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Date: Mon, 03 Sep 2001 19:08:52 +0900
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By- Miuru Jayaweera
A program producer for Young Asia Television, is a member of the WCAR
Women's Media Team of Isis International-manila.

Durban- 28.08.2001

As the preparations for the United Nations World Conference against Racism,
Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and other related intolerance (WCAR) took
Durban, the east coast resort of South Africa, a number of local leftist
groups are getting together to resist the effects of capitalist
globalisation on South Africa. A two-day strike coinciding with the opening
of the conference on September 1 has been called, alongside, by major trade

unions, to protest privatization.

Also known as 'Izwe Labantu' in Afrikaans, the Independent Media Center
(IMC or Indy-Media), which is holding daily press briefings at the WCAR,
emphasized the need to highlight poverty and the relationship of rascist
and other forms of discrimination to poverty, rather than rascism per se.

The IMC is also screening information videos and films, and coordinating
all planned protests and demonstrations at the conference.

Indy-Media, supported by various South African groups, including the
Anti-Privatisation Forum, the Jubilee Movement, the National Land Committee
and the South African National NGO Coalition (Sangoco), held its inaugural
press meet on 27 August at the famous Kingsmead Cricket Stadium, on an
ironically worded theme eight years after the end of apartheid: 'Why are
black people taking to the streets?'

The answer, of course, is poverty and the government's privatization
attempts. Virginia Setshedi of the Soweto Electricity Crisis Commission,
one of the main speakers at the meet, said categorically, "Racism is in a
far distance compared to the poverty rate in South Africa."

The unequal distribution of basic needs and the fact that a lot of people
have no access to clean water and reliable electricity have triggered
grassroots organizations to look at this conference in a not very
optimistic way. As a recent piece for HYPE Information Service by Dennis
Brutus and Ben Cashdan comments on te "irony" of the ANC government
"hosting a world conference against rascism in a city where the majority
are black and poor [living] on hillsides surrounding the [oil and
chemical] plants inhaling noxious fumes and eight times more likely 
to get asthma, bronchitis and leukemia and a minority, mostly still
white, continues to enjoy the spoils of the economy."

The audience largely agreed with another panelist, who said that rascism
and poverty cannot be separated and are inter-connected. Many expressed the
opinion that rascism is a globalised process and has, over the years,
become organized and institutionalized, supported frequently by law.
With political topics yo-yoing between the panel and the audience, the
discussion focused on the South African government's policies with regard
to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, and the
constitutional provisions regarding private property.

Speakers also criticized the dogmatic stand of the USA in opposing
reparations to victims of colonialism.

The WCAR, which took 18 months to prepare, will see 7,000 international
delegates pass resolutions on the hopes and aspirations of several
segregated racial groups. However, issues of the Dalits in India, Buraku
Min in Japan, the Romas in Europe and the Palestinians in West Asia, hang
in the balance of powerful opposition, mainly from local governments.

Miuru Jayaweera, a program producer for Young Asia Television, is a member
of the WCAR Women's Media Team of Isis International-manila.

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