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  • ACTSA Fundraising Dinner 2017 Thank you!

    By ACTSA | December 4, 2017

    A huge thank you to everyone who has supported ACTSA’s annual Fundraising Dinner 2017. 

    The event took place on Friday 1st December and was attended by 160 guests. It was a wonderful evening of fundraising and festivities and we were delighted to celebrate solidarity between the people of the UK and Southern Africa and raise money for the work ACTSA does campaigning for rights, equality and development across the region.

    ACTSA would like to thank everyone who attended and helped to make the event happen. A special thanks to all of our donors, who helped us to surpass our fundraising goals and have contributed immensely in helping us to continue the work we do.

    A special thank you to:

    Tembe Elephant Park & Friends

    Mantis Collection

    Anti-Apartheid Movement Archives Committee

    Dan Jones

    Bikes Direct

    Maggie & John Paterson

    And a big thank you to:

    Almeida Theatre

    Archipelago

    Arsenal Football Club

    BHAFC

    Bob Newland

    Brand South Africa

    Cookery School at Little Portland Street

    Cox and Power Jewellery

    Discover Ltd (Kasbah du Toukbal)

    Experience Days
    www.experiencedays.co.uk

    Floatworks

    Great Rail Journeys

    London African Drumming

    Lord Bob Hughes

    Lord Peter Hain

    Lyric Theatre

    Mandla Langa

    Mr & Mrs Bagree

    Peter Bosman

    Public & Commercial Services Union

    Responsible Travel

    The Cinnamon Club

    The London Recruits

    The Percy Arms

    Triyoga

    Wines of South Africa

    Zita Holbourne

    www.experiencedays.co.uk

    Topics: News, News from ACTSA | No Comments »

    Zimbabwe:Congress of Trade Unions Statement on current situation

    By Tony | November 21, 2017

    Zimbabwe: the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions issued a statement on 18 November in response to recent developments in the country. They call for an inclusive transitional authority with a defined time frame, a restoration of basic socio- economic rights including education and health for all, reliable and affordable transport, decent housing jobs  and the restoration of lost freedoms.  The full statement is below.

    ZIMBABWE CONGRESS OF TRADE UNIONS (ZCTU) COMMUNIQUE ON THE ZIMBABWE SITUATION SATURDAY 18 NOVEMBER 2017

    We, the General Council of the ZCTU, meeting in Harare on the 18th of November 2017 to review the political developments in Zimbabwe hereby state our position:

     

    We firstly wish to acknowledges the definitive push by the heroes of our time, the war veterans and the Zimbabwe Defence Forces led by General Constantino Guvheya  Chiwenga. On behalf of the workers of Zimbabwe we wish to express our gratitude for the bravery and decisive move they took to liberate citizens from captivity and despicable oppression. In this regard we warn anyone who believe that they can forcefully reverse this by threatening our defence forces that, apart from its unparalleled strength in Africa, we all stand in solidarity with the ZDF to defend our nation from any intrusion. We however welcome regional and international assistance based on this demonstrated irreversible desire of Zimbabweans for change.

    As workers of Zimbabwe under the ZCTU, we buttress the voices of the pioneer trade unionists who fought for the prosperity of workers and all citizens which could only be achieved through the liberation of our country from oppressive, discriminatory and repressive regimes. It is the voices of Benjamin Burombo, Charles Kadhali and others, the early trade unionists, and our heroes. These leaders fought day and night for social, economic and political rights of the workers and citizens under difficult oppressive Rhodesian employers and government.

    The ZCTU appreciates the role and heroic sacrifices of these men and women who led to the formation of liberation war movements fronted by trade union veterans Joshua Nkomo, James Chikerema, and others  who yearned and fought for a free Zimbabwe where everyone was meant to be equal, prosperous and free to choose and express their political choices. Their vision and desires continue to guide and direct us as workers of Zimbabwe.

    Political developments in the past few days marks the beginning of the much desired second liberation from tyrannical and inconsiderate rule by the post independent leaders who presided over untold suffering of workers and citizens. The ZCTU through the able leadership of Gibson Sibanda, Morgan Tsvangirai and others saw the early signs of a dictatorship and fought against a one party state that would have introduced a monarchy in the early years of independence. They fought against Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP), corruption, greed and gave early warning signs that the freedom train had derailed and needed to be redirected. Unfortunately, no one took heed of the ZCTU which was declared an enemy of the state. The struggle for workers’ freedom continued through the leadership of Lovemore Matombo, Wellington Chibebe and other comrades. The message from workers was clear,  that the state has been captured by individuals and corporate corrupt interests. They pointed out that the Presidency had become a danger to the achievement of the liberation struggle aspirations.

    Today the results are clear. One of the richest endowed nation in the world has the highest unemployment, poverty and obscene inequality. Those who work day and night wallow in poverty while those who do nothing live in unbridled opulence. Without shame they looted the resources of the nation and parade their ill-gotten wealthy in a country where the majority are failing to buy a pain killer and living on a single meal a day. Workers are working without pay and all the protective labour laws are gone.

    We therefore entertain a ray of hope today when we see Zimbabweans putting aside their petty differences and focusing on rebuilding the ruins left after many years of destruction. We are taking this process seriously and workers of Zimbabwe (including those from Informal Economy) are not going to allow to be under the yoke of bondage again.

    Therefore the ZCTU demands:

    1.         Inclusive Transitional Authority with a defined timeframe

    2.         Time for truth and justice

    3.         Reform of State Institutions

    4.         A new sense of belonging to all citizens based on the principle of

    collectivism.

    5.         An end to neoliberal narrative based on oppression of workers

    through dangerous and imposed concepts such as Labour market flexibility, austerity and ill-informed Economic Structural Adjustment programs and the enrichment of a few individuals and corporates at the expense of the toiling masses.

    6.         A quick restoration of our basic socioeconomic rights among them:

    .           Education and Heath for all

    .           Reliable and affordable public transport.

    .           Decent housing for all

    .           Decent jobs and decent wages

    7.         A responsive, open and accountable government

    8.         Restoration of all the lost freedoms and a return to

    constitutionalism.

    9.         Above all , we have started as a collective and inclusive people,

    the way forward for our dear country must be decided by the collective.

    These are part of the key result indicators we shall measure leaders. Anyone who does not commit to this should not accept any state position. On our part we commit to put our all in the reconstruction of our dear nation Zimbabwe.

    To every season, there is a time for everything. We fought and hated each other. We damaged our relationship so deeply over the years. This is the time for truth and reconciliation to heal the wounds. Let us seriously talk about it and embrace each other for justice and progress sake.

    God bless Zimbabwe. God bless Africa

     

    Information Department

    Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) 2nd Floor Gorlon House

    7 Jason Moyo Street

    Harare, Zimbabwe

    Box 3549

     

     

    Topics: News | No Comments »

    Zimbabwe: Coup, Uphold Rights, Improve the economy

    By Tony | November 16, 2017

    What has happened in Zimbabwe is a coup. It may turn out to be a coup many welcome as the least worst option but it is nevertheless is a coup. The perpetrators have stated it is not a coup but it looks, feels and sounds like a coup. The military have acted in their view to protect and preserve public order but that is the reason perpetrators of coups give for their intervention. The trigger seems to have been the statement by Zanu PF that the head of the army General Constantino Chiwenga’s comments following the dismissal by President Mugabe of his Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa were tantamount to treason. The army seems to have acted in a form of preventative action to stop Chiwenga being dismissed. The army says the president and his family are safe and being protected. This raises the question protected from who? His own family? The so-called criminal elements around him? The security service?

    Why are the perpetrators desperate for this not to be seen as a coup? Because if it is a coup then Zimbabwe should automatically be suspended from the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and SADC would be challenged to intervene to uphold the constitution. SADC is desperate not to intervene in Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe military equally don’t want external involvement, and wish to be seen as in some way upholding the constitutional proprieties.

    Some say it is not a coup as Mugabe remains Head of State, that it is more about internal infighting in Zanu PF. The military action is certainly intended to influence and decide the leadership of Zanu PF but first this will involve Mugabe rescinding his decision to dismiss Emerson Mnangagwa as vice president of the country and reinstating him.

    If the coup succeeds – and it seems to have met limited opposition in the country and internationally, concern has been expressed but it has not been condemned – then the expectation is that Emerson Mnangagwa will resume as vice president of the country. He would then be in effect in charge of government and Robert Mugabe may, after a short time, resign allowing the vice president to take over.

    Prior to the coup Zanu PF was due to hold a congress in December. Until the coup it was expected this would remove Mnangagwa as vice president of the party and elect Grace Mugabe to that position. It is unclear if the congress will go ahead and if it does, and the coup has succeeded then Robert Mugabe may “retire” leaving Mnangagwa to be elected as president of the party.

    Zimbabwe is due to hold national elections for parliament and president in 2018. If it does not then it will be in breach of its constitution. Given the turmoil in Zimbabwe some are calling for a government of national unity or transitional government for several years.

    While many well welcome the demise of Mugabe, if Zimbabwe continues to be ruled in an authoritarian manner in which the institutions of the state are used to serve and promote one party, Zanu PF, then the suffering of the Zimbabwean people is likely to continue. Ordinary Zimbabweans are and have been suffering in part because the ruling party has been unable to deal with the succession to Mugabe and military leaders have been unwilling to countenance any party other than Zanu PF running Zimbabwe.

    In the immediate aftermath of the coup human rights and essential freedoms need to be protected. Zimbabwe may need a period of a national unity government based on respect for human rights and the rule of law. During this period getting the economy working to create decent jobs should be of great importance, but ultimately the priority must be for the Zimbabwean people to determine their own future government through free, fair, peaceful and democratic elections.

    Disclaimer: This is a blog and does not necessarily represent any agreed view by ACTSA.

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    Joint Civil Society Statement on Zimbabwe

    By ACTSA | November 16, 2017

    Yesterday a number of Zimbabwean civil society organisations issued the attached statement on recent developments in Zimbabwe. The statement, signed by 115 civil society organisations, calls for ’ the peaceful and constitutional resolution of the situation and the immediate return of Constitutional order and democracy in Zimbabwe’.

    Read the full statement here:  Joint CSOs Statement on Zimbabwe

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    UK banks may have been unwittingly involved in South African corruption

    By Robyn | October 25, 2017

    Lord Peter Hain an ACTSA honorary vice president has written to the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond advising him that two UK banks may have been unwitting conduits in the illicit siphoning of millions of pounds from South Africa.

    Speaking on the matter in the House of Lords last week, Lord Hain advised that he had been notified by whistle-blowers in South Africa that the UK banks HSBC and Standard Chartered banks may have inadvertently been involved in the movement of up to £400m of illicit funds. The money is alleged to have been siphoned from the country, passing through Hong Kong and Dubai, both locations where the two British financial institutions hold a significant presence. In an interview with the BBC World Service Lord Hain reiterated that there is no allegation of wrongdoing on the part of the banks but stated it is his hope that the banks will attempt to regain funds illicitly removed from the country.

    In response to Lord Hain’s letter the UK Chancellor stated ‘The UK government takes allegations of corruption and money laundering extremely seriously and is committed to preventing the proceeds of corruption from entering the UK financial system.’  The Treasury has also issued a statement affirming that the case had been passed on to the Serious Fraud Office, National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) with the request that they look into the involvement of the British banking groups.

    This is the latest scandal in the ongoing inquiry into the alleged corruption scandal involving President Jacob Zuma and the influential Gupta family. It is alleged that the powerful business family the Guptas bought political influence with the government for their own financial gain. A phenomena referred to in South Africa as ‘state capture’. Lord Hain’s allegations state the illicitly transferred funds in question were stolen from the South African taxpayer as a result of the ‘corruption and cronyism’ of President Zuma and the Guptas. Both President Zuma and the Guptas strongly deny any wrong-doing , stating they are the victims of a “politically motivated witch hunt”.

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    Angola swears in first new president in 38 years

    By Robyn | September 28, 2017

    On Tuesday 26th September 2017 Angola swore in new president Joao Lourenco. Lourenco succeeds Jose Eduardo dos Santos who has been Angola’s head of state for 38 years. Both men are of the Movimiento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA), the party which has ruled the nation since independence in 1975, with Dos Santos taking the helm in 1979.

    The inauguration follows last month’s elections, in which the MPLA won with 61 percent of the vote. A result notably lower than in previous elections. The outcome has been fervently contested by opposition party UNITA who boycotted the inauguration. However, UNITA’s insistence that the elections were marred by unfair media coverage and queries over vote-counting does not seem to have tainted the inauguration in the eyes of regional powers. President Jacob Zuma of South Africa was one of several African leaders to attend the inauguration.

    Prior to his leadership bid Lourenco was most recently Angola’s defence minister, and prior to this served as the party’s secretary-general for a number of years. He campaigned on the platform of guaranteeing the nation’s development and progress, creating job opportunities and improving health and school systems. He has also vowed to tackle corruption within the MPLA, a promise met with some scepticism by the MPLA’s critics.

    It remains to be seen to what extent Lourenco will be able to carve out a new path as president out of the shadow of Dos Santos. As previously reported in ACTSA’s Angola Monitor, despite stepping down as leader of the country Dos Santos remains leader of the MPLA, and with his two children occupying key positions of strategic and economic power in the nation many believe he will continue to hold considerable influence.

    If you would like to keep in touch with developments in Angola ensure you are signed up to receive the Angola Monitor, published quarterly by ACTSA. 

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    The Future of Demining in Angola: Women Lead the Way

    By Robyn | September 22, 2017

    UK based NGO The HALO Trust earlier this year launched a new project ‘100 Women in Demining in Angola’. The project hopes to train and employ 100 women in Angola as deminers, medics, drivers and mechanics, empowering women and boosting mine clearance in the country. In June HALO began  recruiting the first 20 female deminers from the province of Benguela in Western Angola. The women trained outside of Huambo and following completion of the rigorous training will return to Benguela to begin clearing live minefields and building a future for their home communities.

    The landmines are the dangerous remnants of the protracted civil war which ended in 2002, having consumed the country since independence in 1975. In the aftermath of the conflict it was estimated that 982 square kilometres of land were contaminated, in all 18 of Angola’s provinces. These landmines, laid on roads and tracks, around villages and buildings, have rendered large swathes of land inaccessible, massively impacting the livelihoods and security of the population. 15 years on some progress has been made with an estimated third of the country cleared of mines, but there remains a long way to go.

    Land mine clearance has historically been a male dominated industry in the nation, but HALO are looking to diversify their team and offer training and employment for women in an otherwise hostile climate. It is hoped that the scheme will provide employment and a source of income whilst empowering the women in their communities. Through incorporating the women into demining operations as skilled agents and an integral part of the process, the project repositions women as central to conversations on the future of their communities; thus recasting the limitations that birth and economic status has imposed upon them. Furthermore, looking to the future it is planned the women will be able to take the skills learnt in this role to contribute to the development of Angola in other ways.

    The first cohort of deminers were deployed in their home province of Benguela in August, where, according to HALO there are more than 80 known minefields. Since then the team have found 133 anti-personnel mines and cleared almost 8000 square metres of land. The second round of recruitment will be taking place this month and an additional 20 women will be trained in October.  HALO hope the project will lead the way for land mine clearance in the area, kick-starting both government led and local programmes.

    As ACTSA reported earlier this year,  funding cuts have seen many mine-clearance projects paused in Angola. The UK ceased bilateral aid to Angola in 2011 but with the recent commitment of £100million to mine action globally, Angola might possibly receive funding from this allocation.

    Read more on 100 Women in Demining in Angola at www.halotrust.org/100women

    To keep in touch with developments in Angola ensure you are signed up to receive the Angola Monitor, published quarterly by ACTSA. 

     

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    STOPAIDS Policy Report states UK Funds for HIV/AIDS Falling

    By Robyn | September 20, 2017

    Southern Africa is the most affected region in the world by HIV/AIDS.

    STOPAIDS, a network of UK NGOS of which ACTSA is a member has last week released report, A Stocktake Review of DIFID’s Work on HIV and AIDS which reviews the HIV and AIDS work carried out by the Department for International Development and states UK government funding on HIV/AIDS is falling.

    At present there has been no HIV/AIDS Strategy since 2015 and the report has been produced in the wake of DIFID’s refusal to carry out a strategic review of its support for work on HIV/AIDS. This is despite strong support for a such a review from both civil society and parliamentarians.

    The report takes into consideration the multiple funding streams for HIV/AIDS work and highlights several key downfalls. These include, notably, that the massive cuts to DIFID’s country office programmes have not been offset by the UK’s contributions to the Global Fund. Claims that reductions in dedicated progamme funding have occurred as the result of a rise in integrated programme funding have also come under question. The report states overall funding is declining, with funding for civil society amongst the worst hit.

    Other key findings include the remarkable absence of HIV from other significant DIFID strategies including the Strategic Vision on Women and Girls and DIFID’s Youth Agenda. Although the report does concede there has been some indication that moving forwards HIV will form a more central part of DIFID’s women and girl’s strategy.

    Looking forwards from a programmatic perspective, STOPAIDS recommends that DIFID formalise and make public their approach to HIV. Given the present absence of an HIV strategy it has been suggested that the report could be used to articulate priorities within global HIV response.

    Overall the reports findings highlight that  DIFID’s commitment to the HIV response has been inconsistent, funding has decreased, and a formalised strategic approach is desperately lacking

    DFID does not have country programmes for the five countries with the highest rates of HIV/AIDS adult prevalence,

    Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, South Africa and Namibia.

    When DFID cut its country programme for South Africa a couple of years ago it meant that the Treatment Action Campaign lost 15% of its core financial support.

    Eight countries in the world have an HIV/AIDS adult prevalence rate in double figures. All are in Southern Africa. DFID has country programmes in/for three, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique.

    The report is available for download from the STOPAIDS website. 

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    Bell Pottinger campaign used potentially racial divisive material says independent review.

    By Tony | September 4, 2017

    Bell Pottinger campaign used potentially racial divisive material says independent review.

    Bell Pottinger accepted a commission from Oakbay Investments Pty Limited (“Oakbay”) a holding company for the Gupta family interests in South Africa. It is alleged the Gupta family have significant influence on South Africa government policy, who gets appointed to key roles and who gets, benefits from large government contracts. Referred to in South Africa as “state capture”. The allegations are denied. The commission was in essence to run a PR and marketing campaign to move attention from the alleged close links between the Guptas and key people in, connected to the South African government. Bell Pottinger sought to do this by putting out a counter story, narrative.

    Bell Pottinger commissioned an independent review of its work on the Oakbay account by international law firm Herbert Smith Freehills which has found that, “certain material created by Bell Pottinger…. was potentially racially divisive and/or potentially offensive and was created in breach of relevant ethical principles. [Bell Pottinger's] senior management should have known that the campaign was at risk of causing offence, including on grounds of race.”

    “the BP account team used other tactics in relation to the economic emancipation campaign which arguably breached the relevant ethical principles‚ including taking steps which might mislead or undermine journalists who were asking questions in relation to the campaign.….members of BP’s senior management should have known that the campaign was at risk of causing offence‚ including on grounds of race.….In such circumstances BP ought to have exercised extreme care and should have closely scrutinised the creation of content for the campaign. This does not appear to have happened.”

    The Chief Executive of Bell Pottinger although not involved in this account resigned shortly before the report was released.

    The Huffington Post South Africa has put four questions to Bell Pottinger, others have put similar questions.

    1. How much did Bell Pottinger earn from the Oakbay account?

    2. Would Bell Pottinger now consider paying profits from the account toward some charitable organisations, maybe like those working toward reconciliation efforts in South Africa?

    3. Are (ex-CEO) James Henderson and (former BP partner) Victoria Geoghegan going to be the only employees held responsible?

    4. Would there be another apology issued to South Africans affected by the divisive campaigns?

    Others have also asked about other PR and marketing commissions e.g. allegedly for the ANC Youth League Bell Pottinger has run recently in South Africa.

    Bell Pottinger has so far not answered.

    Bell Pottinger gave up the Oakbay account in April 2017.
    Bell Pottinger was accused of running a campaign in South Africa on behalf of Oakbay which was divisive, offensive and stoked racial tensions. It is reported that the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA), a UK trade body has found Bell Pottinger guilty of breaching its code of conduct in its work on the Oakbay account and the PRCA should state what measure it plans to take on 5 September.

    The logical conclusion of the independent review and the reported PRCA finding is that Bell Pottinger did indeed run a divisive, offensive PR and marketing campaign in South Africa for Oakbay recognising it may well cause racial tensions.

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    Angolan Elections: MPLA announced as the winner. Opposition parties and activists call foul play

    By Robyn | August 30, 2017

    The CNE (Electoral Commission) in Angola announced that the ruling MPLA party took 61.1% of the vote and the main opposition party UNITA secured 26.7% in the election which took place on 23 August. The MPLA was initially reported to have secured 64.4% to UNITA’s 24.04% of the vote share but this was revised in a later statement. The revised figures are unlikely to change, however the definitive numbers may not be announced until the 6th September.

    The MPLA seems to have secured a relatively comfortable victory although their share of the vote dropped 10%. UNITA has increased its share of parliamentary seats from 32 to 51. In Luanda province the combined support for UNITA and the other main opposition party CASA-CE was 50%.

    There has been some questioning of the CNE conduct due to the fact they have not given detailed explanations as to how these provisional results were tallied. Some critics have called foul play suggesting  it would have been impossible to have tallied votes of Angola’s eighteen provinces beyond polling stations at the time when the initial announcement of an almost 65% majority for the MPLA was declared (later modified to the 61.1%).

    UNITA also claim to have collected notably different results from their own tallies at voting stations to those announced by the Electoral Commission and MPLA. Deputy party leader Rafael Massanga Savimbi  has stated they do not accept the result and have demanded the CNE explain to the Angolan public ‘what it did wrong and why it did it’. UNITA have announced they will release their full results in the coming days, although parallel counts for four of Angola’s eighteen provinces, Huambo, Bie, Cabinda and Luanda, already released by the group have shown UNITA doing better than commission results suggested.

    There have been allegations of misconduct regarding the run-up to the elections, with criticism from national and international rights activists, as well as opposition parties UNITA and CASA-CE. All  critics suggest voter manipulation through depriving opposition groups access to the media. In the run-up to the elections Human Rights Watch claimed the environment was ‘marred by severe restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly’.   Maka Angola has also criticised the international community and media for its role, claiming they had ‘concluded before a single vote was cast, that the MPLA would win comfortably’.

    Yet despite widely published criticisms of the election, CNE,and Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mission have declared the elections free and fair. International observers have reported the atmosphere in the nation’s capital, Luanda, to be relatively calm. Official results will be published by the 6th September.

    To keep in touch with developments in Angola ensure you are signed up to receive the Angola Monitor, published quarterly by ACTSA.

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