As Mandela passes on to join the ancestors, a wave of sadness sweeps the entire planet. There can be few places and few people who are not in some way deeply affected by this event. Madiba symbolizes many things for many people. For the survivors of the brutality of apartheid, he is the symbol of the victory of their struggle for freedom and justice, the symbol of the possibility of a future that is about creating a better world, and not a world built on bitterness for past crimes, the symbol of all those values on which the South African constitution was founded. For the oppressed and exploited across Africa, he represents the finest qualities of integrity and principled leadership, the hero who dared to re-assert the humanity of the colonized over the tyranny of empire. For those unjustly imprisoned, he symbolizes the hope of freedom. For anti-apartheid activists across the world, Mandela represents the worth of the years of persistent organizing and creative campaigning. For groups like Amnesty International, he represents their shame for failing to recognize him as a political prisoner. For capital (international and local), Mandela is the saint who delivered a peaceful transition from apartheid that ensured that their hegemony continued undisturbed. For the international financial institutions and World Bank, the rapid implementation of structural adjustment programmes in South Africa would not have been possible without the endorsement of Madiba. All these symbols of Mandela, and many others, co-exist. They are all in some ways true, and yet none of them are wholly accurate. Physically small in stature, Mandela is universally recognized as a giant of our era for good reason. The example of his life of courage, compassion, and determination in the face of extreme violence and injustice reaches into the dark prisons of our times and into the hearts of millions of people around the world who hope and struggle for a better future for humanity. It is the tragedy of great people that their passing provides the opportunity for those in power to create a myth to serve their own interests, a myth that often serves to arrest the very vitality that such lives inspired. We are already witnessing the creation of mythologies of Mandela. (Or perhaps consolidation is a better word, for this process has been going on for some time, especially since he resigned as President). The mythologies will be articulated through obituaries in corporate media, through the speeches of politicians, through the eulogies sung at his funeral, through the proclamations of commemorative holidays, biographies, institutions, and so on. Mythologies about great people, whether they portray them as saints or as villains, are idealized representations, and as such, fundamentally reactionary. Mythologies are the sustenance of all forms of fundamentalism, whether religious or ideological (e.g. the market fundamentalism of neo-liberalism). The contributions of great people are frequently reduced to a few simple ‘truths’, truths that are based on the denial of uncomfortable aspects of their stories, and thus ironically based also on lies. The process of mythologizing represents a contestation between symbolism and mythology. The greatest disservice that we could pay to Mandela is to allow the complexity, courage and humanity of his long life to be reduced to a fairy tale. Mandela represents for so many the finest values of courage, liberation and freedom. For all his exceptional greatness, he lived and struggled in the world as a human being with others. His legacy should not be placed on a pedestal of myth but rather inspire us to take lessons from the complexity and imperfections of those struggles as we continue the long walk to freedom. Firoze Manji Dakar, 6 December 2013
In 1986, in the midst of the state of emergency, Asimbonanga, Johnny Cleggs exquisite song for Mandela, soared above the blood and teargas on the streets yearning for the day when "We cross the burning water".
[D]eath is always close by, and what's important is not to know if you can avoid it, but to know that you have done the most possible to realize your ideas. - Frantz Fanon, 1961.
Nelson Mandela is mourned by South Africans, Africans and the international community today as the leader of our generation who stood head and shoulders above his contemporaries — a colossus of unimpeachable moral character and integrity, the world's most admired and revered public figure.
Egypt’s draft constitution, which has been approved for a referendum, would consolidate the power of the military, which had promised a “democratic transition” when it ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi.
Author Ken Saro-Wiwa spear-headed the resistance of the Ogoni people of the Niger Delta against environmental devastation from oil drilling and ruptured oil pipelines. He was executed in 1995. Dr Laurence Cox introduces his last letters.
In a world where the military industrial complex and the political corporate nexus are inseparable and indiscernible from its intelligence apparatus, more than ever we need the leakers, the hackers and those who risk all to watch the watchers.
As the official World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations opened today on the 3rd of December in Bali, Indonesia, peoples’ movements took to the streets. Gerak Lawan, an alliance of Indonesian Peoples Movements against Neocolonialism and Imperialism, along with the Social Movements for an Alternative Asia (SMAA), a newly formed coordination of Asian social movements along with La Via Campesina demonstrated in Renon Square in Denpasar from 9am until 2pm.
The protest brought together at least 1,000 farmers, trade unions, students, women and youth from more than 30 countries. They called for the total rejection of the WTO and the free trade regime.
“The Bali package is a terrible deal for the developing world. We are forced to accept a legally binding agreement on trade facilitation in exchange for leaving the small farmers hungry.
Britain systematically destroyed documents in colonies that were about to gain independence, declassified Foreign Office files reveal. ‘Operation Legacy’ saw sensitive documents secretly burnt or dumped to cover up traces of British activities.
We, the undersigned organisations, some of which came together in 2012 to create a regional coalition for corporate accountability, announce our intention to launch the African Coalition for Corporate Accountability (ACCA).
We, the undersigned organisations, support African communities and individuals whose human rights are adversely impacted daily by the activities of corporations, both multi-national and domestic. We are civil society organizations working on issues ranging from mining and other extractives industries, public and private security sector accountability, natural resource rights, including land acquisition, tenure and property rights, financial regulatory policy, as well as accountability mechanisms for human and peoples rights, and environmental rights.
We welcome the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (“UN GPs”), universally endorsed by the United Nations Human Rights Council, as an important international framework to advance corporate accountability. We however note that the UN GPs, as currently framed and understood, do not fully reflect the experiences and concerns of our constituencies and are currently failing to change lived realities on the ground. We understand that the Guiding Principles impose a State duty to protect, and a corporate responsibility to respect, human rights; however, this is complicated by the reality of weak African States with weak or non-existent legal frameworks, collusion between States and corporations, and the privatisation of State duties.
We express grave concern about the impunity with which companies continue to operate in our jurisdictions in the absence of strong State regulation and enforcement of civil and criminal liability. In particular, we note the distinct and systemic human rights challenges experienced on the African continent: a persistent infringement of collective and individual rights; unregulated exploitation of natural resources; the lack of access to effective remedies; the absence of transparency and effective coherent policies in respect of financial governance; a lack of bargaining power in contractual negotiations; and unlawful use of force by state and non-state actors. We also note the gendered manner in which these corporate harms disproportionately affect those with less power in our communities.
The formation of our coalition, the ACCA, is a recognition of the similar corporate harms we address in our work and an effort to come together in solidarity to better address these challenges through shared strategies and joint advocacy. We commit to rigorous advocacy with regional and international institutions, governments, national human rights institutions, companies, and communities to implement the UN GPs in a critical and nuanced manner that reflects the challenges of advancing corporate accountability in Africa. We commit to working collaboratively, communicating our strategies, advocacy plans and efforts in the hopes of knowledge and information sharing. Recognising the multiple and distinct challenges we face, we identify the following initial issues impacting our constituencies and communities:
The need for enhancing the protection and respect for collective and individual rights in relation to the activities and relationships of business enterprises a. Collective rights, as articulated in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and applicable international human rights instruments, includes the right to self-determination; the right to freely dispose of their wealth and natural resources; the right to a healthy environment; and the right to their economic, social and cultural development considering their freedom, identity and common heritage. These rights must be protected by States and, at a minimum, respected by corporations.
b. Free prior and informed consent is a non-negotiable threshold for every aspect of projects likely to affect communities. Communities must be able to participate in decisions affecting them and their livelihoods, including through the negotiation and life cycle of a project.
The need for enhancing the protection and respect for labour rights in relation to business enterprises a. Recognizing that labour rights must include consideration of health and safety not only of those employed by the business, but also those affected by business activities.
b. Labour rights need to be committed to by governments, and where labour protections do exist, they must be enforced.
c. Labour rights need to be respected by corporations, and where labour rights are weak, corporations should adhere to regional and international labour rights protections.
The need to ensure that remedies are strengthened and obstacles to justice are eliminated. a. Those affected by corporate-related human rights abuses must have a clear, effective and independent means of seeking remedy, both judicial and non-judicial.
b. Facilitating access to regional and international remedies must be a priority, especially where State remedies are weak or non-existent.
The lack of implementation of the State duty to protect human and peoples rights, and environmental rights. a. African governments must develop national implementation plans to communicate the steps they are taking to ensure human rights are protected in relation to business activities.
b. Governments must ensure transparency and access to information from both public and private actors, including in contracts, agreements and other information that materially affects community interests.
c. African governments must ensure the effective enforcement of legal frameworks that seek to promote human rights protections in relation to business enterprises where they exist, including creation and enforcement of legal requirements of human rights due diligence on corporations.
Our coalition, the ACCA, seeks to ensure that these critical issues are addressed. We express our commitment towards advocacy, engagement and critique to ensure that governments from our diverse set of countries across Africa are engaging in the promotion and protection of human rights in relation to business activity, and that corporations at a minimum respect human rights in all of their operations.
We will continue our work and commitments until these objectives are achieved, and we commit to working with regional and other supportive partners to ensure that this becomes a reality.
This declaration remains open for endorsement by African civil society organizations, and has already been endorsed by the following organizations on 27 November 2013 in Accra, Ghana:
Action Contre l'Impunité pour les Droits Humains (ACIDH), Lubumbashi, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
Endorois Welfare Council, Nakuru, KENYA
Kenya Human Rights Commission, Nairobi, KENYA
Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA), Harare, ZIMBABWE
Fondation pour le développement au Sahel (FDS), Bamako, MALI
Leadership Initiative for Transformation and Empowerment (LITE Africa), Warri, Delta State, NIGERIA
Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, SOUTH AFRICA
Natural Justice, Cape Town, SOUTH AFRICA
Global Rights: Partners for Justice, Washington DC, USA with offices in NIGERIA, UGANDA and BURUNDI
Wacam, Accra, GHANA
Firoze Manji's insight:
A brilliant initiative - congratulations to the organisations