Durban

New South African President Cyril Ramaphosa made headlines when the ANC leader backed legal changes that could allow land reform to redistribute land from traditionally powerful white owners to the Black majority.

But this populist posture aside, the new administration is seeking to deepen pro-corporate neoliberalism and austerity.

A brand new World Bank report, The Changing Wealth of Nations 2018, offers evidence of how much poorer Africa is becoming thanks to rampant minerals, oil and gas extraction.

Yet World Bank policies and practices remain oriented to enforcing foreign loan repayments and transnational corporate (TNC) profiteering — thus maintaining the looting.

Bill Gates was set to deliver the July 17 annual Mandela Lecture in Johannesburg, justifying his philosophy of market-oriented, technology-centric philanthropy. Last year, French economist Thomas Piketty’s speech on inequality attracted healthy debate — with even business notables endorsing his concerns — given South Africa’s intense social conflict. To illustrate, South Africa’s Gini Coefficient measuring inequality is the world’s highest (at 0.77 on a scale of 0 to 1, in terms of income inequality from employment). Since 2000, social protests have numbered on average 11 per day.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) Africa summit in Kigali, Rwanda, on May 11 to 13 reinforced extractive industry and high-tech myths. The gathering unveiled the elite’s exuberant imagination and its lack of exposure to the continent’s harsh economic realities. As an antidote, grassroots protesters all over Africa are questioning the logic of export-led “growth” and renewed fiscal austerity. Instead they demand policies that meet their basic needs.
A wedge is being quickly driven through Pretoria's political elite. Among the victims of this power struggle are vast numbers of poor people. The poor are starting to bear the brunt of the diverse shakeouts in the ongoing confrontation now underway between the country's two most powerful 21st century politicians: President Jacob Zuma and his predecessor Thabo Mbeki. That battle began in 2005, when Mbeki sacked then-deputy president Zuma following a corruption conviction against a long-time Zuma associate.
Wits students protest in Johannesburg against a proposed tuition fee hike tuition fees on October 15. A historic victory over neoliberalism in South Africa was won on October 23, after the most intense three-week burst of mobilisation in the country since liberation from apartheid in 1994.
“One of the things you learn as an anthropologist, you don’t come in and change the culture,” Dartmouth College president Jim Yong Kim told wealthy alumni when contemplating the institution’s notorious hazing practices, prior to US President Barack Obama’s request in February that he move to the World Bank. Kim’s Harvard doctorate and medical degree, his founding of the heroic NGO Partners in Health and his directorship of the World Health Organization’s AIDS division make him the best-educated, most humane World Bank president yet.
The Occupy movement spread to Durban for the start of COP17 (the 17th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), protesting at the perceived lack of access to the conference centre for members of the public. The Occupy COP17 General Assembly, meeting at a designated spot just outside of the conference centre boundaries, was aimed at providing a forum for those who wanted to find new solutions to the climate change problem and discuss climate justice.
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?
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.

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