The house of Mugabe crumbles – but it’s too soon to celebrate in Zimbabwe


It seemed that Robert Mugabe, the 93-year-old Zimbabwean president, would rule his country until he died – but in the end, his fall was very swift. Mugabe’s decision to depose vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, at the behest of his 52-year-old wife Grace, was the last straw, and the army stepped in to depose him in a smooth operation that met no opposition.

Grace Mugabe’s political assassination attempt on Mnangagwa – a move to position herself as her husband’s successor – drew comparisons with Lady Macbeth, not least since her hunger for power finally brought about the Mugabes’ downfall. The only real question was how her veteran husband let her lead him to that fatal step without seeing the blowback coming.

The first lady started out as a young secretary in Robert Mugabe’s typing pool. She became his mistress in the early 1990s and married him in 1996 in a lavish wedding ceremony. She began her formal rise to power in 2014, as head of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU–PF) party’s Women’s League. But where she really flexed her muscles was in a ruthless campaign to expel Mugabe’s vice-president, war heroine Joice Mujuru, first from office and then from the party.

In so doing, she antagonised the war veterans who saw Mujuru as one of their own, but she shored herself up with the support of ZANU-PF’s Youth League. She became a leader among the so-called G40 – the Generation of 40, a faction of younger ZANU-PF party members in their 40s and 50s who conspired to target her rivals. Mnangagwa, a veteran and former spymaster, was next on her hitlist.

Although she did not officially join the cabinet of ministers, her G40 allies there worked against Mnangagwa and his allies. They drummed up the relentless refrain that Mnangagwa was working to undermine Robert Mugabe.

Grace Mugabe’s volatile temperament made news across the continent when she attacked a 20-year-old woman, who had been partying with her sons in a Johannesburg hotel, with a power cord. She escaped prosecution by claiming diplomatic immunity, conducting herself very much like a president-in-waiting. It seems the South Africans took note.

Raising hell

Jacob Zuma, the South African president, responded to the Zimbabwean coup with tact and moderation, calling for for “calm and restraint” in line with the constitution. His statement came with an implicit sigh of relief, a note of hope that something like predictability might be returning across his country’s northern border.

The Chinese, longtime friends of Zimbabwe, took a similar tack. It is no coincidence that General Constantine Chiwenga, the Zimbabwe army chief, was visiting China when Mnangagwa was booted out. It seems likely that Chiwenga discussed his plan to intervene with the Chinese. Having supported and trained Mugabe’s rebel liberation army in the late 1970s and helped finance the country’s grossly mismanaged economy, Bejing must be relieved at the prospect of a return to actual economic management.

Again, the Mugabes’ recent conduct is what really stuck in the craw. The distinguishing characteristic of Grace Mugabe’s long campaign against first Mujuru and then Mnangagwa was her total lack of concern for Zimbabwe’s increasingly impoverished citizens. By the time the coup came around, some economists estimated inflation at well over 300%. The “bond notes” printed to compensate for a paucity of US dollars never earned popular confidence – the country seemed doomed to return to the fiscal madness of the mid-2000s, when Zimbabwean dollars were being printed so fast that a loaf of bread cost millions.

Grace Mugabe and her G40 supporters had little concern for monetary policy, and neither the Chinese nor anyone else wanted to channel open-ended financial flows to such a country. The South Africans, meanwhile, wanted to slow the number of economic refugees, about 3m of whom have fled Zimbabwe for Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, all of which already suffer from rising unemployment. And so when the coup came, there was little reason for anyone to help the Mugabes cling on – even their oldest allies.

Rescue mission

It is far from certain a coalition will be possible, but opposition leader Morgan Tsvangiraihas flown back to Zimbabwe from Johannesburg and is reportedly ready to discuss possibilities. Tsvangirai knows that Mnangagwa has a ruthless past. He was an animating figure behind the brutal suppression of largely fictitious dissent in Matabeleland in the 1980s, when Zimbabwean soldiers trained by North Korea killed thousands of innocent citizens.

But what is really occupying people’s minds – including those of the military figures that launched the coup – is the need for a coherent policy programme to help Zimbabwe climb out of a shockingly deep economic hole. If Mnangagwa can form a unity government with the opposition, there will be enough financial brains involved to make a fresh start.

Mnangagwa is no economist, but he understands the need for economic planning and revival – and what the country’s old hands lack in new ideas they may at least make up for in competence. The new president could build a good team from two former ministers of finance, Tendai Biti of the opposition and Mnangagwa supporter Patrick Chinamasa, demoted recently from the finance portfolio at Grace Mugabe’s behest. At minimum, both men would be trusted by crucial patrons in both the West and China.

So far, the world’s great powers have stood aside in this Shakespearean drama. The Mugabes were swiftly put under house arrest in the presidential palace the Chinese helped build, an opulent structure crested by blue Chinese porcelain tiles that looks like the Temple of the Dawn in a kung fu movie. Without explicitly approving a military coup – and despite their reservations about Mnangagwa’s ruthless history – they seem content to embrace the lesser of two evils. As the tanks rolled in, everybody breathed a quiet sigh of relief.

Any new government will not start on a firm foundation. Perhaps Grace Mugabe will try to somehow organise a comeback. It’s not clear if Zimbabwe still has enough of an economic base to start rebuilding itself in earnest, and the military may yet try to extract a price for its role in bringing Mugabe down. Should that price be too high, Zimbabwe might fall prey to the old Turkish phenomenon of “tutelary democracy”, where for decades a powerful military peered over the shoulders of a weak government.

But for now, it seems the Mugabe era is over – and as far as Zimbabwe’s most important backers go, that’s a start.


By : Stephen Chan (Professor of World Politics, SOAS, University of London)
Date : November 18, 2017
Source : The Conversation (

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How Protest Works


Do protests and social movements matter? Do they really bring about change?

Answering this question is tricky. It’s not obvious, for example, how much the recent shift to the right in American politics reflects the efforts of the Tea Party movement and how much it reflects deeper developments such as increasing racial hostility and negative reactions to globalization. Sometimes a movement matters far less than the social, economic and political forces that give rise to the movement itself.

When social scientists do uncover evidence of a movement’s influence, we have tended to focus on three main pathways by which movements gain power: cultural, disruptive and organizational. On its own, each pathway turns out to be limited in its effect. But movements that have managed to combine all three, such as the civil rights movement in the 1950s and ’60s, have had lasting impact.

Movements are said to exercise “cultural” power when they shape public opinion, language and everyday behavior. Part of what social movements do is create new ideas that challenge the status quo. Some of these ideas never go anywhere, but others take hold even among people who never participate in the movement. People didn’t talk about “the 99 percent” as a way of personalizing the issue of economic inequality before the Occupy movement popularized the phrase. Afterward, the conversation changed: As the sociologists Sarah Gaby and Neal Caren showed in a 2016 article, discussion of inequality in mainstream newspapers increased threefold in the period after Occupy.

But cultural power is not everything. It is difficult to change people’s attitudes about controversial issues. Movements risk “preaching to the choir.” Those opposed to a movement’s goals or hostile to its constituency may also respond by deepening their opposition or hostility. You see this in the polarized reactions of fans to the national anthem protests in the National Football League. In addition, cultural power may change public opinion or discussion of an issue but not translate into other kinds of lasting institutional changes, as was the case with Occupy.

Movements have “disruptive” power when they make it more costly for people to support the status quo. Students in the civil rights movement used sit-ins to increase the everyday costs of doing business until business owners capitulated to their demands. In a 2015 study, the sociologist Michael Biggs and I found that sit-ins could prompt business owners even in neighboring cities to desegregate, because they feared the costs of facing future protesters. Disruption can also signal the depth of participants’ commitment to a cause and the movement’s capacity to withstand repression.

The drawback of disruptive power is that it often inspires counterattacks. The first order of business for elites and authorities facing disruptive protest is to bring it to an end. Some may meet protesters’ demands; some will crack down on protest. Others do both. One week Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, was kneeling in apparent solidarity with players seeking to bring attention to racial injustice; the next week he threatened to bench any player who knelt.

Finally, movements build power through organizing. Strong organizations make possible the sort of sustained participation that supports a protest’s agenda for the long haul. In recent years, the Tea Party has provided an example of how movements can use organizational power to help bring about social and political change. The political scientists Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson have analyzed how Tea Party activists, building on the disruptive power of the movement’s initial protests in 2009, established local organizations, supported candidates who shared the movement’s ideals and helped transform the Republican Party.

Organizational power faces its own challenges, though, including the difficulty of sustaining meaningful participation. Staging the occasional protest and raising money are one thing; developing leaders and building constituencies are another. Despite substantial resources and hundreds of organizations, the environmental movement, for example, has not generated the sort of participation sufficient to meet the environmental challenges we face. This failure reflects a larger trend of professional advocacy groups that connect to their supporters primarily through fund-raising appeals.

How does a movement manage to combine cultural, disruptive and organizational power? In some cases, this is accomplished through a division of labor. For example, in the civil rights movement, prominent leaders linked the language of rights, the symbols and rituals of the black church, and the Gandhian approach to civil disobedience; student activists fueled disruption through direct-action protests; and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, with hundreds of local organizations and leaders across the country, challenged the powers supporting the status quo in their communities and through the courts.

Over the past year, people have taken to the streets and sought to establish or revitalize organizations to resist the Trump presidency and advance broader social change. To capitalize on the energy and urgency of the moment, leaders and activists should look to build a movement that generates new sources of cultural, disruptive and organizational power.


Kenneth T. Andrews is a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the author of “Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: The Mississippi Civil Rights Movement and Its Legacy.”


By : Kenneth T. Andrews
Date : October 21, 2017
Source : The New York Times (

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How social justice and the environment connect


In his new book, author David Pellow argues that environmental issues and social justice are connected.

In What is Critical Environmental Justice? (Polity Press, 2017), Pellow, a chair in environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, examines the complicated connections between humans and ecosystems. He provides a framework for making environmental justice more inclusive and discusses how that concept applies to areas not usually associated with the field: the Black Lives Matter movement, the US prison industrial complex, and the Israel-Palestine conflict.

“Every one of us is an indispensable member of our community and is needed for moving us toward ecological sustainability and social justice, which I see as symbiotic issues,” says Pellow, who also directs the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Global Environmental Justice Project.

“But we need to expand our theories and practices of environmental justice beyond just human beings,” he says.

Changing ideas of justice

Is it possible to reframe the way people think about environmental issues and solutions? Pellow addresses the question in his book. As he sees it, he says, the scholarly debate about whether exposure to environmental pollution is primarily a function of economics or of racial inequalities is limited because both are almost always in evidence.

“We also need to think of climate change and environmental health issues as examples of violence,” Pellow remarks. “In fact, our bodies themselves can be viewed as sites of struggle for environmental justice.”

While the Black Lives Matter movement protests the violence and systemic racism toward black people by police and vigilantes, Pellow is troubled by the rhetoric people use on both sides of the issue.

For example, there is a common refrain that police are shooting black people “like dogs.” That rhetoric, he notes, rightly points to the longstanding problem of state-sanctioned racist violence, but it also implies that it’s OK to go out and indiscriminately slaughter nonhumans. He calls it the “social discourse of animality,” a term meant to capture the language people use to describe human behavior via nonhuman references and analogies.

According to Pellow, this signals a set of assumptions surrounding what is viewed as acceptable behavior and how different bodies are valued.

“The language we use sometimes masks and other times makes visible the fact that many people think it’s perfectly fine to have open season on certain beings but not on others,” he adds.

“If we had a broader vision of environmental justice, we could simultaneously acknowledge the unique ways in which African Americans have a troubling relationship with law enforcement and, at the same time, be more inclusive and pay attention to how violence often spills over the species boundary.”

Another key point in Pellow’s book: Relying on governments to solve environmental justice problems may not always be the best option. After all, he says, governments are in some ways the primary engines of climate change and certain environmental harms.

“It’s fairly illogical to expect the perpetrators of the problem to be the ones to solve it,” he adds. “It is far more empowering and democratizing when communities take direct action to improve their lot.”

People power

To that end, Pellow also underscores the power of ordinary people to secure meaningful victories for environmental justice.

Bryant Arroyo is a case in point. During the time he served at Pennsylvania’s State Correctional Institution at Mahanoy, the township was considering a proposal for a coal gasification plant right next to the prison, which would have led to a public health threat from increased air pollution.

Despite restrictions on inmates’ activities, Arroyo organized 900 of his fellow prisoners to sign letters of protest and made sure they reached the township supervisors. They agreed with the arguments put forth by the inmates and halted the project, earning Arroyo the informal title of “jailhouse environmentalist.”

Pellow says, “If Bryant Arroyo could shut down a coal gasification plant from within a prison, then surely everyone else in the ‘free world’ has far greater power and potential than we ever imagined—and that is really inspiring.”

He makes a similar case for the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Pellow sees the struggle over unequal access to the same land as an environmental justice issue—one that would benefit from thinking about and acting on environmental issues on many levels: local, national, and global.

“While I am not an expert on this conflict, I see no reason why we can’t pursue justice for people on all sides in ways that are respectful and that recognize the historic, ongoing human rights struggles for all faiths and origins,” Pellow says. “However, I do think that there has been a troubling unwillingness on both sides to really see the humanity of the other.

“In this, as in all critical environmental justice issues,” he continues, “we’ve got to find a way to see all of us—both humans and nonhumans—as having shared fates.”


Source: Nicoletta Lanese for UC Santa Barbara


Posted By : Julie Cohen-UC Santa Barbara
Date : November 19, 2017
Source :

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We need to talk about the social norms that fuel sexual assault


The recent spate of sexual harassment accusations against prominent men in Westminster comes as no surprise to many of us. We expect them to know better – to have been better people – but we have also seen this kind of behaviour before … over and over again. It isn’t just powerful men – but it is almost always men.

It’s time to start looking at the deep-rooted causes of harassment. We need to try to understand why sexual harassment is carried out much more by men against women than vice versa. And this is going to involve an evaluation of our sexual norms. Once we’ve done this, we can start a conversation about the kind of sex we do want – and how to create a culture where that is more likely to happen.

Let’s consider three gendered social norms that might have a role in why men sexually harass women.

1) Men are entitled to sex

The view that men are constantly thinking about sex, and feel somehow entitled to it due to their superior status to women, is one that we are familiar with: from sexist chants at universities, to pick-up artists, to lyrics that eroticise sexual coercion (such as Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke) and films that revolve around the “winning over” of an uninterested woman. We also take it for granted that there is a large sex industry, which caters – for the most part – for men’s sexual desires.

2) Men call the shots

It is still a common expectation that men should ask women out on dates, decide where to go, and pay for them. Women, on the other hand, should play hard to get and be submissive. Consider the well-known “Rules” dating book, which has tips for women such as: “don’t tell him what to do” and “let him take the lead”.

Men are also expected to be dominant sexually – and this is implicit in the way that we talk about sex: men fuck/screw/bone women. The male dominance norm carries forward into marriage. It is still usual for the woman to wait for the man to ask her to marry him and to take his name when they marry, for example.

3) Women should be sexually pure

Women’s sexuality is controlled through slut shaming. Many men would still be uncomfortable being with a woman who had slept with many more people than he had – and many men still feel comfortable referring to women as “slags” or “sluts” for indulging in behaviour that would make a man a “stud” or a “lad”.

It is implicitly believed that women must help men to control their sexual desire and aggression. They can do this by dressing modestly, and not being too flirtatious with men. Peter Hitchens recently helpfully suggested in the Daily Mail that the niqab is what women will get from all this “squawking about sex pests”, since, as he put it: “No minister would put his hand on the knee of anyone dressed like this; indeed, he’d have trouble finding her knee, or anything else”.

So, let’s talk

These norms are obviously extreme, and are not held by everyone. They are also, I hope, being slowly eroded. But they do exist – and it is not too far-fetched to say that they have a role in creating a culture in which men, much more so than women, feel that they want to and are able to engage in sexual harassment. After all, if there is an implicit assumption that you are entitled to sex (and this view might be held particularly strongly by men who believe they are entitled in all aspects of life), that you call the shots in the sexual arena, and that if a woman is dressed “provocatively”, or acting “flirtatiously”, you just can’t help yourself, then you might feel that you do nothing wrong in harassing her.

The revelations from Westminster have opened up a debate surrounding men’s actions within that small bubble, a debate that needs to be had. But we should also use it as an opportunity to talk about gendered sexual norms, because sex is a part of sexual harassment.

We need to do more than just train men in sexual consent. Consent, after all, is a bare minimum requirement for good sex. What we need is a conversation about what makes good sex – and what kind of gender norms would improve gender relations more broadly. And I think they might end up being quite different to the norms we have now.


By : Natasha McKeever (Teaching Fellow in Applied Ethics, University of Leeds)
Date : November 11, 2017
Source : The Conversation (

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Ending the Business of Child Labor


Advocates fighting to eradicate child labor had once hoped that globalization would help. But recent evidence shows that little progress has been made, suggesting that in addition to strong legal frameworks, robust accountability mechanisms are needed to guarantee that child labor is not used in supply chains.

NEW DELHI – In October 1997, when global leaders gathered in Oslo to strategize how to end child labor, we brought a huge ambition and a deep commitment to change. Through improved collaboration and planning, we sought to protect children from exploitation, and to develop “new strategies to eliminate child labor at the national, regional, and international levels.”

Now, 20 years later, it is time to ask: how have we done?

Poorly. Since that first meeting, the world has not even halved the number of children in the workforce. In the last five years, the international community has managed to reduce the number of employed children by just 16 million, the slowest pace of reduction in decades. Of the 152 million children working today, some 73 million are doing jobs considered hazardous. Even “safe” child labor affects victims’ physical and physiological wellbeing long into adulthood.

Worse, according to the most recent data from the International Labor Organization, the world has made the least progress in protecting two of the most at-risk populations: children between the ages of five and 11, and young girls.

The problem is not that we have failed to learn anything during our four global gatherings (the most recent one, held in Buenos Aires, wrapped up earlier this month). The problem is that we have failed, and are failing, to take our own advice.

Even as we talk, disturbing global developments have added a sinister twist to child labor and trafficking. This was supposed to be the century of empowerment for the most marginalized. Instead, we are witnessing globalization of the most perverted kind, with children becoming victims many times over.

Because traffickers can easily prey amid chaos, children in conflict zones are particularly vulnerable. Syria has commanded attention for years because of the horrific violence to which children there are subjected. But the global rise of organized gangs means that children in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe are also at risk. Stemming this trend requires urgent and coordinated investment in education and safety wherever children are at risk – in conflict zones, refugee camps, and in areas affected by natural disasters.

I am often left wondering how we got to this point. Over the last 37 years, colleagues and I have rescued more than 87,000 children from forced labor in India. We have rescued girls who were so abused that they lost their ability to speak. Recently, we rescued children from a garment factory in New Delhi, where, for more than three years, they had been forced to sit and work for 20 hours a day in a basement with no ventilation. When they were brought to Mukti Ashram, our transit rehabilitation center, many were unable to walk or even look up at the sun.

We are proud of our accomplishments. But humans’ depravity is a source of continued sorrow.

How can we end this suffering once and for all? Global gatherings, like the one that just ended, certainly have a role to play. But talk alone will not suffice. Serious problems confronting humanity are tackled only when stakeholders become full participants.

Successes in public health are instructive. For example, there was a time when diseases like polio and smallpox ravaged millions. Through the coordinated efforts of doctors, volunteers, global institutions, local governments, and civil society, these diseases were tamed. Similar collaboration is needed now to reduce child labor.

The first place to start is targeting industries where child labor is present, such as agriculture. In addition to strong legal frameworks, robust accountability mechanisms must be established to guarantee that child labor is not used in supply chains. I have found that with the right incentives, businesses and consumers can become partners in eradicating child labor.

One example of this collaboration emerged from the carpet industry in South Asia, where children were being mercilessly exploited. To force change, we launched a movement to educate consumers in the West to compel carpet factory owners to behave responsibly. This led to the creation of a label, GoodWeave, which certifies that no child has been put to work manufacturing the product. Since the label was launched more than 20 years ago, child labor in the region’s carpet industry has plummeted, from roughly one million to about 200,000.

Programs like these are helpful, but the most important changes must come from international efforts led by the United Nations. Ending the vicious circle of child labor, illiteracy, and poverty will require inter-governmental agencies to come together around each of the Sustainable Development Goals that directly affect children. These include Goal 8, ending forced labor, modern slavery, trafficking, and child labor; Goal 4, ensuring education for all; Goal 3, providing universal access to healthcare; and Goal 16, stopping all forms of violence against children.

To succeed, UN Secretary-General António Guterres will need to channel more resources toward improving children’s lives. His first course of action should be to call a meeting with the heads of UN agencies and international organizations, as well as world leaders, to create an agenda for concerted and coordinated efforts to protect young people everywhere.

At the end of the day, only political will can disrupt the grim calculus of child labor. We cannot build a more peaceful, sustainable world without ensuring the freedom, safety, and education of every child. A life of work robs children of all three.

As I ponder the way forward, I cannot forget a young girl I met in Brazil, whose small hands were horribly injured and bleeding from plucking oranges. She asked me a simple question, to which I did not have an answer: “How can the world enjoy the juice from these oranges when children like me have to shed their blood to pluck them?”

That is a question we all must ask ourselves, too.


By : Kailash Satyarthi
Date : November 16, 2017
Source : Project Syndicate (

Posted in Gender and Human Rights, Latest Post | Leave a comment
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