Month: April 2017

KIMBERLEY First Facts

Colonial Commissioners arrived in New Rush on 17 November 1871 to exercise authority over the territory on behalf of the Cape Governor and by Proclamation dated 5 July 1873, New Rush/ Vooruitzigt  was named Kimberley after then Secretary of State for the ColoniesLord Kimberley.

Kimberley was the initial hub of industrialisation in South Africa in the late nineteenth century, which transformed the country’s agrarian economy into one more dependent on its mineral wealth. A key feature of the new economic arrangement was migrant labour, with the demand for African labour in the mines of Kimberley (and later on the gold fields) drawing workers in growing numbers from throughout the subcontinent. The labour compound system developed in Kimberley from the 1880s was later replicated on the gold mines and elsewhere.

The city housed South Africa’s first stock exchange, the Kimberley Royal Stock Exchange, which opened on 2 February 1881.

On 2 September 1882, Kimberley became the first town in the Southern Hemisphere to install electric street lighting.

 The rising importance of Kimberley led to one of the earliest South African and International Exhibitions to be staged in Kimberley in 1892, It presented exhibits of art, an exhibition of paintings from the royal collection of Queen Victoria and mining machinery and implements amongst other items.

South Africa’s first school of mines was opened here in 1896 and later relocated to Johannesburg, becoming the core of the University of the Witwatersrand. A Pretoria campus later became the University of Pretoria. In fact the first two years were attended at colleges elsewhere, in Cape Town, Grahamstown or Stellenbosch, the third year in Kimberley and the fourth year in Johannesburg. Buildings were constructed against a total cost of 9,000 pounds with De Beers contributing on a pound for pound basis.

South Africa’s first school of aviation, to train pilots for the proposed South African Aviation Corps (SAAC), was established in Kimberley in 1913. Known as Paterson’s Aviation Syndicate School of Flying, it is commemorated in the Pioneers of Aviation Museum (and replica of the first Compton Patterson Biplane preserved there), situated near to Kimberley airport. In the 1930s Kimberley boasted the best night-landing facilities on the continent of Africa. A major air rally was hosted there in 1934. In the war years Kimberley Airport was commandeered by the Union Defence Force and run by the 21 Flying School for the training of fighter pilots.

Work on connecting Kimberley by rail to the cities along the Cape Colony‘s coastline began in 1872 .The railway line from Cape Town to Kimberley was completed in 1885, accelerating the transport of both passengers and goods.The railway connected Kimberley with cheaper sources of grain and other products, as well as supplies of coal, so that one of its local impacts was to undercut (mainly African) trade in fresh produce and firewood. The railway reticulation eventually would link Kimberley with Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg, Durban and Bloemfontein in later years. The railway reticulation eventually would link Kimberley with Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg, Durban and Bloemfontein. The major junction at De Aar in the Karoo linked early twentieth century lines to Upington (later to Namibia) and to Calvinia. From the 1990s there was a decline in the use of the railways.

Robert Sobukwe started the first black-owned law practice firm in No.2 (Ghetto) a township in the suburb of Galeshewe in 1975 after serving a 9 year jail term for incitement, he was banished to Kimberley under a law called “Sobukwe Clause”which kept him exile here in Kimberley.

robert sobukwe

the-real

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Britain’s New African Empire

Companies listed on the London Stock Exchange control over $1trillion worth of Africa’s resources in just five commodities – oil, gold, diamonds, coal and platinum. My research for the NGO, War on Want, which has just been published, reveals that 101 companies, most of them British, control $305billion worth of platinum, $276billion worth of oil and $216billion worth of coal at current market prices. The ‘Scramble for Africa’ is proceeding apace, with the result that African governments have largely handed over their treasure.

Tanzania’s gold, Zambia’s copper, South Africa’s platinum and coal and Botswana’s diamonds are all dominated by London-listed companies. They have mines or mineral licences in 37 African countries and control vast swathes of Africa’s land: their concessions cover a staggering 1.03million square kilometres on the continent. This is over four times the size of the UK and nearly one twentieth of sub-Saharan Africa’s total land area. China’s resources grabs have been widely vilified but the major foreign takeover of Africa’s natural riches springs from a lot closer to home.

Many African governments depend on mineral resources for revenues, yet the extent of foreign ownership means that most wealth is being extracted along with the minerals. In only a minority of mining operations do African governments have a shareholding. Company tax payments are minimal due to low tax rates while governments often provide companies with generous incentives such as corporation tax holidays.

Companies are also able to avoid paying taxes by their use of tax havens. Of the 101 London-listed companies, 25 are actually incorporated in tax havens, principally the British Virgin Islands. It is estimated that Africa loses around $35billion a year in illicit financial flows out of the continent and a further $46billion a year in multinational company profits taken from operations in Africa.

UK companies’ increasingly dominant role in Africa, which is akin to a new colonialism, is being facilitated by British governments, Conservative and Labour alike. Four policies stand out. First, Whitehall has long been a fierce advocate of liberalized trade and investment regimes in Africa that provide access to markets for foreign companies. It is largely opposed to African countries putting up regulatory or protectionist barriers to such investment, the sorts of policies where have often been used by successful developers in East Asia. Second, Britain has been a world leader in advocating low corporate taxes in Africa, including in the extractives sector.

Third, British policy has done nothing to challenge multinational companies using tax havens; indeed the global infrastructure of tax havens is largely a British creation. Fourth, British governments have constantly espoused only voluntary mechanisms for companies to monitor their human rights impacts; they are opposed to enhancing international legally binding mechanisms to curb abuses.

The result is that Africa, the world’s poorest continent, is being further impoverished. Recent research calculated, for the first time, all the financial inflows and outflows to and from sub-Saharan Africa to gauge whether Africa is being helped or exploited by the rest of the world. It found that $134billion flows into the continent each year, mainly in the form of loans, foreign investment and aid. However, $192billion is taken out, mainly in profits made by foreign companies and tax dodging. The result is that Africa suffers a net loss of $58billion a year. British mining companies and their government backers are contributing to this drainage of wealth.

We need to radically rethink the notion that Britain is helping Africa to develop. The UK’s large aid programme is, among other things, being used to promote African policies from which British corporations will further profit. British policy in Africa, and indeed that of African elites, needs to be challenged and substantially changed if we are serious about promoting long term economic development on the continent.