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Land invasions in Stellenbosch

This New York Times article is a brilliant piece of journalism, revealing in clear ways how the land struggle is moving into a new phase. Impatient with how long it is taking for government to implement President Ramaphosa’s land redistribution promise, communities around the country are taking matters into their own hands. With some of the most valuable agricultural land in the country, Stellenbosch is going to be an obvious focus of attention. As the attached article reveals, communities are invading wine farms. This is bound to spread, with major political implications for the future political make-up of Stellenbosch. Land invasions the world over have proven to be the most effective strategy for redistributing land. Because governments are bound by legal measures, top-down land reform hardly ever delivers on scale. If governments are sympathetic to land invasions, they will non-enforce regulations that prevent land invasions. The easiest and simplest move in the Stellenbosch area would be if all parties who got leases during the lead-up to 1994 in order to prevent land reform voluntarily surrendered these leases into a Land Trust. The Land Trust could then negotiate with communities and farmers to ensure an equitable allocation of this land.  Without the fair redistribution of the commonage.

New York Times article: In South Africas Fabled Wine Country White and Black Battle Over Land – The New York Times

Reflections on my first experience of the World Economic Forum, Davos 2019

Seasoned repeat participants in the World Economic Forum in Davos this year referred quite a few times to the fact that this year there was a sense of gloom, compared to the atmosphere of optimism in previous years. The Secretary-General of the UN summed up the reasons for this in his address when he said “as the challenges become more integrated, the world is becoming more fragmented”. Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, echoed this when she said the single biggest risk facing the global economy is the growing trade war between the two largest economies, China and the USA. She predicted a slow-down in global growth if this trade war gets worse, with major implications for developing economies. But the dismal state of the global economy was not the only cause of gloom: in its global risk analysis that rated risks according to potential impact (vertical axis) and likelihood (horizontal axis) the three risks that scored highest on both axes were ‘extreme weather events’, ‘failure of climate change mitigation and adaption’ and ‘natural disasters’.

However, as Adair Turner, head of the Institute for New Economic Thinking and former head of the UK financial regulator argued, the real underlying cause for gloom has more to do with the fact that the three global dynamics that used to underpin optimism in Davos up until the global financial crisis in 2007/8 are no longer in play. These were the rock solid belief that globalisation was good for development (access to capital, markets and cheaper labour), that financialisation (i.e. faster growth of the financial sector relative to the traditional primary and secondary sectors) is good for growth; and that migration will follow suite and won’t be such a problem. Today, there is a backlash against globalisation, financialisation led to the global financial crisis and migration is triggering racist reactions while millions float around the world stateless, homeless and precarious. Nothing has replaced the triple pillars of globalisation, financialisation and migration. Brexit, the China-US trade war and the anti-globalisation of Trump are reactive responses, rather than a reflection of a coherent strategic alternative. Of course, he could have added that in those years environmental risks were not regarded as potentially high or likely. That has now completely changed.

The new dynamics at play that reinforce the sense of gloom are climate change (and the overall sense of environmental risk), the potential impact of the so-called ‘4th Industrial Revolution’ (4IR), the politics of the ‘precariat’ and the build-up of financial liquidity in the global financial system because of a fear of investing in case something fundamental goes wrong in the global economy.

As far as climate change and environmental risks are concerned, there is a general acceptance this is a major threat and was often referred to as the cause of a sense of gloom. No-one calls into question the IPCC’s conclusion that we have 12 years to trigger large-scale decarbonisation in order to prevent global warming by more than 2 degrees. That said, the dialogue is totally schizophrenic: sessions devoted to climate change (and related topics like post-GDP) earnestly validated the science and reaffirmed the need for urgent change. However, climate change and its implications was rarely if ever mentioned in all the other sessions on finance, economic growth, technology, regional economic dynamics and social change. Remarkably, at a panel of African Presidents from South Africa, Ethiopia and Rwanda, it was all about foreign investment, growth and good governance with no reference to climate change and the green economy. Only the Secretary General of the UN fully integrated economic and environmental analysis in a satisfactory way.

Given that Klaus Schwab wrote the book on the 4IR, it is not surprising that this is a major focus of discussions in Davos. Although no-one can tell you what the 1st, 2nd and 3rd IRs were, and despite the poor definition of the 4IR in Schwab’s book, in general the average Davosite would simply say the 4IR is about automation – replacing humans with robots. It is, in reality, far more than this.

The WEF did research on the jobs impact of the 4IR in 20 developed and developing countries and concluded that while 75 million existing jobs will be lost in the coming years, 133 million new jobs will be created. The ILO launched a report on this topic at Davos, but provided no projections of this kind. Instead, ILO head Guy Rydar argued that it’s not helpful to provide projections like this because that tends to ‘define a future as if it is waiting for us’. Instead, he said, what will determine the outcome is appropriate policies that are appropriate for each context – a much wiser approach.

This has major implications for Africa. African leaders, including Cyril Ramaphosa, repeatedly asserted their faith in industrialisation as the means to create the millions of jobs needed to harness the burgeoning African youth population. To trigger this, they argued, they need massive increases in FDI. When pressed on the impact of the 4IR they made very general statements about training and technology development. In reality, if industrialisation means investment in manufacturing, and if those manufacturing sectors are located in globally open competitive economies like South Africa, then those manufacturing sectors will be forced to be highly automated. So how will industrialisation create millions of jobs?

As we know President Ramaphosa has set up a Presidential Commission on the 4IR – if this is dominated by SA’s tech giants, the real challenges will not be addressed. It’s like asking an arms company to plan for disarmament. Unfortunately, none of the talks by African leaders – including the star of Davos Ethiopian President Abiy Ahmed, left me with a feeling that there is some new economic thinking coming out of Africa that is really appropriate to the African context.

This brings us to the 3rd key cause of gloom, namely the politics of the precariat. There was a pervasive sense across many panels that ‘if only the barbarians were not at the gate, we could get on with the job of really fixing the problem’.  In general, what this referred to is the growth in electoral support for right-wing populist politicians who were anti-establishment, sceptical of globalisation and disruptive. Brexit, Trump and the rise of the right in Europe were the primary exhibits. The more careful observers did try to explain this phenomenon by referring to the causal links between financialisation, the global financial crisis and the shrinking middle class, and now and again – thanks to the exposure at Davos of the Oxfam report on inequality – to the fact that the wealth of the top 1% since 2007 has more or less doubled. 26 people now own the equivalent of 3.8 billion of the poorest people – down from 43 a year earlier.

Guy Standing, the UK economist who wrote the bestelling book The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class explained at a session devoted to new ideas in economics that the precariat is a new class that feels highly insecure, anxious and permanently precarious – they feel they are one car accident, one health incident, one job loss in the family away from destitution.

But it is a class comprising three very different groups: the most dangerous is the white male middle and working class worker who feels increasingly threatened by worsening economic conditions, a growing number of people of colour who can do their jobs, and a growing number of increasingly better educated women. They are angry and reactionary, but nevertheless shrinking – which is the good news. The second are the migrants – homeless, stateless, mobile, insecure, angry, and prone to outbursts of anger and protest that often turns violent. They are looking for a political home, and obviously feel totally alienated by the right-wing racist parties.

The third are the educated offspring of the middle class who have been promised a better life, but cannot find jobs. They join progressive movements about social justice and an ecologically sustainable environment, and some hive off into social enterprises. They also don’t have a clearly defined political home.

What Standing does not refer to is the fourth category: the distinctly African precariat comprising mainly young people who have never worked, are poorly educated, live mainly in informal settlements and are behind the so-called ‘3rd wave of African uprisings’ that have emerged in 40 African countries over the past decade or so.

Finally, there was a lot of hand-wringing about the unprecedented build-up of liquidity in the financial systems of the developed economies.  In his ever-so polite but barely disguised disdain for British politicians, the Governor of the Bank of England pointed out that investment in the UK since the referendum has been flat. But don’t worry, he said, there is more than enough liquidity in UK banks to withstand even a no-deal hard Brexit. This was a positive spin on a totally bizarre situation caused by poor governance, policy incompetence and demagogic politicians.

The negative was spoken about often by officials in the multi-lateral system and private sector financial institutions, namely the incredible build-up of unspent cash because of rising fears and uncertainties about the future. As the head of UBS put it, it’s about fear that something can go wrong any minute, resulting in an instantaneous drying up of liquidity. Amazingly, these are decision-makers who do not fully understand a system that is too complex for anyone to fathom, but sense that any minute – like in 2007/8 – it can all fall to pieces. But this time, as the IMF has warned, the banks don’t have the wherewithal to engineer another bailout.

Yet, virtually without fail, most of those in charge of the global financial system felt confident that it is far more robust than it was in 2007, and therefore can withstand coming shocks. In particular, they point to the clamping down on short-term capital flows that caused so much instability; and, ironically, they see high liquidity levels as positive – but of course, high liquidity levels is flip side of weak growth.  The IMF’s lower projections for global growth is because investors who are reluctant to make long-term investments in fixed assets – the kinds of investments, in short, that catalyse growth.

In one important discussion about the future of the global economy, Adaire Turner addressed head on how to finance the transition to renewable energy and green economy. He argued that those who are investing in these infrastructures tend to borrow money at between 8% and 12%, which is high. However, there are trillions of dollars that are invested in so-called ‘safe investments’ like German Government bonds at a negative real interest rate. As the head of UBS suggested, 90% of all these financial assets generated negative returns in 2018. In other words, confidence levels are so low that investors are prepared to pay for their money to be kept safe. If, however, you want to redirect these investments into renewable energy to fund the large-scale decarbonisation required by climate science and policy, you will have to find a way to provide guarantees. This is where the European Union’s Junker Fund, and similar guarantee funds, could play a crucial role. The same applies to DFIs and Sovereign Wealth Funds willing to accept subordinated debt in new blended finance structures aimed at redirecting finance into decarbonisation.

There were many discussions about infrastructure, with special reference to the so-called ‘financing gap’, which is usually defined as the gap between what is needed and what is being spent. It would be preferable if the gap was defined as that which exists between what is needed and the potential cash available if risk was mitigated by guarantees – what is the magnitude of the latter to leverage more investment? In the absence of any reference to the need for another Brettons Woods-type Conference to fix the global financial system, all these discussions boil down to one simple idea: the need for public-private partnerships to unlock different types of capital in creative ways. Well and good, but the devil is in the details. The Brazilians want none of this: with a blind faith in neo-liberal economics, they are embarking on a large-scale privatisation programme to sell all the state-owned companies that are responsible for infrastructure to the private sector, in particular foreign investors. Their model is simple: the public sector will fund social expenditure, while the private sector will find infrastructure via the newly privatised companies. That is, of course, one option but not generally favoured in most places in the world – with China, of course, representing the polar opposite approach. Rather, the focus for most (even the Chinese) is on a creative blend of public and private funding, with DFIs playing a crucial role in packaging these deals. Obviously, the new Brics Bank is key in this regard.

That said, by far the most interesting session on infrastructure was the devoted to a discussion of China’s mammoth so-called Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI is the Chinese Government’s flagship investment and development project. It is championed by the President, and contributed to his confirmation as ‘President-for-life’. It is the largest infrastructure development project in human history. It’s the modern day reincarnation of the thinking that resulted in the construction of the Grand Canal to link North and South China to manage droughts. Forty countries have signed up, comprising 4.89 billion people: how to two thirds of humanity and 34% of global GDP. The total investment is projected to be US$4-8 trillion.   The panel discussion, however, was quite critical. Firstly, there has been mission creep: any project now is part of BRI, diluting its impact. Secondly, there is growing resistance from participating countries who realize they have to pay in quite a bit, but the returns to them are less clear. Thirdly, there are massive coordination problems – regulatory regimes in each country are different, and it will take decades to harmonise customs and logistics management. What is significant, however, is the shear audacity of the vision: it projects onto the world the construction-driven logic of economic growth that has been key to China’s growth. It is an engineer’s vision, but is it appropriate in a world that is shifting from physical capital to digital capital as the primary means of accumulation?

On the last day of the meeting Prof Ngaire Woods, Oxford University, shared her reflections on the week’s discussions, and struck a more positive note. Firstly, she argued, elites are clearly disconnected from society in general. Instead of really reconnecting experientially to personally experience what the broad mass of society experiences, they remain aloof and distant and voice surprise when society reacts in ways that were not predicted. She urged elites to reconnect with society, citing examples of CEO who did exactly that. I wondered whether this would force them to realize that they should do the unthinkable by paying their taxes, and even support increased taxation so that governments can deliver the education and health facilities that can really make a difference – this being the focus of the Oxfam Report.

Secondly, as crisis management has become almost a permanent feature of the post-2007 period and is set to continue, she has observed the decline of the alpha male CEO. The reason, she argued, is obvious: the authoritarian alpha male CEO is not as good as the more inclusive relational women CEO at managing crises. However, crisis and uncertainty also results in a pervasive desire for certainty, something the new populist alpha male political leaders promise and so win support. So as the alpha male declines in the board room, he becomes more prominent in the cabinet.

Finally, there is a need for a new balance between interests and values. The world today is dominated by China and the USA: the USA is democratic at home (sort of), and authoritarian abroad, while China is the opposite. The rebalancing of global political power dynamics is unlikely if major powers only pursue their own immediate nationalistic interests. The values of multilateralism will need to be defended and rebuilt.

Reflections on my first experience of the World Economic Forum, Davos

Seasoned repeat participants in the World Economic Forum in Davos this year referred quite a few times to the fact that this year there was a sense of gloom, compared to the atmosphere of optimism in previous years. The Secretary-General of the UN summed up the reasons for this in his address when he said “as the challenges become more integrated, the world is becoming more fragmented”. Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, echoed this when she said the single biggest risk facing the global economy is the growing trade war between the two largest economies, China and the USA. She predicted a slow-down in global growth if this trade war gets worse, with major implications for developing economies.

However, as Adair Turner, head of the Institute for New Economic Thinking and former head of the UK financial regulator argued, the real underlying cause for gloom has more to do with the fact that the three global dynamics that used to underpin optimism in Davos up until the global financial crisis in 2007/8 are no longer in play. These were the rock solid belief that globalisation was good for development (access to capital, markets and cheaper labour), that financialisation (i.e. faster growth of the financial sector relative to the traditional primary and secondary sectors) is good for growth; and that migration will follow suite and won’t be such a problem. Today, there is a backlash against globalisation, financialisation led to the global financial crisis and migration is triggering racist reactions while millions float around the world stateless, homeless and precarious. Nothing has replaced the triple pillars of globalisation, financialisation and migration. Brexit, the China-US trade war and the anti-globalisation of Trump are reactive responses, rather than a reflection of a coherent strategic alternative.

The new dynamics at play that reinforce the sense of gloom are climate change, the potential impact of the so-called ‘4th Industrial Revolution’ (4IR), the politics of the ‘precariat’ and the build-up of financial liquidity in the global financial system because of a fear of investing in case something fundamental goes wrong in the global economy.

As far as climate change is concerned, there is a general acceptance this is a major threat and was often referred to as the cause of a sense of gloom. No-one calls into question the IPCC’s conclusion that we have 12 years to trigger large-scale decarbonisation in order to prevent global warming by more than 2 degrees. That said, the dialogue is totally schizophrenic: sessions devoted to climate change (and related topics like post-GDP) earnestly validated the science and reaffirmed the need for urgent change. However, climate change and its implications was rarely if ever mentioned in all the other sessions on finance, economic growth, technology, regional economic dynamics and social change. Remarkably, at a panel of African Presidents from South Africa, Ethiopia and Rwanda, it was all about foreign investment, growth and good governance with no reference to climate change and the green economy. Only the Secretary General of the UN fully integrated economic and environmental analysis in a satisfactory way.

Given that Klaus Schwab wrote the book on the 4IR, it is not surprising that this is a major focus of discussions in Davos. Although no-one can tell you what the 1st, 2nd and 3rd IRs were, and despite the poor definition of the 4IR in Schwab’s book, in general the average Davosite would simply say the 4IR is about automation – replacing humans with robots. It is, in reality, far more than this.

The WEF did research on the jobs impact of the 4IR in 20 developed and developing countries and concluded that while 75 million existing jobs will be lost in the coming years, 133 million new jobs will be created. The ILO launched a report on this topic at Davos, but provided no projections of this kind. Instead, ILO head Guy Rydar argued that it’s not helpful to provide projections like this because that tends to ‘define a future as if it is waiting for us’. Instead, he said, what will determine the outcome is appropriate policies that are appropriate for each context – a much wiser approach.

This has major implications for Africa. African leaders, including Cyril Ramaphosa, repeatedly asserted their faith in industrialisation as the means to create the millions of jobs needed to harness the burgeoning African youth population. To trigger this, they argued, they need massive increases in FDI. When pressed on the impact of the 4IR they made very general statements about training and technology development. In reality, if industrialisation means investment in manufacturing, and if those manufacturing sectors are located in globally open competitive economies like South Africa, then those manufacturing sectors will be forced to be highly automated. So how will industrialisation create millions of jobs?

As we know President Ramaphosa has set up a Presidential Commission on the 4IR – if this is dominated by SA’s tech giants, the real challenges will not be addressed. It’s like asking an arms company to plan for disarmament. Unfortunately, none of the talks by African leaders – including the star of Davos Ethiopian President Abiy Ahmed, left me with a feeling that there is some new economic thinking coming out of Africa that is really appropriate to the African context.

This brings us to the 3rd key cause of gloom, namely the politics of the precariat. There was a pervasive sense across many panels that ‘if only the barbarians were not at the gate, we could get on with the job of really fixing the problem’.  In general, what this referred to is the growth in electoral support for right-wing populist politicians who were anti-establishment, sceptical of globalisation and disruptive. Brexit, Trump and the rise of the right in Europe were the primary exhibits. The more careful observers did try to explain this phenomenon by referring to the causal links between financialisation, the global financial crisis and the shrinking middle class, and now and again – thanks to the exposure at Davos of the Oxfam report on inequality – to the fact that the wealth of the top 1% since 2007 has more or less doubled. 26 people now own the equivalent of 3.8 billion of the poorest people – down from 43 a year earlier.

Guy Standing, the UK economist who wrote the bestelling book The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class explained at a session devoted to new ideas in economics that the precariat is a new class that feels highly insecure, anxious and permanently precarious – they feel they are one car accident, one health incident, one job loss in the family away from destitution.

But it is a class comprising three very different groups: the most dangerous is the white male middle and working class worker who feels increasingly threatened by worsening economic conditions, a growing number of people of colour who can do their jobs, and a growing number of increasingly better educated women. They are angry and reactionary, but nevertheless shrinking – which is the good news. The second are the migrants – homeless, stateless, mobile, insecure, angry, and prone to outbursts of anger and protest that often turns violent. They are looking for a political home, and obviously feel totally alienated by the right-wing racist parties.

The third are the educated offspring of the middle class who have been promised a better life, but cannot find jobs. They join progressive movements about social justice and an ecologically sustainable environment, and some hive off into social enterprises. They also don’t have a clearly defined political home.

What Standing does not refer to is the fourth category: the distinctly African precariat comprising mainly young people who have never worked, are poorly educated, live mainly in informal settlements and are behind the so-called ‘3rd wave of African uprisings’ that have emerged in 40 African countries over the past decade or so.

Finally, there was a lot of hand-wringing about the unprecedented build-up of liquidity in the financial systems of the developed economies.  In his ever-so polite but barely disguised disdain for British politicians, the Governor of the Bank of England pointed out that investment in the UK since the referendum has been flat. But don’t worry, he said, there is more than enough liquidity in UK banks to withstand even a no-deal hard Brexit. This was a positive spin on a totally bizarre situation caused by poor governance, policy incompetence and demagogic politicians.

The negative was spoken about often by officials in the multi-lateral system and private sector financial institutions, namely the incredible build-up of unspent cash because of rising fears and uncertainties about the future. As the head of UBS put it, it’s about fear that something can go wrong any minute, resulting in an instantaneous drying up of liquidity. Amazingly, these are decision-makers who do not fully understand a system that is too complex for anyone to fathom, but sense that any minute – like in 2007/8 – it can all fall to pieces. But this time, as the IMF has warned, the banks don’t have the wherewithal to engineer another bailout.

Yet, virtually without fail, most of those in charge of the global financial system felt confident that it is far more robust than it was in 2007, and therefore can withstand coming shocks. In particular, they point to the clamping down on short-term capital flows that caused so much instability; and, ironically, they see high liquidity levels as positive – but of course, high liquidity levels is flip side of weak growth.  The IMF’s lower projections for global growth is because investors who are reluctant to make long-term investments in fixed assets – the kinds of investments, in short, that catalyse growth.

In one important discussion about the future of the global economy, Adaire Turner addressed head on how to finance the transition to renewable energy and green economy. He argued that those who are investing in these infrastructures tend to borrow money at between 8% and 12%, which is high. However, there are trillions of dollars that are invested in so-called ‘safe investments’ like German Government bonds at a negative real interest rate. As the head of UBS suggested, 90% of all these financial assets generated negative returns in 2018. In other words, confidence levels are so low that investors are prepared to pay for their money to be kept safe. If, however, you want to redirect these investments into renewable energy to fund the large-scale decarbonisation required by climate science and policy, you will have to find a way to provide guarantees. This is where the European Union’s Junker Fund, and similar guarantee funds, could play a crucial role. The same applies to DFIs and Sovereign Wealth Funds willing to accept subordinated debt in new blended finance structures aimed at redirecting finance into decarbonisation.

There were many discussions about infrastructure, with special reference to the so-called ‘financing gap’, which is usually defined as the gap between what is needed and what is being spent. It would be preferable if the gap was defined as that which exists between what is needed and the potential cash available if risk was mitigated by guarantees – what is the magnitude of the latter to leverage more investment? In the absence of any reference to the need for another Brettons Woods-type Conference to fix the global financial system, all these discussions boil down to one simple idea: the need for public-private partnerships to unlock different types of capital in creative ways. Well and good, but the devil is in the details. The Brazilians want none of this: with a blind faith in neo-liberal economics, they are embarking on a large-scale privatisation programme to sell all the state-owned companies that are responsible for infrastructure to the private sector, in particular foreign investors. Their model is simple: the public sector will fund social expenditure, while the private sector will find infrastructure via the newly privatised companies. That is, of course, one option but not generally favoured in most places in the world – with China, of course, representing the polar opposite approach. Rather, the focus for most (even the Chinese) is on a creative blend of public and private funding, with DFIs playing a crucial role in packaging these deals. Obviously, the new Brics Bank is key in this regard.

That said, by far the most interesting session on infrastructure was the devoted to a discussion of China’s mammoth so-called Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI is the Chinese Government’s flagship investment and development project. It is championed by the President, and contributed to his confirmation as ‘President-for-life’. It is the largest infrastructure development project in human history. It’s the modern day reincarnation of the thinking that resulted in the construction of the Grand Canal to link North and South China to manage droughts. Forty countries have signed up, comprising 4.89 billion people: how to two thirds of humanity and 34% of global GDP. The total investment is projected to be US$4-8 trillion.   The panel discussion, however, was quite critical. Firstly, there has been mission creep: any project now is part of BRI, diluting its impact. Secondly, there is growing resistance from participating countries who realize they have to pay in quite a bit, but the returns to them are less clear. Thirdly, there are massive coordination problems – regulatory regimes in each country are different, and it will take decades to harmonise customs and logistics management. What is significant, however, is the shear audacity of the vision: it projects onto the world the construction-driven logic of economic growth that has been key to China’s growth. It is an engineer’s vision, but is it appropriate in a world that is shifting from physical capital to digital capital as the primary means of accumulation?

 

 

 

On the last day of the meeting Prof Ngaire Woods, Oxford University, shared her reflections on the week’s discussions, and struck a more positive note. Firstly, she argued, elites are clearly disconnected from society in general. Instead of really reconnecting experientially to personally experience what the broad mass of society experiences, they remain aloof and distant and voice surprise when society reacts in ways that were not predicted. She urged elites to reconnect with society, citing examples of CEO who did exactly that. I wondered whether this would force them to realize that they should do the unthinkable by paying their taxes, and even support increased taxation so that governments can deliver the education and health facilities that can really make a difference – this being the focus of the Oxfam Report.

Secondly, as crisis management has become almost a permanent feature of the post-2007 period and is set to continue, she has observed the decline of the alpha male CEO. The reason, she argued, is obvious: the authoritarian alpha male CEO is not as good as the more inclusive relational women CEO at managing crises. However, crisis and uncertainty also results in a pervasive desire for certainty, something the new populist alpha male political leaders promise and so win support. So as the alpha male declines in the board room, he becomes more prominent in the cabinet.

Finally, there is a need for a new balance between interests and values. The world today is dominated by China and the USA: the USA is democratic at home (sort of), and authoritarian abroad, while China is the opposite. The rebalancing of global political power dynamics is unlikely if major powers only pursue their own immediate nationalistic interests. The values of multilateralism will need to be defended and rebuilt.

 

Taking on a new role – Chairperson of the Board of the Development Bank of Southern Africa

To my great surprise, last week the Minister of Finance appointed me Chairperson of the Board of the Development Bank of Southern Africa. I succeed Jabu Moleketi – these are VERY big shoes to fill! This is my fifth year on the Board, a lot longer than I anticipated. And I learnt SO MUCH from Jabu – he’s an exceptional Board Chair, and the epitome of great South African leadership. As a Board we are proud to have averted ‘state capture’ of the DBSA. My first term expired mid-2017 when Malusi Gigaba was Minister of Finance – many eyebrows were raised when he unexpectedly re-appointed me to the Board two months after I had published the Betrayal of the Promise report that referred to his role in state capture. Shows you, strange things can happen. I look forward to the challenges that lie ahead – 2019 promises to be a hard year for everyone.

Ending of an amazing year!

As the year draws to an end, I am reminded of how it started when the Class of 2018 arrived. They were asked to create clay images as statements, and this is what one of them wrote: How do we enable the development of active hope in a world filled with suffering? ‘Active hope’ – what a great phrase! As I look back on a productive year, I see much of what I achieved as ‘active hope’. In April, at the Resilience Cities Conference in Bonn, the report Weight of Cities was published, which brought together the work of an international interdisciplinary team that I coordinated over a four year period. Prepared for the International Resource Panel, this co-authored report presented a hopeful image of how the future of cities could be if we make big decisions today to transform them. In August the co-authored book Shadow State: the Politics of State Capture was published, building on the work of a great academic team that published Betrayal of the Promise last year. I also published in August the report on state capture at SASSA. Although both these reports are about depressing content, they do reflect much that is hopeful about South Africa: we are not yet a failed state, and this has got a lot to do with the fact that there is still space to mount alternative narratives to those propagated by kleptomaniacal elites. Civil society mobilisation with Churches playing a key role, together with a somewhat independent media, uncorrupted courts, whistle blowers, a few corporates who now and then have the guts to stand up to power rather than acquiesce (like many did, such as KPMG, McKinsey, SAP, T-Systems, Nkonki, etc), and a critical mass of politicians and officials who have overcome fear to stand up against corruption, all contributed to the widening of this space. Academic research plays a key role in creating a narrative for waging the ongoing battle against state capture. Finally, I managed to complete 80% of a new book while on sabbatical at Yale which looks like it will be entitled The Age of Sustainability: Just Transitions in a Complex World, that Routledge has agreed to publish in various formats. I hope to complete this by early 2019. This is the book I have dreamed about writing for a decade or so – a book about the dynamics of transition at multiple levels, and what this means for how we understand knowledge (epistemology) and reality (ontology). Ultimately, it is a book about what it means to be human in a rapidly changing world facing an unprecedented polycrisis that is going to change everything over the next two decades. I am aware I will be completing this book in a world where Trump is thriving, a lunatic fascist has been elected President of Brazil, China’s President has elected himself ‘president-for-life’ to pursue his grand Belt and Road initiative (the largest infrastructure project in human history), Putin tightens his grip on pieces of the world that he requires to prop up a sick economy, fundamentalists rule in India, and middle and working class people in all sorts of countries turn to the populist right because the left has failed to find a way of communicating alternatives in the twitterscape that replicates mass stupidity. There are some hopeful bright lights on the horizon: Ethiopia and Mexico come to mind, albeit they face many challenges. How we fight state capture in the post-Zuma era in a world where looting has become the norm is clearly a challenge. More importantly, how we fight for our democracy when it is clear that capitalism is evolving into a post-democratic norm across the world becomes our greatest challenge. Rabid ‘tooth and claw’ capitalism driven by the unbridled ‘animal spirits’ of a new generation of capitalists schooled at the best Universities in the ‘greed is good’ creed have been let loose on the world – for them, if democracy is an obstacle, get rid of it. For us, our challenge is clear: there is no other example of a country that has managed to redistribute asset wealth democratically – it usually entails violence of some sort (revolution, invasion or civil war), or simply internal collapse as everything gets stolen, and/or simply rots. Can we strengthen our democracy and redistribute asset wealth, including the creation of new wealth for those who don’t have? And how does the global sustainability crisis (especially regarding climate, water and food) become an opportunity for making this happen? Yes, indeed, we need ‘active hope’ – truckloads of it!

Open Letter to President Ramaphosa on climate change

Significant letter on climate change from a South African civil society coalition:

23 October 2018

Open Letter to President Ramaphonsa

Demand for an emergency sitting of Parliament to deliberate on the recently issued UN report on 1.5℃ increase in planetary temperature and its implications for South African climate change policy

The Cooperative and Policy Alternative Center, through and with alliance partners in the South African Food Sovereignty Campaign (http://www.safsc.org.za), has been linking the climate crisis and right to food since 2014. We have made efforts to educate the public about the connection between hunger, the drought and price increases in a corporate controlled food system. Our hunger tribunal together with the Human Rights Commission in 2015, food sovereignty festival and activist schools were all about this. Similarly, in 2016 we attempted to make the link between the drought, water inequality and the need for a food sovereignty system. This we did through our drought speak outs, bread march and coal filled coffin left outside the Gupta compound. Through our Peoples’ Parliament we also adopted a Peoples’ Food Sovereignty Act for South Africa. The latter was handed over to seven government departments and to parliament earlier this year when we also launched a water and climate justice charter process for the country at a Peoples Dialogue on the Water Crisis in Cape Town. Out of nine portfolio committees invited to this dialogue only one person, the Chairperson of the Water Portfolio Committee, attended. Our activism has confirmed a lack of responsiveness and leadership from the South African government regarding the drought and climate change. There is a total disregard for the disproportionate impacts of the drought, as a climate shock, on the unemployed, the working class and the rural and urban poor. This is a crisis of leadership and does not bode well for a climate driven South Africa in which we will be having more extreme weather including droughts, heat waves, floods, wild fires and sea level rise.

The recent UN report (http://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/) on Global Warming of 1.5°C draws attention to the rapidly changing science on global climate change. It also underlines the imperative of bringing down carbon emissions to prevent catastrophic climate change through a 1.5°C overshoot. The report is clear that we are running out of time and decisive leadership is needed over the next 12 years to prevent such a dangerous shift in the Earth’s climate. We believe this report needs to be deliberated through an emergency sitting of parliament as it impacts on the future of all human and non-human life forms in South Africa and on the planet. This is a matter of national interest for all present and future generations and we would like you to consider this demand.

We also believe this parliamentary sitting must consider the implications of the UN report for ensuring South Africa is placed on a climate emergency footing through the following:
· Adjusting its peak, plateau and decline scenarios, which are out of step with the current science on a 1.5°C increase. Drastic reductions in carbon emissions are required now;
· Adjusting the Integrated Resource Plan by removing the ceiling on renewable energy to enable an accelerated shift to socially owned renewable energy;
· Amending the Climate Bill to ensure people driven sustainable development planning is enabled;
· Going beyond government’s ‘death spiral’ of ESKOM approach to restructuring ESKOM to protect the interests of workers while prioritising an end to the climate driven ‘death spiral of society’ through advancing the deep just transition;
· Immediately ending all new investment in coal mining and fracking;
· Scrapping the existing National Development Plan and developing, in a bottom up manner, a Climate Emergency Plan for South Africa as part of the deep just transition to advance the water, food, energy, production, consumption, transport, financial and health systems that will sustain life.

Your predecessor Jacob Zuma, turned his back on Africa, which has and will continue to be hardest hit by climate shocks. Instead he bought into Obama’s stillborn ‘pledge and review mechanism’ entrenched in the Paris Climate Agreement which has not worked. The US, under Trump, has undermined this climate regime through promoting increasing eco-cidal carbon extraction and currently according to the International Energy Agency carbon use and emissions are still accelerating (https://www.euractiv.com/…/bad-news-and-despair-global-car…/). We need a new way forward that affirms climate justice, generational justice and the future of non-human life forms. In the spirit of Nelson Mandela and radical non-racialism, South Africa needs to display climate justice leadership that can unite every human being to face the difficult challenges of climate change.

Having a parliamentary debate on the UN report on Global Warming of 1.5° C also enables similar engagements to happen at provincial government, local government and ward committee level. The failure to act on our demand unfortunately will leave us with the conclusion that your government is either in climate denial or captured by fossil fuel interests or irrational about the current science of climate change. We look forward to your response.

Endorsed by the following organisations:

Children’s Resource Center
WoMin: WoMin African Gender and Extractives Alliance
GroundWork
Friends of the Earth, SA.
Unemployed People’s Movement
Young Women’s Forum
Sustainable Innovations Africa
African Center for Biodiversity
Alternative Information and Development Centre
Media Monitoring Africa
Itumeleng Youth project
Batlhabine Foundation
Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda
Wits Inala Forum for Climate Justice and Food Sovereignty
Natural Justice
African Climate Reality Project
Earthrise
Earthlife Africa, Johannesburg
Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance
Active Citizens Movement, Pietermaritzburg
West Coast Food Sovereignty and Solidarity Forum
GreenHouse Project
PHA Food and Farming Campaign
African Earth Rights
Ecobrick Deep South
Support Centre for Land Change
Karoo Environmental Justice Movement
Consumer Action Network
Inspire Elsies
The Land Rights Organisation of South Africa
The Association for Water and Rural Development
SEED
Gender CC Southern Africa- Women For Climate Justice
Landless Peoples Movement South Africa
Biowatch South Africa
Project 90 by 2030
Noordhoek Environmental Action Group
South Durban Community Environmental Alliance
Environmental Monitoring Group
Sustaining the Wild Coast (SWC)
South African Faith Communities Environmental Initiative (SAFCEI)
Midrand Solidarity Economy Education and Communication Cooperative (MSEECC)
Global Environmental Trust (GET)
EarthLore Foundation
Save Our Imfolozi Wilderness
Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation
Youens Attorneys
Mining Affected Communities United in Action
Southern Africa Green Revolutionary Council
Assembly of the Unemployed South Africa
Middleburg Environmental Justice Network

For further information, contact:

Dr. Vishwas Satgar, COPAC Board Chairperson/ SAFSC Alliance Partner, 082 775 3420
Ferrial Adam, COPAC /SAFSC Alliance Partner, 074 181 3197
Itumeleng Mogatsui, GreenHouse Project / SAFSC Alliance Partner, 073 601 7078

2018 academic year ends with a flourish!

Last week was the Research Workshop and Colloquium – my favorite week in the year! The first three days is about preparing those exiting our course-work Postgraduate Diploma in Sustainable Development (PgDip-SD) for entry into the Mphil in SD, which is about writing a research-based thesis. This transition is a big deal because it means moving from a very structured learning environment that locks students into an institutionally managed learning process, to a self-managed learning environment where students have to be self-directed and more self-motivated. We introduce them to various research methodologies (grounded theory, qualitative and quantitative methods, literature reviews, etc), including our own brand of ‘transdisciplinary’ transformative research. They then ‘pitch’ their proposals to the group and an academic panel, and receive on-the-spot feedback. For most, this is very challenging. Based on this feedback they must write up their detailed research proposals for admission into the Mphil. Then during the last 2 days (Thursday and Friday) those who have completed their Mphil research projects do formal ‘conference style’ presentations for 20-30 mins followed by discussion and comments from supervisors. The purpose is to expose those starting their research journeys to those who have finished. This peer-to-peer learning is far more effective than formal presentations on methodologies by academic staff. Those who have completed are able to reveal how different the end product is from the original proposal, the agonies and ecstasies of field work, and the huge challenge aligning theory, methodology, methods and empirical findings. Supervisors are then given a chance to reflect on the progress on made by the student, and the significance of the research. Those academic staff who have heard these presentations each year were particularly impressed by the high quality of the research output this year, and the effective presentations. The complete research that was presented included the following:

Siraj Jardine: Exploring the role of music in fostering resilience in transformative space toward improved ecosystem stewardship: a case study of teh Reforest Fest

Erich Rickens: A critical analysis of the discursive strategies for circulating climate change denial

Sharne Bloem: Assessing the sustainable infrastructure of a low carbon community: case study of the Lynedoch ecovillage

Sonya Samson: Exploring the role of visuals in sensemaking and sensegiving: a study of the Sustainable Development Goals in corporate South Africa

Therezah Achieng (from Kenya): Investigating land use change in the Eastern Cape as a regime shift

Ray Swilling: Exploring the Sino-Africa Relationship: Investigating Chinese investment and governance regimes in the context of oil discoveries in Uganda’s Albertine Rift System [And yes, he is my son – and I’m such a proud father]

Kyle Swartz: Addressing community energy challenges with utility-scale renewables: a case study of the Hopefield Wind Farm

Adele Strydom: Understanding household energy metabolism in the city of Cape Town

Mersha Zeleke (from Ethiopia): The role of traditional ecological governance systems and legal protection of Sacred Natural Sites (SNS) to enhance community wellbeing and resilience in Bale, Ethiopia

Robyn Foley: Exploring the intersects of State Capture, Neopatrimonialism, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution: A case study of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA-Gate) Crisis.

All the above will be deposited in Stellenbosch University thesis repository called SunScholar after they have been fully evaluated. They can all be found via the SunScholar site by latest February 2019.

 

 

First day back at work….

Coming to the end of my first proper back at work after my long sabbatical. So amazing to back in the space of the Sustainability Institute, and tomorrow I’ll return to the CST (Centre for Complex Systems in Transition) to see if I still have a desk. Just finished going through the applications for the 2019 intake into our Masters programme – really amazing people applying, with many more from African countries, which is really great. As usual, the majority of the applications are from women, and most black women. Not sure how to explain this demographic. Buried below a mudslide of academic admin, the beautiful memory of my near-completed book is receding – so worried about that!

Last days at Yale 🙁 …I need more time!

I have been at Yale since mid-March (except for a month of teaching in August back in Stellenbosch). My aim was to write a book called Just Transitions in a Complex World: Reflections of an Enraged Incrementalist. I have just completed Chapter 8 – two more chapters to go! As always happens when it comes to writing, what emerges is not what was intended at the start. But I am far happier with what is emerging. Last week Routledge let me know they are very keen to publish it – this was because the draft chapters got rave reviews from three reviewers. This was such a boost. One of them wrote: “The breadth of scholarship, the depth of thought, experience and insight is impressive, extraordinary and awe-inspiring. It is also an example of the way the activist and academic modes of learning may work together, a challenge of which the relevance of social and environmental research depends. Integrative studies such as this book that are capable of opening up different kinds of research questions are essential for future developments.” Chapter 8, just completed, is an overview of the renewable energy revolution underway, counterposing the top-down corporate model with the bottom-up cooperative model that drove the renewable transitions in the so-called ‘frontrunner’ countries – Denmark and Germany. By 2000 80% of all wind energy in Denmark was owned by cooperatives and nearly 50% of ALL renewable energy in Germany was owned by cooperatives by 2012. Amazing how cooperatives have driven the innovations that the world now depends on to decarbonize!

Last few weeks at Yale! … I need more time

I have been at Yale since mid-March (except for a month of teaching in August back in Stellenbosch). My aim was to write a book called Just Transitions in a Complex World: Reflections of an Enraged Incrementalist. I have just completed Chapter 8 – two more chapters to go! As always happens when it comes to writing, what emerges is not what was intended at the start. But I am far happier with what is emerging. Last week Routledge let me know they are very keen to publish it – this was because the draft chapters got rave reviews from three reviewers. This was such a boost. One of them wrote: “The breadth of scholarship, the depth of thought, experience and insight is impressive, extraordinary and awe-inspiring. It is also an example of the way the activist and academic modes of learning may work together, a challenge of which the relevance of social and environmental research depends. Integrative studies such as this book that are capable of opening up different kinds of research questions are essential for future developments.” Chapter 8, just completed, is an overview of the renewable energy revolution underway, counterposing the top-down corporate model with the bottom-up cooperative model that drove the renewable transitions in the so-called ‘frontrunner’ countries – Denmark and Germany. By 2000 80% of all wind energy in Denmark was owned by cooperatives and nearly 50% of ALL renewable energy in Germany was owned by cooperatives by 2012. Amazing how cooperatives have driven the innovations that the world now depends on to decarbonize!