Time for a workers’ revolution

EDITOR – The article published on May 17 by Tendai Ruben Mbofana refers. The author is correct in that Zimbabwean workers will not get their proper treatment unless they, themselves, take action and force the government to act.

However, the ILO is not being honest about the situation because, although Zimbabwe is among the worst, every single African country, without exception, is violating workers’ rights. According to the World Bank’s OWN figures, 91% of Africans earn less than US$5 a day, and 43% less than a measly US$1.90 a day. Not many slaves were paid, but some were. And if you take inflation into account, 91% of Africans earn less today than their wage-earning ancestors did as slaves.

Living conditions are just as bad. 60% of urban dwellers (or 20% of all Africans) now live in slums, with the figure rising rapidly every year. But what neither African governments nor the official aid agencies (primarily the World Bank, IMF, UN) will admit to us is that these are often actually worse than the living quarters of slaves. If you find that hard to believe, just select ‘Images’ on Google, and then ‘North America slave quarters’, and you will see what I mean. Many North American slaves were also better fed than the 25% of Africans who now suffer from starvation and malnutrition, and their life expectancy was considerably higher over a hundred years ago.

Western MNCs are also violating the rights of their workers. It is well-known that, almost without exception, they pay their African employees a fraction of what they pay their Western ones for doing exactly the same jobs, and many NGOs – who ought to know better – are equally guilty. In fact, what they pay Africans is actually illegal in the West. But what few people know is that, RIGHT NOW, many MNCs could pay their African employees exactly the same as their Western employees! IN FACT, MANY COULD HAVE DONE SO RIGHT FROM THE END OF COLONIALISM! That is a truly horrifying thought, and a breath-taking example of human exploitation.

All this proves that when Mbofana compares the situation today with the days of slavery, he is not exaggerating because the facts support him.

The official aid agencies and African governments also tell us that poverty is reducing. I suspect most Zimbabweans – at least, the honest ones – will find that laughable, and the facts support them. Because the official World Bank/UN figures are grossly wrong. The fact is that there are now 300% more – yes, 300% MORE – Africans in extreme poverty now than there were in 1981. And, again what African governments and the aid agencies have hidden from us is that the income gap between Africans is now 300% wider now than it was in 1960. Africans are actually getting further and further away from the living standards of Westerners.

The sad fact is that none of this was necessary! Had the official aid agencies done what they should have done after the end of colonialism, poverty would by now have been a thing of the past and the great majority of African citizens would have been approaching Western standards of living, if not actually there. But it was and is not in their commercial, financial and political interests to do so.

It means that if Africans want to not just escape poverty but have high quality lifestyles, they must stop relying on either their governments or the official aid agencies, and take responsibility themselves for making this happen. In fact, history tells us that they must do this. When you look at the history of what are now the developed nations, you discover that three preconditions had to be in place before their citizens could go from poverty to affluence. But the absolutely vital one, and the one on which the other two depend, was this:

The crucial factor was the mobilisation of the nation’s own citizens. In almost NO case was it their government that instigated and led the move to take its citizens out of poverty and into affluence. There were exceptions, but only in special circumstances, none of which apply to any African nation.

So the way forward is not difficult to understand: every campaigner must stop complaining about what governments or the West are or are not doing, and concentrate entirely on how to get a critical mass of African citizens to combine together into a single, pan-African movement aimed at forcing their governments to do whatever is necessary to create the jobs necessary to close the gap between African and Western standards of living. Nothing else will do, and the solutions are actually quite simple. – David Barber, by email

Post published in: Letters to the Editor

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