Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Silent War on Africa?
John Pilger writes an interesting op-ed piece in the Mail & Guardian arguing that Africa's position is being actively kept down by Western powers, through agricultural policies, arms trades and convenient realpolitik.

It's a well worn path this, and one which has to be balanced with the accountability and responsibility of Africa's governance by its own leaders. Sometimes I feel this is a convenient crutch to rely on. Change in Africa must come from African leadership. Yes, the Western powers must change agricultural and trade policies towards Africa, but it must be forced to do so by a resurgent Africa run on cleaner governance principles. It is far to easy for Western powers to act as 'parental custodians' of our continent under the current mismanagement of African nations by our leaders.

Nonetheless, Pilger gives his reasoning of why Mbeki is so tolerant (for lack of a better word) of Bob Mugabe:
Why is Thabo Mbeki so soft on Mugabe? Is it simply loyalty to a past of "joint struggle", as has been suggested? Here is a clue.

In September 2005, a study submitted to Parliament in Cape Town compared the treatment of landless black farmers under apartheid and their treatment today.

During the final decade of apartheid, 737 000 people were evicted from white-owned farmland. In the first decade of democracy, 942 000 were evicted. About half of those forcibly removed were children and about a third were women.

A law intended to protect these people and put an end to peonage, the Security of Tenure Act was enacted by the Mandela government in 1997. That year, Nelson Mandela told me: "We have done something revolutionary, for which we have received no credit at all.

There is no country where labour tenants have been given the security we have given them … where a farmer cannot just dismiss them."

The law proved a sham. Most evictions never reached the courts and bitterness among black farm workers has grown inexorably and so too has the whole question of land, actual and symbolic. When the ANC came to power in 1994, the "priority" of land restitution was allocated 0,3% of the national budget. By 2005, it was still less than 1%.

When Robert Mugabe attended the ceremony to mark Thabo Mbeki's second term as President of South Africa, the black crowd gave Zimbabwe's dictator a standing ovation. The embarrassment and message for Mbeki was like a presence. "This was probably less an endorsement for Mugabe's despotism," noted the writer Bryan Rostron, "than a symbolic expression of appreciation for an African leader who, many poor blacks think, has given those greedy whites a long-delayed and just come-uppance."

It was also a warning.