Patrick Bond

The Mercury, Nov 22 -- There they fell during 2011, one after the other in past-their-prime domino descent.

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from Tunis, Hosni Mubarak from Cairo, Dominique Strauss-Kahn from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Muammar Gaddafi from Tripoli, Georgios Papandreou from Athens, Silvio Berlusconi from Rome, US football guru and sex-crime cover-upper Joe Paterno from Penn State University. Media baron Rupert Murdoch, soccer supremo Sepp Blatter, Syrian tyrant Bashar al-Assad and Yemeni dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh looking decidedly shaky, too.

Will the host city for the November-December United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP17) clean up its act?

The August 23 launch of a major Academy of Science of South Africa (Assaf) report,  Towards a Low Carbon City: Focus on Durban, offers a chance to test whether new municipal leaders are climate greenwashers.

Will they try to disguise high-carbon economic policies with pleasing rhetoric, as their predecessors did?

The two major civil service unions on strike against the South African government have vowed to intensify pressure in a struggle pitting more than a million workers against a confident government leadership fresh from hosting the World Cup.

Along with many smaller public sector unions, educators from the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) and nurses from the National Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) have picketed schools, clinics and hospitals, leading to widespread shutdowns from August 18.

Acting against our alleged “ambush marketing” and “incitement”, the South African Police Service, newly augmented with 40,000 additional cadre for the World Cup, detained several of us in Durban on July 3.

We were exercising freedom of expression at our favorite local venue — the South Beach Fan Fest.

Wearing hidden microphones to tape discussions with police leadership, what we learned was chilling.

On June 11, South Africans will start partying like no time since liberation in April 1994. It is a huge honour for our young democracy to host the most important sporting spectacle short of the Olympics.

The ordinary people who have worked hard in preparation deserve gratitude and support — especially the construction workers, cleaners, municipal staff, health-care givers and volunteers who will not receive due recognition.

But balancing psychological benefits against vast socioeconomic and political costs is vital.

In an indication that the global climate justice movement is becoming broader, there is now intense opposition to a climate-destroying energy loan for South Africa.

World-renowned political organiser and one of Africa’s most celebrated poets, Dennis Vincent Brutus, died in his sleep early on December 26 in Cape Town, aged 85.

Preparations for the December 7-18 Copenhagen climate summit, where world leaders will discuss the greatest threat facing the planet, are going as expected — including a rare sighting of the African elites’ stiffened spines.

Here’s a fairly simple choice: the global North would pay the hard-hit global South to deal with the climate crisis, either through the complicated and corrupt “Clean Development Mechanism” (CDM), whose projects have plenty of damaging side-effects to communities, or instead pay through other mechanisms that provide financing quickly, transparently and decisively to achieve genuine income compensation plus renewable energy to the masses.

With high-volume class strife heard in the rumbling of wage demands and the friction of township “service delivery protests”, rhetorical and real conflicts are bursting open in every nook and cranny of South Africa.

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