Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The Egyptian Christians and the ANC Policy Conference

The new Egyptian president, Mohammed Mursi.
Amidst the global wave of right-wing-perpetuated Islamophobia, the Western world looked on in sheer horror as Mohammed Mursi was declared the victor in the Egyptian presidential election. The leader of the Freedom and Justice Party, which is the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, won a run-off election against Ahmed Shafik, a prime minister from the regime of Hosni Mubarak.

The Muslim Brotherhood: The cloak-and-dagger organisation that allegedly terrorised the Egyptian Coptic Christian population for decades. The organisation set on turning the Egypt into an Islamist state run on full blown Sharia law, relegating the rights of women to slave status, demanding tax from non-Muslims, financially and spiritually supporting a global terrorist war against the infidels, and generally degrading the rule of law to a mixture of the worst elements of anarchy and tyranny. These are the unfounded bigoted views of many in the West, and possibly within elements of the Egyptian secularists and lefties as well. In some ways, it helps to explain why so many Egyptians reverted to the remnant of the same government they overthrew: they saw him as possibly the lesser of the two evils after their candidates lost the election.
Muslim Brotherhood of the scary people?

But when the dust settled, Mursi was the man left standing. Mursi: a man so atypical of Islamist stereotypes; a well-groomed man with a PhD in engineering from the University of Southern California. Far from the images we have been bombarded with as representations of the Muslim Brotherhood, he presents the image of a concerned old uncle that will buy you sweets and tell you everything is going to be okay.

So the question on many people’s minds is: what now for the ideological minorities, or more specifically, the vulnerable Coptic Christian minority? They comprise 10% of the Egyptian population, and have an unfortunate history of being targeted for abuse. Do the Muslim Brotherhood show any signs of hostility towards their spiritual cousins? Perhaps an analysis of recent correspondence and actions by Mohammed Mursi will shed some light on the issue.

Mursi got the "scales of Justice" symbol. Guy with the axe, unlucky.
One of the first things Mursi did after winning the election was resign from his post as the head of the Freedom and Justice Party, thus symbolically removing himself from his role as an agent of a religious entity. He was vocal in calling himself an agent of the revolution instead, a president for all Egyptians. I think this gesture is sufficient to allay fears of a Saudi-Arabia-esque Islamist takeover. He has also insisted on presiding over a democratically elected parliament, with all groups within Egyptian society being fairly represented. He has pledged to appoint a female Vice-President, despite having previously argued against allowing women to becoming national leaders. He has also pledged to elect a Christian Vice-President, an unmistakable gesture of goodwill and unity. The Coptic Church has, in turn, pledged allegiance to him, and are looking forward to working with him to achieve a more tolerant, socially cohesive society.

So things look ready to improve under Dr Mursi, provided the SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) gives him his presidential powers. Because in Egypt, it is the military that holds both the presidential and parliamentary powers, relegating any elected officials to nothing but ceremonial authority. The people of Egypt have voted; it is time for the military to take its place as the protectors, and not the rulers of the Egyptian people.


Irony: "selfless People's Struggle" from fatcat ANC leadership
The ANC policy conference at Gallagher Estate has so far produced one significant outcome and one important discussion point: the rejection of the complete nationalisation of the mines, and the discussion over the proposed youth wage subsidies.

I do not agree with the nationalisation of our mines. But, admittedly, my rejection stems from our government’s incapacity to handle such an undertaking, rather than a rejection of the principle itself. The mineral wealth of a country is not an enterprise of man. It can be viewed as a natural wealth inherent to the location, and all that is required in the way of enterprise is its extraction. Thus the wealth derived from these mineral resources should benefit the land from which it came, and the extraction process should be seen as a service, and appropriately compensated as such. By way of analogy: Ted buys a new house. On the property, there stands a banana tree. Ted does not know much about bananas, so he enlists the assistance of the local banana picker to help him get the bananas off the tree. Question: once the bananas are picked, who do they belong to? In principle, the bananas belong to Ted. The banana picker has every right to demand compensation for his service, but he cannot claim the bananas as his own. Do you see the connection?

In terms of the youth wage subsidies, COSATU is still vehemently opposed to its implementation. For a detailed rationale for their non-acceptance, see http://www.politicsweb.co.za/politicsweb/view/politicsweb/en/page71654?oid=308054&sn=Detail&pid=71616 .
The new ANC struggle song: Love the One You're With
Personally, I find their doom-and-gloom attitude distasteful. Empirical camouflage, economic jargon and bitter sarcasm look to be the basis of their defense; and their lack of willingness to provide viable alternatives stenches up the entire premise of their opposition. The case studies on both sides provide ample evidence of both the successes and failures of similar ventures in other countries, and predictably, the unique circumstances played a deciding role in whether or not the strategy of employment subsidies worked. One thing COSATU does get right though: the businesses that are profiting from the work of its employees need to pull up their socks in terms of improving the conditions of work. The current economic dispensation is only going to worsen the divide between the desperately poor and the superfluously rich. I think the subsidy has its merits, and if implemented, should be very carefully analysed and structured for our unique South African climate.

Till next time..

No comments:

Post a Comment