Tuesday, 27 December 2011

World Aids Day - a time to unite to ensure ongoing commitment

HIV and Aids must not fall off the radar – the issue is as pertinent and urgent as ever. When the Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi was appointed after the last South African elections, he drove the national programme with admirable focus and commitment. He set bold targets for counselling and testing and for increasing the numbers of people on treatment. He confirmed and consolidated the end to denialism and ensured the revival of the National Strategic Plan as a platform for action.

The attention in the public space shifts and changes all the time; this causes particular problems for those working directly on the challenges and impacts of HIV and Aids. As he assumed office, the Health Minister powerfully foregrounded HIV and Aids and government's key strategies. Then, for a time (especially during 2010), the national discussion was dominated by the proposed National Health Insurance. HIV and Aids featured somewhere in those debates, but not centrally so. In the current period, society and the public are not being galvanised to continuing action on the issue. Aids co-ordination seems weak and, of late, there is little vigilance in ensuring steady resource flows to organisations and community groups dealing with the pandemic.  This then is the challenge: HIV/Aids sometimes recedes into the background as far as the national agenda is concerned.

Apart from the high numbers of people requiring treatment and the need for ongoing prevention work, there are a range of crucial issues. One of those is funding. where the Global Fund commitments in the past failed to meet minimum needs and requirements. The latest blow has been the announcement, in December 2011, that the Global Fund will face severe cutbacks this year and predicts a negative budget for 2012. This is due to governments everywhere reneging on their commitments – and short-sightedly so; they are making the political choice to targeting HIV/Aids funding for cutbacks, instead of dealing with excess and misgovernance, as part of their response to the global recession. Another element of this has been the failure of African governments to meet the Abuja commitments, that is, to spend at least 15% of their overall budgets on health.

Because I have worked in behaviour change communications, I place particular emphasis on this aspect of HIV/Aids work. No doubt the counselling and testing operations, the plans to ensue greater use of male circumcision, increased access to treatment and emphasis on stemming mother to child transmissions are critical. However, I have a particular concern about the decline of attention and resources to communications interventions. The latter kind of intervention forms an important adjunct to the other programmes, and is key to ensuring a proper and holistic societal response – including a reduction in stigma and discrimination.

This World Aids Day needs to see a re-dedication to a holistic response to HIV and Aids. It should also be used as a platform to fight attempts – in terms of the choices nation states make as they deal with economic crises – to cut back on funding for global HIV and Aids programmes.-

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Nationalisation should be discussed together with inequality

I recently attended a conference on ownership, inequality and class (first week of August 2011). What a fantastic idea to combine these themes. All of a sudden the attention is shifted away from ownership (alone) and directed to more fundamental questions. The attention shifts to outcomes, that is, the issue of the critical economic and social outcomes from ownership arrangements and changes. The conference was co-ordinated logistically and otherwise by SPII but was also initiated by government (its Economic Development Department) and the Frederick Ebert Stifting.

This conference firstly took stock of the need for ownership changes per se. Ownership change is an important imperative in our society. A social consensus is in place that in areas such as land and in the corporate world – “the commanding heights of the economy” – meaningful changes in ownership patterns are reqiured. The RDP policy document of 1994 argued that a central objective was to "deracialise business ownership and control completely". The telling verdict, however, is that, both in terms of BEE and in terms of significantly increasing the level of black ownership of land, there has been astonishing lack of progress.

Secondly, the conference called for ownership changes to be leveraged to accelerate greater inclusiveness in the economy. It asked: how can we rearrange patterns of ownership in a manner that contributes (a) in substantial ways to reducing inequality and socio-economic exclusion and (b) that ensures sustained or increased economic vibrancy?

The conference looked at the overall economy and at key areas. It diagnosed broad-based BEE, examined state-owned enterprises, probed co-operative ownership, reviewed land and agriculture and asked searching questions about banks and other financial institutions. Zooming in to household and the community-based levels, the indaba also reviewed transfers such as RDP houses and ownership formation through SMMEs.

It noted that in all cases, regardless of who owns, more incisive strategies are needed in terms of sharing benefits as well change in business and operating practices, both with the aim of addressing the rampant inequality in our society.

Clearly ownership changes can be a major lever for bringing new social segments as players into the economy – the conference favoured a broader base of ownership. But ownership change on its own is insufficient. In many cases, sectoral practices and issues such as access to markets, competitive practices, supplier policies as well as cost of finance needed to be addressed. Ownership change often also needs to be accompanied by a reengineering of the upstream and downstream factors that impose a constraining or liberating effect on economic functioning.

At another level, economic restructuring was required, delegates agreed, and the state needed to play a role to encourage investment in key sectors, to incentivise labour based practices, to address spatial and gender issues, and to facilitate access to global markets. At community-based level, strategies were needed to ensure that relevant capabilities and empowerment were present to allow benefiting households to use their new assets in dynamic ways and thereby to improve their economic position.

Much of the debate around nationalisation can be misplaced. This is particularly so to the extent that participants fail to discuss outcomes related to the urgent need for reduction of inequality and for revved-up job creation. The conference has, correctly, sought to link the imperatives of ownership change with the drive to create a stable and sustainable society by driving economic inclusion.

It is hoped the conference organisers will, in greater detail and in a more formal way, release information about the conference in the near future. Such an announcement will also, through the proper channels, indicate the names of all the speakers at this important conference.

Against the backdrop of the conference, the following points can be made:

a) All options/types/models of ownership need to be considered. State ownership is not taboo. Instead of muzzling a proposal for state ownership, time could better be spent debating how state ownership might or would contribute to inequality reduction or economic growth. We could also be usefully grappling with how government, donning the ownership mantle, will do better than current owners to share benefits with immediate communities (and more widely), and to take responsibility for environmental impacts.

b) It should be noted that the private sector (investors) are a hardy bunch and have been known to find ways of doing business under a wider variety of policy circumstances and regimes. The capitalists have remained to do business in situations where severe import controls are applied, have in the old days stayed put despite apartheid constraints and have easily entrenched themselves where states own vital mineral resources. Major capitalist players have even helped communist governments to industrialise their economies. They are not easily fazed. But the following is also true and an important a consideration: capitalist investors dislike uncertainty – it interferes with their adaptive capacity and leads to hesitation and erratic capitalist behaviour that causes problems all around. It is therefore important to clearly set out the way forward on issues such as land and ownership of the mines, regardless of the strategic direction selected.

c) Social and economic inequality requires different strategies at different levels. It underlines the role of the state, foregrounding the need for a developmental state – one with the capacities, knowledge and strategic capabilities to intervene through leadership, regulation, major resource mobilisation, long-term planning, investment in key areas, clear-guided macro-economic policies and other means. As far as households and communities are concerned, ownership can be a life changing benefit; at other times it can, especially in the context of joblessness and lack of income, be a poisoned chalice bringing burdens and costs that further erode quality of life. In this regard, issues of timing and support systems are critical.

d) South Africa needs to urgently accelerate planned and intended redistribution through ownership changes and other means. In areas such as land and agriculture, for example, failure to remove the bottlenecks to more rapid redistribution creates conditions for violent confrontation (in the future). In addition, BEE policies and strategies need to be critically reviewed and re-engineered to ensure more meaningful and sustainable change in the economy as well as greater economic inclusion of black people. Growing inequality is currently the greatest threat to our democracy.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Serageldin: Participation, equity & social cohesion are needed to create a just world

During his visit (21 to 23 July 2011) to South Africa and the Nelson Mandela Foundation to give the 9th Annual Lecture (23 July), Professor Ismail Serageldin addressed a wide range of issues about how society might organise itself to ensure that dignity and justice was more universally shared among people.

His visit came at a time of great uncertainty. At a time when the world is plagued by mis-governance, by concerns about energy and climate, by multi-dip recession as well as by persistently high levels of inequality and poverty. It is a time when many feel the world has lost its way and that new directions are needed to ensure progress towards a better, more sustainable and just world.

To address these, Serageldin favours a return to values. He recommends this not as an anodyne response to the challenges; he adds substance and meaning by referencing values to ‘higher purpose’ and by providing examples of possible strategic shifts. He punts notions such as democracy, justice and fairness as well as respect for diversity. In his application of democracy, he agitates for wide citizen participation; he also calls for majority decisionmaking to be preceded by debate and careful listening to the views and perspectives of minorities. His views on justice lead to trenchant critique of the dominant (free market) economic model. He says fairness in terms of opportunity (equal opportunity, so to speak) is insufficient; attention has to be given to equitable outcomes as well. In valuing diversity, Serageldin notes that all nations are becoming “rainbow nations” and should deal with this reality positively by embracing diversity. He invokes the notion of cosmopolitanism. He waxes nostalgic when he refers to Alexandria in the 19th century when cosmopolitanism reigned supreme and Greeks, Syrians, Italians, French, British, Armenians, Turks and Arabs shared an Egyptian identity.

More in an interview than the lecture, Serageldin applied his views regarding justice to the economy and economic issues. He expressed concern about a situation of too little regulation in a context of monopoly capital. Even though he cautions against overzealous regulation that could stifle entrepreneurialism, he argues that the global economic malaise calls for a restating of the “central” role of the state. In his lecture, he noted that a good social system would balance a system of reward and profits ('equality of opportunity') with one of basic rights (some equality of outcome). Seemingly addressing himself directly to the capitalists, he states that excessive inequality is inefficient and corrosive, and ultimately leads to “class war”.

Serageldin, in the lecture per se, delivered at the Linder Auditorium in Johannesburg, underlined the importance of social cohesion. He cautions, as far as trends go, that in certain cases the pull is as strong in the opposite direction. In this regard, he refers to the splitting up of Czechoslovakia to accommodate the aspirations of Czechs and Slovaks. In his view, social cohesion refers to the interconnectivity between human beings. This may of course be taken further, especially in our situation, where we may gain if the interpretation of social cohesion is closely aligned to social capital. In such an interpretation, the bonds between people are harnessed to maximise strategies and efforts for addressing social problems.

Serageldin ended his lecture on a rousing note, extolling the role of youth in social change. Pointing to the decisive role of youth in the Arab Spring as well as in the use of technology to connect and access information, he lauds youth as a social grouping and looks to it as a key to a positively transformed future. He calls on youth to continue to play a key role in creating a so-called “new country” based on justice and social cohesion.

The professor’s speech has many points of application for South Africa. South Africa is renowned for promoting the rainbow nation idea and for getting diverse groups to accept a shared political settlement, but the society remains fractured along racial and other lines. Much work needs to be done, not just to ensure that a warm fuzzy feeling is sustained, but in terms of getting people to deploy connectivity and joint action on issues that matter. The government, through the Department of Arts and Culture, has prioritised a programme of social cohesion. It has launched a campaign called 'South African @ Heart: Working together to build a Caring Nation'.

Issues of the economy are also pertinent. At present various social forces, including key national organisations of the youth and workers, are calling for fundamental changes in the economic system so that inequality is reduced and for systems & processes that reproduce marginalisation to be dismantled. There are also calls  –  in South Africa and globally  –  for greater accountability in business for excess, for damage to the environment, for factors that perpetuate social exclusion, for corruption and for reckless actions that damage entire economies.

Serageldin’s points about ‘participation’ as a way of deepening democracy also resonate. South Africa has been through a period in which the formal mechanisms of democracy have been prioritised. However, alongside this (necessary) consolidation, we have seen growing evidence of pockets of popular disenchantment that accompanied by feelings of marginalisation and disempowerment. Our society can only move forward if we encourage, nurture and support additional means of civic participation. Indications are South Africa as a country needs to support, endorse and value the existence of vibrant forums, associations and organisations – ones in which citizens make their voices heard to a greater degree. This is critical if South Africa is to move forward to greater achievements and to more effectively dealing with challenges such as poverty, inequality, joblessness and crime.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

June 16 2011: Let us support a wider range of youth programmes

Youth development is not just about programmes that facilitate access to jobs - as important as that is. It is also about endorsing youth in their organisational and political activities as well as supporting social programmes that advance the role of youth as active citizens. Read my views on this at http://sacsis-org-za.win24.wadns.net/site/article/688.1.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Lewin's Stones Against the Mirror is a milestone

The book 'Stones Against the Mirror' is another in a slew of South African books that look back on the past through the autobiography/memoir lens. The motivation for this kind of book, one takes it, is an author's need for things that happened in the past to be better understood or to ensure the past (or bits that are important to the writer) is not forgotten.  In other cases, the autobiography or memoir – as someone once said – is  a case of the writer saying … “see what I have been through”.

Hugh Lewin was part of an underground resistance movement, the African Resistance Movement. Made up of mostly white activists, they deployed violence to try to prevent the white electorate from sinking into a false complacency. All this was at a time of apartheid repression, a time when black movements and voices were being silenced. The strategy was to launch dynamite attacks on installations, in the process avoiding human injury or death. In 1964, Lewin went to jail for 7 years after Adrian Leftwich gave Lewin's name to the Security Police and after Leftwich and John Lloyd testified against him.

Hugh Lewin wrote his book for particular purposes, not explained but apparent. The reader is left with the clear impression that the book is a part of the same search for healing that is covered in the latter part of the book. Lewin wants to deal with certain deeply felt and unresolved things; he wants to slay some demons.

On the cover, it is noted that the book is about friendship. Actually, the book is better described as being about betrayal, about Lewin's crippling sense that he was betrayed by someone very close to him, about his long interregnum of bitterness, and about his quest for the final 'closure' through making peace with his (former) buddy. Thus the book is in many senses Lewin's own TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Committee) process - a painful process of retelling what took place and exorcising the ghosts.

What is great about the book? First, Stones Against the Mirror is powerful in its interiority and subjectivity. There is the broad canvas of politics (a further filling in of the resistance history); but the spotlight is also trained on personal issues, on interactions and on growth and development of Lewin and his relationships. Under discussion, at times in unflinching ways, are personal trauma, bitterness and the psychological process called healing. Secondly the book adds to the historical record. It covers a period – and a strand of resistance – that is often missed when the commemorations and reflections are done. Thirdly, it contains instances of brutal honesty (critical reflections). For example, he provides exacting reflection about the nature of sabotage activities, how naive and adventurous some aspects of this were and how, when the clampdown began, Lewin had no escape plan to deal with such an eventuality. Fourthly, the book adopts some sharp viewpoints about race and how race functioned in society. Discussing attitudes in boarding school, the outlook of his father, etc., Lewin shows how racist thinking permeated the society. He takes the black consciousness view when he notes how difficult it would be in such a context for someone from the privileged white group to claim no involvement: only deliberate action as opposed to neutrality was needed.

But the book also raised a number of issues at different levels, some of them controversial. (Some of these issues were also alluded to in the discussion at the book launch in Johannesburg on 9 April 2011. In the comment below, I refer to some of these issues.)

Constructing what happened: The book demonstrates the extent that history is a construct. In this sense, writing history is both non non-fiction and the work of the imagination. This book shows how difficult it is to achieve agreement as to 'what happened'. The angles regarding what occurred are many – the security police, the court record, Leftwich's writing (some of it self-serving) and now Hugh Lewin trying to piece it all together so many years later. [Writing about happenings, conversations and reactions so many decades ago is extremely difficult - who can remember exactly what was said and, in all cases, the precise sequence of events? There is a great deal of making up. Normally the process is rendered more credible through corroboration of stories and cross checking of facts. However, in a tale filled with such contestation and conflict such as Lewin's, constructing the story appears to be a far more difficult and charged process].

What is left out: “Stones” is interesting for what is left out or the silences in the book. For example, Lewin does not indicate what his current attitude to John Lloyd is, and why the latter is not included in Lewin’s 'making peace' process. At his book launch, Stephanie Kemp, a struggle stalwart and a former ARM activist, raised this very issue; Lewin responded that it was Lloyd who wanted nothing to do with him.

Forgiving: The book raises the vexed question of 'forgiving' – what is it, who is entitled to it and whether forgiveness can be deployed regardless of the perpetrator’s attitude or active participation in it? Hugh Lewin himself refuses to describe his peace-making interactions with Leftwich and the security policeman Johannes Viktor as being about forgiving them. For him, it is much more about his own process of dealing with nightmares and letting go (of bitterness?, of anger?) and of moving forward. There are contradictions between the TRC mode and the approach he adopted in relation to the two: Lewin makes peace with the two without requiring full explanations in return.

Each reader of this book must answer (for themselves) the question as to whether this book is a full unburdening or whether they judge it as unsatisfactory because of the gaps. It is true, as Claudia Braude raised with him at his book launch, that Lewin is stingy on detail in his description of the meeting with Leftwich? (This meeting is a key focal point of the book). It is also true that the book is silent about his feelings regarding John Lloyd today. While readers always want “all” to be told, Lewin may retort that he has never punted the book as being about ‘truth’ or the whole story, but about friendship.

I have a dual response to Stones Against the Mirror. One part of me, the one that espouses intellectual rigour, asks for more about this process of closure (the how, the why); that same part joins in to highlight gaps, silences and inconsistencies. Another part of me applauds this work as a milestone, and  views the book as a wonderful piece of recollection. It foregrounds a neglected strand of resistance during an important historical period. This second part of me asserts that Lewin should be saluted for having given so much of himself while writing ‘Stones” (that in a book that stands out for highlighting the personal/psychological while also narrating broader political events).

[Please feel free to add your comment in the Comment box]

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The vision, talent and inspiration of jazz giant Zim Ngqawana lives on

Zim Ngqawana has certainly left his mark. Reports in the media this week referred to him as a genius. His son, Ludwe, drafting the press statement, referred to him as an icon. These superlatives are no exaggeration; Zim was a professional musician of note   one who operated in the world as if he had a clear mission and a singular calling.

On 9 May 2011 Zim played his beloved instruments for the last time. Rehearsing at his Johannesburg home for a forthcoming gig, he collapsed and was rushed to hospital where he died the next day from effects of a stroke.

Saxophonist, flautist and composer extraordinaire, Zim was highly talented and inventive, creating distinctive sounds and boldly combining various styles of jazz. Musically he was a visionary. He was always pushing the boundaries, trying to go beyond what he created before and frequently fusing indigenous sounds with stylistic elements from the canon of western jazz. He never patronised his audiences, always believing in their capacity to appreciate the avant garde.

He not only played music for his and other’s enjoyment, music for him was a meditative space. Through it, he seemingly strove to reach a deeper core of human existence. Many of those who listened to him came to appreciate this, and turned up at his gigs with a fitting mindset. Others did not quite get this, sometimes causing Zim frustration as he played. They did not get that he wanted music to be approached with a certain reflectiveness, that his stage could be seen as an altar that could help life-weary listeners enter a sacred space (even if that place was the space within). It’s not that he opposed people having a beer or scotch in the venues where he played; but he did hate it when a venue was like a bar-room, when excessive drinking and raucous banter superseded the listening.

Zim had many visions (some might even say lofty ones) for his music. This is why he called it Zimology – he saw it as an approach, a way of thinking and a way of being in culture. Music to him was part of a journey of spiritual discovery he was undertaking. In radio interviews, questioned about his music, he found an incredible articulateness about the meaning of his music. Tapping into his inner core, he spoke wisely about the deeper sources and meanings of music.

I haven’t seen him much in recent months, but in earlier times   a few years back   he was driven by a need to try to create a physical home for Zimilogy. He dreamed of establishing a renowned jazz club cum rehearsal space cum academy. He identified certain buildings/venues and submitted offers or expressions of interest, but nothing came of this. He bought a farm in Walkerville and some wonderfully crazy, creative and collaborative things happened there. But this venue never really took off in a big way. The dream of a special and spectacular 'space' always eluded him, slipping through his fingers.

Zim established two organisations to carry his vision, the Zimology Institute and the Zimology Development Institute (Zimdi). Zimdi expressed his commitment to young artists and was meant to be the forerunner of the major academy he dreamed of. There were debates about how much the work of Zimdi would be structured and how much would be a kind of loose mentorship based on the idea that the protégé would learn from spending time with, observing and listening to the Master. Numerous young artists   rough diamonds   were nurtured and honed by Zim, and have emerged as accomplished musicians in their own right. Zim was by nature a person constantly generating knowledge, thinking and insights. With the exception perhaps of jamming with fellow jazz musicians, he liked nothing better than sitting in a lounge or a kitchen talking, reflecting and discussing. These discussions covered views of life, culture and, as often lately, existential questions.

Zim achieved greatness in seemingly deft and clearguided ways; but much of it was underpinned by relentless hard work. He won many awards and played with renowned jazz musicians across the world. He netted a slew of SAMA awards and, early on, was hailed as the brightest and most exciting young jazz artist in Mzansi. He featured as a solo saxophonist at the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as president in 1994.

But lately things for Zim began to move to a certain point – a decidedly downward turn. His health took a dip when he had more than one minor stroke in the last three years. His farm was vandalized and a grand piano senselessly damaged. As is the case for most jazz musicians, it was a struggle to ensure strong and steady income streams from his work. He saw his dream of establishing an iconic jazz club and successful academy wither, thanks to closed doors on the part of financial institutions and myopic vision from relevant public bodies. His mood became sombre and sometimes depressed, and in an interview just after he turned 50, he made a point of discussing his mortality. Latterly, he even began to wonder if jazz would ever get its place in the sun and be properly appreciated in our society. He seemed to be overcome by a weariness and he told one friend days before his untimely death that he was overwhelmed and another that he needed rest.

At his funeral on 10 May, a rainy evening, scores of people packed his home to say their final farewells. Although there were many musicians present, there was no sound of a musical instrument to be heard. Even at the graveside, there seemed to be a sombreness. We should have been celebrating an icon, remembering him with bold brassy sounds and vibrant vocals; instead the mood and much of the discussion between mourners was pensive and somewhat downbeat. Perhaps it was just the rain and the mud and the piles of slippery brown leaves on the roadway and the verges. Perhaps and more likely, it was the huge sense of loss – our realization that, even though Zim would be with us in so many ways thereafter, we would not see him play on stage again, at one with the sound being created and, simultaneously, profoundly connected with those present.

One thing is for sure: the greatness, the inventiveness and the pioneer spirit that is Zim will live on in the ouvre of great works he produced, and in the hearts of his numerous followers. He was a grand master of his game, and has laid down tracks and planted signposts that will influence jazz for many many decades to come. I honour him – go well, anointed one ....

(Please feel free to add your views in the comment box).

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Memory and the present clash in The Pump Room, a dynamic new play

Allan Horwitz’s play, the Pump Room, which just finishes its run at the Theatre in the District in Cape Town, should have attracted much greater attention from audiences and reviewers alike. But this small production, lacking a big budget and the marketing muscle of the big theatre houses, has for now made only a tiny blip on the theatre scene. Pity.


The play has interesting structural elements. The narrative is built around the central metaphor of a pump room – around the sluggish but rhythmic work of pumps to depollute, clean up and freshen out water so that it can be fit for public use.

Although the specific comment is about how former security policemen have reinvented themselves and function (in often toxic ways) in the new dispensation, there is an implicit reference to wider comment about corruption in society.

At one level, the play throws light on how emotions, issues and trauma of the past have washed over into the present. At another level, it shows how the evil deeds, manipulation, terror and human exploitation, including exploitation of women, continue into the present.

Horwitz juggles the characters between crosscutting lines of conversation, between the male and female poles and between the claustrophobic pump room setting and the sea-view location. He manages to maintain the balance (and precariously so) without letting it all collapse in confusion. The banter between characters becomes fast-paced; everyone struggling for some control of their situation by defending who they are, using verbal sniping, pushing their view of life and all too often sticking the knife into each other's flaws.

In the end memory and the present jar but also, in a strange way, work to form a coherent whole. For the characters, the memories opens wounds and surfaces unresolved issues. But for the audience, as the past is revealed, it helps to explain the distorted relationships and the strange bonds. The information about the past brings a frame of understanding and even empathy.

The play is political but also invokes the personal dimension. It skillfully raises the question: what is it that prevents the individual from breaking out of paralysis so they can move forward with some sense of future and purpose? How much of the 'stuckness' is due to external forces, and how much is due to the demons, often un-named, that we carry with us?

It was a pity the show attracted such small audiences, as I said. The powerful piece forms part of a broader phenomenon. There is currently a flourish of new works, in literature and the theatre, that focus on the past (the days when apartheid reigned supreme) or show how the new democracy is still shadowed by ghosts of the past. The Pump Room links particularly to works that show how individuals, including those who were involved in the struggle, were traumatized and brought close to breaking point by what they went through. For a good number of such people, while many aspects of life in Mzansi move forward, they remain on the sidelines, trying to reassemble their life. Although the social situation cries out for selfless champions, for the kind of value driven activists that they were, they are unable to bring themselves to drive the dynamic social change agenda that they fought for in earlier times.

Horwitz, in his guise as a playwright and director, is an important new voice - one that believes in the vibrancy, ongoing relevance and life-giving quality of politically-oriented theatre. Skillfully directed and well acted, the Pump Room’s brief run is over; one hopes that it will be staged again in the near future.