From Volume 37, Issue 36 of EIR Online, Published Sept 17, 2010
Africa News Digest

Strikes in South Africa Threaten Entire Region

Sept. 6 (EIRNS)—The 20-day strike by public-sector workers in South Africa was halted for three weeks today by trade union leaders, so that members can consider the government's latest offer. The leaders of the 1.3 million-member public-sector workers union have not accepted the offer.

As the global economic crisis deepens, there has been a wave of strikes or threats of strikes in South Africa, Africa's largest economy, as the cost of living is growing faster than earnings for those fortunate enough to have a job. Although some miners' strikes have been settled, others have not, and about 1.3 million civil servants have been on strike for nearly three weeks, leading to the closing of schools and crippling of hospitals.

The government says that there is no money available beyond what has been put forward in the latest offer, and that something else would have to be cut from the budget if it offered more. The latest offer still lags behind price increases, according to reports. The government earlier this year dismantled its project to develop its Pebble Bed modular fourth generation nuclear reactor, saying that it was too expensive. South Africa reportedly had a ten-year advantage over other nations working on this technology.

The strike wave, which has shut down some tire and automobile manufacturing concerns, threatens the ability of the government to survive. President Jacob Zuma was elected with the support of organized labor. Since South Africa plays a critical role in the economies of southern Africa, if the ruling party, the African National Congress, loses its traditional alliance with labor by refusing to budge in its battle with the civil servants, all southern Africa would be destabilized as a result. The next most vulnerable would be Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Food Price Increases Threaten New Unrest

Sept. 7 (EIRNS)—The Mozambique government announced today that it was rescinding the announced price increases for bread, electricity, and water. The decision to raise bread prices by 30%, along with substantial increases in electricity and water prices, led to riots in Maputo, the capital, Sept. 1-3 which resulted in 10 deaths, according to reports, as troops in some cases resorted to live ammunition.

Sharp recent increases in wheat and other food prices could trigger a repeat of the 2007-08 unrest across Africa. Since African countries are to a large degree dependent on food imports, because the globalization policies imposed by the ruling IMF monetary system prevent the development of infrastructure and industry, they are forced to rely on exporting cash crops, as opposed to prioritizing food production for the domestic market. Prices of cereals, sugar, and meat are up over 15% since last year. Mozambique has recently tacked on a more than 10% increase of water and electricity costs.

On Sept. 2, the government announced that the price hikes would be irreversible. Protesters reportedly had intended to continue the demonstrations.

In addition to recently proposed investments of $13 billion from China, Mozambique has made agreements to develop hydroelectric generating capacity, electrical transmission lines, and a huge mining development. Despite these investment prospects, Mozambique is still extremely vulnerable to destabilization because of the imposed rules of globalization, which prevent the necessary development of infrastructure to advance agricultural production for local consumption. Diverting land use that could potentially produce food, to cash-crop biofuel production, had left the African countries which have been sucked into these ventures more dependent on food imports. The crisis calls into question Mozambique's recovery from the effects of a prolonged civil war.

With or without investment prospects, the globalized system has made African countries extremely vulnerable to food price increases resulting from speculation.

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