The Freedom Charter: Banks, Bayer and Life

Heirloom seed broccoli

I am alert to specific speeches our president makes. The short clip I listened to today, celebrating the 65th anniversary of the Freedom Charter gives me an opportunity to raise three issues that are vital for a vibrant agricultural sector. These are, firstly, the role of the banks in providing access to people ordinarily excluded from the formal banking system. The second is the status of heritage seeds in our country. And related to this is the grip that Monsanto-Bayer possibly has over the South African Department of Agriculture.

FNB loans, CPP and Service Fees

I have been with First National Bank (FNB) for at least ten years. During this time, they provided me with financial products that saw me through a time when I had no proof of address, no proof of regular income, no credit history… I remember that time as harrowing in some ways, yet freeing in others. I became aware of some of the economic obstacles that black people, in a socially free South Africa, face on a regular basis. I became interested in more of the details that govern our financial freedom.

I was also grateful to be granted a loan that enabled me to cover a number of desirable expenses. Yet when I was charged 27 percent interest, I was taken aback. I know the first rule is to read the small print, which I had not. This was clearly my ‘sin’ of omission, not theirs. Nonetheless, I considered this a form of ‘usury’ and so took it up with the banking ombudsman. Yet a contract is a contract; I swallowed that and resolved to pay it off as quickly as possible.

Still it sits within me as a relationship whose power dynamics I want to change. At the moment FNB likes me more than I like it. Its sales department liked me so much that last week they wanted to sell me legal cover. The sales call came in just as I was looking at the additional costs reflected on that loan account. And feeling resentful. The first was a CPP Premium which is a debt protection plan. Would that legal cover work for me if I used it to force FNB to reverse the premium? And the service fee?

Needless to say, I did not take up their legal protection offer. I could take it to the banking ombudsman again. Yet I don’t think I am going to, for they act primarily in the interests of the banks, not the consumer. Or rather, they work to protect the image, the ‘brand’ of the banks they represent. As such they act as intermediaries between the bank and its clients. Yet they are not tasked with any powers to change the banking status quo. Nonetheless, “Perhaps,” I thought, “FNB has something else to offer me to transform the dissatisfaction I feel in regard to the charges I was not aware came with the loan. After all, at 27.75% annual interest should they not be able to cover all related costs?”

Is FNB’s Sharia (Islamic) banking kosher?

What FNB has is a sharia banking division. I thought it was for Muslims only. It is not. It is for everyone. Perhaps I could move over to that division. However, is sharia banking kosher? Being a revert to Jewish, the answer to this question is important to me. I know that sharia law as it pertains to the rights of women and children it most definitely is not – at least, not in its fundamentalist applications. Yet sharia banking law might be, depending on how one interprets ‘usury’ and its application within and without one’s religious community. Yet a little investigation has potentially ruled this out as a viable option for me. I was put off to discover that sharia banking was started by sheikdoms and the Saudis to invest oil wealth outside the Arab world in ways that would not arouse a backlash within their countries. It had to be done in a ‘halal’ way…

In addition, while investing in fossil fuels is both halal and kosher (I think), it is not for me. I don’t knowingly invest in non-renewable fuels. (Ah, I lie. I have a car… and a gas hob… and I am hanging onto both for now… have used a coal-dependent electrical fin heater to warm my lounge a few times now… for I sense that trees are not being replaced at a steady enough rate…and biofuels might be more corrupt than I could possibly have imagined…)

This is not to say that Sharia banking in South Africa is illegitimate. I don’t know who they partner with. One must also separate the benefits that sharia banking might have for the general South African population from the hypocrisy of Saudi princes. South African Muslims, after all, are South Africans who abide by South African laws. And contribute to its economic wellbeing.

However, I think that what I am really looking for is a women’s community bank. An African model would be great; VBS Mutual Bank had the potential to be a successful black South African regional bank. Yet look what happened there… Nonetheless, the model itself need not be dismissed simply because the black men who owned it decided to pervert the South African laws that govern mutual banks.

Yet, in truth I had been looking for a kosher banking system for a while. I have given up. The penny finally dropped sometime last weekend – it is possible that there is no such thing as a kosher banking system. There are, instead, laws that govern relationships between people: employers and employees, traders and buyers, farmers and the poor, farmers and the stranger neighbours (non-Jewish people) and between farmers and the land…The laws of the sabbatical year and the laws of the jubilee year all speak to this.

Humanising Financial Systems

From this body of Torah and rabbinical law comes the rule for Jewish people to abide by the laws of the lands in which we live. This suggests that while a sound financial structure is important for efficiency, in itself it is as nothing. It requires an additional element, the spiritual element, which is made up of the actions of each person within a system. Structures are merely ‘hardware’ or channels that make particular transactions possible. They don’t guarantee them. The Jewish way then is to humanise all systems by avoiding the purely transactional – the focus is on building honest relationships that accord with rabbinical Judaism.

How one does this is not left to chance. It is clearly stipulated in rabbinical interpretations and applications of Jewish law. In relation to the economy, this includes things like not cheating on weights and measures, paying employees a just wage, abiding by safety regulations… And, it is emphasized, paying employees on time. In turn employees have an obligation to meet their contractual agreements with their employers… In this way it is envisaged that together, “righteous people” (just-law abiding citizens regardless of external identity) can build a peaceful and harmonious society. (Consider how much more smoothly the economy would run if state departments paid their bills to contractors on time… and citizens paid their income taxes, their rates and taxes, in full and on time…)

I think the reason for this Jewish focus on honest interpersonal transactions regardless of the economic and legal system we find ourselves in might be because Jewish people had been an oppressed and persecuted people for millennia. Many Christians remain unaware of this. The Chief Justice is an exception… that his thinking lacked legal clarity and brought his professional reputation into disrepute is unfortunate. (May the merit of his ancestors, biological and spiritual, go to his aid to resolve his dilemma in a way that serves the common good.)

What moves my Jewish soul to embrace ethical living is a love of life, a love of spiritual integrity and a love of freedom. This is rooted in both Reform and Chasidic Judaism. So, listening to president Cyril Ramaphosa’s speech I felt I wanted to tell him that it might be time to change the way he speaks about the rainbow nation; I understand that the wealth of our country cannot remain in the hands of a white minority. I understood this from when I was twelve years old. I have shaped my life around this understanding that the land belongs to all its people. Not to an elitist minority – of any description.

Flattening the poverty curve is something that all tax-paying citizens, regardless of colour, contribute towards. Paying one’s taxes is the primary way in which people, including foreign nationals, contribute to maintaining existing services as well as expanding them to unserved or underserviced communities. In this way tax payers provide the means to transform the economic disparities inherited from the apartheid regime. So, either SARS is poorly structured and/or not doing its job, or government departments are failing to deliver on theirs. This also means that people within these systems are either not supported with adequate training and resources to carry out their tasks, or they are not adequately held to account when they fail to deliver on their tasks.

What was envisaged by the Freedom Charter?

The Freedom Charter was a wish list that reflected the vision of many South Africans at the time it was written. It is a utopian document that continues to inspire me. Given that apartheid racism was the lived reality then, an inclusive, non-racial democracy was longed for. Thus, the president’s failure to adjust his terminology to accommodate the reality of kleptocratic tendencies within the political fraternity perverts the spirit of the Freedom Charter. While local white minority capital might reflect a lack of economic transformation, it is not the only reason for the failure of general black economic empowerment. Indeed, for all I know, the level of corruption might play a larger role in the widening economic gaps…

At a personal level, I could interpret what he said to mean that, as a classified white person, I am no longer considered a full citizen in the country of my birth. Or that I might not be in the future. Or that, because of the sins of my white forebears, he would like me to become a tax slave… as Malema certainly would. Or I could imagine that he is calling for more bribes to keep him in power. Thus, I find that I have less and less time for political posturing. Given the very real failures of the Zuma era in particular, and ongoing corruption, the president’s  remarks seem to lack integrity. Such scapegoating suggests a poor sense of accountability for the ANC’s failure to deliver budgeted-for services that empower the poorest of our people. Indeed, all our people.

Certainly, the current bending over to accommodate transnational companies and ‘philanthropic’ visions is not in the spirit of the Freedom Charter.

Choosing between Life and Bayer

I am convinced that we are at a crossroads in our global history. I am equally convinced that it is Auschwitz out there, all over the world. Where once Hitler used Bayer to manufacture the poisonous gases that killed millions of people that he considered inferior, I now have sufficient evidence to satisfy me that Monsanto-Bayer is behind the planned decimation of natural life on the planet. Have a look at this German documentary to understand what I mean:

I would therefore like to ask the president to have a close look at his Department of Agriculture and its relationship to Bayer. If he truly wants to take back power from greedy white neo-colonialist capital, start here. In my travels through rural Eastern Cape, North West Province, KwaZulu Natal and Limpopo I have wept within at the loss of indigenous heritage seed and indigenous knowledge practice. Field upon field of dark green mielie leaves with no pumpkins and no beans in sight. This traditional sustainable guild has been replaced by poisonous maize seed, patented and owned by Monsanto-Bayer.

As though this is not enough, we were forbidden by law to exchange heirloom and heritage seeds, as is recorded in this short article in Engineering News: https://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/laws-regulating-seeds-in-south-africa-to-entrench-hunger-and-inequality-2015-05-20

For a more detailed report on the role of the World bank in decimating our African heritage and heirloom seed banks with the full cooperation of our African states, including South Africa, you might want to read: 

https://www.grain.org/article/entries/5121-land-and-seed-laws-under-attack-who-is-pushing-changes-in-africa

If still in doubt, or having trouble connecting the dots, for contrast, have a look at this highly sophisticated form of marketing (sorcery?): https://live.worldbank.org/better-life-farming

Bayer, which absorbed Monsanto, is the only company I have come across so far that I would want shut down completely. It’s own energy is denser and stronger than any individual within it. If I was part of Green Peace, I might want it burnt to the ground and have its ashes buried in Auschwitz. Or Dachau. Yet I am not formally part of any protest movement. I would be happier to see all its assets confiscated and put into sustainable livelihoods…in Israeli kibbutzim and in Palestinian territories. Perhaps this would go some way in healing the relationship between Holocaust traumatized fundamentalist Israelis and Israeli-traumatized Palestinians who had, and have, nothing to do with European anti-Semitism…

Bayer’s head office I would turn into a museum, another physical record that reminds the world of the horrors of Hitler’s ideology. And the impact it continues to have on our world... For first they went for, “the Jews, the Roma and the Sinti, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, blacks, the physically and mentally disabled, political opponents of the Nazis, including Communists and Social Democrats, dissenting clergy, resistance fighters, prisoners of war, Slavic peoples, and many individuals from the artistic communities whose opinions and works Hitler condemned.” And now his ‘spiritual’ descendants are going for the entire planet: people across the globe, all land, including our rural tribal lands, all heritage and heirloom seeds, all biological diversity, all livelihoods, all freedom…

Of no other company do I feel this way. Generally speaking, my sense is that we are entering a new era and that people who value their spiritual integrity will redirect their assets into earth sustainable practices. Yet perhaps here is where I have been naive. The vampire of hatred for no reason cannot of itself give up its feeding frenzy. It requires imagination to reinvent oneself and one’s company. Or legislation that contains its reach. Yet what I have seen is that the sustainability agenda, as I understand it, has been captured to destroy the planet rather than to renew it. The very same elements that make for possible sustainability are being perverted to destroy the lives of the millions and billions that Hitler’s ‘spiritual’ heirs consider surplus and inferior life. This might include the human victims of COVID-19. It certainly includes the world’s natural forests. And possibly all the earth’s natural ecosystems…

I once thought that a Mars economy meant earthlings colonizing Mars. I had no idea that in reality it means Martians are taking over the planet as Lords and Masters of all they see through their uber-sophisticated computer screens. The deadly energy of the chemicals Bayer produced for Hitler’s gas chambers is with it still. It has moved on from gassing people he deemed inferior to producing chemical toxins that destroy the soil, the plants, the bees, the future… ‘Super plants’ and ‘superfoods’ that destroy soil and organic livelihoods wherever they go. And ultimately all life…except their own.

Some people are allergic to conspiracy theories. This is generally a good attitude to have, for conspiracy theories are merely the products of fear filled or bored and overactive imaginations. Yet the term is currently being bandied around to hide a reality that most people do not have the courage to face: the bees are dying. The planet is dying. With the help of Bayer. It is dying because a small group of interconnected technologically highly skilled geniuses is out at play. With no legal boundaries to contain them. Mercilessly they pursue their wealth creation goals… as though abundance is outside of nature rather than within it. As though God is dead, or a puppet in their arrogant hands…sorcerers of the most destructive kind they are…

#All Life Matters

Yet the planet is simultaneously wondrously alive. An unintended consequence of the lockdowns was the joy of seeing nature bounce back with vigour and with freedom under clear skies…

How then, under these circumstances, do we empower ourselves and our communities? The only idea I have is this: Get outdoors as much as you possibly can. Get your hands in clean soil. Or grow it. Make compost. Plant something. Harvest something. Save heritage and heirloom seeds and pass them on to the next generation. Watch the sunrise. Or the sunset. Or both. When it’s warm enough, walk with bare feet. And dance.

And pray, if prayer you are…

And when you feel strong and confident and ready to smell the sewerage, all the better to clean it up, watch the following video: (Keep your thinking caps on. Or put them on, if off they are. Or take them off, if in your mind you have built a permanent home without a hearth, without any heart in it. Decide for yourself what is fact, what is lie. What is ideology. Be aware of agendas that you want to be part of and agendas you would rather not feed. Trust your intuition if to life it leads you and everyone else besides you. Set it aside, if death for some you find yourself wishing. Stay with the thought. And gently direct it to Source. To transmute from dark to light. Do this every time you get a sense that your life is more important than someone else’s, including the cat that poos on your vegetables…Do it too, every time you think that somehow your life is less than another’s, less than you want it to be…)

I am grateful for the European scientists and the German bee farmers who have made their information available. I am grateful for the German people who, post-holocaust, have been exemplary in their determination to correct the genocidal actions of their forebears. I pray that the bee activists there may succeed in shutting Bayer down at base…

I am not so grateful for the lack of ethical integrity in some academic and scientific communities. Is it not time to move towards an ethos of ethical relationship building across systems? Perhaps, Judaism, the original Indigenous Knowledge System of all three ‘monotheistic’ religions, could be given more attention? It might serve us far better than the secular religion we call Science and Technology when it is divorced from love of life on earth. Yet this too might just be a personal ideological propensity…

A more immediate place to start is by growing your own food. Organically. As far as possible, take responsibility for what you eat. Reconnect with nature in every way you possibly can. Grow nutritious soil wherever you are. Welcome the bees back to your garden…

Sisters, even if male you are, if you are for life on earth, I am with you. If you are for Monsanto-Bayer and G5 I am not with you. If you are with me, let’s get to work by building sustainable livelihoods. I mean this figuratively; I will build mine, while you build yours. (I have discovered that I am a creative and can become destructive when I move out of this space. I can become fierce. And immensely rude. And even a bully at times… I like to think that I am a work in progress… A bit of clay lovingly moulded by One at the Potter’s Fire Wheel…Turning, turning, turning… Until the divine spark within is found. And to its source aligned…)

In conclusion, I wanted to publish this blog yesterday, yet it felt that an element was missing. It’s harshness needed softening. I found it in this vlog by a rabbi I am beginning to think of as The Rabbi of Comfort, Comfort, My people…

Sources and Resources

President Cyril Ramaphosa on the 65th Anniversary of the Freedom Charter:

 

Islamic Banking: Is It Really Kosher?

A blog from my other website:

Bill Gates: Feeding the World