Ethics

Marikana Massacre: Causes and Consequences

Posted on Nov 6, 2013 in Ethics, Politics

Marikana Massacre: Causes and Consequences

On the 16th of August 2012, when President Zuma left for the SADC meeting of Heads of States in Mozambique little did he know that this day would mark the darkest day of his presidency. A few hours after his departure from South Africa his government’s policy special unit mowed down 34 workers in cold blood and injured another 78. This was a tragic climax to six days of a wildcat strike by Lonmin’s rock-drillers who had demanded a minimum monthly wage of R12500 (approximately US$1510), leading to a total death of 42, inclusive of 2 policemen. In the annals of SA history, this will go down as a massacre that new South Africa never imagined possible under its democratic constitution. Dubbed as the Marikana massacre, the appalling incidence is the single most lethal use of force by South African security forces against civilians since 1960’s Sharpville massacre of the apartheid era.   The horrific events at Marikana have some multifaceted and deep political roots. Some aspects of it began over a decade ago within the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), and eventually culminated in the formation of the new union called Associated Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU). The top leadership of AMCU is hell bent on diluting NUM to insignificance! This was an intra-union but fierce fight with political undertones. However, in the current landscape where within the ANC alliance there are serious splits, and various groupings are contriving and conspiring to remove those in power, this has become a politically convenient platform for those opposed to NUM, and by extension opposed to President Zuma. It is noteworthy that NUM and its president are staunch supporters of President Zuma.  AMCU has been hard at work to raise the stakes at every opportunity over the past six months. AMCU activities have been mostly in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga, more recently spreading to the NW Province and the Northern Cape. Meanwhile, the anti-Zuma camp within the ANC alliance has been hard at work to strengthen AMCU.   With this in the background, Lonmin mismanaged its labour relations processes in the run up to August 10th, giving bonuses and allowances without proper communication, and totally oblivious to the underlying tensions between NUM and AMCU.  This gave AMCU a “golden opportunity” to agitate and undermine NUM, Lonmin management, and set the stage for a full-on confrontation. Despite evident signs, Lonmin remained insensitive to the bigger picture, resting assured that having Cyril Ramaphosa as their key high profile shareholder and director will save them! This was a fatal error of judgement. Expectedly, Julius Malema emerged as the champion of the striking workers, challenging the leadership of President Zuma and Cyril Ramophosa- both of whom had been instrumental in expelling him from the ANC Youth League last year. Malema had invested heavily in the previous two years to strengthen AMCU and set himself up as the champion of the working class, especially the mine workers.   Whilst this was going on, the police too made some elementary and fatal errors.  Chasing workers on foot in such a highly charged environment is sheer incompetence and indicative of the lack of basic training in crowd control. .As a result, two policemen were hacked to death in the events prior to August 16th, and then the lines were drawn in the sand within the policy force.   Without a doubt the Marikana tragedy has tarnished the country’s image badly, and has placed South Africa’s international credit rating at serious risk. The splintering within the ANC alliance has come to haunt the party, its integrity and...

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Religion and Social Progress: Beyond the Clash of Extremes

Posted on Oct 24, 2013 in Ethics, Spirituality

Religion and Social Progress: Beyond the Clash of Extremes

It is fairly safe to suggest that, over the past century, hardly any issue has been as controversial as the role of religion in public life. It is also a  historic fact that over the period, a mix of scientific, technological, and social developments have made socio-economic life far more complex, intellectually exciting, yet systemically unstable and with rising vulnerability to socio-political volatility. It is equally true that in the process our human conducts, both personal and collective, have drifted away from largely spiritual to manifestly functional utilitarian objectives. The rapid pace of globalization has compounded the complexities and accelerated the move towards a utilitarian human and social functioning.   Experts may differ as to the root causes of these developments, yet there is little disagreement that the upshot of them all is the prevailing unstable and troublesome socio-political system the world over. Widespread human suffering, abuse of political power, misuse of financial and economic resources, the spread of corruption, the rise of malfunctioning of public administrations, and the scarcity of inspired leadership are the common phenomena in both developing and developed countries, in established and emerging democracies, in democratic and totalitarian states, in traditional tribal settings and in modern unified societies, in poor as well as in resourceful territories. In short, our sophisticated socio-economic system is facing a crisis of sustainability, legitimacy, and integrity.   The evolution of social progress, propelled by unprecedented advancements in technology, communication, transportation, and fostering of ideas, has systemically reduced the role of morality and ethics in various spheres of human civilization. Perspectives have shifted away from essential and long term considerations to functional and short term preoccupations. As such, this paper argues, a systemic issue has emerged which needs a systemic solution. Partial measures driven by opportunistic exigencies would at best deal with symptoms, leaving the root causes intact. This paper maintains that the systemic fault-line is largely due to the rise of materialistic secularism in the name of modernity and near neglect of religion and spirituality[1]. The working premise of this paper is that science (as the engine of secularism) and religion (as the propagator of spirituality) are the two forces of social advancement. This is one of the central tenets of the Bahá’í Faith. The challenge facing us is, thus, not to sacrifice one on the alter of the other. To this end, Section I will review the rise of materialistic secularism and its aftermath. Section II will focus on social governance and the notion of development as pervades public policy. This will be followed, in Section III, by a discussion of the spiritual nature of humankind and the need for a paradigm change in unlocking human potential towards social progress. Section Four will offer some concluding remarks.   I- The Rise of Secularism and Its Aftermath The general notions of “free thought” have existed throughout history. Whilst the term “secularism” was first coined by the British writer George Holyoake in 1851, early secular ideas involving the separation of philosophy and religion can be traced back to Muslim polymath, Ibn Rushd (1126-1198) and the Averroism school of philosophy. Holyoake’s used the term secularism to describe his views of promoting a social order separate from religion, without actively dismissing or criticizing religious belief. However the term secularism itself has evolved over time. Karl Marx’s famous phrase; “religion as the opiate of the masses”, helped shift the connotation of secularism into a materialistic domain. The subsequent emergence of socialist and communist states in 20th century expressed a vast and prominent social experimentation inspired by the materialistic notions of secularism.   Interestingly, the...

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