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Commission 25 (C25) deals with the techniques and issues involved with the measurement of optical and infrared radiation intensities and polarization from astronomical sources. As such, in recent years attention has focused on photometric standard stars, atmospheric extinction, photometric passbands, transformation between systems, nomenclature, and observing and reduction techniques. At the start of the trimester C25 changed its name from Stellar Photometry and Polarization to Astronomical Photometry and Polarization so as to explicitly include in its mandate particular issues arising from the measurement of resolved sources, given the importance of photometric redshifts of distant galaxies for many of the large photometric surveys now underway. We begin by summarizing commission activities over the 2012-2014 period, follow with a report on Polarimetry, continue with Photometry topics that have been of interest to C25 members, and conclude with a Vision for the Future.
Does it sit easily with the millions of ANC supporters here at home, and in the world at large, that during [the organization's] centennial year, the government, led by the ANC, presided over the first post-democracy state massacre … [For] Marikana is symptomatic of a much deeper malaise … Over the past eight years we have seen the escalation of local protests over perceived delivery failures and corruption at local government levels. It might well be that many of these protests were fuelled by rising expectations: [Certainly] there can be no doubt that in many instances this has led to ANC councilors losing legitimacy among the people. It is only a matter of time before that loss of legitimacy percolates upwards – to the provincial and national levels … [Indeed] the credibility of the ANC today is probably the lowest it has been since 1990!
Pallo Jordan, September 7, 2012
From the vantage point of the troubled present, my conclusion highlights within South Africa's history both the rise of the ANC's mission of liberation and the disappointing and anti-climactic outcome that has followed from the ANC's ‘victory’. But it also seeks to register the complex cross-currents of the present moment and the still somewhat hesitant signs that some novel brand of post-ANC, counter-hegemonic, political expression may be beginning to emerge in South Africa – one that could in time displace the present ANC government itself and do so for the better.
On the one hand, as we have seen, capital (both local and global) was increasingly on side, its conviction growing that the ANC was the one force that could actually deliver an insurgent population to acceptance of a deal quite unthreat-ening in substance both to capital as well as to those whites who were securely lodged in the upper strata of society. On the other hand, however, there was the insurgent proletariat and precariat (as represented, notably, by COSATU and the UDF) : yet they too were being brought, slowly but surely, to heel by the ANC – the rank and file of both proletariat and precariat now to be rendered politically, as we have suggested above, as presumptive ‘citizens’ rather than as assertive and active comrades in a continuing struggle for genuine liberation.
The stage was thus set for ‘transition’ (however contradictory it might prove to be) … or was it? True, the ANC could look forward to the more public set of negotiations, those with the apartheid state, with some confidence – now that it had begun, by the late 1980s, to have acceptance of where it might, in the long run, really count: in the camp of that very capital with which it had, in fact, actually been negotiating for some years.
The evolution of the South African state and society in the early twenty-first century confirmed the more pessimistic predictions: neo-liberalism would fail, thus leading to systemic corruption (sometimes termed neo-patrimonialism), followed by open ruptures thanks to extreme inequality, unemployment and low pay in varied communities and workplaces. The Marikana massacre on August 16, 2012, reflected these trends, as the nextchapter reports. However, the story would have been yet more grim if, during the dozen years after 2000, Pretoria had not adopted what we can characterize as ‘tokenistic welfarism’ in several social policy innovations. Most important was a victory won by civil society activists against President Thabo Mbeki that led to free access to AIDS medicines and then to a dramatic rise in life expectancy. Some social policies, such as Free Basic Services for lifeline water and electricity, were of global importance, yet at the same time suffered severe limitations because of their tokenistic character. All of these developments reflected the overarching problem of neo-liberalism in public policy, operating within a structurally dysfunctional economy that excluded around 40 per cent of the working-age population from employment, overlaid with new gender and race biases, not to mention extreme disregard for the environment.
Ultimately, as we will see, the extreme political turmoil within the ruling party – with three presidents serving in the course of nine months in 2008-09 following the prior year's ‘palace coup’ against Mbeki at the Polokwane conference of the African National Congress – did not lead to changes in core state processes.
Across the complex landscape of the southern part of the African continent, human beings have carved a conflictual history, one that in the last several hundred years has witnessed particularly dramatic scenes: heroic accomplishments set against cruel examples – the apartheid system itself being the principal case in point – of ‘man's inhumanity to man [sic]’. The present chapter will sketch this experience, tracing the long arc of history of those peoples who would ultimately form the citizenry of present-day South Africa. It must be borne in mind, however, that for much of the period covered in this chapter, the lines on the map that eventually came to encompass ‘South Africa’ did not exist: only with the benefit of hindsight can we see, with any clarity, that country ‘in the-making’. Up until a very late date, a diversity of ‘histories’ cut across the territory that is now South Africa, these histories fatefully intersecting in ways that deeply affected and qualified their independent trajectories, even as they also retained and reflected something of their own semi-autonomous structure, dynamics and inner meaning.
This chapter will, in turn, set the stage for an initial focus in the succeeding one (Chapter 2) on the attempt to forge one kind of synthesis of these diversities: the extreme form of institutionalization of racial supremacy represented by the ascendancy, from 1948, of the National Party and its authoritarian apartheid state.
South Africa won its democracy in 1994. But in far too many respects, it has been a ‘choiceless democracy’ in socio-economic policy terms and more broadly a ‘low-intensity democracy’, to borrow terms coined respectively by Thandika Mkandawire for Africa, and by Barry Gills and Joel Rocamora for many ex-dictatorships. The self-imposition of economic and development policies – typically at the behest of financial markets and the Washington/Geneva multilateral institutions – required an extraordinary insulation from genuine national determinations: in short, an ‘elite transition’. This insulation of policy from democracy was facilitated by invoking the mantra of seeking ‘international competitiveness’, and initially peaked with Nelson Mandela's 1996 Growth, Employment and Redistribution policy. As Chapter 5 shows, Pretoria's obeisance to multinational corporations, revealed in this core policy, helped to mould the platinum belt in a manner that inexorably led to the Marikana Massacre. In the South African case of low-intensity democracy, it must be stressed, the decision to reduce any real room for strategic manoeuvre was made as much by the local principals as it was by the Bretton Woods Institutions, other financiers and investors.
As these next chapters document, South Africa's democratization was profoundly compromised by an intra-elite economic deal that, for most people, worsened poverty, unemployment, inequality and ecological degradation, while also exacerbating many racial, gender and geographical differences. In this chapter we consider the critical choices and outcomes from 1994–2000.
The present chapter, and the briefer but complementary one that follows it, tell a complex story. On the one hand, they chart the slow but ineluctable struggle on the part of the vast majority of the population, who were, by and large, not white, to overcome the cruel ‘pigmentocracy’ – as finally epitomized by the apartheid regime – that had come to dominate their lives and stunt their human potential. At the same time, however, the enemies of promise were many more than those embedded in the fact of racial rule itself. For, as seen in the previous chapter, there was also, linked to and interpenetrating with white rule, the grim fact of capitalist domination. Indeed, for many South Africans, the struggle for racial freedom and equality was simultaneously a struggle for freedom from class and external economic domination – and also one for gender equality, environmental security and the institutionalization of democratic structures within which the voices of all could be heard and heeded. Yet the fact remains that the struggle for racial equality – in part eminently successful – has been far more fully realized than have been any struggles for class, gender and environmental justice and for the guaranteeing of any meaningful and effective democratic ‘voice’ for all citizens.
In short, there can be no question that the victory over the grim system of apartheid, recorded in this chapter, was dramatic.
The late-twentieth century's most obvious historical anomaly, the ‘legalized’ form of racial oppression that was apartheid, remained for many decades an on-going challenge to both activists and analysts engaged in the project of realizing social justice – knowing all the while that this deeply inequitable system should change, could change, would change, but not knowing when it would change, or how, or by whose efforts. Nonetheless, by the end of the new millennium's first decade, we had in fact witnessed South Africa's negotiated realization of a new colour-blind democratic constitution as well as several elections on this new roughly open and non-racial basis: that of 1994 bringing Nelson Mandela andhis African National Congress (ANC) to office; that of 1999 reaffirming, with the election of Thabo Mbeki as Mandela's successor as President, both the democratic content of the transition and the ANC's overwhelming legitimacy as governing party; that of 2004 reconfirming the ANC in state power (notwithstanding Mbeki andhis team's dramatically flawed leadership); that of 2009 which, in the wake of Mbeki's dismissal from office, did reaffirm in power the ANC, now under President Jacob Zuma's leadership – albeit without much sense that the latter's newly-restructured ruling coalition would transform the deeply inequitable and dependent country now under his sway. The national election sometime in 2014 has seemed likely merely further to cement Zuma's dominance, although even that can no longer merely be assumed.
In 1994, the first non-racial elections in South Africa brought Nelson Mandela and his African National Congress to office; elections since have confirmed the ANC's hold, both popular and legitimate,on power. Yet, at the same time, South Africa has one of the highest rates of protest and dissent in the world - underscored by the police shooting of 34 striking miners at Marikana in 2012 - regionsof deep poverty and environmental degradation, rising inequality and high unemployment rates. This book looks at this paradox by examining the precise character of the post-apartheid state, and the roots of the hope that something better than the semi-liberation that the ANC has presided over must not be long delayed - both within the ANC itself and within the broader society of South Africa. The authors present a history of South Africa from earliest times, with today's post-apartheid society interpreted and understood in the context of and through the lens of its earlier history. Following the introduction, which offers an analytical background to the narrative that follows, they track the course of South African history: from its origins to apartheid in the 1970; through the crisisand transition of the 1970s and 1980s to the historic deal-making of 1994 that ended apartheid; to its recent history from Mandela to Marikana, with increasing signs of social unrest and class conflict. Finally, the authors reflect on the present situation in South Africa with reference to the historical patterns that have shaped contemporary realities and the possibility of a 'next liberation struggle'.
John S. Saul is Professor Emeritus at York University (Canada). Patrick Bond is Senior Professor of Development Studies and Director of the Centre for Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Durban).
Southern Africa (South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland & Botswana): Jacana
The prior two chapters showed how the wholehearted embrace of neo-liber-alism by the African National Congress from the early 1990s left the economy especially fragile, reliant upon asset bubbles and subject to capital flight at the first sign of trouble. Although from 1993–2008 there was technical GDP growth each year, it was terribly stilted. Although South Africa technically began recovering from formal recession in late 2009, this did not reverse the economic rot: i.e., the rise of mass unemployment, further property market turmoil, manufacturing stagnation, a severe credit squeeze and a return to dangerous current account deficits (as the big extractive and financial corporations shipped out funds to London, and as trade slipped into deficit, too). As inequality increased and reports became more frequent of corporate managers ‘earning’ millions of dollars in salary and perks, South Africa became a microcosm of growing global concerns about the ‘1 per cent’ versus the ‘99 per cent’.
One of the most visible representatives of the latter was Congress of SA Trade Unions (COSATU) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. He regularly articulated the limits of worker patience during his long career in trade-union leadership, although in the second half of 2012 this role was constrained by shifting power balances and in mid-2013 he became embroiled in a major controversy concerning his sexual behaviour with a subordinate, leaving the momentum within the left of the labour movement to be forged by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA).