Tuesday 24 April 2012

Updates ; CIW - Fighting Slavery in Florida

Immokalee is an area of Florida, known for producing a large proportion of the US`s fresh foodstuffs, particularly tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. It is home to many migrant and immigrant workers who work the fields where this produce is grown.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (formerly the Southwest Florida Farmworker Project) is a non-profit community-based organisation that campaigns on conditions and pay, as well as such issues as forced labour.

It is noted for the scale of it`s work, which has included a community radio station and a mobile Florida Modern Day Slavery Museum, and for it`s multi-agency approach, working with NGOs, law enforcement agencies, labour inspectors and with local communities.

It has won many awards, and now has good working relations with many law enforcement bodies, notably the FBI, Florida Dept of Law Enforcement and North Carolina State Troopers. It is particularly involved in working with these agencies against people trafficking and has assisted in a number of federal prosecutions.

In 2010 it reached a landmark agreement with an employer`s body, the Florida Tomato Grower`s Exchange, and it is interesting to note that both organisations saw this as the start of a new approach.

FTGE President Reggie Brown commented "this is a work in progress and this new partnership will get stronger over time...we can be certain that labour complaints will continue to arise...but it is how we deal with these complaints that will serve to demonstrate that we are serious.". CIW representative Lucas Benitez felt that the two groups were "coming together in partnership to turn the page on the conflict and stagnation of the past" to "forge a new and stronger industry."

The CIW website can be found at www.ciw-online.org .

Naturally, the CIW has a number of allies, and a few of these can be found at these sites ; www.sfalliance.org , www.interfaithact.org , www.justharvestusa.org , www.allianceforfairfood.org .

Thursday 19 April 2012

In Print and Online ; South Africa

A recent article in Global magazine looked at the growing clamour for nationalisation of South Africa`s mining industry, particularly among young members of the African National Congress` Youth League.

Many argue that direct control of industry is necessary to address issues of inequality, unemployment and poverty.

What may be surprising to some are the very different positions taken by many of those who might once have supported such a policy.

The South African Communist Party argues for greater state intervention in the economy, as one might expect, but believes this should proceed on a pragmatic, case-by-case basis and actually advocates a mix of state and private ownership in the mining sector, a position endorsed by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (www.cosatu.org.za).

Senzeni Zokwana, President of South Africa`s National Union of Mineworkers, favours public-private partnerships in the mining sector, similar to those existing in the diamond mining industry in Botsawna and Namibia. 

Taking a wider view, Cyril Ramaphosa, a respected South African businessman with a background in the anti-apartheid struggle and in the NUM and COSATU,  believes that calls for nationalisation arise in part from "frustration" with "our collective inability to sufficiently transform our economy."

Certainly advocates of nationalisation need to ask themselves some hard questions - the assumption that their preferred option would automatically address issues of poverty and social exclusion does seem a little glib, to say the least. At the same time, as Mr Ramaphosa indicates, the ANC and it`s allies do need to address the very real problems facing South African society. 

For the full article, see William Gumede - Out of Africa : `Nationalise the Mines` - Will the ANC Do IT ? at ww.global-briefing.org .

William Gumede is the author of Thabo Mbeki : The Battle for the Soul of the ANC.

Also relevant is an article by a notable ANC/SACP stalwart, Deputy Transport Minister Jeremy Cronin, Should We Nationalise the Mines ? Originally written in 2009, this well-reasoned, and, I think, persuasive article has been reproduced widely on the net, particularly recently.   

Wednesday 4 April 2012

In Print and Online ; IBSA and BRICS

Having recently touched on the roles of IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) on the international scene, it may be worth returning to the subject briefly.

I`m no expert on these matters, and found this article quite handy ;

Brahma Chellaney - BRICS in the Wall, 29 March 2012 in The Hindustan Times ( www.hindustantimes.com ). The writer reflects on the BRICS annual summit in New Delhi. Striking a balance, he considers the potential of BRICS but also looks at  those factors which may prevent it realising that potential.

IBSA has been overshadowed by the higher profile of BRICS but maybe it should not be underestimated. One has more of a sense that the three participant nations are all coming from a similar place (all democracies, all multi-cultural) and it may be that they have more in common with each other than they two with the other two BRICS participants.

Anyone interested in IBSA may wish to visit www.ibsa-trilateral.org and/or www.ibsanews.com.  The latter also carries some useful recent articles on BRICS by Ravi Kanth Devarakonda and Louise Redvers.

I`m aiming to keep these postings fairly short and accessible, so for that reason I`m not going into too much detail. Anyone looking for more on the subject may want to visit the Inter Press Service website at www.ips.org .

In Print and Online ; Wonderwerk Cave

One for the history buffs among you  ;

The University of Toronto has issued a press release concerning recent finds in South Africa ;

"An international team...has identified the earliest known evidence of the use of fire by human ancestors. Microscopic traces of wood ash, alongside animal bones and stone tools, were found in a layer dated to one million years ago at the Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa."

for the full text of the press release, see

`South Africa : Scientists Find Evidence That Human Ancestors Used Fire One Million Years Ago`, 2 April 2012 at http://allafrica.com/stories/201204031197.html .

Monday 2 April 2012

Quotation Station

Children learn more from what you are than what you teach.

W E B Du Bois

In Print and On Line ; IBSA at the WTO

Much attention has been paid recently to the growth of the economies of the IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) groupings of nations.

Many economists believe that the growth of the economies of the  IBSA and BRICS countries will shift economic power towards the so-called Third World.

An early test of strength came recently at the World Trade Organisation negotiations in Geneva (March 2012), where trade envoys of Brazil, South Africa and India accused the industrialised nations of risking undermining the Doha Round ( The Doha Development Agenda or Doha Round is a system adopted between WTO member states in 2001 to correct historical imbalances and enable poorer countries to integrate. During the `80s and `90s, the WTO was widely criticised as a means by which industrialised nations dominated the less powerful and it`s fair to say those tensions still surface today.)

The IBSA group accepts the need to "reinvigorate" the Doha Round and to "explore new approaches", but stipulate that this must be within the existing framework of "multilateralism, inclusiveness and full transparency."

Find out more at ;

Ravi Kanth Devarakonda - `Tale of Two Approaches ; The WTO Torn Asunder ?`at Inter Press Service (Africa), 24 March 2012 ( www.ips.org/africa ).

 Despite the rather dramatic headline, the article is actually well thought-out and expressed in a tolerably readable fashion, given the rather complicated subject matter.

Updates ; The Freedom Project

American media types CNN have launched their own anti-slavery intiative, The Freedom Project.

For more information, visit them at ;



No doubt there will be ultra-leftists and other ideological purists who decry the involvement of CNN, who I assume to be a privately-owned media multi-national, in this campaign. Myself, I know very little about the company and to be honest I`m not really interested in them one way or the other, but I do welcome the high profile they can give to this issue.  A quick skim through their web pages shows they have been in touch with the International Labour Organisation, Anti-Slavery and others, and as far as I`m concerned that`s all to the good.

There are of course many organisations involved in this issue ; Anti Slavery, Amnesty International, the ILO and Human Rights Watch spring to mind. All I would suggest to anyone interested in these matters is that they check out a few and see which one you personally think deserves support.