Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Archive for the tag “greed”

BEE = Black Elite Enrichment = rapacious material accumulation

Some say that the Mangaung Conference later this year will be a battle for the soul of the ANC. I wish it were true, but I think it may be too late for that. The ANC sold its soul long ago, and I suspect that if there is any battle at Mangaung, it will be a battle for the spoils.

In this article Oyama Mabandla puts it in a nutshell The ANC is a vehicle for rapacious material accumulation | City Press:

To say the ANC is at an existential crossroads would be trite. But the tenets and values that defined the gallant organisation of Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela are no more.

In their place is a brutal and corrupt ethos, driven by those seeking personal enrichment. The ANC’s new siren song is: it is time to eat.

And Mabandla goes on to say, “The cause of the ANC’s moral implosion, in my view, was its embrace of black economic empowerment (BEE). “Empowerism” is at the core of the organisation’s new identity. Being rich supplanted liberation as the theme and gospel of the new South Africa.”

The real meaning of BEE — Black Elite Enrichment

I disagree with Mabandla on one point, though. BEE was never about black economic empowerment. As this cartoon from Sowetan LIVE shows, it did not and was never intended to empower those living in the shack. It was all about enriching the elite, and the issue at stake at Mangaung is which elite will be enriched.

The problem is, if the ANC has sold out, what is the alternative?

The second biggest party in parliament is the Democratic Alliance, which was formed as an alliance of the Democratic Party and the right-wing rump of the New National Party, which was in turn the rump of the old National Party which had introduced the discredited apartheid policy. In the 1999 general election the Democratic Party made an unabashed bid for the support of the white right. After five years of democracy they appealed to voters who were gatvol (fed up) with democracy to vote for them, and to “fight back”. They succeeded in that aim, outstripped and absorbed the New National Party, and introduced the undemocratic system of crosstitution to cement their alliance, and then complained about it afterwards when it worked to their disadvantage.

For a while I had some hopes for the Independent Democrats, but then they sold out to the DA.

Perhaps the most desirable thing would be for Cosatu (the Congress of South African Trade Unions) to break from their tripartite alliance with the ANC, and form a Labour Party of sorts, that would be a left opposition to the Thatcherist ANC.

But one only has to look north over the Limpopo to see the dangers of that — the MDC in Zimbabwe has much the same class roots as Cosatu in South Africa, but Zanu-PF has managed to neutralise them by intimidation bordering on terrorism, rigging elections and the like.

And as elections draw near, the Cosatu leaders fall back into line, and go back to supporting the status quo.

But in recent months a left opposition has begun to emerge, and it opposes Cosatu as much as it opposes theb Thatherism of the ANC. Vavi warns socialists behind strike wave | City Press:

The organisation coordinating strikes across South Africa’s mining sector, the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), is preparing to form a political party.

The organisation, run by a five-member executive committee, is building what one of its leaders calls a “mass workers’ party”.

And if its work in the past few months has been part of its preparations to hit the campaign trail, the organisation seems to be gaining ground.

If that gets going, it will be too late for Cosatu, because the new movement will probably draw away much of Cosatu’s traditional support, which will drive them to cling even more tightly to the skirts of the ANC. But one could still support the DSM, couldn’t one?

Yes, but…

The DSM seems to be a bit of a mengelmoes of Trotskyist movements, and Trotskyists have a tendency to crawl into their cocoons and then emerge as full-fledged neocons.

Perhaps the real hope for the future lies in local politics. If all the people engaged in service delivery protests would pool their resources and work together to contest local elections as independents, they might be able to make a real difference. The ANC was undermined by people who saw that local party branch committees were the way to lucrative business deals if the ANC controlled the local municipality (Thabo Mbeki expressed concern about this at the Polokwane conference four years ago, and it was those very people who deposed him). But if local people would contest local elections as independents, they could take back the municipalities and fix the service delivery problems themselves. And they would be more accountable to the people who elected them.

But I doubt whether it will happen in my lifetime.

Obscenity

A new breed of South Africans is emerging, a new subculture, perhaps. It is composed of those who do not merely want to be rich, but who want be filthy, stinking rich; obscenely rich.

One of the things that one often hears is that crime is caused by poverty. But that is not strictly true. Criminologists who have researched the matter report that in societies where people are very poor, there is often relatively little crime. What causes the crime rate to rise is the income gap between the rich and the poor.

My blogging friend Dion Forster notes another effect of the income gap between rich and poor — it can lead to genocide — Wishes of youth and the winds of war – I was a soldier once – BLOG – Dion Forster – An uncommon path:

In Fiennes’ book he notes, among other things, that the conditions that are necessary for genocide to occur include:

  • An impoverished population
  • A large gap between those who ‘have’ and those who ‘do not have’
  • A clearly identifiable minority grouping that has access to wealth and power
  • The development of a racial or ethnic ideology that places groups of persons in opposition to one another
  • Corrupt, power hungry and irresponsible politicians

I wondered how many of these elements could be ticked off a list of criteria in South African society? We have much work to do in order to bring equality, overcome animosity, and combat false and harmful racial and ethnic ideologies.

A few days ago I noted in another blog post Black and white perceptions of South Africa’s problems | Khanya:

People sometimes like to talk about poverty as the cause of crime. But it is much less common for people to talk about it the other way round — of crime as the cause of poverty. Yet much of the poverty in places like Mamelodi is caused by crime — white crime.

Two of the ways in which people achieve their ambition to become filthy stinking rich are politics and crime. Criminologists who have noted that the crime rate increases where the gap between rich and poor increases have also noticed that criminals do not generally rob and steal to feed their starving families. They steal because they want to be filthy stinking rich. Their ill-gotten gains are used for conspicuous consumption.

As for politics, we all know about tenderpreneurs. Thabo Mbeki, the former president of the ANC and South Africa, spoke on this phenomenon at the very conference where the ANC voted him out as leader — that unscrupulous businessmen tried to take over ANC branches, and get themselves or their favoured candidates elected at the branches in areas that controlled municipalitries, and used their position to get lucrative contracts and tenders.

This is not unique to South Africa, it is found all over the world.

There are those who still say that the ANC has not made the mental transition from liberation movement to a political party. But the problerm is the other way round. Those who remember what it was to be a liberation movement are a diminishing minority, and are being swamped by those who see politics as a means of becoming filthy stinking rich.

In writing this, I’m not being an investigative journalist. I’m not trying to dig up the dirt on corrupt politicians and businessmen. I haven’t named names nor cited instances of these things in footnotes. I’ve written about perceptions, about gossip, about impressions. And the purpose is not to find and condemn the guilty.

Our struggle, as St Paul says, is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the authorities, against spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenlies (Eph 6:10-12).

The problem is not individual sinners, but sin itself.

And the problem is not merely individual sins, but rather the inversion of values.

As Isaiah says:

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (Isa 5:20)

Those who desire to be filthy stinking rich do so because of greed.

Christians in the past have seen greed and lust as passions that we should seek to control. But there are new ideologies abroad in the world that seek to invert this, and say that passions like greed and lust are good.

And so we find people, even people who claim to be Christians, saying that it’s OK to help the poor, but not by taking money from the rich “at gunpoint”. The “at gunpoint” is a peculiar code word among such people for “taxes”. What they mean is that money from taxes paid by the rich should not be used to help the poor. That, they say, is “theft”.

And so they invert Christian values; they call evil good and good evil.

St John Chrysostom says precisely the opposite:

“See the man,” He says, “and his works: indeed, this also is theft, not to share one’s possessions.” Perhaps this statement seems surprising to you, but do not be surprised. I shall bring you testimony from the divine Scriptures, saying that not only the theft of others’ goods but the failure to share one’s own goods with others is theft and swindle and defraudation. What is this testimony? Accusing the Jews by the prophet, God says, “The earth has brought forth her increase, and you have not brought forth your tithes; but the theft of the poor is in your houses.” Since you have not given the accustomed offerings, he says, you have stolen the goods of the poor. He says this to show the rich that they hold the goods of the poor even if they have inherited them from their fathers or no matter how they have gathered their wealth. And elsewhere the Scripture says, “Deprive not the poor of his living.” To deprive is to take what belongs to another, for it is called deprivation when we take and keep what belongs to others.

Thus if the government uses the taxes paid by the rich to provide basic necessities for the poor, such as housing or health services, it is not theft, but rather the recovery of stolen property. To call taxes used in such a way “theft” is to invert Christian values, and to call good evil and evil good.

Adulterers may repent. Thieves may repent. Murderers may repent. And when we experience lust or greed or other passions we may repent and struggle against them.

But those who call greed and lust good cannot repent.

This ideological inversion was propounded by Ayn Rand in the 1940s and 1950s, and spread to the institutions of state and society in the West, especially in the 1980s, until it has now permeated much of society and people’s values as the insidious propaganda for it continues and increases.

We may never be able to remove inequalities of wealth; we may never be able to eliminate the gap between the rich and the poor. But we can and ought to resist the ideology that says that it is a good thing, and that the passions that maintain it are to be encouraged.

__________

This post is part of the February 2012 Synchroblog – Extreme Economic Inequality | synchroblog in which different bloggers write blog posts on the same theme, and provide a list of the other posts so that people can follow the theme by surfing from one post to another.

Other posts in this month’s Synchroblog are:

Where child sacrifice is a business

A few years ago there was quite a lot of publicity in the media about allegations of “ritual abuse”, especially of children, and the general conclusion seemed to be that this was an urban legend cooked up by religious crazies, and that had been completely debunked. Nevertheless there have continued to be reports of ritual murder in various parts of the world.

Now (hat tip to The Pittsford Perennialist: In Defense of Witch Trials) it seems that they are focusing on Uganda: BBC News – Where child sacrifice is a business:

The villages and farming communities that surround Uganda’s capital, Kampala, are gripped by fear.

Schoolchildren are closely watched by teachers and parents as they make their way home from school. In playgrounds and on the roadside are posters warning of the danger of abduction by witch doctors for the purpose of child sacrifice.

The ritual, which some believe brings wealth and good health, was almost unheard of in the country until about three years ago, but it has re-emerged, seemingly alongside a boom in the country’s economy.

The report, however, is slightly misleading, with its mention of “witchdoctors”.

Witchdoctors are those whose job is to counter witchcraft, not to practise it.

Witchdoctors who engage in such activities are like policemen who take part in bank robberies and vehicle hijackings — they find it more lucrative to practise crime than to catch criminals. We should be careful not to give the impression that those are part of the job description.

I would also take issue with The Pittsford Perrennialist on the question of witch trials. The witch trials of the Great European Witchhunt were largely based on false accusations, made for the same reasons as those engagecd in child sacrifice in Uganda and other places today — greed and covetousness. The accused were accused of Satanism, but the accusers were actually far more satanic, because the main characteristic of the satan in Christian theology is the making of false accusations.

For more on witch trials, witch hunts and witchcraft accusations, see my article on Christian Responses to Witchcraft and Sorcery.

In addition to revelations about child sacrifice in Uganda, there is also the news that the US is now sending troops to Uganda. Perhaps it has something to do with allAfrica.com: Uganda: Scramble for Minerals Begins:

The revelations come shortly after an aerial survey report confirmed that Uganda is endowed with copper, iron ore, cobalt, tin, gold as well as platinum.

There is anticipation for Foreign Direct Investment in the mineral exploration sector in the Great Lakes region as China looks for raw materials to oil its growing economy.

China’s entry into Africa is seen as catalyst for renewed interest in Africa by the European Union and US to undermine China’s emerging influence due its non-political interference policy on investments in Africa and the potential for monopoly access to energy and mineral resources.

Another hat-tip to The Pittsford Perennialist: Another War?.

Nollywood Effect: Witchcraft goes mainstream in Uganda

Last night as I was going to fetch my son from work I heard on the 10 o’clock news that some witchdoctors had been arrested in Uganda for killing Albinos and exporting their body parts to Tanzania for use as muti.

Though the source was given as the BBC, a search of Google news this morning found nothing of that, but I did find this: The East African�- Nollywood Effect: Witchcraft goes mainstream in Uganda:

One of the more dramatic stories that closed the month of March was the arrest of a witchdoctor in Entebbe.

Witchdoctors have been much in the news in Uganda recently over ritual murders of infants.

They claim to use the bodies of “pure” people, in this case children, to channel wealth to their clients.

They are thus as bad as the fellows in Tanzania who are driving the hunting of albino people by claiming that their body parts can help you grow rich if treated in certain ways.

This Entebbe witchdoctor was not as violent as the above types.

But he was as big as shame to the nation as the Australian lecher who fathered many kids with his confined daughter.

The last bit shows that some Kenyans confuse Austria with Australia as easily as some Brits confuse Tanzania and Tasmania, but that is not the point of my repeating this story.

These events in East Africa seem to be similar to the use of zvikwambo in Zimbabwe. Zvikwambo (singular chikwambo) are magical objects one can buy from a n’anga (traditional healer), which are supposed to make one rich. They are often made of human body parts. The purchaser of a chikwambo is usually urged to keep it secret, even from other members of the family, and it demands sacrifices for its continued efficacy. The demands become more and more onerous, and sometimes include human sacrifice.

An important aspect of Christian healing ministry in Zimbabwe is releasing people from the power and demands of zvikwambo. I recently co-authored a book on African initiatives in healing ministry, which is soon to be published by Unisa Press. One of the co-authors, Lilian Dube, of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Zimbabwe, did research on Agnes Majecha, a healer of the Zvikomborero Apostolic Faith Church, who specialises in neutralising zvikwambo. It is mainly African Independent Churches (AICs) that undertake this kind of ministry, and people have visited Majecha at her healing centre in Marondera from as far afield as Botswana and South Africa.

Muti murders also take place in South Africa, usually for similar motives — the desire to get rich quick. These are sometimes reported by the media, but often the reporting is confined to sensationalised stories about complaints, and possibly arrests, but very little is reported on subsequent trials, if any. One exception was a case in Tshwane a few years ago, when a four-year-old child went missing. The story of her disappearance and the subsequent search made headlines, as did the discovery of her mutilated body. A police sniffer dog detected her remains in the wall of a hairdressing salon — they had been incorporated to make the business prosper. In that case there was some reporting of the trial, but generally there isn’t. There were some sensational arrests in the Eastern Cape last year, but so far there have been no reports of a trial.

Sometimes people in the West look down on African culture, and point to such things as indications that African culture is inferior to Western culture. However the recent bailouts of Western companies with “toxic assets” resemble nothing so much as the sacrifices offered to appease zvikwambo, only on a far bigger scale. But where is the Agnes Majecha in Europe or the USA to deliver them from this mess?

And at the root of it all is one human passion — greed.

Niehaus: journos twist the knife — and the facts

When journos get the knife in, they really twist it (and the facts), and stab again and again.

Consider this report about the former ANC spokesman

News – South Africa: Niehaus has no degree: report:

Former ANC spokesperson Carl Niehaus does not have a doctor’s degree in theology as claimed, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.

According to Beeld newspaper, Niehaus did not get a doctor’s degree in theology from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, as he had claimed. This was during his stint as South Africa’s ambassador in Den Haag.

Note that the body of the story says that he didn’t have a doctors degree from Utrecht, but the headline suggests that that he has no degree at all, which seems to be a deliberate attempt to mislead.

Now perhaps that is because there’s a general election coming up, and the media believe that all’s fair in love, war and politics. If your political opponent is down, kick, kick and kick again. If he’s done one thing wrong, make it look as though he’s done everything wrong, and nothing right.

Max du Preez, a well-known journalist, goes even further, and is more specific: “He lied about having a degree and a doctorate… he apparently only has a matric certificate behind his name” (Pretoria News, 19 Feb 2009).

Now when Carl Niehaus was released from prison he visited the Missiology Department at Unisa (on 26 March 1991) and all the department staff gathered in David Bosch’s office to meet him. He was a student in the department, and was one of the very few to have been allowed to study for a Masters degree in prison. Willem Saayman, his supervisor, described the hoops he had to jump through to deal with all the red tape in order to visit him in prison to discuss his studies. I don’t know if Carl Niehaus was ever awarded the Masters degree, summa cum laude or not, but he would certainly not have been allowed to register for such a degree at all if he had “no degree” as the media are now claiming.

On the Emerging Africa blog there is a discussion on whether the important questions today are about authority, identity, morality or something else. And I would say that at this point in our history, with a general election coming up, and all sorts of stories circulating about corruption among politicians, that morality probably tops the list. I’m as disturbed as some journalists that people in the ANC seem not only to support people who have been involved in corruption, but also to approve of their behaviour (the demonstrations in support of Tony Yengeni are a case in point). Going to jail for fighting for truth and justice is one thing, going to jail for fraud and corruption is another.

But morality is also an issue for journalists. Carl Niehaus may have lied about some of his past achievements, but some journalists have also apparently lied about Carl Niehaus.

Greed, which used to be regarded as one of the seven deadly sins, is now regarded as a virtue by many of our political leaders, and that makes morality a hot issue.

And for those of us who are neither politicians nor the journalists who write about them, St Paul’s advice applies, “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (I Cor 10:12). In ten days Great Lent begins, and we pray the prayer of St Ephraim:

O Lord and Master of my life! Take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power and idle talk.

But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to Thy servant.

Yea, O Lord and King! Grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages.

November Synchroblog: money and the church

The theme for this month’s Synchroblog is Money and the Church.

I have posted my contribution this month at The Church and Money on my Khanya blog.

Here are the links to all the contributions:

The Check That Controls at Igneous Quill
Pushing The Camel: Why there might be more rich people in Heaven than in your local Church at Fernando’s desk
Sally Coleman at Eternal Echoes
Lord, Won’t You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz at Hello Said Jenelle
Zaque at Johnny Beloved
Walking with the Camels at Calacirian
Greed and Bitterness: Why Nobody’s Got it Right About Money and The Church at Phil Wyman’s Square No More
Wealth Amidst Powers at Theocity
Money and the Church: A Fulltime Story at The Pursuit
But I Gave at Church at The Assembling of the Church
Moving Out of Jesus Neighborhood at Be the Revolution
Money and the Church: why the big fuss? at Mike’s Musings
Coffee Hour Morality at One Hand Clapping
Bling Bling in the Holy of Holies at In Reba’s World
Magazinial Outreach at Decompressing Faith
Money’s too tight to mention at Out of the Cocoon
Bullshit at The Agent B Files
The Bourgeois Elephant in the Missional/Emergent Living Room at Headspace
When the Church Gives at Payneful Memories
Who, or What, Do You Worship at at Charis Shalom
Greed at Hollow Again
Silver and Gold Have We – Oops! at Subversive Influence
The Church and Money at Khanya
Tithe Schmithe at Discombobula

Post Navigation