Hopes for the resurrection of the South African women's movement have been heightened by the activity surrounding the Beijing women's conference, writes Steyn Speed.
The Fourth World Conference on Women, to be held in Beijing in September, is being seen as the spark which could rekindle the South African women's movement. As South Africa prepares to celebrate the first officially- recognised National Women's Day, on 9 August, that view is gaining credibility.
"The difference between 9 August 1956 [when women protesters marched on the union buildings] and 9 August 1995," says welfare deputy minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, "is the idea of a women's movement."
Fraser-Moleketi, who is also heading the Beijing national preparatory committee, says there is no vibrant women's movement in South Africa, only "a major vacuum".
Fraser-Moleketi is not alone. ANC MP Baleka Kgositsile says the challenge is to develop a set of basic issues which bring women together across political, religious and social divides. She says the Women's National Coalition, formed during multi-party negotiations, established a basis for broad unity on which women can build.
Already, the South African preparations for the Beijing conference have produced a flurry of activity within women's organisations and has focussed attention on the needs of South African women. A number of women's non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and individuals have been drawn into the work of the NGO Secretariat for Beijing. The secretariat was established to popularise issues and activities related to the Beijing conference and the parallel NGO Forum; to enable networking among South African NGOs; to liaise with government delegates; and to ensure that the work of the conference is followed-up in South Africa.
NGO secretariat convenor Nomtuse Mbere says the "Beijing process could be used as a basis for a women's movement". She says, however, that the preparations started late. The secretariat, which is an independent project of the Women's National Coalition (WNC), was formally established in June 1994, but didn't initially have funds, personnel or resources. Since then, however, it has become very active, reaching people through workshops, reportback meetings and its monthly newsletter, Beijing Agender. Mbere feels though that the secretariat has not addressed itself sufficiently to men. This, she says, will have to be achieved in the post-Beijing work. "Attitude is the main stumbling block for equality of women. We need a partnership between men and women to overcome this," she says.
"There has been a total reawakening within the women's movement [because of Beijing]," says Dilky Bogatsu, Education and Training Officer of the WNC. She says the preparations for Beijing and the work of the NGO secretariat have had a positive impact on the coalition. Bogatsu acknowledges that the activities of the coalition had suffered a "slowdown" since last year's elections; they lost key personnel and funding dwindled. Since the work for Beijing began the WNC has been able to make some changes, she says, including contributions to the constitution-making process; challenging government around gender forums; and regaining a level of unity among women in the country. "We are not yet in an ideal situation, but were are in a better position now than we were six months ago," she says.
Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi believes that the actual value to South African women of the Beijing conference lies not so much in trying to ensure that South Africa has a large delegation, but in implementing the agreements reached there. She says the conference should not just benefit the 25 to 40 South African women who attend, but should enable all women to feel different about their lives. "The question is how Beijing meets women's practical needs, while getting rid of gender inequalities," she says.
Fraser-Moleketi says the challenge for South Africans is to ensure that the international processes are used to build women's potential in South Africa. As the first international women's conference that South Africa will be officially attending, Beijing provides many new opportunities. "Women throughout the world have developed strategies, but South Africa has never had an opportunity to learn from these tactics," says Mbere. She says South Africans can learn from the vast experience of other women, though not all programmes used elsewhere would be applicable to this country. This doesn't mean that South African women don't have something to contribute, she says, referring in particular to their role in the democratisation process and conflict resolution. "We won't be going to Beijing empty-handed, and we won't be coming back empty-handed," she says.
What South African women will be taking to Beijing are a number of concrete commitments from the government. Following a proposal by Australia that Beijing be a 'Conference of Commitments', over 80 countries, including South Africa, have resolved to identify three or four specific actions in each of the twelve 'critical areas of concern' which the conference will address. Workshops throughout the country have therefore been identifying actions which the government should resolve to implement. The cabinet would review, and agree to, the commitments before the conference in September.
Mbere says the commitments vary in how specific or general they are, and the time frames in which they are expected to be realised. She says the commitments could range from the establishment of rape units in all police stations; to measures to decrease female mortality rates; to establishing a gender desk in each government department.
The areas of critical concern have been identified in a draft Platform for Action, described as "a blueprint for women's advancement in countries around the world", which will be presented in Beijing for adoption by UN member states. The areas which the platform identifies includes:
Importantly, the 9 August celebrations will be a test of whether the activity and enthusiasm which the Beijing conference has stirred up can be transformed into the seed of a united, coherent and powerful women's movement.
Forthcoming legislation on a gender commission is just one part of a number of measures which government should consider in ending gender inequality, writes Steyn Speed.
A draft bill to establish the long-awaited Commission for Gender Equity will come before parliament during its next session. Yet the commission is just one aspect of a package of institutional measures to promote the advancement of women currently being explored. "The debate has so far centred around the gender commission because its in the interim constitution, but there is a whole range of national machinery which could be established," says ANC MP Baleka Kgositsile. Most women say they want the commission, but as part a package of government measures, she says.
The current debate is likely to gain momentum with the anticipated ratification by the government of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw) on 9 August, National Women's Day. The convention, an international 'bill of rights' for women, was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1979, and signed by the National Party government in 1993. In order to be bound by the principles in the convention, a country also needs to ratify the convention. According to national assembly speaker Frene Ginwala a parliamentary standing committee on Cedaw is to be established. This committee would have to consider what legislation needs to be enacted or amended to satisfy the terms of the convention.
The debate is also not limited to short term measures. Theme Committee Six of the Constitutional Assembly, which is considering the shape and form of 'specialised structures of government', is debating whether provision should be made for a gender commission in the final constitution, and whether other mechanisms should be constitutionalised. At present, the debate is less about whether there is a need for a gender commission - most people seem to agree there is - but about whether it is going to last so long that it should be written into the constitution. The dominant thinking is that the commission should not last forever, but should work itself out of existence. Writing in the journal Beijing Agender, Colleen Lowe Morna says lessons from other countries have taught South African women "to be wary of structures that end up marginalising gender issues".
"The argument is that gender concerns should permeate every government ministry; indeed every aspect of life. However, the experience in the year since South Africa's first democratic elections is that unless there are mechanisms to drive this awareness, gender concerns will end up everywhere and nowhere," she says.
The ANC constitutional proposals say there should be a commission to advance gender equality, but that the details of the commission should be left to national legislation. "I hope that within half a century, we will be able to do away with the gender commission," says Kgositsile. The commission might need to be reviewed and changed "from time to time", she says.
The most popular conception of the gender commission emerging is that it would be independent of government, though the government would have a responsibility to fund it. The commission would report to parliament, make an input into legislation being drafted and liaise with all government departments. "It makes sense that the commission would be the most informed structure in the country on gender issues and South African society. Research is needed to see where women are and how best to deal with their situation," Kgositsile says. The commission would also need to interact with the women's movement; to help empower and advise it, she says.
The draft Platform for Action to be adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in September specifically mentions the strategic objective of creating national machineries and other governmental bodies to promote the advancement of women. It says governments need to "ensure that responsibility for the advancement of women is vested in the highest possible level of government". In many cases, it says, this could be at the level of cabinet minister.
The document says all national machinery should have clearly defined mandates and authority, and should, among other things, perform policy analysis, undertake advocacy, communication, coordination and monitoring of implementation. Critical elements of this machinery would be "adequate resources, ability and competence to influence policy and formulate and review legislation".
Kgositsile agrees that a cabinet structure, at the level of a cabinet committee, should be established to ensure coordination of departmental activities addressing the plight of women. "It would need to ensure that in terms of policy and budgets, departments pay more than lip service [to women's advancement]," she says.
Other mechanisms include gender forums at a provincial government level, and gender desks within each government department. In those provinces where gender forums have been established, they are not functioning, says Dilky Bogatsu of the Women's National Coalition. "Women need to make a noise if they want a budget for gender," she says.
Most commentators on government gender policy agree that the various options for a national gender machinery are not exclusive of each other, but that they all form part of an integrated package of mechanisms which the government needs to put in place as a matter of priority.
Despite the acceleration of the drive for women's rights, women continue to face discrimination in social, political, economic, political and cultural spheres.
Source: UN Department of Public Information
South Africa could soon have a national health insurance system which will have as its aim objective the eradication of apartheid health care c0onditions, writes Duncan Harford.
After five months of gruelling work, including thousands of hours of oral submissions and thousands of pages of written submissions, the committee of inquiry into a National Health Insurance System reported its findings and recommendations on 19 June.
The state of health care to millions of South Africans under the apartheid system necessitated the move towards a national health insurance system (NHIS). Health minister Nkosazana Zuma therefore appointed in January a committee of inquiry into a National Health Insurance System. The committee had to work within a set of policy objectives which included universal and non-discriminatory access to quality primary health care for all South Africans, regardless of race, gender, income or place of residence. The system also had to be affordable, efficient and sustainable, and needed to be consistent with the objectives of the Reconstruction and Development Programme.
The proposed NHIS will:
The services that will be available include curative services for acute minor ailments; trauma; endemic diseases; other communicable and some chronic diseases; immunisation and screening for common diseases; family planning and full maternal and child health services.
Essential medicines will be provided at a nominal fee and will be dispensed by nurses or pharmacists. Further services that will be made available include basic optometry services, mental health and social work services, health education, nutritional services, school health, environmental services, essential ambulance services, care of the elderly, epidemiology and information systems, medico-legal services and district hospitals.
All of these services will, under the new plan, be administered by district health authorities (DHAs). The DHAs will move away from being service providers and become buyers of the best and most cost effective services available. The entire country will be divided into population units of between 100,000 and 500,000 people, depending on populations densities. Each DHA will have a budget based on the number of people that fall into that particular DHA area. With this money the DHA will buy whatever is needed, either from the private or public sectors. This will draw in the private sector on a contractual basis to improve basic health services for all.
One of the concerns of the committee was how to ensure that rural areas had sufficient staff to run the proposed services in those areas. The private sector operates mainly in the urban areas, leaving rural areas under-staffed. Various proposals were made in an attempt to address these problems. These ranged from improving the total remuneration package for public sector medical staff, to offering incentives to those prepared to work in rural areas, to the more controversial introduction of a fixed period of service in the public sector for all new medical and other health professional graduates.
The health sector is notorious for the many vested interests that exist. The committee, taking into account these vested interests, has recommended that an essential drugs list be drawn up which will comprise of a list of drugs to cope with the prevention and treatment of more than 90 percent of the most common and important illnesses found in South Africa. The committee suggests that a system of curbs should be placed on the activities of doctors dispensing and pharmacists who dispense these drugs, rather than allowing the current system of mark- ups and discounting to prevail. The resultant reduction in medicine prices should apply to everyone, including those on private medical aid schemes the committee argues. The effect of this is estimated to be a saving of R1,2 billion on private health expenditure each year.
The report issued by the committee has refrained from dealing with the financial implications of the scheme, pending discussions with the finance ministry. This has been criticised by some commentators as a weakness in the report. It could be argued however that because the final recommendations will be based on the outcome of the discussions to be held with the finance ministry they will be realistic in terms of what can be afforded by the country's economy.
The national leadership of the ANC and the SA National Civic Organisation (Sanco) have vowed to resolve tensions and strengthen cooperation between the two organisations ahead of November's local government elections.
"From the ANC we have a commitment to resolving problems between ANC structures and Sanco structures at all levels," said ANC NWC member Saki Macozoma. He said a national 'three-a-side' committee had been established to address issues as they arose.
Sanco general secretary Penrose Ntlonti said tensions needed to be resolved so that the ANC could win the local government elections. Sanco committed itself to achieving a "landslide ANC victory" in order to remove the last remnants of apartheid.
Tension between ANC and Sanco structures, particularly at a branch level, was identified at the ANC national conference in December last year as an area of potential conflict. The selection of ANC alliance local government candidates, currently underway, has again raised concerns of possible strife.
Both Sanco and the ANC have identified poor communication within the organisations as one of the causes of tension. "It seems from reports that agreements made with Sanco at a national level take a very long time to filter down to regional and local level," Macozoma said. While agreements had been reached between the ANC and Sanco on guidelines for the candidate selection process, there was often confusion and misunderstanding about what these agreements entailed. This made it possible for individuals with their own agendas to distort the guidelines, Ntlonti said. He said that some tensions had begun with the list process for last year's national election, and continued during the establishment of transitional local councils.
A workshop earlier this year between the ANC and Sanco identified some of the causes of the problems, and agreed on mechanisms to solve them. One of the key problems, the workshop found, was that it was not clear what the respective roles of ANC and Sanco branches were. Many people were unable to differentiate the role of a political party from that of an organ of civil society, particularly in relation to local development. The workshop stressed the need to coordinate alliance structures at national, provincial and branch levels more effectively, and to have strategic meetings on the implementation of the RDP. It also noted that a lack of political education, resources and visible leadership contributed to the problems.
The workshop found that some individuals had turned personal differences into organisational problems, and that there was ill-discipline among members of both organisations. Ntlonti said the problem was not between the ANC and Sanco themselves, but involved "certain elements who are hell-bent on destroying the ANC from within".
To resolve the problems, agreement was reached earlier this year on a joint approach to the local government elections, including the composition of national, provincial and local list committees and the criteria for selecting candidates. An initial proposal for Sanco and the tripartite alliance each to have a quota of people on the election list was scrapped at the request of Sanco. The national list committee instead opted for an open candidate system.
A high level meeting of Sanco and ANC leaders, called by President Nelson Mandela earlier this year, was a recognition that the ANC was aware of the tensions and concerned about them, Macozoma said. As a result of the two organisations' commitment to resolving outstanding problems, a committee was established of three people from each organisation to deal nationally with problems that arose on a "day-to-day" basis. The committee had held a number of meetings and had looked at a number of problems, he said.
A proposal, endorsed at a recent ANC NEC meeting, to deploy MPs released by Sanco to work in the Sanco national office instead of ANC constituency offices was one way of addressing some of the capacity problems that Sanco was having, Macozoma said.
One of the main challenges for the alliance was now to communicate to all structures the agreements that had been reached at national level, Ntlonti said. "If this [conflict] continues, it could cost the ANC the local government elections," he warned.
He said Sanco was still committed to finding a solution. "The ANC is our organisation. We want to ensure that its performance [in the elections] is up to standard," he said.
The secular state debate has become a controversial issue for the Constitutional Assembly. Now Archbishop Desmond Tutu has added his voice to the debate.
In response to the march on the Constitutional Assembly by thousands of Christians, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has taken issue with claims made by the protestors that in a secular state Christians would be unable to hold public office and that prayer would be banned in state institutions such as schools. The marchers also criticised the fact that Ascension Day was no longer a public holiday.
In a pastoral letter to Anglicans, Tutu points out that as early as 1991 the Synod of Bishops had called for South Africa to be a secular state. "A secular state is not a godless or immoral one. It is one in which the state does not owe allegiance to any particular religion and thus no religion has an unfair advantage, or has privileges denied to others," he says.
"In some Muslim countries, Muslim Sharia law is enforced on all and sundry. We do not want to impose Christian laws on those who are not Christian, even if we are the majority. Jesus said, 'Do unto others as you would they did unto you.' Imagine if we were all prohibited from eating pork or were told we could not observe Sunday as a holy day." About Christians not being eligible for public office, he says President Mandela is a Methodist and Christians are in the majority in parliament. He asks whether it is credible that they would draw up a constitution that would shut them out of public office.
"We must insist on freedom of worship for all - that is, the fundamental right to practice and propagate one's faith without hindrance as long as one does not infringe the rights of others. This right is already guaranteed in our Bill of Rights which outlaws discrimination on the basis of sex, race, culture or creed," he says. He adds that he would lead a protest march if this right was undermined.
Tutu says that he has never been stopped from praying in a state building: "I said grace very recently in parliament at the lunch for the Springboks and at two state banquets when the Queen was here." On the question of Ascension Day, he says no-one had suggested it should not be observed as a holy day. In fact, he says, very few Anglicans attend services on that day, but thousands go to Ash Wednesday services, which is not a public holiday.
"We have many Christian festivals observed as public holidays for everybody, including Good Friday, every Sunday, Easter Monday and Christmas Day. Let us not be greedy. No-one has stopped us from keeping our festivals."
Tutu warns that Christian morals and standards are not guaranteed just by mentioning God in the constitution. The old constitution invoked the name of God and then the apartheid government totally ignored God as it carried out "ungodly, unchristian and immoral laws".
"If we want Christian morals and standards to permeate our society, then let us elect Christian people to parliament and let us ensure our society reflects those standards and values. Jesus said we should be like salt to preserve society and be the light that dispels the darkness of evil and sin in society."
This article was first published in Constitution Talk, the newspaper of the Constitutional Assembly.
The debate about the decriminalisation of dagga, should be less emotional and more responsible, argues Duncan Harford.
Drug trafficking and abuse has seen a dramatic increase in South Africa in recent years. Yet the war against drugs should not prevent open and sober debate about the status of dagga, and the people who use it.
The announcement by correctional services minister Sipho Mzimela that he would like to see dagga users decriminalised has resulted in a vocal response from a cross-section of South African society. Welfare minister Abe Williams announced his vehement opposition to the proposal. Mzimela told the senate that dagga-related crimes should be punished will alternative sentencing such as correctional supervision or community service.
For decades dagga has been portrayed as a drug that serves as a gateway to harder drugs. South Africa is suffering from a large influx of such drugs, like cocaine and heroin. Recently justice minister Dullah Omar announced that there were more than one thousand drug syndicates operating in South Africa. This onslaught has to be taken very seriously, and firm steps taken to deal with the problem before the situation deteriorates further.
Decriminalisation of dagga would mean that while possession of limited quantities of dagga would remain illegal, it would be regarded as a misdemeanour - the equivalent of a traffic offence - instead of a crime. Offenders would not find themselves in jail. Instead, punishment for an initial offence would be a fine.
The punishment currently required by South African law - an unlimited fine and/or imprisonment for up to fifteen years - has done little to stop the widespread use or cultivation of dagga. The dagga crop in KwaZulu/Natal is said to be worth more than the province's sugar production. Aerial spraying has not reduced the availability of the drug to any great extent.
A 1994 paper by the UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISED) says that the economic incentives are such that producers and traffickers always spring up to fill any gaps in the market that result from drug control efforts. Attempts to reduce consumption by imposing legal sanctions fail to curb the use of drugs among those sections of society where the problem is most severe. The paper goes on to say that "proposals that have been advanced for the regulation, decriminalisation or legalisation of drug consumption and or production have also been advanced - not to reduce consumption, but rather to reduce the drug- related crime and violence which affect society as a whole".
The UN International Drug Control Programme says rehabilitation should be the primary concern with drug offenders: "Placing an addict in prison does not cure the disease and, when the addict is released, he will usually return to a destructive and deviant life-style".
While frowning on dagga use, society encourages the use of tobacco and alcohol, both regarded to pose a greater health risk and be more addictive than dagga. The promotion of cigarettes is often justified because of the major role that this industry plays in the economy.
Many doctors believe that dagga has a vast range of potentially beneficial medical properties. Doctors say that as long as dagga is illegal scientific evaluation of its toxic, therapeutic and other effects will be incomplete.
Experience shows that dagga is not harmless for all users. Consistent use among children, in particular, can lead to depression, lack of motivation and ambition, apathy and a general withdrawal from society. A compounding factor is the smoking of dagga combined with crushed Mandrax tablets, a practice unique to South Africa, which is highly addictive and is often linked to violent crime.
The decriminalisation of the dagga user is a complex issue which needs to treated in a rational manner. Whatever the future status of dagga in South African society, public education needs to take place not only to expose the hazards of drug use, but to explode some of the myths.
Once regarded as an 'elitist' white sport, cricket is beginning to gain popularity among all South Africans. David Adams traces the development of the game in this country.
Cricket has been played by all communities in South Africa ever since the British Settlers arrived on our shores in the early 1800s. British missionaries were responsible for a thriving cricket culture among black communities in the mountain villages around Alice in the Eastern Cape, where they established institutions like Lovedale College and the University of Fort Hare.
It was these institutions that bred a love for cricket in the hearts of African leaders like Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Thabo Mbeki, Kenneth Kaunda and Robert Mugabe. Later those villages took the game to black communities throughout the Eastern Cape and to the Reef mines. However, it was not long before apartheid began to squeeze the life out of 'black' cricket. While 'white' cricket flourished and South Africa became a founding member of the International Cricket Council, 'black' cricket remained alive only in the hearts of those who truly loved the game.
In 1986 however the then South African Cricket Union (SACU) started a development programme in townships. The South African Cricket Board had become involved in grassroots development without sponsorship for coaching, equipment or facilities. The perception of cricket in the townships was justifiably negative. Nevertheless SACU decided to embark on their programme, and made use of Mini Cricket, a game based on West Indian beach cricket which introduces cricket to youngsters under the age of ten. Mini Cricket began in 1982 under a regional sponsorship of R50,000 over three years from Bakers Biscuit. In June this year, Bakers contribution to Mini Cricket was an unbelievable R5-million over the next three years to come.
Bakers Mini Cricket, with Steve Tshwete as facilitator, brought the South African Cricket Union and the South African Cricket Board together to form the United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA), of which Krish Mackerdhuj is the current President.
South Africa's return to international cricket was aided by Thabo Mbeki, then head of the ANC's International Affairs Department, who wrote to the administrators of all the cricket-playing nations that cricket had begun to play a positive role in South African society and that it should be encouraged at all levels. With the 'new' developments, the UCBSA launched a National Development Programme headed by Khaya Majola.
They have now introduced Bakers Mini Cricket in rural areas among older children and have launched Bakers Mini Cricket for girls. Ali Bacher, managing director of UCBSA, admits that "while many of our development players have the skills to do well they have first to overcome a built-in inferiority complex largely attributable to the apartheid system. The Conrad Hunte and Clive Rice academies are there to break down those barriers and to hasten the process between playing at top junior level and international level."
Already, hundreds of cricketing youngsters in the townships have become role models for their peers. Geoffrey Toyana, has moved from Orlando East in Soweto to the mecca of cricket, Lords in London, where he is spending six months with the MCC's youth programme. Bacher says cricket is proud and privileged to have been given the opportunity to assist in unifying our nation.
The United Cricket Board of South Africa's development programme aims to broaden the base of cricket to all communities; give new opportunities to disadvantaged youth; use cricket in the reconciliation process of our country; redress the imbalances of the past; and make South Africa the number one cricket nation in the world.
The Development Programme has 11 full-time regional officers which report to the national development directorate. Under the National Development Programme the following has been achieved:
The United States is finding itself increasingly alone on the issue of its decades-old blockade of Cuba, Steyn Speed writes.
The United States' insistence on maintaining the 35-year-old blockade against its Cuban neighbours is increasingly turning the US into an 'island' nation, alone in a sea of international outrage.
Criticism of US Cuban policy, both from within and outside the states, has been mounting in recent months. At the last United Nations vote on the blockade only the US and Israel voted in favour of maintaining it.
Over 100 countries voted against the blockade, including South Africa. And criticism is likely to increase if the Helms/Burton Bill, which aims to tighten the embargo on Cuba, is passed into law.
The anti-blockade movement is gathering particular momentum in South Africa, where a southern African conference in solidarity with Cuba is to be held in October. The conference aims to oppose the "illegal and immoral" blockade and support the struggle of the Cuban people to maintain their independence and right to self determination. In addition, the conference organisers hope to develop a continental network of solidarity with Cuba by bringing together a "cross-section of individuals and organisations who are committed to solidarity with the Cuban people and the Cuban revolution".
The organisers have identified the need to provide accurate information on Cuba to dispel some of the myths that have been propagated in South Africa in the past, and to popularise the Cuban struggle throughout the region.
In addition, the conference aims to strengthen the relations between Cuba and the governments of southern Africa. This will include helping with the implementation of United Nations resolutions in support of Cuba.
The conference, which will be a high profile event, will be attended by about 300 people from southern African governments, non-governmental organisations, embassies, community-based organisations, religious groupings, political parties, business, trade unions and various sectoral organisations.
The conference is linked to the emergence of a network of Cuba solidarity groups throughout South Africa. The oldest of these is the Friends of Cuba Society (Focus), based in the Western Cape. Focus has, since its formation at the end of 1992, organised pickets outside the US consulate in Cape Town; lobbied MPs and MPLs; raised material and financial support for Cuba; and hosted Cuban video and film festivals. Remarks made by Dullah Omar at the 1993 Focus AGM were widely reported in the media, and sparked off a national debate about support for Cuba. Focus and the Gauteng-based group, SA-Cuba Solidarity Association, have formed the core of a solidarity network which has components in KwaZulu/Natal, Eastern Cape, Free State and Northern Province.
South African support for Cuba was demonstrated at the World Meeting of Solidarity with Cuba, held in Havana in November last year. The South African delegation, which was the largest of the 115 countries which attended the conference, included Cosatu president John Gomomo, SACP general secretary Charles Nqakula and ANC NEC member Raymond Suttner. A message from President Nelson Mandela to the conference said that Cuba had stood by South Africa's people at their time of greatest need, and that South Africa intended not to weaken, but to strengthen its bonds with Cuba.
This sentiment was echoed by the ANC national conference, held in December last year. The conference described the blockade as a gross violation of the right of the Cuban people to choose their own social system, as wholly unjustified and tantamount to war. The conference resolved to call for the lifting of the blockade and to "intensify our solidarity with the people of Cuba".
In the face of international pressure a group of conservative US leaders have introduced a bill which will intensify the embargo. Sponsored by US senator Jesse Helms and Indiana representative Dan Burton, the bill was last month approved by 28 to 9 votes in the US House of Representatives' international relations committee. Among other things, the bill aims to prohibit the import into the US of sugar, molasses, syrups and products containing these items from countries which have imported them from Cuba. It aims to punish non-US countries for trading with Cuba. A statement of the Tripartite Alliance described the bill as an extreme violation of World Trade Organisation rules, which has been forcefully stated by the European Union and the British, Canadian, German and French governments.
"The Bill also prescribes in detail the kind of 'transitional' political institutions that are required in Cuba. It grossly interferes with Cuban sovereignty and is prescriptive in ways that the US was careful not to be in the recent South African transition process," the alliance said.
The bill would also deny US visas to foreign nationals working for non-US companies that do business with Cuba. The bill still had to go before the senate and the House Ways and Means Committee.
The move by these Republicans to tighten the blockade is seen in many quarters as a conservative backlash to a growing sentiment in the United States that the blockade should be relaxed, if not altogether abolished. Sections of the American business community have expressed frustration at not being able to invest in the Cuban economy, which has been recently opened up to the rest of the world. The US academic world has been advocating normal relations with Cuba for several years. Even sections of the US media, including the magazine Time, have recently been suggesting that the blockade is unworkable. A group of Cuban-Americans, called the Cuban-American National Alliance, announced recently that they would campaign against the Helms/Burton Bill and oppose "extremist sectors that are looking for a bloodbath in Cuba".
Why the US clings to the blockade after 35 years and in the face of mounting pressure remains a mystery to many people. "I can't imagine Cuba as a threat to the US - militarily or politically. They [the US] can't bear the sovereignty and independence of Cuba," said Cuban unionist Salvador Valdez.
The US government's insistence on keeping the blockade is explained in part by the importance of the state of Florida in US elections, and in particular an influential reactionary minority of Cubans in Miami.
Among these is the ultra-conservative Cuban-American National Foundation, whose leader, Jorge Mas Canosa, is reputed to have presidential ambitions in Cuba, and - his critics charge - would encourage US military intervention in the event of domestic strife in Cuba. Most Cubans in Miami, by contrast, want good relations between the US and Cuba. If the US government doesn't listen to their and other voices on its Cuban policy it could find itself, at least politically, more alone than the tiny country it is trying to isolate.
The two principle architects of the bill to tighten and internationalise sanctions against Cuba were linked recently to the South African Military Intelligence front, the International Freedom Foundation (IFF). Conservative senator Jesse Helms and fellow Republican Dan Burton were both active in the IFF, an organisation launched and funded by Military Intelligence (MI) to influence international opinion on South Africa and campaign against the ANC. Helms was on the advisory board of the Washington-based IFF, and was well known for his outspoken defence of white minority rule in South Africa.
In 1987 Burton headed a counter-congressional committee set up by the IFF to investigate "child victims of the ANC". The committee, which was set up to counter-act an investigation by Edward Kennedy into the detention of children in South African prisons, was funded by MI, according to a Sunday Independent report. Burton was also a member of an IFF international parliamentary group which 'monitored' the Namibian elections. This group, according to the report, was partly funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
A spokesperson for Burton denied any knowledge of military intelligence's involvement, but said: "They were anti-communist and we were happy to work with them to that extent".
Now in the fifth year of its 'special' period, the Cuban economy has slowed its decline, and has started to improve slightly. This is despite a United States economic embargo that has lasted for over 30 years. "Many people who thought that Cuba would fall, are now asking how long it will take for Cuba to recover," says Cuban Embassy counsellor Elio Savon.
After the fall of the former communist bloc in Eastern Europe, and because of the US blockade, the Cuban economy declined rapidly and dramatically. The small island lost more than 80 percent of foreign trade with the Eastern European countries, its main trading partners. By the beginning of 1993 Cuba was running on half its usual oil supplies and one third of its imports. Food was tightly rationed. The Cuban capital, Havana, reduced its bus runs from 30,000 a day to 10,000.
The Cuban Communist Party dubbed the crisis the 'special period', and adopted a number of mechanisms to redress the decline. "We have tried to develop programmes to preserve the gains made in skills, education and health. We are taking measures to rebuild the economy internally - more efficiency and productivity," says Cuban unionist Salvador Valdez.
At the same time Cuba has opened its economy to foreign investment and has allowed the free circulation of foreign currency. The Cuban government has been trying to enter into joint ventures with other countries to use "idle" Cuban infrastructure. "We had the industrial capacity, but we didn't have the market, the raw material or the capital," explains Savon.
While Cuba is encouraging foreign investment, it is careful to maintain the gains of the revolution. The government ensures that what little there is is shared equally among the people; that pregnant women still have free medical care; that Cuba's pioneering child vaccination programme remains in place; and that the infant mortality rate remains among the lowest in the world. "We haven't closed a single school or got rid of any teachers [since 1990]," says Savon.
Linked to the economic changes have been reforms to the Cuban constitution aimed at improving the parliamentary system. Contrary to US propaganda, the Cuban socialist project has popular support on the island. Cuba has universal suffrage and a voting age of 16. Voter turnout in Cuba has traditionally been high. In 1976, 98 percent of the electorate voted in a constitutional referendum. In the same year, 95 percent of voters turned out in the first municipal elections, and turnout has run over that for municipal elections since then. Candidates for election to municipal, provincial and national government are not put forward by political parties, but are nominated through a process which involves neighbourhood meetings, in the case of municipal candidates, and commissions of sectoral representatives, in the case of provincial and national candidates. On election day, people can vote for all, some or none of the candidates on the ballot. To be elected, however, a candidate must receive over 50 percent of the vote.
Although different to electoral systems in many other countries, Cubans say their system encourages popular participation in decision-making and problem-solving. And they defend their right to choose the system which best suits them: "Americans have their own conception of democracy, and we have our own conception," says Savon.
In spite of the intensification of the US onslaught against Cuba - perhaps because of it - Cuba has been the recipient of a growing number of messages and acts of solidarity from across the world. What Cuba needs most at this stage, though, is material assistance.
"We need capital investments in Cuba. Establishing economic relations is the best way of condemning the blockade," says Valdez.
Can the rapid advance of information technology be effectively harnessed to aid development in South Africa, asks Steyn Speed and Tim Jenkin.
The revolution began with the military; moved to the universities; and now it's spreading to every corner of the earth. It has changed the world forever. The question now is whether this new revolution - the internet - will change the world for the better.
The internet is a world-wide network of networks which allows large volumes of information to be sent across the world (or around the corner) almost instantaneously. It gives an individual with even the most basic computer equipment instant access to an abundance of information, news and views on almost any topic imaginable.
The internet began in the military in the days when only the large military establishments had the resources to use computers.
Technology was developed to enable these establishments to transfer information between computers that were located far apart. As computers became cheaper computer networks were developed to link universities and other civilian research centres. Eventually individuals were able to connect through modems and now it is becoming a major vehicle in the commercial world.
This 'information superhighway' promises change far greater than that brought by telephone, radio and television. Soon a connection to the internet will be as normal as having running water and through this network the computer of the future will combine virtually all electronic services into one. The distinction between telephone, electronic mail, fax, radio, music, television and video will largely disappear. All of these services will operate through the computer attached to the internet and be offered as options of a unified electronic service.
The potential for using the internet in development has not gone unnoticed. SANGONeT, an internet service provider catering largely for non- governmental organisations (NGOs), was set up to provide organisations and individuals in southern Africa with electronic access to a world-wide network of development groups.
SANGONeT director Anriette Esterhuizen says one of the main functions of the internet in development is to build the capacity of "intermediaries" like NGOs, service organisations and community-based organisations. While people 'on the ground' might not necessarily have access to computers they can benefit indirectly from electronic communication through organisations involved in development.
But, says Esterhuizen, computers by themselves don't produce efficiency: "People need to understand the benefits of the technology and implement it in a particular way." SANGONeT pays particular attention to the target users, ensuring that they not only can use the application, but understand its usefulness and potential.
The internet enables NGOs, other organisations and individuals to network around issues of common concern - and even to lobby for a particular action. SANGONeT, for example, provides around 2,000 conference groups on different themes for its subscribers to participate in. It is the only service provider in South Africa that offers access to these particular global groups. Such contact with similar groups across the world, and the country, allows organisations to share information, experiences and ideas.
The real challenge, however, is to extend the usefulness of the internet beyond the relatively small group of people with computers.
Development workers need to develop strategies for disseminating the information further. The advantage of the internet is that the information is in a form which is easily disseminated. Unlike a fax, for example, information from the internet can be quickly reproduced through a variety of media. Large volumes of information can be repackaged at several different sites as print, radio, oral or audio-visual material. "The critical thing in transcending the barrier [between people with computers and those without] is to have a multi-media strategy," says Esterhuizen.
The multi-media approach will allow information providers to take information to communities where there are no computers. In addition to the traditional media forms, special 'touch-screen' computers can be used in community centres, shopping centres, schools and libraries, where people would be able to access information from a multitude of sources.
The information needs to be packaged to make it useful for a particular locality. HealthLink, a project begun in late 1994 to link up rural hospitals, clinics, health administrators and NGOs, has begun to do just that. HealthLink national manager Duane Blaauw says the computer network presently being set up will enable institutions to perform administrative functions by computer, and will give otherwise isolated health workers quick and easy access to an array of medical information, research and statistics. The project is targeting rural and under- developed areas. Blaauw says the network will be adapted to each area's specific needs based on what local people identify as priorities.
The potential of the internet as a mechanism for disseminating information is being acknowledged in the political sphere as well. The ANC has become the first political grouping in South Africa to disseminate party material through the internet. The ANC has a site on the internet where people from around the world can have instant access to ANC policy and historical documents, press statements, speeches, graphics, organisational information and publications like Constitution News and Mayibuye. It also provides a daily news briefing and links to other sites of political interest.
In the absence of any overall government policy on the dissemination of state information the ANC has taken upon itself to provide government information from its internet site. If patterns in other countries are anything to go by individual government departments will begin to use the internet to disseminate their information. A site such as the ANC's, where people go to find political information, could help to bring all this information together under a single heading or menu.
The Constitutional Assembly (CA) also has an internet site, where all submissions to the CA can be found, as well as minutes and reports from the various structures of the CA. It is one of the strategies being used by the CA to involve all South Africans in the drafting of the new constitution. Other areas of government have been slower to respond to the opportunities offered by the internet. SANGONeT's Esterhuizen says it is appalling that the government doesn't provide free and comprehensive information through the internet. "If they're not ready [to provide the service], then they should make it possible for already existing service providers to do so," she says.
The internet user is not merely a passive consumer in the same way that a newspaper reader is. The internet user can respond to information by sending further information, comments or queries, which, particularly in the arena of government, can significantly empower the ordinary citizen.
The internet is a network of networks. It ties together thousands of separate networks around the world into one global network. Individual computers in homes and offices can also connect to the internet through modems.
Over the years a range of 'tools' have developed for accessing information. At the simplest level there are basic file transfer programmes that allow users to receive specific files at known sites. Later, systems were developed where items of information could be listed that actually existed at remote locations. This allowed the user to jump from site to site looking for what they wanted.
A few years back a new system was developed which came to be known as the world-wide web. This allows users to browse the world for information. Highlighted portions of a document can link that particular document to other information located anywhere in the world. In this way all information gets linked in a massive web spanning the earth.
The world-wide web is a multimedia system with graphics, sound and even video. This is what has made the internet so popular and accounts for its phenomenal growth in the past two years. It will serve as the basis of a future all-embracing multi-media electronic service.
The annual Grahamstown National Arts Festival has come and gone. Bongani Madondo reflects on some of the highlights.
"Theatre is on a rapid decline," utters one critic. "The artistic and antiquated stage narration, as a communication vehicle, will soon carry the country's social torch in the new era," says another.
One became accustomed to these kinds of utterances at the Grahamstown Arts Festival, mainly from arts critics, who were as varied in perspective as the plays themselves.
In the usual Grahamstown style, events were divided into two areas: the main programme and the fringe. The main programme was a display area for plays by the 'cream' of South Africa's playwrights. The lesser known performers and community theatres were accommodated on the fringe - an interesting field where vast talent and potential, as well as a great lack of expertise, is on display.
Never mind what the critics relished, a number of plays on the fringe left their mark. Among them was a socio-religious theatrical piece, But Mama, by the Natal-based James Nxumalo Drama Company.
This was one of the plays that missed a plane to wider recognition and acclaim. Despite its young, fresh and dedicated cast and the thoughtful directorship of Nothembi Sibisi - a teacher by profession and actress by passion - Grahamstown's fierce artistic environment was too cold and overwhelming for this play.
But Mama, a musical storytelling exercise led by a dialogue between a seven-year-old child who lost his father in hostel violence and his mother, was a well conceived play. The playwright-director had a good idea which she didn't pursue to the last detail. The play's musical arrangement seemed lost in the prolonged dialogue.
The constant American gospel music denied the young actors and potential vocalists a chance to sing their hearts out. The ecumenical sounds of the O'Jays didn't fit in with the rural setting of the play.
Talking to the director on the play's second run, she said: "It is a peace- preaching theatre, nothing more nothing less." Theatre and drama needs more than a 'peace train' theme to entertain and educate the small cake of the festival audience.
Digging deeper into the theatrical jungle that Grahamstown offered, one play that caught interest was Save Me Mama by the North West Arts Council.
It is an over-glorified tragic comedy about streetkids' hopelessness and survival. Its English, tsotsi taal and Tswana presentation stuck out as a humorous facet. Its basic theme, homelessness in the harsh lights and cold pavements of places like Hillbrow, was well conceived, but creative flair was nowhere to be seen.
But perhaps a story that chronicles child prostitution, glue sniffing, drug indulgence and criminal exploits didn't need creativity and 'audience sympathetic' artistry.
"It's an open and straightforward story," said the arts council's youth director. However, the director killed the storyline, by creating an open affair for directionless tsotsi characters who neither educated nor delighted the 50 strong crowd in the Victoria Theatre auditorium.
The only touching aspect was when the streetkids had to reveal the deeper feelings of their hearts. The play deserved praise for bringing out in public a question that remains 'too hot to handle'.
The socio-political and economic aspects of the present day 'new South Africa' was cheerfully told in the play Hold Up The Sun, written and directed by Danny Montsho of Abangani Community Arts in Soweto.
A story of hawkers' plights, it tackles the influx of immigrants, many of them illegal, into the country they term the new Canaan. The director missed an opportunity of communicating to the audience the depth of emotion raised by the issue of illegal immigrants. Dialogue and monologue became repetitive, to the detriment of good entertainment.
Two plays on the fringe stole the show. Not because they were of creative excellence but through the challenge they posed to plays billed on the main programme.
These were the Windybrow Theatre Company's I Came Twice and Bergville Stories, a Duma ka Ndlovu dance-driven narration. The former tackles the very foundation of 'typical' black families in the urban society.
Tradition and westernisation are two social philosophies seen through the director's the writer's microscopic eyes. What makes this comedy interesting is that sexual stereotypes are also challenged. Focussing on women's liberation, power, intellect and assertiveness, the author Richard Nwamba and acclaimed director-actor Michael McCabe collaboration had the hundred plus audience asking for more. It was not of the highest quality but the fringe did not produce much in the way of quality theatre either.
Bergville Stories, a compilation of grandmotherly traditional narratives in one production, offered people an insight into the social views, history, understanding and pride of African dance of Bergville community in Natal. This production put the writer and arts personality Duma ka Ndlovu in the spotlight for critical acclaim.
Grahamstown was last month home to a feast of South African music. Bongani Madondo reviews some of the musical delicacies on the national festival's plate.
A variety of musical sorts added a much sought-after vibe to the festival. A cultural phenomenon on its own, Grahamstown drew the country's wealth of musical idioms and artists.
There was mbanqanga, township sounds, jazz and 'boereqanga' - a combination of boere musiek and soulful dance-crazed mbanqanga. Spread across the web of venues at the festival, music provoked greater enthusiasm than any other art form on offer.
Musicians were there from across the spectrum, from the vintage Dolly Rathebe and the Elite Swingsters; jazz impresarios the African Jazz Pioneers; Jimmy Dludlu; Sipho Gumede; Thembi Mtshali; Frank Leepa and Sankomota; and the fresh as morning drizzle, Busi Mhlongo, a vocalist of remarkable proportions.
Yebo, jazz is alive and kicking, if the frenzied response to the jazz session at the Smirnoff Jazz Home is anything to go by. Trendy youngsters filled the club, which hosted the US-based Dave Frank, dutch Jack van Poll and a salsa jazz ensemble Como-no.
Based on audience provocation, the Viva Madiba jazz session came out tops. Every jazz lover in the country was talking in the famous tones. Composed by Morris Goldsberg and produced by Henry Shields, the jam session was a carefree collaboration of Masakheke Youth Choir, African Jazz pioneers and note-scratching Jimmy Dludlu, a guitar maestro. Dludlu again caught the attention of fanatics and cynics alike when he collaborated with Nico Carstens to produce a genre that gained momentum in the festival, boereqanga.
A musical show that had everyone talking was a creative, spiritual and mind titillating experience that brought to the festival the vocal mastery of Busi Mhlongo, the Natal-based songstress, and homeboy Sipho Gumede, a bass guitarist par excellence.
Busi Mhlongo is a musical powerhouse. She doesn't have full three years since her return home from an illustrious eighteen years in Canada, Portugal and the Netherlands.
The two musicians were backed by equally exciting artists in Mshaks Gasa, percussionist Mabe Thobejane, saxophonist Mandla Masuku and keyboardist Jerry Ncgobo.
Bhabemu, the title track, elicited tears from older patrons who cursed themselves for not knowing this musical queen. Sipho Gumede was never out of touch, always leading and enjoying the rhythm and rhymes that filled the auditorium.
As evident from the festival jazz scene, South Africa has stamped its authority as an African country from the continent and the world can draw their musical inspiration from.
Some people have been heard to say, not without a tinge of sexism, that a good woman is hard to find. They should try getting an interview with one. Mmatshilo Motsei is a great woman. A former Turfloop student, nurse, lecturer, councillor and now the government's Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) Gender Coordinator, Motsei is reluctant to talk about herself.
When Mayibuye wanted to discover more about this woman, she was difficult to get in touch with. Perhaps this is more an indictment of the country's phone service than of Motsei. And when we did finally get hold of her, she was more willing to talk about her work than herself. Perhaps that's an indictment of the country's journalists.
The 36-year-old Motsei has had to face many hardships and changes in her life. She was born in the rural area of Hammanskraal in the North West. She did her primary school at Kwalibeng and secondary education in Mafikeng. She did her matric during 1976.
Motsei started out as a nurse, a career which she would never have pursued if she had had a choice. She blames a lack of career guidance for ending up doing general nursing and midwifery at Bushbuckridge in the Eastern Transvaal.
"Working in the Eastern Transvaal has been an eye opener for me. It was a wonderful experience to work in a different setting, and to interact with other people," Motsei says. "I learnt about other people's culture and different languages, but at the same time one was also aware of the effect of poverty on peoples health, particularly women in the rural areas."
She later went to work at Garankuwa Hospital in Pretoria, where she was "face-to-face" with apartheid. "If one can make a comment about nursing, nursing education and nursing authorities they collided with the apartheid regime especially when it came to the training of black nurses. Hospitals in the townships are very different from those in white suburbs. The hospitals in the township have very limited resources, but nurses are trained the same as the ones in town; the syllabuses are the same but the conditions are different," says Motsei.
She says that it is not easy to challenge women's issues, particularly in rural areas. There are few women in the rural areas with a strong voice. "Even with the kind of changes that are happening you can ask yourself how many women who have a say in the land redistribution process, because women in the rural areas still cannot own land. There are still a lot of legal constraints that prevent women from being very active participants in the reconstruction of the country," she says.
Still, she says, women in the rural areas have been able to speak out against the injustice: "We should not pretend that rural women have always been silent. They have been vocal, and the question is 'have they been heard?'. The authorities may have chosen to ignore them."
If one goes out and interact with the rural women will be amazed by what you learn from them. "The so called professionals like us go to the rural women as if we already know the answers to their problems. We go there already with prescriptions of what to do or what not to do, we do not go in there to engage with them and let them teach us what their life experiences are and what the solutions should be," Motsei says.
She says this approach has got a lot to do with the way women interact with each other. "It has become fashionable that even in public forums we talk about rural women and we want to be seen to be politically correct, but we are not actually committed to improving the situation of rural women," she says.
Late last year Motsei was approached by the RDP office to put together a policy document on women's empowerment. Since then she has consulted women's organisations across the country. The draft of the policy is in circulation within women's organisations for comment.
Her office is organising a conference in September - after the Beijing women's conference - to look at "national machinery for the advancement of women". She says this is because South African women have opted for a package of structures at all levels of government that address gender issues. This, she says, is preferable to a women's ministry because there is a feeling that a separate ministry would marginalise issues that affect women.
"There are many challenges in the RDP gender office. Coming from a non- governmental organisation I find there is a lot of bureaucracy in government. One idea which needs a simple answer can take a very long time to be approved," says Motsei. "People do not take gender issues seriously and there are not ready to listen. There is a reluctance to find a way to deal with women issues and this make it difficult for the office."
She says that the only way that women can make the Government to recognise their demands is to lobby towards the issue. There should be gender sensitivity for government workers and a spirit of accepting abilities of women, she says.
"Women can make a difference we should continue to make our demands on issues that affect us, we should unite and forget about our differences," Motsei says.
Jack Simons, ANC and SACP stalwart, died peacefully in his sleep on the morning of 23 July. He was born in Riversdale in Cape Town in 1907. A humble intellectual of great proportions, he was educated in South Africa and for a few years was attached to a law firm. Later he joined the public service in Pretoria.
Jack Simons was a defender of justice. He spent his life dedicating himself to the struggle of the oppressed people of South Africa.
He completed his PhD at the London School of Economics. From 1937 until 1964 he taught African law and administration at the University of Cape Town, where he became a popular and respected lecturer.
Simons was placed under successive bans, beginning in 1952, but continued to teach.
Joe Slovo always said of the man that he could have been the Lenin or Marx of South Africa. His wife, Ray Alexander, was so involved in the trade union movement that Simons became both father and mother of his household.
He was a defendant in the sedition trial that followed the African mineworkers' strike of 1946 and a member of the central committee of the Communist Party when it decided to dissolve the party in 1950 on the eve the enactment of the Suppression of Communism Act.
In 1977, when he was already in his 60s, he gave up his job and went to live in Mozambique. This was during the period of the Soweto uprisings and scores of children left the country for exile. There Simons met the militant black youth, including the black consciousness youth.
Simons established a political education programme under difficult circumstances, with the help of Ronnie Kasrils and the late Francis Meli. Jack Simons instilled the concept of non-racialism in the young comrades, and was known to be quiet a blunt man.
Simons was a research fellow at the University of Manchester and professor of Sociology at the University of Zambia.
He retired in Lusaka, his writings include African Women: their legal status in South Africa (1968) and with his wife he produced Job Reservations and the Trade Unions (1959) and Class and Colour in South Africa 1850-1950 (1969).
Until three days before he died he still attended ANC and SACP meetings. Comrades could carry him to the car, and he would often fall asleep during the meetings only to wake up and make an incisive comment.
On the day he passed away his wife Ray Alexander kept his body in the house for the whole day saying that you cannot live with a man for 60 years and immediately let him go just like that.
Jack Simons was absolutely committed to the total eradication of the unjust system of apartheid. The African National Congress and the people of South Africa will always remember this fallen martyr of our country. Jack the fighter, intellectual, father and teacher. His spirit remains with us.
The whole of South Africa is going to take the day off on 9 August to celebrate National Women's Day - the first time that the 1956 march to the union buildings by thousands of women will be officially recognised. Yet a lot has to be done before all South Africans are motivated and mobilised into doing something more for women's emancipation than missing work for a day. Among the issues which South African's need to commit themselves to, two stand out as particularly important for promoting the advancement of women's interests.
The first is the establishment and implementation of a set of institutional arrangements which will improve the status of women through, and within, the machinery of government. The second is the strengthening and consolidation of the women's movement to eradicate the attitudes, myths and prejudices in society which enable sexism and gender oppression to thrive.
On the first issue there has been much progress. Legislation providing for the establishment of a gender commission has been drafted, and will be presented to parliamentarians when they get back from their winter holidays. Discussions on whether such a commission should be entrenched in the final constitution are at an advanced stage, with input having been received from several quarters. The government is expected to ratify the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw) on 9 August, which will bind the government to reviewing all its legislation, structures and practices to ensure they're in line with the principles of the international convention. A question which the government still has to address is what other mechanisms it is willing to put into place at this stage for women's advancement. A number of options, including a cabinet committee on gender, an office on the status of women in the presidency, provincial gender forums and departmental gender desks, have been mentioned in the debate. Whatever vehicles are eventually decided upon, the government needs to acknowledge that the current provisions are inadequate.
Yet even if government does all in its power to eradicate gender inequality, it will only ever be partially successful unless South African women can unite to change society from within, as it were.
Without a women's movement which is vocal, broad-based, active and has a clear vision, the patriarchal nature of society will remain largely in place. Women's organisations in particular need to strive for the type of popular movement which made possible the 1956 march on the union buildings. In doing so they should draw on the experience of the Women's National Coalition, analysing both its strengths and weaknesses. An irony is that the ANC decision that at least one-third of its MPs and MPLs are women has probably done more to weaken women's organisations than it has done to strengthen them, because of the removal of skilled and experienced personnel. The challenge for any women's movement is to ensure that increasing the number of women representatives in parliament can be utilised effectively to strengthening women's organisation.
In both challenges, the forthcoming Beijing Women's Conference will undoubtedly provide a welcome boost. The government will emerge from Beijing not only with a Platform for Action defining strategic objectives for the next decade, but also with a set of commitments already agreed to by cabinet which it will have to meet. Preparations for Beijing have rekindled the notion of a nation-wide movement of women, and have placed women's issues back in the media spotlight.
The task of maintaining the same momentum after Beijing is daunting, but will be important if women are to seize the opportunity it presents.
The French government's insistence on going ahead with its planned nuclear tests in the Pacific raises a number of political, environmental and humanitarian concerns. One must question why the French want to continue developing their military nuclear capacity at a time when the world is beginning to reach consensus on the need to destroy all nuclear weaponry. Their flagrant disregard for global opinion could easily prompt other countries with nuclear capacity to pursue the development of their arsenals.
In addition, the effect on the earth's fragile environment of just a single nuclear explosion is immense, posing a threat to humanity and other species for several centuries to come. If the tests are as safe as the French have claimed, why are they performing them on a remote atoll on the far side of the world? If the tests have no effect on life on the earth's surface, surely it would be just as easy to do the tests several hundred metres underneath Paris?
Fourteen people were killed at the Sebokeng hostel in the Vaal Triangle and 17 others were injured when fighting erupted on the weekend of 22 July. Police arrested twenty five people in connection with the deaths, and a quantity of weapons and ammunition was also seized. Gauteng premier Tokyo Sexwale ordered the province's police commissioner to investigate the cause of the violence. He told hostel residents that violence in hostels would discourage investment that was crucial to development. He said the upgrading of hostels could not take place in a climate of violence.
Local Government Elections would take place as planned on 1 November 1995, the cabinet decided on 26 July. The announcement was partly in response to growing speculation that the elections would be postponed in some provinces, if not the whole country. Local authorities could apply for exemptions if they were not able to hold elections on 1 November. However, no province would get a blanket exemption, the cabinet said. Local authorities that did not hold elections on 1 November would have to do so before the end of March 1996.
Western Cape ANC chairperson Chris Nissen quashed media reports that he was about to resign his ANC position and as Western Cape economic affairs MEC. He said that when the Western Cape held its provincial conference later in the year, he would not stand for re-election. Nissen said that he wanted to return to grassroots work in areas such as housing and justice and was concerned that many of his constituents could not reach him because of his busy schedule. He said however that he would lead the ANC in the province through the local government elections.
President Mandela opened the first Socialist International meeting to be held in South Africa, since the organisation's formation, in Cape Town on 10 July. The meeting, attended by socialist, labour and social democratic parties from around the world, had the theme of Democracy, Development and Peace in Africa. Africa's many problems ranging from the debt spiral, underdevelopment, structural adjustment programmes, population growth, war, famine and disease all came under the spotlight. Delegates, while claiming joint responsibility for many of the problems, criticised the portrayal of Africa as a hopeless continent. Delegates included Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, Mali prime minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and deputy president Thabo Mbeki. The ANC has official observer status in Socialist International.
Labour, business and government finally reached agreement on the contentious clauses of the draft Labour Relations Bill on 13 July.
Labour minister Tito Mboweni, who brokered the deal, said afterwards that the agreement "should indicate to all business people both here and internationally that there can be disagreements and yet we can emerge with a compromise position". The agreement was reached following 30 hours of intense discussions in Johannesburg and after two months of negotiations. The draft Bill will be presented to parliament on 3 August for debate and adoption later this year.
When Dr Fanus Serfontein took a scalpel to his 22-year old heart and lung patient in Pretoria last month, he opened a can of ethical and political worms. At the centre of the controversy is a two-month old moratorium in Gauteng on heart transplants, and the provincial health administration's attempts to redirect resources from specialised surgery to health services in poor areas.
In its coverage of the controversy the media has largely failed to provide a complete picture of the health care debate. Several radio news broadcasts announced that Dr Serfontein was facing disciplinary action "for saving a man's life". The broadcasts were inaccurate and misleading. Whatever disciplinary action Serfontein was facing, it was not for saving someone's life, it was for using provincial resources for an operation which was in contravention of provincial health policy.
Other media focussed on the effect the moratorium would have on people awaiting heart transplants. SABC TV news interviewed a woman in Pretoria who had been waiting for a heart transplant, and couldn't afford to travel to Cape Town to have one there. Radio 702 interviewed the parents of a boy who had recently received a heart transplant. His mother "couldn't understand" the moratorium. The Mail and Guardian carried a story by a journalist whose life had been saved by a transplant. Yet nowhere among all this coverage was there an interview with a mother in a rural area whose child had died of diarrhoea because of the lack of primary health care facilities; or an interview with a father whose child had been saved from pneumonia because of the existence of a township clinic.
Granted it is more difficult to find and interview individuals whose lives have been 'saved' through primary health care. By its very nature, primary health care seeks to address illness long before it reaches the life- threatening stage. Yet if the media wishes to present a balance perspective it needs to put effort into documenting the successes of primary health care - and the need for it. It should look at issues like infant mortality; the importance of basic nutritional education; the cost to the nation of preventable diseases like tuberculosis. It might not make for the same kind of human drama that someone who desperately needs a new lung does. But at least it allows the public to make informed decisions about the direction of the country's health policy.
In designing and implementing its health policy the government is having to make some hard choices on life and death issues. Through its coverage of the Serfontein controversy, much of the country's media has portrayed these choices as callous and cold-hearted, rather than the earnest attempts that they are to combat disease and death and build a healthier nation.
ANC structures in the Northern Cape are engaged in inspecting the voters roll in all local council areas to register those who do not appear on the voters roll. There is some difficulty checking whether farm workers are indeed benefitting from the last phase of registration.
On the 7-8 July the province deployed leadership to strengthen elections structures on the ground. They will also be conducting more than 68 list conferences throughout the province for the next 3 weeks. The leadership is also busy explaining the principles guiding the selection of candidates. List committees are already in place to oversee that the selection process is free and fair and that there is wide representation. A workshop to train all chairpersons of local list committees was held in Kimberley in June.
The province has also launched all their regions and it hopes that this will reinforce the elections campaign.
The Western Cape province is preparing itself for the local government elections despite indications that the elections could be postponed in the Western Cape.
The province has been divided into ten regions. This move will enable the ANC to organise more effectively in areas that were previously neglected.
The department of information and publicity (DIP) with the assistance of the organising department has embarked on an ambitious "one pamphlet per week" campaign.
The local government and voter education department work closely together to ensure that possible ANC voters know how and where to vote when elections are finally held.
Many workshops to prepare the media people, local election team coordinators, constituency office administrators and branch members are taking place. The organising department also work very closely with the constituency offices of the MPs and MPLs.
The voter education programme trains people on how and where to vote, and the ward and proportional representative system. Equipment for voter education will be provided to each local council area.
The election campaign will take the form of people's forums, door-to-door campaigns and mass meetings. Extensive use will be made of various media to take messages to the people.
The ANC in KwaZulu/Natal is focussing on both urban and rural areas in their campaign. The provincial election team has made recommendations which will speed up the elections preparations. They will develop a provincial message which will go along with the national message and manifesto, but will take into account the dynamics of the province.
The province will set up district election teams; continue to visit local election teams; and involve leadership deployed in the areas. They will involve the alliance, including Sanco in all election structures.
There are a number of problems with voter registration, though. Many people's names do not appear on the voter's roll; some areas don't have a voters roll; and in some rural areas the voter's roll are with Amakhosi, and ANC members are afraid to inspect them.
Organisational capacity remains something which needs to be looked at in preparation for elections. The ANC organising department has been approach to facilitate cooperation between various branches and local councils.
The ANC in the Gauteng Province has successfully completed the first phase of candidate selection in preparation for the local government elections. Delegates from ANC, SACP, Cosatu and Sanco branches throughout the province have held list conferences to finalise the choice of candidates for proportional representation on the metropolitan councils, local councils and metropolitan sub-structures.
The next phase involves the selection of ward candidates. This process will take place from the first week of August. President Nelson Mandela will be addressing an Election Rally in Alexandra on 19 August. The rally will preceded by a walkabout of comrades and supporters of the ANC from the surrounding former white suburbs.
The main focus for this month has been workshops and list conferences. The main objectives of these conferences are to prepare the branches to select candidates and identify who is eligible to stand as a councillor.
There has also been consultation with ANC transitional local council members to explain the role of the ANC TLC members in the local government elections.
The south African Council of Churches in the North West Province and Matla Trust have already started with Voter Education. The first weekend of August, Veetu will be running workshops for voter education trainers in various regions. List conferences will be taking place across the province. The organising department's aim is to meet the proportional representation list submission deadline.
The 'liberal' newspapers sometimes speak out of both sides of their mouths. And there is nothing like worker protest action to promote this tendency.
Business Day, for instance, criticised Cosatu's recent stance on the Labour Relations Bill. The worker federation was behaving like a headless chicken, we were told. According to Business Day, Cosatu has lost all its strategically intelligent leadership to parliament and government.
The newspaper contrasted Cosatu's "mindless" conduct in June and July this year to its subtle handling of the VAT campaign of 1991, when, says the paper, it scored a "famous victory".
That's interesting, I thought. So I checked some back copies. In 1991 the same newspaper accused Cosatu and its alliance partners of "stone age economic views". It criticised the Cosatu-led VAT campaign ("...do they believe they will benefit from the rising tide of anarchy?"), and it called on FW's government to implement the proposed VAT hikes unilaterally.
The Cape Times is another case in point. The paper has a long tradition of upholding 'civilised' values on the southern tip of the dark continent. For decades it has warned against falling standards, against allowing 'our schools', 'our universities', 'our courts', 'our broadcasters', 'our roads', 'our parks', and even 'our English grammar' to fall prey to Third World standards.
But the same concern for standards doesn't apply to all things. "Cosatu's rejection of Third World cheap labour options for South Africa," the Cape Times recently complained, "is a discouraging approach on the part of the country's major trade union organisation."
Writing in the Sowetan, aspirant import-export deal-maker, Moeletsi Mbeki argues the case for lifting SA's tariff restrictions to allow cheaper imports to flow in. In arguing his case, he comes close to breaking our new non-racial constitution.
"In their heart of hearts, most black voters want to see the new Government punish the white man...Whether tariff cuts will punish the right white man and punish him sufficiently" is, he argues, irrelevant to "the (black) man in the street".
Moeletsi Mbeki concedes that "imports will, of course, also adversely affect black workers in these industries. However...that is a necessary price for the greater satisfaction of seeing whites suffer".
The whole area of tariff protection for South African industry is certainly a complex question. But drumming up race hatred to create more opportunities for your own budding import consultancy is simply a disgrace.
The following patriotic lines were written in 1905, on the eve of the birth of the new Union of South Africa, by one, John Runcie: "God swept aside each dark and murdering tribe,/For men (white men) to make a home."
And these are from "The Bushman's Cave" by W Scully, considered by some to be the 'father' of South African English poetry: "And on the rocks, in deathless hue,/The records of a perished race/That from this land of ours withdrew."
Ours? Withdrew? Poetry can turn colonial plundering into a God-willed event, and genocide into a matter for romantic nostalgia.
European colonisers around the world have always justified their land- grabbing and the 'disappearance' of indigenous people by arguing that, well, before them there was just empty space. Colonisers always fill a vacuum.
It should come as no surprise, then, that today's perpetrators of genocide borrow from their former colonisers' arguments.
This is exactly what a spokesperson from the Indonesian Embassy in Pretoria does. In a recent letter to the Sowetan, Maryun Gandaermaya complains about the poor coverage Indonesia is getting for its 'integration' of East Timor: "The fact is that the colonial power (Portugal) simply abandoned this former colony."
Gandaermaya wants us to believe that the 1975 Indonesian military invasion of East Timor was the charitable adoption of an abandoned orphan.
This 'adoption' has, in fact, been one of the most brutal in recent history. Over 200,000 Timorese have been killed, that is, more than one third of the entire population. The genocide and repression is ongoing. In 1991 some 400 Timorese were slaughtered when Indonesian occupation troops opened fire on mourners at the Santa Cruz cemetery, and then killed the wounded survivors in the nearby hospital.
I would like to thank my favourite magazine, now a newspaper, for returning. I used to enjoy it quite a lot. After its silence for a year after last year's April election, I wondered where the people's magazine had gone to. I am happy to see you back again on the market.
As a regular reader of Mayibuye and an ANC supporter, I am looking for the ANC conference book (from the December 1994 conference) that we used to get from street corners and markets. I would also like the popular magazine to publish lists of ANC goods for sale, so that if we want anything we could buy from you.
Mlungiseleli Eric Mpai, Soshanguve
A report of the 1994 ANC National Conference should be available through the structures of the ANC at a provincial and regional level. Go to your nearest ANC office to see if they still have copies. The ANC does not produce goods for sale. Any goods which you see are available from private companies. - Ed.
You will see that the implementation of the Reconstruction and Development Programme is working and bringing changes in a new, democratic, non-sexist South Africa. Remember that the president himself is promoting peace through reconciliation and nation-building, uniting all races in our country.
When you understand that too many people have left school due to financial problems, free education for ten years is important. Six million rands for a loan and bursary scheme will from 1996 help about 70 thousand students. The food scheme is supporting about four million children. More water schemes are in the pipeline, and there is free healthcare for pregnant women and children under six years old.
Promises of foreign investment and the starting up soon of more projects will create a lot of jobs for the community as a whole. This shows us the commitment of the government and we should be patient and give them enough time. The standard of our economy is improving as the things which caused the low standard is being addressed and resolved. As we are busy rebuilding our country, we should give our full, loyal support to the government of national unity.
We had our election last year, which was the first time for you and me to vote as equals. There is still a long way for us to go until freedom. Local government elections are coming on 1 November where you will vote for your own representative in your local area. This is as important as last year's election when we voted for President Mandela.
The question of whether the ANC is going to increase its majority, or whether its going to fall, is in your and my hands. We must go put our cross next to our lovely organisation, the ANC, because it has brought more changes in South Africa than the National Party did.
Remember that local government is so important and I hope that we've all registered. And we should all pay for the services rendered to us. As you know, a woman cannot give birth today and tomorrow find her child walking around the street. I appeal to all South African men, women, youth and political organisations to tolerate one another and give peace a chance by supporting the president of the country and the GNU. So let there be a better life, jobs, peace and prosperity for all. I urge all people to go vote in the coming local government election.
Lastly, the SA Police Service and the community should cooperate with one another to fight crime, so that our country can be a home for peace.
Stephen Makwarela, Johannesburg
The story of the secret underground communications network of Operation Vula, by Tim Jenkin.
As Vula entered 1989 the secret communications network connecting South Africa to Lusaka via London was buzzing with activity. Considering the unconventional nature of the link it is surprising that it worked as well as it did. The people in South Africa and Lusaka took it for granted, but none of us realised how dependent the entire Vula operation had become upon it.
In the middle of January we met our first hitch. Mac Marahaj's 'key' disk got corrupted and so he could no longer encrypt - which meant he could no longer communicate by computer. Fortunately there was a separate backup system, a second set of programme and 'key' disks kept for such an eventuality. However, it made us realise how fragile the system was. If the second set of disks somehow also got corrupted - or damaged or lost or stolen - the whole operation would be in jeopardy. The communication link had become so crucial to the functioning of Operation Vula that losing it was like cutting the umbilical cord to a foetus. Something had to be done, and quickly.
Fortunately I had been working on an encryption system that operated in a more conventional way with keywords that could be entered by hand. It was obvious that this capability had to be built into the communications encryption programme in case a 'key' disk got corrupted again.
Some months earlier the comrades had asked us to develop an encryption system that would allow them to encipher and decipher their own files for safekeeping. The special encryption programme used for the communications could not be used for this purpose because it was a one- way system: you couldn't decipher your own messages because you never knew the key. The encryption programme grabbed the key data it needed from the 'key' disk, did its work and then destroyed the data.
The new 'diskless' system allowed the comrades to decipher their own messages and had been sent to them a while earlier, but I had warned them not to use it for communications as we were uncertain of its strength.
So, off to the bookshops and libraries I went to find out about secure encryption algorithms. Nothing impressed me very much and all I discovered was that cryptology was an arcane science for bored mathematicians, not for underground activists. However I learned a few tricks and used these to develop a system to meet our security needs.
In normal conditions a single key is used for a lot of messages. We wanted to avoid this because we knew that if one of the comrades got captured by the enemy and was made to divulge the key, all intercepted messages could then be deciphered. By using a different key each time, security would be greater and it would be much more difficult for the enemy to find out what keys had been used.
This presented another problem. If we were going to use a different key each time how would we get these keys to the other side. The solution was to go back to our old book code system. Send the comrades a book and get them to use a different section of text each time as the key.
The books would be changed frequently and then destroyed so that no record of the keys were kept. The position of the key - page and line - would be encrypted with the message and would re-appear when the other side proceeded to decipher it.
In February Antoinette, our airline courier, took the disks containing the new programme in to Mac and shortly afterwards the comrades started to use it. The new programme defaulted to the 'key' disk version but could switch to the hand key version in an emergency. This innovation saved the communications several times when 'key' disks got erased by mistake, got forgotten in some other place or got corrupted.
All the way to Mandela's cell
In April Mac sent details of how it might be possible to set up a link with Nelson Mandela, who was at this time being held in a house in the grounds of the Victor Verster Prison near Paarl.
During this period Mandela was meeting various government bigwigs to discuss his possible release and various scenarios for the future. He was also meeting leaders of the Mass Democratic Movement. Such meetings were closely monitored by the enemy, so it was never possible to get to Lusaka the precise details of what was being discussed. Mandela realised the fragility of the situation and was reluctant to engage in any activities that could be interpreted as underhand. Mac, however, was convinced that if Mandela could be shown that a truly safe and absolutely confidential line to Oliver Tambo in Lusaka was available, and was operated by Mac, he could be persuaded to use it.
Such a link could be set up by one of Mandela's lawyers, who was allowed to meet him at regular periods to discuss particular issues. Mac had over a period of months debriefed the lawyer intensively in order to determine the exact circumstances under which the meetings took place. Mac had worked in the communications team on Robben Island so he knew how Mandela would respond and what would be required to persuade him to participate in the scheme.
The first step was to receive authority from Lusaka for the lawyer to disclose Mac's presence to Mandela. Once this was granted, the lawyer would demonstrate to Mandela the method of camouflaging the memos. The method was based on one that we had used extensively during the previous months - books with secret compartments in their covers.
Conny Braam, the head of the Dutch Anti-Apartheid Movement, had brought into her team a professional bookbinder who had devised a method of creating re-useable compartments in the covers of books.
These proved to be extremely effective and absolutely undetectable. At first the bookbinder made these books for us in Amsterdam but because the demand for them was so great I had a few lessons from her and took back to London the skills and implements needed to create them on our own.
Mac realised that if the lawyer could take one of these books to Mandela each time, with a note concealed inside the cover, Mandela could read the note and respond by concealing details of his meetings with the government in the same compartment.
At first Mandela was reluctant to participate but when he began to grasp how it would work he changed his mind. The decision must have been difficult for someone cut off from modern technological developments for so long.
Suddenly one day a message from Mandela appeared on my screen. I stared at it for a long time. It was not the content that excited me but the very fact that here, for the first time ever, was an electronic message from the mythical man who had inspired us all so much. A real live message from Mandela here on my computer. Vula's ultimate coup! After that messages from Mandela became a regular feature and in response there were long memos from Oliver Tambo in Lusaka. The two were now talking in confidence for the first time since the early 'sixties. I couldn't help chuckling to myself each time one of these messages went past when I thought how the regime's chiefs must be thinking they were entirely in control of the situation. They wanted to create the impression that they were talking to Mandela alone and that his responses were his personal opinions. Little did they know that they were talking to the ANC collective.
The system under stress
As the months passed it became clear that the communications work was taking up too much time for Mac and Ghebuza (Siphiwe Nyanda). The basic preparatory work of Vula had been completed and now the comrades were busy setting up structures around the country. Often they were away from base for days at a time but the need to move information was increasing all the time. This meant that they had less and less time to do the sending and receiving from public telephones.
After a while we started to notice that things were being done slightly differently. Messages arrived at different times and at different frequencies. Then different voices began to come out of the voice mailbox. It was apparent that the comrades had trained a couple of people to handle the communications. This was later confirmed in a message.
After these new comrades took over, the number of messages increased even further. Huge batches of messages would regularly be dumped on our answering machines and we were often kept up till late at night changing tapes on the 'pick up' machine. It was not long before it became clear that our system was reaching the limits of its capacity.
The next step was to move over to a regular electronic mail service but this brought us back to the original problem: it was too dangerous to communicate from a known telephone line. Our whole quirky system had been designed to get around this inescapable fact. But what if the person who used the phone was someone who would normally communicate by computer and had no known affiliation with any political organisation? Surely this would not attract attention. Even using encryption should not raise an eyebrow? Businesses used it all the time to protect their information and it was built into ordinary programmes such as word processors. In any case, did the enemy have the capacity to determine which of the thousands of messages leaving the country every day was a 'suspicious' one?
The only way to test out this hypothesis was to try it, and that's what we did.
During the preceding months I had been training an 'agent' whom the ANC was going to send back to South Africa in order to penetrate critical computer networks. The 'agent' was a South African who had been living abroad for many years and had worked as a computer programmer for major British electronics firms. He was also 'clean', having never been involved in exile politics.
In order to report on his activities he would need to be able to communicate abroad in much the same way as Vula. But because he would not be 'underground' in the same sense as the Vula operatives we decided to use an open commercial electronic-mail service rather than our 'in- house' Vula system. This would serve both as an efficient, secret communications channel for his own work and as a test for Vula.
Later in the year the agent was sent in. He had already secured a position that was an excellent launching pad for his 'career'.
Immediately on arrival in South Africa he started communicating. This was a most normal thing for a person in his position to do. His training revealed no surveillance so we quickly realised that this was the way forward for Vula - find someone who would normally use a computer for communicating abroad and get that person to handle the communications. This would remove the constraints of the current system and allow the channel to be opened up for much greater things.
Mac comes out for a rest
After returning from one of her regular trips to Johannesburg Antoinette, reported that Mac had seemed very stressed and look tired and overworked. This impression had been conveyed through the messages too but it was never possible to tell with Mac. He always appeared to have boundless energy and kept us all on our toes with his demands. His messages often came through in the middle of the night giving the impression that he never even stopped to sleep.
But after a while it became clear that the stress of the situation was beginning to take its toll on Mac and the Lusaka leadership suggested he should come out for a rest. On top of this the word was getting around that Mac had been seen in South Africa and was not in the Soviet Union waiting for a kidney transplant, as everybody had been told. It was essential for the continuation of Vula that this legend be shored up.
Through the messages it was arranged that Mac would come out in early July and make his way back to the Soviet Union. There he would 'emerge' in full public view and announce that he was indeed still waiting for his kidney transplant, but that interim treatment had been effective enough to allow him to visit his family for a short while.
In London we booked a ticket for Mac to fly to India via Mauritius. Using yet another disguise and false identity Mac was able to make his way to New Delhi and then on to Moscow. All the time we were in contact with him through voice mail.
After a couple of weeks in Moscow Mac returned to London where we were able to discuss the question of communications. As we had suspected our quaint tape recorder system was beginning to creak and groan under the load. A new system had to be found that would allow much greater amounts of information to flow. More than that, the scope of Vula had changed and with it the scope of the network had to change. While the external links were still crucial, there was now a need to connect all the outposts of Vula that had been established throughout the country.
We explained to Mac how the system used by our 'secret agent' worked. If Vula could move over to a similar system, Mac suggested, it would not only allow more information to flow but it would also serve as a coordinating tool. It would link everyone internally and eliminate the need to travel around the country all the time. Also, because it was an error- free system, external machineries could produce fully formatted propaganda material and send it in. Mac was convinced that they could find suitable people to do the comms. So many people and structures had been linked to Vula that it was now necessary to look at secret communications in an entirely different way.
Next month: Vula moves into top gear.
The cabinet is the place from where the government is steered. Khensani Makhubela explains how its comprised and how it works.
It is in the cabinet that the government of national unity (GNU) achieves coherence and where the functions and policies of various ministries and departments are interrogated, integrated and articulated within an overall policy plan. The present structure of the cabinet is prescribed by the interim constitution. This structure will change when the final constitution comes into effect.
The cabinet, as the national executive authority, consists of the President as head, two executive deputy presidents and a maximum of 27 ministers who are members of parliament. It also makes provision for at most one minister who is not an MP. Eighteen ministers belong to the ANC, six to the National Party (NP) and three to the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and one who belongs to no party, Chris Liebenberg the minister of finance.
The president is elected by members of parliament and the executive deputy presidents are designated by their respective parties. Cabinet ministers are appointed by the president after consultation with the executive presidents and the leaders of the parties in the GNU. Deputy ministers, who are not members of the cabinet, assist the cabinet ministers and may carry out tasks on behalf of a minister concerned.
The president chairs the cabinet and exercises and performs most of his constitutional powers and function in consultation with the cabinet. Ministers are accountable individually both to the president and parliament for the administration of the portfolio entrusted to them. They administer their portfolio in accordance with the policy determined by the cabinet.
If a minister fails to administer his or her portfolio in accordance with the policy of the cabinet, the president may require the minister to bring the administration of the portfolio into conformity with such policy.
The president is obliged to terminate the services of a minister when requested to do so by the leader of the minister's party. However the president must terminate the appointment of a minister whenever it becomes necessary for the purpose of the interim constitution or in the interests of good government.
Cabinet's accountability to parliament is ensured through the budget vote; questions for written and oral reply; and appearance before parliamentary standing or portfolio committees. If Parliament passes a vote of no confidence in the cabinet, the president may resign; reconstitute the cabinet; or dissolve parliament and call for an election.
There are three specialised cabinet committees, for: economic affairs; social and administrative affairs; and security and intelligence affairs. Deputy ministers are invited to attend meetings of cabinet committees. The committees do not make decisions, but make recommendations. As a rule the cabinet and cabinet committees base their decisions on information supplied to them in memoranda from the various government departments. As a rule all matters are placed before one of the cabinet committees.
The conflict in Bosnia, part of the former Yugoslavia, escalated last month as rebel Bosnian Serb forces overran the Muslim enclaves of Srebenica and Zepa, and were poised to take Gorazde, the only remaining government- controlled enclave in Eastern Bosnia. By the end of the month the Croatian army looked set to intervene and widen the Balkan conflict.
Meanwhile, United Nations secretary general Boutros Boutros-Ghali gave the commander in charge of UN peacekeeping forces the authority to decide on airstrikes. The decision came after Nato agreed to draw up plans to counter the Bosnian Serb offensive and protect UN-declared safe zones in the Balkan states.
In a parallel move, the US Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to lift the arms embargo over Bosnia.The 69-29 vote took place in an emotionally charged atmosphere,with lawmakers reading news reports of fresh Bosnian Serb atrocities against ethnic Muslims. The margin was enough to override a promised presidential veto.
Bosnian Serbs expelled thousands of civilians from the fallen Zepa. The evacuation mirrored the "ethnic cleansing" from the Srebrenica enclave conducted by the Serbs after they moved into that former safe haven on July 11. UN officials said the rebels raped and killed many of the residents of Srebenica. As many as 7,000 people - mainly fighting-age men - were still missing, and were believed to have been taken captive.
Meanwhile, fears rose of a new humanitarian crisis in the Bihac enclave in northwest Bosnia. In the Bihac enclave, home to more than 200,000 people, Serbs and rebel Muslims have driven people from their homes, while skirting the small UN 'safe area' in the enclave, to avoid Nato airstrikes.
The French government came under increasing international pressure last month over its plan to resume nuclear tests in the Pacific. Some of the harshest criticism has come from countries near to the Atoll where the test are to take place, including Australia and New Zealand. The environmental action group, Greenpeace, mounted an international campaign against the planned tests, including sailing a number of vessels in to the area. Greenpeace had been playing a cat-and-mouse game with the French navy in an attempt to disrupt plans to carry out eight nuclear tests at Mururoa Atoll beginning in September.
Greenpeace's main vessel, the Rainbow Warrior, was rammed and boarded by the French Navy when it entered the 12-nautical-mile exclusion zone around Mururoa on July 9 as part of the group's protest campaign. Canadian Greenpeace co- founder David McTaggart and two other Greenpeace activists, who had left the Rainbow Warrior in a smaller boat, had spent some time on Vanavana Atoll, 120 km north of the Mururoa Atoll test site.
The ANC added its voice to the protest, calling on the French government to immediately halt all nuclear testing. "Our new democratic government has taken an important lead in the recent debates about the non- proliferation treaty and has been applauded for the example it has set by unilaterally taking a decision to dismantle South Africa's nuclear capacity," it said.
The quest for peace in Angola took another cautious step forward last month as the Angolan national assembly voted to offer a deputy president position to Unita rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, who plunged Angola back into civil war after he refused to recognise the results of Angola's multi-party elections. In addition, around 8,000 United Nations peacekeepers were due in Angola by the end of August, part of an international effort to stop the war. The first battalion, based in Huambo, was visited in mid-July by UN secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali.
The two sides in Angola's conflict have fought each other since independence from Portugal in 1975, and a previous peace agreement collapsed when Savimbi refused to accept that he had lost the elections. A peace accord signed last November continued to hold, but Angolans had yet to accept that the war was finally over.
Boutros-Ghali himself was at pains to impress upon journalists accompanying his tour of Angola that after meeting both President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and Savimbi he believed the peace process was "irrevocable".
A bomb blast, which ripped through an underground commuter train during rush hour in the heart of Paris on 25 July killing at least four people, left French police puzzled about the motive for the attack. By the end of July no-one had claimed responsibility. Interior Minister Jean-Louis Debre said that possible Bosnian Serb and Islamic fundamentalist connections were being investigated. But he emphasised that there were no firm leads and no line of enquiry was being ruled out.
France has been repeatedly threatened by Algerian fundamentalist militants over its support for the military-backed government in Algiers. The conflict in the former French colony erupted into civil war after the army cancelled elections which the since-outlawed Islamic Salvation Front was poised to win.
There has also been speculation about Bosnian Serbian involvement, France being the western country which has taken the hardest line toward Serbs in the Bosnian conflict. The blast occurred on a platform of a suburban commuter train in the Saint Michel station, which acts as a hub for suburban and subway lines.
South African deputy president Thabo Mbeki flew to Nigeria in late July to plead for clemency for General Olusegun Obasanjo and others convicted of involvement in an attempted coup.
Obasanjo, who was head of state from 1976 to 1979, and 42 other soldiers and civilians were convicted by a military tribunal of involvement in a coup that allegedly took place in March. The former president and 10 others reportedly received life sentences in the secret trial, while his deputy General Shehu Musa Yar'Adua and 13 others were sentenced to death. Following the visit, the heads of the military government's armed forces - led by Abacha - met to consider possible pardons for the 43 convicted coup plotters.
Many foreign governments, including Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, the United States and the Vatican, and international organisations such as the United Nations and the Commonwealth, have appealed to General Abacha for clemency for Obasanjo and the others.
For the next three months David Adams will be looking at campaign communications, particularly aimed at preparations for local government elections.
Simply put, campaign communications encompasses all the messages delivered through various methods to persuade voters to vote for your local candidate in your area. During the national elections we learnt it wasn't good enough to run a well-organised, well funded, tactically sound campaign if you don't have a message that convinces voters in your area to vote for your candidate or party.
The right messages delivered at the right times through the right channels to the right audiences make communications effective. Often campaigns send out press statements and run radio ads, or candidates deliver speeches - without any rhyme or reason. This lack of coordination wastes time, money and talent. Campaign communications must be planned.
Well-designed campaign communication is even more critical for local government elections. On this level, candidates have to work hard to be recognised and heard. Their message must be important enough to be heard through the barrage of daily information bombarding the average voter.
Not only do our candidates have to compete with our opponent's message, but often they must compete with the political message of more resourceful candidates. Campaigns communication must work in harmony with our campaigns strategy and overall political plan.
Fundamentals of campaign communications
People will vote for someone they believe cares about the same things they care about and someone they believe is uniquely qualified to make a difference. Your campaign communications must be based in 'caring' language. Shape your language with your audience in mind. Show how the things you discuss directly relate to your audience. Look, for example, at 'ten basic values' which you share with voters in your constituency.
Voters will be more easily persuaded to vote for you if your campaign messages speak in terms relevant to them. Issues, concepts and campaign messages can be discussed on three levels:
When presenting a message to your audience, begin on the value level, then move to the idea level and end with the issue level. By beginning with a discussion of shared values, you are addressing first what's important to the audience. You establish a shared concern that creates a bond with your audience. This bond is the basis for effective persuasion. Once you've established this common ground, then you can move your audience towards acceptance of your idea. The audience must accept the concept before they will agree with you on the particulars. Then you discuss the details of the issue at hand. If you begin by detailing your position you project the image that you care more by explaining your position than about the concerns of your audience.
People will vote for someone they believe can make a difference. To create emotional connection with voters, it's important to first show a shared concern and then show how you are uniquely qualified to make a difference.
Design all your campaign communications to emphasise the shared concerns your candidate has with your targeted voters as well as the unique qualifications the candidate possesses. Often candidates talk more about why voters should not vote for their opposition rather than why voters should vote for them. There is a place in most campaigns for discussing the negative attributes of one's opponent, but your opponent's negatives should not be your priority message throughout an entire campaign. Candidates must first establish the reasons why voters should support them. Voters need to believe you are a qualified alternative before you can convince them not to vote for your opposition.
Campaign communications guidelines
In planning and executing your campaign communications, consider these tongue-in-cheek guidelines for successful political communications: 'Truth is what people believe'. Regardless if you believe in something or not, if the voters don't accept it as being true you will a hard time persuading them. For example, if the people in your district don't believe there is a problem with your roads, this will not be an effective issue on which to base your campaign. Discover the issues voters believe to be most important by conducting a survey of your district or ward by talking to a variety of voter groups. If you pick these issues that you believe most voters are concerned about, test these issues before making them focal points of your campaign.
'People are susceptible to flattery'. Flatter your audience in your campaign communications. You flatter your audience by letting them know you consider their concerns to be most important. Use flattery by recognizing the efforts of your audience.
'People want more'. Humans are basically greedy. You have to give them something to win their vote. Your campaign communications should show people how their lives would be better if you are elected.
'Predict and pre-empt'. No campaign exists in a vacuum. Be mindful of your opponent's actions and stands on issues. As you plan campaign communications, try to predict what you opponent's reactions to your programme will be and preempt them. Predict the form of the attack and pre-empt it by attacking your opponent on the issue first, presenting your stand first or building a strong image based on that or a similar issue.
'Repetition = penetration = impact'. If you repeat your message often enough, it will finally penetrate their consciousness and have the impact to motivate them to vote for you. You need to design a programme that allows your messages to be presented in a consistent, repetitive manner. Your speeches, radio ads, media events etc. should reinforce the same theme.
For example, if you are planning to stage a media event outlining your six- point plan to generate jobs in your district, don't choose this time to generate coverage on a different issue. Campaigns often send mixed messages to voters. By the end of the campaign, the voters aren't exactly sure what the candidate stands for, much less motivated to vote for the candidate. Too many messages on different issues muddy the waters. You want to leave your voters with a clear impression, therefore repetition is critical.
Next month we look at goals of campaign communications, campaign themes and effective political speaking.
Mayibuye study series No. 2 - The South African transition in a world context
In the first instalment of this series, we looked at how ANC policies and strategies have always been closely connected to international developments. The Freedom Charter, the Strategy and Tactics Document of Morogoro 1969, our understanding of national liberation - all of these reflected, not just internal South African realities, but the wider world in which our struggle was happening. We now turn to look, briefly, at how the world has changed in the last twenty years.
In the current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, Yasser Arafat has often made comparisons with the process to South Africa. In Ireland, Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams has said that the Irish Republican Army's cease-fire one year ago was deeply influenced by the ANC' s negotiations strategy.
But if South Africa has served as an example, our own negotiated transition was preceded by many other negotiated transitions from authoritarian rule to some kind of democracy. These kinds of transitions have been happening throughout Latin America in the 1980s. Earlier there were negotiated transitions in southern Europe, in countries like Greece, Portugal and Spain.
Why are these transitions happening?
Each country has its own character and dynamics. But the large number of negotiated transitions world-wide over the period point to some general, underlying causes. These include: The collapse of the Soviet bloc and the end of the Cold War Through the 1960s and 1970s, Western forces helped to build strong, militaristic regional powers that could act for their interests in the respective regions. Hence the support for strong military, authoritarian regimes like those of Vorster and PW Botha in southern Africa, the Shah of Iran and the Zionist forces in the Middle East, Marcos in the Philippines, Somoza in central America, Pinochet in Chile.
"He (Vorster or Somoza, for instance) might be a bastard," so the argument often went, "but at least he is our bastard."
The same kind of argument, it should be said, was also often used to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses by military strong-men who proclaimed themselves "scientific socialists".
Mohammed Siad Barre of Somalia was, at different times as he switched his ideological rhetoric, courted by the imperialists and the Soviets, each using the same 'at least he's our bastard' argument.
In the 1980s, economic stagnation in the Soviet Union and its increasing reliance on grain imports from the US, underlined that the Soviet bloc was losing the Cold War - economically. This process and the eventual political collapse in 1989-91 weakened the right-wing imperialist argument for supporting regional dictators.
This trend was strengthened by other developments:
Changes in the world capitalist system
From the early 1970s, the capitalist system became increasingly global and transnational in character. These changes were driven partly by massive changes in the speed, character and sheer quantity of international financial transactions. This in turn has resulted in a number of important new realities.
The power of international banks
More and more world-wide influence has been exercised by western banks and bodies like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.
'Democratisation' in Third World countries in recent times has often been backed by the West because elected centrist (or even left) governments might have more legitimacy in imposing the bitter pill of structural adjustment programmes on their own people. These programmes, designed to extract debt repayments to the West, involve such things as dropping local trade barriers to foreign operations; privatising local industries; devaluing the local currency; and cutting back government spending on social programmes.
All of these measures actually weaken the new democratic government. Foreign control is less dependent on the US marines, and on Cold War geo- political calculations, and more and more dependent on financial power.
Human rights movements
Recent economic developments in the advanced capitalist countries themselves have also led to the rapid growth, especially in the developed countries, of new social strata (white collar workers, a massive tertiary student population). These new strata have been one of the main social bases for the emergence of 'new social movements' - peace movements, youth and student movements, feminist, greens and progressive religious movements. They have also often connected with 'older' social movements like progressive trade unions.
It was out of these developments that important movements with a real impact on international policy grew. Among the most significant was the world-wide anti-apartheid movement, for instance. The anti-apartheid movement was particularly strong in most of the developed Western countries, and it had an increasing influence on (often reluctant) governments.
Indeed, movements of this kind had a growing influence on a range of international policies - ending the Vietnam war, hampering the deployment of intermediate nuclear missiles in Europe, highlighting human rights abuses in Chile, or Indonesia.
In turn, these networks of international social movements were influenced by:
The communications revolution
The most dramatic technological advances in the past decade have been in the area of communications and information. Satellite television, the rapid advance of computer technology, the Internet - all of these developments have made information in Tokyo, for instance, instantaneously available in London or Cape Town.
These developments have been driven by the globalisation of the economy, in particular, the huge growth of daily international financial dealings. But they have also resulted in a world that is more and more a global village. A massacre in Boipatong is seen on TV screens simultaneously in Johannesburg, London and Washington.
This in turn has strengthened social movement campaigning around human rights issues. Where there are TV cameras, the room for manoeuvre of anti-democratic forces has diminished.
It is out of the contradictory impact of all of these global developments - some negative, some positive, some in-between - plus the ongoing resistance of oppressed people, that an international trend towards negotiated transitions has grown.
Whether, in a particular country, this combination of factors results in a real democracy, or in the mere appearance of democracy ('low intensity democracy' as progressive comrades in the Philippines say) is one of the challenges that is at stake. What makes the difference between relative success, or relative failure? This will be one of the key concerns of future instalments in the series.