Africa’s support for our struggle was steadfast, principled and costly
When the apartheid regime tightened its noose around the necks of the oppressed, and banned the national liberation movement in 1960 following the Sharpeville protests, it was Africa that opened her arms to receive the South African freedom fighters as exiles. Africa, particularly the Frontline States, stood firm in her support for the South African freedom struggle, in the knowledge and conviction that the defeat of the of the apartheid regime in South Africa would at once remove the single biggest threat to Africa’s stability, development and survival.
In this way, they extended their unconditional warmth, friendship, solidarity and hospitality towards a people upon whose shoulders rested the historic and inordinate task to defeat the regime viewed by all Africans all over the continent as an outpost of imperialism and a bastion and bulwark of colonialism on the African continent. The defeat of the apartheid system assumed centre-piece to Africa’s long-term strategy for peace, economic development and social progress.
Towards this end, even the poorest of African States gave their all in supporting the South African national liberation struggle. For this support, innocent citizens of Lesotho, Botswana and Mozambique were butchered in their sleep by the apartheid army, whilst Zimbabwean and Angolan territories were violated in broad daylight by a regime that had no respect for human life, let alone the national sovereignty, territorial integrity and stability of its neighbours.
South Africa’s liberation guarantee Africa’s long-term stability and development
South Africa’s liberation in 1994 meant that it ceased to be what Verwoerd had called ‘a piece of Europe on the tip of the African continent’. It constituted an act of fundamental negation of white racial and colonial domination and affirmed South Africa’s position as an African country.
After all, it had always been the fundamental understanding of the South African freedom fighters that the ANC was born of the African people’s common hatred for colonial domination and unyielding desire for freedom and national self-determination. Accordingly, our struggle for national liberation in South Africa was inseparable from the anti-colonial struggles taking place all over Africa. We knew it that the attainment of national liberation in South Africa constituted an immediate and the most urgent guarantee for Africa’s long-term stability and chance for sustainable development.
From the outset, therefore, the national liberation struggle bore a Pan-African identity and carried on its shoulders historic responsibilities that stretched far beyond the South African territory. The liberation of South Africa would accordingly be an act of redemption for the rest of the African continent.
Madiba articulated this perspective during his first Address to the OAU as democratic South Africa’s new President on 13 June 1994 when he said:
“The titanic effort that has brought liberation to South Africa, and ensured the total liberation of Africa, constitutes an act of redemption for the black people of the world. It is a gift of emancipation also to those who, because they were white, imposed on themselves the heavy burden of assuming the mantle of rulers of all humanity. It says to all who will listen and understand that, by ending the apartheid barbarity that was the offspring of European colonisation, Africa has, once more, contributed to the advance of human civilisation and further expanded the frontiers of liberty everywhere…
“When the history of our struggle is written, it will tell a glorious tale of African solidarity, of African`s adherence to principles. It will tell a moving story of the sacrifices that the peoples of our continent made, to ensure that that intolerable insult to human dignity, the apartheid crime against humanity, became a thing of the past. It will speak of the contributions of freedom – whose value is as measureless as the gold beneath the soil of our country – the contribution which all of Africa made, from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in the north, to the confluence of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans in the north. Africa shed her blood and surrendered the lives of her children so that all her children could be free. She gave of her limited wealth and resources so that all of Africa should be liberated. She opened heart of hospitality and her head so full of wise counsel, so that we should emerge victorious. A million times, she put her hand to the plough that has now dug up the encrusted burden of oppression accumulated for centuries.”
In an emotional way, Madiba expressed our collective gratitude to the peoples of Africa for the role they played towards our freedom and at the same time affirmed the oneness of our struggle and our aspirations. During this same speech, he proceeded further to say:
“Finally, at this summit meeting in Tunis, we shall remove from our agenda the consideration of the question of Apartheid South Africa. Where South Africa appears on the agenda again, let it be because we want to discuss what its contribution shall be to the making of the new African renaissance. Let it be because we want to discuss what materials it will supply for the rebuilding of the African city of Carthage. One epoch with its historic tasks has come to an end. Surely, another must commence with its own challenges. Africa cries out for a new birth, Carthage awaits the restoration of its glory. If freedom was the crown which the fighters of liberation sought to place on the head of mother Africa, let the upliftment, the happiness, prosperity and comfort of her children be the jewel of the crown. There can be no dispute among us that we must bend every effort to rebuild the African economies.”
During the past two decades, the liberated South Africa has sought to play this role so very eloquently articulated by Madiba, to contribute towards the making of the new African renaissance by supplying the materials requisite towards this all-encompassing effort. We seemed to grasp the new epoch of Africa’s new birth, together with the rest of the continent toiling for the “upliftment, the happiness, prosperity and comfort of her children”, which would be the jewel on her crown of freedom.
Naturally, the new South Africa would turn her sight towards Africa, investing human and financial resources towards peace-making on the continent and sustainable development. We were among the foremost advocates for the development and adoption of the NEPAD programme, firm in our conviction that this was the urgent item on Africa’s united agenda. At the same time, we invested time and resources towards uniting the Continent, helping to forge a united global political and economic agenda at a time when imperialism and the neo-liberal globalisation was further marginalising and ruthlessly exploiting the continent.
Neither our own global political and economic ambitions nor those of the continent as a whole could be achieved if the continent was divided along the old lines imposed on us by imperialist forces. We needed urgently to unite the continent as a potent political force and as an explosive economic market. Without a doubt, the imperialist forces would not sit back and watch the new-comer South Africa spearhead the campaign to unite the continent and thus rob them of their “playground”.
The successful accomplishment of the macro-economic stabilisation of South Africa assisted the country in many respects, the most important of which was the achievement of the goal to enable the country to reduce its debt, achieve positive growth and generate the revenue for it to fund its own fiscus without relying on more debt and even aid or grants, which would hinder its independence in terms of policy and political outlook in the global arena. Whilst hailed as the most significant intervention by the new government in order to turn the fortunes of the economy around, and regardless of domestic criticism and whatever it could not achieve, particularly in terms of creating jobs, this policy placed South Africa at an advantage, not just economically, but above all else, politically in the global sphere.
Africa needs sustainable development
For Africa to develop on a sustainable basis, we needed to address the basics. First, we needed peace and stability in order not to disrupt our own economies and to desist from scattering our human resources all over the world as refugees. Of course, whilst some countries such as Angola and Mozambique had been deliberately disrupted through imperialism-sponsored civil wars, other conflicts were totally avoidable if the leadership had kept their eyes on the bigger picture. The defeat of the apartheid regime and the collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe imposed a moral crisis for imperialism in terms of its open support for counter-revolutionary bandits that paraded as anti-communist. The time for change had come; but imperialism would not let go of its control of Africa’s resources.
Secondly, we needed to create stable democratic States based on the rule of law and founded on the principles of strong Constitutions which would encourage political plurality.
Thirdly, we needed to begin focusing on a series of major economic growth strategies, which would include infrastructure investments, adding value to our minerals extractions in order to start exporting value-added goods rather than rely on the export of commodities, industrialise our economies and free ourselves from the resources curse, and drastically improve intra-African trade as well as trade with other emerging economies. Only these programmes can radically alter Africa’s relations with itself and the world, place it on a footing for sustained growth and job creation and enhance its political power in the global arena.
For her future, South Africa needs Africa: economic integration in the continent
Steadily, South Africa has integrated herself into continent not only through political and peace efforts, but increasingly through investment and trade programmes. Whilst our economy remains largely an exporter of primary commodities and an importer of manufactured goods, however, the past twenty years have also witnessed increasing exports to emerging and developing economies, particularly in Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa, including Nigeria, Ghana and most of SADC States have been the largest importers of South African manufactured goods. Trade, investment in and tourism to Africa have grown significantly in the past twenty years.
According to Kevin Lings,
“In fact, during 2013 South Africa’s exports to the rest of Africa represented almost 29% of total exports, making it the second largest export destination after Asia (32% of total). This means Africa is a more important export destination than Europe (21.5% of total), which was for many years South Africa’s major trading region. It also means that exports to the rest of Africa are almost three times the size of the country’s exports to North and South America combined (9.66% of total.” (“THE MISSING PIECE: Solving South Africa’s Economic Puzzle”)
Furthermore, Lings says that:
“…South Africa’s trade with Africa is substantial and, crucially, comprises mostly manufactured goods. This means Africa is by far South Africa’s largest destination for manufactured goods, and represents a vital opportunity for the country if the continent is able to sustain its current high growth rate.”
It has been estimated that South Africa exported about R300 billion worth of goods last year. Whilst we can celebrate that our country’s trade with her neighbours, and the total value of intra-African trade, is growing steadily, it must be noted that there is obviously a trade imbalance in favour of South Africa in terms of trade and investments. Furthermore, if African countries politically preferred to do business with one another, and set the rules for stronger economies to support and pull up the weaker – economic solidarity – the continent’s economy would grow even faster. Currently, many countries still prefer to award their infrastructure projects to companies and State-Owned Enterprises from elsewhere outside the continent with the capital, human resources and capacity exists within the country, which can also harnessed to create support the localisation processes as well as the creation of supplier sectors.
Sometimes, though not always, even though it is true in our case, a trade imbalance can signify the disparity in the strength of our economies. Whilst it has been said that in the last few years many African economies have been growing faster than the South African, the fact is that they are taking off a low base and are not as complex, dynamic and strong as the South African economy in virtually every respect.
One can therefore understand why many poor nationals of those countries are attracted to South Africa and travel to the country as economic migrants in order to eke out a living. Our economy as well as our Constitutional democratic and political system makes this an attractive country for unskilled and low-skilled entrepreneurs. This effectively means that there is something in our economy that is conducive to small business and cooperative development if only we paid attention to it and sought to harness it.
The Standard Bank CEO, Sim Tshabalala recently wrote on Sunday Times that:
“Global investors are increasingly attracted to those South African companies with a clear strategy for how to expand on the rest of the continent. Right now, almost 100 large South African corporations have substantial operations on the rest of the continent. In many cases, these contribute 10% or more of revenue.”
Furthermore, trade and investment in as well as tourism from the rest of the continent has created and sustains 160 000 jobs in South Africa. So, if Africa is so vital for the South African economy, it should stand to reason that African integration, intra-African trade and the overall growth and development of the African economy should be equally important. The UN has reported that in 2013 Africans spent approximately R1.1 trillion buying from other African countries. South Africa is an important contributor to and beneficiary of that expanding intra-African trade. Accordingly, if we sour our relations with the continent, our economy should itself feel the pinch.
South Africa global political and economic ambitions are interconnected with Africa’s
South Africans need to support their country’s regional agenda and adopt a view that our duty to Africa does not start and end with our own narrow interests. A broader Pan-Africanist view should be taken to be in our very national interest. In that way, we would not view the continent in terms of what we benefit from it, in a parasitic manner, but above everything else, in terms of what we contribute towards her renaissance, as Madiba committed us.
In that regard, we will take our participation in the G20 and BRICS not as merely representing only our importance in global affairs as well as among emerging nations, or what we can benefit from these bodies as a country, signifying narrowly that we are punching above our weight. We would take it to mean the responsibility we have to articulate and advocate – indeed, to champion – an uncompromising but progressive African agenda.
After all, South Africa has global political and economic ambitions that cannot be fulfilled by our lone acts, even if our BRICS and other friends can unite behind those ambitions. All our ambitions, including particularly a permanent seat on the UN Security Council need Africa’s support. We cannot do this alone! After all and ultimately, our global political and economic aspirations are interconnected with, and are not parallel to or separate from, those of the continent as a whole. Africa, we are one!
Our global agenda to change the world’s attitude towards Africa and make the world take us serious as a continent needs us to have the capacity to unite the continent behind and harness all the positive energies towards this endeavour. We cannot fulfil this historic role and responsibility if the peoples of the continent think we have a condescending attitude towards them or want their support for all manner of issues, but do not want to help them in their hour of need and are intolerant towards their nationals in our country, even those that are undocumented and who entered our country irregularly.
The recent violence against African immigrants are inexcusable and have cost us
The recent savage attacks on African immigrants have set us back a bit in terms of our agenda and ambitions. We must not take this for granted, and neither must we be naïve as to the cost we have incurred as a result of this. We must not concede this lightly, or dismissively or even from a narrow moralistic point of view; but from a broader revolutionary, internationalist and Pan-Africanist view. National chauvinism is not revolutionary and not one of the values we espouse.
While at a political and public relations level we may and will fix the relations, this shall not be easily forgotten by the nationals of the continent what their fellows experienced at the hands of a few South Africans. Whilst people may understand the so-called “root causes” and that they too have a responsibility to fix their economies and minimise the incentives for their nationals to travel to South Africa at all cost, they also believe we have a responsibility, out of an African solidarity, to help build their economies because they supported our struggle to defeat the monstrous apartheid system precisely because they trusted that the new South Africa would make a major contribution towards the rebuilding of the continent from the years of colonial, imperialist and neo-colonial ruin.
Beware of imperialist tactics of “divide-and-rule” and to isolate SA from Africa
Is it not possible then that there could be forces in the developed North that are unhappy about this role and responsibility of South Africa on the continent, unhappy that we are not dependent on them for political and economic directives and accordingly eager that they should isolate South Africa from the rest of the continent and thus divide the continent in order to continue ruling it?
Our analysis of what we have experienced must not be so superficial as to neglect suspecting imperialist interventions in seeking a “divide-and-rule” approach in order to achieve the goal of weakening and dividing the strongest countries on the continent, deflecting their attention away from engaging imperialism towards bickering amongst themselves and thus to further marginalise the continent from the political and economic centre of activity.
Could it be that involved in the recent violence was the machinations of the imperialist forces to weaken and isolate South Africa on the continent? Who was peddling wrong information about Boko Haram and Somalian terrorist groupings and what was the purpose? Who was creating the photographs that did not exist and what their purpose? Was this not meant to hype both South African nationals and those of her neighbours and create anxiety and paranoia in respective countries, as well as mutual suspicions? Was this not meant to create mutual resentment among our people and plant seeds of distrust and disunity?
Was it not meant to cajole us into the hands of the very same forces we have regarded as enemies of our revolution, whilst at the same time doing the same of the other African States? If South Africa were to be economically isolated from the rest of the continent, and our trade relations with them were to plunge, who would we trade with, who would buy our manufactured products and who would supply the continent with the goods with which we supply it? Global investors that, as Sim Tshabalala has recently noted, regard South Africa as a gateway to Africa and who are increasingly attracted to those South African companies with a clear strategy for how to expand on the rest of the continent would then have to look elsewhere.
Who was to benefit from all of this? We need to be very clear that there is a fierce contest for the African continent and her resources; a vicious fight for the control of the political and economic future of this continent and control of her material, human and intellectual resources. To realise these goals, the imperialist forces must divide us and derail our unification agenda. Even we in South Africa, an African country that we are, are being contested for influence on the continent by powerful countries from outside our continent.
To defeat these forces, we need to be alive and alert to their existence and be vigilante; to refuse to be dragged down their agenda and be mobilised into an anti-African immigrants frenzy, not to excuse acts of criminality because some immigrants are undocumented, entered South Africa irregularly and some among them – and not the most of them – commits acts of crime.
Even as we tighten immigration laws and regulations in the future, and establish the agencies that will help us the better to manage our borders, the purpose must and will not be to lock South Africa out of Africa whilst integrating with other regions outside the continent.
Malusi Gigaba is the ANC NEC Member and Minister of Home Affairs