Tuesday 1 December 2015


Mouseland – A political fable first told by Clarence Gillis and later made famous by Tommy Douglas in Canada in 1944 has been paraphrased.

The Moral of the Story 

As leader of the CCF amd later the NDP, Douglas used this story many times to show in a humorous way how Canadians fail to recognize that neither of the two major parties were truly interested in what mattered to ordinary citizens; yet Canadians continued to vote for them.

The story cleverly deals with the false assumption by some people that CCF'ers (NDP'ers) are Communists. The ending shows Tommy Douglas has faith that someday socialism, which recognizes human rights and dignity, will win over capitalism and the mere pursuit of wealth and power.

The parallels with the 2014 election in South Africa are self-evident.

Mouseland (paraphrase)

This is a story about a place called Mouseland…

Mouseland was a place where all the little mice lived and played, were born and died. And they lived much the same as you and I do.

They even had a Parliament. And every five years they had an election. They used to walk to the polls and cast their ballots. Some of them even got a ride to the polls. (And got a ride for the next five years afterwards too!) They were just like you and me. And every time on election day all the little mice used to go to the ballot box and they used to elect a government. A government made up of big, fat, white cats.

Now if you think it strange that mice should elect a government made up of cats, you just look at the history of South Africa and maybe you'll see that they aren't the only ones who get confused about who to elect.

Now I'm not saying anything against the cats. They were nice fellows. They conducted their government with dignity. They passed good laws - that is, laws that were good for cats. But the laws that were good for cats weren't very good for mice. One of the laws said that mouseholes had to be big enough so a cat could get his paw in. Another law said that mice could only travel at certain speeds - so that a cat could get his breakfast without too much effort.

All the laws were good laws. For cats. But, oh, they were hard on the mice. And life was getting harder and harder. And when the mice couldn't put up with it any more, they decided something had to be done about it. So they went en masse to the polls. They voted the white cats out. They voted in the black cats.

Now the black fat cats had put up a terrific campaign. They said: "All that Mouseland needs is more vision." They said: "The trouble with Mouseland is those round mouseholes we all use. If you vote us in we'll establish square mouseholes." And they did. And the square mouseholes were twice as big as the round mouseholes, and now the cat could get both his paws in. And life was tougher than ever.

And when they couldn't take that anymore, they tried a government half black cats and half white cats. And they called that a ruling alliance.

You see, my friends, the trouble wasn't with the colour of the cat. The trouble was that they were cats. And because they were cats, they naturally looked after cats instead of mice.

Presently there came along one little mouse who had an idea. My friends, watch out for that plump little fellow with an idea. And he said to the other mice, "Look fellows, why do we keep on electing a government made up of cats? Why don't we elect a government made up of mice?" "Oh," they said, "he's a Communist.  He hasn’t paid his taxes - lock him up!" So they put him in jail.

But I want to remind you: that you can lock up a mouse and you can lock up a man - but you can't lock up an idea.

Monday 30 November 2015

The Changing of the Guard

Colour me black

Rachel Dolezal, the former NAACP leader who resigned as president of the organization’s Spokane chapter after being accused of lying about her race, says she identifies as an African-American.  “I identify as black,” Dolezal said in an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer on the “Today” show Tuesday.

Dolezal — who has four adopted black step-siblings, was married to a black man and has two black children — attended the historically black Howard University, graduating in 2002.

Colour me pink

Olympian Bruce Jenner, 65, has undergone gender transformation.  He has had surgery to change his male genitalia into that of a woman.  He/she has changed his/her name to Caitlin.

Colour me Left

“Caitlyn” is a woman, and Dolezal is a fraud, and that’s that. Or, as the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart put it — in much-quoted Twitterspeak: “FTLOG, Caitlyn Jenner is not “pretending” to be a woman. Move along.”

Colour me Right

Dolezal’s story isn’t comparable to Jenner’s.  Dolezal’s is, in fact, more credible. Culturally and biologically, she’s blacker than Bruce Jenner is female.  Dolezal is, for now, doubling down on the identity she’s adopted for much of her life.

This is entirely consistent with long-held Leftist notions of race as entirely a social construct, a product of longstanding efforts to draw distinctions between fellow human beings.

Youth Day 2015

I am not sure whether Africa or America is crazier these days?!  Eish.

The past two weeks I have been worshipping in a church located in the same street where I am buying a house.  The community is predominantly black, which suits me fine.  The church is all black – I am the ONLY white person there, among hundreds.  Youth also outnumber their elders by at least 3-to-1.  I like to see young people going to church.  And to its credit, I have been made to feel totally welcome.

Recently I faced a personal crisis, in a relationship with a Zionist.  So I went on a short pilgrimage to Moria, ZCC headquarters, to ask for an “intervention”.  I was welcomed with esteem and can report a professional and prophetic reception.  I was impressed, and I can testify to seeing significant changes in the gridlock I was sensing when I went up there.  Why not?  Because I am not a member?!  They didn’t mind at all.  I remember Jesus teaching that when God sends the rain, He makes it fall on both the righteous and the unrighteous.

A new ANC policy on Youth has just been released.  Its theme is “We don’t want a hand out, we want a hand up.”  It’s a familiar one-liner.  It highlights the generation gap in employment, and the way forward.  Around 70% of the unemployed are youth and around 60% of the population is under 35 as well.  This does not bode well for the future.  Most of those with jobs are middle age.  For example over 80% of COSATU members are over 35.  And unions exist to defend their members, not for the benefit of non-members…

Nonprofits exist to champion their target groups.  In C4L’s case, that is Youth.  In previous C4L bulletins, we have promoted a switch from BEE (black economic empowerment) to YEE (youth economic empowerment). 

I have been asking myself today… if I had a Time Machine, would I want to make myself younger, to upstage both Caitlin Jenner and Rachel Dolezal? 

I don’t think so.  First of all you have a continent that 100 000 people have risked their lives to escape in a veritable flotilla across the Mediterranean.  They are crossing the wealth gap.

Then you have an attitudinal gap, not just a generation gap in employment, according to research conducted by Foshizi, reported this week in The Sowetan:

“If they cannot wear tattoos or clothes the way they want, they quit.

“Younger millenials can quit their jobs without handing in any notice because they have a back-up plan such as parents or elder working siblings whereas the older ones cannot because they have responsibilities.

“Young people cannot conduct themselves during job interviews.  They dress inappropriately or cannot answer questions in a correct manner.”

In previous C4L bulletins, we have promoted the need for more younger parliamentarians.  For that reason alone – without wading into politics – we were happy to see the election of 25 EFF members to Parliament.  They are certainly making themselves felt in that institution, as we predicted that having more younger faces there would.  They are shaking things up.

We are also delighted to see a 34-year old elected to the top leadership post of the loyal opposition party.  Even more so, because he is married to a white...  Now wouldn’t that be a new look for the country’s sagging image?!

But the fact remains that the disproportionately young population is creating headaches when it comes to attitudes.  Sure they think differently about race relations and what they want most is Opportunity not Welfare.  But they live in a society where 16 million people receive some kind of direct government support raised from taxing the 6 million people in the work force.  Those proportions are not sustainable, largely because they breed attitudes of entitlement and dependency.  With ownership, youth need to bear more responsibility. 

As the French say: “If you want to change others, first change yourselves.”  And you won’t change behaviours until you change attitudes.

Reluctance to admit root causes of SA’s poverty trap

The Chinese say “May you live in interesting times”.  Well Alberta is getting very interesting with the revenge of Tommy Douglas this week!  And today, a 34-year old black pastor was elected leader of the official Opposition party here, which should make the plot much more interesting.  And tomorrow, Numsa squares off in the High Court with Cosatu, trying force a Congress in July so that members can make decisions instead of the top brass.  You can feel the tectonic plates shifting.  Could a Maimane-Malema-Vavi youth-led coalition be on the cards?  Ask an Albertan…  change has a way of creeping up on us!

Some of you have encouraged me to look for a wider audience but articles the one below do not seem to get through all the editorial filters.  Thanks for your feedback.  Enjoy this piece…

This is my response to Shawn Hagedorn’s astute article in Business Day.  He argues that policies in SA are so bent on fairness and affirmative action that they are actually a “suicidal obsession”.  He cites the case of China, where “the volume of pain unleashed” by Mao’s policies gave way to successors who were “humble and wise enough to import expertise and then diffuse the insights”.  As he put it: “After 30 years of inducing poverty, China’s leadership accepted the need for broad policy changes”.  He manages to avoid using ideological terms like “Left” or “communist”.  He only mentions leaders and countries.

He presents a convincing case that SA is in a similar syndrome of inducing poverty by detrimental policies, and that these are the root of its economic malaise – not just the politics of apartheid as one hears so often from those who led us out of that Egypt - and into a desert of poverty.  According to Hagedorn, the promised land is industrialization and export, the second wave of which in East Asia over the past century followed the first wave - a Western model that began in the UK.

I think this analysis is useful, not as an ideological clincher, but in terms of illuminating a conundrum.  On the one hand, so-called “capitalist” economics are what drive industrialization – if that is really synonymous with development or success.  This does seem to be the “solution”, historically speaking, especially if you can detach the economics from the politics that it is wrapped in.  Too often, there has been dirty politics associated with clean economic development.  They become so intertwined that it is hard to tell them apart.

For example, a party could not promote a policy like BEE without accepting some level of Inequality, fatalistically.  Whereas parties like the EFF that want more Equality are less sure that it can be achieved by playing the race card.  That is a political solution to an economic problem.

On the other hand, Hagedorn is right that fairness and affirmative action are an obsession in SA.  He never says these are bad, he just says that the focus is constantly negative - on unfairness and inequality.  He compares this to the early days of the HIV and AIDS crisis, when denialism got in the way of enlightened policy making.  That was not a health crisis, it was a leadership crisis.  And he believes that SA’s poverty trap can also be managed and overcome.  This reminds me of Henry David Thoreau: “You see things as they are, and you ask Why?  I see things that never were, and I ask, Why not?”  We need visionaries, who focus on the future, not on the past.  Tomorrow’s women and men, not yesterday’s.

Implied is that this will not happen under the ANC.  As Einstein said, a crisis cannot be solved by applying the same kind of thinking that created the situation in the first place.  When he says: “competitiveness has been sacrificed to advance redistribution” he adds a key phrase “rather than blending the two”.  That is the crux.  How to blend these two economic factors.

How can the Opposition form a “United Front” when the diverse parties are poles apart?  First, you have the DA which is the largest party.  It has always emphasized “fairness” by tackling triumphalism and beating the drum of constitutionalism.  Often through the courts or other Section 9 institutions, although these are missing a lot of teeth after various fights with the ruling alliance.  The economic policies of the DA want to put more emphasis on making SA more competitive.  Rather than debating them, the government just plays the race card.  They play the man, not the ball.

Then there are the “new Left” parties like the EFF and a Labour Party in gestation with the unions that are leaving the ruling alliance (largely over the issue of Inequality).  Hagedorn is correct though, that: “Marikana’s analytical takeaway point was that union membership offers little protection when a country is caught in a poverty trap”.   Unions offer even less hope to the unemployed than they do to their own members.  Yet these parties are the ones bent on closing the huge Wealth Gap – not just by making a few historically disadvantaged people prosper, but by mass action.  In Hagedorn’s word, by redistribution.

How do you blend the two?  Hagedorn offers no solutions except that “displacing merit with short-term fairness adjustments erodes purchasing power triggering a poverty gap”.  That makes it sound like the EFF and the unions really on the Left may have to make some concessions to a DA bent on making SA more competitive?  The honest truth is that the DA needs the other opposition parties to displace the status quo.  It must champion law and order to regain investor confidence while at the same time recognizing that the electorate IS obsessed with fairness and redistribution.  Is the “new Left” ready to call its members and even the unemployed to sacrifice again?  To me, being from working class does not preclude you from being disciplined or fiscally sound and being unemployed does not preclude you from being honest and upright.  The looters you watch robbing shops on TV may be unemployed, but they are petty thieves compared to the employed kleptocrats of the ruling elite.

How about a United Front in which the DA runs ministries like Finance, Justice, Police and Trade and Foreign Relations?  While the unions run Education, Labour, Industry, Public Enterprises and Environment?  And the EFF runs Economic Development, Small Business Development and Social Development?  The key is, as Hagedorn put it – blending the two, namely competitiveness and redistribution.  Could a United Front like this be SA’s Way Forward?  Each party can still stand for its own ethos and platform – symbiotically.

Equality Day

Is it time to change Freedom Day to Equality Day?

Freedom or its synonym “liberty” has been the clarion call since the American Revolution, echoed wherever people dreamed of shaking off a yoke of oppression.  Then came the French Revolution, as the power of monarchs waned and Parliaments waxed.  The calls of Uhuru in East Africa and Amandla in South Africa echoed and overtook the Vryheid of the Afrikaners wanting to shake off English hegemony.

Another theme through all of these manifestations of liberation was the fight for Democracy.  It was short lived after the French Revolution, overtaken by the despot Napoleon.  After all, top-down leadership was better known in Europe and the world up until then.  There had been earlier “outbreaks” of Democracy in Greece under Solon and later in Rome.  But they were always crushed by despots like Alexander in Greece and Julius Caesar in Rome.

Caesar crossed the Rubicon as a military leader to chase Democracy out of Rome – because it had become so totally corrupt.  It was unrecognizable.  You couldn’t get elected without huge wealth enough to bribe your way into the Senate.  This was having a disastrous effect on law and order and thus on the Economy.  Corrupt leaders just can’t expect all the citizens to obey the law when they don’t.  Today we call it cronyism.  History is repeating itself.  Freedom is going to people’s heads, intoxicating them… they go freedom-crazy.

Rome’s plunge from Democracy into Empire lasted for centuries.  Democracy did not really return as such until the French Revolution.  It was driven by radical ideas that emerged about human rights, as Europe began to secularize and re-think its world view.  Because fatalistic systems like Feudalism or the caste system lock people into the status quo.  Until visionaries help them to dream about freedom and having some control over their own destinies.

The motto of the French Revolution was – Democracy: Freedom and Equality.  The corollary is that when Inequality reaches certain proportions, Freedom belongs just to some, not to all.

South Africa is approaching that threshold.  So many books have been written about this problem.  Sampie Terreblanche wrote Lost in Transformation.  Moeletsi Mbeki wrote Architects of Poverty: Why African Capitalism Needs Changing.  And so forth…

During the Struggle, the quintessential heroes were called “freedom fighters”.  So where are the “equality fighters” now - when we need them most?

Perhaps the EFF has re-branded Equality as “economic freedom”?  One can certainly understand this in the African context – a kind of second liberation.

The exit of some unions from the ruling alliance is another sign of the times.  There is talk of a United Front on the Left of centre, giving an alternative to the plethora of parties crowded at the Centre.  Why not just call it the United Left?  Frankly all previous parties speak the language of Freedom, while the Left is starting to speak the language of Equality.  Viva Vavi!  Long live Juju and Jim!  These three are what Sisulu, Mandela and Thambo once were - the scouts among us.

There is enough wealth in South Africa to go around.  For everybody.  Democracy must have a certain leveling effect – taking from the rich to give to the poor.  In the case of Robin Hood, this was seen as heroic.

When Jesus read from the scroll in his home town synagogue, he read from Isaiah – that the blind would see, the lame would walk, and that the “acceptable year of our Lord” would arrive.  He was referring to the Year of Jubilee.  This was a year that fell every 2 generations – every 50 years.  It leveled the playing field.  Creditors were commanded to forgive debts.  Those who were enslaved or bankrupt had to be set free.  Land that had changed hands had to be returned to its original clan.  It was radical.  It was contentious.  And it was biblical Law.  Torah stuff.

No wonder they ran him out of the synagogue, out of the town, to the peri-urban areas around Nazareth, and tried to stone him (death sentence by religious vigilantes)!  History will repeat itself on this again.  Because when you mess with Ownership issues, they will want to shut you up.  Watch this space.  Remember Chris Hani.

Run-away corruption is failed Democracy.  Excessive inequality is failed Democracy.  Xenophobia is one symptom of economic stress.  For an economy to thrive, you need law and order, not chaos.

Democracy without Equality is not what we sacrificed our futures for in the Struggle.  But abandoning Democracy would be to regress (although that has happened in many African democracies).  So there is only one way forward – get a bulldozer and level the playing field.  Let there be a Year of Jubilee among us.  Let this be Equality Day, not just Freedom Day!

Let Equality reign!!!

A Global Perspective

I read that the longest undefended border in the world is the one between Canada and the USA.  So why aren’t there the scenarios there of the relatively porous Mexico-USA border?  Or of the Mediterranean Sea where there is a flotilla of refugees escaping Africa and the Middle East, heading for Europe?  Or the Transfrontier Park where Mozambicans and Zimbabweans risk being eaten alive by lions to enter South Africa illegally?

The answer is Equality.

Social Innovation is needed to find that “bulldozer” to level the playing field.  We need to find better ways to:
  • Relieve people from debt
  • Address unemployment in a context of no jobs with Entrepreneurship training
  • Re-distribute land, especially where it is currently unproductive
  • Protect the poor and marginalized, including foreigners, giving them space for grace
In yesterday’s City Press, Ferial Haffajee wrote:

“How do you get the youth to become employed? Three million jobless youth wander aimlessly and pennilessly… Pulling these young people into the economy means slicing through vested interests in the private and public sectors”

Equality can be a deception – when some people are free to be “more equal” than others.

Welcome home, Numsa

The trade union federation that was formed in 1985 (the year that I first visited South Africa, as it happens) would appear to be on its last legs, with the expulsion of its largest member group, Numsa.  There are scenarios that might see this reversed some day through an appeal process or via the courts, but it seems like “all the King’s horses and all the kings men can’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.”

In today’s City Press, Ferial Haffajee writes (after a convincing litany of her own socialist leanings):

Cosatu’s split is good

The weakening of the tripartite alliance is vital for the country as it is holding us back. Both Cosatu and the Alliance have atrophied and are unable to meet the challenge of modernity head-on.

Cosatu and its members have become a labour aristocracy (a self-interested elite) which stands against basic public goods like a youth employment incentive or government’s efforts to make the state capable.

The public sector unions – who rule the roost in Cosatu – hold us to ransom with low productivity and high demands.

The teachers’ union, Sadtu, is the single biggest factor retarding a final end to Bantu Education.

And, in the private sector, Cosatu affiliates hold strikes so violent that they have accelerated the trend to mechanisation.

Reading through union documents is like tripping the dark fantastic to outmoded Soviet days – if their wayward economics is ever implemented, a failed state is a serious risk.

Yet, Cosatu members are a proper middle-class: they reflect a dangerous disjuncture between word and deed.

A split and decline in Cosatu heralds the end of an important epoch but it holds shoots of new potential for South Africa.

I second the emotion!  I am a “civil society watcher” – that social space that is the natural habitat of nonprofits working in welfare, social development, the arts, sports… and usually, trade unions.  So for over a decade now, I have been lamenting that civil society in South Africa misses the presence of its trade unions.  You can check the “silo” of commentary on Philanthropy hosted by C4L (visit <trilogy-philanthropy.blogspot.com> ) and find that I have lamented that on more than one occasion!

Thus the title of this article… Welcome home, NUMSA.  It is my hope that other unions will follow you – some sooner, some later.

I agree that the ruling alliance has tried to keep unions “on a leash” for far too long.  Basically, government shows an intolerance for dissent that has manifested itself in various ways…

Interfering in Policing

This began with dismantling the Scorpions.  Hugh Glenister’s heroic efforts to challenge this in the courts finally won the day, but too late to prevent it from happening.  By the time that the courts pronounced it unconstitutional, it was already a done deal.

Another article in today’s City Press illuminates how the quality of policing has deteriorated over the past 200 years under this ruling alliance – largely by using affirmative action as a cover for cadre deployment without regard to competency.

Yet another article summarizes opinions from a poll: “Mpumalanga residents were least satisfied with the police, giving the men and women in blue an ugly -21%”.  That’s not just 21%, folks, that’s a minus 21%.  Once again I second the emotion.

A fourth article reports the conviction of 5 people for attempted murder and arson related to a R14.8 million tender.  They tried to burn down the Municipal Manager’s home, and the constable who arrested them was injured in an attempt to force him off the road while driving.  This happened 4 years ago.  It took that long to reach convictions!

It was only 2 years ago that C4L reported fraud in a government programme and experienced a nasty backlash from the powers that be.  This is still on its way to the courts, in several civil and criminal cases.  I write this to emphasize – from personal experience – that I can well imagine government wanting to diminish Cosatu to a mere Labour Desk at the ruling alliance.  The unions can be a far more potent force in favour of their members outside of government.  Capitalist cronyism or crony capitalism (which ever title you prefer) is no place for honest-to-God socialists to be.

Diminishing Section 9 institutions

Again I have written on more than one occasion about the intrepid Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela.  Government’s latest efforts to sideline her by ignoring her report on Nkandla and by siege warfare – that is, by squeezing her department’s budget.

Destablizing the Loyal Opposition

The latest manoeuvre is to unilaterally punish the new EFF party for its contentious confrontation of President Zuma in Parliament – to “pay back the money”.

I have repeatedly compared Julius Malema of the EFF to Tommy Douglas of the CCF.  Both were more populist than socialist, and both arose from a context of high unemployment and extreme Inequality.  In Canadian politics, organized labour was stronger in the industrialized east, compared to the CCF’s home on the agrarian prairies “out west”.  In due course, these two movements merged into the New Democratic Party or NDP.  It has been elected at provincial level in several provinces, both east and west, and has climbed its way to the status of being the Loyal Opposition at present.

Could history be repeating itself?  Will we see the United Front that Numsa is forming, as it departs from the ruling alliance, merge with the EFF some day?  It seems like the only option Left!

Remember that organized labour represents its members, and they are employed.  So who represents the unemployed?  And those who aren’t unionized?  EFF claims to speak for them and the ranks of the unemployed could out-number the number who are working.

What advice could we offer to Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi?

Nkruma said that Africa did not need to look to the right, or to the left, but to look ahead – to the future.  Unity is vital, of course, but is that unity of the labour unions, or of the Left?  Socialism in South Africa must think of ALL those that crony capitalism has left behind.  Many of these are NOT employed and thus not union members.  But they still need a voice.

Also, to Vavi, let it be said that immorality is less about sexual behaviour and more about Inequality.  Affluent Irene and poverty-stricken Thembisa are only 10 kilometers apart – THAT is immoral.

Friday 27 November 2015

Sharpening an Old Tool

Did you hear what the lumberjack said about his beloved axe?  He’d had it for 20 years.  He replaced the head once a year, and the handle whenever it cracked, but that same old axe was still going strong.

This reminds me of The C4L Reporter.  Back in the days when we used mostly print media, we tried to get it out at least once a year.  It was nice to write about C4L and its themes for general readers, as opposed to donor-specific reports.

Then came the swing to digital media and for a few years C4L’s e-mail bulletins contained its news, not editorial comment.  Sightings of The C4L Reporter became rare.

Then with a programming shift into advocacy and lobbying, C4L’s e-mail bulletins shifted to editorial content.  Earlier this year, some of these were clustered into three “silos” on the themes of Youth, Leadership and Philanthropy.

This month – for the purposes of C4L’s new Green Livelihoods project – The C4L Reporter has been brought out of moth balls.  It will be re-released this week, at the AGM of the Energy and Water SETA.  Here are its headlines:
  • The long-awaited Green Livelihoods project gets underway
  • DEDT and NYDA are strategic partners
  • Training providers sign Memorandum of Agreement
  • From coal to solar
  • Recruitment drive heats up
  • Editorial – Not a Moment Too Soon
The editorial is shared in this media, which C4L now uses mainly for awareness raising…

Not A Moment Too Soon

When you think of Mpumalanga Province you think of green fields, blue mountains, and forested valleys.  But there are also coal mines and generating stations belching smoke into the atmosphere leaving a dirty carbon footprint.

The danger that threatens the Rhino is symbolic.  While that very issue is rife in Mpumalanga, there are broader concerns as well – the water emergency, the energy crisis, global warming.  Yes, environmental degradation is even causing climate change.

At the personal level we each need to own this threat to our children and grandchildren.  For example, we need to stop littering.  We need to sort our garbage, and re-cycle what we can.  We need to re-use our water twice, for example using our grey water from bathing to water our gardens.  We need to turn the lights off when we leave the room.  We need to unplug our chargers when they are not plugged into our cell phones.  We need to conserve resources.  We need to reduce waste.  We even need to see waste as a resource.  That means a new understanding of our Environment, and our role in it.  Possibly even of attitudinal change.

The Green Livelihoods project is above all about activism and even awareness raising.

In the past two year, 14 new “green occupations” like Recycling Sorter and Solar Water Heater Installer have been added to the OFO (Organizing Framework for Occupations).  This reflects a recognition of business opportunities in the emerging Green Economy.

The levels of youth unemployment in Mpumalanga are high, far too high.  Yet the formal sector of the economy is struggling to generate jobs fast enough to keep up with population growth.  So for many youth, the best opportunities are in self-employment.  That is the focus of this project.  That is the answer when people raise the question of its Sustainability.  Entrepreneurship training and coaching is embedded into the project logic.

The Green Livelihoods project links the two paragraphs above – opportunities in the new “green occupations” with needs for jobs.

At a second level, the project also promotes Cooperatives… Green Coops… youth coops.  Not everyone believes that Coops are sound in economic terms.  Some people prefer other entities like sole proprietorships or companies.  But in global terms, cooperatives have worked at times and in certain places – and we are “thinking globally while acting locally”.

Coops have worked best when populated by people with a higher cause.  One example that comes to mind is the kibbutzim in Israel.  “Kibbutzniks” will tell you that they participated because of a higher motive – much as they liked the look and feel of cooperating.  It is in this spirit that the noble cause of “Go Green” has been linked to enterprise and technical training, organized in solidarity groups called Green Coops.  These are not NPOs (nonprofits).  Coops are business entities.  Thus they are relevant to the triple conundrum of Poverty, Inequality and Unemployment.  Yes they do provide a community service.  But they do so in a way that generates wealth.

No one will be affected more by Global Warming than the youngest among us.  So it is appropriate that they should be warned of the impending threat and enabled to do something about it.

Our planet is dying.  Let us rise up and revive the streamflows.  Let us organize to save the Rhino.  Let us build gutters and cisterns that conserve rainwater in communities where there is no water reticulation.  Let us reduce the leaks that drain away as much as 40% of captured water before it can be used.  Let us heat that water with renewable energy in our homes.  (Each solar water heater reduces about 1.6 MT of carbon every year.)  Let us reduce our carbon footprint.

Viva the Energy and Water SETA! Viva DEDT!  Viva NYDA!  Viva C4L!  Viva Ehlanzeni FET College!  Viva VPK Business Venture!

Long live the Green Livelihoods projects, long live!

Land and Credit

I have been a missionary in Africa for about 30 years.  About mid-way through that period, there was a significant paradigm-shift in terms of helping people.  This happened to some extent because of the end of the Cold War and also the emergence of a few Third World countries like the Asian Tigers.  (Some of these have consolidated in BRICS - Brazil, Russia, India, China & South Africa).  The Clintons also promoted this shift – from a charity mentality to “micro-loans”.  Certainly I have noted that Canadian thinking is less inclined towards welfare “projects”, even in Canada, but more so in their approach to overseas aid.  In fact, just the word “aid” is played down; “trade” is preferred.

South Africa’s population is more urbanized and less rural than most African countries.  Most citizens grow up in “townships” not on farms.  So the twin issues of land and credit - both of which are needed by emerging farmers – are mission-critical to overcoming the “triple conundrum of poverty, unemployment and inequality”.


To begin with, one has to distinguish between consumer lending and business lines-of-credit.  The truth is that too many South Africans are too deep in domestic debt, and that is becoming a social evil of huge proportions.  However, that is not what I am talking about.  The topic of micro-loans or “unsecured credit” is what I mean.  I have quoted Muhammed Yunus who founded the Grameen banks before: “The banks ask, are the people credit-worthy?  We ask, are the banks people-worthy?”  On this note, I have often lamented that Credit Unions are conspicuous by their absence in South Africa.

The emergence of Africa Bank coincided with C4L’s first campus – both started in 1999.  AB rose much faster, of course!  “The bigger they are, the harder they fall”.

For a long time, AB’s strategy worked.  It focused on the poorer provinces.  It won the confidence of investors.  It loaned to South Africans ignored and deemed too risky by conventional banks.  It charged as much as 60% annual interest rates, because his customers didn’t have collateral.

But It overestimated its 3.2 million customers’ ability to pay back their loans when the global economic slowdown caught up with South Africa - just after the 2010 FIFA World Cup.  The AB just posted a loss of R8.5 billion and asked the Reserve Bank for a bail-out.  This is reverberating into credit downgrades for all banks, and possibly for South Africa as a country.

Frankly, this could not have happened at a worse time for C4L!  We have had a 2-year “funding drought” due largely to our SETA being placed under administration for corruption.  We have had 3 funding approvals from this SETA during this period, but the payments are “queued”.  So we have been consolidating C4L alumni who have already finished their entrepreneurship training, and trying to link some of them into a micro-franchising scheme.  To get going, they need Credit and Land.  But in the current credit climate, who is gonna lend money to poor and unemployed youth?  Eish.

The way financial institutions work, the default on debt of some customers will only make the interest rates higher for the remaining borrowers.  A common fallacy is that garnishees of wages are inappropriate when the borrowers are poor.  The fact is, eliminating these orders would have a devastating knock-on effect on the economy.

Micro Finance South Africa has just released a study that recommends that “unsecured lenders” should have a different set of guidelines than conventional banks.  When caps are so low that credit providers cannot make profits, they become price controls.


Now for the first time in its 15-year history, C4L is experiencing first-hand what is means to have  clients who are landless.

Here is what happens… we suggest that a 25-meter by 25-meter plot will be enough to plant a small orchard of Chaya trees.  I won’t go into the technical details about this Mexican tree spinach, but we feel that it is a huge opportunity for youth to “get back on the land”.  It requires minimal training - to use a familiar phrase, it basically grows itself!  Not even from seed… you place cuttings in the ground and it takes off.  It is water-wise, nutritious, compact, adaptable, and even medicinal.  Youth growers basically just need to cultivate it, as the marketing is all in place with the Franchisor.  It can be picked every month all year round, so it provides steady income – good for repaying bank loans!

But this is a vicious circle.  One of the reasons that youth are poor and unemployed is that their parents are landless.  So where are they gonna grow their Chaya trees?

Then you hear these horrendous statistics about the result of land claims over the past 20 years.  In those specific cases where people can remember being dispossessed, not generally but at an actual address, there has been restitution and/or resettlement.  But the latest research suggests that these farms rapidly fall into disrepair and become unproductive.  The new Deputy Minister of Agriculture has recently released figures that indicate this as a trend.

So you get white voices saying that land re-distribution is a recipe for food imports.  And thus a tendency - as a new Chaya micro-franchising scheme emerges - to go to the white farmers and get them to grow it.  They have land, know-how, tools and staff.  They can put up fence, fertilize, water and buy saplings on a grand scale.  They can plant several hectares each – as opposed to a plethora of small growers organizing themselves loosely into Coops (for purchasing and marketing only – not collective farms).  This approach seems at once reactionary and common sense.  I even wonder if black youth (even the poor and unemployed) want to risk debt to grow Chaya, when it is ultimately sold as products that are popular among the rich and famous?  These youth are known for their defiance.

When one thinks of land re-distribution, Zimbabwe scenarios come to mind.  When one thinks of the Freedom Charter which says that the people shall benefit from natural resources, one thinks of Marikana.  There is a need for more inclusion of black people in the ownership of the land, just as there is a need for their inclusion in the ownership of the mining of mineral resources that still command the South African economy.  This has become clear to C4L as it tries to expand Chaya Tree Spinach programming in favour of poor and unemployed youth.  You need land and credit to farm.  As long as - when you get your hands on the “means of production” - you rise to the challenge and work hard and produce.  Failing black farms will only compound the problems of credit institutions.

Connecting the dots

While C4L Bulletins like this one are issues-centred, they are also part of our networking and fundraising efforts.

We encourage you once again, to consider setting aside some of your reserves, in favour of poor and unemployed youth.  Don’t give this wealth away – just park it, until you need it.  Either your broker or one known to C4L can then release the “increase” on that wealth over the period stipulated.

C4L is not a bank, but the microfranchising scheme allows its Chaya company - Koperano Trading (Pty) Ltd – to make “revolving loans” to new growers.  They won’t get cash, they will get the fencing materials, inputs and saplings needed.  Then they can make their loan payments in Chaya leaves!