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Chad closes border with Sudan, freezes economic relations

2008-05-13 04:49:35 xinhuanet

N'DJAMENA, May 13 (Xinhua) -- The Chadian authorities have moved to formally close the common border with Sudan and freeze all the existing economic relations between the two countries following heightened tensions, according to official sources.

The decision, which appears to be in response to Khartoum's move to sever diplomatic relations with Chad Sunday, was announced following an extraordinary cabinet meeting on Monday.

"The decision was taken to ensure the security of Chad and its citizens, to protect its economic and cultural interests" and also "to preempt any surprises," said a statement issued at the end of government meeting presided by President Idriss Deby Itno.

The government has decided to "seal the eastern border (with Sudan) to avoid infiltration," said the statement, adding that the "activities of the Agricultural Commercial Bank (a Chadian-based Sudanese bank) and financial transactions between Chad and Sudan had also been banned."

On Sunday, Sudan broke its diplomatic relations with Chad, accusing N'Djamena of supporting an attack that was conducted against Khartoum on Saturday by the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), the most militarily powerful of rebel groups based in the war-ravaged western Sudanese region of Darfur.

"We attribute the responsibility for the attack to Chad," Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir had said shortly after the attack, but Chadian authorities have denied "any involvement" in the attack.

The government, which has designated Libya to "represent its interests in Sudan," has also decided "to prohibit the export of live cattle and any national product through Sudan," said the statement.

"This measure will apply to all, including the herders who must now restrict their movements to the national territory without crossing the border into Sudan," according to the statement. Many Chadian farmers normally sell their cattle and products to their Sudanese counterparts.

"Finally, the government reserves itself the right to consider taking any other measures that could ensure security, independence and peace in Chad," said the statement.

On Sunday, the Chadian government had announced that it had learned "with great surprise" of the Sudanese decision to sever diplomatic relations and had taken "note of the hasty decision with regret."

Over the past five years, the two neighboring countries have maintained very tense and turbulent relations. The countries, which have been trading wild accusations, are at loggerheads over the presence of two simmering rebellions inside their respective territories.

Earlier this year, N'Djamena had accused Sudan of having "ordered" three Chadian rebel outfits to form an alliance ahead of a largely successful onslaught on N'Djamena that was designed to topple the regime of President Deby on Feb. 2 and 3.

Shortly afterwards, the leaders of the two countries, following much prodding from African leaders, met on the sidelines of an Islamic conference in Dakar and signed a peace agreement that was described as the "Final Solution" by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade.

The agreement, according to many regional analysts, has now befallen a fate keen to a series of other previously signed accords that were never implemented or honored mainly due to deeply-seated mistrust between the two countries.


UNITED NATIONS, May 10 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon Saturday strongly condemned the attacks by a Sudanese rebel group on the country's capital Khartoum.

In a statement issued by his press office, Ban expressed "grave concern at the outbreak of fighting on the outskirts of Khartoum as a result of the reported attacks by Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) forces against the capital."

YAOUNDE, May 10 (Xinhua) -- The Chadian government on Saturday denied allegations of involvement in the attack by Darfur rebels on the Sudanese capital Khartoum, according to reports reaching here.

The Chadian government "denies any involvement in this adventure, which it condemns unreservedly," government spokesman Mahamat Hissene said in a statement released in the Chadian capital N'Djamena.

WASHINGTON, May 10 (Xinhua) -- The United States Saturday condemned the rebel attacks in Sudan and called for an immediate end to the fighting.

"The United States condemns the recent attack by Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) forces in the area of Omdurman, near Khartoum," the State Department said in a statement.

KHARTOUM, May 10 (Xinhua) -- A cautious calm returned to the Sudanese capital at midnight following a fighting between the army troops and rebels coming from the restive western Sudanese region of Darfur, in which a number of the rebels were killed.

Soldiers and policemen on armed personnel carriers and military vehicles were patrolling the streets while more troops were stationed along the main roads and important traffic points to safeguard the city.

KHARTOUM, May 10 (Xinhua) -- Khartoum announced on Saturday evening that the Sudanese army and police had crushed an infiltration attempt of rebels coming from the restive western Sudanese region of Darfur.

In a statement, Police Spokesman Mohamed Abdel-Mageed al-Tayeb declared that remnants of the forces of rebel Khalil Ibrahim that attempted to infiltrate to the capital were "repulsed".

KHARTOUM, May 10 (Xinhua) -- The Sudanese government confirmed fighting taking place on Saturday between army troops and rebels coming from the restive western Sudanese region of Darfur in the capital Khartoum.

In a statement, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) said that the army troops "confront infiltrators of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in northern Omdurman area."

KHARTOUM, May 10 (Xinhua) -- The Sudanese government announced on Saturday a curfew in Khartoum only minutes after explosions and gun shots were heard in Omdurman area in northwestern Khartoum.

The Sudanese Ministry of Interior Affairs said in a statement that the curfew was imposed in Khartoum from 5 p.m. (1400 GMT) until 6 a.m. (0300 GMT)

KHARTOUM, May 9 (Xinhua) -- The Sudanese army announced on Friday that it had received information of an imminent plot by a Darfur rebel group to attack the capital Khartoum and other major cities in the African country.

The army said in a statement that it has received information on "preparations made by rebel Khalil Ibrahim to conduct sabotage attempt and a publicity stunt through infiltrating the capital and other towns."


Sudan, Chad quit accord

Just two months after their latest attempt at a peace accord, Sudan and neighbouring Chad have once again broken off relations after an attack by Darfur rebels close to the Sudanese capital Khartoum.

Sudan's President Omar el-Beshir, often accused by Chad's head of state Idriss Deby Itno of trying to overthrow him, took action to sever diplomatic ties, accusing Chad of backing a Darfur rebel assault on Khartoum.

His government said it had repulsed the assault by the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), allegedly backed by Chad, which saw the insurgents reach Khartoum's outskirts with the declared intent of toppling the regime.

"We are forced to sever diplomatic relations with this regime" in Chad, President Omar al-Beshir said on television. "We place the entire responsibility for this attack on Chad."

"The JEM was in eastern Chad only recently," an expert on the local military situation told AFP. "Elements of it left the area of Abeche (the main town of eastern Chad) a week ago.

"It's not impossible that they went to support JEM forces already in Sudan."

The episode mirrored a failed offensive against the Chad capital Ndjamena on 2 and 3 February by Chad rebels, operating out of rear bases in neighbouring Darfur in western Sudan, which almost toppled Deby who survived with French military assistance.

The rebels allegedly backed by Khartoum advanced as far as the gates of the presidential palace in Ndjamena before being repulsed.

At that time Chad's hard-pressed army called in Sudanese rebels with JEM forces to the rescue, said the foreign observer.

"Maybe Chad is now returning the favour by lending them a hand against Beshir," he suggested.

Chad, which broke off relations with Sudan for four months in 2006 after an earlier rebel raid on its capital, strongly condemned the support which most observers believed Khartoum had given to armed Chad rebels in the February attack.

Acting under international pressure, the two countries on 13 March in Dakar signed a peace accord described as "definitive" after previous similar accords signed in Tripoli, Riyadh and Cannes, France, had failed.

But following a session last month of a Chad-Sudan contact group in Libreville, capital of the west African state of Gabon, an African diplomat said: "Their hand was forced at Dakar, but nothing has changed. And nothing will change as long as these two presidents are in power."

The contact group, linking foreign ministers of various African mediating states, was set to meet again in Libya in the next few days.

Sudan and Chad have long accused each other of backing rebels seeking to topple their respective regimes.

The roots of the two countries' conflict are to be found in the five-year-old civil war in Darfur.

Chad was quickly accused of supporting the Darfur rebels, in particular the JEM, led by the Zaghawas, President Deby's ethnic group and part of his close circle.

A Western diplomat in the region told AFP recently the Sudanese government would be glad to see Deby's overthrow. "With an ally in power in Ndjamena, Sudan could deprive the Darfur rebels of their rear bases," he pointed out.

But at the moment African diplomats are hoping to restore calm between the two neighbours by means of an observation force to secure the border between Chad and Sudan.

This force was agreed as far back as a peace accord signed in Tripoli in February 2006, but its concrete makeup has never been defined.


Grim outlook for Sudan, Chad peace accord over Khartoum raid

2008-05-12 10:50:42 Xinhua English

BEIJING, May 12 (Xinhua) -- Just two months after the signing of a peace accord, Sudan and Chad have once again broken off relations after Darfur rebels attacked the Sudanese capital Khartoum.

Sudan holds Chad responsible for the raid and has arrested the Islamist opposition leader. In the meantime Darfur rebel leader Khalil Ibrahim has vowed more attacks on Khartoum until the government falls.

With tensions between Sudan and Chad escalating, pulling the rebels back into the political process to solve the Darfur issue is a more urgent task than ever, analysts say.

Nevertheless, the crisis between Sudan and Chad is a difficult problem that cannot be solved in a short period.

NEW ROUND OF TENSIONS

On Saturday, a group of militants of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) infiltrated the Omdurman Area in northwestern Khartoum and clashed with Sudanese Armed Forces and police.

The Sudanese government said the army and the police had crushed the rebels' attempt to penetrate the capital, killing and capturing a number of the attackers.

This was the first time that rebels in Darfur have entered Khartoum to launch attacks since the bloody conflict erupted in the western Sudanese region neighboring Chad in February 2003.

The Sudanese government has repeatedly accused N'Djamena of supporting and providing assistance to the rebel movements in Darfur, but the Chadian government has denied the accusation.

EXCHANGE BARBS

After the rebel raids, Sudan accused Chad of backing the rebels and has cut diplomatic relations but Chad has denied involvement.

"Sudan holds Chad responsible for what had happened and reserves the right to respond," Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir said in an address to the Sudanese nation after announcing the decision to sever diplomatic ties with Chad.

But the Chadian government denied the accusation that N'Djamena was involved in Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebels' attack on Khartoum.

"Chad has nothing to do with this adventure," Chadian Information Minister Muhammad Hissein said.

On the other side, Darfur rebel leader Khalil Ibrahim said Monday he would launch more attacks on Sudan's capital Khartoum until the government fell.

"This is just the start of a process and the end is the termination of this regime," said Ibrahim, whose JEM attacked Khartoum at the weekend. "Don't expect just one more attack."

Sudan Monday arrested Islamist opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi and pressed its pursuit of Darfur rebels who threatened again to attack the capital as sporadic gunfire rang out across Khartoum.

RECENT CHAD-SUDAN TENSIONS

On April 9, 2004, Chad brokered a ceasefire between the Sudanese government and two Darfur rebel groups.

On April 11, 2005, Chad suspended mediation, accusing Sudan of supporting Chadian rebels.

On Feb 8, 2006, Chad and Sudan agreed to put an end to their dispute at a meeting in Libya.

On April 13, 2006, Chad government forces fought off attack by rebels on the capital N'Djamena. Several hundred people were killed. Deby broke diplomatic relations with Sudan the next day.

On Aug 8, 2006, Chadian President Idriss Deby and Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir agreed to restore ties.

On Feb 22, 2007, at a conference in Libya, leaders of Sudan and Chad pledge to redouble efforts to end border violence.

On May 3, 2007, Sudan and Chad signed a Saudi-brokered reconciliation deal in Riyadh.

On March 13, 2008, Deby and his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Beshir signed a peace agreement in Dakar -- the sixth such accord between the countries in five years.

On March 22, 2008, Chad and Sudan accused each other of breaking the new peace pact.

On May 10, 2008, Sudan accused the Chadian army of attacking a border area inside Sudan to support an infiltration and sabotage attempt by Darfur rebels in Khartoum and other major cities. This is denied by N'Djamena.

On May 11, 2008, Sudan severed diplomatic relations with Chad.

INTERNATIONAL REACTION

Although having thus far vehemently criticized the Sudanese government over what has happened in Darfur, the international society, which includes the United Nations, United States, France and Britain, denounced Saturday's attack by JEM rebels on Khartoum.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon Saturday strongly condemned the attacks, expressing "grave concern at the outbreak of fighting on the outskirts of Khartoum as a result of the reported attacks by Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) forces against the capital."

"He condemns strongly the use of armed force and military means by JEM for the achievement of political ends, and calls for an immediate cessation of fighting and a renewed commitment to a peaceful resolution of outstanding issues," said a statement issued by his press office.

The UN chief also expressed his "anxiety at the effect they (the attacks) would have on the overall situation in Sudan, as well as on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and Darfur Agreement, and at the possible effect on civilian lives and property of any escalation of such attack," it added.

France also condemned the attack and called for faster deployment of an international peacekeeping force in Sudan's huge western region, the foreign ministry said Sunday.

"France calls for an acceleration in the deployment of UNAMID, a resumption of political dialogue and the application of accords contributing to the easing of tensions in the region."
Panel Slams MLK Statue Design

By STEPHEN MANNING,
AP
Posted: 2008-05-11 13:41:57

WASHINGTON (May 10) - The centerpiece for the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial on the National Mall has drawn criticism from a federal arts panel, which says the proposed statue looks "confrontational" and resembles the head of a socialist state more than a civil rights leader.

Models of the 28-foot tall statue depict King emerging from a chunk of granite, his arms folded in front of his chest, his legs firmly rooted, an intense gaze on his face.

"The proposed treatment of the sculpture - as the most iconographic and central element of the memorial to Dr. King- would be unfortunate and inappropriate as an expression of his legacy," wrote Thomas Luebke, secretary of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, which reviews the design of projects in the capital area.

The statue, which will be built with $100 million in mostly private funds, is set to be erected on the banks of the Tidal Basin along the National Mall, above. It will open to the public in about two years.

It will be the largest statue on the Mall, bigger than those at the nearby memorials to Abraham Lincoln, right, and Thomas Jefferson. Lei has made a full-size clay model in China but has not yet carved the granite statue.

Last year, many criticized the decision of hiring Lei Yixin, who is known for his sculptures of Mao Zedong, to create the King statue. Critics said an African-American or at least an American should have been selected as the sculptor.

But the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, which reviews the design of projects in the capital area, said the design should be reworked to reflect a more sympathetic rendering of King.

Members thought "the proposed treatment of the sculpture - as the most iconographic and central element of the memorial to Dr. King - would be unfortunate and inappropriate as an expression of his legacy," wrote Thomas Luebke, commission secretary, in an April 25 letter to the foundation that is planning the King memorial and the National Park Service.

The panel said the statue looked "confrontational" and reflected a "genre of political sculpture that has recently been pulled down in other countries."

Harry Johnson, president of the Washington, D.C., Martin Luther King, Jr., National Memorial, said a new design would be submitted June 15 that includes a "softening of Dr. King." His facial expression, for example, will be changed.

The criticism from the panel, which must approve the design in order for work to go forward, was part of a dialogue, Johnson said. But he added it would be hard to confuse the slain civil rights icon with an authoritarian figure.

"I don't think anybody could look at a statue of Dr. King and say he looks like a dictator," Johnson said.

Work is scheduled to begin this year on the memorial, to be built with $100 million in mostly private funds on the banks of the National Mall's Tidal Basin. A symbolic groundbreaking was held in 2006 with much pomp, including speeches by President Bush and a string of political leaders and civil rights figures. It will probably open to the public in two years.

The King statue, to be carved by Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin, will be chiseled out of a granite boulder called "The Stone of Hope." It will be the largest statue on the Mall, bigger than those at the nearby memorials to Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson. Lei has made a full-size clay model in China but has not yet carved the granite statue.

The design is not the first controversy over the memorial. Critics said last year that the sculptor should be black or at least American, and that King would have been appalled by China's poor record on human rights.

2008-05-10 08:54:07
Insurgents Ambush Country's Interior Minister, 4 Soldiers Killed

Garowe Online (Garowe)
10 May 2008
Garowe

Islamist rebels ambushed an armored convoy transporting Somalia's internal affairs minister Saturday in the outskirts of the capital Mogadishu, sources said.

Muse Nur Amin, the Interior Minister, was in one of the vehicles but his car was not directly hit by the insurgents.


But two other cars which were part of the Interior Minister's convoy were laced with bullets and later captured by the insurgents, according to witnesses.

At least four government soldiers were killed and two others wounded, with the Interior Minister escaping the ambush unhurt.

Ali "Ganey" Adan, a police commander in Lower Shabelle region, confirmed to reporters that Interior Minister Amin's convoy was attacked and local authorities dispatched police units to the area reinforce the government minister.

Al Shabaab spokesman Muktar Robow "Abu Mansur," who claimed responsibility for the deadly ambush in Lower Shabelle region, bragged that no one on their side was hurt during the skirmish.

In Mogadishu, at least 11 people died from a series of overnight attacks, including two Ethiopian soldiers who were killed when their vehicle came under rocket fire in northern Mogadishu.

Five civilians were reported dead when shells hit their homes following street fighting between insurgents and government forces, locals said.

Somalia has been mired in armed conflict since 1991, but the ongoing war is being waged between Ethiopian-backed government troops and Islamist-led rebels.
Wealth Building: South Africa, the sub-prime crisis

Piet van Schaik, semi-retired businessman and former investment strategist investment economist

09 May 2008 05:35

Where to from here...

So far the only South African bank that has admitted to exposure to US sub-prime paper (a bit difficult to call them assets these days) was Investec – and then only minimally so. Hence, I suppose, the view that South Africa has weathered the most severe challenge to the US financial system since the great depression – relatively unscathed. And, some would add, this is more than several very prominent UK and European banks can say. In the narrow sense that is correct. In the broader sense it is far from the truth.

Read the press about the depressed state of a large number of South Africans and the reasons given are a combination of: the election of Jacob Zuma at the ANC Conference in December last year, the electricity crisis, inflation and rising interest rates. All of this is supposed to have led to foreign investors selling large chunks of their South African investments and repatriating the proceeds and, low and behold, the rand depreciated.

The logic holds, but the important question is: “Is this really how it happened?”

I do not think so.

What about another scenario – one that says that the reason(s) for foreign asset managers repatriating their funds did not originate in South Africa.

The Rand

The value of the rand against the euro from the beginning of December 2007 to the end of March 2008. Note the low volatility in December. The Polokwane Conference was from 16 to 20 December 2008 and was widely reported on – both domestically, and internationally. Subsequent to that the rand actually strengthened a little. Foreign investors were clearly not as concerned about the new president-in-waiting as South Africans were.

Something clearly changed around the middle of January. The explanation is found to a very large extent in the activity of foreign equity investors on the JSE.

The close inverse relationship between the value of the rand versus the dollar and foreign equity sales speaks largely for itself. The time when the rand starting heading south (in value) was also the time when foreign investors turned heavy net sellers of SA held equities.

Between 16 and 31 January 2008 foreigners sold net R13.5 billion, of which R7.4 billion or more than half took place on just two days - 25 and 28 January 2008 (Friday and Monday). Apart from a little respite in early February, it continued until 19 February before stabilising. By that point the net selling since mid-January had amounted to slightly more than R17 billion.

What caused foreigners to suddenly have such a huge change of heart with regard to their SA investments?

Financial Turmoil in the US and Eskom

It is with good reason that economics is not regarded as an exact science. While we do not claim to have definitive answers, we can point to a few extremely strong possibilities.

The US financial system in trouble

By the beginning of January this year the sub-prime problem in the US was not new. However, early in the new year it started becoming clear that this was not just a hiccup, but rather a tidal wave and nobody (including the FED, the IMF or any other illustrious institution) had any idea how big the problem really was.

In a speech on 10 January 2008 Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke, made the following observation: “…. following a period of more-aggressive risk-taking, the sub-prime crisis led investors to re-assess credit risk more broadly and, perhaps, to become less willing to take on risks of any type.”

Look too at what happened in the US news in the few days before the foreign selling in South Africa started:

11 January: Merrill Lynch reported suffering a loss of $15bn in the fourth quarter – 25% higher than market expectations. This followed a loss of $8.4bn in the third quarter.

15 January: Sears Holdings (owner of Sears and Kmart) warned that profits could decline by 57% in the three months to February 2008.

16 January: Beige Book survey (a survey done by the twelve member banks that make up the Federal Reserve Board) confirmed that the economy was becoming sluggish.

16 January: Citi Group announced a 4th quarter loss of $9.8bn and wrote off $23.2bn due to its sub-prime exposure. On this news Citi’s share price fell 7.3%, which took the price decline to 50% over 12 months.

19 January: Labour Department reported a 13.2% increase in unemployment. Analysts quickly pointed out that every time in the last 5 cycles unemployment rose in excess of 13%, it led to a recession.

22 January: Fed announced a 75 basis-point drop in the Fed Fund rate (that is a nearly 18% decline) – the largest one-day cut ever. It came just a few days before a regular FOMC meeting scheduled for 29 January.

Investors (professional asset managers, but also individuals) lowering their risk-appetite always shows up as a movement to higher liquidity – so they sell. An important point is that the selling has two objectives: one is to get away from actual or perceived risk, while the other is to raise liquidity.

South Africa

Of course South Africa was always vulnerable to a lowering of the risk appetite of foreign investors. By far the most important of these vulnerabilities are:

The fact that South Africa is an emerging market. Emerging markets risk has for years been perceived as higher than developed markets.

South Africa has the most liquid stock market amongst all emerging markets, i.e. if foreign investors want to reduce their emerging market exposure they can do so quickly, even though the reason for raising liquidity may have very little to do with SA. Think back to the South-East Asia crisis of the nineties.

Eskom

Other issues that may increase the investors’ perception of risk could then enter the equation. It so happens that at almost exactly the same time that the sub-prime crisis was creating havoc in the US, the full extent of the electricity problem in SA also became clearer.

For example:

18 January: Eskom announced that the R22bn Rio Tinto aluminium smelter could be delayed. It also said that it wanted to dissuade government from taking on any new energy-intensive projects.

21 January: Eskom said that SA must cut electricity consumption by 20% as soon as possible. This implies that economic growth rates of 5% to 6% will not be possible.
Cause and Effect

Is it important to determine cause and affect? After all, is the end result not the same?

The question can be asked a different way: Would the general body of investors have behaved as they did if the sub-prime crisis had not happened, but Eskom did? Conversely, would investors have behaved as they did if only the sub-prime crisis happened, but Eskom did not? In my opinion the answer to the first question is No; while the answer to the second is Yes.

The Reserve Bank and Monetary Policy

With this as background, let us look again at Tito Mboweni’s latest 0.5% hike in the discount rate. The Reserve Bank has only one task – combat inflation. This is the popular interpretation. Put in different words it gets a much wider and illuminating meaning – it is to preserve the value of the rand. Success internally would reflect an inflation rate within the target range, while externally, it would reflect a stable currency (or at least a currency that depreciates broadly in line with the inflation differentials).

The Reserve Bank knows, just as well as other analysts, that the inflation that SA is currently suffering from is not of the demand-pull kind, but rather that it is cost-push and further that it has been externally induced. It also knows that the hike in interest rates will do little to make the inflation rate come down.

I think that there is more than a reasonable chance that the latest hike in interest rates was not aimed particularly at tackling domestic inflation, but was rather an attempt to address the other leg of the task – to try to get some stability back as far as the external value of the rand is concerned.

How would this work? Foreign investors who endeavoured to raise the cash portion of their portfolios still have to perform. If the other-than-cash asset markets are still deemed too risky, an obvious way of doing that is to invest the cash at the optimum interest rate. Is it not interesting that interest rates in the US and the UK are falling (Euroland is pumping so much liquidity into the system that they are certainly trying to prevent interest rates from rising), while interest rates in SA are rising? Tito Mboweni is probably smiling. At some point the interest rate differential becomes so attractive that those asset managers with large liquidity portfolios will have to look and assess South Africa again.

The word “assess” is important in my interpretation of what the Reserve Bank is doing. What are these managers assessing? Obviously, it is about risk, and here the Reserve Bank’s credibility is at stake. It has to be seen to be doing what a central bank should be doing in the face of very high and accelerating inflation rates, even (and maybe especially) if the acceleration is condoned by government, i.e. administered prices. It reminds me of the arguments between Paul Volcker (then chairman of the Fed) and Ronald Reagan in the early- to mid-nineties.

How would we know whether the Reserve Bank’s strategy (as I see it) is working or not? Market prices move because of cash flows – nothing else. There have to be buyers and sellers and a deal must be done. Long before economists will see the balance of payments or any other figures, the market will have transmitted the underlying activity in the form a price.

If it happens, I would expect the following:

-The rand stops depreciating.

-An increase in liquidity in the banking system.

-Efforts by the Reserve Bank to mop up this liquidity (maybe in the form of short-term repurchase agreements).

Looking at the performance of the rand since about the last third of March (and I am not looking at it wearing the glasses of a technical analyst) it is clear that, despite the extreme volatility, the speed at which the rand has been declining has reduced significantly. This is a good initial sign. The next good sign will be a reduced volatility.

In the meantime, also take note of the trend in late February, March and, particularly, April of Net Foreign Purchases. Between 19 February and 21 April this year, foreign investors have been net buyers of SA equities in the amount of R7.6bn.

Conclusion

Almost every major commodity that South Africans use on a daily basis (fuel and food commodities in particular) is in one way or another subject to import-parity pricing – whether we import it or not. A change in the value of the rand therefore transmits directly to the inflation rate – and without too much of a delay.

If this analysis is anywhere close to correct, foreign investors could be back sooner than most anticipate, which would lead to a more stable (and possibly stronger) rand and imported inflation could fall significantly. The consequent implications for interest rates are obvious.

Piet van Schaik ended his career as an investment strategist at Barnard Jacobs and Mellett after spending most of his career as an investment economist.
Zim opposition rooted in imperialism

By Stephen Gowans
Courtesy of the Zimbabwe Herald

ZIMBABWE’S Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa last Friday denounced the United States and Britain for their interference in Zimbabwe's elections.

At the same time, he decried the Morgan Tsvangirai faction of the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T), and its civil society partner, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, as being part of a US and British programme to reverse the gains of Zimbabwe’s national liberation struggle.

"It is no secret that the US and the British have poured in large sums of money behind the MDC-T’s sustained demonisation campaign," Chinamasa said. "Sanctions against Zimbabwe (were intensified) just before the elections," while "large sums of money" were poured into Zimbabwe "by the British and Americans to bribe people to vote against President Mugabe."

The goal, Chinamasa continued, is to "render the country ungovernable in order to justify external intervention to reverse the gains of the land reform programme".

The minister went on to describe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC-T "for what they are — an Anglo-American project designed to defeat and reverse the gains of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, to undermine the will of the Zimbabwean electorate and to return the nation to the dark days of white domination".

The minister also described the ZESN as "an American-sponsored civil society appendage of the MDC-T".

Were they reported in the West, it would be fashionable to sneer at Chinamasa’s accusations as lies told to justify a crackdown on the opposition.

But, predictably, they haven’t been. For anyone who is following closely, however, the minister’s charges hardly ring false. The ZESN is funded by the US Congress and US State Department though the National Endowment for Democracy and United States Agency for International Development. Its board is comprised of a phalanx of US and British-backed fifth columnists.

Board member Reginald Matchaba Hove won the NED democracy award in 2006. Described by its first director as doing overtly what the CIA used to do covertly, the NED — and by extension the NGOs it funds — are not politically neutral organisations.

They have an agenda, and it is to promote US interests under the guise of promoting democratisation. Hove is also director of the Southern Africa division of billionaire financier George Soros’ Open Society Institute, which has been involved in funding overthrow movements in Yugoslavia, Georgia, Ukraine and elsewhere.

Soros also has an agenda: to open societies to Western profit making. Indeed, the board members of the ZESN comprise an A-list of overthrow activists, with multiple interlocking connections to imperialist governments and corporate foundations.

It doesn’t take long to connect Hove to left scholar Patrick Bond (of Her Majesty’s NGOs) and his Centre for Civil Society. The Centre is a programme partner with the Southern Africa Trust, one of whose trustees is ZESN board member Reginald Matchaba Hove. The Centre for Policy Studies, whose mission is to prepare civil society in Zimbabwe for political change (that is, to prepare it to overthrow the Zanu-PF Government) is funded by the Southern Africa Trust, a partner of Bond’s Centre for Civil Society.

Other sponsors include the Soros, Ford, Mott, Heinrich Boll (German Green party), and Friedrich Ebert (German Social Democrats) foundations, the Rockefeller Brothers, the NED, South African Breweries and a fund established by the chairman of mining and natural resources company, Anglo American.

Significantly, Zimbabwe is rich in minerals. Zanu-PF’s programme is to put control of the country’s mineral resources, as well as its land, in the hands of the black majority, depriving transnational mining companies, like Anglo American, of control and profits. Everjoice Win, the former spokesperson for the ZESN, is on the advisory board of Bond’s centre. The Centre supports the Freedom of Expression Institute, which is funded by George Soros and the British government’s Westminster Foundation for Democracy.

The FEI is a partner of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (also funded by the British government), whose director Rashweat Mukundu is a board member of the ZESN. Bond co-authored a report with Tapera Kapuya, a fellow of ZESN sponsor, the NED. He also contributed to a report titled Zimbabwe’s Turmoil, along with John Makumbe and Brian Kagoro.

The report was sponsored by the Institute for Security Studies, which is financed by the governments of the US, Britain, France and Canada, the Rockefeller Brothers, and, of course, the ubiquitous George Soros and Ford foundations.

Makumbe has published in the NED’s Journal of Democracy, and is a former director of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (funded, not surprisingly, by the NED). The Coalition, like the Centre for Policy Studies, is devoted to ousting the Mugabe Government under the guise of promoting democracy, but in reality promotes the profits of firms like Anglo American and the interests of US and British investors. Kagoro is a former co-ordinator of the Coalition. Significantly, the Coalition is a partner of the ZESN.

Add to this Bond’s celebrating the Western-trained and financed underground movements Zvakwana and Sokwanele as an "independent left" and his co-authoring a Z-Net article on Zimbabwe with MDC founding member Grace Kwinjeh (MDC leader Tsvangirai admitted in a February 2002 SBS Dateline programme that his party is financed by European governments and corporations), and it’s clear that Bond links up with the spider web of American and British-sponsored civil society appendages of the MDC-T.

Chinamasa’s clarification of the connections between the US and Britain and Zimbabwe’s civil society and opposition fifth columnists is a welcome relief from Western newspapers’ attempts to cover them up. The ZESN, despite being generously funded by the US through Congress and the State Department, is described by the Western media as "independent" while ZESN partner, the National Democratic Institute, is called "an international pro-democracy organisation" and "a Washington-based group".

What it really is, is the foreign arm of the Democratic Party. The NDI receives funding from the US Congress (as well as from USAID and corporate foundations), which it then doles out to fifth columnists in US-designated "outposts of tyranny".

Only in the service of propaganda would the Democratic Party be called "a Washington-based group". One wonders how Americans would have reacted to the British monarchy parading about post-revolutionary Washington as a "London-based" group — an "international good governance" organisation bankrolling an American NGO to monitor US elections?

Would anyone be surprised if the leaders of the British-financed NGO were dragged off to jail, especially were its backers openly working to oust the government in Washington to restore the rule of the British monarchy?

In Zimbabwe, the only surprise is that the Zanu-PF Government hasn’t reacted with as much force as the Americans would have done under the same circumstances. That Zimbabwe’s Government has tried to preserve space for the exercise of political and civil liberties in the face of massive hostile foreign interference is to be commended. Washington is quite open in its intentions to overthrow the Mugabe Government.

Under the 2001 US Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act "the President is authorised to provide assistance" to "support an independent and free Press and electronic media in Zimbabwe" and "provide for democracy and governance programmes in Zimbabwe". This translates into the president financing anti-Zanu-PF radio stations and newspapers and bankrolling groups opposed to Zimbabwe’s national liberation movement to inveigle Zimbabweans to vote against President Mugabe.

"The United States government has said it wants to see President Robert Mugabe removed from power and that it is working with the Zimbabwean opposition, trade unions, pro-democracy groups and human rights organisations to bring about a change of administration."

Last year, the US State Department acknowledged once again that it supports "the efforts of the political opposition, the media and civil society" in Zimbabwe through training, assistance and financing. And the 2006 US National Security Strategy declares that "it is the policy of the US to seek and support democratic movements and institutions in every nation . . . with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in North Korea, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Belarus and Zimbabwe".

The goal of the overthrow agenda is to reverse the land reform and economic indigenisation policies of the Zanu-PF Government — policies that are against the interests of the ruling class foundations that fund the fifth columnists’ activities.

The chairman of Anglo American finances Zimbabwe’s anti-Mugabe civil society because bringing Tsvangirai’s MDC-T to power is good for Anglo American’s bottom line. Likewise, the numerous Southern African corporations that Lord Renwick of Clifton sits on the boards of stand to profit from the MDC unseating Zimbabwe’s national liberation agenda.

Lord Renwick is head of an outfit called the Zimbabwe Democracy Trust, also part of the interlocked community of imperialist governments, wealthy individuals, corporate foundations, and NGOs working to reverse Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle.

The ZDT is a major backer of the MDC. Police raids on the offices of the ZESN and Harvest House, the headquarters of the MDC-T, seem deplorable to those in the West who are accustomed to elections in which the contestants all pretty much agree on major policies, with only trivial differences among them.

But in Zimbabwe, the differences are acute — a choice between losing much of what the 14-year-long national liberation war was fought for and settling for nominal independence (that is crying uncle, so the West will relieve the pressure of its economic warfare) or moving forward to bring the programme of national liberation to its logical conclusion: Ownership of the country’s land, resources and enterprises, not just its flag, by the black majority.

In this, there is an unavoidable conflict between "a government which is spearheaded by a revolutionary party, which spearheaded the armed struggle against British imperialism" and "a party that was the creation of the imperialists themselves (that) has been financed by the imperialists themselves".

It’s impossible to achieve independence from foreign control and domination without turmoil, disruption and fighting — not when the opposition and civil society are directed from abroad to serve foreign interests. Can Zimbabwe’s elections honestly be described as free and fair when the economy has been sabotaged by the West’s denying Harare credit and debt relief and where respite from the attendant miseries is promised in the election of the opposition?

Are elections legitimate when media are controlled by outside forces, and civil society and the opposition have been controlled by foreign powers?

Chinamasa’s complaints, far from being demagoguery, are real and justified. Zanu-PF’s decision to fight, rather than capitulate, ought to be applauded, not condemned. Imperialism cannot be opposed without opposing the MDC and its civil society partners, for they too are imperialism.

-Stephen Gowans is a Canadian writer and political activist based in Ottawa. This article first appeared on http://gowans.wordpress.com


UK silence fuels MDC dilemma

By Peter Mavunga

PRESIDENT Mugabe has always maintained that he was not fighting MDC-T but the British; that the opposition party in Zimbabwe was a creation of the former colonial master; and that without their creators and funders, this party would not exist.

The events of the last seven days appear to have proved him right. Here is why.

Last Saturday evening, Sky News and all the rest were reporting repeatedly that the meeting of MDC-T in Harare, chaired that day by the Vice President, Mrs Khupe, had been inconclusive in its deliberations.

The purpose of the meeting, we were told, had been to decide whether or not the party would take part in the presidential run-off elections. But no decision had been taken.

This seemed strange. This was a simple enough decision to make, much simpler than putting the election result "beyond any shadow of doubt" as Biti, the secretary general would have us believe.

But it was not that simple and the news media would not tell us why.

And if we needed to understand why there was no decision, we would be well advised not to look for the explanation of the failure to reach a decision to the British, the host nation, the sponsor, the strategists and above all the funders.

It would appear the MDC-T cannot make substantial decision without the authorisation of the British.

The party rhetoric may give the impression that they will not participate in the run-off but observers see this as a way of buying time until a decision is made in London.

The British are funding their programme and as I reported last week, he who pays the piper calls the tune.

Informed sources say the meeting Mrs Khupe chaired could not reach a decision because an instruction that was expected from London did not arrive.

This is understandable because, with the London mayoral and local government elections in the UK, ministers were tied up to their eye balls.

It is one thing if you are winning the elections. It is quite a different matter if you are losing as badly as this Labour Government did.

Labour’s London Mayor Ken Livingstone lost the election convincingly to Conservative Boris Johnson.

Poor Ken. He is a fine chap but the tide has turned against Labour, especially since Gordon Brown took over from Tony Blair.

But that is not all. In the local elections, Labour lost even more dramatically. It came third to Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats in terms of the national share of the vote, plummeting to only 24 percent, even lower than during the depth of Tony Blair’s woes brought about by his adventures in the Iraq war when the party garnered 26 percent of the vote.

Gordon Brown was heralded as the man who would turn things round and spearhead New Labour’s recovery.

But we saw how he dithered about calling an election. We have seen how some of his tax policies as Chancellor have turned out to be so unpopular with the voters because they hurt the poor.

Now the electorate had its say last week. Gordon Brown was given a drubbing that left the party in government stunned.

Ministers had a huge task of explaining to the British electorate what went wrong and Zimbabwe’s MDC-T had receded way down the priority list.

British ministers are understandably fighting for the future of the Labour Government. Foreign projects in support of the benighted heathens in Zimbabwe have to take their place in a long list of priorities and David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary could not get to the meeting that would have given the MDC-T meeting a steer they needed on to how to proceed.

The importance of this meeting could not be underestimated. It was not only supposed to give direction as to what the MDC should do, it was also important for financial reasons.

The MDC-T depends on the British financially. Informed sources say a decision to participate in the run-off could not be made without the authority of the British Government since they would have to fund the MDC-T campaign as they did the campaign for harmonised elections at the end of March.

And there is the other problem. Sources say the Ministry of Defence is hopping mad about alleged misappropriation of funds within the ranks of the MDC-T.

They say the MDC-T were given funds to campaign very hard not just for a win but for a victory that would ensure there was "no shadow of doubt" as to who had won.

Sources say it is the MOD that is funding the project although the Foreign Office has a strategic lead role.

The MOD is said to be dismayed with allegations that some of the funds that should have been used to campaign for an MDC-T victory were used to buy properties in South Africa and neighbouring countries.

The MOD is said to have launched an investigation to get to the bottom of this.

A team of investigators has gone out to find out if the allegations are true.

They are looking for property exchange details, properties bought by individuals as well as personal bank accounts.

If the allegations turn out to be true that their surrogates have been spending British tax payers’ money like confetti, enriching themselves in neighbouring countries rather than working with the suffering masses of Zimbabwe, this would be a huge embarrassment for the British.

And while they are so intricately involved in the politics of Zimbabwe in such a partisan way, it is difficult for them to refute President Mugabe’s contention that it is the British that he is fighting for bringing about the country’s problems.

It is difficult for them to explain also why, if it is not their wish to fight for their kith and kin in the battle for the land in Zimbabwe, they have not left Zimbabweans to deal with their own problems!


EDITOR — Allow me to remind my fellow Zimbabwean and African brothers on the strategic importance of Zimbabwe to the fight against neo-colonialism.

All progressive people the world over should not forget that it is their duty not only to defend Zimbabwe, but the whole of Africa.

The US, UK, France and others of like mind have no permanent friends but only permanent interests in Africa, which interests are diametrically opposed to the aspirations of indigenous Africans.

The Westerners are only concerned with ensuring that their imperialist interests are protected.

We don’t have to blame them because to them it is only logical to fight any individual who seeks to jeopardise their capitalist interests.

The people we have to blame are the myopic Africans who abet the imperialists. As Africans, we must be organised and stay on guard otherwise blaming them for their acts is useless because they have no love for us and we can’t even expect justice from them.

Arnold Joachim
Maputo,
Mozambique
Zuma meets ANC allies at peacemaking summit

South African Mail & Guardian
Phumza Macanda
Johannesburg, South Africa
09 May 2008 05:43

The leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) met labour and Communist allies on Friday for a summit aimed at healing rifts that have emerged under the rule of President Thabo Mbeki.

Investors are spooked by the prospect the ANC could surrender to the left's calls for a shift away from the business-friendly policies pursued by Mbeki's government for the better part of a decade.

Zuma, who became the frontrunner to succeed Mbeki after defeating him for the ANC leadership last year, has vowed to work more closely with the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the largest labour federation, and the small but influential South African Communist Party.

The three are in a formal coalition that has governed since the end of apartheid in 1994.

In a speech at the outset of a three-day summit outside Johannesburg, Zuma praised the ANC-led alliance for showing unity on a wide range of thorny political and economic problems.

"We have spoken in one voice on issues facing our country and continent, be it food and fuel prices, the energy challenge or the crisis in Zimbabwe," said Zuma, cheered by labour for taking a harder line than Mbeki on Zimbabwe -- Reuters


The ANC's two left feet

South African Mail & Guardian
Mandy Rossouw and Matuma Letsoalo
08 May 2008 11:59

The ANC's left-wing allies are to propose the revamping of the Cabinet, among other far-reaching government reforms, at the first tripartite alliance summit organised under Jacob Zuma's leadership of the ruling party.

The three-day summit, to be held in Midrand, begins today. The national executive committee (NEC) of the ANC, the central committee of the SACP and Cosatu's central executive committee will attend.

The Mail & Guardian understands that Cosatu and the SACP will not try to dictate the precise composition of the Cabinet, but will insist that the structure of the executive must change.

They will suggest that the Minerals and Energy Department be split into two entities, one for mining and one for energy, under separate ministers. And they will press for land affairs and agriculture to be reunited in one ministry.

The ANC's allies will also argue for the scrapping or restructuring of the Public Enterprises Department. This is because they believe it is "strategically incoherent" to have state assets such as Telkom, Eskom, Transnet and Denel falling under different ministers.

"That is why Eskom has all these problems and no one takes responsibility for it. It answers to two ministers," a senior alliance leader said.

A ministry or department of planning based in the presidency will be proposed to oversee an integrated economic planning programme.

"Such a department will also put an end to the development of vanity projects such as Coega and the Gautrain," the alliance source said.

The planning ministry would bring an end to the marketplace dynamics of the budget process, where "whoever shouts the loudest or has the inside track with the president" gets funding for departments or projects.

It will install further checks and balances to prevent patronage in the award of government tenders.

The left has also demanded the renationalisation of strategic enterprises such as Sasol and Mittal Steel -- formerly Iscor -- to facilitate economic restructuring.

Cosatu deputy general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali told the M&G the renationalisation of Sasol and Mittal Steel would result in the reduction of oil and steel prices.

However, the new leadership of the ANC has not been particularly sympathetic to such demands.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe told the M&G the party favoured the creation of a state-owned mining company, but had not called for nationalisation.

"The ANC wants to have more resources to enable its programmes to address the issue of poverty. When we do that, the consideration will not be immediate satisfaction, joy and sensation about nationalising Sasol," Mantashe said.

The SACP intends putting the nationalisation of Sasol and Mittal on the table as part of a review of policy perspectives aimed at giving South Africa greater sovereign control over food and energy.

A central SACP demand is for a beefed-up state industrial policy that would support key industries.

At the summit the left will also demand that the alliance, not the ANC, should become the political centre and play an oversight role over government. This is seen as allowing worker leaders to play a more influential role in key policy decisions.

"Previously, Cosatu had an employer-employee relationship with the ANC because the ANC has been over-govermentalised. We want to ensure that the alliance gets detailed knowledge of what government is doing about, for instance, Zimbabwe," an alliance leader said.

Senior unionists and communists want policymaking to begin in the alliance, with decisions being presented to government.

They believe it is important for them to flex their muscles at this stage, fearing that after next year's election alliance relations could cool.

"There is a danger that next year, when there is a migration from Luthuli House to the Union Buildings, we could go back to square one," said an SACP leader. "We need to safeguard the ANC from bureaucracy."

However, the ANC has emphasised on numerous occasions since its Polokwane conference that it still sees itself as the political centre of the alliance.

Cosatu will also push for the inclusion of its members on the ANC's NEC as ex officio members, a move the ANC is likely to reject.

Mantashe has warned Cosatu that it will have more chance of influencing the ANC if it remains outside the ANC's highest decision-making body.

While acknowledging the policy shifts at Polokwane, Cosatu and the SACP have made it clear they are unhappy about certain key resolutions.

Ntshalintshali said that although Cosatu believes it is necessary to control inflation, using the device of constant interest rate hikes is not a solution.

He said the Reserve Bank's policy of targeting inflation in a 3% to 6% band should be reviewed.

Although the SACP has not formally rejected the idea of going it alone in the next national elections the party is no longer seriously entertaining the idea now that a new ANC leadership is in charge.

"The support for going to elections alone has diminished. We don't have to deal with Mbeki's contempt for the alliance any more," an SACP leader said.

However, Vavi has made it clear that Cosatu will not give the ANC another "blank cheque".

The left wants the strategic priorities of public finance institutions -- including the Development Bank of South Africa, the Land Bank, Public Investment Corporation and the Industrial Development Corporation -- reviewed to ensure they finance developments that challenge the sway of monopoly industry in South Africa.

‘Motlanthe doesn’t enjoy wide support’

ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe’s move to Cabinet does not enjoy the full support of his comrades in the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC), the Mail & Guardian has established.

The ANC announced this week that Motlanthe and three other senior ANC members will be sworn in as MPs next week in a move that will pave the way for him to be appointed to the Cabinet.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe told the M&G this week that it was formally proposed to President Thabo Mbeki that he appoint Motlanthe to his Cabinet to ensure a smooth transition to the next government.

However, a highly placed source, who is also a member of the ANC’s NEC, said a number of senior ANC leaders objected to the idea of pushing Motlanthe into the executive.

Said one: “Personally, I don’t think it should happen. I don’t know what value this would add to the party. We have serving Cabinet ministers who can ensure that there is a smooth transition. Why Kgalema?

“The ANC is starting its election campaign in two months’ time and you need Kgalema on the ground. If we let him go to Cabinet it will do a disservice to the organisation,” said the ANC leader, who asked to remain anonymous.

He said a premature move to the Cabinet could have the unintended effect of compromising Motlanthe and destroying his political career.

The leader’s remarks might help to explain Motlanthe’s puzzling ambivalence about an immediate Cabinet posting. In recent weeks he has indicated that he does not consider himself ready.

Approached by the M&G this week, Motlanthe said: “I don’t know if I will be appointed. All I know is that the ANC wants me to go to Parliament.

“I’ve been sending people there [Parliament] for the past 10 years; now it’s my time to learn the ropes.”

Motlanthe said he would leave the decision about his Cabinet appointment to the ANC.

This week Mantashe told the M&G that Motlanthe would be deployed to the Cabinet. “It’s not up to him to decide,” Mantashe said.

In February the M&G reported that a core pro-Zuma ANC group, led by KwaZulu-Natal finance minister Zweli Mkhize, SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande and some leaders of the ANC Youth League, were trying to block Motlanthe’s appointment as South Africa’s deputy president as they believed this would give him an advantage over Zuma.

Another ANC NEC member confirmed that the argument that Motlanthe should become the country’s deputy president “has not found common ground within the Zuma camp”.

He said for this to happen Zuma loyalists would have to endorse it -- which they were reluctant to do.

Some ANC members attribute Mbeki’s reluctance to appoint Motlanthe to divisions within the party.

Sean Bell's Second Slaying

Sean Bell's Second Slaying

[col. writ. 4/25/08] (c) '08 Mumia Abu-Jamal

It was a classic 'Only in America' moment.

The bench trial of three killer cops in New York City, charged with firing some 50 shots into a car, killing one man, Sean Bell, and wounding two others (all unarmed).

The case rushed across America, spreading outrage in each city.

Initially, the cops moved to have the trial transferred to a site upstate, to the rural, northern tiers. This motion denied, they opted for a bench trial (or trial by a single judge), not trusting their fates to a so-called jury of"citizens" they are sworn to serve and protect.

Time, it seems, has proven that they made the right decision -- for, predictably, the judge acquitted them of all charges, arguing that the witnesses gave conflicting testimony.

By so doing, the court essentially ruled that Bell's killing was justified; no crime was committed.

The defense utilized the "bad company" argument: that Bell was shot and killed because he was among "the wrong crowd."

That such an argument swayed Supreme Court justice Arthur Cooperman (in New York state, unlike most other states, the trial court is termed the Supreme Court, and the state's highest court is their Court of Appeals.) is a measure of how devalued Black life is, and how easy Black men are to demonize and disparage.

If none of the cops knew the men, what does it matter what their backgrounds were? They could've been lawyers, basketball stars, or -- cops.

That they were Black men--even unarmed Black men--was deemed sufficient to unload on them, because in America, their color was crime enough.

So, 22 year old Sean Bell joins Amadou Diallo, and others guilty of the capital offense of WWB- Walking While Black.

And while millions of Black and white Americans thrill at political illusions of "post-racialism", Sean Bell's case proves how deeply deadly race can still be.

Even rumors of a weapon were enough to unleash 50 shots -- or should we say "alleged rumors", for there were no guns found in Bell's car. In the past, wallets, candy bars, keys, and packs of cigarettes were deemed sufficient to provoke such malicious responses.

Now, nothing is required.

Sean Bell was shot to death, and his friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benerfield were seriously wounded.

Shot and killed for being 'the wrong crowd.'

--(c) '08 maj
Somali Masses Escalate Their Resistance Against US-backed Occupation

Imperialists plans drafted to directly re-occupy Somalia while US airstrikes spark outrage

by Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire

Commentary

Another American military airstrike May 1 in central Somalia has intensified the determination of the people in this east African nation to end the US-backed occupation carried out by the Ethiopian government of Meles Zenawi. The target of the bombings was the al-Shabab organization, which was the youth wing of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) until recently.

A Somali military leader of al-Shabab, Aden Hashi Ayro, was killed in the US bombings along with dozens of other innocent civilians in Dusa Marreb in the central region of the country. As a result of the US attacks, an area the size of two city blocks was completely destroyed.

Several weeks ago al-Shabab was added to the United States' long list of "terrorists", describing the organization as "a violent and brutal extremist group with a number of officials affiliated to Al Qaeda." In a defiant response, a leading member of al-Shabab, Sheikh Muktar Robow, told the BBC in a recent interview that the organization "feels honored to be included on the list. We are good Muslims and the Americans are infidels."

"We are on the right path," Robow said, while rejecting the American claims that his organization is in alliance with Al Qaeda. "We are fighting a jihad to rid Somalia of the Ethiopians and its allies, the secular Somali stooges."

In December of 2006, the United States and Britain encouraged the western-backed neighboring regime in Ethiopia to invade and occupy Somalia. It was revealed at the time that US Special Forces provided the military coordination for the invasion and occupation. The Somali intervention also provided a political cover for the Ethiopian regime to escalate its repressive tactics against the ethnic Somalis in the Ogaden region of the country who have maintained their struggle against the western-financed government in Addis Ababa.

Somalia has been without an internationally recognized government since 1991, when the former head-of-state Siad Barre fled the capital of Mogadishu. After years of political turmoil, which saw the direct US-led occupation of the country between 1992-94, a grassroots Council of Islamic Courts began to rebuild the key areas of the country and restore a greater level of security.

The Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) is an independent community-based coalition extending through various towns and cities inside Somalia. The United States administration has attempted to label the UIC as an affiliate of Al-Qaeda, in order to justify military intervention in the region. However, the spokespersons for the organization have denied such a relationship and maintain that it grew directly out of the needs of the people resulting from a lack of state institutions to regulate the distribution of services.

What the US rulers found problematic about the UIC is that they were acting independently of Washington and its allies. When the American government attempted to finance warlords to attack the UIC and its supporters, they were repelled. Later the US administration ordered the Ethiopian regime, which in highly armed by the Pentagon, to carry out its bidding in Somalia.

US policy creates worse disaster in nation's history

Since the United States engineered the intervention of Ethiopia into Somalia in December of 2006, the humanitarian situation inside that east African nation has rapidly deteriorated. According to Philippe Lazzarini, the director of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs-Somalia, some 2.5 milion people are in serious need of relief. "If things do not improve within the coming weeks, and it is not likely, then we will be confronted with the images of 1991-92," when many citizens of the country died as a result of drought and starvation.

The so-called Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which was imposed by the United States and Ethiopia, has proven to be ineffective as it relates to providing services and security to the Somali people. Asha Haji Ilmi, the director of a humanitarian organization called Save Somali Women and Children, which is based in the capital of Mogadishu, stated that the situation in the country has never been this bad since the collapse of the Barre government in 1991. Ilmi said recently that "the destruction and looting of Bakara market and the printing of fake currency has led to hyperinflation," which has resulted in the refusal of merchants to accept this worthless money for the purchase of food and other essential supplies.

On Monday, May 5, mass demonstrations erupted in Mogadishu over the rapid increase in food prices. US-backed Ethiopian and TFG soldiers opened fire on the large crowds of women and youthful protesters resulting in the reported deaths of least three people. The rebellions in Mogadishu reflect the growing crisis of rising food prices and distribution throughout the world. Recently in Haiti, similar demonstrations were held over a period of days resulting in the resignation of the Prime Minister in that Caribbean nation. Additional unrest has developed in the west African nation of Senegal.

Imperialist plans drafted for direct intervention

In a Reuters press report issued on April 23, the British government has circulated a draft plan to the United Nations Security Council to send a so-called peacekeeping force to Somalia. At present the African Union has approximately 1600 troops from Uganda and Burundi, known as AMISOM, in Somalia. However, these troops have had a limited impact on the actual situation developing inside the country.

African Union member nations have been reluctant to send troops into Somalia amid the escalation of fighting by the resistance forces as well as the growing popular discontent among youth and women over the lack of social services, clean water and food. Consequently, with the failure of the Ethiopian military to carry out the foreign policy aims of the United States and the other western imperialist states, it is the growing feeling among these countries that an American, UK and EU led military force will be required to subdue the Somali masses.

In the draft text of the document circulated by the UK government, it asks the United Nations Security Council to "welcome" a report by the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to replace the AU force with one sponsored by the UN.

The document also calls for the office of the Secretary-General "to continue its planning for deployment of a peacekeeping operation, taking account of conditions on the the ground, and considering additional options for the size, configuration, responsibility and proposed area of operation on the ground."

In addition, the UK document calls for the imposition of sanctions "against those who seek to prevent or block a peaceful political process, or those who threaten the (peacekeepers)...by force, or take action that undermines the stability in Somalia or the region."

A companion plan is being drafted by the United States and France to deal with what they describe as "piracy" off the coast of Somalia and elsewhere in the region.

"We French and the Americans, with the support of the British and others, want to have a resolutoin on piracy," French Ambassador to the United Nations Jean-Maurice Ripert told Retuers on April 23.

He continued by stating that: "We are in the process of agreeing among ourselves the details of the resolution, including the scope and the legal aspects."

Ripert also said that "the idea is to give a mandate, to call on states of the UN to tackle piracy by organizing patrols, reacting to acts of piracy, to take as many preventative measures as possible. We really are keen on not doing anything that could endanger the law of the sea."

Anti-war movement must support the people of Somalia

People in the United States must remember the disastrous effect of the American invasion and occupation of Somalia between 1992-94. The occupation, which was carried out under the guise of providing humanitarian relief to the people, resulted in attempts to disarm and suppress the masses in this Horn of Africa nation.

The people of Somalia realizing the actual aims of the intervention during the early 1990s, rose up and launched coordinated attacks against the United States military and its allies including the Canadian and the Italian forces. During this occupation, several thousand Somalis lost their lives as a result of aerial bombardments of civilian areas as well as targeted assassinations of Somali leaders opposed to US policy in the region. These efforts were carried out under the rubric of the United Nations.

As a result of the resistance by the Somali people, the American government and its allies were forced to withdraw their forces in 1994. Today, they are plotting to reverse this important defeat of imperialist military forces won through the blood and sacrifice of the Somali people.

The anti-war movement in the United States must raise the question of US intervention in the Horn of Africa right alongside demands calling for the withdrawl of American military forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. With the Pentagon facing continued military and political defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan, they will seek other geo-political regions to dominate in their quest for oil and other strategic resources and minerals.
Outcry over the SABC

The suspension of the SABC's chief executive Dali Mpofu and its news and current affairs executive Snuki Zikalala sparked a national outcry on Wednesday over the state of the public broadcaster.

Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri expressed
"great concern" about the suspension of Mpofu and Zikalala.

"All will be done on [the minister's] part to ensure the ability of the SABC to carry out its mandate".

On Wednesday Mpofu was suspended apparently for failing to implement decisions of the SABC board.

His suspension came a day after Mpofu himself suspended Zikalala.

2010 responsibility

On Wednesday, Matsepe-Casaburri said she would ensure the SABC would deliver on its 2010 responsibility, perform its role in digital migration and ensure its image did "not suffer further damage".

The Democratic Alliance said the atmosphere at the SABC was "thick with conspiracy and political purges".

DA spokesperson Dene Smuts said it was "impossible" to know the merits of the suspensions and inquiries into Zikalala and Mpofu.

"All that can be usefully said is that allegations should be properly founded, and enquiries fairly handled".

The SA Communist Party welcomed the suspension of Snuki Zikalala as "long overdue".

The party said Zikalala had become a huge liability who severely compromised the impartiality and objectivity of SABC news.

However, the party said the way the SABC board retaliated against Mpofu for his "correct action" confirmed that the board was "in cahoots with some of the elements hell-bent on leading the SABC down the drain."

The SACP said the board must resign, a sentiment the ANC Youth League echoed.

Credibility tarnished

ANCYL said Zikalala and Mpofu "ran the SABC like a spaza shop and brought its credibility, image and reputation into disrepute".

Infighting at the SABC appeared to be about replacing people perceived by one faction as being loyal to another faction in the ANC, said United Democratic Movement president Bantu Holomisa.

"This nonsense of appointing people solely on their credentials as ANC 'cadres' must end," he said.

"Surely they have now learnt that it keeps backfiring."

Afrikanerbond chairperson Piérre Theron wrote to Matsepe-Casaburri asking her to intervene in the "unpleasant infighting" at the SABC.

"The day-to-day activities of the SABC are under serious threat," he said.

On Wednesday, Inkatha Freedom Party spokesperson Suzanne Vos said the suspensions "would be laughable if it were not so serious".

"What we are now witnessing is an ANC alliance power struggle. Outsiders to this unedifying public spat can only cause for all concerned to sit back and acknowledge the damage they are doing to the already dwindling image of the SABC."

Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder said "irreparable damage" had being done to the SABC.

The SABC board on Wednesday appointed commercial enterprises group executive Gabriel Mampone as acting CEO of the corporation.

SABC board chairperson Khanyisile Mkonza told SABC News that Mampone's appointment would ensure everything would be carried out as normal.

"The meetings will happen. If there are events, the events will happen. Nothing will be set back by all of the developments," she said.

Earlier, Mkonza said an investigation into the allegations against Mpofu should be concluded within the next 30 days.

If necessary, a disciplinary enquiry would also be held.

On Tuesday, Mpofu said his suspension of Zikalala was based on misconduct related to the leaking of sensitive documents.

But he denied it had anything to do with an internal SABC memorandum about rifts between the board and Mpofu which was leaked to the press.

Zikalala was suspended pending the outcome of an investigation which was "likely to result in a formal disciplinary inquiry", said Mpofu.


Boss wars at the SABC

SABC boss Dali Mpofu suspended news head Snuki Zikalala when he discovered the board was planning to appoint Zikalala to his position, the weekly Mail and Guardian reported on Friday.

The SABC board intended suspending Mpofu for insubordination and mismanagement and appointing Zikalala as acting CEO.

But Mpofu caught wind of their plans and suspended Zikalala to prevent this from happening, three unnamed sources told the weekly paper.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago told Sapa he had no knowledge of these rumours.

"The report is about what the SABC board were thinking to do, and I would not know anything about that," Kganyago said.

The Mail and Guardian did say that board chairperson Kanyi Mkonza declined to confirm the information it had gathered from inside sources.

"There's not truth to that," Mkonza said.

Zikalala also denied knowledge of this. "I don't know about that," he said. "I am relaxing and reading (Mark Gevisser's biography of Thabo Mbeki) 'A Dream Deferred'."

Mkonza suspended Mpofu on Wednesday, saying he had failed to implement decisions of the board. This happened a day after Mpofu suspended Zikalala, the group executive of news and current affairs.

Meanwhile, the African National Congress parliamentary caucus said on Thursday that the National Assembly would debate a motion of no confidence in the SABC board on 22 May.

The internal politics at the public broadcaster have intensified since the election of new African National Congress leadership at Polokwane in December, with management and board members aligned to different factions within the ruling party.


SABC situation 'bizarre'

Fri, 09 May 2008 14:33

Recent developments at the SABC are "bizarre", says the SA National Editors Forum.

"We are concerned about the bizarre situation that has developed at the SABC where the head of news and current affairs programmes Dr Snuki Zikalala was suspended pending an inquiry into his conduct by group chief executive Dali Mpofu who in turn was suspended a day later by the SABC board pending an inquiry," the forum said on Friday.

Parliament's communications portfolio committee had also recently stated it had lost confidence in the board.

"The top-level disciplinary issues and staff departures are likely to have a disruptive effect on the conduct of the broadcaster's operations," Sanef said in a statement.

The selection of board members should be reviewed to avoid political influences and ensure greater civil society participation.

The political "deployment" of executives at the SABC should also be reconsidered.

Sanef said it hoped the issues would be resolved as soon as possible so that the broadcaster could continue its mandate as public broadcaster.

Sapa
Ensure landslide victory for Zanu-PF: Nyanhongo

Herald Reporter

ZANU-PF supporters in Harare South have started campaigning for the presidential run-off, Member of the House of Assembly for the constituency, Cde Hubert Nyanhongo, has said.

He said ruling party supporters in the constituency were campaigning vigorously for President Mugabe.

Cde Nyanhongo, who is also the Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications, said he was confident President Mugabe would win the run-off.

On Tuesday he told party youths in the constituency to campaign peacefully and ensure a landslide victory for Zanu-PF.

"We held a meeting and it was also post-mortem of what happened during the March 29 harmonised elections," he said.

Cde Nyanhongo said there were several irregularities in the March elections and supporters in the constituency would be on the lookout to plug loopholes.

"We are concerned with the attitude of some of the polling officers, particularly teachers.

"Almost all of them were given money by the opposition MDC and donors who are coming here with a hidden agenda," said Cde Nyanhongo.

He said this time around, Zanu-PF would be vigilant.

"I don’t think they (MDC and donors) would be successful. We will be opening our eyes to make sure that it will not happen," he said.

Several presiding officers have been arrested countrywide for electoral fraud. Some of them have since been convicted and fined.

On Monday, five presiding officers who were engaged for the March elections in Chiredzi were fined between $12 billion and $30 billion or jail terms of between three and 16 months for electoral fraud.

Chiredzi magistrate Mrs Judith Dudzai Zuyu gave the five up to June 2 to pay the fines.

Cde Nyanhongo called for the lifting of sanctions by the West saying they were hurting ordinary Zimbabweans.

"It is commonly known that when a country is under sanctions, it will not have any elections. Elections should be done when sanctions are removed.

"Sanctions should be removed since they are also not doing any good to the people, including the MDC supporters whose leaders are on record for calling for the sanctions," said Cde Nyanhongo.


RBZ reads riot act to banks

Herald Reporter-Newsnet

THE Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has warned banks that are deliberately delaying the processing of customer Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) payments that they face immediate closure while urging the public to use formal systems in their foreign currency trading, saying these provide a safe, convenient, transparent and reliable platform.

In a statement to ZBC News yesterday, RBZ Governor Dr Gideon Gono said some banks were delaying RTGS payments to conceal their mismanagement of depositors’ funds.

He said branches that failed to transmit funds by the end of the trading day as per customers’ instructions would be closed instantly.

Dr Gono also warned banks that were barring depositors from withdrawing the maximum $5 billion daily limit as stipulated by the central bank that they faced a similar fate.

No bank, he said, should restrict depositors from accessing their money since the central bank had enough cash to meet the requirements.

The governor also urged members of the public and the business community whose RTGS payments were not transferred in time to report the offending banks to the central bank as such practices were illegal.

Dr Gono further warned the public to exercise caution in their foreign currency dealings because the upsurge in foreign exchange activity might attract people with criminal intent.

He said the public should be wary of a possible influx of counterfeit foreign currency notes into the market.

In his 2008 First Quarter Monetary Policy Statement announced last week, Dr Gono liberalised foreign currency dealings, authorising banks, money transfer agencies, foreign exchange purchasing centres and Homelink centres to buy hard currencies on a willing seller-willing buyer basis.

"In addition to systems already in place, the central bank has also put in place stringent measures to ensure that all institutions licensed to purchase foreign currency from the public have the requisite risk management structures and equipment to detect counterfeit notes," Dr Gono said.

He said the new measures, which were aimed at enhancing the country’s capacity to generate foreign currency, were already having a positive impact as traders were shifting from the illegal parallel market in favour of the formal banking system.

Banks are confident that up to 90 percent of the hard currency presently being traded on the streets will soon find its way into the formal channels.

The parallel market has this week lagging behind the formal market.

The liberalisation measure has also been applauded by
the business community as a positive move that will enhance foreign currency availability and capacity utilisation in the medium to long term while dealing a blow to the illegal market operations.

At a meeting aimed at reviewing the pros and cons of the monetary policy, private sector representatives commended the re-introduction of the willing buyer-willing seller arrangement in the foreign exchange market.

Harare Chamber of Commerce chairman Mr Oswell Binha said the measure would in the medium to long term address illegal market rates and bring stability in the economy.

Participants at the meeting hailed the liberalisation of the foreign exchange market, however, calling on the all key economic stakeholders not to subvert the arrangement by engaging in parallel activities.

The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries also praised the move, saying it would go a long way in resuscitating production in industries, improve capacity utilisation and overall availability of goods in the economy.

Members of the public were urged to utilise the facility fully in order to address inflation in the long term.

Meanwhile, the inter-bank rate continues to firm with five banks buying the US$ at $200 million with economic analysts predicting an equilibrium to be arrived as soon as all the economic fundamentals stabilise. — Herald Reporter-Newsnet.


Standard editor arrested

HR

THE Standard Editor Mr Davison Maruziva was yesterday arrested over two articles published by the weekly newspaper deemed to be prejudicial to the State and were in contempt of court.

Police national spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena confirmed the arrest last night.

"He was arrested this afternoon on charges of contravening section 31 (a)(b) of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act for publishing or communicating a false statement prejudicial to the State," he said.

Ass Comm Bvudzijena said the first charge relates to an article written by MDC faction leader Mr Arthur Mutambara on April 20 2008.

In the article published under The Standard’s Sunday View banner, Mr Mutambara launched a scathing attack on President Mugabe, Government and Zanu-PF.

He claimed the country was characterised "by extreme illegitimacy where we have an abrasive caretaker President and an illegal constituted Cabinet in cahoots with an imbecilic and cynical military junta".

In the same article, Mr Mutambara fired a broadside at South African President Thabo Mbeki, the Sadc-appointed facilitator in the Zanu-PF/MDC talks.

Mr Maruziva also faces charges of breaching section 182 (a)(b) of the Criminal Codification and Reform Act which relates to an opinion he allegedly wrote on the judgment given by Justice Tendayi Uchena following an application by the MDC-T over the March 29 election results.

Police believe the comment is contemptuous.

Ass Comm Bvudzijena said Mr Maruziva was likely to appear in court today. — HR.