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The Cradock Four August 16, 2011

Posted by Andreas in Cape Town, Film screening, History, Politics.
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The Cradock Four, a dramatic documentary about the brutal murder of four prominent Eastern Cape anti-Apartheid activists, will be shown in Cape Town at the Labia on Orange cinema on Sunday 21 August at 6:15pm, on Monday 22 August at 8:30pm and on Tuesday 23 August at 6:15pm.

On a winter’s night in 1985, an Apartheid police hit squad assassinated four young activists in the Eastern Cape. Among South Africa’s most notorious political murders, the abduction and brutal killing of Matthew Goniwe, Fort Calata, Sparrow Mkonto and Sicelo Mhlauli became a major turning point in the country’s history, triggering a state of emergency and eventually leading to the release of Mandela.

Having taken seven years to complete, David Forbes’ award-winning feature documentary film The Cradock Four explores who the four victims were and investigates the circumstances that led to their deaths. The murders became one of Apartheid’s murkiest and most controversial episodes and the film allows the viewer to perceive the oppressive climate of the racist regime and looks at both inquiries into the murders (in 1989 and 1992), as well as into the investigations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which denied amnesty to the killers. The Cradock Four weaves together interviews, archival footage, dramatic recreations and lyrical visual images to create a chilling story that reminds all of us of the many bloody sacrifices with which our democratic freedoms were won.

The Cradock Four is a must-see for anyone hoping to understand South Africa’s past, present and future.

Tickets are R20 and can be reserved by calling The Labia at (021) 424 5927. We strongly recommended that you reserve tickets to avoid disappointment.

This event is presented by the Labia and While You Were Sleeping, a Cape Town-based non-profit film collective committed to bringing progressive, non-mainstream documentaries with important social, political and environmental messages to South African audiences.

Contacts:

The Labia:
021 424 5927

Official film website:
http://www.thecradockfour.co.za

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Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price December 6, 2010

Posted by Andreas in Cape Town, Film screening, Politics, South Africa, Work.
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Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, an acclaimed documentary film that investigates the destructive impacts of the world’s largest retailer which is soon coming to South Africa, will be shown at the Labia on Orange cinema in Cape Town on Saturday 11 December at 12:00 noon.

Walmart is infamous across the world for its attack on workers. Now it’s coming to South Africa!

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price is a feature length documentary that uncovers the retail giant’s assault on America and the world by exploring the deeply personal stories and everyday lives of families and communities struggling to fight the goliath. A working mother is forced to turn to public assistance to provide healthcare for her two small children. A family loses its business after Wal-Mart is given over $2 million to open its doors down the road. A community in California unites, takes on the giant, and wins!

This event is hosted by the Cape Town branch of the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World), a democratic, worker-run union dedicated to organising on the job, in our industries and in our communities, both to win better conditions today and to build a world without bosses.

The screening will be followed by a facilitated audience discussion.

Tickets are R10 and can be reserved by calling The Labia at (021) 424 5927. This is a once-off screening and we strongly recommended that you reserve tickets to avoid disappointment.

This event is presented by the IWW, the Labia and While You Were Sleeping, a Cape Town-based non-profit film collective committed to bringing progressive, non-mainstream documentaries with important social, political and environmental messages to South African audiences.

Contacts:

The Labia:
021 424 5927

IWW:
iww-ct@live.co.za

While You Were Sleeping:
Andreas Späth
084 772 1056
Andreas_Spath@yahoo.com
www.whileyouweresleeping.wordpress.com

Nukes will dwarf the arms deal December 3, 2010

Posted by Andreas in "The Economy", Column, Environment, Nuclear Power, Politics, renewable energy, South Africa.
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Nukes will dwarf the arms deal

(This column was first published on 2010-10-27 at News24 here)

If government gets its way and goes ahead with building six new nuclear power plants (NPPs), the potential for graft and corruption will make the arms deal fiasco look like a silly squabble over small change. Tenderpreneurs and kleptocrats throughout the land must be licking their lips at the prospect of having their palms, wallets and bank accounts royally greased.

There are many good reasons why nuclear energy is not a good option for South Africa or anywhere else: the health risk associated with NPPs, the waste which remains lethally radioactive for thousands of years and for which nobody has found an acceptable storage solution, the threat of terrorist attack and nuclear weapons proliferation, the fact that uranium fuel is neither inexhaustible nor carbon-neutral, and more. But for those of you who aren’t convinced by these bunny-hugging and touchy-feely sentiments, the clincher should be the fact that nuclear power simply makes no economic sense.

Independent studies show that nuclear energy has never been able to compete with fossil fuels and increasingly can’t compete with renewable energy technologies on a purely financial basis. Not in the First World and certainly not in a developing country like ours where elite powerbrokers have consistently found it impossible to keep their greedy hands out of the coffers of mega-budget projects

The nuclear industry cannot survive without the financial support of the state anywhere in the world. Of the $151bn in government subsidies for the US electricity industry between 1943 and 1999, more than 96% went towards nuclear power. Since the early 1980s the US government has sunk over $90bn into developing a nuclear waste storage facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada without success. In the UK it is estimated that decommissioning of the previous generation of British nuclear plants and their accumulated waste will cost £72bn or more in taxpayers’ money. In February, having spent more than R8bn with absolutely nothing to show for it, our own government finally decided to cut financial support for the ill-fated Pebble Bed Modular Reactor project.

Since the start of the so-called nuclear renaissance in the early 2000s, projected costs for new NPPs have increased two- to four-fold. Their construction is notorious for being over budget and delayed. By the end of last year, the Finish NPP being built on Olkiluoto Island by French state-owned multinational AREVA – a main contender for the South African nuclear bid – was more than three years behind schedule and at least 75% over budget. The only other NPP under construction in Western Europe at Flamanville in France is at least 20% over budget and two years behind schedule.

In an independent analysis of the South African situation, Rod Gurzynski has recently estimated that the total cost of a 1600MW NPP would come to around R100bn “all-in”. Among a number of criticisms, he points out that the consultants’ report on the cost of nuclear energy which was commissioned by the Department of Energy for the government’s 20-year Integrated Resource Plan does not seem to consider decommissioning costs or long-term high-level waste management and storage costs and therefore paints an entirely unrealistic economic picture.

Last month, researchers from Duke University in the USA showed that in North Carolina, which is nowhere near as sunny as South Africa, it is now cheaper to generate electricity using photovoltaic solar panels – possibly the most expensive of all renewable energy options – than by building new NPPs. So why are we still wasting time and money on even considering nuclear power as an option for South Africa?

In 1994, Trevor Manuel, then heading the ANC’s economic desk, said: “we shall not tolerate circumstances in which policy on issues as critical as a nuclear programme be confined to experts in dark, smoke-filled rooms.” In reality, however, that’s exactly how decisions are being made. A small but powerful lobby of special interest groups, including the nuclear industry itself, has the ear of the powers that be and we’ll have to shout a lot louder or we’ll all be burdened with an entire herd of radioactive white elephants soon.

14 Members of Earthlife Africa illegaly arrested December 2, 2010

Posted by Andreas in activism, Environment, Nuclear Power, Politics, Press Release, South Africa.
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14 MEMBERS OF EARTHLIFE ILLEGALLY ARRESTED FOR PICKETING AT DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY’S IRP2 PUBLIC HEARINGS IN MIDRAND
(Thursday 2nd December 2010: 12h45)

 

Earlier today, fourteen members of Earthlife Africa ( Johannesburg ) were illegally arrested for participating in a legal picket in front of the Department of Energy’s (DoE) IRP2 Public Hearing in Midrand. The fourteen have been charged with ‘illegal gathering’ and ‘public indecency’ and are presently being held at the Midrand Police Station.

Despite the fact that according to the Gatherings Act of South Africa, any gathering of less than 15 people does not require prior ‘approval’ from police, Earthlife Africa (Johannesburg) had applied for and received, written approval for the picket from the JMPD several days ago.   Nonetheless, when the activists began their picket – to protest against the DoE moving forward with further coal-fired power generation projects and its stated intent to expand South Africa ’s nuclear power generation – they were summarily arrested by Midrand SAPS and forcibly carted off to the police station. Evidently, the charge of ‘public indecency’ was applied because the picketers were wearing bright clothing!

Earthlife Africa (Johannesburg) Director, Tristen Taylor has condemned the arrests as “a shocking example of abuse of police power … We were engaged in a legal protest over crucially important issues of interest to the South African public … this kind of action is totally unacceptable.”

For further information and comment contact:

TRISTEN TAYLOR on 084 250-2434

The eco footprint of rape November 30, 2010

Posted by Andreas in Climate change, Column, Environment, Global warming, Politics, rant, Society, South Africa, Sustainable Living.
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The eco footprint of rape

(This column was first published on 2010-10-20 at News24 here)

Rape contributes to climate change and environmental degradation.

While this may not be a notion that gets much – no, make that any – airtime or column space in the media or even one that many environmentalists are aware of, it is hardly a new concept. Feminists, including Dr Yvette Abrahams of the South African Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), have tried to raise awareness about the connection between gender based violence and the environment for years.

The calculus may be brutal, but it’s really quite straight forward. Population growth is one of the most important pressures on the environment. People consume natural resources like water and food, produce waste and generate greenhouse gases and as the earth’s human population increases, the stress we put on the planet rises. Babies born as a result of rape add to this stress and thus contribute to our growing ecological woes.

“So what!?” I hear all my male readers say. “You’re exaggerating the importance of rape and besides, I’m not a rapist anyway!”

In a country like South Africa, where rape is widespread and perennially under-reported, the importance of rape to women and by inference to the natural environment could hardly be exaggerated. More importantly, however, you’re missing the point. Rape is merely the most evil expression of gender based violence in a society that is based on the oppression of women and systematically undermines their ability to control their reproductive capacity.

South African women are estimated to be engaged in productive, but unpaid labour – from domestic work to child and frail care – for almost three times longer than the country’s men every day. While they are responsible for a considerable proportion of the country’s food production, female landownership remains at an outrageous 1%. The fact that the concept of a “glass ceiling” has become a cliché doesn’t mean that it is no longer firmly in place. In 2005 women earned only 45 cents for every rand earned by men and unemployment rates are substantially higher for women than men.

Gender based violence in South Africa is endemic and commonly domestic. We have the highest rate of femicide in the world and according to the CGE in 2007 “a staggering 30% of girls […] said that their first sexual experience was under force or threat of force”. With insufficient family planning and widespread unprotected sex, pregnancy rates among school girls are among the highest anywhere.

In this patriarchal society, Abrahams explains, “women […] cannot choose to have children because they want to. They have children because they have to, […] providing men with heirs and capitalism with cheap labour.” She estimates that “something like 24-30% of children born are conceived through gender based violence, and that a majority of children born are not planed or responsibly chosen.”

The corollary to this shocking statistic is that environmental activism isn’t just about renewable energy and recycling. We can make substantial contributions to a healthier planet by working for gender equality, which has been shown to lead to reduced rates of reproduction and slowed or even reversed population growth. As Abrahams points out, “when women have more choices, they tend to chose to have fewer but healthier children”.

“You’re still not talking to me,” I can hear my male readers complain again. “I haven’t oppressed any women in all of my life.” Once again, I’m afraid you’re missing the point. Living under Apartheid as a white person meant benefiting from the system whether you thought it was atrocious or not. Similarly – and I write this as a privileged white male and a father of two sons – living under patriarchy as a man means benefiting from the system, whether you’re conscious of it or not.

Is it really too much to ask that we actively work towards creating a society in which half the population isn’t constantly treated like second-class citizens or worse? As an added bonus, we’ll be engaging in effective green activism while we’re at it, because fighting patriarchy means fighting environmental destruction.

 

Whose electricity is it anyway? November 17, 2010

Posted by Andreas in Climate change, Column, Environment, Global warming, Nuclear Power, Politics, rant, renewable energy, South Africa, Sustainable Living.
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Whose electricity is it anyway?

(This column was first published on 2010-09-22 at News24 here)

At this very moment, wide-ranging decisions about South Africa’s energy future are being made. Decisions that will have major impacts on the environment and on the ecological legacy we’ll leave to future generations. But who is making these decisions?

Government is working on an “Integrated Energy Plan”, a “Climate Change Response Policy”, the second “Integrated Resource Plan” (IRP2) and the establishment of an “Independent Systems Market Operator”. If you’ve heard about any of these, let alone understand what they involve, you belong to a privileged minority.

Take the IRP2, also known as the IRP2010, for example. This plan will establish the framework for major policy and investment choices that need to be made to ensure South Africa’s electricity supply for the next 20 years – how many and what kinds of new power plants are to built and so on. Not a trifling matter and one in which we should all have a say. Indeed, according to the Minister of Energy, Dipuo Peters “the Department [of Energy] is committed to stakeholder engagement and public participation with regard to the IRP2010 […] Public participation is crucial if we were to develop a plan that will stand up to scrutiny […] so that whatever emerges from it will represent the widest spread of views across both government and civil society.”

In reality, of course, the process has been about as consultative as the Spanish Inquisition.

Official documents and procedures are steeped in impenetrably technical and bureaucratic jargon and government has done precious little to inform ordinary people about the issues involved or the fact that they have the right to participate in the debate. Even dedicated NGOs have found it prohibitively difficult to properly engage with and respond to government’s proposals in the very limited time granted them. And when they do formally submit contributions – some 300 civil society comments have been submitted for the IRP2 – only a tiny minority is actually taken into consideration while the majority is simply ignored. Official attempts to co-opt a few hand-picked NGOs amount to little more than trying to legitimise what remains a deeply undemocratic process.

If you’re tempted to think that at least the so-called representatives of South African voters have more of a say in what will go into the IRP2 than civil society at large, you’re sadly mistaken. Parliament has only had a single meeting about the IRP2 and with the exception of a few notable rebel voices, the people’s paid deputies have remained shtum on the issue. Yet we are told that a draft plan is already in circulation within the Department of Energy.

So who is calling the shots? Would you call me a conspiracy theorist if I told you that our country’s energy future is being substantially determined by what is overwhelmingly a small group of powerful men representing the very same interests that have landed us in the mess we’re in today and made us one of the most carbon-intensive countries on the planet? The crucially important technical advisory panel for the IRP2 consists almost exclusively of Eskom technocrats, state apparatchiks and representatives of South Africa’s most wealthy, energy- and carbon-intensive industries with virtually no delegates from civil society or labour to speak of.

And they call this democracy. Looks more like oligarchy – rule by an elite – to me.

So here’s a challenge to Minister Peters: It’s not only your moral and ethical duty to comprehensively inform and consult the general public about the IRP2 process and enable them to participate in it actively, but also a precisely defined legal obligation. There is absolutely no reason why, given good information and the opportunity to engage in robust debate, ordinary citizens should not be capable of collectively making sound decisions about their own energy future.

And the rest of us? Let’s become active citizens and citizen activists. Let’s support and join the organisations that are trying to give voice to public concerns in the energy debate. If we don’t, we’ll simply get railroaded into more of the same old non-solutions: laughably insignificant commitments to renewable energy, more CO2-spewing coal power stations and more dirty nuclear energy.

The Most Dangerous Man In America October 18, 2010

Posted by Andreas in Cape Town, Film screening, History, Politics, Society, South Africa.
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Documentary about freedom of information to be shown in Cape Town

Are you worried about the Protection of Information Bill currently before Parliament? Join the Right2Know Campaign for a screening of The Most Dangerous Man In America, a documentary which illustrates the dangers of restricted public access to information – even in a democracy – and was nominated for an Oscar in 2010.

The Most Dangerous Man In America will be shown at the Labia on Orange cinema in Cape Town on Monday 25 October at 6:15pm.

In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg, a high-level Pentagon official and leading Vietnam War strategist, concludes that the war is based on decades of lies and leaks 7,000 pages of top-secret documents to The New York Times, making headlines around the world. Hailed as a hero, vilified as a traitor and ostracised even by his closest colleagues, Ellsberg risks life in prison to stop a war he helped to plan.

The Most Dangerous Man In America tells the riveting story of one man’s profound change of heart and takes a piercing look at the world of government secrecy as revealed by the ultimate insider. Characterised by an epic battle between America’s greatest newspapers and its president, which goes all the way to the Supreme Court, this political thriller unravels a saga that leads directly to Watergate, Nixon’s resignation and the end of the Vietnam War.

The scenario described by The Most Dangerous Man In America is incredibly relevant to the situation faced by South African’s at this very moment in time. If you care about your right to access to information, don’t miss this feature-length documentary.

The Right2Know Campaign is an umbrella campaign representing a broad front of over 700 civil society groups. We believe a responsive and accountable democracy able to meet the basic needs of our people is built on transparency and the free flow of information. The Right2Know campaign statement – “Let the truth be told. Stop the Secrecy Bill!” – was drafted following parliamentary hearings on the Bill in July 2010 and demands that secrecy legislation must comply with constitutional values. It is based upon detailed submissions made to Parliament by civil society groups. For more information about the Right2Know Campaign consult www.r2k.org.za.

The screening will be followed by a facilitated audience discussion.

Tickets are R20 and can be reserved by calling The Labia at (021) 424 5927. This is a once-off screening and we strongly recommended that you reserve tickets to avoid disappointment.

This event is presented by the Right2Know Campaign, the Tri- Continental Film Festival, the Labia and While You Were Sleeping, a Cape Town-based non-profit film collective committed to bringing progressive, non-mainstream documentaries with important social, political and environmental messages to South African audiences.

Contacts:

The Labia:
021 424 5927

The Right2Know Campaign:

Sarah Duff

079 862 6696

sarahemilyduff@gmail.com

www.r2k.org.za

While You Were Sleeping:
Andreas Späth
084 772 1056
Andreas_Spath@yahoo.com
http://www.whileyouweresleeping.wordpress.com

IWW documentary screening and public meeting October 12, 2010

Posted by Andreas in "The Economy", activism, anarchism, Cape Town, Film screening, Politics, Society, South Africa, Work.
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Join the Cape Town Branch of the IWW for:

A screening of the short documentary “Together we win: the fight to organise Starbucks” followed by a public meeting on “Organising as casuals and contract workers”.

Most workers today work in casual and precarious jobs. In many parts of the world, including South Africa, most unions have not been up to this challenge, and have often failed to organise casual workers.


The IWW Starbucks Union, however, is different. The entire union is made up of casual workers who are organising themselves at Starbucks stores. In tribute to their comrades in the IWW Starbucks Union, the Cape IWW branch is presenting a documentary made by these workers themselves. This inspiring movie tells the remarkable the story of how casual workers in the Starbucks chain of stores fought for and won the right to organise.

Date: Saturday 16th October 2010

Time: 14h00

Venue: Cape Town Democracy Centre, 6 Spin Street, Cape Town

For more information or to RSVP contact us on iww-ct@live.co.za



Can capitalism be green? August 24, 2010

Posted by Andreas in "The Economy", Column, Environment, Politics, rant, South Africa, Sustainable Living.
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Can capitalism be green?

(This column was first published on 2010-08-11 at News24 here)

To make a 700-word story short: no, I don’t believe it can. It’s possible to make it green-er, yes, but I don’t think that capitalism is consistent with sustainable, long-term human existence on this planet.

I know that many of you will disagree with me on this one, so let’s take a step back to begin with. I would think that the majority of us can agree that we’re facing a growing environmental crisis. Climate change, the loss of biodiversity, pollution and deforestation on a massive scale – the list of environmental woes is frightening. Most of us would further concede that human activities are predominantly to blame for this situation. If you don’t think so, don’t bother reading any further.

If you ask people what the causes of our environmental predicament are, they typically come up with one or several of the following:

– human greed and selfishness,

– corporate greed and selfishness,

– a materialistic consumer culture,

– aggressive rivalry over natural resources among individuals, companies and countries,

– a philosophy that values financial profits over people and planet, and

– a preoccupation with competition rather than co-operation.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t these some of the defining characteristics of capitalism? Then why don’t we identify capitalism as the culprit? The fact that capitalism, as a dominant mode of organising our human interactions, might be at the root of the dilemma is entirely absent from the mainstream discourse in the media and elsewhere.

It’s as though capitalism is the new über-expletive. The C-word that can’t be mentioned in polite society.

Capitalism is predicated on continuous and expanding growth accomplished by the exploitation of human labour and the natural world, which are converted into commodities to be turned into profit and capital. Everything – air, soil, ore, plants, oil, genetic blueprints, indigenous knowledge – has a price and if it doesn’t, it’s of no value and can be trashed with gay abandon. Nature is seen simply as a repository of raw materials. On a local and global level, capitalism depends on deep inequalities between wealthy elites and a working multitude, between resource-extracting humans and resource-yielding nature and on market mechanisms that have proved to be too slow and unresponsive to environmental crises.

It doesn’t take a brainiac to realise that on a finite planet a system like that can only have one final destination: collapse.

Corporate flirtations with so-called green capitalism have amounted to little more than greenwash in which the much-vaunted triple bottom line equates not to economic, social and environmental benefits, but simply to profits, profits and more profits. BP’s disgraceful tumble from the PR rhetoric of “Beyond Petroleum” to the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe serves as the most recent example.

That’s not to say that attempts to make industries and businesses more eco-friendly are completely useless. They’ll buy us a bit of time, but ultimately they’ll amount to little more than a rearranging of the deck chairs on a sinking ship. Our problems are deeper and more fundamental. What’s needed is a systemic change in the way we organise our entire civilisation and since capitalism is the dominant force, it needs to go.

So what’s the alternative? Don’t look at me! I have some ideas and suggestion, but no ready-made solution. Those of us on the political left have precious little to point to when it comes to ecological success stories. Most definitely not in countries that were or are supposedly run along socialist lines. There certainly isn’t anything that’s inherently environmentally sustainable in socialism the way it’s been defined traditionally.

At the very least, it seems to me, we need to make a fundamental shift in the way we relate to nature – as part of it, rather than apart from it. Furthermore, we need to recognise the intimate links between our environmental and social problems. There can be no social justice without environmental justice and vice versa.

For now, I’d be happy if we simply managed to get what has to be one of the most important environmental debates of the 21st Century on the public agenda. We need to collectively answer the question: what is to come after capitalism?

Cape Town launch of Black Flame February 24, 2010

Posted by Andreas in anarchism, Book launch, Cape Town, History, Politics, Society, South Africa.
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The Book Lounge presents the Cape Town launch of :

Black Flame: the revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism by Lucien van der Walt and Michael Schmidt.

Black Flame examines the anti-authoritarian class politics of the anarchist/syndicalist movement, and its 150 years of popular struggle on 5 continents. An indispensable conceptual and historical road map, with close attention to Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America, looking at its:

· Opposition to hierarchy, capitalism and the state
· Strategy: building revolutionary counter-power
· History: labour, community, anti-imperialism
· Agenda: participatory, cooperative economics
· Revolutions: Mexico, Spain, Ukraine, Korea
· Revival: today’s struggles

This groundbreaking volume has been praised by reviewers as “deeply impressive”, “fascinating, revealing and often startling”, “a grand work of synthesis”, “remarkable” “outstanding”, “inspired” and “a welcome antidote to Eurocentric accounts”.

All welcome!

Please RSVP to booklounge@gmail.com / 021 462 2425.

More info: http://black-flame-anarchism.blogspot.com/