Today is International workers’ day – an event celebrated globally to appreciate the working class. Google is celebrating workers’ day with a doodle today.
On 1st, May 1886, there was a general workers’ strike in Chicago over labour conditions and a eight-hour workday request. More than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses across the United States left their jobs on the first workers day in history. In Chicago, 40,000 went out on strike in a peaceful protest; there were anarchists giving speeches, parades, bands and tens of thousands of demonstrators united in strength and purpose as their numbers increased.
Two days later, violence broke out between steelworkers and the police at the McCormick Reaper Works. For six months, armed Pinkerton agents and the police harassed and beat locked-out steelworkers as they picketed- resulting in the death of two workers and many casualties
Enraged by the actions of the Pinkerton agents and the police, some of the anarchists called a meeting the next day, in Haymarket Square to discuss the brutality. It is said that two detectives rushed to the main body of police, reporting the use of inflammatory language, inciting the police. As the police began to disperse an already thinning crowd, a bomb detonated in the police ranks. the police fired into the crowd. The exact number of civilians killed or wounded remains undetermined.
May 1 was earmarked to be International Workers’ Day to commemorate the 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago.
In Africa, this is a time to drop work tools and appreciate the value of rest. It is also a time for discussions among labour unions on existing issues such as salaries, wages and working conditions.
This year’s workers day is particularly important to Nigerian and South African workers who have finally won a battle for minimum wages.
After nine years, Nigerian workers got a new minimum wage approved by its federal government; it was increased from 18,000 Naira to 30,000 Naira – a 66.6% increase.
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa signed into law, the National Minimum Wage Bill which took effect in January 2019; the country’s first-ever national minimum wage. In this, he set a historic precedent in the protection of the working class. The legislation sets a minimum national rate of R20 per hour or 3, 500 rands per month, depending on the number of hours worked.
Significantly, most African countries, were colonies of various European powers and after independence took on most of these traditional celebrations.
On May 1, South Africa celebrates Worker’s Day commemorating the role played by Trade Unions, the Communist Party and other labour movements in the struggle against Apartheid.
Ghana observed its first May Day celebration in 1965, eight years after its independence in 1957.
The May Day celebration was suspended in the wake of the first military coup on 24 February 1966, which toppled Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party (CPP) Government. The celebration was resumed in 1967 after January 13, 1972, military coup led by General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong.
This event was marked with a Grand National parade held at the forecourt of the Accra Community Centre.
Zimbabwe also celebrates May Day on the 1st of May as well. A popular activity on May Day is to decorate a pole with paper streamers. Some people also add flowers and balloons. It’s also a day of convergence for most workers to reflect on working conditions and other issues affecting them such as salaries and wages.
In Kenya, May Day celebrations are held at Uhuru Park and generally well attended but this year’s low turnout is due to discontent among Kenyan workers. Labour unions demand a solution to rising unemployment and an increase of up to 25% in the national minimum wage.
Public clinics in Zimbabwe save lives with TB, diabetes and HIV treatments
the pilot clinics have become lifesavers for the poor – but only if they happen to live near them.
Blessing Chingwaru could barely walk without support when he arrived at the specialist Rutsanana clinic in Harare complaining of chest pains and fatigue.
Weighing a skeletal 37 kilogrammes (5.8 stone), the HIV-positive motor mechanic knew something was wrong.
He was immediately given a number of tests and told the bad news: He was also suffering from advanced-stage tuberculosis. Dual infection by HIV and TB is a notorious killer.
“My health was deteriorating and I kept wondering why,” Chingwaru, 29, recalled at the clinic.
Within hours of the diagnosis, Chingwaru was given free treatment and nursing care.
In a country where more than a dozen people die each day from TB-related sicknesses, it was a rare example of efficient public healthcare.
The Rutsanana Polyclinic in Harare is one of 10 pilot clinics in the country offering free diagnosis and treatment for TB, diabetes and HIV.
The clinic, which opened in 2016, is staffed by 24 nurses and currently treats 120 TB patients.
Among the million-plus people living with HIV in Zimbabwe, TB is the most common cause of death, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
HIV-positive people, and others with weakened immune systems, are particularly vulnerable to contracting the infection.
After Chingwaru’s initial visit in February, doctors had feared for his life.
But following five months of careful treatment Chingwaru has gained 15 kilos.
“Everything I need, I get here,” said Chingwaru, forming fists with both hands to show off his regained strength.
Economic and financial challenges
In a country where public health services are faced with extreme challenges, containing the spread of TB has been a struggle.
Zimbabwe has been stuck in economic and financial crisis for a long time and many of its doctors are underpaid and under-equipped.
Although TB treatment is free, the annual number of TB infections in Zimbabwe remains among the highest in the world.
The contagious infection is usually found in the lungs and is caught by breathing in the bacteria from tiny droplets sneezed or coughed out.
As HIV-positive people are so vulnerable to TB, the clinics have followed the advice of WHO officials to link TB testing and treatment with HIV prevention programs.
Close to the main gate of the Rutsanana clinic, a green self-testing HIV tent has been erected to encourage people to check their status.
The clinic also offers voluntary HIV counselling and antiretroviral treatment.
Sithabiso Dube, a doctor with the medical charity International Union Against TB who heads the TB and HIV programme, said people with diabetes also have a higher risk of developing TB, so patients are tested for both diseases.
“Instead of going to seek diabetic care at one clinic and TB care at another, they are able to get these services in one place,” Dube told AFP.
Because services are free “they are able to cut down on what we call catastrophic costs to the TB patients,” she said.
Largely funded by a US Agency for International Development (USAID) programme, the pilot clinics have become lifesavers for the poor – but only if they happen to live near them.
The vast majority of the population have no access to the one-stop clinics.
As a result there are plans to scale up the programme, with another 46 similar centres to be rolled out across Zimbabwe.
Rutsanana clinic matron Angela Chikondo said the programme was crucial to minimising complications among TB and diabetes patients.
“If one is on TB treatment and also has diabetes, and the diabetes is well controlled, chances of recovering are very high,” she said.
High costs and slow speed mar Equatorial Guinea’s dreams for internet access
Equatorial Guinea has the most expensive internet in the world after Zimbabwe
Equatorial Guinea is awash in oil, although little of the wealth has trickled down to the poor.
Yet one of the most glaring inequalities here is access to the internet.
Other parts of the world are pushing ahead with plans for fast, free — or at least low-cost — universal online access. Equatorial Guinea, a country on the coast of central-western Africa, seems shy of this aspiration.
With rare exceptions, sluggish speeds and stratospheric bills are the daily lot of people who want to search for information on the web, use social media, email, messaging and the myriad of other internet activities that are routine elsewhere.
“The internet in Equatorial Guinea is still a big-money business, reserved for those who can afford it,” said Mboro Mba, 35, seated on the ground behind a hotel as he tried to hook into a free Wi-Fi service with his smartphone.
Equatorial Guinea has the most expensive internet in the world after Zimbabwe, according to a list published this year by Ecobank, a pan-African bank.
One gigabyte of mobile data — roughly equivalent to watching an hour of television on Netflix — costs an eye-watering $35.
By comparison, the average monthly pay of a manual worker or restaurant waiter in Equatorial Guinea is between 100,000-150,000 CFA francs ($170-260).
“For 2,000 CFA francs, I can’t even download an 80-second video,” a local journalist told colleagues from central Africa who had come to Malabo to cover a regional meeting and found themselves caught in internet problems.
“You really have to be patient to work with the internet in this country,” said a visitor from the Republic of Congo, unsuccessfully trying to send files to his editor.
The barriers to internet access here are so high that the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a UN agency, estimates that just a quarter — 26 per cent — of Equatorial Guineans go online.
The authorities have set up a “free, public internet network” along the Paseo Maritimo, a seafront six kilometres (3.5 miles) long in Malabo that is also used for sporting activities and leisurely strolls.
“I come here almost every evening to talk on WhatsApp to my mother who is in Spain,” says Filomena, 32, a clothes vendor.
“I don’t have the money to have an internet connection, so I come here often with my friends to use the Wi-Fi,” schoolboy Jorge Obiang says, leaning against a tree with several young companions, all glued to their screens.
Equatorial Guinea is nominally one of the richest states in Africa thanks to oil income.
By next month, its President, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, will have ruled with an iron fist for 40 years — the longest tenure of any African leader alive today.
He has long been criticised for corruption within the regime and lack of openness to the rest of the world.
The slow service is especially paradoxical since “the country is situated in the Gulf of Guinea and so has access to a number of seabed cables”, said Julie Owono of Internet Sans Frontieres (Internet Without Borders), an NGO.
Equatorial Guinea — consisting of an island where Malabo lies and a forested territory on the African mainland that hosts trading capital Bata — is connected to three undersea fibre optic cables supplying internet service.
In neighbouring Gabon, internet access is five times less expensive on the scale drawn up by Ecobank.
No competition –
The sky-high price of the internet “is explained by the very strong presence of the state (telecom) company on the market and lack of competition,” Owono said.
“Everything here is centralised, political decisions depend on one person, or a family, and it is difficult to establish a competitive market.”
The state telecoms agency GITGE, which sets tariffs, declined to respond to reporter’s questions.
Another disincentive for competition is internet blackouts ordered by those in power, she said.
In November 2017, on the eve of parliamentary elections, access to WhatsApp was blocked and social media became unavailable for five months.
“We’re living in the information era — the government is applying an enormous brake,” said Owono.
South African singer and anti-apartheid activist Johnny Clegg dies aged 66
Clegg is survived by his wife of 31 years, Jenny and their two sons Jesse and Jaron
Legendary South African singer Johnny Clegg, who blended Zulu rhythms with Western styles and defied apartheid segregation laws, died on Tuesday after a long battle with cancer.
“Johnny passed away with his family this afternoon,” manager Roddy Quinn said. “We are devastated.”
Clegg succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 66 at his home in Johannesburg, more than four years after he was diagnosed.
“Johnny leaves deep footprints in the hearts of every person that considers himself or herself to be an African,” Quinn said.
“He showed us what it was to assimilate to and embrace other cultures without losing your identity.
“In many of us, he awakened awareness.”
Nicknamed the “White Zulu”, Clegg mastered the language, culture and high kicks of Zulu dance, forming multi-racial bands in defiance of the segregationist laws of the apartheid-era government which censored his work.
Among his famous tracks was “Asimbonaga”, Zulu for “We have not seen him”, released in 1987 following the declaration of the first state of emergency by the apartheid government.
The song paid tribute to Nelson Mandela — then in jail — and was outlawed because any reference to the anti-apartheid leader was illegal.
It became an international anthem for the struggle against apartheid and for modern South Africa.
‘Torchbearer’ of freedom struggle –
Clegg was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 but continued to tour and perform around the world.
He performed for the last time in October last year in Mauritius.
The South African government and fellow musicians paid tribute to Clegg as a musician and an activist.
“A towering giant has fallen with the passing of legendary Singer-songwriter & Anthropologist Johnny Clegg,” Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa posted on Twitter.
“Our hearts are sore & as he famously sang in Asimbonanga ‘oh the sea is cold & the sky is grey’ as we contend with the loss of a torchbearer of our struggle for freedom.”
The South African government account tweeted that Clegg “has left deep footprints in our hearts”.
Veteran singer and old friend Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse told SABC that “this is probably one of the saddest days for this country to have lost someone like Johnny Clegg.
“Johnny was in the forefront of everything that was going right for this country,” he said.
“Johnny could have been one of the most privileged people as most white people were — but he chose to take a different direction and join in highlighting the atrocities of apartheid through his music and joined with many people involved in liberation struggle.
“Johnny took it upon himself to sing and write about Nelson Mandela when not many white people would have done that.
“His contribution was immense in profiling South Africa as a pariah state. Today we are a different country because of what people like Johnny have done.”
Apartheid arrests –
The Soweto Gospel Choir said it was “devastated at the passing of Johnny Clegg. A music icon and a true South African. We shall miss him with all our hearts”.
Clegg was born in 1953 in Lancashire, Britain and moved to Johannesburg with his mother when he was six years old.
His exposure to Zulu migrant workers during adolescence introduced him to their culture and music, and his involvement with black musicians often saw him arrested during apartheid.
At the age of 17, together with Sipho Mchunu, he formed their first band called Juluka.
In 1986 at the height of apartheid he partnered with Dudu Zulu to form his second inter-racial band, Savuka.
Clegg also recorded several solo albums and enjoyed huge international success selling out concerts wherever he performed.
He is survived by his wife of 31 years, Jenny and their two sons Jesse and Jaron.
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