Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. (Photo: Gerald Ford Library)
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger ordered a series of secret contingency plans that included airstrikes and mining of Cuban harbors in the aftermath of Fidel Castro’s decision to send Cuban forces into Angola in late 1975, according to declassified documents made public today for the first time. “If we decide to use military power it must succeed. There should be no halfway measures,” Kissinger instructed General George Brown of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during a high-level meeting of national security officials on March 24, 1976, that included then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. “I think we are going to have to smash Castro,” Kissinger told President Ford. “We probably can’t do it before the [1976 presidential] elections.” “I agree,” the president responded.
The story of Kissinger’s Cuban contingency planning was published today in a new book, Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana, co-authored by American University professor William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh who directs the National Security Archive’s Cuba Documentation Project. Research for the book, which reveals the surprising and untold history of bilateral efforts towards rapprochement and reconciliation, draws on hundreds of formerly secret records obtained by the authors. The documents detailing Kissinger’s Cuban contingency planning in 1976 were obtained by Kornbluh through a Freedom of Information Act request to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library.
According to the book, Kissinger’s consideration of open hostilities with Cuba came after a protracted effort of secret diplomatic talks to normalize relations — including furtive meetings between U.S. and Cuban emissaries at La Guardia airport and an unprecedented three-hour negotiating session at the five-star Pierre Hotel in New York City. Cuba’s efforts at supporting the anti-colonial struggle in Africa, the authors write, “was the type of threat to U.S. interests that Kissinger had hoped the prospect of better relations would mitigate.”
The book describes Kissinger as “apoplectic” with Castro — in oval office meetings Kissinger referred to the Cuban leader as a “pipsqueak” — for Cuba’s decision to deploy thousands of soldiers to Angola to assist the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party of António Agostinho Neto against attacks from insurgent groups that were supported covertly by the United States and apartheid regime of South Africa. Concerned that Castro would eventually broaden his military incursion beyond Angola, Kissinger counseled Ford that they would have to “crack the Cubans.” “If they move into Namibia or Rhodesia, I would be in favor of clobbering them,” Kissinger told the president, according to a March 15, 1976, Oval Office memorandum of conversation.
In the March 24 meeting with an elite national security team known as the Washington Special Actions Group, Kissinger expanded on the domino scenario. “If the Cubans destroy Rhodesia then Namibia is next and then there is South Africa,” Kissinger argued. To permit the “Cubans as the shock troops of the revolution” in Africa, he argued, was unacceptable and could cause racial tensions in the “Caribbean with the Cubans appealing to disaffected minorities and could then spillover into South America and even into our own country.”
Moreover, the lack of a U.S. response to the global exercise of military power by a small Caribbean island nation, Kissinger feared, would be seen as American weakness. “If there is a perception overseas that we are so weakened by our internal debate [over Vietnam] so that it looks like we can’t do anything about a country of eight million people, then in three or four years we are going to have a real crisis.”
Drafted secretly by the Washington Special Actions Group in April 1976, the contingency plans outlined punitive options that ranged from economic and political sanctions to acts of war such as mining Cuba’s harbors, a naval quarantine, and strategic airstrikes “to destroy selected Cuban military and military-related targets.” The contingency planners warned Kissinger, however, that any act of aggression could trigger a superpower confrontation. Unlike the 1962 missile crisis, stated one planning paper, “a new Cuban crisis would not necessarily lead to a Soviet retreat.”
Indeed, “a Cuban/Soviet response could escalate in areas that would maximize US casualties and thus provoke stronger response,” Kissinger’s national security advisers warned. “The circumstances that could lead the United States to select a military option against Cuba should be serious enough to warrant further action in preparation for general war.”
Back Channel to Cuba was released today at a press conference at the Pierre Hotel, the site of the first official secret meeting to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba in July 1975. The authors suggested that the history of such talks, and the lessons they hold, remain especially relevant at a time when both President Obama and President Raul Castro have publicly declared the urgency of moving beyond the legacy of perpetual hostility in U.S.-Cuban relations.
Document 1: Memorandum of Conversation, February 25, 1976
During a conversation with President Ford in the Oval Office, Secretary of State Kissinger raises the issue of Cuba’s military incursion into Angola, implying that Latin American nations are concerned about a “race war” because of Cuba’s efforts in Africa. “I think we are going to have to smash Castro. We probably can’t do it before the elections.” The president responds, “I agree.”
Document 2: Memorandum of Conversation, March 15, 1976
In another Oval Office conversation, Kissinger raises the Cuban military involvement in Africa and expresses concern that Castro may deploy troops elsewhere in the region. “I think sooner or later we have to crack the Cubans … I think we have to humiliate them.” He continues to argue that, “If they move into Namibia or Rhodesia, I would be in favor of clobbering them. That would create a furor … but I think we might have to demand they get out of Africa.” When President Ford asks, “what if they don’t?” Kissinger responds, “I think we could blockade.”
Document 3: Washington Special Actions Group Meeting, Cuba, March 24, 1976
Kissinger convenes The Washington Special Actions Group-a small elite team of national security officials-on March 24 to discuss a range of options and capabilities to move against Cuba. “We want to get planning started in the political, economic and military fields so that we can see what we can do if we want to move against Cuba,” he explains. “In the military field there is an invasion or blockade.” Kissinger shares his domino theory of Cuban military involvement in the region. “If the Cubans destroy Rhodesia then Namibia is next and then there is South Africa. It might only take five years,” Kissinger argues. In discussing military options, he states, “if we decide to use military power it must succeed. There should be no halfway measures – we get no reward for using military power in moderation.” Kissinger orders the group to secretly draw up plans for retaliation if Cuban troops go beyond Angola.
Document 4: Cuban Contingency Plan Summary, (ca. April 1976)
This document is a summary of the Cuban Contingency survey considering the possible U.S. reactions to continued Cuban and USSR “Angola style” intervention. The summary notes that the U.S. is already engaging in some efforts to dissuade further intervention through “public warnings, signals to the USSR, changes in our African policy and some measures designed to isolate Castro.” While any U.S. response will affect U.S.-Soviet relations, “It is easier to bring pressure on Cuba, as the closer and weaker partner in a tightly interwoven relationship, than on the Soviet Union.”
Document 5: Cuban Contingency Plan Paper 1, (ca. April 1976)
According to this lengthy contingency planning paper, the objective of these plans is to prevent a pattern in which Cuba and the USSR “arrogate to themselves the right to intervene with combat forces in local or regional conflicts.” The contingency plan outlines four courses of action that vary on a scale of seriousness for deterring continued Cuban intervention, including: political pressure, actions against the USSR, a scenario of actions (combining political, economic and military measures), and military steps. Any actions taken towards Cuba could spur greater tension with the USSR. “In short, confronting Cuba — the weaker partner — is an obvious step toward confronting the USSR.” Political measures are presented as the best option for dissuading Cuba because of the increased chances of a U.S.-Cuban “incident” stemming from military actions. Along with the possibility of an incident, this document notes that “one of Cuba’s main foreign policy objectives has been to normalize relations with the countries of this hemisphere.”
The document outlines the option for a quarantine. As Cuba is highly dependent on imports and foreign military equipment (from the USSR), especially by sea, the U.S. would be able to exacerbate Cuba’s greatest vulnerability. On that same theme, the paper points to the U.S. base at Guantanamo as the greatest vulnerability for a Cuban response to any U.S. military actions. Other military steps outlined in the plans include mining Cuban ports and conducting punitive strikes against selected targets.
Document 6: Cuban Contingency Plan Paper 2, (ca. April 1976)
This paper covers several categories of U.S. actions against Cuba: deterrence, pressure to cease and desist, interdiction of Cuban action under way, and retaliation. Any form of deterrence taken by the U.S. would have to be “predicated on a willingness to take some action if the deterrence failed.” However, and reiterated once again, any action taken to confront Cuba would also incite a confrontation with the USSR. The possible military measures presented include three forms of quarantine (selected war materiel, POL imports, maritime blockade excluding food and medicine), mining Cuban ports, and punitive airstrikes on selected targets.
The document notes two important ambiguities — the role of Cuban military involvement in Africa and the threshold to determine the U.S. response to a Cuban provocation. “In sum, there is a good chance the US will be confronted by an ambiguous situation, in which Cuban intervention is not clearly established.” As well, there is “no precise threshold” which would determine the U.S. response, except to state that the threshold would be low if Cuban action were directed against the US or its territories (Puerto Rico), higher in the Caribbean and Latin America, and highest in Africa.
The document states that “we should further make it clear that we are not reverting to the shenanigans of the early 1960’s” and that the U.S. is not violating any international agreements. While the Soviets in 1970 indicated that they regarded the 1962 U.S.-Soviet agreement as still in force, the “failure of the Cubans to permit the UN supervision renders the US pledge technically inoperative.”
Document 7: Kissinger Aide-Memoire to Cuba, January 11, 1975
This conciliatory message drafted by an aide to Kissinger, and approved by the Secretary of State, was given to the Cuban side at the first meeting between U.S. and Cuban representatives, which took place at a cafeteria in La Guardia airport. “We are meeting here to explore the possibilities for a more normal relationship between our two countries,” it begins. The objective is to “determine whether there exists an equal determination on both sides to settle the differences that exist between us.” While the ideological differences are wide, Kissinger expresses hope that such talks will “be useful in addressing concrete issues which it is in the interest of both countries to resolve.” As a gesture to the Cubans, the U.S. will permit Cuban diplomats (accredited to the UN) to travel from New York to Washington and may begin granting additional visas to Cubans for cultural, scientific and education meetings. For Kissinger, “no purpose is served in attempting to embargo ideas.”
Document 8: Memorandum for the Secretary, Meeting in New York with Cuban Representatives, January 11, 1975
In a briefing paper on the first secret meeting at La Guardia airport, Kissinger’s aide Lawrence Eagleburger reports on the tone and exchange of views. The Cubans stated they had no authority to negotiate at that time, but emphasized the importance of removing the embargo as a “sine qua non” for talks. Eagleburger reports that he wanted to “leave both Cubans with a clear understanding that while I had received their message, I was in no way prepared — even unofficially — to accept [removing the embargo] as a precondition to further talks.” Even though at times there was a seemingly difficult tone in the meeting, as Eagleburger explains, “the atmosphere of the meeting was extremely friendly.”
Document 9: Memorandum of Conversation, Pierre Hotel, U.S.-Cuba Meeting, July 9, 1975
This meeting marks the first formal negotiating session to explore normalized relations between the United States and Cuba. To break the ice, Eagleburger suggests that Kissinger is disposed to meet with the Cuban foreign minister during the upcoming UNGA meetings in September. Assistant Secretary of State William D. Rogers begins by explaining that Washington would support lifting multilateral sanctions at the OAS and that the United States would then begin to dismantle the trade embargo, piece by piece, in response to similar gestures from the Cubans. Over the course of the next three hours the U.S. and Cuban officials discuss a series of reciprocal and bilateral improvements of relations, with much of the meeting focused on the Cuban responses to the points raised by the U.S. side. Responding to the piece by piece approach of the U.S., the Cuban representatives reiterate that any precondition for talks remains the lifting of the embargo. “We cannot negotiate under the blockade,” Ramon Sánchez-Parodi argues; “until the embargo is lifted, Cuba and the United States cannot deal with each other as equals and consequently cannot negotiate.”
Palestinian ambassador to South Africa Abdul-Hafid Nofal said that Johannesburg university decided not to accept any student or deal with any academic or lecturer from Israel.
In a press release on Wednesday, Nofal said that the academic council of the university issued a decision prohibiting the admission of Israeli students to any of its collages and departments.
The decision also included a ban on hiring or hosting academics and lecturers who work for Israeli universities, according to the Palestinian ambassador.
He noted that Johannesburg university was the first one in South Africa to have taken a bold decision three years ago to boycott Israeli universities.
In a related context
What really winds up Israel is that this rejection comes from a famous scientist, and it is science that drives its economy, prestige and military strength.
Stephen Hawking‘s decision to boycott the Israeli president’s conference has gone viral. Over 100,000 Facebook shares of the Guardian report at last count. Whatever the subsequent fuss, Hawking’s letter is unequivocal. His refusal was made because of requests from Palestinian academics.
Witness the speed with which the pro-Israel lobby seized on Cambridge University’s initial false claim that he had withdrawn on health grounds to denounce the boycott movement, and their embarrassment when within a few hours the university shamefacedly corrected itself. Hawking also made it clear that if he had gone he would have used the occasion to criticise Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians.
While journalists named him “the poster boy of the academic boycott” and supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement celebrated, Ha’aretz, the most progressive of the Israeli press, drew attention to the inflammatory language used by the conference organisers, who described themselves as “outraged” rather than that they “regretted” Hawking’s decision.
That the world’s most famous scientist had recognised the justice of the Palestinian cause is potentially a turning point for the BDS campaign. And that his stand was approved by a majority of two to one in the Guardian poll that followed his announcement shows just how far public opinion has turned against Israel’s relentless land-grabbing and oppression.
Just like another Israel,
by enemies surrounded, lost in the veld,
but for another Canaan elected,
led forward by God’s plan.
- Reverend J.D. du Toit, Potgieter’s Trek (1909)
This past May, in a relatively banal column touting the necessity of an impossible “two-state solution” in the context of what he deemed to be U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s “specious comparison” of a potential Israeli future to South African apartheid, former Ha’aretz editor-in-chief David Landau wrote:
This resort to apartheid infuriates the majority of Israelis and Israel-lovers, including those in the peace camp, and one can readily understand why. Apartheid was based on racism; Israeli Jews are not racist. They may occupy, persecute and discriminate Palestinians, but they act out of misguided patriotism and a hundred years of bloody conflict. Not out of racism.
It would be a gross understatement to say that Landau’s formulation was fundamentally flawed.
First and foremost, there is a vast amount of evidence proving that Jewish Israeli society – built wholly upon the 19th century premise (and promise) of ethnic and religious superiority, exclusivity, and privilege enforced through ethnic cleansing, forced expulsion, displacement and dispossession, segregation, colonization and occupation – is somehow becoming even more openly racist. Poll after poll reveals increasingly bigoted trends.
The work of reporters like David Sheen and Max Blumenthal, for instance, routinely demonstrates a viciously militarized and unjust society masquerading as an embattled liberal democracy, acting with aggression and impunity. More recently, pogroms targeting migrants and refugees from Africa, incitement against Palestinians inside Israel, and explicit anti-miscegenation campaigns are becoming more frequent and more dangerous.
A country for “the white man”
In a mid-2012 interview, Israel’s Interior Minister Eli Yishai said that Africans, “along with the Palestinians, will bring a quick end to the Zionist dream,” since “[m]ost of those people arriving here are Muslims who think the country doesn’t belong to us, the white man.” Referring to refugees from Sudan and Eritrea as an “infiltrator threat,” he told the press he was eager to deport all African immigrants for, in his words, “the benefit of the Zionist dream.”
A chapter in a forthcoming book, detailing a three-year, anthropological study of the attitudes of typical, secular Israeli high school students conducted by Dr. Idan Yaron, is stark in its assessment of the cultural racism and hatred present in Israeli society. Reporter Ori Kashti notes that, based upon Yaron’s observations, “such hatred is a basic everyday element among youth, and a key component of their identity. Yaron portrays the hatred without rose-colored glasses or any attempt to present it as a sign of social ‘unity.’ What he observed is unfiltered hatred.”
Landau’s desperate defense against the apartheid label perfectly demonstrates the Liberal Zionist need to insist that Israel and its founding ideology are not inherently racist, a position less and less palatable to people who are actually paying attention.
His claim that because “Israeli Jews are not racist,” and therefore Israel can’t possibly be deemed a “apartheid” state, not only misunderstands the actual definition of apartheid, which isn’t merely race-based discrimination and oppression. It also mirrors precisely the arguments made by defenders of South African apartheid in opposition to calls for equal human and civil rights.
Zionism’s defenders mirror apartheid’s apologists
Beyond the shared “promised land” and “chosen people” rhetoric that has inspired both the Afrikaner and Zionist ideologies of racial, religious, and ethnic supremacy, so has that of land redemption through settler-colonialism and transplanting indigenous populations. As historian Donald Akenson has written, “The very spine of Afrikaner history (no less than the historical sense of the Hebrew scriptures upon which it is based) involves the winning of ‘the Land’ from alien, and indeed, evil forces.”
This past June, settler leader Dani Dayan argued in the New York Times that, as summarized by David Samel, “Israel retain control of ‘Judea and Samaria,’ that it continue to exercise military rule over millions of stateless Palestinians, but that it loosen its stranglehold by making concerted efforts to make Palestinians happier despite the permanent loss of freedom, equality in the land of their birth, and justice under international law.”
Dayan’s essay calls for what is essentially, in Samel’s words, “window dressing of reduced restrictions on Palestinians” in order to “keep the natives happy.” Just like his more “liberal” counterparts like David Landau on the west side of the Green Line, Dayan insists, “we settlers were never driven — except for fringe elements — by bigotry, hate or racism.”
This argument effectively relies on the disingenuous presumption that the actual victims of an exclusivist, 19th century European ideology – the colonized indigenous population – are merely incidental to the ideology itself. That is, as Landau wrote, “misguided patriotism and a hundred years of bloody conflict” are really to blame for the oppression, discrimination and violence against Palestinians, not the racist obligations of Zionism.
In October 1964, Foreign Affairs published the lengthy essay, “In Defense of Apartheid,” by Charles A. W. Manning. Not only did Manning accuse outside meddlers and finger-waggers of refusing to acknowledge South Africa’s right to exist as an apartheid state, he also justified its racist policies as “a heritage from a complicated past.”
Quoting approvingly from the 1954 Tomlinson Commission, Manning wrote that while “a continuation of the policy of integration would intensify racial friction and animosity… the only alternative is to promote the establishment of separate communities in their own separate territories where each will have the fullest opportunity for self-expression and development.”
Two states for two peoples.
In the face of international opprobrium, apartheid is “the philosophy of patriots,” Manning explained, “a remedial treatment for a state of things deriving from the past.” He added that apartheid is a matter of “nationalism, rather than racialism.”
It is easy for the foreigner to deride a nationalism which he does not share; but nowhere in human history has nationalism ever been destroyed by foreign scorn. Admittedly, Afrikaner nationalism is a form of collective selfishness; but to say this is simply to say that it is an authentic case of nationalism. For what is nationalism anywhere if not collective self-love? What underlies apartheid is at bottom an attitude not toward the black man, but toward the forefathers-and the future-of the Afrikaner people.
Deplore the white man’s collective self-concern, and you may equally well damn every other example of nationalism, white or black. It is absurd to assume that nationalism is nice, or nasty, according to its color.
Manning bemoaned that, as a result of misunderstanding the necessity and, yes, benevolence of apartheid, even South Africa’s best friends were beginning to abandon it. “Israel finds it necessary to ignore the analogy between South Africa’s predicament and her own,” he lamented.
In 2012, Israel’s High Court upheld the state’s explicitly discriminatory “Citizenship and Entry” law, which, as Ben White has explained, “places severe restrictions on the ability of Palestinian citizens of Israel to live with spouses from the Occupied Palestinian Territories, as well as from so-called ‘enemy states’ (defined as Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq).” The ruling stated that “Palestinians who gain Israeli citizenship through marriage pose a security threat.”
Writing in Al Jazeera, following the decision, White elaborated:
In the majority opinion, Justice Asher Grunis wrote that “human rights are not a prescription for national suicide”, a term often invoked by those worrying about what realising Palestinian rights would mean for Israel’s Jewish majority. This same phrase was invoked by the Interior Minister Eli Yishai, while coalition chair and Likud MK Ze’ev Elkin applauded the High Court judges for understanding, as he put it, that “human rights cannot jeopardize the State”.
A particularly instructive reaction came from Kadima MK Otniel Schneller, who said that the decision “articulates the rationale of separation between the (two) peoples and the need to maintain a Jewish majority and the (Jewish) character of the state”.
The notion that advocating and legislating in favor of “human rights” and equality would be the death knell of the Israeli state – “national suicide” – perfectly articulates that inherent injustice of Zionism; indeed, it is a self-indicting statement.
And, as has already been noted here and elsewhere, is yet one more example of how Israel’s apologists employ precisely the same logic, arguments and excuses – often literally the same words, verbatim – as the staunch defenders of the apartheid system in South Africa.
In April 1953, on the eve of assembly elections in South Africa, Prime Minister D.F. Malan warned that outside forces – including “the United Nations, Communist Russia… as well as a hostile press” – were “trying to force upon us equality, which must inevitably mean to white South Africa nothing less than national suicide.”
Malan added, “I consider the approaching election South Africa’s last chance to remain a white man’s country.”
Just months after Malan and his National Party won the election and consolidated power, South Africa’s London-based High Commissioner A.L. Geyer delivered a speech on August 19, 1953 entitled, “The Case for Apartheid,” before the city’s Rotary Club. He argued against the indigenous claims of the native black population (“South Africa is no more the original home of its black Africans, the Bantu, than it is of its white Africans”); that the apartheid state is the only “homeland” known to white South Africans (“the only independent white nation in all Africa… a nation which has created a highly developed modern state”); and that “South Africa is the only independent country in the world in which white people are outnumbered by black people.”
These claims echo common hasbara tropes: that Palestinians are an “invented people” and that the Arab majority in Palestine was due to immigration into Palestine rather than an ancient indigenous population with roots in that land for centuries, if not millennia; that Israel is the “only democracy in the Middle East,” a bright bastion of technology and Western modernism amidst a sea of darker-skinned barbarians.
In his speech, Geyer – who was national chairman of the South African Bureau of Racial Affairs, known, ironically, by the acronym “SABRA” – turns to the question of what the future South Africa will look like and sees “two possible lines of development: Apartheid or Partnership.” He explains:
Partnership means Cooperation of the individual citizens within a single community, irrespective of race… [It] demands that there shall be no discrimination whatsoever in trade and industry, in the professions and the Public Service. Therefore, whether a man is black or a white African, must according to this policy be as irrelevant as whether in London a man is a Scotsman or an Englishman. I take it: that Partnership must also aim at the eventual disappearance of all social segregation based on race.
Geyer, speaking on behalf of those intent on maintaining a stratified and discriminatory society, was obviously not a fan of this prospective outcome. Just as those who still push for an illusory “two-state solution” insist that a Jewish majority must be artificially engineered to exclude as many non-Jews as possible within the area controlled by Israel for a “Jewish and democratic” state to continue existing, Geyer too bristled at the idea of true self-determination wherein the result wasn’t already predetermined through gerrymandered demographics.
If the black population were to be given full voting rights, for instance, whites would no longer hold a monopoly on political power in the country. The inevitable result, Geyer warned, would be “black domination, in the sense that power must pass to the immense African majority.”
This sentiment was similarly articulated by Ehud Olmert, then the Israeli Prime Minister, in a 2007 interview with Ha’aretz. “If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories),” he said “then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished.”
Here’s how Geyer, in 1953, articulated his argument against such a horrifying future of democracy, equality, and justice:
Need I say more to show that this policy of Partnership could, in South Africa, only mean the eventual disappearance of the white South African nation? And will you be greatly surprised if I tell you that this white nation is not prepared to commit national suicide, not even by slow poisoning? The only alternative is a policy of apartheid, the policy of separate development.
Indeed, as Israeli Justice Grunis reminded us, “human rights are not a prescription for national suicide.” Geyer couldn’t have agreed more. Denying basic and fundamental rights, while promoting and implementing a policy of demographic segregation and geographic separation, was a matter of survival, Geyer argued – just like his Zionist successors do now.
“Apartheid is a policy of self-preservation,” Geyer said. “We make no apology for possessing that very natural urge. But it is more than that. It is an attempt at self-preservation in a manner that will enable the Bantu to develop fully as a separate people.” As the native black Africa population in South Africa was, Geyer noted, “still very immature,” efforts must be made “to develop the Bantu areas both agriculturally and industrially, with the object of making these areas in every sense the national home of the Bantu.”
Thirty years later, very little had actually changed.
In his infamous “Rubicon” speech, delivered in Durban on August 15, 1985, South African president P.W. Botha declared that “most leaders in their own right in South Africa and reasonable South Africans will not accept the principle of one-man-one-vote in a unitary system. That would lead to domination of one over the other and it would lead to chaos. Consequently, I reject it as a solution.”
Botha added, “I am not prepared to lead White South Africans and other minority groups on a road to abdication and suicide. Destroy White South Africa and our influence, and this country will drift into faction strife, chaos and poverty.”
In response, ANC president Oliver Tambo condemned Botha’s disingenuous statements about his apartheid regime’s commitment to “the protection of minorities” and “the just and equal treatment of all parts of South Africa.” Botha, he said, had instead committed to the continued “oppression of the overwhelming majority of our people” and “promised our people more brutal repression.”
Calling for increased resistance, through both armed struggle and the imposition of international sanctions, Tambo declared that all victims of apartheid were “ready to make any and all sacrifices to achieve justice and democracy based on the principle of one man, one vote in a unitary South Africa.”
That very same year, Raphael Israeli, a professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and future client of the neoconservative PR firm Benador Associates, published an essay promoting increased Zionist colonization of the West Bank and Gaza and then subsequent partition of what he called “Greater Palestine” (which includes Jordan) as part of a potential solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israeli argued that “the seemingly reasonable claim that the ‘state belongs to all its inhabitants'” anticipates the “nightmare of a bi-national state” in which “Israel is no longer a state of the Jews or a Jewish state.”
The essay, entitled “One Palestinian People and One Palestine,” was eventually included in a collection edited by Israeli himself entitled, “Dangers of a Palestinian State.”
In laying out his vision for a bizarre tripartite entity within “Greater Palestine,” with redefined parameters of sovereignty and self-determination in which a “Palestinian government” is established in Amman, Jordan, alongside the Hashemite monarchy, and Israeli military control over the West Bank continues until a final settlement on borders is agreed upon.
Israeli stresses that Jewish citizens of the Zionist state reject the implementation of a “one person, one vote” system throughout Israel and the territories it occupies because they would be “faced with an intractable dilemma: either a democratic and egalitarian Israel with rights for all, with the corollaries of a bi-national state immediately and an Arab-majority state in the future; or Jewish Israel where the Jews would maintain rights and rule and the Arabs would be devoid of both.”
“No Israeli government,” the renowned academic wrote, “could face that dilemma and resolve it in any acceptable way.”
For Zionism, as it was for apartheid, equality and human rights are non-starters. The fear that a “one person, one vote” system and of a “state for all its citizens” instills in Zionists is no different from that expressed by defenders of South African apartheid.
Defended by de Klerk
Following John Kerry’s “apartheid” comment earlier this year, F.W. de Klerk, the former South Africa prime minister who presided over the dismantling of the apartheid regime, came to Israel’s defense. “I think it’s unfair to call Israel an apartheid state,” he said.
This is the same de Klerk, however, who two years earlier reflected that, while “[i]n as much as it trampled human rights, [apartheid] was and remains morally indefensible,” he still defended what he said was the system’s “original concept of seeking to bring justice to all South Africans through the concept of nation states.”
De Klerk explained that the Bantustanization of South Africa was conceived as a way to “bring justice for black South Africans in a way which would not – that’s what I believed then – destroy the justice to which my people were entitled.” He added that it was “not repugnant” to believe that “ethnic entities with one culture, with one language, can be happy and can fulfill their democratic aspirations in [their] own state,” separate from one another.
After his comments sparked negative reactions, de Klerk’s spokesman walked back his comments. When “an artificial creation” like apartheid fell, the spokesman said, “you can go two ways – either by going your separate ways like in the Soviet Union or in what is being suggested for Israel and Palestine, or by trying to build a multicultural society.”
When “the first option” failed in South Africa, apartheid leaders “changed course,” he said, continuing, “It is not immoral for the Afrikaners to want to rule themselves any more than it is for the Israelis or the Scots to wish for the same things.”
Israel and its defenders go to great lengths to insist the “Jewish state” is not an apartheid one. Curious, then, that the only arguments they can muster in their favor are precisely those that were used to apologize for South Africa’s decades of indefensible discrimination and violence.
Fortaleza, Brazil – After some tough rounds of negotiations, BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) have created not only a new $100 billion Development Bank, but also a $100 billion foreign currency reserves pool.
The announcement was made after a plenary meet of the five BRICS heads of state in Fortaleza on Tuesday.
Shanghai finally won the bid to host the Bank while India will get the presidency of the Bank for the first six years. The Bank will have a rotating chair. The Bank will also have a regional office in Johannesburg, South Africa. All the five countries will have equal shareholding in the BRICS Bank.
The five Finance Ministers will constitute the Bank’s board which will be chaired by Brazil.
The Bank will initially be involved in infrastructure projects in the BRICS nations.
The authorized, dedicated and paid in capital will amount to $100 billion, $50 billion and $10 billion respectively.
The idea of the BRICS Bank was proposed by India during the 2012 Summit in New Delhi.
BRICS have long alleged that the IMF and World Bank impose belt-tightening policies in exchange for loans while giving them little say in deciding terms. Total trade between the countries is $6.14 trillion, or nearly 17 percent of the world’s total. The last decade saw the BRICS combined GDP grow more than 300 per cent, while that of the developed word grew 60 per cent.
Apart from the new development Bank, the group of five leading emerging economies also created a Contingency Reserve Arrangement on Tuesday.
BRICS central banks will keep their reserves in gold and foreign currencies.
China will fund $41 billion, Brazil, India and Russia $18 billion each and South Africa with $5 billion. The funds will be provided according to a multiple. China’s multiple is 0.5, which means that if needed, the country will get half of $41 billion. The multiple is 2 for South Africa and 1 for the rest.
BRICS Finance ministers or central banks’ governors will form a governing body to manage the CRA while it will be presided over by the BRICS President.
The BRICS CRA will not be open to outsiders.
Meanwhile, at the Summit in Fortaleza, Russian President Vladimir Putin said BRICS must form an energy alliance.
“We propose the establishment of the Energy Association of BRICS. Under this ‘umbrella’, a Fuel Reserve Bank and BRICS Energy Policy Institute could be set up,” Putin said on Tuesday.
With drones designed to contain ‘unruly crowds’ and ‘violent protests’, a South African company is bringing riot control to a whole new high-tech level. The unmanned aerial system is able to shoot pepper spray and non-lethal paintballs to mark offenders.
Desert Wolf, based in Pretoria, has begun selling its Skunk Riot Control Copter, a drone it says “is designed to control unruly crowds without endangering the lives of the protestors or the security staff.”
The UAS has four high-capacity gun barrels, capable of shooting up to 4,000 paintballs, pepper spray balls and solid plastic balls at rates of up to 80 balls per second. The company notes that the frequency should usually be between one and 20 balls per second, and that the high frequency of 80 “will only be used in an extreme ‘Life threatening situation’.”
The paintballs can be used to “mark” people in the crowd. “The operator has full control over each marker. He can select the RED paint marker and mark the protester who carries dangerous weapons, he can select the BLUE marker to mark the vandalising protestors,” the Desert Wolf website said.
The Skunk Copter can also employ strobe lights, “blinding lasers” and on-board speakers to send verbal warnings to a crowd, though New Zealand’s 3News notes that the Geneva Convention prohibits the use of loudspeakers and laser pointers in combat. The UAS also uses a thermal camera with night-vision capabilities and two full-HD video cameras to record events as they unfold. The eight powerful electric motors with 16-inch propellers allow the drone to lift up to 45 kilograms (99 pounds).
“Our aim is to assist in preventing another Marikana, we were there and it should never happen again,” the Desert Wolf website said. Marikana was a wildcat miners’ strike at a South African platinum mine in 2012, where 44 people were killed in the violent protests. According to autopsy reports, many of the deaths occurred when strikers were fleeing police.
The company sold 25 drones to a mining company after it unveiled the Skunk at the IFSEC security exhibition outside Johannesburg in May.
“We cannot disclose the customer, but I am allowed to say it will be used by an international mining house,” Desert Wolf’s managing director Hennie Kieser told BBC News. “We are also busy with a number of other customers who want to finalise their orders. Some [are] mines in South Africa, some security companies in South Africa and outside South Africa, some police units outside South Africa and a number of other industrial customers.”
The International Trade Union Confederation, which supports workers’ rights, told the BBC it was horrified by the new technology.
“This is a deeply disturbing and repugnant development and we are convinced that any reasonable government will move quickly to stop the deployment of advanced battlefield technology on workers or indeed the public involved in legitimate protests and demonstrations,” International Trade Union Confederation spokesman Tim Noonan said.
“We will be taking this up as a matter of urgency with the unions in the mining sector globally,” he added.
The International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC) campaign group is also speaking out against the use of the Shark Copter and similar technology, such as the CUPID drone that employs an 80,000-volt taser dart.
Noel Sharkey, chair of the ICRAC, told the BBC he is concerned that the deployment of such drones risks “creeping authoritarianism and the suppression of protest.”
“The use of remote-controlled drones to police or attack civilian individuals or groups with violent force is an offense against human dignity and a threat to democratic sovereignty,” Mark Gubrud, a physicist with the ICRAC, told 3News. “It is also a potential precursor to scenarios in which the robots would operate fully autonomously, choosing their own targets outside of human control.”
“These weapons cannot be sufficiently well controlled to avoid causing serious injury, especially to eyes,” Gubrud told CNet. “Many existing ‘non-lethal’ crowd-control weapons can and often do kill.”
The first batch of drones, which cost about 500,000 South African Rand ($46,000) apiece, will be deployed to South African mines later in June, according to the Verge. Strikes against three of the country’s top three platinum producers have been going on for the last five months, though a wage deal between the mining companies and unions is imminent, Reuters reported on Friday.
JOHANNESBURG – At every step, from mine to ring finger, South Africa’s diamond industry is benefitting from royalty and export tax structures riddled with loopholes, shortchanging citizens of one of the world’s premier sources of diamonds of tens of millions of dollars a year in revenue.
In 2011, South Africa produced diamonds whose uncut, or rough, value was $1.73 billion, or 12 percent of global production, according to the most recent government data available. Yet from 2010 to 2011, diamond-producing companies paid South Africa’s government just $11 million in mining royalties, according to the latest Tax Statistics report, produced by the South African Treasury and the South African Revenue Service.
A 100Reporters investigation of the diamond trade in South Africa has found that companies here pay a royalty rate far lower than that of other African states. Companies can also reduce or cancel out export taxes if they offer locally-mined diamonds to the state for purchase—even if the South African government never buys the gems, often due to formidably high prices.
In an apparent conflict of interest, De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd., the dominant player until 2010, ‘donates’ paid staff to the State Diamond Trader, charged with assessing diamonds offered by De Beers and other companies to the State for purchase. Provided 10 percent of domestic diamonds are offered, these companies may then receive export tax exemptions.
The main beneficiary of a system tilted in industry’s favor is De Beers, the sprawling multinational cartel that accounts for 35 percent of global rough diamond production, mainly from Africa. Until recently, De Beers dominated the South African diamond industry.
In 2011, De Beers accounted for $1.34 billion of South Africa’s production, and it remains the country’s primary diamond importer and exporter. The only other significant player, Petra Diamonds, with whom De Beers controls 97 percent of the local diamond industry, neither imports nor exports.
From 2005 to 2012, diamond exporters, primarily De Beers, appear to have downplayed the market value of their rough diamond exports by $3 billion, according to an analysis* of declarations in corporate filings under the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, the rough diamond tracking system used to keep conflict gems off the world market. The same undervalued gems were then sold at market prices around the world.
Lynette Gould, head of media relations for De Beers, declined to comment on the findings, or to address questions about the valuation, sales and import and export volumes of diamonds from South Africa. In an email, Gould wrote that the “values and volumes of De Beers production is . . . proprietary.”
A Broken System
To ensure that the government gets its share of revenues from the extraction of the country’s diamonds, the South African government relies on a national agency, the Government Diamond Valuator (G.D.V.), charged with determining the quality, and thus worth, of diamonds. But highly-placed sources in the diamond industry said that the G.D.V. seldom issues independent assessments of the country’s diamonds, opting instead to echo the valuations that De Beers puts forth in the company’s price lists.
“The gap between the industry’s presence in South Africa and its contributions to the country’s coffers has its roots in how diamonds are valued in South Africa and who controls the process,” said Claude Nobels, a former government diamond valuator.
“We had a plan to create a system, under the Nelson Mandela government, that would generate fair revenues for all parties involved,” Nobels told 100Reporters. But to date, “the diamond mining and trading industry has not truly benefitted South Africans. The loss to the state is billions of dollars,” he said.
Calculating diamond revenue losses to the South African budget is complicated by a dearth of data, particularly concerning how diamonds are valued. Valuation, in turn, drives royalties and export taxes, as well various forms of tax exemptions. For example, companies can receive credits for importing diamonds to be cut and polished in South Africa, which in turn may reduce or even cancel export taxes.
Until 2012, government reports on diamonds generally showed blank spaces rather than reveal value and volume of local and export sales. Reports for other commodities such as gold and platinum, however, teemed with data. Martin Kohler, Deputy Director of Statistics for the Department of Mineral Resources (D.M.R.), said the government withholds diamond data to protect big producers, the largest among them De Beers, unless the companies authorize the release of the information.
“De Beers, who had a predominant share of the diamond market in the past, authorised us to publish the aggregated production data only (but not sales data),” Kohler said in an email. According to Kohler, the recent sale of De Beers’s mines to other owners meant that, “the predominant position of De Beers has been diluted, and we are able to publish sales data with effect from January 2013 (but not before that date).”
Kohler said such information was strictly confidential “where one company has more than 75 percent market share, or where there are less than three producers of a mineral, unless all such producers have granted permission to publish the data.”
In November 2013, the company moved its sorting, valuing, and selling center to Gaborone, Botswana from London. According to a knowledgeable source, the South African government pressured De Beers to shift sales activities to Africa, specifically South Africa. De Beers caved in to the pressure but preferred Botswana as a partner. The company signed a ten-year agreement relocating global production sales to Gabarone. South Africa, wary of being seen as a domineering neighbor, acquiesced, the source said.
“Bricks in the Wall”
To understand South Africa’s diamond industry and the system of taxation that now governs it, it helps to look to the industry’s origins, which are synonymous with De Beers. Historically, the apartheid regime cultivated close relations with South Africa’s diamond industry. John Vorster, an apartheid-era prime minister, once described corporate support from De Beers and other large companies as “bricks in the walls of the regime’s continued existence.”
De Beers was formed in 1888 by colonialist Cecil Rhodes and acquired by Ernest Oppenheimer’s Anglo-American in the 1920s. By 1987, Anglo-American PLC controlled over 60 percent of the wealth listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, through an estimated 80 listed entities.
Despite its dominant role in the global diamond trade, De Beers has a history of running afoul of the law in important markets. In 2008, the European Union forced De Beers to end decades of price fixing with Russia’s Alrosa, another dominant diamond producer. At the time, De Beers controlled 50 percent of global rough diamond production.
Meanwhile, for more than 60 years, De Beers was banned from directly trading in the United States because of price fixing, despite the fact that the U.S. accounts for half the world’s diamond jewelry sales. In 2012, a settlement of $295 million was reached between the U.S. government and Anglo-American, which currently owns 85 percent of De Beers.
In South Africa, De Beers functioned in a protected niche even after the end of apartheid. For instance, it paid no export taxes on diamonds until 2007. According to Parliamentary documents, De Beers extracted the advantage in a twist worthy of a B-movie: for years, it held the government at bay by citing a smudged, unsigned document generated under the apartheid regime, just prior to the first democratic elections, that allegedly provided the company with an export tax exemption for 13 years.
Further, extractive industries in South Africa, including diamonds, did not pay royalties until 2010, with the adoption of the Mineral and Petroleum Resource Royalty Act.
According to the African Development Bank, South Africa was the “only major mining country on the continent without a royalty on mining” until the act’s passage. To address the gaps in the system, the act mandated that companies pay royalties at rates ranging from 0.5 to 7 percent. Royalties, calculated against criteria such as gross sales and the company’s net operating mining profits, are compensation to the nation for the permanent loss of non-renewable resources.Yet in crafting and applying the royalty rate, the diamond industry, rather than the South African government, has had the upper hand.
Take the rate itself, for example. Botswana and Namibia, major diamond-producing states, have royalty rates fixed at 10 percent. Yet because of its sliding royalty scale, South Africa averages an annual royalty rate of about 2 percent, which netted the government a total of $57.5 million from 2010 to 2012.
“The revenues from diamond royalties are very low – just 1.1 percent of sales for 2011,” said Mark Curtis, a U.K.-based development finance consultant for global non-governmental organizations. “If diamond companies paid the mid-royalty range of 3.5 percent, royalties would have amounted to $24.8 million more than the state actually received,” he said.
The explanatory draft of the act originally pegged royalties at 10 percent of the value of diamonds at the ‘mine-gate’ and at 8 percent after processing. But the government reduced the rate following pressure from the diamond industry. Created around a complex profit-based system, royalties are considered a “cost” by business, and depend on the value of minerals sold.
Though diamonds are valued by their clarity, the same cannot be said of South Africa’s diamond industry or its largest player, De Beers.
Unlike other South Africa diamond companies, De Beers does not allow the government to publish key information about the value of the diamonds it extracts. As a result, the state and the public cannot verify the fairness of the royalty De Beers ultimately pays.
In addition, to determine the value of a diamond, DeBeers and other companies use complex and closely-held pricing formulas, that they do not permit the government to review. De Beers’s pricing formula counts 12,000 categories.
According to one European valuator who worked closely with De Beers, the company’s price book was not a single listing, but rather an “elaborate system used to value diamonds for different purposes. By manipulating various categories with price points, they can increase or decrease the value of diamonds . . . These figures have nothing to do with fair market prices.”
Speaking on behalf of De Beers, Gould said, “I’m afraid the information on pricing is proprietary and therefore confidential.”
Other companies also maintain proprietary pricing systems. In an email, the Government Diamond Valuator confirmed that it did not “have access to the pricing policies of other diamond companies,” but asserted that the Government Diamond Valuator assessed “each parcel imported or exported to determine a value deemed to be fair market value.”
However, highly placed sources in the diamond industry, including a former government valuator, said the G.D.V.’s relies on random spot checks, and verifies only the size of diamonds, not their quality. One official close to the Department of Minerals and Resources confirmed that mispricing of diamonds was easily possible due to what was considered the “very subjective nature of pricing.”
In 2007, the South African government established an export tax of 5 percent on diamonds. But from 2009 to 2013, according to the latest Tax Statistics report, it yielded only $21.9 million to the national purse.
The state has pulled in little revenue due to exemptions built into the 2007 Diamond Export Levy Act. The exemptions were created ostensibly to encourage mining companies to make quality diamonds available to domestic industry, before shipping abroad. Companies that offer rough diamonds to local buyers for cutting and polishing, or beneficiation, through a government mechanism called the State Diamond Trader system can obtain breaks on export taxes.
Large companies like De Beers can get the exemption if they sell 40 percent of their South African rough diamonds to buyers in South Africa, and offer 10 percent to the State Diamond Trader.
The State Diamond Trader, however, often cannot afford to purchase rough diamonds because the price is too high. The trader’s annual reports disclose that purchasing diamonds for the local beneficiation industry was difficult due to, “unsustainable rises in prices at producer level” and “limited rough supply.”
De Beers further provides fully-paid staff to the trader to conduct diamond valuation, according to reports of the State Diamond Trader, which describe the presence of De Beers staff at the government agency as a “donation.”
In an email, De Beers said, “the arrangement between De Beers and the S.D.T. is subject to confidentiality and information relating to this arrangement cannot be provided without the S.D.T.’s consent.”
Futhi Zikalala, C.E.O. of the State Diamond Trader, told 100Reporters that each parcel was individually valued. “The process is legislated. We do valuations for the 10 percent offered to the S.D.T. It takes four or five days at a time, with 10 cycles a year.”
Asked whether she would comment on the apparent conflict of interest in the State Diamond Trader’s long-standing use of De Beers’s donated staff, she responded, “Actually, no. I do not understand why you are asking that question.”
A source close to the Department of Mineral Resources said that use of De Beers’s staff was for practical reasons: the S.D.T. was under-resourced and in need of diamond experts.
In October 2013, the Minister of Minerals Resources, Susan Shabangu, said that the State Diamond Trader system had failed and would require an overhaul.
Companies can also win export tax exemption if they import rough diamonds for local beneficiation. The higher the value of the imported gems, the greater the import credits a company can generate to ultimately offset their export taxes, creating a system vulnerable to price manipulation.
But the arrangement appears to have done little to nurture domestic cutting and polishing industry. According to figures cited in a South African parliamentary report (2013), South Africa currently hosts just 300 polishers, down from 3,000 in 2008, when 140,000 carats, maximum, were locally beneficiated (see sidebar).
The report cited diamond industry officials who stated that the local cutting and polishing industry was “in distress.” While the 2008 recession had impacted the global diamond industry everywhere, beneficiation industries elsewhere–including India, China and neighboring Botswana–bounced back, even expanding training facilities as well as cutting and polishing labor. In 2013, African Romance, a medium-sized state-backed beneficiation diamond company, was liquidated. Reasons cited included the absence of consistent quality diamond supplies.
Until 2013, De Beers exported gems from its mines in Namibia, Botswana and South Africa to London for valuation and then imported them into South Africa for sale to select buyers called sightholders. The sales values declared to sightholders are confidential, the company said.
South Africa boasts curiously high import prices for diamonds. While higher import values are said to correspond to the quality of select rough diamonds, South Africa’s import price appears significantly more than the price of diamonds imported to other countries such as Israel, arguably one of the world’s leading gem quality cutting and polishing centers.
For example, South Africa’s average import prices, at $544 in 2009 and $773 in 2010, were significantly higher than Israel’s at $165 and $156, respectively, according to certificates filed under the Kimberley Process.
In 2007, South Africa’s import price hit a staggering $1,706 per carat with a total import value of $2.1 billion. Yet only $670 million would be sold to De Beers’s pre-approved South Africa-based purchasers, known as Diamond Trading Company (D.T.C.) sightholders. Though these figures were published in a De Beers report, when asked for annual D.T.C. local sales, Gould responded that the information was proprietary.
According to a diamond specialist previously employed by the South African government, who spoke on condition of anonymity, import and exported diamonds were often “mispriced” by an average of 20 percent or more.
The other countries with similarly high import averages were those where De Beers also held a large presence, such as Namibia.
“South Africa’s import figures are improbable,” said a European Government Diamond Valuator. “These prices are exceptionally high as an average price.”
Most imported diamonds appear to be re-exported uncut and unpolished. While imports make up relatively small volume, or carats, they drastically increase the value of rough diamond exports. Subtracting the values and volume of imported diamonds shown on South Africa’s K.P. certificates from corresponding exports, the actual price per carat of rough diamonds being exported for the first time falls dramatically.
When asked about the anomalies in reported trade figures for diamonds under the Kimberley Process (K.P.) in South Africa, where De Beers is a dominant player, Gould responded, “The primary purpose of the K.P. process (or the issuing of the certificates at least) is for Governments to certify the origin of diamonds, not to keep track of the volume and value of diamonds imported or exported; that is the function of the relevant Regulator and G.D.V.”
The Government Diamond Valuator
While the Government Diamond Valuator is responsible for independently appraising gems and for monitoring the trade in diamonds, it remains questionable whether the South African valuator is able to provide an independent assessment. Such assessments are critical for the South African government, and public, to secure royalties and export taxes that reflect the true worth of the country’s diamond trade.
Former De Beers director Bertie Lincoln, in a rare quote under oath to a South African court 17 years ago, described the Government Diamond Valuator as “an auditor. The value is the price which is in the [De Beers] Price Book. So the government valuator has got no input into the value of a diamond.”
The Government Diamond Valuator did not respond to follow-up questions about the source of information informing the G.D.V.’s Price Book, the size of the agency or office, the amount of time available for valuation of imported and exported diamonds, and other questions.
“The significant differences between the dollar-per-carat for South African rough diamond imports and exports suggest possible price manipulation for the purposes of aggressive tax avoidance,” said public finance specialist, Len Verwey. Companies like De Beers, he stated, may indeed have a plausible explanation, in which case, “diamond companies as well as the Government Diamond Valuator should provide more transparent reporting to society on the factors that determine such valuations.”
Verwey stated that the Government Diamond Valuator’s credibility “in ensuring fair market value for diamond transactions is essential to its success.”
But critics of South Africa’s current royalty and taxation system are skeptical that the government will impose greater transparency on De Beers and other major producers.
“Inevitably,” stated one former De Beers employee, “the company will stonewall and the G.D.V. will run a mile” from transparency and accountability in the diamond valuation system.
He added, “No one will want this brought into the open.”
*The information on transfer pricing manipulation of diamonds comes from a report by Sharife and Sarah Bracking, published by the Leverhulme Center for the Study of Value, University of Manchester, and supported by a grant from Oxfam Great Britain.
Khadija Sharife is the lead Africa forensics researcher for Investigative Dashboard (ID) and a senior investigator for African Network of Centers for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR). She is the author of Tax Us If You Can: Africa.
LONDON/HARARE – More than 10 years after the chaotic and often violent farm invasions that accompanied Zimbabwe’s fast-track land reform programme, a new book argues that the redistribution programme has dramatically improved the lives of thousands of smallholder farmers and their families.
Starting in 2000, the government implemented an initiative to acquire 11 million hectares of white-owned farmland and redistribute it on a massive scale; the programme was often carried out in the form of farm invasions led by frustrated war veterans and supporters of President Robert Mugabe. By its conclusion, only 0.4 percent of farmland remained in the hands of white commercial farmers, and smallholder farmers dominated the agricultural sector.
The land reform programme was followed by years of drought, hyperinflation and an economic meltdown.
Thirteen years later and more than 8,000km away, it still raises strong emotions. At a recent event hosted by London’s Chatham House at which authors of the new book, Zimbabwe Takes Back Its Land, defended their work, the hall was packed, and a polite but persistent group of anti-Mugabe protesters occupied the pavement outside.
The book avoids passing judgement on the often violent manner in which the programme was executed. “This is not a book about what might have been, could have been, or should have been,” write authors Joseph Hanlon, Jeanette Manjengwa and Teresa Smart. Instead, it focuses on the results of a study they carried out in Mashonaland, a region of northern Zimbabwe covering three provinces, which found that many of the ‘fast-track’ farmers are faring much better than has been widely assumed.
Despite receiving very little government assistance, “we saw that these farmers had a real passion for farming. We found that farmers are making investments, building houses and barns… and buying farm implements,” said Manjengwa. “They are making the land their own, and they are becoming serious commercial farmers.”
When Samson Pfumo, a 52-year-old teacher from Harare, applied for and received a 60-hectare plot in Marondera District through the land redistribution programme, his expectations were low.
“My brother, a war veteran, encouraged me to apply to the government for a piece of land, but I was pessimistic because of the controversy that surrounded the land reform programme,” Pfumo told IRIN. “When I got an offer letter for the plot [in 2005], I only set up a small mud-and-dagga [hut] and hardly visited the farm.”
When the economy started improving in 2009, after the formation of a coalition government, Pfumo developed a keener interest in farming and started raising pigs. A year later, he had 60 pigs, some of which he sold to buy farming implements and to start growing maize for feed.
Today, he has five large pig pens housing more than 300 pigs, which he periodically slaughters for sale, with each pig fetching an average of US$150. He is also rearing about 500 chicks for sale and is considering venturing into tobacco farming after noting that many resettled farmers have been making good profits from the crop.
“I managed to buy a truck to ferry meat to my clients and a luxury car. My two sons are now studying at reputable universities in South Africa because I can afford it, thanks to the piggery project,” said Pfumo, who has left teaching and now lives on the farm with his wife and mother.
Manjengwa and her colleagues found that even the less ambitious among the new farmers surveyed, who mainly received smaller plots of five or six hectares, had greatly improved their standard of living. After being mostly poor, landless and unemployed prior to resettlement, virtually all of them were able to grow enough food for their families, and to sell the surplus to pay for their children’s school fees. But many were doing much better than that, producing significant quantities of maize, tobacco and other crops for sale, and building up capital in the form of livestock, farm buildings and equipment. They were also starting to employ labour.
The issue of labour is contentious because so many farm workers lost their jobs and their homes when the old white-owned farms were broken up; some are still homeless and unemployed. However, Hanlon, Manjengwa and Smart estimate that around 550,000 family members and 350,000 paid labourers now work full-time on land that previously employed 170,000 workers.
Charles Taffs, president of Zimbabwe’s Commercial Farmers’ Union, reminded those at the meeting at Chatham House that the workers now being hired are not the same ones who were driven off the commercial farms. He also asserted that the figures presented in the study did not add up.
Zimbabwe’s agricultural production experienced a dramatic drop following the upheavals of 2000, but according to the authors, it is now returning to the levels of the 1990s. This is despite the fact that many rely on a much more labour-intensive form of farming than that used by the earlier white commercial farmers.
The authors also point out that, although many of the white-owned commercial farms were efficient and productive, many others were struggling and had far more land than they could use; some of the most fertile land in the country had gone uncultivated. The new smallholders have brought much of that unused land into cultivation.
Manjengwa and her colleagues are not the first to suggest that Zimbabwe’s controversial land reform programme has achieved a number of positive results. A 10-year study of land reform in Masvingo Province, led by Ian Scoones from the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex and published in 2010, challenged a number of the “myths” surrounding fast-track land reform, finding that many of the 400 households sampled were employing labour and expanding their farming operations.
“The suggestion that the fast-track land reform programme was not an unmitigated disaster presents dilemmas about whether to accept this growing body of evidence and risk endorsing the methods used to achieve the asset transfer,” commented Admos Chimhowu of Manchester University’s Institute for Development Policy and Management, who pointed out that neighbouring South Africa has yet to find a solution to its land reform challenges.
The United States court system, whose value to anyone but the rich is rapidly disappearing, may yet play a role in the unfinished business of South African liberation. A federal district judge in Manhattan ruled that a group of South Africans can proceed with a suit against Ford Motor Company and IBM for doing business with the white regime during the time of apartheid. The plaintiffs include victims of torture and relatives of people killed by the racist government. They will have to prove, not only that the American corporations knew that their products would be used to oppress and torture South Africans, but that Ford and IBM’s purpose in doing business in the country was to “aid and abet” the white authorities.
That’s a very high burden of proof. However, it’s a better shot than the U.S. Supreme Court gave to a group of Nigerian refugees who tried to sue Shell Oil for helping the Nigerian military to systematically torture and kill environmentalists in the 1990s. The High Court’s interpretation of the relevant U.S. law was that the crimes committed in Nigeria didn’t have a close enough connection to the United States. However, the justices left the door open to other cases that might have a stronger connection to the U.S.
This week, federal judge Shira Scheindlin – the same judge who issued the sweeping ruling against New York City’s stop-and-frisk policies, last year – gave the South African plaintiffs permission to make their case. She also rejected Ford and IBM’s contention that multinational corporations are legally shielded from these kinds of lawsuits. Judge Scheindlin found no basis in law to argue that international laws against such things as genocide, slavery, war crimes and piracy “apply only to natural persons and not to corporations.”
The South African plaintiffs are part of the Khulumani Group, which was created as a response to the weaknesses of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up by the new Black government of South Africa. The Khulumani activists say the government failed to prosecute perpetrators from the old regime and paid out only paltry reparations to the victims. Most importantly, the Black government that came to power in 1994 and its reconciliation program provided no redress for the systematic social and economic crimes of apartheid. The Khulumani Group agreed with Frank Meintjies, a South African activist and intellectual who wrote that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission “failed to address the more collective loss of dignity, opportunities and systemic violence experienced by the oppressed.” He continued: “No hearings were held on land issues, on the education system, on the migrant labor system and on the role of companies that collaborated with, and made money from, the apartheid security system” – companies like Ford and IBM.
Thanks to the Khulumani Group’s lawsuit in Manhattan, two U.S.-based multinational corporations may finally have to explain why they gave aid and comfort to South African apartheid.
Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
The group of five major emerging national economies known as the BRICS has rejected the Western sanctions against Russia and the “hostile language” being directed at the country over the crisis in Ukraine.
“The escalation of hostile language, sanctions and counter-sanctions, and force does not contribute to a sustainable and peaceful solution, according to international law, including the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter,” foreign ministers of the BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – said in a statement issued on Monday.
The group agreed that the challenges that exist within the regions of the BRICS countries must be addressed within the framework of the United Nations.
“BRICS countries agreed that the challenges that exist within the regions of the BRICS countries must be addressed within the fold of the United Nations in a calm and level-headed manner,” the statement added.
The White House said earlier on Monday that US President Barack Obama and the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan decided to end Russia’s role in the G8 over the crisis in Ukraine and the status of Crimea.
Meanwhile, the G7 group of top economic powers has snubbed a planned meeting that Russian President Vladimir Putin was due to host in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi in June.
The G7 said they would hold a meeting in Brussels without Russia instead of the wider G8 summit, and threatened tougher sanctions against Russia.
Russia brushed off the Western threat to expel it from the G8 on the same day. The Autonomous Republic of Crimea declared independence from Ukraine on March 17 and formally applied to become part of Russia following a referendum a day earlier, in which nearly 97 percent of the participants voted in favor of the move.
On March 21, Putin signed into law the documents officially making Crimea part of the Russian territory. Putin said the move was carried out based on the international law.
There is an abundance of discourse over the means and methods that are pursued and/or justified by the Palestinians in their quest for independence and liberation. In the first part of this essay, I presented the legal, historical, and current context that forms the root of their current predicament. In this segment, I want to address the pros and cons of pursuing an exclusively non-armed struggle both by looking at the uniqueness of Palestinian circumstances and also by comparing it with the Indian National Liberation Movement, which is usually presented in Western narratives as almost exclusively non-violent, and successful, for having (ostensibly) been so.
A Brief History of Palestinian Non-Violent Resistance
Palestinians are continuously asked to not resist. The truth is that whether they resist violently or non-violently, Israeli violence continues unabated. Perhaps the scale, ugliness and the immediacy of the trauma are exaggerated in a massacre like we recently saw in Gaza, but the reality of purposeful eradication persists.
Examples of Palestinian non-violent resistance have existed since the very start of Jewish immigration into Palestine, but were never enough to attain freedom. Ultimately it is an imperative but frequently unstated precondition, that Palestinians accept a permanent subjugated and defeated status, preferably outside of their historic lands. It is otherwise known as the Yigal Allon Plan (1967), a policy actively pursued by even the “Dove” Shimon Peres and entailing the expulsion of Palestinians. The Allon plan formed the basis of Israel’s settlements/colonization. Frequently unacknowledged in mainstream Western coverage is that only after acceptance of defeat and eradication can Israel’s violence (aka “retaliation”) against Palestinians stop.
Unwilling to accept that, and choosing a policy of “sumoud”/steadfastness on the land, Palestinians pursue(d) non-violent resistance as a complimentary and grassroots approach against the occupation. Here are just a few examples of Palestinian non-violent resistance to Israeli aggression: in 1902, villages of al-Shajara, Misha, and Melhamiyya peacefully protested against the takeover of 7000 hectares of agricultural land by the first Zionist settlers; in 1936, Palestinians held a six-month industrial strike protesting the British Mandate’s refusal to grant them self-determination; in 1986, Hannah Siniora and Mubarak ‘Awad (who advocates the power of non-violence and is a self-described disciple of Gandhi; recently deported by Israel) drew a list of civic disobedience activities heavily reliant on boycotting Israeli products and economic self-sufficiency, helping launch the 1987-93 First Intifada; in 1993, the signing of the Oslo Accords and the pursuit of the “settlement” path; and currently, the holding of protests in the villages of Jayyous, Budrus, Bil’in, Ni’lin and Umm Salamonah against the apartheid wall (1: See here). Today, the tradition of non-violence is still practiced and promoted by some secular and independent Palestinian political leaders, like the Palestinian National Initiative led by Mustafa Barghouti. And even Hamas, often presented as the ultimate terrorist organization, upheld a six month ceasefire with Israel but was still subjected to a non-lifting of the suffocating siege of Gaza. (The ceasefire ended on November 4, 2008 when Israel conducted a targeted assassination that killed six Hamas members.)
Needless to say, these facts are rarely, if ever covered in mainstream accounts. Instead the focus is consistently on “terror” and “Israel’s right to defend itself,” ignoring the cumulative suffering of the occupation. As for Israel’s response, it consistently uses overwhelming force, including tear gas, rubber bullets, live ammunition, etc. against protesters and justifies this as “self-defense,” even when protecting illegal settlement colonies.
Which raises the question of the efficacy of non-violent resistance as the sole or primary means of achieving national liberation. While each national liberation struggle is unique, there are certain conditions and methods that may translate across people. One thing that many have in common is that non-violent resistance was not pursued exclusively. This was true of the African National Congress’ anti-apartheid Boycott and Divestment Movement in South Africa, which accompanied armed struggle. It was also true of the struggle for national liberation from British rule in India, a fact usually unmentioned in Western press, which tends to focus on Mahatma Gandhi’s satyagraha / non-violent path to resistance. In doing so, there is a grave disservice done to explaining how Indian independence came to be. There is also a convenient decontextualization of the struggle. And I use “convenient” intentionally, because Gandhi’s model is often held up (by Israel and the West) as the best and “most civilized” one that ought to be emulated by the oppressed Palestinians.
Gandhi in Context: Was the Indian National Liberation Struggle Entirely Non-Violent? The name Gandhi and non-violent resistance (satyagraha) are almost synonymous in most people’s minds. Satyagraha’s aim is not just to defeat the opponent, but aims to convert the adversary as well. And yet there are important nuances and definite progression in Gandhi’s approach to war and colonialism. On the subject of whether it is better to be a coward or to resist violently, he said: “I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence… I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonour…” (2: Eds. R. K. Rabhu & U. R. Rao, “Between Cowardice and Violence,” The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi, Ahemadabad, India, 1967, p. 3) He also said: “Though violence is not lawful, when it is offered in self-defence or for the defence of the defenseless, it is an act of bravery far better than cowardly submission. The latter befits neither man nor woman. Under violence, there are many stages and varieties of bravery. Every man must judge this for himself. No other person can or has the right. (3: Ibid, pp. 369-70) Applied to the Palestinian context, this would indicate that Palestinians have the duty to fight back against their own annihilation. However, he would have probably qualified that by saying that non-violence could cause the same changes with lower loss in life.
Historically, too Gandhi’s attitudes to war evolved. While still in South Africa, and in reaction to the Bambatha (Zulu) Rebellion of 1906 against a new British poll-tax, to which Britain responded by declaring a war, Gandhi encouraged the British to recruit Indians. He wanted to advance Indian claims as full citizens of the Empire. He also encouraged Indians to join the war through his columns in Indian Opinion.
Gandhi’s statecraft and thought did not happen in a vacuum. Likewise, India’s independence was not the work of only one man or one concept or one strategy. In fact, India’s nationalist feelings pre-existed Gandhi and the Congress Party, and evidence of it can be found as early as 1857. The first group to call for complete independence was the uncompromisingly secular Ghadar Party, organized in 1913 by Indian immigrants in California. (3: See here) The party actively pursued violent resistance and revolution (rejecting caste as well) and predictably, their actions were labeled as “terrorism” by Britain. Operating mainly in the first two decades of the 20th Century, the Ghadarites were successful in recruiting Indian soldiers in the British Army (in Hong Kong, Singapore, Rangoon, and Basra) and urging them to revolt.
As for Gandhi, once in India, he progressed to advocating non-violent resistance as a “weapon.” His political views on Indian independence evolved as well. Consider that at the age of 45, Gandhi still held some esteem for the British empire, calling it a “spiritual foundation,” in contrast to the views of most Indian revolutionaries. (4: See here) It wasn’t until after the Amritsar Massacre of civilians by British troops in the Punjab, that Gandhi advocated complete self-government maturing into independence (swaraj). In the intervening years there was a constant push and pull between Gandhi’s satyagraha policy and other political personalities and groups pursuing independence — not always non-violently.
A massive wave of revolutionary unrest swept India in 1919. British violent retaliation was unable to quell it. For example, there were more than 200 strikes in the first six months of 1920 alone. And yet in 1921, when Muslim leader Hasrat Mohani wrote a resolution asking for complete independence, Gandhi led the opposition against it and secured its rejection. Likewise, he supported Britain in WWI by trying to recruit Indians for the war effort. He himself volunteered twice for it, in present-day Iraq and in France, reasoning that he “owed” this to the empire in return for military protection. (5: Ibid) This led to deep divisions within the Congress party and also caused a dramatic drop in the popularity of Congress. Young revolutionaries like Rash Behari Bose, Shaheed Bhagat Singh, and revolutionary groups like the Workers and Peasant Party (Kirti Kisan Party) and militant unions like the Bombay textile workers were frequently at odds with Congress. Armed revolutionary groups that emerged in this period included the Hindustan Republican Army and the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army in northern India, as well as the “Revolt Groups” in Bengal (e.g. Chittagong group led by Surya Sen). Working class and union resistance continued throughout the 1930s. Eventually, it was in response to this revolutionary tide, that the Congress Party became less conservative and more supportive of the more militant attitude. As for Gandhi, he returned to advocating non-violent struggle and launched the salt satyagraha (1930-31) and the boycott campaigns. He has been criticized by some for not taking advantage of this revolutionary tide, thereby delaying independence.
Even at the time of World War II, Gandhi prevaricated on non-violence: first offering “non-violent moral support” to the British effort, and only later rescinding that decision when members of the Congress Party objected to the inclusion of India in the war effort without her consultation. In 1939-40, strikes and uprisings in the countryside swelled dramatically. Afterwards, the Congress party was compelled by grassroots pressure to launch the Quit India movement in August of 1942. It is important to note that this period in the struggle was one of extreme violence, mass arrests, and so forth. And yet, Quit India’s success in contributing to independence is controversial. Those arguing that it failed say that it fizzled out after five months (largely due to the army’s loyalty) and didn’t topple the Raj or bring it to the negotiating table for independence. In contrast, those who see it as a success, focus on how it sapped colonial energy and resources and on its success at mobilizing masses of people.(5: See here) Importantly, it inspired the final phase of the fight for independence, which witnessed increasingly militant peasant uprisings, sometimes joined by some of the landlords.
By the end of the war, Britain was indicating that power would be transferred to Indians. Aware that they couldn’t hold on any longer, they instead focused on partitioning India – bringing to mind Israel’s recent attempts to divide Gaza from the West Bank. In the meantime, Congress’ adherence to a policy of non-violence was entirely dependent on the British soldiers – as opposed to the armed Muslim League – and were unable to prevent partition. Thus, Congress’ inherent conservatism with regards to armed struggle hindered its goal of keeping India intact. They failed to build on numerous past instances of Hindu-Muslim cooperation against British colonialism. (Not all members of the Muslim league supported Muslim self-determination: Communist leader Ghaffar Ali opposed it vociferously.)
As is evident from the history recounted above, the agreeable and reasonable- sounding frame of the superiority of peaceful resistance sets up a false dichotomy. Presenting satyagraha as the exemplary approach to liberation is deceptive mainly because India’s independence was not achieved through non-violence alone. Moreover, its historical context and enemy are do not translate well across time and location. Finally, while inspirational and useful on many levels, it is not sufficient as sole guide or solution to achieving Palestinian liberation.
Options for Palestinian Resistance
Fundamentally, all theories of national liberation emanate from the ethical and legal principle that a people have the right to be free from alien occupation and exploitation. Resistance is their inalienable right. Insistence on non-violent resistance can sometimes be counterproductive – as happened with Gandhi’s insistence on it when confronting partition. Relying solely on non-violence subordinates the fundamental moral and ethical goal of independence to all sorts of conditionalities in order to achieve it in the “right” way.
All events so far indicate that non-violent resistance has been of modest benefit to Palestinians, with the important exceptions of tarnishing Israel’s image and moral claims. One could argue that Israel pursued the (sham) Oslo peace process precisely because the First Intifada rendered the population ungovernable. Unfortunately for the Palestinians, the Fateh leadership of the PLO squandered those achievements and marginalized popular input. Since then, pursuit of “settlement” and “negotiation” in the absence of a concomitant armed struggle has produced regressive and contradictory effects. Why is that?
One reason is the nature of the adversary. Zionist and Israeli ideology and statecraft are fundamentally violent, involving ethnic cleansing and relying first and foremost on war as an instrument in achieving Greater (Eretz) Israel. Unlike Great Britain, which had developed a liberal democratic tradition when Indians were struggling for their independence, Israel is essentially a highly militarized, ethnically-based and legally privileged society. It made no difference whatsoever how the Palestinians resisted, whether violently or not. As happened in other Western colonial historical experiences, like the US, Australia, or apartheid South Africa, the settlers use overwhelming force to convince the native populations of their ultimate defeat.
A second important difference is that after World War II, England could no longer hold onto its colonies. This is in sharp contrast to the US-superpower-backed-Israel, which maintains a pronounced military superiority over all its neighbors.
A third difference is that ever since the Jewish Land Agency started buying Palestinian lands from absentee landowners, and continuing after its war-time conquest of land, Israel stipulated that Palestinians cannot lease or be employed on purchased land. As a result, Palestinians are less important to the Israeli economy than India was to Britain. Their marginalization and de-development are intentional and serve to facilitate Israeli expropriation of valuable water, land, and other resources. Moreover, Israel receives significant financial and military “aid” from the United States which also reduces its need to integrate economically with its neighbors. The lack of economic dependency makes non-violent resistance much less effective as a weapon in fighting the occupation. Any economic levers the Palestinians may have had were further diminished (intentionally) via their PA leadership’s dependency on and distribution of foreign “aid.” This had the double effects of corrupting and ensuring the cooptation and cooperation of the leadership, as well as minimizing the size and role of an educated middle class that could lead the struggle – as was the case in India.
A fourth difference is the lack of a charismatic leader like Gandhi. Which brings us right back to the first reason, the nature of the opponent. Israel has a long history of assassinating and / or deporting any potential leader who is incorruptible or charismatic or effective. (6: For a partial list of Palestinian leaders assassinated by Mossad, see here.)
In the final analysis, non-violence is still a worthy means of resistance. Significantly, it enhances growing international perceptions of the brutality of the occupation and builds on the legal consensus and framework of the legitimacy of Palestinian rights, as recurrently affirmed through UN General Assembly annual resolutions and the most recent ruling against the apartheid wall at the International Court of Justice. Non-violent resistance, by being more accessible to ordinary people, additionally creates more sustainable and widespread networks of resistance. At a minimum, it establishes a network of interdependence for the newly liberated society to build on.
But it is not enough. And arguably, it has never been enough, especially in the absence of a more just as opposed to legalistic international relations.
- Dina Jadallah-Taschler is an Arab-American of Palestinian and Egyptian descent, a political science graduate, an artist and a writer. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thousands of platinum miners in South Africa have embarked on a strike demanding their entry-level pay be doubled to nearly 1,200 dollars a month.
Workers at Impala Platinum, Anglo American Platinum, and Lonmin mines embarked on an indefinite strike on Thursday, crippling output at the world’s three biggest platinum producers.
Striking miners chanted slogans as they marched to Wonderkop Stadium near the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana.
The protest, organized by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, is the biggest industrial action in South Africa’s platinum sector since 2012, when police shot and killed 34 striking miners in Marikana.
South Africa’s mining companies have been rejecting calls for a wage increase, pointing to weaker profits and rising costs.
South Africa’s mining sector has been paralyzed by a series of wildcat strikes over miners’ low pay since August, 2012. The strikes have also damaged South Africa’s reputation as an investment destination.
The three top platinum companies operating in the African country say strikes cost the industry a total loss of output amounting to about USD 1.2 billion in 2012 and 2013.
South Africa possesses nearly 80 percent of the world’s known platinum reserves. The country’s mining sector directly employs around 500,000 people and accounts for nearly one-fifth of the country’s gross domestic product.
Human rights groups, trade unions and several other major civil society organisations have called for the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme to exclude Israel. The international diamond regulatory body is meeting in South Africa and is chaired currently by Pretoria’s former ambassador to Washington, Mr Welile Nhlapo.
Organisations including South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers (NUM); the country’s largest trade union federation, COSATU; the SACP; YCL; South African Students Congress (SASCO); Congress of South African Students (COSAS), the Coalition for a Free Palestine and BDS South Africa are behind the call.
A statement issued at a press conference held at COSATU’s Head Office in Johannesburg pointed out that the KPCS presents an opportunity for South African officials to show “moral vision and political leadership” by excluding Israel. “The billions of dollars’ worth of diamonds exported via Israel are,” said the coalition, “a major source of revenue for the Israeli military, which stands accused of war crimes.” Such a move would have local benefits too, it added, by “bringing home” many lucrative diamond processing jobs to South Africa. Income from diamond processing carried out in Israel also, alleges the coalition, helps to develop military hardware such as pilotless drones.
Speaking to Business Day newspaper, Southern Africa Resource Watch director Claude Kabemba commented that most diamond-linked conflicts had been resolved, and the Kimberley Process now had to expand its mandate and monitor the entire diamond chain: “The Kimberley Process has played an important role over the past decade in resolving conflicts linked to the diamond trade but there is no doubt that it has to be reformed… [by] expanding the definition of conflict to include human rights abuses linked to diamond extraction perpetrated by governments and companies; and expanding downstream monitoring so that the process covers not just the rough diamond trade but also the international movement and polishing of diamonds.”
The statement from South Africa’s civil society groups called on the Kimberley Process to:
- Exclude Israel from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) due to Israel’s human rights abuses against the indigenous Palestinians;
- Expand the Kimberley Process to include cut and polished diamonds in addition to rough diamonds; and
- End all exports of rough diamonds to Israel immediately.
A member of South Africa’s Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign said that a boycott of Israeli “blood diamonds”, and specifically the banning of diamond-polishing in the country, is a win-win solution for all. “Consumers will have a clear conscience that their diamonds are not funding, assisting or in any way involved with the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine,” insisted Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, “and more jobs will be created locally for our people by bringing this diamond processing back home instead of it being done in Israel.” While opponents of the Israel boycott often try to claim that the boycott will harm South Africans, added Ndlozi, this is a case where it only benefits them.
The Kimberley Process was launched 10 years ago to address the trade in conflict diamonds and to ensure that diamond purchases were not financing violence by rebel movements seeking to undermine legitimate governments. It has 54 participants, representing 90 countries, and its members account for about 99.8 per cent of the global production of rough diamonds. The KPCS is coming under increasing pressure to exclude Israel due to the Israeli government’s involvement in human rights abuses against the Palestinians.