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Re: terrorist chief received Nobel Peace Prize|
by Patrick Bond
15 November 2001 16:54 UTC
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---- Original Message -----
Hi Gernot. Your general point is right: "terrorist" is a state of mind. For so too was Arafat a terrorist-Nobelist. And so too did FW de Klerk really terrorise black South Africans from 1989-94 (tens of thousands died at his indirect bidding) but he shared the prize with Mandela.
Next logical question is whether Mandela let the ANC revolution whither on the vine (hence qualifying for Nobel status). Are we now left with "peace" here in South Africa? Or, as in Arafat-land, just heightened contradictions?
Some say we are seeing the grounds for a new "terrorism"--i.e., the struggle against Class Apartheid now taking a more militant form, such as stealing electricity--against Mandela and his legacy? You can judge (from a frontpage WashPost article last week):
For South Africa's Poor, a New Power Struggle
By Jon Jeter
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, November 6, 2001; Page A01
SOWETO, South Africa -- When she could no longer
bear the darkness or the cold that settles into her
arthritic knees or the thought of sacrificing
another piece of
furniture for firewood, Agnes Mohapi cursed the
powers that had cut off her electricity. Then she
summoned a neighborhood service to illegally
Soon, bootleg technicians from the Soweto
Electricity Crisis Committee (SECC) arrived in pairs
at the intersection of Maseka and Moema streets.
nothing in return, they used pliers, a penknife and
a snip here and a splice there to return light to
the dusty, treeless corner.
"We shouldn't have to resort to this," Mohapi, 58,
said as she stood cross-armed and remorseless in
front of her home as the repairmen hot-wired her
Nothing, she said, could compare to life under
apartheid, the system of racial separation that
herded blacks into poor townships such as Soweto.
But for all its
wretchedness, apartheid never did this: It did not
lay her off from her job, jack up her utility bill,
then disconnect her service when she inevitably
could not pay.
"Privatization did that," she said, her cadence
quickening in disgust. "And all of this
globalization garbage our new black government has
forced upon us has done
nothing but make things worse. . . . But we will
unite and we will fight this government with the
same fury that we fought the whites in their day."
This is South Africa's new revolution. Seven years
after voters of all races went to the polls for the
first time, ending 46 years of apartheid and white
labor unions, community activists and the poor in
all-black townships are dusting off the protest
machinery that was the engine of their liberation
struggle. What most
provokes South Africans' defiance today are what
they see as injustices unleashed on this developing
nation by the free-market economic policies of the
elected, black-led governing party, the African
Materially, life here has only gotten worse since
1994 as the ANC has pursued a course of piecemeal
privatization of state industries, whittling of
import taxes and
loosening of controls on foreign exchange. The
policies have expanded opportunities for foreign
investors but so far have deepened the poverty
apartheid's segregationist policies.
With domestic industries more vulnerable to foreign
competition and the restructuring of public
enterprises, the most industrialized country in
sub-Saharan Africa has
lost nearly 500,000 jobs since 1993, leaving a third
of the workforce unemployed. The poorest 15 million
South Africans have had their annual incomes shrink
nearly a fifth of what they were before apartheid's
The ANC's top officials, many of whom were initially
Marxists, say their economic policies aim to remedy
the imbalances of the past, which included
trade policies and concentration of wealth in the
hands of a relative few. To redistribute wealth, ANC
officials say, they must first expand it, and they
say only the
global market and foreign cash can ultimately do
that, albeit not without some growing pains as the
Increasingly, this country of 44 million people is
running out of patience as it endures a financial
crisis that statistically outstrips the Great
Depression. At the same
time, costs of such basic needs as housing,
electricity and water are soaring.
"We did not give up our lives and the lives of our
children only to let this brazen capitalist system
exploit us even more," said Shadrack Motau, an SECC
In South Africa, the most despised acronym is
arguably not HIV, the AIDS virus that infects nearly
a quarter of the adult population, but GEAR, the
economic package -- Growth, Employment and
Redistribution -- which opens the door to global
Hoping to generate revenue, streamline a bloated
bureaucracy and extend service to blacks ignored by
apartheid, the ANC announced six years ago that the
government would sell public enterprises from the
state-run airlines and the phone company to Eskom,
the acronym for the public electricity commission.
encouragement from institutions such as the World
Bank and International Monetary Fund, the government
has so far auctioned off only small portions, while
restructuring the public franchises into profit
centers to showcase their attractiveness to
The alienation felt by many poor blacks from this
march to privatization has bred street rallies
calling for a revival of "the spirit of '76" -- a
reference to the year of the
Soweto riots, which gave the anti-apartheid campaign
its second wind.
Virtually every week, thousands of demonstrators and
unionized workers rally in the streets to denounce
both GEAR and the ANC. Grass-roots organizations in
Durban have begun moving evicted families back into
their homes, sometimes only minutes after
authorities have piled their household goods on the
bolted the doors. Unemployed plumbers in Cape Town
reconnect their neighbors' water supply when it has
been shut off because of nonpayment.
"There's definitely been a revival of the struggle
mentality," said Bongani Lubisi, 28, one of scores
of jobless volunteers who roam Soweto each day
electrical service. "We thought that when we got rid
of the old government that our black government
would take care of us. But instead the capitalists
richer while the working people lose their jobs and
can't even meet their basic needs."
For all its anti-communist fervor, the apartheid
government shielded South Africa's domestic
industries from foreign competition with policies
that included stiff
controls on foreign capital, heavy state subsidies
and tariffs on imported goods. When blacks refused
to pay rent and utilities as part of township-wide
apartheid government did not evict them or shut off
their services for fear of sparking riots.
Jacob Maroga, executive director of distribution at
Eskom, said that Soweto's electricity problems
started when the boycotts of the 1980s bankrupted
apartheid-controlled municipal government that
purchased electricity and resold it to residents.
When Eskom began handling the accounts directly, it
spent about $75 million in capital improvements and
wrote off nearly $37.5 million in household debts.
its preparations to sell the public utility, Eskom
has focused on demonstrating its profitability to
investors, following the World Bank's prescriptions
recovery" in which the price for each kilowatt of
electricity is set according to how much the utility
spends to provide it.
That meant increasing costs by as much as 400
percent for some residents in Soweto, who for years
were charged a flat rate for electricity.
"The idea is that we would do all [the improvements]
and then the residents would start living up to
their commitments. But we still recover only about
50 to 55
percent of the costs for the electricity we sell,"
"There are clearly customers who don't have the
capacity to pay," Maroga said. "But there is also
this culture of nonpayment in Soweto where customers
to pay but they prioritize other consumptive
spending. We need to deal with that."
In a place where median household income is less
than $100 a month, 90 percent of all Soweto
households with electricity are behind in their
payments, according to
a university survey. Sixty-one percent have had
their service shut off within a 12-month period. In
a community of nearly 1.5 million people, Eskom cuts
to about 20,000 delinquent customers each month.
"This culture of nonpayment that people say exists
in Soweto," said Virginia Setshedi, an SECC board
member and law student, "it's only because people
money to pay."
Because Eskom sells electricity at discounted bulk
rates, affluent municipalities in mostly white
suburbs buy electricity and resell it to customers
for roughly 30
percent less than what it costs Soweto's consumers.
For the biggest users of Eskom's electricity --
industrial sites such as steel plants and coal mines
-- the rate for
each kilowatt is roughly one-tenth the rate for a
household in Soweto.
That inequity drove a coalition of unreconstructed
communists, retirees and college students to create
the SECC nearly a year ago. Its chairman, Trevor
former ANC municipal council member, recruited a
friend, a laid-off Eskom repairman, to train
volunteers how to reconnect a power supply.
Since then, Operation Khanyisa -- which means "to
light" in the Zulu language commonly spoken here --
has unlawfully restored electricity to about 3,000
"We're getting about 50 calls each day from the
community," Setshedi said. "We don't ask why or when
the people were cut off, we just switch them back
Everyone should have electricity."
To combat the illegal connections and the SECC's
growing celebrity, Eskom officials have published
full-page ads in the Sowetan daily newspaper,
that 10 South Africans -- mostly children -- were
killed last year by exposed live wires. But SECC
officials say that none of those fatalities occurred
where volunteer technicians are trained to wrap live
wires in plastic bags.
Patrick Bond, a business professor at the University
of the Witwatersand and co-director of the Municipal
Services Project, acknowledges that it is expensive
provide electricity to the poor, who use little
electricity and are unable to buy it in bulk through
their municipality, which results in duplicate costs
administration and labor.
But he said Eskom could largely resolve the debt
problem in Soweto by charging big industries a few
cents more for each kilowatt of electricity,
cheaper flat rate for poor customers.
"Eskom has a rate structure that economically makes
sense," Bond said. "But socially it makes no sense.
Their structure is good for the northern
we'd like to see a structure that is good for
everyone. That means smaller profit margins in the
short term but a healthier society in the long
Lubisi and another SECC repairman take Bond's
argument to the street. They arrived one recent
morning at the Maseka and Moema intersection flanked
"Red and white are used as live wires and they are
very dangerous," Lubisi said, showing the wires to
the trainees as a crowd gathered.
James Buthelezi has lived in this house on Maseka
Street for as long as he can remember, and this was
the first time the electricity had been cut off.
people live in this five-room house and a tool
shed-sized room in the back yard.
No one has worked in months and the family survives
on Buthelezi's mother's pension, less than $125 a
month. Their unpaid bill is more than $3,000. "When
came to cut off our electricity, we begged them not
to," said Buthelezi, 58. "We told them that we had
babies and elderly people inside. They didn't even
The SECC's members have tried to talk to
Johannesburg's mayor about the hardships endured by
families like Buthelezi's, but he has repeatedly
given them the slip.
In June, more than 20 angry residents marched to the
mayor's home but again he ducked them.
Unable to cut off his electricity, they disconnected
2001 The Washington Post Company
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