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Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

History Being Made in Real Time – Danielle Bowler Considers the #FeesMustFall Protests

UbuntuDanielle Bowler, a Mandela Rhodes Scholar and contributor to the recently released Ubuntu: Curating the Archive, has written a piece for EWN on the #FeesMustFall protests.

Bowler says the protests, which took place on campuses throughout the country, challenge the idea that the #RhodesMustFall movement at the University of Cape Town was “just about a statue”.

That protest, Bowler says, was really about the “inescapable sophisticated system of structural inequality that touches all spaces and all things”.

Read the article, in which Bowler considers the use of social media in the protests, and the comparable moments in protests happening overseas:

This is history being made in real-time, with all its characteristic messiness and conflicting narratives, struggling to become the story we tell of this moment. Distinct and different narratives have emerged on newspaper front pages and digital screens. Many have painted students as violent, called them hooligans, and referred to them using terms such as ‘marauding’. Many who valourise past student uprisings, show an ironic disdain for our generation’s own.

But this revolution will be tweeted and downloaded. Students have documented their own struggle and, along with independent news sites like The Daily Vox, are showing how skewed mainstream reportage paints a different picture to the reality on the ground. In pictures, videos and first-hand accounts, the story behind the headlines, sensational imagery, and one-sided narratives are revealed on our timelines.

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The Fixation on Education as a Cure-all is Diverting Us from Tackling Our Problems – Steven Friedman

Race, Class and PowerIn the midst of the raging #FeesMustFall campaign, the director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy Steven Friedman, who wrote Race, Class and Power: Harold Wolpe and the Radical Critique of Apartheid, reflected on the myth of education as a cure for all of South Africa’s problems.

“Just about everyone agrees that education is a solution to most of our — and everyone else’s — economic problems. Sadly, just about everyone is probably wrong,” Friedman writes in a recent Business Day column, which he shared as a post on his Facebook page, explaining why there are no miraculous powers hidden in education. He notes that this is not only a local myth but also popular abroad, as seen for example in British prime minister Tony Blair’s call for “education education education”.

“Not only is education not a miracle cure, but the fixation with its supposed healing powers may be diverting us from tackling our problems,” the political scientist says.

Read Friedman’s reflection for a completely different take on the current debate around education:

Education is not the cure-all it is made out to be

JUST about everyone agrees that education is a solution to most of our — and everyone else’s — economic problems. Sadly, just about everyone is probably wrong.

A week in which university students are resisting fee increases is a good time to reflect on a constant theme in our national debate — the wondrous healing powers of education.

It is only a slight exaggeration to say that whenever South Africans debate a problem someone will insist, to agreeing nods, that the solution is more and better education.

Nor is this response peculiarly South African: the former British prime minister Tony Blair once claimed that “education, education, education” would solve his country’s problems.

Visiting French economist Thomas Piketty also told us recently of education’s role in reducing inequality here.

Surely this is obvious?

Well, no. Not only is education not a miracle cure, but the fixation with its supposed healing powers may be diverting us from tackling our problems.

Before the accusations begin, the benefits of an education are obvious, particularly to those of us lucky enough to have one. But education is not the cure-all solution it is meant to be.

Recently, Ricardo Hausmann, a former Venezuelan cabinet minister and academic economist who is no wild-eyed radical, published an article showing that education is not on its own an engine of economic growth. His numbers show that huge growth in education levels over the past 50 years have not translated into equivalent growth in the economy.

Hausmann pointed out that China’s educational progress lags behind that of Tunisia, Mexico, Kenya and Iran — yet it grew much faster than any of them. He added that if education on its own produced growth, Albania, Armenia and Sri Lanka would not be poverty stricken: “Whatever is preventing these countries from becoming richer, it is not lack of education.”

Nor does evidence necessarily show that education is a fix for inequality: recent research by the Brookings Institution in the US shows that while, not surprisingly, poor people improve their situation if they receive an education, this does not reduce overall inequality.

It is also clear that education often produces inequality — the well-off attend the best schools and universities, while the poor make do with the education system’s crumbs. So it may well be that equality is needed to fix education, not that education is needed to fix inequality.

More than 20 years ago, sociologist Harold Wolpe argued against the idea that education alone could erode inequality if other measures were not taken to attend to the problem. The evidence supports him.
There are many debates about the link between education, on the one hand, and poverty and inequality on the other.

But what is clear is that it is simply not true that education on its own solves these problems — at the very least, other remedies are needed.

This is why harping on education can hold us back — by diverting our attention from other problems that need attention.

A frequent problem is that the education argument becomes a handy excuse for those who are doing well and do not want anything to change.

For them, the argument that “education is the answer” really means that “they” should stop complaining about “us”. Instead, “they” should realise that “we” are doing well because we know much more than them — if “they” want to be like “us”, they should learn how.

The handy thing about this argument is that it places all the blame on people at the bottom and requires no change at all from those at the top. Like the claim that voters need “education” whenever they behave in a way that elites dislike, this is more about making people at the top feel better than about solving problems.

Even where the purpose is not to shift blame on to the poor, focusing on education at the expense of other priorities can worsen problems — an oft-cited example in our region is Zimbabwe, which made substantial gains in education after majority rule, but did not fix the other problems that needed attention if it was to prosper.

Inequality remains our deepest problem — far too deep to be solved by one “fix” alone. It requires a range of solutions, all of which need to be negotiated among the major economic actors and all of which require all to change the way they do things and to give up some of what they have in the interests of a future that can work for all. Education may feature in that process — but it is no substitute for it.

On Friday, the day which saw masses gather at the Union Building in Pretoria to hear president Zuma announce a zero percent increase in tertiary education fees, Friedman spoke to CapeTalk’s John Maytham, saying he believes the campaign won’t hurt the ANC government.

With regards to the #FeesMustFall campaign, Friedman says, “It is important, but it is not as significant as many people think”.

Listen to the podcast to find out why he says so:

 

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Steven Friedman: UK Authorities Deprived South Africans Ishtiyaq Shukri and Na’eem Jeenah of Their Rights

Race, Class and PowerSteven Friedman, director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy and author of Race, Class and Power: Harold Wolpe and the Radical Critique of Apartheid, recently wrote an article published in Rand Daily Mail about how British authorities arbitrarily recently barred two South Africans from the country.

He mentions Na’eem Jeenah, an academic who was denied the visa he needed to attend a conference in the UK, and Ishtiyaq Shukri, award-winning author of The Silent Minaret and I See You, who was ungraciously expelled from Britain, even though he has a British wife and has lived there for two years.

Friedman says this is an abuse of human rights, but it goes ignored because “human rights activism means getting angry at abusers who are not ‘western’ and ignoring those who are”.

Read the article:

Freedom of movement is a basic human right — to remove it arbitrarily is to violate it. And so, while neither Jeenah nor Shukri were tortured or beaten, both have been deprived of their rights.

While both hold ideas that differ from those of the British authorities, freedom is not meant to be available only to those whose opinions governments like.

Neither is a threat to the safety of anyone in the UK.

The reason that they have been victimised is that both are from Africa and are Muslims with ideas the British government does not like.

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Bell’s Advert Shot at The Book Lounge going Viral Worldwide – and Deservedly So

Bell's South Africa TV advert

 
	The Hidden History of South Africaâ��s Book and Reading CulturesA Bell’s Whisky advert shot at The Book Lounge in Cape Town is becoming a major hit on YouTube, and once you’ve watched it you’ll understand why.

The advert follows the journey of an elderly man learning to read, but the twist at the end – involving his son – will melt your heart.

Just a few days after being released the view count stands at 265,441, and rising, and the video is being shared on sites like Reddit, Elitedaily, Businessinsider and Adweek.

In the spirit of the advert, consider contributing to The Book Lounge’s Library Appeal. This year they are collecting books for a library for Westridge High School in Mitchell’s Plain. Email booklounge@gmail.com or click here for details.

Watch “The Reader” here:

 
The advert is more than just a tearjerker, however; it touches on an important facet of South African society.

In The Hidden History of South Africa’s Book and Reading Cultures, Archie L Dick examines how reading can shed light on societal development, with emphasis on how reading and writing were used in resistance strategies during the Struggle.

Dick reveals the kinds of texts, including novels, non-fiction and magazines, that were read and discussed by political activists and prisoners, and exposes the schemes that the elite used to regulate reading and intellectual agency. The Hidden History of South Africa’s Book and Reading Cultures illustrates the significance reading had in bridging class and racial divides, and opposing an unjust regime.

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RIP Leading Historian and Author Prof Bernard Magubane

 
Bernard Magubane: My Life and TimesAnti-apartheid struggle stalwart, leading historian and academic Prof Bernard Magubane passed away at his home in Fourways, Johannesburg on Sunday.

Magubane was born in 1930 on a farm near Colenso in Natal, but moved with his family to the city of Durban.

In Bernard Magubane: My Life and Times, an autobiography written to coincide with his 80th birthday, Magubane relates how as a child he was radicalised by the conditions apartheid imposed on the majority of the country’s people. He became a teacher and rubbed shoulders with many of the country’s great educationists, his passion for learning leading him on to the University of Natal and eventually to the United States of America, in 1961, for postgraduate studies in the social sciences.

As a critical thinker, Magubane was schooled by eminent scholars within the liberal-pluralist paradigm, but he migrated towards an understanding of South African and African history and sociology through Marxism, a journey that shaped him as a leading African intellectual.

Magubane became closely involved with various members of the African National Congress in exile, including Oliver Tambo, and he played a vital role in the anti-apartheid struggle in the United States and beyond.

Magubane and his wife moved back to South Africa after 1994 and he was appointed head of the Democracy Education Trust.

President Jacob Zuma sent his condolences to the mourning family, hoping that “his soul may rest in peace”.

The country has lost one of its best historians and an outstanding academic with the death of Prof Bernard Magubane, President Jacob Zuma said on Sunday.

“I would like to convey our deepest words of condolence to his family, his friends and the academic community at large. May his soul rest in peace,” said Zuma.

In the SABC’s obituary they mention that Magubane was honoured by former president Nelson Mandela in 1999 for his contributions to social science.

President Jacob Zuma has expressed his deepest condolences to the family and friends of Professor Bernard Magubane, who passed away at his home in Johannesburg on Friday. The cause of death remains unknown.

University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, publishers of his autobiography, tweeted condolences to his family:

Other tweets about the late academic’s passing:

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Patrick Bond Questions the Environmental Impact of New Retail Spaces

Politics of Climate JusticePatrick Bond, author of Politics of Climate Justice: Paralysis Above, Movement Below, takes on “shopping addiction” and mall spread in southern Africa, citing the biggest polluters when it comes to the proliferation of retail spaces in the region.

This week, Durban’s International Convention Centre (ICC) hosts 1300 delegates to a Shopping Centre Congress sponsored by one of South Africa’s most environmentally-destructive financial institutions. (As the country’s second largest coal lender and a proponent of failed carbon trading, also known as the ‘privatisation of the air’, Nedbank advertises extra aggressively to brainwash us into thinking it’s a ‘green’ bank.)

Delegates to ‘the largest gathering of retail and retail property people in Africa’ will discuss how to spread social alienation, intensify economic distortions and amplify ecological decay. Damages from the US-style mall model are severe, and South Africa has an especially pernicious role, with our retailers also polluting other African countries with malls. It could get far worse with the invasion of Wal Mart.

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Patrick Bond’s Calls on Jim Yong Kim to Visit Mining Areas on His Trip to South Africa

Politics of Climate JusticePatrick Bond, author of Politics of Climate Justice, has written an opinion piece for the Daily Maverick on Jim Yong Kim’s upcoming visit to South Africa.

Kim, who is the new president of the World Bank, will be in South Africa this week. Bond calls into question the investments that the bank has made in South African mining and suggests that Kim visits the mining areas to see the impact that they have had on the people and the environment:

The World Bank’s new chief has a chance, on his visit to South Africa, to take a new approach to earlier policies that encouraged extractive industries that put profits for multinational companies before people and the planet.

Before being tapped last February by President Barack Obama to head the World Bank, then-Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim told wealthy alumni, when contemplating the institution’s notorious hazing practices, “One of the things you learn as an anthropologist, you don’t come in and change the culture.”

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Patrick Bond Cites Failure of the “Green Economy” as a Hindrance to Real Change

Politics of Climate JusticeIn an article for Counterpunch, Patrick Bond, author of Politics of Climate Change and director of the Centre for Civil Society, discusses the Rio+20 Earth Summit and what he sees as a failure of world leaders and economic policy makers who champion the ‘green’ economy:

Given the worsening world economic crisis, the turn to “Green Economy” rhetoric looms as a potential saviour for footloose financial capital, and is also enormously welcome to those corporations panicking at market chaos in the topsy turvy fossil-fuel, water, infrastructure construction, technology and agriculture sectors.

On the other hand, for everyone else, the Rio+20 Earth Summit underway this week in Brazil, devoted to advancing Green Economy policies and projects, appears as an overall disaster zone for the people and planet.

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Patrick Bond on Washington’s Negative Influence in the Middle East

Climate Change, Carbon Trading and Civil SocietyIn the following article for Pambazuka News, Patrick Bond, co-author of Climate Change, Carbon Trading and Civil Society, voices his belief that political resolution between Washington and the Middle East is an impossibility. Bond’s conclusion comes following negative reactions to Barack Obama’s 19 May policy speech on North Africa and the Middle East:

Here in Palestine, disgust expressed by civil society reformers about Barack Obama’s 19 May policy speech on the Middle East and North Africa confirms that political reconciliation between Washington and fast-rising Arab democrats is impossible.

Amidst many examples, consider the longstanding US tradition of blind, self-destructive support for Israel, which Obama has just amplified. Recognising a so-called ‘Jewish state’ as a matter of US policy, he introduced a new twist that denies foundational democratic rights for 1.4 million Palestinians living within Israel. For a Harvard-trained constitutional lawyer to sink so low on behalf of Zionist discrimination is shocking.

For although Obama mentioned the ‘1967 lines’ as the basis for two states and thereby appeared to annoy arch-Zionist leader Benjamin Netanyahu, this minimalist United Nations position was amended with a huge caveat: ‘with land swaps.’

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Adekeye Adebajo on the Men Who Became Cassandras: Adebayo Adedeji and Jean Monnet

The Curse of BerlinIn the light of recent meetings by African Union leaders to discuss the fate of Muammar Gaddafi, and EU leaders to discuss the risis of debt, Adekeye Adebajo discusses the need for visionaries who are able to promote regional integration in Europe and Africa. He recalls to past examples – Nigerian scholar-diplomat, Adebayo Adedeji and Frenchman Jean Monnet, who in the end, he says, turned out to be Cassandras.

Adebajo is the director of the Centre for Conflict Resolution and the author of several books, the most recent of which is The Curse of Berlin: Africa after the Cold War.

AS European Union (EU) leaders met in Brussels last Friday to seek solutions to the dual crises of debt and the euro, African Union (AU) leaders pondered the fate of Libya’s beleaguered autocrat, Muammar Gaddafi, who had done the most to create their organisation in 2002 and chaired the AU in 2009. Both events highlight the need for visionaries who can help revive stalling efforts to promote regional integration in Europe and Africa.

It is worth examining the life and times of two such individuals.

Nigerian scholar-diplomat, Adebayo Adedeji — the chairman of SA’s African Peer Review Mechanism process of 2006- 07 — announced his retirement from public life at the AU summit in Uganda in July last year at the age of 79, after 50 years of service to the continent. Adedeji and Frenchman Jean Monnet are widely regarded to have been the fathers of regional integration in Africa and Europe respectively. Both men came from small towns, which they escaped to attain global fame and recognition. Both were propelled to prominence and achieved professional success at an early age. Both were put in charge of reconstructing their countries after conflicts. Both were men of vision and ideas who enjoyed the trust of powerful political actors. Both were realists who used the force of superior argument and dynamic political manoeuvring to promote their goals.

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  • The Curse of Berlin: Africa after the Cold War by Adekeye Adebajo
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    EAN: 9781869141967

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