US election debacle
world still anxiously awaits the outcome of elections in the United States. But
really, will it matter to the way we conduct our business, in a world economy
that still imposes misery and inequality in the course of corporate-dominated
trade, debt collection and investment?
Florida snarl-up has banana-republic connotations: confusing ballots, denial of
African-Americans' access to some polling stations, recounts with huge
discrepancies, postal votes from far-flung military bases and allegations of
mafioso control of electoral machinery. There are even classical controversies
over `graveyard' votes, which are cast by -- and in a midwestern Senate race,
even *for* -- dead people.
tweedledee or tweedledum wins, how will Africa and specifically South Africa be
is useful to focus on two specific areas: (1) the Africa Growth and Opportunity
Act (AGOA) and (2) the Bi-National Commission which was chaired jointly by
President Thabo Mbeki and US Vice-President Al Gore.
the latter case, Gore would probably chose to maintain the Commission if he
ultimately wins Florida, with his own VP Joe Lieberman taking over as Co-chair.
Bush appears not to have any durable interest in Africa, so would likely let the
Commission expire. US AID flows might decline, but Pretoria's overpaid aid
bureaucracy would be the main sufferers, given US AID's role in promoting
Washington's agenda at the expense of SA's masses.
the case of AGOA, Republican members of congress took the initiative to impose
free trade on weak-kneed African negotiators last year. Backed by big
corporations, the deal was then heartily pushed by President Bill Clinton and
contrast, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr -- who terms AGOA a `Recolonisation of
Africa Act' -- correctly argues that the law will create free trade zones and
depress wages in `a race to the bottom.'
the Third World Network's Africa membership, headquartered in Accra, has called
on African countries to resist the pressure to apply for AGOA eligibility when
invited to do so by Washington.
such recolonisation is well advanced, and the question is increasingly being
posed: is South Africa a US lapdog?
weekend's visit by James Wolfensohn and other World Bank/IMF officials, after
all, draws South Africa even more deeply into their spider-web. Yet thanks to
the exclusive nature of the weekend retreat, attempts to raise the credibility
of both the World Bank and the Mbeki/ANC government's GEAR policy backfired,
when Jubilee 2000 SA, various NGOs and the Congress of SA Trade Unions condemned
Wolfensohn's predictable conclusions that GEAR is working and that SA labour is
question of Pretoria's role in what Mbeki correctly calls `global apartheid' is
persistently raised by the prominent posture of many South Africans at the World
Bank, including Trevor Manuel (WB/IMF chairperson in 1999-2000), Mamphela
Ramphele (WB deputy managing director since June), outgoing DBSA chief Ian
Goldin (who will work in the office of the WB chief economist from January) and
numerous other lower-level officials who have migrated from our shores to
Washington over the past decade.
South Africa therefore merely shining the chains of global apartheid through
such meetings and personnel deployments? Back in the old days of anti-apartheid
struggle, we would all have rather advocated *breaking* the chains, which can be
done through both shunning the World Bank and its economists -- whose GEAR
participation and predictions of massive job creation and growth brought shame
to their profession -- and participating in the global movement to defund the
Bank and IMF.
I took part in a Seattle meeting which commemorated the protest a year ago
against the World Trade Organisation. The hundreds of young, idealist activists
present resolved to oppose AGOA, and to condemn as `criminal behaviour' the
policies of the Bank/IMF which lead to the daily deaths of 19 000 children.
key tactic endorsed, and now also ready for application in South Africa, is to
impose sanctions against the Bank, as we once did against apartheid Pretoria, by
boycotting World Bank bonds. If South African institutions have 15% of their
investment funds in foreign securities, as Pretoria's weakened exchange controls
allow, it is likely that they are unintentionally investing in Bank bonds.
will be a simple matter to instruct international investment managers to avoid,
in future, any further investment in World Bank bonds, through which Wolfensohn
raises 80% of his funds. Last month, San Francisco's city council unanimously
became the third major US municipality to endorse the WB Bonds Boycott (http://www.worldbankboycott.org).
With our own municipal elections around the corner, the question will be raised
of candidates, will they also vote for resolutions to avoid profiting from Bank
bonds, whose rates of return depend upon squeezing poor countries for debt
many more actions are planned in the struggle for debt cancellation and
reparations. Regardless of the outcome of the US elections, global resistance to
corporate globalisation will continue. Whether or not the South African
government continues its confusing chain- shining policies, activists will
heighten the demands to abolish global apartheid, and accessories the AGOA, WTO,
IMF and World Bank.
(Dennis Brutus is a poet who, after breaking rocks on Robben Island during the 1960s, was exiled and led the anti-apartheid sports boycotts, while serving as professor of Africana Studies at leading universities in Chicag