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Robbien Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 04:50 AM
Original message
South Africa: Farming in crisis (too dangerous)
JOHANNESBURG - The Transvaal Agricultural Union (TAU) maintains farming in South Africa is second only to soldiering in Iraq on the list of the worlds most dangerous occupations.

This strong view came out of its recent congress on conditions currently facing the countrys agricultural fraternity. These include crime being out of control farm murders are not only numerous but are mind-boggling in their savagery and theft and burning of crops are huge problems.

The congress said farming in South Africa was not an issue of gainful economic activity any longer it had become one of survival.

. . .

Another said commercial agriculture was the countrys most important strategic industry. Yet it is relentlessly harassed by government which cannot leave farmers in peace to produce the countrys food.

Another victim of Global Free Trade agreements. If Africa produced its own food it wouldn't buy all that nice GM food from global producers.

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pooja Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 04:58 AM
Response to Original message
1. I do question where the funding comes to devastate Africa?
If they didn't buy food, they wouldn't be in debt. They would be the richest nations on the earth. They also might want to take back their diamond mines as well while their at it.
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Robbien Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 05:16 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. The easier question to ask is who isn't robbing Africa
Edited on Mon Oct-09-06 05:17 AM by Robbien
China is devasting the Sudan to protect its mining operations. Over on the west coast almost every BigOil company is controlling the population to protect their offshore drilling. You have DeBeers hoarding the diamonds and tanzinite. You have the US/UK trying to control the food and coal supply. Then there's banking/investment firms protecting their interests. And so on.

And you have the IMF and World Bank making sure Africa's debt levels are high and natural assets are open to privatization.

Africa doesn't have a chance in hell. And won't have as long as global money only allows corrupt leaders to be able to win elections in Africa.
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etherealtruth Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 05:16 AM
Response to Original message
3. In the case of South Africa ...
Though it is in the top ~50 countries (as far as wealth) there is a huge disparity between rich and poor. When there are such disparities and little or no opportunities you see a lot of trouble like this.
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Taverner Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 01:45 PM
Response to Reply #3
8. I worry, however, that Mugabe-ism is spreading South
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etherealtruth Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 02:10 PM
Response to Reply #8
9. That, certainly is a great concern ...
I just don't know how generations of apartheid can be undone without some redistribution of wealth, land and resources. Mugabe's example is clearly NOT one to be followed.
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Taverner Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 02:15 PM
Response to Reply #9
10. Very true
But it seems very likely...even if a dictator like Mugabe doesn't emerge
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Cessna Invesco Palin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 05:17 AM
Response to Original message
4. This has little to do with "global free trade agreements."
It is part of the legacy of apartheit.
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Robbien Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 05:25 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. The practice began with apartheid
but even as your link states, the killing has spread to all farmers, black and white.

It is all about money and greed these days. The rich elite are after the very last dime and are using FTA's to get it.
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Cessna Invesco Palin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 05:30 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. I would be interested... see any research you've got which suggests that the violence in South Africa is in any way due to free trade agreements. This is not an argument with which I am familiar.
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Igel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 01:33 PM
Response to Original message
7. Zimbabwe redux ...
if the South Africans are unlucky. There's more than one way to reach the same condition.
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FarrenH Donating Member (485 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 02:54 PM
Response to Original message
11. Perspective from a South African here
Edited on Mon Oct-09-06 03:17 PM by FarrenH
Specifically a white, left leaning, urban South African.

South Africa has huge problems with crime. Its our single biggest problem at the moment. For murders, we're second only to Colombia. Its not just a rural problem and its not just white victims. If anything, black women living in the sprawling squatter camps around Johannesburg are more likely to be raped than their white counterparts in the leafy suburbs. Simply by virtue of continuing economic dominance, whites are more likely to be victims of some crimes such as car hijackings, but blacks are far more vulnerable generally.

The Weekly Mail and Guardian, a highly respected weekly over here, ran an article last week about two police stations, one in a predominantly white suburb and one in a black "township" (a community created to isolate blacks under Apartheid, with all the bad roads and shitty infrastructure that implies - many black people still live in such places). The policing in the predominantly white suburb was immeasurably better. A black victim of crime in the latter area was told by police, after the second time she'd been robbed at a taxi rank (she was beaten and her top ripped off to get to the R10 in her bra), that she shouldn't bother reporting the crime unless she could name the attackers. The competence and commitment of police in the township is apparently such that they are effectively useless.

There have been several brutal, highly publicised farm murders. However, crime statistics indicate that crime in rural areas is substantially less than in urban areas. Limpopo, for instance, a province in the north of SA with a mostly rural population, had 1/10th the number of crimes per capita as Gauteng last year. Gauteng, to put it in perspective is SA's smallest province which, as home to both Johanneburg and Pretoria, is 90% covered in urban and suburban development. In fact two regions, Johannesburg and the sprawling townships around Cape Town, are the major cause for SA's terrible crime stats. My parents live an hour's fast drive away from Johannesburg, where the more rural Magaliesberg mountain region begins, on an 8 hectare plot. They sleep with their doors open so the dogs can wander freely in and out, in a neighbourhood where there hasn't been a crime reported in the last 8 months.

But to hear some white South Africans talk about it, you'd think all the criminals are black, all the victims are white and the police are just turning a blind eye to crimes committed against whites for political ends. The farming community appears to have an even more delusionary viewpoint. Despite actually being significantly safer than the residents of SA's two largest cities, hardly a day goes by when some largely white agricultural union isn't trumpeting the "genocide" in the countryside. In spite of this, authorities in the rural parts of the provinces of Limpopo, Northwest Province and Free State have complained that they have a problem following up on crimes because many white farmers refuse to deal with black policemen. The word I get from the street says that most of them are thoroughly convinced that every black policeman is basically in cahoots with (obviously black) criminals and are acting as their eyes and ears. Astonishingly enough the police have tried to accomodate them, but this often means lengthy delays until a white policeman is free to investigate a particular case.

While race relations have improved significantly in urban areas (which considering SA is 70% urbanised is a good thing), change has been far slower in the rural areas. The farmlands were the majority National Party's core, unwavering support base in the whites-only elected govt that perpetuated Apartheid. Friends I have who work or have worked in rural NGOs say that many farmers still run their farms like little fiefdoms and treat their workers like peons or worse. Despite legislation designed to protect farmworkers they're still considered massively vulnerable not just by left-leaning SA NGO's but by international aid agencies too. I've witnessed first hand the attitude of some of these people. Not two years ago I heard, firsthand, a white farmer narrating how a black worker forgot to water the animals so he "taught him a lesson" by tying him to a tree and leaving him there without food or drink for 24 hours (I don't want to digress to much so I'm not going to explain the circumstances under which I heard this firsthand). But of course, according to groups like the quoted TAU (if you read between the lines), white farmers are victims of ethnic cleansing. Not.

Lets look at the two key players in the OP: The TAU and the paper that reported their comments, The Citizen.

The TAU consists of roughly 6000 White, Afrikaans and extremely conservative farmers. Not to impugn all Afrikaners by association since many in the cities have undergone enormous changes in attitude, but the membership of the TAU is undoubtedly mostly the kind of guys who still yearn for the days of Volk, Vaderland and die kaffir in sy plek (the nigger in his place).

The Citizen is a contemptible rag. About 17 years ago when I did a brief stint as a journalist they had an awful reputation in the journalistic community. Firstly because of their slavish praise singing of the Nationalist government and secondly because of their shitty journalism. The fact that they were started as a propaganda mouthpiece for the Apartheid government was uncontested public knowledge, because half a decade earlier, it had emerged that a certain Mr Roodie had spent several million in taxpayers funds creating instruments of propaganda at home and abroad (including IIRC buying a small US rag). The Citizen was created entirely from those funds. The Info Scandal toppled several powerful politicians, but its acknowledged progeny, such as The Citizen, soldiered on with the same staff members, with the same loyalties to the Nat government.

Although the Citizen's readership has diminished significantly, it still has enough readership to peddle its constant low-key negativity, undershot with a barely concealed hankering for the old days. Astonishingly its even picked up some black readers, mostly I've gathered because they're unaware of its history and often miss the subtext (having English as as a second language). Also, in its commitment to continuously criticising the new order for anything it can lay its hands on, it ironically ends up on the side say of the poor and the halt (in order to criticise govt for lack of delivery). Not that criticism is a bad thing. But unlike newspapers worth the name like the Mail and Guardian, which criticize govt a lot, the Citizen does no real, investigative journalism. It just repeats whatever scandal or smut is common knowledge. And of course, white concerns are always amplified out of proportion.

Anyway, sorry for such a long post, but when I read the OP, so bereft of context I felt compelled to share the broader context from the point of view of someone who is (I like to think :) ) a keen and intelligent first hand observer of South African history, from the formerly privileged class - and is sick to death of some of my fellow white South Africans using their greater access to communication channels to make their lot seem far worse than that of their astonishingly forgiving countrymen of other hues.

This is not "Zim Redux". The government has nothing to do with it (apart from generally poorly run police departments). It is a 99% a crime problem seen through the lens of a largely racist perspective by people who imagine that the entire black race is conspiring against them. No doubt some there are racial dimensions to some of the crimes, since as a nation we're still obsessed with race, but they are incidental rather than the fruit of some imagined vast conspiracy. The primary motivators of crime are huge, visible wealth inequality (we have one of the worst GINI indexes in the world) and the inevitable aftershocks of a system that brutalised people, broke up families, displaced millions and destroyed indigenous culture without providing a viable alternative.
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Karenina Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 03:29 PM
Response to Reply #11
12. Thank you for posting!!!
:toast: And WELCOME!
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FarrenH Donating Member (485 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 03:37 PM
Response to Reply #12
13. Thanks for the welcome
chin-chin :toast:
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superconnected Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 04:02 PM
Response to Reply #11
14. Facinating read. Thanks for sharing!
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xchrom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 06:36 PM
Response to Reply #11
15. welcome!
can you tell us more -- forget the crime context -- about sa's relationship to global trade and the imf?
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FarrenH Donating Member (485 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 07:20 PM
Response to Reply #15
16. Unfortunately I can't tell you much about IMF loans
Edited on Mon Oct-09-06 07:39 PM by FarrenH
I'm an analyst/programmer, not a finance person, so I'm not the best source. I do know the current govt inherited a lot of debt created by the Apartheid regime, some of which has been written off but most of which we've had to pay. I recall reading somewhere that SA has brought down its international debt significantly in the last 10 years. In fact, its made loans to neighbouring countries to help pay off their debt.

Although we've experience consistent economic growth for a decade now (its currently at around 5% per annum), the govt seems to have opened some of our markets way too quickly, while restricting others that should have been opened. The textile industry has shed around 70,000 jobs in the last five years (to put that in perspective, the population is +- 45 million) thanks to opening our doors to China. Even though SA's treaty committments allow it to impose reasonable tariffs to protect certain areas of trade, they miscalculated in thinking there would be trade-offs elsewhere. The paper today said tariffs are now going to be imposed.

On the other hand the govt seriously miscalculated with telecoms. Telkom (affectionately known as "Hellkom" over here), a parastatal, maintains a complete monopoly on all communications here, including digital. And they've kept line rates very high. I'm paying R1000 (around $142) for a 1MB line with a 3GB cap (i.e. I have to pay if I use more than 3GB in a month). There's a small IT boom going on here but the line rates have kept us out of competing seriously in the global market. Amidst a virtual cacaphony of complaints they're finally forcing Telkom to share ownership of bandwidth.

Despite that, SA is a major source of IT services for the rest of Africa. The web dev co I work for does networking, development and support in at least 8 countries in Africa. We're also producing a hell of a lot of medical professionals, but you guys, the Canadians, Brits and Aussies keep stealing them. After doctors have finished their mandatory 4 years in state facilities a lot of them just fly.

SA's also been producing space tech (satellite components etc) for a while now so the govt is creating a space agency to fund and stimulate that (its been driven by a few key universities till now). On the low-tech side, mining is still the backbone of our economy (around 30% last time I checked), but its getting smaller. Tourism just keeps on rising. Its currently 8% of the economy.

For all that, formal employment is running at only 60%. A further 20% of employment age people are considered "informally employed" (hawkers, street vendors, car guards, who are ubiquitous), leaving 20% who are completely unemployed. That starts giving you a clue why crime is so high. The gulfs are enormous. I work with half a dozen guys with degrees and doctorates in comp. sci and related fields and I don't have to look far to find skilled and educated people in all fields. Every modern convenience is within easy reach: high class shopping centers, movie cinemas, countless restaurants, computer stores, skate rinks, laser tag games, satellite TV, 3G cellphone technology, wireless networking at the coffee shop across the road, cult video stores, specialist comic shops etc etc etc.

But on the short, 15 minute drive to work there are guys knocking on my window at every street corner. I keep a heap of change in the door pocket so that I don't have to ignore them and feel guilty. They're usually black and most of them make some effort to provide a service, from washing windows to selling pens to just holding out a black rubbish bag so you can chuck your car trash in and tip them for it. Poverty is everywhere.

Despite that, Johanneburg's a hell of a lot cleaner, tidier and more modern than than the cities I saw in India, like Bangalore or Bombay, which looked like one of Johannesburg's inner city slums for the entire 37 kilometers from the airport to our hotel when I studied at Oracle there. But even that is, sadly, a function of Apartheid architecture. The city center died, although its being rejuvinated now, and business is spread out in kind of satellite zones around the city, with the posh places generally far enough removed from the shanty towns and inner city slums that they seem like different worlds.

Unfortunately that means that many of the more privileged (and here I include the growing black middle class, who now represent, IIRC, more than 60% of SA's consumer input) behave as if the poverty doesn't exist. I mean, I know I'm privileged and when some guy who probably gets up at 4am and has to take two minibuses (a local phenomenon) to get to work by 7:30am from a dusty squatter camp is serving me, I don't give a damn whether the service is good or not. I just tip as much cash as I can because social inequality is a massive problem here. Hell, I offer random strangers a lift across the city when I see them standing wearily outside their work at the end of the day.

But I see corporate concubines who've never done a stitch of work in their f*ing lives acting like they're at a silver service hotel at Macdonalds and tipping, like, 1% because a fish burger took 3 minutes. Or whinging for half an hour because - good grief - a poor person knocked on their car window and asked if they had any rubbish they wanted to dispose of. Thats just horrible.

That inequality and the astonishingly obvlivious attitudes of the well-off, is SA's biggest problem today. Much, much more than any onerous trade agreements with the rest of the world. It is the source of most of our urban crime and creates an ongoing risk that at some point in the future we'll get a purely populist, "bread and circuses" govt, in which case all the whites who are paranoid about the ANCs* motives now will really get a taste of what they fear most. Anyway I should stop now because this particular topic gets me too worked up :)

*As a footnote to that, white paranioa about the ANC is inexplicable. They've done a damn fine job on some fronts and an appaling job on others (the cloudcuckooland AIDS policy being one). But one thing they're not is racist. The fear that was generated in the white community from Apartheid conditioning is stillstrong, even though there's a generally resigned attitude towards the status quo.

I mean the ANC split from the BC movement (the PAC and Azapo) back in the 70's because they decided they wanted to be a human rights organisation rather than just a black liberation organisation, which is why Mandela found it so easy to embrace whites when Apartheid crumbled. Its also why we have one of the most liberal constitutions in the world (entrenched protection for gays for example) One only has to look at the make up of the President's cabinet of ministers, the executive arm of govt, to see that. Out of thirty odd ministers there are four White faces and three Indians (whites constitute around 10% of the population and Indians 3%)
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xchrom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 07:30 PM
Response to Reply #16
17. thank you so much for your thoughtful perspective.
my feeling is that those segments of an economy that are going to do well -- will do well.
i.e. tech, telecom etc.

but poor countries have never had a chance todevelop an interior trade that can represent a healthy bottom to the economy -- and my feeling that third world countrie could develop healthier economies trading with each other{i.e. EVERYTHING is a frontier} than with first world countries -- but that didn't happen.

ah well -- thanks again.
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FarrenH Donating Member (485 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 07:59 PM
Response to Reply #17
18. I agree wholeheartedly
Edited on Mon Oct-09-06 08:10 PM by FarrenH
The shape of the world economy is all wrong right now. I'm not exactly opposed to globalisation since that can mean a lot of things. Globalisation of human rights is a good thing, for instance. Globalisation of peacekeeping, charity and disaster management - all good things. But the completely unrestricted flow of goods and services, without any kind of checks and balances that take cogniscence of local labour conditions, weather, resources, history and so on is simply wrong. It appears to be built on mythical notions about the power of the invisible hand of the free market to just make everything nice and fair.

But it doesn't really work like that, as some very clever scientists from the Santa Fe institute demonstrated with a variety of mathematical models in a Microsoft anti-trust case. It pits, as one compelling metaphor I've seen puts it, multiple football teams against each other where 90% of the teams are starving and 10% are well fed and only the winners get to eat, in a cycle that looks like fair competition but is really a parody of it. When Adam Smith wrote "Wealth of Nations", the capitalism he was describing was one of largely self-employed artisans doing equal trade in a mostly agrarian setting. He actually warned about the distortions created by large corporate capitalism, warnings that go largely unheeded in rich countries today.

Within the confines of a single country these distortions are bad enough, creating huge disparities in wealth and classes of oligarchs with largely inherited wealth, but applied across borders, where capital can flow freely but the labour cannot flow with it, it has disastrous effects. Some corporations literally hop from country to country, injecting temporary life into economies and making them critically dependent on extranational forces, then leaving them high and dry as soon as they start making reasonable demands for their labour, or the govt intervenes on their behalf. Which essentially creates a race to the bottom.

And all the time the economies in which these corporations operate hold themselves aloft as ideal models. But the truth is, as George Soros so accurately noted, the paper economy and the energy economy are out of sync. If every country in the world consumed like the richest countries do today, we would simply run out of useable energy in the blink of an eye. So its all an illusion. We're never going to have most of the world's population living in US- or Western-European or Japanese-style consumer societies. There are always going to be masters and servants, unless we adequately modify our current models to create a global economy that can achieve sustainable and equitable conditions.
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Commie Pinko Dirtbag Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Oct-10-06 08:44 AM
Response to Reply #16
22. Question about Telkom and the IT market
How is the VoIP market over there? I work for a Brazilian VoIP company. Wanna do business? ;)
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Taverner Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Oct-10-06 05:27 AM
Response to Reply #11
19. Thanks for the post!
It would seem in retrospect that the white farmers were trying to paint their plight to be similar to that of the Zimbabwean farmers.

A main difference would be that Mugabe had encouraged and armed the violent groups (and even the mere existance of violent 'groups' in SA).

Again thanks for your post!
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Commie Pinko Dirtbag Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Oct-10-06 08:33 AM
Response to Reply #11
20. Dude. Even a Brazilian ultra-right pundit spewed that canard
of "black-on-white genocide sponsored by the terrorist Communist ANC regime."

He's the Brazilian Ann Coulter. Luckily, much less people give credence to his shit that Americans do to his skinnier counterpart.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your account. :thumbsup:
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theHandpuppet Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Oct-10-06 08:39 AM
Response to Reply #11
21. Thanks for the perspective and insights on this issue
Edited on Tue Oct-10-06 08:40 AM by theHandpuppet
Great post.
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