Economist Editorial Gets Economic With the Facts

BRICS, 7 Sep 2015

Bongani Mbindwane - The BRICS Post

Sep 6, 2015 – In its latest editorial on South Africa, The Economist appears to have appointed itself chief international critic of Pretoria and anything Nelson Mandela’s governing party does.

The September 5 editorial – “Clueless and Immoral” – continues its tradition of predicting doom and collapse of the country since the founding of its democracy in 1994.

It also forecast civil wars after Mandela’s term in office and went so far as to predict that South Africa’s hosting of the FIFA 2010 World Cup tournament would be a debacle.

It is no longer dizzying to read these logically fallacious conclusions made from afar by those who have always held the belief they know better and are superior to Africans in particular.

The ‘talk down’ and superiority complex exhibited in the Economist’s analyses of South Africa reminds us of what Mandela said about the western media during the 1997 ANC National Conference.

“...In any case, we have to confront the product of the posture of the media daily. This daily product, reflected in all the media of communication, stands out too stark in its substance to allow us to doubt the conclusions of our analysis.

Viewing itself as the world’s moral policeman, The Economist has been at the forefront of a campaign of agitation aimed at influencing South Africa’s foreign policy toward the norms and standards it deems acceptable.

Since 1994, South Africa has opted for a non-aligned policy trajectory, which principally maintains that the United Nations Charter should be fully respected by all member states, and national sovereignty safeguards must come first and foremost.

This is the same call South Africa made prior to the devastating wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya; and recently the arming of dissidents inside Syria by Western powers.

The policies endorsed by The Economist have only led to more chaos and severe global instability.

Price of war and bloodshed

The editorial first claims that the governing ANC has “strayed from Nelson Mandela’s (human rights) legacy”.

But in a glaring contradiction of argument, it later says the same legacy was applied “inconsistently” by both Mandela and his successor Mbeki.

One has to stop here and review the ANC charter.

File Photo: On May 5, 1999, Chinese President Jiang Zemin hosts a ceremony in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People to welcome South African President Nelson Mandela [Xinhua]

File Photo: On May 5, 1999, Chinese President Jiang Zemin hosts a ceremony in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People to welcome South African President Nelson Mandela [Xinhua]

The foreign relations policy framework of the governing ANC is sourced from its 1955 Freedom Charter policy framework following the ideals of Chief Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo and Mandela – it has never changed.

In keeping with this charter, Mandela came out of retirement to urge President George Bush not to wage war on Iraq. Likewise President Jacob Zuma transversed the world urging NATO not to wage war on Libya.

Former President Thabo Mbeki did not prop up Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe as the editorial claims, but worked tirelessly to achieve a peaceful settlement and opposed war which British prime ministers were advocating to launch against Zimbabwe.

Had London succeeded in this course of action, South Africa and the region would have been devastated for decades to come.

Granted, South Africa is not war mongering or trigger-happy, and if that is seen as siding with “despots” so be it. The people of South Africa through their recent struggles know too well the pain of war and bloodshed.

No appeasement of dictators

Often in the process of diplomatic processes, countries may either vote for, against or abstain on various UNSC resolutions.

I find it rather pedestrian an analysis conferred by the editorial that South Africa’s vote against UN sanctions on Myanmar constituted “coddling with dictators”, even though this very strategy saw the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the steady progress to the military letting go of power towards democracy.

The vote was a technicality to allow the UN Human Rights Commission to complete its work.

South Africa’s position had nothing to do with sustaining the regime or otherwise; to suggest this, is injurious and misinformed.

Voting for alternative approaches to resolve international or sovereign conflicts does not equate to supporting criminal regimes.

As for Sudanese President Omar al Bashir who visited South Africa in June on an African Union invitation covered by international law, it is duplicitous to expect the UN to welcome him in New York this month but at the same time condemn the African organization for hosting him in Johannesburg.

It is this racist idea that only the UN and EU (NATO) have status of multilateral organizations and none other.
South African officials did not whisk al Bashir from Johannesburg ahead of a possible arrest warrant, as The Economist claims. This suggestion is a brazen lie.

Pretoria had no legal standing over designated AU areas where international diplomatic common laws applied for the duration of the Summit of African leaders .

When did China or Russia occupy Africa?

The Economist‘s often-touted comparison of Russia and China with Western aid to Africa is also baffling, if not ignorant.

These two nations did not occupy, colonize and rape Africa of its natural and human resources for centuries contributing directly to the still ensuing political chaos.

The West came, conquered, divided and exploited Africa leaving it wounded.

Africa still continues to suffer from the La Francophone and The Commonwealth divide in terms of character, languages, culture and economic imbalances with 14 African nations still beholden to France in neo-colonization. This has made progress towards a united Africa even more challenging.

Africa is thus not owed aid by the West but reparations. On the other hand, Russia and China contributed to many countries that needed friends to bring down apartheid colonisation, which the West perpetuated in the first place.

South Africa suffered directly from Western policies, which saw the likes of British, and American governments calling for the hanging of our beloved Nelson Mandela and other liberation leaders including the very Robert Mugabe so maligned today.

After all, it was Prime Minister Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan who prolonged the suffering of the South African majority by selling the idea that apartheid was human and appropriate for the “African savages”.

Who was the despot then? What the majority of South Africans know is that it was China and Russia (Soviet Union) who came to their serious aid before it became fashionable to do so.

The call for the non-militarization of the African continent is in line with the ANC policy of resolving conflicts peacefully and the recognition of what armed conflict has done to areas like the Middle East.

If calling for non-militarization of Africa warrants a title of “clueless and immoral”, this I am sure is a title most South Africans will warmly accept.

The Economist goes on to claim that only a few buy the argument that Putin is a victim and Obama an oppressor when considering the crisis in Ukraine.

But such an assertion can only be true if measured not against global population numbers or the G77 and non-aligned movement calculus.

This assertion can only be true if indeed the blow-horn majority is what The Economist is counting. For too long, the Economist has portrayed the West as a cultural and ideological majority whereas it is not.

The silence and depression of the South-to-South ideals do not amount to minority – and by the same token, the blow-horn from Western nations does not imply majority.

During his 1997 ANC Policy Conference, Mandela said:

Another important pillar of our foreign policy is the building of strong, all-round South-South relations. Great possibilities exist further to promote development among the countries of the South through greater interaction among themselves, affecting all spheres of human activity.

This will require of us that we pay detailed attention to this matter, to identify the specific areas of co-operation and jointly with the major countries of Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, in the first instance, to agree on common programmes of action focused on these specific areas of co-operation.
It is also vitally important that we work towards the situation in which the countries of the South do indeed speak with one voice on the principal international questions. This is especially important in the light of the process of globalization which we have already discussed, which process is led and dominated by the countries of the North.”

Between the Economist and Mandela’s morality barometer, Africans proudly chose and associate with the latter.

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Bongani Mbindwane is a South African business leader and a geo-political analyst.

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