Pais, dedicates at least 5 of its front pages to the dominance of the USA and its attempts at keeping its global influence by hook or by crook. If we contrast this with our media, how much coverages do we get? about whom, our neighbours or what is says about Malema, Madiba etc. There is more to the leaks than that. THe other day 20 Dec, the said paper had a leak about a Mossad chief Amos Yadlin, saying that ¨we will be happy if Hamas takes Gaza¨, which coincided with government views to treat Gaza as a hostile territory. That was 2007. It begs the question are we interested? is our media interested? are they covering up or not covering?
Hassen Lorgat

August 7, 2010

No left cover needed, comrade Jeremy

Filed under: opinion article — newritings @ 1:21 pm

(most of text last week after cde Cronin’s piece came in The Times)

just cronin
empowering voice

The articles by comrade Jeremy Cronin supporting the need for an independent media tribunal is giving coverage for an idea and an institution that may undermine the very principles I know Jeremy subscribes to. In this regard, he is providing left cover, a sugary pill for those who may genuinely want to undermine democracy and public accountability.

The need for an independent media tribunal resurfaced with much energy after a number of revelations about the lifestyles of particularly elected leaders in cabinet and, more generally, in government. In an interesting encounter, the General Secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions Zwelinzima Vavi, relying on the media exposés by in particular the Mail and Guardian, dared two cabinet ministers to sue him, if they believe he was wrong. The two in question are Minister of Communications Simphiwe Nyanda and Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Sicelo Shiceko. Nyanda has been dogged by allegations of tender rigging, whilst Shiceko was inter alia accused of fiddling with his CV, and relating to staff in a manner not deemed to be respectful.

Every week we have been inundated with news of the misdemeanours, and in some cases abuse of power, of some persons in high office on their own or in an unholy alliance with corporations, national and international. Often the information has been passed on to the media by those with an agenda and/or a whistle-blower with genuine public interest at heart. Whatever the case may be, the public generally has been served by getting beyond the smoke or cloud and we have, at the end of the day, dealt with the real issues. Politicians and those power holders in the private sector must be held to account.

The proponents of a so-called media tribunal do not recognise these discussions as being in the public interest, and one can only surmise that these proposed less light will increase public accountability. I beg to differ: I fear that any attempt to stop activism resulting in diminishing the struggle for greater transparency and accountability will be bad for our democracy.

In my work as an activist in civil society (trade unions and NGOs), I have found leaders of some corporations as unscrupulous as some politicians when it comes to protecting their brand / their corporations. They do this not only through their ownership of some media agencies but also through their network and connections, their power to seduce, bribe and threaten – when appropriate. I have had occasion to take various media agencies both so called public (the SABC) and even the Sunday Times to the Broadcasting complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) and the Press Ombuds Office respectively. My engagement with the BCCSA has proven to be more problematic, and it may have to do with the fact that it is too close to the media players in that sector – the National Association of Broadcasters -, despite what it says on its website:

“Although the NAB provides the funds for the BCCSA, the BCCSA is, as a body corporate, entirely independent from the NAB.”

My experience with the latter, whilst it can be improved, was more interesting, as the Sunday Times was forced to apologise to the trade unions in a matter (which took months) where I believed public sector unions were unfairly portrayed if not maligned.

As you can see the issue for me is more complex: the SABC cannot remain praise singers of the government of the day and is yet to transform itself from being a state broadcaster into a truly public broadcaster. The struggle for media freedom, freedom of expression must involve us all: it is too important to be left to transforming, as important as it is, the print media. It must involve the SABC, and other broadcasters, the users of the services and government.

The private ownership and control of media remain largely unreformed, whilst the SABC has gone back, in some cases, to old familiar practices learned decades ago. It is also true that the media coverage of the unelected elites (viz private sector and celebrities) is far from critical, but hopefully the introduction of The New Age which will be aligned to the ruling party. It is my hope that they will, whilst praising the achievements of the government and the ruling party, spent some time to expose corporate greed and corruption. When they do this, they will invariably find that some comrades and ex Comrades will have to be there. How will they be covered is a matter to be seen; as we wait to see how former president Mbeki will be covered.

So when comrade Jeremy Cronin speaks of the orgiastic coverage by print media of COPE, he forgets that some of these very editors in some elections endorsed the ruling party, which was merely accepted with thanks. This included the editor of Business Day.

If the political motivations for the left for an independent Media tribunal, are couched in the language of diversifying ownership, enhancing the voices of the poor and marginalised voices, etc. – it will not happen. Such a tribunal will merely serve to once again give voice to the already powerful and empowered. What we need is more independent, quality journalism, a diversity of voices, and an active and critically engaged population.

It has been pointed out by many that the current proposals for an independent tribunal will lead to self censorship as well as to less accountability. The elites, both in government and in the private sector, must be held to account. So too must many of our institutions and organisations such as our government departments and institutions, the print media, our football associations, our political parties, our NGOs, and our SABC which has the greatest reach to our people. Sadly, the opposite will be guaranteed if the bill as it is goes through as is.what seems to bother many people that I speak to and work with, is that there is a lessening of the democratic space inside and outside many political parties, including the ruling party. This is clearly impacting on service delivery, and the further democratisation of our society. In addition, the Scorpions-like very public arrest of Mzilikazi wa Africa, a journalist (remember how many ANC leaders lobbied against this type of behaviour prior to Polokwane) specialising in a province where many politicos, were killed but with little police success adds to this climate of distrust that media space can be guaranteed by government. One unintended consequence of the bill, if it goes through, will be that media agencies with global links will run exposés of our body politic and thus the likes of the BBC, will once again be seen as authoritative, as the onerous obligations placed on national journalists will not apply to someone far away receiving confidential information.

So comrade Jeremy, for these few reasons, I do not think the media tribunal idea is a good one even if you think that it would work like some of the chapter 9 institutions. Reference to these institutions, opens up a hornets nest: a number of them are poorly resourced, and others have governmental interference that we would need to open a separate debate on them. The two you refer to (SA Human RIghts Commission and the Public Protector) are better perfoming better compared to the others, but not doing great in terms of their constitutional mandates. The 1994 ANC manifesto had this to say about the public protector under the heading “A New Style of Government” it read:

Government administration exists to serve the people. It must be answerable to them. The ANC will encourage private citizens to use the independent Public Protector to investigate corruption, dishonesty or violation of rules of conduct on the part of government officials – those found guilty will be dealt with. ” We await the Public Protector and the others to play to their full potential. Only more democracy, robust debate, criticism and self criticism will bolster and consolidate our democracy. Any move that is perceived to empower the already strong will not help.


March 26, 2010

Some South African music on youtube

Filed under: manifesto,opinion article,Uncategorized — newritings @ 8:06 pm

There are quite a few that you can catch. I wanted to introduce some of my favourites to friends. One I really love, African Market Place by Abdullah Ebrahim (Dollar Brand) from which this picture is the CD cover is not available. Some have only audio,and no live show or promotional videos.


1966 interview Miriam Makeba

1979 inteview Makeba

1966 the click song – miriam makeba

Miriam makeba and paul simon

Abdullah Ebrahim – tuan guru

Abdullah Ebrahim (Dollar Brand) – Mannenberg

scatterlings of africa


soweto gospel choir

ladysmith black mambazo- hello my baby

Ladysmith black mambaso-homeless


sibobgile khumalo – thandos groove

Letta Mbulu and Caiphas Simenya – Diphendule

Hugh Masekela – stimela

winston mankunku ngozi
Winston “Mankunku” Ngozi – Yakhal’ Inkomo

bheki mseleku

busi mhlongo
urbun zulu

busi with jabu
Jabu Khanyile and Busi Mhlongo Live. Ngiyababonga abazali.

Freshly ground

Doo be doo

South Africa – Zim Ngqawana – Qula Kwedini

Lucky Dube (RIP) – The Way it is

Gloria Bosman (world music potpouri)

Pops Mohammed (world music potpouri)

March 19, 2010

Poem for a noble man: Vanunu

Filed under: opinion article,poetry — newritings @ 10:08 pm

Vanunu refuses to speak Hebrew. He lives alone, in east Jerusalem. Israeli Jewish society considers him a traitor. Only one member of his large family will speak to him. The Palestinians are friendly to him and often invite him into their homes, but he politely refuses, explaining that he can’t tell who is a collaborator and who isn’t. He knows the state is following him, and he knows there are many Palestinians who – for money or drugs or to keep the silence of a blackmailer – help the state. What he does all day, every day, is walk – “from the checkpoint to the wall, from the wall to the checkpoint.”


The popularity of the piece “Let’s inspect Dimona” has provoked some sharp responses. The latest two, see them, reflect the current debate between two opposing camps: those who see justice as indivisible and therefore Israel must be included in all inspections, and those who see Israel as an exception, a protector of Western values and democracy in a world that knows only lawlessness and terror. The questions often not asked by those who subscribe to this view, is whose lawlessness and terror exercised upon whom? The masses of Palestine inside Israel, and in Gaza and the West Bank have clear answers, if the powers that be really want to listen.

The editors of this blog really believe that Israel, 60 years trying to be a respected member of the world community, must subscribe to laws, policies and practices that guide all countries and not only those preserved for some. It is in part of a handful of countries that have weapons of mass destruction (others being Pakistan, India, France, United States of America, United Kingdom, Russia, China and North Korea) but Israel practices what the diplomatic community in Propaganda speak call Nuclear Ambiguity, not affirming or denying the existence of Nuclear warheads.

However, the world knows that it has them, long before Modechai Vanunu exposed this to public attention in the 1980’s. This honourable man took another giant step forward when he asked the beginning of this year that he be removed from the list of nominees for this year’s Nobel Peace prize. This was announced by the Nobel Institute Director Geir Lundestad, who said that the reasons given for the rejection were contained in a letter to them adding that: “The reason he gave was that Shimon Peres had received the Nobel Peace Prize, and Peres he alleged was the father of the Israeli atomic bomb and he did not want to be associated with Peres in any way.” (Haaretz, February24, 2010)

Often comparisons are drawn between Israel and Apartheid South Africa and very few commentators point out that South Africa not only turned its back on racist and Bantustan policies whilst Israel has not yet, but most importantly, South Africa voluntarily gave up its Nuclear potential and arms in the early 1990’s (no doubt, in part, concerned at the advent of a Black government) and thereby becoming the first nation in the world to do this.

It is also a signatory of the Biological Weapons Convention since 1975, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty since 1991, and the Chemical Weapons Convention since 1995. So if South Africa can do it, why not Israel and all the other countries?

In response to our comments we reaffirm it is never too late to inspect DIMONA… and to end I have this little poem called DIMONA.

D __ Destrustive

I_ Israel




A­­_Agreements (on arms, etc.)



PS. To read a poem by Vanunu, go to his website.

March 9, 2010

Trust me, I love the game

Filed under: opinion article,some of my favorite things,sports — newritings @ 2:21 pm

fifa empire

I am no spoil-sport, trust me, I love the game although it is not what it used to be. The game has been taken over by those who love money. Big, big money. But for my sins, it is a double standard that I will endure for most of my life until I die.

On 2 March, I spoke at a government organised meeting to coordinate African countries’ efforts as they deal with greater powers. The conference was called Capacity Building for South-South Solidarity, or something close to that, and as all radio stations and media in general were obsessed with football, I prefaced my talk with football as it was everywhere and could not be ignored.  In addition, I was speaking to our African brothers and sisters in whose name we are doing all this organising. I said that I wish we could bottle up all the energy we are now generating (let alone the bucks) for tackling the burning issues of our continent, and our country. I was speaking seriously and not in jest, so I quoted Madiba, to show this, when he was speaking at the 1994 meeting of the OAU. He thanked Africa for working towards our liberation, and pointed out that our challenges remain in governance, and the fact that Africa remains a net exporter of capital. Specifically he wrote that

“Africa shed her blood and surrendered the lives of her children so that all her children could be free. She gave of her limited wealth and resources so that all of Africa should be liberated. She opened her heart of hospitality and her head so full of wise counsel so that we should emerge victorious. A million times she put her hand to the plough that has now dug up the encrusted burden of oppression, accumulated for centuries. The total liberation of Africa has now been achieved. One epoch with its historic tasks has come to an end. Surely another must commence. Africa cries out for a new birth; Carthage awaits the restoration of its glory. If freedom was the crown which the fighters of liberation sought to place on the head of mother Africa, let the upliftment, the happiness, prosperity and comfort of her children be the jewel of the crown. The fundamentals are known to all of us: Africa continues to be a net exporter of capital and suffers from deteriorating terms of trade. Our capacity for self-reliance, to find the resources to generate sustained development remains very limited. Equally complex questions that bear on the nature and quality of government are also central to our capacity to produce the better life which our people demand and deserve. We must face the matter squarely that where there is something wrong in how we govern ourselves, it must be said that the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves that we are ill governed. Rwanda stands as a stern and severe rebuke to all of us for having failed to address these matters. As a result, a terrible slaughter of the innocent is taking place in front of our very eyes. Thus do we give reason to the peoples of the world to say of Africa that she will never know stability and peace, that she will forever experience poverty and dehumanization and that we shall be forever knocking on somebody’s door pleading for a slice of bread? We know that we have it in ourselves, as Africans, to change all this. We must assert our will to do so. We must say that there is no obstacle big enough to stop us from bringing about an African Renaissance.”

So my grouse, if you can call it that (although I prefer the word passion), is for justice, and the right to play  is  part of this passion, and I reiterate my hope. It is a simple request, almost genie in the bottle, but this time it was oozing out  and we could  not get it in. I said and repeat that  I  have a wish that we could bottle up the energy generated by all our mobilisations, yes and with leadership from the top.  At this stage, I sing the song, and  do what is required… t o no avail.

I’m a genie in a bottle / You gotta rub me the right way / If you wanna be with me / I can make your wish come true / You gotta make a big impression

And I have a love for footie too. Too much? Maybe not. Futbol, call it what you want – the beautiful game, and stop you from calling me names, I have war wounds acquired playing the game, i.e. the knee op and the resultant long scar on my beautiful left, which bears the name of the Dr Ig Noble (not the real name but close), and to boot I am a Pirate (reluctantly) and a Culé (Barcelona FC) supporter (enthusiastically). By the way, we are forming a Barça Penya, i.e. is for the Uninformed a supporters club here in SA, and we are organising under the name “més que una penya”, more than a fan club. Of course they are loved by me, and millions of others, for the brand of football they play but importantly because they are owned and democratically run by their fans. (I shudder to think of how ManU are fighting to get their stolen club back to the fans!). You get the drift, I hate the corporate take over of our leisure time and how we produce our livelihoods. Take a look and see how our politics, our sports, our games, our schools, our health systems – the works have been corrupted by the politics of greed.


I know that men (and women) cannot live by bread alone, although I know that the billions of our tax payers’ monies (yes –including Vat payers) will go to building of stadia, security, etc. I know that these amounts would have funded our public schooling and our National Health Service for years to come. But I am not a naysayer. I read daily in the media how our leaders fight naysayers, telling them like Mr. Blatter has done, “I Know Africa can do it, South Africa can do it!” I want us to say this after the World Cup for all our other social challenges. Imagine the World Health Organisation officials inspecting our hospitals and it is covered by global media, and debated in our press and radios… and our president talking in foreign country telling them, “Yes we are on Track. Come and join us in solidarity. Those who doubt us – come, we will have the best health system in the world!” (and the call shows will be buzzing and I will call in and wait for a few minutes to make my point…)

All I lament is that we do not have an anti-rape Monday, and a food-for-all Wednesday (not to compete with Wacky Wednesday of Steers) and this leadership comes from all cabinet ministers, and the premiers. If we had a dance that was a Diski against inequality, with Sho’t Left leading in the training of it at Malls like they did this weekend in my kasie… oh, how jealous I am for this mobilization! And ask those with the powers on earth and beyond to help us capture it in a bottle…

And, by the way, today we have 93 days before the kickoff… and we have some time to halve poverty, tackle gender inequality… in a nutshell, to surpass the goals of the MDGs, and our constitutional imperatives.

Pssst. Got any tickets for the final?

January 25, 2010


Filed under: opinion article — newritings @ 10:30 am

This article appeared in The Star 2006, unfortunately, very little has changed on the way the media and the authorities have reported the plight of refugees, the poor and the working class in inner city Johannesburg. Are they trying to clean up the city of the poor ready for 2010 FIFA football World Cup?

Hassen 25.1.2010. I am no longer employed by the NGO Coalition.

The article “Place of worship now a den of inequity” (The Star, June 8 ) by Solly Maphumulo, with a picture of a once “posh church”, is hatchet job that should not be allowed to pass off as quality journalism. It is motivated by xenophobia.

“The church, in the heart of Johannesburg, is now home to 700 refugees and illegals, who have been given shelter there by the Bishop Paul Verryn.”

This is the closest the writer comes to acknowledging that indeed there are people seeking refuge from hunger, poverty and marginalisation in the economy.

This is, however, negated by the juxtaposing of the words refugees with “illegals” – thus fanning the flames of hatred.

The South African NGO Coalition (Sangoco) itself sought refuge from debtors and exorbitant rentals about a year ago, and moved into another church in Braamfontein.

It too is owned by the Methodist Church and under the leadership of the compassionate Paul Verryn.

There too, you find nearly 100 refugees and non-nationals, who sleep in the parking lot and wherever they can ding a place surrounding the church and our offices. The infrastructure, as you can imagine, truly takes pressure with the usual wear and tear.

The concerns of the congregations at Braamfontein and Central Methodist Church are legitimate – the heart and soul of the Methodist Church is more with the poor, the hungry and the refugees.

In all my life as an activist, I must say that I have found the most selflessness and compassion at this stage working with the Methodist Church.

When I go home at night, I see how other churches, temples and mosques are locked safely away from the poor, hungry and needy whom they preach about so loudly daily and especially on Fridays or Sundays.

Why is it that only one church within the Christian faith is helping these people? Where are the Catholics?

What of Zion Christian Church, whose worshippers come from far and wide in Africa?

Why are the other faiths so silent and not coming forward in the hour of need? Is it because those who are homeless are not of the Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or other faiths?

Where too are the blue chip NGOs who speak of poverty and inequality from some high rise buildings in their posh offices?

Maphumulo does not even question why every day 10 to 15 people arrive at the bishop’s door asking for a place of refuge.

Where is the government when it comes to helping people in need, and not only for deporting? Did our own people not flee apartheid repression to go to neighbouring countries?

We expect unjustified attacks against the good and noble work of the church to continue, since this story deals with a mother breastfeeding in the “squalor” of the church, fights and murder as if this only happens where 700 people live.

One wonders what will it be next? Sex? Money?

Or will it be bribery and corruption?

Whatever comes next, one thing is clear. No amount of hate can find lasting solutions to complex problems engulfing our new democracy.

Openness and the willingness to admit that there is a problem, which is not of the church’s making, and commitment to work towards a just solution will help.

A start would be to discuss and find solutions with Zimbabwe’s ruling party, Zanu-PF, about why women and children are fleeing their lovely homes and quality education to live with 700 others, in a church, which now “smells bad.”

We are grateful for the opportunity to address these complex challenges in our society and will work with the church for a just solution that is inclusive of the government, and civil society.

As I write this, it is getting dark and the church in Braamfontein is starting to fill up.

Outside, other people occupy the floor surrounding the church. They too are homeless. Not all are immigrants. A few are South Africans.

Not all are black Africans.

Hassen Lorgat, Communications manager, SA NGO Coalition, Johannesburg

June 18, 2009

Piensa el ladrón que todos són de su condición

Filed under: opinion article,sports — newritings @ 1:19 pm

Marta Garrich

During the opening match of the Confederations Cup, between South Africa and Iraq, the majority of Spanish media (such as El Pais or Telecinco – the TV Channel that has the rights to broadcast the FIFA Confederations Cup matches) reported and even  criticised South African spectators for booing Matthew  Booth, one of the most popular players of the South African selection.

Everytime the 6ft 2 inches South African defender (the tallest player in the tournament) got the ball, the stadium was abuzz with the  crowd screaming “Boooooooth”. This is a tradition amongst the fans as many have witnessed. We recall a time when  Mark Fish (who played in England) the call would ring throughout the stadium and the neighbourhood…“Feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesh”. So too did the legendary John ‘Shoes’ Moshoeu (who played in Turkey too). The crowd would greet every great pass, dribble or goal with loud chorus of “Shoeeeeeeeees”. The question I pose is why did our media (print and audiovisual) so quickly jump to the conclusion implicitly that this was the first  “…booooooth” was an act of racism by the spectators, whereas, as I have shown this is a tradition amongst die hard fans?

Simply put, because Mathew Booth happens to be the only white player in this current Bafana Bafana (the boys) – the national football team of South Africa.

It saddens me that the media in Spain and those published in Catalunya so wrongly judges a people (the non-whites, according to the label of the previous regime) that have  suffered and made many compromises to a South Africa where divisions of race and gender are eliminated. This long road to freedom, as their former leader Nelson Mandela wrote in his book and demonstrated in his life, has been truly hard. Madiba spent almost a third of his life in prison for fighting for social  justice, and showed his magnimanity by not being vindictive to his former oppressors, even accepting  to share the Nobel Peace Prize with the last white president (FW de Klerk) of such inhuman regime. It saddens me that the quality of journalism appeared to be so low: they seem not to have asked the fans nor Booth himself  about what had transpired. If they had spent a little more effort they would have quickly learned of their error and not have written the insulting piece.

In any case, in the light of such conclusions given and accepted so quickly and easily, the question that seems to follow is: where is racism, in them or in our eyes?

Ps. After writing to many of these papers and even calling one of the biggest papers in Spain about the error of their ways in this article, none of them have had the courage to correct it yet.

This article first appeared o the blog girafas se escribe con J

* From the Spanish expression literally meaning “the thief thinks that everybody is a thief as well”.

June 11, 2009

The nasty side of the beautiful game: fascism

Filed under: opinion article,sports — newritings @ 6:20 pm

Hernan Cortés

When Barça won the Champions League and Pep Guardiola dedicated the cup to the legendary Italian defender Maldini, he showed that he was a progressive and supported an equally progressive fellow footballer. Yes, as a Barça fan the month of May will always be unforgettable. We  won the Cup, the League and the Champions League, the trophy that gives prestige and fame to a football the world over. But the most interesting point about the three-peat is that we’ve done it whilst displaying our soul to the fans (and enemies alike) – the world at large  – that: We’re not just a club, We are more than that! I like what José Sámano wrote  in EL País “we’ve showed everyone what Barça means. We’ve got Lakers, Ferrari, Honda… and now Barça.”

But not everything in the world football is fair play and  happiness as I will explain. For those of us who love football above the game have lived two moments that need deep reflection.  I am talking of two players  “born” from the same soil but with different outlooks. The one, an excellent player (also an Italian defender), decides to retire, after over two decades of top level playing, and instead of being recognised and rewarded for his services he gets booed. I am talking here of AC Milan’s Paolo Maldini. The other player who has just returned to Juve from Real Madrid FC is Fabio Cannavaro. Both Madrid and AC Milan have won more Champions League titles than many other teams.

Maldini “Il Capitano”, who has won 5 Champions, 7 Scudetto, etc. has decided to retire after more than 20 years playing in San Siro. Of course, he was the captain, and an outspoken captain on issues that he believed were  fair or good for the club. So when he retired, the Milan tiffossi, known by their neofascist ideology, decided to “destroy” his last day as a player. I know that there are many out there who reject the fascists, and the racists and love to see the values of friendship and solidarity thrive, not hate. Check the link:

By the way in Chamartín, Fabio Cannavaro, who has only played 3 years in Real Madrid  decided to return to  Turin. However our Fabio, who is well-known by his sympathy with right-wing parties, was acclaimed by Real Madrid’s fans and mainly by the hooligans, Ultra Sur. Ultra Sur always have showed and flown fascist flags at Black /non-white players, and have answered every  Cannavaro tackle with their right arm to the sky  and calling him Duce, the name associated with Benito Mussolini as Caudillo with Franco or Führer with Hitler.

These two Calcio stories, as Enric Gonzalez says, show us how far a game like football has come for good or bad things. Of course for those that whistled at Paolo are those who yearn for yester year… the thirties, but they are  just a minority. It however does  demonstrate to us the impunity that these groups enjoy. They receive good media coverage as well.  I know is not easy to eradicate these groups from a stadium, but a reflection is needed in order to think if these groups can cast a shadow over part of the history of a team, a society or even a game. The presidents and owners of the team should focus on young people and not on these groups who have many facilities for whatever they want. I love football because of its universal values and, as far as I know, these values not include fascism for the simple reason fascism excludes the majority of us.

To read more about it:

May 25, 2009

“…But the truth is that in the political world I have been far oftener discriminated against because I am a woman than because I am black.”

Filed under: manifesto,opinion article,testimonies — newritings @ 9:57 pm

This speech is part of an ongoing debate amongst friends and comrades about the complex interrelationship between race, class and gender discrimination-oppression. Made almost to the day 40 years ago by Shirley Chisholm, at the US House Representative from New York, it is still relevant to current debates, in the US, South Africa and elsewhere. The speech can be viewed on youtube ( ) Enjoy and learn…

Shirley Chisolm 1972 unbought and unbossed
Shirley Chisolm 1972 unbought and unbossed

Address To The United States House Of Representatives, Washington, DC: May 21, 1969

Mr.Speaker, when a young woman graduates from college and starts looking for a job, she is likely to have a frustrating and even demeaning experience ahead of her. If she walks into an office for an interview, the first question she will be asked is, “Do you type?”

There is a calculated system of prejudice that lies unspoken behind that question. Why is it acceptable for women to be secretaries, librarians, and teachers, but totally unacceptable for them to be managers, administrators, doctors, lawyers, and Members of Congress.

The unspoken assumption is that women are different. They do not have executive ability orderly minds, stability, leadership skills, and they are too emotional.

It has been observed before, that society for a long time, discriminated against another minority, the blacks, on the same basis – that they were different and inferior. The happy little homemaker and the contented “old darkey” on the plantation were both produced by prejudice.

As a black person, I am no stranger to race prejudice. But the truth is that in the political world I have been far oftener discriminated against because I am a woman than because I am black.

Prejudice against blacks is becoming unacceptable although it will take years to eliminate it. But it is doomed because, slowly, white America is beginning to admit that it exists. Prejudice against women is still acceptable. There is very little understanding yet of the immorality involved in double pay scales and the classification of most of the better jobs as “for men only.”

More than half of the population of the United States is female. But women occupy only 2 percent of the managerial positions. They have not even reached the level of tokenism yet No women sit on the AFL-CIO council or Supreme Court There have been only two women who have held Cabinet rank, and at present there are none. Only two women now hold ambassadorial rank in the diplomatic corps. In Congress, we are down to one Senator and 10 Representatives.

Considering that there are about 3 1/2 million more women in the United States than men, this situation is outrageous.

It is true that part of the problem has been that women have not been aggressive in demanding their rights. This was also true of the black population for many years. They submitted to oppression and even cooperated with it. Women have done the same thing. But now there is an awareness of this situation particularly among the younger segment of the population.

As in the field of equal rights for blacks, Spanish-Americans, the Indians, and other groups, laws will not change such deep-seated problems overnight But they can be used to provide protection for those who are most abused, and to begin the process of evolutionary change by compelling the insensitive majority to reexamine it’s unconscious attitudes.

It is for this reason that I wish to introduce today a proposal that has been before every Congress for the last 40 years and that sooner or later must become part of the basic law of the land — the equal rights amendment.

Let me note and try to refute two of the commonest arguments that are offered against this amendment. One is that women are already protected under the law and do not need legislation. Existing laws are not adequate to secure equal rights for women. Sufficient proof of this is the concentration of women in lower paying, menial, unrewarding jobs and their incredible scarcity in the upper level jobs. If women are already equal, why is it such an event whenever one happens to be elected to Congress?

It is obvious that discrimination exists. Women do not have the opportunities that men do. And women that do not conform to the system, who try to break with the accepted patterns, are stigmatized as ”odd” and “unfeminine.” The fact is that a woman who aspires to be chairman of the board, or a Member of the House, does so for exactly the same reasons as any man. Basically, these are that she thinks she can do the job and she wants to try.

A second argument often heard against the equal rights amendment is that is would eliminate legislation that many States and the Federal Government have enacted giving special protection to women and that it would throw the marriage and divorce laws into chaos.

As for the marriage laws, they are due for a sweeping reform, and an excellent beginning would be to wipe the existing ones off the books. Regarding special protection for working women, I cannot understand why it should be needed. Women need no protection that men do not need. What we need are laws to protect working people, to guarantee them fair pay, safe working conditions, protection against sickness and layoffs, and provision for dignified, comfortable retirement. Men and women need these things equally. That one sex needs protection more than the other is a male supremacist myth as ridiculous and unworthy of respect as the white supremacist myths that society is trying to cure itself of at this time.

Sources: Congressional Record – Extensions of Remarks E4165-6.

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